Feeling Woolly

The Chronicles of a Dropped Stitch

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Further misdemeanours of a Private Detective

* warning * this post contains poor attempt at sketching!

As Autumn invariably draws closer to an end and days become shorter, our friend Jim Lumpford has been continuing to make the most of each and every daylight hour.  Age insidiously creeps up behind him in shadow.  He suddenly takes a furtive glance over his shoulder, and realises Old Father Time is but a few paces back so notches up a gear, leaving his pursuer trailing.

We are out together.  Jim trundling along in his own inimitable style.  Not sleek.  Not slender.  More shuffling, with a slight hint of skin roll as one paw passes another.  But then…..gadzooks!  A surprise burst of speed when the scent of water taints the air.

Until this point our time out has been leisurely, uneventful if you will.  We have enjoyed quiet calm, inhaled fresh misty air as our descent leads us towards a favourite haunt.  Of course Jim Lumpford, that spirited alter ego, does not view himself as canine.  He is Shackleton’s explorer and Indiana Jones’s adventurer all rolled into one.  A wild swimming expert and of course tough guy Private Detective.

So I sense the need to pick up my own pace, as I view Jim’s rear disappearing round a familiar cluster of trees, which I know leads into Brown Lagoon’s clearing.  However, it is not Brown Lagoon I dread him entering.  In fact, despite it’s colour, here lies a decievingly fresh water pool which serves as the perfect place to end a walk, where Jim can wash off the muddy evidence of his woodland tramp.  No, it is the innocent looking stream that snakes through to the other side which gives me that sinking feeling.  Literally!  Here there is a reminder of the industrial past which surrounds this place, as the stream is then channeled down a man-made chute, taking the water towards…..ahh….THE BOG FROM HELL!

I know he’s there.  He definitely headed in its general direction.  You see the memory of fine dining on fresh, spring wild garlic leaves is strong with him.  It is after all, his most favourite of all forages.  “No!” I cry out, “it’s the wrong time of year, your search is in vain my friend”.  Does he listen?  No he does not.

I call him.  I call again.  And again.  No sign.  So I make my way down the slippery bank side glancing over at the chute of doom beside me.  It glares back, as if to say, “If you think it’s slippy where you are, try putting a foot on here”.  It’s algae ridden slope mocking anyone who believes this may be an escape route.

It doesn’t take me long to see a familiar face at the the bottom.  “Jim” I say, “you’re ok!”.  He smiles back up at me, wagging his whole derrière furiously.  Reaching out to grab his collar urging him to jump out, it quickly dawns upon me that he is unable.  The collar slips off in my hand and Jim continues to giggle at my futile attempts to free him.

A dog stuck in a bog

Oh chute!

So, deep breath taken, I step down into the quagmire and stand beside him,  knee deep in squelch.  I gather my arms around this 39kg hunk (up from 34 last year oops!!), squat low, engaging whatever puny core I may have and even squeak out a “Roar”, as I attempt to pick up this guy and shove him to safety.  Nope.  Absolutely no movement whatsoever achieved.  “No lift!” I hear from the imaginary judging panel watching from the sides.  “Seems middle age spread has caught up with us both” sniggers Jim!

Therefore, avoiding further embarrassment, we wade our way downstream and manage to get a foothold on the bank further along.  Pushing through bramble and thicket, eventually we stumble back out onto the path.  At this point, Jim belies his 63 year old self, and sprints in circles in ecstatic joy, at the escapades that have just taken place.

Lead reattached, we regain our composure once more and head for home, hearts fluttering.  Just another dog day afternoon you may say.  A wry smile crosses Jim’s chocolate chops.  “Take that Old Father Time” he thinks to himself, who by now is nowhere to be seen.

Friend or Foe?

Friend or Foe?

There’s a lady who visits, she spends some time here,

You may notice, she’s missing a piece of her ear.

All part of her history, it’s chequered for sure,

But I’ll fill in the gaps, come….. lean in, for more.

When getting to know someone, there’s a long way to go

Discovering if this Missus, is Friend or Foe.

She goes by the name of Mrs Meow,

So sorry that’s as much as we know for now.

Supreme athleticism, so light of foot,

Hiding in shadow with fur black as soot.

But still I could not tell you so,

If this one is a Friend or Foe.

Motion and defenceless, heroes past and present watch on,

As the tormenter of souls teases with aplomb.

A remorseless huntress, fly away sparrow,

This kitty’s not on the straight and narrow.

Oh no I am but filled with woe,

Is this feline Friend or Foe?

 

An independent strong willed puss,

However, so very selective from whom she takes fuss.

So come to think of it Mrs Meow seems quite loyal

To her family.  Yes, we all feel quite royal.

So actually Foe? No!  Our Lady doth transcend,

Into being one awfully good Friend.

~ by Lucy Gray (yes that’s me!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Moors

Autumn.  One of my favourite times of year.  Colour changes in various plant life, and for us in this region of the UK, lucky enough to have had some beautiful warm and a little bit windy days!  Sun lowering itself in our skies helping to cast the most beautiful lighting,  which really shows off the colours in their splendour.

Resplendent Acer

But for me,  there is no better way to appreciate all this than to go walking in the hills and moors which border this area.  To be honest, it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is.

A walk which may start off with a friend, then taking a different path which sets you onward alone in your human company.  But not really, as the animal alongside looks up silently,  reminding you of his presence.

Always there

As we continue onwards, we pass special places where you can pause and remember.

To remember

Which we do so, but only after the steep climb of Little Roseberry, the equally splendid and not so little brother, to the iconic Roseberry Topping to where it sits adjacent.  We take time to reflect and listen to wise words written.

‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’

Here we are on top of the world.  And I can never tire of this.  This view.   Barely a soul in sight.

On top of the world

A rural expanse, which goes on for miles, where blustering winds take your breath away, along with those rugged vistas.  Those gusts of high swirling winds, forcing open your lungs with blasts of continuous positive airway pressure, deeply reaching those tiny air sac terminals, inflating them like balloons.  And you sigh.  And feel tremendous with lungs alive and wide.

Walking these well trodden paths, which dip in and out of the magnificent Cleveland Way, clears my soul for sure.   Exposure to the elements on top of these moors, makes me love them all the more.  As individuals we become very small here.   I look one way and as far as the eye can see, the landscape is defined by sprawling heather, cotton grasses and the rarest of tree appearances, over gentle curves which disappear into hidden valleys.   I look the other and Teesside’s towns and industry remind you civilisation is very near, and home is but an hours walk away.

Altogether

Here I have the best of both worlds, and escape is never too far from either.  Whatever the season…..

Winter wildness

this place will always hold its own, in steadfast grit, quietly exuding its extreme beauty.

Roseberry Topping from Little Roseberry

What is more, I love it!

Feeling Cool with The Gang

I love September.  The changing of seasons with the Autumn beginning to creep in with all her colour, sun beginning to lower and allowing all below to bathe in such beautiful light and shadow.  The weather almost in two minds as to know if she should cling on to those last few days of summer warmth, or let go and allow the autumnal chill to set in.  Cooling us down, and so pushing us to delve into the depths of our wardrobes, or blanket boxes, to pull on our winter woollies.

There is another reason for me feeling cool though!  It is because I have just finished knitting my Chief WIP (work in progress was whipped as they say!  Sorry, once again never can resist a pun on words).  In my post of the same name, I briefly touched on the nature of this project, but now it is completed I can share and elaborate a little further.  Bet you never thought that you could feel cool by knitting a cardy did you!  Actually I retract that very brazen comment.  Of course those knitters amongst you will have felt the same on your own projects.  There’s a very warm tingling inside (whilst of course feeling very very cool!!)

It is not hard though when you’re knitting a Pop Life Cardigan by Wool and The Gang.  Just browsing through their website, you’ll know what I mean.  Such very beautiful kits to make your ‘own’, simply presented and very contemporary.  ‘Handmade’  here looks very slick indeed, but their appeal for me lies in their welcome to all attitude, to learn these crafts for yourselves and become one of ‘The Gang’. There are video tutorials to help you on your way, and I found them very quick to respond to a query I had.  For me they seem to be doing a great job putting the ‘cool’ back into ‘wool’.

This sloppy cardigan is knitted in their Billie Jean Yarn, which I really loved.  A mixture of 60% Upcycled Denim and 40% Upcycled Cotton, it is soft to the touch and hangs beautifully.

Billie Jean Yarn

It became a bit of a full on family affair in the making!

Preparing for blocking by spritzing!

Spritzing the cardy

Then someone else has to join in….note determination on his face.  Not sure he was aiming at the cardigan!

Under attack!

Of course there’s another fella never too far away from the action.

Mr Lumpford looks on

After a soaking (more me than the cardy I think!) we blocked and all that was needed was the body for whom it was intended.

Blocking Billie Jean

Being for my sister Em, it winged it’s way by post the 325miles from Guisborough to Swansea, and was gratefully received mid week.  I think she looks happy!

My gorgeous sister

…..and very cool!

Looking good missus

For me seeing Em in this cardigan feels so important.  Not because I want to see her in something I have made.  But because it connects us, and as I have said before draws us closer, squeezing the miles in between.  When you miss people, these small things really do matter.  You can’t beat a cardigan cuddle can you!

 

 

Adventure of a Lifetime

Looking for milestones?  I am sure we could find one everyday if we thought hard enough. However, for me there are two in particular that have taken place today.  Firstly, our eldest son Ewan started secondary school.  For the remaining days of his summer break, we have been preparing for those steps into independence.  Yes, the steps I am sure many mothers and fathers will dread, and yet know, that these are rites of passage that every child needs to take.  Catching a bus.  Going swimming.  Walking into town.  Going to shops.  Paying for goods.  Crossing roads.  Talking to people…..the list goes on!  All this on their own, or if lucky with the odd friend or two, who are equally finding their way in the world.

What does this bring for parents or guardians?  Sleepless nights.  The thought processes.  The thinking ahead.  The million and one possible outcomes of these seemingly simple scenarios.  In short let’s face it ‘Worry’, with a big fat ‘W’!  As guardians of these precious souls, we are excellent at thinking about ‘what might happen?‘  Believe it or not, we are highly trained navy seals in this very activity.  I suppose it is inevitable, seeing as for 11 solid years we have ‘thought‘ for them and ‘done‘ everything.  Been one step ahead as it were.  Now though, almost taking us by surprise, these small individuals (because they still are!) begin tackling these situations – with gusto!

Embarking on an adventure of a lifetime, they will make their own choices, now becoming decision makers and standing on their own two feet.  During these small preparations for Ewan’s first steps into autonomy, it has made me think back to when I was his age.  And I remember loving it!  The excitement, the wonder and that feeling of complete freedom, allowing us to go anywhere.  That journey, taking us into teenage years, then young adulthood, where confidence swells and the world really does feel like your oyster.

This young boy of mine, it turns out is just like me (I guess the apple never falls far from the tree).

For big kids too!

He reminds me of ‘me‘.  The ‘me’ which was so thrilled by experiencing the world, and the girl who had quiet passions and ambition.  I think for a long while , especially since giving up work to look after my children, I have been guilty of slipping into a world of safety.  I believe that has happened subconsciously because we want to create a safe universe for them.  Alongside safety, has sat confidence, which in my case has decidedly taken a back seat.

And so they say our children teach us, which is the truest of true.  Here is my child reminding me that it is OK to take chances, to go on adventures, to ‘have a go’.  Thank you my boy, for you have awoken ‘me‘ again and a sparkle has been ignited inside , that I feel is here to stay.  That tingling, which you feel deep within your tummy, wriggling to get out and explore.

But adding to this, it is the second milestone which has taken place today which really compounds this feeling.  You see my father turned 80 years old.

And you really don’t look it Dad!

Mum and Dad…..an inspiring pair!

He too is a man who takes on adventure all the time, walking out independently and taking on those high peaks in the Black Mountains of South Wales.  Feeling free, taking paths of his choosing, confident in his independent solitude…..regardless of age.

So from the young boy to his grandfather, their resolute self determination, is there to not only be admired, but to encourage us all to go find our own adventures wherever they may be.  I believe if we all took a look at the people around us, we can all be inspired to do the same.  Adventure is out there! Now who’s going to hold my hand?

 

Chief WIP

A newbie knitter like me has been enlightened learning a new knitting language all of its own.  It really feels like decoding secrets and for me is all part of the fun.  Part of the challenge is figuring out what all the symbols/abbreviations mean.  Then, satisfyingly putting them into practice in the most hands on of ways.

For quite some time, I pondered over one such abbreviation however.  Unlike those on a pattern, which always have a key to interpret, this one didn’t appear to have any explanation, but appeared like a familiar friend in conversational speak (websites, blogs and even face to face chatter).  It was you could say “the lingo“,  and I felt like an outsider not party to that conversation.  Dont worry I don’t take offence easily, in fact I was ever determined, to suss out its meaning!

Ok, the seasoned ‘makers’ out there may have already guessed I am actually referring to the term “WIP”. Actual translation: “Work in Progress”.  Aah what a devil you were, because for such a while your identity illuded me.  What could you have been? Wellies in Porch? Wild in Peru? Wool is Pants? (heavens couldn’t be!) What is Point? Or maybe Wandering in Purgatory (yes I was!)

To top it off I can’t even remember how I finally figured it out.  Oh who am I kidding, of course it was Google!

Anyway, I have many WIPs (that’s Works in Progress!) as you can see.

some knitting!

and also…..

The ironing pile!

However, I have elected my Chief WIP (ironically I have never been exactly sure who or what that is either- sorry!)  My Chief WIP, is this absolutely marvellous Pop Life Cardigan by Wool and the Gang.

My lovely new kit

My Chief WIP

It’s the first time I’ve tackled a cardigan, and am truly loving the whole process.  It is another sister knit, this time for Em, who with her impeccable good taste chose this, and asked me to make it for her.  I will elaborate more once it is completed, as this is one company I really love.

Until then, hope you enjoy these last few days of summer!

Misty Eyed Moments

Summer holidays, or holidays at any time of year for that matter, will always revolve around connections with our family who live far and wide.  In our case that family resides from one end of Britain to the other.  On a day to day, week to week and month to month level, our small family unit (that is me, my husband Colin, our two boys, a dog and cat!), will not see cousins, sisters, brothers, parents or grandparents.  We all live just too far apart for that you see.

So that is why it is important for us to make these special journeys.  Indeed they are extra special.  I actually think our little boys are very lucky indeed.  With their grandmother in Edinburgh and their other grandparents in Cardiff, how fortunate to be able to experience the rich cultures of two beautiful regions.

This time round has been particularly poignant for Colin and I.  I have such fond memories of my own childhood holidays (always sunny of course!)  I remember vividly trips to the beach at Wiseman’s Bridge, Pembrokeshire.  Here I would spend entire days fixated by rockpools, coaxing illusive Blennies from their dark homes deep within the crevices of barnacled rocks.

Wiseman Bridge rockpooling

Me looking for Blennies circa 1980

Then there was swimming in freshwater pools under waterfalls at Blaen-y-Glyn in the mountains near Talybont reservoir,  tucked away in the Brecon Beacons most hidden places.

Blaen-y-Glyn

1970’s wild swimming!

Of course there are also those memories of a more palatable nature….

….like fried tomatoes on toast!

My Dad’s supper speciality…yummy

However, this time our Welsh trip down memory lane, took us to another special place.  A visit to Kenfig Nature Reserve, near Bridgend.  It was a regular day out for us as kids, and now here I was 30 or so years later.  Pulling up into the car park, its quiet beauty brought memories trickling back (I say trickling as it really has been a long time!)  Starting our walk we passed bird hides which nestle alongside the freshwater of Kenfig pool.  You are truly spoilt for choice by the abundance of flora and fauna of the place.  The real adventure though was and always has been the 1 mile walk (you heard me!) across sand dunes, eventually leading to the real jewel that is Sker Beach.

And it was just as I remembered…..

The walk is worth it

….isolated perfection!

Just us and a fisherman!

…..and they all loved it!

Having a splash

Warm Welsh Water!

Then it was time to head North, to Scotland’s fair capital for quality Gran time.  Colin’s turn now, where he was able to share equally fond memories of his childhood trips to North Berwick and the cluster of incredible beaches which dot this coastline.  For him, Yellowcraig Beach was calling…..

My word!  Oh how it took my breath away!

Almost tropical

Here too, mere handfuls of people,  allowing you space and time…..

to reflect…..

Taking it all in

enjoy…..

Beach capers

and even capture a rare picture of this pair!

Mr and Mrs

Throughout it all, this lad was smiling again.

Am loving this!

And so our eyes go misty as we remember favourite places, people, experiences of our past.  Long live the simple pleasures I say!  I do believe they create the best memories.  What is more, those simple pleasures are often there on our own doorsteps, right under our own noses.  What are yours?  I bet there’s some crackers and I’d love to hear.

Deary me, feeling terribly, terribly woolly again!

Thank yous with Novelty Knits

We’ve reached that time again when our children have completed another year at school and all are ready for that 6 week summer holiday.  For our two boys, it also marks the end of their time with each of their teachers, as they individually move upwards into their next classes, and for one in particular a new school.  So of course what better way to say some ”thank yous” than to get the knitting needles out and find some fantastic free patterns to whip up a gift!

With not a great deal of time left before the end of term, something small(ish) and easy was required…..and I had the urge to do novelty!  I suppose after spending the last few months being committed to completing a serious shawl (by the way I didn’t have a serious face on during that time, I loved every minute of it!),  it is lovely to do something completely different and light hearted which makes you smile.  Not to mention (groan, here she goes again!) my “Knitter’s Hand” which in truth is still not quite fully recovered, so I didn’t want to overdo it!  So this is what I chose.

Bookmarks…..

Owl bookmarks on some nicely staged books

 

….and a Mug Cozy!

Keeping the cuppa warm!

I used whatever so called scrap yarn (I love the term ‘scrap’, because it is anything but!) that I had.  The pattern I used for the bookmarks by Aldersign Design, is called Owly Bookmark which I originally obtained through the Love Knitting website.

Owly Bookmark

You can pick up some fantastic free patterns here, along with tools, yarn and general advice.  This was a great quick, effective knit and they looked so pretty as a gift.

Then came the mug cozy pattern which I just fell in love with.  This Simple Sweater Mug Cozy by Lily Sugar’n Cream was also free and very easy to follow (even for me).  This being a gift for a male, I did go out to search out for some old fashioned buttons, the kind that you may find on an old Aran sweater.  I was so pleased when I found these!  I think they make it feel a little more masculine don’t you think!  But oh so cute!  Oh don’t you love a novelty knit.

Love these buttons

So happy holidays to all those lucky enough to have some, and to those who don’t, maybe you’ll be lucky to get away when the summer rush is over, and quieter times ensue!

 

Jim Lumpford Returns

It has been a while.  There’s been a noticeable absence of a certain fellow.  Where has he been?  I am talking of course about our very own master of disguise Jim Lumpford.  That debonair chap who just happens to possess some similarities with a chocolate Labrador.  Well I can tell you he’s been mighty busy…..

I’ve been busy folks

During the warm weather we’ve been having over the last month, I feel that Jim has been drawn to certain places in the outdoors, which tend to ease the burden of that thick brown coat of his.  Between you and me he also has a penchant for eating wild vegetation, and if you look carefully here, he’s busy trying to pretend he is Farmer Giles so as not to get caught eating the produce!

Where is he?

Oh there he be!

Farmer Giles Lumpford

To seek out water in any of its forms.  He is like a man possessed and there is a gathering of speed in those shuffling legs, as the smell of H2O wafts through the air.  Oh and when he finds it there is a sigh of bliss…

Aah this is nice

Then a wallow

Hippopotolump

Then unbelievably signs that wallowing isn’t enough…..”I’m drifting, drifting” he thinks, until he drifts into a momentary snooze.

So good I just have to close my eyes for a bit

He does of course eventually crawl out of the clay sodden, mud pool he has so loved, proceeding head to tail shake.

The inevitable

As if that weren’t suffice to quench his thirst for the wet stuff, he continues onward through wooded dell, to happen upon a lagoon of not blue, but more brown.  Here he emerges as yet another creature…..yes….

The Creature of the Brown Lagoon

…..and in time the creature shows itself

Oh boy I feel good

Of course home eventually beckons and he resurfaces back on our doorstep to tell us of his tales, adventures, his life of incognito.  He then drifts again toward sleep, whilst still keeping an eye out for his nemesis….

I’m watching you missus

Before falling fast asleep!

Sorry I’ve gone

Until next time y’all!

Help I’ve got “Knitter’s Hand”!!

I have been knitting constantly.  Passionately.  Lovingly.  Obsessively?…….for months and months.  However my body is telling me to slow down.  Through my own self diagnosis I have developed what I like to call “Knitter’s Hand”.  Now firstly, I will point out, that as far as I am aware there is no such condition in the text books.  No no, it is a name I have attributed myself, to what is I am quite certain a common physical complaint which may develop after knitting too much!  I have not required a doctor to tell me this!  Indeed it is not so serious I need a doctor at all.  Just diversional therapy!

For me it has affected my left hand, but more specifically the muscles controlling my thumb.  Highly likely it is a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) brought on over the last few months whilst completing my last large knitting project.  If analysing this more deeply (sorry once a Physiotherapist always a Physiotherapist!!) I would say the muscle overuse has been due to holding teeny, tiny needles whilst repeatedly pushing the stitch from left needle to right needle with my overworked thumb.  When you are a ‘Righty’ like me – an expression here by which I mean right handed (not someone who just happens to believe they are right about everything!), you begin to realise just how much of a ‘stabiliser’ your left hand is.  Naturally, the opposite would apply if one happened to be a ‘Lefty’ – an expression by which I mean left handed (not a person who supports left wing politics)!  Of course you’re on to a winner if ambidextrous.

There is a tremendous amount of strength required in being the ‘stabiliser’ and one only notices this when there is a deficit in that strength.  The knock on effect of my “Knitter’s Hand” has made the everyday activities, like washing up (oh boo hoo now can’t do it), opening a jar and even holding a media device such as a tablet, just a little more tricky.

Love your hands…..ay yaz this actually hurts!

And so I am acknowledging my body, and giving my wee hands a break.  Don’t get me wrong, I am itching to get those hands on a ball of wool, however I understand how allowing them to really rest and recuperate (perhaps with some massage and stretching…..there I go again), in due course they will be back raring to go all guns blazing.  Ironically, knitting teaches us to be patient, to slow down.  Nothing is completed quickly or in an instant.  Here it continues to teach us that we still need to down our needles from time to time, giving our mind and body a real holiday from the activity.

My “Knitter’s Hand” though is a real nod to my time as a Physiotherapist.  Those were lovely years, where I met extraordinary people, in both colleagues and patients.  It is where I have made friends for life.  It also reminds me of all those medical conditions which have almost been mocked in their given nicknames.  Many will have heard of a ‘Frozen Shoulder’ for instance, but it is just one of many.  “Knitter’s Hand” on the other hand (pardon the pun!) is of course unrecognised, but certainly describes my predicament.  I can also think of a few other afflictions which would suit a nickname.  The “Stubborn-as-a-Mule Head”, a condition I can relate to where the poor person is unable/unwilling to back down!  And then we’ve all come across those people with a real humdinger of an ailment,  whereby they have absolutely no control over their tongue thus speaking before thinking.  I think you’ll agree “Shoot Your Mouth off Tongue” is most sad and undesirable!

So where will my diversion therapy take me.  With tennis season upon us I could perhaps partake in a few games.  Umm no…..could get Tennis Elbow.  Ok my husband would love it if I threw myself into housework.  Umm no…..could get Housemaids Knee.  And Trigger Finger….well, you don’t want to ask!  No, I think I know where I’ll be……

A walk in the woods

Diversion Therapy