Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Tale Of Two Seasons

Saturday morning before last - over a week ago already, where has the time gone? - while hanging out washing load number four or five, I realised that it was not only sunny but actually quite hot. Hot for the UK, anyway, at 28°C/82°F, and not a day to be squandered. We made plans to go to the beach hut that afternoon and met up with my sister and her family there. We drove and sat in traffic, they cycled, and it took us both an hour to get there. As the afternoon went on it started to cloud over but, undeterred, we still swam in the sea. I thought that afternoon might be the last chance we got to swim this summer and I wanted to make the most of it all - the weather, my family, the warmth. Isn't sea swimming just wonderful? So liberating and uplifting. That swim is another mental postcard to bring out in the middle of winter. 

Then last Monday, it felt like we'd fast forwarded straight into autumn without any warning. We woke to rain and dim light levels which hung around for the rest of the week. I sulked. Where had my summer gone? Torrential rain was hurled at the windows as I made made pancakes for breakfast. I spent most of last week running errands, catching up on housework and washing, and getting ready for the new school term. This all sounds tedious but it was satisfyingly productive and a pleasing return to normality after our holiday. We dodged the rain as we went from parcel depot to dry cleaners to doctors to Hobbycraft to shoe shop. It seems to get darker earlier at a rate of knots now, and the evening air is cooling. The seasons are turning.

It's so much easier to embrace autumn when you feel you've had a good summer, and I do feel that we have, even with the wet end to the holidays that we've just experienced. Back in June, I wrote a sort of summer wish list and all those goals have been met bar the making of lemon curd. Never mind, I'll buy some. But beach opportunities have been seized and the garden has served us so well as a place to relax and eat, I've crafted and stitched and painted, and I've certainly found the weekends John works easier now that I am so near my family. 

I'm more aware of autumn's approach than any other season I think, except perhaps spring. The beginning of autumn is so closely connected to the start of a new school year for me that I cannot miss it. On Tuesday, when I go back to work, my summer will feel like it's over, even though technically it lasts until the end of September. Of course I hope that we'll have lots more warm, dry weather in the coming weeks wont be the same. I'll be at work, the children at school, and the leaves will be turning. But I love autumn with a passion, I really do, and I feel excited just knowing it's coming. Excited to experience autumn in this house, in this area, to light the wood burning stove and find the best woods for conkers. An end and a beginning. 


Yesterday, while picking blackberries, we saw this spider in the hedgerow. I've never seen one like it before - isn't it beautiful and also slightly scary looking? Does anyone know what it is?

And thank you so, so much for the lovely, overwhelmingly positive comments to my last post, which was about a dress but really about body image. I know that we all share the same hangups but it's always feels good to give them an airing, then they seem to evaporate - or at least lose a little of their power. Once again I am lucky enough to feel the supportive warmth and friendship of the blogging community. You're all good eggs.


The two crocheted net bags pictured above are from the excellent book Modern Crochet by Molla Mills. The crocheted square is for the Cedar River blanket which I've been working on for the last couple of weeks. I'll write more about them both soon. And that gorgeous yellow kettle is by the genius brand Mini Moderns. When I left Leeds, my friends clubbed together and gave me some money as a leaving gift, so that when we were settled I could choose something non-essential and pretty for our new house. I chose this because I like yellow, I like enamelware, I love the shape, but mostly because the kettle is decorated with little pictures of really angular retro style houses which look so much like ours. It had to be done. 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Colour Collaborative: August: Dress

Dresses - more than any other item of clothing, I think - have power. They let you imagine yourself in a different way, how you might feel in them, what kind of day or night out you might have, A good dress, the right dress, can fill you with confidence, and while I don't want to be judged by my appearance I do want to feel strong and attractive in the clothes I choose to wear.

I saw this dress in a shop window in Chichester last May. John and I were celebrating my birthday (three months late as he'd had a nasty ear infection on my birthday in February, and then we'd moved house and lost track of time) with shopping and lunch out while the children were at school. I saw the dress and I wanted it, I wanted it to fit so badly. I tried it on, just to see what it would look like. I loved it. Knee length and well cut, the dress was full and swingy with a nipped in waist and deep pockets. (I love pockets on a dress).  I bought it, justifying it to myself. I'd just applied for my job and said it would be my congratulations present if I got the job or consolation prize if I didn't, and it was kind of my birthday after all.

You see, I'd already imagined myself in this dress. Not what I'd look like in it, no, but what I'd do. What kind of day I'd have in my new dress, the places I'd go, the people I'd see. Everything about the print and pattern said summer and sea. It's bright blue colour made me picture clear skies and flapping sails, made me hear the intoxicating sound of ropes clinking against boat masts and smell the salty sea air. The orange piping cheered me. I like nice little details, and this dress was full of them. I pictured myself wearing it while sipping a drink in a pub beer garden or sitting on the harbour wall, overlooking the boats, Perhaps I'd even wear it to the beach. But in my mind's eye the sun would be shining and I'd be carrying a straw bag and it would be carefree and warm.

There was just one catch: my legs. I don't much like them, which is partly why I live in jeans or trousers all the time. I know, it's such an affliction. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing actually wrong with my legs, they just lack shape and tone and don't meet a media-standard notion of perfection. Thread veins are my enemy and I'm pretty sure there are some varicose veins there too, lurking and ready to pop up and say hello. Perhaps you also have a body part which you don't like very much too, which stops you wearing things you'd otherwise like to wear? A perceived imperfection which is invisible to those around you, who hadn't noticed because they were too busy listening to something funny and interesting you'd just said.

My poor legs. My long, strong limbs which carry me around every day, take me up and down stairs, take me all the places I want to go. My healthy legs which supported the weight of two heavy babies, which, when stretched out, let me run or cycle. My flexible legs which, when I sat with my back against the wall, bent my knees and placed my heels together, made a diamond-shape in which Angus loved to sit and read with me when he was smaller.

And then the realisation: it's not dresses which give you confidence, but age, and I've reached a point in my life where I couldn't give a monkeys what my legs look like in a dress. I'm happy to have a pair that work, frankly. So I bought the dress and I've worn a lot. It's a swine to iron but it's comfortable to wear and people pay me compliments when I do. I've mostly worn it to work, to the school summer fair and a family barbecue. No drinks in pub beer gardens yet - maybe next year. Or maybe even this year, if September is nice! Now, there's a happy thought to end on.


Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River
Sarah at Mitenska

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Purple and Gold

Hello! We are back from our week away in Derbyshire, feeling rested and well, and we've come through the other side of the washing mountain and lived to tell the tale. This comes with a "long post" warning so...sorry. I took a lot of photos. Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip back up north and thought the Peak District a rather spectacular place with a ruggedness which reminded me of the Yorkshire Dales. Even arriving in the pouring rain, after a nightmare seven hour car journey, I thought it looked wildly beautiful, with pink and purple hedgerows and yellow golden fields every where you looked. 

We stayed not far from Matlock in a place called Darwin Forest. I'd really recommend this place as it's very family and dog friendly and in a great location for exploring the Peaks. 

We shared a cabin with my lovely in-laws (and their Jack Russell, Alfie) and it was very cosy indeed with everything you'd want including an amazing power shower which was a lot better than our crappy one at home. And I never thought I'd love wood cladding so much!

On our first day, ready to explore in the sunshine and in search of a local National Trust landmark or similar, we found ourselves on top of a place called Stanton Moor. 

Angus had thoughtfully colour coordinated his outfit to match the local landscape.

The purple heather was just stunning and in full bloom everywhere you looked, completely covering the tops of the moors.

That view is one of my mental postcards, stored away to pull out and look out in the middle of winter.

The reason for our trip to Stanton Moor was to see the Nine Ladies Stone Circle. I know,  I know, another stone circle - we are not doing a tour of them, I promise - but show me a National Trust or English Heritage landmark and I'm there, before you can utter the words Middle Class. Now, I did not really research the stones before we left, but I was expecting them to be big-ish, like maybe the same height as me. 

They are, as you can see, much smaller, but no less interesting and you can climb on them too. But we'd walked a while to find them and kind of built them up to the kids, and so the whole thing did remind me a bit of that scene in the film Spinal Tap.

Other highlights included:

:: Bakewell, a pretty Peaks village made famous by the cake of the same name. There is a trend here for couples in love to inscribe their initials into padlocks (love locks) and then attach them to the bridge, a controversial tradition which began on the Pont des Artes in Paris. I don't really get it, if I'm honest. Have you ever attached an inscribed padlock to a bridge?

:: A picnic lunch at Monsal Head, a beauty spot with the most giddying views down into the valley.

:: Heights of Abraham, to ride the cable cars over the valley and explore the caves below. Absolutely brilliant fun, all of it.

:: Matlock Baths, a strange and lovely place which feels like an English seaside town but is completely landlocked. 

With it's faded grandeur, arcade machines, tourists and many fish and chip shops all along one street, it's more like Scarborough or Blackpool than a Peaks village.

:: The "Plague Village" of Eyam. I can't recommend this place enough, with it's charming cottages, excellent volunteer-run local museum and rich, sad history. Well worth a visit.

And then we have Chatsworth House

Oh my word. 

It is a spectacular stately home, in all it's over-the-top, gold-windowed opulence. A part of me is deeply uncomfortable with the display of eye-watering wealth, of the contrast between the lives of those who have and the have-nots, especially after visiting Eyam the day before. But the other part of me shoved that socialist out of the way and ran around screaming "Pemberley!"  "Mr Darcy's house!" and  "LOOK AT THE PAINTED CEILING!" 

I thought the children would be bored. They were fascinated (for about an hour, and then they wanted lunch).

My favourite part was watching these two people doing some kind of restoration work on the rug. I'm not sure exactly what they're doing, but it looks time consuming and skillful.

That's always the really interesting thing, isn't it, getting a glimpse into the inner workings of a stately home, of what goes on behind the closed doors.

You'll be relieved to know that in between all that visiting and day tripping there was swimming, bike rides, football, reading, crochet, eating, drinking and a fair amount of lazing around too. And it's so good to be home.