Thursday, April 26, 2007


Following hard on the heels of 30; lots of numbers this week. J's Dad was 80 at the weekend. We had a surprise lunch on Sunday in Cotherstone village, in Teesdale. J's family are from there. This picture brings back memories of staying at his Aunty Nina's cottage when he was a child.

The plan was for one of J's sisters to pick his Dad up, on the pretext of going for a quiet pub lunch, and bring him to the restaurant for lunch, where 20 of us were waiting. Conversation went thus:
"Dad, are you really going to wear that jumper?"
"Yes, why? We're only going to the Red Lion"
"Yes, but it wouldn't hurt to be smart for a change"
Grumble, grumble, grumble all the way.
"This isn't the Red Lion, this is the Fox and Hounds. I want to go to the Red Lion. This is one of those Gastro Pubs, I've been reading about them."

Eventually they arrived and we had a lovely lunch at the Fox and Houndswith two of J's sisters and their families. I forgot the camera, but someone will email us some soon, I hope.

Another number: 44. I was 44 this week. Where did the years go? I might stay 43...

J and I went for a drive up to Eggleston Hall and had a walk around the grounds. Slowly... I'm suffering a bit with the old fibromalarky and am actually feeling older than J's Dad.

Not a reflection on mortality, but just because I love the little ruined family chapel, dating from early 1600s, in the grounds up there and the fact that even dogs are included.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Our secretary celebrates 30 years at work this week. Not 30 years work in general, but 30 years at our school. It's not usual these days and in some careers can be seen as a bad thing - stagnation and narrowing. In our business, which changes on a day-to-day, person-to-person basis I can see how it just happens. I've been here since 2000 and it doesn't seem 2 minutes ago. In my previous incarnation I changed jobs (or locations) on average every two years.

The continuity of Mrs C in her role is a real benefit to the school. Not only does she know all our children, but she knows most of their parents (many from when they were children at our school), family circumstances, family links and community connections. She's a one-woman database and years ahead of the current Information Sharing initiatives.

Cheers, Mrs C!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

My heart goes out to the families of all the people killed yesterday at Virginia Tech University. My son told me the news before I saw it on TV. He had heard it online from one of his friends in the States. We watched the pictures on the news when I came home from work, horrified.

As a parent I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about j, but stupidly, I tend to feel that he is safe at school. Not so. I put myself in the place of parents of students at Virginia Tech, watching that news footage. j says I overreact. He already knows all the facts and statistics for other school related shootings. He thinks it's 'interesting'. I wonder what kind of enquiring mind I have raised.

When I visited schools in Calgary, Alberta as part of a group of teachers looking at the programme for gifted students out there I took part in a 'Lock Down' drill. We don't have these here, we have evacuation drills for fire etc. In the Lock Down, I worked with a teacher to lock the children into the classroom with us and build a barricade from furniture that we could shelter behind. We shut the blinds and were as silent as we could be in an attempt to hide our existence from 'the gunman'. I was terrified.

Maybe we have to revisit our thinking on this at school. I am so saddened by the need for such thinking.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Honk if You're...

a goose.

My grandad used to keep a gardening journal, recording all the things he had planted, were in flower, fruit and the daily temperature in and outside his green house. I feel that this blog is going a bit that way with my preoccupation with our increasingly bizarre weather. Nevertheless, yesterday evening J and I went for a drive out to Seal Sands. When we left home the temperature here was 22 degrees C and we had the aircon on in the car. Out at the estuary, it dropped to 15 degrees. It's interesting out there at this time of year - even for those of us who aren't twitchers. J is much better than I am at spotting the various birds in our neighbourhood, but even I can spot the Canada Geese. There are gaggles starting to build up in the areas around the wetland reserves and it is starting to look a bit like a festival - a sort of goose Glastonbury. The geese camp out for a while, sitting out their summer moult. I love to see and hear skeins of geese flying over the house, honking at each other. It's so companionable. I might come back as a goose next time.

On the kniiting front, I'm a quarter of the way up the back of Boobalicious and just itching to get onto something more colourful, but I'm resisting starting anything else until it's finished.

Back to work today. I had to load the car last night and I couldn't eat my breakfast this morning. It's really stupid. I love my job! I just like being at home more...
Would the children believe it if anyone told them that teachers get school phobia on the first day of term too?

We're interviewing for a new colleague tomorrow. I dislike being part of an interview in any role. As an interviewee I'm terrified and terrible and as an interviewer I'm secretly bored inside. How bad is that?

More signs of Spring:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Youth of Today

Lots of knitting done today - caught up on the reknit of Boobalicious from Big Girl Knits. I'm dividing for the neck again and it's a bit like deja vu, except this time it will fit...I hope. I'm not frogging it again, if it's too small this time I'm finishing it and then finding someone it will fit and forcing them to wear it.

I only broke off to have coffee with a friend and drive her to work. K and I sat in Starbucks in linen skirts, sleeveless tops looking healthy and tanned thanks to that lovely Dove Summer Glow. We used the fair skin version as they didn't have one for women who-are-so-pale-from-the-winter-that-they-are-almost-blue. I had spent the previous evening sanding my unsuspecting feet with this, which I must hide away after use as it repulses the men in my life so badly, and painting my toenails bright pink in an effort to ready them for the start of the sandal-hunting season.

I used to have a serious shoe thing going on and liked to wear interesting shoes that displayed my tattooed right foot to best advantage, but a couple of years ago I broke that ankle and ripped some ligaments. My orthopoedic surgeon said I may regain a 'normal ankle shape' within 10 years!!!! but ONLY if I give up shoes that put my ankle at risk of turning over, because that would be likely to result in surgery, which (along with being painful and risky) would mess up my tattoo totally.

So, it's this kind of thing for me now:

Both nice, but these are the ones I really want.

Nevermind. (God, I loved ankle straps!)

I should worry about becoming old and decrepit though... Finally persuaded J to go see his GP today. He's been having 3 migraines a week lately and has also been having (unrelated) swelling of both knees.
Apart from annual bouts of Man Flu he's in very good health usually, and problems with his body worry him.

He won't talk about them though:

When we came back from Poland last year he had chest pain at the gate at Heathrow but decided not to mention it to me in case I 'made an embarrassing scene' by calling an ambulance. Instead he thought he'd get on the plane and die quietly in his seat! (with my last words to him being "What's up with you, you've got a face like a slapped a*rse?" Lovely memories that would have left for j and I...) Anyway, he finally confessed - after he'd driven us home from Newcastle airport!! - and a trip to A&E confirmed no heart attack, but lots of stress. (Funny, I wouldn't have expected that from four days with 4 flights, miles of walking, a visit to Auschwitz...)

So, today he confessed that he'd gone to see the Dr expecting diagnosis of a brain tumour and cancer of both knees, only to be told to get his eyes tested for age-related changes (he's 52), give up coffee (aarrgghh! He's latte man) and to wear knee supports for working - after all, what can he expect at HIS AGE after a youth spent falling off motorbikes onto his kneecaps?

In comparison, I feel quite young and fit today.

Bless him.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spring knitting plans

Inspired by the warmer weather I've been looking for some Spring knitting projects. I bought a brown linen dress recently

and have been thinking about a cardigan to go over it. I've ordered two patterns from White Lies Designs - the Krista Tee and Easy Lace Jacket. I think the Easy Lace might go well, but then again, I was wondering about a shrug...

...been researching them on rounder ladies and found this one, the Mia Shrug from Yarn is my Metier, which I really like. Need to think about a yarn next.

I'm supposed to be trying to get my stash down a bit, but I bought this:

It's Handmaiden Sea Silk in Woodland. At £17 for 100g I only bought one skein. It's going to be a scarf.

Proof that I am knitting something at the moment:

Sock in Opal something or other, sunning itself on J's newly refurbished "Dad's bench". (Guess it's more J's than Dad's now, but that's how it will always be in my mind)

And a close-up. This yarn feels a bit scratchy. I'm hoping it will soften and bloom a little on first wash. It's in a 3+1 rib for a little stretch and may be for j, if he likes the look of it when it's finished.

Marsh marigold looks lovely at this time of year and there's some nice lichen making a home on our Buddha at last.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's not all purple

We've had a productive couple of days - J has been restoring an Edwardian garden seat we got from my Dad in 1989. The legs and uprights are cast iron and the back and seat are timber. The timber had rotted and the paint flaked quite badly, probably due to the fact that it lives in our 'woodland' at the bottom of the garden. It's a lovely spot in the morning becasue the sun gets down there early and it's perfect for sitting with a cup of coffee and listening to the birds (while praying that they don't dump guano on your head from one of the big trees, which can ruin the atmosphere...)

Finished assembling those purple pieces:

Angle of photo makes the mouth look a bit odd, but it's quite sweet, used up lots of odds and ends of purple yarn and has got the whole sock monkey thing out of my system...well, maybe:

and this:

I love those adverts!

More purple - this time in the garden:

A perfect Queen of the Night tulip in bud

and another, starting to open

Tiny grape hyacinths in the rockery.

It's not all purple out there though.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Our way is not soft grass

Eventually (travelling with a small child is like going on manouevres - factor in my brother and his wife and preparation for a trip out takes 3 hours....aarrgghh...) spent the afternoon at Nature's World today. It was relatively people-free when we arrived, which was surprising for a Bank Holiday weekend.

This one-winged swan became very interested in J's bread roll.

This sculpture reminded us of some we saw at the Eden Project.

J unleashed his inner child.

We walked around for 4 hours - much of it on uneven surfaces and some climbing - echoing our walk, yesterday, at Preston Park.
(WARNING: self-pitying fibro-related moaning coming up, skip ahead to avoid) For the last week I've had shooting pains up my left leg and a sort of 'sprained' feeling along the bottom of my left foot. Thought it would be kill or cure with all this walking - of course, I always hope for cure rather than the other - and I'm paying for it now.

Negligible knitting over the last two days, I'm prescribing feet up, tv, knitting and chocolate for tomorrow.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

At last, some knitting content!

Well, just a little...can you tell what it is yet?

(Moody pose, basking in the shade.) No? Oh, well. I hope to have it finished soon.

I also got this today:

I'm probably the only person in the knitting world who hasn't made a Charlotte's Web Shawl. I'm not doing it in Koigu, but in some Twinkletoes sock yarn as part of my stash-busting endeavours this year.

End of knitting content for the moment: It's been 21.5 degrees C outside today! I had the aircon on in the car! And I had to endure the heat while cleaning the upstairs of the house. My brother and his family are driving up tomorrow for a short visit so I instantly became ashamed of our accumulating dust (despite purchase of new vacuum cleaner this week...) and then the beds needed changing etc etc.

When J came home he 'pottered' outside with the kind of force and energy only he can put into pottering. Our potted bay tree had blown over earlier in the year, cracking its terracotta pot, so he repotted it into something bigger.
Crippled by my earlier exertions (pathetic, isn't it?) I just took some photos.

Lovely blue scabious - frighteningly early. (Planet's f*cked - J)

Heleborus Niger, with resident spider.

New Senetti.

The sun has brought the anenomes out into full flower.

I love the acid green of these euphorbia. It's a colour I tried to match with yarn last year, with horrible consequences...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

To sit in the shade on a fine day,

and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment. (Jane Austen)

Weather today is beautifully sunny, but still devilishly cold. Instead of sitting in the shade, I'm going to sit inside, sew up my reknit Calmer tank and then sort some stash while I explore Listen Again to catch up with some books and plays.

Just enjoying a latte in one of J's 'builder's mugs'... (He saw them somewhere and bought a handful, as they would be 'useful for work' or for giving guys large cups of tea. As they are Cornish Blue they never actually made it to work with him, but they hold a lot of latte and enough tea for your average tradesman to find acceptable :) )... when the postman arrived, bringing this:

As I hadn't ordered a Toblerone I was keen to have a look inside:

From Purlescence, but I think I ordered the wrong sox stix size. I'll try again for a bigger size.

Went to the cinema last night - for the first time in nearly a year, can you believe? Saw Becoming Jane, with a friend, and really enjoyed it. It centres around the short period of time in Jane Austen's life when she, supposedly, fell in love with Thomas Lefroy.
I've been a fan of Austen since I was given Emma by my Mum as a girl. Mum said she could see lots of parallels between Emma and me, which I'm not sure is entirely flattering.'s likely that the movie is a work of total fiction, although this article suggests that there may be more to it than was previously thought believable.

Spring is definitely on its way:

Our camellia has never looked happier.

Every year we buy lots of hyacinth bulbs - have them in pots in the house and then plant them outside for the next year. I love these peering out from behind an ivy-covered cordyline trunk.

These anenomes are just beginning to flower. Their velvety purple petals are so beautiful.

We took a chance and planted an unlabelled, mixed bag of small bulbs around the garden last Autumn. These miniature, spikey daffoldils were a nice surprise!

Magnolia in full flower.

Milk or teabag?

I heart Johnny Vegas

I said, the other day, that I'd like to knit a sock monkey. Today I've spent some time looking at sock monkey tutorials and searching for a pattern. Eventually, I found this. Result!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Spent a lovely quiet afternoon catching up with marking from the last few days at school while listening to old Knitcasts.
It made me realise that I should explore a few more knitting podcasts. These are the ones I have found so far:
Cast On
Secret Knitting
Fibre Cast

The whole podcasting business really appeals. I've thought about producing KS2 revision podcasts for our Year 6 students.

Some of my marking has been handwriting (see above). I've never been enormously concerned with adherence to a formally cursive programme - we use the Berol scheme - but as we increasingly use IT to present work I'm beginning to value handwriting as an art and as something to enjoy.

Have you seen these in supermarkets?

j has one on top of his computer and J has one in the back of his work car (alongside his disapproving frog. Most people have nodding animals, but J's frog - brought from Calgary as a gift- shakes its head...possibly expressing feelings about his driving...)

I like sock monkeys and am thinking about having a go at one myself - maybe in purple. I'll have to look for a pattern.

Spring flowers are everywhere, but are taking a bit of a beating by the recent cold snap.