Sunday, 31 October 2010

Half Term

We have had our daughter and junior grandson staying for a few days.   It is jolly hard persuading ticket people that this hulking great lad is still only 13 - 14 next week, actually.  One day we went to
Ely Cathedral.  It was a glorious day as you can see - not a cloud in the sky. I let him loose with my camera and he took quite a lot of good photographs.  This is the great Lantern
and I love this mediaeval corbel

As we live in the Diocese of Ely we have a free pass  - it is known locally as the Ship of the Fens because when the mists roll around at ground level the cathedral floats like a majestic ship, it must have been really awe-inspiring to the local folk in days gone by.  It still impresses us now!  We went to the Oliver Cromwell museum -
 where Oliver and Elizabeth seem quite sanguine about having another son.  I am a real pain, because I don't lose a single opportunity to drum in  a history lesson.  History isn't really his subject - he is keen on physics and maths just like his older brother.  George took him to see a rugby match between Cambridge University and Cardiff - that was much more to his liking.  We were going up to the Tower of London but actually had a day in Cambridge instead at his request.   On Wednesday we went to Anglesey Abbey - another lesson about Hobson (of Hobson's choice fame) who was the first secular owner of the house after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The grounds were looking wonderful with the rich autumn colours and we walked along to Lode Mill where some delightful N.T. volunteers, seeing how interested we were, started the mill up for us and gave us a very interesting tour .  Of course I had to buy some flour so I'm looking forward to making the next loaf.  Needless to say food was involved and we had a super cream tea, why is National Trust food always so delicious?
I was sad to see them go back up to Stafford on Thursday morning but the Sawston Rotary Wives had a tour of Chilford Vineyard and a wine tasting followed by lunch so that helped to fill the void.  Last night we went to a BRILLIANT concert run by George's Rotary Club - Rave On did a tribute to Buddy Holly ( or Buddy Holliday as George kept on saying - he is very square).  The concert was a sell out and the
band was terrific, we were all  bopping in our seats and then dancing in the aisles  as they stormed into Peggy Sue,  Blue Suede Shoes, and so on.  Shades of my youth.  We were all exhausted at the end.
So have I done any stitching, ask the other members of MESCH?  Well, no.  But I am doing a lot of thinking and at the moment I am going to sit in front of the fire making gift tags for the Church Bazaar.  50p for 10 - a bargain.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Diaghilev at the V & A

On Thursday I went up to London to meet my good friend Sandra at the V & V to see the Diaghilev exhibition.  It was BRILLIANT.   I just loved it - every minute of it, and in fact we spent 3 1/2 hours going round so we certainly got our money's worth !   Fortunately, Sandra is just like me and  reads everything, I don't think we missed a single item.
The cover of the exhibition notes shows costumes designed by Chanel, they were there on display alongside costumes from so many ballets, The Rite of Spring, The Fire Bird, etc. etc.  Bearing in mind the fact that they had been danced in (strenuously) and were about 100 years old, they were all in remarkably good condition.  I r4esisted taking photographs until the very end when I sneaked this photo 
of modern haute couture which had been inspired by the ballet.  I was completely overwhelmed by the  films being shown and by the enormous  stage backcloths which the V & A had bought back in the 60's.  In fact, it would appear that most of the exhibits were from the V & A itself and not on loan.  I always look for the provenance of the piece - it is interesing to see who owns these  pieces of history. I was particularly taken with a small drawing by Picasso of Leonide Massine, a wonderful example of a pure pencil line.   I bumped into Gina - or rather, she prodded me having recognised my backside !  She was there with her mother and I felt certain that we would see them again in the cafe, but we had obviously been so long in our examination of every single item that they had long gone!  Did Gina, I wonder, indulge in one of these:-
When we emerged blinking from the last room, Sandra asked me what I thought the time was.  It was 3.30 and I just knew that I was not going to make the train home (the one that stops me turning into a pumpkin) so there was nothing for it but to have afternoon tea and do a bit of shopping in the excellent V & A shop.   Sandra bought a beautiful brooch, expensive but I know she won't regret it!  Then I wended my way over to St Pancras where I wasted an hour  having a drink and window shopping before going to Kings X and the 7.18 home.  Dear George was waiting for me, had put the meal in the oven and lit the fire - what a lovely end to a perfect day.

Friday and Saturday nights we went out to dinner with friends so it has been quite nice to have a slummocky Sunday.  Yesterday we had a tree taken down
It was a self sown ashtree which had been a real nuisance, three times we haave had it topped and it has grown again so quickly. 
Just think how many lovely logs that will provide for the winter !

Monday, 11 October 2010

Ally Pally

On Saturday I set off at 7.30 for my annual 'fix' at the Knitting and Stitching Show.  First thing on arrival was a cup of coffee - boy, was it 'orrid.   Someone told me later that there was a better coffee spot inside - I'm very fussy about my coffee!  Anyway, I sat and read the programme and planned my day.  I didn't have anything to buy (I could certainly stock one if not two stands with all my  stuff) but inevitably I managed to spend money. As usual all the exhibitions were exciting and inspiring - I particularly liked Dierdre Hawken's fantastic miniature hats!   I didn't take photographs  because I don't really think it is fair on the artist.  But I was amazed when Dierdre recognised me from a workshop I did with her some 10 or 12 years ago!  What a memory.  I had a lovely  chat with Lizzie Houghton the felt maker - I have done several courses with her including a wonderful hat-making course.  Such a nice lady.  I lust after one of her jackets....  I had no scruples about taking a photograph at the Art Van Go stand - here is the wonderful Ruth Issett up to her elbows in paint as usual -
 The Queen of Colour, I call her.  It is so appropriate that she has those vibrant streamers over her head!
Art van Go have had  two big stands for the last couple of years and they were busy, busy, busy. Good to see that Kevin was working hard -

I couldn't get near Viv because she was under a pile of customers!  The graduate shows were exciting as was the retrospective of Julia Caprara's work and Margaret Nicholson's or nue.  I looked in at the Chat exhibition, I was a founder member of that group and it was good to see some of  them again.  I really liked the knitted wire corsets.  I bumped into lots of people I knew and at lunch time sat with some very friendly ladies from Kent.    Talking of Ladies,  I DO wish all the ladies loos were not on the first floor, after several hours trawling around the stands to climb up all those stairs is a real pain!  The Global Paper Exhibition was terrific   - in fact there was SO much to see.

I got home at about 7 to find that George had all ready gone out to our dinner date with friends, so I had to do a quick change and follow him.  After we had eaten we played cards - I don't know HOW I kept awake!    AND we had to be up early to 'sidle' in church Sunday morning.  But Sunday was a perfect day - we had lunch in the garden and this was the sky -

over my head as I sat and ate my lunch - not bad for the 10th day of the 10th month, 2010  !

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

An autumn break

We have just come back from

or more precisely,  a friend's villa just above  Caylus - a delightful mediaeval fortified town in the Tarn et Garonne part of France, right down on the S.W. corner.  It is the third time we have bee there and we just love the area, no wonder so many Brits buy property there!  This is breakfast with freshly collected bread, butter and Bonne Maman apricot jam - holiday treat.

Every village is a picturesque  gem and the countryside is beautiful.  We drove down stopping overnight at a nice little farm south of Dijon at St. Germain les Buxy.  We were intrigued at breakfast the next morning to see a housemartin's nest  above our heads in the beams of the dining room.  Apparently the windows had been left open a bit too long!  Our objective was to visit the wonderful Millau Bridge designed by Norman Foster.  It is most impressive and flies gracefully across the valley, so high that as you can see from this diagram in the visitor centre (very smart!) the Eiffel Tower would just about go underneath the centre span!

We drove across it and back, 6 euros 50 each way but it was worth it.  My only complaint was that the fact that it was designed by an Englishman was in VERY small print, but then we were in France.  Whilst we were away  George was reading '1000 years of annoying the French' by Stephen Clarke and maybe the Millau Bridge was  the last straw !
The weather was wonderful apart from one rain and thunder storm, and we were able to lie around the pool reading and George even did some swimming.   We visited lots of interesting markets, bought good, cheap wine and big, fat, fresh vegetables and we visited an English woman  doing patchwork and quilting holidays at her villa near St Antonin Noble Val - my friend had spotted an advertisement in one of the quilting magazines.  A very nice set up right in the middle of nowhere, there were about 12 women beavering away  - one from Paris, two from California and three from  Ashdon Quilters at Saffron Waldon! Of course we had friends in common - what a co-incidence!  All the ladies said the food was wonderful....!

We were sitting in the 14th century market square in Caylus having a drink when we heard a sound above us - a cat had jumped out of the window onto the ledge and was happily sunning itself, not at all worried about the drop below him.  A very good vantage point.  I wonder if that is a bullet hole from the revolution behind him? 
OOOps, here is the Millau bridge out of sequence !
 The next village to Caylus is Septfonds, and the last time my friend Jenny was at her villa she went to an exhibition by the local patchwork group.  They were very friendly and asked her to visit their weekly class next time she was in France.  So on a Friday afternoon off we went - and what lovely ladies they were!   Madame the leader insisted on showing us all over her house, we met her charming  husband and her dog and saw all her work.  Everything in the house was made a la main.  My French is enthusiastic but lousy - I remember all the words but have a bad accent and rotten grammar - but I DO have a go, and often get myself into deep trouble by launching into a complicated conversation and then losing my way.  Resolve:   must go to French conversation classes.
Again there were about a dozen women sitting in a big room round a huge table, stitching away and all by hand.  There was a very nice young woman from America who had married a Frenchman and she was able to do a bit of translating.    We spent about an hour with them and had a cup of tea, it is amazing what warmth  and friendship comes arm in arm with textiles.  Thank you, lovely ladies of the Club Du Fil a L'aguille - les petites abeilles de Septfonds, for a really great afternoon! 

 Beyond Septfonds is the town of Causade - the berceau du chapeau de paille (cradle of straw hats) or in other words the Luton of France.  But very different!  A typical  market, a good shoe shop selling designer models very reasonably (yes!), and a hat museum.   Lots of very old hats lying around and on shelves, and the amazing thing was no one seemed to be there to stop you trying them on - so of course we did.  Very carefully, as  some of them might have been around during the revolution!  And no, I'm not showing you the photo because I don't look anything like Marie Antoinette. But just to prove I was there...

We had just had a particularly good lunch, so I don't know why George is looking so fierce !

On the way home we stopped overnight in a farm at Bourg Beaudouin near Rouen   - we stayed there three years ago and were charmed by the place and by the farmer's wife  Benedicte.    The house is full, and I do mean full, of stuff.  Decoupage, doilies, paintings, books, cheese labels, chickens in every shape and form, old farm and dairy utensils - even the radiators are painted.   I fell in love with this teapot at breakfast (note the cows on the tablecloth!)  this is the front......
 and this of course is the back!  French style in all it's glory, n'est ce pas?
Last time we stayed we ate dinner at the farm but this time it was not possible so we drove, on Madame's recommendatition , to Les Lions de Beauclerc in the utterly delightful village of Lyons la Foret.    Every building was strung around with flowers - this is the covered market -

 The meal at Les Lions was first class and at 20 euros a head not expensive, and  we were eating in a decor raffine et chaleureux !  It was dark when we left the restaurant, but I was amazed to see on the house opposite all these figurines on the OUTSIDE of the windowledges !  Amazing!  I have never seen the like before.  I hope they were stuck down.

Anyway, after a couple of glorious weeks away we came home to find a flooded conservatory, soaking wet patchwork quilts, cushions and armchair.  A big water stain on the lovely old rug.   Down to earth with a bang     Yukkkkk.    But........

The one ray of sunshine was this -

A Parcel !!!    A PIF from the lovely Gina (what exactly is a PIF ?)  Anyway I opened it up and there was one of Gina's delightful pincushion/boxes, some cards of her recent degree work AND some chocolate!  And wrapped in my favourite colour combination of pink and lime green - how did you know? What is a wet conservatory compared to that!
Thank you so much Gina and I understand that I now have to pass this on to three people, is that right? Well, of course, I don't have half or even a quarter as many followers as Gina but if anyone is interested in receiving a mystery parcel from me (and it is a mystery to me, too, at the moment!)let me know, shall we say by the end of October.  I can certainly do the chocolate bit!  I am really thrilled with my pincushion.

Anyway, no more holidays now this year, it is WORK.  House work, gardening and SEWING.  And that's a promise.  But not necessarily in that order.
                   And again out of sequence (I still do not seem to be able to master this thing) one last look at
                                                   Les petite abeilles de Septfonds