Click here to visit my new blog, Day Rider… Expeditions on Bristol Buses.
Click here to visit my new blog, Day Rider… Expeditions on Bristol Buses.
I haven’t blogged for ages. There is a reason for this. My aim was to knit and then write about the encounters I had whilst knitting. However, of late this hasn’t quite gone to plan. Whenever I have started to knit in a public place, it seems that everyone simply ignores me. But if I have no knitting with me, then I find myself enjoying all kinds of weird and wonderful conversations with complete strangers.
Perhaps I look a bit grumpy when I am knitting – it’s all the concentrating, I guess. And maybe that’s a bit offputting. So it seems I will have to rethink this blog’s reason for existence – either that or make sure I am wearing a silly grin whenever I am plaining and purling in public.
And now here’s a story that has nothing to do with knitting.
We have just returned from a beautiful holiday in mid-Wales. It was such a lovely time. The sun on the autumn leaves made for a gold and crystal world, and we felt very blessed.
On one of our walks, we encountered a small fuzzy caterpillar marching across a cycle path in a most determined manner. We feared for his future – one rotation of a Continental road tyre and he would become a two-dimensional ex-caterpillar. So it seemed only kind to coax him on to a leaf and take him to the verge where he was heading.
He didn’t like it. He looked at the leaf with suspicion and had to be practically scooped up on it. And when we deposited him on the verge, he simply sat there, looking stunned and sulky. Oh well – we did our best.
On the way back, we looked out for him. We found his travel-leaf but there was no sign of the traveller. But then one of us thought to look at the cycle path close to the opposite verge – and there he was. We must have really ruined his day – so much so that he chose to risk life and limb (he had a few little legs) to get back to the place where he’d started – just because he could.
Which just goes to show something, although I’m not sure what. There’s that old wisdom that says if you want to make God laugh, then tell Him your plans. And so, I planned to write a blog about adventures with knitting – but things only seem to happen when I DON’T knit. And we planned to help a caterpillar get safely to the place where he seemed to be heading – only to find him responding by setting off again in the opposite direction. You never can predict what will happen next.
This morning, I had an opportunity to enjoy a sneaky half-hour sitting on the front at Severn Beach. I had my knitting with me (moss stitch in an appropriate mossy sort of colour), and I also had a big bar of chocolate in my bag. Knitting is such an energetic activity (think of the intensive training that would be required if it became an Olympic sport) that chocolate is necessary to maintain the energy levels.
Of course, one of those big bars is far too much for one sitting – but when they are on special offer, they are such good value when compared to the regular bars that they are irresistible. But of course, being a person of restraint, I had no intention of eating the whole lot in one go.
It was so pleasant there today – Goldilocks weather, ie not too hot and not too cold, but just right. And the tide was nearly all the way in. There were some birds on the shoreline, which I THINK were ringed plovers, but I’m not good at identifying waders. Phil and I love wandering alongside the Severn Estuary and we always regret not bringing our field glasses with us when we see small creatures bobbing on the beach. But on the one occasion when we did remember them, we were left none the wiser because we didn’t have a clue what we were looking at.
A small group of walkers stopped to talk to me – they were walking (in stages) along the Severn Way between Gloucester and Bristol, and were just about to head off for Shirehampton.
I am very fond of Severn Beach. I like the baker-cum-cafe on the front if I fancy a mug of something with a cake. And just round the corner is Shirley’s Cafe, which not only offers a pretty mean omelette, but also sells all kinds of random bits and pieces, including my beloved second-hand books.
And as a further selling point, the railway journey between Bristol Temple Meads and Severn Beach is supposed to be the most scenic route in England. Honestly! Apparently, its appeal lies in the variety of landscapes encountered within a very short trip – city, exciting tunnel beneath the Downs, gorge, riverside, estuary and so on. So there we have it – the perfect day out.
I sat and watched pelicans and albatrosses bobbing about on the water, then realised they were herring gulls. For years, I had no problem with gulls but then I was prescribed glasses for distance vision. Suddenly, everything became bigger – I’ve sorted out most things, but seagulls still seem too large. But then again, perhaps they ARE getting bigger, courtesy of all the ice cream they have stolen from small children.
It was time to pack up my knitting and move on. But first of all, I took one last loving look at my mega-bar of chocolate and saw to my surprise that it had nearly all disappeared. What could have happened to it? I hadn’t been mobbed by seagulls. It certainly hadn’t melted. I could only surmise that a Severn Beach mermaid, or perhaps a selkie, had sneaked into my bag whilst I was looking the other way. After all, it couldn’t have been me eating all that chocolate. Perish the thought!
Today was another opportunity to get on with some fairly serious knitting – in other words, I had one of my regular medical appointments.
This time, I was on the receiving end of a routine CT scan. For these scans, you have to arrive an hour in advance in order to drink a large amount of slightly sweet, slightly viscous iodine water. What a perfect opportunity to knit a square in its entirety! If I had brought along a cocktail cherry on a stick and a little umbrella for my special drink, the experience would have been complete.
Today’s creation was in a Quilted Diamonds pattern. The tension was a bit too high, but that was probably because my personal tension was too high as well, primarily because the iodine drink necessitates several visits to the small room, and that of course ,sets off my twirly locks phobia. However although the square is a bit frilly at the edges, I think it will work.
Whilst knitting, a man came up and said, “Is that plain stitch?” and looked very pleased when I confirmed that this was what I was using at that moment. He then told me that when he was little, he often watched his mother knit and consequently he had learnt how to distinguish one stitch from another.
After being scanned I was ready for an Expedition and therefore set off, following my nose. My nose must be a funny shape though because the route I followed was fairly haphazard – Hotwells, Baltic Wharf, the New Cut, Southville, and then a pleasant ramble beneath the trees that border The Malago. (Apparently, FIRECRESTS have been spotted along the length of this little river). When I lost sight of the water course, I climbed the ridiculously steep path to the top of Novers Common, and could fully appreciate why a doctor’s surgery had been positioned at the summit. But one man was running up and down that path, for goodness sake – what was that all about? I, on the other hand, chose to have frequent breaks because – of course – I really needed to enjoy the view…
At the top, I caught a bus all the way down again (oh come on – I deserved it!) and then visited the magnificent Vegan Junk Food cafe in Bedminster. My innards were still sloshing about with iodine stuff, which was a shame because that left no room for one of the beautiful cakes on offer. But I did manage a latte with almond milk, and I started to knit a new square as I drank (the yarn is 100% acrylic and therefore vegan-friendly, I hasten to add), It goes without saying that this drink tasted MUCH much better than the one I had consumed during the day’s previous knitting session.
And so, I continue to rename medical waiting rooms as knitting rooms. And if I can also use appointments as an excuse for going on an expedition, then something that could feel a bit difficult can become something positive and fun instead. A recommendation for anyone preparing for a dental check-up, ear wax removal or verruca zap over the next few weeks.
Yesterday – which was, so far, the hottest day of the year – my friend and I went out for coffee.
We visited Origins, a community cafe in Thornbury, which I can highly recommend. It’s fresh and bright and lovely – and the food is excellent! We found ourselves a shady spot in the garden, and proceeded to put the world to rights.
I pulled out my knitting, in the hope that some stories would come my way as we chatted. At the moment, I am in the process of knitting heritage blankets for my two grown-up children. Last year, their paternal grandmother died, and my ex-husband gave me a number of squares she had knitted. She had intended to incorporate them into the knitted blankets that are often donated to relief agencies. As was usual with her, the quality of the knitting was superb, and I was determined that her efforts wouldn’t be wasted.
However, although I do knit items for charity, I am not currently in touch with anyone who needs blankets. So I decided instead to incorporate them into heirlooms for the next generation. And this works so well. My former mother-in-law began knitting with needles given to her by my mum when the latter’s fingers became too swollen with arthritis to continue. And the yarn I am using for my own squares was purchased with a gift voucher that Mum gave me for my birthday. So, a real family affair.
Anyhow, I had just completed my first row, when our tea cakes arrived. Huge tea cakes, soaked with butter and served with a pot of raspberry jam. So it was time to down tools and eat.
And afterwards, my fingers were buttery…and I needed to chase the chocolate on the top of my cappuccino…and…well, no more knitting happened.
But as we ate and drank, we did sort out not only most of the major problems facing the world today and in the foreseeable future, but also a sizeable chunk of the troubles in the known universe as well. Give a girl a break. I really cannot multitask like I used to, and when there are issues in Alpha Centauri that need resolving – well, you have to get your priorities right, don’t you?
After this erudite discussion, we moved on to the beautiful community garden at the back of the building. There, we once more sat in the shade and continued to discuss matters of deep importance. Then, at the end of our intense debate, my friend said, “Is that a hopscotch court set out over there?”
It was. We then realised that neither of us could remember how to play hopscotch. “It’s something to do with chucking a stone and then hopping about”, my friend volunteered, so that’s what we set about doing.
So there we were, ladies of A Certain Age, trying to remember what we had last attempted to do several decades ago. My friend looked pretty impressive, but when I tried hopping and jumping about, I was aware that my frame was creaking like the mast of a ship in a high wind. And other parts of me wobbled in a dangerous fashion. So perhaps this is not an activity I will be personally taking to Olympic level.
So by the end of the morning, what had we achieved? Well…one row of knitting. And lots of answers to the world’s problems…except that we have now forgotten what those answers are (in fact, we’ve even forgotten the questions). But we DID (sort of..) rediscover hopscotch…and by doing so, we at least gave the birds in the garden a good laugh.
I doubt if there are many knitters who do not have a stash of UFOs (unfinished objects) lurking in dark, dusty cupboards and little-heeded work bags.
It is easy to deny their existence – “Me? Of course I wouldn’t waste all that time and energy and yarn upon something that is never completed and never used. That’s not at all thrifty!” Well…that’s what we LIKE to think about ourselves, but how many of us can honestly say that we really do finish everything we start? And there MUST be knitters apart from myself who cheerily buy nice big bundles of bright new yarn for exciting new projects, whilst the old projects lie abandoned in overlooked corners – the Miss Havishams of the haberdashery world, left forever on the shelf.
(I don’t know whether knitting yarn is counted as haberdashery. It’s just that I like the alliteration.)
Well…I am no longer in denial. I am being big and brave and facing up to the forlorn fragments in the back bedroom, and I am doing something about them. I began by making a headband from a strip of glittery blue yarn, whose original purpose I have quite forgotten. I then remembered a jumper in lace knit that I began over three years ago. The yarn was quite fine and I kept getting lost with the lace pattern – in the end, I grew frustrated with the project and gave up. I was left with a completed front, and half a back, which I had at least cast off so that it wouldn’t fray into a jumble of yarn, only fit for a kitten to play with.
Yesterday, that abandoned jumper began to haunt me – so today, the two pieces came downstairs and they were turned into Useful Things. The completed front proved to be adequately shawl shaped, so I simply found a flower brooch to pin it together, and that was one problem solved.
The smaller piece sort of made a kind of hat, but with quite a bit of material left over at the back. Husband Phil (who is a weaver, and therefore, clever) advised me to make a braid to tie up the excess material. I found some lengths of coarse yarn in colours that felt right, and then Phil led me into crafting activities that were entirely new to me…so it feels as if today has been a day of high adventure.
This is now the time to reveal just some of the strange artefacts that can be found in the Newton household. Because Phil first of all produced a FRINGE TWISTER, which proved to be a very exciting gadget, with four clips that resembled pretty mean-looking crocodiles lying menacingly in front of a turny-thing (I expect there is a technical term for the latter – a handle, perhaps?) Anyway, that was fun to use…and after that, the FELTING NEEDLES were placed before me to complete the braided effect. So all in all, a good evening in. Photo at the top of the page.
There are still plenty of UFOs lurking upstairs, so if you are one of my relatives, you may have lots of good things coming your way. This Christmas, you might just be getting a toe nail warmer that was originally intended as a cardigan. Or a fruit cosy whose original ambition was to become part of a sock. Doubtless, it never before occurred to you that you needed these objects, but I can assure you that once they are in your life, you will wonder how you ever functioned without them. I look forward to all your ‘thank you’ letters in the New Year…
Yesterday, I did one of my favourite things – I packed my bag, and set off for a day of walking and knitting. I took a mitten pattern and some bright red wool with me, and worked at various places along the way.
I began in Redland and finished at Southmead Hospital, where I had an afternoon appointment. Nothing dire – simply Week Two of my CBT course. I am trying to overcome a phobia of…well, getting locked in a loo…which as you can imagine is er, a little inconvenient from time to time.
There were good experiences along the way. I enjoyed knitting in various parks and listening to the bird-music on offer. In Alexandra Gardens, an invisible goldcrest was wielding its needle-thin song, whilst in Muller Road Recreational Gardens, a blackbird was a right diva, with a backing chorus of sparrows, a robin, some goldfinch and a blackcap.
And the world was filled with flower perfume! I love the scent of roses, and the orange blossom really bowls me over. I like privet too – it’s a very NOSTALGIC scent, reminding me of neighbourhood gardens when I was a child. But I can’t cope with palm tree flowers. They smell of calamine lotion and remind me of having chickenpox.
During my travels, I walked past Zetland Road Evangelical Church. This is a conspicuous building because it bears a huge sign, proclaiming to the world that ‘GOD IS LOVE’. Yesterday though, I noticed a small plaque attached to its exterior, which gave some of the history of the church. There I learnt that the original building was in Stokes Croft but sadly, that edifice was completely destroyed during the Blitz. Well, not QUITE completely. Just one part of it was salvaged – and that was the ‘GOD IS LOVE’ sign. How beautiful is that?
I have no sense of direction and often walk round in circles. But I did eventually find myself in Downend Road and that filled me with joy, because I knew there was something worth visiting there. I walked until I reached October Lane, turned into it – and there it was.
Downend Farm is a beautiful, gabled 17th century building that only exists because some local folk fought valiantly to save it. During the Civil War, some Cavaliers sheltered there and painted a mural above the fireplace, depicting the Bristol battle that they had just fled from. Unfortunately, it was painted over by some workmen who didn’t realise its value, which is such a shame. But at least the farm building still exists, and I love to come across it in its hiding-place at the heart of suburbia.
I knitted outside the main entrance of the hospital, and fell into conversation with a fellow-patient. I asked him if he had a story for this blog, but he simply looked very dejected and told me that nothing exciting ever happened to him. That decided, we then fell into general conversation where I learnt about some of the exciting events of his life. As he said, “I guess we all have a story to tell, even if we don’t recognise it.”
Week 2 of the CBT class was good. There is one problem, though – the loos in the building where we meet epitomise everything that terrifies me about toilets. But one of the facilitators turned it into a positive and said that we could use it as a training ground for me – I could lock myself in there for two seconds…then a bit more…and so on.
“If I can achieve that”, I declared, “I shall celebrate with chocolate!” In fact, I felt so excited that I decided to start work immediately after the session.
We finished. I passed the toilets, thought, “Hmm…maybe next week” and went on. But do you know what? I still celebrated with chocolate. Because at least I THOUGHT about doing it. And thinking is, after all, half the battle.
And by the time I had reached home, I was ready to start shaping the thumb on the first mitten. Yes – yesterday was a good day.