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Friday, 21 July 2017

End of an era

Small daughter finishes at her primary school today.  We've had a week of parties, performances, assemblies and tonight there's a prom - they're certainly going out with a bang!  After today, my connection with this primary school that both my girls attended is over and if it wasn’t in an area that’s great for dog walking then I might not even go back there.  Part of me is delighted, as I know that small daughter is more than ready to move on to high school, but another part is a little sad as small daughter is becoming less small every day.  We can’t make our children stay little forever, and nor should we want to, but it is a strange moment when it hits you that they are growing up.

Small daughter is also excited and a little sad.  She’s spent time at her new high school and is looking forward to the challenges that it’s going to bring.  She’s ready to be stretched in her subjects, to learn more about the world and what’s going on around her; the school puts an emphasis on being aware of current affairs as well as curriculum subjects as they (wisely) say that there’s no point in students leaving with a fistful of exam certificates and no awareness of what’s going on in the world.  She’s ready to make new friends although she intends to stay in touch with her old class.  They’re already swapping phone numbers and getting ready to write messages to other all over their school t-shirts (a tradition in this school that stretches back to when big daughter was there and even before).  When small daughter has done the same time again in this new school, she’ll be heading for university (if that’s what she wants to do) and big daughter – well, big daughter will be a grown woman with a life of her own by then.  It’s not something that I like to think about too closely.  My chicks are spreading their wings and already I can see them moving ever closer to the edge of the nest.

Not all of us are great at change.  I know that I’m not; I need time to think about what’s happening and how it’s going to make life different.  I always know that life will be better because I believe that every situation in our life is designed in some way to improve it even if we can’t see it at the time, but that doesn’t make it any easier when we’re faced with events that are both expected and unexpected.  It’s going to take time to adjust to this new life where small daughter has a phone and a key and knows which bus to get on.  I’m not quite sure that I’m ready for that so I am grateful that we have the school holidays to spend time together whilst I get to know this new, confident person.  And perhaps have to find a new blog name for her.  Small daughter is growing up. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Sockalong knit n natter meet up

I really must take a new photo - the sale has finished!

What are you up to next Wednesday morning between 10am and 12pm?  That's the 19th of July, and if you're anywhere near Culcheth in Warrington and fancied coming along to Black Sheep Wools Craft Barn for a bit of a knit n natter, it'd be great to see you!

Members of the Winwick Mum Sockalong Facebook groups are getting together to knit, crochet, chat and also to sample Black Sheep's excellent cake and smoosh lots of yarn.  Black Sheep Wools are now a flagship store for Rowan Yarns complete with a brand new Rowan section, and they've recently started stocking lots of exciting new yarns such as Baa Ram Ewe and Sheepjes - not to mention a good selection of sock yarns too! 

We have these occasional meet ups and it's always lovely to see people rather than photos and admire their projects in real life.  You don't have to be knitting socks, you can bring any project you like and it's free to come along.  We don't provide any refreshments so that you can choose to visit the cafe or not - we just take over the workshop room for a couple of hours to meet friends old and new and have a lovely time!  

If you're getting a lift, your driver can either while away a couple of happy hours in the cafe or on the big squishy sofa with a newspaper, or take the short drive into the village of Culcheth where there are shops and more cafes, and a play park too if you have small people with you.

See you there! :)

Saturday, 8 July 2017


Hi, how's your weekend going?  It's been another warm and sunny one here, and the Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) has been a wonder to behold and smell (besmell? Could there even be such a word?).  It grows up a sunny wall at the front of the house and is absolutely smothered in white star-like blooms that pack a really powerful punch in the scent department.  Even our postman has noticed and he's normally too busy to stop and smell the flowers.

Ahh, jasmine.  Definitely one of my very favourite smells.

And my absolutely favourite vegetable, peas in a pod.  Nothing can beat popping that green case open and seeing those peas all snug together, admiring the way that nature has designed them to grow in perfect form - and then eating them.  Even tomatoes warm from the greenhouse only come a close second.  I should have been picking the peas and bringing them into the house for dinner, but instead I have found myself standing in the garden eating pod after pod of them and smiling at the memory of getting into trouble for the very same thing when I was little and lived with my parents.  We grew most of our own vegetables so for me to snaffle all the peas that were supposed to go into the freezer for the winter was something that was frowned upon, but now there's no one to tell me off except myself and that's not going to happen :)

I have spent this weekend working on the lace sock tutorial.  It's been slow going as the girls have been around and I've been easily distracted, but I've done the bulk of it now so with a fair wind and a bit of luck it should be ready to post this next week.  I finished the socks themselves ages ago but I've procrastinated over the video editing and have learnt my lesson now as it's not fun to leave it all till the last minute.  Still, it'll be worth it - I hope!  

I've also finished my West Yorkshire Spinners Marie Curie socks.  These are the ones made from the limited edition yarn that is supporting the Marie Curie charity - you can read more about it here (and you can see a bit about the tutorial socks too!).  They've been a quick knit - WYS yarns always do seem to knit up very quickly and are always even nicer once they've been washed and worn.  There's a donation from each ball of yarn being made to the charity which makes it an even better excuse to buy the yarn whether you need it right now or not! :)  (Incidentally, someone suggested to me recently that this yarn might look good in the Couthie shawl pattern and I think those bold stripes would lend themselves very well to that if you don't fancy socks.)

At the risk of running out of WIPs (works in progress) - ha! - I've cast on another pair of socks. This pattern is Curved, Bumpy Trail socks by Rich Ensor and I thought it would be perfect for this Wool is the Answer 4ply in colourway Blueberry Mash.  I've admired Rich Ensor's patterns for quite some time although it's only now that I've finally got to cast one on.  It's working out just as nicely as I hoped it would, although I have to agree with other people who've posted their projects on Ravelry that this pattern is not written for beginners.  The actually knitting part isn't difficult but it took me some time to work out what the charts and written pattern were telling me to do. I'll be sure to make notes on my Ravelry project for this sock so if you're tempted to have a go at it at some time, do check them if you get stuck.

Finally, before I go and see a bit of the weekend sunshine before the sun goes down, Let's Knit magazine have reminded me to remind you that if you are so inclined to vote in the British Knitting and Crochet Awards this year and haven't done so, there's still time before the closing date in August.  I would be thrilled if you would like to vote for my blog in the Favourite Knitting Blog category - thank you!

Have a brilliant rest of the weekend, whatever you're up to! xx

Monday, 3 July 2017

Re-opening Winwick Church

It was so lovely at 2pm yesterday afternoon to be part of a village community and to be able to join in with celebrating the re-opening of our church.  Whether you're a churchgoer or not, a church is a part of what makes a town or village what it is.  Winwick Church is a local landmark, easily recognised from the M62 motorway and even before we lived in Winwick, seeing it always made me feel that I was home.

We live close enough to walk to the church and decided it would be a good idea to do that in case the small car park was busy.  We set off in plenty of time for the re-opening service so that we would be able to find a seat and although that turned out to be harder than we thought, we were delighted to see that the church was full.  I don't think I've ever seen the church this full before, and I was really pleased that so many people had turned out.

We eventually found ourselves a space right over in the corner next to the Legh Chapel where we'd been cleaning the week before.  Small daughter was pleased to note that her beautifully mopped floor still looked good, and my husband and big daughter cast a critical eye over their work on the wrought iron and were pleased that they didn't spot any places they had missed.  You can see here just how many people there were - and there were still people coming in!  Some ended up sitting in the Chancel which is away to the right, others had to stand at the back and the sides.  I felt that it was a wonderful acknowledgement of the work that Reverend June and the rest of the church community have put in, and whilst nobody expects the church to be as busy every week, it was right that it was yesterday.

From our side vantage point, I could see parts of the church that I've never looked at before. Another angel tucked up high in the ceiling ...

A stained glass window that I pass every day in the car but have never really looked at.  (That's not a wooden TARDIS on the left, it's the porch door :) )

Stone arches and the refurbished ceiling; whenever we've been to services in the church we've tended to sit in the main aisle so we've always looked forwards, never across the church.  It's a good view, although we might look a bit strange if we chose to sit here again when there was space in the middle!

When the service began, it was apparent just how much a part of the community the church is. The school choir sang, the village Brownie pack were there, the Mayor of Warrington, our local MP and other visiting dignitaries, even the architects and roofing contractors.  The whole service felt joyous and inclusive, and also a momentous event for our little village.  Afterwards there was tea and cake in the church hall (such an English thing to do!) and I am sure the celebrations continued for quite some time amongst the church committee who will have been mightily relieved that the work was finished and everything went so well.

Now that the church has been restored, the intention is for it to be used for a wider range of community activities than it had been previously.  There is a new stage area (that's the red carpeted area in this picture) which can be set up for concerts and talks, lighting and good sound system so that now the church can be a unique venue for all kinds of events.  A large proportion of the work was paid for the Heritage Lottery Fund who have secured an agreement with the church that it will be open for at least 40 days of the year when services aren't in progress so that people can visit to look around.  The dates of the open days and more info about hiring the church for an event can be found on the church's website here.

After being closed for seven years, it's really wonderful to see our church open again.  Definitely one of the joys of village life.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Church cleaning

It's going to be an exciting day in the calendar of St Oswald's Church, Winwick, next Sunday when the church officially re-opens after being closed (on and off) for seven years whilst the ceilings were being repaired.  It's been a very big and expensive job; the church was surrounded by metal shuttering and scaffolding for months on end whilst the specialist teams worked on the roof, and everyone is glad that it's finally finished.

You can see here what the main ceiling looked like before the work started.  It wasn't in good condition at all.  Deathwatch beetle had got into the wood and in some places, it was pretty much held up by fresh air and angels ...



This is what it looks like now, safely restored so that nothing is likely to drop on any unsuspecting parishioner's head.  It's a bit like a re-wire in your house - lots of money spent and all of the work is behind the scenes so outwardly, it doesn't look very different.  However, the work that's been done should mean that the ceiling won't need such extensive work doing again in the future.  You can read more about the restoration work here.

There's going to be a re-opening service next Sunday (2 July) at 3pm to which everyone is welcome, but first the dust and grime of the restoration work has needed to be removed.  The church needs to be wearing it's very best clothes for the service!  And as happens in all communities around the world, whether church-related or not, volunteers step forward to make sure that the work gets done.  Yesterday, the Perry family joined the small army of people armed with mops, buckets and dusters to help to make the church look as good as it can do for the service next week.

We were allocated the Legh (pronounced "Lee") Chapel, named for the Legh family who originally came from Lyme Park and were landowners in the area.  It's one of the older parts of the church and now houses the organ and some rather splendid memorials.

Big daughter and my husband set to work cleaning the wrought ironwork that separates the chapel from the rest of the church.  

Did you know that WD-40 protects wrought iron from rust and also gives it a lovely shine?  It also gives your hands an interesting aroma for the rest of the day! :)

Small daughter set to work with a feather duster before becoming a very enthusiastic floor-mopper.  I think I might put her in charge of all the floor mopping at home after this!  

This chapel contains memorials all dedicated to members of the Legh family.  This one is rather sad; it appears that the woman in the middle is being directed to heaven and leaving her husband holding the baby ...

or perhaps he's just in the dog-house after forgetting to buy more nappies at the supermarket, or the baby's been up crying all night and he's really really tired ...  

either way, it's one of my favourite sort of sculptures where the people look as if they're wearing clothes.  How on earth does a lump of stone become robes which are obviously clothing bodies? It's amazing!  

Poor man, I hope he didn't have too bad a life afterwards.

This memorial is from an even earlier time ...

I don't know how well you can see the inscription but it says:

"Here under this stone lyeth (lies) 
bvryed (buried) the body of Sr (Sir) Peter Legh
Knight who departed this lyfe (life)
Febrvary (February) the 17th Ano Dom (AD) 1635
at the age of 73"

(thank you to Shelagh, anonymous and knitaddict for translating!)

1635!  That's not the oldest memorial in the church either!  Isn't it wonderful to have this history on your doorstep?  I've never seen this stone before, in fact I've never been in this chapel before. The good thing about the church being open again will be that there will be days when the church is open and a service isn't on, so that visitors can have a good look around at what is here.

Like the original font ...

and more very old memorials (this one's a proper knight in his armour, too!) ...

and the big solid doors ...

I love these old door fastenings.

June, the Rector here at St Oswalds, showed us the church door key.  It's really big, a good six inches (15cm) or so long ...

Well admit it, you'd have been disappointed it if had been a common or garden house key, wouldn't you? :)

She also showed us how the organ worked.  I've never seen it up close like this before, never mind had the chance to press the keys!  I have no idea how you would begin to play on three keyboards; they each have a different tone but I know that combined they give that wonderful sound that fills every space in the church.  

The cleaning brigade all trooped off to the church hall at this point for a communal lunch so I forgot to take photos of the organ pipes to show you, but I'll do that another day.  They're lovely, soaring high up towards the roof so that even the angels on the ceiling can hear the music clearly ...

By the time we left, the church was smelling of polish and the sunlight was lighting up the stained glass windows.  I never used to be that fond of visiting churches when I was younger; they always felt cold and rather unwelcoming, but my view on them has changed over the years.

Now, I am much more aware of the warmth that's contained inside; not necessarily from the bricks but from the community that is involved with them.  Churches are places of happiness and sadness and we need both of those to make our lives balanced.  They have seen generations of people come and go and still stand firmly rooted, never minding whether we choose to go inside or not.  

I'm very much looking forward to our village church being open again.  It feels like a part of the village has come home after a long time away, and I am sure that I am not the only to feel that.  

Thursday, 22 June 2017

This and that

I don't know where the time is going.  It's Thursday already!  The days are rushing past, seemingly ever-faster, and it seems as if no sooner have I got up in the morning than it's time for bed again. And what have I been doing with myself in those (feels like) few minutes between waking and sleeping?  I will tell you!

The decluttering is still in progress.  It's going to be in progress for some considerable time, but I'm trying to do a bit every day so that it does actually get done.  It's tempting to leave it all until I have a spare few hours to tackle it, but I know that will never happen so every time I go into the garage or into a cupboard I have a look to see if there's something that I don't need any more.  I'm down to the last few knitting magazines.  Boy, this was a bigger job than I expected but I'm glad that I've done it now - the trick will be to keep on top of it as new magazines come in every month, but having finally made the decision that it's OK to cut my magazines up, it should be easier to keep them under control.

I've bought a rather fab decluttering book, too, which has helped no end.  It's called Goodbye Clutter, Hello Freedom by Lena Bentsen and is a system of decluttering based on hygge.  I have to say that I was a bit sceptical when I first saw this listed on an Amazon email but something drew me to it - I bought the Kindle version so that I could read it straight away, but also so that if I didn't like it then I wouldn't have spent a fortune on it.  Hygge is fashionable at the moment and I wasn't sure that this wouldn't be just another book jumping on a bandwagon, but I was pleasantly surprised.  In fact, I've been delighted with this book.  It's written in a kind way for people like me who struggle with more "traditional" methods of decluttering - when someone tells me that if I've not worn an item of clothing or looked at an item for 12 months I should throw it away, it makes me feel quite anxious and then guilty that I can't do it.  In fact, it's not uncommon for me to not wear something for a year or so and then want to wear it all the time.  We are all anchored by our stuff although some people find it easier to be dispassionate about clearing out and therefore don't have any problems with traditional decluttering methods.  I am more of a hoarder collector, and my stuff is often tied up with memories and emotions which makes it very hard for me to throw it all away - in the past I have told myself to just get on with it and thrown away things that I later regretted, but of course it is too late then.  Goodbye Clutter, Hello Freedom deals with all of that in a way that made me feel calm and quite normal, and it also tackles that perennial decluttering toughie - how to declutter unwanted gifts.  I was so fired up after reading this book - it's only short so you can read it quite easily - that I went upstairs and cleared out my wardrobe and only managed to send one skirt to the charity shop that I hadn't intended to re-home. Progress indeed! 

Knitting progress has also taken place.  I've been playing around with a shawl design to use this yarn from West Green Loft Yarns which I'll tell you more about another day; I discovered when I came to wind the skein that I couldn't use it for socks because I wouldn't be able to match them (perhaps not a problem for anyone else but definitely for me!) so I decided to knit a shawl instead. Knitting this has reminded me why I never begrudge paying a designer for their patterns - they have worked out how many stitches you need, how many rows to knit and they have been the ones to endlessly rip out their work whilst they work all of that out.  This has been my "down-time" TV knitting and it has seen many hours of programmes whilst it has been knitted and re-knitted.  In fact, if it doesn't get finished soon, this shawl is going to want an invitation to Christmas dinner.  

Luckily, socks are not as demanding as half-designed shawls.  This is the limited edition Marie Curie yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners which is knitting up a treat.  I've finished one sock and am onto the second one now; you can't beat the comforting rhythm of rounds of a sock, especially when a shawl is trying to demand all the attention!  I think there may be a few balls of this special yarn left at Cityknits if you fancy a ball for yourself - £2.00 from the price of each ball is donated to the charity which makes it a very excuse to buy more yarn!

Yesterday, I abandoned both knitting and decluttering and went to Yorkshire to spend the day with my lovely friend Lucy.  I usually go up to Skipton on a Tuesday and join in with the knit n natter at Coopers where Lucy's studio is, but life got in the way this month so we ended up meeting on a Wednesday.  It's been such a gloriously sunny week that we decided to go out for a walk and went to Bolton Abbey.  We've been walking there before - I hadn't realised quite how long ago it was - November 2015!  You can read that post here if you're interested in seeing it.  Last time we went, there had been endless rain for weeks and the River Wharfe had been in full spate. Yesterday we found the opposite; the dry weather meant that the river was running much lower than usual although it was still a deep brown peaty colour and was still moving pretty fast.  

We walked up to the Strid, a narrow channel where the water rushes through with incredible speed (you can read more about in my November post).  This is what the water looked like on that November day ...

and this is what it looked like yesterday.  You can see how much the water level has dropped - the rocks that we were standing on when I took this picture weren't visible at all in the first photo.

There's a good reason why that first photo is taken from a distance away; apparently the Strid is as deep as the river is wide in other places as the water, forced through that narrow channel, has eroded the rocks deep down into the earth.  It's a dangerous place - people who have fallen in there have never been found and even yesterday, with the water so much lower, Lucy and I kept our distance.  You can see here how high the water level normally is - right up to those green rocks ...

and you can see how the swirling currents have worn away the rocks which are normally deep beneath the surface.

High up on dry land at the moment, this curved hole can't usually be seen.  The hollowed rocks are a fascinating sign of how nature works, but at the same time it gives you a bit of a shiver.  It's no wonder that anything that goes into the Strid doesn't come back out again with those whirlpools.

I don't know how well you can see from this picture, but at the top right hand side you can see a rock underneath the surface, and at the bottom is the peaty water which goes down and down with no sign of the bottom of the Strid in sight.  Even though the water was relatively calm compared to the last time I saw it, given the way that the rocks have been worn down, I wouldn't fancy anybody's chances if they fell in.

Lucy and I continued our walk, climbing up and away from the Strid and following a circular route that took us back round to the Pavilion cafe where we had parked the car.  It's a good length of walk; we were out for a couple of hours and we were glad to see the cafe across the river.

We had deserved our tea and cake!

Back at Lucy's studio, the postman had been and I left Skipton with some rather exciting parcels. Yes - these are the first parcels for this year's Yarndale Sock Line!  Would you like to see what's in them?

Lots of socks! This is a fantastic start to this year's Sock Line, so thank you to everyone who's posted their socks to me already.  It gives me a real buzz of excitement to think that our mission to send socky, woolly love to people who need it has started!  It's great to see the new Yarndale sock labels on the socks too - you can download those (and plain versions) from the Yarndale Sock Line page.

Lucy's told me that more parcels have arrived for me to pick up next time I see her - I've got a really good feeling about this year's Sock Line!  During this next week, I'll get the Pinterest page set up for this year so that you can see the socks as they come in, and don't forget to let me know if you've got suggestions for where we can send them, too!