Thanks for the Snow

Like a child, my first response on waking to a world dusted (or disappearing) in fresh snow is a cry of joy and gratitude. It’s so beautiful, this white duvet word, and I can feast my eyes on it. And I don’t need to go out in it, except to my letterbox, a little trot around the house in normal weather, a cautious step-by-step adventure in snow. And yes, I did manage to slip on some ice underneath the deceptive fresh layer this morning (no harm done, and the letterbox was empty). But for the rest of the time, I can stay snugly in my nice warm nest and just watch the snowflakes drifting down through the window. Mesmerising.

Raili at Soul Gifts introduced me to the gorgeous old Scots expression “hurkle-durkle” on Saturday – a nice international flavour here, Raiili is Finnish living in Australia and I’m English/German living in Switzerland – and as I have been putting this hurkle-durkling into practice, I decided to google it. That brought me to this blog which I tried to re-blog here, but WordPress is being very recalcitrant these days and won’t allow me to do that. Or maybe it’s just my out-of-date browser. Anyway, I’m sorry about that – but do please go and have a browse in evesleep blog. You might find even more reasons for hurkle-durkling and snoodling. And a cwtch.

So here I am, tummy full of a particularly spicy chilli con carne (I found a jar of dried cayenne pods skulking at the back of the top spice shelf, probably been there 15 years, so on the assumption that they had probably lost much of their flavour and needed using up – because i never throw food away if I can help it – I deposited a good handful of them into my stew. They hadn’t lost any of their heat) – watching the snow fall. (Grammarians, please don’t criticise my punctuation in that last sentence – I know what I’m doing! It parses perfectly well.)

Yes, a full tummy and all my sinuses cleared out as well thanks to vintage cayenne pods. And enough left over to feed me for two more days. My repleteness is complete thanks to a glass of blanc de noir from a vineyard just across the Rhine from my home – a very nice dessert wine that I got on the off-chance and will definitely buy again. I don’t usually like sweet wines, but this is like honey.

And did I mention that at the end of November I inherited yet another rainbow of yarn? From a friend at church who thought I might be able to make use of it – thanks again, it’s keeping me well out of mischief. And that’s another post.

Just to update you, and put a smile on your face, here is my new little great-granddaughter.

Homecoming

The road runs to meet you
Eager as a hungry mouth
Swallows and spits you out
At the tunnel’s end
Races headlong towards you
Until the turning
There it slows
And pours you into the lane
That tips you into the house
Your journey’s end
And the road retreats
Back into the hills.

The Stork Made It Through The Snow …

Sorry for the hiatus: things have been happening in the past month, most of them positive, keeping me busy so that blogging went on the back burner.

However, today I have an important announcement to spread all over the Internet: congratulations to my Dear Middle Granddaughter and her husband, who have just taken delivery of their first child, a little girl, making me a great-grandmother all over again. Three cheers for the valiant stork battling the blizzards!

She made her début at 21h 01 m 12 sec on 12.1.21 – numerologists take note! – a palindromic date and incredibly fine timing! The new grandparents are all very thrilled, of course, and my Dear Eldest Granddaughter (DMG’s sister) is overjoyed to be an Auntie at last, while her four kids are excited to have a cousin.

What a pity we can’t have a big fat family party to celebrate! This little mademoiselle (yes, born in Geneva so French is appropriate) has not only two parents and four grandparents, but also six great-grandparents, three aunts, four uncles and three great-uncles – plus all the aunts and uncles by marriage – so a gathering of the clan is certainly called for.

Well, maybe we’ll be able to have some kind of virtual get-together, and once Mama and Papa have recovered from the ordeal of the birth, and have got into their new routine they might venture on a tour of eager family members so we can all ooh and aah from behind our masks and hand over the all the presents that have been accumulating in my Dear Daughter’s spare room (quite a treasure chest full).

Meanwhile, I thank the Lord for the safe delivery, raise a glass in Baby’s honour and look forward to seeing a photo of her sweet little face so we can all start the eternal debate of whom does she look like most.

Welcome, little one!

The Apple Quandary

It started off like any other school day. I was playing a game as I walked to school in the morning, bouncing my ball three times then throwing it up in the air three times and catching it, which demanded all my attention, when not only the ball came down but also an apple. I was passing under an overhanging branch of an apple tree, and the ball must have knocked the apple off its twig. I caught them both, to my own great astonishment, and looked round to see if anyone else had witnessed my amazing accomplishment. Nobody was there.

“Well,” I thought, “this must be my prize for being so clever at catching!” (I didn’t yet know the word ‘dexterity’) so I put the apple in my pocket and continued on my way. At break, I remembered the apple and fished it out of my pocket. Angela, sitting beside me, studied it intently.

“Where did you get that nice big apple?” she asked.

I explained how it had leapt into my hand out of nowhere.

“That’s the Vicar’s apple tree,” she informed me. I nodded. I knew that. Everybody knew that.

“You stole it from the Vicar.”

“No, I didn’t, It fell off into my hand.”

“You stole it from the Vicar, and that’s like stealing from God. You’ll go to hell.”

With that, she turned on her heel and left me.

I gaped after her receding back, and then at the apple, rosy and ripe in my hand, ready and willing for me to take a bite out of it.

Angela’s right, I thought. That is the Vicar’s apple tree, and so this really is his apple. If I eat this, I’ll be like Adam and Eve, and … well, we know what became of them, eating God’s apples.

I put the apple into my school bag where it glowered invisibly at me all day. At home time I looked at it again and knew what I had to do.

My steps slowed as I neared the Vicarage and my heart beat faster. I walked up the garden path and rang the bell. I waited. Nothing happened. Should I just leave? No, I must be brave. I rang again and then I heard steps inside. The door opened and there he stood, looking down at me. The Vicar.

“Hello, what brings you here?”

“Please sir,” I began, not quite sure how to address the man who represented God on earth, but certain that he was no less important than my teacher, who was always Sir. “This is your apple. I’ve brought it back.”

His eyes rested on the apple in my outstretched hand, then on my equally red and shiny face and he smiled.

“Come inside and explain yourself,” he said.

If fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, fear of the Vicar isn’t far behind. I didn’t dare refuse. I followed him into his study and he gestured towards an armchair.

“Now then, sit down and tell me all about it.”

“This is your apple, sir, and I don’t want to go to hell.”

The Vicar’s eyebrows reached for the sky.

“Why do you think you might go to hell?” he asked gently.

“Like Adam and Eve, sir. They listened to the serpent and ate the apple and God was angry.”

“Aha,” he said, “and you think that if you eat an apple you’ll make God angry too?”

I could feel tears beginning to burn the back of my eyes, and the corners of my mouth turning down. Of course I didn’t want to make God angry. I gulped.

“It’s YOUR apple, sir,” I told him. “It fell off your tree and I caught it. I was going to eat it but Angela said I stole it from you and that’s the same as stealing from God. I didn’t mean to steal it, sir, honestly. But Angela …” I choked on the words that signified my damnation and blinked hard to stop the tears that were welling up.

The Vicar nodded.

“I see. It fell off the tree into your hand?”

“I caught my ball with one hand and the apple with the other.” I couldn’t help boasting of my feat.

“Hmm. So did the ball make the apple come down?”

My turn to nod.

“Did you throw your ball up into the tree on purpose to make the apple fall?”

“NO!” I exclaimed indignantly. “I didn’t even see the tree.”

The Vicar looked at me with a very serious expression on his face, preparing the theological explanation that the situation demanded.

“Well, as I see it you didn’t steal the apple. If you didn’t even see the tree, how could you know that the ball would knock an apple out of it? So your intention was honest. Then, secondly, the apple fell all by itself – or maybe even God made it fall – just exactly at the moment you were about to catch your ball. That really was very adroit, by the way, to catch both your ball and the apple. So in a way, the tree gave you the apple. Or, if you like, God did. So I would say that it’s actually YOUR apple.”

“But it’s your apple tree, sir,” I protested.

“Yes, that’s true. But were you on my side of the wall, in my garden?”

“Oh no, sir. I was outside on the pavement.”

The Vicar smiled at me again.

“You see, that’s a public place, so if an apple falls outside my garden in a public place, it’s public property. That means anybody who wants it can have it.”

“You mean finders keepers?”

“Absolutely. You aren’t a thief and I see no reason why you should be going to hell. Please explain that to Angela, too. Now, shall we see if there are any more good apples lying around under the tree? Windfalls can be just as good as the apples you pick, you know.”

He led me out through the back door into the garden of the Vicarage and we walked to the little orchard. There were plenty of apples lying about on the ground, freshly fallen and not at all bruised or worm eaten. He handed me a carrier bag.

“Take as many as you like, and tell your mother they’re a present to you from God, a reward for being honest. I hope you enjoy them.”

He patted me on the head – which I hated – with a blessing and went back into the house. I filled the bag and took the apples home to Mum, who was beginning to wonder why I was so late home from scholl.

Perhaps those apples were also blessed: it was the best apple pie I had ever eaten in my life.

When Old Friends Meet

Hello, come in, sit down,
I’ll put the kettle on and make us tea.
Here, have a biscuit –
sorry I have no cake to offer you –
and let’s talk about old times
redressing the past
and re-inventing history
In the glow of nostalgia
regilding our tarnished golden youth
when the world waited agog
only for our final perfecting touch
and it was all so easy
so close to Paradise
and yet –
so far, so far away …
What went awry?
No, don’t! Don’t say!
Let’s still preserve
our gingerbread world intact
with its redacted memories –
Here, have a chocolate digestive.
That’s better!

Sixth of December

The Sixth of December – Saint Nicholas’ Day: celebrated by children throughout most of Europe in some way or another, maybe putting shoes outside for the kindly saint to fill with sweets, or actually greeting the man in person as here in Switzerland.

In fact, in my village of Bad Ragaz, we have a plethora of Saint Nicholas’s (Samichlaus) who march in procession into the village square at dusk, led by their Bishop. Usually, that is: I fear this year they have been banned. I’m sure that the children will still be getting their treats as in other years, accompanied by a bundle of birch twigs symbolising chastisement for their misdeeds.

On this day, you can usually run into Samichlaus and his sidekick Schmutzli (the dirty guy who puts naughty kids into his sack) with a donkey, distributing mandarins, chocolates and groundnuts to all and sundry in public places all over Switzerland. I don’t know if the custom is being upheld this year, with masks and social distancing. I’m not going out to investigate – at least, not yet! I awoke this morning to a wonderful world of white, snowflakes drifting down and a couple of inches of snow already settled on all exposed surfaces. A beautiful symbol of Peace, appropriate for this second Sunday in Advent, the only sound the church bells ringing through the muffled air.

On Thursday, my Dear Son-in-Law took 3 generations of his women (my Darling Daughter, Dear Youngest Granddaughter and me) to a gingerbread inn for a traditional dessert – hot chocolate, cappuccino, Apfelstrudel and Coupe Nesselrode among other delicacies. Reindeer grazing in their enclosure outside, waiting for their turn to pull the sleigh. What could be more seasonal?

Candle lit, atmosphere perfect

Thank you!

The Teddy Bear Man

Rachel’s mouth was a grim line as she buckled the twins into their car seats. There had been the usual fracas, with Josh refusing his cereal and Grace tipping her yoghourt over the cat, so she was running late again. Of course she allowed time for this kind of thing, she thought to herself. “I know every time something will happen, and it always takes longer than I expect.  We’ll never ever be able to get up, wash, dress and have breakfast in an orderly manner.” She had a momentary vision of herself as an old woman, still trying to get the twins organised and off to work, and a rush of irritation against Tim made her bang Josh’s arm against the seat. Immediately she felt contrite, and stroked and kissed him better.

As she drove her thoughts turned again to Tim. She was constantly in a turmoil of grief and anger, frustration and anxiety about the future. How could he have gone like that? Just as everything was starting to look good, a perfect little family, loving parents, beautiful children, ideal home, good career prospects. She had to admit that she resented it, and more than once had banged her fist at the lack of consideration he had shown in dropping dead, without any warning, without any farewell. How could that happen to a healthy thirty-six-year-old man, going out like a flame in a draught?

They’d had so many plans, so much they were going to do, and now …. Nothing. She was alone, dealing with all the everyday problems and issues, no one to talk things over with, no one to look for solutions and answers with her. No one to share bringing up the twins, to laugh about the funny things they said and did, or to give them that extra cuddle. And to top it all she felt guilty about her resentment towards Tim.

At least she still had her job, and thank goodness the day nursery near her office could take the kids so she didn’t have too far to drive each day. For the time being, anyway. The grim line of her mouth tightened even more.  A year to grieve, they had said. Then you can start making big decisions. Well, it had been more than a year now. She already had a buyer for the house and knew she would soon have to find a smaller place for them to live, but the thought filled her with fear.  Downsizing was an easy word to say, but the reality was a totally different matter. Should she look for a place to rent, until she knew what she wanted to do permanently? Her brain felt like scrambled egg.

Once she was in her office, though, she could close that compartment of her mind filled with all her private cares and worries, whilst she focussed on the matters demanding immediate attention. There were plenty of people worse off than she was, and her job reminded her of that. Her department was tasked with helping find accommodation for the homeless, the waifs and strays that wandered in and out, some looking utterly helpless, others defiant or vociferous.  Some of them were easy to deal with, but there were others who seemed like hopeless cases and almost deliberately sabotaged all her efforts, their own worst enemies. Concentrating on their troubles helped her forget her own for a while.

Rachel looked at her agenda and realised she was due to give a talk at a local charity that afternoon. She had known about it, obviously. It had been there in her calendar for several weeks, but she hadn’t registered that it was today. She heaved a sigh and set to work on updating the last presentation she had given. No time to do anything original now.

By two pm, in professional mode with fresh makeup and her hair re-coiffed, she looked as if she hadn’t a care in the world as she arrived at the charity HQ. They gave her a warm welcome, her presentation went well, and the questions afterwards were less inane than usual. Rachel’s mood was definitely much brighter than it had been at breakfast time.

“Excuse me,” said a warm voice, “Would you have a moment to spare? I have a few more questions, more specific ones.”

Two smiling hazel eyes met hers.  “Of course,” she said, “I think most people have gone now, so the rest of my time is yours.”

The eyes belonged to a middle-aged man who reminded her of a teddy bear, with his short sandy-coloured hair and beard and rather rotund figure. She wondered if he would growl if she pressed his tummy, and the thought made her smile.

“They’re serving tea and coffee next door,” he said, “if you would like to sit down somewhere more comfortable …” It seemed a good idea, and soon they were cosily ensconced in a couple of armchairs with their coffee.

“My name’s David,” he said. “Our church has a programme that tries to help people who are down and out, and I thought we might be able to work with your association.”

David was easy to talk to, and after they had discussed the various possibilities for their two organisations, their conversation turned to more personal topics. David told her about himself and how he had come back to his native town after working abroad for several years, and how much more fulfilling he found his present occupation than the rat race that had previously consumed him. Rachel found herself telling him about her predicament and the house-hunt that she was about to engage in.

“I’m thinking of going back home to Lincolnshire,” she said, “I still have family there, and the children aren’t in school yet, so it would be a good time to move. Trouble is, I do love my job and I’ve made some friends here. I feel so unsettled.”

“What would you do if you went back?”

“Don’t know, really. If I could find the right place here, I’d prefer to stay.”

David looked thoughtful.

“One of the things our Centre does is find work for our lame ducks. I’m mostly involved with building trades because that’s what I know about. It gives the lads a bit of experience and independence, helps their pride and self-esteem. We pay them at the going rate, and sometimes they can move into a place themselves. I’ve just sunk all my savings into a couple of properties that need some TLC,“ he said. “An investment for my old age. I thought I’d do them up and let them, some income when I can’t work any more. I don’t know if that might help you?” 

“Where are they?” asked Rachel.

“One of them is in Long End Street, about ten minutes walk from here. Would you like to have a look? I haven’t found a tenant for that one yet, because I was going to do a few things to it first, but you’re welcome to first refusal.”

They arranged to meet for a viewing the following Friday, and Rachel went back to her office.

She was pleasantly surprised that evening, when the twins were tucked up in bed and she had finally managed to kick off her shoes and sit down, to get a phone call from her cousin. Jackie was the same age as Rachel, and they had been very close all their lives in spite of the geographical distance that now separated them.

“I’ve been praying for you,” Jackie said. She was a regular churchgoer, the only one in the family nowadays.

“God knows what for,” said Rachel flippantly.

“Yes, he does,” retorted Jackie. “You shouldn’t be so negative, duckie! Funny thing, actually. I got the distinct impression that you are going to live in a house with chickens in the garden!”

They chuckled at the thought of career-girl Rachel keeping hens, and turning into a smallholder, then went on to exchange all the rest of the family news and gossip.

By Friday Rachel had forgotten this conversation, and she almost forgot her appointment with David, but he called her just as she was about to leave the office, to give her careful directions.

“It’s an old house, as I told you,” he said. “But you can’t miss it, it’s got a black-and-white porch around the front door.”

Rachel didn’t have high hopes. He had said the house was a fixer-upper, and she knew enough about property to understand what that meant. But it could be a temporary solution until she had got everything sorted out, and she was touched by David’s kindness in offering her first refusal.

Her premonitions were correct. Her heart sank when she saw the peeling paintwork, the cracked path and the large patch of weeds in front of the house. This wasn’t promising. David opened the door and they stepped inside. Rachel was surprised by how light and airy the place was, and noticed instantly that it was relatively clean. Yes, the décor was stuck in the nineteen-eighties, the wallpaper and the patterned carpet screamed at the swag curtains, but it did have central heating and double-glazing.

“I’m planning to redecorate, of course, “David told her, “And put in a new kitchen and bathroom. I thought of knocking this wall out, and extending the kitchen. What do you think? It wouldn’t be too big a job. There’s plenty of room and it would make a huge difference to the kitchen. If you’re interested in renting it, I could get it done to your liking. A woman’s input matters in a kitchen.”

After they had been through the whole house, Rachel found herself feeling slightly more positive about the house. Yes, it was old, and had been occupied by an old person, but it felt friendly and had character, with real beams in the living room and a neat bow window with a window seat. There were three bedrooms, so the twins wouldn’t have to share, and although it was centrally situated it was in a very quiet cul-de-sac with little traffic. She could actually walk to work from there. She began to visualise how it might look with new flooring and freshly painted walls, and how she could fit in at least some of her furniture.

“What about the garden?” she asked. Through the windows, especially from upstairs, she had noticed that it was a decent sized jungle. Maybe the kids would like that! Much depended on what was lurking in the undergrowth, though, and it might not all be harmless.

“I’ve got people lined up for that,” David nodded, suddenly aware of the importance a garden might hold in the lives of four-year-olds. “We can do the front, too, make it into off-road parking. And I’d be very grateful for your advice on landscaping it and making it safe for the little ones. There are a couple of outbuildings, a shed and something, might have been a greenhouse once. The old man left all his gardening tools, too. I’ll get it all cleared away and we’ll prune the bushes and trees. It could be lovely.” He added this in a hopeful tone and Rachel smiled.

They stepped out through the kitchen door into a kind of lean-to, and David explained how easy it would be to make the kitchen so much bigger with a proper extension and picture windows looking onto the garden, which he promised to make child-friendly. “You could easily keep on eye on them while you’re in the kitchen,” he said, “and make sure they don’t get up to mischief.”

But Rachel wasn’t listening. She had noticed the old wooden shed next to the lean-to, and opened the door. It was dark, dusty and full of cobwebs, but one thing stood out very clearly: the black shape of a cockerel raising his head to crow. She gasped.

“What’s that?” she whispered.

“Oh, the old boy who lived here used to do metalwork as a hobby. This was his workshop. I think he made weather vanes and things.”

As her eyes adapted to the darkness, Rachel made out a few more recognisable shapes. What had Jackie said? “Chickens in the garden”?

Well, these were definitely chickens: fowl of all shapes and sizes, not just cockerels and hens but ducks and geese too.

She looked at David, her eyes like saucers.

“I think I’m supposed to take it,” she said slowly. “My cousin said I was going to live in a house with chickens in the garden!”

David grinned.

“What made her say that?”

“She’s a good Christian, goes to church regularly, and she said when she prayed about me, that’s the answer she got.”

“Did she say anything about the rent?”

Rachel shook her head, puzzled.

“Well, “ he laughed, “You’ll have to tell your Christian cousin that when I prayed about this house, and how much rent I should charge, I got the answer ‘Chickenfeed!’ I think we may have a deal!”

David awoke just before sunrise on Saturday as the sky was turning pink. Still in his pyjamas, he made himself a pot of coffee and sat down by the window to watch the daily miracle of dawn and prepare for his quiet time. He could see his reflection in the glass, his beard and the roundness of his cheeks. He sighed.

“Not getting any younger, are you?” he said to the face looking back at him. “What on earth are you thinking of?”

Later that day he was busy at the Centre when the pastor, George, turned up.

“Could do with a word sometime, George, when you have a minute.”

“Right. Want to book a date for the wedding or are you going to Gretna Green?”

David was taken aback.

“What do you mean?”

“That gorgeous redhead you whisked away from us the other day – you didn’t lose any time, did you?”

“Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about, George. She’ll be moving into my house …”

George’s jaw dropped. “You don’t hang about, do you, David? I was joking …”

David laughed out loud and clapped George on the shoulder. “My house in Long End Street,” he explained. “You know I’ve been looking for a tenant. Well, she’s looking for a house and there was this strange coincidence.” He told George what had transpired, and that he needed to get the house fixed up sooner than originally intended. That would be work for some of the people on the charity’s books, and he wanted George’s recommendations. They had soon agreed on that, and David turned back to his duties. As he moved away, he suddenly stopped.

“George, I think you’re right,” he said.

“Of course I’m right,” responded George. “What about, in particular?”

“I’m going to marry her.”

Where did the words come from? David had no idea. He didn’t stop to elaborate, but fled into his tiny office and closed the door. Why had he said that? How stupid did that make him look, a tubby man getting on for fifty, who had never even been engaged before let alone married – what was he thinking, how could he dare to think, of himself and that striking young woman in any kind of relationship? They hadn’t spent more than a couple of hours together. And yet, the idea had settled into his mind that morning and now it was stuck fast like a limpet on a rock: “That’s the woman I’m going to marry!”

There was a knock at the door.

“May I come in?” asked George. “I thought you might like some prayer support.”

He sat down and the two men prayed.

After a lengthy silence, George looked up.

“I think you’re right,” he said. “But give it some time.”

Nothing moves as fast in the real world as we would like it to, and David was shy. He was not a man to sweep a woman off her feet, and he was embarrassingly aware of the age difference between them.

His house was soon ready for occupation, and he had been very grateful for the opportunity to see Rachel a few times with the genuine excuse that he wanted her advice on the refurbishment. Together they had selected the new kitchen and bathroom fixtures and fittings, and she had chosen the flooring and colour scheme she wanted. They had met to discuss what would be best in the garden, and where to erect the trampoline.

Rachel was grateful that she didn’t have to deal with plumbers, plasterers and electricians, and pleased that her ideas and choices were respected. Their dealings were businesslike, but a friendship was budding. She liked this uncomplicated man, who listened to her and talked sense. He treated the twins as human beings, taking them seriously, and giving them little jobs that made them feel important and involved in the preparation of their new home.

Finally, the sale of Rachel’s house was completed.  Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, with all the memories and associations attached to every object, had been harrowing. Some precious things went into storage. Everything else was packed up and to Rachel’s relief the move went smoothly. She lost that tight-lipped expression and her colleagues noticed that she was no longer on such a short fuse. She smiled and sang in the car on the way to the nursery. The twins were excited about having a new place to live and the novelty of a new garden.

“Are we going to have a new Daddy, too?” asked Grace, as she helped Rachel unpack a box of family photos, picking out one with Tim soon after the babies had been born.

 “Do you want a new Daddy?” Rachel asked back, nonplussed.

“Well, our old Daddy hasn’t come with us, “explained the little girl.

Josh joined them.

“We’ve got the Teddy Bear man now,” he announced matter-of-factly.

“He can be our new Daddy.”

Grace nodded sagely and put Tim’s photo down on the floor. The two children picked up some toy cars and went off to play, leaving Rachel with the photos.

She stared at the picture of Tim, the radiant new father gingerly holding a child in each arm. It had been eighteen months now since his death, and so much had happened. The twins had been toddlers, little more than babies. It struck her like a bucket of icy water in her face that they had no clear memory at all of the man who had played with them, hugged and kissed them, and been so proud of them. He was a face in a photo, nothing more. He had disappeared forever.

She wiped her eyes, kissed the photo of all she had loved most in the world, and put it back on the pile of things that would go into a cupboard to become memories.

Fish, Butterfly and Shenanigans

Forgive me for being AWOL so long. I haven’t been idle by any means, but the necessary peace and quiet to sit down and gather my thoughts into a blog post simply didn’t materialize.

Proof that my fingers have been busy is here, below: I can’t show my crochet projects yet, as they are going to be a surprise for my granddaughter when her baby arrives in January, and I think she reads my blog. So those will have to wait. But as I wove in the last thread of the main item, I noticed how many little balls of yarn and wool in a myriad of colours and thicknesses were piling up in my Stash drawer.

I grew up in England in the 1940’s and 50’s, when things were rationed and the mottoes were “Waste not, want not” and “Make do and mend”. No question of throwing these odds and ends away but I couldn’t see any sensible or useful way of making them into a desirable object. Then suddenly I remembered that about 25 years ago I had been given a roll of tapestry canvas during the clearance of a needlework shop. It’s been a long time since I did any sewing, tapestry or embroidery, mainly because I have difficulty in seeing to thread the needle. However, a tapestry needle is like a darning needle, and has a very big eye. Perhaps after all I might be able to thread such a needle with wool? Yes I can!

I cut a length of canvas, sketched a fat fish including a few wavy lines, picked out the brightest colours among my little balls of yarn, and away I went!  My Dear Darling Daughter came to the rescue a couple of times with some of her superfluous bits and pieces, and suggested that as my grandson-in-law is a keen angler, this might be a good present for his upcoming fortieth birthday.

That gave me the idea of making a second picture for my youngest granddaughter about to celebrate her 25th birthday – so the fish was dropped back into the keepnet for a couple of weeks while I worked on a peacock butterfly. I should have had more sense than to try to embroider something symmetrical in grospoint: the technicalities are too complicated to go into here, and in addition unpicking rows of stitches isn’t good for the canvas. Still, in the end it worked out and I finished both pictures almost in time. They are now being framed. A bit late for the birthdays, but I’m sure I’ll be forgiven for that.

II was pleased to have used up all my odds and ends of yarn, although each picture involved over 100 hours of work (I wasn’t counting but I realised afterwards how long it had taken me) – and most of all, very happy to find that I can still design and execute tapestries, and enjoy myself doing so. I think in future, though, if I do any more tapestry pictures, I’ll leave the framing up to the person I give the work to. Or make them into cushion covers.

At the moment I am staying with my friend who isn’t very well, and I am feeling like a fraud. Why? Her children are very grateful to me for this “service” (as they see it) and obviously imagine me as some kind of ministering angel. No, I have told them, I’m NOT cut out to be a nurse, but they think I’m just being modest! Truly, this is my friend, and we are enjoying each other’s company. If anything, I’m benefiting. She’s doing OK, so I feel that I am in no way sacrificing myself. In this time of semi-lockdown we are quite happy to share our bubble, and can live alongside each other without getting in one another’s hair. The house is big enough, and we don’t need to go out for entertainment. We can stroll along the Lake if we feel like it and have a heated swimming pool in the garden. We are both very grateful for the beautiful weather we have been having, allowing us to sit outside in the sunshine even in November!

In fact, had 2020 been a normal year, we would have been spending a few weeks together in Sanibel, Florida, at this time, so it’s really just a change of venue for my vacation! And we have been able to share the excitement and tension, irritation and frustration engendered by the shenanigans in the White House without having to endure the annoyance of actually being among Trump supporters in a red state. Once again, I say fervently, God bless America – they really need it!

Fact is stranger than Fiction

Amid all the doom and gloom at many levels of life in these last months, weeks and days, a small news item gave my spirit a fillip today. It’s a little bit like discovering that unicorns and fairies are real and truly living happily at the bottom of the garden.

My eye was caught by a lively drawing, an artist’s impression of a “two-fingered toothless, feathered dinosaur” discovered in the Gobi Desert. My first thought was that here at last is a true life illustration of the slithy toves who gyred and gimbled in the wabe. Is there any clearer depiction of gyring and gimbling? And of course, slithy toves are inevitably going to snap their toothless beaks, wiggle their wonderful feathered tails, and raise two fingers to the world that has taken a hundred million years to discover them.  

Oh blessed Lewis Carroll, who dared to imagine them, and kudos to the artist MW Skrepnick who has brought them to life. And good luck to the archaeologists from Edinburgh University: may they progress to further discoveries – hopefully of mimsy borogoves and a few mome raths, huddled together in their final outgribing. Please follow the link – the story is super!

Reminder for those who have forgotten it:

‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves

And the mome raths outgrabe.