Rainbow in a Box

Pink cable cowlRemember my pink cable strip?
I didn’t need to buy extra wool to finish it off, as my Darling Daughter (who supplied the first skeins) informed me that she still had another skein of it, which she posted to me. So I now have a cowl or headband, depending on need and fancy, that looks quite pretty.

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Around the same time, my Dear Granddaughter also sent me a large cardboard box filled with a rainbow of yarns to play with. I spent the first day just admiring the colours and squeezing the skeins, enjoying the feel.

I’m not alone in this: my second Dear Granddaughter, who has the nose of a parfumier, also revels in the scent of her newly purchased wools, caressing and nuzzling them.

Browsing cable patterns and Celtic knots – which are still beyond me but I live in hope of deciphering the charts one day – I came across a cushion with a tree pattern in relief.

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What it should look like ….

Now I know how to make relief stitches so I bought the pattern, selected a light green cotton yarn from my new stash, and set to work. Alas, I got tangled in the branches so my version isn’t quite what it was supposed to be; but I’m reasonably pleased with the result and will persevere with this pattern, since it cost me $5.10, and submit faithfully to its discipline the second time around.

The cable edging and the back of the cushion will be child’s play after this. Thank you to DG for supplying me with so much yarn that I can keep practising.

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The story so far …

 

 

 

I delight in the arcane vernacular of handicrafts. This particular pattern uses not only single and double crochet, but also half-double, front post double and treble, and a high falutin’ “modified tr3tog” which is a modified treble crochet 3 together. I’m patting myself on the back for understanding what these are, and am even more proud that I can actually execute them.

It reminds me of a rhyme I learnt as a child in the late nineteen-forties, when my mother was taking classes in basketry and kindly (optimistically) trying to pass on her skills to me:

I can rand
At your command,
Put on a decent border;
Upset tight,
Wale all right,
And keep my stakes in order.

At the time, she showed me how to rand, upset and wale, as well as how to secure the border and manage the stakes. I understood the theory, and knew how each kind of weave should look. I also remember lengths of cane soaking in the bath tub to make it pliable, and fighting with it as it refused to wind itself neatly around my stakes, which were also out of control and leaned in all directions. In my case, “wale” should have been spelled “wail”.

My mother on the other hand was gifted for any kind of handicraft, and we still have a few of her baskets (rescued during our house clearance) that must be getting on for seventy years old. Neat randing, upsetting and waling around perfectly spaced stakes, and borders that are only now beginning to come loose here and there as the cane becomes brittle and snaps. Cherished mementoes. I wonder if, sixty years from now, any of my descendants will be holding my handiwork and feeling as sentimental about it?

PS: I’m sorry, I forgot to say that the pattern is the Tree of Life Cabled Pillow by http://www.lillabjorncrochet.com (I found it on http://www.revelry.com) and I am using Gedifra Mayra 90% cotton and 10& polyamide, colour 2067. Not the recommended yarn, which should be Aran weight. 

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In The Deep Midwinter

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The run-up to Christmas has never been so gentle.

In past years, there was usually a certain amount of international travel, which is stressful in winter. There were presents to buy or make and wrap, cakes and mince pies to bake and puddings to make, cards to buy and write (which involved frantic searching for lists from previous years to make sure nobody was overlooked, and the frustration of failing to find the correct address), shopping for the “right” turkey and accompanying vegetables, and general exhaustion by Christmas Eve.

This year, I bought Christmas cards way back in September while I was in England, where you can get a box of thirty cards for the price of one card in Switzerland. When I started to look at my address book, I realised how many names have been crossed out since last year: we are all getting older, and Death has claimed so many in the past twelve months. So my list was shorter anyway.

Then of course since almost everyone I know now has e-mail or is on Facebook, I was able to save time and postage by sending electronic greetings, reducing my card list even more. In the end, I only had to post about fifteen cards compared to a hundred or more ten years ago. In the past, I dutifully wrote a kind of annual report on our family’s doings; this year, again thanks to e-mail, Facebook and my blog, almost everyone is updated and as for those who are in the pre-digital age, I’ve met and chatted with most of them during my vagaries this year. So no need for a lengthy round robin either, saving time, paper, ink, and postage.

During our family get-together in October it was decided that we would each give one small gift only, and we drew lots for our Secret Santa (Wichteln in German). Much more sensible, there being fourteen of us gathered round the tree on Christmas Day and in past years it has sometimes been tricky finding suitable gifts for everyone.  Of course, ever since then I keep seeing things that would have made perfect presents for people no longer on my gift-list!

For several years recently I celebrated Christmas in England with my mother. It was her custom to bake several rich fruit cakes which she iced and decorated, and gave as presents, so when I arrived there in 2011 and found she was no longer physically up to that task, I had to take over. Hard work, though appreciated! In a way, I admit, it was a relief when the oven gave up the ghost a couple of years later and baking was no longer possible.

Sometimes a generous cousin invited us to join her family on Christmas Day, and fed us till we couldn’t move. Once we went to a classy restaurant with other cousins, and then in Mom’s final years, when going out was no longer fun for her, I cooked our Christmas dinner. Last year, with my mother in the nursing home, I had my first Swiss family Christmas for over a decade. We missed Mom, of course, and will feel her absence all the more keenly this year, though her spirit will no doubt be overseeing the preparations.

My life has been hectic these last two years, and so I am genuinely enjoying the peace and calm of this Advent. No dashing around the shops racking my brains for presents, no hauling shopping bags full of food through slush and ice, no slaving in the kitchen, no aching fingers from hours of writing cards and letters, no hanging around in airports.

We had our Christmas potluck meal in church last Sunday, sang carols with the children dressed up as angels, shepherds and wise men, and I intend to go to the service on Christmas Eve, too, unless the snow prevents me. Oh yes, we have snow, and very pretty it all looks: happily, I don’t have to drive any more! I shall make some more mince pies and on Christmas Day in the morning I shall take the train to my granddaughter’s house, and relax amid the jollity of the gathered clan as the privileged matriarch of my family, letting the younger generations do all the work. What a blessed peaceful Christmas!

May all of you experience the true spirit of Christmas, and may 2018 be the best year of your life so far. God bless us, every one!

 

 

Tribute to Miss Sophie

I have this little poem, written long ago, on my Cats and Catterel page – a typical example of my catterel, I think. It’s a tribute to our dear departed Miss Sophie:

Miss Sophie, grande dame par excellence,
Has an air of distinction and elegance,
As she daintily poses her purposeful toes
Neatly and carefully under her nose.

A toss of the head, a disdainful stare,
If you haven’t brought supper, a dismissive glare;
She sits on the staircase and looks through the rails
Listening to gossip and storing up tales.

Oh, how could you think that she’s Little Miss Snooty?
A cat white and ginger, a soft-hearted beauty,
Never was any so misunderstood
As Sophie, who really is gentle and good.

Just look how she dotes on the people who love her;
Remember, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Miss Sophie, The Sophisti-Cat

See those wise and wonderful eyes peeping out in my header? That’s Miss Sophie, my daughter’s cat, who could be aloof and proud or affectionate and fussy, as the whim took her. I’m very sad to have to announce that Miss Sophie is no longer with us. She was sixteen, a good age for a feline, and finally just too tired and fed up to go on. Her end was peaceful, gentle and stress-free. Such a small animal, but such a great character, and though she was by no means a noisy cat, it will seem strange without her presence in the house.

She was clever enough to avoid the street and its traffic that passed next to her garden, and so she survived. She was also clever enough to figure out that by jumping up and hanging onto the door handle, she could open most doors that barred her way. And she was authoritarian enough to keep that pesky cocker spaniel in order: after all, Sophie was there first. Now, there will be no more disputes about who occupies the dog’s bed.

Even as a kitten, she knew she was superior to dogs. The dog in the house at that time was a big Bernese mountain dog, and one of Sophie’s favourite games when she was tiny was to cling onto his tail, flinging her to and fro as it wagged. By the time she grew too big and heavy for that, she had secured her position in the pecking order. She never, ever used her claws – the only cat I have ever known who simply didn’t seem to realise that she possessed such a weapon.

Whenever I stayed overnight at her house, she would join me when I went to bed, purring her lullaby till she was sure I was asleep, and then, mission accomplished, return to her usual place. I had to be careful when my hair was long, as she tended to roll herself up in it and then I didn’t dare move my head until she had untangled herself.

Sophie wasn’t anybody’s cat. She was very discriminating, and it was a privilege and honour to be selected by her for her attention. She attached herself very early on to my dear middle granddaughter and was  the recipient of many confidences; when DMG married, Sophie was equally devoted to her new husband.

Yes, we always grow very fond of our pets and they become valued members of the family. Losing them is always hard and tears will be shed. I’m sure that even the dog will be wondering where she is.

Sophie’s staff wil miss her very much.

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A Trip To The Village

Very seldom nowadays do I actually sit down and write a letter or card. Even birthday greetings are despatched digitally in most cases. However, yesterday I wrote to an old friend who disdains e-mails. I addressed the envelope and affixed two stamps, to make sure the postage was sufficient, placed my letter inside the envelope and sealed it. I then placed it on the shoe cupboard by my front door together with my mittens to make sure I wouldn’t forget it.

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Today, I put the letter in my coat pocket and set off for the post office. On the way, as I was negotiating some steps, I was hampered by my hair falling in my eyes when I looked down, so I decided to pop into my hairdresser’s and get her to cut me a porthole in my fringe. This “pop” developed into a brief social visit, and as I left her salon and was passing the grocery store next door, it occurred to me that I needed to replace the milk that had turned out to be sour at breakfast this morning.

So into the little supermarket I went, remembering in my tour of the shelves that I also needed butter, eggs, mayonnaise and some fruit. I had to hunt for the mayonnaise, which drove the butter out of my mind, but I did get milk, eggs, mayonnaise, apples and pears so four out of five – that wasn’t too bad.

Next door to the grocer’s is the butcher’s.  Aha, my grandson-in-law is celebrating his birthday next week, and I know he likes this butcher’s homemade smoked venison sausage called Salsa. Salsiz is a kind of Swiss salami-type sausage, a speciality of the region where I live (Graubünden), and is listed in the database Culinary Heritage of Switzerland. 

salsiz

Photo from Wikipedia

Switzerland may be small, but my grandson-in-law lives in the canton of Thurgau more than 100 km away, separated from me by mountains and lakes, in a canton where they don’t make Salsiz. Six delicious Hirschsalsiz, please – and I can tick his birthday present off my list. A lovely local red wine – maybe a Bündner Herrschaften – will go well with that. Perhaps one of our local mountain cheeses, too? GIL will be very happy, and there should be enough Salsiz to share one with his children.

My little shopping bag is getting heavy, so I decide to leave the wine and cheese till tomorrow since the shop I want to get it from is on the other side of the village. My feet turn towards home, and I am ready for a nice cup of tea when I get in. Shoes off, hang coat up, unpack, kettle on, tea in pot – ah, that’s good. Sit down with my cuppa and – hang on, wasn’t I supposed to be going to the post office? What for? Oh dear. The letter is still in my pocket!

Case Closed

Just to spoil the fun of speculation, here – at last – are the facts. And the moral is that just because something is written down in black and white, it ain’t necessarily so.

Two old men, brothers, one of them a farmer and the other his labourer, are working on the harvest. Joe, the elder, dies. I don’t have his death certificate, so I don’t know the cause, but he was 79 and in 1859 that was a ripe old age. Maybe he simply over-exerted himself. He’s buried a couple of days later, on 14 August, and no doubt younger brother Sam was upset at losing him. But the harvest has to be brought in, so Sam and Joe’s son Charlie get on with it.

Maybe Sam is grieving and his concentration isn’t so good that morning. After all, he’s 72 and he’s had to get up at 5 am to start loading the wagon. It’s a big wagon, and with a full load needs 3 dray horses to pull it. Sam takes the rein of one of the shaft horses, and off they go. At a bend in the road he stands back to make way for the horse, but there isn’t enough space and the horse steps on his foot. That’s a few hundred kilos of horseflesh, and Sam doesn’t stand a chance: he falls, and the wagon runs over his chest. An inquest is held, and two days after the accident, on 24 August, Sam is buried. In the parish register, his burial immediately follows that of brother Joe ten days earlier.

The newspaper reporter got the results of the inquest right, but he conflated the brothers and got the name wrong. To add to the confusion, the clerk who copied the details of the Probate inquiry into Joe’s estate six months later wrote the date of his death as 12.9.1859 instead of 12.8.1859. Easily done. And there we have it.

I’m sorry to disappoint my readers: no foul play, no conspiracy to rid the village of its Hardwicks, no evil characters lurking in the hedges to push old rustics under the wheels of wagons. Just a sad way for an old man to end his days.

Strange Coincidence

This is a post script to my last post, and concerns a strange coincidence.

As I recounted, the two brothers Joseph and Samuel Hardwick died within weeks of one another in the summer of 1859. Samuel, who was 72, died when he was run over by a horse and wagon, according to his death certificate.

I have been aware of that fact for a long time. However, it was only now, as I was delving into what had happened to the family farm, that I have been sent a newspaper cutting describing the death of his brother Joseph, aged 78, just a few days later. And this is what it says:

HEATH: FATAL ACCIDENT: On Wednesday an inquest was held at the house of Mr Rome, The Elm Tree Inn, on the body of Joseph Hardwick, farmer, of Heath. The deceased left his home about five o’clock in the morning to assist in the harvest field. They were leading corn from the field to the stackyard about eight o’clock. They had come with a load out of the field with a four-wheeled wagon and three horses. There was a turn in the road, and the deceased was in it. He had hold of the head of one of the shaft horses. The horse turned round sharply, knocked him down and trod upon his foot, and the wheels passed over his chest. He breathed thrice and died. A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned. 

As my informant says, it looks like a case for Miss Marples – or is this a nineteenth century version of Midsomer Murders?