Thursday, 23 February 2017

A loss

Cecil getting ready for her 80th birthday party

Those of you who visit here will have met my Aunt Cecil. Sadly she passed away two weekends ago; sadly because I will miss her a great deal, but for her it was an easy departure, no long illness, just a very brief stay in hospital and a quick end. I was so grateful for that; she was happy to the last, I had visited her in her care home the day before, was with her in the hospital for most of that day and feel that it was an ending to be envied, since we all have to go one way or another. 

She was a geat inspiration to me in so many ways; her love of stitching and gardening; her enjoyment of her many small dogs, always two at a time, always known as "fourfoots"; her forthrightness and above all her graceful acceptance of the restrictions that age brought her. Her two most oft repeated sayings were "well, I just go with the flow" and "as my father said, 'make the best of what you've got while you've got it'". She lived up to both of those with a smile and a cheery waive of her hand, and those who cared for her so very well in her final years at the Normanhurst all said what a pleasure she was to have there, never complaining and always cheerful. I hope I can live up to that if I ever reach the ripe old age of 91

"91?? I don't believe it!!!"

She was a treasure

Cecil with her beloved dog Tatters, the first of many, on Hastings beach

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A fresh endeavour for this year

I'm not usually one for New Year's resolutions and ambitions, but this year I have taken up a little challenge; 1 Year of Stitches. As a separate project I thought it should have it's own little place in blogland so my efforts can be found here.

I'm hoping I can keep going during the year. I decided to give the excercise a little twist by stitching according to the phases of the moon. The point in the phase governs the colour I use to stitch, and the stitches are all being placed within a yin yang symbol, the balance of light and dark, see here for a more detailed exposition!!

Still time to join in all you stitchers out there, if you fancy an interesting and achievable challenge :-)

Friday, 6 January 2017

South Africa part two

So, after a bit of digression into other areas of life, a return to Africa and the urban part of our stay. 

We did a great deal of driving during the first part of the trip - it made me aware of how enormous the country must be, let alone the continent. As we drove, we passed through landscapes and human scapes for which I could not have prepared myself - there is astonishing poverty in Africa, as there is in many areas around the world, but seeing it go on for mile after mile after mile, either from the window of a plane, or close enough to touch as we drove along the unmade roads, is sobering. It made me aware of the great level of privilege we simply take for granted in this country - running water, affordable electricity, a house that is actually built when you move in, rather than work in progress for the next however many years it takes to scrape the money together for the cladding - enough bricks for the next room - a watertight roof. 

Once we got to Cape Town we were in the midst of a totally different Africa; vibrant, lively, full of light and energy. We stayed near the Victoria and Alfred (yes Alfred) Waterfront development, where daily music was just one of many treats.

We managed to do a lot in the few days we were there; touring the city on one of the open top buses to see the sights - this is the Bo Kaap area, a brief glimpse - I'd have seen more had we enough time

We also visited Robben Island, another intensely sobering experience, made more so by the fact that the gentleman who gave us a guided tour and told us his own story of being imprisoned there was the same age as me. It was both humbling and uplifting to hear him talk about letting the past go, not carrying all the baggage of the bad times forward into post apartheid South Africa

A trip down the Cape was also a must, the scenery was wonderful

and I loved these cairns of stones build by visitors to the beach

Then there was a helicopter ride over the bay - an enormous thrill, having never been in a helicopter. The views were glorious, the weather so good that one could see for miles. I was delighted that our pilot was a young woman, and delighted to be granted the front seat next to her, my comanions being happy to be together in the rear two seats

This gives you an idea of just how much building there is in the city; almost everywhere we went there were new shiny tower blocks going up or recently finished

and the see was so blue and clear that at one point I managed to spot a whale below us - not caught on camera, but I was, once again, very excited!

All too quickly it was time for us to leave. I came away with a slightly greater understanding of what Africa is like; a place of such beauty and contrasts that this brief but enjoyable journey was just a small glimpse, but a treasured one.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A wedding

Back in the summer, I had the chance to make use of some of that shibori I mentioned in my last post. Remember those bits I bundled up; a silk scarf clamped with tool packaging and another piece of silk scrunched into a mesh laundry bag with a marble or two for extra interest? Well, the scarf came out like this

with lovely flashes of turquoise 

little inadvertent birds, where the crescents were clamped at the edge - excuse the lack of ironing!

and the other piece of silk was transformed into a ring pillow - with a pocket on the front made from a piece of my Mum's wedding dress when she married my Dad

and some Celtic spirals in silk velvet for the back - not the easiest of material to sew - I nearly got rather cross after the n'th time of unpicking .......

All the angst was worth it though, as it meant that my daughter and new son-in-law's rings could be transported safely and presented to them at their wedding at the end of August in Bodiam Castle

The day was beautiful in all sorts of ways, the weather was glorious, the location so very right for them, the guests were terrific fun and the rather lovely medieval attire that some of us wore gave the whole ceremony the perfect atmosphere. 

Here's Jen with her groom, best man and her Dad looking proud

me doing my mother of the bride bit

the ring bearer, bridesmaids, man of honour and Jonathan's sister looking properly medieval

and Jen and Jonathan exchanging rings and looking very much in love

What a wonderful day it was, and what a pleasure that I could contribute with  little bit of hand dyed, hand stitched frivolity to hold the symbols of thier vows. Something new and blue, Jen's dress - something borrowed, the chaplet of flowers kindly donated by our neighbour, and something old, that little bit of wedding fabric, folded and stitched into a pocket so that Jen's much loved Granny Rose could be there in spirit.

Today it is her birthday - 30 years since she wriggled and slid into this world. Ganna and Mum used to recite this slightly twee Victorian poem by George MacDonald to each other, adn me - twee but heart warming - I can still hear their voices, smiles in the reciting - poetry was a great love of thiers


George Macdonald (1824–1905)

WHERE did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into the here.

Where did you get those eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.

What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry spikes left in.

Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.

What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand strok’d it as I went by.

What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than any one knows.

Whence that three-corner’d smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.

Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.

Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into bonds and bands.

Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs’ wings.

How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.

But how did you come to us, you dear?

God thought about you, and so I am here.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Her Ladyship's trousers - update

What with all the travelling and a very significant wedding, of which more later, I've not been updating as much as I should. So, there will be an update on the tool packaging shibori, but first I have finished "Her Ladyship's Trousers". The shibori dyeing on the hems went really well. As I'd hoped, bundling them together allowed the dye to wick upwards in some wonderful wiggles that echo the shibori patterning. This is achieved by regular lines of running stitch pulled up tight; the way the stitches relate to one another determines the pattern, so all in a line would have given me a grid pattern, but here, where I have staggered the placing, I get a lovely irregular ripple

obligingly, (and of course, due to careful placement of trousers in bucket) these have stayed pretty well level across both legs

so I now have a lovely full pair of comfy casual linen trousers to wear around the house, with a graded dye effect from the hem upwards - oh, and a couple of incidental rainbows from the crystal which hangs in the window

Even more pleasing - I had to shorten the elastic round the waist; I'm slimmer than I thought :-)

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

South Africa

Oh my goodness, we've been away! Away for almost two whole weeks in South Africa, and it has been extraordinary. I'm not sure what I can tell you, there is so much to say; the thoughts, words, memories still tumbling around in my head. We were visiting my dear heart's neice Jenny and her husband. His daughter Kerry and her husband came along too, to celebrate a significant birthday, so six of us have been travelling around seeing both wild Africa and big city Cape Town. The contrasts have been immense in so many different ways that I think I am still processing them, and will probably do so for some time to come; we packed so much in.

So, wild Africa. We stayed a couple of nights with Jenny at her home and took the time there to visit the Lesedi Cultural Village taking the tour around the village and hearing about the main tribes who comprise the original peoples of the area. We also visited the Cradle of Humankind museum, with it's fascinating displays on the history of our origins in Africa

Then we visited the elephant sanctuary at Hazyview, where elephants are cared for and in turn provide we humans with the opportunity to experience close up these dignified and imposing animals. As we were sitting in a clearing, listening to our guide tell us about the sanctuary, I turned to find the two resident elephants being led by their handlers into the space where we were sitting. My whole body tingled with awe as they quietly moved in before us and stood patiently while we were allowed to come up close and touch them, and be touched by them in an elephant "kiss". Later we were able to "take them for a walk" two by two, holding on to the tip of their trunk while their warm moist breath washed over our hands, and then most exciting of all, I was able to mount onto a great broad back, perched behind the handler, and feel the immense power as I was taken for a short walk in the bush, his inbreath and outbreath and rolling shoulders rising and falling beneath me.

After all that excitement it was time to set off on the long drive north to the Kruger Park. There we stayed in two areas; to begin with, a night in the Kruger itself, then two nights in the lovely Nkorho Bush Lodge, where we were fed delicious food, housed in delightful accommodation and taken on drives in the bush to see such a range of animals, so close, that I was breathless. I can't possibly show you all the photos I took - there were over 1,000 of them, but here are a few to give you a taste of the African Bush - unforgettable

Elephant crossing - with friend



 Buffalo, of which we saw many

a very little elephant

Rhino from the front

and behind

 a beautiful leopard, just out for an evening hunt - tracking him caused much excitememnt

and some very bored lions, who had had buffalo for breakfast

just chilling in the shade - they were there the following day as well

Such beauty