Down at the Doctor’s

Hello All

Don’t worry I am not poorly but undertaking another excursion as part of my Women of Cumbria quest. This time me and buddy J were off by X6 bus and then train from Barrow In Furness along the west coast of Cumbria to the port of Whitehaven.

One of the bonuses of this quest is travelling to lesser known areas of this wonderful county and by using public transport taking in fabulous scenery and history to boot. Arriving at Whitehaven I can do no better than quote from Hyde and Pevsner’s description of this safe harbour:

“Noble breakwaters of interlocking pinkish stones, worn by the fretful seas…”

If you have exceptionally good eyesight you may be able to make out the very hazy outline of the Scottish coast on the horizon opposite the harbour entrance. No? It is there….honest.

There is definitely something fishy about Whitehaven and we had fun spotting the marine connections along the Millennium Promenade:

Until we got to our destination, the Beacon Museum.

This fabulous museum was quite rightly described by one member of the very friendly and helpful staff as ‘like a Tardis’. It is huge. We only had time to look around two floors!

Starting with the viewing gallery we gained an overview of the town and coast. We spotted important landmarks and buildings, and even saw Scotland (it is there I tell you).

We moved on to an exhibition by a Japanese photographer of the towns in Japan left empty after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 11 March 2011. The artist overlaid his photographs with drawings of monsters lurking transparent against the uninhabited buildings. Images of a lingering fearfulness made more pertinent by the proximity of the nuclear plant at Sellafield only a few miles away – we passed it on the train…

Perhaps it really is time to visit the doctor. Edith Brown: Medicine Woman here we come.

Well with waiting times going up you have to grab the opportunity when you can…!

Born in 1864 Doctor Brown started her career in different times. Luckily Edith, the daughter of a Whitehaven banker, was determined. She was one of the first women to study at Cambridge. Cambridge only began to admit women in 1869 and did not allow them to sit exams until 1881, even then when Edith passed her exams she was not given a degree because Cambridge (I thought they were clever folk there?!) did not award degrees to women until 1948 (1948!!!! Hope someone’s report card read ‘Could do better’).

As I said Doctor Brown was determined and after studying at Edinburgh, Brussels and London she qualified to practice. Driven by a childhood ambition Dr Brown travelled as a missionary to India to open a hospital for women. Realising that she could not do this alone she set about training new Indian female doctors.

I am personally uncomfortable with other countries, communities and faiths being patronised by early 20th century missionaries however there is no denying Edith had a huge effect on healthcare and brought opportunities for other women to train as doctors. She was one tough cookie. Especially when this was the sort of medicine cabinet she had to work with:

I spared you the amputation kit.

Time for some fun. J and I moved on to the ‘Changing Times’ gallery to explore thousands of years of the region’s past. I was able to indulge my love of all things Roman and Viking and even reconstructed a replica of the Norse Gosforth Cross. A lot easier than I have made it sound. But it was on board the ‘Maria Lowther’ a replica 3D ship from 1838 that we got really silly,

Struggling to steer the ship on the very effectively swaying deck and running about as giddy aunts pretending to be ship’s crew we had a hilarious time. You are never too old…

Leaving the museum there was one place we felt we needed to visit before boarding our train back to Barrow. Edith Brown’s house. Walking around Whitehaven in search of her home at 10a Coates Lane we got a feel of Whitehaven’s grid street layout. Much remains of the original Georgian housing and I understand it has a flavour of 18th century east coast America. Very quaint.

Lo and behold we found Edith’s house amongst the Georgian buildings:

Today’s mission complete.

With it’s wonderful history – including being the site of an American attempt at ‘invasion’ led by John Paul Jones in 1778 during the War of Independence – this one time major port is a gem tucked away on a sleepy section of England’s north west coast. A great day out.

Retracing our steps along the Millennium Promenade we took in the whale-tail benches with their histories and tragedies from Whitehaven’s industrial past.

And a collection of knot sculptures one of which is close to my heart, the Granny Knot.

Ironically the Granny Knot, also known as the lubber’s or booby knot, apparently has only one practical purpose…as a surgeon’s knot! Hope Edith knew how to tie one.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

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Sunning myself

Hello All

Those of you that know me will acknowledge I am not a sun seeker. But when very good friends move to a home where the sun not only shines but also gives warmth – Cumbrians know all too well that the two do not always go hand in glove – what is a woman to do but board an airplane (first time in 17 years!) and fly out to sunnier climes?

Thanks to AJ and KJ I have spent a fantastic long weekend along with buddy J catching up with these lovely people and visiting their new home on Lanzarote. In case you don’t know Lanzarote is the most easterly of the Canary Islands. It lies in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Africa. In fact although Lanzarote is a Spanish island it is only 78 miles off the coast of Africa and 621 miles from the Iberian Peninsula. Enough of the factoids. Here was the view from my bedroom window:

This just gives a hint of the amazing landscape of this island born of oceanic explosions and volcanic activity. The greatest recorded eruptions occurred between 1730 and 1736 in what is now Timanfaya National Park. It is the strangest topography I have ever seen. Not what you could call pretty but breath-taking nevertheless.

Traveling with our friends we gained a superb overview of the island: the wilderness of the National Park; the peculiar vineyards where vines (at this time of year looking rather dead to be frank) sit in dips made in the black piroclasts (picon) with horseshoe volcanic rock walls protecting them from the winds; the pretty towns and villages where buildings are all two stories or less and painted white; and the stunning beaches.

Our first port of call was the small pretty town of Haria where an artisan and craft market was bustling with local makers and shoppers.

The weather was perfect. The sun shone warmly but not stiflingly. Lanzarote is called the “Island of Eternal Spring” for good reason, temperatures do not fluctuate wildly and usually settle somewhere in the 20 degrees centigrade. Gorgeous.

We did not see much wildlife – we were excited to spot a small gecko like lizard – but the gardens are a picturesque mix of palms and succulents.

Leaving Haria we set off to Castillo De Santa Barbara which sits high on Mount Guanapay overlooking the old Lanzarote capital of Teguise.

The castle is now a museum of piracy not surprisingly as it was built in the 16th century to protect the Lanzarotenos from pirates like Sir Francis Drake! The castle affords an amazing panoramic view allowing you to observe two of the island’s coastlines.

In the top picture you can see our next destination, our lunch stop, Teguise.

Teguise was once Lanzarote’s capital and it is a beautiful place to meander. The whitewashed houses like most on the island integrate with the landscape and are adapted to Lanzarote’s geology and weather. I love them. Occasionally there are buildings which standout from this general principal. One such is the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Once a very simple building with no windows and only stone seats set in the walls Our Lady of Guadalupe has seen its fair share of Teguise’s history of looting, violence and arson since it was built around 500 years ago. As a result the church has undergone several renovations and expansions. It is now Lanzarote’s principal church. Situated beside one of Lanzarote’s convivial town squares – they just cry out for a sit down and a catch up – the church fits comfortably within the architecture of Teguise.

What an amazing day we were having and it got even better as we set off after a delicious lunch – mine an aubergine bake and sweet potato fries….drooling a wee bit now – for the west coast and the stunning beach at Famara lying under the dramatic Massif of Famara.

The waves formed rollers which crashed the shore as we stood and watched. The whole effect was quite mind blowing for someone used to the mud of Morecambe Bay. If you are wondering why the sand is not black I am led to believe that this sand has actually been blown to Lanzarote from the Sahara. As you can imagine showing a Brit all this sea and sand can only result in one thing…paddling! AJ thank you for joining me in the whooping and hollering as the freezing Atlantic cooled our hot tootsies.

More shocking behaviour was to follow for the next day I donned …. flip flops! I don’t think I have owned a pair since I was a child and it was liberating, even if my feet didn’t know what had hit them. Sunday was a gentle pootle-ing sort of a day with an exploration of Playa Blanca AJ and KJ’s home town.

I can see why they have settled here. In addition to the glorious weather (have I mentioned it was sunny?…) there are archaeological/antiquarian sites (just made for me); wonderful walks; beaches; courtyards and cool (in all senses of the word) places to eat. Let’s start with a bit of history. If you are groaning don’t worry it will be over soon, humour me. It’s those pesky pirates again.

This magnificent structure is El Castillo O Torre Del Aguila otherwise known as Las Colorado’s Castle. Like the Castle of Santa Barbara it was built (this time in the mid 1700s) to warn of pirate attacks. Originally it was surrounded by a dry moat and stands near to a small promontory which can now be accessed from a promenade walk.

Minutes away we were walking among small courtyards,

Before enjoying a drink overlooking the marina.

Living the dream.

Too soon it was time to go. While Lanzarote (and its weather!) is gorgeous and hard to leave hardest of all was saying goodbye to AJ and KJ. But – despite the shriek-fest paddling – these wonderful peeps have invited us to come back. So not so much a good-bye more an au revoir.

Thank you AJ and KJ for showing us such kindness and sharing your superb new island home.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Hunkered

Hello All

Brrr. The cold and snow and frrreeeeezing wind has kept my walking to a minimum i.e. off bus in shop in cafe back on bus. I have instead hunkered down at home and been busy crafting.

Project one: cable hat. Using the second ball of the lovely wool gifted me by No 1 ‘daughter-in-law’ – the softest and cosiest yarn to work – I again used the Anna Hat free pattern at Margo Knits which is a small enough to sustain my enthusiasm and challenging enough to keep me on my toes …. or DPNs ….

Project two: patchwork cushion. At Christmas I promised that I would make No 1 Daughter some ‘Boho’ style cushions having failed to find any I liked and could afford. The fulfilment of my promise had to await the purchase of a new sewing machine. Now the proud owner of Jolly Janome and having practised on a patchwork pillow of my own it was time to get cracking.

The colours were ready and I had great fun deciding the layout. It was even more fun for Jolly and me to sew the strips. I even enjoyed all the pressing…am I weird?

The final result was pleasingly luxurious. Front and back.

Most importantly No1 Daughter loved it but here’s the rub …. she wants more! Looks like Jolly and I will be kept busy.

Project three: dress for me. For some time I have wanted to make myself something new to wear. I had spotted a couple of those lovely Merchant and Mills patterns that looked right up my street. Meeting up with No 1 to deliver the cushion I took the opportunity to nip into Cool Crafting in Skipton (they also have a shop in Kirby Lonsdale) and pick up a pattern … or two.

All I needed was fabric. While lying awake, head busy with crafting projects, I pictured the dress in stripes. So with No1 and granddaughter Peanut we went next day to Ilkley and the lovely ‘Eme Cloth & Yarn‘ emporium run by the friendly and really helpful Emma Garry. I loved this fabric and couldn’t resist getting enough for my frock and an outfit for Peanut. I shall just have to check with Peanut (she’s advanced for two) so that we don’t wear them at the same time!

Emma drew my attention to a rather special feature of this cloth. The selvedge.

Isn’t it beautiful? On Emma’s advice I carefully snipped it from the post-pattern-cutting cloth and plan to use it as edging in future makings. Waste not want not.

Cutting done – the Merchant and Mills pattern paper is super quality – Jolly and I were ready to roll. The instructions were pretty good although I found the diagram showing the insertion of the front bib a little confusing. None of the reviews mentions this so probably just me. Common sense, a bit of experimenting and some tacking (got to love a bit of tacking I say) soon overcame my muddle. And voila I have a new cotton dress-tunic.

Apologies for this photo but I couldn’t find a good spot to ‘pose’ the finished dress. I am loathed to model it myself but despite it’s slight nurse-like appearance – I didn’t notice this echo of Call The Midwife while working on it – please take it from me that it looks great and not at all like I have arrived to administer an enema.

And see what has been delivered while I have been tapping out this post. A new adventure beckons…

Hope you are having happy adventures and crafting time of your own.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx