Book on a train – “The Lady’s Slipper” by Deborah Swift

Hello All

Time for a book review methinks. So if thou wilt follow me let me introduce thee to the wonderful debut novel of Deborah Swift “The Lady’s Slipper” (2010, Macmillan New writing, London. ISBN 9780230746879).

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In 1660 Alice Ibbotson of Westmorland risks everything to collect for propagation the rarest of British orchids the Lady’s Slipper. By stealing onto the property of ex-soldier turned Quaker Richard Wheeler to lift the plant Alice sets herself on a path from which there is no going back.

Through this one act Alice is estranged from Thomas her husband, becomes disenchanted with her botanical patron Sir Geoffrey Fisk and through the machinations of housemaid Ella could forfeit her life for the murder of herbalist and wise woman Margaret Poulter.

The story is largely set in Westmorland against the backdrop of a country struggling to heal the wounds of civil war. It is an era of suspicion, fear and intolerance.

I never met either of my grandmothers they both died when my parents were young. My mother’s mum had been a Quaker and I have always been interested in this thoughtful and peaceful religion. Deborah captures the early days of Quakerism when this radical pacifist movement was considered a dangerous hotbed of dissent needing to be stamped out and ridiculed. In times of political and religious violence a belief in peaceful resolution is a brave stance, where fear is coupled with bigotry it is a dangerous one.

It’s exciting to read a story set in your home county. Even more so when that county is called by its old name of Westmorland – rather than the bland Cumbria by which it is known today. Deborah has an incredible eye for detail enabling the reader to visualise, smell, hear and touch, the heady mix that was turbulent seventeenth century life.

Eager to follow the adventures of Alice and Richard through this atmospheric and cracking tale the pages turned all too quickly. With relief I am glad to see that Swift has published more books so it won’t be long before I immerse myself in “The Gilded Lily” and then “A Divided Inheritance”.

Happy reading.

Until next we meet, Moke x

PS To read Deborah Swift’s blog follow this link https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3297217.Deborah_Swift/blog

Return of Gert

Hello all

Just as I am playing the Minimalism Game and reducing the stuff in my life- its going well by the way – I hear a fluttering of felt wings…

I should have been suspicious that day in Windermere. The sudden extra weight in my backpack. 10277777_10152376762610751_2471691499372400836_n

 

That strange bird on a train

It could only mean one thing. The return of Gert! …hope she paid for her ticket. At first I thought that she’d heard about my house clearance and had come to protect some of her assets. DSCI0191

But no. A whisper had spread around the world of felty creatures that there is a new kid on the block and she’d come to sneak a peek and welcome Drekie

who is in the early stages of being ‘sculpted’.

I’m working my little dragon friend from basic white fleece and once I’ve got a shape I’m happy with – its lovely that needle felting is so forgiving – I’m going to give him a layer of coloured fleece. Thinking shades of Herdwick (I’m not going anywhere with the shades thing…) with a dash of something brighter (red?) thrown in. I’m glad Gert returned to see him. And while she’s here there are a couple of other projects she can keep an eye on.

In the midst of all the getting rid there have been a couple of up-cycling opportunities.

First there was the crochet basket I made. It was always a bit too saggy but now I’ve run my stash down its completely flopped – in at least two senses of the word (are there more?). I was on the point of throwing it (I’m being ruthless) when I looked at the base. I loved its symmetry and noticed the pleasing fleck of green that gives it a tweedy look.DSCI0181

 

It couldn’t go. Instead I rewound the sides and ended up with a sizable ball of multi-strand yarn DSCI0182

that I am now using to continue as an ever increasing circle to make what should be a cosy rug. DSCI0183

I’ve upsized the stitches from UK double crochet to UK half-treble but I’m not quite sure. What do you think? Mmmm I’ll keep going and see if it blossoms. I can always pull it back…..

While on the rug front. Remember my t-arn rug?

Well the upside of clearing the airing cupboard is that it is revealing old t-shirts DSCI0186

that soon will be part of the slow-growing rag/t-arn rug. Is that a trag?!

Before I make up any more dubious words and ruin the beautiful English language I had better scarper…

Until next time. Moke (and Gert).

A diverting sort of a day

Hello All

Yesterday was wonderful. Cast your mind back…way…way back and you might recall me leaving the library and the lovely gifts my kind and thoughtful colleagues gave me. Amongst those presents was one I have long anticipated using Wool Clip Voucher

and May 13 was earmarked as the day! But when my good friend JG offered to take me I don’t think either of us anticipated what a diverting sort of a day it would be.

It all started well. Straight up the M6 and turn off at Junction 41 but then… images

we were diverted all the way up to Junction 44. Now that’s some diversion. Infact if we hadn’t seen the signs

(there were plenty of them) we would have doubted ourselves. But after a few worrying moments and turnabouts we arrived at Caldbeck DownloadedFile-5

in time for a much needed relaxing cuppa in the Priest’s Mill cafe. Eldorado awaited. DSCI0007

But not for long Wool Clip here we come…. DSCI0014

Oooooooh the joy of wool…….what a pleasurable time looking around and selecting my purchases, what a staunch friend JG keeping tally and what thankfulness to everyone at the library that allowed me this deferred delight. Sooooo what did I get….

I got two sets of needle felting needles, Herdwick and Ronaldsay fleece for felting, Herdwick rug wools both natural and dyed, buttons and sheepy notelets. I bought the latter because No 1 daughter lives away and we are pen ‘friends’. These pretty little cards will remind her of home.

My head is still buzzing with what I can do with these goodies… needle felted sculpture, rugs, cushion covers….. that should keep me out of mischief….

Having spent up my voucher and stored everything safely in the boot of JG’s car it was time to explore the beautiful village of Caldbeck.

The Wool Clip is based in an old water mill and running next to it is the picturesque Cald Beck river,

further along there are picture postcard cottages and a babbling brook,

But no self respecting village would be complete without it’s church and antiquarian graveyard. Caldbeck did not disappoint.

Infact it even provided JG and I with a guide, an elderly gentleman who in his gentle Cumbrian accent regaled us with tales of the tombs and ghostly goings on in the village pub where of course he had found himself by accident… he left us with a smile and a warning not to lean on the tombstones because they would probably fall over!

Famously the churchyard of St Kentigern in Caldbeck houses the grave of farmer and huntsman John Peel. It has been said that the song which immortalises him,

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay? D’ye ken John Peel at the break o’ day? D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far, far a-way. With his hounds and his horn in the morning?

is the Lakelanders’ anthem,

perhaps not so good for a veggie Lakelander…..but hey the times they are a changin’.

Leaving the churchyard to go for a bite to eat we passed the Roughton Stone

which our ‘guide’ had informed us is extremely rare so I thought I had better snap it for posterity and your better knowledge…..

Feeling educated? quick bring on the wooly stuff for a short crochet intermission. In case you thought I was just expanding my wool stash never fear I have been striving to use up some of my oddments. Thanks to Lucy at Attic 24‘s idea to make a Blooming Flower Cushion I turned to the 1946 Pretty Petals Potholder pattern a couple of days ago and started practicing the stitches I want to use with my Herdwick wools,

it was very addictive and now I have a round large enough to make a cushion in it’s own right. All I need to make is a plain circular back,

and in a day or two I should have a colourful cushion gracing my rather staid sofa.

Meanwhile back in Caldbeck refreshed by more tea and victuals JG and I thought we had better start the return journey. You would think that having survived the diversions to arrive in Caldbeck unscathed getting back to Kendal would be a doddle. Think again. It seemed like our destination was getting further and further away and losing track of where the interminable signs were sending us I couldn’t tell whether we were just going around in circles…

then, at last, the hum of traffic… I have never been so glad to see a motorway in my life! and all seemed well as we neared home in south Kendal but then what is that I see NOOOOooooooooo, images

the last turn off was CLOSED!!!!!  We just had to laugh!

I’m off to dream sweet dreams of Herdwick wooliness without a diversion in sight.

All the best Moke.

Am-bliss-ee-dee

Here’s ‘Red’ so I must be at a different library today.

DSCN0351Ambleside here I come. The journey from Kendal to Ambleside has to be one of the prettiest commutes in the world so on a sunny morning it’s a great way to start the day and when I learn how to take panoramic views I’ll capture some images for you.

I love the way this route has so many facets. From the Lakeland Fells opening up before you to the tree lined tunnels that suddenly give way to a lakeside stretch of road before you turn into the busy honeypot ‘village’ of Ambleside. Right in the middle opposite the bus station is the library.

Even the buses look prettier…DSCN0356

When it gets to lunchtime I can go for a little look-see.

One final photo for my daughter…she’ll understand why!

Marmots, a little memory for the chalet girl.

Marmots, a little memory for the chalet girl.

Tomorrow how I needle-felt a Dodo (ooch!). Night night.

Aunty O celebrates 90 years!

Two cake stands down I just managed to snap this third before we finished off the last cakes, puddings and scones - the sandwiches had already gone.

Two cake stands down I just managed to snap this third before we finished off the last delicious cakes, puddings and scones – the sandwiches had already been scoffed.

“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy birthday  Aunty Oh-Ohhhh, Happy Birthday to you!” It’s not everyday that you get to celebrate a 90th birthday. Today was one of those special days. And how great it was to get together with my small but beautifully formed family for afternoon tea in the sunshine overlooking Lake Windermere raising a cup and a tasty treat to Aunty O.

I’m beginning to think that cousins are like buses: you don’t see one for ages then three come along together. Me, A and JL. Well done Aunty O for performing this minor miracle by inviting us to Lindeth Howe to share the afternoon with you. Let’s hope these family get-togethers are becoming a habit.

But what to get the birthday girl? The flowers were beautiful. And water, replaced by these ‘jelly’ balls, sooooo yesterday.

I really didn’t know what to get so I did what I usually do. I turned to crochet. Each to their own. This gave birth to Aunty’s present Part 1.

Aunty O has always been a keen gardener (mental note – do more gardening) so I thought I’d go with a flowery theme.

Now I think they are lovely but I’m biased and I’m not sure they are really what a nonagenarian (it really does mean someone that’s 90 – I looked it up) wants. Time for Aunty’s present Part 2.

Coupled with a nice soap this could be the one! Phew.

Night night all.

P.S. I so liked the Daisy Facecloth that I got up bright and early and made one for myself!

Comfort blanket

Having been averse to technology I had to question my sudden rush to blog and I think I have hit on why I turned to my keyboard. It was the end of Wool ‘n’ Stuff a group of  local woolly people to which I belong…sniffle…belonged…Let me tell you a little bit about this marvelous group of craft-y women.

The initial impetus to set up Wool ‘n’ Stuff had been to explore wool crafts in the ambient surroundings of Kendal Museum. The museum was facing hard times, even the threat of closure and we hoped to lend it some moral support. We gathered for the first time in the autumn of 2006 to the strains of Viking music – creating the mood for the ancient Scandinavian craft of tablet weaving – in the midst of medieval and Roman artefacts and since then we have continued to celebrate the woolly textiles that are our Cumbrian heritage, after all ‘Pannus Mihi Panis’ (“Wool is my Bread”).

While based at Kendal Museum each activity was run by a Wool ‘n’ Stuff member and between us we covered tablet weaving, drop spinning, knitting, and prodded rag-rugging. In addition the owner of  ’Spinning A Yarn’ from Ulverston  visited us and gave a wonderful talk on the History of Knitting. Did you know there is a North-South (class) divide in how you hold your knitting needles? Apparently Northern working knitters like the Knitters of Dent who knitted to earn a living kept one needle firmly tucked under their arm while ‘middle class’ Southern hobby knitters  knitted with both needles free. Being a born and bred Northerner my mother always clamped one needle tightly under her armpit. Consequently I do the same…but I have yet to earn a penny from knitting!

The museum remained safe but at the time a reduction in staff and hours meant we had to find a new home which we did in Kendal Library where we resided for a couple of sessions – looking at different fleeces  and holding a quiz on our woolly friends. So many breeds of sheep! Unfortunately we are a mucky lot and sought out our next venue the YWCA because we could branch out into the messier crafts of natural dying, felting (textile artist Annie Coxey visited us for this one), and tye dye.

In our YWCA home we held sessions on easy-weaving, tubular tablet weaving, hooked rag rugging, spinning wheels and crotchet. Thanks to The Brewery Arts Centre we were supplied with marvelous teachers and three funded sessions through their ‘Motto’ (you remember “Pannus mihi Panis”?) project.

When building work meant another move we found ourselves in the grand surroundings of Kendal Town Hall and finally we have been ensconced in the Art Room of Castle Street Community Centre where we could again indulge ourselves with wet wool crafts like felting and its beautiful cousin Nuno felting.

Wool ‘n’ Stuff-ers are a smashing bunch. Each session has been rich with laughter and probably more biscuits than are good for us. It’s been a privilege me dears.Flowers, yarns and wreath2

During our years together we created a beautiful handmade archive. Our felt covered  book is currently being brought up to date. Once it is looking its complete best I’ll take some photos to show you. So watch this space.

I don’t know if the end of Wool n Stuff has anything to do with this but I’ve started a ‘comfort blanket’.

Crochet is relaxing – most of the time – working round and round and round an ever growing granny square is almost meditative and starting this blanket has kept me sane over the last week. In using up my stash I am hoping to have a snuggly cover ready for the chilly winter nights.

Meanwhile back in ‘sunny Cumbria’ (yes summer’s still here) it was a very strange morning. As I toddled in to the library there was something special in the air, shops were open that would usually be closed for at least another hour, the town was very spick and span and the good folk of the Auld Grey Town were gathering along Stricklandgate.

I don't think this was meant for me!

I don’t think this was meant for me!

Bunting was everywhere,

Flying the flag in Elephant Yard.

Flying the flag in Elephant Yard.

So who was it all for? The Queen and Princess Anne who visited Kendal today (thanks to ST for taking the photo for me).

And the Queen seemed happy to be here!

And the Queen seemed happy to be here!

It all felt very jolly. And it continued to be very jolly as I was invited out to lunch with a couple of my bestest buddies. It was well worth the climb…Stoney Lane

No need for the comfort blanket tonight. Sleep tight.

Eden’s only just up the road

What a fabulous evening I had on Saturday in sunny Cumbria. I can’t get enough of saying ‘sunny Cumbria’. Our beautiful green county is normally the wettest place in Britain this is a rare treat. Infact so heavy and frequent is the rain  it’s rumoured that Cumbrians have webbed feet…just checking mine…

First I trotted off to see my cousin and his wife for a relaxing bask and catch-up overlooking their amazing garden. I just had to take some photos to share it with you.

In a generation of only children fr-elatives are very important so it was hard to tear myself away from A and P but my lovely evening like a Dickens’ novel had another installment. Thankfully something far more convivial than pickpockets and escaped criminals was to come…

A quick hop (webbed feet have their uses) over the River Kent – thanks for the lift A – and I was with a bunch/chapter/paragraph/stamp/collection??? of library friends. Sitting under a shady gazebo- did I mention it is HOT in Cumbria?

We discussed everything  from the difficulties of growing asparagus (I never knew) to Mi5! A perfect evening.