Keep on marching…

Hello All

Wednesday 4 July 2018 – Part 1: Grasmere

The sun continues to shine, moors and heaths burn and reservoirs run dry. Welcome to the new California! Thankfully the Women of Cumbria are going nowhere. They are a sturdy bunch – hot? phah! – so the march of the modern women (me and JG) continues … even if I am sweating …. sorry …. glowing like a Gloucester Old Spot (oink!).

Hopping on the 555 Stagecoach Bus from Kendal – choosing seats on the shady side of the top deck – we set off. What a corker of a day. We visited two museums and ‘met’ a host of incredible women.

Settle in a comfy spot with a pot of your favourite brew – I am now mainlining green tea – a lengthy post lies ahead of you. And there is another to follow. No rest for the wicked.

Described in my trusty copy of Hyde and Pevsner as sitting in a ” Pastoral, Samuel Palmerish setting under the beetling fells…” Grasmere deserves its enduring popularity with visitors. Amongst those visitors were the Wordsworths, sister and brother Dorothy and William. Our day kicked off with a visit to their one-time home, Dove Cottage.

Once a wayside inn Dorothy Wordsworth initially occupied the panelled downstairs room in this 17th century whitewashed cottage.

Got to love the quirky terrier. What a rascal he looks.

On this hot day the cool of the homely kitchen and buttery was welcomingly refreshing.

Dove Cottage a place of “plain living and high thinking” saw Dorothy and her brother William at their most productive (1799 to 1808). However the cottage was soon crowded by William and his wife Mary’s growing family together with the coterie of the great (and often stoned) literati of their day it was no surprise that Dorothy moved to one of the smallest and coldest rooms she probably needed the peace and a good (if nippy) night’s sleep.

Up to fifteen people sometimes slept at the Wordsworth’s. Snug to say the least.

How inviting the garden would have looked. No wonder William treasured the time he spent at the top of the garden overlooking the house and fells from his moss clad retreat.

It seems that daffodils were not the only flowers on his mind.

No gardening pun intended but if I seem to have wandered from the Women of Cumbria path here I come tripping (almost literally those olden days folk had smaller feet than mine and their steps were not designed for clodhoppers like me) back onto it.

Dorothy was a wonderful writer and much ‘borrowed’ by her famous brother. William was influenced by her detailed descriptions of nature. Her “Grasmere Journal” probably inspired “Daffodils” together with William’s acclaimed guide to the Lake District.

Next door to Dove Cottage is the Wordsworth Museum and another woman who could easily have slipped under the shadow of a famous man. Can you guess who she might be?

Couldn’t get JG to pose. Can’t think why?! You of course guessed our visit was to learn about Mary Shelley in the latest exhibition in the museum’s Women Behind the Words series:

Mary Shelley (born in 1797) was a woman of many talents: a novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer and travel writer. It fair puts you to shame. “Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus” was born out of a stormy night’s challenge amongst friends when she was 19 years old (nineteen!!). Her other works include “The Last Man” set in the future of…the 21st century! Don’t want to worry you but we are all doomed.

Curated by Fiona Sampson to coincide with the publication of her book “In Search of Mary Shelley” the exhibition reveals an intelligent and radical woman. Mary’s life was beset by tragedy, the drowning of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and the deaths of three of her children, yet she devoted herself to looking after her only surviving child and her career as a professional writer. No mean feat for any woman in the 19th century. It is good to fly the flag for her, Dorothy Wordsworth and the other Women Behind the Words.

There’s a whole bunch of fabulous women to come…watch this space.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

I will take up my pencil

Hello All

While we are enjoying* this extended period of warm weather here in the UK it is good to get out and about. I fear all too soon we will be saying ‘Do you remember the summer of 2018?’ Much as we used to say ‘Remember the summer of ’76?’ (you perhaps have to be longer in the tooth for the latter … check with your parents … grandparents).

So at the invitation of my friend KS and her son AB I jumped on one of my favourite buses – you guessed it Stagecoach 555 – to Keswick with one destination in mind.

It is years since I visited this little gem of a museum and in the meantime it has moved out of the old factory site – production has now moved to Workington a short-ish bus ride away – to a purpose built unit in the old factory grounds.

If you wondered where pencils came from ponder no more! The first pencil was made in Keswick, here in good old Cumbria – once called Cumberland around these parts – over three centuries ago. Glad they have kept the Pencil Museum in Keswick as it is ever popular with visitors of all ages and it seems only right to keep it in the birthplace of the pencil.

For the outing I became part of KSs family (ticket) and enjoyed the delights within for free. The staff were super friendly, we all got pencils (which we kept) and opted to share a quiz sheet.

We crouched through the replica graphite mine adjusting our eyes to the darkness and watching out for the ‘miners’ frozen in their perpetual task of extracting graphite for our beloved HBs. Then all was light as we emerged into the bright and airy exhibits’ hall.

Keswick Pencil Museum boasts many quirky artefacts. Such as ….

The longest pencil in the world. It is true, it is verified by that bible of such peculiar facts The Guinness Book of Records. There is even a certificate to prove it:

Along with the huge are the small. There is a fascinating display showing how MI5 commissioned specially hollowed out pencils – to carry maps – topped with rubbers (erasers) that hid a handy compass. I learnt a lot about the humble pencil: how many are made a year (lots and lots); what sort of wood is used (clue: it comes from a tree) and what was used as an eraser before the rubber (who would have thunk it!).

Amongst the displays were many wonderful collections of pencils

The damage to this lovely old example tells a more recent tale of Keswick’s history. It shows how high the flood waters rose during Storm Desmond in 2015.

Now to another gem…literally

To commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 Derwent crafted a special Diamond Jubilee Pencil. Only two were made one was presented to the Queen (money always goes to money!) and the other is displayed at Keswick.

The Diamond Jubilee Pencil is a work of great skill. It is made from graphite taken from the original mine and was crafted by means of the traditional methods used before 1832. To top it off the crown is encrusted with 60 diamonds supported by white gold lilies to symbolise royalty. KS and AB wondered whether the Queen uses hers to write her shopping lists. I do hope so…I hope she writes all sorts of lists,’tis the simple pleasure of us humble folk!

We finished our tour with one of the Calvert Trust sheep which was commissioned by Derwent and formed part of the Herdwick Trail in 2016. Derwent’s sheep was decorated to resemble a dry-stone wall. A very colourful wall! each of the ‘stones’ were coloured using Derwent’s Inktense blocks and the lines between them were made with Inktense pencils and blocks.

One final look back:

before browsing the wonderful shop, drooling over the colours, pencils, brushes, pastel blocks and inks and then toddling over the road to Kat’s Kitchen for some cold drinks supped while viewing the beautiful landscape that surrounds Keswick.

I opened with a part quote from Vincent Van Gogh in the title. To close I bring you one from Stan Laurel:

You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must always be led!

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

* The sunny weather is not bringing joy to all. My heart goes out to the numerous firefighters, soldiers and volunteers that are working day and night in awful conditions on moors and heaths to douse and control numerous fires. Mx

Wonderful Woolfest 2018

Hello All

It’s the end of June (almost), the Solstice (almost) so it must be…

From the outset the day did not disappoint. The weather was perfect.

I set off at just after 7am in brilliant sunshine (field’s still there no houses…yet!) and the views from the 555 Stagecoach bus were a delight of green hills, glimpses of water and charming farmhouses.

Even the wait at Keswick for the X5 Gold (it was rather special!) Stagecoach bus to Cockermouth was a pleasure.

All this sun must have gone to my head.

A short free link bus from Cockermouth to the auction mart and I had reached the site of my annual crafty pilgrimage. Woolfest.

With its avenue of bunting

Gaily adorning the Wool Clip stalls only a little bit of searching was needed for me to find ….

My needle felted sheep’s head! I love trying to spot this little fella I made him over 5 years ago when the Woolfest cry went up for bunting. Once I find him I know I am home.

This year I came with a new mission in mind. My 2018 project was to find plant-based fibres that could be used for felting. I was successful too.

Uppingham Yarns also had cones of plant based yarns like ramie (nettle) on sale.

DT Craft and Design offered several plant fibres together with a good quantity of dye kits. The stall holder was very informative and had plenty of samples to show the colour ranges and which dyes to combine to achieve best results.

All the stall holders were exceptionally helpful and I was pleased to find Adelaide Walker had a good selection of fibres as she is based close to No 1 Daughter so won’t be hard to visit.

Yes I know there is a distinct lack of colour. But lucky for me DT Craft and Design offered a solution to this…

I foresee a steep learning curve coming up. Yikes. I will keep you posted.

To be honest. My finds were tinged with a little sadness. All those beautiful sheep and their dedicated shepherds. I swear my Cumbrian heart broke a little as I walked past the rare breed sheep so lovingly cared for and I had to will myself not to buy any of their gorgeous yarns and fleeces. As to our local Herdwicks a tear came to my eye.

Lucky for me that this year’s Carolyn Rawlinson Memorial Stall showcased Izzy Middleton (aka Wildflower Weaver) who follows the ‘Slow Cloth Philosophy’ and as part of the Green Cloth Collective works with vegan fibres, recycled yarn from other garments and up cycled textiles that would otherwise go to landfill. Izzy does use both plant and animal fibres but her wools come from slaughter free herds such as those made up of rescued animals. A very inspiring and interesting woman.

Happily for me Izzy is based at one of my favourite places, Farfield Mill in Sedbergh. They too had a stand,

And a woven hanging that made me smile.

All too soon Woolfest was over for another year. But there is always 2019 to look forward to!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Next day I travelled to Penrith for a catch-up and making session with the Crafty Ladies. It seems at the moment that British railways are in meltdown (not one of the trains I saw yesterday were running on time) and the Lakes line has been abandoned by Northern Rail. But apparently there is an upside: the trains chartered to cover the route are so old that they attract hordes of spotters. Glad there is a silver lining for someone!

Well I couldn’t miss out now could I?! Mx

Yorkshire Days

Hello All

Grandchild-sitting called with its joyous, exuberant and sometimes exhausting song. Bags packed I set off to help out for a few days in Yorkshire. Sitting at my usual bus stop I took in the view of the field opposite. Over many years I have watched this field change through the seasons. Sadly it is soon to be built on. I am savouring it while I can.

A bit of excitement followed while I awaited my Skipton bound train at Carnforth… famous acting couple Timothy West and Prunella Scales were filming! I really hope it was for another of their wonderful canal journey documentaries. These have been a huge hit here in the UK. We shall have to wait and see. Fingers crossed.

With baby-care handed over to me I found that I had a free day before picking Peanut up. Ilkley (of On Ilkley Moor bar t’at fame) was the day’s Elderado.

I had a short shopping list of sewing goodies to get and started with a visit to the lovely little Eme, in Brook Street.

This tiny shop has a wonderful selection of fabrics and is filled with inspirational patterns and projects. I couldn’t resist a couple of fat quarters for my patchwork stash. Keeping to a blue colour range I especially loved these.

And good old Boyes satisfied my interfacing needs. Fusible don’t you know! Useful for ‘holding’ patchwork before adding wadding and backing fabric ready for quilting.

Do any of you have Boyes shops? I think they are an ‘up North’ British thing. Boyes stores are an absolute hotch potch of goods – fishing tackle is next to card making and crafts; bird food near to toiletries – yet they have a fabulous haberdashery section and if I can’t find something anywhere else Boyes usually have it. To my mind Boyes may be slightly bonkers but it is always worth a look see.

Sewing needs met there was enough time to try out a local eatery

Daniel’s Cafe and Bistro had a great website (honestly read the bit about why is is called ‘Daniel’s’ it’s heartwarming) and more to the point there were plenty of vegan suitable goodies. The waiter was super-helpful and offered to adapt where possible anything on the menu. As it was there was no need as I went with the scrumptious home made veggie burger.

It was lovely to nibble my way through a leisurely tasty lunch with my latest read (thanks MB for the loan) and be ready for Peanut on my return.

Post-nursery swings and slides were demanded by my diminutive charge…oh how it took me back and oh how wonderful it was to have charged up my ‘batteries’ for a whole heap of pushing, lifting and spinning. Those playgrounds are brutal when a two-year old is in charge!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Wonderful news and a snippet

Hello All

Super family news… No1 Son proposed to his girlfriend and …… (drum roll please) …. she said “YES”! How fab is that? Amidst the snow and blizzards sent by the Beast from the East a happy story. They make a magic couple and I am thrilled for them. Soon to be No1 Daughter In Law – I know you read this blog – thank you for making my son a very happy young man. Congratulations to you both.

Smiling away as I now am time for just a little snippet of craftiness. After a snow-stopped-travel prolonged stay in Yorkshire I am home and have had chance to finish off a little project begun before I set off.

Despite the Arctic temperatures and Siberian snows (am I over exaggerating this winteriness? Surely not) I couldn’t help but think of summer sun (perhaps it was Lanzarote… now a distant memory….sigh….) and with a pattern and some jolly fabric I was ready to get sewing…

As always I found the bodice a wee bit fiddly. I have the hands of a sizeable Yeti when working diminutive toddler projects. But I got there eventually although the air was a shade of blue and that wasn’t the cold!

But with a few more pennies in the swear box the bodice and straps were all done before I donned snow boots (It was very snowy..and cold…don’t know if I mentioned that?) for the trek to the bus stop. Apparently buses can reach those places that trains can’t (ie Yorkshire). Gold star to the bus companies for running and the local authorities for getting the roads cleared. Bloomin’ good work.

However all that tricky stitching before I left made for a very productive day on my return. All I had to do was sew up the skirt seams attach aforementioned skirt to the bodice then yahoo! One summer dress for Peanut.

Now all we need is some sunshine for her to wear it……

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

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

Bussing it – Two visit Herstory

Hello All

Had a fab day yesterday following the quest for this year. Quest? You say. Is this a great endeavour aimed at bringing about world peace? ending inequality? famine? Well…errr…. no. While these are definitely laudable aims me and walking buddy J have set our sights a wee bit lower….

Our target for 2018 is …. to visit all 11 of the exhibits at the Cumbrian museums taking part in events ‘Celebrating the Women of Cumbria’. Yahoo!

Humming ‘The March of The Women’ (could just have been me) we boarded the good old 555 Stagecoach Bus at Kendal and set off for Keswick and Herstory. In case you want to hum along* here are the words of this rousing suffrage anthem written by Cicely Hamilton with music by Ethel Smyth.

The March of the Women

Shout, shout, up with your song!

Cry with the wind for the dawn is breaking.

March, march, swing you along,

Wide blows our banner and hope is waking.

Song with its story, dreams with their glory,

Lo! They call and glad is their word.

Forward! Hark how it swells

Thunder of freedom, the voice of the Lord.

Long, long, we in the past,

Cower’d in dread from the light of Heaven;

Strong, strong, stand we at last;

Fearless in faith and with sight new given.

Strength with its beauty, life with its duty

(Hear the voice, oh, hear and obey).

These, these beckon us on,

Open your eyes to the blaze of day!

Comrades, ye who have dared,

First in the battle to strive and sorrow;

Scorned, spurned, naught ye have cared,

Raising your eyes to a wider morrow,

Ways that are weary, days that are dreay,

Toil and pain by faith ye have borne.

Hail, hail, victors ye stand,

Wearing the wreath that the brave have worn!

Life, strife, these two are one!

Naught can ye win but by faith and daring;

On, on that ye have done,

But for the work of today preparing.

Firm in reliance, laugh a defiance

(Laugh in hope for sure is the end)

March, march, many as one,

Shoulder to shoulder and friend to friend!

Keswick Museum certainly did not disappoint. The staff were super helpful and friendly (even after I changed their knitting example from garter to stocking stitch … sorry) and for the sum of £4.50 we each purchased a 12 month ticket for this delightful museum.

We first had a quick tootle around the ‘old’ museum where I couldn’t resist playing (or attempting to) the huge slate ‘xylophones’ housed there. These amazing instruments have a fascinating history dating back to the discovery by Peter Crosthwaite in 1785 of his first 6 ‘music stones’ (sic). He produced a further 10 musical stones over the next six months and in later years his achievements were built on by Joseph Richardson of Keswick who spent 13 years (!!!) scouring the slopes of Skiddaw for rocks with the best tone in order to produce an extraordinary instrument which comes complete with candle holders and an 8-octave range. So popular was this instrument of percussive delights that in 1848 the ‘Richardson & Sons, Rock, Bell and Steel Band’ performed at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria. The instrument was donated to Keswick Museum in 1917.

I am lucky enough to have heard a selection of these stones (35 rather than the full 61) during a performance at Kendal Library some years ago. They were played by composer Brian Dewan and Jamie Barnes who performed (in 2005, I think) seven new movements for the musical stones written by Brian Dewan with the assistance of Jamie Barnes. Atmospheric indeed. But I digress…. what were we here for? Ah yes, ‘Herstory’.

We had a marvellous time learning more about this famous Lakeland town through the stories of its women. What I think absorbed us most in this mountainous area so beloved of climbers were the brave women who scaled the local peaks often dressed in long heavy skirts, heeled boots and an ever present tipfer pinned to their copious coiffured locks. It reminded me of a description of Ginger Rogers: “sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, … backwards and in high heels”.

Glad to say that some of these bold lasses donned knickerbockers under their skirts and when up in them thar hills took off their voluminous skirts and carried them (annoying enough) in their knapsacks.

My cartoon was inspired by the photograph we saw of Pauline Ranken and Lucy Smith of the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club ascending Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh in June 1908. Unlike my swinging lady above they were doing the job properly despite their attire and being suspended by what looked remarkably like string. Gutsy women.

We had a whale of a time and I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Keswick and its friendly museum post-haste.

We have now visited two of the eleven exhibitions. We tripped over the trail in the Museum of Lakeland Life (MoLLi) at Abbot Hall where we had gone to view the Folk Art exhibit. The MoLLi definitely set us on our quest as their exhibition was so cleverly woven into the museum’s existing artifacts giving us a taste of the struggles which both suffragists and suffragettes – didn’t know about the difference till then – faced in pursuing women’s suffrage.

Next on our list is the Beacon Museum in Whitehaven where they are exploring the life of Whitehaven’s Edith Brown a trailblazer in women’s healthcare and education. Watch this space….

In any event I am sure that I will be back in Keswick soon. Not only is it – to my mind – the best bus journey in England but I have a new walking book to add to my small collection.

Happy days.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

* Warning!!! Don’t listen to ‘The March of the Women’ unless you want it in your head all day … Shout, shout up with your song… aaaaargh!