Heimat

Hello All

Back in the room after a fabulous few days getting acquainted with a family I had never before met. I would like to whole-heartedly thank all my German cousins (1st and 2nd!) for their help in making my stay in my father’s homeland truly special. BIG thanks to cousin K-D who made it possible to find key places in my father’s life which I would never have found alone, for making me feel at home and also for the mercy dash to pick up my connecting train when the first was delayed. Phew! And none of this would have happened without the Cologne and Bavarian cousins doing a lot of emailing and phoning. Well done C and R. You are all stars.

I still need to digest my emotions but to give you a flavour of what I found here are some highlights.

The building in Prenzlau where my father was born was once a Dominican Monastery and is now a museum. I found this very satisfying as not only do I love museums (you may have noticed) but it also means that should No1 Son and No1 Daughter ever follow in my footsteps it will still be here. What a lovely museum, we spent a little while pootling around (think I may have brought the English concept of a pootle with me) looking at the history of Prenzlau. Especially pleasing was the model of Prenzlau in 1935, this would have been just how my father would have known it.

Prenzlau is in a beautiful location on the shores of the Uckersee. Coming from the English Lake District this felt like familiar territory.

After a lunch in the Autumn sunshine enjoying this wonderful view we travelled the few miles to the village where my father learnt his trade as a blacksmith and his family lived.

Sadly the forge is derelict now, like so many old buildings in what was the DDR left empty to fall in to disrepair.

But there are beautiful houses and lovely homes in the village and K-D had arranged for me to meet some family from my Oma’s side who still live in Klein Sperrenwalde along with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Sharing coffee and cake with them was very special (oh to have proper cheesecake…delicious). Despite having no common language – Russian was the second language taught in schools until re-unification – we had a good laugh.

An early evening stroll round the village was magical. The stories about the buildings and people being thankfully translated by RW K-Ds son who had joined us. A gem!

What a thoroughly lovely bunch. I have a lot of tales and photos to share with my children when I get to my Heimat.

I will take away with me two powerful things: the kindness and thoughtfulness of my father’s family; and the staggering beauty of this landscape. I couldn’t capture the breadth of the horizons. This is a poor attempt.

It is a huge land where trees abound, herds if deer graze the fringes of that woodland and flocks of cranes fly from the fields as trains pass. It’s people and it’s countryside are amazing. Leaving was difficult.

Now before I come over all emotional I will leave you with this crazy character from the cloisters at the monastery to make you smile.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Evening stroll

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I have made it to Berlin and I feel that my journey to my father’s home has really begun.

I remember him telling me how when he was a little boy he went with his sister to visit their Tante Matilda in Berlin. Matilda it seems lived in the same apartment block as Marlene Dietrich (this was back in the 1920s). Marlene felt sorry for my father having to listen to his big sister and Aunt chatter and she took him to Berlin Zoo as a treat. What a lovely anecdote and the woman best known for seeing what the boys in the back room will have was certainly kind and thoughtful.

So would you believe the veggie restaurant that I am scouting out is in Marlene-Dietrich Platz a few minutes walk from where I am staying? I had to go there, it would have been rude not to. And this time I found the restaurant I was looking for.

Ok from my photo the Weilands Wellfood cafe does not look all that inviting … blame my picture taking because the food was delicious and hearty.

This was sweet potato and tofu stew and as you can see they don’t stint on portion size. It was just what I needed as somehow – and I don’t know how I had let this happen – I had missed lunch. I know it’s a shocker.

Among my memories of what my parents told me is that in the early 1950s my father and mother came to Berlin to meet some of his family. This was pre-Wall Berlin. On my way here I was thinking my mother was only in her early twenties at that time and did not speak a word of German. Except for the consolation that she couldn’t terrify unsuspecting taxi drivers with her Moke-German (Moke wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye at that time) it must have been quite intimidating for a lass from Westmorland to arrive in this huge city unable to communicate with anyone except through her new husband. Lovely man that he was I cannot lie my father was an awful translator. My poor mother must have done a lot of smiling and nodding hoping that both were appropriate responses.

I have a smidgen of German .. Duolingo says I am 30% fluent I will have you know… but Berlin’s quite intimidating to me. It has a three story railway station for goodness sake. Anyhow back to my evening stroll.

I was doing my usual walking around like a country hick going ‘Wow’, ‘Goodness’ ‘Oooh’ and snapping random large buildings,

When I noticed a lot of people had cameras and were checking out the lights. Yesterday I got a text from my friend AJ (thanks me dear) telling me about Berlin’s ‘Festival of Lights’. All over the city buildings, monuments and landmarks have been illuminated. I got only a small taste of it tonight. Firstly outside the Weilands Wellfood Cafe.

And then again as I turned up towards Potsdamer Platz

It looks like it is quite a show and hopefully I will see more of it as it lasts the duration of my stay. It certainly gave a jovial atmosphere to the streets with people walking between illuminations to take photographs.

Tomorrow back on the tourist trail. A bus tour maybe or museums or a river cruise … let’s wait and see.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Around and About

Hello All

Isn’t it lovely how woolly crafts can be an instant icebreaker? I was back on the trains today and happily working on the scarf-shawl-thingy when a lady sitting next to me in the waiting area at Trier station asked what I was making. What followed from that enquiry was a lovely companionable journey.

Like me the curious crochet observer and her friend had been visiting Trier and we shared experiences and thoughts about life in general. I especially loved their observation that they had visited so many churches they should now be wearing halos!

As we chatted and chortled the crochet like the train moved on and I will soon be ready for Trier Burgundy.

With a little sigh I waved off my happy acquaintances at Neustadt and carried on alone to Heidelberg. By 3pm I was sitting in a new hotel – Goldener Falke – my home for the next few days and thanking my lucky stars to be staying right in the middle of the old town.

To illustrate this I went outside and took photos in front of the hotel just by turning around. Got dizzy and looked a bit of a twerp but it was very satisfying:

I didn’t notice the unusual spelling of Restaurant until I was checking through my gallery. But perhaps the elision of Restaurant and Restoration is just right. The hotel building dates back to the late 1600s and it has been an hotel and restaurant since at least 1805. Over the hundreds of years it has occupied this site it has undergone many a restoration and thankfully for me up in my third floor garret these included the inclusion of a lift. Yeah!

Sorry but I digress. Now turning to my left:

Here is the City Hall (Rathaus). Left turn again:

Quaint eh? And just look you veggies and vegans …

Could be zoning in tomorrow lunchtime. Oops yes one more turn left (easily distracted by food):

The Heiliggeistkirche which began life early in the 15th Century. I love all the little shops and stalls nestled around the church, part of the fabric of the building.

Now not strictly a left turn but just around the corner from the hotel is this gob-smacking photo opportunity:

Stunning.

Heidelberg is chocolate box top Germany and is consequently thronged by tourists. I am going to embrace this status and tomorrow I am off for a couple of hours on a coach tour. Expect many Schloss shots! And don’t be surprised if I come home in a dirndl.

A step too far?

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

P.S. Terence has been with me all day but until he gets a scarf is refusing to come out of my bag! Such a diva…. Mx

The Great Escape and an Ode to Tea

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Bags are again packed and I am off on a small adventure:

I am going Interrailing to visit (find!) my father’s home village in Germany, Klein Sperrenwalde. Thank you to my friends who waved me off both physically and virtually.

But this is me and I like to begin with baby steps. Clever little bods them babies. So I have started with a couple of days in Newcastle. Dodging a swarm of beer swilling blokes who appeared confused navigating the ticket barriers I walked through the big and beautiful concourse to see Newcastle Upon Tyne for the first time. And I was a woman on a mission.

My goal was to find a wool shop in which to purchase the first ball of wool for my European trip. I was looking for Woolly Minded and bingo found it really easily. I am used to cosy little wool shops with quaint and often quirky signage Woolly Minded is a large shop with a very modern frontage impossible to miss.

Despite the helpful assistants I sadly couldn’t find anything really local but instead I settled for King Cole DK. They are based in Skipton and that’s the North!

In case you are wondering my plan is to crochet a shawl or scarf using a ball of wool from each town or city I stay in. This seemed like a good idea when I was cooking it up in my head as it means I will not have to carry all the wool for the project but only a ball each time I stop, hopefully having already worked the previous yarn into an ever growing shawl-scarf-thingy. As the weather is turning chilly I also hope that I will have something warm and snuggly to use when I return. Let the crocheting commence!

On walking a wee bit further into the centre of Newcastle and reaching The Monument a tall …. erm … monument to Earl Grey – local politician and possibly the father to my favourite tipple Earl Grey tea – I took a brave ‘pill’. That being a metaphorical pill you understand no pharmaceuticals nor mind-altering substances were taken. Suffice to say I embraced the Newcastle Metro system.

My hotel the Best Western New Kent in Jesmond was only a few stops down the line and I was thankful to reach its welcoming reception staff.

While someone quickly made himself comfortable. Cheeky! I was just glad to put down my rucksack. Backpacks seemed lighter when I was 18….

But after a good night’s sleep- refreshed and fuelled by a veggie English Breakfast – I was ready this morning to visit Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields. A short hop – well 16 stops but by now I am such an old hand I am not even counting – on the wonderful Newcastle Metro service.

It was easy to see when I was getting near to Arbeia.

When I arrived I really hit it lucky as today is the last day of the season at the Fort and I managed to earwig a fascinating impromptu tour which included a description of the famous Regina tombstone (its the one on the right as you look at the photograph):

It was commissioned in the 2nd century by the late lamented Regina’s husband. Fascinatingly Regina was from a southern British tribe the Catuvellauni and had been sold as a slave to Palmyrian (Syrian) trader Barates who freed her and then married her. What I love is that she is clutching her distaff and spindle rather like any of us would hold our knitting of an evening at home in a comfy chair while poignantly at her feet is her stash of wool ready for projects she never got to finish.

Sniffle! Pulling myself together I took a turn about the site and was thrilled to have the reconstructed gatehouse all to myself;

From the top I got a good view of the majority of the archaeological remains together with the reconstructed barracks and Commanding Officer’s house:

Let’s look through the keyhole (no doors let alone keyholes but bear with me). Who lives in a house/barrack like this?

A Centurian! Rather bijou.

Being the last day of the season there were also re-enactors from the Cohors Quinto Gallorum – an auxiliary unit garrisoned to the fort in the 3rd Century – showing visitors ceremonies, food and the equipment of infantry soldiers. These are brave men. I mean it. Some of those children turned quite vicious when hurling spears at them!

A short walk around the herb garden,

And I was ready for a stroll back towards the Metro.

One of the nice things about tootling and having no particular timetable is that you come upon unexpected pleasures. Today mine was the Victorian Pantry at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery on Ocean Road.

I had a lovely light lunch (I managed to resist a High Tea…goodness knows how!) served by waitresses complete with white pinnies.

The poem by an unknown author on the front of the menu sums up life for me:

When the world is all at odds,

And the mind is all at sea,

Then cease the useless tedium,

And brew a cup of tea.

There is magic in its taste,

The laden moments vanish

Somewhere into space.

And the world becomes a lovely thing!

There’s beauty as you see.

All because you briefly stopped

To have a cup of tea.

About time I was brewing up!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Those of you playing spot the Meerkat (Terence to his friends), it will get harder!

P.P.S. Apologies to anyone who caught a quick glimpse of an earlier post announcing the start of my travels. It was a draft which I prematurely published! Sorry for any confusion caused. Mx

Reasons to be cheerful

Hello All

Things that have made me smile since I ‘retired’:

1. No need to put on the alarm for ridiculous o’clock!

2. When I can’t break the habit of waking up an hour before the old alarm time – at even-worse-than-ridiculous o’clock – rolling over and going back to sleep (not quite mastered this one as early days, but working on it Zzzzzzzzzz);

3. Crochet at odd moments throughout the day;

There has been a lot written and said about mindfulness and yarn craft lately and this 8 row repeat pattern from my old favourite “Crochet Unravelled” by Claire Bojczuk definitely helps me zone out. The long rows and small hook size (2.75cm) enhance the comfort of working to and fro to create the cobweb design.

4. Have a haircut ‘cos I can have it mid-week;

5. Travel to Skipton on a Thursday and have lunch out with No 1 Daughter;

Thoroughly enjoyed a veggie bean burger at the Two Sisters in Skipton. This super cosy and quirky restaurant also opens in the evening with board games and all varieties of gin. Although I am not a drinker – apart from tea! – I would love to go back at night as the atmosphere will be amazing I am sure.

6. See No 1 Son and have a joyful catch up with his world and plans for the future;

7. Visit Yarndale in Skipton with good woolly friend AFl, No 1 Daughter and (yelps of excitement) Peanut who was going to her first Yarndale;

We all had a super (and slightly … erm … expensive) time. It’s only once a year we’ve got to make the most of it haven’t we?! No 1 loved this yarn-bombed van and all the finger puppets. Perfect for little Peanut.

8. Help No1 Daughter at Sheffield 10k

It was lovely to volunteer to help No 1 Daughter and BTRS with an event on Sunday and not be worried about getting home ready for work on Monday. The weather was beautiful and we met some fantastic people who were truly inspiring. Well done to them all.

Thanks to No 1 Daughter for all the photos in this post. Bet you were thinking I had suddenly improved!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Retiring sort

Hello All

What a week. A week of lasts. Last Monday, last Tuesday … But in case it got overwhelming my colleagues kept it cheery. Love their card … not sure which is me!

It was a wonderful way to leave and I was royally spoiled with gifts, a fabulous meal at Rogan and Co in Cartmel and beautiful bouquets of flowers.

Aren’t the colours amazing?

Everyone was so generous and thoughtful. KS patchwork cushion in my favourite colours is gorgeous. I was bowled over.

I have had an amazing few days and been made to feel very special. Something I hope we all get to experience from time to time. But now I am ‘retired’ (until penury threatens) the card says it all:

Thank you Banksy for putting it so succinctly.

However I might manage a wee bit of time for this little one.

Peanut came up with her mum for my ‘retirement’ and made sure we had a fabulous night out at Kendal’s famous Torchlight procession before my personal festivities began. She was thrilled by all the floats and walking bands – this year decorated on the theme of Fairy Tales. She waved frantically at everyone that passed and had the sort of fantastic time only a 21 month old can have. That is some kind of fantastic!

Post ‘retirement’? Let the adventures begin.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Knitting up the Past

Hello All

It’s been a whirlwind weekend. Plenty of laughter with friends and family and wonderful food. PF that was a meal to die for. Thank you.

Meanwhile back at Casa Moke I have another sample ready. Trouble is I got the pattern for these fingerless mittens from a magazine some years ago and have lost the original instructions so each time I make a new pair I improvise. Well at least I can say every pair is unique! Luckily they started out alright.

And I managed a pair that look mighty similar.

Did I sew up the space between the thumb and main section the same?

Think so. More or less ….

It seems I may have been crocheting in the right colour range. Military khaki tones could prove useful to future projects. I have been right royally spoiled of late with a special birthday and now as I prepare to move to pastures new at work. MB off on hols and not back until I have left gave me the most thoughtful gift and one that meant I struggled working – but I managed to keep going … I did …. honest – as I so wanted to have time to look through its pages. That pleasure had to wait but it was worth it.

Packed with photos, information and even patterns this is truly a celebration of yarn crafts in adversity and heartwarmingly has a chapter on craftivism. It is a revelation to both the ardent knitter and crocheter as well as the armchair crafter.

Thank you MB for such a welcome addition to my wool craft library and archive.

I would love to hear your recommendations for books on the history of knitting and other yarn crafts.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx