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

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

Happy 2015 and welcome to new projects

Hello All and a very Happy New Year

Well here we are 2015. Flying along through the new millennium. I wonder how they felt in 1015? Muddy? Worried about the way Cnut The Great was looking at our monasteries? Thank goodness times have changed, now we look forward to the latest Nordic Noir (especially Sarah Lund’s Faroe Isle knitwear), love the way some of us have names that end in  -son thanks to our Viking ancestors and admire the beautiful wool crafts the Norse created then and now.

If I’d any sense (and ability) I’d have lined up a wonderful Scandinavian knitwear project. You know the sort: a highly patterned cardigan with ornamental metal clasp fastenings…drool…. Although that day may come for now I recognize my limitations and present you with (fanfare) the first socks of 2015 on the DPNs.

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As you can see the going is slow due to all the little twisty cables. Nonetheless the knitting is tactile-y pleasing as the yarn is Rowan’s ‘felted tweed’ a beautifully soft mix of Merino and Alpaca (I get no payment for saying this!).

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Holidays finished and it is back to work. But it also back to one of my favourite haunts, the library. Good friend BS recommended a book by Jacquetta Hawkes and with a little help from the wonderful, knowledgeable, helpful, hardworking staff (you know who you are!) I was soon excitedly clutching a copy to take home.

‘A Land’ is a revelation. A history of the formation of Britain and its people written by a brilliantly gifted woman who brought to her writing such rich poetic humanity. Her use of Isaac Newton buried under a deluge of apples is typical of her ability to convey information – in this case stratification – memorably and with humour. Thanks B, as always a superb recommendation.

Plenty to keep me inspired and busy through the still dark evenings of January.

I wish you all the best for a happy and healthy 2015.

Until next we meet, Moke x

PS Thanks to my friend Jackie at ‘Knitting With Heart’ I am reliably informed that 2015 is The Year of The Sheep. An excuse (if one were needed) for twelve months of woolly wonderfulness. Yippee! Mx

 

 

Under foot

Hello All

Of late I have found myself captivated with the rocks beneath our feet. Prompted by my latest book on the train

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I’ve started taking more notice of what’s under foot.

By exploring his past through the quarries and mines of his childhood Ted Nield piqued my interest in our local geology and how it made Kendal the little Auld Grey Town that it is. While Kendal looks north toward the hills of the Lake District – ancient eroded volcanoes which erupted around 450 million (!) years ago – Kendal Fell sits on an area of limestone and you see it everywhere. As you walk out the door

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down the lane

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wrapped in moss

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ramshackle

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sparkly new

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supporting buildings

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creating pretty lanes

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funneling chimney stacks

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and spanning arches DSCI0304

 

To think that Kendal’s signature stone was formed millions of years ago in shallow seas when what is now England was south of the Equator … amazing!

Quick before I go. As I was typing today’s blog I had a little visitor. He popped in the back door to escape a heavy downpour.

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Stayed for a while and when the clouds had gone hopped out into the foliage.

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Until we meet again, ribitttttttttt. Moke