Libraries

Hello All

As I pedalled along last week (yes I am pedalling more than walk-ling now, impressive eh?) wondering what to write about in this post the word ‘library’ popped into my mind.

Those of you that have been with me from the beginning will recall this blog started life under the moniker “Library Lady” as at the time I worked in the local library. Libraries have always been important to me. My mother was an avid reader. Forced to leave school at 14 and go out to work she always regretted not having access to higher education. Despite her reservations I think my mother’s spontaneous, autonomous reading and learning made her one of the most intelligent people I have known. She was always thirsty for knowledge.

When I was small we regularly walked through Kensington Gardens on a circuitous route – calling in at the swings – to the public library in Paddington. Once past the librarian sitting at the counter I was safely released into what answered for a children’s library – bit spartan in the early 1960s – while my mother spent happy hours browsing the shelves looking for books she had not already read. While she looked, stopped and read a few pages from here and there I gained the precious gift of time to idle, dream and read.

At university for the first time I was the only one amongst my immediate peers who had come from a comprehensive (state school). Most were public school (private) or grammar school (selective state school). My insecurities found their refuge in the beautiful Classics Library. I still remember the wood panelling and the serried collections of books comfortably congregated in cabinets behind glass doors.

I can even recollect the smell: polish blended with the slight mustiness of old books. Delicious. By the way don’t go sniffing lungfuls from very old books I have been advised by those that know about the construction of books that some toxic nasties may have been used to construct tomes of yore. The studious silence and access to such rare and wonderful volumes was a privilege and even today a library is my bolt hole of choice.

I always enjoy a visit to the local public library. Kendal has a wonderful Carnegie library,

built in 1809 courtesy of Andrew Carnegie. Thank you Kendal Civic Society for telling us all about Mr Carnegie:

Once inside you can find an author you have not come across before, borrow music, read about far-flung places, share books, songs and toys with your children and grandchildren, research the local area in great depth, study maps, use a computer and best of all pick the brains of librarians and library staff. They are a helpful and clever bunch worth their weight in gold.

Public libraries offer space to everyone and in these increasingly hate-filled times are a beacon of brilliance providing a thoughtful sanctuary for everyone. I am sure it was no accident that Andrew Carnegie also devoted his wealth to peace studies. The carving above the door says it all:

Public libraries have often come low down the list of priorities when cash-strapped councils have to make hard choices. Libraries are an investment in the unknowable future or in areas hard to quantify. Luckily many of us (sadly not all) have been fortunate enough to retain our public libraries where most of the resources are free to use. Kendal has a busy library that is a real hub for the community. I hope that Carnegie – wherever he is now – is happy that his gift is still being used and enjoyed over a hundred years later.

A slightly guilty pleasure for me is borrowing fiction. Books that I will thoroughly enjoy in the moment but have no need to own. Here’s what I checked out on my last visit:

An Ann Cleeves Shetland thriller perfect for the dark cold nights and a bit of Townsend humour to relieve … erm … the dark cold nights.

So feel free to gather some good books around you, cosy up under a blanket with a mug of tea (coffee? or chocolate if you prefer), lose yourself in the glow of a good lamp as your reading transports you wherever you want to go.

Happy times.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Short walks and flying visits

Hello All

Funny little week this one with a veritable variety of small delights. The weather and remnants of the ever-lasting flu bug has limited my walking recently. With yet another forecast of f-f-f-f-reeezing high winds accompanied by a deluge (think BBC Weather marks it with charming two raindrops under a too fluffy cloud, its a deluge to me) the intrepid three J, JF and me decided that perhaps meeting for a cuppa would be enough for this week’s walk day. But we are not intrepid for nothing and decided on a short walk before the luxury of a warm coffee shop.

When I say short I mean short. Today’s walk was along one side of Kendal’s main shopping street Stricklandgate. For a Kendal walk we of course turned to Mr Nicholls and in this instance his Exploration No.1 Around Stricklandgate. To reduce the need to refer to Arthur Nicholls’ book in the everlasting downpour I made a quick (ie not very good) sketch of our half-a-street walk with all the highlights jotted down which I could preserve in a waterproof ‘envelope’.

For such a diminutive amble Stricklandgate (one half) packs a historical punch. Kendal Town Hall is presently being restored after the damage wrought by Storm Desmond (2016) so a little interior shot is all I have to give to an idea of its grandeur.

Passing up the opportunity to burst Maria-like into song we girded ourselves for a walk on the wild side of Cumbrian weather (I begin to wonder if there is any other type!).

We quickly trotted to the top of Finkle Street.

There has been much conjecture about the name Finkle. I like the old Kendalian story that it is from the Norse word meaning elbow as it does have a dog-leg as you walk downbank. My extensive research (I Googled it) is not entirely supportive of this theory and whatever you do don’t look up the definition of ‘finkle’ in the urban dictionary …. you have been warned.

Moving on. What has always intrigued me is the fact that Stricklandgate was lined with buildings on both sides (remember we are only looking at one half…) and the Pump Inn which lay across the top of Finkle Street fascinated me. I was imagining something grand like the Pump Rooms in Bath but the reality appears to have been a far cry from this. The fact that a fish market ran down Finkle Street behind it should have given me a clue. We are lucky that there are archive photographs of the Pump Inn. Here is my representation of one of them. I am afraid as it was all grey even my grey-heavy palette gave up.

Doesn’t that fish-wife look familiar?!

Tootling on we wistfully wandered on past Farrers Tea and Coffee. Ahhhh the smell of freshly roasted coffee that comes from this old coffee house is amazing. If you are up this way it is a must to visit Farrers with its wobbly timber floors and stairways. The coffee and tea are tasty as are all the home baked treats. You can also pick up Farrers’ goodies to take home. The building is fronted by the iron doorway which was put in when the building was refronted in the 18th century. Prior to this Farrers was a hostelry called the Waggon and Horses Inn.

Farrers had whetted our appetites but we carried on paying our respects to Kendal’s historic past: the buildings that survive – like the Working Men’s Institute and Globe Inn – and those long gone – like the Corn Market Hall with its grim prison named the Black Hole underneath. Further down the road (but not much further) we gave a nod to the old yards and burgage plots that now lie long forgotten under the modern Westmorland Shopping Centre which at least has hung on to our old County name.

Almost at our destination we skirted Blackhall Yard which originally housed a 16th century mansion for the first mayor of Kendal Henry Wilson and later became Hodgson’s Black Hall Brush Factory. There is a replica of the hog with bristles sign still hanging near the yard but one of the original wooden hogs can be seen at the Museum of Lakeland Life at Abbot Hall.

Finally Charlies and that long (er-hum) awaited cuppa but before we could enjoy the delights of an Earl Grey tea or three there was one last historic footnote. Charlies cafe is sited in the old house that Bonnie Prince Charlie is reputed to have stayed in on his retreat from Derby in 1745 and is where he was cared for by the Misses Thompson (make of that what you will). Ironically the house is said to have provided the same bed to the Bonnie Prince’s pursuer the Duke of Cumberland the very next night. Hope they changed the sheets … were there sheets…?

Amazing what a short walk can reveal. The same is true for a flying visit.

Yesterday I was in Carlisle to meet up with friends at Tullie House museum. I love this museum and the fact that I picked up a season ticket for £6.50 on my last trip has helped me appreciate it even more.

Having had a super catch up and lunch in the museum cafe I enjoyed an hour looking at the Percy Kelly retrospective. The work of this amazing artist is right up my street. Driven to draw everyday he generally had a linear and angular style with all those clean lined edges I find so satisfying. In addition to the drawings, paintings and prints I discovered textile prints and multi-media examples of his work. All wonderful but for me the most beautiful exhibits are his letters. He was an inveterate letter writer writing in a clear copperplate hand around the drawings he incorporated into his correspondence. His letters are erudite and incredibly illustrated how fortunate were his friends to receive them. No wonder so many survive they must have been treasured. If you have a chance to see this exhibition (which I hear is now staying in Tullie House until mid-February) I would thoroughly recommend going.

Understandably no photos were allowed of the Percy Kelly exhibition however elsewhere in Tullie House you are generally allowed to take snaps and I grabbed one of Tullie House’s latest acquisition, Driggsby.

Sadly Driggsby a rare Fin Whale was found in 2014 by a dog walker at Drigg in West Cumbria. The young whale had already perished but has been kept in the county to illustrate the wonderful sea life we have around our shores and to act as a reminder to care for the environment that sustains these amazing creatures.

Lest I leave you on a sad note here is something that made me smile. Having completed our walk down Stricklandgate J, JF and myself trotted into Kendal Library and popped our heads into the colourful children’s library where we were bowled over by our talented friend AW’s fabulous display.

Hope her hard work leaves you smiling too.

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.

DSCI0401

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!).

DSCI0398

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

 

 

Twinkle Twinkle

Hello All

When I was a library lady one of my favourite tasks was to lead Toddler Tales every Monday morning. It was a great way to start the week. The chaos of little people, parents, grandparents and carers all momentarily calmed by coming together to sing rhymes and listen to stories.

Most beautiful of all was the sharing of nursery rhymes which all the generations could share. Simple couplets so ingrained in our memories that we instantly recall them as soon as the first magic words are said. One such has to be “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. It brings a little tingle to the back of my neck recalling how sweet it was to hear old and young voices combined to sing this lovely poem.

And what brought about this happy memory? Good friend B sent me a link to a crochet pattern! Thanks to a free Moogly pattern you can use up your yarn scraps to make your own little stars.

With a couple of minutes to spare, a few basic tools,

DSCI0229

and even the scrappiest of scrap,
DSCI0224

you can make up a simple decorative star in a trice. Have fun trying different yarns and hook sizes

and perhaps add another point

DSCI0235

to create your own perfect twinkling star.

Ah well time to hook up a few more stars – it’s kind of addictive – and start thinking about presents and cards and all things Christmassy….eeeeekkkk …… maybe I’ll just enjoy making stars and keep Christmas thoughts at bay until December.

 

Until next we meet, Moke x

PS Sorry I vanished last week but my internet went off!!! Zut alors! Mx

 

 

Book on a train – ‘The Time Keeper’ by Mitch Albom

Hello All

A short post for a short read with great depth: “The Time Keeper” by Mitch Albom (2012, Sphere, London. ISBN 9781847442253). DSCI0171

This is the story of Dor the man who invented the measurement of time and thereby condemned mankind to clock-watching and himself to thousands of years as a hermit doomed to hear the pleas of humanity to give them more time, make time pass….

It is also the story of two of those that cried out to him, awkward teenager Sarah Lemon and terminally ill business man Victor Delamonte. Dor is finally released from his cave because only he can make them understand the fundamental truth about existence.

This unusually constructed novel is both gripping and thought provoking. I couldn’t put it down. It questions our modern obsession with time and contrasts it with an era when people were more concerned with survival in the moment. Exquisite.

Happy reading.

Until next we meet. Moke x

Wool n Stuff

Hello All

I had a timely reminder of the lovely Wool n Stuff community group when I received a friend request for the group’s Facebook page .

The initial impetus to set up Wool ‘n’ Stuff had been to explore wool crafts in the ambient surroundings of Kendal Museum. When we gathered for the first time in the autumn of 2006 to the strains of ancient Viking music (I couldn’t help myself…) in the midst of medieval and Roman artefacts little did we realise that we would be celebrating the woolly textiles that are our Cumbrian heritage for many years to come. But as they say in these parts ‘Pannus Mihi Panis’, wool is our 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. Kendal Museum entrance - 18.7.13

Following a reduction in staff and hours at the museum we had to find a new home which we did thanks to the kind folk at Kendal Library where we resided for a couple of sessions – looking at different fleeces and holding a quiz about our woolly friends (the four-legged varieties).

(Un)fortunately we were a mucky lot and sought out a new venue – the YWCA – where we could branch out into the messier crafts of natural dying, felting, and tye dye. We also held sessions on easy-weaving, tubular tablet weaving, hooked rag rugging, spinning wheels and crochet.

When building work meant another move we found ourselves in the marvellously grand surroundings of Kendal Town Hall until we were finally ensconced in the Art Room of Castle Street Community Centre where we worked on individual projects and group activities,

and held small sales of our own-made goodies (very popular at Christmas):

Time passed people’s lives changed and while there had been few woolly groups about when we began many more local ‘knit and natters’ had sprung up around us. It was great to see such a revival of interest in wool crafts and homespun community activity but as the need for a group like Wool n Stuff receded the small core of people that kept it running felt it was time to wrap Wool n Stuff up.

Sadly not long after the last session one of our key members Linda was suddenly taken from us. Yet even now she has left us a happy little legacy which I had almost forgotten about in the tumult that followed her short illness. Together with her son MF, much tea and hilarity we had created a Facebook Group for Wool n Stuff. Now as we look forward to celebrating Linda’s huge contribution to community and woolly activity during Mintfest might be the time to revive it.

Each Wool n Stuff session was full of support and friendship, rich with laughter and probably more biscuits than were good for us. It might be difficult to supply virtual biscuits but….

…being reminded of our Facebook Group by our newest member made me wonder if Wool n Stuff could be re-invigorated virtually. Perhaps it can be a home for us crafty types to share what we are working on, come to for help with tricky bits, gain solace for disappointments and congratulations for the things we are proudest of. Anyway crafters its our little bit of the universe to use …. enjoy.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/woolnstuff/

Until next we meet. Moke xx

PS I hope the links work. If you have any problems try typing out the address afresh in your web browser. Mx

PPS Apologies to non-Facebookers. Mxx

The Inconstant Gardener

Hello All

This time last year I was a library lady and with Children’s Librarian FT gearing up ready for the Summer Reading Challenge, Creepy House. Do you remember all the batty bats?

DSCN0399

Although now in a different job I am still very excited that libraries all over the country will be preparing themselves for the 2014 Summer Reading Challenge, Mythical Maze.

 

DownloadedFile

It starts next Saturday….good luck all.

Remembering my time with the Young People’s Library Service there is one aspect that I really miss, story times. Reading to children is a special thing. Always rewarding especially when your young audience becomes completely absorbed in the tales you are sharing with them. There are many wonderful books written and illustrated by a wealth of fabulous children’s authors so there is no shortage of brilliant material.

One story is particularly relevant to my present endeavours in the garden. I am not the most consistent nor patient gardener and always chuckled when I read the account of Jasper the cat and his horticultural mis-adventures.

DownloadedFile

In Jasper’s Beanstalk by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen our friend Jasper soon loses patience when the bean he sows does not immediately respond to his intensive nurturing. I know how he feels….where are my pumpkins?

DSCI0277

Where are my chives?

DSCI0282

I planted them DAYS ago and we’ve had sunshine and rain since then….. Guess I will have to show a bit more forbearance. You never know like Jasper something incredible may grow. I have some hope…

DSCI0280

In any event thank goodness for re-potting plants that gardeners with more tolerance have started off.

DSCI0284

 

In the midst of all these earthworks (ermmm) you’ll be pleased to know that I have finished the Minimalism Game. Yippee!!! To the untrained eye it would be hard to tell. However one of the things I dispensed with has made a difference. The telly is no more (wow) and after a furniture move around I find I have a big patch of bare floorboards. Not for long. My t-arn rug is finished and covers the spot perfectly.

DSCI0285

The shades may be at odds with the room’s colour scheme – like that has ever troubled me! – but I think my little rug has nonetheless lent the space some homespun cosiness. I’m hoping the slightly wobbly edges will settle down after being trampled over… Thanks again B for all that t-shirt cutting.

The weather here is glorious and I hope it is the same wherever you are.

Until next we meet. Moke.