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

Going out with a bang

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How are you? Well I hope. I am now home again in snuggly little Kendal all safe and sound. Back to being a country mouse.

But yowzerrs did I save the best to last! Cologne was fabulous and being able to enjoy it with my cousin R’i and her family made it extra super.

One of the downsides of travelling solo is evening meals so it has been lovely when visiting both Prenzlau and Cologne to have cousins who have gone out with me and taken me to places for dinner. Vielen Danke!

On Friday night in Cologne R’i and W’g took me to a beautiful riverside restaurant for an al fresco supper. Just the sort of place I love where you can people watch and chat. Afterwards full with a hearty German meal – needless to say I have loved the food here – and a glass of Kolsch we tootled off for a floodlit walk of Cologne. Amazingly beautiful.

But then … I was diverted into another world….a Jazz Cafe! Flippin’ Heck it was hilarious and brilliant and I don’t think I stopped laughing all the time we were in there.

Into the tiniest space was crammed a good proportion of Cologne (or so it seemed), wedged on balconies, squidging around the bar, packed up to the minuscule stage. Atmosphere in heaps and then to crown it all was a live band playing traditional Orleans jazz and blues. All this and another glass of Kolsch. What more could a girl (erm mature lady) want? Absolutely nothing.

Photos cannot fully convey the sweaty loud joyfulness of it all. These are the best I could do.

That’s what I call a Friday night. A good time definitely had by all.

Jump change!

Saturday saw me polishing up my halo and re-asserting my blue-stocking credentials. Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) and Romisch-Germanisches Museum here I come.

Cologne Cathedral has such significance to residents and visitors alike. As the trains coming into Cologne station pass right beneath its towering spires travellers crowd the windows to get that first glimpse of her and when they do they know they are home. It is difficult to find suitable adjectives but Cologne Cathedral surpasses anything I have seen. It is also certainly a triumph of Long Now thinking as it was begun in the mid 1200s, worked on until the late 1400s and then completed to the original design in the 1800s.

And amidst the grandeur are the small details created with love and pride.

It was magnificent and I needed to have frequent little sit-downs just to absorb as much of it as possible. And before you ask I did not go up the 533 steps into one of the spires! I did that in my twenties so no need to do it again…that’s my excuse I am sticking to it.

From Gothic to Roman in a couple of steps (if you have extremely long legs) as the Roman Museum is right next door to the Cathedral. The museum is built on the site of a Roman villa and was designed around it’s famous centre-piece the Dionysus Mosaic. In addition to the mosaic it has fabulous displays of Roman glassware:

And these superbly exhibited ‘Guardians of the Tombs’

I was in my Roman seventh heaven.

A happy but sad to go family afternoon and evening completed my fabulous stay in Cologne. Time for bed and the final train journey from Cologne to Amsterdam to catch the ferry home.

After bobbing about on the choppy waters of the North Sea I arrived safely in Blighty. I have had the most marvellous few weeks in Germany. It has fulfilled and exceeded expectations.

I hope you have enjoyed travelling along with me.

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

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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:


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

Val-deri, Val-dera … my knapsack on my back

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Interrailing has begun. I started my train travels today on the International train ICE123 from Amsterdam to Trier via Cologne (Koln).

I stumbled a bit at the first hurdle as couldn’t find my reserved seat! However I was sitting on the right train, in the right carriage in what I thought was an unreserved seat so I was congratulating myself on being correct on two out of three until there was a tap on my shoulder and a gentleman pointed out that I was in his seat! Colour me beetroot red.

Apparently ‘freigeben’ doesn’t mean the seat is free rather it means that you should give up your seat if asked…. oh the shame….. To be fair the numbering of the seats was very odd. I had reserved seat number 12 but when I walked up the carriage I realised that there were not enough seats to go down to number 12 however once evicted from my seat (did I mention the shame?!) closer inspection revealed that the numbers jumped from the 20’s to 12 with nothing in between and nothing after. I obviously get my number dyslexia from my father’s side!

Still it was rather funny and pushed me stumbling through my basic German to the amusement of the other passengers (‘What did that woman say? “The cats eat the beetles?!”‘). Baptism of fire? Yes. But it was the best way to get going with a new language. Now anyone that cares to listen is getting blasts of Moke-German. Poor souls. My sympathy goes out particularly to the taxi driver who had my full range of conversation about the weather and the lack of rain.

Back in my comfort zone I have finished the Newcastle wool and while on the train to Trier I got started with the Amsterdam yellow. Doubled up to match the weight of the Newcastle yarn it is vibrant and crocheting beautiful. It’s like sunshine on a blue-sky day.

The journey from Koln to Trier was beautiful. It does I suppose fall in the Rhineland renowned for its wonderfulness. As it got further from Koln the little regional train – no reservation nightmares here (can’t get past the shame) as no reservations! – wound its way along rivers and through pretty towns and villages. Woodlands clothed the hills that rose on either side. The colours of Autumn embellished and amber-blazed the trees. Oh it was soooo restful. Infact soooo restful I struggled to keep my peepers open as I gazed at the passing countryside.

Soporific isn’t it? Appears I was not alone.

Now I am in Trier and excited about visiting the many Roman and Medieval sites/sights tomorrow. Will also need to look out for a good wool shop. Any ideas about shops in Trier or what colour to get next?

Before I sign off. I love this idea … wonder what I will get in my goody bag?

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

All at sea

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What I will turn my hand to for the sake of my blog post is nobody’s business! I sat drafting this post in the Observation Deck (front) of the DFDS Ferry taking me from Newcastle to Amsterdam staring out at the great expanse of the North Sea (looking deep and cold) as I was told that this was the only place that I may get a wifi connection … time will tell I thought.

Force 7 winds were expected and it did get a wee bit bumpy especially in the early hours. Still as you crafters know there is nothing like a craft project to keep you busy and your mind off things like the stack of sick bags behind the cabin door ready for use. As I described on Saturday I am trying to make a crochet ripple scarf-shawl-thingy and am already working with ball of wool number one purchased in Newcastle.

I always find the hardest row to get right in ripple patterns is row 1. And if that goes array the subsequent pattern row will be out of kilter. Pulling back is ultimately the kindest thing to do both for the crochet and your frazzled nerves.

This first row so confidently crocheted as I sat over lunch in the wonderful Great North Museum (GO THERE!!!!) had to be pulled back twice as in transcribing the pattern to my note book I completely missed out not one but two crucial sections of the pattern…. what a dope!

But once you crack it! Whoopee-do the rows start flying.

Sadly time did tell and my little iPad and me could not muster a Wifi connection from Neptune while we bobbed about the sea … this post had to await dry land.

Now safely ashore in Amsterdam I am able to access Wifi and even add to the above post as since landing in this fair harbour (No 1 Daughter’s favourite city … so far) I have managed to find a wonderful wool shop a fabulous dine-ery and another museum!

First my crafty friends to the wool shop. Having fruitlessly tried to find my hostel for the night (the directions were not good!) I did find right opposite the Nieumarkt Metro the first Amsterdam wool shop on my list: Stephen and Penelope.

The shop’s assistant was so helpful. Definitely going above and beyond. She helped me find the right wool for my project (I wanted something from Amsterdam), she wound the skein into a ball for me, directed me correctly to the hostel and also recommended a restaurant nearby. I could ask no more. She was brilliant.

I was desperate to get yarn produced locally (sorry Newcastle but you were a little disappointing in that department). I was captivated by the range of colours in the Undercover Otter range.

These are all dyed in Amsterdam and although a thinner ply than the double knit I started with I couldn’t resist the bright yellow on the top row. I can always double it if I want it to more closely match the thickness of the double knit I started with. I was a little ashamed of the tatty plastic back I was carrying my crochet around in but problem solved as I added a small cotton project bag to my purchases.

Undercover Otter normally sells only on line but Stephen and Penelope stock a large selection too they are definitely worth a look.

Before I get back to the scarf-shawl-thingy here’s a few other things I did on my day in Amsterdam:

1. Find my StayOkay hostel. It is in a lovely location and very central.

2. Start walking to No1 Daughter’s favourite Coffee and Coconut but find a lovely cafe of my own en route, Le Pain Quotidien.

With seating inside and out this cafe exuded a chic yet boho ambience. More importantly its extensive menu with tasty veggie options and cakes was drool worthy. What more could I ask? A pudding! I finished with an Apple-Cinnamon Tart. Delicious.

And yes that’s me drinking my Earl Grey out of a bowl….

3. Find a museum. I found the Amsterdam Museum. Using the site of an old orphanage the Amsterdam Museum gave a great overview of the history of this vibrant multi-cultural city. The assistants were very helpful and although they offered me the audio guide I demurred as I like to look at the exhibits without an information overload. As you can see it is quite a grand building with a history of it’s own. The plaques in the first picture are like adverts to anyone selling their services.

But to state the obvious tomorrow is another day and I need to be in fine fettle for the start of my interrailing. Tuesday so it must be it be Amsterdam to Trier. I will keep you posted on progress but for now I am ready for my bed.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx