Monday, 28 October 2013

A Ghostie Post

One of the many things I love about this time of year is the proliferation of all things spooky. The darker nights lend themselves to creating the perfect atmosphere - light some candles, stoke up the fire and off you go.

As a child I devoured ghostly tales. Usually they were compilations of short stories - read under the sheets with a torch - they were just enough to scare me into not wanting to go to the bathroom on my own! I remember 'The Waxwork' about a man who took up a dare to stay overnight in a wax museum, and 'The Doll's House' with it's slightly too realistic inhabitants. Later on I delved into some Edgar Allan Poe and M.R. James but it wasn't until I found 'The Woman in Black' a few years ago that I was able to revisit those early feelings of being genuinely spooked.

Of course this was also the heyday of Hammer Horror films. Each Friday night we would settle to watch Peter Cushing fight off some demonic beast whilst amply bosomed ladies wilted in the background.

Tales of the Unexpected provided more fuel - the hypnotic title music was often the best part - but it was relished nonetheless (the man who turned into a bee, the wife who 'tidied' her fastidious husband away into his own filing system of screw topped jars).

Several years ago the BBC ran a series of ghost stories running up to Christmas and each one was a treat. If you have never seen the Michael Hordern adaptation of Whistle and I'll Come to You it's a must see. Alongside Dicken's The Signalman. Both call for a nip of brandy to steady the nerves afterwards!

So - have I ever seen a ghost?

For many years I thought I had. At the age of six I woke in the dead of night to go to the bathroom. The door was directly opposite my bedroom and only a few steps away. Alongside the landing was a banister - the solid type that was popular in the 1970's. At the end it opened out on to a smaller landing at the top of the stairs with a window that allowed in the natural light. As I passed this section I froze. Standing in front of me was a young girl. She had a short silver coloured bob and was wearing no shoes. Her sleeveless mint green dress had no sleeves and a pocket with a large white daisy on it. I screamed and to this day remember how long it seemed to take for me to get back to the safety of my own bed and under the covers. Mum and dad were so convinced that someone must have been in the house that they searched high and low but, of course, found nothing. This mystery stayed with me until fairly recently. Watching one of these nostalgic 'let's remember all the kid's shows we grew up with programmes' there - alongside Mr Benn and The Clangers -was my ghost. Frustratingly I can't now remember the name of the character but she was a young girl who used to press the daisy on her pocket to grant a wish. Her clothes and hair were exactly the same as I remembered. I'm pretty sure the hairs must have stood up all the way down to my toes. After all these years the mystery of the girl on the landing was solved. So why even now, sitting in my sunny kitchen with a fresh coffee and Mr K's home made tea loaf, do I still feel a bit shivery?

Mum also has a ghostly tale. When she was three she had a particularly nasty bout of chicken pox. She was tucked up on the old sofa which was pushed up against the window. Outside the snow was falling but through the blur she saw a lady standing on the garden wall. The lady looked down at her and was smiling. Mum called her Grandma over and asked her to look. Of course her Grandma could see nothing so mum went on to describe a young lady with short dark hair and kind eyes. Grandma said nothing. Later on mum discovered that the lady she had been describing was in one of the family pictures - it was in fact her own mum who had died two years previously from tuberculosis. A combination of fever, memory and the hypnotic swirl of the snow - or was it something more?

Grandma Irene - looking after her poorly daughter?

There are many other tales. A close friend tells of hearing his dad having conversations late at night with his Grandad who had died several years before. Mr K once though that his glow-in-the-dark mummy was growing and chased him out of his bedroom! 

Do I still believe in ghosts? Not really. I believe our mind and imagination are incredible things and given the right conditions they will produce experiences that we have no other explanation for. So why is it that I still see things out of the corner of my eye, still imagine that that pile of clothes could be a figure and still have to - on occasion - ask Mr K to accompany me to the bathroom in the middle of the night?

I think there's someone behind you!


Monday, 21 October 2013

Bakewell - more than just a tart?

Anyone who grew up in the UK in the latter half of the last century will have been familiar with the kindly benevolent baker we shall call - for legal purposes - Mr Pipling. He was a purveyor of 'exceedingly good cakes' and in our house a box of his delights were rare treats - even now the prospect of a French Fancy makes my want to pick up a china cup and stick out my little finger! His cherry bakewells were the cream of the crop and, to me, visiting the homeland of Bakewell in Derbyshire always fills me with joy. This weekend was no exception. Coming at the end of National Wool Week (believe me that passed me by too!) Bakewell hosted it's first ever Wool Gathering. Hot on the heels of Yarndale it opened it's agricultural centre to a myriad of woolly craftspeople. 

There were spinners

and weavers

This lady had spun and dyed her own wool before designing the pattern for her rug

Baskets of fleece



And talent - so much talent!

Sarah from didyoumakeityourself was there with a fantastic mix of crafty goodness - check out her blog here.

Jenny Barnett displayed her felted figures.

How cute is that dog?

Lynda from Rebellious Rags was giving some fantastic demonstrations but I was so glued to what she was doing I'm afraid I didn't get around to taking any photographs.

After the first trek around it was time for some refreshments and a little bit of thinking time. I'd treated myself to a needle felting start up kit from The Threshing Barn and no sooner was it on the formica topped table than a magic lady appeared and gave us a lovely demonstration as to what to do with it. As if by magic she disappeared but left me with a focus - buy more roving.

So I did.

Then feeling really brave I bought another kit. 

This time from Jenny with a verbal guarantee that even a blind hamster could make one of these delightful hares.

 They have not seen my work!

Of course it would not have been right to leave without buying some wool - that's the law.

We took our leave and wandered across the bridge toward the town centre.

We were serenaded

(Not too sure what the man facing the other was doing - doesn't look good!)

Wandered through the soft stone streets

And strolled the beautiful gardens

Loved this door

And who can resist an Autumnal mushroom?

On the way back to the car we noticed this

Strange to think that this trend has stretched right across Europe to a sleepy Derbyshire town

So - Bakewell - more than just a tart? Definitely. 

Dare I mention Bakewell pudding?

Have a good week



Monday, 14 October 2013


Come gather all countrymen
From far and near 
I'll tell ye (!) a story ye might want to hear
There once was a lady 
Whose ears had been told
That magic could turn certain things in to gold
Now said lady had apples 
In bags, bowls and sink
So to find her some magic she followed this link

She picked and she washed
And she covered in water
To the sighs of her ever despairing daughter

Next she boiled all the apples and hung from a spoon
And slowly let drip by the light of the moon.

Well the next day came round
But the spell not yet done
She added some sugar and juice of this one

And well she was waiting for sugar to melt
She made up some reindeer
And hearts with some felt 

The pan boiled away
Wafting smells up their noses

But still not complete
She crocheted some roses

After some time
Some boiling and skimming
And jars at the ready to welcome their filling 
The magic complete
As in centuries old
The apples and sugar
Turned into GOLD!

So tootle me garters 
And riddle me ree
That was the tale of my AL - CHE -MYYYYYYYYY!


Saturday, 5 October 2013

Great Stuff and Stuffing

Hello October!

Detail from 'Sleeping Beauty' by Herbert Laupin

The annual food and drink festival is in full swing here in our sleepy town. This afternoon Mr K and I wandered through the vibrant farmers market, chatted with chums, ate salt fish croquettes (didn't even know they existed before now but really very nice!) and ooohed and aaahed at various delectables - all the while accompanied by a man on a kettle drum (not us personally you understand - that would be odd). On the way home we chatted about how lucky we were - not in any huge way but we're happy (most of the time), healthy (as far as we know) and are able to appreciate what we have rather than yearning after that which we don't. But just in case you were thinking I was going to hand over all my worldly goods and run to the nearby convent let me furnish you with some of the very definite material things that have delighted me this week.

First up I was really lucky to win a giveaway over at Handmade Jane (go over and take a look at her blog, she's just written a fascinating piece about 1950's couture but her own makes are an inspiration in themselves).

 It was this

Just the end pieces make me drool

 But the projects - my heads a buzzin'!

Thanks so much Jane!

Mr K surprised me with these

and this

a screen print from his old colleague Lauren Van Helmond - all of my favourite things!

Mum and dad returned from a trip with these tasty Canadian biscuits

 filled with the most delicious maple flavoured cream

And whilst we're on the subject this week we made a gorgeous vegetable and lentil broth with dumplings (definitely THAT time of year) but, try as I might, it was difficult to take a decent photo of it. To be honest what ever angle and what ever light I had it still ended up looking totally the opposite of  mouthwatering so, in order not to put you off your next meal here's a picture of some apple crumble instead


Now for the stuffing. A little while ago a dear friend asked if I could make a few things for a local Christmas Fayre. Instantly my mind was whirling. That evening saw me dancing around the house looking for our old funnel, a bag of lavender I 'bought some time ago in order to do something with but never quite got around to and put somewhere safe', and cutting up a perfectly nice Laura Ashley skirt that had been on it's way back to the charity shop. The result?

Hearty hand warmers!

Spurred on by this I decided some felt flowers would be a good idea

but I quickly tired of the fiddly stitching so my mind turned to bunnies (as it often does). Another rummage in the charity bag yielded a skirt in a lovely fine needlecord. Sadly once this was stitched up it proved the 'devil itself' to stuff neatly - who'd have thought stuffing a bunny would be so stressful (feel free not to respond to this question)? After several viewings of tutorials and a grapple with a crochet hook I managed these

Not ideal and - hmmm - just a little naked?

That's better!

So - my little workshop is buzzing. My aim is to make just enough to buy the turkey but it's clear I've still got a long way to go. I've seen patterns for dachshund bookmarks, miniature teddies and Peter Pan collars. I want to make some tote bags and Christmas stockings. Candle holders? Maybe - oh and definitely some crochet snowflakes. So many ideas - so little time!

So far there's this 

I don't think I'll be ordering the home reared organic bronze just yet!

Hope you are all having good weeks - smiles if you are and hugs if you need one.



P.S. Hello to those of you who have just joined me - lovely to have you here!