Friday, 28 February 2014

Up in the Air

A fun filled half-term and a full busy week back at work later and finally I've found my moment to squeeze in some bloggy time. 
We had a marvellous week doing a bit of all our favourite things and catching up with some lovely friends. 
 Mid-week we visited a place that we've only ever whizzed past on route to London. We were planning to drive to Greenwich that day, but muggins here overslept so we headed off to Duxford Museum instead. To be truthful we had such a fabulous day there that I'm glad I did.

I'd never realised how big the place is as you only get a glimpse from the motorway so I wondered how we'd fill up a day there. How stupid was I? If like us you're madly fascinated by the First and Second World Wars then this is the place for you. As a child I read all I could about the wars. When I was twelve I got the book on the Holocaust that I'd asked for for Christmas. It never seemed odd to me until my man pointed out it wasn't your average twelve year olds bedtime book.

 When we first got there my man and I got sidetracked by all the great books and postcards in the shop. Then we heard a moan of "are we going to spend all day in the shop?". How times change.


 Brief facts about Duxford. The site was first used as an airfield in 1918 and continued as one until the early 1960's. I was surprised that there were no concrete runways until the 1950's, but then that made sense when I thought about it as it would be harder to spot from the air and attack. For most of the war the planes were controlled from a watch room rather than a tower. This is where we found displays about the airfield and the men and women who had worked and flew from there. 

As there are so many different places to visit at Duxford we got a lot of walking in too which was just what we needed. In the middle we squeezed in a visit to the NAAFI where we drank hot choc from enamel mugs. 

One of the buildings that drew the biggest gasp of interest from us was the Operations Room. We've seen women pushing planes on maps with stick paddles on films, but never in real life. Apparently this is the only remaining control room left so it's really special.


 The Battle of Britain hangar housed the ante-room where the pilots had their briefings before scrambling to their planes. We wandered around an excellent exhibition detailing all aspects of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. I can't remember the exact figures now, but I was shocked to see that more people were killed in one nights bombing raid on Hamburg than they were in all the bombing raids on London throughout the war. I had an idea of how badly hit Germany was mind you from a dear Uncle of mine. He was with the forces that first arrived at Bergen-Belsen and was so shocked by what he saw there that he stayed in Europe for years afterwards working in refugee camps helping people attempt to get a life back. He described the state they found Germany in and said it was beyond the destruction of even the worst raids on cities such as Coventry. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 which ends with the bombing of Dresden also gives another side to my perspective of the Second World War.

 

 See I've managed to pop into the shelter with the family for the night.

Despite seeing some Spitfires, I didn't take any pictures of them. I'm always overwhelmed with emotion when I see them as they are such a strong symbol of youth, hope, courage and pride that I get caught up just staring at them wondering who might have flown it.

There were a few vehicles in the this exhibition that caught my eye too. An American car which was converted to become an ambulance and a London Bus with the figurehead of Old Bill on the front. The bus had been used to move troops about at the Front during the First World War and had a poignant brass plate commemorating each of the main sites it had visited and the dates ending with 1919 Home.


 Towards the furtherest end of the site we found the American Air Museum. The Americans arrived at Duxford in 1943 and so their place in the war is commemorated here as is some of their later aviation history. In one of the earlier hangars we'd seen the Sally B, a B-52 which is sponsored by a group of volunteers. Alongside the Spitfire this is the other plane that remains emblematic of the Second World War. 

Living in Norfolk, the part the Americans played in the latter part of the war is part of everyday history as so many of their bases were built here. We live in one of the villages where farmland gave way to an American base in 1943. I love visiting it - seeing the pictures of daily life, marriages and the ones of the christmas party when the children were invited there for the day. One elderly villager told me about the three saddled bike they used to get to the pub on. The most drunk one sat in the middle where there were no pedals. As for me, I'm the product of an American airman who was stationed in England in the 1960's and a woman from an Irish RAF family. Maybe that's where some of my fascination comes from.


In the American Air Museum you walk in from above the planes.  Underneath there is a section dedicated to the men who lost their lives flying for those two years. We were thrilled to see James Stewart's uniform in one of the end cases as he's a favourite actor of ours.


The final place after this to explore was the Land Warfare exhibition.  We walked through history from the Boer War, to the Trenches, the war in Burma and beyond ending up in the D-day landings. Phew. At this point the girls had more fun exploring the lifts and playing hide and seek. I think they were historied out. That's not to say they didn't enjoy it here as they loved it.


 With the war all behind us there were a couple of post-war exhibits to see. The prefab bungalow, which gave so many who had lost their homes affordable housing, was really interesting to see. We couldn't go in so we peered through all the windows at the rooms which had been set up. 

There was also a piece of the Berlin wall. It made me realise how much history my generation has actually lived through and been able to touch having parents and grandparents who played their parts in both wars.
 

 It was just one of those fascinating perfect days when we all had a great time. I even got driven home so I could do my crochet. I usually drive as my man hates it so.


Being history nuts we headed off to see Horrible Histories Barmy Britain last night. That was an amazing show, four actors working their socks off and delighting us all. My favourite was Henry V111's bottom wiper portrayed as Kenneth William's, Queen Victoria rapping and spinning on her head was a close second. Little Bun loved Burke and Hare the bodysnatchers singing along to the tune of Postman Pat and Miss Rosey was sold on William Wallace in Take Me Out.

Crafty stuff has been happening here too. More of that another time. I must just show you though what came in the post today.


 I was asked by a lovely lady (thought you might want a bit of anonynmity D) who I know through this old blog and the markets I do if I would read and review a book. It's the first novel, written by the daughter of a friend of hers. Of course I said yes and so here it is.


Here I am trying to finish my February book for the Year in Books and now I've been sidetracked by a book that has already gripped me from the blurb on the back. The Dead Wife's Handbook will most definately be my March book even though I'm already ten pages in. I'm most attracted to books that play about with narrative. The one I'm reading at the moment moves back and forth in time, this one has a dead wife as the narrator. The ultimate omniscient narrator I guess. 

I'll let you know my thoughts on this one once I've finished the book I'm already reading.

Bye for now.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Sprightly Spring Changes

As I've got older I've spent far more time listening to my instincts than to hard facts. My body knew that Miss Rosey wanted to be born early, it kept on telling me all through the day. I cleaned the cutlery drawer, I got edgier, I kept insisting we filled the empty cupboards with food. My man kept saying we'll do it tommorow. He was busy making a fence so the creepy couple next door couldn't stare at me with our new baby in the garden.

At 2am we both realised we should have paid attention to the signs. Later that night we stopped off at the 7/11 new baby on board to get cat food and a bottle of wine to celebrate. My man wandered dazed around Sainsbury's the next day and vowed we'd listen to instinct from now on.


 Right now I'm re-painting every room in our cottage in my head. Spring has got to be on it's way for sure. It's only when Spring's a coming that I get this feeling. Very soon it'll be time to throw the windows open, turn the radio up loud and start slapping paint here and there. 


In the meantime we've gone into overdrive with the Spring clearing. Today lots of stuff got boxed up, other bits moved from there to here. Every now and then it all needs a re-jig to make us notice things anew.


The dining room (which is part office and part crafty space too) has been niggling at me for a few weeks now. I want to paint the huge cupboard in there to solve some niggles, but my man likes it old pine style. As I take over pretty much all of our home's style I think the least I can do is not paint a few things. 

Changing stuff about a bit seems to help freshen it up quicker than I can do a paint job mind you, so a good result really. I tried a red fabric on the top first and we all agreed it was too much. In the end I went for pretty and pale which I just know will look gorgeous once it's covered in Lily and Pip's furry cat hairs.


With the Spring Cleaning feeling in the air and the need to change our space about a bit we had a mammoth clear out. We bagged up and burnt loads of old paperwork, cleared out old clothes and felt a bit more in charge of the chaos that comes from being a family of horders.

Once that was all done I found a bit of time to sit down with something that I thought would be finished in a flash. A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon The Nordic Shawl at My Rose Valley. This pattern is pretty popular so there are quite a few variations to get inspired by if you feel tempted.  I loved it so much that I treated myself to Debbie Bliss yarn to hook it up in almost immediately.

I spent a fair while laying out my colours, choosing what worked with what.  I asked my man for a spot of advice as he was lolling in the armchair of the shop. He decided that wool shopping was fine when comfy chairs were added to the mix.
 

 I was really pleased with the main colour I chose, although at times I did wonder if I should have jsut gone for it and made it in orange. I also thought I was set on the colours for the stripy part.


 After just one row of the hot pink I hated it and ripped out three rows. I pondered a while and then turned to my trusty stash for ideas. I swapped the pinks for a bit of teal and caramel, having a vague idea of something a bit more refined.


The more I looked at these colours as I worked along the rows to the finishing line they bored me. I liked them, but it wasn't the effect I'd been hoping for at all. I wanted to really love this shawl as I'd spent hard cash on it and put a lot of nightswork into it.


 Change No.3 for the shawl came on Friday night when I ripped out row after row. Normally I just can't be bothered, but I decided this wasn't going to be another half done and cast aside thing. It was going to get made, used and loved.


 So I took myself back to the yarny shop after work and found the exact shade of orange that had been bothering me all along. Definately too late to become the main colour, but not too late to put in an appearance I thought. At last I feel happy with my shawl and can't wait to get it finished so I can wrap it around my shoulders.

While I was in that shop I also found just the right weight of cotton to change my floral dress to the length I need it to be.

Thanks so much for your help and ideas on that problem. I've gone for a mix of ideas. I really liked the polka dot idea, I'm thinking of edging the collar and sleeves in the same fabric to tie it all in and there definately has to be some lace. As I always wear bright shoes and accessories I decided a black print would work better for me than a colour. 


 Just got to get on with the sewing now. Not sure when though as we're all on holidays this week and have a few plans already sorted.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Just the Two of Us

Miss Rosey and I treated ourselves to a Sunday shopping trip a couple of weekends ago. There were a few things she needed and a few things she fancied.

After getting her undies sorted, book shopping, the obligatory look in Jack Wills (which she loves) and getting her first pair of Doc Martens we had a quick look round for me. I headed to CK to see if they still had the dress I'd spied in the sale.

I'd loved this black floral dress all through the winter so I chose that and being a cardi addict added this one to the mix. Only thing is the dress is far too short for me. It looks ok, but I just feel too old to wear a really short floaty dress. I'd probably be ok if I was shorter, but it just looks too little girlie and daft on me at the moment. It  The hem is so meanly turned up that there's no fabric to let down so I'm trying to work out what to do. Should I add some plain black cotton with a lace trim between the two, perhaps a contrasting black floral, that's if I can find one. If you have any other ideas I'd be really grateful as I don't want to take the dress back, I love it.



The dress is still hanging waiting to be worn and the cardi has been worn again and again.



Fast forward to this Friday and my man and I were both at home with no kids. 
We headed up to the coast where we found a cosy pub for a half pint and lunch. Then it was time to wander the charity shops and vintage emporiums in search of goodies.

I was thrilled when I saw Teach the Time Owl. I always know exactly what I'm after, but fewer and fewer places seem to be selling it, so when I do spy something just right I'm very happy.


My man found this mum and pups and we just couldn't resist. I think it's the pink flat caps that does it for me.


A single melamine picnic cup was all I found in one box. It's the beautiful curve of the handle and that shiny shiny red that makes it so delicious.


The most exciting part were the fabric finds for that day. A charity shop, fleamarket and vintage shop turned up these beauties.


Now sure what they'll become as yet, but I'm thinking of bags, cushions and duvet covers at the moment. Both my girls need more grown up duvet covers, but I don't really like what's on offer so I'd better make my own hadn't I.


It's really important to have time for just the two of you sometimes. I really enjoyed my days out with Miss Rosey and my man, now I need to sort out a trip for just Little Bun and I. 

She especially could do with some just mummy and her time. At nearly 12 with all the changes that brings and being so tired from the second term of high school I just want to wrap her in cotton wool and ease it all. Some of the girls at her school could do with being far kinder than they are, but I've told her that's life and sadly we have to learn how to cope with the nasty people in life.

I'm worrying about her today you see, that's why I mention it. I was tempted to give her the day off as I'm working from home. That wouldn't really help though I know and she'd miss the great drama workshop she's signed up for. Being a mummy seems to get harder as they get older, not easier as I'd thought it would. On days like these I long for the end of the school day so I can see they're ok. Tonight we're meeting friends we've not seen for an age for cake after school  I'm sure that'll bring a smile or two. Then we're heading back to school where Miss Rosey is performing in a play in German playing Hansel and Gretel's dad. That's the other side of being a parent sitting through plays you don't understand. All I can say in German is that I don't speak German. Really useful!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Rude People and Good Books

Well - what a to do. This week I received my second ever rude blog comment. This might be tempting fate, let's hope not. 

My first was a few years back and was quite hilarious really. A geeky oddball who dressed up like Sherlock Holmes assumed the mantel 'The Crap Blog Detective' and spread vicious missives here and there. After I wrote about the happy band of hookers I'd just taught that evening, he asked how much we charged per hour. Nothing nasty in that and it appealed to my sense of humour, so I
replied that he should ask his mother.

Comment No 2 came this week from a pretty blonde called Helen Wong whose grammar wasn't too hot. Her comment was nasty and rude, but way off mark from who I am so I dismissed her as an immature idiot. Then all you lovely people got very annoyed on my behalf, which I thank you kindly for because we all know what lovely people true creative bloggers. Finally The Woolly Dog pointed out that actually it was a Chinese spam site and Helen Wong doesn't exist. Nasty mystery over.

Moving onwards. I thought I'd better get on with sharing my thoughts and feelings about my January book before we're in the next month that starts with a J.



In case you're reading this and don't know, this links up with Laura's great idea for A Year in Books. In a nutshell,  if you join in you try and read at least one book a month for a year. You read the book of your choice, although there is also lots of inspiration from other readers who have signed up, then you share a bit about said book. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. The hard bits finding the time to do the reading.

I really wanted a kick up the bum to get back on track with reading as I've always loved it so. Laura's idea really gave me the ooommphh I needed and so I finished Instructions for a Heatwave with no more January days to spare on the 31st. I've enjoyed Maggie O'Farrell's novels before so thought I'd be just as gripped by this book. However, it took me a bit of time to get to the point where I actually cared whether I knew what happened to any of them, so I put the book aside. Then I joined TYinB's and made myself pick it up again. This is where I'm really glad I did as from then on I really got into the book. 

I was seven years old in the heatwave of 1976 and all I can remember is popping the tarmac on the roads and a day of the bluest cloudless sky where the world seemed to stand still. A friend and I were playing hide and seek with an elderly neighbour. My friend Vicky hid so well that Hannah (elderly lady) and I couldn't find her for what seemed forever. Even at seven I was aware that Hannah was getting a bit stressed. We found Vicky in the end under the sink (nice and cool).

Instructions on a Heatwave is also about a disappearance, but instead of a little girl, it's a retired husband who never comes back after going to get the paper. His Irish wife calls her three children to her and so they leave their lives and the problems in them to come and help find their dad. Along the way various family niggles, secrets and familial love is discovered. By the end of the book I liked the characters. At the start it was only Aoife, the supposedly dysfunctional youngest sister that I felt drawn to. If you like books that focus on what makes people tick then this is most definately for you. To be fair, I'd say I enjoyed it, but I didn't lose myself in it.


February's book was going to be Sebastian Faulks A Possible Life, but after a visit to Waterstones with Miss Rosey I saw that Kate Atkinson's Life after Life was finally in paperback. I read her debut novel Nights in the Museum when it first came out and loved it so. Let's hope this book keeps me as enthralled. If not I'm going to read something else, so I am.

The bottom two books are for the girls. Miss Rosey also chose The Fault in Our Stars by John Green which deals with cancer and teenage love. All Miss Rosey's friends recommended it to her as wonderful, although they said it made them cry. Just thought I'd mention these in case you have 11 and 13 year old's searching for a new read too.

See you soon.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Overwhelmed

Don't worry, no tears are about to erupt, I'm not going to lose the plot mid-post. I'm talking about overwhelmed in the inundated and feeling engulfed with too many things kind of way. In a good kind of way too - I think?

I've felt overwhelmed by a too tired kind of tiredness for a few weeks (anaemia probably).
 
I also feel overwhelmed by wanting to do everything at once. On my days off work I get so excited about this huge lump of me time stretching ahead. I plan all the stuff I want to do and then I get overwhelmed by tons of other stuff. I find it really hard to choose which of the many lovely things I want to do when I know the clocks ticking and my day is running ahead of me. Sometimes I manage to make the most of that time - like today - and that feels good.


You see, I made these cushions today. Well, this morning to be truthful. In just over two hours the fabric was chosen, trims selected, squares cut and off I went with my very dusty machine.


 I planned to sew over the Christmas holidays, but it didn't happen for good reasons. Ever since then I've just felt dead tired on my days off work. After all the everyday stuff is done for another day I usually collapse on the sofa with yarn and a film.

All the same new cushions (and lots of other stuff that could overwhelm me if I let them) have been jostling about in my head.


Then I bought some new tea towels from Miss CK the other day and they spurred me on to blowing the dust off my sewing machine.

These tea towels are such a bright jolly print and they're handy sized for cushion and bag making.

I took a while having a think about what would go where.


 In the end I chose a soft French floral cotton mixed with some stripy skirt fabric. Usually the girls good clothes go straight on ebay once Miss Rosey and then Little Bun have had their turns with them. This Noa Noa skirt is made of fabric that I just couldn't resist cutting into and I'm so glad I did as I love the two together.


The tea towels got further dandied up with some white and blue trim.


Then I added my favourite red bobbly trim.


Cushion No.3 was a much needed thing. The chair cushion was all ripped and torn from too making bums on sitting on it's soft barkcloth. I chose a piece of fabric sent to me by Jenny. Everything finally finds what it will become and I'm gl\d I always remember where each piece has come from so their stories aren't lost.


I'm so ridiculously happy with my three new makes. Sewing was a joy and if I could have done, then I think I'd have stayed on my machine stitching a few more cushions.


This is where I'm really happy, where I feel most me.


Now I have an even cosier sofa to rest my poor old achey hip on. A war wound from the Man and I getting too daft and into the dancing at a Ceilidh at the weekend. In fact it's been a weekend of being overwhelmed by great friends, laughter and the joy of life.


 And while I'm still on the subject - I also get really really overwhelmed by all the stuff out there. There are so many fabulous books, magazines, newspapers, blog posts, films, plays, exhibitions that I want to see and take the time to enjoy. Not just rush through before the next lot comes rushing at me. 

My head feels like it's fairly spinning you know just thinking of it all.


 Time for a lie down most definately.

I'll be back very soon to let you know which book I'm reading for February and how I got on with my January book for The Year in Books. I finished reading Instructions on a Heatwave on the last day of January, I had a goal and I kept to it.