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All posts for the month July, 2015

Keep calm and don’t panic

Published July 31, 2015 by Jackie

Otherwise known as ‘It’ll be alright on the night’

I’ve been having a wee panic to myself, as always from trying to do too much at once, knit-wise, and from non-knitting life getting in the way of knitting. While I certainly don’t mind life getting in the way, because (other than work) it’s usually enjoyable things that are happening to me ~ y’know me, theatre, concerts, day trips, meeting friends, that kind of thing. And sometimes there are things in life you can enjoy AND take your knitting! Those things are good.

However, I had a few deadlines, and was beginning to panic (mildly, but panic none-the-less) that I could achieve those deadlines. One was missed by a week or so, but I’m delighted to say I finished the sewing together of our work’s communal baby blanket last night. The two wee jumpers I was making for a friend’s little girls I finished just the night before ~ and I shall hand those over next week. And I have enough flowers and leaves for our joint-project garland for Jane, assembling tomorrow, so that is a relief too.

I still have to create photo-tags for the blanket, but the images are all printed, and the luggage tags and glue bought… watch out for photos of the photos in situ, I hope the recipient is amused!

And suddenly it’s the end of July, and might it actually be time to think about Christmas gift knitting? Oh dear, but if I want to gift my nieces the sweaters they have chosen, then maybe I should start now? That’s good, the yarn is all in stash, just waiting to go. But is it realistic to start now? to be honest with myself, probably best to wait til the Festival is over, for ’tis that time of year.

So maybe just pick a wee project that’s easy to carry, requires no thinking, and can be knit while standing in the endless Fringe queues…. Laura, I know you’ll read this eventually, but I have finally found the perfect pattern for the lovely skein of Bermuda from Ginger Twist that you gave me last year. It will be paired with another special find to make something fabulous for me this time!

and I shall think about Christmas tomorrow, fiddle-de-dee! After all, tomorrow is another day.

Family past, family present

Published July 23, 2015 by Jackie

My weekend seemed to be mostly family related, family past and family present, and I guess family future too!

On Friday, my friend and I went down to the preview evening of another friend’s exhibition. What does this have to do with family? Well, the exhibition is in the village that was my family home for over 30 years, the village my mother and both of her sisters retired back to in the late 1970s. A lovely wee seaside village called Alnmouth in Northumberland. It’s such a beautiful little village, the river curls around the village, and opens out into the sea, which isolates the village on a little promontary. You can see it from the main Edinburgh to London railway line, a mix of large Victorian houses and tiny fishermen’s cottages, and everything in between, including the 1960s apartment complex my mother lived in. Several pubs & hotels, and a 9-hole golf course between the village and the beach.

I’ve not been back since we sold my mum’s flat in early 2008, a year after she died. What I wasn’t prepared for was how I would feel as I came down the hill from the station, and over the bridge that is the gateway into the village. A huge lump in my throat, and it was as if Alnmouth had pulled out all the stops to make this a memorable evening. The village has clearly prospered in those years, everywhere was sparkling in the beautiful evening sunshine. A breeze was rustling through the trees, and as we walked up to the gallery, wood-pigeons were coo-ing. Although I didn’t really live there myself, I visited a lot over the years, and I think I understand why my mother and her sisters were so keen to get back to the village where they’d spent most of their childhood.

I’d also arranged to meet one of Mum’s neighbours, who was also a lovely friend to her. They played Scrabble together every week on a Thursday, and a second time if I came down for the weekend. She was also the person who drove us family members up and down to the station ~ just a mile or so, but a long walk that takes just 3 minutes in a car. It was so good to see her at the preview event, we sat out in the yard chatting away, exchanging family news from both sides, for a good half-hour! Oh and of course, showing photographs of the family that were on my phone.

I was delighted to be back, because although I pass regularly, and often think of visiting, I’d just not got round to it. My last few visits, while we still had the flat to stay in, had become increasingly difficult, as each time, my mum’s friends would stop me for a chat and tell me how much they missed her, which of course, I did too! It was time to move on, but now the grief is past, and I’ve also broken the ice with this flying visit, I shall be delighted to drop by again, after all, it’s only an hour away by train!

Saturday saw me with ‘family present’, and meeting the next generation, my wee great-niece who lives in Aberdeen. Her father, my eldest nephew, now 40, and her mum have had an acrimonious separation, and it’s only as she has got a little older that his daughter is now allowed to stay every other weekend. She’s a bright wee button, and my nephew has moved out of his city-centre flat into a modern little terraced house, up a quiet cul-de-sac, with a gated back garden. Perfect for a little girl to run around in…. non-stop!

Her granny comes to visit overnight, and this time there was a house full of family, as my second nephew and his girlfriend drove me up for this visit. Girlfriend had met granny, but not the little girl. She also had to contend with their wee dog, who thinks that little kids are perfect to play with, as he can stand on his back legs to lick their faces! M wasn’t too keen on this, so we were teaching her how to say No! and Get Down! Poor little thing was also covered in itchy (but no longer infectious) chickenpox scabs… teeny tiny ones but lots of them.

Next day, when all was quiet, she was asking where everyone had gone? Seems she had a lovely weekend and didn’t really want to go back home to mum and big brother… I hope the parents keep it civilised between them, for her sake, it’s better to say nothing than to put each other down. But hey, not my business… I’m just here to be her auntie, and rather than a great auntie, I’d prefer it if I could be a fabulous one! I shall be back! I have to, she asked for a green rabbit to go with her striped Elijah.

Happy times, Part Two

Published July 16, 2015 by Jackie

A continuation of my lovely days spent with my delightful nieces…

Back in May, I reported about our family wedding, and that there were going to be some meet-ups off the back of this. This weekend, I’m heading up to meet my wee great-niece for the first time, tho she’s now two and a half (the half is very important when you are two and a half!). With any luck, I shall get a lift north with nephew 2 and his girlfriend, and take the train back, it’s just a day trip…

Meanwhile, we arranged to meet up last week with nephew 2 and his girlfriend and their wee dog, while the girls were here. So we decided to meet up. Nephew offered a couple of options ~ at the time they sounded difficult to get to, so I’d suggested somewhere accessible by bus for us, the beach at Portobello. Turns out they have a car, and came to pick us up!

Girls were very excited about meeting a dog in our family, there aren’t many. I think we were all a little underwhelmed, as far from being an exciteable wee thing, he’s well trained and independent, does his own thing and no misbehaving when meeting other dogs, barely needed his lead. It was good to spend more time with C and his girlfriend though, we had a tasty pub lunch after an hour on of bracing sea air along the prom, and a couple of hours of chatter and Connect4 before being dropped back home where we had an evening of old family photos.

I inherited the box of photos from my mum, and I think she had inherited her sister’s photos too. I must go through them again, there were so many that I had NO idea who or where they were, and even I was getting mixed up, my grandmother and her sister looked very alike! And there were so few photos of me, and their dad, but lots of the girls as babies, and their big-boy cousins too! But there were some of their dad’s graduation, age 21, with me, age about 24 looking completely different! And some of their uncle, my older brother, who died before they were born. It’s good to share some of those memories, pass them on.

Our last full day together was spent in the company of my friend L. I’d kind of planned this, as E has artistic ambitions, and L is a working artist. She picked us up late morning, and we took what turned out to be the scenic route to Falkirk, to visit the Kelpies and then have lunch up at the Falkirk Wheel. Man those Kelpies are photogenic, it proved impossible to take a bad photo, and they are MASSIVE!

As we were driving between the two sites, I realised we’d be passing the Camelon crematorium, and although my mother lived in Northumberland, she’d asked for her ashes to be taken to where my father’s were placed in Camelon. That exercise had proved incredibly easy at the time, and the spot was very easy to locate, with help from the staff, who even opened up the plot to place mum’s ashes in. Visiting graves is not necessarily something I approve of, I thing the best memorial is in the hearts of the people who knew that person, so I’ve not made an effort to visit since, but here we were passing, and here was a chance to pass on that location to the youngest people at my mother’s funeral.

And then, L took us through the town, and on up to Brightons, above Polmont, which is where we spent our childhood. The house looks so small, but really, it housed six of us, plus at one point, my paternal grandmother, though I hardly remember her. We posed for a few photos, and sent some on to the girls parents.

Living there, in that house on that road, seems so long ago, which of course it was, it’s over 40 years since we left. The house is the same, the street is very similar, but the open spaces we played in nearby are long built over, though the big park up the road is even better than ever, lovely landscaping under the mature trees that I remember as bramble- and rubbish-filled. But it was a good place to grow up.

Finally, L took us to her home to see the paintings that were about to leave for her latest exhibition, which will preview this weekend, and is in Alnmouth, which is where my mother spent her last 25 years, having lived there in her youth too.

The girls just remember visiting, and would love to go back one day. As it happens, I renewed some connections in advance of the exhibition, and will meet up with one of my mum’s neighbours this weekend at the event. Who knows, maybe a day trip there next year?

I’d intended to spend my last evening with the girls at the cinema, and actually, we did! But there was a problem with the film, or rather no digital key to unlock it, so we got a full refund, some complementary tickets, and took ourselves to the Filmhouse instead, where there was nothing suitable screening either, so we just bought a Pedro Almodovar dvd instead. Kept quiet about that one, it was a 15 and probably not suitable for E, but it was an amusing if rather dark comedy about revenge, and we enjoyed it! When pushed, we simply said we’d watched Blancanieves, which we’d actually watched the night before…

On the last day, while I tidied up, the girls went off on a trawl of the local charity shops. There wasn’t anything that took their fancy so we left earlier than planned for the station, and popped into Bon Papillon for one of Stuart’s fantastic bacon rolls. Oh how I’ve missed those bacon rolls, our knit group only meets there once a month now, and I’ve missed the last two, and will miss the next one too! E had specifically requested a visit, as there is always a box off offcuts of mounting board, which she loves to draw on.

And then they were gone… and the house was peaceful and calm again, and I miss them already! But I shall see them in September, when we have a few days alone together in London, when their parents take a wee break.

Happy times, Part One

Published July 14, 2015 by Jackie

Last week, my nieces came up to Edinburgh for their now-annual visit. This is their third summer here, as their parents decided that they make more complicated journeys to school daily, and they could be trusted to travel between Kings Cross and Edinburgh unsupervised.

It’s a delight to have them stay, even though I have a tiny flat and we end up like sardines in my bedroom ~ seriously, if I push my double bed into the corner there is just enough space for an inflatable single mattress for E ~ but no room to put your feet, so all access is via the bottom of the bed. Ines shares the bed with me, though we each have our own duvet (and blanket, in I’s case)

I’d been knitting a promised snuggle sweater for E, and although I’d not sewn in any ends, it was hanging on the door. Squeals of delight when she saw it, but that girl will not stop growing, she’s 13 and 5’8″ and a bit bigger build than her sister, (Even since early June, I think she’s grown!) so I was glad I’d not sewn in any ends, as the sleeves were too short by a good 3 inches, and early next morning, before anyone else was up, I crept out of bed, made some coffee, and proceeded to add around 20-25 rows to the bottom of the sleeves. Thank goodness for top-down construction. Once it was finished, E wore that sweater non-stop! Even in July, but I suppose it is Scotland, and they’d had 36C in London the week before.

We did all the touristy things the first year they visited, and now they are a bit more interested in exhibitions and the like, tho E would love to go back to the Edinburgh Dungeon (yeah, really!) But bookshops, galleries and cake are on their agenda, maybe a bit of shopping?

They arrived just in time to visit the local market, so we popped out, got some food, some nice bread, tapenade, and for afters, marshmallows from our local artisan marshmallow maker. Actually they were very good and still had some marshmallows to take back to London at the end of the week.

On Monday, after a slow start to the day, we finally managed to leave the house after lunch, and I decided it would be quicker, and cheaper, for us to take a taxi up to Modern One and Two. This summer there is an MC Escher exhibition at Modern Two, and it’s well worth the entry fee. There are four large dedicated rooms upstairs, and this is the first dedicated Escher exhibition in the UK. Lots of familiar pieces, and a great insight into his life and work. Before we moved over to the other gallery, the girls had a lot of fun rushing around the wooden maze in front of Modern Two ~ a reminder that they are not quite grown-ups yet!

Across the road in Modern One, they have 3 rooms of fantastic HUGE Lichtenstein paintings, one room is filled with works inspired by other artists, such as Monet and Picasso, and then there’s the familiar piece in the National Galleries collection, but particularly interesting is the case of letters and newspaper articles from the time of the purchase.

We walked home down the Water of Leith to Stockbridge. It’s only a mile or so, but it took about an hour to walk, partly down to my requests to stop for a rest every so often, ie whenever we found somewhere to sit, so under the Dean Bridge, and just above Stockbridge. There’s always plenty for us to talk about as we rest!

On Tuesday, we had another late start, and this time headed over to Peter’s Yard for another late lunch, just filled rolls, no, not just filled rolls, really really good filled rolls! We each had something different, and had a taste of each other’s choice. All three were really yummy!

Then hopped on a bus to the Museum in Chambers St, where we went on a search for the Pringle exhibition. It’s in the new building, not the old, if you are looking, and be warned, the access between buildings is only possible from the ground floor. First, we had a look at the wonderful Large Tree Group tapestry by Dovecot Studios.

I don’t think they had seen the original exhibition a few years earlier in Dovecot, and I really wanted them to see it, and to explain about all the undyed yarn in different natural colours, the collective effort of farmers, spinners and weavers. And how many other 15-yr olds do you know who would spot the Dovecot logo in the bottom corner almost immediately? A Must-See!

But the Pringle exhibition was well worth it too! Beautiful sweaters, a fantastic video installation of Michael Clark’s dance company performing in Pringle knitwear too. Lovely back-stories about the catwalk and collection models, the latter of whom were usually girls from the Borders factory.

E fell for one of the sweaters on display, a cabled tunic, could I make that for her? Well yes, easily, we’d looked at a very similar pattern the evening before, and her sister had said she didn’t like it, so no fighting over that one!

Ines takes her time with exhibitions, she reads every word that has been put up with the exhibits, but her sister flies round, absorbing ideas and images. So we had a few minutes together outside the exhibition while we waited for Ines.

I have to tell you, dear reader, that on Monday, E had asked me to show her how to knit again. I think I tried when she was around 8, but they both lacked patience then. And we know you need patience to knit! I found some thick needles, and a ball of thick, nubbly wool. Possibly Malabrigo, I think it came from one of our destash parties, but it was wound into a ball, and ready to go.

Her knitting in her handbag, E found a little niche in the museum and proceeded to get her knitting out, with me around to explain her mistakes, and how to correct them. Having started on Sunday evening, by the time Tuesday bedtime came around, she had knit the entire ball, and she been shown how to cast off, and finished that herself.

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What else could she knit, please? I found the left-over yarn from her and her sister’s snuggle sweaters, and a pair of short bamboo needles, thinner but not too thin. And we cast on an easy number to remember. Each row, stop and count your stitches at the end, there should be 25, how many are there now? More or less than the previous row? And then suddenly, she’d got it! And she’s off!!

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Back to Tuesday, having taken them to Blackwells and the smaller Waterstones in previous years, this year was the turn of Looking Glass Books, in the Quartermile… well of course, it’s half bookshop, half cafe, and on our way to whichever cinema we decide to go see Mr Holmes at. I was delighted to treat them, not just to cake, but to a classic each. LGB has beautiful embossed editions of the classics, and it was a case of deciding which title to buy. Ines has a copy of Pride & Prejudice, but there was a lovely copy of Sense & Sensibility, and Eleanor decided on Alice and Through the Looking Glass.

From there, and after cake, we hopped over with our day-tickets to the Filmhouse to watch Mr Holmes, which was billed as English and Japanese with English subtitles. But very strangely, the entire movie was subtitled. Perhaps it was intentional, perhaps we’d stumbled on the one screening with subtitles? Ian McKellen was superb though, moving from playing his own age to playing a 93 yr old Sherlock Holmes with ease. Both girls love Sherlock, so were saving the movie to watch with me, and they loved it too.

No cooking that night, we dropped by to pick up baked potatoes in Stockbridge, and ate those while watching Juliet Binoche and Johnny Depp in Chocolat, which they loved too! And Eleanor continued in her knitting practice!

Enough already, more on the rest of the visit tomorrow….