Saturday, 27 March 2010

I'm going to be on telly!!!

Oops, excuse me, sorry, gangway - mind out for the giant hat of smug that I'm currently balancing upon my bonce.

"But why, Mrs Jones.." I hear you ask in astonishment at my titfer's vast beauty "....are you parading such a fine example of the milliner's art?"

BECAUSE I'M GOING TO BE ON THE TELLY, THAT'S WHY!! *ahem* apologies for the shouting, but there was much jumping up and down on the spot and clapping of hands in glee earlier in the week when I received an email confirming that I had been successful in getting tickets for the filming of the next series of QI.  What?  I am SO going to be on the telly.  You don't even know.  Shut up.

Okay, so it's just in the audience but where are you going to be on the evening of 21 May 2010? I'll bet it won't be sitting in a television studio on the South Bank of the Thames in Ye Olde London Towne, laughing along to the smug, middle class (but hilarious) humour of Stephen Fry, Alan Davies and assorted guests, eh? TLH and I will though!!!

Mind you, I've been on the waiting list for at least two years so it's about bloody time, frankly.  You can get tickets from The Applause Store for loads of telly programmes, and they're all free but just bear in mind it can take a very long time for your name to come up.  But it's terribly exciting when it does!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Happy Vernal Equinox to all!

It's 21 March - officially the first day of Spring!  And it actually feels like it today - after a couple of days of rain, the sun is shining, it's warm, the Bridge Door is open again, the central heating is off and I opened the bedroom window - just a tiny crack, mind - last night for the first time this year.

The birds are all singing like fury in the garden, and the pair of Collared Doves who live nearby have been scoping out the tree in front of our house for their new nest site this year.  I can never remember, though, if it's today or  yesterday when day and night are exactly the same length.  No matter, from now on we're over the crest of the darkest days and (hopefully) tumbling towards sunshine.  Today should really be the first day of the New Year, when you can physically see things improving and everything gearing up towards reproduction.  It's a very sexy time of year.

Yesterday I had to pop over to Cranleigh to collect the items that hadn't sold in this year's Spring Exhibition.  Unfortunately there were rather more than I would have liked - I sold 2, possibly 3, bracelets out of 10 things.  Still, it's better than nothing.  This year's paintings were, as ever, a mixed bunch - there were, however, rather more than usual that caught my eye.  I was massively tempted by a ludicrously well executed watercolour of a bird's eye view of the rooftops of central Prague by a chap called Peter Elliott.  In fact, I've just this second Googled him to see if there's anything out there about him, and he has his own website.  Not surprisingly turns out he's an architectural illustrator.  But the painting was over my budget so I had to leave it there.

I did, however, buy myself a seascape.  It's called 'The Tall Sea' by David Harding and is in watercolour and acrylic.  I just loved the gorgeous turquoisey blue of the sea and you can almost hear the rush and swoosh of the foamy waters (the colours are a little lighter in real life).

Not so lovely is the beige mat and the white wooden frame so I'm going to have it reframed. 

If you enjoy looking at art but cannot afford the price charged in 'proper' galleries, I cannot recommend highly enough a visit to your local Arts Society's exhibitions.  If they're anything like the one I go to, every picture submitted will be accepted and in amongst stuff that only a mother (or the artist) could love, there will be some real gems, created by highly talented people who will be thrilled beyond all measure if you got your chequebook out.

Friday, 19 March 2010

"Hi! I'm Isembard Kingdom Brunel - but you can call me TLH"

I like to think I'm an observant person.  In fact, I'm so observant that I'll be the one bumping into you on the pavement because I'm so busy not looking where I'm going since there's other more important things to be looking at. Like buildings.  Or small dogs. Or someone's appallingly amusing hairstyle.

I notice stuff.

And I've noticed a couple of my most recent commenters remarking on The Bridge. And since The Bridge is quite interesting - and was A Major Project of TLH's a few years back - I thought I'd do a post on it.  There's lots of photos but it is all a bit engineeringy so if you've come here looking for posts about, oh, I dunno, crochet and kittens, you might want to avoid this one - others more to your taste will be along shortly.  Although there are some cats in this one (as you might expect).

Some background then - we bought this house back in the mid-1990s because it had a bridge.  Okay, there were other factors like location (walking distance of main line station to London, 10 mins drive off the A3, 15 mins drive to my then job at University, 20 mins drive from my mum and step-dad, good friends literally just down the road), but it had A BRIDGE!!

The houses in our street are the long, thin, town house type with 3 floors and a garage underneath.  On our side of the road, they're all sort of built into a side of a sloping hill, so the gardens are terraced.  To help you understand the geography of our house try to imagine that you go in the front door, the staircase is right in front of you and a corridor leads down the right hand side to a large-ish downstairs room (can be used for anything - some in the close have a kitchen there, others use it as a bedroom, we use ours as a study/library) and a loo.  There's also a back door leading out to a patio.  Go back to the stairs and go up them.  Immediately in front of you at the top is our teeny-tiny kitchen.  You turn right into the dining room/sitting room area.  This is the room we decorated last year.  Stairs up to the top floor go up from the sitting room to a landing.  The bathroom is at the top of the stairs, at the back of the house.  Next to that is the spare room, our bedroom is at the front of the house and next to that is a small single/box room which is my workshop.  And that's it.  It's not big and it has its faults like most places but, on the whole, it suits our purposes pretty well.

The normal way for people on our side of the street to reach their gardens is to go out through the back door on the ground floor, then climb steps of varying degrees of steepness to get up to whichever level of the garden you want to access. But not us!  At some point in the past, one of the previous owners had the frankly brilliant idea of knocking out the back window and wall of the dining room bit (that overlooks the garden) and installing a door to lead out onto a bridge that will take you over the patio bit and straight out onto the garden, thereby circumventing most of the steep steps - genius! Quite why no-one else in the street has adopted this idea is beyond me.

Standing on the bridge, the view of the neighbours' gardens looking to the right...

...and to the left.

Anyway, the bridge was wooden and, although a brilliant idea, not that pretty to look at.  A couple of long RSJs (or I-beams) had been placed from the wall of the house over to the garden, wooden planks had been nailed onto them lengthways and then ordinary garden fencing panels (of different heights) had been attached along the sides:

View from garden along old bridge towards house (these pictures are a mixture of ones that TLH took on his phone and I took on my old digital camera, so the quality may vary)

This the view of one side of the bridge, taken from halfway down the steps

This is the other side of the bridge

This is under the bridge.  It's about 8 feet above head height here.

Not terribly pretty, I think you'll agree.  But I'd trained honeysuckle to clamber all over one side, and it wasn't too bad.  Except that the planks at the end, where it reached the garden, had started to rot.  This was always going to happen but it was helped by the plants in pots that I'd been putting there - the water was seeping through.  In places they'd rotted right through and it was starting to get a bit dangerous.

Rotten treads.

I don't know if you remember, but the summer of 2007 was atrocious. It barely stopped raining for months.  In April TLH announced that he would make it his project to replace the bridge himself and it took until September before we got 2 weeks together without any rain!  Seriously!

TLH is a very methodical person.  He's neat, he's organised and has a logical brain. He's never built anything this large before - in fact, prior to this, I think the biggest thing he's constructed was the Suki Jones Memorial Garden Shed (the one that now has Additional Pulsating Bulge) but that did come in a kit form and with instructions.  This is something else entirely.  It would need plans and diagrams and lots of measurements and pondering and research on the intertubes. I was happy to let him do this as I was confident he'd make a good job of it.

He did some drawings and came up with a better design than the old one, and then found a nearby timber merchants that had the right kind of wood.  I had no idea wood could be so expensive - but it would have been at least five times more expensive to have someone else come in to design and build the thing.  He was between work contracts so time was not an issue.

It took, I think, the best part of about three weeks to completely remove the old wooden parts of the bridge, make good the metal bits and then build the new bridge on top of it.

The final result is a triumph.  We all love it but the cats love it most and Sylvester loves it most of all.

I'll leave you with a montage of pictures from start to finish:

And finally finished - ta-daa!!

(Yes, there's Sylvester, lying on his side, jamming himself into the gap)

Sometimes I forget just how lucky I am.....

Very Short Happy Hooker Update

This is just a very quick post to show you the finished front of the white version of the black cushion I made earlier.  I still need to get hold of a creamy white jumper from a charity shop before I can finish it properly, but that'll have to be next week now.

Anyway, what do you think?

At the moment I'm not sure if I prefer the black one, but this one will look even better once it's finished off properly and, obviously, I'll put up another picture then of it.  But it's not too bad, is it?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Let the leg shaving commence!!!

I think it must be official by now - we've had lovely sunshine all week, I've seen my first butterfly (one of the pretty red multicoloured ones too) and several large bumbling bees careering into plants and windows as they get used to flying.


And about bleedin' time too.

Talking of bleeding, I decided that last night was going to be The First Leg Shave Of The Year, in recognition of the fact that, once the temperature starts to creep up over 12 degrees centigrade, I ditch the fleecy-lined joggers and fetch my creased cropped trousers out from the back of the cupboard, and wave goodbye to socks for several months.

I tend to leave the old leg hair to do what it wants over the winter period - I look on it as providing additional warmth (very welcome this past winter too).  I wear trousers all the time and TLH doesn't look at my legs anyway so no-one is going to notice that my lower half resembles a goat, until it starts to get warmer and I have to shed some layers. This means some serious depilation.  And usually blood.

This year I didn't do too badly, look:

Just a bit of mild grazing to one side of my shin - a bit sore but nothing I can't deal with. (God, I really should have photoshopped that so it all looks less ham-like....)

Today was also The Ceremonial Opening Of The Bridge Door.

When the weather allows, the bridge door is tied open to the handrail from morning till night. It makes access and egress so much easier for the cats and means we no longer have to act as their unpaid doormen.  Which gets more than a little tiresome.  So with the door open, everybody's happy!

The sharp-eyed among you might have noticed the crocheting on the table in the picture above.  This is the blanket that I'm making for our bed.  Kella - I remember you wanted a picture so this is the work-in-progress:

This is one of the, um, bits of it, sewn together but not blocked yet ('blocking' is where you pin out your work to the size you want - I use an ironing board - then steam it with an iron and let it dry while still pinned out.  When it dries it will be flat and the size you want.  You just use the steam and don't actually press down with the iron at all.  I use a hairdryer then on mine to dry it quicker, works a treat!)

This is the other section that I have blocked, you can see the difference in the size.

Anyway, I'm quite pleased with how it's going so far, although I do tend to like chucking all the colours I have at it.  I'd like to experiment with using a more restrained palette at some point.

So, all in all, I'm quite a cheery bunny at the moment - I'm starting to make headway planting seeds for the allotment, and yesterday I took along 10 examples of my stuff (jewellery and suncatchers) to the Cranleigh Art & Crafts Society Spring Exhibition.  Hopefully I'll sell a few things and I can put it towards my handbag fund!

Anyway, I'll leave you with this picture of a very serious Sylvester enjoying the shed (while we still have one).

Hope the day is being kind to you too.....

Monday, 15 March 2010

Is this the campest man on the planet?

I've only caught up with Louie Spence, the Artistic Director of Pineapple Dance Studios through the rather wonderful medium of Mr Harry Hill, but I think I may have to watch it from now on.  I wish I knew him (but probably only in small doses)

*Stick with the clip as Louie arrives at about 1:25 - sorry if those outside the UK can't see this*

** I should explain this for readers who have no idea what I'm talking about here.  Harry Hill is a very funny and quite surreal British stand-up comedian.  He's the bald one with glasses sitting behind a desk.  He's also a doctor.  He has a TV programme on once a week where he gently pokes fun at other TV programmes that have been on in the week prior.  'Pineapple Dance Studios' is a documentary-style programme that has recently started on British telly about the London-based dance studios and the people involved.  Louie Spence is the Artistic Director of the Studios and undoubted star of the show.  So now you know.**

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mother's Day is a headache....

Short post today.

Thank you very much for all your kind comments about my cushion covers.  As mentioned very briefly somewhere (in the text?  in the comments? somewhere...) that I've started making a white version of the black spotty cushion and was intending to do a whole load of them today, but the veins in my head had other ideas.

It was a lovely sunny morning so I decided to do tiny spot of pruning in the garden - we have some extremely bold brambles that need reminding of their place - so I spent a happy 15 minutes or so snipping and ripping stuff out.  Decided that was enough (didn't want to overdo it and, anyway, wanted to get started crocheting) so came in.  As I was taking off my leather gloves and changing from my gardening clogs, I noticed the telltale strip of white sparkly lights cutting halfway across the vision in my right eye.  Good grief.  A migraine.

I was plagued by these throughout my late teens and early twenties, and they were hell.  I would end up grey and vomiting and having to have two days off work - one day to have the headache and another day to recover because they were so violent.  I was sent to a Migraine Clinic and had electrodes attached to my head while they shone flickering lights in my eyes. I tried cutting out cheese, red wine and chocolate but all was to no avail. Eventually they stopped sending me appointments because they couldn't find out what was wrong.  They gave me some beta blockers to take when the headaches struck but all that managed to do was to reduce the duration from 2 days to 1.

Eventually, cutting a very long story short, I found the answer in chiropractic treatment.  So I just make sure I go for a 'crunch' a couple of times a year.  I guess I must be overdue for a visit.

I went back to bed at about 11am and slept until 1.30pm.  The immediate sharp pain had gone but it was now dissipated throughout my skull, leaving it feeling like I'd been kicked in the head.  Actually, I tell you what it feels like, a really bad hangover headache.  But I could barely see - migraines do weird things to your vision - imagine looking into a lightbulb and then looking elsewhere.  You get a blind spot and sometimes double vision, a bit like the picture at the top of the page.  Sorry if it's weirding you out but it's the closest representation I've found of what having a migraine is like but without the flashing lights, pain and vomiting.  Be grateful.

So I took it easy this afternoon, just blobbing out to whatever I could find on the telly.  I cannot bear 'chick flicks' as a rule but I am a sucker for a good Jane Austen and this afternoon they showed the 2005 'Pride and Prejudice' with Keira Knightley and Matthew McFadyen, which is a gorgeous adaptation.  Cracking cast and beautiful cinematography.  I trust you'll forgive me - I've been ill.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Happy Hooker Update

Way back at the beginning of February this year, I did a post about the cushions I was crocheting then and said I'd post a picture of the black one when I'd finished it.

I finally got off my lazy arse yesterday and finished it off.  It's now a proper cushion - ta-da!!!!

Each of the granny squares is quite small, just 2 rounds.  The centre of each, as you can see, is a different colour and the outside round on all of them is black.  I think it's really quite effective. Each of the granny squares measures about 2" across and I sewed them together with the same black wool.  I then added two rounds in treble crochet stitch around the outside of the whole thing, just to make it a little larger and be guaranteed that it would cover the front of the cushion properly.

The back is made from a large man's jumper that I got from a charity shop for about £4 or so and looks like this:

What I'm meant to do now is attach buttons to the back but I've made the envelope overlap so deep that they're not really necessary.  The cushion pad inside is 14" x 14" and is feather.  It's really quite 'plumpy' so I had to make sure the cushion cover would be big enough to accommodate it.  I'm really pleased.

So here it is, next to the other cushion I've made with the ongoing throw over the back of the sofa.

I'm currently in the middle of making a blanket for our double bed from flower granny squares (you can just see them on the table, under the black cushion on the table) but I need around 432 of the buggers.  I'm up to 96 so far...

PS.  There were one or two photos of interesting stuff in Godalming I forgot to take the other day, so when I remember, I'll add them.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Living on the land of the clan of Godhelm

The deeply fragrant and very lovely Katyboo not so long ago wrote a post about Leicester and made it sound deeply fragrant and (almost) lovely. It inspired me to do the same as I live close to a small town that has lots of lovely architecture that you all ought to see.  Sadly I know very little about practically all the buildings so am going to be a useless tour guide but, hey, you're not paying anything for this so you, heckling at the back, shut up in them shoes, yeah?

First off, to save me having to do much (or, in fact, any) research into its history, I've blatantly cut and pasted this from some website or other:

"Godalming was first recognised as a settlement back in Saxon times when it was given its name which means "of the family or clan of Godhelm". The town grew rapidly and is documented in the Domesday book with the industries provided by watermills creating its wealth and prosperity.

In the 13th century Godalming became the property of the See of Salisbury with a thriving market and annual fair. During medieval times, further industries prospered with the town being recognised as a major manufacturer of woollen cloth, paper and leather. Godalming is still famous for knitwear today.

In 1764 trade in Godalming was greatly enhanced with the opening of the Godalming Navigation which connected the town to the Wey Navigation at Guildford. Although trade ceased many years ago, Godalming Wharf is today very popular with canal boats as it is the most southerly navigable point on the main canal and river network of England.

By 1881, Godalming had found itself well and truly placed in the history books, as it became the first town in the world to have a Public Electricity Supply.

By the 1950's most of the industries which had kept the town afloat for many years were in decline, or had disappeared altogether. However, the interesting and lengthy history of Godalming is still evident to see in its range of buildings and architecture, including the 19th century town hall, nicknamed the Pepperpot due to it's unusual shape.

Today, Godalming is a prosperous commuter town for London and is twinned with both the towns of Joigny in France and Mayen in Germany."

I would pick holes with the statement that Godalming is famous for its knitwear ('pick holes' 'knitwear' - geddit?  Oh, please yourself....) as the Alan Paine factory (they made some nice jumpers and cardis, I believe) has long since gone to the Far East, but the stuff about the electricity's quite interesting, isn't it?  It isn't?  Oh well.

On to the pictures, then (don't forget you can click on any of them to make them bigger).  Although it was cold and v windy today, it was also very bright so I decided to walk into Godalming (I live about a mile and half outside it) and would take the camera and finally get round to taking pictures of the lovely buildings.

The Church of Saints Peter and Paul, and a quite gingerbready house next door which is a solicitors' office.

View down Church Street, towards the High Street.  This street and its buildings were used as a location in that execrable 2006 film 'The Holiday' with Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet and Jack Black.

This is our local! Dating from 1832, The Star does a vast range of real ales and ciders, plus they make a wicked burger.

I think this may have been a coaching inn once, as you can still see the gap the stagecoaches would go through.  It's now a gift shop and a rather fabulous (and pricey) antique jewellery shop.

This is a gorgeous building.  Most beaming on the front of these black and white Medieval houses is straight and perhaps some slight curves (see the coaching inn above) but this is loads of circles.

This is the Pepperpot, built in 1814, which used to be Godalming's Town Hall.  I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of it today, so I've downloaded this from the Dover Directory website.  I hope they don't mind.

This fabulous jetted Medieval building also has a very tall gap through which coaches could pass, so this was probably an Inn as well.  There were originally 84 pubs/inns/hostelries in Godalming so it could well have been. I have just looked it up and, interestingly, it used to be the White Hart Inn, dates from the 16th century and it is reputed that Dick Turpin stayed overnight!

The bank is 16th/17th century but I'm more taken by the black warehouse loading bays next door - turns out it used to be a wool merchant's house and the hoist to load the bales of wool is still there somewhere.

This is just lovely.  I don't know the date but I think it must be late 17th century because the brickwork on this obviously Flemish-inspired building is very similar to the next building pictured, which is dated 1663.

The windows in this building look like lace - it's just beautiful.  The white oval plaque says 1663.


This is Crown Court, although I'm not sure why.

There are other, plainer but still lovely buildings down the High Street.  This looks very Georgian to me.

The biggest pub and hotel in the Town is the King's Arms which dates from 1753.  Its main claim to fame is that Czar Peter the Great stayed overnight here in 1798.

There's a plaque to commemorate this.

I just wanted to put this in - it's Knit Along, the wool shop that is a relic from the days of Miss Marple which is sadly now closing.

Next to the wool shop is this building which, in the 1980s, housed a recording studio where I've recorded.  I think it's now an accountants, but it looks like it was originally another wool merchant's place, what with the big double doors all over the front.

There are plenty other buildings in the High Street and surrounding streets I could have photographed, but I had to get back for Roger the Boiler Man so he could make my house all warm again.  However, on my walk back I passed a couple of interesting houses:

Those of  you who enjoy a bit of Kevin McCloud and have good memories, may recall this house featuring on Grand Designs, way back in 2006.  Built by a couple of airline pilots to resemble a 1930s Art Deco house.  They said it was in Guildford, but it isn't.

This is a gorgeous little Victorian Gothic revival house, ideally situated right at the entrance of the municipal cemetery - this so appeals to the Buffy in me!

So there we are, that's a very brief trip round Godalming.  Hope you enjoyed it.