Another moving day

Last night pizza! The day finally arrived when Joe had completed the course that he has been studying for the last two years. Since we first met, we knew that this day would come, but in the meantime, there has been a constant back and forth between my place, in Shropshire and his place, in Lancashire.

Considering that neither of us drive or has any money to speak of,  it has been a bit of a palaver over the last 19 months and yet we somehow managed to spend about two thirds of our time together. Because we needed to. But we have longed for it all to be done and to start our new life. So having passed his course,  things were put in motion for him to vacate his flat and move into the cottage.


We had the best kind of 'man and van', who was helpful, friendly and businesslike. In less than twenty minutes we were loaded up at Joe's end and on the road.


Then it it was goodbye to Preston and everything there. Heading home to the Midlands,  passing the wind turbines of Cheshire.

 Taking a brief foray into Wales and then back into England - hello Shropshire!


Off the main roads and heading down the familiar bumpy lanes leading home. 

Almost there, and the Wrekin in the distance. Right at the back, poking it's head in the clouds.

The cottage being on a small and busy country road meant that parking was a problem, as it was when Andy and I moved in. So yet again I called on Brian and Jean next door, who moved a car so that we could park up their drive and not get clunked by a tractor.

We unloaded and then began the little procession of humping it all up the lane. Joe and I and the van driver and Brian, of course.

Dumping it in the front yard.

Thankfully there wasn't too much and it was soon inside, if in a considerable muddle. We are now in the process of sorting it all out. But the most important thing is that things are settling down now and our adventure begins.


Birthdays and bears

Well, that's been a bit of a hefty blog break. Busy times. Sometime last month I had a birthday, and as some people may know, I am not a huge fan of birthdays. But there was a beautiful card from Joe, who also ordered a fabulous Clangers cake - and they spelled my name correctly, which is always nice! Yes, I adore the Clangers.


He bought me far too many presents, including some CDs of my favourite noisy bands, and a colouring book...which sadly I have not had time to play with yet.

Although I have made time to get on with my own painting.

Last weekend was my two day trip to Oxford, where I held my bear making workshop in the Willows, at Hill End Nature Centre, a truly delightful work space with lots of light and room.

I had nine attendees, four of whom were returns from previous workshops and it was lovely to see them again. It was a very busy, friendly session, and if you want an outside view, there is a lovely blog post about it on 'Tales from the Weekday Home'.

It is always nice to get to the end of the day and see the more-or-less finished results.

Apart from that, we have been trying to straighten things out at the cottage. I am still only half unpacked since moving in three and a half years ago.  It was all a bit too much with everything that happened subsequently, and I've been quite happy or rather, resigned, to live like this. But things are changing and this dumping room needed sorting. 

It's actually tidy compared to how it was. We've gone through boxes and boxes of stuff, put various things into lots for auction, charity and attic storage. Sometimes it was particularly painful, but it had to be done as life is starting to settle down and there is a lot more which needs sorting out. One can only live in carnage for so long.



Needle felt tinies and new workshops

Tiny Polar Bear (sold)

I  recently updated my website and for the first time (ever) catalogued all my designs by year and month. Nine years of almost non-stop needle felting.  It took many days of hunting on various camera cards and through this blog and Flickr, but eventually I got there.

Looking through it was a bit of a wake up call and I was able to look at my work and realise not only that I've done a phenomenal amount of work, but also that I've not really moved on, stylistically. Although, to be fair, the last few years haven't exactly been the time for creative navel gazing.

I think it has a lot to do with the last few years of creating commercial patterns, which have to be easy to make, and doing so many workshops, ditto. So I've not really stretched myself. 
I think making myriad cute toys has almost run it's course for me, after all, I've been doing them for nine years. So I've been finishing off several bits and pieces, including this set of tiny animals and bird dolls, which despite being small, take around six hours plus to make

As usual, I've bunged them on dear old Etsy. I'll be starting a shiny new website soon, for my new work. 

I started a new and very 'grown up' line of work this summer, but it is under wraps until I have several pieces. Suffice to say, I am stretching myself at last. 

While I'm cheerfully shoving things for sale under your noses, I may as well add that I've got some fabulous new workshops in the UK, for later in the year. I have two winter workshops in Hampstead, London at the Village Haberdashery - my first time in London! It's going to be the red eye train at crack of dawn for those two.

I am also going to be in Witney, Oxfordshire at the Witney Sewing and Knitting Centre. And in Birmingham, at the lovely shop of Lauren Guthrie, who was a British Sewing Been finalist in 2013, at Guthrie and Ghani

All of these courses, with links to the relevant booking pages, can be found on my website, on the Needle felt workshops page.

In other news, I've finally started painting properly again. But I'll spare you that for the time being.


Andy's tree

Yesterday we made a pilgrimage to see Andy's tree. Brian-next-door kindly drove us over, as it is some distance away in the heart of the Shropshire hills. Set in ancient woodland, the South Shropshire Remembrance Park is the most peaceful and tranquil place - beautiful even in the rain.

It's been just over three years since Andy's ashes were laid to rest under a silver birch tree sapling. It has grown considerably since them, which considering how tall Andy was, is appropriate. The little glade where his tree is situated is up on a wooded hill. Joe and I made our way there while Brian waited in the car park, to give us some privacy.


I'd brought some things to tidy up with and the first thing I did was to give his stone a good scrubbing, and remove the moss which grows so quickly. On my hands and knees, in the muddy grass, in the rain. Because it is the only and last thing I can do for him. And it still doesn't feel like enough. I don't think it ever will.

We'd brought a bottle of his favourite beer.

Which I poured on his tree roots, with a little salutation to 'the big man'. 

It was Joe's first visit and although it was sad, we both found it less painful than anticipated. And will be coming back again, soon.

Then the heavens really opened up to a deluge. We headed back as quickly as possible, to the car, soaked to the skin.

Brian took us home via the 'scenic route'.  Little twisty Shropshire lanes, which, as we found, were flash flooded. This is why a 4x4 is useful in the countryside. 

With Brian's careful driving, we negotiated the small rivers that covered the lanes for long stretches.

Some readers may wonder how I could take photographs during such a difficult and personal time, and share it so publicly. Well, Andy was always part of this blog. Taking photos, writing about it, and recording it helps me to sort things out in my head and makes it all seem a little less weird and messed up. Just a little.


The Flying Scotsman in Shropshire

It was only by happenstance that I discovered that the Flying Scotsman was travelling this afternoon through Shropshire. If Brian-next-door hadn't popped round to tell me he was going over to Craven Arms to search for lawnmower parts, I wouldn't have scrounged a lift to the village Post Office and heard the news. Because due to too many enthusiasts causing disruption in the past, the precise times of it's passing had been kept as hush hush as possible. But the nice people at the post office knew. And I told Brian. So this afternoon, Jean and Brian and I hopped over to a very small country bridge in a nearby village. There is Jean in her sun bonnet and Brian nearby in blue, fiddling with his big camera and trying to remember how to turn the flash off. And a local bobby. Just in case.


There were a few of us there, but no serious 'train spotters'. The policeman said they were all crowded up on the other country bridge further up. The sun was very hot. We wilted in the heat and listened for the train, patiently and with good humour. A small boy was hoisted onto his father's shoulders for a better view and the policeman told us that the Flying Scotsman had just left Shrewsbury and was passing Sainsbury's supermarket; it should be arriving soon. Five minutes later, we heard rumblings and squeakings.

Here it comes, around the corner...

Such excitement! Brian had worked out how to turn off his flash and turn on his burst shooting and I just managed to snap it as it thundered through our quiet countryside.

Then it was off and away towards the blue hills of Shropshire, where it would stop briefly at Craven Arms and then head off again to the county of Herefordshire, next door. 


As we waved it goodbye, a more modern and dowdier cousin passed it. And then all was peaceful again. The policeman returned to his car, the cyclists headed off and there were friendly waves and nods, as we all shared the happiness of seeing something very special indeed, if only briefly.


Cinderella cupboard

It's funny what lurks in sheds. Brian-next-door was showing me a pair of old oil lamps and I spotted this. I squealed. I really did squeal. He was a little confused at my delight as it was 'just some old shelves' which he uses to store oil and paint cans. The back has rotted and was replaced with paste board, which is also rotting. 

Although my lovely neighbours have become accustomed to my love of what they consider to be junk, I think this one had Brian stumped. But bless him, he removed the cans, levered it from the dirt floor, chased away a colossal fat, black spider and together we dragged it out into the sun. 

It must be about seven feet long and quite low. I think it was probably once the base to a huge farm dresser. The cupboard space is deep, however the doors are long gone. I can't remember the exact story Brian related, but it seems to have lived in a few local places, including an uncle,  before being entombed in the damp old privy.

Look, I know, it's a bit shafted. Apparently it's been used as a workbench in previous lives. Hence the paint blobs, the oil spills and the gouges.

But imagine if it were cleaned up and restored. It's a good, honest chunk of country pine, crying out for some attention and a good dollop of beeswax.

Brian did his best to dissuade my enthusiasm, seeing nothing but a knackered old unit which would otherwise serve it's purpose and eventually fall apart. And the surface damage  bothered him. I said repeatedly that I liked that and would probably leave some remains of it, if I sanded it down, to show the history. I think I lost him there; he would replace it with a new bit of wood. 

He was convinced that the top might be an add-on, as it appeared to be screwed down and maybe underneath there would be a better, original slab of wood. So he got his screwdriver out. I held my breath and tried not to wince. 

But no, it was part of the piece. So, having convinced Brian that I really did love it, warts and all, it is now mine. But it has gone back into the shed, for the time being. The cottage is still in a state of partial renovation, and walls need plastering before anything else goes in. It is going to look amazing though.