BBC Countryfile Live

Once again we went along to BBC Countryfile Live. This was its second year and as it was so enjoyable last time, we were keen to go again. Again there was so much to see including multiple show rings and arenas for different displays: from farm machinery, both modern and vintage, pig shows, dog shows including terriers chasing after a lure, followed by hilarious attempts by forty or so of the spectators dogs (all hopeless, apart from one chocolate Labrador who probably thought it was food) BMX bike tricks, a chain saw competition and many, more more. My absolute favourite is the equine ring, which surprises me rather since I can’t say I’m a horsey person at all. Although I spent a lot of my early childhood pretending to ride horses; sitting sideways on one of our two swings, galloping along beaches on evening strolls on family seaside holidays and reading books about horses and ponies. However when I actually started horse riding lessons, after school each week, I was terrified! All I could think was that if the horse (actually a small, fat pony called Tumbleweed) decided to take off with me on his back, there was nothing I was going to be able to do about it. This was not a toy, or my imaginary turn on TV’s beautiful Black Beauty, but a living breathing animal. I begged my teacher Mr McColl not to let go of the reins. After two lessons with Mr McColl walking and trotting alongside, around and around the ring, it was clear that things had to change. The next lesson was jumping, after a few practice tries either I had to grow more trusting of Tumbleweed, and much braver, or Mr M was going to be worn down to a stick. (What a lovely man he was!) I gave up gracefully and carried on with ballet, tap and swimming club instead.

I took a lot of photos at CFL, of celebrities, displays, funny ducks, pretty geese, frankly ugly turkeys, pigs being guided around a ring and many more, but it’s far too much to put them all on here. If you’d like to see some more of the magnificent shire horses, always my top favourites, go to my instagram. Do watch a short video I took of the country’s only six team of shires. It’s so good. As you’ll see, they came really close. So close, the ground vibrated. This team are regularly used in tv and film, so I’m gong to keep my eyes peeled for them. 

CFL covers a huge area at Blenheim Palace and even if you didn’t intend to walk far, you would end up covering several miles. At the end of the day my pedometer said I’d walked eight. 

The weather was typically English, at least for August nowadays when summer seems to abandon us to show us a preview of autumn. Then everything pings back to summer again, sometimes in the space of a day or an hour. It isn’t exactly cold, but you need to travel with an umbrella and raincoat, as well as sunscreen and a t-shirt. We had all of these just for the day out. And all were utilised.

During a massive thunder and lightening storm complete with tropical rainfall, everyone dived under cover into tents and marquees. At least there were the goats to pet, Adam Henson book-signing in the tent’s corner to discreetly gawp at, and a fun egg finding game for small children, which was very amusing to watch. I chatted about the possibility of keeping rescue chickens too, or rather the very enthusiastic stall-holder was trying to persuade me that they’re very affectionate pets. She did offer me the opportunity to cuddle a chook, but I declined. The fresh eggs appeal, but keeping them is not for me right now.

The time difference between the photo of the coming storm, above the dappy looking goat portrait, and the return of the sun below was less than an hour! Everything dried up super fast and we returned dry raincoats to the rucsac.

There was no shortage of food and drink to sample and buy at the show. Produce seemed to be mostly British, with amazing smells tempting us around every corner. We lingered at the Food Heroes stage, but had missed the most famous chefs doing demos. From a wide array of choices I chose a pork bap with stuffing, apple sauce and crackling. I did remember to take a photo, but only after I’d snaffled the crackling. It looks somehow bare without it, so that’s in the deleted folder. Apparently the Welsh boss-man rode his bicycle from the stall holders’ campsite during the night, every few hours, to check on the pig cooking on its spit. He did a very good job, it was yummy. My other treat was Hereford ice-cream from a mother and daughter team from Rowlestone Farmhouse ice cream near Hereford. Actually it sounds as if the whole thing is a family endeavour; Dad is in charge of the dairy, Mum makes the delicious ice cream while the daughter works front of house. I had salted caramel and pecan, it was gorgeous. I confess that I’d willingly travel several hours to visit their ice cream parlour. (I wish they’d sponsor me to say that, ice cream would be fine.) 

I can’t work out if this photo is a bit odd; with the guy walking so close to the window. I just liked the way the company had dressed the potting shed shelves.

These carved crochet hooks were so smooth to the touch. I really am happy with my Clover Amour set, but was slightly tempted to buy a large wooden one.

As the rain was coming to an end we came across The Oxford Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, in a small tent near the river Glyme. I had a go at using a drop spindle. It’s much harder than it looks, but the lovely lady said not to worry about lumps; just call it Art Yarn! Ok then, I think I’ve discovered a latent talent…

I didn’t realise until I saw the stream of photos that I’d had quite an audience.

This week I’ve been busy. I’m rigorously decluttering and sorting out things. Yesterday I posted old clothes into a clothing bank bin, took bags of better clothes and boots, books and a heap of craft magazines to a hospice charity shop,  gave my old pairs of reading glasses to an optometrists who will send them to the Third World, Guide Dogs for the Blind have used postage stamps, The Blue Cross charity shop have foreign coins from my most recent travels (New Zealand, Malaysia, Israel, America, Australia and Hong Kong.) I donated some of  my academic books to the university library and I sent my last Star Ripple to Knit for Peace. As you see, someone else also snuck into the bag. I don’t mind and think Stanley might enjoy a new adventure.

I’ve tried some knitting after a few weeks break. My elbow feels ok, but no more again for a few days I’d say. This is a shame, but there we go. At least I’ve added in a new colour which keeps things interesting.

As for reading, I’m now listening to The Love Song of Miss Queenie Henessy by Rachel Joyce, having finished The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which began the story and should be read first to get the full story. Oh my goodness, Celia Imrie is a fantastic narrator! I’ve always admired her acting, but had no idea she could do accents so well. Cockney to Scottish, women and men, she’s nailed them all so far in the audiobook. Also, I’m halfway through reading Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. This is slow for me, but I kept listening to Harold Fry in bed instead and woke up an hour later several times. The dulcet tones of Jim Broadbent had sent me to sleep. Audiobooks don’t work for me at bedtime at all, but still I try from time to time and then miss huge chunks of the story.

Have you been on any days out recently? Can you listen to audio books at bedtime without falling asleep? What are you making and reading?

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along.

Perfect

   
    
   Today we pulled on some warm clothes and went out for some fresh air, after a few days of socialising, eating and drinking. A swift five mile walk was just the thing.  On Boxing Day it’s usually great fun seeing children whizz by on their shiny new bikes and scooters, with everyone nodding and smiling their hellos, but it was a rainy day and so the hibernation continued.  I’m so glad we decided to postpone a wander around the shops this morning. Walking alongside peacefully grazing sheep, while admiring the stark beauty of the trees against the rapidly darkening sky felt absolutely perfect. 

At the weekend

It’s been a lovely weekend, the kind where you pack lots and lots in and enjoy it all. The washing machine is whirling around as I type, the carpet needs hovering and dust is floating but it can all wait.
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On Saturday I went to ExCel, at the London Docklands, with a good friend for the Simply Christmas craft show. I haven’t been before and imagined sparkles, tinsel and decorations galore. It all began with a bit of a bang as we entered the space; a woman with a lot of bags was trying the dodge the staff on the way out. A member of staff was shouting that she couldn’t leave until security had been called. Apparently the woman had been caught stealing a few items and had more bags that hadn’t been searched. When my friend bought fat quarters from a few different stalls none gave receipts, so how to prove you’ve paid for items? We decided you’d need to make memorable comments, or talk with a really weird accent, during purchases just to make sure of being remembered.

The sleigh and everything you see above is made from sugar. The Grotto was full of sugary Christmas scenes and smelt absolutely delicious!

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The main focus seemed to be paper crafts and fabric. Black Sheep Wools had a stand and there were a few other small yarny tables, but not many. It’s probably for the best. Most of the show was just plain stalls selling what they might sell at any other time of year. The majority hadn’t decorated at all and there was a distinct lack of any sign of Christmas. We weaved from the beginning, along the stalls in row A, and so on, and by the middle we found a decorated tree and a couple of singers performing seasonal songs. Things seemed to be morphing into Christmas.Then we saw the sugary grotto and the display of Christmas makes above.

I particularly enjoyed watching some art workshops. Two or three fairly large groups of people sat imitating the artists who stood at the front with a fixed camera showing their techniques as they worked. This was shown on a large screen so the participants could listened to explanations and paint or draw along, using watercolours or pastels. They all ended with their own representations of the same picture, it was rather impressive. I wish I could draw!

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Mmmmm chocolate. But I’m not buying any until we go to Brussels on a jaunt to the Christmas market. I’ve never been on the Eurostar train which travels under the English Channel, it’s going to be fun.

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After ExCel we headed to do the really cool thing we’d run out of time for last time; The Fan Museum in Greenwich. Maybe it’s not the most exciting visit, but there is impressive painting and workmanship. If you’re really clever and concentrate you can name all the parts of a fan and explain how they’re made. As you walk inside the rather lovely town house you can imagine the Upstairs, Downstairs lives played out there in the past.

We’re both a little addicted to Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local deals so anything gets seriously considered; especially if it’s under £5 or £10. This year we’ve done all sorts of outings and activities, as we take it in turns to book the next thing. My friend bought the Fan Museum deal as it was £2 (it’s £2 if you’re a National Trust member anyway, by the way.) The next deal I’ve booked for us is a Charles Dickens London walking tour. We’ve been on the It’s a Ripper and Ghost walking tours this year, and I figure we’ll need the post-Christmas exercise in January.

We then went for a wander in Greenwich park as the light began to fade and wondered where we fancied going next.
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Generally, if in doubt, a pub is always a good choice. I haven’t drank in The Gypsy Moth for ages. It was still light when we arrived and only 11 degrees, so we sat in the garden looking at the twinkling lights as the light fell. There was more, but I’ve run out of photos and it really involved more tube travel, the O2 and dinner. And that, was another good day.

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On Sunday the Mr and I went to Blenheim Palace to see the Christmas decorations and rather speed walked through the rooms as we’d already seen the Ai Weiwei exhibition. I bet the attendants thought the pair of us were philistines, only there to visit the shop.

The stilt walker was hilarious, Someone wondered how he ties his shoes…

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I wouldn’t mind eating Christmas Dinner at the Marlborough’s table.

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And home for a mug of tea and some crochet. I promised myself that when all the ends were all darned I could download and read the new Inside Crochet. Apparently I always say “Next time I’ll darn as I go.”
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And she’s off….!

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I’d planned to finish the zesty raspberry ripple by the end of the month. I was soooo close. Last night I did darn in the rest of the ends, and trebled along both sides. Tonight I’m going to complete the rest of the border, if it’s only a day off that’s not so bad, is it?

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This was taken last night under a lamp, so the colours are rather muted. It’s so soft and warm, I know it’s going to used lots and appreciated. I’ll do a ‘FINISHED’ post with all the yarn details soon.

How was your weekend?

April showers in May (with a tiny bit of crochet !)

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An impromptu picnic lunch at Blenheim Palace, sitting on a rain coat munching on salad and watching the swans paddle serenely along the lake. The weather is so April showerish still, even though it’s now May, the sky changed so fast from blue to grey. Even the pheasant ruffled his feathers and wandered off for cover, giving up all hope of sharing my lunch.
Time for a train ride?

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Ah, it’s oh so quiet. There’s a new train (‘Winston’ – Blenheim is the birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill so there’s lots about him and now a train too!) and tunnel which I was quite excited about, it will be good for children to go through a dark bit, but for adults it’s actually a long wooden structure (shed) which can be locked to house the new carriages. Oh well, the anticipation has been nice. Serves me right for being such a child!
The overhauled butterfly house is different. The bridge over the water has gone, lots of the green bushy plants have been removed and new brightly flowering shrubs are in place. You can see the butterflies clearer against the new white screens, it will be worth making a special trip when more have hatched later in the season. I virtually chased one up and down the length of the house to try to photograph it; a HUGE bright beautiful blue one, but he was obviously camera-shy.

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This bank holiday weekend we’re meant to be at the coast enjoying some walks and time by the water, the weather had other ideas however…

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We’ve cancelled the hotel tonight and will see if it’s worth going for the next two days. At least I won’t have to water any plants!

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My elbow is getting much better, though I am going to organise some acupuncture as I’ve found a way to get some free again, after a break of 10 years of needing it. Hurrah! Here’s to another ten years without the need?! I’ve had a few days without painkillers and am using my left hand much more to lift heavier things without aggravating it, I’ve noticed, so as it’s such a rainy day I’ve decided to try a bit of crochet. I haven’t done any craft since before Easter when I made the chicken bags. It’s been odd having still hands in the evenings.

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This is not exactly a thing of beauty, it’s just six blocks I rooted out when I was looking through my stash sometime ago, but haven’t been able to join them. When I began crocheting the CAL blocks I made some test ones with Stylecraft Special DK before the posh yarn. I don’t like wasting things so I’ve decided to crochet them into a ‘thing’. Maybe a dolly blanket to give away to children I know or donate to a Foundation Stage class. I don’t know where it will end up, but I know it’s been so lovely to sit on a rainy day and crochet a little bit just for the sheer pleasure of it.

As I’ve been typing Someone’s decided to go fishing because trout don’t really mind the rain apparently, and when you’ve got good waterproofs it’s not an issue for humans either. As for me I’ve declared I am doing “Bugger all” I’m so good at it too, it seems a shame not to try.

What’s the weather like where you are? Are you also curled up and making something today?

 

Autumn at Blenheim Palace

A brisk walk in the crisp Autumn air, muffled up with scarf, hat (apparently it makes me look like a pixie, hmmm) and fuzzy red gloves. But tell me why is it that dogs always swerve in a circle to the one who is not so keen, completely ignoring the other who would no doubt stop, have a stroke and a chat?

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Are you enjoying Autumn? Where are your favourite Autumn places?

Outdoors

A lovely walk with a friend and her smiley baby, past the meadow and along the canal
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The whole meadow is yellow with buttercups, people who have moved away apparently come back to take photos every year

010One of my favourite parts of walking along stretches of canals is peeking into others’ spaces as you stroll past narrow-boats and the ends of gardens

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This end of garden canal view studio looked perfect; paintings on the walls, jars of paint brushes and an easel set up in the light and airy room. I turned a shade of green wanting to possess this space

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For me a table with a gin and tonic and a good book next to the lawn chair would make it a perfect spot015

Commute to work by boat?

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018The last thing (or perhaps the very thing?!?) you need after a 5 mile walk is to come across The Candyboat! Naughty but very, very nice. Sweet jars filled to the brim with goodies on a narrow-boat which travels the country’s canal system.

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Geocaching is nerdy but great fun! I always fancied trying to be a spy and this fulfills the secret mission and trying not to look furtive elements while you’re scrabbling about looking for the cache. Admittedly it didn’t work well in London the other week; a tour bus ticket seller sidled up to me and said “It’s here, I’ve stood here for years and see you people all the time. You’re right next to it.” Ooops! So maybe I’m just too rubbish to be recruited by MI5 then?

It was the  Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Triathlon weekend at Blenheim Palace and my role was enthusiastic supporter of some competitors, and baker for an afternoon tea celebration – great fun in other words

IMG_2461Spotted. This photo sort of fulfills the remit of a ‘mostly crochet’ craft blog (ish)IMG_2490

The transition area

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IMG_2502We all had a lunchtime picnic overlooking the start of the swim section. You can really work up an appetite watching, and of course the cheering really takes it out of you.

Home to sit in the garden with cups of tea and many goodies including my morning baking – cheese scones and a coffee & walnut cake

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Come for a walk?

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Blenheim Palace has gorgeous grounds, with a lake to circle, a butterfly house to steam within (nice on a frosty day) and a maze to wander. Thank goodness there’s a viewing platform to climb if you need a bit of … Continue reading