Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Hello to all of you, and a very Merry Christmas, as well! I can't believe Christmas Eve is here. Time for carols in the village square.  I am typing left handed, one letter at a time because I had an op yesterday. A large unidentifiable lump needed excision. On my right wrist.  Yes.  Two days before Christmas.  Convenient timing!  However, it had to be done and so it was.  Diana will be cooking Christmas dinner this year. Hoorah!  I will be relaxing, trying to remember to keep the arm raised. I had an extra nerve block, because we cannot risk the CRPS jumping, and there are extra meds to take for the next week as well. Life is just peachy.  

Actually, what I mean to say is that life has some unexpected twists and turns, and all we can do is shake our heads and grin, and start thinking about all the many blessings which grace our lives.  My life. So very many. Even when the year has not been stellar. 

This first photo is one I took before the op.  Drawn by the surgeon.  Don't you just love the arrow? And the classy ankle tag and hospital gown?  


I went to have my hair washed and dried this morning and the church in the centre of the village looked so beautiful with the sun and blue skies. It doesn't feel like real winter yet, even though 100 000 homes are without power after the awful storm last night. Not  good.


You can see in the next photo - me looking more human after having the hair done.  Thank heavens I could get a cancellation, because one handedness is not easy. I need two hands! Underwear, getting dressed, wrapping, writing with the left hand, makeup, boots, all a challenge. Just as well I don't mind challenges! I get to remove most of the dressing on Boxing Day.

And this is the snowman in my front bay window.  He is one which grows - I pull him up a little each day, so passers by see him growing.  I love him!
I must sort out the photos properly. I will have conquered them by tomorrow. Or the next day. 

You know, I have so much to tell you all - so much has been going on, the small stuff is always the best - and I will be back properly.   Sometimes bigger stuff gets in the way, and needs sorting though.  

So, to you all, a very Happy Christmas. I hope the day is full of laughter, joy, peace and love, and that the true celebration of the birth of our Saviour  is the centre of every home. 

Joy to the world!

Friday, December 06, 2013

The silence is broken. Madiba died.

Sometimes things happen. Things which spur one into action. And today, I am back, prodding the old blog back to life, because it is time. And because last night, an old man, a truly wonderful old man of 95, way down at the bottom of Africa, finally breathed his last breath. One man, whose influence on millions, or more probably, a billion or two lives was so utterly profound. 

A man about whom we were never allowed to know anything as we grew up. I was a child of 10 by the time the Rivonia trials ended, and I was 36 when the doors of the jail opened, and Mr Nelson Mandela walked free at last. In between, I grew to adulthood, became a student of history, and discovered that there were 20 years of history which I was not allowed to see. To know about. To read. 20 YEARS? HOW? WHY? 

It may seem hard to believe now, but I was 21 when I saw the very first picture of Madiba. 21. He was faceless, because his photo was banned. Along with a whole load of other stuff, which once included the book, Black Beauty, but that is a story for another time. 

So, there I was, in London, in the British Library, hunting down all those blank pages in my history text books at university, and I flipped over a page, and there he was. The fact that I copied all those 48 pages and smuggled them back to SA is irrelevant. I read. I finally knew what filled the gaps. 

I grew up through the years of protest, when we students thought we could change the world - we tried hard. Through the years of early marriage and parenthood, still longing for the day justice would triumph, and that all people would be equal under the law. Making sure the schools we chose for our little ones were multi-racial, and that our friendships encompassed everyone we met. Our lives were enriched immeasurably by the multicultural mix in which we found ourselves immersed. Living life as we dreamed it could be, but in such a small bubble. The dream was for it to be everywhere, for everyone. 

That wait seemed so long to me, but how much longer must it have been for the man sitting out there on Robben Island? How much harder must it have been in the face of all the humiliation, abuse, and pain? How on earth did he have the strength to keep learning, keep teaching, keep that fascinating mind alive and growing? Where did he learn that compassion? 

I could, and did, go and just sit and look out at the island sometimes, and just wonder. I sailed past it. I visited it. And then my life went on, but for those in those cells out there, for him, life "going on" was very different. 

And how on earth did he keep the bitterness at bay, the hurt from festering into malignancy, the hope from dying? How could he be a father to his children, a husband to his wife? 

27 long years.  

And then, oh then, the gates swung open one beautiful day in early February, 1990, and everything started changing. I remember the day so well, because, as it happens, my parents were flying off to Switzerland for my sister's wedding, and I dropped them at the airport, and was caught up in the traffic heading into town from the townships. You have never seen anything like it. Well, actually, if you have been to South Africa and seen the taxis, you may know what I am talking about,. Designed to seat maybe 10, in fact seating 25, with even more on top and hanging on to the boot (the trunk) by their finger nails. Pick up trucks overflowing with people waving, singing, chanting, dancing...... 

1000 upon 1000 of them. And every single one with a smile wide enough to split open faces. 

And so I joined in and hooted and waved and smiled and could not quite believe what was happening. Everyone was heading for town, the city centre, the Parade, because Madiba was going to speak from the balcony of the City Hall. I do not recall anyone ever speaking from the balcony of the City Hall, now that I come to think of it. Not that I would have taken note of, anyway. 

Hope was born that morning in around 50 million hearts. 

And the breath of 4 million was held, as the words of reconciliation came, and the love shone out of the face everyone grew to adore. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Humour. Compassion. 

Do you remember his amazingly colourful shirts? The twinkle in the eye? The dancing on platforms? The voice of reason? 

I was living in the UK when the first election came round. 1994. And onto the train I leapt, and off to London I went. I thought it would take a couple of hours, but you have NO IDEA how long the queues were to vote. They snaked over the centre of London, because every single South African who could be there wanted to be a part of history, and heaven knows there were thousands of us.  And I remember how they inched forward, how we were entertained by some South Africans, who kept us doubled up with laughter. And singing. We all learned each other's life stories in those queues, and then I realised that I would have to go because, hello, small children need to be fetched from school. A long train ride away. So I gathered up my belongings, and stepped out of the queue. 


I will never forget what happened next, and if you are South African you will get the picture perfectly....

A marshal, all of 5ft 2" tall, raced up to me. "And where do you think you are going, my child?"(He was all of maybe 50 years old and rotund and black. It is important that you know this.) "I have to go home - I have to catch a train, and the queue is too long, and my baby will be lost without me and I can't vote and ...." I wailed. 

"STEP THIS WAY!" he roared, "FOLLOW ME! EXCUSE ME EXCUSE ME WE NEED TO GET THROUGH URGENT OUT OF THE WAY!!" And on it went as we rounded two and a half sides of the enormous block of the Methodist Central Hall. People didn't mind. They cheered us as we ploughed through the crowds. And finally we got to the doors, and he released my hand, dusted himself off, and turned to the marshals there and said "My friend here has to get a train back to her baby and WE CANNOT LET HER GO WITHOUT VOTING, CAN WE". 

No. It appeared we could not. 

And so I was dragged ushered up the stairs to a voting table to register, I cast my vote with enormous pride and joy, and only then did my little friend (I am 5ft 6") let me go. He actually called me a taxi, roared instructions to the driver, and gave me a hug, with a beaming smile too. 

Africa. Its people. And I am one of them. 

And the man who became President, Nelson Mandela, would have been proud.

His destiny was, in the end, to be a Father Of the Nation, for all time. The Man of the Century.

His dream must be kept alive. Do you remember him presenting the Rugby World Cup to his Springbok team, dressed in a Springbok rugby jersey? His legacy has to be love, tolerance, and compassion. The spirit of "We can do" must prevail. He never sought to profit personally from his position. His focus was on ALL the citizens of one of the most beautiful countries of the world. ALL of them. Not the privileged few holding office and their cohorts. 

But his days were numbered, just as ours are, and he is now at peace. 

May peace flow over the land, may his ethos of life be remembered and practiced, may his dreams be fulfilled. 

Madiba, you were loved. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Photos, blankets and idle chatter.....

I mentioned that it seems that I took the very first photo of Lucy on the opening Saturday of Yarndale. Well, the first one she was aware of anyway, and here it is, as promised, taken in the restaurant of the Auction Mart before doors opened - lovely lady!


And so I came home, fired with enthusiasm, and finished off the very first Granny Stripe I have made, another of Lucy's tutorials, which you can find here.


It has been said that it looks just like rickrack. It does rather, doesn't it?


And then here is the daisy blanket I made over the last month or two. That was fun, except i don't like the joining bit at all, and would do it a different way next time, which may just be now, because I have nothing on the hook at the moment. 


But it does look lovely, I have to say. 


This morning, I returned to the pool after a break of nearly 4 weeks. I had to have a biopsy on something on my back, and because it was across my shoulder span, I had more stitches than usual, and they stayed in longer, and consequently, I was out of the pool much longer too. And so I was not over exuberant today. And now I creak. 

Anyway, when I had had it removed, the registrar said she was confident it was of the nasty variety, but not to worry as it was out now and there was treatment available. But that they would send me a letter if it was all clear and call me if it wasn't. 


Every time that phone rang I had a near heart attack. And nothing came in the post. When I went to have the stitches out after two weeks, I discovered that it can take - wait for it - up to SIX WEEKS to get a Nasty Call or a nice letter. 

There was no way I would survive the 6 weeks, so I called the consultant and the secretary promised to search for the results. She called me 4 hours later to tell me all was well. The letter arrived a few days ago.  It was clear and I am just fine. 


But it is fine. That sort of event makes you re-evaluate stuff. So I retreated into myself for a while and did some serious thinking. You will, no doubt be getting to hear about some of that serious thinking over the next few weeks. I have been storing things up in the head. I just had no will at all to reach for the computer keyboard. 

So. In an hour or so, I am off to the church to talk to some teenagers about the homeless centre we collect food for at our church. I am not sure what I will be saying but it is for 15 minutes so maybe getting them to do the talking may be the best thing. Excellent. I will ask 4 questions. They can spend the time answering them. Sorted. 

After church yesterday, David (he is home) and I went out into the jungle garden to start emptying pots and hacking back things for autumn. Well, he did the cleaning of the chairs and packing them away bit, and I did the hacking. I also managed to trip and fall without being seen. The neighbour was mowing his lawn, so David, who was just 10 ft away, never heard me screech. Fun. Just fun. 
Back to the garden - after he hauled me up again.....

It has been mild, but it is time to get the straggly things out. The tomatoes are almost finished which is excellent seeing that the freezer is very full as I speak. Maybe another 3 pots to cook. And heaven knows the apple mountain is not moving either. Bounty, people. Harvest. Blessings upon blessings. 

It has been a good year. My butternut squash and gems continue to grow and I have not been to the allotment for a week, so I am anticipating marrows. Groan. I will have to venture down there this evening. After I have talked to the teens. 

Right. I am off to get some strong coffee. I need to have my wits about me.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Blankets, daughters and mice............

So today, because I did a little too much yesterday, I had a quiet day. Everything is relative though. I did WAY too much so I get to pay the price, but the good part is that I finally finished the granny stripe blanket. My first granny stripe. 

So that was good. I love it. Bright and cheerful. And then my daughter came home, which was great. She has been in London and Copenhagen. Then London. The global totter of the family. 

Anyway, she walked into her room, picked up a small parcel her friend sent her from NZ and asked me WHO had been eating her chocolate. Hmmm. 

No-one human. 

But a mouse maybe? And then we found evidence of a rodent in the vicinity and I was out of the door, in the car and off to B&Q for rodent dispatching stuff faster than you could say Jack rabbit. We now have a sonic thingy emitting a sound mice hate and traps baited with Nutella. They had better work. Did I mention that Diana Is using my sewing room as her room? I do not want rodents in residence ANYwhere in this house. 

Maybe I need more traps. 

More sonic thingies. 

A bazooka. 

A cat. 

I will post a photo of the blanket tomorrow. Did I tell you I finished the daisy one? I will post that photo too. Hahaha. It sounds as though I have just one photo of it. I do not. I have dozens. This digital age is so different from earlier ages I have experienced. And right now, the best camera in the house is my phone one. I need to work out how to configure it to Flickr. 

Right. I will be back.............

Friday, October 04, 2013

And then we had to come home..........

Sunday dawned a little chillier but the sun still shone, and so we headed back into Skipton because we had planned to go into the woods for a wander. It just amazes me that you can have a bustling market tow, with the church at the top of the road, (and the castle) and behind that is a place of quiet. Just fantastic. 

At the top of the main street is the Black Horse. I think it is a hotel. In fact, if I read the board, it very clearly SAYS it is a hotel. My brain is addlepated. 

The board also tells us interesting facts.

Yarndale 2013 257

Richard III is still an intriguing man in British history. 

Yarndale 2013 248

And it still blows my mind when I see dates like 1676 on a wall.. 

Yarndale 2013 251

And mounting blocks. 

Yarndale 2013 253

Anyway, we found the towpath beside the church, and, after asking a passerby if we were heading in the right direction, we walked down beside the canal, or river, next to the castle walls, and into the Skipton Woods.

Yarndale 2013 263

Next time, I really want to go and see inside the castle,. Glynis has been before and says it is magnificent. Her father was born in a town nearby, and she has family in Yorkshire, so has done a great deal of exploring over the years. 

Yarndale 2013 268

I just love forests,. Woods. Walks in them. If you have been here a while you will already know how I delight in the Swiss forests, and English ones are just as beautiful.

Yarndale 2013 272

There are benches here too.

Yarndale 2013 275

The sound of running water, and small waterfalls, is beautiful. And so is birdsong. 

Yarndale 2013 278

You can see the start of Autumn and falling leaves, can't you - I tried to catch one as I walked, but failed. 

Yarndale 2013 280

One should always make sure one's friends wear bright colours!

Yarndale 2013 287

The sheep are never far away, it seems!

Yarndale 2013 289

We loved the way the branches of this tree covered the whole pathway. 

We had a hilarious encounter on that path. A couple of young Mums and their children all came past us on a walk, and then, along came a police person (a female special constable) on a pedal bike. I seriously never imagined anyone on a bike in the woods, although why not, I do not know, given that they are all through the Alps as well. As she approached us, I said that that she must be demented to be riding up on that high path through the woods - and she roared with laughter as she pressed on, after a brief chat. 

And as we reached the church at the end of our walk, so help me, there she was on her bike again. I must say that it makes you feel very relaxed about walking in the woods when there are police on bikes roaming around them as well. Not that anyone - and there were lots of people walking - looked in any way concerned. It was great. 

Yarndale 2013 291

And this is the entrance to the castle. 

Yarndale 2013 296

Look! The Yarndale bus! This ran back and forth from the station to Yarndale, taking people back and forth all day.

Yarndale 2013 298

The church at the top of the main street. It is beautiful. So is that blue sky!

Yarndale 2013 303

And, all I had to do was turn around, and this is the view down that main street, where, on the day we arrived, market stalls were erected on both sides of the street, where all those cars are parked. 

Yarndale 2013 308

And so we bid farewell to Skipton and headed off home. However, we made a planned stop at Ilkley, for breakfast/lunch, and found a Betty's
What a total pleasure, and what a wonderful way to end our trip away. Click on the link and you will see exactly what I mean. The food was superb. Everything was. I loved the Swiss connection, and the dishes on the menu were so familiar to me - I am used to Swiss menus!

Yarndale 2013 309

And then I fell asleep in the car on the way south, apart from making a total hash of redirecting Jean through Wakefield, when the motorway ground to a halt. Really, pedestrian precincts can be driven over on a Sunday, I am quite sure. (A man told us that it was quite normal, and he seemed at home there. It worked, we got back on the right road.)

Yarndale 2013 311

And that, my friends, was the end of our little escape to another county. Wonderful. I love adventures. 

I will be back in the morning. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

After Yarndale..........

Yarndale 2013 149

After crashing on the beds and oohing and aahing over all the Yarndale purchases, having a hot drink (we avoided the queues!) and gathering our strength, we decided to go exploring. 

Yarndale 2013 161

Yorkshire is very beautiful. 

We headed north to Grassington. There was a national park place there, so we gathered some local leaflets of information, and went for a walk. The weather was stunning, and it was so great to see so many people out and about. Walking in the countryside is very popular, and the Yorkshire Dales on a beautiful sunny day make a superb combination..

Yarndale 2013 162

And you can see why. 

Yarndale 2013 163

Access to the fields was through tiny gaps in the walls. They are tiny to keep the sheep in place, one assumes, but we did see some very complicated how-does-my-very-large-dog-go-through-that-tiny-gap incidents.
They involved much heaving. 

Yarndale 2013 170

So pretty. Imagine living in this house by the river. 

Yarndale 2013 171

With sheep mowing the lawns.

Yarndale 2013 184

Yarndale 2013 185

It really was stunning, you know. 

Yarndale 2013 187

There is a church across the river, and these are stepping stones for the parishioners to use if they live/d on the other side.

Yarndale 2013 191

If you look closely at the photo above, a couple were making the crossing. Well, the man was crossing. His lady was not. She did make it across about three, and then he had to retreat with her. We didn't want to watch too closely. But I tell you, if it had been a little warmer, I would have loved to take my shoes off and cross barefoot. The water wasn't very deep. 

I think. 

Yarndale 2013 194

Yarndale 2013 198

I could get used to the rolling hills.

Yarndale 2013 234

We left Grassington and were heading to Bolton Abbey when we saw this village across the fields. It is on the list to be explored next time we head north. 

Yarndale 2013 236

We got to Bolton Abbey quite late in the day, and the entry price for the car was a little steep so late in the day. Not if we had arrived in the morning and had time to explore. It looks magical, and it is definitely top of the list for next time. The Yorkshire Dales. So much to see.

Yarndale 2013 238

So, by Saturday night we were almost comatose, and it was a happy weariness. Everything about this weekend away was lovely. Everything. Tomorrow, I will tell you a little more..............

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

I went to YARNDALE!

Well, hello there. Yes, I have been having a little break. Unintentional. Unplanned. It just sort of happened, and therein lies a long story, but that can wait a day or two, because this past weekend, Jean, Glynis and I headed north to Skipton. 

To Yarndale

This was the very first year of Yarndale. I am quite sure it will become an annual event, providing that Lucy from Attic 24 and her friends can face the thought. It was a total triumph, and a total delight, and they have an enormous amount to be very very proud of indeed. 

We loved every single minute. 

Yarndale 2013 004

Skipton is a beautiful market town in Yorkshire, and we arrived on Friday morning, to meet my sister-in-law, who lives a few towns away for lunch. It was her birthday, so that was lovely. And then we started exploring Skipton. The centre of the town has a wide high street down the middle, and on 4 days a week, there is a market along it. On both sides of the road. It was heavign with people. If you look on the left of the photo, you will see some of the backs of the stalls. The church and Skipton Castle are at the top of the street, but more of them tomorrow.

Yarndale 2013 022

And, wherever you went, you were reminded of Yarndale and it was SO exciting. And hot. The sun shone beautifully while we were in Yorkshire. Most of the time. Please note the bunting in the window - the town was festooned with crocheted bunting all over the place. It came from around the globe.

Yarndale 2013 034

The train station had more bunting..........

Yarndale 2013 040

Crocheted flowers in the park.......

Yarndale 2013 043

Yarnbombed trees..........

Yarndale 2013 044

And friends taking photos of them..........

Yarndale 2013 063

And then we walked back through the town along the towpaths next to the canal. It was absolutely lovely. Sunshine, canal boats, bright colours, water, swans, ducks..........

I could happily have stayed forever. 

Yarndale 2013 077

And then the three of us set off for oour hotel, some supper, and bed before Saturdqay and the Big Event. We had popped in to the Wild Oat Cafe, and one of the lovely girls told us she was on the door on Saturday, and to come at 9, get our tickets and then pop into the restaurant for coffee and a rest until the doors officially opened at 10. 

So, at 8.45, we set off.
Yarndale 2013 092

The other two more agile members of our party forged on ahead to get the tickets, and I trundled along slowly behind them. That way I could stop to take photos of the stone sheepfold on the way......

Yarndale 2013 093

And the sheep. We were in wool country. 

Yarndale 2013 097

And, after totally ignoring all "No pedestrians permitted" signs along the way, we arrived at Skipton Auction Mart, to be greeted by the decorated trees.......

Yarndale 2013 099

Don't you love the wool and needles?

So, we walked along to the restaurant, got our coffee and fresh fruit (we are so healthy around here) and sat down to wait for the clock to roll on, and THEN................

I looked over and across the room, I noticed someone familiar popping crocheted flowers onto each table from her basket, and being ignored by everyone, and when she got to our table, I said - "Hello, Lucy", and she smiled and stopped to chat. I told her how she triggered my love of crocheting with her ripple blankets, and I asked if I could take her photo. "The first of the day", she grinned. (Hah. I hold the honour of taking the first photo of Lucy at Yarndale. Only it is on my phone and not on the computer yet. Tomorrow.) And then I asked Jean to take a photo of me with her, because HEY, I WAS THERE TOO. I waited for her to finish talking to the ladies at the next table, and I have my photo. Actually, I stood behind her until she must have been driven crackers, if truth be told, but she was so sweet. 

Yarndale 2013 101

I am so glad I recognised her. Without her, crochet would be dead to me, so she is responsible for a great deal of woolly stuff around here. ( I am just finishing my first granny stripe blanket at the moment. Another of her tutorials.)

And then, it was time for the show to get going, and just look at what we saw as we walked in the door...............

Yarndale 2013 103

Bunting. Stunning. It took my breath away. So we got our Yarndale bags, and stuck our sticker on the world map to show where we came from, and off we went. We agreed to meet every hour to exchange findings and bargains and discoveries...........

Yarndale 2013 105

Many photos were taken.....

Yarndale 2013 107

Much bunting was admired..........

Yarndale 2013 109

Alpacas - and their oh, so soft wool was being sold. I would have LOVED to buy some, but restrained myself. This time. Aren't they gorgeous? I want one. 

Yarndale 2013 112

Lucy had a Knit and Natter area in the middle, where people could chat and gather and all her beautiful things which have encouraged people around the world to crochet - her tutorials are unbelievably easy to follow - they were all there. Her home must have looked very barren for the duration of Yarndale.

Yarndale 2013 116

Yarndale 2013 119

Yarndale 2013 120

And she was there, just exactly as she is on her blog. Lovely. And she must have been shattered beyond belief and in need of a month in a darkened room to recover at the end of the weekend. 

Yarndale 2013 122

So many stalls. Thousands of people. Workshops. Wool. So much beautiful wool. Yarn. Hooks. Needles. Stuff. I was in heaven. 

Yarndale 2013 128

Yarndale 2013 133

And, here are the baby alpacas. Well, I think they are babies. They were small com,pared to the others. Gorgeous. 

Yarndale 2013 131

And then we headed back to flop at the hotel. Exhilarated. Exhausted. Yarndale was superb. And we were oh so happy. 

So, I will be back tomorrow. It is October and the 31 Days of............Month. I will be blogging every day. A theme? Hmmm. I may have come up with one by the middle of the month. 

That is if I haven't run away to Yorkshire before then...........................................