More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Life after Brexit!!

Been feeling a bit devastated recently. First of all by the referendum result, then England's football team exiting UEFA Euro 2016 in the sad way they did. Get used to it, people say, and in truth I suppose we all have to, but while football is merely a game, membership of the EU isn't and I feel many people must be wishing they'd voted otherwise by now, after realising that they've been sold a pack of lies, which seems to me to be good grounds for a rethink.

Already there are hate crimes and racist murmurings against ethnic minorities and I can only assume that the vile perpetrators feel that their views have now been validated by the referendum.

In my opinion the future is much less bright out of the Union. Culturally and economically we have become instantly poorer and security-wise as an island sovereign state we have become much more vulnerable to home grown terrorism. The stability of our country is threatened. With Cameron deserting the ship, Boris Johnson having been stabbed in the back by side-kick Michael Gove (et tu Brute!), leaving Theresa May, who seems level-headed enough, but I fear is a thinly disguised right-wing wolf in sheep's clothing, as the most likely candidate for the Conservative leadership. Jeremy Corbyn is rightly standing his ground and refusing to submit to the Blairite bullies (if he did then we'd be left with no credible socialist party), and then, Nigel Farage standing down as leader of UKIP - has it only just dawned on him that there is no forward plan for Brexit? So... he chooses to bow out disgracefully, leaving others to sort out the stinking mess he and his cohorts have created. What a shambles!!! 

England's untimely exit from the European Championships is undoubtedly a further depressing thing, but less than it could have been had they played attractive football, scored a few more goals and deserved to win. As it was, it was hard to see the England team winning anything. At best you could hope they might scrape through each match, but truthfully our frightened pussycats never lived up to the roaring lions that were rather misguidedly depicted on their shirts. 

This put me in a bit of a quandary, but not for long. The Welsh team have been great value for money - they show fantastic spirit and ball skills and thoroughly deserve everything that comes their way. But...and it's a big but... Wales overall did vote to leave the EU. They played their part in creating this massive hole that we now find ourselves in, despite having had EU money flung at them in bucket-loads (more on what the EU has done for Wales here). I do know that the valleys need regenerating in more ways than new theatres and swimming pools ie public services need to be improved, affordable social housing built, and more jobs need to be created, but I don't see how all this can be laid on the doorstep of the EU. People were tricked into believing that immigrants were responsible, with the result that many people were voting on a single issue. 
Anyone for a cuppa? Found some light relief in the garden at Harlow Carr
with this composting teapot and plant pot teacup 
Think we could do with a little help from the fairy folk
to sort things out for us :)
So at first I felt angry with Wales for apparently biting the hand that has helped feed it, but I must say that my anger was quickly replaced by admiration for the Welsh team's brilliant attitude and skills. I hope they go all the way and win - mainly for Wales, but also for the UK - we certainly need something to cheer us up and lift the despondency and depression many of us are left with now.
From left, Merry. me, Gail, Eileen & Annie
On a happier note we had a delightful visit last week from four knitting friends from across the pond - Eileen and Gail from Canada, and Merry and Annie from the US. They'd been on a knitting tour of Scotland and the Shetland Islands, so P and I were looking forward to catching up with their adventures. We had a good chinwag in the garden over coffee, reminisced about past knit tours and caught up with news of other knitters we knew in common. It was so good to see them again and lovely that they took time out of their holiday to come and visit us. 
Joan enjoying a gorgeous stand of foxgloves
Harlow Carr was looking more like an essay on the
shady garden, rather than on midsummer blooms
Earlier in the week we had another friend stay for a couple of days and we all went off to RHS Harlow Carr. It was yet another of those grey drizzly days, with the rain pouring down when we arrived so we immediately dived into Betty's to wait for it to stop. 
The rhodos had lost many petals in the rain,
but I love to see them on the ground too
Definitely weather for ducks!
Thankfully after a couple of cups of coffee it eventually did and we went off on a damp tramp around the wet woods and flower beds, culminating in a delicious picnic of bread, cheese and chutney in one of the gorgeous green oak pergolas. More photos from our walk:
Candelabra primulas - one of my favourites
Love this summer colour combo of orange, deep burgundy, magenta and blue
It's funny at this time of year the borders are usually
 chocka with flowers but the rain has left a forest of green

All this wet weather provided an excuse to get wood in for the winter and cook some warming food. There's nothing like a wall full of logs to warm the cockles of your heart and you can always count on curry to raise the temperature by a few degrees. As I put the oil and spices in the pan, I couldn't help but notice their fabulous hot colours, in fact they'd make a wonderful colour way for a sweater or throw don't you think? 
Oil and spices in the curry pan
It always makes me feel cosy and automatically warm
when we've had a delivery of logs

Enjoy this post-Brexit summer, wherever you are. Until next time  x

Friday, 20 May 2016

Around our Welsh garden in late May

Yay, we've finally made it to our Welsh retreat, something I've been dreaming of for nearly 18 months. Feels so good to be able to walk round the garden, despite the neuropathy -  I'm determined not to let it spoil my enjoyment. The cuckoo's calling and the house martins are swooping and swirling in the air, scooping up the dreaded midges, then back to their nest-building in the eaves. As Lionel, our previous owner, used to say It's God's own country - and that feels just about right. 
Lionel's namesake hosts a fine house leek hairdo!
Vic and Roy, who've been looking after everything while we've been gone, have done a good job. However, I can't help feeling that a garden seems to recognise the people who have built and nurtured it by springing to life and seemingly putting a smile on its face. It's as if it's waking up from a long sulk, and thankful that you're back, wants to make sure you don't abandon it again. 

There's much to be done here, in both the hard graft and the gentle pottering, so I won't be loitering for long, but just wanted to share with you some of the treasures around the garden. 

Before I do this though, I must tell you about the poor little black cat who's been holding our two cats siege ever since we got here four days ago.
Here she is strutting her stuff
She's a sweet wee thing but as she's on heat, she insists on cattawauling all night long, hoping to tempt one of our two neutered Toms. They in turn aren't at all interested and cower indoors wondering when she'll give up and go. P managed to entice her with some food into a cat box yesterday, then knocked on every door around the valley trying to find her owners. No takers though, one neighbour jokingly said they were pleased she'd moved on as she'd been driving them crazy the week before! 

So... we're not sure what to do with her - RSPCA is one option, but hesitate to do that as the nearest one is 10 miles away, and her family is probably more local. If we didn't come and go so much we'd be happy to keep her, but don't feel comfortable taking her back to York with us.
Django trying to ignore her creeping up on him from behind
OK, so down to business, here's a selection of the delights the garden had in store for us when we arrived. 
First thing I noticed was this beautiful herbaceous peony.

Then these two very different tree peonies caught my eye.

Next were all the camellias dotted around in variety, mainly white and red flowering now as it's the tail end of their season and the earlier pinks had finished.
Then the biggest surprise of all was the Rhododendron sinogrande, planted ten years ago in the front garden, which had never flowered once in all those years! Only two large blooms but they were definitely worth waiting for - never held much store by that old chestnut everything comes to those who wait. but certainly true of this tardy beauty.
Rhododendron sinogrande
Also good to see this Azalea "Blue Tit" in bloom, she's rarely been seen in such good heart 
Couldn't bear to leave out the fabulous hellebores. This really is the tail end, most are done now, but they all work so hard to liven up the garden throughout the barren months from February until they fizzle out in May
Then there's the garden drama queen, the ever gobsmacking Clematis montana, climbing and colonising wherever it's given free rein, wafting its heady almond scent around, especially on damp dewy days. We have four different ones...
This one has covered a large old birch which we pollarded as it was obstructing
the view from the house - sadly it took offence and never came back πŸ˜ͺ
This one grows outside the studio and I love its tetrarose deep pink
And finally this one grows over the end of the barn
I haven't forgotten I said four, but I didn't get around to photographing the other one. It clothes the oil tank and rambles down over the beech hedge - not so interesting but you get the picture πŸ˜Š

So now we've more or less covered all the show-offs, we come to the sweet surprises and volunteers popping up sometimes where you least expect them.
Like this aquilegia (grannie's bonnet) in the paving on the terrace,
with the sweet little Welsh poppy behind...
...or this Soloman's seal volumteer by the studio......
....or this gorgeous camassia, a relic of many planted years ago, which have all but
 disappeared - methinks providing a good supper for the field miceπŸ˜ͺ
These chrome yellow spurges place themselves thoughtfully in shady parts
...and this is one of my favourite euphorbias  - Fireglow. She certainly does just that and looks great against a dry stone wall. The jury's still out on the berberis behind - colour's fine, but not keen on the prickles
I'm always fascinated by nature's way of creating the most wondrous works of art,  often thinking why didn't I think of that.
Amazing to watch the fiddlehead ferns unfurling, pure joy with their spring green 
And guess what? On a free afternoon on one of our Irish knitting tours, Merry and Andrea went to the Dublin Botanic Garden, Glasnevin, and saw a sculpture in the fern garden inspired by the plants - awesome!
Dublin Botanic Gardens
© Marilyn Fenton
This potter wasp had been hard at work in the chimonea creating a nest for itself.
Just a perfect little pot!
I've probably told you before that this garden has many different parts and although I love to play with colour, texture and form in the more formal parts, the wilder reaches are also a joy. 
Like the little English bluebells in the part we refer to as the orchard. Wishful thinking, fact every attempt to grow fruit there has failed, whereas stooled willow and dogwoods thrive there. Lesson here - I must practise what I preach πŸ™‚
Then there's the bog garden. We're going to miss the spectacular show the irises put on in late May, but maybe you can get an idea of what I mean from this Vincent van Goch painting.
The bog garden with a lone iris in bloom in the foreground, skunk cabbage to the right
and the majestic, if rather triffid-like Gunnera manicata just waking up in the background
Looking the other way into a part of the garden where fruit is happier, there are several sweet chestnuts,
a walnut, a damson, an apple and a plum
And finally, we have several tumbledown stone walls, one of which we like to imagine was the home of pigs in days gone by, hence its name. The piggery's walls are now at waist height and have become the perfect hosts for succulents and small herbs.
London Pride and sedum enjoying the protection and warmth of the piggery walls
House leeks and thyme also love it between the stones here
That's just about it for now, phew! I hope you like the new header image. It's a cropped version of my friend Anna Oakland's portrait, painted many years ago when she was a neighbour in London. For more of her amazing artwork visit Annalou's website.
Here's the full picture
As I type the little cat is still calling. Our last hope is a friend in the next village who may know something, or perhaps even give her a home. I'll keep you posted. 

Latest bulletin on Lyra is that she's doing quite well and gaining weight on her NG tube, though no progress as yet on eating. The physio is pleased with her weight-bearing, although she's a long way from taking any steps. Her paediatrician thinks it's going to be a long haul of 3-6 months in hospital, but at least everyone feels the problem is being addressed and hoping this will put her on the road to a full recovery.

Thanks for dropping by, more anon x

Postscript on the little cat: We eventually found his family - hmmm, that's right, HIS family. He's so small we thought he was a female on heat, but he's actually Buzz, an un-neutered Tom. His behaviour was perplexing, growling and yowling all night long. We know now why our cats, being the wimps they are, were always cowering and trembling inside. Turns out he belongs to a family further down the valley who are there sporadically for long weekends, leaving him with a self-feeding system in their barn. We had actually found another home for him in the next valley with some friends, which would have been a better solution for us, but for the moment he's happily reunited with his first family. Unfortunately we think he'll be back every time we're here, as he's obviously lonely and quite happy to laud it over our gentle giants.  Sadly that doesn't suit our cats at all πŸ˜•

Friday, 6 May 2016


Sorry for the month-long absence. I do enjoy blogging but I've not felt up to it recently as I've been fretting over Lyra, our five-year-old grand-daughter, who has deteriorated over the past couple of months ending up in hospital two weeks ago. She was diagnosed with Pervasive Refusal Syndrome, a condition when a child stops eating, drinking, walking, talking and refuses personal care.
`Happy times

Lyra didn't fit the mold on all the above as she doesn't refuse all personal care and also only practises selective mutism, but it was thought that given time she would develop the full-blown syndrome.

It was very hard to see her being fed on a Nasal-Gastric tube in hospital, but fingers crossed it seems to be doing the trick and she's put a couple of kilos on and no longer looks skeletally thin and according to the nurses is now a bit of a chatterbox. She hasn't as yet attempted to walk but everyone is hopeful that this will follow on if she starts to eat regularly. In fact she's made such a phenominal recovery that the psychiatrist is saying he no longer thinks that the diagnosis is correct and the paediatrician is saying that they'll now just treat it as a set of symptoms.

P and I were hoping to go to Wales for the first time since I became ill, but sadly we both got a stomach bug, so we've been marooned here in York, trying to feel well and having to stay away from Lyra in case she caught it as then, as once before, she would vomit up the NG tube.                                    

However, she's in our thoughts much of the time, reminding me of the song I wrote for her a couple of years back, that's constantly playing in my head - it's called Walk Tall. It encapsulates everything I wish for Lyra, I've posted it before but here it is once again for those who missed it.


Walk tall, you can touch the stars in the sky
If you believe you can do it, you can climb the mountains high
Your tiny legs won’t fail you, they’ll keep you safe from harm
Walk tall, little one, walk tall and keep calm.

Run free, chase the wind around the trees
The world is full of wonder, just waiting for a key
Unlock the door and step on through, with feet as light as air
Run free, little one, and shed your woes and cares.

Your eyes will sparkle once again, your smile will light the room
Walk forward into happiness, the future’s there for you…
If you walk tall.

Step lightly through the rainbow, approach that pot of gold
Imagine some new stories like the fairy tales of old
Life’s mysteries and problems weigh heavy in your head
Step lightly, little one, and learn to trust instead.

Your eyes will sparkle once again, your smile will light the room
Walk forward into happiness, the future’s there for you…

… the future’s waiting for you if you walk tall.

P and I are beginning to feel better and more able to enjoy the garden that's practically burgeoning in front of our eyes right now. We're hoping that every passing day brings Lyra a few steps closer to full recovery.

Thanks for dropping by.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Around the garden in early April

It's been a busy couple of weeks recently, which is great as it helps distract from the rainy grey days. There have been a couple of glorious mornings though, like yesterday, when we've had coffee in the garden with friends and family, but generally there's been too much cowering indoors dodging the heavy rain and hailstones like marbles. Still it's good for the garden, although even that seems to have gone back into hibernation, going through a fallow period with not a lot happening. In an unusually fine half hour today I wandered around and took some pics to show you.
The black widow geranium or Geranium phaeum is one of my favourites, as it's the first cranesbill of the year and self-seeds tastefully, always finding plants that complement its understated beauty. 
This splendid looking Camellia williamsii 'Donation' has never looked so good before, she's a blaze of blooms and colour right now.

Camellia 'Black Lacel' is a new addition in the front garden and seems to like her shady spot.
The walled bellflower Campanula poscharskyana is another volunteer that's almost a nuisance. However, she's such a pretty little thing that I can't bear to pull her up. 

The hellebores are in full swing and associate really well with the tail  end of the hyacinths...
...which in previous years have been planted out after first flowering indoors. The hazy figure of the bruised and battered garden gnome was made by Felix many years ago. I must confess I'm not a gnome lover, although I would never knowingly harm one. However, he's had many knocks over the years, being accidentally dropped by successive well-meaning but clumsy children. I've become quite sentimental about him as he magically moves around the garden for the grandkids to find.
Neither am I a lover of the elephantine daffodils that are planted in many gardens, although I do love them inside during the cold January and February days. But outdoors I much prefer any of the smaller narcissi, like these delicate little TΓͺte Γ  TΓͺtes.
The last of the crocuses add a splash of much-needed colour. The birds have attacked all the others leaving them looking limp and defeated.
Django looking handsome under this scarlet amaryllis, nice contrast to his monotone palette πŸ˜‰
Wanted to show you this fossilised centre of one of last year's blooms on our Magnolia grandiflora. It was such a poor summer that by the time most of the buds had formed, the weather was too cold for them to open and the petals just rotted and fell off leaving this structure in the centre. I love the different textures - there must be a sweater design in there somewhere!
Work in progress
Another thing that's been happening in the past few days is that we've been having the French doors in the music room replaced. The previous doors were only single-glazed to half way down, but now we're getting the benefit of the new full-length, double-glazed doors, feeling warm and cosy whilst having a much better view of the garden.
Nearly done, almost there except for a couple of bolts
The cut down old doors
The top half of the original doors are a real bonus too. Cut down, they'll be great to use as frames for a couple of outdoor quadriptyches (now all we have to do is make them!). Watch this space..
Izzi's teeshirt
Ava's teeshirt
lyra's tiedyed teeshirt
And finally, just wanted to tell you about something I've had a lot of fun doing with the grandkids - ie I've rediscovered tie-dyeing. It's really interesting how a few elastic bands and some colourful dye can transform boring white teeshirts into unique designs.  I'm quite tempted to do one for myself! πŸ˜€

Thanks for dropping by x