Thursday, 28 July 2016


If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that last night I said goodbye to Hero.
He had been becoming increasingly unwell over the past few months, with a wide range of symptoms which could probably be summed up as "old age".

He could no longer get in and out of his basket, so was visibly relieved when I bought a rug for the front room.  He spent his last week on it... when he was not pacing the floor in agitation, scratching at the door to get out at all times of day and night.  Once outside, he would stagger into hidden corners of the garden and refuse to come back indoors.  He had stopped eating and was chewing at his water dish.  Then there was the incontinence...

The vet said he had lost 3 kilos in the past few weeks and although he could give him antibiotics and painkillers, really it was just putting off the inevitable.  The clincher was the simple fact that he was miserable.  He was always his master's dog and I know he still looked for FL every time the door opened.  On his last night, he came all the way into the bedroom, searching:  he was not allowed in there, so this was very unusual behaviour.  When I got up, he was lying outside the bedroom door, on guard.

So in many ways it was an easy decision to make:  I am sure he was telling me it was time to go.

There are many funny stories to tell about FL and his dog.  The time Hero took off across the golf course in pursuit of a deer, still attached to FL's golf cart?  Classic.

I remember when FL first "discussed" getting a dog.  We had not yet finally decided that I would come to live with him, but he told me he was going to the Rescue Centre to get "us" a dog.  He reported back that it was a choice between an excitable German Shepherd puppy with anxiety issues, or an older quieter Collie.  I was very clear:  "Please get the Collie.  Let's call him Julius!"  So FL got the mad puppy and called him Hero.

The end of an era.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Undying: A Love Story

Michel Faber has published a book of poetry Undying:  A Love Story, about the death of his beloved wife Eva Youren, from multiple myeloma.

The above is a link to the Guardian review / interview which provoked my twitching finger to buy two copies by mistake.

Would you like to receive my spare copy?
I considered donating it to the hospice or the local library, but it feels too intimate a work to throw out into the world to perhaps gather dust, instead of being read by someone who values what it has to say on the subjects of myeloma, life, death and the aftermath.

It can be hard reading.
It is very real.
It is also funny, sad, tender and beautiful.

I never met Eva Youren, but she wrote to me a few times in 2012, opening a short correspondence on myeloma, writing and fashion:  the interests we had in common.

There is a poem in the book which reminds me strongly of her emails:  concerning the frustrations her husband felt when trying to shop for her, to find a dress that suited her style and her changing body, in the wake of chemo treatments.
When she wrote to me, I was almost certain she wanted me to sew for her, but I was too overwhelmed by my own situation to volunteer and she did not ask outright.

I did not know that she had died until I noticed that her husband was coming to Aberdeen to  talk about his latest book... and I found out that he would be coming alone.
He wrote a poem about travelling through Inverurie (my local town) that day.  It is in the book.
I did not attend his talk - FL was in a great deal of pain and I was sewing a dress.
Parallel lives.

If you would like to receive my spare copy of Undying, please leave a comment below or email me at the address in my profile (click through from "About Me").

I will draw one name out of the hat on 31 July 2016 .

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Tour de Tangle

Ah, the plans I had for Tour de Fleece!

If you don't know, this is an annual spinning challenge which runs at the same time as the Tour de France.  Spinners join teams and compete against each other in various categories.  I am not quite ready to join a team, but I was confident that I would be able to do some spinning every day, and emerge from the race with a skein of knittable yarn.

However, it took me some time to get my spinning wheel up and running again.  Yes, it probably is just like riding a bike... but I have never learned to do that, so it is a poor analogy!

Now everything has been oiled and my tensions tweaked to get me back on the road, but it was quite a struggle.

I got going with my lovely black welsh / silk mix from Woolfest, but there were a few false starts.  I had filled half a bobbin with singles when my thread broke and I could not locate it.
I think I must still have too much tension on the bobbin, because the yarn is embedded into itself.
I tried poking at it to find the end, then pulling at the uppermost threads - all to no avail.  And the result is a mess of tangled ringlets.  Oh dear!

I decided to start afresh with a second bobbin, and so far that is going smoothly.

In knitting news, I am halfway through sock two of my Regia self-patterning pair, and 3/4 way through sock one of my neon Zigzagulars.

I am 50% through my Talisman Shawl, the first pattern in The Shawl Society by Helen Stewart (Curious Handmade).  The first tiny blips of vibrant blue are starting to appear in my Urban Hints cake - gorgeous!

In life news, I am working my way through the To-Do list at the farm:
  • Rugs are on order.
  • Paint has been applied to my bedroom, hallway and assorted woodwork.
  • I am monitoring the drainage situation.
  • I am monitoring the damp stains on both gable walls.
  • I have booked a clearance of the garage: patched canoes, broken furniture and I Don't Know What Else 
  • I have bought a cross-stitch kit to make a picture for the wall
Prairie Schooler cross stitch pattern - I am making the larger one

Hero?  He is trying my patience, with his confusion of day and night.
He knows I will let him out when I am home, and so he has been asking to go out at 2am, 3am, 4am... it is worse than having a baby!
I gave him a real telling off when his anxious 4am door-scraping resulted in him sauntering out onto the grass to lie down and sunbathe!

I am hoping that I can train him to sleep through again.
I tried out some behavioural therapy on him last night:"No!  Go lie down!" and he let me sleep until 5am, by which time the sun was blazing through the curtains.
Night is as bright as day at this time of year in the North.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Soundtrack of Summer

Since returning from my holiday, I have felt increasing clarity of purpose.
I finished my test knit for Susanne Sommer, a brioche and garter stitch shawl.  The pattern should be published this weekend.
This was my first ever brioche project, and it says a lot about the clarity of Susanne's pattern-writing that I was able to complete it so quickly and so successfully.

Did I mention that I love it? :)

It is super-squooshy with drape and bounce, in my favourite elongated triangle shape.

I used my precious skein of Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles, bought from Stephen and Penelope at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, for colour A (in Potluck 7, a OOAK skein of cream and speckles);  Rusty Ferret Wink (in Verdigris, green and sparkley) yarn from my trip to Fluph in Dundee to learn how to brioche for colour B; and Atomic City sock yarn (in the colour Syringia, a lovely lilac), which was a gift from Mary in TN for colour C.

Last weekend, I painted the ugly brown doors in the hallway a clean and simple white.  Of course, now the surrounding paintwork looks yellow and chipped in contrast - no surprise since it must be 30 plus years since it was painted.

I will get to that after I refresh the walls - I am thinking "Caribbean Dawn":  a light watermelon  / coral sort of a colour - warm and welcoming.

While painting, I have been blasting my beats:  Grimes' "Art Angels" is my soundtrack for the Summer of 16.
Welcome to REALiTi!

Call me a heathen, but I have grown to love blasting my music in the car while driving through the empty country roads.
I used to be embarrassed hearing FL pull up outside the house with opera gushing from his open sunroof, but now it is me disturbing the birds!
He would be horrified by my musical preferences.  How strange to be able to express my own simple love of dance music.
This year a sheep festival, next year... who knows?!

There is something summery about my current audiobook too.
I am listening to The Girls by Emma Cline.
I looked at the hardback in a Blackpool bookshop.
It fell open at the sex scene, of course.  Sigh.
But it's not really that sort of book.
It has been criticised / praised for the poetic measure of its language and I am really enjoying the sudden surprising turns of phrase.
Mostly it is a novel about being a confused teenage girl, one long hot summer.  I listen to it while I knit, and while I walk the dog.
It is pretty much the perfect companion on both sunrise and sunset strolls.

There is knitting, of course.
I have three pairs of socks on the go, in various states of progress.
And I am doing 5% a day on my Talisman Shawl.
Next in the queue is the Amulet Shawl, which will be my first adventure in beading - woo hoo!