Thursday, 28 January 2016


I was asked to write about the recent floods.  Yeah, I thought, easy-peasey-lemon-squeezy - until I sat down at the keyboard. Where on earth to start - this is such a big complex issue.

I could write about the waste of taxpayer money which is the Environment Agency.  “Not fit for purpose” was one of the draft titles of this post.  Ask anyone around here with the remotest connection to land about dredging rivers and then stand back.  Until 20 (or so) years ago when the EA went along with the EU and put a stop to it, farmers were left to manage rivers the way their families had done for generations, gently dredging and keeping channels open and we had very few of the current problems.  Enter the EA who are more interested in spending millions protecting freshwater mussels in Ennerdale than keeping vital river channels clear and since 2009 we have had two “once in a 100 years” floods (assuming you lump 2015 and 2016 together).  No dears, not every 100 years, that is once every six years and people cannot rebuild their lives, homes and businesses that often.  At the Adam Smith Institute I found the simplest and clearest explanation of the dredging problem. You don't have to have a brain the size of Sheldon Cooper to understand this, but clearly someone, somewhere in government who lives miles from the nearest watercourse just doesn't "get it".

I thought about having a rant about United Utilities.  I mean, come on guys - predicting heavy rainfall any time between October and March is not rocket science - it is situation normal in Cumbria so why the hell can’t you take the water level in the Thirlmere reservoir down to it’s summer level and that way control at least some of the water pouring through Keswick, and subsequently screwing things up for Cockermouth.

I could belly-ache for hours about MPs and the lack of political will to do anything.  Our elected members cannot solve the really big problems which matter to them so no-one here will hold their breath expecting Westminster to come up with workable solutions for our future.  To a London-centric government it seems that Cumbria (or rather the Lake District, and our county is so, so much more) is just somewhere pretty you might pop off to for a weekend in the summer.

Politics is a numbers game, and as one of the least densely populated parts of the country (which is to be honest, how we like it, and one of the area’s major attractions), we just don’t have the weight of numbers or rather the quantity of voters.  Carlisle, York, Leeds, Kendal and everywhere else that has been damaged and destroyed have more people = more votes and a louder voice.  But out in the countryside we are, frankly, at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to being helped.  Just this week Glenridding has flooded AGAIN.  That's four times water has poured through homes and businesses since 4th December.  Case closed, M'lord.

I cannot resist a general grumble about the media who buggered off to the next soundbite as soon as the wind turned.  If only the damage and devastation left in the wake of the storms could be cleared up as quickly as a camera crew can pack up their equipment and head off to the nearest coffee shop.  I was in Keswick a few days ago,  six weeks after Storm Desmond, and in front gardens and on roadsides there are still HUGE piles of ruined furniture, skips full of plaster; some places still look like a war zone but that's not on telly.  Neither is Cockermouth which time and time again strives to rebuild but half of our shops on Main Street are closed.  These 'unique, independent businesses' which commentators are so keen to mention are just individuals or families struggling like b*ggery to keep going.  They are not national chains with contingency funds for disasters.

This picture is from The Guardian.  I walked down this road and past this rubbish pile but did not have a camera with me at the time (and always forget that the phone has . . . bla bla bla)

But I do not think I can write usefully about any of those things because I don’t have solid facts, hard evidence and science to back it up, I just live here and that doesn't count when it comes to "the powers that be".  There's a Huffington Post piece which touches upon some of the issues but really just scratches the surface, which is all I am doing, and that's thoroughly depressing.

I thought instead I would write about how it personally affects us.  How it affects us going about our daily lives - how damaged roads restrict our ability to travel, how closed shops take away our consumer choice, how something as apparently distant from me as the loss of Pooley Bridge still brings me to tears every time I think about it (the very first time M. and I came to the Lake District together we stayed just outside the village and had a wonderful holiday not realising then that we were laying the foundations for the life we have now).

But you know, I can't do it, not properly.  Because it just hurts too damn much.  I am rarely lost for words but this time I cannot articulate it properly, I cannot share how I really feel, how much this winter is rocking at our very foundations as our vulnerability and the frailty of life in this part of the world is brought into stark focus.

I am generally a tough bugger whose glass is more than half full with an irritatingly cheerful view on most things, but if I feel this bad then how many other people are quietly, invisibly suffering?

What is the eventual cost of flooding when you throw in depression, time off work, NHS prescriptions?

The law firm, Simpson Millar, have set up a Floodwatch website summarising the flood damage since November last year.  It’s fascinating, sobering, and possibly even under-estimates the true ‘cost’ of the latest floods.  I do hope they continue to maintain it, add 2016 data as it becomes available, and extend its scope where possible.

* I was asked to write this post in order to promote to promote these issues.  I'm happy to do so; the more the scale of this problem is publicised the better. The rants and opinions about everything else are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Happy day :-} Patchwork progress

During the fairly quiet week of recovering from concussion I managed quite a few sessions in the sewing room.  Putting large 9-patch blocks together requires minimal skill and marginal concentration so much progress was made on what has turned into a huge project, and this afternoon the final window panel was completed.

There has been much messing around trying to keep identical fabrics away from each other.  As you can see, Daisy was absolutely no assistance whatsoever.

All that lovely rainbowy-ness (is that a word, well guess it is now), much needed colour at this time of year.

A combination of clothes pegs and masking tape is temporarily holding the panels up so I can enjoy the effect.

I really didn't feel like climbing in the shower so for now this is the best available view of the bathroom panel :-}

And in other news (unbelievably) on Monday, when I wasn't gainfully employed doing laundry, housework and Daisy-wrangling, I used the longarm machine.  Ta Da.  Fanfare.  Drumroll.  Dancing around in the style of Jeremy Vine on Strictly . . .

I took Sue's suggestion to use one of the 'rejected' quilt tops and after an hour or so of messing around with tension and breaking thread quilted 75% of it very successfully. Which was when I realised that for the first time in the 16 years I have been longarm quilting I shorted myself on the backing.  D'uh!  The top really wasn't worth the effort of unpinning, adding more backing and repinning, so I played freehand for the rest of the available material.

And realised something, the idea of which has been developing for years but never acted upon - I don't like freehand feathers.  Shock.  Horror.  Sacrilege.  "But everyone does feathers on quilts" .... which is probably why, despite hugely admiring some of the skilled artistic work that is displayed on Pinterest and elsewhere, I am fed up to the back teeth of freehand feathers on quilts.

So I spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour trying to remember all the floral and leaf designs I used to stitch.

I want/need a bit more practice before I load the caravan panels, but Happy Day, progress indeed!!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Whilst the storm rages outside

Gosh, it is 10 days since I looked at 'Bag End'.  No, I haven't fallen down a deep hole but I have to confess that my "little bump on the head" took rather more out of me than I expected.  Whilst I have not exactly been ill for the last week I certainly have been taking it very easy - a bit like recuperating from flu or a tummy upset.

So whilst the latest revolting storm rages outside, I am going to spend today hunkered down inside doing 'catch up' stuff.  There's been quite a bit going on here;  although I haven't felt like blogging (and there were even a couple of days when I did not log into my email, which is unheard of) there has been gardening, and sewing, and much relaxing and pootering.

Daisy has had a brief walk around the block this morning, which she did not particularly enjoy.  We were both knocked back by a gust of more than 30mph on the footpath immediately behind the house, so goodness knows what it is like on the fells. 

Water is already pouring out of the lonning and gushing down the road, and my little 'emergency culvert' in the Coppice is channeling excess water into the main drain.

The log baskets are full, supper has been taken out of the freezer and is quietly defrosting.  I am going to make another coffee, empty the washing machine and make a start on a small backlog of blog posts which will be backdated to when they would have appeared if I was on top of things . . .

And occasionally I will look at the huge pieces of glass in our windows and tell myself that they are strong enough to withstand the wind :- {

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

An unexpected day in the garden

Despite my 'bump on the head' LP is still keen to get on when the weather allows, so today he came back to concrete in the base for our next shed, fashion brackets to help support posts (which eventually will support a sort of open roof) and fix loads of brackets onto the fence.  Sadly we won't be using Patersons any more, for months they have had 'personnel issues' (the son who was meant to be taking over the business has walked out) and the chap they have who turns up every now and again to help with installations just does not work to the same standard.  We have had to reattach and repair nearly every part of the work that was done in September 2014.

In need of fresh air and a gentle bit of bimbling, I had a super time in the Coppice.  Not only did it do me a great deal of good to be outside pottering amongst plants but it was HUGELY encouraging and motivating to see that My.Cunning.Plan was actually working and that the whole area could be tidied of winter detritus in less than 3 hours.  I don't think anyone really believes me (and sometimes I do not even believe myself) when I claim that, once under control, this will be a fairly low maintenance garden.  However, the Coppice is roughly the size of many people's back gardens.  If I can get it straight in one afternoon then that's got to be a good thing?

Daisy seemed happy to be pottering with me too :-}

Monday, 18 January 2016

Down by the river

No-one was surprised when our bridge was closed after Storm Desmond.  I chatted to the engineer the day that decision was made and he told me "We don't want to close it, we really do know how much inconvenience it causes. We don't think there is a big problem BUT we dare NOT close it".  Ah, the joys of litigation, insurance, health & safety and the 21st century . . .   And every time I went anywhere I really tried not to resent the extra time, the additional miles, the fact that I was suddenly using twice the amount of petrol as usual.  Our home was not wrecked, we can purchase affordable insurance, bla bla bla, and I reminded myself if we had purchased a house in a little village somewhere further from town then those additional miles would be part of my daily drive.  But the reason we loved Bag End (apart from the unbeatable view) is the proximity to the A66 and the fact that we don't have to drive miles of country roads to get anywhere, unless we want to.

Happy day on 7th January when the divers arrived to do their first inspection.  Of course, that coincided with Daisy "needing" another walk so I went down to the bridge for a chat to find out what was going on.  The same guys as last time, so pleasant and helpful and prepared to explain what they were doing.

The verdict was that they thought the bridge was OK, but the water was flowing too fast for the divers to be able to get out of that cage and complete the inspection.  They would come back in a week or so when, hopefully, the water had slowed down.  Which they did, on Friday, but it took until suppertime on Saturday for a crew of Highways vehicles to come and move all the shillies and barriers.  Much watching through binoculars in the dark (hence no photos) and texting between myself and a neighbour who has a different view to decide what was going on!

Naturally, on Sunday morning Daisy and I had to walk down to the river to check out what used to be one of our favourite walks. I confess it was bliss to be able to give Little Miss Perfect an hour's decent walk without having first having to drive somewhere and she was clearly very pleased to be able to run around without having first been subjected to the cruel and inhuman treatment which is a car journey :-}  Although Madam is better in the Subaru than my old Honda, Daisy is never going to love travelling the way Ollie did.

There used to be a stile here.  See my little red line?  That is (roughly) where the river bank used to be.  Fortunately there is a gate a little further up the hedge.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Frosty sunrise

Artists, poets and dreamers wax lyrical about the beauty of a glorious sunset but I'll take the dawning of a new day anytime.  Even if it is seriously below freezing and I haven't had coffee yet :-}

Saturday, 16 January 2016

It was all going so terribly well

We woke on Thursday morning not to the usual rain and cloud, but with a view of snow, snow and more snow.  The fells were at their most beautiful and as Daisy needed a longer walk today there was no question about what to do - jump in the car and head to Keswick for a quick bimble up Latrigg.

The reason Daisy needed a good outing is because, in the spirit of Carpe Diem, it was all arranged for me to go away and have a short holiday, a little 'me' time consisting of three nights in London, much bimbling around the British Museum, the Wallace Collection, revisiting old haunts around Covent Garden and meeting up with a couple of my oldest and dearest friends, neither of whom I have seen for years and years.   Whilst I was AWOL Management wouldn't be taking long fell walks so I used the glorious weather to take an opportunity for both Daisy and I to get a good walk.

And what a good walk it was, the pictures are self-explanatory.

After the December storms I expected more damage, most of the paths were in surprisingly good condition

A great deal of stopping just to enjoy the wonderful views

It may be time for a new anemometer.  This unit is nearly 15 years old and whilst it was damn cold at the summit, I do not believe it was minus 51 as the device claimed.

It was, however, still cold enough that Daisy needed additional ear protection.  An off-label use for a Buff but something more effective is on the way . . .

And as I said when we started, it was all going so terribly well.  Before I left home Management had said "have a good one, don't slip over" and I used the micro-spikes in the snow and had no problems at all.  Coming back through the woods I'd removed the spikes and was keeping a close eye on where I placed my feet - it was wet and muddy.  I have absolutely no idea what happened next, but I found myself laying in a puddle of dirt and water with mud all over my hat and face, and over much of the rest of me as well.

The afternoon was spent feeling complete rubbish; despite a soak in the bath every joint on my left-hand side hurt like hell but more worrying was the headache, nausea, dizziness and blurry eyes.   Eventually we reached the unavoidable conclusion that I hit my head in the fall and had mild concussion.

It was all going so terribly well until London had to be cancelled.
The weekend was very quiet . . . .

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Carpe Diem

I was so tempted to call this post Carpe Jugulum . . . but it has nothing to do with Terry Pratchett, much as I like his books.  So moving swiftly on . . .

I have been pondering death.   I am not being morbid, I am not depressed and nothing awful has happened, but together with birth and taxation it makes an unavoidable triumvirate which seems to remain the one final taboo.  These days people appear to be more comfortable talking about defecation than death but neither can be avoided.

I am 55 and Management recently celebrated his mumble-zero birthday.  Neither of us is as fit and robustly healthy as we used to be and all around we see family, friends and acquaintances falling ill or passing away.  Whilst I would like to think/pretend that I am super-human and immortal, I am not.  The uncomfortable truth is that I now have fewer years ahead of me than lie behind.  Another uncomfortable truth is that none of us know how much longer we have as fit, active and healthy individuals.  My friend Ali died in December 2012, well before her 50th birthday.  In January 2014 we said goodbye to our friend Bert who went from "poorly" to "goodbye" in less than four months.  There are many others, some much closer to home.

(sunrise has nothing to do with the preceding or following paragraphs, I just like the picture)

Last year I had a horrible attack of gastritis.  Over a Bank Holiday weekend when there was no chance of a doctor's appointment I do not recommend asking Dr Google about "severe pain in upper back after eating".  In the dark sleepless hours when common-sense goes right out of the window and we all think the things we don't usually admit to, I asked myself "OK, if this is something really nasty, what do I want to do whilst I still can".

The answers came relatively easily and simply.  Here they are, my dreams laid bare.

1.  Stop procrastinating and climb all the Lake District fells and visit all the tarns
Granted, the horrendous flooding and damage last year could make access a mite tricky in places, but I have a long list to work through and the ground might have dried up by the time I get to some of the areas which are currently saturated.

2.  Use my wonderful fabric stash - stop saving material "for best" or for "that perfect project in the future"
It has taken a long while (decades ....) to realise why I have been saving much loved fabric and not daring to use it.  As a child I was in deep doo-doo's if I messed stuff up or wasted anything.  It takes a very, very long time to grow out of the dread of impending wrath and doom which might ensue if I screw up.

3.  Take the caravan to the all the places in England I want to visit but never have
A year ago I owned up to this
" ...occasionally I would love to run away, just with Daisy, for a couple of days of completely selfish peace and quiet. The campervan was meant to facilitate that need and then later enable trips to Scotland, and also to provide 'bring your own' dog-friendly accommodation so I could go and stay with friends ..." 

The interminable rain of October, November and December would have slowed down even the most dedicated caravanner, but it is sad that I've only had the van away once since buying her.

Continuing to give Daisy the very best life we possibly can goes without saying and the garden we have created here is a constant source of joy and will continue to develop, I cannot imagine not growing and nurturing plants, but but do you notice a few omissions?  There is no mention of the ironing basket or sparkling bathrooms?  Vacuuming the carpet or clearing my desk don't get a look in either.

(photo thanks to Jill)

This is not about having a "Bucket List", or as I read recently a f*ck-it list which is crude but mildly amusing, this is about a change in attitude.  I have spent my whole life governed by the work ethic of 'not being allowed to play until all the jobs are done'.  Now it is time to kick back a little (. . . or a lot).  It is time to ease up, smell the roses, relax. There is no chance of me turning into a stationery couch potato but I am definitely ready to take the edge off a little.

Management plans to retire in the next couple of years and thankfully, shares my feelings about doing things now, whilst we are able.  Having talked about this recently he now has given himself 'permission' to pop down to his workshop far more frequently, even if it is only just for an hour or so after work, to make progress on the motorbikes he is building.  He's already feeling the benefit.

*    *    *    *    *

I've been preparing this post for a few days, and was close to publishing on Monday when M. came into the study to tell me the morning's news - David Bowie had died. 
His music was the soundtrack to my teens, his ever-evolving persona an enigma that none of us could quite get our heads around, let alone solve. The passing of famous folk seldom causes much of a ripple in my little world, but this . . . well this just confirms I am right in my thinking.  
Reading some of the many euologies I came across an interview from 2007 during which Bowie supposedly said "as you get older you become the person you always should have been", and in 2002 he told the BBC "age doesn't bother me, it's the lack of years left that weighs far heavier".
Damn it, is there no end to the man's genius?

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Not a quilt until it is quilted

I am not going to calculate exactly how long it is since I used my gorgeous APQS longarm machine; cannot turn the clock back so no point in making myself feel even even worse than I already do.  Trouble is, the longer I leave it the harder it is (mentally) to get back on the horse, so-to-speak.  Once upon a time I had absolutely no fear about quilting my tops and generally, I did a damn good job of finishing them.  But so much time has elapsed and I have got far too 'rusty' and out of practice; now I am hesitant, and nervous, and I've lost a lot of the self-confidence I used to have about my capabilities behind a longarm machine.

But I also have quilt tops waiting to be finished, and I generally HATE having UFOs laying around.  Unfortunately, because I am (mostly) a neat and tidy soul all the UFOs are neatly bagged up with their backing and binding fabric.  And neatly bagged up means put away, and put away means I can far too easily forget about them.

Whilst thinking about this (First World) problem I discovered that another Jayne, a quilting buddy in America, was in exactly the same situation.  We have agreed to support each other through the year to get our backlog turned into quilts.  Which is why I spent a couple of hours this morning hanging all the 'culprits' for a quick photo session and what an interesting experience that was.  I found that I no longer need to quilt about half of them.  In some cases it would appear that doing the piecing was enough, I no longer really love the resulting top, and I know from experience if I do not love a pieced top before it is quilted, I am unlikely to like it a whole lot more after hours of quilting.

These tops I still really like and want to see as finished quilts.

You've seen this before, and with a strangely familiar post title :-}  But now these scraps have a nice border and are destined to be a decent little lap quilt. 

The fabrics hanging up will (probably) be used for borders similar to those on the blue quilt.

This is one I really do not want to make a mess of. I did not piece it;  such a generous birthday present from dear J. in St Louis

This has been hanging around for ages, I think it will end up as a backing

Another backing:

Tastes and needs change so nothing will be thrown away but for now some pieces will be folded up, put away and forgotten about.

Strangely, I cannot find this anywhere which in and of itself is not really a worry - it cannot have gone far.  What is more worrying is the idea that if I can misplace a huge pieced backing, what else is lurking in a box or basket somewhere?