Sunday, 31 December 2017

Progress (of a sort), priorities and piecing

As another calendar goes in the recycle pile and we advance the numbering system by one digit.

23 hours after Stuart phoned to tell us Worcester Bosch were supplying a new heat exchanger under warranty we took delivery of a large heavy box.  We still have no central heating and do not expect the boiler to be fixed before 8th January due to holidays, but it is progress to know what is wrong, to have the parts, and to believe that Stuart will be back as soon as he can.

The lack of heating is far from ideal but our situation could be so, so much worse.  I mentioned that a neighbour's mum had died unexpectedly on the Friday before Christmas.  Exactly one week later on the Friday between the two holidays, this same lady lost her brother.  He had been critically and terminally ill for some time and we wonder if the loss of his Mum was the final straw for him.  Our neighbour is stoical - and obviously stressed; it puts a few cold radiators firmly into perspective . . .

We've had the quietest, dullest Christmas anywhere on blog-land and we are quite happy with that!  Obviously the boiler worries put a bit of a damper on things but we have not been unhappy, and Daisy has not been without limitless quantities of attention, love, games and warm blankies.

Yay, the sun is out today, never fail to appreciate the warmth from solar gain!

Management has hunkered down in his study with the door closed and a little fan heater keeping the room warm enough.  I have drifted between the sitting room and sewing room having a tremendous time playing with fabric.  I said I was thinking of another Trip Around the World quilt, there may have been a photo of flowery fabric?

Flowers are going to have to wait 😀   I was overcome with a need for bright and cheerful and maybe a little silly, and a desire for quilts made especially for Bill.  TATW is definitely my current favourite quilt design and now I have my head around (my version of) the technique, it is a pattern which is proving remarkably quick to put together.  Seeing as Bill has two long sofas/beds, it makes sense to make two quilts - at the same time.

The process so far is:

Select fabric, some of which has been in the stash for a VERY long time!  The red peppers didn't make the cut, and were replaced by a red.

Press it all and cut lots of 4" strips

An entire day taken up with trying to decide on the order

And then piecing, and pressing, and more piecing; really lovely way to spend a few days!

By the close of business on 31st December, half of Top One was put together and, accompanied by the start of a box set binge-watch of The Big Bang Theory all the way from episode one, I've got the strip sets together for the other half, plus nearly all the piecing for Top Two.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Tales of the Unexpected

After taking a few days leave of absence, it was wonderful yesterday to find that my Guardian Angel came back from wherever she's been and made a huge contribution to sorting out the disruption in the Force which has marred our Christmas holidays.

Unexpected #1:   A phone call which Management made on Wednesday was returned, and at lunchtime a lovely chap arrived to investigate our lack of heating.  Stuart is a thoroughly decent man (and it helps that he's as mad into motorbikes as Management) and it didn't take him long to diagnose a split heat exchanger in the boiler.  He also found all sorts of crap and crud in the boiler that should not be there which confirmed Andrew has not been servicing it properly .... but we'd already worked that out.

What was staggering is that Stuart (who is definitely now our new plumber) left at 2.00pm with promises to phone Worcester Bosch because the boiler has a ten year warranty - at 2.25pm he phoned to say "I've been in touch, there's a new part on its way which should be with you tomorrow or Saturday, let me know when it arrives and I will come as soon as I can to fix it".

Unexpected #2:   Once we'd got over the shock of actually making some progress in restoring heating to the house I toddled off to the sewing machine where something Timey-Wimey in the manner of the Tenth (and best ever) Doctor*  happened.  Despite being convinced that Trip Around the World quilts take absolutely forever to piece I had all the major sections of this top finished before supper.

The jury is still considering which layout to settle upon which is why I have not yet sewn the whole thing together, but I have had so much fun that I am off to consider fabrics for another one! 

*  Sorry, will brook no argument on this one.  David Tennant rules :)

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

A bit of Christmas quilting

There has been more fabric-fettling in the last couple of months than you might think from the lack of blog posts on the subject.  I'll address that - eventually!

However, early in December I had an uncharacteristic fit of Christmas-itis and decided I wanted to make bunting.  Although not something I had ever tried before it took very little time and effort and I was pleased with the results which look quite cute hanging up in Bill

So much so that I made some more . . .

But it was during the unexpected free time when I came home from Bellingham that I got a mad-head on and made some strips sets from my lovely collection of batik fabric.

Working in fairly rubbish light I made some mistakes which had to be unpicked and different fabric selected, so when Management came home he decided to sort the sewing room illumination problem once and for all, and ordered me some LED lightbulbs.  Holy-cr*p-on-a-cracker as Penny would say - what an amazing difference; I can finally see true colours in the evening, thank you sweetie 😀

I didn't have much of a plan when sewing the strips, maybe they were vaguely going to become cushion covers, dining mats, another dog blanket? but the green-ish set and the lilac-ish set clearly wanted to get together and I found myself thinking about a Trip Around the World.   The only TATW I ever made was a quick present for a friend about a bazillion years ago ... five inch squares, just four fabrics, easy peasy.

This one has 14 fabrics and two inch squares - madness!

But so far it has been hugely enjoyable, I am half way through piecing the strip sets into blocks although I cannot decide how I will finally set them.

These two pictures are very bad Photoshop mock-ups and the final quilt might, or might not, resemble either option.

On the house front, it's still bloody cold.  The boiler seems to have completely died and this really is not the right time of year to get a plumber to come and look at it: ruddy holidays - another reason not to like Christmas!  The chap we have used for years is totally out of his depth and admits he doesn't know what to do.  The first company Management was able to speak to this morning doesn't go back to work until 8th January ....

It is what it is - getting stressed/pissed off/angry/upset will do absolutely nothing to speed up a solution.  We have heat from the lovely wood-burner which thankfully spreads through about half of the house.  We have hot water from the immersion.  There is no point worrying what next month's electric bill might be ... but for the first time almost ever, I wish it was raining: then it might be a tad warmer!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Kate Sutcliffe, Artist

I have been spoilt rotten and am not sure I deserve it.

A couple of weeks ago a package arrived, and the return address on the back informed me it had come from Susan in Australia.  Naughty girl - she knows we don't do presents any more, but Susan has such a kind heart that I wasn't really surprised.  I did notice that it had been posted in the UK, and didn't have "England" as part of the address but as half her family are in this country I reckoned she had lots of stuff shipped in one consignment and then redirected.

Thought I was so bloomin' clever working that out, but never in a million years did it occur to me that this package was the product of some incredible foresight and forward planning not just from Susan, but also from the lovely Kate.   I met Kate online a couple of years ago when she blogged gently but beautifully as Hawthorn Spellweaver but now everyone can see what an incredible artist she is. 

There were a couple of tears when I unwrapped this.  Cannot express how absolutely blown away I am.

Bearing in mind Kate hasn't met Daisy but was working from photographs it is stunning how she has captured her personality, particularly the eyes which are so very, very difficult.

What I can now admit is that something on my "List" for 2018 was to have a bimble down to Lancashire to meet with Kate and commission a painting of Daisy as a present for Management ...

From the cutting room floor:

Monday, 25 December 2017

A wet Bank Holiday Monday

For those who celebrate - 🎄Happy Christmas🎄

For the rest of us, it's a wet bank Holiday Monday and the sooner this is all over and life returns to normal, the better.  I am medicating via caffeine 😕  as Daisy had me up three times in the night, twice to eat grass and once to be sick.  This morning, typically, she is perfectly fine, bless her 🤬

(a chilly morning in April)

Lack of sleep means I don't have quite the reserves to cope with this week's "little challenge".  A month ago the central heating boiler was playing up and our regular plumber had no flippin' clue as to what was wrong, however changing a gas sensor as part of the annual service seemed to fix things.  On Saturday the problem returned, accompanied by very little gas pressure on the cooker so we called Northern Gas Networks - who were brilliant and someone arrived within a couple of hours, pronounced the system safe and reckoned we had low gas pressure due to a faulty valve.  Another engineer arrived Sunday afternoon (Christmas Eve for goodness sake, I hope they were paying him a lot of overtime), decided he couldn't fix the valve but told us who to call and what to say after Christmas to get the meter replaced.

(nearby wildflower meadow in June)

But the boiler co-operated and we were lovely and warm all day Sunday . . . but this morning things are not so good.  Thankfully Management has been acquiring Special Skills over the last few weeks as to how to put the boiler in Engineer Mode to see if it can be coaxed into co-operating, which it does, about 50% of the time.  We have a sneaking suspicion that both the gas supply and the boiler are at fault, the latter being a right pain because we had this boiler fitted less than 10 years ago.

So "Ho, Ho, Ho," what with this and whatever bug we brought back from Bellingham, it is going to be a very quiet 25th December at Bag End.

In the great scheme of things it's no biggie.  We have electricity, half the world does not, we have lots of lovely heating from the wood burner if the boiler wants a vacation day, we have lots of lovely hot water thanks to the immersion, and if the boiler is completely knackered we'll raid an ISA and get it replaced.  It could be so much worse - M. bumped into someone earlier when walking Daisy to learn that the mum of one of our friends here died unexpectedly on Friday morning - massive heart attack.

I think I'll go and get some more logs in . . .

Here's a couple of completely unrelated photos that have sat in the Pending folder for far too long!

Being a home-based worker, Management spent his actual retirement day at Bag End.  I managed to persuade him to go for a walk in the afternoon and this is the very moment [5.00pm on 19th May 2017] when he left the Rat Race!

Thursday, 21 December 2017


Solstice Blessings to all.

The Wheel turns, the old year passes away and a new one opens up before us full of potential and possibilities.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Another change of plan

December has been busy, far busier than we wanted, but as Management is so fond of saying "it is what it is".  We have been busy because every scrap of Christmas planning had to be completed before we went to the StarCamp at Bellingham, because two days after returning Management was scheduled to travel to Derbyshire to collect his mother who had decided she wanted to spend Christmas in Cumbria.

Decorations mostly out (except for the huge tree, just cannot be axxxxxx bothered), food bought or ordered ready for collection, house cleaned to within an inch of its life including carpets (which did not impress Daisy).

And massive cleaning outside as Management has been on a heroic mission to power wash all the slippery paths and paving slabs.

Yesterday morning we were in the middle of sorting bedding, vacuuming, making a final shopping list for fresh stuff when I asked M. if his head hurt as much as mine . . .  and he asked if my throat was also coated in sandpaper . . . and we both agreed we were sniffing and sneezing and aching and - the rest is obvious.  Somewhere between here and Bellingham we've picked up an unpleasant little bug.  Debating, cogitating, soul-searching over a large latte, we both knew what needed to be done but it was Management who made the phone call to his mother explaining we were both sick and that the weather forecast was pants which meant there were unlikely to be pretty views of distant hills.  As she doesn't walk far any more, with low cloud and rain forecast from now until New Year, she wasn't going to see much.

Today, after a decent sleep, we both know it was the right decision to make.  M-I-L will spend Christmas, as usual, with Management's sisters and their families, all over whom live within ten minutes of each other, rather than the four-hours-plus journey to Cumbria, gruelling for an octogenarian.  To be brutally honest, we will spend a relaxing and quiet few days just resting up and we're looking forward to it.

2017 has been a turbulent year with my less than perfect health and M's retirement.  We are looking forward to moving on in 2018.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Sometimes, things do not go to plan

So we had A Plan.  But then, Management and I usually have A Plan however nearly ten years at Bag End has taught us that P-L-A-N is a four letter word which really means "an outline intention of how things might be, but don't bank on it!"

The Plan was for me to tow our caravan to the Club site at Bellingham on Wednesday (last week), with Management following in his car because we cannot fit two adults, a large dog and all the telescope boxes in one vehicle!  We were booked in for an astronomy event which was scheduled to coincide with a dark moon and the Geminids meteor shower.  Decent journey with so little traffic I kept wondering if I had driven into an episode of some zombie apocalypse programme.  No-one else on the lovely B6318 so I was able to slow right down and have a long look at the 'Sycamore gap"  (extreme left of the dashcam shot).

Unusually, up to this point our Plan was working and despite it being bitterly cold (and the caravan heating taking forever to get going due to poor electric supply at the site, thankfully nothing wrong with Rosie the Rimini), we all settled down Wednesday night knowing that the weather forecast was for things to improve.  This was about the point the wheels came off.

It rained.  LOTS.
It was windy.  LOTS.
Despite being secure and level the caravan rocked and rolled about.  LOTS.
As it was pitch dark neither of us could see who was stomping up and down inside the caravan all night.  It wasn't me, it wasn't Management, it definitely was not Daisy who had settled herself on top of my legs ON A SINGLE BED and wasn't moving (clearly neither was I).

Wasn't sleeping either.
Neither was Management.

The footsteps? I reckon it was the Bellingham Ghost, probably a murdered Border Reiver from some long-forgotten battle.   M. says it was just the wind ....

By Thursday morning sleep deprivation meant no-one was feeling good about the planned weekend.  Long story short, we took all the telescope stuff out of my car, settled Daisy on the back seats, and I went home.  Leaving Management behind.

I returned to the site early on Sunday morning, helped Management finish packing up the caravan, hitched her up and towed home.  We'll leave out the details of my having the WORST towing experience of my life, bad enough that by the time I got home I was seriously considering if I would ever tow the caravan again.  The jury is still out ....

Sounds like a wrecked weekend, doesn't it?  On the contrary, both Management and I had a brilliant time!  Daisy and I got three nights at home with a couple of days of uninterrupted pottering, sewing and relaxing.  Management caught up with friends he hasn't seen since Kielder, got to do some proper astronomy, and was able to keep 'stargazing hours' (going to bed at 3.00am) without me bitching about not being able to get to sleep at a decent time (10.00pm!)

Funny how things work out?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Sunbathing dog

(New 2017 blog post published in December 2019)

When it comes to soaking up solar rays, Daisy has special skills, very very special skills.

Monday, 11 December 2017

As I don't ~have~ to go out today

I won't.  The prospect of staying at home and messing with fabric is far more attractive than defrosting the car.  As we've not had rain or snow there is, thankfully, very little ice around but minus four is still bloomin' freezing!

Both Management and I have walked Daisy today, and played with her on the lawn.  So that's two walks, three games of ball and some mad chasing up and down the hall inside - about time she settled down for a snooze!

Blurry picture because the car was a little iced up inside as well as out!