Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Proof of concept

THIS, is why I adore watching Sewing Bee and hate making clothes. How I wish I had an easy pattern for this sort of trouser. If anyone has one that is incredibly simple and utterly idiot proof please share.

A friend asked about yesterday's photo:

The striped ones in the middle were from a charity shop, at least 10 years ago but possibly more.
The blue on the left [which are my mostest favouritest in the WURLD] were bought in Fort William in July 2005 . . .
The pair on the right are so old I have no recollection when/where I bought them . . .

All three started with elasticated waists which have “died” with old age. I am trying to replace the old waistbands with a stretch jersey to make Yoga Pant waistbands. This afternoon’s “proof of concept” has gone well, for a given value of “well” and I now know I have to take 2½ inches out of the tubular stretch jersey I bought to do the job. Life would often be a lot easier if I was fatter 😎 ðŸ˜ą. I know I said I was putting off this job, but I realised the longer I left it the 'bigger' I would make the problem in my head, and that I just needed to start.

I got a waistband in, and then promptly cut it off. I could have coped with it being a “bit loose” but trying that tube on before I sewed it did not highlight just how much too big it is. Never mind, that is for tomorrow. I needed to have a sit down and promptly fell half-asleep in front of the telly and supper was late, which proves I had done quite enough thinking (and making it up as I went) for one day and my brain was fried. If I had tried to do any more it would not have ended well.

The blue ‘Ocun’ trousers in the bottom photo are the climbing pants which fit beautifully, so you can see how much excess I have to get rid of. If only I had thought to lay them out like this BEFORE I sewed the band on the first time: I had taken measurements, but clearly neither correctly or in sufficient quantity . . . like I said, this is why I adore watching Sewing Bee and struggle making clothes.

I had a suspicion that I would be removing the first waistband attempt so I'd gone to the trouble of completely unpicking & unfolding the old one which meant I had enough spare fabric to ensure what's been cut off will not cause a 'too small/too short' issue, and Version 2.0 is going to be basted in by hand to check the fit before I go anywhere near the overlocker again.

A sewing Solstice

Whilst it may be traditional to leap around outside and enjoy the countryside at the Summer Solstice, yesterday I was not in the mood for that. Sunday had been brilliant in the garden where (incredibly, unusually) I achieved everything I went out to do, and some more besides.

Later than many, but right for here, the runner beans are now in the ground and have a temporary protective shield between them and the direction of our worst weather - experience says that as soon as I put beans in it will turn cold and wet.

All the lawns were cut and we definitely have Midsummer Meadows, lots of orchids and other wildflowers which ought to have a post of their own.

The greenhouse got a good straighten and tidy up ready for a dahlia experiment. I sowed half each of two cheap packets from Wilko and have almost more strong plants growing on than I know what to do with, so as the greenhouse is not producing any food this summer I thought I would experiment by planting some of the dahlias under cover to see what happens . . .

After such a full day I wanted a quiet restful Monday and decided to concentrate on just one thing - the mending/alteration pile. For someone who never makes clothes I always seem to have a lot of garments requiring 'something' and the pile is seldom cleared. Firstly, three pairs of climbing trousers have had their ankle drawstrings removed and a proper hem put in its place.

Next was managing to create zip guards on two outdoor/walking tops which were so uncomfortable on the neck that they could not be worn. I have attempted this before and always ended up unpicking a complete mess, but thankfully the planets aligned today (well, they would, Solstice and all that!)

After that was the turn of an old but much loved white shirt (which was never worn because it got dirty instantly) that had joined some old jeans in a vat of Dylon to become a lovely denim blue colour. It received replacement interfacing on the button stand, new buttons, and the front has been stitched closed to stabilise it. Delighted to have given new life to something which must be 25 - 30 years old.

That leaves just a couple of projects on the table - firstly the creation of a 'front' for the latest addition to Bill's kit & caboodle. I wanted a small, easy to assemble shelter that was not as bulky as a proper camping awning but gave more protection than the giant fishing brolly I had been using.

This Quest shelter is utterly perfect and takes exactly ONE MINUTE to put up (then another five to peg down). If you have ever put up a tent, or sneakily watched the incredibly voyeuristic and well-known campsite entertainment of "Divorce in a Bag" (a.k.a. a couple who don't work well together trying to put up an awning) then you will appreciate that six minutes from start to sitting down with a cuppa is world-beating. But I decided I want to add a front cover so that I can leave stuff in the shelter when I drive off a campsite and not feel everything is totally exposed. I know what I want to do, I sort of know how to do it, I have all the material and fixings . . . so I really have no excuse to get started!

The second is one I really don't want to muck up, so am going to put off starting for as long as possible. Some extremely old and knackered summer trousers, all of which I love and cannot replace, need their extremely old and completely knackered waistbands replacing.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Balnauran of Clava

Each year thousands of people flock to the site of the 1746 Culloden massacre but the attraction of a killing field completely eludes me. Just over a mile away, down a very narrow, twisty little road with occasional passing places, is somewhere far more special.

Normally known as Clava Cairns, what's visible to most visitors are three massive cairns, one ring type and two are passage cairns, and the timeline of the structures is contemporary with Skara Brae and [later] Stonehenge. If you venture into the picnic area the remains of a further circle can be made out, and a ten minute walk down the road leads to what's known as the Milton of Clava and generally called the 4th cairn. Archaeologists believe there would have been a line of seven or eight cairns so it is reasonable to assume that one lies buried under the generous carpark, and the others are hidden under the farmhouse and associated buildings that you walk past between the main site and Milton. In the same way as early archaeologists did incalculable damage when excavating sites, we've done just as much by building homes and farms. But sighing and wishing things were different does not bring back that which has been lost.

I don't know if my pictures can do this site justice, but you can read about it online, Google returns many results. Balnauran is referred to as a "site type" which means that the 50 or so similar structures in north-east Scotland are all called Clava cairns, which confuses most people because this location is generally referred to as Clava (perhaps because Balnauran takes up more room on road signs 😜). I have not yet tracked down the location of all of the others, but I'm working on it. I can feel a 'project' coming on !

For me, some places cannot be accurately described, dissected or written about in significant detail. Balnurnan is one of those sites - it is ancient and magical, the sense of time in the rocks is palpable. It is a cemetery, the final resting place for the loved and revered and it still feels sacred. The day I spent in this amazing place was the highlight of my entire trip.

For those who don't waste as much time firtling around archaeology sites as I do, you might find this link interesting. If you would like more depth than Google provides ("oh look, it's a location from Outlander") then is always a good place to start.

When you are done with marvelling at the building abilities of our ancient ancestors you can walk half a mile down the lane in the opposite direction and see the Nairn (or Culloden) Viaduct, opened 123 years ago and still carrying trains. A sense of scale is impossible from this little photo but the central arch which straddles the River Nairn is 100 foot wide (that's 30 metres for our younger viewers!)

Monday, 14 June 2021

I'll take that as a win

I am a victim of my own success.

I have spent years making the soil conditions at Bag End the best I can. Between me, Management and LP we must have moved tons and tons of manure, compost, bark chip and goodness knows what else around this garden to create humus rich soil, supress weeds, retain moisture. And I have to conclude that I have achieved what I set out to do because I now spend nearly all my time trying to get the upper hand on rampant growth. A horticultural paradox . . . and I try not to cringe at the irony of complaining when my plants grow too well, too big, too fast.

But it does mean that I have to work fairly hard not to have the whole place go feral, and sometimes it can be soul-destroying to just not have the time, energy or sufficient co-operative weather to get jobs done. Happily, today was not one of those days.

Today I focussed on the area immediately outside my study and although it took the whole day, actual working time was probably only 4 - 4½ hours. Before:

After: Self-seeded acquilega and foxgloves have all been moved somewhere more suitable, the heathers have had a good top-up with mulch, the pretend-box hedge of Lonicera nitida around the small bulb bed has had a good trim (nothing nests in here) and I cut the small lawn. The thalictrum which dominates the small bed in early summer is nearly over but has looked fabulous this year.

I know most normal folk do not leave a swathe of Vetch, buttercups and comfrey in their lawn but Bag End folk are not normal folk 😃.

I moved some self-sown Prunella vulgaris (Selfheal) into a corner that is difficult to mow.

I am currently watching a blackbird scrabble like crazy through the new bark mulch on the heathers which they will doubtless end up scattering all over the darn place, messy little buggers! But all these birds eat slugs and grubs which would otherwise eat my plants, which of course would not grow so well without the mulch that harbours all sorts of tiny beasties which are culinary delicacies if you're a songbird, and then the whole cycle starts all over again. ðŸĪŠ ☺️

I would like to think I could achieve as much tomorrow in another area, but right now all I can think of is a long, hot shower and my bed.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Happy to be home

Bill is safely on the drive and we are back home after another week away.

The ratio of distance travelled to coastline driven was rather less than I would have liked (given how far from Bag End I had gone) but as I initially went up to the area for another reason and “tagged on a bit of coast” as an afterthought, I’m counting this as a success. My Coast by Campervan project has now covered the section of coastline between Inverness and Cullen in the north east of Scotland.

The sun shone every day and when there were clouds they just made things more interesting, and whilst being in the van is always a win the week was not without frustration. It is not until you try to drive as close to the coastline as possible that you become aware of just how much is not accessible. And I don’t mean closed off because of the MOD or industry, but because there just are not any flippin’ roads! I drove as close as I reasonably could to the coast whenever possible and came away with even more respect for people like Ruth Livingstone who are doing all of this on foot ðŸĨū ðŸĨū.

However, frustration aside, the area between Burghead and Lossiemouth was very attractive, and Lossie itself was interesting because whilst I was there multiple Typhoon planes decided to practice aborting their landing which resulted in them all coming in over the sea, and once at a very low altitude hitting the engines and soaring off again. This went on for nearly half an hour and reminded me of a visit to Farnborough Air Show many years ago.

At least I could leave when I had finished my coffee, not sure I could handle living close to that sort of noise on a regular basiss.

I think the little villages of Buckie, Findochty and Portknockie would have been nice to wander around but all three had the same problem - signs for Parking which disappeared before a suitable expanse of tarmac was located. I ended up getting very frustrated, thankfully didn’t get the van stuck down any small residential roads, and to be honest by the time I got to Cullen (which has superb parking, right on the beach, thank you Cullen) I was tired and had had enough.

There were some stand-outs during the week which are threatening to derail/reroute the Coast project. The first was deciding to take a ‘scenic’ route up to the Highlands and travelling through the Cairngorms via Braemar. Holy moly - Lake District on steroids! I could have run Bill off the road with all the gawping I was doing at the scenery. Just a couple of stills edited off the dashcam to remind me how beautiful it was:

I really MUST spend more time in this area, which is definitely not coastal 😉.

The second was a visit to Clava Cairns which are near the location of the Culloden massacre. The site is late Neolithic/early Bronze Age and absolutely blew me away. It will eventually have a very picture-heavy blog post all of its own.

I’ve studied history for as long as I can remember, and in recent years the focus has been shifting from early medieval to pre-Christian times. There are numerous sites like this in Scotland and most visitors either completely ignore old lumps of stone or spend very little time there which makes it more likely I will have peace and quiet. According to Google "most visitors" only spend 30 minutes at this site - I was there much of the day and whilst there were regular arrivals folk did not tend to stay long and were quiet. It was lovely 👍.

The final potential sandbank onto which the Coast project might get stuck was the drive home via the Great Glen, Fort William, Glencoe and Rannoch Moor. Far too long since I have been up that way and had forgotten just how much I love it. What I did not love was seeing how much traffic there is in some areas, but I was doing the journey on a Saturday which might explain some of it?

One of the many well-placed parking spots on Rannoch Moor:

Late lunch at Loch Tulla, there are worse places to stop for a quick meal:

It seemed like a good idea to clean the inscriptions on the Monroe Memorial Cairn, so I did:

Afernoon tea at Loch Lomond:

Time away in Bill is always time well-spent. The van is a comfortable delight and not only did nothing go wrong (and the new tap does not leak ðŸĪ—) but for the first time EVER I did not come home with the usual list of “things I have thought I could add/change/make/do differently”. Good grief, does this mean I finally have the van set up exactly to my liking?

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Bill has a new tap

Oh, Thank Crunchy. Bill now has a lovely new tap and there are (fingers crossed) currently no leaks. Fitting the new tap was very simple and straightforward, except for my needing Management's strength to push the water connectors into the supply pipes, they are a very tight fit.

Thanks to Eunice's "toothpaste tip" the sink is showing far fewer scratches than previously although it's never going to look brand new again - it gets too much use.

Bill is feeling very pleased with her repair, and enjoyed the major cleaning which took up most of yesterday making her all clean and ready for the next outing which commences Sunday. Yes I know I have only just got back from my last holiday but we are currently working on the premise that I should get away when I can, because if we go into another lockdown (or Ms Sturgeon closes the border between our two countries) then all of my travel plans for 2021 will be well and truly knackered. According to the RSPB I still have a great deal of coastline to get round just in Scotland: this project is going to take rather longer than I might have initially planned!

From looking at the news I cannot help wondering if the only person who claims to be convinced we should "get back to normal" on 21st June is Boris, many 'experts' he says the Government listen to seem to feel otherwise, although Management reckons that the decision has already been taken not to relax all restrictions and that nearer the time Boris will play the "but I was on your side, I tried to prevent this happening" card and make himself the 'friend' of those people who want to pretend Covid has not happened.

Am I a Harbinger of Doom or a grumpy realist? I find myself wondering when/if the zeitgeist might start to register the fact that we (individuals/this country/the world) cannot go back to what was "normal" in January 2020 and that the world may have changed, forever. Change is uncomfortable whether it is for better or worse and it is not what the status quo wants, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening.