This week I had a nice surprise as I was very kindly nominated for a Liebster award so a huge thank you to Zeens and Roger for that. Now according the “rules” as they are, I’m supposed to nominate a selection of other blogs to now pass it on to, however as I explained to the lovely Rosina, I think all the blogs that I follow are more likely to have some thousands rather than the 200 followers a nominee is supposed to have and they’re all pretty busy people who may not have the time to answer my questions so I thought I’d just break the rules and open my nomination to anyone who reads my blog and would like to answer my questions which you’ll find at the bottom.
If you don’t want to answer then that’s fine too, or if you only want to answer one question then that’s fine too…all I will say is some of my answers to Zeens and Rogers’ questions are rather long, if you regularly read my blog then you’ll know I’m a chatterer and can happily talk the back legs off a donkey, so go pop the kettle on for a pot of tea and grab the biscuits as I think by the end of this you’ll be needing them……
The rules can be found here on Zeens and Rogers’ blog.
As well as answering the questions she asks I’ve also included a couple of the ones she was asked by Buttercup and Bee as I thought that they tied in rather nicely and also I figure, hey, if I’m going to break the rules then lets break them.
What did you have for tea last night?
What are you having tonight?
(and she was asked What is your favourite meal to cook?)
Okay, well last night the boyfriend cooked (he does weekends and I cook during the week) we had a selection of steamed green vegetables and a fat wadge of Spanish omelette made with roast peppers and goats cheese. Being a Friday (which counts as the weekend) we also had cider, half a glass of a Somerset cider, no more than that though or I’d be sliding off my chair under the table (seriously I am the world’s cheapest date)…what was pudding..oh yes, super sweet and juicily ripe nectarines from a vegetable stall on Norwich Market (we’re so spoilt, there are two fantastic stalls where we buy most of our fruit and veg from, Mike and Debs which is on the front (stalls 46 and 47), and then there is an organic stall called Folland Organics (stalls 40 and 41) owned by the lovely Robb who wears nice jumpers. The beloved one also had a pastry from…The Norwich Providore (stalls 44 and 45 on the market)…their pastries are really good and it makes me super grumpy that I can’t really eat things like that anymore.
Tonight he’s cooking again, and it’s Quorn veggie burgers with a couple of fat slices of halloumi cheese on top..I love these so much. It used to be a bit worrying as Bernard also liked them and he’d jump up on the table to try grab a bit (nothing worse than eating something that the cat is trying to pinch as it goes to your mouth…but luckily he’s stopped doing that.)..I’ve also got half an avocado and a handful of tomatoes from the garden….as it’s a weekend there may well be wine, but just the one glass. We’re as bad as each other, and a bottle lasts us two nights if not we’d just be asleep on the sofa by nine. Will there be pudding, yes, don’t ask a silly question. (Basically there’s pudding every night)…tonight it’s raspberries from the garden which will be hiding under an avalanche of thick cream.
While I’m happy to cook a meal, more than anything I love to bake bread. For the past year or so I’ve been baking bread using a sourdough starter my friend Daisy gave me (she’s a wonderful cook and is off to Leith’s School of Cookery in a week or so…she made the most amazing chocolate truffles flavoured with masala spices and when we’d finished them I felt very sad.) and I’ve found it’s helped my bread making skills no end. Mostly I like to tinker about and add different things, last loaf I made had spelt flour, oats, grated apple, sunflower and sesame seeds and honey in it and I think there’s barely enough left for his morning toast. Even though I can’t really eat bread anymore (well I can but it leaves me feeling utterly wretched) the pleasure I get from making it for my boyfriend is immense.
What are you doing at the weekend?
(she was asked What do you do to relax and un-wind?)
Very little. The weather has been nice today so we went for a gentle stroll across the pastures on the marshes that are just across from where we live. We’d been hoping to forage for blackberries for the freezer (the rain has made them a bit squishy for jam) but we didn’t get as many as we’d hoped, so some are currently drowning themselves in brandy and the others will make a crumble for tomorrow night alongside a dollop of cream.
Probably the best way I can clear my head if I’m feeling all fraught and fed up or I’m feeling achy and shoulder crampy from sitting sewing to long is to get out, and head across the meadows, an hour outside and I’m back feeling brand new. Even if it’s nippy I’ll happily wrap up and go for perhaps a shorter walk but just getting out of doors always does me the world of good.
Recently the pastures were so full of wild flowers, it was just like the old flake advert, and the flowers I see on my walks go on to inspire me so much with my work.
We came out here in the winter just after Christmas and a lot of it was all flooded so some parts weren’t cross able, however it felt like a proper adventure walking where the water allowed. When the frosts came and the floods froze it was so beautiful, especially where the weight of the ice in the river pulled away from the bank.
As a child, what did you want to be when you were a grown up?
Honestly, I have no idea…probably because I’m still deciding that.
I grew up in a lovely little village, it was quite rural being surrounded by fields and farms. But it wasn’t a dead village, there were 4 or 5 little grocery shops including a post office and two busy village pubs. We had an excellent bus service there, buses on the hour which would bring us all the way to Norwich. If we missed one bus then our mum would just put the kettle on, and we’d have a cup of tea while we waited for the next one to come along….very different to when I then later lived in London and would get all grumpy if I missed a tube train and had to wait a whole 5 minutes for the next one.
My primary school in the village was really nice, and it makes me incredibly sentimental to think how 4 generations of my family have gone there…my dad’s dad, my dad, me and my 3 sisters and even one of my nieces have all been taught there. My teachers there were always really encouraging so I can’t think they’d have been dismissive if I had some rum career choice ideas, but in all honesty, I really can’t remember what I wanted to be.
Blank face….pass…….seriously I really don’t have any specialist subjects and don’t think I particularly know much about anything. I really love Jane Austen’s Novels (Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park not so much but the other 4 never seem to stray that far from my bedside table) so I think I’d be okay on those.
Failing that it would have to be the shenanigans of my cat Bernard, I can happily tell you all about his little adventures and what he gets up to…mostly this involves stuffing his face with chicken which he seems to flick all over the kitchen floor, playing with Bob from next door (a cheeky little black and white cat who has a pink nose,) napping in various different locations around the house and having wind. For a little cat there is a lot of smell.
In the picture above he’s having forty winks on the quilt I made for my boyfriend’s birthday, the fabric is quite loosely woven so every so often I have to repair when he’s been plucking, and also on the crochet blanket which is taking me forever to make.
Buttercup and Bee herself was asked What is your favourite crafting project to date? and I’d have to say that mine would be this blanket…even if at times it feels like an albatross around my neck, sewing in the woolly tails on the back is never ending but it looks nice when a hexagon is completed. Each hexagon took around an hour to make, choosing the wool, crocheting the hexagon, joining it in and then sewing in the tails, there’s about 400 hexagons so it’s not a weekend make and I’m probably daft letting Bernard sleep on it but I never have the heart to move him. The blanket has been made form tapestry wool that has been mostly sourced form antique/junk shops, car boots, jumbles, gifted by very kind friends, and some I’d kept from my Nanny’s work basket. It weighs an absolute ton and is so wonderfully warm and cosy that the wildest winds can blow and bluster outside, if I’m snuggled under this then I just don’t care.
What do you collect?
I love vintage haberdasheries and am as happy as Larry when I find some tucked away in a forgotten box in a dusty corner of a junk shop….I love buying vintage sewing threads and my favourite brand is Dewhurst Sylko, I’m not fussed if they are on the wooden reels or the plastic ones, the colours are the same and are just gorgeous. What I particularly like is when thy have the paper circles on the ends with the name and number of the thread, who can resist a purchase of Fiesta Pink,Jasmine Yellow, Cambridge Blue…..I try not to hoard them and use them a lot in my hand sewing, mostly when I’m sewing patchwork as I tend to sew most of that by hand, but recently when made one of the dottie angel frocks I ended up using a vintage thread in my machine as it was the perfect match to the vintage fabric I was using.
I really try not to be precious about any of the haberdashery items I have, I’ll happily use turn of the century sewing needles (they were made so strong and sharp back then that they really do the job much better than modern needles) and my work box is half full of vintage pieces that I love to use (and which I’ve seen behind glass in more than one museum).
Other things I can’t resist buying are bags of tapestry wool if I see them at car boots, junk shops, charity shops and jumble sales. I ‘m not buying them for hoarding so much as for my work as i prefer to use them when I’m embroidering my Christmas stockings, the soft palette of colours the wools often are seem to suit my work and give the stockings that hint of yesterday I’m trying to create. Vintage tapestry wool is often slightly fuzzy (Lady Penelope is my absolute favourite, it’s perfect for embroidering) and just blends into the wool fabric so perfectly.
And I can’t forget buttons, I just can’t help myself when I see a tin full of them (I have to sink my fingers in amongst them like Amelie and the sacks of beans and lentils…)
I’m incredibly lucky to have a wonderfully kind friend called Sylvia (eighty years young) and a couple of years ago she gave me a hoard of haberdashery and fabrics that I couldn’t believe…one tin was full of smaller tins, each filled with incredibly old sequins and beads, hooks and eyes…opening each tiny tin to see what was inside I knew exactly how Howard Carter felt with Tutankhamun’s tomb…”Can you see anything?”….”Yes,wonderful things”…
Amongst the treasure from Sylvia was a huge collection of beautiful vintage buttons, many of them glass ones which sparkle and catch the light, along with plastic and resin ones, bakelite and wooden toggles from children’s duffle-coats.
Along with collecting haberdashery pieces, I also love little china dogs. It started off with some sulky faced Staffordshire singles in a wide variety of sizes but now my collection has grown to include small terriers, dachsunds and a chalk spaniel whose face has almost worn away but I love him all the same.
As much as I love cats I’m really not a lover of cat things (though I own the most awesome cat umbrella), most of the cat figurines I’ve seen are frightful but I think there’s something so lovely and friendly about china dogs. I’ve never owned a dog (growing up we always had a house full of cats, rabbits and a very shrill squealed guinea pig) but I’d love to have silver and black cocker spaniel, I can just imagine us heading out for a walk on a windy day, all bundled up in a tweed skirt and headscarf (me not the dog)…however I’m all too aware the reality of a wet, muddy pawed dog jumping up onto one of my nice crochet blankets shatters that illusion pretty damn quickly…so the china dogs fill the gap of my dream dog.*
*I even have a name all ready in case the day comes I own one (having been a girl guide I know the importance of being prepared!)
Adventure Time Yes or No?
Hmm…I’m probably have to say no as I’m pretty boring and am rather a stick in the mud and like to stay at home. Me and my boyfriend couldn’t help laughing as I was recently stopped and asked by some teenagers doing a suvey if I liked Extreme Sports……if you know me this will also make you laugh, extreme for me is going out without a hankie or a bag of Werther’s Originals tucked into my handbag.
I guess I was a bit wilder when I was younger though, when I was nineteen I traveled by myself to Italy and when there took a night train from Pisa (a friend’s mum suggested I pin my passport and money to my knickers in case my bag got pinched so I by doing that felt quite safe, not a care in the world…) which traveled all the way down the left hand side of the country, the train then came apart at the “toe” and went onto a ferry then it all joined together again before journeying on to Palermo. This was all in the day before mobile phones nor did I speak particularly good Italian, just the very very basics, please, thank you…enough to buy the most amazing tasting cheese and ham roll and a coffee on the ferry for breakfast….When I think about it now I can’t believe I did it, what was I thinking…probably not much….but I had such an amazing journey, the people on the train were just wonderful and incredibly kind to the silly English girl with her little dictionary and very bad sunburn….inquiring minds may be asking why I went, well I was all smitten with a boy so really all I was thinking about was going to see him. (the romance didn’t last but I had a beautiful holiday.)
Name a book that you read again and again?
My absolute favourite of all time book is The Ballad of Dr Richardson, it’s a graphic novel by Paul Pope and sadly it’s been out of print for a while. I love pretty much everything that Paul Pope does (he writes and draws) and this was pretty early in his career. It’s a romance about daring to disturb the universe and I love it…sadly I’ve now read my copy so many times the pages are one read away from falling on the carpet like Autumn leaves so I just keep it on the book shelf and touch it from time to time. Paul Pope’s artwork is always so inky and black, like that oily sheen on top of espresso coffee and this book is his inkiest.
Other books (or graphic novels/collected comic books) he’s written include Batman Year One Hundred. It’s set in the future (a lot of his books are set some years ahead of now) and in it Batman wears a ribbed jersey and leather gloves, there’s one scene where you see the gap between the jersey and the glove, a brief glimpse of Batman’s wrist and all of a sudden the “mythology”, and “mystery” of Batman seems to disappear and you are left with just a man, his human-ness is on show and I love that. (being a bit of a geek I even bought the little statue that came out to coincide with Paul Pope’s interpretation of Batman…and no, it doesn’t sit alongside my dogs.)
He also wrote a book (see above as yes, it’s a book with pictures!) called 100%. Again it’s set in the future and is a collection of stories about a group of people who’s lives all connect. My favourite part is where this girl is just laying on her bed, one leg bent over the other and wiggling her foot. The way her foot wiggles is so perfect and beautifully drawn.
He’s possibly most well known for creating a series called THB which he began to self publish back in 1994. It’s set in the future and is about a teenage girl called HR Watson, she lives on Mars, her dad is a robot designer and the Mars government is after him. He’s made HR a bodyguard which is THB, it’s a small rubber ball but if placed in water explosively expands to become a huge purple (rather pointy headed and eared) naked man..with no genitals because he’s not a real man and ugh ..this isn’t Watchman with Dr Manhatten flapping his wing wang doodle about everywhere), they have to race across Mars to one of the safe cities where her step brother and his friends are, including The Jiggler (sigh) who is a Martian that HR has a huge crush on….along the way there’s coffee drinking, code rings, getting kidnapped by comic book publishers, letters home to her friend Lottie whose dad is an opera singer and who has a little…pet? Pet isn’t the right word, anyway she has a thing called Mister Pig Dog, he’s got a moustach any hipster would go green with envy for, he likes chocolate milkshakes, oh yeah, the girls also get to have bumble hip-shakes at a local gansgter’s night club when they fix a gangster car….phew….there’s about 15 issues of this in various sizes and it’s completely and utterly brilliant.
I’ve even bought a Spiderman comic (Tangled Web of Spider-man number 15) that he drew (I love comics but I just don’t like Spiderman) which happily didn’t involve too much of the old webslinger but focused more upon the teenage daughter of a crook who’s planning a big robbery. When he goes into her bedroom (which captures perfectly all the mess and clothes strewn everywhere-ness of my own teenage room and makes me want to apologize to my younger sister for having to put up with my slumicky teenage ways) and she’s all bouncing up and down on her bed with a huge poster of Spiderman on the wall he gets all cross because he’s a robber and doesn’t like Spiderman, so he tears it down and she gets all sad, then he goes out and she listens to the radio after re-taping up the poster (it’s sort of funny because it’s all torn and she’s mended it so badly) and while she’s painting her toes in a chaos of pots and jar and mess on the carpet, hears about a robbery that has just taken place and Spiderman has been spotted nearby, so she sneaks out and actually see the robber (though he’s masked so she doesn’t know who it is) then Spiderman turns up and can’t find the robber but she points him to where the robber went and then sitting there all huddled up she realizes she’s seen the huge bag full of cash the robber was lugging along somewhere before…..didn’t her dad have one the very same…the expression on her face is so heartbreaking.
I guess you can tell i really like Paul Pope.
A book without pictures that I love about as much is called Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint. I’ve wrote about this before here and it gets re-read very regularly.
I also listen to two audio books time and time and time again…Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, and His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Both are un-abridged (I really hate books that get chopped about, they always take out my favourite pieces and would much rather listen to a book in it’s entirety).
Jonathan Strange is all read by Simon Prebble and as far as I’m concerned he is the best book reader for voices in the whole wide world…I keep hoping he’ll read the Jane Austen novels as his ladies voices are lovely without sounding like David Walliams (who is being utterly wonderful in Partner’s in Crime on BBC.)
(she was asked Name the last book that you read?)
Well I’ve literally just finished “101 Dalmations” by Dodie Smith. I’d read it years ago but hadn’t re-read it for over a decade…completely lovely and the bit with Sir Charles reminiscing about his dogs made me cry..I’ve just ordered a copy of “The Starlight Barking” which I guess I haven’t re-read for 20 some years. I read “I capture The Castle” by Dodie Smith at Christmas and had just been waiting to find a second hand copy of “Dalmations.” I recently finished reading “Cold Comfort Farm” by Stella Gibbons. In between that and the “101 Dalmations” was “The Dark is Rising” sequence by Susan Cooper which I hadn’t re-read for ages but which I’ve loved for the longest time.
What was your first job?
I was 14 and it was as a waitress in a little seaside restaurant about 6 or so miles up the road from our village. I used to work weekends in school time and then I worked during the week as well that Summer, with some evenings thrown in too.
When the weather was nice I’d cycle there and back but if it was very wet I’d get the bus, though on a Sunday when the service wasn’t running I’d often just have to cycle in a cagoule and hope I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. My boss had an eye for the ladies and would spend most mornings sunning himself down on the beach, but not before drenching himself in vegetable oil and vinegar as he insisted this helped him tan and not burn and indeed he was the shade of a beautiful teak veneer but to my mind always smelt somewhat of a bag of chips.
I’ve got a scar on my right calf where he flung a broken coffee percolator into a rubbish bag I was holding, it smashed and a shard of glass slashed up through the bag and my leg…being the eighties health and safety wasn’t much of an issue and so my leg wasn’t stitched just some cheap sticking plaster that was about 10p from the chemists.
Apart from that, and oh the swearing, the air would very often turn an intense shade of blue, he was actually an incredibly fair boss, he always made sure I’d have my lunch and if he felt someone hadn’t tipped me properly he’d make me run up the high street after them and return their 10 or 20 pence and to say with my best Oliver Twist face “sorry sir, I think you left your change behind” and then he’d slip a couple of pounds himself into the tip jar.
I used to like it as we had canned squirty cream and I’d carefully squirt out the tallest wobbliest towers of cream on my coffee that you could possibly imagine. To my 14 year self this was the very height of sophistication (and could never understand why my customers looked so horrified.)
After that I then went to work in a little fruit and veg shop, it was a lot closer and I’d mostly work there on a Saturday with the odd half term holiday thrown in . I stayed there 3 maybe 4 years and it helped me loads with my maths as we didn’t have a proper till and I had to add everything up on a piece of paper . We had a couple of “characterful” customers including a lady who would come in and want to weigh all the lettuces. My boss was quite a serious chap but there were a few ladies who’d come in and give him what I think of as “Carry On film” sauce…”ohhh Christopher, can I feel your plums” …or “do these look like a nice pear Christopher”… when another lady came to work there called Sadie who herself was very cheeky, if she heard this being said she’d look at me and I’d have to just nip out the back as she’d make me laugh too much.
And these are my questions if you’d like to answer them yourself then feel free…I’ve ended up answering them myself as well.
If you could have a fantasy date with anyone who would it be?
Peter Ustinov, ideally when he was in Spartacus but I think he was still lovely when he was old so I wouldn’t mind (duh…it’s a date with Peter Ustinov, I’m not going to get all fussy)…it would involve browsing the book markets of Vienna followed by coffee and an obscene amount of little Viennese pastries at some pavement cafe with Anton Karos serenading us in the background. I think he was so wonderful and funny and love listening to his voice that I can’t think of a more delightful date.
What pieces connected with what you love to do, do you really treasure….
A red strawberry needle sharper made by the Royal School f Needlework. (it was bought with birthday money from a dear friend who sadly now is lost in a maze of dementia but when I use it I remember her very dearly)
A pair of Sajou embroidery scissors that my boyfriend bought me for valentines a few years ago.
A piece of cardboard that has been embroidered with bright woolly stitches which was in a gorgeous case of haberdasheries my beloved bought me some Christmas’s ago…it’s beyond precious.
What do you wish you were better at/could do?
I’d love to be better at languages, I can’t roll “r’s” and my pronunciation of anything in French and Italian is terrible…for anyone who can remember “ello ello” I end up sounding like the English Policeman that no-one could understand.
Possibly more achievable would be improving my knitting skills, I’m a very basic knitter, I can do dishcloths but only if everyone is quiet, and even the I need to be writing down what line I’m on, and often forget if I’m knitting or purling, but it’s something I truly wish I was better at as I’d love to knit myself a Prince of Wales jumper. (it’s what I’m wearing with my tweed skirt when I imagine myself out walking with my dog!)
I hope you’ve enjoyed what has become way more lengthy than even I’d intended.
Many thanks again to Zeens and Roger for the nomination.