Monday, 28 July 2008


This weekend we acquired some sturdy 6 x 1 in. planks courtesy of the nice people at Oxford Wood Recycling and we have our first proper raised bed. What's more, as of this evening it has plants in it (transplanted from two very overcrowded tubs in the garden).

Whether they'll still be there in the morning is another matter. I reckon there's a fair chance they'll have been reduced to stumps by every slug and snail in the district (I think I can hear the munching from here) or beaten flat by the torrential rain we've had this evening, or possibly just washed away altogether. However, for this evening I'm enjoying having one corner that does look a bit like a genuine allotment with actual plants, even if it does only consist of 24 rather bedraggled lettuce.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Quite allot of work*

So, this week I've acquire yet another pastime to distract me from blogging and knitting (and housework), because C and I finally made it to the top of the council waiting-list for an allotment. Mysteriously this happened the very week that we finally decided to ring them up and ask whether they'd forgotten us, having sent the application off in March and not heard anything since...but that's probably just coincidence. Mysteriously too, although there is a waiting-list, when I went down to the council offices on my day off, I was told we could have a choice of three different plots.**

The allotments are only about two minutes walk from our house so, armed with the key and a (rather idealised) map I pottered off to have a look at the possibilities. After wandering around for some time peering hopefully between rows of beans, I finally found someone else who happened to be there at 3pm on a Thursday to help me get my bearings and we established that the plot I was looking for was the one next to his. So here it is...

No - actually that's a lie: this is ours:

The others were worse, honest - you couldn't even tell where one started and the other ended and they were all covered in the dreaded bindweed. And at least this one has well kept plots on three sides and a fence on the other. Plus we have already met several of the neighbours, and they seem very nice. One offered to lend us a hand with the clearing/heavy digging if we happen to be there at the same time, while the lady on the other side plied us with courgettes to make up for the fact that this season all we have to look forward to is lots of hard work and very little produce.

Owing to 'financial pressures' the council no longer offers to strim allotments which have been abandoned for a while*** (though the lady at the council offices kindly lent us her very own scythe), so, very little knitting this weekend, but quite a lot of what might be described as 'horticultural archaeology' as we struggled to clear away some of the weeds revealing what had clearly been beds of potatoes, cabbages, onions, leeks, and strawberries in the not too incredibly distant past, along with some mint, oregano and chives, a couple of rather miserable gladioli, a soggy lump of old carpet, and about two-thirds of a collapsed shed. Quite a lot of hacking, chopping, digging, getting stung/bitten/scratched by things, and two trips to the tip later this is what it looks like. You can see the floor and everything - there's even one bit that could almost be called a bed (though as C pointed out it does look a bit more like a freshly dug grave at the moment). Not bad for a weekend's work I feel! Now if I can still move my arms enough to grasp my knitting needles...

* I know, I know, sorry...
Although on reflection after seeing the plots in question, that might not be so surprising.
*** Unfortunately the same 'financial pressures' have also done for the trailer which used to come once a month to take uncompostable stuff to the tip, so our car is now full of a substantial quantity of dock seed and an even larger number of spiders.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Anyone for tennis?

So, one of the reasons I haven't been blogging or knitting as much as usual recently is that I've been spending some of the time that I'd usually have been doing that tracing my family tree on my mum's side. This started because sadly, my Great Auntie Eileen died at the end of May. She was my Nan's younger sister, and the last person of her generation in our immediate family.

After the funeral a few of us were sitting round looking at one of the several photograph albums that have been passed down from that side of the family. They are full of photos of very stern and impressive-looking Victorian gentlemen, their stern and substantial wives (including this lady, whom my mum originally suggested might be Mary Lambert, originator of the infamous 'Lambert bottom', a family affliction which I fear I have not escaped*), and their slightly less stern-looking Edwardian progeny.

However, we gradually realised that Auntie Ei (as she was universally known) was the last person who might have been able to identify quite a lot of the people in the photographs for us for certain. So my mum and I set about trying to work backwards from the people we could name to work out who some of the others must have been, and where and when the photos were taken.

Amongst the identifiable people is the rather formidable figure of great great auntie Nellie Maunder, born in 1893 and seen here as a young gell in her fantastic tennis outfit.* According to my mum, after Nellie lost her fiance in the 1st World War she never married but devoted herself to religion and good works. A redoubtable lady, she served as a Red Cross nurse in the field in both the 1st and 2nd World Wars, amassing quite a collection of medals for service overseas, including the 1939-45 Star, the France and Germany star, the Defence Medal, the Voluntary Medical Services Medal, and several Red Cross long service medals, which must have looked very impressive festooning her rather considerable bosom. By the time my mum knew her as a child after the war, she had become the matron of one of the colleges at Durham University, driving a convertible and lecturing the youth of the day on the dangers of STDs.

Nellie's older brother was my great grandfather, Harry Maunder. Apparently something of a contrast to his sister both physically and temperamentally, Harry was 'on the stage': a 'soft shoe dancer' according to my mum. Quite what his Civil Engineer father, Robert, made of this I can't imagine.

In November 1916 Harry married another dancer, Nellie Magee (second from the left, while Harry is third from the right), and my Nan was born er...8 months later.

Nellie Maunder (nee Magee)'s antecedents are something of a mystery. According to family legend she was the illegitimate daughter of a theatrical boarding-house landlady (if true, I can't think that went down very well with her more upright namesake, either!). Her mother certainly seems to have been called Theresa (or Teresa) Magee, but where she came from or whether there was ever a Mr Magee seems to have been lost in the mists of time, so at least for the time being the trail on that particular branch of the tree has gone cold.

* In actual fact, I don't think the date of this photograph is consistent with it being Mary Lambert, but whoever's the bottom is, it is not to be aspired to in my view!
**I can only assume that the get-up was meant to represent the game of tennis at some party or fancy dress parade or something, since surely you couldn't actually have played in it!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Bisy, Backson

I know, I know - it has been a ridiculously long time since I last posted. I just seem to have been insanely busy recently and a hundred different things - work, rehearsals, concerts, trips hither and thither, new hobbies, more concerts, old hobbies, the occasional bout of sleeping - have intervened to eat up my blogging time.

In fact, I've been so busy I haven't even had much time for knitting! Mainly because I wasn't organised enough to start the baby knitting (discussed below) much before the baby in question was imminent, May consisted of the Attack of the UFOs for me. At one stage I had seven projects on the needles at once, which is a record. However, inevitably the only knitting I was actually making any progress on was mostly un-bloggable (being destined as a surprise for someone who occasionally reads my blog).

Nevertheless, I have been thinking about blogging quite a lot, and taking photos with the full intention of posting. I intended to tell everyone about the nice walk on the Ridgeway one weekend back in late May. You can tell how long ago it was from the fact that the wisteria in Streatley was still flowering in such a spectacular fashion.

Then there was a trip to Anglesey to see Sara and Tim and Iestyn, who at that stage was still bump.

And there's been a fair amount of gardening which (when a work in progress) was going to be a Messy Tuesday post, but that never happened and eventually the mess disappeared (well not really, but I quite like vegetative mess, so tangles of plants don't count in my book).

In fact there have been any number of Messy Tuesdays (and other days), the most memorable of which being the one that produced this unusual scene on the drainer. This came about as a result of a close encounter between C's laptop and the best part of a pint of Old Hooky, when a cunning plan to move the table without removing either of the aforementioned articles from it in advance went horribly wrong.*

There was a Sunday spent mooching about the Cotswolds in pursuit of my brother and his friends who were taking part in the annual cycling Tour of the Cotswolds. Unsurprisingly we opted to do the 102 miles by car rather than bike. Unfortunately, however, since ours was being serviced, the car in question was a mint green Nissan Micra which cornered like a wardrobe on roller-skates and made a noise like a maddened kitten when asked to climb any sort of wold whatsoever. But the trip resulted in a good pub lunch and an enjoyable afternoon spent following the route of a Saltway on the OS map (even if the car was so small that we had to pull over at one point and open both the doors in order to be able to unfold the OS map sufficiently).

And then finally, last weekend, a concert on the Saturday in Deddington, just north of Oxford gave us the perfect opportunity for a night in a B&B followed by a pleasant walk in the country on which we saw some of this

(which doesn't look that impressive until you realise it's quite big)

and some of these

and some of those

and a fox.

On the knitting front, as Ravelers amongst you may have seen, I finished the sheep yoke cardigan

and on the theme of all things oviform**, the sheep toy that I was knitting on WWKIP day, when various people may have seen me struggling to figure out which way round the head went.

Ovine anatomy finally conquered I then progressed to Enfys the Elephant

and having eventually managed to dispatch the whole lot to Iestyn slightly later than planned when he was 1-and-a-bit weeks old (elephants are hard to knit on the train), I returned to the poor languishing Twisted Flower Socks, which have been on the needles since goodness knows when, and finished them off yesterday!

So now I just have the unfinished, hibernating Probably Jumper (probably not at this rate), the infuriating River Stole, and the Moonlight Sonata Shawl which I cast on at the "cast on day" back in late May, and haven't touched since.

Still things should be a bit quieter now, so I'll have more time...probably...

*His cunning plan I hasten to add, not mine. Though since the whole butter-radiator fiasco I should probably refrain from commenting.
** I was delighted to discover (courtesy of Liz) a while ago that oviform not only means "egg-shaped", but (oviform adj.2) "sheep-shaped". This is one of my all-time favourite unexpected other meanings, the other being emboss vb.2, which essentially means "to go and hide in a wood" - "The police are after me; I must emboss at once!"