Thursday, 16 January 2020

I'm Fed Up of Being Ill now!

     I am not good at being ill - well not for more than a couple of days.
     Being ill for a day or two is a nice little restful guilt-free holiday - with time maybe for a square or two of crochet. But this latest illness has been a bit of a barsteward.
     It started off as a cough, but rapidly became a chesty conjestion, which meant that getting out of breath was a scary experience - and I could get out of breath walking a few steps across the room. Going to the bathroom, two whole rooms away, could take me quarter of an hour as I would have to have two stop and sit downs on the way to get my breath back.
     And getting upstairs became an impossible dream.
    Which meant that as both of my computers are upstairs, I couldn't get on with any office work, including working on our next mail shot, get on Facebook, or play WoW.
     Even doing a bit of crocheting would get me out of breath.
     So after four days I was starting to get a bit peed off with it.
     The only good thing I can see is that my appetite has been crap too - so I may have lost weight! Yay!
     I suspect that despite how quickly this illness came on, it will linger and take time to get rid of.
     Sleeping has also been difficult as
a) I can't get upstairs to bed
b) if I lay down the coughing gets worse plus I feel as if I am drowning
so I have been having to spend my nights sitting up on the sofa, which combined with the coughing means a few nights with not a lot of sleeping going on. Which in turn has meant that I have been dropping asleep at odd times during the day and evening.
     Graham has enjoyed telling me that as I drift in and out of consciousness I have taken to mumbling. I don't seem to say anything just mumble. Then last night when I fell asleep briefly in the evening he said I had been humming in my sleep. He did say that it sounded nice though.
     As you might have gathered from this blog - I made it upstairs this morning, so things are on the mend.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Squares! Pretty Squares!

I never thought that crochet would be such an addictive hobby!
      Mind you, I had no idea how creative it was either. I had only ever come across the old fashioned blankets where you just go round and round and round.
     My current passion is for crocheted squares and there seems to be an infinite variety of different designs for this. We had a blanket we had bought at a bootsale, which had been hand knitted from all sorts of left over wool, so I decided to pull it down into its constituent parts.
     Now that was fun for a start! Although I found that the lady who had made it had literally used any kind of wool, in all sorts of different thicknesses. But never mind, it is now balls of wool, ready for more crocheting!
     The main problem with the wool was that the colours were largely pale, and a lot of white - not a good colour when muddy footed dogs are likely to leap up and say 'Hello!' However Graham also recently presented me with a bag of  mixed balls of brighter coloured wool he had found in a charity shop, so these would help make the new blanket I intended creating, a bit more interesting.
     One of the things I like about crocheted squares is that they do not take long to make!
     Which is a good thing when I had reckoned that to make a 6ft by 7ft double bed sized blanket, from 6" squares, I was going to need 156 of them.
     I started off with a very simple pattern for a solid square of double crochet, the only variety in these being changes of colour to create bands within the squares. All of these have an outer edge row of a light purply colour, and I tried also to use similar colours for the internal bits, to give them some harmony but difference at the same time.

     When I'd made twenty or more of those, I was starting to get bored. So I decided to make some slightly more complicated squares which have a circular centre, and then turn into squares. So I made four sets of four, all of which have a slightly brighter coloured solid circle at the centre.

    After that I felt that I was ready to tackle a more complicated pattern.
     I wanted to have a larger square at the middle of the blanket, which I could then surround with the smaller squares, and I found a fab pattern on the internet which looks like a square within a square and has a large twelve petalled flower at the centre (the Charlotte Square from Look At What I Made by Dedri Uys). I think this is the most complicated pattern I have tried so far, but I took my time and tried to follow the instructions closely. Which I am not very good at. I particularly rarely count the number of stitches in each row, to check that I have got the right number.
     Soooooo I thought when it came to the part where you change the pattern from a circle into a square, I had better just count the number of stitches in the circle, to be sure that I ended up with a square with equal sides and not some weird shape with one very long side. There should be 120 stitches in this round.
     When I counted the stitches I had, there were 132.
    It was at that point I decided to count the number of petals in the central flower. It should have twelve petals. Somehow I had managed to create a thirteen petalled flower!
     So now I had a few options:
Leave the thing as a circle and find something to do with it later
Pull the pattern back to where I went wrong and have another go
Try and get back to the original pattern by losing twelve stitches as I turned it into a square.
      Option three it is then!
     Actually that turned out not too bad as I could lose two at each corner and one in the middle of each side without it being noticeable.

My lovely assistant has helped me with the display of the blanket so far.

Graham said he had always wanted to be a model, he just hadn't thought it would involve crochet.
I told him he was in good company as Roger Moore (007) started off modelling knitwear.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Happy New Year!

It is the New Year 2020 - you may have noticed - and I have LOADS of stuff to Blog about.
     Where to start is my problem!
     OK let's start with today, a New Day, a New Year and we have Charlie staying with us for a few days. Mike and his family are visiting in-laws and it was agreed that Charlie would probably have more fun visiting us - although Charlie has fun wherever she is, she is a supremely confident and happy dog.
     Charlie also seems to be settling down a bit and getting to understand what she may be allowed to class as a 'toy' and what definitely is not! - my wool for example.
     The nights are also a lot more peaceful, with all the dogs settling down quickly and staying quiet.
     Some times though things can be a bit too quiet.
     Like yesterday morning for example.
     Normally when I get up, I am immediately surrounded by dogs, which I wade through like a boiling furry sea as I make my way downstairs to the bathroom.
     The dogs know that after that, the next stop will be the kitchen, where breakfast biscuits are counted out. Any dogs in attendance at this point will be given a biscuit to keep them going until I get upstairs to the 'games room' where I can work on the facebook page entry for the day. And the rest of the biscuits will be shared out.
     But yesterday all was suspiciously quiet.
     No dogs ambushed me anywhere.
     I had heard somebody gallop downstairs and outside just before I got up, but apart from that all was silence and ominously dog-free.
     I counted out the biscuits into an empty box to carry upstairs and peeped into the living room ... No dogs!
     By this time I was starting to get a little worried.
     I went upstairs and found Bridie in her special den, under the spare bed, but there was still no sign of the two younger and generally noisier members of the family.
     Graham was just getting up, so I told him the situation and he went down to have a look in the back garden.
     There were Charlie and Tallulah outside, Charlie bouncing around Tallulah and Tallulah being very quiet. Obviously something was the matter, but what?
     Anyway, they both came upstairs and all three had their biscuits doled out and eaten.
     After a while I decided to go downstairs and do a bit of crochet - I am currently working on another blanket, more of which later.
     I switched on the living room light and saw that someone had been copiously sick in the middle of Graham's large floor cushion/dog bed.
    I can't do sick - not without 'huey'ing myself - so I called for Graham who quickly sorted it out.
    It looked like someone had bolted their bedtime biccies and it had made an early re-appearance.
     For some reason Tallulah and Bridie thought that they had done something wrong (or that somebody had done something wrong) and that they might get the blame for it, so were in hiding.
     Charlie (the likely candidate) had spent a restful night in Tallulah's bed then nipped outside first thing to visit Tallulah.
     Once the sick situation had been sorted, all three dogs reverted to happy, Happy, HAPPY, BOUNCE, BOUNCE, BOUNCE, BOUNCE !!

     Incidentally I was telling this story to Mike when he rang up yesterday, when Charlie appeared looking very happy and waggy, carrying something very proudly in her mouth.
     I rang off quickly to find that Charlie had managed to get the face flannel out of the bathroom sink. It had already, pretty obviously, had a trip into the garden, so that went in the wash and a new one was found.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Ghostly Encounters

When I was walking on the stair
I met a man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today,
I wish that man would go away!

When most people speak of 'ghosts' they mean a remnant or a remainder of a human spirit. But there are many different sorts of ghosts - and not all of them are human!
     Anyone who has attended a spiritualist meeting, or a demonstration by a medium, will know that although the medium is passing on messages from various spirits, the audience rarely, if ever, sees or hears anything other than the medium speaking. The medium may be hearing, and sometimes seeing the spirits as well, but it is very rare for anyone else to see these 'ghosts'.
     In his book 'The Power of the Pendulum', Tom Lethbridge put forward the idea that some ghostly activities are the result of a kind of spirit recording. That rocks, landscape and atmosphere, or weather conditions, can combine to act as a way of recording a traumatic or highly emotionally charged scene. This is a way of explaining sighting of ghosts that seem to always act in the same manner, for example: The ghost of Queen Katherine Howard is said to run screaming along certain corridors of Hampton Court Palace, her spirit eternally trying to reach King Henry VIII and protest her innocence.
    Some ghosts appear to be 'bound' to a certain area, a house or garden perhaps. This may be because they loved this place while living, or because they do not realise they are dead, or simply do not know how to move on from the physical world to the spirit plane.
    There are many tales of ghosts appearing to loved ones, often miles away from their physical body, either at the time of their death or shortly after.
     Not long after my dad had died, I was alone in the house and began crying. I distinctly heard my dad say, 'It's alright, love.' in a comforting way. And I was comforted, I certainly was not frightened.
     But ghosts are illusive creatures, there is no guarantee when or if they will appear.
     These days you get TV programmes where people stay over night in a dark 'haunted' house, with the express purpose (it seems to me) of scaring themselves and their audience witless.
     I can honestly say that no true ghostly encounter that I have had, has ever been scary.
     In fact it is possible to have a ghostly encounter and not realise it at the time.
     Because of film and TV  depictions of ghosts, we expect them to be shadowy and transparent, but very often true ghosts look perfectly normal. They look like anyone you could meet on the street, perfectly solid and definitely not see through - and I have never ever come across any ghost that looks like a floaty sheet with a face!
    It is often only an anomaly which makes you realise that what you have seen could not have been a living person.
     In York it is said that a ghostly column of Roman soldiers marches through the cellars of some buildings. They are walking along the original Roman Roads of the city, but because the road level was much lower than the present surface, they only seem to appear from the knees upwards.
     In some cases it is what a person is wearing which gives the clue as their clothes are obviously from an era before the present - but with the modern passion for 'vintage' fashions, that may be the clue it once was. Or they may be performing an activity or action that we no longer do, or may walk through a door that no longer exists.
     They may even greet you quite naturally when passing in the street, although a man tipping his hat to you, might stand out as being rather old fashioned.
     So it is quite possible that you have had ghostly encounters, without realising it.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Doggy Sleepover 2

Last Saturday we had a phone call asking if we would like a doggy visit from Charlie (I nearly wrote that as a 'dodgy visit').
     In fact, would we be ok with a doggy visit that lasted overnight? (Definitely a dodgy visit then!)
     Our son had persuaded his missus to go out for the evening and didn't want to leave small pooch on its own for several hours.
     Of course we said we'd be happy to have Charlie. She is no trouble, as long as you make sure anything you would rather she didn't chew is out of reach.
     Mike said that as his car was approaching our house, Charlie got more and more excited as in 'Can I get out? I know where we are going! I want to go play!' So, rather than just bring Charlie in with him at the front door, Mike popped Charlie over the fence into the back garden, to see what would happen.
     The first we knew of their arrival, was the sound of an earthquake as a small black dog burst in through the dog flap and thundered through the house. She was in the living room before Mike and Eden got in the front door! Two seconds later she had said 'Hello!' to everyone and she and Tallulah were barrelling out again, into the back garden.
     There followed much galloping in and out of the house as the two youngest members of the family attempted to tire each other out.
     Graham said he had peeped out into the garden and saw them chasing round and round with Tallulah in the lead and Charlie hanging onto her tail.
     At bedtime, all dogs were given their supper bickies and we all went to bed.
     Mike hadn't brought Charlie's bed this time, but there are plenty of places around the house for doggies to sleep. Including the sofa, floor cushions, Tallulah's dog bed, under the spare bed (special doggy cave) etc.
     We think Charlie tried them all out. Including on our bed and under it.
     Oh, and there was also the 'incident' in the night.
     Graham got up to go to the loo and found that Charlie had crapped at the top of the stairs.
     Now, unlike most dogs, Charlie does not stand still and crap all in one heap, but instead wanders around a bit, dropping nuggets here and there across the landing and into the office. Graham cleared it up and went to dispose of it.
     Meanwhile I was also now wide awake and decided I would also go to the loo (which is downstairs in our house).
    As I left the bedroom, I found a 'present' which Graham had missed - by stepping in it, barefoot, of course.
     Sunday morning was the Humber Bridge Farmer's Market, which we love to visit.
     So we had arranged to meet Mike and Cherise there, so they could retrieve small pooch and we could all have a look around (and buy many good things!)
    Charlie behaved brilliantly in the car, in fact she curled up and went to sleep on the back seat, but Graham did say to Mike and Cherise when we met up, 'Give us a couple of days before you bring Charlie again.'
    That night as we sat relaxing in front of the fire, me untangling a ball of wool which Charlie had managed to find and give a darn good shaking to, while wearing my reading specs with the well chewed side arms (Charlie again, not me), I said to Graham, 'I think we will all get a good nights sleep tonight!'

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Novenas and the Pursuit of Wool

This is a busy time of year.
    I don't think I have to tell you that, dear reader, as we are all whirling like spinning tops in preparation for the biggest blow-out of the year, christmas.
     Here are Raven I have been designing and drawing our Yule card for this year, on top of dealing with orders and trying to prepare a little flyer to go out with it.
      In my 'down time' (what the hell is that? does anyone have 'down time'?!) I have been pursuing my love of crocheting by making a variety of gifts, which means I have made a few things I am really chuffed with, and I can't blog about because I will be giving away surprises for friends and relatives!
    Incidentally I may have mentioned that it is IMPOSSIBLE to have too much WOOL, and for any friends or relatives who might be reading this, a ball or two of  (preferably) brightly coloured wool would make a very acceptable and thoughtful gift for certain people interested in crocheting.
     I must admit that when my son asked me what his father would like for christmas, I may have said WOOL. Maybe some beer too, but definitely WOOL.

    Right let's change the subject. mmmmm soft, pretty, wool......


     I sometimes mention on my Facebook page that it would be a good time to start a spell novena, and I was asked the other day what a novena is.
    A novena is a set or series of spells, usually carried out daily over a number of days. It comes from a traditional form of petitioning prayer, where the same prayer is repeated over a number of days. The 'nov' bit in 'novena' is the Latin for 'nine', so originally the spell or prayer would be repeated over nine consecutive days or weeks, but your novena can be as long or short as you prefer, or as makes sense for your particular working.
     There is a saying in Witchcraft that 'three times is the charm' and in many traditional spells or magical workings you will find that it is recommended that the spell, or a phrase within the spell, is repeated three times. These repetitions are used to strengthen the spell, to add to its power and thus to ensure that you have a successful outcome.
    I was told that we use repetitions of three as the first time we are working with the conscious mind, the second repetition awakens the subconscious, and the third repetition sends the power through into the magical realms. So it is the third repetition which activates the spell and really gets it going. An alternative idea is that we use the number three as this is sacred to the Goddess.
     Novenas are particularly helpful for pursuing long-term goals, or for dealing with an on-going situation. For example, if trying to lose weight then a novena will help keep you focused on your long term goal of losing weight, you can use it to help you find a new home or job, or to get a business started and encourage growth.
     A novena does not have to be complicated. Light a candle and simply ask the gods for help with whatever you need, but remember to do this a certain number of times.
     As I said earlier, you can choose how many repetitions you do, you might choose a sacred number such as three, five, seven or nine. Or you might choose to do your novena every night while the Moon is waxing, to help something grow and flourish, or while the Moon is waning to get rid of something or diminish the influence of a person in your life, or even to diminish your own weight!
     Novenas are a very simple yet effective way of making magic.
     And they also encourage you to work magic regularly, which will increase your effectiveness, and thus the success of all your magical workings.
     I think it was Aleister Crowley who said: 'Conjure often!'

Friday, 15 November 2019

Frankincense and Myrrh

This is an article which appeared in the latest Raven Newsletter:

I can remember the first time I smelt Frankincense.
     I had opened an envelope from an occult supplier, Margaret Bruce (now that is going back some years) and there was a waft of an exotic, magical perfume, and out of the envelope dropped a tiny nugget of resin.
     I didn't know what it was, so I asked my dad and he said that it was Frankincense and he thought he had a tin of it somewhere. He had been an altar boy at his local Roman Catholic church in his youth, and one of his jobs had been to swing the incense censer and top it up with the fragrant resin, to fill the sanctuary with an odour pleasing to God.
     When he found the tin, and happily some charcoal, he showed me how to light the charcoal and blow on one edge to get it going, then dropped a teaspoonful of the resin onto the glowing coal. The house filled with smoke at an alarming rate and we ended up having to open all the doors and windows to get rid of it.
     'Yes, well,' said my dad, 'I did have to use enough to fill the church, which is a bit bigger area than this.'
     We had another go, using just a few grains of the resin and the smell was amazing.
     I love the ceremony of using this natural resin, the lighting of the disc, positioning it on the sand in my burner, then the dropping of the first few grains on the coal. All of these preparations help to start building the atmosphere, ready for magic or ritual.
     I had, of course, heard of Frankincense. Every christmas we were told the story of the birth of Jesus and how the Magi had brought him gifts of gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. And having experienced Frankincense, I was now eager to try its sister resin, Myrrh.
     Whereas Frankincense is a bright, soft amber colour, Myrrh is a darker resin in every way. It is dark brown, and its perfume is darker and more sensual. The two resins together harmonise and enhance one another, and make a very powerful perfume for spells and rituals.
     Myrrh is known as the perfume of the Underworld, or death and spirits. It smells earthy and sexual, and is a perfume for rituals of seduction and sexuality, or to awaken demons and spirits.
     Both of these resins were well known and highly valued in ancient rituals. The ancient Egyptians wrote their incense and perfume recipes on the walls of their temples and these recipes included Frankincense and Myrrh.
     Now a days we tend to use joss sticks and cones for our rituals. They are easier and more convenient to use, and come in a wide variety of flavours.
     But when I want to make a special ceremony, where the air tingles with magic, and you can feel the powers ramping up, I go back to the natural resins of Frankincense and Myrrh.

Incidentally, we did pop a pinch or two of Frankincense and Myrrh resins in with our latest Mail Shot, so I hope our customers liked it.