Monday, 30 March 2020

Self Isolation

Here is an extract from an article in the latest Raven Newsletter. I thought it might be helpful.

     I saw a very helpful piece on breakfast TV the other day from Dame Joan Bakewell who was talking about planning ahead and using routine to help fill your time and avoid feeling alone and trapped in your home.
     She said she had invested in a couple of bird feeders and a book on British Birds so that she could learn about the birds which came into her garden, and also that making a routine which includes exercise and activities you are interested in, or would like to try out.
     The internet is a big help to anyone who is feeling lonely, it can be a source of company and socialising. There are various social media platforms such as facebook and twitter, but you can also find groups dedicated to a particular hobby or pastime. And don't forget things like online gamine, these also have a social aspect to them.
     The internet is a great place for doing research and even for travelling the world from your armchair.
     But do remember to make time to move about. If you have a garden, spend time outdoors if you can. Gardening is a great form of exercise - I suspect some gardens will be getting more attention this year (ours included) than they have for a long time.
     I have always loved watching the garden wake up and the succession of plants opening through the seasons.
     At the moment we have a mystery plant in our side garden. Well there are eight of them and they are planted amongst the hostas, which makes us pretty sure they are something we have deliberately planted, but neither of us can remember what they might be. So we are quite interested to see how they develop. I suspect they might be alliums of some kind, these are plants in the onion and garlic family, as I remember something vaguely about slugs loving to eat hostas, but staying away from alliums. And we may therefore have planted some alliums to keep the slugs away from the hostas.

     In many monastic orders from all religions, periods of self-isolation or Retreat, are used to allow the spirit to withdraw from the humdrum world and experience a period of calm, quiet contemplation.  So you could build a little time into your daily routine when you deliberately spend some time meditating or thinking about something in nature, or the nature of the Universe.
      A simple way to choose a subject to meditate about is to open a book at random and put your finger on a word, and use that word as your meditation focus. Or you might take a gemstone and look at it and think about what it might signify, or how it makes you feel. You don't need to know what the books say on the subject, see what it means just for you.
      Spare time means you can do stuff you have been putting off, or learn stuff you have always wanted to do. Trying magical and psychic exercises is an obvious example. Again, make a special place in your routine to do these. Some people say that first thing in the morning is a good time to do it, but it is up to you.
     If you are at home more and are able to wake up more naturally rather than using an alarm clock, you might find that you begin to remember your dreams more. So now would be a good time to start a dream diary and write your dreams down as soon as you wake up - keep the diary and pen by your bed and write them down before you do anything else, otherwise they will fade and the details will be lost.
      Astral travel practise is another obvious exercise for just before you go to sleep.
     I would always imagine myself sleeping inside a blue protective bubble, before doing any dream or astral exercises. The blue bubble works well to protect against nightmares too.
     If you've never had a go at casting a spell, well now you will have the time. So have a think about the kind of spell or magic you would like to try. At this time sending out healing thoughts and energies would be helpful to everyone. You could also send out thoughts of friendship and joy to other people who might be feeling lonely or alone. You could do spells to help people keep in touch, or encourage kindness and thoughtfulness.
     You could have a go at creating your own spells and rituals. Like the country Witches of old, think about what you have to hand and how it might be used in a spell or ritual.
     Night time has always been special for Witches. So why not take a few minutes, if the sky is clear, just to pop outside and look at the Moon. Blow her a kiss and look at Her shape. We don't only need to look at the Moon when she is Full. She has beauty in all her phases.
     If you are wrapped up well. you could also look at the stars, see if there are any constellations you can recognise.
     If you have a look on the internet you will find places which tell you which constellations and planets might be seen from your location, and where to look in the sky. If you have a pair of binoculars this can be helpful too. You can see a lot of detail on the Moon's surface with a decent pair of binoculars.
     You might find that this time of isolation gives you the chance to make deliberate changes for the better in your life. To evaluate your priorities and even where you feel you might like to go in the future.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Who Did You Say You Were?

You think that you know someone, but even the most familiar friend or family member can surprise you.
     I suppose it just shows that you can never know what is going on in someone else's head. You may think that you know the likes and dislikes of your friends then suddenly you find that out that they have a talent for surfing, or were a champion Irish dancer as a child.
     Or perhaps you always thought they loved ginger flavoured chocolate, so you give them some every christmas as your special gift. Then after 35 years you find that the first time you gave them some, they very politely said it was their favourite sweet - but actually it makes them heave and as soon as possible they bin your offering.
     I have known Graham for forty years now. You would think that after that length of time I would know just about everything about him.
     But today he has astounded me, by revealing his greatest secret of all. Something he has been hiding for more than the forty years I have known him.
     This afternoon he decided to have leisurely bath and wash his hair. Then came upstairs to watch me playing WoW on his PC.
      When he arrived, I knew immediately that something was amiss. He seemed nervous, or it could have been the way that he had his T shirt pulled up over his head, revealing his torso.
     'What is it?' I asked, 'You haven't .... done it?'
      He had!
     For the first time in over FORTY YEARS, for the first time in all the years I have known him - I can hardly bring myself to say this - He had SHAVED HIS BEARD OFF!
     And after forty years of knowing him, I find that after all this time, I am now married to a complete stranger!

 .... ? .....

     Corona Virus really does have a LOT to answer for!

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Underneath the Arches

I mentioned in my last Post that the recent strong winds had blown down our ivy covered arch into the back garden.
     Both Graham and I were fond of the arch, as a gateway into the garden and we did hope that it might be possible to simply stand it up again and prop it in place.
     But when Graham looked at it, he decided it was a dead parrot.
     It was actually a tubular metal arch, which we had strengthened with a wooden structure around it (or maybe vice versa, we did it soooooo long ago that its origins are lost in the mists of memory).
     Anyway, the metal stuff was both rusty, terminally bent and broken. And the wood was so rotted that it was possible just to push a finger into it.
     So there was nothing for it but a clear out and re-think.
     We thought we might be able to simply burn the ivy to get rid of it, but when Graham had got it all into a pile, we realised just how much of it there is!

So we may have to have a series of small bonfires, rather than risk incinerating the neighbourhood.
     In the meantime Graham had an idea for a new arch. We have two prolific hazel trees in the garden which throw up long straight coppiced poles, and he had been 'trimming' one of these a couple of weeks ago, so he found the six longest poles which he could tie together in pairs to make 'A' frames. In the style of the old cottages, he used another pole to tie across the tops of the three 'A' frames, like a ridge pole and made a more tunnel like structure. He then decided to use more of the thinner hazel branches to weave between the uprights of his structure.
     Graham was worried that the finished .... pergola(?) is not actually straight, but has a bend in it. But I really like it.

He has also been having a look round the garden for hazel saplings (they come up all over the place) and has planted a lot of them at either side of the 'arch'. As they grow, he hopes to train them and weave them together and round the arch, to create a living archway.
       We would also like to get some honeysuckle to grow up it too - no doubt the ivy will also be making a reappearance.

Monday, 23 March 2020

The Equinox Strikes Again

So there we are at the Equinox.
     A time of balance and harmony.
     Rubbish! The Equinox is the climax of the battle between the retreating night and the strengthening day. And that conflict often seems to show itself in the physical world.
     March and September are times of wind and storm. And this year we have really had March coming in like a Lion with roaring winds and raging floods.
     Our ivy arch which led into the back garden and has stood for many years, was blown over by the winds, making a huge hole - and a HUGE pile of debris.
     Then after the fitting of the central heating, which went ahead relatively painlessly, we had a visit from an electrician to fit smoke alarms and a new bathroom light. Apparently we are no longer allowed to have a light bulb dangling on a flex in the bathroom and have had a light fitted flush to the ceiling instead. It looks pretty but gives a harsh, bright, white light which takes no prisoners - looking in the bathroom mirror now is a time of revelation and horror!
     Anyway, while fitting said spawn-of-the-devil light, of course the electricity had to be turned off.
     Now, my computer which attaches to the internet: for some time we have known that it doesn't like being turned off and was getting more dodgy to turn on again. The simple solution to this was to leave it on at all times.
     Of course when the electricity goes off, so does my pc. And when the electricity comes back on again ... I have one dead computer.
     Oh well, at least it wasn't my work computer, where I prepare all the Raven Catalogues and Newsletters. That one is working fine.
     But then, when I come to print out the next Mail Shot (which should have gone in the post today!) the photocopier decides to start spreading the love, in the form of a grey/black line across the pages.
     So the photocopier repair man was contacted and arrived at tea time on Friday afternoon. He quickly found the fault and needed a part to fix it. The part was ordered and in the meantime he tried a temporary fix to keep it going.
     So .... I was all set for a weekend of printing, folding and stuffing.
     At five minutes past nine on Saturday morning, I think I had printed ten copies of the Newsletter and the temporary fix on the photocopier gave up and the line returned, bigger and blacker than before.
    So I am stuck now until the engineer manages to get the part and get out to us again.
     And I don't think I mentioned the Corona Virus!

    Good one, Equinox!

Friday, 13 March 2020


I found a really fab looking, huge and intricate square to crochet.
The pattern is called Sophie's Universe from LookatwhatImade.
I didn't stick to the colours specified, and used what I had and really enjoyed making it - although I know I made a few mistakes, but I am still chuffed with it.
      The only problem was: what was I going to do with this piece of crochet?
      The obvious use was as a cover for a large cushion. And that solution meant that I could do it again as I would have to have another square for the other side.
      But while I was contemplating it, Graham held it up for me to have a good look at. It is a different thing when you have been looking very closely at the intricate detail of something you are making and then to see the whole thing.
      And when Graham held it up in front of himself, I said jokingly, 'You know, that could be the front of a jumper. I could make another square for the back and one each for the arms!'
     Graham turned round to look at the effect in the mirror over the fireplace and said thoughtfully, 'Oh yes!' then demanded that I make it for him!
      I thought 'Why not!' and decided to have a go.
     Obviously the first thing I needed to do was make another three Sophie's Universe squares, and whereas it didn't matter too much if the front and back colour ways were slightly different, the two arms needed to look the same.
     This was going to take some crocheting, but I was up for it!
     Three squares later, I then had to figure out how to fasten the pieces together into a single garment.
      I started by making four small triangles and two oblong pieces which I used to form a yoke to fasten the front and back together, then I had a look at the sides and as Graham likes a floppy jumper rather than a tight one I need to add a few inches in at the sides.
      This was actually easier than I'd thought as I simply crocheted rows of double crochet and back post double crochets, to make ribbing, straight onto the sides of the front squares. I had crocheted the arm squares into tubes and safety pinned them in place again so that I made the sides the correct length and width to join directly onto the underneath seam of the arm.
     When the side panels were the right size I simply crocheted the front to the back and continued around the arm hole to crochet the several pieces into one.
    I don't know how long it took me to make the finished garment, something like two to four weeks, I think. But I was really chuffed with the results.

Graham says he likes the jumper, it is lovely and warm - but whether he will ever actually dare to wear it out in public, that is a different matter.
      Incidentally I don't think I managed to make any of the panels completely correct to the pattern, but I am still chuffed with the results.

Friday, 6 March 2020

Mind the Gap

Since I started crocheting I have accumulated a bit of wool.
      Well, quite a bit of wool I suppose.
      Although, you can never have enough wool, I believe.
      Anyway most of my wool is now housed in seven large, lidded, plastic storage boxes, and these have to be stored somewhere. They were piled on the end of the sofa, and on the floor in front of the main pile. But when we had to shift everything for the plumbers, the whole lot was put into one tall pile at the opposite side of the room.
     We were both impressed that it went in one pile and was still clear of the ceiling!
     Anyway when we were re-positioning the furniture after the plumbers had gone, Graham and I thought how good it would be if we could put the pile of wool containers at the end of the sofa, where there was a gap which looked to be just about the right size.
     Graham got out his tape measure and went forth and measured. And lo! The devil of it was that the gap was about ONE INCH* too small.
    He tried shoving the sofa as far towards the sideboard as it would go, but no, it really was one inch too small.
     He tried inserting one of the boxes in the gap.
     No, it really, really was ONE INCH (you bastard!) too small.
     I looked at the far end of the sideboard and saw that the sideboard could be moved one inch, and one inch only to the right, and would not interfere with the opening of the door into the living room.
    However the sideboard has been in that position since we first moved into the house and had sunk and anchored itself into the carpet. And it also had a large book case standing on top of it. And it was surrounded by a pile of stuff (a BIG pile of stuff) that we have yet to sort.
    So, the sensible thing to do would be to move everything away from the sideboard, empty the book case and remove it, and empty the sideboard so it could be lifted easily into its new position.
    If you have read any of my blogs up to now, you will know that that is not the way things go around here.
    So Graham shoved at the sideboard and I pulled at it.
     And it stayed put.
     So I said, 'Maybe we ought to try emptying and shifting the book case.'
     And Graham vanished to the shed, shouting over his shoulder, 'I'll get the crowbar!'
    (The Crowbar?!)
    So he fetched the crowbar.
    If you have nice furniture, dear reader, I would not recommend the crowbar method.
    But with a mighty heave from Graham and the crowbar, and a pull from me, suddenly with a jerk, THERE WAS MOVEMENT!
    'It's moving!' I yelled, half in surprise, as the sideboard was unrooted and headed towards me at the speed of continental drift!
    We managed to move it an inch.
     And yay! all my wool boxes are now in a nice heap in the previously too narrow gap.

  Ta da!

     And we can still open the living room door! (bonus!)

*For the youngsters amongst us, one inch is 25mm or 2.5 cm

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Tidy? Us?

You know the trouble with shifting stuff in the house? You know, like when you have been having central heating installed?
        Well the trouble is when you shift stuff from the pile in which it has accumulated over several years and put it somewhere else, THAT is when you actually look at it and think to yourself, 'Ye gods, that is a heck of a lot of stuff!'
        And you also think to yourself, that maybe if that pile has been there for several years, maybe we could ...... get rid of it....
      Now, that is a radical thought.
     So we filled the wheelie bin for recycling, and we filled the wheelie bin for 'general household' stuff. And there was still a huge pile of stuff that had to go somewhere.
      And because we now have radiators on many walls in the house (well six) that means there is less wall space to shove stuff up against.
     Actually we did apologise to the plumbers for the amount of stuff they were having to manouver around and they said, 'Oh this is nothing!' and they told us of one place they had recently been to where you could only walk down passageways between piles of stuff just wide enough for one person to get through. This did make me feel a bit better.
     But still, I have got the 'throwing stuff away' bug and now I want to THROW STUFF AWAY!
     So yesterday Graham and I got all of my jigsaw puzzles together.
     Not a big job, you would think.
     But before I got into crochet, I did jigsaw puzzles. LOTS of jigsaw puzzles.
     So we got all of the jigsaw puzzles and went through them all, just picking out the ones I really like and throwing away the ones that were huge, mainly brown, very difficult, or I just was not too keen on. We kept about ten jigsaws - well maybe a few more than ten.
    Then we looked at the pile we had put for getting rid of, and counted them up.
    There were over sixty!
    And now those sixty puzzles which were going out, were creating another huge pile in the living room. So we girded our loins and went off to the dump with a car so packed with jigsaw puzzles that Graham had to have a pile of them on his lap.
    When we got to the dump and Graham headed for the 'cardboard only' skip with the first lot, he met a chap who asked if any of the puzzles had trains on.
    You want puzzles with trains? Sure here have this one, and how about this one. Oh and that one over there.
    The elderly chap went away bemused and taking stuff away from the dump when he had come to get rid of stuff - he was really chuffed and kept thanking us.
    We came home over sixty puzzles lighter, and thought:
     What can we throw away next?

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Central Heating

Just before christmas last year we had a phone call from our Landlord's agents telling us that we were going to have to have central heating installed in the house.
     I immediately went into a panic thinking how much stuff would have to be moved and where were we going to put everything?!
     In January we had a phone call from the plumber telling us that he had been tasked with visiting our house to make a plan of where radiators would go, new boiler, pipework etc 
    Thank goodness it was a nice young chap we know from previous visits.
     He duly arrived and toured the house with Graham looking at where radiators might be fixed. As soon as he arrived he said, 'When they told me I had to go and look at Mr Raven's house to install central heating, I thought to myself 'Mr Raven won't be wanting that!' '
    Anyway he turned out to be a chap who wanted to make life as easy as possible for himself as well as us, so managed to point out places where radiators could go causing the least amount of stuff shifting and hassle.
     A week ago, we had a call from the plumber saying his plan had been approved so he needed to make an appointment to come and get it stuck in. So we spent the beginning of last week preparing the house, moving stuff out of the way and leaving clear space for the plumbers to work when they arrived 8 am Thursday morning.
     Luckily there were only two of them, and Paul (the boss) had already told us it would just take two days to fit it. Also luckily both men have dogs and like dogs - which was very good as we knew our two, and especially Tallulah, was going to want to watch everything they did. 
     As soon as they arrived a large lorry also arrived and a great pile of radiators and copper piping was unloaded into our front garden.
     It wasn't until the lorry had gone that Paul checked the invoice and found that they had unloaded a set of radiators for another job of his, a large house in a nearby town. So he was quickly on the phone to get the right ones delivered - which they were within a couple of hours. The plumbers were able to use some of the piping and smaller radiators to get started, so there was no delay that we could see.
     We tried to get on with work as best we could, and keep out of the plumbers way.
     On Friday we had to go shopping and it was actually quite nice for the dogs to have someone in the house while we weren't there. Tallulah attached herself to one of the plumbers and ended up sleeping next to him while he was working.
     During one phone call from a customer that I know well, I said the house was upside-down because we were having central heating installed. There was a stunned silence at the other end of the phone. 'We only had double glazing installed last year.' I went on. More stunned silence, then:
     'Do you have an inside toilet?' she asked
    Aah, there we are children today who don't realise that you can live without double glazing and central heating.
     And yes, we do have an inside toilet!
     By four thirty on Friday afternoon the central heating was installed, including a large radiator in our bedroom, 'I bet that one is never turned on.' said one of the plumbers sagely - and he is right, I hate trying to sleep in a warm room.

Graham with Tallulah pointing at large radiator in our bedroom.