Monday, 20 December 2021

Rosy Garland Necklace

 I fancied seeing if I could make a flowery crocheted necklace, and here is the result:


I started off making roses in various sizes. The original rose pattern I found at Rahooqa as part of a rose necklace.

These roses are really easy to make:

Chain 65 and into the 4th chain from the hook do a dc *ch1, miss 2 ch, (dc,ch2,dc,ch1) in next st. Repeat from * to end. In last ch do a dc. This makes a row of 'V' stitches.

Row 2: 6 x dc into 1st ch2 sp, sc in next ch1 sp. do this 6 times.

(7 x dc into next ch2 sp, sc in next ch1 sp) 12 times

(9 x dc in next ch2 sp, sc in next ch1 sp) to end.

Leave long tails at both ends, use this to sew/weave in and fasten the rose. Roll up the rose with the biggest petal on the outside, and sew it together with one of your long ends.


I made roses of different sizes simply by varying the number of stitches in the first chain. So there are a couple which are worked in a ch 45, and another couple in  a ch 25. And I used shades of red and pink for them, whatever I had to hand.


A leafy chain is used to fasten all the roses together into the garland shape and it is done in green. Start off with a simple chain of 17 stitches, then make a leaf. I did this by continuing with another 5 chains, then making this mini chain into a ring of 5 with a slip stitch. Ch1 then into the little ring you've just made do 2 x 1/2 dc, 2 x dc, 2 x tr, then a chain3 picot ss back into the top of the treble just made, then 2 x tr, 2 x dc, 2 x 1/2 dc and ss back into the starting ch. Do another 17 chain then make another leaf.

Then ch2 and ss into the back of a rose, I had to work across the back of the rose with slip stitches and made another leaf when I got to the other side, then a couple of chains and join in another rose. I just continued in this manner, making leaves between the flowers until I'd got all my roses added in. 

This ended up making quite a chunky necklace, which is fastened simply by knotting the ends of the start and end chains together.

You could simply use it as a decorative garland or even stitch it around the neck of a jumper.

I quite enjoyed making this and I have a few more ideas for making different necklaces.

I think the next one I try might be based on peacock feather 'eyes'.



Tuesday, 23 November 2021

When is the Festival of Samhain?

Every day I try to put up some interesting magical or occult info related to the date on my Facebook page. And I must admit that this post was inspired by a lady who was extremely critical that I had put the 16th of November as Hecate Night, as she told me that this festival is timed by the Moon and made it quite clear that I was wrong and as she put it 'facts are facts'.
    So I thought I would write about something every Witch and Pagan is aware of, the date of the festival of Samhain. The simple answer to this question is that the festival of Samhain is: the evening of the 31st of October, known today as Halloween.
    But Samhain is a Celtic festival, and the Celts used a lunar calendar, based on the New and Full Moons. this is one of the reasons the the Full Moons have been given names through the centuries, and these names vary depending on the beliefs and farming practises used by different cultures and at different times in history.
    The Full Moon nearest to the Autumn Equinox is still known as the Harvest Moon and the full moon which follows it is the Hunter's Moon. And the Hunter's Moon marks the feast of Samhain.
    Now this is all well and good but Full Moons fall on different dates each year by our current solar, Gregorian calendar. So the nearest Full Moon to the 31st of October could be up to a fortnight before or after this date. So that gives you a whole month (moonth) when you could choose to celebrate the festival of Samhain.
    There is also the added complication when we take into account the change of our calendar from the Old Style Julian Calendar to the New Style Gregorian Calendar.
    These two calendars were and are massively out of sync with each other. To move to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, was done in the UK by simply printing calendars with Wednesday the 2nd of September, being followed the next day as Thursday the 14th of September. This meant that it looked like 11 days had been excised from the calendar and did lead to rioting in the streets of London, with mobs demanding the return of their 'lost' days'.
    Now actually the UK was quite late in adopting this calendar and it had been in use on the Continent for some time. So if you were a merchant passing between Europe and Britain, you were used to swapping between calendars as they were being used in the different countries.
    So to return to our question: When do we celebrate Samhain? If we celebrate on the 31st of October, by the Old Style Julian Calendar the 31st of October would fall 11 days later on the 11th of November.
    So the answer to the question is: we can celebrate Samhain on a full Moon that falls between around the 15th of October and the 14th of November, or the 31st of October, or the 11th of November.
    But hang on a cotton picking moment! Many modern covens and magical groups have set days of the week when they hold their meetings and rituals, for example on a Friday or Saturday night, so they may well celebrate Samhain on a Friday or Saturday night nearest to the 31st of October, or the 11th of October, or the Full Moon nearest to one or other of those dates.
    In fact there are some Witches and covens who deliberately do not celebrate Samhain on the 31st of October. This is because they do not want their preparations and rituals interrupting by children out 'Trick or Treat'ing. Instead they may well hold a 'Trick or Treat' party on the 31st of October and pick a quieter night for their rituals.
    We have to also bear in mind that on the astral planes there is no 'time', there are no 'dates' and no 'calendar' so the spirits will come whenever they are invited to.
    Some time in the far distant past someone, or some group decided that this time of year was the right time to hold a celebration which became Samhain. This is how all celebrations, festivals and saints days were allocated - and are still being created and allocated.
    We can each decide when we will celebrate and there are many reasons why we might choose a specific date.
    There is nothing 'wrong' or 'incorrect' about any of the dates for Samhain, or for any other festival.
    The important thing is that we hold these celebrations.


    

Sunday, 31 October 2021

I've Got That Samhain Feeling!

 Ever since I was tiny wee, I have looked forward to Hallowe'en.

    The darker nights, the feeling of magic, the idea of Witches and Ghosts.

    These days Halloween (note the new spelling!) is a much more widely celebrated night than it was when I was a child. The best we could hope for as far as entertainment went, was to hope that one or two of the children's tv shows did a Hallowe'en special. 

    We did not trim up at home, there were no Halloween decorations in the shops. Trick or Treat was unknown.

    I remember one year asking my mum if I could make a swede lantern - pumpkins had not yet reached rural Lincolnshire, so I had to go the traditional rout.

    My word! Have you tried hollowing out an uncooked swede?! After a good half an hour of serious work, I had a tiny hollow in the top which would not even take a night light. My hands were aching and fingers were developing blisters.  So no Hallowe'en lantern that year.

    It wasn't until Graham and I got together that we were able to really celebrate the festival, and boy have we made the best of it ever since!

    

Samhain is the most important festival of the Witch's year. In Celtic times it was a day that belonged neither to the old year nor to the new, so it was literally a day that is not a day, a time that is not a time. Any time which is on the border between things happening, eg the twilight time between sunset and full dark, is known as a crack between the worlds. But Samhain has a full day between the worlds, which gives spirits of all kinds the chance to cross over from their world to ours, and also allows us to make spirit journeys to other worlds too.

    Many old stories and songs speak of strange meetings happening at this time of year. This is the time when the Faery Court, the Seelie Court, rides out. They are looking for people to carry back to elf land with them. They might be looking for lovers or servants, wet nurses for Faery babies, or musicians, or seers.

    This is also the night when those who have been carried off can make their way home, or be rescued by the brave ones.

    This is the night when the Devil rides out too. And when Witches have their special meetings.

    This is always a night to try some divination even if it something simple like peeling an apple and throwing the peel over you left shoulder. See if it forms the initial of your future lover. Or try the art of mirror gazing, when spirits will peep over your shoulder to show themselves in your mirror.

    You could cast the runes and see what the year ahead has in store for you. Or draw a Tarot card from the pack and see the theme of your next few months.

    This is always the time to welcome friends and relatives whether they are in this world or the next. Light a candle and raise a glass to 'absent friends', and give them a little nip of wine or alcohol too - the spirits enjoy those vapours.

    Whatever you do tonight, make it fun.





Friday, 29 October 2021

Dogs Don't Understand English

The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. And it is certainly a lot darker in the mornings when Graham takes Tallulah out for her morning walk.
    Graham does go out at 6.45 am, which is a bit early for most folks, but he gets back at around 7.30 and then we have breakfast.
    He has been having to take his torch with him recently though, as when they hit the woods, if it is cloudy then it can be pitch dark in there, and he needs the torch to follow the path. Tallulah seems to be fine though, she obviously has better night vision and is enjoying wandering about in the dark.
    A couple of mornings recently he has missed the turn off he usually takes to bring him back out of the woods and has found himself on unfamiliar ground. This is a combination of the darkness plus the fallen leaves which cover both the path and the surrounding areas so it is more difficult to tell which is path and which isn't.
    This morning he got properly lost. In a woodland which he has walked for years. But it is a time when all sorts of creatures are making their presence felt, including the Fairy Folk who like to lead travellers off their known routes.
    He shone the torch around, but there was nothing familiar about where he was. He could have wandered about for hours until it became light enough to actually see where he was. Nor was Tallulah anywhere to be seen.
    Graham called for Tallulah and she quickly appeared and ran to him. Graham spoke to her and said, 'I know you don't understand English, but daddy is lost, so if you know the way to the path can you show me?'
    Of course Tallulah does not understand English at all, she is just a dog.
    So she went about ten yards away, then stopped to see if Graham was following. When he reached her, she went another ten yards or so and waited again. They continued in this way for only a short time and they were back on familiar ground.
    So our very clever dog, who of course is just a dog, and knows no English, had shown Graham how to find his way out of the woods and home.


    

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Mandala Recipes

 On my last blog I had managed to find the photos of some Mandalas I have been crocheting, but as it was a spontaneous thing, I didn't have the info on the mandala recipes to hand so here we go:


Now, I have two choices about which recipe this one is. Both of the recipes are nice and easy for anyone to have a go at, but I am not sure which recipe I used here. It could be 'A Small Mandala' by Karin Ashammar from Virklust. 

Alternately it might be Crochet Mandala by Annie Design Crochet. I know I have tried both recipes and they are lovely little Mandalas, one only has 8 rows and the other 11.


This one is a recipe by Attic 24 and is simply called Mandala. This lady does a lot of interesting small projects and I find her recipes easy to follow. Rather than videos these tend to be photos accompanying the recipes, but she does explain nicely what she is doing.


Rats I put the wrong info down for this one! I know I should have put labels on them while I was doing them, but I got carried away. 




This is a really easy pattern which uses seven colours and a size 6 hook. The video is Mandala Stitch Along with Mikey, from The Crochet Crowd. It has 50 rows, but the stitches are really easy and you don't even need to worry about how to put the colours together as he gives a couple of different colour combinations you can try.

Of course, I rarely have the recommended colours, so I use whatever appeals to me.


This is the biggest of the Mandalas and is called Crochet Mandala Madness (which it really is!). The recipe was created by Helen Shrimpton, but I used a series of videos on You Tube by Esther Dijkstra from 'itsallinanutshell.com' I really would recommend looking at the videos to help you follow what is going on.

This is a series of 18 videos, and to be honest I only got to row 87 of 111. But I had started with a 4.5 hook when a 3mm was recommended and it had already got so HUGE that if I had carried on I think we could have carpeted the house with it!.

I really enjoyed doing it as it taught me all sorts, for example the white spiky star bits you have to carry the white yarn along the blue row, to the next spiky star, rather than cutting off and rejoining. Esther Dijkstra demonstrated and explained how to do this very carefully, so I was able to do it (and felt really chuffed that I managed it too!).

Hope some of this info is helpful

I am sure I am not the only person who appreciates all the free recipes, videos and instructions you can find on the internet. 

I love experimenting with the colour combinations and finding new stitches to try out, but I've also found that you can make some really interesting pieces using a few basic stitches, but combining them in different ways.

Friday, 8 October 2021

Back to the Blog !

 Sorry I haven't blogged for a while. There have been a couple of reasons for that.

One: Tallulah was mated back in August and we had been hoping for the patter of many tiny paws. But unfortunately it was not to be.

    I was a bit more disappointed than I'd expected, especially as Tallulah was showing all the signs of being pregnant. But when the due date passed and nothing happened I rang Angela, our breeder friend, to let her know and she told us that once they have been mated, their hormones make their bodies act as if they are pregnant, whether they are or not. So it is very difficult to tell whether they are or not.

    Another reason is that I have been doing lots of crocheting - but most of the stuff I have been doing is for christmas pressey's for various people. So even though I am really chuffed with the stuff I have been doing, I can't show it to anyone online, in case someone who will eventually get one for christmas sees it!

    And another reason is that we have a problem with photos, in that I have them on my brand spanking new phone thingy, but I don't know how to get them from the phone onto the computer or into my blog, or facebook etc.

    I think I shall have to ask Mike for another masterclass in this aspect of phone ownership.

    Now, I have managed to send all the photos on my phone ....... somewhere.

 



Ye Gods! I found one and inserted it!

Hang on let's try that again!


I have been doing mandalas, but I started small, and then got carried away








Of course the first two should have been the last two in this sequence, as that is the sequence I made them in. Sorry I am totally disorganised because I didn't know I could do that inserty thing!

    Right now I know what I am doing, watch this space, there will be MUCH MORE blogging going on very shortly!











    


Tuesday, 10 August 2021

The Joys of Phone Ownership

 A week or two back it was our wedding anniversary and Mike's birthday. So we decided to go out 'en famile' and have a meal out at a local pub.
    Mike and Cherise picked the Fox and Coney at South Cave, which was a good place for a decent meal before lockdown. We, me and Graham, haven't been out for a meal since before lockdown, so this was to be our first meal out for over two years, so, to be honest, we weren't sure what the protocol would be.
    Anyway, to cut a long story short: we couldn't find out how to get into the pub carpark, and, not having a mobile phone, had no way to tell Mike and Cherise that we were in the village, but couldn't get to them.
    After hanging about for over half an hour, in the hopes that we would see them either arriving, or Mike would pop out of the pub and see us parked up the road, we gave up and went home. We rang Mike as soon as we got in and told him what was what, and he told us when he visited next that they had had a very nice meal.
    
    Graham and I had a free and frank discussion and decided that it probably was about time we gave in and bought a mobile phone, for such emergencies and if the car broke down etc. Also as our digital camera had also recently given up the ghost (which is why I have been unable to show you my Mandala crochet projects), the phone would also act as a camera too.
    So Mike came last Sunday and between him and me and various bits of bank paperwork, we ordered a mobile phone which we were told would arrive the next day. At the same time Mike ordered a nice case for me to keep the phone safe.
    The next day the phone case arrived, but no sign of the phone.
    At around five pm I had a phone call, supposedly from the company who were supposed to be supplying the phone, who told me, 'Sorry, you can't have the deal, or the phone you signed up for, but we can offer you a worse one at £10 more.' - 'Oh and can you give me your credit card details now....'
    I replied that: I was unhappy about the new deal, and uncomfortable with giving out my card details to someone I did not know.

    I rang Mike to let him know the state of play, and as I was telling him he said 'F**k that! I'll come round tomorrow and we'll have another go, with a different company!'

    Anyway suffice it to say that today Mike and me have spent the morning in Curry's, with a very nice and helpful young man who has sorted me out with basically the same phone and a cheaper deal than I was being offered on Sunday.

    It would seem that the problem was my credit history. I have bought most things over the last 30 odd years through the business, or with cash and I suspect if I had bought this phone through the business account there would have been no difficulty. But I decided that we should buy it using our personal account, which we are only just starting to use, as it now has a regular income of Grahams pension.

    So, tomorrow Mike will be back to try and teach this old dog the new tricks of using a mobile phone - I suspect I will have to take copious notes! 

    

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Death and Life

     Very often things don't happen as you expect.
    We all hope that things will run along smoothly without too many hiccups. But sometimes life just goes 'HERE YOU ARE!' and you get a whole load of stuff in your face all at once.
    Earlier this year Bridie had a bout of illness, not eating, panting, heart pounding. We were really worried. Then we realised she was having a panic attack because she had nibbled at one of her feet until it bled, and surprise surprise, it was hurting!
    So she spent the next week or two wearing a sock on the offending foot, got better and we thought no more about it.
    Until she had another episode. Which we also put down to a panic attack - Bridie is a nervous dog, any sudden noises and she will shoot off like a greyhound.
    But we also noticed she was getting slower when walking, and even avoided going out for a walk on a couple of occasions. 
    Anyway the not moving, not going out, and also eating less and having to be tempted to eat .... I think you can see the way this was going.

    In the meantime Tallulah is the life and soul of the party, full of life and curiosity, and at the begining of this week we noticed that she was coming into season.
    I rang Angela, our friend and collie breeder for some advice about the possibility of having a litter from Tallulah, as we had spoken about this a couple of years ago (pre-Covid) when we collected this lively puppy from Angela.
    Angela gave me a master class in 'how to spot if a collie might be ready for mating' - apparently there is a four day window of opportunity and you have to be ready to grab it. Now normally Angela would have Tallulah to stay with her, so that Angela could be ready to seize the moment of greatest opportunity. But as luck would have it Angela had a mother collie and puppies in the house and another in the puppy house, and was also preparing for a dog show this weekend, so I was given detailed instructions in what to look out for and ring Angela when things started to change with Tallulah.

    At the same time, Bridie was getting worse. At first we put it down to the heat, as we have suddenly had a temperature jump of around 10%, and gave Bridie a lukewarm bath, which she seemed to enjoy and perked her up a bit. So much so that she had a couple of slices of chicken breast, but no more.
    We had to face the fact that Bridie was nearing the end of her time on Earth. And finally this morning we made that last trip to the vet with her.

    And at the same time when we got home we realised that Tallulah was showing the signs of the door of puppy opportunity opening.

    So I rang Angela to tell her of Bridie's passing, and Tallulah's readiness (we think).

    So this time it really is one door closing and another one opening and spirits passing in both directions.

    Life and death, death and life, two sides of the same coin.

    Of course we are mourning Bridie, how could we not?

    But really the cycle of life death and re-birth could hardly have been pointed out to us more graphically.

    


Wicani White Lace and Promises - Bridie



Monday, 12 July 2021

 Why is it that I don't notice a typo, or a missing price until after I have finished printing the Newsletter or catalogue out?
    No, let's be accurate here: until well after all the catalogues have been printed and sent out to customers.
    I found a good one in the latest 'Even More Gemstones' list when I was writing a lyrical introduction to the beautiful gemstone crescent moons we have just got in: 'There is nothing like being outside at night and seeing the beautiful Moon sailing across the sky. Sometimes we may only catch glimpses as she pees out between clouds ...'
    Yep that should have read 'peeps out'.
    Sigh. Oh well I suppose it wouldn't be a proper Raven catalogue if it was perfect.

    In the Newsletter I have put a collection of Summer Spells, including the following:

A Spell for Happiness

    For this spell gather five small objects that symbolise happiness to you. A sea shell for happy days at the beach, a flower from your garden, a little tassel of coloured wool perhaps, a pretty gem stone, an old paint brush, a coin, a photo of a loved one. Whatever to you symbolises happiness.
    Light a candle and arrange your five objects around the candle, not close enough to come to harm, then say:
    Each of these objects brings a smile
    And gladdens my sad heart
    These memories of happy pasts
    All will play a part
    Bring happiness once more to me
    Bring joy and jolly company
    As I ask now, so mote it be!

    Keep all of these objects in a special treasure box. Find a tiny notebook and write in it why you have chosen each object. Whenever you come across something else which brings you a happy memory, write that down in your book, and if you can, add the object or perhaps a picture of it, to your special treasure box.
    When you are feeling low, look in your box and handle its treasures, think about the happiness they symbolise. Soon you will find your box is stuffed with happiness, so much so that happiness begins to flow out of you, making you smile more.
    I wish you happiness too.


    

Monday, 21 June 2021

Gathering Fern Seed

     The magical fern seed, which grants invisibility, can only be gathered at midnight on Midsummer's Eve.

    All evening the preparations have been going on.

    There was a ritual meal of only white foods: white bread, a chicken breast, white cheese newly made and a single glass of water drawn from the sacred well.

    Then the bathing, by the light of expensive beeswax candles, the curtains closely drawn against the overlooking of others and so that the thoughts could be concentrated on the magical task ahead.

    Chamomile flowers were infused in the water to banish all evil and enhance the psychic powers, especially the gift of clear seeing which will be needed to spot the magical energies radiated by the plant.

    As midnight neared, it was time to robe, enveloping the body in the special black garment, topped with a hood, so that the wearer can glide like a shadow across the fields and through the wood. One shadow amongst many.

    On the dresser is a stack of seven pewter plates.

    According to the grimoires you maybe need one, maybe seven, so in order that the preparations will not be in vain, seven pewter plates it shall be.

    The night lengthens, all is still in the homes round about, all the residents safely asleep. Except in the cottage where the preparations have been made.

    The door opens and the hooded figure, quiet as a ghost, slips into the night, moving swiftly, silently and with purpose.

    The moon is full, casting bright silver light and black shadows. The figure keeps to the shadows wherever possible, flitting along the country lane and over a stile into the woodlands beyond.

    There is pauses, beneath the gently whispering trees, listening to the sounds of the night. There are no sounds of other footsteps, not even any bird or animal sounds, just the night breeze, gently caressing the canopy of leaves allowing splashes of moonlight to sprinkle here and there.

    The figure moves deeper into the woods.

    There is a place where ferns grow, spread amongst the undergrowth, but tonight of all nights, one will show itself. The figure is certain of this. All the preparations were followed with care, tonight is the best chance for this magical operation to succeed.

    Suddenly ahead there is a faint, blue glow. The robed figure halts, feeling the excitement, the anticipation growing. Ahead is where the ferns are growing, tonight may be the night when this magical purpose is fulfilled.

    The footsteps quicken while still moving as silently as possible, through the small patches of moonlight, focused always on the blue glow ahead. And there, where the shadows are deepest, the elusive fern plant reveals its magic. Growing from this leafy plant, on a slender, almost invisible stem, is a glowing, transparent blue flower.

    A flower not of this world.

    In this world, ferns do not flower.

    But a plant echoing the realm of the Fairy Folk. For this night only, for this moment only, the fern is in flower.

    Quickly the figure takes the bag from its shoulder and takes out the stack of pewter plates, and with hands slightly trembling with effort, anticipation and excitement, holds the plates beneath the flower.

    How long will they have to wait?

    Not long, as all this must be done within the midnight hour.

    The flower fades and shrivels and grows a more faintly glowing blue pod, a pod filled with seeds. And even as the figure watches, the pod splits open and in a puff of glowing dust, the Fairy seed are sprinkled and fade.

    It seemed that some fell on the plates that were held beneath the now vanished flower. The glow is gone, the fern returns to its mortal state.

    Has the operation been a success?

    With slightly trembling hands, the figure carefully tips nothing from the top plate into a red silk pouch they have brought for this purpose. Each plate is treated in the same way, each plate of nothingness is tipped into the silk bag, until the final, seventh plate is also emptied of its invisible catch into the silk pouch. The pouch is closed tightly and it and the plates repacked into the bag. The figure rises and takes a last look around.

    The moonlight still peeps through the leaves, but the glow is gone from the fern grove, and so to home, slipping into the cottage silently and carefully packing the bag into the dresser, then winding up the stairs to bed.

    In the morning the early sunrise makes it impossible to sleep further, plus the habit of early rising is ingrained.

    Was last night a dream? Or did the fern really flower in the woods?

    The dresser is opened and the silk pouch quickly found. Carefully the drawstring is opened and cautiously a finger and thumb take a pinch of nothing from the pouch, which they sprinkle over their head.

    And in the mirror above the dresser, they see.

    Nothing.




Tuesday, 1 June 2021

I Crocheted a Raven!

 Whatever possessed me?

    Well, actually it was another request from a customer.

    'I know how you like these little challenges,'says he 'So could you crochet me a raven?'

    In the background, Graham was hissing at me, 'Say no! Tell him we are too busy!'

    As I quite fancied having a go at crocheting a raven, I agreed to do it.

    That was a mistake.

    This was perhaps the fiddliest item I have ever crocheted. I did find a recipe for a little bird on the internet, but when I tried it out, I didn't like the proportions I ended up with. They were more for a cartoon chick type of bird, with a large head and triangular shaped body. So I put that on one side and started again.

    But the main problems with this project was that I was crocheting with a small hook (3mm which is small for me) and I'd decided to use up some thinner than usual wool, and it was all done in single crochet, black on black.

    There was no contrast, so following the stitches was very hard work for me. I couldn't go fast, because I was having to make it up as I went along.

    When I had finally finished the main head and body shape. I then had to figure out how to make the legs and feet, as I wanted the bird to be able to stand. I had a bit of garden wire, so I cut four lengths of it so that I would have four claws, then the four wires were twined together to make the legs and the joining bit opened out inside the body and stuffed around, to try and make sure the legs would stay in place.

    The tail was made as part of the body, but then I had to make an oval piece to go underneath and between the legs as it didn't look right just pulling the edges together together. Once the body was all together, I covered the legs and claws by wrapping black wool around them and fastening by holding the ends of the wool with the bent over ends of the claws - I'd already scratched myself with the wires and I didn't want anyone else doing that - and a strategic bob or two of glue.

    The pointed beak was a separate piece, as are the wings, and for the eyes I used two haematite beads.

    The finished raven stands about 15cm tall (6") - and don't anyone ask me to make another one, because it is not going to happen!

    I took the raven outside and stood it on the edge of the bird bath to take a photo.


It was at this point that I noticed our peony bud had, at long last, opened!

    All of April we have had a very large bud on the peony. We only planted the peony last autumn, so I wasn't sure whether it would flower this year - peonies can be notorious for not flowering, or for developing buds which do not open.
    I had had a look on the internet and it seemed the buds might not open for all sorts of reasons:
Your peony might be planted too deeply - well we knew this wasn't the case because we'd checked that last autumn (and Graham had actually dug the root up and re-planted it with a growth bud sticking out of the ground), some folks said you need to plant it near an ants nest as the ants eat the waxy substance which seals the bud closed. Some folks said you should pour warm water over the bud - presumably to try and melt this same waxy stuff.
    Others simply said it needed lots and lots of warm sun to make it open - and this April has been cold, grey and wet. I think we had one day of sunshine near the beginning of the month and that was it!
    But over the Bank Holiday weekend we have had sunshine, and the same again today, with some good warmth and that seems to have finally triggered the bud to open.

    And it was worth the wait!









Sunday, 23 May 2021

Eurovision 2021

 Last night the Eurovision Song Contest returned in triumph1

    This is a wonderfully eccentric and eclectic programme, which I have watched every year since childhood and there is much to love about it. It is wacky and over the top in just about every way you can think of.

    These days it tends to be staged in huge auditoriums with vast numbers in the audience - although this year because of the ongoing Covid pandemic numbers were strictly limited and monitored. Yet it still clings to some of its original rules such as 'only six people can be on the stage at any time' so heaven forfend if your group consists of seven people, someon will have to miss out. However this also limits the number of extras ie dancers, backing singers and other entertainers who can be on stage with the main singer(s).

    Note I said 'other entertainers' because over the years there have been all sorts of extra folk on with the singer, and sometimes you do wonder if they are there to draw attention away from the singer and their truly dreadful song.

    We have seen jugglers, mime artists, fire eaters, a Russian Olympic ice skater on perhaps the smallest ice rink ever, naked bodies - or as naked as they can get away with - wild animals and a whole lot more. 

    There are huge costumes! The Australian (yes, Australia! In the Eurovision Song Contest!) on a long bendy stick comes to mind. This year there was the Russian entry in a vast Russian doll costume. Oh and the entries do also try to go in for 'the biggest' entry in whatever sense they can manage. So this year we had the highest note ever sung in a Eurovision song, and allegedly the longest held note, oh and the biggest prop ever! This was a huge silver 'moon' which hung menacingly over the singer, although I was disappointed that it was simply a ginormous silver ball with none of the crates and features of the Moon's surface.

    The music is often either generic 'Euro-pop' or very niche, appealing only to people from the singer's own country. We have had yodelling and yoiking, and we always used to play 'spot the accordian', but these seem to have finally vanished from the competition.

    This year I absolutely loved the Ukraine entry, 'Shum' by Go A, which is a folk rock style song with a catchy tune and driving beat, which seems to be a celebration of the return of Spring. To me it would be fab circle dance music, or great for shamanic rituals and one I would have on a loop and really annoy other people with.

    It was nice to see that the songs Graham and I both particularly liked all ended up in the top six or so, including Iceland, Switzerland, the Ukraine and Graham's favourite Italy which was a heavy rock song and won!

    The French entry which ended up second, was very French - of the torch singer, Edith Piaf variety. It was staged very simply, with the singer in a spotlight. It was one I could appreciate rather than be fully enthusiastic about, but it was nice to see France near the top of the leader board.

    The voting, as always, was incredibly idiosyncratic and some might say biased and political. Certain countries always vote for each other and, unfortunately for our entry, nobody seems to like the UK, and so (as usual) we ended up with 'Null Points!'

    It doesn't matter whether our song is good or bad - and this years entry was by a prize winning composer - it would appear that we are always going to end up with 'Null Points!', so I hope our chap was prepared for it.

    Overall the competition and performances were brilliant and we thoroughly enjoyed them.

    And, as always, I remember the immortal Sir Terry Wogan who commentated on the competition for many years. Alone in his commentary box with just a bottle of Irish Cream to keep him company, his comments became less politically correct as the evening progressed and the level of the Irish Cream went down. Until his crowning comment one year, on two presenters who, because of their costumes and demeanor, he referred to as 'Dr Death and the Tooth Fairy.' !

    Long live the Eurovision Song Contest!



Saturday, 8 May 2021

We've Been Done - Twice!

 There we go!

    We are now fit to be allowed out with other humans!

    Yes, this morning we went to Brough Medical Centre for our second Covid 19 jab. It was all very well organised, no long queues, not huge numbers in the waiting room, so we could all be well spaced out.

    It was different people from the two ladies we saw previously. This morning it was a nice young chap called Matthew and a male doctor. Matthew was doing the talking and record taking, 'Hello my name is Matthew and this is Doctor ... (missed the name as I was doing a strange thing in a strange place)'

    'Can I have your date of births please?' - Graham and I went in together as per the first jab, but I think this must be to check they have got the right people.

    After the jabs, Matthew made out our vaccination cards, which we can flash at people to prove we are safe to be allowed out, or in, or wherever it is necessary to flash at people, and continued 'If you lose your card, such as putting it through the washer..'

    'Through the washer,' said the doctor, 'That's a bit specific.'

    'Speaking from personal experience,' said Matthew, 'My Debit card has been through the washer.'

    Anyway if you do lose it, (the vaccination card) all the details are on your medical records and you can get a replacement.

    We had been listening to Matthew give the same instructions to several people before us, so when it came to the directions out, Graham jumped in with 'Down the corridor, turn right and out of the Fire Door.' as they were working a one way system.

    As per last time, we sat and waited in the car for ten minutes (of course we did!) then came home.

    Saddly this time it was an early morning appointment so no fish and chips today!






Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Knickers!

 'Non-essential' shops were allowed to re-open last week, with the easing of the UK lockdown, and I saw an interview with a shopkeeper asking how things were going, and what sort of stuff people were buying.

    'Oh they are buying all sorts!' the shopkeeper said happily, 'But mainly knickers, pants, bras, well all underwear.'

    Well, to be honest I am not really surprised at this. 

    The underwear I have has been through the washer so many times that the fabric is now wearing into holes. Some of the elastic has worn its way through the waist band, or is so 'relaxed' that you have to wear tights or leggings on top of them to keep them up! But I have been loath to throw any away as we had no idea when we might be able to replace them - not being ones to buy stuff online.

    And so it was, dear reader, that yesterday Graham and I ventured off our well trod essential shopping route and went in search of our local(ish) 'economy' department store. And lo we were like kids in a candy store, with so much STUFF we could buy. Shelves full of all sorts!

    So we bought paints for me and some sandals, and legs and long sleeved tee shirts for Graham (incidentally since when have tee shirts begun to be referred to as 'tees'? How idle is that? Well you won't get me doing it!). We looked at all sorts of stuff, and then found the knicker aisle, and loaded up with so many pairs of pants that I was lost beneath them in my wheels.

    There aren't many people I could say this to, but I feel we get on so well, that I can tell you that today I am wearing a pair of surprisingly stretchy and comfortable BRAND NEW KNICKERS!

    And I may even (although I may have to build up to it) throw some of the old ones away!





Thursday, 15 April 2021

Gardening Questions

 Graham and I love our garden.

    It is a bit (lot) wild, but there is always something of interest in there, even through the Winter.

    We have got more involved with it this last year though, since the start of Lockdown. When you could not go out of the house except on essential trips for supplies or food, the garden became of far greater importance, and a source of enjoyment even more. 

    Neither of us are great 'gardeners'. If we find a plant we like, we pop it in the garden somewhere, water it a bit and see if it settles and grows/flourishes. If it dies we tend to think, 'Never mind, that obviously was not a plant that likes our garden.' 

    We have also been watching the gardening programmes on the TV a bit more too. Very often thinking to ourselves that there is no way we would be messing about like proper gardeners do, checking how acidic (or not) your soil is and mulching with banana leaves or unicorn droppings.

    But there are some things that come up that must be a part of the Hidden Lore of Gardening.

    For example: how do you know what is a weed?

    When I see all these little seedlings coming up in the bare earth, I have no idea which ones are things I want and which ones are things that have just 'arrived'. Especially now there is this fashion for planting grasses in the flower beds. I used to be safe and secure in the knowledge that any grass coming up in the flower bed was a weed! Now it could be something interesting and floaty which will add interest to the flowerbed through the Winter months

    Also a lot of the herbs and magical plants which I am interested in, may well be classed as 'weeds' by other folk. I remember horrifying one of our neighbours by transplanting dandelions into a flower bed. I like dandelions and they are a very useful plant.

    Another thing which often you read on seed packets or hear on the TV is: 'Plant out after the last frost.'

    How do you know when you have had the last frost? What sort of gardening divination is this? Do they use a pendulum and ask it if the frost we had last night is the last frost  - swing straight for yes or in a circle for no, or wiggle about randomly if you don't know either! Actually you could argue that there is no such thing as the 'last' frost as there are bound to be frosts if you wait long enough through the year ie October, November.

    If they mean 'Plant out in May or June.' SAY THAT.

    In the meantime I think I'll just carry on in my own way, pottering about, planting stuff randomly and plucking the odd bit of grass out of the flowerbed. 

    It's my garden and I'll garden it in my way.



    

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Equinoxes: Balance and Harmony?

 The 20th of March this year was the time of the Vernal or Spring Equinox.

    What this means is that the length of the day and the night are equal. There are only two times in the year when this happens: at the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. At all other times, on all other days the length of the day and night will be slightly  (or even wildly) different.

    We are told that the powers of light and dark are in perfect balance and harmony. Well, they might be in balance, but that does not mean they are in harmony.

    At the Spring Equinox we are in the middle of a dynamic switch between primeval energies. This is sometimes portrayed as a battle between the Winter King and the Summer King, or Jack Frost and the Green Man.

    The prize they both desire is the Spring Maiden. This is the Queen of Winter, the White Lady, who at this time returns to the Upper world, bringing hope and new life. She is reborn and re-gains her Maidenhead.

    In nature as in the Universe there is no such thing as a balance for all time.

    Everything is in a state of constant flux and change. None of us can remain the same, neither can nature. Things are born, grow, evolve, change and die.

    There is no such thing as 'natural balance'. Now, natural imbalance is far more accurate.

    In the UK we have 75% of the worlds moorland, and conservationists are working hard to maintain this special environment.

    Note the phrase 'they are working hard' to maintain it, because moorland is not a natural environment. It was created through the actions and activities of humans.

    Once upon a time, all of that land was woodland and forest, but by cutting down the trees and clearing the land, moorland was created. Given half a chance and left to its own devices, it would become woodland and forest again - that is its natural state.

    Everyone who lives by the sea will know that you have to keep an eye on the tides. The sea retreats down the beach, then advances back up to the base of the cliffs or sand dunes over a period of hours, and at certain times of the year the height of the tides or the difference between high and low tides can be greater.

    The biggest differences of all are found just after the Equinoxes.

    The sea is never still, it is always moving. Sometimes it thrashes and lashes with great violence, at other times it is calm and gentle, but its moods can change with great rapidity.

    The Equinoxes are times of change.

    These changes will occur whether we like it or not. So perhaps this is a good time to learn how to embrace change. To understand that sometimes we just have to go with the flow - and it could be a bumpy ride!




Sunday, 14 March 2021

Maths and Crochet?

 Yes auto-correct spelling thing I have put 'Maths' above and I mean it - not the American spelling 'Math' - get over it.

    Ahem.

    I may have mentioned my next big(ish) project which I have decided to try and create an underwater scene, which will involve, coral, sea shells, fish etc. So I put 'crochet coral' into the Google search thingy and WOW! up came an exhibition of enormous crocheted pieces by Margaret Wertheim and her sister Christine who are based in Los Angeles.

    I was fascinated by the intricately curly pieces they had created, and which look enormously complicated to crochet. 

    After a bit of searching on the Net, I found that this was a well known thing called Hyperbolic Scumble and is actually very, very easy to have a go at, and to create some fab pieces.

    So I have.




The main principle is very simple: each round you increase the number of stitches in a set sequence you have decided upon before hand.

    So, for example, your pattern might be, increase a stitch every other stitch, or every third stitch or every fourth stitch. You must also decide on your basic shape before you start. The standard shapes are either rows or rounds. In the above photos the top and bottom ones are based around circles, the one in the middle is a 'dumbell' shape, two circles connected by a straight piece. And basically you just go round and round working your pattern.

    Now most folks who do crochet will know that when you are making a flat circle, you have to make increases in each row in order to keep it flat. If you do the same number of stitches in each row, your circle grows upwards like a vase or cup, instead of laying flat.

    The standard increase to make a flat circle is first round, say, 8 stitches, the second row needs two stitches in each of your base row, so 16 stitches, the next row needs an increase every other stitch so 24 stitches, the row after you leave two stitches then make an increase, the next you leave three stitches then make an increase and so on, leaving one more stitch between increases every row.

    So if you make more increases than this in each row, your 'circle' becomes more and more wavy.

    So I thought I'd have a go. And the standard pattern which you come across says that you should do one stitch, then do two in the next stitch, ie making an increase every other stitch. Now if you know the pattern for circles, you will immediately see that if you follow this for your second round, you are actually doing less stitches than you should do to make a flat circle, the third row will be the same as for a flat circle, and to be honest the fourth doesn't look much different.

    I was getting a bit frustrated and thought I was doing something wrong when I'd done three or four rows and nothing much seemed to be happening. Until I came across a little throw away comment on one site which said: 'You won't notice much different until around the 6th row ....' Which meant that being the impatient person I am, I hadn't given the pattern long enough to develop!

    Ok I know I am impatient, so I decided that rather than the slower growing 'leave one, double one, leave one, double one' pattern I'd try doing a double stitch in each stitch of the previous row, to see what happened. And you can see what happened in the pics above.

    All of these are done with standard double knitting wool and all of them have five rows of double crochets and a sixth row of single crochet edging. 

    I am very pleased with them and they should go into my finished piece nicely. But I am going to do some more experimenting, varying the number of single stitches, and yarns.


This last pic shows one of my first experiments. This uses a yarn which is thick and thin and varigated. And in this one I used the standard pattern of one single, one double on a crochet chain, but working up one side, around the end and back down the other side. I did three rows of double crochets, but in the third row I did two stitches in each stitch around the ends, then the 4th row in single crochet, two stitches in each stitch.

    I was after something that looked a bit like a sea slug and am quite please with the result.


Incidentally isn't it annoying when people start every sentence with 'so,' I shall be really glad when this fashion is dropped, the same as that inflection which sends the end of every sentence up, so it sounds like whoever you are talking to is continually asking questions instead of making a statement:

'So, I have a cup of tea?'





Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Bridie - Hypno-Dog!

 Every dog we have had, have all had totally different characters.

    Every dog owner will tell you the same.

    And the two we currently have are very, very different characters.

    Tallulah is coming up to three years old this summer and Bridie will be eleven this year. So it is no surprise that Tallulah is bouncy and cheerful, loves everyone and thinks that everyone will love her too. While Bridie is restrained, elegant and aloof.

    Bridie was a show girl - she has been to Crufts - and was a mature dog when we got her. I don't tink she had ever learnt to play (although Tallulah is quite persistent in trying to get her to join in chasing and bouncing games). 

    Tallulah is also quite uninhibited when it comes to getting your attention. There is no way you will be able to ignore her. She will nudge you quite firmly with her nose, so you get poked in the arm or in the side, or if you are writing a furry nose will lift your hand up. And if that fails, then her front legs are up on your knee and you nose, ear, or whatever part of your face she car reach is given a good snuffle and lick.

    This is not something Bridie has ever learnt. 

    Instead Bridie has developed the Hypno-dog stare.



    Between the 1st and 2nd World Wars there was a Music Hall act with a dog known as 'Hypno-Dog', and at some point, while they were touring the UK, the dog managed to go missing. Posters were put up and there were even announcements in the Newspapers, asking people to be on the look out for the missing dog. But at the same time they were warned that under no circumstances should they look Hypno-Dog in the eye, or it would put them to sleep.

    Well, we have our very own Bridie the hypno-dog.

    As I said, she has never learnt how to do the in-your-face demanding attention thing. But instead she has developed a very disconcerting stare.

    You may be reading a book, or working at the computer and suddenly you are aware that you are not alone.

    And when you look round there is Bridie, stood stock still, staring at you. Staring very, very intensely at you.

    STARING!

    And into your head will come the message:

    'You WILL give the dog a biscuit!' and you find yourself reaching for the dog biscuit box.

    And when you turn back, silently the ninja hypno-dog is now an inch from your leg, but still with the unblinking hypno-dog stare.

    Sometimes it isn't food but a cuddle she wants. Again she has never learnt how to just throw herself at you in a 'Cuddle me!' demanding sort of way, so instead she positions herself sideways in front of you and gives you the hypno-dog stare! But when you do cuddle her, or stroke or rub her head (which she loves) you feel her gently relax and collapse against you.

    Bridie has also decided that she likes the occasional cup of tea or coffee. Now, I know that dogs should not routinely be given tea or coffee as the caffeine is bad for them, but for a start I drink red bush tea (no caffeine) and the way I like tea and coffee is so weak that it is fortnight!

    Besides which, the first time she decided to give tea a try, there was not a lot we could do about it.

    That was last summer, out in the garden. My mug was standing on the grass cooling and the next thing we knew, a certain dog had got her head stuck in the mug and she was not coming out until all the tea had been drunk!

    So occasionally after tea, when we are watching TV and relaxing with a coffee, I become aware that Bridie has decided that tonight is the night for a sip or two of coffee.

    Tallulah has also learnt to recognise the 'hypno-dog' stare and watches happily as Graham is directed to share the cool remains of my drink into two dog bowls.

    So all I can say to you is:

    Beware of the Hypno-Dog - and under no circumstances look her in the eyes!