Friday, December 26, 2014


The hardcore Christmas party revellers left at the end of the annual Christmas Carol Concert, where we sing and play our way through popular Christmas carols. I always leave practising the piano until a couple of days before, and barely have my tunes ready in time to play. Luckily there are other musicians present, though this year I did think we could do with an overhaul for next year. A way of engaging the children better, or involving everyone better.
This year I became obsessed by knitting Christmas balls. I was like a woman possessed. I just love everything about them. The silliness, the coolness, the kookiness. They tick all the boxes for me. Plus, the variations are endless. I want to do the reindeer head and the skier, and the PIG. A double-chart is needed for the pig.
My bamboo double-pointed needles are ideal for the balls. And as usual my wee companion helps by keeping me warm and entertained.
This month I got to see two of my favourite far-away friends. This is Joyce, my ex-work colleague from Norwich. We worked together from the beginning of the Witness Care Units in England and Wales. I liked Joyce immediately because she was straight-talking and good fun. I still miss that job. It had extremely challenging moments, but the team was great, very supportive, irreverent humour and Fridays encapsulated 'do-what-you-want-Friday', and the famous Shake 'n' Bake. Oh, and for a while we used to phone in takeaway bacon rolls. 
And this is Janie my London friend. We have started meeting in York once a year (nowhere near enough), which is equidistant between London and Edinburgh. We both used to live in Tufnell Park and spent many gin evenings in Janie's garden. Also many walks on Hampstead Heath finishing up with tea at Kenwood. I wish I could keep all the favourite parts of London and Norwich in my Edinburgh life. If only teleporting existed. 
My favourite day in the whole year is 23rd December, our wedding anniversary. We do exactly the same thing every year, which involves: shutting out the world, lunch out at a favourite cafe/restaurant, and then home for Champagne and watching White Christmas. I LOVE White Christmas. The dancing and singing are just superb. And the manners, and costumes and sentiment.

We had a marathon drive yesterday, as we always do. Our families live in a triangular hour and a half drive from us/each other. We started off at my parents' house, then moved over to my sister and brother-in-law's house for Christmas dinner. It was really lovely, and they had obviously gone to a lot of effort to make everything great. I also got to see my great-nephew, Keigan, who is such a terrific boy. Then a late afternoon/early evening drive to my mother-in-law's. I wish she lived beside us. She is also a great character and was recounting a story of when Hagos and his siblings were children and the family used to go on cycling holidays! They cycled all the way from Annan to Carlisle and beyond. Hagos can remember cycling on the dual carriageway when he was eight years old! On one cycling holiday Hagos and his sister Jill got food poisoning and their dad and brother had to cycle all the way home to collect the car to go and pick them up. 

Today we're heading round to see our friends and Godsons for a mammoth game of Monopoly. Lynsey and I are planning to drive back here to put the chickens to bed and have a walk/break from everyone else. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

For Willow

I finally sewed together the vest and bootees for Willow last night. I think it's aged 0-3 months and she must be almost a month old now so I'd better hurry up and pass them on! I sewed on little cream roses as an embellishment and to link the vest and bootees. I love the way it adds to the garments but they were a bugger to sew on. Getting them in matching places on the bootees was tricky! And mixing sewing thread and wool isn't great. So, they may not stay on too long but they look good to give.

Bye Bye Bread

We had to say goodbye to the cockerels. They had reached sexual maturity and were causing havoc amongst the girls as well as becoming aggressive towards us. As a human female I must say their mating ritual left a lot to be desired. There was no beautiful display, or trying to impress a hen until she was receptive and accepting - oh no. They would sidle up to an oblivious hen, do a sideways stomp and a kind of flamenco move with one wing and then hop on. That was as seductive as it got. Another method was to suddenly spot a hen they fancied meandering round the corner, take a great stomping run and jump and land on top of her. The girls were beginning to look haggard and the worse for wear.

Interestingly, each cockerel had a type of hen it was attracted to. Poor Henrietta was a favourite of Penguin, the most brutish cockerel. She eventually had to be coaxed out of bed in the morning and then escorted past him at night to get back into bed. One time I went round to a lot of squawking to find her wedged between a tree trunk and the wire fence of the run, with her head through the bars, and Penguin from the top of the tree trunk STILL trying to jump on her.

Another interesting and heartening observation was how the other hens would leap to the defence of one of their sisters by pecking a cockerel off. I gave those girls extra grapes as a reward.

The only cockerel I did have a wee cry over was Bread. I know he had to go. He was HUGE. But until he fully matured he was my favourite boy. He would sing to me and settle down while I cuddled him. But in the end even he was looking at me as if about to attack, and his size in comparison to some of the hens (poor, tiny Squeaky Cheese caught his fancy) was untenable. That's testosterone for you.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Winter hat and mittens

My old hat had felted through over-wearing, so I knitted a new one. Above is the finished item. It only took a couple of hours from start to finish. I love it.
Before the ends were sewn in. Ignore the state of the blanket in the background. It's Meg's blanket and therefore filthy.
And then last week I lost my lovely 4-ply Norwegian Star mittens! I think I got out of the car one day while they were on my lap. So I knitted these chunky mittens to match my hat. One mitten per evening. I love quick knits.

They are lovely and warm and bright and cheerful, and they match my current scarf, which will extend my winter accessories another year. I want the colour-scheme for my next mittens, hat and scarf to be lush green and white.