Sunday, April 27, 2014

The flowers that bloom in the Spring - tra-la

On the running front, I've just passed the 700 mile mark, 707 to be exact, in my running streak. It looks as if I'm going to have an even higher than usual tally by the end of the year. The next marathon in my series of 7 this year is next weekend at the Three Forts Challenge - it's known as 'the tough one' for good reason!

I can't help but show some of the photos I've taken in the garden recently as everything is bursting into life and it really fills my heart with joy. I love the changing seasons, each with its own beauty.

We had some wonderfully sunny days last week and we all enjoyed it. The horses came into the orchard to graze and get the grass down so the wildflowers come through. We usually let them in around January but it's been too water-logged until now. They get so excited when I start pegging out the area and there's always lots of neighing and running about before they are finally let inside!

Kizzy, right, in the shade of a pear tree, taking a break from eating
Mr Pheasant snuggling down in the grass to sun himself
Pear blossom
One day the buds on the apple trees were like this…...
…a few days later they had opened to this
Hawthorne blossom
The clematis is now out fully and looks magnificent.  It's on the fence which screens our yard (aka the dumping ground for any bricks/branches/stones and other things we don't know what to do with!) and is just beyond the patio. The scent is absolutely divine.
Clematis montana 'Elizabeth' looking magnificent
Close-up - I wish this was in smell-o-vision!
I could spend days showing all the beautiful flowers appearing in the garden right now but I've tried to restrict myself to some of my favourites:

I found this little beauty, not planted by me, lurking in the undergrowth - it's Viola sororia 'Freckles'  which has self-seeded in the gravel garden
The vivid blue flowers of Lithodora 'Heavenly Blue' which I was transferring from the pot to its place in the garden
Look at the pretty pink roots
You are never alone in our garden as it's teeming with wildlife such as this grasshopper
The next 4 photos are of some of the many Aquilegias I grow. Also known as 'Granny's bonnet' they self-seed all over the place and are a welcome sight in Springtime. What caught my attention was the one below displaying a pale yellow centre:

What a beautiful colour combo!
The reason I went to investigate was that I hadn't planted one with that colour combination so I think it must have hybridised with the deep purple one and the yellow one shown below.

One of my many Euphorbias. This one has striking dark centres
No flowers this time, just the tiny gooseberries starting to swell - I must remember to net them before the ducks get at them this year!
The delicate flowers of Blueberry 'Patriot' which I grow in a pot on the patio

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter but without any eggs ('cos we had chocolate bunnies instead!)

A farrago

Before I write about Easter I needed to delve into the bag that came home with us from the London marathon. I'd been putting it off for a couple of days because I remembered how the carefully untwined chain had been bundled, willy-nilly, into my kitbag.

This farrago is what came out of the bag!

It took quite a long time to get it back into separate colours which I then secured with some yarn to keep them together.

Then I started to undo some of the chains to finish off the first blanket. You can see some bits of the many ends that need to be woven in sticking out.

It's just over 1 metre square which I think it's just the right size for a lap blanket. It will be going to the recipient in a couple of weeks. But I won't be writing about that on here as it will be a very personal and emotional meeting as I know they will be touched by the gesture.

The next blanket can't be started just yet as I have to take the remaining chains and the blanket to GWR HQ next week for a photo-shoot and Q & A session.

Good Friday

We decided to have a little trip to Hastings as the weather was fine. It was rather breezy down by the coast though which made it feel cool. We always head to what's known as the 'old town' where there are lots of pretty terraces and quirky buildings.

This being Good Friday there was a procession along this little street (which is one I know well as it forms part of the route of the Hastings half marathon which I last ran back in 2011).

We had a good mooch around the secondhand book shops and vintage clothing shops and I found this little gem. It's a Hobbs jacket and it's as good as new. The colour is perfect with my hair - this was taken on a very dull day and the colour is much more vibrant. I needed a new Spring/Summer jacket and so I was ecstatic!

Redhead heaven!
I also found this little chap looking all forlorn in a charity shop.

He's a tea-light holder, very similar to a cat that I made in pottery class a few years ago. The light will shine through his holes and at £2 I think he was a bargain.

I always stop to look at this tiny garden as it's an oasis of calm in a rather busy street. It was looking very lush and these massive leaves by the gate are of a Zantedeschia which was flowering already.

Of course, after lots of walking and rummaging we were in need of some sustenance so we headed off to our favourite little cafes, the Land of Green Ginger, for coffee and cake (simnel cake, yum!).

It was so busy we had to sit outside in their back yard which was charming. There was a beautiful cherry tree on one side and the petals were falling like confetti so we had to cover our cups of coffee with our hands!

The next day it was somewhat brighter so I took myself off for a run through the woods and across the fields.  The bluebells were all out and the smell was wonderful.

The bronze-coloured leaves of sycamore. newly emerged, drew my eye.

Whilst the bright yellow flowers of gorse shone brightly as if they were soaking up the sunlight.

It was lovely to see these Red Sussex cows and their pretty calves, taking shade under the tree canopy.

So why the photo of a bruised and cut leg? Did I fall over out on my run or did it happen whilst I ran the London marathon?


I somehow managed to trip over the handle on one of the sun-loungers whilst I was moving a pot around. Ouch!!!

On Easter Sunday it rained. The view from the kitchen window was still beautiful though as the blossom on the clematis looked so pretty with the pear tree in the background.

I took this shot of part of the front garden by hanging out of the bedroom window. You can really make out the shape of the heart in the gravel garden now the plants are spreading out. You can also see the little stone and brick perching bench Mike made for me a few weeks ago. I like to wander around the garden with a cup of coffee then stop and look at things and this is perfect for a short break.

As it was dreary outside I decided to bake some cheesy bread rolls to cheer us up. They are my own recipe and they have a texture somewhere between a bread and a scone. They were divine, though I say it myself!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The birdy has flown

Having missed Eleanor at the start of the London marathon I had to post the Bluebird of Happiness to her. So yesterday he flew all the way up to Yorkshire to meet Louis.

Eleanor sent me these lovely photos of him opening the package:

What's this then?
Here's some bunny paper for you mummy
Just checking the quality of the crochet!
I love you birdy!
My birdy
Louis's smile just melts your heart doesn't it!
Thank you so much for sharing these lovely photos Eleanor.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Crocheting to link people with dementia, and their families, together - you are not alone

So here we are again, at the start of the London marathon. It was my 9th running of this marathon and my 34th marathon in total. As usual we had to leave home at silly o'clock to get there in time so we'd already been in Blackheath for 1.5 hours by the time I had to go and register with Guinness World Records adjudicators.

I was greeted by the lovely Amarilis who has now returned from maternity leave (you can see a photo of her and the little crochet boottees I made for her baby here). Then Damian arrived and there was more hugging and catching up to do. I wasn't able to stay around for the group photo because I had a TV interview to do in a different area so we decided I should get into my running gear and have everything checked so that I could head off.

Heading back to Mike to get into my outfit
Attaching the timing chip to my shoe
All blinged-up and ready to go
Cheeky pose!
Part of what I was doing on marathon day was to start crocheting a blanket when I got up in the morning (4am since you asked!) and I continued working on it during the journey into London. Here's what I managed to do before the start:

Blankie beginnings
The joy of using a chunky yarn is that your work grows really quickly! I used a really nice granny heart pattern from Kara's blog as the centrepiece. I chose it because I liked the raised edge which made it very tactile. Then I just did some basic granny rounds in many different colours of Lion Brand Hometown USA - I love the range of bright zingy colours and this yarn is so soft, not at all like the scratchy acrylic yarns I grew up with.

The blanket then went into my baggage and onto one of the many lorries that transport our stuff to the finish area. The idea was that I would add the chain I crocheted during the marathon to the blanket and then it would be donated to someone suffering from dementia to let them know they are not forgotten and to wrap them in love * see below.

Then I was checked by an adjudicator, briefed with my final instructions and headed off to meet Eleanor to give her the little crocheted birdy for her baby. Sadly, the best laid plans often go awry when public transport is involved and she couldn't get to our meeting place in time. We tried to meet up in another area but couldn't find oneanother and by then I was rushing to get to my interview so had to dash off without meeting her! Hey ho.

Waving goodbye to Mike to go into the Red Start area
The interview with Helen Skelton was great (she's lovely) and was shown on the morning in the general marathon coverage on the BBC and then again in the marathon highlights. All fab publicity for Alzheimer's Research UK and it was brilliant because a lot of the spectators had seen it, as indeed had many fellow runners, and were looking out for me en-route.

There seemed to be a lot of tooing and froing between starting areas for me yesterday which helped pass the time. Before I left the Red Start area I had the presence of mind to nip to the toilet before I left as the queue wasn't too long and I knew I'd want to go before the start of the marathon. Thank goodness I did as when I got back to the Green Start the queues for the toilets and for the baggage lorries were huge!

The weather had been overcast and cool first thing but by 10am when the marathon started it was already getting rather warm. Hmmm, not great when you're wrapped up in yarn. As usual I started near the back of the field with the people wearing large costumes; amongst them there was a man with a fridge on his back (yes, really), a telephone box, a giant fire extinguisher, a womble and the Jamaican bobsleigh team carrying a huge structure.

I settled into my own rhythm but was a bit miffed when the telephone box went striding off ahead of me. Humph! I'm experienced enough not to get carried along by the speedier runners and just stuck to my own pace.

The race was mostly a blur of crocheting, attaching chains to my waistband, tying-in new yarn, waving to spectators and trying not to trip over the speed humps on the road - they are tricksy little blighters and you can easily trip up on them.

Lots of fellow runners came to say "hi" and wished me well as they went past - I just love the camaraderie you get in a marathon. Plus, the spectators at London are always brilliant and they don't just stick around for the speedy runners, many stay out there for hours on end to support the slower runners. I was delighted that lots of people shouted out that they'd seen the interview with Helen.

As it got hotter and hotter, more and more people started to walk which doesn't often happen in the early stages. This meant that I was forever dodging around people which made it hard to concentrate on what I was doing.

In the area around Narrow Street it became increasingly difficult to get past as it lives up to it's name and is indeed very narrow. I was looking out for a sea of purple where the ARUK supporters would be and was delighted at how many people were there supporting this year. Their numbers had been bolstered by the ARUK London Supporter's Group.

Tim, head of communications at ARUK, had his chief photographers hat on and snapped this photo of me as I ran past.

My large deramores badge had started to peel off and my yarn kept getting stuck underneath it!
As it got hotter my hands got very sweaty (sorry if that's too much info!) which meant the yarn dragged and became difficult to work with. Then there were lots of people out with hoses trying to help cool down the runners and I got sprayed several times just to make things even harder.

We redheads don't like the heat at all and by mile 20 I was getting rather overheated. Although I'd paced myself to finish in around 5:50 - 5:55 I decided not to risk making myself ill and so I increased my pace for the last 6 miles to finish in 5:40:47. After all the dodging around people my GPS watch told me I'd run 27.10 miles.

I was greeted by Fran from the press team at VLM and people from Guinness World Records and after lots of hugging it was time to measure the chain. I had no idea how long it was but I was jolly glad to get rid of it as the weight had been hurting my back!

Of course, the chains had been jiggling around tied to my waist and were quite tangled so first of all I had to to carefully cut them off my waistband. Then we wound them into loose hanks and the measuring began. Crochet is stretchy and so they were careful to find a neutral position as they measured (i.e. somewhere between slack and stretched).

The measuring process
It soon became obvious that it was a bit longer than my previous chain of 77.4 metres. This wasn't really a surprise because last time I did it my neck and shoulders were still very sore following a road traffic accident and I struggled all the way round even with a lightweight yarn.

So what did it measure?

139.42 metres.

Tee hee!

Here's my new Guinness World Record certificate
* When I saw just how long it was I realised that I'd have to revise my plans for the blanket as there was just too much of it. So what I've decided is that I'll take a section of it, undo it and crochet some more rounds onto the blanket. That way, the yarn used will have been part of the chain that I created whilst running the marathon and there will be enough yarn left to make another blanket for someone else.

Finally, at last, I could head off to meet Mike who was bursting with pride. After much hugging he took the obligatory post-London-marathon photo, which is always my favourite.

You can see someone's had a good day shopping in London!
Usually we head off to a pub to meet up with fellow runners or just head home, depending on how tired I'm feeling. This time we were off to the Phoenix Artists' Club where we held the first ever ARUK Supporters' Day to meet up with the team from ARUK and fellow runners and their families.

It's probably only about a 15 - 20 minute walk from where we were but Mike had a surprise for me - we had a ride in a rickshaw. It was a complete tourist rip-off but we didn't care and we giggled like teenagers and ate chocolate as the driver pedalled away. We saw lots of fellow runners and their partners doing exactly the same thing!

It was lovely chatting to fellow runners and the ARUK team. Tim was taking photos of everyone for their social media sites so I had a few more mug shots.

He'd also created a whiteboard for people to hold with their reason for running the marathon. As always I ran in memory of my mum, which is what I wrote. 

However, this time it was also about joining people together, hence the crochet chain. It's wonderful to have another Guinness World Record but I really hope that people understand the metaphor of the chain; linking people suffering from dementia together.

Thank you to everyone who's supported me and to my fellow runners - together we can defeat this devastating disease.