Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy, Happy days

Introducing Happy the Happypotamus

This is the little chap I've been making for a very special lady who I was expecting to meet up with on day 2 of my marathon weekend.

You see, my friend Ruth, who's appeared on my blog many times, ran her 300th marathon on Saturday. Yes, you did read that correctly; 300! I couldn't be there on the day she reached that amazing milestone but she was scheduled to come to the second day of the Buttons for Brathay Bells and Whistles Race Festival which was organised by my lovely running chum Kaz.

So why on earth did I choose to crochet a hippo for her?

Simple; her chosen nickname has been 'Plodding Hippo' for as long as I've known her so when I saw Heidi Bears Happypotamus I knew I had to make one for her. It is such a well written pattern with detailed instructions and lots of photos and it was a joy to make.

So here he is. He's made using small amounts of sock weight/4ply yarn and my colour choices have special meaning, but I will share them with Ruth as they are personal.

I'm a bit shy actually
Cute ears
Clever shaping
Enough of the photos, I'm out of here!
I thought he needed a tail (some people on Ravelry added them too) so I plaited him one and attached this pretty flower button rather than a ribbon
The sad thing was that on Saturday night, when she should have been travelling down to Dover for day 2 of the marathon weekend, her car packed in and she couldn't get there! So for the moment Happy will be living with us.

I really enjoyed making him and Mike and I both love him so much that I'm going to make another of Heidi's designs for us. I'm thinking about the elephant but the rhino's cute too and then there's the frog……….

I'm in a rush now so I'll just leave you with a couple of photos from the marathon weekend. I'll write about it in detail tomorrow but for now here we have me, still smiling on day 2 (which means I survived the marathon on day 1) and my 2 medals.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Go, go, go!

I'm just back from the ARUK conference and what I time I and there!

I did so many interviews and met many wonderfully inspiring people. It was fantastic and I really need to write a massive blog post about it but my brain's mush at the moment so for now I'll just leave you with my Press release for the London marathon which went out the other day:

ALZHEIMER’S RESEARCH UK - Press Office 0300 111 5 666 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Date to be confirmed
Marathon crochet challenge for ‘Extreme Knitting Redhead’ Susie Hewer
Fundraiser eyes another Guinness World Record in support of Alzheimer’s Research UK
Inspirational runner Susie Hewer could stitch her way into the history books at this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon while boosting funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK. The flame-haired fundraiser, from Ewhurst Green in East Sussex, will attempt to beat her own Guinness World Record for creating the longest crochet chain while running a marathon on Sunday 13 April. As ever Susie, known as ‘The Extreme Knitting Redhead’, will run in memory of her mum, Peggy, who died with vascular dementia in 2005, aged 89.
Susie took up running in 2002 and ran her first marathon two weeks after losing her mum. Over the past eight years she has entered dozens of races – including 31 marathons – in Peggy’s memory and raised over £30,000 for pioneering dementia research.
Her current crochet record is 77.4m (253ft) which she achieved at the London Marathon in 2010. She finished in a time of 5hrs 42mins and averaged an incredible 2.9m per mile. She was also the first person to run a marathon while knitting and set the Guinness World Record for creating the longest scarf over the 26.2-mile distance. Susie has the backing of deramores – the UK’s largest online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies – which is supplying her with yarn for next month’s record attempt.
Aside from the marathon, Susie is undertaking a running challenge with a twist to mark her 57th birthday in June. To represent the ‘five’ in her age, Susie will run a minimum of 5k every day for five months until 31 May. During that time she will also run five marathons, starting with two marathons in a weekend at the end of March. To represent the ‘seven’ in her age, Susie will run two additional marathons in the autumn.
Furthermore, on her way into London on race-day, Susie will start crocheting a lap blanket as a gift for someone with dementia. She will invite people to add a few stitches before the race starts. Once she’s crossed the line, Susie will complete the blanket and attach it to her crochet chain.
Susie, a Champion of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“My dear mum is my inspiration for running. Every marathon I complete is a tribute to her. Having watched her fade away with vascular dementia, I’m determined to do everything I can to raise money and awareness for the research experts, Alzheimer’s Research UK. When Mum was 80 she had a series of mini strokes. She’d been living with us for some time so my husband, Mike, and I didn’t notice the gradual changes in her behaviour. But when she started seeing imaginary people, wandering out of the house and getting violent mood swings, we knew something serious was wrong.
“It was a terrible shock when I realised Mum didn’t recognise me as her daughter anymore. My sweet natured Mum turned into an angry and confused person, incontinent and unable to do anything for herself, awake most of the night. Life became almost unbearable. It broke my heart when she had to go into a care home for the last months of her life. She died the day after her 89th birthday. Thoughts of Mum keep me focused when running gets tough. 
“I use crochet, which forms a series of interlocking chains, as a way of explaining how dementia breaks the link between brain cells. In a healthy brain, thoughts flow freely between each connected section, while dementia breaks the links between cells until the brain is no longer able to function. My mum also taught me to crochet when I was very young so it has an extra special meaning for me. Shortly before my last attempt I suffered neck problems following a car crash and had to use a really lightweight yarn. Even then it hurt my neck like mad. I have unfinished business and I’m confident I can crochet an even longer chain this year. Even though I’ll still have neck ache by the end of it, it will be worth it to help Alzheimer’s Research UK progress with its groundbreaking research.”
Jodie Vaughan, Community Fundraising Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Susie is an amazing Champion of Alzheimer’s Research UK and we can’t thank her enough for her continued efforts to raise money for our pioneering research. During the past eight years Susie has raised over £30,000 for the charity, enough to pay for 1,500 hours of world-class research and vital equipment for our scientists. Her remarkable efforts are helping bring us closer to finding ways to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people across the UK living with dementia today, including over 10,000 people in East Sussex – one of the highest county figures. Surrounding those people is a network of family members and carers profoundly affected by the condition. Dementia poses one of the greatest threats to public health now and in the future, but funding for research still lags far behind other serious diseases. We are so grateful to Susie and to all our wonderful supporters, who we rely on to fund our crucial research.”
To help Susie raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK’s vital research, donate online at For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit

For further information, or to speak with Susie Hewer or Jodie Vaughan, please contact Lloyd Vaughan, Media Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 0300 111 5 666, mobile 07788 313409 or email 

Notes to editors:

  • Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia.
  • We rely on donations to fund our vital dementia research. To help us defeat dementia, donate today by visiting or calling 0300 111 5555.
  • We are currently supporting dementia research projects worth over £20 million in leading Universities across the UK.
  • Susie Hewer is one of a growing group of outstanding people nominated by Alzheimer’s Research UK as Champions of the charity. Nominations are made annually in recognition of the sustained fundraising efforts of individual supporters and their help in raising the profile of dementia research. Further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Champions is available at

Monday, March 24, 2014

A frosty morning

I'm just enjoying a well-earned coffee and chocolate break before heading off to the Alzheimer's Research Conference in the beautiful city of Oxford. My camera is fully charged and ready to snap away.

There's just time to post some photos from this morning, and what a beautiful morning it was too. All frosty first thing then bright sunshine.

When I drew the blinds in the lounge this morning I loved the scene that greeted me. Mrs duck asleep in the pottery birdbath I made, Mr duck standing guard and the new pheasant digging in the stones.

The pheasant is an unusual colour as you can see here when compared with another female. I think she must be the female version of the really dark green and black ones I've seen recently.

The frost makes things look so pretty. The leaves of this foxglove look as if they're silver.

Whilst the emerging leaves of this Brunnera 'Jack Frost' live up to their name without the help of any real frost!

As the sun rose it highlighted this Cornus 'Midwinter fire' beautifully. This is a variety which is not hard-pruned in the Spring as it sulks and doesn't grow as well if you do.

My run this morning was heavenly - mostly off-road. This new-born lamb was boinging all over the place. They are Soay sheep and are sometimes mistaken for small goats. It's most unusual to find 3 small flocks within .5 mile from our house.

The hedgerows are full of such beautiful wild flowers which I always refer to by their common names rather than their latin names as they are so descriptive:

Star flowers
Dog violets
Wood anemones - one of my favourites

Upon my return I was greeted by 2 sleepy ducks. I've named these 2 boys Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee.

Then all that was left to do was finish off my guilt baking; that is, making Mike lots of lovely things to eat whilst I'm away gallivanting in Oxford!

Cheese and onion bread - it's yummy!
Last night I started joining my african flower motifs together and they are coming with me for any quiet moments when I'm back in my room.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Just a quicky

I'm rushing around like a headless chicken at the moment, trying to get ready to head off to Oxford for the ARUK conference next week! Very exciting.

In a moment of calm yesterday afternoon I headed out into the orchard to pick some flowers for the kitchen. I bypassed the brightly coloured daffodils and chose these really delicate white and pale yellow ones and teamed them with some leucojums, aka Spring Snowflakes.

They just looked so clean and fresh and they smell divine. When I came down this morning I was struck at how lovely they looked in artificial light set against the kitchen blind. 

Leucojums are like giant snowdrops with enormous strappy leaves. They are really happy in our heavy clay soil either in full sun or part shade and help to brighten up a dark corner.

The inside of these daffodils is most unusual with pale yellow ruffles and dangly bits!

My crochet flowers are complete now. There are pentagons, hexagons, heptagons and octagons with a couple of squares thrown in for good measure.  Now I need to outline them all and join them using the join-as-you-go method. I can't wait to see the finished article and watch my friend's face when she sees it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Move him into the sun

Gently it's touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.

(from 'Futility' by Wilfred Owen)

But sadly the sun won't have the same effect now, as yesterday our beautiful boy, Tinker, let us know that he was ready to leave us.

So he did.

Although he didn't quite make it to his 18 birthday we felt honoured that he had enriched our lives for as long as he could. 

He will be buried wrapped in an old London marathon fleece (I can't remember which year this is from), alongside his best mate Barney. They both used to fight over who would sleep on my fleece but mostly they snuggled together on it.

This was his last sunset.

He will be missed.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sunshine (for the moment at least!)


I'm having great fun crocheting the African flowers for my project using leftover bits of sock yarn and other 4ply yarns. I like playing around with just 3 colours and using them for a different part of the design. The motif looks so different which is just what I want.

The sun has been out intermittently throughout this week which has given me lots of time for gardening. There's always such a lot to do at this time of year and many chores have been postponed because of the horrendous weather.

As I took a photo of the morning light shining on the beautiful dogwoods in this bed I noticed something about the gazebo roof; the coating was peeling. 

On the left the yellow stems of Cornus 'Flaviramea', in the foreground Cornus 'Mid-Winter fire' and you might just be able to make out the dark red stems of Cornus alba 'Siberica' behind it)
We only made it 18 months ago but the non-stop rain that's been battering us for months has clearly taken its toll. Bother, I thought (or something like that!).

So out came my scraper and sandpaper and I got to work in stripping off the damaged bits, which included a large part of the floor. Now it's all ready to be stained and varnished again.

Last year I decorated it with lots of bunting and tea-lights and I had some embroidered cloths hanging from the 3 walls inside (I can't find any photos of it which is most unlike me!). The table and chairs also have their own summertime clothing of cloth and cushions too.

This year I'm going to stencil a pattern on each panel with a large motif I used between the beams in the music room. I haven't measured the design against the panels yet so I don't know if the whole design will fit. If not then I'll just select bits of it. Then again, I might change my mind completely and do something different; I always have lots of different ideas swimming around in my head. Now I've typed that I'm thinking that perhaps some folk art motifs would work……..

Running has been a delight this week as my feet have remained dry. Although some of the ground is still very muddy and boggy, I have managed to do all my runs off-road and that has really lifted my spirits. The other day I decided to try a riparian run and headed down to Bodiam to see what the ground was like there.

As I got to within half a mile of the village I started to get a headache. My eyes started to water and my throat began to close up. This is never a good sign for an asthmatic!

I ran past the castle and headed over to a trail that had been completely submerged a few weeks ago. You can see the edge of the waterline which is now just brown silt and sludge. Apologies for the lighting but I was shooting into the sun and it didn't show up as well when I tried to take it from the opposite direction.

There was evidence of ditch clearance all along the riverbank.

It was then that I spotted the reason for my discomfort - Satan's sputum, aka Oil-seed Rape! I hate this plant so much. The leaves smell of rotting cabbage from the moment they emerge, I can smell the flowers from half a mile away and their effect upon me is not pleasant at all. When they are sprayed, prior to harvesting their seed, the smell is nauseating.

Yes, I know the flowers are jolly and bright and fields of them look amazing when they are in flower but I'm pretty sure that asthmatics and allergy-sufferers worldwide will share my hatred of this horrid plant. I have experimented in trying to reduce my reaction to it by having honey from bees used for its pollination it but it tastes of cabbage to me and I don't like the taste of the oil either, so there!

The best part of that run was leaving the valley behind and being greeted by this lovely welcome committee as I arrived home. I think they must be some of the ducklings from last year as they didn't move away when I walked past them and they followed me to the barn for some grain.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday Titbits

Pretty things

When I realised just how close my first 2 marathons were I had massive panic attack, not because of the running but because I need to get some crochet on the go pdq! I daren't say what it is in case the recipient pops onto my blog. Although I know she doesn't read it on a regular basis, she does sometimes pop in here if I post a link on Facebook. So, all I can say for now is that I shall be making lots of these African flower motifs using a combination of sock yarn and crewel wools. I certainly won't leave the weaving-in of tails until the end and will make sure I do it after about 6 motifs.

She will love it and I can't wait to give it to her.

I've also got a bit of counted cross stitch on the go. Aren't these  bunnies adorable? It's a tiny project but makes a nice break from knitting and crochet now the hours of daylight are lengthening. I made one a few weeks ago as a christening gift for my friend's grand-daughter but this one's for us.

Whilst I was tidying around some pots in the front garden something scuttled along the front wall. I went to investigate and spotted this sweet little wood mouse.

Pesky things

Top of the list are wild rabbits. Their indiscriminate nibbling and digging is driving me mad at the moment.
Rabbits digging holes for no apparent reason!
They are closely followed by vine weevils; the hidden killers. The adult vine weevil, a black beetle sort of creature that roams around at night, causes minor damage to plants and just nibbles the edges of leaves. However, it lays its eggs on the surface of the soil and the grubs then burrow down and eat the roots of plants and you have no idea how much damage they've done until the plant collapses.

Vine weevils in the rock garden - they've decimated my Sedum Xenox
My beautiful Sedum Xenox in autumn last year before the vine weevils destroyed it
Now you don't often see this pest but they are never far away from us. I came across this half-skull when I was weeding. It's the skull of a rat. Look at that massive tooth at the end of its jaw. The whole skull bone is about the size of my thumb. 

We didn't have a problem with rats in the barn this year (they wee on the hay rendering it inedible) but I saw a huge one the other day as it scuttled along the hedge so I'm hoping it wasn't heading for the barn to make a nest.

Earth-moving things

Our train line has suffered severe disruption for weeks now with shuttle buses between the damaged sections of line. I was worried about it as I needed to go into London last week and up until the day before our station was out of action. Thankfully it was running, albeit on a reduced service, so I was very lucky.

There were 10 landslips on our line and I took some photos of this bit that was still being repaired with a couple of links showing Stonegate & here.

What a massive operation. I felt very sorry for the lady in the ticket office at our station because she was being verbally abused by a very snooty man in front of me who seemed to be holding her responsible for the problems!

Beautiful creatures

I am always taken aback by the beauty of pheasants close-up. Their markings are breathtaking and the colours make me gasp with delight, especially when the sunlight catches their feathers. Stunning birds.

The shooting season is over so the farmers don't feed them any more so they are all left to fend for themselves. Many will meet their end on the lanes and some will be caught by foxes. Others, like this fellow, find sanctuary here - this one even takes grain from my hand if there's no-one else around. 

Our beautiful boy is still hanging in there. He is very wobbly on his feet now and has erratic eating habits but he doesn't seem ready to leave us just yet. On our short walk this morning I showed him the new growth on his favourite catmint and he purred and rubbed against it in delight.

I've had a ginger cat, amongst others, in my life now for 35 years. My first one, Tiggy and her sister Smudge, lived with me before I met Mike and when she died we got Tinker as a tiny kitten, just 6 weeks old and he's nearly 18 now.

What started me thinking about that is the news that a new 'Jock', ('Jock vi' to be precise, as they always share that name) has taken up residence at Sir Winston Churchill's home, Chartwell. When I saw the photos of the latest Jock I kept looking at his mouth and thinking that it has a look of the grand old statesman himself!