Friday, May 30, 2014


Predictive text had a bit of a problem with that title!

A while back I wrote about titivating the gazebo which involved scraping and repainting/varnishing. I also decided that I'd do a bit of stencilling and make cushions from the yarn which was leftover from the crochet chain.

All done, at last.

Here's the second cushion, which is mine (the first one is here):

It's just a large granny square threaded with leftover crochet chain
By the time I'd reached the back I'd run out of every colour, except for a tiny bit of blue,  and so had to buy some more pink and pale yellow yarn. For the back I made a central panel in a mosaic stitch and then edged it with trebles and double crochet. I joined the front and back together with the same green yarn, held double, that I'd used for Mike's cushion.

Close-up of the mosaic stitch
I thought the centre looked a bit boring and so I did a circle of surface crochet to cover the ends of the chains
That's better
With the cushions out of the way I can reveal the stencilling:

Stippling the extra large stencil I used in the music room
Peeling off the stencil to reveal the design is always an exciting moment
Of course, each cushion had to be photographed with its stencil! It was a dull day so the colours aren't showing very well in these photos.

Mike's cushion
Both, together with a cloth!
But that wasn't the end of it.

I'd already decided I didn't want to use the stencil on all three sides so just did the 2 outside panels. Mike and I were discussing what I could do on the inside panel and then he had a lightbulb moment - my mosaic mirror.

It was the first thing I ever produced in mosaic and it's not my best effort so I was rather unsure until he held it up for me. I'd used a stylised tulip motif along with my usual hearts so it fits in nicely with the garden. 
I like the way you see the garden reflected in the mirror

Side view
I took this before I cleaned the stencil as I thought it looked lovely against the black floor tiles in the Utility room
Next morning when I was filling the bird-seed feeders I glanced over at the gazebo. The sun was streaming across and it looked so lovely. I think the stencil has really enlivened it.

My mind's still mulling over what else, if anything, I need to add as I don't want it to look cluttered or fussy. I wondered about making some flowery bunting but Mike really didn't like that idea (men aren't as excited by that sort of thing are they!).

I also wanted to add a dangly candle chandelier from the central point inside as I've got lots of crystal beads that I could use, but it could get in the way as Mike's much taller than me. We tried hanging a few of the many different lanterns we use outside but they just didn't look right. You could argue that perhaps some small tea lights would look pretty along the open sections but they would get blown away and it would be boring to have to cart them out each time we wanted to sit in there in the evening. 

Hmmmm, this needs more thought. I'm sure the solution will present itself eventually.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tilly update

She is so sweet natured but also very timid. She spent most of her first day in her own space, the Utility room, where she hid underneath the blanket in her basket. Then Mike went in to check on her and declared that she had escaped!

I ran downstairs thinking that she couldn't possibly have got out, but still wondering if perhaps………..

Now, this may be a sweeping generalisation about the male population but I do believe that women are better at finding things. So when Mike declared that he'd "looked everywhere" I knew that he probably hadn't and I was quite right!

A bit of female logic told me that she'd be lurking somewhere dark and off the ground where she'd feel safe so I went straight to her - on the shelf above the litter tray where we keep spare newspapers.

Phew! She was quite happy to be stroked and fussed in there.

That same evening we brought her into the lounge and discovered that she loves sitting on a lap and being stroked.

Looking completely chilled out on Mike's knee 
I'm not sure which one of us wins the prize for silliest expression!
She sat with us quite happily watching a film but then when the TV was turned off she freaked out. She launched herself off my lap and ran round the room searching for somewhere to hide. Poor love. We caught her eventually but she was so stressed out that she hissed at us so we took her to her room and put her in her basket, covered it with a blankie and then left her alone to calm down.

The next morning I fed her first before heading out to the horses and ducks then came back to see her at around 5:30am. Look at that sweet little face and the teeny-tiny white spot in-between her eyes. Gorgeous girl.

I left her door open to see if she'd venture out whilst I busied myself making bread in the kitchen. I saw her peep round the door and ignored her to let her find her own way. She tiptoed in and proceeded to investigate. I could tell she was looking for hidey-holes, as if she needed somewhere she could escape to in an emergency.

Next she investigated the music room and tried to climb into the bookcase! When she couldn't find anywhere to hide she meowed and came to me for a stroke. I made myself a coffee and went and sat down to read whilst the bread was proving. Within minutes she jumped onto my knee and stayed on there for 1/2 hour, purring away quite happily.

At 7am I heard Mike stirring upstairs and as soon as he opened the bedroom door she was on alert. The sound of him coming downstairs sent her running to hide behind the settee and she refused to come out until after lunch. Then she was OK until someone knocked on the door which sent her off to hide in the dining room for several hours until I had to coax her out to feed her.

We're just going to have to be very patient whilst she gets used to the noises of everyday life and let her hide if she needs to whilst giving her lots of attention to help her. What we are also going to do is get her a basket with a hood on that we can put under the piano so she's got a hiding place in each room.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Welcome to Tilly

Last week we decided that it was time we welcomed another feline friend into our lives. The house has felt very empty and I haven't been without at least 1 cat around for nearly 40 years!

We knew we would adopt a rescue cat, or maybe 2 cats, as there are so many poor cats in need of a loving home. At first we thought we should have  a pair of kittens so we contacted the Celia Hammond rescue centre in a village not far away. The manager of the centre came round to inspect us and to make sure we were suitable and that the animals would be in a safe environment. After we'd received the all clear we popped along to the centre yesterday for a look at the kittens.

It's a wonderful place with over 100 acres for many of the permanent residents to roam free whilst remaining safe and cared for. The founder of these centres, Celia Hammond, was a top model in the 1960s and since then has devoted herself to rescuing and rehoming, whenever possible, unwanted and feral cats. Most of the cats have come from dreadful homes where they have been either neglected or ill-treated, or both, in and around central London.

When we saw the kittens, although they were gorgeous, we both realised that what we actually wanted was an older cat but unfortunately they didn't have any that were suitable. We spent a while making a fuss of some of the many cats that were wandering around. There was one gorgeous ginger cat who came to see us and he had extra toes on his back paws. Apparently he was one of many poor creatures they rescued who had been part of a cruel experiment to make them grow multiple toes. Poor puss. He was such a lovely boy and lucky to be living in that environment.

Although we were disappointed that we hadn't found a cat there we knew that our perfect little friend would be just waiting for us. On the way home Mike suggested we pop into the local Blue Cross rescue centre which is only 4 miles from home and is where our beautiful pony Kizzy came from many years ago.

We said that we'd like 2 cats, preferably 6 months to 2 years old. They only had 3 black kittens in that age group (did you know that black cats and kittens are difficult to re-home? I didn't) but we went to look at the older cats just in case and after about 6 cats we met Tilly. She'd been in the centre for 3 months, having been rescued from a local family where she was very unhappy. She will be happy to live with other cats if we decide to get another one at a later date.

She melted out hearts and came home with us this morning.

Peeping out
It's all different
I think I'll hide behind the basket if you don't mind
It's all a bit new and scary just yet!
When we met her she was hiding under a blanket but she soon came out to see us and she really worked her magic. We noticed she had some fur missing on her neck because she'd just had dental treatment and she dribbles like mad. I'm hoping it's just because she's had some teeth out or we'll need to keep a box of tissues nearby at all times!

She's 7 years, 3 months old and I hope we can make the rest of her life much happier.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Alzheimer's Show

On 16-17 May it was the 2nd Alzheimer's Show. The inaugural event was held last year in the Horticultural Halls in London but this year it had moved to a much larger space within Olympia.

We had a nightmare of a journey with cancelled trains & tube lines not running/stopping where we needed to get off! Thankfully Mike and I always allow lots of time for our journey as we can't bear to be late for anything so when we ended up a 30 minute walk away from where we wanted to be we just jumped in a cab for the final section.

My first stop was to the Join Dementia Research stand to meet up with Zara and the team. Anyone who's been following my blog for a while will know that I have been banging on about the need for a way of linking researchers with people suffering from dementia - how else can we learn more about the condition and find ways to prevent/cure it?

Back in 2009 I attended a Ministerial Summit on Dementia Research at the Royal Society in London and this need was expressed. Since then I've been involved with the Dementia, Neurodegenerative Disease Research Network (aka DeNDRoN) to develop a new on-line service to link people with dementia and their carers/families with researchers and  so you can imagine how excited I was that the project is nearing the launch date. For the last few months I have been part of a conclave, in conjunction with the system developers, testing how the system works.

The website isn't live just yet but it will be here soon.

I put some leaflets on the chairs in the lecture theatre where I was going to speak.

After a look round at the stands and chatting with a few people I know we headed off to find Louise from ARUK and check out the venue. It was the same size as last year but this time they'd sorted out the sound system (last year I was the first speaker and the microphone wasn't working properly and the speakers weren't set up in the right position!).

Chatting with Louise
A quick sound check before people started to arrive
We set up the slides, people settled into their seats and I went into my serious mode. As I've been supporting ARUK for 9 years I like to start my talks by telling people why I chose them originally so on my first slide I had:

* Devastating effects of dementia (on my mum and on us)
* Stigma of mental illness (especially heightened when referring to the elderly - I've heard people say that the elderly have had their lives so it doesn't matter!!!)
* Social isolation (I could talk about this for an hour rather than the 20 minute slot I was allowed)
* Research into dementia is vastly under-funded (still, after all these years)

Sadly, all those reasons still apply.

The photo I chose to show whilst I was speaking was of my mum, aged 79, digging in our garden, hair all over the place and a big smile on her face. That's how I choose to remember her; as an intelligent, active and very capable person who was never afraid to get stuck in. As always, she was with me both in my heart and I was wearing her ring (which I also wear whenever I run a marathon so she's clocked up 35 marathons so far).

Me and mum take the stage together 
I should mention now that I don't like addressing a small audience because it's so up-close-and-personal and I can see every tear that falls, every blot of the eyes with a hanky, every gulp. Inevitably I spot these little things and I can lose my focus. Give me a few hundred people and I'm much more at home as I can't distinguish individual details.

There are many elements of mum's story that I never talk about because they are just too dreadful but I do have to mention some things so that people understand the horrors of dementia. So I told them about the psychotic episodes, the realities of double incontinence, how my sister died and mum didn't know that Judy was her daughter (the audience was dabbing away the tears by this stage) and then I switched to this slide of me and mum when I was little. 

This was the first time I've spoken about this episode in public although I mentioned it on my blog here. I thought I could do it, I really did, but when I started to speak my chest tightened and I felt the tears pricking behind my eyes. I had to take a moment to compose myself. 

Here's what I wrote about the photo in my earlier post:

You see one of the things we did to help keep mum's mind active was to look at old photos and talk about them - who they were, what was happening, where they were taken etc. One day when I was tidying her bedroom I found a whole pile of photos ripped up and stuffed into the wastepaper bin. Photos of mum and dad together (their courtship and wedding), my sister & me as children - all the usual family photos.

When I asked her why she'd ripped them up she said that she didn't know anyone in the photos so there was no point keeping them. She'd also scribbled over some of them in pen. It's brought tears to my eyes just typing that. 

If you look closely you can see a pen mark on mum's nose.

By that time I was getting near to the end of my allotted slot and so I had to quickly talk about my fund-raising antics. I thought I was safe talking about that but when I mentioned the crochet chain and its significance I saw 2 people wiping away tears and I was mighty glad to finish!

Why do I keep doing it? 

It's simple; I was so horrified by what happened to my mum that I can't bear to think that anyone else will suffer that way. 

Is it to keep my memories of my mum alive?

I would prefer not to have to relive my memories of mum during the time she was gripped by dementia but it's the only way I can get the message across.

We need to raise awareness about this devastating disease and invest more money into research.

Monday, May 19, 2014


Having given the blankets to their new owners I still had some yarn left so I hooked these 2 squares to make into cushion covers for the chairs in the gazebo.

I had just enough yarn to make the front panels and then used bits and bobs I had in my stash to finish the backs (well, I've only completed the one for Mike's chair so far but mine will be done soon).

This is Mike's. It's just a simple wave stitch patten. 

I crocheted the front and back together along 3 edges and then stuffed the cushion pad inside before finishing off. Easy-peasy.

On the reverse you can see how I kept running out of yarn from the changes in colours! I managed to find several shades of mauve in my stash of acrylic and ended up using 3 strands held together. It is rows of double crochet with the 3rd stitch of every 3rd row done as a long dc stitch down to the row below just for a bit of interest - rather like a lot of Lily Chin's patterns.

Here it is in-situ. Mike said it makes the chair really comfy and it certainly looks jolly.

This is the front of mine - it's just a big granny square through which I've woven the last remaining remnants of the chain. I thought it would be a nice reminder of the day. There are soooooo many ends to weave in as I was really down to the dregs of my yarn when I crocheted this.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


The blankets made from the yarn used in my crochet chain from the London marathon are finished and will be with their new owners, to wrap them in love, very soon. As it was such a chunky and rather slippery yarn I decided to take a firm approach to the ends. I wove them in as I was crocheting but then I secured them with a few stitches for good measure.

This is the one I started on the morning of the London marathon and is for a man who is in the late stage of Alzheimer's and lives in a special care home. I will not give his details nor will I take photos of him with the blanket as that would be far too intrusive.

Taken in artificial light
This next one is for a lovely lady I visit who suffers from dementia. She lives at home with full-time carers. I lightened the colour of this one to keep it fresh and feminine.

Taken in daylight
I took them outside in the sunshine to try and show the colours better as they are really vivid.

Back inside again just to show their size together - about 4' square. For reference, the size of both the inner granny squares is 9" for the yellow one and 12" for the green one.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I was rummaging around in my fabric stash the other day, looking for some linen to make a tablecloth, when I came across this piece of crewel work.

Oh my goodness that took me back. It was a kit that I got from mum and dad as a present for passing my 11 plus exam! For anyone who doesn't know what that is, it was an examination taken in the last year of primary school at the age of 11, or 10 in my case, and determined whether or not your education continued at a Grammar school or what was known as a 'Secondary Modern' school. Given that I am 56 going on 57, that makes it about 45 years old.

I was 10 going on 11 when I stitched it but it never got hung on my wall because I was disappointed with my needlework skills; goodness knows why because it doesn't look too bad for a young girl. However, I have perfectionism in my genes and so I know that I didn't like it because I hadn't covered all the transfer markings properly - see the green lines in this close-up on the outer edge of the flower and the leaf below.

When I showed it to Mike he asked if I could do anything to cover them up and of course I could. So I did. I went back to rummaging; this time in my stash of crewel and tapestry wools. I picked out these skeins thinking they were quite close then searched for some greens………...

……and this is what I found - the remains of the original kit, neatly enclosed in a plastic bag. Oh the joy of being a hoarder! So I had the perfect colours with which to complete it.

A few more long-and-short stitches where needed around the edge of the flowers, extra french knots for the stamens and the judicious use of stab stitches to edge some of the leaves and stems did the trick.

The hanging frame was designed to serve as an embroidery hoop but didn't really do it justice. This photo was taken  before I'd done the extra embroidery.

I wracked my brain trying to think how to frame it and then I remembered a lovely oval frame that I'd used for a pressed flower picture at our last home. More rummaging required.

The backing plate was cracked so it was a good job that Mike was on hand to make me a new one out of hardboard.

The next worry was that the embroidery would fit in the frame. Here it is in its unstretched form. It looks as if I'm going to lose a few bits on the edges but I think it might work because it looks so much better than the original mount.

Fingers crossed it works out OK as I think the design sits well in an oval rather than an oblong frame.