Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy flowers

I've finished all the pentagons for Nellie so I'll start the final rounds using the join-as-you go method. I've still got to do a couple of hexagons, an octogon and a heptagon but I want to see how the colours sit together as I join so that I can adjust accordingly.

Btw, Heidi has just released a new pattern, Smaug the African Flower dragon, and has kindly sent me a copy so I know what I'll be starting soon as he looks amazing. She's really cornered the market on cuteness with her little critters. Thanks Heidi!

I found myself a bargain on eBay. This 'brand new without tags' Laura Ashley dress. If ever there was a fabric designed just for me then this is it as I am still a girl of the 1970s and love these stylised flowers and leaves!

There are lots of little hummingbirds too.

Tilly approves and I have now mastered the art of crocheting with a cat accoutrement! She's very good when she's sitting on me like this but show her a ball of yarn elsewhere and she goes straight for it, pouncing, biting and playing football with it.

The gravel garden has really filled out now and there have been things in flower of a couple of months.

Here's what it looked like earlier in the year:

I know I am a bit of a plant bore but there are so many wonderful things coming into flower at the moment that I have to share just a few so please forgive me.

Beautiful Berkheya 'Zulu Warrior' complete with a pollen beetle
One of my sacrificial Verbascums which has survived the caterpillars!

The spidery stems of cephalaria gigantica
cephalaria gigantica flower close-up
The flowers are very similar to those of it's smaller relative - this blue Scabious which grows to half the height.

And it also resembles the flowers of Knautia macedonica which I grow in the gravel garden (at the back on the left of the photo above).

Right, I'd better stop before I bore everyone to tears!

I've got another talk to do later this week at the Dementia: Innovation conference at the Barbican so I'll be heading into London yet again. There's so much going on at the moment it's hard to keep track of everything, which is great of course.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Simply Crochet Issue 20

Some time ago I did an interview with Judy from Simply Crochet magazine which appears in the latest issue, number 20, which is out now.

I was delighted to chat with her about what I do and why and I'm so grateful that they have published the article which includes a mention for the lovely people at deramores who have given me tremendous support over the last couple of years. Thanks everyone.

Although I haven't received my printed copy of the magazine I've seen a preview of the piece and was delighted to see that Happy the Hippo made top of the page! I sent loads of photos of crocheted items and it's interesting to see which things they chose:

Happy the Hippo who has appeared on my blog here and here

The chair-back hanging I made using motifs from Jane Crowfoot's crochet club 2013 which I wrote about here and here
The beautiful mandala I made using Carola Herbst's pattern which I wrote about here and here
In the photo of the mandala you can see that the red colour has bled into the others when it got damp which ruined it so it now lives underneath a plant pot in the dining room with just the edges sticking out! Lovely pattern though.

I'm thinking of having a go at making an overlay mandala of my own to send to Lucy at Attic 24 for her wonderful Yarndale project - have you seen all those beautiful mandalas that people have sent from all over the world? Just beautiful and all so different.

And then this photo taken before the London marathon back in April. You can read all about my adventures on London marathon day here.

In the end I managed to make 2 blankets out of the chains I completed during the race (read about them here) with some yarn left over to make 2 cushions for our gazebo (see here and here)!

Lastly there was a photo of me in the garden with my crochet. It was taken the evening of The Three Forts Challenge which was my 4th marathon of this year and I was enjoying a nice glass of red wine to celebrate!

It's funny seeing yourself in print and I often cringe at some of the photos of me that appear all over the place, especially when I'm running - lycra does nobody any favours I can tell you!

I'm off out into garden now to enjoy a bit of hooky time with some more African flower motifs (see my previous post about that little project).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Heffalumping along

Alongside my next chair back crochet project I started another very portable project the other day - a heffalump. Not just any old heffalump, it's another of  Heidi Bear's African Flower patterns, Nellie the Elephant.

I enjoyed making both Happy the Hippo (and here) and The Bluebird of Happiness ( and here) so much that I wanted to make something for us. I've already made 2 more Bluebirds for proud grannies in our village as it is such a lovely pattern but I wanted something different for in my office.

This is what I've crocheted so far:

I wanted lots of bright colours with some darker ones mixed in as I prefer them to be random rather than all the same colour. It's such a sweet little pattern and really quick and easy.

In the garden everything is growing like mad but we could really do with some rain to freshen everything up a bit. Our soil is heavy clay and it's hard as rock at the moment, although the weeds still manage to push through it!

I thought this pot at the front of the house looked really pretty with the Violas grown up through the Fuchsia 'Lady Boothby'. This particular Fuchsia is often referred to as a climbing Fuchsia as it is very upright and can be trained up a frame.

The key to keeping Violas flowering for a long time is to just pinch out the old faded flowers when they start to crumple (this is known as dead-heading) as this stops the plant putting its energy into producing seed.

When I went round the back of the house to pot up some more things I noticed Tilly was watching me so I took a quick photo of her looking through the patio doors. What a strange effect - there's the reflection of the patio and it looks like a double exposure with a ghostly apparition of Tilly!

In other Tilly news, she's taken to helping me in my office and she has now experienced the printer for the first time. She was sitting on the floor quite happily but when I switched it on she leapt up onto the table and peered into it as it clicked and whirred.

When the paper started to feed through she stuck her paw inside to pull at it but I was laughing too much to take a photo!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two things

i) Proof that we did actually meet David Cameron!

ii) I spotted this beautiful beetle on Verbena Bonariensis this morning:

I had no idea what he was but posted him on Facebook so my friends could see him and one of them (thanks Mandy) did some research and found that he's a pollen beetle named 'Swollen-thighed beetle', Oedemera Nobilis. We now know that it's a male because of the bulges on his legs.

Oh that glorious colour! He has to be one of the most attractive beetles I've seen so far this year.

Friday, June 20, 2014

That was the week that was...Part 2

Loads more photos in this one too.

I was up with the lark to go for a run along the Thames before brekkie. It was very pleasant running somewhere different but seemed so noisy compared to where I run, which is hardly surprising given that we live in the country!

Day 2 was a big day for ARUK because the Prime Minister was to give a speech in which he announced their Defeat Dementia campaign thus giving it extra gravitas.

I put on my serious dress but couldn't decide whether to have my hair up or down. 

Decisions, decisions. I decided that down was best but as it was hot and sunny I put it up for the morning then let it down in the afternoon. Best of both worlds!

It was such a glorious morning that I decided to walk to the Guildhall where the event was taking place.
The dome of St Paul's Cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren. The building stood as a beacon of hope during the war when everything around it was razed to the ground by the bombings - take a look at this iconic image
The Millennium Bridge
I always look up at the architecture whenever I'm in London as you can miss so much if you don't. There are so many wonderful stone carvings everywhere.

There were so many Boris Bikes all lined up ready for action. They were nicknamed thus because it was Boris Johnson,  Major of London, who introduced them. I saw lots of people using them although I'd be really scared to ride a bicycle in the London traffic.

It didn't take long to reach my destination Guildhall, on Gresham Street in the City of London. It was built in the early 15th century and is a magnificent building both inside and out.

It was easy to spot the entrance. I think that's Beth Britton being interviewed by the team from Sky News. Her father suffered from dementia and, like me, she campaigns in his memory.

As I'd got there quicker than expected I took myself off for a little wander around.

The Guildhall Art Gallery was below the area we were in and so I had a look round it later in the day
This beautiful water feature, designed by Allen David, was one of the first abstract works of art to be commissioned for public enjoyment by the City of London back in 1969. The reflections are glorious.
I sat awhile on a bench, absorbed in my knitting, next to this bust of Shakespeare 
I was struck by the design features of the modern buildings
What a lovely address!
By the time I'd got back to the entrance the TV crew were standing around looking doleful (it isn't glamourous waiting around for people to interview) and I had a chat to them. Then I had an idea; it's World Wide Knit in Public week (didn't it used to be a day?) and so I asked them if they'd oblige me with a photo, which they did - thanks chaps. I can't think of a better backdrop!

I sailed through security without my knitting needles being a problem, which surprised me, and then headed down into the Crypt to meet the team from ARUK.

Tim, Laura and Hilary

There were 2 large TV screens in the crypt so you could either watch down there or go and sit in the main room if you wanted to contribute. We opted to stay downstairs most of the time in case of any interview opportunities.

Carol and Patrick did an interview with the BBC which took ages. They have done such wonderful work for ARUK and it's fantastic that they speak out about his condition as it will encourage others to do the same.

This event was referred to as a 'legacy' event which some people found confusing but just meant it was a follow-on from the G8 Dementia Summit back in December 2013. This time it was the G7 as Russia was not present but there were delegates from the other countries.

The topics ranged from  'barriers to investment in research' to 'exploring the financial mechanisms that can be harnessed to increase investment in dementia'. The programme of speakers was varied so we could pick and choose who we wanted to hear.

I was interested in the 3rd morning session and so sneaked in at the back as everyone was coming back from a comfort break.

Sadly, even with the lights on a lot of the wonderful statues and stonework were hidden by banners etc but this photo below gives a feel for the room.

Lunch was held in the crypt and was a bit of a farce as they were so slow serving that people only had time for a small bowl of rather inferior risotto before they went back into the sessions. This worked to our advantage as we had to stay downstairs in readiness for our next event - an audience with the Prime Minister! So we ended up each having at least 2 small portions of really nice fruit salad each.

That also gave us plenty of time to explore the Crypt.

In the main area there were stained glass windows of famous people who has been members of the various Livery companies in the City of London. The Livery companies originated in the Medieval period as craft guilds and  decided who could trade, controlled wages and prices, working conditions and welfare. 'Livery' refers to their uniforms and these are still used on ceremonial occasions.

Whilst in the older part of the Crypt were the smaller Livery companies.
Master Mariners
Masons & Fletchers
Paviors, Gardeners & Clockmakers
On a trip downstairs to the toilets I noticed this interesting display which you could visit, and so I did. This information board explains what it's all about.

They recreated the effect of the amphitheatre using a light show, together with gladiators.

I also had a quick look around the gallery as Tower Bridge is my favourite bridge across the Thames.

I loved the photograph of the Olympic fireworks display
Oh, now where was I? Ah yes, waiting for our instructions for our chat with David Cameron, Prime Minister. Carol and I were rather excited and honoured to have an opportunity to chat with the PM. We were ushered into a side room well in advance and had a nice chat with one of his entourage and the photographer. It must be such a complicated job keeping him to a very tight time schedule and there was lots of flitting back and forth checking details.

He had been briefed beforehand about each of us, Patrick as a sufferer of Alzheimer's, Carol and I as carer's and fund-raisers. After what seemed like eons there was a bustle of people outside and in swept the Prime Minister. We knew we should shake his hand and address him "Good afternoon Prime Minister", which is what we did.

We were chaperoned by Hilary who had orchestrated the meeting with Mr Cameron's PA but the PA had arranged the room so that there were only 4 chairs and so she had to stand to one side. We had each been positioned beforehand - I was to his left with Patrick, then Carol to his right.

As soon as he sat down he asked Patrick to tell him his story. Patrick tried to explain that he was not capable of doing that and it now befalls Carol to explain things for him. Carol gave a brief history of how the disease manifested itself and then we expected him to turn to me for my mum's story but he didn't. He then started to ask Carol what she hoped to get out of the Summit and she was looking at me so I interjected and Mr Cameron swung round to face me but still didn't ask about my mum.

I was absolutely crestfallen.

Hilary jumped in and told him that I am a fund-raiser for ARUK but he obviously had his own agenda and with limited time (max 10 minutes but I don't think it was that long) he just had enough time for the film crew to come in whilst he was talking to Patrick and then to shoot off. She did, however manage to mention ARUK's £100m campaign and he asked one question about it and then that was that.

The photographer came in quickly to snap us for publicity (I don't know if we'll get a copy, probably not) and then Mr Cameron was swept away to prepare for his end of summit speech.

I can't explain how upset I was. After all that anticipation and excitement I hadn't been able to tell my mum's story. Carol was embarrassed that he'd spoken mainly to them but it wasn't her fault. At least Hilary got ARUK's message across. I know that it was amazing that he managed to fit us in at all with what's going on in Iraq but I still felt upset.

On the way back to the main hall to listen to his speech we caught a glimpse of Gog and Magog, the guardians of the City of London who lead the parade at the Lord Mayor's Show which is quite a spectacle.

As we stood at the back of the hall waiting for Mr Cameron to give his speech I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I listened to about half his speech and then I just had to leave as I needed a good old cry, which is what I did intermittently most of the way home (I got some strange looks from people around me on the train!). Poor Tim had heard I was upset and tried to phone me but I was incapable of coherent speech and switched it off so he sent me a sweet text message, bless him.

The good thing is that the PM mentioned ARUK twice by name and spoke about their £100m campaign.

Onwards and upwards.