Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Going onward

Time moves on and the Ploughboy has departed to plough his own deep furrow in pastures new. The groves of academe beckon, and we have deposited him in a city of not quite dreaming spires far away.

I gave him a quiet talk before he went, explaining the perils of the tumble dryer (as we are not possessed of such technological marvels), and he agreed with me that it is a Good Thing to have a slack mother, because it means that he is familiar with the workings of a washing machine, has been making his own bed (or not, as the case may be) for many years now, and is quite at ease with the concept that dirty clothes will gradually mount up on the floor, and dust accumulate on horizontal surfaces of all kinds, unless he chooses to make a personal intervention in the matter.

From now on his stays with us will be only temporary; his room has become a mere staging post and lacks its former air of permanence. I suppose I have had time to become accustomed to this as it has been a gradual process over the last year since he left school; he has travelled to Europe and the Antipodes (yes, I sobbed at his departure), and though nominally at home this summer, the long hours of farm work have meant that he has been absent more than present.

In many ways the house now seems oddly empty after so many years of constant cacophony: the General is merely biding his time before spreading his wings, and ventures down from his eyrie only for culinary sustenance. On many occasions over the past few months our loud and noisy family seems to have shrunk to just a shadow of its former bouncing self, now consisting of little Princess Bunchy and her aged parents.

And what am I going to miss particularly about the Ploughboy? I think, on reflection, it will mainly be socks.

This is a boy whose Ipod sock is exactly that  - an old sock. (And please don't tell me to knit him one: to my darling sons, expressing a desire to knit them something is perceived as a threat, not an act of affection. When I asked the Ploughboy a couple of years ago if there were anything he would like me to make him for Christmas, he replied, "Well, you could knit me an Ipod." Not an Ipod sock.)

The Ploughboy's presence in the house is signified by a trail of discarded socks in the oddest of places. These are sometimes accompanied by grubby sweatshirts, or mud-caked rucksacks.

And if you pick this debris up to move it to a place where it constitutes less of a trip hazard, then it usually emits small pieces of straw, or possibly hop petals, or maybe even a shower of heavy-duty agricultural dust.

Then, of course, there are also the muddy handmarks on the towels, but they were even less photogenic than the socks. And his habit of sitting very untidily on the sofa (I know he does this by the squashed and rearranged cushions, the crumpled sofa throw, and the discarded buttons lying askew.)

There are the work shorts which remain hanging on the line for day after day, until suddenly they are needed again.

 And at least I won't be woken up at 6.30am by the roar of the tractor starting up. But then again, I won't hear that low rumble approaching across the orchard, signifying the Ploughboy's return at the end of the day.

It seems only yesterday that the Ploughboy's presence was marked by tractors marching across the sitting room floor, and earthworks in the flower beds - now his toys are bigger, and the games are much the same, but they are undertaken farther afield. (I will send a small prize to the first person who tells me what this toy is! EDIT: Guessed correctly by Poppy Cottage - it is a pheasant feeder.)

But I still have farm machinery ploughing up the matting, and combine harvesters parked up under the chair. Princess Bunchy's pastimes demonstrate a penchant for things agricultural, just like her big brother.

The Ploughboy's furry friend also shows herself well capable of continuing the family tradition of excavating the garden, although she prefers to fill the holes with nice chewy wood, rather than Brittans farm machinery.

So there is some consolation for me.

And as a consolation for you with your hands full of recalcitrant toddlers, and children who show an aversion for the written word, and an unwillingness to sit behind a desk and concentrate - this big boy was once just the same. Once I tore my hair out at his contrary ways, and battled with him over Biff and Chip, and listened to a teacher complain to me that he sat in her lessons and made tractor noises while she spoke.

But it all turned out all right in the end, as I am sure that it will for you: he passed the important exams with flying colours, found his vocation (which, as we had always suspected it would, involves tractors), and has set off eagerly into the big, wide world.

So treasure those little people whilst they are with you, revel in that little hand nestled in yours, for the years roll on, all too fast; the little people become larger, and stride off into the future with barely a backward glance.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Touched by your presence (and presents)

I will start with a quotation from one of my heroines, George Eliot, which I first wrote down in my teens, in purple ink with silver underlining in a miniature ringbinder of blue plastic, adorned with a suitably profound Snoopy sticker, along with various other bon mots which appealed to my dreamy, romantic teenage mind. My teenage days may be long gone, although the tendency to romantic dreams of a more bucolic kind perhaps persist, but I think that Eliot's inevitably wise words are worth repeating.

'I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. I am not sure that you are of the same kind. But the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of literature and speech and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.'

I think it is a plea for affection and appreciation to be articulated, and a recommendation for communication of the positive. So in my circumambulatory way I should like to say thank you to all of you who have posted such interesting and supportive comments on my last few posts - it is so cheering to be the recipient of such encouraging feedback. And I in my turn appreciate you for taking the time to respond so constructively.

And thank you also to those kind people who have taken pity on me and voted for me in the Dorset Cereals blog awards - I did suggest to the Ploughboy and the General that it might be a nice gesture to vote for their dear mamma, too, seeing as they are the digital generation, and it is just like Facebook, really, but so far, not much luck. I think that they are probably quite incredulous that anybody actually reads what I write at all.

It is also cheering to receive lovely presents in the post, and this happened to me yesterday. The postman brought me a little package all the way from France, from dear Floss, whose Rentree Giveaway I was lucky enough to win.

I was very pleased to see that Floss had managed to find a diary which was 100% recycled, and Princess Bunchy was even more pleased to take it into her possession. She has a theory that such a diary will be a remedy for her tendency to forget which day her music lesson is. And as she informed me, she speaks French, so the text language section will be doubly useful.

So thank you, Floss, very much for such a sweet present and such kind thoughts.

I have also been sending out one or two presents, which I would like to show you as evidence that I do sometimes finish knitting projects, in spite of the fact that I have about, um, six in progress at the moment, not to mention the collection of fabric, patterns and ideas pending on the sewing front.

You might well remember the beginnings of this little blanket here, and here, and I gave you a small glimpse of the finished article last week, but the little person for whom it was intended was intent on keeping us all waiting. He has now arrived, and by way of welcome to the world, this is ready for him to snuggle under.

I am pleased with the colour combination, and had chosen it to be suitable for a boy or a girl, because I don't knit speedily enough to have embarked on it after the fact. I have voiced my reservations about the Sirdar cotton yarn before, but the finished effect is very pleasing. I am not entirely happy about the stitching up, which you saw here, but I am hoping that the baby won't notice. It has been wrapped up with some lavender bags for a week, so I hope that will ensure sweet dreams.

I have also been quite industrious on the swap front, and have completed my seed swap for Indigo Blue, to be posted tomorrow, and my letter writing swap with Ruth, and have started work on the rainbow swap with Bekimarie. So please be patient, Heidi, Lola Nova, and Kirsty - I have the materials, I have the ideas, and it's just a matter of time - but I promise that it is a hive of industry here at Pomona's cottage, the midnight oil is being burned, as well as candles at both ends, and I plan to have all promises fulfilled by Christmas, if not before.

And the Ploughboy has departed for the halls of academe, leaving his naughty, hole-digging, skirting-board-chewing, escape artist friend behind. I am off to vent my maternal grief at not being able to go and be a student yet again, and will share my feelings on this shortly.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Make do and mend

I have decided that it is time to make a stand and go public - I have been a make do and mend adherent for some years now, and have tried to tread lightly on this earth and shop ethically, and sometimes even quietly congratulated myself on the integrity of my purchasing decisions, when really it would have been better not to purchase at all. I have also had my lapses, most notably at the shrine of the great Cath, and have recently been looking longingly at the Toast catalogue.

But Dottie Angel, bless her, has been a braver woman than I, and issued her Ultimate Challenge. For one year she has promised 'to buy only secondhand or hand-crafted goods for her house and her closet' (I think that means wardrobe), with the honorable exception of tights and underwear  (quite understandably).

And several other brave and ethical souls, such as Lola Nova, whose wayside finds amaze and delight me, and Floss of Troc, Broc and Recup' (the name of her blog says it all, really), as well as A Bun Can Dance have also taken the pledge. So Pomona, who likes to see herself as a latter-day eco-warrior, out to save the world singlehanded before breakfast, must join their illustrious ranks.

So from 1 October - and I promise that I won't cheat in the week that is to come, but I like a nice round number and easy-to-remember date - for a year, no, make that a year and a day, for this is a quest to make the world a better place, I will only buy secondhand or handmade - and also aim to buy only what I truly need, rather than merely desire.

We are allowed to make some provisos, so for work and educational necessities, we may have to buy new, but I will seek out alternatives first. (Abebooks is a good port of call for secondhand books.) And for things like underwear and tights, or other unforeseeable necessities, then I will buy ethical. Which may be more expensive, but (a) I will save on the rest, and (b) when you buy cheap clothing, etc, it tends to mean that the true cost is paid by someone somewhere else in the world, working in appalling conditions for pitiful pay. Gossypium, People Tree, Greenfibres, Bishopston Trading, and Howies all supply ethical clothing - and although some of these are not as cheap as shops that I will not even mention, I have found that their garments are far better made, and last much longer - in other words, it is not disposable fashion. But I am pretty well stocked up on most things, so I can't see any imminent purchases.

I will also make an exception for necessary (and I mean truly necessary) sewing notions, such as thread, needles, etc, which will enable me to make and mend my own things, or clothes for Princess Bunchy, or presents for others. But I promise faithfully that I will not increase my yarn or fabric stash, and will endeavour to use in-house materials first. And if I have any difficult ethical decisions to make I will share my rationale and conclusions with you.

As a little light relief after the serious stuff, here is a naughty dog sitting next to a very rustic (homemade and recycled) fire pit made from an old grate and two paving stones.

And to move on from the hair shirt side of things, I want to show you (and remind myself of) the potential of secondhand and recycled artefacts - all these things are pretty and covetable and a joy to live with - and not one was bought new.

I can't remember where the wicker armchair came from, but we found it somewhere years ago and dragged it home; I spotted the rush seat chair outside an old cottage that was being renovated, and the mystified builders allowed me to take it away. The crochet blankets are all charity shop finds - I haven't mastered the art of crochet yet, but I think Attic 24 is the place to go (apparently Lucy's tutorials are just the thing). The cushions were presents from my sister - one of the best presents ever, as they were made from old jumpers.

The lovely green and blue basket is my briefcase for work - you can tell what a high-powered executive I am just by looking at it, and is just right for my sandwiches and knitting. This, too, came from a charity shop.

I wrote about the large bag here - it was originally a dirndl skirt I made for Princess Bunchy, and the small bag was made from the leftover fabric.

I can knit my own socks (note to self, try to make both legs the same length next time), and gloves. But, of course, this all takes time, which is why in the past when people had to make their own clothes they didn't have nearly so many, and remodelled and mended them until they really were no longer fit for any sort of use.

And if you look at the gloves, they need a little mending and making do, too. As they took me so long to knit, I will certainly repair these -a stitch in time will save me at least nine hours' work knitting another pair, probably more, as I am not a very fast knitter!

 And here is a thrifty little basket, full of scraps left over from my thrifty bunting, and a handy darning mushroom. There is a lovely post on A Bun Can Dance about a delightful pale blue darning mushroom. Mine was a present from my dear mamma about the time I was married. She always used to darn my father's socks, and this was one of the few sewing skills that I thoroughly learned when I was a child. My mother was taught by nuns who could invisibly darn cotton sheets - my skills are a little more clumsy, but I have darned elbows in jumpers and knees in woolly tights, and bolstered my image as a thrifty, industrious little person in the process.

As you can see, there is plenty of food for thought here - and much potential for pontification on my part; you can be sure that I will be keeping you posted on my journey, and do visit the other participants to see what they are doing, too. There is a list on Dottie Angel's blog - why don't you join our merry little band, too? Surely together we can save the world, or at least make it a better place!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Bunny love

I'd like to introduce you to a new member of the family - Shadow the Sock Bunny. It is impossible to look at him without going "Aah - how sweet!"

Princess Bunchy has been taking photos of him playing hide and seek with his new friends, and soaking up the sun in the garden.

He is a cousin to Widget, the most adorable little person, whose adventures can also be found here; take a look - they make us laugh out loud in the office, even when the figures are at their most recalcitrant.

Princess Bunchy and I are suffering from a severe case of Sock Bunny love, and are hoping that we find more of the little dears in our Christmas stockings. Which one is your favourite?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Giving it all away

Inspired by Hen at Henhouse Homemade, I was going to do a post on cottages and needlework, and I even had the pictures all ready, but I think that I have found the secret of true happiness, and I thought that I must share it with you, so all those little french knots and hollyhocks  will have to wait for a day or two. Having fulminated about the importance of kindness in this post I don't want to trouble you with too much more of my homespun philosophy, but not only am I a philosopher (and I have the certificate to prove that I can opinionate for 100,000 words), I am also keen to be an empiricist. (For those of you who don't spend your life with your head in a book, but get on and do things, that means you.) As any teacher knows, it's good to back up the theory with practical examples, and having had an epiphanic moment (just like Dottie Angel did) in which I suddenly realized that, as Mrs B would say, after all the world is a beautiful place, I thought I would share it with you. (Sorry, my dears, if I read you, I will ending up quoting you - it goes with the academic training!) I just hope the birds don't start talking in Greek, next - then I will know for sure that I am on the slippery slope.

I had been waiting for an epiphanic moment for quite some time, and like many things in life, I think they come unbidden. And I suddenly realized that my (slightly fluffy, I know) idea really and truly works - I turned on my computer first thing on Friday, whilst making some chocolate muffins for a packed lunch for a Princess (who actually didn't need them, as Friday, popularly known as chip day, is the one day of the week when she doesn't need muffins because she has school lunch), when, where was I? Oh yes, turning on the computer at 7am in case some insomniac family of four had emailed the B&B since the computer went off at 11am the night before, begging me to book them into my delightful east wing for a month. But unfortunately not - so if any of you out there want to come and stay, yes, I do have vacancies.

But in spite of the lack of potential guests, my emails didn't disappoint. Not only did I have a much-appreciated thank you in one email, I also had another one from the lovely Tia at Whoatemycrayons nominating me for the Dorset Cereals Little Blog Awards. Now as I said to Tia, it is always nice to know that someone out there is actually reading what I write (I do sometimes have that feeling with blogging that it is just me crouched in the corner mumbling to myself) and even more pleasing that someone actually enjoys what I write. And this comes hard on the heels of dear Pipany's really sweet mention of me on her blog last week (and thank you also to Poppy Cottage and Flossie Teacakes for being equally kind). So, as Jennyflower said in her recent comment, I felt quite teary for a moment, but then I thought, no, I feel ecstatically happy that everyone is so kind, and it has cheered me up no end (even though I had to go to the office in the afternoon. On a Friday, too - why it's as good as the weekend! Maybe we should all have Friday afternoons off as well as being kind.)

And hence the epiphanic moment, in the car, on the way to Pilates to unstick my joints. That what I wrote about kindness and blessings is really, really true. If you give, you will receive. And hence we have the secret of happiness for you and for me. And if all else fails, there is always cake.

I also want to thank all my readers for really kind comments - they make all the difference. Especially as when the Head Chef asked me what my last blog post was about (I am not quite sure if he is feigning polite interest, or worried that I am consorting with strange men online), and I said that I had written about being kind and nice to everyone, there were barely suppressed sniggers and patronizing smiles from the male members of the family. But I have had my revenge - living with me all these years has made them kind and nice, too. Mostly.

And now I will give you some helpful suggestions to make your day a happy one. No, I am not going to ask you to vote for me! I am not even sure what the prize is, but Princess Bunchy suggested that it would be a year's supply of cereal, and I am sure that it might be along those lines, except on a more modest scale. I am going to ask you to go and vote for someone on Dorset Cereals who doesn't have many votes, because they need them the most, and it will be sure to make them happy (and don't forget to read their blog and tell them how much you enjoy it, too.)

The second one is also about giving (I am going to get on to the receiving from me in a minute): Louise at Sew Scrumptious is trying to get together 70 presents for her mother's 70th birthday, so may be you could go and give her some advice about free or cheap ideas, or may be you even have something in your own surplus that you could send her.

And last of all, I would like to give something to you (well, some of you anyway, my list of presents to give is growing apace at the moment, I have received so much kindness recently). Poppy Cottage is doing a 'Pay it Forward' which means that she sends something handmade to three people, who then give something handmade to another three. I am not sure the name 'Pay it Forward' gets my vote  - it has overtones of money, and debt (and look where that has landed us all), so I propose that I will send a little handmade present to the first three who sign up in the comments (and make sure I can contact you easily, please). Just tell me your favourite colour, and whether you prefer knitted or stitched, and I will try to think of something that fits the bill. But remember, my handicraft, like my philosophy is homespun - so don't expect the moon, more its reflection in a puddle.

I will then trust to the recipients' sense of honour to repeat the process and send a present on to three other people - you have a year and a day in which to do this, so it is not too arduous an obligation. I think it was actually 365 days in the original PIF, but a quest is always a year and a day in fairy stories, and like Dickens, I think the people need fairy stories.

And after all that, I wish you a very happy week. And may you give and receive blessings all the day long.


Related Posts with Thumbnails