Serendipity

It’s such a long time since I last posted an entry but hoping to re-instate the habit of getting out and taking pics, writing book reviews or writing something on a Monday morning.

On Tuesday 5th January, Kate Davies, writer and knitting designer, whose work and writing I admire, wrote a blog entry entitled Serendipity. She explained how she had met a Swedish woman who enthused about the World Service and Radio 4 – “She enjoyed the intelligent in-depth programming of these stations, but most of all she loved them ………, because she never knew quite what she might hear next, and what she might possibly find interesting”. Kate uses the term ‘serendipitous discovery’ to describe this attitude or experience and how importance this is to her intellectual life.

This blog post led to much discussion amongst a group of those who appreciate her work on a knitting forum and had resonated with various readers and they explained what it meant to them. For one person it was a “chain of coincidences and chance discoveries” such as reading Ali Smith’s book featuring a character called Burning Lily and Jill Liddington’s book Rebel Girls: Their Fight for the Vote, that has resulted in her writing a book about Lilian Lenton who burnt down the tea pavilion at Kew Garden. To another its “when seemingly random elements in the universe come together to create a pattern with personal meaning ……… like the Universe handing you a piece of your personal jigsaw which you didn’t know was missing” whilst someone else described it simply as a “happy accident”.

For Kate it is linked to an open-minded approach to life and what she sees, reads or listens to, and has opened up her world to “writers, inspiring individuals and interesting subjects” and has led her to “think a little differently, or to explore a topic in greater depth”. Reading the discussion, it became very apparent that for intellectual serendipity to exist, the person experiencing it must be open minded and this was a common trait that was shared by those involved in the discussion. One of the group put forward the view of how interesting it would be if those involved got to meet up in real life such as at the Edinburgh Wool Festival. A feature of this group is the open mindedness of the members, like Kate’s and the subjects discussed and views expressed are a breath of fresh air.  

My experience has not been as life changing as to lead me to write a book although the way I have found more books written by, and the way Stella Gibbons crops up in my life perhaps is more serendipitous than I initially recognised, and there is definitely scope for me to write about her. Through widespread reading, odd tweets and listening to the radio I have found much to inspire me and have been led down various rabbit holes. Just over a year ago I had finished reading A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier and shortly afterwards discovered that a course on Medieval Embroidery was being run locally. My attendance led to me taking up and thoroughly enjoying a new craft and almost a year on I am still fizzing with ideas.

I’m fortunate in that I’m able to share this open mindedness to music, art, history, nature and what life has to offer with Mark who I describe as ‘a man of many interests’ and it’s not unusual for us to spend the best part of a Saturday morning discussing something (that others might find totally bizarre) that we’ve seen, read or heard as a passing reference and immediately gone on-line or found a relevant book, to find out more. During the early hours of one New Year’s Day, we were sat up in bed with large mugs of tea pouring over a numismatic sales catalogue appreciating the artistry and portrayal of real figures from so long ago. 

Whereas the fact that I’m interested in both arts and sciences (and have qualifications in both) has meant that I am more open minded, it has also occasionally set me apart from friends and work colleagues. However, I consider open mindedness a gift and perhaps if education were not so restrictive in the way it forces us to take one path or another, we’d all be more widely educated, open minded and perhaps better, more tolerant humans.

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My big Ligurian Adventure III

Realised that describing every day’s activity is somewhat boring so will just finish with memorable things:-

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Loved these little vehicles – they’re Piaggio Apes and would hear them beetling around the town first thing in the morning and would see them way up in the hills.  Saw all kinds of things being carried in the back of them and can’t help thinking that they’d be really useful in lots of places here in Wales.

clliff-at-cornigliaEven on sheer cliffs there was so much lush vegetation.

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Loved the simplicity of this crucifix in the church at San Frutossa.

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These figures from a mural on the ceiling of the church in Corniglia – the soldier looks as if he’s severely hung over and the angel is distinctly cross-eyed!

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I know it’s only a lemon tree but to see lemon trees with ripe fruit being such a common feature was something totally new for me.  What was better was experiencing them being used in our food.  Also enjoyed the local version of Limoncello and can understand why it’s rated so highly as a digestif.

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Trompe d’oile which is such a common feature on the brightly coloured buildings.

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This modern statue set amongst the old walls at Portovenere which was certainly worth a visit and somewhere I’d love to return to.

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Thoughts:-

It was definitely worth putting in the effort to get fit before going.

Having Adrienne, an Italian guide who’d lived and worked in the area was a huge benefit and don’t know that I’d have enjoyed it as much with a British guide. Her love of walking and bring outdoors is only matched by her obvious love of food and appreciation of the local cuisine.

Love the freshness and simplicity of the food and is something I have brought away with me.

Love the area and will certainly return.

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And last but not least really appreciated the company of Colette, Ita, Kate, Claire, Ros, Jill and Hilary.

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My big Ligurian Adventure II

After a stormy night woke up on the second day to a bright sunny morning. It looked a little cloudy and potentially stormy in the mountains but packed waterproofs and set out anyway. Followed the route 14 out of Levanto up to Monte Ve’o Focone a higher route and it was just everything that I hoped the walking would be.levanto-to-monterossa-2levanot-to-monterossa-8

Instead of taking the quick way back to Levanto or joining the more popular coastal path to Monterosso we followed route 1 down through Colla di Gritta

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and round by road to  Santuario di Nostra Signora which is built on the site of an eighth century church.  They’ve very carefully preserved the original walls and covered them with glass inside the present church.

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Unusual Madonna with knives stuck into her. Behind the altar was a much earlier Madonna with a child size body of Christ after he’s been taken down off the Cross which dates back to the 14th century but was very odd.  Because of its position and fact it isn’t lit, presumably to protect it not easy to photograph it and don’t know that I’d want to because of its oddity.

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What I should have photographed but didn’t because I was distracted by fussing it was the large but very friendly tabby cat who hung around and lapped up fuss from everyone. Steep hike down into Monterosso

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Quick gelato (one scoop fresh orange and one scoop pistachio) in the piazza before catching a very busy train back to Levanto.  It was so nice and sunny could sit in the living room with the balcony windows open and enjoy watching families and lots or youngsters surfing and using the beach.  To Le Palme for dinner where we sampled the most delicious carpaccio’d swordfish followed by the most amazing seafood risotto I’ve ever tasted.

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My big Ligurian adventure

Having had a significant birthday in February decided that I was going to go on a proper walking holiday this year. Really enjoyed walking Offa’s Dyke, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and Tour of Mont Blanc at the time and felt the need to do something similar again. However what I didn’t feel was the need to carry a 55l rucksack packed with everything needed for a week and stay in different accommodation every night.

Looked at the range of options available and always been drawn to Liguria so when I saw Walking Women were offering it as a holiday this year decided to go with it. Flew out of Gatwick and wasn’t able to see much other than cloud all the way over until we came down to the Bay of Naples and landed at Pisa where it was already warmer and brighter. Was already aware that there was a Ramblers and HF group that were also flying out and had got chatting to 2 ladies from Winchester who I thought might have been with WW group but saw them gather with the HF crowd. Quickly found Adrienne who already had a couple of ladies in tow and didn’t take long for the rest to join up. All 8 of us piled into the minibus along with our luggage and it was off to Levanto. Wonderful views of the town and sea front as we made our way down the hairpin bends into the town. It was busy and the Hotel Garden right on the sea front and one of the main streets so had to decant ourselves out of the minibus quickly. The receptionist seemed a bit grumpy and not that pleased to see us but realise that it might have been because she was shy because she got much friendlier as the week passed. I was so pleased I’d only got my rucksack as the lift wasn’t working and the others had to drag their bags/cases up the stairs.

Was a bit unsure what was happening as Ita, Colette and myself were allocated an apartment. However when we opened the door and let ourselves in and couldn’t believe our luck – there was a long corridor with two huge double bedrooms, two bathrooms, amazing smart modern kitchen with dishwasher and huge fridge/freezer and large eating/sitting area. Both the kitchen and living areas had patio doors leading onto balconies overlooking the beach. My twin bedded room was at the end. Decided we had definitely got the best deal. Fortunately Ita and I shared a need for tea so during that time dashed around the corner to the supermarket to get teabags and milk – never has a cup of tea tasted so good. Didn’t have too long to sort ourselves out before it was time to go out for dinner.

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Short walk up the street to Due Lune. Adrienne had sorted out a fixed menu for us so started with the local past dish which was Trofie which are made from small pieces of dough which are twisted between the palms of the hands to look like spirals with pointed ends and Adrienne says are referred to as worms. It is mostly eaten with pesto sauce and we had the local and freshly made pesto sauce with it – it was also served with fresh bread and lovely green salad. The pest was totally unlike anything we get in this country and so light and herby with far less cheese and garlic than we tend to get in jar or tub versions available here. This was followed by a huge platter of fresh sardines, calamari and tiny, tiny squid all of which had been fried in a light batter and served with great big wedges of fresh local lemons. It was completely different to what I’d expected – light, crispy (the calamari being referred to as Hula Hoops) and really, really tasty. To round it off were served a soft sorbet, again made with the local lemons and very fresh and not at all sweet. A glass of wine was included with the wine and the red was so soft and fruity and just our kind of wine. Woke in the night but was quickly lulled back to sleep by the sound of the sea.

Leisurely start to the day and out into the rain. Started off mizzling but just got worse the further we progressed along the high level route from Levanto to Bonnasola. Couldn’t believe the amount of mimosa, rock roses, broom and honeysuckle with huge cream and pale yellow flowers we saw. Saw orchid and Gladiolus Byzantium but because of the rain didn’t get pics. The rain increased in intensity as the morning went on so dived into a small café bar at Bonnasola for café latte and freshly baked pear and almond tart. Then a leisurely walk back along the disused railway track to Levanto. Then explored around the old part of the town, more café latte at one of the café bars in the square before returning to the apartment.

Early evening went to the Salty Dog for a wine tasting session – wine which is made within the immediate locality. A white which was supposed to have a slight saltiness acquired from the grapes being grown so close to the sea and good for accompanying seafood. It was ok but didn’t enjoy it as much as the house whites that got served at the local restaurants. Didn’t enjoy the 2 reds as much as the local house reds either but the nibbles were a real treat. We only had a limited amount of wine but it certainly livened up the evening. Back to Due Lune and served the local spinach and herb tiny pasties which again were much lighter than expected, being made with a filo type pastry. Then served up the most wonderful fish – the restaurant makes it with whatever fish is available at the local market. In this case it was skate and done to perfection with a sprinkle of oil, wine, potatoes, fresh tomato and olives. Again accompanied by big wedges of fresh lemons and big bowls of fresh crispy green salad. What was good to watch was the way the waiters dissected and served up the fish – obviously understand and know what they’re doing. finished off with fresh fruit salad and really good vanilla ice cream.

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Up, up and away

One of the benefits of the unexpected bright sunny days we’ve just been experiencing is lovely clear evenings.  As we went out onto the path to take Pepper for her evening walk suddenly noticed this

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Enjoyed watching it lazily follow the river up the valley

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By the time we got back it was really quite chilly and almost dark.

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Long time no write

Somewhat of a shock to realise that haven’t posted any entries since January 2013.  So far this year has been good but then it started well.  Stayed home for Xmas and during the first week on a glorious cold clear sunny day went for our usual walk up the towpath but it was so nice kept on going up into and through Llanymynech to the outskirts of Pant.  Were hugely surprised at what a good walk it was with plenty of interest to see so spent the rest of the holidays walking the whole of the length of the Montgomery Canal.  It was good to get out most days and be walking a minimum of 8 miles and seeing a new perspective on the canal and new things.  Certainly improved our levels of fitness.

Since it’s a year of significant birthdays and being worried about getting another clot have wondered about my fitness levels so in February went out walking with Imogen and she devised me a fitness plan which has improved my general fitness levels greatly.

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Been using up some annual leave this last week and marched up and down the Briedden a couple of times, on Mon the heavens opened as I was on my way down and ended up looking like a drowned rat but was a happy drowned looking rat.  Tues went up to North Wales and met Imogen and we were going up onto the Glyders from Nant Peris.  Despite a good weather forecast, it was really cold, very windy with low cloud.  It’s a very steep route and made much better progress than I expected however up at Llyn Y Cwn decided to turn back as it was so cold and windy, we’d both got all our clothing on but were getting cold very quickly and the cloud was closing in.  A wise decision as it turned out as some guys had to be helped to safety on the Glyders not long after.

Yesterday, Friday was the best day of the week so put the bike in the car, drove up to Dolgellau and Imagerode the Mawddach trail.  Met surprisingly few folk on the way down, one lady with a hug husky dog and an elderly chap on a road bike.  As I’d ridden down in such a short time stopped to enjoy the view across to Barmouth and savour a flask of tea and bar of M&S fudge.  Got chatting to a nice couple with a couple of Lhapso dogs and a bundle of white fluff called Alfie who was a young Maltese terrier.  He was terribly cute, very friendly and happily would have come along with me.

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On the way back met more people but still fewer than on a weekend

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One of the notable things that happened last year was that we had to put Tess to sleep as her kidneys had ceased to function and she became so sick so quickly.  We weren’t going to have another dog and then we saw a pic of Pepper and were instantly smitten.

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She has this habit of finding and then carrying sticks and usually the bigger the better on our walks along the towpath.

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2013 – here we go!

In some ways glad that 2012 is over but at least managed to end it on a high. Spent a brilliant 2 weeks in Cornwall and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves despite all the wind and rain. Made the best of any ray of sunshine and got out walking at any and every opportunity. Really needed the change of secenery, definitely needed the sea air and feel thoroughly refreshed and generally a lot more positive going into 2013.
xmas-day-at-Geevor-2012Along the coastal path from Geevor on Xmas Day
pendeen-xmas-2012Relaxing with a mug of tea (mug from Pendeen pottery) following the above walk
arra-venton-xmas-2012Breakfast at Arra Venton
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Spent hours sat around this table in the sunshine enjoying the clouds skudding over the craggy tors.

Set off 2012 hoping to be lots more creative, started well – playing mandolin, knitting and spinning especially after having aquired my CPW spinning wheel. I’ve suddenly realised I haven’t posted since I was in the process of cleaning it up. This is the wheel after Clive and Joan at Woodland Turnery worked their magic on her by carrying out minor but necessary repairs.

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However it tailed off early summer as got bogged down with work, job applications etc. Overall I think I frogged more projects than actually finished knitting them, spinning really trailed off too. The main problem is not having enough time to work, run the house, keep fit and pursue hobbies.

A bonus was getting back into cycling and enjoyed a couple of trips down the Mawddach estuary trail – Mark got a new hybrid the grey Scott shown below DSCF0607 and I then got a super duper new hybrid but realised don’t have any pics yet. Always loved mixte bikes and was lucky enough to get one of my own at long lastMixte 1

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So from last year I’ve learned that I really need to switch off from work and really must not work my Fridays off. I should stop knitting something that I know is not right asap rather than carrying on and having to frog lots. I need to perserve at cycling – I’m not fit and it is hard work but can only get better.

For this next year have a some baby things to make- knitting and sewing, some shawls/wraps to knit for notable birthdays as well as knitting things for the joy of knitting them. Need to catch up on some spinning and weaving and just enjoy getting fit by walking and cycling and enjoying the dog whilst she’s still around.

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At last (lots of pics)

I bought my Majacraft Pioneer spinning wheel some time ago and it works really well for me and I love it despite trying lots of others.  However not long after I got it, came across the CPW  group on Ravelry and immediately fell in love with these wheels and it’s the only kind of other wheel I wanted.

There’s only one other in the UK, belonging to Liz and she only came across hers by chance.  Did investigate getting one imported from the states but it just wasn’t working out so kind of gave up on the idea. Then totally out of the blue one came up on Ebay and I was lucky enough to get it.  You know when something seems as if it was meant to be, well that’s how it felt for this wheel.  It was collect only, but in a location about 90mins from home and everything went just right in terms of collecting it.

Using methods, wire wool and lots of elbow grease managed to clean it up a bit

There was so much black gunk around the mother of all so decided to see if it could be removed and following a squirt of WD40 everything unscrewed perfectly which made cleaning just so much easier.  What was really interesting was the fact that there were very thin slivers of newspaper between the wood and metalwork.  We did peel it back very carefully but failed to find any dates.

the slivers below were on the wooden bit of the tensioning mechanismBefore pic of the manufacturer’s stampAnd after cleaning

The wheel has also been cleaned and the replaced spoke blends in amazingly well.  Whereas these wheels turn up regularly in Canada and north east of the States, some of them in amazing condition, this one has been well used and is covered in small grooves, marks, tacks etc.  I love the fact that it is well used and obviously had a hard life and it was so important to the seller’s grandmother that it was shipped over from Canada when she came over in 1907.  It does have some small problems such as the flyer shaft is bent, needs a new bearing, and wheel wobbles but Woodland Turnery where she is being repaired, have seen lots worse and consider everything fixable and minor faults.  Can’t wait to get her back and it will be a challenge spinning on something so different from my Pioneer.

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Friday I was mainly ………..

Walking Offa’s Dyke.

When I walked the path several years ago I walked from the South to the North but a damaged tendon meant I had to give up at Montgomery.  Since then I did the Montgomery stretch to home a couple of summers ago and as part of my getting on and doing things regime have planned to do some of the other stretches this summer.

This was the first of them and got dropped off at Chirk and again with the intention of walking to home (16 miles).  What I hadn’t appreciated was the killer climb from the starting point and up a road.  However once on the tops the dyke was an imposing feature of the landscape and walked along it for a considerable distance.

This sheep was a real character – initially it had been tucked up against a stile (which I needed to cross) and was watching me through the cross pieces.  When it realised I was going to be crossing it, it eventually got up in a somewhat leisurely fashion, moved itself and stood there quite indignantly waiting to be fed.  It just stood there whilst several others starting milling around and following me, obviously associating any human with the provision of food.

Coming down the steep hill into Craignant, certainly didn’t expect to see these old lime kilns so took pics to show DH.  Either the local folk are prospering or there are newcomers moving into the area because saw lots of small pick up trucks, builders vans and lorries zooming up the valley.

This was such a lovely stretch of the path, obviously following the dyke and having been established as a green lane.  These are such lovely features of our landscape and it’s such a shame that many are being totally trashed by motorcyclists and off-roaders.

It brought me up and over Selattyn hill and this was an unexpected feature at a corner in the path.  Was tempted to follow the sign and find the tower but thought I’d enjoy it more by coming back another day with DH and dog.

I’d heard of the Old Racecourse but didn’t expect that it would be quite so high up above Oswestry and in some ways doesn’t seem to fit in with the town at all.  Obviously a popular feature (lots of cars pootling around) and can see why but really liked and enjoyed the common area a little further along.  What I didn’t expect to find was this – one of those unexpected finds and treasures.

 The path then took me down through Candy woods which have to admit I was somewhat disappointed with.  Had been requested to get involved with a community project for this site some time ago but hadn’t had the time or resources.  Actually having walked through the site it would have been extremely difficult to justify since the woodland is largely coniferous and just didn’t find it interesting.

One of the things that surprised me was coming across sheltered spots in lanes, alongside ruins and finding so many spring flowers already out.  Obviously there were lots of snowdrops but didn’t expect to see so many helleborines, aconites, crocuses and even primroses!  Should have taken pics but if I’d taken pics of everything of interest it would have been nightfall before I’d got home.

Overall there were some lovely sections which made up for the boring road slogs and killer climbs which is pretty much what one expects of much of this walk.  Did result in me having painful hips but a long hot soak and all was well and slept so well.

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Janus

In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is usually depicted as a two-faced god  of beginnings and transitions, since he looks to the future and the past therefore it seems appropriate to post an entry today since it’s the last day of 2011.

It’s been an odd year with some good things and some not so good things.

The huge uncertainty at the start of the year with me not knowing whether I would be allowed to leave under the organisation’s redundancy scheme and DH’s job unexpectedly being at risk.   We’re still both in post and should be ok for a while.

Whereas DH had a health scare and niggles last year, this year it has been my turn culminating with the pulmonary embolism in September.  Since then, things have improved and am no longer breathless, haven’t had any headaches, or leg cramps at night and loads more energy.

Enjoyed a two short breaks down in Pembrokeshire and a week at the lighthouse at the end of the Mull of Galloway.

Read some good books, my favourites being The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers by Mari Strachan and Sacred Heart by Sarah Dunnant.   Best music discovery which was a surprise Xmas  present along with a Creative Zen Style MP3 player.

Craftwise and in the garden didn’t do anywhere as near as what I’d planned due to a general complete lack of energy.

Read an article yesterday which recommended a word for the year rather than lots of resolutions which ususally get broken anyway.  For me the word for this coming year will be activity and that will cover being more active in terms of regular walking again, gardening etc but being active in terms of baking, crafting etc and actually arranging some music lessons.  However I will also be making just one resolution that is apart from buying some navy cotton yarn, which I need to finish my crocheted blankets I will only use yarn from my stash this year.

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