That's it then! Yesterday I finally sacked my agent after all these years. Communication was never his strong point, but this time he's been completely silent for months and enough is enough. After composing The Letter, I spent the rest of the morning depressingly trawling through children's literary agents looking for new writing. Forget it. I don't live anywhere near London (where's London?). I'm not a TV celebrity or an Olympic Athlete. No way is my work commercial - and I am definitely NOT into pink sparkly princesses, perish the thought.
Decided to give up and design a train to embroider onto my latest knitted project for a grandchild. Finally found the squared graph paper and lo and behold a small, rough sketch fell out from between the pages. Unfinished work, the tentative beginnings of ideas for a picture of oyster catchers that I did a couple of years ago. Brigit's bird, wild and free, the messenger of inspiration and creativity.
That afternoon I took The Letter to go by recorded delivery and the young man at the Post Office seemed to be trying to chat me up. He asked me how I was and what I was doing tonight, even though I had never clapped eyes on him before. Wondered if he had forgotten his glasses, but hey, it cheered me up! After that went for a cold, wet windy walk on the beach and lo and behold, two oyster catchers swooping along the shore with their spine-tingling, wild piping calls. Some new energy is stirring - and I do love a good synchronicity!
...a place to call home! This is a colony of goose barnacles I found on the beach after the latest storm. Their home is a mobile one! If you look in this second picture you can just make out the neck of the broken bottle they are all clinging on to.
I've been having fun designing this strawberry cardigan for one of my small grandchildren. I couldn't find a suitable pattern for the little strawberry motifs, so I invented some of my own. They are embroidered on after knitting, using Swiss Darning. Here's the chart of the ones I designed. (I didn't use all of them on this cardigan.)
Design Copyright Ruth Snowden 2016
Feel free to use this design and pass it on - but please pass on the link to my blog and acknowledge my design work! And if you click on Cocklepuss below he will take you to Hildaland, where you can find lots of stories for children, including one for pre-school children with ideas for spring activities.
Here are some little friends for your tiny knitted pumpkin. Again, they are easy to make. Cast on 14 sts (I used DK and 3.5mm needles, but you can experiment.) Knit 17 rows garter stitch (ie every row is plain.) K2tog at each end of next 5 rows (4sts) Knit 1 row k2tog twice (2sts) K 1 row K2tog, then cast off, leaving a long strand of yarn for sewing up. Now embroider eyes with contrasting chain stitch while your ghost is still flat:
Sew up, turn right way out. Arms: Pick up and knit 4 stitches down one side of ghost k 3 rows K1 K2tog, K1 (3sts) K one row K1 K2tog (2sts) K one row Cast off by k2tog. Now work second arm.
There's a cheeky little visitor in Ruth's Cauldron this morning and he's looking forward to playing with all the ghostly visitors at Samhain! Here's how to knit him - it's an easy pattern, so older children will enjoy making him too.(Please test the pattern for me and let me know if it makes sense!) Using orange DK, cast on 6 stitches (any average sized needles will do.) Row 1 Increase in each stitch knitwise through front and back loop. (12 st) Row 2 Increase again in each st in the same way (24sts) Row 3 (K2 P1) repeat to end Rows 4- 12 Continue to work as above in K2 P1 ribbing Row 13 (K2tog) repeat to end (12sts) Row 14 (k2tog) repeat to end (6sts)
Cut yarn, leaving enough length for sewing up. Pull yarn through remaining 6 sts, using a darning needle. Sew up side seam Stuff. Stitch end closed.
Embroider eyes with a black chain stitch, and make a zig zag grin. Stalk - (This bit is crocheted - if you can't crochet yet then this is the easiesr stitch to learn. Or devise your own knitted stalk...) Pick up 3 dc round the top using green yarn. Work another round of dc Finish off.
He's very sociable, so you'll need to make him a few friends!
I must be a Viking apparently. Mind you that comes as no surprise with my northern British ancestry. Apparently the Danes practice hygge - the art of cosy happiness and snuggling up. Well we do that all the time in our family! Here's a few of the basic essentials that spring to mind:
We always sit together as a family at the table to share meals - and no smart phones, tablets etc. This is a time for family togetherness and exchange of news.
We always light a candle in the centre of the table, even in summer. It's a small celebration of the specialness of meal times.
We eat home cooked food as much as possible, baking our own bread and using salad, fruit and veg from our own garden when it's in season.
We have lots of lamps around the house - we don't like harsh over-head lighting.
We have cosy blankets concealed behind chairs and sofas, available to snuggle up in at any time - frequently with company!
If there is negative energy around we open the windows and burn incense and occasionally do drumming to get rid of it.
One room is set aside as a sanctuary, for yoga and meditation.
This newcomer has appeared in my garden this summer and I think it's sea mayweed. I don't know where it has sprung from - maybe from a random wild flower seed packet scattered last year, and now forgotten about? But I have left it alone because it looks pretty, the bees and other insects love it and I love this kind of random, wildlife gardening. Daisy family - obviously - but much bigger than the lawn variety and the leaves are quite different. Some of the leaves in the picture - the broad ones - are of lemon balm (which the bees also love). The mayweed leaves are the finely cut, feathery ones.
The name is misleading, because it doesn't flower in May, but in late summer. It actually derives from the Old English name for a maiden, because it was used in healing women's problems. It grows all over the place on waste ground, not only by the sea.
Returning to the garden
after more than half a century, I became a lost ghost, slipping into a
childhood skin in search of a long vanished place. Gone was the ancient ash tree
inside whose hollow trunk I lay curled like a dormouse. Nothing remained, not
even a rotted stump, or a faint scar on the earth to show where it had stood.
Gone was the secret wren’s
nest; the witchy, green smelling elder that provided bows and arrows - and magic
whistles for calling up the wind. Gone was Grandma’s beloved lilac, under which
lily of the valley thrust forth its fragrant spears in spring. Gone were the gnarled
old apple trees whose pink and white blossom danced us into summer and whose
fruit scented the loft all through the long dark days of winter. And gone too was
the damson tree, my horse that I galloped across the plains of the Wild West
with two guns slung in holsters around my skinny hips.
I strolled among wonderful flower
beds in plenty, but they were different and the winding paths I had dashed
along were vanished. The arbour too, with its sprays of pink climbing roses and
plentiful supply of metal staples to fire from a catapult. The green house had
been doomed as soon as we moved in – after the horror of the first cricket ball
loudly crashing through a glass pane, we worked our way deliberately through
the rest for sheer badness. But there was not the faintest trace of its
Where was the old zinc dolly
tub? The iron pots and pans, black with age, in which we brewed our earthy
potions? Where were the fragments of painted pottery and the broken stems of
the white clay pipes, smoked centuries before outside the farm-house door?
The rhubarb patch where I lay
under the vast green canopy of leaves, shaking with suppressed giggles as my
brother hunted for me in vain had vanished too. The old stone seat by the pear
tree was now part of next door’s garden – a dividing fence had sprung up through
which my child self cycled merrily without even pausing. Even the gently
sloping lawn, where long ago, no longer able to run with the others, I sank to
my hands and knees and realised, with a cold wave of dread that yes, children do
Inside the house I walked
through walls. New doors had appeared which led me unexpectedly into familiar
rooms. My father’s study. The old stable - now a living room. Back in my
childhood it was a musty, derelict coal house, with a dangerous loft that we
were strictly forbidden to enter. We stole up the ladder and peeped in, of
course, but we never ventured onto the rotting rafters.
The battle axe proof back
door from 1600 was still there like an old friend, but no longer painted a
jolly, bright red: someone had stripped it back to the original bare oak. The
uneven stone flags of the kitchen floor, so endlessly and angrily washed by
Grandma, had been replaced by modern flooring. Just as well really – it would
probably stop the ants trooping up through the cracks and helping themselves to
The mice I had secretly fed
with crumbs had also left, along with the rats – or maybe the resident cats had
eaten them? But I expect the spiders were still lurking, concealed safely
in corners and crannies. The huge sandstone slabs that once had cooled the milk
in the dairy underneath the house were probably reincarnated as part of the new
patio outside. My brother’s bedroom had morphed into a bathroom and in mine I
found no trace of the childhood ghost of myself who lay awake wide eyed, listening
to the far wild call of the curlew on her way home from the sea, or the strange
heavy footsteps that tramped slowly over to the window and back again to the
We cannot go back. Our life
is a journey and this place both is - and is not - the place that I knew. I am –
and am not – that long-lost child. I am of long-lived stock, but Grandma is
long dead and even my parents have vanished finally into the void. Others will come
and call it home - for a while. They will change things, put their own stamp
upon it. But the lost garden is still there, somewhere, under the dream-like layers
of the fleeting present, hidden in the boundless universe of my mind.
I discovered evidence in my garden this morning of a very welcome little visitor emerging from hibernation. This is hedgehog poo!
You might not get to see these nocturnal animals, and they are actually getting quite rare apparently, so I was really glad to find the droppings. They are about 6-8 cms long, and sausage shaped. If you do find some in your garden you might like to help your hedgehog through the lean period for food by leaving out a little cat food. Apparently they enjoy it mixed with porridge oats and hopefully that might dicourage the neighbourhood cats from cashing in!
I have just finished knitting this pair of rainbow welly socks. They were quite a challenge as I designed them myself and had to unravel the first one several times - but I enjoy experimenting and seeing how things turn out. And for me knitting is a form of meditation - I find the gentle, repetitive movement and the soft sounds of wool and needles clicking really get me relaxed and `into the zone'.
I am currently reading a book abut fairy encounters, written at the beginning of the last century, and I was enchanted to read about some old women in Ireland who were sitting knitting in the shelter of a hedge when they had their vision. No doubt they were in the same state of slightly altered consciousness that I find myself drifting into. I often feel a connection to my mother when I knit, as she was also a great knitter. And beyond her, back and back, through generations of ancestors. I wonder how old the craft is and who first invented it?