Friday, July 25, 2014

London again

I know, I seem to live there at the moment don't I!

Before I tell about my latest adventure I must mention my updated cover photo. That's our beautiful Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' shown against the blue sky yesterday. The colours made me gasp they looked so beautiful with the sun illuminating the leaves.

In the photo below you can see the boomerang-shaped seeds, just like those of the common sycamore but in red. This tree used to live in a pot at our previous house but now he's settled quite happily in ground in the front garden where he's protected from strong winds by the hedge and just gets the morning sun. It's a stunning tree in every season.

Right, back to Londonium.

This time I was heading back into the City to help the corporate sponsorship team from ARUK with a pitch to gain the support of a company named Withers who are based in Old Bailey home to the Central Criminal Court.

My train times were not very helpful and so I arrived in London far to early. However, this is never a problem as there's always lots to see and do so I took myself off to Borough market again. That's the third time I've been there this year after not having visited for over 20 years!

I knew exactly where I wanted to go; Spice Mountain, to get some spicy bits and bobs. They aren't cheap but it saves on postage if you happen to be nearby and it's always nice to have a mooch around their stall.

I should add that it was HOT and the tall buildings really hold the heat in. This is the view looking towards London Bridge Station from the market and I walked under the bridge to get onto London Bridge to cross the river.

There were a couple of routes I could take and for the way there I chose to walk along Cannon Street.

This sculpture entitled  Break the wall of distrust by Zurab Tsertelli caught my eye. It was commissioned to commemorate the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

There was so much building work going on that it was hard to get a photo without a crane jib in it! I like the way this modern building echoed the older building next to it.

As I walked alongside the magnificent St Paul's Cathedral I wasn't prepared for the enormous wave of tourists I had to circumnavigate around the front of the building. It was impossible to take photos at the front as there were people streaming onto the roads as well as the pavement. I made a mental note to take an alternate route on my way back!

I nearly walked past Old Bailey as I was too busy looking at the strange construction work that was going on.

The next 2 photos show parts of the Court buildings but the link at the beginning shows much better details. There were lots of people standing around outside together with Police cars and an ambulance.

I phoned Marcus, with whom I'd done a presentation at another venue earlier this year, and Jade, who's Head of Corporate Engagement at ARUK, to see where they were and they were just around the corner having a coffee so I popped along to join them before they went to set up their stand. After about 15 minutes I went to join them.

Here's the magnificent building I was heading for.

As I entered the building and passed through Security I was struck by this model of New York in the foyer. It was created by Alec Graydon, an 83 year old Londoner with a passion for the city of New York. I asked the Security Guard about it and he very helpfully gave me an information sheet about it. Apparently Mr Grayden was a jazz clarinetist whose heroes included Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, two of my own heroes as I used to play the clarinet too! It is not an exact representation of the city but it certainly captures the essence of it.

There were 4 other charities involved and Age UK were sharing a table with ARUK which seemed appropriate. The purpose of this was so that the staff could come and have a look and ask questions during their lunch break before they vote for the charity to support. We only had from 12:30 until 14:00 in which to draw people in so it was an anxious time before people ventured into the area.

ARUK's table was full of leaflets, pens and photos to try and entice people to come and have a look. They'd also brought these gross looking brain sweets with their bright turquoise base.

They look vile and I don't usually try anything like that full of yucky colouring, sugar and gelatine, but I tried one and oh my goodness they were addictive. I had to take some home for Mike to try and he snaffled them down pretty darned quick too!

Marcus had asked me to take one of my marathon scarves along as a talking point which was brilliant because it turned out that they have a staff 'Stitch 'n' Bitch' group which meets once a week in their lunch break so we had visits from all the ladies who are members of the group.

I'd also taken a little handout, outlining why I've been supporting ARUK for the past 9 years (doesn't time fly!) together with my mum's story, which I placed on the tables in the restaurant. I hope some people read it.

We chatted with quite a few people who have experience of dementia in their family and I hope that we helped explain a bit about the disease. Jade's mother suffers from early-onset Alzheimer's so we both had something to contribute but from slightly different angles. 

Lots of people seemed interested in all the recent news stories about a possible cure and of course that leads onto why we need more money for research! 

Now we're just waiting to hear if we were successful. Even if we don't get the vote I feel it was worthwhile as we met and spoke with people who will have learned a little more about the disease and may want to know a bit more as a result.

On my way back I took another route to avoid St Paul's. Everywhere was heaving with people in suits who looked far too hot and when I looked at my watch I realised that if I didn't get a move on I was going to miss my train, the next one being in 1.5 hours. As I really didn't want to hang around the station in the heat the only solution was to run.

Yep, run, in that heat and wearing shoes with wedges! So that's exactly what I did, all the way from Lombard Street to halfway across London Bridge where I stopped to take this photo as it looked so lovely. I probably looked very silly but at least I caught my train so I didn't care.

On the way back I sat next to 2 lovely chatty ladies and when I brought out my yarn for a bit of hookiness they wanted to see how I made the stitches and so I showed them how to hold the hook, do chains, double crochet and trebles which passed the journey nicely until they got off about halfway through my journey. They both declared that they would look for a local crochet group as they enjoyed it so much; I hope they do.

For the rest of my journey I just played around with a couple of colours which reminded me of the sea and sand and so I created a sort of ships-wheel shape.

I've still got a stack of photos I've been taking from my runs over the last few weeks so I really must upload them soon. Tempus fugit doesn't it!

My next marathon isn't until the middle of October but I've got a 1/2 marathon in September and I fancy having a go at cracking the 2 hour barrier (my pb is 2:00:59) - oh look, there goes a flying pig………..

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mandala Monday

They're everywhere at the moment aren't they!

This morning I finished off the mandala I started on the train last week and I really love the colours and how it's worked out - much better than the first version I made.

I'm short of time so it's just a few photos rather than a detailed update:

Tilly felt that the cotton was far too dry and so remedied it by pouncing and slobbering all over it!
I'm helping aren't I?
Here it is, all blocked and ready to go. It's going on the wall in the dining room but I'm not sure yet whether to stiffen it and hang it just as it is or perhaps to mount it in a frame.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

British Folk Art at Tate Britain

A few days ago we ventured into Londonium again for a visit to Tate Britain to see the exhibition of British Folk Art. It had great reviews and I was really excited to see it.

We had a lovely walk along Whitehall, by the River Thames, past the Houses of Parliament & Westminster Abbey then onto Millbank. It was about 1.5 miles so not too far for a gentle stroll. I snapped happily as we took in the views:

Wonderful winged horses/sea serpents standing guard
The war memorial dedicated to the work women did during World War II
Part of Westminster Abbey - I love turrets!
The Houses of Parliament with beautiful statues and stonework

We arrived at Tate Britain 20 minutes before opening time and so we wandered around the back streets.

A rather impressive Henry Moore sculpture
Along one side of the Tate building we noticed all these craters
It occurred to us that it must be bomb damage and indeed it was
We rounded a corner and came across a little garden so headed off to find some shade. I loved this adult gym equipment and had a go on it even though I was wearing a dress!
Finally it was 10am and so we headed off excitedly to view the exhibition. We weren't allowed to take photos of the exhibits but I asked permission to take this photo of the beautiful railings around the central staircase. Isn't it stunning?! The dark bit are black glass and echo the pattern on the floor.

The first item we saw when we entered was a magnificent quilt which took our breath away. Sadly I can't find any photos of it but there are a few photos of some of the other exhibits here and here.

It was a fabulous mix of unusual artefacts from a wall covered in old 'trade signs' which shopkeepers used to advertise their trade before the general spread of literacy (I loved the giant boot for a cobbler!), a room full of paintings where people and recorded events on whatever came to hand (for example, on cardboard or old bits of floorboard), many items with a nautical theme including several pieces of embroidery stitched by sailors on their long journeys away from home, quilts made of bit of felted wool by Prisoners of War (my favourite was the Crimean quilt which you can see in the links above - the pieces were only about 1" square and the colours were fabulous), enormous figureheads from ships and shipyards, the sheer scale of them took my breath away and some very strange sculptural artefacts and textiles.

Apart from the Crimean quilt my favourite thing was the cockerel you can see on the front of the brochure and in the links above. He was made of mutton bones by French prisoners in the Napoleonic wars and he was stunning.

But as soon as we'd been through the exhibition we were left wanting more. It was over far too soon and we felt it was rather overpriced (at £14 each) for the 35 minutes we took viewing it; and we stopped and studied all the pieces so we didn't rush around. Never mind, we then went on the explore the permanent exhibitions which were free and it was nice to remind ourselves what was there. 

I can still remember my first visit there back in circa 1974 as an art student. I was obsessed with the work of Bridget Riley and there was a major exhibition of her work.

We had an exciting lunch planned for afterwards and so we wended our way through the backstreets of London to our destination 2 miles away. We could have taken the tube for part of the journey but we preferred to just wander and take in the sights in the sunshine (although it did get a but too hot for us eventually and we were ready for a sit down!).

En-route I snapped away at anything that caught my eye:

A former Public Baths now used as a cafe
A different view of Westminster Abbey
The London Eye peeping over the top of the buildings
Finally we arrived at our destination, Benares restaurant in the heart of Mayfair. It is owned by the brilliant Atul Kochhar who is renowned for his fusion of Indian and British cuisine and we had been wanting to go there for ages so were very excited.

It didn't disappoint!  Here's my starter which consisted of so many elements I can't remember them all. The balls are beetroot patties decorated with edible gold and sitting on a paneer something-or-other with a peanut dressing and a tomato-based smear. It was sublime.

We loved everything about the restaurant; the service was exemplary, the food was divine, the atmosphere was perfect. All in all it was perfect.

Then there was more walking back to the station for the train home. We took the back streets when possible to avoid the crowds as it's prime tourist season. As usual my eye was drawn upwards as I love all the stonework.

This concrete panel was at the entrance to a hotel. It reminded me of crazy patchwork and samplers.
That was a most enjoyable day indeed and on the train journey home I started working on another version of my overlay crochet mandala which appeared in Simply Crochet magazine. This time I was using Rowan Cotton Glace but with similar colours to the original.

I reckon that by the end of the day we'd walked about 5.5 miles so we must have burned off at least some of the calories from our lunch!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nellie and a mandala

She's finished and she's so sweet!

Before I show the finished Nellie I need to mention her trunk. I really didn't like the way the end of the trunk was finished. I looked at all those on Ravelry, including the ones where people had chosen to turn  the trunk up rather than downwards and inwards, and the more I looked the more I didn't want my Nellie to have a trunk like that.

Sorry this is out of focus but you'll get the idea. You see the end of the trunk is made using a pentagon motif which is the same size as the penultimate one. However, the 2 smaller ends are joined together which leaves a lot of bulk at the other end. The instructions said to gather it and sew it underneath which I did but I really didn't like it.

Nor did I like the bit where the 2 end pentagons joined as the join went in and then the end of the trunk inevitably flared out again and looked odd to my eye.

I spent ages trying to find the solution and in the end it was obvious - take off the end pentagon. Eureka!

So here she is in all her african flower loveliness:

Sniffing the lavender 
Searching out the watering holes in the garden
I love her crinkly ears 

The other thing I finished off today was the mandala idea for Yarndale. After much fiddling and undoing I finally made the border I wanted.

Not quite right yet 
I wanted it to have the suggestion of bicycle wheels (to fit in with Lucy's theme for Yarndale) so the edge had to have spokes of some sort and the way I chose was to just finish it off with a bit of overlay crochet over the last few rows.

Here it is in its unblocked form. It measures 7" so is just right. I'll take another photo when it's been blocked and stiffened which will make a huge difference to its appearance.

I'm off into London again today for a meeting with DeNDRoN where we'll be getting an update on the new website we've been working on which will allow people to sign-up to take part in dementia research. 

We've been working on this project for so many years that I can hardly believe it's happening. All very exciting.

Must dash, I have a train to catch!