Newborn Knitting

EBL returns trailing clouds of glory, to assuage your hunger for tidings of her adventures. At least, that is the dream I had last night. Alternatively, it seemed like a nice time to drop by and say hello, share a quick cuppa and even a couple of quicker tales of existence beneath the heels of oppression (or “work” as They like to call it). As if I can have my being validated by something as boring as a payslip, a piece of paper which purports to evidence the transfer of zeros and digits across the ether from an employer’s bank account to my bank account. It’s only when I raid the hole-in-the-wall that I ever get to hold a fraction of those alleged numerals in my hands, the majority of them flying straight back out into the ether and across to other alleged accounts belonging to energy companies, the council, the mortgage lender, insurance companies and so on. Honestly, it’s a scam.

It’s been a busy month and really this post is no more than another place-holder to let WordPress know I am still alive. And a chance to say thank you to all my dear new readers who have decided to follow me this month. Clearly you will not be expecting an actual post, so I hope the shock is not too much for you.

neonatal knitted squares

I thought I might go with a knitty theme this time around. I have been knitting again, as the British summer has not been so overwhelmingly hot as to prevent me. I did a little work on a jumper – more of that in due course when there is something worth showing – but more importantly I discovered a brilliant scheme at Leeds  Hospital neonatal unit. They use knitted squares to help mother-infant bonding. Because parents can’t hold and bond with their very poorly babies, the staff lie the babies in incubators on a knitted square, and get the mother to wear another one next to her skin. When she visits they swap the squares. This comforts the baby and also amazingly helps mothers to express milk as well as learn their baby’s scent. Fabulous!

There’s more info on their public Facebook page for anyone else who fancies giving it a go!

Calling all knitters! Have you heard about our Neonatal Units’ bonding square project? One knitted square of…

Posted by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust on Sunday, 2 August 2015

Obviously this makes me think of my mother quite a lot. I was a premature baby and my mother didn’t get the kind of support now available, which may well explain our rather strained relationship. A knitted square or two might have been a benefit to us both. She was, however, a keen knitter of squares herdelf; in her case to make blankets for the chilly elderly. For those interested I did write about it once.

In other news I have had laser treatment on my right eye so can now see again well enough to read, knit more than a square, type, and generally participate in humanity. This may or may not be a Good Thing.

Sigoth and I are contemplating some changes in our home arrangements, and are trying to finish the last bits of decorating and furniture moving so we can make better use of the living space now that we are Home Alone. We have been poring over the bills, changing energy suppliers, cancelling superfluous subscriptions and generally getting Affairs in Better Order. There’s a first time for anything.

Meanwhile I hope you are well and finding good things that make you happy. Tell me more, if you feel so moved. It would be good to catch up.


Just say no!

misty village

Sigoth bemoaned the weather again today, as he has done for several days recently. I don’t blame him. We are British, so the weather is how we communicate with each other. It defines our moods, our relative positions in life and our ability to function in the morning. As such, starting the day without a quick weather-related sanity check would be unthinkable in EBL Towers. And so it was.

Apparently he has noticed it has been wet. I demurred.

“Foggy,” I insisted.

“No!” quoth he. “Wet! The ground is absolutely sodden.”

Well, he should know. He does things outdoors for fun, up close and personal with the earth, and we live on Jurassic moraines of boulder and Kimmeridge clay, so wetness or dryness is immediately apparent.

I sit inside, working at the computer, and only gaze out of the window into the distance. The distance is considerably closer of late, due to the fogs. Well, mists really. But where’s the drama in that?

The problem is obviously that he focuses on the near and I on the far. But Literature is on my side, so I share with you that great poem of 1844 by the lesser known poet, Thomas Hood:


No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view–
No distance looking blue–
No road–no street–no “t’other side this way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–
No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people–
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!
No traveling at all–no locomotion–
No inkling of the way–no notion–
“No go” by land or ocean–
No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds–

Regular readers will recall I enjoy chucking in a poem or two now and again. It saves me having to think up words all by myself.

Do you have a poem or quotation that describes your day today?

And even if your days are dark and foggy, may your hearts be sunny and bright.



The solstice confirmed that we will continue to have light and dark, day and night, life and death, for the next year and a day. I was glad. It gave me the go-ahead to complete preparations for the seasonal festivities. Some bunch down in South America also started using a new calendar; apparently there was concern that the change of calendar meant something doom-ridden, and people were going on about the end of the world like there was no tomorrow.

Anyway, EBL Towers is now officially “almost ready” for the big day. All that remains is to collect Offspring who lives on the wrong side of the Pennines from York station later tonight, and the family will be gathered. Thanks to three whole days of Christmas Eve we are relaxed and cheerful, instead of our usual psychotic selves.

Sigoth completed the early prep for dinner tomorrow – cashew nut and mushroom layer with mushroom and sherry sauce. The denizens of EBL Towers are against eating anything with a face on it. In-laws duly arrived and consumed mince pies and Christmas flavoured tea. The tree was brought in and decorated, as was the rest of the house. Yours truly even managed to deliver the cards round the village, despite a wind that tore the hat from my head and the breath from my body. I’m a real hero.

We all contribute to filling stockings these days; everyone puts in a small token gift costing no more than £2 and we all have fun trying to work out who gave what. The Offspringses have worked out that if they include themselves too it makes the games even or fun and they get more stuff. Cunning Offspringses.

I completed my knitting as planned, which partly accounts for my absence, no doubt sorely missed. The whole t’Interweb was in danger of failing so I decided to provide a quick update to keep things going.

I hope your holiday is peaceful and full of comfort and joy. Not everyone is so fortunate, so if you are struggling, I wish you strength and hope and love. I wish them for everyone, but for you particularly. I have had Christmases which I thought I might not survive, and yet I did and this year I am in a better place. None of us know what the future holds, and often it turns out to be better, even if further away than we might like.

Glæd Gēol! (As we used to say in this country about 1500 years ago.)

Busy day

So it was.

Last week I was away down south for a training course and it was hard work but ultimately really rewarding (and I hope in the long term it will be even more so). But I came back to what felt like chaos – home, work, roads, you name it.

This is the time of year when parents of a certain age with children of a certain age find that life is quite demanding. There are things to be purchased, things to plan and days off work to arrange. There are all kinds of emotions sloshing around the place and contaminating the wildlife. We want them to stay, and we want them to go. We remember the excitement of going away for the first time, and also look back with horror at how unprepared we really were. And we hope we did a better job pf preparing them than our parents did us, and that they are at least as resilient as we were. And we envy them and we pity them too. And they feel the same.

Meanwhile the merry world of work spins on its errant course. We are, naturally, talking about restructuring. After all, we haven’t had a restructure since November, and that barely managed to start before the previous one had ended. There was a danger for a while that we might actually be faced with having to do our jobs. So people are twitchy and anxious and uncertain, because things are going to change again.

Don’t get me wrong: the vast majority of my colleagues are magnificent. Like salmon breasting the rapids, they continue to maintain services in the face of overwhelming odds and management. But some days – well, you know how it is. Sometimes someone somewhere lets you down.

So that leaves the roads. Always tricky in summer due to tourist traffic, and cunning in winter with ice and gales and darkness, they manage still to catch us out in between with odd accidents and diversions and roadworks. Half the city is closed off and the other half has ground to a halt.

And nothing on the telly in the evening to distract me, leaving me typing into cyberspace like casting a message in a bottle. Counting down to the Dr Who Christmas Special.

Home Life

Why do we choose to live where we live? This begs the question of whether we can always have so much control over our lives. People may try to attribute their choices to external factors, such as economics or their family; the first because price is a significant issue; the second because that’s what families are for.

But if we examine these ideas we may see some cracks appearing. Let’s start with economics.

Renting or buying a home is clearly constrained by the amount of money available to us. I cannot afford to live in certain places no matter what I do. Yet people are endlessly creative about finding ways to live where (or near to where) they choose. Examples might include sharing with friends, or strangers; renting a spare room in a family’s house; getting a caravan in Mum and Dad’s garden; finding a job with accommodation included; defrauding the system. I’m sure there are plenty of others.My point is that when we are sufficiently motivated we find ways to get what we want.

Similarly, being near family is, deep down, a choice. Some people emigrate and others never leave home. In both scenarios, the justification can be “the family”. I don’t really believe that family circumstances are of themselves a deciding factor, more a justification – although I do recognise that if anyone knows how to manipulate you, it’s your family. So I’m sure there are a lot of miserable people who decided it wasn’t worth the fight/guilt. In the end, then, I propose that we live where we choose, even if recognising the choices we make is a major challenge.

All of the above leads me to look at why I chose to live where I do. So far in this nascent masterpiece I have presented a lifestyle choice of dodgy broadband and third world transport systems against the undeniably gorgeous but nevertheless ephemeral joy of watching baby swallows learn to fly (and even then I complained about the weather!). So why on earth would I choose to be here? And I do choose it, without a moment’s reservation, with all my heart and soul.

What is the village like? It has around 300 adults on the electoral role, a pub, a church and a chapel, a Village Hall and a theme park with zoo. The residentail site on the theme park is as big again as the entire village, and the number of tourists visiting each year block all the roads, litter the street and vandalise the daffoldils. On the plus side, I know my neighbours well, my children are safe, the air is fresh and the pace of life is human. When I sit in the garden I can hear all the birds singing, as well as livestock on the farms and the gibbons screaming in the zoo (always slightly amusing to explain to visitors). Neighbours can walk in any time. We share cups of tea, food and wine. We run quizzes and barbecues and garden competitions. It’s all terribly mundane and English, and I just love it. My house has been here since the 18th century, and I feel connected to all the previous people who were here. When we decorated we could see the straw caught in the old mortar, and the fingerprints in the hand-made bricks. The fields on the tithe map from 1703 are unchanged today. The church has Saxon foundations, and the village is in the Domesday Book.

Sometimes it has to be said, it feels like we are still living in the 18th century. We are installing central heating as I write; until now all our heating was from open fires downstairs; we used electric heaters upstairs because we are not as tough as our predecessors (or to put it another way, we don’t have to put up with being so cold).

In some ways life is harder. The local shops, businesses and school are long gone. We have a post office available twice a week and the mobile library once every 3 weeks. Tuesday night we get the fish and chips van. A hundred years ago there were shops and services (eg a tailor, a blacksmith) all here; but now we all drive everywhere or get supermarket deliveries, so no need for local services any more. In fact the Internet is a wonderful thing for us, and many people use it extensively to order groceries, books, holidays and to socilise. Possibly they even write blogs.

Ask a neighbour about this place and you will hear a different village described. We see most clearly the things that matter to us the most. In reality what I have told you about is not my village but myself; my wish to live quietly, in community and grounded in place and time.