South of England road/train trip

As I have mentioned I have been away on holiday for a while. The main purpose of the trip was to go to my friend’s wedding in Somerset; this is the wedding I was making the wedding shawl for. More of this later. The trip also gave me a great opportunity to catch up with friends and family in the South of England. First I caught the train to:

Clapham Junction

I was a little concerned about this, as the riots happened there the week before my trip, but everything went well and it was interesting to see the notes of support for the poor shop owners who bore the brunt of the riots. These are some of the notes on the hoardings on Debenhams in Clapham Junction:

Debenhams 1

Debenhams 2

Strangely, this created quite an exciting, almost party-like atmosphere in the area. It was great to see my friends, who live a bit further up Lavender Hill, and were unharmed during the riots. We had an arty day on Saturday, and went to the Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery. I wasn’t that thrilled by the exhibition: although Twombly was a big fan of Poussin, and worked with similar classical themes, the two radically different artistic styles didn’t sit easily together. It didn’t help that I’m not crazy about either of these artists, although I found a couple of paintings to enjoy. The gallery itself is very traditional, and has a quaint old-fashioned style to it, with a little circular mausoleum in which a sculpture by Cy Twombly was placed to great effect. Overall it was an enjoyable afternoon out.

We headed into the City Centre for an evening meal at the fabulously arty Sketch restaurant; my friend knew I would love it, and had got a special money off deal from their Facebook page. There is a dark atmospheric foyer with intriguing themed rooms leading off, this is the Glade Bar:

The Glade bar

(My apologies for the quality of some of the photos at Sketch I only had my mobile phone with me.) There was a bizarre candelabra on the way to the Gallery room where we were to have our meal:


Candelabra Detail

You can just make out a Buzz Lightyear doll embedded in it. Crazy.

We were a little early for our meal so headed to the bar, which was right by the most unusual toilets I have ever seen:

Toilet pods

The egg like pods are divided into men and women’s areas, and indicated by blue and pink lights. This is what they look like inside:

Inside toilet pod

There was a French Maid, perpetually sweeping the area, you can see her in the convex mirror:

Toilet facilities

The bar was a bit like a space ship and had drawings all over the ceiling, you can see it and the Gallery Room on the Sketch website. We went in for our meal, and there was a surprise with the menu:

Sketch Menu

Pop up forks! Then there was an animation on a screen that ran all the way around the room. Finally, we got to the food: a high-class french-style menu, I wasn’t completely wowed by the main course, but the Apple and Coriander sorbet and macaroon were delicious – I usually like the pudding best anyway!

An art-filled and fantastic day. Then I got on the train to:


Where I spent some time with my family, saw my little niece in the dress I made, and helped my Sister-in-law to sew a doll, refreshing her memory on sewing machine skills. I was driven to:


and spent one day resting with my Mother, before getting a lift to Portsmouth; a very kind offer from one of my Mother’s friends. I took the Seacat ferry from there to the:

Isle of Wight

where my friend met me and drove me to the YMCA in Shanklin, where she lives and works. My brother was also staying there for a week on a Tai Chi retreat, so it was a good opportunity to spend some time with both of them. After a slap up curry in Shanklin village that evening,  the next day, my friend drove me around the island. We went to Quay Arts, where I really enjoyed the work displayed by the QuayCrafts group, their collaborative work was especially inventive. I also loved the crazy Birds and Beasts collages by Peter Slight and Sarah Shaw. We savoured our lunch in the cafe, and headed to Ventnor, to buy some fresh crab for our evening meal, and enjoyed a walk under the cliffs. I loved this beach house and it’s boat:

Beach house, Ventnor

My friend has recently taken a basket weaving course, and now has the equipment and materials to make baskets. She suggested we do some basket weaving the next day, and soaked the willow overnight in the bathtub so it was soft enough for us to use in the morning.

This is the first time I have  tried basket weaving, and as I have a lot of willow growing in my garden, I was keen to find ways of using it. This is the willow:


These are called “withies”; I discovered there were a lot of strange terms in basket weaving: e.g. randing, waling, upsetting. I survived the terminology and we made a base each:


and added the stakes for going up the sides:

Staked up bases

I struggled to work with the darker willow, but found it easier working with the stripped willow, which meant there was not enough for two baskets, so my friend left me to weave alone and would finish her basket later. To be honest, I didn’t find it particularly easy, many times it felt like I was wrestling an octopus, and the stakes were quite difficult to bend when I worked the edging. These may well be excuses… here is my finished basket:

Finished basket

Everyone who has seen has laughed and said it reminds them of the experiments with drugs on spiders spinning webs. I think that’s quite funny,  and I quite like it’s home made wonky look:

Finished basket Detail

At least it looks like a basket, so that’s quite a result for my first attempt. The good thing was, I enjoyed it, so I will try again sometime.

The next day I waved goodbye to the Isle of Wight, and got on a train bound for:


This is where my oldest friend lives, I don’t mean she’s ancient,  just that I’ve been friends with her the longest, which doesn’t mean she’s tall either! Anyway we had some tasty tapas on the way back from Bristol station and enjoyed a good old natter. The next morning we had a wander into Bristol for some provisions, and a nose around the shops. I found a lovely wool shop – Woolly Thinking, and bought some beautiful handmade buttons:


I have already made a neckwarmer using buttons by this craftsperson; which my friend kindly bought me for a present a while ago. I was really pleased to get some more. Here’s the button makers details in case you want some yourself, or go to Woolly Minded where they have a great selection:

Buttons back

After lunch we walked into the city centre, where I was quite taken by these penguins:

Bristol penguins

The little boy liked them too. They are glass mosaic, and were installed by a well known coffee company promoting their use of recycled glass.

I had to pick up a hire car across town to get to the wedding the next day. This wasn’t far from the Get Knitted shop, and I managed to persuade my friend to visit our second knitting shop of the day. The shop is vast, and has an incredible array of yarns. I bought Lang Jawoll Magic in shade 79, (it’s on the Get Knitted website): I’m knitting a stripey cardigan for my friend, and it was handy to have her with me to choose the shade herself. In the evening, besides eating wonderful food prepared by my friend, we picked up my Newcastle friend from the airport as he was coming to the wedding with me. The next day we drove to:

The Wedding

Which was near a tiny place called Batcombe, in Somerset. It rained all the way there, which was worrying, as it was an outside wedding with a barbecue and camping: more like a mini music festival. After excitedly catching up with old friends in Penny’s Square Barn, and sampling the beers and ciders. The weather finally cleared, and stayed sunny all weekend. Here is the Barn:

Penny's Square Barn - © S. Miller

The flowers were specially grown for the occasion by the bride, Amanda. Here she is looking stunning in her wedding dress and shawl:

Wedding shawl - © S. Miller

This is the shawl before I sent it off for the wedding:


It is on Ravelry here. It was a very musical affair, as all my friends there enjoy their music, and Martin, the groom, makes cellos and double basses for a living – here’s his website. Many of the guests were fellow instrument makers/repairers and musicians, and many of them performed on the day. I think we all had an emotional moment when the string quartet played Elbow’s One Day Like This, very atmospheric. As the sun went down, and the second servings of barbecued food were consumed and we were a little worse for wear, a special guest arrived:

Elvis impersonator - © S. Miller

Elvis was in the barn! Closely followed by the fantastic Buffalo Gals, giving us a hoedown with their Bluegrass music. The night ended with jamming around the bonfire:

Bonfire - © S. Miller

The next day brought us yet more sunshine, beans over the campfire, and more beer, and a bit of knitting from me. Our numbers had reduced and it was easier to get to know everyone, Jason and Steve – violin repairers, Becky and John , violin repairers from Exeter, Louise, and artist, Amy, and her two children. It was a relaxing, lazy day in the sunshine. Congratulations to Amanda and Martin, and thanks for a lovely couple of days.

We had to get the hire car back to Bristol the following day, but took a quick detour to take a quick peek at Frome, before heading back to:


Unfortunately, the SatNav decided to send us to the wrong side of Bristol, which I didn’t appreciate, and after rectifying it, it made me drive straight through the busy centre of Bristol. Never mind. I got the car back to the hire place on time and undamaged, and was able to enjoy the rest of the day walking around with my two friends from Bristol and Newcastle. We specially went to see the See No Evil street art festival, and took a wander around the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft. I took so many photos at these two places that I am going to do a separate blog post about them in two weeks time. On the way back from Stokes Croft we stopped to admire the architecture of the Foster’s Almshouses:

Foster's Almshouses 1    Foster's Almshouses 2

Victorian Gothic gone mad. I appreciated the Victorian lettering:

Foster's Almshouses 3

and the stone carving:

Foster's Chapel

We headed wearily back into Clifton and were treated to an Indian Thali meal, and had a wander to the Clifton Suspension Bridge all lit up with white lights, a good end to a varied and enjoyable trip. I took the train and bus back to Lauder the next day.

My laptop has gone kaput on me at the moment, I’m struggling to find a computer to write my blog. Many thanks to my friend who let me use her laptop today. My posts could be a little erratic until it’s fixed or I get a new one.


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