Finding the Felty Folk

It’s been so lovely to see the sunshine again after an exceptionally long Winter in Scotland. I enjoyed watching the coverage of the Chelsea Flower show on the BBC, and it gave me quite a hankering to wander through beautiful gardens.

Saturday looked like it was going to be a glorious day, and I had planned to visit a nice garden – Monteviot Gardens, near Jedburgh. This was the first time I’d been there:

Monteviot Gardens

How lovely to have a river at the bottom of your garden, the water was like glass:

River Teviot

I had arranged with Neeva to get a message to Oosie and Diggly to meet me in the gardens, as it wasn’t too far from where they lived. So I was keeping my eyes peeled for them.

They weren’t in the Laburnum Tunnel; I thought they would have enjoyed climbing it:

Laburnum Tunnel

It wasn’t in its full glory, as it was in the shade, and the yellow blossoms were only just starting to come out.

They weren’t in the Arboretum; although I saw lots of good Felty Folk hidey-holes in the trees, and some fantastic twisted tree bark:

Tree bark

They weren’t running through the blooming Wild Garlic under the trees:

Wild garlic

Maybe it was too smelly!

I walked into the lush Oriental Water Gardens,

Water Gardens

and found them sitting on one of the bridges, soaking in the sunshine:

Oosie & Diggly on the bridge

“Hi!” I called out “I’ve found you. Aren’t you worried other people might see you there?”

Oosie and Diggly laughed.

“People make so much noise walking about we get plenty of warning before we have to hide,” Diggly commented.

Oosie & Diggly on bridge close up

“It’s good to see you again,” Oosie said.

They got up, ran across the bridge and leapt into the flower beds, swinging from hand to hand towards me.

Oosie & Diggly swinging

Oosie stopped right in front of me, swaying on a flowerhead.

Oosie swinging on flowers

“I haven’t seen you since the snow in March,” I said. “Isn’t it lovely now the sun has come out.”

“It is,” said Oosie. “It makes it so much easier for us to get about too.”

She swung herself along, with Diggly following, and jumped from flower to leaf to rock to bridge, exploring the garden.

Finally they slowed down and caught their breath, resting in a clump of Gunnera leaves, which swayed wildly as they landed.

Oosie & Diggly on Gunnera

“Have you explored the rest of the garden yet?” I asked.

They both nodded.

“Yes, we came early while it was quiet, we played for quite a long time on the tunnel thing!” exclaimed Oosie.

We chatted for quite a while, catching up with news of the Felty Folk, until it was eventually time to leave. I remembered I had an invitation for them.

“Would you both like to come to a feast I’m going to have in my garden soon?”

“Ooh, yes!” they cried, “that sounds marvellous!”

Oosie & Diggly close up

“Alright. I’ll get Neeva to send a message to you as usual to let you know when it’s going to happen.”

I left Oosie and Diggly on the leaf, chatting away about the imminent feast.


Thanks to S.Miller for use of some of the photographs here.


Conversations with swallows

On my way back from a walk out from the back of my house, I noticed something felty looking in the hedgerow:

Walk home

It was Neeva, she hadn’t seen me, and was intently looking upwards, and was making strange squeaking noises:

Neeva talks

I got a little closer, and whispered, so as not to make her jump,

“Hello, what are you doing?”

She stopped squeaking, and whispered, “Hello, I’m just having a chat with the swallows up on the wires there.” She nodded towards them:


“Don’t speak too loud, and they’ll stay there,” she said.

“What do they talk about?” I said quietly.

“When they get to this time of year, they gather together and chat about all the places they’ve flown to, and where they are going to be heading off to soon, it’s quite exciting. Usually they are too busy to talk as they are nesting and catching flies,” Neeva said.

“That does sound exciting,” I agreed.


“That one on the left was telling me all about flying around pyramids shaped tombs. It’s how I find out about the world.”

“It sounds like a great way to find out these things. I’ll let you get back to your conversation.” I walked away, and could hear the squeaking, squawking and tweeting resume behind me. How lovely it must be to talk to the birds.

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.

Summer Harvest

After a lovely holiday in the South of England, I’ve had a bit of a struggle against the fatigue of M.E., but I was eager to see the Felty Folk, so I headed out from the back of my house for a walk. The fields had ripened in my absence, and I was walking past golden barley:

Barley field

And who did I see scampering at the edge of the field?

Neeva and Dod in Barley 1

“Hello there. Good to see you again,” I exclaimed.

“Hello,” they both said.

“You’re back,” said Neeva.

Neeva and Dod in Barley 2

“Yes I am, I’ve been a bit tired, so it’s nice to get out and about again.”

“I’ll come around to your garden this week, and you can tell me about your trip,” Neeva said.

“That would be lovely. What are you doing in this field?”

“We’re collecting some barley heads. We collect a few of the broken plants that the farmer cannot pick up with his machines. It’s also good to get a few before the birds get at them, ” explained Dod.

Collected Barley

“What do you use them for?”

“They store well so we keep them by for the winter, and we can just eat the grains, or grind them down as a type of flour, or just roast them to eat. They’re very nutritious.”

“These are a very busy few months for us,” Neeva said. “So much food is ripening and we collect it to get through the Winter. We’re heading off to the woods now for more food, do you want to come too?”

“Of course – lead the way,” I said.

So they dragged their barley to the edge of the field and hid it in the hedgerow, so they could return for it later, and I followed them to the woods.

There were some lovely bright purple flowers by the path, like spineless thistles, which I discovered were Greater Knapweed:

Greater Knapweed

Dod seemed very knowledgeable about the plants and fungi, and headed into the undergrowth, where he started picking some red berries I had not seen before.

“What are they, Dod?”

Red Elderberries

“These are Red Elderberries, they ripen earlier than the usual black ones you see, they’re very tasty.”

I’d noticed he’d already eaten a few.

“We make them into Red elder jelly too. They’re probably not good for you to eat raw though, they might make you ill.”

He pulled off the berries and threw them down to Neeva, waiting below:

Neeva waiting for berries

“Yes, don’t try eating what we eat, some of them are poisonous to humans, especially the berries and mushrooms,” said Neeva.

“Yes, you’re right,” I said, “I’m very careful about that, although it’s lovely to find wild things to eat in the countryside. The only mushrooms I’m sure of are Chanterelles, so I will keep my eyes out for some while we’re here, I’ve seen them under birch trees before.”

I had a hunt around for Chanterelles, and by the time I’d got back, they had stored away the berries and Neeva had collected a big pile of beech nuts:

Summer Harvest 2

“No chanterelles for me, I’m afraid, it might be still a bit early for them. You’ve done well there though,” I said.

“Yes, they are a bit prickly to collect, but they’re much better fresh like this, much tastier, and the husks are easier to make into things.”

Summer Harvest 1

“Are you going to collect that mushroom next to you too?”

“Yes, we’ll take that one, Dod will have to help me pick it, it’s a bit big.”

So they gathered together all the food and dragged it on a big leaf to a nearby tree, where they disappeared under the tree roots to store the food there.

“We’ll have to go back for the barley ears, and then it’s home for tea,” said Neeva.

“I’ll be heading home too,” I said. “See you soon.”

Say goodbye

I walked back along the path, and took a quick look back and they were already blending into the woods, and barely visible.