Summer Holiday

One week of the summer holidays gone already (why does time off work go so much faster than the same amount of time before a holiday?) and what have we done? Well the dogs have coughed and wheezed their way through the days, Skye has a definite case of gate-fever and has taken to standing at the front window with a wistful stare at “The Outside World”, Nino has reserved his space on the sofa! A bit of light relief was offered on Thursday when some friends and assorted small children came round, friends to chat, knit, drink coffee and  eat cake, the children came to play, make lots of noise and eat cake. Skye is very enthusiastic about small people and would love to play and run around with them but at 5 months she is the size of a small wolf and very boisterous so for everyone’s peace of mind she played in the garden while they played indoors and then we swapped over. She spent much of her time peering over the stable door in the kitchen or the baby gate while the little ones screamed in mock terror but the morning took it’s toll and within a very short time after they left both dogs were fast asleep.

I have spent the time between administering antibiotics to dogs sorting out the work list … the kitchen units are being made and will be fitted in early October, the plumber has been to advise on the new boiler and radiators, I have chosen a wood burning stove for the living room to replace the awful smelly gas-coal effect monstrosity in there now, the Ruby is booked in to Jason’s for the new wing to be fitted and the respray and plans are being made to replace the wooden garage that is in danger of falling over if we get stormy weather. Each of these plans comes with a list of essential tasks to be done prior to the main event so the new kitchen units mean that the old ones must be removed ( they have an appointment with a sledgehammer) and the electrical wiring behind them sorted out, but first the cupboards have to be emptied and the dishes packed safely away,the plumbing means a lot of mess and disruption as the old heating system and crazy pipe network is removed, ditto the new woodburner, the replacing the garage means emptying the current one first!  So summer is going to be a busy time I think.

In the quiet moments in the week I’ve been persevering with marking out my wholecloth quilt and have finally got the main motif and borders done. The diamond shaped background grid is partially drawn so I should be able to get the layers pinned and tacked together soon. Progress is hampered by the puppy’s interest in anything that doesn’t involve her and her fascination for running into the garden with balls of wool, pieces of fabric etc at every opportunity. I’m enjoying the process very much though, it’s a very peaceful activity, the motifs I’ve chosen are all related to my paternal grandfather so there is the threeleaping salmon motif from his parish at Anstruther Wester in Fife, an anchor to represent his interest in the Lifeboats, a Ships Wheel and a Mariner’s compass to represent his firm sense of direction and steady guidance and shells to represent the Buckie House a house near his church which is covered in shells and of course to represent the nearby beach and seashore where he loved to walk. The wholecloth quilt is a crib size quilt, as I’ve been drawing out the motifs I did begin to think how lovely it would be if the quilt was used by any children my son might have in the future, not that he has any plans in that direction at the moment but I have a large chest of drawers that it can be saved in!



One of the reasons for Friday’s trip to the Lake District was to ride on the Swan steamboat on Windermere as part of the retirement celebrations of a friend at work. Sue and I are roughly the same age (she is taking early retirement!) and share many similar experiences and interests. One which we discovered during a discussion about toys in a history lesson is the Britain’s Floral Garden, a toy produced in the late 1950’s and early 1960s. 

Sue had one to play with when she was a little girl and my sister and I shared one. Ours was given to us to play with in the corridors of the Manchester Royal Infirmary while our mother visited our father who was very ill. It consisted of a box containing a piece of grass coloured flocked paper (with stripes) for a lawn, a lawn roller to produce the stripes, crazy paving slabs, flower beds and tiny plants to be put in with a “planter” (a vital piece of equipment frequently lost) a garden bench, stone walls and if you were very lucky a greenhouse or shed or a swing -seat. It was an excellent toy for us two little girls as we were not allowed into the ward to see our father so had to sit outside for an hour or so each day and of course we had to be quiet. I loved planting things in the flower beds, loved the little lawn roller and longed to have a greenhouse. Sadly after my father died we moved house and the Floral Garden was lost. Sue however still has hers and as part of her retirement present I managed to buy her a rockery complete with plants and a planter, a garden bench, some stone walls and some crazy paving, all in their original unopened packaging,to enable her to enlarge her “plot”. Some of our younger colleagues looked on in confusion as Sue exclaimed with joy as she unwrapped each tiny parcel. They had never heard of or seen a Floral Garden so Sue has promised to set hers up and invite everyone round to view it.  After having the tiny pieces in my possession for a week or so I have to admit I’m now hankering after a Floral Garden of my own but not for a wee while, puppies and small gardens just wouldn’t work together.I’ll just have to content myself with the real garden outside which is in dire need of some attention.

We are having a quiet weekend and will be having a couple of quiet weeks as both dogs unfortunately have kennel cough, a nasty flu-like infection which is spreading through the puppy training class and daycare centre at the moment. Skye is relatively ok, she has a runny nose, a high temperature and an occasional cough. Nino on the other hand is quite unwell, he has a bad cough, is very wheezy and has been vomiting. Both dogs are off their food but are drinking large amounts of water and both feel very sorry for themselves!  We went to the vets and had to be seen in the car park as the infection is so virulent they didn’t want us to go into the surgery at all. Both dogs have secondary chest infections so are on antibiotics and anti inflamatory medicines.  The vet has advised us to keep them away from other dogs for 2-4 weeks…so our summer plans are somewhat limited.


Driving in the Lake District yesterday I was reminded of the time my sister and I spent in  Oslo and at Røyse Skole, in Hole a village just north of Oslo.  We had a wonderful time, everyone we met was friendly and welcoming and the country was so beautiful.The area of Cumbria around Windermere shares a similar landscape and feeling of peace and tranquility.

As I turned onto the motorway to come home I switched the radio on and was horrified to learn of the bombing in Oslo and the shooting of many young people in Utøya. I can do nothing other than send my sympathy to those involved and hope that such a terrible event does not cause the government to change the open and involved society that exists in Norway or cause the people to lose their trust in each other.  There will always be those in society who do not feel part of the mainstream and who develop resentment against the government, and they should have the right to protest and to express their views but I  can think of no justification for the violence shown yesterday by one man against so many innocent people.

Tricks and tribulations

“Teach your puppy a new trick this week” said the trainer last Friday after she had shown us a delightful and intelligent Lurcher putting rings onto a stacking toy. I tried to think of a trick for Skye but have to admit I’d rather spend the time teaching her something useful like “Lie Down” or just “No”  or better still maybe I could teach her to knit…she has already mastered unravelling knitting so if she could just learn to repair the damage we’d be fine! This morning she wolfed her breakfast as usual, ran into the front room to see if Nino had any left for her to steal and then shot out into the garden. I didn’t notice that she was carrying the project bag containing the baby cardigan I’m knitting but a few seconds later glanced out of the window to see her charging up and down with what looked like a kite flying behind her, I recognised my Peace Fleece Russian knitting needles and the cardigan back and saw the long string of baby cashmerino yarn winding round the bushes. I yelled the one command she does obey “SIT” and she obediently sat and looked up happily. Thankfully no damage was actually done to the knitting and the cardigan will hopefully be ready for Sunday.

Let sleeping dogs lie

As I write this there are two sleeping dogs lying side by side on the sofa, they look so relaxed and it is a sight that makes me feel inordinately happy. Since we lost the lovely and gentle Charlie, our old dog Nino has been a sad little soul. He misses his old pal (as we all do) and didn’t think the arrival of a lively puppy was in any way an improvement on being an only dog. Skye came from a large litter and wanted to play with Nino in the same way as she played with her brothers and sisters. Nino reacted by hiding or by growling at her and on occasions nipping at her. In the last couple of weeks Skye has settled a lot, Nino has grown more confident and gradually they are learning to live together more easily.Nino likes to nap on the sofa in the evening but usually when Skye tries to jump up beside him he gets down grumpily and wanders off to find a quiet spot somewhere else. Tonight he fell asleep on the sofa and she very carefully got up beside him and curled up. He woke, looked at her and wagged his tail then went back to sleep. I desperately want to take a photo of them but it’s going dark and if I put the light on I know she will get up so instead I’m just enjoying the peace!


Puppy Class

Last night was the first night of Skye’s Kennel Club Puppy Foundation Assessment class. I was slightly nervous, wondering how she would behave especially as 14 years ago when it was Nino’s turn for puppy class (not the same one as last night) we were told unceremoniously by the leader that he was “untrainable” when he refused to do as she said.

We went along to the class which is held at the doggie daycare centre where Skye enjoys playing while I work on Mondays. Skye assumed we were going to play and was very excited and barked a lot. I had to fill out a form and she helped by winding her lead around my legs, the table legs, anyone passing by etc. A nice man offered to hold her but as I didn’t know he was part of the training team and he didn’t mention it I said no…who hands over their dog to a total stranger?

Then we had to go and sit in a cirle, big dogs on one side, little one opposite. There were a lot of small dogs, yappy little dogs that froliced about and play fought with each other. On our side there were two beautiful chocolate labradors, a black labrador, a couple of big spaniels, a Hungarian Visla, a Rhodesian ridgeback and Skye. A little while later Skye’s brother Storm arrived with his family and they sat a couple of dogs apart from us. Skye and Storm are so alike, hardly surprising but having not seen Storm since April I didn’t know whether he would be much bigger than her. He is slightly more sable in colour and a little stockier but so beautiful, just like Skye and he has the same way of holding himself and moving. He even makes the same complaining sounds when he has to sit still!

Skye was very good at the class, there was a lot of sitting still and listening to the trainer for the humans to do (and the chairs are tortuously uncomfortable) and the dogs were expected to sit quietly on the floor beside us. Dogs who didn’t got sent out with the trainer helpers but amazingly Skye stayed quiet and stayed beside me other than her one brief attempt to steal the treats of the dog next to us. We were shown the right and wrong types of collars, leads and harnesses (inevitably I seemed to have chosen the wrong fastening on the collar and harness and the extending lead is VERY DANGEROUS) and toys and instructed in their use. Balls are apparently BAD for dogs, gets them over excited and sticks are even worse and CAN KILL! I am plainly a very bad dog owner and it is a miracle our previous dogs have survived! Questioned as to the wording and design of the dog tags and grilled about our use of dog bags to clean up after our dogs and how much exercise we give them (too much apparently) We had some exercises to do, asking the dog to WATCH and rewarding it with a treat if it looked at our faces, telling the dog to SIT and rewarding as soon as the tail hit the ground. We have to practice these over the week and will be asked to show them next time. Skye can do both of these commands and if there are rewards on hand will do them happily.  The other thing we are to do is to check the dog’s health by looking at it’s ears, mouth, teeth and eyes and feeling it’s body for lumps, ticks, matted fur etc. and grooming.This Skye does not approve of and will only allow if she is licking peanut butter off the fridge door so I’m not sure how we will get on performing that next week. Maybe I should take the fridge with us!

What I did mean to do, but totally forgot, was to get a photo of Skye and Storm together. Must try harder next week.

Northern Quilting

One of my birthday presents was a quilting course at the Patchwork Chicks in Barrowford, Lancs. My birthday was back in April so I have been anticipating the course for a while and yesterday went to the first day along with Evie (who was the very generous birthday present buyer), her mum and her neice. Our tutor was called Jean and is a very well informed and talented quilter. She had brought two beautiful cot quilts in Northern or Durham quilting . The day began with us ironing and cutting our fabric (guess who cut hers the wrong size!), we then marked and tacked registration lines at the centres and diagonals. The next task was to choose and begin marking out our chosen patterns onto the fabric beginning with a central motif , adding smaller motifs around it and drawing a border of swags or shells before beginning the crosshatching or square diamonds. The traditional patterns include floral centres, shells, feathers and wheels.  Our homework is to finish marking up our quilt tops by the next lesson in a fortnight’s time. I am going to begin again with a correctly cut piece of cloth and a slight change in design, while we were looking at traditional patterns I had a sudden thought that I wanted to recreate a design that reminds me of my Grandfather as my centrepiece. My grandfather was the Minister of Anstruther Wester Church in Anstruther , Fife and in his house there was a lamp base with the Anstruther Wester seal design of three fishes. I began drawing and cutting out little fish while we were in the quilting class and soon had the shape I wanted. It won’t be a traditional Durham Quilt but will be a Northern Quilt. I came home with a head full of ideas, tired but very pleasantly so.