Dog Days

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Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky

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On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest
Of all,

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but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity

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Guinness

26th Sept 1999 – 6th July 2015

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The best of friends xx

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Remember Me

The July/August 2015 Build a Batt Box theme is “Remember Me”.

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In asking the members of my Ravelry group for suggestions they’d like to see in upcoming Batt Boxes, Kate suggested a colour theme that ran a gradient of deep rich reds fading to purples and charcoal with hints of yellow and linked a striking image to show what she meant.

I pondered about this and thought that it would make a great colour way for November and Armistice Day. But looking out of my window a few weeks ago I noticed that the scarlet poppies in my garden were just coming into bloom and I grabbed my camera and trotted outside to take photos.

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The more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be a good theme to do now after all. For many years Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day have been something I’ve felt keenly about. I remember in November 2000 standing at the cenotaph in our village and watching the elderly folk, some in uniform, remembering people they actually knew and their own experiences during World War II as well as heir childhoods during World War I. My own father was born just before the Second World War and had war memories from childhood and my grandparents from both wars but for so many of us standing there “remembering” – we had nothing to remember. The fact that we owed a debt was unquestionable but to my 21yr old self I was disturbed as to what remembrance truly meant when you have no actual memories yourself. Does wearing one single paper poppy and making a donation seem sufficient? Is it hypocritical to “remember” one day a year only when so many of us have no real idea what war is because we’ve lived in more blessed times?

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About this time I received from my father the family papers that included letters from my Great Uncle to my Grandmother and her sister as children from the Front in 1917 and 1918. He was tragically shot down by Baron von Richthofen (in his red biplane) in early 1918 just before Richhofen himself died and I mentioned this in a previous blog post. My granny kept a memorial to him all her life – the brass plaque awarded to his family in memoriam surrounded by poppies hung on the wall of their home in my childhood and I now have it for safekeeping. She remembered someone she actually knew and loved. I worried that once these people who lived through those times were gone that “remembrance” would become a dusty fragment of history and empty of meaning. I wrote about it and thought about it and read further, looking deeper and deeper in the heart of it.

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Less than a year later the events of 9/11 changed everything.

The terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers (and later the London Underground Bombings of ten years ago today) brought “war” bloodily into western civilian life again and the ensuing engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq took a heavy human toll on armed forces and civilians in a theatre of war, albeit one removed from Britain geographically. However the ever present terror threat has meant that life never feels completely safe despite the vigilance of security services. It has no comparison to the slaughter and deprivation of the World Wars but nevertheless, Remembrance has now been brutally updated and become something that has real meaning to my own generation. I know people who’ve served in Afghan and their friends who were involved involved in airstrikes and roadside IED incidents. The few stories I’ve heard makes me go cold – for anyone touched by these recent conflicts there is plenty to remember.

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As so often happens, things come together when you move towards it. Serendipity is one of the blessings of life. Last year when I was in London I’d hoped to visit the Tower of London but didn’t get time to in my short visit. I so wish I had; I had no idea the display of ceramic poppies that became an iconic visitor attraction later that month and during October would be such a moving tribute to the fallen and I bitterly regret not seeing it. However our town council got together a project to buy 40-something poppies (I forget the exact number just at the moment) from this installation – one for each soldier from our town who lost their lives in the wars as a permanent memorial to the fallen of our area and we donated as part of this excellent idea. At present they’re wrapped up safely awaiting their final position and although I had permission to go and photograph one for this project, I just didn’t manage to find the time this week. I hope to do a piece on them once the memorial is finally installed though.

I recently joined Twitter – something I thought I would never do! I searched for some of the people I knew and “followed” them, including my friend Adam. Adam is married to my childhood best friend Kate and they live in Chorley with their daughter – my only goddaughter. I don’t get up to see them anything like often enough but it’s been nice to see Adam filling up my Twitter feed in recent weeks with his tweets and retweets as part of the Chorley Memorial Project. As well as being a history teacher he is the biographer of Susannah Knight of Chorley and her work with the Chorley Memorial Album. You can have a look at the website link to find out more there and how she determined that the fallen of Chorley would not be forgotten and the importance of peace. I’d already decided to do this theme this month but it was almost like a nice dovetail with this.

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Having ordered the fibres and started work on dyeing them the final piece of “confirmation” if you like came this week when my mum handed me her “Poppy Press”, the news sheet put out by the Royal British Legion. This summer’s edition talks about the upcoming 70th anniversary of VJ Day – Victory in Japan. Those fighting in SE Asia who were captured by the Japanese suffered brutalities for some time after Victory was declared in Europe. I remember a member of our church congregation when I was a child who wore special glasses which looked most peculiar to my 9yr old self. This man’s eyes had been badly damaged by the starvation he’d suffered during his imprisonment by the Japanese. He never spoke of this time – this was the only thing I knew of it, that his health had been badly damaged by his experiences decades before.

Poppy Press talks of the war in the Pacific and the condition endured by these Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOWs) – some of whom survived and some of whom did not in the appalling conditions they were kept in and forced to work under until their liberation after the surrender following the atomic bombs the Allies dropped on Japan. When they got home these brave survivors were too late for the general euphoria and relief after VE Day and largely felt that they had been forgotten by a world that was attempting to move swiftly on from the nightmare of the previous years.

The poppy coloured fibres I’ve dyed and blended for this months box are almost purely reds with some black and charcoal with the hints of yellow.

Merino:

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Bluefaced Leicester dyed in a gradient:

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A poppy-inspired merino gradient batt with touches of tussah silk. Natural Black Alpaca. Charcoal coloured carbonised bamboo (Black diamond bamboo):

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The “blending bits” – soy, ramie, milk protein, tussah silk, silk noil, faux cashmere and firestar:

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And finally the whole box:

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15th August 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of VJ Day and so I’ve decided that I will donate £1.00 from the profit of each box to the Royal British Legion as an extra contribution towards their work ensuring that those who have given their lives in conflicts around the world are not forgotten. So many innocent people caught up in the megalomania of the few on all sides of the conflict – it seems so unbelievable in a peaceful Europe where we are all friends and allies now that it wasn’t always so. However conflict is part of human nature and as long as humans exist then I guess conflict will too. It seems fitting to finish with the FEPOW prayer from the front of Poppy Press:

THE FEPOW PRAYER

by

Cpl. Arthur E. Ogden and Victor Merrett

(Fepows)

And we that are left grow old with the years

Remembering the heartache, the pain and the tears

Hoping and praying that never again

Man will sink to such sorrow and shame

The price that was paid we will always remember

Every day, every month, not just in November.

We Shall Remember Them

Messing about in boats…and knitting by night and day

A couple of weeks ago I escaped back to North Wales again for a few days. Partly because I had work to do up there but also because I really did need a break, it’s been pretty hectic since I got back from the last trip.

It was also my mum’s birthday last week and at the eleventh hour I decided a handspun, hand knit sweater would make a nice birthday present (she often comments on which of the yarns I spin she likes) and she’s a very special mummy and eminently knitworthy. In fact possibly the only person I will knit for other than myself.

All knitters know the vexation when you’ve spent many, many hours crafting something for a present for it not to be received with the due joy and appreciation it deserves. Sometimes this is down to an unfortunate mismatch between item and recipient of course but sometimes it’s because non-knitters don’t realise quite how much love (and £££s!) go into hand made items. On Ravelry there are often threads discussing “knitworthiness”.  My own feelings are that I do not have time to knit all the things I would like to knit, it’s my hobby and relaxation and I spin and knit for many reasons. Sometimes to challenge myself to learn something new, sometimes to experiment with form, texture or colour, sometimes to give me something that fits exactly with what I want to wear and sometimes it’s purely for relaxation and enjoyment of the craft. But because I enjoy it doesn’t mean that I want to knit merely as a process. So I decided some time ago to politely decline other’s requests to “knit something for me – I’ll even pay you!!”. I knit only for love and only my mother deserves that ;0)

However I’d left it too late really what with one thing and another. And it’s curiously hard to knit for someone in secret when you share large amounts of each other’s lives. We live next door to each other effectively as my home is an annexe of hers, we share resources because it’s sustainable and friendly and we wander in and out of each others living spaces as need be. This only becomes a problem when you’ve something to hide…like birthday presents! I resorted to knitting by night but you can only do this for so long. I’d washed, carded and spun the intended fleece like a creature possessed when Mum went away for a few days but knitting proved more of a problem being a slower process and I was designing as I went along to match her favourite sweater which is coming to the end of its life. I resorted to stuffing the knitting under a cushion whenever my mother hoved into view and whipping out a book to read nonchalantly as an alibi for sitting on the sofa – an unusual pastime for me, I’m not noted for sitting around doing nothing so empty hands would definitely raise suspicion!

So I decided that the best solution was to take the knitting with me when I went up North. I knitted solidly every minute I had spare. I knitted until bedtime with a cup of hot chocolate and the radio on. I knitted in the evening sunshine watching a bunny on the back lawn.

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I knitted in the front garden overlooking the sea.

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I knitted on the beach whilst watching the local boatyard putting the boats into the water for the summer sailing season.

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I knitted watched by suspicious seagulls.

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And by the time her birthday came around I’d still only got as far as the armpits and one sleeve.

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So I placed the pieces in a box with the skeins of yarn, wrapped it up and gave her a promise I would finish it soon (and a couple of other small presents to make up for it!!).

Luckily she really likes it so far, appreciates the thought and I’m working on the rest of it. And it’s so warm at the moment that I don’t think she’d be wanting to wear it just now anyway!! Hopefully it will be nice and cosy when the chilly days roll round again.

It’s so lovely to see all the flowers out just at the moment, the wisteria out at the front of the house finally decided to flower after about 10 years of thinking about it. For a very brief moment the wisteria, the clematis and the roses were all out together.

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I love these New Dawn roses, such a delicate shade of pink.

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Roses everywhere at the moment. And strawberries!!! It finally feels like summer…