At the end of March I suddenly found myself without a computer and because of that have been in a curious state of disconnection from the rest of the world. I do like a pootle on the internet and, as an enthusiast of all things epistolary, I love my email - one of the purest pleasures is getting a lovely long letter and replying to it and if it's not the same tactile experience as writing, email is still a joy.
But now, here I am and what a few weeks it's been. The computer is down to two things - my home laptop is kaput and being mended, and I don't have the work computer during my gardening leave. Who knew resigning could lead to two months of paid leave (working in HR of course I knew it happened but never to me), and I must say I'm pretty delighted. The weather has been incredible (how very English of me) and I've been lucky enough to get away on a couple of holidays. Right now, I'm sitting in York using my sister's computer, although that's not why I'm visiting. She has three lovely children (actually a few hours ago I might have had a slightly different description as I struggled to help get them ready for nursery and school) and for once I get to spend a couple of days with them instead of the usual frenetic weekend trip.
The time off and technological wilderness has also given me time to get properly hands-on with all things crafty. There were a couple of days out in the garden, worrying what I thought were dandelions but apparently are actually Triffids once they reach waist height. Much as I enjoyed getting stuck in after rather too long a hiatus, it soon became obvious that without a lawn mower and a flame thrower, one little woman was going to struggle against the wilderness. So I've called in professional help (for the garden, not me) and they come in to sort it out at the end of May. I'm an organic gardener and the discussions we had made me suspect he might not be but he did some work in the garden when I first moved in many moons ago and he does have a good eye for the way it should look as well as the practical things so I'm wondering whether to take his advice for the paths and at least get some way to conquering the bind weed etc. It would be rather disappointing to scare off the bees after rather a sustained plot to draw them in - no one can eat the number of chives that have popped up, but the bees love them so I keep on encouraging them. A friend bought her husband a ceramic "beehive for one" for their vegetable plot and I'm thinking of investing - it made me feel quite warm and fuzzy thinking about that lone bee, just bumbling about and making a home for itself.
I started making my pinnies in earnest before a trip to Oman (lovely, very hot but the beauty of that is you can't do anything apart from read a book a day and do snoozing which I discovered I'm really adept at). I got through three of them before I had a brainwave about a new finishing technique to tidy up the waistband seam so I've unpicked the first few I made and when I'm home from York I'll finish those off. There was a bit of a frisson when I sewed my first "Thoroughly Modern Margo" label to something I'd made. The labels are cream with lilac lettering, and a few people have suggested a darker colour - perhaps red or green, but there's something a bit school jumper-ish about that so I'm not sure.
The other thing I tried making was the Abel & Cole beetroot and chocolate recipe. As someone new to the dark art of baking, I was sceptical when the lurid purple mixture went into the oven but the first waft of it coming out and the way friends wolfed it down with spoonfuls of creme fraiche and good strong espresso (which seemed to draw out the earthy flavour of the beetroot and cut through the richness of the dark chocolate) suggested that beetroot + chocolate = delicious. I did take a picture, but it was on the Blackberry which is now no doubt lurking in the bottom of a drawer with my old employer. Rather liberating being B'berryless, but if you're a technophobe whose answer to not knowing how to get photographs off a camera is to seriously suggest just buying a new camera then it is a bit discombobulating to be bereft of the technology that makes these things very easy. In the end, I gave the camera with its seven years of photographs to my father who sighed wearily at my ineptitude but is rather a whizz (which as a professional photographer he should be - http://www.westlondonphotography.com/) and therefore much better placed to sort it out.
Other crafty endeavours included an "Introduction to Embroidery" course at the Royal School of Needlework. Aside from a sense of excitement at being at Hampton Court Palace and the locked room at the School (which I assumed, correctly as it turned out, might be being used for the royal wedding dress) the course itself was a really good first taste of embroidery. I've done counted cross stitch patterns for a number of years, but having the freedom of a blank canvas and a light sketch to fill in gave me a sense that I had found my medium. They do a longer degree course which I would love to do, but working full-time and very intensive study don't really go hand-in-hand. If anyone knows of any part-time or distance learning embroidery courses, I'd be thrilled to hear about them.
There was a pattern for a very sweet dress (red, with a pink border and flower) in the most recent Debbie Bliss magazine and on http://www.considerthelily.co.uk/ I found every possible colour of her yarns plus a few bargains on sale so I'm making this for my niece but using cream for the accent and flower, and sage green for the body. Her fifth birthday is in September so hopefully by then I'll have perfected my finishing; I think I've said before that I can tend towards being a process crafter in that I really enjoy the process of creating something, but finishing it is less exciting. Of course, seeing the finished product is a bit of an unrivalled feeling and the more time I commit to learning how to do it properly is helping me view those elements as part of the process and therefore more enjoyable.
And finally, after a knitting class I did about six months ago I have been taking individual crochet lessons with a fantastic teacher. While group classes are fun, you can make such quick progress learning one to one and I'm finding crochet quite addictive - it's also more easily transportable than knitting or embroidery (although I have seen someone on the train with their hoop) so it's less awkward on the tube. And given the amount of time I've spent on the tube in the last month or so - this gardening leave is great for catching up with people but it does require travel time - it's been a good distraction for all those rail miles (which makes it sound much more glam than schlepping from south east London to other parts of London doesn't it).
As you can probably tell, I've missed online chat - sometimes any chat, the postman has been particularly caught out a couple of times when I've not had plans - or I'd have kept that a bit briefer but I am very glad to be back and more updates to follow - particularly of that dress - once I figure out the whole getting photos from camera to computer schmalarkey. Yes, I know at 32 (next Monday) it's pretty shameful that I'm letting the techy world pass me by but am sure there's time for me to learn before I become totally obsolete and my nephews stuff me in a wheely bin for the rubbish men to take out. On that note, who knew that four and seven year olds (third child is only six months old and quiet as a duckling on a sun warmed pond) were like Velociraptors - my sister and I shut the door to the living room so we could have a cuppa and chat in the front room but in a pincer movement they each opened a door at different ends of the room, flung them open so we were surrounded and deafened by their battle ship noises and general constant use of outdoor voices indoors. I will go home on Thursday a broken woman but no doubt feeling slightly bereft in my quiet little flat.
Pip pip for now ...