shiny and new (and a big thank you)

10 Sep

in a field, looking at the view

My brother is a busy guy; always building things, planning projects and generally doing.  And this isn’t a recent thing; even as a kid he was totally focused on his lego-constructing, dirt-digging or train-tracking, and I always loved joining in.  These days he’s still building, albeit websites rather than treehouses, and recently I got to join in again.

The result is rustyrambles.com, a lovely shiny new space for all my ramblings, courtesy of the ever-talented Alec Rust.  Seeing this site being built was a daunting lesson in how much there is to website building, and how very little I could ever hope to know.  It’s a far cry from the days when our parents would buy alec old electronic equipment to take apart so that he would stop dismantling our own!  So, Thank You Alec!  For this, and a million other things.

cheesy grins in a restaurant

Do head on over to the new Rusty Rambles, check it out, and let me know what you think!

quiet

5 Sep

20120905-192122.jpg
I find myself sitting and dozing in a quiet corner of the house. There’s still some heat from the day and all the busy neighbourly sounds have subsided. I’m holding on to these quiet moments, all too aware of their impending scarcity. Tom is teaching a new class this year and soon I’ll be commuting to work on the mainland. Lots of excitement ahead, and probably a lot less stillness. So, I plan to enjoy every last minute of it and when we’re in the throes of full Autumn Term mayhem, I’ll be glad I enjoyed this moment right now.

a week in the lakes

31 Aug

When we told people we were going to the Lake District, everyone waxed lyrical about its beauty. I thought there was no way it could live up to the hype. Not for the first time, I was proved wrong.

20120831-195750.jpg

20120831-200717.jpg

20120831-200746.jpgWe spent a week making plans more ambitious than our legs could keep up with, climbing peaks and pedalling over passes. We had the odd reassuring comment from weathered old cyclists along the lines of “not bad for southern softies” and spent our evenings flaked out on the couch and poring over maps for the next day’s adventures.

We stayed in the quiet Eskdale Valley, complete with grand hills, whistling steam trains, classic pubs, and very few tourists. A week here is just long enough to fall in love with the place and realise how soon we need to return and explore more. We will be back.

20120831-233912.jpg

20120831-233927.jpg
PS Thank you Tom for taking all the holiday snaps! My life would be a blank memory card without you.

a handmade story

9 Aug

Small music festivals are often a celebration of the unique and handmade, and last year’s End of the Road was no exception. When not listening to music or enjoying all the independent food and drink merchants, we were exploring the various stalls – knitters, printing pressers, and jewellers.

This beautiful bracelet was one of my finds from that weekend. It is made from Derwent pencils and an old knitting needle, by the ever-talented and charming ZincWhite. I had a great time choosing it, chatting with the woman who makes them, and sharing our love of craft, cycling, and the coast.

Buying from a craftsman so often offers more than the item itself: a chance to connect over a shared interest, to find out more about it, and to celebrate someone’s skill.  This bracelet is a celebration of two of my favourite things: stationery and knitting. It is a reminder of a very happy weekend and a chance meeting with a like-minded soul. When people comment on it, I relish the excuse to tell a story and to share with others the wonder that is Handmade.

Do you have a favourite handmade something? And does it have a story?  I’ve shared this with the ukhandmade competition. Why don’t you enter too?

a paris reunion

8 Aug

Last Thursday I took an early Eurostar, headed for Paris and a girls’ family reunion with my mum and grama. We celebrated our triple birthdays, spanning the summer months, and stretched out our long weekend with plenty of coffee, art and wandering.


New discoveries included beautiful gardens at the Jardin des Plantes, tea at the grand old Cafe du Lion of the Musee d’Orsay, and sweet things on the streets of St Germain. We walked our feet off and, when they would take us no further, hitched a ride on a rickshaw.

Paris always offers new delights; an old city that never gets old. We stayed at the Hotel Chopin, which I would recommend to anyone. It has a lovely old shabby feel, with immaculate rooms, and friendly staff.  I hope I’ll be returning some day soon!

Meanwhile, my mum and grama have headed South, to the Loire, while Tom and I head up North, to catch up with friends and explore the Lake District for the first time.  Boots and bikes are packed.  Can’t wait!

time well spent

27 Jul

Perhaps my persistent positivity about the weather paid off. Or, we’re finally due some decent weather.  Either way we’ve now had days of perfect summer sunshine. I’ve been soaking up every minute, maxing out on outdoors time and ignoring any screen draw (bar instagram, of course!).

Tom’s school summer holidays have started off in the best of ways, with mini adventures and celebrations. I’ve been along for the ride and in complete denial about work. We’ve spent our weekends in the countryside riding and walking, and our weekday evenings on the beach, drinking bubbly and dipping more-than-toes in the sea (it’s really not too cold!)

We’ve had plenty cause to celebrate, with the end of term, a new job in the pipeline, and our second wedding anniversary.   Here’s to long summer days, filled with sunshine and happiness. Cheers!

look up

16 Jul

20120715-160128.jpg

There’s no doubt that this July hasn’t been the most idyllic sunny month. With flooding across the country and many a county show rained out, I think it’s fair to say we’ve all had enough of the wet stuff.

But, every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case it’s the clouds themselves. The sky has been putting on some wild and dramatic shows recently. I’d love to be able to name every cloud type, but my knowledge is pretty basic and practical. After three months of cycling and camping in Europe with few weather forecasts, I became good at spotting the grey, dimply clouds that warn of rain. The rest of them, I just have to admire.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved those clouds that look perfect for a mountaineering expedition, so Andrew Bird’s recent track with the same sentiment is currently getting a lot of repeat playings.

singing in the city

14 Jul

20120714-013654.jpg

After all my recent talk of the delights of Island living, this week I’ve hardly been here. Last weekend I was in London to sing at the Royal Albert Hall with my choir as part of the Really Big Chorus

I have to admit to being a little sentimental about the Albert Hall, as this is where Tom and I met years ago. That time, we were up in the gallery, listening to Mahler #2; this time I was down on the stage, singing Jenkins’ ‘Gods of Olympus’

It was great to have the opportunity to sing in a such a grand venue. The sound of 1300 voices ringing round the hall was a little heart-thumping. Add to that the full orchestra and killer percussion section, and we made a pretty dramatic sound.

So I’ve heard no pounding waves on the beach this week, but more pounding kettle drums in the midst of the city; both more enjoyable in their sharp contrast.

the trials of island living

30 Jun

Yesterday we reluctantly watched the Red Funnel ferry depart without us, and with it, our plans to see James Yorkston & The Athletes’ 10th Anniversary performance of Moving Up Country.  A midday mechanical failure on one of the ships was still causing chaos in East Cowes by late afternoon and our ferry was so delayed we couldn’t make it to the gig that I was so excited about.

The ferry’s aren’t having a good time of it, what with this plus last week’s festival traffic chaos.  And so ensues the usual rants about what a ‘nightmare’ it is being ‘trapped’ on an island, beholden to unpredictable and expensive boat travel, and in need of a fixed link.  The woman behind me in the queue yesterday was keen to tell everyone that she’d lived on the Isle of Wight for “five impossible years” and now she was moving away and couldn’t wait to leave.  I’m sure she’ll be far happier Up Mainland.

But, for me these few ferry fiascos don’t come near to the more common travel trials of motorway traffic, noisy aeroplane flight paths, and trains stuffed full of commuters.  I’d rather miss the odd gig, and console myself with a walk along the beach, or a beer on the seafront.  Half the charm of this place is its slow pace, haphazard muddles and ‘behind the times’ inefficiencies.  Maddening and comforting in equal measure.

a little piece of june

28 Jun

20120628-184126.jpg
reading Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke. Lost in a world of ships, opium and rare plants in nineteenth century China.
listening to James Yorkston (and excited to see him again at tomorrow’s gig)
buying too many books. Must stop book browsing and start reading. New Oxfam bookstore opening in town does not help!
loving holiday planning! Off to the Lake District for the first time. Guide book gives the Eskdale Valley full marks for hiking, scenery and beer. Count me in, whatever the weather..