Garden in May

In absolutely no particular order (because there are just too many – soz!), here are some recent pics of the garden. It’s been just over a month since I last shared what was going on in the garden and it has been a very productive few weeks. I can’t believe the difference from these photos to the ones in the last blog post! The garden has gone bonkers!

We had the bonfire that I said I wanted to have, took stuff to the dump, sorted out all the pots and got planting. There’s still lots more to do as I’ve not done all the lettucey type things and there are baby runner beans and purple french ones to go out.

A sunny May day is the garden at its best before there’s the weird June/July lull. I’m curious to see what the pots will look like later on in the year; the kids have persuaded me to change colour scheme. They’ve chosen lots of garish, clashy things. I hope I like it! I’m also desperate to get my hands on home grown veg. It’s all late because my early stuff got bitten by the frost and I had to start again. But, hey, it’s only May!

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An Interview with Yay Retro!

I love the internet! It’s thanks to the internet that, Sue from Yay Retro stumbled across me via the Granny CAL I’ve been running over on Instagram, Ravelry and this ‘ere crochet blog. As a result, Sue suggested an interview, which I thought was a great idea! A couple of weeks ago I wrote out my answers to Sue’s fab questions and sent over a massive wodge of photographs of my home (with vintagey stuff-  it’s relevant, I promise) and things I’ve crocheted. That interview can be found HERE.  In the interest of keeping things a two way street I thought it would be nice to get to know Sue too, so I sent her a few questions for her to answer as well. We have things in common, we both live in Devon, we both love crochet and both have a penchant for cool, old stuff! Also, (as an aside) I found all of this really interesting. The questions started a nostalgic trip into the past, which triggered a load of old memories.  I think that’s the main reason why I accumulate all my seemingly random junk. They’re connections to places I’ve been and people I’ve known.

Righty, over to Sue…

How long have you lived in Totnes?

We moved here in 2015 to be nearer to our son and family. We felt at home as soon as we got here, it’s a very special, welcoming and friendly place.

How much does living in Totnes feed your creativity and/or love of vintage? [Totnes is a town in Devon known for having an alternative, arty scene]

I did a fine art degree at The Winchester School of Art and trained, then worked as a professional artist (large abstract paintings) for around seven years before becoming a wedding photographer with my husband for six years. After this I set up yay retro! and I think both of these have significantly fed into the look and feel of yay retro! especially as everything needs to be photographed attractively. Totnes and the surrounding area is marvellous for finding vintage wares.  I love the beautiful historic buildings and surrounding wonderful countryside, as well as the ‘anything goes’ feel in Totnes, it makes life more interesting and everyone is friendlier and accepting, I think.
What other parts of Devon are your favourite?
I adore Woolacombe in the North as I had all my childhood holidays there, visiting around 5 times a year in our tent and caravan. Tavistock is also a beautiful town, I love the market there and the drive over the Moors. My other favourite spots are the steam railways in Totnes and Dartmouth. These remind me of my Gramp who was a steam engine driver in the 1950s/60s.
There seems to be quite a few creative folk in Devon. Do you think Devon in particular is a good base for creatives? What makes it so special?
I’m quite new here and so have met only a few other vintage sellers and artists. However I am aware of more here than I was in Hampshire where I lived before.
The country and seaside are so inspiring in Devon and the slower pace of life is really superb. I think people’s outlook on life is different to that of people who live or work in or near big cities. Perhaps this is what attracts creative people to the county? Totnes itself is known for its arty folk as it is close to Dartington, which used to be the home of the famous Dartington College of Arts until quite recently.
What is it about vintage/retro stuff that makes you happy?
I was very lucky to have a happy time growing up in the 1960s and 70s, everything I buy for yay retro! makes me think of my Gran, Nan or my Mum all of whom were great home makers. I can recall special, happy times in each of  their kitchens, and because each of them had different tastes in home decor, it really is a case of finding and recognising things they had. I only ever buy things that make me smile, that I truly love and would want for myself. If I’m not keen to give it house room myself I don’t buy it!  When I find something lovely I say ‘yay! retro!’ in my head and often feel quite elated. It’s a real feel good job to have as I am forever ‘buzzing’ about the lovely objects and textiles I find!
When did you know it was time to make it your full time job?
I started the yay retro! online shop in 2012, and by 2013 knew it was going to take off and that I would need to tail off my other work commitments which were in the family web development company. I now run yay retro! full time.
Do you hangout with other crafty folk?
Being new to Totnes I don’t know that many people yet who are crafty. I do know of other vintage sellers and they are all very friendly and supportive. it’s a lovely community to be part of. On the crafty side of things, I am currently mad on crochet thanks to getting back into it after seeing you publicise the #grannycal18 crochet along. I am currently teaching my daughter in law to knit and soon to crochet. I find joining groups like Hooked on Crochet on Facebook is a good outlet for feedback and crafty talk.  It’s also nice to share pics on the yay retro! Instagram page as my followers are really supportive.
What are your thoughts on the maker’s renaissance we’re experiencing?
I think that the internet has allowed people to share their work easily and also to sell their ideas and makes. This probably makes it appear that we have a makers renaissance, when in fact there have always been heaps of creative people out there.
I picked up the ‘making’ bug from my Mum and Gran who were fantastic at making clothes whether it be sewing or knitting. Neither of them crocheted, and I recently taught my Mum so that she could make a blanket for her great grandson.
It’s superb that getting online can enable people to share so much, and get feedback on their work. I spend many an evening being inspired by other people’s beautiful workmanship.
I often think that if only the internet had been as dominant when I was painting as it is now, I would still actually be working as an artist and selling smaller works from a website. At the time I was a working artist going the gallery route, it was the only option, which made my paintings too expensive for most people.
Who are your favourite artistic people? Top blogs? Instagrammers?
There are SO many artists and makers that I love, currently the printmaker Jane Ormes’ work really strikes a chord with me,
Anna Wiscombe’s wooden birds and plants are gorgeous, Jane Foster’s screen prints adorn my home and Chris Made This and Ames_Likes_Toast Instagram’s feed always make me really happy. I have bought quite a few pieces from Anna, Ames and Chris too. My illustrator friend Sara Rhys based in Totnes has a beautiful Instagram page which always brings a smile to my face.
Sue’s Instagram is HERE.
What are your favourite shops/places in Devon to find treasure? And/or further afield?!
I search everywhere I go to be honest. I adore Totnes market; there are some lovely, friendly, helpful sellers there and it’s always great to have a chat as well as browse and buy! Like everyone, I always search around charity shops and often strike it lucky. I particularly like Salisbury in Wiltshire, New Milton in Hampshire and Brixham in Devon.

www.yayretro.co.uk  is an online shop where you can buy the very best Vintage & Flower Power wares from the 1940s to the 1980s. Browsing and buying from the website is really easy and worth doing regularly as fresh stock is added regularly… pieces are described honestly and postage and packaging costs kept low, posting across the UK twice weekly. The yay retro! online vintage shop features vintage kitchenware, tablecloths, bedding, ornaments, toys, books, and much more!

Thanks Sue! I really enjoyed your insightful comments. xx

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Tar Barrels 2017

Ok, a few pics of this year’s Tar barrels in Ottery St Mary. I took them on my phone so they’re not fabulous but I couldn’t let it pass without saying something about the weekend. It’s unique and special, it has to be done. I’m not writing a proper article but do check out  2016 here and 2015 here. Those posts have more info.

You can’t see well but that’s the massive bonfire next to the river, which in turn is next to the fairground. Over to the left somewhere is where I stung my arse on nettles. Someone might have seen but there were a lot of bushes to hide in and I needed a wee. It’s a pity that it was too dark to spot the stingers.

A bonfire is mesmerising. We stood and watched in revery for a while before going off to find a few burning barrels. As usual, the kids went home after the bonfire. Well, we found a safe spot for them to witness one barrel and then they had to go home. Too dangerous for little guys.

The square was packed with people. Although I’m pretty sure it was relatively “quiet” for a Saturday. I didn’t get proper pictures of the barrel being carried. I did a ten second burst as one went by and then put my phone in my pocket for the most of it. I wanted to enjoy it with my eyes. Last year I was too focussed on getting a good picture (not that I achieved it). I’ll leave that to the professionals. If you google the event you can find some terrific footage. You’ll then be able to see that the barrels really are in the crowd.  No safety barrier. No illusions.

Once midnight passes the crowds have thinned, with everyone staggering home. I stayed on hoping some magic would happen. It didn’t. Just a lot of trash and a strange quiet. At that point I felt I’d out-stayed my welcome so I dragged myself away to my bed. Roll on next year.

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Bluebell Time

It’s bluebell time, come on grab your friends, we’re going to visit bluebell lands…etc

I don’t know a single person that isn’t impressed with a sea of these. Let’s face it, even a single bluebell sitting on its own is pretty good. Bees especially agree.

At the weekend we had an impromptu adventure to our nearest gathering of knock your socks off bluebells. Blackbury Camp is situated on the Ottery St Mary to Seaton road and it’s beautiful and interesting at any time of the year. I wrote about it last year when I was seemingly a bit mardy. Check out my grump here.

Photographing outside views is a lot different to product photography. I’ve had more practice at the latter but not much else.  This was one of the things that was upsetting me last year. I’ve improved since then but I still don’t fully understand how to get the best shot. It’s not just about clicking away and hoping that one will turn out OK. Every picture you take should have something going for it. That’s what I think. Believe me, I totally click away and hope for the best but I also try and plan stuff too.

I wasn’t thinking about it at the time (hence the non matchy matchy) but these two pics are the left and right of the same view. We’re in an oval bowl of an iron age fort. You can run around the top “walls” or amble through the centre. What is not seen to the left is the lane that brings you here. To the right; an exit, a series of trenches and stunning views of the valley beyond. The pic above this one shows the other side of the wall and one of the trenches.

Do have bluebell woods near you? Anyone in Devon know of other pretty woods? What follows can only be described as Bluebell spam. It’s worth it though!

Spam over. And by the way, I cheated. The bumblebee shots aren’t from Blackbury Camp at all, I took them in my garden a few days before our jaunty outing! Sorry about that. The fun will never end.

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Tar Barrels 2016

tar-barrels-ottery-st-maryIt’s November and I live in Devon, that means one thing to me: Tar Barrels!!

I am alive and well after spending an evening being squeezed and squashed in amongst thousands of people. Saturday night was absolutely mental! It’s been a few years since the Tar Barrels was held on a Saturday night and the difference in crowd numbers is huge. If the 5th of November landed on a Tuesday, for example, it’d be comparatively sedate (I’m lying, it’d still be nuts).

people-in-the-streetOttery St Mary is a town in East Devon and it’s been my home for seven years. It’s my favourite place too and there are many reasons why. Pop over to The Guardian’s latest Let’s Move To… for a bit more of an insight as to why I think it’s so special. (I wonder if you’ll spot anything interesting in that article… Let me know if you do! heehe). I can’t believe the article didn’t mention the beavers that live on the river: the only wild ones in England! Ottery obviously has so many good things, they can’t all fit into one article.

I wrote about the Tar Barrels last year but didn’t get many pictures (didn’t get much of an experience at all but that’s last year’s story). This year, I really wanted to get some decent photographs. Since I got my nice camera, I’ve spent the last eleven months practising taking pictures of crochet. I never thought to learn about taking pictures of moving flames, whilst trying not to get trampled in the dark. Silly me. The pictures I got on Saturday are not as good as I’d hoped for. There are people that have taken better on their Iphones. Meh.

watchingThe family set out just after four o’clock and made our way to one of the kid’s barrels. Luckily for us, one of our friends has a garden with the perfect vantage point for observing one of the barrel runs. It’s good for kids watching as they don’t always like being in the crowds and this event isn’t really recommended for children. We only take the kids out for the early barrels and the bonfire. After that, they have to go home!

kids-barrel-sandhill-street kids-tbs kids-tar-barrels hot girl-barrel changing-barrels

kids-tar-barrels-2016Children as young as seven get the honour of rolling the barrels. It’s local families that do it, generation after generation. It’s a wonderful tradition and it’s a privilege to be able to witness it. This year we got to see Eldest’s class mates do it for the first time and that added something extra too. They’re all layered up so they’re not in too much danger of getting burnt.

mill-streetWe managed to miss the lighting of the bonfire as we’d gone home for tea. It’s one of the best bits, if you ask me! This year, even if we’d given it plenty of time, we still would have missed it. Dolly steps had to be taken to get over the bridge. It was rammed. I’ve been a few times on a Saturday but this is the busiest I can remember. I’ve had a look online today but I can’t find the numbers of attendance. I’ve seen estimates of up to thirty thousand people but I don’t know if that’s accurate. I’ve also spotted figures nearer ten thousand. I dunno. It’s a lot, whatever the number. (It’ll be busy next year as I think it’ll be a Saturday then too- they don’t do Sundays).

bonfire-ottery-st-maryThe bonfire is fierce. And massive.

spinnyWe went to the fair as well. A funfair is great but it’s easy to spend all your money, so we ended up being mainly spectators. I love looking at the bright lights and hearing all the screams!

After the fair, we got rid of the children and went out to watch the big barrels. There’s no art to this bit, getting a good Tar Barrel experience is mostly down to luck. If you’re not in the right place it is nearly impossible to fight your way to a good spot. And you can’t always tell what will be a good spot until you’re either in it, or stood miles away, feeling sad that you won’t feel the heat or the thrill of getting right up alongside a great big burning barrel. That is certainly the case on a busy night. I’ve found it more fun and been more brave when there is that little bit extra room to move. You can follow the barrels and get closer.

womens changingI swapped cameras for the late night stuff. Crikey, I’d forgotten how annoying my old point and shoot job was. The delay on the button drove me crazy and I missed loads of potentially amazing shots. I have many pictures of the back of strange heads, my sister’s boyfriend’s bum (deleted, thanks) and out of focus close ups of the hessian mitts (that protect roller’s hands). The zoom wasn’t instantaneous like I’m now used to either. I’ve become spoiled by a fancy pants camera. However, it was too dodgy to take it back out again.

lotr heads flames3 flames2 flames-1Even with the point and shoot, I do like those flames. I wish I’d been able to capture the sea of people around them. Next year. There’s always next year….

mill-street-barrelI’m a bit embarassed to admit that I only managed to stay out until half ten. My back was killing me and two days later it still hasn’t recovered. The plan is to train my muscles for the next 363 days so that I will not be a feeble old lady but have the stamina of a midnight barrel man. I was hearing stories in the playground this morning and I felt envious; people had seen late night punch ups and partying and I missed it! Pah!

fire-and-fairground dying-fireWe went and checked on the bonfire one last time, which had reduced in size, and heat. Beyond it, the funfair was still full of gusto.

stompedAnd then I said goodbye to it all for another year…

I’ve had a look on Youtube and there are new videos popping up all the time. I enjoyed this one. And this one shows the bonfire. And check out the #tarbarrels on Instagram too. There are some excellent pictures and films on there.

 

 

 

 

 

A Crochet Blanket for the Autumn.

a-granny-square-crochet-blanket-for-the-autumn

I completely forgot to write about this cosy crochet blanket. I finished it before the summer holidays. It got a wash and was then stored away before I realised I should probably show it off a bit and then put it up for sale on Etsy (which it now is!). Actually, now is a pretty good time to do it because the colours remind me of autumn and that’s just where we’re heading.

bright-autumn-colours-crochet-join-as-you-go-granny-squares

Amazingly for me, this is the first time I’ve done a join-as-you-go granny square blanket.  Whilst I’ve done plenty of continuous joins, this is slightly different due to all the colour changes. It looks so much better than if I’d whip stitched the squares together (which is what I always used to do).

autumn-colours-crochet-blanket

The border is quite plain but I didn’t think it wanted flouncy. Just some scallops between every other cluster. In the alternating clusters, it’s just a UK dc (US sc). To stop it curling too much, there are chains between them.

kind-of-autumnal-granny-square-crochet-blanket

There’s something about this blanket I really like and I’ll be jiggered if I know what it is. Maybe it’s the simplicity of it, or it could be the autumn colour palette. I haven’t quite put my finger on it yet but it doesn’t really matter, does it? I like it because I do!

autumn-crochet-granny-square-blanket-with-orange-border

The colour scheme wasn’t a choice I made, it was more determined by what I had left hidden in the cupboard under the stairs. Over the last few months I’ve been making an attempt to get that down to a more manageable collection. I’m trying to train myself not to impulse buy yarn too. It’s not working that well, I’ve just transferred my lustings to fabric instead. Anyway, if you are at all curious about the colours, they are Stylecraft Special DK in: Saffron, Gold, Pomegrante, Petrol, Spice, Parma Violet, Khaki, Spring Green, Magenta and Lavender. It’s deffo less than a ball of each but I couldn’t tell you how much exactly as none were full balls to begin with.

join-as-you-go-autumn-granny-square-crochet-blanket

It’s a blanket that I wish I’d made bigger. Well, I couldn’t; didn’t have enough stash! I hope that it finds a home…

crochet-granny-blanket

tour-of-britain-in-ottery

In a complete random change of subject, I popped out to have a very speedy look at the Tour of Britain this morning. This was at the end of my road just before midday today. I timed it very well, I was out and back home within fifteen minutes.

tour-of-britain-2016-ottery-st-mary

I had to leap out of the way because they were extremely close. I don’t know how they managed to do it so fast, this is the top of the hill. They had an even bigger hill to climb a few minutes later, one which my car struggles with. Wish I’d seen that!

spare-parts-tour-of-britain-in-ottery

I thought it was great and I’m not even a cycling enthusiast! Bit of excitement on a rainy day anyway. I bet all those cars have a crochet blankets in the boot…

A Wander Around Haytor.

Hanging out with Dartmoor ponies.

As I mentioned in my last post, we went to Dartmoor on Sunday. Mostly this was to meet with friends for lunch but we also explored Haytor too. Usually we skip the tor and go to the pretty quarry a few hundred metres away. However, the boys wanted to climb a “mountain” so we stuck to the rocks.

haytor toes.

I think the tor looks like a giant’s foot sticking out of the ground. Too many toes I know, so a mutant giant. (I know some of those people). I haven’t managed to capture the size of it (big), the walk/climb up to it is quite hard work, especially after a roast dinner (and a late night).

The quality of the picture is not that great as I’m told my ISO number was too high for outdoors. Low number for outdoorsy pics next time.

Haytor views

This is at the foot of it. It’s easy to climb as there are steps cut into it. It’s still hugely windy up there and it makes me feel uneasy. The kids could easily get whooshed off the tops of one of the toes (I wouldn’t let them up the very tops anyway and certainly not on the big toes). I didn’t take pictures up the top because of this.

Haytor rocks

Rocks n stuff.

rocks

crow.

This guy flew around quite a bit. Think he was on the look out for someone’s picnic.

Hazy hot Dartmoor day

Then there’s the obligatory Dartmoor ponies. They were quite aloof. Not interested in talking to us at all.

Plants that grow on Dartmoor.

If you look closely, there’s loads of interesting plants living in the crevices of the rocks. Not sure what this is.

Mossy rocky blanket. Haytor, Dartmoor.

I think this might be my favourite picture. I love the mossy blanket that has come away from the granite. Apparently this picture has good bokeh!

lichens

There was a lizard sunbathing on this rock. He moved so blimmin fast, he was gone before I could ask him for a picture.

From Haytor

Some bilberries (or windberries- same thing, I think) are trying to grow here. Are they a relation of the blueberry? I could be wrong about that.

And all the faces in the rocks too! I didn’t spot David Bowie any where…

Well, that was Dartmoor. A tiny bit of it anyway. It’s a pretty big chunk of Devon. And my favourite fact about Dartmoor is, it’s radioactive! If I visit enough, I’m assuming that I will get some kind of super powers. I think that’s how it works.