Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Paws for Thought

This past week has been somewhat frenetic - lots of rushing around whilst trying to keep the creativity flowing. However amongst the whirlwind of Doing, several events occurred that brought about a reality check and a reminder that despite whirling from one thing to another, frequently ungrounded - with my head in the clouds - priorities must be made and time taken for what might seem at the time to be mundane and uninteresting tasks but what are unerringly of far greater importance than any soaping, sewing, sanding (at the restoration project) or box making.

Earlier on this year, we had the unwelcome presence of unsolicited visitors to the allotments; an eventuality that caused great annoyance to all those affected by their pilfering of our produce. It therefore came as a serious upset when that unpleasantness ventured closer to home.

It was the start of the week - the evenings are drawing in early and night falls quickly. The weather; following an brief respite at the weekend, had deteriorated and dark rain-filled clouds made the night sky appear even blacker. Indoors, curtains pulled tightly kept out the wintery elements; as Monty and Lucie curled up into their fleecy blankets in the hall, I snuggled down under a cosy duvet looking forward to listening to the wind howl and the heavy raindrops lash against the window.

After finishing off my Georgette Heyer novel - lovely, uncomplicated comfort reading - the equivalent to a hot chocolate before bed and (prior to the following occurrences) almost always guaranteed to induce a restful sleep, I turned out the light and fell easily into a deep sleep. 

I woke with a jolt several hours later, my nerves - always a little on the fraught side, caused my heart to beat faster. A noise had woken me suddenly out of a deep sleep! I strained my ears and listened, trying to calm my thumping heartbeat. The wind shrieked relentlessly through the trees outside and I heard the bang of a gate slamming as a strong gust of wind caught it. I relaxed - it was just the storm. Drowsily I drifted back into sleep; as I slipped deeper into unconsciousness another noise vaguely registered in my mind - this time of scraping, and ....... was that a dog barking?? However sleep overcame me completely and I slept peacefully until the alarm sounded the next morning.

The storm had abated, although a blustery wind whipped up the autumn leaves torn from the tree branches during last night's storm. The first indication I had of anything untoward was upon hearing the same banging noise as I had heard during the night. It was my garden gate! The gate which was most definitely closed tightly the night before. Tentatively and slightly perturbed I entered the garden. The signs were obvious - the wind was not the only visitor during the night. It was not the wind that was responsible for lifting down the heavy terracotta window boxes from the window sills, (the night time scraping noise)

(window boxes filled with the ivy leaved trailing geraniums that earlier on in the year the Pearly Queen and I gleefully collected as part of a prize for our allotments.)  

nor for the placing of the wrought iron garden chairs in the flower beds directly beneath the windows.

I did not believe either that it was the window cleaner who was responsible. Under the cover of darkness and the storm - Prowlers had intruded closer than was comfortable.  

Thankfully there did not seem to be anything else amiss. I later found out that there had been four of them and possibly the barking of a neighbour's dog had prevented anything worse from happening. Unsurprisingly this incident unnerved me greatly and after notifying the police additional security measures were implemented.

As a result of this, my sleeping suffered and for the next few nights I woke at even the faintest jingle of Lucie's bell. By mid-week I was exhausted. Monty became fed up with being disturbed by my getting up throughout the night to check on imaginary noises and sadly moved out, taking up residence with the neighbour who is Lucie's rightful owner. It was thus that suffering from severe sleep deprivation and after having been woken abruptly envisaging another prowler, by an uncharacteristic clamour from Percy who after several weeks of absence had taken advantage of Monty's leaving to re-establish his claim upon my home, that I took two headache tablets and fell into a deeply exhausted sleep.

Percy the Prowler?

From far away I became aware of a shrill resonating sound filtering into my dream. The sound reverberated on and on, until it pulled me from the depths of unconsciousness back to the familiar surroundings of my bedroom.

A new noise, on top of the squeal that I had now identified as the sound of a smoke alarm - that of the scream of sirens and then a flashing blue light penetrating through the Faded Flowers linen fabric of the bedroom curtains.

I was fully awake in an instance, the drowsiness induced by the tablets gone. Leaping up out of bed with more dexterity than I would when the alarm clock goes off, I pulled the curtains aside and my worst fears were realised when I saw the fire engine.

After that everything was a bit of a blur, but thanks to an electric smoke alarm (I was told afterwards that a battery one would not have detected the smoke outside); the vigilance of my neighbour and the prompt action of the fire brigade, - property and most importantly - life was spared. Wires inside the external mains electricity meter box had shorted and caught fire. As all the smoke was outside it was only thanks to my neighbour hearing the sound of the smoke alarm and coming to investigate, that the fire was discovered before it was too late. 

Lurking behind the sofa

Although I do wonder whether the racket from Percy was his way of trying to tell me something was wrong.

So there we are, a rather eventful week; but definitely a reminder to me not to get so lost in the clouds that practicalities (including checking the smoke alarm) get forgotten about!


To fully complete the tale, I must tell you that over the next couple of days life resumed a pattern of normality. My sleeping was improving and Monty had moved back in (of Percy there was no sign). All was quiet until that is - when at 4am this morning, the pitter patter of paws across the floor woke me and I could see Lucie pacing dimly in the shadowy light of my bedroom. 

Clever Lucie

I watched her padding to the bed and back to the door, where she paused and turning to see if I was watching her, she emitted a loud hiss.

OH NO! What was wrong now?

I held my breath and listened as the pitter patter, pitter patter grew louder. But Lucie hadn't moved, so even though still foggy with sleep, I deduced that it wasn't her paws making the noise. Pitter patter, pitter patter.........

or wait a moment........

could it possibly be DRIP DROP, DRIP DROP and not the sound of paws that I could hear?

I jumped out of bed, (my agility has increased with all the speedy exits that I have been making from bed recently) and raced to the airing cupboard where the sound was coming from. Monty - lying soporifically in his sleepy stupor on the rocking chair, opened one eye balefully and glared at me in disgust for waking him yet again.

A pool of water had gathered and when I wrenched the door open a deluge descended from above. In my haste to turn off the stopcock, I inadvertently turned it the wrong way, causing a torrent of water to cascade through the ceiling and down the walls. The ceiling sagged and towels and bed-linen were saturated, however once I had stopped panicking and managed to turn the stopcock off the water ceased. 

They say things happen in threes - well I can only hope that this burst pipe is the very last of my 3 dramas!

Saturday, 13 October 2012


With the first frosts, the autumn raspberries are turning to mush and the remaining runner beans have become overgrown and stringy - the allotment season is winding down now for this year. The nights are drawing in and the mornings are dark with a chill in the air.

Along with the count-down to winter, there has been sadness, and several sad events (one especially) have left me feeling weary lately and my energy sapped. 

"See You Later"

My creativity seemed to dim and I have not felt much like writing, gardening, capturing moments and images with my camera or even doing in general. However I know that those whom I have tearfully said goodbye to recently would be admonishing me to "get a grip" and carry on regardless, just as they continued on without complaint or self-pity through difficult times - still able to laugh and offer words of encouragement to others.

So my attention has turned now to indoors and soaping in preparation of the oncoming fairs. There is much to do, including - 

batches of soap to stir;
boxes to design, cut out, glue and decorate;

soaps to slice and decorate with lace, ribbons, shells collected from the beach and the flowers that I have collected and dried over the past few months;

Sea Garden Soap - with sea shells & driftwood from the sea shore

fabric hearts and sachets to sew and stuff with my dried herbs.

Red Rose Buds decorate my Goat's milk, Jojoba & Shea Butter Soap

And that's just for starters - believe me, my To Do List is lengthy! I shall also be putting together some seed packets with seeds collected from the allotment and this year I am planning to experiment with making natural firelighters, containing herbs, pine-cones and essential oils - guaranteed to not just help light a cosy winter fire but also to fragrance the room with beautiful natural scents.

The first fair coming up is Lucinda's "Christmas at the Barn." A gorgeous venue with a quality line-up of crafters, including Jenny - Drin Pottery, Viv and her lovely handmade teddy bears and of course Lucinda's fabulous Phoenix Cards.

With the fair less than 4 weeks away, soaping is now the priority, (I simply must resist the new cross-stitch sampler kit that has caught my eye and the sudden seasonal urge that I have to start knitting)! With all the batches made - using the traditional rather more time consuming cold-process method, requiring 28 days for the soap to cure; I can begin on the part that I like the most, and that is decorating the soaps and the boxes.

Gardeners Herbal Soap decorated with Poppy seed-heads and Marjoram from the allotment 

Home and the workshop are filled with the delicate scents of essential oils and dried herbs; the normal progression into soap clutter chaos is seeping and expanding into rooms other than the kitchen and workshop. 

Dishes of pink rose buds and lavender flowers, trays of dried Bee-Balm flowers, and pressed Chamomile and Heartsease Viola flowers adorn every available work surface; jugs of lavender sprigs and poppy seed-heads line window sills. Boxes both decorated and waiting to be decorated are stacked precariously on tables and benches. 

Piles of vintage style fabrics spill across chairs and spools of ribbon unravel in a colourful rainbow amongst the ginghams and sprigged rose fabrics. For health and safety purposes Monty and Lucie are banished despite their protests to the hall in order to prevent any mishaps.

As usual time is always against me and this year due to other commitments (not least the renovation project - yes I am still painting windows!)

Sneak preview of one of the newly installed windows, - especially for Fran!

I may be forced to either call on the elves or else take up the offer of help from a friend who is having a rest from her own craft of jewellery making. For this reason I am not taking on as many fairs as usual, but hopefully when I can squeeze some spare time from somewhere (where I do not know???) I shall be setting up my Etsy shop and so my soaps will be available on-line.

While I am writing this, time is racing past, so I shall bid you adieu for the moment and resume my one woman soap and box making production line. I'll be back soon though to update you on progress!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Little Cat Lost

Poor Lucie is feeling rather put out - we have a new arrival on the scene. Appearing completely out of the blue one day with a beseeching expression upon his face came Monty. A long-haired tortoiseshell-white calico cat, strikingly marked and very well behaved he asked for nothing, but made it clear that he had nowhere else to go.

Sitting on the doorstep he politely waited to see if he was welcome inside and when initially the invitation was not forthcoming, he did not persist but just sat on the step with a sad resigned expression on his little face.

Ever the soft hearted where cats are concerned, I put a plate of food out for him. Monty fell upon the food and within seconds it was gone. He then resumed his place upon the doorstep and waited patiently.

Convinced that such a lovely cat as Monty must belong to someone and was possibly lost, I designed a lost and found poster with a photo of him to display in the local shops. A call came a week later from a very nice lady who lived in a neighbouring village some 8 miles away. She knew Monty well as he lived two doors away from her and would visit her every morning at the same time. Not knowing his real name she called him Cat. When she hadn't seen him for several days the nice lady questioned Monty's owner about his whereabouts. The owners reply was a blasé, "Oh! I gave him away - I didn't want him anymore!"

So it turns out that poor Monty is unwanted, homeless and hungry. Too well-bred to hunt he was famished when I first found him sitting outside my front door. At first I kept my resolve and refused to succumb to his silent request for a home and although I fed him it was always outside. However the weather has taken a turn for the worse and after finding him huddled on the doorstep on a particularly miserable evening I broke my resolve and brought him indoors.

Lucie was overcome with horror and appalled by his intrusion into her domain she could do nothing except sit and sulk, staring at him in disbelief and resentment. Monty was oblivious and within seconds had found the old rocking chair where he snuggled up on the cushion and fell into a deep slumber.

A Sulky Lucie

Lucie continued to eye him balefully, emitting large sighs and snorts of disgust. Safe, warm and comfortable, Monty slept the entire night and despite spending the next day outside he was there waiting hopefully the next evening on the doorstep.
The rocking chair has become his refuge and although he is content to be petted for a short while, Monty prefers to be allowed to sleep in peace upon the cushion. 
Monty asleep on the rocking chair

Thus it looks like Lucie is going to have to accept that she has a new companion because I don’t think Monty has any intention of seeking a home elsewhere and I certainly don’t have the heart to ignore his plight.
I have since found out that almost all calico cats are female – and for a calico cat to be a male is a rarity. Apparently calico cats originate from the Mediterranean ports in France and are believed to bring good luck - sometimes they are referred to as money cats. So it is highly likely then that Monty is not a boy after all, in which case a new name will have to be chosen. I think a French name is appropriate – Minou seems to suit her.

After several hours of Minou I made a discovery that Minou is indeed a rarity and is most definitely a boy. As I lifted him up the additional two little furry extras underneath reaffirmed that Minou is a he. So now I am in a dilemma - do I revert to Monty or given that I have found out about his French origins - should he be called by a more French sounding name, perhaps Monet as in the painter Claude Monet? After all as I mentioned before Calico Cats are referred to as money cats - so Monet seems to fit well and it can be either a male or a female name. However Monty has a nice ring to it and it could be short for Montague which is an old French surname.
What do you think, Monet or Monty?