Sun 11th July
A few months ago I embarked on a new project: sock knitting. I have made jumpers and other garments since I was young, but had never knitted a sock before. There are now a huge number of tutorials online, so baffling pattern instructions can now be explained and demonstrated rather than the novice knitter having to rely on trial-and-error and a lot of guesswork.
I found a lovely American lady who had made a series of videos about the various stages of sock making: casting on, turning the heel and finishing the toe were included, as well as an introductory video which discussed choice of needles and yarn. She demonstrated each stage again (and again and again), provided a pattern and left no stone unturned in ensuring her viewers would be able to complete the project by the end of her video series.
My chosen wool arrived, rather bizarrely in a flat envelope! The wool was shrink-wrapped to the point of complete flatness, but amazingly, after I had cut the packaging off, it became a normal, fluffy ball. I began the first sock, watching each video before I had to tackle the next stage of its construction.
It was a long process, as I was unfamiliar with the techniques used. It was also rather strange knitting in three dimensions, as jumpers and cardigans are generally knitted as a series of flat pieces which are then sewn together. Rather like my flat ball of wool which became fluffy and round after being released from the shrink-wrap, my knitting had shape and form. And the magic of making socks comes at the point you ‘turn the heel’ and starting knitting in a completely different direction!
I eventually completed the first sock and started work on the second. Now the problem with doing something for a second time is that it’s very easy to think you know what you are doing. I completed the leg part without difficulty, but then disaster struck! I misread the pattern, and realised I should have done something differently a few rows earlier. On trying to undo what I had done, I created even more problems and ended up having to take the needles out, rip out a few rows and pick up the stitches to have another go. It only took me three tries to get back to where I had been two days earlier.
The irony was that if I had checked the pattern again, I would have seen that the original mistake I made was trivial and could have been left to stand. I would have saved myself a lot of grief by just ignoring it and carrying on.
I’ve learned not only to make socks, but that mistakes happen. If they do, I need to make sure that I don’t turn a small mistake into a big mess because I haven’t read the pattern properly. Perhaps that has wider applications than just sock knitting?
Sat 5th June
You may recall my writing about our heron problem a couple of months ago, and how most of the fish population of our garden pond had ended up as bird food. One survivor has been glimpsed occasionally, and now the warmer weather is here we are hoping to get an idea of how many fish we have left.
Since the attack we’ve kept the pond covered. Kevin had constructed some low netting barriers on wooden frames to keep both our toddler granddaughter and our “granddog” away from the pond - the former for obvious safety reasons and the latter because she tends to bark at (and try to attack) her reflection in the water. These panels have yet to be used for their intended purpose, but provided us with a “quick and dirty” mesh cover for the pond after our unwanted visitor had left.
I realised this week that, apart from at least one frog, the pond was devoid of its usual wildlife. No pond skaters skidded across the surface, no dragonflies and damselflies were present. In fact, it all looked rather dead. So this evening we removed the covers (with some difficulty as the marsh marigolds had grown right through the netting) and gave the surface a quick skim with the net. We hope that the usual wildlife will soon return, and we might even start to see the fish again, whether singular or plural!
All this led me to reflect on how one thing impacts another, and how difficult it is to keep a balance. Our instinct was to preserve the life of any remaining fish, but in doing so we accidentally lost all the visiting insect life. On reflection, I think that the occasional expenditure of a few pounds to replace the fish is probably the better route so that we can enjoy a full range of pond visitors, even if the heron is one of them.
What is true for our pond is true also for the wider world. We do not know the impact of the things we do to our planet until we’ve caused major damage. I’m hoping we’ve reactivated our pond in time and that it will once again be a thriving, buzzing place over the summer. Let’s hope the same is true of the planet.
Update: I usually write these diary posts and come back to them a day or so later before publishing them, and I’m delighted to say that there appear to be at least four fish and two frogs in the pond, and a few pond skaters have made an appearance. The warmer weather is undoubtably helping!
The accompanying photo is of the pond just before the heron visited us.
Tuesday 18 May
We were pleased to be able to get away to Norfolk for a few days recently. Because of the latest change in the rules, Kevin was able to see his mother in her care home for the first time in a while, and while we were up there we took advantage of the change of scenery to walk in some different places.
Our first walk was around a common, and the landscape (and weather!) was very varied. We started off in sunshine, along a grassy, disused railway track, and then joined a very small lane which emerged into heathland. We were unable to take the route we had intended as it was a fenced-off nature reserve, but instead followed a sandy path upwards to a small summit. (Yes, there are hills in Norfolk!) We had an interesting time picking out landmarks on the horizon before retracing our steps.
Once we got back to the disused railway track things got interesting. The weather took a turn for the worse, and so did our navigational skills. As we thankfully reached the end of the track with hailstones, rather than raindrops falling on our heads, we realised to our horror that we weren’t where we thought we were, and the car was still some distance away. Five more minutes of hail took us back to the car park and we returned to our flat rather soggy.
The other walk was a little warmer, considerably sunnier and along a vast sandy beach where we viewed a distant shipwreck and saw a lone seal, basking on a sandbank. The beach kiosk was open and we enjoyed the first meal for months that neither of us had cooked. It may only have been a sausage bap, but eating it on some rocks out of the stiff breeze was wonderful.
The prolonged lockdown has given us a renewed opportunity to take delight in little things: a walk in a different area, lunch on the beach and even the fun of getting lost in a hailstorm. I’m going to try and hang on to that feeling as such things become more commonplace over the next months, although I hope both the weather and my sense of direction improve!
Friday 30 April
During lockdown I have been enjoying my walks around the local area. I count myself fortunate that we live right on the edge of Church Crookham, which means that I can walk from my house in two directions with minimal road walking: one way leads to the canal and the other to the Crookham Park SANGS via a field path from the Redfields Industrial Estate.
It used to be that we were pretty much restricted to the former of these two directions, and when we had a dog in the nineties and noughties that was the way we had to go in if setting off from the house. Walks to the south of us were well-nigh impossible because of the A287. The building of Crookham Park has opened up a vast network of paths to the east of us which has enabled us to walk much further in that direction, and we can even walk to Caesar’s Camp if we are feeling energetic! One of my favourite bits is the view from the pillbox field, looking up at Ewshot to the left, across to Crondall in front and distant hills to the right.
Walks in the canal direction have become much more fun since the builders acquired the land around Albany Farm, as we are now able to access the hill behind the Zebon Copse Community Centre. There have always been a couple of rights of way through the field where the hill is, but the hill itself was not included in those. I never cease to be amazed how much better the walk is by being able to go up the hill, rather than around it.
I’ve been trying to take photos of the same view from the top of the hill as the seasons have changed, although the movement of the sun has caused a few issues as it is in just the wrong place at the time we usually walk. Interestingly there hasn’t been much change in the view so far, from my first photo in November to my latest one a couple of weeks ago, but I think that the next one may well show a considerable difference as the leaves have really begun to come out over the last week.
Whatever you think about new houses going up in the local area it’s always worth looking for the plusses as well as the minuses. Sometimes we gain as well as lose, and I have been so grateful over the last year to have these fantastic walks right on my doorstep. Hilltops are very special to me, and always lift my spirits. A short, steep incline is pretty good for my fitness too!
“For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12
Tuesday 20 April
I’m sharing a beautiful picture of a heron that my husband Kevin (The Webmaster) took recently. It is sitting on the roof of a neighbouring house, looking very pleased with itself. As well it might, as it had just taken off from our garden pond. We are not sure exactly how many of our fish it was digesting while its portrait was being taken, as we covered the pond pretty quickly afterwards and the water, having been stirred up by the bird, was murky for quite some time. We have caught a glimpse of orange since, so we know there is at least one survivor, but we will have to wait for warmer weather and less traumatised fish to be able to perform a complete headcount.
This reminded us of a similar event which happened several years ago. I can’t remember whether we saw a heron on that occasion, or if we just became aware that the pond seemed very empty, but we quickly realised we had been the victims of an airborne thief, and the pond cleaned out. I do recall that it was late summer and so we decided that we’d had enough of supplying the local heron population and wouldn’t make the trip over to the garden centre in Badshot Lea for replacements.
It was quite a harsh winter that year, and we were glad that we didn’t have to break the ice for the fish as we had done in previously when the weather was very bad. As spring approached we began clearing up the pond area and considered whether to spend yet more money on bird food (of the living, fishy type). Over the Easter weekend Kevin decided to split up some of the pond plants that had exceeded their allotted space. I recall him rushing in saying, ‘Fish! We have fish!’. There, in the depths of the pond were a few small, brown fish: offspring of our late lamented stock. Despite the heron attack and lack of care over winter, they had survived.
It would have been a nice touch to say that the above events occurred on Easter Day, but in fact it was Good Friday when we found them. Nevertheless, it became an Easter story of resurrection: of new life appearing when there was no hope of finding it and we had given up looking for it.
The biggest irony was that, as we returned from church on Easter Day this year, the heron from our photograph was once again sitting on our neighbours’ roof. We just have to hope our pond coverings have kept him from finishing the job!
This post has been held over because of the period of National mourning last week.
Friday 2nd April
Walking through the woods the other week I noticed that the bluebell leaves were beginning to poke through. I missed seeing the bluebells last year as we were shielding and confined to our house and garden. The number of new leaves suggests that this year’s crop might be well worth the wait.
A few years ago we went on a walking holiday to Sussex in early May - peak bluebell time. Our first day’s walk included a stretch of the Monarch’s Way through a beech woodland where dappled sunlight shone through new green leaves on to a carpet of bluebells. On and on it went, and on and on for about a mile: about 20 minutes’ walk. By the end of the woodland we were all agreed: we were ‘bluebelled out’.
This goes to show that, even with the most beautiful parts of nature, you can have too much of a good thing. The hymn, ‘Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us’ includes the lines:
Spirit of our God, descending
Fill our hearts with heavenly joy.
Love with every passion blending,
Pleasure that can never cloy.
Anything that we do on this earth has the potential to cloy, to ‘supply with an unwanted or distasteful excess, usually of something originally pleasing’ according to the dictionary definition. Sometimes a break from something, even from something good, something lovely, something wonderful allows us to appreciate it all the more when we return to it.
This year I will especially enjoy the bluebells when they flower, having been deprived of them last year. And, not having received communion since Christmas, I will value it all the more this Easter.
Sat 27th March
I very much enjoy Dave Walker’s cartoons in the Church Times (examples of his work can be found at cartoonchurch.com). I seem to remember that he published one on the subject of returning to church last year, with the church members gradually discovering all the detritus that had accumulated during lockdown as they cautiously peeped through the door.
I heard the story of a church in our diocese whose bellringers inspected the tower before their return to ringing last year, only to find that a flock of white doves had found a way through the louvres and set up home in the belfry, with the result that the bells were unringable due to the accumulated guano. Our return to church for Palm Sunday should not involve any nasty surprises (we hope!) as Revd Steve and the churchwardens have been in and out since Christmas, and even the boiler seems to be behaving at the moment!
I realised this morning as I was taking my usual lockdown apparel of comfortable clothes out of the wardrobe that not only was I going to have to set my alarm on Sunday morning, but I also was going to have to dig out something a little more formal to wear. I’ve been in the same small subset of clothes for so long that I’ve forgotten what the rest of my wardrobe contains. It will, I hope, be a nice surprise to find both old favourites and more probably some more recent purchases I’ve forgotten I bought.
Easter is a time of new life, new hope, and of rediscovering the pleasures of chocolate or wine if we’ve given these up for Lent. Our return to church seems appropriate at this time of year as we rediscover the pleasures of worshipping together in our lovely building. I’m going to have fun finding something different to wear, even if I’m bleary-eyed from the effects of the clocks going forward. I’ll see you there (if I manage to set both the clock and alarm successfully)!