Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fund-raising can be fun

Last weekend we headed off to deepest Surrey for a concert organised by Levine Andrade, a good friend, in a beautiful church. Levine has been organising an annual concert there for the last 14 years, even though he no longer lives in the area.

St Peter's Church, Hascombe
The inside of the church was spectacular and quite unexpected! It was rebuilt in 1864 in Bargate stone in 13th century style and although it is a small church it is packed full of interesting features. Almost every surface is heavily decorated and I tried to capture its splendour in my photos:

Magnificent ceiling
Beautiful ornamentation everywhere
A dove atop the font 
Lovely flower motifs
All around the main body of the church there was a wonderful hand-painted frieze of fish behind netting 
More fish imagery on the kneelers
The concert this year was extra special for 2 reasons; i) they were donating some of the proceeds to Alzheimer's Research UK and ii) Levine commissioned Mike to write a piece for the concert.

We also had friends staying the weekend so it was nice to share it with them too (Hi Phil if you're reading this!). There was a rehearsal beforehand and so we set off in plenty of time to get there for 3pm when Mike's piece was to be rehearsed. Our friends set off at the same time as us but sadly we got stuck in a massive traffic jam following a road traffic accident and arrived 15 minutes late. Mike prides himself on never being late for anything and he was beside himself when he realised that we would be late, poor love. Sometimes things just don't go to plan.

When we arrived at the church I just dropped him off and he ran ahead whilst I found somewhere to park the car.

Rehearsal in full swing
That's Mike with his head down. It looks as if he's praying but actually he's following the score so he can check the players are doing what he wants them to do (speed, intonation etc etc). Levine is conducting.
After the rehearsal we all headed off to the White Horse Pub nearby to grab a bite to eat before the concert.

The church was packed for the concert and it was a lovely setting for it.

Mike had written a beautiful piece entitled 'Adagio for Strings' which was very popular with both audience and players alike. Many people and players came over to congratulate him during he interval and again afterwards. I was so proud of him! 

Mike shaking hands with the leader of the orchestra afterwards
Conductor and composer
I got in on the act too - not sure what I'm doing with the hand-on-hip thing though!
A most enjoyable evening and a lovely way to raise money for ARUK and the church at the same time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I knew there was something else to show in my last post; my crewel embroidery from many years ago! So here it is:

Sorry about the reflections but it was impossible to take without them so I accepted this image, warts and all, with part of a window and my arm clearly visible. I should say also that it is hanging straight, it's my arm that's wonky! I love the colour of the frame against the pale blue wallpaper.

The lovely oval frame I was hoping to use (see the link above) was just that bit too small once I'd stretched the fabric and some of the design was lost. This old frame had a rather faded print in it so we chucked that out and substituted my crewel work. It's made me want to do some more so I might have to rummage around in my crewel yarns and come up with a design.

I have some beautiful photos to share soon of a church where we held a concert last weekend in aid of church funds and Alzheimer's Research UK.

Monday, August 11, 2014

So many projects

I really don't know where to begin and as usual I am playing catch-up but I think the overlay crochet mandala is a good place to start.

I knew I wanted to put it on the wall in the dining room, behind the reading chair, so the first thing I did was to make it a bit firmer by painting the back with some PVA, avoiding the outer edge.

I had thought of hanging it just as it is but then decided to use the frame from this old mirror I bought in junk shop several years ago (see, hoarding is good!).

Mike took the mirror out and made a new backing for me as the old one was very flimsy. Then I gave it a good clean with sugar soap and poked a small bottle brush through all the holes to get rid of the accumulated grime.


I was going to mount it on some cream linen but that didn't look right with the frame so more rummaging revealed a small piece of heavy-weight lining fabric in this green which is almost the colour of the chair so was perfect.  There was just enough to fit the frame as you can see from my mark of the outline so I had no margin for error.

To attach it to the fabric I put some PVA on the middle section of the mandala and then sewed the outer rim of the mandala to the backing fabric to keep it in shape.

I put PVA all over the backing board and placed the fabric on top, being careful to let it go tacky first so it didn't seep through, and smoothed it down so it was nice a flat.

Then I turned it over and snipped the edges so they could be folded over the board and glued in place. Mike secured it in the frame using a few small pins.

Here it is in-situ where you can see how well the background matches the chair and that the colours in the mandala were taken from the curtains and blind.

More frames

Mike has just finished a painting for the lounge and he'd chosen this highly decorated frame as the surround. Again, it was one that had a mirror in originally so we took that out and then I set to work toning down the gold as it was too bright for where it would hang.

I used an acrylic paint (Jo Sonya's is my favourite brand as the colours last and last because they are 'Artist Quality') to tone down the background and line the inner rim.

Then it was just a case of dry-brushing the raised motifs to dirty them a bit more which gave a it a much more subdued feel. the back echoes the matt finish on the woodburner which is near where it will hang. 

I love playing around with paint effects and was very fortunate to go on several courses with the late Jocasta Innes many years ago when we lived in London. She gave me the confidence to produce some amazing paint effects in our previous home which was a very elegant Edwardian house.

Crochet bits

I've now finished all the elements of the next chairback hanging. The central motif is exactly the same as the previous one but I've changed the 2 side panels.

These are the motifs I'll be using; 2 groups of three triangles, 2 plain with 1 beaded, so now I've just got to work out how to join them together into a rectangle. Stripes are favourite at the moment as I don't want anything overly fancy as there's enough going on already in the granny triangles.

Beads and baubles

I'm doing another course on entitled Brilliant Knit Beads with Betsy Hershberg who is an excellent teacher and I'm really enjoying it. These old wooden beads were ideal as a starting point so I just unstrung them and saved all the bits.

I created a little sample piece of knitting as a gauge swatch so I could work out how many stitches I needed to cover my first bead.

Then I used the same weight yarn to cover my first bead. What fun!

I've learnt about beading needles which are really easy to use and I had to knit another swatch for my cover for my first bead with knitted beads (that sounds odd doesn't it but I don't know how else to say it!!!).

Friday, July 25, 2014

London again

I know, I seem to live there at the moment don't I!

Before I tell about my latest adventure I must mention my updated cover photo. That's our beautiful Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' shown against the blue sky yesterday. The colours made me gasp they looked so beautiful with the sun illuminating the leaves.

In the photo below you can see the boomerang-shaped seeds, just like those of the common sycamore but in red. This tree used to live in a pot at our previous house but now he's settled quite happily in ground in the front garden where he's protected from strong winds by the hedge and just gets the morning sun. It's a stunning tree in every season.

Right, back to Londonium.

This time I was heading back into the City to help the corporate sponsorship team from ARUK with a pitch to gain the support of a company named Withers who are based in Old Bailey home to the Central Criminal Court.

My train times were not very helpful and so I arrived in London far to early. However, this is never a problem as there's always lots to see and do so I took myself off to Borough market again. That's the third time I've been there this year after not having visited for over 20 years!

I knew exactly where I wanted to go; Spice Mountain, to get some spicy bits and bobs. They aren't cheap but it saves on postage if you happen to be nearby and it's always nice to have a mooch around their stall.

I should add that it was HOT and the tall buildings really hold the heat in. This is the view looking towards London Bridge Station from the market and I walked under the bridge to get onto London Bridge to cross the river.

There were a couple of routes I could take and for the way there I chose to walk along Cannon Street.

This sculpture entitled  Break the wall of distrust by Zurab Tsertelli caught my eye. It was commissioned to commemorate the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

There was so much building work going on that it was hard to get a photo without a crane jib in it! I like the way this modern building echoed the older building next to it.

As I walked alongside the magnificent St Paul's Cathedral I wasn't prepared for the enormous wave of tourists I had to circumnavigate around the front of the building. It was impossible to take photos at the front as there were people streaming onto the roads as well as the pavement. I made a mental note to take an alternate route on my way back!

I nearly walked past Old Bailey as I was too busy looking at the strange construction work that was going on.

The next 2 photos show parts of the Court buildings but the link at the beginning shows much better details. There were lots of people standing around outside together with Police cars and an ambulance.

I phoned Marcus, with whom I'd done a presentation at another venue earlier this year, and Jade, who's Head of Corporate Engagement at ARUK, to see where they were and they were just around the corner having a coffee so I popped along to join them before they went to set up their stand. After about 15 minutes I went to join them.

Here's the magnificent building I was heading for.

As I entered the building and passed through Security I was struck by this model of New York in the foyer. It was created by Alec Graydon, an 83 year old Londoner with a passion for the city of New York. I asked the Security Guard about it and he very helpfully gave me an information sheet about it. Apparently Mr Grayden was a jazz clarinetist whose heroes included Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, two of my own heroes as I used to play the clarinet too! It is not an exact representation of the city but it certainly captures the essence of it.

There were 4 other charities involved and Age UK were sharing a table with ARUK which seemed appropriate. The purpose of this was so that the staff could come and have a look and ask questions during their lunch break before they vote for the charity to support. We only had from 12:30 until 14:00 in which to draw people in so it was an anxious time before people ventured into the area.

ARUK's table was full of leaflets, pens and photos to try and entice people to come and have a look. They'd also brought these gross looking brain sweets with their bright turquoise base.

They look vile and I don't usually try anything like that full of yucky colouring, sugar and gelatine, but I tried one and oh my goodness they were addictive. I had to take some home for Mike to try and he snaffled them down pretty darned quick too!

Marcus had asked me to take one of my marathon scarves along as a talking point which was brilliant because it turned out that they have a staff 'Stitch 'n' Bitch' group which meets once a week in their lunch break so we had visits from all the ladies who are members of the group.

I'd also taken a little handout, outlining why I've been supporting ARUK for the past 9 years (doesn't time fly!) together with my mum's story, which I placed on the tables in the restaurant. I hope some people read it.

We chatted with quite a few people who have experience of dementia in their family and I hope that we helped explain a bit about the disease. Jade's mother suffers from early-onset Alzheimer's so we both had something to contribute but from slightly different angles. 

Lots of people seemed interested in all the recent news stories about a possible cure and of course that leads onto why we need more money for research! 

Now we're just waiting to hear if we were successful. Even if we don't get the vote I feel it was worthwhile as we met and spoke with people who will have learned a little more about the disease and may want to know a bit more as a result.

On my way back I took another route to avoid St Paul's. Everywhere was heaving with people in suits who looked far too hot and when I looked at my watch I realised that if I didn't get a move on I was going to miss my train, the next one being in 1.5 hours. As I really didn't want to hang around the station in the heat the only solution was to run.

Yep, run, in that heat and wearing shoes with wedges! So that's exactly what I did, all the way from Lombard Street to halfway across London Bridge where I stopped to take this photo as it looked so lovely. I probably looked very silly but at least I caught my train so I didn't care.

On the way back I sat next to 2 lovely chatty ladies and when I brought out my yarn for a bit of hookiness they wanted to see how I made the stitches and so I showed them how to hold the hook, do chains, double crochet and trebles which passed the journey nicely until they got off about halfway through my journey. They both declared that they would look for a local crochet group as they enjoyed it so much; I hope they do.

For the rest of my journey I just played around with a couple of colours which reminded me of the sea and sand and so I created a sort of ships-wheel shape.

I've still got a stack of photos I've been taking from my runs over the last few weeks so I really must upload them soon. Tempus fugit doesn't it!

My next marathon isn't until the middle of October but I've got a 1/2 marathon in September and I fancy having a go at cracking the 2 hour barrier (my pb is 2:00:59) - oh look, there goes a flying pig………..