What I’ve been reading: Waters/Filer

Read what I thought of them here: Librarium 2015

The Graduate


My daughter graduated yesterday from Staffordshire University with a First Class BA(Hons) in Photojournalism. I couldn’t be prouder. The ceremony took place at Trentham Gardens on the edge of Stoke-on-Trent, her university town. It was a Fairy at Trenthambeautiful setting, with a lake, Italianate Gardens designed by multi-gold medal winner at Chelsea Flower Show, Tom Stuart-Smith, and grass and flower gardens designed by Piet Oudolf, also a gold medal winner. Various sculptures and statues also sit in the landscape, notably a series of stainless steel fairies by renowned sculptor Robin Wight. All the above plus a beautiful, bright, sunny day combined to give plenty of opportunities for some memorable pictures. Congratulations to Nee, and all the other 2015 Graduates.

What I’ve been reading: Vine/Tóibín

Read what I thought of them here: Librarium 2015

Ripe for Production

toptentuesday2Today’s Top Ten Tuesday list is “Books you’d love to see made into a film”. This feature is the brainchild of The Broke and the Bookish blog; a weekly opportunity to make a booklist on a specified theme. This was a thought-provoking one for me …..as I scanned my bookshelves I found that many good candidates for this list had already been made into films; books like Titus Groan, Restoration, The Road, The Reader, I’m Not Scared to name a few. There are some books I am so fond of that I would actually be afraid to see them as movies in case the film maker got it completely wrong (ie not at all how I’d imagined things to look), and some that I prefer to keep to myself – too good to share with the movie-watching public. Looking through my final list quite a few of my choices are set in locations that I would like to see on film (Iceland, New Zealand, Australia etc), some are dark and atmospheric, some were just great reads that I’d love to see brought to life. In no particular order, here are my ten books:-

Barkbelly by Cat Wetherill. One of my family’s favourite books that we enjoyed as a bedtime read. My children loved this story of a boy made of wood and his often perilous adventures.

Loser by Jerry Spinelli. Another of my children’s favourites about a boy who has a hard time fitting in with his peers until he one day becomes a hero. Not to be confused with the film starring Jason Biggs.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. A dark tale of twisted youth by the late and sorely missed Banks. I read this in my early twenties and have never forgotten it.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Icelandic historical drama which I reviewed on my Librarium 2014 page. The description of the landscape just has to be translated to film. I read that Jennifer Lawrence will star in the film of this book, but how true that is I don’t know.

The Colour by Rose Tremain. Another huge landscape, this time New Zealand. A story of gold-digging folk and the hardships of pioneering life.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville. Londoners sent as convicts to Australia make a new life for themselves. I reviewed this on my Librarium 2014 page.

I’ll Steal You Away by Niccolo Ammaniti. Set in southern Italy, this book is a chilling tale of some pretty odd characters somehow thrown together in a deadbeat town.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. Already subject of a brilliant stage adaptation which I saw at The National Theatre, I think this could also make a great film in the right hands. A fraught tale of a boy with Asperger’s struggling to make sense of his world.

Quarantine by Jim Crace. A retelling of Jesus’ 40 days in the Judean desert. While praying and fasting in a cave, the mysterious hermit is credited with bringing about a life-saving miracle.

Skating to Antarctica by Jenni Diski. Part travelogue and part memoir of a difficult childhood growing up with a mother suffering from mental illness, I reviewed this book on my Librarium 2013 page.

Post-election blues


Helen makes some very good points here about being a private tenant. I loathe the whole concept of Buy To Let; it gives landlords a free rein to charge ridiculous rents. My daughter is about to leave uni and find a flat to rent. I don’t know how she is ever going to manage.

Originally posted on Helen Blackman:

Other than the election result, there are two things keeping me awake at night. One, my horse’s saddle doesn’t fit and two, I’ve been given notice to leave the home that I rent. The saddle very much comes under first world problems. It bothers me because I’m responsible for my horse’s welfare and have been working him in a saddle that is restrictive, although his previous owner spent a lot of money on it and had it professionally fitted. Despite my concerns, I can see that in the grand scheme of things it’s not a bad problem to have. The problem with my home is much more serious and something you might hope would be encountered only in the developing world not the first world. Sadly this is not the case. Even in supposedly developed countries those who rent are second-class citizens and security of tenure is a distant dream.

View original 1,030 more words


My niece was married this weekend and her flowers were stupendously stunning. All found in a typical English cottage garden, the blooms were deliciously scented and breathtakingly beautiful. Here are a few of my favourite shots. For horticulturalists, a list of flowers and foliage used appears below (as many as I can name). … click pic to view large …

table decorationbridesmaid's bouquetDSC00092church doorway


  • peony (“Bowl of Beauty” and others)
  • rose
  • clematis
  • phlox
  • hydrangea
  • evening scented stocks
  • astrantia
  • astilbe
  • sweet pea
  • lily of the valley
  • ivy
  • beech
  • eucalyptus
  • cow parsley
  • delphinium
  • alchemilla mollis
  • sweet william
  • cherry
  • fern
  • antirrhinum (snap dragon)
  • choisya
  • lilac
  • solomon’s seal
  • digitalis (foxglove)
  • nigella
  • milkweed
  • weigela
  • scabious
  • spiraea
  • lupin

Orsini: prominent designer

orsini A584This is my latest dress, to complete the outfits I’ve made for my niece’s wedding next weekend. I found the pattern in a bundle donated to the school where I work. It seems a local lifelong needlewoman and seamstress had given up sewing due to ill health and had decided to bequeath all her patterns, ribbons, sequins and more to the textiles department. Always delighted to have a look through dress patterns, I was thrilled to discover patterns from the fifties through to the eighties. Although they were not all in my size (it was usual in the old days to buy a pattern for a specific size, whereas now each pattern is good for multiple sizes), this pattern caught my eye as I love the glamorous lines of seventies evening wear; this probably comes from the fact that I used to enviously watch my mother getting dressed up to go out in the seventies when maxi was the “in” length for skirts and dresses. I did some research into this pattern and found that it was available by mail order via newspapers and magazines. The Prominent Designer range produced patterns from the 1950s to 1970s; I can date this one to 1976 as I was able to view a page from The Salt Lake Tribune published on July 18th in that year, and an advertisement for this very pattern was there in black and white. I had less luck with Orsini; I couldn’t find out who s/he was, but the name has strong links to the fashion world still today. I found a tie manufacturer and vintage clothes shop and a flower power men’s shirt on eBay, all carrying the Orsini brand, but couldn’t find a dress designer from the seventies.IMG_2704

The pattern is number A584 in the Prominent Designer range, and comes with an instruction sheet with just 11 steps to finish the dress. Everything was quite straightforward, and I had no problems with construction. I’ve found that hand-sewing was much more of a thing in the old days, slip-stitching bindings or linings for instance, but I am always keen to use the machine wherever possible, and find it perfectly acceptable as long as the stitching line is accurate. The challenge I faced with this dress was the fit – although it is stamped with “size 14″  (bust 36″) it came out very small in the mid-section and I had to be creative. I overcame the problem by sewing a satin ribbon to both sides of the back opening, then sewing my zip to the ribbon, which gave a much needed extra inch or so around the midriff. Luckily the dress has an integral scarf attached to the neckband which ties loosely behind and obscures the whole zip, so the emergency insert is not glaringly obvious and could even be seen as a design feature (blue sky thinking has always been one of my strengths). My colleague took some shots in the classroom at lunchtime today – this is not how I usually dress for school!


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