g(love)

hiya

Hiya! It is I, Bruce. A while ago, we lived in a tall stone building in a city where there were lots of cars. Now we live here:

welivehere

Where there are lots of these:

trees

And a few of these:

cows

One of the many good things about it round here is that there are many Paths and I get to walk on these Paths with Kate and Tom. Sometimes I get to go swimming, and sometimes I leap about in the long grass, smelling interesting animal smells. But wherever we go, there is generally some water and mud for me to get myself nicely lathered up in. Hurrah!

puddle

This particular Path is known as West Highland Way and is frequented not only by dogs and cows and deer but by many human walkers. Human walkers can be forgetful, and occasionally they discard their belongings along Path. That is OK though, because I sniff out and find these belongings, and then I make them MINE. Without a doubt, the best of these found belongings is GLOVE.

vileobject

Now, I first found GLOVE about three weeks ago by Path. Since then I have played with it many times and it is now sodden and chewed and has a delicious bovine odour. GLOVE seems quite robust though: Kate tells me that it is fashioned from acrylic, and is therefore a sort of plastic which refuses to decay. But though GLOVE is indestructible, and now has a very strong smell about it, sometimes I play with it so hard that I actually manage to lose it in the grass. Tom or Kate will insist that GLOVE is finally lost forever, but then, O joy of joys, a few days later I will always find it again, usually in a completely different location. I suspect the cows to have a hand (or hoof) in its unaccountable movements.

bruceglovecow

Now, there are many fun things to do with GLOVE but probably the most fun to be had is when the humans throw it for you. Kate describes GLOVE as “a vile object” and is sometimes unwilling to join in the game. But, dear friends, let me tell you a good trick I have discovered: If you present Kate with GLOVE often enough, and stare at her for long enough with your most persuasive expression, she will eventually join in.

persuasion

Once Kate has capitulated, and throws GLOVE for you, you can retrieve and prance with GLOVE until you are exhausted.

prancing1

prancing2

prancing3

F U N!

But, eventually, it is time to leave and – sadly – to leave GLOVE beind, as for some unknown reason, Kate will not allow me to bring GLOVE home.

goodbyeglove

This is Gate which leads home off West Highland Way.

gate

Right by Gate there is Old Wall.

oldwall

Kate instructs me to LEAVEIT behind Old Wall. This makes me sad.

mustIdropit

But if I don’t LEAVEIT behind Old Wall we don’t go home.

Well, goodbye, fun GLOVE buddy.

leftbythewall

Probably the only good thing about leaving GLOVE behind Old Wall is that, unlike losing it in the grass, it is always there next time, and I am always surprised and happy to discover it once again!

path

See you soon, love Bruce xx

A walk to Dumgoyach

dumgoyneevening

West of Blanefield, off the West Highland Way . . .

whw

If you look North across the fields . . .

scabious

You’ll see a path through the grass and sheep’s-bit scabious . . .

path

. . . which leads to a field margin, marked by a line of blasted oaks.

fieldmargin

Adjacent, to the West, is the irregular wooded dome of Dumgoyach, and North is Dumgoyne, the volcanic mound that dominates the landscape of the Blane and Endrick valleys.

dumgoyne

And if you look down into the valley, you’ll see Duntreath Castle.

duntreath

Cross into the field and the ground rises and flattens to reveal . . .

stones

. . . these stones.

recumbent

lichen

Four of the five original stones are now recumbent, and the last one standing is a little shorter than me. Analyses of burnt flint and charcoal found at the site dates the structure to 3650 BC, in the middle Neolithic. Aligned with a notch in the hills to the North East, through which the sun rises at the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, this structure is thought to be a short stone row (used to measure solar events), but it has also been suggested that the long cairns are what remains of the facade of a chambered tomb.* The early date, and the proximity of other chambered cairns in this area makes the latter argument reasonably likely, but I am rather tempted to get up to watch the sun rise at Dumgoyach on September 22nd to make my own astronomical observation.

bruceandstones

(what do you think, Bruce? Row or tomb? Tomb, or row?)

*The first interpretation belongs to E.W. Mackie who carbon-dated the site in 1972, and the latter to Aubrey Burl, From Carnac to Callanish: Prehistoric Stone Rows of Britain, Ireland and Brittany (1993). See also the RCAHMS site record.

Boiler suits
Thanks so much for all your wonderful boiler-suit / coverall / onesie-related comments on the last post. That kind of collective discussion is probably what I love most about blogging, and it makes me particularly excited when the discussion concerns the different meanings and usages of a garment. If you haven’t had a look at the comments already, I encourage you to go and read them.

Refurb update

Last week I finished decorating the bathroom, bedroom, and new studio. Yesterday I painted the downstairs chimney breast, and today we hung the over-mantle mirror. For weeks the house has felt like a sort of giant jigsaw puzzle and it is extremely exciting to see the bigger picture finally emerging. But, having been engaged upon this project for a couple of weeks now, I would say that it is without a doubt the most physically challenging thing I’ve done post-stroke. This is not only due to the relentlessness of the stretching, bending, and movement painting involves, but also to my poor balance and generally wonky left leg. I have to take a two hour snooze in the middle of the day to keep going, and there have been a few dicey moments as I teetered over the bath or tripped on a dust sheet. That said, happily, the closest I’ve got to disaster is getting paint in my mouth and hair. Ick. Anyway, I shall be painting downstairs on half-days only next week, and, now the studio is habitable I can at last get back to some knitting, designing, and email-answering.

Field Notes
Most of the swallows have gone, which is rather sad, but I recently put food in the hanging feeders on the porch and have been astounded by the variety of bird-buddies that are dropping by. More of them anon.

settling

dumgoyne

acrossthevalley

softday

changingsky

tea

aftertherain

bracken

raincomingin

melandgordon

Here are a selection of pictures taken (with my phone) over the past few days. Though I’ve been using the camera phone more out of necessity than anything, I have been quite enjoying seeing what I can do with it, and it is particularly useful for capturing fleeting effects of light when I’m out and about on the hill. The light – much like the weather – moves very quickly out here and there is certainly something in the oft-repeated four-seasons-in-one day Scottish stereotype. I met a Dutch couple out on the West Highland Way the other day, and, after enquiring about places to camp the woman asked me rather despondently when it was going to stop raining. I told her that this was Scotland and that it would soon shift. Sure enough, an hour or so later, the landscape was bathed in glorious sunshine.

We are slowly settling in to our new house and its lovely location. We have had our first visitors, and it has been particularly nice to be able to eat outside on these soft end-of-summer days, watching the trees start to turn on the other side of the loch, while the swallows dart about us. Upstairs, I have started decorating (my idea is to turn all of the rooms on the upper floor into one big Hammershøi-inspired interior) while downstairs has a rather temporary and disorganised feel as we await arrival of . . . the components of a new kitchen. Having very recently fitted one in the flat we’ve just left you may think we are totally bonkers to go through it all again . . . but I feel that if we don’t do it now we never shall. Plus, there will be an actual RANGE. I promise there will be pictures when it is all done.

Thankyou so much for all your good wishes and lovely comments, which have really been a joy for us both to read. Now, its time to don my boiler suit again and apply some undercoat. See you soon!

further flitting

Since my post yesterday, I’ve had some fascinating discussions on twitter and elsewhere about flitting, its modern usage, and its Scandinavian roots. This morning my friend Sarah pointed me in the direction of a wonderful Shetland song – Muckle Osla’s Flittin, which humorously documents a house move from Gulberwick (a village just south of Lerwick) to Walls (on the West Mainland). The final chorus of the song is so good, I just had to show you. I love the fit between the Shetland vocabulary and the song’s crazy rhythms, and the sheer quantities of knitting-related gubbins that Osla has to move really resonates with my current circumstances.

Wi her kists o claes, washing saes, tables, chairs, an presses,
Iron beds, Shetland speds, kirn staafs, an dresses,
Pots, pans, kettles, cans, tubs fur washin faas,
Osla shö wis gyain at flit fae Gulberweek at Waas.
Dir wis spinnie wheele, herrin creels, simmonds, nets, an tows,
Forks an rakes, deuks an drakes, an cocks an hens an hows,
Rugs an mats wi dugs an cats lyin heeds at traaws,
Da day at muckle Osla flit fae Gulberweek at Waas.
Dir wis wheelborrows, widden harrows, muckle bags o oo,
Yarn winds, window blinds, an wirset hank an cloo,
Bread bins, puddin pins, plates wi chinks an flaas,
Da day at muckle Osla flit fae Gulberweek at Waas.
Wi her gliv boards, sock boards, jumper boards, an aa,
Scriptirs, pictirs, ta hing upö da waa,
Rime books, hime books, books on udal laws,
Da day at muckle Osla flit fae Gulberweek at Waas.

Osla’s is a far more jolly “flit” than John Clare’s, which was enforced upon him by enclosure, and provides a nice counterpoint to the poem in yesterday’s post.
Thanks, Sarah x

looking forward

halfway

Eight years ago, Tom and I walked the West Highland Way. We had a wonderful time.

conichill
(Tom, on Conic hill, looking over Loch Lomond)

I find that there is a singular sort of clarity about long distance walking. Time slows to the pace of your feet, and is measured in the distance you can cover over six or eight hours. There is nothing for your mind to focus on but the walk ahead, the landscape, and its details. At the end of the day you are exhausted, and, if there is a good meal on offer, food is appreciated in a way it rarely is. You sleep soundly, you get up, and start again. It is a fantastic way of clearing the head. I find that I can recall these walks in unusual detail, fixing particular experiences to specific moments and locales, remembering what the weather was like, what the state of my feet were, what we saw and spoke about. That was the place that you gave the horse the apple; there I devoured a full pack of liquorice allsorts; here, right here, at this curve in the path, was where we saw that incredible rainbow.

lochlomondleaping
(leaping a stream on the Eastern shore of Loch Lomond)

That walk along the West Highland Way was our first encounter with many amazing Highland places with which we have since become very familiar. Rannoch Moor, The Mamores, Glencoe.

beanz
(cooking an obligatory baked-bean supper in Glencoe. There were lots of deer around our tent that night.)

These happy photographs were taken with the disposable camera we took with us, and they make my heart sing. I am posting them here now because, in a couple of weeks time, we shall be moving to a wee house that sits just off the West Highland Way. I love our new home already, and am looking forward to living there immensely. There is a garden! And a loch! An actual studio with an actual window for me to work in! And somehow it is particularly nice to be moving to a spot which already carries some fond memories for the pair of us. I’ll be able to walk Bruce along a lovely stretch of the Way every day, and perhaps living there will inspire me to build up my stamina and ability to complete the full distance once again.

end
(The end of the West Highland Way in Fort William.)

Next week we sell our Edinburgh flat, and we move to our new home the following week. It is very exciting, but there is bound to be a certain amount of disruption. I will have to take a break from trade orders and answering email queries for the next few weeks, but will be sure to let you know how things are going as and when I can.

ONWARD!

Braid Hills

braidhill1

So here is my new design! The Braid Hills Cardigan!

braidhill8

This is the first in a series of designs celebrating my favourite Edinburgh places. Regular readers will know that I’ve mentioned The Braids on this site many times: the view of the city from here is spectacular, and the landscape is gorgeous for a ramble particularly in Spring when the air is heady with the smell of gorse and the sound of skylarks.

gorse

The colourway I chose for my sample was inspired by gorse too – Blacker Swan DK. This is a deliciously squooshy light DK / sportweight merino, grown in the Falkland Islands and then processed in Cornwall by the Natural Fibre Company. It is airy and bouncy and, because it is worsted spun, it also has a really smooth hand. All of these characteristics means that when knit up the yarn has great definition, and shows off twisted-stitch cables superbly.

braidhill6

I have recently been on a bit of a cable kick, and have been really inspired by Maria Erlbacher’s classic Überlieferte Strickmuster (available in English from Schoolhouse Press). Because the ‘action’ of these stitches occurs on every row, their look is, I think, particularly neat and sinuous. So pleasing.

detailbuttonband

Many cables are worked as braids, and as I began swatching various twisted-stitch panels, I was strongly reminded of the braided structure of eighteenth-century laced stays and stomachers.

VAME.5091-1905

(Victoria and Albert Museum)

C.I.39.13.211

(Met Museum)

I thought there might be a way to use braided micro cables to lend structure and focus to a garment . . . without, of course, the attendant damage to one’s rib-cage involved in eighteenth-century corsetry.

detailbuttons

The neckline of eighteenth century garments above a laced bodice tends to be low and squarish, framing the the high bust . . .

1751_louisa_balfour_by_phil

(Philip Mercier, portrait of Lousia Balfour, 1751)

. . . so this is how I structured my neckline too.

braidhillblurry

Because of the low neckline, it is important that the cables and ribbing of the neckline sit across the high bust without undue stretching. So I recommend knitting this cardigan with a little positive ease to give a neat neckline – paerhaps 0.5 – 1 in. I am modelling the garment with around an inch of positive ease (31 in bust / 32 in garment). (The pattern includes a detailed sizing table and schematic to enable you to choose the size that’s right for you)

braidhill10

The braided micro cables flow down into the ribbing at the neck and hem, and this intertwined patterning is also echoed on both cuffs . . .

detail1

I am fond of these cuffs.

detailcuff

Because this pattern is part of a series inspired by the city in which I’ve lived for the past decade, I have decided to add in a few Edinburgh extras – so the pattern booklet includes a short editorial feature exploring the history and geography of the Braid Hills, as well as a photographic lookbook. If you have a copy of Colours of Shetland, you’ll see that the way I have structured the booklet is very like one of my chapters in that book.

braidhill7

This is a design I’m very pleased with for many reasons, and my cable kick is not quite over yet…

braidhill9

So if you’d like to knit your own Braid Hills cardigan and / or read more about this lovely landscape and how it inspired my design, the booklet is now available!

You can purchase the digital edition of the Braid Hills booklet via Ravelry, or it is available in print (professionally produced in either the EU or US and delivered straight to your door) via Mag Cloud.

braidhillback

Happy knitting!

swings and roundabouts

jesus

Jesus is back. He was discovered at a neighbour’s, lured away by the promise of full Scottish breakfasts, oodles of milk, and a general lack of workmen and disruption. He is looking a bit scraggy, but certainly no thinner . . . We are keeping the wee man inside for a few days and the neighbours have been politely asked to stop feeding him fried eggs and sausages.

But my hopes of a nice, quiet few days were dashed when an idiot joyrider drove a car straight into the side of our campervan, which was parked outside our flat. Happily, no-one was injured, so I can show you what happens when a speeding car hits a stationary campervan.

van

As well as crushing the chassis on the driver’s side of the van, the force of the impact pushed it backwards into a parked car behind. The damage is significant. After some back-and-forth with our insurers, they are coming to take it away to look at it this morning and I fear that will be the last we ever see of it.

I am terribly upset. For me, that van – which we refer to as the wazzwagon – is so much more than just a vehicle. It has played a crucial part in my recovery and gave me hope at a very bad time. It has enabled me to enjoy the landscapes that I love, and has taken us all over Scotland. It may be that it can be repaired, but I very much fear the insurance company are going to want to write it off. Poor wazzwagon.

van-1

box

boo

wazzwagon

vansky

wazzwagonsky

Please keep your fingers crossed for it.

New Lanark, the egg, and the naming of things

hiya

Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am here to tell you about the place called New Lanark.

newlanark

Tom and Kate have been to this place many times, and are fond of it for many reasons. Kate particularly likes New Lanark because
1) it is the birthplace of Utopian Socialism and
2) it makes yarn.

yarn

As well as being an important World Heritage Site, New Lanark is a place where you can enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Falls of Clyde.

fallsofclyde

This was definitely the bit that interested me.

followme

Up along the river banks and woods, there is much fun walking to be had. I smelt many interesting smells and went for a swim . . .

retrieval

. . .I looked after the humans, hurrying them along the paths, and posing obligingly for photographs.

wazznbruce

. . . I also heard some sounds that were new to me. For example, these icicles on the opposite bank made an interesting crrrrrrack and crrrrrash sound as they broke and fell into the river.

icicles

Then we came to a place called The Hide.

hide

There was much excitement around The Hide because The Egg had just appeared in the nest of a Peregrine. The humans at The Hide had equipment through which Tom and Kate could look and see the Peregrine sitting on The Egg. Kate seemed quite interested in The Egg, but was perhaps even more animated by the colour of the Peregrine’s eyelids, which were apparently a very very very bright yellow. I was not allowed to look through the equipment, but I was very good on my lead and did not snaffle any of the Hide humans’ tasty meat-filled sandwiches while they were being distracted by the excitement of The Egg.

confusion

Now, I know and understand many human words — egg and chicken, for example, are two words that make a lot of sense to me. But two words that do not make sense are the words called Monkey Walking, which is what the humans shout at me with glee when I do this on a path with gaps in it:

monkeywalking

The naming of things is perhaps the deepest of all human mysteries. For example, why is this crunchy, tasteless, pointless thing called Lichen when there is nothing to like about it at all?

lichen

Why is this piece of Scottish hydroelectrical equipment called YORKSHIRE?

yorkshire

Who named this bench BROWN LONG EARED BAT?

brownlongearedbat

And which daft human decided that this fence should be called DONKEY?

donkey

Answers on a postcard, please . . .

seeya

See you soon, Love Bruce

Kate adds: A shout-out to Laura, the New Lanark ranger, who reads this blog and who we met on our walk today. Thanks so much to Laura and all her colleagues for their hard work maintaining this wonderful landscape for everyone to walk in and enjoy! xx

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