Sunday, November 19

To the Thames again, for the last Coffeeneuring trip, #7

It wasn't until the morning of the day of this trip that my plans for it were finalised. But that was OK -  plans are useful but you don't have to stick to them!

Going along with my watery theme, I had thought about cycling to the Thames at Abingdon, but knew that the scenic route I would take would make it just a tad on the long side for these short days, so I looked at the map and decided instead to aim for Culham Lock, a few miles south of Abingdon. The route was to be through West Hanney and Steventon - but as I wasn't taking a flask this time - where would I get coffee? Problem! So I hatched a better plan on the morning of the day itself, and decided to change the route entirely, meaning I could have coffee with Daughter No 2, and Granddaughter No 1, at The Grocer Chef, Ardington's village shop and cafe, en route.

The forecast was for cold but sunny, and it certainly was both! I wore the same multitude of layers that I did for the previous chilly ride, but this time wore my warmest gloves - Pearl Izumi Elite. At 9.15 a.m. when I left it was 2 degrees C, and I must admit that even with these good gloves on, the ends of my fingers were chilly for those first seven miles or so to the cafe.

So here we are at Ardington -

I had an Americano (9/10 on my coffee grading scale - would have been 10 but the mug could have been a bit fuller!!). Granddaughter was offered a colouring book and box of pens and crayons, which she loved! I drew a few cats.....

Official Coffeeneuring patch from last year

After this D and GD went to the playground, and I pedalled off, but I went in the wrong direction, and on cycling back GD saw me and called out "Mandma!" (rhymes with Grandma) so I stopped and walked with them for a bit. As I said in my last post, I always get in a muddle round this area east of Wantage, but eventually my navigational skills improved and got me onto NCN Route 5. Near East Hendred I explored a bridleway that I had often noticed from the car, meaning that I only had to cross the busy A417 instead of travelling on it. I love finding these little safer shortcuts.

I knew that this ride wasn't going to be the most scenic of routes, but I wanted to explore some of the shared cycle/pedestrian paths that connect to Didcot, perhaps thinking of one day taking my bike on the train from there. I have previously cycled to Didcot using Route 5 all the way, but I thought it must be possible to shorten the distance by using these other shared use paths from the Milton interchange. I wasn't intending to cycle right into Didcot today, but was aiming to go across the Milton interchange north to Milton itself, and then on to Sutton Courtenay and Culham Lock. 

My next stop was for lunch here, at the newly built Great Western Park in Didcot, with the power station in the background, and the noise of heavy traffic just near that fence -

However, like the plonker I am, I'd already gone wrong...... I'd missed wherever the crossing was to  the Milton road. But hey ho, I'll find it another day! That meant that I did have to cycle on nearly into Didcot to find the path, but it also meant that I discovered that cycling against the traffic - fast cars and heavy lorries - albeit on a good and wide shared use path, is not at all pleasant, and I could see why people might not want to do it. In fact, come to think of it, when travelling this way by car, we don't see that many cyclists on this path, going in either direction.

Another advantage of having missed my crossing to the Milton road was that I did cycle past this highly salubrious watery place! -

Didcot Sewage Treatment Works

Route 5 (horribly littered here, sadly) takes you past here, and you can certainly smell it before you see it! Recently Husband and I had walked past, and a party of schoolchildren were just going in, no doubt for an educational tour, and I actually wished I could go with them! I think we should all know what happens to our, you know, pooh..... just like we should all know what happens to the rubbish we put in our bins. That's another thing I'd like to do - have a trip round a waste collection/recycling site.

All these extra miles meant I was beginning to think I might not have time to actually get to Culham Lock, but fortunately it wasn't much further. Route 5 takes you round the back of the power station and is actually a very pleasant path to ride, and a good surface too.  It takes you into Sutton Courtenay, and from there it was only a mile or so to the lock at Culham. Once I got there I wished I had time to just sit on one of the benches by the river and watch it go by, but time was getting on and although I had lights, I did want to get back home before it got properly dark.

Looking east along Culham Cut

But I did have time to laugh at this, in the garden of what I assume is the lock keeper's house. I wish the photo was better, but I think you'll get the gist when you hear my confession about other people's washing lines -

I am slightly obsessed with how people hang their washing out. I do it very tidily and logically (I like to think!) and I am always looking at how other people do it. I mean, look at the way those pants and socks are hung up so neatly! Personally I always hang pants up sideways as I think the billow factor is increased by doing that, but maybe this washing hanger-upper (the lock-keeper perhaps?) likes the more symetrical look of hanging them up this way. Regarding the socks - peg up by the toes or the tops? My mum used to peg them up by the tops, on the line between the apple trees in our garden, until one day I put some socks on and felt something wriggling around my toes; it was an earwig, which had dropped into the sock from the trees...... I'm sure I remain psychologically damaged by that experience.  I think she did it by the toes after that. I did, too, for years, but then decided I like the toes to flap around, so I usually hang them up by the tops, and as our line is not between trees, I don't have earwigs dropping in to worry about. Just hundreds of sparrows pooping on my sheets!!!!

For some reason that reminds me of a line from "Under Milk Wood", where one of the characters, not wanting to have a lodger if I remember rightly, screams (imagine Welsh accent here please) -

"He'll sleep in my sheets!!!!"

I also like looking at what people have actually got on their lines, not in a perverted way - !! - but more in a "Ooh I like that!" sort of way. Not long ago I walked along a local canal path, past the back of somebody's garden, and looked at the washing hanging on the line, and admired the Little Person's lovely clothes hanging neatly on it. I have often thought that I'd love to go round the world, on a bike of course, taking photos of nothing but washing on lines, and write a book about it. But I would need something better than Husband's old smartphone.....

Anyway, I digress.

I did then pootle off towards Culham itself, but decided it would be wiser to just turn round and go home now, but on stopping to turn round I was stopped in my tracks by this -

It's a Little Free Library. Apparently they are all over the world - little boxes of books that you can borrow, or I think, take away and replace with another. I had heard of these a long time ago but I had never seen one, and was stopped in my tracks because someone in the US had mentioned one recently in a Coffeeneuring post, which made me feel very connected to a fellow Coffeeneur! I have also seen a telephone box full of books to borrow - what good ideas!

A little more digression, on the subject of tea. When I am at home, the best cup of tea is my breakfast one. I also have one in the afternoon, and possibly one in the evening, but they never taste as good as that first one of the day. One of the best cups of tea I've ever had was after the birth of child number three (Daughter in pics above), having been "off" tea all through the pregnancy. Once she had popped out it seemed as if magically all those hormones that had been saying "Tea is horrible!"" were now shouting "Tea is the best drink on earth!!!". And that's how it always is in the afternoon of a bike ride - I crave TEA TEA TEA. But the only place I might have got one was shut, so I just had to put my head down and keep going for the next 13 miles or so, with only the thought of a cup of tea at home to keep me going.

The extra miles earlier in the day were beginning to tell, and the ride home was a bit of a slog, as much a mental challenge as a physical one. I had intended the ride to be perhaps 30 or so miles but it was 1/2 mile short of 40 in the end. I found myself thinking -

"Three miles or so to the main road, over there, two or three miles to the next village, then a mile to the main road, then up there, turn left, then a nearly two mile slog, then only one more (slight) hill and I'm home......Put your head down and keep pedalling."

And I did.

And so ends the very enjoyable Coffeeneuring challenge for another year. But there is an "Errandonneuring" one next year I believe.....

Wednesday, November 15

A bike ride on a cold day, and Coffeeneuring (or rather Teaneuring) #6

If you're coming across this post without having heard of coffeeneuring, then you can read about it here on the Chasing Mailboxes blog (a blog about cycling and running). But basically it's about riding your bike to 7 different places in about the same number of weeks. You can get your coffee (other drinks are allowed) at a cafe, or take/brew your own outside, which comes under the Coffee without Walls bit of the challenge. There are other rules, but not too many. Those taking part can post their rides to a Facebook group, either as they go or all in one post at the end of the challenge.

This post is about my sixth ride, so I have one more to go. I chose a theme this year, and that was to visit watery places...... ponds, rivers, and who knows what connection my last one will have to water! Watch this space.....

I do and try and pick days where the forecast is reasonable, but even so the rides have to fit in around other activities, such as paid sewing jobs. And getting Husband's tea. The forecast for this Sunday trip was sunny but cold,  about 7 degrees C, but combined with the wind chill factor it would be about 2 degrees. They say that for outdoor activities there's no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing, so I put on -

On top

Merino wool base layer
Cotton shirt
Cotton jumper
Home made wool zip-up thing
Fleece lined Buff
Vulpine Primaloft cycling jacket (one of my few bits of  cycling-specific clothing, and well worth the expense)
Gloves (not my REALLY  wintery ones)

On the bottom

Thick cotton tights, under Altura Women's Cruisers (really pleased I bought these last winter)
Above tucked into cotton socks

The plan was to cycle to East Lockinge, about 7 miles away, to a very pretty part of the river where it forms a pond, by a public footpath. Then I would go on to Youngest Son's to pay a surprise visit and deliver some of the muffins I'd made in the morning.

For some reason, I always get in a muddle with the villages and roads on this side of Wantage, so had taken a map with me, just in case I got lost. After one wrong turn (I'm happy to take wrong turns when out cycling though!) I vaguely followed the river back the other way and found my spot. But for the second time in this coffeeneuring season, I arrived to find a dry river bed -

No water in the pond

As you can see there is water in the river beyond, but none here in the pond. There seems to be a blockage stopping the water getting into the pond, but according to a dog walker I chatted to, the real reason is lack of rainfall. He told me that the water levels here on the local estate are 10% of what they should be, and that households on this private water system have been asked to conserve water. Rather disappointing too is the fact that the pond has been fenced off - you used to be able to get down into it.

This was what I took with me to eat and drink -

Chocolate cranberry muffin

And this is where I most definitely thought -

"What this bike needs - is somewhere to put one's refreshments!"

A folding table to attach to the rack perhaps....... hmmmmm, food for thought!

A lovely place to walk, and drink tea.

Then it was on to Grove, a few miles away, to Youngest Son's, who was in, with his girlfriend, so I didn't have to leave the muffins hanging on the door handle. I stopped for a while, had a look at his new router, (I'm fascinated by tools!) then cycled home. By then it was getting dim so I needed my lights  - Busch and Muller dynamo, which came with the bike.  It's really useful to have the lights there all the time, and not to have to rely on batteries.

I couldn't believe how much traffic there was on this sunny Sunday -

"Why aren't people out on bikes?" I asked myself!!!

I frequently ask myself this. I always feel like shouting to drivers -

"It's great on a bike! Try it, you might find you like it!"

This ride was about 18 miles. Another cycling blogger writes here about the delights of one particular ride she had. Some rides are undoubtedly more enjoyable than others, and this one was one of those.  As I said to Husband recently on my return home from a shopping trip by bike - "I LOVE cycling!" But even when I've got hungry, tired, wet, lost or it's got worryingly dim and I haven't had lights, I can honestly say -

"Even a bad ride's a good one!"


Sunday, November 5

Three useful sewing books

Since I started doing sewing for other people, I have been given jobs which at first I have not  known how to do. The first one, which I might have mentioned before, was to take out some morning suit trousers, with a fish tail back. The gentleman in question needed them for a wedding the next week. I had never in my life taken out any pair of trousers, let alone a pair like this. I did not know that the distinctive V shaped back was called a fish tail back until I searched the internet.

At first I thought that I would have to refuse the job, as I was terrified that I might make an awful mistake and the trousers would be ruined, but I knew that if I did, then I would never know whether I could actually have done it or not. I didn't look up any instructions on how to do the job - I just unpicked the back seam, observed how they were constructed, and then, after taking out the seam, I reconstructed them in reverse order. That customer has been back, so I think I must have done an acceptable job!

I actually think that this is quite a good way to learn how to do something, not having instructions but just going ahead and discovering, in a sensible way, how to do it. My cycling hero Josie Dew suggests taking a bike apart and putting it back together to learn how to do jobs on your bike, and this could well apply to sewing as well. So start taking something apart......

I'll talk about these three books -

But first, I recently did a repair on a fairly old, but good quality, wool coat for a customer. The customer had put felt pens in the pocket of the coat, which had leaked......

His wife asked me to put a patch over the top, which I did, but I thought it looked terrible, as although it was neat it stood out too much above the fabric. So I did some googling, and searched first for the patch that I knew Prince Charles had been seen with on his jacket! You can see and read about it here. I would love to see it in real life! I can't remember what I searched for next , but I found that Tom of Holland had done a "tailor's patch" on a wool coat  - see Tom Of Holland's blog -  this was the only reference I could find to one of these. He doesn't go into detail of how to do it, and none of the few sewing books I already had referred to it, so I had to work it out for myself. However, at the end of his post he refers to the book which he used, and I decided to get a copy. Once the book arrived I found that I had done the patch pretty much how you are supposed to, but the book gives instructions  on a process called "rantering", a detail to make it less visible, which I then did.

It is an out of print American book but there are plenty available. I paid about £13 for it, obtained from that place in the jungle of South America.....

This is it -

It's going to be very useful. Here are the contents -

The following pages give you an idea of the quality of the diagrams and photos. [My photos aren't the best......]

Tailor's patch instructions

Tailor's patch instructions

And here's the coat on which I did the tailor's patch -

My tailor's patch

It's not quite as invisible as I'd have liked, but I'd done my best. The patch was slightly darker than the outside of the coat, as it came from the inside, so hadn't faded. Actually I think I improved it more after that photo was taken, but deleted the new photo by mistake! I think it compares reasonably favourably to Prince Charles' patch! The customer was pleased with it.

Some years ago I had bought a book in Oxfam called "Sew it Up" by Ruth Singer, which is mentioned in this list of sewing books. I paid a reduced new price rather than a secondhand price. I'm not sure why I bought it...... It has a lot of good reviews but in my opinion it is awful! I think I gave it away as I didn't think it was worth keeping. If I remember rightly the photos weren't clear and I didn't think much of the projects. but I am delighted to see that the above list says, about my next book - 

 I’ve been told by many people that this is the ultimate reference guide for stitchers.

It certainly is excellent in my opinion. This is my copy, and is the 1994 edition -

I paid the grand sum of - wait for it - 20p, for this book!!!!! We have a local charity shop where all books are 20p each. Or 5 for £1. Must remember to tell them about that.....

The sewing part is the (revised) part of the book in the above list, The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, and forms the greater part of the book.

Here are the contents -

I have picked out a couple of sections, to give an idea of how the book is illustrated, and the instructions given -

I picked this next bit on rolled hems to compare it to the section on hand rolled hems in another book (further down) -

Machine-rolled hems, and hems which are narrow but not necessarily rolled, are something I have been trying to master this year. I was forced into it by being given three ball gowns to hem! They were all different fabrics but all needed varying degrees of narrow hems. I have a rolled hem foot for both my Bernina and my Singer but I confess that I had never mastered the use of them! For one of the dresses I used a sort of cheat's method, which was actually very good. I watched a You tube video on how to do it.  

The third book is this one, published in 1954, again bought secondhand locally - not, sadly, for 20p, but £5, but well worth it - 

Here are the contents - 

Here's the section on the hand rolled hem, here called an Italian Rolled Hem - 

This book also has instructions on how to do the tailor's patch, though it doesn't mention the 
rantering - 

And here are a couple of bits to make you laugh! I obviously need to up my game regarding my appearance and preparing dinner (never my strong point...) - 

I now know exactly where I've been going wrong regarding inviting my intimates round for sewing - I've been inviting them on a Tuesday!  No wonder they don't turn up! Or maybe they just think I'm too scruffy.....

It is these older sewing books that often have information in that isn't in the newer books, particularly on mending, and now that mending is, dare I say it, fashionable again...... they are extremely useful. I wish I had not given away, many years ago, a little fat needlework book that was my mum's, and which I thought at the time wouldn't be of much use to me. Ah well.....

I would love to know of any useful sewing books that you have, so do tell me in the comments.