Tuesday, December 11

A second Purl Soho Quilted Wool Vest

Firstly, I have to apologise for the rather poor quality photos. some are taken with my Ipad and some with the new camera I was given last Christmas, but either I am thick about mastering it or there's something wrong with the camera. It just never seems to focus properly. I do like to have an instruction book with new bits of technology, but I didn't have one with either this camera or my previous one. The manufacturers of these things seem to think that people don't need them, or if they do then they can download one in the form of hundreds of pages off the internet. So, anyway.....

I first made one of these quilted wool vests - a free downloadable PDF pattern - back in March, from Husband's old boyhood canvas tent. I wouldn't fancy using a PDF pattern for something bigger than this, but for this vest/waistcoat/gilet or whatever you want to call it, there weren't too many pieces and it was easy to stick them together. You can see that post here. I wore it a lot and although it's nothing to write home about looks wise I love it as it's warm and practical.

This second one I made from some wool remnants I'd bought years ago at the Cotswold Woollen Mill. Here it is -

I lined it with some cotton pique which I had been given and which I had dyed. I also used it for the binding round the edges.

I should have made the openings to the pockets a bit longer, as they were a bit small for getting one's hands in, so instead I left the side seam open for about the top inch, and then folded the corner over and added the button for decoration.

The poppers were from my collection - very old ones that I acquired somehow. I didn't have enough of the same ones, hence the odd black one at the bottom, but hey ho, never mind!

For the wadding I once again used curtain interlining (cotton domette) which worked out really well. I have a big stash of the stuff, even more now as I have just recently been given some by a lady in our village who has a curtain making business but who is moving.

After completing it, I tried it on and thought - ah, I know what I haven't done........ lowered the armholes.  I'd even written a note to myself last time to do it, but somehow hadn't noticed this on the pattern envelope. So I had to unpick the armhole binding, cut the armholes lower by about an inch, and then reattach the binding.

This pattern is really very easy, and if you don't want to go to the trouble of quilting your own fabric you can buy some lovely organic quilted cotton from the Organic Textile Company in Machynlleth, a town I always associate, incidentally, with both Laura Ashley (she opened her first shop there) and the Centre for Alternative Technology, which we visited back in the early 1990s.

One day I'd like to have a go at making this rather similar quilted Tamarack jacket from the Grainline Studio.

I am really pleased with how this turned out, but have to say that due to the mostly mild weather we've had I haven't worn it yet! December, and still mild....but I gather cold weather is forecast for later in the week.

Sunday, November 11

Another Cycling UK group ride, and identifying the Stylish Bicycling Lady.

Recently I found myself wishing our local CUK group did mid-week rides, and thought of suggesting it, but happily at another unrelated local event other members happened to be there and told me that such a group was just starting up! The next ride was the following day, and I cycled in the 5 1/2 miles or so to join them at the start.

It was highly enjoyable - there were six of us, nothing too strenuous, and discovering some new roads. As the planned route was coming through my village, I had made chocolate muffins before I left, thinking I would offer the others a coffee stop here (and use of facilities...) instead of the planned stop at a nearby village's cafe. They accepted enthusiastically - and one of the other members also contributed home made gingerbread men. Pity I didn't take a photo!

Yesterday we had another ride, the first official one for this mid-week group. This time there were eight of us, and again we had another very pleasant ride of about nine miles around local routes. We stopped at the lovely Ardington shop and cafe for refreshments - and again used the all-important facilities! (On my way home a couple of hours later, the facilities were more bush-like....)

What is good is that even though these rides are all on roads I have ridden before, there is always some little bit I haven't discovered. I commit them to memory for future use.

I still find group rides a bit daunting, and I have to slightly force myself to do them, as I have thoughts of -

"Will I be able to keep up?" I did. This group's rides are not fast paced though.

"Will I fall off in front of other people and look a plonker....?" I did slip (wet leaves perhaps) turning a tight corner of a path but did not fall.

"Will I manage any hills?" There was only really one on this ride and no, I did not manage it, because I did not manage the sharp left turn onto it, and had to get off and walk, but it didn't really matter.

Having said all that, I have always ended up enjoying them. What I enjoy is the social side - riding alongside someone else who also enjoys cycling, and chatting, and then more chatting over some delicious refreshments!

After the ride, I cycled back into town to do some shopping. Being the fan of charity shops that I am, after parking my bike I thought -

"I'll just pop along to the Red Cross shop...."

And what was almost better than finding a bargain (which I did, incidentally - a nice linen East tunic) was meeting the lady who I think of as the Stylish Bicycling Lady. This is a lady who I have noticed because I love her vintage bike - green sit-up-and-beg with basket and bunting! -  and she is, you've guessed it, very stylish in her clothing, but in a charity shop sort of way. I'm sure she won't me saying that! I also dress in a very charity shop sort of way, but I am more along the lines of a bag lady!!! Some people have style, I don't.....

I told her I had always admired her bike and her style, and we fell into discussion of her bike. She finds it very comfortable to ride, so much so, that after one of the pedals broke, she has been riding it with only the spindle on that side because of difficulty with getting someone to fix it. I told her there was someone locally on Facebook who might be able to help, and although I hadn't got the name I said I'd try and found out and gave her my details in case she couldn't find the person herself.

I cycled on home later and thought what a good few hours I had had all because of cycling, and how, like small children and dogs, bicycles bring people together.

Thursday, November 1

Curtains made from an £8 charity shop pair.

Not long after we moved to this house just over two years ago, I bought a lovely pair of interlined Laura Ashley curtains from a charity shop. From this pair I made a front door curtain, and a pair for our bedroom. However, ever since making the pair for the bedroom, I realized I'd made a mistake - the fabric was too thick, and the horizontal join I'd done meant the curtains didn't hang properly. They were also not wide enough and although they covered the window, every time I drew them I had to fiddle about making sure there wasn't a gap in the middle.

Last week I found a lovely pair of good quality lined curtains, in another charity shop, which I knew would go well with the colour of the wall in our bedroom. They were quite large - three widths of the fabric each and plenty long enough for our window. There was also a gathered pelmet; although I didn't need this it means I've got another three or four yards of header tape to stash away to use in the future. And all this for a mere £8!

I used to avoid making curtains, or at least for other people. I was always afraid of not getting the hems straight, or not squaring them up, or not matching up the pattern properly, but then a few years ago my daughter asked me to make some for her, and I decided it was time I faced the challenge..... I read the rules - !! - and bought a steel one metre ruler and a right angled one, and set to work. They were quite successful and I made a pair for my neighbour as well.

I no longer make them for other people, or at least only very small ones, as I simply haven't the space in this house. When I do make them, the whole process involves a lot of crawling around on the floor and apart from the discomfort of that, they might well end up not straight and squared up and while I can put up with that for us, it's not acceptable if I'm being paid for the job!

I was going to just make this pair narrower and shorter, but in the end I decided it was easier to take them apart completely and remake them. That way I would also have a spare width of fabric to do something else with.

 Even on the floor I only just had room to lay them out -

The next day I couldn't quite believe how much my legs were hurting from all the getting up and down! Good exercise I suppose.

It was hard to get good photos of the finished curtains, but here they are -

Oh the bliss of not having to fiddle about every night making sure there's no gap in the middle! Once again, it was hard to get a good photo -

I should add that we then sleep with them drawn back as I like to see the dark sky and to wake up with the natural light. We do get some light from neighbours across the road shining in sometimes but it's not too bad. In fact I hate sleeping with curtains drawn across, which is one reason why I hope we never have to live somewhere with streetlights outside. I'm all in favour of dark skies and think streetlights should be turned off after a certain time like they used to be when I was a child. (There - I've said it!)

I'm actually really pleased with how these curtains turned out - pretty straight and squared up considering how much crawling about on the floor I had to do. Not bad for, as I said, £8!

Sunday, October 14

A bit of foraging and preserving, and Coffeeneuring 2018.

If you are wondering what "coffeeneuring" is, then have a look at this blog, Chasing Mailboxes, where you will find a full explanation. Here's a brief summary from the blog -

"The Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is a relaxed cycling endeavor for people everywhere, and it’s coming your way once again, starting October 12, 2018. If you like riding a bike and enjoy drinking coffee or tea (or even hot chocolate or cider), consider this fall challenge."

The challenge started in the US (the spelling gives it away...) but has spread to many parts of the world. Participants can join the Facebook group and post details of their exploits, or blog about them, or just record them on Strava perhaps (there has to be some proof that you've actually done what you say) and what is rather nice is that the number of people participating still seems small enough to almost get to know these people and their cycling and drinking habits. Interesting bits of discussion crop up on the Facebook group; never mind the order of scone/jam/cream discussion - does the cheese in beans on toast go on top of the beans or underneath?!?

 It's a very easy and pleasurable challenge - not like some cycling challenges, where hundreds of miles and probably lots of hills are involved. Having said that it can be a bit too easy to just cycle somewhere, have a cup of coffee/tea, 7 times in 7 weeks, so I like to add in a challenge within the challenge, as do some other Coffeeneurs. However I only came up with one the night before the challenge started, but, "Orf we jolly well go!" as I'm sure someone said, somewhere, once. Maybe it was my bicycling hero, Mrs Armitage, as it sounds like exactly the sort of thing she would have said. So, this is my challenge within the challenge -

Every Coffeeneuring trip has to be combined with a bit of foraging, and preferably for something different each time. 

Actually, I am using the term "foraging" rather loosely, and am including getting anything for free if it has been "foraged" is some way, like out of a skip, but I'm not including getting it for free via Freegle, as I would definitely deem that cheating. There are plenty of apples to be had locally,  but I have not picked anything else before at this time of year, so again that means the challenge will be more difficult. I have been looking up things that are available now, like chestnuts. All the hazelnuts have been taken by the squirrels. Sloes, haws and rowan berries are possibilities, none of which I have used before. [Update: On a walk yesterday I found some blackthorn bushes which were very heavily laden with sloes, so I am about to make sloe gin. Never had gin in my life.....]

And on that note of foraging, I have only made a few preserves since we moved to this house, and I have asked myself why this is, when in the old house I had made lots of jams, chutneys and syrups.  I realized that it's because I don't really like working in our present kitchen as much as I did in the old one, which was lighter and a squarer shape. Husband doesn't quite get this sort of thing and when I talk about what I would do to the kitchen if it was ours (it isn't!) his eyes glaze over. However, I resolved to ignore my feelings and make the effort, and have made elderberry and rosehip syrups. I had two foraging trips to pick elderberries, and one to pick rose hips, though I was very disappointed to find that just before I was going to pick rosehips the very bush that I had had my eye on for weeks was removed when I found that said bush had been ripped out in order to put a new fence in! Gutted! However, I managed to find enough from our own garden, and some from the side of a local track. There are still plenty to be had elsewhere.

I made a new jelly bag, from calico, as the one I had was rather small and not very well made, and I've always thought the stitching might not hold much longer and I would end up with an incredible mess to clear up and all my hard work gone to waste. I also had to find a new way to hang up the bag, as when we moved here two years ago I stupidly sold the stool I had used before, completely forgetting that I had used it as a jelly bag stand.

The thing that takes time with the elderberries is removing them from the stalks, with a fork, but I just turn the radio on, set my mind to it and think of the lovely syrup that's going to result.  With the rosehips it's the mincing that takes time. I don't have many electric gadgets in the kitchen as I like doing things manually, but I must admit that using my 1950s mincer (Ebay purchase) is very slow. Next time I shall try using our nut chopper. However, I got there in the end!

And here's the new hanging method, with the new bag -

After boiling the resulting juice with sugar, comes the bottling -

I'm still trying to find a source of more some small bottles. One pub has agreed to save some for me. There's a new cafe in town where I shall go and ask next time I'm shopping. Actually I think that might well come under "foraging"!!

I now have several bottles of both elderberry syrup - plenty to last us the winter I hope - and a few of the rose hip. Elderberry is absolutely delicious poured over puddings, particularly anything lemony or chocolatey. You can of course drink it as a cordial, and it also has medicinal benefits. The rosehip can also be used in the same ways, but Husband and I like to drink it neat, which sounds rather indulgent somehow! The first time I tasted it I wondered why the smell in particular seemed so familiar, and then my mind wandered back a very long way to the 1960s, when my mum used to give me a spoonful of it in the form of Delrosa. I had completely forgotten - it's fascinating how memories are stirred by smell.

I have read conflicting opinions about the effect of the boiling on the vitamin C. Apparently in the war they were very careful to use a method which hopefully wouldn't destroy too much of it, but here's an interesting extract from "Food for Free" by Richard Mabey -

I forgot to add that I added brandy to some of the elderberry syrup. I think I added about a tablespoon to a wine size (750ml) bottle, but that's bit vague so it might be best to find a more authoritative source for the quantity to use! You can see my recipe and more detail in this post

Here is my much annotated recipe for rosehip syrup -

Other preserves I have made this year have been -

Rhubarb and Orange Marmalade (back in the spring)
Sweet Pickled Damsons (September - another extremely yummy one!)
Apple and Onion Chutney (this week)

Hopefully my next blog post will contain details of the fruits of my Coffeeneuring labours!

Monday, October 1

Thoughts on "Bike Nation", by Peter Walker

I've had terrible trouble with writing this post, as everything I was writing was jumping all over the page (must be Blogger's fault) or disappearing! I've also had trouble getting the font size to what I want, so forgive me if it alters where you wouldn't expect it to. After having to delete everything (couldn't even copy and paste) here goes for the umpteenth time.....

This is the book I'm talking about -

Here's the blurb - 

"A revolution on the roads is approaching. Is it time for drivers to Give Way? Guardian news correspondent, Peter Walker, takes us on a journey around the world, exploring the varying attitudes to cycling on our highways.
Visit the shining examples of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where cycling culture is an intrinsic part of the approach of politicians and officials. How have these cities made provision for cyclists and what are the extraordinary benefits?

And then take to the less welcoming roads of Britain, USA and Australia, where cycling can still be a terrifying experience. What are the tragic mistakes being made when planning and developing cities, and how do these mistakes lead to aggression towards the cycling community?

Millions of us find ourselves frustrated by the motor mentality and fighting for our rights to ride. This brilliant, shocking investigation will prepare you with all you need to know to confidently claim your place on the road."

"the less welcoming roads of Britain" - yes !! and the potholes.....

frustrated by the motor mentality” - yes again!!

The book is incredibly informative on the provision made for cyclists in many other countries, and how the attitudes to cycling are so different to here in the UK. Reading it was a real eye opener. 

If only people in the UK could be persuaded of those "extraordinary benefits"..... Ever since I was a teenager I have been infuriated by people who drive unnecessarily, and since doing a lot more cycling myself in recent years I have become even more infuriated! The pollution, the noise, the road building...… but I've realized that getting infuriated with people doesn't really help, and that the carrot approach is better than the stick. We need to make cycling in this country a much better experience.

I understand that in certain circumstances and at certain times in our lives, driving may be necessary - it was for me when our children were all young and, due to the awful (and now non-existent) bus service, any longer journeys had to be undertaken by car. But since I have started cycling more, I am constantly asking myself why more people don't cycle, when it has so many benefits.

There are probably lots of reasons, but one of them is undoubtedly being scared of riding on the UK roads due to the traffic. Another is probably just being scared of cycling, full stop, because even though most people learn to ride as a child, most of those same people give up cycling as soon as they learn to drive (or sooner....), and getting back on a bike takes some getting used to again. It took me some getting used to when I started cycling more back in 2012. Previously I had only cycled short distances on our fairly quiet, local country roads (although overtaking in the wrong places and too fast is often worse on these roads than elsewhere) but now I was cycling the 5 miles into and around our local town of Wantage, and that took some getting used to. I also started cycling much further afield and found I was loving it!

Although I have not (yet?!) cycled abroad in cycle-friendly places like Holland and Germany, in those countries it is just accepted that many journeys will be made by bike and cyclists are seen as normal rather than slightly freaky and geeky as we are here! Go on, admit it, if you're reading this and you're not a cyclist I bet you think we're a slightly freaky and geeky lot!! 

A Norwegian blogger Well Dressed Dad that I follow, after a recent holiday in the UK, wrote this in answer to a comment of mine on his post -

"Hi Lizzie, I agree totally with what you’re saying, both about a self-limiting attitude to travel and consumerism. At one point though you’re on your own and that’s cycling in Britain! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a dedicated cycle path in the UK and with the mostly narrow and twisty roads available, it seems extremely hazardous to venture out on a bike. I see people cycling and can only imagine they have a death wish! Which is a huge shame, as cycling, and especially electric bikes, are a great alternative to fossil fuelled cars. I cycle all year round here, from -25C to +30C, in snow and rain, but mostly I can cycle anywhere I want to go on cycle paths, with no hassle from cars!"

 "I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a dedicated cycle path in the UK " Well, I can assure you, they do exist!! In fact, I cycled on some in the summer in the very area where he was, in Somerset!

Mostly twisty and narrow roads? I would disagree with that "mostly" - in Somerset,  quite a lot are, and in Devon, Cornwall, Wales........(OK stop there) but on the whole I don't think our roads are mostly twisty and narrow! 

Cyclists here have a death wish? Quite the opposite!!! 

 But it sounds like Norway, just like Holland, is a lot more cyclist-friendly than Britain. 

The book shows how one of the benefits of improving conditions for cyclists is that it improves them for drivers too - if more people cycle, there are fewer cars on the road, which makes it better for the drivers! It's a win-win situation!
I always hope that just being seen out on my bike might encourage others to do the same, but after reading the book, I realized that I wanted to be a bit more pro-active in encouraging others to cycle/cycle more, and in getting involved generally with improving conditions for cyclists. I thought that my local Cycling UK group might be a good place to start. Cycling UK (the old Cyclists' Touring Club) does a huge amount of good work in promoting and encouraging cycling, and last year I had decided to support them by becoming a member, but hadn't been out on any rides with my local group. I don't generally cycle with other people. If I'm not using the bike for purely utilitarian reasons, such as shopping, but am going for a nice trip out, then I love being able to just go off where I want, at my own speed, and stop when I want or need to, for whatever reason. If you cycle with a group of people it's a whole different ball game! You can't just stop to eat, or drink (I'm not one to grab my bottle from the bike and drink as I go) or for a call of nature whenever the need arises..... 

back in the summer, I joined my local group for one of their rides. They have different categories of rides, from 1* to 4*, depending on how far and fast you want to go, or whether you want to go off road. This year also happened to be their 25th anniversary so they were having all four categories of rides on the same day, with everyone meeting up in a village hall for tea and cakes. On that day I joined the 1* ride, which was at a nice pace of 8-10 mph, and about 21 miles, with another 12 added on for me, to get to and from the start point. It was a lovely sociable ride. I also did a 2* ride at a later date, but while this was also very enjoyable, I preferred the more relaxed pace of the 1*.

However, most of the people riding were already regular cyclists. For those who aren't, and need encouragement, there are lots of schemes around the country, e.g. Bikeability, to help people of all ages get into it -  they are rather like the old cycling proficiency scheme that was run for years in schools, but vastly improved. 

I have only come across these organisations since I have been cycling more myself (except Cycling UK, which, interestingly, I had always been aware of in its earlier form as the CTC) but I think that the general public will become more aware of them as they make themselves felt. Here's one which has recently come to my notice, not so far from me in Witney -  the Windrush Bike Project; they do cycle training, cycle maintenance, campaigning and also sell refurbished bikes. I hope to cycle over there one day to pay them a visit, and would love to see something similar set up more locally.

I did feel very encouraged when, sitting on Didcot railway station earlier this month (have you noticed how these days "railway" stations have somehow become "train" stations? I wonder why......) awaiting the first of my four trains to Scotland to visit our daughter, I got chatting to a lady, probably in her forties, who sat down beside me on the bench, having just parked her (very ordinary) bike nearby. I said I'd like to try putting my bike on the train again one day, but that I'd read negative stories about it that put me off. It turned out that this lady was starting a new job in Oxford that day, and had bought the bike only a couple of weeks ago  and was taking it on the train for the first time. I thought that was brave - two big new things on one day! She had had a shortish ride to the station and would have another one at the Oxford end to her new job, and had sensibly enquired beforehand about taking it on this particular train. It would work out cheaper than driving to Oxford. She had already discovered that cycling into Didcot to do some shopping was surprisingly quick and easy compared to using her car. I was impressed, even more so because this lady didn't look at all like your typical cycle commuter, but she was going for it! Good for her! 

And here's a video on how France is intending to triple the number of cyclists. Now that would be quite something!

If you are reading this and you are not a cyclist, I would really welcome your comments! Would you like to cycle/cycle again, and if so what stops you? Would you like to cycle with someone else?

If you are a cyclist, have you read this book? Do you cycle, like me, only in this country, or have you cycled in countries where cycling is seen as more normal than it is here?


Sunday, August 12

Wellgo LU987B pedals, and update on the Brooks B67 saddle

 As followers of this blog will know, I have two bikes, a Trek mixte which is at least 20 years old, and a Koga Traveller, which I bought last year. I had never even given a thought to the pedals on the Trek, which shows that they suited me fine.  These are the ones -

(That is the garage floor, not carpet....)

They are still giving excellent service, although now that I come to examine them more closely they are definitely showing signs of wear. They measure 110mm (across from where the pedal buts up to the crank) x 78mm  (call that depth).

The pedals that came with the Koga are these -

They are Koga Sole Mate pedals, and currently cost £38 at Cyclesense, where I bought the bike. They measure 95 x 88mm, so are considerably narrower than the Trek pedals, and not as deep.

I did notice a difference in the feel of these pedals, regarding how stable I felt on the bike, so I changed them. I had hoped to find something very like the ones on my Trek, but couldn't find anything when I searched online. (I also discovered that there was a huge variety of types of pedal, which, as usual when I start thinking about buying something new for my bike, meant the search took me ages as there was so much to learn!! "A whole new world......" as the song says.) All of what I would call the "normal" pedals, even ones labelled as touring pedals, and whatever the price, were narrower. I then decided to see what my local bike shop had, as for all the advantages of the internet there is nothing quite like seeing products in the flesh. I took the measurements of the Trek pedals with me and as these el cheapo Raleigh (but made by Wellgo) pedals matched up fairly well I bought them -

The measurement from the crank was 110mm across, the same as the Trek ones, so I thought they'd be fine. Local bike shop comes up trumps again, I thought. However, as you can see, they have rounded corners, and get narrower from the inside edge to the outer edge, and this made a big difference in how they felt under my feet, compared to the Trek ones. I just felt they weren't big enough. 

Some time later I came to the conclusion that they gave little advantage over the Koga ones size wise, so I thought I might as well be vain and have the more expensive looking ones back on the bike! But I really wasn't happy with them, and when one day not long afterwards I rode the bike in the rain and found that my feet were slipping so much that I only just managed to get where I was going a few miles away, I thought that there just must be something better and started looking again. Perhaps this was the first time I'd ridden this bike in the rain, as I certainly hadn't noticed this slipping before. That made me think I really needed to get some that were bigger and also more grippy.

So, after searching once again on the internet, I came across this blog post by  The Everyday Cyclist. where he reviews the Wellgo LU987. Combined with other reading that convinced me to try some. Here they are -

They are Wellgo LU987B flat pedals. I can't remember what the differences are between the LU987, or the LU 987U, and these, but suffice it to say that I am very happy with my purchase.

Husband had a little bit of a mock, as he thinks I have changed quite a lot of things on my Koga, and doesn't quite get why....... He has changed nothing on his beloved mountain bike since he bought it over the internet from Germany, whilst I have changed the handlebars, the saddle, and now the pedals, on this bike. However, like a boy with his toys, he was very keen to put them on for me once they came, so I let him even though this is one of the things I have learnt to do. 

What a difference!!! These pedals have made a HUGE difference. When I was on my 5 day trip back at the end of June, I was so glad I had bought these pedals. I feel much more stable on them due to the increased size and the fact that they are more grippy. The size is 112mm across x 104mm depth, so they are in fact only 2mm wider than my Trek pedals but are quite a bit deeper. Interestingly, I bought them where the link takes you at £17.75, but they can cost much more elsewhere, e.g. £29.99 at SJS Cycles. I don't know why I didn't buy the very similar, and cheaper, Wellgo LU987U model although it was possibly because it might not have been available in black at the time. 

It occurred to me during my research that logically foot size must make a difference to what size pedal people prefer - one size cannot fit all - and then lo and behold I find that there are such things as size specific pedals, where you can get the model of pedal you want in more than one size, although they are pretty expensive. Incidentally my own feet are UK size 7 and narrow. Both length and width of foot will make a difference.

Brooks saddle update

So, a happy ending to the pedal tale, despite Husband's mocking. The Brooks saddle tale (I'm sure there's a pun in there!) is also going along very happily indeed. I have now ridden 408.13 miles on it (for a while I gave up such preciseness and started rounding my mileages up or down but then I thought - no, why should I? If I want to be precise I will!). When researching them someone said you needed to do 600 miles to break one in so I'm roughly two thirds of the way there, but actually other people say that they are comfortable from the word go and just get better. I would say that mine was uncomfortable at the beginning, but it didn't take long to get much better once I'd got the position correct for me, and it is now indeed getting better and better.

On my June trip, I rode for 4 days out of the 5, doing about 35 - 45 miles a day, during very hot weather, and I only wore padded undershorts for one of those days. I recently did a 51.74 mile day trip and again did not wear padded undershorts.  I keep looking for dips where my sit bones go, and although I can't really see any yet I think that it has flattened out slightly. 

Thursday, July 26

Re-fashioning/upcycling a man's linen shirt

This is something I've long wanted to have a go at, given that a local charity shop has a whole rail of men's shirts for £1. I didn't actually buy this one there, but found it on the reduced-to-£1 rail in another charity shop. With the weather being so hot this summer, and finding linen the coolest of fabrics to wear, I bought this XXL 100% linen shirt -

I made it into this - 

I wish now that I had taken more photos in the alteration process, but to be honest I don't think that I thought I'd be as pleased with it as I am, so didn't bother!

Basically what I did was - 

1 Remove the sleeves as close as possible to the armhole

2  Cut about 1" off the armhole all the way round

3  Took in the sides 

4  Re-attached the sleeves (using the flat method - more on that in a minute)

5  Cut off a few inches off the bottom of the sleeve

6  Made two pleats on the outside of each sleeve, and bound the raw edge using offcuts.

7  Gathered about 4" on each side of the shirt just under the arm, and stitched over this with pieces of the cuff plackets.

8  I couldn't resist putting one of my old Bag Lady labels (I used to make and sell bags) on the back, and then I did the line of running stitch in embroidery thread.

I didn't do anything to the collar as it looked fine as it was.

End of sleeve, pleated and bound

Pieces of cuff placket used to stitch over the gathers

Finishing touches!

The end result is well below bottom length, which I like as if I want to I can wear it with leggings. It is lovely and baggy but in a way that actually looks as if it was made to fit me. I can wear it on its own at this time of year, or wear layers underneath in colder weather.

Flat method of attaching sleeves

I'd never really cottoned on (almost a pun there...) to the fact that sleeves aren't always sewn in the same way until I had a job ironing. I had one of those "aha!" moments when I was ironing the shirts of the man of the family. I could see that the sleeves were attached flat to the opened out armhole and then the sleeve seam and side seam were stitched in one go.

While I had been reasonably successful in the past at setting a completed sleeve into the completed armhole of a blouse or dress, and easing out the excess fabric at the top, there would sometimes be a telltale pucker at the top and I thought that surely this way it must be easier to eliminate those. I tried it on something though I can't remember what but it is indeed easier. There is an excellent explanation of the method here - do have a look! She even has a "combination" method which I shall try out next time I make something with sleeves.

I shall now be on the lookout for more XXXL linen shirts!

Wednesday, July 18

I have not been receiving notification of comments!

To all you lovely people who have commented on my blog in the last few months and not received a reply - I am so sorry! They have all been going into the "awaiting moderation"  bit on the blog design page, but I have not been receiving notification of them in my emails as I usually do, and thus didn't realize I had any. I shall have to investigate why this has happened.

I checked that "awaiting moderation" bit because my son said he had left a comment but it hadn't appeared. So while his definitely isn't in the "awaiting moderation" bit  (I'm not sure what's happened to that) I found many comments awaiting moderation!!

 I can't tell you how much this has made my day!!!

To be honest it was getting so depressing not getting any comments, that I was seriously thinking that I might not bother to continue blogging. It's quite hard to continue to write without getting any feedback. Had I just got really boring, I asked myself??!!

I had had one or two very short ones on Facebook when I put the post on there, but it's not quite the same as getting them on the blog itself. It had got to the point where I had thought of emailing one or two more regular commenters and asking if they were still receiving my posts. I'd also recently removed myself from Bloglovin' and was wondering if that had affected things. I am actually now trying to get myself back on there, which is proving difficult as apparently my RSS feed is "not valid". A friend who sets up websites is helping me.

So, I shall now take great delight in reading all those comments and replying!

I feel like the fat lady who used to come on with a big flourish at the end of the Morecombe and Wise show (my Saturday night favourite!!) pushing the two of them out of the way, and thank everyone for coming to her "little show" -

This YouTube clip of her isn't very clear, but it still makes me laugh!

So, after weeks of wondering if I had got the blogging equivalent of BO, as the fat lady said -

"If you've enjoyed it, then it's all been worthwhile!"

Lizzie is one very happy bunny.......

Sunday, July 15

An ambulatory day in Frome, the least lonely town in the UK, then to Pewsey, and home. Part 2 of Episode 2

If you've just joined me on my little bike tour, this is Day 3, where I don't do any cycling! And days 4 and 5, where I do.

In fact, this is the day where I get hot and lost..........

I was up early, pottering about doing this and that until about 8.30, when I walked into Frome town centre, via lots of lovely interesting backstreets and postmen that said a friendly "Good morning!" So far, not feeling lonely! Let's see how friendly everyone else is, I thought to myself. Some of the route was on NCN Route 24, which I thought I'd explore in case I wanted to go that way tomorrow, through Longleat park. I assume the famous lions are firmly separated from cyclists and walkers. Personally I think they'd be a lot happier if they were in their own countries.

I didn't take photos in Frome, but if you google places like Catherine Hill and Cheap Street you will find lots of them. These steep, and in places, cobbled streets are full of lots of little independent shops, and Cheap Street even has a leat running down the middle of it. Has no-one heard of Health and Safety in Frome? I mean, I ask you, an open watercourse running down the street?? How dangerous! A very small person, or someone's ornamental chihuahua or pug, might fall into it and drown. Or someone might feel like emptying their chamber pot into it. None of that happened, I'm happy to say.

I had a cup of coffee and a chocolate brownie in the lovely little garden of an organic cafe, which I chose precisely because it had this nice cool place to sit, rather than for its organicness, although I am a very organic sort of person. (Elder Son, who used to work on the deli in Waitrose - or was it Younger Son, who worked there too? - used to have a customer who was known to the staff as "Mrs Organic", but that wasn't me.) However, here I experienced the first bit of Frome unFriendliness!!!! The waitress was not at all friendly, in fact a smile did not flit across her face at all. I felt as if I was not welcome, and could feel the loneliness coming on......

I then wandered round all the little shops looking at things which were very lovely, but which I couldn't afford. I would say that four out of the five or six shopkeepers I spoke to did nothing much to dispel the feeling that maybe this wasn't actually the least lonely town in the UK, although to put in a good word for a couple who ran an "emporium" (I like that word), they were friendly, and I would have spent longer in their shop if it hadn't been so hot.

Some other people who were friendly were the ones who were running the "Back to Blue" exhibition at the Black Swan Arts Centre. This exhibition was right up my street, being all about cloth and dyeing, both of which Frome (which they told me was once pronounced to rhyme with either room or  roam) was once famous for. And, even better, it was free!  I chatted to one of them, Carolyn Griffiths, who wrote this book that accompanies the exhibition - Woad to This, and the Cloth Trade of Frome, and I came away with some free woad seeds which I shall sow in our garden. After that visit, I felt much uplifted.

I visited a greengrocer's and the Co-op, for fruit and yogurt and milk and sandwiches (which I ate on a bench next to a lady who was reading on her Kindle - no marks for friendliness there!). I drank the rest of the 500ml of water I'd brought with me, and set off back to my place of lodging, having had enough of shops, and finding it just TOO hot to explore any more. We are talking temperatures of 30 degrees C at least. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to get lost, and this I did magnificently. I hadn't got the phone-with-maps-on with me........ I thought I could remember my way back, but at some point I went wrong. I tried to stick to the shadier parts, but after a while I ran out of both shade and water, and was beginning to realize that I didn't know where I was, or how much further I had to walk. I asked a lady who was just getting in her car if she knew where the road was that I was trying to reach. She had a quick google and gave me loose directions, but I still wasn't sure how far it was.  I was now feeling very hot, and very tired, and probably a bit dehydrated......and before long, I sat down in the only bit of shade I could find, on the verge by some houses, thinking -

"I need to go to one of these houses and ask for water."

But I just couldn't summon up the energy, as going to any of them meant walking out into the heat again and up steps, but across the road from me, the front door opened and a couple came out. The man turned to go back in the house, and I thought -

"I really need to go across there and ask for water before he shuts the door."

But once again, the thought of getting up and walking into the heat and up steps put me off. Then the lady opened the boot of the car in front of the house, to put her dogs in, and I got up and said -

"Excuse me, I'm a bit lost and exhausted...... I wonder if you can help?"

I told her where I was trying to get to and she, bless her cotton socks, and 10/10 for friendliness, said she was going that way and would take me. A few minutes later I was back in my nice cool airy attic room downing glass after glass of water. And there I stayed for the rest of the day............... I even watched an hour of TV!! I understood, prior to this, that if you watched daytime TV you turned into a cabbage; I now know this not to be true, although don't intend to make a habit of it.

This incident made me think. Of course it wasn't clever to have got lost and to run out of water on such a very hot day, and we all should prepare ourselves so that on the whole these things don't happen. Yes, I should have had a map, and I should have had more water, but I'd managed my risk in the heat of the previous two days very well, and somehow just didn't expect to suffer like this while wandering slowly about Frome. But, as I said in the last post, people often want to help, and maybe if this sort of thing never happened, we'd never find this out and experience that kindness of strangers that is often written about.

As well as watching daytime TV, I went over the route that Husband had kindly planned for me for the next day, in order to get to the lovely Huntlys B and B (and no, before you tell me I've missed out an apostrophe, there just isn't one) near Pewsey , where I had stayed last year, and where I had decided to head for. I spread my maps across the bed, and wrote down the main villages I'd be passing through, an aide memoire which I would keep in my home made bar bag. Knowing the forecast was for the heat to continue, I planned a very early start while the day was hopefully still cool, so bed was before 8 pm!

A bit about Airbnb - I have only stayed Airbnb twice, and the last time I did I had such trouble trying to get them to let me even sign up, let alone book somewhere, that I had to ask a friend who is a local Airbnb host to do that booking for me. This time, though, the whole process was much easier (perhaps they'd had complaints) and I am now signed up. The huge advantage of my room in Frome  was that I could be more independent than a traditional B and B allows. Here I could come and go at my leisure (I had a key) and not having to wait for breakfast meant I could set off the next morning whenever I wanted. My one complaint perhaps is that the price that initially comes up on the website is not the one you pay, because there are also cleaning and service charges added on, so at first glance you think Airbnb's a lot cheaper than it actually is.  I actually paid  roughly £51 for my first night (booked beforehand through Airbnb) and then the basic charge of £36 for the next night, which I hadn't booked, so I simply paid that to my host directly. What is provided in the way of refreshments is variable from place to place - I had cereal, and there was some fruit and a pint of milk in the mini fridge on my arrival (though these weren't topped up for the second day).

I had privacy, but my host was also very friendly (up went the score again!) and helpful - and she painted furniture, so we had a good natter about that. I went downstairs at one point, and found her six year old son, straight out of the paddling pool and nearly naked, drying himself. I'm glad he was just a sprog of six or I might have had an attack of the vapours.

So, at 3.50 the next morning, I got up (no alarm, just the light to wake me up), ate breakfast of raspberries, yogurt and muesli, and was out of the door at 5.20. It was amazing to be out so early! I even had to don my windproof, it was so cool. I turned left out of the house, and set off at a cracking pace, down a hill, thinking -

"I'm glad I'm going down this hill and not up it!"

Can you guess the next thought that ran through my head, given that I am one who is prone to getting lost?

"I'm going in the wrong direction!!"

Plonker that I am, I should have turned right out of the house and not left! However, after much map consulting and even compass consulting (I've got one on my bell) I got myself back onto the right route, heading east, into the almost blinding morning sun. Once I knew I was back on track, I had a lovely time pootling along, stopping to look at this beautifully painted "tin church" at a crossroads at Brokerswood -

Crossing the A350 at North Bradley south of Trowbridge was horrible, and I was almost cut up by a lorry at a roundabout, but once across I happily pootled a few more miles into Steeple Ashton -

Here we have the village lock-up, used in the past for local miscreants. Bring them back into use I say!

The lock-up
One thing I love seeing in the summer in the villages I cycle through, is open windows, and, very occasionally, an open front door. It makes a village seem more alive. In the Cotswolds, not so far from us, the villages are often dead during the daytime, with rarely an open window, or an old boy leaning on his garden gate, and as for children out playing, well - you rarely see any of them. And no-one walks to the village shop because they haven't got one.....

Last year, the man who delivered our oil, told me of the Cotswold village where he was brought up, but where neither he nor his brother could afford to live any longer. It is a sad fact that the poorer people are being pushed out of many villages in this country. In our own tiny village, where we have lived for nearly two years, but also lived from 1981 - 1984 (in this same house) there were once four cottages tied to agricultural work.  One of those four we live in, as, following Husband's redundancy from the farm in 2003, we were entitled by law to stay on in a farm cottage. Two of those four have now been sold, and are being extended by the new owners, and in the fourth, the long-term tenants are to be given notice, undoubtedly so that it too can be sold.There were also four council houses in the village in 1981 - they have all been sold, bar one, and have been extended and "improved". Even back then, though, when we came, things were changing in both this village and the one nearby that we lived in for 32 years. Workers who retired were not replaced (not even the sheepdog....) and cottages that were no longer required for workers were sold or rented out.Wherever I cycle round the local villages, the same thing is happening - farm cottages, often with bigger gardens than most and thus ripe for extending, have been sold off and before long they are hardly recognisable as the more humble abodes they once were.

However, back to the open windows, there were quite a few in Steeple Ashton. In general I got the impression that this was a friendly village, though I suspect it was also a wealthy one.....

And here is - the friendly cafe!

At this wonderful village shop and cafe (it even has wi-fi for the use of those who can't exist for a minute without it) I entered and was greeted by a man in an apron who stood back to let me in on his way out -

"Come in, Madam, come in!" he said.

They were advertising sandwiches so I asked the Tilley-hatted man behind the counter what sort they did, and he then got the be-aproned man who had just gone outside back in to attend to my needs.

"What sort would you like? Tell me and I'll make it!"

It was only 9.30, but it was more than five hours since I'd had breakfast, and by now I was practically salivating over the thought of some bacon.


I really thought he'd say that was one sandwich he couldn't do, but no!

"Certainly madam! Sit down while I make it. Would you like a drink too?"

He brought me a mug (oh the joys of a mug and not a cup!) of coffee, and then cooked me the most wonderful bacon sandwich EVER! I would go back there just for their bacon sarnies.

I had another wonderful stop at a place that I wouldn't have found if I had stuck entirely to Husband's route. I took my own advice and diverted slightly in order to make crossing the next A road easier, and came to St Barnabas' Church at Easterton, where I did my usual thing of looking for an outside tap. I couldn't find one. In this country there used to be such things as public drinking fountains, and Elder Son tells me that they are common in Austria. As I wandered disconsolately into the church, I thought that it would be a great idea if travellers knew they could always find water in a church. But then, a notice in the porch caught my eye -

"Tea and coffee available in the church"

My photo isn't brilliant (I think I need to learn how to use my new camera better..) but that sign says -

"Tea and coffee this way"

So I went that way, and, after using the toilet facilities, more to wash my grubby mits than anything else, I made myself a mug (yes, nice mugs provided!) of tea, in this kitchen, and spent a restful half hour or so in the nice cool church drinking it. I then filled my water bottles, washed up my mug, left a donation and a thank you note in the visitors' book, and wended my happy way ever onwards. How wonderfully trusting and hospitable this church's congregation is to leave it open and share their facilities with passing travellers.

The hall and kitchen adjoining the church

I reached my destination of the villages called the Manningfords, near Pewsey, in plenty of time to rest and eat in the local recreation ground, keeping my beady eye on some local youths in the far corner, who weren't actually up to any mischief as far as I could see, but you never know.... At least here they were out and about!! I was staying in Manningford Abbots (there are three Manningfords) and later while reading a book about Wiltshire villages (The Wiltshire Village Book, by Michael Marshman) I came across this passage about these villages -

"I have known these villages for nearly 20 years. Despite this, I still get lost when walking or driving around their footpaths and lanes without the aid of an Ordnance Survey map."

I understood what he meant, as I had had to keep consulting the map to make sure I didn't get lost (again) even though the area is tiny and I had been here last year.

And so to my B and B. I love this place. It's much more homely than the one I stayed in on the first night, and it reminds me of my childhood and the places we stayed in on holiday, in England and Wales. My parents rarely booked anywhere - they just decided where they were going and then set off, and found somewhere to stay once they got there. I suspect that this was not so unusual in the 60s and 70s. I remember some places with great affection, usually I think because the owner was particularly kind and welcoming. I also remember the feel of soft old well-washed cotton sheets in one place that we found rather late on in the evening, and also a Welsh farmhouse, approached up narrow and twisting lanes after dark, the big long oak table where we had breakfast, and where my dad whispered to us -

"There's a fairy at the bottom of the garden!"

We didn't know quite what he meant, as my dad was not one to try to convince us that there were such things. I still have never heard anyone else call it this, but he was referring to the toilet, which was, indeed, at the bottom of the garden!

Last year when I stayed here, I had had a large room with an en-suite of shower and toilet, but this year I had the other bedroom, with my own private bathroom across from it. I had seen this bathroom last year, and thought - ooh that looks nice! A bit of tongue and groove and sensible taps. And this year it was mine for the night, and although there was a shower I made the most of the bath by having one (a rarity these days!), with the window open and the blind half down but with lots of light still coming in. This was bliss after cycling 40.28 miles (once again, not forgetting that fraction of a mile!).

Regarding the comfort of one's rear end, and the Brooks saddle, today I had worn padded undershorts, thinking that maybe my rear end would appreciate them.  I then washed them out at the end of the day and hung them out of the window to dry, using the extra long bootlace that for some reason I happened to have had in my rucksack, and had thought, when setting off - I'll leave that there as it might come in handy. Which it did! However, I'm not convinced that the padding in the shorts is actually under my sit bones (I must investigate) and so am not sure if they really helped in that area. I did not wear them the next day, so that was three days of cycling without them, and only one with.

I shall give a very brief account of the next day's journey home, which was basically very hot and very tiring. I set off after a delicious breakfast, not a cooked one this time, at about 9 am. Earlier would have been better but you can't expect B and B hosts to get up before dawn to serve you! I stopped for coffee and cake at the Engineman's Rest Cafe at the Crofton Beam Engines, about 17 miles into my journey. Lunch was sandwiches taken in the shade in a park at a village called Froxfield - where I saw an open front door!

It was then just a question of battling against the heat and getting home. More than once I looked at the map to see where the next bit of shade was, where I could stop and rest, all the time making sure I had enough water. I used it not just to drink but to pour over myself to keep cool on the stretches of road that had no shade. When I reached the village of Bishopstone, about 7 miles from home, I sat at the side of the road and dangled my feet in the village pond for several minutes. That last 7 miles seemed very long. I got more and more angry with commuters (it was that time of day) who overtook me too close and too fast.

I thought I knew the hills of this bit of road well enough to say to myself -

"Just one more hill...."

But the heat must have fogged my brain as there always seemed to be one more!

Here's a somewhat shattered me, finally home, at 6.20, -

When can I go again?