The man who met Yuri Gagarin

Don’t strange and amazing things happen when you travel on trains? Or in my case bus train bus train. They certainly did on my latest trip to Yorkshire to see my family. And here I am curled up in my eldest granddaughter’s bed – rather like Mama Bear sleeping in Baby Bear’s cot – tapping out these few words to tell you all about it.

The journey started in it’s usual peaceful way with me hopping on the 555 Stagecoach bus to Carnforth. I love this bus route, it has to be one of the best in the country. It was comfortingly familiar to be swirling through the glorious green countryside even if the impacts of Covid 19 are still with us. I particularly liked the sign on the open window, got to love a low tech solution to a world pandemic.

Getting off the bus I had a little wait at Carnforth railway station before my train. Time to take a few of my wobbly pics and feel a little sad that Carnforth couldn’t enjoy it’s celebration in 2020 of 75 years since the making of the film “Brief Encounter” in which the station features.

I did notice that Carnforth Station Heritage Centre has re-opened and seemed almost as busy as pre-pandemic. “Brief Encounter” is a film classic adored by many. I have a confession, I don’t like it! I love the station and the Heritage Centre which displays a wealth of social and industrial history. The film however leaves me cold. Perhaps I am being harsh “Brief Encounter” is a creation of it’s time. But controlling men and simpering women do nothing for me.

Moving on before the fans – some of whom are dear friends – turn nasty! I also had a chance to look at some of the posters that adorned the walls of my platform. They have been there a while and I had begun to overlook them. They are really good. Here are a couple. These celebrate the RSPB nature reserve at Leighton Moss. I will try and share the rest next time I am at the station.

So far so normal journey to Yorkshire. Things began to change when I got to Skipton and I hopped aboard my second bus of the day the 64 to Ilkley (the X84 no longer seems to run from Skipton straight through to my daughter’s village. Grrr). It was full of people and happy chattering filled the air. My phone rang. It was a call I really really had to take.

“Pardon? … What?” I mumbled to the caller, muffled by the face mask I was still sort of trying to wear. “Sorry I can’t…quite…hear you” I continued with my finger pressed in my free ear trying hard to concentrate on what the caller was saying. “ I HAVE THE JOB?!!!” I almost shouted with glee (frankly I am surprised that the bus didn’t give me a cheer as I was so loud everyone must have heard). Well I had got the job and I said YES straight away. It was a marvellous moment in the strangest setting.

What I am up to and who I will be working for will have to wait. But hopefully the coming months will be filled with wonderful information about my new employer. Don’t worry it’s not MI5 … although I would say that wouldn’t I?

This journey was definitely out of the ordinary. First the job offer then I met a man who had met Yuri Gagarin. Honestly I am not with MI5. Or am I?

As I got off the bus at Ilkley to catch the train to Burley In Wharfedale I got chatting – as you do – to a lovely man. He told me about how he had met his wife. For my money this was a much better romance than that in the aforementioned film. It all started when he met Yuri Gagarin.

In 1961 at the height of the Cold War Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – the first person to travel in outer space – was visiting Britain. He crossed paths with my gentleman when they were both visiting an art exhibition.

Gagarin was a huge celebrity at the time and attracted very large crowds everywhere he went. During this visit he was threatened with being crushed under the weight of people wanting to touch the man who had been in space. My fine fellow had linked arms with the cosmonaut’s KGB guard to protect the spaceman. Gagarin had been pushed against him and thankful for his services had shared some time with him and even pressed into his hand his medal for space travel so my gent could have a good look at it.

Where’s the girl? We are not quite there yet. My friendly chap told me that meeting the Soviets made him realise that, despite the propaganda, the Russians were just ordinary people not the monsters they were portrayed as being. He became curious. But it was hard to find out anything positive about the Soviet Union in those chilly days so he decided he would have to visit Russia. Ah so he met a Russian girl and they lived happily ever after. Not so fast my friends.

Why did he share his tale with me? It was because of my connection with the Lake District. Didn’t see that coming did you? Before going to Russia this charming friendly man had gone hill walking in the Lakes and been talking to fellow hikers about the lack of information on the Soviet Union. He was pointed in the direction of a young woman. Unusual for the times she had spent some months in Russia learning about the people and culture.

Yes you are right this was ‘the one’. They met and after what I gathered was a whirlwind romance he proposed to her on Cat Bells (a popular fell to the west of Derwentwater in Cumbria) and they did live happily ever after. Poignantly his lovely wife died only a short time ago. I think this is why he told me their beautiful story too. It was a way of remembering happy days and passing on his wife’s memory.

We did not exchange names and I hope that anyone who may recognise this tale will forgive me any errors I have made in the re-telling. It was a heart warming story of love and also of gaining understanding through learning about those we have been led to fear. This kindly man’s story further lifted my already high spirits. I hope it lifts yours too.

As I relate this I realise I had my own brief encounter! And on that bookend I will bid you adieu.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

PS I may have been ‘tipped the wink’ about the job offer as one of my fantastic references KC had text me while I was on the Skipton train to say she had been contacted by my new employer. Big thanks KC for what must have been an amazing reference. Mx

Where have all the flowers gone?

This used to be what my entire garden looked like, at least the bit that had previously been covered by a very scrappy lawn. Two years ago inspired by Alys Fowler of “Edible Garden“ fame I thought that I too would love an edible garden.

I had visions of supplementing neighbours’ larders by sharing my copious harvests and of cycling along with hair flowing (cycling helmet only abandoned for the visualisation not my actual journeys you understand) carrying bunches of herbs and flowers to any poor soul needing the solace of rosemary, bay and lavender twined into a beauteous fragrant rustic bouquet and requiring a swig of home brewed elderberry wine (medicinal purposes of course).

Scratch all that. The harsh reality was a lot of kale – please God no more – but only 5 potatoes and a handful of rather pitiful looking beans. The garden was not the abundant source of produce (except for the kale) I thought it was going to be. For why? I hear you ask.

It couldn’t possibly be my total lack of gardening knowledge … could it? I have religiously watched “Gardeners’ World” every Friday night surely by some osmosis all that green fingered know how should have seeped into my very being … shouldn’t it? Obviously not.

Apart from my lack of ken (knowledge that is, not the chap) the biggest clue to my gardening limitations is very obvious to anyone that has seen my garden. It is a limitation that I am more than happy to live with. My garden is dominated by a very large tree.

And she has several smaller friends.

I really do count myself lucky. My nearest neighbour is a sycamore – I call her Cyra – who must be at least 150 to 200 years old. When you look up into her branches there is a whole planet of life – including the occasional woodpecker – and there will be another in her sturdy trunk and yet another in her roots.

Thankfully nothing grizzly appears to have happened around Cyra. She is a field marker tree – planted at the junction of several fields – who lived a quiet rural life until the 1980s when a housing estate was built around her. I sometimes feel sorry for Cyra but I think she maybe likes the company and if she doesn’t she gets her own back in autumn by burying us in her leaves (don’t tell her but they are very handy as a mulch) and hurling the occasional small branch on very windy days.

Despite my love of this marvellous tree SHADY is the best way to describe my garden. So what am I and the mud patch beneath her to do? Trumpet fanfare!!!! Friends and family to the rescue. Thanks to JG and the Kendal Conservation Volunteers I have been donated several woodland loving plants: red campion, foxgloves, violets, forget me nots and primroses.

Brace yourselves and if you are in any way prudish look no further. [whispers] PF and AF brought me some [hushed whisper] … titter (unfortunate word) … naked ladies … Oooh er missus! Alright I will stop now, we are all adults here. Aren’t we?

I popped a few of the gorgeous russet coloured bulbs in a small trough. I didn’t think they would appear until next spring but as you can see they are making a valiant attempt. Slightly wonkily I admit. Those pesky blackbirds had scratched out most of the soil. Is it wrong for a vegan to shout at birds?! But these brave little bulbs are illustrating the reason for the nakedness, they don’t have any leaves. Ooh er …

In case you think I have contributed nothing to the moonscape that once was lawn brace yourself. I managed to propagate some english lavender. Yahoo! Now along with my home grown sweet marjoram, thyme and chives the lavenders have been popped into terra firma. As you can see fallen leaves are a constant in my garden.

To be honest my veg have not been a total disaster this year. I still have some tomatoes struggling to ripen – I stripped away most of the leaves to help them – and I have had success with chillies. The lesson here is I am much better at growing vegetables in pots. In addition the rhubarb that I thought I had killed off last year because it was planted under too much shade seems to have crawled along the bed and like a phoenix risen anew.

Nonetheless what the last couple of years has taught me is that the flowers needed to be in first and then the veg could follow … maybe … perhaps. Friends and family have helped me along the road and with a bit of judicious purchasing the ex-lawn – still bare in places – has many new inhabitants: anenomes, geraniums, salvia, echinacea, asters to name a few (you guessed it I can’t remember the names of the rest). These latter were all delivered in beautiful condition by Crocus Garden Centre and are all pollinator friendly.

Crocus’ website gives full information on the height and spread of the plants, where and how they like to live and what they will get up to over the course of a year. I have planted as best as I can by their instructions but any failures will of course be all mine. I could not afford to buy them all at once so the planting may be a little higgildy piggildy. Just how I like things.

But what’s this? Some new arrivals?

Hellebores and oriental poppies

Better get planting. I am sure the aches and pains from the bending and digging will be washed away by the thoughts of how the garden will look this time next year. I can but dream … and weed …. and hoe … and rake … and mulch …. Where’s that elderberry wine?!

Until next we meet,

Moke x

P.S. Before you worry. I am a peat-free compost gal and have used Dalefoot Compost’s wonderful Lakeland Gold to mix with the top soil and mulch around the new plants.

Jolly Janome is busy

Hello All

Over the last couple of years I have been sewing more and more. I’ve made clothes for me and the girls, bags for gifts, bags for medics clothing and of course many, many masks!

Weirdly I have no photos of the masks, but I reckon you have all seen enough of them over the last 18 months or so. I don‘t need to show you any more.

My favourite pieces however were two quilts. One was made for Munchkin when she was born and the other was sewn for Shrub when she arrived.

Munchkin‘s was made by creating appliqué panels based on the ‘Woodland Critters’ quilt pattern. I tweaked it ever so slightly. There had to be a robin! Then I had great fun deciding on the fabrics to make the blocks before sewing the completed panels together, adding the surround, batting, backing and quilting.

When it came to Shrub’s quilt I chose a simpler method. I bought cloth with pre-printed panels. I cut out each panel then framed them with different coloured fabrics before once again sewing them together, giving them a border, batting, backing and quilting. I must say I was particularly pleased with the border and backing materials that I bought – like a lot of my fabrics – from Reticule here in Kendal.

If you are wondering where Peanut’s quilt is, truth be told I had not ventured into the wonderful world of quilting when she was born. For her birth I made a crochet ripple blanket.

The time has come to work on a special quilt for P. But it is hush hush as Mother Christmas is busy working on it …

Until we meet again,

Moke x

The Tribe of Doris

Hello All,

When I left .. deserted … you in 2019 I had one amazing granddaughter, Peanut. P is now the magnificent and all-wise age of 5 years. Five?! Yes 5! She keeps us straight on all things vegan – “Omi, is this vegan?” – is an animal welfare activist and a budding expert on bears. A perfect bundle of eco-warrior and caring human being.

During my long blog-sleep Peanut was joined by a brilliant cousin and gorgeous little sister. Collectively the three girls are to me The Tribe of Doris (psst this was the name of an fabulous all female drumming band … don’t tell them I stole it).

First to join the party was A, daughter of No 1 Son and No 1 Daughter In Law.

Munchkin is over 18 months old and as you can see is very happy to be donning her welly-bobs for country walks and splashing in mud. I have missed her sooooo much during the various lockdowns and was really pleased that No 1 Daughter In Law’s parents were near at hand and able to be there as part of her childcare bubble. As things have eased I am getting to know A again and it is wonderful to meet the beautiful, reflective and intelligent little girl that has blossomed from the newborn I remember pre-pandemic.

In case you wondered, Munchkin is sporting a Clothkits jacket I managed to smuggle to her during the Christmas lockdown lift. Yes a tad on the big size… but she looks adorable and she will get her wear out of it. I was happy to find that Clothkits are still very much alive and kicking as I loved them when my own two were children and they continue to make gorgeously printed kits along with complete items and fabrics that are irresistible. One word of warning the binding was a devil to get right. Although this could just be me and my cack-handedness.

Then there were … three. Earlier this year P got her wish of a baby sister. Shrub was a bump through much of the pandemic and arrived as a little ray of sunshine in a year overcast by the clouds of Covid. It seems she knew this because I swear she was smiling by 2 weeks old.

Now you have met the tribe. It is a wobbly old world they have arrived into but as with all children they are our hope for the future and they make me even more determined to work to rectify the problems we have so far bequeathed them. After all I don’t want this fearsome bunch coming after me in my dotage (not long off) asking “WHY?!”

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Return of the native

Hello All

Wow! That’s what I call a sabbatical. Over two years. Now the native of these here posts has returned and is hopefully here to stay.

I have no good reason for the long absence. I just puttered out of steam and didn’t feel I had anything relevant to say in a world in such turmoil. As we know the turmoil has not gone away but has worsened tremendously. My heart went out to all who suffered through the Covid pandemic, war and the effects of climate change. What use cosy pictures of my sedate life cushioned amongst the Lakeland Fells?

Then I hit the age immortalised by the Fab Four. “When I’m 64!” is here. I am not losing my hair (my teeth are another story) and I am just about clinging on to my marbles (my memory is again another story). Still I do sit beside my metaphorical fireside crafting, cooking, reading and seeking better ways to live. Most importantly I have after two years of hand wringing got over myself. At 64 I realised that if just one of you is interested in my ramblings I am more than happy to share them.

So what’s occurred in the intervening years … where to begin? Make a cuppa, curl up in a favourite chair while you await further bloggage. Here’s a clue to some of the goings on.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Knitting together

Hello All

Spending much of Friday with a crafting friend was a real treat. We enjoyed a few uninterrupted hours of tea, food and (yahoo!) knitting. Friend KS is working on a beautiful project but I can’t reveal what she is up to ‘cos it is a gift for another of our friends. Sorry to disappoint but I hope you will be satisfied with my own wee offering.

As it looks like Winter is creeping up on us – not in a tantalising (can creeping ever be tantalising?) way but with cold snaps nippy enough to engender weather warnings – what better than to knit a chunky wool hat to keep Granddaughter Peanut warm?

I am eternally thankful to AJ for this really useful book. Over the years my Big Book of Knitting has rescued me from many a knitting calamity and has provided me with some great patterns.

The Chulla Earflap Hat was exactly what I had in mind to keep little Peanut’s ears warm. It used less than a 100g ball of chunky wool and was finished in an afternoon. There was virtually no sewing up as the hat is knitted on double pointed needles and the ear flaps are incorporated into the casting on for the body of the hat. Oh joy! Win, win, win.

And yet I felt something was missing.

Aah, that’s better!

Keep warm … or cool depending on your season.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Festive Greetings

Happy Yuletide All

We have left out a little tipple and snack for Santa to enjoy (the extra mince pie is for Mother Claus) and a carrot with some special food for those hard working reindeer.

Peanut is tucked up in bed. Presents are wrapped and under the tree. All the grown ups are settled with mugs of hot chocolate. Peace reigns. While we have a quiet moment I just wanted to say: whatever your faith or belief (or lack of) love and festive greetings from Casa Moke. I hope the year to come brings you peace, health and happiness.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Dog Days

Hello All

It has been an activity mish-mash at Casa Moke over the last couple of weeks. No matter how hard I try my poor old pea-brain can’t come up with a coherent single theme for this post. Dear reader be prepared for the confused Cornucopia of everyday life here in the brr-is-it-me-but-is-Winter-coming-to-the-fffff-reezing-North-?.

First to the ‘Dog Days’. No 1 Daughter frequently travels with her job and last weekend she had the chance to combine work and a family trip while visiting some wonderful Animals Asia supporters in Glasgow. Only two small ‘problems’ her furry friends, George and Buddy. Yahoo! chance for me to enjoy the company of the boys for a couple of days dog-sitting.

George and Buddy would probably call it human-sitting and to be frank they would be right. Their time here does seem to entail a lot of sitting on me!

George takes the lap…

… and Buddy purloins the feet! My doggy visitors certainly make themselves at home. Bless ’em.

And while we relaxing, look what dropped through my door:

It is always exciting to see what classes are happening locally but this year I found it even more exciting. If you have a look under Arts and Crafts you might notice a few entries for ‘Introduction to Needle Felting’, guess who is responsible for them????

Yup that will be me! I am lucky enough to be running a few short courses over the Spring for Cumbria County Council’s Community Learning and Skills Programme in South Lakeland. It was such fun to micro-teach the interview panel that I am really looking forward to sharing one of my favourite crafts with new needle felters.

[Clears throat and takes on serious tone] Better keep up my crafty credentials in case any of my students-to-be are looking (can’t wait to meet you by the way). I have done a little more work on the wall art. The character on the right seems to be sending out some star-dust to cheer up the rather drab lettering:

I think she has done a good job and may need to be rewarded with a tiara or floral tribute…watch this space.

I have also been patch-working my way through several cushions:

I think almost all the fabric was from Reticule in Kendal. They have a huge range of beautiful and stylish fabrics and quarters. I chose these to coordinate with particular colour schemes. I can’t help but chuckle when I look at the blue birds: they seem to be on a see-saw. Have you spotted them? Hope they don’t get sea-sick!

Finally as ‘Winter is Coming’ a wee bit of sock knitting was called for.

Just knitting socks makes you feel warmer doesn’t it? Or is it trying to keep all the stitches on the needles and the counters in the right places that keeps me warm? Well done to Crafty friend KS who has launched herself into the world of sock knitting on circular needles with great results. I think I just like the suspense of working on double pointed needles, will the stitches stay on for another round ….

As you see I have a few projects to keep me busy and snug. And there are those courses to plan. Can’t wait.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Ruffled

Hello All

Weddings are learning curves. Who knew when D and R announced their wedding that I would pick up some unexpected skills? Studying the art of ruffle making was certainly not one of the foreseen consequences of No 1 Son’s marriage.

But I just couldn’t find the right blouse to wear with my wedding outfit so in a moment of exuberance I decided that I would design my own. Of course by this I mean I adapted a pattern I had made before. I know my limitations.

What I was after was a sort-of-erm-post-Elizabethan-ruffle-mmm-crossed-with-Vivian Westwood-kind-of-chic-thing …. I am sure you get my drift. No? Don’t worry it looked great, in my head.

I started with a favourite pattern:

And a heap of white cotton! All was good. I had made the shirt before so I was soon busily sewing away on Jolly Janome. I had decided that the cuffs should be wider and the collar higher and that the collar REALLY NEEDED the addition of a huge ruffle. As I said this worked well in my mind.

Widening and heightening the cuffs and collar was easy – as you can see above I just broadened the pattern pieces – but how to make a ruffle? I tried gathering the fabric but it really didn’t match my expectations. Turns out what I really wanted was a ruffle crossed with a pleat, let’s call it a ‘pluffle’. What to do next? Turn to YouTube of course!

In the wonderful crafty world of YouTube I learned to use a piece of card the width of the pluffles I wanted to create. Once armed with this simple technique there was no stopping my pluffling madness. All I needed to do was fold the fabric over the card, pull out the card strip and sew to form perfectly even and spaced pluffles. Oh, joy!

I hope my photos give you some idea of how I built up a length of pluffled fabric to top my collar because at this point I was going to link to the web address for the tutorial but I can’t re-find it amongst the plethora of ruffle and pleating videos on the web. I must therefore send out my thanks to the fabulous woman who showed me this easy and satisfying method of pluffle-ing into the ether and hope it reaches her.

Here then is the finished blouse:

That collar is pretty high. Initially I was going to pluffle the cuffs too but I knew that we would be wearing beautiful floral wristbands and pluffled cuffs would have spoiled that.

On the day it performed how I imagined. Formal for the service:

(Psst no one mention my resemblance to a vicar!)

Less formal for the meal:

And with the sleeves rolled up just darn cosy…

Of course the addition of Peanut does beautifully distract from any flaws in my design – no really I look nothing like a vicar! – and any mistakes I made in the sewing (I know where they are).

All in all I am really pleased with the blouse and it will certainly get it’s wear … with the collar down. More tea vicar? ….Who said that!

Until next we meet

Moke x

Wedding Bells

Hello All

Happy and wonderful news: I have a ‘Number 1 Daughter In Law’! It’s official Number 1 Son and his fiancée married on 17 November and Number 1 Daughter now has a sister.

R and D’s wedding day was perfect – big thanks to C and D who made it all possible – I can’t think of anything that could have gone better. The service was meaningful and welcoming and No 1 Son was bursting with happiness sharing vows with his beautiful bride. Both beamed smiles throughout their special day.

There were tears for emotions shared, loved ones remembered and the sheer joy of the day: a sister’s reading, a glimpse of a beloved grandfather and THAT FIRST DANCE! There was not a dry eye in the house.

What took me by surprise was the feeling of relief. Not only have both my children found their perfect partners but they are also part of larger families and supported by amazing friendships. I am sure I am explaining this really clumsily but when you are a lone parent it can feel like ‘you against the world’, your family teeny tiny and very vulnerable. Seeing all the people who love R and D come together to share their wedding day reminded me of a weaver’s warp and weft: a strong fabric for the couple’s new life together.

Before I tear up again, only one thing left to say…..Congratulations and love to you both!

Until next we meet,

Moke x