Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Lest we forget

In my continued effort to clear the bookshelves, I've embarked on this
Three books in one, its a hardback of almost 600 pages so not ideal bedtime reading as I tend to nod off and drop it - heavily.  I've finished the first book, Regeneration, which centres on a real life encounter at Craiglockhart hospital Edinburgh, where first world war shell shocked soldiers were sent for treatment, between an army psychologist and Siegfried Sassoon.  At school so many years ago we studied the war poets, Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke et al, their words never left me so I enjoyed the book and knowing the setting from my years in Scotland made it all the more vivid.
Craiglockhart war hospital, now part of Edinburgh University
When we travel through France on our way to Italy the great war always comes into my mind as we pass signs for places from history, The Somme, Ypres, Arras and often we've glimpsed memorials and war graves from the motorway.  Two years ago we made a special visit to the Menim Gate in Ypres and last year as we travelled home we stopped off at the Ring of Remembrance, Notre Dame de Lorette.  
This remarkable modern memorial is a large ring of concrete containing 500 sheets of bronzed stainless steel listing 576,606 names, without rank of country, people of all nations who gave their lives in northern France.  I found it overwhelmingly sad.


The memorial is located on a strategic ridge that was bitterly contested during the war.  Nearby is a church with cemetery and ossuary that hold the remains of more than 40,000 soldiers as well as the ashes of many concentration camp victims, it was atmospherically misty when we were there.

Perhaps most touching of all were the elderly Frenchmen who every day stand at the entrance to the graveyard, each with a proud chestful of medals and wearing their berets.  This Honour Guard consists of volunteers who retain the memory of those who died for France and represent the families of the dead who are known to be burried in the cemetery.   We chatted to them briefly, they thanked us for our visit and we thanked them too.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.
For the Fallen, Laurence Binyon

Monday, 10 April 2017

Knitting now


The Estuary scarf is finished and has been worn, yes it is more of a scarf than a shawl.  I was in one of the smart dress shops in town the other day and as soon as I walked in the sales assistant told me how beautiful it was,  I was very pleased and thanked her explaining I'd made it myself.  The yarn is beautifully soft, it drapes well and the pattern was delightful to knit, plenty of interest but not too challenging. So this item won't be leaving the penthouse but I'd be very happy to knit it again with some other suitably gorgeous yarn.
                           
I used just under 4 x 50 g balls of yarn,  enough left overs to produce this little cowl which I am prepared to part with, its Spiral Cowl from Keri McKiernan.  I didn't knit the picot edge just started and finished with 5 rows of garter and kept going until the ball and a half were finished
Back to socks for now, I've started Sunshine from the Cookie A book I borrowed from the library using West Yorkshire Spinners 4 ply in cinnamon stick. 
And speaking of lovely socks, let me give a shout out to Josie Kitten and her latest pattern, I've already printed this to take out to Italy where I believe there is a decent stash awaiting my attention.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The big bathroom reveal

I don't have photographs of the bathroom before, it wasn't included on the estate agents details, for obvious reasons, it was the room they showed us last and I can understand why.  The floor tiles were black and white check, many of them broken because the floor underneath had been flooded in the past and rotted, the washbasin was a black counter top bowl that was too far onto the marble shelf to use comfortably and showed every soapy drop of water.
The cabinets had obviously been white and badly painted black, and the piece de resistance of course was the free standing black bath with silver feet, these are all the photos I have but you get the idea.
We managed to squeeze into the bathroom a large shower that has a steam facility, a bath, toilet and basin.  No way was I going to live in a home without a bath which did delayed the decision making and involve a lot of planning but we got there.  It was my original desire that I would be able to lay in the bath and look through the door across the bedroom to the hills but we had to move the door and take a chunk out of the bedroom to make space for new fitted wardrobes.  I was disappointed this didn't happen and very sad when the new wall was tiled, no going back then.
However the new bathroom is very beautiful.  There are just a few final touches, for example we fitted shiny white panels to the ceiling and the very last one to go up was damaged. 
We have to wait a week for a replacement but I can't wait another week to show you.



There's a handy storage drawer under the basin so I only need display my most beautiful toiletries


It was difficult to find a wash basin that didn't project too far into the room but still had putting down space, this is great

A lovely big shower head and in the photo below you can see there is also a little spray,  presumably for those hard to reach areas.  Yes there is a slight slope on the shower ceiling that's to allow the condensation to drain when we are steaming

That's not a phone on the wall in the shower its the controller for the steam facility

The back lit auto demist mirror is operated by holding your hand at the bottom, Mr FF has left the instruction on the wall for those of us who fail to embrace technology

My bath 

The pale grey marble that edges the bath is also used in the bottom of the recess behind the toilet

We designed the layout ourselves (after much argument) and sourced the fittings and tiles direct.  We paid day rates to Jim our plumber/tiler/boy wonder who added some very lovely details, Jack our joiner and Lewis our electrician, Mr FF project managed and I was the gofer doing emergency dashes for bits and pieces in town. I also provided copious amounts of tea and coffee, biscuits, bacon sandwiches and sometimes lunches, everyone got on great and it was a pleasure to have the boys around.  We are all delighted with the end result but personally I am so glad its finished.  Now where's my shower cap.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The light is fantastic

The entrance hall into our penthouse had no natural light, I could show you how it looked but it would just be a black screen though the installers of our solution did take a photograph with the door slightly open.  
We've fitted a sun tube, for the technically minded there are details here but basically we now have a little transparent dome on the roof of the building with a highly reflective tube running down through the roof void to our hall and the end is fitted with a diffuser in the ceiling.  
If you are wondering why we have two front doors one is the fire escape
 It looks much like a ceiling lamp but is pure natural sunlight
It is truly amazing how much light such a little opening gives, on a sunny day its almost too bright and we constantly think we've left lights on by mistake.  The equipment took half a day to install, made hardly any mess, no not even dust, and we are delighted with the improvement.
New windows before the trims were replaced
The second life enhancing change has been new double glazed aluminium windows in our two bedrooms.  Previously we had distorted wood sash and case single glazed units that streamed condensation, got stuck if you opened them too far and had so much frame and architrave they let in precious little light. Now we have windows that open, have built in ventilation units, are constantly clear and show off our glorious views to perfection.
Finally the new tiles to the balcony are finished and I've put out the folding dining table I bought a while back in the Habitat sale.  
It's perfect for a small space as it opens out fully to comfortably seat four or partially to seat two and the four chairs are stored underneath. 
We did sit out over the weekend just for coffee but it's cold again today, so much potential though, so much light and so much work that has been well worth the effort.  When we bought the penthouse Mr FF complained it would be too dark, he's not complaining now.

And in view of the ongoing home improvements, I've given my blog a little renovation too, I do like the extra large photographs which never seemed to fit on my previous template.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Trust me

I thought my now I'd be showing you our beautifully completed bathroom, wrong it is still sadly a work in progress but maybe soon as there is just some lighting and final fixing of controls to sort out.  
Meanwhile I'll tell you about the engineer and the scaffolder.
A while back we had a company round to talk about scaffolding part of our building to enable a worker safely to complete the lead work surrounding our soon to be installed new double glazed aluminium windows.  Yes those four windows that had been in the lounge for about a month.
It's a tricky operation, we needed a tower to come up from the garden to the fourth floor over the balcony and a platform to span to the window on the other side of said balcony to protect anyone working on the windows.  As an extra precaution the worker would be harnessed to the balcony. 
Mr FF had of course done all the calculations for the structure and it was feasible, the scaffold man agreed and gave us a price, fairly costly but we thought worth while. In actual fact the lead work to the building isn't our responsibility but we were prepared to fork out for it just to get the job finished and risk retrospective installation that might damage our windows.  We got all the necessary permissions and alerted our neighbours who were absolutely fine about living with scaffold for a few days.
So four workers plus the boss, two lorries and a van arrived to start putting up the scaffold.  I say start work, they only took one board and a length of pipe off the vehicles before the arguments started.  The boss decided that we needed two towers not one because he wasn't happy with the cantilever arrangement he'd agreed to earlier.  Mr FF pointed out the original scheme was feasible but the boss simply shouted from the balcony down 4 floors to one of the men 'You've done the course Joe, how far can we span it's a metre isn't it'.  Mr FF again explained what could safely be done, we can understand no one wanted to take any risks here,  but the boss wasn't having any of it and got a bit shouty, always a great response. Mr FF got cross too, 'I'm a chartered civil and structural engineer' he said, 'I'm a fellow of both professional institutions, I know what I'm talking about'  apparently not as he hadn't 'done the course'.
So work was abandoned, the boss said he'd get back to us that evening with a revised price and wouldn't let us down, that was Friday and the builder and lead worker were due the following Tuesday.  As you might imagine we heard nothing whatsoever, we cancelled the lead worker.
We're happy to be rid of the scaffold people, obviously dodgy if they changed their minds and wanted more money when they came to deliver but we did smile about them referring to the opinion some boy who has been on a course over a man with more than 40 years professional experience and enough qualifications to fill a suitcase.  I'm thinking of getting Mr FF this t shirt, the one that says Trust Me I've done the Course just doesn't have the same ring to it.



Friday, 17 March 2017

Let me explain

In a recent post I showed you that I'd purchased a little yarn, there's more. Since my LYS decided to stock more fabrics and less fibres I've felt very let down that I can no longer walk out for 10 minutes and come home with new yarn.  So much so that I found myself recently without any sock wool at all, in the UK that is, I do believe there is a good quantity waiting for me in Italy.
This discrepancy was highlighted recently when I spotted this book at the library, 
which is also a 10 minute walk way and though I have many many books in the penthouse to read and dispose of, I was also tempted to borrow these two.  
I am currently half way through a 600+ page Jane Smiley but that's going to leave a big space when its read and left the building.
Back to the wool situation.  Cookie A's book is lovely with much useful information on writing your own patterns, not that I ever will when there are plenty of people to do that for me, we all know how lazy I am.   These cable beauties spoke to me immediately and must be made soon
these are rather lovely too.
So I've had no alternative but to order on line from Love Knitting an assortment of suitable yarns, I was offered 15% discount on my first order and free delivery if I spent £25, obviously I managed that by buying 5 x 100 g balls.  
The yarn arrived quickly in a useful organza drawstring bag with a 10% off code for my next purchase.  I should say now I'm not being sponsored to write this post but I do want you to know how happy I am with my purchase.
I've never tried this yarn before, Austermann Step, if feels very squishy, apparently its treated with aloe and jojoba to give a cashmere soft experience that last for over 40 machine washes.  So that will be interesting.
The Red Heart I've enjoyed before.
                   
I chose yarns with only slight shade variation as I don't want too many colours to detract from the pattern detail.  
So I've moderately replenished my stock of books and yarn, nothing too excessive, there's still room for more if an opportunity arises, like my LYS coming to its senses.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Soft soothing knitting

When I started my latest project I wasn't convinced I was enjoying and after I'd used up the first ball of yarn I did think about ripping it out, now I'm loving it.
This is Estuary by Tin Can Knits, a shawl cum scarf with some shaping but not too much, mine should look like the finished article below once it's blocked out.
The pattern is in chart form which isn't usually my first choice but the designer has kindly copied the various pattern sections so they appear side by side as they are knit so I'm coping just fine.  Even though I have to concentrate I find it very relaxing to add a dozen or so rows every night after we've cleaned up from the days renovations in the penthouse.   
We are in week 7 of the works now but the bathroom should be finished in the coming week, the double glazed windows are installed if not completely finished and we have a new innovation in the hallway, more of all that another time.
I'm using up 5 x 50 g balls of Sublime baby cashmere merino and silk 4 ply that I found in a charity shop, lovely soft stuff that is going to make a cosy wrap. I'm telling myself this can go into the gift department for future giving, believe that if you will.