A little story

Remember him? SturiFor the uninitiated, this was Sturuss, the Haflinger pony I had for 25 years. I’ve written quite a bit about  him in the past…

So. Sturuss was quite a character and as I had him from a 3-year old, the age that you begin to train a horse or pony in the arts of carrying a rider and learning to behave while doing so, we had a number of adventures in the local countryside.

Flash forward to this November. My eldest daughter now lives bang in the middle of what, for nearly 10 years, was my riding territory in those early days. Young Mael needed a nap and wouldn’t settle, so last week, I set off for a nice walk on a beautifully sunny day, hoping he would drop off in the pram as I went. IMG_5400 (funny how that picture reminds me of this – IMG_2559– that was in December 2011, our last winter together!)

Anyway. We set off and of course, I know most of the local paths from all those years riding around them and so decided to head off across the little river and for the first time since about 1987, to follow the path along past the tobacco barn and fields and through a couple of hamlets I’d not seen since way back. In fact, seeing this not only reminded me to show the “bend” in the roofline around here that I’ve mentioned before, but I could swear the last time I passed through here, there was a baby slumbering peacefully in its pram in the sunshine, now probably a strapping 6′ carpenter or something, with a gaggle of kids of his own! (I know the Norwegians practice this “baby napping outdoors in all seasons” thing that leaves English-speakers aghast, but the Swiss do – did – it, too!)IMG_5401 The further I went along this road and then off to the right along a track leading to a small footbridge, the broader my grin became. One dull, grey, damp November day, I had trotted along here on Sturuss, heading for a spot just to the right of the bridge where other riders had established a spot where you can ford the river. IMG_5405 In those days, there were a lot of rushes and tall grasses on the bank between the bridge and the ford, where now there are several large firewood stores. We would have the tips of them brushing Sturuss’ sides as we carefully picked our way down the bank and through the river. The river is only a couple of feet deep here and Sturuss was happy to pause and splash for a while, pawing the water with his front legs and having a nice long drink (how glad I was that he didn’t try to lie down in the river, as my friend’s Haflinger did, necessitating a nimble jump off!). On the other side of the river (on the left of this picture), there was quite a thick wood surrounding the pathway and the bank is fairly steep to climb back onto it. As we began to head up the  bank, seemingly from nowhere, a moped came whizzing along and across our exit. Normally pretty traffic-proof (Sturuss had been driven for 6 months before I got him), this was simply asking too much and, already on the uphill, he wheeled around and plunged back down into the river in a split-second. This also asked rather too much of his rider, and I was unseated, catapulted into the river, where I stood for a moment in disbelief. Alarmed by this unexpected result and unnerved by the moped’s whirring, Sturuss charged past me – and in the process, knocked me straight over backwards. Flat into the river. Under water. Gulp.

Dripping and gasping, I pulled myself to my feet. Sturuss, by now no longer alarmed and simply somewhat bemused, had not dashed off in a mad rush but had gone back up the right bank and was standing in the field beyond, watching to see what I would do. Bless him, despite his temperament, he was never the sort to waste energy on a mad gallop when there was grass around… I was left with no choice but to wade to the closer, left, bank and haul myself up to the path, squelching my way to the footbridge to get back to the other side where Sturuss stood grazing. He didn’t bat an eyelid as I remounted and headed back across the river – best to tackle the “problem” immediately.

To my surprise, there was no trouble about crossing through the river, though he was a little anxious about the possibility of another moped coming along the path on the other side. Due to the distinctly chilly temperatures, I urged him to a trot along to the next village, where a friend’s husband had his workshop – luckily, she was there and lent me a spare fleece jacket to get me out of my wet jumper… We trotted hastily back through the village and up the hill to the farm where Sturuss was living. In those days, Sturuss was young and fit and the long trot did no more than warm him up, too, especially since he was going home and there was always the possibility of food in his own stable!

We clattered into the yard, still dripping somewhat and to find the farmer doubled over with laughter at the sight of us – in fact, I will never forget how he held his stomach in mirth as tears poured down his rosy cheeks at the vision of a comically furry, steaming Haflinger pony with a very wet and soggy rider dismounting… Being a kindly man, he lent me a pair of his wife’s jeans and socks and gave me a hot toddy, while Sturuss happily munched on the hay in his box. Those were the days! IMG_5406 Now there’s a woodpile on the other side where the rushes were, and on this side, a rail has been put up to divert riders to the right when fording the river and before hitting the pathway, probably to prevent them charging up in front of walkers, bikers – and mopeds! Sturuss remained unafraid of rivers – but hated mopeds and motorbikes coming up behind him for ever afterwards. 

Back for a bit

IMG_5370Just for a quick stay, we were back in Lucerne last week and able to enjoy a beautiful autumn afternoon and evening there. It made a change to see over town from the other side, even though the mountains were quite ghostly in the bright sunshine!

On the following morning, everything was plain pale grey and not a view to be had…

Some variety

I found it quite mind-boggling when I totted up the books I’d read or listened to this summer (20ish), plus the films I watched (12) – what with knitting and all this entertainment, it must seem as if I do nothing else (which isn’t true!). And I’ve been keeping it up pretty well since I came home – perhaps that’s why I’ve not been blogging quite as much, since less screen time = more reading time! So here are some of the more remarkable…IMG_3339

On my mother’s recommendation https://catterel.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/must-read/ I read all three of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s early travel memoirs, “A Time of Gifts”, “Between the Woods” and (posthumous) “The Broken Road”. I’ve been enthusing about them ever since. Such beautiful writing, a sort of gourmet meal to gorge on. That such a young man, only 18 at the time, should embark on such a journey (walking from Rotterdam to Istanbul) and be so perceptive and ultimately knowledgeable with it, utterly fascinated me. I know he didn’t write it until much later, but surely he must have had a good foundation in history, geography and literature in order to appreciate his surroundings as he did at the time. Your average modern gap-year lad seems so tame in comparison! Add to that the charm of the 1930s and the fact that pre-war eastern Europe, in particular, was an area that today, we know so very little about and yet is actually closely connected to our classics histories. I came away feeling there was a whole world of ethnic and cultural history, geography and language I have little clue about and which made me very curious – a good sign?! IMG_5399

Following on from this, how could I resist reading Nick Hunt’s 2011 re-creation of the adventurous hike? “Walking in the Woods” describes the far more down-to-earth walk taken by this 30-year old, hemmed in by pollution and traffic and sadly, faced with a much more difficult situation in those countries which for so long remained behind the “iron curtain” and were forced into some form of dulled-down homogenous existence. Interesting though it was to read this, I came down to earth with a bump and can’t say I really enjoyed it – I found it all quite depressing, I’m not keen on change at the best of times. But it didn’t lessen my pleasure in Leigh Fermor’s books!

Have you heard of The Austen Project? If you are an Austenite, I’m sure you have – six popular modern authors are taking it upon themselves to rewrite six of Jane Austen’s famous books in a modern style (the website is not updated, unfortunately). The idea worried me a little. And after reading three, I still am not convinced they translate well.         I couldn’t get on with Joanna Trollope’s “Sense and Sensibility” at all, and even the wonderful Alexander McCall-Smith managed to make “Emma” into a very long-winded and rather tedious story, to my dismay, though still “his” style. However, I must admit that I enjoyed Val McDermid’s “Northanger Abbey” much more – despite never having read anything else by her (too gory?!). Next up will be “Pride and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld, who I have never heard of, so I’m feeling more than a little anxious… northanger

Let’s get more tedium over with – we persevered with the audiobook of Elizabeth Berg’s “The Dream Lover”, a romanticised life of 19th century French classic author George Sand (actually Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin de Francueil) told in the first person. I’m sure she was a fascinating and eccentric person – she was famous for wearing men’s clothes and was an early visitor to Mallorca with Fréderic Chopin – who later developed important political interests and her books were certainly best-sellers, but this repetitive story with its pathetic and soppy overtones just dragged on. It piqued my interest enough to find out more real information about this author, though. Maybe it reflects the style she wrote in and I’m not qualified in that respect? dream lover

As far as best-sellers go, I finally got around to Sarah Waters’ “The Paying Guests” which I found to be a gripping historical detective story, something I’d not expected from the book blurb. Set in the 1920s, when my granny was growing up, it brings up daringly sapphic relationships, mixing class and politics around a desperate crime and I did find it a gripping and satisfying read. paying

I have neither seen nor read “Gone Girl”, so can’t compare, but the media does so – this one is “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins and I did enjoy it very much. A bit of Bridget Jones meets Agatha Christie – perhaps enjoyed all the more because I haven’t seen as much hype as with the above-mentioned book. It begins rather slowly in chick-lit style but when it gets going, you have to read on and it’s pretty unexpected. girl

Moving on, to another genre I would call “nordic”, and not the thriller kind, in the style of  the excellent “The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window” by Jonas Jonasson (another one which has been filmed, most successfully). A dry, witty, crisp way of writing that sticks in the throat a little, with protagonists who are not always nice, but is nevertheless very entertaining, I was delighted by “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backmann. Highly recommended! A story of neighbours and neighbourliness, and ultimately a very touching biography. Not Swedish but still in a similar vein, written by a Frenchman with strengths in English and Spanish, Romain Puértolas, “L’extraordinaire voyage du fakir qui était resté coincé dans une armoire Ikea” (The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe) is clever and funny, serious and very international, and somehow innocent – quite delightful. And fairly short. I can only hope the available translations do it justice. ove IMG_4905

Another character who is not all that pleasant and yet compels you to carry on reading is Martin Suter’s eccentric, Allmen – I’m sorry to see that this series is not translated into English so far, only available in German. But I will still include it. Martin Suter is a popular Swiss author of a number of prize-winning novels in German and now this series about a rather down-at-heel Swiss gentleman antique dealer (Johannes Friedrich von Allmen/Hans Fritz von Allmen…) who regularly gets into difficulties – and out of them again, with the help of his loyal valet-companion, Carlos. The one I read this summer was “Allmen und die Libellen”, and I will continue to read more of these as they appear (3 others waiting in line). allmen

After rereading the James Bond books by Ian Fleming in the last couple of years, I have to say that William Boyd has done a great job in picking up the story with “Solo”. This one is set in 1969 and has an older, more modern Bond but without losing the charm and style – or cold streak, somehow – of the original. It rings very true (and ahem, a little anti-American!) and in line with the older novels and should be a “must” for anyone who values the old-fashioned contained excitement of the classic series. Not to mention that the latest Bond film, “Spectre” has just come out… solo_james_bond

While we’re on crime, I would have to include the latest Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope, “The Moth Catcher”, spellbinding as ever if you love this awkward, no-nonsense detective as we do! Why is she so lovable, when she is so unlovable?! Ann Cleeves is excellent at bringing over the rough, northeastern English inspector and you “hear” her speaking as you read. I don’t even think that is because of the TV versions of these stories, starring Brenda Blethyn – who is very good but not quite as I imagine Vera! Also in my summer reading, “The Sleeping and the Dead”, another suspenseful detective story by the same auther. Ann Cleeves released “Offshore” only a year ago, too, which is a series of short stories that feature two of the popular detectives she’s created over the years, moving them on till the next bigger episodes appear. (This last is available as a very reasonably priced ebook.) vera

I read a couple of books that are hardly worth mentioning but then came across “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton (a first novel, I believe). I expected it to take me into a “Girl with a Pearl Earring” world, as it is set in 17th century Amsterdam, but it is darker, imaginative and a little bizarre. I found it quite a struggle in parts but all in all, the miniatures left a charming aftertaste. Perhaps that isn’t the right word, but it’s worth a try! minaturist

And finally, two more non-fiction works – the long and laborious “A Brief History of the Middle Ages” (Martyn Whittock), fascinating but so full of information you’d need to read or listen to it several times to keep up, similarly to “A Brief History of the Vikings” (Jonathan Clements) though I think we enjoyed the latter more – and yes, I’ve listened to it more than once!    The amazing mythology can be somewhat soporific… Jacky Colliss Harvey has written “Red”, a history of the redhead, of which we (my daughter and I listened together while knitting!) were quite critical, perhaps unfairly. It is certainly an extremely interesting topic that investigates the fascination with the redheaded, their famed tempers and how society sees them, as well as some scientific blurb, but not all the claims sounded completely founded on newest research! However, definitely entertaining. red

Have you read any of these or have I interested you in any of them?

(Most are also available as audiobooks if you like entertainment while you knit or drive or do the ironing!)





A loyal friend commented that he thought I must have got cramp in my hand not to have blogged for such a long time – well, the volume of knitting may well have needed some kneading of the fingers now and again when I was so hard at it!! :)

So, let us rewind back to spring… I had made Mael a couple of cardigans, one tiny one and another that seemed enormous once he was born! IMG_4397 IMG_5346That was him just today in the larger one, covered in rainbows, from my crystal lamp in the sunshine! This was a pattern from the popular Swiss magazine Schweizer Landliebe made up in merino, but I’ve already forgotten the brand, oops. There’s a cap to go with it, but he wasn’t too keen on modelling for the moment…! The little wrap-around pattern is a real charmer, made up in MadelineTosh Sock’s “Home” colourway and comes from a book out last winter, called Mama-Baby-Strickbuch by Gabriele Widmer-Hanke with lots of supercute patterns in lovely yarns.

In April, another of Ysolda Teague’s “Ishbel” shawls in Malabrigo Sock, I think colourway “Solis”, went to my neighbour for her 60th birthday – I felt a bit guilty that she was so impressed, as the pattern is a great one for a first lace shawl, not difficult at all! IMG_4400The next project was one I have been wearing a LOT since I made it and I am still very much enamoured of it – the adult version of Alana Dakos’ (NeverNotKnitting) Wee Wildflower design. You may remember Mireille getting a small version in purply-greys a while back… Mine is sans pockets but I just love that scalloped edging! This is in MadelineTosh DK, colourway “Filigree” (I think!). Imagine 3 little yellow buttons at the top – I haven’t got a pic with those! IMG_4426My next adventure was an interesting one – I saw a batch of Swiss wool for sale on an internet auction, very close to home. Ten large skeins of plain, natural cream-coloured and quite coarse yarn, worsted weight, which are like string to knit, very hard on the hands, and I have to keep picking bits of straw out of it… I enquired about it’s provenance and my suspicions were confirmed, as it seems it was (expertly and evenly) handspun by an elderly farmer’s wife from local sheep, which are farmed for both their meat and their wool, usually used for more robust purposes like mattress filling rather than knitting wool. Seems ideal for a weatherproof sailing guernsey, but apart from this swatch, I only have half a sweater to show for my pains so far. I’m still conjuring up the will to finish, and only because of the wool being “special”! I will then defy any rain or wind to get through once it’s “bloomed”!IMG_4455

IMG_4468Showing it on the blog could be the motivation to show a finished project at some point! Preferably before next season’s sailing… :o

While I was in England for Granny’s 99th birthday in May, I needed a project and Kirsten Kapur’s “Cladonia” seemed to fit the bill, knitted up in beautifully soft and drapy Drops Alpaca. I left it for the model! IMG_0718 IMG_0703Another little “Citron” (by Hilary Smith Callis, free pattern at Knitty, Winter 2009), in Malabrigo Lace, colourway Pollen) also fell off the needles at the beginning of June, a slight respite from the second “Henni” that is still ongoing (Christina Körber-Reith) in orange Drops Alpaca and too much plain stocking stitch…! IMG_4656While in Paris, I found the gorgeous little wool shop Lil Weasel (should you be in the beautiful empire (1825) ‘passage du grand cerf’, 12 metre high glass roof, do go…!) and came away with loot… sorry, this was not intended as a shopping post!IMG_4678That blue at the top is Lil Weasel’s own brand merino and became this, again for Mael (he’s doing well this year!)… IMG_4998Oops, well, I don’t seem to have a good photo of this in its finished state, though rest assured it was completed and has been worn! The really special thing about this is that my middle daughter actually knit the front panel, the first knitting she’s done since primary school and a perfect job, too – and how can I not feel triumphant that I now have 2 out of 3 daughters with the knitting bug?! Look, proof… <3IMG_4946On hearing that a new baby is imminent in the neighbourhood (not family, this time!) I couldn’t resist rustling up a little something for the infant-in-waiting and went back to a well-loved pattern, the Baby Tea Leaves, a MadelineTosh pattern by Melissa LeBarre, turning into a sleeveless garment for speed’s sake, and made up in a merino I bought locally in Brittany, by Spanish brand Katia – IMG_5102and with the leftovers, there was plenty for another Marin, more of Ysolda Teague’s clever construction in an elegant double-sided shawlette IMG_5117Apart from the afore-mentioned works-in-progress (WIPs), there is a special occasion men’s sweater in the works, involving cables, about half done and going swimmingly (that would be the Cozy Shawl-Collared Aran Pullover by Janet Szabo) and then I picked up something I’d begun earlier and finished that – it still needs a bath but I’m rather pleased with its simplicity (Ramona cardigan by Elizabeth Smith, in Malabrigo Worsted, colourway “Blue Surf”), plus it’s supersoft and cuddly! The only problem with hand-dyed yarns is that even within a dye lot there can be variation, so you can see where the yoke transitions to the body/sleeves in this, but it’s subtle and doesn’t worry me, since it’s not uneven.IMG_5343The other project keeping me busy/sane/calm/productive was the Feather and Fan Short Scarf by Kelly Faller – mine is not so short, about 6′ long and made of a random, unlabelled ball of 50% merino/50% silk in a rich turquoise, from the Schoppel stall at the Creativa craft exhibition at the beginning of October – it has a beautiful sheen and is lusciously squishy, but needs blocking  IMG_5360

Phew!! Add at least half a dozen pairs of “incidental” socks to that lot and you can see, I’ve been busy! I was going to talk about some books and stuff, too, but I think that will have to wait…

Bridging the gap

Where do I even to begin to catch up on nearly seven months of blog absence?!

Well, there’s this little sunshine IMG_5325whose supersonic sister just turned 4 IMG_5318(that’s a Princess Lillifee cake baked by her mum!) and big brother has started school… Sevi Schule Velo 2015Phew. There was another “re-“birth, as we cleared a corner of the garden this summer, but due to the excessive heat and dryness this year, we had to wait until the autumn to replant under the viburnumIMG_5309Very much looking forward to it next spring, when all the plants will be established and come back fresh and new! Though autumnal charm has its merits, too. IMG_5316IMG_5336Spring was busy, in England, Paris and on Lake Constance! IMG_0672(that’s five generations aged between 5 weeks and 99…!)IMG_4596(for our silver wedding anniversary (and to see AC/DC ;))IMG_4864(the Bavaria 37 cruiser we chartered)

And then we had to survive the heatwave IMG_4909 IMG_4662 IMG_4771 IMG_4766 IMG_5012which was only finally achieved by fleeing westwards to the milder climate of Brittany. This is my “Photo of  Summer 2015”, taken at the Abbaye de Beauport, of the salt marshes IMG_5087Since it was already nearly autumn by the time I returned to Switzerland and having enjoyed a wet, stormy August and delightfully warm and sunny beginning of September in France, we were grateful for a perfect day out on the island of Mainau (on Lake Constance) with our family visitor IMG_5155and again, our trip in Bad Ragaz for the ‘Bad Ragaartz’ temporary art installations just got better and better IMG_5231plus our outing to the Rhine Falls at Neuhausen could hardly have been brighter IMG_5245Always takes your breath away!

Next time, some of the things I actually did during all that time :)


The New Baby

Since she was about 5 years old and noticed one in a brocante, our youngest daughter has mentioned several times how much she would love to have a typewriter. Born in 1995, she has grown up with computers and laptops and thoroughly embraced Apple products, recently persuading her father (it’s the eyes!!) to buy her the latest phone… Thanks to the internet and online auctions, I recently noticed that the famous “Hermes Baby” typewriter was still going strong on the second hand market and yesterday, for a very modest sum (and a fraction of the original 1935 price of CHF 160.- at just 15.-!), a neat little case came into our possession.

These days, nearly-20 year olds are laidback and not always easy to impress. You would have been as amused and amazed as I was to observe the reaction to the new toy! With an enormous grin and shining eyes, she immediately investigated all the keys, how it works and also discovered some things it can’t do which she is used to from a modern keyboard. Thrilled to discover it has a Swiss keyboard (Hermes typewriters are a Swiss product, made by E. Paillard in Yverdon), she found ä, ö and ü and worked out how shift back and forth to make é and è… Some things made me laugh, having learnt to type on an old IBM Golfball, and which she had to discover for herself, but the most glorious moment of all was when she discovered how to make it “ping” – I thought she would explode with delight! IMG_4887Truly, she was as excited about this little vintage machine as if it had been the latest ultrathin laptop. It is all of 10″ square, making it actually smaller than a 13″ Macbook, although it is a couple of inches high! It weighs 3.6 kg, which made it the ideal travel companion for authors and journalists back in the day, being the most compact and light of typewriters, and many famous writers used one for their work, including people like Ernest Hemingway and Max Frisch, Françoise Sagan and, incidentally, Ella Maillart and Annemarie Schwarzenbach, who took one along on their travels. Our model was identifiable thanks to a wonderfully informative site, http://www.typewriters.ch/collection/hermes_baby.html (in German) and is a 1958 model, the last which had the oval logo. As the lady who sold it to me has just retired, it was probably hers all along – she’s emigrating to Rumania! I ought to mention that it is in perfect working order, though the ribbon is old and we will need to source a new one, which seems to be fairly readily available.

What this young lady hadn’t known was that her great grandfather worked for many many years for British Typewriters in West Bromwich and was very handy at fixing things, so was often found bent over someone’s old typewriter, intent on mending something. Even I had only been vaguely aware as a child that Grandad did “something” at “the typewriters”, and on researching the Hermes Baby, I was surprised and pleased to find that British Typewriters had a licence for the Hermes Baby, marketing it as the Baby Empire in Britain!

How nice to have come full circle :)

PS I know you were probably expecting to hear about the “other” new baby, who is now 4 mths old and wonderfully bonny and blue-eyed – yes!! – but that will have to wait for another time! It’s nice to be back…


The very windy and stormy last day of March cleared for little while for a show of bright sunshine – and the birth of Mael, our newest grandson! IMG_4387Just home from the hospital, barely 5 hours old and wrapped in what has become an heirloom blanket – remember this: IMG_0354IMG_3928Great Aunt Miriam’s little hand-noted pattern for a baby lace edging was the inspiration to use it in a larger-scale baby blanket, all ready for the newborn a hundred years later… IMG_4289Drops baby alpaca-silk, very soft and cuddly and warm! Mael Sean  31.3.15This is his hospital portrait: 3960g and 53cm… aaahhh!!

Many congratulations to his mum and dad, brother and sister :) <3 BIG hugs!!!




From Mael’s point-of-view, Great Aunt Miriam is actually Great-great-great-great Aunt Miriam!! (I think, since she was my granny’s aunt?!)