So many reasons…

…for having abandoned this space!

Although I don’t have a “job” as such, my function as clan manager means my life is a busy one!
My husband often works away for much of the week, leaving me to deal with home life and the things that crop up on a day-to-day basis, repairs, maintenance in house and garden, dealings with customer service… It may seem old-fashioned to some, but I enjoy the domestic life and don’t find it dull or monotonous at all and I like caring for the home, too (well, not cleaning the oven, but you know…!). There is always something to do or that needs doing and rarely are two days alike. Plus I get to organise my time to suit me, which is a bonus, and to fit in my own hobbies and interests, as this blog has shown! Yet another advantage is the opportunity to travel locally and within Europe, most often in order to spend more time with my husband, which in my book is a good thing :).

Readers will have gathered that I have daughters and grandchildren, too, to whom I am always happy to give some of my time. I love my weekly babysitting and find the children entertaining, amusing, amazing and all the rest – they are growing up fast and it would be such a shame to miss it. I have noticed that I spend more time actually with them than I did with my own children, when all those domestic duties had to be dealt with alongside child-rearing. Maybe I got my priorities wrong back then but I appreciate this opportunity to observe and interact with my grandchildren. It’s great to be involved in their daily lives and I feel so lucky to live quite close by, which is something I didn’t have as a child with my own grandparent. They like to come and stay over with me sometimes, too. And one of my daughters lives some distance away, so another opportunity to spend time away, coincidentally also going back to childhood haunts, which has pros AND cons!!

In the last couple of years since this blog went into hibernation, I have lost both a beloved grandmother and my mother-in-law. Having spent a fair amount of time in England with my grandmother and mother over the past few years, it fell to me to support my mother at the end of Granny’s life (at the last in a home), clearing and moving her belongings, selling her house and so on. In 2017 I travelled to England four times and France three times. How grateful I am that I spent so long decluttering our little French holiday house and made room for treasured items from my granny’s house! We’ve had masses of fun family times in both houses and the atmosphere seems to have crossed the channel with the removal load – lots of wonderful memories of my lovely granny’s long life – she was 100 3/4!
More recently, we have been busy with my mother-in-law’s estate, far larger and less manageable, though closer geographically. It’s been really hard work but again, we appreciate having the privilege of taking on some of her beautiful things in the process. We lost our weekends, to a great extent, but slowly, we’re getting there…

Not least, there are my pets, of whom I have frequently written on this blog. There was Sturuss the pony and Hamish the family dog, now long gone. At the end of 2017 we had to say goodbye to Sophie the cat, who was 16. Another pet of character, she inspired my mother’s blog header… she was a cat of the independent-minded sort, but although she hated the journey, she loved being in Brittany in the summers of the last few years, giving me a sort of “finally, you’ve realised” look of contentment – and regulary checking to make sure I was still there… At the end, she just stopped wanting to eat and despite no obvious diagnosis it eventually became clear that we should do the decent thing. She was euthanised gently, at home among us, very peacefully (we have a great vet!).

Alina the black English cocker spaniel featured often on these pages. By 2018 she was nearly deaf and pretty grey but still sprightly and fit. She enjoyed coming along most places and was always appreciative of seeing something new. She adored water and diving for stones and did this right until the end of her life. While in Brittany in summer 2018, aged 14, she quite suddenly developed a tumour on her jaw, which was successfully operated, with a good prognosis. However, the cortisone tablets prescribed to hem the cancer cells damaged her stomach (which I always thought must be cast-iron!) and she was in pain, so again, it was the right thing to put an end to her suffering after a short period of time. It was a hard thing to do away from home, and coming back to Switzerland there was a real cocker-shaped hole in my life that hit me like a brick wall.

Only a short time later, my daughter had to say goodbye to her 9 yr old Great Dane, Annea…
But life without any pets at all was never really going to be an option!

Just days after losing Alina, my good friend J, a Labrador and English Cocker Spaniel breeder, announced that her champion cocker spaniel bitch would be having a litter at Christmastime. I have long said my next spaniel would be called Merry and what better excuse than a Christmas puppy!! Merry, her 6 sisters and 1 brother were born on December 21st 2018. We had an exciting couple of months’ wait and at 10 weeks (the earliest the breeders are allowed in Switzerland), on March 1st, Merry came home. What a delightful and busy few months we have had! Miss Merry has bounced into our lives, now already 7 mths old and a young lady, the fluffiness of puppyhood disposed of at her first grooming appointment but that wonderful bouncy, cheery, affectionate cocker character completely intact!!! Such joy…

Only 2 weeks after Merry joined us, my daughter and family took on an 11 mth old something-doodle called Pablo, the perfect playmate for our pup :).

So those are some of, if not quite all or in detail, the reasons that this blog went to sleep for a while. I have been on Instagram at thelittlewashhouse if anyone wants to catch up on my life and travels and all being well, I now have good reason to pick up where I left off and carry on my chronicles…

Is anyone still out there?!

(an additional reason is that I have run out of photo space on wordpress, a problem I’m trying to solve…)

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Siberia, here we come

I seem to be on a roll, here…!

The Jökull cape made in Léttlopi Icelandic wool more or less knitted itself – having a pattern is a little more difficult than plain knitting but does make for more interest and the challenge of finishing the chart, so hey presto, you are finished. I still haven’t washed/blocked it, but had to take advantage of my daughter being around to model it for me… this was an occasion that had us all falling around with laughter, as in a garment like this, you never quite know what to do with your hands! Still, I’m very pleased with it. It now also has buttons on the hand slits to keep the wind out if you keep your hands in… IMG_5651As I won’t be at home next week, when this daughter turns 25 (!), I will take the opportunity here to wish her a Happy Birthday! and many happy returns of the day in advance, since I know she will read this lol!! 🙂

Normally, it’s “onwards and upwards”, but no, in this case I have cast my eye down to my four-legged friends… Here is Alina in her new fair-isle jumper, all set for our mountain holiday next week, where temperatures at present are heading downscale to around -17°C (1.4°F…), apparently. Brrr. But there is promise of snow, yay! IMG_5674

When my friend saw what I was making, she was extremely amused, but also full of admiration. She has just lost her champion Cocker pup, sadly, and her new bundle of fun, Bonny, is a teenager – and what teenager doesn’t need something new in her wardrobe?! I thought this would do the trick, incorporating the hearts and her owner’s signature pink (when she shows her dogs) and it seems it’s gone down a storm! Yesterday and today brought the very first, very light snowfall of the winter and it’s getting colder, so definitely appropriate, I feel. It’s also a big thankyou for the hard work my friend J does in grooming Alina regularly and making her into a proper diva… much appreciated. (It’s turned out a little short so will be modified once I’m back! :o)Bonny's jumper 15.1.16Bonny's jumper 2

Photographs used with permission

And with that, my friends, I will leave you to your mirth as we head off to our mountain retreat for a week’s icy cold bliss and spa offerings…

 

Alina’s jumper is DROPS Extra 0-836 by DROPS Design, the light blue yarn is Drops Merino Extra Fine, the cream is (I think) Lana Grossa Merino Superfein and the deep blue is DROPS Baby Merino

Bonny’s jumper is VALENTINO by DROPS Design (Extra 0-1010), the red is Schulana Filini Merino, the cream is once again Lana Grossa Merino Superfein and the dark pink is Lang Merino 120

These DROPS patterns are all free!

Cuddly cat

Sophie is 12 and a half years old. From day one she was a snooty little redhead (no disrespect intended!) who obviously objected to the fact that her mother Snoopy’s owner had shoved her into his jacket, walked up the road and delivered her to a large, strange house with an enormous huge great shaggy waggy dog… ugh. And children… MVC-006F

All the pictures we have of Sophie where her face is visible show her continued supercilious attitude to her humans, that latent irritation with how awfully…. two-legged… they are.2_Kätzli

On the other hand, or perhaps it’s still the same hand, she has proved to be exceptionally intelligent. Firstly, she actually survived, which her original partner in crime, a sleek black and white rogue called Mr. Darcy, didn’t. He didn’t quite make his first birthday and was hit by a car while chasing leaves… No, Sophie has been wise about roads right from the start, initially a main village junction, then a road where heavy lorries regularly thundered past and now a town road on one side of the house and a busy residential road on the other – and never a scratch. The second trick she developed early on was to learn to open doors. As kittens, she and Mr. Darcy would hang on to Hamish’s tail and allow themselves to be dragged along the parquet floor, so the dangly bit was initiated early on (that was the Christmas we tied the tree to a ceiling beam…). Goodness knows what made Sophie think of hanging on the door handle till it lowered and clicked, releasing the lock – in fact, at first she was too light and Mr. Darcy had to jump up and cling to her hindquarters to give them enough leverage with his additional weight, but soon it was enough to leave a trail of open doors… A third clever thing Sophie learnt to do was to avoid anything as common as a water bowl, oh no, a washbasin makes a most suitable resting place and water is on tap… and if madam doesn’t wish to have to walk so far (we only had one upstairs bathroom in that house), well, let’s get a drink from the indoor fountain! MVC-014F_2

Sophie grew up to be a large and very pretty cat, bar the toffee-nosed, slit-eyed looks she gives most people. Although ostensibly anti-social and apparently considering only our middle daughter to be worthy of her attention (I am just staff…), life altered fairly dramatically when said daughter married, moved to a flat where no pets were allowed and subsequently, abroad. Now Sophie had to accept second best – our youngest daughter.

Meanwhile, this daughter was also growing up (as they do!), and after spending several years at a school entailing being out for 12 hours a day, moved on to an apprenticeship where she is out 13 hours a day and more recently, has been spending even longer than that at her boyfriend’s flat, and during holidays, she’s even been completely absent. Well, it’s so hard when you only have staff to rely on! Sophie_drinking__Mvc-001fSophie_long

The thing is, with increasing age has come increasing sensitivity to loud noises – fireworks, banging noise from the metalworking workshop next door, strange dogs, ambulances that pass by and worst of all, thunderstorms. Then, this noble figure of a cat can be found huddling below the bottom stairs or flattened under the (low) sofa, obviously mentally battening the hatches and closing her ears as much as possible to the horrors that are going on around her. What with the disappearance of Human No. 1 and now the lengthy absences of Human No. 2, she has been left with simply NO choice. The living room door twangs open and in marches Sophie, with one eye on the dog in case Alina decides to chase her or just jump on her (not unknown!), and then wonder oh wonder, we are approached with an appealing look of “save me from the monsters!” and the formerly so very superior Sophie will suffer our presence and even lie on the upholstery and snooze…actually seeking our company. To our incredulity, she has even recently been known to sit on our laps!! Well, for a few minutes. Nothing short of a revolution. Image055

Having spent this last weekend away, we returned to find the house very chilly – our aging heating system needs constant monitoring and restarting and our daughter, left to house-sit, had been otherwise occupied and checking on the innards of the house is not a priority for her. We were barely settled in, reheated, woolly-socked and sipping hot tea, when in came Sophie – it had obviously been a cold, barren and simply intolerable weekend for her, even if there had been food in the bowl. In the space of merely minutes, if not seconds, I had my arms full of cat, now keen for a cuddle and utterly relaxed, purring loudly and taking full advantage of any warmth to be had! When I had to get up to replenish those teacups, I transferred this bundle of fur over to my husband – what would previously have resulted in a definite flouncing off at having been disturbed was accepted with grace and madam even consented to doze off, relaxed and content and almost wrapped in the blanket…. IMG_2491IMG_2494IMG_2499

Wonders will never cease!!

PS I came across this while perusing the old photos… we have never laughed so much as when Darcy peeped out of the empty casing of our old computer!!! He was a real comic 🙂MVC-007F_2

On guard

Having chased one of the neighbour’s cats off the ledge where our own cat’s food is at least four times on Friday and multiple times since, today Alina has given up any of her cosy bean bags or dog blankets to take up her position at the top of the stairs as our new guard dog, all senses alert to any slight noise from the cat flap… IMG_1728

Normally, Alina is queen of the merry spaniel world and only occasionally takes it into her head to remind our own Sophie-cat that there is no competition in this house by chasing her, which lasts about a nanosecond (though long enough that Sophie always pre-empts entering the living room-cum-kitchen with a cautious look round to assess the situation and sticking to the wall as far as possible). Apparently and somewhat to my surprise, Alina’s general tolerance of what is a distinctly toffee-nosed species does not extend to the felines who aren’t accepted members of the family… hence the hectic chasing and loud growling that has taken over this house over the last few days, with a dark blur disappearing through the cat flap!

There are at least six cats in the houses immediately next to ours and in seven years, this is the first one that has had the courage to actually come in – possibly because they have two dogs in their own house. She’s a calico cat – a type often known to be extra cheeky – with a white chin and whenever I catch her sitting outside the house (and cat flap), she looks up innocently at me, licking her chops, reluctant to admit how rapidly she has just fled in the path of an irate hunting dog with flying ears… DSCN2031DSCN2027

Meanwhile, incredibly, Sophie has been seen to sit on the upper stairs in stately fashion, observing the goings-on out of the corner of her eye while purposefully staring out of the hall window. IMG_1475

Sometimes I wish they could all speak!

Not even trying

I have come to the conclusion that blogging is best done with more regularity than I have been displaying, because after a month, where would I actually begin to catch up?! I promise to try and do better in future.

Suffice to say, a good chunk of that month was spent here

IMG_1082 with Snowface IMG_1076who gallumphed happily through the glittering snow, ears flying, and subsequently displayed a prodigious appetite! Scuol 3

It wasn’t all Narnia-like – but even on greyer days, it’s fun to think the Snow Queen might have been staying at this hotel IMG_1073 or may even have moved into this multi-million $ chalet with rather extraordinary garden decorations (well, for a ski resort!) IMG_1069 We had lots of nice walks and – very carefully, that bridge is HIGH – took some pictures of the Clemgia gorge (this is the River En, which becomes the Inn when it gets down the valley to Austria and goes on to flow through Innsbruck) IMG_1097 We had hot chocolate at sunset – I love the crisp outline of the mountains just after the sun has gone down, like cut-outs IMG_1086 and found a 3km ribbon of ice for skating through the snowy woodland and next to the EnIMG_1091I thought this covered bridge was an attraction, giving access from the old mountain road to the village IMG_1101and then, taking the trouble to read the history of the village, discovered that the little grey and cream stone building on the left there was the “tower” for the original bridge – and yet in those days, the river was twice as full (before the hydroelectric plant down the valley was built in the 70s), so no wonder that by destroying the bridge (multiple times), the villagers had to save themselves through the centuries: fighting off the Catholics and Protestants (the church was reconsecrated several times), the Habsburgs, the French (Napoleon’s troops) and then the Austrians again… and yet tragically, slaughter was still done and the Plague still got in, too. IMG_1099 I hadn’t seen this oven before – I would have thought keeping heat in was more of a priority than not burning the house down (sort of)… I obviously have my priorities wrong!IMG_1112 Remember this pretty square from last year? IMG_1114 Well, I found some more, different house decoration in the upper part of the village, Vi – IMG_1132IMG_1134 and learned that fish and mermaids were used for decoration because of the importance of water to be able to survive in these mountain villages: IMG_1133 Amazingly, there is little more than an hour between this IMG_1115 and this IMG_1117 Tarasp Castle is pretty imposing – although the village remained a Catholic enclave throughout all the religious toing and froing, the family died out pretty early on and it was rebuilt at the turn of the 20th century by a millionaire whose fortune had been made with mouthwash (he was the “Odol-König”!)… IMG_1123

Of course, this was ostensibly a sports holiday, and we swam in the beautiful thermal baths and walked the paths, but we did also do some sledging Scuol 6 Yes, with the dog on my lap – she can’t keep up and the icicles get between her toes, so she sits with me, ears to the wind… quite a vision, I assure you!

Incomprehensibly, the ski pistes were practically empty – we were on our own on the widest, most popular pistes, in the most gorgeous sunshine, for most of the time! IMG_1140 I’m afraid this encourages the following behaviour in snowboarders, shocking, really –  IMG_1143 though resuscitating skiers is probably worse – IMG_1147 but with a pretty good view! IMG_1146The best experience was when the weather did this IMG_1155There was a slight sprinkling of snow being blown around and it was so cold that sunlight caught each and every snowflake and made it twinkle – just as if it was snowing stars! Magic.

See, I distracted you with lots of eye-candy…clever, eh?! Back soon!

New dog?!

Before I had an English Cocker Spaniel, I didn’t fully realise the level of haircare involved. It’s not really that high, but it is regular and it does have its price. It can also depend on the colour of your dog – the lighter-coloured multis (apparently) have much less hair growth, and a friend who has a sable says she never ever takes her to the groomer. What I also did not know is that all these spaniel and setter breeds do not take well to being neutered/spayed, and that the fur that then grows has more similarity with that of a puppy – and if you’ve ever seen a Cocker Spaniel aged 5-10 mths, before its first grooming, then you’ll know that it’s an explosion (I can’t find a picture because few people are probably willing to photograph their teenage spaniel explosion!). Especially reds and blacks. So instead of the long silky hair that just needs thinning twice a year, every 8 weeks we have to deliver our dog for the complete works. By the time the appointment comes around, she is generally sporting an Elvis-like quiff, bushy bedraggled ears, impressive sideburns and paws that have more in common with a teddy bear than any dog. Plus she will have accumulated all kinds of bits of “nature” in both ears and stomach fur that will have felted if I didn’t get her to a brush in time…  (not too messy this time, but you can see how it might explode overnight…!)

Alina goes to a hairdressing salon that costs as much as my own and is returned to me after 2 hours, bathed, clipped, powdered, primped and brushed to within an inch of her life, sleek and seal-like and showing off her usually trim figure (unless she’s been stealing chocolate, burnt almonds, dry bread or other delights – again). Our neighbours thought we had a new dog and wondered where the old one was (they have a Beauceron and a pug, both male, and neither of which needs trimming!), as Alina skips round the garden with her incredibly long eyelashes and eyebrows almost skimming the ground…

None of this has put me off. I would have an English Cocker again in a heartbeat, as there is nothing like the merry nature, the spaniel eyes, the silky ears and the general playfulness – though you do have to overcome the soulfulness at times and they aren’t famed for their obedience (Alina does well – for a spaniel!), but they are pretty intelligent dogs. And their sense of smell is phenomenal, which is why they are sometimes trained to sniff out drugs or money: being a handier size than, say an Alsation, they can go into smaller corners. In fact, I am often amazed at how tiny Alina can be when curled up tightly! Most of all, this little bundle of dog makes me laugh every single day with her antics and her eye-flicking communication skills, her excited pirouettes, and yes, even her extremely squeaky vocal caperings, her gambols through ploughed fields and her diving skills (her ears float on the surface while she’s under).

I have not been able to photograph this stunning makeover adequately – and any black animal is hard to snap, anyway, but just the shine is blinding us for the moment; until she finds something yummy to roll in, no doubt.

(why yes, I sneaked the cat in… she opens doors…symbiosis?!)