Sunday, December 21, 2014

In Which The Turning of the Year Brings The Winter Solstice

Joy of Midwinter to you!  The days have been short and the nights long, but from now on, the pattern is reversed and we start moving towards spring and summer again.  (Of course it doesn't happen in quite such an organised and numerical manner as that, Nature takes her own good time and knows what she is doing, but it can't be denied that we have reached Midwinter in calendar terms anyway.)  And in West Cork this morning there were even a few trills of birdsong to show that all creatures are already looking forward to brighter warmer weather.

Well... perhaps not all creatures.

When the weather gets cold and the days darker, canines and felines conveniently set aside their usual antipathy and jostle into a warm and comfortable conglomeration on a rocking chair near the fire.  Sophy Wackles usually gets up first, and then Tamzin leaps lightly over Sophy's supine body and settles next to her.  Finally Paudge Mogeely floats over the arm of the chair with no apparent effort, and tucks himself into the tiny space left.  That's them settled for the evening.  Polliwog?  Oh he's out wandering in the orchard and thinking dark thoughts. Black cats are often like that.

Petroushka, being only just a year old (Dec 8 in case you were wondering) is full of energy of course, and always willing to lend a hand with anything, be it the cooking (let me deal with that beef, willya?  I know just how to mince it!) or the decorating.

She is also ploughing determinedly ahead with her work for the Yarnslayer badge, which she hopes to receive before New Year.  She got an unexpected bonus lately when I inadvisedly left an Advent scarf in progress on a low chair.  Foolish I know, but honestly I was only gone for a moment.  It was enough.  The basket was carried bodily out to the hall where 'Troushka could deal with it properly.

Petroushka with wool-2.jpg

(Yes, the WIP survived, and the scarf, which I turned into a cowl, made it through in the end.  The recipient need never know.)

Once that was done, this was an attempt to make a crochet scarf that looked like a cobweb.  It's based on a pattern called Ana Luisa's Wrap, by Julie Blagojevich, but I narrowed it considerably.  Added a thread of sparkle and a few translucent beads to heighten the effect of a dew-drenched web.  Hope that recipient likes it.

Also got a bit of practice in on the knitting machine, and tried out a large cone of bright blue mohair that had been hanging around quite long enough.

Had just enough for this floaty wrap (Bill King's Gold Star if you want to try it).  DH discovered that it took on a whole new quality when backlit by a rare five minutes of winter sunshine.

Today was not sunny, though.  The druids were walking the hills, as you can see .  They cause a magical mist to rise when they are moving from one place to another (as naturally they would be at the winter solstice) so that they will not be perceived by common mortals.

Nevertheless, we headed out to capture some pictures so that you could share Midwinter in West Cork with us.

This wonderful arch of holly bent low over old stone steps leading up a forested hill.  It was mid afternoon, so empty as far as we could see.  Late tonight you wouldn't know who would be walking there, working the old magic to ensure that the sun becomes brighter with every passing day.  But it's better not to turn up uninvited for the old rituals.

This tiny leafy track too seemed to hint at a secret road to somewhere different.  At the solstice, the veil between this and the Otherworld is very thin indeed.  It is generally accepted that They (the Good People) are closer than you think at these times.

But finally I saw this little mound through a gap in the hedge on a very muddy back road, and knew it was the one with which to leave you this evening.  Get close to it, climb through the hedge in your  mind (just watch those brambles, they can scratch!) sit on the mossy rock underneath that thorn tree, and hold your own Midwinter celebration here tonight.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Of Travels in Old Estonia - And Yarn Inspirations Too

Can't quite imagine how it's a week to Christmas Eve already, but if I don't tell you about the September trip to Estonia now, it's in danger of being forgotten altogether.

It's not expensive to get to Estonia from Ireland but it can be quite a lengthy and complicated business.  For this trip we had to take three flights - Cork-Vilnius, Vilnius-Riga and finally Riga- Tallinn.  Yes, I did bring a couple of knitting projects.  Did you think I wouldn't?

There was a nice experience on one of the flights.  I noticed that the lady sitting opposite was also knitting!

It still isn't that usual to see this on European flights so naturally I was thrilled.  I showed her what I was working on (an Elizabeth Zimmermann Rib Warmer) and she showed me the beautifully detailed little baby jacket that was occupying her hands.  She was Russian, with no English,  my Russian is limited to basic courtesies, but we managed to communicate quite well through the medium of gestures and examples and stitch patterns.  It was a very happy feeling, making contact through knitting.

On arrival, we headed out along the coast.  It was late in the month, and the trees were changing colour but it wasn't really cold yet.  Haapsalu, still one of my favourite little old-world towns, was quiet, with only the occasional cat strolling the cobbled streets.

In the mornings the Baltic was calmly beautiful as the sun suffused the clouds with colour.

Renewed our acquaintance with the venerable old railway station which is now a museum.  I love the atmosphere of this place, full of echoes from the days when ladies in white gowns and gentlemen in full uniform paced the platform or alighted from first class carriages to spend a few weeks in this fashionable spa.  The Russian royal family were regular visitors, and so, naturally, were all those who wanted to be associated with the royal court - including Tchaikovsky.

The length of this platform is unbelievable.  Just imagine what it was like in, say, 1900, with trains arriving from all over Europe, and the royal yacht anchoring in the bay?  Somebody really should write a supremely romantic novel set here at that time.

This little old lady, on her way home with the morning's shopping, was wearing thick handknitted socks against the morning chill.  I wonder if her mother, or her grandmother, had seen the Tsar and his family in Haapsalu?

Clambered up to peer through a crack in the padlocked door of this old carriage.  Inside I could just see a huge iron stove which must have kept the guard and the mail sorters warm as the train journeyed across vast snowy landscapes.  Now the stove lies unlit, dreaming of long ago days.  Wish I could have taken it home, but quite apart from the raised eyebrows at airports, it probably couldn't cope with the comparatively mild climate of West Cork.  People used to sleep on top of stoves in old Russia.  Maybe they still do in Siberia.

We were having a lovely time, but then a crisis occurred.  I had only brought one knitting project with me (I know, I know, I said projects further up, but it wasn't true, and I suffered for it, don't rub it in!)  And now, it began to become frighteningly apparent that not only had I under-projected, I was UNDER-YARNED!  Had thought that one cake of unspun Plotulopi would be plenty to make the EZ ribwarmer, but I ran out!  Yes, really.  On a country lane, while DH was photographing wild geese.


I will say this for DH, he does realise a serious situation when he comes across it.  No question but that we must go in search of help immediately.  The birds could wait.  And fortunately Haapsalu was able to offer that help.  I found a little yarn shop which had two skeins of a local wool in a nice bright royal blue.  It took some winding, being oddly tangled, and with more than a couple of knots and breaks, but heck it was not expensive and it was local.  Sketched out a notional vest in a cheerful cable and lace mix on the back of the skein band, and cast on happily.

Halfway up the back, it seemed like a good idea to go back and get some more of the same yarn.  But they didn't have any more.  What, none?  Sorry, but no.  Well, it would have to suffice then. Just have to hope... (Do you ever find yourself working faster when you think you might run out of material?  Or driving faster when the petrol is running low?  No sense in it, I know, but it's human nature.)

Finished in just three days - with literally eight inches of yarn to spare!

Gosh, now that I come to think of it, that EZ Ribwarmer still isn't finished!  Brought the half-completed project back to the land of plenty, with Plotulopi all over the place willing and eager to play its part, but the bag is still lying there, unattended.  Shame, shame, shame.  Oh well, add it to the pile of Will Get Round To It On A Rainy Day.

There is a tide in the affairs of knitters
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,
Omitted, many a project's tucked away,
To wait in hope, another rainy day...

It has been a bountiful autumn in Estonia.  Was absolutely driven mad by the wonderful rich harvest of apples on every laneway, every side road, in every garden, and on every wild hedgerow.  Some householders had thoughtfully put boxes of apples out on their gateposts for anyone passing to avail of.  Children in one village were hopefully touting handfuls to passing motorists.  And I longed, beyond reason, to pick great bagsful and bring them home.  No matter that the freezer is already full of pureed apple from our own trees.  No matter that the airport authorities (already on high alert at the possibility of my toting in a vast Russian stove) would slam the boarding gates in my face and throw the unreadable Estonian book of rules at me.  I wanted to gather and love and bring home the lot!

We did see people picking them in some places though, which was reassuring.  And out on a wild headland by the sea, this elderly lady was also collecting rosehips.

Clearly there are still those who remember the old ways, the traditional custom of using nature's bounty.  I must try making rosehip syrup myself one of these days.  I know you have to be particularly careful about straining out the fine hairs in the hips, but the resultant syrup is definitely a Good Thing.

Which reminds me - I'm not quite sure why, but maybe it's the mention of traditional recipes - do any of you know anything about salamanders?  I don't mean the animals, I mean the kitchen utensils which were used in Elizabethan times to brown the top of food dishes?  I'd like to have a salamander.  Maybe I could get somebody handy to make me one?  A cross between a potato masher and a branding iron, I would think.  Will report back when experiments have been duly carried out.

But back to Haapsalu.  You're wondering if I finally managed to catch the lace museum open.  Some of you may recall that I have made several visits to the town in the past, and never managed to get a foot in the door.  In October they said it was closed until June.  In June they said it wouldn't be open until September.  In September they said it had closed for the winter.

But this time - this time was different.  And please take notice that the legendary Lace Museum of Haapsalu has MOVED!  It is now right on the main cobbled street of the old town, and it is open EVERY DAY.

I went in and met the really lovely Myria (it might be spelt Miria, and if so, I apologise).  She spoke very little English and I was equally handicapped, but we had a wonderful time exploring the exhibits and talking half in gestures, half in words we both knew.

She was knitting wristwarmers in fine mohair when we arrived.  'No, don't photograph these,' she pleaded.  They are not Haapsalu lace!  They are so ordinary!'  No, they weren't exactly ordinary.  Tiny works of art, I would have said.

Speaking of tiny works of art, what do you think of this doll, one of the exhibits?  Not only is she dressed in a lace gown, she is holding a miniature lace shawl.  Wandered around for simply ages, enthralled by the gorgeous display and fine work.

Just as we were leaving, I spotted a small stack of rather lovely looking glossy books on the counter.  What were they?  Myria's eyes lit up.  Had I perhaps heard of Orenburg?  Had I heard of it? Its shawls, its legendary shawls!? Too right I had!  Well, this was a new book - a very new book.  These copies that I saw had arrived only yesterday.  A lady had brought them in from Russia, in a big carrier bag.  Look, it is written in English and in Russian.  Is that not beautiful?

Yes, we were on a tight budget.  But what would you have done?  This glorious book is full of pictures, patterns, archival material and history.  I think I paid about €25 for it, but honestly I would have paid more, if only to honour that lady who travelled from Russia with a heavy carrier bag full of the newly-published copies.

Here is another picture from the book.  Babushkas selling traditional shawls in the local market place at Orenburg.  There are historic pictures too, dating back a century or more, showing local knitters creating the masterpieces.

Was it coincidence?  I've been thinking about it since.  First I happen to meet and communicate with a Russian fellow-knitter on my journey to Estonia.  Then I just happen to discover this book practically as it arrives across the border from Russia.  It makes me feel very happy and somehow linked to knitters in far off places.  They don't know me and I may never meet them. Our lives are so very different, in so many ways.   But we have a common bond.  And that has got to be a good thing.

Monday, August 04, 2014

A Hebridean Odyssey

It was something we had always intended to do, one day.  But there were always other countries, far-off places to discover, strange paths to tread, and so it was put off and put off.  However, last month we finally did it.  On a fine July morning we left West Cork, travelled diagonally the whole length of Ireland, caught a ferry across to Scotland, drove up past Glasgow, and took a left turn for the sea.  We were on the Road to the Isles.  And not just the near isles but the furthest ones - the Outer Hebrides.  (That's if you discount St Kilda which is so far out, and so difficult of access that is really isn't funny.)

Some idea of the distance can be gauged from the fact that even when you'd got, at last, to the jumping-off point at the busy and jolly little harbour of Oban, the ferry (oh wonderful Caledonian MacBrayne, how nice to see you again, haven't been with you since student hitchhiking days) took a full five and a half hours to reach the tiny island of Barra, southernmost of the inhabited Outer Hebrides.

The hotel's dining room looked right out over the harbour at Castlebay and you could watch the morning ferry docking while enjoying a full Scottish breakfast (very sustaining and ideal to keep you going for the day.)

On the tiny island of Vatersay to the south, linked to Barra by a short stone causeway, the ground was a carpet of wild flowers.  Really.  It is the first time in my life I  have actually walked on carpets of orchids.

It has a lot to do with the remoteness of these little islands and their reliance on old-fashioned traditional farming methods.  No weedkillers or chemical fertilisers here, just nature and plenty of time.

Was particularly excited at getting to Barra for two reasons:  one, it was the home of Sir Compton MacKenzie, the noted writer (his famous Whisky Galore was made into a film here), and two, it is the only scheduled air service in the world that has to take account of the tides.

Here is the 12.30 from Glasgow coming in to the beach.  What a way to arrive in the Hebrides!  

It was lovely to see the passengers disembarking and hauling their bags up to the tiny terminal.  Friends who had come to meet them in jeeps (four wheel drive is a distinct advantage here) called and waved as they came into view behind the plane, and then whisked them off to exchange gossip and chat at their holiday homes.

The Tour de Fleece was in full swing during this trip, by the way;  for those of you not on Ravelry, this is a spinning event which runs in conjunction with the Tour de France and requires you to spin every day.  It wasn't really practicable for me to take along a wheel so I made good use of a tiny lightweight drop spindle whenever I got the chance.

That included waiting to see the flight take off again from Barra beach.  After all, how often do you get an experience like that?  I know the breeze and the sunshine and the white sand and the sky and the effortless soaring of the tiny plane are all twisted into the yarn I made that morning.

Island-hopping was the keynote of the trip.  To get across to Eriskay, we had to drive at least twenty miles up across Barra to catch a really tiny ferry.  But then, Eriskay is a really tiny island.  About three miles long by one mile wide.  Change up a gear in the car and you'll be off the other end before you realise it.  So green and gold, so sunshiny when we were there, so adorable.

This is the Prince's Beach, because it was here, on this white stretch of sand that Bonnie Prince Charlie landed, in his ill-fated attempt to establish his right to the English throne.  And it was from Benbecula, a little further up the island chain, that he eventually managed to escape imprisonment and almost certain death with the aid of Flora MacDonald who disguised him as her Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke, and brought him to Skye.

Carry the lad that's born to be king
Over the sea to Skye...

The island is also home to the sturdy little Eriskay pony, said to be the ancestor of the Icelandic version.  Now that I've seen both, I can well believe it.  Small, but tough, as they need to be to survive here, with wonderful manes and tails.

This little fellow was busy seeing off a pretender to his throne.  Once he had chased the miscreant across the hills, he came back to see if we were going to make trouble.  Once we had assured him of our peaceful intentions, he returned to his harem of mares, and chivvied them away to a quieter location with many snarls and nips at haunches.  Hard work being a king hereabouts.

The younger members of the family, though, were extremely friendly and willing to talk about interesting things like carrots and apples.

From Eriskay you can drive across to South Uist, and then on to North Uist by another of those helpful stone causeways which are making life much easier for the islanders.  Just imagine what it must be like to have a severe toothache or a broken leg at midnight on Christmas Eve or some such inappropriate time.  Now at least they can get to another island where the necessary facilities may be available.

You can't always rely on basic creature comforts when travelling in the Western Isles.  We were yearning for coffee one morning and thought ourselves very lucky when we found this Last Homely House at Lochboisdale on South Uist.

It is actually the post office, but it also managed to cram in souvenirs, knitwear, coffee, home baking, and a few other things - all in the space of a fairly restricted shed.  Very jolly though.  You would like to post your letters in a place like this, wouldn't you?

But there was evidence everywhere that it isn't always possible to live your life in the Outer Hebrides.  Ruined cottages, deserted fields, old old stone walls that now sheltered nothing.

Every time we passed one of these I would cry, 'Oh it needs someone to love it!'  Just as well we didn't have unlimited funds at our disposal.  It would have been so tempting to restore this to what it should be.

Or this tiny one by a loch?  It really does have a window at the side there, so it's a house, not a shed.  Just a new roof of split stone, some strong window glass, maybe wood panelling inside.... you think there would be room for an Aga maybe?

Look at this little tumble of stones. 

Doesn't seem much, does it?  Yet a notice nearby records that it was from this simple hut that two local women sold the very first tweed fabric ever woven on Harris.  That was back in the early 19th century.  And so of course I had to gather a few strands of fleece from around and about, to bring home.

(Actually, that became a bit of a habit on the trip.  If the fleece was soaking wet - as was the case more often than not - it got spread out on the floor of the car, wherever there was a space, to dry.  Which led to a distinct but not altogether unpleasant aroma.)

From North Uist another ferry took us over to the island of Harris, which is more or less joined to the northermost Outer Hebride of Lewis.

Harris is mountainous and craggy, very different to green and gold Eriskay or Barra.  And the clouds were sitting low on the mountains as we approached.  Fortunately, as always, our hosts at the guest house were warm and welcoming and it's quite fun to explore in dark gloomy weather when you know you will come back to hot tea and home made shortbread.  Plus there was always the chance you might see a golden eagle plunging down out of the grey mist (we did!)

And finally, at last, we came to Lewis and I fulfilled a lifetime ambition, that of visiting the Stones of Callanish.

These really do take your breath away.  Out on their own, on the westernmost fringe of Lewis, gazing across the Atlantic waves, they are silently magnificent.  While the huge central stones dominate, every single outlier seemed to have a character of its own too.

I particularly loved this one and felt that she is surely the stone embodiment of the Wise Old Woman of Callanish.

And naturally, despite a force 8 gale and driving rain, I had to incorporate some of the magic of Callanish into my spinning too.

Even the St Enda Aran sweater which was specially started for the trip got its turn on one of those ancient stones, to give a good twist to the intricate cabling.  After all, the designer, Alice Starmore, lives on the Isle of Lewis, so what better place to bring it?

It was hard indeed to leave the Hebrides, but there were things to look forward to on the journey home as well.  Like visiting the old spinning mill of J. C. Rennie in Aberdeenshire.

It's been here by the river in Mintlaw for generations, and the current member of the family running the business, Christian Rodland, was courteously welcoming, allowing me to run wild amid the glorious fibre treasurehouse.

Oh the benefits of having your own car on a trip!  So many times in other countries I have had to pull back from going absolutely mad because the baggage was already crammed to bursting! On the other hand, it's less hard on the credit card if you do have a luggage limit.  Suffice it to say that the stash has been augmented more than somewhat.

And at Mintlaw we had arranged to meet up with a good friend and fellow Raveler, Aurelie, who drove up from Aberdeen  to see us.

What do you know, she had brought a copy of De Book especially for us to sign!  That was a total surprise and so sweet of her.  We had a lovely time chatting over coffee, comparing our spinning for Tour de Fleece (Aurelie also was working on a mini drop spindle, but we were talking so much we forgot to take pictures!), and exchanging all the gossip.  Happy journeys indeed that end in friends meeting.

And so we retraced our steps across Scotland, across the sea, and down through Ireland to West Cork where the dogs and cats were delighted to welcome us back.  But the memories of our Hebridean odyssey will long remain.

Like the placid way Hebrideans regard traffic control

The splendour of an island sunset and cloudscape

And, perhaps most of all, the tranquil beauty of another world, living on another time scale, far from cities and commerce and frantic rushing.  A good place indeed to spin your yarn.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Wherein Ferocious Frogging Is Interspersed With Sea Air, And An Ancient Road Is Discovered

It comes to all of us.  That day when you look around and realise with appalled horror that things have got completely out of control.  For some it's the garden (we won't even go there right now, OK?), for others it's the housework (what's that?)  For an obsessive crafter, it's the day you open a cupboard and a hundred projects in various stages of incompleteness fall out, you rummage round on a sofa to find a ball of yarn and seventy-seven previous Brilliant Ideas set up a cheeping and a begging for attention, you try to extricate a perfectly innocent scarf from a corner and it's being dragged back by angry Works in Progress.

Chez Celtic Memory we did try to ignore the growing problem for as long as possible (how long have I been blogging now?  About eight years, I reckon.  We won't bother excavating back beyond that, will we?  Some things are better left in peace.)  If a particular size of knitting needle or hook couldn't be found, oh well, it was time to buy some more.  But when you start a delicious new project and then discover the crumpled remains of that pattern, already marked up in your own hand, and you don't even remember starting it before, then something has to be done.

And so it was that this past weekend consisted of Ferociously Finding and Frogging Friday, followed by Savage Sorting Out (plus Swearing) Saturday, and Serious Stowing Away Sunday.  May feel better soon, but still in the appalled state.  How, how, HOW ON EARTH could I have started and failed to finish so many projects?  Worse still, what was I thinking for most of them?  Wrong colour, wrong style, far too ambitious, far too simple, utterly boring, won't wear it in a million years, don't know anybody who would accept it, even as a gift... ye gods it was depressing!

I had intended to photograph each condemned project, the better to hammer home my depraved habits, and that's the way it went for a little while.

The crochet cowl in brushed suri alpaca, intended as a Christmas gift for a friend (made her a shawl instead). The combined machine and hand knit gansey, the main body done on the machine with the more complex patterning to be completed by hand.  The delicate shawl in two shades of green silk where the silk got tangled and I remembered that green just wasn't my colour in the past, present or future.  And dozens more.  What am I talking about?  MYRIADS more!  The upstairs sitting room began to resemble the glory hole at a jumble sale.  The ball winder was going full tilt and my arms were starting to object.

Oh yes, forgot to mention the arms.  Made a double-sided kimono in Shetland yarn for the Ravellenics this year.  On the knitting machine.  Which involved not just hours but days of bashing that carriage back and forth.  Should have known, should have taken care, but wanted to finish by the closing ceremonies.  Which I did.

Lovely warm and wearable thing, ideal on chilly evenings.  Took it down to one of my favourite places, Brow Head above Crookhaven in West Cork, for a really nice picture.

Let's digress for a moment.  I'm sure you'd like to.  It was only when we'd finished the photo shoot and I had time to look around, that I realised just what a spectacular place this is.  We'd managed to climb down the cliffs through the gorse and bracken quite a bit further than usual - almost to the spot where the local fishermen used to sit and watch for the transatlantic liners in centuries gone by.  The liners would drop a drum of mail and newspapers, the fishermen would row out to retrieve it, and the mail would then be sent up to Cork by donkey cart and train.  In that way, the Cork Examiner often had the latest overseas news before the London Times, which gave them a very comfortable feeling of superiority.

But the scenery, you cry, the scenery.  Well yes.  I got DH to take a special shot because this was an angle you couldn't have seen from the narrow winding road that leads to the top of the hill, nor from anywhere normal really.  You have to clamber down the cliffs to get this one.

But it's worth it.  It's the kind of vision that literally shakes your heart.

Oh the kimono and the over-eager use of the machine.  Well, as soon as that was done, it was time for Sock Madness again, one of my favourite online annual events ever since it began seven years ago.  Our first pattern was Brucie, a lovely design from Amy Rapp.  I wanted to finish these in double-quick time, to qualify for later rounds, so some long knitting sessions were put in.  Towards the end the elbows, already complaining from the machine sessions, started some serious throbbing, but the socks got done.

Aren't they lovely?  Trouble was, by this time I couldn't pick up a needle, let alone knit a stitch.  Suffered in (partial) silence for several days and then went shrieking to my pet therapist, who specialises in pulsed signal therapy.  This is an incredible non-invasive technique which can cure even slipped disc agonies, let alone RSI.  She gave me several treatments and then sent me home with stern warnings Not To Knit And Especially Not To Machine Knit for at least a week.  Which is where we are.

Frogging and winding and the retrieving of long lost treasures aren't really knitting though, are they?  And look at the rewards!

Here is what has been retrieved in the Great Sort Out so far (I don't think we're done yet).  There are approximately two dozen circulars there, of every size from sock to chunky, five or six crochet hooks, a stitch marker or two, a pair of snips I'd given up for lost, and dozens of those handy padlock stitch markers that I'm always trying to find.

And here are just some of the project bags returned to usefulness and public life again.  Up there at the top is my absolute favouritest one of all, with blue cats on it.

No, I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with all the yarn frogged, rewound, returned to storage.  Some to the Ravelry stash for trade or sale, I imagine, others to eBay, others to anyone who loiters near my gate with empty pockets.  And then it will be clean, fresh, air-blowing FREEDOM chez Celtic Memory.  Freedom from guilt, from untidiness, from that awful pressure of too little time, too many projects.  Freedom - oh who am I kidding?  I know perfectly well that as soon as things are reasonably tidy, I'll be back out there with renewed vigour.  Forgiven, cleansed, ready to start all over again.

YES I CAN HEAR YOU THERE AT THE BACK, WINIFRED WAGGY-FINGER!  You are saying in that smug tone of yours that you absolutely never start a second project before you have completely finished, sewn up, washed, blocked, aired and worn the one you're on at the moment.  You never (perish the thought) buy more yarn than is immediately required.  You never, but never, yield to temptation, were it even Wollmeise waltzing past at half price, or Madeline Tosh murmuring gently from a shop window.  I would bet you vacuum your house daily too.

Well let me tell you something, Winifred Waggy-Finger.  You work that way because it suits you.  You actually like having only one thing to work on at a time.  You positively enjoy a daily bout of dusting and cleaning, even if it isn't necessary, and will only have to be done all over again tomorrow.   A place for everything and everything in its place is your mantra.  That's your way of living.  But it isn't Celtic Memory's.  For those of us who multi-task as a matter of course, there is nothing more exciting than suddenly leaping off at the glimpse of something glittering in the distance, swerving from the main road to follow a winding path through the woods to a sunlit glade, and never mind that dinner will be late on the table. The possibilities over the horizon, beyond the hill, in this new yarn shop we've never explored before are boundless, and who knows where the next step will take us?

I am trying, though, to make a few basic rules.  Say just seven or eight projects in active service at one time. Some knitting, some crochet.  You don't always want to do the one when the other beckons.  And some with fine yarn, some with bulky.  Silk and wool, cotton and bamboo.  And then there are new baby friends expected any moment, and a friend who needs a comfort shawl.  Maybe a dozen on the go at one time?  No more.  No, really.

Speaking of winding paths and sunlit glades back there reminds me to tell you of a wonderful find yesterday evening;.  I'd at last tired of winding up frogged yarn (or my wrists had) and DH commanded that we take the dogs out for a run in the countryside.  We headed for the wilds of the Kerry hills, far away from the popular main roads.  Magillicuddy's Reeks 'twixt Glenbeigh and Kenmare, sort of.

It's a wonderfully forgotten region, with just the tiny stone walls and hints of ruined cottages to remind you that large communities lived and worked here before the Famine.  Can you see the green lane going up by the gable end of a tiny stone cottage behind the sheep there?

The primroses were carpeting the woods everywhere

and the wood anemones were nodding their delicate little heads.

And then, pulling in by the side of the narrow lane through some very deep woods, we came across something entirely unexpected. We took the dogs out, and wondered if there was a way through the almost impenetrable growth of bushes, trees and shrubs, not to mention rocky outcrops.  Then we stooped under some trees which were lying across our way, and found ourselves -

- on an old stone road.  A hidden, secret road, that you would never suspect as you drove by on the main highway.  Straight out of Tolkien.

It is a road, certainly.  And an ancient one.  Whoever laid those stones did so many many centuries ago.  It wandered off in front of us, through light and shade, a mossy causeway across bogland.  Rushed back to the car, extricated the relevant map and studied it keenly.  No, no road, lane, track or byway whatsoever was marked.  It wasn't there.  But it was there!

They shut the road through the woods
Hundreds of years ago
Weather and rain have undone it again
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods...

We followed it as far as we could.  At intervals little streams meandered across, and here old stepping stones pointed the way.  How many feet had passed this way before us, in times gone by?  And where were they going?  What were their stories?  The dogs, fortunately, took the stepping stones in their stride.

At last the fallen trees made it impossible to go further.  But we'll come back another time, and make another try.  An old stone road should not be forgotten, and I for one won't rest until I know what purpose it served, and who might have used it.