Octopus T shirt

T shirt with octopus appliqué (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

My new routine of 5 days in London and 2 days at home has now been going for a month, although no week is the same as any previous one. Both grandchildren started their school summer holiday on Monday but with the elder one back to school for a week’s summer camp, we just had the smallest person at home. She will join her brother at his school in September, and saying goodbye to nursery teachers and friends along with missing her aunt/nanny (i.e. daughter No 3 is now with her sister, daughter No 2, in Cambodia while she plans the next part of her life) means it’s been a week of  challenges and working through changes for the family’s smallest person. Only on Friday did we realise that there was damp on her bedroom wall and that her pillow and duvet were wet, which explains her waking in the night complaining of being cold, when everyone else has been really rather warm. (London terraced houses of this period, the early 1840s, often have gulleys going from front to back of the house. These invariably get blocked with leaves, especially as the trees planted at the same time as the houses were built – both on the road and in the shrubbery behind now tower high above the roofs.) Poor child. Now we know about it, something can be done.

Embroidered octopus – the soft colours look a bit washed out in the photograph

Daughter No 1 is still confined in the cumbersome boot but a week ago an appointment with the consultant revealed the tendon ends have knitted themselves together which is wonderful but still puts her in the early stages of recovery. A video conference with one of the hospital’s physiotherapists was also positive with general muscle strength in both legs regarded as very good. Now armed with a series of exercises the patient feels more in charge of her own destiny and is getting on with regular sessions three times a day as recommended.

Four year old wearing her octopus embroidered T shirt

The smallest person is thoroughly enamoured with octopuses. Her mother suggested I embroider one on a T shirt for her. For a while I thought about it but the idea left me less than excited. Thinking more about them and other possible embroidery subjects, I did a bit of research and of course was impressed by how very intelligent they have been shown to be. Feeling more positive and quite liking the possibilities of all those limbs, I felt a surge of enthusiasm and got going on an appliqué before I could change my mind. The colours haven’t photographed well but the smallest person seems quite pleased with it so that’s all that really matters.

Octopus embroidered T shirt (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Meanwhile the bigger of the small people has developed another enthusiasm – and one we find less alluring than David Attenborough and animals. We suspect his latest interest in upmarket cars is the result of current fascination among his peers, because nobody in his immediate family has ever seen cars as anything but functional necessities – and the necessity bit is waning as the practical concerns of energy usage and the implications for climate change reign uppermost in a house where the COP26  Conference occupies Daughter No 1’s working day. Whoever picks the small person up from school has tended to spend the journey in a bit of a haze as he drones on about his latest fad, spouting newly acquired facts and figures. The caring contingent then came to the joint conclusion we’d had enough, decided he should understand not everyone shared his enthusiasm, many actually finding it incredibly boring and that it was about time to divert the conversation to something different. Then, one afternoon as we were on the bus and the drone began, “have you ever seen a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost ….” I woke up, took up the challenge and burst into action ticking them off his list,  for as it happens, where we used to live in South Oxfordshire and where we now live in Cheltenham there are smart cars galore. When I worked in the library at Balliol College the then Master (with the wonderful name of Drummond Bone, a Byron specialist) was a Maserati enthusiast and one Saturday the back quad was full of their shiny beetle like carapaces (with a smattering of some equally shiny and bling covered owners). During the whole of the first lockdown a handmade Morgan was parked near our house, sheathed in its smart raincoat of a car cover revealing little of its immaculate construction and anyway, we used to live next door but one to the granddaughter of the man who set up the company. Ferrari’s regularly roar out of town on the A40 near us and today I saw a Lotus as we stood in the queue to get into the Co-op.  Porsches are two for a penny on your walk into town. I could go on … A glimmer of respect entered the child’s eyes – and then we changed the conversation.

“It’s hot, hot, hot”, as my ex-mother-in-law would regularly write in letters from the time she lived in South Africa. After the week’s exertions in London, I spent the day reading and moving about as little as possible. Bliss, bliss, bliss. Fingers crossed the smallest child’s bedroom wall is drying out.

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Child’s jumper with Fair Isle band; life in London and enjoying sport from the sofa

Jumper pattern :Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Book 5 (2013): Two colour raglan sweater.

Life is settling into a new pattern – I get into London at lunch time Monday and head home on the 19.48 train out of Paddington on Friday. Whereas 18 months ago catching the Friday evening train was a bit of a scrum, now all is peace and calm with a booked seat and people occupying just the window seats – which prompts the question where are all those other people who used to catch a train at this time – are they still working from home? Curious, and possibly worrying. Can good train companies, like the one I rely on, the GWR (Great WesternRailway), make money enough to continue the good service we’ve been used to? We do hope so.

Fair Isle bands in classic design

Nevertheless, life still has the potential to be de-railed by Covid and no sooner had I been let into the Islington house last Monday than I discovered the smallest person was once again off school after someone in the school bubble had tested positive for the virus – all of 4 days after she ‘d got back to nursery at the end of  another ten days at home for the same reason. Whether the fact that very few people dropping children off/picking them up wear masks has anything to do with it I couldn’t say for certain but it did make me wonder. Meanwhile, her brother, the not so small person, has been at (a different) school continuously, and nobody seemed to be wearing masks to pick up there either, so who knows what’s happening!

Sample of Fair Isle bading

Our household is fortunate as there are three of us around in the day to care for our little charge. Invalid mummy occupying the kitchen sofa, foot elevated and Zooming for much of the day, is admirably tolerant of her daughter’s comings, goings and sometime interruptions. The home help is very good at luring a not always enthusiastic child away to do some schoolwork, as well as getting her to help tidy her own room or the mess she’s created in other rooms and is better than all of us at getting her to eat at meal times. I’ve always thought it was important for children to be able to entertain themselves, so while I did some sock sorting and ironing I was pleased to watch and listen to her commentary as she played with random things she found in a forgotten about basket of sundry toys. That we didn’t need to do the school run twice a day released a surprising amount of time, even though the nursery is less then 15 minutes away – still I suppose there and back twice does take up an hour of the day, every day, which seems pretty considerable to me.

2nd sample of Fair Isle banding

TV sport has been enjoyable this week. I had happy memories of watching England beat Germany in the World Cup of 1966 and I well remember Gareth Southgate’s missed penalty against Germany in the semi finals of Euro 96 which knocked us out of the game. So, on Tuesday,  it was with some trepidation that my grandson and I turned the television on for the last 20 minutes of England’s match against Germany. What delight and joy then for a new football fan and a jaded fair weather supporter (me) when five minutes later England scored … and even better scored again just after mummy had hobbled upstairs and daddy had come in from work. What pleasure to watch the small person, who jumped into the air off the sofa, in the act of laying down a memory that will always be with him. The next evening the small person also enjoyed watching Andy Murray play tennis, the finer points of which were pointed out to him by a rueful mummy nursing her own very inconvenient tennis injury as she wondered how long it would be before she would be playing again.

Two jumpers with Fair Isle bands, one age 3-4; the other age 5-6 (pattern: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Book 5, 2013: Two colour raglan sweater.)

Cats figure very large in our lives. In Cheltenham our cat, Gin, scarcely took her eyes off my husband while I was away and she was particularly zealous in her attention when he hurt his back putting the recycling out and lay down for rather longer than was usual in the day time. At night she took over my side of the bed and instead of jumping down after a while, stayed there all night, I don’t think she was especially pleased to see me on Friday night. In London, I had the opposite problem and slept slightly askew as Mabel occupied the bit of bed where my feet would ideally have gone. If she wasn’t there daughters Minnie or Myrtle were instead which was all a bit too much so that by the end of the week I had to get proprietorial and set about reclaiming the bits of bed I needed. Meanwhile, across London, Winnie, another of Mabel’s daughters (and Minnie and Myrtle’s sister) had been missing for several days and concern was mounting. Family went around the neighbourhood looking for her and posters were put up. Daughter No 1 worried for her friend’s peace of mind. I related our missing cat stories – one got shut in a shed for a few days, another was taken in (and probably kept in) by someone for she appeared 6 weeks later, looking perfectly well fed and with a new collar.  We didn’t dwell on the road accident scenario (of which we’d had a few) as we thought no news was good news on that front. So, great was the relief when the call came on Friday morning that Winnie had just appeared, hungry and a bit bedraggled. Relief all round and more ecstatic joy from the little ones.

Detail of Fair Isle bands

Here is the second of two jumpers I have made for a friend’s grandchildren  – I would probably never have made either of them if it weren’t for the circumstances of this peculiar year but I have much to thank this friend for and I am glad to have made something I know she will enjoy seeing them wearing. The first is blogged about here. This jumper is the 15th I’ve knitted to this pattern.

Jumper for 3-4 year old with Fair Isle band (Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Book 5, 2013: Two colour raglan sweater.)

Small triumphs this week – both little ones lined their shoes up neatly in the hall after school and the bigger of the little ones folded up his pyjamas and took them to the bathroom on every day since Wednesday. Tidiness is like a muscle that needs lots of  exercise and we shall give it plenty of that over the next few months.

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