A sleeveless summer T-shirt in pink with Chinese butterflies

Sleeveless T- shirt for a 4 year old embroidered with fanciful butterflies (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

This week, rain, rain, rain and wind so blustery we took the garden parasol down and laid it on its side on the grass. Both cat and humans thought twice about venturing far, which is fine because here, we’re still deep in lockdown mentality.  At least the rain makes me feel sure that this sleeveless T-shirt wouldn’t have seen much action even if I had managed to finish it and send it off earlier in the week for the smallest one’s birthday. Anyway, I think it’ll be rather nice to get a new T-shirt once a week for the next few weeks – much nicer in fact that being overwhelmed by them all at once.

Back of sleeveless T- shirt for a 4 year old embroidered with fanciful butterflies (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

This time it’s butterflies. I’ve always had a fondness for those brightly coloured fanciful Chinese butterflies, either embroidered on silk or fired on to porcelain and both are really good sources for creating your own designs – the one shown below from the Wedgwood pattern books was useful for shape if not for colour – let’s enjoy little ones wearing colour while they like it, the years of black and navy come all too soon. (I, of course, love black and navy.) My son-in-law is always very amused by his wife’s family’s very particular views as to colour and form of almost everything, whether lampshades, the degree of silvery weathering of garden furniture or the particular mug or cup you feel like using at any given moment. When last they came I produced my daughters’ 30-year old Flower Fairies which tumbled out of the box half dressed and minus their petal hats. Not only did both mum and granny question why the small person chose as her favourite the one we both regarded as the least attractive but then we all took to disagreeing (amicably, not unpleasantly) which petal hat she should wear! The son-in-law smiled quietly to one side, noting the drawing of future (and possibly more vituperative) battle lines in matters of taste.

Detail of sleeveless T- shirt for a 4 year old embroidered with fanciful butterflies (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Like Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, I have to admit to having received a few hugs from the smallest grandchild but just tell me how do you avoid such effusions of affection when a little one has it in mind to embrace you? We look forward to Monday’s loosening of restrictions while also fearing for those areas where the Indian Variant of Covid has been increasing. Progress has been so positive recently, it’s probably salutary to be reminded how quickly things can change. Complications have arisen with my possible trip to Ipsden to finish the altar frontal and it may be better to push this forward to July instead. If it’s waited this long, what are another few months?

Back detail of sleeveless T- shirt for a 4 year old embroidered with fanciful butterflies (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

It seems even if we wanted to we won’t be going far at the moment. GWR (Great Western Railway) which serves the West Country, and more specifically the company whose trains we catch to London, is having to slash its services dramatically as cracks have been discovered in the chassis of their newest range of trains (and most of their rolling stock is new). All must now be checked and if faulty, repaired. What a blow – if only the discovery had been made 15 months ago, during a time when trains taken out of use wouldn’t have been such a problem. It’s a shame, our experience of GWR, both trains and staff has been brilliant, which can’t be said for some of the other train companies.

Butterfly Dance – Wedgwood design, inspired by Objects and Pattern Books from the Wedgwood Museum Trust Collection and Wedgwood Ltd.

And thinking of GWR, a delightful letter appeared in yesterday’s Times (the bottom right corner usually reserved for something of an amusing or heartening nature). Further to a previous  letter on the subject of “Rail Kindness”, involving the rescue of shoes dropped down the gap between platform and train, a woman writes in to say that her grandfather worked for  God’s Wonderful Railway (GWR)  in the early C20th on the branch line between Banbury and Cheltenham (since closed). One of the guard’s jobs was to ensure that a peripatetic cat, which travelled up and down on the line, was put on the last train home at night and let off at Chipping Norton, its home station. When I lived in Chiswick there were tales of a swimming cat who was said to cross from Barnes to Chiswick and was quite cross to be taken back to Barnes by road. I’m never sure how true this story was but when I did an internet search, up came pictures of  the Chiswick Life Boat Station at work rescuing a cat last June.  Cat rescue, not so remarkable but  quite astounding is the fact that Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station is the second busiest in the UK and Ireland. Since The RNLI search and rescue service on the Thames started in 2002, Chiswick Lifeboat has attended over 3,500 incidents and rescued over 1,750 people. (The RNLI is entirely funded by public donations.) American readers might place Chiswick on their mind map by remembering that the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, finishes on the Thames just west of  Chiswick Bridge and has Chiswick on the north bank of the river for most of the race.

Butterfly design on porcelain, possibly Wedgwood

Meanwhile, 100 or so years later and across the Atlantic, more cats. Chicago, recently rated the most rat-infested city in the US for the sixth year running in a survey by a pest control company, is releasing one thousand cats to fight the city’s rat problem. An animal charity, the Tree House Humane Society, said the neutered cats would otherwise face long stays in shelters or have to be put down. Elsewhere, Australia is reporting terrible problems with a plague of mice eating grain, but here there seems no easy solution. I end this post more ruminative than I started.

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Embroidered T-shirts for my granddaughter’s 4th birthday


Front of havy T-shirt embroidered with a bee and flowers (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Back view of navy T-shirt embroidered with a bee and flowers (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

At Christmas I hit upon a rich seam of potential presents for my grandchildren as my hand embroidered and appliquéd T-shirts went down very well. But finding perfectly plain, unadulterated tops for me to embroider has been quite a mission.  Sequinned unicorns, glittering rainbows and machine embroidered this and that fill the shops and website pages alike. Whenever I came across plain tops I pounced on them like silver tokens in a Christmas pudding only to find them out of stock in the size I wanted. In the end there were 6 tops that were ok – 3 long sleeved, 1 short sleeved and 2 sleeveless, though none of the colours were at all bright and summery as I would ideally have liked. Daughter No 1 should, however, be quite pleased with the first couple I’m sending as she has visions of her daughter looking smart in any shade of blue from indigo to navy … and one is navy and the other indigo!

Details of T-shirt embroidered with a bee and flowers (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

The smallest person of course has her own opinion about dressing and bats away proffered items of clothing that promise no clash or sartorial argument with what she’s already wearing. She’s a wellingtons with swimming costume, tutu and Fair Isle jumper sort of girl, which is pretty much what she was wearing when they dropped in last Sunday. She is not so keen on the perfectly lovely denim Boden dress her mother longs to get her into, although yesterday morning she apparently stopped mid dismissal of the garment, thought about it for a second and then announced she might wear it if granny’s did some flowers on it!

Indigo T-shirt with embroidered feather design (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Clothes in circulation may require careful handling with the smallest person, but last week it was the clothes taken out of circulation that presented a greater problem. While lying on the floor of her parents’ bedroom, she flipped up the bed’s valance and made a horrifying discovery, for there packed in unfortunately see-through storage boxes were the clothes that no longer fitted her – clothes that she suddenly realised she had missed, clothes which she had loved so very much …  clothes which had obviously been ‘stolen’ from her and stolen by of all people, her mother. Properly distraught, she straightened herself up and laid the criminal charge full at her mother, enjoining her brother to come and see, for his clothes too had been stolen. This she sobbed was a terrible thing to have done – how would mummy like it if she had come into her bedroom and stolen all her…make-up…  We have been warned. Meanwhile her brother is almost completely oblivious as to what he is wearing – though he does say he loves his insect T-shirts!

T-shirt with embroidered feather design (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

The sense of smell has been much in the news recently as its loss has become recognised as one of the important symptoms of Covid 19 infection. Bees apparently can now be trained to stick their tongues out when they smell someone with the illness and from this research it is hoped that a hand held device can be developed using a biochip with insect aroma detectors which would identify a range of volatile substances.

Detail of feather design on T-shirt

Napoleon, however, had no truck with detecting his own natural smell for he would splash himself excessively, compulsively, even neurotically, with eau de cologne. He used between 36 – 40 bottles of cologne every month, rising up to 60 according to one of Josephine’s ladies-in-waiting. A contemporary biography refers to him almost drowning himself in the stuff, while other sources describe him not only pouring great quantities over his head but even drinking it! While normal use of cologne is harmless, it seems indulging in excessive amounts is really quite dangerous because large amounts of essential oils in the cologne can act as endocrine disruptors and alter natural hormone balance. There may also be a link between the gastric cancer discovered in his post mortem and such endocrine disruptors.  Rather than being poisoned by his wallpaper (one theory for his death involves damp conditions triggering the release of arsenic from the green pigment of his wallpaper), it seems he may have poisoned himself through excessive use of eau de cologne. Suddenly my use of perfume seems very minimal … and quite healthy.

Detail of feather design


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