Whitework embroidered cushion with BG monogram and Westward Ho!

Whitework hand embroidered linen cushion with BG monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

If the British fall to talking about the weather as a default topic whenever conversation flags, this week will have helped roll along the wheels of social interchange better than a generous dose of WD 40. Monday brought heavy rain to Cheltenham and even flooding in other parts of the county. Then, on Tuesday, after a few showers as if from a heavenly sugar sifter whose water droplets almost evaporated before hitting the skin, it became surprisingly beautifully sunny, which was fortunate as Daughter No 1 rang to say she and the family were on their way home from Devon and would call in at tea time.  Our tiny west-facing garden was bathed in generous amounts of afternoon sun, so we carried food outside to enjoy a lovely still and unexpectedly warm evening. Meanwhile, the smallest person was happily occupied sitting on a quilt on the lawn beside us, playing with a clutch of Sylvanian families and organising their lives between narrow boat and dolls’ house (all of which live here for just such visits). Wednesday then reverted to dankness, darkness, thick cloud cover and intermittent but heavy showers which caused my husband much muttering (he prefers outdoors to in) as he had to move papers, books and computer from garden table to living room table and then back again when showers retreated – a short but irritating journey. Thursday dawned bright with blue skies once more and for this we were heartily grateful as my husband had an eye appointment, more than 3  hours away in London at Moorfields’ Eye Hospital – his first time venturing more than a mile from the house for 6 months! Warm dry conditions augured well for limiting transmission of Covid -19, so we were glad of that. Warm dry conditions are also excellent for line drying of washing so by 7pm I had successfully washed and dried two loads of things like towels, sheets and pillowcases. It is now Friday, rain has set in again and we are being battered by the weaker extremities of Storm Ellen (herself fuelled by the remnants of what was Tropical Storm Kyle). A few minor crashes outside suggest that next door’s new potted plants are being knocked about and from time to time the wind snatches apples off the tree and flings them on to the wooden decking with resounding thuds..  As I write, the rain is slanting across the window like it does in that little Van Gogh painting of rain in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and the wind is whining plaintively through my slightly opened window. The last Test Match of the summer has started in Southampton and all should be right with the world. Mirabile dictu, it is now nearly close of play and there’s been no break for rain!

 

Detail of hand embroidered BG monogram from whitework cushion (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Wonderful that Daughter No 1 and family made their sudden appearance. It’s six months since we saw them all and six months is a sixth of your life if you’re all of 3 years old. She has of course grown – so much so that she went home wearing last week’s knitted cardigan which I had thought I might save until Christmas. The not so small person has not only grown in height but has new top front teeth for which the adjective ‘adult’ is definitely appropriate. It’s hard not to hug them all but we kept what distance we could and banged elbows when they left.

Detail of honeysuckle and hydrangea on whitework linen cushion with BG monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

English place names, especially village names have a great talent to amuse.  (Village cricket teams are a good source for this.) Not far from us when we lived in Oxfordshire were Goosey, Catmore, Charney Bassett (you need the Oxfordshire country accent to get the full flavour of this) and Kingston Bagpuize. Dorset probably has the funniest names. There’s a set of puddles, Puddletown, Briantspuddle, Affpuddle and Tolpuddle (of martyr fame) and the piddles, Piddlehinton and Piddletrenthide, then there’s Scratchy Bottom and Shitterton (whose inhabitants are probably hugely grateful for having a defining postcode). But when my daughter said they had stayed in Westward Ho! (and the exclamation mark is part of the name) I was more surprised than amused as to me it’s the title of a Victorian novel by Charles Kingsley. Even more curiously, the book, partly based on this bit of coast, came first (which explains the exclamation mark) and then the village was named after it – the only time this has happened in England.  I googled the place. The fist review on Trip Advisor wasn’t very good, so I asked my daughter what she thought:

Detail of honeysuckle and hydrangea on whitework linen cushion with BG monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Well… I quite like places reviewed badly by Tripadvisor…it  appeals to the rebel in me. I have been surfing there quite a lot and know it well enough to know it had what we needed.

We love Westward Ho! It isn’t the most refined of North Devon’s beach resorts but we didn’t want refined. We wanted the beach to be 1 minute from the flat, not tucked away down an overgrown country lane. We wanted  the flat to have sea views and for there to be a supermarket seconds away. The more idyllic the beach the less likely all that is, and with a 3 year old, we haven’t got the energy for it! I am also interested in the history of the place (Kipling went to school in the town).

Detail of honeysuckle and hydrangea on whitework linen cushion with BG monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

But more importantly – Westward Ho! has a superb golden beach as marvellous as the nearby Saunton Sands. They are like golden fields at low tide that stretch and stretch – Westward Ho! There are also rock pools galore further up, which can absorb mini Attenboroughs for hours.

The other attraction is that the surf is reliably crumbly – great for beginners – but can also occasionally get bigger and bouncier which is good for progressing. This is when the area’s talented surfers descend on the water and being in the sea alongside them is a great experience. You can always head off a few miles up the coast when you progress. And yes, it’s where I started out having lessons with Sam and where I began to get my confidence – there is one particular day and indeed wave I still remember where the water rearing up caught the sunlight and it was clearly and indisputably liquid green glass… those images stay with you hundreds of waves later. So I will always be very fond of WH! as the place I got hooked on surfing, and where I knew it would be a good place for the children to start.

Detail of honeysuckle, hydrangea and bee on whitework linen cushion with BG monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Our apartments (called Nautilus) were very stunning and had won awards – the kitchen/living area was on the top floor with full height glass windows and panoramic views of north Devon’s coast right from the lighthouse at Hartland round to Woolacombe with Lundy Island straight ahead. Even when I had to get up at 4 am to go to the fridge to get a beaker of milk it wasn’t so bad with that beautiful view. 

Underneath our balcony Hocking’s Ice Cream parked their van. They only sell vanilla but it is vanilla with a difference: a casual google search revealed the secret ingredient was very possibly golden syrup. The quid pro quo for all those ice creams was that the children brushed their teeth a heck of a lot. 

Honeysuckle and hydrangea on whitework linen cushion with BG monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Sam is daughter No 1’s surfing teacher. She’s been popping off to Devon on and off for more than a year for lessons and she knows him quite well now. His family business revolves round surfing and she sent me photos of the first pair of shorts they designed that got the business going. I love the bold design with strong black shapes against a yellow/orange background – there’s something of Elizabethan blackwork about it but equally you could imagine it made up into a striking skirt  for today, worn with a nipped waist black jacket and black leather knee length boots. It’s a design classic. I’m always interested to see people setting up business, especially when it involves making things.  I also love to hear of them succeeding. Too many shops we once loved for their originality and quirkiness have disappeared recently, mostly because the original owner/designer was bought out and then the company got bigger and more ambitious.  Laura Ashley hangs on by the skin of their teeth and will surely disappear. Cath Kidston has gone and Jigsaw’s position is perilous.  The health crisis effect on retail hasn’t helped but it would be foolish to deny there weren’t problems before. 

Alders board shorts – the first pair made in the 1960s and proudly framed in the factory

The framed board shorts are in the hallway of their wetsuit factory. The firm, called Alders after the trees around the family farm cum factory, was set up by Sam’s Granddad Bob (who the family all call Bobby!). His wife, who made the board shorts back in the sixties is now in her eighties. They still live on the farm in mid Devon where even the cowshed is part of the factory now.  The firm has been enormously successful and you see their wetsuits on bodies on beaches all over the UK.

Sam did a fine art degree, but has also studied wet suit design, has taken sewing courses, can cut patterns and is generally pretty talented and informed. It’s one of the many reasons he is a wonderful teacher – we sit in the water waiting for waves to appear on the horizon and discuss a myriad of things. Sometimes it’s meditative. Then, when you’ re on a wave it’s like flying.  For a couple of hours it’s both exhilarating and quiet; you can’t think about much else, so it is a perfect refresh. No bushy bushy blond hair dos of California but a very British sort of surfing where sunshine is a rarity and more often than not you are on the water in rain… but you don’t care! It’s a shame that being an island nation surfing can’t be a bigger part of people’s lives but it is a time consuming hobby and not all the shores around the UK have Atlantic rollers. 

Detail of back of linen cushion with mother-of-peal buttons.

The cushion shown is one I made for a couple David married a year ago in Ipsden in July. It was a special occasion as it was probably the last wedding he will ever fully officiate at. We certainly won’t forget such a lovely ceremony in the little C12th country church which had come to mean so much to us during the 8 years we were there. The thread is DMC Blanc on Cloth House French Linen. I finished the cushion so long ago that I had to match the embroidery up with skeins of the thread to check exactly which white I’d used. It’s one of the advantages of the blog that once the cushion has gone, the notes I’ve made notes here are invaluable.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Posted August 23, 2020 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    If I ever get to Westward Ho! I will pay attention to your daughter’s comments!

    And yes, a blog is invaluable for record-keeping. I frequently find myself looking up something on mine to see what I did or how!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted August 25, 2020 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      The trouble is though Rachel that I’m not as consistent as I would like to be. The very colour I want to chase up, I find I forget to make a note of!

  2. susan hall
    Posted August 26, 2020 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    a lovely post, very enjoyable read and i loved your daughter’s input too.
    thank you 😉

    • Mary Addison
      Posted August 26, 2020 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Susan, that’s very nice to hear.

  3. Denise Davis
    Posted September 4, 2020 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Sorry this is unrelated to this current piece of your work but I found where you had done a Glorafilia sampler 308 some years ago and am wondering what kind of thread was used in it if you remember please. I just acquired a canvas missing the threads and it is very thin compared to the wool yarns I have used with other Glorafilia kits. There is a bit of stitching done on this canvas and the thread looks more like a soft pearl cotton type. Any help would be appreciated.

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