Wednesday 12 October 2016

Oh Twiddlemuffs!

Oh Twiddlemuffs!

No, it's not a new swear word, but it sounds like it could be! :)

A twiddlemuff is a double thickness hand muff with bits and bobs attached inside and out. It is designed to provide a stimulation activity for restless hands for patients suffering from dementia. Various folks in the village have been chatting about making twiddlemuffs, and it occurred to us that as crafters we could support this, either by making and donating a twiddlemuff or by donating oddments of yarn or embellishments that could be used by volunteers to make twiddlemuffs.

So, the plan is to have a table in the entrance foyer at CraftMarket, with some simple information about how twiddlemuffs help patients, along with a couple of baskets for donations of yarn and attachments (e.g. buttons, toggles, ribbons, etc), some easy to follow free patterns, and a few examples of twiddlemuffs for you to see and handle.

We will also be accepting completed twiddlemuffs that will then be donated to supporting organisations. 

This year's CraftMarket is again in aid of Hall funds and it will take place over the weekend of Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd October in Burton Memorial Hall. Open from 10am - 4pm both days, the event will have quality crafts on sale from some 26 crafters. You can see the list of which crafters will be there on the Hall's website: and on the CraftMarket Facebook page:

Up on the stage Zoe will be doing her crafts for kids sessions throughout the weekend, so parents and grandparents can browse in peace knowing the kids are safely occupied doing something creative and fun!

Refreshments will be on sale in Rachel's Vintage Village Tearoom, where hot and cold drinks, scrumptious home made cakes and sandwiches will be on offer throughout both days. Come along and indulge yourselves!

CraftMarket 2016 at Burton Memorial Hall 
Main Street, Burton, Cumbria LA6 1HU
Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd October 2016 
10am-4pm both days
Admission: £1, under 16's free.

Creatives and crafters, what makes them tick?

One of the things I love about crafting is meeting other crafters and see what they make. Whatever the medium in which they work, the variety of design and style thrills me.

How does a crafter come up with an idea? What makes them want to turn a sheet of paper into a work of art, a lump of clay into a fabulous pot, a chunk of tree into a bowl, a glob of glass into a delicate vase, or a strip of precious metal into a piece of bespoke jewellery?  How do they get their ideas and inspiration?

If we see a leaf, how does a jeweller like Amanda Hunter see an earring? How does she turn a sheet of silver into something so beautiful and timeless: leaves that will last forever, giving endless pleasure, and linking to the natural environment around us.

How does artist Helen Pateman combine a sheet of paper and a pencil into such a fabulous image as this one? 

How does woodturner Mike Booth produce something as beautiful and varied as these items out of bits of log? 

The creative mind is more than just the physical ability to produce an item, it is the creative process of imagining it to begin with, to have an idea and to turn that idea into a reality. Whilst some look at a sheet of paper and wonder what to do with it, creatives are already filling the space with designs, doodles, outlines or ideas. 

The world needs creative minds, we need the people who can take something and make something out of it by using their own imagination and skill, and to think of new uses for old and new materials. 

Creative people are the "inventors" of the arts and crafts world - not for us the mechanics of making a faster engine, or a more productive solar panel, but we invent new designs for jewellery, glass, pottery, wood, fabric, yarn, even plastics. 

Creatives and crafters are all designers with our own unique way of looking at the world and at using the materials we find within it to make things of beauty.  I don't know how we do it, but I am very glad that we can do it! 

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Elena Ferrante, outing or outrage?

Should authors, artists and other creatives be allowed privacy by working under a pseudonym, and is it acceptable for that to be breached by journalists in search of a story?

Authors have written under pen-names for almost as long as books have existed: Stendahl, the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Boz, George Sand, and many many more.

Over recent years we have seen various creatives working under an alias "outed" by the media. The ongoing hunt to pin down who is Banksy is one of the best-known examples, with frequent suggestions as to the possible identity of this "England-based graffiti artist and political activist."

Robert Galbraith's first crime novel The Cuckoo's Calling (2013) was revealed as having been written under that pseudonym by JK Rowling, despite her intention for it to not be connected with her previous success with the Harry Potter series. The latest revelation appearing is the naming of the acclaimed Italian novelist, Elena Ferrante, by investigative journalist Claudio Gatti.

Do authors have the right to write under a nom de plume or are readers entitled to know the real identity of who created the book they are currently reading?  BBC Magazine explores the latest row in Why is the exposure of Elena Ferrante causing such outrage?  Meanwhile, in an interview with Guardian writer Deborah Orr, Elena Ferrante gives her thoughts on writing under an assumed name and why it is important to her.

Thinking back to my teenage years when I read The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian (published in 1972 and later made into a hugely popular film starring Clint Eastwood), there was no clue as to the identity of the author as he (Rodney William Whitaker 1931 – 2005) refused all interviews and publicity work for his publishers until many years later. Did it spoil my enjoyment of the book? Not at all. In a way it enhanced it: there is something about reading an anonymous author's work that does away with any preconceptions that you might have about the person who wrote it and what may have influenced them.

Thursday 18 August 2016

Our Kindle book offer, starts 18th August!

Summer Special Discount Offer!

Starting at 08:00am PST* on 18th August 2016 for just 7 days, you can pick up fancy a dirty weekend? the travels of a navvies' cook for Kindle for just $0.99, that's a massive 57% discount!

The offer price will last for just a week, so make the most of it and grab your copy before the promo ends.  Original list price was $3.00.

Price is valid until 25th August 2016 at 12:00am PST and only on!

* (that is 4pm in the UK)

fancy a dirty weekend? the travels of a navvies' cook by Anne Nichols

One woman's story of her life amongst a group of waterways restoration enthusiasts, known as navvies. Unsuited to the physical activities of navvying, she offered her catering skills to the group, travelling round the country in the back of a van, feeding anything from 6 to 1000 people at a time. It offers an insight into the world of the volunteer movement on the canal network as seen through the eyes of the woman who kept them very well fed.

Technical Details: 

Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 354 KB
Print Length: 121 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Yobunny Enterprises (20 Dec. 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
Language: English
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
Not Enabled
Word Wise: Enabled
Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled


5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating stories and great recipes 13 Feb. 2013
By Angela Bowey Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
The author describes some hilarious experiences with a canal restoration "flying squad" of expert fixers on some of Britain's derelict canals. She also shares some great recipes from those days. A really good read.

Friday 17 June 2016

All six of us, and the cat...

I don't normally post my creative writing on my political / campaigning blog, but due to the nature of the piece this was first posted in the other place (to borrow a political term!)
I'm reproducing it here, where it belongs as part of my canon.

All six of us, and the cat...

We sit sipping a latte whilst watching the news
Of kids with no water stood in long queues
Holding their plastic cans and waiting their turns
For ten litres of water whilst the sun, overhead, burns.

We all tut, "how dreadful" and "it's such a shame"
Yet moan that our government sends cash to them in our name.
"Why are we paying them when we need it here instead?"
Demand well-fed citizens snuggling in a warm comfy bed.

"We're only a poor country" is one of our laments
Whilst planning our Summer holidays for kids and parents.
Meanwhile, across the globe in many hundred places
Families starve and children thirst, despair etched in their faces.

Not for them a comfy bed or latte on demand,
Not for them an education and career to be planned;
A place to live and grow without the fear of bombs
And air strikes turning their homes into simple tombs.

A carefree childhood, a happy life, to many is denied,
Whilst aid agencies and peace protesters are derided.
By creating hunger, pestilence or war
Big business and state exploitation is going way too far.

Yet still we sip our lattes in our homes with central heating,
Whilst far away some dissidents endure yet another beating:
Their crime is asking  just for basic human rights,
For speaking out against abuse they face most days and nights.

Religions, states and corporations all must take some blame
For treating people badly, have they no shame?
But are we any better when we constantly complain
About the cost of foreign aid that helps to ease their pain?

Would it be so very bad if we had a fraction less
So others who have nothing can be helped out from that mess?
Do we need ten pairs of shoes when some women have one?
Do we need the latest iPhone when some folks don't have one?

Do we need a gas barbecue or a big double oven
When some must cook on open fires beneath a searing sun?
Do we need that Netflix sub or Sky Sports on the box?
Or could we help our fellow humans eradicate smallpox?

Are power hungry electricals really such a need?
If we each cut back our consumption then would it help to feed
Those hungry refugees in camps where they have fled
In fear of enslavement, or rape or their deathbed;

To get away from air-strikes, bombs and shells
That turned their previous lives into living hells.
Our government caused their misery and pain
Yet we say, "Not giving cash or refuge to them again."

Despite wrecking their homelands for political reasons
We refuse them safe harbour as if they committed the treasons.
We created most of the problems the world faces
And we benefited from them throughout the ages.

Yet when those who are suffering ask for some aid
We look quite affronted or sorely afraid.
That by helping out those with the biggest needs
It will weaken our hearts and make us into weeds.

That simply by showing humanity and compassion
Our nation will be overrun in storm-trooper fashion
By millions of immigrants "all on the make"
Who will claim all our benefits and eat all our cake.

They'll rape all our women and some of the men
And sell into slavery all of our children.
They'll bring all their weird customs, their rites, and their wrongs
And bury us in cous cous and surround us with bongs.

"They don't have our standards" we say to each other
Whilst sipping our lattes and watching Big Brother.
"They come over here and take all of jobs,
"And claim all our benefits - what rotten knobs."

"Use all our roads, our schools and our NHS,
"And leave nought for us born here, oh what a mess."
If we stopped up our borders so no more can invade
And choose with which places we want to do trade,

Then the overseas aid that our government "wastes"
Will help us to prosper and improve our tastes,
And those of us left here will be able to claim
That we're native English and proud of the name.

All six of us, and the cat...

Saturday 11 June 2016

Book Review: The Lost Library, A.M. Dean

The Lost LibraryThe Lost Library by A.M. Dean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book fascinating and very enjoyable. I was totally immersed in the plot, engaged with the lead characters, and shivered whenever the bad guys appeared. The Lost Library has none of the dryness or stuffiness that often appears in novels by academics. It does give the flavour of the unique nature of academics at Oxford without making them into boring characters. It does have a wealth of background and historic detail but they are presented as an essential part of the narrative. I was able to clearly visualise the locations described and felt myself making the journey with Dr Wess, willing her to succeed. The whole concept of The Lost Library is fascinating: a superb story extremely well-told - I love the blend of history and thriller. I am looking forward to reading A.M. Dean's next book with eager anticipation.

View all my reviews

Book review: Citadel, by Kate Mosse

Citadel (Languedoc, #3)Citadel by Kate Mosse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book! It reminded me just how brutal the Nazi occupation of France was, how much suffering was endured by communities throughout France, how brave those who served in the various Resistance groups were, and the ultimate price that so many of them paid. It's a story which needed to be told, and who better than Kate Mosse to do so. It interweaves that more recent history with the ancient stories of the ghost army and the legends of the Languedoc, which add an extra dimension to what could be an overwhelmingly sad account of life during the occupation. It is a fact that the Nazis searched for ancient relics during the Second World War, and it is also a fact that the Midi has a long history of Christian and Cathar legends and links, so combining aspects of these into Citadel enriches the story rather than detracts from it. The people are, after all, the results of their historical experiences. As those who endured such horrors become fewer in number, it is vital that stories such as Citadel keep their history alive and in our collective memories... if we do not learn the lessons of history we are condemned to repeated its mistakes.

View all my reviews

Saturday 4 June 2016

Card2Kendal Exhibition & Sale - 18th June 2016 at K Village, Kendal

Diary Date: My long-time friend and local artist Helen Pateman has been deeply involved in bringing the Card2Kendal exhibition to fruition, so please do go along and see it, and pick up a special piece of artwork for a small sum of money. The artworks are fab - a whole range of designs and themes by both professional and amateur artists, and some from famous name celebrities.

All funds raised will go to the flood appeal to help those who were flooded out in last December's Storm Desmond flooding.

The exhibition preview is 11th June, and the main exhibition and sale will take place on 18th June, at K Village in Kendal.

and you can if you want still send in a postcard for the exhibition and sale, here's how:

Burton-in-Kendal Art & Craft Exhibition this weekend

Burton-in-Kendal Art & Craft Exhibition this weekend 4th & 5th June 10am - 4pm both days at Burton Memorial Hall, Main Street, Burton LA6 1NA

Picture from previous year:

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Silverdale and Arnside Art and Craft Trail 24 -26 June 2016

Silverdale and Arnside Art and Craft Trail 24 -26 June 2016
Friday 1 – 8 pm (selected venues) Saturday and Sunday 10.30 – 5.30        

Welcome to all our local supporters to the trail.

This year we have over 30 venues, including some new ones in both villages.

In addition to painters, printers, potters, photographers, jewellers and much more, there is definitely a growing interest in  textiles – from shearing, spinning and transforming to scarves at Silverdale School, as well as many felters, upholsterers, and fabric printers in other venues.

On Redhills Road at Arnside we welcome a new venue, which is an exciting chance to see more spinning and amazing felt creatures and pictures being created.

There will be an abundance of family activities at the Guide Field, Eaves Wood, Silverdale Village Institute, Methodist Hall, and Leeds Children's Centre

Sound is a growing part of the Trail  and the 'bard' inspires this years Community Concert in St. John's Church with  'If music be the food of Love'', Saturday evening 7:30pm -10pm.

We welcome the Guides providing campfire food and sing-song on Friday evening and Ann Bond's music room opening Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Open mic. will happen up on the Institute Field attracting young and old alike.

The Park and Ride Trail Bus will run on Saturday and Sunday, so please support this to reduce traffic, and make the trail relaxing for all of us.

We would welcome more volunteers to act as 'Bus conductors' – a 2 hour shift with free tickets and catalogue – good fun, relaxing journey and a great help to the trail Co-ordinators!

If you can help in any way, please contact:

Clare Martin 01524 701271        
Debbie Copley 01524 702563

E Mail:
Web site:

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Card2Kendal appeal in aid of Kendal's Storm Desmond flood victims

My very talented artist friend Helen, who has been involved in all sorts of artistic ventures in Kendal, has sent details of  ‪#‎card2kendal‬ a big event for this year, which is to help raise funds for flooded families in the area. In December 2015 Storm Desmond caused much damage to residential and business properties and many properties are still unoccupiable with families living in temporary accommodation.

Anyone who would like to help is more than welcome to create and donate to this event.

Card2Kendal appeal
 We need your help to spread the word about an exciting new project.
We want to contact people from around the world to invite them to send a post-card sized artwork to Kendal to be sold to raise money to help the town’s recovery from devastating floods. 
Organisers, Kendal Arts Community, emphasise anyone from a world famous artist to a complete beginner can contribute. 
All they have to do is put their painting, drawing, collage or photograph on one side of a plain postcard, and send to Kendal Flood Relief Centre at Westmorland Shopping Centre, Stricklandgate, Kendal, LA9 4LR. 
Visitors, locals and others who want to donate a post-card sized artwork in any other medium can deliver it in person to the support centre, where they will be stored and displayed. 
They will then be displayed in KAC’s unit at K Village in Lound Road and online at, from June 11 to June 18, the day of Kendal Summer Arts at the same venue. 
As part of the festival, the post-cards will all be sold off for a flat fee of £20, regardless of the artist, famous or unknown, professional or amateur, young or old. Any postcards left over after the event will be displayed and go on sale at the Relief Centre. 
The post-cards or similar sized artworks can be signed by the artist or left anonymous.
All the money raised will go towards the cost of helping people recover from the floods. Cheques should be made payable to Kings Food Bank, which has administered the Kendal Flood Relief Centre since it was set up the day after Storm Desmond hit on December 5.
Rachel Ellis, who has managed Kendal’s Flood Relief effort from Kendal Town Hall and then the unit in Westmorland Shopping Centre since the storm said: “It is a fantastic idea.” 
Cumbria Community Foundation Flood Recovery Appeal announced in March that it had given £2 million to people across the county. 
It has also given £300,000 to community groups to help rebuild and replace sporting equipment and provide practical and emotional support. 
But they now believe they will need more than £9 million to meet the demand, which is expected to last 18 months from the date of the storms, so increased their target to £7 million.
More than 5,000 homes and hundreds of businesses and community buildings were flooded when rivers including the Kent in Kendal, the Eden in Appleby and Carlisle, and the Derwent in Keswick burst their banks.
Kendal was the worst hit with more than 2,000 homes inundated. Many householders are still in temporary accommodation or suffering hardship following the floods.
KAC co-ordinator, Zoe Baker, said: “Several artists in Kendal were among those whose homes were affected by the floods, so we understand what a traumatic time it has been. We thought the postcard sale was a way of offering practical help and also having fun and boosting creativity."
More details at and

Saturday 5 March 2016

R.I.P Barney the cemetery cat

Almost two years ago, after reading a news story about a marmalade cat called Bob who adopted a homeless drug-addicted busker, I wrote a blog post called The empathy of marmalade cats about the marmalade cat who lives near us and who befriended our old, blind and senile family dog during the last months of her life.  Today I read a story in the Mirror newspaper of yet another marmalade cat, this one was called Barney, who lived in the grounds of St Sampson's Cemetery on Guernsey and who,  over the last 20 years, befriended and gave comfort to those attending funerals or visiting graves there.  That he was a much-loved presence in the cemetery grounds seems obvious from the story and the comments on social media, but it made me wonder once more about why marmalade cats seem to feature in these stories, and if there is something different about them, as against other cats.

A Telegraph article from 2 years ago, entitled Why a ginger tom might just inherit the Earth offered up the information that, "...recent research conducted by the University of California showed that ginger felines are the most popular among cat owners, because they are perceived as friendly and lovable."  But surely the empathy and the connection with the suffering of other creatures must be more than just simple friendliness?  The Feline Care website carries a story about a marmalade tom living on the streets of Attleborough - they do seem to like doing their own thing! - whilst Wavell, the marmalade cat mentioned in the Telegraph story appears to have an adventurous spirit and a love of travel.  Cats are, of course, known for their curiosity, independence and, it has to be said, selfishness at times, which is why the empathy apparently shown by marmalade cats is so intriguing to me.

Leslie Darling, in her blog post Ginger Tabby Personality,  comments that, "In some species, a link between color and personality has been established". She also says, "How much of this is perception and how much genetics is hard to determine, but certain breeds of cat do have personality traits that are linked to the breed."  It would be  interesting to see a large scale study of this aspect of cat genetics - perhaps it would attract someone doing research for a thesis or similar!

Meanwhile, the popularity of marmalade cats is undoubted, as those which feature in literature, cartoon strips and on the big and small screen  demonstrate: - who doesn't love such characters as Orlando (The Marmalade Cat) or Garfield, the pizza loving fat cat pal of Odie and Jon!