Friday, December 25, 2009

A Happy Festive Whatever walk

Some years ago we were fortunate enough to be able to stop making the traditional Christmas treks hither and thither across southern Britain to see and be seen at various family celebrations. No more do we join the thousands of other motorists forced to sit patiently in tailbacks and traffic jams, worrying about whether the Aged Relation will be worrying because we're late for tea (no mobile phones in those days, at least not that we could afford). Now we rise at Dyson-shout, our domestic equivalent of sparrow-fart, breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) on whatever we fancy, and open our gifts when we choose. There is also a Compulsory Walk, to justify eating too much when we eat our main meal in the early evening. The heavy snow that fell about a week ago began thawing yesterday, so we dredged our memories for a route that avoids cross-field paths, where sticky clay would be slippery underfoot and add pounds to the weight of our boots. I remembered promising someone an introduction to traditional woodland management as practiced here, and voted we go to Hayley Wood.

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We followed farm tracks across the fields south of the wood. This part of West Cambridgeshire is a plateau covered with till, a reminder that an ice sheet covered this area about 500,000 years ago. Frozen into the ice were rocks and pebbles and ground-up rock 'flour' from all the rocks the ice flowed over on its way south across Britain. When the ice melted, its rock collection became the deposit we call till or boulder clay. We didn't need the clay to remind us of Ice Ages this morning...
The plateau is relatively well-wooded because ploughing the sticky, heavy clay was hard work for horses and oxen; the lighter soils in the river valleys and on the chalk were cleared first. By the time people needed to farm the heavier soils, the woods that remained here had become valuable in their own right as a source of timber for building and wood for everything from building materials through to treen and firewood. The history of Hayley Wood is unusually well-documented, and there are written records showing that Hayley Wood was being carefully managed to produce sustainable crops of timber and wood more than 600 years ago.
It is mentioned by name in the Ely Coucher Book, a survey of the estates of Hugo de Northwald, Bishop of Ely in 1251.
De Bosco. Est ibi vnus boscus qui vocatur heyle qui continet quat'uiginti acras...
The Wood. There is there one wood which is called Heyle which contains fourscore acres.
Item, there is there one other wood that is called Litlelund, which contains thirty-two acres. The total of all the wood is fivescore and twelve acres, by the aforesaid perch [a perch was a unit of measurement, in this case 15.5 ft].
Litlelund Wood became known as Littlehound Wood. It was felled in the late 17th century, but its ghost survives in the shape of the field boundaries northwest of Hayley. The one that curves up and out, westward, just south of the B1046 road marks what was the western boundary of Litlelund in 1251.

You can just see Hayley Wood in the distance. The fields in this part of England are edged with hedges growing on low banks of soil excavated from ditches. I can still remember my astonishment when I realised that in large areas of the UK, ditches are not simply boundary markers: they are functional drains, taking water from perforated pipes and channels of stones that have been set into the fields and channeling it (eventually) into rivers to go to the sea. To someone who grew up on the Prairies, this is a novel and surprising idea, and every time I see a field drain actively discharging into a ditch I gaze at it with astonishment.

The hedge beside the path to the wood shows the traditional hedgerow trees standing above the hedge itself. Note the way their branches spread sideways: hedgerow trees have more space to grow than woodland trees, which generally have to grow up to reach the sun as quickly as possible. The ladder in the middle of the picture is a 'high seat', used by deer hunters. There are more deer in England today than ever before, and they wreak havoc on crops and in woodlands.
Look down and see the tracks of other walkers on the path. I've sketched a pheasant track because they're not as clear as the others.
The path enters the wood, or rather, the wood has grown to enclose this path, which was once a minor road.
At the northern end of the wood, just before the old railway line that forms the straight northern boundary of the wood, we turn left/west and enter the large exclosure that protects this half of the wood from deer. Most of Hayley is ancient woodland, an area that has probably been woodland since trees recolonised after the retreat of the last ice sheet, but this top corner was cut off from the surrounding farmland when the railway line was built in 1863. In 1922 it was grassland, but soon after that it was abandoned. The snow highlights the parallel lines of ridge-and-furrow that indicate medieval ploughing, still visible under the trees that now cover the area. He's standing on one of the ridges.
The rides, roads cut through the woodland, give a clear view for driving or shooting game as well as access for woodland management.
Traditionally managed woods produced sustainable crops of timber and wood by coppicing, which takes advantage of the fact that most British hardwoods will send up new shoots from the stump or roots if the main trunk is felled. It's an ancient technique: the Sweet Track was built of poles that may indicate coppice management nearly 6000 years ago.
Some trees such as ash and bushes such as hazel are cut at regular intervals to produce crops of poles used for many purposes. Over successive cycles of cut and regrowth the stumps grow wider, becoming characteristic coppice stools. Some other trees (usually oak) are left as standards to grow to full height before being felled for timber. Timber was much more valuable than coppice poles, but too many standards would lower the quality and number of the poles that provided a more regular income. Hayley had been coppiced for many centuries, but this form of woodland management declined in importance over time. In that photo, the area on the left was coppiced last winter; the area to the right shows about 10–15 years of regrowth. On both sides you can see both coppice (in the sense of stools being managed by coppicing) and standards.
That's one of the new ash stools from the area on the left, with his boot for scale.That's what the area looked like before it was coppiced, and these are the poles that are being cut this winter.
Coppicing is hard work, and neither wood nor timber are as valuable as they used to be, so only one acre of the wood is coppiced each year. A series of coppice compartments was marked out in the area where the oxlips for which the wood is famous would benefit most. Over the centuries many woodland plants that would once have thrived in patches of sunlight when giant trees crashed to earth in unmanaged forests came to rely on coppicing to provide clear access to sunlight every decade or so. In the second spring after coppicing, the ground around the stools is carpeted with wildflowers, a display that gradually declines as the coppice regrows. If left uncut, previously coppiced ash grows into a multi-stemmed tree; the large number of stems indicates that it was once cut and allowed to grow again.The rest of the wood is 'left to nature'. What modern foresters might call 'over-mature' trees, fallen trees and other deadwood provide valuable habitats for some of the very rarest plants and animals in this well-managed countryside, those that live only in dead and dying trees.
The path out of the wood passes over the woodbank and ditch that have marked the boundary of this wood since at least 1251. The effort needed to raise the high, wide bank by hand is a measure of the value of the wood it enclosed.
And look, there's water flowing in the drainage ditch! How exciting!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

To The Pain^1

^1: if you don't know the origin of this phrase, I suggest you obtain a copy of 'The Princess Bride' (book) by William Goldman or the 1987 film of the book, make a cup of your favourite warm beverage and settle into a comfortable chair for a pleasant afternoon.

How to identify over-twisted singles: if they wear ruts in your fingers, your singles may indeed be over-twisted.
There's more to the problem than that, though, and it relates to a second kind of pain. Lesson learned from recent spinning: if a new spinner came up to me holding The Most Beautiful Fibre in the World and said "it's for when I'm a better spinner", I'd advise them from bitter experience. Spin it sooner rather than later. Don't fondle it, allow others to fondle it, don't carry it around like a security blankie. Don't make it the very first item in your stash bin, carefully piling other stuff on top of it because you'll spin that other stuff first, and you want The Most Beautiful Fibre in the World to be there, a treasure to reward you when you've spun your way through the dross. Do that and the fibre may still be pretty, but it might not be the nicest fibre to spin.
Exemplar the First. That was two large rolls of 'Montana Agate' roving, a blend by Three Bags Full from The Bellwether, bought in my first flush of enthusiasm three years ago. Lovely stuff, a subtle blend of silks and wools. Huge, lofty bags, they were... but when I found them in my Bin of Treasures, they'd been squashed beyond recognition. Fortunately the wool bounced back a bit, lofting as I ripped chunks off, but it never regained enough air to become a pleasure to spin. I've become so accustomed to drafting with ease that this took me by surprise; I knew some was over-twisted, but I hadn't realised how badly until I plied it. The singles were twining around themselves even before they hit my left hand, and it's the constant forcing back through the incipient tangles to get another arm's-length on its way to my right hand and the orifice that cut into my fingers. It's become 345m of 3-ply. Lots of hats and mittens, perhaps.
Exemplar The Second. 60g of cashmere/silk from Chasing Rainbows via Crown Mountain Farms. Bought in that same dangerous spate of enthusiasm, the single most expensive fibre I could imagine owning (hear me and my current stash laughing at my younger self :-). I carried it around for ages, marvelling at its softness, then hid it with the other Treasures. When I pulled it out last month I instantly realised that in my ignorance I'd compressed it badly. It was reluctant to draft as thinly as I wanted, but still I've got 400m of soft lace shading from gold to forest to olive green (I've tried to tweak that shot to give you some idea of the colours). Eerily appropriate for what should be my next project...

I've designed a small lace swatch for the Rampton Project in 2010. I've knitted it in handspun red silk, light fingering weight
I'm knitting it in laceweight merino, my very first spindle-spun laceweight:
It's a variation of the patterns I used in the 'Teaching Shawl', most of which are based on various forms of leaf lace. I'm minded to put a lifeline through the current version when I reach the end of the chart, then strike out for unknown territory and a pattern for a different shawl. If I am pleased with the result and can remember what I did, I will chart it (yay! for KnitVisualizer) and then knit it in that green and gold. I've just remembered that those are the colours of the U of A. Ah, memories.

There's been a lot of knitting going on here. Slowly.
That's my 'New England' Luxury Spinners' Set from Spindlefrog spun as a heavy laceweight 2-ply, becoming a Textured Shawl based on Orlane's Textured Shawl Recipe (Rav link). I've added a texture or two; I keep telling myself the unevenness will magically disappear during blocking. Fingers crossed...

Sam the Ram is progressing, too. Although I was wildly over-confident of my ability to graft k1p1 rib. I may rip that belly graft out and try again. The rest of the spaghetti is, as far as I can tell, on course to become legs at the appropriate points of the body. Only time and patience will tell. It's still one of the most fun things I've done: the shaping of the head, the way the body is constructed are revelatory about the things that a plane of knitting can be made to do.

I managed to get quite a lot of spinning done this the weekend.
The window is blinding white because we've got snow. Quite a lot of snow, in fact. We woke up on Friday morning to this
and most of it is still here. It's COLD. I need a sweater, I'm in a KAL with Lynn - and due to my greed at SOAR, I have a duff right elbow that's restricting me to about 15 minutes knitting at a stretch. It's getting better, though. Slowly. I wonder if the realisation that I'm healing more slowly, aching more often, is one of the reasons that I feel so strongly my time is running short, that I have to get everything I want from Life sooner rather than later? This is the only Monday 21 December 2009 that you and I will ever have, Dear Reader. Let's put it to good use. I am going to do a solid hour of work, and then I am going outside to glory in the myriad shades of blue created by snow and sky.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Local Walk

for local people... (joke credit: The League of Gentlemen)

So over on Ravelry Lynn promised she'd post a local walk if I did. Mine starts in the village, with a photo looking back at the Old Bakehouse, the cream building on the right. The bakery closed decades ago, long before we moved here in the late 1980s; the house and outbuildings housed a variety of small businesses until last year, when the outbuildings were demolished to build new homes. I think they've just sold the last one. The wall on the left is built of flint set in lime mortar, one of the expensive traditional building materials in this area (the technical term for a local building style or material is 'vernacular', as used of language: in effect, the building materials are the words spoken by an area. I like that). The bricks are repairs.
Walk south, down the longest road in the village. This is just an 'average' village, not particularly pretty or hideous. Blogging reminds me of the contrast with North America: we'd forgotten how much the same all the houses in a suburb are. All built at the same time, in settlements with room to expand, there has as yet been no need for the adding-on of rooms, the infilling of gardens and farmyards with yet more houses that you see here.
Click for bigger. Look down the road to the right; that pale cream gable end is one of the older houses in the village, and there's another across the street that you can't see. From that point to where we stand the houses are relatively new, built on what had been arable fields, pasture, and gardens as people began to move into the village from the late 1960s on. The terrace of one-up, one-down houses across the road from us isn't shown on a map of 1828, but it and the house to the left are shown in 1948. This may have been housing for men working on the new farms created by Enclosure in the late 1820s. Pause to admire the appletree covered with mistletoe a little further down the road. There's a surprising amount of mistletoe in this area, often missed because it's growing high in poplars rather than low on fruit trees.
Just a little further and we turn left/east, onto a wide green lane.
Seen after the leaves have fallen, the hedge records its, er, mismanagement :-/ I have painful memories of our local conservation group's attempts to manage this green lane for wildlife as well as people. At this point the hedges are mainly elm. The famed Dutch Elm Disease is a fungus that rarely kills hedgerow elms; the roots usually survive to send up new shoots. If the regrowth never grows large enough to develop the characteristics that attract the beetles that carry the fungal spores, the elms usually thrive and can take over a hedge, eliminating other species. That's what has happened in this stretch, which would originally have been planted hawthorn.
There's a slightly blurry elm leaf (it was blowing a cold westerly gale this morning!) showing the characteristic asymmetry at the base. The wider landscape looks like this:
again, click for bigger. The houses of the village are visible to the left, beyond a field sown with oilseed rape (canola to North Americans). The trees in the centre edge a ditch/brook that starts (at left) where a spring once rose from the chalk under our feet. Aerial photos show the cropmarks of what was probably an Iron Age village under the winter wheat to the right of the trees; they may have relied on the spring for water. Like many wells in this area, the spring is now generally dry: water abstraction for agriculture has lowered the water table. Not a spectacular landscape, but you can see why someone who loves the Prairies might feel at home under the sky.

Carry on walking. Where there are no spectaculars to marvel at, I look for small wonders. Walking along the edge of a ploughed field, I found this flint chip:
Oxidation/weathering would give it a white coating; the lack of it and smooth glossy surface means this is relatively recently exposed. I don't know if you can see the slight curved rounded area on the edge closest to my finger, and the way that wrinkles in the flint radiate from it as ripples from a stone thrown in a lake, but as a trainee fieldwalker I was told that's a good sign that the flint was deliberately struck (as opposed to being hit at random by a ploughshare, or other rock during ploughing). So that may be a chip struck by a flintworker here, sometime in the last 4, 6, 8 or more thousand years. The next field to the south is unploughed, still the stubble of last year's crop. In previous years it might have been scheduled for set-aside, but in the current market it's more likely to be a spring-sown crop.
Back to the track, where I am saddened by the state of the hedge. Cut so thin that I can see through it (and if I, an incompetent primate, can do so, rest assured predators such as magpies will have little trouble finding the nests of small birds) and sadly lacking berries due to annual trimming in the autumn before the birds need them.
Look at something else. Everywhere there are signs of rabbit: the grass is nibbled short, there are paths in the grasses leading to their burrows in the hedge.
A little further and we come to the point where we leave the track, through a kissing gate and onto a footpath across an arable field.
The clay is slippery and wet, but recent rains have washed the mud away from interesting things. Small wonders.
Not my boot - that's for scale! The thin white tube to the right of my foot is a fragment of the stem of a clay pipe, a common find in the fields: the pipes were fragile and broke easily. Not necessarily when people were working the fields: middens or refuse piles of household rubbish were used to manure the fields. You wouldn't have to look hard to spot fragments of pottery - blue-and-white Victorian, red medieval and even grey common Roman lying in the mud. Straight in front of my foot is half a walnut. Seen any walnut trees yet? No, because if there'd been one on our route, I'd have shown it to you. Rooks raid walnut trees and carry the nuts high in the sky before dropping them to shatter (with luck) on the ground and reveal the nutmeat. Broken walnuts are regular finds in these fields in late autumn.
Over the stile into the community wood planted about ten years ago, and down the short steep slope of what used to be a quarry. From the edge of the wood the path crosses a short strip of someone's crop almost completed destroyed by rabbits, then follows the edge of the quarry slope.
Until we see a sea of nettles on low ground. Nettles are an indicator of phosphate enrichment: we are at the base of a large, shallow hollow, and rainwater has washed fertile soil and modern fertiliser down to this point.
Between the nettles and the willows and other trees lies one of the very, very few patches of open water in this landscape.
The bottom of the pool is covered with the same fine, nutrient-rich silt that created the nettle bed. The water flows into it from a pipe driven into a chalk spring:

Local history has it that there are other pipes driven into the chalk in the pond itself; 15 years ago, when the pond had been cleared and dredged, I think I saw some areas of the surface trembling gently on a windless summer day, so the stories may well be true. The springs were enhanced 60 years ago, when this became a watercress farm. The cress survives, but I'm not going to eat it - there's too many snails here now (snails are involved in the transmission of Liver Fluke to humans).
A little further downstream is a lovely view of the stream as it leaves the springs for the arable fields.
On the edge of the wooded area someone has been inspired to create... something. A sculpture?
From here it's a short walk on a footpath (originally the cart track to the quarry, which produced chalk and 'clunch', a soft limestone found in layers in the chalk that was used for building) to the next village.
And from there it's a short walk back to the road on which I'll walk home:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Now it seems like a dream

But I have more than memories.
Spirit Trail 'Blue Jeans' silk/cashmere and Spindlewood spindle, 10g, birds-eye maple
When I was trying to decide whether to try for SOAR I spent a lot of time googling for hard information about it. What actually happened? OK, it was clearly memorable, even life-changing, and people had fun and drank a lot, but what did they learn? Having been, I now understand why it's so hard to describe. Yes, you learn, or at least I did. A lot. I learned about spinning, and fibre: I learned that I really am a better spinner than I thought, and I was able to get a glimpse of just how much more there is to learn. I learned about teaching: I want to be a mentor, I want to give people the knowledge that they desire. I learned about having fun, in a way that I've never had fun before because never before have I been part of a group of women old enough to know what they want and young enough to go for it. But it's exhausting, physically and mentally. My single room was expensive, but absolutely worth it for me, because I was able to get enough rest (bed at 2130 most nights, I am not joking) and get up early enough to get some exercise. Also: Vitamin C and echinacea+zinc. Placebo effect or not, it may have saved me from the SOAR 'Crud', which this year turned out to be H1N1 for many attendees.

There's a group pool of SOAR 2009 photos over on Flickr that's worth trolling through. What can I show you?
Over the three days of the workshop, Stephenie told us about the history of cotton, the varieties, where they come from and how their physical characteristics affect the processing and spinning of their fibre. We spun cotton from the seed; we ginned seeds to separate the fibre from the seed, we 'willowed' and 'bowed' the resulting compressed fibre to see how vibration opens it up for spinning. We carded it and made punis (and a lot of very bad jokes based on Canadian slang. Google it :-) We spun our punis and commercially-available Indian punis, we spun top from many cotton varieties and blends. We spun on our wheels (the Journey Wheel was fine), we spun on spindles, tahklis, akhas, southwestern spindles, we spun on box charkhas and banjo charkhas, we spun on bull pups, and a great wheel. While we were spinning, Stephenie passed around samples of handknitted and handwoven cotton to show us what we could do with our handspun.
It's the item Stephenie didn't bring that is clearest in my memory: her re-creation of Native American weaving for a museum in the southwest, and the look on her face as she spoke of it.

Much of the equipment we used was made by Alden Amos (the box charkhas were Bosworths, or from India). Talking with Stephanie about textile history and spindles, she brought out a spindle Alden had made for her, and put it in my hands. How can I describe it to you? Have you ever felt that something was perfect, that it could be no other shape? Light and shadow emphasize the perfection of line and, if it's something you can touch, you HAVE to touch it because, well, you have to. The spindle was not 'like' that, it was that. The simple, elegant perfection of the line of the shaft, the grain of the section of wood used as a whorl. I can't help it, beauty makes me cry, and tears were in my eyes as I handed it back. And then Stephenie gave it back to me to keep. It's sitting on the desk in front of me as I type, and I look at it and... it still makes me cry. Both for its beauty, and the memories it evokes. Anyway. I also have an AA tahkli. I tried several in the course of the class, and liked this one for its weight and persistance. I can't think of the right word to describe its insistence on spinning long and fast. Look, it's got whirlwinds on it!
On Wednesday evening the various workshop groups set up displays to show 'everyone' what we'd done and what we'd learned. We decided to emphasise the fact that cotton gets a raw deal: it isn't difficult to spin provided you approach it with an open mind. We set out samples of the fibres, the tools we'd used, and the skeins we'd spun. We included ALL the waste fibre discarded over the three days (only a double handful), labelled 'Cotton is NOT difficult to spin'. We enthusiastically demonstrated spinning on tahklis (Avedan and Stetson excel at this) and an ordinary wheel.
Stetson holds/spins a tahkli while the amazingly talented Denny spins cotton from it. Lyn/enallagma9 (centre), Ellenspn (far right) and others watch, bemused by their teamwork.

Stetson I think realised that someone spinning looks a bit... ordinary... sat behind the wheel, so he decided to try something different. At his request I brought the wheel out, turned it so the orifice faced into the room and bent down to adjust something. And the rest is history, recorded on YouTube and the memories of anyone in the room. The purple lump treadling is me; Stetson is the handsome chap who takes a bow after the singles finally gives up the ghost. None of the video and photos I've seen so far have caught Denny and the others who were limbo-dancing under the singles, or the moment when my hair got caught in it!

Thursday was a rest day, or meant to be. But the Market opened, which was not at all restful. The queue to get in began to form an hour or so beforehand, most of it being the proto-queue for the Rovings booth. The first five minutes were mayhem; I took refuge in Carolina Homespun, whence I emerged considerably richer in Abbybatts and Spirit Trail fibre. I am not saying how much poorer in cash terms! I then surveyed the field. My goal was to acquire stuff I cannot get in the UK, or that is best chosen in person. It was a great pleasure to finally meet Steve of Spindlewood, and I was thrilled to discover that 10g spindle. A Verb for Keeping Warm was on my list; I tried to buy enough fibre that I won't be immediately frustrated when I run short. The colours are so, so pretty.
There's some Spirit Trail in there, too.
I almost forgot to mention the special SOAR blend. Black BFL and silk, 8oz for $15, limit of three per person. I got three.
Also a gift bag from Jimbobspins!

There is a lot more fibre, I mean A LOT MORE FIBRE to be revealed. I'm going to ration it in case it overwhelms you, or inspires fibre-holics to raid my house. It's currently bagged by colour, and there's the 'brights' and the 'blues' yet to be revealed. Also the Rovings black polwarth/silk blend.

Back to what I learned, rather than what I bought or was given!
Friday am was Blending on a Drumcarder with Abby Franquemont. Amazing, intense three hours. Started with chunks of black merino, silver alpaca, and silk, used to teach us how to feed the carder, how to sandwich slick fibres, and how successive passes make more effective blends. Those tiny twists are my plied samples, one from each pass. I've rarely spindle-spun so fast... We used a range of carders, from small manual to 'Judith's carder', a huge motorised beast that just ate fibre. Don't worry about presenting the fibre correctly; don't put your hands anywhere NEAR it! Just toss the fibre at it like flesh to a hungry lion. I was interested to note that the batts from the Strauch were more finely blended, but wow, it was fast. For the next exercise we were given dyed silk. merino and glitz to blend. Not allowed to choose: we learned that even apparently ugly colours can result in lovely blends. My maroon and mustard merino plus lavender silk ended up looking like lavender-shot mahogany. Rather lovely. But now I want a drumcarder. What do I remember most clearly? Abby's hand on mine, pressing down to show me how to feed the fibre into the carder. Knowledge passing from hand to hand.

Friday pm was Plying with Judith Mackenzie Mckuin. Slightly less intense, but still... wow. We used millspun singles, Judith's Rambouillet/Mohair blend, to create 2-ply, 3-ply, and 4-ply. (Judith said my plying was beautiful!) We talked about the benefits of plying and how the structure affects its performance in knitted fabric. And then we played with novelty yarns created by plying. And Judith talked about her work with Native Americans, projects to preserve and pass on their knowledge of fibre.

I don't have any photos from my Saturday am class, American Long Draw with Maggie Casey. I don't have any samples, save what's still on the JW bobbin. That's because I didn't stop spinning. I learned... my hands learned that my right hand's habit of pulling forward was causing slubs: the right hand should do nothing but control the twist while my left hand pulls the fibre back and away. And I did the Beerdrinkers's Long Draw! From the fold or from the end, makes no odds. Should I wish to, I can now drink and spin at the same time. And I got to watch Maggie's hands, spinning.

Saturday pm was Handcombing with Robin Russo. Peter Teal's precision produces true worsted, but it is possible to produce perfectly useable prep by lashing on fibre as it comes, by the handful. Faster, too. And we did it with a range of fibres on a range of combs, from Navajo Churro on Viking combs (de-hair and comb), Polwarth and Romney on smaller combs, down to angora on mini-combs. See that grey skein on the card? That's hand-combed, handspun angora. How cool is that? And the red stuff is my first pure mohair. Such fun!

But my word, we were tired by the end of it. Saturday evening was Hallowe'en, dinner in costume (I wore my best clothes with button eyes and behaved very properly as the Other Sarah. Which makes no sense unless you've seen Coraline) a spin-in of sorts, plus disco/karaoke. Far too loud for me. I went back to my room, changed into my travelling clothes and packed my suitcase bar my toothbrush so I'd have time for a last long pre-breakfast walk before leaving on Sunday. Then I went back to the Great Hall to watch, entranced, as Michael Cook/wormspit demonstrated silk reeling. One of the Sunriver staff leant over his shoulder and I couldn't help overhearing as he was told he had to clear his workroom within the hour. And I saw his face - he'd been promised the room until Sunday, allowing him to pack all the class equipment. I volunteered to clear it, packing everything onto trolleys (commandeered from the kitchen) to be taken to a different room. When I'd done so (interrupted only by Tsocktsarina's summons to help give Abby the final installment of the FOAY (Ravelry group) gifts), I was stunned by Michael's insistence that I accept 2 bobbins of hand-reeled silk, plus 2 empty bobbins, a frictionless clip, and a 3-minute summation of what to do to turn it into laceweight yarn.
I'd had to sit on my suitcase (full of fibre) to close it. I'd already thrown away a pair of old socks in order make space... could I fit these in? Of course I could. So I did. And the suitcase weighed 49lb 8oz on the scales at Redmond Airport on Sunday morning, which is why my right elbow has been Not Quite Right ever since. Very Painful, in fact. But at least it doesn't stop me spinning.

From Redmond I flew to Victoria, where we spent three days with his family before flying back to Heathrow. It hurt to leave, even more than my elbow, it hurt my heart. Western Canada is Home. I console myself with the thought that I carry it with me in my bones, but I still couldn't bear the view from the windows on the other side of the terminal, the ones that showed the sea and the mountains beyond which lies Home.