28th September 2018
- by Fran Stafford
I'm back from Blighty... great parents, great pals and a fantastic bottle of Dubonnet!
Isn’t Jet Lag a wonderful thing? I've been back from my trip ‘home’ to England a couple of weeks now. I landed back in Auckland at 4 O' clock in the morning. Given the ungodly hour my husband had instructed me to get an Uber. To my surprise, and immense gratitude, Neil was waiting for me in the arrivals hall. I guess, that after nearly 30 years of marriage,that's his way of saying 'I have missed you'.
That first day back I just kept going. I was due in work at 10 am but I had penciled Olivia on the roster to work along side me and give me a sharp nudge if I showed signs of dropping off. I expected to be confronted with a whole list of knitting related problems, queries and things to sort out. You see, I am indispensable and the store simply cannot run smoothly without me. There were no problems, no customer grumbles, pattern issues or wool shortages. The shop had run for 3 weeks with slick precision and professionalism. I'd like to believe that was because I worked so damn hard in the run up to my trip, getting the shop well stocked and organised with military precision, however I suspect Olivia and Marya heaved a sigh of relief, their meddling and controlling boss was out of the way and they could simply get on with their job!
That first day I found myself nodding off mid evening and the moment my head hit the pillow I was fast asleep. At 3 am I was wide awake, my husband didn’t love me enough to wake up and have a chat, Harry, my Labrador, expected his breakfast and there were a few noisy youths walking up the street after a good night out! What’s a meddling, control freak wool shop owner expected to do? Well, go to work of course! The drive up to Milford was traffic free and I managed to get a park right outside the shop, funny eh? As the first delivery of our Summer yarns had arrived that week I did actually have some legitimate work to do. By the time the sun rose the shelves were immaculate, the windows cleaned, the floor vacuumed and I had drunk far too many cups of tea. In my opinion it was a great use of the time. My husband did make rather a valid comment...he felt that last years jet lag activity was far better for my health and helped to combat my ever increasing middle aged spread. You see, Takapuna Swimming Pool opens at 5.30 in the morning and for a fair few mornings I was the first through the doors and had thrashed out forty lengths before most people were even awake. It didn't last long and the waistline has expanded a little more!
As many of you know, my annual trip home is to check up on my very elderly parents. All was well, their morning role call still amounted to the pair of them being all present and correct. They have a wicked sense of humour and are both amazed and astounded to be both ‘around’ each morning. Every day spent with them was magical, we gardened, did some gentle walks and drank endless cups of tea…It’s a British thing! Anyway, I will save our antics for another newsletter. I worry constantly, I am so far away, and know they miss me, and do need additional family help and support. Fortunately I only hear of any 'mishaps' after the event. Dad spent a sudden and exhausting day in hospital last week, The National Health Service was not performing at its best. Mum and dad spent the entire day being pushed from pillar to post and asked the same questions countless times from a whole assortment of doctors and nurses. Eventually late into the evening, he was given a few pints of donated blood and sent home. He said it was the worst day of his life, and he was extremely agitated and upset. I only found out a couple of days after the event and I have to admit my selfish first thoughts were 'oh no, I can't face another flight home so soon after the last one'. Dad is a little better, he's managed to get out to his shed, his Dahlias are still flowering and his tomatoes fruiting furiously.
Picnic lunch, my parents are posh…even though they are eating outdoors mum packed napkins, cutlery and crockery in her shopping bag! Dad is actually grimacing, he still firmly believes that meals should be eaten at a table!
The highlight of my trip was a weekend away with my friend Rachel. Rachel and I have been best pals for 26 years, we met at antenatal classes and our eldest children were born 24 hours apart. Rachel's baby, Alex was so placid. Rachel was able to make cakes, keep her house tidy, carry a sleeping baby in a backpack over hills and dales and have leisurely lie ins. My daughter Francesca, screamed and refused to sleep for the first 2 years. I was shattered, I bought cake from Tesco and my house was a mess. I relished the times I sat in Rachel's front room eating home made cake, drinking hot cups of tea and talking until the cows came home. Our children are all grown up now and we finally have the time and the energy to do exactly what we want to do. Unfortunately I only get to enjoy her company once a year.
Anyway, Rachel has recently taken early retirement having worked for National Health Service all her adult life. Still too young and active to put her feet up, she hatched a plan to purchase a seaside holiday cottage in Llandudno (North Wales) Despite having a lovely family, the holiday cottage became known as Rachel's Cottage and was predominantly used as a retreat for herself and her Collie Dog, Gwen. I didn't quite invite myself, but, when the offer was made of a few days away, I jumped at the chance and had my bags packed before you could say 'Jack Robinson'! (a term used to describe an action done at great speed)
Now Llandudno is a place very dear to my heart, but to give a true portrayal of this majestic town I will quote from Bill Bryson's hilarious book 'Notes From A Small Island'
'It is truly a fine and handsome place, built on a generously proportioned bay and lined along its front with a huddle of prim but gracious nineteenth century hotels that reminded me of a line up of Victorian nannies. Llandudno was purpose built as a resort in the mid 1800's, and it cultivates a nice old fashioned air.
Unfortunately, Bill chose not to stay in one of the grand hotels on 'the front' opting for an indistinguishable guest house, that filled him with a sense of unease and doom the moment he set foot in the door.
'My room was everything I had expected it to be - cold and cheerless
, with melamine furniture, grubbily matted carpet and those mysterious ceiling stains that bring to mind a neglected corpse in the room above.There was a tray of coffee things but the cups were- let me be charitable- disgusting and the spoon was stuck to the tray. The bathroom, faintly illuminated by a distant light activated by a length of string, had curling floor tiles and years of accumulated dirt in every crevice and corner'.
My husband had to laugh as I read this description out loud. You see, both Neil and I spent many childhood holidays in Llandudno but our experiences were vastly different. I clearly remember, as a young child squeezing into the back of Dad’s Ford Cortina. Our flimsy suitcases were safely in the boot, the air smelt of mum's egg sandwiches and us three children groaned as Dad constantly turned off the engine as we went downhill in an attempt to save petrol. It seemed to take all day to cover the seventy or so miles to the North Wales coast. We stayed in a smart bed, breakfast and evening meal establishment very close to 'the front'. The proprietor, in her twin set and pearls had a kindly disposition, snowy bed sheets and sparkling bathroom porcelain. Our evening meal, taken in the grand dining room overlooking the bay, would commence with a slice of melon topped off with a maraschino cherry, mum would have a small sherry and I struggled to eat my dessert with the highly polished spoon and fork. By the mid 1970's our holidays in North Wales, requiring windbreaks and cagoules, were replaced by package holidays to Spain. Sangria replaced the sherry and holiday pocket money was spent on a sombrero rather than a stick of rock. I was the first in my primary school class to travel on an aircraft and prior to the 1976 British heatwave, also the first to flaunt a suntan.
Neil's childhood memories are a little different. His family did not own a car, so the train was their mode of transport. Holiday accommodation was a boarding house well 'off the front', their proprietor kept her pinny on and wore grubby slippers. All guests had to vacate their rooms between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm and tea (dinner) was served at 5.30. Neil can't remember what was served up on the mismatched crockery, I'm certain it wasn't melon, pate, chicken Kiev or fresh trifle. I am a little envious though...I had to participate in family walks on the Great Orme (a giant rocky outcrop, similar to The Mount at Mount Maunganui. I had to search for and identify fauna, flora and wildlife and then fill in a holiday note book. Neil was allowed to wander around town, visiting the amusements, purchasing candyfloss and hot dogs and stay out past 8 o'clock. Maybe Neil was attempting to put his holiday memories behind him, when, in the mid 1990's, we spent a weekend in Llandudno with our two young daughters. We stayed at The Empire Hotel, undoubtedly, the towns most expensive and exclusive hotel. It had an indoor swimming pool and guests were invited to pre dinner drinks in the residents bar each evening.We did have a fine time, and my girls have secreted away their own memories of this trip which include donkey rides on the beach, watching violent Punch and Judy shows on the sweeping promenade and rubbing the back of their legs raw sliding down the heltah skeltah on the majestic Victorian pier.
Now I have been rambling on as usual about childhood memories and told you nothing about my wonderful weekend away with my old pal. Rachel's cottage is perched high up on the Great Orme. You have to be incredibly fit to walk up the breathtakingly steep road that rises from the town center to the top of the enormous outcrop. An ornate restored Victorian tram carries the less able bodied up the hill and 'locals' use it like a bus service, they are charged the paltry fee of 80 pence. After a long day of walking Rachel confessed she normally took the scenic tram ride back to her cottage. Now 80 pence was the charge for residents, for tourists the rate was in the region of 8 pounds. On the Saturday, after a full day of activity I had stayed in town, I needed a coffee and wanted to revisit some of my old haunts and refresh childhood memories. As exhaustion swept over me I accepted I would have to take a ride on the tram, there was no way I could undertake the monumental hike up the hill. To my dismay, as I proffered the exorbitant amount of money to the snowy haired gent in the ticket office,I was informed that the last tram of the day had just left and shanks's pony (using ones own legs and the action of walking as a means of conveyance) was my only option. It took a good 15 minutes to haul myself up the, in some places, 30 degree incline. I was a gibbering wreck but soon came round after a strong cup of tea and a sweet biscuit. AND I had saved myself 8 pounds ($16).
My time spent in Llandudno with Rachel was incredibly special and will form more precious memories. We have supported each other through all the trials and tribulations of raising our children had always hankered for spending some quality time together, without family, work or time constraints. Well, we took our knitting, we walked for miles and miles, we played scrabble and we ate an awful lot. We did not shut up talking for three solid days and we drank rather a lot of that incredibly dated and kitsch fortified wine, Dubbonet mixed with lemonade. Rachel produced the bottle from her bag, blimey I had not seen Dubonnet since 1979. I seem to remember it was trundled out on the drinks trolley that Christmas, clattering along next to a bottle of Advocaat and some tiny bottles of Babysham. We actually didn't drink too much but maybe our age, the fact that we had been on the go all day, and were totally unaccustomed to this retro fortified wine, made us rather merry. Our knitting had to be put aside, our scrabble skills went incredibly down hill and we both admitted we slept rather well that night. As we packed up our bags, and headed off to the station for our train journey home we had to admit that we were utterly senseless with exhaustion and realized that we hadn't stopped talking for three solid days.
Rachel has just had eye surgery, hence the Stevie Wonder dark glasses!
When I am faced with the task of writing a newsletter I groan and procrastinate. It takes me ages to get going but once started on the subject of childhood memories, elderly parents, my fondness for the British countryside and all things British I can't seem to contain myself. The ideas flow and my fingers tap furiously at my keyboard. My husband frequently remarks, 'You do go on rather a lot!' HOWEVER, when I have to do a bit of a 'hard sell' and promote my business (which actually is the main purpose of my newsletter) I simply cannot think of the words to write. How many times should I mention the words 'gorgeous, lovely to knit, beautifully soft, wonderfully warm'? Can we just come to an agreement?... all the yarns I sell are pretty damn good, and their quality and integrity should speak for themselves. I won't think you are strange if you bury your nose in my yarn, if you rub a hank gently against you neck or sink your fingers deep into the center of a ball. These are exactly the things I do when purchasing yarns for the store. So, I won't wax lyrical about soft, gorgeous, luxurious yarn, there's no 'hard sell' but below you will find a brief description of our latest Summer Yarns.
Erika Knight Studio Linen... We have a whole tempting pallet of intensely rich colour saturated shades to accompany our current range of delicate pastel and easy to wear neutrals. If I could just tempt you a little...Shrub, Shallow, Velvet and Cirrus are the poetic and evocative names given to these new shades. The Stunning range of new ladies garment patterns are on our web site. Take a peek.
Erika Knight Gossypium Cotton... Again, we have new shades to accompany this premium double knit range of cotton. The colours are a little retro, but also edgy and totally on trend for the a Summer of stylish knitting. The names given to these yarns are super cute and make you smile: Bobcat, Paddle, Dance, Porpoise, and last but not least, Monster! We have patterns for all the family, from babies to blokes. These super stylish patterns prove that projects do not need to be old fashioned and boring.
Sesia Organic Cottons... We have a tasteful range of delicate Summer shades in this, oh so soft pure organic cotton. Spun in Italy, so it's a bit posh, and absolutely georgeous for precious babies garments. These yarns only come with shade numbers, very boring, so Olivia and I got our heads together and chose some rather suitable colour names... pretty, True, Day Dream and Easy, just to name a few.
Sesia Baby Cashmere and Cotton... I have made a couple of babies garments from this luxury 4 ply yarn. I can only describe the experience as totally sublime, it definitely put me in my happy place. We have on offer Ballet, Snow, Blueberry and Pebble.
Rowan Summer Yarns... NOW DON'T GET TOO EXCITED TOO SOON...Some time next month we are expecting a HUGE delivery of Rowan summer yarns and a whole pile of pattern books and Rowan Magazines(knitters pornography) We have on order Baby Merino Silk DK, Softyak DK, Handknit Cotton, Cotton Denim and Summerlite DK. I will let you know the moment the courier driver staggers through the door with the boxes.
Olivia has expertly photographed and put all our new yarns and shades on our website. Pop the kettle on, put your feet up and take some time to peruse our latest collection of loveliness. Hey, why don't you try a Dubonnet and Lemonade, it will loosen your will power immediately, I have a feeling the online orders will come flooding in!
Finally, for those of you unfamiliar with our physical store I have taken a pretty good snap of one of our displays. Photography is not really my forte and I was amazed at this composition. There will definitely be no staff portraits, Marya and Olivia have refused to pose and I always have my eyes closed and look gormless.
Well that's all for now, happy knitting and thank you for reading all the way to the end. Neil did comment that this was an incredibly long (winded) newsletter!
Fran and the Woolly Girls