It’s early in the morning. No light is visible from behind the curtains, and I can hear the dismal steady drum of heavy rain. I long for Spring.

I have always loved dawn. The new day begins. A glow appears in the darkness from which the sun will shortly arise. The first bird makes its morning salutation and calls the world to wakefulness. The unknown adventures that this day may bring lie before you, waiting to be explored.

As a child, I often woke early in the morning and lay in my bed, rejoicing in the soft silence and peaceful emptiness of the house where no-one else was awake. Often the household cat, having completed her unknown nocturnal activities would return home, and sure of a welcome from me, would leap onto my bed. She brought a smell of the great outdoors with her – fresh salt air, often a whiff of  mouse on her breath. I did not mind. She would lean against me to perform a perfunctory ablution and then stretch out beside me and purr before falling asleep. She had a relaxing and peaceful air, and I often went back to sleep again.

But when it rains? It seems to cast a shadow over the possibilities of the day, reducing it to merely a series of dull tasks to be done. Clean bathroooms, dust, make a quiche – oh who could be bothered with all that – an endless list – make a difficult phone call, iron, water indoor plants…

Perhaps I will go back to sleep. Maybe, if I’m lucky, when I wake up the rain will have ceased. Yes, I know we need the rain, but couldn’t it just fall for an hour or two in the dead of night?


I’m somebody who tends to have unfinished projects lying around. There’s no limit to the number of things I can start, launch, plan – but there is a limit to what I can complete. However, it is a characteristic of mine that what I begin, I will finish eventually (if I live that long.) After walking past some item requiring my attention for possibly hundreds of days, one fine day, for no apparent reason, I think, I’ll do that today. So it gets done.

So this week I’ve been on a finishing projects drive. On my list for months has been ‘Relabel glass jars’ but they’ve remained obstinately half labelled, no label at all, the wrong label… This week I’ve been decanting the contents into a spare jar, washing the empty jar, scrubbing off the label, drying said jar with cloth and on heater and refilling. I will do all the labels together but I’m about three quarters through and I’m confident that by early next week, the glass jars will no longer feature on my to do list.

Then I turned my attention to sewing projects. I have no pressing orders for curtains, quilts etc. There’s always requests of course. I would like to make a quilt for Sarah and Rory’s expected baby; Dana would like a base mat for her teepee; and Alex would like a cape, but none of these are urgent. So I slide out the plastic box full of carrier bags with mysterious bits of material in them, and examine the unfinished projects.

There’s material cut out to make a black handbag. I no longer fancy this, so I throw it out. (Yes that counts as completion!)

The other bags contain three cut out pyjamas in cotton, the bottoms half made, for a female child of 4 – 5 (an age we no longer have in the family.) I finish them off (who knows what the future will bring?) They are pleasant to make and I’ve adapted the tops from blouses of mine, so I don’t need to cut the buttonholes and sew on buttons which is a blessing.

There are also two partially made silk dresses, which I think I have failed to complete partly because the full skirt comprises a layer of muslin; a layer of stiff organza type material with tiny sequins scattered on it; and then the silk. The machine needle broke on the sequins so this will have to be done by hand. But again it should be pleasant work and I expect to finish these in the coming week also.

Then I’ll feel very smug with all projects finished, and I’ll start on some new ones.

PS Drat! Discovered two more pyjamas!



We attended a Nadfas lecture the other week and enjoyed it, and it made me reflect on the different qualities of lecturers.

You make a preliminary assessment as the speaker sits, waiting to be introduced. Is he/she of attractive, or interesting appearance? How well and appropriately is he or she dressed? Does he/she look relaxed and comfortable?

Some nervousness is understandable. Speakers should remember that in by far the majority of cases, the audience is on your side. They want you to make a good job of it. They will give you time to settle in. They’ve turned out, after all, and British audiences are generally polite and well-mannered. You should have nothing to fear.

There are one or two pitfalls for would be lecturers to avoid, however.

Starting late. If the audience has to hang about for too long, (in my case this is more than 5 minutes, but possibly some people have more patience) it will become restive and bad-tempered.

Mumbling. The audience must be able to hear without straining. But the speaker shouldn’t shout: the audience will feel it is being hectored.

Boring, monotonous delivery. Such speakers sometimes drone on and on in minute detail. The lecturer certainly understands his subject in depth. There is NOTHING about the Blue Backed Beetle found only on North facing slopes of Shropshire that he doesn’t know and he clearly regards it as his mission to ensure that by the time you escape from his lecture, you know all of it as well. It can be difficult to stay awake.

In contrast to the Blue Backed Beetle man, there is The Lightweight. Often a woman, she appears to know nothing more about her subject than she might have researched on Wikipedia last week. You have no confidence in her understanding of the subject. She is a professional lecturer rather than an expert in whatever she’s talking about, and you can hear her mentally flagging up future lectures from some of the material she discusses. You feel you probably know more about the Fishing Villages of Scotland than she does, and must resist asking her questions to illustrate this.

Then there is the lecturer who condescends to the audience. It is clear that he regards the audience not only as a necessary evil, but as an uneducated mob of the great unwashed, who won’t understand words of more than 5 letters and should be slowly spoon-fed a simplified version designed not to over-tax its feeble intellect (unlike the speaker, who is a world wide expert on his subject, and terribly clever about everything else.) One wonders if stoning is permissible.

Speakers should avoid irritating mannerisms. These can include oddities of pronunciation, coughing, jingling objects in pockets, a peculiar stance or movement, delivery too slow, delivery too fast, giggles, sniffs… You find you cont the number of times he says, Ahem, rather than listening to the actual content.

Titles of lectures don’t seem to be of much significance to the speakers, for often they only loosely conform to how their talk is described. Thus, Art of the Caribbean may include Polynesia; and How to Make Scones may turn out to be mostly about how to buy an oven. The Blue Backed Shropshire beetle man, on the other hand – he never deviates from his title.

But every now and then, some hero/heroine comes along with a genuine depth of knowledge of his/her subject; with enthusiasm, charm and humour; with respect for the audience, and can talk to a brief. He/she makes up for all the deficient colleagues, and you’re glad you turned out.

Besides, if you are interested in the Blue Backed Shropshire beetle, I know the very man for you!