Friday, 17 May 2013

Five Star Finished, Giveaway Winnings, and a Trip to London.

This could turn out to be quite a lengthy post, so if you want to read it all I suggest that you make yourself a nice cup of tea (or your favourite beverage of choice), and pull up a comfy chair.  That's what I've done anyway, so here goes.
Part 1 is the finish, Part 2 is the winnings, and Part 3 (very long) is about the history of my love affair with London and my most  recent trip there.  Please don't feel you have to read it all.  I won't be offended if you skip most of it.  Honest.

Part 1.
I've finally finished this mini quilt.  I'm not very inventive when it comes to naming quilts so this one is just called "Five Star."

I saw the pattern on Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. and it's called Three Barns.  There must be a story behind that title, but I don't know what it is. It doesn't resemble a barn (or even three) in any shape or form, so I think my renaming of it is completely in order. 

I've re-sized the pattern to 20" square.  I do this by drawing it out to scale on squared paper first, then calculating units required, materials needed and  method of piecing.  I actually love doing all the maths and working out the best way to do things.  This quilt is made up of squares, rectangles and Flying Geese units.

I don't know what the patterned fabrics are as they were scraps that were given to me, but the dark grey is taken from a cotton shirt from the charity shop.  The backing is just plain off-white sheeting and the buttons are from my button box.

I hand quilted it using Gutermann Sulky in grey.  It is a viscose thread with a nice silky finish, but a devil to work with as it breaks so easily.  I don't think I will use it again.  I just did straight line quilting on this.  I love the way the pattern shows up on the plain back.

My stitches aren't all even and I haven't come through to the back on a number on stitches, but I find the hand stitching very relaxing to do of an evening when  I'm watching TV.

Part 2.

I had great fun taking part in the Giveaway Day organised by Sew, Mama, Sew!  Luckily, this 'day' lasted all week as there were so many blogs to visit. I couldn't possibly visit all of the blogs in one day, so I decided to give myself a limited amount of time each day to visit  
them.  I loved reading all the blog posts and spent quite a bit of time on some of them, going back over older posts as they were so interesting.  Quite a few have been added to my blog reading list now.  I was lucky enough to win one of the giveaways I applied for from El Petit Taller and in the post this morning I received a package containing these 2 half yards of deliciously bright fabrics by Me and My Sisters, perfect for a summery project.

When visiting the sites you have to leave a comment and for this one Irina asked what was your favourite city.  Mine is London and I visit as often as I can.  I only live 70 miles away so it's nice and close.  I prefer to go by train as it only takes just over the hour, and I don't have to worry about driving or parking or 'congestion charge'.    I went to London last Saturday with my daughter as she had bought us tickets to see a play, 'The Hothouse' by Harold Pinter.  Read on to Part 3 if you want to know more about this trip.

Part 3.
I'm giving you fair warning that this part is very wordy and, later, picture heavy, so here goes.

My love affair with London started way back in the fifties when I was a child.  My dad was born there, and about twice a year we would go and visit his mother who lived in Bethnal Green in the East End. The journey used to take for ever, nearly 3 hours,  as there were no motorways back then, and the old cars dad had only seemed to go at 30 mph tops..  I used to get terribly car sick so we were always stopping for me to throw up!  But I still loved going.  My Nanny was a sweet little old lady who had had a hard life but she had that indomitable spirit of a true Cockney, and I loved to visit and listen to her tales of times gone by.  We would often go for a walk to visit aunts and uncles, and take in a few sites on the way.   I remember walking to Petticoat Lane market, going down Brick Lane, eating at a Pie and Mash shop and being introduced to Jellied Eels.  Another highlight was being sent down the road to the corner shop to get a half pint of fresh milk for the cups of tea and being told to say "Rose sent me".  This seemed to be the code for not paying for anything, and being given a sweet out of one of the many large jars that lined the walls of the shop.  In later life I found out that what it really meant was "I've got my family visiting from 'posh' parts who don't like sterilised milk, and I'll pay you on Monday."  The visit would always end with a detour through central London to see the 'lights' of Picadilly Circus, and in December, the Christmas lights down Regent and Oxford Street.

On to the Swinging Sixties and my teenage years.  I discovered that I could get on a train in Winchester and be in the capital in an hour.  I used to save my wages (15/3d, about 77p today) from my Saturday job in Woolworth's so when school holidays came I would go up to 'the smoke' for the day, and roam around Carnaby Street, King's Road and Kensington, shopping in Biba's,  and Mary Quant's shop.  I still have a suede tasselled  waiscoat that I bought in those days.  I would also take in the fabric and haberdashery departments of Liberty's in Regent Street and all the big department stores in Oxford Street.  My school friends soon realised that I knew my way round London and so would ask me to take them, but this usually meant taking an unofficial day off school so I'll gloss over that part!

During the Seventies I was a young married mum and lived some of that time in Germany, but returning to England at the beginning of the Eighties I found the ideal opportunity to get reacquainted with the capital.  My husband was a voluntary athletic official and attended many events at Crystal Palace and other venues around London.  My two young daughters and I would travel in the car to his venue, and then, armed with my favourite book - "London for Free", hop on a bus or the Tube and seek out many museums, art galleries, monuments and other wonderful places of interest, all for the cost of the bus fare. We gradually worked our way through that book over the years, and I wish I still had it as there were such gems in there that I'm sure I would never have found.  Places like the Horniman Museum with it's cultural and natural history collections,  John Soames House in Lincoln's Inn where you can see Hogarth's Rake Progress, the Museum of Childhood in Bethnall Green with it's delightful collection of Doll's Houses, the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton with  it's wonderful displays of British interiors,the Hunterian Museum in Lincoln's Inn with it's gruesome medical specimens and surgical instruments, and many, many more.  Oh, I almost forgot, the London Sewing Machine Museum on Balham High Street, with it's hundred upon hundred of vintage and antique machines.
All for FREE!

We always arranged to meet up in Covent Garden around tea-time.  As this was an unpredictable time we needed something to keep us busy whilst we waited, and the street entertainment certainly did that, again for free.  On the way there we would stop at the booth in Leicester Square that sold last-minute theatre tickets and buy cheap tickets for an evening performance in one of the many theatres.  We didn't really care what we saw, but we saw some really great shows and plays.

Is it any wonder, with all this rich, cultural heritage that I dragged my girls around that one of them studied History at university, and the other studied Drama.  My youngest daughter now takes great delight in introducing the streets of London to her two youngsters, and my eldest daughter loves taking groups of her students on history visits to the capital.

And so, at last to my latest visit, and some PHOTOS!  I went with my eldest daughter, Catherine, on the train.  We alighted at Waterloo, and camera in hand, I warned her that I wanted to record our walk in photos.  She advised me not to try to take any whilst I was crossing the road, and to watch out for lamp posts (I once walked smack into one in Naples, broke my glasses and gave myself a black-eye!).  My first one I wanted to be of the marvellous entrance to the station, but it was covered in scaffolding and board so that was a no-no, but opposite it was a lovely site.  A long, unbroken row of Boris's Bikes, introduced by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, to help reduce pollution on the roads of London.  These racks are usually empty during the week, but as today was Saturday it provided my first photo opportunity.

I walked this way only a month or so ago, but I cant remember seeing this striking sculpture of Nelson Mandela.  I must have had my eyes closed.  Glad I saw it this time.

We made our way to the South Bank and stopped off at Wagamama's for an early lunch.  I had a most delicious curry of chicken and vegetables with sticky rice and a side order of endamame beans.

Going over Hungerford Bridge I spied this strange little island which seems to be the final resting place for dead skate boards.

Looking across to the Victoria Embankment is the mis-named Cleopatra's Needle, a pair to the one in New York's Central Park, flanked by two faux Egyptian sphynxes.  Mis-named because this obelisk has no connection with Cleopatra, and was already a thousand year's old when she was Queen of the Nile. The sphynxes were installed the wrong way round and so appear to be gazing up at the needle, instead of looking outwards and guarding it.  I used to think this was so very tall as a child, but now it is dwarfed by it's surroundings.


Through Charing Cross and a view of the Victorian cross that is a replacement of the original Eleanor Cross that previously stood nearby.  Charing Cross was one of 12 "Eleanor Crosses" erected by a disconsolate Edward I when his wife Queen Eleanor of Castile died in 1290. 

From Charing Cross we walked over to Trafalgar Square, but it was very difficult to get a photo of it because the Square is now used as a venue for open-air events.  Last time it was a Russian festival, and this time it was a basketball event.  There are hoardings all around the square and you can only enter in certain places, with burly guards guarding the  way.  The fountain is still accessible but you can't stand far enough away from it to get a good photo.  I took this photo of Nelson gazing out, through his good eye, at the ever changing skyline, with one lonely lion guarding him, from across the road.  Bring back the wide open space and the pigeons, please Boris.

We had a half hour to spare before we needed to go to the theatre so we took a walk down Whitehall.  coming towards us was a London bus, but not any old one.  This is one of the newly-renovated Routemaster buses that have have been re-introduced onto the roads of central London.  The original Routemasters, with the hop on/off back platform, driver's cab and ticket collector were all phased out and replaced with more modern driver controlled, front entrance buses, but good old Boris, together with London Transport and contributions from the British taxpayer has seen sense and re-introduced a few of these iconic symbols of London.  It was a lovely sight to see it back on the road.

We passed by Scotland Yard, centre for all police activity in the centre of London.

Passed this memorial honouring the role of women in World War Two.  It was unveiled by the Queen in 2005.

Look at all this security.  One of the Horseguards outside the Horseguards Museum.

Another form of security.

Armed police, iron gates, bollards, railings, all guarding this place

official residence and office of the Prime Minister.

Turned round and walked back up Whitehall passing this stall selling souvenirs

The theatre was at the top of Whitehall so we went in and had a drink before taking our seats (tea for me, a glass of something bubbly for Catherine).  The play was a black comedy, very funny, brilliantly written by Pinter (I can see why he got the Nobel Prize for Literature) and superbly acted.  A wonderful experience. Nothing to do with the play, but it rather amused me was the extremely squeaky doors in the Ladies cloakroom.  I think they were auditioning for the part of "Squeaking Door" in the next ghostly radio play.

After the play we made our way round Trafalgar Square to the National Portrait Gallery and spent a pleasant hour gazing at the famous people from Tudor times right up  to the present.  The recent one of Kate, Prince Williams's wife,  was getting a lot of attention.  I thought it looked like she had the Omen shining out of her.  My favourite was the one of Dame Judi Dench.  It is a full length one and she looks so serene, and beautiful.

Don't worry, this isn't my image . You can't take photos in the gallery, so this is a downloaded image.

By this time we were in need of a cup of tea again, so crossed to the other side of Trafalgar Square and went in the cafe in the crypt of St. Martin in the Fields.

 London is very grey at the moment and this splash of colour as we cut through Charing Cross station on our way back was very welcome.

Back over Hungerford Bridge and a view of the latest change to the London skyline.  That pointy building is nicknamed "The Shard".  It is now open and you can, for the princely sum of £25.00 go up to the viewing platform for a wondrous look across London.  I'm saving that experience for a sunny day.

Further along the bridge I took this shot of St. Paul's Cathedral.  Not it's best angle, and not in good light.  you can see how cloudy and grey it was.

This is where my camera battery gave out and I hadn't taken a spare one with me, so you can't see the oysters my daughter ate in the little food market by the Royal Festival Hall, or the scrumptious apple and cinnamon crepe that I had.  Never mind, I think you've seen enough.

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings.  If you have made it right up until the ending here you jolly well deserve a medal.  What stamina you must have!  I'd love to know how many people survived this journey, so please leave me a comment if you have enjoyed it.


  1. Congratulations on your finish. Your little quilt is lovely and your hand quilting looks very nice! Enjoy your fabric winnings, they are such happy fabrics.

  2. Hi Joan - I have enjoyed your ramblings very much. Great little quilt finish and wow, what a beautiful win of fabric. I agree so summery! I enjoyed your trip to London. I live in Canada but my daughter currently lives there so I'm always interested in London. I had a chance to visit her last Oct/Nov so when you talk of the places you went, I was there and can picture your travelings. Thanks for the little trip today!

  3. Wonderful memories and images of London. I love the place too. Since my daughter moved there to study and now live I've been back a few times and find something new every time. I used to live on the outskirts, near Woolwich 'till I was 9 and though it's not somewhere I'd want to live now it's nice to visit now and again! xx

  4. Looks like fun! We just joined your blog. Come join ours!

    Anna and Sarah

  5. Thanks for the lengthy ramble. I got to spend 2 days in London about 5 years ago and loved it!! I hope I get to go back someday.

  6. What a great post about London! All the way from the 50s to the present day, so interesting!I'd love to go back again one day...
    I actually replied with a comment ages ago, but after several a temps with the word verification thing I gave up. I didn't mean to take that long to try again...
    I'm glad you enjoy your winnings and I hope to see what you make with them!:-)

  7. How did I find this wonderful post? I have no idea but, having always loved London for visits and then worked there for several years it was a wonderful walk down memory lane, Thank you so much!


    Di xx (Just up the road from you near Basingstoke)