Friday, 30 April 2010

Great day out at AQC

Today the Connected Quilters met up at the Australian Quilt Convention at the Exhibition Building in Melbourne. There were a few good new things this year - it was held at a cooler time of year so the temperature in the building was very pleasant, and some of us bought tickets online (with no booking fee) which made it quicker to get through the door. A couple of new additions to the quilt displays were good too - the 12 x 12 set of mini art quilts and the Quilters Companion magazine cover quilts. Shops galore to browse of course!

I couldn't resist a few 30 cm pieces of William Morris fabric from Patchwork by the Sea as they match my tea towels from York.

I also bought a little packet of Lisa Walton's fusibles - leaves - to trial and the show special basting spray at about half price. The threads were also to trial - a 50 wt Aurofil (I love the 40 wt) and a 50 wt Wonderfil, both for piecing.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

London - V&A tiles

Not only were the collections at the V&A terrific but the building had some wonderful floor tiles and mosaics which I was keen to photograph, due to my interest in quilts from tiles.

Monday, 26 April 2010

London Day 7 - Let the Show Begin!

This was the day I went to the Quilts 1700-2010 Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as the Horace Walpole & Strawberry Hill exhibition (he was an antiques collector and son of a British Prime Minister) - both entry tickets booked over the internet.

I am in my element at the V&A - a truly wonderful Museum! Being a design museum it is organised into geographical areas of the world as well as into types of materials. The exhibition was excellent and thought provoking as well. The iPod Touch audio guide was excellent as it enabled zooming in on close detail of many quilts. This wasn't possible on the actual quilts as barriers kept the visitors back to prevent touching and damage and lighting was subdued for preservation reasons. There was a wide variety of quilts from "ordinary" household or hotel quilts to specially commissioned quilts which were a great historical record of their times. My favourites for composition and workmanship were Ann West's "Patchwork with Garden of Eden" in wool applique and piecing from 1820, and the "George III Coverlet" from 1803-5. Photos weren't allowed so I bought the exhibition book, which was very well put together, as well as a small selection from the 35 reproduction fabrics and a set of coasters each showing a block from Ann West's quilt.

The cafe was bustling and the meals seemed enormous and all cost about BP10 ... then I found a bargain - the 'children's roast' - two generous slices of your choice of roast meat (turkey for me), gravy, ample roast potatoes, pumpkin, carrot and parsnip plus a soft drink for BP4.95. That's more like it! The room was amazing.

After lunch I pored over the ancient pieces of fabric and embroidery in the Textile Study Rooms, stored in slide out wooden panels, behind glass. They date back to ancient Egyptian times and are from all parts of the world.

Later I looked briefly at the lace displays and Hunting Tapestries but the section closed (due to staff shortages) before I could return. The Materials - Silver section was like a sensory overload - so much intricate work displayed ... I was able to make some gift purchases at the two shops but was disappointed to find no more William Morris design tea towels like I had purchased in York - they have been out of stock for 3 months apparently. I would have loved some more!

Sunday, 25 April 2010


It's a day that has always been respected in my family, growing up in country NSW we would watch the parade on television and more often than not bake some Anzac biscuits. I always get quite choked up watching the dignified service men and women marching along.

My immediate family wasn't involved in either World War - their dates of birth sparing them. However my father's older brother enlisted in the Air Force in WW II and serviced Catalina flying boats, was active in the RSL and Catalina Association and travelled to Sydney from his home in Orange to march for many years.

My great uncle, Reginald Davie (1893-1969), was our link to the ANZACs - he fought in WW I at Gallipoli with the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces. He was captured by the Turks after a quite famous battle and held prisoner for the rest of the war. The story of the battle wasn't fully known until much later as most survivors were thus captured. He was found to be the "lone gunman" heard firing and is mentioned in reference books. He survived bayonet injuries to both arms and returned home to resume life on the land, and moved to Australia. I remember visiting him and my Auntie Dot as a child ( I was 8 when he died) at their home near Glen Innes. He predeceased my Auntie by 15 years so I have many more memories of her.

Lest We Forget.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

London Day 6 - West End and City Walks

A Sunday and we had a slower start to the day! The West End walk began at Covent Garden tube station and first stop was the Covent Garden market - stalls and shops and buzzing with people. We picked up a few gifts here (can't show you!) and watched a couple of excellent buskers. We walked down Lisle St to Chinatown and then Shaftesbury Ave with all the big name West End theatres.  At Piccadilly Circus we booked tickets for "Jersey Boys" on Tuesday night, figuring we wouldn't fall asleep as we had nearly overcome our premature evening tiredness due to jet lag. The streets were very busy with people and cars, tourists and locals alike out enjoying a sunny Sunday. Amongst the glamorous designer shops we found a small pub (the Clarence Hotel) down a side street for lunch. G again opted for a steak and ale pie and I managed to negotiate a piece of fish with mixed vegetables rather than "mushy peas" which had been the side dish to nearly all pub meals we had previously seen (and I don't LIKE peas!).

Isn't this the biggest Easter egg you have ever seen?

Next we headed past the Ritz Hotel to Green Park, with its magnificent oak trees and daffodils coming out in the lawns, to Buckingham Palace.

The Queen was apparently "at home" as we saw her leaving by helicopter on the nightly news. Tours weren't operating until next month so we just peeked though the iron railings like good "subjects" (blah!).

St James' Park was looking very pretty in the sunshine and teaming with people. We got so warm walking that we had an ice cream ...

Next we headed through the Queen's Horse Guards' Parade ground to Victoria Embankment on the Thames, seeing the London Eye from the opposite bank. We noticed thousands of people who had just taken part in a charity fun run - "Sport Relief London Mile" (or 3 or 6 miles). We were aiming for St Paul's Cathedral but it was a bit further than we thought and we were glad to sit down when we got there. Sight seeing isn't allowed on Sundays but we were in luck as a 3.15 pm pre-Easter service was in progress and we listened to the choir sing four hymns beautifully while we took in the building.

Back to the apartment on the tube and a Chinese takeaway for dinner!

Friday, 23 April 2010

London Day 5 - Paris!!

Our anniversary treat - a day in Paris. We booked the Eurostar train over the internet and had to get an early start (with passports packed) to be on the platform for the first train out of Borough Station to Kings Cross - St Pancras International. We had a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs on lovely rye bread and a coffee and hot chocolate in bowl sized cups, at a French style cafe in the station. We both had window seats with a little table in between and enjoyed the views whizzing by the very fast train.

The tunnel seemed to last only a short time and then we were in France. The farms soon gave way to the outskirts of Paris and then we were at our destination of Paris Gare du Nord. We felt a bit silly - looking at everything "French" at once - but soon found the tourist information booth where we could buy our tickets to the "L'Open Tour" hop on hop off bus to tour the sights. We also bought rolls to take on board to keep us going until lunchtime. At the cafes nearby people sat facing out to the street, side by side, a very different look.

We had time to take in the two most popular bus routes and the sun had come out. Everyone was madly clicking away on their cameras - a blonde "bombshell" from Russia who reminded me so much of Valentina in the book "A Short History of Tractors in Ukraine", constantly standing up and draping herself in front of the views for her man to photograph! We had great views (helped by trees without leaves) and queues seemed reasonable for the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, not like in summer when 25 years ago we jumped the queue to the Louvre or we wouldn't have made it in!

We finished our bus touring at Rue de Madeleine and found a lovely little wine bar cafe for lunch. It was buzzing but the waiter was working hard to seat everyone and seamlessly switched from French to English and provided us with an English menu. Many items were game or sausage and not what we felt like, but we chose a veal dish and vegetarian risotto with "lambs lettuce" side dish plus glasses of the recommended wines which were all so delicious we didn't wish the meal to end!

We were close enough to walk back to the station and browsed shops along the way looking for shoes for Miss E ... found a pair for Master A, plus pastries and sweets with French wrappings.

On the return journey we were surprised to see "Indian" style slums of cardboard and tin on the outskirts of Paris, as well as a number of clusters of caravans next to industrial sites further out.

We had catering included on this leg, so enjoyed a hot meal and wines and arrived back in London about 6.30 pm, tired but very happy! A great experience.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

London Day 4 - Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is a bit out of London itself, in Surrey. The train from Kings Cross took about 30 minutes and was "above ground". The Thames is a lovely wide river here. The day was cooler and grey skies threatened rain so we "cracked" the Maze first and wandered the gardens until misty rain sent us inside to begin our tour of Henry VIIIth's home.

Audio guides were included in the admission but while interesting factually we found the navigation directions and palace signage rather hard to follow! We did just as well with the printed map guide when our frustrations became too much. The kitchens, methods of feeding the enormous household and guests and of food storage were extremely interesting. The Chapel was beautiful, but rooms were only sparely furnished and looked a bit odd ... maybe to accommodate the probable hoards of summer visitors? The tapestries designed by an Italian artist and made by Flemish weavers were magnificent. The colours are naturally better preserved on the back and one was displayed so you could view behind it.

Most of the greens have faded to blue over the centuries.

Lunch in a cafe in part of the former kitchens was a delicious steak and ale pie (with gravy). Teabags definitely taste better here than in Australia. In the afternoon we toured William III and Mary's apartments and the Georgian apartments, also sparsely furnished. In this section were also the private "grace and favour" apartments granted by various monarchs to mostly ladies and widows who had faithfully served the nation in some manner. What a life!

When we were almost ready to leave I managed to find out where the Embroiderers Guild office and shop was tucked away and rang the bell. A short time browsing didn't yield any gems this time, however.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

London - day 3 - York

After a delicious "full English breakfast" at our B&B we headed back to the York Castle Museum where the best sections were costumes and artefacts relating to marriage, pregnancy, birth and babies, and a street recreated from the Victorian era. Samplers by 11 year old girls in the 17 and 1800's also caught my eye. Bought three pretty tins in the gift shop.

The views from the nearby Clifford's Tower sitting on a man made hill were excellent and lent perspective on where then original York Castle (and later prison) had stood.

Next was Fairfax House which had been immaculately restored to its former glory and had many beautiful rooms.

We still hadn't visited the York Minster but is was on the agenda after lunch! While the Minster itself was spectacular the underground section proved fascinating - excavations in the 1960's to shore up subsiding foundations had uncovered the foundations of the original Norman church built on the site and then ruins of Roman barracks including footings, walls, columns, and busts. Later we visited the medieval Barley Hall and National Railway Museum before catching the train back to London.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

London Day 2 - to York

St Patricks Day and we had booked tickets on the internet for the Kings Cross train to York, a journey of about 2 hours. The view was interesting with London suburbs changing in style and then giving way to farmland, with few animals to be seen, no doubt still sheltering from the winter nights in the barns. The church steeples in small villages could be seen from far away.

Arriving in York we took our overnight bags to our cute B&B and then bought 2 day York Passes at the tourist centre and proceeded to explore this ancient walled city. With medieval, Norman, Viking and even Roman histories there was plenty to marvel at for visitors from such a "young" country! The City Walls walk took us to ... the Quilt Museum (how funny is that!). The current display was of whole cloth quilts and the former Guild Hall building very interesting in itself.

The little shop at the Museum had a few gems - a little book on tile and brick patterns and two quilt themed mugs.

The size of our lunch in a 1400's pub across the road was so astonishing we took a photo! BLTs with a side of chips and pale ales.

Later we walked round The Shambles, Newgate Market and went through the Jorvik Viking Museum.
While jackets were handy it certainly wasn't chilly with temperatures ranging from 12-16 degrees.

The different colour of rhubarb (also seen in Kaffe Fassett fabric) caught my eye in the market.

We only had an hour at the York Museum before closing time and planned to return in the morning. After a pub dinner we took a Ghost Tour ... not bad but hard to keep our jet lagged eyes open!

Monday, 19 April 2010

State Series #2 orienteering event

Yesterday was a beautiful autumn day of some 27 degrees but a little (a LOT) hot for my liking for bush orienteering! We picked up a young friend from our hockey club who has been enjoying some running at street O and headed to "Porcupine Ridge" between Malmsbury and Daylesford in the morning. Our courses would cover 6.5 km (son), 4.1 km (me) and 2.6 km (friend) in spur/gully native bush terrain with some old mining diggings and shafts to watch out for. It was also quite hilly. I found the going pretty tough in the heat and slowed to a walk many a time. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I checked the results later in the day and found I was leading the ladies in my age group. I hadn't made any serious navigational errors so that had made a big difference of 10-25 minutes over some competitors. Full results aren't available yet so maybe a faster person finished after me ... have to wait and see. The boys had good runs too. My son made a couple of errors that cost quite a bit of time but he recovered and completed the rest of the course quickly. The newcomer seemed very pleased with his time and the bush experience.

Junior Squad members cooking toasties and soup for the hungry crowd!

London day 1 - afternoon

The tube to Hampstead was quite a long journey and we asked for directions to Keats House, but unfortunately it wasn't open like our guide book had lead us to believe. Still, we could walk in the garden and peek in the windows and it did look something like the house from the recent  movie "Bright Star". There was a beautiful carpet of crocus bulbs under some of the trees. Houses in the area were single dwellings with expensive cars in the drive and we soon decided that the young women we saw pushing prams (and later meeting in the Heath) were probably nannies!

The bathing ponds or "lidos" in the Heath had us amused as they seemed to collect storm water runoff and were home to ducks, geese and visiting dogs ... but  a very pretty, peaceful place for a walk.

Of course we watched the squirrels among the trees and then the view from Parliament Hill back to central London was really quite something on this gorgeous day.

Next stop was Highgate Cemetery (up Highgate Hill) where only the East Section was open, with graves dating from the 17th and 18th centuries up to the present and a big problem with rampant ivy trying to cover everything! Karl Marx is one of the more famous residents.