Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Return of the Black Dog

Stormy_beach by Janet Bell
Stormy Beach Huts, by Janet Bell (click picture for link to her site)

Winston Churchill famously referred to his depression as "the black dog." I feel inspired, at times, that people like WC  have managed their depression and gone on to lead normal lives. One day, I will do more research into famous people who have overcome their depression and put it on the site, as inspiration.

All I know is that the big black hole has gobbled me up again. It's all the more bleak because I felt so much better before. This return of the fog has been a surprise, I'd kind of convinced myself that it was retreating, and that my recovery would be a straight line upwards. Of course that makes no sense, writing it down, but it made some sort of internal logic at the time.

It's hard to explain what the 'black dog' is like. It's a sort of buzzing of your head and chest; a tight, compressing feeling. I find myself repeating, silently "I hate myself and I want to die." That sounds ridiculously melodramatic, it's not that I want to die, more that I'd like to cease to be. Cease to feel. It's suffocating and heavy. A complete rejection of the self. I can absolutely understand why people drink and smoke too much to overcome this feeling, the very effort of not doing so makes me jittery.

The odd thing is that, at times, my mood is better. I enjoy having Dom around to talk to. Jonny was off sick today, and it was nice having his company. However, it didn't lift the dead weight in the same way. I enjoy surfing and popping into the forums and blogs I visit; at other times this is too 'loud' and I can't stand it. I don't even feel true to my depressive self.

However, I have been reading a really good book about depression that I will review tomorrow. In it, the author says that her mood was variable, but her depression (her illness) remained the same. She said that depression has a moral tone, whereas other serious illnesses do not. You would not expect someone with cancer, for example, to be cured because they were laughing. I found this very thought provoking.

Anyway, there are upsides. I found a new picture from Janet Bell (above) which I love, and which seems strangely apt for this entry. I am finishing the Bonkers Blanket of Madness, which is coming on brilliantly well and shall, I think, be my first piece of proper 'art' (that is, it has a meaning as its primary function, rather than a purpose). We are all healthy, and that's something to be thankful for. I hope you and yours are too.

With love

Claire x

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

It's not my fault, it just fell....

<whistles innocently>

I have, for the longest time, been very taken with the wonderful ripple blankets that Lucy at Attic 24 makes:

Attic24 ripple blanket

I think one would look just fine on our bed. And this is not helped at all by the fact that Lucy has the same bedding as us in this photo, oh no no no. It just helps me to visualise it all the more.

The one thing that has prevented me from making such a blanket simply is the cost. My usual tactic is to start with a few balls, then add more and more. That way, I hide the true cost from myself. I like to use different types, textures and shades as I think that adds so much to a granny blanket - after all, they're not supposed to be beautiful and uniform, are they? Originally they were made from odds and ends, and I like to take this approach with my own blankets. However, unlike Granny squares, the problem with a ripple blanket is that you need to plan the colours carefully and additional textures won't add anything (in fact I think they would detract) because the pattern is so busy anyway. This is pure colour work. Which means planning in advance, in a line with several shades, which tends to = £££.

I didn't want to make a family heirloom from really cheap acrylic either, especially as this is a grown up thing. I hope it will be used and admired for many years to come. 

Today, I happened to Google "sale yarns". Don't do this, ever. Anyway, I found an online retailer that was selling Debbie Bliss Pure Cotton for 99p a ball, reduce from £3.65. Some were slightly more expensive (£1.69) but still, that's a hefty saving. So I indulged. Then I realised quite how many colours I would need for it to be effective, and how many balls of each, but by that stage it was too late - I was hooked. This is what I bought:

Ripple yarn collage 1

Ripple yarn collage 2

I bought them from Stash and Kangeroo.

I needn't say much more, need I? Just gaze lovingly at the wonderful colours and drool. Well, that's what I shall be doing anyway. No licking the screen allowed, lovelies!

It was very, very naughty. But oh, oh so nice......


Monday, 11 January 2010

If you could be anywhere...

from Country Living, Jan 2010

Have you got a 'happy place'? I'm not sure I like that expression very much, it sounds a little patronising. I mean a place in your imagination where you'd like to be?

I have two places, and they have been with me for some years. The first is a place just like the above - so much like it, in fact, that looking at this picture quite took my breath away. It's a modern, glass and steel Grand Designs sort of home, that has squashy settees and a roaring fire, coffee and, most importantly, solitude. It sometimes has a labrador (which is a bit odd; I am not a dog person). The house is on a pier on a lake, surrounded by a pine forest. No-one ever goes there but me.

The second place is a small apartment, with the softest bedclothes and antique furniture. It's really comfortable and old fashioned, stylish in a sort of faded, elegant way. There's nothing in the fridge save a bottle of champagne and is often the venue for more saucy imaginings (ahem). Both places bring me freedom and happiness and, in most instances I need them, I want to be alone in my happy place.

It was whilst watching Miss Marple that I realised that I am yearning to be child-like at the moment. Not childish; child-like. I would like to be somewhere cosy and clean, old fashioned but elegant, to be freshly washed and tucked up in an old single bed where I could just be me and free of all responsibility. I don't actually have a lot of responsibility at the moment, but day to day life is dragging me down. I just feel as though if I could sleep, for a very long time, I would awake feeling refreshed and have a much better idea of where I am going in life. As it is, I still haven't much of a clue.

This picture, from the same January 2010 edition of Country Living, sort of sums up the feel of the place I want to be:


Laundry - the smell of hot cotton and the soft touch. Hmmm. 


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Project 26: Baz's Alien Scarf

Baz is my somewhat eccentric Step Father-in-Law. He's ace; I am very fond of him. He is really into aliens and consiracy theories. Also, he's a primary school caretaker and loves anything that provides a starting point for conversation with the kids at his school. The kids there love him.

When I came across this pattern in the excellent Stitch and Bitch book, I thought of Baz straight away. I knew he'd love it, and I had a blast making it. He did, indeed, love it.

Alien Scarf

Just a normal green and black stiped scarf.... but look at it from an angle and....

Small (2)

... like magic the spooky alien faces appear. A sort of 'magic eye' knitting project.


I used really cheap acrylic for this, as I knew it would need a lot of washing. 2 balls - one green one black. Total cost £4.00.

Time taken:

about 2 weeks - it was quite labour intensive.

Lessons learned:

How to follow a knitting chart, which was educational. That knit stitches are shaped like a V, and purl stitches are shaped like a U (or a noose, as described in S&B). The effect comes from knitting the pattern in purl stitches. This creates a fabric that's slightly raised in unexpected places - you can't see it from most angles, but at the right angle you can only see the raised bumps and none of the knits - hence the pattern appearing.

Satisfaction Rating:

10/10. It was challenging enough knitting to hold my interest, but easy enough to do in front of the television. It has been universally loved and admired by everyone who has seen it. It really is knitting with the wow factor.

A whole day, just to yourself

Ideal Home Calendar 2009

This picture is from the February 2009 Ideal Home calendar. I really liked it at the time, and spent quite some time shopping for a similar tea cup, to no avail.  I thought it was appropriate to use now, because of the metaphorical element. It sort of describes where I am on my journey right now.

Well - crash - after lots of good days, I have had a stinker. I'm trying to work out why. Maybe I am kinder to myself when Dom is on holiday? I resign myself to a 'we'll get it done' sort of mentality, rather than 'I must get this done before Dom gets home - I am lazy / selfish / uncaring / not good enough etc'. I don't know why my internal voice is so harsh, it seems so bloody obvious when you write it down. I KNOW I should ignore her, but there she is whispering in my ear all the time, and deep down, I admit, I believe her, at least on some level.  If you work out a way to shut her up, please let me know!

My current worries are:

a) That I am hideously fat

b) I am a terrible parent

c) That I was so bad at my job it was bordering on the criminal. Any thought of ever daring to think I could work again is laughable.

d) That I am actually pretending to be ill, to seek attention from others

e) That I have some sort of narcissistic personality disorder that is obvious to everyone but me.

f) That I am deeply, irritatingly, needy.

g) that if anyone tells me the above is not true, they are just being kind because they want to spare me from the truth.

I am writing them down, because they look so silly on paper. But there is a sort of interal logic to them when they are unexpressed. Like they are a truism I just accept. I think a lot of this is at the root of my problems.

That was surprisingly cathartic!

I had a read of lovely old Dr Cantopher's book again this morning, something I haven't done for a long time. He said that, at this stage, I should start tasks and not expect to finish them. He should pop round and see the hoover in the middle of the floor. He said it's better to start, do a bit, and then sit down and leave the task unfinished than it is to either not try, or to push yourself to do too much. That rang really true for me and was strangely comforting.

Despite the stinker of a day, I am still feeling positive about the 101 in 1001 challenge. I completely sorted my photo files out last night, which is fab. They were in a right mess, often duplicated, and it took me ages to find anything. I feel much better organised now they are sorted.

Today I will continue to update the blog with the 2009 projects. I will also update my calendar and have a sleep. I may finish my socks, we'll see. Workwise, I want to change the bedclothes, put on a load of washing and make dinner. Ideally I will clean the bathroom too, but we'll see.

Thank you for listening to my insane ramblings, it actually really helps. 

Speak soon bloggers

C x 

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Project 24: Bumhole Beret, scarf and wrist warmers

Righto, well here comes the glut of Taa-Daa's that I haven't got round to doing over the year. I hope to be more punctual this year!

Bumhole Beret
Bumhole scarf
Bumhole wristies

These were a Christmas present for Ann, my mother-in-law, who often takes her granddaughters to school. She lives in a lighthouse on the Humber, and it's often bitterly cold.

Can I just add the name of the items is no reflection on the pattern, or the recipient! When you start the hat, you start from the hole bit and work outwards. In purple yarn this looks more than a little obscene.


I used six balls of Rowan Romance, bought from a fellow Raveller for £12.

Time taken:

about 3 days

Lessons learned:

Nothing new really - these were pretty low stress.

Satisfaction Rating:

7/10. It was quite a lengthy process and I got a little bored because of the lack of challenge. I was pleased with the result, though!


The Cottage Garden 
YEEEEEEE-HAAAAAWW! The Horrible Task is done! I did it! Me! And I lived to tell the tale. AND, on the back of the success of tackling the Scary Paperwork I have made a phone call and received two. I am so proud of myself my heart I could easily explode. It sounds silly, really, that I could be so floored by something I once took for granted. Funnily how life can change and how quickly.

I found out that the business had been making a loss long before I thought it had. I should have known this, I know, but it was a classic case of burying my head in the sand. Also, I was so busy taking on extra teaching work to bring money into the business that I had even less time to spend on managing the money. Looking at the figures in black and white, Dom and I both felt that we had closed the business at the right time, from a business perspective. The business had been losing money; we started to recoup that by expanding, but our income was reduced by a third when the recession hit, and it was a downward trend. We gave it a sensible chance to recover and didn't give up too soon either.

How do I feel about it? Relieved actually. I can see now that I was in a bit of a trap trying to keep everything running. I understand why the business had to close, and I don't feel as ashamed as I did. I feel as though I gave it my best shot, and hung on when other people would have given up. However, I don't think I hung on stubbornly when it never was going to get better; I was sensible and, for some reason, that feels important and gives me more faith in my own judgement, something I lost for some time.

Actually, it's been a pretty nice 24 hours. Charlie and I made a snowman yesterday, which is currently sporting a hand knitted scarf. I will take a photo of it later. I am making toad-in-the-hole for tea, which I am looking forward to disproportionately, and I am knitting a pair of socks. I have had a good go at my 101 in 1001 list - managed two alcohol free days this week, as well as the three phone calls. I am going to print off a list and stick it on the fridge, as well as sort out my blog files later.

I hope you are doing OK today.

Lots of love, Claire xx

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


We have snow. Lots and lots of snow, the schools are closed and everyfink.

I have my tax return to do. This has involved me doing the filing, which has involved looking at the Scary Paperwork. My heart is still banging against my chest like I'm about to have a coronary. Now I have to process said paperwork into an Excel spreadsheet and send it off to the accountant.

This is needing more bravery than I currently possess. But the filing is done already. Anxiety is the pits; I don't know whether to feel dreadfully sorry for myself, or proud of myself for having achieved what I have thus far. I have demolished a packet of chocolate biscuits whilst pondering this.

Catch you later, hopefully when I am free of this heinous task. Baby steps....

Friday, 1 January 2010

101 in 1001 Challenge


1001 in 101 : The Project


It's January 2010 and I am starting to feel as though I am recovering from the depression. I need something to keep me busy, and to help me keep pushing myself and putting me out of my comfort zone little by little. The 1001 in 101 project seems ideal.

The idea is to make a list of things you want to do over the next 2.75 years of your life. Each task must be achieveable and time limited. Since I have recently experienced a very driven stage of my life in which target setting was a daily task, I will prioritise goals that I believe will bring me greater life satisfaction, happiness and self awareness. These may well be trivial to others, but will hopefully help me achieve my biggest goal: to discover who I am now and what I want to do with my life.

More information about this project can be found here:

Start Date: 1st January 2010

End Date: 29th September 2012

The List

Items crossed out have been achieved

Items in italics are underway



Items Relating to The List

1. To write my list of 101 things and upload to my blog. (1/1)


2. To make 5 phone calls a month

3. To answer the door whenever it knocks.

4. To go on an aeroplane. (0/1)

5. Smile when I want to cry.

6. Clear the credit card 

7. Complete a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle (0/1) 

8. Ride on a rollercoaster (0/1)





9. To enrol on a new course. 

10. To dye my hair at least 4 different shades. (4/4)

11. To read a book every 3 months. (11/11) 

12. To wear wacky socks every day for a month. (0/30) 

13. To conceive my third child 

14. To grow my hair to my bottom. (1/1) 

15. To visit 3 stately homes. (0/3)

16. To visit at least two art galleries (0/2)

17. To visit at least one photography exhibition. (0/1)

18. To keep an art journal 

19. To crochet a handbag. (1/1)

20. To write a letter to the me that was in 2000. (0/1)

21. To write myself an letter that I will open in 2020. (0/1)

22. Make a will  (0/1)

23. Have a massage (1/1)

24. Have a facial (1/1)

25. See five films at the cinema (3/5)

26. Buy a piece of artwork I love (0/1)

27. Buy false eyelashes and wear them on a night out (1/1)




28. To go to the dentist (1/1)

29. To eat my 5 per day every day for 30 consecutive days. (0/30)

30. To permanently reduce my alcohol consumption to 10 - 15 units a week

31. Go 30 days in a row without eating takeaway. (0/30)

32. Go 30 days in a row without eating chocolate. (0/30)

33. Swim twice weekly for at least three months




34. Spend at least 10 times beekeeping with Dom. (0/10)

35. Have at least one date per month with Dom, even if it is at home. (0/33)

36. Spend six weekends away with Dom. (0/6)

37. Send my husband a love letter (0/1)

38. Kiss in the rain (0/1)




39. To start an open diary to Jonathan. (0/1)

40. Take the children swimming 5 times. (5/5)

41. Go camping four times. (2/4)

42. Own a new pet. (0/1)

43. Have a picnic. (0/1)

44. Go for ten walks on the beach. (2/10)

45. Create a piece of art with the boys for the playroom. (0/1)

46. Teach Jonathan to cook five dishes (0/5)

47. Teach Charlie to read (1/1)




48. Give 5 'I saw this and thought of you' presents. (0/5)

49. Send 10 handwritten letters. (0/10)


Helping others / the planet


50. Donate something for charity each month (money, time, items) (0/33)

51. Perform five acts of random kindness (0/5)

52. Donate blood four times (0/4)

53. Plant a tree for each decade of my life (1/4)



54. To learn how to do interstarsia knitting and produce an item. (1/1)

55. To open an Etsy shop to sell my hand crafted items. (1/1)

56. To knit a pair of socks. (1/1)

57. To knit a handbag. (1/1)

58. Make three quilts  (2/3)

59. Knit an item using only double pointed needles (0/1)

60. Make and felt an item for the house (1/1)

61. Dye a skein of yarn (0/1) 

62. Learn how to spin yarn (0/1)

63. Make an item of clothing for myself (1/1) 

64. Make an item of clothing for Charlie (1/1)

65. Attend a craft fair both as a buyer and a seller (1/2)

66. Crochet a handbag (1/1)


Blogland and T'interweb


67. Update my inspiration album once per month. (0/33)

68. Keep a blog of your personal achievements and photography that is updated weekly. Read it and feel good about your place in the world.  (0/143)

69. Leave a comment on someone else's blog every week (0/143)


Home and Garden


70. Hatch duck or hen eggs (1/1)

71. Grow at least 10 different sorts of veg. (0/10)

72. Take a course in butchery. (0/1)

73. Slaughter and cook a hen. (0/2)

74. Have cut flowers every fortnight. (0/72)

75. Decorate play room (1/1)

76. Decorate lounge (0/1)

77. Decorate hall (0/1)

78. Finish kitchen (1/1)

79. Make blinds and curtains for dining room (0/4)

80. Landscape / move plants to front garden (1/1)

81. Make new vegetable plot (0/1)

82. Use the Lady Shed for my projects between May and September

83. Put all the family photographs up in the hall (0/1)


Words and Pictures


84. To write 10 short stories. (0/10)

85. Take a photo of all 101 things. (0/101)

86. To upload a photo every week to HPAD group on Flickr (0/143)

87. Make a photo yearbook of our family life at The Cottage for each year (0/3)

88. Make a photo collage of each month at home in The Cottage. (0/33)

89. To organise my photo files every month. (0/33)

90. Take a photo of 30 happy things. (0/30)

91. Arrange Charlie's baby photos into an album (0/1)

92. Take family photos off computer and put into albums (0/1)


Seize The Day!


93. To jump in a puddle (1/1)




94. Cook 101 recipes from my cookery books. (0/101)

95. Bake once a fortnight.

96. Eat in a Michelin starred restaurant. (0/1)

97. Make a birthday cake for Dom, Jonny and Charlie each year. (6/9)

98. Make a Christmas cake each year. (2/3)

99. Cook a souffle (0/1)

100. Buy meat from a local butchers 20 times

101. Try sushi (0/1)