I’ve been here
Glucksman Gallery, Cork city
The Grainstore, Ballymaloe House, east Cork
Chelsea Old Town Hall London.
I’m now here
We’re looking forward to spending March here!
Sat 7 Dec 2013
Thu 21 Nov 2013
Midleton, so named because it is halfway between the seaside town of Youghal (pronounced Yawl) and Cork city, has a typical Irish high street running straight through and is the home of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey distillery and many fine restaurants.
It is also not far from Shanagarry and Ballymaloe House, family seat of the Allen dynasty and the Ballymaloe empire – hotel, restaurant, cookery school, shop, cafe, the Grain Store and Big Shed. And it’s where we spent last weekend at the Craft & Design Festival. Cattapilla Designs and over 100 other designer makers plied our wares to a remarkably unresponsive public. There were a lot of 3 P’s – pick up, put down, piss off – but we’re a hardy lot, us Cork crafters and despite a disappointing show, we had fun. I was between Annabel Langrish’s lovely animal prints and Helen O’Leary’s hand knitted tea cosies.
I had to have this, it’s just so silly and fun, but it might be kept for best!
And we all laughed at the - ‘Are they for sale? ‘ ‘Where do you get them from?’ ’You want to put velcro on those bags!’ and of course the ever popular ‘That’s a good idea,’ nudge to friend, ‘you could do that!’
Back to Midleton where we stayed at the monstrous concrete building at the end of town that is the Midleton Park Hotel.
But like book covers, hotel facades are often deceptive and we had a vast, quiet room where we could kick off the shoes, have a large drink or two and forget about the long day. And there’s a swimming pool in the basement so no excuse for not exercising!
And then food. For some reason Midleton has had a good reputation for food for many years and it’s well deserved. We only had three nights to sample the delights and boy, did we eat well. Sage has two dining rooms. The ’smart’ one was full so we ate in the Greenroom where we had Irish tapas. The chef promises that all the food served has been grown or produced within a 12 mile radius and the quality and freshness of the goat’s cheese, chicken, pickles and paté shows what a difference this ethos makes. We got a table in the restaurant another night and I had the most delicious slow cooked beef – what we used to call a pot roast!
Then to the Farmgate. Whenever we go to Cork city we try and eat at the Farmgate Café in the English Market and now we were in Midleton we had the opportunity to eat at the original. Again the place is divided into two and we ate in what is the shop / cafe but the menu was the same as in the restaurant. A lovely cosy room and surrounded by cakes and bread and with a plate of pheasant in front of me. Perfect. I now understand why this town has such a reputation. Excellent locally produced food, one good restaurant which breeds more, and quality that just gets better. Not sure if I’ll be doing the Ballymaloe Craft & Design Show again but I’ll certainly be back to Midleton for a comfy bed and more great food.
Thu 7 Nov 2013
Cattapilla Designs is going on the road.
We will be in Cork city this weekend
In east Cork the following weekend
Sun 3 Nov 2013
It’s that time of year again already; it’s dark by 6pm, wind and rain batter us and the draft proofing curtains are back over the ancient ill fitting kitchen doors. But there was an afternoon of warm sunshine the other day and I got the tulips in.
Last year I grew tulips in pots but they didn’t work well – too wet, too cold, too dry, too windy, who knows but they were disappointing. So they’re in a bed again this year and instead of mixing up all the varieties and hoping for the best which is what I normally do, this time I carefully marked out the spacing and kept them separate. So next spring I’m looking forward to blocks of whites and yellows and purples and reds. Ah yes, and green! The spinach is just getting into it’s stride so I couldn’t pull it up.
And T has replaced all the timber around the beds so it’s all looking much tidier.
Elsewhere the garden has suddenly gone into winter mode. Most leaves are off the trees though a few roses are struggling on. It’s been such a brilliant year for the garden that I think everything deserves a well earned rest. The only disappointments - after the tulips – were the sweet peas, planted out too soon in that freezing late spring they never recovered, and the blue hydrangeas. I have a bed of 12 in front of the greenhouse and normally they flower profusely but not this year. Think I’ll give them a treat and collect some seaweed. And Nerines. I’m sure I planted at least 12 in the new bed but this is all I have to show. Shame, they’re so pretty.
The new annuals bed was magnificent. The cosmos wet on and on and the Verbena bonariensis was a revelation – can’t believe I didn’t take any photos. I’ve left the dying plants in situ in the hope that they seed themselves. Next year I think I’m going for blues and whites with pops of orange or scarlet. There’s no point in gentle, subtle colour here – the competition with the view means that strong bright colour is essential. Seed catalogues have already begun to arrive so I’m looking forward to planning next summer’s plants while the wind and rain hammer outside!
Thu 17 Oct 2013
Cyprus is a strange island. Invaded and ransacked by so many over the centuries, it lacks a sense of identity, particularly the divided capitol Nicosia.
The Troodos mountains are high and dramatic covered in forests of pine and dotted with tiny ancient painted churches.
The sea is blue,
the sky is cloudless
and the temperature is perfect. We visited Bellapais, made famous in Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons and admired the ruined abbey.
There was something strange going on with brides.
We saw three with photographers and ‘husbands’ but no guests or any other signs of celebration.
We decided they must have been on a photo shoot but then why were there wedding cars in the car park?
The Buyuk Han or Great Inn in the Turkish side of Nicosia next to the Selimiye Cami mosque that was a Catholic Cathedral once upon a time are the most impressive places in the city.
To cross from south to north, visas have to be filled out and stamped and then shown on the return. In a car, special insurance has to be obtained too. It all makes for tedious queuing.
And the family? They’re very happy there, enjoying the weather, the outdoor life and particularly the beach at the weekend.
Lilah did try on her new dress but didn’t stay still for long enough for a picture! Joe was pleased with his camper van and I got to read The Day the Crayons Quit.
Then it was back home where these were waiting. Guess what I’ll be doing this weekend!
Fri 4 Oct 2013
Being a granny is such a treat. Not only do I get to be with, and then hand back, two gorgeous small people, but I also get to visit toy shops, buy childrens’ books and knit small things.
They live in Cyprus now, bit of a haul but there are worse places to visit and we’re off to see them in their new lives. Joe has now started school and Lilah is running rings around her father who is the stay-at-home dad.
We can’t go empty handed so a trip to Cork last week found me wanting to buy up the entire stock of a wonderful toy shop. I was reminded that we’re only taking one suitcase and that there is a weight issue. So I was very restrained.
I’ve also been knitting.
Although the temperature in Cyprus is still in the 30’s I’m sure Joe will need an extra layer when playing cricket and it is cotton, not wool.
And I couldn’t resist this pattern when I found it on Patternfish.
It’s in cotton again, is knitted in one piece and I can’t wait to see Lilah in it.
This book is brilliant – I look forward to reading it aloud.
And the duck? Lilah has a big thing with ducks.
Tue 24 Sep 2013
T has recently had surgery on his hand and is taking an enforced break. As I work from home, taking a break has to mean leaving Bere island – there’s always something to do at home!
So last week we took ourselves off to The Dunloe, a 5 star hotel overlooking the Gap of Dunloe in County Kerry. The hotel’s website makes much of the luxurious accommodation, the full sized indoor swimming pool, the two indoor tennis courts, the acres of grounds. And it looks pretty impressive as you approach the tree-lined driveway.
Then you notice two large building that from a distance look like warehouses.
Not until much closer do you realise that these balconied concrete blocks are in fact the luxurious accommodation itself!
Arriving at the Disney-esque towers and entering through the plate glass revolving door that automatically begins to turn as you approach so saving you the bother of pushing, you are in a building where everything is decorated , embellished, call it what you like, with stuff!
There’s not a surface – ceiling, doorway, light fitting, window – that isn’t decorated in some way and there are mirrors everywhere, making it difficult to know what’s real or not.
As T and I walked opened mouthed through all this, we saw that the place was deserted.
Enormous public sitting rooms were empty,
we were the only people in one of the four, five, six bars – we lost count – and the mirrored corridors were deathly quiet.
Our room was magnificent! Quite the biggest and most comfortable bed ever, a lovely view from the balcony(!), sofas, armchairs, enough cupboard space for a small family and a marbled bathroom full of delicious smelling lotions and potions.
By the evening the dining room was full, the coach parties had returned. Over 200 shell shocked tourists were eating, having been driven by coach around the picturesque Ring of Kerry, on some of the worst roads in Europe; trust me, the roads are awful!
Our break was proving just right. The weather was warm and sunny, the parkland was splendid and in the gentle September light the magnificent trees looked their best.
We walked the Dunloe Gap deciding against bumping along in a horse and cart.
We ate well, relaxed, laughed at the sheer absurdness of the hotel and enjoyed the prettyness of Kerry. It was great!
Sun 15 Sep 2013
With the arrival of September comes a rush to make winter stock for Cattapilla Designs. And after the making, there’s the photographing, editing, uploading and general website housekeeping that I put off until the last possible moment. I’m pleased to say that there are now new Gorgeous Wool Bags and Irish Tweed Bags in the online shop.
And I’ve designed some new wool winter cushions that I’m very pleased with. They’ll certainly brighten up the long dark days of winter!
Come November I shall be out and about doing a few shows including the annual Craft Fair at the Glucksman Gallery in Cork and the Selvedge Winter Fair in London. More details to follow.
I nearly forgot – all Vintage Print Summer Bags are reduced by 25% until Wednesday. There won’t be any more till next Spring so when they’re gone, they’re gone.
Next on the list is filling Lavender Bags, a job that always makes me sneeze. Better find some tissues!
Sat 7 Sep 2013
Summer must be over – the swallows have gone. Whilst digging in lovely warm sunshine they wheeled and swooped overhead and gathered on the wires, constantly chattering. I stood and watched them and suddenly they were gone. It’s a quieter and sadder garden now.
Although I enjoy autumn and all the harvests and colours it brings, it’s also a gloomy time with the nights drawing in and the prospect of shorter days, so I try and take every opportunity to be outside while the sun shines, to try and soak up the sights and smells of a wonderful summer.
And the harvests are great. Blackberries fill the hedgerows with plenty for me and the birds.
The rugosa hips are plentiful and the colour so intense and rowan berries shine in the sun – plenty for the birds this winter.
Sun 25 Aug 2013
Despite the days getting shorter and a chill in the air, the summer continues. And what a summer it’s been.
The skies have been spectacular
The roses the best for years
Wildlife acted strangely – a wren twice flew into the kitchen with Rosie the tabby cat asleep on a chair; a pair of swallows sat on a wall right outside a window, something I’ve never seen before;
along with butterflies, hover flies and honey bees a new-to-me bee appeared.
I’ve since identified it as a big fat shiny carpenter bee, loving the marjoram flowers. And a wagtail was so hot that he let T. pick it up and put it in the shade.
I transformed an old salad bed into a blaze of colour and the cosmos and Californian poppies have gone on and on, flowering constantly since mid June.
At last – a proper summer.