Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Maud West, Lady Detective

We did a quick run to Donegal Town today to drop off and pick up at the library. I was overjoyed to see that the there were some clumps of fireweed along the roadside that have already gone to seed. Some leaves were changing colour, too. I remember from last year that things change a tad sooner there than here, even though it's not that far between here and there. Still, I am thrilled to see any sign that autumn is heading this way!

One of the books I returned to the library was this one:

The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective: A Remarkable True Story by Susannah Stapleton
I heard of this book while listening to an episode of the Shedunnit podcast, which I love. What a great book it is! I was pulled in from the start, as the author explains how she began this project. She writes that she takes a couple of weeks off every winter, makes a nest by the fire, and reads Golden Age mysteries—a woman after my own heart! One year, she just couldn’t get into the pile of books and after starting and stopping a few times, she finally gave up, set Mrs Bradley aside, and started wondering whether there were any actual lady detectives around over a century ago. She started clicking around and came across a newspaper blurb about a talk Dorothy L. Sayers gave at the Efficiency Club, which, on that particular night, was being chaired by Maud West, a real-life detective. The hunt was on. 

The book is really well written and intertwines different things around the story of Maud’s life and work as a 'lady detective.' She began doing such work sometime during the years of 1905 and 1909. The author tells Maud’s story, but also gives readers a sense of how she managed to track down information about Maud, which was scarce. As she gained more understanding, the author sometimes had to revise her opinion of Maud’s life, personality, and character. She provides a social history when she describes the times, places and culture in which Maud worked . Many of the things she described were familiar from some of the mysteries written in that era and I can see where some authors got their plot ideas! The chapters are named after Golden Age mystery book titles and in between each chapter is one of the stories written by Maud for various periodicals. These were probably sensationalised, but also possibly contained grains of truth about certain cases and her work.

I’m so glad I heard about this book. I loved it. If you're at all interested in the culture of London at that time, Golden Age detective fiction, or women's history, this would be an informative and entertaining book to spend some time with.
cover pictures showing Maud at her desk in the centre and in disguise in the corners

one of Maud's ads
Here's hoping your reading pile is filled with excellent reads, too!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Summer Breeze

The wind has picked up these last couple of days and I've been grateful. Even if the sun is shining and it's warmer than I'd like, a breeze or light wind makes things less uncomfortable. Bill commented that it was a bit nippy today. I couldn't go that far, but I said it felt like we were possibly nearing the verge of  nip. 😀 

August in Ireland has always reminded me a bit of August in Fairbanks. In both places, there is fireweed to watch as the blooms move up the stem as the summer moves towards autumn. In Fairbanks, August was always the month when that first real nip would appear. I used to let the dogs out every morning and sniff the air to see if there was a hint of the crispness that the short autumn would bring. The leaves would start to turn. I am seeing the first hints of that here. Of course, the big difference is that in Fairbanks, it really was the beginning of autumn and by October, if it hadn't yet snowed, we knew it soon would. It's a teaser here and it won't last. It will get sunny and too warm again. But I'll take what I can get. No matter the weather, it is getting dark earlier at night and light later in the morning. It makes me happy to see it getting dark at 9ish now instead of 11ish. I was awake (briefly) at 5:15ish this morning and it was as light as it had been at 4 a month and a half ago. And it was breezy enough that I could close the bedroom curtain to block out the light and still breathe. Yay! As is usual for me, I feel much better in August than I did in July.

We went off to get some veg from veg man's stall this morning. The sun was sort of shining and the breeze was blowing. Good day for a sail.
But by the time we were on our way back a little while later, the sky had darkened.
the backside of Main St
After I stopped to look at the building colours popping under the dark sky, I looked over and saw these wee hydrangeas.
The hydrangeas here grow in such rich colours, like deep red, neon pink, bright blue, and purple. I love them.

When we were almost home, we felt a few raindrops, which quickly turned into a shower. The wind was at our backs, so that's what got wet. Since I couldn't sit down without soaking the chair, I changed as soon as I got home. That's OK. It was a nice refreshing brisk walk, which I enjoyed. The sun came out again as soon as we got inside. Since I don't have to go out in it, I'm OK with that!

I hope it's a pleasant day in your neck of the woods, too.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


This weekend, Nicki, a friend in Maine, is realising a dream that she and her family have been working towards for a while. They're having the grand opening of a shop in Winthrop, called Freckle Salvage Company. They've been selling vintage items at fairs and on ebay and now they'll have their own brick and mortar space on Main St as well. They'll be offering vintage items and will be supporting other local small businesses by having their products and art/craft items available. The grand opening will be Saturday.

I'm always thrilled when people can follow their dreams and if I could be there in person on Saturday, I would be, but since that's not possible, I sent some stitching to wish them well.
I needle felted the base using off cuts of roving and did some 'quilting' to add texture. The words were cross-stitched on scraps of aida cloth and sewed on. Then I embellished with beads and bits, mostly from deconstructed necklaces I've picked up at charity shops. The hanging loop is a brass ring from a loaf of barm brack, a raisin bread that is available here during the few weeks around Halloween. The 'kid with the freckle,' after which the shop is named, was born near Halloween and it's one of Nicki's favourite times of year, so I wanted to include a small seasonal bit.

I am so happy for these wonderful people and I wish them great happiness and success as they begin this chapter of their lives.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Wee Pottery Jug

We were in Donegal Town today, so we called in at the Animals in Need charity shop. The volunteer woman was almost buried under bags of donations so we were happy enough to make some space. Bill found a pair of pants--they have lots of pockets, which he likes. I picked up a couple of books. Oddly, one of the books I picked up was one I had reserved in e-audiobook format. I try to not have too many audiobooks checked out at one time and I have one downloaded already. I have others reserved, but they are not due to be available for weeks. One came in early, though, so that gave me two, plus one that was going to be coming in tomorrow. I decided to cancel that reserve and look for it again some other time. When I saw that very book in the charity shop, I bought that. Weird timing.

Bill spotted this wee jug and I told him we'd take it. I love it.
It's a handmade piece--potter's mark is on the bottom. I find some pottery videos weirdly relaxing, so sometimes I sort of zone out and watch someone create a cool bowl, vase, cup, or whatever. As we were waiting for the bus and I was looking at this, I thought about how I have some idea about how it was made because of those videos and this makes me love it even more.

The first thing I picked up was the yarn--it was a good day for yarn. These are all wool. I've thanked a sheep, although this is probably old enough that whatever sheep created it is now no longer with us.
I never leave that charity shop without checking the necklaces to see if there are any to deconstruct for beads. I was not disappointed today.
The middle one was in the free basket--love that shell and all those tiny wooden beads. The tubular beads in the necklace on the left feel like bamboo and the round ones are wood. The necklace on the right is hard to see, but there are three large glass beads and a bunch of smaller ones.
I also like those little metal separators--they come in handy as embellishments in their own right.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I took my new upcycled bag for a test run today. As I was stuffing wool into it at the charity shop, the woman commented, 'That's a nice bag.' 'Thank you,' I replied. I told her it was a cushion cover that I'd turned into a bag. 'No way!' she said and asked me if I made the handle. I nodded and an older woman craned her neck to look. 'Sure it was a cushion cover! I have those very cushions at home!' she said. They commented on how clever it was and were still talking about it as we walked outside. Made my day.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Upcycling: Cushion Cover to Tote Bag

Last month, Bill picked up a set of 6 cushion covers from the local charity shop, because he thought I'd like the fabric. I do like it and might end up cutting one or two up. But the first thing I did was to get a couple of blanket wraps that I am not using right now--one is in Christmas colours, so I only use it for a month or so out of the year--and put one in each of two cushion covers. They fit perfectly! I like sitting in bed looking out the window at the treetops, the water and the hills beyond while I listen to stuff and stitch in the evenings/nights. I am much more comfortable with my 'pillow' behind my back.

When he first brought them home, I thought that they'd make good bags. The fabric is sturdy and the zipper is at the top. I plunked the idea into my mind and let it simmer. The main thing was deciding how I wanted the straps to be. By this afternoon, it had simmered enough and I rummaged around in my yarn scrap collection to find some black and some grey. I grabbed my 10mm crochet hook and got started. Holding two strands together, I chained a lot. I think I stopped at 270ish. I made a triple crochet (US terms) in each chain, starting in the 4th one from the hook. Then, I turned and did surface crochet slip stitches back to the other end, then turned again and did the same thing back again. I find that the surface crochet chains provide some extra sturdiness and the handle is less stretchy. Then it was just a matter of sewing the straps to the bag. To do that, I used 4 strands of size 30 crochet cotton, just to make sure it was very strong, since I was sewing by hand. I'm quite pleased with how this turned out and I think the bag will be handy. I'll do a test run with it tomorrow.
it actually does lie flat, I took the pic before I noticed the waviness--the grey stripes on the strap are the two rows of surface slip stitches
I hope it's a nice day in your neck of the woods.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Quiet Interlude

I stopped what I was doing for a few minutes this afternoon to stand in the doorway and enjoy the rain, fresh air, and the view. What a beautiful, peaceful, and refreshing interlude it was.

colours dazzle
through curtain of rain
view from the doorway

I hope you have moments of quiet beauty in your day, too.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Nonfiction and Deconstruction

In addition to the short story collections, haiku, and fiction that I read and listened to in July, I had a few excellent nonfiction titles in the mix as well. Here they are:

Walking: One Step at a Time by Erling Kagge
Reflections on walking, whether it’s to work on a weekday morning or across Antarctica. The author draws on his own experiences as a walker to consider how walking improves his life and his ability to see things in a different way. Bill and I, both walkers ourselves, could relate to a lot of what he was saying.

Constellations: Reflections from Life by Sinead Gleeson
I used to listen to Sinead Gleeson when she was host of The Book Show on RTE Radio 1. A few years ago, she edited a collection of short stories written by Irish women, many of whom had been forgotten. Bill bought me that book, called The Long Gaze Back, and it’s a great book—definitely a keeper. Shortly after that one, she edited a collection of short stories by women from the north of Ireland (if I recall correctly both Northern Ireland and the northern part of the Republic of Ireland) which was also good. When I read an excerpt of this book, I went right to the library website and added my name to the queue. I waited a while, but it was worth the wait.

The book is an essay collection that adds up to a sort of memoir. It is structured around the author’s experiences inhabiting a female body in Ireland at a particular period of time. As a child, she was diagnosed with an uncommon problem that required many operations and caused her to be in a lot of pain. She missed a lot of school and spend a good deal of time alone in bed, recovering. Books, she tells us, were her friends. As an adult, she had other health issues that have shaped her life. While she organises the book around these physical traumas, she also connects them, as stars are connected in our minds to form constellations, with books, art, religion, memory, relationships, and more. Great book!

 Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by Bill McKibben
I first became aware of this book when Lit Hub published an excerpt. I looked at the library, but it wasn’t in the system. I kept checking back until a few weeks later, there it was. I placed my hold. The central question of the book is there in the subtitle. McKibben discusses this question in relation to the climate emergency currently underway, as well as the ongoing development of AI. He’s been sounding the alarm about climate change for 30+ years now, so that part of the book is a continuation of that work. He points out that we have a narrow window of opportunity to minimise the damage, but that time is running out. He lays out some of the structural obstacles to meaningful change put in place by various governments and he wonders whether there is really a will on the part of people, especially in wealthy nations, to make the necessary changes. He tells the reader about a collaboration between poets, one from the Marshall Islands, which is already contaminated due to US nuclear testing and one from Greenland, which is melting (with the highest level of glacial melt in one day just a few days ago). he provided excerpts from the poem they wrote together and it is powerful. We would all do well to listen to what they have to say. I went in search of the entire poem, and found this video of the poets themselves speaking it. 

When he moves into the AI segment of the book, he gives an overview of what is going on with that technology and shares the views of some of the people working in and funding this area of research and experimentation (and some of them are pretty out there). He does all of this to then ask the question, ‘Is this really a good idea?’ From there he proceeds to tell readers what some of the dangers are, including the possibility that the technology will eventually evolve into something beyond human control. This wasn’t a fun, fluffy read, but it was a very interesting and thought-provoking book, which poses questions that we should all be considering. I’m glad I read it. 

I deconstructed my newly acquired charity shop necklaces yesterday and got the beads and other pieces into containers, so now they're ready to go whenever inspiration strikes.
You can just see one tiny metal bead by itself off to the right of the chains. I had a whole pile of those, but I'd put them in a container before I took the picture. 

I thought the colourful pile of wooden beads--all from one necklace--looked pretty cool as it sat there in an abstract sort of way.
It's the summer bank holiday weekend here, so of course it rained. This made me very happy, of course, and I hope there's plenty more where that came from, but I did experience a twinge of feeling for the firefighters down the hill, who are doing a car wash fundraiser. Yesterday, when it was sunny, warm, and dry might have been a better day for them. Anyway, I enjoyed the rain shower, finished a book, and might cast on a sock shortly. I hope your day brings plenty of simple pleasures, too.