Friday, 28 October 2011

Chicken Disco

This morning I was woken by the crowing of a cockerel, it was just after six and the clocks are going back this weekend so I hope he figures the hour's difference.

When I first moved into my current house there were many chickens in the enclosure opposite the terrace and the gentleman responsible for their care used to start early (between 6am and 7am) letting them out of their houses and giving them feed. This was performed each morning to the sound of a portable radio, badly tuned to Pirate FM and an industrial amount of swearing at full volume. This wake-up call became known by my son and me as 'Mr Tweedy and his Chicken Disco' and we got used to the play lists of Pirate FM at that time which always seemed to include a Lady Gaga track followed by a Trago Mills advert.
Most memorable of all Chicken Discos was a 5am start the morning after I had danced around Penglaze the 'Obby 'Orse the night before Penzance Mazey Day after a few ales. 'Mr Tweedy' was off on his hols' so since he was already up and clearly in need of a jolly good swear up at the chickens...cries of "Get out you f**kers!" and "Come on you bl**dy bas**rds!" were accompanied by Lady Gaga instructing us all to 'Just Dance' at full and terrible volume.
Lady Gaga - Just Dance Chickens!

When 'Mr Tweedy' returned from his holiday feeling better than he had for some time, he sought medical advice and discovered he was allergic to chickens! Exit feathered enemies and enter...Pinky and Perky: Mr Tweedy's get rich slowly scheme in the shape of two Gloucester old spot sows. Mr Tweedy told me pigs are intelligent and will only respond to calmness, hence, no radio and no shouting.
I love those pigs.

Until next time disco dancers,
Cheers, Alison x

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Getting Lost and being Saved

Forgive me reader for I have sinned, it has been many weeks since my last confessional blog...
So yesterday I was off to Trannack Craft Fair held at the primary school. I had entered the postcode into google and drawn a little map from the pictured route which appeared to show an easy 'stick to the Helston road and turn off to Trannock' type of simplicity. I have no idea why I possess such confidence when setting out to places new given my past history of u-turns and circular voyages around roundabouts. To say I have no sense of direction doesn't cover the complete lack of spatial awareness in global terms that I suffer from. Its like a directional disability. I am aware of points of the compass - 'never eat shredded wheat' and could draw a diagram to show them but in practical application - hopeless. My ex-husband, (who has the inherent route-finding ability of a migrating swallow) when going to new places, would get me to point to where I thought we had 'left the car'. At first he did this to try and teach me what I so clearly hadn't learned; trying to help me by saying things like 'Look Al, you've got the town centre straight ahead and the sun is going down over there so where could the car park be?' He gave up, eventually. and accepted that my lack of awareness regarding geographical location was my natural default setting.
My refusal to give in and purchase a sat-nav would seem perverse given my history but I refuse to believe that listening to an electronic device can be preferable to talking to real people. On my trip I saw a man and his daughter setting up their stall in a lay by so stopped and spoke to them, explaining my desired location. 'No problem' says the man 'I know just how to get there' and gave me incredibly clear directions, pointing out landmarks I would pass, amount of time I would take, helpful things to aid my smooth journey. I thanked him effusively and easily found my way. To the WRONG school.
Slight worry was now setting in but still had time. Retraced route and then some to Sainsburys petrol station where very helpful woman behind counter gave clear directions to the right school. Back into the car which then refused to start.
Anxiety status had now risen from 'slight wobble' to 'core hysteria rising' but out the corner of my eye I saw a man looking at my coughing Citroen with what can only be described as 'mechanical recognition'. I acknowledged his skill potential and begged for assistance. The man was looking under the bonnet with undisguised horror and much shaking of head to indicate severity of car failure so I 'phoned fellow Shabby Cow for back-up. Unfortunately, Anne-Marie had been throwing up most of the night and couldn't as yet walk let alone drive for nearly an hour. Her partner Tony was at band practice and I was reaching 'Melt down imminent' on the petrol station forecourt...
When 'the man' got my crappy car started again. He was now wearing a shining suit of armour and the Royal Philharmonic were playing a suitably festive orchestration as he road off into the sunset on a white charger, colours flying behind him...Back in the real world I had been saved by a man of a certain age driving a dark coloured Ford who had been willing to help a total stranger who forgot to even ask his name...
I arrived at Trannack school with 20 minutes to set up, was helped by lovely people, sold lots of things, ate fantastic soup and had a thoroughly good time.
Stress Levels almost normal, slight hysteria Trannack at last!
It took a good hour, several cups of tea and some lemon drizzle cake for level 'core chilled and content' to be reached but thanks to all who aided my recovery especially St Ford-driver of Sainsburys.
Until next time people, no need to tell me to get lost - I usually am!
Love, Alison x

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Canvas Envy and Pop-Up Power

248 miles later...
I arrived in the dark at the campsite in the Hampshire countryside. I was late setting off but was made later by a mini adventure around Salisbury and its delightful ring road. I knew that I had taken the wrong exit but had to travel some distance before making it back to the enormous multi-laned roundabout to have another go. Apologies to anyone held up by a slowly revolving silver Vaxhaull Corsa just off the A36 last Thursday.
I was shown to my pitch and was so glad to have a little pop-up tent. For those of you yet to discover the delights of such construction here goes - 1. Remove tent from bag 2. Your done! Unfortunately the power of the 'pop' had sent the tent pegs flying and in the dark and with my level of tiredness could not be located. Not a problem since once I had inserted self into tent it wasn't going anywhere and I easily found the pegs in daylight.
On waking the next morning I discovered that the rest of my fellow campers were staying in comparative luxury. There were huge caravans with massive awnings, multi-roomed tents tall enough to stand in comfortably and my favourite what appeared to be a silver bullet train carriage with added canvas. As I lay in the doorway of my little pod drinking the last of the coffee (now cold) and eating yoghurt (now warm) with a plastic fork I became jealous for all of ten seconds. I contemplated the commitment needed to firstly purchase such a thing and secondly the size of the vehicle needed to tow it. I thought about the journey I had taken the night before, the winding narrow lanes of Cornwall, the alternative to sat-nav (looking with your own eyes and talking to people who are happy to help you) and decided that I was better off relying on the perfect power of the pop-up tent.
Until next time campers,
Cheers, Alison x

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Stockbridge and socks...

Tomorrow I am off to The Stockbridge Contemporary Craft Fair and to embrace the spirit of adventure and frugality I will be spending my nights under canvas. An all too late assessment of my readiness for camping reveals one pop-up tent, one sleeping bag and a pair of welly socks for thermal insulation.
Welly socks were invaluable when camping at The Royal Cornwall Show earlier in the year where the larger tent was pitched on a hillside and had a separate ground sheet allowing the true wind chill factor access through the broken pod zip. The art to keeping tootsies (and the rest of the bod) toasty is to layer for example - PJ's then trackie bottoms both tucked in to welly socks. A similar arrangement to the top half involving thin layers will add to the tog rating of one's outfit before inserting somewhat bulky self into sleeping bag for a good nights kip. Sartorial elegance it isn't - but being single means no-one else is subjected to the full horror of my crumpled form before breakfast!
I have been making new handbags from old hardback books and have added some vintage costume jewellery to the fasteners which we picked up at the auction on our last visit. Meanwhile Anne-Marie has made the most beautiful mirrors from painted and distressed wood slats to which she has decoupaged fine cut butterflies and flowers. The other amazing creations are the bespoke journals that Anne-Marie has perfected, made from recycled vintage book covers they contain various ephemera mixed with blank pages in different papers for you to add thoughts and musings to become a much treasured archive.
Well September is here, summer is gone and I think that I have waffled enough for now - photos to follow next week on my return featuring the loveliness of Stockbridge, our new things and stuff!
Until next time, Cheers
Alison x

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Train Ride in Pursuit Perfection...

Good morning campers! Having been very practical in my previous missive I find myself in a somewhat philosophical frame of mind. I have had a week with only the dog for company and he is not much of a talker. I have had some lovely long walks with him though and managed to be out most of Sunday having packed a flask, a croissant and some chocolate before setting off around the cliff path. It is half way through the summer break and have lots of making to do. I am sewing book-bags and Anne-Marie is busy perfecting her fine-cut decoupage mirrors. I say 'perfecting' though to me the first two she completed were pretty near it and both sold really quickly at Trereife House last weekend.
Making beautiful objects from essentially non-beautiful raw materials is like a train journey and the people who bought those mirrors did so because they admired the view from that particular stop. We all have our own idea of how our art and craft should make us 'feel' and it matters not what others tell you if you think you could of improved it in some way. So for now Anne-Marie is taking those mirrors further up the tracks, she may stop at interesting platforms along the way and may even use a replacement bus service before arriving at the 'perfect' mirror. And when that happens...there is always the next trip...
Until next time
Cheers, Alison x

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tend to Your Heart - a basic decoupage make

Having spent the morning slaving over a red-hot laptop improving our website while Anne-Marie decoupaged some fabulous letter racks with vintage Practical Mechanics magazines, we escaped to the beach taking the children and a picnic with us. To atone for such mid-week relaxation I thought I would show how to make a decoupage wooden heart. This covers the basic technique of decoupage and is satisfyingly quick to complete. Here we go...
1. Gather your materials, a wooden heart (with hole drilled through for the string), a cutting mat and a blade OR pair of scissors and a pencil, some PVA glue + brush, a little sandpaper,bit of string, bit of ribbon and...

Some paper of your choice - this could be decoupage paper, wrapping paper, sheet music, maps, text or your own writing. You can use the same paper both sides of the heart or contrasting on each side.
A selection of papers

If you would prefer a coloured edge to your heart apply paint and let it dry before cutting...
2. Place wooden heart on your chosen paper and cut round carefully using blade. Alternatively draw round heart and cut out with scissors. This cut should not be too tidy and should be a little over-sized as you will finish with the sandpaper.
3. Apply Pva glue to the paper and stick to wooden heart one side at a time, carefully pushing the paper through the hole using something sharp and pokey - maybe a wooden kebab stick, a large nail or a small screwdriver like I have used...

4. Once glue has dried, gently take off the edges using the sandpaper, this will give a shabby textured look to your heart...

5. Add your own personal message or caption, either by using found text, something you have printed or written.
6. Apply varnish,  brush on thin coats of water-based varnish allowing drying times as stated on the tin.
7.Finally - add string and ribbon as desired and find a suitable place to hang it!
Remember it is your heart - so treat it gently and take care who you give it to!

Enjoy! Until next time...Cheers, Alison x

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Doubles, downpours and delights

Well, its the morning after the day before and I am writing this from my sick bed...Not really true I just thought it made a good openning line. I am propped up in bed drinking tea and refusing to acknowledge the day ahead, a knock on effect of a busy day at Camborne Agricultural Show. The successful Irish author Marian Keyes writes all her stuff from her bed and called her collection of short stories 'From Under the Duvet' so I can claim to be sloth-like for good reason - as well as beneath the duvet being quietest spot in my little house. 
So yesterday was the first time Shabby Cow was literally in two places at once, Anne-Marie was at the fabulous, and very busy, La Frowda Day celebrations in St Just while I was at Camborne an altogether more sedate affair. While both of us have taken turns running our stall before, it's always been the same stall just at different times so preparation has meant checking all stock is safely packed and nothing gets left behind. Although we haven't always been as organised. I am, of course, forbidden from speaking of the time we managed to leave a huge box of stock at Anne-Maries ensuring her partner 'enjoying' a 50 mile round trip to our venue in Newquay. This double expedition made for some interesting choices, Who had a cash machine near them? Who needed more jewellery to fill her display? Who should take the nicest chairs to sit on? Have we got enough stock? (Anne-Marie for the first two, me for the third and 'Yes, probably')
Anne-Marie was selling brilliantly, the good folk of St Just recognising Shabby Cow and loving our new products. Many previous customers made themselves known to her and she was delighted to meet some of our facebook fans too, always a joy when a cyber-connection then materializes in real life.
Over at Camborne the light rain increased to a few substantial downpours, the type that deafen those under canvas and delay visitors so those who braved the craft marquee had my full attention - any donkeys present would be dragging their hind-legless selves away from me. The brave included a pair of official judges who I assumed were there for the livestock until enquiring, late in the conversation, if they were there to judge pigeons or horses only to be told 'We don't do the livestock, we are judging you and all the other trade stands!' Well, dear reader, late in the afternoon those judges returned with a photographer to present me with The Trade Stand Shield! Apparently they were mostly impressed with how different and beautiful it all looked but the clincher was that Anne-Marie and I make everything for sale just down the road from the show, hoorah for handmade in Cornwall I say.
Cheesy grin in place, this has been Alison Jennings for the award-winning Shabby Cow, until next-time people,
Cheers, Alison x