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Uffington White Horse Show

I’ve been a little sporadic about updates here, because settling in to our new home in the Vale of the White Horse is taking a little longer than I would have liked. But things are starting to take shape.

Over the bank holiday weekend we experienced another hallmark of country life: the famous Uffington White Horse Show. As you will see, if you follow the link, there was a lot to see and do. I had hoped to have a stall there myself, but wasn’t able to get my poop in a pile in time. Maybe next year.

We attended on the bank holiday Monday, because the weather on Sunday was utterly miserable. Judging by the feedback from the stallholders I spoke to, most people opted for the same approach. Apparently Sunday was depressingly quiet. Having done a few depressingly quiet events myself, I know exactly how discouraging they can be, I’m just glad that the weather on Monday was much improved.

So, what were the highlights for me?

I need to start by saying that it was wonderful to be able to take Jess with us. It is a well-known fact that the English love their dogs. But in the towns and cities, this is less obvious than in the country. Almost every country pub and coffee shop I’ve been to is dog friendly. I love being able to have Jess for company when I’m out and about. Even though she now needs help getting into and out of the van (which brings a lump to my throat, even as I think about it). There were hundreds other dogs at the show. Of course, some of them might have been there for the dog show, but most of them were just there because… because this is the English countryside. What made it even better was the amount of attention my old girl got. She’s a mixed breed and nothing spectacular, but she has such a pretty face, and there’s just something about her that causes people to warm to her.

Mr Namasi and I spent a good long time wondering around the vintage cars on display. If I had seen a list of entries beforehand, I would have been able to predict which each of us would drool over most, and so it was. Here is Mr Namasi’s favourite.

E-type Jag

He is a lifelong Jag fan, and there can be few cars more iconic than the E-type.

For me, it was this one.


I have a longstanding love for the little MG with a back that looks a bit like an old Austin Healey.

…with a back view a little like an Austin Healey

In fact, when Mr Namasi and I were dating, I used to tell him that if he ever wanted to marry me, he’d have to buy me one. In red or British racing green. He never has. Blighter.

We also saw motorbikes, trucks and all sorts of lovingly built/restored static steam engines.

Of course, there were food and drinks stalls doing a brisk trade. And a marquee with various traders. I bought a raffle ticket for a beautiful patchwork quilt, and a handmade belt for Mr Namasi.

We watched a bloke do some stunts on motorbikes and quadbikes, while providing his own commentary, which was pretty cool!

…and take to the skies

There was a guy doing stump carving with electric saws. A man on stilts. A funfair. BMX stunts (which we missed). Falconry (which we saw glimpses of, from a distance). A dog show, which we avoided – Jess gets a bit grumpy around other dogs, and we know she’s the best dog without a rosette to prove it. Heavy horses showing their skills. Helicopter rides. All sorts.

As we left, we spotted some additional traders outside the main space, and I was hijacked by some pretties which will find their way into various kreations in due course. Aren’t they gorgeous? They came from Button Box Devon.

So much pretty!

If I have one criticism of the show, it was that there was no water provided for the many, many dogs in attendance. We did find a tap (faucet for any American readers), and Mr Namasi was able to give Jess a little water in his cupped hands, but she really could have used a bowl or trough. I suspect any dogs doing agility for the dog show would have needed a drink too.

We look forward to next year’s event!

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Yard sale…or quarts into pint pots


Our recent move to the lovely Vale of the White Horse has presented a challenge on the Karyn’s [re]Kreations front: We have downsized considerably, and the two spaces that will serve as studio and workshop currenty look like cluttered storage units with no space to work. As a result, I’m getting absolutely nothing kreative done. We’ve sold/given away some items already, but the one-by-one approach is too slow. Hence the yard sale.

Surplus curtains, furniture and decor items are up for sale. Some of my less frequently used power tools are available (planer, band saw…). Several of my kreations – including toys, jewellery, bath oils/salts and ornaments – will be on offer at clearance prices. I’m having a rifle through my stashes of fabric, yarn and crafting supplies, and will be looking to whittle them down to something more manageable in the space available to me.

Regrettably, I am not yet set up to accept card payments, so it will be cash only.

How to find us: Our post code is SN7 7RP. We’re just a couple of doors down from the lovely Fox & Hounds pub, where you can enjoy lunch or a cheeky pint or two to make a real outing of it. You’ll have no trouble spotting Barney, my faithful, battered blue van parked out front.

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In the Vale of the White Horse

A scant year after our last house move, we have moved again. This time it was because Mr Namasi started a new job in Oxfordshire. We were so happy in our last thatched cottage that, when our house hunting efforts unearthed another one, Mr Namasi’s mind was made up. I vacillated between the thatch and a larger bungalow nearer to his office, but the thatch won out. So now we find ourselves in a little cottage in Uffington, near the famous White Horse, which we can see as we drive about the narrow country roads.

There are paddocks where horses graze within 50 metres of our door in pretty much every direction. At least two of the abutting neighbours keep chickens. There is a community garden behind the local pub, which is two doors down. Apparently, there is a litter picking event twice a year, which I hope to become part of. There is apparently not a craft group in the village. If only we knew someone who might start one… oh, hang on a minute! Watch this space.

Quirky spaces

This cottage is even older than the last one we lived in, with even more quirky, mis-shapen spaces that are tricky to furnish. I love it!

Our new garden is huge and L-shaped. The owner used to live here herself with her family when she first bought the cottage over 30 years ago. And they kept ponies for her daughters in the stables at the far end, and there is space enough for them to have grazed in the short bit of the L. I will, of course, be using the stables as my workshop. With the owner’s blessing, I plan to turn the end of the L into a wild meadow to attract bees and butterflies.

Sofa in the kitchen

Moving home is always an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-arrange. The leather sofa that has accompanied us through the last 13 years and three homes refused point-blank to fit through the doorway to the new lounge. So now we have a comfy sofa in the kitchen. Talk about silver linings! First, the kitchen is big enough to accommodate it. Second, there is nothing quite so comfy as lying on that sofa while Mr Namasi takes his turn at cooking the dinner, and we catch up on our respective days. I love having people over for a meal, but I confess to a measure of FOMO when I need to attend to something in the kitchen. That sofa is going mean that I can ask some of our guests to come and chat to me while I’m working. The kitchen is also big enough to hold a six-seater dining table and chairs.

Large kitchen

The kitchen was the first space we unpacked completely. I wanted that sense of security that comes with being able to cook a meal and eat it, without stress.

In addition to the large kitchen, there is an actual dining room, which is taking shape nicely, but is a low priority.

Our bedroom is almost done. A couple of boxes have yet to be unpacked, and our night stands will have to be jettisoned, because they don’t fit. Of course, I nearly did myself a serious mischief by insisting on assembling our new bed (complete with – heavy AF – iGel mattress, and pneumatic powered lifters to access the under-bed storage) by myself. Because I am pig-headed, stubborn and bloody-minded. Takes 2 people 4 hours to assemble, it said. It took me less than that, but left me with some impressive bruises and minor blood loss.

Both bathrooms have been claimed, after a few rethinks. I still have to change the roller blind in the main bathroom, though – the current mint-and-pink colour scheme is pretty, but it isn’t me.

Mr Namasi’s study, showing the offending beam

Mr Namasi’s study is pretty much up and running, only the alcove we thought perfect for his desk is proving to be a concussion waiting to happen as he keeps smacking his head on the beam – see picture. A re-org appears to be called for.

The lounge is going to need a rethink. The sofa obviously doesn’t fit. Plus the loss of some bedrooms in the downsizing process means that we need a sofa bed for guests, anyway. So we’re on the hunt for one of those. But for now, we have somewhere comfy to spend our evenings, even if it is a little mismatched, with chairs drawn from odd places.

At this stage, we have whittled down the pile of boxes impressively, but those that remain are mostly in my studio and workshop. So there is nothing being kreated at present. Normal service will be resumed in due course. In the meantime, the process of unpacking my studio just seems to cause more clutter before subsiding. The fact that this is all happening while the football (will it be coming home?) and Wimbledon are both on telly, means that it’s going more slowly than it ought. Sorry about that!


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Moving on…again

The last nine months have been among the happiest of my life. We have been living in a thatched cottage in a village in rural Northamptonshire, and I have had the luxury of a studio and a workshop in which to wield my various pieces of kit.

When we sold our previous house and started to look for places to rent, the sort of places we were shown within our chosen budget caused my spirit to plummet. There were some fairly decent places within that price range, but none that would accept our pets. And the places we were seeing were dire. Dilapidated, insalubrious, poky… The only place we saw worth considering turned out not to have broadband – a deal breaker for us.

Then a friend told us about a client of his who had a property to let. It was well outside our budget, so I had doubts about going to look at it. I’ve watched ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ (don’t judge: my son was due to get married). I know how it goes. If you look outside your budget, you’ll find the perfect thing that you can’t afford, and then be miserable about everything you can afford. But Mr Namasi thought we might as well look. So we looked. And we fell in love. And nothing else would do.

Because neither of us had a regular income, we had to pay the full year’s rent up front. It was a massive chunk of change.

And it has been worth every penny.

It has been a time of restoration and healing for me, on so many levels. I had hoped that I would see out my days in this lovely home in this delightful village. Everyone who has come to visit us here has remarked on how well it suits us. When the subject of the end of our lease came up, I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and shout lalalalaaaaaa in that time honoured gesture of denial. Mr Namasi is more pragmatic, but this place has been balm to his soul, too. Not least because of how happy I have been here.

With the end of our lease period approaching all too soon, it transpires that it has been ‘for a season’. Mr Namasi has accepted a wonderful job offer in Oxfordshire, and starts on Tuesday. It has all happened incredibly fast. The job is such a perfect fit for him, the recruitment ad might as well have had his name in it. When he went to discuss the offer with the MD, they were so busy talking about their plans and visions for the future of the business, they almost forgot to discuss his remuneration package.

Of course, I am disappointed to be leaving this cottage and the little village. The craft-and-coffee group I started is just starting to take hold properly. And the response to my litter picking events has been so positive. The neighbours are a delight. But I’m optimistic, too. We’ll find another wonderful house in another village setting. I’ll join or start a craft group there. I’ll get involved in a local environmental initiative there. And we’ll befriend the new neighbours. We’ll be somewhat further away from our sons, and I will miss them sorely. But they are adults, and living their own lives. They will still come and visit us – we will only be a manageable car journey away. And the wonderful thing about Karyn’s [re]Kreations is that they can be [re]kreated anywhere. So the house hunting has begun in earnest.

I really thought I’d crumple in on myself when I had to face moving away. But I haven’t. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed at the scale of everything we have to do in the next couple of months. But I’m not burying myself under my duvet. And this gives me enormous hope.

If you happen to know of a wonderful property to rent within reach of Abingdon, do get in touch, won’t you?


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Litter picking part deux

33 bags of litter

I recently posted about a litter pick on one of the roads leading to our village. The response to that was good enough for us to take another run at it. Since the second event differed fairly significantly from the first, I thought I’d write about it, in case it should prove useful to anyone considering organising a local litter pick themselves.

Last time, the local contractor provided us with a box of grabbers, gloves enough for everyone, litter bags and hi vis waistcoats. I assumed that this would be the case for round two as well. It wasn’t.

When we arrived to collect the kit, nothing had been set aside for us. In spite of an exchange of emails confirming everything, no record had been made anywhere that we were coming. Fortunately, because we were a small group, they were able to rustle up enough grabbers for us, and we were given more than enough bags. But that was it. No gloves and no hi vis. The gloves weren’t the end of the world: most people have gardening gloves. But the lack of hi vis was a distinct worry. The road we were working has no pavements. In fact, on one side of the road, there isn’t really even a verge to speak of. Since there is also a blind bend, there was no question of sending people out there without making them as visible as possible to oncoming traffic.

I posted a few frantic messages in various social media spaces and was able to beg and borrow enough hi vis waistcoats to go round.

In March, the spring foliage was only just starting to come in, and the litter was much more visible and accessible. This time around, the foliage was much denser, making it more difficult both to see and to retrieve the litter. You would think that that would mean we collected less, wouldn’t you? Not so.

Last time, we had a team of about six people, and we collected 15 refuse bags of litter in two hours, over a distance of less than half a mile. This time, we had a team of 10, and we collected 33 bags of litter in two hours within the same sort of distance.

We found fewer unusual items on this outing, but the prize probably goes to the heavy tractor tyre, filled with sludge, which had to be dragged up out of a deep ditch. There was also a pile of about 8 black bin bags filled with builders’ rubble – dumped about 100m further along in the same ditch – which we were unable to retrieve. We’ve reported both the tyre and the builders’ rubble to the local contractor, and we hope that they will be collected soon.

Last time, the day was cool and overcast. This time, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the mercury was cheerfully high. So hats, sun screen and a water supply were definitely needed.

The most common items retrieved were plastic bottles, drink cans, food wrappers and glass bottles.

Lessons learned, hints and tips

  1. Place your booking for the litter picking kit with your local provider. Find out if there’s a formal process you can go through to make sure that you don’t fall between the cracks.
  2. Order enough kit for everyone. Even those who tell you they have their own grabbers. They probably have one of those doohickeys designed for picking up things about the house. They really aren’t strong enough to drag a recalcitrant, half-buried soda can from the undergrowth.
  3. Make sure you know what you’re getting from the contractor. If gloves and hi vis gear aren’t included, ask around: many people have their own and may be willing to lend theirs to you. Don’t shrug off the hi vis gear. It’s absolutely vital that your team is as visible as possible – especially on country lanes with no pavements.
  4. If you’re working country lanes, it’s better to work during the months when the foliage is sparse. The litter is more visible and easier to retrieve. Also, you’re less likely to disturb the home of a small animal which might have young. In the warmer months, when the plant growth is more dense, it’s perhaps better to stick to working residential roads and public spaces.
  5. It’s best if your team works in pairs or small groups, especially if you’re working country lanes. Two people are more visible to passing traffic than one. And if one person gets hurt or stuck, it’s good to have someone on hand to help out. Also, if you find larger items (like tractor tyres or TV sets), it might take more than one person to retrieve it.
  6. Have your team tie their filled bags off and leave them by the side of the road, then collect them all up at the end. If people have to drag filled bags to a central point as they fill them, it means they have less time to actually pick up the litter. It’s also more exhausting. It follows from this that the litter pickers should carry enough spare bags with them that they don’t need to come back for more each time they fill one.
  7. Advise people to wear hats, sunglasses or protective eyewear, and sunscreen. Of course, if they choose not to, that’s their prerogative. But it doesn’t hurt to take along some sun screen for people to use, just in case. When it comes to hi vis, though, I would put my foot down if you’re working country lanes: if you’re not prepared to wear it, I’m not prepared to let you take part.
  8. Provide water – and put someone in charge of distributing it up and down the line of workers.
  9. Take along some kind of cream to treat nettle stings. I didn’t do this, and I wish I had.
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Great British Spring Clean

You’ve heard me complain about it before: over the course of the last few years, the roadside litter situation in Northamptonshire (and beyond) has significantly worsened. The plant growth along the A45 in recent months has been festooned with so much plastic that it takes my breath away. It’s particularly noticeable during the winter months, when there is no foliage to conceal it. Fly tipping is also on the increase, and in addition to the sort of litter that is thrown from the windows of passing cars, our roadsides have become dumping grounds for electrical appliances, sofas, tyres and all manner of other detritus of human existence. The ridiculous part of this is that I live within an easy drive of four drive-in recycling centres, all of which are closed two days a week, but those closures are staggered, so that there is always at least one of them open on any given day. This is one of my hot button topics.

Waiting for someone to do something, and whinging because no-one was doing anything didn’t seem to be working as an approach. So I decided that – being someone myself, as luck would have it – I would do something about it.

I live in the sweetest little village and, while the village itself is relatively clean and attractive, the roads leading to it are not. The subject of the state of the roads surrounding the village comes up fairly regularly on the community FB page. I was a little nervous, because we’re comparatively new to the village, and sometimes people can be resentful when Johnny-come-lately types start sticking their oar in. But the initial reaction was positive, so I decided to go ahead.

I contacted the local council, and learned about the nationwide Great British Spring Clean. I don’t know where the initiative was publicised, but I hadn’t known anything about it until that point. I had to get a bit of a wiggle on to schedule our local village litter pick within the time scale, but we managed it. Norse, which manages our local refuse and recycling, was very supportive and helpful. They provided me with gloves, bags, grabbers and hi-viz vests for all the volunteers. They also supplied guidelines and suggestions.

On Saturday morning, armed with grabbers, sporting our natty hi-viz vests and wearing protective gloves, we headed off to tackle one of the roads leading to and from our village. The group size vacillated between five and six people as some left and others joined, depending on their availability. As we worked, several passersby thanked us for our efforts, and asked to be included next time. The subsequent reaction on social media spaces has been positive enough to warrant a repeat.

Fly tipping

Some of the items we collected had clearly been there for some years, if the prices printed on the beer cans were anything to go by. Do you remember when beer cost 65p a can? Many cans and bottles so hidden by the plant growth, that we only became aware of them when we stepped on them and heard the tell-tale sound of plastic or metal crunching underfoot. The thing I was most concerned about was plastic wrappers and packaging – the sort of stuff that can throttle an animal. There was plenty of that.

We allocated two hours to the task, during which time we collected 15 bags of litter. We also encountered a pile of garbage that had clearly been fly tipped, and which included many items too large to fit into our bags. This pile we moved to the roadside where it could be seen and collected by the team due to pick up the bags.

Among the more unusual items we found were:

  • a pair of handcuffs, in their pouch – consensus was that they were the real deal, rather than the kinky bedroom games sort, what do you think? See picture.

    Handcuffs – real or kinky?
  • a washing up bowl – perfectly intact
  • Best Dad in the World coffee mug – also perfectly intact. Do you think Dad was demoted?
No longer the best Dad?
  • three chisels (not all in the same place)
  • a toaster
  • a television set (excuse the blurry photo)
TV set

We finished up at 12:30 and adjourned to the local WMC for a pint together. The mood was very positive, and people were keen to do it again.

I highly recommend it. If you’re hesitating for some reason – perhaps (like me) you think that someone else would be a better candidate – take a deep breath and make the call to your local council.

And yes, I get it – you pay your taxes and the local authorities are supposed to use that money to do this stuff. And perhaps the reasons it hasn’t been done are valid, and perhaps they aren’t. The fact remains that until something is done about it, you have to live with the litter. Waiting for ‘someone’ to do ‘something’ doesn’t seem to be a viable approach. And, if nothing else, this is a great way to connect with the local community.

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Local craft-and-coffee

A few months ago, Mr Namasi and I moved from a town with an estimated population of 50,000 (75,000, if you include the rest of the borough) to a village with a population of fewer than 900. There is no shop, no post office, and only one pub in the village.

And I love it. I’d like to see out my days here.
We have made an effort to engage with the community: attending the various functions at the local church, eating in the local pub, joining the FB group, etc. I started a chapter of nextdoor, a UK based online community site, which automatically connects members within close proximity to each other.
I also started a monthly craft-and-coffee. Although I offer 1:1 and small group sessions, for which I charge, I also wanted to have some sessions which were just about engaging and sharing.
So far, we’ve had three get-togethers. For the first one, we each brought our own projects and talked about what crafts we like to do. One of the ladies brought along a beautiful mixed media wall hanging she’d made.
So, for the next session, we explored that. Here are the two pieces I made (I should point out that I continued the work at home – I didn’t manage all that in two hours!)
Mixed media cushion cover
‘Garden’ (now framed and for sale)
Yesterday was our third session, and we made Madonna-and-child models out of reclaimed materials (and polyfilla). I had made one of these some years ago, so I was able to concentrate on guiding the rest of the group through the process. It was wonderfully messy, and the results are now drying in my studio, where they will be collected when ready to be transported.
Have a look at these photos and see if you can identify where and how each of the following items has been used:
  • piece of MDF or stiff card
  • 2l plastic bottle
  • newspaper
  • plastic shopping bags
  • dowel stick or length of bamboo
  • old cotton bed sheet
  • wire coathanger
Not looking like much, yet


Getting there

And here they are, drying in my studio.



 Next time, we’ll be making needle felted robins, like this one. Because I don’t have the equipment to facilitate this one myself, I have enlisted the aid of Eve Louise Newman (Eve’s Gifted Paradise).
If you’re local to the Wellingborough/Kettering area, and would like to join in, please contact me to find out more.