03 May 2009

April showers

American-British writer T.S. Eliot once declared that April is “the cruelest month”.  For me, this month has not been cruel so much as it has been temperamental, and certainly at times a challenge.

Sunny summer-like days, followed by sudden, chilly showers, it has indeed been a month of highs and lows. Just when I felt I was closer to solving the ”wedding cake dilemma” (latest samples for testing being delivered tonight), I now have an unimaginable problem with the wedding quilt!

Foolish Southern belle that I am, I decided to make (by hand) a wedding quilt, with less than four months to achieve the impossible. But the timing is not the worst of it.

On one of my transatlantic visits to see the D.E.B. in November 2007, we had a day out in the Cotwolds with the D.E.B’s wonderful aunt and uncle. We went for a walk near Sulgrave Manor – ancestral home of George Washington, the first president of the United States – and spent the afternoon in Banbury.

While in Banbury, I found a cute, little fabric shop and bought some beautiful fabric. Like so many quilters, I am nuts about fabric, and routinely buy small amounts just to hoard, and hopefully  (eventually) use. On the occasion, the fabric in question was a green and ivory toile, and solid green cotton. Lovely.

So, when the idea of making a wedding quilt struck me, I thought: Voila! And, viva le toile! I had the perfect pieces right to hand. Also, like most quilters, I had bitten off more than I could chew, and had engineered and begun a project that would normally take 12 months to complete, in less than 6.

I called in reinforcements, and all looked to be going well, until, we ran out of fabric last week. And, we are nowhere near the end. At last reckoning, it appeared that we possibly, only possibly, have a quarter of the quilt done.

To add insult to injury, the fabric I have selected has now been discontinued. (What else, ye gods?) I contacted the shop in Banbury, going so far as to send them a handwritten letter in the post (remember those?) with cuttings of the two fabrics and an urgent plea for help. The called me the next day to say, regrettably, they could not help. They remembered the fabric but not the manufacturer. “The only thing I do remember,” the shop assistant said, “is that I think it was called ‘Reminiscences,’ maybe you could look it up online?” Great. Just what I needed, another Google challenge. And this time, a Google fabric and colo(u)r matching challenge.   

Fearing failure in the virtual realm, I had a modicum of success at “The Quilters Den” in Warwick. It’s a great shop, with super, helpful staff. They could special order all the fabric I need, the toile and the solid green. Hurrah! But – it will take 3 weeks for the fabric to arrive. I’m not sure that my quilting army can survive a 3 week delay…worse still, when I phoned today to ask the Quilter’s Den staff what the name and make of my fabrics, they were unable to tell me.  No doubt fearing that if they armed me with that information, I might take my trade elsewhere. April is a cruel month, indeed.

But, April can also be kind.

All around the village, everyone has been so supportive and enthusiastic about the wedding, and us. A few examples: The man who will be ringing the church bells for us on our wedding day came and introduced himself to us following a Sunday service. “I shall be ringing your bells, let’s hope for a fine day,” he beamed. He is such a gentle and loving old soul, who clearly takes great pride and joy in what he does, the joyous service he renders to couples on their special day. (At some point, after the wedding and all, I would love to join his little group of church bell ringers.)

Last week, after the St. George’s Day church service, Julia (part of the Monday-Wednesday Swim Club) and her husband, Robert surprised us with a large bundle of Asparagus, fresh from a local farm. “Just a little something” to let us know we were being thought of, and to introduce us to local offerings.

I got directions to the farm from Julia, and as it turns out, it is the same sweet, little farm where the DEB and I bought our Christmas tree. Growing Christmas trees and asparagus, what an idyllic way to spend one’s life. 

I went along to the farm yesterday and bought more lovely asparagus, plus a bundle for Julia and Robert, as well as one for the Vicar and Mrs. Vicar. Seemed a nice thing to do.

Another example, of April kindness: A knock on our door in late afternoon, my friend Di, with urgent news. There’s a couple in the village planning to sale their house. Di asked them to wait, before placing their house on the open market, and give and the DEB first refusal. “I know how much you two want to stay in the village, and we want you here, too,” she said.

Such a sweet and thoughtful thing to do. So, last Sunday, after church, we went and had a look at house down Mill Lane. Very lovely couple, wonderful part of the village. I really, really, really wanted to like this place -- not least because Diane had gone to such trouble.

In theory, the house sounded ideal: 3 bedrooms, garage and parking space (gold dust here in Barford), nice garden. To be fair, it was lovely. The kitchen had been extended was huge, light and airy.  But, as I am finding with most places we seem to look at, the downstairs is super, but the upstairs always leaves much to be desired.

The 2 double bedrooms upstairs turned to out be the size of what one would roughly call a large single, and the single room was the size of a broom closet. Jackie 1 (from the Monday-Wednesday Swim Club) teased me mercilessly the following Monday, when I reported this viewing in the pool. She said: “Ooh, you two clearly spend a great deal of your time upstairs.”

Embarrassed and flustered, I tried quickly to explain that our seeming obsession with bedroom size was to do with the bulk and size of my American furniture (Thank you, Crate & Barrel), and the vast amount of “stuff” the DEB and I have acquired and accumulated over time.

Why is that so many English homes, particularly those of a certain age and character, can be so lovely in some aspect, and yet, simultaneously so dark and pokey? (SIGH)

I really hated to disappoint Di. But, neither the DEB nor I were 100% sold on the place. Funnily enough, the house we are living in and renting at the moment seems to fit us pretty well. It is a modern construction, though not entirely characterless. So the quest continues. Not that we don’t already have enough on our plates at the moment.

No comments: