Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Load of Baskets - Let's Get Weaving 9-10 Nov 07

I've been sorely lacking in my attempts to write my blog daily. Did have 2 days away on the basket making course, but after that, no excuse.

The course was in Woodchurch, Kent and was run by a chap called Alan. He had a long blonde mop of hair and his pony tail fell half way down his back. We couldn't have asked for a better tutor, he was skilled, had great patience and a good sense of humour. Most of us hadn't done any basketry at all before, so we all started off at ground zero.

Can you believe at the end of the 2 days we had all made a fully functioning basket of some description. I bled all over the place on the first day. That willow is tough old stuff and very difficult to handle at times. I'll pop some photos at the bottom for your perusal.

I made a little 'egg basket' or small shopper, while Jim made a whacking great waste paper or kindling basket. His was rather the star of the show. The only male (apart from Alan) and he had a natural talent for it. You do need to be quite strong, which was an advantage for him.

On our land in Ireland, we have approximately 1 acre of willows. These were planted by the previous owner, who also makes baskets. Now we can use them ourselves. We both enjoyed the course thoroughly and can't wait to get back to Ireland and have a go on our own.

We decided to stay in the area Friday and Saturday night and Jim found a wonderful bed and breakfast on the net. It was situated a few miles from the willow centre in Kent. The couple owned their main house and it had, at the bottom of the garden, a 2 story brick built guest mini house. That's where we stayed. All beautifully tasteful, warm and with its own kitchen. We poddled down to the house for breakfast, cooked on an Aga, and our friendly host and hostess entertained us royally. They were both from Hong Kong and obviously not short of the odd euro or two (he was a banker). Penny, our hostess, had to rush off on the Sunday morning to pick up her niece. She was coming over from Hong Kong to her boarding school and Penny 'knew how she felt' having had the same experience as a child. How the other half lives!

We walked every street of Rye, that wonderful old town in East Sussex, full of period houses and tiny streets. It turned out to be their Bonfire and Firework Night on the Saturday of our stay. All along the Sussex Coast the towns have these special bonfire events. There is always a big torchlit procession all around the town and each society supports their neighbours, so they are always a grand affair. Rye was no exception and when we had finished our course on Saturday, we headed straight for Rye to try and find some parking. Our unhappy Doblo was running on fumes by the time we reached the garage in Rye! We just made it. Noticing they had a bit of a yard at the side of the shop and pumps, we asked if we could park there. They agreed, we were so lucky! Rye was virtually closed to traffic a short while afterwards.

To fill in the hours before the procession, we headed for the 'Kettle of Fish', a cheerful looking restaurant with a take out and seating. Queued a bit then we were seated. All very warm and cosy. Our food seemed to be taking rather a long time, but we enjoyed people watching and we were warm, so we weren't unduly put out. However, many others were, and the complaints began to fill the air. The poor waitresses did their best to fend off the fuming customers and eventually the chef came out to see them! In reality, they should have seen to the restaurant customers first, then handled the take away. We actually waited an hour! But in true British fashion, we didn't complain. The food was lovely.

Pleasantly glowing inside and out, we headed off, just in time to see the procession. It always amazes me that more people don't set themselves on fire. The torches wave in the air and frequently, their tops drop off onto someone or onto the floor! Ah well, at least it's allowed to go ahead and nobody has banned it yet. The theme seemed to be Halloween, and there were many ghosts, ghoulies and devils of all shapes and sizes. We finally made our way down to the green where the bonfire was lit. It was absolutely enormous and quite a wind had by now started to gust around the town. At one point, a whole group of spectators had to run for it, or get sizzled! We stood at a respectful distance and watched the fire and the fireworks with customary 'oohs' and 'aaahs'. They were quite splendid.

Monday morning saw us driving back to Worthing, worn out but happy after our fun packed working weekend. The course was actually run in one of the barns in the grounds of an animal rare breeds farm. This farm is run by the Canterbury Oast Trust, a splendid organisation which provides opportunities for people with learning disabilities. Many of them come to the farm daily and help care for the animals. If you would like to read more about the Trust and its work, please see their website:

www.canterburyoasttrust.org.uk The telephone number is 01233 861493. A day trip to the farm is a must for anyone with a love of animals and the money raised goes towards helping the many deserving people who make good use of the facilities. It really can change lives.

Basket Weaving For Ever......

I hope you enjoy the photos

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