Posted in Personal life, Writing

The Comfort of Blankets

It’s good to welcome back the trusty Tetbury Advertiser for its first issue of 2021. Its February issue was cancelled due to lockdown, so as there is always a double issue for December/January, my March column was the first I’d written for them since November. Normal service has now been resumed – hurrah! 

The Tetbury Advertiser springs back into action

Although I don’t remember having a comfort blanket as a child, the older I get, the more I appreciate the concept. During this strange last year, when any source of comfort has been welcome, three kinds of blanket have caught my attention.

The Weighted Blanket

Ever since secondary school, I’ve enjoyed knitting and crocheting blankets. From the age of 11, we were bribed by house points into knitting six-inch squares. Our squares were made up into blankets, and sixth form volunteers took them to the local care home. We made so many blankets that we imagined the residents swamped under their weight.

Bertie’s blanket is scaled down to suit him, as is his little bed

But I need not have worried: these days, weighted blankets are all the rage. They incorporate tiny bits of ballast to achieve the same heft as a cat on your lap. (That’s my chosen measure, not the designers’ – it sounds more appealing than saying 5kg.)

Originally developed to calm people with autism or anxiety, weighted blankets are scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

According to the promotional blurb of the one I’ve just bought, they also “stimulate deep-touch pressure to release feel-good endorphins typically obtained from a long embrace”.

In the no-hug zone of Covid lockdown, no wonder weighted blanket sales have surged. (We bought ours from kudd.ly.)

Bertie tests our new weighted blanket and is asleep within seconds

The Temperature Blanket

Dorothy finds brushed-cotton duvet covers equally satisfactory

Another recent discovery for me is the temperature blanket, created through the course of a calendar year.  At the start of January, you choose a time and place to record the daily temperature and a colour palette to reflect each thermometer reading. Knitting a couple of rows a day in the right colour for that day’s temperature provides a dramatic visual record of the seasons.

If where you live the climate barely changes all year – the Canaries or Costa Rica, perhaps – choose a smaller scale to avoid a monochrome result, eg a different colour for each degree rather than for every five.

Not a problem that will trouble the knitters of Tetbury.

A fleece blanket also goes down well with Bingo and Bertie

The Lockdown Blanket

The lockdown blanket (not to be confused with the blanket lockdown) is the cousin of the temperature blanket. Again, working a few rows each day provides an oasis of meditative calm, as well as a record of a specific timeframe. Make from oddments you have in the house or choose a colour scheme that will lift your spirits.

For my lockdown blanket, I channelled the Scottish Highlands. Every time I picked up my needles and yarn the colour of mountains and glens, I was transported hundreds of miles north without leaving the safety of my home.

Because sometimes there isn’t a cat around when you need one. This is my Scottish panda, bought at Edinburgh Zoo. Beneath my lockdown blanket, he’s wearing a kilt in the official panda tartan!

As we flip the calendar over to March, and with my first dose of vaccine in my arm, I’m looking forward to using a different kind of blanket altogether, once we’re all allowed out to play again: the picnic blanket. But in the meantime, I’m ordering another two weighted blankets to stop the family fighting over the first one.

So much for its powers of stress relief!

Click here to read the whole of the Tetbury Advertiser online for free.

Bertie is fond of symmetry

 


In Other News

Another cover image by my talented father
cover of Young by Name
The first volume covered 2010-2015.

In the absence of a February edition of the Tetbury Advertiser, I took time out to collate all my columns from the previous five years into book form. Still Young By Name is the sequel to the first volume, Young By Name, which was published five years ago (no surprises there!)

Reading through my archive of columns, it struck me what an extraordinary five years we’ve just lived through, including the rise and fall of President Donald Trump, what seemed like the interminable process of Brexit, and of course the arrival of Covid-19.

I was slightly spooked when I discovered I’d written the first column in this new collection as I was recovering from flu.

The cover of the new book features another slice from my father’s rural watercolour painting that I used on the first book in this series. I do love the composition and calm mood of this painting.

I did wonder fleetingly whether it was wise to have a picture of a cow’s bottom beside the title, but it made me smile, and If it makes others laugh too, that’s fine by me!

The launch date for the ebook is 21st March (my parents’ 68th wedding anniversary, which seemed a good omen), and the paperback should be out shortly too. In the meantime, if you’re in the UK and it’s a Kindle ebook you’re after, just click here to pre-order.  Other buying links to follow in my next post.

 

Author:

English author of warm, witty novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Staffroom at St Bride's School series, both set in the Cotswolds. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors and for the children's reading charity, Read for Good. Public speaker for the Type 1 Diabetes charity JDRF.

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