Saturday, December 31, 2005

Grrrr - or is that brrrrrrr?

I woke up just before five this morning when the mogs started bouncing around (seal and blue tabby, whilst I think of it, India) So, of course, I couldn't get back to sleep, could I. Back twinge, chilly feet, extremely noisy DSM. (Most odd - not snoring, that's me or so I am told, but lots of gusty heavy breathing and sighing and snorting and other weird noises) After two hours, I decided that I had been kind enough to him, went off downstairs to feed aforementioned felines, came back up here to the computer to read email, order a little fibre. (Did I really just say that? Did I really just do that?! Er - yes. Christmas present money? That'll do!)

I have been doing a little spinning and knitting the last few days, project for the DSM. What is this ? I am being way too considerate of the dear old chap, maybe I should feel a New Year Resolution coming on....Actually, I have enjoyed this, playing with energised singles. One S, one Z knitted together. This is a stitch he learned in a workshop with Kathryn Alexander some years ago, but I have never attempted it before now and it is rather fun.

energised singles

garter sample

The fibre is nice, some merino dyed by Helen Rippin, well, one pack was merino with a little flax. I thought it might make an extra element of difference between my two strands, but I'm not noticing much. I quite like the overall effect of this, and particularly like the handle, which is both soft because of the merino, and crisp, because of the energy in the yarns. Nice. Would make other things - I quite fancy a waistcoat.

Then, at my last AH class, I had come to grief with crepe/cabled yarn. I had in my memory bank that you spun singles with a lot of twist, plyed ditto, plyed again softly. The DSM confirmed this as his recollection, too. Humph. Didn't work. I promised that I would check, experiment, try again. Quite coincidentally, when roaming around the blogosphere, I came across an excellent piece on how too (I'll check for an attribution later). I hadn't heard it described thus before, but this method said spin softly, ply very tightly,ply normally.


Bingo! (Slightly fuzzy, sorry. Well, so am I this morning. No tea yet....)

There is hope for me yet.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Musings upon the season, whilst looking out at the snow

It snowed a little, yesterday and overnight. Today, the DSM is at work, so I am solitary for the interregnum (I know that isn't the right word, but I like it and can't think of the correct one for the sense that I want to convey, so tough.) I decided to allow myself to have time on my hands, to do what I wanted to do, to give myself leave to still be on holiday, well as much as is possible.

So I spent some time this morning looking out of the window and just pondering. I started by considering the way in which a totally spurious argument has been encouraged to rage this year about "Christmas". Now, don't get me started on the term "pc". It was never, in my experience, something that was used much in earnest even at the beginning, but certainly now when it rears its head, I know to beware, fake, alarmist non-story alert ahead. I'm not going to waste too much time on it - the "Christmas" thing is merely the jumping off place for my thoughts. I will only comment that if we all observed principles of common sense, courtesy and goodwill things would be better, and using a little intelligence wouldn't hurt, either.

As I was raised in a country where church and state were and are still linked, it is hardly surprising that the trappings of a "traditional, christian Christmas" should seep pretty much indelibly into my consciousness. So wishing someone a merry Christmas doesn't seem strange to me, even though the concept of Christ's Mass has no place in my life. But I am certain it is the case that, as usually happened, the early church bolted on a festival of its own to a pre-existing one, maybe what we now call pagan, maybe not. One reason why the Germanic christmas trees that Victoria revelled in caught on so much - we had been bringing in green branches to decorate our homes centuries before, and although the religious hardliners of the 16th and 17th centuries tried to stamp such frivolity out, I imagine they were not entirely successful.

But this is not where my musings really took me, I was actually more concerned with more immediate and personal stuff. Christmas is often a hugely stressful and disappointing time, and I wanted to try to think my way through some reasons for that. OK, in part, false expectations, and trying to recreate the simpler times of childhood. So, where after that - what could be done to work around that? The two strands of thinking suddenly began to merge a bit. The twelve days of Christmas - how did we get from there to !!Christmas Day!!, the one day of the year when we should all be merry and bright, and having a wonderful time?

So, I began to construct my own - sorry to say it, but it works for me - midwinter festival. Which is after all what it is. We go in to the dark, and acknowledge it, but come through to celebrate the returning of the light. At a time of year when our mental and physical resources are stressed and low. So what do we need? We need everything! We need rest and recuperation, we need fun and frivolity, we need periods of spiritual contemplation and renewal, we need to fast and to over-indulge - that's what. And we sure as hell can't do that all on one day.

So, I propose a festival from Christmas Eve through to January 2nd. By Christmas eve night, all should be prepared, and this should be a quiet time with a good but simple meal, church services for those that wish, whatever people choose. Christmas Day, well let's have a major feasting, with traditional foods of our choice (I'm very partial to a well-hung nut roast meself) the exchange of gifts, pretty much as it is now. After that, well, I don't yet know - but my main point is that when we say we are going to enjoy Christmas, we don't mean just the one day, we mean the whole period. During this time, we do the duty bits, we carouse, we cry over sentimental poems, songs, reading, films, we socialise, we spend time alone by choice doing something non-essential, we take walks, we snooze by the fire. Then, we arrive at New year's Eve where we will recklessly mix spiritual needs with corporeal, by which I mean we will bid farewell to the trials of the year gone by and express hopes for that to come - plus having a jolly good knees up. The next day, we recover and then plunge into the year ahead refreshed, renewed and expunged of all hangover. During the festival, we will have had something of everything, in all senses, so we won't have to bemoan it's passing in a flash and we had a rotten time.

There, a bit more tinkering and that could work, couldn't it...I knew I should rule the world. Now I'm off to work on the NYE homily. Couldn't you just smack me?

Monday, December 26, 2005

merry, merry

Well, I have survived the festivities! Not without a certain amount of stress, but then it wouldn't be Christmas with that, now would it? What is more, obviously some of my friends and relations have some understanding of me, because they have launched me into the year a'coming with gifts of Bombay Sapphire gin and Jack Daniels.

What?? Well, I dunno yet. This was a present from the DSM, who has been heartily amused by not only me listening to Virgin Radio at mega volume whilst driving my car, but also me swooning helplessly whenever I hear the voice of whoever does the voice-over for the JD ad thereon. If you are a "Lost" fan, think Sawyer. Mmmm...

Gives self mental shake and awakens from reverie.

We went out for our Christmas dinner, most unusual for us, but it was great. We went on foot, clambering up the rocky path rather than clomping through the bog that is the riverside one. This was in the gathering dusk, but still quite light enough to see where we were treading. Enough but not too much in the way of food and drink, and very pleasant company. Talked a lot, played a silly game, cuddled animals, and even had a burst of real carol singing around the piano (well, we personally didn't, than goodness) Our host is a proper musician with a very nice voice, and the others who could hold a tune joined in - well, tunefully. We tottered back down the path around eleven, three of us all in a row like ducks, each with a torch, and no-one fell down!

Today, we allowed ourselves to sleep really late, had a late brunch, and I am about to go and cook our Christmas feast of cashew nut roast, roast potatoes and parsnips, sprouts, bread sauce, sage, onion and cranberry stuffing, maybe gravy if I have time. Then Christmas pudding, brandy butter and clotted cream. Sounds gross, eh? Not too much so - we will again be fairly abstemious and therefore have lots of leftovers for tomorrow. We have been for a little tiny walk (the DSM is out as I speak running fleet-footed over the moor - well, he has to preserve those 34 year old lungs somehow!)

So, all in all, pretty cool. Treats to come - the Christmas special Dr Who taped of the telly yesterday. And a list of films as long as your arm on at the cinemas that we want to see, so we might go off to something tomorrow. And - I am attempting to spin a yarn with integral beads, ie I am putting them on as I spin. We shall see. One of my class can do it, so hopefully, I should be able to. Pics if successful - silence if not!

Happy Boxing Day to one and all.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Look! We have come through

Or words to that effect. What I mean is, we have passed the solstice, and soon we shall start to see the difference, I can hardly wait. Even though this autumn/winter has probably been brighter than most recent ones, I have felt the dark cloaking me.

So, I should have wished us all "Happy Solstice" yesterday, but didn't. Please accept the offering today. Solstice is what I would prefer to celebrate as my mid-winter festival, it is the real one after all, but it is just so much easier to go with the flow and do the 25th along with everyone else. Although I do believe that in these happily hippy parts hereabouts, many and many a household locks itself in and does the Solstice for real. Maybe, another year, I could do both - now there's a plan!

A touch more blog-decorating.


And here too is the tree, the last time one will be seen dressed thusly, as too many baubles have bitten the dust, and the tinsel, my dear! Moth-eaten does not begin to describe. So next year, an entire new theme. Or something. I am tempted to say that I will make a complete set of beaded danglies - but I know myself better than that. No chance!


OK, so the scarf is finished, the effing house has had a duster, mop, whatever flicked around it. I don't now have to cook on Christmas Day, we are Going Up The River, which should be fun. I shall shop and bake tomorrow. And then eschew all such for several days, I don't want to be domestic, I want to bead and to spin. Oh, and watch creaky old movies on telly. Ahem.

If I don't drop by again, have a happy crimble.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Precious little fibre activity to report

Because of the season, I guess.

Decoration of the blog is proceeding...


I didn't make this. In fact, I imagine that they are imported from some place they shouldn't be and I am being an evil bitch buying one. But I think they are so pretty, and the birds eat the berries. (Presumably, they Iike foreign food)

Yesterday was the guild Christmas meeting and it was really nice, plenty of people there, good atmosphere, and an excellent Secret Santa exchange. Well, I would say that. Entirely by accident I managed to pick the contribution from the famous Freyalynn - I knew immediately I opened it from the style of work. And as it was a lovely little knitted and felted bag, and I love little bags, I am a very happy camper. I should have photographed it, but I haven't - maybe tomorrow.

What I have photographed is the cats. Nausea alert, look away now if besotted and goofy cats and cat owners offend. This posture is known as "toesy toasting" (barf). In other words, they sit with feet lower than bums, which they do anyway on all sorts of things, but in this instance, the feet are resting on a nice cosy hot radiator. Aww, sweet. If you happen to be besotted&etcs like the DSM an' me.


(Sorry about the flash-eye! "Removing redeye" didn't work - obviously, duh! So we are stuck with it.)

Not sure how much fibery stuff will be accomplished in the next few days, I have to fit in a hair cut, a Coven lunch, cleaning, baking, including the famous Wicken Fen veggie sausage sausage rolls and essential for every Christmas, more mince pies than usual as mama has requested some (she has obviously forgotten what my pastry is like), the last minute shopping-for-the-apocalypse, parcel wrapping and going to see Harry Potter which we haven't done yet. Oh, and finishing off the mater's scarf, should manage that this evening. So, the blog will get a bit more decorating and not much else.

Actually, I rather fancy doing a Christmas story like I used to do on Sheep Thrills, but I have no inspiration at the moment. But as I did have an inspiration to buy a bottle of Stone's Ginger Wine, and the advocaat is already in the cupboard, maybe that inspiration (hic) will strike. Midnight on Christmas Eve??

Friday, December 16, 2005

This & that

And I really can't do better than that at the moment, sorry.

I am starting to decorate the blog for Christmas.


I love poinsettia, and always have to have one - ideally, I would have great banks of them, but the house is too small and I need to leave room for other festive things.

Speaking of which, went over to join the rest of the Coven last night at the usual place (jolly tolerant neighbours M has, I must say, putting up with the girlish shrieks and less-than-girlish dirty guffaws every week). Nearly drove the poor little Jimny straight through someone's garden wall when faced with the sight of a six foot, inflatable, interiorly illuminated snowman. Talk about gross - even worse than one of those climbing-up-the-wall/drainpipe to assault you inflatable santas that have been around for a year or three. All of us bar one where shrieking (see...) about it when Freyalynn arrived, who claimed not to have seen it. We couldn't understand this, as it was...just a tad...obvious. But on leaving, it had completely disappeared, which left me with the 'orrible image of it floating away on the strong wind last night to hover over the M62 scaring all the pub refugees half to death. Ugh.

So, today, culture, kind of. Went with a friend to the Bankfield to see the John Allen exhibition that has been on for a while. H'mm. What to say. Love the work in itself, some pieces very much so. But I was left with a slightly uncomfortable feeling about it in some ways. Aboriginal art is unique and very culturally specific and John Allen had drawn very heavily upon it for inspiration. Not quite to the point of imitation/emulation whatever you care to call it, but probably more than I felt easy about. Oh, I don't know, maybe I am being overly sensitive, critical? I need to think about it some more.

I include a couple of photographs that I took (with permission from the museum) Not totally good images, but these are two of my favourite pieces in the exhibition. I love the playfulness of the dingoes, if I were lucky enough to own this, it would make me smile every day. (I'm not sure of the technique, sorry. My vision can cause me problems at exhibitions, etc - I can see the work fine from a distance, or close up with glasses on, but this piece was behind a "barrier" to stop you getting too near and I couldn't read the card. Woven, I think, rather than knitted - there were some rather jolly knitted tapestries, for want of a better word.)


Looking at this again, it is a bit dim - I will see if I can play around with it when I have a bit more time. This other one is also one I could live with - I love the colours and the simplicity. I think this is one that he did the design for and had his workshop in Nepal actually weave.


Guild and secret santas (hopefully, none of them inflatable!) tomorrow. Decorating on Sunday. Now, what else could the blog do with? Must have some tinsel, of course.......

Monday, December 12, 2005

This is displacement activity

I should be 1: exercising; 2: doing the laundry; 3: writing the Christmas cards (sorree, everyone overseas, I've blown it again!); 4: several other things. So, instead, I sit down to write a blog entry. So far, so typical.

It's been a slightly hectic, merrygoroundish few days, what with Coven and the reappearance of the Antipodean Member, back in Blighty for a few weeks, and looking very well on two years worth of sunny colonial living. So nice to see her again!. Then teaching on Friday, ok-ish, no more. Chores and present wrapping on Saturday so that we could dash over to Leeds on Saturday evening to hand over the Cornwall ones to be taken down in person rather than giving them in to the tender care of the GPOaswas. Sunday, the AM came for lunch so that she could see the DSM and, it turns out, discuss a small semi-business proposition with moi, which is nice - we had a very pleasant time and didn't drink too much Prosecco. And the instant she left, H arrived, as it was around dog-walking time. So spending an evening in front of the telly with the lunch leftovers and the knitting was a welcome relief!

All this has meant very little time for any serious fibre or beading activity, unfortunately. The glittery scarf had to be restarted (who says garter stitch isn't challenging!) I found that the yarn has a propensity to mysteriously create extra stitches unless you count obsessively, and felt that eight or nine extra was probably rather too many to decrease or ignore, buggrit. So I suppose that I should put that fairly high on the to-do list if I want it finished by Christmas Eve. The blue silk on the moosie comes in very handy for a quick fibre fix in odd moments; the alpaca/silk gets a burst of an evening when the mogs have stolen my chair again. (Yes, I know I could throw them off, but they look so sweet...)

What else? Nothing of any great moment, other than the DSM having had a medical and now going round telling absolutely everyone that he has the lungs of a 34 year old. Yes, I am very pleased for him, but hearing it thirty four times in a couple of days (or so it seems), well, it gets kind of.....

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Unexpected gifts

One arrived in the post this morning. I was going to include a photograph of it, but my camera is telling me that my card is not initialised, which I do not understand at all, and frankly it is scaring me. I will wait until the DSM comes home to offer moral support whilst I try fiddling with things.....but I digress. I have a subscription to the most excellent "Selvedge" magazine (to which I have no affiliation, I should, I suppose, add) and they have an endearing habit of sending subscribers a little Christmas gift. Last year it was a ball of Rowan yarn, this year - well. It's even better. It is a little notebook, very plain and unassuming. Made from, not recycled, but discarded paper. In other words, bits of leaflets, posters, packaging, whatever, cut and folded into this little book. You can peer into the folded leaves, and see something of the original thing, some printed in (I am guessing) Hindi, others are shiny, calendared stuff, then there are the brown wrapping paper type leaves. I find the mix irresistible, but I also love the way imagination can run riot as to the original purpose of each larger sheet, who ordered it, who printed it, who discarded it and who had the brilliant idea of making something new and full of promise out of it.

Mind you, I shall probably have the usual problem that I have with luscious notebooks (of which I have many). I love them so much that I can rarely bring myself to write anything in them because if I do, it will not be of a suitable standard, will not live up to the book itself - and thus spoil it. Now, that is truly pathetic, and maybe this marks the moment in time when I do something about this particular idiocy!

So, my second gift. I am not sure why I have not come across this before, but better late than never. I am passing it on to you - prepare yourselves for a giggle. If the rest of the season passes in the same vein, then by the time Christmas comes, we should all be well primed for enjoyment, relaxed and mellow by virtue of laughter rather than booze. Well, some booze never goes amiss. I've already bought the Advocaat, I'm not wasting it.

Oh, and Celeste - I am using 6.5mm needles, and it would take larger!

Monday, December 05, 2005


Although I am soldiering on with aforementioned projects, I have been distracted from this path of righteousness by members of the coven.

Nanny Ogg turned up a few weeks ago knitting a scarf with some lovely glittery stuff that I thought my mama would rather like. So I was brought some last weeks and have got this far with it -

red glitter

Despise me if you will, but I love the yarn, and my ma will too - she loves a bit of glitz and as she has been feeling somewhat low-spirited, I reckon this is just the thing to perk her up and enable her to fly the flag on Christmas Day.

Then, Freyalynn was moved to ask me if I had ever seen a Bosworth Moosie, and I was forced to admit that I actually owned one of the little critters. It was, I said, not a great spindle, but ok, and I would take it along for her to see. So that made me get it out, and then I had to try it, and for whatever reason try it with blue silk rather than any old fibre.


Which in turn led to me now having to eat my words, because for silk, it is a wonderful spindle. A useful object lesson regarding spindle selection, because each one has a mind and personality of its own - I had tested this one using wool spun pretty fine but not as much so as this smooth, slick silk. Which the spindle seems to love. Go figure.

And as a final - well, not exactly bonne bouche, because I still haven't cracked photographing beadwork - this.

dutch spiral

(I'll try playing around later to see if I can get a better one to replace this.) Finally, it is taking shape, and having asked around and got some answers, no it will never be taut and firm (oh, that's all right then....) as other stitches might be. Still not sure I like that notion, but I will finish it and then see. I am glad to have perservered thus far, never like to be beaten. Oh, and apparently, African helix should be soft as well, so it wasn't my bad technique when I tried it.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Things I do now that I wouldn't/couldn't do then

But first

Motorway sunset

When I posted the dawn photo, I was under the impression that I had already done this one. Seemingly not (and that is my memory for you these days!) I took this on the drive back up the M1 after our Cambridge weekend. It never ceases to amaze me what good stuff my Fuji bottom of the range Finepix can produce. I'm considering asking for a slightly fancier model as a birthday present next year, principally because I would like an optical zoom.

So, just what the hell does the subject line mean, then.

Today I did my teaching stint at a nearby University. I nearly came to grief from the outset, I had to drive through our mini rush hour and didn't allow nearly enough time so I was late anyway. Then, I had to not only find a way on to the campus, but drop off my stuff and then get parked. I would have failed, but that I have learned not to overly panic, but to stop and ask in the first instance, and if that doesn't work, get the mobile phone out. After driving around a few times, asking several people, finding (yeay!) the right door, being offered and accepting a guide to and from the car park, I made it. The fact that I was perspiring and scarlet in the face and totally breathless from rushing up six flights of steps after an athletic twenty-something....well, I held my nerve and asked for first, a loo and second, a glass of water. Even thought I was already very late.

It then proceeded to go very well. A nice group, very polite, interested and focussed. I taught them to spindle spin as part of the session, and I have never known six people get spinning so quickly and efficiently. This was the first time I had worked with this age group, and I hadn't quite known what to expect, but I was very impressed and hope they ask me to go again.

And that subject line? I realised driving home, that I had just with relative aplomb done several things that would have had me cowering in the corner twenty years ago. I could never have driven to a large town that I barely knew and driven to somewhere that I had not visited before, and I certainly couldn't have accosted several strangers and asked for assistance. I couldn't have chatted to unknown young women, and made requests of them upfront. I couldn't have handled a lengthy teaching session with no clear idea of what was wanted of me - I had had the sketchiest of briefings, partly because they themselves didn't really know what they wanted.

Am I being self-congratulatory? Yup. I find myself somewhat grown up, and it is quite fun. Mind you, so is still being not grown up, so don't panic.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Reward for good behaviour.

I had to get up even earlier than sparrow-fart this morning (well, by my standards, anyway). Crunched out over the snow and ice at 6.40 am, unheard of for me. But a friend who lives down the road had to be at hospital for a 7.15 appointment, and needed a lift there and back, so, happy to oblige.

Anyhow, I got my reward. Just after I got home, around 7.45, I glanced down the valley, and saw this lovely sight. Definitely worth getting up for.


Monday, November 28, 2005


Today, we have this:


So I got to wear these:

(no subject)

I love these boots; Swedish, there is embroidery on them that you can't see, they have thick, sturdy soles with a good tread and they are as warm as toast. I haven't exactly worn them a lot since I gave in to an impulse and bought them, but on days like these, they really come in to their own.

But the vindication is.....I had to make a trip in to town, and driving off our parking spot outside the house, I was sliding around all over the place. I would have been completely screwed IF I HADN'T GOT FOUR WHEEL DRIVE!!!!

Oh, am I sad or what?

OK, progress update: nothing extraordinary, plugging along. Silk crochet is a neat little bag full of balls, and I have one or two good ideas about what to do with it. Alpaca chugging along. Beading - can't remember if I have written about the Dutch spiral kit I am working on, but it is slightly driving me nuts. After a fit and start or two, I now understand the construction, fine. But I can't get a tension that pleases me, and because I have never seen this up close and personal enough to handle, I don't know what it should be. Seems to me that if the beads are all sorts of different shapes and sizes, then it is going to be difficult to get a really good tight, even tension, but I could be wrong. I'm going to stick with it and see what the finished length is like, maybe see if I can find someone around who actually knows.

Ay de mi, that's it. Time to go stash-diving (yikes!) to find fibres for a class on Thursday morning. Wonder what other goodies I will find in the depths?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Deconstruction is us

Life being technically back to normal, I turned of course, to fibre. But in reality, normality is probably a state beyond my capabilities at the best of times. So...

At my last class, on Friday, we spent time looking at peoples' UFOs. I had decided that my message was to be "sometimes that project is stuck for a very good reason. Its bad. Bin it, frog it, any way you want it. To reinforce my point I had taken along a motley rag and tag of silk crochet that had been haunting me for....a lot of years.

I really don't know what I had been thinking of with this piece. It was meant to be a randomly crocheted waistcoat. To do this with any hope of success, you need a template that is a fairly accurate representation of the size and shape you want to end up with, and then to match your scumbles to that. This I did not do. You need yarns in a group of colours that end up in some sort of coherent harmony, even allowing for a few high contrast notes. Well, that wasn't happening, either.

I eventually got it to be an alien computer's idea of what might be a fit for a human being, in that it had back, sides, armholes, etc. Beyond that....a shapeless mess. I kept thinking that I could add a bit here, add a bit there, and at the end of the day, throw it in to a dye pot, and with a wave of my magic wand render it instantly beautiful.

No. Never.

So there it sat until last Friday, when I urged my students to believe that sometimes things are never, ever going to work, and that the healthy thing to do is to throw in the towel, and deconstruct.


So that is what I have been doing, and very soothing it is too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I hadn't posted this url here before because every time I had checked it, there didn't seem to be much going on. I've just been back, and suddenly, a cornucopia! Sue is sharing so much with us, I urge you to explore.

Sue lives just down the river from me, and I have had the great pleasure of being one of her students, going to her lectures and exhibitions, and more. I don't claim for one single minute to be one of her successful students in the sense that I have achieved no great works of tapestry art. But I have learned a huge amount from her; and her work continues to excite and inspire me.

We didn't just do (below)

Let's get the rest of our recent trippette out of the way before returning to more mundane matters. The rest was pretty good, too. A very pleasant day with friends, again extremely cold and frosty. The DSM and M went out running, the mad fools, so we more sensible two took the car to a suitable spot, then walked across the meadow to Granchester.


Not the greatest of photos, but it's a bit....flat....around there (sorry!) This view was nice, though, kind of quintessentially English. We had lunch at The Orchard (in my case, a prawn sandwich, no honey in sight), then the DSM and I drove off leaving the others to walk back to their car. We waved an appropriate gesture at The Old Vicarage in passing, then went to have a look at the library that I had worked at when I went there for my first ever job. I didn't recognise it at all, which was just a bit disturbing.

There is something infinitely soothing and at the same time energising, spending time with old friends. It was a lovely day.

Then on Monday, we took off for Northampton and its environs on our way home. Immediately after WW2, my parents trained as pub managers, and we moved first to a small village pub, and then to a larger one on the edge of the town. That one I remember pretty well, and we actually did visit several years ago. Anyway, I fancied doing it again, and then going on to the other. In the event, we got it wrong, and although I did get to wander around the one, we left it too late to track down the other, my internet researches having gone somewhat awry. So, we will have to try it again some time soon.

Its a little seedy now, but probably actually rather better than on our previous visit. Perhaps the glorious weather helped (this didn't last beyond this point, thick fog then for miles) But this is where I did the first part of my growing up.


This is cropped and blown up, and I don't remember a pub sign at all, certainly it won't have been this one. But they are so iconic...


The name over the front is a modern rendition. I think there was one before, but I wasn't allowed to go to the front of the building, nor on to the front balcony which was for some reason considered unsafe. The back one was my territory, and the back garden, indeed beyond. All the trees (elms) have gone now, but it still looked spookily familiar.


And then, just as we were about to get in the car and leave, I realised that I was staring directly at what had been my bedroom. As my parents both worked in the pub, I spent a lot of time in there all alone with my toys. My dolls house stood immediately adjacent to the window in this view. My bed was near the dormer, just visible on the left. Now this was getting really spine tingly. This has all lived inside my head for the last fifty some years, and now here it is right in front of me.

Definitely cool.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A la recherche, encore une fois

OK, so this is where we had drinks before the dinner:


I was last in here about thirty five years ago, and I don't remember there being a carpet. It is still however, as beautiful as ever, and it was lovely to see it again with soft lighting and a pleasant warmth after the foggy chill of the evening outside.

After we had had a drink and met up with one of the DSM's old mates, who we hadn't known was to be attending, so a nice surprise, we walked out through the Cloisters and in to Old Hall for the actual dinner.

Old Hall

See the long table under the portraits? That's High Table, that is, and for some unaccountable reason, that is where we sat. Placement had to have been done on a purely random basis, I do realise that. I'm not getting delusions of grandeur here, despite the motley collection of lords, ladies and deans I was sat amidst. In fact, at this point, I began to feel a strong sense of surrealism, not to mention that we had wandered on to the set of "Hogwarts" by mistake. I had never been in here before, only allowed to poke my nose around the door to look at the glories within. This was in the days before the college became co-ed, and women were only able to come in as visitors with firmly-set hours of ingress and egress (excess?) at that. I was involved in a couple of discussions, and earwigged other snippets, along those lines with other women of the same vintage, and indeed, this was why many of them had not been to any of these dinners before when partners of the female persuasion were not allowed still. See what I mean about surreal?

It was, however, quite lovely. Old Hall, built around 1449, is sublime. The lighting was predominantly by candles, the food was, considering it was in effect mass catering, excellent, and the wine...never mind flowing, it was a positive torrent. It did occur to me that there were no doubt many eminent medics in the august company, and just what was their opinion on this binge, eh? We ate an extremely superior fish cake on a bed of interesting leaves with a bearnaise sauce; broccoli and stilton soup; lamb cutlets, or in our case, a slightly anonymous if tasty cheese tart; tiramisu (the only false step, and I passed); and good cheese and biscuits. The stilton was formidable. Alongside this, there was Macon blanc with the first two courses, I forget what with the main course, and claret and port ad lib to finish. I had to fight the wait staff off more than once - I had promised to be good, and I kept my word. But an excess of alcohol might have been dangerous.....

It was unreal; for us, it was like playing dressing up; but it was also very enjoyable and in some curious way like for once being a grown-up. I think this largely because it was doing and being what I watched my parents being when I was a child, following the same rules and traditions, which I have never ever been or done, nor wanted, mostly. But just once in a while, a different sort of play.....

A final photo (I didn't, of course, take any of these myself). Aren't these sublime? I did have some note cards of some of them once upon a time, I got them from Salts, a good source of interesting stuff.


Originals from the Morris factory, she said, drooling gently.


I'm going to get a rant over and done with first, before doing the more interesting stuff. But I am just so mad.

A couple of weeks ago, the DSM was lightly encouraged by others who had made the move to investigate a new job within his present company. A different project, and with the prospect of some interesting retraining that would have made his last seven or so years of work life much better than ordinary, with possibilities for all sorts of things. Last week, he had the interview, and got really excited about the whole thing.

He rang me on his mobile at lunchtime, sounding really cheesed off. The job is his if he wants it, but his present management have put enormous pressure on him not to go, for at least a year. If it were a question of leaving the company, there would be no problem, but as it is essentially the same employer, he is in a very hard place, and basically can't just say stuff it. This is where being too responsible, decent and helpful comes back to bite you, and basically really sucks.

And as they want to keep him in a somewhat limited technical role and not let him do team leading or whatever, don't give him meaningful pay rises and have lead him up the garden path about working from home, I just think they are behaving like complete arseholes.

OK, rant over!!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

On a cold and frosty morning

Yes, it really, really is. It is a beautiful morning, bright sun and cold, hard frost, ye-hah! Just what it should be at this time of year. I had to do the household trick of throwing warm water on to the car windows to remove the ice. I am not allowed to use de-icing spray on the grounds of being unecological, which I do mostly agree with. However on the very rare occasions when the frost is very hard, this method just causes even more solid ice to instantly form. Doesn't often happen these days, though....

Anyhow....I am about to disappear for a few days to live it up in the fleshpots of Cambridge. If nothing else, I shall enjoy spending time with my oldest friend. Not sure about the rest - we shall have to see. I doubt, sadly, that I will be able to take any photos, unless I can sneak my mobile phone in and use it in silent mode without being apprehended. (Then, of course, I have to work out how to get the image off the phone and into the computer...)

We had been intending to go to Norfolk for a couple of nights as well, but changed that plan for a reason or two. Instead, we are going to drive home by a slightly different route which will take us past the two pubs that my parents ran when I was an infant. These I will photograph. I have seen them since those olden days, but not for a few years. It will be interesting.

So, I had to capture the felines this morning. I never do understand how they know. I can waffle about going "hello birds, hello sky", never a mention of prison or cat boxes, and at the last minute they can sneak off and hide somewhere. Not too bad this time, Neelix simply wiggled in to the quilt and Max was fossicking about downstairs and proved to be quite grabbable. On the drive up to the cattery, they went totally silent after prolonged shouting. Eventually, I spoke to them, and one of the most endearing things about siamese is the way they talk to you. Two resigned voices from the rear of the car answered my queries.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

One fine day in the middle of the night

I suppose that it is not so surprising that those words sprang in to my mind now. I didn't have too good a night's sleep last night, or rather, the DSM didn't which always means that I don't. That wasn't so surprising, either, as we had had a bit of a barney concerning his habit of sliding out of the room (either literally, as in this particular case, or metaphorically) whilst I am actually talking to him and he is supposedly listening to me. I have stayed calm about this and Sudoku-doing, VCR setting and sundry other things, but last night's apparent nothing hit a nerve. Which was bitchier than usual of me because I had remembered that he had an interview for a new job today (same company, different project, sounding to be much more interesting). Ah, well.

Anyway, what with that and having to be up and dressed, if not conscious, at sparrow-fart because of announced visitation by gas engineer Nigel to service the boiler (do not read that in any other way whatsoever than heating/water-related), I have felt a bit jaded. And, adding insult to injury, for whatever reason this year, I have felt the clock-change badly, and when the light starts to slowly fade mid-afternoon, so do I. It seemed not unreasonable to do something other than doze in my armchair, I haven't quite reached that stage yet, but nothing too strenuous, maybe? So, I got the crochet project out. I have been making very little progress, I've mad a few false starts, but I am still not totally convinced by the elements I am planning on including. I like the stitch and the hook size, I'm getting a fabric that I like, but I want a little colour in there. After backing and filling a few more times this afternoon, this is where I am at.

crochet jacket sample

Although I am checking obsessively, I am seeing the supposed straight edges as slanting. This could be due to inconsistencies in the yarn, and if so will probably not matter in the grand scheme of things, so I have decided to carry on for a while at least. I am trying to avoid adding my colours as edgings, but I suppose if I have to, so be it. If this doesn't work out, I do have a notion of sections where I alternate natural with colour, but I would have to carry yarn then which might be a bit thick....duh.....

Spun another quarter-bobbin of the alpaca and silk last night. It is very grey. I feel like I want to be spinning vibrant colour, but having started, I had better finish.

Tea. I need tea.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The chocolate 'twas that died......

Oh, not really. That's dramatic license. I fell foul of a few things - the most important being that if a recipe states a cooking time, you should be prepared to double it at least. Especially when the instructions on how to tell if the thing is cooked are as vague as this. I did give the thing an extra twenty minutes, until it was cracking and in danger of burning around the edges, but even so, the beautifully ris and domed creation had sunk into a volcanic crater by the time we came to serve it, with a very soggy if not quite molten centre. And to call it chocolatey was an understatement - my teeth shrivelled and died on contact. It did taste ok, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing, and fortunately one of us did to the extent of having a second slice, gawd knows how his stomach coped. The rest was relegated to the freezer (where it is not going to improve) because the DSM couldn't quite bring himself to chuck it in the bin. I suppose he was right....

To more creative matters. I have finished, finally, the first pearl spiral necklace.

red necklace

Again, I am really pleased with it. Not quite as neat a construction as the green one, because I had the pattern down by then, but it has tightened up quite nicely, and looks very dramatic. It was a brilliant kit, and Charlene's instructions are fantastic. At first glance, they look quite impenetrable, but if you let yourself trust what she is saying and follow the instructions to the absolute letter, the thing is a breeze and comes out very well. I may have to be tempted by another one of her kits some day.

Other than that, I spent quite a lot of yesterday evening spinning the alpaca and silk I got this summer from Adelaide Walker. I find alpaca a little tricky, it does have this tendency to either take too little twist and drift apart, or too much and turn in to wire. I am so far pretty much treading the middle path on this, and I think it is going to be ok when plyed. Yes, I know, I should sample the plyed, finished product before going any further, but....we shall see. I am intending it for the Landscape shawl that I kept coming across in blogs, and which I think looks a)great and b) within my capabilities.

Should keep me busy through what is promising to be a long, grey winter.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Death by chocolate

I must have finally, finally lost it. As I type, muffled barking noises are creeping out from the corners of my mouth. No, that is not drool...

So, I have had a recent bout of culinary disasters, and as a result of aging-brain syndrome, I simply cannot recall which I have listed and which I haven't. To swiftly recap - supper found in stone cold over, having switched on the wrong one, pan full of flapjack crumbs - tasty, but crumbs none the less - and a sponge cake that although delicious was very crumbly around the edges.

We have friends coming to dinner tonight. Instead of doing the sensible thing, and either not doing it, or going out, or doing the one million times tried and tested...oh, no, I got out the recipe books, didn't I. And found two whole new ones to try out. Am I completely lacking in any brain cells now? WTF did I do that for?!?

OK, so me-'n-you (sorry). The soup is a t&t, roasted sweet potato and red pepper, which is a to-die-for soup in dank weather. But then my eye lit on a Delia, caramelised red onions and goats cheese tartlets (yes, this is Hebden Bridge). So far, so good, with that one - I made the two elements yesterday, and just have to marry all the bits together without dropping or burning anything. Should be ok. Now, pudding. Not something I normally do. Neither am I a chocoholic. So why, just answer me that, did I select chocolate mousse cake??? Involving lots of melting,separating and beating; and instructions on when it is cooked that read something like "it is done when you see a gentle tremble on the Richter scale. If it is more like a a wave, then pop it back into the oven for a few minutes".


However, 400 grammes of Green and Blacks gently baking in the oven has permeated the entire house with the most marvellous full-on scent of chocolate, and the gently trembling, seemingly light as air confection is cooling in its tin downstairs under the watchful eye of the two siamese. It looks and smells wonderful - it may kill us ultimately, but, so far, so good here, too. I'll report back.

By the way, G&B are now part of the Cadbury empire. Being a total cynic, I can only feel that to be a bad thing. Certainly, there is a lot more advertising for it around, which could suggest that sales have fallen a but. Ah, well, I did say I wasn't a chocoholic.....

Right, I can allow myself an hour with the beads before I put on clothing that isn't food stained. I think I need to return to the days of wearing a pinnie.

(Oooh - Cadbury comes up as cadaver on the spell check!)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Searching for Utopia

I have just finished reading Sheila Rowbotham's memoir of the Sixties. I actually bought it, um, several years ago, and have only just got to it, I do not read as much as I used too, other things have taken the place of reading, although it is still essential for me to pick up a book every single day. But the newspaper, the internet (email, and particularly blogs) use some of the time previously allocated to reading, as does, massively, crafts and the preparation for/teaching thereof. Given that I tend to concentrate on, shall we say, not-too-heavy fiction, this one easily got sidelined.

I am not recommending "Promise of a Dream" particularly, I found it long on sexual encounter, short on analysis. But it concentrated my mind. (As an aside, before I go further, it was quite startling to read that one of her longish term relationships was with someone I actually knew, his then partner rather better, but still - I may only have been on the trailing fringes, but I suppose that says something.)

I was born a year or three after her, which in the history of those times did make some difference. Compounded by the fact that at the crucial moments of 1967 -1969, I was getting engaged, married and through the first year of same, not to mention finding, getting and enduring my second job, which I loathed. (The marriage I liked.) So although some of the events of those years did have a deep effect on me, I was not directly involved. That came a few years later and in the outer reaches of the universe, ie Cumbria, rather than London or Oxbridge. Actually, I sort of managed to both drop out and in at one and the same time, which is no doubt why neither really "took". I'm not going through all that story now, I'll keep that for some time when I really want to punish people. Suffice it to say that I stepped on to a - no, what it was more like was a not-too-devastating tsunami, that carried me along for what, twenty years, a constantly shifting ride through various movements and attempts to change the world and myself. It was only when I took myself off to Bradford and did the Peace Studies post-grad course that the wave finally ground up on to the beach and left me...somewhere. (I enjoyed my time and the course at Bradford very much and learnt a very great deal, but principally that, to continue the marine metaphor beyond its reasonable span, Canute was right.)

But, I am left (hah! still) with the remnants of a notion of Utopia, but not knowing what it might be and sensing it is an impossibility. I don't find that a very comfortable place to be, of course. The world was bad enough in those earlier times, but infinitely worse now. That same tide that Canute paddled in has grown higher, and rougher (effects of climate change, no doubt). And because of that earlier activism, I can't quite successfully create that small but delicately formed private inner utopia that could be an alternative. Ah me, there is simply no pleasing some people.......

I am going to go away and think about it some more. These are merely the first ramblings, prompted by the reading and by switching on the wrong oven to cook, or not, the meal last night (don't ask).

To those with encouraging tales of successful crochet and iPod use - thank you! I am continuing, and the (Lion Brand) pattern I am using as a basis for my jacket seems promising. I also have music to crochet by. And - I have finished the beaded bracelet to go with the necklace, and am moving on to a new watch band. These are all good things.

And most of all, because of the pleasure and utility of it in the present, the thread it makes going through time and worldly space, spinning will figure large. I am sure of it.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sometimes I think I'll just give up the unequal struggle

And then again, I don't like to be defeated. But when I come across crochet designs like this, well, I do despair.

I am definitely coming to the conclusion that trebles don't work. I have been fiddling around with my grey Falklands yarn and different sized hooks, trying trebles, half trebles and double crochet and the latter does without any doubt in my mind work best. Trying hooks small, medium and large, so to speak, I found too that a medium gave the nicest fabric. Yes, I accept that this is my taste only, but I like a fairly firm fabric, with no holes! Holes is bad.

I am really not at all sure that my quest to create reasonably funky and wearable garments done in crochet is going to work, but I continue. To be fair to Lion Brand, I have found another pattern on their site that I think looks good, so that is what I am now playing with.

But there is the sneaking suspicion in my mind that this may all be a fruitless task, and that crochet should have remained in the realms of the delicate and lacy. Unfortunately, that ain't me.

So, back to playing around with my new iPod. I finally switched to the UK Audible, and got one free. Being a lady of a certain age, (washes mouth out with soap)it takes me a little longer than some to actually get to grips with all this new technology, but again, I don't relish being beaten. I really want it for audiobooks, but have no objection to a little music - I'm also getting to grips with iTunes, and giving the DSM conniption fits sampling the top twenty albums.

I might grow up one day, but do hope not.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

New necklace

This isn't the beaded necklace that I have been burbling on about in previous posts; that still isn't quite finished. This is the same design, but with different beads, and slightly shorter, designed to go with the devore jacket for the posh dinner. I'm really pleased with it. Also pleased because I think that I have enough of all the beads left to do a bracelet as well. I am going to be frightfully well-behaved at this do - a little bling has to be allowable!

blue-green spiral necklace

Other than that, little progress on any fibre front. I have nearly finished spinning the merino/tencel, then I shall start on the alpaca and silk that is intended for an attempt at the Landscape shawl. And I have been playing around with hook sizes and so on for the crochet jacket, but am feeling a tad unconvinced. I'll have another go at coven this evening, perhaps.

Other than that, I am feeling all too aware that everyone is in the final stages of gearing up for SOAR - and here I sit at home. Ah, well, I'm sure I can think of something to do in compensation........

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Eddys in the space-time continuum

I'm not at my best at the moment. I get like that sometimes, I'll get over it. I'm trying not to bite if prodded.

Probably, re-reading "The Time Traveller's Wife" doesn't help. Or listening to this. I wasn't sure about it, then my attention was caught by "She cooked up some eggs, then she made some tea, kissed me on the cheek, then I turned on her tv" Somehow, after that, it all fell in to place. We are all old geezers now.

I think that dislocation is my perennial curse. I went to the local beading group last night, nice people, I shall go again, I can learn something and it is always good to be around those who share ones mad enthusiasms. But as I introduced myself, I saw the reaction, just for a fleeting second. The accent. Marks me out. We all have our markers. Yes, it is everyone else's problem, not mine, if you care to put it like that. Just doesn't always feel like that.

However, power ironing is always a useful antidote to the megrims. Got behind again, what with the terminal lurgy, and, and. Well, I suppose basically I just hate doing it, any of it, so whatever excuse comes to mind.

Now a few minutes here, and a few more beading before the next burst of domesticity. Yes, it is one of those days. I will soon have an FO, and therefore some pictures. Otherwise, I am spinning a bit and that is all. Perhaps that is what is wrong, eh?

Oh, I forgot. Went to see "Pride and Prejudice". Very pretty. Quite good, actually, and Matthew McFadyean was much better as Darcy than I had thought he might be. As was Keira Knightley as Lizzie, although I still can't quite get my head around a Knightley playing a Bennett......

Maybe that is what I need - a good dose of the Austens.....

Sunday, October 30, 2005


And I really would like to get it just too much to ask for a slightly less choppy sea, or even an unmixed metaphor?

The recovering cat took a step or two backwards. I am trying to persuade myself/him that he is suffering from post-illness depression. You just never know with siamese. If no improvement in the next couple of days, I'm threatening another trip to the vet, that might do the trick.

Then, I get the phonecall from the residential home wherein resides the mater. On a routine visit to the GP she has described her latest funny turn and they diagnose a heart attack and send her off in an ambulance to hospital. Again. I spend the next several hours trying to establish a) her whereabouts and b) her condition. Go to bed planning early morning dashes to her bedside. Only I do track her down first thing the next morning,, and she is as chirpy as can be, obviously not in any danger from a dodgy ticker as she is not on CCU, and indeed is about to be sent home. (The surgery is literally only a few yards away from her residence, and I imagine that they are finalising plans to move as I write, as there is not room for an entire complement of doctors, nurses, receptionists and mama as a permanent resident)

You would think that after all these years, I would know. But of course, she is now, despite her best Canute-like efforts, an elderly lady, and of course the next time could be The Time. I am not actually a total heartless bitch, I do feel enormous sympathy for her, I just wish she would take up another hobby....

So, we revise our plans for Saturday and head east not west to visit and to see what gladrags we can find for the posh dinner next month. Amazingly, we were both successful, both soon to be tricked out in basic black with the addition in my case of a black/blue/green devore jacket. All it needs is a beaded necklace to complete the progress as we speak. Basically the same design as the kit one that I have not quite finished, using, in an amazing coincidental sort of way, some of the extra pearls I bought last weekend. Seeing the DSM in a dj after all these years is quite a revelation, too. Sigh.

In between whiles, I do the class on crochet, lovely day, all had a good time. I also spent some time with them discussing the programme for the next few months and was very pleased at their enthusiastic responses and suggestions. Suggesting to me that things are going ok. So now I need to buckle down to arranging the programme, and devising the material for the so far one off Uni class. Finishing two necklaces (and maybe a bracelet) and confusing the cat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On the up

Having nose-dived dramatically for no discernible reason on Sunday The Cat decided to make an equally dramatic recovery on Monday morning between 6am when the DSM attempted to feed it and 8am when I did. It is now demanding food at every opportunity and prancing around challenging us ever to think that there was ever possibly anything wrong with it. Who will ever understand the feline mind? Well, I'm glad...

I finished the silk mitts. Oh, I maybe said that already, but here's a photo to prove it.

silk mitts

They look and feel very good on. The thumb bit appears a little clunky just lying there in the pic, but actually on the hand is comfortable and works well. I now fancy making a slightly more elegant pair for when we go to the posh black tie dinner next month, elegant dark purples, maybe, depending on the outfit I end up with. That means spinning and crocheting them in around three weeks...oh, why ever not!

Well, why ever not might just be because I have a new and interesting class to teach which is going to need a bit of preparation. Thanks to a friend from another Guild thinking of me. (She actually did, to be strictly honest, ask if I was interested or knew anyone else who might be, but hell's teeth - I'm not going to turn this down.) The tapestry module teacher at a nearby university wants the students to have a session on basic spinning, learning how to do it themselves, understanding yarn structures and how these influence the weave, different fibres - you know all the stuff. On an expenses-only basis this year, but if it works out, it would be a regular thing. I am hugely enthused by the thought of doing it. A different group from those I have worked with before, new challenges for me, all sorts of benefits in fact. I'm sitting hear thinking of samples that I can do, flax, cotton, silk, the ins and outs of plying, smooth yarns, textured yarns. I'm excited!

I also had a nice morning with the Tuesday Book Group. Not enormously excited by the book, but lots of other good talk, and suddenly about knitting. I was sitting between two people who had recently discovered some of the new fancy yarns and simple scarves, and they were so into it, and very happy about it, plus talking about where they might go next - so, don't knock it, anyone. They might only come up with a couple of formula fuzzy scarves, but there again, they might not - they didn't say no to the notion of learning to spin their own!

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Actually, the cold is finally showing some small signs of retreating. It has been a pig.

But the Wumpus cat actually took a tiny paw-step backwards today. Not so very far, so we think everything is still ok, but could do without the anxiety! I'm threatening him with the vet again, that might do the trick!

Although I would much rather have stayed in bed with the duvet pulled over my head this morning, the DSM dragged me out and took me to the Bead Fair at the Harrogate Showground. Come to think about it, staying under the duvet wouldn't have been all that comfortable, breathing difficulties...Anyway, not being all that early moving and having less oomph than usual, I Devised A Plan. We would go round the halls once, and then return to the stalls with the things I wanted. I was looking for certain things only - a vendor who did seeds beads in hanks or other large quantities instead of silly, mingy little tubes; pearls; a decent bead storage system; an interesting focal bead as a treat; and silver-plated Beadalon.

I was successful in everything except the last item. Obviously, UK vendors consider this way too extravagant, and anyway, the regular looks perfectly all right. Well, I don't think so. I do rather like those airy, floaty necklaces that have a few crystals and so on, with lots of exposed wire, but think that the regular wire looks tacky. Opinions? (Anyone who says, "Oh, those necklaces" is straight off my Christmas card list...) Is it worth sending to the US for the echt silver stuff?

I found a very unextravagant dichroic pendant, which I have tried to photograph and failed miserably. I'll try again tomorrow? If and when my head feels clearer still. I remain hooked on dichroic, love the way it sparkles. Plus most of the other special beads I see are those spotty things that look like they have warts. In very poster paint colours. (Could it be that after all my diatribes against the knitting snobs, I am turning in to a bead snob - perish the thought!) And small blue tabby point just burst into the room with some brio, so I think I may well be worrying unnecessarily on that particular score. That would be nice.

I have nearly finished the pair of silk crocheted mitts. Just got beads to put around the cuff - I just happened to have the perfect colour in the stash......

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oh, ..........bother

First and most important - the geriatric cat (so-called by the nice young woman vet, apparently anything after eight is such, which is about forty five in human terms, urk) is doing ok. Nothing untoward showed up on the blood tests. Something of a relief as the DSM was blenching at the thought of a diabetic mog on two needle stabs per day, which was one of the possibilities. Anyway, everything happening is consistent with a really bad go of enteritis, and slow progress is being made. To say I am relieved would be an understatement, of course. I only have cats to scare the bejasus out of me every so often, well-known fact. Ha. Being me, I am naturally now wishing for rather faster progress. Now there's a surprise.

I am blaming the Troll. It is true that the wretched woman puts a lot of left-overs outside, thereby encouraging passing rats and squirrels to take up permanent residence. But my demon hunter could just as likely have caught one of same that happened to be more bacterialogically challenged than usual. But it does my soul good to have an accusation to silently hurl at her from time to time.

However, the remarkably restrained heading above refers to the fact that the first cold of the season has landed. I hate colds. Yes, yes, I've probably said that before, and will do so again. Tough. I feel cold and shivery, fuzzy headed and nasally insufficient. Nasal insufficiency is a nasty state to be in, breathing has a somewhat central role to play in sustaining life as we know it, J...Oops, sorry. Anoxia can do that to a girl. Ah - again!

Mind you, a good thing about being a yarn-producer in these circumstances is that there is a fine supply of nice warm things to snuggle in to on hand. "The Splotchy", the dark green merino/silk shawl is fabulously warm, and is doing sterling service. I hate this - I don't usually feel the cold, temperature-wise, but a nice handspun, handknit shawl can improve matters no end. Not to mention that the time-honoured remedy can now come in to play. Whisky, lemon juice, honey and hot water, taken internally from a bucket-sized container just before settling down to sleep. May not cure the cold, but you sure as hell feel happier. And warmer.

All I have the strength for (strewth, even I am getting tired of this whining!) is to lift a crochet hook from time to time. The second mitt is finished, and in organising for something else, I found a skein of gold/bronze silk, almost certainly a "Chasing Rainbows" product, that I am going to try out for a classier pair. With beads. I should have some in my steadily-growing bead stash that will do the job. If I warm/perk up, I will do a bit more on the necklace I am doing at the moment. I'll post all the details when it is done.

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary - the brain being more fuddled than usual, I had to ask the maths graduate what number we were up to, and then sort of wished I hadn't as the number is getting scary. Yes, yes, I know that is a good thing really, of course it is. Ah, well, another three years, and we will be planning for some sort of extravaganza, and at least we will be still young enough to enjoy it! In fact, we found out that the Scout hostel up the river is available for hire for those sort of functions - who is up for a day-long knees-up in the woods, then?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Neelix, aka Wumpus, has improved in health somewhat. We still don't know what it is - hopefully more news tomorrow when the results of the bloods come back - but it may turn out that the second vet's first guess of enteritis is right, as after some antibiotics he is definitely a bit better. Still not right, but he is eating more. I hate it when animals are ill - we know what our symptoms might mean, and can say "ok, get me to a doctor, this is bad" - they just feel and look quiet and miserable and we have to guess. And make fools of ourselves at the vet's, at least in my case, as I do my hourly obs report, character analysis and so forth. "Er, um, very useful" the nice young woman said yesterday, kindly. You could see the thinks bubble - "yet another besotted middle-aged female doting owner". Means well - mostly harmless.

Anyway, cat-anxiety - any sort, really- usually means doing something fairly mindless with wool.

crocheted mitt

Another thing for the crochet collection. This is working well, looks quite nice - the slightly odd shape and angle in the photo is down to me only having a certain range of angle and distance available given the dimensions of my arms! The other one is well under way.

I am coming to the odd conclusion about crochet with all this. A firm fabric works best for me - given the structure of the stitches, drape isn't too easy to achieve. Double (ie single) crochet, or at a pinch half-treble, makes for a better fabric than anything more open. Holes are not our friend. And continuing the theme, a smaller hook size rather than a larger, again a firmer fabric and minimal holage.

Now, I am quite sure that there are all sorts of crochet aficionados out there who will eloquently assert and prove the exact opposite, and that is fine. But with my yarn and in my opinion, that is what is working best for me so far, and I'm having a good time in the process.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Is this autumn or summer?

It wasn't obvious yesterday. Sunny, with almost clear blue skies and warm enough to sit outside to eat our lunch.

We have a "sitting out area" across from where we park the cars. We used to have a small one and a garden shed, but when we had the garden landscaped (having finally admitted that the 5, er 10 year plan to do it ourselves was not going to ever happen) the chap suggested that we took it down and enlarged the aforementioned. We have a deep-rooted objection to the word "patio", just too suburban, and can't you just hear Niles and Frasier saying that, then!

Anyhow, after discovering the site of the former privy, ie there was a dam' great hole in the ground and the line of the old whitewash on the wall that we hadn't noticed, it was flagstoned and pergola'ed and we rarely use it in the summer because it can get too hot. But spring and autumn, it is warm, sheltered and lovely.

I propped my feet up on the step and unfocussed the eyes, and then realised that there were hundreds and hundreds of insects buzzing all over the ivy that grows all over the wall. Including a cluster of red admirals, their colour absolutely flaming in the sun and against the blue. The ivy is flowering, that's why. More profusely than I have ever seen it do so before.

So, if it berries, which it almost certainly will, and if the berries get to ripen, which is less likely as the birds will think that they have died and gone to heaven and absolutely gorge themselves, then I intend to dye with them.

OK, so I will only get yellow! But I still enjoy trying out the different well-known dye stuffs, just once to say that I have done it.

And this is all displacement activity. I am sitting waiting for the vet to ring me back - she was busy when I rang her. Neelix is ill, and I left him at the surgery this morning for tests and possibly rehydration. So me and Max don't quite know what to do with ourselves.....

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yuck - and not yuck

The second dye job - fewer white bits, the smooshing (nearly) worked. Colour more evenly distributed (is that the right word? Doesn't seem so) throughout the roving, and seemingly no/minimal felting. So far so ok. But remind me never, ever to use Gaywool Wattle Bark again. My poor roving looks like a robin that has flown way to near the Sellafield cooling towers. Who would ever have thought of dayglo brown?

I probably shouldn't say things like that - nothing wrong with the colour, it's the dyer. That's better, no risk of legal action, just me telling the world what a lousy dyer I am, again. Situation normal. Anyway, the DSM came home early enough to see it in natural light and said that he liked it, and would use it if I didn't, so someone thinks it acceptable. Wonder if he has a greater degree of male colour-impaired vision than I had realised? He often labours under the illusion that what we are looking at is green when it is really blue (or vice versa), so maybe he can't tell dayglo brown from....any other more attractive shade. Or maybe he was just being kind?

But this is better.

crochet scarf

The Optim yarn found a good home. All part of the preparation for the crochet class. It is a modified version of the frilly scarf on the cover of the Interweave crochet mag, I thought that a corkscrew effect would look better than just a frill in this particular yarn, and I was right. It was a lengthy process - took me an hour or more a day plus two coven evenings over just a little more than a week. When you get to doubling up stitches, it makes for a very long row. I am going to continue the crochet investigations. More beaded bags upcoming (I just can't help myself.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

More soup

One of the consolations of moving from "summer" to "winter" is soup.

I have always enjoyed making soup, I like the simple task of chopping vegetables and combining them to make something hot, satisfying and tasty on a cold dank evening. And believe me, I am talking about food.

Today for the first time this soup-season, I have made the old standard "cockless leekie". I am sorry if that name is misleading or even offends anyone - but what else do you call a meatless version of the classic "cockaleekie", eh? Actually, I have been throwing it together for so many years that I am not even sure any more that there is any resemblance whatsoever. Mine today consists of onion, leek, carrot, potato and swede. (Yes, SWEDE, that round, yellow root vegetable that is Not A Turnip. Turnips are small, round, but white. I say again - small and white. Let there be no misunderstanding - swede, large and yellow, turnip small and white.) Right. Glad that is settled, then. Oh, ok, I will allow rutabaga if you insist.

Plus pearl barley, vegetable stock, sage and thyme. Simmered until delectable. On the cooker alongside the fish kettle. I am breaking the unbreakable rule again, and dyeing at the same time as I cook. There Is No Alternative.

The first fish kettle experiment went reasonably well. I had white bits rather than the dyes all swooshing together, in other words, I had the thing hot enough when the dyes were poured on and I didn't use too much dye solution. This time, I have risked very gently mashing the fibre very, very slightly with my gloved hand so that the dye solution squidges into the bits I didn't pour it. Isn't my technical language simply marvellous? Despite having sat at the feet of those at the pinnacle of the craft, synthetic dyeing does not come easy for me. Apart from any deficiency of skill on my part, the main reason for that is the aforementioned lack of facilities, and having to shoe-horn each procedure into space occupied already by other activities. But I for one thing would like to be able to produce dyed rovings
for my own use, and also to be able to use this same technique with natural dyes which are more expensive to experiment with. So, get part way thusly.

I fell to musing about the seasons this morning. There was actually some watery sunshine, and with the leaves now changing rapidly if in an unexciting way, it all looked rather pretty. Gone now - back to grey. But I don't think that the seasons used to be like this. Autumn was often quite bright, with the sharp tinge of the first frosts and that lovely crisp smell from the leaves that this engendered. The leaves lay in dry swathes on the ground, and foolish gardeners used to build and fire up bonfires of them instead of making heaps for leaf-mould. By the time we reached 5th November, we would all be snuggled in to scarves and gloves and would need hot drinks around any bonfires we went to stop from freezing to death.

But now, the seasons are all sort of ironed out. We have rare hot days and even rarer chilly days, but I can't remember the last time we had much in the way of a really hard frost, the sort that comes with wall to wall blue skies and a tang in the air that makes you feel good to be alive.

Harrumph. I'm having an old fogeyish spell. Nostalgia rules ok.

Need to go check on my pots. Let's hope I can keep telling them apart.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Bits & Bobs

Sometimes I think that my little Dyson plays games with me. They have a retractable flex, you know? And sometimes I find that it has retracted itself nearly all the way when I come to unplug it, when I know I haven't touched the rocker plate, or whatever you want to call it. Then, sometimes, it doesn't, and really does not want to go in. If that is a punishment for not having given it an outing for way too long, then, well, poot to it. Have I ever mentioned that I hate housework??

Far more interestingly, even if it doesn't work out - the fish kettle is on the cooker, and it even has fibre and dye in it. My conscience smote me right between the eyes this morning, as I hurdled over it for the umpteenth time. I should either put it away or use the damn thing. So.......

fish kettle dyeing

(Steam rather than camera-shake this time, I think.) This is the first step on to a rather steep learning curve, I think. I don't mind is this one doesn't work out, I need to find the best way to do this. The aim, ultimately is to use Earthhues, and to get some subtly different natural dye shades on a roving. I don't think that the Falklands is going to be the best top to do this, something a bit more robust might be better. We shall see.

Spent yesterday on the Guild stand at the Show Formerly Known As Madeira. It was very quiet. I took my charka, and enjoyed spending several hours getting back up to speed, I don't use it enough and the project's worth of green cotton is growing only very slowly! But I was mindful the entire time of Elaine Benfatto's strictures about posture/position and so on. The chair and table I was using would not have won any seals of approval, but there was no alternative. By the end of the day, I definitely had used a few different muscles. Still, it gave me the excuse to get up and wander round a few times, although I didn't spend much, I am saving for the Bead Fair in two weeks time.

It wasn't a bad day, but I have grown a-weary of that sort of demonstrating. We strut our stuff and perform nicely, but I am never sure what purpose is served. Most of our audience consider us prize nutters - or else they are already converted, in which case we can all have a nice chat. Oh, what a grump.....

Did a mad dash over to York on Friday evening to have dinner with a visiting SOAR friend and three of her so guild members, plus a mutual friend from Sheffield (a complicated relationship!) Actually, had a very nice time, good meal, and very pleasant to spend time with people who appreciate what each other does. The very Italian waiter was not sure whether to be amused, bemused or supercilious.

Makes up a tad for not going to SOAR.....

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Design problems

I am sure that I have twined on much about my inability to design anything. Sometimes things work, sometimes they do not - any pre-planning, design, whatever you like to call it is purely accidental. It is a botherment.

And now, I have this -

latest yarn

This being the large pile of grey Falklands tops plus a little bit of coloured stuff (and I do actually have another such, different colour, if it seems necessary, assuming I can find it. It is in my workroom somewhere.......) I was originally thinking sweater, in fact I blogged as such a while back. But the more I mull it over, the more I think that a jacket would be a good thing. I have been racking my poor ancient brain to try to squirrel out what I am after, and not really getting there. However, it suddenly has occurred to me that rather than angsting over it here until driving myself and anyone else who drops by totally insane, that maybe I should spend an afternoon with that large, festering pile of knitting magazines that I have, also somewhere in my workroom, and I do know in which approximate area which is more than I do for the yarn....

So there again we have the power of the blogging process. This was intended to be a post in which I tried to calmly (yes!) go through all the things that I have difficulty with, can't do, angst about, etcblergh. Yes, this was intended to be purposeful - if I did it step by step, maybe I would see a way out. But instead, a plan comes fully formed, as far as it goes - find a design that I like in a magazine and then attempt to adapt it to my particular circumstances....d'er.

Might I actually turn in to a fully-fledged adult one day?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cashmere and crochet

The cashmere is progressing quite nicely. I swapped to the smaller whorl/higher ratios on my Timbertops, and am finding it pretty effortless to spin. I'm still struggling a little bit with consistency, but it's not too bad. My only trouble is that I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do with this when it is all spun up. Mind you, I do have some more very nice cashmere, I could do the lot and then think about it?


Despite having realised that my next class is not until the very end of the month, I am still working on crochet bits and bobs, mostly because I am enjoying so doing. I have said here before, I am sure, that crochet was my first love, rather than knitting, and that I still prefer the physical act of construction, the rhythmic nid-nod of the hook to that of knitting needles. It is just that it doesn't always look right with handspun yarn when completed.

So here we have:

tapestry crochet

a small tapestry crochet bag under construction, and it will remain pretty much like this to show how it is done. I took a class with Elaine Benfatto last year at SOAR, and although I can't do the magic thing that she can, I did get the gist. She can manage both yarns over the fingers of her left hand so that they don't tangle - I have to drop them turn and turn around, plus untangle them from time to time, which is a bit of a pain but you do kind of get in to a rhythm with it. This is a crochet technique that works really well with handspun.

A collection of bits and pieces


The grey fabric in the background is the plain double crochet (single if in the US!) waistcoat I was working on a while back, now completed and slightly fulled by putting through the washer and dryer once each for a short time. I ended up with what I think is quite a useful garment, if unexciting. The fulling worked very well, just firmed the whole thing up a bit, shrinking it only a tad. I am playing around with a bag in the same yarn, fulled a lot more and hopefully ending up with beads in some way, but it isn't done yet, and looks like nothing on earth at the moment. We shall see. Then, there are two silk beaded bags, a stitch sampler and this:

wire crochet bag

I have been wanting to experiment with wire in knitting and crochet for a while, and this is my first attempt. Well, it does actually look reasonable up close, but I can't think what could ever be done with it other than call it an objet d'art. I have though seen some great knitted bracelets, and I think I will try that next.

Now. I mentioned the dread words "web" and "site". And as I have said before, one of the points for me of blogging is that if I put it down in bits and bytes that I am going to do something, then I am honour bound to either give it a go, or explain just why the hell not. And so, I have really and truly started. More than that, I cannot say....but I have begun the designs a Word doc, and am sorting through and taking more photographs. So - ta-da...spindles. (Which is to be the primary focus of the site.)


A small part of my personal collection, and don't they look pretty?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ordinary weekend stuff

Running around type chores yesterday, some of which I should have done on Thursday but parking in town was impossible. Impossible. Our local council, bless its stony little heart, is turning all the free on-street parking into paid parking slots, redoing the space available in the process. Someone, for some unadvertised reason, was digging a large hole in the middle of town, taking away more parking slots, at least temporarily, plus making progress around very slow by virtue of a traffic light system. And it was market day. I spent a tedious half-hour trying to find a space and gave up. What on earth will happen well the new system is completed, I shudder to think. Prolly, we'll all go to Tesco.

I invented another recipe. But not quite so successful this time. Nice, very nice, but not exceptional. Tomato and goats cheese tart. I made a white pastry shell, part-baked it, made a rich tomato sauce with lots of basil and a good slug of sherry, reduced it down a lot and then whizzed it to a thick puree. Put it in the crust, and put fairly thinly sliced bouche de chevre on top, with more basil. (I like basil.) Baked until the cheese was brown and slightly crusty. Did taste good.

Got up early, for a Sunday (sometimes the DSM is a saint.) We went to York to visit the mater - I had decided to see how a morning-only visit went, as she had got pretty tired the last couple of times we had been over, and was still not wanting to go out. She seemed a bit perkier than recently - she will be over the abrupt cessation of the medication that some idiot doctor told her to do, which had put her into a form of withdrawal, and has lead to this latest bout of depression. Anyway, all went quite well, and we stopped in Bishopthorpe for a sandwich, thus finding a very pleasant pub that we can take her to next time.

We visited a garden centre on the way home, and got a pot for the eucalyptus which has survived my total neglect of it all summer. With a bit of luck, it will get through the winter with a bit of nurturing and I can trim it somewhat next year and actually get to dye with it! Did a few other outside bits and bobs.

Around all of these utterly riveting goings on, I have been spinning cashmere. I need to was the mountain of grey Falkland, and the Lambspun blue/green stuff before starting to sample for the next knitting project, and I needed something to spin, after all. I find cashmere rather nervewracking, and I am not getting a totally consistent yarn, dammit - but that may just possibly be because of the source, not from Adelaide Walker, who have the most yummy stuff, but from slightly further south, where I often feel the quality is a tiny bit sus. Going to be nice and soft, though.

The major decision of the weekend, though, is to really start on the website. If I begin on the design for the pages in Word, then just maybe my computer professional could be persuaded to action this winter????? (If you do ever get around to reading this, sweetie, you could leave a comment pledging thus.....) So, tomorrow, to work.

And finally....Neelix's turn. Please note the total mess behind this pair - that's the stash. Not to mention the grubby gardening pants. But cute.....

man & cat

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Blog soup

By which I mean the final Cornwall photograph, a recipe, an image of autumn and a finished object. But not necessarily in that order.

Today the sun is making at least an effort to show forth, unlike yesterday which was about as miserable and depressing as it gets around here. Unable to motivate myself to do anything meaningful until quite late on in the day, I found myself in the kitchen, where I managed all unwitting to surpass myself. I have never considered myself a good baker, particularly of scones, but yesterday, the rose and glowed gold and eventually tasted delicious with jam and clotted cream brought back from Cornwall.

But I also invented (at least, I have never come across it) a new soup recipe: take one small cauliflower, one large sweet white onion, a handful of unsalted cashew nuts, another of dried coconut flakes, a teaspoonful of coriander seeds, a cup of red lentils and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Oh, and a tablespoonful of clotted cream which I happened to have to hand, but any other sort of cream or even milk would work ok, I think. Plus about one pint of vegetable stock (I always use Marigold, my days of making my own stock are long gone.)

Chop the cauli and the onion, sweat in a little olive oil. Throw in all the other ingredients except the cream, simmer until the cauli is soft. Add the cream, and whiz in the food processor or whatever. Adjust seasoning and consistency - mine came out like a velvety smooth cream.

Cheered up a foul day no end.

So, today's improvement in the weather brought forth this photo:

Virginia creeper

I love my virginia creeper; this is an early stage, hopefully, I will get a later and redder image.

And, speaking of Virginia....although Virginia Woolf set her novel "To the Lighthouse" in Scotland, the lighthouse she had in mind was actually this one:

To the Lighthouse

This is another of our favourite places in Cornwall, Godrevy, on the north coast not far from St Ives. We have been going there for years, and we actually went twice this time for reasons not to bore anyone with just now. We spent quite a long time on the beautiful beach, which I don't have a photo of unfortunately. But the lighthouse on the island is always worth a shot.

And finally - an FO!

Green shawl

OK, so this is not showing up well, I fear. I will have another go. But I had to prove that I had finished it. The splotches are not really showing, and it is very
snuggly. Well, that's merino and silk for you.

Now, what next?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What I did on my holidays

Well, some of it anyway.

Whenever we visit the DSM's ma, I like to nip down to Charlestown for a wander round. Not that it takes long, the central bit is pretty small. But there is something about it that fascinates me, and a year or two back we rented a cottage there. This time, we went back to the same one, as there were four of us. It's too big and on the pricey side for just us two.

I think one of the attractions of Charlestown is that it was built all of a piece, and is largely unspoiled. The harbour has been kept in good working order, and is the home of a number of sailing ships which nowadays are mainly used in film work. If you have seen "Poldark" or "The Onedin Line", you have seen Charlestown. One of the most recent incarnations was as the home of Fanny Price's family in "Mansfield Park". Quite unmistakeable if you knew the area, and could then laugh as the coach and four galloped off in the direction of a dead end (the other way would have taken them smack dab in to the briny.......)

There are a few mentions on the web, including this.

There was filming going on this time while we were there, and I spent many a happy half hour hanging over the wall watching, along with a small and decorous crowd of other film crew manque. I would have been a location-spotter in a different existence. Or continuity. I find it endlessly fascinating.

Apart from anything else, they had two of the ships out in the bay, and at one point on Saturday night must have been filming a battle scene, because we kept hearing cannon fire. That felt strange... but we got to see them both come back in to harbour, under power not sail, but exciting none the less.

Into harbour

Next in to harbour


The weather while we were there was super, which does just about show in these photos, even though it was getting on towards early evening. The ships had to get in through a fairly narrow harbour entrance, and the rope sat neatly laid out, rather than coiled just where they came through. It was a very skilful job, not one bump. The director was buzzing about in a little rubber dinghy, very self-important.

There were so many incongruities - a disreputable-looking old sea dog slouching on a sea phone clamped to his ear. A woman in a crinoline scooting up the road to the commissary, coming back clutching a plastic cup of coffee. Two palm trees in pots, being moved around the place to increase the illusion of being in the Caribbean. (Got the weather right, anyway.)

The plot seemed to be about slaves and the relationships between other blacks and then the white "masters". Possibly a drama-doc, I never saw much "acting" going on. At one point I came upon a gruesome scene where a slave was being branded, with attendant ghastly screams of agony - the weird thing was that if I had seen that on the tv, I would have looked away and felt queasy, but seeing it acted in front of my very eyes, somehow I knew that it was not real and I could watch - weird, how the brain works.

A few more photos and then I will stop.




There are more on Flickr - and I am amused to see that there are some ads adjacent to my photographs relating to "Charlestown" - sorry, chaps, wrong one!

Enough for now.