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.....