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.