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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Well, duh......

There are times when I amaze even myself, the depths of stupidity that I can achieve.

So, first thing this morning to the bathroom. The window is open, and a very large wasp is buzzing around on the pane, on the inside. I do not like wasps, being allergic to an undetermined extent, but I try not to actually kill them if I can avoid it.

So, I whiz around, pick up a cup from the washbasin to encourage the damn thing to scoot out of the window, lunge with it at the pesky thing, and......

My dental plate (so now the world knows that little secret, too) which ALWAYS LIVES IN THAT PARTICULAR GREEN CUP flies straight out of the bathroom window.

O, bugger.

Someone was looking after me - I galloped downstairs, and out on to the damp flagstones, without benefit of footwear, and the glittery little gnasher is there in plain sight. Phew. And seemingly undamaged, too. Thank you, whoever.

This tale, for all it exemplifies the idiocy of which I am sometimes capable, now forces me to recount the tale of Maud and her false teeth. Maud was my grandmother, who like so many of her generation lived by the maxim "Waste not, want not." She had a full set (not like my insignificant bijou model) which one day, when I was around six years old, was et by the dog. Now, there could be many reasonable ways to react to this occurrence, and murdering the dog could even be one of them. Surgery, definitely, with anaesthetic perhaps an optional extra (don't panic, I don't mean a word of this, I am totally known as an animal nut, it is all just for dramatic effect). However, Maud did, as ever, the unexpected.

With sang froid and great patience, she followed the dog around until nature did what nature will do. The false teeth, full set, were retrieved from the steaming pile, washed (and I do hope disinfected) and POPPED BACK IN. I did love my grandmother dearly and take after her in many ways. But I wouldn't follow her example quite that far.

The episode, the book group (High Wind in Jamaica, which I enjoyed a lot, opinions welcomed) and the trip to Tesco's mean no more Cornwall photos as yet. Fiddle de dee.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Can you get jetlag from driving back up the motorway from Cornwall

The DSM says it is psychological. I don't ever feel too bad from the trip down, but coming home reduces me to a state of cream-crackeredness. So, yesterday I was very tired, which meant that when invited out for the evening, the sensible response would have been to say no. When do I ever do the sensible thing? Had a good time, too, really, of which more later.

If fact, there is a lot of catching up to do from the last week, which will take me more than one post. I didn't do exactly a lot of spinning or knitting, but then I wasn't sitting around peacefully all that much. Really, all I did was knit the green shawl, and I still haven't finished it. Can you have a low-key action-packed week? I think that is what just happened.

We left on Friday evening after my AH class. Which went very well, they really enjoyed the latest variation of the lecture on natural dyeing. And I had two complete beginners who were very nice, keen and in one case quick to pick up spinning - the other one was a little less so, but I think will get there if she sticks at it. The class was overfull, and this is becoming a real problem. Of course, I chose to put my foot down at what turned out not to be the best moment, but I'm not sorry to have discovered an ability to be firm - it will stand me in good stead.

Uneventful drive down to where we were staying that night, had an excellent meal and a good night's sleep, before going on to pick up the DSM's aunt in Somerset. When we got to DMIL's house, the rest of the outlaws arrived not long afterward and I managed to lose my cool with DSIL without having a screaming match and embarrassing anyone except possibly her, but what the hell, we all survived!

I'll do some pretty piccies maybe tomorrow, but here finally is The Shawl, wrapped around DMIL no less. Who probably doesn't know that she is about to be on the internet, but I think it is a great photograph and can't resist.

Birthday shawl

That is, of course, her eldest little boy in the background, and in fact the gruesome photograph beyond that. (The curtains have been in the family since the 1960s, and have years of useful life left in them, dammit, despite all my offers to find brilliant material from a mill shop and to make new ones. There is a war on, you know - oh, well, no, it was over sixty years ago, but the principle still applies!)

Despite my rudeness, I love my MIL, she is a great person, never makes me feel dumb because she went to Oxford and was a County bridge player. She looks pretty damn fine for 90, too.

Then, I don't have a photo for this one, but went to another birthday party last night. My niece this time, who it was good to see, and I got to meet the boyfriend, who seems piratically nice, and the half-sister, who is lovely and I hope to get to know better. Well, both of them, but you know what I mean.

More Cornwall stuff to come, it all got quite exciting at times. Nice to be back, though, despite the better climate there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Just one of those days

Oh, I should so not be doing this. My "to do" list is ....... long, and this is not on it. But I suddenly realised that I had not recorded blogwise either the necklace that I had completed for my mother, or the card that I made for his. And as I rather like both, it seemed like a good idea to do so.

Well, it is and it isn't. I definitely want a record of what little I achieve. But today is not such a good day for so doing. I'm short of time - a pressing need and a deadline or two, a class to teach and a journey to make. Ho, pressing need - my subconscious is obviously making a valiant effort to get me downstairs and standing in front of the ironing board - well done, it!

And not to whinge, but for whatever reason, today I seem to ache in every part of the body. I can only suppose that it has something to do with sitting in a Victorian church yesterday afternoon for quite a while. Hard, narrow, uncomfortable pew designed by those good and godly Victorians to mortify the body and keep you awake during interminable sermons; decidedly chilly church despite quite a mild day outside. (I'm not going to come up with any rationale for that one.)

However, the upshot seems to be that however hard I try, I can't get rid of camera shake today, and I really can't spend any more time on this. So these puny efforts will have to do as both items will be in the hands of their intended owners soon.

This is the necklace.

Ivy's necklace

Well enough. I tried for a close-up, but the result was rather like one of those shots of car headlights with a static camera, or slow speed. Pretty, but.......I need to do more herringbone spiral to get tightened up on the tension.

And the card:


I used the little piece of freeform beadwork with blue seed beads and tiny freshwater pearls that I did a while back, mounted on dyed silk carrier rod. Which I didn't dye myself, but could have and will do, before anyone asks. In the flesh, the end result doesn't look as "fluffy" as this, it must be an effect of the light. Anyway, I am very pleased to have managed a card (and for whatever reason, I find those very difficult to get done).

OK, as I have even more on the list for tomorrow that probably won't get done....I shall no doubt find myself blogging. An attempt at discipline will be made however, in which case, this will be silence here for just over a week whilst we jaunt off to Cornwall. There should hopefully be time for R&R as well as for family visiting and partying (or what passes for that) and I shall attempt to take some nice happysnaps of glorious Cornish scenery. I'm also looking forward to a bead-buying expedition.....

(Oh - and I am reliably informed that my somewhat feeble Guardian Notes&Queries response was in fact included. Brevity always does the trick!)

See you later.

Monday, September 12, 2005



Imagine me, if you will, crawling out from the tunnel, a limp and dispirited figure with bedraggled hair and pale visage. Trembling, oh so piteously, and holding out a hand in supplication.

I'm so sorry. I realise that I am a pathetic creature, but when I tell you that I have been two entire days, a whole forty eight hours without my broadband connection, maybe some understanding if not sympathy will flutter in a bosom somewhere. No? Oh, well, then, never mind.

I was on the phone to the mater (aside....could there be some deeper significance here?) when the line started wurbling, breaking, squeaking, echoing and finally we were back to the damn thing going ringringringring&etc again. So I rushed upstairs, logged on and attempted to report the fault via the BT website, but failed, so emailed the DSM. Went away and got on with real life for a bit, came back, attempted to log on, and that was when....It was a terrible moment, if only in that I realised the extent of my dependence.

Still, one good thing about BT, they do work weekends! So, all day Saturday they were sending messages of one sort or another to the DSM's mobile telling him that yes, there was a fault on the line. On Sunday afternoon, the landline rang with an engineer telling me that we were all fixed now. And let us hope that we are at the end of it......

So, Saturday, the workshop, went ok, I think. Nice to see some old friends again. The DSM was able to spend the entire time knitting the border on to the 90th birthday shawl, and in fact finishing it, although he did redo the final join on Sunday morning. We washed it, rolled it in towels and got it to a remarkable state of dryness just doing that - it was too murky outside to bother trying to drape it out somewhere. So, now it is pinned out on the spare room floor - there is just room - and hopefully it will be dry enough to pack by Thursday.

90th birthday shawl

In this next one, you can see something of the pattern.

90th birthday shawl

DMIL was a terrific bridge player until a very few years ago, and in hunting through books on lace patterns, the DSM found a couple with hearts and I think diamonds. So he set to and charted spades and clubs to go with them - amazing. He has done a lovely job. Mind you, every time anyone handles it, the very first thing they comment on is the softness, which is down to my spinning, so I did play my part in this enterprise. Still, I couldn't have designed it, or executed it for that matter, and I am very pleased for him as it mattered a lot to him that it came out well. I will put up a photo of it draped when it comes up off the spare room floor!

While I was fossicking around with the digital camera. Max did his getting on the porch roof and yelling to come in routine, and I couldn't resist teasing him.

Max, again

The slight blurriness of the image is actually caused by the dirtiness of our window. I would be ashamed of us if we were not spending all our time on much more satisfying creative enterprises!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The sea is much calmer now

Not that I actually know about the sea. Wish I did. The only thing wrong with living where I do is that I am a long way away from the sea, and I miss it. The DSM, theoretically, could see the sea every working day, but he is always terribly sniffy about it, or rather, the acres of wet sand which is all he claims ever to clap eyes on.

I am digressing wildly.

My phone was in this mornings post, I put the SIM back in, and by George! I think we have lift-off. At least I can go to the coven, sad and depleted little gathering that it will be this evening, and not have to worry about driving back phoneless.

So, spirits somewhat lifted, I spend the greater part of the day spinning in preparation for teaching at a guild on Saturday. I do an "Improve your Spinning" workshop, which so far has always gone down quite well. It is all stuff that I know inside out, but it never hurts to run over everything again, check notes, refresh on how to spin those durn fancy yarns...

Does anyone ever actually use fancy yarns in any meaningful way? I have to confess that I never, ever have, just learned them and now practice them to pass on to other people. I can see the point of learning them, it is all about having control of your handspinning so that you can produce the yarn you actually want or need to spin. Having things (well, some things, anyway!) under control is good. So I can take them through cable and slub, knot and marl, fancy Navajo plies with a will now.

I am also pleased and amazed, my ad about selling spindles in the Journal has borne fruit to the extent of someone wanting no less than three at once! Wow. As they say. I'm taking those on Saturday, too, so might do more. Every little helps. (I am challenging myself to use as many cliches over the next year as I possibly can. I like cliches.)

Also had an AH class admin thing to sort out - a regular trying to book late again and being turned down. We managed, I think, but maybe I need to tell them that I can't act as intermediary any more. Every time I think I have it sorted with the staff, it happens all over again. Also prompts me to suggest that they might try putting on a beginners one day class, see how that goes. Next week should be ok, I'm doing the famous natural dyeing lecture. Just need to brush up on that now......

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Knitting and ranting

I am so glad that I am knitting something straightforward, so I can just sit there and steam along, almost literally steam, it's practically coming out of my ears.

I'm steaming about more of the things that I keep hearing about what has happened in New Orleans, even allowing for the massive rumour mill that is rumbling on now. Reduce the tales by half, and it is still a complete and utter disgrace.

But I have a personal, petty grievance that has really got my goat today. The weekend we went to Cambridge for the wedding, I bought myself a new mobile phone. I started out with BT Cellnet, and have stayed with that network whilst it transmogrified itself a time or two and eventually ended up as O2. Just before the Bank Holiday weekend, I realised that it was dead in the water, or rather, my shoulder bag (just after driving back from Freyalynn's lateish at night and in the dark, I might add.....) So, googled away merrily and found that the nearest and most convenient O2 store to me (and that not very, as I normally never go there - it holds 'orrible memories for me.....) was in Keighley, and of we went. Now, in Cambridge, the O2 staff were all quite bright, sane and personable. Not so in Keighley. Oh, probably bright enough, not so sure about the sane, but they had not been to the right staff training academies, if they had been to any at all. Not impressed. Anyhow, got the agreement of the toddler who served me, after he had checked "upstairs" that they would post my replacement phone rather than me having to go back to pick it up.(He couldn't just give me one, that would have been far too simple, only if a phone failed within four weeks could that be done. This was more like six.) Back in a week.

So, ten days on, I telephone O2 Keighley. From the absolute get-go, the first person I spoke to was to say the least, disdainful. Rude. I quickly became rather more so myself. They Did Not Post Phones. (Repeat ad nauseam, followed by me saying You Agreed That You Would. I can still hum a bar or two of "We shall not be moved" when I choose.

Eventually, I was passed along the line to the manager of O2 Keighley, who would, frankly, have got a kick in the goolies if I had been actually in his presence. The fool could not grasp just why I was so particularly annoyed when he kept saying that he had to check with whoever had told me my phone could be posted to me before it could be done. IF "he" confirmed it, then..."Excuse me" quoth I "I am telling you so, and my husband can confirm that" Around the mulberry bush again. I did point out to him that he was de facto accusing me of uttering falsehood, but he seemed not to take it in. Obviously, the customer is always wrong is rule one in the O2 staff training manual.

It ended with me having the last word, but it remains to be seen if my phone materialises - they do admit to having it on the premises at least.

I am cross. O2 head office is about to get One Of My Letters (they scorch).

Praise be for knitting.

Now lets count up how many times I managed to get O2 in to this post......

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Watching bubbles in the sunlight

It is the most beautiful day.

There come, occasionally, these in this damp little country of ours. Days when the skies are the clearest, brightest blue, a blue that you wish eyes could be. Because if eyes were that clear and bright, they would see with total clarity and honesty.

If there are clouds, they are small, puffs and streaks of pure white, moving with grace and serenity rather than being harried and hustled by harsh winds.

(I heard last night that the definition of "strong breeze" was when it was difficult to keep an umbrella open. I do not like that definition - a breeze should be gentle, smooth, kind....)

I have been sitting outside blowing bubbles. This ageing child still from time to time will buy the tubes of the thick detergent beloved in her real childhood, where you dip your wand in and then gently blow, breeze-like, at the loop slick and dripping with potential bubble. My skill is not great. My bubbles are variable in size and quality. But I love to watch them rushing upwards, gleaming with oil-slick colours, polka-ing and twinkling into the clear blue sky.

Bubbles, variable and fragile. Some drift on, until quite out of sight. Others land and last a little while, quivering in the air. Some rush recklessly, blindly at unsuitable things and - pop. I have never been able to keep a bubble. Bubbles, beautiful, not last forever.

Ultimately - people are fragile, just like bubbles.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Shrug it off?

Today did not get off to a good start. At 4 am our phone appeared to have a nervous breakdown; not ringing in the ring-ring, ring-ring normal sort of oh my god if it's ringing at four in the morning who has died sort of way. But an hysterical ring-ring-ring-ring-ring and so on ad infinitum sort of way. If "answered", it would stop briefly, then start up again. I gently suggested to the DSM that we unplugged the phones and attempted to get back to sleep; he opted for phoning the engineers, and we then had more ring-ring-ringing until he unplugged the phones at about five. I gently suggested that we decreed it a very early rising kind of a day,and compensated at the other end, but we settled back down and I at least didn't fall asleep until sevenish, waking at eight thirty feeling like...well, you can imagine.

The phone is now dead - BT do at least say it is their problem, not ours; and hopefully will fix it in the next 24 hours. And - thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I have a broadband connection, so I Will Survive.

However, things improved after that. I had ordered a Bosworth Moosie for someone else a while back, and then found that I could have another for me if I liked. Decided to get it, as the first was so pretty and a much better spindle than I had expected. Not only did it arrive, and yes, it is lovely, but it didn't get caught by Customs. Sheila had spun a little glittery fluff on it, and although the colour co-ordination doesn't show quite accurately in this photo (it looks more orange and less purpley), I do assure you the match with what I was wearing this morning was marked!


I then had an email from the (young?) woman who I was supposed to be giving a spinning lesson to yesterday morning. It is really annoying to keep a Sunday morning free, get up and moving promptly, organise stuff for teaching, not to mention getting psyched up ditto - and then have a no-show. Still, she has now apologised, but not, I am not sorry to say, rebooked. Too much hassle!

I'm going to go awol from one or two email lists that I am on for a while. The tragedy in New Orleans has unleashed not only a tide of generosity and kindness, but also one of idiocy. At every opportunity, and this is one, there is a small group of usual suspects who crank out the same nonsense on a couple of topics, and there are only so many times that I can watch it go by without saying something that I shall maybe regret. (There is no point in trying for a reasonable debate here, positions are far to entrenched.) I think though that I have heard the most criminally stupid thing to date, that one individual keeps not only weapons, but ammunition for it in their vehicle at all times, just in case....the mind does rather more than boggle. I would find it hard to think that could be legal, but......

Anyway, I have been intrigued by hearing some of the interviews with returning Brits who have finally been air-lifted out telling us not to believe all the tales of atrocities on the part of some of the citizens; and also repeated interviews with one of the BBC guys, who is obviously very angry and upset by some of the things he has seen some of "the authorities" do - or not do. At least now things do seem to be improving for those poor souls, but what will happen over then next few months is anyone's guess.

Oh, let's get back to fibre. I finished spinning the grey Falklands - finally! It turned out to be very mixed in colour and quality. I need to spin some colour to go with it, and then assess the entire lot. This is the promised photo of the infant shrug:

Shrug - not!


(The colour is not quite accurate here, either - it is closer to British Racing Green.) It quickly became apparent that there was not going to be enough yarn for a shrug, so it is, of course, going to grow up to be yet another shawl. But I think, the best yet - lovely cushy yarn, with a nice gleam of silk. Although I was so rude about it in the spinning, washed and dyed is another matter entirely, a lot of the inconsistency of it has vanished in the fulling and it is nice and bouncy. Good to knit with.

Time to feed the mogs, and get me a cup of tea to help keep me awake......

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I was mid-phonecall with sueb yesterday afternoon, when I belatedly realised that midnight had arrived early - the sky was pitch, inky black, and there were distant growls of thunder. I did have the good sense at that point to switch off the pc, but carried on gasbagging on the cordless phone.....

Massive, overhead crack of thunder, lights flicked of and then on again, phone went out - at least, I thought it had, but even after several seconds, there we were, still talking to one another. I was amazed that somehow the transatlantic connection survived the break! However, I did then realise that staying on the line was perhaps not the most sensible of ideas, so....didn't.

Wow, am I glad I hung up! It turned out to be one of the (UK-style) super thunderstorms that there were some of earlier in the year. The lightning flick-flick-flickered, and the thunder rolled round and round and round. Must have lasted for an hour, all told. Pretty heavy rain, too. In fact, it was probably just about the worst storm that I ever remember in this country. (Have come across worse in Europe - pink and green lightning is pretty amazing, that was in France years ago, and last summer in Colorado we had a couple of beauties.)

Despite all the rain yesterday, I finally managed to get my now-forest-green merino and silk yarn dry, and have sampled for a shrug. I really did do an actual for-real sample, all of two inches by two inches, and now am doing the more normal for me sort of sample of casting on and seeing how it goes. The yarn is in fact rather nice. Higher in silk content than I had thought, so very light in weight although chunky in grist, and with a good sheen. The "design" is for moss stitch cuffs, a moss stitch border, stocking stitch body. I have increased with yarn overs for two rows and may put in another one when I can either find our "Denise" circs set, or wrest the regular one the DSM is using from his hands when he gets back from work. I'm sure he could use something else. I'm thinking about shaping it slightly, scalloping the bottom edge downwards at centre back. Assuming that it looks ok after a few more rows.

I need a pic, don't I?