Friday, November 30, 2007

Another day nearer to Christmas

So I should be panicking? I'm not. Very little Christmas knitting. Very little Christmas baking (I learned many years ago that Betty's or the Village Bakery does most of it much better than I ever could.) I shall make the Traditional Nut Roast, and Traditional Veggie Sausage Rolls. The mince pies (aka doorstops) are already done because my mother requested some - we are off to York tomorrow to visit, so I did the entire batch.

And after visiting the mater, we shall go knock off the greater part of the shopping. Actually, I rather enjoy Christmas shopping, the DSM and I potter around amicably, usually manage both a nice lunch somewhere, and tea at Betty's, and then roll home to a bottle of something red, feeling virtuous.

So, progress? No photographs. I haven't, this week, done anything very much to be worth recording. Up until today, I had been considering the notion of moving into a care home, or somesuch, as I was still feeling so seedy. Now I am reasonably confident that I am going to live, and live large. Funny how that can happen overnight. It has been a policy of one teeny step at a time, which felt pretty feeble, but does seem to have worked. So not only is the house not as grubby as it was, but the ironing has been reduced to a manageable hillock instead of a mountain, and I have knitted a little bit every day too. Not much spinning - I am about to go finish off the Whitefaced Woodland.

Oh, the chaos is out there, just out of my range of vision, ready to sweep down and overwhelm me if given the proverbial inch. But at the moment, it is held in check. Lights will help - apart from yesterday, it has been a really dark, dank week, enough to give anyone a fit of the glooms. So I need to switch on lights and light up candles. Actually, I need a new set of lights - I try to buy some about every other year to feed my passion for the fairy lights which go up for Christmas and then somehow never come down again. Three sets worth at present, two in the sitting room and one in the dining room at the last count. It'll take more, I tell you.....

On a slightly saner note, it looks as if we have another workshop to add to the list for next year. Which will make five if the unconfirmed one ever gets back to me. Wow. Good job we enjoy doing them! This means, of course, that the professional compartment of my life needs some serious attention. I see a New years resolution shaping up.......

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Where did THAT week go, then, eh?

With me zapped with a cold, that's where. Very hard to find the energy to do much, it was. Apart from rediscovering the delights of reading Georgette Heyer.

Even stuff that had been done was undone, ultimately. The Regia Bamboo sock was too small and was frogged; I attempted a little desultory knitting on the second Jaywalker, and then found I had in my befuddled state got the pattern slightly wrong, and have had to frog that, too.

So I tried spinning. I fell in love with the Norwegian traditional knitting whilst on holiday, and what with the class on working with colours, it seemed a fine idea to aim for a pair of mittens. I didn't have two matching yarns in my stash (of course) so a decided to spin some White-faced Woodland roving that I have acquired form a reliable source.

Grabbed a bag of it and set to. Some time later, and by that time in a foul humour, I stopped to consider what was going on. This stuff was proving awful to spin, and was an incredibly weak yarn, no matter what I did to it. I pulled off a bit of the roving and inspected it closely. First thing, loads of neps. That was odd. But worst, it was a very, very short staple. Now, I haven't spun all that much WFW, but I hadn't thought it was known as such.

At that point, I moved on to consider the bag it was in. Which was when I found it was actually Ile-de-France, bought just to see what it was like.

Now I know.

Found the real WFW and tried again, and boy, what a difference - no neps, a much cleaner prep and a better staple length.

I have a photo . It is slightly blurry, but gives the idea, at least it would if I had remembered to put a coin for scale in with. And I don't have time to redo, so - the IDF is on the left, and the sample is is barely an inch from end to end. (I might try to do this over, if I remember and find the time.)


Other than that, I cancelled my class at AH last Friday, I was still feeling somewhat grim. I did, however, yield to the blandishments of the DSM to bestir myself to go to the Knitting and Stitching Show the next day, and in many ways I wish I hadn't as I think I set myself back rather. I didn't buy all that much = the usual souvenir sock yarn, a couple of bead kits and a pair of dark green Crocs! Oh, and him and me found Christmas presents for one another, really rather splendid handbags. That scuppers the Knit Picks circ set that I had been angling for, but never mind. I may get lucky with the Christmas present money.

I should have been at the Tuesday morning Book Group today, but spectacularly overslept, waking just as the chap who has the Herculean task of knocking our garden in to shape arrived. Still, it gave me a chance to talk to him about a few things, and then start to catch up a bit on the housework. The ironing has turned in to Quatermass' monster again whilst my back has been turned. I have far more interesting things to be doing, but won't be able to settle to them until I have reduced the chaos a bit.

Meanwhile, I finally cast on the Meadow Flowers(?) shawl from Knitters' Stash, so stand b for storms and tempests!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Keeping on keeping on

I still feel fogged with the cold, but there is perhaps a bit of an improvement. I simply hate having colds. I always feel like shit but can never decide if I am being a wuss - a flashback to childhood when any excuse to get out of school and stay home in the warm was grabbed with both hands. But, you know, I no longer care. If I feel like shit and also feel like coddling myself, I am going to do so, so there. but I have been knitting some today, so I am obviously going to decide to live at some point.

I got the cold at the weekend. Wisely or otherwise, when I found out there were places on the next knitting course with Fiona Morris at AH a mere three days after our return from Norway, I booked myself - and the DSM - on to it. this was the third one of them I have been on, and I have found them so incredibly beneficial. This one was no different, probably even more so.

Photographs - are rubbish, but will have to do.

slip stitch sample

The workshop was on working with colour in knitting. This is a slip stitch sample. I have done simple slip stitch before, this was following a chart, and the important thing that I learnt was I probably won't ever make the attempt again! (Now, that is a foolish thing to say if ever there was one....)

toe up sock cast on

This - obviously - is nothing to do with the subject for the weekend. One of the great things about Fiona's workshops is that she is very generous with her time and skills and you pick up all sorts of stuff along the way. this was a different method of casting on for a toe-up sock, that is a doddle to do and nicer in all ways than a short row one. I will try at some point to do it with decent illustrations, but the essence is that you take two circs of the same appropriate size and hold them with the business ends together. Wrap the yarn around them both. Then move one circ so that you have the wire rather than the needle end on one of them adjacent, and knit the stitches. Reverse the position of the needles, making sure that you have the point of the next needle in the position relative to the yarn to continue knitting around. Keep on shifting the positions of the circ and knit on, increasing one stitch on each half of the toe cap as you do so.

Nifty, or what? I think it probably is a Cat Bordhi or someone similar technique, but haven't checked it out yet.

fairisle sample

This next image shows my triumph for the weekend, that made going worth while all on its own. Yes, stranded knitting, or fairisle, whatever you want to call it, but...I'm going all goosebumpy....knitted with one yarn on the right hand, the second on the left.

For those who might feel somewhat underwhelmed by my achievement, let me tell you that I have tried on many, many occasions to do this and always failed miserably. I now know why this was so, but in the interests of not being mean to the DSM, am not going to say.

cashmere scarf

And finally. Not from the weekend at all, of course. This is the scarf I started on our trip. Lovely soft handspun cashmere and silk. And technically, this is a lace pattern (it has deliberate holes in it....) I really like the pattern - slipping the first of three stitches over the next two to make the decrease following the YO gives you almost a little "wheatsheaf". Of course, I do keep getting it wrong if I don't pay attention, but can "read" it now, and remember, I learnt to fudge.

Could I be turning in to an obsessive knitter?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Further ruminations

The Aurora Borealis. I can't show you any images as yet. My camera couldn't cope, of course, the DSM has tried but hasn't even sent the films off to be developed yet, and the other Brit on the trip who was an ace photographer with super-whizzo equipment has neither put anything up on his website nor emailed us anything as yet.

OK, use brain, Carol, and JFGI.

This is fairly close to what we saw.

Aurora Borealis

Taken from a Tromso website, so even the right geographical area.

However. The big surprise to me was that is not in fact what I saw, not exactly. Turns out two things can happen. One is that photographs are of necessity taken at a very slow shutter speed and the colour the film records reflects this. The other is that as we have probably realised in other circumstances individual eyes see colour differently. So I didn't see a green aurora, I saw grey. Still magical and fascinating, especially the movement of it, but not the bright green blinding light I had expected. (The other colours are very rarely seen. Reasons for this varied according to the informant, and I haven't checked it out yet!) But I wouldn't have missed it for anything, and to see it twice was a real bonus.

Moving on.


Among other ecological delights, turf roofs were quite common in the far north. Mainly on outhouses, as here, but on some summer cabins and some other buildings, too. It is an old tradition, but is being continued.

Now, my favourite story. Three of us, me, my sister and another British woman didn't particularly fancy the trip to North Cape. At the last minute, we were offered an alternative, to go to a little fishing village, Skarsvag, to visit the Julehuset. We were not quite sure what we were getting in to, but hey, three British women of a certain age were not to be daunted....

It turned out to a lot more fascinating than just the visit to the Christmas house. The woman who runs it was born and bred in Skarsvag. Her husband is struggling, along with a handful of others, to keep the traditional fishing industry going. (One of the things we were offered was a taste of dried cod, which was mush nicer than one might have imagined, and I wouldn't mind a supply for fish soup.) Anyway, the village is depopulating, second-homers moving in, fewer and fewer children to attend the village school. A picture common around the world, sadly. But she has a school-age daughter, who would have to go away to school if the village one closed and her parents didn't move. Neither of those two possibilities looks like a good option to her. So she is trying hard to come up with ideas to draw the tourists, add value to the fishing, anything at all tha might turn the situation around. I really admired what she was trying to do - I'm not sure she will be successful, but she dam' sure deserves to be. And the Julehuset? Warm, glowing, redolent of woodsmoke and cinnamon. We drank mulled wine, ate waffles with cream and jam and ginger cakes. Lovely.

We did the trip by taxi, and that was another treat. Chatted the entire time with the young woman taxi driver about life in the area, moving on to world politics. So nice to have a moment of international agreement about certain things and certain people.......

Polaria Bella 1

This is Bella, a whiskered seal (I think I have that right). I am not usually all that keen on aquaria, animals in captivity and all that, and truth to tell I am probably still not. But Bella was perfectly at ease with her carer, who had a reasonable sounding explanation for putting her through a routine of "tricks" (mimicking natural behaviours, exercise, mental health) And there were some pretty amazing critters in obviously glowing health around the joint.

This was in Tromso, a university city, where most of the teaching is done in English. I am quite tempted, I must say.

I am running out of steam. Spent the weekend at AH, where as well as some new tricks, I picked up a cold from the tutor! I'll blog the weekend at a later date, but for now I need a hot drink and a shawl and my feet up. And I've got the mogs home now for warm furry company, hurrah. Oh, and a pan of cauliflower soup bubbling on the stove. That and a toddy later and I might, just might, live..........

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What to say?

What to say, what to say?

Don't think for a minute that this wasn't in all ways but one, a fabulous trip.

Yes, the seasickness was horrible, and I now know that I will never again go on a cruise, but I AM glad that I went, and there was a huge amount to enjoy.

To begin at the beginning. The boat was lovely. Not too big, and more than half empty.


Here she is, the MS Polarlys, emphasis on the "ar" and it means, of course, polar light or Aurora.

Beautifully designed, with the "communal" decks well laid out into separate "rooms" so you could get cosy, particularly in the library which even had a fake log fire! The Panorama lounge was like a cathedral, we nearly always conversed in whispers, struck virtually dumb by the glorious views.

Our cabin was small, neat, functional and comfortable. The food was amazingly good. Whilst I wouldn't have chosen to eat fish every night, it was so varied and excellent that we didn't bother asking for a veggie option. Peppered salmon steaks, thin-cut, yum. And char - palest pink, delicate and delicious. Soups to die for. Apparently, a Norwegian thing. I need to make cauliflower soup, and fish soup, warm, tasty and comforting (!!)

The first few days, it rained and rained and wasn't all that cold.


We managed to totter off the boat here, at Alesund, where I had wanted to take loads of photos of the Art Nouveau decor. I failed, but it did stop raining and we perked up enough to enjoy coffee and the most delicious cake I have ever eaten in a warm and friendly cafe on the quayside.

At this point, I should say that I don't intend to write up a travelogue. I'll put up some photographs, more will be on flickr as a set, and easily findeable by clicking on one image and using your common. But one of the things that I do want to say is just how much I fell in love with Norway and the Norwegians. The country is beautiful, and one of the most alluring things about the people is the way in which they appreciate that. They revel in the bounty of the land and use it seemingly responsibly. (I saw far less litter, graffiti, general grot than anywhere I have ever been before.) They deal gracefully with their extremes of season by enjoying all to the full. The dark winter is not too much of a problem, they are (as they will tell you unashamedly unlike the Brits, a cultured nation. Winter is the time for music and theatre and dinner parties and lights. Candles and super glass light fittings are to be found in abundance in every small town, so no-one has any excuse for not having houses filled with glittering, twinkling lights. Summer is for staying awake and being outside as much as possible, so you work all day and climb mountains through the evenings, or whatever.

They are apparently a contented people - they gladly pay high taxes and receive good benefits and security in later life in return (more than one person told me that.) And, yes, many, many of them speak excellent English. Learning languages is a priority.

And so, they seem to be an exceptionally friendly people. OK, so we were journeying up the coast where tourism is replacing the traditional fishing life, but it never seemed a forced politeness. And fishing still goes on, full-time, part-time - a hard life, and getting harder, but one that still commands respect. Then there is the oil and gas industry, the entire product of which is exported as Norway gets most of its power from hydro-electricity, some wind, and before I sound too much like a geography lesson, I don't know what else.

So - as we travelled north, the weather changed and it got much colder, with for me, quite a lot of snow. For Norway - phht! A light dusting. I'll put in a few suitable photos in just a sec.

Returning was calm for the first half, then we hit the rougher open sea bits again, so I was glad to get back to Bergen. Golly, what a lovely city. I'm back there at the first opportunity. There's a yarn shop[ I spotted at the last gasp that I must go to - the others I checked out en route were ok but not exceptional and I only bought some cotton sock yarn and some glitzy fuzz I have no clue what to do with. Ahem. (Something will come to mind.)

village scene

washed out blueness


The sunsets in the Arctic Circle were early (around 3pm) but prolonged and glorious.

reflections of a snowy landscape

Took my brain ages to work out what I was seeing here, the water was so still.


This is looking across to Bryggen in Bergen, a World Heritage site. And the following is the window of a yarn shop there....

Bergen yarn shop window

I sas another like this somewhere else. Very nice looking wheels, very much the same style as my Timbertops.

spindle whorls

This rather bad photo could not be resisted, even in low light conditions through glass. Spindle whorls, correctly identified for once, in the little museum at Trondenes. Found in the locality.

This is going on for ever, I will have to do another post. I still have to discourse on the Northern Lights, and our trip to the out-of-the-way fishing village. So, I'll finish for now with this one.....

The man in the polar night. Taken at Tromso.

the man in the polar night

Thursday, November 08, 2007

At last!

Finally, more than halfway through the trip, here I am at a computer I can work - my own - and feeling compost mentis enough to do something with it.

And this is where the story really starts....

Day One.

At sea.

Bleeerrgh. And other onomatopoeic sounds.

Repeat ad nauseam (sic) (sorry) for three days.

Oh dear, got that one wrong, didn't I?

Howsomedever, it ain't all gloom and doom. I'm not going to do a real entry tonight, I don't have a lot of computer time left and it is getting late, and we have an early start tomorrow. I haven' as yet uploaded any photos to flickr, either.

Having started with a whimper, not only the aforementioned but also missing a pod of orcas off the port bow whilst chained to the bathroom, we have had some triumphs - a sea eagle, and the Aurora twice! More of that at a later date.

We have also had quite a lot of snow, which has made the short Arctic daylight hours magical, particularly at sunset.

The boat is great, very comfortable and interesting; nice friendly crew and excellent food. What's not to like? Weeell.......sailor I never ever shall be, I'm afraid. but I wouldn't have missed it.

Lots to show and tell when I get back.