Saturday, December 31, 2011

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.........


A year that has given me a very fair share of wonderful things. And something more of a slice of normal real life downside of that than I would have wished.

I should start by saying that I do know what an extremely fortunate woman I am. I could very rapidly run out of fingers counting of people that I know personally who have had much worse this year than I have. That process would be even faster if I were to list all my many blessings. I know that - although, at one time I would not have, having turned myself over the years by strength of will from an awful pessimist to something of a rather annoying Pollyanna. As a steady background to my life I have good friends, things I love doing, cats that make me smile and give me hours of pleasure, a great place to live and sufficient money to keep me in spindles and books. And, I suppose, I should include the DSM (insert great big cheesy grin here) before I start getting the comments berating me.........

The teaching gigs this year took us all over the place and were all wonderful, if scary at times (but that is just me). I met even more great people, and thoroughly enjoyed passing on the skills that I have and learning in my turn from those I was supposed to be teaching (that's one of the things that I love about it.) With the DSM no longer slaving over a hot computer every day to earn a crust, we had more time both for work and recreational trips, and I found a new bit of the US to fall in love with.

But this year, the other side of the coin has been more insistent and omnipresent. Whilst it might be a common health complaint, hiatus hernia/GORD is, to put it mildly, a bugger to deal with, and although slowly getting there, I still haven't found all the tricks to manage it (and if one more person says to me that they or someone they know has the same thing and that one little pill a day sorted them out, I WILL NOT be answerable for my actions!!)

And then, there was my mother.

I don't think that I have gone on about it too much here in the blog, but neither did I make any secret of the fact that we had - no, I will rephrase that, I had with her, a - difficult - relationship. Exactly what she thought of me - well, I simply do not know. I had come to terms with quite a lot of it long ago, but I had always thought that her death might cause me, well, lets say some problems. It hasn't worked out quite as I thought, better in some ways, but I still have quite a bit to get through.

Not surprisingly, spinning has been a huge solace. I will by the end of today have finished some very pretty mid-green merino and silk that is going to be a knitted shawlette with a crocheted edging. At least I hope it is - that has been the plan all along.

Then, every evening, in lieu of reading in bed because the stupid ski slope that I need because of the aforementioned health niggles makes sitting up in bed uncomfortable, I have been listening to an audio book and spinning thick yarn on my Sidekick.

Now, this may not seem entirely logical - I could maybe do a better job of a thick yarn using the largest head on my Lendrum. But I wanted to run in the new wheel and get used to it, so....and anyway, it has worked.

This is Falklands top, which has a tendency to puff up when washed, so I am not quite sure what thickness it will end up being (and no, I didn't sample. This was therapy as much as anything else!) I'm thinking more aran than bulky. It is intended to be a waistcoat, when I have decided what colours to dye it. There will be fourteen skeins, but I don't know the yardage - but if there isn't enough, I can do more, no?

I also needed a dead simple knitting project, so I cast on an Einstein jacket from Sally Melville's "The Knit Stitch." A nice design, but - boring. And because I missed a vital detail in the instructions (not hugely well laid out, in my own defence,) I have been doing a three needle bind off on the shoulders when it would have been better not to have done. I think I can work around that, though. Why seam when you don't have to? I used some chain-plyed Rovings Polwarth in colourway "Mojave" that had been in my stash for ages, and that had a false start as an afghan. In this project, it looks great, and I will photograph it when finished.

I am not making any "resolutions" or "intentions" for next year. I have them - to get past this and to enjoy what good stuff the year brings whilst hoping for the minimum of the bad.

But as I keep on saying to everyone's annoyance, it is all part of life's rich pattern. Never the less, I am not going to be sorry to see the back of 2011.

OK, this has all been very self indulgent. In future, I hope, less of that and more of the craft - I do have some great plans for 2012. Lets hope that I can put at least some of them in to action!

Meanwhile...fighting and conquering risk of soppiness here - my very best wishes for a very happy new year to you all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Everything comes.....

....if you only wait. Well, sometimes not, obviously, but this time.....

Another drive-by post, to record an amazing night. Couple of weeks ago, the DSM and I independently but simultaneously came across reviews of the Paul McCartney 2011 tour "On the Run". Wow, we thought, would have loved to have gone to that. But to my amazement, the DSM got straight on to the computer, and got us two tickets for the last night of the tour - in Liverpool. (I shall not tell anyone just how much, at such short notice, that cost us!)

I thought I knew what to expect - after all, I grew up with Macca and the Beatles catalogue (although I was always a George fan, myself). I was quite sure it would be a fun night out...

It wasn't what I had expected. I'm not going to drool on at length, but it was fanbloodytastic. No prima donnas, just seriously good musicians. For around three hours straight. No supporting band, no interval. Just slick and fast instrument changes, and a little bit of chat with the audience - nothing much, a few anecdotes, and a few interactions with the vast audience. Mostly just good rock music. Yes, that was one of the most surprising things to me, how much the "pop" had morphed into "rock" over the years.

Then, the other thing that took us aback - given that we don't make a habit of going to rock gigs, and being basically simple souls was this.
The sound isn't of the greatest quality, but the pyrotechnics were fab.

I am so glad we went.

ETA: lots more videos on Youtube, of course.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I did say I might

I have had such a nice week that I felt like blogging it - so here I am.

Monday - regular day, but the DSM's art class and chess in the evening - two things that he loves doing, and I enjoy the alone-time!

Tuesday - I had lunch with two of the Coven. For all sorts of reasons, we haven't been getting together recently, and it was lovely to see them and to catch up. Coffee in one cafe, lunch in another (HB is full of excellent ones!) and then a little bit of browsing round HB shops, something I could do at any old time, of course, but much nicer in pleasant company.

Wednesday - big, exciting day.

So, HB this ain't. The DSM has decided that we need a little bit more action? adventure? cultural activity? in our lives. So, first up, a day trip to London for an Exhibition. All went extremely comfortably and smoothly, and having come up from the Underground at Picadilly Circus, we set off to walk the short distance to the gallery with our eyes open for somewhere for lunch. And found, to our great delight, that we were walking past Fortnum & Mason. So, in we went, found their bar restaurant and had a very nice lunch. (At, I should add, a very "nice" price!) But it is sometimes worth paying for quality.

This is how our peppermint tea was served. Now, is that stylish, or what?

After this leisurely break, we moved on to the Royal Academy - we had tickets for 2pm.

And this is what we had come to see. It was an extremely interesting exhibition with not only works by Degas, but also some other things following the same theme of "movement" - photographs, sculptures, movies. Our only real problem with it was that for reasons of conservation (and it seems to be true of most exhibitions these days) the light level was very, very low. Plus, I think most curators/designers must be very young with excellent eyesight, as labels are never in a large enough type face, and all too often grey printed on grey. Still, we managed.

I really liked the early work, was less keen on the middle period, and then again loved the late pieces, with the explsions of brigt colour and the influence of the newly popular Russian dance which seemed to have given Degas a new lease of life.

A centre piece was "The Little Dancer", of course, borrowed from The Tate. It was the first time I had seen it, and I loved the detail - those wrinkles tights from the days before elastication were so endearing!

We spent longer there than we might have done, and so didn't feel like going on anywhere else. Instead, we returned to Fortnum's, and knocked off a bit of Christmas shopping, having already done some in the Academy Gift Shop. Then stopped for a cup of tea and a sandwich before returning to King's Cross. Although we did take a few steps up Regent Street to look at the Christmas lights.

Thursday - a day of recovery, but enlivened by the arrival of a huge box of fleece from Beth Smith of The Spinning Loft for the Rare Breeds Spinalong, now expanded to share with the AH class. I also ordered som moorit Cormo for my own delectation. Ahem.

Friday - we had a most interesting morning with a young art student from Leeds, who is doing a project on creative people. We spent quite a long time talking to her, and then she took loads of photographs of us (yes! even me!!) I had intended to include one or two of them here, but I think they must be in a format not accepted by either Photoshop or Flickr, as I have them in a file on the pc, but can't get them loaded in to either. Later, maybe.

To finish, I just want to say thank you to everyone who contacted me one way or another with thoughtful messages - it really helped. And - to reassure everyone that although mostly silent, I am spinning and knitting up a storm. Eventually, some of it will find its way on to the blog.

OK, ducking out of sight again, now.......

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

As the world turns

Just a short and personal post.

My mother died last Wednesday evening. It has taken this long to write about it for a variety of reasons - being shell-shocked, even though we did know it was only a matter of time, minor glitches in the administrative procedures and other necessary arrangements, getting the news to the people who mattered.

But yesterday, Pennie and I spent a long and exhausting day in York doing the last of the things that needed doing; and today I made the last of the phonecalls. The funeral is next week.

So here we are. I am, I think, going to give myself a brief sabbatical from the blog. I feel that I would like a period of quiet, some gentle reflection. We are in the run up to Christmas, so there are a few extra things to do, and the ordinary stuff goes on regardless.

Of course, who knows what will happen, I might get a burst of energy, inspiration, enthusiasm or even the odd FO. But if I don't put in an appearance here for a while, well, no need to panic.

I will return.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Ancestor bags - an exhibition

We finally got to this exhibition at the Bankfield on its very last day, Sunday. So, why haven't I blogged about it before now? You may well ask, but is there a sensible answer? Probably not!

I'm going to put some photographs up and then try to explain a little about the piece(s, not an easy thing to do as the thinking behind them is not exactly complex, but takes some thought to explain and I am not sure that I have as yet a decent grasp of the concepts. And then there is what I personally thought of it......

OK, here goes. Ancestor bags are Australian aboriginal ritual objects, thought to have been used for transporting the bones of the ancestors. These woven sculptures follow, overall, the shape but not the entire form of a bag. But within the construction of each, information has been coded that refers directly to the English or Australian forebear of the sculptor. Squares represent the decades of life, woollen loops the childbearing decades, and on those, dyed woven triangles delineate origin, gender and length of life of the children born. One or two things struck me immediately, and I hope are obvious from the photographs that I took - one is that it is very apparent from each individual piece whether they had a long or a short life; another is that although this references individuals, it is an installation and must also be seen as a whole - this is reinforced by the importance of the reflections of the pieces on the walls. In one of my photographs, I have been particularly pleased to see that I inadvertantly caught the woven piece, its shadow and an additional shadow of another piece not in shot. You are encouraged to walk in amongst the rows of the installation, which gave me an extraordinary sensation of walking through - what? A forest, a graveyard, a family gathering? Whatever, a powerful sense of being with shades of the past.

I loved this exhibition - I have long been an admirer of Sue's technical ability and precision as a weaver/sculptor, but this gave so much more to admire and to think about. So many things were so satisfying, like her use of classic or ethnic natural dyes for her coded sections, and also of dustings of ochre to show (I think) where children lived in Australia. I need to go back to the catalogue and study the coding again!

"Installation" so often covers a horrible multitude of sins. I have seen poor techniques and constructs, innapropriate weird and wonderful materials used in those, lazy thinking behind pieces, all sorts. This exhibition demonstrates wonderful skill, traditional materials used innovatively and a considered and thoughtful concept underpinning the whole. I might as well tell it as I see it! Shall we say, I enjoyed it.

So, for the weekend's entertainment, we are off to visit our friends in Cambridge, who have tickets for a Metropolitan Opera relay of Don Giovanni. We could have seen in York probably, but it will be great to see it, and visit, with them.

My sister is catsitting, and we will probably go together to see our mother on Monday - I went with the DSM yesterday, but P would be going on her own which seems a bit unfair. She doesn't really talk much now (although apparently she does have better days than she seemed to be having on Wednesday.) I had a quite a long talk with the senior staff member on her floor - they can't tell us much. We just have to wait. So Mozart will be a bit of a needed consolation!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Essential tools - or, if you are being uncharitable, indulgences

Spindles, of course. Can one ever have enough? After all, they have to fulfil a number of differing needs - aesthetic, soul-satisfying, practical, examples for teaching - not to mention ooh, shiiiinny.....or whatever the spindle equivalent is.

We brought some Spindlewoods back with us, of course. In going through them, this one threw itself at me. Gorgeous (osage and ebony) to look at, so I put it on one side to try it out. Instant love - a beautifully balanced spindle, that had, absolutely, to be mine.

Then - and I may have mentioned this - the Goldings were at the SOAR market. Now, I am not one of those who is afeared of ordering online, and indeed, I had been lusting after one in particular that had been on their website for some time. But I decided to wait until I could try it out.

In order to accomplish this, I had to hurtle in to the market as it opened, so that I had half an hour before my class started. I did a very rapid whirl through their display, and found two, including the silver flower one that I had had my eye on, which I just had time to purchase before needing to leave. I am, by the way, extremely glad that I did this, as when I returned the next day, the booth looked as if a plague of locusts had swarmed all over it - I did manage to find one more to fall in love with, though. Who can resist Goldings, eh?

Then, I have been conversing on line with a spindle maker in Australia,
Malcolm Fielding

These two arrived yesterday, and are looking more than promising - the regular hook top whorl is certainly quite straightforward and very nice; the other one - on the left - has a spiral grove in the shaft, and is taking a little while to get used to. It is operator error - I need to refine a technique for getting it twirling. Using just my fingers, I seem to pretty much always get a nice smooth spin, but using my preferred method of leg-rolling, not quite so much. I've got to practice getting it just right, and then we shall be set. Beautifully made and lovely woods, which can't be bad!

I saw in the paper today that the government in its wisdom is thinking about not inflicting the clock change - due tonight - for a trial period. I am not quite sure, but I think that we would be permanently two hours ahead of GMT. Not so certain about that, although doing away with the change would be wonderful, I hates it, Baggins. However, I wish that at the same time they would wangle in another hour or two in to the day. So many things that I want to do!

Anyway, we had a nice morning - had to do the shopping that I overlooked on Thursday, had coffee and cake in our fav cafe, called in to see a friend who was being "Maker in Residence" for the day in one of the local shops (and bought two pieces of hers as Christmas presents) and then went to an art exhibition in one of the local galleries, which the DSM had thought I might particularly like as it was a Norfolk artist. Er - no. The painter might just as well have been domiciled in an inner city (run down at that) as rural Norfolk. Most were meant to be landscapes, but where, I ask, were those gorgeous Norfolk vistas and skies? Nothing but randomly placed smears of mud (can you tell I didn't like the work??) Still, can't win 'em all.

And now, despite all the new spindles, back to my wheels!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Real life (tm)

Have I said already how nice it is to be back home with not too much travelling in prospect, and time to catch up on the things I really like doing? Yeah, I thought I had!

Like opera - we went in to Leeds to see "The Queen of Spades" by Tschaicovsky last night. Went by train, to save energy, stress and the environment one step at a time. Which proved to be a mistake, as when we rang the theatre to check when the performance ended, we were given the wrong information, so had to leave before the final scene to make sure of catching the last train home.

This did not prove to be such a great mistake at least for me, as I was slightly underwhelmed by it. I'm not sure if that was because of the opera per se - although it was one I had really wanted to see; the performers - I wasn't too sure of the soprano; the story - although totally daft stories don't usually bother me in opera if everything else is ok. I think I will have to see it again in a different production!

Our next Opera North is not until in the new year, but our next opera foray is a Met relay in Cambridge with our good friends there. I know - I'm glad to be and want to stay home, but Cambridge and L&M are different!

Fibre stuff. I finished the skein of multi-bright mohair. Which turned out not to be quite as in your face bright, not surprisingly, and the mohair is a little harsh. But it will make a warm and hard wearing hat.

And remember these batts?

Spun and knitted as singles, they have become this:

I am not quite sure why this cowl appears such an odd shape in this pic, although it was taken before washing and blocking. It could be because it is singles, but I was pretty pleased with how consistent a yarn I managed (not always so easy with batts involving different fibres and colours. And I ensured that it wasn't too twisted by both care in spinning - and a judicious run back on to the wheel in the opposite twist direction and no, I do not consider that cheating, at least in this instance!

I used all but the last few yards of the yarn to make a really big cowl - I was somewhat in fear and trembling that it would be too huge and bunchy on my neck. But it isn't, and it does exactly what I wanted it to do, which is to come up over my head as a snood should the weather so dictate.

Now I am slightly stuck for a next project (the mohair is washing and drying.) So I have cast on with a ball of handspun just lying around to try out the very simple lace scarf pattern for which I bought a yummy skein of yarn when on holiday - this is so very fine and fluffy that frogging would be horrible, so, best to experiment and learn the pattern with something else, eh?

And finally, a quick update on my mother. There isn't one, really. She is hanging on, but every time the phone rings, I think - that's it. Bit stressful, but there you go. All part of life's rich pattern.

I shan't go on too much about it here, at least for the moment. Just needs to be mentioned from time to time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A puzzlement

For quite a while now, those of us involved in crafting, whether textile or otherwise, have been happily aware of a big upsurge in interest. In fact, the DSM was at a neighbouring Guild on Saturday, and was hearing reports of many new members. Even more excitingly, lots of these are younger people. I have been and broadly still am expecting this state of affairs to continue for quite a while yet. All the signs are that it will.

But. For the second month in a row, the regular AH class has had to be cancelled because of too few people signing up for it.

The college and I are baffled. We can't think of any reason for this, there has been no warning, or if there has we have all missed it. Numbers had been keeping up very well, slightly down on the big classes of some months ago, but more than satisfactory until suddenly - bump. I have yet to have The Talk with someone from the college, but it is looking worrisome. It had been my hope that in the fullness of time, I would find a new person with a different perspective to replace me, and that one of the few existing regular classes for those struck by the urge to learn to spin would continue for the foreseeable future. Now I am not so sure.

We feel baffled - but I am not certain that there is any one big reason (it might be easier if there were, we would have a chance at least working out a solution.) No, I think that there are diverse reasons for the diverse class attendees that have suddenly all come together quite coincidentally. Everyone has busy lives, with only so much time to spread around family, work, other interests - and of course, it isn't compulsory that they should turn up month after month at this particular class! (Any minute now, I am going to sound like the cabin manager on a flight doing her - we know you have choices and we appreciate....bit over the intercom!) All we can do for the moment is watch this space.

Feedback to us on other classes and so on remains very positive. We get lovely emails from people who are happily spindling away, and have had our busiest year ever teaching. As I said, Guild memberships seem to be up all round, boards on Ravelry hum and fibre festivals are increasing and prospering. Things are in general still looking good out there. So I am not going to go totally doom and gloom!

I'll be back with a proper post soon, with some completed projects and some new toys (just one guess.....)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The final round-up

SOAR over, we headed back to towards Boston, having decided to finish our stay there. In retrospect, this may have not been such a good idea. My thinking had been that, usually, we would fly in to a city all jetlagged, and not enjoy the experience as much as we should because of that very thing. But being more country mice than town mice, to have ended up on the Cape might have worked better? But, we did enjoy ourselves, anyway, so, who knows?

My sister had expressed a desire to visit Salem - the witch-trial one - and although not overwhelmed by the idea, we decided to indulge her (I don't think she reads this!) So glad we did - Salem is a charming town, notwithstanding the month-long spooky festival in full flow, and is definitely on our list of places-we-must-return-to. Beautiful old houses, many labelled with date of building and original owner and what they did. Nice sense of community - we ate our lunch in a little park near the centre, full of people enjoying the unseasonal autumn warmth and sunshine. Lovely, but not photos, I'm afraid.

We drove on, stopping again in Marblehead, another very nice town. We sat overlooking the huge and busy marina. Despite many people having already taken their boats from the water ready for winter, there was much scudding and puttering about going on - it looked idyllic.

Then on to Boston, or to be strictly accurate, Cambridge, wilds of, for three nights until our return home. The hotel was probably the worst of the lot, but bearable, and conventiently situated near a train/bus station. Now, the last time we had intended to visit Boston, we failed because the other two of the same three were variously under the weather - this time, it was me.

We had arranged to spend the day in Cambridge with a SOAR friend who lives locally, but I had a day of feeling decidedly ropey, so I sent them off and I lurked and rested. I was really sorry to miss the opportunity of spending a day with Elaine, but there you go. The three of them had a good time, she did them proud with the tourist services apparently.

I was much better the next day, thank goddness, and we set off on a tourist bus ride around Boston, which took us to some rather odd places, but saw all the high spots as well. A random selection of photos from that trip and the river boat trip the next morning.

By mistake - by which I mean, we walked in knowingly, but hadn't intended particularly to go there - we had lunch in "Cheers". Actually, quite a comfortable feel to the place, reasonable food, and our server was a Boston grad student, so quite a nice experience all round!

By design, we had dinner in Cambrisge that night with a Rav friend of the DSM. What was to lose, we thought, we had to eat somewhere. Soooooo glad we did - we got so spend the evening with a charming and interesting young woman (conversation never, ever flagged, and was barely about knitting at all!) in one of the most mind-blowing restaurants I have ever been to. Almost literally - the music was pretty loud, the place was packed out and the decibel level of the conversations all around us was off the scale. Cuchi Cuchi
was a million miles from a place we would have chosen ourselves, and we would have missed a rare treat if we hadn't gone. Wonderful ambience - loved the vintage dresses worn by the wait staff! Fabulous cocktails, simply couldn't resist, and I was able to find one that only involved one sort of alcohol. Great food, and as the ethic is food to share, it really worked well for us. We had a terrific time, a super way to spend our last evening.

Then the next morning, we left our luggage at the hotel and did a Charles river tour - we like to spend time outside before flying if we possibly can, and this worked well. (Although I was rather wickedly amused by how the man on the mike designated the boat - Charles l - as Charles One instead of Charles the First, as we had read it!) Left us plenty of time to get to the airport, only a short drive away, and after a lengthy but calm wait, we had an amazingly short flight back to Dublin and then on to Manchester. Flying via Dublin is definitely to be recommended!

And it was lovely to be home! I had a really good time, but even so, the thought of my own bed, not to mention the cats to cuddle was hugely appealing. The weather is pretty dire, hail would you believe, and it is cold, but we have new fibre and tools (upcoming post...) to play with, and workshops to arrange, and, and, and......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Re-entry and more recap

We had a very easy journey home - it is only a five hour flight from Boston to Dublin, and the short hop on to Manchester a mere nothing. Despite having picked up a very minor cold, I really am doing pretty well. Usual slight sleeping problems, but on the whole, I am nearly back to what passes for normal.

We have yet to gloat over the fibre purchases, but the washing is done and everything else prety much sorted. And yesterday, we went to York to visit my mother. I had totally convinced myself that she could not possibly hang on until we returned, and the edge was taken off the trip with some guilt, and the twice daily anxious moment of checking the emails. To our amazement, she is still with us, and indeed was better yesterday (relatively speaking) than when I had last seen her. She is having trouble with her breathing, and can't talk all that much, but managed a bit and we also managed to get her to giggle a bit at some of our lunacy. She is not totally aware of the passage of time, and doesn't seem to have noticed our absence, although she could remember that her grandaughter had visited, which was nice for her, and very good of Alice. It is a question of time, but I feel better about things now.

So, I suppose I should be calling these posts "Guilty Pleasures!" The next was our minimalist SOAR. I did not like Manchester, New Hampshire as a location, but have to admit that the hotel made an excellent venue. Very spacious common areas (as was our suite!) and the Expo Center made for a wonderful market space. Seeing people was as ever a joy, albeit bitter-sweet, as our visit was so short. Still, worth it, though.

And worth it - well worth it - was our Thursday workshop with DY Begay. I enjoyed myself so much - a gently-paced workshop, but with plenty to take in. She had us sitting and practicing with the super spindles, that we got to keep, for long enough to start feeling comfortable before attempting to spin. Her techniques are, I think, somewhat modified from those described by earlier Navajo teachers - things do change and develop - and I didn't have to feel daunted by multiple drafting and winding off. As we practised, as well as discussing spinning and weaving practices, she added little bits of relevant Navajo culture, which was extraordinarily interesting. I feel very fortunate to have been able to take this opportunity.

DY demonstrating spindling.

A sampler spun and woven by DY's aunt, using blends of dark and light churro fleece to obtain different shades - we did some of this blending in class.

The next day, the three of us absented ourselves from SOAR while everyone else was in class and went to the Shaker village at Canterbury. We had been fourteen years ago, and were keen to go again, and to actually do the tour this time! The weather was fabulous - not as hot as it had been, but clear blue skies and lovely sunshine. No Fall foliage, though, unlike our previous visit!

In my memory, I had thought all the buildings were white - obviously, I was wrong!

We had a great time, the docent was as ever, excellent, and there was something of a satisfaction coming from Manchester, England, England to Manchester NH and Canterbury, founded by a group with their roots back in the origianl Manchester. What goes around, comes around, eh? I kind of wish.....The Shakers had a thing or two right, I think.

Now, in all the years we have been going to SOAR, the Saturday night spin-in has always been terrific - lots of tired and happy people, some fun, some music. The DSM and I went down this time, and ..... WTF?? A barn of a room, glaring light, canned music tinkling away in the background, and hardly anybody there. Atmosphere? Celebration? Nope. A total let-down, I fear. We stayed a while chatting with the few friends who were there, and then made our excuses and left. Sad. I know things change, and change can be good, but this particular one can go right back again, please!

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that we went, and I did enjoy myself - differently from previous years, but still good. And as next year is a return to Granlibakken - well, we might just go again....

So, we left Manchester, NH, and moved on to the last stage, which will come in another post as this one is getting huge.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Viewed retrospectively

I have been so remiss at doing blog posts! All sorts of reasons, mainly having a good time, but also the difficulty in getting Pete off the netbook. So I am going to do a bit of rapid catch-up while I have a bit of time in Boston before we fly home the day after tomorrow.

We continued to travel around Cape Cod, which is a very nice way of spending time. There are a lot of lighthouses......

Alongside one of them was this unassuming little wooden hut, which turned out to be (moved from its original location) the home of the end of the Transatlantic Cable. I am sure that I can remember dimly those days so long ago when calls to overseas had to be "booked" and were full of crackles and whooshes and lines dropping and all sorts. Now we travel with a computer and headset and use Skype!

We did make it down as far as Provincetown, which I loved. The epitome of "seaside" - all in the best possible taste, of course - and very picturesque with it. After lunching there, we went back up the Cape a ways to (?) Nauset to do an Audubon Society pontoon boat wildlife trip. Absolutely fabulous. Maybe not quite as intense a thrill as the whale watching, but wonderful none the less. A beautiful day, a really knowledgable coulpe of guides, and enough birds to make us very happy anyway. Best sightings of the huge and beautiful blue herons, but lots of others as well. Being a marshland/lagoony sort of place, and the birds too far away to photograph, this is the best I can offer here.

So, that all seems quite a long while ago. We left Onset and the nice little apartment we had found to rent (reminded both Pennie and me of the flat that we used to have in Cromer) and set off south heading for Bridgeport, CT. SOAR friends have a wonderful vegetarian restaurant there, and we couldn't bear not to visit whilst in the neighbourhood, so to speak.

We stopped in Mystic for lunch (one day, when we come back, I should like to visit Mystic Seaport, but we simply didn't have time. Just a quick walk and a picnic near the harbour.

Our visit lived up to expectations and more. Then the next day, we hit the road for Manchester, NH and SOAR. Going via Northampton MA, a good halfway lunch spot, but also the home of Webs. Ahem. (We also found a nice little LYS in the centre of town - I've lost count of how many we visited in all, but the first and the last were the best of a very nice yarn crawl. I think I forgot to mention the one in Mystic!)

I was quite restrained in Webs, but did find a very nice set of dpns in pretty colours - one can never have enough, eh? Very glad we visited though, and the icing on the cake was that we spent ages chatting to one of the assistants about The Archers! (She too thought that the murder of Nigel was a heinous crime, but she remains a listener.)

OK, that brings me up to Manchester and SOAR, and this post is quite large enough. I will do that another time. May even be after we get home - we have one more day in Boston, and most of Wednesday too before flying home, where it will be nice to be - I am getting serious cat withdrawal symptoms, and although Ceezburger and the new Simon's Cat (which is terrific if you haven't seen it) are good, not quite a sufficient substitute.

So, later.....

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Further adventures on Cape Cod

We have been looking at some more of the towns on the Cape. Thursday, we went to Sandwich - very pretty, both town and shore. We went to the boardwalk.

Walking across was a bit scary as it isn't all that wide and there was quite a breeze blowing. But worth it when you got to the other side, though.

We visited the Farmers' Market - not very large, but quite good. We did get bread and a fabulous peach crisp (crumble to us) but we didn't get one of these ginormous squash.

And we had a great lunch!

We also visited the second yarn shop that we had found - although I think the first was better, this one was certainly good. I found a couple of magazines and a rather cute little shawl pin.

As for knitting, I have now finished the first cowl and cast on the second. I don't seem to have done as much as I would have thought - too busy gadding around the Cape, I guess.

I was going to cover Friday in the post as well, but I think it will make it to big and cumbersome - so, more later.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It has been a few days

And we have come a long way. All the way from Manchester to Cape Cod, in fact.

A good trip over, despite Dublin Airport deciding that for some reason our flight was not going to be immigrationed, so to speak, until we arrived in Boston, so we had to join an even worse queue than usual because there were half a dozen flights in and only three Immigration Officers to process us all. Grr.

Still, everything else, including the vehicle pick up went fine, and we reached our rented apartment with minimum hassle to find that we had chosen a terrific one. Really smart, well kitted out and comfortable. And right on the beach. We allowed ourselves an easy first day, apart from food shopping - and eating a nice lunch at a very good local diner.

Tuesday - the next day - we had ourselves a long promised outing. I'm not going to write all that much about it, other than to say that it was awesome. And you know I don't often use that word, and never lightly.

The following pics are not of an outstanding quality, they had to be snatched as and when, without much warning. But here goes.

These were humpback whales; there were several around, feeding up for migration. They showed us a wide range of behaviours, mainly feeding by "lunging" giving us good views of wide open mouths, throats, balene (sp?)although the naturalist on board was able to point out the "bubble" method telltale as well. And obviously, showing us some terrific flukes. I hadn't realised that each fluke is unique, so they were able to identify two of the whales as named regulars.

Earlier, we had a super sighting of the much less common to this particular region sei whales. Which I have to confess, I had never heard of! But they were smaller and faster, and I found them totally impossible to photograph.

We had another fairly quiet day today, but again including a really great lunch. I suppose it isn't too surprising that this part of the world should have a lot of good eating places.

It is all very beautiful, and there are loads of interesting things to do. There should be more reports later.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

'Twas on a Wednesday morning that

Having survived the blasted cats into the porch to be able to go outside and feeding Neelix his first breakfast routine at 5.30am, established by the DSM and bitterly resented by me when he is away - I eventually managed to fall back in to a deep sleep.

From which I awoke with a bang, squinted at the clock, and saw to my horror that it was now 9.30! So the poor little blighters had been left outside or lurking in the porch for hours longer than usual and I was a bad and wicked mother.

So I rushed downstairs and got their food ready, let them in - well, two of them, the other was showing her displeasure, but she did come back quite quickly.

Breathed. And looked at the kitchen clock to see that it was barely 8.30am. OK, later than they like, but not the over-sleeping outrageousness that I had at first thought. I could have got up gently after all. Although I did have to be up - the gasman was coming. We have an intermittent fault with our boiler. I knew it was going to be a bugger to get sorted. It is likely to be one of two things, the one being much more expensive to fix than the other. The upside is that it can't be diagnosed conclusively until the central heating is being used - and there I was, feeling damn chilly and wonering if the DSM would find out if I put the heating on while he was away. Now I have legitimate cause, yippee.

Having spent yesterday in frippering away the time, I have done rather better today.

The merino and tencel, now washed and dried. It has come out beautifully, much softer than I had thought it would be. It will make a beautiful lacy cowl.

And sorry to be boring, but this is destined to be a cowl as well, assuming there is enough of it. I have left it as singles, to make the most of the quantity, and I am thinking that I will maybe knit flat and then mattress stitch together. Normally I wouldn't, but to get the simple stitch pattern that I want without biasing, I think I will have to. We shall see.

And - I have finished, all bar the shouting, ie darning in the ends, washing and blocking, the Captiva wrap, which has come out beautifully. Merino and silk, and again, quite nice and soft/cushy. I like this pattern, although when I do it again, as I shall, I will make the odd alteration. Despite the appearances from the schematic, the "tail" section is not very long, and would look a great deal better if instead of decreasing every row, it was every other, thereby elongating it a bit. I reckon that a couple more sections in the first part would be nice for me as well. But this first one is more than satisfactory, and I am very pleased with it.

Now I am working on finishing the spinning of the next lot of merino and silk, the silvery grey. Which may well be the next Captiva. If I can persuade Neelix not to help me.

The cats don't like it when one of us is away. There is hunting going on, more than usual, and Ruby sprang a first today - a dragonfly! Poor thing was mortally wounded rather than deceased, so I had to administer euthanasia. I hate it when that happens, but at least this was better than if it had been a rabbit.

So, back to spinning, during which I can finish off a rather good audiobook, and then to decide what to spin next. While the cat's away - well, you know what I mean.