Friday, March 28, 2008

Getting away from it all

“Getting away from it all" is high on the agenda for next week.

There has been the added complication that the kids were due to fly to Heathrow Terminal 5 this evening and of course their flights have been cancelled. All attempts to rebook have been complicated by the fact my daughter is an "unaccompanied minor" (even though she is with her brother) so it can't be done online... and you can imagine what BA's "helpline" is like right now! They now depart later than the last booking-in time for the pets at the kennels some 50 miles north of here... so it looks like our holiday departure will also be delayed by 24 hours unless we do something terribly clever involving 2 cars and a shuttle system.... hmmm.

But I have my packing list:

NYC ballet workout dvd for pre-breakfast exercise

Packet of rye bread mix – to be freshly baked for breakfast with scrambled eggs, marmalade and Lazy Sunday coffee – mmm!

Sewing paraphenalia: the Japanese coat WILL be tackled!

Knitting goods: lace ribbon scarf, Embossed Leaves socks, Strudel hat, self-striping socks

Reading materials: His Illegal Self, The Literary Underground, Knitting Nature, Jane Brocket’s book (from the library) plus assorted “quality” newspapers to be gathered en route.

I can’t wait!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gentleman's Socks with Lozenge Pattern



The Gentleman’s Socks with Lozenge Pattern are finished. The Gentleman is very pleased with them. He even agreed to sit on the windowsill so I could take their picture!

Two heathery shades of Sunbeam St Ives, cheap as chips and very hard-wearing, and size 0 (2mm) needles. I used Boye metal “perfection points” and found it much easier going than using birch or bamboo in this gauge, with the added advantage that they didn’t snap!

I love the density of the fabric at this gauge but I don’t have the stamina to knit for many hours at one sitting: my right hand “locks” after a while, which isn’t good!

Once again, I was struck by the level of detail in Nancy Bush’s patterns: a single purl to delineate the join between sole and upper foot, and again down the back "seam"? Lovely!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Inheritance


(Stills by Alison Pascoe)

Last February, FL and I went on holiday to Skye. Everywhere we went we encountered a film crew, and after several instances of FL blithely walking / driving through the shot, we plucked up the courage to ask them what they were filming.

"A low-budget Scottish road movie."

Well, it turns out that it won a British Independent Film Award and was nominated for Best UK Feature at the Raindance Film Festival in October. It's called "The Inheritance" and I just found the website.

I wonder if it will ever make it to TV? I would love to see it... if only to count the number of times FL stars as an unexpected Extra!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The big freeze

Big serious snow! Barely managed to get my little car up the farm track this morning, but made it.
No water! Kind of overlooked the fact that a cold house leads to frozen pipes. Just keep your fingers crossed that we don't get a power cut or we are done for!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Holiday plans

All being well, FL and I will be going on holiday for a week soon.

So I am planning my holiday activities. I will be in a cottage in the middle of nowhere with views of the sea, electricity and a log fire but no internet. Delicious luxury!

I want to try something different – i.e. to have more than one project on the needles at the same time – gasp! This goes against my whole work ethic. I have this psychological need to do one thing at a time, completing the task at hand before changing activity. But lately I have been feeling quite envious of those knitters who have a range of projects to dip in and out of, and therefore have the option to gorge themselves on knitterly Cadburys, or pick delicately at a morsel of Belgium’s finest. (It’s Easter – indulge me in the chocolate metaphors for a moment!)

So I am going to challenge myself with a selection of projects which have been whirling around my head lately.

Socks for my daughter. She picked out Cherry Tree Hill from the stash and the Embossed Leaves pattern - good match I think!

A hat from Woolly Wormhead’s book. Probably Strudel. No yarn bought yet - better get a move on!

The Lace Ribbon Scarf in Hipknits organic merino (pictured above)

Easy self-striping socks from the stash, probably for FL. Maybe toe-up.

Do you think that’s enough to keep me going?!

I will also be reading. I am really really enjoying “His Illegal Self” by Peter Carey. It is compulsive reading. The story-telling / plot is somewhat awry (is this entirely deliberate?), but I love his playful use of language and the way he constructs his characters. If I was still a literature student I would be able to give you an example off the top of my head, but I am not one of those people who can quote entire scenes from films or books.
Read an excerpt here.

And I am also planning to take my sewing machine on holiday! There will be clean wooden floors with space to lay out my fabric, and no animals traipsing through it or sticking their noses in my face as I crawl around with pins and tissue paper: peace!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Egg sandwiches

The Scottish public / bank holidays system is very confusing. My employer does not recognise Easter, but the schools are closed and the library is shut tomorrow and Monday. Driving home last night I had to endure Radio 2’s constant reminders that most of the UK was on a 4-day weekend – why not me?!

So I am at my desk as usual, dreaming of knitting and chocolate. See what I got for the kids! Vegan egg sandwiches – fantastic! I predict that my daughter will still be picking away at hers in July, while my son will be licking the empty wrapper by about 5pm.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sock chick

I brought my tulips home for the weekend: FL said he wished he had bought them for me!

My bread-making skills are definitely improving - I used the same recipe (from "Apples for Jam") Baking is now part of my weekend routine.


In between trips to tap-dancing classes (it was my daughter's exam this weekend) I made myself a needle case for my dpns. One "fat quarter" of cotton, a piece of leftover cotton / linen from dressmaking and some extra-thick interfacing made a substantial sandwich. I decided to use a button and loop to fasten it, and a scrap of cotton lace to cover my dodgy side seam (ahem!). It looks very Easter-like somehow: must be the chicks!

Sunday, March 09, 2008


I finished the first Lozenge sock on Friday night, so felt free to do other things at the weekend, before starting sock 2 on Monday.


So it was a busy weekend! I cleared the laundry backlog, made bread, scrubbed the floors - no don't go away, it does get more exciting!


I drafted and cut my coat pattern. I finally settled on Design Z from the "Sweet Black" Japanese pattern book. Next weekend I hope to start sewing.


And I started knitting "Verity". Even though the Malabrigo was the wrong weight of yarn. The front of the pattern said "worsted" but the inside it said "heavy worsted / aran". So I have made a start using 3.75 mm needles and will have to use my instincts to make it fit... hmmm.


And today I actually turned the compost. For the first time ever. And it worked! Underneath the top leayer of veg peelings, there was about 6ocm deep of lovely dark chocolatey compost - woo hoo! I dug the old wheelbarrow out from behind the garage and took my lovely organic soil to my empty veg garden and spread it thickly over about half of the surface.
Time to order my seeds!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Spring fever

The sun is out again - I wish I had my camera here to show you!

I am feeling inspired by the oystercatchers at work - every year they nest on the roof and drop "treasures" through the vents onto the printer... err yes! Being an eco-friendly organisation we actually provide them with pebble-filled seedtrays to settle on - aw bless! The sound of excited chicks when their parent arrives with food is magical! I saw some fun bags embroidered with images of this bird and would rather like to use the idea myself on a smaller scale. Maybe fasten it with some shells threaded on a kilt pin?

In my knitting life, the 2mm needles are getting me down. I feel like I have been knitting for hours with nothing to show for it. Which is not true, because I have finished the heel shaping and am now on the home strait towards the toe of sock one.

But I need a drop of instant gratification. Hence an order for 100g of Malabrigo and Ysolda’s new hat pattern “Verity” – lovely! Hopefully this will arrive in time for me to whip up a spring hat this weekend.

I am once again determined to crack on with The Coat. Before summer arrives. But I need to find the right pattern.

Central heating? Don’t be ridiculous! The radiators are due to be delivered today (again) but no date has been fixed for their installation…

Meantime, FL has a very very nasty cough and is on antibiotics. He was too tired to golf on Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Reading List

It was very encouraging to receive comments from “new” people to my New Yorker post. Do call again!

Despite working with intelligent people, it seems that very few of them actually “read”. So when a colleague mentioned “La Peste” yesterday I was quite wrong-footed and asked him if he had read much Camus. “Eh? Err… it’s the title of a song actually…” Oh.

I studied literature at University. I was a very serious student and I did very well. But my working life has been mostly spent in low-pay, low-status clerical / admin posts where I have been “the invisible hands” behind the managers / policy-makers / researchers. And it used to shock my younger self that most of them went home at night to collapse in front of the TV. But how easy it is to do! Nowadays, I can quite often be found on the sofa with my knitting, a portion of insubstantial chic lit propped open by the ball of yarn on my knee… and “Masterchef” on TV!

Last night was slightly different. In between rows of my Gentleman’s sock (and no TV!) I was mulling over sentences of “The Literary Underground”. This is a book I have wanted to read for many years, because its author was one of my tutors at University: the one who taught me how to think. I found every seminar a struggle, because no matter how well-prepared I thought I was, the Prof caught me out with a reference to a philosopher or literary giant which was apparently, obviously, the key to greater understanding. Now here I am, with a brain of mush, trying to decipher a book which is based on the very course I studied all those years ago. I am viewing this as “revision”, an intellectual training regime before I embark on the Reading List.

The List? I need to fill in the gaps: all those “Greats” I never got round to in my quest for a trendy curriculum! So I never read any of the Romantics or the Metaphysicals or suchlike. But this is not supposed to be sado-masochism so I am not going to tie myself in knots over it. I can get all the classics from the library and I will.
By the way, I just located the current course offerings at my old University – wow! Can I go back?!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New York State of Mind

Yesterday lunchtime, the sun was shining so I took myself for a walk past the University newsagent – a tiny shop which, by virtue of its location, stocks rather more esoteric reading material than the Tesco garage. And I picked up a copy of the New Yorker, where I read this article: “Buying a Cure”, about Kathy Giusti’s charitable foundation, whose goal it is to find a cure for Multiple Myeloma.

And I read some book reviews, which frustrated me, because I knew that I used to understand the literary allusions they were making. And I realised (not for the first time) that if you don’t use it (your brain) you do most certainly lose it.

FL has applied himself to reading “difficult” books since he got his diagnosis. At the moment, it is Darwin’s “The Descent of Man”. He woke me early this morning with a treatise on “the con of Christianity”.

But why should it take a terminal diagnosis to shake up our intellectual lives? When did I let my thoughts drift to the mundane and my reading slip into the realms of chic lit?

So last night, after completing the New York City Ballet Workout 2 (my first formal exercise in over a year, and a geographical coincidence which did not strike me at the time) I made myself a reading list.

I’m off to the library!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Scrabbling


Another weekend. A bit of an unproductive one, despite starting new socks (Gentleman's socks with Lozenge Pattern from "Knitting Vintage Socks").


Tried, yet again, to draft the pattern for my winter coat. In March?!? So when it all went a bit pear-shaped (I measured my bust line onto the tissue paper somewhere around my waist and wondered why it didn't come anywhere near the Japnese calculations!) I gave up... again! It's a shame becuase I was feeling really fired up to sew this weekend - I have some amazing brocade lining material and funky buttons for the coat, but I just can't seem to get this project off the ground.


Meantime, there was bread-baking and Scrabble-playing with my daughter. And we had the stair carpet laid AT LAST! It is well over a year since I bought the runner, but only now we have got it nailed down. It's the purple and orange striped number in the photo of my Pippi socks!


This week, the infamous central heating installation (requested July 2007) is scheduled for Thursday. Except they turned up today to deliver the radiators, without any warning, and of course we weren't in...
FL has developed a terrible cough, rather like my son's. And my daughter's. He is complaining that his back feels like it did last May, before we got his diagnosis. What does this mean? Is the MM back, or is he just feeling the pain because he is more active again? So we are a bit subdued.