Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Countdown - 2 days to go.

Christmas knitting 2009

Items on list: 17 (unchanged)
Items started: 17 (+2)
Items finished: 16 (+2)
Net progress since Sunday - +2

Items still unfinished which are needed for Christmas Day - 0.

I win.

(I should probably admit that one item was finished on the train, and another is still blocking, and the final one is only technically started. But really, who cares at this point!)

Happy Christmas, all...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Countdown, 5 days to go...

Christmas knitting 2009

Items on list: 17 (unchanged)
Items started: 15 (+2)
Items finished: 14 (+3)
Net progress this week - +3

As ever, Franklin has hit the nail on the head...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow day

If you don't want my rail rant, just look at the pretty picture, and reflect that this is enough snow to bring public transport to its knees in this neck of the woods.

So, obviously, it wasn't as easy as all that. No Definitiveness. When I got up at 6:15, the snow was about 6" deep and the rail companies were saying different things. National Express East Anglia alerted me to the 0659, my usual Friday train, being "indefinitely delayed" due to Something-or-Other at Watlington; First Capital Connect ... well, let's just say that none of what ensued was recorded on their website.

Went down to the station for the 0732 which was delayed for 23 minutes. Sat there (knitting with gloves on) bitterly reflecting that predicting in last night's blog post exactly how long the train would be delayed might give me some satisfaction if the waiting wasn't in sub-zero temperatures on a metal seat.

Got on train at 0755.

Train pulls into Cambridge station at 0804 and announces it needs to wait for extra carriages.

Extra carriages arrive at 0820 and are hitched to the back of train.

Train breaks down.

*Extra carriages are detached from back of train; we all move back 4 carriages and start again.

Train breaks down.*

Repeat pattern from * to * once more. (No, honestly.)

By this time it is nearly 0900 (when I'm due to start work 60 miles away) - we are told it will be an indefinite wait until one or all of the "units" are fixed. Meanwhile, people with WiFi are reporting that the three trains after ours are cancelled.

Hear King's Lynn train announced; leave train; change platform; go home.

Work happily until 2.30 when the power goes out for an hour. It's thawing fairly fast here and small branches are falling off even the impeccably-manicured trees round the Green, so presumably something fell on the power line. It was back about an hour later...

I'll make up the lost time sometime over the weekend, but for now I'm going to pick up my tea order from the post office and do some Christmas knitting...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Deep and crisp and drifty

This is the view from outside an hour ago. Now, I know there are people from more wintery climes who regularly read this blog and will be laughing heartily at the pathetic picture this paints (although do click to embiggen the wonderful cross-hatching the wind is creating). But at least one of them has spent serious time in this country, and realises Quite How Much Havoc this will generate. This photo was taken at the point the BBC thinks we're getting "light snow" and 3 hours before we are due to hit "heavy snow". And it's seriously blustery out there...

I'm hoping that it will all get Definitive before I have to leave for work - on the announced-on-the-radio "there are no trains leaving East Anglia" scale of Definitive; rather than my having to plod down to the station to find that there might be a train in 23 minutes and then there isn't but the screens go blank and I stand there for ages and then have to come home anyway... In that case, I already have official sanction to come back home and start on the mountain of stuff I've forwarded to myself... I'd much rather wake up, find out it's impossible to get anywhere and do some decent work, preferably in my pyjamas.

On a completely separate tack, I went to the Poetry Library today for work-related reasons, and met some really nice people. After we'd finished the main part of the meeting we heard about their Lost Quotations service. If you can help, or comment, do!

On the way back from the Poetry library, a pigeon crapped on my hat. I was so utterly and totally affronted by this that it took me several minutes to realise that if I hadn't been wearing a hat, I'd have been dealing with pigeon-poop in my hair. And also made me realise I hadn't blogged the hat yet. Another day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Countdown, not quite two weeks to go...

Threat level: probably edging from substantial to severe...

Christmas knitting 2009
Items on list: 17 (unchanged)
Items started: 13 (+1)
Items finished: 11 (+2)
Net progress this week - +2

Eek. Having said that, I'm 80% of the way through the most complicated thing left on the list...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Is it just me...

... or was John Humphreys and Justin Webb bemusedly covering Mr-Squiggles-gate and the "paedo" mouse song this morning one of the funniest things ever?

Apologies for the links to the Sun. It was that or the Daily Mail...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Countdown, 3 weeks to go...

Threat level: still at substantial...

Christmas knitting 2009

Items on list: 17 (unchanged)
Items started: 12 (unchanged)
Items finished: 9 (+3)
Net progress this week - +3 - yay...

Back to my needles... The usual Attempt at a Christmas tree went up on the Green today. I'd like to hope it'll last any length of time, but I'd bet it'll only be a matter of days before a) the wind blows it down b) joyriders crash into it c) the Yoof decide climbing it would be a great idea d) all of the above...

Friday, December 04, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like...

After a really nice evening at IKL last night, and an earlyish night, I woke up this morning feeling completely appalling. Couldn't work out whether I was getting flu, or whether I wanted to throw up, or what. So apart from a trip downstairs for water and pills, and another to phone work and let them know I wasn't going to be in, the morning sort of didn't happen.

This afternoon I've been feeling a lot better; and sometime or other while I was lying around feeling sorry for myself, this happened outside...

It's amazing how a single line of coloured light-bulbs can make somewhere look magic. And at least this afternoon I have the energy to knit...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Last day of the month...

and NaBloPoMo achieved...

And also, the biggest bit of knitting for this Christmas (I think, have still to decide what to do for one present!)

The Patent Dryness Test was reached. More photos to come...

Thanks for sticking with the posts this month; I'm going to try and keep up with more frequent posting, but posting every day in December may be a no-no!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Study in contrasts

It was One of Those Days, weatherwise. Woke up to driving hail, and by 9am there had already been a period of blue skies, and then this (click to embiggen) which Never Bodes Well - that was the second bout of hail coming over. I do love the 'sun-before-the-storm' moments though - the light is so amazing.

It was vile outside, and a perfect day for just sitting around knitting and making copious quantities of tea, but I had promises to keep...

After a quick look round the shops (and a reassuring discovery that M&S's sizes for this winter are less punishing than last year) and very nice noodle lunch, Sue and I went to the Val McDermid/Mark Billingham talk at Winter Wordfest (.pdf link). I was delighted to find out the moderator was Nicholas Wroe of the Guardian review, but actually they hardly needed him.

While I haven't seen McDermid speak in person (I had to back out of a previous event), I've heard her on the radio a lot and was prepared to be entertained, which I was; Billingham was an unknown quantity, and because his books are on occasion very dark, I was unprepared for his being quite wonderfully funny (apparently he was a stand-up comedian before he turned to writing). It was a fantastic two-hander with a very light touch from Wroe; and the opening chapters of both books, Blood line (Billingham) and Fever of the bone (McDermid) were gripping enough to send me off to the library catalogue as soon as I got home to place reservations...

And in the interests of continuity; with just over 4 weeks to go the Christmas Threat Level is at Substantial...

Christmas knitting 2009

Items on list: 17 (+2 - one I'd forgotten , and one I'd already done but forgotten to count)
Items started: 12 (+3)
Items finished: 6 (+2, one of them the biggest bit of knitting for this Christmas, yay)
Net progress this week - 0 (hmmnn...)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ninja Flossie

Spent last night over at Wibbo's in Hove. Basement cat Flossie is such good value...

Maintained my reputation as a Weather Goddess - was awake for a couple of hours during the night listening to the rain battering against the front windows - but we had a good wander around and shop and I only got completely soaked on my way back up to the station...

Friday, November 27, 2009


Sitting in a café recently talking to a colleague who used to work in a local public library, I innocently said "oh, I'm a handcuffs-and-guns sort of girl, myself". A chap at the next table turned so quickly he probably got whiplash.

Maybe it'd have sounded more harmless if I'd included the haunted castles...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

(Today I am a) small blue thing

I hope I haven't posted this before. I am incredibly tired and have had a very stressy week so far! Am looking forward to 24 hours or so beside the seaside with Wibbo but there's a day's work to get through first...

A 2-year-birthday sweater for my nephew. I haven't phoned them (haven't been back early enough to call at a civilised hour), but gather from my Dad that the parcel did actually arrive. In which case it will have contained this. Pattern is Ziggy Zag from Stolen Stitches. I did have one problem, which meant counting three times round the neck divide, which turned out later to be a problem with the pattern rather than me. The PDF's been corrected now, though...

I hope it fits, and suits...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

They know how to draw you in...

... those British Library types. Headlining an e-mail "Prize draw, Jeremy Irons and live music" is a sure-fire winner with me ...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Supremes, part 1

Sorry, couldn't resist the post title as a West Wing nut.

As ever in this country, radical change comes slowly, quietly and robed in tradition. You had to be quite interested in that sort of thing to notice the UK Supreme Court opening on October 5, despite it being the first formal division between the judiciary and the legislature since the late 14th century. But if you've walked around Parliament Square in the last couple of years, you'll have seen the most beautiful building (which Pevsner described as art nouveau Gothic - two for the price of one, then) being unearthed from a coating of air pollution and neglect.

I had heard all sorts of good things about the building - the Peter Blake carpet; the curtains by Timorous Beasties... So I took my courage in both hands and e-mailed the court from work to find out whether it was possible to visit. Within a day or so, I had an e-mail from the Librarian, inviting us over, and mailed my colleagues to see who was interested; in the end there were three parties of us, and I put myself in the second one. We had a fantastic visit last Friday - the Court rooms are beautiful and it was fascinating finding out how on earth an important legal library is built quickly using chunks of existing libraries and a minimum number of staff.

While we were there, though, we discovered that most of the building (apart from the library) is accessible to the general public, day in, day out. The Court doesn't sit on Fridays so the court rooms are wanderable-about as a tourist then, but anyone can visit the building (subject to airline-type security checks as with anywhere on Whitehall), sit at the back of the court and see proceedings, look at the architecture, visit the exhibition about the court (and watch proceedings on plasma screens) and generally see business being done.

Makes me (quietly, and in an entirely British way, you understand) extremely proud of what's been done. Not as flamboyant, or as scandalous, as many other things which have been happening recently, but possibly, potentially, more important in the long run. While the current members of the Court are Law Lords, the intention is that future appointments won't be; and six centuries of tradition will gently be severed...

(Part 2 of this post will be sorted out if it ever stops raining, and I can take some photos of the outside of the building, which is glorious. Check the links above for pictures of the inside.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The day ended better than it started - having looked up the large number of cancelled trains this morning just before setting off for the station, I was somewhat aggrieved to find mine had joined them only 12 minutes later... Presumably the people who update the website don't get up as early as the people intending to travel on the trains... And of course it was raining...

However, I made an excursion to Muji at lunchtime (ostensibly for pens for Wibbo, who's exiled out of Mujiland) and the sun was shining, and after a reasonably productive day at work, I met a friend for dinner (the Papaya Tree on Kensington High Street; I'd recommend it for food and service; apparently, so would Michael Winner; but you can't have it all...) and the train home worked, albeit with only half the number of carriages.

Checking blogs when I got back, funniest LOLcats for a long while, if you've ever had one of those cats who's permanently on the wrong side of a closed door...

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lazy(ish) Sunday

The weather is pretty terrible outside, and public transport is pretty limited on a Sunday, so I've had a fairly lazy time knitting and pottering around tidying up, paying the bills ready to post after payday etc... This is the only Little Ray of Sunshine this afternoon, and it didn't last long - not long enough to go out and plant the bulbs I bought earlier in the autumn, anyway!

I did produce my course blurb, syllabus and requirements list for next year's Cottenham Summer School (the link is to this year's programme but gives you an idea of what's usually on offer). Feedback last year said people had enjoyed it and would like an extra day, which is very flattering but will be pretty tiring - 4 days' teaching with the same class is a lot less tiring than multiple classes doing the same thing though...

I also had a good clearout of the spice rack in the kitchen. I got rid of some jars I don't really use, and made a list of what I need to refill (there are South Asian, South East Asian and Korean shops just on the main road around the corner from the Cambridge Blue so I can sort this out before knitting on Tuesday...) It's a big rack (about 90cm/3' by 60cm/2'), with 1-lb jam-jars, and one of the most satisfying things about getting a kitchen built a decade or so ago - you can draw something on the back of an envelope and a cabinet-maker will get together proper plans and produce something like this...

Anyway; got rid of the most out-of-date things including three separate quantities of yeast (haven't even bought bread for 2 years let alone made it) and some generic curry powders I never really liked... And although I really like star anise, I also seem to really like buying star anise more... Most of the jars came from the rather wonderful Daily Bread, but it's not the easiest place to get to without a car; I'll have to try and get there on a Saturday sometime after Christmas.

My hat from the Woolly Wormhead Mystery KAL on Ravelry is done and blocking - but I'll wait for the full reveal to put up a picture; and I started another Christmas present today...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The countdown begins - 5 weeks to go

It's that time of year again.

Christmas knitting 2009

Items on list: 15
Items started: 9
Items finished: 6

Hmmnnn... A couple of things on the list are smallish, but a couple are quite large... better get knitting!

Probably best that after many years of making my own Christmas cards I realised I was devoid both of inspiration and of time this year; found some nice charity ones online which arrived today... and realised the last overseas posting date for Christmas is actually only about a fortnight away!

Slightly funny moment in the library this morning - went to shelve some Young Adult books and there was this huge gap on the shelves in the middle, in a library which is chronically short of shelving. It took me a minute to realise that that was where the Twilight books would sit - if we ever actually had them in the library for more than 30 seconds or so at a time... Presumably they did come back at some point last week before flitting off into the darkness again...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pretty, and not so pretty

Old news, I know, but I just went to find out what this year's Christmas stamps are, and my heart was made glad. Pre-Raphaelite stained-glass windows!!!!

The page was slightly marred by the quote from the Royal Mail’s Head of Speical Stamps, presumably produced by the Royal Mail's Head of Special Spelling without the intervention of the Royal Mail's Head of Special (or, indeed, any) Proofreading.

And then the not-pretty. I went to pull a scarf out of the cupboard today to wear, and found this:

It's not moth; fear not. I think it must have got caught on a door-handle in the cupboard under the stairs... But it's not exactly at the end of the scarf either...

There's a good 18" to re-knit; and it's the infamous "can't count to eight" scarf, and of course it's the end with 5 tassels rather than 4...

I may need to wait until after Christmas to sort it out.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Some knitting in today's post - this is my mam's Christmas present, Rosemary Hill's Bluebird. I can show you this because she doesn't read this blog, and my Dad is far too nice a man to reveal the secret...

This is the first end - I'm ploughing down the long stretch of very simple, easy-to-memorise lace in the middle, to the accompaniment of a lot of podcasts (finally starting to catch up after a stretch of audio-book-listening!) Either another 6 or another 14 repeats to go, depending on how much yarn is left... I think it might be the longer version, though. And then another end. There's a little bit of beading on the ends.

The yarn is a quite wonderful Knitwitches blend - 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk, 10% cashmere - which isn't on their website - and the colour is slightly greener than it is here - heading slightly towards the teal end of turquoise.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Baby Mahalia

My Dad edited this photo while I was staying with them this September, but I suddenly realised I'd never posted it... This has always been known as the "Baby Mahalia" photo at home - it just needed the Photoshop addition of the microphone to make it art; and yes, that's me, 42 or so years ago. Obviously, the singing voice isn't a patch on the original...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Habit of Art

Went to the press night of Alan Bennett's new play, The Habit of Art, tonight. I always forget that under that cosy exterior, the man has a mind for theatre like a steel trap, designed on post-modern lines. The "main action" - between Auden and Britten, two men whose work I admire without really understanding anything about their lives - is a play within a play; and people are constantly breaking in and out of role. There's a lot of playing about with self-consciously self-referential writing; and the nearest comparison I can think of is Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead, in the hopping in and out of two universes; except that, literally 40 years on, it's not really like that either... Richard Griffiths and Alex Jennings are extraordinarily good as Auden and Britten, and Frances De La Tour does a wonderful job as the rather slinky director. It's booked out, other than returns, until the end of January; but there are another couple of months of the run after that...

ETA - reviews from the Guardian, the Independent and the Telegraph are somewhat raving and deservedly so; the Times is slightly less convinced...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stocking chart and guide

Hi - thanks to all who've commented on the stocking. I'm still quietly quite chuffed myself...

I've put up a couple of files for the chart and a bit of a guide to it. To make the stocking you also need a copy of Folk Socks because the braid, heel and toe pattern are lifted from there. Both are PDF files.

The chart file is here; and the guide is here. Let me know if there are problems - I had horrendous trouble uploading them and am still not confident they're viewable by anyone else.

And as a result of this experience I'm looking for someone else to handle my mail and possibly my domain names - anyone got good ISP recommendations please?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Look! Look!

My nephew's stocking has been started, and finished.

This is one of those days when I'm so glad I have this blog, otherwise I'd be wandering around the village accosting strangers (or, worse, non-knitting acquaintances) with my knitting, waving it in their faces and saying "Look what I've done!! no, no, look!!!"

I have had so much fun with the binge-knitting this weekend...

It's been a very quiet weekend, which was fine; I was meant to have a dinner guest last night, who had to cancel earlier in the week, but the Knitting Obsession had possessed me by then, and there'd probably have been nothing started and I'd have been sitting in a big pile of yarn and books come 7pm and it would all have been a bit embarrassing...

So this was the view on Friday afternoon/evening when I got back from meeting Rosie... Books include Alice Starmore's Fair Isle Knitting, Nancy Bush's Folk Socks, and Jan Eaton's Cross Stitch Motif Bible. I started off using a pencil and a printed-out Excel spreadsheet, but in the end took it over to the PC and blocked things in there - much easier apart from the lettering...

Then I started with a Latvian Braid. I actually managed the two-colour long-tail cast on this requires; but after I'd finished the braid, I realised that wasn't what I wanted and ripped it back. Repeatedly. In the end, I worked out what I actually wanted to do, and went to bed to sleep on it, and by the time I left for Tesco the next morning, I had a provisional crochet cast-on and braid.

By about lunchtime, I had three braids, one pattern and the lettering...

And then I knitted some more, pausing to blog briefly and change CDs occasionally (Jeffery Deaver's The Empty Chair - I'm working through the Lincoln Rhyme audiobooks in order) until about 8pm when I ran out of chart. Stopped to cook a bit of dinner, add some more rows to the spreadsheet/chart and then settled down to knit some more... and it was just-another-row or just-another-CD until .... erm ... 2:20am. How did that happen? (Actually, that happens to me quite often with colourwork, particularly colourwork which is growing quickly...)

Needless to say, it was a slow start this morning, but while listening to The Archers Omnibus and the rather wonderful Desert Island Discs this morning (it was Julia Donaldson, who wrote The Gruffalo among other things; I haven't read it, or any of her others, but she was funny, and warm, and moving, and picked some lovely stuff), I danced along the foot and finished the toe; and to the accompaniment of the first CD of Dorothy L Sayers's Strong Poison, in the Ian Carmichael reading (of course), I picked up the cast-on, did an attached I-Cord edging and sewed in the ends.

And it is done!!

Things I like:

  • It's festive and garish and still looks traditional
  • It's the size intended (hanging up like that, it measures 65 cm (26") from the top of the hanging loop to the toe)
  • The heel is exactly right for a stocking that's designed to hang up (the heel and toe both come from the Mamluke pattern from "Folk Socks"); I was hoping this was the case, but it actually is...
  • My swatch came out at 18sts/10cm, which meant casting on 72 sts - which meant I had a huge choice of Fair Isle patterns at my disposal - and then when I reached the heel I discovered that the Mamluke pattern is worked over 72 sts as well so it was a no-brainer...
  • It's a proper sock - most of the ones I've seen weren't really in proportion
  • After the Latvian braids, I had no ripping back, at all - very unusual for something I've worked out myself
  • It was the most satisfying bit of knitting I've done for a long time. I worked on a bit of a scarf a couple of weeks ago which had the same enjoying-the-moment appeal; but this was wonderful - there was nothing at all I'd rather be doing on earth than using this lovely yarn (Cascade 220) and making this great big sock. It's been a busy week after a busy weekend, and having a three-day weekend was just what was required.
  • I left long floats rather than knitting them in (other than for the lettering) and that worked very well - it's unblocked in the photos but I think a quick hover with the steam iron will probably sort it out without the need for blocking.

And now, the obligatory reverse-of-the-work shot...

Not too shabby, if I say so as shouldn't...

I've written up some brief instructions and the chart - I need to sanity-check it (possibly by knitting another one for myself without the lettering but with a different chart on it) and will then try and work out how to upload the PDFs somewhere!

And now I need to start all those other little things you do over the weekend... To be fair, I took stretching breaks (generally when I put a new CD in) to do bits of washing, ironing, washing-up etc. so it's not actually unhygienic; and I do have food in; but I could do with giving everything a bit, no make that a lot, of a tidy-up. Time for some more Peter Wimsey, I think!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I finally got round to updating my Ravelry projects page with all the stuff I've been doing which I can show (there are still two or three things I can't because the recipients are also Rav members...)
And realised I don't think I ever got round to showing you the finished Moorish Sweater.
This was a fun knit. I love two-colour knitting and this is chunky weight so it knitted up fast - despite not taking it on the train very often it took just over 3 weeks. The yarn is Sirdar's late lamented Peru, some of which was bought incredibly on sale at Kemps to eke out the 8 balls of blue I've had in the stash for a while. This pic was taken at the KTog at the beginning of October when it was still a little too warm to be wearing it, really... It's definitely going to be a staple this winter - it's light and warm at the same time. It's pilling slightly, but not too badly...

Getting quite excited about this Christmas stocking - it's looking really good. More on that tomorrow...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Joy and disappointment

We'll go for joy first. I met Rosie for a drink after she finished work (mid-afternoon - it felt very decadent to be slightly tanked at 6pm...) Managed to hand over her long-delayed birthday present and catch up, and it was really nice. Rosie changed my life when we bumped into each other at the Mill Pond in Cambridge in April 2004, and I found there were Other People Like Me who knitted in the local area; since then I've met so many lovely people via the KTog, started this blog and met more lovely people, started teaching knitting occasionally... and generally built up some courage I didn't have before...

I thought I had photos of Rosie's main birthday present (rather belated); but actually I only have a pic of it in somewhat embryonic form in a café in Vienna - but that's appropriate as it's the Farbenfroh sock in the Hundertwasser Silver Spiral yarn...

And now on to the disappointment. I went into the newly re-opened Central Library in Cambridge this afternoon for the second time, but to actually use their services for the first time. I didn't have a huge amount of time to spare; I suspect most people don't...

Step 1: Queue for staff attention for a couple of minutes - one of the sets of CDs I borrowed (via Waterbeach LAP) has a production problem - it's in two sets of 5 disks and although disk 6 (the first of the second set) is labelled correctly, it has the same content as disk 1 (the first of the first set). The staff member is interested in this and says he'll note the error and see what they can do. Ask if I can return my other stuff there as I've queued - but am asked to use the self-return machines instead. OK; this a new thing and I've watched the online videos saying how efficient they are.

Step 2: Attempt to use self-return machines. The first item just sits on the conveyor belt, as does the next one I try. I decide this machine is not working, and move round the corner to use another one. This is also not working; but the woman next to me is returning things, so I decide to wait for her machine to become free. She leaves, and I put my items on the conveyor belt one by one as requested. Neither moves. I keep trying, digging down to the bottom of the bag for actual books rather than the CDs and cassettes I'm trying to return. The hardbacks work fine, as do the cassettes (and it's very cool, actually - you get the title up on the screen and so on), but the CDs and paperback fail repeatedly.

Step 3: Queue again for staff attention. Someone comes to find me after a couple of minutes, and is (somewhat patronisingly) surprised I seem to be incomprehensibly unable to use self-return. She takes me over to the self-return station and (unsurprisingly to me) it doesn't work for her either. So she takes me to another terminal and finds that the items I can't return don't have the appropriate electronic tag. Apparently the problem is that they come from another library - one of the things I've always loved about Cambridgeshire libraries is that this has never ever mattered. While I have a member of staff, I ask where the audiobooks are; except I ask for "talking books" and am briskly corrected; but am pointed in the right direction.

Step 4: Pick my audiobooks. Nice selection, although I'd rather have an A-Z by author for the whole sequence than the division into CDs and Cassettes. I know a lot of people don't have cassette players any more, but most of the people I know who use audiobooks actually do - so having to look in two places is slightly annoying. But they've got a lot of new ones since I last looked and I very quickly find 3 I want.

Step 5: Head cheerily for the self-checkout stations. I've used these for books in the past but I heard in the paper that I can now also pay for other media checkout (I will owe £6.60 for the three audiobooks). When I get to the terminals, I find there's some sort of collection slot, church-style, next to them; I follow the terminals round the pillar to see if there's one which takes cards, and find there's a change machine. There's no sign saying "out of order" so I try inserting a note into the machine. Nope.

Step 6: Queue for attention again. Apparently the pay-at-checkout facility isn't working yet (some sort of indication of this would have been useful). I ask how I can pay for my loans. I'm told that I should go back to self-checkout and then queue for attention again. I decline to, and there's a lot of exasperated sighing; apparently my books can be checked out there and I can pay for them, but they'll then have to hand-write when the books are due, which seems to be a problem.

Step 7: Pay, and leave, gratefully.

As a qualified librarian, I found this whole experience incredibly disappointing. I was attempting to return 7 items and borrow 3, and it took me 27 minutes, only 6 of which were spent actually looking at the stock.

And yes, of course I'm composing an e-mail to the head of user services, or whatever title is currently fashionable.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


A couple of people asked me for the recipe for the gingerbread from Tuesday's event; and I made the same for the library meeting a month or so ago and a couple of people asked me for the recipe then. I don't have an accompanying photo, or not one I can find at the moment... This is all in ounces because the original recipe was... my electronic scale switches modes between grammes, which I usually use, and ounces.

Heat up an oven to 150C, gas 3 (you'll have to convert if you use fahrenheit); line an 8" square tin with baking parchment.

4 oz butter
2 teaspoons golden syrup

8 oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 oz sugar
2 heaped tsps ginger (powdered)
1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs, separated

4 oz (you can get away with a 100g tub) mixed peel - you can substitute glace cherries in an emergency, and it's OK, but not as good...

Extra sugar

Method (we talked about cookery lessons this evening and old habits die hard)...

Heat the butter and syrup together gently until they're nicely melted. Meanwhile, measure the flour, sugar, ginger, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl.

Take the butter/syrup mix off the heat. After a minute or two, put the egg yolks in with them, stirring all the time. Once amalgamated, tip into the flour mix and stir.

Put half of the mix into the tin, distribute and press down slightly. Spread the mixed peel/dried fruit over; then spread the other half of the mix over and level it.

Pour the egg whites over the mixture, tip the tin to level it and pour off any excess. Sprinkle sugar over to give a crusty coating.

Bake for 15 minutes; then give the tin a quarter turn and bake it for another 15 minutes.

Enjoy. It generally doesn't last that long...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Two pictures from Sunday. I hadn't been out of the main entrance at Liverpool Street in several years, so this monument was new to me:

The plaque says

Children of the Kindertransport

In gratitude to the people of Britain for saving the lives of 10,000 unaccompanied mostly Jewish children who fled from Nazi persecution in 1938 and 1939.
"Whosoever rescues a single soul is credited as though they had saved the whole world" - Talmud
Dedicated by
Association of Jewish Refugees
Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief

And there was this, on the wall of the V&A next to the staff entrance:

I work very near the Cenotaph, and the wreaths there are impressive and moving; and some of us went out and did our 2 minutes' silence out there this morning; and I didn't and wish I had.
But the everyday monuments to ordinary people being called to do extraordinary things, and responding to the call, also resonate.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Franklin at I Knit redux

A very good evening. There were a number of us, but not so many that insanity resulted (probably due to the Tuesday night...); the guest of honour apparently got slightly lost on his way out of Waterloo station, several times, but still arrived on time... and we had an exclusive reading from a book-in-preparation.

Dolores was there in spirit and in narration, but not in person; Franklin did say something about her having headed for Earl's Court on arrival, so I suspect she might have been listening to The Archers and hoped to hook up with an Australian barman...

Yvonne/Stash had brought some wonderful antique knitting books with her;

Snailhannah had brought her Lambies and a row was duly knitted...

... and of course Gerard watched over the proceedings...

Thanks, guys, for an excellent evening.

Monday, November 09, 2009

2009 books, #64

Nine dragons, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2009.

The tagline on the cover of this says Harry Bosch is back. And this time it's personal. At which point the seasoned Connelly reader will think 'well, when isn't it?' - Bosch is not known for his laid-back equanimity - but the publicity people have a point. Very well-paced and stylish, with some interesting stuff on triads; but there's a sort of emotional hole in the middle. I'm trusting this is something which will come back and bite Harry in a future sequel, but it's not very satisfactory for the current book...

Also currently listening to one of Tony Britton's wonderful readings of Dick Francis novels - Bolt, in this case.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Lovely day

I had a great day today - went down to the V&A to meet Franklin and Tom. There was a brief, horrible period between about 2pm yesterday afternoon when sparkleduck let me know that there were no trains on the usual route today (thanks! I'd have been completely lost otherwise), and getting onto a rail-replacement bus first thing this morning, when I did wonder whether it would happen...

This was the view while I was walking through the village early this morning...

... and this was the replacement bus. The fact the company was called SABLE was rather reassuring...I thought my photos were actually better than they are... But here's a slightly strange one - three of us with cameras on a staircase.

No, Tom's head didn't really ignite; here he is later, examining some slightly dubious lions... There were quite a few very odd animals in the collections today - a dog crushing a snake on top of a cushion was definitely one which made us all giggle...

It was a lovely day; they're excellent company and we had fun. More photos of things in the collection soon.

Meanwhile just a reminder of Franklin's talk at I Knit London on Tuesday night (November 10), 6pm onwards...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

'Tis (the start of) the season

(Actually, I have made nearly 6 Christmas presents already, but they're for people who read this...)

Festively coloured Cascade 220 (two skeins courtesy Pavi Yarns this morning; I had the white from another project).

It's going to be a Christmas stocking for my nephew... I sort of like this one, but it's knitted in chunky/bulky so I'd have to change the stitch count, and therefore some of the patterns, and I'd like three colours rather than two; and I have the Alice Starmore Fair Isle book which is still untouched; and I love the heels and toes on the Mamluke socks (I really need to knit another pair of those...) I know I want Latvian braids in there somewhere, and the nephew's name knitted in near the top...

So I need to swatch - probably a good thing to do at the KTog this afternoon - and then chart...

Needless to say, this is not what I'm meant to be thinking about this morning; I'm in Full Procrastination Mode over something I have to write and am feeling very ambiguous about... can't tell you what, yet... What I'm meant to be doing is writing on that pad at the back of the photo... but then I had to go and collect the yarn, didn't I, or the post office would have closed and it would have been another week... (I'm ignoring the fact that if I'd collected it a couple of hours later it would have made no difference....)

But the Stocking Project will be a nice ongoing thing I can show you while I stealth-knit in the background...

Friday, November 06, 2009


I've lost count of the number of pretty, pretty links to items on the international Anthropologie site I've seen over the years on other people's sites. So when I realised they'd opened a shop in London, I thought I'd take a trip over there at lunchtime.

First thing: normally, I hate music in shops. The music here though is French indie/pop and therefore adorable. Second thing: the prices are completely weird and slightly disconnected to what you're actually buying - anything with a handmade element costs what it really should and some of the homewares are more like IKEA pricing. Third thing: they had French breakfast bowls, in colours which go with the kitchen.

I had one of these, once, before it broke; and every French household has some for drinking tea/coffee/chocolate, or beating eggs, or whatever...
First visit; won't be the last...

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Regardless of the current state of the postal dispute; I got this sad, damp little item through the door today;

It had sort-of-dried into that shape - makes you realise how wet it must have been coming through the letterbox, and how wet the person delivering it must have been while writing out the illegible information... At the other end, I'll probably know the person at the post office who'll be looking for whatever-it-is on Saturday morning and will trust that they know my name and I have this curled-up card; lots of people aren't in that situation...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New in the neighbourhood...

There's a new baby next-door-but-one; I knew his gender and estimated birth date, but only bumped into one of his parents a fortnight after the event. So I whipped out a Baby Surprise Jacket and took it along...

The yarn is King Cole Mirage in colour Helsinki, bought at the stall in Durham covered market - it's lovely stuff to knit with (if you don't mind a 50% acrylic content)... and I got a lovely thankyou card from the family at the weekend...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


The usual buzz about Lidl's annual yarn bonanza hit Ravelry a couple of weeks ago. I was going to resist. In fact I did resist until last Friday, when my colleague mentioned that she had a Lidl at the end of her road, and she knew I knitted, and it didn't look bad - there was a lot of wool in it - and would I like her to go back on Saturday when she was going to be shopping there anyway?

3 packs of Treviso sock yarn in a neutral colour (75% wool/25% nylon, 200g per pack, 840m per pack, £2.99 per pack; totally dyeable, rumours of felting on Ravelry).

This colleague is one of my union reps; I can't work out whether she's assisting my general well-being, or endangering it further; but I'm in her debt (although not financially just at the moment...).

2009 books, #63

This one deserves a post on its own.

Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett. London: Transworld/Doubleday, 2009.

Brilliant. Pratchett takes on the Beautiful Game and wins. We get everything from Real Football, or whatever it was called in the days of bearbaiting, cockfighting and other lethal sports, to the start of the modern game; in conjunction with Ridcully, Rincewind, the Bursar, Ponder Stibbons and a host of new and wonderfully drawn characters. There's academic and sporting rivalry, dwarfmail modelling and serious pie-making.

There's the usual combination of extreme funniness and heartbreaking serious truth; there's a lovely non-typical romance and some Beautiful People; there's that sense you get in the best of the Pratchett books that This Is the Way the World Turns, and occasionally the Way It Should Turn; and there's a bit on the Offside Rule and the Nature of Celebrity.

Wonderful and another Pratchett tour de force.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Couple of bits...

Couple of FOs - they won't look like this in wear (at least I'm hoping not!) -but two little cowls for two not-so-little girls... Both to the Clémence pattern by Katya Frankel, the top one in Aran weight (bought at The Skep in Pudsey the first year SkipNorth went there and languishing forgotten, and uninventoried, in the stash), and the bottom one in DK (Schoeller and Stahl "Limbo", one of my favourites...)

A nice quick knit once I'd figured out the pattern. It's one which is quietly more difficult than it looks; which is relatively rare in knitting... But once you get the hang of it you can't stop... There may be more of these made for Christmas...

Not a great picture - but we're into the several months where I don't see daylight... part of doing NaBloPoMo is to convince myself I'm still alive...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

All Hallows

We don't do Hallowe'en much on the Green; no trick-or-treaters, not much pumpkinnery; it's not really a UK thing and this is a pretty traditional village. Sadly, we haven't had penny-for-the-guy either...

However, this is one of the funnier things I've seen in a while...

Those cats are so even-tempered. I know I'd be cut to ribbons if I tried this with the Bug, but I know a lot of US indoor cats are de-clawed so maybe that's it... the big one in the tutu looks so much like Tilda. She used to just sit down if she felt foolish, too...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Byzantine again

Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment on the last entry; it was really useful, and did help me decide what to do.

Despite knowing that Westminster Cathedral a) was just down the road from work and b) was a neo-Byzantine Victorian edifice and c) I'm a Catholic, I still hadn't made it in there until the I Knit Weekender, when I was staying at a Westminster University hall of residence just down the road (highly recommended, by the way, if you're a single in London over the summer and want cheap, clean, self-catering digs right in the middle of it all, and thanks to Yvonne for recommending it!)

I digress. Westminster Cathedral was wonderful, and I'll post more soon. But one of the things I loved was these little leaves/trees which were made of perfect tiny elements, and next to each other, and went so well together... And Susan's pattern did exactly that (and thanks so much for making a suggestion here; I do hope I managed to say in the original post that I realise it's not your pattern, which is gorgeous, but my modification of it which is the problem!)...

I did like the suggestion of a fabric lining, which several people suggested; and I pondered that one long and hard. I went to both Liberty (who carry the Kaffe Fassett range) and the Silk Society, and each had something which might well have done, and I thought I'd go back next week and make a choice. But then I came home last night and went through my scarves and shawls, and looked at the Ones I Wore and the Ones I Didn't. And it turns out the Ones I Really Don't are those with a fabric lining; and I suspect the recipient might have similar tastes. So, last night I put those into the charity box for the next carrier bags that come round, and this morning on my volunteer library shift (before the very lovely and extremely boisterous four-brother group arrived to take over the computers and ask masses of questions about... well, everything in the world), I went with the first two suggestions from Suzi and my evil twin and reduced the scarf so far to

I think the clincher was remembering that the intended recipient was wearing her Nice New Winter Coat last time I saw her, and the colours in this scarf really wouldn't have worked out with it anyway; so I felt better about keeping the yarn and making an adapted version of this pattern as a cushion early next year when the Christmas knitting is done... Which I will keep for myself, and fawn over like Smaug.

Post warning; I've joined NaBloPoMo again; I did manage it last November, and I have a few nice things coming up this November (and also some Christmas knitting for people who don't read this); I also have a load of things from Vienna I never blogged...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Suggestions, anyone?

Less than one day into GMT (welcome, dark dank evenings) and the Knitting Strikes Back.

I have a current bit of knitting which can best be expressed thus:

I have a couple of really nice FOs to show you, probably in a later post, but this particular project has come to a bit of a standstill and I could really do with some suggestions.

I'm knitting Byzantine, by Susan Pandorf. Except I'm really not - I'm just following the chart. Anything following reflects no discredit to the designer, who produces the most beautiful patterns. This is just to show that sometimes you can just go a modification too far.
I'm making it in 4-ply, as a scarf, instead of the intended Silk Garden Lite as a stole. I'm making it in wool (basically, there's 10% nylon in one component) rather than in a drapier blend. And in the usual wonderful sense of complete self-delusion, I've got nearly halfway through before I decided to steam-block it and work out that actually, no, it's never going to stop curling at the edges and it's always going to turn into a little tiny cylinder rather than the very beautiful scarf it ought to be.

Normally, I'd rip out without a thought. But it is a beautiful, beautiful thing. I mean, look at it.

I'm using Mini Mochi in colour 114 and JoJoLand Harmony in colour 18, and they're made for each other. Everything about the colours is wonderful...
So - the poser is:

I have a strip of extremely beautiful fabric 30cm x 60cm (12" x 24"). I also have another ball of each colour and probably about 5" of knitted length on the existing balls. It's mosaic knitting, so not as catastrophically bad to rip out as Fair Isle or stranded.

Things I have considered and rejected:

1) I could pick up the edge stitches and do some corrugated rib along the long edges - I don't have enough yarn to do this without making the scarf less than 50" long, and the recipient likes longer scarves, and even then I'm not convinced it won't just curl.

2) I could turn the piece of fabric into a bag - I have enough bags, and then I'd just have half the yarn left to make another small thing...

3) I could pick up edge stitches and make something modular - I'm receptive to ideas on this...

4) I could just rip it out and make a big cushion or something using the same chart, and forget the 20 or so hours spent so far... this is what I'm leaning towards so far

5) ? any suggestions?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thanks, and prize!

Thanks to the 12 people who commented (including Daisyx2 which was presumably finger trouble!) I'm glad you haven't been too turned off by all the garden stuff. I have a free weekend - I need to do blurb for next year's knitting classes and a bit of work-work, but otherwise I'm hoping to do a lot of cleaning and tidying, and some blogging, this weekend...

OK: the prize is a small collection of notion-type things. The main attraction is an accessories bag from the new, wonderful and local woolly mamas - so new their online shop isn't open yet but you can e-mail in enquiries. Their bigger knitting bags are also absolutely gorgeous and designed for both beauty and practicality... And I'm plugging them because I really like them, their stuff and their ethics; I paid the going rate for the prize bag.

There's also a set of little sweatery needle-keepers-together and a handmade-by-me scissor fob.

And the winner is.... Mel/Yogicknitter, comment no. 10. I'll PM you on Ravelry, and see if you're likely to be at I Knit sometime soon or whether I should give it up as an offering to the Postal Gods... Congrats! and thanks again to everyone for entering.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

'Versary - and prizegiving

I realised last night that today is the 4th anniversary of starting this blog; and dug out a photo from this month which seems to express the essence of it...

Knitting, chaos and cat. That works.

And over the last year: the garden. Photo taken at 3:15ish today....

Thanks for bearing with me; particularly over the last couple of months where IE8 and Blogger have been At War -this seems to have improved, it seems that manipulation of photos doesn't mean three versions of a browser just to switch two photos round... Now that's sorted, am hoping to do a post a day in November as last year...

Thanks for the lovely encouraging comments on the garden over the last few months, even if you didn't want to see a garden on a knitting blog; and thanks for the chivvying along when I've not been making enough progress for you. Honestly, the comments on the garden have sometimes made the difference between going out the following weekend, or not...

Four years ago I was working in a job I hated, and I was at Ally Pally as part of a stitched textiles group I felt somewhat out of my depth with, although all the people I worked with there were wonderful. These days I really like my job, although I work slightly mad hours, and am a Knitter...

As is customary, a prize will be given for a blogiversary. But no contest, or anything... Just please, leave a comment before Sandi O'Clock (which means 6:30pm British Summer Time, when The News Quiz comes on on Radio 4, on Friday 23rd October); a prize will be awarded on random comment numbers...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

2009 books, #55-#62

Roadside crosses, by Jeffery Deaver. London: Hodder, 2009.

Deaver just seems to get better. This one's a Kathryn Dance novel; and he neatly avoids all the patterns he's adopted in the past. There's a character you feel certain is earmarked to be the twist in the tail but isn't; and one you feel is probably benign, and also isn't... just as you think you've worked out how he's going to trick you, he turns through 90 degrees and does something completely different...

Our fathers' lies, by Andrew Taylor. London: Hodder, 2007.

William Dougal isn't my favourite of Andrew Taylor's recurring characters, but this one is very good, and a nice quick read; a suspected suicide turns into something much more complicated involving old family history and the intelligence network; gripping from start to finish.

Serpent's tooth, by Faye Kellerman. London: Headline, 1998.

Another of the Peter Dekker books - lots of twists and turns; occasionally the plot gets almost too convoluted for its own good, but some of the characters are very interesting and it does start with the most dramatic scene... and it's interesting to see the sons turning into young men rather than still being children.

The devil in amber, by Mark Gatiss. London: Simon and Schuster, 2006.

This turned up in the 'to catalogue' pile at the library; so I catalogued it and brought it home. I have a soft spot for strange, slightly fascistic, 1930s action/spy novels of the type written by Dornford Yates, and this is a wonderful (and affectionate) parody of these written by League of Gentlemen writer/performer Mark Gatiss who was also responsible for the wonderful Nebulous on the radio. Wonderfully written, with the eye for the violently grotesque you'd expect from Gatiss, and some fantastically punny names. I need to get hold of the first book in the series, The Vesuvius Club, and see if there have been any others since...

The blue religion: new stories about cops, criminals and the chase, edited by Michael Connolly for Mystery Writers of America. London: Quercus, 2008.

This is an extremely good anthology of short stories. The main trail on the cover is for an original Harry Bosch story, but there are better ones in here; John Harvey's bleak story stands out against the more glamorous American offerings; John O. Born is a name I need to follow up; Laurie R. King shines as usual; Paul Guyot's story is extremely moving and Peter Robinson's is beautifully crafted. One small whinge though - all the stories are in US English spelling regardless of provenance; reading "gray" and "center" in Harvey's and Robinson's Northern English dialogue is annoying and clumsy - and increasingly frequent, recently...

The storm: the world economic crisis and what it means, by Vince Cable. London: Atlantic, 2009.

Absolutely does what it says on the tin. A sane, clear explanation of what's been going on over the last couple of years, which explains economic concepts in ordinary language. Obviously there's a political bias here, but it's relatively slight and, where it becomes party-political, it's signalled; Cable assumes you're an intelligent person with an interest in, but no great expertise in, economic theory and history - it's never patronising or over-theoretical. At 150 pages, it's a very good guide to what happened (it was published in January or so), and gives predictions (many of them since fulfilled) for the future. I'm not surprised the queue for this at the library was extremely long.

Even money, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis. London: Michael Joseph, 2009.

Superb; Dick Francis at his best. I don't care who was behind this one; its's the standard blend of information (in this case, how on-course betting works), family (wow) and plot (pretty good...)

Definitely well up to the old standards of the early novels on the plot stakes, and well above it on the emotional ones...

206 bones, by Kathy Reichs. London: Heinemann, 2009.

I enjoyed this one - I always read the Kathy Reichs books when they come out, but the earlier ones set in Montréal are definitely my favourite, and the more Andrew Ryan content, the better. This one is almost entirely Montréal-based, and having visited the city last year I had slightly more idea of where things were and how the geography fits together (I'll have to go back and re-read the first couple...). I always fear that Tempe will go the way of Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta into self-absorption but there's no evidence of it in this particular book ... My only real criticism of it is that the framing device (and if you've seen the posters, you'll have read some of it) with attendant flashbacks isn't done strongly enough - you get a couple of pages of "present day" followed by 100 pages of "recent past" and it's not enough to be intruiguing, merely enough to be a bit irritating. As a study of how things can go very wrong in a workplace alarmingly quickly, it's excellent.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

2009 books, #44-54

Long time, no blog. Hoping to catch up a bit this evening, so here's a book review post which has been hanging around forever...

A lot of Michael Connolly in this bunch: I think I've read more or less everything he's written now though...

Thank you for the days : a boy's own adventures in radio and beyond, by Mark Radcliffe. London: Simon and Schuster, 2009.

I loved this book. I'm a fan of Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie on their Radio 2 show, but I don't think you'd need to be to enjoy this (or any of Maconie's wonderful books). You'd just need to have been at all interested in popular culture, and particularly popular music, over the last 30-40 years or so - and I suspect being British is probably an essential, too... It's a cross between an autobiography and a series of short stories, all called "The Day I..." and ranging from the rather beautiful ("The Day I Heard That John Peel Had Died") to the slightly surreal ("The Day I Went to Kate Bush's House for Cheese Flan") to the ridiculously funny ("The Day I Took Bros into a Goods Yard"). And "The Day I Saved Neil Hannon's Bacon" probably has the best (4-page) description of the atmosphere at the Cambridge Folk Festival I've ever read. As the review from David Bowie on the front page says, "Steal this book!" Although obviously I didn't as I got it from the library and that would be Very Wrong. I did go out and buy a copy for a friend's birthday as soon as I finished it though...

The brass verdict, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2008.

Another good one from Michael Connelly; this time a legal thriller with Lincoln lawyer character Micky Haller. But we get cameos from Harry Bosch and Jack McEvoy, too - I do like it when an suggesting Connelly is Balzac or anything, but it's fun. Greg Iles does something similar. This one author creates a whole universe and we get to see people from different angles. Not that I'm keeps you going all the way to the end, with a couple of very late twists and turns. If Connelly ever decided to concentrate on courtroom drama, he'd beat Grisham into submission in no time...

Fearless fourteen, by Janet Evanovich. London: Headline Review, 2009. Plum lucky, by Janet Evanovich. London: Penguin, 2009.

I love these books; they're funny, the plot races through, the cast of (mostly) insane characters are wonderful (Grandma Mazur is a particular favourite); they're sexy, rude, surreal, and a fabulous quick read. If anything can go wrong when Stephanie's involved, it will go wrong; this one involves home-made potato rocket-launchers (operated by Homegrown Security), a kid who spraypaints anything available, including dogs and a 61-year-old country-rock star called Brenda (who should never, ever, ever be brought into contact with Franklin's Dolores - actually, you could say the same for Grandma; and Lula, come to think of it; there's enough destruction and mayhem already). You couldn't make these novels into films with actual actors; but they'd make absolutely wonderful stylised animations...

The scarecrow, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2009.

Another classic from Michael Connelly; another one with Jack McEvoy. Tightly plotted, very scary, and even though it's one where you know who the killer is from fairly early on but the detectives and journalists don't, it's still gripping. Again, we get characters from other strands of Connelly's writing, in this case Rachel Walling and Keisha Russell... Weirdly, I went over to Connelly's website to check Keisha's surname, and there's a short quiz on the book; given the speed I read it at (someone else is waiting for it so I couldn't renew it), I was gratified to get 10 out of 12...

Justice, by Faye Kellerman. London: Headline, 1995. Prayers for the dead, by Faye Kellerman. London: Headline, 1996.

More Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus books - I've raved about these elsewhere. The plot in Justice is pretty shaky, to be honest, and doesn't really fit with what we know about Decker's integrity, but because you're involved with the characters it's still very readable... Prayers for the dead works much better and is very moving in the end.

Far cry, by John Harvey. London: Heinemann, 2009.

I still haven't forgiven John Harvey for what he did in the recent Resnick book Cold in hand; but this one is really very good - read it more or less in one session. Lots of twists and turns and some genuinely interesting characters...

The overlook, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2007.

A curiously short Harry Bosch book but none the worse for that - a highly entertaining couple of hours' reading and well up to Connelly's usual high standards. Bosch doing what he's best at - solving crime while remaining completely irritated by The Powers That Be...

Crime beat : true stories of cops and killers, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2006.

Something slightly different; a compilation of Connelly's journalism from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s (for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the LA Times). Rather than being a ragbag of different pieces, or just a chronological compilation, Connelly has divided it into different sections - The Cops, The Killers and The Cases. It's easy to see why Connelly won awards for some of these pieces, and fascinating to read them.

Iron council, by China Miéville. London: Pan, 2005.

This has taken much longer than anything else I've read this year, because it's both rich and strange - rich in terms of the amazing language and descriptions, and strange in its ideas - Remade people made up of pieces of other creature, or mechanical items; a train which is also a city, steaming into forbidden territory with its citizens pulling up the rails after it in order to lay them down before it; unlikely love stories; a maker of golems. After reading The city and the city in July, I wanted to try again with some of Miéville's trademark weird fiction (and a friend suggested this one was accessible) - it was a fantastic read and fully deserved its Arthur C. Clarke award. I'll have a bit of a pause while I try and read some of the many other books which have built up in the meantime, and then try again with Perdido Street Station, the first book set in this universe.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I do still knit occasionally...

Actually, I've knitted quite a lot this month, but some of it was Christmas Knitting which will remain secret, and I've very nearly finished a sweater which I started earlier in the month - it's been a while since I turned out a garment in a couple of weeks but it is in chunky. Pics of that when it's finished.

I've liked the Wool Peddler Shawl from Folk Shawls for a while, but didn't fancy knitting it all in one colour of DK. But I had an amalgamation of approximately DK-ish-weight yarns, three of them spun by me.

1 - handspun merino, own kettle-dyed sliver from Wingham Woolwork - approx. aran weight.

2 - handspun merino bought as fibre from limegreenjelly - no name on skein but I think of it as Agincourt.

3 - handspun silk/merino from rainbow blend fibre bought at Wingham Woolwork in March 2005.

4 - silk/merino blend DK from Cherry Tree Hill (in Dusk colourway); not sure it's commercially available in the UK yet as it was a gift from Gill who's their UK distributor.

5 - Brown Sheep Handpaint Originals wool/mohair blend (in Stormy Skies colourway) - gift from Jan a couple of years ago.

6 - Artist's Palette Buttersoft DK - bought at yarn-tasting at Stash last year (no colourway or dye-lots - all her lots are one-offs).

I got quite close to a disaster at the end of this project- that tail is all that's left of one skein of the Buttersoft DK!

I've explained the method used for colour choice/balance in an earlier post so won't rehash that here... Once a colour was gone, it was gone; all three of the handspuns ran out, which was what I was hoping for, as did one skein of the Buttersoft (I do have another one, but it's earmarked for another small project)... I've taught a couple of freeform classes this year where we've used this sort of method with a twist for creating random scrumbles, so thought I'd carry it over into a project using a pattern.

I had the usual audience (and used my normal terribly tidy way of working while making this...)

Spread out on the floor it was a somewhat unusual shape, probably because of the preponderance of purple in the middle section (that yarn was the first I'd spun for a long time and was somewhat thicker and slubbier than the others). I thought the colour balance came out pretty well for something that was genuinely random...

The lace pattern towards the outside is written for stocking-stitch lace, but I like the slightly untidy effect you get with joining garter stitch on the wrong side, and after a few rows it was all looking a lot too tidy, so I ripped it back and worked the lace as garter-stitch as well.

Blocked it comes out at 78" by 36" so a nice big shawl to cuddle up in and unusually just about the same dimensions as suggested on the pattern...

And another quite bad blocking shot, but you can see the contrast between the plain garter-stitch and the lace... It was very serendipitous that I used the Cherry Tree Hill silk/wool blend just before the lace because it was slightly finer and drapier than the other yarns, so you get a nice scalloped effect... I think this shawl's going to get a lot of use if I leave it draped over a chair this winter...

Garden photos this afternoon, with any luck - I've been taking them, but not processing or blogging them! I need to do some actual work this afternoon first, but it'd be good to catch up with myself once in a while.