Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ooh, shiny

Normal service, such as it is, will be resumed when I've cast off the pretty shiny lace. 3:15 photos were taken at the appropriate time, and remain unedited... I'm still here; I'm just lace-obsessed. Still trying to decide whether the lace, or I, will be occupying the Second-Best-Bed tonight.

The lace is purple, as well as shiny. Need I say more?

Me and the Lace will be watching Boston Legal until it's cast off...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wordle is a wonderful thing...

Wordle's take on the budget, from the BBC site.

Although, as a colleague has just said, "they didn't need to put help right in the middle".

This sort of word-count-analysis on its own used to earn people PhDs, and now it makes pretty pictures...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

3:15 project update 7

Photos taken at the appropriate time, but I had another stealth photo project to deliver first... and then went out and did some more hacking around afterwards...
So here's photo #1, with the addition of Spring.


We probably need some detail on this; so here's a view from the front door. Spring, sprung; grass, riz; etc... All of a sudden.

Photo 2, no change; so no new photo... Here's photo 3.

Main changes - well, the standard euonymus has had quite a dramatic tonsure. Mainly from the left-hand-side; the whatever-it-is which grows in from the communal gardens cut off the light to that side quite dramatically. I think I need to talk to my friendly neighbours on that side and find out who's in charge of that particular shrub...

I also cleared up a lot of climbers from the right-hand-side; and realised that the fence really is leaning quite a lot into my garden (about a foot, which given that it's only about 10' wide in the first place...); probably due to the weight of climbers which have grown through NextDoorChap's fence through to mine. I need to talk to him, too; that should be easier... We generally say hi several times a week but we're usually both dashing in different directions... I don't think he's actually getting any benefit from these climbers; so we can probably come to an understanding where he hacks them down near the ground and clears what he can, and I do the same, and we sort them out better in future.... surely?

Photo 4: not a lot of change, except for the allum-looking thing next to the pots... It's a pretty shing thing from B&Q; the very wonderful (but sadly blogless) Sue gave me a lift over there to buy a new stepladder after my last one was nicked; and we saw these stained-glassed-y solar lights. Have yet to find out if they actually work; but it's been sunny today, and aren't they pretty...

And this is an extra for Rosie - this is what the saxifrage looks like in bloom, and lovely to see you on Tuesday night (and thanks in advance for the birthday presents!)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

3:15 project update 6

A second go at this post - I got it very nearly finished, hit "control A" instead of "shift A" and then "backspace", deleting the whole thing, and in the fraction of a second before I could hit "undo", Blogger helpfully autosaved/annihilated the whole lot. GAH. Just GAH.

Anyway; so here we are again (and as ever, click to embiggen photos). Shots 1 and 2 haven't really changed since last time - although there are leaves starting to appear on the limes, they're so tiny that you can't see them in the general gloom. The weather's been grey, but not cold, all weekend, and although it's rained a bit, it hasn't been as bad as the forecast; so I've been out there for a couple of hours so far this weekend, and if it cheers up will do some more tomorrow.

The main difference in the Abomination of Desolation shot (which is starting to look slightly less like its name) is that I've hacked down a vast amount of dead creeper from the right-hand bed - a mix of clematis, a very dead jasmine and some honeysuckle.

Shot 4 isn't that different, but you can see how gloomy it is from the brightness of the watering-cans!
I planted up the herb bed with some tarragon, parsley, mint, feverfew and sage; and also (which always feels a bit Petit hameau) some mixed salad leaves; all from Ely farmers' market. I'll sow some lettuce for later in the year, but the salad leaves will be good until then, and the more plants there are in the bed, the less the Bug will be tempted to use it as a loo.

I also bought a saxifrage to fill some of the area vacated by borage; the buds looked like garnets, which are my favourite stone...
In contrast, the other "achievement" this weekend would have the Red Queen calling for my head; this is not, I'm aware, the world's greatest piece of topiary, even by my standards, but it's a first attempt at the box hedge for this year, and does mean I can move round both sides of the bed. I'll have another go when it's grown back a bit. I need a saw, or a bigger pair of loppers, to give the standard euonymus in the middle a haircut...

Meanwhile, and appropriately for this time of year, there are other signs of life - the alpine strawberries are flowering,
the little Japanese maple has produced some leaves,

and the wisteria is reminding me why so many Art Nouveau artists and architects used it as a motif.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Friday, April 10, 2009

At least it's not a sleeve

This weekend, the knitting in prospect consisted of two purple (second) sleeves. I have been making fairly remarkable progress on St Brigid since I learned cabling without a cable needle from Gwen at the Weird Knitting Class - I didn't think it would make that much difference - but it does!

This is despite having to be quite obsessive about keeping my place in the increases while reading 3 cable charts...

And this is purple sleeve #2, from Primrose Path. This is great train and bus knitting - there's a bit of pattern at the bottom of the sleeve and then just 3x2 ribbing for the rest...

So anyway; it was all sleeves, all purple, all the time; so I thought I'd like another project on the go, and I haven't knitted much lace since Christmas - one shoulder-shawl, to be precise. And I love the Aeolian shawl from this time's Knitty (despite it containing my personal nemesis, the nupp). So I dug out the yarn I thought I'd use, and some beads I'd toddled up to Covent Garden to get; and took them out in the garden to photograph; and only at that point did I realise what colour I was intending to use.


(The yarn, by the way, is 2-ply laceweight dyed by Wibbo in a colour she called High Priestess, and was a Christmas present...)

So I stared thoughtfully at my shoes, wondering whether knitting three purple objects simultaneously was insane...

I guess that's my answer then. I'll be casting on later. So I'll be knitting a purple Primrose Path, a Purple St B in a colour called Pagan, and a purple Priestess shawl... the alliteration just kills me.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

An unexpected walk

When they announced at Green Park that Westminster Tube Station was closed this morning, due to the demonstration by Tamils in Parliament Square, I thought "I have a map, I have half an hour, I have a camera, it's a nice walk..." (No, not exactly Blues Brothers, but it was 8:26 in the morning at the time)...

The walk from Green Park starts at The Ritz. (Or THE RIT7, if you believe this photo). Click to embiggen photos but be warned, they're from the little camera.

And as an aside, I don't know when businessmen and civil servants started carrying backpacks rather than briefcases. I'd love to think it was all due to The West Wing's Josh Lyman, but I think he was probably reflecting a trend rather than creating one...

The Queen's Walk in Green Park is very pretty at this time of year even as the daffodils start to fade; complete with one lonely deckchair.

At the bottom of the walk, there's this unassuming little residence here... Personally, I think Buck House is hideous - which makes me determined to go to the Summer Opening this year and either confirm or deny this impression.

Crossing the road over the Mall we get to St James's Park, and some more varied trees and water. It wasn't a great day, but still very pretty.

There were birds. I'd hazard a guess that this is some sort of coot, but more exotic than the ones we get on the Cam. I am not, however, Ornithologist-Girl, so I'll leave it at that...

There was blossom. I think this was some sort of willow but the sign on the tree was too far away...
And then, and then. The highlight of the day. What I've been waiting to see since I first went to this park - The Pelicans. Most if not all of them. Sitting on a rock preening... looking ever-so-slightly pinkish in the dull morning light. Huge! (Compare with medium-to-large ducks in water in foreground)... Pelicans! Almost mythical, symbols of Christ; and before I get completely Hopkins-ish, totally surreal seeing them on the way to work.
And the end of the journey. Past the various emergency vehicles waiting in case of trouble, and along King Charles Street, between the Foreign Office building on the left and the Treasury on the right, to cross Whitehall and into work...

Thanks for accompanying me on my morning walk...

Monday, April 06, 2009

An FO, and a WIP

I have been knitting - but for some reason I seem to be making garments this year rather than smaller things, and they're not as exciting to photograph.

But my Dad had a birthday on Saturday, and he's appreciative of handknit socks;

These are the Primavera pattern by Natalja - the pattern is in the sidebar of her blog. I saw them on Franklin's blog and thought they looked interesting without being lacy. The yarn is Panda Wool from Crystal Palace, bought from Woolly Workshop at Textiles in Focus. The colour's called Menswear, appropriately enough. I got the socks out of 2 balls with very little to spare, but Dad has size 8.5 feet - if you're making them for someone larger, you'd probably need a third ball...

And here's the current WIP - photographed at The Sanctuary in Hove. Since then I've finished the body and started a sleeve. The yarn is Debbie Bliss Prima, an 80% bamboo, 20% merino mix. Unlike the Panda Wool, which had a tendency to be a little bit splitty, this is very smooth stuff but not quite as hard on the hands as cotton. The pattern is Primrose Path from the latest Twist Collective edition...

I have a day off today; I was intending to go somewhere, maybe to Norwich or Kings Lynn, to do a spot of shopping and walk around in the sun; but after the prettiness of the last few days, it's cold and miserable here this morning, although it's showing signs of brightening up. I think it might be a day for knitting and watching DVDs, and maybe some lugging of boxes up to the loft.

2009 books, #15-17

After a good couple of months of reading I seem to have slowed down somewhat...

Cold in hand, by John Harvey. London: Arrow, 2009.

After years of saying he'd never write another Resnick novel, John Harvey has given us one; and although it's well-written, well-plotted and incredibly moving, I almost wish he'd left Resnick in his happy hinterland...

Something quite unbelievable happens in the middle of this book; it's a moment where you sit back and think He can't do that, can he? and then you think yes, it's his book; yes, he can... Doesn't mean you have to like it, though.

Dave Barry's complete guide to guys by Dave Barry. New York: Random House, 1995.

A complete contrast. Predictable, silly, and quite funny. I didn't find it "a laugh-out-loud book" as advertised; but there are some nice moments. I don't think anyone but Dave Barry could have got away with making guys quite so stereotypical, but it's a line he's been holding for many years, and he's pretty good at it.

Adventures on the high teas : in search of Middle England by Stuart Maconie. London: Ebury Press, 2009.

This one, in contrast, is "laugh-out-loud" material; one which got me a double seat to myself on the train three mornings last week - I don't think anyone fancied sitting next to the mad chai-drinking chortling lady if there was any sort of alternative. I loved both his previous books, Cider with roadies and Pies and prejudice : in search of the North; this is possibly even better. Maconie's described as "the English Bill Bryson" on the cover (by Tony Wilson, of all people) but this is a bit unfair - he's much better. He's genuinely affectionate about the people he's describing without any of the disdain you occasionally get with Bryson; and he weaves in high culture and popular culture and makes sense of it in context. There's a passionate defence of folk music and Vaughan Williams; a sideways look at Donald McGill's seaside postcards; an examination of the fondness of Britons for cosy murders in places like Midsomer and Oxford; a bit of an elegy on country railway stations; and a search for Trumpton, Chigley and Camberwell Green. He visits Midsomer and Adlestrop, Bath and Beaconsfield, Tunbridge Wells and Burton-on-Trent, and makes them all fascinating... He doesn't quite manage it with Grantham... And while he's doing all this, he's also very, very funny.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Lovely Sunday

Gill paid a visit today... She's probably not going to thank me for this picture but there you go...

We had lunch; we nattered; we looked at the garden. Gill is a wise woman and brought both inhabitants of the house their drug of choice. [Chablis, in my case]. There are many, many reasons why the Bug loves Gill; but a new, refillable, washable, catnip mouse may well come quite high on her list.

Come back soon, Gill, or I'll come over and we can do the Midsomer Morse Murder tour! And thanks again... Even though I won't be at Wonderwool Wales, some of my hand-dyed yarn will be, on the Woolly Workshop stand!

Gill also exhibited her bee-shepherding skills. Which reminds me of the extremely funny YouTube clip that spinningfishwife had on her blog:

Obama in Downing Street

This is from earlier in the week (demonstrating that shooting-into-the-sun foolishness started earlier than this afternoon)... Wednesday morning, to be precise. Due to the absence of a lot of City folk from their offices on April 1, I got into work quite early for my 10 o'clock start, so I wandered along to the end of Downing Street with my baby camera to see if I could get a glimpse of the fuss.

Not a lot, really; although those were part of the Obama motorcade... As it turned out a) they were using the other end of Downing Street for entrances and exits and b) Obama attended the Cabinet meeting so wouldn't have come out for another hour. But it was interesting standing there watching the security people go about their business. All the people in black in the background, standing on a sort of terrace-thing, were press photographers. There's a very good picture of the view in the opposite direction from the Evening Standard.

It all struck me as pretty well done and relatively low-key.

3:15 project update 5

Well, that was all a bit weird. So much for blogging every day as announced in my last post - suddenly 4 days have gone by. But I have a day off tomorrow which I think will be spent trying to work out where the time went...

I won't bore you with the first two photos because nothing much has changed - although there are suckers on the lime-trees on the Green. If I remember I'll go and take a picture before the men from the council come to strim them off, which they do at this time of the year, because it's the only sign at this time of year that the limes are alive; and frankly also slightly weird in a triffidish sort of way.

So, here's picture 3. The thing to note is that The Borage Has Gone. It has ceased to be, rolled up the curtain, joined the choirs invisibule, etc.

I Have Dug It Out. Go, me.

I'm not fooling myself for a minute that I've caught all of it - the thing has tap-roots only rivalled by my Enemy at the Bottom of the Garden, the highly toxic Black Bryony (and why that wasn't the name of a 1970s folk/metal band, I have no idea), so I'll have to keep chipping away at it; but I think I've got rid of 80% of it... You ought to be able to see this better from this photo:

but evidently I failed to remember that shooting straight into the sun isn't wise (sorry, Dad; you did tell me this when I got that first Instamatic)... These photos were taken at 4:45 rather than 3:15 because I had a lunch guest today (of which more in another post)...

But lo. A somewhat undecorative and neglected herb bed, but one in which all the herbs are actually things I deliberately planted. Miracles never cease...

This picture is because fennel is just pretty; and furry. And, unlike cats which are also pretty and furry, nice in salads.

These are Mystery Bulbs. I've planted bulbs in the top bed several times and they've failed to come up; these certainly weren't planted last year, or the year before; I'm going to be interested to see what they are!

All photos can be clicked to embiggen.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April and possibly foolish

I'm going to try NaBloPoMo again this month; but this may be the only post today - I'm going to see the Parliamentary Choir singing at the Cadogan Hall this evening... The mezzo-soprano is someone I went to college with, although haven't seen since; excellent that she's making a living singing, as that was her aim 20 years ago!