Friday, December 31, 2010
Sunday, December 05, 2010
I really hope Dick Francis's death in February doesn't signal the end of the Francis books - Felix Francis's involvement in the last four has really revived the spirit of the early novels after a period where everything flagged for a while, and it would be intriguing to see what he'd produce in his own right.
Jupiter's bones, by Faye Kellerman. London: Headline, 1999.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Thursday, November 04, 2010
She has an actual reason for being this pissed-off though - the Barracks fireworks were tonight, and I hadn't realised, and they'd started by the time I got home, and she was understandably a bit freaked out and hiding on the stairs. Those guys don't mess around - they're the Army. From the sound, it might be fireworks, or it might be an ordnance dump being blown up in a series of controlled explosions. Either way, the sky lights up for several miles around.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
And sorry for being a very crap blogger over the last couple of weeks. Work has been really busy, I've been knitting away like mad over a Christmas present which is routinely kicking my arse (can't show you as the recipient reads this), and on the rare occasions I've been home it's been much more tempting to curl up in front of the wood stove in the dining room with knitting and a good book than venture out to the living room to blog...
Some knitting has been done though - and it's been received so I can show you. These are for Baby Eliza (I blogged about hearing about her arrival while SusieH and I were in Norwich Cathedral).
One baby blanket (the Chalice pattern by Lykkefanten) in James Brett Marble. E's big brother got the "heirloom" type one so this time I was going for washable, practical, soft and likely to get used over the winter. And the same consideration came into play with these three burp/dribble-cloths. No point in not having pretty ones, though!
OK - back to the comments draw.
The winner in the random number generator is Comment #11 by wuthering_alice (AKA Steph - you can't fool me with your clever Victorian wiles, my dear...) Congrats, Steph! PM me on Ravelry with your address, or use the link in my profile to send me an e-mail, and a packet of goodies will be winging its way to you in the next few days.
The winner in the completely non-impartial "comment I liked" is Valerie, who pointed out very sensibly that it's better to make as much time as you can for an activity rather than whining that you haven't time; but accept you're never going to do everything you want to all at once! I might know you in real life, Valerie (and your freeform stuff sounds very intriguing) but I don't think I know how to contact you online. If you're on Ravelry, I'm greensideknits - drop me a PM with your postal address - and if not, my e-mail address is in my profile (button on the top right of the blog).
I've foolishly signed up for NaBloPoMo again this November, so will definitely get round to telling you about my personal bests then.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Here's the upstairs.
We ambled through the shopping streets, and went to the cathedral. I'll blog more about that later, because I'm hoping to do a post a day in October to celebrate my fifth blogiversary, but it was lovely.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Another very gripping thriller by Flynn, which incorporates characters from his first two novels Term limits and Transfer of power. Covert CIA operative Mitch Rapp is sent to Germany to kill a prominent businessman with links to Saddam Hussein, but the operation goes catastrophically wrong. Simultaneously there's a fight for control of the Agency itself - the current director is dying and the political, military and intelligence communities all have their own candidates. Very tightly plotted, and with enough politics to be unputdownable. There's quite a lot of weapons technology, but Flynn writes engagingly enough that you don't have to care too much about the toys to enjoy the story.
Evidence, by Jonathan Kellerman [audiobook]. Read by Jeff Harding. Oxford: Isis, 2010.
I keep giving Jonathan Kellerman another try - I enjoy his wife's, and now his son's, books, and he writes well enough. I don't really understand why I can't engage with the Alex Delaware books, but somehow they just don't do anything for me. This one was read with Jeff Harding's usual panache, but I can't really remember what happens in it even one day after finishing it. I think that's probably my last encounter with Dr Delaware...
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Couldn't have been more glad that the outings were in this order - because this one was lovely from start to finish, with additional hilarious aspects.
We set off on time, in a single coach; checking in etc. was calm, with the main organiser's husband in charge; and we had a lovely, friendly, funny Scottish driver in charge for the whole trip up to the Loch. He gave us a commentary on interesting things to be seen to our left and right, and pointed us at some Highland cattle; he gave us historic background on the towns we passed through, and made everyone laugh at some point; and then he announced he was going to spend the evening having dinner with his wife. Aww.
We got to the loch and were divided into two groups - the first noticeably larger than the second, but it seemed to work. I was on the second group, and we did worry that the sun might have gone down before we got onto the boat. But then we got to eat first; and after two quite intense classes with Jared Flood and Nancy Bush, I was pretty hungry! Nice, simple, tasty, barbecue meal - cooked in the pavilion on the top level of this photo.
with good home-made coleslaw which is just about my only requirement with a burger and chicken and green salad - and then shortly afterwards it was our turn on the boat, the Lady of the Lake.
With her very amusing and informative guide. He was great.
One of the snippets of information he provided was that we were putting along largely powered by second-hand chip fat. There were surprisingly few deep-fried Mars Bar jokes.
Loch Katrine (pronounced without the final "e", like CATT-rin rather than Ka-TREEN) turns out to be the main water supply for Glasgow; it's always been a lake, but was turned into a reservoir in the 20th century.
Walter Scott was very familiar with the area and wrote the poem The Lady of the Lake around Loch Katrine; the paths he walked are now underwater.
Until recently, there were many sheep grazing on the banks, but after it was discovered they carry crypto they had to be removed because of the threat to the water supply. I gather some of them make their way back because sheep have homing instincts...
It really was a lovely boat trip.
The flags were particularly pretty as we came back into dock.
I don't quite know how to describe what happened after that... except for one word.
I grew up with them, in the north east of England; and when we set off they were starting to group; on the lake, they weren't all that much in evidence... But when we got back into the restaurant/bar, they were certainly happily flocking around in hordes. Generally the whole Swipe gesture was used to attempt to get rid of them, with no success whatsoever...
We were called down to the coaches, and as ever people got in gradually; the poor driver was trying to keep as many flying menaces out of the coach as possible but was having to open the door every minute or so to let more people in, with accompanying clouds of ickletinybeasties... I suspect the various threads on Ravelry worrying our across-the-pond cousins didn't help either...
Apparently, what you do when confronted with midges, as a knitter, is to to get into your seat and then develop your very own personal ethnic clapping dance. The Katrine Knit Tangle, maybe? It involves putting on one's seatbelt, and then a gyration including the destruction of any small flying insect in the immediate vicinity...
I was sitting next to someone who was suffering badly from coach-sickness throughout the return journey, (and who womanfully controlled it) - which was the only thing which stopped me weeping with sheer amusement at the Sound of So Many Hands Clapping to So Little Effect.
The noise made by it sounded like someone doing strenuous Creative Play with a class of 50 or so children with auditory difficulties. Later on, Nic and I re-enacted this for people on the Saturday night. (I haven't listened to her podcast yet - I wasn't aware of it before the weekend- ; I'm hoping she'll do the description better...)
Just for a change, nobody could possibly blame the Management for the beasties; we were absolutely and totally warned.
We had enough time for everything, it was relaxed; it was a really lovely evening.
And just for the record; as someone prone to slightly extreme histamine reactions to bites, and someone who gets bitten really badly; I'd been taking the vitamin B1 tablets for a good month before the event, and had sprayed myself all over with Jungle Formula before setting out, and had antihistamine tablets with me. I got away more or less unscathed. I had a couple of annoying bites on my scalp for a week or so, but that was about it. B1; highly recommended!
Trip the first: New Lanark
I was aware of New Lanark's yarn well before I knew anything else about the place, and once I'd realised it was also a World Heritage Site with C19 mill machinery, I booked in immediately.
I think the most charitable description of the proceedings was "chaotic". As one who had to do the on-the-ground sheepdog-type work on this sort of excursion, repeatedly, over 6 weeks, as a 23-year-old new graduate (and managed it better), I'd personally go for "shambolic", though.
It started before we'd even left the campus - 15 minutes after we were meant to have set off, someone left the other coach, went dashing back into the building and emerged a good 10 minutes later with another person. Presumably neither of the organisers had a mobile with them, because although our coach had a microphone, no information was shared as to what the hell was going on (20 years ago I wouldn't have had a mobile either, but I'd have legged it out of the coach to find out what the problem was!).
Then we hit roadworks (OK; roadworks are basically an Act of God as far as a trip arranged six or more months in advance are concerned); but, again, presumably neither of the organisers had a mobile with them, because once we'd arrived and walked down the hill,
we met a couple of rather agitated guides who believed we'd be with them 1.5 hours earlier (5 minutes after we left Stirling)...
That sort of set the tone for the whole visit. I had the impression that we'd have been divided into smaller groups if we'd arrived when they were ready for us; and we got there an hour and a half before everything closed up for the day, rather than the 3 hours they'd anticipated... They did their level best, but there was a lot to see. They'd prepared a special tour for us focusing on the yarn production at the mills (which is one of their profitable areas - brilliant, given the entirely reasonable prices they charge!) but basically the general effect was Huge Flocks of Confused Knitters milling (sorry) about, not quite sure where they were meant to be going.
The first thing we saw was a bit of the turbine and watermill machinery
and then we went on the New Lanark Experience - which was a sort of fairground ride (think ghost train, but with tunnel-of-love style two-person carriages) focused on the experience of a 10-year-old girl called Annie who worked crawling under the spinning machines to clean out all the waste. It was beautifully done, and pretty moving. This is a terrible picture, but given as a general impression;
but there were lots of holograms and lights, as well as some more realistic models and so on, and snippets of archive film footage of other mills. Originally it was a cotton mill, but they got in the wool spinning machines more recently as this seemed to be a more local and sustainable way of spinning (and also healthier for all concerned).
I'd guessed, wandering down the hill, that this was a Model Community; and while work was obviously completely back-breaking, they were also keen to emphasise the work of Robert Owen, the founder of the mill and an early Socialist. It was a huge example of both the positive and the negative elements of Victorian Values, and absolutely fascinating.
We saw the ridiculously huge and beautiful carding machine, which is, brilliantly, behind a glass wall at the back of the shop, and produces 28 strands of pencil roving which correspond (of course) to the 28 spinnaret-thingies (I have no idea what they're called for this sort of spinning wheel, but I know what they are in spiders!).
We went upstairs and saw the spinning being done; and how complicated it is to rethread everything when it gets tangled.
Some of us knitted in company with 19th century mill workers.
And for the end (my favourite bit) we went down to the cellars with Alan (?), the consultant who got all the machinery in there, and saw the huge sacks of yarn waiting to be processed, and the blending machine - a sort of domestic-swimming-pool-sized metal vat in which all the colours for the tweeds are layered, and then blended using a set of wheels, and then sent up to the carding machine by fan and vacuum. Fascinating.
I thought I'd managed a photo of the blending machine; but evidently not. Here's a shot of the river above the mill, though...
We didn't, unfortunately, have enough time to see the rest of the attractions, like the mineworkers' cottages, Robert Owen's house and so on; it would have been lovely to do so. But we had an evening buffet booked for 5pm (which was extremely nicely done; and they also did a prize draw for a bag of yarn, which was very kind of them).
The yarn consultant was also around for questions after dinner; I asked about the organic yarn production they'd mentioned, as I have friends who've had to jump through the Soil Association's various hoops for a completely unrelated business. It turns out they have to process it on separate days, with different oil, and they have to clean everything really carefully beforehand...
We left more-or-less on time - further chaos as everyone on our coach was asked to keep the same seats on the way back so we could work out whether all our neighbours had returned; but presumably that message hadn't been communicated to people on the other coach who piled onto the nearer one to the exit, meaning that nobody had a clue.
Yarn was bought. Actually yarn was bought, and exchanged on the same afternoon - I picked up what I thought was a lovely granite colour with burgundy and green flecks; and got it out into the air to realise it was definitely lovely and granite, but the flecks were orange and duck-egg blue; I changed it for a generic mid-aran-type colour called "Pebble"...
In the evening, Stitch and Bitch with Debbie Stoller. A very nice evening; she was surprisingly shy (I'm only going by the impression from the photos on the cover of her books, you understand), and had a proof copy of her new book which looks very good... Photographic evidence of the evening courtesy of Lydia Jensen's blog (scroll towards the end.)
Monday, August 30, 2010
The castle is a strange, eclectic mix of styles, and I didn't seem to take many photos. The audio guide was good, but maybe a little ponderous, in the style of Imagine this courtyard in the year 1756... followed by a lot of reproduction sounds of bulls lowing, carriages clopping, people throwing barrels from carts, etc. etc. I'm not a great fan of audio guides in general but had been round Buckingham Palace, where the guide was pretty superb, the week before so gave it a go.
Anyway; this is the Chapel Royal, built for the baptism of Prince Henry, son of James VI, in 1594. The wall paintings were restored in the 20th century after the Chapel had been used to garrison soldiers for many years.
There's also a tapestry project going on, with a fascinating studio in the castle buildings - some of the completed tapestries are shown in the next two photos.
And then once I'd been round the castle, there were those Rob Roy people again; this time in full dress with hats etc. They had a large and enthusiastic audience on the various balconies and around the walls.
And there were dancers, 13 of them in this case (note the dancer racing up the middle!)
It was all rather marvellous. And just as I thought the fun was over and they'd taken their bow, the pipes got louder again, and they marched out of the castle in formation.
Fabulous. (Preparing this post over the last couple of days reminded me to go over to their website and say thanks - got a lovely reply back, with the news they'd come 6th in the world pipe band competition on August 16th, so all that practice evidently paid off...)
And just at that point I bumped into Julia (aka Sulkycat, maker of wonderful knitting project bags, etc.); and she'd bumped into some other people, and in the end we had 7 knitters squeezed around the table at the pub at lunchtime with a very entertaining waiter. I think we were from 5 different countries and almost as many nationalities... And that was definitely one of the best things about the week - so many people from different places with different experiences.
We all scattered in different directions afterwards, and I went to look at a very interesting graveyard monument I'd noticed on the way up the hill. I've never seen one quite like this before!
Or an inscription like this:
Thankfully there was an information plaque next to it which read Statues of heroes of the Scottish Presbyterian Reformation, set up when the cemetery was opened, were part of the educational and 'improving' atmosphere of Victorian Stirling... These enclosed figures represent the traditional story of Margaret Wilson who, aged 18, was executed by drowning in the Solway Firth for refusing to renounce her Protestant faith. She had no connection with Stirling. The monument avoids the horror of her death and presents a more sentimental Victorian idealisation of women.
So now you know. Strange, the sort of things the Victorians found edifying, really.
And a quick picture from the end of the visit, from a bar which used to be the old Post Office: amazing beer-glass light fitting...
Next up: outings to New Lanark and Loch Katrine...
Sunday, August 29, 2010
And I thought the one at Haworth was fancy...
I'm not normally a great fan of the Highland pipes, because I'm usually coming across a lone piper in a shopping centre or other confined space, out of context. But these guys were amazing...
Turns out they were rehearsing for a concert in the Castle Gardens a little later, after their appearance at the Bridge of Allan Highland Games.