Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 books, #86-89

Final booky things of this year; 89 books in total. It's been a good year for new authors, and for new books by previously appreciated authors.

U is for undertow, by Sue Grafton. London: Pan, 2010.

It's a Kinsey Millhone. It's well up to standard. What's different this time is that Grafton maintains a really complex timeline, which kept me looking backwards and forwards between chapters. Unfortunately I put this down somewhere in a pile of pre-Christmas stuff and sort of lost it for a while, so I did get a bit lost a couple of times (my fault, not the author's!) Excellent. And I'm already sort of starting to dread what happens when she gets to Z.

From the dead, by Mark Billingham [audiobook]. Read by Paul Thornley. Rearsby, Leics: WF Howes, 2010.

A wife comes out of prison to find that the husband she's served 12 years for killing, via a paid assassin, is very likely still to be alive. She hires an amateur detective who then gets in touch with Billingham's Tom Thorne. Billingham does his usual job of keeping you on your toes, while giving you his superb writing which retains graveside humour. There are a couple of real, genuine shockers in the course of this, while he continues the side-stories of his characters' lives.

Separation of power, by Vince Flynn. London: Simon and Schuster, 2003.

Another Mitch Rapp thriller - not necessarily one of the best ones, but we'll see what happens in the next one. Rapp is trying to get out of his clandestine involvement with the US security services while attempting to tie up loose ends. It all goes horribly wrong for him, professionally and personally.

One of the really intriguing elements of this book is that it has a narrative style I can only describe as style indirect libre, not having studied English literature - there are multiple points of view (the head of Mossad, the head of the CIA, the President, Mitch, Anna) and they all have their own worldview, all of which are presented as being equally valid. Israel is unjustifiably persecuted, the CIA is underfunded... and so on... This is definitely a series to be read in chronological order.

Wintersmith, by Terry Pratchett [audiobook]. Read by Stephen Briggs.

The third of the Tiffany Aching series. If you loved the others, you'll love this (again though, reading the others first is definitely a good move). The spirit of winter falls in love with Tiffany but doesn't know what it is to be human. Meanwhile, he's terrifyingly scary. Also incorporated are Miss Treason (113, and borrowing eyes and ears from other creatures) and Horace the Cheese, as well as the full horde of Nac Mac Feegles. And, of course, Granny Weatherwax.

There are some lovely bits in this. At one point Tiffany goes home and scrubs floors, feeds chickens, makes cheese. "These things grounded you. Taught you what was real. You could set a small piece of your mind to them, giving your thoughts time to line up and settle down." I don't necessarily go to Terry Pratchett's books for fantasy - because he's also so very good at giving you stone-cold truth. I can't think of a better reason and explanation for knitting for the sake of it.

Best of luck for all our reading in 2011.

2010 books, #81-85

I shall not want, by Julia Spencer-Fleming. New York: St Martin's, 2008.

A very good title for a book which is all about desire of different kinds; tightly plotted, compassionate, interesting in the development of its relationships, all the things you'd expect from this series up to now.

However, I have two criticisms. The first is that the opening cliffhanger (pp 1-11) is so overwhelming that you skim-read the following 300 pages until the timeline reverts to the "present"; which is a shame as it's fine writing. The second is that the next book isn't published until next April...

Just as I thought I couldn't like Clare Fergusson any more, we also find out she's a fan of both Lindsey Davis/Marcus Didius Falco, and Stephanie Plum (as she reflects, ruefully, having destroyed yet another car...).

The Attenbury emeralds, by Jill Paton-Walsh [audiobook]. Read by Edward Petherbridge. Audible, 2010.

Quite marvellous - this is fanfiction, of course, based on hints in the original Dorothy L. Sayers novels; but when fanfic is this good, it makes a wonderful addition to canon. Peter is 60, Harriet is in her forties, and it is the year of the Festival of Britain. A three-part intrigue, starting shortly after the Great War and reappearing in the present. Entirely true to character while answering all those questions which remain such as 'what did they do next'; and jigsawing in the tantalising little hints we have in some of the short stories. And Petherbridge's reading is, as ever, delightful - his Peter is always graver than Ian Carmichael's, but that's never a bad thing.

The dark water : the dark beginnings of Sherlock Holmes, by David Pirie. London: Arrow, 2005.

Very convincing Conan Doyle writing; again, working around original material and Doyle's autobiographical writings. Dr Joseph Bell and Doyle investigate Doyle's abduction at the hands of his enemy Thomas Neill Cream, and are led to Dunwich and the mustery of the 'Dunwich Witch' and her curse. The setting is eerie, the Suffolk coastal marshes; there's a real sense of fear here, as there is in the best of the Sherlock Holmes novels. Definitely one to read if you're a fan of Victorian detective fiction.

Blood on the tongue, by Stephen Booth [audiobook]. Narrated by Christopher Kay. Rothley, Leics.: Clipper, 2002.

One I must have missed at the time I thought I'd caught up on all the Stephen Booth books. The relationship between Diane Fry and Ben Cooper takes a back seat to the main story, which resurrects the story of a World War II bomber when a young woman is found frozen to death in the wreckage. Very good, interwoven story with some interesting characters. Probably not the best book to have been listening to over the last couple of weeks in that it's midwinter in Derbyshire in the book...

Broken for you, by Stephanie Kallos. New York: Grove Press, 2004.

A Kniterati book and another I'd never have picked up without being in a book group. Margaret Hughes, a widow in her 70s, lives in a mansion in Seattle full of valuable antiques. When she discovers she has an inoperable brain tumour, she decides to dare herself to change her life. The first step is taking on boarder Wanda Schultz, who has arrived in Seattle determined to pursue her deserting boyfriend, and working as a stage manager.

This is a lovely book. It's slightly hallucinatory as everyone in it is disfunctional in some way due to illness or inclination, and there are some amazing revelations in the woodshed.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

2010 books, #76-80

In the words of one of the characters in the first book reviewed here, I aten't dead. However, it's been a ridiculously busy/trying month! But as an inordinate amount of it was spent on trains, some reading was done.

A hat full of sky, by Terry Pratchett. London: Corgi, 2005.

The second of the Tiffany Aching books - the last, I shall wear midnight, has just come out, and I realised I hadn't read the third one, and possibly this one. As it turns out, I had read this one, and as always happens with Pratchett, by the time I realised that I was still hooked, so just read it again.

The thing I love about Pratchett's Young Adult titles is that he makes absolutely no compromises - in fact, it seems that they're often more complex in terms of what he, and the witches, would call headology. No allowance is made for the fact that Tiffany is 11 years old in terms of what she needs to understand about the mind of her enemies; and themes like being yourself and knowing yourself, usually so patronisingly and preachily explained in non-fantasy books for young adults, are such absolute staples of the fantasy genre that they just fit in naturally here (this is, of course, largely due to Mr P's superb imagination). And of course there are the Nac Mac Feegle (a terrifying clan of Pictish warriors who are, unnervingly, only 6" tall); and Granny Weatherwax, a magnificent creation.

Crossfire, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis. London: Penguin/Michael Joseph, 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.

This one stars the typical Francis action-hero character, but rather than being a bookseller-turned-detective, photographer-turned-detective etc., Thomas Forsyth is a Captain in the infantry, recovering at his mother's racing stables after losing a foot in Afghanistan. This rattles along at a tremendous pace, there's a genuine sense of malice and danger, and there are some extremely unexpected twists.

Jupiter's bones, by Faye Kellerman. London: Headline, 1999.

I'd forgotten how much I liked Peter Decker until I picked up the next in this series and wondered why I hadn't just read straight through. This time, the main focus is on a scientific/religious cult in a compound near Los Angeles. In other hands, this might have been much less nuanced, but as an observant Jew, Kellerman is aware that there's a fine line between some religious practice and cults in many people's eyes, and is careful not to fall into stereotypes. There's some gore in this book, and also a couple of quite hair-raising moments.

Stalker, by Faye Kellerman. London: Headline, 2001.

Hmm. And then, saying that, I forgot how much I disliked Cindy Decker, his daughter. I always want to snarl at her, "yes, he's a screwed up, miserable bastard because he's never got over Vietnam - what's your excuse, you brat?" But anyway. It's tightly plotted, and introduces a cast of people we already know in a new way... if you can get over Cindy's attitude, worth reading.

All mortal flesh, by Julia Spencer-Fleming. New York: St Martin's, 2006.

Elements of this book, the 5th in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series, should be incredibly melodramatic and unlikely. But somehow it all does hang together, largely because you just like both of the main characters so much by now. Really tightly written again, with a twist I certainly didn't expect in the middle; and as ever, the author portrays the best and the worst in a small rural community and in a parish, and shows that even when everyone's trying to do the right thing, that often really isn't enough.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

2010 books, #71-75

Bit of a mixed bag this time round!

At home, by Bill Bryson [audiobook]. Read by the author. Bath: Chivers, 2010.

Supposedly a history of the domestic interior, based on Bryson's own parsonage home in Norfolk, this book has the usual broad strokes of popular history Bryson's become so famous for. It does tend to meander all over the place, but is immensely entertaining for all that, and has some fascinating facts - I think my favourite one of these was that Friedrich Engels came to England to manage his family's sewing-thread factory. Bryson is one of those few authors who read their own books well, and this is a very charming and enchanting addition to his other works. SamuraiKnitter has blogged about this one recently and was also enjoying it.

Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey. London: Faber, 2010.

Carey's contribution to the Booker shortlist this year. Parrot is a British engraver, Olivier a French aristocrat, but it's all more complicated than that; Olivier is sent, almost as a refugee, to examine the US penitentiary system as an envoy for the French régime, and Parrot as his servant. It's a strange, picaresque journey, with various sidetracks and flashbacks along the way. While Carey makes us aware that society in England, France and the USA are entirely different from the present day, he also makes wry comments about the way that human nature really doesn't change that much. After a series of alarums, excursions, love affairs and strange ménages, it ultimately doesn't really go anywhere, but it's immensely entertaining on the way. In the end, though, Olivier muses on the nature of democracy: It is a truly lovely flower, a tiny tender fruit, but it will not ripen well. You will see.

The burying place, by Brian Freeman [audiobook]. Read by Garrick Hagan. Bath: Oakhill, 2009.

I think this was a recommendation from Wibbo and a good one. The intertwined plots are pretty gripping and there's one Deaver-scale shift in the plot about three-quarters of the way through. The small-town Minnesota environment is also very well rendered, and you do really feel as if you're there... I'll be looking for some more of these as I gather this is the fifth with a recurring character.

The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.

A Kniterati book - and another I wouldn't normally have picked up - the word "Charming" as the first word of a cover review usually rings alarm bells. And that would have been a mistake - I think this is possibly the most wonderful thing I've read all year, and it's been a very good year for new discoveries.

Juliet, a London journalist, is casting around for ideas for a book when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a pig farmer in Guernsey, asking her for a recommendation for a good bookshop in London. An unlikely correspondence starts and a chorus of distinctive voices appear. This is entirely a roman à lettres, but given that this is a book set in 1946, the Guernsey voices have an urge to tell recent history through their letters. This is a book which has you laughing on one page and crying on the next; it doesn't shrink from telling some of the worst aspects of the Occupation, but it also reflects the absurdity in the minutiae of everyday life deprived of virtually everything. It genuinely is charming, but in the slightly creepier, harder-edged sense of drawing you in and refusing to let you go.

Totally, totally recommended. And wonderful for a book group because it rattles along, there are a lot of different themes there, and they pack a huge amount into the 250 pages.

Grave doubts, by Elizabeth Corley [audiobook]. Read by Charlotte Strevens. Bath: Oakhill, [n.d.]*

This is really quite creepy; a serial killer and rapist is arrested, but the spate of killings and attempted murders goes on. Louise Nightingale, a police sergeant, is viciously attacked leading to the arrest of the original culprit. Nightingale goes to her grandmother's old farm to recuperate, but finds out some fundamental secrets about her own family's past but is unaware that she is the target of her attacker's mentor in crime who is determined to track her down. I can't say this is the best reading in the world, but it's pleasant enough and not at all irritating, which is the main thing!

*There probably is a date on this, but the library have worked their usual magic and obscured the copyright information...

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Hmm. I have a feeling that it's not entirely in the spirit of the "blog-every-day-for-a-month" ethos to fail to post until the 4th, really. So I'm holding up the white flag now...

Monday night, I ended up calling my folks and making a cake for book group instead of blogging.

Tuesday night, I was at book group and it was fun, so I stayed and got home late. The book was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and I loved it. Hadn't expected to, but I did. Review in a later post - it's sitting on the desk taunting me, with another pile of books and CDs...

Wednesday - oh, we should really probably forget Wednesday. Suffice to say that I had 16 hours out of the house, 6 of which were spent travelling, and 3.5 of those 6 hours were spent on London buses. Next time I'll realise it's way quicker and healthier for body and soul to walk when there's a Tube strike, and just do it... We could call it the Bob Crow Exercise Plan.

And today, the arse-kicking knitting has had another chortle at me and I'm trying to work out how to salvage it.

So, in the absence of any actual interesting content, I fall back on the trick of bloggers everywhere, and bring you a photo of the Bug; who appears to be in exactly the same mood as I am at the moment...

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.

And yes; yes I do have leaves in my living-room. Doesn't everyone??

Sunday, October 31, 2010

5-year draw results!

Hello all: thanks very much to all 24 people who commented on the 5-year-anniversary entry! So good to read all the positive things people have done and made, particularly at a time of year where it's easy to be dull and gloomy

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

Take two

It's not often you knit a whole sleeve on a day's commute. Today was one of those days; but then, when the sleeve's only this long...

The tomato-soup coloured All Seasons Cotton is re-knitting up nicely to be an Alpaka Tunic (from the Fall 2009 Interweave Knits). I've needed to go down three (three!!!) needle sizes to get gauge, which is a bit unprecedented... I'm doing a couple of rows of moss-stitch rather than the slightly rolled edges in the original.

A couple of people asked about reskeining/washing after unravelling. I've never bothered if it's not been washed and worn, as it doesn't seem to go too kinky. I suppose if it had been washed and pressed and so on, I might reskein, but it's still enjoyable to knit with... I wind straight onto the ball-winder as I unravel, and that keeps the yarn slightly under tension, too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reverse engineering

As part of thinking about the best things I've made (in the knitting sense), I was also forced to admit today that there are some things which are less than best. In fact, there are three sweaters I've made over the last 5 years or so which didn't even get fully sewn-up because I was already aware that they were All Wrong.

One was going to be a long-forgotten dark blue All Seasons Cotton sweater (having already been a failed jacket); one a Ragna in cardigan version in Wendy Aran, and one a She Gansey in red All Seasons Cotton. In all cases they were too big, or the wrong shape, or I'd just completely fallen out of love with the pattern by the time I'd got to the end. Here they are in their awful glory.

And here they were a couple of hours later. Back left, 776 grammes/1550 metres of Wendy Aran with Wool in a nice green/grey tweed. Back right, 764 grammes/1400 metres of Rowan All Seasons Cotton in dark Air Force blue. Front, 490 grammes/880 metres of Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Paprika (orangey red); I do have another unopened 500 gramme bag of that one having bought two packs in Liberty's sale a few years ago.

Half of me is happy to have reclaimed three sweaters' worth of yarns. The other half of me looks at 2030 grammes and 3,830 metres of unravelled, never-worn sweater, with all the time, effort and hope involved, and marvels What was I thinking??

Knitters' denial - it's an amazing thing.

Just a reminder of the blog giveaway from the last post. Leave a comment over there about the best thing you've made over the last 5 years for a chance of a prize.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Five; and a giveaway...

Well, it's five years today since I opened my Blogger account, and 505 posts down the road, here I still am. I didn't put up my first post for a few days, so it's not quite my full five-year anniversary, but I'm at home today on a day's holiday so I thought I'd celebrate early, having spent the morning fiddling with the template.

I thought the blog needed a bit of a freshen-up for its birthday though - so I've stripped the Victorian wallpaper and gone for a cleaner look. Let me know if you like it!

I've done some stuff I never thought I would over the last five years; I've gained friends, and even family (3 little ones to knit for this Christmas!). I've met some wonderful knitters both online and in real life, gone to some excellent and/or interesting events, visited Venice, and Canada, and Vienna (which weirdly, I really didn't blog despite taking huge numbers of photos - here's the Flickr set though!).

I've also changed jobs for one which is both much more fun and much more structured, and where I'm finally using my qualifications fully; I've become a commuter, and Establishment, and have surprisingly found I enjoy both of those things. I've overhauled my garden (the back bedroom is next on the list) and learned to spin yarn which is actually knittable (more on that later, I hope).

Anyway, five years is a long time; and as with all these things, deserves some sort of contest/giveaway thing, to thank you for reading, and for continuing to read, particularly when I'm just maundering on about my garden, or showing you the next foot of unblocked lace in a big heap with a cat sitting on top of it.

So, please add a comment to this post before the end of October 30, telling me about the best thing you've made in the last five years. It might be a sweater, a baby, a pie, a decision... I'll use the random number generator to choose one prize, and give the other one to my personal favourite comment. The prizes are secret (largely because I don't know what they are yet) but will be yarn-related and fun.

Over the next few days I'll blog about two or three of the best things I've made over that time, too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sahar: proof positive of knitting life...

I have been knitting; honestly. I'm just aware I haven't blogged any for ages. Some of this has been that delay you get where you knit a present, or do a test knit, and then can't present it for ages. Some of it has just been indolence. Most of it, frankly, has just been that all my blogging time (and honestly, most of my energy) over the summer and since has been sucked into the whole KnitCamp experience, and the earlier and later fiascos. Even from the point of view of a student and observer, it's been completely knackering. I hope to catch up at some point. And some of the things I've made have been really lovely even if I say so as shouldn't.

However, just about a month ago, Franklin put up a pattern on Ravelry for download which somehow just screamed "KNIT ME!!" in a way very few things have recently, despite the huge wealth of patterns out there, particularly as I knew exactly which yarn I was going to use. So despite having 114 things in the Ravelry queue ahead of this, and a lot of yarn at home, I found myself in John Lewis buying Rowan Felted Tweed a couple of days later, and casting on in the pub (yes, I had brought appropriate needles and the waste yarn with me. I was a Brownie and a Guide. On occasions, I am Prepared).

That evening I had this

and was sort of entranced. There's a switch every 6 rows in the first pattern which stops you falling into complacency, but it's a switch like the end of a long seam in sewing, or (for those of us just old enough to remember) the ding of the bell of the typewriter at the end of a row; not too jarring, just a little reminder that something needs to be done.

There's not too much of any part of the pattern to be boring (Summer into Fall and Wibbo's as-yet-unpublished Gallimaufry compare with it for sheer enjoyment) but the DK weight yarn also makes it a comparatively fast knit. There's a provisional cast-on at each end, grafting/Kitchener stitch in the middle, and then picking up and knitting around the edge to make a border (which isn't a huge border, but still takes up about a quarter of the yarn). The picking up and knitting is dead easy if you just follow the instructions. I found a tiny error on one square of the final row of the border; which is, of course, fixed now.

A little over a fortnight after casting on I had this:

and then a few days later managed to get a photo of the actual colour of the thing.

Pictures are clickable to embiggen (despite the Firefox upgrade which means I'm having to go back to IE to link to Flickr...)

Bravo, Franklin, and thanks for the pattern. It's been a while since I was this single-minded about a piece of knitting; I think this stole will be lounging negligently around on the sofa this winter, on the rare occasions when it's not wrapped around my neck.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2010 books, #66-70

Ash and bone, by John Harvey. London: Heinemann, 2005.

A non-Resnick novel (although Resnick appears in a cameo), with the same characters as his earlier Flesh and Blood. Frank Elder is again persuaded out of retirement in Cornwall, this time to investigate the murder of an ex-colleague. Meanwhile, his own daughter is facing a drugs charge in Nottingham. This is very tightly plotted with some interesting characters, and well up to John Harvey's standard.

Little girl lost, by Susan Kelly. London: Allison and Busby, 2002.

It seems simple enough: a child is abducted from her home by her social worker, while her father is asleep. But it all becomes much more complicated, and things which had been known as facts turn out to have been so many lies. Another Greg Summers novel; Summers is an interesting character, and the relationships between the different police staff are as interesting as those between the protagonists. There's a heartbreaking side story about Alzheimer's, too.

To darkness and to death, by Julia Spencer-Fleming. New York: St Martin's, 2005.

Another one in this tremendous series; this time based around conservation versus logging, and land transfer deals. Clare's personal life also becomes steadily more complicated. Some of the plotting here seems less realistic than with the other novels, but the characters have almost become more interesting than the plot. (The next two books in the series are in the post from the US.)

Nemesis, by Lindsey Davis [audiobook]. Read by Christian Rodska. Oxford: Isis, 2010.

I put on the first CD of this book expecting the usual slightly comic opening to the most recent (20th!) Falco historical detective novel. I didn't expect to be reaching for the tissues within 10 minutes! The opening is amazingly touching, and the rest of the novel is excellent, too. Falco is now at a bit of a crossroads, established in his home life and now moneyed, but still with the sense of adventure which has led him into so much trouble. The sub-plot involving Albia, his adopted British daughter, is a great touch, too. Christian Rodska's reading is superb as ever - when I realised who the reader was, I happily waited the extra time for the audio version to come from the library. He gives Falco just the right slightly-wrong-side-of-the-tracks edge without caricature.

Things fall apart, by Chinua Achebe. London: Penguin, 2006.

A Kniterati book group book, and another I wouldn't have picked up if it hadn't been a group book, but was very glad to have read. I began with a great deal of exasperation for the main character who is so hard and violent with his family as a reaction to his father having been a weak man; but gradually, because the characters are so well-drawn and the traditions and relationships so well explained by the author, my sympathy transferred to him in his plight. And the ending is quite heartbreaking. It all made for very interesting discussion; thanks to Penny for her suggestion and the background information she had.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Meeting Across the River

Weirdly, as I walked over the Golden Jubilee Walkways from the north to the south bank of the Thames, this song came on the iPod. Seemed very appropriate

It was a grim day, which looked like midwinter...

But I was heading to the Royal Festival Hall for lunch, drinks and knitting with a friend. Anyone who knows this particular friend will probably work out who it was by this photo...

Yes, it was indeed Yvonne (aka Stash on Ravelry); accessorising her purple cast with her beautiful new purple Louët yarn, and making an experimental foray into the centre of town since her unfortunate altercation with an unfriendly kerb.

And this was the view we had to gaze out on - or at least, part of the view. This bit wasn't entirely populated by people earnestly tapping on their MacBooks (or whatever those Mac laptops are called)...

The people-watching was excellent though - we didn't see anyone we could positively identify, but there were definitely Telly People arranging interviews and so on...

And on the way out, there was an exhibition of art made by young offenders, which was really interesting. This one was definitely one for Sparkleduck though!

Another really good day; despite being wet for quite as much of it!! I also knitted an Entire Item in the course of the day, but more of that later.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Meetings in Norwich

Well, I had a lovely day. At the weekend, I e-mailed SusieH to see if she was free to meet up, as we've been promising to for several years now, and I was on holiday; and she was!

We had a slightly rocky start - we'd agreed to meet at "the station" and I got to Norwich, hung around for a few minutes and then checked my phone (which even at full blast has a pathetic little ring, unless you're in the middle of a cathedral - see below...) to find that I was at Norwich, and Susie was at King's Lynn... Major crossed wires. S is blaming herself; I think it was definitely six of one and half a dozen of the other... But we met!

And we had lunch at the very wonderful Belgian Monk. Mussels, cheese croquettes and other wonderful things including, of course, frites with mayo, were eaten. (We'll have to meet up again; the next lunch is on me.)

Then I had the pleasure of introducing Susie to the wonder that is Country and Eastern, just behind the City Hall in Bethel Street. Half the attraction is in the wonderful things they sell, and half is in the beauty of the building. It used to be an ice-rink.

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.

Halfway round the cathedral, a text came in on my phone (which it turns out, despite being inaudible on a train, is incredibly loud in a cathedral) - to announce the new arrival of a bébé-cousine, a second child for my cousins, and a girl this time, to accompany her 3-year-old brother. As well as the good news on the text, the fact the message was being sent less than 2 hours after the birth was also reassuring!

In the circumstances, lighting a candle and saying a prayer seemed like a good idea. Welcome to the world, little as-yet-nameless one; you are so much wanted and anticipated, and it'll be a magic adventure. May you be happy.

While you're busy growing up, your semi-auntie will be on Ravelry queueing girlie stuff...

Friday, September 24, 2010

2010 books, #61-65

The third option, by Vince Flynn. London: Pocket Books, 2001.

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...

The slap, by Christos Tsiolkas. London: Tuskar Rock, 2010. Originally published in Australia in 2008.

This is a book club book - and not one I'd have picked up otherwise. By about 50 pages in I was really wondering whether I'd bother finishing it; a lot of the characters are pretty repulsive, and I didn't really feel much sympathy for any of them. The premise of the book is that at a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who isn't his child, and the characters at the barbecue are explored. Most of it's pretty grim, and examines how much people within families, and groups of friends, can hate each other while still sticking together. But there are moments of hope, and the final few scenes are full of light. I came out of it being glad that I'd read it, but I can't explain why; and it has to be said that nobody at book club had enjoyed it that much. It won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 2009 and was longlisted (but not shortlisted) for the Booker this year.

Last rites, by Neil White [audiobook]. Read by Jack Paulin. Long Preston: Magna, 2010.

Strange one this - set near Pendle Hill, with all the history that involves; abduction, witchcraft and family history all blended in. Pretty compelling towards the end, although it loses itself a little in the middle. Good reading by Paulin, as ever.

The chalk circle man, by Fred Vargas. Translated by Siân Reynolds. London: Vintage, 2010. Originally published in French in 1996.

The first of the Adamsberg novels; and very interestingly French in its slight surreality. Some interesting characters; I could definitely see this as a Jean-Jacques Beineix film... Someone is drawing chalk circles around random objects on the pavements of Paris; the random objects escalate... Gradually, other characters are drawn in, including a very handsome blind man and a world expert on fish who becomes his landlady. I somewhat lost track of this because I lost it about three-quarters of the way through and found it in a basket of laundry, but it was very enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just, you know, gah

Edited to update: Drama over... thanks all for your good wishes.

I got an e-mail from the lost property office at Cambridge station mid-morning to say they had my bag; went down there and picked it up just now...

Everything intact. Phew. And a good reminder of the fact that there are a large number of decent, honest people in the world; I think I've just had too much exposure to one of the few who isn't recently!

(Small moment of additional drama earlier when my one remaining card wouldn't let me have any cash, but it turns out it was the crappy machine at the village shop rather than the card...)

I just need sympathy here, frankly.

Complete train snafu this evening; lots of misinformation on whether the train was 4 or 8 carriages (as it was advertised from platform 9B, which means 4 carriages, and that platform has a kink in it which means that unless you go way up to the top of the train, you don't realise there's another, unadvertised, attached, train there. Which, apparently, there was.) Somewhere in this mess, while being bossed around and hurriedly made to change trains from Cambridge, I left my handbag behind. [I had two work carrier bags with me as well as the usual load, so the fourth bag passed unnoticed].

That would be the handbag with my purse, my travel card, my season ticket, cash, my credit and debit cards, house keys, work security pass, etc. [life?] in it...

[I also quite like the actual handbag].

I realised it about 100 yards away from home...

Thankfully, my lovely neighbour Edd helped me break into the back of the house with the aid of a sledgehammer and a towel (turns out the glass in the bathroom window is security glass!); I have cancelled all my cards... thankfully I'm working at home tomorrow but I have no idea how I'm going to get to work on Friday. (I have one credit card in a drawer at home and am hoping it will still remember me...)

Needless to say the First Capital Connect lost property office is managed "centrally" - from Plymouth; although the actual lost property office is at City Thameslink. I have no idea how that works. It gives me no confidence that I'll see my belongings again though.

Just to say, if you have to report cards missing, and you have a Smile/Co-Op card, I'd recommend you report that one last, as I did this evening, because it's so much nicer than the robotic script-stuff. I had the impression I'd stumbled into a party (they were all disputing where Manchester actually was, geographically, which was something I'd had occasion to wonder about during thel day, professionally), but you get professional, not-at-all-impersonal, service (both the previous lots were working from a script; this one was a guy saying 'so, you're pretty sure about the time'; 'yes, that was the time the whole handbag went missing'; 'oh, sorry; bummer... are you phoning from home? were you able to get there OK? Nightmare...')

I knew there was a reason I banked with Smile. Just-professional-enough will do me, in the circumstances. And although they kept me on hold, I liked the Madchester hold music.

I'll be interested to see which cards are replaced first.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Knit Camp 7: the aftermath - stories emerge

I was going to post on the entirely positive experience which was the I Knit Weekender last weekend; but I couldn't avoid talking about this first.

Starting this post with a picture of the Stirling campus lake. Still waters, and all that.

I don't take back anything I've posted about my personal experience of Knit Camp while it was happening - I think I was honest. There's been a fair amount of criticism online of those of us who did post some positive comments, accusing us of Pollyanna-ish tendencies (which will come as a surprise to anyone who's actually met me in real life!), but I posted what I saw and experienced.

I was aware of some of the background shenanighans which went on before camp, because oddly enough I do talk to other people online and in real life, some of whom had first-hand information. I knew that a couple of people I know, think of as friends and was looking forward to meeting had decided not to participate as tutors because of problems with the organisation, shifting terms and conditions, etc. But by that stage I'd handed over my money...

Since the event, though, those of us who paid fees in good faith have become aware that that money has not gone to tutors, helpers who were expecting to be paid, people expecting refunds, etc. The British Yarn site has been taken down, and my understanding is that the company formed to organise the event has been dissolved. A minority of tutors appear to have been paid, some appear to have been part-paid, others appear to have received nothing.

I would like to present you a trio of blog posts, in chronological order.

First, one from the organiser (apologies if this link doesn't work when you get to it; communications from this source have a habit of disappearing post facto). This has the joint themes of self-justification and complete lack of apology we grew to expect. And of getting retaliation in first. It was a surprise to me to learn that I don't travel to knitting events; presumably that six and a half hour train journey was some sort of delusion.

(This blog post was put out shortly after Camp; at that point I think lot of us still had hopes that people who were owed money would be paid it; although we feared they mightn't. The 28 days in people's contracts, and cited in this blog post, have now expired without full payment, so over the last day or two, insiders have published more complete information on what actually went on.)

Second, one from an internationally known tutor (with whom I took an excellent class), confirming in print some of the things I'd heard by e-mail and conversation.

Third, one from the person who was KnitCampers' main link with the organisation in the month before the event. I have no idea how much worse it would have been without her, because she was really the only source of definitive information like where we were meant to go to register, etc., when she could get the information herself.

Don't think I can really add to these. Other than to say that organisers of large-scale events in the UK may well have difficulty in recruiting both UK and overseas tutors in the next couple of years, and that's both completely understandable, and an awful shame.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shameless plug: KnitFest at Cocoon

I was going to blog about IKnit - but this event starts tomorrow and it'll be lovely. Hope anyone from the area who was at the Weekender picked up one of the fliers!

Cocoon is a lovely shop in Hove run by very nice people who are trying to get the message out; so if you live in the area or fancy a day-trip, they're about 10 minutes' walk downhill from Hove Station. George Street is a wonderful (pedestrian, during the day) shopping street with very nice cafés, charity shops etc.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Well. Since I last posted it's been busy.

I went down to Jan's and we knitted on her balcony in the sun and ate a couple of very nice meals out, and nattered, and did a bit of clothes shopping for a college reunion in a couple of weeks - it was really useful having someone else along to say whether things looked OK. Last time we did this I bought a winter coat for my then-new-job and it was a seriously good choice.

I then had what felt like a very long week at work despite it only being 4 days; but ended it up in the Royal Festival Hall with some I Knitters.

I slept through 2 alarms today but still made it to the I Knit Weekender well in time for my class (more of that in a later post).

And it was the Bug's birthday last Saturday. She's had a bit of a hard year - dental surgery in February, blood tests for which revealed she has dodgy kidneys, so she's now on a low-everything diet; and then two visits to the vet for abscessed bites on her leg - still can't work out who she was fighting with, but at least we're able to verify that both the inhabitants of the house are lefties/southpaws/sinisters!

But she's still on the path to World Domination.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Knit Camp 6: Out and About at Loch Katrine

Trip the Second: the Trossachs and Loch Katrine

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!

Knit Camp 5: Out and About at New Lanark

I booked on two afternoon/evening outings from Camp; and as with everything at Camp, it was a game of two halves...

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

Knit Camp 4: More Skirling in Stirling

So, I left you with the pipers rehearsing outside the Castle. The weather had cleared quite a bit since I set off, and the landscape was beautiful. The tower on the left of this picture is the Wallace Monument; I believe that means the University is just the other side of the wooded hill (but never trust me on anything geographical)...

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...

2010 books, #56-60

A river in the sky, by Elizabeth Peters. London: Robinson, 2010.

I've read all the books in this series, the last few shortly after they came out, and although they're always well-written and funny, the last couple have been somewhat... staid, as the characters become older and more sensible. So I was absolutely delighted to find that this new one is set in the pre-war period of irresponsibility and derring-do. I think this is the narrative of an event which is mentioned in the subsequent The falcon at the portal. Set in Palestine in 1910, this is absolutely classic Peabody, but also has a very healthy proportion of extracts from "Manuscript H", the Ramses-centric narrative. Lots of captures and rescues, disguises, mysterious strangers and German spies; both Peabody's little pistol and parasol/sword-stick come into play. A wonderful return to form.

Whistling for the elephants, by Sandi Toksvig. London: Sphere, 2002.

This was a de-acquisitioned library book I acquired last summer but hadn't got round to reading; it was my Stirling book. Eleven year old Dorothy Kane moves to upstate New York with her upper-class English parents, and moves from childhood to adolescence in the company of an extraordinary band of people and animals living in a dilapidated zoo. It's almost Swallows and Amazons as written by Isabel Allende, but with Toksvig's absurdist sense of humour thrown in. And it's wonderfully moving; I made a bit of an idiot of myself by weeping while reading the final couple of chapters over a glass of wine in St Pancras Station before the last leg of my journey home. This is one I'll remember for a long time.

Dead cert, by Dick Francis [audiobook]. Read by Tony Britton. Bath, BBC Audiobooks, 2010.

A re-release of the audiobook - I first read this one as a teenager and heard Tony Britton's wonderfully spare reading of it about 15 years ago. One of my favourite Francis books even though by now I know what's going to happen. It's weird that the racing element of it hasn't dated at all, but social attitudes in 1962, when this was written, have obviously changed a great deal. It turns out this was his first book - I now have an urge to go through and listen to the others again in order...

Trust me, I'm a (junior) doctor, by Max Pemberton. London: Hodder, 2008.

Based on the author's own experience as a brand-new doctor completing his junior year. It veers between the hilarious, the tragic, the completely absurd, the absurdly moving and conveys the sheer bone-crushing exhaustion of the hundred-hour week. Pemberton is always compassionate in his descriptions of patients, even when they're being completely unreasonable, and there are some wonderful touching moments alongside some genuinely ridiculous ones. Probably not one to read while in, or preparing to go into, hospital...

Awakening, by S. J. Bolton [audiobook]. Read by Alison Reid. Bath: Chivers/BBC Audiobooks, 2010.

Another one well up to the standard Bolton set herself in Sacrifice, this time set in Dorset and featuring a vet as the main character. Someone is terrorising the local village with venomous snakes, and the story behind them goes back into history... The main protagonist Clara Benning is a strange character; we find out towards the beginning of the book that she has a facial disfigurement which has turned her into a virtual recluse, but we don't find out the circumstances until very near the end. The title is apt; things are awakened from the past life of the village, but it's also a transformative time for Clara. Not one to read if you have an instinctive dislike or fear of snakes, though!

(And because I can't help myself, I'm going to have a quick whinge about Chivers/BBC Audiobooks and their newly non-removable inlay sheets on the covers; wherever you put the date label and barcode on a CD, it's going to obscure something or other, and being able to manoeuvre the information sheet gingerly out of the top of the box used to really help! In this case all the publishing and copyright information were obscured...)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Knit Camp 3: If it's Tuesday, this must be Stirling

Making heavy weather of this - another photo-heavy post which makes Blogger/Flickr unhappy...

So, on the Tuesday morning, after an emergency meeting of camp participants at the somewhat unearthly hour of 07:35, supposedly in the (closed) dining hall and then upstairs in the atrium, I queued to make another change to my class schedule (the seventh, I think!), grabbed some breakfast, found the office for a computer password and the computer lab to check e-mail, and decided to head out to Stirling for my day's sightseeing, as I didn't have a class because my tutor was still in California... I'd originally planned to go on Saturday, but needs must and all that! Flexibility was definitely required for the entire week.

It was absolutely horrible weather as I set off - torrential rain - but by the time I got to the city centre it was merely drizzly and overcast. It seemed that the way to the Sights was uphill, so up I went.

Don't know what this building was, (shops now, but I can't work out whether it was a civic building or a church) although it has the first of several memorials to William Wallace. (I've never seen Braveheart; my main interest in Wallace is that he's someone whose trial, and condemnation to death, in Westminster Hall is recorded by a plaque on the floor I walk past a couple of times a week!)

I was walking this way with a purpose though - two lovely local ladies who came to the first-night party and dinner had pointed me towards... yup; a yarn shop. Not just any yarn shop, either...

McAree Brothers' mail order is something I've used often, but I hadn't realised that their main shop was in Stirling. It was brilliant to go in there. The range is fabulous, and they were really looking forward to carrying Debbie Stoller's range of new yarns. One of the people working there was being really enthusiastic about Camp and was talking about it to the customers and advertising the weekend marketplace. It turns out that this was Carol Meldrum, author of the wonderful Knitted Icons book among others; but I didn't realise that at the time! Lace yarn was bought, along with some bonus acrylic for Helen for a class we'd both transferred onto at short notice...

Fittingly, just up the road is an almshouse endowed by a tailor - loved the scissors on the sign.

And this, believe it or not, just down the hill from the Castle, is Stirling Youth Hostel. (Follow the link for a nice slideshow of pictures of the area.)

And I thought the one at Haworth was fancy...

Another nice sign - joint cadets and Scout headquarters...

Next up the hill was the Church of the Holy Rude... Beautiful, rather austere church with a fabulous history. Remarkable both for the number of volunteers helping tourists, and the number of languages their information sheets were in (probably 40 or so!)

Beautiful 19th century stained glass...

And equally beautiful 20th century glass. This is the Guildry Window . The river running through the lower panels is the Forth

On up to Stirling Castle. On the lawns in front was the first sight of the Rob Roy Pipe Band and Highland Dancers from Kingston, Ontario.

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.

Stirling continued in the next post - I had too many photos! As you can tell, though, the weather (and my mood) gradually improved as I headed up the hill...