Monday, April 12, 2010

Big red wolf

Well, Monday turned out to be more interesting than planned; despite my forgetting my travel pass and having to go back for it, when I got to the station, the 0804 was still there in the platform. And stayed there, for the next hour... At 0930, when I realised there was no way if we even set off at that second I'd be able to make it in for the 11am meeting, I phoned my boss and arranged to work from home for the day. And it was all extremely productive.

I'm not the best worker-from-home, to be honest; I get distracted; the PC's in the middle of the living room, and there's just way too much yarny stuff about and things I'd rather be doing. So today, to focus my mind, I decided to work for an hour and then do something else for half an hour. Mostly, that was spinning - the work stuff was absorbing enough that after an hour, taking half an hour off for the sort of mechanical activity which leaves big bits of your brain free to think creatively, was perfect, and I got loads done (and still finished an hour earlier than I'd have got home on a normal day, due to only having spent 1 hour travelling rather than nearly 4). Wish I could have a wheel in the office!

I'm spinning Jacob, still; this is likely to go on for quite a while as I have at least another couple of carrier bags of it. It's proving surprisingly good fun, despite the amount of vegetation there still is in it - I'd say that I'd be pickier with my picking another time, but these sheep were pets from the next village, rather than animals raised for yarn, and the amount of straw and moss in the fleece was pretty extreme - this is not going to be a yarn for garments. Having said that, a fleece for £5 including delivery is not something you sniff at (previous years' shearings had been burnt or used for mulch). This is the second bobbin; I wound the first one off yesterday:

I think I'll wind the spun bobbins into cakes for the moment (unless anyone who actually knows what they're doing has a better suggestion, of course! please post in the comments), and then skein, wash, dye and ply them all at once, at which point I'll work out how much there is, and what it wants to be. I ordered a WPI tool along with an impulse sock-club purchase (the club is getting to the end of its life so they were allowing you to buy one month at a time); the package won't arrive until sometime next month, but that's OK - I spin glacially slowly.
To whit - this is the rest of this year's production. Not Jacob. Merino, and Blue-Faced Leicester, and much, much prettier.
The roving for the skein in the middle was a very kind gift from Franklin when he was here in the autumn. The colourway is Rufus lupus (which translates as Red Wolf, hence the title of this post); the dyer is Sakina Needles, who doesn't seem to be in business at the moment. Oddly enough, when I was trying to track down the name of the dyer (I couldn't find the card attached to the skein but could remember the colour name), I found this Etsy listing - the spinner is SO much more competent than I am, but her skein seems more pastel. Mine reminds me of the colours of Venice and the mosaics in San Marco, so the Latin name is even nicer.

I'd spun this by Textiles in Focus in February, and took it with me, hoping for something to match it. And needed to go no further than the lovely Alison at Yarnscape (she has links to her shops at Folksy and Etsy, but I think most of her production is going into shows at the moment; and Ely Yarn Shop has some of her batts and dyed yarns) for a couple of plaits of BFL which would absolutely do the job. On the left, Rosewood, and on the right, Denim. It was definitely one of those squee moments - the pinkybrown-ness was just perfect, and the blue was exactly the right colour, too. It was also one of those weird and serendipitous things where yarn given by a friend from Chicago, and yarn dyed by a friend from Cambridgeshire, worked together so perfectly.

So, I have 450m/200g of DK-ish weight yarn; pondering what to make... I might do something geometric-y to reflect the San Marco mosaics...

Big irritation

I pay good money to McAfee for virus protection... and you'd think that would give you protection? Hmmnnn... Turns out, not so much. Spent most of yesterday researching something called XP Defender, which had sent a little message-thingy out onto my computer which was popping up every 90 seconds or so to convince me I needed to download a programme to check for viruses... So did a little bit of research and found out it was malware, made sure my McAfee was up to date, and got it to do a complete virus check, and after 4 hours it came back and said "shiny! all clear!"...

Managed to find a detailed set of instructions for removal, but this did involve editing the registry, which isn't something a non-techy person attempts without Extreme Trepidation. Thankfully, I used to be married to someone who is a techy person, and who very kindly came over yesterday evening and sorted it out. But I do wonder why McAfee didn't spot it.

In a continuation of foolishness, managed to set out this morning and got halfway to the station before I realised I'd left my season ticket in my other bag. So I have a few minutes to rant about viruses before the next train!

Also, a couple of pictures. I should really have chopped this japonica and this berberis before now, but it'll have to wait until the flowers-and-leaves combination is less breathtaking.

And in a Bug update... Outside, therefore happy...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Not a big surprise...

... for anyone who's read this blog for any length of time; but if you were to characterise my general approach to life, it would probably be mostly chaos, with small pockets of hyperorganisation. So although I have stash Absolutely Everywhere, the stuff that ever makes it into the storage system upstairs is meticulously recorded on a spreadsheet; as are the Christmas presents. And my CDs and DVDs are alphabetised - the DVDs by title, the CDs by artist, as in the library.

Well; the CDs that are actually in the bookcase that holds them, anyway. Problem is, at the moment said bookcase is in the next room to the CD player, and behind various fibre-related impedimenta; so every now and then I end up with something like this to sort out.

Didn't realise how long it was since I filed any of these, but there are at least 3 Christmas compilations in this stack, so presumably quite a while...

2010 books, #21-25

Not a particularly cultured selection: a lot of my library reservations came in at once. I was meant to be reading The elegance of the hedgehog for book group, but I couldn't really get into it...

Gone tomorrow, by Lee Child [audiobook]. Read by Jeff Harding. Whitley Bay: Soundings, 2009.

A rattling good story if you can stand some quite extreme and gruesome violence; and taught me a fair amount about the Russian/Afghan war of the late 70s and early 80s. Jack Reacher is an... interesting character; ex-military policeman, loner, homeless and deeply amoral, except when he isn't. If you're happy with the Jeffery Deaver books, you'd like this one. And Jeff Harding's reading is as ever impeccable. (I get a kick out of his saying "Whitley Bay" when advertising the other Soundings recordings because it just sounds so incongruous....)

Blindman's bluff, by Faye Kellerman. London: HarperCollins, 2009.

Another Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus book; a good plot, and it chugs along solidly. I do tend to prefer the ones where their being Jewish comes into play in some way, which it doesn't in this book; but if you like these characters, well worth reading.

The girl with the dragon tattoo, by Stieg Larsson [audiobook]. Read by Saul Reichlin. Rearsby, Leics. : W F Howes, 2009.

Absolutely brilliant; and very disturbing. Having read the book, I don't want to see the film; maybe it's just me, but reading graphic violence is very different from watching it; and I have a mental image of several of the main characters I'd rather keep. A cracking thriller with additional elements; and while the characters are dysfunctional and strange, you do really care about them. Wonderfully well-plotted and -investigated; and I'm glad I know this is a trilogy because I really need to know what happened before, and next... Extremely well-read, too...

The vanished man, by Jeffery Deaver [audiobook]. Read by Jeff Harding. Oxford: Isis Audio, 2003.

The combination of Deaver and Harding works its magic even if you're "reading" the book for the second time. It's fiendishly plotted, and the development of the relationship between Rhyme and Sachs is always worth reading for.

Fever in the bone, by Val McDermid. London: Little, Brown, 2009.

One of McDermid's Tony Hill books, this one quite brilliant. The plot twists and turns like an eel, but McDermid's great talent is in making you actually care about the characters and situations. The relationship between Hill and DCI Carol Jordan continues to be fascinating. One of those books you close and just sit thinking wow...for several minutes.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Big sulk

Not that I blame it. It gets bitten, then it gets hurty, then it gets manhandled into a basket, taken to the vet and stabbed with a syringe, and then it gets shut in and forced to use.... shudder... a litter box. (I think it's more fed up with the final point than any of the others, frankly; but we go back on Saturday morning and maybe they'll lift the curfew then...)

The Bug is better today, though (limping rather than hopping); thanks for good wishes expressed on the blog and at I Knit this evening! And yes, Katie - my manager was very cool and I am grateful for that. Over two and a half years, I've not had to take a day's leave at less than a week or so's notice, including for things like funerals; so while yesterday was pretty inconvenient in business terms, I think I'd built up a reasonable record for reliability and she did realise that as far as I was concerned it was a genuine emergency! I'm sure being a cat-owner helped with the understanding, too, though.

This morning at work was fun - met with a fellow taxonomy specialist and had a good natter about common problems; it's always good to know you're not alone (or just a lunatic); and to remember how good it is working in an organisation which takes information seriously. The afternoon was less fun, getting to grips with the new Parliamentary constituencies ahead of the election, and recording what the boundary changes/previous constituencies were - surprisingly complex.

And talking of constituencies, I was leafleted-in-person by one of the Parliamentary candidates for mine at the station in the village, at 6:56 this morning as I headed in hoping to catch up with my e-mail before my meeting. I can only commend his industriousness.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Big alteration...

... in the plans today; last night the Bug appeared after a day or so AWOL (not totally unusual this time of year but she usually comes in for food), and wasn't putting weight on one front leg; when I looked more closely there was a rather unpleasant oozy hole in her leg... So I put the cat flap on "in only" and e-mailed work to say I'd be in late because I was going to need to take her to the vet's in the morning.

At which point I made that crucial mistake of forgetting that actually she's quite a bright cat when it comes to escapology - so when I got down this morning there was no sign of her. At some point in the night, she'd worked out that if she got a claw caught in the edge of the flap, she could pull it towards her and flee; I should have set it on "no entrance or exit". GAH!

So in the end, I took a day's emergency leave; and waited (and waited) for her to show up. I asked the neighbours if they'd seen her, walked round the block repeatedly, called for her, you name it. At noon or so (by which time the day had seemed endless) she hopped in for some dinner and I called the vet; a few hours later we were home with the inevitable week's course of antibiotics, an injection of anti-inflammatories and a diagnosis of a bite-induced abscess... Thankfully a friend offered to take me there and back... And the Bug already had an appointment for Saturday morning, supposedly for a blood test which might or might not happen depending on how quickly the antibiotics kick in... So she should be fine in a few days; and tomorrow I need to catch up on quite an important work seminar which was meant to be the main point of my day.

I'm very glad my manager is also a cat-owner - she realised all I could do was wait, was great about the fact that I was going to be missing a catch-up meeting and the seminar, and suggested that I could work from home for part of the day if I wanted to rather than taking the whole day as leave. But my concentration was completely shot...

While waiting, I could have put in some quality knitting time, but again, the concentration just wasn't there. Luckily, I unearthed this: a sock started at the folk festival last year, which was then lost in one clear-up and found in another... When I abandoned them they were about halfway through the broad yellow stripe, so a fair amount of progress was made while I was listening distractedly to audiobooks while waiting for the noise of the catflap!

These are my Nymphadora socks, knitted in the Tonks [warning; Harry Potter spoilers under link!] colourway from Opal's Harry Potter range, now sadly discontinued... for this reason alone, I think I might be keeping these for myself. Tonks was a favourite character even before I discovered the library/shapeshifter connection... I bet JK Rowling was aware of it though - it's just too good to be a complete coincidence.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Big announcement

SO, they're finally off! The announcement that even the PM admitted was unsurprising has happened and the phony campaigning can finish.

And the question of the moment - which genius decided that rainbow plastic knitting needles would form the BBC's election logo??

Despite all the election hype or possibly because of it, I think my favourite quote is in Sam Wollaston's Guardian review of last night's University Challenge final - "The dude is Wikipedia with a pulse".

Oh, there was some knitting, too. My Dad had a birthday on Sunday, and socks were knitted. I'm very pleased with these. They're the Maze socks [Ravelry link] from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks and they were very good fun to knit. The black yarn is Hot Socks, bought in Vienna for a song last year; the self-striping is Kaffe Fassett (of course...). I used just under one 50g ball of the self-striping and just over one 50g ball of the black. The leg is mosaic-knitted, and the foot Fair Isle pinstripes.

And apparently he really likes them.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Great start!

Well - I managed the daily blogging thing for 2 days... Oops.

It was a busier weekend than I'd anticipated - on Saturday I was working in the library, went knitting at the Devonshire Arms (lovely venue!) and had a friend over for dinner. On Sunday I had other friends for lunch (which ended at 5:30pm or so) and then spent the evening tidying the place up... Today, the same friends picked me up and we wandered around Ely. One of the things I picked up was a fearsome pruning saw to replace the one I borrowed last year and really need to return. When I went out to the garden to use it this afternoon, I found a wonderful thing - the dwarf tulips are flowering! (I have done nothing at all to this photo - they really are that bright!)

I totally hadn't expected the yellow centres - the picture on the bulb packet was the same as the one I linked to above; absolutely gorgeous... If you click to embiggen, there's a very happy and almost entirely pollen-encrusted ladybird in the top one...

I also have some narcissi flowering, and I hope that the others I planted in the same area, Professor Einstein, will be following suit soon... these are February Gold. The tulips were also meant to be February-March flowering, but it's been a cold winter, and I only planted them on 9th December! (And thankfully I took photos, because I can't find the packets, and had no memory of what they were!)

Inside, some knitting has been done - this is a test-knit for a friend... I'm not sure how secret this is so I'll refrain from giving the details. This was the first attempt...

in Helen's Lace, in the Get Knitted colourway. It's lovely stuff to knit - but with this pattern, it pooled horribly, so after the first 30 rows I ripped it out and have just got to that point again with a new yarn. This is Cherry Tree Hill Merino Lace in Peacock and it seems to be responding nicely...

Friday, April 02, 2010

Big box of tricks

My new toy arrived last weekend; the lady at the post office (who stitches) was very intrigued... I took an hour off last Friday afternoon because I couldn't bear to wait till Saturday...

They do things differently in New Zealand - can't imagine a piece of UK equipment for textiles being advertised by two blokes!

Fabulous minimal packaging - you just slide out the little bit of plywood at the left-hand side and take a wooden block out at the other...

Some (but not much), assembly required...

All sorted...

I know you can make lovely fancy batts with Angelina fibre and so on, and blend different fibres together, and I'll be trying some of that later, but for now, I'm very, very happy to be able to turn this (Jacob fleece from sheep which were reared in the next village)

into these lovely floofy cushions of fibre ready for spinning; all these were done in less than an hour, with a minimum of pre-carding on a hand-carder...

I'm going to be spinning up a lot of grey for the next little while, but I'm so glad to be able to card much faster than I can spin, rather than the other way round - and there are several fleeces around the place (as well as this Jacob, which is the only washed fleece, there are 2 Shetland fleeces, 1 Ryeland (thanks, AnnaT!), 1 Manx Loaghtan and one I bought when I first learned to spin... Unfortunately, the weather isn't really conducive to washing any of the others this weekend so far! The forecast isn't too bad for Sunday and Monday, and I can always finish the drying process in the greenhouse...

I've spun a bit each day over the last week and needed to card another basketful of fleece this afternoon; it's not going to be the finest or most even yarn in the world, but I'm going to try something different by dyeing the singles before plying...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Big undertaking

So, I've signed up for NaBloPoMo again. This month's theme is "Big". It's an optional theme, so you may just get me wittering about nowt; or you may get me trying to post and fizzling out, as in February when my head was in a different time-zone. I shall try.

I will post with Actual Fibre Content tomorrow. Tonight I was knitting in Ely, with a group of very nice people; I was glad I hadn't taken my camera, given how wet I got on the way home...

But I had one of those OMGILovetheInternet moments on the way to knitting.

I am a bit snobby about ordering meat for Big Occasions online with the rest of my shopping, because I want to be able to see the thing before I cook it and work out what size it is, whether it looks OK, whether it will fit in my oven, etc. So I did my online order for Easter Sunday lunch without the main attraction, and relied on Ely Waitrose to have some lamb from some part of Britain. Preferably leg, but shoulder, breast... anything big enough to roast and feed 4 people. Went in there and looked at the pre-packed stuff; nope - everything, and I mean everything was from New Zealand. Went in and looked at the stuff on the butchery counter and they had a couple of dinky little racks, but nothing which said "Easter Sunday" to me. The experience was compounded by the assistant looking at me as if I was an Alien from the Planet Zog for rejecting their NZ lamb. (On the offchance that any New Zealanders look at this - I know your lamb is very, very nice; I just don't buy, or knowingly eat, any non-British meat, and am aware I'm a bit strange like that. I also don't knowingly eat non-British asparagus, or sprouts, or strawberries, or apples).

I live in a village where there is no bus service on Good Friday, and I'm busy all day on Saturday, and visitors are coming on Sunday, when there's also no bus service. At no point will I be near a supermarket or a butcher I trust to have good lamb. And then hallelujah; I was trudging toward the knitting group and realised that the library at Ely was on its late opening night. So I went for second best, ambled in there, added a chunk of leg of Welsh lamb to my online order for tomorrow afternoon, and will see what I get when it arrives. I'm aware I could have ordered something wonderful from one of the London butchers' in advance, but I've only just found out friends are in town this weekend...

I just love being able to wander into a public library out of the rain in a small town on a Thursday night, and order groceries to be delivered from a supermarket 16 miles away to a home 11 miles away... and then go to the local hotel and chat with knitters and crocheters and stitchers... The combination of the global and the local the Web allows continues to astound me.