Monday, December 31, 2012


Belated Happy Christmas!  This is a little LED colour-changing Christmas tree from a Secret Santa swap which made me inordinately pleased this Christmas, attached to the top of my monitor at work - its plugging into the USB port was particularly fine.


Not sure if I'm staying up until midnight or not tonight as I've had a stomach bug the last couple of days which has wiped me out somewhat.  I was going to round up the knitting projects for 2012 this evening, but a couple haven't yet been handed over, so they'll get done before Twelfth Night...

I make the same perpetual resolutions re: procrastination, stash reduction, weight loss, physical activity and productivity all the time - it doesn't need a new year for that.  And it still feels a little too much like the old year until around Candlemas when the light begins to return in earnest - a new diary doesn't really make a New Year round here; BST is more likely to help with that.

But I have decided to Have more fun in 2013.  And have formulated a couple of modest and, I hope, entirely do-able proposals to try and achieve that.

  • Watch more films.  I have seen a pathetically small number of feature films or series over the last couple of years - my LoveFilm subscription is ridiculously under-used, and I have loads of DVDs I've bought or been given which haven't been watched yet.  I do enjoy watching films, too.  So I'm aiming for one full-length feature or the equivalent number of series episodes a week.  This will involve being more organised about food, too, on my "cinema evening", which is always good.
  • Go to more stuff.  I've been to a couple of plays and a few exhibitions this year, but not as many as I would have with some sort of museum/theatre buddy - anyone based in London who might be up for a late evening at the National Gallery/NPG, a trip to the South Bank or similar?  Let me know (liz at lizmarley dot co dot uk).  Likewise anyone in Cambridge who'd like to go to more at the ADC or the Corpus Playroom, both of which have some great stuff going on.
  • Knit with more people.  Particularly in the winter, but for the whole of this year which has been more stressful than usual at work, I've a tendency to become somewhat hermit-like, and that's also meant I've missed important things happening in friends' lives.  I've been along to all the Cambridge meetings I can get to (there's one fewer of those a month), but I've chickened out at the last minute from too many London-based meetings I know I'd enjoy once I got there.  To assist with this, I've also signed up for SkipNorth (yay!!) for the first time in 5 years.
And slightly more difficult, but I need to do it:
  •   Reclaim the garden (again). This may not seem like "have more fun", but I know that the garden oppresses me when it's horrible and gives me joy when it's lovely or even just going in the right direction, so I just need to buckle down to it and spend some time in there every weekend, even if it's only a few minutes.
So - what would you like to do more of in 2013?  Let me know....

2012 books, #106-109

The neon rain, by James Lee Burke. London: Phoenix, 2005.  Originally published 1989.

The first of the Dave Robicheaux novels; going back to start the series from the beginning as there are a lot of these.  After two years sober, Dave has a serious falling off the wagon, including assaulting a fellow officer (who quite frankly deserved it), and is suspended from the police.  He's still fascinated with the murder of a young black girl found in the Louisiana swamps though, and is determined to carry on the investigation despite death threats.  This is immensely readable and quite moving at times.

Not dead yet, by Peter James. London: Macmillan, 2012.

Roy Grace is anticipating the birth of his child when a body is found, badly decomposed, at a local chicken farm.  Meanwhile a global superstar is coming to Brighton to play the part of Maria Fitzherbert in a new biopic of George III.  As the seemingly disparate cases seem determined to come together, Grace and temporarily-promoted Glenn Branson investigate.  Meanwhile, someone is threatening Grace's partner Cleo. This rattles along, but I always have difficulty with books containing celebrities because building up the back-story is always a bit clumsy; and I don't like the way James is taking the long-running personal side-plot in this one.

Claws, by Stephen Booth. Kindle edition.

This is a short story featuring Dale Cooper and a tale of egg-stealing and the illegal poaching of birds of prey.  A lovely crunchy little snippet of a story I really enjoyed on the train up to the North East for Christmas and well worth the 99p.

Harry Potter and the order of the phoenix, by J K Rowling [audiobook]. Read by Stephen Fry. Bristol: Cover to Cover, 2003.

Somehow, even though it's not exactly a happy book, this was the right thing to be listening to at Christmas, maybe because Stephen Fry's reading is so very warm.  The length of time it takes to get to Hogwarts in the first place is still irritating, as are Harry's tantrums at the beginning, but as ever I spot different things each time I listen to one of these readings...

That's the end of this year's book round-up - except to say that the Evening Standard totally agreed with me on the unsuitability of Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher, for exactly the same reasons...  I shall now, finally, shut up on the subject.

Happy reading in 2013, all.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012 books, #101-105

Harry Potter and the goblet of fire, by J K Rowling [audiobook]. Read by Stephen Fry.  Bath: Cover to Cover, 2001.

Another very enjoyable listen, although for the first time the ending slightly irked me.  I hadn't really clocked before that the real drama finishes about two hours before the end of this audiobook, and after that it's politics and a lot of scene-setting for book 5.  This makes it a bit flat just at the end...  But as ever there are some wonderful ideas in this book, and it was well worth listening to again, particularly as Stephen Fry is the perfect voice both for the book and for a chilly autumn weekend.

Kisscut, by Karin Slaughter [audiobook]. Read by Kelly Culpin. [S.l.] : Chivers, 2003.

Disturbing from start to finish.  A teenage girl is shot dead in the parking lot of a local skating rink, and is carrying a rucksack which turns out to contain parts of a dismembered baby.  What might have been a single personal tragedy turns into a much wider horror in a small town.  Sara Linton, the local paediatrician, and her ex-husband Geoff Tolliver, the chief of police, investigate.  This really does cover some quite horrible issues, and it's done very well.

The secret scripture, by Sebastian Barry. London: Faber, 2009.

Roseanne McNulty may be a hundred years old; nobody knows.  She lives in the Roscommon mental hospital to which she was committed as a young woman; but "care in the community" is taking over, the building is becoming increasingly decrepit, and psychiatrist Dr Grene must decide where his patients must go, and discover why they were committed.  Both are, unknown to the other, writing their own narratives of their lives, and gradually the picture of Roseanne's life, and Dr Grene's place in it, is revealed.  I found this book difficult to get into for the first few dozen pages (got sidetracked by the Dante reference on the first page); but it's a quick and moving read after that.

Black dog, by Stephen Booth [audiobook]. Read by Christopher Kay.  Rearsby, Leics.: WF Howes, 2005.

The first of the Ben Cooper/Diane Fry books; I've read a few of these, but this one was particularly interesting because now I know why there was so much animosity between them in the following ones.  I wasn't massively impressed by the plot of this one, to be honest - there just wasn't enough thrown to the reader for a decent guess at the killer - but the character development was enough to keep me listening.  Christopher Kay is a decent reader, if a little over-precise at times...

Whispers under ground, by Ben Aaronovitch. London: Gollancz, 2012.

Possibly the most enjoyable book I've read this year - this is just a beauty of a book, but you need to read the first two (Rivers of London  and Moon over Soho) first to understand what's going on.  I suppose it qualifies as SF; it has humour, some genuinely scary bits, but mostly it's brilliant because it's talking about London right now, Crossrail works, Oyster cards, etc., all mixed with some serious magic.  And then some lovely digressions which aren't really digressions:

The media response to unusual weather is as ritualised and predictable as the stages of grief.  First comes denial: "I can't believe there's so much snow." Then anger: "Why can't I drive my car, why are the trains not running?"  Then blame: "Why haven't the local authorities gritted the roads, where are the snow ploughs and how come the Canadians can deal with this and we can't?"  This last stage goes on the longest and tends to trail off into a mumbled grumbling background moan, enlivened by occasional "Asylum Seekers Ate My Snowplough" headlines from the Daily Mail, that continues until the weather clears up.

I like the way the severe facial disfigurement of one character is handled; the way none of the "normal" authorities want to deal with magical occurrences and just write them out of their reports; and the small asides about policing:

I'd given her a Moleskine reporter-style notebook that looks almost exactly the kind of black notebook that everyone thinks the police use, only we don't. And even if we did, we'd be much too cheap to buy Moleskines - we'd get them from Niceday instead."

Working in London is probably an advantage for this book.  Reading about a body being discovered on Platform 3 at Baker Street a few days before Christmas is considerably spookier if you're actually sitting on Platform 3 at Baker Street a few days before Christmas reading the book.... 

I probably need to shut up about how excellent this book is and just tell you to get hold of a copy of it, or the first one if you haven't read it, and get stuck in.  One more quote though, from the end - British DC talking to FBI agent:

"I won't use the word closure if you don't", I said.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Companion piece

Franklin has blogged his Cambridge Find.  I knew he'd do it in inimitable style, and I'm so glad Cambridge hoarded that book and revealed it at just the right time...

This is (yes, librarian digression here) a private sector version of Ranganathan*'s five library laws in action

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his [or her] book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader [thank you, Ms Haunted Bookshop]
  5. The library is a growing organism [I'm sure F would agree]

Here is Man with Book.


We used the time to have a look at the Corpus Clock and the Mill Pond and call in on the knitters who were still around at the Cambridge KTog before heading back to the station.

* Yes, I'm linking to Wikipedia; where is ?

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Well, a bit later than a Monday post, but the score stands as it did on Monday... and I'm still not feeling very Christmassy; mainly because I still really don't know what I'm getting for immediate family and this is becoming a bit oppressive...!

On the list to be knitted for Christmas: 14 +1 (end-of-November birthday)
Cast on: 12 (-1 and +1 as I started again with one thing)
Cast off: 11 (+2)
Finished (blocked, labelled): 11 (+4)

One of the Things Finished was the most complicated thing I've knitted this Christmas; a pic (it's for my Mam; Dad, I'm trusting she'll be as uninterested as usual in this blog stuff... and apologies for the quality of the photo; can't remember the last time I saw adequate natural light!)


My ex-colleague Gill, who retired last year, came in for lunch and carols with the International Staff Band of the Salvation Army today (I'd love to link to them directly but I'm blocked at every turn!)...  and it was lovely to see her.

The village has dressed itself for Christmas; and as ever, I love the beauty and simplicity of that one strand of bulbs.  It's just bunged a really nice necklace on and gone to greet the season.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Knitting in Knorwich

The picture from yesterday was taken standing outside The Forum in Norwich.  The Forum was built as a result of the horrible, catastrophic 1994 fire at Norwich Central Library (read this article if you love books; it's glorious) after which the old building had to be demolished.  The new one is, to my mind, somewhat nicer.


They were putting in the Christmas trees yesterday, complete with fake snow.


There was a craft show going on in the ground floor (which also houses the tourist information office and the entrance to the local BBC radio and TV stations); and couldn't help noticing that this year's Christmas decorations had a somewhat knitty flavour.


forum4 - Copy

All was revealed with an information board (slightly heavy on the commas, but actually informative!)

forum5 - Copy

All power to your elbows/wrists/fingers, Norfolk Knitters!

Another new development the Knitters of Norfolk will doubtless be happy about is a new yarn shop in the city centre, to join the very good stall on the market but catering for a different customer.  Popped in for a look after a tip-off from Sadie (who has just finished a gorgeous Kindle cover)...

It's on St Giles Street, which is just behind the Civic Centre.  I didn't want to stand opposite and fire a camera through the windows so here's an oblique shot...

craftyewe - Copy

Things I noticed, other than that it's a nice, modern, Ravelry-savvy sort of place:

  • Jo Sharp yarns, three or four of them
  • Schoeller & Stahl Limbo (not the long-colour-change version but the solid colours).  They also had some of the lovely small balls of S&S baby yarn Sarah has at the Sheep Shop in Cambridge.
  • John Arbon yarns - the Knit by Numbers DK and the alpaca sock yarn.  They have a fair selection of the colours but not all.
  • Manos lace and the aran-weight one, in a small selection of colours.
  • Pony accessories.
  • Another make of baby wool I hadn't seen before, with patterns etc. - nice colours
They had other stock too, but I was just about shopped out by then; just picked up a skein of the Knit by Numbers I think will make a nice Christmas gift, had a brief chat with the very nice person behind the counter and wandered off for the bus.

Oh, and another shop I'm always happy to see is still alive and well, and celebrating 41 years in Norwich:

headshop - Copy

They advertise themselves as "the oldest headshop in Norwich" - and they're still doing Spiritual Sky Patchouli incense in the maximum-strength version...  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Rounding off

Hi!  I have many people wandering over here from Franklin's blog; the post you're probably looking for is this one or maybe even this one!  But do stay and say hi!

Freezing cold day today, definitely the chilliest one of the winter.  Happily, wasn't slipsliding to the station in the pitch dark as usual on a Friday because it was the last pay day before Christmas and therefore the day to ramp up the Christmas preparations.

Pretty successful day, actually.  You know the sort of day where when you need a loo you can never find one, and you're always at the wrong end of an escalator?  Well, this wasn't one of those.  I'm still waiting for something mail-ordered to arrive but otherwise overseas parcels are just about dealt with, and managed to find some other stuff too...

The only glitch was the usually really excellent 25/25A buses to and from the station which generally run every 7 minutes; waited half an hour, missed a train, did a bit more shopping and walked down instead. Thanks, First Group.  A week of small delays and cancellations on the trains, and now buses, too...

Here's a picture.  I have others and will post them because it was a beautiful day, if cold.  This is St Peter Mancroft (R), the new BBC building in the Forum (L), and an urban tree.  I'm continually amazed that trees like this beautiful silver birch can grow like this, but also profoundly grateful they can.

There's a new yarn shop in central Norwich - more on that this weekend.

Last hurdle...

Ah well - nearly made it!  Realised this morning that I hadn't blogged last night...

Thankfully, Franklin did blog about our visit to Cambridge, so just linking shamelessly to his post before hopping off to Norwich.  I'll take the camera - it's really frosty and clear out there...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bits and bobs...

It's been an extraordinarily long day, and for the first time I'm sort of regretting this NaBloPoMo thing, although so near the end of the month I'll definitely carry on with it. Doing this in November is both the best and worst month of the year for it... but I'm neglecting other things, and being reminded of this.

Friday should be a holiday though; I'm off to Norwich to do some Christmas shopping and check out a new yarn shop.

Very little to say due to complete tiredness, except to remind anyone who watched the first series of Warhorses of letters that it's back on Radio 4 at 11pm tonight and available on the iPlayer for a week after that.  (I think I'll probably be asleep by then but will look forward to catching up!)

This evening, cast off the Big Project for this Christmas (Mam's alpaca shawl); blocking should ensue at the weekend.  I appear to have mislaid my blocking wires somewhere - quite an achievement given that they're in a 30" long tube with bright blue plastic ends!  I'm going to have to have a huge look round; I blocked without them for years, but wires make it so much easier...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I'm not sure the Christmas list needs revising here: the Mad Plaid might turn into a Christmas present, or it might not.  I am so nearly in a position to cast off this Christmas's major project... just not quite yet...

It's too early - but it's there.  St Pancras has done its Christmas tree for the year, and the theme is Olympic Gold, which is not surprising given the Eurostar and the Javelin trains to the Olympic Park.  It's rather a nice tree, too...


The lettering around the base remembers the summer of sport, the Olympics, the Jubilee, the welcome given by London to people visiting.

It's not as shiny as some of the trees they've had in the past; but I think this is my favourite so far; it's thoughtful, and the spiralling ribbon is a nice design idea.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cricket, lovely cricket...

Monty, lovely Monty.

Kevin Pietersen may have won Man of the Match, technically, but 11 wickets is just stunning.

And here he is again, fielding at Hove in August 2011...


This post has no fibre-related content whatsoever.  But a 10-wicket victory over India, in India, should tell its own story...

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Got up early this morning to make the most of the (rather marvellous) cricket on Test match special - not quite at 4am, but during the lunch-break, so around 6:30am.  It was horribly blustery and still very, very dark...

It was definitely a morning which demanded a nice pot of tea, in fact.  Somehow, a cup just won't do in these circumstances.  I've been really remiss with using leaf tea this year, though, and wasn't even really sure what there was in all the caddies - so a lot of sniffing and labelling went on while the first pot was brewing, and now the caddies are organised.  Had to be Assam for a first brew, and to fit in with the Mumbai Test.  Assam is currently masquerading as mélange Hédiard, as I haven't visited a Hediard in several years...


While I was looking at the spice cabinet, I gave it a bit of a sort-out and realphabetised it.  I used to buy spices at Daily Bread, but since I've not had access to a car, I get them at Al-Amin's "rice and spice den".  The spice cabinet was something of an afterthought when we redesigned the kitchen; some of the advantages of wall cabinets without the "wall of furniture" feel.  The designer worked from a back-of-the-envelope drawing and this is the result.


Also did a bit of weaving.  I'm not sure whether this is "tartan".  Or, to continue the theme, "madras", which would have been more apt if the Test had been in Chennai...

I think I'm calling it "mad plaid" as a compromise.  Fun to do, anyway, even if some of the feltier yarns are making getting a clean shed for the weaving stick a little bit difficult...


Off out soon to Winter Wordfest.  Tony and Melissa Benn followed by Rose Tremain.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Very nearly an armful....

Turns out that that's what you can knit when you're dealing with a 5-year-old's Christmas sweater, while catching up with two episodes of The Killing from last week...  Only about 4 rows off, anyway...


And for anyone curious about the title of this one: Tony Hancock's The blood donor: available in its entirety on YouTube.  I'd forgotten quite how good the young June Whitfield was... Salient moment at 14 mins or so in...

PS: and last mention, I promise, unless I go and see the film:
To those who commented on yesterday's book post about Reacher casting - my vote would be for Adam Baldwin.  (The dark hair is a problem; the rest of it works...)  But he doesn't command the mega-bucks.  I'd say "and he's also too old at 50 for Reacher" but Cruise is the same age...

I don't even like brawny blokes.  But if an author makes a character's whole modus operandi  about his size, it strikes me that it ought to be cast accordingly.  

For fairness's sake, I also need to say that Lee Child has no objection to Cruise...

Friday, November 23, 2012

2012 books, #96-100

East Lynne, by Ellen Wood [Mrs Henry Wood]. Oxford: World's Classics, 2005.

I posted a review of sorts of this last week...  I'd read this years ago but had forgotten huge chunks of it, not least the number of absolutely horrible women in it.  If you can bear Victorian melodrama, it's a cracking read, even if chunks of it are barely believable...

From a Buick 8, by Stephen King. London: nel [Hodder]: 2002

In 1979, a man in a long black coat abandons his very strange car at a gas station in rural Pennsylvania, and vanishes.  The car - in theory, a Buick 8 but in practice, a car which looks as if it's been built by someone who'd never seen a car before - is stored in Shed B by Troop D, a dysfunctional family of cops.  Over the years, many strange things happen in and around the car, but the troop keeps its secrets; until the son of one of its members killed in the line of duty comes along and the story is told.  This is a fantastic yarn, told in an interweaving way by different members of the troop.  There's a warmth and a compassion alongside descriptions which remind you why King is such a famous writer of horror.  Horror isn't my genre, but I'll certainly be reading more writing like this.

Killing floor, by Lee Child. London: Bantam, 2011. [World Book Night edition.]

The first of the Reacher books, and really interesting for that reason.  Some of these books are first-person, some third-person; this is a first-person narrative set 6 months after Reacher leaves the military police; but, as sometimes happens, he's being picked up in an unknown town for something he hasn't done.  There are just a few things which don't totally ring true given that the books are set all over Reacher's biography; but blimey this is a good book; with a completely blindingly simple solve which just about gives the reader whiplash in Jeffrey Deaver mode...

I don't want to.... No.  I do want to labour this point, but I promise this is the last time I'll do it.  In this World Book Night 2011 edition, someone has painstakingly compiled a Reacher CV, and here are the passport-type details:


And I say again, anyone who immediately thought "Tom Cruise" on viewing that, stand up.  I know they have to cast a Big Name, and I have heard that actually, Cruise is "convincing", in the film; and I've seen films where Cruise is a fine actor.  I just don't get it though; maybe they've picked the one book in which Reacher doesn't use his sheer, brute size to intimidate/break down doors/hoist someone to an improbable height/kill someone with his bare hands/hurl someone out of danger...

It's like hearing they've cast Rupert Grint as Heathcliff.  [I really like Rupert Grint, but he'd probably be the first one to admit that's Not His Role.]

Back of beyond, by C. J. Box. London: Corvus, 2011.

Not a Joe Pickett, but excellent; same setting, and a slightly different cast of characters.  A fatal cabin fire seems to be a straightforward case of a drunk's inattention with matches and whiskey, but the first state trooper on the scene happens to know the victim as his AA sponsor, and is absolutely convinced the fire is no accident.  The story develops into a chase across Yellowstone, with its hostile animals and even more hostile humans, and involves an adventure-holiday group which gradually seems to being picked off, member by member; and there's a scary and very clever twist in the tail.  And as ever with Box, there's violence, but there is redemption.

Having looked up Box's biography, he has three daughters; this book has a pair of very sharply-drawn teenage girls, who, as in the Joe Pickett books, help drive both the plot and the narrative along.  (I'm imagining there are only two in the books so he can preserve plausible deniability with the family.)

Stay close, by Harlen Coben [audiobook]. Read by Nick Landrum.  Rearsby, Leics.: W F Howes, 2012.

Megan is a minivan-driving suburban mom, but her past life was in the strip clubs and brothels of Atlantic City.  Ray is a washed-up photographer who's now reduced to working as a rent-a-paparazzo. Jack is a detective who's never forgotten a 17-year-old case in which Megan and Ray were involved.  Their lives become re-entwined as a result of the disappearance of a man in a suburban park, and it can only go downhill from there.  There are some good characters in this one, not least Megan's profoundly decent husband Dave.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A bit warped

The last couple of weeks, I've come home, made some dinner, slumped in front of Ravelry or iPlayer, or listened to an audiobook, and not done very much; and then maybe thought of something interesting for this blog (you decide) and gone to bed early but still woken up feeling completely knackered.  Which has been winding me up, increasingly.  It's bad enough there's no light; but, you know, we have electricity and everything these days...

However, speaking of mod cons, I've had an absolutely hideous day with IT - no e-mail for the first chunk of the day, denied access to folders I really needed to save things into, well-intentioned (nice and competent) person from IT spending 45 mins on the absolute worst day for this trying to "optimise" my PC, and then another well-intentioned person from records management following up on a months-old problem; all on the same day.  Absolutely nothing achieved, or at least nothing which gave me any degree of satisfaction.

Tonight I came home and had a craving for simpler tools.  Step forward, loom-bits.


After a little bit over an hour warping up on the biggest heddle with DK-ish non-superwash yarns, supplemented with some from my regrettably extensive novelty-yarn stash, I had this.


Random, but intentionally random; freeing my mind because the technology is so simple, rather than doing whatever-the-hell-it-is-I-can-get-on with-around-all-the-broken-stuff.

Plain weave, because then the colours can get on with their own magic.

And pretty, I think.


I think I know what this is going to be - but the wool will ultimately decide as I'm going to attempt to felt this very gently once it's done, and that might give me all sorts of results.

Also today and possibly on the same theme: an interesting article from Rory Cellan-Jones on living for 24 hours without the Web.  While honourable in intent, I can't help thinking this would have been ever so much more interesting on a non-working day - the guy is, after all, the BBC's chief technology correspondent, and of course his job is impossible without connection to electronic media; the idea of a "detox" is just a gimmick.  A quiet Sunday, now, might have been fascinating.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Absolutely wiped tonight.  The lack of light is getting to me earlier than usual, maybe because we got so little over the spring and "summer"...

... and I need to get up early tomorrow to package up my nephew's birthday present and get it ready for the post.  I can't quite believe he's going to be 5, although of course he went to school in September so that should have been some warning...

And while I was thinking about this, and bringing the last bit of A's birthday present home, I was listening to a podcast which was both wonderful and terrible, from US National Public Radio's Fresh Air programme; the interview is with Andrew Solomon, an author who has written a book called Far from the tree, about what happens if your children are very different from you.  They discuss three scenarios from the book - children born as a result of rape, Down's syndrome children, and children who become criminals (in this case, the author interviewed the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the killers at Columbine).  It's sometimes a bit difficult to listen to and rather beautiful at the same time.   And there's a small family resonance - A's oldest cousin has Down's so it was interesting to hear that section of the podcast.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Think this might be working...

I think I remember the feeling at the start that this might be going on forever, from last time I worked this pattern.  I think it's the instruction "cast on 331 sts" that's a little bit doom-laden.  It might be more stitches, even - I've got past that point...

But the rows are starting to get shorter, and this time, I'm using beads instead of nupps, at the recipient's request.  [She doesn't know about nupps; but she requested beads...]  The recipient is my Mam, and I'm extraordinarily happy that she came up with a colour, and a shape, and an idea of breaking things up with beads or a bit of variegation.  I know she really does wear the knitted stuff that fits in with the rest of her wardrobe, so I'm pretty confident this will get used, and obviously that's great.  She's someone who's absolutely aware and appreciative of how long these things take to do, so I'd get marks for effort anyway - but that's not much cop if you've spent months working away at something which doesn't co-ordinate and will moulder away in a drawer...

So - working with
  • dark brown, limited-edition, British alpaca from a small herd; 
  • Honey-coloured translucent beads which take on much of the colour of the alpaca while retaining some sheen;
  • Addi lace needles which make seeing the stitches so much easier on dimly-lit trains;
  • And a really excellent small project bag which came with an even more excellent large knitting bag at the weekend;
Really, no wonder this is fun...


Got the third ball of four out of the reserve bag tonight, and tipped another handful of beads into the tin...  All set for tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Christmas countdown, 5 weeks to go

On the list to be knitted for Christmas: 14 +1 (end-of-November birthday)
Cast on: 11
Cast off: 8
Finished (blocked, labelled): 7

The eagle-eyed may notice that all I've done is added another WIP to the pile this week (and to be honest, not much of that - some ribbing on a sock I may need to remove again...)

However, I do have a non-Christmas FO, the Woolly Wormhead Mystery Hat so many people on Ravelry have been knitting.  I finished it while we were eating on Saturday (the final very short part came out on Saturday morning) and Franklin was kind enough to take a photo outside with my camera.  It's very fluffy, and fits exactly right, although I'm going to have to play around with the button to work out where to wear it...


(Next time I get my picture taken by a proper photographer I must remember to comb my hair.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Yackety yak

I had all sorts of plans for practical and knitting things I was going to do today; and here I am, at 5pm, the world outside dark and none of them done...

The day got off to a slow start when I realised I'd not set the heating to come on; so I got up, switched that on, made a cuppa and took it back to bed to listen to the Test match (hurrah for Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, I say...)  Two hours later...  Ah well.

The other distracting factor was the unexpected entry of yak down into my life. My visitors yesterday arrived bearing gifts; including some rather gorgeous yarn containing yak...  It looked at me as soon as I got it out of the bag last night, and quite clearly said Fingerless mittens in geometric slip-stitch, please.  Which was a little weird, but it had, after all, come from a household which includes talking sock yarn and a delinquent sheep...

So today I went looking for a stitch pattern I had in the back of my head - and actually found it first time, which never happens.  It was given as written instructions (not my favourite) for flat knitting, which is no good for mitts - even if I wanted to do seams, I know to my cost that however good the seams in mittens are, they will eventually come undone - so I've had a go at charting it in the round, and hope that works...


I have a slightly unnerving feeling that it will - this has come together absurdly well so far...  But I really, really need to be doing Christmas knitting instead...

And on a completely different tack - reasons to be glad the US re-elected Obama, #45323

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lovely day

I spent the day with two great people who came up and visited Cambridge; as ever, when you take friends around a place you know well, you see new aspects to it.

I really hadn't noticed that the ceiling of St John's College Chapel is painted so beautifully.


Since I last walked down Clare avenue, a statue of Confucius has been added.


Thanks for letting me show my city off to such an appreciative audience, guys.


(I'm sure Franklin, on the left, will blog this so much better later!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Reality TV

This was passed to my by a friend at work this morning, and has been amusing me since.  There is just something so incredibly adorable about kittens...  I gather they're known as the Spice Kittens and are quite famous...

So much cheaper than I'm a Celebrity... or Big Brother - and so much more entralling...

Thursday, November 15, 2012


It strikes me that knitterly entered my vocabulary a while ago and hasn't quite left.  It's sort of shorthand for a particular type of courtesy and helping out.  There are more formal expressions of this - Random Acts of Kindness, for instance - but mainly, it's just something knitters do.   It doesn't always work - I'm not completely naïve - but mostly, in practice...

This evening I went to I Knit London for knit group, for the first time in ages (I go to book group, but that's on a different night).  I usually finish work later, and it's a popular venue, so getting a seat is a bit of a nightmare; but I was able to leave early this evening and knew at least two friends would be there.  And I had a good chat with one; but also with someone I don't know that well who was planning a fantastic rail journey around India. Biscuits (waffeln/speculoos to be precise) had been brought back from Lille/Dunkerque. Stitch markers were lent.  A Herman cake was shared.  I came home on the train smiling.

It goes internationally, too.  Very recently (this week has been... interesting... bear with me; I have no idea when this appeared through my letterbox) I took delivery of this...


This was a prize for a KAL, from the lovely Pacasha at Younger Yarns.   (When I first opened it I thought "oh, I must have been mistaken about the "fig" colourway; this is a brown yarn"...  I HATES winter; have I said that??? but here it is against a genuinely brown background under a daylight lamp, which is about as good as it gets chez Greenside this time of year)  Glorious.  This is going to be my Christmas present to myself...

I know that on some level, donating prizes does a business good.  I'm pretty sure this happens, because the sponsors of this particular KAL are sort of notable for their empty shops shortly after an update. However, for me, as a recipient, it's a lovely thing.  I've won a few things on this particular long-term KAL and they come with little cards, and herbal tea-bags, and messages, from actual people who dye yarn, and it's lovely... and before the sending there's also a conversation about colours, and personal circumstances, and the general business of just getting on with life.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Some days, something so absolutely wrong happens, and some people can express the confusion and associated guilt so very well.  And some other people can try to analyse what went wrong medically.

I'm not sure what I can add; except to say rest in peace, Savita Halappanavar.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fifty shades...

... well, not exactly; but this is a bit unusual


For some reason, all my active WIPs are in neutral colours.  I'm not quite sure how this has happened, although two of these three items were requested by other people, so I haven't suddenly gone in for neutrals on purpose...  Clockwise from left, Baby Newsboy Hat (a replacement for a lost item for BabyBoyAbroad, originally knitted by his mum); a Miralda shawl for my mam's Christmas present (dark brown with beads, at her request); the Woolly Wormhead Mystery Hat in angora...

I'm enjoying all of these - but will be casting on something bright after the hats are done!

(Oh, also, haven't read any of the Fifty shades... books, and don't intend to.  There are eleventy hundred books I do currently want to read out there!)

Monday, November 12, 2012


.... Weeks to go until Christmas, that is!  There's certainly a tighter deadline on some of my Christmas knitting, but I need to get in touch with relatives to find out what it might be...

So: this year's count-down:

On the list to be knitted for Christmas: 14 +1 (end-of-November birthday)
Cast on: 10
Cast off: 8
Finished (blocked, labelled): 7

This isn't actually too bad compared with previous years*... and anything which needs to be posted before mid-December is complete...  I'm not going to say I'm optimistic about finishing everything in good time, because that  might lead to a broken wrist or house fire...  There are two sweaters for 5 year olds and one for a 2 year old in the "as yet unstarted" heap, and next week's focus is going to be on the Woolly Wormhead Mystery Hat AKA Fluffet...

*I note that in December for the last two years I've posted nothing about Christmas knitting... which probably tells you all you need to know about how it went...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In memoriam

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe; 
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, through poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McRae (d. 1918), In Flanders fields

I work right next to the Cenotaph; it's always a moving sight shortly after Remembrance Sunday, and at all times of year it's a daily reminder of the sacrifice of past and present generations.

This year is the first since I've lived here when there hasn't been some sort of military sign of remembrance in the village, as the Royal Engineers have moved out - some just up the road, some all the way to RAF Kinloss in the north of Scotland.

It's been the sort of glorious English autumn day here that I imagine people far from home fighting would have had in their mind's eye; and I see from the photos it was the same in London.

(And I wish Remembrance day was at the top of the news sites today where it belongs, rather than the BBC examining its navel in extended news bulletins.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Better late...

I started a couple of projects for the Olympics and Paralympics.  One of them went off as a gift today for Rosie, whose birthday was last weekend.


This one got finished in time and was very good fun to weave.  About halfway through, I realised it was entirely Rosie's colours...


My Paralympics project was somewhat less successful.  In retrospect, knitting a 48" cardigan in less than a fortnight probably wasn't sensible, but I did get as far as picking up the "skirt" of this cardi from the sideways-knit, centre-out bodice by the end of the Paralympics...


... but took until the final of the Great British Bake Off  to knit another 5 balls up into the lower half.  Possibly one of the most boring bits of knitting I've done for a long while, but while Little John was unveiling his heaven and hell cake in the GBBO final on iPlayer, I cast off and sewed in ends, and it's a lovely warm thing, jacket length so halfway down my thighs.  It doesn't fit under a coat, so will have limited wear in the depths of winter, but it's bright and cheerful...  The yarn is Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed, now discontinued, bought from Wibbo in a destash this summer... and the pattern's the Comfy Cardi from the rather wonderful Knitter's Book of Wool by Clara Parkes.

Friday, November 09, 2012


It'll be a year on Sunday; and really, I haven't missed having a cat too much.  Partly this is just because I'm not at home enough to make a proper home for a cat.  Partly it's not fretting about another creature I can't really take care of. because I'm not at home enough...

I've been making this thing, though - and when it was sitting around all curled up on the table I did find myself calling it Fluffet, which was the nickname of two of the cats...

Woolly Wormhead's Mystery Hat for this year; in grey angora...  with the sort of button Fritz Lang would have designed for Star Trek.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


Sometimes, happy yarn is called for.

On Saturday I went up to The Sheep Shop to pick up an extra ball of some lovely angora (pic tomorrow), and they had some DK/Aran weight undyed sock yarn at a really good price. And I felt like dyeing it like a rainbow; so I did.

My boiler is not the happiest of things at the moment, so it's taken a couple of days to dry; but it's a lovely thing, I think...  It'll be socks, for a friend who's going through hard times at the moment.  And I'll love knitting it in the cold grey mornings and the dark evenings, so with any luck it'll cheer both of us up.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Dear US voters...

Thank you.  

(You really scared us there for a bit, but thank you.)

Signed, the rest of the world.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I went to Kniterati tonight - the book group at I Knit London.  For reasons I don't understand, because I wasn't in at the beginning, there was a leakage of members, and for most of the time I've been a member, there have only been three of us.  This evening, we were joined for a bit by Ellie who works in the shop on Tuesday evenings...

We talked (mostly) about East Lynne by Mrs Henry Wood/Ellen Wood.  (Mrs Henry seems to have reclaimed her first name in some editions).  The cover picture just about says it all.  It's a fine piece of melodrama.  Many bits don't add up.  Many bits are just completely implausible.  But we still all just-about-finished...  Verdict was sort of EastLynneEnders...

East Lynne

The Oxford edition seems to be the currently fashionable one.  In which case, do - I beseech you - put some sort of covering over the blurb on the back; the "starting" event mentioned there happens approximately half-way through the book and has very little foreshadowing.

Anyone in the London area who'd like to join us on the first Tuesday of the month?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Yes, I do still knit...

... but I'm aware there hasn't been much evidence of it on this blog recently!

Some of this was because of super-secret baby presents and things for children


This is Kellynch by Ann Kingstone, and has gone to BabyBoyAbroad, born to Sarah and Huw about six weeks ago.  It was a nice knit in British superwash wool, and one I'd do again.  I had a bit of an issue with making a definite line between the centre and the edging (which is picked up all round) but in the end worked a purl row to get the same effect as in the pattern.

It comes out more or less square.


A little earlier in the summer there was another baby blanket - I knitted two of these Sprout blankets this year as it's another great pattern if you don't know which flavour the baby's going to be...  In the end, this was for Aurora, born to Michelle and Andy.


I used Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran, which was lovely to work with.  Usually a little out of my price range in this quantity, but thankfully the green I was looking for was on sale.

Another pattern I've made twice this year is this little waistcoat - the Play Time Child's Vest by Anne Russell.    It's knitted in one piece up to the armholes, three needle bind-off at the shoulders and the border knitted on afterwards.  The blue/grey one here was for small cousin Oliver, in Bergère de France Jaspée:


This green/grey one is for my nephew Alex.  I'm hoping I'll find my pack of sew-in labels before I have to post it off - no idea where I've put them!  In both cases, I was really happy with the buttons...


Next up - socks!

Sunday, November 04, 2012


I got into watching Strictly come dancing last year - because for the previous however-many-years I'd been a bit stuck at Christmas when I'd not watched any of the other episodes but watched the final with my mam, and someone - often a cricketer - won...  Last year, I realised I knew more than 50% of the "celebrities", which astonished me; and this year although my hit rate was lower, Michael Vaughan was in the mix.

After the first couple of weeks, I was absolutely convinced he was going out.  I mean, you know... erm.

Michael Vaughan, Natalie Lowe, Strictly Come Dancing

The last couple of weeks though, he's been great...

I also got heavily distracted by Great British bake-off  this year.  Similarly, people did incredibly well one week and then totally flubbed it the following week.  People who were excellent at pastry didn't make nice meringue; people who were intuitive about one kind of cake just couldn't work out when another kind was ready.

I think the thing I've liked most about both shows is that nobody's horribly desperate, and there seems to be a lot of friendship washing about.  In GBBO nobody's heard of you, but you have a life and you like baking.  If you run out of butter, or vanilla, or whatever, it's very likely that another competitor will bail you out.  If you're not sure whether something's cooked, you might well be able to enlist a rival to sit in front of your oven and second-guess whether your bread's done...

Strikes me as a lot like knitting groups.  There's a lot of advice, and sympathy, and "well, if you rip it out at least you can get the yarn back" or "you might be able to salvage that".  Nobody's totally useless, and everyone has stuff they're good and bad at.  Thankfully, though, nobody has to do a dance-off at the end or be graded on their knitting.

I've just read an article which says that X-Factor  is dropping down in the polls while Strictly  and GBBO have been big hits.  I'd love to think that means that programmes where someone's Entire Future is paraded on TV are less popular...  Who knows.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

2012 books, #91-95

Murder in the Marais, by Cara Black. London: Robinson, 1999.

I picked this up from a bookcase in Hove Station with an honesty-box for the local Colts football club, and am glad I did.  I wasn't sure about this to start with - an elderly Jewish woman is found in her home in the rue des Rosiers with a swastika carved into her forehead, at the same time as an international conference negotiating draconian new anti-immigration legislation comes to Paris - but it's a gripping read, and the setting in the Marais is perfect.  There's enough delving in archives to be interesting, but not enough to go all Da Vinci Code.  This looks to be the beginning of a series with another dozen or so Parisian settings; shall be tracking these down.

Bad penny blues, by Cathi Unsworth. London: Serpent's Tail, 2009.

This is set in the late 50s and early 60s in Swinging London; and it's described as noir for a reason.  Pete Bradley, an ambitious young policeman, finds a dead body by the river in Chiswick, while Stella Reade, a young dress designer, is haunted by nightmares of the woman's last moments.  This is as much about London of the period as it is about the mystery, although that's well constructed; the police are the older, harder cousins of David Peace's Red riding books, and glamour mingles with extreme squalour.

Pegasus descending, by James Lee Burke [audiobook].  Read by Will Patton. Rearsby, Leics.: WF Howes/Simon and Schuster, 2006.

Another excellent James Lee Burke thriller, and I wonder again why I put one of his books down 15 years ago and didn't pick up another one until this summer.  Dave Robicheaux isn't a particularly good man, but he knows that.  Married to a former nun and sober for many years, Robicheaux is taken back to his wild years by a new case involving the child of a friend who was killed in an armed robbery 25 years before.  The plot's intriguing, and the characters are interesting.  Helped by a really good reading by Mr Patton.

Back spin, by Harlen Coben.  London: Orion, 2011 (originally published 1997.)

Myron Bolitar is asked by a pair of pro golfers to investigate the disappearance of their son in the middle of the US Open.  He already knows this is going to be complicated when he discovers that they're related to Myron's formidably blue-blood best friend Win who is estranged from his family; and it just becomes more difficult the further he gets, and the more convinced he becomes that everyone involved is lying to him.  There are some excellent plot twists here; despite everything it's extremely funny; and it certainly strikes a chord with people like me who really have no idea what the appeal of golf might be.  "Myron shook his head.  All sports have their own lexicons, but speaking golfese was tantamount to mastering Swahili.  It was like rich people's rap."

Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkhaban, by J K Rowling [audiobook]. Read by Stephen Fry. [S. l.]: BBC/Cover to Cover, 2001.

I have the first four of the Potter books on cassette (the final three sets were just too expensive at the time!); for some reason this is the one I've "re-read" least, and I'd forgotten how good it was.  Mostly I put it on for Fry's voice, which is just wonderful, but there were chunks of plot I'd forgotten all about and which were fun to re-discover.  Listening to book 4 now, and wondering about getting the final three out of the library when that's done!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Day of the dead

It's All Souls' Day; and the day of the dead in Latin American countries.

I'm not one for Hallow'een.  I prefer the events around Guy Fawkes' Night, even though I'm a Catholic.  But it was about to be a Friday after a long hard week, and people at work deserved cake. And I'd been given apples by a neighbour, with a warning they wouldn't keep long.  So this...

turned into this... and I took it into work for the occasion.

Unfortunately the day turned out to be too well named.

Many in the London knitting community will remember Jill Richards; news of her death came out today.  Jill was an old lady with a youthful outlook; someone who knitted the most stunning things, encouraged everyone she met and was incredibly generous with her experience, her advice and her stash.  She also had an evil sense of humour.  I remember days knitting with Jill at Stash in Upper Richmond Road in Fulham; and occasionally at I Knit in recent years, and feel a great sense of loss. I can only imagine what her family's feeling. I'd say "rest in peace, Jill"; but I have a feeling that's the last thing she'd have wanted.  I hope she's casting on something beautiful; and telling everyone how easy it is.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Trying this...

Not the first time I've signed up for this - and I think I did complete it once!!  But here I go again (as David Coverdale, in usual heroically terrible mime mode, would have it...) 

Let's see if I can post every day in November this year.  I have a few nice things to look forward to this month in addition to the usual November Gloom; and a huge backlog of photos...

That's if anyone's still reading this.  It's not been the best of years, and blogging has been the thing which dropped off the edge.  That and keeping in touch with the people I really should keep in touch with!!

Another big thing this year was sorting out the back bedroom from this  in March (and it was like this all over the room)

into a room my nephew might be able to sleep in in July.  That took up a lot of the free hours in the first half of the year; and because it was a much smaller space than the garden, taking photos of the small amount of progress each weekend didn't really work.  But now I haz craft room, and I'll take pictures of that this weekend.  Haven't quite sorted it out enough so I can have the sewing machine up there, but that's an aim for next year - need to weave up some of the stash first!

I've also signed up for this: which is always fun.

I didn't finish last year's, but the year before's was one I wore a huge amount, until I put it over the radiator to dry and it felted... Still wearing it; just not as slouchy as before...

I'm going to be knitting this year's in dark grey bunny... Photos of that one to follow, too.

Oh, and I now Tweet.  Sort of; don't really know what I'm doing.   I'm @greensideknits over there...