Sunday, July 29, 2012

POTMW: 29 July 2012

You know, I nearly typed 2013 there - it seems so long.  I've had some very, very frustrating weeks at work (anyone who's played with a new-and-as-yet-unready IT system which will not allow them to do their job will understand), and quite a busy time otherwise...  So this is sort of going to be a couple of the big things, rather than the little things I jot down in a notebook which amuse me...

I've also stayed with family, and had  family staying, twice in that time; my parents during the Sunderland trip and my brother, SIL and nephew the week before last; both very nice visits but generally photo-free, unfortunately!

This is a long post without many photos - apologies!

Midsummer Night: The Boss in Sunderland


Sometimes you hitch your teenage wagon to an artist or a band, and you just win and win, for decades.  While Born in the USA wasn't the first Springsteen album I bought, it was the first I was aware of, growing up with classically-inclined parents, because it came out when I was 14 or so and starting to be politically aware; in the end Darkness on the Edge of Town was the first I bought (because it was cheap at Makro, the cash and carry), and I haven't regretted that decision...

So, we got three and a bit hours of Bruce in blistering form, racing all over the place; stuff from the new album, stuff from the oldest, stuff which only gets played live.  One track I didn't know, one track my cousin didn't...  and while it was very strange not seeing the Big Man on the stage, his nephew Jake did a pretty good job.

I'd love to say it was a hot summer night; but it wasn't.  It was damp, and chilly.  But it Wasn't Actually Raining.  This, in and of itself, was a miracle - the forecast was somewhat apocalyptic, and I gather Manchester wasn't so lucky the next night and many of the roads around the stadium were flooded out.  But Bruce came on and said "We don't need no 75 degrees and sunny; this is what we EXPECT in England!!" and everyone just went for it; shouting, screaming and dancing were done...

I also have to say that I've never been to a stadium gig so utterly awash with alcohol, and so completely chilled out (in a good way...)  Third Springsteen gig I've been to (previous ones in 1992 and 2003) and the three best gigs ever.

And nobody pulled the plug....

Middle of July: Fibre-East

Talking of weather...  I'm sure this is another reason I haven't blogged more this summer - I seem to have spent an hour drying out every evening...

I can sort of  use the damp as the reason why I have no useable photos from this time - in that my specs lenses were either steamed up or dotted with rain.  But actually, I'd knocked the camera into the macro setting in my bag and I'm so unused to the little one that I hadn't noticed so carried on attempting to take pics against the odds.  However, despite the sog (and the burned-out car which meant going home took two-and-a-half times the length of  the outward journey) I had a great time, and while I spent a fair amount, it was all stuff on my list...

Late June to late July: Les Deux Tours

No, not the second volume of the Tolkein trilogy; the Tour de France, and the Tour de Fleece...  The last couple of years, I've really enjoyed spinning my wheel alongside the Tour de France, and joining in with other people in discussing what I'm making.  This year I ended up catching up with a lot of the footage from the third week on the last weekend of the Tour, but did spin for the equivalent of an hour a day while watching the highlights on ITVPlayer, and did more spinning while listening to the last stage and the arrival in Paris...


Things I always love about the Tour de France:

  • It's in France.  Very obvious, but as previously mentioned I'm a complete Francophile, and I love the towns and villages flying by, particularly when, as in three stages this year, they're villages I know reasonably well.
  • It's all done in French.  The peloton- so much more attractive than "the main group".  Mark Cavendish isn't just a great water-bottle-fetcher for the duration, he's a superdomestique.  When it's not done in French, the interviews aren't dubbed, they're subtitled, so you can hear what the guys sound like.
  • The scoring system, race plans and tactics are somewhat fiendish. You have at least five races going on at once: the maillot jaune/GC race, the points (maillot vert) race, the King of the Mountains, the young riders and the team race, quite apart from the individual daily stage wins, and every team's going for a combination of these; and although in the end you only get one guy standing on the podium, it's actually a team race.  It couldn't really get much more complicated if you got Messrs Duckworth and Lewis involved.
  • The commentary team.  Gary Imlach, Ned Boulting and Chris Boardman are brilliant together; they have a dry sense of humour and a huge amount of knowledge, and not to bang on about it (although obviously I will), Boulting and Imlach are also able to interview in French.
This year, obviously, the way the Sky team overhauled everyone, and the performances of the four British guys who won stages, were absolutely brillant.  I do love Bradley Wiggins; the combination of absolute commitment and laconic comments managed to win over the French as well (helped by, yup, his ability to make equally laconic comments in French)...  And despite his unwillingness to be regarded as race leader, he stepped up when so many riders were felled by some moron strewing carpet-tacks on the road during the middle weekend, and pulled the peleton back...

Anyway, on with the spinning.

Over the Jubilee weekend, I washed a Manx Loaghtan fleece I'd had sitting in a plastic bag in the back bedroom (which was being converted into an actual back bedroom for my nephew to sleep in, rather than the storeroom hip-high in various bags of assorted craft supplies and complete rubbish it started off as); drying it was a bit of a challenge but the Monday and Tuesday were actually OK drying weather...


Washed, it was surprisingly free of straw and other rubbish


and carded, it was lovely and soft.


So far, I have about 400m of chunky-weight bright brown yarn.  (One of the really interesting things about Fibre-East, having spun up a chunk of the fleece by then, was being able to identify yarns and fleece from this particular breed around the marquees from a distance...)


Because part of the fun of the Tour is being able to vary what you're spinning, I then went on to coloured rovings and batts; in the end I produced quite a respectable basketful of yarn and singles for plying into yarn later...  The two additional bobbins I bought at Fibre-East came in handy.


The last couple of weeks I've been wandering around London with a camera taking some pictures of things surrounding the Olympics; and I've also overcommitted myself for the Ravellenic Games (both knitting and weaving) happening at the same time; more about that next time.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Woody Guthrie, July 14 1912-October 3 1967

I'd planned to write something about this today when I heard Billy Bragg on Today earlier in the week, but in the end was writing it while listening to a wonderful Archive on 4 broadcast tonight.  If they're going to make it available, it'll be at this link.

It seems strange to be celebrating the "100th birthday" of a man who was robbed of so much of a century of life (including a number of the years he was actually alive), due to  Huntington's. and had so many hideous tragedies along the way, but it's certainly worth commemorating.

As a small child I remember my Dad playing "Take you riding in my car car" and "Hard Travelin'" on the banjo, and when I started listening to Dylan in my teens, of course, there was Woody.

Later on, I listened to music which was completely different, I thought - Billy Bragg, bard of the Thatcher era, evolved into thoughtful social commentator, and Bruce Springsteen, bellowing about the same period of Reaganomics and continually moving and learning....  But then, of course, Billy becomes the curator of the Woody Guthrie archive; and, of course, Springsteen stands with Pete Seeger and Seeger's grandson Tao Rodriguez to salute Obama (please, I pray you, don't click on the offered links; but do enjoy President-Elect Obama singing along at 3:18 or so) by singing This Land is Your Land.

I've no idea what Woody would think about all the Establishment recognition, given that he was once rejected from membership of the US Communist Party.  But he wrote the stories of poor people having a hard time, and he passed that on to other songwriters who influenced my generation, and then influenced the next generation, via the magnificent Indigo Girls, if P¡nk's Dear Mr President is anything to go by (join in at 1:44 or so if you're not up to people you don't know congratulating each other)...

RIP Woody. Thanks for the songs and the fury.

2012 books, #61-65

Get her off the pitch!, by Lynne Truss [audiobook].  Read by Lynne Truss.  Bath: Chivers, [n.d.]

Lynne Truss tells the story of her four years as a sports reporter for the Times in the late 1990s, often hilariously but with genuine emotion.  She illustrates the point Andy Miller was making in his book that if you find out about a sport, you'll often end up falling in love with it anyway.  And there's genuine passion there, sometimes when she's criticising aspects of a sport such as football which she loves. One of those authors who really should read her own work.

Death toll, by Jim Kelly [audiobook]. Read by Roger May. Oxford: Isis, 2011.

When a cemetery at King's Lynn is removed to higher ground due to flooding, a young black man's skeleton is found in a local landlady's grave.  Who is he, and when was he put into the 28-year-old grave?  What are the landlady's family hiding, and what lengths will the murderer go to to cover his tracks?  Some very good characters here, not least an utterly unpleasant racist who sounds like someone Kelly might have actually met.

One day, by David Nicholls.  London: Hodder, 2009.

Emma and Dexter have sex on the night after their graduation, the day before they separate and go their separate ways.  This book tracks that night, the 15th July, through their lives.  Emma plugs on in the usual sort of path, Dexter becomes a children's TV presenter, but they remain inextricably in touch through ups, downs, catastrophic relationships, mental breakdowns and triumphs.   When Harry Met Sally, it ain't; but it has some of the same fascination.   Being roughly the same age as the protagonists helps too - some of the cultural references made me laugh out loud.  This was a book group book; other people disliked Dex a lot more than I did.  I found this book unputdownable though, and not only because I had left my usual not-quite-enough-time to read it... 

Gone, by Mo Hayder. London: Bantam, 2010.

Someone is jacking cars with young girls in the back of them, and is then terrorising their families with notes and worse; Jack Caffery and Flea Marley investigate.  Caffery and Marley both have a fair amount of mental baggage, and so do the families whose children have been taken.  This is very tensely plotted throughout and really does rattle along.  I think the most interesting moment for me was the process by which the criminal is finally identified; not something I've ever seen in a detective novel, and yet something so blindingly obvious with a serial offender that you wonder why it's not standard practice!  I don't normally read two books by the same author back-to-back, but I realised I had Ritual, the book before this in the Caffery series, in the to-read pile so have started that one...

Midwinter sacrifice, by Mons Kallentoft. London: Hodder, 2012.

Malin Fors is called out on a cold midwinter morning to witness a huge man's naked body hanging from a tree outside Linköping; there's no indication of how the man got there, and it takes some time even to make an identification.  Rather like Death toll, this death has happened in the heart of a very closed community, among families with secrets they're unwilling to give up that easily.  Fors and her choir-singing partner Zeke have to dig into family history to find the truth.  Meanwhile Fors's 13-year-old daughter Tove is proving something of a worry, and her estranged partner Janne isn't helping...  Interestingly, I wouldn't have known whether the author was male or female without Camilla Läckberg pointing it out in a review on the back cover - a male author with a female protagonist.  This is the first of the books but another seems to be available.