Thursday, March 30, 2006

Concert - and a little bit of politics.

Yesterday evening I accompanied DH to a concert at the Sage, Gateshead - our first visit. The performers were Remember Shakti. In case you don't, they are guitarist John McLaughlin, drummer Zakir Hussain, percussionist V. Selvaganesh, mandolin player U. Shrinivas and singer Shakar Mahadevan. I enjoyed the jazz/Indian fusion music more than I expected, and particularly liked the singer, who drew the tune in the air with his hand as he sang.
As many of the audience were wearing traditional Indian clothes, I was also able to enjoy seeing more square yards of beautiful silk than I have seen for a long time, some of it enhanced with amazing embroidery.

And a bit of politics -

Loans = peerages:
The treasurer of the Labour party said he didn't know about these loans, so who EXACTLY were they paid to, and how EXACTLY were they going to be repaid?
And historically, peerages have been given to people who help or do favours (sexual and otherwise) for the Crown (now the Government), so what EXACTLY is new here anyway?

ID cards:
Even if the government can find a company who can produce them (and "government computer project" has acquired its own expectations!), then so can anyone who wants to forge them.
It follows from this that there must be another reason for the imposition of ID cards by our ever-more controlling and centralising government; yet another encroachment on free speech and civil liberties.

Now - will Big Brother (and not the one on TV) require me to stop blogging, or will MI5 open a file on me? Assuming they can find out who I am, of course.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday PY,
Happy Birthday PY,
Happy Birthday dear PY,
Happy Birthday to you!

Card etc will be waiting when you get back. Meanwhile, spring is springing (you can tell by the amount the cat is shedding), and the sun is shining, and I need to weed the garden.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Spring break

There were still lots of snowdrops in flower in Shropshire last week; these are in the moat of Stokesay Castle, one of the few "visitor attractions" open before the end of March.

While we were in the area, we went to find some of the places where earlier generations of the family lived. This is All Saints church at Wribbenhall, where my grandmother's grandmother was buried in 1891, and my grandmother's great grandparents were buried in 1879 and 1873. We did not find any memorials with their names on, but there were a lot of illegible headstones. The church was locked, but further along the road we found the Great Western Inn, which my great great grandmother inherited from her sister in 1881 - it was this inn which enabled my great great grandfather to become a "gentleman", rather than the policeman, coal dealer, and cab owner he had previously been.

The Wyre Forest was a magic place to walk in. The only time we'd been there before was for an orienteering event in the 1980s. A wonderful place to spend 2 or 3 hours exploring, even using only a 1:25000 OS map.
We did our usual holiday thing, pottering about, visiting some interesting museums, castles, and gardens, walking, and stopping for coffee and cake rather too often. When planned, the week was likely to be early spring, flowers opening, bit of sunshine - in the event it was perishing cold, and it even snowed the day we walked along the river from Ironbridge. I managed to leave my walking shoes at home as well as my family history notes, took too many clothes I never wore, and lived in my thickest jumper, Rohan fleece and my thick cream fleece hat. Do you ever go away with exactly what you use, nothing more or less?
Super break - now sadly back to work again on Monday.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Signs of spring at last?

This is how the current knitting is progressing - at the top is a close up of the colour detail at the top of the back shoulder, and the lower picture is the overall piece of work. The artificial lighting has given it a rather green cast, but in ordinary daylight it is black - the colour of all possibilities.

A brave little tulip, showing a touch of colour.
And new hawthorn leaves, only slightly burnt by the recent cold.

Small birds have been visiting the feeder, and a few are looking brighter coloured and ready for a bit of courting - any minute now the house martins will be back, and we haven't got last year's crap off the porch roof yet!

Our small boating continues, with DH disposing of a car load of Stuff this morning. It even looks as if I might be able to get my little car into the garage while we're away for a few days! (We have never actually tried putting a car into the garage in the nearly 4 years we've lived here.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Small Boating

I've just read "Living the simple life" by Elaine St. James, advocating reducing the stuff you buy and the stuff you waste your time doing, so that you can have time and resources to do the things you really want to do. Very practical, and an excellent plan.

Much of this accords with what we have been doing in recent years, but it's known in our house as"small boating" - on the principle "would I need this if I was living on a small boat?"

Obviously, we're not terribly good at it, or we wouldn't have downsized to a larger house, but at least we can get into our garage, and the only items in the loft are empty boxes.

Our parents and grandparents tended to keep things that "might come in handy sometime", but they lived in an age when pieces of wood, nails, bits of string, and empty tins were not so cheap and easily available, and many of the items they hoarded were sturdily enough made to be still useable when the need for them arose, but times have changed.

As my mother did, I still have a button box; it never contains the right size/colour/number of buttons I actually need for the garment I've just made, but it can be very useful for replacing an odd lost button.

It used to be said that 3 rapid house moves or a fire sorted out your stuff problem, but that's probably a bit extreme. It does pay, however, to maintain vigilance, or you find that the "odds and ends drawer" in the kitchen is overflowing with allen keys, empty 35mm film containers, plastic medicine spoons, instruction leaflets for gadgets that broke months ago, and rubber bands dropped on the doorstep by the postman.

And now I think I'll go and contemplate the wardrobe full of clothes that might come back into fashion one day - probably the day after I decide Oxfam needs them.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ice cream

It snowed all weekend. It was freezing cold, and the wind was like a knife. So the ice cream van came round. For ages the merry tune was audible, going up and down all the cul de sacs (culs de sac?) on our housing estate. The merry tune was the one known to all as Just One Cornetto - which at least made a change from the usual tunes, Colonel Bogey and the theme from Match of the Day.
I wonder how many housewives dashed out in their slippers for that essential Mivvi.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Yarn and story

This is the current knitting - a jumper for myself in black Shetland wool, with colour detail in hand dyed Blue Faced Leicester.

This rather fuzzy picture is some Manx Loghtan I was spinning yesterday. (The more in-focus skein in the background is some Shetland yarn.)

And this is how it looked when it was plyed and wound off onto the niddy noddy.

Apart from spinning and knitting (well, it's snowed all weekend), I've been updating my family history files with fresh information, and then amending the "book" that's in progress. This is an attempt to turn all the births, marriages and deaths into a more readable form so that all the grandchildren will have an idea of earlier generations.

After about 3 years following the ancestral trails, I have compiled a "tree" or network of relatives which contains details of almost 600 individuals - this is not counting the Australian branch, which contains about 300 more individuals. It's been great fun following up the clues, but now I've reached the point where it's not easy to obtain the information from CDs, websites, and microfiche at home; I shall have to travel to record offices and libraries. In due course I shall do this, but in the meantime I am keeping it going by compiling the "book". The trouble with it is that I keep having bright ideas about what I could add to it in the way of illustrations, so the "book" may turn out to be as open-ended as the research!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A short walk with my camera

As it wasn't freezing or raining, I went out for a short walk this afternoon. The alders have lots of catkins, the birds are singing loudly in the hedges, and I found this bud just opening.

This was the brightest colour I found on my walk, an abandoned apple beside the path.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Who cares?

A very distressing story on a couple of days ago called "Caring goes out the window". It makes you even more determined to avoid these places where you're supposed to get looked after, but it's the last thing on everyone else's mind.
In hospital? The main priorities seem to be getting the paperwork done, and the patients shifted out as soon as possible. Shorten the waiting list and free up those beds!
In the care of the local authority? That's where youngsters learn to play truant, shoplift and take drugs. "Care" seems to be one of the last things they get; though of course it could be that the only ones you notice are the most damaged ones.
In a care home? The staff are on the lowest wages possible, so you can work it out for yourself how they are going to feel about the job, and how they may feel about inmates who might prefer to be independent, who might hate their situation, and might actually have human feelings and reactions.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunday Afternoon

For a breath of fresh air (and a nice cup of tea), we went to the Botanic garden this afternoon. It all looks very tidy, and lots of work has been done since we were last there.
We sat in the bird hide and watched lots of tits, blue, great and long-tailed, plus a nuthatch on a feeder really close to the hide, then a goldcrest on the same feeder.
There was also a squirrel trying its luck with one of the feeders, and then a sparrowhawk dived in twice, but as far as we could see unsuccessfully.

Hello to visitors - there is only a minimum of information on my profile because I don't think I want to be identified with any other life I have. If people other than close friends and family read this blog over time, I'm sure they will pick up my interests and views. I read a number of other blogs regularly, but am still keeping my head well below the parapet.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


This morning, with a hard frost and bright sunshine, I was looking at the garden to see if there were any little birds about. A blue tit came briefly to the old feeder, but flew away; I thought I had scared it off. But when I looked again, there was a sparrowhawk sitting on the fence. It's been in the garden several times before, so this must be part of its territory.
We have also had a rat in the garden - I've seen it. When our neighbours constructed a deck with a nice space underneath, it occurred to me that it would be ideal for rats, and that's exactly where this one is living.
So - should one prefer some sorts of wildlife in the garden to others? Is it "better" to have pretty little birds or large predators? What about rats and mice? Slugs and snails?
Any views?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


The jumper for DH is finished. The second sleeve was finished on Friday, and it's taken since then to join all the pieces and to block it - too big to do in one go, so the sleeves had to be blocked separately.
It's knitted from Manx Loghtan wool, with the cream stripes in Wensleydale, both in their natural shades. There's a kilo of wool in it altogether. Actually it's a bit more brown than the photo shows.

And now on to the next project - I am swatching some black Shetland to establish a gauge, and then I'll test out some colours in a slip stitch pattern, with a view to knitting a jumper for myself. As I really didn't enjoy joining all the pieces together in the last one, perhaps I'll try to make it all in one piece. Never knitted sleeves from the top down, so that'll be good to try. The other change will be to work out the measurements for myself - the above jumper used standard instructions, and the sleeves came out a bit too long.