Monday, May 28, 2007

28 May: Later the same day

Staring gloomily out of the front window, I spotted a pale *something* on the dogwood in the border. Its first "flower"!

So I took a photo. Then I wandered round the back garden, discovering that there were several other plants offering some comfort. Alliums like these have been all the rage at Chelsea this year, I hear. (I did watch one of the TV broadcasts from Chelsea, but just to spot the only Chelsea Pensioner I know - he always has at least one pretty girl holding his arm!)

The little apple trees promise good things later in the year -

And by reaching up and taking a picture at arm's length, I've captured the first clematis, on the top of the pergola.

And a sneaky angle makes this border look more interesting than it may be in reality. But the camera never lies, does it?

That's better now - think I'll have another go at that sock; very plain and not at all subversive, this pair. They are yellow, though.

28 May: Still lazy

Is it the weather? The end of the holidays? The imminent arrival of workmen? Whatever it is, I just can't get motivated.

The purple merino scarf (not a football one) has been finished for ages, but I haven't got round to blocking it yet. A crochet project to use up odds end ends has been lurching onwards for some time, and still a way to go; and there's a pair of socks in progress - in a mixture of Blue Faced Leicester wool and soy. Very vegetarian.

StatCounter shows that people have been here looking for "fibonacci knitt**g stripes" (too City and Guilds for my liking), and "agapanthus producti*ns" (though probably not photos of one admiring itself in a mirror), and the evergreen "fred knit**e".

Apropos of which, I see the Zimmers (google them if you don't already know) are getting a whole hour's TV programme this evening. While I admire them for getting up and singing, I don't think the resulting performance is nearly as good as the Young@Heart Chorus.

TV tonight brings the end of the current series of New Tricks. Not popular with the critics, it seems, but I've enjoyed them all. It may not be Art, but I know what I like, and it's not Dr Who any more.

Another series sneered at by the critics, but which I have enjoyed, is Kingdom - wonderful locations, and even if the scripts are nearly as wooden and crackers as Morse or Midsummer, the acting is far better. You will note that I prefer the more gentle, middle-aged dramas, in finite series. Plus, of course, You've Been Framed, and Police, Camera, Action. When they finish, what are we going to have left to watch? Nature programmes?

I've already watched spring here, and it's been strange; plants that normally flourish are struggling, others are doing better than usual, the house martins are back, but only about a dozen of them instead of the scores of last year, the blue tits don't seem to have nested nearby this year, though the magpies have 3 juveniles with them (perhaps they have eaten all the blue tit chicks?). Now the roses and the clematis are out and the forget-me-nots are going over, it's more like summer than spring.

With a bit of luck, there may be photos of bathroom devastation tomorrow - but there again, am I bovvered?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

26 May: Lazy

This is just instead of replying to comments in the comments box.

The photo of Mont Orgueil castle was a lucky shot - one of those times when you can't see what is in the viewfinder/display screen because of the light. I hadn't noticed the row of houses below the castle, but would have tried to include them if I had, as the contrast in scale and colour is brill.

It does resemble a photo I took of Durham Castle earlier in the year - here it is if you want to compare. (That is actually Pizza Hut, and Pizza Italia in the foreground, not houses.)

Cat update - poor boy has an over-active thyroid, a bottle of tablets to take for a month, then more blood tests. Quite common in the older cat, apparently. Most likely outcome after the tablets is surgery. Still, it's slimmed him down considerably. Wonder if I could get mine revved up a bit....

Bit busy this weekend, as the bathroom re-modelling starts on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

24 May: And..

I forgot to mention the lady in St. Brelade's church.

We went in to have a look around; there were a few people in the aisle and a man with a sheet of paper in his hand explaining something about one of the stained glass windows. He was giving a lot of detail, and the people all walked off in different directions.

I thought it a bit odd, but then a lady came up to us and told us that he was "just practising", and we were to carry on and ignore him. Although it might have been better practice for him to give his guided tour to some real visitors, and it would have been interesting to hear his talk, we were then buttonholed by the lady (and I use that word in preference to "woman"), who asked lots of questions about where we were going and where we were staying. She told us firmly that we should be staying in St. Brelade, and then was horrified when we mentioned that we planned to walk back to St. Helier.

"But it's 6 or 7 miles!" she exclaimed. (Hey! - dialogue.) Well, it might have seemed like that if you drive, but walking in a direct route it was actually about 4, and after that we didn't like to mention how far we'd walked already.

She did amuse us when she asked which airline we'd travelled on. We told her FlyBe, and that we'd had about an hour's delay starting out of Newcastle. She snorted and said that was why the locals called it FlyMayBe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

23 May: More snaps.

Now Blogger seems to have got over the doolally turn it had earlier, I'll continue about the holiday.

There were lots of flowers growing where we walked. This was the only orchid we saw, and I guess at it being an early purple orchid; I'm sure if either of my readers can identify it, you'll tell me. (It really was very blue.)

Bright gladioli in this piercing shade of - what? magenta? puce? - cheered up even the most neglected gardens. The one I photographed was in a tidy garden.

This slightly surreal shot of an agapanthus growing beside a large mirror was irresistible.

But the plant that we saw most was this one, plastered all over the shady and damp banks of the green lanes, and growing pretty well everywhere else too. We saw it named as "pennywort" , but my copy of the inestimable Fitter and Blamey book calls it Navelwort - just look at the leaves!

The other ubiquitous (there's a good word for a Wednesday) plant was the potato, and I searched for a really good view of a field of taters.

The cows were nowhere near as plentiful. I blame the low fat diets and hydrogenated fats that people prefer these days. Or are all the Jersey cows now in Spain, where most of our food seems to come from now?

I could show you all several pictures of sweeping empty beaches, mostly with interesting banks of cloud sailing overhead, but here is one with me modelling my new rain jacket, which I bought in the Jersey Woollen Mill. Of course I had to go there; they had the dullest knitwear I have seen in a long time, but masses of "Leisurewear" and oddly enough, some very nice ear-rings.

About 200 more snaps can be posted in response to popular demand.

23 May: Holiday snaps

Our photo album of our holiday is now done, all neatly labelled and ready to bore any passing friend or family member.

It was delayed by the breakdown of the old printer, and the installation and oohing and aahing over what the new one can do - doesn't technology move quickly when you're not looking?

Many of the pictures are a bit dull, because that's what the weather was like, and we realised that what we hadn't photographed were the little lanes we mostly walked along, so the pictures aren't very representative of our experience. Anyway...

This was taken inside the Neolithic chamber at La Hougue Bie, using the lights installed. The camera wobbled a bit during the long exposure, but it rather adds to the effect.

This is St. Brelade's church, overlooking the harbour.

And this is Samares Manor; we call this one the Manor with the Fallen Rhododendrons -

Mont Orgueil castle above Gorey Pier. The castle was full of sculptures and installations which really made it something special. Totally worth a visit, even if you can't climb all the way to the top of the keep because of vertigo.

More later - must do some ironing now.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

20 May: Back from Jersey

That is not a knitting reference.

We arrived back yesterday lunch-time, and since then we've waded through the pile of mail on the mat, washed most of the laundry, been to the supermarket, watered the house plants, cut the grass and tidied the garden - now needing a lie down!

We had a great holiday. In spite of the weather - variously mist, rain, cloud, wind, and just a bit of sunshine - we managed to do many of the things we wanted to, and have returned rejuvenated, and with batteries re-charged.

Actually, if you are under 75, it's not hard to feel young on Jersey. At Newcastle Airport, the tide of grey heads creeping and hobbling towards the plane was slightly alarming. And the tourist buses and cafes were also wall to wall with white hair and walking sticks. But when I claimed the reduced OAP entry fee for one attraction, the dear lady was very reluctant to believe me.

It was strange to use our usual money and get foreign coins and pound notes (yes, pound notes) in change. There are what seem to be about 2 million cars on the island, mostly enormous BMWs, Mercedes, giant 4x4s, or people carriers. Everywhere is prominently labelled *No Parking*, or *Parking for Residents Only*, so there seems to be a problem with cars. Having said that, all the drivers are extremely courteous to each other, and to the cyclists and pedestrians on the narrow, twisting, and often pavement-free roads.

Little of the island is left from housing and agriculture. There were, surprisingly, not many cows to be seen, but many, many fields were devoted to potatoes - and if they are all Jersey Royals, they may be putting too many eggs (or indeed potatoes) into one basket. Remember what happened to Ireland when they went in for a mono-culture of potatoes? All the woods are in valleys too steep and rocky, or too marshy, for other use, and there are small areas of nature reserve and sand dunes.

We avoided all the parking problems by not hiring a car, but walking everywhere we could, and using the excellent bus network. We did go to several of the visitor attractions, and wondered what the many German tourists felt about the emphasis on WW2 and the Liberation.

Most of the cafes, hotels, and tourist shops are staffed by people from Eastern Europe - as was the excellent Polish Deli near our apartment.

The photos - over 200 - have been downloaded to the computer, but not yet sorted out. They will follow in due course.

Before I whizz round and see what everyone else has been up to in the past week, I'll leave you with the story of the piece of cod that passeth all understanding.

Having arrived on Saturday afternoon and had a brief walk round the locality, we were very hungry. (When on holiday, we are not strict veggies, as it's not always possible, and local food enhances the trip.) So we thought fish and chips were a good and simple meal. And we ate probably the worst cod and chips that either of us has ever had. A day or two later we were in the Jersey Museum (it was raining), and there was a large display devoted to the cod trade, which claimed that the trade in dried cod had completely disappeared; well of course it hasn't, it's alive and well, and being badly battered, teamed with tasteless soggy chips, and being sold round the corner!

Friday, May 11, 2007

11 May: Health and Holiday

The cat needed his booster jab, so we took him along on Wednesday evening. As he used to be a very tubby tabby, we have been trying to slim him down over the past couple of years. Last year, at his check-up, he had lost a bit of weight; this time, we thought the scales were wrong. He has lost quite a lot, and when the vet checked him over, she declared he has a heart murmur and an enlarged thyroid. She also spoke about diabetes, and geriatric cats - he's only 11!

So he will need some blood tests to find out exactly what is wrong, then probably medication.

But we can't get that sorted out just yet, as we are going off on a holiday tomorrow. Hurrah!
Except that the 5-day weather forecast is not good. But at least it will be a change from lazing around doing exactly as I please. Hmm...

(Later update: The cat has spent much of the afternoon in the conservatory, keeping an eye on the blackbirds, who have 3 fledglings to feed, and rely on the messy habits of the greenfinches to provide them with seed from the hanging feeder. The cat does not look incapacitated.)

So, knowing how much you'll all miss my regular knitting items, here are a few to keep you going. I have been trying out some Elizabeth Zimmerman designs, which have a whole blog devoted to them at Zimmermania. This one is called the Ganomey (or Gnome) Hat -

Pretty neat shaping, I think. Now all I need to do is work out how to make it big enough to fit a human head.

One of her designs gets a lot of attention; it's called the Baby Surprise Jacket, or BSJ. The book in which this pattern was published is out of print, and I haven't been able to get hold of a copy. However, a handy website called Knit Wiki has a nice clear photo, pointing out where it is started from. So I think I've worked it out - slightly odd way of shaping, rather like origami, and it looks a proper mess till you fold it over .

This one is just a sample, and I got the mitres wrong at the corners of the front band, but as it was tea-time, I couldn't be bothered to frog that bit and re-do it. Don't know if I would bother to make a baby sized one - unless somebody produces a rather square baby.

And here's the colourwork/Fair Isle hat I was knitting at the demonstration last weekend - modelled by me.

While I'm away, look after yourselves and don't do anything I wouldn't do.
And you'll never guess where a knitter goes on holiday - yes, Jersey!

Monday, May 07, 2007

7 May: Demonstrating

Moving on .....

All my careful preparation for the demonstration on Saturday was not entirely in vain, though the number of visitors to the museum who actually came and watched us spinning, weaving, and knitting industriously was about 8. You can never guess who may turn up - last time we did a demonstration like this, we had dozens of interested visitors, including a coach-load of German tourists.

On arrival at the museum, we were met by a member of staff muttering about somebody who had borrowed the bedouin tent (as you do), and then not returned it to the right place, but just dumped it on the floor in the shop area. Ever mindful of Health and Safety, I stepped very carefully over it on my way to the education room.

Although the general public largely ignored us, it was a good opportunity for us to see each other's projects, and to try out some new things ourselves. One person became very proficient at spindle spinning during the 4 hours we were there.

For part of the time, the gamelan was being played in the lower part of the museum; very soothing. For those of you who don't know, it's a South East Asian percussion band, with drums, bell things, and sort of xylophones. If this elaborate description is inadequate, try googling it; it is spelled correctly, though the spell-check doesn't agree.

Today DH and I went for a walk in the bluebell woods again. Cloudy, but this picture shows how light the new leaves are.

Friday, May 04, 2007

4 May: Greed, hate and delusion

At last night's meeting of our Guild of Sinners, Divas, and Winos (some members liked the new version of the title), it was agreed by a group of us that the sort of people who stand for elections are exactly the sort of people we don't want to represent us.

In fact it was suggested that expressing willingness to be nominated should disqualify a person from being elected.

That does, of course, leave a bit of a problem as to how any government is chosen. A pin in a list of names and addresses couldn't do a worse job.

Also mentioned - recent willingness of powerful people to lie, apparently totally pointlessly, in a court. Presumably there was something to be gained; like having a holiday at somebody else's expense when you are perfectly well able to pay for your holiday yourself, and not then be in any way indebted to anyone.

What happened to integrity and honesty?

Oh, yes, I remember, a certain female person of great power told us that you can have whatever you want as long as you can pay for it, not necessarily now or in the immediate future; and instantly naked greed became the guiding principle - also adopted enthusiastically by the party formerly known as The Opposition. No longer any need to hide your real motives behind a semblance of public spirit. No longer the best thing for the country as a whole, but what brings the biggest short-term windfall to those in power (and their friends and relatives, of course. The Old Boys' network - another face of power-sharing). And the Devil take the hindmost.

And the media's influence is far, far greater than that of most politicians. If the press and broadcasters keep on about an issue long enough, the government does whatever the media are nagging on about. Who, exactly, decides which issues are "publicly debated"?

But it's true, you pay for what you have - if not straight away, then eventually. It's called the karmic consequence. You most definitely reap what you sow.

Better now, thank you.

(This post has been written in total ignorance of whatever went on in yesterday's local elections.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

1 May: What about.....?

The slippers are now finished!

The "decoration" is an extremely subtle bit of long-armed cross stitch over the edge of the sides and back - so subtle that you can hardly see it (hence the lack of a photo). In one of those boxes full of the bits and pieces that all habitual makers of things keep, were 2 skeins of coton a broder in almost the exact shade of my felt, but with a slight sheen. It is fairly thick, so I thought it wouldn't take long, but it actually took hours, as I had to place the needle very carefully every time, and it's one of those 2-steps-forward-and-1-back sort of stitches. But it firms up the edge nicely, and gives it some protection.

The soles have been bugging me all along. The felt needed something to protect it from wear and dirt, and on its own would slide beautifully on the kitchen tiles. Lots and lots of boxes got pulled out in the workroom, and the needlework detritus of 40 years of my hoarding (plus an unknown number of years of my mother's hoarding) was subjected to a good rummaging. (I found a heap of stuff I'd forgotten, but don't tell DH.) Some leather scraps rose to the surface; nothing big enough to use, but that set me off in another direction.

I don't often browse the car section of the supermarket, but yesterday I was hunting for "chamois leather". They had real chamois, which I didn't fancy, partly from the veggie angle, and partly from the maintenance angle - it dries out and cracks, as any old-time cyclist will tell you. Then in a wonderfully chaotic and old-fashioned ironmongers, I found an artificial chamois leather, intended for cleaning windows, which has been cut up and sewn to my felt. The world's only window-cleaning slippers?

Note to self - if you ever make felt slippers again, make sure to design the soles first. And last night DH found purpose-made slipper soles on the website of my favourite knitting shop!

But today I have been grappling with a different problem.

The local Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers currently has an exhibition of work at a local museum, and on Saturday there is an Open Day, when some of us will demonstrate various spinning, etc. activities. I am due to demonstrate knitting - don't laugh, I'm doing that myself. In between panicking, that is.

It seems to me that it might be more interesting to the non-knitting public if I have a variety of projects to show, so I have been doing some planning. There's a lacy scarf about half finished in purple merino. I can easily cast on a Fair Isle hat with some white and pink Wensleydale wool from the stash (Wensleydale comes in wool as well as cheese), and perhaps I could start off a pair of socks with the yellow soy/Blue Faced Leicester from last week.

This yarn is much finer than I've used before for socks. So for a start I need to calculate what size needles to use and how many stitches to cast on. Then I've read just recently about a way of making toes with short rows, so I want to try that - the heels can be done with the same method. I've scribbled about 6 lines of notes in my little notebook, for a pattern. I've spent all afternoon fiddling about with trying different needles and different ways of starting and doing the toes. At the moment I have the start of a sock, but that may not last.

But it's great fun to experiment, and ask *Is there another way to do that* or *What happens if....* or *What about trying....*