Monday, December 31, 2007

31 December: Season of .... of the year and New Year Resolutions.

Calendar dates, much altered and generally mucked about historically, have always seemed rather arbitrary. Why not start the year with Christ's birthday? Or with the Winter Solstice? Why not start the year with spring instead of winter? January isn't really the start of anything - nowadays not even of the sales.

In my personal calendar, though, it's a year since I retired. The reality, naturally, did not match the expectation, but then, when did it ever? And this past year has been one of adjustment to the new circumstances.

Change is a constant, however, and so is adjustment, so really there's nothing new. Possibilities continue to arise and be considered, choices continue to be made. Decisions are best made when all conditions ripen; this doesn't neatly coincide with arbitrary dates.

The weather and the seasons have more influence when there is no employment competing for your concentration.

I turned over a new leaf when the leaves turned and fell from the trees, and feel no need for New Year resolutions.

Happy Irresolute New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

27 December: Return from foreign parts

Just because I wasn't here, don't think I missed Christmas (though I missed wishing you all a Merry Festive Season). There was plenty of Christmas Down South with the family we don't see all that often.

The journey is theoretically very simple - hop onto the A1 (M) and it's motorway or dual carriageway all the way to Surrey, apart from the last few miles; should take about 6 hours, including stops. It turned out to include detours to avoid miles of creeping traffic, and an interesting exploration of Surrey lanes in fog, and taking 8 hours, with only one very short stop.

Coming back home was very similar, but with marginally less traffic and no fog at all; this time an interesting detour into rural Lincolnshire was undertaken and a travel time of 7 hours was achieved.

In between we had a great time with most of DH's relatives, played lots of silly games, and ate enormous quantities of food. There were vast heaps of presents, plenty of Christmas music, a lovely walk round local lanes, lots of laughter, and even a festive dog, as shown in this very blurred picture -

Teddy is a Collie-Alsatian, with a skinny body and enormous feet, and he valiantly tackled mountains of leftovers to help with the clearing up.

DH usually forgets to pack a toothbrush, or socks, but this time the absent item was trousers. So on Christmas Eve we had to rush out to buy a pair of emergency trousers.

Tomorrow it's a confrontation with the scales and a return to the weight loss programme.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

19 December: Subtle or what?

The knitting has not been neglected recently. Oh, no. But Ravelry has thrown a spanner in the works. (For those who don't know, and probably also don't care, Ravelry is an online knitting and crochet community - sort of Facebook for yarn addicts.)

I wasn't at all sure that it was going to interest me, as the people using the site are largely from the USA, and using commercial yarns to knit other people's patterns. The USA thing means that I sometimes have trouble understanding what's being said - what exactly does "yaaaay - way to go!" mean? And there are slight differences in terminology, needle sizing and so on. But there are groups of British knitters, groups of spinners, groups devoted to different techniques - lace, entrelac, stranded knitting - fans of different TV programmes, even a group devoted to spinning yarn to knit socks with.

So hours can be frittered away, roaming round the discussion boards and individual pages, looking at what other people are knitting, and finding dozens and dozens of freely offered patterns for illustrated projects. Every time I log on, I find another item I'd like to make, or a pattern I'd like to use. It's just like being in a sweet shop. (Only of course, I don't actually eat sweets any more.) And it can easily take over the precious knitting and spinning time.

But I've been strong.

Here's a pair of recently completed socks -

A little bored with plain socks, I decided to insert a panel of gansey pattern up each side of the legs of these socks, made with yarn hand-dyed in blue and charcoal. The result is so subtle as to be almost un-noticeable.

Not so this stuff, spun yesterday -

It's the yellow and strong Barbie pink fibre dyed recently, spun with some white to tone it down. It's been spun with lots of twist, and plyed with lots of twist, and will become another pair of experimental socks. Perhaps.

Monday, December 17, 2007

17 December: Less means more

I am slightly peeved. I have just had to go and buy some new trousers, as there was only one winter pair left in my wardrobe that fits. And 8 pairs that don't.

Plan A was that after Christmas new clothes would be bought to suit the reduced waistline, possibly even snaffling a bargain or two in the sales (though I am not fond of elbowing through the crowds, on account of my dislike of people en masse).

However, Plan B had to be rapidly devised when it was discovered that everything warm that isn't track suit trousers or other old running kit actually has room for me and Trinny. If we were just going to be at home all over Christmas, it wouldn't matter, but we are going to be socialising. Yes, we are going to grit our teeth and interact with real people. How we shall cope with any mountains of food on offer remains to be seen. But now there are these new smaller sized trousers there is even more incentive not to eat too much.

And on that subject, it seems that Stephen Fry is a convert to our Eat Less weight loss plan. What a pity there's no way of getting a lucrative book or magazine deal out of it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12 December: In the kitchen

Last week, Lucy over at Box Elder had some interesting photos of her cutlery and washing up, so here's some of mine -

Breakfast for the two of us, plus the mugs from the previous evening's drink.

And on the window-sill are two small Christmas cactuses (cacti?), the scraps from a huge old one that was discarded last year. It never flowered until Easter, anyway.

But the offcuts are doing what they are supposed to do, and plump pink buds are developing -

They should be proper flowers for Christmas.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

9 December: Walking in a winter woodland

Gone away were the blue birds, but there was some blue sky this morning. Not a breath of wind, perfect for a walk. Christmas trees were on sale at the visitor centre in Hamsterley Forest, but the car park was quiet. There were a few mountain bikers out on the trails, but not many walkers, apart from the usual few with dogs near the car park.

The stream was very full, brown with peat from the moors.

In sheltered places the snow of yesterday lingered.

The trees had been decorated already, by the melting frost.

In the fields the sheep were being fed. We hoped the gal on top would be able to get out of the container when all the hay had been eaten away from under her.

And although the beech seeds were gone from their cases, next year's buds are ready and waiting for the spring warmth and light.

Friday, December 07, 2007

7 December: Brighter

What a difference a bit of sunshine makes!

After the cloud and rain of the past few days, today the sky was blue and bright. Perhaps because the westerly gale had blown all the clouds to the North Sea, and there'll be some more rain coming later, but it's to be enjoyed while it's here. A bit of fresh air and wind in the hair and on the skin does wonders for physical and mental well-being.

I'd been to the shops and back before 10 o'clock, then there was another job to tackle - taking the cardboard to the tip, sorry, amenity point. There was a lot stacked up in the conservatory; not just in the box that we usually use, but a pile of boxes from the recent splurge of online Christmas shopping. It's amazing how little rubbish we put into the wheelie bin when the cardboard stuff has been separated out. Our local council collects glass, paper, and cans; we are happy to take cardboard to the recycling place ourselves, and would sort out and recycle plastic if there was somewhere locally to take it.

But I forgot to take the collection of plastic carrier bags to the supermarket with me (that's where they get recycled). Ever since my quilting days, when I made a series of shopping bags as quilt samples, there has been a bagful of cloth shopping bags in the kitchen cupboard. There is usually one with me when I go shopping, but it is difficult to stop shop assistants automatically giving you a bag. Some shops are now using paper bags, which is much preferable. But a few plastic bags creep in, and get stowed away in another container in the conservatory.

Other people have smart conservatories, with dining tables or sofas. We have an assortment of recycling containers, the exercise machine, garden chairs, several enormous plants, and a clothes horse (plus an interesting collection of spiders). It's not just a matter of junk accumulating to fill the space available (no, no), it's the otherwise inadequate storage provision in modern houses. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

3 December: The joys of Christmas shopping.

Aha! I thought, I'll be smart this year and do lots of my Christmas shopping online. No hassle fighting through the crowds, no queues for the car park, queues for the cafe, queues for the loos.

Off went the orders, back came some of the parcels.....

Then the phone call - "we'll get back to you" - no, they don't.

The e-mail - no response at all.

Guess I'll have to join the queue for the car park.


On the knitting front, I'm feeling pleased with myself, as I've probably just re-invented the wheel, so to speak.

Having knitted a sample for a technique I've never tried before, it occurred to me that working in a slightly different way would be much easier, so I drew myself a little sketch (OK, designed a shawl) and started to knit. This wasn't, of course, the project I was planning to do next, or indeed in the middle of another one, but I got carried away with my idea.

Now, if I investigate, I shall find that the world and his wife have been knitting this sort of thing for ages and ages; after all, there's very little in knitting that hasn't already been done by thousands of people all over the world centuries ago. But I still feel pleased that I can unvent some of these things for myself. And it demonstrates that beginner's mind still works, too.