Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Wanderer Returns

A is back from Moscow, having caused much hilarity with the decrepid state of his passport. Upon returning, he gave me back my camera and proved why he has never, in all his life, had one of his own. The four photographs could be of the industrial outskirts of any city. He and his colleague did go for a very brief walk just before they left, but hewas not near to Red Square, St Basil's or anything that any tourist would wish to visit.


They did get very excited when they found a yarn store and had picked out some yarn from the display behind the counter for more before they relaised that the little booth was actually closed. They were crushed, apparently.

But, all power to him - that was a totally spontaneous yarn expedition!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

WIP Wednesday

No photos today, I'm afraid, I made A take the camera with him when he went to Moscow yesterday.

The back of Pondemonium is now completed, all the ends are woven in and I've completed the first set of embroidery. Once that's done, I can join the shoulders and then it's only the neck and sleeves - hurrah!

I have completed one ribbing and the first pattern repeat on the second blue Monkey.

Moss socks are exactly as they were this time last week - single. If I want to count them for my September socks for SAM4, I need to get a move on...

And finally, I've pretty much decided that I'm going to completely frog Icarus. I couldn't work out why, and then this week, whilst catching up with episodes of the Sticks and String podcast, David mentioned that his being a solid colour wasn't doing it for him. It was like a lght going on in my head. Then, when I checked Ravelry, I realised that it looked much niocer in 2-ply as intended than in 4-ply as I was doing it. Haven't quite worked up the courage yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm in!!!!


However... in my excitement, I didn't check how long the user name could be, so if you'd like to find me, my user name is talesfromtheplai .


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

WIPs Wednesday

This week's update is brought to you by the letter S and the number 1.

I finished the first Monkey sock (all bar the grafting) on Friday night, and cast on for the second one earlier this evening.

It looks a bit of a crumpled mess, but it will block nicely, Monkey always does. I love the way the colours are coming out in this. It's hand-dyed from Lazy Kate and it's really nice. I'm going to find it hard to send them to my Monkey Pal!

No progress on Pondemonium. I had cramp and I needed a change of needle size but still needed to knit socks, so ... is the first Moss Sock from the second installment of the Fyberspates Sock Club. I cast on Saturday teatime and by last night, had just 4 rows of ribbing and cast off to do, which I did before tea tonight. My fastest ever sock (adult or baby!) Now I see the appeal of knitting socks in DK! I didn't really like the pattern or the yarn when I got it, so thought I would knit them up as a Christmas present, but I've fallen in love with them and will need to get more yarn to knit another pair - although I'd make that pair longer, since the recipient does like slouchy socks.

And finally... as if I don't have enough to do, I've signed up for...

Find out more here, if you dare...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Carpe Diem

I love Squeeze. When I was in the Sixth Form it was an almost constant soundtrack to my life (oh, alright then, along with U2, Peter Gabriel, Led Zep, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa and Fleetwood Mac - what can I say? I was going out with P who was four years older than me and introduced me to a really wide range of music). Anyway, P had Singles 45's and Under, the 1982 Squeeze greatest hits album and we did listen to it a lot - on his Denon (oh how I dreamt of the time I would be able to afford a proper record deck - the guy had separates with an amazing amp!), on scratchy taped version in the car, on my Walkman during private study in the Common Room... blah blah blah...

But I wasn't the only one, either. Although I went to a state comprehensive, there was a boarding house for boys, left over from BEFORE it became a state boys grammar (it was founded in 1559, lots of things in our school were "tradition") The younger boys slept in large dorms in the oldest part of the school, above the Sixth Form Centre, whilst fourth years and above (Yr 9 and beyond in today's terms) lived in large houses (formerly and now reverted to private residences) on the edge of the school campus. A good friend, N, had a top floor study bedroom that he shared with K and during the summer of 1987, a whole load of us would go over at lunchtimes and hang out in his room, listening to Squeeze. Not often, but enough to mean I can close my eyes and return there every time I hear Mussels From The Shell. And don't be following any nasty thoughts here - all very innocent. Girls were allowed, N assured us, provide we all left our shoes at the bottom of the stairs. Heaven knows what the housemaster would have made of 10 pairs of assorted desert boots, espadrilles and baseball boots then...

But I'm digressing again.

During 1987, Squeeze released the album Babylon and On - I still love it, although the vinyl is showing its age now. 20 years ago today I went with P to see them at Aylesbury Civic Hall, a brilliant gig.

I think.

I don't remember much about it to be honest.

On the way home, we decided that we didn't fancy finishing the evening just then, but the centre of town was shut due to the Fair. We knew we didn't have enough time to park at his and walk back before last orders, so we decided to bypass the town and go on to a pub in the next village.

Now the turn for Moreton is on a bend on a stretch of road that is notorious. P drove a black Mini 1275 GT, his pride and joy and as he slowed down to turn left, a Ford Cortina came round the bend towards us. He hit the bend too fast and time slowed as the back end swung round, hit the front of the mini at an angle (imagine a line from driver's headlight to gear stick) and then his petrol tank exploded. I had pulled my legs up to assume a kind of crash position and the stereo (neatly placed in the space where the passenger glove box would be) made a tiny hole in the knee of my jeans, and the biggest bruises under my kneecaps that I've ever experienced. I was out of the car and in the ditch before I had really made sense of everything, but I then realised that P was still in the car. I dashed back and got him out - he had been unconscious briefly when his face hit the steering wheel (poor guy looked like a cross between a panda and a tapier for a couple of weeks) but he was able to work with me to get out. The engine came in and lacerated his legs nicely. Since one of the passengers in the other car was injured worse than P we went in an ambulance with the driver of the other car. Nice one. Turned out he'd been drinking - they'd been to a darts match or something.
The Mini didn't end up at this angle, it was only about 45 degrees off the original path, but I guess the Fire Brigade moved it to the side to clear the carriage way.

Friday night in A&E is certainly an eye-opener. I still remember the couple in full rock and roll gear who'd obviously been in a fight - or maybe it was just him, with another Teddy Boy. I couldn't make sense of her screaming much. Another girl from our town came in having slit her wrists, so unsurprisingly, she jumped us in the queue. I finally got someone to see P when he kept asking for a nice cup of tea and then slid elegantly out of his wheelchair, out for the count. I'd never shouted at an adult before that night. Still don't, really, but it felt good for a brief moment.

And, as usual with a Nic story (and this is God's honest truth), there has to be a small moment of ritual humiliation.

When I was finally called in at about 4 o'clock in the morning (P was no longer in A&E), I was asked by the nurse to drop my jeans ready for the examination and told to sit and wait for the doctor. He walked in a few minutes later, looked me up and down and, quick as a wink, asked "And what do you do for an encore?"


And if that night taught P and I anything, it was indeed to seize the day. Teaching may occasionally knock the stuffing out of me so I can't practise what I preach, but although my number was obviously not up that night 20 years ago, it taught me that it could be, and that I should never put anything off too long.

So I jumped out of a plane at 2500 feet the following weekend, but that's another story...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gotta love it!

I'd like to include this in one of my forthcoming lessons, but I may chortle too loudly...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Looking for Something My Dear?

P.S. Now you see where the inspiration for the Lone Star State socks came from...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wednesday already?

Yep, time to review the WIPs again.

First up is Pondemonium. This is the back view, left where I split for the sleeves.
And here is the front view. I love the fact that I'm knitting in the round so there will be no seaming, but I have a lot of ends to weave in and of course, it will need embroidered details - but those get done before I join the shoulders and pick up the neck and the sleeves. I am so excited, it actually looks like a jumper!

The first monkey sock is making slow progress, but I got very distracted by the jumper over the weekend and since Sunday the only knitting I've done is one round on the sock.

And by popular request, my yarn present from Gothenburg: 3 balls of a gorgeous Fabel sock yarn thatreminds me of sweets and some Karisma 100% wool for mittens. Apparently grey red and cream are this season's colours, A tells me! Now I need to find a pattern. there are loads on the Garnstudio website, but I want a traditional style, possibly with a snowflake and I haven't found the right one yet.

But isn't he a peach?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I know my husband loves me...

...because today, during the lunch break in the conference about heavy duty diesel emissions that he is attending in Gothenburg, A nipped out to Deisy Design to get me some yarn I had regretted not buying when we there.

But get this: not only did he do that as I had asked, he also remembered that I had said afterwards that I wished I'd asked the sales girl about making traditional style mittens, so he decided to ask her advice on the matter. She gave him chapter and verse and he's bought three colours and another customer who A reckons was in her seventies took a shine to him. Looking him up and down in his suit, she said "My husband would NEVER buy me yarn as a present, can you come home with me?"

Trains and Boats and Planes

Have I mentioned that I've fallen in love with Scandinavia?

Our Scandinavian odyssey began with 2 nights in Copenhagen. As we are wont to do, a and I landed, checked in and then went for one of our mega walks. It didn't get off to a promising start when we got to our hotel, 3 stars, nestling between the strip club ("Beautiful Girls!* Totally Nude!") and the fetish clothing shops (leather straps, anyone?). We got up to the top floor to find a very poky room with a 4'6" bed thrust in a corner. Discovering the duvet was only 4' was just the icing on the cake...

Anyway, we set out from our hotel near Tivoli Gardens and walked to the Little Mermaid. A doesn't like her much, thinks she's a bit disappointing, but I loved her.

That evening we went to Tivoli Gardens, and although we didn't go on any rides (A was blessing his high blood pressure, believe me) I loved that too. I know it's cheesy, but it's magical cheese...

The next day we explored several museums (free on Wednesdays) and started to chill out, reading and also enjoying a spot of geocaching at Marmokirken (the Marble church), not at all what I expected to find in Denmark!

The next day we took a train to Gothenburg, across the Öresund bridge, which I hadn't realised rises out of tunnel, so on the way back into Denmark, must look as if it just dives into the sea. Our first look around Gothenburg wasn't very inspiring, it was reminiscent of the Fish Quay in North Shields, but the next day, the sun came out and I was captivated. We had a tourist card which gave us entrance to loads of museums, places of interest and access to canal trips, so we started by setting out for the Art Museum. Outside is a huge statue of Poseidon by Carl Milles. Apparently when it was first planned, it had an enormous manh00d, but the local burghers protested, so he altered the design. He is holding a large fish in his hand, a rather mean looking thing.
However, if you stand to one side, it becomes apparent that Milles had the last laugh...

We also took a trip around the canal. A doesn't do boats, so I was very impressed. However, it wasn't until we were underway that the guide explained that to get out of the canal onto the river Gotha, we needed to go under a low bridge.

A very low bridge.

So low, in fact that we had to get on the floor of the boat.

Luckily to get back in, we only had to duck down and put our heads onto our knees....

I'm not a big fan of fish but I do like salmon, so whilst in Gothenburg I tried some, served with a crayfish sauce.

I was startled to find this beast on my dinner though. I tried to deal with it, but succeeded only in yanking its head off and exposing its guts, so I gave in gracefully and wrapped it in a napkin.

I also tried pickled herring for breakfast, which is gorgeous.

No, really.

After two nights in Gothenburg, it was a first class express train to Stockholm, which after the calmness of Gothenburg took us rather by surprise. It was HEAVING, mainly with passengers off of the cruise ships. Gamla Stan, the oldest part which everyone says you should visit was just horrible on that Saturday afternoon, so we avoided it for a while. On the Sunday we set out to Djurgården on the ferry, and tripped our way about the Nordica folk museum, which included some fantastic temporary displays of ordinary people's collections. You know the type of things people collect... penguin objects, Abba memorabilia, matchboxes, opera glasses, the labels out of people's clothing... I kid you not, this woman is crazy for collecting them, collects them from everyone she knows and keeps them in a photo album. The best one, however, was the collection of historical and foreign mousetraps. I mean, how do you start collecting mousetraps?

Then we went to the Vasa museum, where superlatives fail me. It is the biggest wooden ship I have ever seen and it is about 90% intact. Stunning. Read more about how it sunk after 1300m of its maiden voyage, lay for over 300 years in the water and then was raised and floated into dry dock here. Stunning, truly stunning.

We then went onto Skansen, an open air museum a little like Beamish, that had original buildings from all over Sweden that have been moved and reconstructed to show what life was like. In addition, there are native animals in the park too, and we saw bears, lynx, wolves and elk. Of course, my camera battery died at this point, so I have no pictures of the elk, which were huge. I want to go back to Skansen - we were there at the end of the summer season, so many of the living history exhibits were shut up. You could spend a day there, easily.

The next day we went on another canal trip, then explored Gamla Stan without the hoards. We also did another spot of geocaching and again, just sat, read, chilled (in both senses, as the lovely weather was replaced that day by a cutting wind) We didn't go into the Royal Palace, but we did take a photo of one of the soldiers guarding it...

The next day, it was back to Copenhagen, by plane this time, where we spent all of our Danish coins having fun on the sideshows at Tivoli Gardens. We won so much tat it was unbelievable, but in true Scandinavian style, the tat is about a hundred times better that I'd find in Thame Fair!

And of course, I couldn't come home without some souvenirs...

The three pairs of Fabel came from Deisy Design just down from Poseion on Avenyn in Gothenburg, a lovely shop, with lovely staff. Fabel is Norwegian and was selling at 26SEK (£2) for 50g - cheaper than Opal or Regia. I had a real problem choosing and could have bought more, save for the concern that I would have no room left in the rucksack for Stockholm and Copenhagen.

The three balls of Strompegarn Jacquard (26.5 DKK, about £2.65 for 50g) were from Strikkeboden near the Catherdral in Copenhagen. It was a recommendation from SKE, and I was looking for some wool silk mix by Marianne Isager, but they had none. The shop was very busy and I was conscious of A kicking his heels outside the shops, so I grabbed this, enough for two pairs, one for Dad, one for me and called it a day. However, it had the largest selection of Noro I've ever seen and a gorgeous Nordic style sweater in the window in natural colours. Grrr..

And where is the yarn from Stockholm, I hear you cry? Well, I found a lovely shop on Gamla Stan and a great stall at the world bazaar at Skansen, both selling lots of gorgeous coloured laceweight yarn in 100% wool, but I didn't get any. The colours were brilliant, but the yarn was obviously from raggedy-arsed sheep, since I could have used it to scrub pans. It did not pass the cheek test, but since they knit and wear shawls as extra layers for warmth, not a fine wrap over a strappy dress, it's not really a surprise.

So, if you like warm but not scorching weather, friendly people, lovely cities and expensive vittals, Scandinavia is for you.

I can't wait to go back...

* This always makes me smile, a bit like "We serve good food" - you'd hardly advertise the fact that your food is off, would you?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Postal Rage

Get your walking boots on, this post may ramble a bit. Do not despair, it will get to the point in its own sweet time.

Our front lawn is goosed. Or at least, it was. Early in the holidays I got caught at home by a rep from Green Thumb who quoted such a ridiculously cheap price for treating the lawn that I couldn't refuse. We have spent more than that in the past buying Feed and Weed and trying to sort it out. I didn't really expect it to work, but in the 5 weeks since it was treated, most of the weeds in the front (and believe me there were many) have grown out completely and the grass itself is looking very lush. I don't suppose the sogginess that was the British Summer did it any harm, either.

However (you knew there'd be one, didn't you?) the growth spurt and subsequent death throes of the weeds have left some bare patches, so at the beginning of this month we flung some seed down and waited for the sparrows to eat them all.

They haven't. They've been far too busy having dust baths in the front flowerbed, which is currently resting before being planted up.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, reseeding the lawn. The other downside is that we can't really mow the lawn until the bald patches have seeded up a bit (10 to 14 days). We mowed it really short just before we seeded it. On Saturday, a week after a very short mow, I measured it.

3 inches.

I kid you not.

Heaven knows what Green Thumb have treated it with, but at the rate it's growing, we will lose Stella in it sometime this week.

So why postal rage?

Well, this sudden growth spurt means the grass is long enough to leave tell-tale signs when the postie walks across the lawn because he is too lazy to go back down the drive and round the garden (we live on a corner plot and the next house is some yards behind us - obviously the 30 seconds he saves cutting across the lawn is vital).

This is one of A's particular bug bears. He is currently toying with a couple of ideas to stop this transgression - either blocking the gap between house and shrubs with a berberis (very prickly) or with anti-personnel mines. I think the second is a little drastic, but it's currently his favourite option.

And me?

Well, it narks me a little too, but then every now and again, the postie will do something to redeem himself in my eyes, as he did today...

with a parcel from my Secret Pal, which he posted through the cat flap. So you mean to say your postie doesn't?

So, squeals of excitement all round, although not, I suspect, from the cats. Especially Lilly, who greeted me outside the front door with a particularly hacky look...

Wanna see what I got?

Some gorgeous yarn in a lovely combination of blues and greens that can't really be appreciated via a monitor.

The green is much more vibrant in real life. There was also an interesting box ...

...that was full of...

..stitchmarkers, made by my secret pal in green and purple.

There are 26 and I'm not sure what they are made from, but they aren't just glass beads, it looks like she has made them with Fimo or something similar. And they're glittery! (appeals to my inner princess...)

And what was in the bubble wrap, I hear you cry?

Well, something I adore but just can't get here...

If I don't blog for a while it's because I'm overdosing on Peanut Butter Cups ... mmm.... mmmm...

Thank you SP, what a brilliant parcel!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Whaddya mean it's not Wednesday?

I did take these photos earlier in the week for WIP Wednesday, but never got to them....

First up is Pondemonium, which stopped at this point last weekend, as I was waiting for the next blue background colour which is being discontinued by Rowan. However, it arrived later this week, so last night I made some more progress on it and have started on the frogs. It's still puckering slightly, but I'm easing and tight stitches out as I go and hopefully it will be OK. bearing in mind I am knitting the 18 month size for a child who hasn't yet made 7 months old, I figure I have enough time to frog the whole thing if need be (and enough yarn to redo if I can't rescue it - it's really quite quick to knit)

Here's a brand new WIP: another pair of Monkeys! I love this pattern and I love the yarn (LazyKate) , that although they are for my Monkey Swap Pal, I may need to get another skein and knit some myself in it.

The final shot is no longer a WIP, but a FO! Here is Clapotis, in all her glory stretched out over the floor. She is about 70 inches long, so she drapes nicely around my neck without actually strangling me.

I don't have a photo of me modelling her, but here is a close up of the dropped stitch pattern:

Pattern: Clapotis by Kate Gilbert
Yarn: Rowan Tapestry (50 g/121m/131yds, 70% Wool, 30% Soybean Protein Fibre) Shade 172, I used 5 and a bit balls.
Needles: 5mm bamboo straights, swapped to 5mm circs to stuff into a small bag inside a rucksack to take to Scandinavia
Mods: The yarn, although I was very close to gauge. It's probably far fuzzier than the original, so the dropped stitch definition will soften over time. I also did 17 pattern repeats in the middle, not 13, since I had the yarn. I probably could have got another 2 out of it, but I wanted to start decreasing before I came home from my holidays.
Cast On: 30th June
Cast Off: 31st August

She has the distinction of being the only project I have worked on in four different countries!

Soundtrack: How Soon Is Now? -The Smiths; Drowning Me Out - Clear; Grey Gallito - Salsa Celtica; Closer To Fine - Indigo Girls; Fool's Gold - The Stone Roses; For No-one - The Beatles; The Importance of Being Idle - Oasis

Friday, September 07, 2007

I'm Not Dead

Do you know, it's a loooong time since I've seen that film...

Anyway, here I am again, having been chastised for not posting recently (and I don't mean in a cyber way, I mean in a real, told off to my face way - yikes! Good job she has a winning smile!)

So, here's a post especially for SKE.

Boom boom.

However, on reflection, I do have something to say.

18 children in a class is a dream.

Stuff specialist schools and academies, if the government really wants to make a difference to education, limit all class sizes to 20. I'm on top of my marking and record keeping before I have left the building, meaning I can spend evenings thinking about how best to present the next day's lessons or preparing resources or dealing with the co-ordination and management parts of my job that I felt I didn't get to much at all last year.

I must also say thank you to the lovely Lou for the Nice Matters Award:

You don't know how much it means, Lou, thanks so much. I should in turn award it to others, but in terms of niceness, my top vote would go to Lou...

Thinking caps on, chaps...