Sunday, December 31, 2006

memories of the (faux) millennium

Happy New Year (yes, I'm about 5 hours early, but I plan to sleep the New year in, as I'll be at work tomorrow!)

Graham and I saw 2000 in at my shoe-box of a flat in Bar Hill (just outside Cambridge. New Year's Eve isn't the easiest of times for Graham, as Nola (Laura's mother) died on 1 January (about 14 years ago, now). Also, being the pedants that we are, we insist that the 21st-century started on 1 January 2001. And then I found a wonderful book: Time's Tidings, edited by Carol Ann Duffy. This is Duffy's selection of 50 contemporary poems, 25 by men, 25 by women, which touch on the subject of time; and it also contains one "old" poem selected by each of the selected contemporary poets.

I bought it so that Graham and I could while the evening away reading poetry to each other. And through it I discovered the work of Gillian Clarke, who is now my favourite poet. If you know my love of sea creatures (whether real, or crocheted), and fossils, and sculpture and hares, you'll understand why this poem spoke to me:

For Meic Watts, who sculpted the limestone hare.

The Stone Hare
Think of it waiting three hundred million years,
not a hare hiding in the last stand of wheat,
but a premonition of stone, a moonlit reef
where corals reach for the light through clear waters of warm Palaeozoic seas.
In its limbs lies the story of the earth,
the living ocean, then the slow birth
of limestone from the long trajectories
of starfish, feather stars, crinoids and crushed shells
that fill with calcite, harden, wait for the quarryman,
the timed explosion and the sculptor's hand.
Then the hare, its eye a planet, springs from the chisel
to stand in the grass, moonlight's muscle and bone,
the stems of sea lilies slowly turned to stone.

(I've lifted the poem from here)

I'll just add that after a peaceful evening reading poetry, and detonating a tiny bottle of champagne, we slept, then awoke to the most glorious January day: clear, not a cloud in the sky. We set out along the footpath to Dry Drayton churchyard,(where Graham spent a few quiet minutes remembering Nola), then walked on to Madingley. It was so warm that we had to peel our coats off, and we laughed to think of the many poor souls who were probably still sound asleep. the only other person we saw was a cyclist, and the only sound was a woodpecker drumming on the trunk of a tree in the grounds of Madingley Hall. As we returned to Dry Drayton the bell ringers were playing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", so we were lured in to the Millennium service there. And on the way out I was embraced by the vicar!

And now: felting news! The "sack" shrank rather more than I expected but it is beautiful. Whilst I never make New year's resolutions, I do write lists of things I'd like to achieve in the coming year. Since about 1998 I've been writing "learn to crochet". In 2005 I finally picked up that art of granny squares (thanks to Jan Eaton's wonderful book on crochet blocks) and 2006 is the year that I've really gained confidence. Hmm, what shall I aim for in 2007?

Once again: Happy New year!

festive interlude

Well, there's nothing like working in a gift shop for making the festive season seem simultaneously never-ending (Christmas merchandise arrives in later summer) and over in the blink of an eye.

But what a wonderful day we had on 25 December! Blogger appears to be eating my pictures again (boo, third day in a row)so I'll have to paint with words. Christmas Eve found our tree looking more picturesque than ever, as Laura wraps all our parcels using scraps of silk and organza and ties them with ribbons and braids. And Graham and I had wrapped all our gifts in one of those wonderful packs of tissue paper that contains several shades of every colour under the rainbow. We were all thoroughly spolit by each other and by our family and friends. I don't think I've had this much fun unwrapping pressies since I was about 6! Highlights for me were some sumptuous yarn hand-dyed by Liz, a wonderful parcel of all sorts of knitterly goodies from my secret pal (I really must persevere with getting the photos to upload) and lots of crochet-inspired items (book, hooks, calendar) from Graham and Laura. Graham also got me England in Particular, and those who know me well won't be surprised to hear that opening the book for the very first time, completely at random, there was the entry on cider!

And speaking of cider, we come to the crowning glories, the wonderful feast that Laura cooked (featuring onion and champagne soup, followed by a pie of vegetables braised in a cider and cream sauce) and the present that was so exciting that we saved it until after lunch, just so that we could keep looking at it. To explain. A very large, brown box turned up at our house on 22 December. On 23 December my sister, brother-in-law and nieces arrived and (hidden away in the spare room) proceeded to remove something from the box, fill it with lots of mystery parcels, then seal it back into the box. Thus on 25 December we opened the box, to find a bright green wicker picnic hamper filled to overflowing with brightly-coloured parcels and topped off with one of those Alan Dart knitted gnomes, clucthing a home-made cracker. My younger niece, who knows how much I love knitted toys, and how little I love knitting them myself, purchased the gnome at her school bazaar)! When we finally opened the parcels we found wines (which were not only South African and Fairtrade, but organic, too), cider (which hasn't lasted long), Green & Blacks chocolate, very special grissini, home-made chutney, locally-gathered walnuts and a Lindt chocolate reindeer (I swear that this is a Lindt chocolate bunny in drag!).

What a rambling entry this is! But I'm trying to take my mind off the fact that I have an (almost) FO felting away in the washing machine at the moment. And not just any FO, oh no. For the first time in my life I have followed a crochet pattern. And so, tumbling and turning and spinning in the hotpoint we have a "deliberate shrinkage sack" from Not Your Mama's Crochet (one of my pressies from Graham) made from Kureyon using one of the Brittany crochet hooks G gave me. I didn't quite get gauge and I managed to seam one side right sides together and the other wrong sides (that's a design feature, ahem) but so far, so good. Right time to be brave: off to the machine to see if I still have a "sack" or just a mess of felted yarn!

Deep breaths...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

uncannily accurate

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Cripes! How did they suss the PhD bit out? (Not that I've any intnetion of ever finishing the wretched thing). Thanks to Lyndsey-Jane for her link to this quiz.

Friday, December 15, 2006

wonders of winter

The sky took my breath away this morning: inky indigo shot through with reds and pinks. I vowed that when I got to the bus stop I'd stand with my back to the road, soaking up the beauty of the sky. Only then I turned and got fixated on the crescent moon, then finally I glanced across the road to the field opposite (a rather tatty bit of fallow ground) and blinked in disbelief. There was a barn owl flying low, quartering the field in search of delicacies (aka rodents). The wide expanse of sand-coloured wings and round white face were unmistakable. Got a full 5 minutes of watching in before the bus arrived. What a start to the day!

The journey home was fun, too, as not only was a friend from the village on the bus, but I also got to wave at Liz (take a look at her Molly Dancing Angel!), who was waiting for her bus home.

I'm still excited about the owl. I've heard them nearby recently but didn't expect to see one. (Having said that, I finally saw a green woodpecker on our driveway a fortnight ago, and had been hearing that ever since we moved in 4 years ago!)

Meantime, am being seriously confused by blogger, which keeps urging me to migrate to some new version, but then insists that I can't because my blog is too baffled.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

St Lucy's Day

Today is St Lucy's Day, giving me the excuse to post one of my very favourite poems: John Donne's Nocturnall Upon St Lucie's Day, composed before 1582 (and the Julian calendar reform) when 13 December was the longest day. It is a mourning poem, at once depressing yet beautiful. (Mind you, what first made me fall in love with St Lucy's Day was watching Blue Peter back in the 60s, when they showed footage of little Scandinavian girls celebrating St Lucy's Day as a festival of light, wearing crowns of greenery and candles, and it looks as if alan Dart, who designs knitted toys, was impressed, too, see his pattern for the latest edition of Simply Knitting!)

by John Donne

'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucie's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death - things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death-which word wrongs her-
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

Meanwhile, today is late night shopping night at work, so even though St Lucy's Day is no longer the solstice, and therefore the longest day of the year, it might just feel like it for me! At least I'm not working all day. Hope to finish my crocheted scarf for Ma and to get knitting a scarf for Dad (I've some Noro Silk Garden in surprisingly restrained shades of brown and grey which will be perfect).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

oh wow

For all my obsession with sea creatures (real and crocheted) and slug genitalia, I've never really stopped to think about sea slugs, but now this pattern in the new Knitty has given me a new passion (like I've got time for passion!).


Before getting onto the main subject of this post,please, is there anyone out there who can tell me what possessed me to work in retail? Remind me that I *love* my job. Thank you! (Think the 60-hr weeks in the run-up to Giftmas are getting to me...)

Well, from crotchety to crochet. It is official, I'm addicted. Since E-J made me marvellous stitch markers (see my blog entry on 3 September!) which stop my work unravelling when in transit, I've discovered that it is easier to crochet on the bus each morning than it is to knit. Queue the maddest of curly whirly scarves, made using Rowan Tapestry (NB no rowan never did get back to me re the provenance of the soy content!) and my new Brittany crochet hook. Don't think I've had so much yarny fun for years. Edgar is no longer my true love! Even my lovely husband has been captivated by the shape of the scarf ("it looks like sea creatures") and he asked where I'd got the "magnificent" hook. As a result, this year's letter to Father Xmas (which resides on the fridge door), which initially said (unimaginatively) "Dear Santa, this year I'd like 36hrs/day" now has the following items added: Annie Modesitt's crochet pattern a day desk calendar, Not Your Mama's Crochet (Amy Swenson) and Brittany crochet hooks in an assortment of sizes. (er, does Father Xmas read blogs?)

Back to my hooking!

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Which reindeer are you?

You're Dancer! You are agile, graceful, and can bend in ways no one thought possible.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Xmas shopping

ZZZZZZzzzzzz. Ooops, just dozed off at the keyboard again, sorry. Things are finally hotting up at the Wonderful World of Retail so, on my day off on Tuesday, I thought it was high time that I did my own Christmas shopping. Here's what I bought: a 5mm Britanny Crochet hook (for me), some yarn (for me), some tissue paper (to wrap gifts for my SP), a novel (for me), 3 candles (for a relative who may actually read this!, some tights (for me) and 2 cuddly monkeys (for me). Didn't I do well? Since then I've bought some really exciting stuff that I'm not going to blog about.

After my very self-indulgent shopping trip I headed off the Cambridge Blue for a KTog. I quickly decided to ease my conscience by getting to work on a curly whirly scarf using the hook and yarn I'd just purchased. So that's one Xmas gift well underway. I also decided that the monkeys just couldn't be left languishing in a plastic bag, so I hooked their paws together (they have velcro pads on their paws) and wore them slung arouhd my neck. Good job nobody had a camera... The monkeys are now happily swigning from the wardrobe door in our bedroom. I'll get some pictures within the next few days.

I'm off to grab some sleep now, ready for another dose of festive cheer tomorrow.