Friday, April 25, 2008


Feeling too ouchy to crochet today, I realised that I could no longer postpone the inevitable. Whilst I love shopping for books and yarn, I abhor shoping for clothes and footwear. One of my feet has a deformed toe joint and my chunky limbs defy all but the most generous cuts. Oh, and speaking of cuts, I also realised that my hair had grown from birdsnest into haystack. So I set out into town with a traumatic day ahead of me. Agenda: have hair pruned, buy 2 pairs trousers, one pair comfy shoes, one sensible frock, with long sleeves.

Quivering with terror, I went to Hairy Canary (the only place in Cambridge that can cope with curly and wavy hair) and booked the only slot they had left: 5pm. The terror, I should point out, is caused by their prices, rather than their cuts! But this left me with 5 hours to fill. I did the best thing possible and went on a lunch crawl: a tasty baguette in a favourite cafe; a Chelsea Bun from Fitzbillies(eaten on Laundress Green) and a lemon tea in the coffee bar at the Grad Pad. The view from there is always beautiful but today my eye was caught by two ladies crossing the bridge on Silver Street: each was wearing a purple jacket and a red hat. Does that combination ring any bells for you? I immediately thought of Jenny Joseph's "Warning":

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.

and decided that here were two women out for a day's anarchy. I stuck my head back into the paper I was reading (you can tell how keen I was to get the clothes shopping done!). Imagine my surprise and glee when, 15 mintues or so later, I saw another half dozen ladies dressed in purple, with red hats, congregating beside Queens' College. Suddenly, a dozen more appeared, one of whom was quite clearly a rebel, daring to wear a red ensemble with a purple hat. Then an entire coach load arrived, one of whom (total renegade) was in a red skirt, purple hat and leopardskin print jacket! All appeared to be post retirement age. As even more ladies in purple and red arrived I decided I had to rush over to Queens' to see what was going on.

By the time I reached silver Street, the ladies were posing for photos, with the Mathematical Bridge directly behind them. One held a banner aloft. I could only read the first word: "fiery", I'm guessing that the other word was women. The ladies then processed across the bridge, heading for the college hall. They were, alas, too far away for me to get a good picture, but I had to try:

I shot round to the tourists' entrance, flashed my University Card (to avoid having to pay £2 admission) and asked the ladies manning the gate if they knew what was going in. All they could tell me was that there was a big dinner going on. Of course, since I was in no hurry to do any clothes shopping, I took the opportunity to explore the college grounds.

Mind you, even a Uni Card can't get you into the Fellows' Garden: college members only. Hmm, I wonder what those ladies in red and purple thought, and whether they dared enact the line about picking flowers in other people's gardens?

Here's the poem in full:


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Eventually I had to cave in and go shopping. And, whilst I spent plenty, I still don't have any trousers, comfy shoes or sensible frock. But I do have a sparkly skirt and some heels to wear with them! Oh well, I get paid again in a month's time. Now I must go and practice my spitting.*

*I bet I'll do better at that than spinning. I have two bobbins full of disaster waiting to be plied, once the ouching eases...

EDITED TO ADD: Thanks to Ambermoggie for pointing me to the Red Hat Society web pages: it was their Grand Eastern Gathering!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

this week's crop

Thanks for all the kind thoughts about my achey hands etc. As you can see, things have been much better this week:

Four crocheted, felted "sea anemone" storage pots, using various shades of Twilleys Freedom Spirit

Fifteen crocheted brooches, using oddments of yarn (mainly DK), some handpaitned by me. Not sure that the yellow yarn works with the colours I've used with it!

But I'm wondering whether I've overdone the crocheting, as I managed to drop a cup of iced tea all over myself at Cambridge Botanical Gardens this morning. Oh well, at least it was iced tea and not hot! And at least I didn't slip over on the stepping stones like one unfortunate person whom we saw. Happily he didn't get too wet... And then there was the poor grandmother who'd lost her grandson. Just as she disappeared from sight, we heard her grandson calling her. So Graham set off in one direction, I ran in the other and, eventually, everyone was reunited. I forgot to take my camera with me so here, instead, is a rare picture of me, one which Graham took a year ago today in the Botanical Gardens in Durban, South Africa:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

meeting the magician

I think that the last time I went to see a magician was about 1973, when I saw Ali Bongo at the King's Lynn Festival. All that I can remember of his act is that he made sausage dogs out of balloons; impressive, but scarcely sleight of hand, and certainly not magical. I adore the French word for conjourer--prestidigitateur--which reveals those cunning digits that perform the "magic". And I love the scenes in Cranford that involve the conjurer. (I'm not sure whether or not they made it into the BBC adaptation; if they did, they were in the episode that I missed).

Yesterday, however,I encountered magic of a very different, awe-inspiring kind; and in the most unexpected of places: a maths lecture. (Though maybe the truly unexpected thing is that I should be anywhere in the vicinity of a maths lecture. I think the sigh of relief when I completed my final GCE 'O' level maths paper in 1976 could be heard throughout Norfolk).

I want to try to explain what happened yesterday, but it still seems inexplicable, so please bear with me if I offer you a rather garbled account. (And apologies for the absence of photots, I forgot my camera).

Let me begin with why I was (suddenly) taking an interest in maths... Kettle's Yard is currently the venue for an exhibition about the areas where art and science meet and a friend (waves to Ann, blogless) had tipped me off that some of Dr Daina Taimina's hyperbolic crochet would be on show. Then I discovered that Dr Taimina would be giving a talk and spread the word to fellow KToggers. I was rather scared, to say the least, that the lecture would be all maths and no crochet. (Actually, I might not have gone but I had a bagful of yarn tht I needed to deliver to Ann). So you can imagine my relief when the curator introduced my magician by saying to all assembled "I don't suppose that you imagined that the next hour will be about crochet" (or words to that effect). Dr Taimina, however, quickly spotted that at least 5 of the crowd HAD come in search of crochet, and kept referring to us as "the artists".

So where was the magic? It was in straight lines of yellow yarn, worked in running stitch along crocheted hyperbolic shapes (work with regular increases that occur so frequently that the work will buckle, rather than rest flat). In traditional geometry, working on flat surfaces, the interior angles of a triangle will add up to 180 degrees. But the sum of the angles is far, far smaller on the hyperbolic plane. It was amazing to see such tiny angles, yet sides so obviously forming triangles. Indeed, if you could stretch the sides to infinity, the sum of the angles would be zero. (Needless to say, Dr Taimina has not done quite that much crochet!)

But what has left me speechless is the grid. If, on a flat piece of paper, you have lines crossing each other at 90 degree angles, all regularly spaced, you get a square (graph-paper-style) grid). But do the same on a hyperbolic surface and right-angled pentagons appear. I'm still not sure that I believe my eyes, nor even that I've absorbed the information correctly. Now that is magic!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I'm back!

Sorry about the recent silence; I've had rather a lot of pain in my neck/elbows/hands recently and it got so bad that I decided to go for at least a week without any knitting, crocheting or typing. Of course, having rested, things did get better but after my knitting and crochet fast I've been going overboard and the pain is back again. Grr. I'm going to take things gently and then if that doesn't work I'll hie me to an osteopath. Needless to say, with my hands so still I've been quite crotchety (makes a change from the crochet, I suppose) but I've been enjoying day trips by bus to Ely (a favourite haunt) and, for the first time ever to Saffron Walden, pictured below.

As you can see, Mr Caught Knitting came along to Saffron Walden, too. We had a fabulous time. So many medieval buidlings to admire, some extraordinary shops (one sells second hand books and bric-a-brac, I stepped back from some bookshelves and nearly collided with three long wooden poles, £35 each, which originally came from a four poster bed)and The Fry Gallery which is a must-see if, like me, you've loved Edward Bawden's work ever since childhood and fell in love with a Ravilious lemonade set about 10 years ago... The landscape around Saffron Walden is far more undulating than my usual haunts.
I've also taken the train to Norwich again, with members of the KTog crew KTog crew)

Here they are with their swag from Norfolk Yarn (full story here). I've finally realised that the best way to avoid being in a group shot is to be the person taking the photo!

When not out and about I've guzzled several novels (including some great secondhand finds, by long-time favourite authors like Elizabeth Goudge and Elizabeth Pewsey, who are so different from each other. Goudge's novels are decidedly moral--though not without their moral dilemmas-- but Pewsey writes about a bunch of upper-middle class bedhoppers with extravagent names: Quinta, Finella, Sylvester...).

Mentioning books reminds me that I've signed up for a very intriguing swap on Zoe's blog: the idea is that you select a novel that mentions knitting and was written before 1960, make a bookmark and use it to mark the page that mentions knitting then enclose some other little treats.