Wednesday, May 28, 2008

musical interlude

No, this is NOT an angry rant about the outcome of I'd Do Anything! (If you haven't followed the series, then you really won't be interested. If you have, well let's just say that I think John Barrowman and Denise Van Outen are lousy judges. Jessie was robbed thanks to their malign influence over an undirscriminating public. Jodie certainly does consistent, but oh so bland and cheesy. I won't pay to go and see her. I love Oliver, so Jessie--or, indeed, Sarah or even Rachel, would've been different...). Oh dear, I appear to have given my rant. Moving swiftly on...

Glancing through the Fitzwilliam Museum programme recently, I was thrilled to spot a lunchtime harpsichord recital. My mother adores harpsichords and I share her love so I suggested that she and Dad join me and Graham there. The programme was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arnold Dolmetsch
If, like me, you played the recorder during schooldays, you may well be more familiar with the work of his son, Carl Frederick, who compiled lots of recorder books for schools. Needless to say, the programme had a real "early music" flavour. And we loved it! (Though I was surprised to notice Ma's nose wrinkle up at one point, only to have my nostrils assailed seconds later. Still, I suppose that afflaetus causes less disruption to a concert than coughing or nose blowing...)

After such a treat I found myself at quite a loose end the following day (both Graham and his daughter are in deep in the throes of academic masterworks at the moment and both of them wanted to use the computer; it was one of those "I'm outta here" moments!) So I headed off to Ely, planning an idle day of rootling through the antiques centre and the market stalls. But I found myself drawn to the cathedral. (No, not the stirrings of Christian sentiment in my breast, just the call of an ancient monument and the joy of sacred space, no matter to whom--or what--it is dedicated). And as I went in I spotted a small notice advertising a choral recital later that afternoon. I had no idea what the programme would be but, as the admission charge was merely a donation on the way out (if you see what I mean) I decided to give it a go.

What serendipity. The acoustics in the Lady Chapel are bizarre: you will be flummoxed by even the clearest of diction, yet you can tell preciesly which singer is making which sound. You can differentiate bewteen each alto, each tenor. As the choir launched into Palestrina my spine tingled, and the hairs of my arms stood on end. As they moved into Peter Philips' ascendit deus, a praticular favourite of mine, there were tears in my eyes. That was the absolute high point but the rest of the programme was inspired: a couple of Victorian church pieces, it is true, but alos Britten's Hymn to St Cecelia; an e.e. cummings poem and, to conclude an American spiritual arranged by Bob Chilcott.

The performance, by the University of London Chamber choir, was outstanding and the Lady Chapel just amazing. If you've never been it is a cavernous space with white walls, flooded with light from windows largely devoid of stained glass. It is a wounded space, ravaged by Cromwell's followers who erased faces on the many little human figures carved round the sides, but it reamins triumphant. Cromwell's men left the grotesques carved above the friezes and the focal point is a modern, very sexy, statue of Mary (by David Wynne) looking anything but demure and virginal. Her hair is impossibly golden, her complexion improbably fair, her hips sashay (surely she is dancing) and, whilst her eyes are looking down (with token modesty)her nipples, pointing heavenwards, defy gravity!

It was, truly, an unforgettable afternoon. (The music so sublime that I couldn't face watching I'd Do Anything that evening, preferring to let the dying notes of the last piece echo around my brain).

What an extraordinary gift that recital was. Maybe concerts-- like buses (and men, but that's another story)--come along in twos.

How not to tidy your desk...(secret diary of a procrastinator aged 47 and a half...)

1. Start on Friday by removing large piles of paper and stacking them precariously on the floor so that the desk at least looks tidy and so that step daughter can use the desk and computer over the weekend. Promise spouse (and self) that it will be your number-one-top-proirity-no-excuses-made way to spend your next day off. (Today, Wednesday!).

2. Oversleep on Wednesday and wake up with slight headache. Decide to read in bed for a while to see if headache goes. It doesn't, so try sleeping a bit longer... That doesn't work, and time now nearly 10am, so try shower. Slight improvement. Sort laundry and put first load in washing machine.

3. Decide that it would be a very good idea to check through all email accounts, ravelry, friends' blogs etc in case any replies are needed. Explain to spouse that this is really urgent and, anyway, it would be much easier to tidy desk whilst he is out teaching this afternoon, thus giving me entire run of study. (He can be so gullible). Unload washing and spread over clothes horses as sky looks so grey.

4. Brainwave! If I have an early lunch then I will have lots of afternoon to do tidying in. After lunch, realise that there is lots of afternoon stretching ahead of me, and thus decide that it wouldn't harm to have a bit of a break before tidying starts. Catch up with the serials in People's Friend (people don't believe me when I tell them that this is my favourite magazine, but just remove my watch from me sometime, and you'll see that its a prize from their "Love Darg" in 2000). Something in People's Friend reminds me of something I want to google for. In reflex action I accidentally log in to ravelry and go blog hopping. Discover rather intriguing quiz, but am shocked by result:

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Horrors! I am sensible and boring. Now feel even less like tidying desk, in case I live up to quiz's utter misdiagnosis.

Think I'll begin by removing all distracting craft materials/projects from study. Might help if computer is moved to another room, too. Suspect main problem lies in the fact that most of the "compost" on my desk is unclassifiable. Feel like crying. Admit to self that real literary heroine is Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Most particularly in the chapter called "I Won't, said Mary!"

Help! Anyone got any handy hints on how to make tidying painless (nb please do not say "regular filing"). Oh, and there is a very tempting sticky choc cake in the kitchen but spouse has taken careful note of its dimensions and will know if I cave in...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Five Things Meme

I've been tagged by Wibbo, so here goes:

The Rules

Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

1. What I was doing 10 years ago:

Living in a student room at Essex University, where I was immersed in a Master's Degree which had the most off-putting title: MA Literature (Women Writing). I was also busy getting divorced, but managed to keep my sanity by regularly hopping on buses/trains to Essex coastal towns. I'd just discovered a rather wonderful yarn shop in Clacton (Bowen & Wallace; they've no web page but were at 72 Pier Avenue and were staffed by real enthusiasts). I'd also just purchased a lovely wicker hamper which was rapidly filling up with stash.

2. What 5 things are on on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

Hmm, well, there are things I probably should have done today (rounded up papers for tax return; laundry; tidied living room; sorted through toppling tower of books to decide which ones could go off to Oxfam/Amnesty and planted the runner bean plants a neighbour has given us). BUT both Graham and his daughter are writing to deadlines at the moment (L is finishing her PhD diss on animals in Southern African Fiction; G is working on a paper for a forthcoming conference on Geoffrey Hill) so I decided that the best thing to do was to go out for the day. So here are 5 things that I actually did do today: travelled though the fens by bus (Stagecoach services 12 and 9); paid my first-ever visit to Ely Museum; paid my umpteenth visit to Ely Cathedral (where I got to hear the most amazing recital in the Lady Chapel...more of that in another post); treated myself to ribbons and buttons; cooked a lentil, vegetable and potato bake.

3. Snacks I enjoy:

Twiglets, blueberry yoghurt raisins, crystallised ginger, oatcakes with peanut butter or with cheddar cheese and chutney; dark choc.

4. Things I would do if I was a billionaire:

Travel the UK and then world (picking up as many knitting, crochet and spinning tips as possible, not to mention a truly global stash) and fund education projects for women all over the world.

5. Places I have lived:

Liverpool (until I was almost 4 years old); King's Lynn (for the rest of my childhood); Manchester (utterly disastrous stab at a degree in Medieval Studies); Bromsgrove (living at my aunt and uncle's for a year, whilst doing a secretarial diploma...I failed most of that, as well!); New Malden (London commuting days); St Albans (whilst there I actually managed to get a degree from the University of Hertfordshire); Wivenhoe (got that MA!) and a couple of locations on the outskirts of Cambridge (Where I started, but abandoned, aPhD). (Hmm, this appears to have turned into "places where I have studied!")

Well, that was the easy bit. Now I've got to think of people to tag. Trouble is, I think lots of people have done this meme already, but I'm going to suggest Siret; Susie; Lyndsay-Jane; Linda and Heather...

Friday, May 23, 2008

UK Swap (Round 2 questionnaire)

I've decided to take part in Round 2 of the UK Swap, so here's the questionnaire...

Part One: Crafting
Do you knit, crochet, or both? both
What do you like to make? quick things, quirky things
Do you have a favourite project? Anything featuring lots of colour and simple crochet stitches. I can cheerfully crochet dozens of corages, pots to felt in the washing machine and ripple stitch scarves.
Do you have a favourite type of fiber or brand of yarn? Noro
Do you have a least favourite type of yarn? Not really, but I don't use much acrylic or fun fur these days!
Do you do any other crafts? I'm learning to spin on my wheel, and I adore acid dyeing yarn. Can also be found turning wool tops into wet felt
Do you knit in public? If so where do you like knitting and what is your "portable" project? Just try and stop me! I go for simple crochet projects (see question re favoruite projects)
What do you carry your "portable" knitting in? A rather excellent small tote bag that a friend got for me at a yarn store in the US
Are there any knitting gifts (book, toy, yarn, item, tool) that you have been lusting over? Nothing leaps to mind at the moment!

Part Two: Your Favourites
What is your favourite colour? Greens of the olivey/khaki/lime/citrus kind.
What is your least favourite colour? Don't have one, but don't really like anything too insipid.
What scents/smells do you like? anything woody, citrusy or mossy and natural scents like rose, geranium and lavender
What don’t you like? that dewberry scent the body shop used to do, yuk, too sweet
How do you like to pamper yourself? (bubble bath, hand creams, massage, manicure)
Decidedly low maintenance, but do enjoy cruelty- free products like Faith in nature bubble bath (seaweed,mmm) and neals yard Cocoa Butter body cream.
What goodies to you like to eat? (chocolate, biscuits, sweets,crisps etc)
Dark choc, cherries, crystallised ginger; blueberry yoghurt coated-raisins; twiglets; those thin strips of dried fruit you can get in health shops.
Do you prefer tea or coffee while you knit? Any particular kind? Totally abhor coffee (yuk); don't mind green tea with lemon; like almost all herb teas (though not so keen on peppermint, unless it is fresh from our garden! Spoiled, or what?) Have also discovered that cider and G&Ts (NB not at the same time as each other) are good accompaniments...
Do you listen to/watch anything while you knit? (TVshow-Along, movies, music, podcasts, audiobooks)Radio 3, Radio 4, music (world, folk, classical), ER (but it really isn't the same without Dr Kovac!)

Part Three: About you, Living & Past-times
If you were a specific kind of yarn, which brand and kind of yarn would you be (and why)? Noro Kureyon: uneven, bit prickly in places, may unravel once in a while, but full of subtle, yet striking colours and inspiration; relaxes beautifully after a soak in bubbles. Am aiming to grow up into Noro Silk Garden: all the aforementioned features but just a little bit sparklier and tougher!
Where do you live in the UK? (General idea not address)East Anglia
Have you always lived here, or did you grow up somewhere else? Grew up 40 miles from where I am now, but spent a couple of decades in other places in between
What is your favourite place in the UK? Torn between Yorkshire and Norfolk. Prefer countryside to towns.
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go? Most of my desired locations are North and/or East
What other hobbies do you have? Walking, picnics, reading, folklore, natural history, history, travelling through the UK by public transport .

Part Four: The Theme
Walking through woodland in August: cool, but with shafts of sunlight coming in; fabulous colours and textures (I'd slipped over in the mud just a couple of minutes before taking this); a river babbling off to the side (the fabulously named Murk Esk!) and the sound of a steam train leaving Grosmont station (we were in the North York Moors, on the outward leg of a round trip from Grosmont to Beck Hole and back again). Note the hyperbolic crochet potential of the bracket fungus and all those gorgeous shades of green.

Final Part:
Any allergies/preferences (fiber-wise or treat-wise)? I love surprises and I like tracking down my upstream pals at the earliest opportunity...
Anything we missed that you’d like your partner to know? I don't think so!

Monday, May 12, 2008

coral in the capital

On Tuesday I took my completed coral reef contributions

and those of fellow KTog members to the Royal Festival Hall and was stunned by the size, range, variety and beauty of things that were being brought in from all over the country. But guess who was so busy being awed by giant crocheted anemone with a central flower made of dozens of non-applicator tampons that she forgot to take photos. (Rhetorical question, you know the answer...) Thank heavens that Yvonne, who went a couple of hours later, was more organised!

Whilst in London, I managed to pay my first-ever visit to I Knit London. And I'm smitten. I was a model of restraint leaving only with a book on spinning, 2 balls of Wensleydale Longwool (DK) and one of those infamous disappearing crochet hooks (of which you have heard far too much this evening). But I'll be back to buy more soon.

the "other place"

It has taken me a while to come to terms with events of Saturday before last, when we caught the cross-country bus service to Oxford (aka "the other place") for a meeting of the Sylvia Townsend Warner Society. It wasn't just the traumatic loss of my favourite crochet hook. It was also the fear of talking to those amongst my fellow Warner enthusiasts who didn't know that I've given up on my PhD thesis on her. I don't mind telling people, nor do I mind their reactions (which range from sympathy to congratulations!), but I still stumble over the inevitable follow-on question: "so what are you doing now, then?" Watch those jaws drop as I reveal that "I work part-time in a small shop to fund my craft activities". I'd love to say "I'm an artist, working in textiles" but I'm not sure I deserve that label, hey ho.
"But surely you're still writing?" Well, yes I am, but I don't think that this blog is quite what is meant...

Despite all this ego-wobbling trauma I did have a great time. Lunch with friends I'd not seen for a couple of years; a concert of pieces composed by STW and of pieces by other composers who had set her words to music; then Graham and I headed off to a pub...

orchard idylls

I've spent the last two Fridays lazing in orchards. This Friday we strolled slowly through Granchester Meadows (currently awash with cow parsley)

to spend a lazy afternoon lolling on deckchairs, whilst sipping lemonade (and eating cake!) in the Orchard Tea Rooms. But it was the Friday before last when we had the "real" orchard experience.

The day didn't start too auspiciously, we spent 2 hours at a total standstill on the infamous A14, but eventually we reached our friend's smallholding, enjoyed some of the cider he'd made from his apples, and soaked up the calm and beauty...

and then used thetastefully lidded, strikingly blue,er, "thunderbox".

Alas, we got to spend less time here (the smallholding, that is, not the thunderbox)than we did on the A14; but what memories...

have hooks, dare I travel?

Yippee. Thanks to the generosity of the super-lovely thereyougothen, I now have a full set of silvalume hooks again. Not only that, I have spares in the all-important 5.5mm and 4.5mm sizes (for pots and ripple scarves, resepctively). Thank you Alison, it wouldn't be exaggerating to say thta you've restored my sanity!

But after last week's misadventures, I'm not sure that I dare go out and about with them. I've actually spent the last few days spinning (pics to follow when I've found my empty memory card) and haven't lost the wheel yet: it's even been to Rampton Spinners Guild, and back again, thanks to another Alison, yarninmypocket , and her car. Now, where did I put that orifice hook?

Friday, May 09, 2008

hyperbolic flowers

I think the staff at the rather lovely Rice Boat must have thought I'd gone mad last week, when I spied this wonderful vase of flowers

and got down on my hands and knees to take cloes-up photos

of these flowers, which just beg to be immortalised in crochet!

Anyone any idea what species they are?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Missing in action...2 x 5.5mm hooks

Sorry to have been so quiet of late. I've taken a few days' hols from work, so watch out soon for an orchard idyll in Norfolk; a visit to The Other Place (aka Oxford)and a capital adventure. Lots of pictures and words to follow.

But in those 3 trips I managed to lose not just one but 2 very precious 5.5mm crochet hooks! As these are the ones from which I make my endless supplies of sea anemone pots, I'm distraught. I do have other hooks but they aren't so good for hands that do overtime.

My beloved Susan Bates silverlume vanished from my lap on the X5 bus...I lay flat on the floor of the bus to hunt for it. I checked the interstices of the interstices of all the seats. But it had fled. I think it must have slid to the front of the bus and escaped when it stopped at Bedford.

Once we arrived in Oxford I had to buy an emergency Pony hook to keep my hands going. Yesterday, though, I visited the fabled I Knit London where I got a magnificent Clover soft touch hook. This got used as Liz and I crocheted and knitted together at the Royal Festival Hall; and again as we did the same on the train back to Cambridge. At Cambridge station, however, I made a fatal mistake. I heard a clatter as I left the station loos. I hunted round, and couldn't see anything, but when I got home I found that I no longer had my lovely new hook...

Curses! Now I'm going to have to use the emergency back-up hook again. (And even that made a break for it at the RFH)