Friday, November 28, 2008

why, oh why, didn't I take my camera*?

To Bury St Edmunds today, as I simply had to go to Wibbling Wools to get some yarn for some TSKPs (Top Secret Knitting Projects). And, since Bury St Edmunds must surely have the highest gift shop:population ratio of anywhere on the planet, I also planned to succeed at Christmas Shopping. (NB, most of said shops are a touch too frou-frou for my liking but some of them are brilliant). None of this screamed "take the camera!" at me, so I didn't...

Mistake! Within seconds of leaving the bus, I heard the words "Red Hat Society", looked up and, sure enough, there was a sea of elderly ladies dressed in purple, with red hats.. They were moving towards a veritable landmass of similarly-dressed ladies. I remember being utterly stunned when I first saw them congregating in Cambridge earlier this year!

Red Hat ladies at Queen's College, Cambridge, Spring 2008

Oh well. Photo opportunity missed but, what the heck, on with the shopping. I began at the council-run Art Gallery, always a good bet for an interesting exhibition, as well as fabulous gifts and cards. I scored a direct hit (oh, yes), not only finding something that a gallery in Cambridge had promised (and failed) to find me, but also finding it for less money. Result!

Buoyed-up, I headed down the hill to Wibbling Wools, pausing only to be astonished by the enormous crowds of shoppers. Think December Saturdays in Oxford Street and you'll get the idea. Weird. Getting closer to Wibbling Wools, the crowds grew thicker and I could hear jazz over a PA system. Then I caught sight of stalls and carousels on Angel Hill. A Christmas Market, I'd found a Christmas Market. (If any of you have ever heard me squealing with excitement, do, please, insert relevant sound effects here).

But first, there were TSKPs (Top Secret Knitting Projects) to be attended to, though I did stop to look at the "genuine Victorian" Galloping Horses roundabout where I was rather amused to note horses with positively 20th/21st century names like "Kelly" and "Dionne-Lauren" as well as the more traditional "Elsie" and "Joan". I was very, very tempted to take a spin but then realised that it just wouldn't be the same when you've nobody to wave to as you whizz round. Resolve strenghtened, I entered Wibbling Wools and realised that, truly, I had found Paradise. Purchasing materials for the TSKPs was a positive delight.

Off, then, to view the Christmas Fair. It wasn't quite up to the standard of those I saw in Vienna last year; here the range of things on sale reminded me very much of the sort of stalls that you get at County Shows, etc, but many stallholders were in Victorian dress and, despite the cold drizzle, spirits were high. (I could see rather a lot of mulled wine being quaffed). There was a French market where, somehow, I resisted the many delicacies on offer. There were stalls in the Abbey Gardens and the jazz trio I'd heard earlier turned out to be playing in the Abbey Gateway. Back to Angel Hill and walking further along towards the Cathedral I found some craft stalls, where several purchases were effected. And then I saw the highlight: the "Living Nativity" near the entrance to the Cathedral Refectory. No more Victorian dress, here were kings and shepherds with sheep (real) and donkeys (real) leading us to a stable (recreated) populated with more donkeys (real) and llamas (real). It was breathtaking. Why, oh why, didn't I have my camera*?

After all this excitement I needed food and cider, so headed to the Mason's Arms (which Liz and I discovered a few months ago). Yum (and hic!). (Eavesdropping on the many Christmas Fair-goers I gathered that many of them had come by coach from all over East Anglia). After lunch, on to the the Corn Exchange for more Christmas stalls and a recital of carols--some in sign language-- from a local school.

Finally I thought I'd better go and pay Rendell's Yarns a visit. Oh dear. Regia 6-ply in Kaffe Fasset colours, calling out to be another TSKP (one I wasn't even planning). This purchase necessitated a return trip to Wibbling Wools (what a shame) for a set of Britanny 3.5mm dpns followed by a determined I-will-not-buy-anything-else march to the bus station.

The bus journey was long (70 minutes) and slow, but how I wish I'd had my camera. As we left Newmarket the sky was ablaze. No painting could have captured this sunset, though maybe some dichroic glass might have captured the scintillation.

All in all: a most productive trip.

* and why didn't I have my camera? The batteries are flat and Mrs Meanie (aka me) has been too mean to replace them. That'll learn me (as we Norfolkians say).

Monday, November 24, 2008

How (not) to Shop for the Festive Season

Today must be my least successful round of present buying ever. I headed off into town with vague ideas about what to get for whom. I walked through town rejecting each and every idea. And I failed to find any alternatives...

Back to the drawing board!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Banksy strikes again!

Banksy's knitting (though ungrammatical) grannies made me smile!

And it looks as though there could be rather a lot of knitted tags appearing in Cambridge soon, with the news that Magda Seyeg, aka knittaplease, will be hitting The Shop in the New Year.

Meantime, I leave you with a picture of (part) of the birthday cake my nieces made for my should have seen it when the candles were blazing!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Thanks to everybody who sent such kind and thoughtful messages about poor old Jiminey; we miss her but at least we've got past the stage where every time the (new)boiler switches itself we think we can hear Jimbles coming in through the cat flap: the two sounds were so alike.

I've been rather busy since my last post: learning the ropes at my new job (I love it!); teaching modular knitting to a wonderful bunch of spinners, weavers and dyers; making more brooches and scarves for the Country Market stall (though my sales have ground to a halt, so I'm doubly relieved to have a "proper" job again, albeit just for a few weeks).

Now I've gone down with some lurgy or other. I took myself off to the spare room last night, in the hope that at least Graham would get a good night's sleep. Somewhere in the small hours I was woken by somebody talking to me. Nobody was there, but I heard thumps and bumps coming from the garage. I realised it must be burglars and (very bravely, I thought) locked the door that connects the garage to the hallway, then went upstairs to wake Graham and ask him to confront the burglars (note how limited my bravery reserves are). He felt my forehead, rolled his eyes and then, gamely, came downstairs with me, and we proceeeded to check not just the garage, but every possible hidey hole in the entire house. No burglars. We both headed back to our respective beds. An hour or so later: thump! I screamed. "Get out burglars, go away." (Why can I never find any swear words when they might be appropriate?) This time the "burglars" groaned and "they" turned out to be poor old Graham, in the kitchen making himself hot chocolate, as he (unlike me) had been unable to get back to sleep after the first batch of burglars. (OOps).

Back to sleep. Except now there was a motorbike crunching all over the gravel outside the front of our house. I opened the window of my room and croaked "go away", very crossly. But neither the man with the motorbike, nor the two men who were banging the garage door would go away. I'd had enough at this point, and thought I'd better call the police. Decided it didn't merit a 999 call, so went off to find the 'phone directory. To my horror, though, even though I'd gone to the study to fetch the thing, I was suddenly back in my bed. And then I'd realised that I'd woken up, this time had just been a nightmare: oh, the relief.

Next time I woke up was about 8am, so the burglars had obviously gone home. Today I just feel like a puppet that has had all its strings cut but at least yesterday's awful hot and cold, shivering and sweating has gone. I've cancelled all engagements for today and tomorrow, and am hoping to have a burglar-free night.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

endings, beginnings...

Just back from a wonderful week in Devon (with my sister, brother-in-law, nieces and their dog). Looking forward eagerly to my birthday (tomorrow: I'm an All Souls Day girl, unlike my late grandmother, who was born on All Saints day) and to starting my new job (temporary,very few hours, low pay but it is in a bookshop: yay!)on Tuesday.

But, as another year turns, I came home to a rather forlorn household: Graham and Laura (his daughter) had to take our beloved Jiminey Cricket to the vet's this morning, and her spirit left this life at about 9.40am... She was 17.5 years old, quite an age for a cat, and will be sorely missed. She was a shy cat and the most gentle creature I've ever encountered (though Graham, too, is a very gentle soul). I'll never forget the first day I let her out of the house here in Girton, about 8 days after we moved here. She vanished for almost 12 hours and I got the nasty feeling that she wouldn't be coming back, that I'd have to 'phone Graham (in South Africa) and Laura (in Luton) to tell them that I'd lost their cat... then I heard the most extraordinary keening sound and little miss puus was there on the lawn, busily torturing a mouse. I knew then that she'd be happy in this new home, with her newly enlarged family which suddenly contained me, as well as those she knew and loved. Darling Jimbles (Minx, Little Miss, Snoof Cat, Squeaklepuss, Prooples, Jimbulatories, Squeaky Girl, Pumpkin): you'll be sorely missed.

With the reality slowly sinking in, I've just been to unpack my bags and, as I went to place my laundry in the washing machine I've discovered, to my horror, that the garage is underwater again! This time we know its not the washing machine. It might be that water has seeped in under the garage door as the rain has been lashing in that direction, rather than flooding the back garden, as it usually does (but flooding the garage to a depth of a quarter to half an inch, though? Hmm, am not convinced.) Poor Graham thought I was joking when I called out to him. Most of the things we store in there are up on raised platforms after the last flood. We're going to sleep on the problem. Now I must wash my hair, slathering on tons of conditioner: my poor sister has just 'phoned to say that she has just discovered that she has nits and I'm taking no chances.

Life, eh?