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Archive Entries for May 2007

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Wednesday May 30, 2007

Cool - it's all in the wearing

"It seemed like a good idea at the time"

Here we have lessons (for Becks) in retro-cool from Paul Michael Glaser and ... Action Man.

StarskyHutch3.jpg Beckamcardi.jpg actionman.jpg

And here the master of cool: so young as to be hardly recognisable, and then aged 26 with Stitchcraft aiming to make him look about 40....

Roger1.jpg Roger2.jpg

Posted on May 30, 2007 at 7:20 PM. Category: Knitting.

Tuesday May 29, 2007

People that make a difference.

This evening I attended the memorial service for Helen Hudson - former Dean of Students at Kings College, London, where I studied. When I was interviewed, before I took up life as an undergraduate, she was "Tutor to Women Students" - which I thought charmingly antiquated even at that time. During my first year they changed her title so that she could offer her wisdom to all students regardless of gender (although I think she had been helping chaps just as much as women all along).

During the service I was asked if she had been a "personal friend" - which I had to deny - but thinking about it, she really was a personal friend to all of us, and this was reflected by the large attendance (they had to bring extra chairs into the chapel). The novelist Michael Morpurgo (King's, French & English, 1967) has contributed to an obituary for Helen, published in Church Times, which is worth reading as a synopsis of her interesting life, and illustrates her exceptional kindness.

Visiting the chapel again after all these years brought back lots of good memories, including that of my wedding (which by coincidence was 26 years ago to the day, as it was the Tuesday after the Spring Bank Holiday). I was able to seek out my very own hassock that I had embroidered as part of a group effort for the 150 year anniversary about 30 years ago, while having a good look round and taking in the many changes (including the repositioning of the organ). I did think that I did not remember the new (and I thought rather incongruous) modern stained glass windows - and I was right. The Dean mentioned that he decided to have them installed in 2000 - the originals having been destroyed in the Blitz of the 2nd World War, and replaced by "temporary" plain glass. Helen sponsored two of them - the nicest I think - depicting the two Marys.

The chapel as it appears today was a refurbishment to a new design in 1864, by George Gilbert Scott, (who among many other things designed the Albert memorial); he is very noticeably inspired by Pugin and the chapel is typical Gothic architecture. In 1996 they set about substantially restoring the chapel to Scott's original design, and this is now largely completed (apparently).

Picture from the Illustrated London News, June 26, 1869, (where donations were invited to complete the chapel), showing the original design with the vaulted ceiling (removed in the 1930s), compared with today, showing some of the 19 new windows (the east wall).

chapel.jpg chapel_300.jpg

"Faithful to the balancing of the tradition and the new situation, we commissioned from the renowned artist, Joseph Nuttgens, new window designs to the old topics and to reflect upon the objects of the College in its Charters."
Yes but...
In my opinion however, the windows, though beautiful, just don't fit in.
But (sigh) I accept that we have to move forward.

Posted on May 29, 2007 at 9:45 PM. Category: Days Out.

Monday May 28, 2007

Oxbloods, Swirls, and Bumblebees

I have finished Marble; actually finished knitting it on Friday and it has taken me 3 days to sew it together. Somehow not as I imagined although I can't think why as it is exactly as pictured in the magazine, (though the model did seem a little younger...). I think the marble imagery of my imagination overcame reality; I am thinking Kaffe and I may have had different kinds of marble in mind. Anyway I much enjoyed knitting it, and like wearing it too, so how much better could that be?


A word on the Wool
For anyone considering making it - buy only one ball in every colour, and then more as you need it. It knits up quickly (the double thread turned out not to be very hard to manage), and, as it is mixed up throughout, you should not have a problem with unmatched dye lots. The "main" colour, Cheeky (pink), was quoted as 4 balls and I barely started the third ball - that was for the smallest size - and it is a roomy design so the smallest size was plenty for me at a chubby UK size 12. Had I not already bought the third ball I would have used other colours for the side and neck edging. I needed a second ball of Fennel (green) and Bluebell (blue), both of which barely used but still required.

I bought the recommended Rowan buttons for this top - I believe in following designer's .... designs - even though I suspect they are limited by commercial considerations rather than being able to follow their artistic leanings in some cases. I tried to purchase the shell accessories for "Bonita" only to find no sign of any such thing at the suggested website [this is known as the "Delia Smith" effect in mass marketing]. Anyway - the required buttons for Marble cost over seven pounds (!) - compare with the vintage bargains for "Bliss" at 20p.

Posted on May 28, 2007 at 4:23 PM. Category: Knitting.

Pipe and slippers

This is really a message for Alison. Just to show her that on this occasion my mind was not willfully wandering.

cardigan.jpg Some time ago I mentioned I was thinking of knitting a cardigan, or sleeveless cardigan,for my brother-in-law. I had thought I had read an article in one of the colour supplements saying that mens cardigans were now very fashionable. Alison said this was a mistake and they are the pits; I could not find any trace of the article. Anyway, now it seems, they are so very mainstream as to be featured as a topic on Woman's Hour (today); do "Listen Again" - it was pretty amusing

For my brother-in-law? I fear Alison may be correct. He comes from an era where I doubt he will be able to shake off the Val-Doonican-pipe-and-slippers image. And...Alison? I suggest you contribute to the Woman's Hour messageboard - you are not alone.

AyresArt.jpg Woman's Hour today also introduced me to the art of Gillian Ayres; I'm afraid I was (up until now) ignorant of her and her work. She was interesting to listen to - a radio program is not the best medium to demonstrate art work - but of course it encourages you to find out more, and this could not be much simpler in our multi media world. The WH homepage link above currently shows some of the pictures. Apparently, they are typically very large canvases, which does not come over on a small screen.

Famous or "in"-famous?


Posted on May 28, 2007 at 11:30 AM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Sunday May 27, 2007

Bank Holidays and other wet weekends

On Friday evening, post curry, Rob and I watched a DVD created by one of his video students as course work. It is a "horror" story, containing love, murder, and body parts - all the elements required. Without wishing to be patronising, it was pretty good; most importantly I think it demonstrated an excellent talent for putting the video together to tell the story, which is after all what they were learning. However it made me look up a couple of (interesting) things on the web.

In addition to the short story she had included 2 other chapters on her DVD. Apart from a really nice spoof of "most haunted", she documented a little experiment. Using a night vision camera in the totally dark theatre, she filmed her fellow students experiencing psychic phenomena (or not). In addition to a number of young cynics, the film illustrated an interesting effect called "orbs" which are spots of light with apparently no source - and not visible to the participants at the time. She said she had "researched" the topic and that they are considered to be psychic in origin. Well - I had to follow this up didn't I? and they are indeed an interesting effect - and not entirely well understood or explained (I am thinking more in photographic terms) - but they seem to be part of the "crop circle" mind set, with more written about (what I believe to be) less likely explanations than probable ones.

The second element of her tale which interested me was a slight reference to "cellular memory" - used in her plot really more to be part of her ghost story - perhaps more akin to the "Mummy's Hand" genre than any pretence at a scientific basis. But it did remind me of the Alexander McCall Smith story from the Sunday Philosophy Club series, and again I was prompted to surf the net. [Unfortunately the references I found at the time are all broken links now so you will have to look into it yourself...].

So what a rich vein of intellectual ore the student DVD experience led me to. Quite a contrast to "Treats", the West End play we went to see on Saturday. It was the penultimate performance (matinee) so I feel OK about insulting it. It seemed a very weak topic, which if it had any interest deeper than that portrayed, I have to doubt its political correctness in expressing them - it seemed to imply a superficial view that women prefer rats and that's that. I was reminded strongly of Cowards "Design for Living" and felt the latter a much better play. Can't fault the cast though - which is why we were tempted to go and see it - Billy Piper (came to popular culture/TV fame in Dr Who), Kris Marshall (My Family), and Laurence Fox (Lewis). Sadly not worth anything like the ticket price, especially as it is a very short play - seemingly missing a third act - the one where everything comes to a point.

Today, making up for this disappointment, and with the weather steadily worsening, we went to the Screen at Reigate to see: Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End. Guaranteed to have a good time all round (Yo Ho Ho) even without the bottle of rum (shiver my timbers and pieces of eight). By contrast with the play, this was a very long film - but every second counted. As a bonus I was able to secretly knit all the way through as well - secretly, as knitting often distracts others I find, even though it does not distract me in any way!

Posted on May 27, 2007 at 9:47 PM. Category: Days Out.

Friday May 25, 2007


I retired last night somewhat distressed after George pointed out a nasty story in our local paper. It seems some charmer has kicked one of the swans on the Mere Pond to death - and then incredibly sent a film of it around on their mobile phones. At first I thought "well you can't be sentimental - nasty stuff happens, birds die". However, I think when it said "it was the female" (and the male had been taken to a sanctuary for protection) - that really personalised it. A year ago I wrote about the Mere Pond, where I had taken a walk and seen the lovely site of a pile of cygnets in a little heap right by the side of the road. It was our swan - not just a swan.

I am sad but I am very angry. Not just anger at the person or the act, but angry that in beautiful leafy Surrey, haven of the well-heeled middle classes, that we could have managed to bring up someone who actually wanted to do such a useless destructive thing. I know there is much worse violence in the world, but this almost ridiculous episode makes me feel even more hopeless for humanity.

Posted on May 25, 2007 at 7:28 AM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Tuesday May 22, 2007


While I was in Germany, my extra ball of wool to complete Bliss arrived, (from what used to be "Shoreham Knitting and Needlecraft" shop but is now also a website called English Yarns).
Now it's finshed and here I am - all blissful:


I used some vintage buttons from my hoard - the photo does not do them real justice - they are a lovely antique gold colour. I bought them from our village antiques fair; an ancient lady there always has a veritable treasure trove (she clearly cares about buttons) and I am a regular buyer from her. These were a bargain at only 20p !


In the same package was some Rowan handknit cotton in a new shade "Spanish Red". It is the perfect colour for my Short and Sweet project for G's Mother, altough it does not quite have the rich lustre of the Phildar yarn I used previously.


Posted on May 22, 2007 at 1:04 PM. Category: Knitting.

Saturday May 19, 2007

Maxime's rediscovered

Today - during the FA cup final (match went to extra time and Chelsea made it 1-0 at the 11th hour for those who are interested) - I went on a small tour of wool shops in the area, that I have heard about but not yet visited.

First up was Whichcraft in Cheam. They are listed as a Rowan stockist but did not have what I needed (4ply cotton - I need a couple of balls to finish Marble). Apparently they are currently ordering stocks of everything and thus a little low it seemed. But a delightful shop and I shall certainly go there again - although probably telephone first to check availability. I bought a 4.5mm crochet hook just to show willing.

Second was Maxime's, which used to be in Banstead High Street; I was devastated when I saw it had closed. However,it seems it has relocated to Carshalton - which is not quite so convenient, but nice to know it is still trading. The original owners (a delightful elderly couple) retired and sold the business.
Of course, it no longer has the old-fashioned wool shop feeling with wool toppling out everywhere and a peculiar treasure trove of ancient stock; all that is replaced with the new clean lines wool shop image - less stock of course. They had Rowan 4ply cotton in only one colour (Fennel), which luckily was one of the ones I need; even more amazing it happened to be the same dye lot, but that mattered less.
Looking at Maxime's website I see they have a knitting group - I may try and go along although I have little time. I even skipped Creative Fibres today; they were doing a workshop on papercraft (and after a week away I wanted to knit!).

GreenWool.jpg Sadly, despite hugely increasing my carbon footprint in searching for wool, neither shop will stay in business if they have to rely on me (one ball of wool and a crochet hook). Still - you can only support so many woolshops that don't stock what you need.

Once back at home, I ordered a strange set of odd balls of wool from Janette's Rare Yarns, including the extra ball of 4 ply cotton. Janette sells in dollars in her eBay shop, and her prices seem very reasonable.

Posted on May 19, 2007 at 10:29 PM. Category: Knitting.

Friday May 18, 2007

The time is :

We spent a day longer in Mainz than usual as it proved less expensive to balance a reduced air fare and have a extra night in the hotel. It did have the advantage of not having to rush away to the airport half way through the final afternoon's teaching, which is what usually happens. However, we chose a bad day to have a morning to kill in Mainz, as it was Ascension Day on Thursday which is a public holiday in Germany - not only could we not shop but the office was closed. As it was, I need not have worried, we spent all morning on conference calls and had no time for sight seeing.

I would like to have had time to see Chagall's luminous blue quire windows in St Stephan's, (apparently only a step away from the Eisgrub-Bräu). Every time I go to Mainz I think I will make time to go but it never happens. I could I suppose start nearer to home as there are some at All Saints in Tudeley (Kent), but that never happens either.

On the way to and from Heathrow I was made to ponder on things such as this, by endless mobile phone ads urging me to "make the most of now". Not sure I like the concept to be hijacked by advertisers but ...

Posted on May 18, 2007 at 7:09 PM. Category: Days Out.

Blick über den Rhein

I am not sure where May went as a whole (it seems I am booking my diary into June now) but the last few days were spent in Mainz. The travel and the stay were altogether very easy, and the educational course I attended was of great interest to me; I feel very lucky.

I stayed at the Hilton, where my room overlooked the Rhein, which always lifts my spirits. The photo (a publicity shot I'm afraid) shows the back of the hotel (my room to the left on the 7th floor); you can - and I have in rather more clement weather - eat outside on the terrace by the Rhein. As it was, (raining - proper rain), we breakfasted firmly indoors, and watched the brave souls out for an early morning run or bike ride beside the river.


On Monday evening, six of our number ate at Heilig Geist, which is a restaurant in a converted church building. It is asparagus season, and they had a special asparagus menu. We dutifully ate lots of asparagus.
Tuesday was a beautiful evening full of soft sunshine, and we were able to stroll through the square before joining our colleagues for a group meal at the Eisgrub-Bräu, which is a brewery - micro or otherwise.
Wednesday was pouring with rain once again, and we ate at Cubo Negro - a sort of nouveau cuisine Italian. There seem to be 3 associated premises here: a cafe, a bar, and the restaurant, which had recently been refurbished. It was by far the most refined of our choices, as well as the most expensive. All very pleasant, and in charming company.
I feel very ..... lucky.

Posted on May 18, 2007 at 8:18 AM. Category: Days Out.

Thursday May 3, 2007

"A tree is a large plant." Wikipedia

"Though there is no set definition regarding minimum size, the term generally applies to plants at least 6 m (20 ft) high at maturity".

So the lumberjacks arrived to deal with some of our larger "plants", and finally to remove the fallen tree. They were quite manly but I was a little disappointed that there was not a single checked shirt among them - in fact, they seemed to have some kind of polo shirt style uniform.

Lumberjacks1.jpg Lumberjacks2.jpg

Here, an example Jack prepares to scale the giddy heights of our Sequoia (not really a Sequoia, but certainly a redwood and near enough for me to pretend). It's way above our rooftop, even after they took about 10 feet off the top.


Soon, I will have to leave all this excitement, and scuttle off in to work in London.

Posted on May 3, 2007 at 10:02 AM. Category: The Garden.