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Archive Entries for July 2007

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Tuesday July 31, 2007

Books in July

More crime books consumed by me in July:

  • The Lincoln Lawyer Michael Connelly
    The more of his books I read, the more impressed I am by his story-telling style and ability to grip the reader. The pace always accelerates towards the end of the books, which means it is always a disaster for bedtime reading. Far from dropping off after a chapter, you find that anywhere after half way through, you keep thinking "just one more chapter" and before you know it you have reached the end and it's 2am.
    This book is not one of the Harry Bosch series, and (unusually I think) does not make any peripheral reference to him either, although it is set in LA, with the hero being a defence lawyer.
  • Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death M C Beaton
    About number six in the series featuring Agatha Raisin. Fascinated by the tongue in cheek title "Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death" I borrowed the library book and was instantly captivated by this amateur sleuth (yes, she has to be a "sleuth"). I realised later that my liking for her is probably born of some very noticeable parallels: Agatha is 50, a very successful though semi-retired business woman with no kids, and a complete slave to her hormones. The books are written in a simple style but very skillful and amusing.
  • Be My Enemy Christopher Brookmyre
    The usual blend of thoughtful writing and black humour. A party of business people on a team building exercise are left stranded and helpless (apparently) when a mysterious group of para-military lay siege to their remote country hotel in Scotland. Laugh out loud at the amazing self decapitating man.... no really ... it's very funny.
  • Friends in High Places Donna Leon
    Alison kept recommending Donna Leon, and finally lent me a few of the early books while I was in the US. It took me a while to warm to Commissario Guido Brunetti - I needed more than one book to become interested in, and grow to like and appreciate all the characters properly. I have read quite a few since, up to the latest offerings. However this was an early book that I had not read, so I broke or bent my rule about talking books, (which is to always listen to the unabridged versions). The book was excellently read by Tim Pigott-Smith, which I am sure added to the enjoyment, but it was sufficiently good that I feel I should try and read the full text in the future (even though I now know who dunnit).

Posted on July 31, 2007 at 11:22 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday July 29, 2007


Robert has been calling me at intervals during the weekend to let me listen to and experience remotely the fun he is having at WOMAD. He called this morning unable to decide whether or not to stay on - many other people were leaving [it being Sunday in any case] and everyone was being towed out of the field/campsite by a tractor. Apparently I am not the only person to have thought of the "joke" in the heading.


Anyway - it all sounded great - I will be adding pictures of mud here as soon as I acquire them....

Just imagine a lot of mud. That's what it will be like.

More fun pictures below (experienced vicariously courtesy of Rob)

Getting around was really tough through the clay mud


The last night




Posted on July 29, 2007 at 11:32 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Saturday July 28, 2007

A head of steam

This afternoon we spent in a field in Fareham - at the annual open day of the Fareham and District Society of Model Engineers. George's Father (George) is an enthusiastic member and has built a model diesel train (running on a battery); rather ignorantly I do not know what scale they are made to, nor the gauge of the track, but they are large enough to take people for short trips - around the field.

Driver dedication despite the dreadful weather


View from my seat behind the driver


A head of steam!

In addition to the outdoor attractions, there were a number of display tents showing their models, and also a craft tent, in which I was delighted to find Web of Wool selling their wares. Something for everyone, indeed!

See more views of the day below

Here are some pictures of the day- click on the thumbnails to page through the album.

Fareham Model Engineers 2007

Posted on July 28, 2007 at 11:32 PM. Category: Days Out.

Friday July 27, 2007

Prétentieuse? Moi?

The past couple of days has provided some excellent opportunities for eating, which, as usual for business trips, plays havoc with any high-minded ideals about restraining one's eating.

On Wednesday night we went as a group to La Diligence where the food was already ordered for us so we didn't even have to try and translate a menu.... and jolly good it was too. We tried sitting at the largest table to contradict the idea that the English are insular, but it didn't quite work out as we were tucked into our own little space. The restaurant was very atmospheric as you can see from the photo - I decided to post the fuzzy photo as it shows the environment more clearly than the version with flash.


Yesterday, we went with a recommendation and visited Cellier & Morel: la Maison de la Lozère.
My colleagues thought the food was excellent, and while I don't disagree it was by no means inexpensive (although I am being very unfair as it was probably far better value as well as lower cost than an equivalent meal in the UK - also I should say I did not have to foot the bill myself). Throughout, we were treated to little extra tasters from the chef, some more welcome than others for me. The main course was accompanied by what I now know to be Aligots - a regional speciality of mashed potato, Tomme cheese, and garlic. It was again excellent but we had to endure the ostentatious serving technique à table (shown right).

Posted on July 27, 2007 at 8:42 AM. Category: Days Out.

Tuesday July 24, 2007

Graceful city.

I have come to Montpellier for a couple of days of business meetings. It is remarkably hot in comparison to where I have come from and yesterday I seemed to have brought entirely the wrong clothes; however our offices are severely air conditioned and the cardigans and jackets are quite welcome there. I have not been here before, but as I have been led to believe, it is a delightful city with a small centre where you can easily walk around. We did just that on arrival yesterday afternoon, walking from the Antigone right on through the centre, past the Préfecture, up Rue Foch past the Porte du Peyrou


and as far as the St-Clément Aqueduct.


The Place de la Comédie is just outside the old town centre and provides a main focus point in the city It is a popular meeting place and tourist site, containing the "Trois Graces" statue. Here they are: Beauty, Mirth, and Good Cheer:


We all stayed in various hotels in the Antigone district. Antigone is newly-built and (without previously knowing anything about it) seemed a very strange though impressive area of interconnected pedestrian squares or plazas enclosed by apartment buildings. Each square has a central focus of fountains or statues and it is all very airy in a neo-classical style. We walked through the Antigone every day on our way in and out of the centre. Here is my favourite fountain in the Place du Nombre d'Or; the construction of Antigone was started at this end in 1981, but the fountain was added here in 2000. There is a central (Greek type) figure, whose identity I never discovered, with water jets issuing directly from the paving around him.


The jet spouts vary in degree and vigour (0 to 15m) to the delight of dogs and small children.


It is also very beautiful at night when the jets are illuminated.

In the Place de Peyrou (the end of our walk by the aqueduct) was an 18th century water tower. The photo I took had some rather strange lighting and it reminds me very much of Magritte and also his painting (or paintings I should say) Empire of Lights. Mostly it's the clouds and the symmetry of the trees I think - as well as the day combined with night effect.


Posted on July 24, 2007 at 6:29 PM. Category: Days Out.

Jet streams

Set off for Gatwick by train this morning having my usual pre-travel chat with Bernard in the ticket office. Although the weather was nice and sunny, we could not help discussing the appalling weather we've have had in the UK. Having not seen any news over the weekend I was stunned when I viewed the TV on Sunday night to find large areas of the UK appear to be under water, and the latest news seems to be getting worse.

It seems all these amazing and endless downpours are due to the Jet Stream. I'd never given any consideration to this phenomena before but it seems that rain-bearing depressions start to form around the jet streams and percolate downwards, and are thus responsible for all our weather....

[Bernard told me that jet streams were first noticed by pilots during the Second World War one minute over the UK - the next in Norway - or something like that. Most educational. Don't know what I'll do for information when he retires. Wikipedia just doesn't compare.]

Anyway, apparently, in summer the jet stream lies across the north Atlantic, allowing high-pressure weather systems to move up from Europe to cover the UK.
Warm Sunny Weather.

This year, however, the jet stream has moved several hundred miles to the south bringing storms and heavy rain, to our little island. I have read "Scientists are unsure of the reason but believe there is a link to a natural phenomenon known as La Niña."
[And I always thought he was El Niño - but now I find there are two of them.]

So I was mentally well prepared (!) for my short flight to France. "Entering and leaving a jet stream can be a turbulent time for any aircraft no matter how big it is."

Posted on July 24, 2007 at 11:45 AM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Saturday July 21, 2007

Jolly good company

A loud thump in the morning announced the Amazon delivery of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I did not spend all weekend in it's grip though. I have a backlog of crime to get through first .... and anyway I expect George will want first go at it as he ordered it. We stayed in the right mood by going to see the recently released movie (Order of the Phoenix) this evening. I liked it a lot better than the book, where I found Harry a bit too unreasonable (I think it was supposed to be his teenage angst but it didn't work for me). I thought the writing left something to be desired, although I don't think it's a general decline in her style - I liked the Half Blood Prince much more. Perhaps she did not have much feel for her subject (as opposed to the wizard world which no doubt she has experienced first hand!). Needless to say I am looking forward to reading the new book.

I spent all day at the Creative Fibres - we formed a jolly little group and as usual benefited greatly from their hints and tips on a great range of topics. I told them about my blog and they all promptly refused to be photographed any more.


Mavis was there wearing a really great jacket. The colour and texture were wonderful.
mavis.jpg mavis_detail.jpg She had spun the yarn from a shetland wool mixed with some silk and her own cashmere rabbit's fur. She told me all about her rabbit (he is 7 years old) and her other animals. She has a great collection of guinea pigs (11?) which are in my experience somewhat unusual pets among my peer group - it turns out they are "rescue" guinea pigs. I find it hard to see how someone could abandon a guinea pig - but there we are. Anyway the fibre she had spun was lovely and she varied the fibre combinations as she spun and plied to produce a self patterning effect. The rabbit produces a very fluffy yarn and therefore she finds it better to combine it with other fibres.

Posted on July 21, 2007 at 11:22 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday July 20, 2007

"This is a disaster isn't it!" Mr Bingley

I recorded "Bride and Prejudice" recently, as I thought it would make the perfect viewing on a wet afternoon with the knitting. I had been so keen to see it ever since I listened to a radio item when they were in the process of filming. Despite much criticism from the Jane Austen Society prior to its release, they were won over I think by a special preview for them in Bath. I thought then as I do now that it was a simply perfect idea; the plot itself is tailor-made for an Indian interpretation. Having seen it, I am even more impressed; like Elizabeth Bennet our new heroine, Lalita Bakshi, is an intelligent modern woman in a society undergoing change. Her major motivations go well beyond making a perfect marriage to a rich man.

I cannot think why anyone would be at all concerned by this movie idea. It is a lovely interpretation, and is not even slightly pretending to be a film of the book; to add to all that it makes a fine quality job of what it is intended to be. The screenplay is excellent, adapting much dialogue from "Pride and Prefjudice" while remaining completely convincing in the language of today.

I must also say, it included one of the nicest interpretations of Mr Collins I have ever seen. The excellent actor Nitin Ganatra plays Mr Kohli (Kohli Sahib), an Indian now living in the US and completely obsessed with and enjoying every minute of his new American way of life. He is clearly hard-working and keen for others to enjoy everything with him. Although clearly a figure of fun, he offers a plausible reason for a modern audience to understand why Lalita's best friend Chandra would choose to marry him - she justifies her choice by saying he is "a good man" and there is more than appears on the surface. Her equivalent Austen character Charlotte Lucas rather more poignantly illustrates the plight of the plain unmarried woman in her society, by expressing her fear that she may not get a better offer. This may also be true of modern India (for plain women of a certain class), I don't know; however a Bollywood musical shows only beautiful actors, so they did not explore that idea.

Now you must read a proper review - I read this after my own ramblings and am delighted that it expresses much my own views. I could be a reviewer!! ... but for the small fact that my command of the language is not so adept.
"...these shortcomings .... are largely irrelevant to the merit and entertainment value inherent in Bride and Prejudice. .... this film is no more than a clothesline on which brilliantly colored bed linen and clothing has been hung out to dry and which are now dancing in the wind, creating fantastic displays of movement and images. This film deserves to be viewed from a fresh perspective. Yes, Austen's novel has been bowdlerized into pulp, but the shards have been turned into flares illuminating another purpose altogether."

Finally - the real disaster. I spent many hours, including those watching the above film, knitting the cricket sweater. I completed a 4 inch welt,(all in the round, so the whole sweater), changed to a second ball of the other dye lot, and knitted 2 more inches. I realised suddenly in full daylight that the colours of the two dyes are completely different from one another. One is a positively yellow ecru, and the other much more white. I find it amazing that this was not obvious in the ball - but it was not. Further, I did some weighing and calculations and am dubious that there will be enough wool for the sweater. So - I have had to go back to the attic stash; I have found eleven 50g balls of the same wool type and started all over again. I only hope Lloyd is still interested in cricket next year as it seems unlikely that this project will be completed in time for any play this season.....

I am thinking that these disastrous dye lots experiences of late should be teaching me something. I have done this kind of stuff often in the past but since my teenage years I always found dyes to be very consistent, even between lots. I am thinking back and wonder if the difference is that in the past I often worked with shetland tweedy blends which better lend themselves more to the intended trompe l'oeil effect than plain colours. I think if I plan to try this again I will definitely be knitting experimental swatches before I start.

Posted on July 20, 2007 at 7:20 AM. Category: Knitting.

Sunday July 15, 2007

Sweet dreams and flying ants

I finally finished off the July Pattern of the Month and it feels a very nice weight to wear - especially in this weird weather.
Stepping outside this evening you can actually breathe in the water vapour. I was going to liken it to some tropical country, but really that's outside my experience - the closest I can describe it is going into one of the humid greenhouses in Kew Gardens. This afternoon it went from bright sunshine to being so dark as to seem like a winter evening, then the classic moments of stillness prior to the wind getting up and a huge thunderstorm and yet another astonishing downpour of rain - the garden paths were flooded in a moment. I had to check on the blackbird's nest in the wisteria outside the kitchen window, (although quite what I could have done to assist is doubtful), and found that she was sitting right over it protecting the chicks; with rain drops that large and heavy it must have been like being bombarded with buckets of water. I find it amazing that they nested there at all but... all week she has been dashing in with beaks full of worms to a chorus of delight from within.

hook_roll.jpg With the left-over fabric snippets from POM (above) I made a holder for my crochet hooks. Not my best piece of work - but functionally long overdue. I am hoping that my hooks will now gravitate towards it from all the places spread round the house where they have been hiding... My next mini-roll will be to house my sets of double-pointed sock needles.
cushion.jpg While the red thread was in the machine I made two quick Christmas cushion covers - I bought the fabric in the sales in January but never got round to making it up. I always want to change the decor at Christmas but with all the other priorities I never seem to have time for much decorating, so now I am well ahead of the game.

After all these little items plus a few mending and alteration jobs (broken zips etc) the weekend seemed to slip away. Despite "poisoners weekend" (a definite sofa TV experience) I don't seem to have done much knitting - I am somewhat dispirited, having had to undo the inch I had knitted on the cricket sweater and start again - after I got that far I realised I was knitting a Möbius * strip, having twisted the welt somehow - and this, even after checking extra specially carefully as I am so aware that this can happen!

* For some reason, when I learned about Möbius strips at school, the examples always seemed to involve "ants walking along a strip" - which also seems appropriate today, as it was typical "flying ant" weather - and they fulfilled all expectations in coming out in abundance. I did wonder if they would care to come in and try out Lloyd's cricket sweater......

Posted on July 15, 2007 at 10:03 PM. Category: Quilting.

Tuesday July 10, 2007

"Better than shopping"

I went to Nuneaton to a customer today. Catching the train on the way back, I had about 40 minutes to wait at the station. The platform was pretty empty (lunchtime), but as I ate my sandwich I wandered out of the shelter into the sun, and noticed a bunch of people at the far end, apparently enjoying a picnic. It crossed my mind that they were beyond where the trains stopped, and gradually, (as I noticed their cameras, binoculars, and clothing), light dawned - they were train-spotting.

After that, I realised that a lot of the people on the station on all the platforms were actually train-spotters rather than passengers. Without being patronising, I can't tell you how good these people make me feel; some kind of security of a bygone age, even thought their own enthusiasm is right up to date - for sure, they are not anachronistic throw-backs at all. Far from being "sad" they make me feel full of joy - reminding me there is pleasure in life from all manner of things.

I finally plucked up the courage to speak to one of them:
Me: "Are you waiting for something special to come through?"
Him: "o no"
Me: "Just a nice day out, then?"
Him: "Aye - better than shopping..." (*see note)
Me: "Yes... weeell..... actually I'm probably 50-50 on that one..."
Much laughter all round.

I so much regret I did not have my camera with me; I searched the web for pictures and information but train-spotters take and post pictures of trains, of course, not each other..


I stole this picture from James's Railway Round-up (2005). I believe it shows platform 4 and a couple of the enthusiasts.

The link is to an item about Nuneaton, but in case you don't feel the need to look, I have to quote from him here, which partly explains the popularity of the station for the spotters (*see note).

"Rail traffic is in abundance at Nuneaton station, local services are provided by Central Trains, with the London expresses being provided by Virgin Trains. There's usually 2 trains an hour to Leicester and Birmingham, an hourly service to Coventry and an hourly service to London and Liverpool Lime Street. However, many passenger trains can be seen hurtling through Nuneaton at top speeds of 125mph!! and are all Pendolino tilting trains - again - all are operated by Virgin.

Freightwise, several operators can be seen at Nuneaton, including EWS, Freightliner, GBRf and DRS. Motive power is mainly in the shape of Class 60 and 66 diesel locomotives, electric locomotives appear in the shape of Class 86, 90 and 92 and mainly appear on Trafford Park - Daventry/Dollands Moor/Felixstowe freight flows. Network Rail also makes a periodic appearance in the shape of their bright yellow New Measurement HST, nicknamed by the rail fraternity "Doctor Yellow" or "The Flying Banana". The 2 newly acquired Class 86 loadbank locomotives, 86901 and 86902 also show up from time to time as they visit different sections of the WCML, these are stabled at Rugby."

I admit I was on the station for almost an hour, but even so there seemed to be quite a lot of traffic - and some of it interesting (I repeat - I was on the station for nearly an hour...) in the shape of freight marked from China, and, of course the astonishingly fast high speed trains - pretty scary from the viewpoint of the platform.

*Note: I noticed phrases during my search on the web, including: "....packing her husband off to Nuneaton station to do some train-spotting while she did her own thing..." and "She went shopping, and I returned the the station.". So perhaps it really was an alternative to shopping.

Posted on July 10, 2007 at 9:35 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Sunday July 8, 2007

All England

For my last 2 or three years at school, we essentially finished work some time in June, (exams over etc), but did not actually break up until several weeks later. These were great times for me, with the pressure of work gone, and pleasant summer weather.... I watched Wimbledon for 2 weeks, while doing dress making. I suddenly realised that having been taught needlework from the age of 12, (with Miss Soutar - but having given it up in favour of science at the age of 14), I could actually make my own clothes. So during those weeks I made a couple of summer dresses, always with Wimbledon in the background.

Later on I took a flat in Wimbledon, and spent hours on my own with my craft projects, listening to Radio 4 (no television), and at the right time of year - the tennis. The whole town was overwhelmed by the event, and after it was over the high street filled with cut price second hand tennis balls, and ripe strawberries that had been excess to requirements.

So today I was in nostalgic mood as I worked on this month's pattern, and watched a great match in the vein of those epics I remember from the 70s. There was a lot of nostalgia from the TV presenters as well, with many of the familiar players having become commentators, and Bjorn Borg was there watching his record equalised.


Now I'm off to make dinner - with strawberries for dessert, of course.

"I've never been more happy than I am today. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. It's really true: Life starts at 50." Bjorn Borg

Posted on July 8, 2007 at 7:40 PM. Category: Crafts.

Out of Africa

George has just returned from his trip (landed at 7:30 this morning). My friend Simon, who came from Rhodesia (as it was then), used to be driven to distraction by the habit of the English in referring to "Africa" as if it were a country - rather than a huge continent. So to be more specific, George was in Johannesburg all week. He had yesterday free to roam the markets and buy tourist art, and what he returned with is lovely. Here is my swag: a lovely pottery mug, a malachite cat, bead necklaces (one haematite), one bone bracelet and one bracelet with porcupine spines, (I am pretending no porcupines were harmed in the making of this jewellery but I am suspecting the worst), and a bag of multicoloured seed beads.


He also brought back some heavy cotton fabrics, which I think have been treated with some sort of water proofing, and are intended as table cloths. This hand printed one we have decided to keep for ourselves.


His Mother will have to tolerate the usual (or unusually large) haul of elephants - that being her "thing".

Other than that, it sounded like very hard work - they had to change the venue of the customer presentations at the last minute from the company offices to the hotel, as the water was turned off at the offices which meant it was pretty well impossible to work there, never mind host a customer. If you read Louise's blog I guess you see that different places are very ... different; expect the unexpected. (Louise is in Senegal, though, nowhere near South Africa).

Posted on July 8, 2007 at 10:55 AM. Category: Days Out.

Saturday July 7, 2007

Vain but not heartless, surely....

I just had to take a picture of the hydrangeas this year as they look so splendid.


I have always preferred the blue varieties to the pink and I am lucky at the moment to have soil that favours these beautiful blues. I like to imagine they were planted by Edwardians when the house was first built, though I also think this is dubious, but whatever the case the adjacent redwood has now grown to such a size that usually they suffer terribly from lack of water in the summer, as the tree takes any that's around. However, it has been so wet these past months that they are flourishing.

In the language of flowers they are listed variously as representing boastfulness, heartlessness; frigidity; vanity; - or saying a thank you for understanding (! - as a Victorian in receipt of such a flower however would you know? am I frigid or understanding? it seems the confusion casts doubts on the usefulness of this secret code). They are indeed beautiful superficial showy flowers - I can see they could be vain or boastful, but I can't see them as frigid**(see additional note at the end).

I like this link for the language of flowers. It not only tells you the flower meanings but allows you to enter your intended message and be informed of the flowers you need to send to your secret amour.




**[Note: my sister made the (good) suggestion that although beautiful, they have no fragrance and this might be why they could represent showy but not sensual. She loves hydrangeas and lacecaps and was recounting the tale of a 1970s gift of a lacecap in a pot, which seemed at the time inappropriate for a woman in her twenties living in a tiny flat overlooking the Thames. Nonetheless, it lived there indoors in Hammersmith for some time, and then it went to live outdoors in my Mother's garden in Sussex, where it flourished for many years (and still does). Finally, when my Mother died, Lyn took cuttings of it and she now has some fantastic plants, which have moved with her several times over the years. (I say: "finally"... but who knows where they may go next?).
No disrespect to my sister but they are quite easy to raise from cuttings, and I am now encouraged to try it.]

Posted on July 7, 2007 at 4:25 PM. Category: The Garden.

Friday July 6, 2007

So cool it's chili

The first Fashion Knits (1954) magazine arrived in the mail today and showed that the inspiration for the knitted fashion poncho started long before the 1970s - let me know if you'd like one...

poncho.jpg Slim.jpg

It also contained a pattern for "Slim black line", classic sleeveless sweater - "an essential in the well-dressed wardrobe" - "in fine wool to fit smoothly under coats and low neck sweaters".

However, having been initially keen (looks lovely - just my thing), I looked at the tension and I'm afraid it's an essential I will have to pass up. It's knitted on number 14 needles (I guess US 1) to a tension of: 46 sts to 4 inches!! [Cast on 155 sts and knit 4 inches in k1 p1 rib...... um... thanks - but no thanks]. Also it says "see how smart the sweater looks worn casually with slim black pants and pumps" - which might be an issue for me...

Posted on July 6, 2007 at 6:06 PM. Category: Knitting.

Thursday July 5, 2007

"A life lived in fear is a life half lived" Strictly Ballroom

So: clothes for the woman over 50... or the "forever forties" as we prefer to think of ourselves apparently - and I must say I prefer to be in that demographic. We accept what we must wear (and that's up to the individual where they draw the line) but we want to be able to wear the newest youngest styles "with our own twist " (as Mary Portas put it) to make it suitable for our age - whatever suitable is...

I read an article on what women over 50 should wear by Emma Soames in one of the Sunday papers, and it obviously disquieted me, as I referred to it a lot in conversations with friends thereafter. I think I did not like what she was saying - which was really "dress your age", don't risk being seen as "mutton dressed as lamb"- and yet, how could I disagree with that? But something about an article on how to dress by the editor of Saga magazine..... I don't know - I really don't think I am in denial over my actual age but I don't see myself as a Saga magazine reader, and as yet the magazine has not held any appeal for me. This article on dress did not change my mind. I feel that you should take risks to achieve a look that you like - and be capable of saying "OK, this is not working as I hoped". What's life without risk?

Emma is obviously doing the rounds on this topic, as I found a Daily Mail (Femail - almost as appealing to me as Saga!) article on the web "Older women: Should they be classy or brassy?" - and also the referenced Womans Hour item "Is the Fashion Industry Catering for the over 50s?" which is worth listening to - unfortunately Emma obviously represents classy, while Gok Wan is left with brassy - also Gok is by no means over 50. However, Rob (who is over 50) is a great fan of Gok's TV show "How To Look Good Naked" and proclaims loudly to anyone who will listen (me) that Gok is much better than "those two women" (Trinny and Susanna), as he offers much more positive confidence building. I like T&S but Rob is not to be ignored, (even if he does watch Big Brother).

Posted on July 5, 2007 at 11:37 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Serious shopping

I went to Oxford yesterday and thought I might do some shopping after my meeting but in the end I had no time. I had made a plan to look for some specific items, so to cover the disappointment I went to John Lewis in Kingston - where I found they had the sale to end all sales - mostly in the wool dept but more of that in a minute - and between there and Bentalls I came away with huge bags of swag.

FloralSkirt.jpg Most of the clothes I bought were sensible - in that they are replacements for items in my wardrobe that are a bit shabby - but I also bought this Fenwright and Manson skirt, which is lovely but I remain unsure about it, as it contains colours that are not "my" colours, and I had great difficulty in imagining what to wear with it. GreyTop.jpg In the end, I bought an uninteresting elephant grey top from the same source as it is an exact matching colour; the other colours in the skirt (rust and cream) are not so flattering on me. I noted that the grey Rowan 4ply soft is a good colour match but do not want to put a hand knitted top on the critical path to wearing the skirt. To brighten the grey top I added a chunky bead necklace

I also bought what seemed like a ton of wool - actually it still does seem like a lot but at exactly half price it was a veritable bargain, and not all new projects on a whim either. First up is Debbie Bliss Astrakhan....


....which I have been ogling ever since the Ally Pally show last year,. However, to date I have been hopelessly indecisive about the colour, and unwilling to take a risk with such expensive wool: but not with a limited palette on sale - sold! to the lady with the red fetish...
In fact I am planning to knit this for someone else but I note it may be a good colour match for the new skirt. Hmmm.

Cathay.jpg They had Debbie Bliss Cathay on sale in many wonderful colours. I find this a very appealing yarn, with a texture and composition similar to Calmer, but in a classic double knitting weight.
Despite being so smitten I managed to restrict myself to two colours: a burnt orange, which I am hoping will be suitable for a retro pattern from Jane Waller's "Mans Book", and the red for me, probably an Interweave knits pattern from last summer (it just fails to quite match the new skirt, and in consequence is a nice colour for me!).
The oatmeal colour is again a double knitting wool, Jaeger extrafine Merino DK; I was seduced by the lovely wool quality, (the price!), and the suitable Man Colour (or George Colour).
And just in case I don't have enough knitting books I bought the Jaeger knitting book for men too, as it was also on sale.


In the latest Rowan book 41, I really liked Orford - but unlike all those little 1950s tops it's made in Rowan Cotton Rope which as its name suggests is quite thick. So I thought it might be a bit heavy for a "little top". In addition, being thick heavy cotton, it used lots of balls of yarn, making it quite pricey.
But hey presto! Cotton Rope at half price! (and so quick to knit up...).

I am digging those red shorts out of my wardrobe as we speak.

Posted on July 5, 2007 at 9:46 PM. Category: Days Out.

Tuesday July 3, 2007

Swallows and Amazons (for ever?)

Even though Alison didn't tag me (whatever that is - pretty sure she didn't) I can't resist also displaying my all time favourite piece of hand knitting. It reaches the status of all-time favourite for a lot of strange reasons which run alongside my really loving to wear it. Like Alison's Hall of Fame alphabet sweater, I knitted in it the early 1990s, and the style is full blown 80s as she describes. All the feelings associated with this sweater are full of pleasure and comfort.


First the memory of the purchase: Alison and I bought the wool together at D H Evans in Richmond; (she bought wool for a Rowan patterned chenille/beaded sweater which did not turn out so well for her - though I loved it too!). They had "my" sweater knitted up on display - and I loved it - and then even better - the wool was on sale (sadly due to the demise of the wool department, though).

Second the design and styling: it's a Rowan pattern from book number 10 which was evidently themed on Swallows and Amazons (although Nancy, Peggy and Co were a lot sexier in the photo shoot than I remember from the original books!). These books probably rate among my all-time favourites as well (yes, I am the sort of adult that reads Harry Potter, I'm afraid). The Rowan book seems to have had a lot of fun poked at it - but they have the last laugh maybe as one sold on eBay in 2006 for over 80 quid (maybe I should sell my copy...? ... as if!).

I also knitted the "domino" sweater from this magazine for Robert - in fact I suspect he never wears it now due his wool allergy. Maybe I will be able to snaffle it back for the ultra nostalgia experience...

A word on the wool:

I love the sweater so much I thought you might want to appreciate that it also has texture. The overall wool weight is double knitting (worsted): the main colour is a grey tweed; half the bow ties are in red pure wool double knit, and the other half are in fine chenille; the mustard/gold triangles are also in fine chenille. Mmmm.

Posted on July 3, 2007 at 4:50 PM. Category: Knitting.