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Archive Entries for January 2008

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Thursday January 31, 2008

Books in January

  • Flashman on the March George MacDonald Fraser
    I wanted to read a Flashman novel in commemoration of the author, who died on January 2 at the age of 82. He revived the cowardly bully from Tom Brown's Schooldays in 1969 to continue his caddish ways in the first of about a dozen novels. My tutor at college was very fond of these books and I feel his tastes were not to be dismissed lightly. However, I shall not be rushing to read any more.
    George MacDonald Fraser also wrote the screenplay for Octopussy - again not one of my favourite Bond films, but possibly not the fault of the script.
  • Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell M C Beaton
    Agatha moves on. Or perhaps not - her appeal for me is definitely woman in fifties behaving like teenager (mostly at its worst...).
    "I have to go home. My feet are killing me"
    "Such a shame. Those shoes look so glamorous"
    Agatha smiled at Mrs Bloxby, who always managed to say the right thing. A lesser woman would have said: "You should wear sensible shoes.".

Posted on January 31, 2008 at 10:06 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Monday January 28, 2008

Jobs for the girls

I have been working on a Pattern of the Month from the 1940s. As always, I'm slightly uncertain if it will prove a really useful item for "the Great Britain of today". I feel it might have a good application in some outdoor sports, but hard to tell when you don't actively participate in any!

This theme was nicely taken up by a news item today, that Land Girls and Lumberjills are being given recognition for their efforts during World War II. It was decided after the war that the civilian population would not receive medals in the same way that the soldiers did, but now, surviving members of the WLA and WTC are to receive a commemorative badge. There are a number of other organisations not (yet) included that also should have their contributions acknowledged formally - I hope this will happen while there are still some alive to appreciate it.

girlsonrd.jpg I feel that, for myself anyway, we do not fully realise what really hard work it was for women to take up these jobs, and certainly by today's standards, if not for those of the time, the conditions were poor, and the pay low.

I filched the picture on the right from the fashion link below with no idea I'm afraid if they are land girls or just "girls on road" as photo name implies (they may not even be English girls - who knows?). I was unable to resist the picture as they look jolly, and dressed for practicality rather than glamour, but I hope I don't offend any Land Girls as these are perhaps a bit scruffy compared with the efficient dungareed women shown on the Imperial War Museum site.
In surfing I found the following interesting links on women's work during WWII.

Posted on January 28, 2008 at 8:24 AM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Sunday January 27, 2008

A walk in winter

Yesterday on the way back from a shopping trip with George (my special treat - a visit to John Lewis) we happened to be on the road during the most spectacular sunset. We stopped on our way over Epsom Downs and to photograph it over the racecourse. Unfortunately we missed capturing the more startling colours - but it's still pretty amazing. [Note that I have stitched this photo together, and the join is not perfect, but you can see how splendid it is].


The weather is so fantastic - cold** and sunny.
Perfect for a walk.
It was a bit like a rerun of the Mont Buon walk at New Year - but local to our house on the common.

We have English trees,

English Gorse


and English fungus and lichen.


Finally we have a smug person in Wellingtons, anticipating her birthday.


** "Cold" - but not relative to, say, Canada.

Posted on January 27, 2008 at 6:36 PM. Category: The Garden.

Elegant dining.

George tried to enter into the spirit of the birthday thing by taking me to a posh restaurant**. In fact, it's located in our village, so it was really nice to be able to walk there, and the weather helped with the plan.


Gemini has a "French" cuisine, (even though they seem to have a slight issue with correct spelling on the menu). There were 6 courses, (which reminded me of la Maison de la Lozère in Montpellier), but the quantities of food were adjusted accordingly, so we did not explode on the way home. You will be pleased to know George enjoyed it too - his look of resignation is in anticipation of being blinded by the camera flash.

**I simply love their web page description which includes a "gently priced wine list".... (of which I partook a glass).

Posted on January 27, 2008 at 8:23 AM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Saturday January 26, 2008


Last night (bedtime reading) I revisited a beautiful book George's Mother gave me for Christmas, which had been rather neglected in the excitement of the Vintage Socks. SashKaganCrochet.jpg
It's Crochet Inspiration by Sasha Kagan. I love this designer and had bought all her books up until Country Inspiration published in 2000; I was not so keen on the designs in Country Inspiration - and in reality I am not sure I have ever knitted any of Sasha's designs, being typically beautiful tiny intarsia motifs (my favourites!). I was however going to purchase the book, for old times sake, at her stand in Alexandra Palace in 2000, but she was a little brusquely off-hand with me and that rather dampened the warmth I felt towards her. I should have had more sympathy, as I know from experience that dealing with the general public for long periods on an exhibition stand is very wearing - but it did put me off; anyway I had a much better experience last year and she has two new books out of which this is one.

I'm not very good with "inspiration" books, ie ones that don't focus on patterns to make items, but this one had quite a few things to teach me.
Firstly, it made me realise that I may be a fairly experienced knitter but I am not up to the same standard in crochet. Sure I started with crochet at an early age, and I can follow a pattern, but that's not all there is to it. If you showed me a swatch of knitting, I could probably tell you how it was knitted and even name the stitch, but this bumper book of swatches made me understand how little I know about crochet. I know - I should be more humble....
Secondly, it really was inspirational, being packed with samples of interesting stitches and designs; I can't think of any aspects it failed to cover.

Here is a taster (hoping she won't instantly slap an injunction on me for reproducing her pictures, which I am only showing to make you interested in the book!).

SashKaganFlowers1.jpg SashKaganFlowers2.jpg

Don't go away thinking it's all doilies and lace by any means, though; I just felt I had to show her (an my) love of floral motifs in this extract.

One of the (many) things I was attracted to making was a lace mat in filet crochet! This is, however, a technique I do have experience of and am not so keen on; in stitch terms, it's just a hard repetitive grind. So I am tempering my desire to rush off immediately and weed out my crochet hook and cotton. But it's certainly on the agenda for the future [to add to my kitschy cat collection - lace mats otherwise not such a prominent feature in my house]


Posted on January 26, 2008 at 8:54 AM. Category: Knitting.

Sunday January 20, 2008

Midwinter Dream

Last night my sister took me to see A Midsummer Night's Dream staged by the West Meon Players at Winchester Theatre. It was really brilliant. Set in the 1950s, it offered an excellent portrayal of Helena, where she showed all those humourous frustrations of thwarted juvenile love. It was easy to see why Puck found it all such fun.
My sister told me it was only for one night which I found astonishing, given the quality of staging, and performances. However it turns out it was a rerun (one night only) of their open air production for last Midsummer, when the weather was so foul they really could not perform successfully - though they did carry on throughout the storms, apparently, with the audience gradually drifting off! rude_mechanicals.jpg
I should also say that the reason Lyn got tickets in the first place was that an old friend took the part of Peter Quince (but absent from photo on the left, which shows the outdoor 2007 production). Not only was he very good but the "rude mechanicals" were all just excellent. Not at all over the top (often a flaw with amdram), but perfectly judged and had us all really laughing out loud.

Posted on January 20, 2008 at 1:24 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Saturday January 19, 2008

The Secret of the Worsted.

Thursday was pretty frantic for me, ending with a journey down to Plymouth, where I spent all day on Friday. I took the guernsey with me for amusement during the 6 hours on the train. The guernsey has taken on an entire life of its own now, expanding in all directions as an uncontrollable amorphous sort of lump. It reminds me of an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea**, and I expect to get up in the morning and find it has taken over my bedroom, ("Woollen Man").


Cramming it back into my suitcase became like the end of a ventriloquist's act [Get back in the case - "I don't want to go back in there" - Now be sensible, its only for a while... - "It's all dark in there; I'm not going" etc]. Although, if you do start talking to your knitting on a train, I find people tend to shrink away, and get very involved in their reading matter, or see something fascinating out of the window suddenly.

** The series was "notorious for their inclusion of absurd science and an emphasis on the juvenile 'sci-fi' element", and the episode in question was Cradle of the Deep, (1965). The reason I remember it over and above the others was that it had a similar plot to some other sci-fi or horror story I had seen. It was probably my first realisation that not all plots are original! As there are many such stories based on this theme, from 1950s horror films to Startrek (all generations), I have no idea which other series I had been watching.
Recently, I saw a (not new) TV documentary about Irwin Allen charmingly hosted by Bill Mumy - and the Robot [Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!]. I am amazed that I was so ignorant that I knew nothing of this director despite 5pm Sunday afternoons of my youth being filled with endless reruns of Voyage, and Lost in Space - and I never made the connection with the popular disaster movies of the 1970s.

Posted on January 19, 2008 at 9:43 AM. Category: Knitting.

Monday January 14, 2008


I don't suppose hoards of knitters will read this item inspired by the Yarn Harlot's item on wool (cheap or otherwise). On the down side, I don't have her readership - but on the upside, I do have lots of "opinions" - and, luckily, my own blog to keep them in - so what the hell?!
I say: "rebuttal" but actually it's a bit of a soggy argument as I'm sure I agree with her somewhere there - in fact I agree with her full stop, I suspect. This is just my excuse to write about it too.

I, also, knitted my way through the 1980s, but don't remember acrylics being so prevalent, or wool being scarce or expensive. My 'wool' stash from that period tells a different story, though, - it is not lacking in synthetic content.
However, in addition, I was a prolific knitter in the 1970s. Dictated by fashion, or the general feelings of the era, I had no time at all for any synthetics - not in fabrics or yarn. It all had to be pure cottons and wools. [My older sister, often reminds me of this fact, so I know it's true!]. We were rejecting the previous decade which had benefited from the explosion in organic chemistry in the 1950s; all those branded nylons were just old hat.

It just had to be wool - but sadly, I was a penniless student at the time, and so I always bought the cheapest (and often did not buy enough!). In consequence I have some old woolly friends that are poor quality, and scratchy to wear, (and too small!).


Here is my shawl, crocheted, from a mid-70s edition of Stitchcraft, in a Shetland double knitting wool. I did not use it much at the time - fashionable concept - but (being Stitchcraft) not quite "right". Here we are some thirty years later, and it has come out of the wardrobe again, but is rough to the touch and the fringe has matted.

I suppose the issue, perhaps, was not choosing wool suited to the task. Shetland wools are not only subject to felting but actually designed for this very quality. But at the time I did not realise this, and, thinking about it honestly now, I don't think I would have been delighted had I knitted this in an acrylic.


The other side of the coin from those days, and probably still applicable today, is that truly expensive wools can also disappoint. This is another (possibly Stitchcraft) pattern from 1977, knitted in a bouclé wool called Jaeger Catkin. As it was a speciality wool, I decided to splash out and buy the recommended stuff to get the right effect. I was really sad that it went bobbly really quickly. Strangely, looking at it now, it seems not as delapidated as I remember.**

Perhaps, again, it just requires some experience and knowledge about wools to understand what you can expect of them, and how to care for them. Worsteds are hard, maybe coarse, but hard wearing; woolens are soft, airy, but subject to pilling and felting. The blissful situation today is that the choice is out there, in colour and quality, and I am reveling in it. I am glad I have expanded my woolly horizons from the once narrow bigotry of my youth.

** This sweater is now knitted as designed in the pattern. At the time, I "improved" it by making bell shaped sleeves, which, I can only guess, were more fashionable in my eyes. I wore it day after day throughout my year in Southampton in 1977. In the 1980s, I unravelled the sleeves and reknitted them straight.... I can only assume I wore it again at that time. Although I can still just squeeze into this sweater, it is really too small for me now - which may be (ahem) a Good Thing.

Posted on January 14, 2008 at 11:51 PM. Category: Knitting.

Friday January 4, 2008

Honfleur in winter

On our way back to Boulogne, we stopped for lunch in Honfleur and I took a few more pictures - compare with the summer pictures from last June. The "snow" scenes are Honfleur's (fake) decorations - but very seasonal and pretty.

Honfleur_Me_winter.jpg Honfleur_Me_summer.jpg



Posted on January 4, 2008 at 8:13 AM. Category: France.

Wednesday January 2, 2008

New year, new wool.

I brought my guernsey knitting with me to France, which showed good intentions. However, I also brought my new Christmas book of vintage sock patterns taken from old Weldon's magazines, (published in an era preceding Stitchcraft).

I have spent ages reading and planning socks.... and to compound the folly, I went to the Phildar shop in Avranches and rummaged in the bargain wool box, with the following socky consequences:


I say: "wool" but in fact most Phildar yarns are highly synthetic; you can forgive them as the yarns are very high quality, and of course synthetics have some good qualities. But I miss that luxurious feel. I try and make up for it by remembering previous sock projects made in vintage wools which shrank beyond recognition at the first sight of water (rather, I mean I felted them, of course - for a very small person - or my friend's baby...).
There's no getting away from it though - even the one called lambswool manages only 51% wool. I was encouraged by Préface (not one I know of old) which is 75% wool, but they actually recommend it for socks and in it seems to follow only offer it in direly dull colours; the burgundy and ash colours I chose were in the bargain box as discontinued.
Finally we have Luxe, which I do know (and love) of old. It is fairly fine gauge for the modern era, and Phildar used it as their staple family baby wool, offering it in a good colour range. I love the colour I have found here. However, the colour range is not so wide now, and it remains only 15% wool.

I expect you are wondering about all those kittens. Well here they are. One orange one seems to have disappeared, leaving one orange, two grey and one clone of her Mother (with a slightly more appealing tail I would say).


These are the two good looking ones, which I think are the boys of the family.


Posted on January 2, 2008 at 6:59 PM. Category: Knitting.

Tuesday January 1, 2008

Mont Buon

Lovely weather for our New Year Day outing to Mont Buon. George went there with Lloyd while I was in the US in October and wanted to show it to me. It's very local to our house, and among the beautiful views I am sure our property is visible, though perhaps not the house itself due to the lie of the land. Use the pop-up to see the map of the route more clearly.

Here I am, dressed for the day in my new Wellingtons, and thermal socks.


We followed the gently climbing path around the "mountain" through beautiful autumnal (or should I say wintry?) woods...

...until we reached the summit - a staggering 209m.

MontBuon.jpg MontBuon_George.jpg

Points of interest were marked along the way, including a trench, used by the Resistance**. The right hand photo shows the view of the trench at 90 degrees, a little downhill; the trench is quite invisible.
[On re-reading this I realise that perhaps I should now - some 60 years on - say "used by the French Resistance during the Second World War"!]. MontBuonTrench1.jpg MontBuonTrench2.jpg

And here is the rolling stone and "chaos" as marked on the map.


I took a few more pictures of wildlife and views which are in the extended entry.

Some surprising gorse bushes:


Slightly more seasonal puffballs:


The familiar, almost luminous, moss:


A weird tree - it pops up for a closer view [I thought it looked like a rabbit - ok?]:

And those lovely views along the way...

and at the end of the walk.

Posted on January 1, 2008 at 3:57 PM. Category: France.