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Archive Entries for February 2009

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Saturday February 28, 2009

Books in February

  • Problem at Pollensa Bay and other stories by Agatha Christie [read by Jonathan Cecil]
    PollensaBay.jpg This is a collection of stories published in the early 1990s but written in the 1920s and early 30s. They are very well read by Jonathan Cecil - a stalwart supporting actor in the UK - but a surprisingly (to me) versatile star at reading these books. I would say that usually he is rather type-cast as gormless Hooray Henries from an earlier era. There is also an audio book read by Hugh Fraser, who is excellent, and I am sure chosen for this task due to his role as Captain Hastings in the 1980s TV adaptations of Poirot.
    The stories feature Hercule Poirot, but also some other lesser-known but recurring Christie characters.
    • Problem at Pollensa Bay - 1935 (Mr Parker Pyne)
    • The Second Gong - 1932 (Hercule Poirot, and adapted for TV as Dead Man's Mirror)
    • Yellow Iris - 1937 (Hercule Poirot, and and adapted for TV with great knitwear!)
    • The Harlequin Tea Set - 1936 (Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Harley Quin)
    • The Regatta Mystery - 1939 (Mr Parker Pyne - but revamped from the original 1936 version with Poirot)
    • The Love Detectives - 1926 (Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Harley Quin)
    • Next To A Dog - 1929
    • Magnolia Blossom - 1926
    I enjoyed The Harlequin Tea Set as it followed a number of typical Christie themes, though I did think there was a bit of a hole in the plot, but perhaps I did not follow it properly. I was not sure why the victim had to be poisoned using a replacement cup of the wrong colour, (failing to notice due to his colour blindness) - why not simply slip the poison into his cup of the right colour? Still - what do I know? I am not the Queen of Crime.

  • Saturday by Ian McEwan[read by James Wilby]
    saturday.jpg This is a novel that shows how we live today - how some wealthy people live today, of course. But it is clear that even for this well-off brain surgeon, he started life in a small flat with 2 kids on limited income; and, though he and his wife have become successful (and wealthy) in their careers, they have their lovely central town house only through inheritance. Their children are grown to beautiful and talented young people, and the hero knows how lucky he is.
    And the reader is constantly aware of how very much there is to lose.
    Notable for the fact that the action takes place within 24 hours, some readers seem to think it's a day overly packed with activity. However, to me, it does not seem very out of the ordinary in terms of activities - though I'm not a brain surgeon of course, so that part of it would be extraordinary for me. Basically, he gets up, has breakfast with his son, goes out, sees the anti-war march, has a minor car accident, plays squash, visits his Mother in a care home, collects stuff to eat for dinner, briefly drops in to watch his son rehearse with a band, spends the evening with his family, gets called in to work to do an emergency operation.
    That tells you everything and nothing.
    It is paced quite slowly - especially noticeable as a talking book- the squash game, for example, is described point by point, and made me glad I had a few lessons when I was about 20 so I could better empathise with what was happening. However, throughout, there is a constant feeling of lurking menace, which made me permanently anxious for the plot to move on. I understand it was born out of the authors own sense of anxiety around potential global threats. The hero explores his general unease with moral dilemmas relating to the concept of war and terrorism - but this is suddenly sharply focussed by a very local threat, which leads to a very real moral dilemma.

  • Back to Bologna by Michael Dibdin
    BacktoBologna.jpg I am a real fan of this author and his hero, Italian police inspector Aurelio Zen, even though the books are often suffused with a sense of gloom, despite the humour. I picked up this book by chance, and realised that I have not actually read Dibdin's last couple of books, which is a pleasant surprise for me as there will be no more.
    The book features amusing and topical characters, in the shape of a dead owner of a football team (killed with a Parmesan cheese knife), and a temperamental operatic TV chef. Poignantly, Zen himself is suffering after an operation, and also suffering from hypochondria - and also not doing well in his love life. However, to quote a reviewer, it "delivers both comic and serious insights into the realities of today's Italy".

Posted on February 28, 2009 at 8:59 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

I'm with you in spirit

It's "Stitches West 2009" - and here is my friend greeting me - wearing her lovely Loppem...
and standing in front of a bunch of socks... perfick.

Really wish I could have been there too...

Posted on February 28, 2009 at 10:18 AM. Category: Knitting.

Saturday February 21, 2009

Nuno Felt

Today, Janice ran a Nuno felting workshop. It was a very energetic day. The idea was to felt 2 pieces that could be made into a simple bag. In fact, I made 2 differently patterned pieces, which shrank to very different shapes. Unfortunately none of my photos properly show the texture of the felt, which is an important part of the result.

If you want to understand the technique it is explained very nicely here. Basically, you start by welding the wool to the base fabric, which may be either a loose weave cotton muslin or silk, by friction through rolling layers together. You then knead the fabric with soap, and and "shock" it, so that it felts and shrinks. The watery nature of this experience is much more limited than with conventional felting. As the wool layers shrink they crinkle the base fabric to form a seersucker-like finish.

We used merino wool layers on both sides of our fabric base, and I think the pattern and direction in which I laid the wool pattern caused the relative shape differences in my two pieces. You can put the wool on only one side of the base. The photo below shows some work of Janice's where she has used the same patterned silk Georgette as the base with different coloured wool layers on the back, and created all these different effects:

It would have been nice to have more photos of other people's pieces - however, not only did most of us not finish off the final process while we were there, but my camera ended up in a puddle of water so no more pictures were possible. [Dried out nicely, though, I'm pleased to say.]

Posted on February 21, 2009 at 7:40 PM. Category: Crafts.

Thursday February 19, 2009

Not quite stripes.

Alison gave me a Knitpicks Sock Blank - an idea completely new to me. It's a piece of knitting that you can dye in stripes; you then unravel it, and when you reknit it to the desired shape it comes out striped - its a bit more predictable that painting a skein. Or so it should be.

I was very keen to try it out, and I had a great time, but singularly failed to get stripes. Also failed to get the colours I expected. In fact the whole experience was extremely unpredictable - but very arty and great fun!
Obviously no accident that I share Jackson Pollock's date of birth...

I won't dwell on the experiences much more here, but look out for more entries when I get to do the knitting, and a fuller explanation in my Knitalong category.

The blanks are knitted double, so you unravel into two balls of wool with the same colour sequence (two socks - see?). Also, apparently others in Alison's knitting group are spinning and making their own blanks, using a knitting machine.
"I could do that!"

Posted on February 19, 2009 at 7:02 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday February 14, 2009

Pandora's box

Actually - it's my Mother's button box.
Similar to Pandora's box in that, at the bottom, there is hope.
Hope that one day I may find the perfect project on which to use my favourite gems.

My digression into reviewing my buttons came because of a book that Sheila (George's Mother) found for me. It was on sale as an ex-Public-Library book, and, as usual, it was a lovely thought. In fact, it is a real collectors book, (rather than a showy coffee-table book), being a kind of glossary of button types. This is a completely new area for me, and as the book is somewhat dated, it is talking about really rare or old buttons rather that "collectible" buttons - which as my own collection demonstrates - includes plastic and more modern offerings. Anyway, I read it from cover to cover - sadly I fear, retaining little of the information and facts therein - and regretting that the illustrations are not in colour.

So here are some of my personal favourites from my Mothers box.

Posted on February 14, 2009 at 1:46 PM. Category: Crafts.

Thursday February 12, 2009

The most expensive chocolate...

A week or two ago I saw that the ex-Woolworth's premises really was being reopened as a temporary rehousing for our Waitrose branch in Banstead. Actually, I heard it first as gossip in the queue at Asda... but I don't believe all I overhear in supermarket queues.
The store front itself announced the opening day as February 12th, and, as it's my day off, I decided to rush there on the first day of trading.
And what a jolly experience it all was - everyone cheerfully greeting Mr Thompson like a long lost friend, lots of well-stocked shelves (despite the much reduced floor space).... and free chocolates....

The council have also decided to offer a free hour of parking for shoppers ("until further notice"), which helps since Waitrose no longer have any associated parking. However, I got a bit carried away and my 6 minutes over the hour was punished with a parking ticket. I'm not very impressed actually, as I think it's a cynical move by the council to send out inspectors on the Waitrose opening day when everything is bound to take longer than expected - however... "it's a fair cop guv'ner" - etc

None of the above can dampen my spirits at being able to go back to my previous little routine of going to the library, followed by a quick trip to the supermarket. Hurrah. Just have to make sure it's only an hour of pleasure at a time in future.

Posted on February 12, 2009 at 2:12 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Thursday February 5, 2009

Rural Renewal

We spent this week in France, although I seemed to spend all week working. I managed to walk around the garden a couple of times and took these pictures of Bakehouse progress. Peter has installed a new (plastic..) door and window at the front of the house; this caused him more trouble than he expected as the door was taller than the little building really accommodates, so he had to remove a tier of bricks and put in a new lintel.


Here's a view of the back of the house bathed in wintry sunshine, where we expect soon to add a door ("French window"), which will eventually give access to a tiny conservatory.


Here is the interior view of the southern wall with the front door and "kitchen area" (use your imagination). The new French door is leaning against the wall here - we brought it with us strapped firmly to the car roof.


Here is the north wall with the oven and chimney. The space is very restricted and I had to inexpertly stitch a few shots together to give an idea of how it looks so forgive the weird perspective. You can see Lloyd's newly pointed chimney breast.


Posted on February 5, 2009 at 12:30 PM. Category: France.