Weblog (home)


Pattern of
the Month

On the Needles
(...and Off the Needles)



About the
Idle Hands

Archive Entries for August 2011

« July 2011 | Main | September 2011 »

Wednesday August 31, 2011

Books in August

  • The Scarecrow Michael Connelly [read by John Chancer]
    BOM-TheScarecrow.jpg I'm a great fan of Connelly and have very high expectations (always met) of every book, consuming each with concentrated enthusiasm. However, for some reason I can't really explain, I found this one even more thrilling than usual.
    I only came to read Connelly in the early 2000s and so I probably read the earlier novels out of sequence and focused mainly on Harry Bosch. So this was probably my first introduction to Jack McEvoy. He's a reporter "of a certain age", employed in a cut throat industry in the process of great change. "Real" journalists are being laid off from traditional newspapers, in favour of employing free-lancers with "stories" rather than real skill. He feels he has reached a dead end in his career - or at least in his employment - and needs to move on. His plight struck a chord with me, even though I'm not a journalist, and Connelly, as a former crime reporter, writes all this with great sympathy. Against that background is the really gripping story of Jack's pursuit of a serial killer. I think also there was an enhanced sense of jeopardy, simply because Jack is not Harry, so you are by no means certain that he has to survive to be in the next book (!).
    [Note that I listened to this as a talking book narrated by John Chancer - who was excellent - but I note that many available versions elsewhere seem to be narrated by Peter Giles.]

  • Friends at Thrush Green Miss Read [read by the Gwen Watford]
    BOM-FriendsAtThrushGreen.jpg Another chance to listen to Gwen Watford's charming narration of these gentle tales from Miss Read centred on her two fictional villages. The book I read previously was one of the Fairacre series from 1964, whereas this one is much later from 1990, and - as the title suggests - set in Thrush Green. The novels are generally humorous with subtle social commentary.
    Thrush Green's two former schoolteachers are now retired, and return for a visit. It's spring and everyone is keen to share all the latest gossip with their friends. As one reader aptly put it " the literary equivalent of a good cup of tea".
    [Gwen Watford was a lovely actress fitting perfectly with the retro charm of this era and society. I particularly loved her interpretation of Miss Marple's best friend Dolly Bantry in the Joan Hickson TV series.]

  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Helen SimonsonBOM-MajorPettigrew.jpg
    This is essentially a love story. The Major is a confirmed bachelor, pretty definitely "set in his ways". When his brother dies, he develops an unexpected friendship with a widowed shopkeeper from the village - who happens to be a Pakistani. As their relationship develops, all those covert attitudes to "foreigners" surface among the village society. I say "covert", though I am guessing that Mrs Ali has been made all too aware of them all the time she has lived there - but the Major has a lot of catching up to do. And not only does he have the local community to deal with, but he has scheming relatives...
    Some people find the Major unbelievable in this day and age - and he is a bit of an anachronism - but for me he is a bit like Wallace (as in: "and Gromit"), in that he is created by a person "of a certain age" - in this author's case, younger than both Nick Park and me - but she was brought up in East Sussex and moved to the US after college, so I think probably retains good memories of such characters set in place and time. And to a great degree this is all about the Major facing up to the realities of the 21st century.
    The words "charming", "delightful", "gentle humour", "heart-warming" etc spatter the reviews of this book - but like the Miss Read books there is a strong underlying message.

  • 206 Bones Kathy ReichsBOM-206Bones.jpg
    This is a book written in two time lines beginning with the present, where we find Tempe tied up in a dark enclosed space. This is a way to make a book tense and thrilling, while in the timeline of the past, we plod through an investigation. The books are of course formulaic, where Tempe always or often ends up in danger, and is then rescued (I hope that's not a spoiler, but there are books that follow this one). And then there's a polemic about something or other at the end.
    Apparently the human skeleton is made up of 206 bones; from the title, I just thought: 'hey - Tempe is in her element - lots of bones...'. I think I read the whole of the book without really "getting it" (despite the detailed descriptions - maybe like many other readers I was skipping the tedious science bits).

  • Unseen Academicals Terry PratchettBOM-UnseenAcademicals.jpg
    The 37th novel in the Discworld series was published in 2009 after a short hiatus following the author's diagnosis of his serious, and ultimately fatal, illness. The novel satirises football (as well as the many renowned and eccentric Oxbridge traditions) with one Mustrum Ridcully setting up an Unseen University football team, which has the Librarian as the goalie (obviously...). This all comes about because tradition mandates a football game (town versus gown) in exchange for a large financial endowment to the University by a wealthy family. The local version of football is very violent and deaths are common; thus the wizards are somewhat concerned for their own safety, and impose new 'official' football rules, which includes forbidding the use of hands and mandating the use of official footballs as opposed to the makeshift balls the street games use.
    I'm not a true and dedicated fan of all the Discworld novels as some are; however, Pratchett has a touch of genius in benignly ridiculing the most (and least) preposterous aspects of modern life. Weirdly - unlike much other satirical humour - it's always achieved with a certain fondness for humankind, despite their follies.

Posted on August 31, 2011 at 8:38 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday August 27, 2011

The Wedding Party


My cousin* Jim and Tara tied the knot down in Plymouth and this was their "second wedding" in Jim's home town. Below is Jim with proud parents, cousin Jenny and Eddy.


* As my family is ever extending, I was driven to look up my exact relationship with Jim - which is "first cousin once removed" apparently.

Posted on August 27, 2011 at 6:38 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Friday August 26, 2011

Spinning in the Glasshouse


Janet had all the gang round to hers again, (a glutton for punishment as we say).
All is a positive hive of activity, except I notice that my wheel in the foreground has nothing on it....! I seem to spend most of my time chatting to people.

Posted on August 26, 2011 at 4:51 PM. Category: Days Out.

Thursday August 25, 2011

Sheep may safely graze.


On the way back from a lunch date at Dragons Green, I noticed signs advertising a windmill at Shipley, so I followed to take a look, and have a walk around the village. The windmill was made more famous by having featured in Jonathan Creek, and is no longer open to the public apparently - and I could not even find the adjacent path from which "it can be viewed externally" - this was as close as I got.


Me and the sheep got a little closer.


The lunch date was with my sister and cousin David. She and I were incapable of taking a decent photo with my phone, but I want to record the day so I went for the ones where we were at least smiling.



Posted on August 25, 2011 at 9:49 PM. Category: Days Out.

Saturday August 20, 2011

Creative Fibres 20th Year

It's our Guild's 20th year and we had a little lunch party to celebrate.


Above: the spread.
Below: the team that made it all happen (not quite so much me, though I seem to have a prominent place in thepicture...)


Posted on August 20, 2011 at 8:53 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Thursday August 18, 2011


In 2006 I made Deep (a cardigan) in Rowan's Summer Tweed. The colour really suits me but I never wore Deep very much. So I am reinventing it in a new shape. It's an Aran, so knits up speedily. The pattern is by Marie Wallin from Rowan Magazine 47 and looks deceptively simple - and turned out to be a complete nightmare.
I am a pretty experienced knitter and I could not work from the chart at all. In the end I resorted to someone else's drafting of the stitch pattern (thank heavens for Ravelry for pointing me at it) - and made the rest up myself. If I look at all strained in the photo, it is because I was.


The photo itself does not do the yarn justice as it is a wonderful turquoise colour with flecks of pink and other colours, and I had trouble deciding on the perfect buttons - I hope these are they - lovely wooden buttons with faded stripes.


For those who might need some help as I did, I have written out the pattern, in a way that I hope shows the pattern repeat and the end margins; I worked entirely from this but everyone "sees" a patten differently so not guaranteeing it will sort everyone out*. I'm afraid when you get to the increasing and decreasing you are on your own...!

* One Raveller said she "quite got into it" after a while... but I never did, having to refer to the pattern for every row.

Mermaid's Mesh

The most important fact that I missed is that you need 2 margin stitches at the beginning and end of the rows, not just one, so the pattern is worked over a multiple of 9 stitches plus 4.

The blue text shows the sts to knit at the beginning an end of each row, and the stitches enclosed between the symbols || need to be repeated until you get to the last few sts in each row.
All odd-numbered rows are purl working the "YO twice" as K1, P1.

I have used to symbol ¦ to indicate how the decreases and yarn-overs balance each other out. You need this to ensure you keep the same number of sts in the row overall. Sometimes the balanced set of sts straddle the end of one repeat and the beginning of the next - I have used dots to indicate this continuation; at the beginning an end of this type of row, there are unbalanced decreases and yarn-overs in the margins to balance the row out overall.

Row 1 K1 yo || ...ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3tog yo ¦ yo...|| ssk K1
Row 3   || K2tog yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3tog yo || K2tog yo K2
Row 5 K1 || K2tog yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3tog yo ¦ K2tog yo || K2tog yo K1
Row 7 K2tog yo || K2tog yo ¦ yo K3togtbl yo ¦ K2tog yo ¦ K2tog yo || K2
Row 9 K1 K2tog yo || K2tog yo ¦ yo K3togtbl yo ¦ K2tog yo ¦ K2tog yo || K1
Row 11 K2tog yo || K2tog yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3togtbl yo ¦ K2tog yo || K2
Row 13 K1 K2tog || ...yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3togtbl yo ¦ K2tog...|| yo K1
Row 15 K2tog || ...yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3tog...|| yo yo ssk

Posted on August 18, 2011 at 3:11 PM. Category: Knitting.

Thursday August 4, 2011

The Visit


Alison found the time to come and stay during her visit to the UK. We had such a lovely time that I'm ashamed to say this is the only photographic record I have! We went walking to Walton pond and Alison practiced with her new SLR camera.
We may have done a bit of spinning........

Posted on August 4, 2011 at 7:56 PM. Category: Friends.