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Archive Entries for June 2012

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Saturday June 30, 2012

Books in June

  • The Burry Man's Day by Catriona McPherson BOM-TheBurryMansDay.jpg
    I was very keen to read more of Dandy Gilver's doings, but could only find a "real" book of the second novel so it took me a while to get round to it. I did guess at the nub of the story before it was clear to the characters, but judging by the previous book, I think that is the author's intention. This is another author that really seems to be able to evoke the period she is writing about. I think this is a difficult line to tread from the perspective of today; I have read others questioning Dandy's attitude to her offspring, which I find quite easy to accept, and this may because I have no children, but also, the environment in which she exists means that she cannot be so fully absorbed by her children in the way we all are today, otherwise all parents of that era and class would have been in a perpetual state of torment and loss. The stories in general, and this in particular, strongly reflect on the effects of WW1, about which our attitudes to fighting, "lack of moral fibre" and desertion have done a complete about face in the intervening century; I think it must be hard to keep your characters sympathetic while keeping them true to the times, and have their expressing views that they must have feasibly held, but which are not the normal PC views today. However, I think the author does an excellent job and, as before, I am looking forward to reading all the following books.

  • Straight by Dick Francis [read by Tony Britton] BOM-Straight.jpg
    I was surprised to find a Francis novel I had not already read - and pleased of course. This is one of those novels where the action is around a non-racing theme, but unlike some, I think this one works particularly well for two reasons: it is firmly embedded with a racing background, and the hero is a jockey who has been thrust into the world of gem stones by the death of his brother. This gives a more plausible way for the gem stone business to be explained to the reader - ie through the eyes of the novice hero. Other than that, the usual exciting thriller with minor romance thrown in.

  • The Reversal by Michael Connelly [read by Michael Brandon] BOM-TheReversal.jpg
    This is a great book which offers all I have come to expect in anticipating each of his crime novels. It brings together almost all his heroes in one book, as Haller, Bosch, and Walling all appear - which is fun. I like the way he rings the changes on his characters; for example in this book, Haller is prosecuting. I know it sounds unlikely, but the basic premise is well explained and his inexperience on the other side of the fence is also nicely covered. I did think this was his latest, but there are 2 more after this and another expected to be published later this year, so I am much in arrears, but with lots to look forward to.

  • Silence by Jan Costin Wagner (translated by Anthea Bell) BOM-Silence.jpg
    This was a book suggestion from the Slockavullin Book Group. From what Helen said I was expecting this to be glum and introspective in the same vein as the non-Wallander Mankell novel that I accidentally read. As such I was pleasantly surprised to be reading a fairly solid detective story plus interesting features of the detectives' lives. I would recommend this as a pretty good read, and I understand it to be the second one featuring the same characters; see also Ice Moon - the first book - and The Winter of the Lions published more recently.

Posted on June 30, 2012 at 8:55 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday June 23, 2012



We spent the day in Keswick. I was keen to review the pencil museum but for some reason Helen was less so. We began by parking at the little theatre and getting our tickets for the evening performance of Dry Rot - a revival of the Whitehall farce of 1954.
After that we went for a short walk on footpath opposite the theatre, skirting the incumbent flock of sheep - which served only to ensure I had sopping wet feet throughout day 2 as well. After astute observation (!) it became clear to us that the water was very high and had submerged footpaths (to the right of the photo) and boathouses (to the left). The solitary little figure is Helen.

After pootling about shopping, we returned to the hotel to relax and warm up before heading out to the theatre again. Helen was a bit tight lipped about the play ("dated") - but for myself it pretty well lived up to my every expectation.


Posted on June 23, 2012 at 11:06 PM. Category: Days Out.

Friday June 22, 2012

Woolfest 2012

There were some delightful exhibits this year including these 3D fabric renditions of well-known paintings; the sunflowers I thought were especially good.

VanGoghL.jpg MunchL.jpg KlimtL.jpg

I bought lots of excellent items (mostly fluff and string so I'm not documenting them in detail here). I met up with Carol and Pete Leonard again, and David Herring who supplied the missing "bits" for my wheel - so tiny I need to keep a firm hand on myself to avoid misplacing them after all that. I gave one of the exhibitors cause to giggle as I was wandering around muttering "I must not lose my washers and spring pin" - which she felt was some kind of euphemism of the same ilk as keeping my hand on my ha'penny...

I notice that Susan Crawford had a nice retro "Jubilee" book of patterns on sale (Coronation Knits) - all from the era of the coronation - charming idea. And Kate Davies ("Needled") had a lovely new pattern for a sheep tea cosy which I acquired on a commission from Alison.

CoronationKnits.jpg SheepCarousel.jpg

We came down to the Lake District yesterday, with Helen satisfying my need to visit TK Max and the outlet centre on the way. The weather had turned grim as we drove south - but I seem to have booked a rather splendid country house hotel, which puts a better complexion on things. We immediately booked into the restaurant for last night and tonight, where we found the food excellent - as was breakfast this morning.

Despite the comfort of hot baths and good food at the end of the day, I have to say, Woolfest was not such a great experience for me this year. Overall, I feel that this is a very personal experience and I am not sure that I expect that the organisers could - or should even - take any notice of my gripes.
In summary I think, I am not enjoying the fact that the event is getting bigger - I saw no need to extend the range of stallholders; the consequence seems to be to have changed the mix to include more straight knitting wools, fabrics, buttons etc - so I am seeing all the same people I usually see at Alexandra Palace. The previous exhibition area is now given over to teas and seating, and the Long Draw Spinners (to name but one exhibitor) had been banished to a small corner stall which is not appropriate to view their demonstrations. I can see the visitor numbers will inevitably increase and I am pleased for the organisers - but it had somehow lost its unique emphasis on the animals and the raw fleece and materials. [In passing the Ring several times and having a quick look in, there seemed to be no rare-breed parade this year - or I certainly missed it if there were - and all I saw was a man reading from a rather dull script to a tiny audience, where the ring had been packed out in the past.].
My other selfish whine is that I was not able to park right outside the front of the building as in past years. Now - I know - not everyone can and the increased visitor numbers and vendors mean they have to use the facilities to better suit people's real needs - it's inevitable. But to lose this privilege in conjunction with the truly awful weather - having to park in a field some distance away for the first time, walk across a swamp, through a stepped cascading river of water down to queue outside the back of the venue in the torrential rain to buy tickets - which along with the programme were drenched before we even made it inside..... an unfortunate combination. I think even their attempts to improve the toilet facilities (I admit there was always a queue) were also thwarted by the weather. And - again purely selfishly - the things they had "improved", I do not see as improvements because basically I had no issue with them in the past.
If you had asked me in advance, I was not at all concerned about the bad weather, thinking that as it is all under cover it was not really a weather-dependent event. However, starting (and continuing) the day with sopping wet feet and carrying a sopping wet kagool around (which made my purchases wet - not good for books and patterns), made a great difference to my pleasure in the day. I know there is a supposed British stiff upper lip and we're all in it together making the best of things despite the weather and so on... but it's just not fun.

Posted on June 22, 2012 at 11:56 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Wednesday June 20, 2012

Glasgow Culture Vultures


Today we are in Glasgow to see an outdoor production of The Tempest in the Botanic Gardens. Here is the excited audience before the play begins; excited with the thrill of worrying whether or not we will all be drenched. [It has been raining solidly in various parts of the country for some days now, although my stay in Slockavullin drove me to don my shorts at one point.] However, despite the much publicised downpour predicted for the evening, it stayed fine throughout, and was a great performance.
Our hotel was marvellously convenient, and I had to take this picture of the room - resplendent with chandelier, and chaise longue (as well as the twin beds) - and you can just see that Helen has just made 2 mugs of tea. It was all charming and not to mention very good value - but don't even think about trying to check in after hours.... you have been warned...


Posted on June 20, 2012 at 11:35 PM. Category: Days Out.

Tuesday June 19, 2012

Crinan Canal Walk (...and tea...)

I am staying with Helen for a few days and then we are off to Woolfest.


We went for a "wee walk" (hike) along the canal. And - as Helen says - the best thing about a wee walk is the tea room at the other end.


Posted on June 19, 2012 at 9:02 PM. Category: Days Out.

Saturday June 16, 2012

Fusing Fabric


We were lucky enough to have Margaret Beal ("Burning Issues") along to our guild for a workshop to learn her techniques in fabric manipulation. Essentially you use a very fine-tipped soldering iron to burn synthetic fabrics in a controlled manner. Margaret explained to us how she had first come to the idea - which was as a quicker way to remove excess fabric in cut-work embroidery when she was a student - and developed it into this unique art form.


Posted on June 16, 2012 at 10:45 AM. Category: Crafts.

Thursday June 14, 2012


In March I finally achieved my ambition of owning a Frank Herring wheel. The reason you have not heard about it before now is that I did not have a lot of success spinning with it. Although it can be optionally set up for scotch tension, my other wheels are like that, so I wanted to leave it as I had received it - double band drive. However, the wheel band would sporadically slip off as I was spinning, and I could not decide if it were me or the wheel.

Last week I was spinning at a garden party and had the opportunity to try a friend's similar wheel, and found I could use it quite easily without a problem. And so, long overdue, I decided to sort it out. I was loathe to start by randomly dismantling the wheel, so I looked carefully at it, comparing with at the photos in the manual - I noticed 3 things: the wheel did not line up with the pulley blocks, the bobbin was clipped in wrongly (easily fixed), and the mother-of-all was not positioned relative to the machine in the same way as in the photo.
I felt the latter was key so that's what I dismantled. Sure enough I found a couple of tiny parts missing.


They are not uncommon pieces to obtain but as I had nothing to compare them with I went to Herrings to ask for specific replacements, and David Herring is bringing them to Woolfest for me to collect.

Posted on June 14, 2012 at 2:05 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Sunday June 3, 2012

Jubilee in France

We had a very satisfying Jubilee weekend in France.
When we arrived (forewarned) the garden was totally out of control -


I always like to leave incidental plants and the stachys is delightful growing between the cracks in the granite paving - when it is small. This variety, (I rescued half dead from a garden shop), grows up to produce brilliant almost fluorescent flower heads and it's huge. Every year it reseeds itself all over the place. In addition here you can see foxgloves, chives, and tansy - all growing in the cracks.

The main thing however was that the grass was waist high. George spent most of the time fixing that with the stalwart new mower (plus it's new add-on gadget which we picked up on our way to Cuves). It hardly complained at all despite the fact that the grass was far too long for it and a little damp. So George mowed and strimmed in rotation in between the showers - and, as usual, once the grass was shorter, the whole garden was transformed.


You may think this is not an improvement - but we can't just leave it as a meadow.


I spent the time working on the bakehouse, and had great fun tiling and painting - even George joined in painting the ceiling with me - and it's all coming on pretty well.....
... and in addition to all this activity, we were able to watch the Queen (on TV) making her fantastic and rather surreal voyage down the Thames.

Posted on June 3, 2012 at 6:56 PM. Category: France.