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Archive Entries for May 2013

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Friday May 31, 2013

Books in May

  • Started Early Took My Dog by Kate AtkinsonBOM-StartedEarlyTookMyDog.jpg
    I've had this book in my possession for a very long time - I had just read the first 3, and at the same time we had the first series of the TV adaptation. Now at last I got round to reading the 4th - and here it is on TV again.
    So before I launch into a lot more text - which is mainly about the TV and not about the book - may I say - it's great - do read it.

    The TV adaptations have now wandered so far from Jackson's life in books that they are finding it hard to get back on track - which they are trying to do, I think - now that they want to make more shows and yet keep using the books as source material. I don't really see why they needed to alter the plots quite so much. My biggest regret for this book is that "Tracy and Courtney" are the real stars with eccentric and yet convincing characters despite the extraordinary circumstances that they both find themselves in, and also create - and they even used Victoria Wood to play Tracy who would have been great if she'd actually been asked to play the character in the book but instead she played a rather serious woman with a past, in a dead beat job. As to book-Courtney - she was a wonderfully stoic kid with a good deal of her own dry wit, coming across loud and clear despite little dialogue - but on TV she was a sullen child showing signs of the abuse she had clearly been experiencing in her short life to date. Added to that they skipped the charming enigma of whose child Courtney actually was.... the mystery was simply removed.
    I do realise they have to change stories to make them fit their 1.5 hour format*, and granted Kate Atkinson's rather black humour and interesting morality might not be considered suitable... (though really: why not? - I mean after all, the stories and characters do actually have a pretty clear moral compass).
    No. I'm afraid the only saving grace to make you want to continue watching the TV adaptations is in the shape of Jackson himself - that one they seen to have got completely right. Jason Isaacs hits completely the right note.

    * ... and that's another thing... why not reap the benefits of the rich plot lines you can get from a full blown novel .... and .... make the drama longer. Hey - here's an idea - have several parts to cover one story - you could, say, call it a "serial".
    I know. I know. People just don't have the attention span these days to watch a whole series that they have to wait for every week ... Oh but wait... I seem to remember some foreign thing... The Killing? And we had to sit through enough episodes of flipping wonderful-but-sure-as-heck-long Broadchurch for goodness sake....

  • Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham [read by Toby Longworth] BOM-RushOfBlood.jpg
    Another stand-alone novel without Thorne - though he does make an appearance towards the end and we learn something about his new circumstances after the debacle surrounding the end of his last case.
    As usual, I was prejudiced against this novel - not the classic police detective murder mystery, new characters to get to know, and a different writing format. Our old friend the serial killer was still there though, and of course, I am sure the change was very refreshing for the author and this comes over in making the novel more interesting and fresh for the reader too.
    That killer though - totally bonkers or what? I do hope Thorne follows through tying up loose ends on that at a later date.

  • Cover Her Face by P D James [Radio Play] BOM-CoverHerFace.jpg
    A BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of P D James first Dalgliesh book - a replay from Radio 4 Extra (or 7 as I like to think of it) seemingly from 2002. This one not exactly starring Hugh Grant - though the blurb featured him heavily. I was never sure what to make of his character - Felix - I thought he was "the good guy" and yet James writes complex characters, and none of them is particularly likeable - with the exception of Dalgliesh of course - and even he's a bit odd.
    The real "star" is Sian Philips (as the matriarch and narrator) with her wonderful and distinctive voice. We are currently enjoying her portrayal of Livia in a rerun of "I Cladius" from the 1970s; marvellous actress in a marvellous role.

  • The Sign in the Sky by Agatha Christie [Read by Martin Jarvis] BOM-MysteriousMrQuin.jpg
    From Radio 4's 15 minute Afternoon Readings, and written in the 1920s, this is the 3rd of 3 recent readings featuring Harley Quin - a character who turns up from time to time and inspires the somewhat introverted bachelor Mr Satterthwaite to come out of his shell and see that justice is done. [In this episode he inspires him to whizz off to Canada...]. There have been at least half a dozen of these stories in this series - perfectly read by Martin Jarvis - taken from the book of short stories The Mysterious Mr Quin.
    There are two other stories featuring these two characters, The Harlequin Tea Set and The Love Detectives from Problem at Pollensa Bay, which I read in 2009.
    Mr Satterthwaite turns up in the novel Three Act Tragedy alongside Poirot - for no apparent reason, other than perhaps Christie was apparently fond of him. His character was omitted in the recent TV adaptation, with David Suchet and Martin Shaw, but he was played delightfully by George Cole in the BBC Radio 4 "full cast dramatisation".

  • Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie [Radio Play] BOM-SadCypress.jpg
    BBC Radio 4 Extra "full cast dramatisation" with John Moffat as Hercule Poirot, and Emma Fielding as Elinor Carlisle, directed by Enyd Williams.
    Helen and I were just discussing the book and agreeing that it is a favourite, even though in my opinion it's pretty dark. This comes across in this radio play and the TV adaptation with David Suchet. The character Mary Gerrard is portrayed as charming, sensible, cheerful, and kind - she regularly visits and reads to an elderly lady. She wants to "make something of herself" using the opportunities she has been given by said elderly lady - perhaps training as a nurse. So her death should really be a poignantly sad event - instead of which she seems just a pawn in the plot, and Elinor Carlisle is heavily portrayed as the sad victim (even though, as Helen observes "she is still actually alive"). Mary's real problem is that she is very beautiful, and, (Helen again) Agatha does not much like beautiful women; they are often portrayed as flighty, naive butterfly creatures - often rich - victims who put their trust in the wrong people, (viz: Evil Under the Sun, Death on the Nile, The Plymouth Express, The Blue Train). Interestingly, Mary does not quite fit the mould - she is not rich, (although money does seem to be the motive for her demise) and sees straight through Elinor's weak - but presumable handsome! - cousin Roddy. However, none of this is enough to save her. Poor Mary.
    Emma Fielding is pretty perfect for the role of Elinor, a thoroughly decent but slightly icy character, who is confused by her emotions of jealously, ill-will, and ultimately guilt. But as Poirot says - thinking about murdering someone is not the same as acting on it, and luckily he is there to save the day.
  • On BBC Radio iPlayer and Listen Again I have also been enjoying Dixon of Dock Green, Alan Garner's Elidor, and Father Brown Stories with Andrew Sachs.

Posted on May 31, 2013 at 9:18 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Monday May 27, 2013

Pin Loom Weaves


Not sure when the idea first came to me but I decided to weave some squares to make a backing for my latch-hook cushion (Christmas gift from Alison) using a weaving frame made for me a couple of years ago by Father George. Serendipitously, four squares (about 7 inches each) are exactly the right size, and I am very pleased with the result.


I guess it may not look so very impressive but it's exactly right for a rustic looking backing for this cushion.
The yarn was some Gotland handspun by Felicity - with which she was disappointed since the yarn turned out fairly hard and coarse - and without being too discourteous to Felicity, this was partly the fibre and partly the spinning - however, it was a great delight to find something for which it is so well-suited.
I crocheted the squares together, making a decorative join, having made 4 using the weaving technique demonstrated below (by Hazel) on a modern Hazel Rose Loom.

With my loom, the spacing of the nails means it's really designed for a very chunky yarn, and even then it's a very loose weave. The yarn I used is not very stretchy so it was not going to spring back to a closer weave of its own accord - I tried a test piece and found I could not further shrink it either. So for this project I decided to re-ply Felicity's 2 ply into 6 ply (by just Navaho plying her yarn) which made for an unbalanced yarn - but this did not matter for the weaving - then I used the yarn double. [It's better to use the yarn double rather than trying for a bulkier ply, as the yarn is not rounded but lies flatter in the weave, so you end up with a closer weave, but not a thicker fabric].
I am now inspired to try a blanket...! and while you pick yourself up off the floor laughing, I should say, that this process was exceedingly quick - I completed it in an afternoon, including the spinning and the test piece.

My introduction to this technique was through seeing a (Hazel Rose Loom) demonstration at Unravel one year. So I thought the above diagonal weave was the only way these pin looms are used. Gradually I became aware that in fact there were a lot of vintage pin/hand looms around in America from around the 1940s and a number of people spoke of them with great affection - there are quite a few always available on eBay which fetch pretty good prices - especially if they include the instructions!. There are many different patterns that can be achieved on these looms but the technique used is more like conventional weaving. Here is Hazel again demonstrating the "weave-it" technique on a Hazel Rose Loom.

Hazel Rose Looms are beautifully made from wonderful woods - but they do seem a bit steep to buy. If you fancy having a go and want to make a DIY loom - here is an idea to make a loom by mutilating an old book. I think maybe a bit less easy to use than a wooden frame but it might convince you whether or not to spend the money on the real thing.

The slightly sad footnote to this is that I never felt I made my appreciation known to Father George for his efforts in making this loom for me - and I never used it in any project for him to see. In fact I feel I was rather ungrateful at the time and now he's not around any more so I'll just have to come to terms with the vague disquiet I feel about it. I kind of hope that somehow he knows how much I (we all) valued his skills and his gifts.

Posted on May 27, 2013 at 8:09 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Monday May 20, 2013

The problem with automation...

...is that it's simply not a person.
I finished the little fair-isle waistcoat (Debbie Bliss design) - and found an error. It's one row offset wrongly and wouldn't really happen with hand knitting - or if it did you would notice it immediately you looked at it from a right side row. Instead, I did not notice until I was pressing it. You can compare the top set of navy blocks with the bottom set.


So now I have painstakingly unpicked it and grafted new stitches in on just that one row. Machine knitting is quicker than hand - but not quick enough to contemplate redoing the whole thing. I have also (by design) cheated here, in that there is a single row of red yarn to go into these little navy blocks, where I decided the strand at the back of the work was too long - seeing as it's for a child, I think he might catch it - so I am swiss embroidering the red dots.
You can see it in this pop-up of the finished item.

Posted on May 20, 2013 at 11:08 PM. Category: Knitting.

Saturday May 18, 2013



So... "shibori" sounded very exotic until I read wikipedia which told me it was the age old Hippy standby "tie dye" (although I think to be fair that's only a part of it). As a child of the 70s, it seemed very familiar in concept - but so much more interesting in practice. I think at the time I was too young to really have a go myself - just saw the T-shirts!
Above you see the class "show and tell".


We had a splendid day with Jennifer teaching us; the only limitation being that one day was not long enough to explore everything.


Having impulsively invested in a whopping great piece of silk organza (never seen any in pure silk before but could not resist) I was delighted at the result - which was using the fabric folded and then wrapped.


Felicity went to town with the stitched panel, and made a bee. She also had some beautifully executed circles, and made a "doughnut" scarf. I think my favourite was the "larch" stitch pattern which I plan to experiment with further at home.


Posted on May 18, 2013 at 4:46 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Wednesday May 15, 2013



This is Alan Bennett's new play about.... what .... I am wondering.
That may sound like a bad start - but it was a great play, with so much in it that I find it hard to distil it down to a single grand point. Indeed, Robert certainly had an interpretation, centring on politics of the 1980s, and thus obviously pit closures. Myself, I think it's easy to see it as a generic criticism of the National Trust organization - but I can't think it's that, or even that Bennett dislikes it with such a passion that he was driven to write an entire play about it. I think more that it's a about a sense of loss of the past - what was every day life becomes no longer ordinary and thus no longer to be taken for granted. And though it's not so much that you should not try to preserve it, but that you cannot really preserve it, because it is no longer ordinary. As with relativity - you observe it closely, and it changes - becomes a "Pretend England"

This short film People: A Pretend England is well worth the 8 minutes - and Bennett himself describes his feelings about the play.

This image below makes the play look rather manic - which it is not - but Rob loved Linda Bassett's slippers, so I am including it for that...


Posted on May 15, 2013 at 11:24 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday May 12, 2013

MayDaysArtsTrail 2013


We spent the day on Hayling Island - we had a great lunch at the Olive Leaf pub and restaurant, and made a brief foray out on to the beach - but it was a bit too bracing to stay long - or even "at all"!

The main reason we were there was to see Lou's open house. She had a lot of her "students" work on show this year - including a memorial room dedicated to Sheila's work - from which you can gather that Sheila is no longer with us. Since I still find it rather hard to believe, let alone accept, I can't really say much more than to let her work speak for itself.





Posted on May 12, 2013 at 5:53 PM. Category: Quilting.

Monday May 6, 2013

May Bank Holiday


We had a pretty full schedule over the weekend (mine was totally self serving, devoting self to hair-do, pedicure and buying myself bunches of flowers). But we spent the holiday Monday, (which, against all the rules, was a lovely sunny day), at the allotment.
George was putting up bean supports - but he quickly found he had no hope of competing with the amazing edifice constructed by our neighbour, John. The photos show George doing the hard bit, digging in compost and putting edging boards in place, in the morning when there was some cloud cover. By the afternoon we were sweltering under clear sunny skies.
[My contribution was supplying thermos flasks of tea, and a bit of weeding in the asparagus bed - from which we cropped and ate 2 twigs today... My abandoned orange-handled fork visible on the bed at the right of the picture as evidence of my activity. Pretty yellow dandelions visible in the strawberry bed in the foreground were dealt with later - this bed is also full of the prettiest blue wild flowers, which I am sad to have to remove...]


The beans in the afternoon sunshine, waiting to be planted out. [It's still very cold at night here - everything is very late].


Posted on May 6, 2013 at 7:06 PM. Category: The Garden.