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Wednesday December 31, 2014

Books in December

  • Died in the Wool by Ngaio Marsh [read by James Saxon] BOM-DiedInTheWool.jpg
    I don't know how long I've been listening to this on and off - add to which I have a suspicion I listened to it before, some long time ago. The reason it took me so long to complete it was that I was listening to it on a timer before going to sleep - and all that happened was I lasted about 2 minutes, so had to keep rerunning the same chapter over and over...!
    That's not a judgement on the book though - it's quite a good plot; the characters are dated and brittle but I find that attractive.

  • Dust by Patricia Cornwell [read by Lorelei King] BOM-Dust.jpg
    This by contrast was quite difficult to read. In fact I cannot really remember who actually dunnit. There seems to be a lot of conspiracy and paranoia coming out - and I look at reader comments (they can write better than I!) here and find the are all expressing exactly what I feel.
    I really don't like to be unpleasant to an author but like all these folk I have read the whole series and - like them - I "want to like them" but:
    ...really gotten obsessive...full of internal monologues...needs an editor and a plot...like wading through mud...could have been a lot shorter if she took out all the psychology of how everyone else felt... lost it's freshness and I find I don't care for the characters any more...just plain not very good...
    Which all leads me to this comment:
    "excellent book if she had left out all the self indulgent waffle about food and restaurants and dogs and places she has been to in the past. I have also grown to really dislike her characters"
    ...and makes me think that maybe Cornwell needs to find some new characters to inspire her - there really is nothing left to explore with these ones.
    [Like I find writing my blog - I do the same stuff every year (!) - but I am not a world reknowned author - that's my excuse.]


  • A Christmas Crumble by M C Beaton BOM-ChristmasCrumble.jpg
    Well I could say the same kind of stuff as above about this short story - however they are written to a formula but still excellent fun. I guess Agatha Raisin seems very real - I can relate to her childish emotions in late middle-age - so unlike the grown-up Kay Scarpetta.
    I think I can align Agatha to Enid Blyton's Noddy (I expect MC Beaton would be appalled) - Noddy is aimed at 3 year olds - it explores the world in a safe environment with Noddy doing "the wrong thing" and getting into trouble. Agatha is just the same - but aimed at the over 50s.

Posted on December 31, 2014 at 1:10 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Thursday December 25, 2014

Christmas

Christmas2014b.jpg

A couple of photos of our decorations this year - much like the decorations every other year - the comfort and security of familiar objects.
Notable are the spanking new windows in the picture below and the tiny evidence of crafting in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture above.

Christmas2014a.jpg

Posted on December 25, 2014 at 7:10 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Saturday December 20, 2014

More Tweed

TweedLaptopBag.jpg

When I attended the conference in Dublin they gave me a free canvas bag. Although I don't need a bag and it was the quality you might expect of a freebie (functional but not lovely), I was very taken with it. It consisted of a slightly padded nylon zip cover for a laptop which fitted into a matching "half bag" with handles.

So then of course I got to thinking..... how nice it would be to make a "half bag" to match the tweed laptop cover I made for George last year. So I contacted "Tilly Tree Mouse" again to see if she had any of the same patterned tweed left and to my delight she was able to find and supply me with some remnants which, though small, I was able to use to piece the bag together due to its construction partially in leather. I was able to find the same lining fabric from the Quilt Room - and I bought some leather strapping from "leather4craft" having been such a helpful supplier during my travellers notebook enterprises.

The result is really pleasing. I was expecting it to be really difficult, based on how hard it was to make the laptop cover, and plus the fact that it involved sewing leather in difficult shapes. But it was much easier and the leather work was not so much of a problem. [Except when I tried to apply another monogram - sigh...]

Posted on December 20, 2014 at 3:30 PM. Category: Crafts.

Thursday December 18, 2014

Carnival Band

bandandmaddy.jpg

I went to see Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band at the Cadogan Hall - accompanied by a dutiful Robert because.... my sister (and her friend Jenny) were part of the "people's choir" that they include in their Christmas shows.

This was the best surreptitious photo I could get of her - well ... I know it was her.
She is the person-shaped blob behind the professional and his mike on the left.

Lyn.jpg

Posted on December 18, 2014 at 11:36 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Wednesday December 10, 2014

Edward Scissorhands

EdwardScissorhands.jpg

Matthew Bourne's dance production of Edward Scissorhands restaged at Sadlers Wells. Based, of course, on the touching and now classic film by Tim Burton and featuring the music of Danny Elfman and Terry Davies. I went with Robert (we've seen a lot of Dance in our time), and I was expecting it to be "Good" but I underestimated how delightfully enjoyable it would be. Perfectly lovely family/Christmassy thing.

I had to steal this publicity photo to show the great costume designed by one of Rob's long-time ex-students. Edward danced almost all the way through with those hands, and used them to great effect (dramatic effect - probably not for actually cutting).

Scissorhands.jpg

Posted on December 10, 2014 at 11:35 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday November 30, 2014

Books in November

  • The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis BOM-TheIdesOfApril.jpg
    Here we find that Falco's adopted daughter has taken on the mantle of Public Inquirer and also taken up residence at the old homestead in Fountain Court on the Aventine. It is all plausibly well written and I enjoy the idea - and the fact that Linsey Davis is adding more scope to the Falco series.... but o there was something special about Falco and his daughter is simply not quite so special. I think for the same reason they have never quite been able to successfully capture his character on screen either - just not found the right man.

  • Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin [read by James Macpherson] BOM-SaintsOfTheShadowBible.jpg

    Delighted to be able to go straight into the next Rebus novel and see him alongside Malcolm Fox - I would say "working with" but they weren' 100% on the same side. Malcolm is definitely shaping up for a career move back ot CID.
    [I listened while painting the ceiling of my newly resuscitated studio/office.]

Posted on November 30, 2014 at 12:19 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Wednesday November 26, 2014

The Hypochondriac

Hypochondriac.jpg

Tony Robinson in the Molière role and lots of fun. However was disturbed to note that the humorous device of "Molière" collapsing at the end of the play was not a little amusement but a re-enactment of what actually happened in the 1600s - it was Molière's last play.

Posted on November 26, 2014 at 8:45 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Thursday November 13, 2014

Neville's Island

NevillesIsland.jpg

I found this play at the Duke of York really funny and entertaining with a fantastic cast - and I know a lot of my theatrical outings are not West End Productions but I am more than a bit surprised that the critics seem to have been less than bowled over. The Telegraph was especially puzzling - having given a rave review to the version at Chichester saying it should transfer to the West End, their review was scathing; (I even wonder if the reviewer was actually present since one character did not, as stated, have a nervous breakdown "after the death of his wife").
So - ignore all that - go and see this great cast (and amazing set).

Posted on November 13, 2014 at 8:18 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Monday November 3, 2014

Ming

MingWhiteBlueVase.jpg

We went to another members evening at the British Museum. Both the German and Ming exhibitions were open but we chose the latter and then attended a lecture. There were also workshops and I was quite keen on attending the one on calligraphy but could not fit that in with the lecture as well.

I learned that Ming is not the most precious china - in fact almost the opposite as it can be regarded as the world's first truly global brand. However, it is the most well known, and mystery stories - where Agatha Christie's "The Blue Vase" springs to mind - did much to popularise the idea of its high value. [And despite the exhibition showing many other exquisite pieces of rare beauty - the blue and white is still my favourite].
I'm afraid I cannot retain the facts and figures in the lecture I have come away with the shape of it in my mind, and the "50 years that changed China". While we were busy at Agincourt, they were building the Forbidden City.

Posted on November 3, 2014 at 11:24 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday October 31, 2014

Books in October

  • Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs [read by Barbara Rosenblat ] BOM-CrossBones.jpg
    I certainly enjoy these books though some more than others - sometimes they focus a bit too much on Tempe as a champion for some campaigning issue or historical injustice.

    However, this book hit lots of my own personal buttons and I absolutely loved it. Broadly it covered archaeological evidence found in the Middle East at the time of Christ, (matters not how much was fiction as no assertions were made) and it was a pretty good thriller to boot.
    And before you ask, no, I am not a closet fan of Dan Brown.

  • The Seventh Trumpet by Peter Tremayne [read by Caroline Lennon] BOM-TheSeventhTrumpet.jpg
    I was glad to stumble over another Sister Fidelma story - I have read only one other and that was simply years ago.
    I am sufficiently ignorant that I didn't really take on board that they were set in Ireland - I thought "Celtic Britain" - and it may be that I read the first one which is not in Ireland - I cannot remember.
    This one is AD 670 - a murder of course - and a good mystery. But more than that I loved the reader. I am not always fond of heavy regional accents in narrators - even lilting Irish ones - but this was lovely and only added to my enjoyment of the text.

Posted on October 31, 2014 at 12:18 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Thursday October 23, 2014

Gaudy handspun

I finally got round to spinning the hand-dyed fleece I bought in Lewes almost exactly a year ago. It was slightly matted, as is hard to avoid when hand dying delicate fibres, so I teased it out a bit, and spun it using the Herring wheel (for the first time really in anger). It worked out pretty well and I chain plied it to keep the colour sequence, making a 3 ply - which seems to be a DK of sorts.
This has since turned into a tiny but very striking capelet or neck scarf.

GaudyCapelet.jpg

Back in July, I also spun the purple roving I bought at Woolfest (on my Wee Peggy) and by August had knitted another "Stellaria". This was all a bit of a blur and I find it hard to remember that I did it all this summer - I was a bit preoccupied with other stuff - but here's the evidence:

Stellaria3.jpg

Posted on October 23, 2014 at 9:50 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Tuesday October 14, 2014

Guiness

DublinGuiness1.jpg

So we were treated to an outing to the Guiness Factory while attending a conference in Dublin. I think we all had a great evening - part of which was learning to pour the perfect pint. Here a colleague concentrates on the task at hand. I also duly tried my hand and received the certificate to prove it.

DublinGuiness2.jpg

Posted on October 14, 2014 at 10:50 AM. Category: Days Out.

Tuesday October 7, 2014

Traveller's Notes

Not sure how this started but during the summer I became very interested in the idea of Midori Travellers Notebooks and watched lots of You tube explanations of how you can make similar booklets yourself.
I then found "Ray" and My Life In One Place... and never looked back.
Ray really has his roots in project/time management - he has published a couple of helpful books on journalling etc which are well worth the small investment. However he has a stack of information and free downloads on his site for making your own inserts for a host of different booklet formats (much of it Filofax as well as Midori and Field Notebooks). His latest Midori inserts are for knitting and music.

I made small format booklets for everyone this year - no idea if they will be useful but it was a fun project. Above is the rather pleasing version for Deborah, and below is Helen's - George had one in black, Rob in grey, Alison in dark olive.

MiniMidori.jpg

The pieces of leather were from a great supplier ("Steve") on the south coast - great in terms of customer service, product quality, and reasonable prices all for small quantities of leather (around 2mm thick) such as I needed. He is also obviously clear on the requirement for potential Midori and notebook makers and has "kits" precut to the various size formats. You can see his wares on eBay (leather4craft) or at his website.

I did try to monogram each of them with a leather punch - a steep learning curve and by no means mastered yet. "It's harder than it seems". Luckily some of the recipients realise this. I think having your items monogrammed is very "smart" but having them monogrammed in wobbly letters is something else entirely.

Of course, I made my own small format notebook (similar to Helen's) and was initially cautious in my enthusiasm wondering if or when the novelty would wear off - but I have found it extremely useful and am keeping up with it quite well. I have implemented the monthly planner system (basically - a diary... but it's the way you use it that counts!). I do find the same observations still apply as when we all did the Time Manager courses in the 1980s (forerunner to the hand-held organiser ...) - fundamentally it works best when you are not too busy - when you get busy you do not have time to organise - always a mistake of course but nonetheless true. So it does not give you extra time back but it does help you use what you have more effectively.

It is Ray himself that has won me over though - his enthusiasm and love of the subject is totally charming whether he is managing time or working with leather, and his generosity in sharing his work and knowledge is much appreciated by his followers.

Posted on October 7, 2014 at 11:18 AM. Category: Crafts.

Thursday October 2, 2014

Dangerous Corner

DangerousCorner.jpg

I am very keen on Priestley and I like the idea of this one which has the device of two possibilities for a plot. I read a review of a production from 2000 where they were critical of it being updated to the hedonistic 1980s resulting in the audience tittering at the dramatic revelations. Well - apparently keeping it as a period piece did not help either - tittering abounded. The leading actors were great, but some others were quite weak which did not help.

Rob accompanied me and reminisced over the stage direction technique (difficult to light...) as the play was directed by Michael Attenborough with whom he worked in the 1980s.

Posted on October 2, 2014 at 11:30 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Tuesday September 30, 2014

Books in September

  • The Gods of Guilt by Michael ConnellyBOM-TheGodsOfGuilt.jpg
    I didn't enjoy this Mickey Haller novel as much as the previous one - not sure why. I think maybe the story didn't interest me so much; not a straight forward evil person kills someone, but more of a government agency conspiracy theory idea.
    Also - maybe mostly - there was a lot about his private life - and it's not going that well. The last book ended on a high with a prospective high profile career move in the offing - this book opens with all that shattered and his family blaming him. The same device was used between Lincoln Lawyer and Brass Verdict. But maybe more importantly, all the pontifiating about his family is basically not very profound or interesting. The Bosch books seemed to go through this roller coaster cycle of ending one book on a positive note with respect to a new relationship and then that all having fallen through in the next book which would be in the loner detective vein - and ending on a glum gritty note - only to start the cycle again in the next story with a new female interest. [Actually I quite liked the "romantic" storyline as a background to The Drop where a new lady that seems promising reveals her feet of clay - all in the realm of normal hangups - during the progress of the book. It seemed to me to be more representative of relationships in later life - and also it was definitely the backdrop to the story not the main event - and the woman herself had a peripheral role in the action.]

  • The Dead Can Wait by Robert Ryan BOM-TheDeadCanWait.jpg
    So impressed with Dead Man's Land I bounded straight on to the second novel which proved as excellent as the first. The plot was good and the action made historically feasible.
    It also went some way to improving the depiction of Holmes (over the previous book), who appeared more in this story - though definitely as Watson's friend rather than the other way around.
    I find it interesting that Doyle struggled with the character as he was such a dominant force in his writing. Yet the two modern novelists I know of using Holmes in this way, as an addition to the cast rather than it's main force, seem to have tamed him rather well, managing to keep the focus with their chosen heroes without being diverted. Nor is Holmes used as a "rabbit out of the hat" mechanism in resolving the mysteries - just reassuringly present.

  • Rules, Regs and Rotten Eggs by H R F Keating [read by Sheila Mitchell] BOM-RulesRegs&RottenEggs.jpg
    Another fairly dull or perhaps dated sort of story with a heroine I cannot empathise with. She seems to be a moderately high ranking detective and yet is portrayed as finding the Guardian Crossword too difficult. I don't want to be elitist but I would have thought cryptic crosswords would not be so hard for someone whose profession is.. well.. detection - even if she chooses not to bother with them. Still - Morse she is not - though come to think of it, she likes the odd glass of wine.
    I am so apparently critical of these novels by Keating that you have to ask why I continue with them. The answer is they are not too challenging to concentrate on while doing other activities - driving or other physical activities. I don't say this to be insulting - they are good old fashioned detective novels, with all that implies, and maybe a bit slow so it matters less if you miss the odd sentence here and there.....

Posted on September 30, 2014 at 2:58 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday September 28, 2014

The Big O

Dave1.jpg

An old friend from school was over from Canada (where he now lives) and celebrated his big O birthday in Worthing. Hard to take a good photo of him as he was opening his gifts since he seemed permanently overcome with emotion...!

UsualSuspects.jpg

It was a delightful day out with the usual suspects and some extra faces - who I have not seen for an unbelievable 42 years...

Posted on September 28, 2014 at 9:19 AM. Category: Days Out.

Thursday September 25, 2014

Yan Tan Tethera - Spin Cycle

YanTan`.jpg

All summer (apparently) there has been an exhibition and season of events inspired by textiles and folk, centred around Cecil Sharp House in Camden. We caught the last of these "Spin Cycle", which was a multimedia show including a selection of textile and sampling machines, beatboxers, textile artists, Gaelic and English traditional songs: "weaving a unique sonic world to celebrate all things textile".

YanTan3.jpg

Around the venue were various related projects including a set of murals (adorning the bar) by Stewart Easton depicting the story of the Tailor and the Crow. There are a lot of versions of this story and they seem to be rather glum and convoluted - there were some versions of the old verse framed in the stairwell. Here is a more cheerful version available as an eBook from Project Gutenberg.

YanTan2.jpg

The stairwell was also dressed with a cobweb of lace - it was actually really a performing arts installation I think - more interesting to view in the construction than the result. Unfortnately I can find only an audio track (sung during the weaving) available on the web.

Posted on September 25, 2014 at 2:19 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Wednesday September 17, 2014

Hay Fever

HayFever.jpg

Felicity Kendal, Noel Coward..... what can one say?

Coward remembered in 1964 that the notices (in 1925) "were amiable and well-disposed although far from effusive. It was noted, as indeed it has been today, that the play had no plot and that there were few if any 'witty' lines."

Posted on September 17, 2014 at 9:20 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Wednesday September 3, 2014

Hornets

Hornets.jpg

We have a nest of them in the chimney in France, and not much of a plan as to what to do about it - other than hope they die off in the winter. From time to time one of them falls down the inside of the chimney and much to his surprise (as well as ours) pops out in the living room through a crack in the register plate. This has led to puzzling phemonema for much of the later summer - apparent materialisations in the living room from nowhere, disturbing the calm of the evenings TV entertainment - but now all is explained, even if not to a very satisfactory conclusion

Other entertainments of our little weekend: now he is essentially back on form healthwise, George dashed off to hire the brush cutter from "lawn-mower-man" in the village, only to find it has been sold and is thus no longer to be hired... This was followed by a trek out to hire one elsewhere, and his coming back with a very ordinary looking mower on a trailer, which to our surprise was more than man enough for the 3 foot high grass. Now he has dreams and longings of owning one of his very own.

Plums abound but greengages have not been so good this year and we are running out of jam - I rather rely on their fruiting well every 2 years. I managed to put together enough fruit and set up the cooker in the living room (to date we have not bothered since the kitchen was closed) to make a few pots of jam.

Finally I decided it was time to "deal" with the pigs heads that have been languishing in the freezer - part of our pig-purchase from Lloyd. Mother used to make brawn, and though not a pleasant task, I have made one lot myself many years ago. Usually, you have half a head to deal with, but to my dismay, when defrosted, it turned out to be a whole head in 2 halves. Luckily these were piglets, so I was able to fit both halves in one cauldron, (and that is what it's like - a three-hour witches brew).
I would like to say it was all worth it with a delicious result, but that would not be entirely true. Still - next up - a set of trotters...

Posted on September 3, 2014 at 2:18 PM. Category: France.

Sunday August 31, 2014

Books in August

  • Ten-Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler [read by Tim Goodman] BOM-B&M10SecondStaircase.jpg
    Working my way steadily backwards through the series, I finally get to the "famous highwayman case". I think I twigged the "answer" fairly quickly with this one, though no less enjoyable for that. The author has stuck to the apparently mysterious and impossible as fodder for the plots.... but some work better than others - though I am always suspecting that my view of the books I read can be affected by my own mood as much as the book itself.

  • Dead Man's Land by Robert Ryan BOM-DeadMansLand.jpg
    Following on from that thought - the first few months of the year found me a bit depressed and reading the first few pages of this book made me feel I could not deal with such a realistic portrayal of WW1. So although George gave me this book for Christmas, it has taken me until now to pick it up. However, it is a very good book indeed - perhaps my initial reaction to it says how really good it is.
    George made an excellent choice, as this book brings together a lot of what are (apparently) my interests - the hero is an elderly Dr John Watson continuing his career as a medic on the front line. Like other books which work well using these Conan Doyle characters, it is not a Holmesian pastiche - the author stays true to the people he portrays while offering a different perspective - but somehow it is always clear when an author's affection for the original materials comes through and I do not find any false notes here to spoil my pleasure in the book.

  • Bloodline by Felix FrancisBOM-Bloodline.jpg
    I had a quick look at other reviewers opinions on this book (ordinary folk like me). They were mixed but whether they were enthusiastic or disappointed, there were some general points coming through with which I agree - I was just having trouble pinpointing them on my own... First and most important - this is better than the previous books and I would recommend it - and despite any negative points below it is well up to the Francis tradition.
    Second, the formulaic "interesting job" of the hero is a TV racing commentator, and this aspect is really interesting and well integrated into the story.
    But then - third - the characters: one person said he "lacks the empathy apparent in the writing of his father" (though I would question whether it was his father or his mother that really influenced this), but whether because of this or not, the characters did not come across as very likeable; I don't know how you fix this as a writer but it needs fixing.
    And finally, which I think might be an extension of point 3, the relationships and probably specifically sex is not well described - you don't really feel the emotion, and if you are going to have these themes then they certainly need to be convincing. Dick Francis books did not always have a conventional boy/girl romantic relationship as the core of the emotional interest - in one case it was the protective relationship of the hero with his brother that tugged the heartstrings, and in others, the hero is in an impossible domestic situation that he has decided for moral reason to just accept. Writing about these somewhat off-beat relationships is not at all easy to do while making the reader both believe in them as well as really feel them - but anyway I hope Felix gets to grips with it as he continues to write.

Posted on August 31, 2014 at 3:56 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Wednesday August 27, 2014

Matisse - The Cut-Outs

MatisseCutouts.jpg

Managed to catch this wonderful exhibition before it closed. I think most things that can be said have been said by others - one being how roughly the work is done, and that the shapes are covered in pin holes where they were moved many times before a final decision on position. But there were some new things for me - one relating to the roughness of the work - it seems much of the art was designs for other media, for example, ceramics, weavings (rugs), textiles (chasubles), and stained glass windows. So the exhibition pieces not only stated when he created the work but also when the piece was executed and in what medium - many of course cannot be displayed in a gallery as they are architectural.

It left Rob greatly inspired to go home and start on cut-outs as a decorative theme for his house.

Posted on August 27, 2014 at 2:15 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Thursday August 21, 2014

Woolfest - post-sales

StellariaHandSpun.jpg

I spun the purple fluff I bought at Woolfest and knitted another Stellaria as planned. [Just confirming that for once the plan was followed through in a timely manner].

This Stellaria has a lovely light soft woollen feel to it - but of course has lost the silky drape that results using yarns such as Rowan Damask.

Posted on August 21, 2014 at 9:14 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Thursday July 31, 2014

Books in July

  • The Black Box by Michael Connelly [read by Michael McConnohie] BOM-TheBlackBox.jpg
    Harry Bosch presses on with his cold cases and finds one that involves a murder he picked up much earlier in his career, during the riots of 1992. The body of a female journalist was found in an alley and at that time Harry was forced to hand over the case to the Riot Crimes Task Force, knowing that it would never be solved.
  • The Lewis Man and The Chessmen by Peter May
    BOM-TheChessmen.jpg BOM-TheLewisMan.jpg I can't believe I waited so long to read the rest of this trilogy when I was so impressed with the first one. Yet it was April 2013 when I read The Black House - and immediately downloaded the second in the series - but did not read it. Anyway having got the taste for them again, I read both in quick succession.
    It was hard to see how he could make sequels (and continue to set them on the islands) after the first story but the crafting of the stories is great - and like the first book they contain interesting historical detail combined with the elements of a detective thriller. Really excellent books - shame that's it for these characters.

  • BillNighy2.jpg Corporate Bodies
    Bill Nighy as Charles Paris gets a lucrative opportunity to work on a corporate media piece - and finds a body... as well as getting his own share of the action in the shape of a general "roughing up" through to attempts on his life.
    The characters and dialogue are very well written, and the experienced cast are very at ease with their roles in these humerous versions of the Charles Paris books..

Posted on July 31, 2014 at 10:08 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday July 26, 2014

Le Weekend

ChoppingWisteria.jpg

We have escaped for another weekend in France. George is still very thin and I managed to encourage him to spend a lot of time relaxing out of the intense heat. I cut the wisteria back completely away from the rebuilt extension walls preparing to enable Peter to render it later on without hindrance. I also cut the other side of it right back to bare wood, debating whether it would ever truly recover - although I remember doing that once before without lasting ill effects. I left the middle part with leaves to try and support it until next spring when I will cut that part hard back.

I also took half a dozen more cuttings of the hydrangea (second attempt) and some of the roses whose future is in doubt due to the building work.

RenderedBakehouse.jpg

This picture of the bakehouse may look the same as ever - but it now has a nice cream rendering all over - just looks better and better. [Managed to again weed out a load of nesting material from the extractor fan pipe, and block it up temporarily with newspaper, much to the annoyance of the great tits who were sitting outside with beaks full of moss ready to carry on....!]

In respect of other wildlife - I think the mice were none too pleased about the wisteria disappearing. They use it as a regular route across the front of the house - I could often see them in silhouette outside the window while I was sitting in the living room in the evening. Now of course the route is very exposed. I think maybe as a result of this we found a small mouse popping in and out of a mouse-hole right by the main doorstep (hole's been there all the time but never saw any mice using it before). The mouse seemed to be a bit groggy and not bothered by our stepping over it all the time; however, it must just have been the weather - which was unbearably hot - because eventually George put a blueberry down in front of it and it instantly stuffed into it and then disappeared. Ironic given that most of the time we are murdering the mice if we can catch them....

Mouse.jpg

Finally below - the skeletal form of new walls have appeared in the kitchen.

KitchenSkeleton.jpg

Posted on July 26, 2014 at 7:44 AM. Category: France.

Sunday July 20, 2014

Martin Storey's Mystery Afghan Knitalong

MartinStoreyAfghanKAL3.jpg

For some reason this Rowan knitalong appealed to me so I duly started on the Thursday before Easter and here we are 10 weeks later - or whatever - and the blanket is complete. The blanket should be made in Rowan Pure Wool Worsted - which would be nicer than my choice which was to use "oddments" from my attic. This was not a cost cutting exercise but an attempt to make good use of yarn that I seem to have collected a lot of over the years. However the problem with oddments is that you never have enough of the right shades; so I spent a good deal of time stripping out plies and combining yarns to make the thickness I wanted in the colours I wanted. In two cases I altered the pattern (number of stitches) slightly to make the squares come out to the right size. The blanket is not pure wool but I have tried to make every square with some plies of synthetic and wool in it.

You can read more on the detail here.

I intentionally never went to view the intended yarn and colours as I knew that if I saw the Rowan yarn there was a good chance I would convince myself to buy it and that was not the idea. So I tried to match as best I could from the illustrations on the internet. I am very pleased with the result even though I know that in some cases I have substituted a colour (too many subtle shades of brown for me to match). I cracked over two colours: one was the raspberry pink - I have a number of pinks in my collection but not enough to really get enough contrast in 3 pinks - I purchased some new acrylic yarn in "Raspberry"; the other was the mustard colour for the edging - I had some mustard 4 ply but not enough - I purchased some vintage Sirdar Fontein Crepe 4ply in a deeply unappealing mustard colour and enhanced it with my 4 ply*.

In any event, the resulting blanket looks a little odd - or should I say unusual - and I think my attempt is as good as any. I did follow Martin's layout scheme, which I think is very cleverly done, (as you'd expect - he's a designer!).

* I bought this from one of my favourite vendors at Woolfest. Her stall is devoted to vintage craft equipment - looks like my own work room - nostalgic rather than cute - I love it.

Posted on July 20, 2014 at 3:27 PM. Category: Knitting.

Sunday July 13, 2014

Hampton Court

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Following the lovely day at Chelsea, Jenny and I decided to also go to Hampton Court, where we had a great day despite the peculiar weather which produced terrible downpours of rain, and intervals of scorching sun.

The picture is of the NSPCC garden which cleverly showed planting schemes from 3 eras since the charity started. What I noted was that the earliest garden is the type that I favour - and what I have chosen for the front borders in our house (lavender, lambs ears, lady's mantle etc) - whereas Jenny favours the more modern scheme.
The middle era garden was from the 1970s with a riot of bright planting (French marigolds and salvias) - and, true to form, looked just like the garden Rob and I created in Chichester.

Posted on July 13, 2014 at 8:09 PM. Category: Days Out.

Monday June 30, 2014

Books in June

  • Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin BOM-StandingInAnotherMansGrave.jpg
    I failed to read the "final" Rebus novel - partly intentionally, as it was widely advertised and I was concerned about what might make it "final" in the light of the <cite>Remorseful Day</cite>. (Why popular detectives have to have dramatic ends and cannot simply retire. I do not know - well I do know - their authors have had enough of them).
    Anyway - Rankin is up for more - and so are we.
    This was a good and interesting plot - nicely weaving in an appearance from Malcolm Fox (the "Complaints").
    I have to say I am no nearer understanding the character of Rebus - even after all this time.

  • The Drop by Michael Connelly [Read by Len Cariou] BOM-TheDrop.jpg
    The Drop of the title is a reference to Harry's final retirement date in police vernacular. The cold-case plot (as there are really 2 plots) is particularly interesting as it results from a blind hit in re-examining some old DNA evidence using the latest technology - this leads to an impossible and possibly contaminated result pointing at a suspect who is far too young to have committed the crime. In addition - due to his reputation for high integrity - Harry is pulled into a political nightmare of a case checking out a suspected suicide (or is it?).

  • Inspector Ghote's First Case by H R F Keating [Read by Sam Dastor] BOM-InSpectorGhotiFirstCase.jpg
    I started to listen to this on iPlayer but failed to keep up, so I borrowed the book from the library. It is utterly charming but I am slightly concerned that it is not very politically correct. I was driven to look into the author whom I only know of through this series, thinking he must be a relic of the British in India - but not a bit of it. He is the right kind of age (maybe) but in the same vein as Alexander McCall-Smith, Keating did not visit India until ten years after he started writing about it. I have no idea how it would seem to someone of Indian ethnicity, but it does seem to me it is written with affection and intelligence and hopefully is not seen as patronising or offensive.
    This is one of the last Inspector Ghote books (published in 2008) but revisits his early career.

  • Into theValley of Death by H R Keating writing as Evelyn Hervey [Read by Sheila Mitchell] BOM-ValleyOfDeath.jpg
    So I indiscriminately grabbed any talking books I could find to while away the journey to Woolfest. For me, this type of Victorian lady detective written by contemporary authors does not really hold much appeal (I say "this type" but clearly some types do appeal ...). Anyway it lived up to my every expectation and fortunately did not require too much attention while driving.
    I note that Keating wrote it under a pseudonym - to enhance the "type" I think.

  • False Scent by Ngaio Marsh [Read by James Saxon] BOM-FalseScent.jpg
    This Inspector Alleyn was delightfully dated with wonderful and improbably drawn, and rather arch characters.
    In keeping with all that, the appropriate person "dunnit", and they all lived happily ever after. (Except the murderer of course).
    It all centres around a prima donna, a bottle of scent and some paraquat (geddit?).

  • IanCarmichael.jpg Busmans Honeymoon
    Ian Carmichael stars as Lord Peter Wimsey with Sarah Badel as Harriet Vane.
    So - they tied the knot, and appear to make a comfortable couple. This recording features other great British stars with Peter Jones as Bunter, and Rosemary Leach (unmistakable) as "Miss Twitterton" - where the name says it all. Equally unmistakable is Peter Vaughan as the police inspector - who can forget the sinister Harry Grout in Porridge?

  • PeterCoke.jpgPaul Temple and the Vandyke Affair
    Another delightful piece from 1959, starring Peter Coke and Marjorie Westbury.
    One wonders at these criminal masterminds who feel bound to telephone all the players involved in their mysterious plotting, leaving their (false) names as a tantalising lead for the police and amateur detectives alike.
    Can't remember who dunnit but charming nonetheless. [As I have said before, I love the depicted relationship between Paul and his wife - and I love the fact that she seems to have a proper job of her own - even if it is suitably ladylike.]

  • BeggarsBanquet.jpgBeggars Banquet

    Readings of a collection of short stories by Ian Rankin.

    • Face the Music read by James Macpherson
    • Herbert in Motion read by James Bryce
    • The Hanged Man read by James Bryce

  • TheRecallMan.jpgThe Recall Man
    A set of 7 episodes by David Napthine, which sprang from a stand-alone afternoon play. Jeremy Swift takes the title role in these first 4 episodes.

    • Doctor Joe Aston Investigates
    • Making Waves
    • Over the Border
    • Stepping Out

Posted on June 30, 2014 at 7:12 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday June 28, 2014

Woolfest 2014

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Back at Woolfest again this year - as ever, delighting in the rare breeds parade.
I saw a sheep that was new to me - the Grey-faced Dartmoor; not so clear in this photo but with all her fine ringlets, she reminded me of one of those regency ladies from a Georgette Heyer novel.

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On Thursday evening when I arrived, I joined Carol and Pete (the Spindlers2) plus Margaret for a meal at the Bitter End again - to which I was able to walk this time. As last year, a very enjoyable time with a drink or two as I did not have to drive.

I stayed in a new hotel (The Manor House) which is right in the centre of Cockermouth, hence it very easy to walk out into the town to eat or shop. On Friday evening, though, I chose to eat in the hotel, (delicious - lamb shanks) - in fact the hotel really did offer a "warm welcome" as advertised, and I was very lucky to have stumbled across an available room there at such short notice.

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The weather was very pleasant, and I was easily able to walk to the venue - I did debate about this as I would not have the car if I bought anything substantial, but decided walking was too tempting to miss. I went to several demonstrations but was anxious to catch Rosemary Stow, a rag-rug maker, and Bapple and Jojo who were providing a demonstration of "Standing wool ('Quillie') rug making" - a technique new to me. It's a simple enough concept but like all things there is skill and knowledge required to achieve workable results.

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I also made a new friend, Lin, who was one of the vendors - Weaver's Bazaar - their stall was constantly mobbed as they seemed to provide continuous demos of tapestry weaving. They are located in East Grinstead so I hope to continue the acquaintance once we return home. [Not that I'm a weaver but I live in hope... I am very keen on what I now know to call Lateral Looms - a Guild member brought one in some years ago and I was very smitten with it - this is the first time I have seen one for sale commercially - I may try and construct one for myself... one day when I am at a loose end.]

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Here are my purchases after day 1:

Some merino and silk fibre to spin and to knit Deborah a version of Stellaria (not only my favourite plant but also favourite pattern it seems). >>Here<< complete...

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Some lovely fibre ("My Precious") from Spindlers2, which attracted me as it looked so wonderful when knitted up - I plan to send to Alison.

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Some perfect vintage wool to edge my Martin Storey Mystery blanket in mustard. Looks like it came from my attic - but did not.

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On Saturday morning I bought some Herdwick lamb to take home for us to eat, and, as I bought a 2 day ticket, I popped back to the Mitchell's venue again, with the car this time, and bought a few bags of bargain fluff on Saturday morning before heading out home.

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 3:58 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Thursday June 19, 2014

Sunny Cuves

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As George seems much better in health, we dashed over to France to deliver tiles for the new bathrrom and to try and tackle the garden a little. The weather was lovely, and Peter had cut a few paths through the mile high grass, and we were able to clear up some of the resulting hay.

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I cleared the weeds from the raspberry bed, and planted up one of the island beds with a few plants that tolerate being left without water for long periods (!), plus some geraniums.

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We ate raspberries every day - as you do - and froze some. The cherries were wonderful - I don't remember eating any from this tree before - the others are a red and yellow variety (equally delicious).

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And finally - the progress in the kitchen - a window where the door used to be - plus the French doors are in, and there is a back door - and yes that is our washing up on the drainer.....

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Posted on June 19, 2014 at 4:10 PM. Category: France.

Saturday May 31, 2014

Books in May

  • Justice Hall by Laurie R King [read by Jenny Sterlin] BOM-JusticeHall.jpg
    I thought I was up to date in my reading of this series, but somehow after Locked Rooms I missed this one - I think I mixed it up with The Moor (which I have read). So it was delightful to find an extra mystery to enjoy. I do find some of the stories work better than others though that may be whichever ones concern subjects that interest me most. This one has a lot of well-researched detail on WWI which was very moving and is particularly pertinent with all the commemorations this year.
    I like the way the author manages to create plots which intertwine what seems a totally British Victorian institution with the Americas in an utterly convincing way (though - note to self - Conan Doyle's first Holmes novel was a plot within a plot where half the action took place in the USA so in fact quite in keeping with the original stories).

  • Gamble by Felix Francis [read by Michael Maloney] BOM-Gamble.jpg
    Finally I read one of Felix's books standing on his own merits - and he is well up to the task. I have read some criticisms with the obvious comparisons - but I think people are being selectively blind in this respect in that quite of the few Dick Francis novels were really not very good. He always followed his own formula and in the case of the personal lives of the heroes I always found him rather original and refreshing - his heroes often emotionally fettered but not with conventional home lives. However I found Dick only at his very best when racing came into the story somewhere - and here Felix seems to be following the pattern well. His heroes have very different careers but have either direct or indirect connections to the world of racing and this seems to give them an edge. I look forward to reading some more.

  • Paul Temple and the Kelby Affair
    by Francis Durbridge [read by Toby Stephens] BOM-KelbyAffair.jpg
    Another cheerfully dated Paul Temple novel. I am not sure entirely what the Kelby affair was - Kelby went missing near the beginning - but it was the usual complicated plot that saw me nicely through a long car journey.
    Beautifully read by the excellent and versatile actor Toby Stephens, (who also narrated PT and the Geneva Mystery).

  • Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains
    by Catriona McPherson BOM-ProperTreatentOfBloodstains.jpg
    I am eking out these novels as I enjoy them so much on a number of different levels. However, I was not so compelled by this one - perhaps I am taking them for granted now and setting my expectations higher. Having said that, the unravelling of the plot turned out to be really interesting - it had been getting to the point where I could not see any way the events described could be explained, and was expecting some sort of cop-out. And then, in fact, it all fitted into place with a completely believable set of circumstances and motivations.

  • BOM-Resnick.jpgResnick Cutting Edge BBC Radio Play
    John Harvey’s thriller from 1996 starring Tom Georgeson and the-then-not-so-famous John Simm** plus Sean Baker, Kate Eaton and Paul Bazeley.
    Actually I really fancy Tom Georgeson, wholly based on having first noticed him in a production of Tom Stoppard's Night and Day with Gwen Taylor at the Watford Palace in the early 1980s. This may seem odd to some as - with the passing of time - he has evolved into a comfortable character actor who appears frequently these days on TV in some of my favourite series (ie Poirot, Foyle's War - but also recently in the BBC's The Hollow Crown) - but I always see him as the jaded rough-diamond journalist Richard Wagner.
    Currently the BBC are airing two more Resnick stories this month with another of my favourite actors Philip Jackson as the eponymous hero

    **John Simm's fan club spotted that he was in this play - a fact which he initially denied - and I do believe his explanation (he did such a lot of stuff that he forgot) since it was not such an appalling early performance or drama that he would need to try and to wipe it from history.

Posted on May 31, 2014 at 11:10 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Friday May 23, 2014

Chelsea

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I was lucky enough to be able to accompany Jennie to the Chelsea Flower Show. There was so much to see it's hard to choose pictures to show from all that I took - and also it is hard to take good pictures of the gardens unless you are a professional photographer.
I saw a lot of the gardens on TV before we went, and was very interested in the Birmingham City Council Parks entry, which focussed on a WWI memorial garden including a highly stylised representation of a (rather floral) trench - but I loved the fountains made from giant whistles, and this old bicycle (the like of which I hope to recreate in my own garden as a rather smaller project).

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The Beatrix Potter garden was delightful and deservedly got an award - unfortunately they decided to go with slightly over-sized plastic versions of Peter Rabbit among the vegetation - a hit with the kids but not with me. I loved the more restrained reference to Peter with his little blue jacket as a scarecrow among the climbing beans.

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Alan Titchmarsh produced a very clever garden, but it was more representational than one that you would like to just teleport to your own back yard. I did love the garden designed by Patrick Collins as a celebration of St George's Hospital's Neonatal Unit. Not too sure about the representational aspects of the journey of life but it was a lovely garden.

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There were a huge number of retail outlets - I bought George a garden thermometer. We also ran across these wonderful sculptures of giant frogs (not obvious in the picture but larger than human sized...).

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Last time I went to Chelsea was in the 1970s, and I don't remember it that well except some vague idea it was very crowded. This time it did not feel so very crowded - and I wonder if that's because we are generally more used to large events being impossibly seething with people these days.
So all in all a very pleasant day.

Posted on May 23, 2014 at 4:01 PM. Category: Days Out.

Friday May 16, 2014

The New Shed

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I painted the shed at the allotment. The weather was unforgivingly hot.

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 6:27 PM. Category: The Garden.

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Books in April

  • Bryant and May and the White Corridor by Christopher Fowler BOM-B&MWhiteCorridor.jpg
    Now working my way back through the series.
    The plotting (and writing of course) seemed to really work here. Nice descriptions of the team development back at base, as well as the noble efforts of the elderly gents trying - and succeeding - to survive, having been stranded in their car (van) on an A road in the snow.
    I felt a real sense of danger from the inevitable murderer, as well as the weather - and a warning against trying to manipulate others through bogus occult dabblings, even with the best of intentions. [Clearly, real occult dabblings are fine... unless you are a fan of Dennis Wheatley].

  • Harbour Street by Anne Cleeves BOM-HarbourStreet.jpg
    Very keen to read the latest Vera novel and it lived up to all my expectations. Great plot and great characters.
    The new TV series started soon after and opened with this story. I was a bit surprised they changed the murderer (although it still made good sense of the story) and could not see why - however subsequent episodes were "made for TV" and one of those had a rather similar villain so I could understand the decision.
    It is a bit of a shame that Vera is not really played as she is in the book, even though Brenda Blethyn has really made her her own woman. TV Vera has fewer layers of complexity - more police drama. I think they had the same problem with Inspector Frost, in that although the TV character was pretty awful, neither he nor the city backdrop were quite as gritty as on the page. Or as I understand it, the author had a problem with it - I was less critical and thought they did real justice to the books by making a single book into multiple episodes, while still managing to make it a series rather than a serial.

  • Crosssfire by Dick Francis and Felix Francis BOM-Crossfire.jpg
    This was an exciting enough thriller which I read really quickly - so one might say "un-put-downable" - if you were not Pedanticus writing in the Guardian. This may sound grudging praise from me but it is not. There is some debate about the worthiness of Felix taking on his Father's mantle, but I think if there is anything to be said about it - or if there is no longer quite the massive readership there once was - it's probably because the taste for the Francis brand of novel has gone off the boil, rather than due to any change of authorship.
    Anyway - quite as good as any stock Francis thriller in my opinion.

  • BOM-Bonecrack.jpg Bonecrack BBC Radio Play
    This is a BBC radio full-cast dramatisation of the Dick Francis novel, starring Francis Matthews, Caroline Blakison and Mark Colleano.
    Fresh with the Dick Francis bug, I was attracted to this play as it stars Francis Matthews - and of course the excellent Caroline Blakiston. I have not read the book but the plot seemed a bit thin and the result pretty predictable ("spoilt brat finds Father Figure"). However, there was a real sense of menace, which was so strong that it was hard to see how our hero would manage to extricate himself. [Plot spoiler alert: "But he did"].

Posted on April 30, 2014 at 11:01 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Thursday April 17, 2014

Cat Bricks

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Peter is rebuilding our kitchen extension. He seems to have purchased cat themed breeze blocks.

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 12:36 PM. Category: France.

Sunday April 13, 2014

Vide Grenier Arm Chairs

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So we braved the showery weather and went to the Vide Grenier.
And I found these beautiful chairs (two of them).
They were a bargain.
Need I say more?

I spent the afternoon removing the balding crushed velveteen covering. And George spent the afternoon working out somewhere he could put them where he "would not have to sit on them".

Posted on April 13, 2014 at 12:36 PM. Category: France.

Friday April 11, 2014

Chair seats

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I finally got round to renewing the seat pads for the ""dining chairs" in France. Someone had ripped one of the covers with a jeans stud I suspect.
The new covers are from a rather pleasing sage green textured fabric which is a remnant from another re-covering job in France - and will do well enough until I get round to the work of lifetime making cross stitch seat covers. [A nice idea but will I live that long?]

The fabric I removed was of great interest to me. It was a "leatherette" type - I would guess original with the chairs - branded LIONIDE. It seems you can still obtain this (so I could have gone for a proper restoration... Spanish Brown I think...) - looks to me like a faux leather fabric used (today) as a specialist vintage car seat covering.

Posted on April 11, 2014 at 12:35 PM. Category: France.

Monday March 31, 2014

Books in March

  • Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood, the Victoria Vanishes, and the Invisible Code
    by Christopher Fowler
    Determined to catch up with all the other Bryant and May outings. Excellent.
    [Was less keen on the Memory of Blood - I didn't like the subect matter nor the technique used in unravelling the plot. However the latest, Invisible Code, was excellent and well worth its Crime Thriller award nomination.]
    BOM-B&MTheInvisibleCode.jpg BOM-B&MVictoriaVanishes.jpg BOM-B&MMemoryOfBlood.jpg


  • StageStruck by Peter Lovesey [read by Steve Hodson]BOM-Stagestruck.jpg
    I would term Peter Lovesey as a good old fashioned crime writer - in the very best of ways. Don't mistake my meaning and think I mean nostalgic or twee; his books are very much in the here and now. But he seems to possess a solidity and high quality craftsmanship that one used to associate with a "Jolly Good Book". This one provided a welcome interlude and escape on my journeys to work during a period where nothing else seemed at all solid or reliable.

  • PerfectSpy.jpg A Perfect Spy - with James Fox, Brenda Bruce, and Harriet Walter.
    BBC full-cast radio drama of John le Carre's bestselling novel with James Fox as Magnus Pym. Apparently this recording (from 1993 I believe) was thought to be lost but then recently rediscovered - which is great, as it has a truly excellent cast including Harriet Walter as Magnus' wife and Julian Rhind-Tutt as the young Magnus. The character Jack Brotherhood is the unmistakable voice of the excellent James Grout who sadly died in 2012.

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 11:58 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday March 23, 2014

Paying the piper

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Fired with enthusiasm by the progress in France, I decided after only 7 years (or is it 8?!) to repair the damage to my work room dating from when the plumber did the alterations to our bathroom. My first act was to screw down the base flooring - using the holes the screws previously came out of.
And from that point on it turned into something like a ditty by Flanders and Swan .... or the fable about a small Dutch boy and the dyke.... you get the idea.

Anyway - as the song says - on the Monday morning the plumber came back.... and I am pleased to report that with a lot of fiddling about I managed to sand off glue, discard broken pieces of laminate, and the floor is finally properly down. Photos of this another time, as although I am now able to use my office again, we have quite a way to go in reclaiming the room.

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 4:25 PM. Category: Crafts.

Thursday March 13, 2014

Olympia

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As an experiment to see how I felt, I spent my day off at the Knitting and Stitching Show. I thought if I went to a different venue without Sheila then it might not be so bad. On that score, I can't say it worked out too well. However, I knitted my sock on the train, and saw some arty quilts. I'm not keen on picture quilts but there seemed to be a seaside theme which redeemed them in my eyes.

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I also spotted one of those delightful relics of former railway splendour at Clapham Junction - a part that they have failed to mess up with modernisation. To be fair I think it was in the process of renovation rather than demolition and I am not sure how old it is - but wonderful in its shabby state.

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Posted on March 13, 2014 at 1:08 PM. Category: Days Out.

Sunday March 9, 2014

Leaving

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The weather has been fine - quite a contrast to this time last year when we were here in March - and I took some photos as we left port - George took such ghastly (though sadly accurate) views of me being blown about on deck that you are left with a more photogenic yacht with wind surfers in the background (click on the picture for a closer view of the surfers).

Posted on March 9, 2014 at 6:37 PM. Category: France.

Saturday March 8, 2014

Gutted

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We managed to squeeze in another weekend in France - lots to discuss about refurbishing the kitchen there. [Yes .... the final straw was that not only had the shower tray broken but some undefined animal - larger than a mouse (so logic suggests a rat) with very tidy habits - has taken to using our kitchen cupboard as a lavatory].
The interior has now been gutted [revealing how all the local wildlife were able to wander in with such facility] and Peter has finished removing the corrugated asbestos roofing [yes you heard right] and almost finished slating the roof. This has become a sufficiently urgent project now that we cannot follow through on the plan for a 2 storey rebuild which would involve planning permission and new foundations.

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Posted on March 8, 2014 at 12:54 PM. Category: France.

Friday February 28, 2014

Books in February

  • Bryant and May on the Loose and Bryant and May off the Rails
    by Christopher Fowler
    [read by Tim Goodman]

    BOM-B&MOffTheRails.jpg BOM-B&MOnTheLoose.jpg I was alerted this series when the "Invisibe Code" was nominated for the ITV3 Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read and (of course) was immediately taken by the heroes names. But they turned out to be not at all what I anticipated.
    I think I was expecting Agatha Raisin meets Inspector Steine (both of whom I love) - something rather nostalgic and twee. In a sense they are much more "realistic" if that's not too ridiculous a description, given the basic premise of a forgotten branch of the police force whose two key officers are in their 80s, and who solve crimes using distinctly surreal methods. Far from a disappointment, these books truly appeal to my nostalgic leanings; the author uses the peculiar reminiscences and esoteric researches of Arthur Bryant to provide a QI style compendium of interesting facts - and if it starts getting too out of hand, reins him in using the other characters, (although I have to say he is in no danger of losing me as an fascinated listener).
    And finally on top of all that as a mere background - he tells a jolly good crime story to boot. I love them. If I have any criticism at all it is that Bryant is such a great character he positively leaps from the page and seems more fleshed out than the others, though I feel this is resolving itself as each new book appears. I am guessing there is a kind of "Sherlock Holmes" problem with the character.
    These two books brought the characters back in a "two book deal" after the closure of their premises in Mornington Crescent threatened an end to the Peculiar Crime Unit; the "Mr Fox" storyline is continues through both books - but no need to feel short-changed as it runs alongside a new plot in Off the Rails.
    "The critically acclaimed cult detectives Bryant & May are the stars of ten deranged novels that explore London’s most arcane mysteries, from its hidden rivers to its secret societies."

  • Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermidBOM-BeneathTheBleeding.jpg
    I haven't read many of this series but did do a marathon of the repeated "Wire in the Blood" series on TV. In this story, Tony is laid up in hospital and Carol pursues a serial killer. [Much less sensationalism than the TV thankfully].
    I especially enjoyed the construction of the plot here - several threads in parallel and no predicatable connections - it is a thing about Val's writing (do you mind if I call you Val?) I really like. Many of the (TV) plots I've seen recently contrive very interesting and mysterious scenarios that are then a bit disappointing in the denoument; by this I mean the explanation is either blatantly inconsistent or just does not seem to be convincing in terms of human behaviour and motivation.
    I noticed Val on TV a couple of times recently - once demonstrating her quiet superiority and intelligence on "Only Connect" - which is a pretty challenging quiz even when made slightly easier for the "celebrities".

  • Short Stories by Michael Connelly
    Another example of the digital short story used as a marketing technique. So I duly purchased my three stories for 99p each plus their included "tasters" of newer novels. Excellent.
    BOM-MullhollandDrive.jpg BOM-Switchblade.jpg BOM-AngleOfInvestigation.jpg
    • Mullholland Drive: includes the stories Mulholland Drive, Two Bagger, and Cahoots - plus a taster of The Black Box.
    • Switchblade: includes the stories Switchblade, Two Bagger, and Cahoots - plus a taster of The Gods of Guilt.
    • Angle of Investigation: includes the stories Christmas Even, Father's Day, and Angle of Investigation - plus a taster of The Drop.

  • IanCarmichael.jpg I listened to another of the Lord Peter Wimsey BBC dramatisations "Murder Must Advertise" on Radio 4 Extra. Lord Peter goes "under cover" in an advertising agency - not altogether successfully - and the author draws on her own work experience in this environment. I was really keen to listen to this because about 10 years ago my friend Helen lent me a boxed set of audio cassettes of this radio play. I listened to the first cassette - but then when I moved on to the second I was greeted to a jolly Highland version of "Marie's wedding" - it was excellent but no match for Ian Carmichael. Helen concluded that the real second cassette had somehow been left in the player in her car - which had been taken away to that great car dealer in the sky - so I was left with a cliff-hanger.... Until now.

Posted on February 28, 2014 at 11:57 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday February 23, 2014

Orkney

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I finally finished sewing up the Orkney cardigan - I am delighted with it - but not so much with my figure inside it - it's really quite tight. I am hoping this is the heaviest I will ever be and that I can look forward to a slimmer me so it might not be such a squeeze in the longer term....

Posted on February 23, 2014 at 11:43 AM. Category: Knitting.

Friday January 31, 2014

Books in January

  • Revelation by C J Sansom BOM-Revelation.jpg
    I took this with me to France - these Shardlake books are sufficiently exciting that I easily complete one in the week, and am always confident of a thoroughly good read.
    This was no exception, providing lots of interesting period detail, and (particularly appreciated), notes at the end as to what is research and what is extrapolation. Here we have an element of the usual political intrigue but the nub of the plot overlaid on the Tudor background centres on a serial killer - a foreign concept in those times. This historical evidence for such crimes is thin - but one has to conjecture that it is because most of them would never have been caught - or if they were it was more along the lines of "he's a bit weird - he must have done it".

  • The Seven Wonders by Steven Saylor BOM-TheSevenWonders.jpg
    This is a collection of short stories from Gordianus' early life. It is set around a "coming of age" trip to see the seven wonders. I liked it, but I note that there are some criticisms by others. It is true that if you treat each story separately, some of them are better than others, but as an overall themed volume, I was quite satisfied. This is not the first anthology of Gordianus short stories, and I can see why authors find a place for them when they write "puzzle" mysteries, and they have ideas that are simply not sufficient for a full novel - for example the first Sherlock Holmes mystery is actually a story within a story in order to manage a full scale novel, and he fairs much better in short story culture. However, I think short story writing is a skill of itself and maybe "quite satisfied" is not really sufficient praise for Steve Saylor, when his earlier Gordianus novels are "quite excellent". It seems clear that in many of his tales he is quite inspired by historical events and the recent offerings have been lacking; I hope he finds more and better inspiration in the future - either within Roman history, or with a new hero who can cover other historial periods.

  • PeterCoke.jpgSo... this is going to be a bit patronising.
    I recently listened to a vintage Paul Temple Mystery ("PT and the Lawrence Affair") from 1954, starring Peter Coke and Marjorie Westbury. I was expecting to like it with that delightful whiff of nostalgia, as well as having fun at the expense of the dramatic offerings of the day (you know: limited technical support and no CGI). However - not a bit of it. I had forgotten that this was an era when radio programmes were the height of mainstream drama, and I cannot begin to describe how good it was and how high a quality they achieved. I was especially impressed by the relationship as written between Paul Temple and his wife - which was somehow weirdly modern as well as strictly within 1950s non PC limits. I'd strongly recommend it if you get the chance to hear it again. [I would say - they can't do anything about the basic plot though - you have to live with that].

  • IanCarmichael.jpg I listened to another of the Lord Peter Wimsey BBC dramatisations "Have His Carcass". I like the stories which involve Harriet Vane, and watched the TV adaptations with Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter, but I don't think I have actually read this one. It's interesting seeing or hearing different versions, as I think I was under the impression that at he end of this tale they got the culprit bang to rights and so on - but this rendition leaves it a little more open - which I am guessing probably follows the book more accurately.

Posted on January 31, 2014 at 2:42 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Monday January 13, 2014

Out with the old....

Rowan55.jpg Rowan have published their summer magazine - it's so lovely to see fresh summery things on cold dreary days. Not just the promise of new knitwear but of sunny summer days to look forward to as well.

For me, it's a bit of a disaster as they have a huge number of patterns with stripes - all of which I long, not just to knit, but to wear.....

They currently seem to be going with a format for the magazines of 3 "themes", which are all a bit pretentious I think, (though when you see the collections you can see what they are getting at). It amuses me that I (usually) clearly dismiss one or other of the themes out of hand without quite realising that is what I am doing - mostly, as in this case, either too weird or too wishy washy (neutrals don't suit me so well). However, the ones that I like in this magazine are just perfect in every way.... stripey....


Rowan55-1.jpg


...and arty....

Rowan55-2.jpg

So - as I seem to have carried 11 projects over from last year (an all-time record since I have been keeping track - though nothing quite beats "Foolish Virgins" - on the needles since 1992...) I have resolved to make some headway with project completion before buying any more wool. Or to be more precise, before starting any more projects - I'm afraid I have already purchased a good deal of sale wool in the past month or so - so much wonderful stuff at budget prices from Black Sheep Wools.
This resolution is not going too badly so far, as I have already completely two out of the 11, with 2 more soon to follow. Not sure how many have to be done and dusted before I can start on those summer stripes!

Boardwalk Wharf Sailor Promenade Alma Bliss Dia Madia

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 7:01 PM. Category: Knitting.