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Thursday December 31, 2015

Books in December

  • Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin
    BOM-HideAndSeek.jpg Another early Rebus novel - the second in the series. Excellent of course, and I will just leave you with the blurb:
    "In a crumbling housing development, a junkie lies dead of an overdose, surrounded by signs of Satanic worship. John Rebus could call the death an accident--but won't."
    The dead man's last words seem to have been "Hide! Hide!" - thus as a nice touch the book is spattered with Jekyll and Hyde references.

  • We Are All completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
    BOM-WeAreAllCompletelyBesideOurselves.jpg I am very keen to write about and strongly recommend this book without giving away any of the plot. It's easy enough to find out what it's about if you want to, but the author has written it in a specific way so that you see things distinctly from one point of view before taking in the situation in a more objective way.
    I felt it was about family relationships and although in some respects this family shows all the normal parent/child tensions and conflicts, they are doubtless deeply screwed up. No-one seems to be easily to blame for this even though there's a lot of blame flying around.
    The Guardian review calls it a "moral comedy" and cites the Larkin poem about Mums and Dads. It is charming and heart breaking, and written in the first person, the narrator is both endearing and humorous - else it would be too bitter to read.
    All I can say is that it explores a subject that I have always been very interested in - and written about here in the past - but it has made me see it in a completely new light, and maybe I should not have been quite so blithely enthusiastic about scientific research with only human curiosity as its driver.

  • FifthPosition.jpg Death in the Fifth Position
    A murder mystery by Gore Vidal - how could I resist? Even when written under a pseudonym of Edgar Box.
    This was "Book at Bedtime" and read by Jamie Parker, and abridged and produced by Jill Waters.
    You can find the original book here.

  • MatchboxTheatre.jpg Matchbox Theatre
    Highly recommended by Robert (and now me) - a Martin Jarvis production of Michael Frayn's short comically philosophical dialogues and monologues, exploring how we attempt to communicate with one another.
    It's in four parts with an all-star cast: Joanna Lumley, Roger Allam, Charles Edwards, Sophie Winkleman, Lisa Dillon, Alex Jennings, Martin Jarvis himself, - and David Attenborough spoofing a wildlife commentary in person for a change.

  • TruthIsACave.jpg The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains
    Alison told me she was currently reading a Neil Gaiman book, so I was interested to listen to an abridged reading of this novelette.
    Inspired by a Hebridean myth, it's a tale of revenge for a terrible crime, although at first it seems to be a morality fable about greed for a pot of gold in a cave on the Misty Isle.
    Bill Patterson is the absolute perfect reader for this, with his soft Scottish accent making the story all the more chilling.
    [ Abridged and produced by Karen Rose.]

Posted on December 31, 2015 at 11:10 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Friday December 25, 2015

Christmas

Here the final review of my "New Year list"
It may seem like the idea was a failure (ie they are not all ticked off) - but it works for me. They are all now, either not started or actually in progress/complete, as opposed to hibernating half done quietly in a bag.

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover - Completed two sections of base cover.
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (not started)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (not started)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru) - tudor roses, bathing machine, baby hearts - all complete
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started and completed in January) - complete
  • It is with some relief that I can say I have seen off the last of my self-patterning sock yarns.
    All complete .

My <cough> completed unscheduled items are....
[There were babies .... what could I do but knit for them?]

Also - I did make a small commitment to myself to make more "things" and fewer sweaters this year and I think the list really reflects that in the blankets, Christmas baubles, and chair cover, so I feel quite satisfied that I seem to have carried that through.
And as for the coming year - I do hope to get on with (and finish) these projects just the same. However, I now have new diversions to play with - I was given a rigid heddle loom for Christmas.... need I say more?

Loom1.jpg

[Yes, it is stash wool!]

Posted on December 25, 2015 at 9:09 AM. Category: Crafts.

Friday December 11, 2015

Unthanks

Unthanks.jpg

A delightful treat seeing the Unthanks at the Union Chapel, (preceded by a fish supper in Sea Fish). Perfect.

Posted on December 11, 2015 at 11:25 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday December 6, 2015

Sleeping Beauties

SleepingBeauty1.jpg

Another day out with Robert to see Matthew Bourne's Christmas offering at Sadler's Wells.
This time we combined it with an interesting visit to the Tate's vaults (by appointment) - which are nowhere near any of the galleries. It was reminiscent of Rankin's Open Doors and we felt we did not see enough paintings... (!) but actually it was pretty interesting in the discussion of how they treat and keep the art works. In fact I found the sculptures much more interesting than superficially they seemed - they were just huge crates with scribbled artist names on the outside of the boxes ("Rodin", "Hirst" etc - the latter with a "hazardous materials" label..), and for some reason seemed even more interesting for all that, imagining the contents....

The ballet was wonderful - the dancers are fabulous, and they had the added cuteness factor with a delightful piece of puppetry.

SleepingBeauty2.jpg

Posted on December 6, 2015 at 10:24 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Monday November 30, 2015

Books in November

  • Deadly Election by Lindsay Davis
    BOM-DeadlyElection.jpg By the time I read Enemies at Home, Helen had already got her hands on this, the latest book, (a signed copy!) while at the annual Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival.
    I think I liked this book a little better than the previous ones, but there is a certain style - also evident in the Falco books that I do not like. It's a sort of street-wise cynicism and way of thinking which I do not find convincing or appealing.

  • Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs
    BOM-BonesNeverLie.jpg I'd forgotten how we left Tempe and Ryan in the previous book, but glad to see them back on track; in fact their soap opera life rather than the actual plot line is of great interest to me. That's a bit unkind as some of the plots I find fascinating (like Cross Bones which I would have been riveted by even without the thrills and spills involving Tempe). This is story takes them all over the place geographically and was ... fine ... but I did not feel thrilled by the action and was not caught up in the sense of the danger with the renaissance of an old nemesis.

  • Hiss and Hers by MC Beaton
    BOM-HissAndHers.jpg Again I turned to other reviewers to check against my own thoughts; it seems we all think this is a tired franchise. I don't mind formulaic plot lines but there is nothing truly new here. Some readers commented as I had always thought that these books are really novellas ie short, so I was not tempted to abandon the read. However I think one key point for me was: new readers (had not read previous books in the series) commented that none of the characters seem very likeable - and I do not think that was true initially - maybe Beaton finds them less endearing herself now and that comes through. The other key point - now that Agatha's huge personality is no longer so novel in itself - it becomes much more apparent that all the characters lack depth, and you feel they are interesting enough to be treated a little better in the writing.

  • The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler [read by Tim Goodman]
    BOM-B&MTheBurningMan.jpg As I read this, I was not keen on the way that Arthur seemed to be increasingly "unwell". It then began to dawn that he was not likely to be magically recovering - and then found out that this is written as the last in the series...! A bitter blow as I feel there are lots of aspects to explore with these characters and in sharp contrast to the series above, the characters not only have great depth (all of them not just B&M) but also the author intentionally does a lot with the back story to make each book appear fresh. Fowler's blog entry as he has just finishing the writing the book is very clear - he leaves the door open for more (just a sliver) but basically as a commercial writer this series does not offer him much - a lot of effort for a few though loyal obsessives like me...
    He says in the blog from 2014 that he is very pleased with the writing and I would agree with him - it is an excellent swan song for the detectives - though very sad for all the rest of us....

  • FrancisMatthews.jpg Cast In Order of Disappearance
    As I am so fond of Francis Matthews (still grieving) I was interested to hear him as Charles Paris in this play of Simon Brett's work. It's from 1984 and played totally straight. Matthews comes over (in all things) as a "thoroughly decent chap" so does not fully bring to life the rather dubious qualities of the hero.... however, a good play nonetheless.

  • BillNighy.jpg An Amateur Corpse
    Having listened to the above I am now wholly convinced of how brilliant Bill Nighy is as Charles Paris. He has is utterly convincing as the weak willed, and clearly attractive hero.
    Of course, he is helped along more than a little by the dramatisation courtesy of Jeremy Front. He brings a whole new and modern dimension to the character with great wit and (presumably added) contemporary jokes.

  • PlinyAndMe.jpg How to Survive the Roman Empire by Pliny and Me
    Radio dramatisation by Hattie Naylor, inspired by the famous letters of Pliny the Younger; Kieran Hodgson as Pliny, and Nigel Barrett provides the narrative in the persona of Venta the slave.
    It is a humorous offering but conveys how deeply threatening it was to live in Rome under the emperor Domitian - especially when he sends you a gift.....
    This is written in a very contemporary manner but worth noting that the actual letters of Pliny themselves are also very readable.

  • GeraldHarper.jpg The Psychedelic Spy
    This is a weird and wonderful offering written by Andrew Rissik in 1990 but set very convincingly in 1968. Interesting to hear Joanna Lumley and Charles Gray - with James Aubrey as the hero, Lisa Rowe-Beddoe as his girlfriend, and Gerald Harper as Sir Richard Snark (his evil boss - clue's in the name). Clearly influenced by early James Bond and the era of psychedelic drugs.

  • MartinJarvis.jpg Lucky Jim
    Lovely to hear this all over again read by Martin Jarvis.
    Part of R4 Extra marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Kingsley Amis. Lucky Jim was his first novel written in 1954 while he was himself a junior lecturer at Swansea, and provides a classic satire of university life.

Posted on November 30, 2015 at 10:47 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday November 22, 2015

Stir-Up Sunday

Apparently I have not done any stirring up (on this blog at any rate) since 2008 - and rather like that year, it all seems rather early.

ClementineOrangeMarmalade.jpg

A week ago I made some rather splendid cranberry and clementine marmalade - Waitrose 3 for 2 having produced a localised domestic glut of clementines and then to my surprise, Sainburys having fresh cranberries in stock. In fact, I had a recipe for this from a Sainsburys magazine, which I then lost and could not find on line. In principle of course you could use any marmalade recipe but the proportion of sugar is harder to gauge when you vary the the fruit. But... Caroline to the rescue with the recipe on her perfectly splendid blog The Patterned Plate... and delicious it has turned out to be. [Flushed with success I went on to make ginger marmalade - which was yummy though did not taste quite as much of ginger or oranges as I had expected {was driven to stir in whisky} - the main attraction was that it also involved apples - see reference to "apple glut" below...]

This weekend I made my Christmas puddings. In 2008 I claimed I "always" used Jocelyn Dimblebey's recipe - which was true until 2010. In that year we discovered we had a quince tree in France - a bit naive about quinces, we thought they were rather hard pears that never ripened and grew fluffy mould! That same year Alison referred me to Nigella's recipe which involves quinces and I have used it ever since. It is very fruity and also involves marron glacé - yum - which Waitrose staff always irritate me by claiming is unheard of and yet is always in stock! (This year as a variation they tried to press pureed chestnuts on me.)
I also found that Nigel Slater has an online recipe with quinces - and figs which will be ever more perfect if our fig tree ever produces any - so I have also tried that one. Note that in both recipes the quinces can be replaced by grated apple, and like my original favourite pudding they are both made with a base of breadcrumbs. [There was some mixture left over that I made into a tiny "taster" pudding which we ate right away and it was simply delicious - hard to see how the flavours could mature to be even better!]

We also have a glut of apples from the garden here so for the cake of the moment (to eat now) I made my Almond Apple cake - originally from Mary Berry so bound to be good.

Posted on November 22, 2015 at 9:11 AM. Category: Kitchen and food.

Thursday November 19, 2015

ATP tennis at the O2 - again

O2Federer2015.jpg

Another grand day out watching Federer win his match at the O2. I also enjoyed watching the Bryans win, though that was tempered by the fact that they were beating Jamie Murray and John Peers - who were frustratingly close to winning the champions tie-break at 9-5... [Though it could be argued they deserved to lose allowing a lead like that to slip away.]

This years knitting was a nice plain sock - which I was very discreet about after the tirade that ensued at Wimbledon when a commentator spotted a woman spectator with her knitting.

Posted on November 19, 2015 at 12:15 PM. Category: Days Out.

Monday November 9, 2015

Disturbed Ground

OrangePeelFungus.jpg

This was so beautiful and perfectly formed I had to take its photo. I looked it up and feel it must be the "orange peel" fungus which is fairly common and pretty distinct. It's a "cup" fungus - and there are other examples in the garden that demonstrate this more clearly - but this one is wonderfully distorted - and the most fantastic colour.
Apparently it is edible but not very tasty - so no temptation to put that to the test.

Posted on November 9, 2015 at 8:23 AM. Category: The Garden.

Saturday October 31, 2015

Books in October

  • Refusal by Felix Francis
    BOM-Refusal.jpg It's good reading more about Sid - and he has moved on - from being single and from being a PI. And even better there are hints about where he may go in the future.
    I think Felix is doing a good enough job with the franchise and I enjoyed the book. But. Always a but.
    He writes the thriller parts well - they are pacey and exciting - and he does well to stick with themes around the race track. However his writing about all things emotional (sex/love type "emotional") is simply awful - suddenly becomes like Mills and Boon. He'd really do better to not talk about it at all in any direct way...and ... just a little tip.... don't ever talk about your hero's "manhood" - unless you actually mean his manhood of course, and even then it's suspect.
    In fact - having his heroes in nice steady relationships is probably the start of the problem. Dick (or Mary's) books managed to convey real aspects of love, longing and sex, but were always laced with a bitter-sweet poignancy. And that poignancy came from the actual (and often weird) domestic life set up for the hero, not from the excellent way with words - the prose could have written itself. I suppose this does come from Mills and Boon (or great books like Brideshead!) - there is nothing that tugs more on he heart strings than people in love who cannot be together, especially if self inflicted for the "moral" good.

  • Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin
    BOM-ToothAndNail.jpg There are quite a few of the early Rebus books I have not read - and with this one I did not even register the title as being familiar. It is "Rankin does serial killers" - and like everything else - he does them well.
    I did find it hard to relate to a guy from Glasgow not being understood in London - I mean literally understood, as in, his speech. But Rankin says he based this on his own experiences in London in the 1970s - and despite my finding it hard to believe - the 70s were a very long time ago.

  • The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
    BOM-TheBurningRoom.jpg Despite the title, this wasn't really about "the burning room" - there are several strands to the story of which that was one.
    We are introduced to new characters <tick>, and left wondering if Bosch is bowing out <cross>, which I imagine won't be too popular with his reading public, even though he really is of an age when he must retire from the police force.
    Connelley's next book (The Crossing - and already available) is predictably part of the Mickey Haller series, but it seems it brings all his recent characters together - wise move I think.

  • Miracle Cure by Harlen Coban [read by Eric Meyers]
    BOM-MiracleCure.jpg For some reason it took me a very long time to finish this book. One thing is that I was pretty clear from the start "who dunnit" - and not only who but also why, and thus most of the layout of the plot, which then became dull as it unfolded.
    I had little empathy with the characters, and, through no fault of the author, I was especially turned off by a baseball connection. The key Good Guys had a positively sickening romantic attachment.... etc etc.
    Maybe I'm just and old grump.

  • ScarletPimpernel.jpg The Scarlet Pimpernel
    An excellent reading by Damien Lewis of an abridged version of the novel by Baroness Orczy.
    In listening to this I was surprised how faithfully it was followed by the 1934 film with Percy played by Leslie Howard (known to me mostly from Gone with the Wind, although at the time he was the well-established "star" and Clark Gable was the unknown <but we don't give a damn>).

  • Sovereign.jpg Sovereign
    Radio dramatisation of the C J Sansom novel with Justin Salinger as Matthew Shardlake, joined by Bryan Dick, Melody Grove and Geoffrey Whitehead.
    This adaptation by Colin MacDonald is excellent - and apparently he adapted two other Shardlake novels as well, though I seem to have missed out on them.

  • BitterMedicine.jpg Bitter Medicine
    A great radio dramatisation of the Sara Paretsky novel with Sharon Gless as VI.
    Although I am very fond of Kathleen Turner - I always felt she was a bit underrated - this 1990s version with Gless was far superior to the 2003 version with Turner.
    I never saw Turner's screen version of VI (and it was not popular I believe) but the radio version was completely awful. Terrible accent (which was probably a very authentic Chicago - I would not know) and fast talking "witty" dialogue which was not very amusing and too wise-ass to be credible (to me).
    But I should not talk all about the shortcomings of some other version but rather focus on high praise for this one.

  • MissMarplesFinalCases.jpg Miss Marple's Final Cases
    Three new Miss Marple's with June Whitfield. Based on the short stories:
    • Tape Measure Murder
    • The Case of the Perfect Maid
    • Sanctuary
    These (the plays at any rate) show us Miss Marple in old age recovering from flu - and feeling a bit down. Her sentiments definitely struck a chord!
    And then I listened to a Murder at the Vicarage from 1993 - a plot I know only too well but very good nonetheless.

  • NoelCowardMystery.jpg Design for Murder - A Noel Coward Mystery
    So... Noel Coward as a sleuth.
    Certainly a very entertaining concept from Marcy Kahan, and an opportunity for everyone to do their best impressions of not only Coward but also in general the 1930s affectations of theatrical luvvies.
    Stars Malcolm Sinclair as Noel Coward, with Eleanor Bron and Tam Williams as his devoted staff.
    Lots of fun.

  • She.jpg She
    Interesting to hear a serious portrayal of the book starring Tim McInnery.
    One of my early memories is going to the cinema, on my own as I remember it, to see Ursula Andress as She (actually in Lancing when astonishingly we had our own cinema in the village*). Described elsewhere as "a travesty of Rider Haggard's epic adventure novel", it was a lavish Hammer Horror - but nonetheless rated certificate "U" in 1965.

    * In fact at one time we had 2 cinemas in our little village, the other building being still very clearly an unused cinema when I was young. It was an ever-present subject of poignant nostalgia for my Mother who lost her first husband in a car accident the very day after seeing The Best Years of Our Lives there.

  • LegendOfRobinHood.jpg The Legend of Robin Hood
    Great English hero Robin Hood's adventures take him from May Day revels in Sherwood to crusading battles in the Holy Land - and back again to a life and death struggle with the Sheriff of Nottingham.
    A very interesting play by John Fletcher (no not that one) which draws on the original Robin Hood ballads and stories and knits them together to make a pleasing drama. From 1992 this stars John Nettles as Robin, Norman Rodway as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Michael Tudor Barnes as Friar Tuck, Gerry Hinks as Little John and Tamsin Grieg as Alice.

Posted on October 31, 2015 at 8:28 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday October 25, 2015

Trip to Lewes WSD Open Day

ESWSD1.jpg

Time for the biennial open day at the Lewes Guild. Again I did not manage to find anything much to buy. Little Grey Sheep were there an I bought another small bag of Stein; I was very tempted by a rigid heddle loom but decided this was not a purchase to make on the spur of the moment.
We watched a demo of Navaho spindle spinning - but although it seems very relaxing I am not going to take it up with any gusto. It seems to be based around long draw, and thus the preparation of the rollag is key.

Posted on October 25, 2015 at 8:03 AM. Category: Days Out.

Thursday October 15, 2015

Jane Eyre

JaneEyre.jpg

I thought there was nothing new I could be told about Jane Eyre - the story itself is a bit of an unrealistic dream fairy tale - but along the way it portrays most of life's trials in terms of class discrimination, poverty, emancipation (lack thereof), love, betrayal, determination, morality..... need I go on? So this production was most welcome surprise - and though very long, utterly gripping throughout.

By the same director as Treasure Island and with the same (or rather completely different of course!) novel approach. The best descriptive word I read for this was "dynamic" - if you take the "excellent" "original" "imaginative" etc as read. My favourite scenes were the depictions of the journeys by coach, which gave a real sense of the excitement for Jane going out into the world as well as a feel for how very far away she travelled. The other favourite with the whole audience as well as me was "the dog"; he really was wholly .... dog.

Posted on October 15, 2015 at 11:23 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday October 11, 2015

Yet More Tweed....

TweedBag5.jpg

It seems I just can't help myself when it comes to all things tweed. In my defence George has been nagging me to make him a bag to hold the laptop accessories which do not fit in the laptop case, nor the "half bag" in which it fits. I told him for over a year that this was impossible as I had no tweed left and his "brilliant" idea of sticking it to the beautiful items I have already made by using Velcro made me shudder with horror - so there we left it.

However, I discovered I did in fact have a small patch of tweed left which was quite literally just big enough to make something - I had to attach it to a backing as there was no room for any turnings - and the sides had to be leather. My chosen method of attachment to the body of his other bag is using leather buttons. This is more or less a permanent attachment as the buttons are really hard to get through the buttonholes. (Bound buttonholes in a loose tweed fabric are a step too far - which is presumably why you do not see them on tweed jackets..).

And speaking of tweed jackets - as another gift I purchased a "vintage" (or rather more bluntly "second hand") Harris Tweed jacket from eBay. It was well maintained by the previous owner so I just had to press it, mend the lining a little and I chose to replace the buttons with leather ones.
I was not sure he would like it but it proved to be a surprising hit - fitted him really well. [Even more flatteringly he asked if I had made it - bless!]

Jacket.jpg

Posted on October 11, 2015 at 8:44 AM. Category: Crafts.

Thursday October 8, 2015

Knitting and Stitching at Alexandra Palace

AllyPallyAutumn.jpg

Only a view of the lovely autumn colours in the park this year. The show itself seemed to lack lustre - I can't put my finger on why - there seemed to be a good choice of products and vendors, and the Guilds were there - just lacked the energy and excitement of previous visits. I did think that perhaps this was because it's the first time I went without Sheila, but it seems there are a lot of similar comments on Ravelry.
[And I bought nothing - really nothing...]

Posted on October 8, 2015 at 8:27 PM. Category: Days Out.

Monday October 5, 2015

Autumn

ApplePressing.jpg

It's that time of year again... and for the tail end of the Indian Summer, we have escaped to France for a few days - which have been filled with making plum jam, pressing apples, and bottling the juice.

[Home again on the night ferry...]

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 2:01 PM. Category: France.

Wednesday September 30, 2015

Books in September

  • Enemies at Home by Lindsay Davis
    BOM-BOM-EnemiesAtHome.jpg Discussed at length with friend Helen and - no - these books are definitely not as appealing as the ones about her Dad. But... don't let that put you off - still good mysteries by anyone's standards.
    Helen suggests "Falco was just an exceptionally nice bloke". However, after this book, where Tiberius progresses as the love interest in Flavia's life... I am inclined to think that Davis' heart is more in writing men than women. Helen has not read this book yet - but is in possession of the third one (Deadly Election), since she picked up a signed copy while at "Bloody Scotland" where she listened to the author talking about her new protagonist. [And I now have a copy from the library].

  • Break Down by Sara Paretsky
    BOM-Breakdown.jpg Working back through the novels I missed out.
    One of the threads in this novel illustrates the the problems of dealing with a friend who has mental health problems. I think it brings out a lot of key issues - we know and already like VI, we have sympathy with her and so we can feel and believe how really distressing it is for her to have to watch a highly intelligent peer and role model totally destroy their lives through manic depression. We also see how you can be a "good person" and yet still need to turn away from helping - possibly because you cannot really see how to help, or because there is an underlying fear of being swallowed up in the downward spiral of another's life.
    And aside from all that - an excellent thriller.

  • The Slaughter Man by Tony Parsons
    BOM-TheSlaughterMan.jpg I read this second crime story by Tony Parsons as a book-book rather than waiting for an audio version. It is in a similar vein to the first (as expected), which might be described as gritty realism - or gratuitous violence; I am never sure when reading stories about serial killers. I guess it does put one in the gory-horror-voyeur category of reader, and it's pretty useless to try and fool yourself otherwise.
    However it is a good thriller, emphasising the very real dangers that face our police force every day, however low key a situation may appear initially, (though the reader did find herself mentally shouting "wait for backup, wait for backup" several times during the story). The plot was a tense and classic whodunnit while the domestic life of our hero continues to stir the emotions in the way intended.

  • Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell [read by Lorelei King]
    BOM-FleshAndBlood.jpg Hot off the press (as it were).
    Was this better than the recent books? I think marginally "yes". There is slightly more emphasis on the crime and less on the endless drivel about Scarpetta's luxurious properties and home life - with her fantastic abilities in home cooking and obsession with fresh ingredients. Still a lot of paranoia though - and this is even self-referenced by the character, along with an allusion to her mellowing.

  • The Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler [read by Tim Goodman]
    BOM-B&MTheBleedingHeart.jpg I continue to love these books no matter how convoluted the plots become.
    Arthur Bryant is still the most colourful character - many of his statements seem so poignantly true to me, (I'm still trying to get to grips with the idea of being "old" - some of his observations made me laugh out loud). However we do not rely on only Arthur to carry the novel; other characters provide a lot of interest and complexity as well as the fun plot.

  • CrookedHouse.jpg Crooked House
    I read this Agatha Christie book as a teenager and have heard little about it ever since - but always remembered the plot very well. This is a radio adaptation in 4 episodes from 2008 with a cast to die for: Rory Kinnear, Anna Maxwell Martin, Anna Chancellor, Phil Davis, Judy Parfitt.
    Wikipedia tells me it is one of only five* Christie novels to have not received a screen adaptation but one was "planned" in 2012.
    * One of the other five is Death Comes as the End - which was the first Agatha Christie I ever read (on a beach in Spain aged 11) and I was totally hooked, even though it is absolutely like nothing else she wrote. I would love to see that story dramatised with a major spend on the setting (Ancient Egypt).

  • IanCarmichael.jpg Five Red Herrings
    Another 1978 radio play with Ian Carmichael again as Lord Peter Wimsey.
    I have to say - old age etc - I found this very difficult to follow with its 6 suspects, 6 names, and nothing to distinguish any of them (!). Luckily, as this was broadcast in 8 (eight!) episodes which I listened to back-to-back, our hero was endlessly revisiting the plot and the suspects - and then finally telling us which one was "it". [No I can't remember...].

  • WhipHand.jpg Whip Hand
    Like Many others I am sure, Sid Halley was among the first Dick Francis characters I came to know.
    So I was very happy to find (on iPlayer) the radio dramatisation of this second novel about Sid with Mick Ford starring as the ex-jockey turned detective.

  • SeveredHead.jpg A Severed Head
    I read a lot of Iris Murdoch when I first went to college and I have to say I don't think I would have really understood much of it at the time, being neither of the social strata she wrote about nor with the experience to be in any way socially aware. This radio play was described as "based on the satirical, sometimes farcical" novel - ideas which had totally bypassed me when I read it - so I welcomed the opportunity to follow it through again.
    Martin Lynch-Gibbon just wants to unquestioningly carry on in the same groove of his privileged life - including youthful mistress as well as wife - only to find himself pitched into some kind of surrealist universe when his wife announces she intends to marry her psychiatrist. Martin is constantly being exhorted with everyone else to behave in a "civilised manner" - when in fact it all the ridiculous psycho babble and partner swapping could not be more uncivilised. Stars Julian Rhind-Tutt as the long-suffering Martin, and Victoria Hamilton as his wife, Antonia.

Posted on September 30, 2015 at 2:20 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Tuesday September 29, 2015

Michaelmas

Checking my New Year Resolutions on the quarter-day may or may not be spurring me on to complete some long-forgotten projects but ... here's the progress. .

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover - Completed one side of base cover
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (wonderful yarn sitting waiting)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (Rowan Calmer patiently waiting)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru) - tudor roses, bathing machine, baby hearts - all complete
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started and completed in January) - complete
  • Many many socks for my relatives (I have a lot of sock yarn.... some of it is even rather nice....).
    Some complete - final ball "Pacific Ocean" one sock - half complete.

I just can't resist those <cough> unscheduled projects....

Posted on September 29, 2015 at 6:39 PM. Category: Crafts.

Monday September 28, 2015

Moon

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I was a bit surprised to find myself awake at 4am just in time to remember that there was an eclipse of the moon going on - and I had a great view of it. Not really represented in my picture but you get the idea...

Rob also took a set of photos with some wonderful detail (and a better lens!).

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Posted on September 28, 2015 at 3:47 PM. Category: The Garden.

Thursday September 24, 2015

Photograph 51

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A birthday treat for Robert to see this much talked about play. Sadly he is a bit under the weather so we limited it to the evening and not the usual day out .
However the production was excellent with not a single weakness in the actors - the story was told collaboratively from each character's viewpoint.
As Kings was my old college I found it particularly interesting - the set being the old building labs where science was housed almost up to my starting my degree - I arrived to work in the brand new science block on the Strand (which they are now trying to "redevelop" - or "pull down" as we like to say), but the old labs on Surrey Street were being rebuilt to become the Macadam building while I was an undergraduate.
The subject matter of the play - which I had not quite understood previously (to my shame) - was x-ray crystallography which the college must have been well known for in the early 20th century - C P Snow based his novel The Search around the subject studied at Kings.

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 10:20 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday September 18, 2015

Three Days in the Country

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An excellent evening out after work in London to see this adaptation of Turgenev's original (apparently) 4 hour production.
Mark Gatiss was particularly excellent but to be fair to the rest of the cast - he had a role that was somewhat more light hearted than the general tone of the play - so perhaps it was likely to stand out when given to a man of his talent.

Beforehand we ate at the food market outside the the Festival Hall - pulled pork with fennel (and other magic ingredients so the vendor told us) - delicious.

Posted on September 18, 2015 at 11:55 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Tuesday September 1, 2015

1984

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Without exaggeration this was one of the most incredible pieces of theatre - almost - that I have ever seen. [I did see an NT version of the Crucible once where I wanted to jump on stage and slap everyone until they saw reason].
It was.... truly "awful" in the exact sense of the word. I do not know how the staff deal with sitting through such harrowing material night after night.
I felt sorry for the cast at the end as they provided such a compelling performance it was hard to feel one could applaud at all - everyone in a sort of stunned silence.
(Though we got it together and cheered by the second curtain).

It was also a very interesting telling of the story - for both those of my age who know the book/story backwards and those who do not - with excellent use of multimedia and theatrical technique. Really I have never seen anything quite like it. [Again the NT version of Virginia Woolf's The Waves used all these techniques and more but was an experimental piece of theatre as was the text].

After a calm early evening at the Shelock Holmes pub (eating a wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch burger... wonderful food that is though I am sure Benedict himself is also wonderful) and many jokes about doing it to Julia and other hackneyed lines.... this level of experience and performance came as a total surprise for us.
Marvelous and yet dreadful as it brought the book so bitterly to life.

Thank you Big Brother.
Thank you.

Posted on September 1, 2015 at 11:26 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Monday August 31, 2015

Books in August

  • Critical Mass by Sara ParetskyBOM-CriticalMass.jpg
    Once again - a very long time since I read this author - I was under the illusion that she had not written anything for a long time (like the gap in Amy Tan's work) but it's just my not keeping up. Based on the dates, it seems I have 4 to read since "Fire Sale" which I must have read in 2005.
    So - back to this novel - I really liked the story. My memory of her previous novels is that they revolved around types of business fraud or insurance - possibly realistically what PIs get involved in - and then there's the twist which make a book into an adventure thriller. However this story had two themes of much more interest to me: one was historical (WWII) and the other was was Physics- its a novel about Science* ("...and then there's the twist which make it into an adventure thriller..." etc). I loved it.
    I'm now all set for to read backwards through the ones I missed.
    * I read that although the author is qualified in her own discipline of political science, her husband of 40 odd years is an academic professor of Physics.

  • Heartstone and Lamentation by C J Sansom
    I found I had two books to read in the Shardlake series - and they were both great.
    Heartstone was very interesting - and all about the Mary Rose, which of course I went to visit for my birthday this year - and Sansom seems to have been as much blown away by the experience as I was. As a historian it must be amazing to have such a spyglass into the life of folk from that period across all social strata. Plus - only a fraction of the artefacts have been fully examined currently, let alone put on display.
    Lamentation, however, was my favourite of the two. I did guess the fundamental plot device in Heartstone, although not actually the "why". In Lamentation, I felt the plot was stronger. So now Henry's reign has ended but Shardlake carries on - given the fortunes of the main characters in this book, maybe Sansom is shaping up for a future generation of detective in a new era - who knows?
    BOM-Heartstone.jpg BOM-Lamentation.jpg

Posted on August 31, 2015 at 8:59 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday August 30, 2015

As high as an elephant's eye...

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Perhaps not quite that high but we have been unable to do much to the grass on this trip as the weather has been uncooperative. Overall not too bad but continual showers ensuring everything is too wet to cut. Notice that the tree outside the bakehouse has keeled over - poor thing - we plan to try and prop it up again - just too heavy with the fruit and soggy soil.
On the plus side, I made a lot of headway in the house itself, hanging the mirror, and getting the bathroom lights installed - and the usual painting jobs - the scope of which seems to be endless.

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Posted on August 30, 2015 at 7:55 AM. Category: France.

Monday August 24, 2015

Cleaning and Creativity

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Apparently not much happened this month - mostly because I was doing rather than writing about it.

I finally finished off an "artisan" mirror to match the tiling in our new French bathroom. This project turned out to be an incredible palava - reminding me yet again of my Father's quote "you do like to enjoy yourself don't you?". I bought a reduced price beaten up mirror from B&Q - and then proceeded to beat it up even more. It already had the basic structure I wanted, being inset, and framed with a plain white surround. I removed the latter to replace with mosaic tiles - I then had to route out the surround further to accommodate the depth of the tiles, repair the wood to make up for my very poor routing (!), cut the mosaics to make them fit the shape, stick the tiles down with two types of glue, paint the frame a dark brown to match the bathroom, and finally grout the tiles.... I then had to repaint the surround as the grouting process pulled off the paint.... the whole project has been plagued with so many similar small difficulties that I should not have been surprised by any of this.
I have now created a mirror which is so heavy that I am not even sure how to fix it to the wall as the frame is not robust enough to support the increased weight. I feel with the cost of the mosaic panel and the epoxy glue, I would have done better to start from scratch...

In addition, a lot of August was taken up with preparing for the rebuild (or new build) of our utility area on the side of the house. George has managed a lot of the reorganisation on his own, and as of the day we left for France, we had no hot water or central heating , and our washing machine is resident outside the front door of the house, (a very attractive feature), in the hope that during the 10 week build we can use it in that position.

Spurred on by all this activity (and an apparent moth infestation) I cleared out a lot of old clothes and cleaned and sprayed the bedroom. I took the opportunity to install new blinds and curtains - with 5 double windows in the room that took a lot of time and effort, even though it was a budget solution from IKEA.

After all this there is a plus side - by October we will at last have a proper weather-proof room to the side of the house instead of the shack of the last 15 years. The kitchen and bathroom in France are to all intents and purposes up and running - even with lots of finishing detail still to be done inside - and the outside rendering needs to get going while there is still a chance if some good weather (as I sit here the rain is beating against the window...). However we have tried out both dishwasher and washing machine, the cooker is back in position, and we have moved our "stuff" back in - leaving loads of scope for yet more cleaning in the living room (groan...).

Posted on August 24, 2015 at 9:21 AM. Category: Crafts.

Tuesday August 18, 2015

Summer Flowers

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I just took a couple of pictures of my later flowering pots as everything looks so pretty at the moment. The recent rain has freshened everything though the grass has not fared so well this year. I wanted a quick result for the pots and the local nurseries were all selling off the summer plants (they were looking a bit bedraggled) - but the pack of begonias have perked up very well and I have planted an extra pot of them to sit temporarily in one of the beds by the gate.

There is also a mystery dahlia that Jennie bought me - she purchased a pack of 3 tubers as Karma Chocolate - one died, hers has come out as advertised "chocolate", but mine is orange! From the description it looks more like David Howard - and it is lovely.

Dahlia.jpg

Posted on August 18, 2015 at 9:03 AM. Category: The Garden.

Friday July 31, 2015

Books in July

  • Extraordinary People by Peter MayBOM-ExtraordinaryPeople.jpg
    I started reading "The Critic" then decided it was better to read these Enzo Files in order - as there is a planned sequence of books right from the start (he's still working on the last one).. It has a whole different flavour compared with the Lewis trilogy - and lacks the poignancy. As a murder mystery it's a high quality offering but it seems to me that the writing for the Lewis trilogy moved on with much more of an underlying emotional thread, and this went even further with Entry Island. When I am done with Enzo, I look forward to the China thrillers.

  • The Orion Book of Murder edited by Peter Haining BOM-TheOrionBookOfMurder.jpg
    This is an omnibus of short stories - written prior to 1996 which is when this collection was put together.
    The stories are collected in three genres: Crime, Detection, Punishment. Many well-known authors of the time are featured (Ruth Rendell, Graham Greene, Ngaio Marsh, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Ellery Queen, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ellis Peters and PD James) as well as some equally famous but from a much earlier era. Before each story the editor talks about the author, their era, and the detectives they created.
    Peter Haining has also done other similar books, one of which I mentioned in BOM May 2012.

  • The Woods by Harlen Coben [read by Carol Monda and David Chandler]BOM-TheWoods.jpg
    Relieved to find this did not follow the same theme I previously observed.... though we were revisiting history, and this was interesting to me as it was history from my youth as well as the characters portrayed.
    I like the narration by two voices, and in fact I felt a lot of empathy for the female character as it seemed to me the great sin she had committed - despite the dire consequences - was not in itself such a terrible thing. However I can understand the subsequent burden of guilt - and here Coben expressly states another of his underlying beliefs that you should face up to your "indiscretions of youth", and take the consequences however bad or unfair that may turn out for you - and it is what you do after that which shows what kind of a person you really are.

  • The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons [read by Colin Mace]BOM-TheMurderBag.jpg
    This was another random download from the library on the basis it sounded interesting (as it proved to be).
    However I had to do a double take, because, yes this is the Tony Parsons - he of About a Boy et al - apparently venturing into a detective novel. I thought it was all a bit touchy/feeley for a police procedural - but excellent nonetheless. Already looking forward to the next one... [The Slaughter Man out in May this year].

Posted on July 31, 2015 at 8:46 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday July 19, 2015

Woolfest - spinning project

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Thoroughly confused this year as I found no Wimbledon tennis to watch in the evenings at my hotel in Cockermouth.... After years of talking about it (40 or more?) they seemed to have moved it by a week. However Wimbledon is now well and truly over, and no - they have not moved Woolfest - I went as usual on the last Friday of June, but am posting now as I have just finished a little spinning project.

I managed, (at last!), to acquire one of Ian Tait's spindles. Every year I go and gawp at his stand but fail to choose one. This year however I was so smitten with the concept of the White Horse together with bog oak, that I overcame my prejudices and bought a square shaped one. Isn't it lovely?

Fresh with enthusiasm, I also bought some Jacob roving to try it out. The spindles is slightly heavier than my preferred weight so I though the Jacob might work well - and for a number of historical reasons dating from the 70s I have always wanted to spin Jacob - and it's fine, though in truth I think a little heavy until there are a few grams added in the cop. Subsequently at home I finished spinning and then also (first time) plied the result on the spindle - also worked well although probably not the best spinning I have ever done in my life.

And the square spindle experience?
As everyone told me all along - they are lovely to spin with. It's just that aesthetically I prefer the look of he round ones. This one is beautiful to look at though, and the design just would not have worked on a round shape.

Posted on July 19, 2015 at 8:05 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday July 18, 2015

Crochet with beads

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We were lucky enough to have Jane Crowfoot teaching a crochet workshop today. We were supplied with a pincushion project to teach techniques, and most of us managed to finish in the day. [I have put a stone inside mine to use as a paperweight - much too nice for a pincushion]

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Posted on July 18, 2015 at 6:57 PM. Category: Crafts.

Clash of cultures

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Interesting combination of activities today. We started with an afternoon a lecture at the British Museum followed by the actual exhibition on indigenous Australian art. It left me quite inspired to try some of the designs either woven or patchwork.

I have had it in mind to make a simple weaving frame (too much reading in Golden Hands Crafts) which is designed for tapestry weaving. I had intended to use it for making a piece of fabric but I was only against the idea of a tapestry as it was not a form of art that interested me. I am now rethinking this as I am inspired with designs I would like to make. Here is a wonderful depiction of Magpie Geese.

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They also had pituri bags which looks perfect for a crochet project - in fact they looked like they were crocheted though I am fairly convinced without research that the technique is a kind of woven knotting as used in the basket weaving. Also - in terms of their function as a bag - I could not see any openings!

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After a lengthy tea break in the member's room we spent about an hour looking at the Napoleon "prints and propaganda" exhibition and then went on to eat near Sadlers Wells before seeing Matthew Bourne's Car Man - which was utterly brilliant and fantastic as we have come to take for granted. Wonderful uplifting music from Bizet and amazing dancing.

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I was actually a bit late meeting Rob [one might say "as usual"!] because I met a Pearly Queen on the underground and had to take pictures....

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... then a man stepped backwards on to me as I was getting on the tube, causing me to step back while the doors closed, and swear violently - all of which "the man" seemed to find very amusing... observing me still on the platform from his position on the train....

... and did I mention the dog? ... it ate my homework...

Posted on July 18, 2015 at 7:25 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Thursday July 2, 2015

Hampton Court RHS

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Jennie and I went to Hampton Court - it was pleasant enough but seemed very hot and we did not get round to see all the gardens. The floral tent was really great though and we bought several plants. I got a clematis for Rob who has hacked back his front garden and could do with a less vigorous replacement climber. I chose Queen Mother which is summer flowering - though not showing itself yet.

I am wholly smitten with roses at the moment though, and this one, Hot Chocolate seemed to be everywhere. I will get one - but need to decide where to put it...

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Posted on July 2, 2015 at 1:10 PM. Category: The Garden.

Tuesday June 30, 2015

Books in June

  • The Hidden Child by Camilla Läckberg BOM-TheHiddenChild.jpg
    Sheila gave me this book and I thought it was not my sort of thing - and to some degree I was right - so I only just got round to reading it. As the blurb claims all sorts of things about the author's popularity, I felt the need to look up more details about her, and find she does seem to be very popular.
    So all I have left to say is: it was a "jolly good read" and the plot was really very good I felt. I am still suspicious though, that I have a problem with translated text. I am noticing this more lately - I look back on books I have read - I find less of an issue with Camillieri for example - and indeed his translator has been especially praised for his excellent abilities in translating idioms - but in general I do find translated text problematic.

  • The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters [read by Barbara Rosenblat]BOM-TheLaughterOfDeadKings.jpg
    I picked up some Elizabeth Peters novels originally due to a similarity to the name "Ellis Peters" - not mistaking it exactly but some psychological effect of making one predisposed to like it. However after reading some of the "Amelia Peabody" series, I was not too keen, and in 2008 I also tried a contemporary (when written in the 1970s) "Vicky Bliss" novel <cite>Borrower of the Night</cite> - ditto I'm afraid.
    Despite that, I chose this book, out of the somewhat limited offerings to download from the library, as a backdrop to my blanket project. It has worked out fine (on both counts) but I was very amused to find that this novel is the sequel to <cite>Borrower of the Night</cite>. Even more - unusual I think though the author would have it not so - unlike Sue Grafton's scrupulous attention to detail in keeping Kinsey Millhone series firmly set in the 1980s - this author has consciously decided to ignore the fact that Vicky first appeared in 1973, and writes her still as the same young woman in this novel set in 2008.
    This seems to be the 6th and latest novel in this particular series and I do have to say I did enjoy the author herself being written into the action at one point - although I took a while to twig.

  • Six Years by Harlen Coben [read by Kerry Shale]BOM-SixYears.jpg
    Having listened to and read 3 of these stand-alone novels by Coben I am beginning to see a pattern emerge.
    It's not a bad pattern, and it follows themes that interest me .... always going back to a mystery in the past, people not being what they seem (even though you have known them for 10 years), and things working out ok in the end (phew).
    However, and I hope this is just coincidence and it does not ruin every one of his books for you - they all seem to involve some kind of witness protection theme....

  • W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton [read by Liza Ross]
    BOM-WIsForWasted.jpg
    Back on track with Kinsey in the latest mystery.
    Having been the poor girl brought up tough on the wrong side of the tracks by an aged-and-now-deceased aunt (or whatever - similar to VI Warshawski** I always thought - unencumbered by family ties) she seems to be picking up long lost relatives left right and centre. Anyway - none the worse for it, even though these relatives are rather trying...!

    ** I have not read any of this series for ages - I thought Paretsky had stopped writing them but I see from the time line that though there was a sizeable gap, there are now 4 just waiting for another 80s novel fest, similar to those below. My challenge for July - these novels take a little more concentration!

  • An Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson [read by Sally Armstrong]
    BOM-UnsuitableDayForAMurder.jpg
    I'm sad to say this seems like the last of the Dandy Gilver novels I will be listening to as I cannot find recordings of the later ones - though they have been around long enough to have been created by now. It's a shame as they are well-suited to being read aloud; however they are really so good I will of course continue to read them - just be unable to hear them.
    I found this novel very complex - and so may have been better reading it myself. It involves two families in the Montague and Capulet mould, and I had great trouble remembering which was which. Partly this is due to age - I know that sounds grim but I think it's not so much that you get easily muddled but more that you cannot be bothered to commit less important stuff to memory any more. Partly however it was actually the nub of the plot so I will go no further in explaining my problem - but as soon as I thought I had all the information firmly in my mind, there was another twist....

  • Inspector Ghote Trusts the Heart by H R Keating [read by Sam Dastor]
    BOM-InspectorGhoteTrustsTheHeart.jpg
    I enjoyed this story while driving to Woolfest. I like Inspector Ghote better than the other Keating protagonists - I suppose there is just as much tedious detail as in any other of his writings but it somehow seems to suit Ghote better. Here he is showing himself at his best both as a detective and as a human being - but gets little or no recognition or reward for it. We leave him with an uncertain future - so I need to find the next book!

  • The Jewels of Paradise and The Golden Egg by Donna Leon
    I don't want to be too snobbishly damning of other popular authors but reading Donna Leon's books again made me realise how wonderful her writing is.
    The most amusing thing is that I got the "next two" of her books in order of writing only to discover that the Jewels of Paradise is not a Brunetti novel at all (Surprise!!) and even more surprising, it is the first one she has written in all this time that is a stand-alone novel. I notice that some readers said they were "disappointed" with the book but I was so captivated by people and plot that it did not dawn on me until about a third of the way through that Brunetti was not going to appear. Far from disappointed I thought it was wonderful and I hope she writes more - either with her new heroine or more stand alone novels.
    It then occurred to me that returning to the police procedurals might be rather dull after that - but of course not a bit of it. They are also written beautifully as well as highly thought provoking - just as always.
    BOM-TheJewelsOfParadise.jpg BOM-TheGoldenEgg.jpg

  • Spider Bones (published as Mortal Remains), Flash and Bones, Bones are Forever, and, Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs
    I last listened to the "latest" book in this series in 2011, and since then none seems to have been published as audio books that I can get from the library. [In fact it seems that many titles I look for, for example, the Dandy Gilver novels, do not seem to be being published as audio books at all now - not sure what this indicates - lack of popularity of my favourite authors?].
    Anyway I took the next 4 books out of the library and had me a Tempe-fest.
    BOM-MortalRemainsSpiderBones.jpg BOM-FlashAndBones.jpg BOM-BonesAreForever.jpg BOM-BonesOfTheLost.jpg

Posted on June 30, 2015 at 6:52 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday June 27, 2015

Woolfest 2015

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Woolfest2015-2.jpg Woolfest2015-3.jpg Woolfest2015-4.jpg Woolfest2015-3.jpg
Woolfest2015-4.jpg Woolfest2015-3.jpg Woolfest2015-3.jpg Woolfest2015-4.jpg

Posted on June 27, 2015 at 1:49 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Wednesday June 24, 2015

Midsummer

Here again my little New Year list - checking off progress on the quarter-day:

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover - now started as of May but wool resident in France
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (wonderful yarn sitting waiting)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (Rowan Calmer patiently waiting)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru) - tudor roses, bathing machine, baby hearts - all complete
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started and completed in January) - complete
  • Many many socks for my relatives (I have a lot of sock yarn.... some of it is even rather nice....)

My <cough> completed unscheduled items are....

Posted on June 24, 2015 at 6:39 PM. Category: Crafts.

Friday June 19, 2015

Fotheringay

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Fotheringay formed around 1970 essentially through Sandy Denny, (who then moved on after only about a year). After Sandy's premature death - as they put it - it "never occurred" to them to try and continue or reform.

Earlier this year a four-disc collection, Nothing More was released - a comprehensive compilation of the group's recordings - and the three surviving members of the original band - Jerry Donahue, Gerry Conway and Pat Donaldson have reunited for six tour dates in the UK. They were joined by Kathryn Roberts, Sally Barker, and PJ Wright
And we went to see them in London - under the bridge.
And they were thoroughly excellent.

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Rob has just (today) got himself an iPhone - first selfie.....
I know, I know.... but the audience we were among demonstrated that we are not quite the cutting edge young things we once were....

Posted on June 19, 2015 at 10:54 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday June 5, 2015

Iris

PeachIris.jpg

I bought this iris from our local flower show - and it's a really weird colour. I like it very much but it is unusual. As it progressed the colour seems to have mellowed a little. But very lovely.

Posted on June 5, 2015 at 3:27 PM. Category: The Garden.

Saturday May 30, 2015

Books in May

  • The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper FfordeBOM-TheWomanWhoDiedALot.jpg
    It's a very long time since I read my last Thursday Next novel*, by which time I was becoming tired of them. However this one seems substantially better - or I have left a long enough gap to become re-interested.
    The plot is complex and entertaining (as usual) all the way through - and well worth reading. If I have any comment - apart from "haha that was hilarious" - I do feel that the ends of the books can lack the high qualities of the rest of the story. There's nothing actually wrong with the endings - they are usually happy and well-rounded - just that with this type of book I think his style is cramped by having to provide such an end, even though I am glad he does - I hate unresolved endings.
    *I am guessing this may have been Something Rotten and I skipped a few books before this one.

  • The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham
    BOM-TheBonesBeneath.jpg
    Great book as usual.
    For me personally there was a "but". I did not really enjoy the Shakespearian-like tragedy of the story. You just knew.... everyone's fate was inevitable from the opening paragraph.
    I suppose every Holmes needs his Moriarty, and for some reason every detective needs to be flawed. However I have never been able to empathise much with Thorne and his flaws - he seems a bit like Noddy - destined to carry on making mistakes and not learning.
    Mark puts a lot of emphasis on the location used for this book (and maybe I do not like Thorne out of London) - he suggests in the author's notes and throughout the book how excellent it would be for a holiday; but having read this book I would not be so keen on a visit - despite the obvious beauty and peace of the place (and the events described are of course fictional).
    [I took this in bookBook format to read on holiday - and I must say I missed the sound of Mark reading his own work...]

  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel [read by Simon Vance]BOM-BringUpTheBodies.jpg
    I saw the TV adaptation of Mantels first two novels - and it was excellent. So excellent that listening to this second book almost seemed superfluous - all the characters came to me as depicted. Of course there is a lot more detail, and I did note that (unlike the TV drama) we are prepared somewhat for the third novel and what we know to be Cromwell's ultimate fate.


  • The Lost Prophecies by the Medieval Murderers [read by Paul Matthews] BOM-TheLostProphecies.jpg
    Another collection of short stories by the Medieval Murderers who are authors (and performers); you can read more about them here.
    A mysterious book of prophecies written by a sixth century Irish monk has puzzled scholars through the ages. The Black Book of Bran* is said to have predicted the Black Death and the Gunpowder Plot. It is even said to foresee the Day of Judgement.
    • Prologue: Kerry, October 574, by Bernard Knight
      In which the book is created.
    • Act 1: Exeter, February 1196, by Bernard Knight
      In which Crowner John confounds a band of treasure-hunters.
    • Act 2: Crimea, 1272, by Ian Morson
      In which Nick Zuliani dices with death in a Russian blizzard.
    • Act 3: Westminster, 7th July 1325 by Michael Jecks
      In which Keeper Sir Baldwin and Bailiff Simon Puttock investigate murder most foul in the abbey crypt.
    • Act 4: Cambridge, November 1357,by Susanna Gregory
      In which Matthew Bartholomew and Brother Michael become embroiled in a bloodthirsty college feud.
    • Act 5: Shoreditch and Warwick, 1608, by Philip Gooden
      In which player Nick Revill receives a letter from a mysterious uncle.
    • Epilogue: Yorkshire, March 2135, by C. J. Sansom
      In which we confront the Day of Judgement.
    [* Does this sound like an early text predicting the perils of a future era of high fibre dieting?]

  • ALightOnTheRoadToWoodstock.jpg A Light on the Road to Woodstock
    I have not read this short story before; it explains how Cadfael came back from the Holy Land as a soldier and ended up joining the abbey at Shrewsbury
    Adapted from the books by Ellis Peters and read on Radio 4 extra by Nigel Anthony.
    "Returning from the Crusades to a country he hardly recognises, Brother Cadfael finds intrigue and deception almost as soon as he lands in the court of his master Roger Mauduit."

Posted on May 30, 2015 at 7:03 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday May 24, 2015

Rose

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This is a pretty pink rose in France that I have been trying to propagate - I am fearful for its future with all the building work.
I took 5 cuttings following advice on the web (and I can tell you they have subsequently all expired!). Last year, I took about 8 cuttings from various French roses, which included the pink one. Of those cuttings, two plants have survived - and I was absolutely convinced they are the robust red rose at the front of the cottage. Thus, I planted one in the garden in England and gave one to Rob. And now, after all, I am completely astonished to see a distinctly pink bud making an appearance in my garden.
So... result! I suppose...
[I have yet to find out what colour Rob's rose is].

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Later news from June: both Rob's and my rose cuttings have turned out to be pink after all that. Pretty amusing as I was so convinced they were the large red one...

Posted on May 24, 2015 at 9:23 AM. Category: France.

Wednesday May 20, 2015

Rewiring

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The men from EDF came and moved our electricity box to the outside of the house. I think we can safely say it was a success as we still seem to have power. [Peter did lots of preparation inside, and then swapped some cables etc - so well done him].

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Posted on May 20, 2015 at 9:04 AM. Category: France.

Wednesday May 6, 2015

Workshows remembered.

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"This exhibition displays some of the practical work achieved by students of the courses over the 30 years that it has been my privilege to teach in this college." - Rob Muller

This evening I joined Rob for the grand opening of his very own exhibition at Croydon College. He has been building up and preparing for this event for over year, collating hundreds of photographs of his students' work, (plus other memorabilia), collected throughout his teaching career.

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As you might expect, a large number of former students from all eras joined him, creating a wonderful atmosphere, as many of them were meeting up with each other for the first time since their days at the college. They also wandered around the new (and old) college classrooms reminiscing about their time there.

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Since the exhibition, many former students have got in touch with Rob on Facebook - and if you want to look at a rather better set of photos - Rob is posting Workshow pictures on his facebook page - a photo a day.

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Here's the full text of Rob's words for the exhibition hand-out:

I joined the staff in the Theatre Department at Croydon College in April 1985, just in time to help mount the Spring Term exhibition of second-year students' work that had come to be called Workshow. Individual students had chosen costumes, portions of a setting, or large props from their designs, completed in the previous term to be realised to full scale. Lighting students designed the lighting for each piece in the hall and the production team undertook the responsibility of technically presenting the exhibition to the public for a week in March. I was staggered at the scale and ambition of this exercise - and these students were only half way through their three-year sandwich HND course.
In the summer term, these same second-year students became a production team collaborating with a performance company to mount a new contemporary ballet at the Secombe Centre Theatre in Sutton. They designed and constructed setting, costumes and lighting. My role as lighting and production tutor was to support these realised productions.
Over the next two years, while I undertook an in-house Cert Ed, I was heavily involved in rewriting the course for BTEC validation. This successful course ran until the mid 90's, firmly establishing Croydon College's reputation for producing theatre design students with very strong practical skills.
In the late 80's, the department gained a lecture room, which was converted into a second venue named "The Peter Jackman Studio Theatre" (in commemoration of a talented lighting student, who helped design the space).
Workshows were finally phased out in the mid to late 90's as the course was revalidated as BA and Foundation Degree courses and the emphasis shifted to end-of-year degree shows.
In the early 2000's, a parallel digital film degree course was established and, after completing an MA in Computer Arts, I started teaching camera and editing on this course as well as lighting and production on the Theatre courses. In 2010, sadly, the Theatre course was discontinued and all the department's resources were concentrated on the current film-making courses.
This exhibition displays some of the practical work achieved by students of the courses over the 30 years that it has been my privilege to teach in this college.

Posted on May 6, 2015 at 10:27 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Monday May 4, 2015

Introducing...

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Baby Scott arrived 3 weeks early - so she is 2 weeks old already (and impossibly cute). Her parents are .... well.... thrilled, delighted, proud... all that stuff.

[I feel more knitting coming on - in my bumper wool frenzy before Christmas, I acquired (accidentally) quite a lot of white 3ply...]

Posted on May 4, 2015 at 6:16 PM. Category: Friends.

Sunday May 3, 2015

Wisteria

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The wisteria in France was positively overwhelming - in both colour, size of blooms, and perfume. I saw the sun glinting through the branches overhanging the door - it's a nice enough photo but does not quite capture the moment.
I am pleased that my cutting the poor thing back to the wood does not seem to have slowed it down much - that part is in full leaf now and the section I left alone has burst into these heavy blossoms - it's always been a lovely plant but this year seems exceptional. [... and by the time we left a couple of days later, the strong winds had blown huge amounts of petals clean away...].

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Posted on May 3, 2015 at 6:23 PM. Category: France.

Thursday April 30, 2015

Books in April

  • The Innocent by Harlan CobenBOM-TheInnocent.jpg
    I've had this book for a long time - probably on "permanent" loan from Helen - and as I read it I felt some parts were very familiar, but I am certain I never read it to its conclusion in the past.
    Anyway - another exciting thriller and makes me want to read more - but I cannot get enthusiastic about his Myron Bolitar series books simply because the hero is a former basket ball player (!). I really should just bite the bullet and read one to overcome my prejudices.
    Or alternatively he has many other stand-alone novels I could pick from.....

  • Bertie Plays the Blues by Alexander McCall Smith BOM-BertiePlaysTheBlues.jpg
    This is not the first in this "44 Scotland Street" series, but made perfect sense without the other 6.
    Bertie is a charming (gifted) little boy of 7 who decides to put himself up for adoption on eBay. [An intellectual version of running away I think, but it remnded me of my Mother (in a less enlightened era perhaps) continually upbraiding my sister by telling her she was lucky to have parents and not be brought up in a "HOME" - and my sister privately thinking that a "HOME" without parents sounded rather nice (not knowing any better one way or the other I hasten to add)]

  • A Deep Hole by Ian Rankin [read by Paul Thornley]
    BOM-ADeepHole.jpg
    A short story beautifully told.
    A road digger (Repair Effecter for the council’s Highways Department) is compelled to offer a favour to a local loan shark, who in turn is offering favours to others in the waste disposal business - a business where holes can come in very handy.
  • DavidThrelfall.jpg Baldi
    In this radio series David Threlfall plays Paolo Baldi, a Franciscan priest on sabbatical, lecturing on semiotics at a university in contemporary Dublin. After helping the police as a translator for an Italian witness, he turns sleuth. I listened to a couple of Radio episodes - The Million Dollar Question and A Very Neglected Fish.
    And actually David Threlfall is uppermost in my mind as I so impressed by the recent TV drama: Code of a Killer* - I am lost for superlatives at how excellent it was. I remember the real life case being solved, and it seemed to me that the production was very true to the facts - as confirmed by Dr Jeffreys and Detective David Baker (now retired). Yet how tense and interesting it was - no foolish "sexing up" of the plot required - and none added.
    [Not to mention the excellent dramatic portrayal of Noah shown over the Easter schedules.]
    * <small digression> Maybe it's just because I am a Chemist at heart - I was very disappointed that Magdalen College did not manage to win the Universtiy Challenge final having got there with their two Chemistry students.... Paxman did suggest they did not have "broad enough" subjects and that the questions did not favour them - but Gonville and Caius are more than worthy winners - an astonishing contest this year. <end small digression>

  • MaryWimbush.jpgThe Mystery of a Butcher's Shop
    Listening to this radio play makes me think that Diana Rigg perhaps gave TV Mrs Bradley an air of gentility and sartorial elegance (not to mention a chauffeur) not present in the original books.
    In these radio plays, vibrant character actor Mary Wimbush (known to me as Aunt Dahlia from The Laurie/Fry Bertie Wooster series) voices said lady - giving her a "hearty and disquieting laugh that unsettles suspects and listeners alike". [No really - it was rather weird]

  • PeterCoke.jpgPaul Temple and the Alex Affair
    Yet again the criminal mastermind who seems to sign a set of mysterious murders with his name...
    This one is crammed full of suspicious characters and red herrings, though unusually I did guess the identity of the nasty blackmailer before we were formally introduced.
    Broadcast in 1968 this was to be the last in the series starring Peter Coke and Marjorie Westbury, displaying their exceptional skills behind the radio mike. [But by Timothy! there seem to be lots more of these "Affairs" and "Mysteries" for me yet to enjoy...]

Posted on April 30, 2015 at 9:43 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday April 25, 2015

Well Manor Farm

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We had a really lovely day with Emma Boyles and the "Little Grey Sheep" on Well Manor Farm. I would recommend it to anyone. She has just built a wonderful new barn space which is on the edge of having all the finishing touches completed - the aim being to host groups like ours for workshops and so on going forward. The information and talk on the sheep and their fleeces was really interesting and the stories of building up their business and their selective breeding programme was fascinating.. no.... really...
They have crossed their Gotlands with Shetland and produced their "Stein" which has the softness of Shetland and the shine of Gotland - and are now crossing this with a Merino ram (José Merino) - whom they had to go to France to acquire bizarrely - in order to produce a much finer fleece.
I (cough) came home with a small 100g bag of Stein to try spinning - but you can tell it will be lovely. I must say I had not grasped how far they have come in the last few years - now offering their own beautiful yarn, commercially spun and hand dyed in a lovely range of colours and weights. Fiona Morris (our workshop tutor last week) has collaborated with them to produce a range of patterns - so it's truly a "one-stop shopping" experience.

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Posted on April 25, 2015 at 8:54 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday April 18, 2015

Mug Hugs

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Our workshop with Fiona Morris (Distance Knitting) was to make Mug Hugs - which I felt quite neutral about previously but having tried using mine I now feel quite hostile towards them. But that is an aside - the whole point was to knit something small in the round and then make a steek for the handle - and thus learn the technique.

We all finished (more or less!) in the day and marshalled our little army for the photo

Posted on April 18, 2015 at 6:15 PM. Category: Knitting.

Sunday April 5, 2015

Easter Egg Hunt

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Well - maybe not so much of a hunt...

Posted on April 5, 2015 at 3:42 PM. Category: France.

Friday April 3, 2015

Bathing Machine Blanket

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I actually "started" this self-warping pin loom blanket in 2013 when I made the first squares for a cushion backing. I love this colour (Blanket Blue) - but I had only enough at the time for a few squares, and ever since I looked for more of the colour on eBay, and met with with great success.** So I took up the project again and finally completed the blanket.

I had the idea right from the start that I wanted it in only blue and white, which is fine if you want a chequerboard of plain squares. I thought I could do some sort of checked weave but that is difficult with the self-warping technique. On my other blankets where I wanted to achieve a mixture, I was obliged to use crochet for the alternate squares. So ... I experimented by simply alternating strands of the two colours, and the resulting pattern is great - but not at all what I expected! It clearly results from the technique but no idea of the maths to explain it.
Anyway - I love it.

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For the edging I wanted a barber's pole effect and could not see how to do this with an iCord, so I used the normal technique to create a knitted bias striped strip, joining it only on one side as I knitted, and then folding it over and sewing it in place on the other side. I actually liked the wide flat striped edging quite a lot without sewing it into a binding, but I did not want the blanket to have a right and a wrong side so I had to forego the wider edge.

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The name I am using is a little odd for a blanket but the stripes remind me of Victorian bathing costumes - or children's stockings in that era - and the old photos of the ladies in their bathing machines being wheeled to the edge of the sea to bathe in some kind of privacy.

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** I think I can fairly say I am now swamped with vintage Sirdar Peru in all colours - I love the yarn and it suits my pin loom very well.

Posted on April 3, 2015 at 9:59 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Tuesday March 31, 2015

Books in March

  • Bird in the House by Bronwen GriffithsBOM-ABirdInTheHouse.jpg
    This is basically a sad little story about coming to terms with loss - but in fact I would say - about loss.
    For me - not the sort of book I usually read at all (favouring retro escapist amateur detective novels). However, I did not feel tempted to abandon it - and the backdrop subject matter - Libya's (continuing) struggles for freedom - was all new to me and thus very interesting, despite the fact that to my discredit I take no more than a superficial interest in foreign politics.
    The book keeps its feet firmly in the realms of reality with no happy endings - at least no happy endings wrapped up with a bow for the reader. The characters "move on" and one is left with the strong indication that there might be more positive outcomes for both the characters and for Libya.

  • After Midnight by Robert Ryan [read by Steven Pacey]
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    This exactly my sort of book, chosen because I so liked the "Dr Watson" books by the same author, although more an adventure thriller than a detective novel.
    Set in the sixties and drawing on wartime experiences of the aviator hero, it provided a perfect accompaniment to painting the bathroom in France. (Probably how I came to spill the paint tray...).
  • House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz [read by Derek Jacobi]
    BOM-HouseOfSilk.jpg
    I had already read the book, and Rob gave me the audio book for Christmas (along with the newest book-book Moriarty).
    So this month I had the pleasure of listening to Sir Derek reading it to me - mainly in the car. A very suitable reader as this is supposed to be written as Watson's final narrative. [His Scottish accent leaves something to be desired, though luckily it was only called upon for one character!]

Posted on March 31, 2015 at 7:38 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Wednesday March 25, 2015

Lady Day

Here again my little New Year list - checking off progress on the quarter-day:

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover (I have already invested in the wool in pistachio green but not started)
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (wonderful yarn sitting waiting)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (Rowan Calmer patiently waiting)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru) - tudor roses - complete, bathing machine, baby hearts
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started a couple of days ago) - complete
  • Many many socks for my relatives (I have a lot of sock yarn.... some of it is even rather nice....)

I may have <cough> completed a couple of other unscheduled items along the way....

Posted on March 25, 2015 at 6:29 PM. Category: Crafts.

Sunday March 22, 2015

Kempton Steam Museum

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Rob's Morris side danced at the museum. This entry is a bit of a cheat as I wasn't actually there (!) there but the pictures are so excellent I wanted to include them here. Seems like it's well worth a visit.

The waterworks at Kempton opened in 1897 and the pair of triple-expansion steam engines were at the cutting edge of water pumping technology when they were installed in 1927-28; they supplied 39 million gallons of water to North London. One of these Worthington-Simpson Triples has been restored to working order and the other is maintained as a static display for guided tours.

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Posted on March 22, 2015 at 11:50 PM. Category: Days Out.

Thursday March 12, 2015

Mummies - eight lives

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We went for a day out to catch the exhibition "Eight mummies, eight lives". I'm not sure Rob was that keen but I (like the rest of the populus apparently) am always fascinated by mummies. Anyway - after a good lunch to make up for the fiasco involved after thinking I had lost my purse (always a good start to the day...) - I think he may have been converted.
The eponymous 8 mummies, dating from about 3500 BC to AD 700, and coming from a range of sites, were not simply displayed, but through the use of a CT scanner a lot of additional information was visible without having to damage (or one might say desecrate) them. There were excellent computer graphics showing "virtual" unwrapping, revealing sacred objects within the wrappings - and they were able to produce 3-D computer "print outs" of the objects - all of which added so much to the experience.

One thing that was true of more than one of the mummies is that they seemed to have been prepared seemingly in a hurry and used "off the peg" cartonnage cases - one being intended for a woman and used for a child of about 7 and another being crudely extended to accommodate a man's (probably unusual 5' 7") height.

The chap above is a later Roman mummy, unusual because he was wrapped as a living person, with arms and legs wrapped separately, and his face painted on the linen. There are several mummies like this in other museums in Europe and they all seem to have appeared from Egypt in the 1820s; however, sadly, although it seems likely they were found together, it's not known exactly where or if indeed that is the case.

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Afterwards, we roamed the permanent exhibits, where I found the Ram sphinx of King Taharqo (1069 BC):

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The supreme god Amun, here represented as a ram, protects a figure of King Taharqo, The ruler's forehead bears two cobras instead of one, an assertion of sovereignty over both his native Kush and Egypt, which the Kushites had conquered. Taharqo built and enlarged temples for Amun across his enormous realm. This and other ram sphinxes lined a processional avenue leading up to the temple of Amun at Kawa.

I was also interested by this famous bronze cat, given by Major John Gayer-Anderson in 1939. Detailed examination with x-rays shows past damage and structural repairs, as well as indicating how it was originally cast.

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Posted on March 12, 2015 at 9:28 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday March 8, 2015

Knitting and Stitching at Olympia

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Jennie and I went to the show at Olympia. I think she was quite impressed with it in comparison to the shows at Sandown, as it is a lot bigger and there was a lot more choice of fabric. I bought a couple of pieces of fabric to line bags, and towards the end of the day, I discovered some budget yarn on offer so needless to say came home with a bumper sack full of acrylic fibre.

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Posted on March 8, 2015 at 11:30 AM. Category: Knitting.

Thursday March 5, 2015

Shard

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Helen took me to the Shard Oblix as a special treat for a special year's birthday.
And it was wonderful!

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Not only the views but the food... mmmm.... I am (partly) ashamed to say we visited the buffet for appetisers 4 times... However, that may not be as bad as it sounds, since it was full of many appetising little morsels which gave one plenty of opportunity to have many tasters without being greedy. [But I was greedy... a bit... maybe.]

After all that excitement we managed to roll ourselves out of the restaurant and visit Borough Market. It's bursting with wonderful food choices and I finally decided to buy some rib-eye steak - so George would not feel too left out.

Posted on March 5, 2015 at 9:31 PM. Category: Days Out.

Saturday February 28, 2015

Books in February

  • Cat out of Hell by Lynne TrussBOM-CatOutOfHell.jpg
    A very funny book indeed - really- laughed out loud.
    Particuarly relevant to anyone who at any time in their lives was a fan of Denis Wheatley's novels about black magic.* Also anyone who ever owned a cat, enjoys our foibles in every day speech ("have you had any thoughts?"), or anyone who likes dogs and Sherlock Holmes (am now determined to get dog and call it Watson).
    * I read Wheatley's novels slavishly when I was about 12 - and then Robert and I read them aloud to each other (laughing a lot). I remember a journey to Scotland where Robert was reading to me as I drove, and found the text so tedious that he felt obliged to adapt it to include real-time incidents occurring on the road.

  • Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz BOM-Moriarty.jpg
    Another great book - I think, adding to the Holmes stories. Needless to say this is an imaginative novel, not just following with another hitherto unpublished story from Watson, but a new narrator in the form of a Pinkerton's agent.
    I particularly love the opening chapter pulling apart the inconsistencies in the story describing Holmes demise at the Reichenbach Falls. [And - no - he is not simply showing off. The implication is that there is more to it all than we are ever told in the story - though I hasten to add this is not a plot spoiler and we do not explore what it might be that we are never told - not in this novel anyway].

  • The Russia House by John Le Carré [read by Michael Jayston]
    BOM-TheRussiaHouse.jpg
    It took me a long time listening to this off and on while engaged on various projects. Carré's novels are very involved and are probably worth more attention than I give them. In fact I wonder if they are not so well-suited to being read aloud - the act of reading probably would involve me more with the text.
    There is a good deal of exploring the psychology of the various players, and I did not find many of them very sympathetic - either a lack of imagination on my part or just a lack of experience in the environment described.

Posted on February 28, 2015 at 2:35 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday February 21, 2015

Unravel 2015

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I went to Unravel and acquired a satisfactory amount of swag - not too much but enough... (no fibre.....!). As usual I was mesmerized at Eliza Conway's nostalgia items on sale (I may have bought one or two), and was interested to see Joyce Meader had her own stall - I see myself in her position in years to come, selling my vintage yarns and patterns as kits.... Unfortunately I missed her talk "Three Decades of explosive knitwear" scheduled for Sunday. I did however, take in the talk "Knitting with colour, inspiration and techniques" with Alison Ellen. I was almost inspired to buy her book but think I may add it to my wish list for next Christmas instead.

Later on I met my sister for a Thai meal at the Golden Fleece in Elstead - a favourite haunt - conveniently located half way between our homes.

Posted on February 21, 2015 at 7:29 PM. Category: Knitting.

Monday February 16, 2015

Treasure Island

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I've had these tickets for about 6 months, and after the wonderful experience of Swallows and Amazons a couple of years ago, really looking forward to it.
And of course it was excellent - needless to say utterly different from S&A. It was not a musical though there was some music [15 men on a dead man's chest, Yo Ho Ho... etc] and the Olivier multi-level stage was to the fore with the changing scenes, from Inn to Ship to Island.

Arthur Darvill continues a slightly more complicated portrayal of Long John Silver, the like of which I first saw from Eddie Izzard, and which is more in keeping with the book (in that Silver "gets away"). And of course Patsy Ferran as "Jim" is fantastic - "dazzles" says the Guardian.

The only slight hiccup during this wonderful evening out was with the state of the train service. After the show we were delayed by an hour getting back to Ewell West as a train had broken down and blocked the line. In fact I am surprised we got there at all but by some circular route to Epsom and then travelling back to London, we did.
Why, you ask, (well I expect you don't but nonetheless...), why, were you travelling to Ewell West when you live miles away and have a perfectly good station there. And the answer is that with the reconstruction of London Bridge our local line is bluntly not functioning. Since December the 22nd I have travelled into London for work about half a dozen times at random times of day - and every single time the train I planned to catch has been delayed or cancelled. Sometimes both. Even at best there are 3 changes to get into Waterloo. So one option is to drive to Ewell and fork out for the parking - as there is (haha) a more reliable and quicker service from there.
I am glad that the work on London Bridge will make it all fit for another century and "better for passengers" - but as it not due to finish until 2018 it is by no means certain that I will be one of the said people benefiting.

Posted on February 16, 2015 at 5:40 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday February 15, 2015

Pin loom weaving

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Ever since using the self-warping pin looms so successfully last year, I have been keen to try using the "weave-it" technique even though it's nothing like as quick as the self warping method.

The looms have a slightly different pin layout - but I found the book Pin Loom Weaving by Margaret Stump in the library. It has good instructions as to how to make the looms as well as a number of projects (including some things you never knew you needed like a useful cover for a usb stick etc). However, I was able to swiftly put together a rather crude loom from wood rejected during my manufacture of the original pin looms, and was pretty quickly making a fancy weave-it design from the book.
I used "veneer" nails for the pins but really they are not good enough having rough edges and heads which snag the wool, and they rubbed off black tooling marks on my first attempts. I am having such fun with the loom that I even looked to purchase a better quality one - but the options for that seem rather limited. Putting more effort into making a better quality item might be the optimum choice - and I have yet to settle on a good weaving tool. Long "mattress" needles are available (used in making bears), but these would need to have the points blunted as they are truly needles intended for piercing. My ideal would be a 6 inch locker hook rug tool but much thinner than those which seem to be freely available for purchase.

This is very satisfying craft work - but I still somehow find myself left with the fundamental problem of how you can use lots of little squares - other than blankets or covers.
It's worth noting that it takes me about 40 minutes to make a square like this as opposed to 10 minutes using the self warping technique. However there are many more options for interesting weaving patterns.

[Everyone destined to get fancy-weave usb covers next Christmas...].

Posted on February 15, 2015 at 12:40 PM. Category: Crafts.

Saturday January 31, 2015

Books in January

  • Chalk Circle Man by Fred VargasBOM-TheChalkCircleMan.jpg
    George read a review of this author's book The Ghost Riders of Ordebec and, since he had not come across her before, bought me the first in the series for Christmas.
    I found it a very good plot with a really quirky theme (the chalk circles) without relying on bizarre serial killing type methods of death to provide the interest. Commissaire Adamsberg, I found less sympathetic and hard to understand - I think there is something about translated text - you can translate the words and the meaning but the culture described remains foreign.

  • Entry Island by Pete May BOM-EntryIsland.jpg
    Another nominee for the Crime Awards, which I was keen to read after discovering the excellent Lewis Trilogy. I particularly like the historical storyline and contemporary detective plot that his novels seem to combine.
    The synopses and blurb about this book seem to imply it has some superatural overtones - and although I would have accepted this, I was pleased that the book offered rational explanations for the events and memories.

Posted on January 31, 2015 at 6:49 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Friday January 30, 2015

The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die

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Rob, Tony and I went to the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London. I expected to have a fun afternoon there but it was particularly impressive - I think one of the best (or only) truly multimedia exhibitions I have ever seen. Everything they chose to display was fascinating in its own right - and being a fictitious character they were able to roam across many aspects of Victorian life: the emerging concept of a detective (in real life and fiction); theatrical, film and TV manifestations of the characters; Victorian London as depicted in art, as well as Sidney Paggett's original drawings; recreations of Holmes' journeys across London - then, and as it is today; "technology" display cabinets on subjects ranging from chemistry to the changing role of women in taking up typists jobs outside the house.
There were quizes and code cracking - which Tony managed to complete without even blinking (though Rob and I helped collect the clues!) - plus nice staff members to help if you got stuck.

Here's a great picture of the outside of the museum which happens to show Anthony Horowitz, whom I regard with great fondness owing to his creation of Foyles War and his imaginative Holmes books. [I am guessing this is a publicity tour for his book "Moriarity", which was a Christmas gift and is sitting waiting for me at home.]

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After this we went across town for a pint in the Sherlock Holmes pub at Charing Cross, followed by a meal at The Delaunay, where Cathy joined us for dinner.

A thorough satisfactory and memorable day out.

[I am already anticipating the "Crime Museum Uncovered" at the museum from October]

Posted on January 30, 2015 at 6:23 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Thursday January 29, 2015

ISIHAC and the Mary Rose

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To celebrate my birthday, we went to Portsmouth to see "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue" - the roadshow. If you know what that is then you will know how it was - if you don't know what it is, then I am not able to explain. All I can say is that we received a free lesson in using the kazoo (also free).
We ate at The Wine Vaults, conveniently opposite the Kings Theatre at Southsea, and then went on to stay at the Royal Maritime Club near the dockyard - our venue for the next day.

Encouraged by a heart-felt speech from Sandi Toksvig during QI, we went to visit the Mary Rose museum, and it proved to be as astonishing as promised. I remember being amazed visiting the Vasa* years ago when I was in Sweden, which made me expect to like this exhibition as well.
I think the Mary Rose has much more in the way of salvaged content - including (100s of ) longbows** packed in cases, and apparently not waterlogged. Most of the other artefacts have to be dried out and specially treated for preservation before being examined or put on display - and there are thousands of items still to be dealt with. Personal remains have been found for many of the crew - only about 25 of the hundreds on board are known to have survived. They have reconstructed some of the faces of the departed, both in 3D and drawings, and are able to surmise who they were based on where they were found and the personal belongings found with them. There is even the skeleton of some poor old terrier stuck on board with his master.
In the days after our visit I saw a TV program about the raising of the Mary Rose - low expectations as I expected it to be about the engineering feat of bringing it to the surface, which I remember quite well seeing as it happened. However, it was really interesting - all about the preservation efforts and combined footage from other programs over the years as the scientific research progressed. It provided an excellent codicil to our visit.

In the afternoon we took a trip up the Spinnaker tower where I had an obligatory cream tea in the cafe, and we were able to observe not only the view but the most astonishing changes in the weather pattern over a period of only about 40 minutes. It makes you see the dangers of sailing a small boat off our coasts when things can change so rapidly.

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* The Vasa sank in similar circumstances to the Mary Rose at a similar point in history. [I actually thought that like the Vasa, the Mary Rose sank on her maiden voyage but in fact she had been in service for 34 years and it was the first engagement after a refit.]. Reading the Vasa's website I remain curious as to why they do not seem to have had quite so many issues raising it from the sea bed and preserving it going forward.
** The information on the longbows was the most surprising to me:
"There had been no large scale evidence of what a medieval longbow looked like, how it was made and how it shot, until the Mary Rose find. Similarly there was no large scale catalogue of Medieval archery equipment such as arrows, pouches, bracers, belts, buckles, or personal items. At a stroke this vast inventory has become available for all to see. It is a most stunning collection."

Posted on January 29, 2015 at 6:21 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Friday January 23, 2015

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

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I snatched at the chance of tickets for this musical version of the well-known film, and was not disappointed. Robert Lindsay gives a masterclass in... almost anything theatrical you'd care to mention, and was just utterly brilliant. There have been some cast changes since the run started with Alex Gaumond and Bonnie Langford joining the crew - but actually that has some positive points - I think Samantha Bond is excellent but she is not well known for her song and dance routines.

Posted on January 23, 2015 at 5:22 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Monday January 12, 2015

Stash

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George thought someone had delivered a body* - but it was just my eBay purchases - a load of acrylic double knitting to knit nice robust cheerful blankets. I know I have a stash the size of Everest but I think there must be some rule that says you get to 60 and start knitting in nylon and acrylic.
There it is.
Can't be helped.

* It was very densely packed thanks to a lovely eBay seller who kept postage to a minimum for me.

Posted on January 12, 2015 at 9:24 AM. Category: Knitting.

Monday January 5, 2015

Christmas Furbelows

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I spent a lot of time adapting some lettering from from the Debbie Bliss magazine No 5 for Winter 2010 - they originally spelled out HOME, so I had to adapt the E and make up the N.

I then found that all along I had a pattern for "noel" (albeit rather different and very much smaller in size) again by Debbie Bliss but this time from the book "The Knitter's Year". I really like these softer coloured lower-case letters so I thought I would make some for my sister and perhaps a set for myself (for next Christmas!).

My original idea was to cover some papier maché lettering that I bought in Hobbycraft with the knitted fabric but this proved impossible. I like these letters though, so I covered them in fabric and attached ribbon to make (future) tree decorations.

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[...and thus already one off my New Year List - see previous entry]

Posted on January 5, 2015 at 8:10 PM. Category: Knitting.

Friday January 2, 2015

New Year List

I am starting the new year with a lot of pleasing projects in mind. Some of them are finishing "old" projects - on which I have already made a good start. And of course some of them you might ask why finish when they are obviously long past their sell-by date; but many things I never meant to abandon and still have an appetite for - so better finished than in a bag gathering dust.

Here is my little New Year list - it's a statement of intent which I can use a the proverbial stick with which to beat myself as the year goes on:

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover (I have already invested in the wool in pistachio green)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started a couple of days ago)
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (wonderful yarn sitting waiting)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (Rowan Calmer patiently waiting)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru)
  • Many many socks for my relatives (I have a lot of sock yarn.... some of it is even rather nice....)

And I have also already started on the long road to making my "studio" (prétensieuse? - oui c'est moi) usable once more. I am really pleased with the result so far - maybe some photos later.

Posted on January 2, 2015 at 6:59 PM. Category: Crafts.

Thursday January 1, 2015

England and St George

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We went for lunch with my sister and visited the local hostelry in Selborne to see the Mummers play. It was lots of fun but due to the intimacy of the stage area in the bar I was not able to get very good photos. Costumes were wonderful - acting may have been mildly affected by the preceding visits to other hostelries in the area.....

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After a noble struggle the Turk is vanquished!
[Don't worry the doctor soon revived him.]

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Posted on January 1, 2015 at 10:03 AM. Category: Days Out.