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Saturday December 31, 2016

Books in December

  • Coffin Road by Peter May
    BOM-CoffinRoad.jpg While waiting for the final book in the Enzo series (Cast Iron - out January) I was inspired to read his latest book. It was excellent of course. Enough said.
    It seems to have taken me a while to realise but looking back I see that a lot of his novels have "eco" themes - they run all through the China novels, and appear strongly in this one. I do find that I can fail to recognise an author's main interest or genre, which I guess is because often the first book I read is outside their "norm".

  • Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
    BOM-StoneMattress.jpg A collection of nine short stories (which Atwood explains need to be called tales) - the first 3 being loosely linked.
    Tales that reveal the grotesque, delightfully wicked facets of humanity - and largely focussed on "old folk":
    • Alphinland
    • Revenant
    • Dark Lady
    • Lusus naturae
    • The freeze-dried groom
    • I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth
    • The Dead Hand Loves You
    • Stone Mattress
    • Torching the Dusties

  • The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly
    BOM-TheWrongSideOfGoodbye.jpg Well we all love Harry so well done for Connelly persevering with the character just for our sakes when realistically he should be long retired. We already saw him leave the PD (sadly on a low) at the end of the last book, but he is still involved in upholding truth, justice, and his own personal American way.
    I am not sure Connelly can take his old characters now, but I understand the next book introduces new ones - we just have to learn to love them as much....

  • Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon
    BOM-MysteryInWhite.jpg Snowfall brings a train to a halt near the village of Hemmersby. Several passengers take shelter in a deserted country house, where the fire has been lit and the table laid for tea - but no one is at home.
    A British Library Crime Classic from 1937 reissued in 2014.
    'The horror on the train, great though it may turn out to be, will not compare with the horror that exists here, in this house.'

  • A Cool Head by Ian Rankin [read by Peter Forbes]
    BOM-ACoolHead.jpg Gravy worked in the graveyard - hence the name. He was having a normal day until his friend Benjy turned up in a car Gravy didn't recognise. Benjy had a bullet hole in his chest, but lived just long enough to ask Gravy to hide him and look after his gun. Gravy had looked after things for Benjy before, but never a gun.

  • Christmas: Five on Brexit Island, and the Pride and Puddings
    These were some terrific Christmas gifts.
    I am guessing after the issue of Ladybird books "for grown ups" - designed to appeal to exactly my age group - the excursion into Famous Five in a similar format was a natural progression. A fun idea and pretty well executed - and on a matter dear to my heart.
    The history of puddings by Regula Ysewijn is .... well what can I say?! Perfick!.

    BOM-FiveOnBrexitIsland.jpg BOM-PrideAndPuddings.jpg

  • FrenchmansCreek.jpg Frenchman's Creek
    An abridged reading by Adjoa Andoh for Book at Bedtime. This took me back to my teenage years when I first read this Daphne Du Maurier historical novel (loaned to me by my friend Elaine). I do remember thinking it was a great read but hearing it again I can only think it was because teenage girls in general like romantic fiction. I also did not properly remember how it ended - and apart from anything else I believe it is known for its unusual ending. At the time it was suggested to me that it was a "sequel" to Jamaica Inn, (which I did not read until many years later), but I found no evidence of that either by reviewers or in the text - I think it is simply one of "the four Cornish novels".

  • BillNighy.jpg The Cinderella Killer
    A job in Panto seems the perfect way to spend the Christmas season for Charles, but the cast of Cinderella are a motley crew from reality TV and Charles finds himself having to explain the traditions of Panto to their baffled American star whose career is on a downward trajectory. It's not long before the slapstick makes way for a murder.
    Bill Nighy as the weak willed, and clearly attractive hero, Charles Paris. Based on Simon Brett's novel, once again brilliantly adapted by Jeremy Front, and directed by Sally Avens.

Posted on December 31, 2016 at 9:27 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Friday December 16, 2016

Nice Fish


Tis the season.
This had mixed reviews but I think only because you have to be of the right mind set to enjoy it. That's not an elitist remark, but it's just like many forms of humour that are both loathed and also have huge cult following. I think the main complaint was that it was not "about anything" - which was (more than) fine if that's what you were expecting.
I enjoyed it hugely and the icy wasteland of a set was fantastic.

"Kookily compelling." Daily Telegraph

Posted on December 16, 2016 at 11:05 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Sunday December 11, 2016

Red Shoes


Another Sadlers Wells production - wonderful (of course) - but I have to admit in terms of "plot" it was not what I expected, being a representation of a film which I have never seen. I thought it was a traditional folk tale so when Rob kept saying "I wonder if they will have the train" I thought he must be a bit confused - but it turned out that the confusion was entirely mine.

Posted on December 11, 2016 at 11:05 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Saturday December 10, 2016

Seasonal fun


Morris Men in Kingston "annoying Santa" (!)


Posted on December 10, 2016 at 4:55 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Wednesday November 30, 2016

Books in November

  • The China Thrillers by Peter May [read by Peter Forbes]
    Peter May wrote these 6 books in the 1990s based on his experiences living in China during a period of great change for that country. Extraordinarily he was given access to their police department for research and subsequently received awards for the books within China.*
    I have had The Firemaker as a talking book for some time and never got into reading (listening to) it, but once started it was totally compelling (like all his books) and I was able to borrow the next two (The Fourth Sacrifice and The Killing Room), from the library.
    The books were recently rereleased in paperback so May has been giving interviews and generally chatting about them to increase publicity.
    * For a long time this was the only thing I knew about Peter May - it makes for an excellent Quiz question "who is the only writer to have...." etc

    BOM-TheFiremaker.jpg BOM-TheFourthSacrifice.jpg BOM-TheKillingRoom.jpg

  • The Case of the Imaginary Detective by Karen Joy Fowler
    BOM-TheCaseOfTheImaginaryDetective.jpg I found this in a charity shop and went for it as I was so impressed with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - and how could such a title not appeal to me?. It continues with certain familiar themes of loss and adjustment. I found the overall plot a tad confusing but I took great delight in the main character's not infrequent philosophical mental "asides" - which could have been part of any book (as in Cat Out of Hell - recognisable scenes from everyday life which can be side splitting funny when well written). So despite not really empathising with the main character - lucky for me given her situation - I still found it to be an excellent read.
    [Noting that I did also pass it on to Rob but he did not get on so well with it].

  • The Hanging Club by Tony Parsons [read by Colin Mace]
    BOM-TheHangingClub.jpg Tony Parsons has produced a great series here and I can only hope he is not going to get tired of his Max Wolfe any time soon. This story offered a very interesting thread around "old London" in the history of the Law Courts combined with locations discussed in the plot. I was driven to look up information on abandoned Underground stations as what he wrote did not quite gel with what I thought I knew - but this was explained later in the story. I did not previously realise that there was a station British Museum (though I always thought that public transport for the Museum was strangely out of the way); it was permanently closed in 1933 as Holborn station was so close by.
    I would say again though - I find these books are rather sickeningly graphic - but clearly, although it goes against the grain, this must have some appeal as I am also so keen on Mark Billingham who uses much the same approach.

  • GideonFell2.jpg Gideon Fell - The Blind Barber
    There is only one clue to a brutal killing on an ocean liner - the engraving on the murder weapon.
    Stars Donald Sinden as Doctor Gideon Fell, John Hartley as Supt. Hadley, and Patrick Allen as Lord Sturton.
    Dr Gideon Fell is an archetypal English eccentric and amateur sleuth created by John Dickson Carr. Dramatised by Peter Ling, directed by Enyd Williams, and first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1997.

Posted on November 30, 2016 at 4:23 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Thursday November 24, 2016



Through some administrative error I seem to have unintentionally signed myself up for the Felted Art workshop with Mo Jackson. As it turned out, it was fun, and I quite liked what I produced - this little Santa, and a cushion cover intended for the red sofa in France.


At the end of the class we made "felted soaps" - which are a bit of an eccentric idea. However I was sufficiently smitten that I made entire sets of them for everyone for Christmas. I thought they would be of practical use and "consumables" - so you don't have to keep them forever - however I have noticed that they only really work if you use them every day and do not leave them to dry out.


Group photo of our fluffy creations:


Posted on November 24, 2016 at 4:03 PM. Category: Crafts. | Comments (0)

Wednesday November 16, 2016

Anais Mitchell at Kings Place

Another great evening at Kings Place.

Last time we saw Anaïs Mitchell at Cecil Sharp House she sang with Jefferson Hamer, but this time it was a much more folksy experience - just her and a guitar. I can't believe it was 3 years ago we saw her - but it surely was. Jefferson had told us that Anaïs was expecting a baby - and sure enough there was her little girl - a large as life 2 year old - sitting next to us on the balcony.
Anaïs herself was still reeling from the result of the presidential election and sang a very heartfelt "Why we build a wall" along with other older and new songs - including an innovative "make a request" interlude....

The "support act" was Jarlath Henderson - singer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer. He was great - my only suggestion might be that he could afford to add a few more (any?) cheerful numbers to his repertoire. However he was very impressive as he joked that his "band had abandoned" him so he had not given up the idea of touring but had multitracked all the other parts himself. This sounds like it could be a problem but he made it work really well.

Posted on November 16, 2016 at 10:23 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Sunday November 13, 2016

Small person gansey


I delivered the completed sweater to Penelope who obligingly seems to fit into it quite well.

It's a fishing smock from the vintage Debbie Bliss book "Nautical Knits for Kids" . Originally designed for Rowan Denim, I used some vintage Sirdar Tropicana "cotton effect" 4 ply - which is acrylic, and much finer than Denim but I wanted the result to be smaller, and luckily it seems to have kept its proportions and looks right.

Posted on November 13, 2016 at 5:10 PM. Category: Knitting. | Comments (0)

Monday October 31, 2016

Books in October

  • London's Glory by Christopher Fowler [read by Tim Goodman]
    BOM-B&MTheBurningMan.jpg So having "ended" the Bryant and May series quite definitively, the author has done the only sensible thing and returned to adventures from a previous era with a book of "11 missing cases".
    He has moved right into real "short story" writing for the detectives and the result is excellent. Small mysteries rather in the vein of Sherlock Holmes.In addition he provides an excellent "introduction" which is an essay about murder mysteries through the ages.
    [I am relieved though that he has not followed Steven Saylor's path of introducing a youthful and lusty sexual dimension - luckily our heroes are still pretty ancient even in the 1940s. Not - I hasten to add - that I have any repressed objections to sex for the over 60s - just not sure I want it expressed in any graphic detail - the vision of Bryant and pillow talk would have been too boggling to contemplate.]
    So - enjoy - Bryant and May..:
    • ...and the Secret Santa
    • ...in the Field
    • ...on the Beat
    • ...in the Soup
    • ...and the Nameless Woman
    • ...and the Seven Points
    • ...on the Cards
    • ...Ahoy!
    • ...and the Blind Spot
    • ...and the Bells of Westminster
    • ...Mystery Tour

  • Sign of Fear by Robert Ryan
    BOM-AStudyInMurder.jpg It seems the ending if the last book was the "real" ending and I just have to live with it. Far from a Holmes-like regeneration, we see an unlikely alliance between Watson and his nemesis - which the author has some skill to both pull off as plausible and also take his reader (me) with him. Watson might be able to pragmatically deal with the situation but the rest of us have some difficulty. Actually we want to see evil genii redeemed - a la Star Wars .... but that doesn't happen either!
    An excellent adventure - and long may Watson be able to continue in this "modern era".

  • Brush Back by Sara Paretsky
    BOM-Breakdown.jpg This is the latest published VI novel - and apparently the 17th in the series. Although the plot is about a past injustice (or maybe not) it heavily centres on VI's cousin Boom Boom. This famous ball-playing cousin - and his death - is the subject of a much earlier novel, and it is always clear that VI has a bit of hero worship going on. Hence his name associated with wrong-doing leaves VI insecure and doubting herself. This provides all that is needed to keep her on track looking into a situation that gives her more grief than it's worth, and that she would probably prefer not to be dragged into - especially as it's all pro bono with a stack of personal abuse thrown in!

Posted on October 31, 2016 at 5:47 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday October 8, 2016

Good Canary


I got these tickets as it was playing locally at the Rose in Kingston... and John Malkovich is a good director ... and I thought it looked interesting.
Turned out it was quite amazing and has been playing to rave reviews. A lot of the reviewers attribute this all to Malkovich - but I would say the set and staging were most innovative, the script itself was sharp, and the actors were astonishing - especially Freya Mavor who is brilliant - and variously described as a newcomer.

I have also seen more critical reviews saying the play "lacks shape" and makes a better film, but actually I thought the staging was brilliant, managing to capture indoors and out (as well inside and outside the psyche) by using projections and very little in the way of scenery and props.

Posted on October 8, 2016 at 11:48 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Saturday October 1, 2016

Grand Stash Sale


This is our rather optimistic attempt at a stash sale. Unfortunately it was a really poor day from the perspective of the weather and we did not get many people through the doors. However I thought it went well enough and we all had fun - and we even sold some stuff. Even I - who went home with virtually all I came with (which you can see was quite some stash!) - managed to sell enough to cover the cost of my table.

Posted on October 1, 2016 at 3:33 PM. Category: Crafts.

Friday September 30, 2016

Books in September

Clearly I did nothing in September other than reading.
[In fact was quite busy trying to squash in two visits to France which even made me miss Rob's birthday - although I am not sure he was too fussed about that...]
Herewith ... the books:

  • BOM-UnpleasantnessInTheBallroom.jpg Dandy Gilver and the Unpleasantness in the Ballroom
    by Catriona McPherson
    Another winning story about Dandy - and we have now reached 1932. The story is set in a dance-mad Glasgow in one among many dance halls. Dandy and Alec find Glasgow and Sauchiehall Street rather daunting, if not scary - which is not so unbelievable to me who visited as a stranger in the 1980s prior to its reinvention as a European City of Culture... [A title which so infuriated the character Taggart at the time].
    Rather like the Taggart TV series - funnily enough - it all starts with a murrderr....

  • BOM-DishingTheDirt.jpg Dishing the Dirt by MC Beaton

    Almost a direct sequel to the previous novel the Blood of an Englishman.
    Some characters Agatha has not get done with.
    She need closure...
    .....and what better than pinning a new murder on "the one that got away"...

  • Goldfinger, Trigger Mortis by Ian Fleming and Anthony Horowitz
    George got these books last Christmas - Goldfinger "the Trigger Mortis Edition" and Trigger Mortis itself. As you might gather Anthony Horowitz can do little wrong in my eyes and he has written Trigger Mortis from ideas sketched out by Fleming before his death. Some passages are (apparently) Fleming's writing.
    I read Goldfinger as it is the prequel, and found that it is very well covered in the film - much because there is, for example, one entire chapter describing an entire game of golf hole by hole, which is of course dealt with rather rapidly in an action movie.
    Horowitz continues this type of detail in describing the racing circuit in his book, and is generally faithful to the way Bond seems to be originally written.
    (I had listened to Rupert Penry-Jones reading a version abridged for radio - but still found the full book held my interest).

    BOM-Goldfinger.jpg BOM-TriggerMortis.jpg

  • Craven2.jpg Craven
    Another series of Craven with Maxine Peake.
    As impending cuts threaten the staff of the Greater Manchester Police MIT, a case involving dangerous dogs and legal drugs piques DCI Craven's interest.

    Produced by Justine Potter -a Red Production Company production for BBC Radio 4.

Posted on September 30, 2016 at 5:47 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Wednesday August 31, 2016

Books in August

  • Dandy Gilver and A Bothersome Number of Corpses, A Deadly Measure of Brimstone, The Reek of Red Herrings, by Catriona McPherson
    I have to come to terms with the fact that they are not going to produce any more audio versions of these books - so I caught up with the next 3 as holiday reading.
    As wonderful (to me anyway) as ever, I particularly enjoyed Brimstone; the author writing in what I believe to be her best mode, brilliantly evoking not only time but also quite wonderfully exploring a (now) lost place.

    BOM-ABothersomeNumberOfCorpses.jpg BOM-ADeadlyMeasureOfBrimstone.jpg BOM-TheReekOfRedHerrings.jpg

  • A Gladiator Dies Only Once by Steven Saylor
    BOM-AGladiatorDiesOnlyOnce.jpg The second anthology of Gordianus short stories (2005).
    • The Consul's Wife - 77 BC
    • If a Cyclops Could Vanish in the Blink of an Eye -77 BC
    • The White Fawn - 76 BC
    • Something Fishy in Pompeii - 75 BC
    • Archimedes' Tomb - 75 BC
    • Death by Eros - 75 BC
    • A Gladiator Dies Only Once - 73 BC
    • Poppy and the Poisoned Cake - 70 BC
    • The Cherries of Lucullus - 64 BC

  • Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson [read by Simon
    BOM-WatchingtheDark.jpg As I mentioned last month - I took this as one of two books to occupy me while driving to Cambridge for my weaving course, but in fact the journey was not long enough for both and I listened to this on my return.
    It was excellent - quite a long way further into the series from my last reading and as I suspected Banks has moved on in his personal life so not miles away from TV-Banks now - although as conincidentally discussed with our weaving tutor - Stephen Tompkinson is a great actor but definitely not book-Banks. [In my normal way of recasting impossibly - I would choose a very young Martin Shaw for this role.]

  • GideonFell.jpg Gideon Fell - To Wake the Dead
    A 1997 two-part dramatisation of John Dickson Carr's 1938 thriller by Peter Ling: The Riddle of the Stone, and The Secret of the Stone. Charmingly dated, of course.
    Stars Donald Sinden as Doctor Gideon Fell, John Hartley as Supt. Hadley, Richard Johnson as Sir Giles Gray, Wendy Craig as Melita Reaper, John Rowe as Dan Reaper and Tracy-Ann Oberman as Francine Forbes. Directed by Enyd Williams.

  • Craven3.jpg Craven
    By contrast - not at all charming and dated.
    An excellent piece of radio drama - which I should not but do rather take for granted with Maxine Peake.

    Produced by Justine Potter -a Red Production Company production for BBC Radio 4.

Posted on August 31, 2016 at 6:43 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday August 28, 2016

More partying


We are in France for the Bank Holiday weekend, and it was Lloyd's birthday. I seemed unable to take any decent photos (everyone would keep moving around!) so here he is sharing a joke with his Mother-in-Law while his sister brings a suitably large cake.


Later on Lisa and I set the world to rights by the pond - the reason for the looks of consternation is we were watching the kids ("young adults" - an in fact also some rather older adults) swimming and horsing around. Drowning seemed a real possibility....


And a couple of other views while we were there. The mackerel sky about sums up the weather we experienced - and I weeded, dug out, and replaced the edging around, what is left of the flower bed in front of the kitchen (where the door used to be).


Posted on August 28, 2016 at 7:21 PM. Category: France. | Comments (0)

Saturday August 20, 2016

Creative Fibres 25th Year

Another little lunch party to celebrate our 25th year - with our very own member's Ukulele band.


And though not so clear in the photo .... we all sang along... a very eclectic mix of musical eras....


Posted on August 20, 2016 at 3:27 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Friday August 19, 2016



An interesting evening out - and were the Mill at Sonning a bit closer to home I might venture there a little more often. As it is it's quite a way to go.
The evening included a pre-theatre meal and we met up with some old colleagues and friends whom I had not seen for ages which was fun.

The theatrical performance was interesting - rather larger than life and in truth projected slightly too much for the space - which was fairly intimate. I liked it for the set and staging which were meant to be a tongue in cheek look at Agatha Christie in theatre. I really liked this review in the Telegraph which rather said it all; it is I suppose a moderately negative review but emphasises that the play is staged as being "from a simpler time" - and the comment that it features "the least convincing death you'll see onstage this year" is not as damning as it sounds since I am absolutely certain it was meant to have everyone rolling in the aisles otherwise it could all easily have happened off-stage.

I suspect I have read the book but cannot remember it. What I do remember is the fairly excellent TV dramatisation which included Poirot (as written in the book), while Christie's stage play version excluded him. This stage version is apparently closer to the book than the TV version where the murderer is a very sympathetic character and the entire situation created by the victim around all the characters has great poignancy and almost the qualities of a theatrical "tragedy" about it.

Posted on August 19, 2016 at 6:02 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Saturday August 13, 2016

Deep Blue Sea


I was dubious about seeing this play - I bought tickets as it is the National and with a great cast and reviews it seemed a good thing to do. However I thought that although it might be great art it would be too sad for me to really enjoy.
What I was forgetting was that this is Rattigan who achieved great popularity back in the day for a very good reason. The play was very accessible and stunningly acted. The characters had you with them through all the distress and poignancy (and even real humour) to what was a very uplifting ending without sacrificing any of the realism of the plot.
So really fantastic performances from all and I am so glad that I did not talk myself out of it.

Posted on August 13, 2016 at 5:50 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Saturday August 6, 2016



We went on a day trip to Rye. (I am somewhat embarrassed to say it was in order to pick up a 4 shaft Harris loom that I bought immediately after my weaving course - whoever would have predicted that?! More on that another day perhaps; for now, suffice to say it's lovely).
Anyway we made of it a good "day out", visiting Lamb House, which is most prominently celebrated by the National Trust (quite rightly) as a home of the author Henry James. In fact my, and most of the population's, interest in it is due to its other literary resident: E F Benson. If he were not already a firm part of popular culture, interest in him was rekindled by the most recent TV series of "Mapp and Lucia" - for which they used Lamb House. Good though the series was, for me no dramatisation can top the 1980s series with Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales, Nigel Hawthorne and co - it was also set in Rye though they staged the interior shots in the studio. For the recent series they actually rebuilt (mocked up) the "Garden Room" at Lamb House as the original was destroyed by a bomb in WW2.


The recreation was more like a conservatory extension on the back of the house, unlike the original which was separate from the main house and entered only via the garden. As Benson (and James) used it as his writing room he imagined Mapp doing most of her spying, from its large bay window, which had a view right down the street. You can see that Lamb House is on a corner so the Garden Room was oriented at right angles to, and to the left of, the main front of the house.


After a splendid (and huge) crab salad lunch at Fletchers House. we went on to Scotney Castle - another National Trust property. We toured the house ... where ridiculously enough I was most impressed by the 1950s kitchen that the last inhabitant had installed and used as her main living area.... and the gardens - but in the end failed to find room for a cream tea despite adventures including sliding down banks in the quarry garden and lost sunglasses.

Finally, for our last act of tourism, I persuaded G to stop off again on the way home to see the Chagall windows at Tudeley. Always a wonderful experience.

Posted on August 6, 2016 at 10:22 AM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Sunday July 31, 2016

Books in July

  • The Original Inspector George Gently Collection by Alan Hunter
    BOM-InspectorGeorgeGentlyCollection.jpg My colleague Tony recommended I try these and I did find them enjoyable. Quite different from the TV series - it's hard to imagine book-Gently as any other than an old man - however I don't think that's actually true it's just that the era is the 1960s and I was a child then so all adult detectives were going to be avuncular old men [No Hiding Place with Raymond Francis etc]. In truth I suppose TV-Gently in the shape of Martin Shaw* is in fact an old man - he just doesn't seem to be for one of my age now! This is the first two stories in one edition Gently Does It and Gently by the Shore - there is also an omnibus available with the first 4 books. Hunter makes a statement at the start of the book that the stories are not meant to be "whodunnits" so don't complain.... In fact I found them quite intriguing enough for all that.

    * I recently saw Martin Shaw as Dalgliesh in the first of the two PD James stories he recorded around 2003. I thought it was excellent even though I was keen on Roy Marsden in the role. The two stories are connected so it made sense to make them of a piece in this way. [Frustratingly missed the second one - hopefully not too long before another repeat even though they were screened at 2 am.....].

  • Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama [translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies]
    BOM-SixFour.jpg A totally fascinating book - not only a good thriller with an interesting and very (I feel) Japanese explanation of the mystery at the end, but also seemingly a real insight into Japanese life. Throughout, the hero has a very sad personal situation to deal with and I was sorry that (like in real life) was not resolved. However, a lot of the story is very political, and maybe simply a "police procedural" but it's made so much more interesting to me because it is written by a Japanese person, not from an outsider's view. I suppose it may not relate to real policing any more than any other stories I read ("you've got 24 hours to solve it or you're off the case") but I loved all the incidental social interactions showing the paramount importance of manners, respect, and not losing face. I did think that I would have trouble getting to grips with the different characters - I am a lazy reader and my eye skates over names; there was a pretty big cast list with a predominance of names starting with M closely followed by Y - but in fact I managed quite well.
    I was alerted to this book by the iKnit Book Group (first Tuesday of every month) - too late to meet with them by the time I'd read it sadly - and I never seem to have the time to get up there..... maybe one day....
    [PS Helen thought the title might be a football score - it isn't]

  • The Blue Afternoon by William Boyd
    BOM-TheBlueAfternoon.jpg This was an impulse purchase ex-Surrey library (3 for 2 - how could I resist?).
    I always like this author and I'm not sure why I don't read more. I guess they are always a little too poignantly sad overall. However, with this one, (as ever), I was totally gripped by the writing and the plot. Even in the opening chapters I was totally heartbroken (or maybe sick with frustration) alongside our heroine - an architect - as a wonderful building is destroyed out of sheer malice and spite. And that's only the set up to the real tale....

  • Aftermath by Peter Turnbull [read by ]
    BOM-Aftermath.jpg OK I may have said before - not my favourite author - so... why? Well, terrible enough that I read the first one of his books by mistake (Peter Lovesey/Peter Tremayne) - but I did the same thing AGAIN this time. More excusable though - I selected two Peter Robinson talking books to keep me amused on my trip to Cambridge - and in one choice I was correct but I quickly discerned that this Aftermath was the right title but not the right author!
    Unfortunately I found it as dire as ever and never got as far as listening to the actual DCI Banks story until I got home. [And after all that, the murderers were not brought to justice! How bad is that? really!].

  • When the Devil Drives by Christopher Brookmyre [read by Sarah
    BOM-WhenTheDevilDrives.jpg Finally got round to listening to the 2nd book in this trilogy - the middle one - I read them out of order. Again another author I really like, although I think maybe these books about Jasmine Sharp may not be his dramatically strongest or most side-splittingly funny.
    Several days after having listenend to the epilogue - where things were wrapped up - I realised what the last sentence ("she was not her sister") actually meant. I had imagined it meant not the same character as her sister instead of which it was (clearly even if not to me) literal.
    Now you will have to read it...

  • NoelCowardMystery.jpg A Bullet at Balmain's - A Noel Coward Mystery
    Marcy Kahan's Noel Coward playing the sleuth in post-Liberation Paris, this time. It's 1948 and Coward is in Paris to play the lead in his own play 'Present Laughter' - in French - which is amusing enugh of itself. Add in haute couture, existentialism, jazz . . .
    Stars Malcolm Sinclair as Noel Coward, with Eleanor Bron and Tam Williams as his devoted staff.

Posted on July 31, 2016 at 11:57 PM. Category: Books of the Month.



We went to see Startrek Beyond in 3D. First visit to the iMax. Excellent.

Posted on July 31, 2016 at 10:30 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Saturday July 30, 2016

Houghton House

...and Fibre East

On the way back from Cambridge, I diverted to Flitwick to go to Fibre East, which was quite as pleasing as I had been led to believe.
Some of the Guild were also there (day trip) and I had lunch with Kate and Georgia.
I'm afraid I did succumb to an "anonymous" fleece from the sheep rescue centre. [I started processing it immediately but it's a long job - fine and with a lovely sheen but also a lot of lanolin!]

I noticed an enticing brown sign in the vicinity and was further diverted to visit Houghton House. I knew nothing about the house and so was quite surprised to find it to be a deserted ruin.


Originally commissioned by Mary Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke in 1615 on land granted to her by James I (r.1603-25), it underwent many changes by its various owners until 1794 when it was ordered to be dismantled by the 5th Duke of Bedford. The ruins survived as a garden feature in the grounds of nearby Ampthill Park, and it is now administered as an ancient monument by English Heritage.
Truly a wonderful chance find.

Posted on July 30, 2016 at 3:20 PM. Category: Days Out.



More fun pictures experienced vicariously as usual courtesy of Rob.
This year he even found the wonderful knitting lady - and the weather was kind for a change.


Posted on July 30, 2016 at 7:06 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday July 29, 2016

End of Term


Well having been so focused all week it certainly felt like end of term. Here we all are on our final day.
I can thoroughly recommend this school to any one (who wants to do a class obviously); it is extremely well run, teaching, facilities, and catering were excellent ...and my comrades were very nice too which always helps.

Posted on July 29, 2016 at 2:51 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Wednesday July 27, 2016

Cambridge Tour


This evening Anna took a couple of us on a tour of the colleges. The last time I was there must have been in 1978 with a friend who had studied there, and I remember little of it. It was a lovely evening and rounded off with a delightful meal at the Punter

Posted on July 27, 2016 at 9:32 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Monday July 25, 2016

Cottenham Summer School

Months ago I signed up for what has turned out to be the most wonderful course "Weaving on a Four Shaft Loom". Far too much to discuss but below is an album of photos of our work during the week.

Posted on July 25, 2016 at 8:41 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)

Sunday July 24, 2016

Tour de Fleece - sprint to finish


Stage 21: Chantilly - Paris, 113km (70.2 miles)

My two 2-ply skeins completed.
.... and Froomey did it....
.... and I set off for Cambridge and my next week's adventure.

Posted on July 24, 2016 at 7:54 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday July 23, 2016

Tour de Fleece - tired but chasing hard


Stage 20: Megeve - Morzine, 146km (90.7 miles)

We spent a lovely hot day at the Leigh Summer Show - still madly spinning....

Posted on July 23, 2016 at 7:53 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Friday July 22, 2016

Tour de Fleece - strong breakaway


Stage 19: Albertville - Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, 146km (90.7 miles)

Further distractions as Rob came over to practice pitching his new tent (WOMAD...).

Posted on July 22, 2016 at 7:48 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Sunday July 17, 2016

Tour de Fleece - one of the hardest days


Stage 15: Bourg-en-Bresse - Culoz, 160km (99.4 miles)

On to the next bobbin....

Posted on July 17, 2016 at 7:40 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday July 16, 2016

Tour de Fleece - a day to recover


Stage 14: Montelimar - Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux, 208.5km (129.6 miles)

Today was a Guild meeting full of personal spinning challenges - all to the accompaniment of the cycling viewed on the iPad close by for inspiration.
The winners had the dubious pleasure of being photographed in one of G's T-shirts. [Or the Maillot Jaune as we liked to think of it].


Posted on July 16, 2016 at 7:39 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Thursday July 14, 2016

Tour de Fleece - Bastille Day - legendary ascent


Stage 12: Montpellier - Mont Ventoux, 184km (114.3 miles)

Bastille Day and I ordered another two skeins of the yarn so I can make a two ply of the colours.

Posted on July 14, 2016 at 7:35 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Wednesday July 13, 2016

Lepage at the Barbican


This has to be one of the best things I have seen for a very long time. I might say possibly "ever" but how can one compare all pieces of theatre? I was expecting that it might be overly arty, but - unlike the recent dance piece I saw - it was very accessible with a relatively simple theme (a broken heart) - just beautifully and innovatively staged. Unfortunately it was only on for a week at the Barbican and this seems to have been the last venue in the tour.

The actual title of the piece is Needles and Opium but I didn't want to get any unsavoury characters excited by using it as a title. Originally inspired by the life of Jean Cocteau, the restaged version introduced Miles Davis. This piece in the Guardian tells you more about Lepage and his work.

Posted on July 13, 2016 at 9:34 AM. Category: Art and Culture.

Saturday July 9, 2016

Hampton Court Flower Show


George and I went to Hampton Court this year - a rather spur of the moment decision. The couple above clothed from head to toe in hedging completely fascinated me - we were both amazed at how hot they must have been - I was a bit late in snapping them unfortunately.
I spotted them while looking at this conceptual garden - I liked it a lot but the photo I managed to take is not actually showing it very well - the cut outs revealed an inner core. Called simply "Why?" it was sponsored by Rolawn Ltd, designed by Tony Smith and built by Hortus Infinitus. It "depicts the complexity and wonder of the universe and human brain", apparently, but very impressive whatever the inspiration.


Overall quite a pleasing day out - George's verdict "it wasn't as bad as I expected" (!) and he was able to take his new car for a trip out. I was going to go large on buying plants but only managed 2 clematis (and even then had trouble finding a spot for them in the garden when I got back) - all the roses I wanted (For Your Eyes Only, Birthday Girl) had sold out - all my own roses currently have black spot so maybe no bad thing to delay planting new ones.

Posted on July 9, 2016 at 5:10 PM. Category: The Garden.

Thursday July 7, 2016

Tour de Fleece - a little lumpy


Stage 6: Arpajon-sur-Cere - Montauban, 190.5km (118.4 miles)

Well the cycling may be lumpy but luckily my spinning is not...

Posted on July 7, 2016 at 7:21 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Wednesday July 6, 2016



Had a rather hectic evening out at Sadlers Wells with my sister - who had spent most of the day battling with traffic. We both found it a rather extraordinary evening of dance.

Barbarians is a trilogy by Hofesh Shechter: three wildly different takes on intimacy, passion and the banality of love - apparently - not wholly clear but that did not really matter.

Revealing his choreography at its most elegant and intimate, the barbarians in love opens the evening. Six white-clad figures move as one to the strains of an ecclesiastic baroque score. This world is soon exploded when innocence is lost, and its trance-like dup-step grooves transition into the final piece, a darkly emotional duet.

Posted on July 6, 2016 at 11:36 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Tour de Fleece - we hit the hills


Stage 5: Limoges - Le Lioran, 213.5km (132.7 miles)

Finished first bobbin and on to the second skein in a lighter natural colour with a different mix: Blue Faced Leicester (40%), Merino (40%), and Silk (40%).

Posted on July 6, 2016 at 7:20 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Tuesday July 5, 2016

Tour de Fleece - chance of crosswinds


Stage 4: Saumur - Limoges, 237.5km (147.6 miles)

I had a bit of a distraction today as a lovely parcel arrived from P&M woolcraft.
I have lusted after a vintage Louet like this for years and discovered while at Woolfest that the company had issued a "limited edition" of them for their anniversary. Suppliers were allowed just a few of them each and P&M had one. They are not cheap but I thought that my fidelity to the idea probably warranted my buying a wheel new for a change.
My expectations of the wheel - for all its expense and newness - were not high. Louet have always produced budget wheels. However it spins beautifully and I am delighted with it - and it is even signed with the edition number - delightful marketing idea eh?

Posted on July 5, 2016 at 2:08 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday July 2, 2016

Tour de Fleece - riding up the coast


Stage 1: Mont-Saint-Michel - Utah Beach, 188km (116.8 miles).

I bought the fibre at Woolfest - it's a mix of Blue Faced Leicester (40%), Merino (40%), and Bamboo (40%) from Art Fibres. I have a second skein in a lighter natural colour with a different mix: Blue Faced Leicester (40%), Merino (40%), and Silk (40%).
I am finding my first skein difficult to spin - my conclusion is that it's the bamboo I do not like. I had a roving from Alison (in black and I am guessing it's the same fibre in this mix giving the dark colour) and I really did not enjoy the experience of spinning it. Thus not sure if I will make it to the second skein during the Tour.


Posted on July 2, 2016 at 6:59 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Thursday June 30, 2016

Books in June

  • Raiders of the Nile by Steven Saylor
    BOM-RaidersOfTheNile.jpg I struggled a bit getting through this - but it is excellent that Saylor has moved back in time and given Gordianus not only a new lease of life chronologically but can also explore the younger version of the character. He has done well I think - most noticeable to me was a greater emphasis on the young man's sex life, which although of little interest to me personally (!) has to be a major driving force of an adventurous young man in his 20s. He also has the struggle between his obvious love (as well as then lust) for Bethesda and his sense of propriety required between a man and his slave.
    It's easy to accept the concept of slavery and "benign" masters in the context of Ancient Rome but maybe we should not be so accepting, given the not uncommon reports of modern day slavery in our country even today.

  • Gallows View, A Dedicated Man, A Necessary End, The Hanging Valley
    by Peter Robinson

    I always knew there were books associated with the Inspector Banks TV series but it never occurred to me to read them before now. It is interesting to see how different the TV character appears to be from the man in the books. It is possible they have tried to keep the fundamental "man" in the drama but his personal circumstances differ quite a lot - at least in these first 4 books. I seem to remember Aftermath being one of the TV shows and that is quite a long way into the series of books so maybe the circumstances change.
    Again these earlier books were from the 1980s and it is once again interesting to remember the forensics of the time (or lack of) and other things commonplace now but unavailable then - the most obvious is the internet when you are thinking of investigation, but also mobile phones which changed a lot of the dynamics in thrillers - in fact you often find in modern thrillers that the mobile phone "cannot get a signal" at crucial moments, which although maybe true to life is only a device for the purposes of the plot
    However.... the most noticeable thing for me in these books was the constant references to smoking and drinking! I was actually alive and holding down a job in this era and I do not remember it being at all like that. Quite astonishing the police seem to drink HUGE amounts - several pints over lunchtime and scotch or gin (or whatever was on offer) at every social interaction, with each other and with people they are interviewing. References such as "he had 5 pints but that's not very much for him to be drunk" - blimey I would be under the table.... And I suppose it's not so much that this might be unrealistic - either at the time or even now - but that it is referred to so much in the text. They are either in the cafe eating teacakes and coffee or in the pub with pies and a pint (or vice versa...).
    As to the smoking - very much of its time of course. I started work when smoking was allowed in offices, though it's hard to remember what that was like, and about 5 years later it was stopped. Banks himself tries to give up in book 1, moves to a pipe in book 2, gives up and goes back to cigarettes in book 3 - has a minor dalliance with cigars - and all the while is endlessly debating while visiting witnesses and suspects whether or not it's acceptable to smoke in their houses..... and invariably does so, bewailing the unbiquity of non-smokers these days.
    After all that you can see I have not mentioned the story lines very much - however they were certainly very good, but overall simply police procedurals. I wonder if they improved over the years to deserve the subsequent awards and accolades from the likes of Ian Rankin. Hence very much looking forward to reading more (though maybe a bit of a break after 4 on the trot).
    BOM-GallowsView.jpg BOM-ADedicatedMan.jpg BOM-ANecessaryEnd.jpg BOM-TheHangingValley.jpg

  • Die of Shame by Mark Billingham
    BOM-DieOfShame.jpgThis is a stand-alone story where Mark (may I call you Mark?!) has the usual reader resistance (me) to new characters. However it did not take long to become wholly absorbed in the story. Actually the new detective is not very sympathetic - but she is interesting - I think Mark has tried for a very different type of person here and needs to get a bit more underneath the character he has created if he intends to introduce her in more books. At the moment she has traits and a domestic life. The other characters however are much more fleshed out; in fact none of the characters (the suspect list essentially) is very sympathetic but they are all utterly fascinating.
    Mark has also moved to a structure for the book of moving between two separate time frames, chapter by chapter. I have to admit I cannot remember if he has used it before but here it is very evident. In general I find this a gripping technique but also annoying - I am following one thread and then it stops - I get into the next one again and then I'm moved back. It is used much by Peter May, and Joanne Harris - and it cannot be denied, does work.
    There are references in passing to the characters we already know - but the appearance of Tom Thorne for 5 minutes at the end is simply wonderful, leaving you in absolutely no doubt that justice will be served. [I rather wish that the same could have been said about Rush of Blood. I had hoped he would come back to that in some way in a later book to tie up the loose end. I like my fictional murderers to be bang to rights....].
    Mark receives much praise from others about his observational detail on the characters - which is well-deserved - and he reminds me of Camillieri in this respect. The descriptions are so splendidly visual that they could almost be used a stage directions to move them straight to a dramatisation.

  • Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman by M C Beaton
    BOM-BloodOfAnEnglishman.jpg I have run out of things to say about Agatha. The book was hugely enjoyable as usual, though I should have read it at Christmas time.
    What I will write though is: I was finally able to catch the TV depiction of her but I was a bit disappointed. I can completely see why they did what they did but it lost its charm for me. Although the books were written not so very long ago and in keeping with the time, they reflected a village society from a slightly lost era, which I felt was rather the whole point: Agatha thrust into this gentler (maybe... apart from the murders!) society with all her "modern" towny ways. However they have been revamped and - plausibly - brought up to date for the TV - and completely sanitised. Everything is a bit toned down - Agatha is less childish, selfish, promiscuous... just less; what happened to her Brummie background, accent and general insecurities? And although the actress playing Mrs Bloxby (oh - and it's all Christian names in the TV show) is excellent I regret the loss of her genteel character and importance as Agatha's "only" friend - and the Reverent Bloxby is just someone else entirely. Roy is a far more reasonable chap on the TV, less self serving and more competent at his job - and rather than simply camp, is explicitly gay which he was not in the novels (as I remember it) and not because of any general inappropriate reticence on the part of the author.
    Lots of complaints about the show by other readers like me - but possibly not fair because simply as a TV show it is passingly amusing. The critics seem to like the idea of Penelope Keith playing Agatha as she did in the radio productions - but even though age essentially precludes her, I am not sure she is my perfect Agatha either. However finding my own suggestion for an Agatha is more difficult than it seems - all my ideas are for women about 20 years too old.... so far in the right age range, I find Samantha Bond, Tamsin Grieg....

  • NoelCowardMystery.jpg Death at the Desert Inn - A Noel Coward Mystery
    More of Noel Coward as a sleuth.
    The Desert Inn was the scene of one of Coward's greatest cabaret triumphs, and makes a great backdrop for "a highly probable Noel Coward Murder Mystery" .
    Stars Malcolm Sinclair as Noel Coward, with Eleanor Bron and Tam Williams as his devoted staff. also features Judy Garland... (Belinda Lang).
    Lots of fun.

  • P-Division.jpg P Division
    Condition Purple: another of the police procedural series set in Glasgow, from novels written by Peter Turnbull. Good bread and butter crime stories - this one originally published in 1989. I listened to Two Way Cut earlier in the year.
    Ralph Riach as DS Ray Sussock, Martin McCardie as PC Hamilton, Gerard Slevin as Reynolds, Martin Cochrane as DCI Donoghue, Gaylie Runciman as Karen, John Buick as DC King, Frank Gallagher as DC Montgomery and Alex McAvoy as Tuesday Noon (I think he's an informer!).

Posted on June 30, 2016 at 4:33 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday June 25, 2016



I dashed back from the Lakes to make time to go to Lesh's 60th birthday party. This served to remind me that (a) I have not seen him for 10 years (!) since his 50th (!) and (b) that I have been writing this blog for 10 years as his last party was one of my earliest entries.

If he looks a little peculiar (below) it's because he is sporting the tasteful gold diamante 60th spectacles I gave him as a gift. It was a fun time catching up in a lovely relaxed atmosphere.


In other news, Chris has become a published author - one seriously academic tome Humans: from the beginning: From the first apes to the first cities and a slightly more accessible Prehistoric Investigations.

Posted on June 25, 2016 at 8:34 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Friday June 24, 2016


My day at Woolfest was heavily overshadowed by the result of the EU referendum. I think the country is left a little stunned (those on both sides of the argument). It made the purchase of fluff seem a little irrelevant.

However I bravely knuckled down to shopping and ... among other things... I made a purchase of a delightful ceramic sheep. It is lovely but more astonishingly, I showed the sheep via Facetime on the iPad to my friend in the US in the evening and just on the basis of that, on that very day, she went immediately to her pottery class and made copy and sent me a picture of it in the drying room.


The original was on Sarah McCaig's stand as a Woolly Jumper kit (just add wool). However the actual ceramic work is from Clare Farley of Pinfold Pottery

I hope the designers will forgive the plagiarism - and regard it as the best form of flattery - as it's for her own use only and she will not be attempting to go into business on the back of it - but it is a really charming design - so if you want one of your own use the links to Pinfold Pottery

I also dithered a lot over a "hatbox" wheel which the Threshing Barn had on offer. It was brand new as it seems Louet did a new limited edition run of them. I could not bring myself to make a decision though. Similarly I drooled a bit over a wool picker but as I am not a commercial preparer of fleece I can't practically think of spending that kind of money.

Posted on June 24, 2016 at 11:40 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday June 18, 2016



Just a quick photo of our general meeting at the Box Hill village hall decorated to mark the Queen's 90th birthday. Very festive.
I spent the meeting gossiping and knitting socks for Terry which will probably end up being completed tomorrow (actually on his birthday, but not able to be delivered...). I also picked up a couple of patterns: one for another blanket - a simple concept in thick yarn using slipped stitches, and two, a pattern for a kind of cricket cardigan by Martin Storey (wouldn't you know?) that I have been after for some time; not for a chap this time though, probably for me, if I ever make it.

Posted on June 18, 2016 at 9:00 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Thursday June 9, 2016

The final variation on the theme

Here is the final colourway evolved from Kaffe KAL 2014. Its a simple granny square version using the sets of 4 colours originally specified for each square - but I have reversed the colour order within the squares on some pieces and also randomised the layout. I also made some mistakes in the colour combinations on some squares which I left "in" the design.
It's resulted in a very colourful blanket - smaller than the original knitted versions as each square is smaller; I could have increased the size of the squares with extra rounds but I preferred the balance as it is.

Posted on June 9, 2016 at 9:49 AM. Category: Knitting.

Tuesday May 31, 2016

Books in May

  • The Best Man to Die by Ruth Rendell
    BOM-TheBestManToDie.jpg I am pretty sure this was not one of the books I read in the 1980s but I am pretty sure I remember the TV adaptation - strangely mostly remembering Barbara Leigh-Hunt in a relatively minor role.
    Still very much worth the reading, and very amusing to see - even on the written page - how different forensics were (and also how much lighter the traffic on the roads was) in 1969 when it was written.

  • Fell of Dark by Reginald Hill
    BOM-FellOfDark.jpg This book interested me a great deal in a number of diffferent ways:
    It was set in the Lake District around Keswick and Cockermouth, which is so much more meaningful to me after my visits to Woolfest.
    It was written in 1971 - era of my youth - though one could well imagine that in general the environment may have changed less there than elsewhere in the past 40 years.
    It was similar in theme and construction to The Thirty Nine Steps: we have a hero (well maybe not so heroic in the mould of Hannay - a 1970s anti-hero perhaps) on the run for a murder he did not commit; it is somewhat episodic as he moves from one temporary haven to another; and the setting makes it similar to Scotland in the early part of the 20th C; the final scenes have him captured and in danger to the last.
    Reginald Hill makes all this a cut above the average - almost a psychological thriller - and makes me yet again very much regret his passing.

  • The Long Kill by Reginald Hill
    BOM-TheLongKill.jpg Another book set in the Lake District - what can I say? - I'm addicted.
    Another psychological thriller, this one published in 1986 and using the pen name Patrick Ruell. I have read some reviews critical of the book, comparing it unfavourably with other offerings or suggesting it should be shorter. As it is the book is not very long, and I loved the descriptive narrative about the environment; I see it all as part of telling a good story - and especially this story - not just all hinged on a thriller plot for its entertainment value.
    I also read this was made into a film - translated to the US - but was not very successful; I think that's a shame as I'm sure the plot and landscape could have made a cracking thriller - and I like the lead actor Bryan Brown more than a little.

  • The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart
    BOM-TheGabrielHounds.jpg With authors like this, I always find that I so enjoyed the previous thriller that it's hard to take up a new heroine with changed circumstances. However, a few chapters in and you are totally engrossed all over again, and having finished the book, keen to get on with the next one. In this context the habit of including a chapter of the following book at the end of the volume works very well. From reading this taster I am fairly sure I read Touch Not the Cat years ago - but cannot remember the plot in any detail so I will be pleased to read it again even if that's the case.

  • TheClerksRoom.jpg Silk: The Clerks' Room
    Very well thought through radio plays spawned from the TV series. The clerks were pretty key to the Silk stories and stand up pretty well without requiring Maxime Peake as part of the cast. In fact not having her character appear is probably necessary to the dramatisation, as it keeps the hub of the action where it belongs rather than making it seem like "just a spin-off from a TV show". The stories were interesting and very suited to a 45 minute format.

  • DenmarkHill.jpg Denmark Hill
    Typical Alan Bennett play but goes rather beyond dark humour to truly black humour. At one point I did wonder if there would be any survivors - and I was a bit disappointed with the ones that did make it, though I am guessing you were supposed to dislike them all. It was a bit all-round Hamletish (by intention and referenced heavily in the plot) which fits nicely with all the Shakespearian festivities around this year.
    I have to admit I never thought of Hamlet as a comedy before, but now I see the possibilities.

Posted on May 31, 2016 at 12:58 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Monday May 30, 2016

Everything in the garden...


It is fairly rosy - though Bridge of Sighs has black spot - and it's pretty cold and terribly windy so the plants are finding it hard to really get going.

In the same vein as the great lady gardeners I keep hearing about on the TV, I spent a fortune on plants ready for Jennie to deal with on Bank Holiday Monday. I bought two lovely Iris (Raspberry Crush and Bold Print), and Jennie brought along a Kent Pride which has been all the rage at Chelsea this year.


I also bought far too many bedding plants - lots of dianthus in pale oranges and white - as well as some petunias and others to replant the seasonal pots. I managed to do the latter myself before Jennie arrived - they are non-matching but, although the yellow and red one is very pretty, I wish I had followed through on my instinct and gone with black and white for both of them.

The result is that the new bed outside the utility room building project is pretty stuffed with plants now, and they all look fairly happy - hoping the wind and rain predicted for the week does not flatten everything.

Posted on May 30, 2016 at 8:10 AM. Category: The Garden.

Saturday May 28, 2016

The Threepenny Opera


I realised that I had never actually seen this production before - although Rob seems to have seen it and staged it a number of times in the past. Excellent of course as you expect from this cast at the National.
Read the review in the FT here, and then - since this is the start of the run for a change - get your tickets here.

As we often seem to - we spent the afternoon at the British Museum "Sunken Cities". The main message of the exhibition was the "remarkable relationship between the major ancient civilisations of Egypt and Greece" which was excellently illustrated. The sunken cities were Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus [and in case you were wondering Thonis was the Egyptian name and Heracleion the Greek name for the same city - so good they named it twice].
I found it fascinating though it's not been universally acclaimed, suggesting there is "not much there"; however it kept us well occupied for 2 hours and even left us pretty tired (not as young as used to be etc etc even though Rob keeps pretty fit with his dancing!). There was the usual perfect BM use of multi media, showing film of the items in situ under water as they were found. The larger exhibits were impressively, well, BIG - but there were also a lot of detailed smaller items - perhaps the negative reviewers missed them...?!


So that gives you an idea of the scale - and yes! he (with his sister-wife) was there... fully reassembled, upright, and largely complete.

Posted on May 28, 2016 at 4:30 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Saturday April 30, 2016

Books in April

  • Blood Sympathy, Born Guilty, Killing the Lawyers by Reginald Hill
    Reginald Hill wrote only 5 of these Joe Sixsmith novels in the 1990s - which is a shame as they are delightful - but I guess they are products of their time, so I am not sure he would have ever come back to the character.
    Amusingly, and clearly written pre-1997, Gary Glitter is very much in evidence as a symbol of popular culture in the background of this story, which cannot but stand out as bizarre to current ears, and in a very different way than the original humorous intention. Much of the action takes place in the pub (The Glit) which is a shrine to the Glitter Band, (and all the harmless fun it once represented). At one point Joe ponders that his own version of God "likes Gary Glitter as much as Haydn" which may be true if we are speaking musically, (and for all I know may be true altogether since I know nothing about Haydn's personal life - but I read that he was a 'devout man of good character').
    I read the final two books of this series in 2011, and these are the first three.

    BOM-BloodSympathy.jpg BOM-BornGuilty.jpg BOM-KillingTheLawyers.jpg

  • Rat Race by Dick Francis
    BOM-RatRace.jpg I'm amazed to find yet another vintage Francis (Dick) that I have not previously read. The plot and writing were in the old tradition and so it was interesting and thrilling as usual.
    However, the part that really interested and impressed me was actually in the foreword, where the author explains that his wife Mary "in doing the research for the book" became so interested in flying that she took lessons, gained her license, and was commissioned to write a learners text book on the subject (!) "still in use today". And if that were not enough - the pair of them started an air taxi business (as described in the book) which they built up and then finally sold on. All I can say is some people are born hard working entrepreneurs.

  • BillNighy.jpg A Decent Interval
    Again I'm going to go on and on about what high quality adaptations by Jeremy Front these are - even down to the really clever and natural way that each episode gives us the "previously ......" information about the plot.
    You have to catch them - next time round - or on iPlayer.

  • KingOfDiamonds.jpg Galbraith and the King of Diamonds
    So in contrast, here was a series (many episodes) that was not only seriously dated (maybe almost in a Good Way) but also almost seriously bad (in a Bad Way). I've never been fond of Bernard Hepton (he should have tried his hand at comedy) and here he played Galbriath and thus was compelled to affect a (constantly slipping) Scottish accent. This play for radio is by Robert Barr - most well-known for z Cars and Softly Softly on TV - but actually a prolific writer for radio. There is a second play featuring Galbraith "The Midas Touch" - which after this I look forward to with.... interest...

  • TheSpyingGame.jpg The Spying Game
    Four very worthwhile plays on the subject of espionage:
    The Living Daylights by Ian Fleming. James Bond battles to rescue a trapped British agent, (and in which I learn that the film of the same name dismisses the entire plot of short story in the first few minutes.)
    Max Is Calling by Gayle Lynds.
    An idealistic CIA recruit is pitched against a cynical veteran.
    The Red Carnation by Baroness Orczy.
    A former Russian spy's loyalties are tested over an assassination plot.
    A Demon in My Head by Jean-Hugues Oppel.
    The struggles of a troubled spy suffering from crippling migraines.

  • JulianRhindTutt.jpg Rumpole on Trial
    So these manifestations of Rumpole took me quite by surprise, and I did quite enjoy them. However - Rumpole for the modern world? - except that Rumpole is not of the modern world. I cannot imagine him as anything but a product of his time.
    Overall they reminded me of the remake of Reggie Perrin - nothing wrong with it - very funny - excellent actors - just somehow not right.

  • TheMagus.jpg The Magus
    New radio dramatisation of the novel by John Fowles. This was such a cult book and such a long time since I read it - and a pretty odd book. My college tutor in the 1970s (when the revised edition was published, which was the version I read) thought it was marvelous and likened the plot to 'peeling an onion'. Like everyone else, I found the book very interesting - though I never thought or really clicked that the story is set in 1954; I think the locations make it somewhat outside of time.
    It seems it was the first book Fowles wrote, and not his best in his own estimation though we all seemed to love it.... though of course it is the weird plot that fascinates us rather than the execution of the writing.
    This version on radio makes an excellent play with a worthy and starry cast in the shape of Tom Burke, Charles Dance, and Hayley Atwell. Somewhat surprisingly, the much earlier film with Michael Caine was generally considered a failure. However this made me consider that maybe it's better suited to a radio adaptation as the story is very much from the "I"'s point of view - and on radio one is more clearly inside "I"'s head with his sense of unreality.
    The reviews all say that the ending of the book is indeterminate, and Fowles resisted writing any subsequent conclusion - but my understanding was that the revised edition made it very slightly more determinate (if you were desperate for a "happy" ending), and the translation of the final lines also indicates an optimistic ending. This play on the other hand seems to lean towards a pessimistic outcome for the lovers in my opinion, with Nick mourning his loss to no apparent response; it's not at odds with the written ending but being acted out indicates a certain finality. There are also references to the author telling different readers whatever they wanted to hear, and this is very much in keeping with his experimental manner of writing - ie offering different scenarios all in one book (the French Lieutenant's Woman where Fowles offers different plot turns, and at one point writes himself into the story. I noted a similar idea in Ian Mcewan's Atonement, although the 'real' outcome in that story was made crystal clear, even if it bypassed my sister....).
    Read this review - it's so much better then my own!

Posted on April 30, 2016 at 3:17 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Friday April 29, 2016

Nell Gwynn


This is a great play - energetic and uplifting. ".....merry dances and a dog!". Indeed.

Sadly though the transfer is right at the end of its run - next up at the Apollo is "The Go-Between" - a musical version with Michael Crawford.

Posted on April 29, 2016 at 1:06 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday April 24, 2016

Variations on a theme

It's always the dilemma ..... you are either "doing" or writing about it - and it's always so much better to be "doing".
So what have I been up to that has kept me so quiet?

I decided at the beginning of last year that I wanted to make the Kaffe KAL 2014 striped blankets in each colourway. However I discovered while making the cushion, that although I loved the design of his finished blankets, I did not enjoy the construction technique at all. So I decided to make variations using Kaffe's colour schemes, (he always knows best...!) but not his pattern. This project has been long in the planning and after a year I have completed two blankets (alongside other projects I admit).

The first blanket I made in the red colour scheme (above) and the second in the blue (below). For more detail on the construction see the Knitalong section.

The pastel blanket is still underway in the original design and the brown one (I made the brown cushion as part of the KAL), is a granny square crochet design.

Posted on April 24, 2016 at 8:18 AM. Category: Knitting.

Thursday March 31, 2016

Books in March

  • BOM-TheMothCatcher.jpg The Moth Catcher by Anne Cleeves
    So - I'm watching Vera on the TV and see that the episode states "from the book by ..."; I smugly think "she has not written this book". However I'm wrong - it came out last October.
    There were some fundamental plot changes, and the book has much more depth of course - I did read that the best thrillers on TV are ones written specifically for that medium and I think they are probably right.
    Vera is a good dramatisation in its own right and Brenda Blethyn undeniably a good actress but I take slight issue with the depiction of Vera. Blethyn is older than Vera in the books and comes over as gruff - but also kindly and maternal, which does not really describe book-Vera.

  • BOM-AirsAboveTheGround.jpg Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart
    I spotted this in the library and was immediately transported back to my teenage years. I wrote about that in 2008 at which time I must have looked up the author - but did it all over again just now and found that she passed away in 2014 - but there are still quite a few books I have not read - in fact I think this one is the next one she wrote after the last one I read in about 1970.
    I positively raced through it in true suspense novel mode; it was written in 1965 but was delightfully "modern". Loved it.

  • BOM-TheCrossing.jpg The Crossing by Michael Connelly
    Always nice when the author brings his characters together - even as unwilling allies. I found it very true to life that after the estranged brothers had found each other, Bosch observed that although he had thought their families might become closer (with daughters of the same age), that it had not worked out like that. However, I do not really "feel" the emotional conflict of their jobs putting them on "different sides". I mean, as a naive reader, I am made to feel that they are both working for truth-justice-and-the-American-Way. However, the antagonism between prosecution and defence is clearly very true to life - and Connelly does bring it out well in the text, where we see Haller looking for ways to "work" the evidence rather than simply seeking for the truth, (and Bosch imagining that the truth on its own is sufficient to free an innocent man).

  • BOM-TimeOfDeath.jpg Time of Death by Mark Billingham
    Well - I like Helen. Not sure I liked her suddenly having a past that I'd never heard about before, but the novel, plot and general tension and excitement were excellent.
    I understand that we'll be seeing the author's work on TV again, with some reworking to enable us to see Helen in 2 stories and unencumbered by Thorne (regrettably in many ways but works better avoiding multiple actors playing Thorne over time). It seems the BBC have announced the cast with MyAnna Buring as Helen.

  • BOM-PirateKing.jpg Pirate King by Laurie R King
    I can't say this ranks in my favourites within this book series. In fact it is quite interesting that I absolutely love some of the books and am less interested in others - usually I just like a series or not. In some ways that compliments the author in that she is obviously able to vary what she writes quite considerably - and I should say here that the books I like less are not in an way "duds" - just not to my taste. This one is a bit tongue in cheek - I have started the next one, which continues to be set in Morocco, so it will be interesting to see how much I warm to it - I am suspicious that it is the locations that affect my interest.

  • BOM-DyingDay.jpg Dying Day by Robert Ryan [read by Stephen Pacey]
    I continue to be impressed with Robert Ryan's exciting adventure stories. This one about spies, and again framed in two different (past) eras: WWII and some years later in post-war Berlin, covering the start of the cold war.
    I suppose the basic theme - underlined by the title, even though its use is intentionally ambiguous - is "love" - though not simply romantic love.

  • NetAndCanal.jpg The Net and the Canal
    Another story with Imelda Staunton as Julie Enfield. Not quite as dark as the previous one I listened to - but.... terribly dated.
    The Net refers the world wide web and you forget just how much it was in its infancy in the 1990s. The hackers depicted are utterly implausible in their abilities and methods, (which for all I know might have been totally realistic but seem to me to be a clunky plot device and rely on the listeners at that time not understanding enough about computers or the web to know any different). Add to that - the play used interesting audio techniques to represent the hackers as being "on the net" which made them rather akin to a Greek chorus - and thus rather ridiculous.
    But that's not all there was to it - so overall - quite fun....

  • InspectorPurbright.jpg Inspector Purbright
    Radio dramatisation of Charity Ends at Home based on a 1968 novel, [5th in the series of Flaxborough novels] by Colin Watson.
    I'd never heard of this series before and was a bit taken aback by the general silliness, but they are really an acquired taste relying on recurring known characters - I am thinking, rather like Mapp and Lucia (of which I am a huge fan), so I can't afford to act too superior. I will end by quoting from Wikipedia on the key elements: gentle behind-the-times feel of a small English market town, the merciless targeting of the pretensions of the town's bourgeoisie, and a determination that whatever exotic trappings are used to decorate the plot, the central crime is always motivated by money

Posted on March 31, 2016 at 3:58 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Monday March 28, 2016



Why do I look so smug?
Well - I am wearing the scarf that I wove on the loom I was given for Christmas... And I am pretty pleased with it. It seems that my choice of wool - a slightly stretchy bouclé - was luckier than I thought in that it hides a multitude of sins, and the result looks as good as I might ever hope to make!



Posted on March 28, 2016 at 2:59 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Monday February 29, 2016

Books in February

  • A Study in Murder by Robert Ryan
    BOM-AStudyInMurder.jpg Another interesting dive into history, created with such imaginative realism you would feel the author had experienced it.
    This time it's built around the POW camps - a subject much explored in respect of WW2 but realised I knew little about the camps in WW1. In fact the descriptions of the deprivations (unrelenting cold and pathetically small rations - which may seem relatively mild in the context) as experienced by the elderly Watson were very affecting and made me much sadder than the more overt horrors of that war.
    The ending left me hoping that what unfolded was not really the case and that matters would be somehow reversed - akin to the resurrection by Doyle of Sherlock Holmes himself.

  • X by Sue Grafton
    BOM-X.jpg Nearly at the end of the sequence now, but Kinsey and her landlord are as fresh as ever. There were a couple of plots running side by side - and some of the side-story was a bit less obvious to a naive English person with UK council-funded rubbish collections (putting your rubbish in someone else's dustbin would be a little impolite but... a criminal offence?).
    However the main plot was pretty scary and the repercussions maybe... resurfacing in another story?

  • By Its Cover and Falling in Love by Donna Leon
    BOM-ByItsCover.jpg BOM-FallingInLove.jpg
    Surprised to find that it was well over six months ago I rediscovered the splendid writing of Donna Leon. These are the next 2 Brunetti novels, and just as wonderful as ever.

  • BOM-DeadGirlWalking.jpg Dead Girl Walking by Christopher Brookmyre
    [read by Angus King and Kate Bracken]
    More library dowloads. It's a Jack Parlabane novel - an old favourite so good to see what he's up to.
    This was a bit of a departure - the book is written in two voices hence two readers, and it's all about a rock group, (and a murder!). I am assuming that music is a love of the author's (often the case with writers) and he conveys a great sense of the magic of the performing arts.

  • Rumpole.jpg Rumpole
    These stories make perfect short radio plays. Rumpole (made flesh for me by Leo McKern on the TV) is Maurice Denham. I drifted into looking at Mrs Rumpole - there were 2 TV actresses, but Margot Boyd played opposite Maurice Denham - though she was probably more reknowned on radio for playing Mrs Antrobus on the Archers (in an era when I listened to it...).

  • WyrdSisters.jpg Wyrd Sisters
    Most enjoyable (mainly owing to Pratchet's humorous dialogue scrambling up Macbeth and Hamlet) radio dramatisation from 1995 - stars Lynda Baron, Deborah Berlin, Sheila Hancock, Andrew Branch, John Hartley, Ian Masters, Kristin Milward.

Posted on February 29, 2016 at 7:18 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday February 20, 2016

Unravel 2016


So time for Unravel again - the highlight of the day was seeing Susan Crawford talking about her Shetland Project - albeit via Skype as the poor woman has injured her back. It worked extremely well in fact and as always pretty fascinating.

I managed to pick up some token purchases, including some 4.5mm Karbonz interchangeable needles since the ones I got at Christmas are the shorter type (my mistake on Amazon wish list), and some additional wires (mine keep breaking). I also picked out a couple of patterns - one for the Jane Crowfoot Persian Tile Blanket which I much admired when she came to the Guild last year. I found it hard to find much I really wanted - which is a Good Thing. But then I did buy some dyed merino blended fibre in spice colours to maybe ultimately have a go at Martin Storeys latest KAL (in the distant future once I have spun it...!).

Later on I went to my sister's for tea before heading home. Flint (collie) is recovering from an emergency eye operation and is really peaky - seems he will end up pretty blind after all this - poor dog. So Lyn was a bit fed up on his behalf - but she did politely admire the spice coloured fluff.

Once again utterly mystified by the parking arrangements at Waggoners Yard. Last year I downloaded the Waverley phone app to pay for parking and due to what can fairly be described as a "user error" ended up getting a ticket. This year - app to hand - I found that the automatic parking reference number had been removed - so I used the same one as last year - which it recognised - then said I could not use it.... On further investigation it seems Waverley have "withdrawn the service". And I thought I was being so down with the kids.... Come to think of it there's no chance of that - I go to a show and spend half the blog entry discussing the parking arrangements - there is no hope for me...

Posted on February 20, 2016 at 7:49 PM. Category: Knitting.

Thursday February 11, 2016

Single Spies


It's my Dad's birthday - or would have been - so I thought this would be a fun day out - but overall it was a bit less fun than I hoped.

I have seen these plays before, both on TV and on the stage, and to be honest I wasn't very keen on this version. I didn't like the portrayal of Coral Brown or Guy Burgess - which has nothing to do with the skill of the actors. It all seemed a bit brash whereas I thought the characters should be a bit more thoughtful and awkward, and leave you with that deep sense of poignancy and loss.

I was also a bit cheesed off as we went all the way to Chichester only to find that it is touring to Richmond which would have been more convenient - plus the restaurant at Chichester theatre is undergoing a major refit so everything was "orf" for some time to come - and not a single reference on the printed tickets, which actually went as far as recommending eating at the (closed) restaurant.
Finally - the laugh being on us - admittedly we did go to a matinee, but the ENTIRE audience was elderly. I really have never been to a theatre before that was utterly packed wall to wall with the over 60s - if not over 70s. At one point Rob said something to imply there was no-one else like us in the audience whereupon I have to point out that we were in fact firmly in that demographic, clutching our "seniors" tickets as we spoke.

Posted on February 11, 2016 at 7:48 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday January 31, 2016

Books in January

  • The Critic, Blacklight Blue, Freeze Frame, and, Blowback by Peter May
    So I chomped my way through the Enzo series - having had them in the queue for a while now. I was amused that he had lined up all his entourage with him in the second book - and then he third - so I thought I saw how it was all going. But in fact he threw off the formulaic shackles for the next two, which I think from a writing point of view was clearly a good move, (though personally I missed "the gang").
    Now awaiting the 6th and apparently final book - which apparently covers both of the two final stories that are the premise for the series..
    BOM-TheCritic.jpg BOM-BlacklightBlue.jpg BOM-FreezeFrame.jpg BOM-Blowback.jpg

  • Flesh Wounds by Christopher Brookmyre [read by Sarah Barron] BOM-FleshWounds.jpg
    I dowloaded this from the library and then realised it was a sequel to Where the Bodies are Buried. This was "Good", barring the fact it's the third in a trilogy and I have not read the second one. That did not spoil the enjoyment though, and despite the fact that I read a few reviews which complain about the lack of realism in some of Brookmyre's work, I like the combination of humour and thriller, which in truth would be hard to achieve without some suspension of disbelief. [I also strongly agree with a review complimenting the author on his having several parallel plot threads that are properly woven together at the conclusion without any unduly forced contrivance].

  • ProvincialLady.jpg The Provincial Lady Goes Further
    I have heard of E M Delafield's Provincial Lady - but that's about as far as it goes. Excellent reading by Claire Skinner of the sequel to the original novel (I missed the first one which appeared over Christmas). Given the slow gentle humour, I think maybe an abridged version is not perfect for these books, but delightful nonetheless.
    I had a quick look at the works and life of the author and found that I have also read Thank Heaven Fasting, as reissued by Virago - very impressive in that I remember it very well - but not at all light hearted....

  • SparklingCyanide.jpg Sparkling Cyanide
    This is a charmingly dated story but has been produced in different settings over the years including by Agatha Christie's own hand in "Yellow Iris" - which is a Poirot short story pre-dating this novel. A notable 2003 update for TV gave us Pauline Collins and Oliver Ford Davies mysteriously playing some sort of elderly secret agents, and making George Barton (Kenneth Cranham) a football manager - complete rubbish but I admire the effort.
    I digress. This seemed to stick to the original story featuring Colonel Race (Sean Baker) - which makes slightly more sense of the story line when kept in period.

  • PeterSallis.jpg Hercule Poirot's Christmas
    Two Poirots for the price of one. Astonished to see the famous detective played by none other than Peter Sallis! [Accent did tend towards Wallis from time to time].
    Also Edward De Souza as Superintendent Sugden, Manning Wilson as Colonel Johnson, Cyril Luckham as Simeon Lee, Rachel Gurney as Lydia Lee, (good old) Nicky Henson as Harry Lee, Deborah Makepeace as Pilar Estravados, and (dear old) Deryck Guyler as Tressilian, the butler.
    From the book first published in 1938 and dramatised by Michael Bakewell in 1986.
    Murder in Mews(1955)
    A production from the Light programme in 1955 - thought to be lost but redisovered last year. Stars Richard Williams as Hercule Poirot, Ian Whittaker as Freddie Hogg, Jack Melford as Chief Inspector Japp, Ronald Sidney as Detective-Sergeant Jameson, Duncan McLntyre as Doctor Brett, Monica Grey as Jane Plenderleith and Ella Milne as Mrs Hogg.
    [ Dramatised by Anthony Aspinall from a short-story first published in Woman's Journal in 1936, which later appeared in a book collection in 1937]

Posted on January 31, 2016 at 10:09 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday January 30, 2016

The Age of Aquarius


I never realised how much I was a child of the seventies (ok - "young adult") until the recent fashion surge towards ... I'm not sure towards what actually .... I don't really remember embracing the seventies fashion at the time, but whatever is going on now is clearly having it's effect on me.

[OK - I am not deluded into thinking that the above photo shows me in the most flattering garment I have ever worn - but I do love it!]

At first I noticed that almost all my old magazines of the period have apparently relevant patterns in them - I never had so many potential candidates for "Pattern of the Month", especially not so many that are actually wearable right now. Of course the styling is a bit laughable, but ridiculing our former fashion mistakes seems to be ..... fashionable. (I have to come clean here and say I don't altogether approve; I read an apposite quote once about not trying to appear wise by mocking our younger selves, and it struck a chord as I think I did it all the time.)
Next, I realised that not only did I have a lot of candidates for POM but I wanted to knit them all myself! This is a daunting prospect for one such as I with so much knitting in progress already - but nonetheless I metaphorically girded my loins and set forth with my needles (and yarn) on a voyage of New Age (or possibly Old Age) discovery.

The result is that I have adapted a good example of a pattern that looks pretty dubious because of its styling but is really just a simple wrap shape for a "blanket coat" (noting that old people like blankets ... so ... perfect for me in every way).
Below ("read more") are the notes on what I did and I have posted the full original pattern as the January 2016 entry on POM.

Pattern Notes for the Coatigan

The original pattern is for a "thickish" double knitting yarn - possibly an American worsted weight - knitted as stripes all in garter stitch. It's a tweedy marl yarn and produces a good effect just as written. The sizing is for men, but goes down to a 38 inch chest - so for a big cosy blanket effect should be ok for many women.

I wanted to copy the kind of coatigan I have seen commercially available at the moment - both in colour and texture, which would be black/grey tweeds. In fact, were I a weaver I might have been tempted to try and weave the garment, as it is mainly made up of rectangular segments. However I am not - so back to reality.
I wanted to use yarn I already had, and it needed to be something I had a lot of. Thus back to my old favourite: Sirdar Peru, which is a discontinued yarn. I have a lot of the colour "Tailor" - a grey/black - but decided it was not tweedy enough, so I worked a tweedy stitch, combining it with the cream colour Llama. (Note here that if you decide to knit - your sister for example - a chunky sweater for Christmas in lovely creamy Sirdar Peru in Llama - it is a "graduated" yarn and in Llama this means it looks like it is a cream sweater where someone has accidentally spilled tea on it during the knitting process. It is not quite so noticeable or unappealing in the other colour options....).


The stitch I used was "almost" garter stitch. Every row is purl, and you slip some stitches on some of the rows, which creates the pattern. Do not be tempted to decide after you have knitted several inches that: "I've had enough of this purl stuff and why aren't I just doing it knitwise in any case as it's just the same?" - because, while it is just the same, the tension is massively different, and you will knit 20 inches of the back only to discover that your knitting made a step change and lost 2 whole inches in width. (Ask me how I know). If you set out from the start by knitting all knitwise you will need to compensate by checking your tension against the size you intend to knit.
So - enough preamble - here are the pattern rows - worked over an odd number of stitches.

1st row (right side facing): Purl in main colour. Leave main colour hanging.
2nd row: Join in contrast colour, purl 1, with wool at front, * slip 1, purl 1; repeat from * to end.
3rd row: Continuing with contrast colour only, purl 1, put wool to back of work, * slip 1, bring wool forward, purl 1; repeat from * to end, and leave contrast colour hanging.
4th row: Pick up main colour again and purl across all stitches
5th row: Purl across all stitches in main colour.
6th row: Pick up contrast colour again, purl 2, with wool at front, * slip 1, purl 1 ; repeat from * to last stitch, purl 1.
7th row: Continuing with contrast colour as before, purl 2, put wool to back of work, * slip 1, bring wool forward, purl 1; repeat from * to last stitch, purl 1.
8th row: Purl in main colour.
These 8 rows form pattern. You can choose the light colour for the main and dark as contrast or vice versa. My version has the dark colour as the main colour. You can also produce a nice effect by reversing the colours after every 8 row repeat, or by knitting several sets of the 4 rows and then reversing. I experimented by starting with the main colour dark, and knitting one set of 8 rows and then the first row again in dark, I then knitted 2 rows purl in light, and the next 8 rows (2- 8 then the 1st again) reversing the colours with my main colour being light... and so on .. bounding each set in 2 extra rows of purl garter stitch. You could change every set of 4 pattern rows by inserting 2 extra rows between rows 5 and 6 for narrower stripes.
This really is a very adaptable stitch - and very easy to execute.

Having got back on track and choosing to stick with the purl version as written, the fabric it produced is lovely. A sort of cosy double thickness where I actually love the wrong side of the knitting easily as much as the right side. It's firm while also squashy, so it keeps its boxy shape - but not too much. Sirdar Peru is not pure wool (60% wool/alpaca) but it is lovely and soft and... blankety.

Which brings me to probably the most important point about the sizing. Sirdar Peru is not a double knit or a worsted weight yarn, but a chunky. It is a thinnish chunky, even though the standard tension of 14 stitches to 10cm or 4 inches puts it firmly in the chunky range if you use the right needles. I used 5mm needles and made a swatch using my pattern stitch, and came up with just about the actual tension stated in the Blanket Coat pattern - 18 stitches by 32 rows to 4 inches. In fact the number of rows was not quite right but easily fixed by knitting it to whatever length you want for the coat - which in my case I wanted to be a bit smaller than the man's length given in the pattern in any case. So I ploughed right ahead and made my pieces using the smallest 38 inch size (I am generally a size 12 with a 36-38 inch chest) an adding 4 extra stitches to the 2 front pieces.
Having tried it on, it certainly fitted well - but more like a conventional cardigan than a capacious coatigan, so I moved to plan B. I inserted vertical stripes of the pattern at the sides and the front borders increasing the size to about 40 inches - I had always thought this might be a nice decorative feature and it became a useful strategy. The sleeves were easy to fit either straight as intended or with a tiny part of the side seam to attach to the underarm insert.


The original pattern has patch pockets - I chose to add conventional "insert" pockets sewn down on the inside.

A short note on picking up stitches for the front band and the sleeves:

Using this pattern stitch, I picked up 2 stitches for every 4 rows to make the side panels and the front bands. [By comparison with stocking stitch where you might pick up 2 stitches for every 3 rows].
I also did this when knitting the sleeves - I picked up about 92 stitches equally spaced around the shoulder seam, and knitted the sleeves downwards so I could choose how long to make them. I did adapt the pattern here slightly to reduced the sheer volume of the sleeves, which was a bit overwhelming in chunky weight with this stitch.
I began by knitting 8 pattern rows then I decreased one stitch at each every 16th row (2 patterns) 10 times, leaving 72 stitches. I knitted to the length I wanted the sleeve, then I reversed the knitting (by knitting extra plain purl rows in the main colour) before setting off with the pattern again - this allows the cuff to turn back without the wrong side of the knitting being on show.

Posted on January 30, 2016 at 2:48 PM. Category: Knitting.

Friday January 29, 2016

Under the Bridge


Rob got tickets to see Cheikh Lô "Under the Bridge". He was great.
It's a lovely venue (and a fantastic musician) yet surprisingly the tickets were not all sold out. However there were plenty of people there to give a good atmosphere while also allowing breathing to take place.

Various websites seem to be all over the place in suggesting who the support act might be - wishfully writing "Robert Randolph", (which would have been good, though unlikely).
However it was Randoph Matthews - a "vocal entertainer" - and he surely was.

Posted on January 29, 2016 at 11:11 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday January 8, 2016

More Christmas Furbelows


So here is my January "Home Made Christmas" - making a few extra items for next year - as there is never any time to play in the run-up to the festive season.

I saw a lovely fun banner saying FALALALA! on WIT's website - she did say it was not available at the time but in fact I did find a source for it - but by then I had decided to make one myself!

This was not really a good decision even though I had a lot of fun. It involved a lot of techniques (specifically glueing glitter!) that I have not tried much before. Technology has moved on but I still ended up with glitter appearing everywhere - in and out of the house - long after I had "completely" cleared up. [At at £1 per letter, it also cost me a lot more than just buying the banner would have done - but where's the fun in that?]

I had some left over lower case letters - so I also made another banner in bright red saying "joy". For FALALALALA I painted the letters in white emulsion paint (not so good a decision), and glued gold to the top surface and white ("snow" glitter) on the sides. For JOY, I used an undercoat of a red stain and then 2 coats of "glitter glue" - which has produced a nice effect - and less mess. I think glitter glue would work best making fine lines of glitter on cards etc - less adapted for large flat surfaces.

And finally - Alison sent me this lovely picture of a previous year's furbelows in the perfect setting at her "cabin in the woods".


Posted on January 8, 2016 at 8:12 PM. Category: Crafts.