Sunday, 5 November 2017

Bonfire Night

And there's a picture of a bonfire - at the Scouts' bonfire and firework display. The display was very good but alas my firework photos were not. Oh well. It's been a beautiful cold day and was a clear cold evening, so perfect firework weather really. And everybody really did saw 'ooooh' and 'aaaah' when the first fireworks went off - I love that! We can't help ourselves. I always think fireworks are such a weird thing to enjoy - they look amazing but they sound disturbingly like artillery, especially when there are random fireworks going off in people's gardens so you can't necessarily see them and the sound is echoing off buildings. Fortunately our cats don't seem the least bothered by the noise. The occasional twitch of an ear and that's it.

The moon was particularly lovely tonight so that was a bonus. Using the amazing zoom on my compact camera I managed a slightly smudgy but suitably spooky-looking photo. Quite pleased with that.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

A walk in the sunshine

It was beautiful today - a frosty start, followed by a perfect cool autumn day. I had to go and get my flu jab this morning, among other things, but I had some free time this afternoon and thought I'd better take advantage of it and get outside. It's that time of year when I find myself grabbing every opportunity to enjoy a sunny day because there's not likely to be many more of them this year!

And out in the garden my sweet peas are still giving it a go! Come to think of it, it might be because they're in a hanging pot up on the fence so they're getting more sunlight than things on the ground. I'm still impressed though, I thought they were done for the year a few weeks ago and then they suddenly started flowering again.

Miss M comes home tomorrow afternoon and I'm hoping she's had fun. The school have been great, putting pictures on their Twitter feed so we at least have an idea of what activities they've been doing, though not necessarily who's doing them - twenty kids in borrowed waterproofs turn out to be difficult to tell apart especially if they're wearing hard hats and climbing gear as well!

Currently it's so quiet in here that I can hear the cats breathing. Well, snoring maybe. Ssh, don't wake them..

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Annual Neep Picture

Neepie lanterns

It was a bit of a weird Hallowe'en here because Miss M is away for the week on a school trip, doing outdoorsy sort of things in the pouring rain. The house is very quiet. Not that she's noisy but she's the chattiest of all of us, so without her peace reigns in the little village house we know so well (sorry, Astérix..).

I still did the neepie lanterns and made up bags of goodies for the guisers so it wasn't very different from other years, just a bit odd without Miss M. The Boy went out guising (as the Grim Reaper with home-made mask and scythe) with his friend from over the road and a few other local kids but as the boys both have deep voices now I suspect this may be their last year. Or maybe not! There were other teenagers roaming the streets, with varying amounts of effort being put into their costumes.

So hello November. I haven't changed the calendars (for I have several) over yet, must do that!


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Gloomy Dane and the Comfy Chair

I went to the cinema on Thursday, quite out of the blue. How very spontaneous of me.

It was the encore showing of the National Theatre 2015 live broadcast of Hamlet, so NTNotLive then. My friend, who is an English teacher, suddenly texted me on Thursday afternoon saying this was on and did I went to go - then she had to run off to teach a class, so with a bit of intermittent texting between classes we managed to get it organised and she booked the tickets (more of which to follow).

Otter impressionist Benedict Cumberbatch was playing the gloomy Dane, and Ciarán Hinds was Claudius. The last time I saw Mr Hinds in anything he was falling off the cliffs at Eshaness in series 3 of Shetland. They were the only people I'd heard of in it, and actually I didn't recognise Ciarán for a bit. The only problem with famous people in big roles is that I get distracted by what they're famous for. Benedict has such a distinctive face that it's really difficult to to get away from 221b Baker Street and get immersed in Elsinore. Though that's not to say he made bad job of it - he didn't. Although talking of the vague distraction of previous roles, the Ghost and the Gravedigger were both played by Karl Johnson. I had to google him when I got home because I knew I'd seen him in something but couldn't place it. Turns out it was Hot Fuzz. He was PC Walker, the one who translates for the mumbling old farmer with the weapons. He was an excellent Gravedigger. 

Now in a stroke of absolute genius my friend had booked the comfy reclining seats which have been newly installed at the cinema. I am a terrible fidget at the cinema - I just can't sit still for long and get really uncomfortable. But the leg-rest, and in fact all the leg-room, made all the difference. Definitely worth it for a 'film' so long that it has an interval. And actually I got so desperate for a pee that I had to run to the loo before the interval, and completely missed Polonius getting offed. Of all the scenes to miss!

Ophelia got me thinking. She was very wispy. Every Hamlet I've seen has had a wispy Ophelia. I don't think this is really a reflection on those who've played her, but rather on the role - she's not really a character at all, but a plot device, poor thing. Not one of Shakespeare's best certainly. My other random thought was 'wouldn't it be fun if there was a (Shakespearean-)English-language Danish-cast production of Hamlet. I think Sandi Toksvig would make an excellent gravedigger - a thought that seems so completely right that I'm now half-convinced I've seen her do that scene, at least, somewhere. Most of the cast of The Killing would be brilliant - Ann Eleonora Jørgensen who played Pernilla Birk Larsen (and also was in the Midsomer Murders episode 'The Killings of Copenhagen') would be such a good Gertrude. This is how I deal with insomnia - I play fantasy Shakespeare-casting.

Yikes, better go...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Deja vu

Sickness Bug round 2 - Miss M this time. And fortunately (depending on how you look at it) I've got this week off work so I didn't have to figure out what to do when a puking child coincides with a work day. Actually it was yesterday that she was puking - today she was recovering, i.e. tired and hungry but otherwise pretty much okay. So we spent the day pottering around and it was all very pleasant.

What I'm supposed to be talking about of course is crochet. Now crochet and I have never really clicked. I can do the basic stitches, manage a wonky granny square and so on. I'm okay in the round as it were (spiraling), but not so good at going back and fore. But recently (well, a couple of months ago probably), I saw something lovely on Instagram. I follow Jane Lithgow (probablyjane) on there, and she shared a picture of some Tunisian crochet she was doing and I really liked the texture. After watching a couple of 'how to' Youtube videos I got an ordinary crochet hook and some scrap yarn, had a go, and promptly ordered a set of Tunisian crochet hooks (needles/?) for a proper go. I loved it - it's the ideal blending of knitting and crochet as far I'm concerned and I don't make it go wonky! Well, not very. I started making a cowl with some gorgeous sock yarn I'd had lying around for a while (that's it above) - and promptly broke the bamboo hook. So I started another cowl with some chunky yarn (Wendy Fusion - a discontinued one that I had three balls left of) and a thicker hook.

And it was so easy. I was only using the simple stitch as I wanted to get the hang of it properly before leaping on any further, but it's such a lovely texture it didn't need anything else. I didn't have enough of the Wendy Fusion to make a scarf so I made it just long enough to graft the end for a cowl. Well, I say graft, I just crocheted the ends together. I don't even know the proper crochet term for that. But it worked, so that's fine.  Item in picture modelled by cat, naturally.

I did have enough left to knit an alternating stripes hat. So this winter I will match.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Ancient history

Today has not gone as planned. It's my day off and I had a number of things to do, most of which I'd achieved by 10 o'clock (woohoo!), at which time I was standing in Primark trying to get Miss M cheap joggers for when she goes off on her school residential trip at the end of the month. And then my mobile rang and it was the Boy's school saying that he wasn't feeling well and looking very pale. So I legged it to pick him up, by which time he'd thrown up. The Boy is rarely unwell so he's not accustomed to it, and was looking distinctly green and horrified. So we came home, he's fallen asleep and I've been trying to think of things I can get on with without disturbing him. Aha! light-bulb moment - I can blog. At last! So, I'll share my pictures of Shetland plus a smidge of history and see how it goes.

Jarlshof is a multi-period historic site, 4000-years worth in fact, from the late neolithic up to what's left of 'the laird's house' which is the modern bit having been abandoned in the late 1600s - and although even that is pretty old, in the context of the site it feels as historically uninteresting as a 1970s bungalow.

In the laird's house there is a (thankfully modern metal) spiral staircase leading up to a point where you can get an overview of the site, which really helps make sense of it. And that's why most photos you see of Jarlshof look like the photo above, because that's the view from the top of the stairs! I would have liked to have taken more of a panoramic shot but it turns out I don't really have a head for heights any more so I was too busy hanging onto the railing (and cursing Miss M who was hopping around, completely unconcerned) to get more than a couple of photos. What you can see in that picture are the Iron Age wheelhouses, which are getting on for 2000 years old but are still amazing constructions. They're my favourite bit of the site and when you're inside one you're sheltered from the wind so they're really lovely to be in.

Looking up from inside a wheelhouse. 

When they were roofed over they must have really been relatively cosy. Building like that has always struck me as very sensible of the inhabitants given how windy Shetland is anyway, but especially this site which is on the narrow southern tip of Shetland and is exposed from pretty much all directions.

Looks pretty on a nice day, mind. And there's a very beautiful sandy beach nearby, should the Iron Age folks have fancied topping up their tans.

beach view for the Vikings

There's actually much more to the site than my pictures show - there are the remains of Viking houses off to one side. They're the low rectangular ruins in the photo above but they're difficult to photograph in a way that makes them interesting. There's also part of a broch, but that's on the seaward side of the laird's house and erosion has taken a fair chunk of it. As well as, I think, part of it being underneath the laird's house. It's quite a confusing site in some ways because of the long occupation and the re-use of parts by later inhabitants. Fascinating though, and to my delight the kids enjoyed it as much as I had a kid - well, why not? Space to run around, and not-so-secret passages all over the place!

As you look to the south there's Sumburgh Head and the lighthouse and then nothing but waves until Fair Isle. And after that nothing but waves until Orkney. The airport is just to the east of the Jarlshof, hence the helicopter in this picture and the first one. Actually the land is so narrow at this point that to get to Jarlshof and Sumburgh Head you have to drive across the end of the runway which is fun! There are traffic lights and barriers if anything is about to use the runway so it's not quite as adrenaline-rushy as it sounds.

On the last day we were in Shetland we took another drive down to Sumburgh Head to admire the views and watch the puffins, but we stopped in the hotel to get something to eat and while we were eating the fog rolled in so we could see nothing. Up until then it had been so clear we could see Fair Isle, so it was particularly disappointing! We bumped into my brother's old friend James in the car park - he runs Island Trails and was just taking a tour up to Sumburgh Head. I'm sure he would have made it interesting for them though, however little they could see.

So that's a bit of Shetland - the opposite end from the pictures in the previous post. I've stuff to write about (gasp) crochet, but I'll leave that for another post.

Friday, 15 September 2017

A taster

Foula from Eshaness

I've been trying to do a blog post since the end of July. And now it's mid-September. And actually I'm very tired just now so this isn't even a proper post, but I'm working on the assumption that if I write a short post tonight I'm more likely to write a longer one tomorrow. Well, it's worth a try.

The picture above is from our trip back to Shetland in July. There's at least a full-sized post to be had from that, plus about a gazillion photos, so the picture is a deal I make with myself to write more another day. Anyway, the picture is of Foula, off the west coast of Shetland, and is taken from Eshaness which is on the north-west coast of Shetland. It was a beautiful day that day, all sun and sparkle, and I love that this photo is all shades of blue, yet it looks warm.

And from the same day, heather and grass and blue sky as we climbed a steep hill that I climbed a lot as a kid.

It's not really very high, but it was the highest hill in our immediate area and has wonderful views (well, I think so anyway):