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):

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

more plant/wool interaction

I may have got the dyeing bug again! Following last week's effort I did a bit more reading and went on an expedition with Miss M to a) get some burn water to top up the pond (without falling into nettles this time) and b) collect some cow parsley to dye with. This is not as easy as it sounds - there are a squillion plants that look something like cow parsley (*shakes fist at umbellifera*). My plant book seemed to think that quite a few are uncommon in Scotland, but there still seemed to be a lot. I googled as well of course and found loads of websites telling you how to distinguish cow parsley from hemlock, and hemlock from wild carrot, and hogweed from Queen Anne's Lace, as well as a certain amount of confusion over which plant Queen Anne's Lace actually refers to anyway.

Anyway, we found a substantial amount of what we chose to believe was cow parsley, and it yielded a huge amount of really quite bright yellow. The skein on the right in the picture above is the 4-ply I used first, and then when that was done and the dye seemed far from exhausted I chucked in the last skein of aran weight and it came out just as strong. I'd left that one in overnight and by morning the dye liqor was clear so I'm guessing I really had exhausted the exhaust by then!

I should probably add, the 4-ply skein was mordanted with alum before being dyed but the aran weight skein was unmordanted so I chucked some alum into the dye bath with the wool and did a two-in-one. It'll be interesting to see if this affects the fastness.

It always surprises me how much dye you can get from of the most unlikely plants. There really wasn't a lot to the cow parsley, or whatever it was, we collected - just skinny dryish stalks and tiny flowers - yet it dyed two skeins a really strong yellow. It was the same when I tried dyeing with horsetails a few years back - I felt as if I were dyeing with a pile of dead stick insects there's so little to them, but I got a pale but strong yellow from them.

In addition to all that I also turned the two-toned skein from last week into a ball:

I want to start knitting this into something soon, I'm so curious about how it'll turn out.

And here it is while still in the skein with that other skein I did with the fuchsia bark and the alchemilla mollis, last seen drying on a door handle!

It looks quite beigey in that picture but in reality it's a soft, warm, (maybe buttery?) yellow. When it stops raining* I'd like to get all my naturally-dyed yellows lined up and try to get a photo showing the range. It's worthwhile doing anyway because I'm inclined to think 'oh, another yellow' rather than 'yay, another yellow!'.

Anyway that's what I've done with some of my spare time this week. Also den-building with Miss M, a school trip to Edinburgh Zoo, and a school disco. Think I'd quite like a snooze now.

* for today was the last day of term for the kids and therefore it is bucketing down out there. This happens every year. It's traditional.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Dye day

It's been ages again hasn't it? It's all been a bit frenzied here recently, with the kids' schools doing stuff and so on. But today for the first time in ages I fancied doing a bit of dyeing. Come to think of it, it's the first time in ages that I've had the time! Part of it is that Miss M is away on a residential thing with her gymnastics club, and the gentlemen of the family were going to build a shed for my mother-in-law (well, put together a shed, it was a flatpack thing) so this afternoon I had an unusually quiet Saturday afternoon stretching before me. One thing I wanted to do was dig up the docken sprouting in the front garden, and then it occurred to me that it would be nice to try dyeing with it.

With a quick look at Wild Colour (one of Jenny Dean's books) and a bit of googling, I found out that the tap root can be used for dyeing, but I fancied just trying the leaves. Of course when I dug the flaming thing up I realised that the tap root is enormous! In fact I bent my trowel trying to lever it up..
So I've saved the taproot and will try it another time.

There were loads of leaves so after a bit of leisurely winding of wool into skeins and a bit of mordanting, I got to the dyeing bit. The end colour was a pleasant enough soft yellow but I fancied messing around with an alkaline modifier and as luck would have it there was a bag of soda crystals in the cupboard under the sink. I draped half of the skein into the modifier and it turned a more mustardy yellow. It's not the most gorgeous colour really, but I really like the two tone effect and I'm looking forward to knitting it up and seeing how it looks!

I had a second smaller skein mordanted so I had a go at dyeing with fuchsia bark, mainly because I hacked back the Fuchsia of Doom a few weeks ago and had loads of twigs/sticks left from it with lovely soft papery outer bark. Note to Self of the Future though, it gives beige, don't bother again! So I chucked in some alchemilla mollis leaves and flowers to simmer with the wool, and got another yellow:

That's it still damp and drip drying on the handle of the back door to the garage so I'll have to check the colour properly tomorrow morning.

So it's been a day that has been both lazy and productive - pretty good!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

A bit of knitting

I'm posting this from my mobile, and I can't figure out how to rearrange my pictures, so here's an out of order knitting photostory.

Once upon a time there was half-knitted hat. The wool was Noro Cash Island which I bought years ago, cheap I think because it was being discontinued. Which was a bit of a shame really because knitting with it is a real tactile pleasure.

Then the hat was finished (this afternoon) and the colours look quite different in different light.

And finally I cast it on. This was only a few days ago - it's been a very fast knit for me! Especially given that it was quite a busy week one way or another. 

This used to be a knitting blog; occasionally it still is!

Friday, 12 May 2017

And a real post!

 We've had a very dry and sunny spell here recently - not desperately warm maybe as there's been a cool breeze, but perfectly nice in our fairly sheltered garden. The frog has been sunning him/herself.

And the first poppy flowered.

And the dandelions have been flourishing - well, when don't they?

It's all been very pleasant!

fauxdori pics

This is just a brief blogpost to show some pictures to redfox-knits.

Ink Bandits Field Notes size, extra wide in Espresso:

And end on: 

Open, lies flat:

Face down - this is with the contents still in:

With the A5 'dori  (Leather4craft kit one):

And showing comparative thickness of the leather. They look about the same thickness here but I think the brown one is a bit thinner. It's certainly worn thinner where the band wraps around it.

Hope that helps!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

More frogs

So this is the picture I took yesterday morning, with the amazing zoom, from an upstairs window:

The other two I took were slightly blurry but I'm more than happy with how sharp this one is. And then this morning I went out and had a look and there's another pile of spawn, though no sign of frog or frogs. Our pond is just a plastic garden tub sunk in the ground with gravel, aquatic compost and plants added. It's not big or fancy - in fact it's probably only about 50cm across - but year after year it gets spawned in. That's quite flattering when you're trying to make your garden wildlife friendly. As far as I know none of the tadpoles matured last year, but this year I managed to clear some of the old sludge and weed out of the water before the frog returned so there's a bit more space and I hope that will help. Although I read somewhere that frogs like shallow water and will even lay their spawn in puddles, which seems staggeringly short-sighted of them!

It turns out my blog-composing issue is in Firefox (probably an outdated version, though to be honest I can never see why something that always has worked should suddenly not work) but not in Chrome so I've used Chrome for this. It's very much easier than trying to post from my tablet, so I'm glad I figured it out.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017


Frogspawned that is.

I can still post from my tablet but that means using the camera on my tablet, which is a shame because I took a picture of the spawning in action this morning with my actual camera. From the Boy's bedroom window, i.e. upstairs. The zoom on that camera is amazing! And I was really pleased with the pictures I got but I haven't time to mess with html just now so I'll just go with this one. Thus spake the Frog - Spring is happening!

In other news, I've been missing studying so I'm doing a free online course about moons (it's an OU one but I'm doing it via Futurelearn), and it's fascinating. I've had an interest in space and astronomy for a long time, and already had a favourite moon (Enceladus), but not much of a science background academically-speaking, so it's interesting and pushing me a bit. It's supposed to take about three hours studying time a week, but the first week took me much longer because there were some things to do with orbits that it took me a while, and some juggling of apples, to get my head around. The second week was more geology-related (what the moons are made of*, and craters) and I found that much easier, probably thanks to my dad's interest in geology. So I think the study time will very quite a bit from week to week.

I suppose I'd better go and feed the family now..

* Green cheese with a core of Stilton and a Brie mantle. Of course.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Frog Returns

Well, I seem to be having problems posting to my blog from my computer, so apologies if this looking funny - but, yay, the frog is back! It seems I cleaned out the pond just in time and hopefully there's enough water in it for her! I do have a picture waiting to be added to this post but it doesn't seem to be letting me, for reasons I can't fathom yet.

Edit: I've finally added it the old-fashioned way of my youth, using actual HTML. And a chisel probably. I hope it looks okay. I'm off to whittle something..

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Random happy things


I bought a new metronome today. My old one got broken years ago, when the kids were small - as far as I remember it got knocked off whatever it was sitting on (piano probably) and the mechanism was irretrievably bashed about. I tried a metronome app but the sound was so annoying, so back to analogue ticking it is!

And flowers on my windowsill are also making me happy. I really love hyacinths and daffodils - spring is awesome!

Friday, 10 March 2017

I was doing quite well for a bit there

Blog-wise, I mean. Still, I got through January, and I must have blinked and missed February, or mislaid it somewhere - probably down the back of the settee.. But I'm back and it's March, the days are getting longer and the weather is occasionally pleasant. I sat on the back doorstep drinking my coffee yesterday. The sun was shining and just there it was reasonably sheltered from the (rather chilly) wind, and it was... pleasant.

Also pleasant is that Miss M found my missing pencil sharpener, so I've just sharpened some pencils. Small pleasures.

That is easily the best sharpener I've ever had (it's the Spanish company, Milan, if anybody's stationery nerdy), so I'd missed it. I've just sharpened another nine, just for the fun of it - this is clearly the House of Blunt Pencils.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

We're getting there

 Things keeping me going in January are:

A little bit of snow last week. I even have snowballing pictures but the kids wouldn't like it if I made them public. But it was great seeing them have fun in the snow!

The first daffodils in the shops

My new diary insert (by Morgan Le Fae's Trinkets - I love these; this particular layout suits me perfectly).  This took a random route from the Netherlands and I thought it had got irretrievably lost. Monique had posted it well before Christmas so goodness knows where it went on its travels!

Winding more wool.

And today I watched Rams (Hrútar) which I'd been meaning to watch for ages, and loved it. I even knitted while I watched, though it was only a sample to check how the variegated wool knitted up. I was meaning to make a hat with it but all my circular needles seem to have vanished. I must have put them somewhere particularly safe...

We're all more or less recovered from our various lurgies now, and although the first couple of weeks were pretty awful even by January standards, I think settling back into the normal routine has helped.

Monday, 9 January 2017

a better picture

1. a better picture of the wool, in daylight and all fluffed back up.

2. a picture of the moon, possibly the least fuzzy I've ever taken.

The anti-sickness tablets also turn out to be anti-sleep tablets* so after four days of insomnia** I've decided to stop them and just hope I don't throw up too much.  I've only three more days of the antibiotics left. I'm sure it'll be fine. FINE. When making 'January bearable' amounts to not being sick there's not really much you can illustrate it with...

*surprisingly - the first dose knocked me out.

** actually on adding it up it's been three nights of insomnia. Addled.

Friday, 6 January 2017


 I got a package in the post today - it was flattish with odd lumps. When I opened it I realised it was some wool I'd ordered which had been packed in the most awesome and cool way - it had been vacuum-packed.  Yes, it looks like plasticene.

The best fun I had today was cutting a tiny hole in the packaging and watching it inflate (reflate? reinflate..?). Call me easily amused but it made me laugh. It also made Miss M laugh so it's not just me. That said, we've both been giggling at really bad cracker jokes this evening..

The pictures are dark and gloomy once again because once again I pretty much missed daylight. I had to go back to the doctor because the current antibiotics were making me very queasy. But as they do seem to be working on the chest infection, rather than stop them she's given me anti-nausea tablets to go with them. These are a kind of antihistamine, most of which make me sleepy, so I spent most of this afternoon sleeping or dozing. On the upside, no nausea, and it's only until I finish the antibiotics so just a few days. A few days of sleeping? Why thank you!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

A coffee and a chocolate biscuit

That's a very dark picture.

So we're five days into January and I'm clutching at straws here but, dammit, I'm going to enjoy that coffee!

There are other things making January bearable but I keep forgetting to photograph them in daylight - daylight being in short supply at the moment. And anyway the antibiotics I'm taking have dire warnings on the packaging about avoiding daylight, even on overcast days - apparently they've turned me into a vampire. I'm not sure what'll happen if I do go into the sunlight but I'm imagining some Buffy-like crumbling into dust. Or perhaps not. So perhaps the dark, mysterious picture of my coffee is entirely appropriate!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Throw Another Log on the Fire

We don't have an open fire or a wood-burning stove. Or even one of those gas fake fires. But we have a Youtube video of a burning fireplace and a spare television. So our cats do get to curl up in front of the fire!

Our favourite video has just the right balance of crackling and burning sounds and the odd spitting log, and it's all very restful - and no ashes to clean out either. Alas, of course, no actual heat, but that's probably just as well given how close Boycat is to the 'flames'!

Without any real intention, this is turning into a series of 'things to make January bearable' posts. It's no secret (i.e. I whinge about this every year) that I always find January a bit of a slog, and at the moment I'm on a second course of antibiotics for a chest infection so obviously it's my least healthy time of the year as well (last year it was 'flu, the year before it was conjunctivitis and an ear infection..). The obvious answer to this is to make December less frenetic and look after myself better next year (and I'm typing this partly as reminder to the me of Autumn 2017), but for now I'm just aiming to enjoy what I can out of January.  Even if it's just the little things, like a pretend logfire.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Wool and books

We wound another ball of wool today - this is one of my home-dyed efforts (anthemis tinctoria).

And I'm reading The Tempest, which I haven't read for years.

Also I've pulled muscle and it hurts too much to type, so a short post it is!