Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Knitting Stuff

Thought I'd better report on the knitting I've been doing.

I've finished the Cardigan for Pete, though it needs blocking and the zip sewing in.

And I've been making good progress on the Knit Cafe hoody (which is for me) - this is mainly due to the fact that it is just plain vanilla stocking stitch so it can be knitted while watching TV or reading without too many mishaps.

But I'm beginning to crave something more creative and challenging, so I think there will be some stash-diving at some point this week so that by the time I get to Stitch 'n' Bitch on Saturday (at least I'm hoping to get there, haven't been for weeks), I will have something more interesting to knit on.

I've been buying some fibre too. There's a lovely selection of coloured Corriedale bought from ForestFibres on eBay. The colours are Raspberry, Grape Jelly and Blueberry Pie. Bit of a fruity theme going on there - do you think I was hungry when I ordered them!

And to counteract all that tasteful fruity goodness I also bought this -

It's Merino in subtle shades of bright orange and lime green and there's a little streak of blue there too, blended with nylon, so perfect for some socks. I have more of this blend in Black and it spins up very nicely but it looks crap in photos so you'll have to imagine it. It's from eBay too but from a different source.

I have finished The Fire Baby by Jim Kelly and I loved it. The reporter, Philip Dryden and his sidekick / taxi driver are a wonderful find and I can't wait to read the others.

The book I was supposed to be reviewing for Radio Five this week has failed to show up so I have started Players by Paul McAuley. And that concludes this month's schedule of review books so I can then read something I'd have chosen myself....not sure what yet, but I'll let you know.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No

Despite being nervous about my radio appearance, and almost wishing I hadn't volunteered, when the researcher rang me up on Thurday to ask me to do another one, I said I would.

The first radio review seems to have gone OK, at least I don't think I said anything too dumb, or that sounded pretentious. Anyway I said I'd do another one for them, but so far the book hasn't arrived. It will be The Illusion of Return by Samir El-Youseff (if it turns up).

This has given me time to finish reading the Robert Goddard (Never Go Back), which I am reviewing for Eurocrime. I'll post more about it once I've written the review and sent it off.

I have a choice now of 2 books, one of which is for crime reading group, so I'd better start with that one - it's The Fire Baby by Jim Kelly.

I went to an author event at Walsall Library on Friday night. Lyndsey Davis was reading from Saturnalia and talking about how she started writing. It was really interesting, and I got her to sign my copy of The Silver Pigs, which is far and away my favourite of the Falco books. Well done to Walsall Libraries for getting such a great writer to speak there.

Knitting news - I have finished knitting the Neck-down Zip-up cardigan for Pete, and I had JUST enough wool, though I had to unravel my tension swatch to have enough to cast off. I also finished the left front of the Knit Cafe Hoody. No photos yet but I will block them both and put the zip in Pete's cardigan before photographing.

Now I'm going to do some spinning while keeping an eye on the Carling Cup Final.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

On the Radio

I've just done my radio review bit on the Simon Mayo show. Note to self: These things always seem like a good idea at the time, but feel progessively less so as the moment to appear live on the radio approaches.

Thankfully I really liked the book - Runt by Niall Griffiths (especially as he was there in the studio) . It's about a sixteen year old boy who has visions / epileptic fits. The book is told as a stream of conciousness from him, and he has a unique perspective on life which involves a lot of odd words and almost no punctuation. This makes it a little difficult to get into, but once you get the hang of it the book is wonderful. The character of the boy is beautifully drawn, and the relationship with his uncle, with whom he goes to live is just fantastic. Set on a Welsh hill-farm, just after the foot and mouth crisis, this is a bleak book full of death and violence, grief and loneliness. The boy's aunt has killed herself after losing all her sheep to foot and mouth, and the uncle is in a drunken depression. Despite all this however, the viewpoint of the boy is upbeat, he is not at all fazed by the darkness in his life. The uncle regards him as a kind of shaman, and towards the end of the book it becomes clear that this is no ordinary boy. I would highly recommend this book for the power of the language and technical excellence.

No knitting news today. I am in a knitting slump.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Busy Few Days

Sorry for the lack of posts for the last few days. It's been a bit hectic here.

Normal service will now be resumed, and I have good excuses!

Firstly we went to an auction on Saturday where we bought books (as usual) and also all sorts of woolly wonders.
This is just a small part of the haul, some of which is destined for sale on eBay and some of which is going in my stash.

Then on Sunday we had a day out on the Walsall Canal, courtesy of John (sadly blogless) who is slowly making his way towards Yorkshire on the canal network. We met up with him North of Birmingham and helped him through Walsall. Sadly, while many parts of the canal network are flanked with beautiful scenery or great canalside architecture, none of these places are in Walsall. The canal through Walsall seems to be flanked mostly by industrial estates or derelict factories or burnt out buildings. You could have furnished several houses with the things that we saw in the canal - sofas, fridges, all manner of stuff. Still the sun was shining (for at least part of the day) and it was still good to get out on the boat and see some bits of Walsall I'd never seen before. I did remember the camera, though I had the old camera which has a dodgy battery (as I am not beyond dropping things into water if it's at all possible) so there weren't many pictures taken before the battery drained itself - also there wasn't much you'd have wanted to see - unless you especially like the derelict and ramshackle. Anyway here is Pete at the tiller of the Gemma Joy at Birchills locks (where some helpful little toerags had drained all the water out of the locks). Behind him is Smith's Flour Mill, possibly the only interesting building we passed all day - now destined to be designer apartments.

I've been selected as a reader reviewer for the Simon Mayo Show on Radio Five this week. So, I've been reading Runt by Niall Griffiths. You can probably hear me on the radio on Thurday between 3pm and 4pm sometime (although last time I did anything like this something more newsworthy happened and shunted the book reviews back so I was on for about 5 seconds.) I'll post a review of the book on the blog after the show.

Anyway now that I've read that book, with the most pressing deadline, (I only got it on Saturday, thankfully it was quite short), I am back on the Robert Goddard which I will hopefully finish this week.

I've been failing miserably with Project Spectrum. I'm still knitting the same three dull things I was at the beginning of the month. So, in the interests of at least playing lipservice to more colour here are some BLUEberry Muffins (there were more but some got eaten)........

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Heroes on British TV !!!!!!

The first episode of Heroes is on the SciFi Channel on Monday at 10pm. I really do recommend that you give this series a try. It is (IMHO) far and away the best written programme on TV at the moment.

For those of you without cable/satelite TV it will be on BBC2 later in the year.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I'm an Idiot

I'm an idiot. I do not deserve to be counted among you wonderful, talented knitters. I am hanging my head in shame and misery and slinking off into a corner where I will wear a pink acrylic knitted dunces cap.

You see I was happily knitting along on the left front of the Knit Cafe Hoody and following the pattern (or so I thought), and I came to the bit where it said "shape armholes" and I held it up against my arm and said to myself - that's a bit short. So I looked at the measurements on the diagram in the book and it said the sleeves should be 14.5 inches long. And that's when it clicked that I wasn't actually knitting the sleeve - I was knitting the left front. So for the love of wool can you explain to me why I was gaily increasing at both sides of the knitting instead of just at the seam like it should have been? Oh crap, I thought. I've spent 2 days knitting this and I'm going to have to rip it back. It briefly crossed my mind that I could maybe get away with it by careful positioning of the zip, but then......

.....I spotted that when I placed the blinking left front against the back I've already done - the ribbing was different lengths. The rib on the left front was half an inch shorter than on the back. Aaargh.

I have ripped it back to the top of the rib and will try and knit it properly this time, with the right length of rib and the increases on the seam side only, and trying not to confuse the sleeve and the front (don't ask - I have no idea - other than the aforementioned fact that I'm an idiot).

Perhaps by later when I may have a little time for knitting (it's a busy day here today), the knitting gods will have finished toying with me and let me get on with it in peace.

I have fibre goodies to show you but I'm not tempting the wrath of the spinning gods as well so you'll have to wait till the weekend for those.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Duo of Scottish Mysteries

I finished Raven Black by Ann Cleeves on Sunday night. Extra quick reading as I really enjoyed the story. The setting was great, I liked the detective Perez, and the ending completely fooled me - not many crime novels do that nowadays. I'm looking forward to the next in the series and in the mean time I shall seek out for of her earlier books which I believe are set in Northumberland.

Then I moved on to Never Go Back by Robert Goddard. This is one of books I'm due to review for Eurocrime. It's also set in Scotland, in a castle in Aberdeenshire. The hotel / castle in the book is in Lumphanan which is where my father's family were originally from. I guess I might have been there when I was very small but I don't remember. Anyway I'm not enjoying this book nearly as much as the Ann Cleeves. It's about a group of men who were stationed there during the war to undergo some kind of academic experiment. It's early days yet, and I'm not saying that the book isn't well written, or smartly paced, just that I'm sure this group of aging men may not be exactly my type of people. We shall see.

Just been doing a little spinning, nothing very exciting - just spinning up the last of the blue / green merino so that I can knit it into something. I've still not knitted up my beautiful multicoloured yarn from last week as I wanted to take it to Spinning Group to show them how it turned out, but the group was cancelled due to the weather last week, so I'm still itching to do something with it.

Just off to take Bubba to Doggy Fat Camp (his fortnightly weigh-in). He's doing really well - almost slimline and he's got tons more energy than he used to - but he will still eat a lot of crap when he's out for walks if you don't watch him carefully.

Links in this post, as usual, are to Waterstones.com for convenience but please try and support your local independent bookseller if you still have one.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Lots of goodies

We took a little trip to Wing Yip today to stock up on some groceries. For those not familar with Birmingham, Wing Yip is a huge Chinese supermarket selling all manner of asian foods and delights. It has a great restaurant attached to it, though we didn't go and eat there today. It's Sunday and it was lunchtime, so it was absolutely heaving as it is traditional for Chinese familes to go there and eat dim sum for Sunday lunch. We've been before and it was wonderful, but today we just went to the supermarket where you can buy everything from a jar of sweet and sour sauce to a catering pack of frozen shrimp and so much more.

The clientele are a delightful mix of restaurant owners stocking up for the week with trolley after trolley of sacks of rice and noodles and trays of mushrooms, to people just popping in for some fresh asian vegetables, or a jar of thai curry paste.

We are now well stocked up with fish sauce and noodles and curry pastes and soy sauce and everything oriental as you can see -

So we shall be eating well for the next few weeks I think.

I finished the Fred Vargas yesterday, and I do take back what I said about Adamsberg's detecting skills. His methods may be a tad unorthodox but he got there in the end. He's certainly an interesting character. I will definitely read another one (I know I'm reading them out of order).

I started Raven Black by Ann Cleeves next and I'm enjoying it very much. I like the detective Perez and the setting (in Shetland) is intriguing. All good so far.

Not much knitting news - it's all just plain boring stocking stitch on everything I'm knitting at the moment - just a long slow slog to the end. However Pete's cardigan is getting there - nearly finished the second sleeve, then it's just straight down the body till I run out of wool.

I finished the back of the Knit Cafe hoodie and started the left (or maybe the right) front, but again it's just stocking stitch so it's a bit dull - OK if I'm watching TV or reading at the same time.

Last night we watched Goal which I hadn't seen before and it was really good. I'm always a bit wary of football films - they never seem to quite get the footballing bits right, but this one was fine, if a bit Roy of the Rovers. Good harmless fun anyway.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I promised a post about books as I had been slacking in that department recently, so here you are.

I finished The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin. I really liked it. The last few Rebus books had, I felt, been a little off the boil, but this one was right back on form. Rebus being his usual recalcitrant self and Siobhan showing all the signs of going the same way. I was amazed too that I managed not to picture Rebus as Ken Stott. While I thought the casting of the wonderful Stott as Rebus was spot on, I did not like the scripting of this series of Rebus. I thought that the John Hannah series was more faithful to the books, although the casting of Hannah as Rebus was not right. Anyway, my reading of the book seems to have remained uncontiminated by the TV series, which is a good thing. I shall look forward to the next Rebus in the hope that it's as good as this one was. Rebus's retirement is beginning to loom large over the series though and it will be interesting to see that Rankin does.

Talking of Ian Rankin, there is an interesting article by him in today's Guardian about Robert Louis Stevenson. They're giving away 25,000 copies of Kidnapped on the streets of Edinburgh to celebrate the city's literary heritage. Anyway it suggests that we could all read, or re-read Kidnapped so I am putting it on my list of books I will try and read this year - one of the non-crime books I said I was going to try and read more of. I can't remember if I read Kidnapped when I was a child or not. I remember Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but I can't be sure about Kidnapped. Anyway one of my favourite poems is by RLS - I Will Make You Brooches.

I have a heavy schedule of reading ahead this month. I'm currently reading this -

I'm enjoying it but I can't help thinking that if Adamsberg is typical of French detectives, then I pity the poor French. Interesting as he is, I'm not at all convinced about his abilities as a policeman - but then this is the first Fred Vargas I've read, and I'm only just over halfway through, so I may be maligning his detecting skills.

When I'm finished that I have 2 books for Reading Group. This month's theme is "Dagger Winners" so I have chosen these two -

The Ann Cleeves comes highly recommended and is set in Shetland. It has the added bonus that it's large print, so I can read this while knitting! The Jim Kelly is one which was also recommended to me, but by a different person, but anyway it was on my list for this year. I'm resisting the urge to start either of these before finishing the Vargas.

After that I have 2 books to review for Eurocrime -

I've never read any Robert Goddard, and this one also has a Scottish connection so I'm looking forward to that. The other is a writer I'd never heard of - He's British but it looks like a very American book - set in Nevada and involving role-playing computer games and a psychopathic killer - right up my street.

I have just one further thing to say today - why does England fall apart every time there's a little weather. You'd think we would be used to it by now - we get enough of it, but no! Two inches of snow and the entire Midlands grinds to a halt. Yesterday it took me over 2 hours to get home from work - a journey of approx 2 miles. And when the Evilpixie tried to get home a little later all the buses were cancelled and she had to walk - it only took her a hour to walk the same route that it took me 2 hours to drive, but now she has a cold and is feeling miserable. I rather suspect you people in colder climes are laughing heartily at our ineptitude.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The More It Snows....Tiddly Pom

Warning this is a picture heavy post.

It was a lovely day here. Lots of snow. The Evilpixie's college was closed. None of us had to go anywhere, at least not till later, so we had a great day.

The Evilpixie built a snowgirl -

But Bubba thought it could be improved a bit

Like this...
But he forgot to hide the evidence....

Then we all went for a walk..

That's a dog with a mission.

And that's the Evilpixie (in her Christmas hat, which I never did photograph for the blog) and Bubba. And you know, one of the best things about today was that when she heard college was closed - she was disappointed. And to think of all those mornings when I had to drag her out of bed and kick her out the door when she didn't want to go to school (because she hated it so much!!!!)

Now I realise that I've not been blogging about books much recently but I promise that the next post will be all about books. I'm working tomorrow and I have spinning group in the evening so it might be Saturday before I have time, but I promise...lots of books!!!!!

And finally just a last gratuitous photo of the Bubster...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Lookit, Lookit.......

I know, two posts in one day, it's not normal....but lookit.....

This is the aforementioned merino singles spun together - I LOVE this.

Close up so you can see the colours -

I want to knit something with this right now (but I can't as it is hanging over the bath as the twist sets). There's 180 yards of it - so not a lot. Pete immediately said socks (he's met me before), but I think this is way too lovely to be hidden on my feet, so maybe gloves (though I lose them on a regular basis so maybe not). It could be one front of the stash busting cardi - it is all the right colours - but I want to knit it NOW, and that's not scheduled till after I finish all the stuff on the needles right now.


Christopher Eccleston is a God

I've always been a fan of Christopher Eccleston, from when I first came across him in Cracker where he had the grave misfortune to be stabbed by Robert Carlyle in one of the best episodes of this great series. Then he was in Our Friends in the North, an excellent series. He was also great as Doctor Who. Best line from his doctorship - Rose to Doctor "Why have you got a Northern accent?" Doctor replies, "Lots of planets have a North."

Anyway, he has confirmed his godship for me by popping up in Heroes, which is fast becoming one of my favourite TV shows ever. It's going to be on one of the satellite channels from March and will be on BBC2 later in the year, so check it out. It's awesome.

Not quite so awesome this week was the five part BBC/HBO collaboration Five Days. This was promoted as being ground breaking and exciting and the best TV you'll see all year yadda yadda. As far as I could tell the only thing that was original about it was that it was five hours split over five evenings. There were some really fine performances - Patrick Malahide was excellent as the grieving father - but all in all the whole was less than the sum of the parts. It should really have been a three hour drama, two hours could easily have been lost in editing and there were characters I just didn't care about enough, or see the point of - like the police press officer. And worst of all I had the murderer pegged from the first episode, thereby negating all their efforts to throw me off with unsubtle red herrings.

Nothing spectacular on the knitting front this week. The neck-down cardi continues apace, almost all of the first sleeve is finished now - still not sure if I have enough wool. I knitted the heel flap on Pete's socks only to discover that I has misread the pattern and it was too narrow so I had to frog back to the top of the heelflap and start it again on the correct number of stitches.

I've had fun spinning though. I started spinning the yummy coloured merino I bought a couple of weeks ago. I split the blues and greens out and spun them into this -

Then I took all the purpley colours and the cream and am spinning them into this -

Then later today when I'm finished that I will ply them together and see what comes out - photos later, or tomorrow depending on when I get finished.

Finally, Project Spectrum started on the 1st february. This is a project to get more colour into our knitting / lives and there are three colours for each 2 month section of the year. For Feb/March the colours are blue, grey and white. Now I'm failing miserably to have anything colourful to show you so here's a photo of Pete and the Evilpixie washing her very blue car -

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bizarre Yarn Shop

We had a day out yesterday which involved a trip round several towns in the Cotswolds, and as usual I was armed with a list of the local bookshops, charity shops and yarnshops. And so it was that I came across the most bizarre yarnshop I have ever seen.

I had great hopes from the outside. It looked quite big and it had a reasonable window display, both good signs. Then I stepped inside. It was tiny inside. Kind of like a Tardis in reverse. And everywhere was stacked with piles of unopened packs of wool. I mean everywhere - they were on the shelves, they were on the floor, they were on the counter. And they were totally random, so there was some quite good pure wool stuff next to some nasty pastel baby acrylic, and then, over on the floor at the other side of the shelves was more of the same pure wool in a different colour. It was as if someone had broken in and ransacked the place. And nothing was priced. Oh, there were a few cards with prices on, but they didn't correspond with any of the packs of wool that were anywhere them. And there was a little old lady sitting in the corner behind the counter, hemmed in with more packs of wool. I'm sorry that I have no pictures of this place (which I am not going to name), but I didn't have the nerve to get my camera out. Once I had stepped gingerly round the shelving and over the stacks of wool on the floor, I just made a break for the door. I think I may have been lucky to escape. If I had stayed in there any longer I think I might have been sucked back to 1977.............