Monday, April 30, 2007

Random Monday Stuff

It's been a hectic weekend here at Casa Austin. (Like we ever have any other sort, really). As part of the great plan to run down the book-selling business and reclaim the house from the many assorted piles of books that lurk everwhere, we did a couple of car boot sales (that's flea markets to those of you over the pond). We sold quite a bit of surplus stock, which was the plan but I am absolutely shattered today as it involved getting up at 5am on both Saturday and Sunday. And I worked all day in the shop today.

Consequently I have no brain cells functioning coherently, so random posting is the best you can expect. Anyone looking for scintilating wit and sparkling repartee should move along now. Nothing to see here.

I have knitted though, in between customers at the bootsales I finished the first of a pair of socks for the Evilpixie -

They're just standard recipe socks knitted in some vintage Sirdar Random that I found in the stash. They look a bit bluish in the pic but they are actually pink and white with a little hint of lilac.

This arrived in the post -

Issue 2 of Yarn Foward magazine. Kerrie has had all manner of problems getting this issue published, so I'm glad she managed it in the end, all be it four months behind schedule. Thankfully she seems to have solved the problems now and the next issue should be on track for July. I like this magazine, it's much better than the ones available at the newsagents, if not quite up to the standard of some of the American ones. Still it's early days, plenty of time for it to get even better.

I got this book at the weekend too -

Lots of great ideas for adding beads, sequins, patterns etc to your knitting.

I finished Dissolution by C J Sansom, and liked it a lot. I was a bit unsure at first, not being a big fan of historical crime and nor being a big fan of crime novels featuring much religion. But once I got into it I did enjoy it, and shall read the next one fairly soon. I'm now reading The Reckoning by Sue Walker. I'll let you know how that pans out, not convinced yet - I'm on page 108 and very little seems to have happened so far, though there's quite a lot of back story. We shall see.

Anyway I'm off to veg out in front of the TV and I think there's a glass of wine somewhere with my name on it.........

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Standing at the Crossroads

I find myself at one of life's crossroads, with big decisions to be made, and some already made, about where I go from here.

I've spent the last six years, happily working from home, selling books on the internet. We've built the business up together and it's been hard work but a lot of fun along the way.

Yesterday, we finally admitted that it wasn't working anymore and that the new changes to eBay mean the business is no longer viable. So, over the next few months we shall run the business down and sell off the stock.

I shall still have to find some gainful employment however. I've asked about extra hours at my part-time retail job, but I shan't know about that for a couple of weeks. So in the meantime I find myself in the strange situation of having to re-evaluate my skills and look around to see what else I can do.

I'm quite looking forward to some new challenges. It will be strange though to go back out into the world full-time after so long spent working on my own, being my own boss. Interesting times ahead. Anyone got any vacancies involving books or knitting?

In the words of President Bartlett..."What's Next?"

Monday, April 23, 2007

Other Stuff!

Just a few little bits I've been meaning to blog about.

I also read Triptych by Karin Slaughter. Very good. Just when you think you know what's going on she takes you off in a completely different direction.

Maxine, I can send you my copy (it's a large format PB) if you like, email me your address. Or if you want your own, it is published in PB this week and will be half price in Waterstones from Thursday as it's their book of the week.

A Fine Dark Line

I said in my last post that this book, A Fine Dark Line by Joe R Lansdale deserved a post to itself, so here it is.

I did suspect that I was going to like this book before I started it. I loved The Bottoms. In fact it's one of my all time favourite books, and this one is fairly similar in structure.

It's set in East Texas in the 1950s and is a coming of age story about Stanley, who's parents run the local drive-in. It's a simple tale about a young boy discovering what's important in life, learning about sex and death and friendship, about inequality and racism. The whole book is full of wonderful, beautifully drawn characters, like Stanley himself, his father, mother and sister, friend Richard, Rosa Mae who works for the family, and the projectionist Buster Lighthorse Smith. Lansdale has a delicate touch and he subtly draws you right into this thirteen-year-old's world. Before you know it you're completely hooked. It's a masterpiece of setting and pacing and he pulls it all together beautifully at the end.

It's a book that stays with you, that you keep thinking about after you've finished it and put it aside. And for me that shows how good a book it is. I read so many books these days, some because I want to, some for review, some for reading group, and it is rare to find a book that stays with me for several days after I put it down, as this one has done. Too many of the books I read now have no real impact. They don't stay with you. You read them and they are gone. Sometimes I go to comment on a book at reading group and realise that I can't remember what happened in it, though I only read it a week or so ago. This book kept me thinking about it all over the weekend and prompted me to go pick up The Bottoms and start reading it again.

A Fine Dark Line is a great book. Go read it!

Friday, April 20, 2007


I'm really not sure where the week has gone. I'm having trouble with the fact that Friday seems to have sneeked up on me already.

I have finished the Cherry Tree Hill Crusoe Socks -

They were an absolute joy to knit. It was the first time I'd used that yarn (Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in Brights #1) and I was very impressed. The pattern knitted up very quickly and I like the way it turned out - there is a little pooling of the colours but nothing very major - I can live with it. And I still have about 55g of yarn left - should be able to get another pair of short socks out of that.

In books, I have finished A Fine Dark Line by Joe R Lansdale and will post about it over the weekend. It was a book that deserves a post to itself - I don't read too many of those!

I started The Ambitious Stepmother by Fidelis Morgan but couldn't get on with it somehow. This is for reading group, and I had been looking forward to it. Everyone keeps telling me how great these books are. Perhaps it was just that I was so absorbed by the Lansdale (which is a very different type of book) that the contrast was just too great. I just found it irritating. Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind.

Anyway I have passed it up and started Triptych by Karin Slaughter. Murder, mayhem and serial killers - much more my kind of thing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Walk in the Park

On Friday, we took Bubba to Sutton Park for a walk. It's one of his favourite walks.

Sutton Park is a great place - absolutely huge - one of the biggest urban parks in Europe, and even when it's the school holidays and the park is really busy it's so big that you can sometimes not meet anyone. It's a wonderful place for dog walking, cycling, riding or just walking among the trees. There are wild ponies -

And lots of rabbits for Bubba to chase. And there are miles and miles of paths to follow -

And then there's the lake, which is the main reason that this is Bubba's favourite -

Here he is doing what a retriever loves best - getting wet and muddy!

We walked round the lake to The Boathouse and had a cup of coffee while Bubba dried off a bit.

All in all a very good afternoon.

Friday, April 13, 2007

12 Green Books

This post was inspired by Lolly who blogged about green books earlier in the week. So I picked 12 green books at random from our shelves -

Before I did this I'd have bet on there being more fiction than non-fiction, as that's mostly what I read, but actually there is more non-fiction. I guess maybe green is not the most popular colour for crime fiction covers. If black had been one of the colours I could have picked twelve from the first shelf! I guess these are a fair indicator of our interests - book collecting, knitting, writing, Subbuteo and an odd management book.

I intend to continue this thoughout Project Spectrum so to follow will be yellow books (not much crime fiction there then!) and pink books - I may struggle to find 12 pink books on our shelves.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Oooooh, Knitterly Goodies...

Yesterday was my birthday and I got some lovely knitterly presents (and some non-knitterly ones too).

First of course, my main present was my carders, which I had a couple of weeks ago after our visit to the Threshing Barn.

But, yesterday on my actual birthday I got these too -

That's Two Sweaters for My Father by Perri Klass, a wonderful book of writing about knitting, Domiknitrix which is just stuffed with great, fun patterns, and the first season of The Wire on DVD. Bubba also got me the latest Snow Patrol CD (but it's in the car so there's no picture).

I had a lovely birthday, read a bit, spun a bit, did some knitting, watched England playing cricket (not very well, but at least they won), had a super Chinese meal for dinner. A really good day.

I do have knitting to show you - these are the Cherry Tree Hill Bright socks in Crusoe pattern from This is the sock pattern I had trouble with last month with the lovely sock wool from Jill in Canada. This yarn is much better for the pattern, at least so far with no major pooling.

They are knitting up very quickly too, although I am a little concerned that they might not be wide enough. I shall have to see when I get to the instep.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Random Tuesday

Just some random thoughts as I get over the Bank Holiday weekend. The weather for once was just wonderful all over the weekend, so even though I did 2 days work in the shop I still managed to fit in a few car boot sales, a few books and some knitting.

I finished the Lee Child book The Hard Way and enjoyed it more than I expected. I then read Illusion by Daniel Boyle. Can't say that I enjoyed that, found it very irritating. Reviews of both of these will be wending their way to Karen at Eurocrime this week. I'm now reading A Fine Dark Line by Joe R Lansdale. Couldn't resist it any longer (I thought I did well to fit in the Daniel Boyle first - showing remarkable retraint!).

I've been knitting a lovely chunky cardigan - Sonnet from I'm knitting it in chocolate brown pure wool. The great thing about this pattern is that it is easily adjustable (designed that way!) so you can knit it in any yarn with any gauge. It's a bit of a dull knit though, even if it does knit up quickly in the chunky yarn. And of course the weaher has turned warm so by the time I'm finished it, it will be too heavy to wear.

Anyway it is entirely the wrong colour for Project Spectrum so I shall be casting on the bright yellow and green socks as soon as I've finished blogging.

There was a fantastic program on TV last night about Jackie magazine - great nostalgic value for those of us who were teenagers in the seventies. The Evilpixie watched it with amused fascination - difficult for her to image life without iPods, mobile phones, computers etc.

Tonight is the final part of Life on Mars. I've enjoyed this series immensely, but I think they are right to end it now. I understand there will be a spin off starring the wonderful Philip Glenister, set in London. Hopefully it will live up to the high standard of writing on the original series.

Anyway, must go - socks to cast on!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Is this bright enough?

I bought some sock wool for Project Spectrum. It might be a little bright...

It's even brighter than it looks in that photo. Here's a close-up...

That still doesn't do it justice. It's Cherry Tree Hill Supersock and is called, not unreasonably, Bright 1. It's not kidding. I think if I went out after dark in these socks I'd be accused of light pollution and may attract moths.

Also, arriving in the mail was this -

It's about a million miles of beautiful shades of blue laceweight. You know I said, way back in January, that I wanted to knit something really challenging this year? Well, this is for that project. It's going to be a shawl, when I can decide on which pattern I want to use. It will probably take me the rest of my life to knit and turn me into a raving chocolate / red wine addict. I can't imagine what I was thinking.

I finished the Raspberry Ripple scarf for my MIL's birthday and it was delivered today. (I think she liked it!) However I forgot to photograph it for the blog, because I am an idiot.

I'm still reading The Hard Way by Lee Child. I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would. I guess as long as you take Jack Reacher with a pinch of salt and suspend disbelief temporarily then it's quite an enjoyable little book. But now I can't wait to finish it because I want to get started on A Fine Dark Line by Joe R Lansdale. I treated myself to this while in Borders in Oxford today and I really want to read it right now. I absolutely loved The Bottoms, probably one of my favourite books of all time, and this is in much the same vain, being set in the same time period and also in East Texas.

I spent quite a bit of time in Borders today as they had knitting magazines I never get to see in Birmingham, some different knitting books, although alas not the Yarn Harlot, a wide range of graphic novels, and many, many other books I'd not seen elsewhere, thereby re-inforcing my earlier rant about bookstores. I could have spent an absolute fortune today, just on books I'd never seen in my local bookstores. And they have a Starbucks, where we got a particularly good cup of coffee. Now I have three great weaknesses - coffee, books and wool (not always in that order), so if only Oxford had a decent woolshop I would probably never leave.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Mightily Pissed at eBay

I don't normally like to post about work, as this is primarily a blog about books and knitting. But I am so pissed off about this that I have to let off steam.

A couple of weeks ago eBay in their infinite wisdom decided that in future items listed on the UK site would no longer be automatically visible on the US site. Apparently, up to 20% of all listings visible on were listings from the UK and it was making their site unwieldy for US buyers. For this they blamed the popularity of the UK Cheap Listing Days.

The conclusion they came to in order to solve the problem was not, as would seem logical, to stop having Cheap Listing Days, or to do anything about the thousands of dodgy products which flood the UK site from Hong Kong and China. No, no. It was deemed much more sensible to change the way searches work so that if Americans want to buy from the UK they have to now search Worldwide, instead of the listings just appearing automatically.

The most frustrating thing about all this is that having changed the way the searches perform on the US site, THEY DIDN'T TELL ANYONE! They didn't tell the UK sellers that there was this change happening. They didn't tell the US buyers that in future they would need to search globally (by means of a drop down box at the side of the screen). They apparently didn't even tell the people at Paypal (who are after all part of the same organisation).

The first we knew was when we noticed a steep drop abrupt halt in sales to the US. We haven't sold a book to the US for about 2 weeks now, where before about 20-30% of our sales were to the US. We even had a batch of American Civil War books, and none were sold to the US. If we had been forewarned about the change in policy we probably wouldn't have bought them in the first place. As it is, our very small profit on the books was considerably less than we had predicted.

It seems that Books and Antiques & Collectables are among the worst affected categories due to the change - and these are not categories which are swamped by the cheap foreign tat, with inflated postage rates, that fills other categories. The solution we are told is to list our items on or on both sites - but as we sell individual, rare and one-off items which we can't list on both sites simultaneously, we either lose our UK trade or our US trade (oh and this affects Canada and Australia too!). Ebay say they will monitor the situation and will be running some tests "in the summer" which may help. I fear this will be too late for many bookdealers, who without the American trade will be driven out of business.

Now I don't dispute that eBay have the right to make trading decisions and implement them where they see fit, to protect the integrity of the sites. But don't they think that a little warning to the UK sellers would be just common courtesy. That way we could have adjusted our buying to reflect the fact that we will lose most of our US, Canadian and Australian trade.

Thanks a bunch, eBay. Whatever happened to the famous eBay Community Spirit!!!!!!! It seems that despite all their shouting about Community, eBay really have no regard at all for the people who use their site, for the businesses that helped them grow from small beginnings, or anything at all bar a fast buck.

I'm not sure this was what Pierre Omidyar had in mind when he sold his laser pointer.