Thursday, December 31, 2009

The End of the Year

I've just realised that it's the last day of the year. See, that's what bookselling at Christmas does to you. Lol.

I somehow had it in my head that the beginning of next year was still about a week away, instead of just tomorrow. Did someone mess with the days again?

I hope you all had a grand Christmas and got lots of lovely pressies, or time with your family, or both, whatever you wished for.

I got a fantastic new digital camera for Christmas. Of course I already have a camera but it's a digital SLR and it's quite large and not very easy to stick in your pocket, so I asked for, and luckily got, a small, pocket-sized camera that I can carry around with me and so will use more often.

In order to get myself into the habit of taking pictures and also to make me look at my world a bit more I have set myself a challenge for the first half of this year. Each week I will do a blog post on a subject beginning with a different letter, starting with A and working through to Z. It might be a simple photo post or it might be a subject I want to witter on about, and hopefully it will be a bit of both.

Come back later this week for the annoucement of my annual Blog Awards, a quick recap of the past year and a preview of 2010.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Just a quick post to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, now that the last book has been sold, the final giftcard swiped and the last sale sticker affixed.

(Miniature Mittens from Latvian Mittens by Lisbeth Upitis)

I hope you all have a peaceful holiday. I shall be sitting knitting socks while Pete and the Evilpixie take care of the refreshments and vittels. Dr Who is on the TV later and I don't have to work until Tuesday.

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Grand Day Out

I had a lovely day out yesterday at the Advent Gathering, hosted by the Staffordshire Moorlands Guild of Spinners and Weavers.

I went with my spinning group (we hired a minibus so we could all go together) and we had a great time. There were lots of lovely spinners, many wearing fantastic hand-knitted, hand-spun garments and accessories - very inspiring.

There was food too, a great spread, because you know all that talking and spinning makes you hungry.

And there was shopping - The Threshing Barn were there with lots of beautiful fibres and some very interesting books, and the chap who's name I can never remember who does the woodturning and makes beautiful spindles and bobbins and stuff. I was very good and I didn't buy anything. There wasn't anything that I thought I really couldn't live without.

I did buy some raffle tickets though (and I won a prize - a large bar of Carbury's Fruit and Nut chocolate) and i bought a Fleece Log, which is for recording the different fleeces you process as you go, noting how you washed them, spun them etc. I am more than likely never going to use it - I never ever use raw fleece if I can avoid it - give me nice clean, preferrably prettily coloured roving any day - but it was for a good cause as the proceeds were going towards a Sudden Infant Death Syndrome charity.

All in all it was a very good day. Just what I needed to set me up for the mayhem that will be the next couple of weeks in the run up to Christmas. Blog posting may be infrequent during this time.

Finally I really can't let another week go by without saying how sad I am that Borders have gone into administration. It doesn't look as though there will be any buyers for the business, though a few shops may be taken over by Waterstones/HMV. Borders had a unique place in the book market, with a greater stock of American titles than most in this country, and a great selection of magazines. Borders in Oxford has long been one of my favourite bookshops in the UK and I will be particularly sorry to see it close. I hope that the booksellers all manage to find other jobs, but with the economy in the state it's in at the moment it will be tough. You have my sympathy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mysteriousyarns in Blog Update Shock!

I can't believe that it's been nearly a month since I last posted. I guess that's what Christmas in retail does to you. I have lost all track of time and usually have no idea what day it is.

I have been reading a bit though, finishing Simon Beckett's Written in Bone which I enjoyed, even though I had figured it all out before the end. Good characters and an interesting setting - see, I'm easily pleased.

Then I read American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld which I didn't enjoy so much. It started well, a well-turned story of a woman whose life has been overshadowed by an early tragedy, and it's based (at least in part) on the life of Laura Bush so you get to see how "Alice" gets to the White House. I have to say that the final chapters were a big disappointment - once Alice becomes First Lady the story loses all its focus and the last part is very dull. However, after I'd finished it I kept thinking about Alice and while she had been quite irritatingly self-centred throughout the book once I'd finished she kept popping up in my head and I got quite annoyed about her selfish misuse of a fantastic opportunity. She was so wrapped up in herself and her marriage to the nauseating "Charlie" that I wanted to slap her. It's not often that a character gets under my skin like that, so if that was your intent Ms Sittenfeld then I salute you - but that last section of the book was still terrible.

I'm now reading Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson (due to be published in paperback in April 2010, but available now in hardback). It's set in the 18th Century, is full if interesting characters and has really grabbed me so far, but I'm only 50 pages in so time will tell.

All my Christmas knitting (that I can report on here anyway) is done and dusted. My new loom now has a proper home in the corner of the dining room. I have a day off today and I've just remembered that it's Wednesday so it's the Christmas Party at my reading group tonight. And on Saturday I'll be at the Advent Gathering hosted by the Staffordshire Moorlands Guild of Spinners and Weavers. Hey, things are looking up!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

And the winner is......

....sadly not me. The Booksellers Bursary went to Russell and Sara, whose entries I haven't read yet but I'm sure will be excellent. Several people were very complimentary about my short story, and it was really good just to be shortlisted. It makes me realise that I have been neglecting my writing of late and that I really should try and make a space for it somewhere in my hectic schedule.

We had a good day out in London anyway - any day that involves bookshops, a couple of glasses of good wine, a stroll around someplace you haven't been before (ie. Marylebone High Street) and some sushi, will always be a success in my book.

I could have done without the totally freezing journey home in a very draughty train with no heat, but that was the only dampener on the day.

Next post - knitting update, honest!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Blustery Day

We had a fantastic day out in London on Sunday, despite the rain and the wind.

The first thing on our agenda, after a cup of coffee of course, was the ABC (Art. Book and Comics) Show at the Royal National Hotel. By the time we got there we were drenched, as not all the tube lines were operating and it seemed easier to walk, even in the wet, than try and work out how to get from where we were to where we wanted to be by tube.

The show was great - lots of great comic artwork for sale, lots of comics and some interesting books. I wandered round for a while then went and sat in the foyer with the coats and purchases and my knitting to allow Pete to carry on looking.

When we got out of the fair the rain had finally stopped so we took a tube up to Holborn and walked down through Covent Garden and down Charing Cross Road stopping off in all the bookshops,as you do. In Foyle's I picked up Ghost of Flea by James Sallis, the last of his Lew Griffin novels and the only one I was missing.

A quick detour up Oxford Street and down Regent Street to Hamleys finished our little tour. It reminded us of when the Evilpixie was small and a trip to London just had to include a trip to Hamleys. Sunday was the last day of half-term and Hamleys was absolutely heaving.

It was a good day, despite the wet start. And I'll be back in London again on Friday because I've been shortlisted for the Booksellers Bursary - a writing competition open to all employees of Waterstones. I'm not expecting to win, but the prize of £500 and a Arvon Foundation writing course would be lovely. I'm really just pleased to be shortlisted as I know there are some really great writers among my fellow booksellers. I'll let you know how I get on!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Pile of Booty

I never did update you on what I managed to buy while we were in Scotland.

There was this, not inconsiderable, pile of crafty books -

There's, from the bottom, a lovely book on William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement, Designers Design for Themselves which is about American Arts and Design, Knitting in Vogue (Patterns from the 1930s to the 1980s), Knitting Nostalgia - Knitwear 1920-1950, Amish and Menonite Quilts, Designing for Weaving, The Knit Kit, Handknit Style, Simplicity's Quilts and Patches, and finally Spinning and Weaving at Home which includes instructions for making a spinning wheel out of a bicycle - not sure I'll be trying that but it's a interesting book anyway.

I also had a little Stash Enhancement Moment which resulted in the following -

That's 200g of merino in lovely tones of green and a ball of the brightest Opal sock yarn I could find. I have to say that stash enhancement opportunities were few and far between. I had a vague plan of buying some Jamieson & Smith shetland in various colours with the aim of some fair isle knitting but I never actually saw any in any yarn shop I was in. Sadly it seems that yarn shops in Scotland have fallen by the wayside exactly as they have in England. Perth didn't seem to have a yarn shop at all, most of the other shops I was in were full of acrylic stuff and baby yarn. Twist Fibre Craft Studio in Newburgh was a beautiful shop, with lovely stock (and it was there that I bought the things pictured above), but by and large I was disappointed with the quality/choice of the yarns available elsewhere. I'd got it in my head that there would be lots of great yarn shops lurking in the many places we visited but alas this was not to be. Maybe we were in the wrong places, or maybe our timing was bad - certainly there were shops I knew about that we didn't get to because we weren't in the right area when they were open, or we just didn't have the time to spare to make a detour. Probably just as well - if they'd all been great shops I'd be bankrupt!

Next post on Monday hopefully, when I will be reporting on my trip to London on Sunday - to a comic fair primarily - might manage to squeeze a yarn shop in somewhere if any are open on a Sunday.

Also I have exciting news about something happening later in the week, which involves another trip to London. I have such a cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Finally.....a connection.

We are home again after our little (but very busy) trip into the Northlands.

Sadly I was unable to take you along with me due to the lack of internet access up there. I'd planned to blog a little every day but it was not to be so you'll have to make do with a few update posts.

We left here early on Sunday morning and after negotiating the many sets of roadworks on the M6 (there were 10 lots of roadworks between Birmingham and Carlisle!) we arrived in Glasgow where we spent a couple of hours mooching around the Barras market.

It's a funny old place, a real mix of stuff - secondhand books, antiques and all sorts of new tat. We always enjoy a wander around though even if we didn't really buy very much. Getting out of Glasgow proved a tad more difficult than we expected as they seemed to have removed all road signs directing anyone East and also closed some of the on-ramps to the M8. We got away eventually but it was very frustrating.

We were headed for Perth where we based ourselves for a few days while we explored round Fife, Perthshire and Dundee. Highspot of the stay for me was a trip to Twist Fibre Craft in Newburgh where I bought some fibre and some sockwool. Pictures of this to follow.

We also visited an exhibition in Dundee which featured sculptures based on the Starblazer comics and had some of the original artwork from the comic. It was fascinating but not as large as we would have liked. Sadly it is the only exhibition in Dundee of artwork from DC Thomson's archive. More on that in a future post.

On Wednesday we headed further north to meet up with some friends we hadn't seen for a very long time. By this time I was beginning to remember all the things that irritate me about Scotland - the lack of decent places to eat, sketchy internet access, the scarcity of decent coffee, the terrible roads. If you'd asked me on that morning if I would ever move back to live there I'd have said you were mad.

However a couple of very busy days in the North East near Aberdeen soon had me back in love with that part of Scotland at least. Aberdeen is such a vibrant, cosmopolitan city and the Moray coast is just beautiful. We spent a day exploring along the coast with K&D, our very lovely and hospitable friends. Portsoy in particular is just amazing.

I really wouldn't mind living somewhere near there.
We had a fantastic time and it was great to meet up with K&D. Apologies to everyone else up there who we didn't manage to get hold of - time was very tight - but we promise we will be back sooner rather than later.

We didn't manage to get as much done as we had originally planned, and there were lots of people we'd love to have got together with and didn't, but we had a really great week (though with hindsight we should have gone for longer - there wasn't a lot of downtime in that week - we were on the go most of the time.) Ah well, there's always next time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

No News from the North

Internet access is a bit sketchy here so you'll have to wait till later in the week for my scintillating report on The Barras market, roadworks and charity shopping.

Back soon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Holiday reading

Just a quick post as I'm in the throes of packing for our trip to Scotland and tidying the house and generally getting organised. I'm usually very particular and have lists and things about what needs done and what I'm taking etc but I am totally flying by the seat of my pants here and just throwing some clothes in a bag and hoping for the best. I'm especially hoping it's not going to rain much as I can't seem to find a waterproof jacket in the house anywhere.

So my final choice of holiday reading is this.

Written in Bone by Simon Beckett - it's set in Scotland, though not in any part we'll be in - it's an isolated community, with dark secrets and a murderer in their midst....and a big storm coming. Sounds just right to me.

The other is Library of the Dead by Glen Cooper, which is a Dan Brownesque thriller but with books - I suspect it's a bit of hoary old tosh but sometimes that's just what you need - especially on holiday.

Just two books, I hear you cry! Ah yes but the chances of me being in at least one secondhand bookshop, and probably a few other bookshops too, are quite high. Bit of a certainty. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 05, 2009

I'm a bad blogger

I've not been posting...mostly because I've not done anything interesting enough to merit a post, which is sad.

It seems there are only so many posts you can make out of going to work, coming home, walking the dog and then vegetating in front of the TV.

However, next week we are off to Scotland for a short break. We're hoping to start in Glasgow, spend a day in Perth, swing though Fife, go to an exhibition in Dundee then meander up the east coast to Aberdeen where hopefully we will be able to meet up with some people we've not seen for a very long time.

As usual we will be visiting secondhand book shops, charity shops, wool shops, comic shops and anything else that takes our fancy so I hope you'll join us through the medium of the blog and I promise I will try and take lots of photos of where we've been.

Now I'm trying to get the house into shape ready to be left in the hands of the Evilpixie for the week, working out just how little I can get away with in terms of packing (so there will be more room for booty) and selecting my holiday reading.

Holiday reading for me needs to meet the following requirements -
  • It should be plot-driven but not too complicated - ie I need to be able to put it down and remember what it's about when I pick it up again - so no Booker winners
  • It should be a good read - but not so involving that I don't want to put it down as this could lead to marital disharmony
  • It will preferably have cost no more than £1 as I will not feel guilty then if I discard it in a hotel room once read to make room for another book (or books)
  • It will ideally be set in the country/state/city I am visiting, though if it is then it should probably NOT be about the murder of hapless British tourists on a bookstore trail
  • It may be about the murder of hapless British tourists on a bookstore trail if it is NOT set in my chosen destination (I'm warming to this idea - I feel a short story coming on)
  • It must be paperback as hardbacks are too heavy to lug about
  • There should be a murder (at least one), preferably on page one, page three at the latest.

I'll get back to you later this week with my chosen books - let's see if they conform to my guidelines (you will note that these are already, mere sentences later, referred to as guidelines, not requirements - anyone would think I was a politician)

Monday, September 21, 2009

In Which I Learn a New Skill.....

....loom assembly.

Project for the day was to turn this -

an unholy tangle of string with a few numbered bits of wood into something resembling one of these -

I had the help of the Evilpixie, who was wonderful and didn't seem to mind when I said that I thought we'd done it all wrong and we should pretty much start again. There wasn't even much swearing.

Here we are at the halfway stage, just getting to the discovery that it was all arse-about-face. And we did have these two odd bits of metal that we weren't too sure about - what were they and where did they go?

A quick email to the previous owner of the loom shed some light and we got it all sorted eventually.
So here it is in all its slightly tired and shabby glory. It should fit in well around here. I've still got to tie up the treadles. I had to cut the treadle tie-up cords or it would just have been too complicated getting the whole lamm/ heddle/ treadle assembly onto the frame of the loom. I shall get some new cord, some plastic connectors and a new batch of texsolv heddles to supplement the ones on the heddles already. Then it will be ready to go.

I am delighted with my new loom and hoping to have lots of interesting weaving journeys with it. And I now have a really, really good understanding of how it works which is very handy.

Thanks to the Evilpixie for her glamorous assistance, to Bubba for keeping (mostly) out of the way, and to the previous owner for listing it on eBay, taking it to bits and sending it to me when I'm sure she'd rather I'd just pitched up with a van and carted it off.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Booky update

I've managed to fit in a few books since my last post. I finished The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly. It was good, as you would expect from a writer of Connelly's quality but legal thrillers are never really going to hit the spot for me. I liked finding out a bit more about Harry Bosch though and even Jack McEvoy put in an appearance.

Then I read Tempting Evil by Alison Brennan. This was for my crime reading group, though I didn't manage to get there to discuss it. Probably just as well. It was a thriller of a sort that I particularly dislike - a beautiful and talented main character, stalked by a psychopathic prison escapee, saved by an incredibly handsome and charming sherriff. Apparently this is part of a series she's written, all around prison breaks. Can't say I'll be seeking out any more of them. It wasn't particularly well-written and it had a gratuitous graphic sex scene towards the end that almost caused it to be hurled across the room (except it was a library book so I couldn't do that). There was no empathy with the characters and nothing surprising or original about it at all. Oh, and I still have no idea what relevance the title has to the book.

For a bit of a change I then read Touching Distance by Rebecca Abrams. This is a novel set in Aberdeen in the 1790s and is about a doctor who is trying to solve the mystery of why so many women are dying just after they've given birth. There's a lot of medical stuff in here but it's all fascinating. Alec Gordon is the doctor in question and he's fighting against the establishment, and against the ignorance and traditions of the local midwives. He's got a pregnant wife himself and is desperate to discover the cause so his wife won't be in danger too. I'd highly recommend this book for the excellent writing, period detail, fantastic sense of place and interesting characters.

While I was in Scotland (bookwise at least) I went a bit further north and devoured Red Bones by Ann Cleeves. This is the third in her Shetland quartet and it's a cracker. This book focusses more on Jimmy Perez's sidekick Sandy as the death that opens the book is that of his grandmother. Sandy is drafted in for his local knowledge of Whalsay, a very small island community that, of course, has secrets aplenty. I really liked the way Cleeves developed Sandy's character in this book and let us see Perez through Sandy's eyes. As usual there is the high quality plot and a wonderful sense of the remoteness and otherness of the Shetlands. I love this series.

Quite by chance just as I had finished Red Bones I got hold of a copy of Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton, also set on Shetland. This however is a very different place from Cleeves' islands. Tora Hamilton is a consultant surgeon recently moved to the islands with her Shetlander husband. She's digging a pit to bury her dead horse (as you do) when she finds a woman's body. There are Nordic runes carved into the body, just like the ones on a fireplace in Tora's cellar. Everyone keeps tells her to leave well alone but Tora can't help but get drawn into the investigation. I liked this. I'm not sure I'd like to live in her Shetland though - full of suspicion and corruption and prejudice. The plot's good though and the characters are mostly believable. I would certainly read another of her's.

Now I'm reading The Incendiary's Trail by James McCreet. I've only just started it, so it's a bit early to tell but it's off to a good start. It's set in Victorian London and seems to have an authentic feel and an interesting detective. More on that later.

Tomorrow I will be playing with lumps of wood and probably swearing a lot as I try and assemble the loom I bought. It arrived yesterday and currently resembles an explosion in an Ikea factory. It came with no directions and doesn't seem to be the same model as the downloaded directions I've got off the internet. Should be fun.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Knitting is Back

I have found my mojo.

I have FOs.

But first, I didn't show you the pics of the fibery loveliness from last week.

I turned this (some rust merino, some natural grey merino and some unidentified natural dyed stuff from our dye day last year) into this -

You can't see in the photo but it has gold angelina in it too so it's all sparkly.

I also made this

From some very dull and uninspiring mauve fibre I used to finish up the last of some purple dye I was using a couple of months ago. I added some turquoise and pink merino and some silver angelina and it will probably make some sparkly socks. So shoot me, I like sparkly things!

Lastly I made this

It's Corriedale fleece bought from Freyalyn at Wonderwool with a bit of added silk. I'm hoping it will keep some of the colour banding when I spin it as I'm planning stripy socks.

After all that creativity Bubba was worn out.

Now I'm wondering if I would really use a drum carder enough to justify buying one (I've been saving up for one), or if I should just borrow the club one if and when I need to use one. This would mean that I could put the money I've been saving towards something else. I'm thinking about a loom. I already have an Ashford Knitters Loom and a small 4-shaft table loom but I'm hankering after a nice wide foldable 4-shaft floor loom. I just missed out on one on eBay the other day - got outbid with about 6 seconds to go. Don't you just hate that!

So, I promised you FOs and indeed I do have them. Firstly there is this -

It's Loppem by Norah Gaughan knitted in Forsell Touch of Silk DK in basalt from Silver Viscount (it was on sale too!) Sadly they seem to not have any more of this at the moment as it was a very good deal. Luckily I have another 400g cone of the same colour and one of the black. Technically this is not an FO as I haven't added the buttons yet but that should happen this week so I'm claiming it anyway.

The other FO I have to show you is a shawl -

This is the Trinity Shawlette pattern available as a download on the P/hop website. I knitted it in Rowan Botany 4ply and then dyed when it was knitted. I love the pattern. I loved knitting it. Some people might get one of these for Christmas. The pattern is free and the idea is you should donate a sum towards Medecins sans Frontiers for the pleasure you get out of knitting it. I would highly recommend this pattern (though possibly not for a beginner, or if you haven't knitted a similar shaped shawl before because I (and some others) found the pattern a little hard to follow). Once you get started though it's a great knit and has several variations you can try.

Take a closer look at the detail.

Isn't it lovely.

Books update in the next post.

Oh, and I might have just accidentally bought a loom.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In Which I Learn a Few Things....

...mostly about the properties of yarn.

I spent yesterday playing with the drum carder I have on loan. Did I tell you I have a week off work? Anyway I borrowed my spinning groups drum carder to have a play with and produced some lovely batts of fibre to spin. Photos of all that tomorrow.

Today I thought I'd do a bit of weaving. I got out my Knitter's Loom and rummaged in the stash and found some lovely purple Rowan Dk and some matching mohair. There was only a little of the Rowan and my plan was to use it as the warp and some handspun and some mohair as the weft. But there wasn't enough of the Rowan so I added some warp strands of the mohair. I can't imagine what I was thinking. Warp yarns need to be strong and SMOOTH. (for non weavers the warp is the long threads that run the length of the weaving that you weave the shuttle over and under to create the fabric.) Well this mohair was strong but it was very, very fluffy. So fluffy that it stuck to itself with the slightest of provocation. My first problem was that when I tried to wind the warp thread onto the back beam the mohair fluff wound itself round the heddle bars and clung on for grim death. I poked and teased it and eventually got the warp all set up. When I started to weave a few rows with scrap yarn at the start though I hit the next problem - the mohair was so sticky I couldn't beat the threads into place! At this point I gave up and cut the mohair off the loom.

Lesson learned. Need to rethink this project.

BTW...still knitting.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shhhh.....don't tell anyone!

But I think I might have found my knitting mojo.......

Can't say any more - I don't want to jinx it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'll have an E please, Bob.

Here's my letter all knitted and ready to send to The Poetry Society for their knit a poem project.

So while we're on the subject of the letter E I thought I'd share a little...

Things I like that begin with E

1. Eggs - lovely and brown and still warm, fresh out of the hen!

2. Evergreens - nothing like a bit of green to cheer you up in the depths of winter

3. Evanovich, Janet - great, funny, light-hearted crime fiction for when you're in that sort of mood

4. Easter egg chocolate - somehow always tastes better than normal chocolate

5. Enthusiasm - just love people who're passionate about their hobbies or even life in general

I expect there will be lots of enthusiastic people at Fibrefest this weekend but sadly I won't be one of them. I shall be working and missing all the fibrey loveliness. If you're going can I ask that you stop by the p/hop stall, pick up one of their lovely patterns and donate a little to MSF. We all get so many hours of pleasure from knitting, and this is a nice way to give something back.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Update Part 2

Pete pointed out that I'd missed a book in my crime write up in the last post so first, before we get to the non-crime stuff I did also read The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson. Some of you will know of my deep and abiding loathing of translated fiction but I'm doing OK with this series so far. The translation seems to be of a high standard, as does the original writing. I'm really looking forward to the last book which is due at the beginning of October.

So, moving on, I had a brief flirtation with teenage fiction and read Twilight. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So I've read it, I think I can see why teenage girls are flocking to the book in droves, and I did quite enjoy it in an odd spectatorish way. Parts of it are very badly written but the plot moves quickly and some of the characters are endearing in a teenager-ish way. What annoyed me about it was the really quite clumsy flag-waving for the abstinence brigade. Blood-sucking, that's fine but sex is totally out of the question!

Back in the land of grown-ups I had a Bookerish turn. Now, my loathing of Booker winning (or even nominated) books is pretty much on par with anything translated. But I've just read two of this years nominated books and liked both of them. Shock horror!

I started with The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. A beautifully written ghost story, set in a crumbling mansion in Warwickshire just after the war. It had me gripped from start to finish. Well, I thought, this really ought to win.

Then I read The Children's Book by A S Byatt. It's a whopping great book, over 600 pages, so that's a big chunk of reading time, but I just couldn't put it down. The book runs from about 1895 through to just after the Great War following the children of an extended family. Woven throughout is the development of the Arts and Crafts movement, the building of the V&A museum and the political upheaval of the period. It's a wonderfully textured book, filled with ceramics and textiles, puppets and theatre. The language of the book draws heavily on that of the creative arts. It's skilfully woven together and in the background looms the threat of a war which will destroy everything. It's a masterpiece.

So now I'm torn. I've never read a Booker winner that I liked, so I guess that ends any chance either of these books had of winning. Now I'm wondering if I should read another of the longlist. Anyone care to suggest which one I read? William Trevor? Colm Toibin? Any recommendations?

While on a roll with quality fiction I read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I'd not read any of her before and I knew I should sort that out. I'm hoping to get around to Gilead before the end of the year. I thought Housekeeping was excellent with a fantastic narrative voice. It put me in mind of Alice Munro, who has long been a favourite of mine. Which reminds me that I haven't read any of her more recent work.

What am I reading now? I'm trying to catch up with Michael Connolly who has been producing 2 books a year lately. I hope he's not going all James Patterson. Anyway I'm reading The Brass Verdict, follow up to The Lincoln Lawyer. So far it's pretty good.

I'm off to The Festival of Quilts at the NEC on Thursday where I'm hoping to be inspired and possibly do a little fabric shopping. Full report later in the week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Update Part One - Crime

I've actually read quite a few books in the time that I was MIA, more than usual I think because of the not knitting thing.

Anyway there are rather too many for just one post so I've decided to split them up into the crime fiction and the non-crime. Today's post will concern just the crime fiction.

I finished A Darker Domain by Val McDermid and liked it. Better than the previous one, though still not my favourite McDermid book. I liked the descriptions of the pit villages in Fife and found the new police characters interesting. I don't know if this is planned to be the start of a series, but I think I'd read more.

Then I read White Nights by Ann Cleeves, the second in her Shetland Quartet, which I'd been waiting to come out in paperback for seemingly ages. I liked it a lot, possibly even more than the first volume. She's definitely got an ear for language has Ann Cleeves. Not sure I can hang on for the paperback of the next volume as it's out now in hardback and not due in paperback until February. This one's serious contender for my crime novel of the year so far. A full review will appear on Eurocrime.

I took a little detour after that as I had a couple of books to read for crime reading group. The first was David Hewson's The Sacred Cut which I had on audio. I had a little trouble with this. Firstly it was too long. The audio book was over 13 hours and it seems to go off at tangents and lose all pace and tension, while the detectives drank a lot of coffee. The narrator was a tad irritating - there was one voice that he did with a thick New York accent that was really grating. The final straw was that the discs wouldn't play in the car, so I ran out of time and had to skim-listen to the last hour or so, most of which seemed to involve coffee drinking and reflection and not a lot of plot resolution. I think if faced with another Hewson I would read as opposed to listen so I could go at my own pace, which might improve things a bit.

The other book was Steven Saylor's House of the Vestals. This is a collection of short stories that fill in the gaps between some of Gordianus the Finder's investigations. Now I've read some of Saylor's novels and they're not an easy read - bit heavy on the politics and the history for my taste, but the short stories were much lighter, funnier - Steven Saylor-lite if you will. I quite enjoyed them in a detached, not-too-serious way. I didn't get them all finished, due to the overrunning of the Hewson audio, but In liked the ones I read. However if I hadn't read any Saylor before and then went to the novels on the strength of this book I may have been in for a shock.

I had a review to write about Blood on the Cowley Road by Peter Tickler. It's set in Oxford, in an area of Oxford that I know quite well so I was hoping for good things which it sadly did not deliver. Some of the characters felt underdeveloped and the plot was not very strong. Again there will be a full review on Eurocrime when Karen gets the time to put it up, but overall it was a disappointment.

Lastly I got my hands on a proof of the new Ian Rankin, The Complaints. This is due for publication on 3rd September. I was a bit wary as I didn't especially like Doors Open but this was the real deal - a well crafted, well-plotted intelligent crime novel. It's about Malcolm Fox who works in the Complaints and Conduct department - he's a man who does everything by the book and hence is about as far as Rankin could get from Rebus and still be on the right side of the law. It's not a book about serial killers or even about murder though there is at least one in the book. This is a book about ethics and about trust and it's a book that makes you think. I wavered while reading it between thinking maybe it wasn't so hot, and absolutely loving it. By the time I got to the end I was totally convinced. Rankin is a very clever writer. Again a full review will be wending its way to Eurocrime but I'll need to find the pad I wrote it on and type it up first.

Tomorrow, well maybe Sunday because I'm working tomorrow so will be brain dead by the time I get home, I'll catch up on the non-crime I've been reading - some of it very unexpected and with totally unpredicted results.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sorry I've been AWOL

I've been AWOL from the blog for a while, trying to get my head together and I think I'm finally getting there. My knitting mojo is beginning to return and I have been doing some other stuff in the meantime. Tomorrow I will do a big book update but today I'm being all crafty.

I had a Kirstie Allsop moment at a carboot sale a couple of weeks ago and bought a lovely old patchwork quilt.

I love the colours. It's all hand stitched. I have no idea how old it is, but it has been well used (well loved, as we bookdealers like to say) and is rather tatty in places. In my mind that somehow adds to its charm. I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but it just called my name from its cardboard box in a muddy field and it only cost a fiver!

I've been doing a little quilting of my own

This is the Diamonds at Large quilt from Pam & Nicky Lintott's Layer Cake, Jelly Roll and Charm Quilts. It's a great thrifty quilt that can be made from just one layer cake and the one I used was Moda's Arcadia. A mix of blue, mustard, brown and orange - very summery. It will be a throw for the back of one of the sofas when it's done. That's just the quilt top in the picture. I still have to add the border and do the quilting. Sewing machine time is difficult to snatch during the summer holidays as there are often teenagers watching the TV where I do my sewing. The Evilpixie has not been very well this week - a nasty virus with stomach pains and headaches. Poor thing.

Finally I have been doing a little knitting. I did finish the Simple Yet Effective shawl that has been on the needles for ages -it was my carrying around knitting and I wasn't getting very much done. Desperate to prod my missing mojo with an FO I sat down and completed it while watching DVDs of The Unit.

I added a frilly edge just to make it a little different from the other one I have. This meant that I ran out of yarn during the cast-off (about 2 feet from the end) and had to substitute some handspun to finish it off. Luckily I had some in a similar colour to one of the stripes and it's not too noticeable.

So, I now have new portable knitting - a sock

It's my standard sock recipe in Patons Croy, bought in Florida last year. The stripes are a little thicker than I wanted/expected. I might frog it and knit a sideways sock - seen a few patterns floating around the web that look pretty cool, and that would narrow the stripes a lot.

And at last I'm beginning to plan a new project, something I seem to have been unable to do lately. So, where to go when you need an inspiring knit, something to get those creative juices flowing again - you go to Norah Gaughan of course (well, I do anyway). Next up on the needles, providing I can find the right size of needle and can get the gauge right will be Loppem from Norah Gaughan book two.

Next post will be books......

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Please be distracted from the fact I haven't blogged for 2 weeks by the lovely photo of todays harvest from the lottie. There in all their magnificence are 4 small courgettes, a lovely little round courgette, some broad beans and some radishes. That was all I managed to collect before the heavens opened and I had to make a dash for the car to avoid drowning.
The weather has been conspiring against us - whenever we have a bit of free time it has been raining - not just a little bit of namby-pamby rain that you could garden in but full scale SAS strength torrential rain where you would need scuba gear to do any weeding. Hence the lack of allotment updates on the blog.
I have no excuse for there being bo other sort of posts other than that I've had nothing to write about. I did knit a pair of socks for a work colleague as a leaving present, but I've forgotten to photograph them. Duh. Hope you liked the socks, Bex.
I finished reading The 19th Wife which I did enjoy but I thought it lost it's way a bit towards the end. Now I'm reading A Darker Domain by Val McDermid. I seem to remember not being overly impressed with her previous book (Beneath the Bleeding) but this one appears to be good so far. I've also been reading Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years - Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times, which is a fantastic social history of women and textiles right back to neolithic times. Because textiles have very rarely survived from those periods the writer has used language and the specific words which refer to weaving or spinning or to clothing which have survived and spread across Europe, plus the depiction of women working with textiles on ceramics and in pictures, to trace the evolution of the various types of textile work, almost all of which was done by women. I found it totally fascinating.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Still not knitting...

But of course, even in the almost complete absence of knitting from my life, there is still crafting of one kind or another.

I have finally completed the Civil War Crossing quilt - you may remember that I bought the fabric for this way back in last September when we were in Florida. Today I finally finished quilting it and did the binding. It had spent a long time in limbo while I pondered on a pattern for the quilting. I could see that it might become a UFO so I made myself a quilting rule - I couldn't start a new project until I'd finished this one. In fact I've decided that will be a general rule in my quilting - one project at a time. There is the exception to this of course (hey, I'm still me, what did you expect?) The block-by-block quilt doesn't count as a project until I start to assemble the blocks -that's only fair because at the current rate of completion I will be 167 before I finish it and that seems like a long time before I start another quilting project. The block-by-block quilt was always going to be a long-term thing given that I am teaching myself a whole lot of new techniques as I go.

This quilt was pieced using the Garden Trellis pattern from Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam & Nicky Lintott and a jelly roll in Civil War Crossing by Barbara Bachman for Moda. The border is not part of that range, but was bought from a US supplier who specialises in repro civil war prints, to be authentic. (Sorry, I can't remember who it was.) I used some of the same fabric in the quilt to balance the fact that it there was a bit more pink in the jelly roll than I had anticipated. The backing is a bit of fabric I bought on eBay and it was this fabric that decided me on the quilting pattern. The backing fabric has long snaking vines with stylised roses - I just followed the path of the vines and added a few swirls to pick out some of the roses. It seemed obvious when I'd thought of it - I can't believe I spent all that time dithering.
So, what's next? You can be sure that I have another project lined up - how else was I going to get the push to finish this one?

Here's a hint -

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Grand Day Out

Yesterday we had one of our increasingly infrequent days out. We went to Gloucestershire for reasons I will tell you about later in the post but it was a day of ups and downs.

We started off in Cirencester where we turned the corner from the carpark and Pete said "There's a wool shop over there." Never one to miss a wool shop I headed straight over. First thing I saw was this sign in the window -

Now if there's one thing I like better than a wool shop - it's a wool shop with a sale on.

Then we saw this -

Aaaagh! A wool shop with a sale on - that's closed for the day! The fates are conspiring against me. How am I ever going to get inspired and recover my knitting mojo.

The charity shop gods were not on our side yesterday either and pickings were slim in Cirencester and later in Gloucester. We enjoyed mooching round though and had a cup of coffee or two.

The main purpose of our visit to Gloucestershire was to go to an auction. Those of you who have been long-time readers of the blog may know that we used, in a previous existence, to be second-hand bookdealers. In those days it was not uncommon for us to go to three or four auctions in a week. Now that we're not dealers any more we hardly ever go to an auction. Yesterday though the auction was so special that we really just wanted to go and look at the stuff that was being sold. We thought we might buy a couple of bits if the prices were right - it was Pete's birthday this week and he collects British comics and comic art. Dominic Winter are primarily a book auctioneers but a good proportion of yesterdays sale was British comics, artwork and related books. It was the sale of someone's collection - his life's work by the look of it, and what an amazing collection it was. There were thousands of beautiful comics, and many many lovely books and a couple of lots that we really wanted to buy (including one that included a couple of boxes of Textile History journals that I had my eye on). Sadly we came away with nothing. It seems that the secondhand book and comic market is not suffering from much of a recession. The prices that some of the lots sold for were astronomical. We were astounded. We came away a little sad that we hadn't managed to buy what we wanted, but also relieved that we were no longer competing against all that to try and make a living.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bear with me

I'm still finding myself curiously out of sorts with the world. I just cannot settle to anything, be it a book, a bit of knitting, sewing, spinning. You name it I've been picking it up and putting it down again recently. I am bored with my current knitting projects but cannot summon the inspiration for something new. I have started several books and not got any further than a few pages with any of them. I have a lovely quilt-top finished and waiting to be quilted but I cannot decide on a pattern to use. I am feeling flat and listless, which is most unlike me.

I have nothing of interest to report from the allotment either, bar that weeds are growing faster than anything I planted.

Please bear with me. I'm hoping this will pass soon and that normal service will resume shortly.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Knitters in the Rain

I haven't told you yet about the Ravelry Day last week.

I went with Maggi (Ravelry link) and her Mum and we had a great time despite the rain.

And it really did pour down - all day which was a shame and it did detract from the day a little. It would have been a much nicer day if we'd all been able to sit outside the hall on the lovely wide stone benches and knit and chatter. However the good old British summer let us down as usual so we had to make the best of it - as only knitters can.

It was so cold and wet even the alpacas were shivering.

There were lots of great stalls with some great indy dyers and yarn producers, and although a few had been put off by the weather there was still plenty to choose from. I was quite restrained and just bought a couple of bits -

So, here we have a carded batt of unknown composition (my fault not theirs) from Fyberspates at the top. It's mostly pale turquoise with strands of blue, yellow, green and purple with sparkly stuff through it. Only about 40g so it won't go very far but it looks lovely and I'm sure it will be fantastic to spin. Also from Fyberspates is the skein of laceweight superwash merino & nylon called Faery Lace in colourway Java. I'm planning a shawl with this. The fibre is an alpaca/silk blend in colourway Stormclouds from Krafty Koala. Very soft and beautiful. I'm hoping this will help me find my knitting mojo which has still not returned. I'm blaming the stressful last few weeks and the fact that I've been ultra busy but I just can't seem to concentrate on anything at the moment. I'm even struggling to find a book that I really want to read. I've picked up several and put them down again because they're not quite what I wanted. I suspect I'll be the same with knitting at the moment - lots of casting on and lots of frogging again when I don't like what I've knitted. I'm sure it will all come back to me eventually.

Anyway, apart from the stalls there was lots of stuff at the Ravelry Day - workshops, demonstrations, spinning, knitting. We met up with some of the knitters from the Birmingham Stitch n Bitch group which I haven't been to for absolutely ages. It was great to see them all again. I was wearing my Astrid shawl and it was very much admired. One lovely lady even went as far as to say it looked better than the one in the photo in the pattern book. As you can imagine I was well chuffed.

One of the odd things about the blogosphere is the way you read other blogs and you feel you know the person behind it and you forget that they don't know you from Adam. I may have surprised Jo from Celtic Memory Yarns a little by leaping out of the crowd at her saying how nice it was to see her, totally forgetting that she doesn't actually know me. I read her blog but I'm not a big comment-leaver so of course she doesn't know me. It was still nice to meet you Jo. Loved the Noro waistcoat.

I'm at home today having a well-earned day off and grumbling about the weather - it's sunny outside which is not at all what was forecast. Today's forecast was for rain all day so Pete has gone off to work with all the gardening tools in the back of his car and there's no point me going up to the allotment with no tools - it's very frustrating. The sooner we can get a shed up there the better.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Allotment Photos

It rained all weekend here so we didn't get to the allotment at all but I've been up today to check everything was Ok and I've taken some photos.

The potatoes are growing well - they'll need earthing up again this week. These were the very first thing we planted so I'm pleased they are doing fine. We have another bed of potatoes just starting to come through as well.

The Little Gem lettuces, radishes and beetroot are all coming up in their rows. Soon be time to sow a few more of these.

The sweetcorn is doing well - I still think they should be further apart but I was overruled.

The courgettes seem a bit on the spindly side but a couple of them have lots of flowers so that's OK. In the cage behind the courgettes the salad leaves, rocket and lollo rosso are getting better after a ropey start.

The broad beans (to the left of the courgettes) are a mixed bunch - some look good but a couple are very sad and one's been very eaten by something. I have more broad beans and several different varieties of other beans to plant out this week. I'm hoping the weather will be dryish for the next couple of days (not a big chance of that) so that I can get some planting done.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Has anyone seen my mojo???

I've been really, really busy over the last few weeks and there have been all kinds of other stuff going on and it seems to have resulted in the loss of my knitting mojo. I completed the intarsia project I mentioned - it was a baby jumper with fish all over it. I was so out of it last week that I forgot to take a photo of it before I parcelled it up and gave it as a gift. Anyway it looked like this - Sorry for the really bad picture, taken in the pub. I don't blog about work as a rule but it's been a stressful time lately and we were in the pub together to mark the end of an era. Our lovely manager was going on maternity leave and we have lost four member of our fantastic team through redundancy. It's been a tough few weeks and I'm glad it's over - happy that I still have a job, but sad that everything is changing.

I've not had a lot of reading time as you can imagine but I finished the Charlaine Harris and enjoyed it. I'm not sure it has converted me to the evil ways of Paranormal Romance but as a one-off it made a pleasant change.

I've given up on The Sweet Smell of Decay - it just wasn't doing anything for me at all.

I then read The Property of Blood by Magdalen Nabb. When the Evilpixie was small she was a big fan of Magdalen Nabb's children's books, about a girl called Josie Smith and I think I've read all of those (over and over again as you do when your kids love a book), but this was the first of her crime novels that I'd picked up. I liked the character of the main policeman, Marshall Guarnaccia, but I thought the plotting was a little weak.

Allotment news will appear later in the week - if I actually manage to get some photos taken.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Monday Update on Tuesday

Hey, I'm getting better...only one day late and it was a bank holiday yesterday so I'm all behind with myself.

We had a busy weekend, with many car boot sales and a trip to Villa Park to watch Aston Villa beat Newcastle, so we didn't get up to the allotment until Monday. The lettuces that the Evilpixie and I planted last week are surviving, though something has had a nibble at them.

We built another veg cage and dug over another section and we planted sweetcorn. I have no photos of this as it seems I am incapable of remembering to take the camera (or even my phone) to the allotment.

Today (still with no photographic evidence) the Evilpixie and I have dug another small section and sown some lettuce, radish and beetroot seeds. We've also planted up some leeks we were given by a passing fellow allotment holder.

The Evilpixie is really enjoying the gardening, much to our surprise. She's even planning to transform the miserable plot beneath our front windows at home, currently hosting many stones, lots of ants and a couple of very straggly lavender bushes. I'll let you know how she gets on.

I am almost finished one of my secret deadline knitting projects - photos later in the week providing there are no disasters in the meantime. It's been my first foray into Intarsia since the 1970s. It was never my favourite style of knitting even then.

I am really looking forward to knitting something else but I still have to finish the MIL's waistcoat, and I really ought to do that before I knit anything for me. I'm sorely tempted though so I've been keeping off Ravelry in case I see something I can't live without.

Books update later in the week hopefully.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday Update

Hey, only two days late this week. I'm getting better.

Not much happening at the allotment over the weekend as it was rather wet, but the Evilpixie and I spent most of the day there today and got a lot done.

We built a compost bin -

And we built a cage to keep the pigeons off the lettuces -

In front of the cage there you can see my newly planted courgette plants and the broad beans we planted on Sunday (in the rain). The beans were a bit of an unplanned planting as they had been doing very nicely at home in large pots with plastic bags over the top. However on Saturday we had a chicken and bean related incident which resulted in one of my pots being reduced to a few sad stalks. The chooks then started to eye up the other pot and we had to take emergency action and relocate the beans to the allotment. If they ever figure out how to open the zip on my little plastic greenhouse (home to all my tomatoes, squashes, and other types of bean) I am sunk. Given that chickens are incredibly stupid - I should be OK. I did try pointing out to them that if they wanted to avoid the pot then stuffing themselves with beans was maybe not the best way to go about it.

Dovegreyreader alerted me via her wonderful blog about a project the Poetry Society are running. They want knitters to each knit a letter which will become the world's first giant knitted poem. It sounds like a good idea to me so I've signed up. The details are here if you'd like to take part too.

I'm progressing slowly with my various deadline knitting projects. One must be finished by next week which should be OK. The other is already overdue but must wait till the first is finished before I can get going on it. More details once they are safely with their respective recipients.

I've read a bit though. I've been horribly remiss about book blogging but here's what I've been reading. Lee Child's Nothing to Lose. Jack Reacher wanders into a small town in Colorado and gets promptly run out of town again charged with vagrancy. Jack of course wonders what they have to hide and there's nothing anyone can do to stop him opening that whole can of worms. If you've read a Lee Child before then you know what to expect - crisp plotting, a conspiracy or two and a bit of love interest for old Jack. It's all good stuff and this one is no different. I wouldn't want to read too many of these close together but now and again they just hit the spot.

Then I picked up A Letter of Mary by Laurie R King, the third in her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. By all reckoning I ought to hate these - historical crime novels, set in England, using a fictional character created by someone else, written by an American - but I love them. Sadly some of the series are out of print in the UK but I understand that Laurie King is working on a new one so perhaps we will see the backlist reprinted. I hope so, I've been picking these up in a piecemeal fashion as they are not easy to find here but I scored mightily over that weekend in Wales and bought three. I will have to ration myself and try not to rush on and read them one after another. Anyway this one is about the strange death of an archeologist friend of Mary, just after she has been to visit Mary and Sherlock in Sussex and has given Mary a mysterious scroll of papyrus. It's good strong stuff with plenty of period detail and a really authentic feel.

Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves is one of her Northumberland novels, which I've not read before. I'm waiting for White Nights to come out in paperback (it does seem to have been a long time coming) and this is one of my Crime Reading Group selections this month so I thought it would fill a gap for me. It took a little while to get into this, in fact I nearly put it down about 20 pages in as it just hadn't grabbed me, but if it's for reading group (or a review copy) then I usually try and persevere and I was really glad I did in this case. Once I got involved with the plot and the characters I really liked it. I thought that the main detective Vera Stanhope was wonderful and although I wasn't entirely convinced by the plotting or the resolution, overall it was a hit. Certainly I would read another of the Northumberland books, though I still think I preferred the Shetland series.

I'm struggling through The Sweet Smell of Decay by Paul Lawrence. From the jacket and an initial quick scan of the first few pages I thought I would really like this but it has been tough going. The main character Harry Lytle is an odd fish and I can't seem to quite warm to him. It's a historical novel set in 17th century London, just after Charles Stuart has claimed the throne. A woman is brutally murdered in a church and Harry Lytle gets a letter from his father to say the woman was his cousin and he must find out who killed her. I'm just over halfway through now and I'm really not at all convinced. I'm not even quite sure why I don't like it, other than that Harry is a bizarre young man with some very odd ideas. I'm still trying with it but I'm not sure if I shall get to the end.

The other reading group selection for this month was not at all a book I would have chosen otherwise. It's An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris. (I think our theme this month must be serial killers). Anyway this is about a girl, Harper, who was struck by lightening as a teenager and as a result can find dead bodies. It seems that they talk to her, so if the body is missing she can find it, or if she knows where the body is she can find out what killed them. I don't do paranormal as a rule, but one of the reasons for joining the reading group was to read different books so I've tried to approach it will an open mind. And actually, so far I'm enjoying it. Obviously it involved the suspension of a little bit of belief but the character of Harper is engaging and the relationship she has with her half-brother Tolliver is well-drawn. She is called to a small town in North Carolina by the local sheriff because several young boys have gone missing over the last few years and they're concerned that there might be a connection. Harper is attacked and injured just after finding the bodies all buried together on an abandoned property, forcing her to stick around while she recovers and so involving her in the investigation. I've not got to the end yet but so far it's been an enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to reading what happens.

Somewhere back in the mists of time just before I was ill I think, I also read Singing to the Dead by Caro Ramsay and I don't remember ever blogging about it. I did send a review over to Eurocrime though and I can report that the book was really good, that I thought the characters were all plump and well-rounded and that the plot had me fooled almost to the very end (which hardly ever happens). I believe I may have likened Caro Ramsay to Ian Rankin - she really is a good writer and I have very high hopes of this series.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Busy, Busy

I said to my self at the start of the week that I would do a regular Monday update about the allotment, which makes sense as Sunday is the day we are most likely to get a lot done. However, here we are on Thursday and I haven't written it yet so I'm off to a good start.

Progress so far - when we got the allotment 2 weeks ago it had been roughly rotovated and looked not too bad on the surface. There are 3 large tree stumps however that the association say they will take out for us. These aside, the ground was fairly clear. So we started to dig. We got one corner dug over and planted a few potatoes just to get something going while we worked on the rest.

One corner has the remains of an old greenhouse under the surface, so every spade uncovers more bits of broken glass - this will take some clearing. There's an old concrete foundation from a shed - not a problem, we'll just site our own shed there when we get it. The rest of the plot, it turns out, was a bramble patch. Rotovating this has probably cut the roots up and distributed them everywhere, but since it had already been done once, we bit the bullet and rotovated the whole plot on Sunday. The soil looks quite good but is very stony and of course it's full of roots which all need to be dug out. So now we're in the middle of digging the plot over, section by section, and pulling out all the roots and stones - backbreaking work but it will all be worth it in the end.

The first weekend we had the plot Pete and the Evilpixie dug over a small section by the back fence and I have finally got some strawberry plants in there. That's all we have planted at the moment but here at home I have some peas and beans growing on in pots, so they can go up to the lottie when the ground is ready. I also have too many courgette plants and some squashes waiting to germinate. Rain is predicted for the next few days so progress will be slow this week - the ground is a bit on the clay side so it's almost impossible to dig when it's wet. Shame, as I have three days off in a row this weekend and we could have got a lot done if it was dry.

Another update on Monday (ish) and I'll try and get some photos - though bare earth is not terribly exciting!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Not Swine Flu but Still a Pig

I have been laid low this week by a hacking cough and flu-like symptoms. I've not been to Mexico, or anywhere further than Wales recently so you can rest assured that it's just an irritating and inconvenient virus.

However said virus has robbed me of all desire to knit this week. I couldn't read either, found myself on the same sentence several times over. Over the weekend I lost my appetite (so unlike me) and, more disturbingly, my usual appreciation of a good cup of coffee (horror!).

I'm feeling better today thankfully and have managed a little light Lee Child (nothing too complicated) and some pasta bolognese. I may try some simple knitting later while the football is on.

I came round from my fuzzy state to find 53 unread posts in my Google Reader account which I am still catching up on. I am horribly behind with some of the reading I need to do this week and have some knitting with fast-approaching deadlines.

And then there's the allotment - news on this next post. Got to go - playing catch-up here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Look What We've Got.....

Here in all it's glory - our new allotment. It's just half a plot which will be plenty for us - more than enough work for the moment anyway. It already has a big apple tree and a gooseberry bush so we're on a winner before we've even started. I'll keep you posted with pics of our progress - first big digging day will be Sunday. We can't wait.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Welsh Weekend

We had a lovely trip to Wales last weekend.

Started off on Saturday in Hereford (yes, I know that's not in Wales), where we trawled the charity shops and had some coffee and I bought a couple of books on quilting in a secondhand bookshop. Then we proceeded westwards and landed in Hay-on-Wye, book capital of the universe, where we spent the rest of the day happilt mooching around, dodging the showers. The good thing about Hay is that when the rain starts there's always another bookshop you can pop into until the rain stops. We didn't buy much in Hay but we saw some lovely books. I did buy a copy of The Moor by Laurie R King, the next one I wanted to read in the Mary Russell series. We spent the night in Hay, had a good meal and a couple of local beers.

Sunday we went to Wonderwool in Builth Wells. I thought that the whole show was a little less inspiring than last year, but Wingham Woolwork were there, which was a first for them, and there was plenty to see, and plenty to buy. I was quite restrained and just bought a few things...

There's some Rainbow Merino and some Merino/Silk in lovely turquoise shades which I'm going to card together with a bit of Angelina (also in the picture) and spin some sparkly blue socks. They were from Wingham as was the space dyed green yarn on the left which is destined for weaving with some plain greens I already have. I also bought some Olive soap as I'm planning some felted wall hangings. In the middle of the picture is a bag of Corriedale from Freyalyn. I wasn't intending to buy this but the colours caught me unawares and I bought it by accident - beautiful shades of orange and green and purple and red which I'm going to card in a random way and spin for more socks. Top of the picture is some boucle loop mohair in three slighly different shades of blue/black which will also be woven into something, probably a scarf. That's all the fiber goodies but I also bought some buttons - fantastic silvery ones which I just love and had to have - I can't believe they were only a pound! And some wooden ones in natural and red and green, and some stitch markers - I don't know if you can see in the picture but they have chickens on them!

There's also a pack of miscellaneous plain buttons in oranges and greens which will be made into some jewellery when I have time. Last but not least I bought some sock blockers to replace my sad old coat-hanger ones which blocked your socks to different sizes. I have no excuse now with my lovely new wooden ones with sheep on the top.

That pretty much sums up my purchases. I did enjoy the show, but I think we might go to Woolfest instead next year. Pete was very disappointed in the Mid-Wales Mouthful Food Festival which was very small compared to last year and not nearly as interesting.

Back later this week for a book update and some interesting news!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In Which I Make a Terrible Confession......

.......I've been doing this in secret for the last week. I am so ashamed. I didn't want to have to admit to you all but....I've been reading translated crime. What's more I've been reading translated Scandinavian crime. Even more shocking - I have been enjoying it.

Now is the time to come clean. This week I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

And liked it.

A stray copy came my way so I thought I'd have a little browse to see what all the fuss was about. Fifty pages in and I was totally hooked, couldn't put it down. Now, I know that I swore I would never touch a book in this genre ever again, but you know, I think I might just have to read at least two more - I'll have to finish the trilogy now won't I?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Astonishing Splashes of Colour

I've been having a crafty week and I've been busy with the dyepots.

Most of the fibre is still damp - too damp to plait and photograph, but I also dyed some commercial yarn - some Aran weight stuff I had lurking in the stash.

The colours are a little washed out in this photo - they're much more vibrant in real life. I'm very happy with the colours - I'm calling this The Way Through the Woods. There are two identical 50g skeins here and I also have a couple more skeins using the same colours but a bit more of the green - there's more yarn in the skeins too - photos and weights etc when it's dry. I think they will be thick wintery socks.

Please note that I have actually tried to get some decent photographs today - instead of just throwing the yarn/knitting/book on the nearest worksurface and snapping away, today I have actually got the light-tent out and tried to get a decent shot with no clutter/mess/drying underwear in the background. I did vow to myself (though possibly not on the blog) that I would try and improve the standard of my pictures on the blog this year, something I have utterly failed at so far. Given that I have an excellent camera, a light-tent and some pretty good software I really ought to take better photos than I do.

While I'm on the subject of colour here is the next Simple Yet Effective shawl, started last week and progressing nicely -

I know it doesn't look much but the colours are fairly accurate in this photo and you really can't see the shawlyness until it's finished.

I decided a couple of weeks ago that my wardrobe was in dire straits and desperately needed an input of a few new things. One of them will be an incarnation of this -

It looks like the type of garment that will cover a multitude of occasions and could be dressed up with linen trousers or dressed down with jeans. Now I just need to decide on a fabric!