Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2009 books, #6-9

Just catching up a little here...

Pobby and Dingan, by Ben Rice. London: Vintage, 2002.

This was one of the February books for the Kniterati group; unfortunately it met on the 3rd February, when my main effort was concentrated on getting home at the end of the day; so I missed it. I got this from the library, and it was a strange little novella - lots to say about 'illusion' and 'reality', within the setting of an Australian opal-mining town. I really enjoyed it while I was reading it, and it certainly wasn't something I'd have picked up otherwise... A couple of weeks later though, I'm having a hard time remembering anything other than the general impression.

Maxwell's Point, by M J Trow. London : Allison and Busby, 2008.

The Maxwell books are always wonderful, but I think Trow's excelled himself here. "Mad Max" is a history teacher of the old school and detective meddler extraordinaire; his trusty bicycle White Surrey and cat Count Metternich and his model army of Light Brigade figures might be enough to consign him to the realms of whimsical eccentricity. However, Trow's language and humour are superb, the plot's always extremely well-crafted, and Max's relationship with Woman Policeman Jacquie Carpenter and baby Nolan is tenderly done...

Blind faith, by Ben Elton. London : Black Swan, 2008.

I've always liked Ben Elton's novels. [OK, there, I've said it. I would say that's an unfashionable view, except they don't half sell well, so however snooty people are about Mr E's output, someone's out there buying it]. This one gives the reader a terrifying post-global-warming dystopia in which the urge for privacy is a sin, watching the neighbours' sex lives on wide-screen TVs is obligatory and failing to emote constantly and in public is a sin against The Love (made up of a duumvirate of Jesus and Diana). Elton picks up very well on the worst excesses of contemporary popular culture and runs with it to a nightmarish extent - blind religious faith harnessed to mindless sex and a diet of infomercials and propaganda. As with Brave New World or 1984, you can tell where it's inevitably going from the beginning, but it's a fascinating ride.

The suspicions of Mr Whicher, or, the Murder at Road Hill House, by Kate Summerscale. London : Bloomsbury, 2009.

There was a lot of fuss about this one when it came out, and I wasn't sure I wanted to read it, but after re-reading the afterword in The Moonstone which connects that book with Inspector Jack Whicher, I thought I'd give it a go. And it's a fascinating account if you like well-written true crime and the history of the detective novel - Summerscale weaves in historical account, contemporary speculation and literary influences. It's extremely readable - I started reading it on the platform on Monday morning and realised when I got home at the end of the day that I hadn't pulled out my knitting all day! I seem to remember the story of Constance Kent from something I watched as a teenager, but couldn't remember anything other than the name.

Next, some Rumer Godden and some Bob Woodward.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Washington's Day

I was having a conversation (or indeed convo, as they have it over on Etsy), and the person I was talking to mentioned it was a holiday for her in California tomorrow; so I went over and looked, and it's Washington's birthday/Presidents' Day. Which is a fine reason for having a holiday in the deep dark days of February.

Washington's Day, however, reminded me of the very good song by the same name from The Hooters which I have kicking around on my iPod. (Unfortunately, launching any sort of internet search using the word Hooters really doesn't work all that well unless you're a breast-maniac... rather like innocently starting a search for the film Free Willy, really...)

There doesn't seem to be anything on YouTube for "Washington's Day"; but there is this very good one for "Karla with a K" (can't embed it because of copyright...) The intro to this was definitely used for some BBC footy programme or other sports programme in the 90s... And, as you might expect, Serious Mullet Alert. And also a wonderful video for "Satellite" which I'd always assumed was an attack on the Prosperity Gospel from the lyrics, but 20 years later I have visual confirmation... (and while we're doing this particular walk of shame, let's not forget "And We Danced"... )

Anyway, happy Washington's/President's Day for anyone who does have a holiday tomorrow!

Believe it or not...

... some knitting has actually been going on around here (apart from the Lady Sweater which now has one arm which is long enough!); finally got round to taking some photos.

But first, the Eye all redded up for Valentines...

They had the Now Voyager quote "Don't let's ask for the moon, we have the stars" across one set of wall panels, which you can just about seen in the photo above; and another quote "You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how" across the other set. I was pleased when I got home and looked it up that I'd correctly identified it. Anyone want to hazard a guess? (Answer at the end of this post...)

OK: the knitting. Two Helter-Skelter Scarves (my own pattern, which I'm looking at putting up on Ravelry after Textiles in Focus is over...)

Although if you know about short-rowing, the photos above and below will tell you exactly what I did without need for a pattern...

And one which looks even better photographed against my kitchen floor...

The yarn for both of these is Lang's Mille Colori - lovely stuff for decent lengths of colour. The only stockist I've used for this is RKM - colours 0057 and 0068 respectively (although my colour balance and RKM's are very different - there is some burgundy in the balance, which doesn't come out in my photo, but perhaps not quite as much as in RKM's sample...

I also made a little blue cowl. The variegated stuff in this one is Araucaria's Quellon; the solid is Regia silk sock yarn (4-ply weight). It's lovely and soft and for the first attempt at a cowl, I think it's come out very nicely. It's just feather-and-fan, 6 18-stitch repeats, random number of rows, random rows of knit and purl...

Some dyeing also happened last weekend; a kilo or so of aranweight wool, now reskeined... I need to price this up for Textiles in Focus; but I think I'm reasonably well set-up for this year's show. Next, finalising the instructions and samples for the classes I'm teaching on Friday and Saturday (there are places left, particularly on the Friday!)

And the answer to the mystery, or not-so-mystery, quote? Rhett Butler, in Gone with the Wind. The full quote goes "No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how." (Although possibly not by someone with that moustache...)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The glory of rail

If I'd written this on Friday, this would have been an entirely ironic post. However, hang on to the end for some pretty pictures...

After 19.5 hours just sitting on trains between Monday and Thursday while the UK capital totally failed to cope with half a dozen inches of the white stuff, I was not feeling enamoured of rail, the rail authorities, and First Capital Connect in particular.

(My absolute favourite moment this week was Monday afternoon when, having battled my way down to work and found the weather getting worse by the moment, I attempted to get home again in the early afternoon with some project work - only to find that the shuttle from London to Cambridge failed to connect with the hourly shuttle from Cambridge to King's Lynn by THREE MINUTES. Both emergency timetables, both run by the same company, meant to join up; left hand, right hand, etc., etc., etc.

Although that was nearly eclipsed by my second favourite moment on Wednesday night, when, having foolishly gone knitting, rather than telepathically working out that the overhead lines would go down at Hitchin in the intervening 90 minutes, I was sent from King's Cross to Liverpool Street because there was going to be a special 20:58 service directly to King's Lynn. I really shouldn't have believed the FCC worker, but after the preceding three days I was gullible and desperate enough to try. On arrival at Liverpool Street, predictably, this train turned out to be some sort of cruel fiction; but I did manage to get home an hour earlier than the alternative bus-and-train service, so even being lied to has its uses)...

That's nearly it on the snow; except to say that when you get concerned enquiries from friends in Toronto and Chicago, both cities which regularly laugh in the face of severe weather, you might as well create possibly the first LOLtrain image

HOWEVER. The trains did let me get down to Hove to see Jan, and to Brighton for the ICHF show. Yvonne and Fred were both there, as was Ness from I Knit. Purchases were made (particularly when offered Sublime angora/merino for £20 a bag...), very good Indian takeaway was eaten, and the trains back worked fine yesterday. Being a Bad Blogger the only photo I took was this one of Flossie...

And then to cheer me up still further, I had half an hour to spend and went to St Pancras station, which reminded me of what rail travel ought to be.

See this departure board?

I love this. You can go to Sheffield, or to Paris or Brussels. It's like the departure board in other proper stations in Europe, which laconically advertise local services alongside the Grandes Lignes to Milan, Vienna or Berlin...

The ground floor is utterly modern; but once you head up in the very efficient lift, or up the escalators, you get to the Eurostar floor and a wonderful combination of the ancient

... and the modern... in this case the John Betjeman bar facing the Eurostar platforms (note the blankets...)
A Eurostar train coming in...
The man himself...
And some of his words.

And that's why Trains Are Good.
I'll try and remember that this week..

Monday, February 02, 2009

FLS again, and some advertising...

Thanks everyone for the lovely comments on the FLS. I am going to make the sleeves longer, because I get really old-fashioned about having a cardigan with shorter sleeves than the top I'm wearing underneath it - it seems like having your slip showing would be for an older generation (or exposing your bra-straps, for mine, but that ship sailed a long time ago). Totally personal opinion... Most of the cardigans I'd be able to buy in the shops in my size would also be three-quarter-length sleeves, which is why I don't buy them... (I'll just have to remember not to wash up in this one - but as I generally get changed when I come home from work, I'm hoping that won't be too much of a problem). Jayne, the buttons came from Peter Jones. I gather they have them in other colours at John Lewis in Cambridge...

In other news, I've been dyeing up a storm for Textiles in Focus. Blatant plug here. I shall be sharing stand-space (as Knitstuff) with two other local Ravelers and one not-so-local. It's a really nice smaller textiles event - about as much knitting-to-everything-else balance as there is at the Knitting and Stitching show (i.e. about 10% knitting, but when that means Woolly Workshop and 21st Century Yarns, it's good company to be in!), but they're all proper stands - you don't get all the papercrafts-and-miracle-cleaning-products stuff - the exhibitions are always very good, and there are probably workshop places left! The details:

Textiles in Focus

Cottenham Village College, High Street, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire

20-22 February 2009

10am-5pm (Friday/Saturday), 10am-4:30pm (Sunday).

£4 entry fee on the door

I hope to make a post with Actual Pictures soon!

2009 books, #5

When will there be good news? by Kate Atkinson. London : Black Swan, 2009.

"A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen", says Jackson Brodie towards the end of this book, and coincidences abound here. As ever with Kate Atkinson's fiction, the simplicity of her style contrasts with the complexity of the plot and the intertwined lives of a cast of wonderfully quirky characters. Many of the people in this book are living quietly tragic lives, but there's great humour here too, and not a moment when the story flags. The previous books featuring Jackson Brodie, Case Histories and One Good Turn, were excellent, but this one is at a different level entirely...