Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A New Year's Revolution

Yet again the first day of the Christmas holidays was greeted in our house with the traditional cry - 'I don't feel very well'. Faced with the prospect of a half-day at work followed by the long drive to Manchester, C. manfully struggled out of bed looking like a wet rag and, insisting he would be fine, went downstairs and poured his coffee onto his breakfast cereal, at which point it was decided that maybe we'd go up the following day after all, when hopefully he'd be a bit better. By the next day he did indeed feel a bit better, and I felt a lot worse. So we passed Christmas Eve in the time-honoured fashion, listening to the Nine Lessons and Carols in heavy traffic on the M6 whilst I sucked cough lozenges and frantically knitted last minute Christmas presents, and Christmas morning found me with a festive tea-towel on my head humming Dink Donk Berrily on High into a steaming bowl of Vicks VapoRub.

In spite of this inauspicious start, however, Christmas itself was a very merry affair with two-thirds of the family gathered together to eat too much, drink too much, and wear silly paper hats (the remainder being condemned to an antipodean Christmas consisting of lying on the beach with temperatures in the high thirties centigrade, poor things). After some initial trepidation and a prolongued spell of chestnut-wrestling, we successfully cooked our goose (once we'd finally pursuaded it into the largest roasting tin we could find) and used the resulting fat to produce some very fine roast potatoes and (as a result of an impromptue game of hunt-the-table-mat) a small skating rink in the middle of the kitchen floor*.

Everyone seemed happy with their presents, though since we bought my parents a dishwasher and they gave us half a shed, not everything was actually wrapped up. My brother and his partner had gone to considerably trouble to wrap up our present from them, though we didn't have much trouble guessing what it was nevertheless (it's a large spade).

Getting it out of the wrapping was another matter, however. Alongside a lot of other lovely booty I also received a gratifyingly large number of exciting knitting-related presents, including the lovely gold-plated Harmony needles set from C.

The Christmas knitting was a bit of a wash-out however. My cunning plan to order yarn to arrive whilst C. was away at a conference so I could knit him a hat and scarf in secret fell at the first hurdle when it failed to arrive until the day after he came back. Abandoning all attempts at secrecy I decided to start with the scarf which was supposed to be made from Rowan Purelife organic wool (in colourway tannin), but so much of the dye came out that after simply casting on my hands looked like I'd been knitting with newspaper, so that went back into the basket to be experimented with at a later date.

Instead I turned to the hat, which had by now become two hats, since my mum had also requested one for my dad. His existing favoured headgear was one of those ribbed acrylic affairs that ought to be rolled at the bottom and worn as a sort of beanie with a big rolled brim, but my dad prefers to leave it unrolled and only pull it down as far as the tops of his ears, leaving the remainder standing up on the top of his head like a black woolly nipple and causing my mum great consternation, particularly when they have to go out in public together. So, all the way up the motorway I frantically plugged away at Turn a Square, but despite having got gauge and produced a very nearly finished hat by the time we reached our destination, it soon became apparent that even on C's capacious dome the thing looked like a pillowcase, so it had to be frogged and reknit on smaller needles. Neither was done in time for Christmas, but they did both get done over the "festive period", and seem to have been hits, in the recent cold weather, so all's well that ends well.

In fact, this Christmas knitting has followed the pattern of most of the autumn which has been a singularly unproductive period knitting-wise for me. I still have only one Mingus sock, and the Tangled Yoke, though it has edged forward a little in the last few days, has largely languished unattended. In part this was because I had to break off to make other things, such as the Felix cardigan and more recently large numbers of Christmas-card stockings.

However, overall my lack of progress has mostly been due to a rather different sort of WIP.

Between the middle of September and late November I was suffering terribly from what is commonly, and in my case completely erroneously, known as morning sickness. For me this struck virtually every day from about 5.30pm onwards, putting a serious crimp on my social life and turning me into what I recently saw described as a 'bog ostrich'.** As a result, instead of passing my evenings knitting, blogging and in various other gainful practices, I spent the majority of them lying on the bathroom floor. Mercifully, however, this has now finally passed and so normal knitting service should be resumed presently, though how long it will last is another question, since all being well, the major production of 2009 should be a little boy, due sometime in mid-May.

*It's a long story... Basically the table-mat was put under the roast potatoes when they were removed from the oven for stirring and then seemingly vanished. After much searching we all became convinced it had been put back into the oven with the potatoes, so my brother took them out again and held the tray in the air so that we could inspect the bottom of it. Only he didn't manage to keep it quite level... Needless to say the mat turned up later somewhere else but despite much scrubbing the kitchen floor retained its ice-like quality for the rest of the evening, being only slightly improved by the addition of several ounces of flour during a gravy-making escapade later on.

** A person who ends every evening with their head down the lavatory.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

FFOs, FPOs, and FSOs

In the absence of anything more exciting to report, here are a couple of Finally Finished Objects, Finally Posted, and couple of Finally Started Objects too.

Firstly a Very Belated Baby Blanket for Katie and Will (and more to the point baby W).

This is a fairly simple crochet blanket in Patons 2ply Baby Pure Wool, but for all that I was quite pleased with it. I started off following a Sirdar pattern my mum bought years ago, but after the central panel decided I didn't like the stitch for the side panels and so modified it slightly. Despite being quite a straightforward crochet, however, it took me an absolute eternity to finish it, for which I am eternally embarrassed. It was supposed to take me two weeks and in the end it took more like six (plus a bit of time at the end to get round to blocking and posting it). But it has finally reached its destination at last, albeit somewhat later than its intended recipent.

Secondly a pair of Baby Moc-a-Socs for Iestyn. I love this pattern and have been meaning to make it for someone for ages. These didn't take very long and were great fun to knit (though I think I might make some mods the next time round to reduce the amount of seaming which I hate - not that there was exactly a lot of it in the first place).

And so to the Finally Started Objects. I've managed to get my train knitting back on track (haha) and have slowly but surely been making my way along a Mingus sock in Jitterbug velvet plum from my stash. I've had the yarn for absolutely ages but have been dithering over what to use it for. It has been earmarked for any number of pairs of socks in the past, but never made it as far a the needles before. However, I finally bit the bullet and it's working very nicely for Mingus: the stitch definition is good and the twisted stitch pattern shows up well.

There have so far only been two small flies in the ointment. The first materialized when in an attempt to be sensible I decided to divide the yarn in half before starting to knit. I carefully weighed and re-wound it into two balls, but didn't notice until after I'd cut it that one 'half' was rather larger that the other. It turns out that the the fact that I got the same weight when I weighed each ball actually reflected the fact that the scales were malfunctioning rather than that they weighed the same! The next few days should see whether I can actually make it to the toe of the first sock with the smaller 'half'. The second fly was the snapping of one of my 2.25mm Brittany needles whilst trying to execute a sssk on the train on the way home. However, as ever Liz came to the rescue and picked up another pack for me from Iknit a couple of days later, so I now have 10 2.25 dpns, which should be enough to get me to the end, even if the large number of ssks and k3togs the pattern involves means I arrive there in a shower of splinters.

And finally, I have succeeded in casting on for the Tangled Yoke, which is supposed to be my "home" project for the time being. This too got off to a bit of a bumpy start. Having supplemented my pre-stashed 4 balls of felted tweed with some more of a different dyelot in order to get enough for the project, extensive swatching proved beyond doubt that I would have to knit from two balls at once since the difference in the two lots was clearly visible. So I cast on and knit a row or so. Then I realised I'd cast on for the wrong size so I frogged and cast on again and knit a few more rows. Then I realised that at some point I'd become confused about which ball I was knitting with and in which direction and had started at the wrong end and with the wrong ball so that I now had wonky ribs. So I frogged again, cast on again, and knit a bit more. At the moment that's as far as it's got, but I'm hopeful that I'm over the worst. At least for the time being.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Knitting and Not

Once again, it has been a ridiculously long time since my last post. In part this is because, for much of September at least, C. and I were off enjoying a long and luxurious holiday. I came back with grand plans of blogging it all in detail, but once back, a series of very busy weekends, and work, and various other more pressing things pushed it out of my mind, and somehow it never happened. For similar reasons my knitting has also been at something of a low ebb, and I haven't had much to report on that front either, but finally I thought I should devote my extra hour this weekend to catching up a bit, albeit in a slightly potted version.

So, the holiday... We started off, (like a large number of other rather more newsworthy people this summer) in Corfu. I hadn't been to Corfu before except to change ferries (well my mum tells me I had but I was about 3 at the time and don't remember it, so it doesn't really count). On reflection, arriving at 7am on a Sunday after an overnight flight when we couldn't check in until 1 might have been a mistake. It did give us the chance to look around the old town whilst it was quiet and empty, but by the time we'd spent 6 hours wandering around in the increasing heat we were wilting slightly. Our cunning plan only to sleep for an hour in order to avoid getting out of sync and not being able to sleep later also came to grief, as we returned to the hotel in the evening to find that the Greek Communist Party were holding some sort of festival in the park outside the window. Not that it kept us awake for very long, mind.

However, the following day proved to be much more successful. We knew that it was possible to cross from Corfu to Albania and take a day trip to the ancient site of Butrint, but we weren't quite sure how. At breakfast in the morning, though, we bumped into a chap who was working in Albania (though actually from Kidlington!), and who not only allowed us to share his taxi to the port (and blagged us onto the hydrofoil in spite of the fact that we hadn't got tickets in advance as we should have), but also put us in touch with a retired school teacher in Saranda, who, for a small consideration, hired a taxi-driver and acted as our guide for the day. As a result, we not only made it to Butrint,

but also to the Ottoman town (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) of Gjirokaster,

and most importantly for me, into the mountains along the Greek border to the village of Sotira, where both my dad's parents were born.

Driving in Albania was a bit of an experience, but the driver was very good and, since every car in Albania seems to be a Mercedes, it was accomplished in relative comfort (and with the temperature at 39 we were definitely glad of the air con). Perhaps the weirdest thing about the whole experience, though, was the landscape: incredibly high mountains either side of a completely flat plain, and hundreds and hundreds of concrete bunkers everywhere. Across the plain they were strung out in lines barely 100m apart (the lines of little white dots in this photo are all pillboxes).

The only downside to this packed schedule was that, with the boat back at 5pm we had to do everything at a bit of a run, with the result that we didn't really get to see anything in detail. We basically sprinted around Butrint and Gjirocaster before leaping back in the car and setting off down increasingly tiny roads to Sotira, which according to Vangel, the guide, is locally known as the village that only has sun for 6 hours a day even in the summer, because the mountains on either side are so high. Despite having quite an impressive church and school-house (both we were told built with money sent back by people who had left the village to work abroad) Sotira is tiny and almost entirely empty these days. The few locals who were around were very friendly, Greek-speaking and happy to talk to me, but unfortunately, the aforementioned mountains meant that when I texted my dad to tell him where we were going, his message telling me which relatives to ask after and where the house Papou used to live in was, only reached me as we cleared the mountains on leaving. Nevertheless, finally getting there was definitely the highlight of the holiday to me, and having discovered that it really wasn't all that hard, perhaps one day we can go back for a bit longer.

Back on Corfu we spent another couple of days trying to see a bit more of the island. Unfortunately we spent rather more time than we'd bargained for looking for the place we'd booked to stay on the Tuesday, until finally, having established that the contact phone number had been cut off, the fax number indicated it was in a different part of the island to where the address said it was, and no one in the area it was supposed to be had ever heard of it, we gave up and found somewhere else. We spent a fair bit of time exploring the villages up in the mountains most of which still seemed to be quiet and picturesque, with some lovely traditional buildings (a novelty for us since we're use to Zakynthos where the 1953 earthquake flattened pretty much anything earlier), but although the landscape around the coast was beautiful, the amount of development and tourism meant that I couldn't help finding myself continually thinking "it must have been so much nicer when mum and dad came 30-odd years ago". On the other hand as the 4-wheel drive hire car struggled to drag us up the (really quite impressive) Pantokratoras mountain I was quite glad that we weren't doing it, as my parents did, on an unmade road in a Wartburg estate with a 900cc 2-stroke engine and 5 people in the back! Not all change is necessarily for the worse.

Finally, having packed as much as possible into five days we hoped on a little jolly plane with propellers and flew down the Ionian, via Preveza and Kefalonia, to Zakynthos, where we spent a week and a bit at The House* doing the exact opposite - i.e. practically nothing. We pottered about doing a few odd gardening and diy jobs - putting up some guttering, planting some plants, and creating a compost bin out of an old water barrel (on my mum's insistance I tried to decorate it using some acrylic spray paint left over from some other job but the result looks rather like a floral dalek) - mostly, however, we went swimming twice a day and lay around reading and sleeping. Most enjoyable.

The new extension makes a big difference to the general aspect of The House, especially from the outside, though inside it is still a little on the "basic" side since the floors need retiling and the walls replastering. But at least this year the bathroom had both a door and a wall, which is better than the last time we were there, when rather weirdly it only had the door. We also got to take advantage of the "solar water heater" my brother had rigged up when he was there the month before, which meant warm showers after swimming for the first time ever. Sadly however, autumn arrived in the form of a Biblical-style deluge towards the end of the week and there was no longer enough sun to make it work, so we were once more reduced to begging warm showers from family friend Christina down the road. The cascading rain also washed away all my carefully planted seeds, rushed off the roof so fast that it completely bypassed the newly installed gutters, and came up through the floor in the back room having been successfully thwarted by the new roof and retaining wall from taking any of its more traditional routes into the house. Ho-hum.

The change in the weather did finally spur me to do some knitting though, since up to then the many projects I had brought with me had been languishing in my bag untouched, being altogether too woolly for handling in warm weather. Concentrated knitting in the last couple of days on Zakynthos, on the 6 hour bus journey to Athens, and on the flight on the way home allowed me finally to finish the Bluestockings for my mum, though not quite in time for her birthday.

So far, however, I'm ashamed to admit that that remains my last FO. At least my last knitted one. Part of the reason for not immediately starting something else is that, the weekend after we got back I went on a mosaic-making course and started making a name-plate for The House. The original plan was to complete it in the weekend, but it soon became apparent that that wasn't going to happen. As a result quite a lot of weekends and evenings were subsequently devoted to cutting and sticking tiny bits of tile. But I'm quite pleased with the result.

Since then I have been faffing about trying to decide what to make next and casting things on and then frogging them in a desultory manner. Hopefully sooner or later normal knitting services will be resumed. Must do better.

*For some reason, amongst our family, the small and (until recently at any rate) slightly decrepit building on Zakynthos where we tend to spend only a few weeks a year is generally known as 'The House', despite the fact that a) it is it much less like a house than any of the other houses that we actually live in all the time, and b) it already has a name, albeit one based on a gratuitous pun (see above).

Monday, 25 August 2008

Space, Time, and Probability

We have a slight problem with space in our house: it is a very small house and, in spite of the fact that there are only two of us, we have a lot of stuff. However, we also have a minor problem with time: we both work full time and so weekends tend to get eaten up by all sorts of dull but necessary activities like housework.

This weekend being a long weekend however, we should in theory have had ample time to do something about the space issue and still have a bit of relaxation. Specifically we decided that we would finally get round to boarding the loft, making extra storage space for some of the stuff currently residing in what is rather grandiosely known as "the study". This is something we've been meaning to do for absolutely ages, but somehow never got around to.

So the plan was as follows:

Saturday - go out and buy loft panels; board the loft; have a relaxing evening.
Sunday - (am) reorganise spare room shunting things which take up a lot of space but are hardly ever used (like my thesis) into the loft and creating lots of luxurious space; (pm) do various small jobs - C. to cut lawn, me to finish and block the "probably jumper" which I've been working on for ages.
Monday- go out for the day and do something nice and have dinner to celebrate my finally passing my driving test.

That was the theory. In practice it went more like this:

Saturday - Oversleep. Think about doing the loft but then decide that the weather is really quite nice and we should take advantage of it. Reschedule loft for the following day. Drive (with me at the wheel) to South Stoke just south of Bath, setting satnav to avoid motorways since I don't feel ready to attempt them just yet.

Satnav extracts revenge for the snubbing of its beloved motorways by sending me down several single track roads on 15% hills. Arrive white and shaking at destination. Have quite a pleasant 9 mile walk taking in part of the Foss Way, marred only slightly by a small amount of rain, being set upon by cows, and me falling into a ditch halfway round. Have the best pub food of the year at the Packhorse. Return home.

Sunday - Oversleep. Extract assorted detritus (our own and the previous occupier's) from loft, including mystery items 1

and 2

along with 7 vol. set of 1970s DIY manuals giving instructions on how to do everything from macrame to marquetry. Spend some time debating which of the fantastic bathroom designs to follow next time we redecorate.

Deposit assorted detritus (not including manuals which far too much fun to part with) at tip and drive to Abingdon to purchase loft boarding. Discover shop in question only has boarding for lofts with joists closer together than ours. Scour Abingdon for alternative boarding and draw a blank. Realise that it is now 3.30 and I am supposed to be meeting a friend at 5 to go to see the Garden Opera Company (arranged a month before). Revise plans for following day to include boarding the loft in the morning and various gardening/knitting tasks in the afternoon followed by slap-up dinner.

Monday - Wake up at 6. Decide it's too early to get up. Oversleep. Rush to Oxford and purchase appropriate boards then do excessively extravagant supermarket shop in preparation for gourmet bank holiday dinner later. Return home. C. disappears into loft; I decide I'll have to cut the grass myself as C won't have time to do it. C. comes out of loft to announce that the gap between the roof trusses isn't the same all the way along and boards will have to be cut to size. Realise have no C-clamps to hold boards onto cutting bench and it is now too late to go and buy any. Spend the rest of the afternoon impersonating a C-clamp by twisting into various bizarre contortions in order to hold bits of wood still while C saws through them with a handsaw having tried and discarded any number of promising-looking power tools. 6pm, still cutting; give up all hope of making complex dinner and decide to have simple baked fish instead. 7pm, second-to-last board; realise we've cut it upsidedown. Recut board with great difficulty since what is left is a funny shape and almost impossible to get a grip on without C. accidentally cutting my arm off. 9pm, loft is now covered in boards; everything else is covered in sawdust. Abandon all hope of dinner and set about clearing up. C. puts assorted detritus back in loft while I fail the basic IQ test which is "put the power tool back in the correctly shaped dent in the box". 10.30pm pizza and pink fizz for supper. Too tired to knit.

Where does the time go?

Friday, 22 August 2008

Brrrm... brrrm... brrrm....

Today, a mere 17 years after I got my provisional license, I finally got round to taking (and passing) my driving test.

So you'll all know to stay off the roads from now on.


Tuesday, 19 August 2008

In the dock

I keep hearing how the miserable, wretched, soggy so-called summer weather this year is, "good for the garden" and in particular is producing bumper crops of massive vegetables. Well not in my garden it isn't. All I have to show for it is about 200 small, sour, unrelentingly green tomatoes with not even the slightest suggestion of turning yellow, let alone red, and a greenhouse full of minuscule peppers and aubergines, barely a fruit between them, shivering and dreaming of warmer climes. Not only that but all my courgettes have got brewer's droop. The plants are big and strong and look as though they're going to be impressive performers, but just when the fruits reach about three inches long and everything seems to be going well suddenly go all limp and squashy and then fade away to nothing.* And it's not just the vegetables either: my nasturtiums have been reduced to the finest Shetland lace by caterpillars, although my hops are finally flowering, they are looking distinctly sad and autumnal, and unsurprisingly given the complete and total absence of sun, I have the most pathetically tiny sunflowers ever - about the size of a ten pence piece.

However, there are plants that don't seem to object to the weather: the docks on the allotment for one are going from strength to strength springing up as fast as we can cut them down, as unfortunately is the creeping buttercup. Taking advantage of a brief interlude in the deluge this weekend C. and I set about trying to stem the tide a little bit, digging up something in the region of 180 dock plants in the course of the two days, with roots varying in length between a couple of inches and a couple of feet.** When everyone else is busy taking in the harvest it was a little demoralising to be leaving with nothing but a bucket of rubbish and a bad back, but we also installed two more raised beds and a couple of enormous compost bins, so we're a little closer to having something recognisably allotment.

I did bring back a couple of rather splendid gladioli, a legacy of whoever had the plot before us, which helped to brighten the place up a bit even if they're not actually edible, and we have finally this week tasted the first fruits (or at least salad vegetables) of our labours in the form of two very hearty little lettuces, which the wet weather hasn't done any harm at all (though it's a fair measure of just how wet it has been that I've only had to water the things once since I planted them in July).

At the risk of coming over all Uncle Monty, I do have a soft spot for vegetables as things of beauty in themselves, and there's something very gratifying about such shiny green lusciousness. (They did also taste quite nice). But for the time being, in the absence of other produce I've been having to content myself with admiring illustrations in books and seed catalogues and dreaming of next year (when the weather will hopefully confound expectations and be perfect). If it's not, however, perhaps I can take a leaf out of Felix's book, or indeed this book half-inched from my mum's bookshelf at home, and knit myself a harvest. It's probably easier on the back and definitely less likely to result in nettle-rash.

* And they can't even claim this has never happened to them before either: it happened last year as well, though to be fair the weather was equally rubbish then.
** One of the larger variety did for my garden fork. Well, C. did for my garden fork by putting all his weight on it in an attempt to lever the thing out of the ground, and it was only a "ladies'" fork, but the result is the same. Splinters all round.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Tubas in the Moonlight

Actually there aren't really any tubas in this post*, but there are some tubers and quite a lot of knitting for once.

The tubers are these - Shetland Black potatoes - which we originally bought to eat, but some of them started sprouting so I planted them, and now have slightly more than I did to start with. It wasn't a very substantial crop, but not bad considering they were growing in a bucket round the back of the greenhouse, and they do scrub up to a rather striking purple colour which it turns out fades to blue when they're cooked, but can be made pink again by the addition of lemon juice.

The weather having reverted to type and gone back to being miserable, cold and wet, however, I've been spending more time indoors knitting than out amongst the plants and have finally managed to produce a few FOs.

First the Moonlight Sonata shawl which I started back in late May. Gratifyingly it used up exactly two of the three skeins of Jitterbug I bought for it, leaving the whole of the third for me to do something else with. I'm not sure that I blocked it quite to the right shape, as I found it a bit difficult to work out exactly how much to stretch the shaping around the shoulders. It doesn't quite do what it looks as though it ought to from the pictures on Ravelry, so perhaps I'll reblock it at some point, but on the whole I'm pleased and it promises to be very cosy. Needless to say, the lousy weather does nothing for the colour of the photos.

Mostly, though I've been fighting to complete two projects as presents for my sister (who was in the UK for a couple of weeks) before she left to go back to Australia again. She is a marine biologist and so coming across various knitted sea creatures on Ravelry I felt I had to have a go at making some of them. The first thing I attempted was Hansi Singh's Octopus. I decided to use some of the Debbie Bliss cotton I had left from Enfys, which turned out not to be the wisest choice since the inelasticity was once again a definite disadvantage when it came to doing lots of increases and decreases. However, I finally produced something which looked vaguely octopus-like (admittedly on the second attempt, the first having come to a sticky end when I came across a stray leg at the bottom of my knitting bag, and discovered to my dismay that I'd inadvertently made a Heptapus instead).

In order to allow her to use the octopus as a paperweight I struck on the idea of stuffing it with a balloon filled with fine gravel (the sort you use to mulch cacti). Getting the gravel into the balloon was a bit of a challenge. A certain amount went in fairly easily with the help of a kitchen funnel, but I soon reached the point at which I needed to stretch the balloon in order to get any more in. Ever resourceful, C. got around this problem for me by inserting his chin into the funnel up to the nose and blowing down it to inflate the balloon whilst simultaneous waggling his head from side to side to shake the gravel down into the balloon. This presented a very entertaining spectacle, not least when the waggling inadvertently moved his face away from the edge of the funnel on one side, allowing the balloon to deflate and leaving C. with a surprised expression and a mouthful of gravel.

However, the gravel balloon idea seemed to work relatively well, so having successfully completed the octopus I then moved on to something more challenging - the hermit crab. This is without doubt the most fiddly thing I have ever made and I won't be in a hurry to make another (certainly not in cotton). That's not to say that there's anything wrong with the pattern, which is a masterpiece of yarn-meets-mathematics which I find truly amazing. Grafting the shell together and watching it curl itself into a tight little helix was tremendously satisfying. However, it does require an awful lot of grafting - not least on each of four legs and two pincers, and consequently I overran rather in terms of completion time. Most of yesterday was spent frantically knitting and grafting together crustacean legs (and almost completely ignoring my sister as a result), and it finally got sewn together a mere 10 minutes before she had to leave for the airport.

So, what to knit next is the question now. I have sworn off creatures for a while, and will be returning to socks for the train. To this end I have already started on a pair of Hopscotch socks, which in this case really are Oxford Bluestockings, being not only blue, and knitted in (or around) Oxford, but made to Liz's pattern from Katie's yarn.

For home I have high hopes of conquering the infuriating River Stole which has been languishing in my stash for ages, but then what? Currently burning the biggest hole in my stash are 10 balls of grey Jaeger Matchmaker Merino 4ply...any suggestions?

*For anyone who's wondering, it's just the title of one of my favourite Bonzo Dog songs.

Monday, 28 July 2008


This weekend we acquired some sturdy 6 x 1 in. planks courtesy of the nice people at Oxford Wood Recycling and we have our first proper raised bed. What's more, as of this evening it has plants in it (transplanted from two very overcrowded tubs in the garden).

Whether they'll still be there in the morning is another matter. I reckon there's a fair chance they'll have been reduced to stumps by every slug and snail in the district (I think I can hear the munching from here) or beaten flat by the torrential rain we've had this evening, or possibly just washed away altogether. However, for this evening I'm enjoying having one corner that does look a bit like a genuine allotment with actual plants, even if it does only consist of 24 rather bedraggled lettuce.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Quite allot of work*

So, this week I've acquire yet another pastime to distract me from blogging and knitting (and housework), because C and I finally made it to the top of the council waiting-list for an allotment. Mysteriously this happened the very week that we finally decided to ring them up and ask whether they'd forgotten us, having sent the application off in March and not heard anything since...but that's probably just coincidence. Mysteriously too, although there is a waiting-list, when I went down to the council offices on my day off, I was told we could have a choice of three different plots.**

The allotments are only about two minutes walk from our house so, armed with the key and a (rather idealised) map I pottered off to have a look at the possibilities. After wandering around for some time peering hopefully between rows of beans, I finally found someone else who happened to be there at 3pm on a Thursday to help me get my bearings and we established that the plot I was looking for was the one next to his. So here it is...

No - actually that's a lie: this is ours:

The others were worse, honest - you couldn't even tell where one started and the other ended and they were all covered in the dreaded bindweed. And at least this one has well kept plots on three sides and a fence on the other. Plus we have already met several of the neighbours, and they seem very nice. One offered to lend us a hand with the clearing/heavy digging if we happen to be there at the same time, while the lady on the other side plied us with courgettes to make up for the fact that this season all we have to look forward to is lots of hard work and very little produce.

Owing to 'financial pressures' the council no longer offers to strim allotments which have been abandoned for a while*** (though the lady at the council offices kindly lent us her very own scythe), so, very little knitting this weekend, but quite a lot of what might be described as 'horticultural archaeology' as we struggled to clear away some of the weeds revealing what had clearly been beds of potatoes, cabbages, onions, leeks, and strawberries in the not too incredibly distant past, along with some mint, oregano and chives, a couple of rather miserable gladioli, a soggy lump of old carpet, and about two-thirds of a collapsed shed. Quite a lot of hacking, chopping, digging, getting stung/bitten/scratched by things, and two trips to the tip later this is what it looks like. You can see the floor and everything - there's even one bit that could almost be called a bed (though as C pointed out it does look a bit more like a freshly dug grave at the moment). Not bad for a weekend's work I feel! Now if I can still move my arms enough to grasp my knitting needles...

* I know, I know, sorry...
Although on reflection after seeing the plots in question, that might not be so surprising.
*** Unfortunately the same 'financial pressures' have also done for the trailer which used to come once a month to take uncompostable stuff to the tip, so our car is now full of a substantial quantity of dock seed and an even larger number of spiders.