Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Going to pot

This week's Tuesday mess comes courtesy of the greenhouse and my ever-expanding plastic plant-pot collection.

When I first took possession of the greenhouse I cleared it all out with great gusto muttering disgustedly at the mess that had been left behind and protesting that I would never let it get into such a dreadful state. For the first few months everything was in its own place and order reigned.

Then gradually and inevitably the situation started to slip. Things didn't get put back where they came from. Plants which had died off got dumped on the side and left to be dealt with later. Plastic detritus that couldn't go into the compost but was too big for the kitchen bin started to collect in little piles awaiting the long-promised trip to the tip, only to be forgotten by the time we actually went. And the windows got green and smeary, and moss started to grow in the joints of the frame. And somewhere, in the in dark corners behind the paraffin-heater that I have never used because on those nights when it's cold enough to need a heater in the greenhouse it is, lets face it, far too cold to go outside and start fiddling about with paraffin-heaters, there in the damp half-light, the plant-pots began to breed.

Large pots, small pots, hundreds of little thumb-pots, tall dark clematis pots, multibuy inter-linked pots, huge great tree pots, buy-one-get-one-free pots, square pots, round pots, green pots, brown pots, pots in every shade of black, pots which just never quite stack...neatly

Eventually I could hardly get into the greenhouse. So today C and I carried out a cull, keeping only two or three hundred of the most useful-looking pots and putting all the others on one side to go to the tip. We also braved the monstrous spiders (big as your hand with great big pointy teeth) and the clammy horror which is the embrace of the unexpected slug, to drag all the contents of the greenhouse out onto the lawn, wash the windows, sweep and generally reorganise.

So, the mess is now somewhat subdued, although the fact that we didn't actually get to the tip and so had to put all the junk back in (admittedly in a different place) rather spoiled the effect. The rejected plant-pots are now languishing in a black sack (from which they will no doubt be trying to escape), along with the old wooden lawn-edging which was the occasion for the last trip to the tip, but which had become so buried by the time we eventually got round to going, that it was actually left behind!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Messy Tuesday - 18/03

Sad to say, our house has a terrible case of piles. So, tonight, for your delectation and in honour of Messy Tuesday, I present the notable feature of our house which is the Pile of Junk that accumulates on the corner of the sideboard no matter how much I try to keep it clear.

Remarkably small at the moment since it has only just started to creep back into existence after being banished when we had visitors a few days ago, a large portion of this comprises unopened mail, fully 80% of which is for a) the person who used to live here before us and who seemingly signed up for every useless free catalogue and special offer in the world; b) someone we've never heard of who has never lived here as far as we know; c) someone who lives several streets away but the postman couldn't be bothered to walk all the way round there. The remainder consists of things C got out and didn't put away again (putting things away is against his religion, along with closing cupboard doors and turning off lights), things that were on the table when we wanted to use it and so had to be moved somewhere else, and things that have no home and are sitting there until I can figure out what to do with them. Today, to add a little je ne sais quoi I have included a vase of decaying tulips in the foreground, while behind can be glimpsed the edifying spectacle of Pile of Half-done Ironing.

However, the piece de resistance for this Tuesday has to be the kitchen wall, still undecorated as it has been ever since the removal of the old gas boiler last summer.

For particular effect the grubby curling paper and chipped plaster is presented juxtaposed against Pile of Yesterday's Washing-up. Unfortunately without a wide angle lens I was unable to complete the composition by capturing the mess on the floor where, while making apple and rhubarb crumble, I inadvertently created a new technique for rubbing butter and flour together, which consisted of throwing handfuls of the mixture in my own face. Maybe next week.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Froggy went a-courting

To quote the inimitable Tom Lehrer:

Spring is here, spring is here,
Life is skittles and life is beer.
I think the loveliest time of the year is the Spring...

OK, well I'm not so sure about the skittles and beer.* Come to think of it I'm not that sure about the spring now it's been p---ing it down all afternoon. However, this morning spring certainly seemed to be in the air when I toddled out into the back garden to dump the veg clippings into the compost. The weather was mild with occasional bursts of sunshine and all sorts of spring flowers and bulbs finally putting in an appearance to brighten the place up a bit, and the trees coming into leaf (and/or flower), and the many amphibious denizens of the garden frantically shagging all over the place and turning the pond into one gelatinous wobbly mass.

Of course by the time I was actually free to go out into the garden and play, the heavens had opened and all the flowers were bent double and dripping. The frogs haven't been put off at all by the rain though; indeed they have been positively frolicking in it. Our garden is frog central at the moment. As soon as you open the back door the whole garden hops and you are treated to a pleasantly mellifluous frrrrrp, frrrrrp, frrrrrp sound emanating from the bottom (the bottom of the garden that is). Gardening at this time of year can be quite disconcerting as resting your hand on the ground in any place are liable to find that the earth squirms and wriggles under your fingers and then (depending on how much weight you've rested on said hand) hops off looking irritated.

Anyway, whilst the weather was fine, and in the spirit of "hurrah it's spring" I rushed off into the garden with the camera hoping to cheer up the old blog with some pretty pictures. This is to compensate for the fact that once again I have no knitting-related pictures to post. The Twisted Flower pattern didn't not turn up, so I will have to buy it again before I can resume knitting. In its absence I have been working on a Διακοσμητικο πετσετακι (decorative doily) on the train, but haven't got round to taking a photo of it yet as it's still only coaster-sized and looking a bit like an old dishcloth.

The Probably jumper is now almost certainly a jumper but much further from being one than it was because, after trying it on, I decided the colour change fell in an unfortunately emphatic location and ripped back about a quarter of what I had knitted. I bought some buttons for it this afternoon, but I don't think that really counts as progress. The River Stole is just stalled because every time I pick it up I lose my place in the pattern, drift onto the wrong line (they are all nearly but not quite the same and the repeat's too long for me to memorize), and then spend twice as long unknitting and cursing, so for the sake of my blood pressure I haven't touched it for a while.

So for the time being here are some pretty spring flowers. As with much of our house (and indeed my life in general) viewed in tight enough close-up, or indeed from far enough away, the garden can sometime look quite good. When you're in the middle of it, however, you realize the extent to which it's fraying round the edges. However, the fraying sections can wait for Messy Tuesday. I'll continue to pretend a bit longer.

* And tomorrow won't be spent poisoning pigeons in the park either.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Lavenders Blue

Saturday this week saw me in the Sheldonian singing about sheep along with about 150 other people. As this coincided with several meetings my dad had in and around Oxford on Friday, he and mum came down for the weekend arriving on Thursday night, and C and I took Friday off to spend with mum. The plan was to do some serious gardening with my mum acting as consultant whilst we put in a new bed at the front of the house to differentiate our front garden from the (shall we say) somewhat unkempt front lawn of our neighbours.

In spite of a wet start most of Friday was beautiful gardening weather and we made good progress so that the path to the front door is now lined with a proto-hedge of lavender mulched with gravel. Lots of digging which was pretty tiring* but we were pleased with the result.

Egged on by mother, from whom I have inherited my gardening philosophy of "Oh what the hell, try it; if it dies you can always plant something else", we also finally plucked up the courage to split the flag iris that has been threatening to engulf our little pond completely. It is no doubt completely the wrong time of year to do this, but it seemed like the only practical alternative, since later in the season the wretched plant is so big it's practically impossible to get the spade into it. This is it last summer (at the end of the garden in front of the shed). It was as tall as me (probably taller) and filled fully half the pond. After the flowers finished it all fell over sideways and filled the rest of the pond as well.

This is it today in its considerably reduced condition. Fingers crossed that it doesn't turn up its toes! I did feet a bit sorry for the large family of frogs we had to evict in order to do this. They all took refuge next-door, from where we could hear them croaking reproachfully as we attacked their erstwhile home.

Gardening aside, my weekend was mostly taken up with singing. The concert went well, although once again it confirmed the Sheldonian's right to the title of "Most Uncomfortable Arts Venue in Britain" which it was awarded a few years ago. Two people fainted in the first half; there may have been a third but opinion was divided as to whether he was just lying on the floor because he could no longer bear sitting on the narrow planks which pass for seats. Still it's a good place for a standing ovation - everyone's always so glad to have an excuse to get up!

Unfortunately for me the unsuitability of Wren's masterpiece for concerts had dire consequences. Conditions for the performers are not much better than they are for the audience. There are only two dressing-rooms - long, narrow, corridor-like affairs in the basement, each about two metres wide and 12 long. In this space all the members of the 150+-strong choir and most of the orchestra are supposed to change and leave belongings. Needless to say the place is like rugby scrum after the concert with people trying to get in and out and others trying to change at the same time.

I left my bag as close to the door as possible in the hope that I would be able stick my hand round the door and grab it, but when I got there I found someone had knocked it over and half the stuff had fallen out. One lady had her foot caught in the strap of my knitting bag and was dragging it along behind her. Terrified that she would trip and hurt herself I crawled in on my hands and knees, extricated her feet, collected everything (or so I thought) and scarpered, but when I got home, alas and alack, I found that my Twisted Flower Sock pattern, of which I had done no more than 20 rows, was no longer to be found :o(

* C tried manfully to get out of it by finding excuses to be called into work on on two separate occasions, spending a good 3.5 hours of his day off in the office, but he finally relented and came back to help us with the serious digging.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Counter-daffodils and disclaimers

After reading Liz's post honouring Wordsworth and his daffodils, I couldn't resist posting this version which I heard as an undergraduate years ago. No doubt I'm a terrible philistine, but I think I actually prefer it.

The disclaimer is that I'm not 100% sure who wrote it. I think it was a bloke I knew in one of the University clubs called Phil (the bloke, not the club). I can't now remember his surname. It was certainly from him that I heard it and I've never forgotten it, even though he only recited it once. If only my brain was so retentive of useful information!

I wandered, miserable as sin
Through smelly fields and muddy hills,
When all at once I trod right in
A pile of rotting daffodils.
I tried to wipe them off my shoe,
But they it seemed were truly stuck,
And so the fields I wandered through
All smelled of this revolting muck.
I soon espied an arty type,
Gazing at where some live ones stood
And spouting some appalling tripe
About how they made him feel good.
I remonstrated forcibly.
I thumped his head and poked his eye
Demanding he explain to me
Just why these things got him so high.
Said he, "Why Sir, a poet I
Employed in cloudlike wanderings,
When all at once I did espy
This clump of jolly yellow things!".
For giving such an awful quote
I cracked his head against a bough
And shoved the flowers down his throat.
Oh bard, what are your words worth now?

Sorry Liz!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Knit like the wind!

A couple of weeks ago I went to my friend's Hen Party and over dinner her cousin was regaling us with stories of how, when they were young, K (whose parents kept a smallholding) had a sheep by the name of Pottle which was convinced it was a dog. Every time they went out for a walk with the dog, the sheep would insist on tagging along, but its stumpy little legs couldn't keep up, and so she was frequently reduced to carrying it. The picture she painted of K (who is only about 4ft 11) staggering along under the weight of a fully grown Jacob sheep had us all in stitches.

When I got home and saw the pictures of the sheep teacosy Lara's mum had made her I couldn't resist making one for her as a wedding present. Unfortunately however, various complications and mis-timings meant that I didn't get the pattern until last week so it was a close-run thing. But thanks to Felix kindly typing the whole thing out and emailing it to me I finally managed to start it on Tuesday night. I knit one half of the fleece on Wednesday and the other half on Thursday, nearly crippling my fingers on the loop stitch in the process.

The whole thing nearly came to grief after I failed to find any black aran for the head in Oxford, but once again Bluestockings came to the rescue and Ellen kindly supplied me with some ex-dalek which did the trick very nicely. I managed to complete the head and ears on Friday (largely courtesy of a very nice hairdresser who let me knit all the time she was cutting my hair and still only charged me £13!).

I was particularly pleased with the eyes which I managed to pick up from the little knitting shop in Didcot on my way back from the hairdressers (in the process I suspect slightly disconcerting my visiting vegetarian friends by telling them I just had to nip round the corner and buy some sheep's eyes). The little brown eyes give him a suitably sheepish look I think. The lady in the shop offered me larger ones but they were orange which I think might have had an undesirably Satanic effect. Having successfully managed to acquire everything I needed, I just had time to assemble it on Friday evening in time to take to the wedding on the Saturday.

In fact the other part of the present proved far more problematic in the end. The fair trade football we bought them from their wedding list repeatedly demonstrated the cartographer's conundrum - it really is physically impossible to cover a sphere with a flat sheet of paper! It finally ended up looking like some sort of mutant Ferrero Rocher.