Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Post-Christmas, Pre-New Year

This was me and Meg having a quiet few moments yesterday afternoon/early evening. It's been such a busy, sociable few days and I feel I've neglected my little ginger friend. So it was such a treat to sit quietly on the couch with her yesterday having a cuddle, while I read one of my new books, Death Comes to Pemberley.

Pride and Prejudice is probably my favourite book of all time. There are others I absolutely adore and champion, but Pride and Prejudice is the only one I re-read at least once a year. As a model of how to write a good narrative it is fairly faultless. Plot and character development drive on at a fair speed and there is very little fat to the story at all. And then Jane Austen's wonderful sentence construction - again, she writes so succinctly with no superfluous words. I often re-read particular paragraphs a few times as they are so well-written and so moving. 

So, when I discovered that PD James was writing a murder-mystery sequel I just had to have it. I'm almost halfway through Death Comes to Pemberley. It's an easy read, and, much as I want to love it, it isn't quite what I thought it would be. The part I've just read spent a long time repeating judicial information. And she hasn't quite pitched the characters of Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane and Bingley right. Of course it's a monumental task to take another writer's characters who are so well-drawn and develop them further.

But, I will continue with an open mind, and yesterday it occurred to me that if I was reading it as a standalone book then I would enjoy it for its own sake. So that's the spirit I'll continue reading it in.

When people asked what to get me for Christmas this year I directed them to my Amazon wish list. Part of my grumble about Christmas is that people spend a lot of money on each other buying gifts that no one wants. And when I am choosing what to get people I don't like to feel I'm wasting my money on gifts they won't get full use out of. It ripples out further to waste in the world in general BUT this isn't a post about that.

So I was very pleased to receive the above books from people who had shopped from my Amazon wish list. The Andrew Motion book wasn't on my wish list but the others were (I'm happy to receive books that people think I might like too).

I put the Julian Barnes on my wish list after reading a comment an old friend made on her Twitter page about it. She is also a writer and there is promise of a clever ending. I'm totally in awe of all things Sarah Waters so I'll look forward to reading Affinity, and The Bag Making Bible is for my creative side.
I love all things stationery, and already have Postcards from Penguin. So I was excited to see the Postcards from Ladybird series too. Although I like the concept of Postcards from Penguin, quite a lot of the 100 postcards weren't to my taste, so there are cards in the box I would never display or send anyone.

However, Postcards from Ladybird is terrific! I like every one of the 100 postcards. The above selection are the Ladybird books I had as a child. I'm sure I had more, but these are the covers I had on my books. A couple of years ago I discovered two or three of the original books in an Oxfam shop and bought them. Of course, my mother had given away all of my books! 
I love the range of subjects they cover. Educational and entertaining. And I remember the books I had were so beautifully illustrated.
A bit of gender-stereotyping going on in the 'People at Work' series but it was the 70s.
I could easily have photographed them all as examples of greatness. I particularly love the 'Fireworks' book cover. Not quite sure what is going on with the boy in wellingtons, shorts, tweed jacket and hat with that indeterminate creature in front of him! I would like to have all of these books now.
And as a final note: this piece of fabric arrived in the post for me today from my friend Angelique who lives in Denver Colorado. She has recently bought into a fabric/wool shop there and when we met up in Edinburgh a couple of months ago we discovered we are both fans of Lara Cameron's designs. 

It totally cheered me up and now sits behind my laptop so I can admire it as I work.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Well I belatedly got into the Christmas spirit. And had a really good three days. We visited Hagos's mum on Christmas Eve, my parents and family on Christmas Day and the Burnses on Boxing Day. Above is a short video of the boys playing Monopoly yesterday. It's highly competitive, and there was a Monopoly game a few years ago when the Burnses had rented a cottage near where we lived in Norfolk and once the little boys were in bed the adults played Monopoly and after 26 years of friendship we were on the brink of falling out over it! :) We laugh about it now, of course.

I've really enjoyed seeing so many people and having a good sociable time. And it's been lovely to be able to come home at the end of each day and be in our own house, with Meg. And driving comparatively short distances.

I'm keen to get onto the next round of making stuff. Lots of ideas. And maybe better planning throughout the year.

Goodwill to all.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This time of year

I struggle with this time of year. Or, I struggle with the expectations and consumption surrounding Christmas. I could go on about it for paragraphs, but I'll focus on the positives of what I do like instead.

I am only making two lots of Christmas presents this year. Possibly a third one will get made, depending on the time. Above is a necklace I made for my niece. I love the colours and think it is quite striking. I don't often make jewellery any more so it was fun to put this together. I hope she likes it. 
And these little shoes for my nephew's daughter. They still have to be sewn together but I've chosen the buttons and rose-decorations.
There are lots of things I do like about the festive season: this weekend we are hosting a Christmas singalong, where those who can play an instrument accompany everyone else while they sing. And I like Christmas Day where I get to be with my husband and parents and sister etc and play games, have dinner together and see my great-nephews and -niece. 

I find buying Christmas presents for people difficult though. Maybe because it's all done in one go. I like giving presents when I know I've found a present for someone they will actually like. And I hate that feeling of just buying anything to fulfil the expectation. And when I receive presents in that vein too. It's a waste. Yes, I dislike waste. And expectation. And duty. On that cheery note... :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Snow, bridges, rivers, birthdays, knitting and buttons

We've had two days of snow around here in Edinburgh this week. And one day of such stormy weather that we didn't leave the house after 10.30am!
Hagos and I found this little bridge across the river near where we live. It was great fun exploring the other side (more to be discovered).
Hagos on the bridge. We've both had colds this week. Hagos got his as soon as he returned from tour. And I came down with it on Friday evening. Saturday and Sunday were bad, and I expect today to be the last of it, though Hagos still has a bit of it left over.
When I woke up to the snow the other day I just had to get out in it straightaway with my camera before anyone else was out. I felt like the boy in The Snowman. I put on my wellies and my coat over my pyjamas. It was great.
Three and a half hours later our neighbours dropped in as they'd seen my footprints in the snow. Hagos and I were still in our pyjamas, trying to smooth down our hair and look semi-respectable for visitors. Their baby, Archie (6 months) had on his little santa hat and a pair of Rudolf slippers. Very Christmassy.
I love the composition in the above shot.
And this was Sunday at Pete and Lynsey's house. Lynsey had organised a brunch for Pete's birthday. Above are Hagos and Nate. Hagos is guessing what characteristics Nate's school friends may have based on their names. 

It was lovely to catch up with other friends there too and work on persuading them to join our new pub quiz on Tuesday night, resurrecting an old tradition when we used to live in Highgate, London. The pub quiz was run/frequented by people who worked at Private Eye and it was SO difficult. Our friend Kev, who is now also back living in Edinburgh was in our team, along with other regular members Mac and Janie. Good fun. 
And these are the only Christmas gifts I'm knitting this year. Little bootees for my nephew's new daughter Lucy. They're satisfying to knit as they can be done while a cat is sitting on me (anytime I sit on the couch) and are finished fairly quickly.
A second pair, which I'm hoping the mum will see as purple rather than blue. Some people are funny about gender/colour-dressing. The buttons alongside it are possibilities. 
And it was nice to go through my novelty button collection, which I haven't done for ages. 

Well, it is almost half five in the morning. I got up at 4am needing a Lemsip. I really don't like Lemsip but have had a lot of them in the past few days. Meg is all over me, trying to get me to give her more roast chicken, stamping on my laptop, biting me.

I started re-reading The Night Watch by Sarah Waters when I went to bed last night. My friend Sophie sent me a text on Saturday saying she was reading Fingersmith and described Waters as 'devastatingly good'. And it's true. She is a blisteringly good writer. Affinity is on my Amazon Wishlist, and I ordered Fingersmith myself. I would love to observe her working methods for a month. And be her friend :)

Saturday, December 03, 2011

A meditative drive

This is The Devil's Beeftub, which I drive through on the way to my parents' house. I absolutely love the drive; I make myself a cappuccino and today I listened to the radio adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster (on CD - live radio reception drops out for most of the trip). PG Wodehouse has such a silly sense of humour, he's great.  
These photos don't capture the grandeur of the hills and the sweeping 360 degrees scenery. Often, the mist is so low it skims the hills. The entirety of the drive is a sort of meditation. 
Also lining the road, which I didn't photograph, lots of Christmas trees, so very apt :)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Wool porn

I had coffee today with my friend Lynsey, who I recently knitted mittens for. I loved the dark, charcoaly-black of hers so much that it made me rethink the pair I'd been knitting for myself (one mitten finished in purple and green). So after coffee I went into town as I had to change up some Euros anyway, and popped into John Lewis while I was there. 

I was immediately drawn to the above wool, mostly because of the yolky-ness of the yellow ball, but also because it is so amazingly soft (75% wool / 25% alpaca). And I knew I just had to have it! And of course, there was no point buying one ball of yolky-yellow wool, so I bought two black balls too and will knit them into my new winter scarf.
I also bought a ball of the charcoaly-black Pure Wool 4 ply to use with my leftover, similar yellow 4 ply wool and will knit them into my new mittens, to match the scarf.

I'm not sure what I'll use to make a new hat, but I have some leftover wool in my stash that might do. 
And this is Meg tonight. She is so sweet. I think part of the reason I'm drawn towards those gorgeous honey-yellow colours is because Meg's colouring is in that part of the spectrum.