Sunday, 13 May 2018

Weekend WIP

With Wonderwool looming and no time to cast on for something new, I went back to something old, with positive results. I finished the other side last weekend, what with the bank holiday and all, and made a start on the sleeve today.

My intention had been to complete the neckline first, as I mentioned back in November, but then I realised that the top of the sleeve forms part of the neckline, so I'm just getting on with it. I'm only doing one at a time, in a break from the norm, but starting two off together when there is short row shaping to create a curved hem was just too much. I am hoping that this will fly past since it's just st-st in the round. Of course, now it's too warm to wear it again, but oh well. I am trying to be strong and not cast on a new linen top for the summer until one sleeve is done, at least. The second sleeve would make good travel knitting.

Weekend FO: Ooo Wonderwoman

It SHOULD have been a weekend FO post three weeks ago, but then I washed it for blocking so I didn't have any pictures, and then, yknow, busy.

Wonderwoman cares nothing about multiple chins!

Pattern: A heavily adapted Julissa (Scoop neck version)
Yarn: John Arbon Knit by Numbers, all half price faulty skeins (except the white which I had to buy full price). I weighed it at the end and it's 425g, so surprisingly economical on the yarn.
Needles: 4mm and 3.75mm
Mods: Well, where to start? Obviously the colourwork is all to my own charts, but even then I didn't exactly follow my own charts and there were various mistakes made that I just fudged my way through.
I modified the design of the sweater with a longer body and a shorter rib; I increased to a larger size after the waist shaping, in what has become my usual pear-shaped practice with top-down sweaters; I basically ignored the sleeve instructions and cast on more stitches than I was meant to, to ensure the drag from the intarsia didn't pinch; I knitted twice as many rows for the neckline as I was meant to, because I wanted to ensure there was no off-the-shoulder slippage.

I am overwhelmingly thrilled with the result. A sweater so long-planned, and it came out as well as I had hoped. There are bits I'd change - maybe I should have tried to intarsia a star on the underside of the sleeves, across the seam; I made a couple of mistakes with the cuffs that I was too lazy to rip back. However, I wore it to Wonderwool and had lots of positive comments, as well as from the lovely cheerleaders at knitting group. So, I think I can chalk it up as a resounding success.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Weeknote: 7/4

I have been putting off the second sleeve but today I finally broke the back of it. I am to the point where the yellow cuff point begins. If I can encourage myself to knit in the evenings this week, it might be a FO post next weekend.

Going to:
I've been all over the place this past week.

I started in Italy, on the last day of the ski trip, packing and leaving, travelling through France, taking the ferry out of Dunkirk after a long and boring wait, entertained by Carl and Reece, our bickering drivers who left us at Cobham, and finally home. This marks ski trip number 10 that I have organised. I am now a total pro at sleeping on coaches.

On Monday I went to work out with Jenny and we did arms for the first time in months.

On Tuesday, I took the National Express to London. I stayed in an AirBnB near Covent Garden and followed the tourist trail for three days. Highlights:

The Charles I exhibition at the Royal Academy. Included portraits of him and art collected by him and his wife, Henrietta Maria. This included some miniatures of the Tudor court that have become ubiquitous, at least for students of the Tudors, which I quite enjoyed looking at.

The Tower of London. Traitors' Gate and the spot where Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and the Earl of Essex were executed. The Crown Jewels - a long queue, but worth seeing.

Rather creepily, that woodwork at the top was installed for Anne Boleyn's coronation, and then 4 years later she was rowed through this gate to her execution. 

St Dunstans-in-the-East, a derelict church with a lovely garden near the Tower of London. I happened to walk past it. Founded in Saxon times. Destroyed by the Great Fire, its own rebuilding and the Blitz. I think it has earned its peaceful existence.

The Mithraeum. A hidden treasure. An ancient Roman temple revealed by WW2 bombing and restored underneath a large city office block. It's free and a quick visit, but stunningly presented: we entered in the dark; the room was then flooded with light smoke and strong downlights created an echo of how the walls would have formed the space.

A wander through Postman's Park, full of plaques commemorating heroic deeds - mostly small children flinging themselves into big waters to save friends and family.

On was the way there I came across part of the original Roman city wall. It astonishes me that I lived in London for four years, studied history in it, yet remained oblivious to these sites.

Charterhouse, near the Barbican. Site of the demise of the Carthusians during Henry VIII's reign - a particularly brutal episode immortalised in a set of woodcuts that often pop up, without adequate provenance, to demonstrate medieval torture and execution. It has a plague skeleton and a very nice cafe.

I attempted to go to Westminster Abbey on Thursday, but the queue was an hour long and there was a sign saying no large backpacks, so I just hung around in the sunshine, had some lunch and got the bus home.

I also squeezed in dinner with university friend Burhan and school friend Sarah. Burhan reminded me we've known each other nearly half our lives, which made me feel old, but Sarah and I concluded that we could have said the same at the age of 10 (having met when we were 5) so it's clearly not an indication of age.

I spent Friday at school, Doing All The Things, and went knitting today. I am almost ready to go back to work. Almost.

Some more about the Tudors, of course, with all the touring. They get everywhere.

Of the new Penguin monarch biographies. There was an epic display of them in the Piccadilly Waterstones. I tweeted about it and acclaimed historian Helen Castor tweeted back, followed me and we had a conversation. Amazing.

Some good London haunts: I had breakfast at Balthazar on Covent Garden, which is undoubtedly a tourist trap but served lovely eggs and seemed to be crawling with business people. Sarah and I ate at Champagne Charlie's which has an excellent wine list. I had tawny port for the first time. It was very tasty.

I also went to Fortnum and Mason for the first time and spent far too much in their chocolate department. Had to chuckle at their plastic bag sign. "We don't charge for our plastic bags as their composition means they are not considered disposable." They feel pretty plastic to me. Pretty sure that's just code for, "We're the Queen's grocer so you can do one."

On Friday night I made turkey tetrazzini for dinner, from this recipe. Considering how ordinary the ingredients are, it was surprisingly tasty. I didn't have any parmesan or cream cheese, so I substituted with iberico and le roule, thus using up almost the last of the Christmas cheese. Go me.

Entertained by:
I've been trying to read Fire and Fury which I picked up on the way to skiing, but it's not very well written and I can't get into it. I've also been trying to read Talking to my Daughter about the Economy, by Yanis Varoufakis, which was supposed to be my book club Easter read (I picked book club as my wellbeing activity for inset day because they cancelled Airhop), but it might be a bit simplistic because I can't get into that either.

The book winner of the week is Why I'm not longer talking to white people about race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Here's an extract. It's very readable and is giving me a better understanding of the struggles my students face. It is also making me think about privilege in all its forms.

It's been a relaxing week off and I feel rested, but I can't help but feel a sense of foreboding about the next few months. Big, big work to do, and lots of it. I tried to cheer myself up by booking a summer holiday with Mr Z, but it just creates a deadline where there was not previously one.

Ah well. Let's get the hatches battened. Onwards.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Weekend WIP

This is a progress update from last weekend, really. I have finished a sleeve and woven in 7000 ends - just one more sleeve to go.

Now I see it on, I wonder if I needed a slightly thicker blue rib at the bottom of the body...but it is at the longest it could be, really. The sleeve is also slightly longer than I intended, but actually, the red star hits the perfect spot as it is.

Now just the second sleeve to go. Unfortunately I didn't really keep any notes from the first sleeve, so it's going to be interesting.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Weeknote: 24/3

This week I have been mostly...

No. I haven't done any knitting. I have been busy prepping for the ski trip, for which I leave later today.

I did knock up a Wonderwoman outfit for skiing, though. I managed to find some craft foam and a reddish top enormous enough to go over my ski jacket. And I've got my new backpack to finish it off.

Going to: 
I started the week in London, at another exam board meeting. It was one of those slightly painful meetings where we didn't really solve any of our problems, but just came to a realisation about what problems needed solving. I'm trying not to be worried about the summer series but...

I went to see Matthew Bourne's Cinderella with Parpy Jo, Paul and Paul's housemate on Wednesday. We had front row upper balcony seats, so a very good view.

On Thursday, I had dinner with my old university housemate, Emilia. We haven't seen each other since 2012 and she now has a 5 year old son. She's extremely academic and I usually end up having to look things up after we've had dinner, which is sort of nice.

Entertained by:
The ballet was really very good. It was Cinderella, set in the Blitz. The costumes were all in monochrome, so it had this soft-focus, wartime romance film feel to it. In fact, there were lots of little flourishes in that vein - Ginger Rogersesque flicks of the hands, a nod to the beach scene in From Here To Eternity (I thought). The stepmother was particularly good.

The bird feeder has had a lot of visitors this week. Today there was a group of goldfinches dominating the seed feeder. Not a great picture, but at one point there were three together.

I've been re-reading Annie Proulx's short stories, Fine Just The Way It Is, and enjoying rediscovering those.

Soooooo excited about skiing! Leaving in two hours!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Weekend WIP

Sorry for being absent for all of February but all my words were being poured into Word files for my new book, which is finally finished (in first draft). Three things:

1. Writing a book about your own practice is flipping hard. I was regularly paralysed by imagined scenes of people sneering, 'I can't believe she wrote that, how vapid/obvious/stupid/damaging/wrong!' I had to keep telling myself, in the style of JK Rowling, that as long as they'd bought it and I had their money, it didn't matter what they said. And as my friend ('friend') Lizzy said on the phone yesterday, I've already got a job I love...subtext, it doesn't matter if I ruin my professional reputation. Cheers then.
(She didn't mean it like that. She's lovely really.)

2. I knew I would leave it until the last minute and even with that knowledge, and working hard to mitigate against it, I did. I had 21,000 words by half term. 31,000 words by the end of half term. 43,000 words by yesterday. So, between contracting and deadline, it took me seven and a half months to write the first half, and three weeks to write the second. I am coming to the conclusion that I'm never going to be able to change this about myself.

3. Thank heavens for snow days. What I mess I would have been in without them.

Anyway. Onto the point of the blog. I have been working on my (Ooo) Wonderwoman jumper when my schedule permits. I managed to finish the body and the neckline during the Olympics, so just the sleeves to go.

Please ignore my utterly foul carpet. I know what new flooring I want, I just need to get round to buying it and finding someone to fit it. No I'm not doing it myself.

I'm really quite pleased with my work. I had to make the neckline about double the recommended width and it is still quite low, but I think it works for the style.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018


I've had one of those stupid 10 day events that occurs every so often in my working life. A four day marking meeting in London, followed immediately by a three day training event in Birmingham, followed immediately by a two day tour of the Battlefields with 38 teenagers. Around the middle of this sequence I came down with a horrible cough and so found myself huddled, napping on the coach as the students toured the site of Ypres in the capable hands of my colleagues. I was grateful to get home on Saturday night, but knew something was wrong, thanks to Mr Z's odd silence.

Very sadly, he had to take the mitten to be put down on Friday night. She had a saddle embolism which had cut the blood supply to her back legs. By the time he got home from his 4 day London meeting, 20 minutes after Sib Z had been in for the evening feeding, she was crouched between the radiator and the sofa, unable to move, and had wet herself. He took her to the emergency vets where a very tearful young woman gave him the bad news.

Her most recent favourite sleep spot.

I am really very sad. She was a present from someone in my first year 11 class and she's been with us for nearly 14 years. On Thursday night, when I did her eye drops, I petted her under the chin until she was sitting almost nose to nose with me, purring on my face, and I thought, 'You're not long for this world' because she would never normally let me have moments like that.

Well, she knew what she was about. She was almost 14, almost blind and had been off her food for a few weeks, so perhaps she really did know. I'm quite grateful it wasn't drawn out longer, but I am so sorry she is gone. Rest in peace, mitten. I hope there are endless bad-at-flying baby robins wherever you are now.