Friday 31 October 2008

Bad history

I've nearly finished my latest writing project for the revision company, but I am having a problem getting started on the last chapter. This audiobook is all about the struggle for between the Native Americans and the white Americans for domination of the Plains, and today I've written chapters on the Battle of Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee and all the other horrific acts of genocide which were committed during the 19th century, and I've found it all quite depressing, really.

Now, I have to write a chapter about the army commanders who were responsible, and I don't want to. I don't want to give them a place in history. They were bloodthirsty, and arrogant, and they were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. They attacked camps while they were flying flags of surrender, while they were sleeping, while they were disarmed and vulnerable. And even when they lost - like Custer - they were turned into martyrs and their deaths avenged a hundred times over. Why should their story ever be told?

Something I find interesting about this feeling of outrage I am feeling - when I teach about the British Empire and all the unspeakable acts that were committed in the name of it, I have no trouble in laying bare Britain's most shameful histories, and I think it's important to do that, because I want to be sure I've done everything in my power to prevent any of those thins from happening again and education is the best way I know to do that. When it comes to the history of another country, however, I am quite squeamish about telling it.

Why is that, I wonder?

Sunday 26 October 2008

Fall back - let's use the extra hour for blogging

Henry's going to be OK! The man in the garage said it was a close thing, but due to the credit crunch small, economical cars like him are in high demand and when he looked up the price I'd have got on Autotrader they realised it would work out cheaper to fix. Yeyyy! He will be back good as new in a couple of weeks - I can't believe it's going to take so long, but apparently they don't keep such parts as boot floors in stock. I hope they are giving me a new tailgate, because the old one was a bit rusty.

Meanwhile, I have The Beast (tm) from the hire car folks. It's only a Corsa, so I suppose it's not that big, but it does feel a bit like driving a tank in comparison to my ickle Ka. It is diesel too and I'm not enjoying driving it at ALL. Within 2 miles of the dealership, I pulled into the kerb to take a phone call and scraped the hub cap. I have no notion of how big it is.

I am also a bit worried since Henry will be MOTless by the time I get him back and so I'll have to give the hire car back and then get all the MOT stuff done which is going to make life tough, especially since this might happen while I'm away in Prague. This will all be explained, in detail, on the statement I'm making to the solicitors and I'm hoping the insurance company will let me keep the hire car for a few extra days. All the effort I've made to keep my MOT date in the school holidays, come to naught.

Mother Hand, incidentally, named him Henry, since he is a Ford, and he's black. "Any colour as long as it's black Henry," she said. I never call the car by its name. But since it got damaged, it has taken on a personality in my mind.

My neck is feeling a lot better, although it gets quite stiff by the end of the day and I can't turn my head to the right properly yet without it hurting, and I'm also having some lower back pain. Not happy. I also had to cancel my plans to visit Sian in Warrington next week because I don't want to drive The Beast any distance. Last time I had a hire car after an accident was when I fetched the mitten from her old home to bring her home, and I was so busy cooing at her through the bars on the cat carrier that I took my foot off the brake, rolled into the car in front and ended up having to claim the (minimal) damage on my own insurance. Cue enormous raise in premium, and a long-lasting fear of driving hire cars. I like to think I'm not that stupid anymore, but, as was proved this week, it's not my own stupidity I need to worry about.

I probably shouldn't have told the woman off, though. She was obviously quite shaken as well. I think my teacher persona takes over when I'm in shock.

It's the holidays now, thank goodness! I'm exhausted. I've got a lot of work to do but mostly fun stuff like writing new schemes of work and scripts for the GCSE website. They want me to do the unit I teach and examine next, which I'm really pleased about. There are hardly any revision materials for it out there, and it will also mean a new TV or a big chunk off the credit card or something.

I promised mitten pictures but I want them to have a fresh post!
(As it turns out, the mittens post published before this one which will only go on as scheduled - perhaps because of the time shift? I am curious to see if it shoes up before or after the mittens post!)

Thrum, th-thrum thrum thrum

I'm not looking especially lush in this picture. It was taken late in the evening in the last week of term and I was wearing a thermal because it's been cold and I refused to put the heating on until yesterday. Those are my excuses, anyway.

Pattern: Thrummed mittens from the Yarn Harlot's Thrum-a-long
Needle: 3.25mm and 4mm DPNs
Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted in azul; thrums are 100% new wool tops for felting by a brand called Filz-It. Not especially soft, but a gorgeous colour, very warm, not scratchy.....a perfect yarn for my first attempt at thrumming.
Mods: I did a K1P1 rib on the cuff, instead of a 2x2. This was only because I started off using a different pattern. I wish I had used a slightly larger needle because the cuffs are pretty snug.
I cheated and didn't thrum properly, as detailed in a previous post.

I love them. Really, really. I am looking forward to wearing them in Prague, and hoping they will cut the mustard as skiing mittens. Perhaps I should look into treating them with something to make them more waterproof.

I moved straight on to a pair of Evangelines in the other skein of Malabrigo I bought, which is variegated blues and greens. I nearly finished the first one today whilst watching the first 8 episodes of Big Love on TV On Demand. Big Love is good! Kind of creepy in parts. Also I can't decide how I feel about Chloe Sevigny and her character is making me swing towards the negative feeling.

Anyway, there must be many blue accessories because I bought this coat yesterday and I'm waiting for it to arrive. Boden! Loves it. Not quite as lovable as that amazing spotty coat I was lusting over in the summer, but a fair whack cheaper and, according to reviews on the website, warmer and more suitable to winter. I am not a big coat wearer, so I thought I'd better really go for it if I was going to shell out for one. My very naughty friend Parpy Jo told me I should buy both and send back the one I don't like, but that was disaster lies.

I realised I never made a post about my finished swing jacket. That might be because, when it was first finished, I didn't much care for it. However, having had a few wears of it since, I realise how well it suits me, how warm it is, and how pleased I am with it. Still, I only have a rubbish picture I took on my mobile in the bathroom before I'd even woven in the ends. I'm waiting for a fine day so we can have a photo shoot. There's been some gorgeous autumn foliage which would look lovely in the background, but it may have all gone in the last round of high winds and toreential rains. I heard that the Original Mountain Marathon in the Lake District this weekend had to be called off and hundreds of the participants are stranded. Not a good weekend to be a fell runner. Hope everyone's OK.

Wednesday 22 October 2008


I had a car accident yesterday. I was waiting to pull across one of the extremely busy roundabouts near my house, and the woman behind me thought I'd already gone and smashed into the back of my car.

Poor Henry.

(I always see people blank out their car registrations when they put car pics on the web so I have too, though I don't really know why.)

It felt like she hit me at 100 miles an hour but she was pulling out so it can't have happened at any speed. I was standing on the road looking dumbly at the damage and there were coins falling on it, and I couldn't understand where they were coming from. They seemed to be coming from me. It wasn't until I got back in my car that I realised the force of the impact had shunted all the pennies off the coin tray and most of them had landed in the turn ups on my new trousers.

I had to take the day off work to go to the doctor because my neck is quite sore. Henry's being fetched to the garage for an assessment tomorrow and hopefully someone will ring me about a hire car very soon - I can't believe I am still waiting. I am currently panicking that the damage will cost more than the car is worth and the insurance company will insist on scrapping it. I finish paying off the loan for it next month. Le sigh.

Luckily it won't affect my no claims since she's admitted liability, but the car was due for its MOT on Monday and I've had to reschedule that, and it's just generally a Bad Thing. I can't do the make up for Highsicle Musical at school this week like I was meant to. Today's lessons would have been a write off, even with the cover I set, and they included double year 12 and double year 11 who can barely afford to miss the time. I couldn't do any work last night so, in spite of working for almost the entire weekend I am now behind on the coursework and may have to bring marking home over half term.

Hrmph. Bah. Grrr.

I have new mittens, though. I'll put those in a separate post when Mr Z gets home and tells me where he's put the pictures. I finished them on Monday night and they're extremely snug.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled

...and the silk inside the chestnut shell.

I remember thinking those lines didn't make great sense when singing that hymn at school, so perhaps I was singing it wrong then, and it's wrong now. Why was there a line about jet planes waiting in the air to be refuelled? Does that only happen in the autumn?

Well, it's autumn, anyway. It smelled very autumnal last week, the way the air smells when somebody might be having a bonfire many streets away and you can ALMOST smell the woodsmoke....but not quite.

I have managed to hold out in my resolve not to switch the heating on before the end of September this year. In fact, the heating still hasn't been switched on. I attribute this to the amazing toastiness of Bunnyland now that the loft insulation has been augmented, and the cavities have been stuffed with foam. There may be brick dust over everything. There may be unsightly cement-coloured spots all over the house where they didn't even attempt to paint over the holes they made. I may be nearly £400 poorer. But I am certainly warmer, and that's the important thing.

I can live an extravagant life now, you know, since I am sort of a published writer. I didn't think they would name me on the website, especially since they gave me a fat payment for the work and I don't get any kind of royalty, but it seems my name will be attached to this project everywhere it goes, which might some day include Amazon. There'll be something I wrote for sale on Amazon, how exciting is that?! Much like that nonsensical hymn, it takes me right back to my primary school dreams of being a successful authoress in my later years.

In the spirit of keeping warm, I am working on these thrummed mittens from the Yarn Harlot. I don't read her blog. I like bloggers who write a couple of times a week at most, and am not terribly good at keeping up with anything more frequent. Hey, if I've got the time to be reading someone else's blog I'd rather be writing in my own, right?

Anyway. Mitten!

And the crazy inside view...

They're so much fun. I'm totally cheating on the thrums, though. There's this crazy idea floating around knitting websites that thrums have to be pulled gently from their fellow fibres, teased and fluffed, made into loops, lightly felted between the fingers to seal the ends, and then twisted. NEWSFLASH! There are over 160 thrums in this mitten. So many, I ran out of roving. If I spend all that time making the thrums, the mittens are never going to be finished. They felt together when you're wearing the mittens anyway - this process was already under way, just from me agitating by turning the mitt inside out to look at them. So, they aren't going to fall out. The ones at the top I knotted to make sure. It was much quicker - I just cut the roving and knitted pieces in.

I'm sure I'm going to that special level of hell reserved for knitters who don't follow the proper processes, but since I always do a gauge swatch for any kind of garment I figure that buys me some good karma.

I suppose, also, that it's not traditional to do thrums this way. However, traditionally thrums were fleece coloured: they were simply undyed pieces of unspun fleece, all full of lanolin for waterproofing. So, using brightly coloured roving is already breaking the tradition. Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.

I shall report back on how the thrums hold up to constant use. I'm going to Prague with school in 3 weeks, so I'll have the chance to try them out in the proper cold....assuming I finish the second one, anyway.

The Big Hat Project is also well under way. For some strange reason, I said I'd knit all my tutor group hats for Christmas. I must have been on crack that day or something - there are 22 of them. I'm onto hat number 5. They don't take very long, luckily - I'm using double stranded DK and 6mm DPNs so they only take about 3 hours. It's tough to find 3 hours together sometimes, but I always have knitting club.

Hopefully by the next time I update, we'll have a sink in the kitchen again. We haven't had a kitchen since the last week in August. I've sort of forgotten what it's like to cook a proper meal and not have to drain my pasta in the garden and wash up in the bath. Thankfully we finally have a floor and walls again now. Father Z laid all but about 3 inches of the new floor 2 weeks ago. Around midnight, Mr Z heard some weird banging from the kitchen, but couldn't see what it was. This happened 3 times - each time, the noise stopped when he went out there. About 10 minutes later, the cat emerged. How she'd got down the gap, we'll never know, but she was a uniform filthy grey for a week after.

We were slightly concerned the next day when Father Z finished the floor and commented that he hadn't seen the cat all day, but luckily she was hiding under the bed.