Saturday, 7 April 2018

Weeknote: 7/4

Knitting:
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.

Learning:
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.


Eating:
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.

Feeling:
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...

Knitting:
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.

Feeling:
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

Tragedy

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. 

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Weeknote: 7/1

Knitting:

I managed to put a lot of rows onto (Ooo) Wonderwoman earlier in the week...indeed, it was all I could do to drag myself away from the project to do some much-needed work. You've seen the update in the previous post, so I won't say any more about it. I was very tempted to cast on a massive snuggly jumper in my leftover Lopi, after reading a KAL thread on Ravelry, but managed to resist the temptation.

Going to:

It was back to work on Wednesday, but (whisper it quietly) it's always something of a relief to get back to the routine after the Christmas holidays. I find them really chaotic.

I went and got my nails done in a new-to-me place. I couldn't manage the timing of an appointment at my usual salon. Well, they did a neat job of the manicure but I can't say the experience was wholly enjoyable. It smelled very strongly of nail chemicals and didn't seem to be very clean. The man (first time it's ever been a man) was working on me and another client at the same time, and was quite scruffy. And didn't talk - at least not to me. Made me realise how spoilt I've been with my usual salon.

On Friday I got the train the Sheffield to see Jen and celebrate her 40th birthday. We drank a LOT of Prosecco cocktails and danced around the kitchen to the greatest hits of our youth. It was a lot of fun.



I think we'd worked through 11 bottles of Prosecco between 6 of us by the end of the night. Strong work. The best cocktail included ginger wine and lime juice.

Entertained by:

I've been listening to a few more Joe Rogan podcasts. They're very long but really interesting. This weekend I listened to a Russell Brand one and a Megan Phelps Roper one - she's the granddaughter of the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, who left the church 4 years ago. Really interesting.

Over the end of the holidays I managed to finished watching the second season of Victoria - really enjoy this, although it is a bit revisionist in places, I fear. I'm not convinced the Queen's dresser would have manumitted 20 slaves instead of selling them and retiring, due to having a social conscience; but it may be true.

The other thing we watched last week was Mindhunter on Netflix. Creepy and quite disturbing, but compelling. Looking forward to the next series of that.

Feeling:

Keyed up. January has a crazy busy 10 days in the middle of it, during which I have to set 6 days of cover back to back. It's been about 7 years since I last had to do that. I'm looking forward to all the bits of the crazy 10 days, but I find myself slightly on edge about getting everything organised in time; this is made even worse by the looming book deadline. I'm making myself write 500 words a day, which seems to be working so far. If I can keep it up, I should be done on time.

Weekend WIP

Oooo! Wonderwoman. She continues apace.


I doggedly knit the colourwork on this all the way to Sheffield on the train and then most of Saturday afternoon while I hung out at Jen's, waiting for her 40th birthday party to start (like, how are we so old now?)


On the train home I knit the extra red rows on the back so I could join in the round, and here we are. It's all red from here, possibly with a blue ribbing band at the bottom. I've toyed with the idea of adding yellow around the waist, in the style of a belt, but I worry that the red would look a bit odd continued underneath, and I've got to stop being so literal about it. This is not her outfit. It is in the style of her outfit.

I am really thrilled with it so far. Some of my stars might need fixing with some Swiss darning but it's turning out better than I expected. I think I have been putting it off for so long in part because I didn't think it would look as good as I'd hoped, so it is a relief that the fear was unfounded. So far, at least.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Blue Monday

I took this out of the car window on the way back to LA from Vegas in October (hence the weird reflection thing). It's near the state line and we've driven past it a few times and always wondered what it was.



This time I had internet access, so I looked it up. It's essentially a sun farm. The panels on the ground are mirrors, all reflecting the sun to the central tower, causing it to heat up to a dizzying temperature and drive steam turbines, which generate electricity. Pretty cool, huh? It's called Ivanpah, and I think it might be the biggest of its kind in the world, though I can't remember where I read that.

We've only driven past it in the evening, previously, which is why I was so confused about what the towers were for. There's not mistaking what they're for in the daylight. You can't even look directly at them.