To The Wire

Wow but it’s been tense this last week. I live in the UK, but it feels like the whole world has been awaiting the results of the US election.

I am so relieved, just so relieved, that Biden and Kamala won. I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, despite Trump’s blustery tweets (which seem to have gone very, very quiet this weekend).

There is of course a lot to deal with now, including how on earth it was such a close race.

Ho hum. I do have a lot more thoughts on this particular subject, but not sure it’s appropriate to share them right now, as there are a lot of people who will not be at all happy with the election result.

So what’s been going on here? at our house? well, I have a niece who is 40 years old today. Lockdown celebration of course, and her sister collated video messages from family and friends which she’s made into a delightful mixture. It’s just so lovely.

And last Sunday hubby had a birthday, so I made him a chocolate cake. Dairy free of course. It was, even though I say it myself, absolutely delicious. I baked it on the Saturday, but we couldn’t wait until the actual birthday to start on it, so we had some on Saturday . . . . And on Sunday evening, just before national lockdown, we went to Lambs of Sheep Street in Stratford upon Avon, which is a fabulous restaurant we go to regularly. Excellent. Hubby had steak, I had duck. Delicious. Then we went home and ate some more chocolate cake . . .

Then hubby’s very old MiniMac computer started playing up. It had Ubuntu installed on it, because one of the iOS updates broke it. At least Windows will tell you if an update is inappropriate (usually). But even with Ubuntu, it was failing. So now he has a Lenovo with an SSD. Runs like the wind. But it arrived with no DVD drive in it. I am in correspondence with Lenovo (We bought it direct from them) to find out why. I’d like them to send me the drive and I can fit it. I also want to know why the guarantee has only 8 months left on it, as we bought it this week. Hmph.

I’ve been sleeping a lot. I mean A Lot. Yesterday I woke at 2.30 pm, today I got up, had breakfast, and went back to bed again. Woke at 12.30, so I was able to at least shower and dress before hubby’s afternoon ziz.

All the Xmas presents are ready to be wrapped, labelled and parcelled up, but I just don’t have the oomph to actually do it. I’m intending to do it in stages, it’s just too much altogether otherwise. Even so. Maybe tomorrow morning. Our main postal service has started collecting parcels from your house, so that will help a lot.

Finally found some jeans I like. John Lewis. Yeah. The thing is, because they’re brand spanking new, it feels odd to wear them round the house! so I haven’t yet. But I will I’m sure when I’m feeling a bit more Rah! Rah!

Decided I would crochet some face / wash cloths, so am awaiting some lovely variegated yarn (Rainbow Cotton from Hobbii). It’ll make a change from knitting and won’t take long. Am awaiting a grandson’s measurements from his mum before I can continue knitting the jumper I started. Apparently he’s had a growth spurt, and is all arms and legs. Not sure I want to knit something that (a) he may not choose to wear and (b) won’t fit him even if he does adopt it. Hence the crochet project idea.

Yule.

Pretty pleased with this, to be honest. It’s all gone. We had family round on Saturday night, and it fed six people, then a slice each for hubby and me on Sunday. The little robins had to go in the bin, though. Tried washing them. Didn’t go well. Need to do something different next year . . .

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Progress

Well. We had a leylandii hedge in the front garden dug up and the stumps ground out. I want to replant the area with Photinia Red Robin next spring, but need to get rid of the ivy first. So I’ve had a go at it but had to stop in the end. Looking better though. I can’t believe how deep the ivy roots go! next step,  when the ground is drier, is special strong ivy weedkiller. Mm.

Meanwhile, today I’ve cooked a Yule Log. My first ever. It’s cooling as I type, and I’ll make the filling soon and freeze it filled. I’ll ice it just before it’s served. We shall see.

I never, or at least hardly ever, knit more than one project at a time. However, I’m currently knitting Rowan’s “Whelk“, which is complicated, but I’m managing. So I need something mindless that I can do while watching TV (though I can’t knit at all when it’s subtitled and in a language I don’t speak – Swedish, say, or Danish!). I’m doing Sunny Baby Blanket by Lucy Sinkler. It’s the fourth one I’ve done, and they are lovely. Lots of stitch markers in both projects (colour coded in Whelk . . .) or I’d never cope!

Sunny Baby Blanket. Yarn – Style Batik Purple Mist. More grey than blue.

 

Whelk. Yarn: Rowan 100% Superwash Wool – Moonstone so very pale grey rather than blue.

Also need to finish wrapping and labelling the Christmas presents which need to be posted – one to the Republic of Ireland and one to France. Hoping to post them tomorrow, although the Post Office will be absolutely heaving. After my hairdo and lunch date with my friend Fiona, I think, so I don’t keep anybody waiting.

My computer is a bit flaky. I think it’s on its last legs. Sometimes it falls off the internet, though hubby’s doesn’t, sometimes the mouse won’t work, sometimes the keyboard won’t work. It is six and a half years old, and Windows 10 lost all the USB ports about three years ago, so I installed Linux Ubuntu. That always extends the life of a computer, because it is so much less resource-hungry than Windows, but even so. I’ve ordered a new one which is arriving today, so everything is backed up, printer driver downloaded and recommendations for antivirus sorted. It is quite exciting, but setting it all up takes a while.  I get cross with Windows because it’s so damn nosey and interfering and intrusive. Once I’ve dealt with all that nonsense it’s ok. Mm.

And I’m not even going to talk about the total omnishambles that is Brexit. Nope. No.

November!

Did my ironing this morning. All of it. Although I had to do it sitting down, as my stupid back is playing up. Painkillers, ice packs, phone call to osteopath tomorrow to see if I can bring forward the next appointment.

Had the leylandii at the back trimmed, and one of the leylandii hedges at the front cut down by half, so it’s just below the level of the roof of my car, which is an old Ford Ka. The other hedge at the front has been dug up and the stumps ground out. That was quite exciting to watch. Two men, fully kitted up in safety gear/helmets/goggles, with a large noisy machine, took approximately 10 minutes max! Now I just need to get as much of the thuggish ivy out of the soil as I can, weedkiller the rest, and see how it is next spring before I plant some more Photinia Red Robin, to match the little hedge at the front, parallel to the house.

Meanwhile, hubby decided to pollard the willow tree himself. Yes, himself. Worked, hard, all morning, up and down ladders with a saw, despite my bleating about stopping now, and did it all. Cut up the twiggy bits and fitted them all into the green wheelie bin. But he then had (heart) “symptoms”  for three days. I was very worried and a bit cross. It is frustrating not to be able to do the stuff you used to do easily. It is. But still. I’ve had years to come to terms with it (slipped a disc 43 years ago) so I do know how difficult and limiting it is. But harrumph. And of course he’s fine now.

Wasn’t able to knit for a couple of weeks – arthritis in my hands. But I’m ok now and nearly finished the Festival shawl (dark grey Gossypium and white/cream Paradou). It’s lovely and easy enough to knit (though not while I’m watching subtitled Swedish programmes!) and I will be pleased with it when it’s done. Next up, Whelk vest top for hubby, in pale grey Rowan yarn. Need to do a sample tension square, because the pattern is for DK, and the yarn I have is worsted. Not much difference, but enough to check first. Also need to check I’m ok with the pattern . . . . .

Have treated myself, after watching Black Earth Rising, to a cuff earring with two chains attached to a small stud. The heroine of said programme wore one, and looked stunning. I won’t look anything like her, of course, she’s about 6 ft tall, black, muscular and slim. Ah well. I do like it though. Hubby thinks it’s weird. Don’t care.

Christmas – presents all done. Not wrapped yet though. And I need to get my act together with regard to cooking. Planning a Yule Log, so need to practise with an ordinary Swiss Roll (tomorrow). Also need to do a carrot cake and a bakewell raspberry slice. And some mince pies (bought pastry, bought mincemeat, just need to put them together . . .)


January 2018

Another year. Almost through the first month, too. It’s cold but dry outside, although the wind last night was fearsome! kept me awake for hours!

Christmas – bit of a write off for me, was ill (again) with a similar thing to the November virus, but only for two weeks, this time, instead of four weeks, starting Christmas Eve. Missed two family parties. Bummer. Big old bummer. However, Hubby did a fabulous lunch on Christmas Day, and we’d been for breakfast at YD’s house, so managed that day, then spent the rest of the two weeks in bed most of the time. Voiceless and feeling dreadful.

Am better now, though, and almost up to knitting again. I did crochet an Olaf (from Frozen) for ESW, but my crochet skills are really not that good. However, it’s a toy. It’s meant to be lumpy. ESW won’t give a stuff how olaflumpy it is, or where the lumps are.

And it looks ok.

New knitting projects planned. Love it when there’s lots to do. Also almost through the pile of books I was given as gifts. The last one, which I’m reading now, is Simon Schama’s History of the Jews (second book) “Belonging”. Very interesting. Detailed, engaging, and, for me, with my Jewish heritage, fascinating. There was a time, hundreds of years ago, when Jewishness was regarded as having come through the father, not the mother. Mm.

Yesterday we went to a lovely independent bookshop in Coventry to donate some books (https://www.thebigcomfybookshop.co.uk/), then IKEA, got most of what we went for, only spent £25 (which is much less than we normally end up spending there!), then the council tip on the way home. Excellent morning, very productive. Result: very tidy house, a knackered me. But it’ll pass.

Just written to my lovely French friend, sent it off with some photos, then I had a lovely shower and washed my hair. Soon it’s going to be lunch time. My life is such a mad social whirl. Not. Thank goodness.

Not going to knitting group this morning, may go on Saturday. Hopefully. It’s great. Hot drinks, cake, biscuits, friendly people and all in an excellent yarn shop. Plenty of support for when things go wrong too.

Nearly September

Well. A busy summer. But fun.

A few days in London in July – went to see Shakespeare’s The Tempest at the Barbican Centre, by the RSC. Absolutely amazing. The special effects (holograms) were something to see. Really, really good. London is just so busy and fraught, but so wonderful at the same time. All sorts of different people, ways of dressing, living, everything. And the food was excellent.

Then mid August stayed a couple of nights in Brighton, saw almost the whole family in one go! actually got to swim in the sea, which is just one of my very favourite things to do, then off to Southampton, stayed in a different hotel there, and spent some time with ED and LCS. Lovely. Just lovely. I’d made a Bakewell Layer Cake and a carrot cake, both tray bakes, and they went down rather well, I will say. Mm.

All the grandchildren are just a joy. Oldest one will be 16 tomorrow – gasp! where did the time go? He’s No 7 in the UK for his age group for racing breast-stroke. Wonderful, just wonderful. Youngest one is now 5 months old. Bless.

Garden is looking great, although I’m doing battle with the pesky slugs, which are trying to kill my new asters. Bring it on.

Knitting going well, no pics because they’re all for Xmas gifts. New yarns in stock in local yarn shop, I have a bagful of beautiful stuff and am starting to get through it now.

Thing is, when there’s lots of things going on (see above) I get all fraught and panicky. It’s like there’s too much input, and I can’t cope with it all. I can sort of deal with the planning and booking and stuff, but then I’m done in. Luckily I was able to sleep when I needed to all summer, so it’s all ok, but it would be just great if I could handle it all better than I do.

They’re taking my Disability Living Allowance away. I knew they would, but what a bummer. Also I had paid enough National Insurance Contributions to be entitled (eventually, in another 4 years) to my full state pension, but now they’ve changed the rules and it includes people like me (how does that work then? they’re allowed to change the rules retrospectively?) , so I have to pay in more, but I need to check whether it’s going to be worth it.

Been watching some excellent tv. A four-part series called The State, which told the story of four Brits travelling to Syria to join the so-called ISIS. Harrowing, of course. But interesting too. Thoroughly researched, the story told of how the main characters became disillusioned, to say the least, with the regime, the strict rules, the savage punishment for even minor infractions, and the injustice and stupidity of it all. But what it didn’t explain is why these people went all that way, and why they didn’t know it would be like that. There must have been an excellent marketing policy, full of half-truths, in place, is all I can think.

Then something called “No More Boys and Girls?” which was fascinating. A class of 7 year olds in a school on the Isle of Wight were followed through a half term of changes instigated by their teacher with the help of a doctor. To start with, all the girls seriously underestimated themselves, and the boys seriously overestimated themselves. Girls were identified by both genders as “pretty, mothers, nurses” and boys as “strong, brave”. By the end of the term, girls were “strong, clever, kind” and so were the boys. Clothing with slogans on came in for particular criticism, as well as the distinction between “girl” and “boy” toys. One of the most intransigent boys turned out to be kind, empathetic, and understanding. One of the least confident girls actually wept when she did really well at something! Very interesting. They brought in people who bucked the stereotype of their job, for example a female car mechanic, a male make-up artist, a male dancer, and the children were amazed, and loved it! It changed all their perceptions of what girls can do, and how boys can behave. I wonder if the pressure for boys to be strong and win at stuff has the same effect as the pressure for girls to be pretty? whether or not it does, it’s important to strive for equality. The school is expanding the programme to all the classes, and the teacher of the class, who is lovely, has done a presentation to the Institute of Education. Excellent.

The cat had a small adventure a few weeks ago – a gash on her leg which needed 3 stitches, which when you know she only weighs 3 kilos, is quite a lot for a small cat. We don’t know how she did it, but it was quite deep, and involved the (expensive) emergency vet, anaesthesia, wearing The Cone of Shame or baby pyjamas cut off at the waist to stop her gnawing at the sutures. Luckily we’re insured so got most of the money back. And she’s fine now.

That’s about it for now.  If I think of anything else I’ll blog again.

 

 

 

 

Trivia, or How I Manage My Life

When I was young, I didn’t have very much confidence about whether my feelings, choices, the things I liked and disliked, were ok. Partly because my childhood was spent not knowing when I would next cross an invisible “transgression” or “naughty” line.

As I’ve got older, though, bit by bit, I’m slightly more sure about things. As long as they don’t adversely affect anyone else, I think it’s ok that I gave up wearing nail varnish 30 years ago. It was such a huge relief. I’m crap at applying it, then within the hour I’ve smeared or chipped it, and it was just a pain in the neck. So I don’t do it any more. And along with such small but effective changes, here’s a short list of the things I do/don’t do to make my life a little easier. Just in case anybody else out there has the same sort of uncertainty.

  • I don’t “do” afternoons. I sleep in the afternoons. No outings, no meetings. Very occasional and special exceptions, for example my niece’s wedding party soon.
  • Not going to buy cakes, even dairy-free ones, when I have a cup of tea in a café. They are usually a disappointment, apart from particular ones (Costa’s dairy & gluten free Christmas cake, Starbuck’s dairy & gluten free brownies – as long as they’re still wrapped), so I just end up feeling guilty for eating a cake and worse for having spent the money and not enjoyed it.
  • Currently “off” coffee. I can only drink decaffeinated anyway, or I end up shaking and bouncing off the walls. So I’ve decided it’s fine to just drink tea. Black, weak, no sugar, thank you.
  • Not going to feel guilty any more if I can’t do any knitting, either because my hands are swollen and tired, or because my brain just isn’t working.

And so on. Small things, but each decision taken lifts a weight off my shoulders.

Holiday and Knitting

Just back from a fabulous week at Center Parcs (Woburn). Hubby and I went on Friday, both daughters plus partners plus babies came for the weekend and went home on Monday, and then we stayed till last Friday. Absolutely excellent. The two children don’t see a lot of each other, as one (nearly 2) lives in Southampton, and the other (9 months old) near us in Solihull, but they were clearly very taken with each other. Lots of enthusiasm, lots of eye contact (and pointing from the baby), and it was just lovely.

Center Parcs involves a lot of walking, for me, because I am absolutely useless on a bike. Last time I rode a bike I broke a rib falling off. Not great. They do apparently hire out tricycles for adults (clumsy klutzes) like me, which might be a possibility if we go to Center Parcs again.

It’s lovely (though absolutely exhausting) walking in the forest – lots of grey squirrels, and even a hare, who clearly couldn’t care less that he was being watched closely, a lot. I have never been that close to a hare in my life. It was so exciting!

I ate far too much. YD made a fabulous Victoria sponge with jam filling – OMG to die for! and I’d taken a carrot cake, which was also pretty good. Chocolate, biscuits, just went for it. So now I’m being much more careful. Eating the same at mealtimes, just cutting right down on cake, biscuits and chocolate, before I turn into a big fat biffer.

We fetched Bertie The Cat from the cattery on the way home and she is just so happy to be back in her little domain. Friday she was very vocal and demanding, but settled down by the evening and is now happily purring away in one of her preferred warm spots. And is much happier to be cuddled than usual! not quite so busy and important . . .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have learned two new knitting techniques. Well, in reality, one is a crochet technique. It’s called Tunisian Crochet, or Afghan Crochet, and is a mixture of knitting and crochet done on one long hook. The fabric is quite firm and thick and is good for things like bags, outerwear, cushion covers, and I’m likely to start with something small like coffee coasters. Very pleased.

The second technique is for knitting in the round (tubes with no seams) and is called Magic Loop. I have been trying for years to master this one. I can’t handle double pointed needles, I’m all fingers and thumbs, so I knit in the round with two circular needles. It has occurred to me several times that this technique is very similar to Magic Loop. My younger daughter showed me how to do it (Magic Loop) on holiday, and I had a go and it actually clicked in my brain. So now I’m knitting the sleeves of a small baby jacket (Puerperium) in the round with Magic Loop. The advantage of this over two circular needles is that there are only two needle tips to worry about, instead of four. The current project is in stocking stitch, so no worries about how many stitches are on each half of the cable, but the next challenge will be Magic Loop with a pattern . . .

Also have some Erika Knight Gossypium cotton dk which is absolutely fabulous to knit with. I’m doing a Seafoam scarf for me in cream, on 5.5 mm needles to make it even bigger and looser. Loving it.

Almost all the Christmas shopping is done. I’ve always been a bit early doing such things, and start thinking seriously about any knitting I’m going to do for gifts in May. I start actually buying presents in September, so come December it’s just not so fraught. Hubby used to wait until 23rd/24th December, go into Birmingham, and do it all in one day. I just couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t. I even have a spreadsheet where birthday/Xmas presents are listed by recipient, going back to 2010, the idea being that I don’t duplicate year on year. A bit nerdy, I know, but I’m ok with that. I need order in my life, it feels calmer and easier.

I think that’s probably it for now!

Nearly Christmas

We don’t do religion, but for us Christmas is a “beanfeast” in the middle of winter to cheer us up. We decorate a tree (along with Hannukah type lights!), we give presents, we eat a lot on 25th December and have much more sweet stuff than we normally would. Chocolate, mince pies, fruit cake with marzipan – love it!

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I bought a wreath “inner” from Hobbycraft, knitted a cover, and then knitted ivy leaves, holly leaves and mistletoe to cover it. A poinsettia at the top, a little knitted robin perching on the bottom. And it won first prize at The Shop! I’m so pleased!

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Feeling very, very tired. Heavy and leaden. Making sure I get a good sleep each afternoon. But I’ve tried to make sure I don’t have much to do each day. Tomorrow – ironing. Monday – nails Calgelled. Tuesday – shopping delivery. Wednesday – bake Raspberry Layer Bake (a sort of posh Bakewell Tart). Thursday – Christmas Day! And that’s it. Until 3rd January when we are having a Hootenanny with as many members of our extended families as can make it. Lovely.

So I wish you all Happy Holidays, whether you are humanist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, whatever. Enjoy.