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.

Knitting and Me.

This is something I have just sent off to Betsan Corkhill, from Stitchlinks. Thought it might make a blog post. So here it is.

I’m 59. I’ve knitted since I was 6, having learned at school from a very stroppy teacher, who got very cross when I made a mistake. 6-year-olds do make mistakes! But my mum helped, and her knitterly friends helped too, so gradually I built up my techniques and confidence.

I never thought of knitting as anything but fun until I became ill in my forties with M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) (along with a list of other maladies!) and was medically retired.

At that point it became important to feel useful, even if only in a small way. Knitting provided that. For a long while I couldn’t even do that. I couldn’t concentrate for long enough to even cast on.

Gradually, though, I was able to knit more and more. I mostly knit by hand, but also had a variety of knitting machines over a ten year period. Machine knitting is a whole different skill. Not sociable – too noisy. And you really need to concentrate to make it all work. Once the machine is set up – just so – it’s fine, but then halfway through a piece of work it will knot up inexplicably, or all the stitches fall off the machine, or something else dreadful/terminal will happen. So I used to have to go away and knit in solitude.

Eventually I sold all the knitting machines (I had a maximum of three at one time) and reclaimed the space for a sofa-bed in our spare bedroom. I was able to redecorate the whole room, by myself (over a period of time, of course), reorganise the hand knitting stash, and now I’m back to my “first love”.

Hand-knitting is a very sociable pastime. You can sit and watch tv and knit, chat and knit, drink tea and knit.

It feels so therapeutic to be able to just sit down, pick up the needles and knit something. Even if it’s just one or two rows at a time, it all adds up. I keep my projects relatively small – the largest one recently was an Aran (shortish) jacket in Bergère de France Magic + in turquoise. I absolutely love it. It’s all cabled, and the cabling is done over 2 x 2 rib. Complicated, and took 9 weeks, but that’s ok.

Currently I’m knitting for various small children and babies. Very satisfying to do because nothing takes very long at all. I find it calming, productive, creative, and even when I don’t feel great, I can usually pick up my needles and knit. And if I can’t do that, I can browse Ravelry or my knitting magazines for ideas and inspiration. Lovely.

Eighteen months ago a local yarn shop opened up a seven-minute walk from our house. Excellent! I’m just so lucky. They have Stitch & Sip sessions three times a week – I try and go to one of them at least. I’ve made new friends, learned new skills (knitting with beads, in the round, shawlettes) and I love it.

I even cover the shop on a voluntary basis for the odd half day while the owner is teaching a course. I make cakes for their events and from time to time I bake for the Stitch & Sip sessions too. It’s lovely to feel involved and helpful and useful in the different little ways.

Gardening is important too, for similar reasons, but I’m only a fair-weather gardener. Knitting I can do whatever the weather!

When I was small

  • we didn’t have wall to wall carpeting in every room. There was a strip of lino round the edges, or in the hall and up the stairs, painted or varnished wood. My sister and I had to polish these edges.
  • we didn’t have central heating. There would be ice on the inside of the windows on a winter morning. My dad would come in and light the gas fires in the bedroom.
  • it was considered normal for us, at junior school, to catch the bus to and from school, including crossing a main road.
  • it was also considered normal for us to go to the shops alone aged 7+ (also including crossing a main road).
  • our phone was made of black Bakelite, with a fabric cord, and a dial. The number was ACO
  • for a while we had a “party” phone line, which meant sharing with the neighbours, so if they were on the phone, we had to wait till they’d finished.
  • all my mother’s friends were to be referred to by the honorific “Aunty”, even though they weren’t related.
  • when we visited my mother’s friends, my sister and I were expected to go and play with their children, even if we hated each other. The adults were to be left to talk about adult stuff.
  • we had “high tea” which was usually boiled eggs and a jam sandwich, at about 4.30 pm every day.
  • on Saturdays we had fish fingers for lunch, with mash and peas. Every Saturday for as long as I can remember.
  • we caught the bus or walked everywhere for years, until my mother was given a car at Christmas by my dad. It was a surprise, and was parked two doors up, in their garage.
  • there were two postal deliveries, every day. “Second post” arrived after lunch.
  • telegrams were still being delivered. Nobody ever wanted to receive one because they were associated with bad news.
  • all typewriters were “manual”, not electric.
  • computers were the size of an average house (or so it seemed to me as a small child). Secretaries felt threatened by the advent of word processors, which were marketed as replacing typists of all sorts.
  • taxis were considered a special luxury treat.
  • we ate beef dripping on bread as a treat.
  • stuffed hearts were a regular meal, as was liver and onions (delicious!).
  • I wore bodices instead of vests. They had little sleeves and buttons which did up at the front.
  • you weren’t considered “properly” dressed unless you were wearing a petticoat.
  • Sunday best included a white hat and matching white gloves.
  • Sunday school was mandatory (to give Mum and Dad some time alone I guess).
  • I didn’t know my parents went to bed, at all, until I was about 5, because they were always up and dressed when I went to bed or woke up. One night I woke up and did wonder why it was all dark, and my Dad found me stumbling half way down the stairs.
  • Dad wore “long johns” in the winter – long underpants to keep him warm – and a string vest all year round.
  • mobile phones hadn’t been invented – weren’t even a twinkle in anybody’s eye.
  • we were smacked with a ruler at school routinely.
  • Mum smacked us if we were naughty at home. It was considered perfectly normal.
  • I once heard Mum say, on the phone to one of her friends, when explaining why we did all the housework, “Why have daughters and bark yourself?” (instead of “why have a dog and bark yourself”). I wasn’t impressed.
  • the fashion for mothers was big full skirts, and when they went out (to the shops or whatever), lipstick was mandatory. No other make-up, just lipstick.

Can’t think of anything else right now, but if anything else occurs, will continue . . . .