A Gentleman’s Tea Cosy

October 20, 2009

Non-knitters, look away now.

So recently*, my cousin – having lured me deep into the knitting habit with ‘free’ supplies of wool – suggested that I might want to do him a favour in return for keeping the supplies coming: he had a teapot that he wanted cosied. Well, I thought, that’s easy enough. Everybody knows what a tea cosy looks like.

But there was a catch. Several catches. First, there was the teapot itself:

The problem

The problem

You will notice that it is not arranged along the traditional ‘here’s a little teapot short and stout’ lines, and its handle was in the wrong place for easy cosy-fitting. Not only that, but the tea cosy must emphatically not be ‘ironic’, in the modern sense of ‘ironic’, meaning ‘a bit crap’. It had to not just keep the tea hot, but it had to do so in an elegant and fitting way. Anything quilted, with ribbons, a bobble, or in the shape of a christmas pudding was therefore out and that pretty much eliminated the entire world’s stock of tea cosy knitting patterns.

So I had to improvise. For a while, the teapot sat in the kitchen while I mused upon possible solutions. Finally, I decided that – this being a gentleman’s tea pot – a gentlemanly tea cosy would be in order. I settled on a sort of tea-pot-cardigan, the sort that might be stretched over a portly torso, in a tweedy sort of brown and grey. The end result (after a couple of false starts) was this:

the solutuion

the solutuion

Knitting afficionados should note that this is in slip stitch with a moss-stitch button band and there’s no pattern and I’m buggered if I can remember exactly what I did, but it was pretty complicated. Spherical objects are tricky to knit cosies for, I tell you. Even harder than space invaders.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the horizontal line around the middle is what we call in the software trade ‘a feature’. And is nothing at all to do with me forgetting what colour I was on in the middle.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll go back to knitting hats.

*that’s recently in knitting time, ie. months and months and months ago. I knit very slowly. Those of you looking for Christmas presents are already too late, although I’m accepting suggestions for the 2010 season if you’re quick.

Snails within Snails

October 19, 2009

Spotted in the garden:

snails within snails

Tragically, shortly after taking this photo I forgot about it, and there was a horrible crunch underfoot…

I know snails are just slugs with a better second home allowance, but I do hate treading on them.

A Mess of Potage

October 18, 2009


The autumn so far has been a miraculously fine one, but today dawned – in so far as it dawned at all – as the sort of day where soup was needed.

I had Jane Grigson’s recipe for Potage Esau in mind which is mostly bacon and lentils, although I’m guessing the bacon part is non-traditional. We had plenty of bacon (cheap soup cuts from the butcher) and the other half’s policy of buying big bags of lentils from the ethnic section of Tescos for pennies instead of small beautifully packaged bags of lentils from the posh ingredients section for pounds meant we also had plenty of lentils, but we had no onion and you can’t make soup without an onion*.

This meant only one thing:

Larry was for the chop.
deed_done trimmed chopped potage_esau

One quick forking later, and the deed was done, and the body dismembered and disposed of in time-honoured fashion. He didn’t exactly yield much (am I supposed to be earthing them up to get more of the white bit?) but his contribution was noted. And while the quantities of bacon used meant that the subtle home-grown flavour of leek wasn’t exactly to the fore, I’m sure he wasn’t sacrificed in vain.

*Although in my vegetable-fearing youth I regularly omitted the onions from recipies and I’m still here. I’m sure they’re necessary though.

Real Garden

October 16, 2009

It seems like, no matter what job I think I’m setting out to do these days…

I thought I was just going to plant a few bulbs...

I thought I would just plant a few bulbs...

… the job I end up doing is the one called ‘excavate the bloody great rock out of the ground.’

I’m saving them up, until I have enough for a wall.

Dream Garden

October 15, 2009

Ah, October and my garden has just reached its peak of perfection. But sorry, no photos, because the garden in question doesn’t exist yet, except inside my head. Yes, it’s that time of the year when you start looking through seed catalogues and planning what will be next year when, of course, there will be no blackleg, and no slugs, and no sawfly, and especially no caterpillars, and everything will germinate and nothing will mysteriously die or (like my garlic) simply vanish into thin air.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we’ve eaten the last of the potatoes and the last of the broad beans. Larry the Leek is still hanging on for an occasion special enough to warrant eating him, after all he’s survived. There’s still a few small lettuces under cloches, and the broccoli is waiting till the spring. So far, this year, it’s only cost me a grand total of £6.26 to grow my own. But next year … well next year will be different.

Won’t it?

The Daily (mini)Beast

October 14, 2009

If I may be permitted a small rant – oh, right, it’s my blog so yes I can – I have a bone to pick with the people who think up educational phrases with which to patronise, sorry, educate young people. I’ve recently been volunteering with a local nature reserve and one of our tasks has been maintaining the garden around the educational centre. We have done the obvious stuff like making picnic tables, planting trees, cutting grass and laying paths, and some less obvious ones (usually to do with Messers Health and Safety, like filling in ponds and cutting off any branches at small-child eye-level in case they take it into their heads to run into a tree). And we have built a ‘mini-beast hotel’. A what, I hear you cry. A mini-beast hotel. Also known as a large pile of mostly rotting logs and stuff where invertebrates might like to hang out.

After tripping up on this repellent phrase a couple of times, I asked if we couldn’t just call it an invertebrate habitat like normal people. ‘Well, these are quite little kids, some of them,’ the educational expert replied. ‘It’s a bit much to expect them to get their tongues around a phrase like invertebrate’

I find this odd. After all, there is barely a six-year-old in the land – and certainly not the sort of six-year-old who would relish turning over a rotten log to see what’s underneath – who can’t lecture you confidently on the distinctions between a stegosaurus and a triceratops. And woe betide the hapless adult who muddles up their brontosauri with their diplodocus, let alone their Tyrannosaurus rex. Imagine the withering glances we’d get from the little darlings if we flannelled around talking about ‘mega-beasts’ because we didn’t want to confuse them with the word ‘dinosaur’. We’d be laughed out of the natural history museum without even passing through the shop. We’d be disgraced.

But, it seems, ‘mini-beast’ it is. And when the school children get to see this mini-beast hotel, they’re going to be rightly unimpressed by its lack of mini-check-in desk, mini-suites, mini-beds and mini-minibars. Still, at least if they do go beserk in expressing their disappointment, they’ll be safely able to run slap bang into the nearest tree without putting an eye out.

Slightly Depressing

October 13, 2009

I was busy over the weekend with an event that brought me into contact with the local council’s team working on a project to reduce car trips into Bigtown. They were all lovely and (adjusted for being the council) switched on and enthusiastic about making Bigtown more bicycle friendly. But one comment caught me up a little short. ‘Bigtown’s cycling rates are already quite high,’ one of them said. ‘So given that our target is reducing car journeys, we’re not sure whether there’s enough scope to do that through cycling.’

Of course, that’s ‘quite high’ in the sense that you’re likely to see a cyclist every time you go into the town. Maybe even two or three. Some of them will even be running errands rather than beetling along in lycra. Many people also have bikes they take out occasionally for rides on the tops of their cars. That’s not ‘quite high’ in any sense that this man would recognise. Or this one. Or this one. Coupled with a recent report from the Committee on Climate Change on Britain’s low carbon future which manages to mention cycling just 3 times in its 65-page section on transport, it’s made me realise that I’ve been living in a bit of a bike bubble recently. I’ve found a nice corner of the internet where cycling is the answer, what was the question? As I don’t get out all that much, it was a salutary experience for me to get back into the real world where cycling is not seriously considered to be the answer to anything, let alone something as important as climate change.

I suppose I’ve been a bit naive. Britain is so car dominated, outside a few urban pockets, that it’s going to take more than a few petitions and campaigns and blogs that preach mostly to the converted to bring about the sort of cultural change that’s needed before we get the sort of cycling rates that might make a different to our overall carbon emissions. Oh well. It’s still fun, even if it isn’t going to save the planet after all…

Be Afraid

October 12, 2009

A week ago I received a letter from my electricity supplier, expressing their shock and dismay at my decision to abandon them in favour of the dubious charms of one of their rivals. I rang them up to explain that their shock and dismay at hearing this news was as nothing to my own shock and dismay on reading it, seeing as I didn’t want to change electricity suppliers and this was the first I had heard of it. I seem to remember that this sort of thing was a regular feature of consumer affair programs back when people were first able to change electricity suppliers, when little old ladies who had signed something for the nice young man who came to their door would end up getting their electricity cut off and/or receiving a bill equivalent to the national debt and any attempt to sort it out would leave them only deeper in the mire of confusion while bailiffs pursued them for any remaining sticks of furniture they hadn’t burned in a futile attempt to keep warm while waiting for the power to come back on. Or something like that. Anyway, the absence of such stories in recent years had led me to believe that the electricity companies had got their various houses in order and such a thing no longer happened, and besides, I haven’t had any nice young men come to the door recently, and the only thing I’ve signed recently has been books and they would be hard to mistake for a request to change electricity suppliers.

So, having rung up and spoken to a nice young woman called *mumble* who has assured me that she will sort it out, I have now received a letter from the delightfully named ‘Erroneous Re-Registrations Team’ saying that they are on the case and have asked the rival electricity supplier wtf is going on and that I should sit tight and not worry about it, or words to that effect. In case that was not reassuring enough they have added – in a footnote no less – that there is a process in place to tackle such situations and ‘we must follow this to avoid further errors.’ Hmmm. I remember ‘process’. It usually came on a little flow chart designed to be easily followed by the only idiots who weren’t demoralised enough by having their job made idiot-proof not to leave. Somehow I’m not entirely reassured.

But there’s nothing I can do about it except wait. And if the lights do go off, we’ve got plenty of candles and the Rayburn to keep us warm although blogging might be somewhat interrupted until I can rig the bike up to power the wifi connector.  And, looking on the bright side, if it does happen it will do wonders for my carbon footprint.

Marks out of Ten

October 11, 2009

I see the 10:10 campaign has been marking its own special day (10/10) with pullout supplements in the Guardian and everything, although I can’t find any mention of it on their website. There’s still no way of tracking your emissions or recording your savings on their website either so, somewhat belatedly, I’ve decided to bore you all (so what’s new) with how we’ve got on so far. This will be an even duller post than usual, so unless energy saving’s your thang, don’t bother reading on…

…seriously, there won’t even be any feeble jokes, let alone any good ones.

Read the rest of this entry »

More Close Shaves

October 9, 2009

I do wish that red squirrels could either:

a) not be so damn cute and fluffy

b) not be so endangered

c) not hang about on the middle of the road making up their cute fluffy ginger minds before deciding at the last possible minute that the way to safety lies under the wheels of the oncoming car, as opposed to, say, not.

Or at the very least not do it during red squirrel week.

Fortunately it was still bouncing across the road with its cute fluffy tail in the air after we passed so we must have missed it.


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