June 18, 2013
There is ford-and-tadpole news but it needs me to have a decent camera so it will have to wait so I shall bore you instead with a knitting post, as it’s my blog and I can if I want to.
Some while back I discovered that some of my knitwear had fallen prey to clothes moths – I’ve already had to recycle one into socks – including two nice merino numbers, one navy cardigan and one sort of fawn-coloured jumper. Having tasted the delights of a snug merino base layer during the winter* I thought I’d better not let those go to waste so I unravelled what was left and have been looking for a project to make use of the wool ever since. I came across this pattern which seemed just the ticket although even with three strands of it held together (which makes for an interesting colour – something like plasticine after all the different colours have been munged together) my wool is much finer than the gauge for the pattern so in order to make it fit I’m having to knit it for basically a 42-inch chest, which I can assure you I’m not. Ahem. Anyway, that meant casting on approximately a million stitches so it’s slow going…
I’m hoping it will be finished for winter, although which winter is anyone’s guess.
The pattern starts off nice and simple (once you’ve figured out circular knitting) and then gets oh-help-that’s-quite-complicated around the sleeves and things but I am sure I will manage to work it out. They used to select women who could knit to operate computers during the war because if you could read a knitting pattern you could work out a computer, so I’m hoping that – as a former computer programmer – this also applies the other way around. Surely after mastering C++ instructions like “Next Row [WS]: Work all sts in patt, picking up wraps and working them together with wrapped sts. Join to held sts of back left shoulder using Three-Needle Bind Off” should be child’s play… And once finished, how environmentally sound will it be? Not only is it entirely recycled and hand made, it should keep me nice and warm rather than cranking up the heating. Although, on the debit side, I suppose it did entail the destruction of an important invertebrate habitat…
And when I’ve finished that, look what my cousin found me in the car boot sale, for 50p.
It’s shetland wool, two-ply. Any suggestions or requests? Because otherwise that’s an awful lot of socks…
*that’s August to June, in case you’re wondering
June 8, 2013
Excitement knows no bounds in the Town Mouse household as a sign appears on Noticeboard Tree announcing ukulele workshops. It’s a sad truth that, after a promising start my ukulele has sat sad and abandoned (despite frequent prompting from the neighbour who, bless him, still believes me to have some musical talent even though I’m sure he must have heard me singing in the shower) since the mallet finger incident. The finger is long healed, but the uke never quite got taken up again – at least until now. Could this be the prompt I’ve needed for so long – a ukulele workshop, within cycling distance? Or,at least I think it’s within cycling distance. The problem is that the ink has run on the sign giving the crucial information of *where* the ukulele workshop is being held because the rain has got into the lamination and ruined it.
There has been wild talk in community council meetings about setting up a village website where news of such things could be disseminated, although so far nothing has actually come of it. The other half is dismissive of such novelties – who needs a website when you have a tree – and on the whole I’m inclined to agree, if only because if anyone was going to set up a village website it would be muggins here. On the whole, I’ve found, people don’t really do websites round here, preferring the tried and tested TTP (tree* transfer protocol) approach. This may mean that the rain gets in and runs the ink on your notices – but then again, at least there’s less chance of the US government discovering what you’re up to, especially if they don’t get around to checking the trees before it’s rained. I’m 99.9% certain that they have no interest – yet – in any mass outbreaks of ukulele playing, but you can never be too careful.
*telegraph poles may also be pressed into service, if need be
May 23, 2013
If a county could be said to have a hobby, then Bigtownshire’s is blethering and I can tell you they take it seriously around here. As I have mentioned before, many’s the time I’ve had to thread my way between two farmers who are passing the time of day through their Land Rover windows on my way down to the paper shop and you can bet that half the time they’ll still be there when I’m on my way back.
But it’s not just the farmers, and it’s not just people who know each other either. If the county also had a motto it would be ‘there are no strangers, just people who you’re about to discover used to live next door to your old head teacher’ or some such connection. A recent writing exercise invited me to observe what people were reading in public and from that imagine their inner lives and write them a brief back story. Hah. Whoever invented that did not live around here, that’s clear. Even were you to find someone actually reading in public, a bus in Bigtown is treated as a chance to make the acquaintance of your fellow passengers and discover how they might be related to you and your world, in order to enjoy a nice wee blether to speed the journey along. A twenty-minute bus journey would therefore likely furnish you with their entire real life story, in more detail than you ever really needed.
Normally I tend to just keep quiet and listen but the Brompton is a great ice breaker, especially once it’s launched itself off the luggage rack onto someone’s feet, so on my bus trip to catch the train to Edinburgh last weekend I found myself part of the general conversation. We touched on on the best way to keep the bike in place (wedge it in with my bag), whether or not it was a handy wee thing (it was, obviously), the general dreadfulness of the weather (dreadful), lateness of the bus (shocking) and it was only lack of time that kept us from the price of fish and whether any of my friends or relations had any remote connection to my fellow passengers. ‘Bye for now,’ said one of my new best friends as she got off the bus, as if we would soon be reunited to continue our conversation.
Indeed, knowing the way things work around here, she was probably right.
May 14, 2013
I’ll say something for a damp spring and an all-pervasive grey sky: it certainly makes all the spring greenery pop. My new-to-me phone camera doesn’t really do it justice but although the wind is icy and the sun is elusive, the greens are GREEN. Every blade of grass catches the light and shimmers in the wind and the fields just seem to glow with lush growth. The hedgerow flowers haven’t really started yet, and the bluebell woods are yet to come, but if you want verdure, we’ve got it.
May 13, 2013
I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for the village plant sale. Any village plant sale, to be honest. While I can walk round a garden centre quite easily with my hands in my pockets and remain untempted by all the glories on display, there’s nothing like a trestle table full of miscellaneously potted plants, some labelled, some not, to get me forking out the cash. Throw in a tea and some home baking and it’s an afternoon made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. Last year the village plant sale didn’t happen, so this year as soon as it was announced I had it in the diary and yesterday afternoon I set off in the teeming rain on the Brompton to get there before the vultures descended.*
It was a miserable afternoon but the turnout was pretty good and the plant selection was wide if a little random. There was a very knowledgeable gardener manning the stall which was helpful as nothing was in flower and despite working for over a decade at Kew Gardens, my plant identification skills have not advanced much beyond ‘legume’ and ‘not a legume’. As the prices ranged the gamut from 50p to £1.50 it didn’t really matter what I bought anyway. The good thing about these sales is that people mostly donate plants that have grown well and spread themselves in their gardens so you know that most things will do well in the prevailing conditions. This is also the bad thing about these sales – one punter did sail off with a tray full of Lady’s Mantle which spreads itself like wildfire, despite even the woman manning the stall trying to dissuade her. Still, one person’s invasive nightmare is another person’s useful ground cover and as long as there isn’t too much ground elder and bindweed root lurking in the pots I should end up ahead on points.
So here’s my booty – whatever it is. I’d have bought a lot more but the Brompton basket was getting quite full and I had to leave room for the home baking. Plant stall lady did tell me what most of them were but my brain refused to retain the information – it can’t remember people’s names, why on earth would it manage with plants? One of them is a shrub with berries that blackbirds like. Two of them are ‘special’ foxgloves, reason for specialness not entirely clear. One flowers in July, which is useful and was described as a ‘really good doer’. One had other sterling qualities that seemed enticing at the time but which I have now forgotten. And one of them was a mystery both to me and Plant stall lady, but at 50p was worth a punt. Waiting to see what emerges is half the fun…
* you’ve got to be quick: theoretically it started at 2:30 but I knew all too well that the people bringing plants arrive earlier and get first dibs of the good stuff, so I was there by 2:15 and it was already heaving. They just don’t do fashionably late around here.
May 11, 2013
You know, we thought we were being pretty clever borrowing the neighbour’s cat. He got all the less pleasant aspects of being owned by a cat – vet bills, buying cat food, litter trays, dead rodents on his doorstep – while we got to share in the perks, like a mouse-free house, blog fodder and, er, a cat stomping about on our heads at 4am.
But then the neighbour got ill and had to go and stay with his parents to recover, taking the cat with him and leaving a cat-shaped hole in our lives. It’s good news for swallows, I suppose, and hopefully she’ll be back before the mice get wind of it, but it’s left us feeling a little bereft.
Although I was slightly cheered by the sight of a red squirrel bounding past the kitchen window early one morning. OK, so they won’t come and curl up on the sofa to be stroked, but they are pretty damn cute all the same.
May 10, 2013
It’s that time of year again – when you (and by ‘you’, of course, I mean ‘I’ – I’m sure you’re all perfectly svelte) emerge tentatively from the winter layers and realise that some of that extra layering is now built in. I would not be at all surprised to learn that humans, like trees, have growth rings – with each one marking yet another Christmas of overeating and undercycling – and it would appear that Christmas 2012 was particularly productive on that front, at least if the tightness of my jeans are anything to go by. In short the time has come to take measures or face the ultimate punishment: trouser shopping.
There are some things I won’t do, however. I have never on my life been on any sort of diet and I refuse to start now. I’m quite happy to stop eating snacks between meals or not have pudding or go from two slices of toast to just one, as long as someone is around to eat the other one* but I’m buggered if I’m going to start finding out how many calories there are in something, or switch to low fat or sugar free anything. And while the entire internet appears to be on the 5-2 diet, I’m not sure the world is ready for the sort of grumpiness I’m likely to display when I’m fasting. However, cutting out the odd snack and pudding can only go so far, which means if I’m to achieve my goal of getting back into my black jeans without holding onto the waistband and jumping up and down I have to adjust the energy out side of the equation.
Now I already cycle quite a lot, but cycling is actually not a great way to burn calories as it’s too darn efficient, especially at the speed I normally go. And when it comes to getting into jeans, cycling suffers from the whole thunder thighs issue, something that never gets covered on those cycle chic blogs. No, the only way I’ve found to actually lose weight is either to run or to walk more. I’m not *quite* desperate enough to go back to the running, but I am trying to get out on two feet as well as two wheels as much as I can.
For the last few weeks, therefore, I’ve aimed to do at least one hour of either walking or cycling every day and so far I’ve stuck to it. I’ve even switched to occasionally walking to the village instead of cycling to get my allotted hour in. The results haven’t been exactly spectactular, but I’m gradually shedding the excess, although that might just be our bathroom scales. I haven’t yet tried getting into the jeans, but it’s only a matter of time. The only problem so far has been fending off all the offers of lifts from people in the village – walking for transport is even odder than cycling round here. I might have to borrow a dog before I get picked up by the police for soliciting…
*people who switch the toaster to the one slice setting and LEAVE IT THERE get shot at dawn in our household. Just so you know.
April 23, 2013
… do you have to climb to justify a Mars Bar brownie? With extra cream…
Do you think this might be enough?
Actually, as it happened, they were out of Mars Bar brownies so we had to make do with Oreo (me) and Smartie (the other half) ones instead which were good but didn’t have quite the gooey unctuousness of the Mars Bar ones. Although I suspect the calorific values were about the same.
April 12, 2013
A new character might have to be added to the blog’s dramatis personae to replace the hens – for the last couple of weeks whenever I’ve cycled down to the papershop I’ve noticed a chap standing or walking along the back road to Papershop Village. Unusually, he doesn’t have a dog with him, which makes him stand out in these parts, especially as he’s generally to be found quite far from any actual houses. I’ve already learned to my cost that he’s one of those people who treats ‘how are you?’ as a question requiring an actual answer* and that he’s not someone who responds to any winding up sort of remarks in a conversation, so that after I unwarily slowed down to respond to a pleasantry, I ended up having to just ride away from the resulting monologue. I do occasionally enjoy teasing my inner Londoner by getting into conversations with strangers, but preferably not potentially endless ones, so although I know quite a lot about him from his entire medical history to his opinion on people who still live with their mothers in their twenties (not favourable), I still don’t know what he’s doing wandering around the back roads and I’m not about to risk asking. I shall just have to wonder and form increasingly elaborate theories – while making sure I respond to any future conversational gambits from him without breaking my cadence.
I’m reminded of the time when we lived in Maidenhead in a house without a washing machine and every weekend I used to load up the week’s wash into a huge backpack and walk down to the laundrette for a service wash and then hike it back in the evening. I must have done this every weekend for two years, and fully laden hikers are not a common sight in that part of the world. It was almost the last time I did it that someone finally stopped me in the street one evening and burst out ‘What is in that backpack?’ I was only sorry to have to disappoint him with the sad truth that it was just laundry.
Sometimes it’s better not to find out …
*suffering from diabetes, heart disease, a poorly mended dislocated shoulder, and in need of a hip replacement as it happens.
April 10, 2013
I’ve been looking forward to the return of hens to the garden after the old lot were ruthlessly done away with by the landlord last winter. Today, spotting signs of activity at the hen run I was hopeful that my slug disposal systems would be returning, but no: they are getting new hens but they aren’t going to live up in the walled garden any more, they are moving down to the big house (not IN the big house, obviously, that would be silly). Junior landlord, who lives mainly in London, was a little worried that they might be picked off by foxes but I reminded him that you never actually see foxes in daylight in the country – it’s only in London that you find them loitering around the Elephant and Castle at noon or wandering into a takeaway for a lunchtime kebab – although I should perhaps have warned him about the traffic, after the latest casualty.
Anyway, I’ll miss their company – especially their mad dash to be first to the fence when there were marinaded slugs on offer – but I can see the logic of having them closer to hand. And – although I was briefly tempted – I turned down the offer of the old hen run area to extend my vegetable empire. I know my limits. Well, sometimes.