Sunday update

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You will notice that my blog looks different from today – I hope you will like the very clean and simple layout and the fun summer colours to brighten it up. Let me know in the comments.

There is another change coming this month as I will be moving back to having the blog hosted under the .wordpress umbrella. That means that if you currently have a bookmark to my blog as pamalisonknits.com you will need to re-bookmark as pamalisonknits.wordpress.com

Other than that, you shouldn’t see any difference in the content I post.

Word of the Week – Snudge

17-06-19 Snudge

My Word of the Week is a bit random, what you might call coming in from left of field. It is a word I stumbled upon when I was looking up something quite different in the dictionary and it really appealed to me.

On the surface, it seems that the two ways to use this word are incompatible. The concept of being snug and quiet engenders nice feelings, whilst saving in a miserly way pictures up a whiney Uriah Heep wringing his hands. However, if we save in a miserly way it is likely to lead to us being able to afford to be snug and quiet, so I think they do work well together after all.

I am all for a snug and quiet life. I will never be the soul of the party; in fact, my perfect party would be me and a cake. I am afraid I’ve never been good at saving in a miserly way, but I am learning through necessity, and I hope it will be a lesson I’ll carry forward out of choice, although I will try to keep the hand-wringing at a minimum.

I hope my readers have greeted the new week with some resolve of their own and now I think I need to make some lunch, which is quite the high point of the day.

Not a whimsy

14-06-19 Darrow Wimsey

This week, I’ve been paying my respects to the late Paul Darrow by re-watching the 1973 BBC production of Murder Must Advertise in which he plays an advertising copywriter. It’s a role which grows in complexity as the four-part story unfolds and Darrow is excellent in it, capably portraying the character as ingratiating, bullying, enmeshed in a derailed lover affair, and, through it all, managing to be utterly charming. He wears the sharp 1930s suit and tie very well, and ultimately, he gets a chance at heroism of a sort. It’s a very good performance as part of a very good ensemble cast.

Five years later, Paul Darrow would don the iconic leathers to portray Avon in Blake’s 7 with pretty much the same set of characteristics! Indeed, Vila (Michael Keating) was often to be seen in a similar pose to the above when Avon spoke to him. I see many parallels between the two performances and I salute Mr Darrow for being able to play characters who might, on the surface, not seem worthy of our admiration, and show that they, too, have their good sides as well as their bad.

I do enjoy this particular set of Lord Peter Wimsey adaptations, the ones starring Ian Carmichael. If you can track down Murder Must Advertise it’s well worth a watch, as are all the other stories in the series. (Blake’s 7 is also represented via an appearance in Wimsey’s The Nine Tailors by David Jackson who played Gan in the sci-fi series. That story also provided a part for a young John Duttine who went on to star in the BBC production The Devil’s Crown in 1978, then To Serve Them All My Days and The Day of the Triffids in 1981.)

Actually, mentioning To Serve Them All My Days leads me nicely into the tin shown in this photo:

14-06-19 Tin

I use it to store ink cartridges, but I am unsure of its original use. It belonged to my maternal grandparents and had been used for many, many years to store a lock of hair, although I have no idea whose hair it was.  For some reason, I always think this tin dates to the First World War, thus the connection with To Serve Them All My Days which begins in that era. This is one of those little items that provides a tangible link with people I loved, and it is my joy to be able to put it to a useful purpose and cradle it through another generation. It also reminds me I am going to have to use up those ink cartridges and to do that I am going to have to use up the red ink in my Cross pen. Perhaps when I finish the green ink I’m currently using to write my daily journal I will have a couple of weeks of writing that in red. Sounds like a plan.

Finally, I wanted to just refer back to last Friday’s post where I wrote about trying to use my memory more. Starting with small steps, this week I’ve been doing a memory exercise which I think some people would think is ridiculously simple and others ridiculously hard. Each morning, immediately upon waking up, I tell myself what day of the week it is and what one thing I really need to get done. It’s easy to wake up befuddled and with a firm belief that it is totally the wrong day of the week, and so this is an interesting challenge.

I hope you have had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend. At the moment it looks like we can look forward to rather less rain next week which will be a pleasure.

Growth spurt

12-06-19 progress

This week I have been nursing a head-cold, but that has spurred me on to put in quite a bit of work on the Inigo cardigan by Lisa Richardson from Rowan’s New Vintage DK pattern book.

So, this week I have completed the second sleeve and the first front, and by my calculations I am now 85% of the way through the project. I like that the front bands are knitted in with the main body piece so there will be minimal finishing needed on this project. In fact, if I were to work on it as much as I have the past couple of days I would have it finished by the end of this week, but I am not going to put that much pressure on myself because there are more important things to be attended to than completing this cardigan. However, I am happy to think that I’ll have it in my wardrobe by the end of this month.

This pattern is nice and easy to follow, and every step is well-explained, provided you are happy with following standard instructions for garments knit in pieces. I therefore have to wonder why I have spent so much time unpicking what I’ve knitted. I am going to blame the germs, but it may well be that I just haven’t been thinking about what I’m doing. I cast on the wrong number of stitches for the front, and got through the waist shaping decreases before I realised and even when that happened I was utterly sure I had cast on the correct number and double-checked. Then when I started shaping the neckline decreases I did them at the wrong rate because I didn’t bother to read the instructions carefully enough. Still, all’s well that ends well, as Shakespeare would have it.

I am looking forward to seeing how this fabric washes and wears because it’s the first time I’ve worked with a wool and cotton combination yarn. In my opinion it is nicer to work with than a pure cotton yarn, but not as nice as a pure wool yarn.

Once this is finished I will either cast on for my next big project – the Cable Front Cardigan – or just carry on with the Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl. The weather will play a big part in which way I go, because I can’t imagine I will want to work with worsted weight yarn if it’s hot, however much I will crave the finished project come autumn.

I hope your knitting is going well, and I hope that wherever you are in the world your weather is slightly more seasonal than our current dull, rainy, slightly chilly weather is.

Word of the Week – Loquacious

WOTW Loquacious

This is my word of the week; it’s plain and simple; it doesn’t have multiple applications; there is no need for interpretation; it just means what it means; you don’t have to write for ages to describe how and where to use it.

There is one simple reason to explain why I came up with this as my word of the week: I have finally introduced a new character into the first draft of my novel and now my main protagonist has someone to talk to. The first few chapters have been very short on dialogue (I’ll have to have to fix that later) and that has suited me because generally I enjoy writing great swathes of description about inner thoughts and feelings, postponing action and dialogue for as long as possible. However, I experienced a palpable sense of relief last night when I could finally write a whole bit where two people were talking to one another.

They talked about sausages, probably because I was coming down with a cold and when I have a cold I just want to eat and eat and eat. Clearly food is on my mind even when I am supposedly hard at work practising my craft. In fact, now I come to think of it, there are a lot of biscuits so far in this novel. Hmmm, don’t write and diet?

I hope you have a loquacious week and remember: if no-one is listening to you it is the universe’s way of telling you that you are not talking quite enough!

Imagining my brain is exactly the right size

“Come on, Frank, an officer files things in his head. He doesn’t remember them until they pop up, you know that: a face, a street, a name, a number, zabba-dabba-doo, like that…”

Lieutenant Theo Kojak/1976


Listen to – Gladys Knight and the Pips “So Sad The Song” (I know that we both talked it over, said it’s best to forget)
Read or watch – Ray Bradbury “Fahrenheit 451” (people memorising stories because the books are being burned)


My avid consumption of books and videos about various methods of time management/planning has led me to an interesting juncture; a conundrum which is summed up by two equal and opposing concepts:-

  • “Use it or lose it”
  • “Your brain is not for storage, it is for creativity”

Most planning systems are based on the second of these two ideas and posit that you cannot trust your brain to store and organise all of the information about your life. You therefore need a trusted system to capture all your memories, all your thoughts, all your ideas, everything you need to do and everywhere you need to be so that your brain can be clear.

There is a barely disguised suggestion in this that life is so complex and so fast that your brain is not big enough for it.

However, there is an increasing amount of media coverage about the first of the concepts, advising us on how we need to exercise our brains and do crosswords, or Sudoku puzzles, or memorise poetry if we are to avoid our brains atrophying.

Oh, you are not memorising poetry yet? I have several large passages committed to memory and am currently working on “Meeting Point” by Louis MacNeice: I know all the verses, but struggle to keep them in the right order.

The idea of being able to trust my brain appeals to me, perhaps because I have never really been a list-maker and regardless of how many hand-written or device-orientated “to do” lists I have, I tend to do what is uppermost in my mind. Conversely, I find the idea of not being able to trust my brain very upsetting because I want to be in control of my direction; I don’t want to cede that control to a leather-bound planner or a whizzy device, however much I enjoy owning and playing with such items.

My brain, when I choose to use it, is actually pretty good at recalling things, and at prioritising what needs to be done. When I begin to lose track it is usually because I have become over-burdened, either with tasks that need doing or with more insidious “input”. It is not that I have forgotten what is most important at the time, more that I have successfully over-written it with fluff. In fact, I feel that often failure to accomplish something because “I forgot” is inaccurate and I should instead say “I chose not to remember”.

Of course, I am not espousing the rejection of all written or recorded material in favour of brain-power alone, just a more organic and more thoughtful use of both. And now I have to refer back to Kojak to illustrate a way of working that could be relevant now, either between managers and their team members, or just within your own personal task-setting.

Here is the scene – Kojak is sitting in his office and he yells “Crocker!” Detective Crocker appears and Kojak barks one concise instruction at him. Crocker doesn’t need to write it down, he has a single, well-defined task to do and he shoots off and does it. If it involves finding some information, he comes back, maybe with a brief written note, and tells Kojak the answer and that progresses the investigation. (I accept that sometimes even Kojak is a little blurry – like the episode that contained the line “Crocker – do it all.” On the whole he’s pretty good with his instructions.)

You will note that they didn’t have to book a meeting room and work through a long list of items of varying importance which they could only recall because they’d written them on a @Kojak/@Crocker list. I think in the modern workplace we can get bogged down in detail and lose immediacy. If we were giving our brains the leading role in our work, we might focus more on the really important and the really urgent and leave behind some of the purely bureaucratic and petty tasks that we consider so important in our current endeavours.

It is useful to write down times and dates in a diary, to remind ourselves of things that we need to attend to at a given moment and sometimes it is necessary to write a list of everything you need to do because you lack focus on that day, or in that hour. I just don’t want to delegate everything to some other system when using my brain could be a better way all-round.

So, this week I am trying to think hard about what I need to do next to make progress on the important things in my life and I am treating pen and paper, and my electronic devices, as aides-memoire instead of using my brain to assist the all-important List. I hope I will feel more human this way, because no-one wants to be just an organic limb carrying out the demands of a non-sentient catalogue of tasks.

Yes, I have no doubt there will be a lot of things that I forget, but I think that is how we sieve out that good ideas from the not so good ones. I wonder if, somewhere along the line, I might find that my brain is exactly the right size for my life.

What I imagine when I’m knitting

05-06-19 knitprog 1

Haruki Murakami wrote an entire book entitled “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”; I have never read it because, well, running? However, the title of this blog post is a nod to that book.

At its best, knitting, for those of you who don’t do it yourselves, is a soothing, mechanical hobby, which can lull your mind into imaginary worlds full of ponderings and vague, nebulous plans. One of the things I imagine whilst I am knitting is what life will be like when I have finished the project I am working on. I imagine wearing the finished object, what I will wear it with, where I will be when I wear it, how it will make me feel, how it will fit. Sometimes I imagine clothes I might buy to wear with it. Sometimes I imagine an entirely fictional self in a different world, wearing that actual item.

At other times, of course, knitting is a test of skill, dexterity, and calculation which leaves your mind no room for anything but solid facts. You need to keep hawk-like eyes on the pattern to make sure you commit no errors or omissions, you have to count your stitches repeatedly to reassure yourself that none have gone AWOL.

I have two projects on the go at the moment. The sea-blue cardigan is creeping along and I have not worked on it as much as I could have, or should have, this week. Instead, I have started knitting a cosy winter cowl for myself using the set of ten mini skeins of wool from Noodle Soup Yarns that I received at Christmas. I am calling this the Mama, Weer All Crazee Cowl, partly because the range of ten colours is not quite as harmonious as these first two suggest, and partly because working 300 stitches per row of knit one, purl one rib for somewhere around a length of 20 inches is an undertaking that only a crazee mama would consider.

Here is a close-up of the lovely sparkly wool from Charley of Noodle Soup:-

05-06-19 knitprog 2

I have one minor misgiving about this project: I fear I may get to the end and find that I’ve knitted a crazy, sparkly, multi-coloured boob tube!


A big shout-out to Slade’s song “Mama, Weer All Crazee Now” for the name of this project.


Hence These Tears…

The second stripe is the one I was working on when the news came through that one of my favourite actors had died: Paul Darrow, the man behind the wonderful character of Avon in Blake’s 7. Some of the sparkle has left this world, but it lingers on in memory and in this project.

“I am not expendable, I am not stupid, and I am not going.”
Avon, Blake’s 7,

If you’re not familiar with Avon, follow the link for a dollop of his sardonic wit – just try to ignore the lamentable quality of the video capture.

 

Word of the Week – Imagine

03-06-19 Imagine

If all goes to plan, my posts this week will tend to hang together with a theme of imagination, so “imagine” is the very best word to start off with.

I am a big fan of imagination; I think it’s very important to us as human beings. However, as we can see from the dictionary definition, it has a darker side, leading off into the realm of fancy, supposition and, ultimately, delusion.  It is important, then, that we each make sure we are aware of the ways in which imagination and reality co-exist, how each state can enrich the other, and where we are comfortable to sit on the boundary between living completely in the real world and living completely in a fantasy land.

Disillusion can also be a by-product of imagination and that is a state which can be abundant in our modern life, where we are always striving for the perfect photo to illustrate our perfect description of the perfect something we have just bought, produced, or experienced. I’m relatively happy with the snapshot that accompanies this post, but the one in my imagination is a hundred times better!

I hope you have a lovely week and get something imaginative into it. If you pop by again during the week you will be able to read how imagination plays a big role whilst I’m knitting, and also my ambling thoughts about imagination and various popular planning methodologies.

 

Five of my favourite short story collections

31-05-19 Books

It is always fun thinking about favourites and today I’ve been looking at short story collections. Five of my favourites, in no particular order, are:-

Winnie The Pooh by A A Milne

Yes, this does count as a short story collection; perhaps it is the all-time perfect short story collection. After checking the end-papers displaying a map of the Hundred Aker Wood (that’s how it’s spelt on the map!), we are introduced to Christopher Robin and Pooh, watch as Pooh gets stuck in a very tight place, go on hunts for heffalumps, commiserate with Eeyore when he loses his tail and celebrate his birthday with him, then we survive a flood with the help of an umbrella. We meet Kanga and Baby Roo then everyone goes on an Expotition to the North Pole before it’s finally time to say goodbye. My hardback copy was a present from my brother when he was a grown-up and I was still a child (I’ve got a second, paperback copy from when my daughter was young). I love Winne The Pooh.

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

A fair leap from Winnie The Pooh, although they sit near each other on my strictly alphabetical order bookshelves! I love Murakami’s novels, as I have said before, but he is also a skillful short story writer. In this particular set he concentrates on the lives of men who are alone in some way or another and the seven stories are written with his usual blend of the familiar and the surreal. For me, the standout story is Samsa In Love because it mirrors Kafka’s Metamorphosis in that the central character awakes in bed to find he has been transformed into something utterly alien to him – in this case he has become a human being. Stepping outside our human experience and describing our normal functions as something utterly inexplicable gives this story a wonderful strength.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

I’ve raved about this collection before and doubtless will again. These stories, all of which contain typewriters as a central or peripheral theme, are written in a way that reminds me of the already-dated sci-fi stories I read in my teenage years: the writing from the 1950s that I was reading in the 1970s. In this volume, I think my favourite story is These Are The Meditations Of My Heart which is the sweet and uplifting tale of a girl alone in a big city who finds her sense of belonging when she buys an old typewriter on a whim. I would also give honourable credits to The Past Is Important To Us which is a rather bleaker story on the theme of time travel and obsession and to Steve Wong Is Perfect which rounds off the collection with a story about a guy who seemingly can’t stop bowling perfect strikes; it deals with how people react to fame.

The last two collections on my list are the two where my copies appear to be eternally missing. I am sure I have both, but when I look for them they are not there and I think I need to re-purchase them.

The Complete Short Stories of H G Wells

This is a very thick tome, not quite at the level of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, but not far off. Wells wrote a lot of short fiction and most of it is very good indeed. The Time Machine, which many people know, is one of the longer pieces in the collected works. For me, the stories that have stuck through the years are The Empire of the Ants (yep, the ants are on the rampage and it isn’t pretty); A Vision of Judgement, which has had me rather dreading the possibility of there being a deity for most of my life; A Story of the Days to Come about which I can remember nothing except that I really enjoyed it. However, if I were to recommend one story above all others it would be A Dream of Armageddon in which the narrator sits opposite a man on a train who tells him a tale of a dream world which he wakes to every time he sleeps and is more real than the world he inhabits in his waking hours.

The Menace From Earth by Robert A Heinlein

Pure 1950s sci-fi which contains a story that still haunts me years after I first read it – Year Of The Jackpot. It charts a year where things go increasingly wrong, which starts with small reports in the newspapers of people behaving oddly and gradually expands until the hero realises that the world is heading to a doomsday. As things get progressively worse, he and the girl he falls in love with along the way set themselves up in a remote area and prepare to sit out the destruction of most of civilisation. There are times even now when I read a news story that is just plain odd, and I think of this story and how it ends, and I feel a chill.


 

Mend me, baby, one more time

29-05-19 socks
Old striped socks with new plain grey ‘toe’ added

Okay, well, a Britney Spears reference may not be quite what we were expecting today, but she’ll do.

After posting last week about the whole sock-mending option not working for me, I took a second look at the four pairs that that I had set aside to do some repair work on. I gave the whole structure of each sock a more thorough check to see whether there was enough potential to make the repairs. It was encouraging to find that three pairs probably are still in good condition and should be repairable, although one pair definitely isn’t.

I worked on the pair which had the least wear and was therefore in a state where it would be relatively simple to knit a replacement toe. I have finished the work now and I am very pleased to say that it was a success – these socks should be good for another couple of years. For the time being I have put them away as they are an autumn/winter/spring weight and I won’t be wearing them through the summer months. Over the summer I will try to mend the other two pairs in a similar fashion.

When I had finished mending this pair of socks and composed my scheme for mending the other two pairs, I was feeling pleased with myself. Then yesterday I felt an ominous twang at the back of my neck, so I took off my cardigan and this had happened. Yikes!

29-05-19 cardi
It’s a broken neck! Not that I want to over-dramatise anything,

This is an old cardigan which I have been wearing since 2012 – the pattern is Laccaria by Norah Gaughan and I knitted it in J C Rennie Shetland wool holding two strands together to get a DK/Worstead gauge. (I find it quite odd that I don’t have any finished object photos of this project at all.)

Now, if this problem had cropped up in May last year I would have cut the buttons off and thrown the cardigan in the bin, which may sound extreme, but at that point I had marked it down as no longer wearable. I had become too plump for it – the sleeves would spot-weld themselves to my arms when I wore it; one of the buttonholes had grown to the point where the button simply would not stay shut; the whole cardigan was shabby. However, as I have lost weight this cardigan has regained favour with me to the point where I am not ready to let it go. So, more mending is in order – I’m pretty sure I still have a ball of this wool and can just unpick the cast-off edge of the neckband and re-do it. I want to knit a new garment in this type of colour and when I do that, it will be time to retire this one.

Do you find there are times when everything seems to need mending, or is it just a steady trickle in your life?