Bye-bye summer 2019

Berries & Lichen
The fruits of our labours

I can’t remember a year when the arrival of September has coincided so exactly with the arrival of autumnal days. Over the course of the weekend, the temperature here has suddenly dropped from highs of 30℃ to 20℃ and the sun that was scorching on the last day of August seems merely warm and pleasant now that September is here.

I am settling bit by bit into my new work role and letting my routines unfurl themselves in their own time to fit around the new schedule.

I unpicked the socks I was knitting and now I have nothing on the needles. Nothing has grabbed my attention and there are no pressing gaps in my wardrobe that need to be filled. The ice-cream pink jumper will still probably be my next garment, although I don’t know when I will start knitting it; when the mood takes me is my best estimate. I have an idea that I should knit a warm hat for my Helsinki trip next February, but I’m not sure.

It is definitely time to be getting back into a writing routine, not only for my blog posts, but also back to working on my novel. I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman I met today who is also working on a novel, and it was inspiring in a quiet, comfortable way. It started when he brought out not only his 2019 diary, but also his 2020 diary which he was already carrying around with him – a very impressive action. In fact, if I had not been working at the time, I would have been very interested to delve into his “everyday carry” bag to see exactly what he was toting around; rather like a fully interactive, real-life YouTube video.

All in all, though tangible progress is rather hard to see, when I refer back to my Word of the Year (Establish), I think I am moving in the right direction.


Quote of the Week – The Great Gatsby


“What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon?” cried Daisy, “and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”

“Don’t be morbid,” Jordan said. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

I have just finished re-reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it yet (is there anyone?) or re-reading it to those who have previously read it. It never fails to make me fall in love with Fitzgerald’s writing style.

Suggested soundtrack: Harry Nilsson’s album “A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night” has the right vibes for a late-night audio session; or search out any of the music actually mentioned in the book.


Ink update/Crocker’s Pen

Currently inked update 1
Update on pens inked

So it’s time to update you on the inks in my fountain pens, now we are heading through October.

Colour me satisfied

I finished up the Graf von Faber-Castell Violet Blue ink very soon after my previous update and inked up the Waterman Hemisphere Blue pen with a cartridge of Caran d’Ache Chromatics Ultraviolet.

After that I worked my way through the cartridge of Graf von Faber-Castell Moss Green in my Waterman Hemisphere Rose Cuivre. I waited a while before refilling this one as I am searching for a decent purple ink. My favourite was the Lamy special edition Dark Lilac and nothing really comes close to that from the brands that I enjoy using. I have just bought some cartridges of Waterman’s Tender Purple to try out in this pen.

I am also constantly checking out red inks to find a favourite – I want a nice vibrant red, either a true red or one towards the bluer end of the spectrum. My favourite to date is J Herbin’s Rouge Caroubier. I decided to try out the Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red in my wetter-writing Visconti Rembrandt to see if it brought out more of the red, but this remains at best a dried-blood shade whereas the fictional Crime Scene Investigator in me wants fresh, arterial blood spatter!

I am currently nearing the end of the black cartridge in my Lamy LX Rose Gold and this pen may sit out of rotation for a while, although I love it dearly and will no doubt ink it again within a couple of weeks of making this decision!

I use my pens how?

It has struck me during the past month that although I will often have multiple fountain pens inked with different colours, I tend to use them pretty monogamously. Whichever pen I am using at a given time, I will use for pretty much everything I write – journal, appointment diary, catch-all notebook. Occasionally I will break out a different pen, usually if I need a contrasting colour for some reason, but I don’t seem to rotate between the pens I have inked during the same time period. I quite like the way this gives a visual represenation of the time when I was writing particular things, especially in my journal when I have a stretch of entries in one colour, followed by a further stretch in a different colour.

I thought it might be good to put in an example of my journal-writing, just in case anyone is reading who thinks that what you write in your journal needs to be exciting, or momentous, or even vaguely readable!

Journal example
My daughter is so looking forward to the day she inherits my mind-boggling journals!

I journal in an A5 Rhodiarama notebook, by preference the Sapphire colour cover which comes with orange end-papers, ribbon and elastic to keep it closed. Over and above my preference for colour, I am strict about journals having fountain-pen friendly paper and strongly, strongly prefer lined paper. These Rhodia notebooks have 7mm ruling and I would say that’s about right for my handwriting.

Crocker’s Pen Day

That was going to be it for today’s entry, but I watched what might count as the best episode ever of Kojak over lunch today and have decided to nominate today as Crocker’s Pen Day.

In this episode, which had me roaring with laughter on many fronts, Detective Inspector Theo Kojak and Detective Robert Crocker travelled to the middle of nowhere, Nevada, USA for reasons too complex to get into. Crocker lent Kojak his pen to sign in at the Motel and they left it sitting on the register. Now, I am sure any pen user watching would have been shouting along with me “Don’t forget your pen, Bobby!” As they exited stage left to their room, a suspicious-looking dude entered stage right – he had been dispatched by the bad guys to find out who these New York cops were.

Have you guessed? Yep, he picked up Crocker’s pen, wrote some information with it and pocketed it, despite Crocker returning and telling him it was his pen. The infamy! Later in the episode Kojak and Crocker got involved in a spectacular bar-room brawl, mainly due to Crocker not being able to let this guy get away with nicking his pen – perfectly reasonable if you ask me.

And here, for your delight, is the moment of the pen theft.

Give me my pen!
“Give me my pen!”

I believe there is a lesson to be learnt here about never letting suspicious-looking dudes get their hands on your pen!

Playlist: If this doesn’t make you want to take a listen to Elvis Costello “Watching The Detectives”, I don’t know what will!

Finished object – maroon sweater

I have finished my sweater! Although this is a distinctly autumn knit, I am counting it as the summer garment as far as my intentions for the year go (I was aiming to get one garment and three pairs of socks knitted in each of the four “seasons” this year and I’m running way behind).

Date started: 19th September 2018
Date completed: 14th October 2018
Pattern: Square-neck Ribbed Sweater from One Thousand Sweaters by Amanda Griffiths  (out of print) with modified Fitted Sleeve and modified Square V-neck Rib neck border
Yarn: Willow and Lark Ramble Superwash Wool DK in colour 110 Ox Blood (out of stock as I write this)
Size: Medium (to suit 36″bust)

This book is modular so you can mix and match different bodies, sleeves, necklines etc to suit yourself. I’ve knitted a few DK-weight sweaters using it and I rather like it.

When I last wrote about this garment, I wasn’t too sure about it at all. I am pleased to report that I loved knitting it, forgave the yarn its quirks as I did manage to get a number of balls that didn’t have any obvious flaws, and I galloped through the sleeves like a maniac who lives on the opposite side of the globe to the famous Sleeve Island where knitters often find themselves becalmed. I knitted this at the shorter of the two lengths offered for the body because I am both entirely short (5’2″) and short-waisted. The ribbing design on the body made the knitting interesting and works well in the worn garment.

I decided to make two modifications to the pattern. Firstly, I worked the centre 10 stitches all the way up the sleeves in the 2 x 2 rib pattern featured on the body. I think this worked exceptionally well. I also modified the neckband to feature a rolled edge.

The neckband is knitted as a separate piece, and I have to admit to making a silly mistake when attaching it on Sunday. Fitted correctly, the two ends of the strip of knitting are attached to the front of the neckline then the band is attached up the fronts and round the back of the neck. For some silly reason, I attached it with the middle of the band at the front and then joined the two ends at the back of the neck, giving a more scoop-neck finish to the garment. I realised my mistake as I had completely finished attaching it and was walking into my bedroom to try it on. It didn’t look bad. I spent a good few minutes trying to convince myself that “good enough is done”, then sat down and took the neckband off and re-worked it correctly. For some of us, good enough is never done.

And that’s it – a speedy, enjoyable knit and a garment I’m keen to wear as the weather cools. Currently on my needles is yet another version of my all-time favourite cardigan pattern – Rimini by the lovely, lovely Martin Storey.  This is taking advantage of a sweater quantity of 4-ply Sirdar Country Style yarn (45% acrylic/40% Bri-Nylon/15% wool) kindly donated to me by my good friend Alex W. She wasn’t going to use it on account of it being a vile colour, which it sort-of is, but it’s a colour that is everywhere this autumn and it is growing on me. We’ll have to see if I can actually carry off an entire garment in this shade!

Happy knitting, folks!

Is it just me, or is anyone else getting a vague Star Trek vibe from these photos? Something to do with that neckline and the red and gold-chartreuse-mustard colourways.


Quote of the Week – Don McLean

Moon over tree, Brentford, October 2018

From “Did You Know?” on Don McLean’s marvellous 1974 album, Homeless Brother, an unashamedly romantic quote.

Did you know that love can grow
Any place that people go?
And I can tell, from what I see,
That you have found a place with me.
The sun is high, the day is new,
And I have found a place with you.

And no, anyone who knows me, I haven’t got anything romantic going on in my life! Just feeling slushy for no good reason – well, other than two phenomenal 3-piece suits in today’s episode of Kojak!

Work in progress – Maroon sweater

Weekend gains
Knitting, Kojak, more knitting, more Kojak – that’s my kind of weekend

A lot of my weekend was spent alternating between knitting and watching Kojak; perfect partners for the grim, grey, rainy days we had in Norfolk. Oh, I did chores too, plenty of chores. I washed and cleaned and shopped for groceries, because I am far from advocating a life where all one does is knit and watch Kojak (that’s because he’s mine… all mine, I tell you!).

I thought I would feature the knitting today since it is a relatively new cast-on for me. I’m using one of the basic sweater patterns from “One Thousand Sweaters” by Amanda Griffiths. I haven’t decided if I will go on and knit sleeves, or just do a sleeveless pullover. The decision may depend slightly on how the wool goes, because I admit I am struggling with this yarn. It is Willow & Lark’s Ramble DK – 100% superwash wool. Willow & Lark is a house brand for Lovecrafts who run the Love Knitting and Love Crochet web shops. I have been knitting with this wool, on and off, through the late spring and summer, but not getting far on any project I’ve started.

It’s not a bad yarn, by any means. For example, it gives a nice even stitch definition which isn’t guaranteed with worstead-spun yarns; many show a definite bias whereby one side of each stitch sits vertically whilst the other side slopes, giving a very noticeable effect in the finished fabric. The slightly silky finish you get with a superwash treated wool is fine by me. Less acceptable is the tendency for the yarn to look a bit ‘old’ as I’m knitting it, giving me cause for concern about the longevity of the project. Worse, though, are the number of noticeable joins within a ball of the yarn, not to mention actual knots. These are frequent enough that I have started to rewind each ball before I start it in order to avoid surprises. I think this is probably par for the course at this price-point, but I am disappointed nevertheless. The colour is lovely and autumnal, though, and I would really like a garment in this shade. Actually, what I want is a pair of boots in exactly this shade; and thinking about it I used to have a pair that I loved until they fell apart.

On top of my concern about the wool, I am knitting the medium size on this occasion and I am also undecided about the fit. I’m currently trying to lose weight and the large size in this book is a trifle big even at my plumpest. Then again, with the ribbing features at the sides and front, it is cinching in quite noticeably, giving me pause for thought. However, I shall carry on and see what transpires. Luckily, the world does not end every time we knit something we don’t end up liking. Also, many things I thought I didn’t like when I finished them end up being the things I wear the most.

Now, though, it is time to close, before I start to exhibit Kojak withdrawal symptoms! Hope you all had an enjoyable weekend and are starting the working week rested.




Boating Pond, Earlham Park, Norwich

Given that I am not doing anything truly productive with my work-time, it seems odd to say I took advantage of the weekend to be self-indulgent, but I did. It was one of those good, early-autumn weekends, cool enough to do enjoyable things and bright enough to be out and about.

On Sunday morning I walked up to a reasonably local park, mainly for exercise, but also to grab some photos. It is a nice walk there and back and the boating pond in particular is a favourite part of the park for me.

When I got home I set my “shop” knitting aside and started working on a pair of socks for myself. This was inspired by a post from Fog Knits and the pair of socks she talk about with a Fleegle Heel which somehow ate its way into my brain and made me want to try it myself. I think it’s the name more than anything – Fleegle is a super word. Anyway, I watched YouTube videos and read construction information and I knitted a trial heel and liked it. I have had two skeins of sock wool from Mr B Yarns sitting in my mum’s cut glass vase all summer and have been happily admiring them without going so far as winding them into balls and knitting with them. These socks were all the inspiration I needed. In a trice I had those two skeins wound into balls and I was casting on using the beautiful Dr Foster Went To Gloucester colourway.

Dr Foster Went to Gloucester
Dr Foster Went To Gloucester by Mr B. Yarns at Birdstreet UK

I love those pops of blue in the sands, browns and greys of this yarn. In fact, I love Mr B’s aesthetic full stop. I find that is the thing with hand dyers, they all do really impressive work, but every now and then one will particularly resonate with you. The other, equally gorgeous, skein – in the Isambard colourway – is awaiting a second pair of socks in the not-too-distant future.

Not only is this my first pair of socks with anything but a heel flap and gusset construction, they are also the first pair I have knit toe-up. I’m not 100% happy with my toe, and I need to finish the sock in order to truly determine about the fit, but so far so good. For some reason I did think that it would be quicker to knit this way than the heel flap style and, although I shouldn’t be, I am surprised that they take about the same amount of time.

I rounded off the weekend reading some Byron so I think this Friday’s quote of the week will be something in the nature of an incantation…

I hope you all enjoyed your weekends and did a little something either constructive or recuperative, whichever most suited you.

Last day of summer

Today really feels like the last day of summer to me, although surely it will not be the last hot, sunny day we have. This morning, in the heart of Norwich, with the sunlight dappling the trees near the historic Cow Tower, it seemed for all the world as if summer was turning back to wave goodbye on its way out of the door.

Perhaps it is the forecast change in weather from tomorrow that makes me feel this way. Certainly, the sunsets are creeping earlier day by day; and first thing in the mornings there is a slight tang in the air hinting at autumn preparing itself in the wings.

It may be due to hitting the last birthday of the summer – my grandson’s ninth today being celebrated with a picnic under the trees by the river. July and August are birthday-heavy months for me.

Whatever the cause, I find myself this afternoon looking back and pondering the events of the summer, putting photos in order, and clearing the decks in my mind. Tomorrow will be the time for making plans and looking forwards.

Cow Tower is an historical fortification in Norwich, an early example of a purpose-built blockhouse for artillery. It dates back to the final couple of years of the 14th century. It is located immediately beside the River Wensum, close to our 12th century cathedral in a tree-lined grassed area ideal for a birthday picnic.


All quiet on the knitting front

Strangely, the change in seasons has not seen me doing the usual knitterly stuff – planning projects, buying yarn and gearing up for a winter of sweater knitting and wearing.  It is decidedly autumnal now, with lots of nut husks on my cycle route and a nip in the air in the mornings, but I remain in my summer clothes and rarely even need to pull on a pair of socks.  It is getting dark quite early in the evenings, but that hasn’t seen me hunkering down for a long evening of knitting.

Am I in the dreaded knitting funk?  Have I lost my knitting mojo?  No, not really.  It is a more a case, I think, that I have not quite geared myself up yet.  Over the summer I have had lots of ideas, and a fair few false starts, and now I have a reasonable idea of what I want to be knitting, yet haven’t worked out the exact details.

Of course, as a happily monogamous knitter, the fact that I haven’t yet finished my current major sweater project is probably the only thing that is keeping me from committing to something new.  The Scarf Front Cardigan has been simply crawling for more than a month.  I got halfway through the scarf front, then decided I could go no further until I found the right button.  That proved to be a wonderful exercise in procrastination, which I finally put an end to last weekend.  I thought once I’d got that sorted I would be off like a dog after a rabbit, but not a bit of it.  I think I have worked about 10 rows in the entire week.

What I was doing instead was an abortive attempt at a second pair of arm warmers for cycling.  I’m using my Steptoe Mittens quite a lot now and having determined the improvements I could make I cast on for a second pair.  These were to be in a bright self-striping sock yarn, ribbed to provide a better fit, and perhaps just slightly longer.  I finished the first one last night and it was a disaster – didn’t fit at all well.  And, if I’m going to be scrupulously honest, I simply don’t like these complex patterned yarns in anything but stocking stitch, so I need to go either for another pair of stocking stitch arm warmers, or for ribbed ones in plain yarn.

First, though, I need to finish my scarf front cardigan, because I feel it’s likely to get a lot of wear in the coming months; and I need to work out a plan of action for some winter projects.

I will leave you with a sign that amuses me in our local cemetery.

Was this written by a driver?