Sunday, December 31, 2006

With firm(ish) resolve

Like many people's, our Christmas celebrations spread beyond the day itself. My brother and his family visited us for a couple of days this week.
This is them at Saltburn, yesterday. My elder niece declined to be included in the family photo - "I'd have my picture taken with McFly..." she offered.

My SIL is wearing, although you can't really see it here, possibly my greatest knitting triumph - the knitted gift she loves. I made a natural coloured baby alpaca chunky weight lace scarf and hoped she might like it as she can't stand anything scratchy near her skin. This is anything but scratchy.

Boy was it cold, but there were still brave souls trying to surf. There's a new surfshop opened, called Charlie Don't Surf. We walked along the pier and watched them on, the admittedly small, waves. "They're not making much of an effort," I said. "You know," said my brother, "that's one of the things that is fundamentally wrong with us. There's those hardy bastards out there, making an effort and having a go and all we can do is criticise from the safety of the pier!" "Oh, yes, sorry..." I mumbled, feeling suitably chastened. "Mind you," said he, "they are shite..."

We played musical beds again. That sounds kinky, but it's disappointingly mundane - the moving around of people to accommodate guests in our little house, where what should be guest room is given over to yarn and paint storage and at least one computer per person.

Two nights in j's bed leaves J and I crippled and bent out of shape. No matter how much planning and cutting out of unnecessary work I do, I am always left feeling on the verge of a flare by 'residential' visits of friends and family. Little Red tried to overcome this by giving me one of her special HELLO AUNTIE GILL hugs.

Awful picture of me, but great hug.

Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow: The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true
I always thought that was George Harrison, turns out it was Tennyson. Shows what I know.

Anyway, here we are again on New Year's Eve...

As a teacher, I have two starts to my year, September and January, and although September always has the biggest real impact, January is the one with the biggest emotional and psychological effect. The people who brought us Grumpy Old Men & Women, which I love more as I get older, were reflecting on the pressures to have a good time on New Year's Eve. I've had some good times (including one of the wildest parties our town ever saw, back in the day) and some terrible times on New Year's Eve. I found out I was pregnant with j on New Year's Eve 16 years ago, which was both the best ever and the worst - I was terribly sad that my Dad, who had died during the year, would never see my child.

Tonight we have been invited to two parties by two lovely families, but will be staying home to rest and catch up with ourselves. J and I don't seem to have had a moment to ourselves for weeks and I am so tired (and insert here all the other crappy problems that the fibro fairy brings). So, it's the sofa, the TV and hot chocolate for us.

Tomorrow I shall think about my resolutions...maybe...

I wish you all

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Under construction

Kitchen cabinets arrived today, flat-packed but still seem to take up an inordinate amount of space. I've stacked them in what used to be the dining room with the cabinet doors, a freezer, wooden flooring and bags of plaster that will be become the dining part of our new open plan kitchen and dining room. J plans to make a start next week, if he gets his current job finished by the weekend. Unfortunately, he needs to skim the walls and then paper and paint them first, so everything will have to come out once again. I've been looking at paint charts for days. I know that I want a creamy colour on the walls, but we have a chimney breast wall I would like doing in an accent colour that will best display a new painting we bought of Robin Hood's Bay.

I keep being drawn to a deep aubergine colour in a velvet matte, but I think that will be too dark for the painting and we'll probably do it a rich terracotta shade.


Clapotis? I must be the only person in the knitting world who hasn't made one.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Catching a few quiet moments.

There's something about the middle of the night that blows everything out of proportion. Things that seemed terrifying and unsurpassable at 4am this morning have now passed into their true perspective. There's nothing really bothering me, but I woke in tears with a real sense of persecution and fear. Yet again, I give thanks for a comfy sofa, a warm, soft throw and a book. It's the fibro, I think, and, if I'm really honest, too many chocolates while watching Johnny Depp on DVD. It's not that Johnny Depp usually gives me nightmares, so I guess it must be the chocolate and the fibro. Go figure.

J's gone into work today - one of the downsides of working for yourself, really. I, however, as an employee of a Local Authority, am sitting in the study with a Whittards' Christmas Coffee latte and I'm listening to the chatter of birds in the garden and the gentle rhythmical breathing of my still sleeping son. (He's not at school either and is therefore nocturnal again) It's very relaxing and the only thought disturbing me now is that if I can hear the birds j must have his bedroom window wide open and we must be sending pounds worth of fuel energy straight out into the cold.

I am not venturing to the sales this week. There is actually very little that I want, which is lovely. So it isn't worth all the aggravation for gratuitous spending.
I would like to buy some quilting fabric from a local craft shop, but it won't be on sale and I'm not planning on starting the quilt just yet. It will be my first. I fell in love with the range and diversity of fabrics when I saw them in the store, but put them out of my head remembering the misery of helping my nana piece triangles for one of the quilts she made in the 70s. Her technique was great, but she had a great fondness for crimpelene and lurex... she also liked rikrak braid, but that's another traumatic story from my childhood...

Anyway, having overcome the flashbacks, this is the pattern I have bought. It's called I love my cat. Maybe J will take the hint. (We've been at loggerheads over the concept of a new cat for some time now...) Not sure what colours to choose yet, but it's quite exciting. It will have to wait its turn though. I plan to use up some stash on throws and a waistcoat for me, among other things.

Am I the last person in the web to catch onto Weffriddles? It's addictive.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"Are you still awake?"

Do you remember that feeling? You just sink into sleep on Christmas Eve and then a little voice wakes you up.."He's been, he's been!"
We had a flashback of that on Christmas Eve. "Mum, Dad..." Stage whisper from landing..."You remember when you got cross with me for not waking you up when there was that explosion...?" We were instantly awake. No explosion this time, but glowing orange skies from the direction of Seal Sands petrochemical complex. No sirens, no explosions but it stayed there for hours. J speculates it was from the flare stacks , but we're all very suspicious these days.


I finished my Christmas knitting - socks for my brother in Opal's Hundertwasser.

We had a quiet, chilled Christmas Day - just the three of us in the morning, but lots of phone calls and an afternoon visitor - one of J's oldest friends from Malvern. It's funny to listen to the conversation and realise how reactionary and middle aged we've all become at times.

Some wooly goodies:

Cherry Tree sock yarn from j - chosen by me :).

Yarn for felting from my SP9 Secret Pal

and a close up of some linen yarn she dyed herself.

Most unusual gift received this year - a wooden candle holder, although that description doesn't really seem adequate, from our friends B & M. B made it from a slab of oak with its bark left on. He makes some lovely wooden objects - mostly turned, so this is a bit different. of the things I like best about Boxing Day is cold turkey with pickles and salad or bubble and squeak.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

All is calm, all is bright

Good grief. Where did December go?
Actually, don't answer that, I know where it went.

It started with a bang - literally. J and his firends took the wall down between the kitchen and the dining room so our days were filled with brick dust, moving things around and then wet plaster.

At work we've had three Nativity performances, two discos, three parties, a Carol Service for our pupils and theiir families and an evening guest service at the Salvation Army Citadel in Hartlepool.

J has been working in Durham City so he's had long days and no weekends off so he hasn't been able to do any more work on the kitchen or anything else really. j and I didn't finish school until the 22nd and yesterday saw me at Marks and Spencers at 8am buying last minute food.

My Christmas knitting is done - scarves and socks and all wrapped before I thought about photographing them! Doh! Hopefully I might catch some of the recipients wearing them over the holidays.

We're keeping things simple for the next couple of days as we all need some down time. All the cards and pressies have gone off to J's grandchildren and our friends, the tree is up, cake is iced and I'm in my pjs heading for a latte, some knitting and the Brothers Grimm on dvd.

Enjoy the holidays!


Saturday, November 25, 2006

"How are Nativity rehearsals coming along?"

I asked the organiser, yesterday.
"Oh, I haven't started writing it yet." she said. Wish I could be that laid back.
I love the production. Hate the rehearsals. "No, no, no! Angels stop picking your noses! Camels, stand still!" Last year's organiser is on maternity leave this year so it's a whole new ballgame. I'm sure it will be lovely.

It's the Junior diso I really hate. Some of the clothes the girls wear are terrifying. There's a fine line between trendy and tarty and when you are 9 years old it moves onto very dodgy ground very easily. When I were a lass...

We're well into the run up to Christmas at school at the moment, which means planning the infant Nativity productions, the advent assemblies, the parties, the fundraisers, the discos (oh, the horror!), the services, the lunches, the staff 'do' and other things I have, no doubt, forgotten. On top of the day to day business of running a school. We can't put learning on hold because of Christmas because Every lesson Counts - ask the government.

The postman brought me a lovely package from my SP9 Secret Pal. Lovely! Each item was beautifully wrapped, so it was a bit like Christmas. There was chocolate too, and lollies but they seem to have mysteriously disappeared...

Let me tell you about the yarn.

Silk Garden which, I feel, is destined to be a pair of fingerless mittens. I love Emma's take on Knitty's Fetching.

Gorgeous Collinette Point Five in a berry jammy colourway. I love it!

I finished some Christmas knitting:

Scarf for niece in Kidsilk Haze.

And started some more:

Scarf in the softest, thickest baby alpaca I have ever seen, for my sister in law.

One of the questions for SP9 was 'where do you keep your needles?' This is where I keep my wooden straights and dpns:

A friend made it and gave it to me as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. He turns wood and this vase was turned out of a grasstree root.

I'll finish with another Autumn image from the garden.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A quiet weekend

to recover from a manic week.

We had Bingo Night at school on Wednesday. I've never played Bingo in my life, you understand, but someone has to be there to lock up at the end. Our parents take their bingo very seriously. A table full of my colleagues were hissed and shushed and given the evil eye for chatting as they played.
Then we had Dress Down Day for Children in Need on Friday.

I've spent most of the week looking at data and watching figures swim together on spreadsheets. I really like data and numbers, but I think I need to face up to the fact that I'm moving towards varifocal specs or something. My eyesight is changing. I'm still short-sighted but now can't see properly to read or knit close up. Bugger this getting old lark!

As an antidote to getting old I have got down wid da kids and have become addicted to Linerider. Try it. Then look it up on You Tube to see how seriously some people take it.

Finished the Curly Wurly scarf. Not sure it's the right choice for my niece, but I like it. I'll probably end up keeping it :) and making her something else. I have some legwarmers and a matching fluffy scarf in mind. Actually, I wore it to TGI Fridays this evening and will have to keep it as it may have fajita particles on it.

Perfect scarf-wearing weather - cool and crispy this morning. I've had to scrape ice from the car twice this week and the heater coil comes on before I start the engine now.
My bargain acer (99p in Woolworths, slightly bent, 4 years ago) is obliging me with the Autumn colour I saw in Yorkshire last weekend.

J has put the plastic sheets up that turn our deck into an emergency shelter for our tender plants over the winter - no room for people any more.

One group of agave babies huddled together for warmth and company.

A knitting disaster this week: used some handspun I got at Danby Show to knit a bowl for felting. Problem - it will not felt! I've had it in the machine at 90 degrees with extra boiling water... twice. Admittedly, it's slightly smaller than when I started, but nothing like I anticipated. You can guarantee that, had I made a garment from this yarn and it had accidentally been put in the wash (like my Jaywalker socks, just by way of example) it would have felted like nobody's business. I'll try it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower

Albert Camus - nothing to do with South Yorkshire, where we've been this weekend to see my brother and his family. We were all absolutely shattered after a long and arduous week and it hasn't been the relaxing weekend we probably needed. Still, getting a fix of Little Red, my niece, has recharged my batteries. She's talking now, mostly "No!", admittedly, but the gaps between the times I see her make each milestone look like a big leap.

It's not fair, they have Autumn in South Yorkshire. We moved swiftly from Summer to Winter last week.

J and P dwarfed by an acer in the most amazing shades in Autumn

Blurry action shot of squirrel who has just chased another squirrel around the tree.

Leaves just waiting to be kicked up into the air.

A rather beautiful reminder of the hideous purpose of the bearpit.

We drove over to Sheffield, to the Botanical Gardens and I made up for it by kicking leaves up in a way that embarrassed most of the rest of the party.

They have finished restoring the glasshouses and have divided them up into different world zones. We were taken by this Hymalayan Cypress.

I'm dismayed to find that even the moderate amount of walking and sitting in the car for a couple of hours has made me seize up so badly this evening. Bloody fibro....sassenfrassendickdastardly fibro!


I finished my Road to Socialism socks.

And cast on a Curly Wurly scarf in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in the Irvine Park colourway.

There are 700 stitches on the needles!!!!! Bring on the decrease rows.

Friday, November 10, 2006

It may be cold outside...

but here inside there's still colour.

The Christmas cacti on our kitchen windowsill are flowering well and the African Violets never stop. This one was a birthday present from one of my 10 year old students 6 years ago. I think it came from a local fruit shop on his way to work and it lived really happily in our classroom until he'd left school and I got promoted. Since then it's been almost constantly in flower in the kitchen.

Still haven't finished my latest socks. Got distracted by starting a felted bowl in some homespun I got from the Danby show in the Summer. Thinking (belatedly ) about my Christmas lists!

I was so cold last night - it's not our house temperature, everyone else was in T shirts - that I put these on to go to bed.

These are my first pair of socks, I think, so they're getting on a bit. The tension was a bit loose and they stretched a bit so they're too baggy to wear with shoes but make great bedsocks. They're in Lorna's Laces, Shepherd Sock and the colourway was Miata. I'm not that keen on the way this yarn washes, to be honest. The colours are great, but I much prefer Socks that Rock or Cherry Tree Hill for texture and durability.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Under seige

Today is day two of what has turned into a three day Guy Fawkes Night in our town. It feels a bit like being under seige and the garden is full of things like this that have dropped from the sky.

The fireworks started weeks ago as they started to go on sale. Last night there were quite a number of displays around, but tonight, despite being only the 4th is likely to be the big night. I actually quite like them, but last year was very unpleasant as there is a guy who lives out the back of us who buys what can only be commercial display fireworks, which are far too big to be let off in the middle of a residential area. Red hot debris rained down on our houses, garden and cars for hours. One of our cars ended up with small burns in the lacquer on the roof so J was really, really angry. We have a new car this year so he's off to park it somewhere else tonight.

Knitting progress: not much - I'm into the second Road to Socialism sock. Pictures when I'm finished.

Stash accumulation:

Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Worsted for a Curly Wurly scarf for my neice L.

Wendy Bamboo (because I'm too mean to buy enough Big Wool for an experiment) for a jacket for me.

Couple of balls of mystery mohair for scarves.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Socks and statistics

A slow day, with very little energy available on my part. A trip out for coffee and I'm flattened. The lowering temperatures and the expenditure of a lot of physical and emotional energy recently has left me feeling like a fibro flare might be starting. Need to see if I can catch it in time and gather myself back together in time to go back to work on Monday. My thoughts go out to fibromites in colder climes who are suffering more already. I hate this aspect of the colder weather but love the sweaters, scarves and boots bit.

More socks. These are J's Opal boot socks; made specifically to go under a pair of leather and goretex tactics boots he wears when the weather or terrain gets difficult. The long leg length balances the size 12 feet and belies the scale of these beauties :)

This is the start of my Opal Hundertwasser socks - The Road to Socialism. Great yarn name, very apt for socks. I'll have to find a march to wear them on. I'm enjoying the colours but the printed yarn is rough on the fingers so I hope it softens up and blooms a little when I wash them.

This is the yarn for my next Hundertwasser project.


My brother told me about an interesting website yesterday. Up My Street gives you demographic information relating to postcode areas in the UK. I looked ours up to find that people in our area have a high chance of being educated to degree level, a medium chance of having satellite TV and a low level of interest in current affairs. Apparently we also have low useage of credit cards, are likely to take our holidays in the mediterranean and be interested in DIY. Hmmm.

More statistics:
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I knew my Christian name was a bit old fashioned now, but there are only 8999 'Gillian's in the states, apparently. Wonder how many in the UK.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


We have been up in Northumberland for few days. We stayed in Ford Common, at Friendly Hound Cottage , which was very nice, if a little chilly as we managed to time our visit on the first day the temperatures really dropped towards Autumnal.
We took a boat from Seahouses and visited the Farne Islands. (Hat in Colinette Point 5)

St Cuthbert lived in his later years and died, in 687, on Inner Farne. The small building here is Cuthbert's chapel.

My favourite reason for visiting the Farnes is always the seals. The Atlantic Grey Seals have their pups in Autumn and there are only two pups born so far to this colony. We first went out, as a family, to see the seals in November when j was four years old. The boat we took that visit was a small supply boat delivering supplies to the RSPB Wardens who live out on the islands; the sea was quite wild and I gripped the back of j's coat for the whole two hour trip. Knuckles whiter than on any rollercoaster. This year the weather was glorious, the seas calm and the seals abundant.

This is the Longstone Lighthouse, from which 22 year old Grace Darling rowed, with her father, in September 1838 to save nine people from the wreck of the Forfarshire, which had gone down in a storm. Grace is such a national figure that she even appears in the KS1 history curriculum.

We got across the causeway to Lindisfarne at dawn (which comes later these days). It was peaceful - deserted and the light was gorgeous.

The sandstone of Lindisfarne Priory has weathered to a gorgeous rose colour.

We came across these wonderful sheds made from upturned and felted boats. While J coveted this one:

j developed a whole back story for this one, which his story goes, is filled with fertiliser, electronic timers, detonating cord and a souvenir of childhood - Rupert, a battered old bear, his only friend. This is his 'God told me to do it...' pose:

Do you ever wonder where your children came from or is it just me...?

Lindisfarne Castle as the sun comes up: