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:

Monday, October 23, 2006

I'll give him bland

j said my last batch of pumpkin soup was bland. That's fighting talk around here. So I found this recipe, which is a Thai take on pumpkin soup.

1 large pumpkin, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium chilli, finely chopped
1 can coconut milk
Handful of coriander leaves
salt and pepper

1. Cut the pumpkin into quarters so they are a manageable size to work with. Scoop out the seeds and remove the skin.
2. Chop the flesh into small chunks and cook in boiling water until soft.
3. Meanwhile, add the chilli, garlic, half the corinader, salt and pepper to a blender and whiz until well blended.
4. When the pumpkin is soft, drain the cooking water but keep it.
5. Put the pumpkin into the blender with the chilli mix and blend.
6. Put the mixture back into a saucepan, add the coconut milk and simmer. If it is too thick, add some of the reserved cooking water.
7 . Serve in large bowls and add the remaining chopped coriander for garnish.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Rocking Socks

Our fridge is full of pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potato soup. Gourdy things were reasonably priced in Tesco's and I may have gone overboard...

Finished my Socks That Rocks socks last night. I love this yarn - it's nice to be back to thinner yarn after sockwars.

I shall wear them during our few days on the Northumbrian coast this week as it looks like the weather is finally settling on Autumn.

Debating what I start on next - probably a lace scarf. I feel like trying a slightly more traditional lace pattern than I have tried in the past. I really like the Print o the Wave design and have been thinking about it for a while.

It's decided: more socks. Caught up in the whole Halloween/pumpkin soup/autumn leaves thing, I've ordered some of the Opal Hundertwasser range in blues, greens, purples and fabulous orange shades.

Hundertwasser's paintings have always excited me. I love the use of colour. It really appeals to my sense of what works. Love the shapes too - all the lines and enclosures. I bought a big poster for my classroom door when I taught Year 6 and it always captivated my students too.

I finished watching BBC One's Jane Eyre this evening, despite j's attempts to sabbotage the experience with questions and arguments about the characters and setting based upon his dogmatic view of life from his 21st century perspective. How have I raised such a critic? That's what I get for teaching him to think! Reader, I enjoyed it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dark Stars

Driving to work this morning felt very wintery. The skies got darker and darker as we headed down into Hartlepool. A very wet day meant my class of three years olds were confined to barracks and a bit stir crazy. We made alien cakes with liquorice tentacles, painted our space models and went moon walking. Guess what this week's theme is!

We have a training day tomorrow and then a week's holiday followed by another training day on Halloween.

Surprise package from my SP9 pal today - Halloween goodies. Very nice, thank you. :) Love the purple and orange spiders. The beads are perfect as I was looking only last night at some patterns for gloves with beading on the cuffs and the backs of the hands. I might have a go at them over half term.
Thank you for this package. It cheered me up no end!

I also got this spoon pin from a friend who also has fibromyalgia.

I imagine most people have heard the spoons theory by now, but just in case go to But You Don't Look Sick. There are many days when I would appreciate another spoon.

I heard that my International Scarf Exchange scarf arrived safely with Laura(go visit to see her wonderful pumpkin striped socks). I wouldn't wish freezing winters on anyone, but I do hope she maybe gets one or two days when it's cold enough to wear it in Alabama.

I'm off to vegetate in front of the TV and finish my second Socks that Rock sock.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

All is safely gathered in

Today has been much cooler and misty at times. I went for a walk into the trees at the bottom of the field with some of our KS1 children and encouraged them to kick up leaves and catch them as they fell - the leaves, that is, not the children. I love this time of year.
I love this poster from Julie Paschkis too.

I'm sad that so many of our children, even on an estate on the edge of a rural area, have little understanding of the importance of harvest in a pre-supermarket life. Many of our children have little insight into where food comes from. I remember an afternoon, a couple of years ago, where a colleague and I revealed the mysteries of bread to our class of eleven year olds. Bread is made from flour?- awesome enough... flour is made from wheat?...mindblowing...making our own bread?...well, what an afternoon. We mixed it, kneaded it, watched it rise, baked it and ate most of it hot with butter. I think the sight of them parading around the building, full of pride, offering pieces of their own, home-baked bread to staff and children will stay with me forever. Who needs the National Curriculum?

We don't acknowledge Halloween at school. Uncomfortably pagan, maybe even Satanic... I'm actually rather fond of the whole pumpkin business. I love pumpkin soup, adore roasted pumpkin seeds and enjoy the carving.
I found this super website full of pumpkin inspiration.


Have you seen the latest Stitch Diva pattern for lovely, cosy felted clogs? I'm off to download it now.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dead...but cosy

Je suis morte.

Today I came home from work to find a package had arrived from South Africa. It contained the socks of doom. Dum, de, dum, dum, dummmmm!

Thank you Jayne, they are lovely and cosy. I have passed the details of my victim on to your assassin. Not sure how they work with the 'just home from work' tights, however.

Speaking of work... I didn't get the job today. I felt I met my objectives in that I got the interview, got through the interview without falling apart into a blithering wreck and was able to say coherent and (in my opinion) well informed things. Afterwards I went back to work (odd as these things usually last all day but they saw 4 of us in an afternoon) and felt a great sense of peace. I was very happy, actually. There are lots of things I have started where I am that I would like to see through and one day is always different from the next.

Incidentally, they didn't appoint anyone. I saw the short list and all four of us were (in my opinion, again) strong candidates. Then, this evening, I learned that they interviewed for this post last year too and didn't appoint then either. Hmmm.

I recently discovered Freecycle. What a great idea! I haven't got round to offering all the things that we have going spare yet, but hope to get organised over the half term holidays next week.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wishing the days away

I've found out who I will be spoiling in SP9. Without giving too much away, she's in England too, which is different from previous exchanges, but easier on postage.

I've also heard from my SockWars assassin. She is 'dead', but had already posted my socks to me. I posted my socks off to my victim some time ago, but haven't heard anything back. So I don't know where I stand at the moment. It has all been a bit confusing. I don't think I'll enter any more tournaments that rely so heavilly on the speed of postage.

I'm really looking forward to next weekend. By then tomorrow's interview will be in the past and I can breathe and plan (and sleep!) again (feel like I'm in hiatus at the moment), the awful sore throat and runny nose I have currently will have cleared up (keep telling myself it takes 5 days regardless of what you do), I will be starting a week's holiday as it will be half term and we will be about to head off to Northumbria for a few days on the Berwick coast.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Stupid stupid stupid

I'm really tired this week. Not sleeping very well due to work-related things whizzing around in my head as soon as I start to surface. We're having some people issues at work that need sorting really quickly and take up such a lot of my time at the moment. I've also done a rather foolish thing and stuck my head above the parapet. I applied for a job I don't think I really want just to see if would get an interview for a post at that level (above where I am now) and well, you can guess the rest, I have an interview on Monday. So I'm a bit stressed about that.

This cheered me up.

Frog Tree handpainted fingering weight alpaca. Mmmm. Nice.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I read today, on the council website, that a date has been set for consideration of Able UK's request for permission to go ahead with decommisioning and scrapping the 'ghost ships' they brought from the US. I have no doubt that the project will proceed. After all, we already have a nuclear powerstation beside a petrochemical plant and one of the largest chemical processing areas in Europe. What difference will one more pile if crap make to our lives?

We pass them every time we drive down to the beach, on the way to watch the seals and the visiting birdlife on Seal Sands. We just don't need this.

The knitting content:

Still don't know whether my socks have arrived at my SockWars target.

Have decided that I am in love! I may never knit socks again with anything other than Socks That Rock from Blue Moon Fibre Arts. It is gorgeous to handle and the colour merges are beautiful. Thank you again Michelle (who needs to start a blog so I can link to her)!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

When the grass is jewelled

Autumn Days, by Estelle White, is one of my favourite songs from school. We still sing it at our school around harvest time. I'm sure it means much more to the staff than to our children, whose concept of Autumn in general, and harvest in particular, is very different.

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled
And the silk in a chestnut shell
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled
All these things I love so well

So I mustn't forget
No, I mustn't forget
To say a great big thank you
No, I mustn't forget.

Clouds that look like familiar faces
And winter's moon with frosted rings
Smell of bacon as I fasten up my laces
And the milkman sings.

Whipped-up spray that is rainbow-scattered
And a swallow curving in the sky
Shoes go comfy though they're worn out and they're battered
And the taste of apple pie.

Scent of gardens when the rain's been falling
And a minnow darting down a stream
Picked-up engine that's been stuttering and stalling
And a win for my home team

We had J's 10 year old granddaughter stay for a couple of days over the weekend. We don't get to see her very often, so it was nice, but mentally tiring. She's very much an urban kid so we thought she might like to do something a bit different. I took her to the farmers' market on Saturday morning. Muddy vegetables and real meat are 'disgusting', apparently. On Saturday afternoon we drove out into the dales, which were 'smelly' and 'boring'. Came back via Carlton in Cleveland to show her the view of Teesside from the hills and she wouldn't even get out of the car.
Oh, well. We tried.

We thought the view was worth it. We were under a cloud but Teesside, in the distance, was sunny as ever :)

Anyway, North Yorkshire is changing colour and the purples are fading to browns. The bracken is really tall and you have to take great care on the minor roads in case hordes of suicidal grouse and pheasant throw themselves under your wheels.

Autumn is coming to the garden too. This dwarf acer palmatum is starting to come into its own.

My SockWars sock is somewhere between Teesside and New Orleans ( I haven't heard anything about its arrival yet) and my International Scarf Exchange scarf package is enroute to Alabama. So, while I'm waiting for Secret Pal 9 to begin, I'm knitting socks for me, for pleasure. It is a pleasure too. I'm using the Socks that Rock merino that blogless Michelle sent me in my ISE package. It's gorgeous yarn to use and the colours are beautiful. This picture doesn't really do justice to it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

SP9 Questionnaire

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
Love wool, blends, alpaca, handspun, new things like bamboo. Don't like 'novelty' yarns.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
An old cardboard tube for metal needles, my wooden needles are in a hand turned vase a friend made from a grasstree root. It's dpns and circulars I have trouble with...

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
Been knitting on and off since I was a child. Learned from Mum and Nana. I suppose I'm advanced.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
No, sorry.

5. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products, etc.)
Cinnamon, lavender, ocean-y scents.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
Chocolate. Cinnamon gum.

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
Have just started to spin with a spindle. Am thinking of having a go at quilting. Photography.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
Like all sorts of music from folky to opera, via rock and classical. Can play mp3s dvds, cds.

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?
Signature colour is purple. Wear a lot of black, brown and am getting into green.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
Married with teenage son, adult stepdaughters and small step grandchildren. Keep lizards and tree frogs. Am working on persuading the rest of the family that we need another cat.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
Not ponchos, but everything else.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
Socks, scarves, hats, felted things.

13. What are you knitting right now?
Scarves to send to Romania, socks for self, sweater for husband and scarf for friend.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
Yes please!

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?

17. How old is your oldest UFO?
Oh, don't ask!

18. What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas, also Autumn half term break (Halloween etc)

19. Is there anything that you collect?
Sheep. Earrings, Wold pottery, Emma Bridgewater pottery.

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
Have: IK, Vogue, Yarn Forward.

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
Yes, size 7 UK

23. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)
April 23rd


Having had such a good experience with my other exchanges, I've joined Secret Pal 9.

I love the concept (and the reality most of the time) of exchanges. I've met some lovely people and had opportunity to enjoy both the sending and receiving of gifts.

Speaking of which...A shameless plug: we sponsor a family in Romania through a local charity, Convoy Aid Romania, which takes aid (money, things, expertise and people) out to Romania. My school has links with the village too. Every year we take part in the Christmas shoebox appeal, sending gifts to people in the village and neighbouring hospitals and orphanges. There are quite a lot of charities gathering gifts in shoeboxes at Christmas, but there is no profit for Convoy Aid or its angels, Rod and Gabrielle. All the gifts and donations go to the intended recipients.
So, we're all busy gathering small comforts and knitting scarves to warm against the Romanian winter.

Contact Rod or Gabrielle:
Convoy Aid Romania
TS18 2PW

Phone: 01609 883144
Fax: 01609883144

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It's a wrap

My International Scarf Exchange scarf is finished and ready to go into the box to Alabama to Laura . I'm pleased with the way it has turned out. The colours in this picture are less subtle and more blue than the real thing, but it's close enough.

It was almost scarf weather this morning as we walked along the sands at North Gare. After a while the sun appeared and the temperature rose to around 21 degrees, meaning I'm never appropriately dressed at the moment. Even my attempts at layering are being defeated.
J and a friend stormed across the sand and mudflats leaving me trailing behind. The sand is deceptively soft and you sink down a long way in places. My bum and thighs feel as though I've done 2 hours on a Stairmaster now. All good work undone by the amount of lattes and date&walnut cake ingested this afternoon.

North Gare, the northern side of the Tees estuary, is a strange landscape; a mix of old industry (steel works), new industry (nuclear power station) and the triumph of nature as witnessed by the presence of a growing seal colony.

J gets some of his best driftwood and driftbits&pieces from the island that separates the mudflats from the river. Some things end up there having come down the river and some are carried in by the tides.

The steelworks produces slag which has been used to provide some protection from tidal erosion in the area.

Mother Nature and the North Sea do their best to cover up and naturalise the lumps of slag, disguising them as natural rock with a thick layer of seaweed and barnacles.

It will take more than a thick layer of anything the sea can throw at it to naturalise this monstrosity - Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station. It's due to close in 2014, but is, unfortunately, one of the plants where it is proposed that they build a second station. When I went back to University to train as a teacher in the 1990s J took a job with a painting & decorating firm to tide us over and guarantee an income while I studied. He ended up subcontracting here for 15 months. A terrible job on many levels. 15 months of worry, loathing and feelings of hypocrisy (I marched against the power station in the 1970s). He really does love his family.