Inevitable

2005 Moving in
2005 Moving in

If you watch the modern iteration of Dr Who you may be familiar with the departure of David Tennant’s Doctor and his final, despairing phrase: “I don’t want to go.” Knowing that in the next two months I have to leave the flat I’ve been lucky enough to live in for the past fourteen years, that same feeling is constantly with me.

I have been looking back at the photos I took before and just after I moved into the flat, and so much has changed, although core elements have stayed the same. There was always a bag of knitting beside my favourite seat, and books, and cups of tea. Even in the very first photos I took, there is a teacup on the window-sill.

Looking at the photos, though, has led me to ask one vital question – what did I do with that green needlework cushion? It’s there, sitting on the green chair in this photo in February 2005, but by the time I took my Christmas photos it had disappeared from view. I simply don’t remember what I did with it. I remember making it and I really liked it, so I’m surprised that all memory of it has been so successfully erased.

The green chair is one of my favourite possessions, and still has a proud place in my living room. I inherited it from my parents who inherited it from my grandparents. I would dearly love to have it re-covered in a Laura Ashley fabric, but that plan is definitely on my “if I won the Lottery” list.

When I moved into this flat, I was downsizing from the house I had lived in with my parents, and I had no idea what furniture I would use in my new, solo, flat-dwelling life. I have to keep reminding myself as I think of the new move to take place, that I am in a much better position now. I know that the items I have are, on the whole, the items I will be moving with. This time I have no illusions of shaping myself to suit the space, I know that whatever I move into will in time become my home, filled with my things, and reflecting my personality. That is my definition of a home.

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Emergence

Rose cushion
Something to work on

Whenever I am inclined to express feelings of superiority over my lack of long-term works in progress, I need to be reminded of this item. This is the project that I have been actively failing to work on for the longest time. If I may borrow a term from the disc jockeys of my youth, this is a rave from grave.

For much of its life, this project has resided on the top shelf of my wardrobe. It has come out into the daylight every so often, and a few rows have been added before it has returned to its roost.  More frequently, it has been pushed aside to allow access to equally disregarded things below it.   

The thing is, I really want to make this and to enjoy using the resulting cushion; it also has sentimental value for me which increases my desire to see it complete. Every other time I have worked on it I have set it aside in favour of some knitting project, but perhaps now I am in a knitting lull it is finally time to give this some love. I am always disappointed when I look at it to see how little I have achieved in all the years I’ve had it, but I can make visible progress if I just do a little bit each day.

I can but try.

(If I put in some significant work on this, maybe I will also finish that Christmas bauble from 2008. Just a thought.)

Are there guilty secrets lurking in your wip stash, or on the top shelf of your wardrobe?

Stash crash

Stash crash 1
Little bits of things

I was brushing my teeth when the truth hit me; those yarns in my stash, the ones I have kept every time I have been through a weeding session, are only in my stash because I have not been inspired to knit them.

It’s not that they are bad yarns, and it is not that I don’t like them, although perhaps I do not love them as once I did. Some of them are yarns I like very much indeed, but they are in entirely the wrong quantities, weights, or colours to knit the things I want to knit. Every time I have not used them, but chosen a different yarn instead, has increased the chance that I will never use them.

It may well be that this is the point in my life where I go stash-free. Forget Brexit, it’s time for Yarnxit!

I hope you are feeling happy with your stash this autumn morning. Feel free to point me to lovely pictures of your yarn because I’m counting down the days until I can buy some wool that I do want to knit.

Give an inch

One more inch

I really want to be knitting. I need the soothing, repetitive motion. I need the creative release. I need the warm, woolly goodness. I just don’t really know what to knit. Therefore, instead of knitting consistently on a project, I have descended into knitting an inch of ribbing in various yarns on various needles before changing my mind.

The photo shows my latest attempt which will be the cuff of a sock if it survives that long. The previous attempt at a sock was ripped out completely when I got to the heel because I just wasn’t feeling the love. I spent some time over the weekend looking at the yarns I have and whether I could find a pattern for a garment to suit them, with less than stellar results on both fronts. I did, however, dig out this 100g ball of Botany wool from 21st Century Yarns which I thought would be totally unsuitable for socks, yet cast on anyway. It actually feels quite sturdy so it may work out and at least I like the colours which in daylight tend more towards the pinky-mushroom than the photo suggests.

Next Monday I may have a whole new inch of ribbing to show you, but for now this is my knitting progress. I hope your projects are progressing with rather more enthusiasm.

Complexity

Life should be
Life should be as peaceful as this…

Starting a new job in a field I have little knowledge of is really testing my ability to adapt, which is making me think about life as an older person.

I think it’s a pretty common perception among younger people that as we get older we struggle more to learn new things. We might call it getting set in our ways or, less kindly, believe that older people no longer have the capability to change with the times. At the same time, we stress how important it is to keep challenging our aging brains so as to keep them active.

I wonder, though, if the fact that we take longer to assimilate new information as we get older, is due to us having a greater experience of just how complex most things are. At thirty we see the world as black and white, right and wrong. We look at the most up to date piece of data and we build our rules upon that, constantly adjusting as new pieces of data hit our consciousness. In some ways, we emulate robots by doing numerous incredibly fast revisions, reshaping the world every second. At sixty, we take a longer view and say, wow, over the course of each minute we need to make 60 revisions to the way the world is and that’s really complicated and I’m rather daunted by it. We can also tend to think that it is better to get to the end of the minute and act on the collected data rather than make all those micro-adjustments. It doesn’t mean that either of us, young or old, is less capable of getting to the same point, but it can look like older people are slow, or reluctant to learn.

Experience is something you only really come to value as you get older. Young people are still full of wonder and life is an adventure. They don’t want to know that everyone has done it all before. They do not want to face the idea that they are no more unique than anyone else.

I think we can all learn from each other. When a younger person has more knowledge or experience of a particular thing than you do, take advantage of it. When an older person throws in a hint of caution or wants to apply the brakes a bit, consider whether they are acting on their own experience and could have a valid point of view.

Always keep in mind that life is incredibly complex and it’s just not easy.

... but life is a lot more complicated
… but life is a lot more complicated

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.

 

Stationary?

Muted socks - back
Back of socks

There has been progress, but it has been slow and this is the total amount of knitting I have done in the past week. I remember the days when I could knit the whole back of a cardigan in that amount of time, but the tides of life dictate my knitting performance. The tides of life, and the weather – over the past few days we have seen the return of the crazy temperatures we had early in the summer and I am not amused.

Muted socks - front
Front of socks on hold

As you may be able to see, I am currently working on the heel flap of the sock, with the stitches for the front on hold across two stitch holders. I have, apparently, chosen to work the heel flap in stocking stitch which is not my usual method. I noticed that after a couple of rows and I couldn’t be bothered to tink back and use a twisted rib which, in itself, indicates to me that I am not investing my accustomed amount of enthusiasm in this project.

When I cast on the sock, I said how soothing the colours are, and I still think that there is a lot to like in the muted shades of green, grey and pinky-purple. However, when I work on it I’m afraid ‘calming’ turns to ‘boring’ and I miss the splendid colours of my lovely golden cable-front cardigan and the bright and cheerful Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl. This sock yarn is the knitting equivalent of zonking out in front of the television, complete with the associated post-nap regret.

Adding to this rather underwhelmed feeling is the fact that I am not even sure if I need this particular pair of socks. I was knitting them as a less obtrusive pair to wear with my work trousers, but now I’ve started my new job I believe the uniform is going to be a dress, leaving socks for my personal life only. Now, in my personal life (“real” life?), I am a firm believer in the brighter the better, which leaves me in an odd position with regard to these socks and, I have to admit, my current stash of sock yarns. I think I may need to reassess, but this is not the time to do so.

I am not at the point where I am considering ditching this sock project, although it might be a different story if I had anything else on my knitting radar for the next couple of months. I might take the opportunity now to tink back those heel rows and do it differently because I know myself, and the fact that I am not loving the yarn now is no indication of how I will feel about the finished socks. They might end up being the favourite ones in my sock drawer. They might end up being incredibly long-wearing and still be taking their place in my rota when prettier ones are just a distant memory. Such is the way of the world, and I love it.


Sock Yarn = Opal Sport Exclusiv
Needles = KnitPro Karbonz 2.25mm


 

Eastern windows

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And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.

Arthur Hugh Clough
Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth

Hereabouts, this Bank Holiday weekend has seen the return of the crazy temperatures we had early in the summer. We should be getting back to normal by next weekend, thankfully.

I have been thinking about the ebb and flow of long-term goals and whether it is possible to minimise the impact that a short-term imperative will have upon them. In the short term I know that I need to settle into my new job and reset my routines and that doesn’t leave me a huge amount of time for my long-term goals of creative writing and knitting. In an ideal world we would be able to split our attention perfectly and achieve all of our desires; in this slightly less perfect version, it is important to deal with the most important things first and perhaps accept that sometimes the things we value most highly may not be the most important things.

For me, the past year has been dominated by an urge to come to a conclusion about what shape I want my life to be. Yet, as the sun is pouring down its last hurrah on us before retiring into its mellow autumn days, I am facing the fact that I will probably never really know what shape I want my life to be. In fact, I need it to be a mutable thing, with no fixed lines; something that can change with the seasons and adapt to changes in the world around me. In this, I am fighting a battle with myself because my natural inclination is to be totally inflexible about absolutely everything – the more rules the better. I put that down to my Aquarian roots – we are always marked as one of the “fixed” signs of the zodiac and, whilst I respect everyone’s right to their own opinion about such things as horoscopes, I do display the vast majority of typical Aquarian traits.

As I said in my previous blog post, things do not disappear entirely when you take your eye off them. I am allowing my writing and, to a large extent, my knitting, to take a rear seat for a few weeks, but that doesn’t negate the hard work I’ve put into them, nor reduce my committment to them. The fact is that I value them so highly that I feel they deserve my attention and it is best not to slog at them in a half-hearted manner. It is important, though, to work hard on the short-term imperatives so that I can quickly get back to working on my long-term goals and make sure that I don’t simply fall into an inescapable cycle of fire-fighting.

All that being said, I do have a little knitting progress to show on Wednesday, and whilst I was walking home with my groceries this morning I thought of a little piece that I need to write down to include in my novel, so whilst I am looking out of Arthur Clough’s eastern window, the land to the west is brightening all the time.

What I know

September 2018
September 2018

“If I knew then what I know now” is a deceptive little phrase and one that has been burrowing around in my mind this week. It is so tempting to interpret those few words entirely negatively; to think of them as a regret; to assume that we would have done things differently if we had been blessed with the gift of foresight. It is as if the words are written on the outside of the door to our dreams, which now stands locked and barred against us.

I think we need to find a different way of looking at it; forget about timing and say “I now know what I need to know”, then go forward from that position of strength. Lessons hard learned are not be frowned upon, and experience gained should not be disregarded. Our dreams may change, of course, in the light of knowledge gained, but they do not have to; and if there is a door to our dreams, it is never shut so solidly that it cannot be re-opened.

In The Lord of The Rings, JRR Tolkein wrote about this concept in terms of paths that run within our lives:

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,

And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.

The dreams, the paths, are not gone; they are just set aside momentarily until we are ready to resume our course, knowing what we now know.

Revelation

Wroxham Broad
Wroxham Broad

The list of things I haven’t done the past week is enormous. I haven’t exercised anywhere near enough. I haven’t been faithful to my diet. I haven’t finished reading Midnight At The Well Of Souls (by Jack L Chalker, thrilling 1970s sci-fi). Indeed, for the past three days I haven’t even written or knitted. Instead I have done more important things, more urgent things, and more fun things. Unfortunately, none of them are the stuff that stories are made of. So, instead of writing about progress, I’m going to present you with a small revelation.

One of my favourite poems is Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. For many years I have loved the part which became the popular Edwardian song, Come Into The Garden, Maud. I am also very keen on the section that John Fowles quoted in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. So it is unfathomable to me that I have never actually read the entire poem.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise because it is a long poem and the readibility is patchy; the bits I know are probably the highlights. However, I have decided that I owe it to myself to read it through just once, and so last week I started from the beginning, which is sombre in mood as the narrator relates how he dislikes a particular part of the wood where his father had fallen once to his death. It is very evocative and draws the reader in as all good beginnings should.

The poet is considering whether it would be best to leave his childhood home when news reaches him:

“Workmen up at the Hall! – they are coming back from abroad;
The dark old place will be gilt by the touch of a millionaire:
I have heard, I know not whence, of the singular beauty of Maud;
I play’d with the girl when a child; she promised then to be fair.”

Things creep up on us in just that way, and we cannot know whether the future will be delight or pain, all we can do is walk forwards and live it.

I am looking forward to this poem being my future companion for a while.