Irresistible textures, unreachable stars

Alice Starmore Scottish Hand Knitting Yarns And Designs
This waistoat needs to be in my life

This week I have been looking through old notebooks; for what is the point of making notes if you don’t go back every so often and read them? Two looming items have prompted this trawl: I need to get a new notebook sorted out because I’m down to the final five pages in the book which I started on 31st March 2018. I plan to move into an A5 exercise book next because I have always had a penchant for this format (we used to know as our “Rough Book” at school). Also, I am going to a creative writing session tomorrow (Norwich Castle Writers at the Castle Museum) and in digging out blank notebooks I inevitably retrieved some half-filled ones with various creative bits and pieces in them.

In one book I had written “Alice Starmore wool” and clearly I had never bothered to go and look at the website, so I did it there and then. This was very inspiring and I am now extremely keen to try out the wool and see how it compares to the traditional Shetland yarns that I have used in the past. After I had read about the wools I looked at the page of knitting kits and that is when the above waistcoat socked me on my weak and feeble jaw, making me go all wobbly about the knees. I love that waistcoat, I want that waistcoat, no, I need that waistcoat. The only question is, do I need it in cream, or do I need it in navy? Well, okay, the question is, do I need it first in cream or navy because clearly I need it in both colours. I also need that skirt…

If you have never looked at the Virtual Yarns website you should stop wasting your time reading this, and go straight there, even if you don’t knit. Just look at the colours. Just feast your eyes on the designs. The other item I am completely entranced by is the Selkie “costume” – that collar with the cabling on the underside and the colourwork on the topside!

I also want to note that this week marked 33 years since the loss of the space shuttle Challenger and seven crew members during launch and, as ever, NASA posted a tribute.

29-01-19 challenger
This photo of a Challenger launch is courtesty of NASA’s website which I recommend you visit regularly

It seems to me that these words from a song written by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion – The Impossible Dream (The Quest) – gain a particular poignancy when thinking of these events.

And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.


Fitting in

23-01-19 non-camo
Fabrics for those “not blending in” moments

When I finished writing last Friday about Edward Scissorhands, a fairly definitive movie when it comes to not fitting in, I got to thinking about the choices we make during our lives in order to fit in with certain people or groups, the camouflage we choose (or are encouraged) to adopt, and how that can result in us feeling less like ourselves than we should. However long and however hard we try to fit in, the truth is that the only person you can ever truly rely on is yourself, as these two lines in a song from the musical “Chess” (by Tim Rice/Beny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus) convey:-

No-one in your life is with you constantly,
No-one is completely on your side.

Although as I get older I am less inclined to make compromises in order to fit in, I think it’s pretty fair to say that there have been vast stretches of my life when I have curbed my own natural interests in order to fit better with the friends or colleagues that I have had at that time. For me, this has always started out as a creative endeavour, like trying on a different character for a while to see what it feels like, but I always end up feeling that my ‘real’ character has been submerged. This doesn’t only happen in the real world. For my generation, getting older has coincided with the rise of digital friendship and a whole new way of being influenced and of feeling a need to fit in. Quite simply, we are exposed to many more options right now than we have ever had in the past and that just increases the pressure to comply.

It seems a shame, but there are more interesting things in this world than any of us can experience in one lifetime and we have to make a choice about what we are going to pursue and what we are going to leave on the sidelines. For me, this has included accepting that I’m not going to sew garments for myself, even though I am confident that I could bring my skills up to speed and there’s a whole host of clothes I’d love to sew. It took me some years to understand that this is just not the road I’m going to walk. I would rather spend my time knitting, and there is enough of that to occupy me for at least one lifetime. I am aware, though, that every exposure to people who are happily sewing away and producing great-looking outfits, results in that twang of “I could do that” aspiration. And don’t even get me started on all the paper planners in the world at the moment! We must teach ourselves to deal with such influences, or we must act to avoid them entirely.

The big problem is that we can spend a lot of time and money on things that aren’t quite right for us, even though we know that isn’t the best use of our resources. When we invest in a particular interest and don’t pursue it, those items become part of the clutter in our lives that needs to be purged and, although it isn’t healthy, it is so much easier to simply accommodate the clutter than to actually sort it out. I think the modern trend for simplification and minimalism is not only about reducing physical things, but also a push to reduce the choices we have and the influences that we allow to work on us.

Fortunately, some things are relatively easy to ignore, the things you know you could never master if you practiced for a thousand years. For me, those are painting/drawing and driving; a number of people have this same reaction with swimming or cycling and I am sure there are countless others. Knitting, perhaps? In this case the knowledge is a combination of lack of interest in the activity, lack of desire and/or incentive to achieve the outcome, and lack of talent. Yes, sometimes people just don’t have the talent to pursue a particular skill, but you know what? They have loads and loads of other talents that make up for it.

So, what do we lose when we try to fit in and thereby sideline things that are important to ourselves in favour of things that are important to someone else? To understand that, we need to think about how we feel when we are doing the things that are important to us, that do interest us, that we are talented at. We feel our spirits lighten, we walk with a spring in our step, we think of the future – making plans, dreaming dreams – and we finish things because they engage our interest and make us happy. When we set aside the things we enjoy, life becomes a drudge, our brains may be engaged, but our hearts are locked away in a box, we envy others and, often, we delude ourselves.

It is, unfortunately, not simple to learn what interests you, which endeavours are worthwhile and which are simply interesting, even what the authentic you below all the camouflage really consists of. It takes time; I am sorry to say it probably takes a whole lifetime and maybe even more than that. Although none of us wants to face it when we are young, in this instance there really is no substitute for experience.

Related to this subject, here’s a couple of tunes which I never thought I would mention in the same breath!

“I know him so well” Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson
“Mis-Shapes” Pulp (interested in Pulp? This blog is doing a song-by-song analysis!)


The first one now will later be last…

Christmas knit
Cables, that’s all I’m prepared to say


* Title courtesy of Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changing

I was going great guns, honest I was! Today I was planning to share with you some positive vibes about working on the Christmas knitting project and enjoying it far more than I thought I would. I worked over the weekend on a long, thin strip with a braided cable pattern which was just delightful to knit. Then yesterday evening the good fairies departed and the naughty elves arrived and the whole project is in need of a Christmas miracle… which apparently only I can provide. So now, rather than progressing, I am cogitating – which is to say, I am screaming ‘Eek’ repeatedly in my head in the hope that it will stir some Balrog-type creature deep in the caverns of my mind. That won’t help in any practical way, but fighting it will give me a good excuse for not actually having a completed Christmas present. Well, it worked for Tolkein when he didn’t want to write any dialogue for Gandalf for half a book.

Instead of knitting progress, I will just show you another shot of our lovely city.

Church & Sky

It is vaguely reminiscent of those Dr Who episodes where they have to set the whole atmosphere alight to purge some dread gas.

I hope your knitting, or other creative projects, are going well and I hope that I can report a return to form very, very soon.


Quote of the Week – Bob Dylan

Bookcase 9th November 2018
Reorganised bookcase, 9th November 2018

There are so many things I could have been doing today which would have been productive and useful to me. What I chose to do was sort out the book situation which, as you know from my post earlier in the week, was beginning to frustrate me. I have been through all my books (well, unless there are any tucked away in inexplicable places which wouldn’t surprise me) and catalogued them, categorised them, and sorted my bookshelves to house them more pleasingly. This has worked incredibly well. I made loads of extra space by the simple expedient of moving a lot of rubbish off my shelves and onto my bed. This is, of course, quite a short-term solution since it will become untenable tonight, so there is still work to be done.

My quote of the week is from Bob Dylan’s “Live At Budokan” album, purely and simply because I was listening to this whilst I was clearing things and it is a long-standing favourite. This particular song was resonating with me particularly today as I realised how many books in my collection would be classified as children’s fiction – from BB (“The Little Grey Men”) through A A Milne (“Winnie The Pooh”) to Enid Blyton (Famous Five series) and Elinor M Brent-Dyer (The Chalet School series), I have never stopped loving the stories of my youth.

So here is a short burst from “Forever Young”

May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true
And may you always know the truth and see the light surrounding you
May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong
And may you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung
And may you stay forever young

Hope you have a happy weekend and, in your heart, stay young.


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!