Wow, that’s an image to set us ablaze on a Monday morning!
It seems to me, looking at the human race as a single entity, that it is driven by aspiration now more than in its recent history. It isn’t so much that there is a greater desire for achievements, but that the achievements themselves are less practical, more nebulous, than, say, in my parents’ generation. Then, we might have aspired to retire to Margate; now we aspire to ‘travel’. In the first instance, there is a specific place that we would see ourselves living in; in the second we wish merely to be somewhere else. I am not sure that either way is right, or wrong, but I do think that they are different. I think that both could lead equally to great satisfaction, or great dissatisfaction.
The thing that made me think about aspirations was the list of activities on a local convenience store window. I read these initially as a list of aspirations, and it made me wonder what sort of person would aspire to such things? And if I judge these as falling short of the acceptable role of an aspiration, what does that say about me and my perception of how the world should be?
Less loftily, this simply made me smirk and I had to photograph it.
My list of four aspirations might be: Dreams, Writes, Knits, Walks. Limiting to four, what would yours be?
Good morning, my friends. I think today I am going to do a general round-up of things that I did over the weekend. Firstly, though, just how pretty does Norwich look with its wonderful watercolour sky?
On Saturday, I visited the Norfolk Makers’ Festival with one of my best friends who is also a very talented knitter, photographer and jewellery-maker. The Makers’ Festival is a celebration of local artisans and an opportunity for everyone to get involved and try out things they may never have done before. Some items are on sale, but that is not the main focus of the event. There are also lots of displays of creative items, including an entire knitted reproduction of the Golden Mile at Yarmouth in the 1970s – quite a sight! Two of my favourite works were the Poppy Curtain and the Suffrage Quilt.
My friend pointed out that it is very encouraging to see not only so many people at the event, but the number of young people having a go at a whole variety of different crafts. It certainly seems to grip the imagination every bit as much as the modern technologies.
Whilst at the Festival, I decided to buy a little introductory Chopstick Spinning Kit. I have long been sitting on the fence about spinning; in some ways it intrigues me, but I feel it has the potential to just add clutter to my life without being something I really love to do. This kit seems the ideal way to try it out with very minimal investment just to determine whether it interests me enough to warrant putting time and money into practising it. Although it is quite limited, this kit is ideal to introduce the concept of adding twist to fibre, pinching it, allowing the twist to travel into the next part of the fibre, and plying the strand to make a length of yarn. After only a few hours playing with this, I can confidently predict that there will be a drop-spindle in my life in the very near future. It has also occurred to me that I will prefer to spin dyed bumps of fibre to natural fleece because you know me and colour – I am far more likely to want to keep spinning if there’s pretty effects happening as I go along.
The Festival runs until Sunday 24th February 2019 and I would highly recommend a visit if you are in or around Norwich this week.
I think that visit has led me to have a number of crafty thoughts throughout the weekend, and to clarify some things that I have been pondering for a while now. That hopefully means there will be some different items making their way into my very static Etsy shop between now and Easter. Prototypes need to be worked on.
By comparison, Sunday was a quiet day for me, just some knitting, some letter-writing (InCoWriMo is going very well this year, I am happy to report), quite a lot of Starsky and Hutch, and a portion of Christmas Pudding and Rum Sauce for my tea. I am so glad I decided to make a full batch of Christmas Pudding mix last year and freeze six portions to eat when I had a yen for it.
I hope you have all had a lovely weekend and that you manage to do some fun things through the week too.
Today is the sixth day of the International Correspondence Writing Month 2019 and I am pleased with my progress to date.
Whilst the aim is to write a letter – or, indeed, any hand-written missive which can be a note, postcard, post-it, so long as it’s written by hand – every day through February, many people taking part will inevitably be fans of pens and papers and so the letters can be quite decorative, or include little gifts. I like to write in my letters about which pen and ink I am using because I love to read this information in the letters I receive. I have some decorative notepaper, quite a bit of it from Kikki K, so I don’t decorate the letters themselves, but I do like to add some fripperies on the envelopes.
Speaking of envelopes, I am addressing the letters this year with my lovely little typewriter. One year I hand-wrote the addresses with fountain pen and ink and then overlaid them with sellotape to provide a waterproof layer; the other year I hand-wrote the envelopes with ballpoint pen. Of the three, the typewriter is the nicest – it still seems like a hand-crafted solution, whilst being neat, legible, and waterproof.
For letters that I am sending abroad, I have a pack of postcards from Norwich Castle Museum. These feature images from the Norwich School of painters, mostly local scenes or still-lives. Many of these hang in the Castle Museum itself as it houses a good art gallery as well as the historical and natural displays.
The little bone-handle pen-knife in my picture above is an item I use for opening letters. To the best of my knowledge, it belonged to my grandparents when they lived in their lovely house in York, and passed along via my mum to me. It is a delicate item, very much for the genteel lady. My dad always carried a pen-knife which my sister now owns. It was mainly used for peeling apples, sharpening pencils, and for tamping down the tobacco in his pipe. I find it sad that the pen-knife is now seen as a weapon rather than a utility item, and is therefore (understandably) frowned-upon.
In other news, yesterday was my birthday and it was very book-orientated. 2019 is definitely going to be a year where I read a lot. I have already determined that I am going to get back into the habit of just browsing in bookshops. It seems to me that I stopped reading a lot at around the time when I stopped browsing in bookshops a lot; I am not sure which one led to the other. However, it does seem to me that when I take the time to simply wander around and look at books, I see all manner of items which catch my eye and I am certain that this can only be of help to me in my desire to read more. My favourite bookshop to browse in was a small independent book store in Norwich called Gliddons which was around until the 1980s. I remember buying my first copies of books by John Fowles, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and F Scott Fitzgerald there, as well as many a sci-fi book from the bookshelves in the basement. Second to that, the big Borders store which opened in Chapelfield in 2005 and sadly departed in 2009, was a favourite. This was a huge book shop for Norwich and I can remember buying many a ‘business’ book there, as well as the first paperbacks I owned of Haruki Murakami novels. The best shops for browsing the books in Norwich now are The Book Hut (independent), Jarrolds (independent, part of local department store) and Waterstones (chain).
Right, I am heading off to clean out a fountain pen then tomorrow I can refill it with a new colour ink, ready for some more letters.
Are you taking part in InCoWriMo this year? Have you done it in previous years? Would you do it in future years? What do you think?
Continuing with my slightly tardy theme, today I’m going to write about the various elements of my weekend.
On Saturday I went to a meeting of the Castle Writers Group at the Castle Museum, Norwich. This is a monthly meet-up that has been going on for many months now, but this is the first month that I have steeled myself and booked to join in. Now I regret not doing it sooner because it was brilliant. We spent two and a half hours exporing character including picking a face to write about – I chose the gentleman in the beret in the photos above; he has really gripped me. I waver between whether he is quite military, or bohemian. Either way, I adore him.
The meeting was quite structured and I really enjoyed the format. It was very much geared towards getting us thinking about a specific element of our creative writing and provided much food for thought and practice before the next meeting.
The desk in the photo montage is on display in the museum and it represents a typical curator’s desk. It is one of the pieces I always go and look at whenever I visit the museum because I find it very inspiring.
In the evening I had a meal at Yo! Sushi with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. It was a really enjoyable meal with good food and good company. The food going round on conveyor belts is guaranteed to entertain young and old alike. When we left the restaurant Norwich was having one of its very few wintery showers. We have only had one real snow shower this winter and even then it didn’t linger, otherwise just a few sharp frosts and a couple of bouts of sleet.
On Sunday morning I sat and finished reading Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, Killing Commendatore, a thoroughly enjoyable read. It is a reasonably long novel at around 680 pages of medium-sized text and I didn’t exactly speed through it, although I did read for longer periods from about halfway through. Murakami’s works are usually told from the point of view of a single character and this is no exception. Our hero is an artist, in the process of divorcing from his wife and settling into a house owned by the father of his friend and agent, Masahiko Amada, after spending the winter on an extended road trip. Masahiko’s father is Tomohiko Amada, a renowned artist who has worked in the Japanese tradition since he returned to Japan just before the second world war. He is suffering from dementia and is living out his final days in a nursing home. Three things happen which combine to catapault our leading man into an increasingly surreal landscape, and which also act as a catalyst for his personal art. He discovers an unknown painting by Tomohiko Amada, he makes the acquaintance of a man who lives on the opposite side of the valley – the strangely charismatic and possibly dangerous Menshiki, and he discovers a pit in the garden of Amada’s house. From these three events, all manner of inexplicable tendrils branch out; some things are resolved by the end of the novel, but by no means all of the questions asked get answered.
I am going to include one quote from the novel, simply because it made me laugh when I read it. It concerns Menshiki, who is a bit of a Gatsby-type figure, and who has cooked our hero an omelette.
The omelette wasn’t just pretty to look at – it was delicious.
“This omelette is perfection,” I said.
Menshiki laughed. “Not really. I’ve made better.”
What sort of omelette could that have been? One that sprouted wings and flew from Tokyo to Osaka in under two hours?
Also on Sunday, I made a batch of Date Slices – shown in my photo prior to cutting. Actually, I could so easily just have left it in one piece and gobbled my way through it, but I really made it for sharing. I love Date Slices and bake them to a recipe from Cranks, the wholefood restaurant.
Of course, Friday 1st February marked the beginning of the International Correspondence Writing Month and so I wrote letters on Saturday and Sunday. So far I have written and posted a letter a day, which is the object of the exercise. I hope this year I can make it through the whole month because last year I failed miserably. In fact, I got so far behind I just gave up.
The thing I didn’t do so much of is knitting, and I do find that if I get immersed in reading something the knitting tends to lag behind, and if I get immersed in my knitting the reading lags. I wonder if I am using the same part of my brain for both, so either ones satisfies the urges?
I hope you had a good weekend, and have been reading, writing, knitting, or doing other things entirely, but all to you own heart’s content.
It has been a funny old week, with me veering wildly between a total lack of inspiration and an outpouring of inspiration that didn’t know where to stop. Not the kind of week where I have been able to get things under control; and when I say “things” I mean my head.
There is a lot of wisdom to be found on the subject of inspiration and the advice unwaveringly boils down to “don’t wait for inspiration, build a solid practice of turning up to your creative deeds and the inspiration will follow”. This is good advice and it actually works. It is how people get their books written, their jumpers knitted, their paintings done, their cakes baked. I know myself just how effective it can be. That is, except on the occasions when you just can’t think of a single thing to write about (or knit, or cook, or paint, or wherever your personal creative muse pushes you).
My periods of inspiration this week have been mainly confined to the realm of knitting, partly a personal project which I will share with you later in the month (nothing major, but I worked on it yesterday and it provided me with some laughs and an interesting insight into my yarn-buying habits); and partly on a product idea for my Etsy shop which I need to complete, photograph and load up for sale. This is all very good, except my aim for this week was to balance my time between trying to find some paying work, sorting the prototype item for my shop, and doing some creative writing and only one of those three was actually getting done.
This is where the inspiration part really comes into play, because at tea-time yesterday I had a spiffing short story title pop into my head unbidden (well, actually it was something I said out loud to myself and then thought “Blast, that would make a good short story!”) so I jotted it down for consideration at a later date. When I sat down later in the evening to read the Haruki Murakami novel I got for Christmas – which is, by the way, every bit as brilliant as all his previous works – I read exactly one paragraph before I realised that I really wanted to be writing something rather than reading, so I wrote a few paragraphs of the short story. It felt very good indeed to make a start on it.
Now, to less esoteric business. Normally on a Friday I would bring you a Quote of the Week, but this week I wanted to share something I read as I was out and about in Norwich.
This is part of a plaque that is sited in the Riverside complex in my home city of Norwich, UK. I think I knew before that the Sopwith Camel was built in Norwich, but it’s one of those facts I forget for long periods of time. This particularly charms me because as a teenager I was very fond of the Peanuts cartoons by Charles M Schultz and Snoopy often pretended his kennel was a Sopwith Camel.
And, of course, as soon as I think of Snoopy, I think of my favourite ever Snoopy image. I was somewhere between the ages of 16 and 18 when I purchased the following greeting card which I kept in physical form for many, many years, but now I only have the scanned image. For me, this is the quintessential Snoopy.
I have, thus far, managed to avoid using my little typewriter to draft any stories, but how long can it be?
I hope this little ramble has amused you momentarily and that you have, perhaps, had a more productive week than I have managed.
On New Year’s Day I finished the socks I had been working on seemingly forever, and I put away my sock-knitting project bag so that I could concentrate on the Gaudi cardigan. Then my sister appeared wearing the beautiful hat she had whipped up in a trice from the Noodle Soup Yarns skein that I gave her for Christmas and I suddenly knew I had to cast on a sock with the skein I had gifted myself at the same time. Although this skein is named “Spooky Smog, as I wound the wool it made me think of a kingfisher in a deep, dark wood, so I am calling these socks “Kingfisher in Fangorn Forest”. Thus far, it has to be said, the kingfisher itself is absent, but I am enjoying the forest nonetheless.
This is my standard sock pattern, 60 stitches on 2.5mm KnitPro Zing needles and the yarn base is a 3-ply 80/10/10 mix of Superwash Merino/Cashmere/Nylon. It is a tiny bit thicker than a lot of sock yarns, and I am loving the fabric that this is creating. It is very squooshy. Noodle Soup’s dyeing is very luscious and, even though this is a really saturated colourway, there is no dye coming out on my hands as I knit.
I made good progress after casting-on yesterday, and have turned the heel of the first sock and started working on the foot. One thing I experimented with on my previous pair of socks was using what Interweave Knits refer to as a Barn Toe and I was very pleased with the way this fitted. I will use the same method for these socks.
GAUDI UPDATE AND MODIFICATION
Here is my progress to date on the back of the Gaudi cardigan. I am so pleased with how this is knitting up, although I am debating back and forth with myself as to whether or not I like the yarn (Rowan Felted Tweed DK). So, on the plus side, I love the colours, I love the tweedy effect and I love the feel of the fabric created. The only downside is that I don’t like the alpaca content and that’s something I struggle with regardless of the brand of yarn. I just don’t like alpaca, even a tiny bit. I hate the constant barrage of what look like dog-hairs that come off it as I work and I don’t see that it adds anything of value to the feel of the yarn. However, I am reserving judgement until the project is finished, and it is not something that is going to prevent me from wearing and adoring the cardigan.
Now, to the modification. I remember the good old days, back in December 2018, when I was all gung-ho about how I was going to knit Gaudi exactly as it was written. However, time has moved on and I am a more experienced person now, so I have changed how the colourwork ‘yoke’ portion is knitted. The pattern is written to utilise slipped stitches and I did a few rows in this way without too much trouble. However, the way the raglan shaping is constructed meant that I was stranding the yarn across the back and it seemed to make more sense to me to do the colourwork similarly to how you would do a Fairisle pattern. I ripped back and started working it this way, and I am really liking it – both how it looks and how pleasurable it is to work. Here’s a close-up:
I know this is less three-dimensional than it would be with slipped stitches, but it appeals to me.
I hope your knitting, or any other craft pursuit, is going well and that you are making progress towards any goals you have set.
This is Norwich Castle Museum, sitting on its mound just as it has since Norman times. Today, it looks down over Waterstones bookshop and Boots the Chemist; I dare say there was an apothecary nearby, even in the days when the castle was newly-built to house soldiers and minor aristocrats rather than paintings and stuffed Ibis.
A few years ago, I went to a creative writing session there called Writing The Curious. This was linked to an exhibition at the time based on the theme of the Curiosity Cabinet and it was a particularly enjoyable day.
Today, I have been looking back through the notebook I was using at the time of the workshop and I am struck by the abstract quality of creative writing ‘notes’, the threads that run through, and the randomness of disjointed ideas. For example, I have written a list:-
The terrible night.
John Dee’s mirror.
I know the story that the first two items belong to, but I cannot now remember how John Dee’s mirror was going to connect into that piece. Nor, most importantly, how customer services was going to figure in there.
Another page records my thoughts about a group of items included in the exhibition:-
“A tiny glass forest of blue-star palms, 4″ x 3″, no larger.
A jelly of glass.
A glass sea-creature; Sputnik on Earth.
I like the stuff that is clever and pretty. Clever but not pretty is just a bit odd.
Some things only have a reason so long as they are being used.”
Some notes display my quirky sense of humour, for example my idea for:-
“Old-Time Music-Hall type song: “Where’s Me Kerfuffle Machine?”. Sung by a dreadful lothario with Brylcreem hair and orange pan-stick.”
I have a horrible feeling that I was probably waltzing round my flat singing this song at the time!
Then again, I quite like the sound of the following idea:-
“In the garden of an old manor-style house. Dawn. An orchestra playing snatches of classical music under an awning, warming up in a desultory fashion for a performance later. The sun/light starting to peek through. Then a sudden summer deluge and a rush to bring a miscellany of chairs under the canvas to keep dry.”
It sounds like the preparations for a splendid wedding at the home of a racing-horse trainer in deepest Newmarket.
How about this brief, stand-alone sentence as stark condemnation of a person:-
“He takes the shine off everything.”
The best place to finish for today is an item written only a quarter of the way through the notebook, entitled Epilogue:-
“After everything, on a distant planet in the first milky light of a sparkling new day, a newborn infant opens her eyes and gazes out, blank, awaiting adventures that cannot be written, only lived.”
I hope you have stuck with me through this post – I think it is quite self-indulgent, but this is the season of self-indulgence.
* 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.
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.
Picking up on last Monday’s post when I mentioned perfume, I would like to introduce you to a celebrated Norwich restaurant, The Belgian Monk. It serves a wide selection of Belgian beers and mussels galore, not to mention an extensive restaurant menu. It opened in 2000 and is still very popular. It is on one of the historic lanes in Norwich (actually a couple of doors down from Norfolk Yarn which I have also written about recently) and, as you can see from my photo, it is housed in a lovely old building.
How, I hear you ask, does that link in with perfume? Well, back in my teenage years and early twenties, this building housed a splendid perfume shop called Crofts and that was where I introduced myself to the fragrances that I still love today, most especially Bal a Versailles. Crofts was most definitely catering to the more expensive end of the perfume-buying public and whilst it stocked popular brands, it was somewhere you could go to find things that the department stores and chemists wouldn’t provide. Mostly, though, the experience of being in there was enough, even if you didn’t buy anything. The building is superb and with jewel-bright boxes and potion-filled bottles floor to ceiling, it had all the appeal of a sweetie-shop, without the calories!
Purchases I particularly remember were, of course, the Bal a Versailles, but also my first Boule Noir bottle of Lanvin’s Arpege, and a cabinet-style box containing a selection of Mary Chess perfumed bath oils. Mary Chess is no more, Bal a Versailles is very hard to find, and Arpege is the only one still readily available (it may well be the next perfume I buy as I haven’t worn it in a while).
Currently, I am a little outside my comfort zone as far as perfume goes. I am using up a couple of little 4ml gift/sample sprays of Clinique Aromatics in White, and not being one to douse myself in scent, I probably have enough of this to see me through to the other side of Christmas. To damn it with faint praise, this perfume is okay. I like it enough to use up the two little bottles I have, but not enough to want to buy it and wear it for an extended period. If forced to think about it, I find it best suited to summer; it’s very ‘bright’, even slightly brash, and lacking something that can’t be put into words. Which, let’s face it, is the whole thing about perfume – you can never describe why one particular perfume is right for you and others are wrong, even if they are in the same broad ‘family’ or have similar components. For example, a quite common comparison I come across is if you like Arpege you may also like Chanel No. 5 – I love Arpege, Chanel No. 5 leaves me completely unmoved. It is almost as if somewhere within the particular secret formula of each perfume you love, there is an atom of magic that makes that makes it speak to you. Conversely, when you try a perfume that isn’t quite right, you experience the olfactory equivalent of Mark Twain’s spring fever – “you don’t know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so.”
The other place where I am operating outside my comfort zone (albeit a little more happily) is in my knitting. As a lifelong lover of light- to medium-weight wools, I am currently working on two projects in heavier-weight yarns. My super-secret Christmas knitting is in a chunky yarn, knitting up at a gauge of 14 stitches and 20 rows to a 10cm square. I am using 6mm needles which initially felt like knitting with rolling-pins and I have to be glad that they are wooden and therefore lightweight. It surprised me how much I have come to enjoy working on this project and it is encouraging me to consider knitting something in Rowan Cocoon yarn for next winter. Me suddenly wanting to use this yarn after years of disliking it will probably be enough to ensure they discontinue it, but at least if they do I will be prepared and able to buy some before it disappears.
The second project I’m working on is a funky little neckwarmer for my Etsy shop (this is now open at pamalisonknits.etsy.com). This is ‘only’ an aran-weight wool and, although it is a bit bulkier, it is closer to my usual knitting choices. The only downside is that both of the projects I am actively working on are in almost exactly the same colour or, to be precise, lack of colour, and I don’t function hugely well with the neutrals. I keep gazing over at my vase of knitty pretties to remind myself about colour and warmth.
I am currently awash with inspiration for making colourful things from yarn so I hope some of it comes to fruition.
This weekend has mainly been devoted to steaming my Christmas puddings. I use my mum’s recipe which makes two medium-sized puddings, each enough to serve six people a good portion. As I spend Christmas alone (by choice, although for some reason many people seem to think that it is some kind of hardship to be able to spend the Christmas break exactly as it pleases you), twelve portions of Christmas pudding might be something of an overkill. I usually only make half the recipe which is still more than enough. One of the puddings will be cut into individual portions and go into the freezer, but my dieting self is eagerly anticipating the day she can just dive head-first into a six-portion pudding!
Speaking of dieting, yesterday I hit the twelve stone mark, which means I have lost one stone and ten pounds since I started dieting at the beginning of September. I feel so much better for it; I am enjoying walking again, and I love how my clothes fit me now, apart from the few which simply don’t fit at all any more. So I am patting myself on the back and giving myself a big thumbs-up for my perseverence. I am not thinking about the fact that the NHS suggest a healthy weight for my height is between seven and ten stone – the NHS are exceptionally good at most things, but I suspect they are a little too zealous when it comes to weight assessment.
I hope you are enjoying any projects you are working on, and that you have had an enjoyable weekend.