January 30, 2011

Shattered again


. . . No, no, that’s just me.  I haven’t run Wolfgang into anything else.  Sundays tend to be like this.  The real reason I’m starting this ‘practise quarter peal’ scam is so that I can schedule quarters not on a Sunday when I have half a hope of holding myself together long enough to get through one.   I haven’t had a really brilliant morning since the ME nailed me eleven years ago, and since I have this indelicate habit of staying up till all hours* getting out of bed what-counts-to-me-as-early on Sunday morning to ring bells is this epic act of heroism every frelling week.  Which means that by noon I feel like five pm and by five pm I feel like . . . tomorrow, having stayed up all night.  Standard Sunday service quarters are rung around five pm.**

            And right at the moment my Sundays are being made increasingly hideous by lengthening Octopus and Chandelier rehearsals:  today’s was four hours, and it goes up to six shortly.  The show goes on, ready or not, at half-term, the last week in February.  But the chorus doesn’t have enough to do.  I read most of a novel today so excellent*** that I was absorbed in it in spite of all the banging and yowling going on around me, which on the one hand is very nice, because spending your Sunday afternoon reading is one of those things I used to do when I wasn’t doing too many other things†, but if you’re going to spend your afternoon reading, you want to be curled up on your sofa with your hellhounds or similar, and not have your concentration regularly if infrequently broken by demands that you sing something.  Wha’?  Huh?   There’s a further problem:  us non-dancing chorus are a small, elegantly arranged coral reef in one corner of the stage, and what is the first important fact about coral?††  It’s sessile.  It doesn’t move around.   It just sits there.  Hour after hour.  After hour.  After . . . ouch.  I don’t sit still well at the best of times but I mostly don’t notice—because I don’t sit still.  I twitch.  I fidget.  I get up and make more cups of tea.  I also rarely sit, as your director or your audience might define sitting;  I tend to have at least one leg folded up under me somehow.  I also slouch a lot.  At funny angles.  Not at all elegant.  By the end of the third hour of rehearsal, despite breaks during which we were allowed to lay aside our coral natures and reengage with bipedalism, I was so crippled I could barely move, and by the time I got home to hellhounds, who were delighted to see me and went and sat by the front door in a significant manner, it was Quasimodo all the way.†††  The things you don’t think of when you decide to do something silly, like sing in your first am-dram performance at the age of 58.‡ 

            I’m so trashed I think I may go to bed early. . . .  Maybe I’ll finish reading that novel. . . . 

* * *

* I tend to get my second wind at about one a.m., which is inconvenient.  But when you have one of these energy-stompers like ME you take what you can get and try not to argue.  People with ME don’t generally last long in standard office jobs.^ 

^ And if any of you out there have ME and a standard office job . . . wow.  I totally salute you. 

** Niall and I walked down from the church to the main street together after ringing this morning, chiefly so Niall could gloat.  He did have one useful piece of information for me—that Penelope is delighted at the prospect of practise quarters and has offered to sacrifice herself on the altar of administrative support, should I feel the need.^    Other than that, he said, grinning broadly,^^ I’m just going to sit back and let you get on with it.  —The life of a Deputy Ringing Master is fraught with peril.  The life of a Deputy Ringing Master with bright ideas is . . . ^^^

^ Which is to say that organising ringers to do stuff is one of those cat-herding occupations, and at very least if there’s two of us we each have someone to complain to.  

^^ I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed what a very wide toothy grin Niall has.  I wonder if he has a little goblin blood? 

^^^ I think possibly ‘learning to knit’ comes in this ‘bright perilous ideas’ category.   No, I haven’t mastered the second row yet.   But I have a nice new knitting ap on Pooka. 

*** Yes, I will certainly blog about it. 

† and having ME 

†† Aside from the fact that the pink-orange range makes great jewellery.  

††† I swear Wolfgang engaged his own clutch on the way home.  Although I hung on white-knuckled as we went through the gate.  

‡ I’ve been sitting through operas for forty years.  I don’t know.  The stress level is different.

On planning and planting an orchard (guest post by AJLR)


It’s only a tiny orchard but we’re very proud of it – the ‘we’ in this case being I and my fellow kitchen-gardeners, on the university campus where I’m a member of staff.

Three years ago the University decided to encourage students and staff to get involved in a project called ‘creative campus’. All sorts of things have come out of this, including a grass maze, an arboretum, and the kitchen-garden*. This last is an area of about half an acre that has been set aside for use by those students and staff who are interested in growing vegetables (or learning how to do so) – and now fruit, as well. We have a number of vegetable beds inside a wire (anti-rabbit) fence – 15 plots, each of c.10’ x 12’. The soil is very light and fairly sandy and dries out a lot in summer, so earlier this year we bought a lot of well-rotted horse manure and a big trailer load of spent mushroom compost and have been digging this stuff in and mulching with it ever since, to help the moisture-holding capacity and general health of the soil. I must admit that when I first pressed for us to get so much organic matter in I had some very doubtful co-volunteers. However, everyone can see now how our worm count is going up and how much healthier the plants have been this past summer so I’m glad we went ahead. As the person in the group with the most gardening experience (some of my fellow gardeners are complete beginners, though extremely willing and keen to learn) I really enjoy sharing information (the RHS site and forum are a great reference resource) and showing new gardeners something of how to get the best crops from their plantings. It’s also great to get away out to the garden during summer lunchtimes when I’m on campus, as a change from being plugged into a computer.

A few months ago we heard that an external bid put in by the campus environmental co-ordinator had been successful and that we would have some extra funding to expand our operations in ways that would benefit the students. We decided that it would be good to get some fruit trees and bushes, as an interesting feature in themselves and as an aid to teaching people more (informally) about how easy it can be to grow some food of their own. After innumerable hours of online and face-to face discussion (really – the number of emails involved was stupendous), we finally settled on having apple, pear, cherry and cobnut trees, together with raspberries (both autumn- and summer-fruiting varieties), blackcurrants, redcurrants, loganberry and tayberry. We commandeered some of the grassed area outside the vegetable garden, some of our members got together and built a large fruit cage (for the soft fruit) from some old metal and mesh frames that were discarded near us, and we were ready!

We’d had a look around during the summer to see where we might be able to get good stock from (it has to be certified as virus-free) and eventually decided on Brogdale – well, with the National Fruit Collection there being only eight miles away from the campus, it seemed the obvious place. We kept everyone interested in the kitchen-garden informed about what the steering group was planning, asked for volunteers who’d like to come along and learn how to plant trees/soft fruit so as to give the best start, circulated an RHS video about the way to plant trees**, and planned our planting day.

Of course, the day we’d picked as the planting day (27 November) turned out to be three days after the start of the current mini-Ice Age in the UK. After a couple of hours of preparatory groundwork the morning before by my Noble and Nice-Natured Husband (‘You want me to go up there and do WHAT?! In these temperatures!! Are you joking, woman…?!’) and myself, we found ourselves at 10 o’clock on the morning of the planting day standing on a just-thawing area of pasture and with 14 slightly chilly volunteers in attendance. The man from Brogdale, with all our beautiful trees and soft fruit stacked behind him, gave a practical demonstration of ‘how to do it’ (including such elements as making sure that the supporting stake went in on the side of the prevailing wind, so each little tree’s trunk would be less likely to rub against it),  my husband gave a brief demo of how to take turf off the ground first without either a) taking too much soil with it or b) laying oneself open to a slipped disc, and we were off. I’d asked people to work in twos and threes and for each little group to plant a tree according to the layout and measurements we’d agreed and just then marked out (15 feet between trees, which are on semi-dwarfing rootstock). Everyone was very keen to get started – and to warm up! After the first 30 minutes they all seemed to be getting the hang of stripping the turf off where their tree was to be planted (I was building turf stacks with what they took off) and the first planting holes were starting to appear. Everyone looked much warmer and there was a lot of chatting and good-humoured comparison of techniques going on, which was great.  As the trees went in one could see how much care people were taking and the general enthusiasm for what they were doing, despite the -2oC temperature around us. By 12.30 all the trees were in and we went for a quick lunch and warm-up in the students’ cafe a few minutes walk away. Knocking the mud off our boots (mostly) and going into that warm room, engulfing food/fuel at a rate of knots, we were all feeling really good about the day.

Going back out into the cold 45 minutes later was, of course, not quite so much fun. Some of the volunteers heard the siren call of essays waiting to be written and left, but enough remained for us to go back as a group and get on with planting the soft fruit bushes and canes inside the cage. I’d done a planting plan, showing what needed to go where, and once we’d got more turf stripped off, the ground dug over and loosened up in the new beds, the remaining plants went in fairly quickly. My N&N-NH went off and brought back a pack of pastries, one of the group went across to the Plotting Shed*** and brought mugs of hot tea out to us and, by the time the frozen grey dusk started to envelope us all at 3.30, every plant was snug in the ground. Now we’ve got even more of a reason to long for the Spring.

* * *

* The campus is around 300 acres in extent and there’s still quite a lot of spare land round the edges. We’ll also have two bee-hives out there, near the kitchen-garden, from this coming Spring. I’m so looking forward to this and to my bee-keeping training.

** We were planting bare-root grafted trees, in which case one has to be sure and keep the grafted area – where top and rootstock join – a couple of inches above the ground. The general planting technique is just the same as shown in the video though.

*** There is an old (brick-built) shed on the edge of the kitchen-garden that we’ve got kitted out with water, power, chairs, wall-charts, etc. When this potting shed (as it was before) was renovated for us last year by the University’s maintenance staff, we asked the k-g group what it should be called. The ‘Plotting Shed’ it then became…

Noises, various


It’s a great pity I didn’t LEARN TO KNIT a few months ago.  The Octopus and Chandelier rehearsals kick into high gear on Sunday, and we have a six hour dress rehearsal in—I think it’s a fortnight.  Six hours??  The sad truth is that the back row of the chorus doesn’t have enough to do, and rehearsals were making me kind of crazy, and Minnie, our fearless director, has let me off the last two, on the proffered excuse that I was getting the music from Oisin and could learn the back row of the chorus at home.*  This sounds quite plausible.  Except for the ‘getting the music from Oisin’ part, which greatly resembles getting two blog posts from Oisin.**  I’ve been reduced to writing him menacing emails.  He punished me for this discourtesy today however by making me WAIT for my cup of tea while he printed the pages off.  Tea . . . tea, I said feebly:  it was already late, Oisin having had a funeral to play organ for***, and if I don’t get my second mug of serious tea by 4 pm I start blurring around the edges.  Mwa ha ha ha ha, said Oisin.

            But if I knew how to knit, I’d have something to do for the five hours and forty-five minutes of the dress rehearsal that they don’t need the back row of the chorus for.  I’ll probably try to read, which means I’ll get home and discover that I haven’t taken in anything except a vague sense of the passage of words, with a lot of ‘a’s and ‘the’s and I can’t remember what else.  Although I suppose if I took knitting I’d come home with a lot of dropped stitches and strange lumpy . . . things.

            Meanwhile . . . I told you that Niall and I had hatched a Cunning Plan.  I don’t ring quarter peals because of the ME.  While—as blog readers know—I get through a remarkable amount of stuff in an average day† I have no stamina, and I never know when I’m suddenly going to have to sit down in the middle of whatever.  At the computer this is not necessarily either tragic or conspicuous, although I’d probably have fewer superfluous clothes†† if sale catalogues, on line and off, weren’t a favourite retreat during phases of brain mush.†††  On the end of a bell rope, you’re in trouble, and so is your band—and people tend to mind losing quarters, when they’ve turned up to ring one.   But I miss ringing quarters—I particularly miss the spectacular practise opportunity a quarter is:  forty-five minutes of the same method.  A ten-minute touch on practise night is good going.‡  So I’ve kept muttering to myself about practise quarters—where the goal is forty-five minutes of the same method, and if you get a quarter out of it, great, and if you don’t, you just ring as many touches as you need to fill up the forty-five minutes, depending on how many times you break down.  You can put the woman having her ME moment on the treble or the tenor as necessary:  my autopilot, after six years of tower ringing, probably just about is strong enough.  And it’s way less pressure, and less-good ringers (including those that don’t also have ME) have an opportunity to ring too.

            I’d begun to think that perhaps my opportunity was coming round at last, because New Arcadia used to ring a lot of quarters and now rings hardly any‡‡ and I have been able to watch Niall getting increasingly twitchy and a few of our other ringers perhaps a little wistful about this.  So I brought up the idea of practise quarters to Niall the other night in the car‡‡‡ coming home after handbells and he went for it.§  First stop:  a conductor.  We tackled Colin about this last night after handbells and Colin, who is not only a bell junkie but probably too nice for his own good§§, thought about it for a minute and then said that he thought it was a good idea, and he’d be happy to conduct.  Second stop:  permission from our tower captain and tower secretary, who is Vicky.  We approached her (one does not tackle Vicky) tonight . . . and in hindsight I think she agreed too quickly.  Our idea is to have a practise quarter once a month on a set day, like every third Friday before ordinary practise, but Vicky, with perhaps a fell light in her eyes, is suggesting that we sometimes have them . . . on Sundays, like our old service quarters, as if for service.  No, no! we say.  If we’re ringing a quarter for service, it has to be a good quarter.  Oh, says Vicky insinuatingly.  If they’re not commissioned, they can just be ordinary quarters, that would be fine.  And then Niall, with an even more fell light in his eyes, says, well, maybe on those months we could have two practise quarters . . .

            I may have created a monster.  Stay tuned.§§§

 * * *

* Note that the back row of the chorus doesn’t move around or anything.  Presumably we will be told when and where to come on and when and where to come the hell off—and adjured not to trip over or break anything which I have to say is worrying me a lot more than the music is. 

            What I am aware of carefully and painstakingly not thinking about is the whole on-stage thing.  I’m the back row of the chorus!  Barring throwing up or going off in fits, no one is going to notice me.  Also, we mostly sit down, so the white knuckles and the rubbery knees should be inconspicuous.  But . . . even the back row of the chorus has to come on for at least one curtain call, don’t they?  Do I have to smileEwww.  I should so not be doing this.  It’s all Oisin’s fault.  I told him we needed a nice little singing group.  Twelve or so.  I’ll sing anything from high baritone to second soprano as long as there are at least eleven other people around.^ 

            Or maybe it’s Blondel’s fault, for not bursting out laughing^^ at my first lesson and telling me to go home and . . . learn to knit.^^^  Or Blondel’s for leaving.  I’m still waiting to hear from my second new voice teacher, that the kitchen refit is complete, and she can get into her studio again, or whatever.  If a second singing teacher spurns me I’m going to start developing a complex.

^ There are reputed to be eight in the back row of the O&C chorus, if we were ever all there at the same time.  Eight is enough when there’s all this nonsense going on stage front. 

^^ Speaking of providing good laughs.  See below.     

^^^ You realise that I spent years coming away from bell practise threatening to give it up and learn to knit?  I only stopped saying this . . . probably when I started wrestling with Cambridge.  If you’re trying to learn your first surprise method, you’ve come too far for frivolous comminations.  But this empty threat clearly had some protective quality, and now . . . 

** Minnie is married to him.  She knows what he’s like.  Never mind.  She probably got a good laugh out of my foolishness.  I wouldn’t deny a good laugh to the director of a small local theatre society in the middle of rehearsals for a new show. 

*** He came in to me picking out another of my strange, crabbed little tunes on his piano.  I’ve got sheaves^ of manuscript pages of strange, crabbed little tunes^^ scattered all over my piano.  I hadn’t realised till I said it to Oisin today that the reason for this is that as soon as I put them on Finale they become serious.  And PEG II is so dedicated to kicking me in the head that at the moment I’m a complete wuss about giving anything else the opportunity to behave similarly.  Sigh.  The music I write is a lot more legible on Finale. 

^ Er—sheafs? 

^^ For a variety of instruments.  Including organ.  Oisin told me today he’s finally getting ready to order the manuals—the keyboards—for The Beast.  But he’s planning on buying the wrong ones.   He’s trying to placate me with a lot of whining about cost.I am not moved. 

+ We’re talking the approximate difference between Third House and Kensington Palace.  All right, all right.  It’s not my bank account.  But a woman has her (slightly bizarre) fantasies.  Yarn pets?  One of these hand-crafted-by-enchanted-goblins organ manuals would be a fantastic pet.=  Or rather, three, since Oisin needs three of them.  We could name them. . . . 

= I wonder if anyone has tried to yarn bomb an organ.  

† I don’t think I actually know what an average day is.  

†† Is a cute little cashmere-blend cardie ever superfluous?  Discuss. 

††† I can somehow still punch in my credit card number.  Damn. 

‡ Although a ten minute touch on service ring morning is a generous plenty, thank you. 

‡‡ Chiefly because service schedules got juggled, but I suspect also because even Vicky has an upper limit on the amount of hassle she wants to go through organising quarters. 

‡‡‡ You will doubtless be relieved to hear that the driver’s door has been reattached and the gremlins chastised. 

§ I’m so persuasive.  No, he’s so a bell junkie.  I’m a little anxious that there’s going to be some quid pro quo in invisible ink in the contract, however, concerning handbells.  I’ve rung four handbell quarters so far and none of them voluntarily. 

§§ Ask his wife.

§§§ There are towers who ring quarters every week—I know one or two that ring two every Sunday, for morning and evening service—but we don’t, and we don’t really have the ringers.  If we go from the occasional quarter to two quarters a month it will be a lot.  Well, I think it’ll be a lot, and I’m in the firing line.

One of those twenty-four hour things


 I don’t know why it’s been a day, but it has.  I mean, aside from the twenty-four hour group aspect of dayness.  It’s been one of those days that from the moment your feet hit the floor* you’re not moving fast enough.  Blah glub.**  Because they are threatening us with snow again I was determined to get out of town for our morning hurtle in case we can’t tomorrow.  On our way back to Wolfgang after a ramp and wander relatively free of untoward incident*** we saw emerging from the crossroad ahead of us, a dog.  And then a second dog.  They milled around for about thirty seconds—were presently joined by a third dog—while hellhounds and I slowed down . . . and down . . . to a dead halt, and I started muttering imprecations.  There were eventually four dogs at the crossroads before the human appeared.  She saw us all right, but did she make any move toward the collection of leads round her neck?  She did not.  She wandered off down the path we were on . . . and we walk a lot faster than almost anyone else in Dodge City.  She looked over her shoulder at us a couple of times—yes, lady, we’re gaining on you:  I’d have to get down on my hands and knees to walk as slowly as you’re going—and started calling in that bright chirpy voice you know means that her dogs will ignore her completely.  Which of course they did.  She managed to get a lead on one of them . . . the other three sallied back up the path, tails high, to interact with the hellhounds.  At this point, still calling what I assume was their names†, she broke into a run.  I guess this was out of some dog training manual.  It’s quite a good ruse with puppies, who usually will follow you:  full grown, undertrained dogs for whom your newness wore off long ago, not so much.

            She disappeared around a corner of the path, with her single dog on a lead.  The other three accompanied us jovially back to Wolfgang.  Good job about the jovially.  I waited till they had dispersed before I drove away.  I have no idea.

            The rest of the day has been taken up by reading contracts††, talking to Merrilee about contracts†††, and ringing frelling handbells.‡  I’m starting to worry that Niall is going to think that our plain courses of bob major are becoming not too bad and we should start thinking about ringing a touch.  He was getting all excited about touches of bob major on the way home on Tuesday. They’re much easier than you think! he cried.  All you do is—ungle mungle blah blah blitherump drool!  And my answer to that is:  Noooooooo.     

           Ratbags—what with all the other excitements‡‡ I forgot to ask Niall about his car.  Never mind.  I can ask him tomorrow, while we’re gearing up for our assault on Vicky, officially our tower secretary but more accurately our Great High Panjandrum in Charge of Everything.  We have a cunning plan. . . . ‡‡‡ 

* * *

 * Possibly because the phone rang before you were ready to get up. 

** Never did get the floor hoovered which in my presently dustpan-challenged state is a more critical activity than usual.  One of these Thursdays my handbellers are going to show up in precautionary diving suits.  

*** I’ve had it drummed into me by Jackie Drakeford and Penny Taylor, my sighthound, lurcher and longdog goddesses, that your sprinting-into-the-next-county hellhound will come back looking for you at exactly the place he left you, so it behoves you to stay there, unless you’re absolutely dead sure you’re following him accurately.^  My guys—so far, please all the gods, goddesses, gremlins and imps of the perverse—have always come back to me pretty quickly.  But it is interesting, not necessarily in a good way, just how strongly they mark where they left you and are expecting to find you.  If the three of us are walking/hurtling along the edge of a field where they can have an eye on me (‘we keep her for the roast chicken but she is so slow’) they track me just fine.  But if I’ve been out of their line of sight for only a minute or so, they can’t immediately find me again if I’ve moved.  Chaos gaily reemerged from the hedgerow the other day and looked for me—but I’d walked on a dozen steps and had then stopped and turned around to look for him—and he couldn’t see me.  I know all dogs see motion much better than they identify anything standing still, and I’m under the impression sighthounds are particularly extreme this way.  I felt I was standing there in plain sight—but he was staring at the spot I had been, and I could just see him starting to worry when I realised—and waved and shouted his name.  Hellhound joy.  Darkness trotted up alertly at this point:  Problem?  Was there a problem?

^ And you’d probably be wrong. 

† I admit my hearing is deficient, especially on a cold day while wearing a bright pink balaclava and a double-wound scarf, and with Emmylou Harris pouring into the single earphone I have in one ear, so for all I know she was invoking the ravine goddess to open a crack in the earth and swallow all pursuit.  In which case I am pleased to report she was not doing it at all well. 

†† Uggggh.  I hate contracts.  They’re full of publisherese which is sort of upside down and backwards Sanskrit with occasional Pictish in mirror writing and the bits you manage to decipher despite their best efforts only make you hate publishers.^  Every time I read a contract I wistfully contemplate all those happy, carefree authors who figure that’s what their agents are for, flick through the pages thinking of something else^^ and sign obediently on the dotted line.  I’m sure Merrilee wistfully contemplates those authors too, as she’s answering my 1,000,000 still-clueless-after-all-these-years and anal-retentive questions.  I suspect she goes home, restrains herself from kicking the dog, and says to her husband, Have you ever thought about running a B&B in Schenectady? 

^ There’s a quote I’m failing to find on Google which I have on a wall in my office back at the cottage which says something like:  Contract:  a document legally binding only to the weaker party.  


††† See previous footnote 

‡ On one of the new knitting threads on the forum^ some experienced knitter has said soothingly that I and any other beginners following the New Dark Side story should remember that acquisition of a new skill is always slow, laborious, and containing great swathes of going backwards.  I RING HANDBELLS.  I KNOW HOW TO FAIL.  REPEATEDLY.  IT DOESN’T GET ANY MORE HUMILIATING THAN HANDBELLS. 

^ Not that I meant to start knitting, er, threads on the forum 

‡‡ Hellhounds wouldn’t eat their lunch and handbells were starting early.  When I got back to the cottage all three of the others were already there. 

‡‡‡ You’re all Blackadder aficionados, I trust?

The horror. The horror.


So, whatever night it was that I brought my new demon* home,  I opened one of the It’s Easy!  It’s Fun!  You’ll be knitting Fair Isle masterworks by the end of chapter two! books, and attempted to grapple with Casting On.

            I got as far as one stitch.  

            I thought, this is way too much like work.  I already know enough about work.**  So I took a photo—waste not, want not—and shoved the whole nonsense back in the plastic shopping bag.***

            And then blondviolinst told me about www.knittinghelp.com   And I went there, in a crabbed, sidelong sort of way, and clicked the Long-Tail Cast On† video and thought, oh!  That almost looks . . . familiar.  I think this is the cast-on my over-achieving knitter friend in Maine showed me, twenty-five years ago.

            So tonight†† I thought I’d give it a try. 

            So, is this casting on?  If it is, I can do it.†††  What I’m not telling you is that I did it straight off, first time.  And I thought, oh.  How very odd.  So I pulled the little row off the needle and tried it again . . . and couldn’t do it to save my life.  There followed two hours you do not want to hear about.  I got a little work done on a guest blog due this week (erp).  I fed hellhounds (and they ate).  I tried to cast on again.  Nope.  More displacement activities.  More casting on.  NOOOOOOOO.  At this point I had a serious headache and my vision had gone all kind of fuzzy and my stomach hurt.‡

            Then I figured it out again.  Long exhaaaaaaaaalation.  Also:  GAAAAAAAAH.  IS THIS WORTH IT?‡‡

            So what do I do now?   I can’t make head or tail of the knit and purl videos—and the book illustrations look like particularly unpleasant intestinal diseases.  I want to know what I do right now, with only one cast on row to my name.  I don’t want instructions that start with half a potholder.

E Moon writes


I get that part.

OK. Yes. My mother knitted. . . she knit like a fiend. She taught me. . . .but (of course) since she died I have forgotten how to cast on.

Why am I not surprised you knit?  What do you not do?  Listen, woman, if you put a ring of bells in your garage and start grinding out full peals of Cambridge and Pudsey I am going to ban you from the forum.

           Penelope also knits.  She’s another of these wretched do-everything women.  And she rings bells.‡‡‡  But I have to be nice to her because she’s married to Niall.  Who was wearing a pullover she knitted last night (he said).  Siiiiiigh.  At least now I know I have a local resource.

But yes, the knitting talk here has me yearning to pick up the needles (I inherited ALL my mother’s needles, for which she built a cabinet)

I AM SO JEALOUS.  If you find you have spares of anything. . . .

and yarn again but…I can’t cast on.

Yes you can.  www.knittinghelp.com  Double doodah Continental whatsit.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  I suggest you omit the two-hour plunge into the void however. 

And when would I do it? 


There’s the garden . . . , the land, the horses, the book, the music, the camera…plus of course the cooking, the laundry, the other stuff. I don’t NEED anything else to do. I need more TIME.

Yes.  Rant on, I’m with you all the way.  Don’t forget the part about wanting not to need sleep.  Silly business, sleep.  And the time to READ.

But I want socks that are comfortable and fit, and I know if I could only remember how to cast on and refresh my brain on knit and purl, I could somehow cobble together nice thick socks. . . . Grump at self. Knitters say it’s easy. Non-knitters think it’s hard. Former knitters know is SHOULD be easy, and having the easy become hard is seriously annoying. 

I never got past the listing-with-curly-edges phase last time.  I’m a sort of recidivist beginner . . . which is how I introduced myself to Vicky six years ago.  I tell myself that I never broke ringing inside the first time I tried change-ringing either and . . . look at me now.  I can’t decide if this is a comforting thought or an appalling one. 


I love reading this blog. It makes me feel far less guilty about all the pursuits I’ve taken up and then let go for lack of time. . . .This summer I came across a book named something like “The Idiot’s Guide to Knitting and Crocheting” and bought it from the bargain bin. I read it through completely and then went so far as to go through a craft store and pick out a yarn in a texture I like, along with a set of bamboo knitting needles and a crochet hook that match the yarn, plus a needle for finishing off ends. They’re all sitting in the bag they came in on a counter in the living room.

You’re made of stronger stuff than I am.  I have to hide the signs of lapsed avocations.  My drawing gear is at Third House.  So is my fencing kit.  (My riding stuff is still at the cottage though . . . sigh.)  I think I got rid of my FIMO when we left the old house.  I was good at FIMO. 

Diane in MN

Dear gods above, woman, you are worse than I am for Adding Things To The List!   

I’m glad to hear I’m at the severe end.  I’d worry about the future of humankind if mine were only an average case.

But I still have quite a nice stash of yarn, and last summer I bought a handy little fit-in-your-knitting-bag Q&A reference book, 

Have I mentioned that knittinghelp has an iPhone ap, for pity’s sake?  I don’t yet follow them on Twitter, however.  I have some pride. 

so I imagine that sooner or later I’ll have something on needles again. . . .  I like your yarn choices. . . . But if you’re going to make leg warmers, why not knit in the round and save the sewing-up part?


To avoid the trauma of circs or dpns just yet! 

Of WHAT?  ::Feels trauma approaching::

We want to ease her into this, and flat will be good practice.

I confess flat feels a lot less intimidating.

(Plus, she will be able to use the rose needles if she knits flat. And she already knows how to seam up.)

I do?  I can sew up a hem or a button back on a sweater.  And darn socks, except I never do.

Black Bear responded

          Mrs Redboots wrote:  (although I, personally, prefer to make practical things I can use).

          blondviolinist wrote:  Amen. Hence my original whine about the silliness of yarn bombing. (I believe I called it a waste of good acrylic.) I could have three sweaters in the time it takes to yarn bomb a car!

Well, as an art teacher and a museum dork–er, professional, I’d like to point out that many of those creations are what I’d classify as public art. And public art is a great use of resources. Does the world NEED three more sweaters, or does it need a volkswagen whimsically encased in a giant mitten? There’s room for both in the world of acrylic yarn, I think.

This conversation may fascinate me more than the knitting does.§  I love the yarn bombing.  I think it’s fantastic.  If I got that far, I’d want to do it.  I think it’s so fantastic I keep thinking blondviolinist must be joking that she says it’s a waste of time (and acrylic).  It is public art to me.  And while as another Cold Person I entirely sympathise with the appeal of three more sweaters, public art gives more people pleasure—well, supposing it does please them—than the private ownership of three sweaters.  Which as Black Bear says is a good use of resources. 


and if anyone can show me a way to stitch up my knitting with soft seams…

What am I missing about this sewing up stuff??  What unknown, unguessed Cthulhuan unspeakablenesses await?

Black Bear

Sadly, I too am in the “allergic to wool” category–though as I’m getting older I’m finding it bothers me less, so long as I’m wearing a thick cotton shirt underneath. . . . but I still don’t think I could actually knit with sheepswool. Lanolin on hands = hives.

Fiona was worrying about this for me.  I’m someone who can’t wear a heavy knapsack over a wool sweater, even with two cotton turtlenecks under—but I can wear wool gloves, as long as I don’t wear them too long.  I’m assuming I can cope with knitting wool . . . I’m planning on finding out, anyway.  And my leg warmers will go OVER socks and jeans.   If I get that far I will be aiming ultimately for cashmere, which I can certainly wear—and do, as often as possible.  Mmmmmmmm. 

* * *

* Knitting is more of a demon horde, I think.^

^ Hee hee hee hee+

+ You all know SABLE, right?  ‘Stash Accumulating Beyond Life Expectancy’?   Fiona told me.  Fiona, you know, the woman who left the yarn shop with more yarn than me.  Of course she’s also a quarter-century younger.

** I’ve also already decided I hate metal needles.  They’re so ugly.  There are two problems here.  The first is, I don’t want to deal with ugly in a volunteer activity.  My hoover is pretty ugly too, but the floor has to be dealt with.^  I don’t have to knit.^^  The second problem is . . . all those gorgeous frelling hand-made knitting needles out there.  I DON’T NEED ANY MORE COLLECTIONS OF THINGS.^^^

^ Yes.  It does indeed.+ 

+ I don’t think I told you I finally remembered to buy a new dustpan after my old one cracked in the cold, shovelling snow?  It doesn’t work.  I bet you didn’t know a dustpan could not work, did you?  Neither did I.  I didn’t think to check.  Get down on my hands and knees in the shop and sweep something.  But the leading edge is bowed, and if you press it down toward the floor it bows worse.  So you sweep toward it and the dirt and doghair shoot under the arch with tiny maniacal cries and re-disperse over the floor ARRRRRGH.  The old cracked one works better. 

^^ No!  I don’t!  Ravelry hit a million members without me!  So sue me! 

^^^ Although knitting needles take up less space than, say . . .  books. 

*** I need a Knitting Bag.  There was a really cute one at the yarn shop.  It had cupcakes on it. 

† Which should be about monkeys or ponies or hellhounds.  Also called the Continental Two Step, I mean Cast On, which ought to be about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. 

†† It being a bell-free night, and Peter was playing bridge, and the hellhounds are used to me screaming, and don’t try to differentiate words or causes or probability of threat to the furniture, etc.  

††† If it isn’t . . . I have no idea.  But knittinghelp has half a dozen alternatives, and my two books have at least that, and Fiona comes again in a fortnight, and . . . and some forum member, I think it was, said she knows someone who knows thirty ways of casting on.  It seems to me I could just become a Casting On Expert and never get to the stressful business of projects and finishing them. 

‡ And the furniture is in serious danger. 

‡‡ How badly do I, hellhounds, or babies want legwarmers? 

‡‡‡ She doesn’t write novels.  But I wouldn’t put it past her. 

§ I’m not denying it.  There is lots of stuff out there to get interested in.  I have to be SERIOUSLY intrigued to give something a shot.  See:  E Moon on time.

Next Page »