Friday, 25 July 2008

Back - in both senses

I meant to be back here sooner, not least in order to talk about The Poisoner, Judith. But when I got up on Sunday I couldn't, get up I mean. I could lie or sit, or scuttle, but I couldn't stand up straight or walk. I saw the osteopath on Tuesday and I am much better, but I think it's going to be another few days before I can catch up with things and write a post.
Don't worry, though: I can still read, knit and operate a remote control so things aren't desparate.

The osprey chicks have both taken off and spend a lot of time in neighbouring trees, practising going backwards and forwards. Neither of them has come back with a fish yet.

Estelle Getty died this week, of an awful degenerative sort of dementia so presumably it came under the heading of a blessed release. This is from happier times.

Picture this - Sicily, 1922...

Saturday, 19 July 2008

We Have Lift Off

It's so exciting: I saw one of the osprey chicks take off and flap a couple of feet above the nest this morning, and stay there for quite a while. The chicks are a boy and a girl (like Angelina's twins) and I can't tell them apart, although a lot of viewers of the webcam can, and viewers have been placing bets on who would be first to fly, and when. When I say placing bets, I don't think any money's been changing hands except perhaps in donations to the RSPB. Most imaginary money has been on the girl, who is called Nethy or more prosaically, AY. AY is the name on her leg ring so that she can be identified when she arrives in Africa or anywhere she chooses to stop off, and 'Nethy' is the name she's been given by the wardens: it's the name of one of the local primary schools. The boy is AZ and Deshar.

This clip is from the week before last, and shows Mum arriving, and then Dad arriving with a fish.

.......................................................................... Whooooosh!

They've pulled back the webcam, or switched to a different one, so that we can see the whole nest now. I can't get over nests: how do birds do that? I couldn't build a nest, and I've got opposable thumbs. The present camera is further away and hence we can't hear the chirping and shrieking, which is a relief sometimes and disappointing at others.

Anyway, knitting. The above is not entirely a diversionary tactic, as you might have suspected; there has been knitting. I re-did the first front shaping on Chrissy and started on the second: then I ripped them both and started all over again. I won't bore you with the details, but I will give you a piece of advice. Always check your stitch count before you divide for the front neck. But I expect you knew that already. I watched another couple of epsiodes of Law and Order while I did that. On the Hallmark Channel, Lennie Briscoe is alive and well. I've picked up the stitches for the neck and am progressing round and round with that, although I am sort of thinking of ripping it and changing to a 3 x 1 rib, instead of the 3 x 3.

I wound another skein of the handspun and did a few more repeats of the baby shawl. It's very comforting knitting. I hope Baby finds it comforting to wear; although the mother-to-be has mentioned that it's high summer in Queensland in October, I think they have air con so the little mite will probably need a warm shawl after all.

And there has been dyeing. I had another go at the hank I did before and strengthened all the colours. I felt a lot more confident this time so I really worked it and I had also realized that the dye is actually attracted by the yarn and leaves the water very rapidly, so I made use of that.

Although the yarn is Knitpicks' Bare and is intended for dyeing, it is superwash and some nylon so it's not going to take the colours very richly, but I'm happier with the results than I ever expected to be. They're bright in a springlike way, rather than a totally garish way. If I knitted socks, I'd be perfectly happy to haVe a pair of socks made from it. But I don't knit socks.

When I visited Jean this week, I sneaked a peek at the Princess, which is awe-inspiring. I can see why she's itching to get back to it even although the idea of tackling such a project makes me feel faint and panicky.

This is more my speed. Yes, it's another Forest Canopy Shawl, folks. A friend was round the other evening when I had some balls of Kidsilk Haze scattered about and she was very taken with this shade, which is Meadow, 581. It's a very soft green, which always makes me think of Spring. It's the colour I used for the Scaruffle. So I decided to knit her a little froth to wear around her neck. It's like knitting with whispers, and amazingly quick. I did this bit last night while catching up on last week's Midsomer Murder. I'm using bamboo Addi circs, 4 mm or size 6. Addi bamboos are varnished so they're not as sticky as plain bamboo, but they're not as slippy as metal and it's zipping along.

I'm glad everybody was so taken with Italian for Beginners. I have to confess I've never read anything by Maeve Binchy, but it hadn't occurred to me that the setting was at all un-Danish... whatever that might mean. Apparently it's the highest grossing Danish film ever, because it took off in the U.S.

I can relate to your seeing it in Florence, Joan - in Danish with Italian subtitles - because once when I was in Amsterdam I went to see a film called Made in U.S.A., which turned out to be a Jean-Luc Godard film which even his fans say is 'not too accessible', in French with Dutch subtitles. It was in the days when you went in at the beginning of the film and stayed there until it was finished. My comprehension of written French isn't bad, but I can't follow the simplest conversation so I was totally lost - I probably would have been all right if it had had French subtitles, but of course it didn't.

Judith, since you obviously record the same films as I do from BBC4, have you watched The Poisoner yet? It's absolutely staggering. I'll do a post about it later, because there are things I must do this afternoon.

Where about in Tollcross is your flat, Mcknitus? I could have a look next time I'm in the area. I used to be up that way when visiting HK Handknit of blessed memory; I don't have much cause now but it's not that far away.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Doh, again

I'm not having much luck following instructions at the moment. After having to do a bolero sleeve twice, I sewed one of them in and it looks very peculiar. I've knitted this pattern twice before without any problems, so it must be me. I'll unpick it, block the pieces properly and try again. I'm sure it'll be fine. Really.

I picked up Chrissy last night and did the first bit of the shaping at the front neck. When I started on the second bit today, I realized that I had done the shaping on the sleeve edge, not the collar edge. Doh. (That's not actually what I said.) So I've unravelled that and I'm doing it again tonight, while watching another episode of Law and Order: my very own personal Groundhog Day.

For some reason I thought I had done the sleeves of this already, but I haven't. I don't think they'll be too bad as it's a dropped shoulder so they're quite short, and I'll probably make them even shorter. I tend to wear my sleeves pushed up and there's no point in knitting extra yards of stuff. The ribbing at the hem is a 4x3 rib which is very tiresome: I think I'll do a 3x3 rib at the neck and cuffs.

The ospreys are still keeping me busy - well, maybe not busy exactly, but occupied. I'm amazed by how much more enormous they are every day. They were ringed the other day and got their tiny satellite backpacks on, so they now have little aerials on their backs and look like remote-controlled boats. They are walking about the nest a lot and stretching their wings: flying lessons should start soon. The sound has been off today so we've had no chirping.

I was thinking of having a competition for the Swallowtail Shawl, but I have decided that Nellie is the winner since she left a comment offering to be my milkman - can you leave your email address in a comment, Nellie? If you add it and then delete it, it will still arrive in my inbox and you should be safe from spammers. That's one of the nice things about having a blog, isn't it? Making up your own rules.

I watched a Dogme film the other night, by mistake. It was a comedy so it was all right in the end. Called Italian for Beginners, it was about a group of singles who all attended the same night school and although it started very gloomily there was lots that made me stay with it. The characters were all very sympathetic, even the awful one that everyone else shouted at. I suppose they were all imperfect in some way, but that's no bad thing. When it finished I wanted to watch the sequel right away so that I could find out what happened to them later, but there isn't a sequel, sadly.

Fans of Edinburgh roadworks may be interested to see another indie classic, Number 11 Bus.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Kool Aid At Last

I finally did some Kool Aid dyeing at the weekend. I didn't take lots of photographs because everyone and her cat has done this by now and if you want to see pix of dye pots you only have to google. This is what it looked like when I hung it over the sink in case of drips. There are two kinds of blue there, a green, a green mixed with blue, a yellow and a little bit of pink because Kaffe Fassett recommends it - not in dyeing, but in colour-combining.I didn't make an awful mess, but I might yet because I think I'm going to give it another go. Once it had dried I could see that there were vast expanses of white and I think I want to improve on that. I don't mind some white but there's too much. I was nervous about using too much dye, whatever that might mean, but I think I'll be more extravagant the second time. I was worried that overlapping the colours might lead to murkiness: I remember it always did when I mixed the colours of my Plasticine. I haven't got murkiness, but I have got too much white. I noticed that where the pink met the blue, it resulted in a dark blue. This might not be a revelation to you, but it surprised me because I had expected purple, and murkiness. I might be able to make some dark blue when I return to it but if you see large patches of purple next time, don't be surprised. It will just mean that it has all gone horribly wrong.

I went out today and had a deeply frustrating afternoon: I ended up feeling very cross and writing a very stiff letter in my head on the way home, made crosser by the fact that I know nowadays that I won't actually write said letter and I would be better off thinking about something constructive or deciding what to have for my tea.
I finished the first skein of handspun on the baby shawl, so it is going into the plastic bag for a little rest while I seam the bolero and do something else.

Another piece of lace, I think. That will stop me writing stiff letters in my head.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Slow Progress

The bolero isn't looking very exciting at the moment. I can see why beginning knitters get disheartened: it's hard to believe that these crumpled bits and pieces are going to blossom into someone's favourite cardi.But they will, just as soon as I've finished the second sleeve and waved the magic wand of seaming and blocking. I had to knit the first sleeve twice because when I'd nearly finished it I discovered that I'd stopped increasing too soon and it was too small in every direction: I had to rip it and start almost from the beginning. Fortunately it has next-to-no sleeve cap so I hadn't done any elaborate shaping. It was all Angelina Jolie's fault that I miscounted: I was watching A Mighty Heart when I was counting stitches and my attention wasn't really with the needles, but was with Mariane Pearl in Karachi. Very good film and I'm glad I knew what happened at the end so I didn't find the suspense too great or the shock too awful. Michael Winterbottom directs a different type of movie every time: the documentary feel of this was so good that I kept on being surprised when I recognized an actor because I kept beeing tricked into thinking they were real people. The last film I saw of his was Road to Guantanamo and the one before that A Cock and Bull Story, - I don't think you could find two more different films if you combed the IMDB for a fortnight with both hands.

Around the same time as I was watching a Mighty Heart, in real life Sean Langan was released by his kidnappers in Afghanistan. Langan is a film-maker who has made award-winning documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4: I always watch his films and I find him exasperating and admirable by turns. You can tell he's one of those people who drives his friends crazy, but they don't mind. He was missing for some months before his family realised so you can imagine what he's put them through in the past. I'm very glad he's safe, and I wonder when he'll be going back. I would admire him a lot if he didn't, but I expect he will. Jeremy Bowen has written about how hard it is to give up war reporting. Sean started a blog just before he was kidnapped but he hasn't posted since his return: I expect he's forgotten his password.

Well, that was a long way from knitting, wasn't it?
I'm carrying on with the baby shawl. This handspun is so delicious; I realize I've never knitted with handspun before and I think I might have acquired a very expensive new habit. It's so soft and the inconsistencies make it like knitting with clotted cream - and it has the most delicious sheepy smell. I keep inhaling great draughts of it. I think I'll spread the knitting of this over the summer, with gaps between the skeins. Baby isn't due until October so I have a bit of time to savour it before I send it to Australia and probably never see it again. Why do some of one's favourite relations have to live on the other side of the world? It's very unfair.

The ospreys continue to impress: one of the chicks, the latest to hatch and the smallest, has died but the other two are growing almost visibly and can be seen gulping down raw fish with enthusiasm. They are getting to be quite huge and they stretch their wings a lot - you can see then how long their wings are and what impressive birds they are going to be. I hope we see some of the flying lessons when they start.

Twice a year, in the summer and at Christmas, I make up a family album or playlist of what everyone is listening to. The ages range from three to - well, I don't see what that has to do with anything - and I distribute them just as everyone is going off on holiday so that they can listen in the car. I've posted most of this summer's tracks at Muxtape so you can have a listen too.

Speaking of listening to music in the car, residents of Edinburgh have plenty of time to do that just now. We've always said that the city holds back its best roadworks until the summer, for the tourists and the Festival, but this year with the preparations for our trams there seem to be more roadworks than roads. You can see the end of my street at 1:26 and 4:53, and K1 Yarns is the bright blue shopfront at 4:59.

And they're replacing the roundabout at the top of Leith Walk with traffic lights: it's against nature, I tell you.