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Monday, 28 December 2015

It's about time

A few days after I wrote the previous blog post on here, my life took a big jump to the left and I ended up moving house in less than a week. It was mayhem, exhausting, but wonderful at the same time. one of the hazards of social housing these days is that most councils have now adopted the practice of bidding for vacant homes. It means that only people who really want the home will be considered, which is good, but it also means that, at least where I live, you only get 24 hours to say yes or no when you are offered something.

I had bid on a smaller flat some weeks before, and had thought that I'd been unsuccessful as I hadn't heard anything from the council about my application. Little did I know that they had been carrying out background checks on me. The previous tenant of the new place had been a nightmare neighbour and the chap who lives below has Aspergers and they didn't want to give him another bad neighbour.

On the Tuesday I had a phone message left on my home phone, could I contact the council urgently. Wednesday I phoned, arranged to view the flat in my lunch hour, and the moment I walked in I knew I'd say yes. Council lady filled in the forms with me there and then, and because the Monday after next was a bank holiday she said I'd be able to take up to 3 weeks to move in, but I'd have to pay for both flats for that period. Or I could move in over the weekend and as long as the keys to my old place were handed in to the office by midday on the Monday, they wouldn't charge me rent for both flats. Challenge accepted!

Luckily, the two flats were just 10 minutes walk apart. I borrowed bags and holdalls from neighbours and carried as much as I could down in the evenings. Then friends from work helped with their big estate car and miraculously we managed to get even my bed and sofa moved down on the Sunday. And an amazing thing; moving from a 2 bedroom flat to a one bedroom flat with smaller rooms you'd think that I'd be falling over extra furniture. But with my daughter taking the spare bed to her place, everything else I have fits better here than it did in the old flat.

I've swapped a dark, cold, noisy flat in a block of 9, for a light, bright, warm first floor flat in a converted house - with a small garden - in a cul-de-sac. Downsizing is good!

And then I got offered a permanent position at work doing what I'd been seconded to do at the start of the year. So again, I said yes.

And then I got a bonus, which has meant booking my next trip to see my husband in March, and also a short break in Stockholm for me and my daughter in May - for EUROVISION! Oh my dog, we are so excited about that you would not believe.

So for the past 4 months I have been painting walls, tiling walls, throwing out the junk I didn't have time to sort through before I moved, working hard at a job I now love, and wandering round with a ridiculous smile on my face because I am so happy. I have decided that only "nice" things will come in to this flat - no more making do with stuff I don't really like. And this spring I will make a start on turning the square of grass that my bedroom window looks out onto into a pretty bird-friendly garden. So it may be a while again before my next post, but at least you'll know that I'll be keeping out of trouble and spending my time productively.   

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Burning the midnight oil

The quilt I have been making for my daughter is finally finished! It has taken around £80 of fabric and a good 9 months of stitching (on average around 10 hours a week), and on Friday night I was so determined to take it to her yesterday that I stitched from 6.30pm until almost midnight. But it is done and she is very happy with it, and I am very happy that it will no longer be cluttering up my work room.

Now I intend to move on to smaller projects that will use up some of my yarn stash. Luckily my friend is pregnant again, so I have a good excuse to be working on baby items! My first project is a toddler hat with a small cable detail:

I will be adding a smaller version for a 0-6 month old to the pattern and then it will be available to download through Payhip - this is the digital download service that is commonly used for self-published e-books but it works really well for craft patterns as well. Keep checking my Hare's Moon Patterns page on the right. I also have ideas for bibs and jackets to work on this autumn.

Things on the prison front are very quiet at the moment, which is a good thing. Unlike many other couples where one is incarcerated, we don't have much of the drama that can accompany this situation. It is almost certainly because we are older, and less worried about what other people are doing. But as we approach 11 years down, my husband is starting to put together a plan for things he needs to do in the next 9 years to put himself in the best position possible when he gets a chance of parole. Why start so early? Because laws do change, as do attitudes, and being an older inmate it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he may have a parole chance a little earlier than we current expect. Waiting until the last minute has always been my husband's way, so it's good to see him making a change in that area.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Day trip to Jorvik, and Quilt Museum

I've taken a few days off work for a long weekend and on Friday I went to York on a day coach trip. It's a long way, made longer when you have to pick up travellers from 3 towns before you even start, and then have a "comfort break" half way there and back in Derbyshire. But the coach wasn't full and I had the whole back seat to myself so I could spread out.

I did the same trip a couple of years ago with my daughter, but we didn't get to see inside the Minster as there was a wedding in progress, or go into the Jorvik Centre, so those were my plans for Friday. We arrived in York just after midday, and I headed directly to Jorvik. I had been looking forward to looking at the exhibition, and just managed to get in ahead of a party of school kids.

To say I was disappointed would be understating. I should mention here that I did my degree in Heritage and Landscape, and while I'm by no means an interpretation/exhibition expert, I do take a more professional view of things like this than your average tourist probably would. So with my critical eye, I have to say that a £10.50 entry fee - even if you can use it multiple times in a year - is a rip off. Given the huge amount of archaeology in York, there is very little on display in the Jorvik centre. The first room has a glass floor which covers a reconstructed "dig" or excavation of a typical Danelaw-era building. Not a real one, just a representation of one. There is a video screen on one wall, and a few interpretation panels set into the walls, along with a shoe which I think was a real one, but as it had no label I couldn't be sure. The lighting is very low, I assume so as to not have reflections on the glass, but it means you can't actually see very much of the shoe in its display case set into the wall.

Then you take a mechanical ride "through ancient Jorvik" in a moving gondola seat. The noise of the mechanics driving the seats around was too loud and distracted from the commentary coming from the head rests. The display was, well, embarrassing to be honest. Mannequins moving jerkily with their glazed expressions, some pretending to talk (to which the lady from the head rest responded - without explaining that the language would have been a mix of local dialect and imported Danish/Scandinavian). The smell I suppose was meant to evoke the varied smells of close-dwelling inhabitants of York in those times, but it just smelled like glue. I was rather glad to get off the ride, helped by a young lady who certainly looked of Scandinavian descent, and spoke with a slight Yorkshire accent, unlike some of the other staff in their too-clean clothes. There was even an American girl working there, and while I'm all for anyone getting a job here if they want one, having an American with a strong American accent in first-person interpretation set in a city in England before American had even been discovered, was just wrong!

The second room had more exhibition cases set into the walls, an interactive touch-screen "game" with Danelaw characters that you could take shopping and learn about the foods (except it didn't work very well, and wouldn't show me anything in the section on honey and bees), some skeletons in cases, and possibly the best part of the whole exhibition: a life size digital skeleton standing up with highlights of the medical wear and tear on the bones and possible causes, that then was dressed and had a facial reconstruction overlaid. She looked more real than the staff. But again, most of the exhibit cases were poorly lit and for items such as bone combs and jewellery, you really should be able to see all of the detail clearly.

It took me around 45 minutes to do the whole thing, and that was stretching it to read all of the interpretation and spend a few quid in the gift shop. Very disappointing and they seem to have taken the "pitch it at a 7-year-old" way too seriously as I didn't learn anything new from any of it. By contrast, you can go to the centre of Gloucester and look down on glass covered Roman remnants of the city in situ (not a reconstruction) for free, and as far as exhibits go, I prefer the Cirencester museum with lots of natural light and well thought-out displays of the roman and other jewellery and other artefacts.

From there I decided to pop into Duttons Buttons, a real treasure trove for the haberdasher! I bought some  gently sparkling cream with grey marble buttons for a cardigan I am currently spinning yarn for. Could have spent a lot more in there than I did.

Next on my list was a visit to the Quilt Museum. It took a while to find it, as the signage pointed down the wrong road! Eventually I managed to track it down, and what a gem of a place it is! A little more than half the entrance price of Jorvik, but well worth every penny. Sadly, the museum will be closing at the end of this summer as they can't afford the rent on the Guildhall that they currently inhabit. This is such a shame, and means the 800 historic quilts that they currently own will not be shown to the public until or unless another suitable building can be found - surely with 2 Universities in York, some space could be made available to the Quilter's Guild?

Over the summer, the museum has an exhibition of 15 historic quilts paired with 15 new quilts designed and made by the designer Kaffe Fassett under the title "Ancestral Gifts". Kaffe is well known as a knitware designer, and known for his colour work especially. The quilts he has made for this exhibition are a gorgeous riot of rich colours, predominantly reds, oranges and pinks, but a couple of pastel quilts are there too. And the building itself is prefect for displaying them, with its very high beamed ceilings and simple white walls. I'm really glad that I decided to visit while it is still open, and I'd encourage anyone else with a love of textiles to go if you are in York between now and September.

 My final destination was meant to be York Minster, but for the second time they seem determined to keep pagans like me out of the place! Last time we were in York there was a wedding at the Minster; this time they were ordaining a new lady Bishop and the Minster was closed to the public all day. I had wondered why there were so many black-clad vicars wandering around the streets while I was trying to find the Quilt Museum, and it got me thinking what is the collective noun for clergy? A "cassock" perhaps? I decided to sit in the gardens to the side of the Minster for a while and read my book in the sunshine, and I could hear the choir inside singing which was nice.

At 4pm I went to find some sustenance for my long journey home, and settled on some fudge and a hog roast in a bun with all the trimmings. I felt a little bit of olde worlde was called for after the Vikings had let me down!


Sunday, 21 June 2015


Father's Day and Mother's Day are not things my family does. And now that I have neither a mum or a dad still living, they are events that I am completely detached from. But I've been thinking about my dad this week, and trying to tease out things that I learned from him, directly or indirectly.

The first thing was very definitely, follow your heart. Because he wasn't able to. My dad wanted to play football and work on boats. But his knee was dodgy so the playing of football was short-lived, and my Grandad decided that working on boats was not a suitable career and insisted that dad did his apprenticeship on cars and lorries instead. I wouldn't say that dad hated it, because an engine is an engine, regardless of it's wrapper, but dad wanted to be on and around the water, not in a garage in a town. The apprenticeship was a good thing, and lead to mum and dad being able to get their first mortgage too as dad's employer was also their referee, but it wasn't in his heart.

The next thing is, you are good enough. This I probably learned more directly from my mum, but indirectly through dad's own self-depreciation and long-term depression. Trying to sell a house while the owner is pointing out all the things they haven't yet fixed or even started isn't easy. Allowing someone else to form an opinion of you as you stand, warts and all isn't easy. But it brings with it a sense of achievement, that they want the house, or you, for what is there.

Finally, say yes more than you say no. Or not yet. Or I can't. The more you say no, the more you paint yourself into a corner. Saying yes is a stepping stone on to something else. Of course, you should be careful of what you are saying yes to, but if it doesn't hurt anyone and you can afford it, and more importantly if it takes you out of your "normal" expreiences, try a yes more often. You might only get that opportunity once.

Saturday, 13 June 2015


Saturday 13 June 2015 was World Wide Knit In Public day, and if I had been more organised I would have been at the Bath Assembly Rooms to join the other knitters there. It looked a lot of fun, but as with many things, I only found out about it at the last minute.

Instead I did my own KIP mission around Cheltenham. I packed my essentials and jumped on the bus.

The weather was not helpful; my first location was on a damp bench (I took a plastic carrier bag with me to sit on!) under a tree next to the Neptune fountain. It had just started mizzling again (that misty rain that gets everywhere and for which umbrellas are little defence), but the tree kept most of it off me.

I had chosen to work on a new pair of cotton socks for myself, something that I can knit from memory. Several people watched me knit as they walked past, and one lady did come over and ask me what I was knitting. She said she knits, but she had never seen anyone using 4 needles before.

After about half an hour, the mizzle turned to proper rain and the drips from the tree were finding their way onto my hands. Time to decamp and find somewhere under cover. I walked to one of the two shopping arcades in the town and found a space on a bench there. I alternated keeping my eyes down and looking up and knitting by feel. People are a bit wary of direct eye contact, though many were either glued to their phones or on their own missions to get in, around, and out of town as quickly as possible. I did catch a few people watching me though, and several young children were very curious as they were walked past me by their otherwise distracted adults. I got some smiles, which was nice, and I heard a couple of people talking about knitting once they had moved past me.

I stayed there for about an hour, and managed to convince a nice chap to take a photo of me as proof.

I had hoped to do a final KIP in Boston Tea Party, with a cup of tea and a slice of their wonderful berry yoghurt flapjack, but when I got there they were packed and not a table to be had. So I had to admit defeat, and did a final few rounds of the sock while waiting for my bus home instead.

Next year I shall be more organised ....

Friday, 12 June 2015

Introductory offer

There is a new knitting pattern at Hare's Moon: the "End of September" cowl. Available as an instant download via Payhip for just £1 until 31 August 2015.

It's a loose-fitting, quick to knit cowl, ideal for the first days of autumn. Knitted in the round, using Aran weight / Worsted yarn. Suitable for a beginner knitter, this garment can be completed in an afternoon.

Materials required: approx 100g / 200 m Aran weight yarn; size 4.5 mm double point needles.

It's also listed in the Ravelry.com pattern library here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/end-of-september-cowl so you can link to it and show off your own versions!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Long time ago

In Lidl this morning, doing my usual Saturday wander around the sliced sausages and raspberries, I was humming First Aid Kit's song "Long Time Ago" to myself. It's the tune that BBC 4 have been using to promote their new Danish drama "1864", so I'm sure you'd know it if you heard it. A little old lady was stood next to me at the bacon section and she commented what a pretty tune it was. I just said thank you, and then she said she had eaten some of the bacon last week and it was lovely. She was digging around for a later use-by date so I helped her find one.

This of course led to a little more conversation. Turns out her husband died a few weeks ago. She was also buying herself some flowers, because, she said, her parents always said to enjoy them while you can see them. She and her husband had been married almost 60 years. Then I got a brief summary of how they had grown up together in Bristol and how he had waited until she was 17 before asking her out. She was engaged at 21, married at 23 when he came out of the navy.

She told me that a man she has known a few years asked her to marry him last week, and that he wanted to take her to Europe for 3 months. She said "I'm nearly 84, I can't go to Europe!" I said she could go wherever she wanted to, to which she put her head on one side and said "yes, but not with him!"

I can't hope for 60 years of marriage, but I do at least hope that the years we have together are as happy as that lady's were with her husband.