Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feet-first into the swap

Roo asked:
What is your favourite way of keeping your feet warm?Do you have a favourite pair of socks you reach for to keep your toes toasty?Is there a pair of socks/slippers you have been wanting to make for ages but haven't got around to?What is your favourite finished object that warms your feet?What is your favourite yarn to use for socks/slippers?

I have no effective way of keeping my feet warm :( Since we got the new flooring put down, they are always cold and I would love socks, or slippers, or anything along those lines. I do own a few pairs of handknit socks, but none of them are perfect.
I've had a pair of beaded felted mary janes in my rav queue forever, but they were recently joined by the prairie boots. Erm, would like to add more but the poo is quite literally hitting the fan here. Got to go.

Look, ma, one needle!

This is the starting point of the quilt that was going to be for Skye, is now destined for mum for mothers day, and is fundamentally just me trying to see what I can do with this machine. I'm really enjoying using it, actually (it's a Brother 2220NT, if that means anything to anyone) and I'm actually finding it a lot easier to use than my wonky old Singer. It goes slower, and the tension isn't mullered, and that makes a big difference. It's loosely based upon a pattern in Sew Hip, but I tidied the magazine so from now on I'm winging it. It'll be fine. Honest.
In other news, I frogged my article for the Winter Warmers swap because I decided I hated my left-leaning decreases and it looked ginormous. I'm nearly back to the point where I gave up, but I can't honestly say I like this lot of decreases any better. Ho hum.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas looked like this

The spinner-in-training thought he was in heaven when we erected a lump of plastic in the middle of the living room and decorated it in beads and baubles, tinsel and tat and even candy canes and biscuits. It was almost, but not quite, enough to distract him from my knitting.

It's been plague season here at the biscuit barrel, as both Skye and River have been down with colds- nasty ones at that. Skye's been running a bit of a temperature and was feeling poorly enough that she went back to bed for most of Christmas day, and River hasn't been sleeping- but then, what else is new?

Without intending to, this has turned out to be a bit of a handmade Christmas- I gave Steve a camera of his very own and one of every different selection pack on the market, and he, bless him, trashed the budget totally and gave me a sewing machine AND the Celtic Collection by Alice Starmore AND a beautiful pair of ebony needles from the lovely Doreen at Scottish Fibres AND
an itunes gift card. The boys got what they wanted- Alex wants money for a bike and Isaac wanted lego- and Skye slept through most of it. River got the aforementioned destructatree and was very happy with it, thankyou very much, but we also bought him a rocking horse.
We all got lashings and lashings of glitter and paint, thanks to Alex, who crafted all of his presents to people but also bought me a truly beautiful little ceramic mirror from the brewery arts centre in Cirencester: the perfect colour to go with our newly decorated living room, which is an intensely unfashionable warm violet and I love it. My father-in-law and I are both in recovery from 20+ years of smoke-dyed white anaglypta and DH just goes with it- after all, he and I met as a result of a hot pink and purple living room, so there's some sentimental memories there for us.
Appropriately enough, the question on the UKSwap blog this week is about neck warmers, and at the moment I'm working on Wabenschal in 2-ply cashmere from Plum Knits that I got in a magic ball swap on MDC. I'm knitting the goodies out of it (because I just couldn't be bothered to unwind and rewind that kind of yardage of laceweight and I've lost my ball winder somewhere) and I'm just getting to the good bit now- I'm literally about 10 rows away from a pot of handcream and trying hard not to cheat. Unfortunately, River loves this a lot and is obsessed with breaking the yarn (and this is exceptionally fragile stuff) or pulling my needles out, which is making it slow going. The colourway is called peacock, but I'd describe it more as a bottle green, if I'm honest. It's very pretty, and definitely one of my colours. Oh, and in the absence of a finished lacy cashmere scarf I've been wearing my clapotis wrapped around my neck a few times, which was knitted in hipknits silk in their pixies colourway.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cold hands, warm heart?

Last night, I sat and watched mindless TV whilst seaming the first quarter of Lizard Ridge together, my mindful mindless knitting blanket, the blanket I knit when I need to let go and allow the universe to sort itself out. I say quarter, but as I believe I seamed my squares in the wrong order it might well end up being bigger or smaller or something... but that's OK by me. At the moment it all seems like very small stuff.
I love it. I really do. I love the way that the colours are blending into each other and I love the short row bumps and the symbolism they have in my life as a whole. It's a small thing, but it really does make me happy, or as happy as anything does these days.
And in order to let me get some sewing done, I needed some heavy duty distraction for my Spinner-In-Training. Therefore, we erected a Christmas tree, complete with sweeties, baubles, bells and crackers. Oh yes, oh very yes. My knitting is safe for a while.
On the UKswap blog, Roo asked
So, what is your favourite winter warmer for your hands?
Do you have a favourite pattern or finished object?
What is your favourite yarn for gloves/mittens/handwarmers?
Are there any patterns out there you would love to own?
Or do you already have a winter warmer and you would like some mittens/gloves/handwarmers to match?
At this point, I have to confess that the only winter warmer for my hands I really actually like are mugs of steaming hot chocolate, or eggnog latte (oh, how I miss the eggnog latte) sipped slowly whilst watching the kids go insane at the park. I'm actually the kind of fruitcake who takes a mug of tea on the afternoon school run tucked away in an insulated mug because they take so long to come out of school. It's partly a legacy of the dermatitis on my hands that made my life a misery growing up, and partly just the fact that I don't like things flapping around my wrists. The only jewellery I ever wear on my hands are my wedding and engagement rings.
For this reason, I have yet to knit myself a pair of anything. I have thrummed mittens in my queue, ready for that mythical day when I get to take my two youngest out to make snowmen: given that Skye is three now and has yet to make her first snowman, we may be waiting a while longer, and some fingerless mittens too- but I honestly don't know if I'd ever commit to making them. Would I wear them? Well, yes... I think.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Winter Warmers (UK Swap Questionnaire)

It's been a lovely frosty day here: we went orienteering this morning in Lydiard Park with the North Wilts Orienteerererereres and then for hot chocolate to warm ourselves up. We did OK, but are still very much just beginners.

I signed up for the Winter Warmers round of the UK Swap, and I'm ashamed to say that I got my partner before I got my questionnaire up. I know what I'm knitting her, though ;) Here's my answers...

Handmade Item Swap
What kind of items are you interested in receiving?
I'd really love anything that someone else made for me (heehee), but I'd love some woolly socks, a shawl or something else to snuggle up in, or maybe a pair of fingerless mittens or gloves? I don't like wearing wool on my wrists, though. Ooh, or a hat, one with earflaps- that could be fun...

Do you knit, crochet, or both?
I knit and spin, I can crochet but I'm really not very good at it. I love the way it looks, though, and I adore the textures of scrumbling and freeform crochet.

What is your favourite colour?
I like warm greens and blues- peacock and teal. I'm currently watching warm violet paint dry in our living room (Dulux Starlit Night, in case you were wondering.) If it's a deep and complex colour, I'm sure to like it.

What is your least favourite colour?
I'm not terribly keen on yellows or oranges, or very sickly pinks.

What’s your style? (elegant, traditional, glamourous, girly, natural, sporty, outgoing, etc.)
You know how some people look effortlessly put together? Well, I'm not one of them. I'm an extremely eclectic dresser- I tend to live in jeans, Dr Martens and ... except for the days when I'm in a long flowing skirt and DMs, of course.

Do you have a favourite type of fiber or brand of yarn?
Nope, sheep is good, plant fluff is good, it's all good. I really do prefer natural fibres though, I'm a bit of a snob that way.

Do you have a least favourite type of yarn?
Pure virginal handspun acrylic doesn't do it for me...I don't mind blends, but see previous comments about natural fibres.

Do you do any other crafts?
I do some feltmaking, am teaching myself (badly) to sew, and I do a lot of random glue-and-stick stuff with the kids.
Are there any knitting accessories you are interested in receiving?
Ooh- erm, stitch markers are always nice.

What do you like to eat?
Everything! Except coconut, that is.

Any allergies/preferences (fiber-wise or treat-wise)?Anything we missed that you’d like your partner to know? No allergies. No preferences- we're locavores, shop local and eat locally produced foods, but I'm not expecting anyone to change their way of life just for me.

I'm really very easy...

Monday, December 01, 2008

My beautiful daughters and violence against women.

A combination of too many sad posts on too many message boards about violence against women has got me thinking. Too many people are saying that if a woman doesn't go to the police, then it wasn't really rape. If she wore a short skirt or drank alcohol, it wasn't rape. If she shouted at him, then it wasn't really domestic violence (and men get abused too, dontcha know?) and of course, domestic violence doesn't really kill anybody. Not any more, not these days. There's all these womens refuges and divorce is so easy to get, then there's really no reason to stay, is there?
I called my daughter a young lady in my last post, and this is how I want her to grow up. I want her to grow up believing that she will be treated with honour and respect in every aspect of her life, in her public life and her most intimate relationships, and that the inherent good in people will respond to the inherent good in her. I want to believe that in another decade, this battle is over: my boys won't be called pussies or girls as an insult, my girl will never be teased as her body grows from child to woman, never be sexually harassed, never be assaulted for no other reason than her sex. I know that the chances are that even if she is lucky, she's going to know the pain of sitting with a close friend after a lover hits her, the dull numbness of sitting in the police station waiting room after a friend gets raped, those long nights of talking. My friends carried me through, and whilst I love them for it I know it cost them dearly. It cost them their innocence.
A rape cost me my firstborn daughter's life. It cost me my marriage, my ex-husband his sanity. It took my confidence, my belief in myself, in strangers. It left me afraid of enclosed spaces. Those brief hours at knifepoint turned my world upside down, and for what? Was his life really significantly improved by his experience of that time? I'd love to know. What I do know, the article of faith that I have to cling to, is that is was not my fault. It was bad luck. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. HE, not I, was to blame.

The Women's Institute has commissioned a survey into people's perception of and experiences of violence against women. Please, take a minute of your time and fill it in.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Birthday blessings

Ten years ago on Monday, Alexander was born, a strapping (stroppy) bouncing boy, into everything, refusing sleep . Today, he is a great hefty lump of a lad, with size 4 1/2 feet, up to my ears and despite the best efforts of his father generally growing up quite nicely. He has the biggest heart of anybody I know, tells the worst jokes, and will be the first one on the scene with a hug for a child or an animal.
Eight years ago on Wednesday, my daughter Skye was born, and has brought an inestimable amount of joy to our family. She and River are the bond that unite my sons from my first marriage, Alex and Isaac, to my husband, that made us a family, but we love her for her own sweet self- she's bright, unsuppressable, the queen of the mud castle and flatly refuses to take no for an answer in any given situation, and has gone from being a very shy toddler to really quite a confident young lady. It's wonderful to see.

I'll leave you with one of Alex's finest:

The absentminded professor asked
"have you seen my coat?"
"you're wearing it, sir."
"thankyou for reminding me, or I might have left without it."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Marie-Therese Gown GIVEAWAY !!!!!!!

Marie-Therese Gown GIVEAWAY !!!!!!!

Isn't this just- well, breathtaking? Skye saw the picture on a friend's blog, and is jumping up and down shouting PRINCESS at the screen, as one does when nearly three and obsessed with dressups. I love it. And right now I am feeling really meh because I can't sew like that, and I truly wish I could.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Like iggle-piggle's boat.

The good news is that my replacement mooncup arrived and I am extremely not-pregnant. Kittykins also very kindly sent River a few additional nappy wraps, for which I am extremely grateful.

The even better news is that we know where the camera is- unfortunately, it is locked in the safe at a National Trust office that is only open Monday-Friday, 9-5. Embarrassingly, I described it to her, and told her that if she checked back through the pictures she'd see pictures of four gorgeous kids who looked alike enough to be siblings, and far too many pictures of yarn. A second or two later, I heard an embarrassed "oops" I'm left wondering what I should have deleted and hadn't, but I suspect it's a picture of my boobs. I hope. After fiftysix months of breastfeeding, I doubt there's many people on the planet who haven't already seen them, so I'm hoping that that's all it was. Pictures of swaps, magic balls et al will be up as soon as my camera gets back into my hands.

The good news is that Alex is finally confident riding his bike without stabilisers- the bad news is that he rang into a group of the local kids his first time out solo and they got extremely aggressive with him, took his bike and rode it, the works. It stinks. They also punched and kicked Isaac in the chest and body, and right now neither child feels safe going out by themselves. On the same field was the body of a tortured cat, weighed down with bricks and with eyes out- we've reported it to the police and the RSPCA, but this is reinforcing the fact that we need to get our family out of Swindon (or at least this area) as soon as possible. The whole logic behind the move here was to improve our quality of life, and this is diminishing it. At the same time, Alex's newfound status as a cyclist will give him an escape route and hopefully enable him to socialise with his schoolfriends, rather than being stuck at home or with me all the time. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DD, DS, Dear universe

Dear Daughter,

If you remove the piece of silicone from your mouth, it will aid you in talking and speech and all that guff, which will enable effective communication between us. If we can communicate, then you will not need to lie on the kitchen floor for half an hour screaming and sobbing in a heartbroken fashion because you want to eat a whole toffee cake and don't want to share and I want to take your brothers to school. We can find a win-win situation. It's OK, we can try this.

Oh, and please put the poo in the potty. I KNOW you can do this, so please try it. The house is full of toys and sweeties and stickers as bribes and rewards, so no more dirty knickers, huh?

Dear son the first,

I realise it looks untidy having the tail of the letter g hanging below the line, but that's just the way it is. If you write your letter g hanging in mid-air, unrelated to anything then your teacher is going to ask you to change it and so am I. Similarly, I know that the letter b looks a bit odd sometimes, but you can't just turn it round the other way and substitute d for it. That gets really confusing for people who want to read your handwriting , like me. I appreciate that you could just use D all the time for d, but that also gets confusing and Disorientating. Please Desist.

Oh, and please also refrain from storming up the stairs with much slamming of doors when we suggest making changes of this nature. I'm quite happy for you to just shout no at me. Kevin the teenager is not a Desirable role model, though Kathy Burke (aka Perry) is a genius.

Dear son the second,

Please wear your own school trousers, and not your brothers, even if you don't actually remember where you left yours. Please do not lose your socks, or your underpants. Sleeping in socks and underpants so you don't lose them is not a strategy for success in the long run, but if you will do this, then why do you insist on taking your jumper and coat off at school and forgetting where you put them????

I love your new glasses, by the way, and I think they're going to look great on you. It just really bugs me that I got the phone call telling me that you'd broken another pair, please come and get you from school just after I'd spent an hour on the bus taking Skye to see her friends and I hadn't even had time to have a cup of tea yet.

Dear son the third,

Eight months old is far too young to play on the wii. Thirty-one is far too old to be up all night whilst you party on down. Calpol is a pain killer, and it was meant to aid your sleep. Please let me nap, and not during the school run.

Dear universe,

Please get the psychobitch who is having a go at my husband to back off, the dotty old neighbour to stop writing us horrible letters and sticking things in our car tyres, and please help me find my missing digital camera. I realise that having poured water over it, I don't really deserve it back but right now, I'd value being given a break. 

Oh shit. Was so busy moaning on blogger that I've just boiled a hole in my mooncup, and I'm extremely premenstrual right now. Frankly, I think I made the wrong decision with the emergency coil last month. Pregnancy is far easier. 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A brief update

Life continues apace here. I broke the camera, thought I'd fixed it, spent a few days at my mothers in the north-east- this trip included a visit to the inspiring Seven Stories gallery of childrens literature. Everyone who has ever been a child should go there- and spend lots of time on the top floor with the dress-up box and the books. We also went to the "best park in Britain" (aka Saltwell, in Gateshead) which was good, but not exceptional, IMO.  Isaac and River's sweaters are both finished bar the buttons, which is good. Everything else is generally dull and boring, which is even better, as long as you don't count deaths, psycho neighbours, money stresses and eccentrics. 

Hopefully, I will be back soon with a vast collection of photos for delight and delectation. Oh, and just to add insult to injury we're having a pregnancy scare (a bit of an oops the day before I ovulated.) If you (anyone) could keep meditating firmly on empty vessels, that would be a help. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sweet dreams are made of these

On Monday, we tried to take the children to @bristol, the museum where I had my "children are miracles" revelation back in May 2007, which I promised myself I'd take the kids back to when I got pregnant again. Well, I did- and soon, but didn't take the children back there. They had been warned that if they didn't behave, we'd go straight home. I redirected (sometimes really quite loudly and with a degree of bad temper) three times between the car and the entrance. We went home.
BUT we actually took a scenic detour via Stroud, which is one of the Cotswold woollen towns, and it's a nice place to visit. That is, of course, if you can find it because the signposts are impossible- driving you round and round in an ever-decreasing spiral until you're finally there. As Steve puts it, we should take my mum there. The architecture is nothing special, and it's built on a bloody big hill that slopes in every which direction, but it has an independent bookshop, AND a childrens bookshop, no less than three branches of the independent health food store (I have no idea why a health food store requires three shops, but I didn't like to ask) and a very cool boutiquey type place called Moonflower which again, has an obscene number of premises considering its a small business based in a single town. All the teenagers were distinctly alternative but were wearing bright colours and smiled lots, which struck me as unusual, and the walls were fly-posted by stroudwater textiles trust with poetry about wool and weaving and knitting. 
The soundtrack was provided by a brightly coloured teen with a guitar, sitting there singing Sweet Dreams (are made of this). Well. Very well, in fact, and I'm extremely judgemental of buskers.  (He got two quid from me, but was worth far more.)  It set my mind wandering to how strong a musical memory can be. When the Eurythmics wrote it, I was just a child, stil bopping along at school discos without a care in the world. When Manson covered it, it was the theme song to the end of my bitter, twisted abusive relationship, and I still can't hear it without shuddering. It brought back so many memories hearing it again: but at the same time, listening to it in the sunlight sung by a bonny young lad with absolutely no idea how dark and twisted human relationships can get felt good. It felt cleansing, and wholesome.
More importantly, perhaps, I've been thinking about the role music plays in our life as a family. None of my children play a musical instrument- Alex asked to take a break from violin lessons when we moved here, and Isaac was really too young at that time. We have my beloved  piano, which is desperately in need of tuning, and my saxophone mostly lives under the bed gathering dust and beetles. Nothing exceptional there, right? The thing is, during my teenage years music was THE most important part of my life, the defining facet to my personality, who I was and what I did. I sang with the school choir, the local choral society, conducted the school wind band and performed with various orchestras and bands, and it was a huge part of my life. It was also a bond with my parents, who loved me but found it hard to show it: my dad was a music teacher (like me, a solid musician but nothing outstanding- his talent lay in sharing his love of music with others) and mum is a talented amateur. These days, she's conducting choirs for fun- back then, she was just singing. I I broke my wrist badly when I was 17, which made everything more difficult- I have both strength and flexibility in that hand now, but not together, not the way it was. I have difficulty in taking the weight of my saxophone and keying with my right hand, for instance, and similar problems with the piano. What I do have is my voice.
My children have always had lullabies to calm and soothe them, just like my mum sang me to sleep when I was little, but for some reason I haven't done it as much with River. What I've found, though, is that the sound of my voice singing him the songs I love: the songs my mother sang to me, that her mother sang to her: will help him stay asleep. They ease his transition between sleep states, when he will often wake and call out for me, and they give him a greater gift as well. They're giving him a sense of continuity and of history, and of connection with his grandparents and the generations before. He won't understand this now, because he's a tiny baby boy lying on the floor chewing my feet, but one day he will.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And in her first event...

she takes the bronze. Isaac's sweater is done,  and I am sitting here duplicate stitching soft toys onto the front because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Pictures will be up after blocking, or when I buy new batteries for the camera, whichever comes soonest.
He seems distinctly underwhelmed, if I'm honest, but that's more positive than the reaction of most of my family when faced with handknits. Hopefully, if I apply said bear to the front, that will get him excited.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Of the UFO list, I can cross two off- River appears to have outgrown the Baby Surprise Jacket (he has an 18" chest and waist, the jacket is measuring 9.5" across the back) and I have lost the Rock and Weave pattern for the second sock of the pair. This is looking far more achievable now, though not in the way I wanted.
I think I'm going to leave the BSJ to hibernate a while longer and then frog it and make something for me, and order a new copy of the pattern with the money I've saved.
Life here at chez chaos is likely to be more frugal for the coming months: I've been landed with yet more debts from the time with my charming beloved ex-husband, and I'm aiming to pay off an additional 2 grand by the end of the year. It's doable- and due to our living circumstances, will probably not be that brutal- but I'm not really embracing the challenge at the moment. I'm seriously considering starting an etsy store to see if that brings anything in.

The middle of the night...

It's something after 3am here, and I've been awake for a few hours. A certain small gentleman is stroking my cheek lovingly and giggling at me, which would be lovely under other circumstances. Unfortunately, the reason he is doing this is because he evacuates his bowels once a week, typically at 3am (as now) and requires a few hours of kicking and wriggling beforehand to get things moving. In the middle of the night. Gulp.
I have totted up the goodies to be finished for the Knitting Olympics (and has anyone else noticed how well the British women are doing compared to the British men?)  and the list IS:
  1. Sweater for Isaac. I'm knitting the bottom ribbing for the second time, as I decided to pull it out and add a few more inches in. THEN, I have to make the decision whether 8 is too old for appliqued cartoon characters- opinions are welcomed.
  2. Sweater for River, knitted from handspun. I'm down to the bottom of the raglan, so this may take a while.
  3. BSJ for River. This has been on the needles for, like, forever: since before he was born, in fact, but I'm hopeful that it may yet fit. I need to buy another skein of Silk Garden for it, and I have no idea what shade the first two skeins were- but never mind.
  4. The second Rock and Weave sock. Again, the first one was completed back when I was still pregnant, and now he's a talking, crawling, middle-of-the-night-pooping cheek patter. I must knit faster.
  5. I'm embarrassed to admit that I actually cast on for a new project (some stranded colourwork) with this list of UFOs hovering around the house. So I can add those in too.
  6. I frogged the black alpaca wrap. I think I'm just going to sling this yarn back to a charity shop, or put it up on ravelry or ebay. I've now tried knitting it in two projects, and I'm not loving either of them.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


In a moments insanity yesterday, we went into central London. Gads. What WERE we thinking? We didn't even go to the good bits (like the museum), but went to Covent Garden and Leicester Square and all that jazz. It was horrible. Busy and crowded and crowded and busy and just thoroughly unpleasant.
What we did discover, however, is that Chinatown, always a lovely place to be, is extremely excited about the Beijing Olympics. There was a dragon dance, bunting up everywhere, and lots of the restaurants had stands outside selling sweets and a big screen televising the coverage of the opening ceremony. It was a bright spot in a pretty dismal day.
I haven't signed up for a knitting olympics anywhere this time. Instead, I'm going to be focussing upon finishing off all of my UFOs and moving on to a new season with grace and goodwill, my boys warmly wrapped in handknit sweaters and my feet in handknit socks. I've finished the sleeves on Isaac's jam sweater, so I just need to do a collar and then add another inch to the bottom :(  It's far shorter than he likes wearing. I'm using the Knitting Pure and Simple raglan sweater, but taking out all of those tight rolled hems because I'm really not into the michelin man look on anyone, even my skinny 7yo son. I'm trying to decide between a pocket or some embroidery (a Nev, perhaps?) as decoration. I am trying to manage my time more effectively, as I'm starting an OU course in October (a 15 point arts course in Heritage, for the curious) and I'm going to need to do some study for that. If all goes well, I'll be doing the full 60-point course starting in February. I figure if I can commit 16 or more hours a week to crafting now, then I can just devote these hours to study later.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hide and Seek

Right now, I am so angry that I am speechless. I have a great big hole where my heart should be.
Ten years ago, on February 21, 1998, I ovulated despite using the oral contraceptive pill (Marvelon.) I vomited after taking my pill, moved house the next day and decided to take a chance and not get the morning-after pill. I found out I was pregnant the day my father was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. Abortion was not an option for me- in my superstitious, young and vulnerable mind, the only chance my dad had of fighting the tumour was for his whole family, everyone who loved him, to fight for life and to show that life was important. My boyfriend agreed. We had been living together for a while and he made the decision to support me and raise our baby together. We were guided by my father's wishes and chose to marry. Two weeks to the day of our wedding, I got the phone call from my mother, telling me to come now. Dad died the following day, July 24th, 1998.
On my wedding day, my father asked my new husband if he would look after me and the new baby, do everything he could for us. Given that we all knew dad was dying at that point, it was a deathbed promise- something I cannot imagine breaking under any circumstances. He has.
In the past decade, my ex-husband has been what's politely known as "marginally employed". There were long periods of time when we were together when he was not looking for work or in work, he was consistently resistant to claiming government benefits that would require him to sign on because of the stigma attached and we were constantly in debt and eating for a very few pounds a week. It was hell. Eventually I got my act together and took a job,  which put food on the family's table though seriously cut into the time I could spend with our year-old baby. I'm the daughter of a working mother, and I seriously, seriously believe that babies need their mums at home. He took that from me. Our second son was born, again unplanned, and he remained unemployed. Our circumstances forced me to return to the workplace at 3 months postpartum. My baby developed eczema, so severe it was lifethreatening. He was given formula sometimes. He nearly died as a result of his health conditions. It was one of the worst times in my life, for this and so many reasons.
Fast forward a few years, and I got him out of my life- he chose to move back up to his parents house, despite them having offered to set him up in a flat near us. At this point, I was several thousand pounds in debt. Promises, so many promises were made about finances, work, jobs, the lot. His sci-fi collection were to be sold to pay off our debts. None of this materialised. He got a job, paid a small amount of child support, found a new partner. Her daughter's after-school club closed down- so my ex-husband took over the responsibility for caring for her, and so stopped paying child support. At this point, my wonderful Steve and I got together and started working on paying off the debts I had incurred in my first marriage.
It has continued this way ever since. In 2005 I involved the Child Support Agency after he spent six months in work without either seeing his sons or paying a penny in child support. He has always insisted that I transport our sons half-way to him, even during the times when I did not own a car because I couldn't afford it. The amounts he offered me to get me to stop the CSA claim were, frankly, insulting.
The final straw came when he claimed to be more hard-up than usual, lied about asking the CSA to review our case and then started trying to bully me into accepting a lower amount of money. As things currently stand, I have received the most disgusting email I have ever read in my life, which accuses me of trying to stop him from seeing his children.  He makes it clear that further contact with the boys who love him (I love children. They really do love unconditionally) is entirely dependent upon me complying with his wishes and telling the child support agency that I will accept direct payments- at this point, he will make lower payments. If I do not do this, the infrequent visits, birthday presents, weekly phone calls will all stop.
I am livid. He was given the option to walk away from parental responsibility back in 98, and he refused. The same offer was repeated in 2000, when I was pregnant with Isaac, and one more time in 2002 when we broke up. Now he wants it? Jeez.
Women, read my story. Next time you meet a young woman pregnant by an unsuitable young man, don't offer them judgement, or opinions. Help to keep the unsuitable men out of the joint bank account and away from the babies. I am strong, and I have raised these beautiful wonderful talented empathic infuriating and unbelievably noisy boys by myself so far- I could have done it all along. If I had, I would have spared them the pain that I have brought upon them now.
Men- see notes to women. In addition, though, if you hear a friend complaining about how hard done by he is, please give him a reality check. Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and crap like this makes it a million times worse. I love my sons so much, and I wish I could find a way of sparing them this.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When a Knight Won His Spurs

Well, we did it. DH graduated from university (again) on Saturday- though as we pointed out, this is getting to be somewhat of a habit for him now. I am so proud to be married to him though- the way that he chose a path that he wanted to follow, even though it's high-stress and nowhere near as lucrative as the work he was doing in financial services back in London. I'm proud of the way that he's juggled his academic work with the demands of a young family, and I love the way he treats children and young people as- you know- actual PEOPLE. He rocks my world, and I'm putting that information out there on the internet where everyone will see it and he'll be horrendously embarrassed next time he raids my blog to show his colleagues pictures of the children. 
We spent Sunday night mellowing out in front of the TV, with him doing a little bit of prep for one of his classes (for my husband is not only going-to-be-a-teacher, but he started his contract at the start of the month.) and me spinning away. The first ever Folk Day at the Proms was on, and it was blindingly good. It's been a long time since I've heard music that really made me want to pick up my sax and blow, but that night did it for me. In particular, Martin Simpson's rendition of "When a Knight Won His Spurs" was magical, given the huge life events in our family recently. It's now 10 years since I left university, 10 years next week that my dad died and I'm feeling acutely conscious right now that in this decade, time has passed me by. I didn't really have my twenties in the traditional, running-around sense, and there's a lot I've forgotten, a lot of paths unfollowed. I don't regret a moment of the time that I spent raising my children, but I'm feeling a real sense now that it's time for me to raise and nurture myself, my mental abilities and to see what I could be, given the space and time and nurturing, how I could shine. I'm reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron at the moment, and working through the exercises and really enjoying them. It's a scary, exciting, terrifying time for me right now.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chore Wars

I have finally found something on the internet better than ravelry- and no, I'm not talking about foodbuzz, the foodie equivalent. We finally signed up for Chore Wars, and I am finally getting my housework done- slowly, and under protest, but I'm doing it. Why? Well, because a computer gives me stickers and gold and treasure when I do the ironing, the laundry or whatever other mindlessly tedious task presents itself, and that makes me happy.
What makes me unbelievably happy, however, is the fact that my two eldest sons are obsessed with housework as a result :) I can live with this, I tell you...

My Chore Wars character

It doesn't have to be housework- you can use whatever challenges you need to. It's working for us though- long may it last :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

This hit a nerve with me

Reading the new Knitty, I was struck by Tara Jon Manning's Mindful Knitting column. Although I keep pushing myself to knit, I suppose really, the sad fact is that at the moment I don't want to. It doesn't seem important to me, somehow, building rows of loops upon themselves to construct a garment. Or a square. Or anything else- and I have, truth be told, been feeling kind of bad about this, because knitting is my thing. It's what I do, isn't it?
Ultimately, of course, it isn't what I do. I'm a person first and foremost, and I exist mostly in relation to my kids (even though they drive me insane) and then to other people. I'm a die-hard natural birth geek, a passionate advocate not only for young families and homebirth and breastfeeding, the stuff of their being and their first days together but also those at the other end of the spectrum, who are moving into old age and having a hard time.  I am still more, much more, than the sum of any one craft or hobby. (disclaimer. I do not have a problem with anyone who has a c-section, through choice, emergency or any other reason. I'm just blessed to have avoided them. Ditto artificial baby milk)
Some of this, I suppose, is that I'm having a hard time trusting that the wheel is going to turn again and my time with needles is going to come back. If it doesn't, would that be so bad? Probably not, if truth be told, but I'll find something else interesting and exotic to do. For now, my favourite pastime is probably going to remain sleeping.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

UK Swap round 2

Part One: Crafting
Do you knit, crochet, or both?
I do both, but I'm predominantly a knitter.
What do you like to make?
Most of my knitting is for the kids, but this is my year of knitting for someone who will truly appreciate it- so most of the time, that's me.
Do you have a favourite project?
My favourite FO to date is the clapotis I knitted two years ago out of Hipknits aran silk.  It's so simple, and so yummy.
Do you have a favourite type of fiber or brand of yarn?
No- I'll try everything. I'm very fond of experimenting, but I can find more use for wool than I can cotton.
Do you have a least favourite type of yarn?
I'm really not very fond of acrylics.
Do you do any other crafts?
I'm also a spinner, and I'm learning how to make my sewing machine do what I'm told.
Do you knit in public? If so where do you like knitting and what is your "portable" project?
I can't really knit in public, as that would distract me and leave my adorable 2yo daughter free to do unspeakably awful things to humanity. It's rare I get to leave the house without her, so it's pretty much a non-issue.
What do you carry your "portable" knitting in?
Are there any knitting gifts (book, toy, yarn, item, tool) that you have been lusting over?
I always need more stitch markers, but I'd love a fancy tape measure.

Part Two: Your Favourites
What is your favourite colour?
I love soft blues and greens, often with some purple in too.
What is your least favourite colour?
Orange and yellows
What scents/smells do you like? What don’t you like?
I prefer not to use stuff with synthetic fragrances, but apart from that I'm easy. I've even learnt to love my two former dislikes- coconut and peppermint.
How do you like to pamper yourself? (bubble bath, hand creams, massage, manicure)
Sleeping always comes high on my list, but I also love reading, long hot baths and painting my toenail obscure colours (not pink)
What goodies to you like to eat? (chocolate, biscuits, sweets,crisps etc)
At the moment, I'm doing death by slimming world, so I am trying not to snack. I have a soft spot for dark chocolate though, and for fudge.
Do you prefer tea or coffee while you knit? Any particular kind? 
I drink both, but embarrassingly, as often as not I'll end up armed with a glass of Pepsi Max.
Do you listen to/watch anything while you knit? (TVshow-Along, movies, music, podcasts, audiobooks)
I'm rewatching Buffy during my quiet knitting times.

Part Three: About you, Living & Past-times
If you were a specific kind of yarn, which brand and kind of yarn would you be (and why)?
I'd be an unbranded skein of rustic, naturally coloured yarn- herdwick, Jacobs, something along those lines. Something with a distinctive style, but not much finesse.  Why? Well, I'm a very uncompromising take-me-as-you-find-me kind of girl, and I love knitting in sheep colours.
Where do you live in the UK? (General idea not address)
Have you always lived here, or did you grow up somewhere else?
Thank god, no. I grew up in Durham, went to Colchester for university and then spent another 7 years there.
What is your favourite place in the UK?
I love the Northumberland coastline more than anywhere else. We spent all my summer holidays there when I was a kid, and it's fantastic- the white beaches, the waves, the freezing cold water, the constant rain- I love it all. I'm a real water baby, and I'm struggling being this far from the sea.
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Everywhere. This is going to be my 50th birthday present to myself- I'm going to go and see what the world has to offer, how other people live, what it looks like, how it's changing. I really want to go back to the Alps though.
What other hobbies do you have?
My life is generally spent running round after small (or bigger) children. I run a mother-toddler group and I'm a breastfeeding peer supporter, and in the rest of the time I'm keeping the house together. I do enjoy cooking, and do a lot of it, and love walking.

I took the picture above up at Seahouses, and I love it. It shows so many of my favourite colours, and I love all of the different blues and the way they work together, as well as the texture and contrast between the waves and the stones.  I love combining two extremes- colour or texture- to see what I end up with.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The ugliness inside.

As some people may have heard me mention recently, I received an anonymous letter recently with a portrait of a naked woman and the caption "who? ate all the pies" which apparently is a football chant. Well, it tells you how much free time I have to spend reading newspapers that I've only recently figured out what work of art it is: it is, in fact, a copy of the most expensive work of art painted by a living artist. I think, to be honest, i'm flattered. I've also seen pictures of Sue Tilley since (Lucian Freud's muse) and it has to be said, she's a babe.
On reading further, however, I found this article, which sums up my feelings about my body quite nicely. Yes, I'm fat. I'm morbidly obese, if you wish to be specific, to the point where it is a health issue, and I can acknowledge that my pregnancy with River would probably have been a hell of a lot more fun if I weren't carrying extra weight around. At the same time, my body is amazing- it brought four beautiful wonderful children into the world and I do feel that the extra weight has probably made it possible for me to breastfeed successfully, despite having to do some truly perverse things to my diet during lactation over the years- and most of this fat was laid down in the production of my children, whilst growing them and then, whilst nurturing them.
The thing that is bugging me most, however, is that two days before receiving the aforementioned cowardly item, I rejoined Slimming World as a postal member, and for the rest of his life this rotten slug is going to believe that my weight loss is a response to his abilities with a pair of scissors and a pot of glue. It's not. This isn't a Blue Peter session on how to slim your neighbour, this is real life. 19 different reinforced tyres isn't going to make us move, although it has to be said, it's offsetting some of the benefits of living with my father-in-law rent-free. What is being done to us is harassment and bullying of the lowest form. Whilst having comparisons drawn between me and this picture probably should be hurtful, I'm actually taking it as a huge compliment- because Sue Tilley is beautiful. And so am I.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's grim up north

except, of course, that it's not. Not any more, anyhow.
We spent the half-term holidays up in Durham with my mother, and spent a lot of time revisiting places I went as a child. The awe-inspiring Beamish museum, which is a fantastic and humbling reminder of where I come from. My grandfather served an apprenticeship down the pit as a farrier before being laid off at 21, as soon as he learnt his trade. He moved away from his home looking for the job he loved, working with the pit ponies, before eventually giving up and taking a foul job as a pump-fitter, working chest-deep in water keeping the pumps running to keep the shafts dry. I have so much respect for anyone who goes to those lengths to support his family, as I honestly don't think I could have stuck it out. He made damn sure that his children stayed far away from the collieries though, even though dad missed his 11 plus due to TB and so went to the secondary modern school- a way was found to get my dad to teacher training college, where he met my mum (on top of a rubbish heap)  and the rest, as they say, was history.
I'm only just old enough to remember working mines. I remember the miners strike of 83/84, and driving through the pickets and seeing slag heaps but I don't remember much more than that- it wasn't a big deal for me. I know that a lot of my dad's pupils at Bowburn, his first school, ended up working in collieries though and so were out of work when the pits closed. It killed a huge proportion of the county.
Anyhow- yes. Beamish is an open-air historical re-creation of the time when mining and heavy industry was common place and sets itself in 1923, the year of the highest ever coal output in Durham. They have a chapel, a school, miners cottages, a working drift mine, a farm and a replica town. Most of the buildings have been moved from original locations brick by brick, rather than built from new (the Westoe Netty is their latest acquisition) and as conservation goes, it's breathtaking. Sadly, my major thoughts were 1) cute animals, and 2) obsessing over the fabrics used. I lost a good five minutes of my life pondering cotton lace socks (they're not stretchy, so wouldn't they be terribly uncomfortable? Did people really wear them?) and well over half an hour was taken up making proggy mats. The boys, bless them, are obsessed.

Then another day was spent up at Bamburgh and Seahouses, which is my home from home and always makes me feel better. It did this time, as well.
Oh, and River has grown again.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Fundamentally, the last several days of my life have been spent being truly reactionary. Isaac kicks, I get bruised. He kicks some more, I get a bit more bruised, and again, again, again. (This is a metaphor, btw.) These pictures were taken within 7 minutes of another. In the course of the last few weeks I've spent more time redirecting him, guiding him, nurturing and I honestly don't feel that any of it has gone in. It's soul-destroying, it really is.
One of the reasons I'm feeling so bad about it is that we've had another few weeks where we're feeling very conscious of people, opinions, criticism, that kind of stuff. Steve's final visit for his PGCE is today, and so he has to submit all of his work for scrutiny, always nerve-wracking (especially when you're very bad at organising your paperwork, as he is.) Our next-door-neighbour, for some unknown reason, decided to tell Steve last week that (and I quote) people round here don't like you. This chap has known Steve for 30 years, seen him grow up, and suddenly starts spouting a load of vitriol about his mother and god knows what else. If we hadn't had several hundred poundsworth of damage done to our car since living here, I'd think it was coincidental, but right now, I just don't know. We've had secondhand reports of the kind of poisonous gossip going around, and it's not pretty.
Finally, I'm getting another dose of self-esteem blues. Seeing all the gorgeous artistry of ravelry and knowing what a wannabe I still am is really knocking my confidence in knitting, which is, frankly, ridiculous. I actually finally resorted to knitting myself a garter stitch scarf- and no, I'm not kidding. What's worse, it's black. I discovered that my charity shop alpaca is actually thick-and-thin alpaca plied with a wool binder, and really suits the simplicity of garter stitch- literally, it seems, even the raglan of labyrinth was too much for it. In this, though (it's a Debbie Bliss pattern, link will follow) I love it. I really do- and I can see myself wearing this all winter, and many winters to come.  Four repeats down. 54 to go.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pretty pictures

The bad news is that whilst my camera was at Wonderwool with me, I got so stressed out and generally overwrought that I didn't actually manage to take a single photograph whilst I was there. It was one of our typical family days out- aiming to be out of the house at 7am, we actually left at 8.45 with my lovely husband waffling on about housework, one boy vomiting copiously in the car whilst the other wailed "I'm HUUUUNNNNNNNNNGRY", we got stuck behind a red fiesta stuck behind a lorry driving through the welsh mountains at 25 miles an hour- oh boy, it was fun. Really.
The fluffy stuff was lovely- I have a huge stash of roving now, including some beautiful cochineal-dyed roving from Andy at and some extraordinarily wonderful yarn and fibre from Freyalyn.  
Silk and roving from Fiery Felts and some raw alpaca from a beautiful beast named Butterfly. There's also the niddy-noddy, a few more bobbins and an inch gauge.  It was a good day- and oddly, nowhere near as expensive as I was expecting.

Friday, April 25, 2008

31 going on 48

So, Monday I turned 31. Nothing terribly exceptional about that, though it's hard to deal with all of the major life events that happened a full decade ago- parenthood, university, losing my dad- and acknowledge that really,  I'm no closer to any conventional measure of success now than I was then.  But sod it, when was convention ever a priority in my life?
Today, we bought wii fit. Apparently, I am 48. This stinks. Must do better. BUT tomorrow is Wonderwool Wales, and I get to buy pretty things. I am VERY happy.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Seaweed slipper socks

Life has been pretty quiet here this week. I've done some knitting and some spinning, a large amount of decluttering and worked really hard on getting some nearly-finished objects into use. These socks are one of them- finished, but not grafted, last summer, it has taken me until now to do the finishing stitches. But oh, they are so comfy, and my feet feel so warm wearing them.
The yarn is BFL, which was originally dyed with nettles and turned a sicky bile colour. It was then overdyed by tightly twisting the yarn back into a skein and dyeing it black (grey? green?) and then overdyed a second time in blue. I like it. It makes me think of the sea, which I miss, and many other good things which can only be a good thing.
Other than that, we had a trip into Oxford yesterday, where the kids and I did the tourist thing while Steve sat his QTS tests- and passed them well, and I discovered yet another good toyshop. Both boys are learning to spin (I dare not say how excited I am, for fear of jinxing this) and this is Isaac's first yarn, lovingly tied around his wrist. Isn't it great?  
I also retrieved THIS from the dustbin, and I personally think it's incredibly cool. So nuh. Someone out there believes in you, kid, even if you don't always believe in yourself.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Stash management

After much agonising, this is my new yarn storage solution. Have less yarn (and a lot of this is actually up for trade, should anybody want it) and put it all out on display, where I can see and admire the colours and pet it and stroke it as much as I should want to. Knit it up before moths and other yarn-eating creatures should get to it, and relish it. Wallow in it. Don't keep it shut away where nobody can see it, but have it out where it gives me pleasure. And it does.
I have a few works in progress left untidily around the house (half a pair of socks,  for instance, or 90% of a baby surprise jacket) but I'm liking the overall effect. And yes, I know that my fibre stash should by rights be next up, but it won't be- because
a) My stash consists mostly of greyish-brownish raw fleece
b) What isn't greyish-brownish raw fleece is white shetland or merino
Both of these look somewhat boring on display. More importantly, my pathetic tiny little brain is greatly amused by shrinking whole fleeces in a vacuum bag, and so they will be remaining shrinkwrapped for the foreseeable future.
The best thing? Steve is browsing spinning websites looking for my birthday present, and is muttering stuff about drum carders. Here's hoping...
Oh, and yet another picture of River, because he's looking stupendously cute at the moment. Trunkie was bought for Alex's first Christmas, when he was a mere month old, and has somehow survived the abuse that toys get in this house. It's nice to see another little one playing with him.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sleepy Sunday


After a hectic week here, we had a gentle weekend. Yesterday was IKEA, and today we built a chest of drawers, sorted out my fabric stash and liberated a bin-bag full of it.  
Don't worry, it went to freecycle, not landfill. Then we made scones for tea, with an obscene quantity of jam and clotted cream, and they were seriously good. I've been spinning the other half of the rainbow roving, and I THINK I'm going to use the organic gansey pattern again to make River a slightly larger jumper. It's all good.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lumpy bumpy

Well, those were the words that my adorable offspring used when faced with my latest handspun. Yes, chainplying highlights and reveals the bold blocks of colour in a variegated single, accentuating and highlighting the nuances. Yes, it's a three-ply yarn BUT it's also very hard to do. This definitely isn't one of my best- but spinning fever rolls on without it. Next to the wheel is some Ronaldsey.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Crisis point

Yesterday, I broke. Our family went to Poole- the place I went to on my one and only night away without my children, which I hoped could become our new seaside destination of choice. And it was dreadful :( Screaming baby, the boys were their usual unthinking selves, running around and around in circles like dodgems at a fairground and Steve told them to calm down. And my mum told me to let it go. What do you DO in a situation like that where two people that you love are going to be in conflict whatever you do? It feels like my husband and my sons are tearing me in two and that everywhere I go, people are judging me for being a bad mother. Why did she have another one? She can't handle the ones she's got. THIS is the exact phrase that I have running through my head when I catch people looking at my family, commenting on my beautiful baby son. I can't get rid of it, can't make it go away. It feels like I am constantly, constantly being judged and found wanting.
So it kept going, and then it led to an argument when we got home and a panic attack- first one this pregnancy. I hate my brain right now, I just wish it would go away. Please make it stop.
Oh, and Poole? The drive was horrendous and the tide was in. Figures.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Comfort knitting

I'm currently about a step away from ripping Isaac's jumper to shreds in a blaze of fury, and being honest, the only thing that has stopped me is the fact that I've cast off both the first sleeve and the bottom, the second sleeve is still on a lifeline and it's a bit more work than I like. He really is working his ticket at the moment.
This led to me remembering that 2008 was the year of knitting for someone who would really appreciate it (i.e. me) and I cast on for Labyrinth in the black alpaca that I got from the charity shop over in Thatcham. And it's wonderful- just simple and soothing and the gentle rhythm of yards and yards of stocking stitch is good for the soul. I haven't bothered posting a picture yet because there's a limit to how excited you can get about stocking stitch in black, but I like it. Very soft, but there's a strength and substance to it too. It feels like a very positive metaphor for life right now.
River is in the midst of the growth spurt from hell at the moment. In the last 48 hours he's started rolling, laughing and grabbing for things, and it isn't over yet. I'm scared of what the next few days will bring- he really is growing up far too fast.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A few new FOs

Yesterdays baking of choice was blueberry muffins, substituting agave in for the sugar and yoghurt for the buttermilk. I also used a whole egg in place of the two whites, because frankly, life is too short to separate an egg and as always, the flour used was wholemeal. Seriously good, I heartily recommend it :)
Last night I also plied this skein, spun from roving from Handpainted Yarn. I love it- it's the first time I've been able to spin thick yarn and I basically just predrafted into strips and spun it as is to get the thicker single. Plying was a nightmare though, it didn't want to go through the orifice. I love it.

120 things to go...

Saturday 5th April is Swindon NCTs Nearly New Sale, and I have a house full of stuff. Crap, to be honest, and tut.  I have two sellers packs (because we have more than 25 items of clothing that need to be gone, and that is the limit for clothes) and a table ready to be worked on. In one fell swoop, I am intending to make both space and money :)
So this is my plea for accountability. If you see me mooching around online, ask how many things I have ready to go. If it's less than 120, kick my arse. Hard. I know I don't have 70 saleable toys and stuff, but I can try, huh?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Simply smashing

Same yarn, but I like this square.  Just enough contrast to please me, not enough to annoy. Perfect blue/pink/blue/pink stripes, with no cheating involved. A smidgin of order in the midst of chaos. 
Once again, hot pink pleases me, as I superglued the handle back onto my mug. I'm even toying with the idea of knitting a cosy for it- am I mad? Maybe.
Today has been a happy day. We went to playgroup, River woke, ate, played, ate and slept, and Skye played, played, played, ate and sang. I had time to attend to everyone's needs, and got to do my share of tidy-up time as well. It was grand.
I'm looking around our home, and we just have too. much. stuff. The clutter needs banishing. I've got rid of a few old Spin-Offs, and my fabric stash is at risk- it's use it or lose it time. Expect to see some FOs soon...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Delia, you should be ashamed of yourself

I was absolutely disgusted to be sent a link to this article. Farming in the UK is always in a fragile state, and often British wool is a fringe benefit, as it were, of the English and Welsh lamb raised for the table. It's the best available agricultural use of our many hills, hillocks and mountains, is local and sustainable, and yet we have bloody Delia proclaiming the benefits of New Zealand Lamb.

I don't care whether the Welsh like the English or not. They like sheep, and that's one thing we have in common. Buy Welsh Lamb and support local agriculture.
Unless, of course, you live in Australia.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Well, Easter was a wash-out. Literally, almost- on the 5 hour drive to my mothers, we went through every conceivable English weather condition except thunder and lightning. Rain, snow, sleet, hail and horrendous gale-force winds, we had it all. The drive was pretty awful.
Despite having spent the 1980s wrapping me in waterproofs and dragging me outside for some fresh air, my mother has seen the error of her ways and now refuses to go out in the cold, and so we were stuck looking for some indoor activities. Saturday was spent at the amazing Life museum in Newcastle, which is great, but very very busy- I wish we lived close enough that we could explore slowly and steadily at our own pace. Newcastle also has the fantastic Childrens Gallery at the Laing, which is another great place to spend a rainy day. Steve and I have made the decision that he isn't restricting his job hunt for next year to just Swindon, so we're on the move again- he's applied for a job in Berwick, all the way up on the Scottish borders, which would be brilliant if he got it. This town has never really felt like home to us, and the constant senseless vandalism to the car is grating. I don't want my children to grow up in a place where it isn't safe for things to be outside in the evening- what about people?

We also continued the discussion with my family about River's name, as we were on the receiving end of an extremely bitchy comment on Sunday morning. I was talking to one of our local ministers about it last Thursday, and she suggested that we write something explaining exactly why this is the name we chose for him, the name that we gave him- and either give it to them or use it as notes to explain ourselves more clearly, so this is something I'm going to do. Isn't he gorgeous? He's such a chubby little hamster...

In other news, I finished square three of the Lizard Ridge. It's funny how strongly colours can affect you- I've bought a lot of pink tops recently- I'm wearing one right now, as it happens- but working with the colour again and again, I was really starting to resent it. It was a relief to get to the very pretty yellow/pink stripe at the end, which reminds me of rhubarb. Very seasonal. It was a real effort not to try and cheat the colourways this time and to stick to letting it flow as it wished, but in the end I do like the way that the colours are flowing through the short-row bubbles in the stripes. It's helping. I have another ball of this colourway (or at least, I did- I'm 3/4 of the way through square 4) and I'm hoping to get three full squares out of the two balls.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


This week has been rough. It's cold, windy and frequently raining. Over the course of the past 4 days (16 bus journeys transporting my elder childer to and from their place of education) I have missed the bus no less than 6 times. On one of those occasions, a bus driver actually drove off whilst I was standing at the bus stop, newborn in his carrycot, toddler next to me and buggy half-folded. On another occasion, I muttered my new mantra (sod it) and decided to just be late. Five times, I walked the mile, with lethal, painful steep downhill descent and just got cold and miserable.

Until today, when I realised that my thermos mug had a handle and could clip onto the handle to my pushchair. And is pretty much leakproof. Aha! said I. I know what I can do with that. So I wrapped my daughter up in treble the usual quantity of jumpers, swaddled my son over his snowsuit, and filled my mug with hot chocolate. And oh, but I was warm and happy standing at the bus stop waiting for my number 11. Did I care that it was late? Not really. I even smiled benignly when I realised that my sons sadistic teachers were yet again discharging them late, sipping on my silky nectar. We shared my mug at the bus stop at the foot of the hill whilst waiting for the bus home (which was early, seeing as it was actually the bus before.) I parked my buggy on the bus, settled down enjoying the shelter. EVERYONE should take a mug of hot chocolate on the school run.
Another family with pushchair got on the bus. I moved our buggy, and heard a sickening thud, the sound of a handle splintering as it came into aggressive contact with bus interior. Vive le mug. Le mug est mort.
Spring? Yeah, right. I'll believe it when I see it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Yorkshire curd tart

Tragically, one of the most exciting things to happen to me this week was to see curd cheese for sale in my local supermarket- so I made this. Yum. Nostalgia.
The recipe is simple- 8oz quantity of rich shortcrust pastry (8oz flour, 4oz butter, 1oz sugar, 1 egg yolk and cold water to bind.) Line a dish and then combine 12oz of curd cheese, 3 eggs, 4oz sugar (I used honey), 1oz of currants, the zest of a lemon and a pinch of cinnamon and ginger. You might find it easier to mash the cheese first, but small lumps really aren't a big deal. Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until it looks like the picture above- and eat until it is almost all gone. Mine lasted 17 hours, which isn't long, even in this house.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stash reduction

Well, this is my stash in its entirety- yarn, fibre and all. The fabric (for all the sewing that I never do) is in a different vacuum bag upstairs under the bed, apart from the piece of vintage Laura Ashley that I scored at my beloved local charity shop for 50p today. But I digress. The easy way of shrinking your stash, of course, is to suck all the air out of it so it looks less impressive, and that is what I did.
I then tidied our small room at the front of the house, the one which used to be my father-in-laws bedroom. Can you see the stash in there? Hiding behing the black boxes under the table?  Cunning, huh. 
No wonder our house is such a mess, though- even the dog prefers to sprawl in the middle of the floor, rather than her basket.
I cast on for Sylph using the black alpaca the other day, and I have to say, I HATE it. The yarn isn't showing up the pattern and the pattern is a really frustrating knit- you have to concentrate, but it doesn't actually go anywhere. It will be frogged, though I have no idea what to make instead. Ideas for 1500m of black DK alpaca are extremely welcome?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


One of the truly gutting things about life is when you get a home visit from a health professional, the baby was screaming with colic the night before and you chose to look after yourself and your family (i.e. cuddle the screaming one and sleep when he does) over cleaning the house from top to bottom to put on a good show.  Today, we had the nursery nurse around to weigh River- she had the bad taste to show up 20 minutes early, at which point he was in the sling and I was trying to fix the hoover.  The carpet hadn't been hoovered since Friday morning due to people spending all weekend puking on it, and it showed. Oh, and the washing up from my outstanding (I really should have taken a picture) pineapple upside down cake is outstanding too, as I ran out of space in the dishwasher. Please note the screaming baby, and I haven't yet mastered dishwasher-loading whilst baby-wearing.
So we get the whole discussion about whether we have any support round here- for fucks sake. If we had family support in Swindon, would we have moved here to look after my father in law? Well, would we? We have a disabled elderly gentleman, his two brothers- one of whom is having treatment for cancer and one of whom has an ailing wife, and Steve's mums family, who we haven't heard ANYTHING from since we moved here. So what am I meant to do?

Answers on a postcard please. The suggestions so far include talking to a family support worker, and putting my beautiful, securely attached very close to mummy daughter in a playgroup. WHY? Because I think spending time with my children is more important than getting the washing-up done????? I have accepted the offer of a referral to HomeStart, so I can get some housework done sometimes, but that's as far as it goes.
Grrr. This stinks.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's not easy being green

Square two of the Lizard, and it has to be said, my short rows are looking a hell of a lot tidier.  Strangely, it's turning out to be more of an emotional journey than I was expecting just because colour is so evocative- the blue reminds me so much of Susannah, my companion through university and early adulthood, survivor of many longwinded rants about my ex and witness to my last bout of PND. And the green? Well, not only is it exactly the same shade as the chicobag that Indigo sent me yesterday, it's also the same shade as Kermit the frog and my favourite crayon- the one you draw grass with when you're drawing happy-ever-after houses (which always have an obscene number of dogs and chickens and children.) I haven't got the chickens yet, but it's a matter of time.
In other news, am I the only person in humanity who is outraged that Tesco, the alleged great exploiter of the British farmer, is stocking Fair Trade clothing? Oh, the irony.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Spoilt rotten

My Magic Ball came today :) It arrived home shortly after I did, newborn in arms, toddler in the buggy, wrap sling in the house, boys stroppy and awkward and generally fed up. And the first thing I saw when I opened the box? A stress ball. I love the irony of it all.
It came from the lovely Indigo and I feel both spoilt and treasured.  Lots and lots of beautiful things- a skein of laceweight from Joyce at Elliebelly, someone else whose life I really, really, really really want, some wool yarn, some all-purpose cotton, and so many goodies. I love it, and above all I love and value the fact that she took the trouble to put this together for me in the midst of her own interesting times.
The fudge, however, did not survive more than an hour. Such things rarely do in this house :)

And the rotten bit? Well, the sourdough is currently rising a bit more before I put it in the oven.  I'm very excited, and very very nervous. This starter's brother and sisters have been round 90% of Swindon before I got my hands on it, and it makes VERY good bread (it originated at Lower Shaw Farm, and their bread is to die for.) If I can't make good bread with it, what does it say about me?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Simple kitchen magic

yesterday was Mothers Day here, and man, it stunk. Domestic arguments, Isaac being his most obnoxious self, you name it, it went wrong. Like a car crash. And so we came home, and whilst River chilled out in his bouncy chair for ten whole minutes, the rest of us made things better.

We made banana bread, using up nearly a dozen over-ripe bananas, my beloved melt-and-stir method of cakeage, recipe from Nigella and sadly, not enough alcohol. But it was good, and it made us feel good and it was so nice to send the boys to school with proper cake in their lunchboxes.

And today? I took a loaf of banana bread to breastmates, and came home with a tub of sourdough starter :) I'm looking forward to playing with it...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Knitting mindlessly

This year's buzz word seems to be "mindful knitting." Well, this is square one of mindLESS knitting- where with little or no view to completion of a project, I am going to slowly and gently work short rows, a square at a time, a stripe at a time. I am going to surrender to being unable to control the colour blends and live with my many mistakes. Not all of these are in my life- some are even in my knitting- forgetting to change colour here, a really fugly decrease at the end of a short row there,  it all adds up. And you know what? I could care more right now.   
This is February's square, btw. It has the colours of the early cherry blossom and tree bark, and it's quite a dull, dreary colourway of Kureyon. (161, in case you were wondering.) 
I'm hoping to knit myself out of the doldrums and into one of the bright zingy shades of kureyon before the year is out, but we'll see. It might take longer.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Can you see what I see?

Sweet sleepy baby smiles. I love it- even if he is growing up too fast. In his desperation to eat the world he's learnt to roll onto his side and latch on, to coo endearingly and to smile.  It almost makes up for the fact that I'm 3 minutes away from the witching hour and 5 hours of non-stop motion, feeding and screaming are a mere 180 seconds away.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nev's body


Well, the jumper is coming on, but incredibly slowly because the smallest one does not approve of knitting. (There's ingratitude for you) and I am trying to keep the jumper a surprise from it's intended owner.  It's taking a while,  but Isaac goes back to school on Monday so I should be able to get some knitting in then.
The body is finished and the hem is the Sailors Rib from Knitting Fool- and if my husband is reading this, I'd love the Barbara Walker books for my birthday, darling.  In fact, any stitch dictionary would do.  I'm a few rows into the first arm, the underarm seam is looking tidy and it's all looking good.  I have a few misgivings about the fabric- I have gauge but I do think this yarn works better on smaller needles, though I know it will bloom when washed.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The tale of three deaths and a birth

The story of my third son’s birth starts with a death. After a miscarriage a few months previously, we were happy and relieved to find ourselves pregnant again in December 2006. As time went on, though ,I found myself feeling worse and worse- the nausea eased off far earlier than I was expecting, but I felt heavy and leaden all the time, unable to stay awake, to walk, just waiting. Then the bleeding started.
Our baby was born on the first day of February, at 11 weeks gestation, but tiny: measuring only seven weeks or so. I caught her as she fell out of me whilst I sat on the toilet, wondrous, hideous, beautiful and ugly. I cried. My eldest son came to me and asked what was happening, and I showed him. We cried.
The next day I felt better than I had in some time, and confident, left with my neighbour to go to an NCT training day over in Wales. The day went so well, and whilst I grieved the loss of the baby we could have had, it wasn’t the end of the world. I cuddled a tiny baby- called Poppy, only six weeks old- and reveled in how good it felt to hold someone so small, whilst knowing that I was going to have to wait longer before I held a baby of my own. I was conscious of the fact that I was getting very tired, which I think my neighbour had picked up on, and in the car on the way home my uterus started contracting strongly again.
The house was quiet when I got home, as my husband had taken the children out, and the pains had stopped. I plucked up the courage to ring my mother and tell her about the miscarriage the day before, and whilst I did that, I felt a gush. I hung up as quickly as possible and ran to the bathroom. Before I could even get my trousers or pants down, my body was pushing and a large, lightbulb-shaped mass came out of me, into my hands. I was shaking, shocked. What’s happening? I saw the baby yesterday, the miscarriage was over. I tried ringing the hospital ward that housed the Early Pregnancy Unit, but the midwife on the end of the phone merely told me that “it’s normal” and “you sound quite scared. Is this your first baby?” So I sat, and I pulled at the tissue until I came to a tiny amniotic sac with the most tiny little blob imaginable in it. A twin. Isn’t a mothers intuition meant to tell you something like that?

And so the worst months of my life began, trying to make sense of how I could have been pregnant and grown two lives inside me for those short months and yet never realize or suspect that there was more than one. The depression was unbelievable. I let so many people and friends down at that time, just struggling to cope, to keep my head above water, to get out of bed in the morning and to stay out of bed until evening. We started trying to conceive again immediately, and unsuccessfully, which just made me feel so much worse as my first pregnancies with my first husband had all been accidents. Then in April, I got another positive pregnancy test, followed by yet more bleeding.

And then our little miracle happened. On a trip to @Bristol, our local science museum, we were looking at their exhibit of where babies come from and I started paying attention.  Attended to how fast an egg changes in those first hours after fertilization, and how miraculous it is that the sperm ever gets to the egg in the first place. How many challenges, how many huge developmental milestones my children overcame before they were even born- before they even showed up on a pregnancy test- and how the fact that my lost babies didn’t make it didn’t change anything. They were still miracles. Life was still a miracle. I gained new respect for the process, and humility. A week later, I conceived again.

I spent the next nine months doing a lot of worrying and soul-searching. One of the gifts that the twins had given me was reassurance that my last labour, with its long 'rest and be thankful' period followed by a very fast birth, could just be my new normal -  twin two (Bride's) birth followed the same pattern as Skyes had. They also taught me to trust my body, that it knew what to do and can bring my babies out into the world safely and well. Slowly, gradually, I relaxed.
The dreams started as well. Night after night, I dreamt of putting my hand down between my legs and stroking the soft down of a baby’s hair as it emerged into the world and then hearing that first cry. At around the same time that my daughter weaned, I felt the first tightenings of the braxton hicks contractions, the movement of my uterus that would eventually bring our new baby out to us.
It wasn’t all roses. We made the decision to pay privately for a scan at 7 weeks- partly to confirm whether this pregnancy was viable or not, despite the total lack of morning sickness, and mostly to rule out the possibility of another set of twins, and panicked when I was recalled at 20 weeks because the sonographer couldn’t get a good enough view of his heart. Every pregnancy has its worries, but this little one was so wanted, so loved and so hoped for, we were scared to know- and yet scared not to. He kept growing big and strong, and with him, I grew bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Despite not having gained any weight, I was easily the size of a house and by mid-December people were already making comments like “any day now?” Unfortunately at that point we were in the midst of building work which wouldn’t be finished until just before Christmas, and joked that if the stress put me into premature labour I’d have to name our new boy after the workmen. I started obsessing about premature rupture of membranes and GBS after being told by my midwife that they would have to advise me to transfer for antibiotics 18 hours after my waters broke, with a possible view to induction after that. I don’t know why, but that felt important.
We settled on a name- River Douglas- at about the same time that the contractions started getting serious in mid-January. I had a few bouts of regular contractions, five minutes apart and lasting one but not hurting quite enough to bring a baby out- and then, of course, the ones that hurt like hell but couldn’t be timed. I kept zen, kept counting the days to 42 weeks, knowing that this was how I laboured with Skye and that I had the strength in me to do this again if I had to- and at that point, I was convinced I would. I kept the image of the river in my mind, running strong and sure, sometimes smooth and calm and at other times rough and turbulent. My friends, in real life and on the internet, sent me photographs of their rivers, the waterways that they loved that brought life to their communities. It helped. That image carried me through the last rocky days of late pregnancy until, with a slow and icky-feeling trickle, my waters broke at 7.15pm on Wednesday 30th January, the day before his due date. And it was easily the most disgusting feeling I have ever experienced in my life, just trickling and trickling and running and gushing and never ever stopping. I HATE wet pads. I really do.
Once I’d stopped complaining about the sheer big ickiness of it all, I started panicking about what I was going to do- after all, I wasn’t contracting and I was now on the infamous “timeline.” What was even worse is that my mother was sitting on the other side of the table from me when my waters broke, and whilst she’s all in favour of homebirth she’s far more in favour of doing what the doctors tell you and not arguing. To add insult to injury, I also had a midwife’s appointment the next afternoon at exactly the point that my 18 hours were up.
I went to bed at 11, after cleaning the house fairly thoroughly and putting some old sleeping bags and plastic down on the living room floor just in case. By midnight I was out of bed, actively contracting, though my husband had just gone to bed to get a few hours sleep. We were both pretty sure that I had hours to go yet, but despite this I was waiting for the contractions to space out a little so I could time them. I couldn’t stay still- what helped more than anything else was to dance, but picking my feet up felt wrong and made it hurt. So I swayed and bobbed and circled and dipped with my ipod in my ears and my daughters dummy clutched in my hand, with candles lit in the holders my children made at Lower Shaw Farm. Somehow I’d turned the shuffle function off and that was really bugging me because I couldn’t figure out how to turn it on again and it was going through songs in alphabetical order. I listened to the Verve’s The Drugs Don’t Work twice because the irony of that song during a natural labour appealed to me- and at this point, I was pretty sure that I was in labour. A line from The Finish Line by Snow Patrol- “the finish is the start” made me start to wonder just how far into my labour I actually was and how long I had left to go,  as each contraction was right on top of each other, constant, continuous movement in my body,  The candle in the draught on the windowsill dripped wax onto the brand new sill. My contractions slowed down and spaced out. I threw up in the kitchen sink, gasped, ran for the bathroom and sat there shitting and retching and contracting and fighting for a position that didn’t hurt. Couldn’t find one. Steve got up, looked at me roaring in the bathroom and said “what’s happening?” Took me downstairs again. I threw up again, and again while he was on the phone to the hospital. They wanted to send an ambulance because I was so loud- he insisted on a midwife. She rang, spoke to me, I told her what was going on- that I thought I was nearly fully dilated and based on my other labours I probably had about an hour to go, as I hadn’t had a nap yet. (Remember that whole ‘rest and be thankful’ stuff from the miscarriage and Skye’s birth? Yep, so did I. I was wrong…)
I tried kneeling on the floor on hands and knees, up, down, nothing felt good. Needed it over with. Pushed down. Panicked, there was poo with the pushing, get the tissues, wipe it away. Another contraction- that’s not me pushing, but there’s more poo. And more. I ran away from my beautiful candlelit birthing nest, the setting I dreamt of, straight to the toilet and the bright, harsh white lights. Sat, pushed and pushed with the poo falling down the toilet where Steve couldn’t see it. Put my hand down, slid my fingers inside my vagina and felt a hard solid head just on the other side of my soft tissues- and then the next contraction, next push brought that head straight down to my fingers where I could touch it. I was trying so hard not to push as Steve shouted at me to get off the toilet and lifted me to my feet- the movement brought his head down and his body slid out on the same contraction before we even had time to check for a cord around his neck. It was- we were standing there with four hands on this tiny little person who had his cord loosely looped down between his legs and from one shoulder to another down to his nipples like so much bling, and had to talk about who was going to let go of him to lift it over his head. Steve handed me a towel to wrap him in, told his dad (who was in the next room) that baby was here safely. Dad knew- and had thought to check the time of birth when he heard the first cry, at 2.25am. I was shaking, tried to get our new baby to latch on. He had hair. The midwife came, asked if she could cut the cord. I said no, wait until the placenta is out but I want to push it out now. We grabbed a bowl that was in the bathroom, I stood up, it fell out. I cut his cord, held him close, still shaking. Moved to the living room, sat on the floor, saw the poo on the sleeping bags, moved again. Still no bleeding, but the most beautiful boy ever- not only did he have hair, but he had streaks and smears of gloopy vernix like an abstract tattoo and looked so much like his father I wanted to hug them both at once. The second midwife came with scales, weighed him, measured his head circumference. I pulled a t-shirt on, finally got our new boy settled at the breast. Paperwork done, they left us to it- only to return an hour later because they’d forgotten to check my blood pressure. We went to bed, slept cuddled up in a ball with River looking across at us with big, wide eyes.
Two weeks on and he’s more turbulent than still, except when he’s eating. He takes eating very seriously- he’s gone from 9lb 1oz to 10lb6oz in 18 days, and is putting a lot of effort into growing big enough to keep up with his siblings. Steve and I have discussed things, and despite him now knowing far more about my bodily functions than he really wanted to, I’m still beautiful and he still fancies me- so that’s OK. In a way, this birth brought everything full circle- despite being very intense, I have finally had a birth where there is nothing at all I’d change, nothing I’d do differently. Nine years ago, I gave birth to a boy who nearly fell down a toilet, caught in my own hands, and two weeks ago I gave birth to a boy who nearly fell down a toilet but who was caught by both his mummy and daddy, and the similarity and that crucial difference pleases me. I have a husband who loves and cherishes me, and whilst I’m sad that this special time in my life- of pregnancy and gestating- is behind me, I’m excited for the two of us- the six of us, even- to move on together.