Friday, March 23, 2007

The Budget and Mrs Beeton

So, was there any point in the 2% cut in the basic rate of income tax to 20%? I've been doing sums, with the help of this thing, and I think, if anything, I'll be slightly worse off next year (and my Council Tax bill for next year came this week too! Grrrrr). Thank you Gordon. I think scrapping the 10p rate was a really bad move as the people it will affect the most are the worst off already (and I'm not convinced that tax credits will make up the difference because that system is so cocked up I'm surprised anyone ever manages to get anything). I can cope with more duty of petrol etc, and personally think gas guzzlers should have *much* more road tax than they have at the moment, but with farmers and anyone who has to drive one for work (genuinely for work, as in you work halfway up a mountain) exempt or taxed at a lower rate.
And I don't think he's been very nice to small businesses, which includes every yarn shop I can think of, which can only be bad news.

But things I like about the Budget are the funny pictures of him standing there with that battered red briefcase (how antiquated is that) and watching him work his way through that MASSIVE pile of A4 paper (what happens if it all slides off? Imagine if there was a sudden gust of wind and it all went flying?!).

But on a more interesting note, I've just finished reading "The short life and long times of Mrs Beeton" by Kathryn Hughes. I read her biography of George Eliot (George Eliot: the last Victorian) a few years ago, but didn't enjoy that as much as I enjoyed this. This is much more than a biography of Mrs Beeton, more of an account of the Beeton "brand" because Mrs Beeton herself only lived for a very short time. It is highly entertaining, as it turns out she probably couldn't really cook at all, and most of the recipes were taken from other earlier sources. I enjoyed the insights into diet and foot in 19th century England, the changes in meals as people began to commute into London and could no longer have lunch/dinner/mid-day meal as their main meal of the day. People no longer knew where their food came from as more and more went to live in the towns and bought from greengrocers and bakers instead of direct from the farmer, and the quality of food was a particular concern as much was contaminated. Some of these issues sounded very like modern concerns about food traceability and the return to buying directly from farmers via farm shops and box schemes! I also had no idea that, after her death, a magazine published by her husband, the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, went into soft porn (not exactly fitting in with Beeton's wholesome image). All in all a most entertaining read! And has anyone tried boiling carrots for an hour and a half? I can't imagine anything more revolting...

Has anyone been watching the ITV Austen Season on Sunday evenings? I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey last night, more than Mansfield Park last week (which seemed too short to really get to know the characters). And Rupert Penry-Jones is in Persuasion next Sunday. PHWWWWOOOOAAAARRRRR!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Skip North podcast

Alex has done a fantastic episode of her podcast about Skip North, which is well worth listening to! Ah, it brings it all back!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Skip North

*edited to add/amend people's names!*
*warning* Enormous post. There's about 25 photos on here, so profuse apologies to anyone on dial-up!! Also apologies to anyone whose name I've got wrong. I'm very easily confused, especially when there's large amounts of yarn nearby and half the people have got the same name (which should, in theory, make it easier, but it doesn't cos you need to know which one they are to work out which blog is theirs!)

Skip North was held at Haworth Youth Hostel:

An amazing building with loads of room for sitting and knitting in and talking to people. I think I must be especially frugal about central heating at home as the hostel to me felt absolutely boiling! This pic was taken on the Sunday morning whilst we were waiting for the coach to come and pick us up! Alex is in the foreground ringing the coach company...

One of the communal areas was the ballroom, but before you all get delusions of grandeur/images of Pride and Prejudice, it was actually more like a games room! We had workshops on Friday afternoon and I went to the spinning one in the ballroom (the others were stitchmarkers, bullion crochet and procion dyeing). This pic (as well as being a bit blurry) has:
Nic, Alison, Lauren (have you got a blog?), Ruth (who was teaching us) and Diane and Badger's hand on the right.

Some of us also sat and knitted in the dining room before tea (and during tea and after tea). This is Anne and the knitted/crocheted breast. I'm going to make one too, but didn't dare do it last week as it would have meant knitting it on the train... You can read more about knitting boobs on Anne's blog here.

In the evening all of us (35?) squished into the lounge and frightened the Muggles sitting reading a cycling magazine in the corner. There weren't enough seats so we sat on the floor, on the table, by the fire surround... I wish the pics I took came out, but the only one that did was this one of Diane and Badger (I know you wanted a copy Badger so feel free to save it!). Like me, Badger also inhabits Library World (which is a very cool place to inhabit).

On Friday night we had a talk from Steve and Pat from Woolly Thoughts, which I really enjoyed and wasn't too scary and mathematical. I even bought a couple of cushion patterns - I got "Trivial Pursuit" and "Best of Both Whirls"

And at Coldspring Mill on Saturday morning when no one had turned up to let us in! We had to stand outside for a while, peering forlornly through the windows at all the lovely yarn.

But once we got inside. WOW. Piles of yarn EVERYWHERE! The racks have Debbie Bliss yarn, which all seemed to have at least a £1 off, and there were yarn packs at the back and cones at the front, all at a substantial discount. There seemed to be plenty of Debbie Bliss, and Noro, and Twilleys, plus a LOT of other stuff.

We grabbed armfuls of the stuff and then had to stand in the queue for ages (so British) because there's only one till/credit card machine! This is Rachel, Heather and Sheila queueing with their hauls.

and me with mine!

My Coldspring purchases:
1050g of Twilleys Freedom Spirit in colourway Fire (= 21 balls at half price!)
750g of Debbie Bliss Cotton Denim Aran (= 15 balls at half price!)
Then onto the Skep, where we had to split into two groups as it's quite small!

and I bought 500g of merino 4ply (£4.99!!) to make Thermal with and two balls of sock yarn, unbranded but it's 75% wool, 25% nylon. £1.25 a ball (how crazy is that?)

on the way down the road we even saw signs to yet more yarn, but that wasn't on the schedule!

Then at the Knitting and Crochet Guild HQ at Lee Mills we again split in half to attack the 1p a gram yarn mountain and be shown items from their collection of historic knitted and crocheted items.
This is Nic and the pattern bit of the shop section.

and the other Nic and some of the Yarn Mountain.

And a bit more of the Yarn Mountain.

This is part of the Guild's library collection (well I had to take a library pic, didn't I?!) where we were shown various items and I forgot to take photos of them!

And a very small part of their displays. This one was all about sock knitting (well, you'll have already worked that out from the photo anyway!)

I managed to restrain myself from buying anything from the Yarn Mountain (1p a gram!!) but did buy some Susan Bates Silvalume DPNs. I'd never seen these before but it's a really cool idea, you get a "sock set" with 20 DPNs in - 5 each of 1.5, 1.75, 2 and 2.25mm, most of which are sizes I'd been looking for for a while! And each size is a different colour!

I bought the spindle from Diane. It's made from sycamore wood and is from Sublime Spindles.

Back in the lounge in the evening Anne learnt to spin (she was better at it than me too!):

and various other people practised on people's spinning wheels. That's Spinning Fishwife on the right and Sue on the left.

On Sunday morning we climbed back on the coach to go to Wingham Wools. Wingham did wonders for my pedometer step count, as there are about 4? different sheds and I ended up running around all of them about five times, squeaking with excitement and wearing a very silly grin. It was absolutely amazing to see so much STUFF!

This is the "English" shed which was stuffed full of roving (probably wrong term there, might be "tops") and yarn all from different English sheep breeds (shouldn't that be British?).

and the "Rainbow" shed, which was full of, er, rainbox dyed thingies! And people looking at the rainbow dyed thingies.

This is what I bought:
200g skein of dyed roving, in the colourway "Blue Hydrangea". They had some beautiful colours in this, I wondered whether it would make a good sub for Debbie Bliss Maya/SoHo (especially as it works out at half the price of that!)? I'm going to use mine for felted slippers.
2 bags of about 100g each of rainbow merino so I can practise spinning.
3 x 50g of Wentworth Yarns space-dyed superwash DK for socks (it was £1.50 a ball, which seemed ridiculous as it's 100% wool).

Back at the hostel, this is me and Anne with all of Anne's purchases and my Sunday ones.

Monkey couldn't come. He would have liked to meet a lot of his friends but someone had to stay at home to babysit...

Anyway, it was a fantastic weekend and BIG THANKS to Alex and Nic for organising it! I met loads more people (some for the first time!) than have been mentioned or appeared here - Fred, Rachel, Liz, Rosie, Marie, Sue, Gemma, Sarah (BabyLongLegs), Lottie (who is blogless), Rachel (another one), Sue (another one), Denise, Theresa and I know I've missed a whole load of other people. Wonderful as all the yarn shopping was, I think the best thing was meeting everyone else! I didn't get any photos of the Skip North afghan either, so I hope someone else did.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Skip North

I'm just back from Skip North and had a fabulous time!! I'll update this post sometime this week with loads of woffle, attempts at remembing people's names and pics of yarn mountains!!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

10000 steps

I'm finally getting properly settled into the village now. Have you ever noticed how long it takes to find your feet when you've moved somewhere new? I usually reckon on 6-9 months to feel properly part of something, getting to the stage when you meet people you recognise and stop for a chat whilst walking down the street or in the local shops. This is the fifth town/city I've lived in (and the eighth house/flat!) in nine years, and it always takes this long. Which was kind of interesting in places like Exeter where I was only there for a year anyway. You just finally get to know people, and it's time to move on. I don't think I appreciated how easy it was when I first went to university, where everyone is in the same boat and there are loads of opportunities laid on to get to know people. It got harder when I moved to Exeter to work, as there were so few of us in a similar situation. Similarly with starting a part-time postgrad. degree in London, because everyone assumes that part-timers were so busy with the rest of their lives they wouldn't want to meet other people! And the latest move has been very odd, as I didn't know anyone locally at all when I moved here and my work isn't in the local area, and takes me away for most week nights. I've reached the conclusion that anyone retired or with small children must have a fantastic social life in my village, as the place is stuffed full of coffee mornings, OAP whist drives, breastfeeding get togethers and toddler clubs.

But hardly anything is at a time when anyone who works can go to things. There is one evening Pilates class, otherwise everything else takes place during the day. However, this week things finally came together. I've been helping out with Guides when I can, but it's been difficult to fit it in with working miles away, but I made it this week, and I also joined the Lent group at church (which, good heavens, takes place in the evening!). Work this week in Cambridge got cancelled at the last minute (i.e Monday morning!), which is one of the hazards of being freelance, so I've spent the week working from home. It did mean missing out on tea with Anne's family, going to the Cambridge KTog and meeting up with friends in Bedford and meeting their baby (for whom I'd made some little socks), which is a complete bummer. See, I do have a social life, just not where I live!
(yarn is leftovers of Trekking XXL from my Hedera socks).

But it was nice that things are coming together here. How have you found moving to a new area, or a new country? And how long has it taken you to get to know people locally? It was a bit more problematic this time round as normally I'd go along to as many things as possible locally as soon as possible to get to know people, but a combination of semi-permanent tonsillitis and being away all week made that impossible for my first six months here.

I really enjoyed the Lent course. We're following the York course, "Can We Build a Better World?" , which consists of listening to a CD of various people on a panel (John Sentamu, Wendy Craig and Leslie Griffiths, among others) and then having a discussion about it over a cup of tea (in the obligatory Anglican blue teacups. Although some Anglican churches have the same teacups in green, and one I went to even had yellow ones!). This week's session was: Slavery, then and now, looking at when the slave trade was abolished in 1807 and comparing attitudes then and now towards modern day slaves - eg sex slaves, bonded labour, child labour, forced marriages and illegal labour. And how people in the West (often unwittingly) exploit workers in the developing world, and how the Fairtrade movement is aiming to conteract that. Our discussion turned into what we are prepared to tolerate, and what we could do about something (ie it's unlikely that individually we could do anything to stop the human sex trafficking trade, but maybe collectively it is possible). The discussion turned into what we could do about things locally, and it was interesting hearing some of the perspectives of the older residents there. Many of them have lived in the village for 40+ years and felt that it has grown too big and is unfriendly, with gangs of teenagers handing around in the evening. I compared it to living in the east end of London and said that I found it small, and friendly as you do bump into the same people regularly, and they hardly have any marauding teenagers here, certainly not as many as I've seen on the loose in London/Exeter/Lincoln/Sleaford! Certainly I've never felt intimidated here wandering around on my own after dark, which wouldn't have been the case in London.

So, why 10000 steps? Well, partly it seemed an appropriate title as it seems to have taken a lot to get settled in here, and partly because doing something about modern day slavery is a very big thing to tackle. But also because I haven't given anything up for Lent, but I have decided to aim to walk 10000 steps a day. I used to be reasonably fit, and six years ago could cycle up the hill at Royal Holloway without even thinking about it, now I'd probably keel over if I tried it! It doesn't help that I have a sedentary job/lifestyle, with lots of driving. When I first got my pedometer I was averaging about 3000 steps a day. I'm now up to 7000-8000. The idea behind 10000 steps a day, is that that is the amount you need to do to keep fit and healthy without doing any additional exercise. So you fit the steps into your normal life and think up ways to do a bit extra. My local shops/library/church/Guides are all within 20 minutes walk so I've stopped taking the car to them (that really was a bit pathetic, but I'd got into the habit when it was raining....) Of course, it also has the additional benefit of being around on the village streets so you get the opportunity to bump into people!

Think that's all for now. I have no idea where I'm working for the next few weeks so maybe I'll be writing more often, maybe not! The square above is my Skip North charity afghan square. The pattern is from Simply Knitting, January 2007, and the yarn is some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran I had in my stash...