Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bank holidays # one

The last few weeks have been a bit stressful as I have acquired a new job! I won't be leaving my current job and starting the new one until July, but I put my application in in March and went to a rather stressful interview (including having to give a presentation!), got offered the job the next day, then had to wait ages for paperwork to come through to confirm it. Anyway, I am really excited about it, although July feels like a very long way off still. The good news too is that it's a longer commute as I'll be heading into London every morning, which means more time on the train to knit or read.

Thankfully our bank holidays have been piling up in this country, and some time to relax was just what I needed after all that. Last weekend we had Good Friday and Easter Monday off work, and this weekend we have Friday off for the royal wedding, and Monday off because it's May Day. I could get used to 3 or 4 day weeks at work...

We put the Easter weekend holidays to good use. On the Monday we paid a visit to a National Trust property,  Clandon Park, near Guildford. This is the side of the house, I tried taking a picture of the front, but there were too many cars parked there, which looked a bit incongruous!

Inside was perfect for a visit on a hot day. Cool, light and airy. The rooms are huge, the biggest being the Marble Hall (with the side of the OH in for scale):

 This was the only room where photography is allowed. The other rooms aren't so high, but are equally imposing. And afterwards walking through the grounds, we found a field of daffodils that must have looked amazing about 6 weeks ago.

After Clandon we travelled on to do some exploring in Guildford. Of course, being a bank holiday the tourist information centre and the museum were shut, but we did climb up to have a look at the keep (all that remains of Guildford castle, and now surrounded by park).

and found the river Wey, slightly prosaically hidden behind Debenhams.

On the Saturday we paid a very hot and sticky visit to the garden centre to get stocked up with compost and plants. I would recommend not visiting a garden centre on Easter Saturday as about a million other people had had the same idea and we had to queue for ages to pay.

So we finally escaped, with the boot full of compost.

And the gap between the front and back seats stuffed with plants.

I'll be posting more about the garden soon when I do a gardening post for the 1st of the month.

I have been beavering away doing some knitting, but haven't any photos yet to show. Oh and the OH got me an Easter egg:

The next few months promise to be fairly hectic. I've got a couple of big projects to finish off at work before I leave, plus some reading and preparation to do ready for starting the new job. But, of course, there's still another 3 bank holiday days still to go...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Feeling the heat

Like me, Yarnstorm has been struggling with the unseasonal heat and its effect on her garden. Our tulips are already over, and I'm sure last year they were still on the go in May. We're having to water every night at the moment, which you just don't expect to do in April! It's got up to about 25° several days this week, which is just about over the limit where I feel comfortable (I get sunstroke pretty easily so can't really stay out in it for very long) and way past the point when the OH feels comfortable. So instead of a nice long spring full of fun visits to places, it looks like we're going to be stuck indoors forever.

I had a lovely weekend last weekend though, as I went up to Lincolnshire to visit Mum for a couple of nights. Once we'd got past the nightmare train journey on the way up (the return trip was fine, and I was 30 minutes early getting home again!), I had a great time, doing a lot of catching up with Mum and various other people on the Sunday. On the Saturday we went to a friend's wedding, of someone I was at school with, back in the mists of time (it feels like a VERY long time ago being back at school!).

She looked absolutely amazing and the service was wonderful. I was rather impressed that they both stood for the entire service too - we sat down for the readings and the sermon. I don't think my knees would have held me up otherwise! It had extra resonance as it was the first wedding I'd been to since ours last summer so I kept remembering that the last time I'd heard those words it was me/the OH saying them! (soppy, me?!). I had wondered in advance whether it might be a bit upsetting - this is the church where we used to go for school carol services, which my Dad used to come to, and there's always the "she's got her Dad to take her down the aisle" thing too, but when it came to it, it was such a joyful occasion I didn't really think about it.

Bizarrely the church was a lot smaller than I remembered (I was 18 when I last went in it) and also a lot lighter and brighter, but I suppose that's the contrast between chilly December and sunny April. I'm also mystified about how on earth we squashed the school orchestra into the small space at the front. The space looks tiny now, but I can recall both playing my 'cello and being able to breathe so it can't have been that bad.

It was also a chance to catch up with a lot of my old school friends, some of whom I hadn't seen for over a decade! We were all still recognisable, and I think I even managed to remember everyone's children's and partner's names...

Oh, and I got to hold a baby belonging to one friend whilst she sorted her bag out, and the baby promptly snuggled up and went to sleep on me - so cute!

Even more amazingly, our old form teacher was there, whom I hadn't seen for about 20 years. She must be in her 80s now, but still looked just the same (!). It was so nice to see everyone, as these are people who really helped me out when I was a small, terrified 11 year old, just arrived at secondary school and feeling very lost and bewildered. And then a bigger , marginally more confident, 18 year old heading off into the big wide world...

It was a pretty exhausting weekend, but fortunately last week was a four day week with the bank holiday for Good Friday, so it wasn't too bad going back to work. I have had a few dilemmas in the garden - does anyone know what these plants are? I'm a bit mystified.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The year of the flood and other books

April's reading group book was The year of the flood by Margaret Atwood. I rather enjoyed it, although I was helped by the OH, who had already read it and hadn't liked it much, and who then discovered that it's a sort of sequel to Oryx and Crake. So I read that first, and I think it made a lot more sense because I'd done that. Both books are about a future event (apocalyptic?) that wipes out most of the earth's population, and how some of the survivors deal with it, but also what happened to bring about the event in the first place. The two books run almost in parallel, and show different perspectives on the same thing. I think I would have got very confused if I hadn't read Oryx and Crake first, and some members of my reading group clearly did get very confused (there is one lady who, I'm sure, has read a completely different book to me every single month, because she never knows which characters I'm talking about, and what she's talking about never seems to have much to do with the book...)

OK, so neither book is the world's most cheerful, but they are thought-provoking and readable, almost in the unputdownable category. I liked the little touches of humour (one of the animal splice creations created by geneticists is a "liobam", a cross between a lion and a lamb, created by some extreme religious group in an attempt to fulfill the prophecy about the lion and the lamb lying down together). Possibly the most compelling aspect of both books were the little touches of reality, of things that already happen being taken a little further and their consequences.

I have also been attempting to read Jon McGregor's Even the dogs, but I just can't get into it. I loved two of his other books, If nobody speaks of remarkable things and So many ways to begin, but this one has difficult subject matter and a style that I found hard to engage with. I kind of felt like I should get into it, it deals with the side of life that you probably don't often think about (the people who get forgotten, the homeless, drug addicts).

But I've just collected May's reading group book from the library, Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable creatures so hopefully I'll get this one finished.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Speedy 4ply knitting

So the 4ply jumper isn't taking as long as I thought. I thought I'd be knitting forever, but the front is already finished:

and I'm well on the way with the back. I'm pleased with the way the colours worked out too - the front above looks like I got the two sides of the neck to match colour-wise, except I didn't, I just kept going and this is how it turned out! I'm pleased with the Noro Kureyon sock yarn too, not sure I'd want to knit socks with it and it's a bit thick-and-thin (the front took nearly a whole ball and it had a knot in it too) but I think it's great for a jumper. And it will even out a bit once it's blocked. I've added about an inch to the length (why have I started thinking in imperial again?!) as it seemed quite short in the pattern.

The OH and I had an afternoon in London last week too. We visited John Lewis on Oxford St to look for yarn for his jumper, and he chose some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, which I've enjoyed knitting before. Not sure I'd have chosen this colour myself, and I was expecting him to go for black or grey!

We had a really nice afternoon, including a trip to Foyles bookshop (so many books, so much better than Waterstones, I love it) where we had chocolate fudge cake in the café and a walk in Regents' Park. We also indulged in a few book purchases as well as the yarn...

And a friend of mine has started making cards to sell on my Fair Trade stall - not sure if anyone out there is interested, but these are some of the sheepy and Easter ones she's made for me so far. She does take commissions...
They cost £1.50 each, with 50p going to Traidcraft (a charity that works to promote Fair Trade, and improve conditions in developing countries). Let me know if you're interested!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Garden at the beginning of April (or the explosion of the forget-me-nots)

The clocks went forward onto British Summer Time last weekend so I could finally take a garden picture on the first day of the month when I got home from work! Things have suddenly started growing a lot outside. We've had weather much more like May, than April (it got up to 20° at one point) so things are suddenly growing in all directions.

There's probably not a lot more visible in the picture below. I've erected some trellis behind the espalier apple in the raised bed and planted loads of snowdrops and bluebells, which won't really be visible until next Spring.

The raised bed suddenly sprouted LOADS of forget-me-nots, which I didn't plant and I can't remember being there last year, although there are a lot in some gardens nearby. They're kind of taking over.

Closer up the blossom forming on the standard apple tree is more visible. And the rhubarb growing well behind it.

And the salad leaf seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago are beginning to come through! And raspberries growing behind them...

I've had a really busy and rather stressful fortnight, most of which I can't blog about (yet), but I have done loads of knitting so I must do a knitting post soon.