Saturday, July 26, 2014

Books read 2014 #3

Having been back in my last books read update and read a book I enjoyed back in the Dark Ages when I was young, I found second-hand copies of some books I enjoyed as a teenager via Abebooks.

#11 Liz Berry Mel 
It turned out that I had managed to remember Mel and The China garden as one book, which isn't the case, although having now re-read both of them I remember why I enjoyed both. Funny what the brain remembers 20 years down the line, isn't it?
Mel is about somebody called, funnily enough, Mel, a 17 year old whose Mum has just had a breakdown and who decides to redecorate their house over the summer. Which doesn't sound that exciting, but I found it quite inspirational at the time, I seem to remember. So, it's about a seventeen-year-old who turns her life around and sorts out her career, and does it on her own (although there a couple of love interests, she isn't dependent on them, which makes for a refreshing change in books) with a bit of help from her friends. I seem to have completely missed the predatory school teacher though when I originally read it!

#12 Liz Berry The China garden
The China garden also features a teenager, Clare, who moves with her mother to an ancient English estate, where strange things start to happen. She slowly unlocks the secret behind the myths around the place, and discovers the meaning of the China gardens. I found this totally compelling as a teenager, and loved the mixture of mystery and history woven into the story. Funnily enough it arrived on time to take on holiday with us in June, and it turned out we were heading to the same sort of area in which the novel is set!

#13 100 gardening questions answered
This is a compilation of gardening questions from Gardeners' World magazine, which the OH saw in WHSmith and bought for me. It's grouped into sections covering In your garden, techniques and problems and I've found it quite useful to dip in and out of.

#14 Liz Trenow The forgotten seamstress
I saw a copy of this book in a bookshop on holiday and thought it sounded interesting, but I get most of my fiction from the library (sorry, bookshop) so I popped online and reserved a copy to read when I got home again. A woman called Caroline discovers a quilt in her mother's attic and tries to find out more about it. Caroline's modern day story (fairly chick lit standard of girl in a mess looking for boy, finds boy, but with added quilting) is interspersed with the story of Maria, who created the quilt and who worked at Buckingham Palace and, ahem, caught the eye of the Prince of Wales. It is quite predictable, but it's a good read and I enjoyed the quilting stuff, although I don't know how realistic that is as I'm not a quilter myself...

#15 Julian Fellowes Past Imperfect
This was a chance find at the library, as it was on a display near the self-issue terminal as I took another book out and I ended up taking this out as well. It covers two periods of time, the Season in the 1960s, looked at from the perspective of someone who knows that way of life is coming to an end, and forty years later as the characters consider the consequences of their actions then. It took a while to get into it, and the ending wasn't altogether a surprise, but I found all the class snobbery amusing, with plenty of detail included. The story revolves around the central character, who is contacted by his enemy of forty years earlier, who is now dying. It turns out that this man conceived a child back then and now needs to track down his heir to leave his fortune to.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Books read 2014 #2

#6 Jambusters: the story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War by Julie Summers
This is one I picked up from a display at my local library. It's a very readable history (although it does include notes, bibliography and index should you want them), starting with an introductory chapter about how and why the WI was started - this answered the question of why I've never found a WI near most of the places I've lived (they were in villages, not cities). Subsequent chapters cover different aspects of their work, from the early years of the war when villages had to adapt quickly to take in evacuee children and teachers coming from the cities, to a more thematic approach covering crafts, cooking, growing vegetables and also the influence they had on government. I found it really interesting.

#7 Shrubs and small trees: simple steps to success by Simon Akeroyd
#8 Planting with trees by Andrew & Rosamond McIndoe
These two are again from the library, and are a perfect example of why libraries are brilliant - there's no way I'd have bought two books about trees just to help us choose a suitable tree for a space in our garden, and other than the RHS Plant Selector, information online tends towards the patchy. Both books are at the introductory level, covering various aspects of using trees in the garden. Both include recommendations for differently sized trees and particular aspects/soil types.

#9 Fly-by-night by K.M. Peyton
This is a book I loved when I was about ten, and when I came across it again I couldn't resist re-reading it.  It's all about a girl called Ruth who is desperate to have a pony, and buys an unbroken one. Back when I first read it everything but the pony stuff must have washed over me, but I was struck by how much concern there is in the book for the family's economic situation, their struggles to pay the mortgage (a whole £5 a week, which did give me the giggles) etc. And also the freedom for Ruth, who is only eleven at the start of the book, yet goes hitch-hiking and wanders the country lanes all on her own!

Have any of you gone back to read a book you loved as a child and re-read it as an adult? How did you find it?

#10 The detective's daughter by Lesley Thomson
Another one from Greensideknits list from a while back. Basically a detective dies very suddenly and his daughter (rather implausibly) goes ahead and solves the murder from years back that's at the centre of the story. It was an interesting read, and I liked the different approach (even though it wasn't totally believable). It also featured a lot of parts of London I know well, which added an extra level to it.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Garden at the beginning of the month July 2014

This was the month in which things got eaten. And not by me.
The sempervivums were gobbled up by some kind of evil weevil. 

Then I found gooseberry sawfly caterpillers on the gooseberry bush.

 But I got those picked off before too much damage was done, and the gooseberries are ripening up nicely.

Other crops are ripening well. We've had quite a lot of strawberries, some raspberries already, and a lovely blackcurrant and apple crumble last week.

The cherry tomatoes are covered with fruit, but the cordon tomatoes aren't doing a great deal yet.

I'm pleased with the way the lavender, geranium and nemesia all coordinate beautifully, just as if I'd planned it like that...

And I'm pleased with how this border is looking - it's one of the first I planted up when we moved in, and was intended to be plants that would do well in drought conditions, but they got through last winter and all the rain OK too.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Making some progress

Not one, but two finished items! I'm really pleased with my Lima cardigan. It was horribly hot wearing it for the photo, and it's now gone away with all my woolly jumpers for when the weather turns cold again. It's definitely something out of which I should get a lot of wear. I think the sleeve length will be quite practical, as the yarn (Mirasol Sulka) is soft and my garments tend to pill first on the sleeves where they rub against a desk. I would definitely use the yarn again though, it's lovely to knit with.

And these are my Fetching fingerless mitts, blocked and looking a lot better (as well as purple) than they did before.

Yes, this is the same pair of gloves, pre-blocking. And photo taken using smartphone camera and in artificial light. The photo above is with the proper camera.

Both Lima and Fetching having a bath, using the Eucalan wool wash I bought on holiday (with this in mind).

And then pinned out to block on the spare bed. I had already joined the shoulder seams of Lima together using a three needle bind off, so had to block it in a double layer as there wasn't room to lay the whole thing out flat - took four days to dry, despite the hot weather!

I've also made good progress on my 4ply Bello jumper. I'm knitting it in the round so can put it onto a longer needle and try it on as I go. This photo is of me trying it on in the bar at knitting group (I only got a few funny looks). I'm really pleased with the fit, and how quickly it's coming together. Almost ready to start the sleeves already!