tsps and tbsps

I am still knitting.

At the weekend I bought my first knitting pattern.

My mini project that I alluded to in the last post, was to make a scarf and hat as a present for my sister in law. I had no idea if she wanted a hat and scarf (in this weather the answer would be a resounding NO, but I am knitting for the future. Silver jump suits next), but I had found some gorgeous wool and when it knitted up it turned out to be the colours she loves, so I decided it would be a gift.

I checked with her, once I had finished the project, that she actually did want them. I remember as a child the evil things people used to knit uncle Robber and me, and how mortified we were that my mum made us wear them so that the people who knitted them would know we appreciated the gift. We did not appreciate the gift in the slightest. We hated the horrible, scratchy, usually brown, lumps of knitwear, hated them. And the problem with wearing the things people gave you, and being suitably grovelly about them was that this only encouraged the evil knitters even more. It was a vicious, itchy cycle, which had Dante been gifted a ribbed, polo neck sweater in 100% acrylic two ply, would have definitely made it into the Inferno one way or another.

I specifically told her to say no if she hated them, and she didn’t hate them. Which is nice for both of us, and because she had given me the green light, and had seen them, it meant I could show them to the world.

Ta dah!

10352950_10152293000930945_3410359367697009132_n

and

Ta dee!

10501878_10152293000915945_5718865781210927065_n

It may not look like much, but given that in a theoretical year book from a fictional high school I didn’t go to in America I was voted woman least likely to do anything practical due to being utterly cack handed, it is nothing short of a wool based miracle.

The hat was the thing I used my knitting pattern for. I bought it because it said that it was an easy pattern to follow.

Ah ha, ha ha ha, hahahahaha.

This is the laugh of Inigo Montoya as he says in his loveable Spanish accent: ‘You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.’

It is easy only if you are a) a super knitter and b) skilled at mathematical equations and algebra stylings.

There are a great many letters and numbers in knitting patterns it turns out, and brackets. Sometimes they are your regular curled brackets. Other times they are squared brackets. Sometimes they use both types of brackets together.

There was a lot, and I mean a lot, of unpicking, swearing, and pacing. At one point there was a huge amount of paper and a brown felt tipped pen (all I could lay hands on in a moment of crisis. Hardly Virginia Woolf).

I finished the hat on Sunday night. When I say Sunday night I mean the early hours of Monday morning. I had hit a rich seam and was not prepared to quit until I had finished the damn thing. I was going great guns until I came upon another bracketty line with forty seven numbers and a lot of K, P, inc, dec, pfft action.

I wrestled with this for some time dear reader.

At one point I went out into the garden, where if I were a woman who smoked, I would have paced the decking, dragging on a fag and rolling my eyes to the heavens. As it was I merely did all that while thinking of that episode of Miranda where she is attempting to show the world she can actually cook a meal from scratch. She starts off all lovely and serene with ingredients lined up on the surface in order. It cuts to her, flour in hair, batter up the wall, four million pots in the sink shouting: ‘I just can’t tell my tusspers from my tusspurburs.’

That was me.

I just can’t tell my knuskers from my purlpurburs. With the added complication of brackets.

Which is always worserer.

Anyway. As you can see, I beat the hat. Which made me very proud. I know it is a little stiff. If you do not slouch it back on your head, you look like a deranged Pope in favour of gay rights (which he bloody well should be), because I used a much chunkier wool than required and knitted said wool on too small needles.

But apart from that it’s fine.

A pen in the shape of an ironing board

I have been thinking about the word sluggish. It is, when you think about the oily, pointless way slugs move, an excellent descriptor for the sort of feelings I had yesterday.

I had a shocking night’s sleep. It took me ages to get off. Then I kept waking up, sometimes because I was dreaming, sometimes because I was imagining I could hear noises downstairs, sometimes because I was dreaming that people were whispering things in my ear. Those were the times I woke up in a ‘Nfgrllwaargh!’ sort of way, which is not conducive to getting back to sleep afterwards.

When I finally got properly to sleep, the alarm went off eleven minutes later, as I had to roust the girls from their pits to send them off camping with my cousins for a couple of days.

The first part of the morning, therefore, was conducted at high speed by me, and in various states of lethargy by the girls. Neither of them were born with any sense of urgency whatsoever, and despite the fact that I made them pack their kit the night before, they were still trailing around with half a sock on, feebly gesturing at things with towels, mislaying vital pieces of stuff and things and utterly failing to get ready. Tallulah still sailed off magnificently sans coat and had to come back for it an entire five minutes after they had set off.

By the time they had gone, I managed to sit down and catch my breath and realised I was unbelievably tired. The sort of new baby tired. The one where you spend the whole day shouting things like: ‘WHERE IS MY IRONING BOARD?’ and realising as soon as the words are out of your mouth that you actually wanted a pen, but the word wouldn’t form on the end of your tongue. The sort of day where your eyes feel like they’ve been lightly rolled in matzoh meal and fried, and every time you close your eyes, which is about every thirty seconds, your eyelids make a scrawping sound.

Luckily, Oscar is a pretty undemanding type of chap, as long as you throw him the odd morsel to eat and allow him access to some kind of screen, he is more than happy to sit quietly in the gloom until you are more compus mentis.

It took until about half past eleven for me to feel I was able to communicate sufficiently with the outside world, and then only the supermarket cashier and granny. Granny is the sort of person who when you shout: ‘WHERE IS MY IRONING BOARD?” gives you a pen.

Perfect.

I have some questions

The weather continues hot. My brain continues slow. I am the three toed sloth of the parenting world.

I am failing at every conceivable parenting activity. I have not visited a park, or a play scheme or any child related activity place. I am mostly carrying on my ideal lifestyle, eating, sleeping, reading, knitting, poking about in junk shops, staring at passers by, desultorily visiting galleries/stately homes, laughing a lot at inappropriate stuff, and taking the children with me. They don’t seem to mind, and are developing a comprehensive knowledge of deli counters up and down the land whilst able to talk reasonably knowledgeably about Adam fireplaces and croquet lawns.

They were already experts at laughing at inappropriate stuff before I met them.

Tilly is on a sleepover at a friend’s house where they are undoubtedly buzzing around doing a million and one activities. In the meantime I shuffle around, looking for a shady branch to hang from while I grow myself a nice winter coat of sphagnum moss.

Oscar, Tallulah and I ventured out for about an hour. We slithered about in a gentle fashion for a bit, agreed that we hated getting hot and sticky and went to a bakery for tea and buns. It is called The Tiny Bakery on Clarendon Park Road in Leicester. You should go. It is lovely. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It is not far from the wool shop, which is excellent, and the brilliant second hand book shops, and the florist and green grocer’s, and all the other boutiques of excellence near our house.

Can you tell I love my neighbourhood?

At the back of the shop there really is a teeny bakery where three days a week they whip up delicious artisan breads. The rest of the week they buy in stock from a local baker. Every day there are fresh cakes and biscuits, and a small number of chairs and tables if you don’t want to take your goodies away and must sink your teeth into something scrumptious right there and then. They do a fantastic Americano and I am a particular fan of their white chocolate and cranberry flap jack. The staff are friendly and super obliging and all in all it is wonderful and deserves to flourish.

It is also very handy for our local library which we are frequenting a great deal due to the fact that we are eyeball deep in the summer reading challenge. This year it is called Mythical Maze, but do not fear, it is absolutely the same as it ever was, but with different drawings. The stickers that you win for completing each stage are scratch and sniff. Today’s offerings were rancid offal and rotting onion I think. The lady at the library (we are still at the old fashioned, nice lady stamping your books stage, instead of the crap computerised do it yourself stage), was very distressed as she has to store about eleventy million of these stickers and it is making her drawer smell terrible.

I sympathise.

Although I did laugh when she told me her drawers smelled terrible.

While this idle life style continues apace my mind races with strange thoughts and questions. To whit:

If you plant mung beans (we have just sprouted some), do they make mung plants?

Why is Oscar always covered in food? You would think, given how hungry he always is, that he wouldn’t want to miss anything and would be stuffing it all in like a crazed hamster rather than wandering around with crumbs in his ears.

If you take two pretty tea towels and stitch them together and stuff them with something squishy, would that make an acceptable cushion or would it just look a bit shit? (I am erring towards the shit answer, as if it were aces, everyone would be doing it, surely?)

Why is the cherry tree in my garden dying, and how much is it going to cost me to revive/chop it down?

Is there an invention that makes your toes not look a bit like rhino horns, and if so, where can you get it? (I’m asking for a friend).

Why am I the only person in my house who picks up dirty socks? I wonder if to 99% of the population a sock is invisible to the naked eye once it has been ejected from the bottom of the foot? If so, why am I in the 1% who this kind of behaviour drives bat shit crazy?

Why don’t animals get acne?

and so it goes.

Fling a ding ding

It is as hot as Hades here.

My plans for pottering round the garden this weekend have been eschewed with a firm hand in favour of lolling about idly.

Turns out I am a blinking genius at lolling about idly. Skilz, as the children would say (to annoy me mostly – I caught them having a heated discussion about how stupid people who say LOL in real life are – good kids).

Tallulah is better. She still sounds like Bonnie Tyler. Her singing is definitely in the ‘husky’ range, but she is singing, and cackling, and speaking like a crazy old Russian peasant, and messing around like there is no tomorrow. So that’s good.

She and Oscar were the best of friends yesterday, which is rather lovely, and yet has an underlying frisson of terror for all who know them well.

They spent most of the afternoon creating something they called a ‘fling a ding ding’ or something. It was basically a pulley made of loom bands (Grrrr…Grrrr…bloody things) which they set up between their bedrooms and used to transport things in a basket from one room to the other.

They were exceedingly pleased with this machine.

‘Oscar! This is genius. We can play Top Trumps and NOT EVEN BE IN THE SAME ROOM AS EACH OTHER!’

They were indeed so pleased that they created an advert for it, which they came and performed for us. They also invited us to the launch party. This involved them writing messages on bits of toilet paper: ‘Mother – Please come to the grand opening at 4.30, 4.40, 4.45. Or Else. Love Oscar and Tallulah.’

Sadly we were unable to make it, but they bought us goody bags as a consolation prize. These consisted of plastic scabs and pustules from Tallulah’s joke stash, wrapped in toilet roll, tied up with more fecking loom bands.

When we opened them they laughed so hard at their own brilliance they actually had to sit down for a minute.

In the olden days, Tilly would have been in on all of this madness. Instead she spent the afternoon at the kitchen table, painting pictures with warm tea (I don’t know why, but she was very pleased with herself), and knitting herself a magenta beard/moustache combo known in our house as a ‘meard’. I felt a bit sad that she wasn’t really up for the craziness of the other’s games until I reviewed what she was actually doing and reassured myself that she is still fairly bonkers, plus, when it got cooler she joined them in the garden to play zombie apocalypse on the trampoline, so things are just as they should be.

Which is nice.

Anyway, if you fancy a Fling a ding ding of your very own, so you too can play Top Trumps with someone and NOT EVEN BE IN THE SAME ROOM AS EACH OTHER, pop a comment in the box below and it can be yours for the magnificent price of, as Tallulah said: ‘£2.99, plus postage, with free shipping.’

Biscuits save the day

The thing about making plans is that, in my limited experience, they generally don’t tend to work out the way you intended.

Things like your tiling chap over running his job, for example, which has impacted on next week’s plans already. Although that turns out to be fine, because for numerous complex reasons next week’s plans have now been binned and rearranged to within an inch of their lives. It’s a good job I am fairly relaxed about this sort of stuff. Were I the sort of woman to have everything on a spread sheet and be constantly looking at her watch, I would be three quarters of the way down a bottle of gin by now. As it is I think: ‘pfft, I shall eat another biscuit and be damned.’

It’s how I cultivate my hour glass figure. Ahem.

I got downstairs yesterday morning to find Tallulah wrapped in a blanket, shivering and looking like death warmed up. She had a raging temperature, a headache, and a sore throat. She hadn’t wanted to wake me, bless her, and had been patiently waiting for me to surface. This was a bad sign as she is generally not that thoughtful when she is not ill, so it meant I had to take the whole thing quite seriously. Curses. I am a terrible nurse, which made me feel sorry for her, and it is was already scorchingly hot, which is no time to be running a temperature, so I felt doubly sorry for her. Not that it made me any better a nurse. I am patient for about five minutes until I have thrown Calpol all over the cupboards, and then I lose the will to live.

It does not help that when I am ill I just want to be left alone to die, so I cannot understand why anyone would want to be cuddled or mithered. Luckily, yesterday, Tallulah was of a similar mind set, which meant that we didn’t fall out, and as she is not a raging hypochondriac like her brother, I didn’t have to discuss her symptoms with her fifteen times an hour whilst rapidly losing the will to live, so that was good.

I dosed her up with Calpol and texted my friend who was due to come over for a play date with her daughter. She said she didn’t mind the germs, which was nice, so Oscar got to play with his friend, and we got to drink coffee, while Tallulah, who had perked up since the Calpol started working, went away to learn to play the piano. She has been learning for a week, using internet tutorials and the power of her immense will, and she is not too bad. She can pick out recognisable tunes already. I am just grateful it is not a violin: ‘Scree! Skree! Screeeee!’

By lunch time it had all become too much for her, and she spent the afternoon sleeping on the sofa looking alternately grey and hectic depending on temperature. More Calpol meant she was able to eat her tea and chat to our friend Auntie Squirrel who had come for a cup of tea, but got to stay for tea tea because my knitting class got postponed due to the fact that it was too hot to knit or think. I was pretty distraught about the knitting class, but I could entirely see why it had to be postponed. The shop where the class takes place is quite small, and even with the aid of a fan it can reach impressive temperatures in there on a normal day. I think it’s because there’s so much wool in there. It acts like super insulation.

Tallulah faded away as evening came on us like a patient etherised upon a table, and I spent most of the night worrying that she might have the same thing as Oscar did a few weeks back. I have examined her mouth with the aid of a trusty pen torch and a lot of shouting, and it seems fine. I am keeping everything crossed that it remains so. In the meantime, Oscar woke up with a nightmare in the middle of the night and appeared at my side like a small naked ghost, looking distinctly wobbly and distrait. We sat and watched some telly for twenty minutes until he was calm enough to go back to bed, and I was wide awake and showing no signs of imminent sleepiness. I look like a raccoon today I have such impressive bags under my eyes.

We were due to go to Yorkshire Sculpture Park today with some friends for a picnic and a twelve mile trek round the Henry Moore’s. It was pretty clear Tallulah wasn’t up to it. She is less hot today, although still too hot, and so full of cold she is sounding a lot like Bonnie Tyler. I have yet to suggest she teaches herself Holding Out for A Hero on her keyboard. I am not that much of a masochist.

Today we will eat our picnic food in the garden and I will flash pictures of Henry Moore sculptures before their eyes, and it will be just as good, because we will be able to do the whole thing whilst still in our pyjamas.

And I will eat more biscuits.

More Knitting nonsense

I am utterly impressed by how many of you are knitters out there.

It is brilliant.

Let me tell you, fellow knitters, I am still LOVING it.

I do not really understand why it is so pleasurable, tangling up bits of sheep’s wool on two wooden sticks, but it very is.

You may recall a few days ago that I mentioned that I was having a bash at moss stitch. Well, I took my moss stitch to the knitting shop where I have my lessons and it turned out that Wikipedia lied to me, and I have not been doing moss stitch at all. Curses!

I have, instead, been doing seed stitch. It is a variation on moss stitch, so all is not lost, and what I have done looks quite nice, except for the fact that I am not very good at counting how many rows I have done still, and so there are moments of deep wrongness to the pattern, but they are fairly regular, and so they kind of look like I meant to do it, so that is very good too, and I am choosing to be terribly positive about it all because it’s too late to unpick it now.

I can’t remember if I told you that my plan is to make a ‘what I call’ scarf quilt? This is because I am doing masses of practice pieces, which could be scarves, but won’t be, because I have a slight problem with making plain scarves.

I love fancy scarves. I just don’t want to make a plain one. So I am going to stitch all my plain scarves together and make a huge blanket, and I’m going to try and stitch them together in contrasting threads and maybe stitch some patterns on them if I’m feeling really brave and I can do it.

So it will take bloody ages, which is why I have joined Ravelry (thevoiceofboo if anyone wants to say hello), but not put anything on there, because apart from a growing mound of coloured scarves which may one day be a blanket, there really isn’t anything much to show.

It is my penultimate lesson tomorrow night. As well as the scarf blanket, I also have two minor projects which I am working on, but which may not work out and I need help with them, so I am going to take them tomorrow and beg the lovely Alison to show me what to do to make them not rubbish, and more like I want them to be in my head.

I am definitely not ready to be an advanced knitter yet, so I am not signing up for the more complicated classes until I have a bit more to show for myself. I will miss the classes though, so I have sneakily signed up for beginner’s crochet, which starts in September. I have never even held a crochet hook, so I have no idea how it will go, but I decided that it might be fun to learn, and will provide an excellent excuse for buying more lovely wool, and there is some very lovely wool out there, begging to be bought.

Yes we have no tiling

The tiler was supposed to come today to sort out my shower floor. Instead his job ran over and now he may or may not be able to come by the end of next week. Maybe, might be, as Tallulah used to say.

I am resigned. I did not even swear when Jason told me the news. I just waggled my eyebrows about a little bit, and did a small sigh. It is too hot to have a tantrum, unless it’s a real hum dinger where I let it all go and pop a vein in my forehead. Tiling is not worth that.

Instead of making tea for the tiler, Tilly and I did a major house clean while Tallulah and Granny went on Tallulah’s belated birthday trip out. Oscar wafted about with duster in hand and did a good job of running very specific, time limited errands, and sloped off to play Pokemon while he thought we weren’t looking.

There is a certain satisfaction that comes with having a clean house. I now have it, but as Tilly is baking it is only going to last for about another twenty minutes until she flicks cake mix up the newly scrubbed kitchen tiles, so I am making the most of it.

As well as cleaning we have also been out in the garden sweeping the decking. The mess that was made when the trees next door came down was fairly immense, and the whole deck was littered with leaves, twigs and a few layers of industrial grade sawdust. On top of that, the squirrels have been decimating the cobb nuts, so there are hundreds of shell remnants rendered razor sharp by squirrel tooth and claw. We have taken our lives in our hands. Never has sweeping been so dangerous. I felt like Ray Mears.

In other domestic news, my friend Saj came round for a cup of tea yesterday afternoon. She is joining the WI. I am so impressed with her. She went to her first meeting last night and loved it. She is going to come and have tea again and tell me all the news. I want the skinny. If she makes it sound suitably thrilling I may go the whole, middle aged hog and join one near here, if anyone will have me.

I have decided that being young is for young people. You have to have stamina and commitment to be a youth. You have to want to go out all night drinking fancy cider and dancing on table tops and not caring if you’ve got a clean vest on. Sometimes a clean vest will be all you have on. To a young person, the WI is something you play pretend tennis on.

You have to want to spend an hour getting ready to go out. You have to want to sit in small, sweaty bunkers listening to music so loud it makes your ears bleed not knowing if someone is chatting you up or just shouting at you until they either stick their tongue down your throat or attempt to punch you on the nose.

I used to think I would never tire of that sort of thing. I liked to think I would grow old in a revolutionary, cool, sort of way.

Now I shudder at the mere thought of being cool. It is such hard work, and I was never really any good at it the first time around. I am embracing middle age. I am enjoying it. I like gardening, even though I am rubbish at it. I like pottery, and Radio Four, and baking, and looking at cookery books, and drinking wine that costs more than a fiver a bottle. I like wearing comfortable clothes and only taking five minutes to get ready to go out. I embrace handicrafts. I have a bag for knitting wool. I dream of joining the WI.

I have a steam mop for God’s sake.