Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for September, 2011

23 years ago…

Friday, September 30th, 2011

…today, I got married to Mark.  It seems amazing to me that so many years can have gone by so quickly.  And they said it wouldn’t last!  We have no idea who ‘they’ are or were, and I’m pretty sure no-one said that but it’s just a little standing joke.  Humour me.

We got married in Birmingham, at the central register office, which was at that time located at the top end of Broad Street, the end that isn’t Five Ways, now an achingly cool social area, then – um, not so much.  However, across the road was (and still is) the Rep Theatre, where we had our reception, complete with a traditional jazz band, the major item in our wedding budget.  It was just a perfect day, hot and sunny, which is amazing luck in late September – as it is today, in fact.  We went out together for dinner the night before, I even remember what I ate and drank!  The next day, I drove into Five Ways to pick up some new reading glasses, then back home to wait for my mother and father, aunts and uncle, to drive down to Birmingham from Manchester, drink sherry, get ready and take photos in the back garden.  Then 2 black cabs arrived and we drove into the city, from where we lived which was Quinton (no, Quinton, you’re not  Harbourne, OK? You’re not even Quinbourne, get over it).

We had no bridesmaids or best man, no cake, few speeches and it was lovely.  After the supper, (which was duck, food is obviously a memory trigger for me!) we drove to north Wales and stayed in Abersoch, a small coastal town where as a child, I had had holidays with my family.  My main memory of that part is that our good weather luck ran out on 1 October!  But it was still lovely to have a week there.  The second part of the ‘honeymoon’ was spent in Spain.  Money was tight, and Mark had been invited to be the ‘guest teacher’ for a golf party that the club he then worked at as the Pro was holding.  The chap who was organising this offered us a free week out there, if Mark would teach and play every day, so we agreed.  I remember that we flew into Gibraltar airport, which is minuscule, and I felt I was in Casablanca, and then we had to cross the border (run way) on foot to the coach that drove us to the resort, which I can’t recall at all now.  It was a bit odd, that working honeymoon.  There were wives on the tour – not playing, don’t be daft – and they were lovely but they all knew each other and I was much younger and crippled by shyness, so mainly, I swam or hid in our room until Mark was released from his duties and we could go out.  Looking back, it just seems weird.

To celebrate, this weekend we are going to ride a 66.2 mile sportive in the New Forest.  I am absolutley dreading it.  Wish us luck, we’ll need it.

In other news, there is a new kit on the site:

which is available here.

Another will be on next week, and it is a baby blanket, knitted in DK cotton and simply embellished with beaded lace hearts and cables:

The smell of the past

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Which sense evokes the most powerful memories?  As knitters and crafters, I think we are highly sensory.  I think, for example, that I have a more highly evolved relationship with colour, fibre and art than I do with, say numbers or I.T.  So, I can pick up a ball of yarn and instantly be whisked back to the last time and place I knitted something with that yarn.  Since I tend to knit a lot at the moment with a limited number of the Rowan qualities and fewer of their wider range, this usually involves fondling a hank of say, Summer Tweed which I love but nowadays rarely knit with, and feel myself back on the shop floor in Johnny Lou Lou’s habi dept in Bristol.  By the way, Summer Tweed ticks a lot of sensory boxes, because aside from it’s distinct tweed fleck and clear, strong colours, it smells of silk, and also has a peculiar bumpy and super-dry handle – try it, give it a fondle, a rub, and a sniff, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

For me the most evocative sense is smell.  I once opened an old cardboard box of my father’s wine making and brewing books and was literally overwhelmed by a powerful sense of him.  He had, for many years, smoked a pipe.  Despite the passing of at least 2 decades since he had stopped smoking a pipe or indeed, used these books, when I opened the box and even more powerfully, when I opened a book from the box, I might have had my father sitting there beside me, helping me to choose a wine recipe.  The rich, leathery smell of pipe tobacco, so much lovelier than the smell that cigarettes evoke which I detest, rose up round me.  Oh, I felt I’d look round and see him leafing through a book too, pipe gripped in his teeth or resting in one of his short, stocky, brown, strong hands.  It was shockingly real, it made me laugh, it was so real.  And of course, it made me cry.  Secretly, for a year or so, I’d open the box and a book from within it, to comfort myself from time to time.  I don’t need to now so much – though as I type this, I think I might, in a  minute, when I’m done here.

Yesterday, I met up with some former colleagues and current friends from the days when the linen cupboard led to a very different world from the world it holds now.  Then, it housed Codes of Practice, Practitioner Guides, and Introductions to many fascinating financial activities.  Now it’s a three-ring circus in here, hurrah!  You never know what will be happening today!  Other than that it will involve yarn.  So to meet these friends, I travelled to the most soulless railway station ever built:  Bristol Parkway.  Bristol Parkway is a series of corrugated sheds, surrounded by a car-park that is so vast, you cannot see from end to end.  I think that the designer must have decided that this was a place where no-one would ever travel to or from, for pleasure, only for work, and so it must be bleak and forbidding.  It is.  Look:

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It’s not exactly Brief Encounter is it?  Hard to imagine Dr Alec getting a speck of dust out of Laura’s eye in Upper Crust:

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Laura:  ‘Oh, how frightfully silly of me, no really, you’re too kind, well yes, yes, if you insist, I’ll have a skinny latte and a breakfast baguette!’ 

See, doesn’t work, does it?

For years, I travelled to London for work, not daily but weekly (though I cut that back considerably in the last couple of years).  To get to Parkway, first I had to drive from rural Somerset to north of Bristol, a journey that at one time, very early in the morning, took me about 45 minutes.  In the end, due to the vast increase in traffic, it took at least an hour. This was followed by the pantomime of securing a parking space (not to mention the drama of finding the car much later, still in the dark but at the other end of a very long day when the distant memory of where I’d left it had faded altogether), and then a ticket, so I’d need about 75 minutes to be sure of my train.  Once in Parkway, the smell of the station would hit me.  Not a bad smell, not offensive, but distinct.  Sweet, chemical, sanitary, a smell of disguise and function.  I associated this smell with a mixture of relief (arriving at the station:  hurdle one of a many hurdle day over) and anxiety, because I often hated the London based activities, meetings and events.  Or at least anticipated the worst.  Anyway, yesterday, in I breeze and there’s the smell.  Tummy-turning.  But only briefly because then I was reminded that I wasn’t off to London, only Cardiff, and not to attend a meeting but just a happy lunch.  With Amelia amongst others!  Complete with the almost 12 month old baby who was about to be born when we lost our jobs, together, one fine September day!

I’d travel on different days each week.  But each day I’d see the same hollow-eyed daily commuters.  It’s no joke, Bristol to Paddington, every day.  On many levels – financial, physical and emotional – it must be very trying.  I felt really sorry for the poor devils.  I’d *work* on the way in – no, not on a lap-top, this is me, don’t be silly – reading papers, making notes, girding loins and so on;  and then I’d reward myself on the way home with some knitting, thus making me a regular whom the regular regulars remembered:  oh, hello, what are you knitting today?  And once, an older man who watched me knitting a sock on 4 pins and said it reminded him of his mother.  Oh dear!  I used to knit on DPNs or short circs when train travelling in order to avoid an unseemly but silent tussle with the Telegraph reading die-hards, who don’t like their vast paper being pinged every nano second by the flick of a long stiletto needle…

Lily said recently, after being away from home on a school residential trip, that she deliberately noted the smell of home as soon as she got back into the house.  I was impressed by this.  She said she knew that every home has its own smell, but that her own home was so familiar, it’s almost not there, certainly not every day.  But after an absence of 3 days, it would be apparent.  It was.  The smell of home at the moment is:  wood smoke, because I work every day in the dining room (workshop room), for several hours after the golf trolley empire has been attended to, and I light the fire.  No, it’s not oppressively hot, it’s pleasant and the fragrance of faint wood smoke at this time of year is simply essential, comforting and yummy.  I’ve been knitting masses of swatches and also translating some designs that are knitted flat into having the option to be knitted in the round.  I’ll up-date you with my success or otherwise over the weekend.

Odd jobs

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Odd jobs in a minute but first, a question:  does it rain and blow a lot on Sundays, and also I post a blog?  Or, do I blog because it’s raining and blowing?  Discuss.  I really don’t know.

I’ve had some odd jobs, well, some varied jobs might be more accurate.

Currently, I do my own thing, here in the linen cupboard, as you know.  I also do some other ‘jobs’, and at the moment this mainly involves golf trolleys.  I wish I was paid for this job but I’m not.  Hey ho, that’s family businesses for you.  I’m struggling with the golf side of my life, if I’m honest.  I don’t golf myself.  Once, a member of a golf club, chatting to me about this and that as you do at ‘functions’ asked me what I did.  This was many years ago, Florence was only 2, Lily wasn’t going to appear for another 5 years.  In fact, I worked full-time in Bristol then.  So naturally I said that I worked in Bristol.  Well.  I wish I’d said I was a US Navy Seal or a hand-model or a sausage-linker, because when I said I worked in an office in Bristol, I might as well have admitted that I worked on the moon as a cheese-taster.

Bristol?  Bristol?

Um. Yep.   Bristol was then, before we moved very slightly south, 3 motorway junctions and about 45 minutes drive, from our house.

Well!  Fancy you working in Bristol! (Chuckles at this idea, as if it was so fanciful, it probably wasn’t even true…)

Then:  I assume that’s voluntary work?

See.  It was a different world, another plane, there was never going to be a meeting of minds.

It is a matter of family history now and if Mark or I wish to express significant, even incredulous surprise, we may murmur:  Bristol?  Code for:  I cannot believe that, not for one moment.

Anyway, due to my aversion to golf thingies, I have invented an alter-ego who does this work for me.  Her name is Kristy.  She is very calm, loves order, process and routines.  She is about my age, and has a light brown bob.  Kristy’s key strength is her patience with customers.  She never says, or even thinks:  for God’s sake!  it’s a golf thingy sprag-bracket we’re talking about here, no-one died!  Which I might, if I was allowed to deal with golf thingy brackets and their customers…

Considering that I invented Kristy – she is therefore like a costume which I can wear when I need to be in character – so she doesn’t really exist, I get quite defensive of her.  For example, recently we have had 2 customers who have spelled or said her name incorrectly – Kirsty, instead of Kristy.  I was a bit annoyed – and I voiced a gentle correction!  It’s Kristy…and then I went to have a lie down in a cool dark room, because, you know, even by my standards, that’s bonkers.

Anyway, odd jobs.  I have in fact really done one of the unlikely sounding jobs I mentioned about eleventy sentences ago – I do hope you’re keeping up at the back there?  So, have I ever been:   1) a US Navy Seal;  2)  a hand-model;  or 3)  a sausage linker?

The answer is 3)  a sausage linker! 

This looks to me like a traditional 3-link sausage.

Yes, I was for many years employed by Saxby Brothers of Wellingborough at their famous pork-pie and sausage factory.  I worked there in the school and uni holidays from the age of 17 to 21, when I graduated and joined the West Midlands Fire Service.  Now that was an odd  – and amazing – job!  Maybe another time…

I was, it turned out, an epic linker.  I think it might have been an early indication of my future ‘career’ as a knitter.  My fingers were quick and nimble as the slippery giant sausages spewed out from the sausage-making machine.  A very long, un-linked sausage, all wet, maybe 4m of it, is shot out of a special machine, which is in turn controlled by a highly skilled operative.  In my day this was Doreen, a short, powerful lady, probably not that much into her 20s but I was 17 and so she could have been Noah’s granny for all I knew.  Doreen was originally from London and with the strength of 2 men, she heaved vats of raw sausage meat and cereals and seasonings about.  She loaded her machine with this mixture, and then placed the 4m of sausage skin over the nozzle of the machine, and slowly started the projection of sausage meat into it, building momentum by the second, until maximum velocity was achieved – trying all the while to avoid the major sausage hazard:  trapped air.  No-one wants a bubbly sausage.  Then we’d grab a link and get busy.  These were then festooned, like meaty festive wreaths, over a large rack which in turn was wheeled into a giant refrigerated room, with ominous, clanky huge steel doors.  I had a morbid fear of getting locked in, much as years later I developed a morbid fear of the ‘rolling-racking’ in the stock rooms of John Lewis stores…therapy…?  I agree, I’ll sort that out.

Sometimes, when I’m looking in butcher shop windows, I have a sudden urge to ask if I could maybe have a go at the 3-sausage link for them, just to see if I could still do it.

My odd job this week has been knitting a new mitten.  Here it is.  Along with the 4th swatch. 


Even by my standards, 4 swatches is a lot and as you know I love swatching.  I did this first with Kidsilk Haze, single.  Not robust enough.  Then, smaller needles and KSH double – still not firm enough.  Finally 2 swatches with KSH plus Fine Lace on 2 different row counts.  I’m still not 100% happy and after these are done, I will do them again with a new row-count between the clouds.  Yes,  it does look to me like clouds so it’s called Cloud – all puffy and a bit sparkly.  It will soon have a companion and also a matching hat or small neck-warmer.  The ruching is so simple and the yarns – a blend of Rowan’s new Fine Lace and Kidsilk Haze – make the finished fabric feel like angora.

Cloud has had a bit of a mixed reaction.  Last week, it was a hit with a bunch of knitters in Devon but yesterday, a class of lace-knitters in Somerset (not mine, I hasten to add) dismissed it with a careless:  why on earth would I knit/wear that?!  Also dismissed without a character reference were most of my new kit-knits, I assume on the grounds of them being glittery (some of them) and pretty (all of them).  Hmm.  Oh well, I almost imperceptibly lift my silk-mohair draped shoulders in a way that hints at:  if you embraced a tiny bit more sparkle and resisted the earthy tones a little, you might enjoy your knitting even more…

What will happen next to this concept is that I will transform it into a shrug, with billowy, cloudy sleeves and a snug, fitted back.  I love the shrugs.  I also need to see if this can be knitted in the round.

Bubbles – and lace, but not mine

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Behold the Bubble Pop Electric Comforter, knitted in dusty pink 4 ply wool and gorgeous Majestic Kidsilk Haze:

This image shows you some stitch detail – this design is all about the texture – plus a glimpse of the finishing ruffle, which adorns each end.  I love Majestic, because though it is basically grey, it’s also got a lot of warmth in it, veering into the pink-underneath-of-a-newborn-mushroom spectrum…yes, I do believe that is an official colour on the colour wheel.

This will be 1 of 3 new kits that will populate this site by the end of September.  The others are very sparkly and outrageous cuffs, and a cream cotton baby blanket, with lace beaded hearts.

And now, in Show and Tell, marvel at ‘Hilda’ lace circular shawl from Lacy Knits, knitted by (and here I am awed) Jane, who is a relatively new lace-knitter!  I know!  It’s only the most challenging thing in the book!

Impressive, much.  Well done Jane – who has also leapt straight into full membership of the AC-S Glitter Knitter Cell, by adding beads, knitted cunningly into the point of each ‘tip’.  Even I, Archdeaconess of Glitter, had not thought of that.

Crushed strawberry comforter

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Look what’s on Fiona’s needles.  Isn’t it yummy?  It’s Bubble Pop Electric Comforter, only in soft pink wool with Majestic Kidsilk Haze.  Fiona is knitting it up as a new kit, available here later this month. 

I knitted it in green and grey, and this version will also offer it as a slightly larger item.

Fiona says it’s like the shade Crushed Strawberries.  I’m trying to hang on to summer (grumpyfaceaswehadnonetospeakof) so I agree.  I am also trying to resist lighting the dining room fire!

The gods of the internets – they are angry (no email)

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Me and I.T. –  it’s like putting King Herod in charge of the kindergarten…

Anyway, the gods of the interweaves have spoken and what they have basically said is:  ‘your email’s stuffed, baby, welcome to the 1980s!’


I wasn’t going to bother you with this, but it’s been a while now so I figure I’d better let you know that I’m not just being rude.  I’m going to explain this to you as I see it, because I am of course a renowned I.T. expert.  All the technical words are in italics, for ease of skipping if you wish.  And also because that’s how they sound in my head when someone says them to me. The website is fine but the platform on which we have artfully arranged the email system is damaged.  I dunno, maybe someone bumped into it with a car or maybe it just fell over, platforms are very unpredictable. In my experience.

And, The Server is down.  I think this means we have missed last orders.  The Server is now being up-graded.  Hurrah!  I’ll have a champagne cocktail and a bag of prawn cocktail crisps please.

Some very clever server/platform peeps are, even as we speak, roping themselves together and ascending the platform to try and fix it all.  Hats off to these guys, I know I wouldn’t volunteer, sounds dangerous.  Once they have fixed it, they are going to test it.  If I had to test a platform, I’d maybe jump up and down on it, gingerly at first and then, if it didn’t break, with a bit more energy, so I assume that’s what they will be doing.  After that, email service will resume, and I may or may not get any emails you may or may not have sent to me recently – and in the near future. 

So in summary, if I didn’t reply to you yet, it’s because I didn’t get it, yet;  if I never reply it’s because the emails that were caught in this little storm fell off the edge of the platform before we could rescue them and they are (in my imagination and in real life I believe) floating away across the North Sea.  In that case, maybe try and email me again, you never know, it might be fixed.

If you bought a kit or a workshop place, and paid by PayPal, I know about you and that’s all fine.

The antidote to I.T. by the way is knitting, tea and dreaming of a simpler, easier age, when we wrote letters and read books…

New book pattern pic and Shimmer Star-Crossed

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

This is a peek of a shot from a new book proposal that we are working on:

Here you can see Kidsilk Haze and Fine Lace, plus dusty lavender beads.  The corsage uses felted knitted backing – and also melted chiffon!

I have had a couple of emails asking if the detail on new Shimmer Star-Crossed kit could be made plainer.  Maybe this photo will help:

September: best month of the year, dicsuss

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

I took this photo in the garden yesterday, a warm, sunny 1st of September day.  For me this just says:  September.  How could it be any other month?

I love September.  There are no seasons I don’t like though I am not a January and February fan, but who is?  But September is such a rich, sweet, mellow month.  It’s a month where lots of things have happened for me, too, or things have trembled on the brink of happening and come September’s end, have been tipped over into fact.  I got married in September, for example, Florence was due to be born in September, but hung on for 2 weeks into slightly less mellow but still beautiful October.  I started or was offered 3 of the jobs I have had, in September.  I was offered my first book deal in September.  One of my favourite books is even called ‘The Fortnight in September’ and another is ‘September Moon’.  It’s a fruitful month. It’s a pivotal month, things stir.

Do you know, this time last year I still had a ‘real’ job.  It seems incredible to me that I ever had that job at all, let alone that I did it (or something similar at the same place of work) for 16 years.  It seems even more amazing that it’s only 11 months since that all ended amidst the smouldering ruins of the bit of the public sector where I was stalled.  If it hadn’t been for the increasingly amazing and bizarre ‘re-organisations’ that we all went through for some months – no, years – in the organisation that shall be nameless, before the axe fell, I might still be there.  I am so glad I’m not.  It was at one time a really lovely place to work.  I’m not going to mention its name here, but it morphed.  Not in a good way…

As knitting, teaching and designing gradually took over, I’d gone from full-time to 4 days, to 2 days a week over the years.  But still, it was a long, and often happy relationship and I’m pretty change-averse, less so now actually, now I’ve had some practice.  So it was wrenching, in a way.

Nowadays, I sit in the same office (I was always home-based and went to London increasingly infrequently, though at one time 1 or 2 days a week), where my organisation’s IT system was, and where I did the stuff that I did for them.  It’s a small spare room.  Now it is lined with neat bags of yarn, boxes of needles, buttons and ribbons; books and shade charts.  The computer of course went when the job did and I got my own and placed it in the linen-cupboard that served then as my work station.  I look out at the same view – the lavender paths and the big magnolia – that I looked out on then.  I hear the same chat from the corner shop in the village, that percolates over the wall, the same daily sounds such as the school bus scooping up the young and then returning them at 3.30.  Apart from there being (a lot) more yarn, nothing is different.  And yet, nothing is the same.

I knew I was going to lose that job, months before it happened.  Not officially, but also not in a ‘feeling it in my bones’ sort of way.  I just knew.  There are clues, such as the person who is ‘in charge’ asks the same questions over and over, hoping for different answers maybe;  the projects I handled dwindled to very little, from being very busy.  Oh it wasn’t just me, my whole department went.  This is how they handled it (by they, I mean the person ‘in charge’).  A meeting room in London was peopled by the ‘team’ (us), the HR department, and the ones ‘in charge’.  I, and a colleague who also worked at home but quite near me, were right here, at my work-station, in the linen cupboard, communicating via a video link.  Honest to God, getting that video link set up and then operating it was more stressful than being made redundant!

The ‘in charge’ people said (though using eleventy-million more words, some of them English):  times are hard.  We need to work smart.  (I know, desk-head moment but I didn’t say it, they did).  We’ve decided to go for our gazillionth re-organisation.  Here is a chart showing the new, proposed, organisation.  You’re not on it.



No really, they did actually say:  if you take a look at the chart, you will see that The Department You Work In (there were 5 of us) has been removed. 

I checked the bits of the meeting room that I could see from my fish-eye video view.  Nope, John Cleese wasn’t there.  This was real.  When you do video-call stuff – and I never will again – there is a distracting time lag on the sound but worse than that, you see them/the room, but in one corner of the screen, you see yourself, as they are seeing you.  So there we were, (ex) colleague and I, rammed together in a space barely wide enough for one person, staring into the linen cupboard, and I was so distracted by the sight of me and let’s call her Amelia, looking startled by all this, I didn’t really take it in.  I remember thinking how I looked thin-faced, which I’m not really.  Amelia was almost 10 months pregnant, and actually on maternity leave.  Amelia laughed, at the sheer amazingly crass way this was going. 

The cat broke into the office, unseen by ‘them’.  He is a cat of great character, strength and determination.  He is in fact writing a manifesto and one day he plans to take over the world.  His favourite trick to annoy me is to weave into the wires and cables that feed the computer and its acolytes, and emerge via the printer, covered in the dust that collects behind linen cupboards, and plunge, all claws unsheathed, onto my lap.  I had to stop him.  An undignified scuffle, all conducted at below-the-waist-and-therefore-below-the-camera level ensued, as I tried to haul him out of the cupboard, while still maintaining some eye-contact with The Borg.   I just can’t remember anything else that was said.  Downstairs, Lily was amusing Amelia’s other 3 children.  The noises seeped up into the room, happy noises and telly, voices and small footfalls on the stone floors.  Real life was down there, I thought, not in the linen cupboard.

Anyway, no-one cried, no-one said anything much.  And then, that being September, I left in October.  If I hadn’t left then in that way – well, I reckon I’d still be there.  Sometimes, it’s only when things stop that you realise how much it was hurting you.  If I’d been asked:  Ali, do you want to stay or be made redundant, I might well have stayed.  As it was, there was no choice, like they said, we’d been rubbed out, eliminated, removed from the plan.

The day I left was surreal.  It involved me packing the IT stuff into a big box, leaving it on the kitchen table and going out for a run, while the IT guy drove from London to collect it.  Florence handed it over, hated video-link gear and all.

If that hadn’t happened, I’d still be doing some knitting, some designing, some classes.  But I’d never have taken the step of saying:  I’m going to do this as my main job, let’s see how that works out.  After a period of numbness and a bit of anger, because, you know, no-one likes being removed from the plan, especially as our bit was in fact going rather better than others, I found something amazing.  Energy and happiness.  If I have a default setting (and don’t we?) it’s happy.  Now that makes me sound like a very annoying smiley person who goes about saying:  always look on the bright side of life, dee dum, dee dum dee dum dee dum.  I’m not.  This blog proves that, if nothing else.  But I think the last few months – say 24 of them – at The Place That Shall Not Be Named had dulled my sharp edges and I was anxious, all the time, about  what we kind of knew was likely to happen. 

It’s fabulous, when it stops, and you check inside the linen cupboard and it’s full of good stuff!  Happy people, who like to knit and fondle yarn and chat to me and send me emails that are not about the stuff I used to do.

Last September, this September seemed like it would never come and if it did, it would be different.  It is.  It’s far, far better.  Here are some of it’s finest moments in Court Cottage Towers this week:


I love the smokey, smudged greens and the burgundy of the romping geranium, with some lavender at the back.  This is all planted in a wrought-iron barrow, made well over 100 years ago by the blacksmith who lived, and worked his forge in half of what is now Court Cottage.

You know I said I was re-doing the lavender paths? Well, I have done 2 of them.  Looks a bit stark now but I am so happy to have the space back and the little lavenders will soon romp away.

Here is another of the paths, just one more to go now:

And my favourite late summer/early autumn flowers:

I’ve lined the main garden path, that goes to the front door with these beauties, they glow in the evenings like ghosts, and light up the whole garden:

New kit – Shimmer Star-Crossed; and Paris tales

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

This is Star-Crossed scarf, knitted with Shimmer in the place of Pure Wool DK.  It’s simply lovely.  I know I may be biased but it is!  It looks very ethereal, almost like the foam of very fine bubble bath…then the silver Shimmer glints at you and holds the criss-crossed Kidsilk Haze in place. 

It’s available here.  The original version, which uses Pure Wool DK and Kidsilk Haze is available here.

Both use (almost) 4 balls of yarn, that is 2 of each quality.  Fiona’s husband – Fiona is an amazing knitter to the confused (me) – also liked it, which I am told is high praise. 

Tomorrow, I am adding another kit, Le Marais Cuffs:

I think I am about ready to deal with The Incident In The Restaurant In Paris.  My youngest daughter, Lily, loyally tells me she reads my blog but I am pretty sure she doesn’t and so I am safe.  Our second evening in Paris, warm, still, bustling pavements, bizarre street artists – in this case a late-middle-aged lady dressed in feathers, who executed startlingly ugly and slow pirouettes across the square to the accompanying Swan Lake, booming from her beat-box…

Anyway, emboldened by our successful day of chatting away like native Parisiennes, ahem, we returned to the cafe where the night before, we had had a delicious supper and a fair bit of red-wine – a pot.  Some of us however, were rather too confident.  Lily boldly opted for the steak tartare.  I was startled.  So was the waiter, who seemed to clearly recall that last evening, Miss Lily had been quite content with le cheese-burger and a huge slice of tarte tatin to follow…I intervened.  I said (suddenly and painfully aware that I seemed to have come over all middle-class and also very bourgeois and embarrassed):  oh but Lily, I’m not sure you’ll enjoy that – it’s raw steak…

Yes, I know. (Theatrical sigh).

It’s raw, chopped steak, mixed with – erm – eggs!

The waiter is feeling my pain but also, it’s frantic in this place, being August and he’s eager to clinch the order.

Yes, I have seen it, it will be fine mum! (Oscar-standard eye-rolling)

I shrug, a shrug that says, fine, I am not the one who has to force that down, and I order my duck.  Once before, some years ago in St Ives, Lily, who was then only about 9, ordered squid in a restaurant.  She did this because she was mesmerised by a friend of my eldest daughter who was on holiday with us, and she, knowingly and happily, had also ordered squid which she very much enjoyed.  On that occasion, Mark manfully took over and ate the squid, for I surely could not have done so.  You may say – and I might agree – that we all ought to have learned our lessons from that incident.  Mais non, apparently not.  I ought to have said:  no.  You’re not having that madam, order something else or go without.  I do not really know why I didn’t.

The food arrives.  A flourish at Lily’s place reveals a HUGE shape of raw chopped steak, nestling in a forest of salad. 

Lily is suddenly not a sophisticated teen-about-Paris anymore.  Her eyes meet mine.  There is an extended silence, broken only by the sounds of Mark eagerly addressing his own dinner, in a blatant and successful bid to avoid having to man-up to the steak tartare, like he did with the squid.  I briefly consider not doing the ‘told you so’ dance, reject this option and tell Lily that I did warn her.  She makes a pitiful mewing noise and prods the food.  I take one bite of my duck.  Lily plays the clincher.  She says:  Mum, I am afraid of my dinner.  Oy.

With incredibly bad grace, I switched our plates and had a good look at this steak tartare.  I also am afraid of it but sadly, I am not 15.  I think about donning a few feathers and joining mad ballet lady in the square.  Finally, I re-charge my wine glass and slowly, silently, sip (!) of wine for bite of steak, I eat about one third of it.  Oh!  what a different party we were from that of the evening before when we had laughed and talked!  Now we are each lost in our own worlds.  Mark has bolted his supper with a speed that might have made me laugh if I hadn’t been so focused.  Lily, evidently loving my duck, was trying to look as if she was forcing down rather than adoring the lovely supper, the dauphinoise potatoes, the tender vegetables…

I re-assessed the plate.  I reckoned that leaving one third would be OK.  I had eaten one third, how, I do not know.  There was no way the last third was going down.  Mark stared hard in the other direction, Lily practically licked the pattern of her plate.  I deployed all the napkins, deftly wrapped half of what was left in them and put this – and this is almost the worst part – in my tiny Mulberry handbag.  It was fine, they were good napkins. 

My next tale of Paris is a happy one!