Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for October, 2013

Courses at Court Cottage in 2014

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Cave Pearls in Mist close up of bead-scape

The first events here for 2014 are now live on the site.

I am running a course on knitting the Cave Pearl mittens or the Cave Pearl scarf – you choose which – in January, repeated in May.

Cave Pearls Mitts in Mauve with beads stitch detail

In February, repeated in September, I am running a day devoted to knitting a simple yet beautifully effective half-moon shawl.

Baby half moon wrapped

And in March, a new concept Design Weekend.

I would love to see you here in 2014.

Mind over matter

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Last weekend I ran a half marathon.  The BUPA Birmingham Great run.  I did it for a friend who is poorly, and we were raising money for Cancer Research UK.

The picture was taken about half a mile in.  That is why I am smiling.  By the end, I was still smiling, but there was no waving.  Nor could I get my own race chip off my shoe or tie my laces…

The thing about running is that although I really do love it, I am getting marginally slower as each year passes.  So my confidence is not high.  I have never been a fast runner, in fact I’m not that fast at anything, but what I lack in speed I make up for in endurance.  So therefore long, slow runs do suit me.  It’s just that 13.1 miles is a very long way, or if you look at it from a slow runner’s view point, it’s a long time to be out running.

So, after I did a half marathon three years ago in Burnham-on-Sea, I decided not to do one ever again.  In fact, I did that half in a relatively fast time for me – 2 hours 15 minutes.  I was 20 minutes slower in Birmingham last Sunday, partly because it’s hilly and Burnham is totally flat. I didn’t want to train again, to sacrifice other activities such as cycling or gym classes because it ends up being all about the running race.  I also felt no desire whatsoever to run that far again.  I like running 6 miles, or even 10.  But the extra 3 make half marathons really painful.

However, a friend wanted me to run it.  I agreed because it meant a lot to us both and I didn’t want to do it alone.

We trained, me in Somerset, her in Birmingham.  We compared notes, we raised some cash, we worked at it.  At times we both got sick and injured, work, holidays and life in general had to be slightly shifted to accomodate the training.  Then 6 days before race day, my friend sprained her ankle.  There was clearly no way she was going to be able to run even part of the race.  And I really panicked.  There are 20,000 runners at this event.  It’s the second biggest HM in the UK after the Great North Run.  And the more I panicked, the more certain I felt that I couldn’t do it alone.

It’s not the running alone that worries me, I am used to that, in fact I prefer it really.  It’s the crowds and the logistics.  Panicking is, however, highly over-rated; in the end, I just had to do it and here’s the thing I expect you knew I was going to say:  it was fine!

I was slow, I was steady, I didn’t care about my time, I just wanted to finish without being ill, injured or exhausted.

And I am so glad I did it.  The city, where we lived for many years and where Florence was born, is amazing.  It’s people are amazing, warm, funny, generous and kind.  There was not one part of the 13 miles without some supporters cheering and encouraging all the runners.  Kids stood by the roads, holding out tins of sweets and chocolates for runners to take.  Local folks set out trays of squash and water in plastic cups.  Many houses set up little front garden parties, tables and chairs, BBQs and a few beers, as they cheered our names.  Pubs let runners dive in for loo-stops, and shops were open, playing music.

There were steel-bands, gospel choirs, jazz bands, drummers and radio stations all along the route.  And the route is fantastic.  You run through the Queensways, the tunnels, and the 4 lane highways of Brum, all closed to traffic for the day.  Round the Bull Ring, to Digbeth, off down the Pershore Road, all through Bourneville, back to Cadbury’s World, into Harborne and Edgbaston via the cricket ground and Cannon Hill Park – and finally, all the way down Broad Street to the finish.  Every corner had a crowd, even at the furthest reaches of the course.  Every flyover featured gangs of people urging you to keep going.

I was given a handful of dusty jelly babies at mile 12, which comes after a mile long hill from mile 11 – and I tried to eat some of them.  But I realised that my throat was closed, too tight to really chew and swallow.  I was *sort of* crying, that’s why.  I didn’t really realise that I was crying and it wasn’t full-on sobbing or even proper tears ‘cos that would have been too exhausting, but when I tried to force a jelly baby down I realised that my throat had tightened due to the sheer emotion of knowing I was going to finish it after all – and the amazing spirit of the people I ran with, and ran past.

Someone I don’t know – a man – shouted:  ‘Come on Alison, you can do this last mile, RUN, Alison!’  Your names are printed on your number, pinned to your top.  The local people just yelled our names and said:  you can do it, it will soon be over!  Amazing.

At mile 11, when you hit the second series of hills, I was aware of a very mature and absolutely tiny lady running steadily along in front of me.  This turned out to be Margaret Ann.  That is what it said on her number.  She was about 4 feet 10 inches in her trainers, fully kitted up, snow-white hair, with a slightly hunched, very economical running style.  She was a little old-lady running machine, never faltered, never walked, she just kept on running.  She started running at 70 and is 80 next week.

Cue more throat-tightening on my part.

She was only about 20 minutes behind me at the finish.  We saw her afterwards, trying to find MacDonald’s where she was meeting her family.

I want to be like Margaret Ann.


‘A Knitted Christmas’ at Coastal Yarns, Cornwall, Saturday 7 December

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Come to Coastal Yarns in Cornwall on 7 December and spend a festive day tucked up with me and bunch of Kidsilk Haze.

Yes, a rare treat for me to leave The Shire and visit my third favourite county – Cornwall.

At this workshop, we will be knitting tiny festive beaded gift bags, icicles with sequins, beaded hearts and the smallest Christmas jumpers.  No special skills needed, just a love of the glitter.  You will learn to knit with beads and sequins, create frivolous frills, and generally have a very happy day making your own delicate knitted Christmas Collection.

Christmas bag black and silver beads

Details and bookings from Coastal Yarns.

Hope to see you there.