Cabin Fever

I wasn’t ready for my latest trip at all and a combination of irregular (and public) buses, a genetic inability to cut it fine at the airport and an eye-wateringly early flight were combining to mean a 2am wake up. No one wanted that.

Without much thought, a last-minute hotel was found at the terminal, damp clothes were hastily rammed into hand luggage and I lost my one evening this week with Peter. Overtired, but placated with a very nice sandwich I got on the bus to Gatwick at 8.30.

The surrealism generated by snoozing on public transport and waking up at near-deserted terminal is worthy of Dali. Quite how, dreamlike, I was all of a sudden in clean, soundproofed little cocoon, illuminated by soft purple lighting and being beckoned by a billowy duvet, almost eludes me. But it was that simple. There was no lengthy check-in process, no one wanted my passport, address, marital status. Only my surname and checkout time. And I was in. Cabin 16. They call it a first class experience and I imagine this is what travelling first class on Emirates is like. I wouldn’t know but it was so effortless. Everything you need is at your finger tips but the thing you most need, a good and uninterrupted sleep, is what it does best. I was reluctant to leave. I can testify to the joy an overtired suitcase dweller feels when confronted with that level of comfort, simplicity and sleep opportunity. I wonder how many other customers choke up when, braced for hassle, faff and annoyance, they are slipped a room card and wished a good sleep.

It allowed me the strength to deal with the horrors of Gatwick at dawn, the queues, the Ikea-style forced march through Duty Free and the inept service staff at breakfast.

Full marks to Yotel. I recommend it to anyone with an inconceivably early flight from Gatwick, an over-night connection or a small baby (they rent rooms by the hour).



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A knitting manifesto

It has all got too much. Too much wool. Too many books about wool. Too many woolen presents. So I am taking a solemn vow that will include the following:

  1.  No more new wool acquisition – paid for or otherwise – until I have cut down the stash to nothing more than enough for one more project.
  2. Once the stash has been reduced to the ‘one project ahead’ status no more new yarn will be purchased speculatively. It must be bought with a clear project in mind.
  3. I will not look at yarn on ebay. However good the bargain is I will resist. It’s best if I just don’t look
  4. I will not buy yarn as a ‘souvenir’ of a trip or sojourn unless this complies with point 2
  5.  No more pattern downloads or purchases. According to Ravelry I have 2,500 patterns already at my disposal. This is more than enough.
  6.  No more commissions (after Kiran’s jumper is finished) until the stash is depleted. I must focus attention on reducing the stash.
  7.  I will accept that sometimes it is better to give no present than give an emergency knitted present that does not suit or please the recipient.
  8.  I will not take needles to bed. This is apparently not safe for anyone..

I swear here – to the 2 people reading this – that I will plunder the depths of my will power and patience to comply. Rather like I did with my smoking.. wool header

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Swimming a scarf

swimming a scarfIt occurred to me during my 34th length of front crawl that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time counting very slowly…

Whether it be rows of knitting or lengths of swimming I seem to spend a lot of my time going back and forth and counting the progress. (Except with swimming I have to keep it in my head rather than marking off rows on anything I can find, making our living room look like a prison cell covered in hash marks of 5..) Maybe this is why swimming, out of all the activities I have tried to maintain, has succeeded where karate failed.. I am programmed to the same rhythms – back/forth, left/right, breathe (important also for tense knitting) and in fact the motion of front crawl is not a million miles away from creating garter stitch.

With that in mind I have probably swum the worlds longest scarf..

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Alpaca Punch

Kate Humble at altitude

The previous weekend brought about a spontaneous jolly to Toft Alpaca Farm. This had been inspired not only by a damp conversation with Why Not Alpaca stall-holders at Sedbergh Gala but also by a BBC documentary with a very puffy Kate Humble in Peru. (Sadly I have no idea what she was actually saying because we were watching it on silent in a pub, but I imagine it was full of enthusiasm for these charming animals and their handlers and their resilience in the tough environment etc.)


Mewling mum

The guys at Toft have not stinted on their set up – a beautiful showroom and workshop space looking out over rolling hills studded with alpaca-shaped dots as far as the eye can see.

It was all quite idyllic and for a knitter is was bit too exciting:  barrels of pure fleece to plunge your hands into, tonal shades of yarn piled high and samples of what your work would look like if you were patient and diligent and not knitting whilst trying to read subtitles.


Would fit so easily in the Kennel it’s so small..

We had a walk and surveyed the newborns (including a tiny wee thing that had its own high viz jacket) and I have conclusively decided that when I get my field with a yurt there shall also be alpacas.

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Hurting for a Yurting

IMG-20130621-00204Quite honestly this may be the only kind of camping I ever do IMG_0491again. The kind of camping where there is a soft bed, a wood-burning stove and no chinese water torture leaks.

 For three nights we were our own medieval encampment.. knocking back healthy amounts of wine under a leafy green canopy, with the smell of wood smoke drifting through the trees. We cooked and ate on rough wooden benches, sat and put the world to rights around a fire pit and then nestled in the warm cocoon of the yurt when there was nothing left but embers. IMG_0514

There was no electricity, no wifi and no noise save some raucous birds and a distant hoot of a train. It was all a little magical and dreamy. And then we tried to come home. If I were to do it again then I wouldn’t chose something on the other side of the M25. We stayed in Rossetti. Beautiful and perfectly kitted out but dire directions and some draconian arrival rules.

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Seasonal Produce

I tend to miss seasons whilst at my desk… Especially the subtler touches of spring and autumn. Last weekend though was some kind of seasonal hit-the-spot bliss. I was invited by the Lovely Luce to the annual cider making weekend down in Kent. Every autumn a tractor load of apple crates from the Fox Pitt orchard have the luck of being preserved in liquid (rocket-fuel) form through an age old manual process that these guys have been carrying on for thirty years or more.

The apples themselves are beautiful. There were tiny ones, spotty ones, blushing ones and some whoppers with pure white flesh, and each and every one of them was sliced by hand, twice ground and then squeezed in a beautiful wooden press.

It’s a repetitive and blistering process but one that is equally as therapeutic and social. You sit and natter in the autumn sun as you chop, lose yourself in the slicing and let your mind wander. It is one of those activities that define the season and it’s refreshing to have activities dictated by something that can’t be moved in the calendar.

The reward is in Mrs’s Ds fabulous food, a whole bagful of apples and pears and last year’s beautiful amber cider that is the perfect muscle ease for an all too rare weekend of fresh air and physical work.

Ready for log-stacking now…

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The Lady Triathlete

View while 'jogging'

It occured to me as I was heaving my way round the park in an attempt to sweat out some pies, that genteel ladies of the past never had to do this… There was no ritual flesh-wobbling public humiliation. There was no red-faced wheezy panting (outdoors at least). And there definitely wasn’t the opportunity for recently demobbed rioters to find a new source of entertainment. I bet the words ‘Are you trying to run?’ didn’t even exist as a verbal weapon.

So, based on this modern personal horror I have reinvented the triathalon for East Oxford. It’s along similar lines to the one we know and battle with, but more practical and restful in application. There may be some perspiring glows but there will be no dripping sweat. All activities will have some meaningful purpose for maximum efficiency. Each of the three activities correspond with morning, noon and night so they are evenly spread throughout the day. That day is a Saturday because Triathlons should not be overused and Sunday is a day of rest.

Far more civilised

Morning Activity  – Cycle to the bread shop. It helps to wear a stripey blue and white top and whistle – it adds a gallic frisson to the activity. You’ll find that other East Oxford triathletes are also heading for this first post on a Saturday. You can share in their warm smugness as you support the mad local bakery that is someone’s front room and probably illegal. It’s not far and makes the best use of the lovely Pashleigh frame and wicker basket so the fresh loaves are still warm on return and ready to accept more butter and jam.

Afternoon Activity – A gentle stroll or a brisk constitutional is enough to exercise the mind and body. Preferably done by a lake/river/seashore with a loved one. It’s important to have hold of them in some way so that if the sudden exertion is too much one can be supported. Frequent sedentary interludes are suggested and preferably with a beverage.

Evening Activity – A deep long bath with bubbles and The Week. This water-based activity is an all-important warm-down component to the day’s triathlon. The points here are awarded on how long you can stay in before the bubbles totally disappear or before The Week has been read from cover to cover. Here, red and steamy is acceptable and proof that the activity has been well done.

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