Monday, 25 February 2013

A Three Seasons Walk. . .

The Liverpud and I have joined a local walking group and yesterday was our first outing travelling by coach for a day's walk in the Lake District.  We were dropped off in Ambleside and made our way to Grasmere - the hard way of course, over the hills.  It was a brilliant walk and I couldn't help feeling by the end of it that I'd passed through multiple seasons - spring, winter and fall.

We started out with the sun shining, the grass quite green and we soon passed a bright rainbow-marked flock of sheep which certainly put a smile on my face.

A little further on, we passed Rydal Mount, the former home of William Wordsworth.  No daffodils in sight however.

There were waterfalls.

And don't you just love those textured nubbly hills?

I was thinking I'd put on far too many layers and really needed my sunglasses, but the weather can change very quickly in the hills, especially the higher you climb, and we certainly could see snow on the  mountain tops.

Soon, we were actually walking on the white stuff but it did give us the opportunity to try out our new YakTrax.

Our leader cut the walk a bit short because not everyone in the group had the ice grips and it would have been a bit treacherous going any further.  I didn't mind at all; the wind was extremely fierce up there.

Once below the snow line the afternoon sun was shining and the landscape changed again reminding me very much of rich autumn colours.

The walk ended with half a pint of shandy and a quick trip to the Herdy Shop in Grasmere where I bought this cute little sheepybank.  I have to start saving for Woolfest in June!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A Little Drama. . .

I've probably written this before, but it bears mentioning again - there is some really great theatre in Liverpool.  Today, I caught a matinee at the Playhouse of my favourite Moliere play, The Misanthrope. The translation is by renowned Liverpudlian poet and playwright Roger McGough ( he's to Liverpool what Dennis Lee is to Toronto) and in his very entertaining version, when Alceste decides to forsake flattery for plain speaking, he also stops speaking in verse unlike all the other characters who use couplets as a sign of their upper class:

From henceforth . . . No verse!
I will say it as I see it, I will say it like it is,
Plain prose, unadorned
No frills, no iambics, no alexandrines, no relentless rhythm, no fancy word juggling. No couplets with a rhyme bomb ticking away. Philinte, if I am to act according to what I believe I must speak as I live, truthfully, directly and a plague on those who would be discomforted.

This of course leads to several comic moments when he accidentally forgets, or he needs to stop and substitute a word because the best one to use is one that frustratingly does rhyme. It was a very clever and witty rendition (McGough has previously translated two Moliere plays) and a good, fast-paced production with a cheeky modern twist at the end, a sort of theatrical wink that I really loved.  It's on at the Playhouse until March 9th and I believe is touring the UK afterwards. It's well worth seeing.

There's a wonderful tradition in some British theatres (London's Royal Court does this as well), whereby the programme for a premiere also includes the entire play itself. It's a terrific idea; it serves both as a souvenir of the production, and allows you to own an affordable copy which in turn might encourage people to read more drama as literature in its own right, something I do regularly.  One of my favourite playwrights to both read and see performed is Alan Bennett, something of a national treasure in England and a writer I can always trust to make me laugh. He frequently explores a topic I'd not given much thought to and puts a deliciously cynical and intellectual twist on it.  I picked up a copy of his latest play People  which is a lovely antidote to the soap opera that is Downtown Abbey.  What happens to those huge historical manors when the families die out (or their wealth does) and they can't afford the upkeep?  Bennett posits a couple of options, from leaving it in the hands of the National Trust to renting it out to film crews involved in more sordid undertakings than what goes on at Highclere Castle.  And when a character called Brit is literally getting screwed in the background, well, the metaphoric possibilities are endless.

Currently on at the National Theatre in London, and starring Frances de la Tour and Linda Bassett, the production is one that will be broadcast live at cinemas around the world in April, including Liverpool's FACT.  And yes, I have booked my ticket - can't wait!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tempted. . .

This is just too cool.  From Trailing Clouds comes this striped sock yarn, aptly named Mind the Gap which includes all the colours of the different tube lines in the London Underground map. This might be the yarn that finally gets me knitting socks. . .

And a new e-book from Piecework Magazine features American scarf patterns from 1918.   Check some of these out. I particularly love "Zella", the one on the far left.  Very glamourous.   More info here.

One bit of temptation that I have succumbed to is a Rowan Magazine subscription. I've bought a few back issues and they are so beautifully and lavishly produced with lovely paper, interesting articles and photography, often showcasing models looking gorgeous against a rugged British countryside. Yes, I want to wear those clothes and strike a similar pose. And then there are the patterns. Yes, some are completely outlandish and others are way beyond my skill level, but I have done one Rowan pattern successfully and the sizing fit me perfectly, so I have faith and trust.  Really it's all about the ultimate in wish fullfillment fantasy knitting and I'm sold.  Plus you get a gift with a subscription; I chose three balls of Rowan DK wool.  I'd love to say that I'm going to commit to knitting at least one article from each magazine. . . . we'll see.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Food, Glorious Food. . .

I'm obsessed with a cooking site called Food 52 that I've only just discovered, which has a TON of wonderful recipes all showcased with fantastic photography and pulled from a multitude of blogs, sites and contributors.  Check it out here. They are also hosting The Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks, inspired by and using the format of the Tournament of Books that I follow each year (that'll be starting in March - details and the list of this year's battling books here.)  Judges for the Piglet include foodies from magazines and also Stanley Tucci!  Lots of fun and a great way to check out new cookbooks.

In the meantime to beat the winter blues, I'm craving all things lemony.  Type "lemon" into the search engine at Food 52 and you'll get, well, a list to keep you happily occupied for months. Snow peas with lemon-chili breadcrumbs, grilled lemon and herb flatbread, a leek and lemon quiche and of course the perfect lemon tart are all going onto the must-try list.  In the meantime, I'm quite chuffed with my first ever attempt at lemon meringue pie. It came out a wee bit tart and the meringue wasn't quite as thick as I'd like it, but it was still quite tasty and much easier to make than I'd anticipated.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Out and About. . .

It's been a wonderful weekend in Liverpool, sunny and mild with temperatures hovering around 8 degrees. You just can't stay indoors when it's so nice, so the Liverpud and I went for a long walk through several parks, and down to the city centre via the long path that runs alongside the Mersey.  The daffodils are starting to pop up everywhere (except in my backyard, but I keep checking - can't be long now).

Our ultimate goal was to check out the HMS Illustrious (nicknamed Lusty) which sailed into Liverpool on Friday. It's the Royal Navy's last remaining helicopter carrier and was in town to kick off a series of events that will be taking place in the city during May to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, when lots of ships from around the world (including Canada) will dock. There was no mistaking Lusty, even from quite far away; it is one big boat.

And here's a close-up.  Unfortunately we arrived too late to take a tour as they had closed the queue, but it was still quite impressive to behold from the outside.

Monday, 11 February 2013


Ever have one of those moments when you cast off and proudly smooth your bit of knitting out, only to see a major mistake?

This is how my cables should look and were looking at the beginning:

Before they turned into this:

How did I miss it? Oh, I really am kicking myself.  Obviously I need to pay more attention to mindless TV knitting. This project was the bottom bit of a caplet but I am going to have to rip back and start again. It's chunky wool so it shouldn't take long, but I'm really annoyed at myself.  This is the third project I've started this year that has turned into a problem (my lace shawl has run out of wool with about ten rows to go and I've fallen out of love with the colours in my variegated scarf). Phooey - maybe I need a break from the needles.  Or to finally finish something successfully!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Two Painting Exhibitions. . .

I had the afternoon off yesterday and I decided to pop down to the waterfront to check out two very interesting exhibitions by women painters.

First it was off to Tate Liverpool to see the work of Sylvia Sleigh who was part of the art scene in 1960s New York.  She paints a lot of nudes, both male and female, in great realistic detail (but less meaty than say, Lucien Freud), but what I really loved were the vibrant backgrounds offsetting the figures.  Her interiors are full of either lush greenery, or rich and colourful fabrics, gorgeously rendered.  I will admit to perhaps spending more time admiring her sofas than her subjects; at any rate encountering an entire room of her paintings is quite a sensation.  The exhibit runs until the end of May, it's free and I'll be making several return visits.  You can see more info here (just a warning, this link to the Tate Museum is somewhat full on).

Then I visited the nearby Museum of Liverpool to see their Beryl Bainbridge exhibit, also free.  I've read several of Bainbridge's novels, but two things I didn't previously know about her were that she was born and bred in Liverpool, and that she was also a painter.

The image on this new biography by her close friend Psiche Hughes, who also helped to organize the exhibition, shows one of several of Bainbridge's paintings that were obsessed with Napoleon. What I also found fascinating was the number of works that related directly to her novels. There were several quite haunting paintings of both the Titanic (her novel Every Man For Himself is set on the tragic boat), and Scott's doomed Antarctic expedition (fictionalized in The Birthday Boys). Her work is full of quirkiness and interesting layers of colours, paint on drawings, and even collage.

All of the Bainbridge novels I've read, including the two mentioned above, have been her historical novels. I've now started on her earlier books that are more autobiographical. I just finished Harriet Said..., which is set in Formby, just a few miles north of Liverpool. It's a very disturbing novel about two girls of thirteen who, bored during their summer vacation, taunt an older unhappily married man nicknamed the Tsar with tragic results. In its evocation of very common teenage emotions - peer pressure, jealousy, rage, helplessness, self-importance, and a fascinated curiosity, mixed with revulsion, about sex  - her writing is direct, blunt and non judgemental, and all the more powerful for those qualities. It's an uneasy read, but a very good portrayal of the escalation of how small events and actions nudge ever so slowly and uncontrollably towards something far more sinister and sad.

Next up will be A Weekend With Claude, about a group of friends and what happens during one weekend in the country.  A painting will feature in the novel - also on display at the Museum of Liverpool, where the exhibit runs until April. I'm also looking forward to reading An Awfully Big Adventure, which is based on her memories working at the Liverpool Playhouse. There was a very good film made of this novel several years ago with Hugh Grant (playing very against type - he's quite marvellous in this) and Alan Rickman (always worth seeing in just about anything!).

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Out of Season Works in Progress. . .

I've given up on the winter WIPs - let's face it, if my two unfinished cardigans haven't been touched in months, they aren't going to be completed in time to be of current use.  So I've turned instead to two upcoming seasonal projects.  I've dug out my Flaming June and miraculously managed to find my place in the pattern and continue on.  I've just finished the left front and am working on the last bit of the back and then I need to do the right front and the sleeves.  This will be a really nice summer cardigan and I just love knitting with hemp. There are a few tricky bits to go, so I'm proceeding cautiously.

And then I recently found this skein of Louisa Harding laceweight in the shade called Marmalade.  It certainly reminds me of autumn colours and so I've started this simple zig zag striped scarf with some Madeleine Tosh from my stash.  It's a very soft, airy scarf that I think will block well and I love the edging formed by the diagonal pull of the decreases. This is a good mindless knitting project that tucks into my purse very easily.   I may turn this into a cowl; I'll have to see how long it is when I run out of wool.

At any rate, I'm optimistic that both projects can be finished in time for their proper use.  I'll return to the winter cardigans and jumpers maybe in July.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

New Brooklyn Tweed is out!

Oh dear, this isn't going to help my queue of things that MUST be knitted.  The latest Brooklyn Tweed pattern book is out and as ever,  it's gorgeous!  Have a look here.  I'm officially in love with the Ives Dolman, the Waterhouse Dolman and the Tuck Pullover.