Sunday, 28 April 2013

Two Moels and a Hillfort. . .

After two weekends of walking in the pouring rain, it was glorious to be out on dry paths with a bit of sun warming up your body.  The Liverpud and I are planning to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in June (roughly 24 miles and three mountains in 12 hours) so yesterday we thought we'd better get started on our training.

We headed to the Clwydian Range in Wales, just an hour's drive from Liverpool, and an area we just never get tired of walking in.  There's a reason that the daffodil is one of the symbols of Wales - they are everywhere, blooming profusely on the sides of the roads.

The lambs were certainly enjoying the sunshine.

Crossing through several fields, we made our way towards our first ascent of Moel Fama and the remains of the Jubilee Tower built in varying stages in the 19th century (it's just a bit beyond the top of this photo)  I've climbed this moel (bare hill in Welsh) several times, but always from a different side so it was nice to tackle a new path.

No time to stop though - today was all about picking up the pace, pushing ourselves up those elevations and getting some mileage under our legs.  A little further along the path, which is the northern part of Offa's Dyke, the long-distance walk along the border of England and Wales, and we could see our next hilly challenge, Moel Arthur.

Up and over and looking back.  You can see the tip of the tower on Moel Fama in the distance.  And yes, that white bit is snow, fortunately the only patch that we encountered.

Next up was the hillfort of Penycloddiau, in use during the Bronze and Iron Age.

The views in every direction are stunning and you can see for miles and miles.  The sea is in front of you, the rest of Wales unfolds to your left . . .

. . . and the view looking back at where we've been is always extremely satisfactory.

We made our way back to Loggerheads where we'd parked the car, via a country lane, the village of Cilcain, and the Leete path.  Just under six hours and 15.5 miles covered.  We're not quite ready for the Peak challenge - we were both fairly knackered and sore - but we'll get there.  And at least we were dry.

Friday, 26 April 2013

If On A Spring Night. . .

When moving to a new city, I feel it's important (and fun) to seek out the local writers and artists.   A recent piece in the newspaper caught my eye about a new album by Liverpool musician Bill Ryder-Jones, formerly a member of the band The Coral.  But it wasn't his new work that initially intrigued me, but a reference to his debut album If,  billed as an imaginary soundtrack to Italo Calvino's brilliant novel If On A Winter's Night A Traveller. . . 

The article mentioned that he'd been influenced by film composers such as Abel Korzeniowski who wrote the music for A Single Man, a soundtrack that I absolutely love (cue any excuse to post a photo of Colin Firth).

That was enough for me - I immediately went out and got a copy of If. I've listened to it several times now and it's terrific. I'm a bit rubbish at writing about music, but the Korzeniowski influence is immediately obvious in the first track without it being a direct copycat, and then as the album progresses, different styles, moods and even voices come into play. It's very evocative and beautiful music.  I love that Ryder-Jones has used musicians from the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for many of the pieces, and he recorded them in several different places around the city, including the lovely Scandinavian  Seaman's Church.  He includes the disclaimer that "This nasty piece of work is not endorsed or associated with the Calvino Estate", but I think it's a fine tribute and an interesting and challenging project. It's been years since I read the novel (and I really want to revisit it now) so the music didn't evoke any particular scene, but it did remind me of where I read it - on a train going from Toronto to Montreal - and I think I'll always associate the album with that trip from now on. Every journey - physical or literary - should have its own soundtrack don't you think? 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Fiber Factor. . .

This promises to be great fun - a knitting design competition that you can play along with.  There are twelve contestants who will be given a variety of challenges over the next several months to determine the top three finalists who will then be presented with one final challenge.   You can vote for your favourites, or try out the challenges at home and post them online.  There will also be organized knit-a-longs for the winning designs.  The first challenge is "Knit Your Life", designing a garment that explores who you are and it will be judged on inspiration, workmanship, creativity and the "want to knit it" factor.  All the info can be found here and some of the videos are quite entertaining.  I'll be very curious to see what the other knitters get up to; it looks like a lot of work but what a great idea.

Monday, 22 April 2013

FIelds of Gold. . .

This is in Sefton Park, which is to Liverpool what High Park is to Toronto.  Lovely, isn't it?  Another wonderful sign of spring.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Spring is Officially Here. . .

. . . my tulips are out!

These are the ones callled "Toronto" that I picked up at the Southport Flower show last year.  I have another pot of "Backpackers" still to bloom, but it won't be long now.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

More WIPS On the Go. . .

I've been nursing a cold so am indulging in lots of knitting and telly watching.

I found a worthy recipient for my Selbu Modern hat that ended up being far too small for me.  She's a seven year-old (which shows just how far off I was on the sizing), who is learning to knit and not only does she look adorable in it, but she loves it.  She said it was like wearing a painting, which just made my day.

Having said goodbye,  I really needed to knit another one for myself so have upped the needle sizes and begun again.  The colour doesn't really come through on this photo but it's a gorgeous, deep purple. I'm using 4ply wool from Blacker Yarns.

Then, thanks to a mention on the Electric Sheep podcast (episode 107), I've discovered Stephen West's simple but so effective Garter Swish blanket.  What a great stash buster!  You essentially use two strands of different worsted weight yarn, one of which is in a pale, neutral colour, and you just knit rows of garter, changing the colours as your yarn finishes.  I have a lot of chunky and fingering yarn in my stash so I'm using those and honestly, I just can't stop.  It's knitting up so quickly and the colour changes keep it interesting. I think it'll be a great blanket for the couch because let's face it, it'll be a decade before I ever complete my hexipuff blanket.

Finally,  I was browsing through some new yarns and came across this one from Rico called Fashion Summer Print.  It's 100% cotton chunky and I love all the muted summer colours running through it.  It was crying out to be turned into a summer scarf.

I'm using a very simple lattice stitch pattern from a magazine and it's knitting up quite quickly.  I'll probably end up using four 50g balls.  The effect reminds me of well-worn, sun-faded, rag rugs and the colours are neutral enough to go with almost everything. I'm hoping that after blocking, it will be as soft as a well-worn t-shirt.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Castles in the (Rainy) Air. . .

Nursing a bit of a cold, it might not have been the wisest idea to go walking when the weather promised mostly showers, but ever the optimist, I took "mostly" to mean "not all day" and even packed my sunglasses.

I didn't need them.

You know it's bad when the best shelter you can find for lunch is hunched down behind a wall that only stops the wind from one direction and does nothing to keep the rain off either yourself, or your food.

Still, we walkers are a hardy bunch and the grey weather can still bring out the beauty in the landscape. We're about five miles south of Kirby Stephen in Cumbria.

I won't lie - it was cold and soggy and muddy and thus rather miserable for the first half of the six hour hike. But then things got better.  For one thing, the rain stopped although it remained cloudy and windy. Then as always, the sheep cheered me up, like this philosophical one contemplating the swollen River Eden as we walked alongside.

And I knew there were two treats in store, the first one, just glimpsed through the mist.


Coming from across the pond, I'm still enough of a history geek to be in awe of anything older than the twentieth century, so to be able to walk around the ruins of a 12th century castle is quite exciting.  This is the romantically named Pendragon Castle which legend says was built by King Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon.  At one time, it was also owned by Sir Hugh de Morville, Lord of Westmorland, who was one of the knights who murdered Thomas Beckett.

I rushed right in through the doorway and crawled on my hands and knees through this portal to get inside.

Only to discover a much more civilized mode of entry just around the corner.

Both the castle and its surroundings are serene and beautiful.

A little further on, another castle appeared on the horizon.

This is Lammerside Castle, also 12th century, although what is left was mostly built in the 14th century.

It also is situated with stunning views, showing the direction where we came from. 

The last part of the walk took us through many fields. It's lambing season and there were plenty of youngsters looking quite adorable.

And what's that?  Were we actually walking towards a patch of blue?

No, as it turned out, but the sun finally did appear . . .  as we were on the coach heading home. A hot bath and a good night's sleep ensued. My cold is much worse - but it was worth it.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Toronto Project Inspires Liverpool . . .

I love urban regeneration schemes and today's Liverpool Post reported on big plans for a new "Brewery Village" to be developed in an area surrounding the historic Cains Brewery (pictured below).  The brewery would focus on becoming a craft brewery and the building renovated.  Proposals include adding a hotel, a deli food hall, a sky bar, possibly an art cinema and independent shops and apartments,as well as making the surrounding streets more people friendly.  You can read about the plans here

What I love most about the design is that it's modeled in part on Toronto's very successful Distillery District where the buildings are actually twenty years older than those in Liverpool  (and how often can you say that??)

I remember the Distillery District before the Soulpepper Theatre Company moved in and jump started a lovely transformation.  It's one of the Toronto places I miss and I'm thrilled that something similar might soon be coming to Liverpool.  I've walked around the area near Cains Brewery; it contains a lot of warehouses and is slightly deserted and sinister, especially at night. But it's on the edge of a creative area known as the Baltic Triangle (there's a gorgeous Swedish church nearby) where lots of small creative companies have taken root.  It's within a ten minute walk of the Albert Docks and the main shopping area, and I can see it being a huge tourist attraction for the city, just as the Distillery District is for Toronto.  

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Liverpool and Literature. . .

In celebration of the opening of the new Central Library and World Book Day, Liverpool is hosting tons of literary events all over the city throughout April and May.  In Other Words is a literary festival that includes readings, lectures, literary walking tours and all sorts of interactive events. You can download the brochure here (on the sidebar at the right).  It's overwhelming how many things are going on and I'll definitely be trying to get to as much as possible, culminating with Light Night on May 17th when the library officially reopens  AND the LOOK/13 International Photography Festival opens AND the Queen Mary 2 will be in dock. It's all very exciting.

One of the events I'll be volunteering at is a three-day marathon reading of Moby Dick at the Maritime Museum (I'm just doing fifteen minutes of it).  Dubbed Moby on the Mersey, there will be several events celebrating Melville's relationship with Liverpool.  He visited the city in 1839 when he was twenty years old and used his experiences in the writing of his novel Redburn, which I now need to read.  

Monday, 8 April 2013

Seek This Game. . .


    He preferred the more oblong shapes of books on literary criticism, belles lettres. To become a man of letters, he would make special to himself one smallish aspect of literature, read all the books about it, add another of his own. Anything later encroaching on his territory, he would himself review.
     'The novel is practically finished as an art form,' he replied.
     'I suppose it is,' said Harriet.
     'Virginia Woolf has brought it to the edge of ruin.'
     'Yes,' said Harriet.
     'But it was inevitable,' he added, laying no blame.
     'I suppose it was,' Harriet said, in a slow, considering way.
     The novel - headstrong parvenu - seemed headed for destruction. No one could stay its downward course and, obviously, it did not deserve that Vesey should try. Virginia Woolf with one graceful touch after another (the latest was Mrs Dalloway) was sending it trundling downhill. She had been doing this unbeknown to Harriet who had never even heard of her.

( From the NYRB Classics edition of  A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor pg 17-18)
Sometimes you just don't want a book to end.  I am slowly savouring this quiet and exasperating dance between the two main characters, Harriet and Vesey.  I love it when a literary discussion pinpoints the essentials of personality (later on another character is reading Persuasion to great effect).   If it uses Woolf to do so, even better.