Monday, 30 September 2013

Yarndale . . .

Oh, what a fun day we had on Saturday.  The Fab Four (as we like to call ourselves) from Liverpool  (my knitting/walking/reading friends) boarded the train to Leeds and then changed for Skipton (this train was filled with friendly knitters) all heading to the inaugural Yarndale.  It was about a mile to the venue from the station and was a lovely walk through the park.  No worries about getting lost as the route was yarnbombed the entire way. Aren't these ducklings adorable?

These colourful trees were just outside the venue.

And plenty of crocheted bunting within as well.   In fact there were over 6,000 bunting triangles hung, sent in by crafters from all over the world.  This was the initiative of the incredible Lucy over at Attic24 and it was just amazing to see.

That was about as far as I could get with the photos. Once inside, it was absolutely packed with people and stalls filled with yarny goodness.  I would say the show was just slightly smaller than Woolfest with many of the same indie vendors and some new ones too.  It took about two hours to get around to every booth though certainly not that long for my money to run out. A big thanks to the volunteers who did a fabulous job and were so friendly and unfazed even among the huge crowds. As the queues for food were very long, we walked back into Skipton via the canal and had a lovely late lunch at a pie shop (steak and ale pie, onion gravy and mash has to be one of the best comfort meals ever) and then stopped off at Saltaire and had a wander around Salts Mills and its fabulous bookshop before heading back home (encountering more knitters along the way). The weather was gorgeous, the company was terrific and it was impossible to stop smiling all day - we were so filled with inspiration - yarn and landscape - and knitterly camaderie.  I really hope this becomes an annual event.

And despite my constant obsession with sheep, I completely fell in love with two bunny rabbits -  but more on that tomorrow when I'll post about my purchases.

Friday, 27 September 2013

A Pop of Colour on a Gray Day. . .

London is lovely in the sunlight but a gray day also has its own beauty; if nothing else it just makes the colours pop.  I can never resist walking along the South Bank. I love the energy, the music from the buskers, the smell of the food vans and the sight of crowds of tourists from all over the world enjoying the river views. It's one of my favourite city walks. I love these birch trees outside the Tate Modern. They make me want to weave in and out of them in some mad dance but of course there are always too many people around. 

Further along, heading west is The Shed, a temporary space constructed at the National Theatre while renovations are in progress.  I love how vibrant that red is, especially next to the tired concrete of the rest of the building. 

And heading across the river and up to Trafalgar Square,  there's no mistaking the latest art piece to adorn the fourth plinth. Hahn/Cock is by German sculptor Katharina Fritsch

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Fear. . .

With the centenary of the First World War nearly upon us, I'm anticipating that a good chunk of my reading for the next four years will be WWI fiction and memoirs as I have quite a growing collection (in particular I'm fascinated by women's writings on the war). I'm also a huge fan of NYRB Classics, so was intrigued to read about an upcoming publication on their Different Stripe blog.
Fear, by French author Gabriel Chevallier, who fought in WWI, is translated by Imrie Malcolm with an introduction by John Berger. It was originally published in 1930 and prosecuted for sedition five years later. Here's a description from the NYRB catalogue:

Jean Dartemont, the hero of Gabriel Chevallier’s autobiographical novel, enters what was not yet known as World War I in 1915, when it was just beginning to be clear that a war that all the combatants were initially confident would move swiftly to a conclusion was instead frozen murderously in place. After enduring the horrors of the trenches and the deadly leagues of no-man’s-land stretching beyond them, Jean is wounded and hospitalized. Away from the front, he confronts the relentless blindness of the authorities and much of the general public to the hideous realities of modern, mechanized combat. Jean decides he must resist. How? By telling the simple truth. Urged to encourage new recruits with tales of derring-do service, Jean does not mince words. What did he do on the battlefield? He responds like a man: “I was afraid.”
This edition will be available in May 2014 in North America.  (On further investigation, I've discovered that it's already available in the U.K., published by Serpent's Tail, which goes to show how difficult it is to market small press literature in translation, even to someone constantly on the look-out for this type of book - no matter how many newspaper reviews, blogs, and bookstore shelf scans I go through, I'm always going to miss something).  I do notice that Serpent's Tail has also just published a new edition of Frederic Manning's Her Privates We with an introduction by William Boyd. I have a copy already but it's fairly beaten up so I may invest in this new one. Clearly I need to keep an eye on this publisher - off to sign up for their email newsletter.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Colour Craving. . .


I've been having such fun with Stephen West's latest mystery knit-a-long, the Colour Craving shawl.  I can't say very much about it yet or post pictures until the end (if you are on ravelry you can go to the discussion group and the spoiler photo thread)  but I can say that the first clue was so intriguing in its construction, unlike anything I've ever knitted before. I can't see where this will be heading but I think I'm going to end up with a very original and unusual shawl.  The first clue only uses two out of the three colours required. I've gone with a safe bet and used a dark grey fingering (Titus in the Coal colourway) and a warm and cozy white alpaca from John Arbon.  But I'm guessing that the next clue will involve the third colour and I'm still undecided!

Should I go monochrome with a lighter grey?

Or really inject some bold colour? 

At the moment I'm leaning towards the green (not least because it's already wound).  One row left on Clue #1 and I can't wait until tomorrow when Clue #2 arrives.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Waterworld. . .

Last Sunday was the day when I felt I had truly become a proper British walker.  

There was no ambiguity about the weather forecast.  Heavy rain and gusty winds were called for and we were headed for the Lake District where every puff and drop is magnified.  I could have stayed at home with my knitting and book and a nice pot of tea, but no - I chose to go walking! And I actually enjoyed myself even though, sure enough, it was pouring when we got off the coach in Torver, a tiny village not far from Coniston. This was a part of the Lakes that I hadn't visited before and I'm really glad I went because I definitely want to return.  We had to cut the walk short because of the weather and we had to abort any attempts to climb up Old Man Coniston because the wind was just too strong. We were hanging onto rocks in a blustery gale and we weren't even half way up. 

This walk was all about water. The water that seeped into the leak in my boots about ten minutes into the hike leaving me with soggy socks for four hours.  The water that the wind blew down all of our necks and into our waterproofs so that everyone in the group - despite being prepared with all the gear - was thoroughly drenched by the end.  The water that made the paths (fortunately very good and not slippery or muddy) like mini-rivers.  And the gorgeous water that cascaded powerfully over the landscape in every direction, both vertically and horizontally. 

Unlike my last sodden walk in Wales where it was so misty that I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me, I could actually see the outlines of most of the hills surrounding us and this makes all the difference when the weather is so nasty.  You can't beat the camaraderie of a group of soaked walkers trying to find a decent place to have lunch. 

As luck would have it, of course the sun came out just as we were approaching Coniston, having had to cut our walk by about two hours. 

But without the rain, you wouldn't have rainbows. 

A quick visit to St. Andrew's church to see John Ruskin's grave (he lived not far from here) and back on the coach for the drive home through the scenery, now in all its visible and sunny glory.


And yes, I'd go again.  I'm a true British walker now.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Walking on the Edge: Hathersage. . .

While gazing anxiously at tomorrow's forecast (heavy rain, strong gales), it's a pleasure to look back on last week's walk near the pretty village of Hathersage in the northern bit of the Peak District.  The sun was out, there was a nice breeze and the length of the walk - thirteen miles - was just perfect.

I love nothing more than a good, long ridge walk where you can see the countryside for miles and miles in every direction. This walk is all about edges and outcrops, and after just a little bit of climbing, the views are constant and gorgeous as you wander through the landscape. This is my idea of walking bliss. We were heading for Stanage Edge, the longest gritstone edge in England. 

In addition to walkers, the area is very popular with rock climbers and paragliders. 

There are lovely paths that stretch the whole of the escarpment.

Old millstones that were crafted at their source decades ago have just been abandoned in the bracken but somehow suit their surroundings.

The heather was out everywhere - not quite as vibrant as it can be, but a beautiful sight regardless as we came down from Stanage and headed up towards Bamford Edge.

Where we caught this picturesque glimpse of the Ladybower Reservoir.

And of course the sheep were everywhere, hidden in all sorts of unexpected places.

We turned onto Bamford Edge and headed back towards Hathersage.

But there was one small literary treat in store. Unfortunately our route didn't take us right by it, but we saw it up above our path and I managed to get this shot with my zoom lens. This is North Lees Hall, built in the 16th century and said to be Charlotte Bronte's inspiration for Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre. Bronte stayed in Hathersage when she visited her friend Ellen Nussey, whose brother was the local vicar.  So it is very possible that we were walking on the very same paths that Bronte once trod while creating arguably one of the greatest works of literature ever written. Certainly one of my favourite novels. I felt quite tingly.

As an aside, the English landscape also inspires lots of knitting patterns, especially by Rowan. Autumn Knits, one of their latest fall pattern books features this flowing sweater which would look lovely in deep purples and greys. The name?  Hathersage of course.