Monday, 28 July 2014

They Might Be Giants. . .

I spent the weekend chasing after giants!

Royal de Luxe, an arts company from Nantes, France which specialises in street theatre, brought back their huge giant puppets to the streets of Liverpool.  They first came to the city two years ago, before I moved here, telling a story about a little girl whose father was lost in the Titanic.  I was really sorry to have missed them then so was definitely going to make the most of their next visit which this time revolved around a tribute to the First World War and the Liverpool "Pals", the men who volunteered for the city's battalions.  The marionettes came to Liverpool for five days and I was able to see glimpses of them over two of those. Here they are with some of the city's great landmarks in the background.

At first, due to work, I could only catch them sleeping.  Here is the grandmother, resting in the beautiful St. George's Hall.  While they may be stationary, they certainly aren't still.  They "breathe" quite loudly.

On the morning of Day Three, the little girl and her dog Xolo were found, also asleep, at the mouth of the Queensway Tunnel (which carries cars under the Mersey over to the Wirral).

I caught up with them again at lunchtime when they were taking a siesta in front of the Chinese Arch.  Liverpool has the oldest Chinatown in Europe.

Meanwhile, the Grandmother was taking a nap at Salthouse Docks, in front of the Echo Arena.

We were stationed in a great place for her afternoon walk through the city, just in front of a safe that was going to be opened to allow some letters to be read.  As the giants walk through the city, there are several areas with speakers where they stop and talk, unfolding an ongoing story.  Unfortunately, before Granny reached us, she had farted (yes, the giants do all sorts of bodily functions including drinking whiskey, belching and urinating) and a mechanical problem had caused her neck to snap.  She was delayed by over an hour (so alas, no story) and had to travel the rest of the way in her wheelchair. It was still thrilling to see.

You can see the orchestration of wires and people behind with the use of a crane to activate her movements. It's very physical work making these puppets move. Following this was a float with a full band playing rousing music. It was extremely festive and fun.

The next day, Granny had another nap, this time outside St. George's Hall.

Then she was wheeled through the streets in search of her granddaughter.  She's passing in front of  Lime Street train station here,  and in the next photo you can see the Anglican Cathedral in the background.  Aren't the crowds fantastic?  They estimate that more than a million people came out to cheer the giants on over the weekend.

The giants move relatively slowly, so with the routes to hand, it was easy to walk a few streets over and catch the little girl and Xolo on the move.  There's something very touching and innocent about the little girl's movements, while the dog has fun playing with the crowd.

All three puppets were making their way to the waterfront. Here the little girl stopped to wait for her grandmother.  This building behind her was once the headquarters of the White Star Line.  In 1912, crowds of people gathered outside it desperate to hear news of any survivors from the Titanic.

And then it was onwards towards the Three Graces where again, the crowds were massive.

We couldn't make it on Sunday when the girl and her grandmother embraced before getting into their respective beds, being transported onto a ship and sailing away down the Mersey.  But here's hoping that they'll be back soon - it really was an incredible and unusual spectacle.

Friday, 25 July 2014

And There Goes the Yarn Diet. . .

Well, my willpower lasted six months.  I was very good and knitted entirely from stash (and had fun doing so);  I stayed away from the January wool sales at John Lewis and  I kept away from online sales. I organized all my skeins by weight and marvelled at how many lovely ones I had and how I really. really, didn't need any more wool. I felt confident and rather smug because I was solidly keeping to my new year's resolution.
And then I went on holiday. 
Sault Saint Marie's downtown main street has seen better days, but it has a lovely yarn shop/cafe. I had a great time browsing with a latte in Shabby Motley.  It has a truly cozy and inviting elegance with its textured wallpaper, dark beams, chandelier, velvet couches and big wooden tables. Friendly staff and of course all the colourful yarn on display.

Unfortunately most of their wool was British or international brands that I can easily get in the U.K. I did enjoy looking at all the colours of Rowan's new Pure Wool Worsted displayed on the bench at the entrance. They carry every single colour, much more than my local John Lewis.

So I was able to avoid yarn temptation, but splurged instead on magazines, some needles, a book of crochet patterns and lots of crochet hooks (my new obsession), and then later in Toronto found this perfect little travel case from the Umbra shop to carry them in.

It was in the Toronto yarn shops that I got into trouble, though in my weak defense, I didn't just idly buy the odd ball just for the heck of it (okay, execept for a very pretty blue skein of Madelinetosh sock yarn on sale at the Knit Cafe) but focused instead on project quantities.  The three balls of alpaca chunky in the lefthand corner (so soft) are earmarked for a big, cozy, burberry-like winter cowl. They were on sale at Romni Wools and I crumbled at one touch.  I bought a sweater's worth of Cascade Ecological Wool there as well (very economical and I need a cream sweater - don't we all?).  The bottom skein of Freia handpainted lace ombre yarn was called Maple and I thought it would make a stunning fall shawl if I can find the right pattern for it.  And I was in Canada - how could I not buy a color called Maple?

I arrived at the Purple Purl quite hot and sweaty as the Queen Street streetcar was diverted many blocks away due to road construction and I only had 20 minutes to spare.  I fell in love with these skeins of Juniper Moon's Zooey DK, a blend of cotton and linen. It looked so nice and cool to knit a summer top with.

Yes, I know I can talk and justify myself into buying anything where yarn is concerned but my next "purchase" doesn't count as the Liverpud had promised to buy me a sweater's worth of yarn for my birthday.  I chose several skeins of an old favourite - Cascade 220 heathers - in this cherry red with bits of orange in it.

And it was just the perfect yarn to embark on a new KAL with, one that was starting the day I arrived back in Liverpool.  Knit British, along with several other podcasters are co-hosting a knit-a-long for Lush, by Canadian designers, Tin Can Knits.  It's in their book, Handmade in the U.K.  which I used last year to make my Bonny.  Their patterns are very well written and easy to follow. This cardigan has an interesting construction. 

You start by knitting a long strip of lace.

And then you pick up stitches along the side for the yoke and the rest of the body.  This is how far I've gotten and I'm really enjoying the process so far. After months of knitting blanket squares with 4ply wool, it's a delight to be knitting with a heavier weight.

I haven't forgotten the blanket though - still knitting the never-ending trim and am starting to seam the squares together.  I placed them all on the bed last night to arrange them and I'm really liking the haphazard, patchwork look to it.  Still a long way to go though. . .

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Busy City and an Escape North. . .

The Liverpud and I just got back from a two week holiday in Canada and it was so fantastic to catch up with family and friends and reassure myself that in this ever-changing city, some of my old haunts are still there - my favourite restaurant (Golden Thai on Church Street), my favourite bookstore (Type Books on Queen St. West), my favourite yarn shop (The Purple Purl on Queen St. East).  Even the Eaton Centre seems like an old friend.

It always feels a bit strange to return to Toronto - the city is growing so quickly that my visual pointers seem to all be disappearing behind yet another huge glass condo building.  I came up from the underground path onto Adelaide Street at one point and was completely disconcerted by not being able to tell which direction was east and which was west as I couldn't see the CN Tower.  Also rather disturbingly, I found myself forgetting certain street names and I lived in Toronto for more than 30 years! At one point I seriously considered getting a map but thankfully didn't need to; habit and the homing instinct started to kick in.

We did go up the CN Tower as the Liverpud loves the view and it definitely does show how congested  the cityscape has become.

This is pretty much the sight and sounds of Toronto in the summer - construction everywhere, not to mention all the road closures and detours.

In order to see the CN Tower in its full glory, you now have to find a spot where the condos don't grow, such as the Bathurst Street bridge over the railway tracks.

But the best view of the skyline is still from the ferry returning from the Toronto Islands - still such a refuge from all the noise and dust of the city, even though my favourite Skyline ride at Centerville is gone.

I was pleased to see that they've renamed the ferry terminal in Jack Layton's memory and I love this statue of him just outside it.

And there's something a little surreal about Sugar Beach, perched next to a sugar refining factory and more condos.

We also went back to the aquarium (another peaceful oasis) where I snapped this fish's grimace as it was swimming above us in the glass tunnel.

As a welcome contrast to the city, we flew up for a few days to visit my brother in Sault Saint Marie. He drove us up to Lake Superior Provincial Park for a breath of fresh air, waterfalls and peaceful views of the lake. 

Then we took the famous Agawa Canyon train ride that takes you about 100 miles north through Canadian Shield country and the landscape that inspired the Group of Seven painters.  Though the trip is at its most stunning when the fall colours are out, there were still some spectacular views from the train windows.

Here is A. Y. Jackson's painting of Agawa Canyon where the train stops for an hour and a half.  You can do some short hikes along the river to view some waterfalls.

And as it looks today from the top of the Lookout tower. 

The trip gave me a new appreciation for the landscape captured by the Group of Seven and I went to see the collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario when we were back in Toronto.  I also bought two prints in the gift shop as I have some ideas about decorating our guest bedroom with a subtle Canadiana theme.  Yes, I did get a little homesick, even with all the mosquito bites!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Tour de Yorkshire. . .

What a fantastic start to the Tour de France. I've been glued to the telly all morning/afternoon watching the first stage from Leeds to Harrogate amid all the bunting, signs, works of art and colourful costumes. One farmer had dyed all his sheep yellow.   The enthusiastic crowds have been huge all along the route and the crush at the top of the hills looked almost equal to the numbers on the Alps.  Plus it's just been a joy to watch the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales from the helicopter photos.  I'm so pleased that the weather has been perfect and has shown this very beautiful county in its best light.  Well done Yorkshire - you've done the tour proud.  What a shame about Cavendish's fall at the end though.

Don't you love this enormous jersey hung on the side of the church in Skipton, just beside the castle? 

The Tour has also given me plenty of knitting time to finish my last afghan square - hooray! As some of the other knitters in the KAL have been doing,  I decided to put my own little signature on the project.

And now it's on to the endless border trim. . .