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Good news for chocolate lovers and other clippings August 27, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Knitting.

I was having this discussion with his nibs the other night – different attitudes to chocolate. Sometimes you want two exquisite squares of 70% cocoa Equadorian Fairtrade… and sometimes you just want a whole bar of Dairy Milk. And you can feel like a terrible person for eating the whole lot in one go, and not buying Fairtrade… I found out this earlier – Cadbury’s Dairy Milk is going fairtrade.  And the hot chocolate.  Oh yes.  It’s going to be Caffeine Central in Chez Fi this year, I assure you.

Someone pointed me in this direction earlier (yes I know I can’t leave it alone) and it really hit a spot with me – a woman explaining how she got into knitting and why she does it.  People occasionally say to me when they say me knitting, “Or, you could just go out and buy a pair of socks?”  I could.  I could go and watch a play, buy a ready meal, or read a book about travelling.

It’s cold, tonight, and I noticed this evening that it was dark at nine o’clock and that means autumn is starting to shuffle its feet and cough pointedly.  For some reason, this made me really very sad.  It’s been an idyllic summer.  I have not had an autumn since I was thirteen where I have not felt disorientated and like some part of me is scrunched up into a little ball.  I’m not really sure what I’m waiting for any more.  I’m not preparing for my A-levels, because they’re some distant speck in my memory now, confined to CVs and the times when I try and convince myself to work as hard as I did for Economics.  I’m not preparing for university, because I’m here, this is it, this has been it and continues to be it.  And I’m not preparing myself for things after university, even though I should be, because this time last year I thought I knew what came next and now I have no idea whatsoever.

About that Dairy Milk.


Return to civilisation August 25, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Law, Really good day.
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Well wasn’t today just glorious, darlings.


Absolutely beautiful out.  A little rainy of a morning, yes, but overall a perfectly satisfactory sort of day.  I celebrated the loveliness by spending it in Winchester buying natural dye and reading The Lord of the Rings in the cathedral grounds.  Idyllic.

The shawl I was knitting the other day (and refusing to give up on, if you recall), has temporarily beaten me by rather carelessly using up all my yarn with two rows to spare.  I am not impressed.  Therefore, while I wait to get my hands on some more, I’ve started on this, which is being far more well-behaved:


It’s ‘Spring Things’ by Susan Lawrence, I started it on the train home yesterday and it’s already looking very lovely. The pattern is wonderful, easy but not dull, definitely a favourite.  The yarn is by Easyknits, who I’ve used before because the colours are stunning – this is their skinny semi-solid in Midnight and it’s so soft you would not believe. In fact, I’ve sent off some more for some socks for next month’s Sock Knitters Anonymous mystery pattern. Mmhmm. This is organised sockery.

The exam went well, I think – although the more I think about it the worse I think I did, but it’s just a case of having passed and I can but hope  I found this in the library and thought it was fairly amusing:


Next time, I will actively be searching for its cousin, the Nutcases Guide to Criminal Psychology.  Well done, chaps.  Branding well and truly accurate.

It’s good to be back down with people.  I am, however, really not looking forward to work tomorrow.

Oh well, oh well.  Dad’s just stuck his head round the door to ask if I feel like going to the pub.  I think a rhetorical question about the Pope and Catholicism is in order here.

Living alone August 22, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Small things.

According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2007, 12% of people were living alone – twice as many as in 1971.  That’s a hell of a lot of people.

Now, I’ve been living alone for two days now.  (Ooh, get me.)  I’ve been out and about a bit – to the library mainly, struck up a bit of conversation with cashiers while buying glass beads for a new shawl, writing paper and a tin of chopped tomatoes, but mostly I’ve kept to myself.  I’ve come home in the evenings to a dark, empty house, eaten on my own on the sofa and gone to bed after spending more time than usual refreshing pages on the internet.

Last term, I shared a room with someone who was there most of the time, and that was really good fun.  I really enjoyed it.  But at the end of it I got home and shut myself in my room for a few days for a bit of alone time, because I hadn’t had it in so long.  I am, essentially, quite good at being on my own.  I quite like it, a lot of the time.  My own company may not be the best that there is, but I’ve lived with it for nineteen years now and I know that whatever I do I’m not going to offend myself, there won’t be any awkward silences, and I won’t have to articulate how I’m feeling.  So these last few days, well, I haven’t really minded that much.  I’ve not exactly been without conversation – living on your own doesn’t mean being shut away from the rest of the world completely, that’s just silly.

I couldn’t live like it, though.  I could not live like 12% of people, who do this every day, come home to this every day, wake up in the morning with nobody to talk to over breakfast, nobody to ask if they’d like a cup of tea or to let them in when they’ve left their keys at home.  Living with people isn’t the be-all and end-all of social contact, not in the least, but still, without it at the moment I do feel a bit isolated so I dread to think what people who do it often feel like.

Or perhaps it’s liberating.  I always thought when I was thirteen or fourteen that I’d like to live alone, and run things according to my own logic, and have my space.  I still value my space very highly, and get very ratty with people when I haven’t had it for too long, but I think I’ve changed my mind.  I don’t think I could do it any more.

I’m interested to know what you think about it all.

Don’t panic August 21, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Lovely people, University.

BBC Paper Monitor comes up with the goods once again.  I wish I could come up with stuff like this, I really do.  I think I just need to read the papers more often.

Meanwhile, I’ve been doing my best to work, and not take vast numbers of photos of this:


*intake of breath* …which apart from being made out of lovely lovely wool, being both the first shawl I’ve ever knitted and the first thing I’ve ever blocked properly (and a little over-enthusiastically, I think, it’s not actually meant to be that big) – on my housemate’s bed, I might add, because he’s not here and therefore can’t complain (not you Richard…), apart from all of that, this shawl has special significance for me.  It was knitted over a week.  Last week, in fact.  Last week, I was in Somerset with these people (and the photo-taker, who I’m sure I would get quite shouted at for forgetting!).

Poets minus Clare

These people have been my foundation for the last two years.  I don’t particularly have that many old friends – I work on the principle that if people are worth staying in touch with it’ll happen naturally (and that applies to me too, friendship goes both ways after all).  This lot I’ve kept in touch with, despite being the other end of the country to most of them for a good deal of the year.  That’s the power of the internet, and Facebook, to an extent, but I have a good deal of time for every one of them.  So a week away with them complete with long walks, swimming and pub lunches was wonderful.  You may or may not remember my complaining about being more tired for less reason than I could ever remember, for most of the last month.  I’m back to normal after last week, I think, and feeling a lot more lively.


So that’s why the shawl is special.

(Revision update: I’ve got through today with the help of a lot of toast, strong coffee and Karine Polwart’s album ‘Scribbled in Chalk’, which has risen fairly speedily among my favourites since I bought it a few weeks ago.  The law library is now considerably lighter and my back is hurting considerably more from carrying my spoils from same up a hill.  All in a good cause…)

On an entirely different note, I found this while, ah, working. It’s basically two very talented designers mucking around with maths a bit, and it’s rather a case of OhMyGodYouKnittedWHAT?!  This and this are my favourites at present, but I think I might have to have a go at this one.  Stunning stuff.

Empty house August 20, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Small things.

So, I’m up in Durham again, and it was really lovely and uplifting to come into the city on the train – the view of Durham from the viaduct is definitely one of my favourites.  And then, seconds – I kid you not –   before I got off the train it started hammering it down so I walked up the hill to the house, in the rain, hot and flustered and with my back killing from carrying too much, but on the phone to a familiar voice.  Nothing like a bit of gentle one-upmanship to make you feel better when suddenly a day has taken a turn for the worse.  And then I got back.

This house is really, empty.  There’s nothing in it.  There’s nobody in it except me.  None of the rooms have any personality at all in them, because nobody’s put it there yet.  I really, really don’t like it.  I can’t think of it as home at the moment, because it hasn’t got people in it, or things, or anything.  It’s like it’s sucking all the life out of me.  I know the spaces I live in are never really the tidiest but there’s something so comforting about clutter that I’ve put all the things I’ve brought into the sitting room and sat in it myself – it still looks bare, but, well, it could be barer.

At Winchester station this morning, just as I was about to go through the barrier onto the platform, Mum gave me a present.  Just a small one, but it made me smile very much.


It’s nothing very big at all, but I can’t think of anything that would have touched me more, in the circumstances.  She knows I always have to have a pencil on me, and that I can’t abide them being anything except for so sharp you get stabbed through five layers of clothing, and that I’m forever losing my pencil sharpeners.  It’s the little things that get you, sometimes.  I don’t really want to be here, you know.  I want to be at home.

My congratulations to everyone who got their A-level results today.  If you did particularly well, that’s fantastic.  But either way, you’ve got through something that is about as stressful as life gets.  Today was A Big Thing, you know.  I was so proud, when I got my results, to think that A Big Thing had happened to me, and that it hadn’t mashed me to a pulp.  You should be proud too.  All the people I know who’ve got their results, I’m really proud of them, and proud to know them.

Three unrelated things August 18, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Sheer bloody-mindedness.
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Indiana Jones Syndrome: Condition.  To insist, when faced with something one believes is inaccurate, fantastic beyond belief or just plain wrong, upon sharing the details of why this is the case with everyone within earshot.  The classic case is triggered by placing the work of George Lucas in a room with someone with a grasp of basic Newtonian concepts who would rather be outside.

Because you’ve always wondered. Some people have such job satisfaction.

I am knitting this at the moment.  It is beautiful.  But it is driving me slowly but surely to distraction.  I cannot for the life of me get the stitch count right!  It is disarmingly simple.  I have not even finished the garter stitch centre of it yet.  This is the easiest bit.  It involves four increases at points I cannot fail to get right, because it would be vividly obvious, and the rest of it looks absolutely fine too.  But still, I end up with the wrong number of stitches every few rows and I cannot understand it.  All I know is that I am sick of getting it wrong and unpicking it and doing it again, and also that it is not, under any circumstances, going to beat me.  Oh no.  This shawl and I are doing battle, ladies and gentleman, and on no account is it going to win.  I will not be beaten by garter stitch.


Librarying August 17, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Really good day, University.
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This morning, I got up earlier than I’ve got up in quite a while, pottered about for a bit retrieving scrap bits of paper from the bottoms of suitcases, and went into town.  There are few things I like doing better than the sort of things I was doing today, even though I don’t get to do it very often.

I love Southampton University’s Highfield campus.  It’s not particularly like Durham, or at least the bits of Durham I routinely go to, but if it weren’t so close to home I would have applied to Southampton as at least a second choice, because I think it is fantastic.  I couldn’t really tell you why.  Durham is charming, and has little passages about the place, and an abundance of charity shops and hills and pretty views and an amazing sense of community.  Southampton is not, shall we say, the most charming city in the world, and its single prettiest view has in the last year or so been entirely taken over with the Big Blue Box Of Doom that is Ikea.  As for the sense of community in the university – I wouldn’t know.  But I really, really like the Highfield campus.  Maybe it is that it is clean, and a bit shiny, and has both a library and a theatre smack bang in the middle, and does decent sandwiches.  I think it’s just so university-ish.  I can’t really describe it any better than that.

So I wandered about it for a bit, and spent a few hours in the library – which I also really like, perhaps more rationally, because it always has three copies of the book I want and middling-to-comfy chairs, and doesn’t go overboard on the air conditioning, even if it doesn’t quite get the hang of the Dewey Decimal System.  So I stuck my headphones in and read complicated literature and wrote sarcastic comments in black fountain pen in my notes, and just soaked it up for a bit.

And then I felt a bit swish so I got the bus into town, spent a fortune on lunch in John Lewis, and settled down with a really horrid cup of filter coffee in Borders to highlight a printout of Jackson v Attorney General in two different colours.  Twelve pages down.  Fourteen to go.

And now I’m home, and I have knitting needles of the right size and a shawl pattern and I really do feel like I’ve got somewhere today, so that’s alright.  The thing I loved most about today, though, wasn’t the place (although actually, it’s not the done thing but I do quite like Southampton city centre as well), or the subject matter or the concentrating, or the chat with the guy in John Lewis who’d never seen a circular knitting needle before.  It was that even though I was somewhere quite busy, I was on my own.  Just to think.  Just to wander round in a daze when I was hungry and irritable and didn’t want to have to explain the fact.  Just to concentrate on what I wanted to concentrate on.  I’m one for human company, most of the time, but occasionally it all gets a bit much and all I want to do is be absolutely silent, and read about Parliamentary conventions.

I did finish those socks last night.

Today was a really good day.

Practically blooming August 16, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, University.

It’s beautiful out today.  Bright and glorious and the perfect day for a walk.


It was also the village fete, and a scorcher – I have it on good authority that ice-cream, beer and tea were consumed in gargantuan quantities.  I only went for half an hour, however, and sadly the walk will have to wait; a week tomorrow I have a resit to take, for which I’ll be up in Durham in an empty house.  As is, however, the order of the day is a bit more restrained and studious.  I’m really hoping the weather will last out til I can enjoy it properly.

As far as Durham goes, I’m looking forward to being back, even if it’s only for a few days.  I’m looking forward to being somewhere quiet that I can work, with a purpose.  I am wetting myself about the exam, and really quite disappointed that nobody I particularly know is going to be about to talk to, and the student union won’t even be open for a cup of coffee.  Either I’ll end up moping, then, or (fingers crossed!) the effect of no company and having the fear of God put into me will bring about some sort of change and I’ll get quite a lot done.  I can but hope.

On a more optimistic note, I have finished things for you!  The blanket is completed, finally, and looks spectacular.  The second of the pair of socks will with any luck be bound off this evening (pending any guilt tripping about why am I knitting when I should be reading about parliamentary sovereignty), and I have a shawl, which I knitted this last week on holiday with friends in Somerset from a beautiful pattern called Ishbel by Ysolda Teague Of Blogroll Fame, of which I am very, very proud.  It’s not been blocked yet, but as soon as it is I can guarantee I’ll be crowing about it.  Everything about it is stunning.  Especially the fact that I cocked it up a few times and you can’t even tell.  There’ll be pictures, in much detail, I assure you.

As a result of this success, I’ve been hit square between the eyes by the shawl bug.  There will be crooning over lace.  Sorry about that.  But it’s so pretty.  Anyway, here is the blanket, with book for size comparison purposes (Molesworth.  Classy.):


You can probably tell I didn’t block it very well, so it’s still a bit of a funny shape – as soon as I have a bit more time on my hands this will be rectified.  It’s about 44 inches by 44 inches and weighs about 820g.  It took four months, seventeen balls of DK merino wool, 1.8 metres of needles and is by my estimates about 94,000 stitches.  I reckon my knitting speed without frills, like this, is about 27 stitches per minute.  You do the maths.  It is also really warm and snuggly and I am zealously proud of it.

So there we go.  It’s Sunday evening.  The Week Of Death, Destruction and the UK Constitution starts tomorrow.  Wish me luck.  After all, if this one goes down the pan I don’t really get another chance to take it seriously.

Caving in August 15, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Uncategorized.

It was bound to happen eventually.

The old blog, glorious as it was, comfortable and very much full of me that it was, has come to the end of its usefulness.  There are more things I want to do.  So after a bit of tweaking (and I’m sure there’s more to go), here is Fi’s Blog Reloaded, as it were, with a few more spangly bits and a bit more space for me to do what I want with it and not get battered round the skull by Microsoft at every turn.  I’m quite looking forward, I have to say, to knowing when I’ve received a comment on an old post through means other than chance.  How exciting.

My old blog was good.  I liked it.  Not quite enough, clearly.  We’ll see how it goes.