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The Satanic Verses November 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Bwargh, Edinburgh, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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I’ve just gone onto Wikipedia, and found out the plot of Salman Rusdie’s The Satanic Verses.  It was interesting.

Of course, I’ve heard of the book before – who hasn’t?  It’s practically synonymous with Rushdie’s name, with controversy, with all kinds of things – for the last few months, there’s been an exhibition about banned books at the National Library of Scotland, and I’ve gone round at least three times since August.  The Satanic Verses was all over it, that and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

The last time I went round the exhibition, I went with my mother.

“Do you know what it’s about?”  She didn’t.  She remembered the controversy, the protests, the fatwah, but she had no idea what the book was about, and neither did I.  The exhibition wasn’t particularly enlightening on that front, although if I hadn’t known the plot of Lady Chatterley before I went in, I certainly did when I came out.

On Saturday, I went to Leeds, to see DV8’s new performance, ‘Can We Talk About This?’  I had no idea what I was going in to see – I didn’t look it up in advance – but it was one of the most thought-provoking pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.  It’s based around interviews with all kinds of people, and has the basic premise of comment on how British attachment to multiculturalism means that it is failing to protect people who need to be protected.  It focuses on radical Islam.  There’s discussion of forced marriage, vigilantes, the murder or intimidation of writers and artists and film-makers accused of committing blasphemy, allegations of racism against people suggesting integration, or one law for everyone to abide by, or that Sharia might not be the right legal system for Britain.

I don’t know where I sit about this: it was more partisan than I was expecting.  I think I need to read more about it.

And yes, there was a bit about Salman Rushdie, and The Satanic Verses, and how dreadfully controversial it was and how some people took it as a religious insult.  And yet, until today, I had no idea what the plot of it was.

Other things I have found out in the last month: the workings of an international arrest warrant, what Idi Amin did, the geographic whereabouts of the Central African Republic and Nicaragua, who was in charge in South Africa when they implemented Apartheid, and that there is no actual treaty giving explicit state immunity to national Foreign Ministers.

What do you know?  The more about the world I find out, the more ignorant I am of it.  The more I feel like I’m swayed by anyone I meet telling me what the facts are and saying hey, well, you could look at it like this.  The greater the divide I feel there is between what I think about something, and what I happen to be arguing for this week.  (On the question of “Are human rights universal?”, in the last few weeks I have successfully argued both ways, in two different seminars, and in both I’ve succeeded in swaying several other members of the class.  It’s difficult not to feel manipulative, sometimes, even if it is in the safe confines of a seminar room.)

Having said which, I still don’t think I’ll bother reading any Rushdie any time soon.

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Dreich October 14, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Edinburgh, University.
8 comments

Wow.

Well, I thought it was about time I got this up and going again.

A lot has changed since the end of July, and I’ve not been on the internet for a lot of it.  I mentioned before that I was heading off to do a Masters in Edinburgh – well, I’m here now, and I’m completely snowed under a lot of the time.  I’ve been mostly absent from Ravelry for the last few months as well – which is another thing I’m going to have to rectify in the next few weeks.  Frankly, I’ve not really been on the internet so much.  But there’s been a lot going on and I think I’ve been able to cope with it, and adjust to it, a lot better for just keeping out of the way for a while.  I hope you haven’t minded.

Anyway, I’m back now.  I miss blogging and I’ve missed the blogging community as well – I’m sure a lot of changes have happened where you are, too!  So over the next few weeks I’m going to instate a rule of making sure to post at least once a week.  I want to get back into this, and I miss the dialogue of it too.  There’ll probably be a fairly high proportion of knitting posts for a while, partly because I have some absolutely smashing FOs and WIPs to show you, and partly because unless you’ve developed a sudden interest in the law of the sea, you really don’t want to know the gory details of my degree right now.

Also, my god, but Edinburgh is beautiful.  I’m going to have to show you a few bits, you’ll absolutely adore the place.  It’s stunning.

This new adventure July 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Edinburgh, Look what I did, University.
6 comments

After months of agonising, worrying and trying not to think about things, I’ve finally heard today from Edinburgh University – they’re offering me a place, starting in September, to study a one-year Masters course in International Law.  I am unbelievably excited.  I’ve been not daring to hope for this for most of this year: the course, and the city, look like the best thing I could possibly have wished for and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into both of them.

The course is amazing.  It looks like I’ll have ample opportunity to get stuck into my twin loves of humanitarian law and the European Convention of Human Rights (you know I can’t get enough of it!) and I’m really hoping the seminar format is going to help me get over my main problem of the last few years’ study – that I really don’t like giving presentations or speaking in front of people.  Looks like it’s unavoidable here, though, so fingers crossed I’ll get used to it.  That aside, there’s opportunity for a lot of discussion, and a lot of independent research, and they’re two of my favourite things.

As for the city, well, it’s beautiful.  I’m going to be spending all of August there (if you’re going to the Fringe festival, come and see us!  They’re giving me a lighting desk to play with and everything!) and I gather it’s a good place for everything I love – coffee shops, a vibrant crafting community, a lot of local history and folklore, beautiful walks, it’s going to be such an adventure and I can’t wait.

I almost wonder if a year is going to be long enough.

Academia July 5, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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It seems fitting that, now that I’ve left Durham altogether – and that they’ve moved the law library to a totally different site to where it used to be – that I should finally be publishing a pattern inspired by weeks and weeks sat in that very library.

I actually had the idea for this cardigan in a café in Lancaster last summer.  I was sat there for a few hours with not a lot to do but read, knit and let my coffee get cold – the best kind of afternoon.  A girl opposite me was wearing a cardigan with a similar sort of back detail and I wondered how one might go about knitting something like that.

It came to me not all that long afterwards, and I knitted up a prototype which is notable only in the fact that it is made of blue Wollmeise, which was lovely, but other than that was totally hideous.  It didn’t fit.  I couldn’t fit my arms into the sleeves.  Everything about it was too tight, or bulged, or drooped, and it had buttons which were far too heavy for it.  Anyway, I thought I could do without buttons.  I’m not surprised it ended up like this – I had knitted a grand total of most of one cardigan in my entire life by that point, and had really no idea what I was doing.  It was a bit of a learning curve.

This year, I have become a far better knitter.  I’ve met the concepts of ease, and drape, and what might actually look any good, and I’m so proud of what this has turned into.  I named it Academia, after something else that it has taken a lot of effort and trial and error to get the hang of, that I’ve spent a lot of time at, and that quite frankly I love to bits.  This sample was knitted mostly over the second term of this year: cast on in the green room of the Gala theatre before the matinee of The Producers, knitted on during my high points and my low points and as a bit of a distraction from work – and, yes, in the law library.  It was finished within about two days of my dissertation, and I love it and wear it often.

The thing I’m most proud of about it is that my test knitters also loved knitting it, and that it looks fantastic on all of them.  If you’re on Ravelry, you can see their cardigans here, and I’m so pleased that it seems to fit different body shapes and sizes so well.  Several of them are already knitting a second one in different yarn, or intend to do so.  And, of course, the banter was the best of any test-knitting group I’ve come across so far.  I fell on my feet with that one.

Oh, and one more thing – remember August of last year, when I said that the thing I aspired to most in the field of knitting was to design my own cardigan?  So do I.  Just goes to show, doesn’t it, that it’s really not all that complicated when you put your mind to it, and that it’s just a case of having your idea and going at it like you think it’s important.

If you can knit in the round, and do left- and right- slanting decreases (which if you knit I bet you can), then you can knit this with no difficulty at all.  The pattern on the back makes it go faster, too – and it really is ridiculously simple to do.  Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s short rows, they’re laughably simple and you’ll have them down to a fine art in an inch or two.

There’s a fair bit of I-cord, but I swear that’s it.  And besides, I don’t know about you, but I think I-cord looks rather good.

You can get the pattern for Academia here, for the princely sum of £3.25.

Graduation July 1, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Durham, Law, Look what I did, Lovely people, Really good day, Theatre, University.
8 comments

Graduation means movement.  Colour graduates.  Two days ago, so did I.

My university experience involved a lot of sitting in libraries and accompanying backache.  It involved a lot of coffee, and fruit tea, and late nights, and massive books.  To begin with, I thought I’d read the massive books cover to cover and that’d be fine.  I never did that once.  I pulled more all-nighters than I care to mention.  I blagged a lot.  I slept in, and panicked, quite a few times.  I came home at the end of every term and slept for several days straight, and I cried at eleven o’clock at night because I didn’t think I could keep going but I still had several hours’ work to do.

I didn’t get a first in anything.  Not once.

I learned how to paint floors, and walls, quickly, and how to put up lights and hem tablecloths and take in clothes.  I learned to knit jumpers.  I made gallons of tea and cooked for fifteen with half an hour’s notice.  I gave up my sofa, my living room, my entire house to other people, and I didn’t leave my bedroom for three days at a time.

I got drunk with people I didn’t know and regretted it every time, but kept doing it anyway.  Eventually I knew the people and I still regretted it.  I walked on cobbles and down steep hills in 5″ stillettos, and had to be walked home at two in the morning in the snow.  I ate rice for five days in a row, and spaghetti bolognese four times in the same week.  I stayed up til the small hours, drinking blackcurrant squash and playing Lego Indiana Jones with seven or eight people crammed onto two sofas.

When I graduated, I didn’t go to the law department.  The law department is not representative of my university experience, even though I did a fair bit of law and I enjoyed what I did.  My university experience would not be summed up anywhere near my department.

It’d be here, after working on a show with the other techies, all gathered round a table at the pub, dressed in black and grimy because we haven’t had time to shower for three or four days and so tired we’re all getting distracted by the lights on the slot machines.

Or it’d be here, eating cake backstage and trying to avoid being one of the people who has to move the piano and surruptitiously keeping an eye on my props table.

Or else it’d be at a college do, scrubbed up well and surrounded by friends, and smiles, and good conversation.

I’ll miss Durham, and I’ll miss my degree, and I’ll miss spending hours browsing Westlaw and reading things just that bit off topic.  But if something sums up the last few years, it won’t be the law department.  If I had to pick a building, it’d have to be this one.

Back home now.  You’ll probably hear from me more often.  Not that that’s in any way difficult.

Three sweaters May 2, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did.
6 comments

One.

‘Harvest Moon’ by Heidi Kirrmaier. Wool/alpaca blend DK. Started on Christmas Day, knitted in Brighton and Lincolnshire and Dorset over the Christmas holidays. Grew disconcertingly when blocked so that the bottom of the yoke was around my elbows. Strengthened my resolve to get myself a dress form the moment I have somewhere to put it.

Two.

(Get off my) Cloud by Kate Davies.  Sock weight wool on 3.5mm needles.  (I can’t believe it either.)  Cast on at Larmer Tree Festival, Summer 2010 and knitted on constantly for the entire week.  Taken to my first Ravelry meet-up.  Hood finished over coffee and lunch with the girls in Durham.  I-cord edges knitted over two trips from home to university, alternated with a sock so I wouldn’t go out of my mind with the quantity of it.

Worn, finished, for the first time at my second ever Ravelry meet-up.

Three.

And this one’s mine.  (Wool/angora light fingering.  Conceived last summer.  Cast on last term.  Ripped back, cast on again, ripped back again, cast on again.  Finished a few weeks ago.  Currently being test knit.  More exciting than it looks, but the most interesting detail isn’t visible from this picture.  More to come.)

Breaking things March 16, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Bwargh, Durham, Look what I did, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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Notably, internal barriers, my sleep cycle, my ability to function as an adult human being and look after myself and everything and – most excitingly – my record for greatest number of hours spent in the library over a 24 hour period outside of exam term.  Record currently stands at thirteen.  It can’t get any higher than that because that included opening time (9am) in the law library, two hours’ break for food and a tutorial, and closing time (midnight) in the main library.

It’s been that sort of week.

In a way, I’ve kind of enjoyed it.  It’s been good to just be single-minded about work, and just concentrate on one thing for hours at a stretch.  In a way, I kind of feel broken.  It doesn’t show any signs of stopping, yet, though: the end of term is on Friday.  Between now and then I have 300 pages of reading for two tutorials and a 1500 word mini-essay to write.  And then on Monday morning I’ll find out how inevitably dreadful my dissertation draft was, and start on another 6000 word essay due the beginning of next term, and try and get my head round starting to revise.

And do some washing.  I haven’t done any washing in the last two weeks, and I’m running out of things.

And tidy my room.  This is turning into a list now, which is not at all what I meant to say.

I meant to talk about finished things, and how I think I might have started to figure out what I want to do next year, which is great.  And a start.  I also meant to talk about Captain Shakespeare’s new play, which I saw on Saturday and which was a bloody good evening out though I say so myself.

Also, this is a placeholder.  I’m still here!  I’m still going!  I’ve not fallen off the face of the earth!

And look! It’s my dissertation:

Wordle: Public Law Dissertation 2011

(Clicky clicky to make it bigger, although you can probably tell it’s about Parliamentary Sovereignty, its interaction with the courts, and the Human Rights Act.  Soooo unbelievably interesting, and I could wax lyrical about it for ages but I fear I’d bore you.)

I feel quite proud that I’m here and things are still happening.  After my essay’s in on Friday, I promise to show you knitwear.  I know I’ve been promising for the last two weeks.

Coming up for air March 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
7 comments

Well, phew, frankly.

The first draft of my dissertation was handed in about 11 o’clock at night on Friday, which was the deadline.  In the last week, I’ve seen closing time in two different libraries, and opening time in one of them.  I haven’t really had much of a week, frankly – it all seemed to disappear in front of a computer screen.  I’ve slept twelve hours the last two nights, so that should tell you something.  The paper is mammoth, though – twenty-five pages plus bibliography.  Aside from NaNoWriMo, I’ve never written anything that big in my life.  It’s kind of a big deal.  I keep rolling the words undergraduate dissertation around in my head, and they don’t sound any less grand than they did this time two years ago.  Grief.

Anyway, it’s onwards and upwards – I have another essay due in ten days, and there’s no rest for the wicked, so that’s where this week is going.  But you don’t want to hear about that, do you?  You want to see this lovely finished thing:

(Please excuse both the state of my room and the crappiness of the picture – I’m hoping to press-gang the relevant parties into helping me take proper photos tomorrow. You will also note that my house was furnished by the Sprawling Mass of Bureaucracy that is one of the University departments, and hence my bedroom mirror is in three parts. Also, I have a pretty awesome poster on my wall.  You may blame aforementioned Sprawling Mass of Bureaucracy that it appears to be split in two.)

This is SOMETHING I FINISHED!!  I actually have two knitted tops that I’ve finished in about the last six weeks – not because I’ve been knitting so fast my hands are on fire, but because I am a lazy sod who hates sewing things up, so when I do sew things up, it tends to be all in one go.

I started (Get Off My) Cloud (Rav link) by Kate Davies over the summer, if you recall, and it’s involved so much Icord, and so much sewing up, that I finished the main body of it in maybe November, and the hood in December, and I’ve just failed to do anything with it since.  It’s all done now, though, and I wore it to London to meet knitters last weekend and was met with a lot of pointing and “I know what that is!” and compliments, so it definitely feels done.  There’ll be pictures, as soon as I can get someone to take them

The cardigan in the picture is Harvest Moon (Rav link) by Heidi Kirrmaier.  I started it on Christmas Day to make up for all that knitting for everyone else, and it waited for about a month for me to sew the pockets on, and another month for me to block it.  And I adore it.  And it’s alpaca so it’s the warmest thing in the world.  And it sheds cream coloured alpaca all over my black brushed wool coat.  If it didn’t do that, I’d never take it off.

What I’m knitting at the moment, then, is quite mysterious.  I’ve had this on the go for a few weeks:

Why yes, it is a Great Green Thing, and getting greater by the day.  Not so much lately, that’s a lot of stocking stitch, and I tend to need to alternate between it and something a bit more exciting.  The exciting things have been socks, essentially: I’m one down on a pair for Dad, whose birthday is at the end of the month, and I’ve just cast on another pair with this:

I love this yarn very, very much.  It came on Friday, the day I handed my draft in, and my reward for finishing said draft was to cast on the Sock Knitters Anonymous group on Ravelry’s March Mystery Sock.  The theme for this month is lace, and the mystery sock is gorgeous.  I finished the first clue today, and it reminded me how much I love just blindly following patterns occasionally.  You don’t have to worry about how it’s going to turn out, you don’t have to keep in mind what amendments you might want to make, you can just take the instructions and run with them.  It makes me happy.

The yarn is Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Sock, and it’s a superwash BFL, and I love it. I haven’t knit with Blue Faced Leicester in far too long – I’d forgotten how much it practically glows.  This stuff is so much fun to work with.

So that’s what’s happening knitting-wise at the moment, for the most part.

As for the rest of this blog, I’m afraid you’re rather going to have to bear with me at the moment.  You’ve probably noticed it’s been a bit thin on the ground, of late.  This year is not an easy year, it’s my final year as an undergraduate, and at the moment I feel a bit like I’m treading water.  Of course I’ll do my best to keep going – I love this blog, and when I’m able to do things with it, I love it and I love hearing your feedback and comments.  But if they’re sparse for the next four or five months, please do hang on.  Normal service will be resumed when I’m not up to my ears in the All England Law Reports and for now, well, I like you lot.  So I hope you’ll hang around.

The Right Thing December 22, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Look what I did, Lovely people, Small things.
1 comment so far

Individuals are important to me.  People are important.  Small things are important.  If there is one thing that has been constant while my outlook on the world has changed, it is that everyone is important, and they are important individually.  Look after them.  Care about them.  Joke if you like, if you must, about oppression and injustice in all their myriad forms, but don’t actually support them.  Don’t, if you can at all help it, give them the benefit of your support, your consent, or your money.

Economies of scale are almost universally recognised to be a good thing, but something in me is always uncomfortable with too much scale.  My sister asked me earlier if I disagreed with someone because I Have Principles And They Represented Corporate America, and I think she’s missed the point.

I’m not trying to change the world, and I don’t think I’d like it that much if the world changed too dramatically.  What I’m saying is that I eat bruised apples and handmade things are important to me.  I like it when individual care and attention goes into something, and that’s why I wear handknitted socks and someone made my week the other day when they bought me a copy of the pattern for Grove, entirely out of the blue, because they knew I’d like it.  Yay for the independent designer, and yay for thinking about individuals, and double yay for that person because they’re fantastic.  Homogeneity is terrifying, and I’m not saying Dare To Be Different, I’m saying that different is out there and we should hang on to it with both hands and share it with everyone we know.

I’m knitting most of my Christmas presents this year, and getting the rest from places I trust.  If you get a handmade gift from me, please take it very personally, and as a sign that I want to spend the time on you, and that I care about you especially.  You’re very special to me.

(That’s also why I got a little upset that I made my dad a pair of socks last year and he never wears them and only vaguely even knows where they are.  My dad Fights The Mainstream by watching Horizon and complaining it doesn’t go into enough depth.)

I don’t have any more time than you do, but I still knit things in front of the television – and I still wrote a novel last month.  I don’t have a lot of money but I buy clothes from charity shops, and eat less meat, put my pennies in a charity box and my handbag is handmade and was a special treat.

I am not doing this to be smug.  I am doing this because actually, I think ten extra minutes every so often are worth spending, and so are a few extra pounds but less often, and I would like to prove that by actually spending them.

Please spend them also.  Let’s swap nice things.

I pledge to buy handmade for myself and my loved ones, and request that others do the same for me.

And now it’s over. December 1, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Look what I did, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Uncategorized.
4 comments

Yesterday, at the last NaNoWriMo write-in of the month, I went up to the counter to get another cup of coffee, and there was a boy leaning against the counter.

“What are you all doing?” he said, indicating the seven or eight people with their laptops out, surrounded by packets of sweets and stuffed rabbits wearing capes, typing furiously.

“It’s National Novel Writing Month,” I said.  “From the beginning to the end of November, we’re writing a novel.  And it’s November 30th, so we thought we’d get together to boost morale a bit.  The target is 50,000 words,” I added, helpfully.

“Oh, right,” he said, looking impressed.  “Between you, or each?”

When I got back to the table and recounted this, there were roars of laughter.  As you can see, I’ve also got the adverbs-boost-wordcount bug right now, which should tell you a little about how it went.

A little about my NaNoWriMo this year.

When you’re writing a lot, very regularly, you learn a lot about your own writing style that maybe you didn’t really think of before.  For instance: my average speed for writing fiction comes up to abou 900 words in an hour, although if I’m competing with someone else, or writing as fast as I can against a clock, I can do that in just over twenty minutes.

I can’t sprint for longer than half an hour, otherwise my brain freezes up and I end up starting sentences with “And then”, and ending them with prepositions, and then the adverbs start appearing and when I reread what I’ve written I feel very embarassed indeed.

On an average day, it’d take me two-and-a-bit hours, including short breaks, to write my word count: usually between 1,500 and 2,500 words.  Any more than 2,500 words and I’d start with the prepositions and the and-then-ing again.  I wrote at least 300 words every day, just to be keeping going, except for the four days in France last week when I didn’t have access to a computer.

On two occasions, though, I wrote substantially more than 2,500 words in one go: once about a week from the end, and on the very last day, when at midnight I had 9,000 words to go and just went for it.  Unfortunately, on the last day, which was yesterday, I also had three hours of tutorials to prepare for and attend and a tech rehearsal to run in the evening (come and see Travesties, everyone, it’s going to be really good!), so it was all a bit of a panic.  I ended up going to bed at 2.3o after writing about 2,000 words, getting up at half past six, reading for my tutorial and then sprinting another 1000 words, then taking five hours out for my actual degree.  (If you’re not counting a sneaky 200 words handwritten in a tutorial and typed up afterwards…)

After that, there was an afternoon’s write-in at the Gala Café, without which I am certain I wouldn’t have finished.  Writing for me has always been a very personal thing, but having six or seven other people around, also writing very personal things, and daring you to catch them up, is amazing.  There were gingerbread plot bunnies:

And some real ones with capes and everything.  I got to 1700 words short of 50,000 before I had to disappear off and run the rehearsal, then left that abrubtly at ten to eleven, in a panic.  Do the maths, you can probably tell why.

So I finished, in the end, with ten minutes to spare.  50,097 words in 30 days.  111 pages in Microsoft Word.

If I’m lucky, in another ten or twelve thousand words I might actually have finished the story.

Back to the old degree, then, I suppose.