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Underwater December 2, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Edinburgh, Knitting, Lovely people, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Small things.

…That’s a comment on how wet it is up here, by the way.  It’s been raining horizontally on and off for about a week.

I was walking down to the library about ten past eight this morning.  You know, when it’s got to the point where you’re just following your feet, and you’ve stopped noticing things around you?  I’ve been trying to fend it off of late, because Edinburgh is such a beautiful city and I don’t have very long to enjoy it – only this year – but it’s caught up with me recently.  And, as I was walking past Bristo Square, I spotted something on the railings.

It was World AIDS day yesterday, which I assume accounts for it.

Yarn bombing is one of my favourite things in the world, and I’ll tell you for why.  I always seem to see it when there’s a lot going on around me, when I’m up to my eyeballs in late nights and my head is spinning with all the things I should have done and I haven’t yet.  And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, there are knitters.  If I didn’t knit, it would still say to me that someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to brighten things up.  That would just be fabulous all by itself.  But as a knitter myself, it feels like a reminder that even though it’s getting dark at 4 o’clock, even though I’ve barely seen the outside for quite a while and I haven’t had an evening in to myself where I haven’t had to work in weeks… some things are constant.  There are people out there who take a bit of time to knit red ribbons and tie them on railings.  There are people who still think that’s a worthwhile use of their time – which, of course, I have to wholeheartedly agree with.

It’s like someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to just reach across and say hey, hang on a minute – how are you?

…All the way down the road.  I don’t know if you can see it.

I won NaNoWriMo the other day.  It’s been good to take a bit of time out – I’ve met some fantastic people and learned a lot about myself.  It was a lot easier to keep going than this time last year.  I discovered, though, that it’s a bad idea to force myself to research about wartime mental illness when the nights are drawing in.  That on top of work – my first essay went in this morning, one down, two to go.  I’ve had to be pretty careful – yet another reason that seeing knitting just made it all a bit better.

My camera’s playing up at the moment – sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t.  But I have FOs to show you, and I’m determined to find the time soon!  Maybe I should instate WIP Wednesday, or whatever it is that the other bloggers are doing these days.  Something to think about.


Dreich October 14, 2011

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


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.

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.

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.

On diaries February 19, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Bwargh, Small things.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

‘Not Waving but Drowning’, by Stevie Smith.  Copied from my diary while I was doing my A-levels, Tuesday 13th November 2007.

I wrote a diary from shortly after my thirteenth birthday all the way through to just before I went to university.  At that point, I was thinking too much and didn’t have time to go and write it all down and think about it.  I tried again last year, and lasted about a month – the style that I used to use didn’t really suit any more.  I used to write the date at the top, and set it out like a letter, and write down the time I started writing whenever I did, and sign off with my full name.  I’d like to go back to writing again, because it helped, and it helped me keep things to myself, and I think it made me a bit of a better person or at least a more self-aware one.

Other things have happened, and they’re great and I’ve really enjoyed them – and I’ll try and post about them soon, but I just needed to get this one out.

So what do you do, when you feel a bit like you’re not waving right now?

Oh hello January January 31, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Knitting.
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I didn’t notice you go past. I promise to enjoy the remaining five hours of you properly, though.

And to everyone else I appear to have neglected – don’t worry! I’m here! May I offer you some knitting in recompense? I made this for my sister for Christmas.

Yay hat!  It was swatched in an afternoon, improvised in an evening, bound off during my lunchbreak at work and blocked in the airing cupboard on Christmas Eve.  The yarn is Rowan Purelife Chunky in Blue Faced Leicester (if you’re thinking ‘it’s not blue’, it’s because BFL is a breed of sheep.  With, arguably, a slightly blue-tinged face.  Nothing if not original.)

Disarmingly simple.  If I did it again, I’d add Icord or a little garter stitch ‘bow’ to the centre at the top.  Just because it’d be prettier.

You can see the brim better in this one.  It, too, is ridiculously simple.  The recipient plays her cards right, as you can see, and has therefore professed that she loves the hat and would like nothing better than to pose for endless photos of it.

So there was that.  I also made another pair of socks for His Nibs and a scarf for Mum, but half-decent photos are unforthcoming about them so you’ll have to imagine.  They were both excellent.

Apart from that, there’s only one enormous and huge thing that’s happened – remember West Side Story at the Gala last year?  This year – the week before last – was my last Gala show ever.  This year, they chose The Producers and it was spectacular.  I’ve never been involved in anything like it.  Photos to follow when I can pilfer them off people who standing in the right place.

I shan’t ignore you any more, I promise.  You may have noticed I have a camera now – there’s no escape any more!

I’m disappearing November 25, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Uncategorized.
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…until Sunday.  Impromptu road trip.  It’s going to be a really busy week after that too, so if you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m either in France or I’m feverishly chasing deadlines.

Have a good week.

Morstan Mittens November 10, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Lovely people, Patterns, Really good day.

Named after Mary Morstan, the most well-gloved of Victorian ladies, and, if you like, the sidekick’s sidekick.  She was Dr Watson’s wife in the Sherlock Holmes stories.  Importantly, she was the inspiration for these:

They were published today in Winter Knitcircus – alongside quite a lot of very beautiful things that I am absolutely in awe of being associated with.  I highly recommend having a flick through.

They also come fingerless:

I’m so unbelievably chuffed with them – ever since the samples came back I’ve been wearing them non-stop.  I adore Manos Silk Blend (the green yarn in the fingerless mitts) and I’d love to design with it again.  The Ethical Twist from the mittens might be familiar to you as well – I used it in my Garden Cardigan over the summer, and the mittens are just as warm and snuggly as the cardigan is.  I’m wearing the cardigan a lot these days, too.

You can buy the pattern from Knitcircus magazine directly – either singly or with the whole Winter pattern collection.  So many pretty things.  Squee.

Morstan mittens on Ravelry:

All photos courtesy of Knitcircus.

Thoughts two days in November 2, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Bwargh, Literature, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness.

1,667 words a day is difficult.

At first, everyone is telling you how the only way to do it is to ignore all the distractions, sit down and just write.  There is no secret, or rather, there is, and that’s it.  Then you all talk for a bit about how you’re all so KER-RAZY and insane to be trying to write 50,000 words in a month.  Then you tell each other how excited you are about your plot, and you identify in advance as a planner or a pantser.

I am a planner, incidentally.  A 34-point, 2000 word planner.  I have discovered that I use neither the Snowflake nor the Phase Method, and it seems to work for me.

And then it starts, and you start writing, and you look at what you’ve written in horror and then you look at all the people who’ve written ten thousand words in a day, and you envy them, and you tell everyone about how you really want to just delete everything you wrote and start again.

I don’t want to delete everything I wrote.  It’s the worst pile of crap I’ve written in a very long time, but I don’t want to get rid of it, because it’s not really that bad.  It’s in no way fit for public consumption, and I’d like to think it will be one day but that’s a long way into the future.

The worst thing about it so far is that I’ve known for a very long time that, objectively speaking, I’m not a particularly good writer.  I’m not going to get the Booker Prize, shall we say.  But I’ve never been bad by my own standards: I don’t care if nobody else wants to read what I write, there are hundreds of thousands of words of stories that I’ve written that nobody is ever going to read, but I look back at them every so often and they make me happy.  By my own standards and for my own benefit, I’m a pretty good writer.  So the worst thing about NaNoWriMo so far, two days in, is that I’ve never been scared of scrolling up before.  I’ve never been embarassed to reread anything I’ve written before.

I know the point is that you just write, just start at the beginning and plough on until the end, and don’t look at what’s gone before until the end, but honestly, the thing that’s making me recoil is not the actual writing – that’s really good fun, actually, and so therapeutic, just getting my internal story out and haphazardly written down – it’s that I don’t think I want to edit this.  I don’t think I ever want to see it again.

I’ve never felt like this about my writing before, and that’s really scary.  I don’t have a target audience at all, any more, because not even I would read what I’m writing this month.  It feels like I’ve lost my anchor, somehow.  Does that make sense?

Anyway, if I’d written this last 500 words of novel rather than of blog, I’d be past my target for today.  So that’s a bit depressing.

All encouragement gratefully received, but don’t be surprised if I go into ‘You weren’t there, man!’ mode for the next few days.

Unrelatedly, Woolly Wormhead mystery KAL this month!  The cast-on is so fiddly I haven’t got very far, but I’m looking forward to it because it looks like it’s going to be beautiful.  And it has lace and cables and twisted stitches and yay.  So something at least is going well this month.

Article 3, or, I love the smell of controversy in the morning September 21, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Law.

(This is a law post, not so much a knitting post.  I actually published it a while back, but wasn’t particularly happy with it, so got rid of it.  And now I am happy with it, and quite interested to hear what people have to say about it.)

At some point last term, I read about the judgment of the Grand Chamber in the European Court of Human Rights in a case called Gäfgen v Germany.  It’s kind of famous in some circles, and one of those situations where I’m really, really glad I’m not sitting on the Grand Chamber.  The facts are thus: Mr Gäfgen was threatened with torture while being held in custody in Germany for the kidnapping and murder of an eleven-year-old boy.  He was later found guilty – he killed the boy, and then contacted the boy’s parents asking for a ransom, and was detained just after picking it up.  There’s really no doubt that he did it.  Thinking that the boy was still alive, the police officers involved threatened Mr Gäfgen with torture.

The national courts in Germany acknowledged that threatening to torture him was a bit of a bad thing, and kind of half-heartedly told the policemen involved how naughty they’d been.  The case was up before the ECtHR because Mr Gäfgen alleged that his human rights had been breached: not to be tortured, under Article 3, and to a fair trial, under Article 6.  He argued that the national redress for the violation of Article 3 was not enough to provide a deterrent to doing it again, and that his confession was invalid because of the techniques used beforehand – although his confession under threat of torture was not used at trial.

Particularly, Article 3 reads, in its entirety:

‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’

There are two tiers to the European Court of Human Rights, the Chamber, and the Grand Chamber, and every case that gets to the Court goes to the Chamber.  The Grand Chamber is a bit like the Court of Appeal, and involves more judges.

In Gäfgen’s case, the Chamber decided that torture was a breach of Article 3, but the threat of torture wasn’t, and therefore there was no violation.

It’s very easy, I think, to side with the Chamber here.  Mr Gäfgen is a bad man.  Not a character, a real person, who brutally murdered an eleven-year-old boy and dropped his body in a pond.  When I think about some of the eleven-year-olds I know, I get a lump in my throat and a not insignificant rage.  On top of which, it’s very easy to say well, he wasn’t physically hurt, they didn’t do anything to him, therefore the Chamber was right.  I had a tutorial on this case in which there was a very clear split between people who thought that the seriousness of Mr Gäfgen’s crimes, and the fact that he wasn’t actually physically tortured, meant that he wasn’t entitled to any protection, and people who didn’t think so.  Even if this is pretty extreme, it’s clear that Mr Gäfgen had done far worse to the boy and his parents than was done to him.

The Grand Chamber thought that the mere threat of torture was enough to constitute ‘inhuman treatment’ under Article 3 (and also that the trial was fair, because the confession extracted under threat of torture was not used).

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights is an odd one.  It’s very controversial.  On the face of it, everyone thinks that not torturing people is a good thing, it’s fair, and it’s right that it should be absolute.  In a case like Gäfgen v Germany, though, opinion is so divided.  How far does it go?  Does it extend beyond peacetime?  Does it extend to people for whom nobody has any sympathy, or who have done horrible, utterly reprehensible things?  And what about if the perpetrator thinks there is some real, tangible and vitally important reason for acting as they did, like saving a human life?  In some ways, Gäfgen is a bit of a paradigm thought experiment.  In other ways, it’s as real as you and I are – real people, real emotions, real fear, stress and pain.  These people, Mr Gäfgen, the boy’s parents, the policemen, they’re still alive and they’re living with this.  Who are we to punish and pass judgement?  And at the same time, who are we not to?

The other problem a lot of people have with Gäfgen v Germany is that the threat of torture was seen as inhuman treatment.  Well, it is.  Psychological torture has been used through the centuries, and is still used.  I went to a talk last year hosted by the Durham Law Society where the gentleman speaking told us in detail about how the threat of torture was used on him.  But it isn’t physical pain, and sticks and stones and all that, so in a case so marginal and controversial as this one, does the fact that there was no physical torture tip the balance?  The Chamber obviously thought so.

When I think of all the things I’m glad of in life, more and more frequently these days, ‘not being a judge’ enters the list.

It’s That Hat Again August 25, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Lovely people.
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I’m absolutely delighted that my November Beret has been featured as the Wednesday’s pattern on Peacefully Knitting.  I’ve been following Tina’s blog for a few weeks now and it’s brought all kinds of patterns and yarns and what have you to my attention that I probably wouldn’t have spotted otherwise.  If crafting and slightly obscure pretty things are your bag, I heartily recommend nipping over and taking a look.  Say hi from me!