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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.
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…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.

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Not so strange July 3, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Literature, Look what I did, NaNoWriMo.
1 comment so far

There are a few types of projects I keep coming back to.

My default no-brainer project is the plain pair of stocking stitch toe-up socks: I’ve made a few for me, one for each parent, His Nibs has a variation on them (one round plain, one round double rib, repeat ad infinitem), and although I haven’t always got one on the go, I always have the yarn for one about ready, just in case.  I can knit the whole thing with no pattern and very little thought, so they’re perfect for times when I want to concentrate on something else, or even on nothing in particular.  I currently have two pairs of these in the works, a throwback to the fact that I’ve just come out of exams and sometimes, you know, you just don’t want to have to think too hard.  These ones are going to be for some very special people who have yet to receive my knitwear but have had to sit through my telling them about it for quite long enough.

The other thing I come back to a lot is the cabled hat.  I’ve talked before about why I love cables – they’re the first knitting ‘trick’ I learned to do, and I love improvising them and seeing where they go.  At the beginning of June, I was given a challenge to knit something based on the last book I’d read, and as luck would have it, I’d just put down my copy of this:

It’s about eighteenth century gentleman magicians in England, it features cameos from Lord Wellington and Byron, and I highly recommend you pick it up.  It takes a while, it’s a long book and it’s not something you can read in a few days but my goodness, it’s worth it for the denouement alone.  The fact that the rest of it is marvellous can only add to things.  Every so often I pick it up again, intending to just revisit the best bits, and find myself reading the whole thing from cover to cover again.

This is comfort reading at its best for me, so I headed straight in the direction of comfort knitting to try and represent it.  This is ‘Strange’:

I wasn’t entirely sure about it to begin with, I have to admit, but it’s grown on me hugely.  I’ve knitted on this for a month – it was the project I took to Edinburgh when Linguistic Housemate and I decided to take an impromptu trip for my 21st birthday (oh yeah, I’m 21 now, sorry – forgot to tell you that.  Oops).

The new short hair is making hats so much easier to wear, I have to say!  I’d never have dared wear something this cloche-y before I had it all cut off.  It’s most exciting – expect it to be very much taken advantage of!

Beyond that… it’s great.  Since I’ve got home, I’ve found time to read again.  It seems so strange not to have anything more deadline-based to do, I have to admit I’m not adapting to it very well.  So I’ve embarked upon Camp NaNoWriMo which debuts this month.  Do you remember the novel I wrote 50,000 words of in November?  At the beginning of July, it stood at almost exactly 60,000 words, and had ground somewhat to a halt.  I’m hoping, in the next few weeks, that having the time and the cheers of other writers will give me the impetus to finish the first draft.  I love the story so much, it’s just getting it out and on paper that’s the problem.

There’s no rest for the wicked, after all!  But would I have it any other way?

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.

Thoughts two days in November 2, 2010

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

It’s November (nearly)! October 31, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Knitting, Literature, Lovely people, NaNoWriMo.
3 comments

I know I’ve been terrible recently about writing – and I’m hoping that’ll change soon, but every time so far I sit down to write a blog post I find I have nothing to say.  NaNoWriMo approaches, though – at midnight tonight, I’ll start writing and hopefully that’ll mean I have things to say again elsewhere as well.  That’s the plan, anyway.

So in lieu of conversation, have a bit of a reminder of this:

The November beret (remember that, right?) being worn by the very lovely Laura.  She took pictures of the green version at the original photoshoot, but unfortunately I didn’t get much of an opportunity to post some of the ones of her – a terrible shame indeed, because she’s disgustingly photogenic, don’t you think?

Anyway, it’s November here in a few hours’ time, I’m attempting to write a novel in November and I happen to have a pattern called ‘November’… can you see where I’m going with this?

At the end of November, I’ll make a donation of 50p per November beret pattern sold during the month to the Office of Letters and Light, because they’re fantastic and if there’s one thing I support it’s stories.  And also, one bit of creativity deserves another.

On the subject of which, I went to Newcastle yesterday to meet some fellow NaNo-ers.  I wholeheartedly approve of any venture which involves coffee, stickers, and meeting new people who make jokes about literature.  Considering that a significant number of my friendships over the years have been based on befriending people who recognise an Oscar Wilde quotation when they hear one, this is fantastic.

If you’re novelling this month, or writing creatively in any way, shape or form: good luck.  I have it on good authority that there a hundred-and-some thousand of us out there rooting for you.

If you’d like to buy a copy of the pattern for the November beret, you can buy it now from Ravelry (you don’t have to be a member, either!).  Or, you could give OLL a few pennies yourself anyway.  I’m fairly sure that qualifies you as A Good Person.

Inspiration September 29, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Literature, University.
2 comments

It’s been raining on and off here for the last three days, and it’s grey and miserable and generally not particularly pleasant – which is why I’ve not been writing, I suppose, nobody wants that passing on.  People are slowly but surely coming back to the city – both of my housemates are here, now, and a few of the other techies, and it’s so exciting to see them all again.  Plus, the flat is now feeling a bit more like home now that it has three people, about a hundred extension cables and the smells of cooking in it.  This can only be a good thing.

I’ve spent the last few days working: pre-term reading, but also a few other bits and pieces.  I’ve decided this is the year I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which is in November.  I haven’t written any length of fiction longer than about a thousand words in about the last five years, and it’s something I’m finding I’m having to train myself back into doing.  It’s amazing how these things leave you, but also how quickly they come back.  Contrary to most people’s response, though (which tends to be, “Ooh, and then you can publish it!”), I’m doing this entirely for my own benefit.  For fun.  For the personal challenge.  It may or may not become public, but, given my recent standard of writing, I’m inclined to think it’s unlikely.  Anyway, the planning is under way, and I’m already discovering the perks of being one’s own target audience – I’m really excited already.  How long this will continue is debatable.

Anyone else planning to join in?  I’d love to hear from you.

My knitting at the moment is a bit on the exciting, new side – I’m test-knitting a sock which is beautiful but complicated, and involves a lot of cables and twisted stitches.  Both of these are favourites of mine, and I’m really enjoying testing them.  More to follow, almost certainly, when I’ve finished them.  I have to say, testing patterns for other designers is one of my favourite things.  It’s like one great mystery knitalong where you just immerse yourself in the pattern – so useful for the designer, and so community-building for the testers.  Working with chatty test-knitters is another of my favourite things.

Added to which, finally, inspiration has struck and I’m knitting up the sample for a shawl.  I don’t know whether I love it more because it’s got lace in it, or it’s been such a challenge to put together, or because it’s really, really pretty.  The sample I’m knitting up at the moment is in the teal Araucania Ranco I got in Sheffield over the summer, and I have plans for a laceweight version as well.  Both of which should keep me busy for a while!

I’m crediting the knitting with keeping me sane in all this rain – even my wonderful library isn’t doing the trick.  They’re refurbishing, and I’ve been in there this week and it’s freezing.  I’m looking forward to December so much…

Notes on a Chorus Line June 7, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Literature, Look what I did, Theatre.
1 comment so far

To be involved in any way with the theatre, particularly acting but also elsewhere, takes a certain type of person – the sort of person who is very aware of their own perceived strengths and weaknesses, what they’re good at, and where they’ve come from.  Not necessarily self-aware, particularly, but its the sort of thing that a lot of them seem to think about quite a bit.  I say they.  Obviously I’m including myself in this, at least a bit.

One effect of this is a vast swathe of plays written about the theatre.  Loads of them.  Everywhere.  From the Phantom of the Opera to Noises Off, people who perform are written, imitated and dissected by people who perform.  Essentially, actors, writing about actors, for actors.

Chorus Line is a textbook example of this, being entirely focused around actors during an audition, being insecure, singing monologues, and generally baring their souls about how desperate they are to get to the top and how they’re never going to make it.  It’s good fun.  It’s very good fun to watch, and hum, and clap along to but the people to whom it has special significance, who might say, “Oh, Chorus Line!  That’s my favourite play!” are actors.  You get the feeling, as an audience member, that it’s not really about you.  It’s not supposed to be.  It’s a manifestation of the truism that actors are eternally fascinated with actors.

Authors are eternally fascinated with authors.  Painters are eternally fascinated with other painters.  Anything creative and introspective necessarily means that you’re taking something inside you and putting it outside you, and that, for me, means that a lot of plays like Chorus Line are very interesting.  I’m not an expert on the significance or subtext in plays, and nor do I play one on TV, but I’m finding it surprisingly difficult to get engrossed in the plot and the characters and their motives so much as the actors, and what they think the characters say about them.  A lot, as it turns out.  The director more so.  The choreographer’s just having a whale of a time.

In the meantime… I haven’t really had time to stop.  Saturday was Grey Day, which was wonderful but I was at college at about 6am and got home about 3am after we’d finished clearing up.  A lot of people did a lot more hard work than I did, but it’s all cumulative at the moment.  I recovered from that on Sunday and was in rehearsals from nine o’clock this morning.  I’ve got a formal in half an hour – the first of three black tie events I’m going to this week.  There’s no time to slow down; I feel like I haven’t got exams out of my system yet.

This has helped:

Recognise that yarn?  It’s the Port Ludlow Sock, and I love it.  A simple, memorable six-stitch repeat.  Nothing too complicated or difficult or confusing.  I don’t have to carry a pattern around or count stitches every few rows.  I can just… knit.  Keep knitting.  I took it to Grey Day and turned the heel in the sunshine, with cider and friends and swing music.  It was wonderful.  Some people said that the stitch pattern might get swamped by the yarn, and I can see where they might be coming from but personally I think it’s worked really well.  I look forward to wearing them, and to them reminding me of the occasions I spent knitting them.

More soon, probably – it’s going to be a hectic week, though.  I have to be out of the house in five minutes.

Unusual March 25, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Bwargh, Law, Literature.
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(So I’m home.  Since Sunday.  It’s great, but I don’t really know what to do with myself without essaying.  I’ve been at work the last few days and clawing at the walls because I want to do something intellectual.  Also I got a bit of a buzz today because my manager told me I had a really lovely telephone manner and it was the nicest thing anyone’s said to me all day.  Close brackets.)

I did something yesterday during my lunchbreak which was unusual, and it was this: I went to the Oxfam bookshop and bought a book.

The book was nothing to do with the law.

It did not have a Penguin black cover, nor will it ever.

It does not question my morality, my sexuality, my politics, my prejudices or my take on the world.

In fact, in no way does reading this book make me a better, or more enlightened person.

It is called ‘Death du Jour’, by Kathy Reichs who is one of my favourite (if a little pulp) crime authors; it cost me £1.99 and it is about a murder-solving forensic pathologist.  I am eighty three pages in and it is fantastic, not least because all my concentration is going on something that is not going to do me any external good now or ever.  Even knitting has some form of usefulness.  This is the written equivalent of spending an evening watching Masterchef (also a fantastic thing to do, incidentally).

The sad thing is, it occurred to me earlier that this is why I used to read: to enjoy the story.  I read a lot of pulp crime fiction of a certain type (tends to have female protagonist with medical background, history of depression and mad skills with firearms), but, y’know, I used to just read anything, for the love of it, at the time.  No analysis.  I read the entirety of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ without spotting the feminist subtext once.  I read the whole Narnia series about five times over before someone pointed out it was an allegory and I started to see their point.  I used to read, essentially, to find out what happened next.

In some ways, reading cases is a dream for this: you have a cast.  You have a goody and a baddy – or maybe you don’t.  You have a drama, and a difficult question, and an answer, and a reason.  You have a happily ever after, of sorts, even if it is in the phrase, ‘Case dismissed with costs.‘  In some ways, reading cases is terrible.  I always wondered what happened to the battered wives after they won their cases, for example, or whether the children in the adoption cases were happy, or whether people whose freedom of speech was deemed less important than national security and the public good really did run away to sea to make explicit videos about St Theresa.  No story tells you everything.  These are real lives.  You’re not going to get an answer just because you say Oh But Mum enough times.

Sometimes I wonder how many people’s lives and imaginations are ruined by the phrase, ‘Critically analyse‘.  I think I can sheepishly put my hand up at this point.

Anyway, you know all this.  The point is that yesterday, for the first time in ages, I bought a book from a charity shop and now I’m reading it.  And that’s unusual, and really, really refreshing.

Working in the student café March 17, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Literature, Look what I did, Lovely people, Small things, University.
5 comments

The commonest student working in the café
without a doubt studies English.
Byron and Shelley and Keats and conversation
over cups of coffee (decaffeinated, sweetened
with fair-trade Demerara sugar or skim milk)
and reams of paper in navy ink.
Discoloured books simulate ageing,
and the biro moustache on Jane Austen’s disapproving face
seems somehow fitting,
somehow natural.

The other linguists are rare, and when you see them,
they are often entirely engrossed;
only occasionally looking up,
their accents subtly changing when they pause
to answer a question or steal a continental crisp
from the person with their speakers on two seats away.
Europe is closer than you think
(only a few miles, Dover’s just up the motorway, yeah?)
and I know where I’d rather be.
Perhaps they’ll stare at the mountains of worksheets so hard
that they see maps, like I’d see stars.

Mathematicians and physicists argue over hundreds and thousands
and the icing on buns,
with a disapproving glance at the wordy subjects.
Creativity, says the sniff behind their eyes.  Creativity
is for those who don’t know the answer.
Beauty is in the universe, the computer chip and the atom.
Meaningless acronyms fly on the wind,
intended to confuse passers by,
a gesture of solidarity gone wrong.

Artists don’t work in public.
(You’d watch.)
They have their own hideaway,
filled with sawdust and brushes stiff with dried acrylic
and, unlike the drama students,
(Oscar Wilde once said that “from the point of view of feeling,
the actor’s craft is the type”)
perhaps they are content with their own company.
Paper cups, metal tables, plastic bins.
There is something ugly in the student café,
something not right somehow for catching the beauty.
Introspection, perhaps.
Perhaps introspection is what is missing.

Business students, on the other hand, do not work at all
and will not even admit to it in private.
And with orange juice and Smarties and smiles
you will wonder – why bother? Why try?
And blagging is the order of the day
– and exams are weeks away yet –
and after all what can it really hurt just this one time go on please?

Everybody else uses the library
for real work in real time,
or maybe they can think as fast as they type?
or maybe they’ve found somewhere better.

When exams come round, we will see.
All that is left is the wait, and the tea and discussion.
Multicoloured folders embroidered with ballpoint stars,
the evidence of a wasted afternoon.

(c) stitchthisdarling 2010

Books and trains March 1, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Law, Literature.
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East Coast trains purport to have internet access.  I can confirm that yes, this is true, for about fifteen seconds every five minutes.  And don’t expect it to be fast.  Humph.

Anyway, I’ve been a bit quiet over the last few days, for which I apologise; I’ve been on a bit of an epic round-trip of places in England as far away from Durham as I could get: to London for a bit of the old theatregoing (upon which more later), then on to see his nibs and go crafty and charity shopping in one of my favourite cities for the purpose, and then on home just in time for my Dad’s roast dinner.  An excellent weekend to all intents and purposes, but onwards and upwards, I should be back in Durham in an hour and back to the grind so ’tis.

With his nibs on Saturday I rather foolishly asked him if I could borrow his copy of Watchmen – as in the comic.  Turns out this was a bit of a mistake – I’ve been rather obsessed with it the last few days, to the amusement of my mother (“You’re reading something with pictures, Fiona?  I hate to say ‘regression’, but…”) and to the general detriment of all other conversation.  Also, it is bleak.  I don’t know if you’ve seen the film.  But it is the kind of thing that is just all-round grim – not very nice people, in a not very nice place, waiting rather ungraciously for the end of the world, and trying to extract as much blood and guts from the nearby populace as possible in the meantime.  No less addictive a read for this, but it doesn’t make for being cheerful, so I thought there are three ways, essentially, of combating this: 1) reading something a bit simpler about back in the good old days where there was no threat of nuclear apocalypse and the occasional good bout of swashbuckling, 2) reading something about how THE WORLD IS DEEP DOWN VERY UPSTANDING AND GOOD, or 3) reading about something entirely different.

Luckily, within two feet of me at present I have three books: ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexandre Dumas, ‘The Rule of Law’ by Tom Bingham, and ‘Knitting Without Tears’ by Elizabeth Zimmermann.

You can see where this is going, can’t you.

I’ve been reading ‘The Three Musketeers’ on and off since last summer.  I shan’t pass comment on it now because one day I’ll finish it and definitely be a better person for it, right now I’m enjoying picking it up and reading five pages a few times a month and just feeling like the world is a more awesome place, and mourning the fact that Aramis particularly isn’t actually a real person.

‘The Rule of Law’, by Tom Bingham, came out in hardback at the beginning of February.  About a week or two ago, I found a review of it on Amazon, and within ten minutes had bounced around the entire house, explained about it to two of my three housemates (the third kept wisely out of sight), and bought a copy.  If you don’t already know, Lord Bingham is my favourite legal person in the world ever.  Even now he’s retired he’s still the most influential person in English Law (according to the Times, at least) and I can only think of one occasion he’s ever been wrong.  And that’s impressive.  He’s basically the object of all my judicial fangirling and Just Generally Awesome – I’ve been told countless times how wrong it is to crush on someone in their 70s, but y’know?  That won’t stop me.

The first three chapters of the book have not calmed me down in the least.  I love the subject.  I love the Magna Carta and the European Convention on Human Rights and habeas corpus and Professor Dicey.  I love Lord Bingham as much as most of these.  This has been a very good train journey.

As for Elizabeth Zimmermann… I’m going to assume you haven’t heard of her.  She was a very, very influential knitter, effectively responsible for making the craft popular in America.  She’s revered by a lot of knitters as revolutionary, and a very clever woman.  Some people don’t like her chatty style, or the fact that she didn’t ‘do’ patterns so much as written conversations telling you what might be a good idea to try next, or that she was so dismissive of sewing up seams or purling.  Other people – and the two groups aren’t mutually exclusive – recognised that she was incredibly pragmatic and if you have any idea what you’re talking about with knitting then EZ can boost your confidence in your own skills like nobody’s business.  I personally am terrified by her handiness with the scissors, but have a great deal of time for someone who, when discussing knitting needles, makes comments like,

‘ A #6 aluminium needle has been known to furnish an excellent emergency shearpin for an outboard motor.  It once saved us seven miles of paddling.  Then I had to spend hours re-pointing the needle on rocks, having nobly, but foolishly, offered the business end instead of the knob end for sacrifice.’

or perhaps even more wonderfully,

‘I am faced with ribbing and a cast-off edge, which is hard to do neatly and elastically in ribbing.  I am discouraged.  Let us see if ruse and subterfuge will solve my problems.’

I laughed out loud at this point.  I have been a knitter dedicated to ruse and subterfuge for quite a long time.  I know one or two people who insist that whatever they make must be perfect and according to the pattern.  Making it up as you go along, according to whatever problems get thrown up as you run into them, is a gloriously healthy philosophy to live by, never mind to knit by.  I am a Zimmermann convert, most certainly.

Speaking of which, I have shawls to show you, but no camera. Bear with me.  You’ll see them.  They’re marvellous.