Category Archives: Definitely miscellaneous!

Oh, not again!

Why do things happen in clumps? I mean, when one thing happens – say someone reversing into your car – why is it then followed by other things? And why do these things happen when you’re already busy?

(Warning: there is no, or very little, actual knitting content in this post. There aren’t even any sheep. Because when other things were going pear-shaped, at least the knitting held up. And nobody actually reveresed into my car. I reversed it into a fence post getting out of the way of a caravan – it’s December, people, FFS – but it was slow and nothing was damaged.)

All in all, I needed a bit of refreshment. So, dealing with Disaster 3, I decided to take the back way to the big city – that would be Bangor – and get a bit of a reminder that there were good things too.

Gwynant

This is Nant Gwynant, and it is so beautiful…

So, Thing 1. Just before work, I went into the bathroom. The sink was full of glass, broken glass. First thought? I’d broken a tooth glass. Second thought? I do not have a tooth glass.

Looked up. Inner layer of Velux window had failed.

Spend ages putting cardboard up so more glass does not descend, place hoover across door so don’t forget about glass, go to work. Come back, replace cardboard which has fallen down, hoover glass. Repeat three hours later. Repeat next morning, before ringing home insurance. Apparently there was a product recall for these windows manufactured at a certain time. Ring Velux. My window is one. Will be replaced. Fast forward a few days, man from Velux appears. Replaces bathroom window. Checks massive double Velux in kitchen roof – and they need doing too. It’s about 4 metres up, but he’s prepared though a little surprised. (I am trying to work, meanwhile, and there is some, er, disruption.)

Time for pretty pic.

img_3893

OK, Thing 2. Have heating engineer here trying to work out why one rad has stopped working. This is going smoothly, even though it involves a hosepipe through the front door and black gunk in the garden, when my MacBook Pro decides to have a kernel panic.

This is my first. Run around room shouting ‘someone’s taken over my computer!!!’ until I stop and see the giveaway screen box on top of the chaos. Restart MBP. All seems well, but am not fooling self – really need extra memory. Unfortunately I am the Queen of Static so this will need doing by someone who does not rule the electric realm. Think a female version of Thor, but without the cloak and the muscles. And the facial hair. Hammer, mind, I could do with a (}#%$!! hammer. Now.

Another calming shot.

Llanberis Pass

Thing 3: Sodding washing machine decides to have its annual near-Christmas collapse. I know how it feels, but I do not stop in mid cycle with a load of ringing wet bedding inside, with all my lights flashing, making a terrible noise, and then refuse to give up my prize of a partly washed duvet, sheet, and pillowcases to their rightful owner. However at least it did not do it on Boxing Day this year, and I did find a hammer and released my washing through the exercise of physical violence.

And this is why I found myself driving around the base of Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon, avoiding a strolling family of wild goats, even though I suspected I would actually get my new machine from my lovely local retailer. As I have. It arrives tomorrow.

Snowdon

And the craft fair went fine, thanks. But my takings are going on a new washing machine. Oh yes, and on top of all that I developed a lung infection that I thought was just my usual winter athsma until it was a bit late, so I’ve been on heavy-duty antibiotics. I have now finished the course so I can hit the GIN, and boy do I need the €$^#{\!!! gin.

Silence is golden… and my broadband is irritating

Apologies for the lack of activity, but the fact is that since before Easter our broadband has been abominable. Partly this is down to the massive population explosion – all with phones and tablets and laptops and even smart TVs in their caravans – that Snowdonia experiences in any holiday season, and partly this is down to ancient cabling.

I’ve been largely reliant on free broadband in cafés – and pleasant though this may be, it’s not really an environment conducive to peaceful, thoughtful, incisive blogging about sheep. You get comments, apart from anything else. But on Monday the road is being excavated on behalf of BT Broadband for new ducting and ‘improvements’. This is essentially happening because there are some new houses being built, but I’m hoping there’ll be an upside for the rest of us. We shall see.

In the meanwhile, this is me and Rumplestiltskin waiting for a site to load:

Rumpelstiltskin / BTI suppose I could do some housework.

Normal service will be resumed shortly… gobeithio (extremely useful Welsh word, meaning ‘hopefully’). Hopefully.

(And as an indication, it has just taken me nearly an hour to post this, and that’s without searching for the image; I had it in my files. AGH!)

Knitting Wales – for Dewi Sant

Well, I’m still coughing, so no singing of the national anthem today (a great relief to all and sundry, I’m sure). But as it is St David’s Day, aka Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant, I am dressed as a giant leek. This makes a change from being dressed as a dragon* or a Welsh cake, of course.

Oh, OK, I’m not. But I am dressed like this:

Dyce painting

Courtesy National Museum of Wales

Thank you William Dyce, for Welsh Landscape with Two Women Knitting, which I rather like. I’m the one in the red. Dyce, incidentally, was a Scot. He came here for his health, apparently. Just as well that was in 1860. If he’d come here now he wouldn’t have lasted very long. Cough.

*Many years ago a rugby-mad friend went to Twickenham for a match with some mates. One was arrested for, ahem, public nuisance – the only one who had dressed (entirely) as a dragon, except for his DMs. He had nothing else to wear and so appeared in court in full rig, to much hilarity. Asked afterwards to comment he said ‘I don’t know why they picked on me, I don’t think I was that obvious, there were four of us doing it.’

 

Woooooooo – what to do?

OK, I’ve been thinking about this, and I’m coming clean. There’s another reason why I’ve not been posting much lately and, at the risk of sounding like a 1980s pop song (thanks, Rockwell), ‘I always feel like someone’s watching me / and I have no privacy…’

Tarkovsky

Yup, and homage to Tarkovsky, his moustache and his extraordinary 1979 film Stalker – I’ve got one. A cyber stalker, which is making life difficult. (I’m going to break the rules of grammar and use the third person plural to refer to this person – I haven’t lost my editorial mind, BTW – but their gender is, thankfully, not relevant here.)

In all fairness, I think X is fairly harmless. It’s not a question of a maniac ex-partner, but of someone I knew years ago with problems, and with whom I have had little or minimal contact for over ten years. I don’t think it’s much more than (faintly) innocent obsessive behaviour, but it is creepy and it is getting worse. This person – thankfully – lives hundreds of miles from me, and I honestly don’t believe that they even think of what they are doing as ‘stalking’. To them it’s probably what friends do. No, they don’t. But it is what stalkers do, so let’s name it for what it is.

Following what someone else does online in an obsessive way – rather than in a ‘you’re my mate/relative and I’m interested in what you’re doing and want to intact with you as I do in the real world’ way – is a form of stalking. ‘Liking’ their every post or share or comment on Facebook is stalking. Trying to ‘friend’ their contacts is stalking. Retweeting their every tweet is another form of stalking. In short, it’s all stalking.

I’ve been talking to people about it, but the online community might understand the situation differently, so what do you think? Anyone had the same experience? (This is an iffy area, so I’m monitoring all comments on this post, BTW, as opposed to just new ones so you can say what you want about your own stalking experiences. Absolutely nothing will be published without my approval whether you’ve commented here before or not, and I will close comments after a week. Please say in your response whether you wish your comment to be published, and if not I’ll reply direct rather than in the comments.)

Right, this is what I’ve been advised to do so far, and what I’ve done.

I’ve been ignoring it – advice #1.
This has not worked. Yes, doing anything else gives X ‘the oxygen of publicity’, the attention they want and an importance they do not deserve, but ignoring the situation permits them to continue as though I hadn’t noticed or didn’t care. Yesterday I spent a long time on social media, building my business presence, and I could actually ‘see’ X tracking what I was doing, across several profiles. My friends do not need X’s attention, and my clients certainly do not, so I did a bit of blocking and tailoring of my profiles and tweaking the level of access on certain sites. I cannot completely block X from everything, because that’s not the way the world works in practice, not when you’re trying to work online and build a decent business profile for new and existing clients. Also, I am beginning to despise myself for not confronting the issue (but see #3, below). I feel that unless those of us who experience this sort of behaviour do call it out, creepy people have a licence to carry on doing what they’re doing. They’re getting away with it.

Another suggestion is to make myself anonymous or effectively leave t’internet, advice #2.
First, why should I? I enjoy my online life. And how could I? My work is online. I cannot – as another victim of this person’s unwanted attention did – take myself offline. Nor can I simply return to online life under another name (as the other person did). It’s a long-standing problem, and I did take myself off Facebook years ago because of it, but the world has changed, and so has my business. At that time I effectively built several different online personas – this is one – in order to give myself a bit of privacy, but I don’t see that lasting. And I can’t use them for my work.

Advice #3 is to confront X.
The problem here is that I feel that doing this really would be giving X what they want – actual contact, direct contact. Also X definitely has, and evidently always did have, some sort of mental health problem – but it’s not my problem and I don’t want to make it so. Someone who knows us both from years ago (neither of us have actually seen X for over a decade) said ‘don’t get dragged into X World again’ – and I’m not going to. I’ve been there before, trying to help, and it’s not a good place. That’s another reason for protecting my clients and some of my friends from contact with X (some friends will be fine – they’ll just ignore it – but some will not, and I did lose a major client last time; that’s not happening again).

Part of me believes that if X knew how other people saw their behaviour – maybe that their cover had been blown, that what they were doing was indeed stalking, and that they weren’t just a respectable person with a high-powered job but were also going so far online that they fell into the sleazeball category – they would be appalled. And that’s in part why I’m writing this now. The other reason is that people don’t talk about it. We should. My stalker is, I am certain, innocuous if unsettling and rudely intrusive. Other people’s stalkers may be much more serious.

COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED ON THIS POST – thank you, everyone, for your support!

Where has August gone? Hm?

sheeplet

What? It’s nearly the end of August? How can this be?

This is Sion, by the way, and he was purchased recently to accompany me when I go to spin in public. Unfortunately he’s not made of real wool, but I’ve been searching for ages and Spinning in Public Day is nearly upon us. September 21 for anyone who doesn’t know this momentous date, and some members of our Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers will be at the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, doing our wooly thang. Why is it not possible to find sheep toys made of sheep’s wool? Probably has something to do with washability, I guess.

Watch out for more of Sion, as time goes by. He doesn’t look like the sort of sheep who’ll be happy posing on one of my half-finished projects – need to do non-stretchy handles when I get round to it – for very long.  (Sion is pronounced ‘Shaun’, of course – I’d have liked to be less derivative, but apparently that’s his name. Or so I’m told…)

And I’ll leave you pondering that while I go bravely forth, equipped with water bottles and emergency rations, to do battle with the Bank Holiday traffic. I love living in Snowdonia, but it does go a bit bonkers on a Bank Holiday.

Ten guilty pleasures, part the second

Still waiting for specialist’s appointment, so time to fit in a few more guilty pleasures between painkillers and bouts of feeling dizzy. What do we want? Neck transplants! When do we want them? Now!

Of course, feeling like crap warmed up doesn’t stop me indulging in pleasure number 6. It should, but it doesn’t. It has stopped me going to Wonderwool Wales next weekend – though in fairness, other factors have been involved there. So why shouldn’t I go for GP6? Hm?

fluff6. Buying yet more yarn.

I know, I can’t knit much. I know, I’ve got plenty in my stash. I know that I shouldn’t. But – and I’m not making excuses here, honestly – I needed another ball or two of silk/mohair to make a scarf from my latest pattern book purchase. I was given a multicoloured ball, partly unwound, and added the orange; the blue and red come from the stash. So I am using stash as well. Or I would be if I wasn’t emitting so much static at the moment that actually using a yarn as flighty and floaty as Kidsilk Haze is almost impossible. So why am I justifying myself? Well, possibly because of this:

noro

Noro Kureyon Sock. Bought to knit another shawl from the recent purchase because I was emitting so much static etc, etc, etc…

I decided I wanted to move out of my colour comfort zone a bit. Blues, jades, purples: not my usual choices. But very cheerful to those awaiting neck transplants and/or results of MRI scans so they can safely get on with flipping physiotherapy / osteopathy and stop the room whirling or their heads exploding.

Enough already. I think I need another pleasure. Ah, yes.

7. Sweets.

I know I’m not alone in this. Books have been written confessing to a passion for sweets; programmes have been devoted to them, on both TV and radio. Traditional local sweets have been tracked down and saved from oblivion. The Scottish boiled sweet tradition (Hawick balls, anyone?) has been celebrated. But my current weakness is Fruitella:

jar

Nostalgia is a major factor. From milk bottles (never liked those) to soor plums, from cherry lips to Black Jacks which turned your tongue deep purple, from flying saucers to sherbet fountains – you could blow sherbet at your friends through the liquorice stick – the sweets bought on the way home from school have a special resonance for years. Haribo sours? Yum. But you do have to be careful. It’s not just a question of what you like, or it isn’t for me. Many of the chewy, fruity sweets for which I have such a weakness involve gelatine. And I don’t particularly want to be eating pork or beef gelatine in my gummy bears. And yes, I do limit myself!

Wicked Lady8. The Wicked Lady.

Not the dire Michael Winner (ye gods!) remake, but the 1945 original with James Mason and Margaret Lockwood (I keep confusing her with Margaret Rutherford for some reason, which conjures up a whole different vision, eek). I love this movie, possibly because James Mason is fantastic as the splendid highwayman Captain Jerry Jackson, or maybe because I seem to have developed a bit of a problem with actors named James: see point 5 of the previous post. There isn’t a wrong note in this bravura 1940s tale of Restoration Britain and of bold, bad Lady Barbara who inveigles her way into marriage with a rural nobleman and then takes to highway robbery and James Mason to assuage her boredom.

Margaret Lockwood

The acting is great if verging towards high camp at times; the sets are wonderful – the frost fair defined my conception of Restoration London for years – and the costumes are frequently amazing. In fact, extensive reshooting was required for the US release as there was trouble with the censors over the decolletages. They are accurate to the period, and even understated if you check out the portraits of the ladies of Charles II’s court, but were far too low for 1945 America. I’m just amazed that Margaret Lockwood stayed in her bodices. Glue. Sellotape?

James Mason

The Wicked Lady was also quite bold in other ways – Barbara’s venality and cynicism, her ennui, her quite obvious use of sexuality and power, her (shock, horror) extra-marital affair with Jackson, depicted without real moral judgement – quite dreadful. And it was the most popular film with British cinema audiences in 1946.

Plus, of course, it has James Mason in it as a highwayman. I mean, purleease. That voice. The Alan Rickman of his time.

9. Lippy.

I suppose this ought to come here, because one of the most remarkable things for me about the portrayal of seventeenth-century Britain in The Wicked Lady is the perfect 1940s Hollywood makeup of Barbara the Bad (maybe it’s one of the ways you can tell she is bad – her lipstick).

lippy

In the 1990s, Philippe Delerm published a little book which everyone in France was reading – La  premiere gorgée de biere et autres plaisirs miniscules – about the small pleasures of his life: reading on the beach, Sunday evenings, the ‘trottoir roulant’ at Montparnasse station. Well, lippy is one of mine. It’s a specifically guilty pleasure because I’ve spent far too long searching for the perfect red. You know, the one that’s just right, that makes you look and feel great.

Then I found it.

Then Lancome discontinued it.

And if anyone out there has Lancome’s Rouge Cubiste sitting around, unused but useable, do let me know. In the meantime, I’m still hunting. Your skin tone doesn’t stay the same for ever, and there’s no guarantee it would still suit me…

10. Magazines.

It’s Saturday, I’m in town early, I’ve done some shopping and I fancy a coffee.

mags

So I buy a magazine to read with my drink. I’m careful; I like to scan them first just to make sure there’s something I find interesting (I have managed to wean myself off the glossies and the home style mags, except in France where I buy the house beautiful ones like no tomorrow). Then I take my mag to the coffee shop, settle down – and discover that, oh, about 75% is devoted to ads. The worst offender is Garden Bloody Illustrated but I still can’t resist it when I flick through, and the best is British Archaeology, though that’s off the hook because it’s specialist. But I don’t seem to be able to stop buying GBI. They could help me, though – they could wrap it in plastic, because I don’t – er, by and large – buy anything I have to rip my way into before I discover it’s full of ads.

So that’s my ten guilty pleasures. I’m sure I can come up with many more, but possibly after my neck transplant…

Ten guilty pleasures – well, the first five…

I have a sore head. I have damaged my cervical spine (well, did it 18 months ago or maybe even longer ago than that, but it was masked by other things and has chosen now to manifest itself, thanks a bunch, vertebrae) and am beset with headaches and drugs that either don’t work or don’t suit me. Waiting for specialist’s appointment or possibly Dr House. Can’t bend my head. Need something to cheer me up. This got me thinking…

Now, we all have things we love which are either silly, stupid or downright embarrassing and, no, I am not confessing to a deep love of Maggie Thatcher, boy bands or Vesta curry with sultanas in it. But they are also things which comfort us, which make us feel better when we need to snuggle up on the sofa with a blankie and a cup of tea. Things which are, basically, life-enhancing, and boy do I need my life enhancing at the moment. So I’m confessing. It’s good for the soul (allegedly). And a couple of them are even woolly, but there are more than enough for two posts. So here are my first five.

Cover1. Buying more knitting patterns and/or books than anyone could reasonably need or, indeed, fit on their bookcase.

This is my latest addition, and it’s excellent. Yes, there are patterns that I would need a head transplant to contemplate (possibly on the cards at the moment), but there are also some which are yummy and have gone straight on the to-do list. The list which is 85,743,000 miles long, OK? My WIPS (works in progress, for anyone unfamiliar with knitting-addict jargon) are still in single figures, so I may cast something on. When I can bend my head, that is.

2. Comic books.

I love them. This is possibly genetic; they’re an art form in France and there are festivals devoted to bandes dessinées all over the Francophone world. I grew up with Asterix – Breton, freedom fighter, what’s not to like? – but was not allowed Tintin. Dodgy political attitudes, both in the books (Tintin au Congo – eek) and in the author’s past. But who needs boy reporters when you’ve got a whole village-full of stroppy Celts,

windowsill

some of whom live on your kitchen windowsill?

I have an equal addiction to some of the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ masters and mistresses of the genre too. Comic strips aren’t that far removed, and I love Peanuts. Posy Simmonds’ work is closer to the froggie tradition and her Tamara Drewe, Gemma Bovary and, for kids as well, the wonderful Fred are masterpieces. I used to be into more conventional comic books but they have fallen by the wayside now. Why, I’m not sure, but give me Gemma Bovary and Asterix any day over Watchmen and superheroes, however dark.

3. Oh, this is really embarrassing. 1950s war films. Colditz story

Preferably featuring John Mills, possibly in a vest. For anyone who doesn’t know the work of John Mills, this is nothing like Bruce Willis in a vest; apart from the vest, which will be dirty, they could not be further apart. But I am discriminating in this choice; there are a lot of terrible 50s war films which do not bear rewatching, and there are the 1960 and 70s variants which are often in colour (no thank you), are much less nuanced, and make no concessions to the fact that they are supposed to be set in the 1940s. I’m thinking Susanna Yorke in Battle of Britain, for example, or Ian McShane – nooooo – in the same film. Wrong. Just wrong.

More / Sink the BismarckNo, lips have to be stiff, the acting might be even stiffer, women are largely absent or silent, and Kenneth More is somewhere in there, possibly in naval uniform. If anyone puts their sherry down on a mantelpiece half-drunk you know they’re not coming back. Similarly, show your mate a shot of your sweetheart and you will be the next one to get it. Own a labrador? Give it away before you take off; it will save time and trouble for the people who have to sort out your effects. And never, ever, send your uniform off for cleaning, because that is completely fatal.

4. Sigh. Nail Varnish.

Paradoxically, I don’t often paint my nails – except in summer, that is, when I do my toenails. When we have summer, that is. But I inherited from my mother a deep love of nail varnish. She, however, was satisfied with always wearing almost the same colour, or clear. I am not.

colour

What I do have, irritatingly, is an ability to buy the same shade and not realise I already have it. To which end I did, at one stage, take to carrying around a little card with coloured splodges on it. It didn’t make much difference; I still bought 37 variations on a theme of brown. Brownish. I have now put a ban  on all further purchases and, above all, there is to be no revisiting of the almost-black shades of red. Not even if they are by Chanel.

5. Ah, yes. James Spader in Boston Legal. boston legal

To anyone (female) who has seen this series, this choice will not seem unusual. Guilty, possibly; unusual, noooo. To any woman who has not seen it, get it. To any blokes, just leave the room, OK? Particularly during the extraordinary closing speeches. Amazing.

A male friend of mine just didn’t get it. ‘He’s fat,’ he objected, ‘and he looks sort of seedy…’. Indeed. That’s kind of the point, dur. Seedy, sexy in a bad way (interpret that as you will), brilliant, intellectual, principled, and did I mention sexy? But Boston Legal isn’t just about James Spader. It’s also got William Shatner and Candice Bergen and more great acting than you can shake a stick at, and more wonderful actors too. It plays with the genre; it’s bright, ironic, sharp, funny, moving, sassy… Yes, parts are dated or were all-too obviously separated by ad breaks in the original. But the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Just perfect for a sore neck.

So, before I embarrass myself further in part 2, what are your guilty pleasures?