I really want…

…to drag everyone I know and love to Brighton beach and take pictures of them.

eye see you

I used not to want to take pictures of people at all, finding it difficult, intrusive and somehow embarrassing. Now I love it. I think that must in a large part be due to Neha’s patience putting up with me practicing.

Dogs, on the other hand, have never presented a problem.

salty

The rest of the set is here.

Acceptance

Maizy has accepted the inescapable reality of her haircut…

wet iris, cold dog

…although due to the unfortunate climatic conditions she’s still shivering a lot.

Today I went on a wonderful day meditation retreatTraining the mind, freeing the heart: Waking up to each moment. No shivering, much contemplation of acceptance.

Yesterday, after a rather grueling assessment process, I was accepted as a listening volunteer for the Samaritans. All volunteers sign a confidentiality agreement, for obvious reasons. This means that, difficult though it is to believe, I shall have nothing more to say on the subject other than that I am extremely happy.

Dudgeon

she's taken to her bed

Maizy’s dudgeon is so high it needs breathing apparatus and might possibly never return to regular altitudes.

She has taken to her bed and is not budging. Even to attack the post. Since the bed is next to my desk I have to leave the house before her evil eye causes me spontaneously to combust.

Maizy is a cross breed

maizy does not think much of it

No, make that a FURIOUS breed.

She was shorn today of her long, shaggy and disreputable locks. She is now sleek, elegant, streamlined, smooth, glistening and velvety. And won’t look anyone in the eye.

shorn maizy 2

She’ll forget the trauma soon enough. And she’ll thank me when the hot weather returns. Er, if the hot weather returns.

Meanwhile I discover that having her claws clipped means she doesn’t click when walking on the wooden floors any more, which is rather a shame. It was such an expressive sound I could usually tell what sort of mood she was in just by her foot pawfalls.

Split shins?

I’m so unfit that I’m stiff as a board and can barely hobble.

After my rather severe shock and general gloom on Friday I decided (after a delightful Saturday and Sunday with various friends) that what Maizy and I needed most in the world was a trip to the seaside. Because we are both, if the truth be known, salty sea dogs bitches and I at least begin to pine if I don’t get salt air in my lungs on a regular basis.

A combination of advice and research led to the chosen destination – train tickets to Seaford are cheap and there’s great walking along the coast towards Eastbourne. We got as far as Birling Gap in the time available – see the map below.

The arrow marks Seaford station, plumb in the middle of a slightly grim seaside town. Not as grim as it would be if infested with amusement arcades, vendors of seaside tat and over-oiled fish and chips but grim in a rather grey down-at-heel way.

But hiding behind that first white cliff on the edge of town is a wonderful, if rather steep in places, walk towards and over the famous Seven Sisters, a series of chalk cliffs.

some sisters

They start just east of Cuckmere Haven. Which is all well and good – the path runs obediently along the cliffs from Seaford to the aforementioned Haven. But obedience there expires and in order to cross the River Cuckmere, which flows fast and deep into the sea, it is necessary to walk a mile inland along the west bank to Exceat, risk life and limb on the busy-but-single-lane road bridge there and then trudge a mile back down to the coast. Look at it on the map if you don’t believe me.

raging torrent

Since I’d both failed to look at anything other than a google map and had got very distracted on the beach of the west bank by groynes and their protruberances this major detour came as an unwelcome surprise.

another old screw

Thank goodness I’d packed a large bottle of water and Maizy’s folding bowl.

I’m not quite sure why the cliffs are called the Seven Sisters when there appear to be eight peaks. I’m glad Wikipedia (at the link above) has confirmed this suspicion because I counted them as we went, oh so slowly, up and, slightly faster, down and arrived at a total of eight too. I thought the unaccustomed exertion and heat had addled my brain. This is the view from Short Bottom (the first dip) looking back at Haven Brow (the first Sister) and the coast towards Seaford.

looking back

Fortunately there was a bus from Birling Gap back to Seaford and enough time for a huge ice cream before it left.

I dragged my camera and lenses up and down the cliffs and not only did I not change the lens once, I left the settings from its last outing (the nearly pitch-black Joan As Police Woman gig) unchanged. Result? Crap pictures. How stupid can one get? Those I have put up have had to be thoroughly laundered through photoshop elements with the resultant tragic loss of already feeble quality. Still, I hope I shan’t forget to check the ISO setting again.

And today, oh, the stiffness. The ancient, bow-legged gammy hobblingness. Why on earth do we have muscles on the front of our shins anyway? (that’s a rhetorical question, by the way). And to add insult to injury I’m puce with sunburn. But I feel virtuous for getting some exercise, and it was worth it. Maizy appears entirely unaffected and just as bouncy and energetic as usual.

The entire slideshow of the day is here. Split shins are, apparently, more widely known as shin splints. I obviously don’t really have them, merely some rather shocked and horrified muscles.

Small but very determined

enraged dog

A huge hen pheasant had the temerity to waddle across the garden. Maizy, who becomes incensed at small insects daring to occupy her territory, was enraged. She can jump four feet from a standing start under normal circumstances. She was positively flying in her efforts to make the glass between her and the bird disappear. And of course grarking (a mixed growl and bark) loudly the while.

enraged dog too

Eventually I let her out. A hen pheasant laid a clutch of more than 20 eggs in my father’s garden right by the front door last year causing much inconvenience as it was decided that she and her nest should not be disturbed. He suspects it’s the same one back again, casing the joint, and doesn’t want a repeat performance this year. She did appear very full of eggs. She managed, just, to elude the slathering hound let loose on her and lumbered away after a long, scrambling take-off and disappeared over the fence.

Time to re-home the animals

I am spitting blood and feathers. The cat is spitting shredded bamboo.

i *hate* my cat

Just look at the end of that needle. I leave my knitting unattended for a microsecond and he’s pounced. Not content with destroying the ball of wool he attacks my precious, rare-as-a-hen’s-tooth, perfect, gorgeous bamboo needle. Destroys the point. Utterly ruined. Unusable.

It took me three weeks to get hold of that pair of needles. Scouring the interwebbing. 23cm long, 2.25mm in diameter (US size 1) and made out of bamboo. Absolutely perfect for the task. Almost IMPOSSIBLE to find.

Firstly many companies don’t do needles as fine as 2.25mm. Secondly, if they do, they’re 33cm long rather than 23cm. Thirdly, if you can actually find the right size/length/material combination you are forced to buy hundreds of other pairs at the same time. Which you don’t want. Or they’re available, singly, but only ship to America. The major European manufacturer does not make any needle in 2.25mm. To say that I am pissed off is the understatement of the year.

Meanwhile, over by the letterbox, the dog is spitting shredded paper.

i *hate* my dog

That is the back cover of a superb book of patterns which came through the post. The holes were made by the dog’s canine teeth. There are similar holes, decreasing in size, through 46 of the book’s pages. Not to mention the padded envelope and cardboard packaging within which the book was enclosed.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

Sense and suitability

So. You have dry skin. Very dry skin. You are prone to eczema in the winter. You decide to make, of all things, a pair of knitted stockings. Out of wool, that fibre so well known for its not-soothing properties. You have the opportunity to choose something called “4 ply soft” which is, as its name implies, softly fluffsome. But no. You choose something called “4 ply tweed” which is as itchy, scratchy and close to barbed wire as its name might lead you to believe.

I believe that throughout history women have suffered for this and that thing (amongst them beauty) but voluntarily to construct, at great expense of time and effort, what amounts to a nether garment of ground glass seems a bizarre thing to do. But in life, as they say, one must take the rough with the smooth. It makes little sense, but is a suitable project (on the theme of “pairs”) to knit while listening to Emma.

stocking top

I have made a start on sorting out the drifts of detritus with which the house is infested. Sorting out and culling the vast numbers of books, videos and cds for a start. Ruthlessly. In this process I came across handfuls of photographs from various lengths of time ago and distances away. Some I’m keeping in order to embarrass the children at a future date but many I’m chucking. However the ruthlessness faltered on discovering the ancient school exercise book, carefully covered in plastic, containing a detailed history of my first ever dog, Vicky.

vicky

The home-made height and weight chart is reminiscent of those one is obliged to keep for babies but I recall enormous levels of anxiety about the health, nutritional status and well-being of my new puppy and not batting an eyelid over those of either of the babies. Maybe the one had prepared me for the other. Certainly for the first few days of puppy care I went to bed in fear and terror that she’d die in the night, probably as the result of some mistake on my part.

It is extraordinary the overwhelming rush of physical sensation that picture provoked. I recalled, instantly and vividly, the exact feel of hugging Vicky while she sat in that attitude, the dimensions of her neck and the texture of her fur. The “rough” in rough collie (in contrast to the smooth collie) refers mostly to the abundance rather than texture of the fur. And indeed compared to Maizy’s her fur was smooth indeed, long overcoat over a dense undercoat of softest fleece. I loved to bury my face in her ruff. I loved brushing her from the tips of her ears to the tip of her tail. Which was fortunate really since the breed requires regular and thorough grooming. I remember lying on the grass on my stomach in the summer reading a book and the heft of her as she lay on the backs of my legs, the press of her as she lay next to me with her nose against my arm. Hers was the only physical contact I had and all the sweeter for it.

I love to watch the children building up their own sense-memories with the cat and the dog. Both boys were, for a long time, much more keen on doing so with the cat. Who can blame them. The appeal is obvious. Quiet, phlegmatic, soft as angora and manufacturer of delightful sounds of cuteness. Maizy, on the other hand, is a hyperactive small yappy-type dog of uncertain temper and, least forgivable of all, coated in fur akin to coconut matting.

However my wise words about beauty being more than fur deep appear to be bearing fruit and both Mario and Maizy are now appreciated for more than merely their surface charms. “One has,” I intone sagely and no doubt in a highly irritating fashion, “to make the best of both the rough and the smooth”. I point out the extraordinary utility of rough shaggy fur for a dog in an uncertain climate in which rain and cold predominate. And how this means she doesn’t have to wear a wussy knitted coat when out and about. Unless at some future date I choose to make one and force her to wear it for reasons entirely unconnected with protection from the elements.

Hmm. I wonder. Perhaps there is a way in which a pair of extra-long scratchy socks might be adapted… but no. I have a cunning plan with respect to the stockings-of-sandpaper. I have various pairs of sheer, brightly-coloured and, most important of all, smooth tights which I can wear beneath the unsuitably textured accessories and thus both protect the over-delicate skin and provide added visual interest as the under-colour will show through the (deliberate) holes in the pattern of the stockings. And I shall hold them up with a ribbon in a suitably toning/clashing shade. Always assuming, of course, that I actually finish them.

Miscellany

The other night I dreamt that the second and third toes of my right foot fused together into one toe. The same was happening to the corresponding toes on my left foot but I managed, painlessly I think, to peel them apart before they fused as seamlessly and irrevocably as the others had done.

Also in the same phantasmagorical interlude Maizy had open heart surgery and I disturbed her as she was coming round from the anaesthetic, her entire body a mass of huge stitches, she was in pain and I was told to leave because it was my fault. It was also revealed that a dear friend from university was best friend to a former colleague whom I disliked intensely; from this latter I learnt, in the dream, much about my own lack of humility, overabundance of judgementalness and the importance of right livelihood.

The foot thing is highly likely to be related to the current sock-knitting and the acquisition of a pattern for a knitted tabi, the Japanese foot-covering with a separate big toe designed to be worn with thonged shoes and traditionally sewn from cloth. Could the multi-pierced Maizy be traced back in some way to the weekend’s re-encounter with the nightmares in stitches of Louise Bourgeoise?

Or perhaps the whole technicolour experience was due to the consumption of an entire family-sized packet of jelly babies shortly before going to bed. They, after all, have fused toes and are no doubt full of enough noxious chemicals in sufficient quantities to disturb the brain chemistry of even the unsusceptible let alone the susceptible to such imbalances.

It is only recently that I have been able to look a jelly baby in the face, much less insert one into my own. As a very small child (probably between the ages of three and six) my father used to drive my brother and I for what seemed like several days across the country to pay dutiful visits to his aunt. My mother, needless to say, refused to go. I hated it. Hours of excruciating boredom on the way there, hours of excruciating boredom once we arrived (apart from the very few minutes of entertainment provided by Billy the budgie who didn’t talk and bit).

Worst of all was the appalling sickness on the way home. I was always sick. I was always sick for the same reason. Because my thoughtless and horrible great aunt always, without fail, gave me a humungous box of jelly babies and I always, without fail, ate them all in the car on the way home. And it was clearly her fault. It was also her fault that my brother didn’t open his box for days, ate them in small but regular quantities and taunted me with his sweetfulness and my lack thereof for weeks afterwards, which made me very sour indeed towards both of them.

Thinking about this childish shift of responsibility and how prevalent it is in various forms in people of all ages as well as organisations, governments and entire cultures led me to the wikipedia article on locus of control personality orientations which has made interesting reading.

Internals tend to attribute outcomes of events to their own control. Externals attribute outcomes of events to external circumstances. For example, college students with a strong internal locus of control may believe that their grades were achieved through their own abilities and efforts, whereas those with a strong external locus of control may believe that their grades are the result of good or bad luck, or to a professor who designs bad tests or grades capriciously; hence, they are less likely to expect that their own efforts will result in success and are therefore less likely to work hard for high grades… Due to their locating control outside themselves, externals tend to feel they have less control over their fate. People with an external locus of control tend to be more stressed and prone to clinical depression.

Indeed. It’s something else I feel shifting.

So what else? I’ve been doing a great deal of knitting at home, on the bus, in caf├ęs, round at friends’, whilst listening to an unabridged reading of Emma etc. I’ve added a widgety bit of javascript to the sidebar showing recent projects and their progress. Down on the right, below the twittering. A piece of gorgeous goodness from Casey the code monkey at Ravelry.

My father seemed highly gratified with his birthday socks; I started a pair for myself, one of which posed with some art at the weekend; started and finished a very pleasing beret and finally, finally, just a few minutes ago, sewed in the last end of the Austenesque. I’m thinking of modelling it and asking Neha to take a celebratory picture of it when we meet up what is now later today. But I think I need to get hold of a corset first, somehow.

So in the absence of a picture of the charming garment here is a picture of my charming creatures being aaawsome. Taken by the charming and aaawsome Alistair. On his iPhone. Jealous? moi? overcome with uncontrollable capitalistic acquisitive gadget lust? No, no. Of course not.

my creatures are aaaaawsome

This is also, incidentally, a wonderful example of how not, according to all the best advice, to write a blog post. But what do I care? I am half-woman, half-vegetable. Curly kale to be precise. And I’m very happy this way.