Eye balm

Young Woman With Bound Hair, Albrecht Dürer

I heard myself silently ask: are you enough? Is art enough to make life worth living? And got no answer. I suppose the answer is ‘sometimes’ – better than ‘no’.

Jean at Tasting Rhubarb

On the whole I go and see pictures rather like going to the doctor, to get some help, in fact.

Lucien Freud (at 5′ 15″) via Conscientious.

Oh, and added because also found today and although not strictly visual it’s Dürer which neatly coils us back to the top:

Dürer would have seen a reason for living
in a town like this, with eight stranded whales
to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house
on a fine day, from water etched
with waves as formal as the scales
on a fish.

from The Steeple-Jack by Marianne Moore. It’s really worth reading all of it if, like me, you haven’t come across it before.


I’ve been tagged by Loren with the following “six things” meme:

1- link to the person who tagged you.
2 – post the rules on your blog.
3 – write six random things about yourself.
4 – tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5 – let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6 – let the tagger know when your entry is up.

I’ve been reading Loren since before I started blogging back in 2003. Poetry, birds and photography – and particularly photography of birds. All he needs for blogging perfection would be a small dose of knitting. However it’s a bit strange being in this new, unlisted, blog home about which few people know, and nearly all of them (you) I would guess people who read the old site. So I’m slightly at a loss to know quite how obscure the random facts have to be since nearly six years of blogging has left few stones unturned. Anyway here are some “random” “facts” which might not previously have seen the light of blogday:

1) I’ve worked in or visited 20 countries in Africa and lived for extended periods in three. I seldom write about it because it makes me feel like a pith-helmeted colonialist. Perhaps I should try to get over myself. Or perhaps there’s nothing to say. However I took SonOne with me on a work trip to Cameroon back when he was three and we kept a diary together as something to do at the end of the day since we were travelling around so much and I wanted there to be something predictable and routine happening. I bought a polaroid camera and he chose one thing/occasion each day to be photographed (the camera was unfortunately far too big and cumbersome for him to use himself) and we stuck the instant result in the diary. I still have it and have been toying with the idea of scanning it.

2) I can juggle with two or three balls but not four.

3) There was a period in my life when I wore an armful of copper bangles. Ok, not an armful since they only went from wrist to elbow rather than wrist to shoulder. But lots. I never took them off. I arrived in Moscow airport wearing them and of course they set off the security scanner. I tried to demonstrate (having not a word of Russian to explain) that there was nothing else metallic about my person. I held out my arm, walked slowly through the arch without a beep as far as my extended elbow, stood still, then moved my arm through to set off the beeping, but it was all to no avail. This was in the late 80s and everything about Moscow was rigid and unsmiling. I had to take every single bangle off which took a very long time. Some were so small I’d only got them on with the liberal use of soap and other lubricants. I have never worn the entire collection together since, although I still have them all.

4) Anti-depressants can no longer be blamed for my (greater than optimal) weight since I stopped taking them seven months ago.

5) If I lived alone I probably would never cook. I base this “fact” on my behaviour when the children are not here. When they’re here I cook every day – no heating up of chilled/frozen crap (too expensive for a start) but proper, albeit plain, nutritionally balanced meals involving peeling and chopping and grating and boiling and grilling and baking. But when they’re away I find myself living on coffee, wine, beer and things out of packets. Hunks of cheese and oatcakes. Instant miso soup. Bombay mix. Breakfast cereal. Biscuits. Hummus and tortilla crisps. Snickers bars. Crumpets and marmite. (Could this, I wonder, have any relevance to fact 4? Almost undoubtedly.) Perhaps when they’ve both left home I’ll miss the cooking and will prepare gourmet delicacies for one, but I rather doubt it.

6) I haven’t had a bath for eight years. (That’s also, you’ll probably be glad to hear, was how long ago the shower was installed.)

The same blog identity confusion detailed above prevents me from tagging six specific people (thus brazenly breaking rules 4 and 5) so I hereby throw the batons in the air for anyone to catch.

Returning home from the night shift

I cycle east along black roads dusted gold with leaf, directly into the rising sun. The sky bleeds yellow into blue. Whipped-egg-white clouds, peaks smutted with grey, sides gilded cream, float below thin sharp lines of vapour trails converging spoke-like on the hub of the sun.

The silence would be enormous were it not for the birds. A robin, song sweetly anthropomorphised, warbles murder to rivals. Magpies rattle asthmatically in twos and threes among the aerials and chimney pots, shouldering aside garrulous groups of starlings that squawk, whistle and trill. The delicate fluting of blackbirds is almost drowned by the raucous shouting of sparrows once annoying or unnoticed in its universality, silenced and now much loved on its fitful return. I swing out wide to skirt a flock of pigeons cooing as they peck crumbs of crushed crisps from the tarmac.

There is not a single car, lorry, bus, motorbike. No dogs bark. No voices, sirens, music, machinery, footfalls. The air clear, cool and still. In the park each tree in the rank along the iron railing rises from a pool of gold the width of its own black branches.

When I reach my gate I turn. Behind me the vapour trails are bright but wide, diffuse against the deep blue. The moon, waning, blanched and blotched, sinks into yesterday.


During a detour in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable en route to “behemoth” we came across “botanomancy” which the volume in questions defines as:

Divination by leaves. Words were written on leaves which were exposed to the wind. The leaves left contained the response.

Web definitions are slightly different, involving less wind and more fire, mentioning fig and sage leaves in particular. Or oak. Or vervain and briar. Take your pick, really.

I loved the word itself and the idea of words on the wind, on leaves. There was a young fig tree in the garden, a red permanent marker in the desk, a random webpage of quotations relating to the month of October on the laptop from which to pick chance words and a slight but sufficient breeze.

The tree yielded an adequate crop of fallen leaves, the marker left a mark once the leaves had been dried of excess moisture and the dog, by rampaging through the pile a couple of times, assisted the wind in its distributary divinatory work.

Were I to punctuate the result it might go something like this:

Moon rise.
Frosty silence.
Autumn grain,
Scarlet flowers.
Mellower – again.

This is my entry for the October retrospective/November 1st Festival of the Trees which this month is being hosted at its founding home, Via Negativa.

Of late

I keep starting blog posts and never finishing them.

Shit’s been happening and lovely stuff’s been happening. Light ‘n shade, innit.

six legs


The lovely stuff has involved other people, food and the extraordinary autumn sunlight of the last few days.

blue chair


It’s also included my pusher enabler leading me astray from my blanket

broken rib

but that’s probably a good thing because the blanket was driving me seriously insane. I’ve done five of the twelve strips so it’s not been entirely deserted.

There’s been art, too, and “art” (aka pile-of-shite) and wine and beer and chocolate. And flasks of coffee. And I had a lucid dream!

Speaking of which, it’s getting late and I must go to bed.

Two circs, wedges and a shower

To Richmond, on Saturday, where we found tropical weather and a pair of recycled shoes.


They were attached to Pix, who was accompanied by a sock being knitted on two circular needles. She darned in some of my ends (yay!) while I knitted about half an inch of her sock (double yay!) and discovered the delight that is two circ socking. A win-win-win situation for me, really.

two circs sock

We (as in Pix and I) hope we persuaded Karen to join us on a future knitting jaunt. After all, she’s got a lovely wip on the way.

On Sunday we (as in the spawn and I) attended the UK premier of The Rise of Darkrai courtesy of 1stSon who had won tickets in a competition. I shall draw a discreet veil over the experience of the film itself, the screaming children, the fighting for freebies, the hearing-loss resulting from the volume of the soundtrack, the stench of stale popcorn and the brain-death resulting from the narrative.

Afterwards, in the centre of Leicester Square, we drew (relatively) free breath in the small and unexpected park and watched a pigeon take a shower in the fountain.

For a brief moment, what with the sunshine and the birdsong and the gentle sound of water, we might have been somewhere else entirely than the place where we were. Which just went to show how lovely the place where we really were really had been all the time, just without our noticing.

Which way?

water rooms 3

Appearing Rooms by Jeppe Hein, an art installation of “walls” of water which rise and fall allowing (relatively dry) movement between the four “rooms”.

Fascinating to watch the way people interacted with the space/s and each other. Look at how the adults here are holding on to their children:

water rooms 2

Some, however, could be more relaxed having, forewarned, brought an entire change of clothes – thus allowing the inevitable unfettered collision of child and fountain.

water rooms 6

Oh dear god (twice)

This is so, so wrong in so, so many ways. (Sock knitting pattern via F.)

Him: Not only did you knit me these terribly socks, you’re now forcing me to be photographed in them. I’m going to kill you. I’m going to blow your head off with my rifle. At point-blank range. Which is why I don’t need the telescopic sight. So it doesn’t matter that it’s upside down.

Her: Oh don’t be so ungrateful. And stop yapping, can’t you see I’m having sex with the dog? His horn’s bigger than the one under my arm.

And on a completely unrelated subject we move to the real smell of teen spirit.

That, I am shocked to discover, is a genuine TV advert. It is for a product called Dark Temptation.

Soon after I awoke this morning it was apparent that not just the teenager’s pits (and no doubt every square inch of his body) but the entire house – every single room, even those with closed doors including my bedroom – reeked of “chocolate effect”. (He even refuses to wash his hair with shampoo using instead the similarly branded shower gel because “it smells better”.)

I have retaliated with WD40 and the house is now delicately scented with “essence of lube”, but I can’t oil my bike in the hall every day.

How long does this phase last? does anyone know?

The mystery of the missing sock and an apology

At the almost (because I am going to attempt to do so, probably in a future post since I have knitting to finish right now) indescribably wonderful I Knit 2008 a woman wearing an exquisitely constructed jacket-cardigan asked, on behalf of her daughter, for the url of the blog. Because, she said, her daughter had noticed during the talk by Yarn Harlot (aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, humourist, Canadian, knitter, blogger, author of humourous books about knitting (should that be “humouress”?) and giver of the keynote address) that I had “laughed at all the best bits”. And when YH (aka S P-M) had asked the audience who had a blog I’d raised my half-knitted sock and the hand holding it.

So this is the apology. It’s a blog, yes, but there is as yet very little knitting and no humour at all. I’m sorry about that, but can I say that, should you ever visit to read this expression of gratitude, the soubriquet of one who “laughed at the best bits” is one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said about me and I shall treasure it always.

(Confession: I’ve never really read Yarn Harlot‘s blog – no idea why. She’s funny. Very, very funny. Also, while in confessional mode, the unsolicited testimonial to my highly developed sense of humour could be the result of the fact that I have a laugh like a fishwife, like Sid James at a dirty joke convention, a laugh which might, I fear, drown out any more refined gurgles of amusement let alone anything as rarified as a polite titter.)

So. The sock. Not this sock – YH asked for those who had taken pictures of their knitting in public places to raise their hands. But of course! where else should one photograph one’s zigzagetty sock but by a zigzagetty public artwork?

sock and crack

No, not that sock, which was completed and paired. The sock that is missing is this sock:

trying it on for size

which since having its picture taken (not next to a controversial artwork unless you include my right foot in that category) has been completed and has half a sibling to be going on with. Which is also missing.

To cut a long story short: I took these socks (one finished, one on the needles) with me to Yorkshire where I delivered these socks:

lovers' socks

and where the weather was so (unnaturally) warm that the idea of handling a yarn, even one as superior as the Cherry Tree Hill Sockittome (colourway Peacock), filled my heart with unease and caused my hands to perspire even more freely than they had been doing already. So I shoved them away, somewhere.

But where? because since the climate cooled I’ve been utterly unable to find them. I even e-mailed the B&B where I stayed in Yorkshire… had I left my knitting in some overlooked nook? but no, the answer came, there are no orphaned socks here.

Which can only mean one thing. They are here, in this house. This house the entire contents of which I have already ransacked not once but twice, wailing, keening, calling my missing socks. The little bastards are staying schtum.

The worst thing is that it’s not just the socks. It’s my gorgeous-perfect-small-project-arm-hanging knitting bag AND my gorgeous-perfect-box-of-knitting-essentials which fitted snugly inside the aforementioned knitting bag and contained EVERYTHING – cable needles, pins, safety pins, row-counter, tape measure, stitch markers, crochet hook (for retrieving – god forbid but it does occasionally happen – dropped stitches), pencil, tapestry needle etc etc etc.

And the other worst thing – because they’re pretty much equally bad – is that the needles on which the socks were being knitted were my peerless 2.25mm rosewood lantern moon Sox Stix which cost as much as two large g&ts in a central London pub which, in case you don’t know, is an unfeasibly huge sum of money.

And the third worst thing is that I remember, very clearly, PUTTING the knitting bag containing the socks and the precious things SOMEWHERE… and thinking “you know you won’t remember where you’ve put this” and thinking “I don’t care, it’s so hot and sweaty the very thought of knitting makes me feel quite ill” and thinking “but I will remember anyway because I’m thinking that I won’t so of course I shall”. And of course, of course, I shan’t, I can’t, I haven’t. I can’t remember whether I was in Yorkshire, on the train coming back (should I phone the railway company lost property?) or here in the not-entirely-organised home. And it’s driving me completely INSANE. (Or madder than previously.)

For non-knitters the only comparison I can give is the misplacement of a book which you’ve started reading, really got into, are enjoying hugely and suddenly… it’s gone. No. Other. Book. Will. Do. Not one word. And in this case not one stitch. In the case of a book it’s pretty easily remedied – get another copy from a shop/library/friend, find the page where you left off and just carry on. With a 75% completed pair of socks there is no such easy solution.



I still haven’t finished the bit-by-bit upload of pictures from Holy Island but the Cornish idyll required prompt action so I shoved up the lot earlier on, of which this is my favourite:

yesterday's racing crabs are recollected

Much crabbing was, um, crabbed. Many crustaceans were removed from the water, given temporary accommodation in a bucket and then returned to the sea either by being emptied out all in one go or by being forced to “race” down the beach, only for the entire process to be repeated the following morning. Oh the joys, for boys, of simply messing about on, in or near water.

The rest of the set is here, and for those who are not yet weary of my marvelous short films (surely everyone) there’s the excellent “five crabs and a piece of bacon” awaiting your viewing pleasure beneath the fold. I particularly recommend close attention to the non-vocal soundtrack. (Apart from the irritating high-pitched whining which was produced by the usual terrier suspect.)

Continue reading “Cornwall”