Saturday, December 03, 2011

Pangur Ban

I and Pangur Ban, my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will;
He, too, plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry thing to see
At our task how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
Into the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den.
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine, and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade ;
I get wisdom day and night,
Turning Darkness into light.'

Translation by Robin Flowers

Thursday, December 01, 2011

NaNoWriMo - Done!

See what I can do once I scrap the deadline pressure - meet the deadline! Yay! I went to bed at 5, went off to work at 49,132, with 868 words left to write. Tonight: 50,475. I rest my laptop.

I am so chuffed with myself!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

20711 - NoMoNaNoWriMo

OK, I give up!

I've hardly moved from this laptop in two weekends and on two public holidays; I've twice been up until 4.30 in the morning;I've written before work and after work; and this week, when after work it's been sleep or die, I've written twelve 12 A4 pages on trains and in underground stations between schools.

I don't know what 12 A4 pages will add to my registered word count of 20,711 - but I do know that in order to reach the 50,000 word target by the end of the month, I have to register another 29,289 words, at an average of 2,441 words a day.

At my current rate, I can expect to finish on December 15th...

Meanwhile, I haven't ironed a garment, washed a dish or dusted a figurine since Day One, and my husband is looking a bit sad and lonely, possibly because he's tired of china shepherdesses and washing up...

So I give up. I'm going to do a little slum clearance this weekend, then we'll see what I've got time for, but I very much doubt that it will be 2,441 words.

But it's so absorbing. If it weren't for the day job and the need to sleep, I might just throw out all my clothes and live at this laptop in my pyjamas until I've got this novel finished, and then get back to the other one. At least there'd be no ironing pile to fret about.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


My husband is about to embark on a piece of lunacy, and I think I'm going to join him.

It's NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - brought to us by the Office of Letters and Light ( at )

I have a full-time job which I am unsuccessfully trying to keep within bounds so that I can have a part-time life with my very nice husband. And I've got a full-time novel which I am determined will be The One I Finish. Why would I want to commit myself to writing 50,000 words in 30 days, when I'm already putting in 50+ hours a week on my 35 hour day job, and living part of every day and night in a twilight zone of imaginary people and events spanning eight decades and three countries?

Yet that, I think, is the appeal. Consider:

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Note those last two sentences. Crikey. I can't even send a three line email without tweaking and editing. My Draft folder sees as much action as my Spam folder. When I blog, I revise rants. My default setting is 'if-that's-all-right-by-you.' And I'm an English teacher, for God's sake! NaNoWriMo. It may be just what I need.

And I love the idea of the two of us bashing away at our repective follies. And occasionally popping out to compare notes with other volunteers for this November madness. Yes, there are others here in Madrid - and all over the world:

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.


In 2010, we had over 200,000 participants. More than 30,000 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.


So, to recap:
What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.
Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To give yourself permission to write without obsessing over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To stop being one of those people who say, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel,” and become one of those people who can say, “Oh, a novel? It’s such a funny story–I’ve written three.”
When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins 12:00:01 November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at 11:59:59. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

So I think I'm going to give it a go. I don't know if I'll make it to 50,000 words by the deadline, but since the day job really is getting in the way of The One I'm Going To Finish, maybe I should kick back and have some fun. (And I'll be in London over Christmas, so I can do some research at the V&A and the British Museum!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Report this image

I was doing a Google Image Search this morning. (I love Google Images!), when, among the images I expected for my key word, I saw one that perturbed me. It was a picture of a very young girl, her long hair brushed to cover yet reveal her naked upper body, looking at the camera with all the wrong sort of knowledge in her expression and demeanour. I really didn't like it, partly because another unpleasant site (dodgy in a different way) had got me wondering about the kind of people who found this word significant. I was fairly sure I wouldn't like what I found.

The upshot was a report to Google about a paedophilia site that had slipped through the net. Actually, two reports to Google, and one to Interpol, because I couldn't work out how to do the required digital signature without the help of the extremely kind and technosavvy NZM, who agreed with me about the content and implications of the site, and worked out where I was going wrong.

She also sent me this link to a story in an Australian newspaper, Photo withdrawn after child prostitution claim. It makes interesting reading.

I'm not uploading the photo under discussion because, while I don't entirely agree with the accusation that it shows a mother prostituting her child, I do think that the mother has put the legitimate explorations of a creative artist above the rights and wellbeing of the child she is morally and legally charged with protecting and guiding. How pompous do I sound? I thought so.

But we're in difficult semantic waters here, and maybe, in this case, it's God that's in the details

I believe in freedom of speech. I believe in a free press as an extension of freedom of speech, and a source of informed reflection, debate and action. I believe in the role of the artist as a mirror, and sometimes projector, of society and human values and experience. I therefore have some sympathy with the position of Jeff Moorfoot, director of the Ballarat International Photo Biennale, and recognise the truth of Alistair Foster's assertion that this photograph is "an example of Saudek's interest in depicting "love in its many forms", in this case how a parent passes on what it is to be an adult to her child."

However, I still don't think that the mother should have allowed the artist to work with her and her child to create this image. Artists and parents have different functions, and should have different priorities, and in my view, as a parent, the welfare of your child trumps the needs of any artist.

Basically, I have a serious problem with getting a child to do this kind of work. Who's to know what the child will make of the experience, or what the fallout may be - not least, in this case, from the notoriety she'll attain, given that this high-profile work will soon be all over her school and neighbourhood and, decades hence, will be still be available worldwide.

Let painters and sculptors and photographers "depict love in its many forms", but if we're talking erotic love, then they should consider the reasons underpinning the age of consent in their country, and pursue lines of enquiry that don't involve the actual participation of children.

However, my reservations are not just about children and sexually loaded material, but the whole complex and, at times, oppressive range of adult experience - which they will embrace and learn to deal with in due course, like the rest of us. As I've explained before, I also have the same strong reservations about children in adult movies, either where they have to be able to understand the context on some level, in order to play the role, or they're too young to understand, but are required to be distressed for a scene. Normally, you comfort a distressed child, but it's very difficult to get a shot in one take, so presumably, comfort is withheld until the creative adult's requirements have been met. By whose right? With whose consent? And how did the child come to be crying in the first place, conveniently in shot? Was someone on standby with a camera and mic instead of a bottle or a clean nappy?

And what's our place in this, who pay up for an evening's entertainment? As your teacher said, when you were little and had been bad, Would you do this at home?

Paedophiliacs are bad guys. Artists are good guys, if necessarily a tad selfish in their priorities. But even good guys can overstep boundaries, in which case, in the absence of a guardian angel in this secular age, you'd better hope your mum's got her priorities straight.

Siss! Boom! Rah!

It rained last night! The first drops fell as the Pope was walking down the red carpet to catch his plane back to Rome after JMJ, or WYD, if you'd like that in English! (Also available in 12 other languages.).

However, it (the rain! the rain! Do keep up!) then held off for hours. The clouds gathered. The wind rose. And rose. Enough to blow the potted lemon tree over, so that I had to move it to a more sheltered position, and also secure everything that might take off and do some damage. The canopy on the terrace opposite was getting shredded, but our parasol got trashed a week ago, so at least I didn't have to worry about that!

Lightning crackled and flashed in the west and south west, and then moved steadily closer til it was right over head, and you couldn't see where it was, only that everything was flickering and snapping from grey twilight to charcoal to twilight and back again. Like being in an alley with a faulty streetlight.

And the thunder. Coo. Usually it grumbles and mutters, but last night was something else. Think of any thunder myth you like, and double it. Two raging titans slugging it out with everything they had. There can't be a stick of furniture left on Mt. Olympus.

The at 12.10 a.m. we got raiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!

I did sleep well.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Still hot

I've been sitting in this exact same place for days. It's too hot to move. It's also too hot to stay still, but I'm trying not to run the air conditioning all the time. Not all the time...

Anyway, the crochet is coming on a treat. There's a lot to be said for embarking on a big, repetitive project when you're a relative beginner. Turning a ball of yellow yarn into forty flower centres, and then turning a couple of balls of white into circles of petals around those centres, gets tedious after a while, but I'm already a lot faster than I was, and don't have to focus on every stitch as a I did at first. I made 32 nuggets during last Wednesday's Barcelona-Madrid match!

(Incidentally, does anyone else think Mourinho should be fined and put on notice for bringing the game into disrepute? He's a sour piece of work. Imagine having to work with him.)

And my technique is improving, as is my understanding of the mechanics of making stitches. After struggling to copy either of the two ergonomically correct grips, I decided to stop fretting, on the basis that if I could handle a pen, a knife, a knitting needle and a screwdriver, the grip for a crochet hook should quietly evolve, if I concentrated on making the stitches. And it did. It turns out that you (OK, I!) hold it like a salt pot. There! That didn't hurt at all.

I can see the difference between my first batches and the current one, too: more even tension, better shaped centres - and all the right way up!

Obviously, this isn't ideal, but I am not about to unpick every mistake. My policy is - damage limitation. If I spot an error in the round I'm doing, I unravel it and rework, but if I only spot it when I realise there's something awry in the next round - it stays, and I skip the extra chain space, or squidge in another, so that I don't end up with either nine or seven petals. Martha Stewart, I ain't. I've also decided that my flowerbed will have ladybirds, and perhaps the odd butterfly. Who's to know that the adorable ickle ladybirds hide a small, but perfectly formed mishmash of yarn, or that the butterfly masks a bigger mishmash? Clearly, if I have to resort to Amazonian beauties, or the finished coverlet looks like a testament to biodiversity, I shall review this policy before embarking on my next project, but I am hopeful that I will get away with my disgraceful approach to quality control.

But I'd better order Lesley Stansfield's 75 Birds, Butterflies and little beasts to knit and crochet, just to be on the safe side.

I've currently got 38 fried eggs and 5 golden nuggets, which will soon sit on 43 patches of purple, red, green and yellow, to even up with the blues and salmon. With the other 74, that puts me almost halfway to the requisite 288. Yay.

Howsoever, brain has now recovered from academic year plus summer camp. Or it had until today. I'm working on a story that originated in an EFL project I created around a fictional robbery from an art gallery. As usual, having hit knowledge barriers, I'm following white rabbits down all sorts of fascinating interconnected tunnels. Cornish history and legend. The British peerage. Japonisme. Restorers and forgers. Woman Bathing, by Mary Cassatt

a forged Goya

Van Gogh, after Hiroshige

Every so often, I pop up and do something that affects the word count.

But this patently isn't it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

50 ways

Just to show I haven't gone off and slashed my wrists, here's one of those lists of what we can do to limit our personal (negative) impact on the planet,

and an evaluation of a 2007 list commissioned by the UK's Environment Agency . There's a PDF at the top of Leo Hickman's article to the original (very pretty and upbeat) report, which I can't upload directly.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Time out, or - I read the news today. Oh boy.

I pass my days in a small happy activity, developing a humble practical skill that can be used to make things of great beauty and charm; working towards pleasure in a handmade comfort.

I pass my days watching stems rise and leaves uncurl; blossoms unfurl, glimmer, fade and fall; pods emerge, lengthen and fatten.

I think of summer herbs, winter salad, water conservation, mulch and compost; working towards our own green roof, home-grown beauty and produce, and long, peaceful evenings afloat on the mingled scents of mint... dill... jasmine... tarragon... rosemary... honeysuckle... lavender... lemon...

I sit out under the sky in the early morning and late evening, watching the light change, and the comings and goings of birds, insects and clouds.

Sometimes I lie out under the sky at night, watching bats, stars and the moon.

I pass my days listening to the radio, to music I haven't heard before, and the thoughts of people who know and love it.
Re-reading favourite books.
Hopping in and out of Facebook.
Wandering through blogs.

Listening to the news.

Holding the news at a distance.

Staying very still and quiet behind my walls of yarn and plants and music and books and blogs.

Not looking at all the crises, emergencies and disasters produced through the application of human talent, good intentions, ingenuity, effort, diligence, ignorance, thoughtlessness, wilfulness, selfishness and greed. And which we seem powerless to fix.

Unfortunately for my peace of mind, I know
that cheap synthetic yarn comes from non-renewable resources, often extracted through partnerships based on self-interest and mutual exploitation between First World multi-nationals (and their shareholders) and the leaders of resource-rich (usually desert) but rarely democratic Third World countries, or countries with territorial claims to the polar regions, where penguins remain shamefully disenfranchised;
that cheap synthetic dyes derive from toxic manufacturing processes, often in countries with the minimum commitment to environmentally responsible industry that they they can get away with (er... the federally structured USA, communist (?) China;
that in addition to the extraction, refining and manufacturing processes, there's also sea and land transport between, let's say Nigeria, The Netherlands, China and Spain.

All things considered, crocheting a pretty but unnecessary coverlet for a guest room should probably be considered as complicity in a warcrime against the planet.

Even my plants busily converting CO2 into O2, require regular applications of essential, but increasingly undependable, H2O.

The trouble with reading the news is that you find out what's going on, most of it grim, everywhere, and in my case it makes me feel helpless and despondent.

This is what did it for me, first thing this morning.

We did maps and colour charts at school, but not colour-coded like this one on the right. Somalia's been a non-state for twenty years. There is some small hope that Al-Shabab have made such an infernal mess that they may, perhaps, lose their grip and make it possible for help to reach the rest of the population. Otherwise it's just rape and murder as usual, or a long walk to the nearest border, or a boat, with smugglers who'll take everything you have, then throw you or your children overboard as soon as look at you. That's what I learnt this morning.

I don't actually think that I am personally responsible for the famine in Somalia, or the famine which has begun to encroach on Ethiopia (These words, at this distance, from my cute little laptop in my lovely little flat with running water and well-stocked fridge...). I don't know much about Somalia's recent history, or anything at all about its ancient history, when Africa was green and pleasant, or whether one or more colonial powers have been in there. I don't know what resources the country has, or what kinds of international relationships may be part of the picture.

But I do know that climate change is upon us, and everywhere is connected to everywhere else, so the inability of one country to feed its people, and at least explore ways of famine-proofing its territory is something that will affect the rest of the planet.

Climate change is a given, but with each swing, as new species evolve, and old ones adapt, others are lost. It's quite possible that Neanderthal Man was a victim of climate change, leaving the planet to his contemporary, but more adaptable Cro-Magnon Man.

I don't suppose that climate change will wipe out Homo Sapiens directly, but I am depressingly sure that, unless we really begin to think in terms of a combination of equitably sharing or trading what we have; treating the essentials of life, such as food and shelter, as resources, not financial commodities to fatten a few wallets and (oops, collateral damage) condemn millions of the already poor to starvation; and getting serious about food miles, carbon footprints, and living within the planet's means; neighbours will cease to be neighbours except in terms of proximity and competition for available resources, allies will tear up treaties, those with armies will use them in regional/national/market interests, and we'll wipe ourselves out.

When Pandora opened the box (actually, a jar - Were you really that interested?) that Zeus had given her, and all the ills of the world had escaped, there remained in the bottom, like Tinkerbell in Wendy's bedroom, hope.

I take hope from the fact that sustainable development was taken sufficiently seriously for the UN Brundtland Commission to define it........ even if that was in 1987, and there's still a very long way to go in practice:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Economically, environmentally, socially. Sounds right to me.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How d'you like your eggs?

Dad's birthday

Celestial cabaret

We invited some friends round towatch the sun go down. A nice, relaxing end to the week.
They arrived just in time for the lightning.

We decided to sit out and enjoy the show with our summer cocktails and Keef's home-made tortilla chips and salsa. The wind and light rain on our skin were such a relief after three days and nights of sultry heat (34º the night before, and not a breath of air moving, though we had every window and door open - I went and slept on the terrace.)

The lightning got more spectacular by the minute. The thunder kicked in after an hour or so, and then the wind really got going! It does get windy up here, so I've slashed the canopy of the parasol to prevent it from taking off and injuring a pedestrian four floors below. Two days ago, I lashed the whole contraption very firmly to the safety rail, and tied the spokes to the support, to be absolutely sure.
All we needed was a hurricane to test it...

So - summer evening with son y lumiere - and then it really started slinging it down, so we retreated. Of course, I put every houseplant that wasn't tied down out there for a raindance!

And this morning, gorgeous sky, cool air, and - hmm...

So the macrame worked, then.

And the plants are happy.
This might even stir the banana palm into action - all that loving care, and even the odd tropical storm to make it feel at home!

Come on out, little BP. We know you're in there...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ramadan Kareem

I know it's a bit late, but even so. Both of us thought we heard the call to prayer this evening, and looked round to see the sun three-quarters of the way over the horizon, so perhaps we did. Iftar - time to break fast. But we're out of earshot of the big mosque in Tetuán. We were out of earshot when we lived in Tetuán!

And also, although the first impression was islamic (in the same way that Gregorian chant is specifically Christian, not just European) it developed into something more Spanish, in this case, specifically andalucían.
Al-Andalus was of course the centre of Islam in Spain for centuries, and the West owes an incalculable debt to successive caliphs in Cordoba for the preservation in translation of the heritage of Ancient Greece and Rome.
But Granada, and Toledo were both known for convivencia, basically the ability of Muslims, Jews and Christians to get on with their lives, and follow their faiths, without bothering each other. Until Isabel (la Católica) of Castile set out on la Reconquísta, to reclaim Spain for Christianity under a centralised authority i.e. herself and her husband Fernando (Ferdinand) of Aragon.

Still, you can hear the legacy of that time in flamenco music in Spain, and, in the Jewish world, in Sephardic music - the music of the Spanish Jews, who took it to North Africa, when they also were expelled as part of la Reconquista. The other day, I was introduced to the music of the Israeli jazz musician Avishai Cohen, and the first actual song I heard was this, sung in Ladino, the Spanish-Hebrew dialect of the andalucían Jews in the days of convivencia.
In the comments that follow this YouTube video, I read that some Jewish communities still speak Ladino, and that a Ladino speaker understood just fine when addressed in Spanish. Not bad after five centuries!

Anyway, if there is such a thing as a flamenco hymn of joy to the beauty of a summer evening and the sun setting over the mountains, that's what I think we heard. If I'm right, then somewhere not very far away, on a terrace facing away from Mecca (as it happens) a man was singing his heart out as the sun went down.

I can't make head or tail of most of this song, beyond the fact that the rejected lover has decided to take poison and die - but it sounds pretty cheerful to me, and starts off like someone standing on a balcony as the sun goes down.....

And in the spirit of convivencia, here's Chris August, and some serious sunsets.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gawd it's 'ot!

Mid-to-high 30s.

Too hot for the hammock
(from fab indulgence shop TIGER, - Think IKEA round the corner, and without the furniture. Lots of practical, pleasurable, inexpensive Scandiwegian bits and bobs, like stripey hammocks (oh yes...!) and small, narrow-spouted, light-weight lime green plastic elephant-shaped watering cans........Yup. Got one of those, too.)
And the basil's not keen. Then again, the basil's always sulking about something: toomuchlight-no-notenoughlight-no-notenoughwater-NO!-TOOMUCHWATER!! If a herb could have a headache, basil would be prone to migraines.
Even the flat-leaved French Parsley, usually cheerfully stoic in the heat, is not enjoying this.

It's English cousin, tucked behind it, and shaded by the wall and the lemon tree, perseveres valiantly, putting up fuzzy green heads that soon go brown and crispy, then putting up some more. Shame, really. We bought it by mistake. Actually...

...Oh! I decided to go and bring the poor little thing inside, rather than leave it to struggle in hostile conditions, but it's looking quite perky - A ratio of 80:20 green:brown is a serious improvement! - so I've left it out there. I guess it's had its suntan experience. The English abroad... we settle down eventually.

I called an earlier blog Pots, Privacy & Peas: Paradise, but got so carried away with the outdoor pots, peas and paradise, that I forgot about Privacy. Up here, we are across the road from the neighbours' eyrie, and indoors, beyond the glazed-in balcony, we're at right angles to another neighbour, and across from a nightbird's bedroom. Which is all fine, except that it's high summer up here on the mesa, and clothes are just... too much, you know?

Now, we don't want to traumatise anyone, but neither do I want blinds and curtains, so the dappled shade I'm working towards outside translates into a dappled privacy screen indoors; a leafy, growing, mashrabiya or jali, which will let in light and air, and be beautiful to my eyes, while protecting those of that young chap opposite.

Geranium and scindapsus aureus and a climber - don't know what it is, but I've got two!

Here's the other one. I know they're popular. No sign of any flowers, but healthy, handsome and not too vigorous to block light and air. I wish I knew what they are... Anybody?

The ivy in the first pic and the pretty green vine are both artificial, but the real plants are growing through them, and the plastic tendril spirals make useful supports and guides for new plant tips heading for the ceiling. Love it.

And this is another reason for the artificial climbers: this is the bathroom window, permanently open to let light in and steam out. Those plant pots are strategically placed between the bathroom window and the neighbour's windows and balcony, but don't give quite enough cover yet. Anyway, I love that artificial vine: very pretty, very convincing, and fairly unlikely to go brown and crispy. It gets spray-misted with the real plants too (with my bright blue TIGER pulverizador!), so it doesn't get dusty either.

Living room, looking through to glazed-in balcony and beyond: Not great, but it's a start.
And the neighbours' view.

That will do for now.

Now this
- is a suede shoulder bag that I lusted after and pined for for months, as its assorted brown, red, blue, green and purple cousins - and probably its identical icosuplets (Ha!) got sold, and the price dropped from 63€ (Husband or handbag, husband or handbag, husband or handbag?) to 40-something (h-o-h...) to 20-something - Ooh! Ooh!! (Except I've already got seven handbags, and we haven't-got-space-for-any-more-STUFF!!! H-o-h...) to 15€. Ahh... All those months of unwavering devotion. I've been so good... And - and - ok!

So I used my beautiful tawny gold suede shoulder bag every day for three weeks, and was dismayed (a word I've never used before, but it's the only word for that childlike disbelief and disappointment that comes when something really special turns out to be - not. So. I was -) dismayed to see the colour dim and the suede darken as the filth of city air and public surfaces attached itself to the seams, the corners, and the sides. Oh dear... (Disconsolate's a good word too.) So, when it didn't respond to cleaner, and I couldn't find the right colour, I put it away. I'd maybe salvage the cleaner, brighter bits for a doll's coat...

Then we moved here, and I needed a shelf for a spider plant, but we hadn't got any shelves; or a hanging basket, but the plant was so big; or a wall-planter, but I couldn't find one; or - oh yeah! So I put the shoulder bag in the sink, and scrubbed it with soap and water. I really like that bag!

And so does the - Wait a minute, wait a minute. - Chlorophytum comosum! There! There was more of it this morning, but the baby ones are here. If they sprout roots like this geranium cutting (geranium masked by scindapsus cutting which does nothing but lurk), I shall be very happy. Green screen.

Not everything's flourishing

But we water, and encourage, and wait. Mind you, I'm not impressed with this compost. Wait til we get our composter.

P.S. New in happy-ever-after library: Alice Bowe's High-Impact, Low-Carbon Gardening, 1001 Ways to Garden Sustainably. I may not be able to pull off the natural swimming pond, but I'm quietly thrilled to have got my little mitts on a domestic how-to guide to practices I've seen applied to public buildings in Europe in recent years. (Of course, in Australia, Earth Garden's been pointing the way for years.)

Quote from the Preface,

We'll look carefully at the management of water and compost, the sustainable gardener's two most precious natural resources.
She gets my vote. And my money!

Sunday, August 07, 2011


First there was the fried egg on the left. Then, the nuggets in the middle. Then the fried egg on the right. (Beautiful, yes?)Then there was mass-production. By George, I think she's got it.

And as the sun begins its descent into the West, (which means it's cool enough to go out) I am quietly chuffed to bits.

30 down, just 214 to go...

Weird Crochet, Hyperbolic Crochet, Happy Crochet

I misunderstood an instruction, so instead of doing clusters of stitches, I did cluster stitches, and got these incredibly bulky flowers.

Flipped over, they could be anemones, or coral.

They remind me of the Order of the Garter, or the badge on Sergeant Dixon's helmet (Dock Green - when I was little!) It doesn't help that I made them before I figured out the correct way to do a starting circle, hence the mish-mash in the middle.
Which reminds me: Anyone for a little science project? I came across an article on the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef last year. Once you get past the apparent insanity of the idea, you realise that crochet really lends itself to modelling marine lifeforms - coral, of course, but what about barnacles? Anemones? Seahorses, for goodness sake! (Maybe when God put her feet up on the seventh day, she got her crochet out, and knocked out a couple of seahorses, a blowfish, a few tiger prawns and half a dozen starfish. Picture these creatures, and you'll realise that I could be right...)

There's a link (I LOVE THIS!!!) to the satellite projects around the world. Check out the Flickr photos from the Melbourne Reef show. But, here are some of organiser Irene Lundgaard's photos of the Irish Satellite Reef. Because I love looking at them.

Oh yeah! I've wanted a marine aquarium ever since the pet shop in Horwich installed one in about 1990. It was about five feet long, and four feet high, and just wonderful.

Crochet! The answer!
Doesn't leak or need cleaning.
Doesn't mind a power cut.
Doesn't get hungry or ill.

N0-one ever had to find someone to crochet-sit before going on holiday.

And no worries about how all the little finny things get on with with the knitted dog, the crochet cat, the plush guinea pig or the macrame owl.

So that's a plan, then. Excellent.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Looking for Purple

You see the magenta outline around the lightning forks? And the dark purple clouds? OK. Now try and picture a shade of purple between those two colours - reddish, not bluish - and that's the colour of the yarn I used for my pansies.

Can I capture it with my camera? Nope. Indoors, outdoors, morning, afternoon, increasingly random jabbings at -2 something to +1.7 something, assorted light settings, all I get is some very beautiful shades of blue, lavender and slate, and washed-out-life-is-pointless-bluuurgh.

So I went a-Googling, (ho-li-daaaaaay....) as I do, for pansies of the colour I've used. None.

I googled 'purple flowers'. Not a one. But feast yer eyes, anyway! And the iris comes from an enchanting flower blog.

Perhaps my zingy synthetic purple dye does not exist in nature, unless..... down in the depths of the ocean, where everything glows in the endless darkness.....
And that search led me, via this fella, ..not quite, but...
to Purple Dreamy and this fella! but no...
This? Nearly...
And this - almost! That bright, rich shade in the centre!

What about birds?
Oh! definitely getting warmer with

But the closest is, the sun-polished, iridescent sheen of this handsome creature.
My mother used to make beautiful needle tapestries, drawing on years of gardening, and a faultless eye for colour. The only flower she ever almost gave up on was the iris, because of the difficulty of finding an embroidery silk of the exact purple she needed. I've been reminded of this as I've ransacked Google to locate 'my' synthetic purple in nature.

Anyway. Two pansies, one made on a 3.5mm hook, and one on 4.5. Also a briar rose in the same gold and purple, but though it looks cheerful, I found it frustratingly fiddly to make, and I don't think I'll try another two-layer flower for a while. The big one's lush, but too big to use right now. The little one, though, looks delightful on my waistcoat, opposite the knitted poppy that set me crocheting in the first place. Not that you can tell from this photo, but never mind. Just as long as you know -

That slate blue? It's a purple!