Saturday, April 28, 2012

April to May

Well, we're doing all right for April showers. I put the houseplants outside to get the benefit of Thursday's mist, which developed into drizzle later the same day, and a then a whole string of downpours that are going to continue for several days to come..

This was mist, not rain.

These rather battered beauties in yellow, orange and red are ranunculus. I love the way their petals fluff up like tulle underskirts or the leg feathers on fancy chickens, and it was cheering to have full-on sun colours after the beautiful purple and apricot of the winter pansies. As you might expect, they're about as enthusiastic about wind and rain as a socialite at Ascot, so when I saw the weather forecast a few weeks ago, I brought them straight inside. It wasn't so much the forecast of wind, but that the weatherman said that the Tramontana would start at 1 o'clock the next day. A wind so distinctive that it has a name, and you can time its arrival? Duck for cover. Sure enough, the next day, it started: powerful, gusting and sooooo cold; blowing clouds across the sky so fast that rain came and went and came again throughout the days and nights that followed. The temperature dropped abruptly.

In fact, if we're getting the Tramontana, it's with a small t, because the original is cousin to the provençale Mistral, originates in the Pyrenees, and causes mayhem among the good people of Catalonia. But there's still something blowing in from our Sierra Guadarrama - tra our montanas! As for the ranunculus, even indoors, they don't like it, but after sulking for a while, they perked up and were great fun for weeks. Recently, though, they've been moulting like nobody's business. Usually, the first thing I do when I get new plants home is repot them, but these girls' petals are so fragile that I didn't dare, so I suspect they're potbound by now. Definitely not happy, anyway. So I put them out again in Thursday's misty morning air as a treat. Oops.
The Season is definitely over for them.

The herbs are doing well, even the basil (total diva). I love the taste and smell of basil, but the plant's a  bore. We've bought three plants for a full trough to be sure of a plentiful supply. I'm investing in some irrigation gear this year, to save water and my back, but I'm bringing most of the herbs indoors to the glazed terrace, because they didn't cope well with last summer's heat. I do love the sight and smell of them indoors, and of course, the kitchen opens straight onto the glazed terrace, so they'll be really handy for Keef. On the left are last year's lavender and flat Italian parsley, which I thought would thrive outside but it did neither better nor worse than the curly English parsley (not great). So the parsley's coming indoors, as is the basil and oregano. The coriander and mint flourish anywhere, so we'll have some in pots inside, and more in troughs on the terrace.

Also to come -

salad greens

cucumbers, green peppers & red peppers-in-waiting

peas! (and holly in flower)

proto-lemons, which start out as the purple heart of the blossom, and then turn green, and then, if we're lucky, stay on the tree long enough to get big and yellow and delicious
aubergines - there's one right there - so exciting!

and also, most important, shade - work in progress 
      don't know what it is, but it's looking fair to cover the frame of the  parasol that got trashed by the wind last year

and we've got two of them

Jasmine, also heading up and - I hope - over. Scented shade! 

Spring in Madrid

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ravelry makes me happy

In December 2009, I joined Ravelry 'a knit and crochet community'. Online. Now, I have a rather awkward relationship with the virtual world. As a source of information, especially English language information, it's very, very useful for me. But in my experience the word 'community' is frequently hijacked by commercial and political bodies to leverage new markets, or as a useful buzzword for disguising cuts to social funding. And what is communal about staying in, facing a screen?

Ah, but.

Ah, but, when genuinely community-minded people have the vision, skills and taste for hard work to boldly go into the virtual world and create the conditions for a welcoming, inclusive, mutually supportive and downright inspiring community - a community where people from all over the planet can come and grow - even I am won over, no, delighted and excited. And that's what Ravelry is about. Much as Jess envisaged in a blog seven years ago this month.

Running parallel to and enriching my 'real' life I now have this 'place' where I can encounter other people with the same or related interests, who share their knowledge, triumphs, messes and learning curves, people I wouldn't otherwise meet because they live in the UK, or Norway, or Mexico, or the US. It's just like a 'real' club, except it doesn't matter if you have to work late, or you've only got ten minutes, or you can't get a babysitter, or you've no money for the bus, or that you live in a different time zone.

It reminds me a bit of when we were in Dubai, where there's much more of a social mix of cultures, professions and levels of seniority than is common elsewhere in more permanent, and therefore homogeneous, societies. A twelve year old American schoolgirl got in touch. Great-grandmothers who are knitting for new babies. Men Who Knit. OK - that's more common than it used to be. But, Men who Crochet? Yes! People in their fifties and sixties dyeing yarn and selling it through Etsy. Full-time designers and makers. Many blog, some do podcasts, several have books out.   And there are professional and amateur spinners, and weavers, and-and-and-.

And in between, we're at work, or school, or looking after our families, in Russia or China or Estonia or Ireland. It's great. And if you don't speak the language that that wonderful pattern is written in, often someone has translated those instructions from French, or Japanese, or German. It's awe-inspiring, really, how it works.

I must admit, I've only recently moved from lurking, 'favoriting' and leaving the occasional comment, to chats and participating in forums, but I've learnt such a lot - I'm learning all the time - and I've been touched by so many people's enthusiasm for their particular skill, or tradition or discovery. I'm having a ball! I even manage conversations in Spanish, without the pressures of real time dialogue in a second language. And there are groups for teachers and theatre luvvies and gardeners - even a dedicated group of composters who knit and crochet!!! Of course I've joined!

So, here are some of the things I've made and am pleased with. The big discovery for me has been the extraordinary scope and versatility of crochet. I've always been a knitter, and never could get my fingers and thumbs round crochet until a couple of winters ago. Since then, though, I've progressed from fat 5mm diameter hooks and fat, cheap, reasonably stretchy acrylic yarn in stripes and rounds to granny squares and flowers and to snowflakes on 2.5mm hooks and fine cotton - not fine fine, on 1.25mm and 0.6mm (?!?!) hooks, you understand (Never gonna happen.) - and simple tops, to basic Irish crochet, and looking at alternative materials like string, plastic and wire.

Perhaps best of all, my virtual life feeds back into my real life. I'm not talking about my unevenly increasing skill and knowledge, but about discovering how many colleagues do their own thing outside work. It turns out that some of my colleagues are also into crochet or knitting, or working with paper, or making jewellery, or baking or sewing or basketry or clay-modelling. It's nice to know. There's a sense of understanding and being understood that adds another dimension to our relationships. And it makes a change from Facebook.

Happy Birthday, Ravelry!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

¿Conejita feliz? Bunny of Happiness. Choju Giga

I am a happy bunny.... a choju giga (OK, so this is a hare.)
I've just come back from a lecture at the Japan Foundation on the evolving role of the Japanese woman in the modern world, starting with the Confucius-inspired prescription during the Tokagawa shogunate, right up to the present day. It was all in Spanish, and the speaker talked incredibly fast in order to get through her material in an hour and a half....... and I understood it! I am so chuffed with myself! Major milestone!

And next week, the focus is on the Japanese woman in theatre - Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki. I am so looking forward to that, particularly now that I know that however fast the next lecturer speaks, I'll be able to keep up. ¡Qué día frabojoso! (je je je...)

Acabo de asistir en una conferencia en la Fundación Japón, con una profesora muy lista y llena de entusiasmo, pero quiéne habló a la velocidad de un AVE ¡y le entendí casi todo lo que dijó!
Increíble. ¡Una revelación! Es como cuando, hace dos veranos, acompañé a un grupo de alumnos en una visita guiada en un museo..... en español..... y entendí la mayoría de la información. En conversación, me cuesta mucho a entender la mitád de lo que dicen mis amigos españoles, y estaba un poco aprensiva que no entendería la conferencia, pero fui con dos amigas muy simpaticas, y todo pasé bien. ... conejita felíz...

Es parte del Ciclo de conferencias de Primavera, con la tema de 'la mujer japonesa: mito y realidad.

A lo largo del tiempo, diferentes estereotipos de la mujer japonesa han seducido a Occidente, desde la elegancia de las geishas, hasta la sumisión de Madame Butterfly. Imágenes que han atraído la mirada hacia la mujer japonesa y que han suscitado interés en esta figura. Así, la compleja realidad de la mujer japonesa se ha visto ocultada tras los filtros del orientalismo, por un lado, y del machismo, por otro. Es por ello que se dedica el ciclo de conferencias de primavera a la mujer japonesa mito y realidad.
A través del mismo se ofrece la posibilidad de conocer en profundidad las diferencias y las similitudes entre el estereotipo y la mujer japonesa real, sumergiéndonos en los diferentes enfoques propuestos como son el arte, las artes escénicas, la literatura y el mundo actual.

Me he perdido las conferencias sobre la mujer japonesa en la literatura, y a través del arte (que me interesa mucho - soy muy decepcionada), pero asistí ésta tarde (...en el mundo actual), y estoy esperando a la proxima conferencia, la que trate de la mujer japonesa en las artes escenicas - Noh, Bunraku y Kabuuuuuuuuuuuuukiiiiiiiiiii!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pequeñita aventura en la calle (Que nada arriesga, no gana.)

Pués..... estoy volviendo en casa al fin de la jornada. Hay un hombre paseando el perro (un perrito encantador, como dos fregonas atadas). Me sonrie (el hombre, no el perrito), y dice algo. No oigo bien. Paro.

- ¿Perdón?
- Quiere amor? Busco una mujer, si quiere amor, ¿sí?
- Primero, ¿quizás si hablamos con mi marido...?

Nos reimos, y vuelvo en casa... a mi marido... :)

Y el mes pasado, cuando sustituyé a un compañero que estaba de baja - varón que tiene algunos 28-30 años, con barba - dijeron los alumnos, -¿Eres la madre de Neil?

-Qué no... Neil es irlandes, y yo soy inglésa...