In which I tread the boards again after 20+ years

When I was young and single and looking for ways to make new friends in the intimidating and unfriendly-by-reputation deep south, I decided that amateur dramatics was the way to go. I joined the Worthy Players, who were a very friendly and welcoming bunch. I started by doing props for “A Month of Sundays” (it’s harder than you’d think to replicate a pot of tea *safely* and *convincingly* on stage), and then switched between backstage roles and on-stage roles in “SS Farndale Avenue” and “One for the Road” (my name was different then, but you can see the evidence by checking out the previous shows page of their website and scrolling all the way down to 1994/95 – look for Jude Hayes) – and, it turns out, “Humpty Dumpty”, which I’d completely forgotten about… I really enjoyed it, but in the summer of 1995 I moved up to London. My job in London was such that I couldn’t guarantee being in rehearsals (you’d be surprised what crises pop up on Europe-wide car rental applications, and how often it requires you to “stay until it’s done”) and also, London is well known for being full of Proper Actors and I was so intimidated by that idea that I just didn’t investigate the am-dram-wanna-be-not-am scene.

There are days when I really regret that.

So: I got married, had children and couldn’t guarantee being at rehearsals for a whole host of other reasons – in truth, I felt like my family ought to come first. However, they are now old enough that they can be left alone for huge swathes of the day, so I’ve launched back in.

While sight-seeing in Liverpool last year I saw an A-board outside the masonic hall on Hope Street advertising acting classes for adults. And so I signed up (with MAD). Just over a year later, having done 3 terms of classes with them, I signed up for the summer performance “course”, which culminates in a production in a proper theatre.

me as a theatre nurse

I was cast in “Tiger Country” by Nina Raine as “Lakshmi” (renamed to “Laura”), a middle-aged theatre nurse. Clearly acting middle-aged was a stretch, but having worked in a clinical research facility, I’m practically a nurse already anyway… The play is set between Surgery and A&E in a large hospital, and shows the pressures on the NHS through the lives of the people working in it.

rehearsing the trauma scene

Here (below) you can see us performing a testicle removal on Cyril, using barbecue tongs as retainers (we dropped that after the level of guffawing from the audience as they are clearly not a self-retainer, which is what was asked for in the preceding line…). Please note the attractive headgear, and how my hair is *nearly* tucked in!

Posted by Merseyside Academy of Drama – MAD on Saturday, 9 September 2017

Photo from the dress rehearsal, taken by the very talented dallyfilms.com

The next one shows my awesome acting chops – I was having to pretend to be really pissed off with Lisa (“Vanessa”) here, which was hard because I really like her. I channelled the feeling I had when a particular manager in my past was berating me for some reason or other that was most definitely not my fault.

Posted by Merseyside Academy of Drama – MAD on Saturday, 9 September 2017

Photo from the dress rehearsal, taken by the very talented dallyfilms.com

The performances felt like they went really well, and the last one was pretty much a sell-out, which really helped with the atmosphere. I liked the challenge of working in the round, enjoyed the rehearsals and being part of a company, and bringing these characters to life. I also got a reputation for being organised as I wanted to make sure my props were all sorted – Lisa is now convinced I should be pursuing a career in stage management.

script and memorabilia

In conclusion, I’m loving it, looking for ways to do more, and wish I’d got my arse in gear to do it years ago… so, watch this space, folks!

Holiday reading …fails

book piles

I brought 6 books with me on holiday, 4 of them from the library were essentially chosen at random from the sci-fi/fantasy shelf. It would appear, from yesterday’s attempts to start a new book, that the library random-choice method has a 50% success rate. The 2 books whose bindings you can see have been read & appreciated. The 2 whose bindings you can’t see, were less successful. I generally have a rule that I give a book until page 50 – only one of these even made it that far.

The first unsuccessful book was by Melinda Snodgrass and was chosen partly because of the awesome name of the author. Another reason was because Melinda has, according to her bio, written for Star Trek. Unfortunately the title I chose was the second in a series and I was unable to get past the necessary slight Basil Exposition style of the first few chapters where the first paragraph was this-and-this-and-this had happened to this person and it was only when I realised that this was #2 of however-many that I worked out why. This I did not like. Also, I found her narrative style slightly annoying. Very early on, someone who was escaping while crawling through mud was described as dragging themselves forward “reluctantly”. Given the circumstances, this felt like a carelessly wrong word.

The second was a retelling of the Medea legend – I think – I don’t know the Medea legend, so it could have been a tale at a liberal tangent, a prequel or a sequel for all I knew, but from the start I found the writer’s style frustratingly impenetrable. In a lot of cases, it took about half a page to work out what the action was, and the main character, Medea, started taking actions which I found incredibly annoying, didn’t understand why she was doing what she was doing, and didn’t have enough invested in her to give her license to do what she was doing. I stopped at page 49. Life is too short to be struggling through a book this annoying in style.

Instead I’ve gone for a book that I’ve borrowed from my father in law, and although I’m on day 1, I’m about half way through. It’s by an author I like, so this is not unexpected.

The other books that I like will be reviewed on the book gnome all in the fullness of time…

Important stages in blanket-making

yarn choices

Around this time last year I started making a blanket as part of a knit-along with my LYS, knit-wise in Ormskirk. Quite a few of us took part, and a year later progress varies between “Blanket? What blanket? Oh yes, I finished that aeons ago!” and “Blanket? What blanket? Oh, yeah, I really should work on that a bit…”

For my part, I worked on it sporadically over the year – at least a third of it was done in the first few weeks (to a month or so) up to the point where it was at the important stage of being big enough to dick about with as though it were a scarf.

blanket-as-scarf

Although being made lantern by lantern, it was theoretically an easy “on the go” project, the need to bring all 12 colours with you kind-of countered that by making it a really difficult “on the go” project. Also, you need to keep the equipment with you at all times for changing colours and sewing in the ends. This is the kind of project which, if you don’t finish off as you go along, will pretty much guarantee it never gets finished. A crafter who enjoys sewing in ends is a rare find indeed, and one who would be willing to sew in a minimum of 11x4x8 + 12x4x7 + 14×2 ….352 + 564 + 28 …944 ends in one sitting is a rare unicorn indeed. I sewed my ends in as I went, and joined my strips together as I went, and I’m not ashamed to say that I shouted loud caution at anyone who looked like they were saving up all the sewing-in and sewing-together joy until the end.

So, I worked on it sporadically – mainly at Wednesday night knit & natter if I’m honest, just to show willing and let everyone know I hadn’t forgotten about it. I made several things in the meantime – my new favourite sweater, a cardigan that still needs its buttons sewing on (see above re. keen-ness for finishing off fiddly details), a hat, Christmas mini-stockings, a waistcoat, a herd of hedgehogs and a handful of toy ducks and progress was made, inch by inch.

I got to the penultimate proscribed row and nearly the end of some of the colours of my yarn sometime in June/July, at which point it seemed like it would be a shame not to sneak under the 365-day mark for completing this beast. So I made an effort, and sure enough I managed to get the short sprint done.

finished blanket

It’s not as wide as I’d have liked, but I ran out of the mustard yellow yarn and didn’t want to get a whole new set of balls, which is a cycle I could very easily have fallen into. The boy has claimed this one for himself, and seems happy enough with it.

Joel with blanket

…so I’m calling it “done”.

So. Given the hard slog that that felt like, which is the obvious next step for a keen crafter like myself? Clearly, start another one. This time, for the girl.

african flower motifs

Holiday keen-ness means that this, too, has got to the all-important dick-about-with-it-like-it’s-a-scarf phase which, given that I’m doing strips horizontally this time, actually happened a lot earlier in the process. Still. A stage is a stage.

new-blanket-scarf

Watch out for completion of the girl’s blanket …around this time next year, no doubt.

Book review: Time And Time Again by Ben Elton

Unlike previous novels from Ben Elton, I found this to be well written, and with an intriguing story that kept me turning the page right to the end. Compared to Elton’s screen work, this feels more considered and intricate. It’s not a new trope that going back in time to change a single point of history to prevent bad things from happening may make things worse in the long run. I liked the alternative that was posed here.

The hero, ex-SAS widower Hugh Stanton is alone in the world and so is an ideal candidate for the “loop in time” that Newton discovered and left details of for Hugh’s Oxford professor (and others). He is trained, equipped, and sent back to prevent the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

Although I guessed who a supposed “mystery figure” was at one point, the plot didn’t feel predictable, and I was as un-nerved and taken aback by the ending as I think I was supposed to be. I liked that the baddies and goodies weren’t necessarily fixed as either one or the other, but that most of the characters that are introduced have layers and depending on your point of view could be either good or bad.

Even though I was left feeling a little depressed and lacking optimism generally, this is well worth a read in my opinion.

This review first appeared on The Book Gnome

Book review: The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker


This book was passed to me because a good friend of mine found she just couldn’t get into it, so my expectations weren’t high. Also, I was reading it in translation from the original French, in English, so I expected the language and style to feel disjointed, and annoy me.

The premise is that a well-known author who is struggling to create his second novel goes to spend time with his college tutor, Harry Quebert, another author. While he is there, the “Affair” explodes around him – the body of a girl who went missing 33 years ago is dug up in Harry’s garden, making him the chief suspect.

Our hero knows (in his heart) that Harry cannot have abducted and killed the girl, despite the mounting evidence that backs up the popular theory. It starts to look like this should be the material for his difficult second novel. Indeed, the implication is that the book in your hands is this second novel (which I found to be quite clever).

The story doesn’t move super-quickly, and there are quite a few threads to keep track of as you go through. The writing conveys the characters’ motivation and feelings really well – you properly understand why they do the things they do. The twists and turns of the story are well hidden and well revealed when the time comes – it was rare that I felt “there’s a twist coming” which means to me that the plot was well constructed. On that same note, I felt like the threads were effectively brought together at the end – the ending was satisfying. Too often when I finish a novel, I think “meh, is that it?” and the denouement felt a bit like a cop-out. Not so this time.

Also, by the time I had read to the end (it’s not a super-long novel, but for some reason I felt like I had been on a long journey at the end of it) I was surprised to be reminded that this was a translation. The language felt natural and well-constructed throughout – at no point did it feel clunky and there is a large amount of idiomatic speech in the story, which is most at risk when translating. So: really, really good job on the translation, Sam Taylor.

An edited version of this review first appeared on The Book Gnome

Book review: Alice (The Chronicles of Alice, #1) Alice by Christina Henry

Alice (The Chronicles of Alice, #1)Alice by Christina Henry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb for this book tells the reader that the story is inspired by “Alice in Wonderland”. All this really serves to do, is lull you into a false sense of security.

The fact that some of the characters in this book are inspired by and named after Lewis Carroll’s characters is pretty much where the similarity ends. This novel is much darker and more visceral than its leaping off point. Alice starts in a mental asylum, having been recovered from an encounter with the white rabbit ten years earlier. You get the sense very early on, that that encounter was not a good one.

Alice escapes with her friend, Hacker, when the asylum burns down, and they embark on an adventure involving monsters, exploration, underground tunnels, gang lords and the mysterious Jabberwocky. The journey is as much one of self-discovery as it is one of Alice learning about her new surroundings – she was raised in the affluent, safe “new city” but now finds herself in the old city – a dark and dangerous place, and no place for any girl to be alone, let alone a girl from the right side of the tracks. It’s also a journey of Alice and Hacker getting to know each other – in the asylum they communicated through a hole in the wall between them. With the wall removed, Alice learns who her friend really is, was, and who he becomes with each new danger they encounter.

This is not a book for the squeamish – the main characters are attacked in a variety of inventive and messy ways – very definitely not one for the kids. However, the same powerful language that brings those vivid scenes to life also paints rich and colourful scenes in the less intense moments of Alice’s journey. Although under the protection of her companion, the author still maintains the character’s strength and independence. The story definitely ends on a feminist note, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

View all my reviews on goodreads
This review was originally posted on The Book Gnome

The man in the high …warehouse? (spoilers for Man In The High Castle)

We finished Season 2 of The Man In The High Castle last night and although I enjoyed a lot of it (especially the bits with Rufus Sewell in), it’s fair to say I found watching most of Season 2 a confusing and distressing experience.

It didn’t begin well when I started watching the season hoping that it would still be compelling without Rufus, given that I was convinced his character had died near the end of the previous season. Turns out, I was completely wrong about that and that his character had very much not died, and is a major part of this season. So, I’ll own that one and say many “yay”s for more Rufus. This was not the fault of the writers, but a consequence of me getting confused in my middle age. It did, however, start the worrying thought that maybe I should have re-watched at least the end of the last season, just to get my bearings, if not re-watched all of Season 1. Of course, I didn’t do this. Busy-busy life, only so many hours in the day, we’ve already invested in watching it once for goodness’ sakes. I didn’t even read a synopsis, which would probably have proven helpful.

I like the style of the season. What America would be like under the Nazis/Japanese in the 60s if they had won the war was, in my opinion, well imagined. I enjoyed the action up to a certain point, but early on got myself very confused about who was betraying who, and what the point or influence of the eponymous character was. Which meant that the double timeline denouement with (actually, this time) characters coming back from the dead and some things left open ended, for reasons I couldn’t determine was really properly confusing. Because the husband has a tendency to work in front of the TV, I’m often asked what’s going on at various stages. At the end of Season 2, I was unable to help.

“Didn’t she die?”
“Yes.”
“Then why is she there?”
“I don’t know.”

If there was meant to be a link back to Season 1, I would have enjoyed clearer references. Late on, we discover that Washington was nuked at the end of the war. That could have been made more of, and could have been a bigger part of the general build-up to the threat of all-out nuclear apocalypse that hung over the second half of the season. As someone who was a child in the 80s, when the cold war still “raged”, the threat, and any fall-out from there being attacks on US soil (in every sense) apart from the obvious different-outcome-of-the-war thing felt very underplayed.

I did, however, enjoy the playing out of the fate of John Smith’s son, Thomas. The boy has a form of MS which, under the 3rd Reich, means that he should be reported to the authorities and euthanised, however, his father is plotting to get him out of the Reich and away to safety. Thomas realises the situation (because he’s a bright lad) and shops himself, but in a way that won’t harm his parents. I never used to try to guess what happens when watching films & TV, but from early on in this episode, I stated several times “he’s going to kill himself”. The scene where the medics arrive to take him away is well-constructed, and very moving. Even given the subject matter, it’s a high point for me.

I was quite disappointed, as well, that the man in the high castle is really a dude in a warehouse. Given that Germany features prominently in the storyline (with John Smith zipping back & forth from New York to Berlin like it’s round the corner) I had high hopes for an actual castle.

If there’s a season 3, I’ll watch it, if only to hope for things to improve. However, there is definitely some winning-me-back to be done.

Whoville – my new favourite sweater

I know. It’s a while since I posted, and now it’s the new year, I’m posting again. Yes, it’s related to a NYR to “write more”. Watch this space for me relapsing and not-writing a bit more.

So: knitting news. Just around Christmas I finished my latest sweater. I seem to be on a kick with this particular designer (atelier alfa), it’s the second one I’ve done by them in a row. The first one (stripes gone crazy) has been on my to-do list for a while – we know how I love unusual construction, well this one really fitted the bill, in that it has graduated sunbeam stripes which go around the back to give small stripes on one cardigan front, and large on the other front – but more of that in another blog post (eventually, when I’ve blocked it and added its buttons).  This latest sweater, 3 in 1,  has been on my to-do list ever since I stumbled across it on Pinterest (I think) aaaages ago. Or it might have been on an “also by this designer” link. The colours spoke to me, as did the fake-layering. My aspirational how-I’d-like-to-dress pinterest board has many things featuring layers, although the observant among you will note that it doesn’t feature many brightly coloured things. It should not be news that I want to come across as being more sophisticated than I really am. Given that my sophistication level is only really above a 1 or 2 out of 10 for those who know me at all well… and that only on special occasions.

I’m also working on a blanket as part of a crochet-along and was really liking the yarn that we are using for that one – it’s a brand/line that has many colours, so is ideally suited to stripes where there are similar colours all together. I chose my colours in October, with the help of Myra at Knit-wise and could barely wait to get home to get started…

Sure enough, I ploughed through the early interesting stages, which involve ribbing (I used Woolly Wormhead’s alternate cable cast-on – my go-to when ribbing is involved BECAUSE I LOVE IT, MAN), 2×2 stripes and short rows. The curly edges for the 2 “layers” are done by casting on, on a new set of needles, working 6 rows or so in stocking stitch, then 3-needle-knit-together with your work in progress. More short rows, and on with the stocking stitch, stripes, and short rows.

I’ve said before that I “knit in” what I’m watching at the time. This part of the sweater has Orphan Black season 1 all over it for me, now :-).

Then, of course, comes the relatively long, dull slug (while maintaining 2×2 stripes) of the body. It wasn’t as dull as I feared, there’s a bit of shaping, and before I knew where I was I’m at the neck opening. Mindful of my relatively large rack, and keen to avoid the monoboob effect that can happen with high necked garments, one of the things I like about this is the placket-open henley-style neckline. Turns out it also adds interest 🙂

When I got to the neck opening, I *very briefly* considered setting myself up for steeking it in case my tension/striped/stitches lay noticeably differently when knitting back & forth around the opening instead of knitting in the round as I had been up to now. Then I reminded myself not to be quite so damn precious and just a) get on with it and b) follow the goddamn pattern for a change. So I followed the pattern, knit back & forth, and when the pattern called for it, started on the sleeves.

I did, in a slight off-piste moment (off-piste moment #1, as it shall henceforth be known), add an inch or two to the body length. Because I’m generally an inch or 2 longer than most people are in the body. I blame my Dad.

The sleeves are knitted cuff-up, so I did the same cast on and made sure they were nice & long. On sleeve 2 I went slightly off-piste (moment #2) again, and added a small heart motif on the left sleeve. This could signify many things, depending on what mood I’m in – I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve – which I frequently do – a reminder to be conscious of heart disease – which I frequently am, given that my mum and Granda both left this mortal coil due to heart attacks – and just because. Because I’m like that some days. Also, I had plenty of red yarn available, so why not.

So I joined the sleeves to the main by as instructed by the pattern, and ploughed on through the several faux-necklines – interestingly fashioned from reverse stocking stitch bands rather than rolled over actual stocking stitched until officially I was done.

However.

I like hoods, and I like the blues of the “underneath” layer and wanted more of them to be visible. So, with the sage advice of my friends at the Wednesday night knit & natter at Knit-wise I worked out how big a hood would need to be, given my gauge & preferred hood size (90 stitches), compared that to how many stitches I had on the pins (130), and then ploughed on regardless. I attached a second ball of dark bluey purple at the far end, did 8 stitches-worth of garter stitch at each end, and continued until the hood was 14 inches long. Then it was a simple 3-needle bind-off starting at the outside edge (so that I didn’t have to actually spend time finding the middle) and I was done.

Sewing the ends in was a bit of a bugger, although I carried the yarn across the stripes, but still, there were more than usual, given the different colours and many start/end places.

I chose some tasteful wooden buttons so that they were a bit of a stand-out feature rather than something that melts into the background, and they are now one of my favourite things about the sweater.

This is, in fact, my new favourite sweater and I’ve worn it pretty much every day since finishing it a week or so ago. It’s lovely and warm. The sleeves are maybe a little bit too long, but I’m coping with this adversity well. Given that they are meant to look like some of them are pushed up a bit, if they are all pushed up, it’s not the end of the world…

The pattern is well-written and easy to understand, I thought – there are helpful diagrams at each stage so that you can see what the instructions are on about. I’d thoroughly recommend having a go, if this is a style you think you’d like to wear.

Why Whoville? It struck me, when I took the picture of the sleeve trying to escape from my project bag that this sweater, with its many-coloured stripes, looks just like something from a Dr Seuss book. So, Whoville it is 🙂

 

Are *you* feeling the hexagon love?

Bizarrely, the best colours photo I’ve been able to get of this yarn is when my hand is also in the picture forcing the light levels (or so I guess).

hexagon socks in progress

I’m close to the end of the “smooth” hexagons on this sock. It’s shaping up to be a little baggy, however, I have (and I know this will shock you) followed the instructions pretty closely so far. Let’s see how they go: these may have to end up being “indoor” socks or a second layer with big boots. I’m liking how the colours are matching up – or *not* matching up, actually. No unexpected colour boundaries here, folks.

Even though these are my shiny new thing to knit, I’m already anticipating severe second sock syndrome, to the extent that I’m considering starting sock 2 once I’ve finished the smooth hexagons here. It could either be a Really Smart Plan or a really stupid plan that leaves me dazed and confused and gibbering in the corner with abject confusion. Only time will tell. I’m deferring the decision until I’ve actually finished the smooth hexagons.

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s The Procrastination.

In other “even though these are my shiny new thing to knit” news, I’ve also cast on something else.

work in progress - grey knitting
is-it-a-plane-is-it-a-bat

Can you tell what it is yet, kids?

An aside: we had a discussion in the office this morning about good festival acts we’ve seen. It’s no longer fashionable to say so, but I really enjoyed Rolf Harris’ performance when I saw him both at Guildford and at Glastonbury (although Glasto was hot & crazy-busy because everyone else had caught on by then). I also really liked his art. Clearly, I enjoyed these things not knowing how he was apparently behaving away from the public eye, but he was good at the stuff he did. It’s a damn shame.

No, it’s not the latest in chic gothic styled accessories… no wait… it kind-of is. Well, maybe not gothic on account of it’s not black, but the photo above made me think of a bat so I find myself going down this path. Arguably the end result (I’m hoping) will be a bit more steampunk than Goth – this will be a dark grey kinda-fitted waistcoat. I’ve been meaning to make one for a while, so clearly now that winter is over and the warmer weather is on its way I’m casting this on in the hopes that it’s completed SOMETIME IN JUNE. Because who *doesn’t* want another layer of aran yarn hugging them during the hottest months of the year?

I had another I-enjoy-knitting moment on Sunday night with this project as well (regular viewers will remember that the pink & purple yarn above is in the process of being re-knitted). Having worked on it all through the day (well, off & on and mainly during a skype meeting) and getting a good 6-8 inches up from the beginning (further than I am now) I decided that it was shaping up to be a fitted waistcoat for someone who is larger than me, so decided to undo and do the “large” size rather than the “extra-large” size where the measurements matched the size I know my chest to be. I did (round of applause or HIGH FIVE required here) remember to check my gauge before frogging, and it was bang on. So, well done to me. This is the WI aran which is sold through the large nationwide hobby supplies shop we don’t mention in front of artisan retailers in case it makes them come over all funny and I really like the way it’s knitting up. I got 2 massive balls so will probably be able to make everyone accessories to match my waistcoat, plus an extra one in their 3 for 2 offer which means I also have some bright red yarn. I *was* thinking a sophisticated match of the two yarns but actually red is the school colour for Excel Emmanuel and Forrester schools who partner with Porridge and Rice so I may just go into hat-knitting overdrive and send them out in dribs & drabs. Because, as we now know, the crazy kids in Kenya wear woolly hats when English people are sweltering in a skimpy thong.

Something I Really Like

Taking a leaf from www.yarnsfromtheplain.co.uk‘s book (who I’m guessing copied it from somewhere else – I’ve heard other podcasters do something very similar) – HERE’s a thing.

Background: I have a general intention to raise my wardrobe game a bit at work – wear shirts rather than t-shirts, not wear jeans so much, generally dress a bit less like a Software Developer and a bit more like a BA/Solutions Architect who could reasonably be expected to be pushed in front of clients. Basically, if I want to do more work alongside my boss who wears a suit to work every day, I want to look the part a bit more. However, I’m clearly not going to turn the dial straight up to 11 or I’ll just get asked what time my interview is all the time.

At the beginning of last week I took a step I’d been meaning to take for a white and sent off for a blouse from Charles Tyrwhitt. Blouse arrives – is a plain white blouse as ordered. The fabric is smooth and lovely, the sleeves are long and luscious, it’s generally pretty lovely. Except that when I’ve got it on, I can’t put my shoulders back for fear of bursting out of it. It works, but it doesn’t fit terribly well. Also, a button fell off in the first half hour of putting it on.

I’ve had a brief look at Pepperberry, but their stuff, in spite of being fashioned for the larger-booby lady, also doesn’t feel like it fits super well. I may re-visit, I’m not sure.

I went shopping on Saturday to see what M&S had to offer – just in case they had something that wasn’t a terrible fit and that I didn’t have to get 3 sizes too big to accommodate the rack. My hopes, I have to say, weren’t high. They have form in this area, after all.

Well.

It’s fair to say that I made a discovery that made me SO HAPPY that I don’t believe I’ve been THAT HAPPY in a store changing room since… possibly puberty. Not since I developed these lumps on my chest that make things NOT FIT in ALL THE PLACES. M&S have styled 2 extra buttons between the normal buttons, only facing inwards in an invisible fashion, and called them the “no peep placket”.

Oh. My. Word.

In spite of the silly name, this is a goddamn REVELATION. No more gaping buttons for me. I may even get my sewing machine out and sew extra inside out buttons onto all my other blouses (er… when I get them) because, man alive this thing really works. Complete lack of gaping.

I could go on for a while, but suffice it now to end on I think this is a really very good idea, and I will be buying more blouses from M&S in the future. But probably not the mint green spotted one.

 

Nearly famous

On Wednesday, instead of going to Knit-night at Knit-wise like usual, I went to a Special Event organised by Knit-wise to launch their new status as stockist of Baaa-ram-ewe yarns. Held in a restaurant/tea rooms just around the corner, the event was very well attended, with 50 or so eager knitters attending, including all the people I know through knitting, and some people I knew from other things.

The yarn was very well pitched – it is indeed lovely yarn – and we were clearly meant to come away with the impression (which I’m sure is accurate) that although the yarn is made entirely of British wool (heads-up: wool can be scratchy), it’s very soft and drapey. A finished garment or accessory had been placed on each table, and select individuals were asked to model them. Fran, on our table, did a marv job – if only she weren’t so busy becoming the next Mary Berry of the crafting & jam making world she would be a shoe-in for the UK’s next Top Model.

 

I’m very tempted, and it’s good to know my LYS will be stocking the stuff. Watch this space.

So, there was a woman of about my age sat at the same table as me who I’d never seen before. I was chatting amiably to her, when my eye caught the rubber bands on her wrist. I saw “BLOODWISE” and a switch flicked in my brain.

That’s the charity Sam Heughan supports. I wonder if this lady is doing myPeakChallenge? I carried on staring surreptitiously at her wrist, for the clue was there. It turns out she is. So, when there was a suitable gap/segwayopportunity in the conversation (which was already going well, I thought) I took the opportunity to reveal that I had spotted that she was most likely an Outlander fan much like myself.

We compared who had read what – Nic (for that is her name) has put in more hard yards than me and has read All The Books, whereas I am rationing myself because otherwise NOTHING WOULD GET DONE EVER. On that note, I’ve just decided (you heard it here first, folks) that I need to set myself a target or reward at which point I get to read the next one. Otherwise I’m just punishing myself indefinitely. Maybe after I’ve read a non-Outlander book I get to read an Outlander book. But I digress.

As if that isn’t enough, I then also twigged that I knew the name on her t-shirt. Turns out Nic is also a podcaster WHO I LISTEN TO. Yarns from the plain is one of the several podcasts I listen to (admittedly somewhat sporadically) while doing the totally easy and not at all unpredictable and dull commute from Ormskirk to Knutsford. I went all groupie on her ass, and got Fran the not-famous-yet Model to take a photo of us.


…which I instantly made a mess of blurring and winged into the ether.

So – I met a famous person who I’m sure is heading to big and fantastic times with her new focus on running an independent yarn dyeing company and studying textiles (see I do pay attention a bit) and who shares (and clearly outstrips me in dedication terms) my unhealthy obsession with Outlander (“whatever, Mum, nobody cares”) and who makes a podcast. My plan now is to internet stalk her (Hi Nic!), buy her yarn, attend her fibre festival and generally scare the crap out of her.

Or not. Have you recorded the next podcast yet?

An aside – Justin at work said that Knit-night sounds like a super-strong treatment for nits (nit-knight). I know. He’s put that thought in my head, so I’m making you share the pain. It’s OK for you. I have to work with him.