Monthly Archives: January 2014

52 Mondays #5

52Mondays5I caught a little sun between the clouds. The rivers have burst their banks round here, and many fields are now submerged once more. It’s all a matter of perspective. In front of me, paths unwalked and blue skies.

And the opposite direction?

Rainclouds chasing me.

IMG_0384They say this week will bring the worst of the weather – lots of rain predicted alongside high winds. Oh well. It has been such a mild winter so far.

Here’s January…

52MondaysJanuary

 

 

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52 Mondays #4

52Mondays4A little late. A little dark. A little dreary. It’s been a mild January and I’m reminded that this time last winter, we were under water, and the winter before, under snow.

DSCF3167The field across the road looked like this in 2013 as the Tardoire river could not cope with the rainfall. The year before, it was three weeks of this:

426481_10150550981498141_1538633486_nI wonder what this February will bring? Rain? Snow? Either way, I’m sure it will be unpredictable.

I’m sorry for the hiatus, lovely readers.

 

 

Crafting in the Country

It’s the 14th January and I have managed to do two weeks of work towards my monthly ambition of knitting one of these great boules de Noël…

af4a3-arneogcarlosjulekuglerI started to knit one and found it impossibly difficult. My wool was tangled. My rows were back-to-front. They’re knitted on five needles to a Fair Isle style pattern and oh my word they are fidgety. But I am not a girl to flinch from a challenge. If two Norwegian men can knit them, I’m sure I can. Let’s just say it’s extreme knitting though… colour charts and making stitches and going in the right direction. In all honesty, I doubt that men knitted these balls without supervision. It involved a level of multitasking that I personally believe men to be incapable of.

Anyway, I went bigger (like the big training needles they give you when you are learning) and practised with some scraps. So the scraps were size 5 wool and size 4 wool, I didn’t care. I wanted to see if I could knit anything that looked remarkably like the pattern in the book…

IMG_0344This was my very first attempt at knitting with two wools, Fair Isle style. I’m quite impressed, despite the problems with two sizes of wool. I notice now some dog hair has got into the design. So much the better. Yesterday, my crafty friend revealed she has needle felted a small cat. That is quite cool. She needle felted it out of cat hair. That’s bordering on weird.

Weird but not unusual. Yesterday, I was watching a youtube video by someone whose channel is called ‘Iknitwithcatfur’. I bet there are people who regularly needle felt with worse substances than cat fur.

I guess cat fur is not so weird. Wool is effectively sheep fur. It’s funny why one thing seems normal and the other seems like a bizarre fetish.

Anyhow, we had a craft day yesterday. Crafty friend was mosaic-crazy and had got out several boxes of shiny stones and lovely glittery, precious things. She is so crafty that she was mosaicking her bread bin. I don’t know anyone with a mosaic bread bin.

I made it my mission to knit a plain ball.

And it was definitely not knitting for the faint hearted!

At one point I was going to colour code the needles and see if I could make it any easier. No. I persevered. Once the first three or so rows are on the four needles, you’re off. All you have to do then is remember to make a stitch here and there and count lines and tick things off. Later, it started looking incredibly big (the pattern asks for 2mm needles and I was using 5mm needles) and a bit like a baby’s hat.

Then I started getting a bit ridiculous and thinking I might just knit randomly and see where it took me.

But I reined it back in.

By the time I finished, I realised it was a lot larger than the example baubles, but I’m unperturbed. Here is my first finished ball…

IMG_0378I don’t know about you, but Gene seems to be enjoying it.

My stitching was a little loose from needle to needle, so I have to tighten that up a bit, but I reckon I am now ready for a big version with a pattern. I’m ready for it. That will be my weekend knitting project.

I am also onto the sock bit of my yearly project list. I have another crafty friend whose mother knitted me this fine pair of socks last year:

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I am having a sock knitting lesson with her next week and so I have started to knit the leg bit. It’s on the smallest needles I’ve ever knitted with, which are 2.5mm, and some sock wool I picked up – and so far, so good. They aren’t perfect like this fine pair, but they don’t look like a five year old knitted them, which I appreciate my first ball does. I’m half of a mind to cover the ball with sequins and turn it into a knitted disco ball.

So I’ve cracked my mini-project #1 and have made in-roads to mini-project #2. The month might have only just begun, but I’m very glad I had a day to get it under my belt. I’d still have been faffing around with those balls come February, otherwise, I reckon.

52 Mondays #3

52Mondays3It was really bright yesterday when I went out along this track, but I was surrounded by hunters. I do feel like telling them that I walk down this path precisely because there is zero game. Heston is off like a rocket when there is anything worth chasing, from swallows to wild boar, and there is nothing worth chasing here. It is always a little disconcerting walking when there is gunfire on all sides of you, but I figure I can pretty much see anything moving over a couple of kilometres out here and not even the best snipers have that kind of range.

I had, though, forgotten to put the memory card in the camera – duh! – and thus ended up linking in to the walk today. You can see my shadow in the corner – it was late and the sun was low. It has been remarkably mild so far this January and I’m waiting for winter to arrive. Last year, we had a mid-winter false alarm and then it got all cold and wet and rainy. In fact, this photo was taken almost to the day this time last year.

DSCF3118We don’t go down this path so often any more. The farmer next door to my friend has three dogs out loose and it’s just a drama to get past them. Not only that, but this path drives Heston bonkers. Hunters, take note.

We have had a couple of nice days last week – up to 16°C – and it’s really weird. It’s like the lull before the storm. It’s been putting me off enjoying it, so I’ve given in and got out in the garden regardless, starting to tidy up. How glad am I that the winter garden takes so little effort?

I wonder if next week’s shot will be under snow? I guess anything goes in the middle of January!

 

 

 

Fire away

Need a little help getting over the Wednesday hump? Here’s Pat Benatar with Hit Me With Your Best Shot to give you the Wednesday Whoo!

This week is apparently the most depressing of all weeks. The break is over. It’s a long way to summer. The worst of the winter is probably right there before us. I lost all my chickens at the weekend to some kind of random hungry predator and there’s that much mud and muck chez moi that I feel permanently bogged down in the mire.

Can there be a better time then to break out the rock goddesses? From Lita to Doro, Joan Jett to Pat Benatar, break out the Barracuda and put your big girl pants on. If you’re a man, well, it can’t hurt. Even David Beckham puts on his wife’s underwear from time to time, so we’ve been led to believe.

Funnily enough, I was only having a conversation with my brother before Christmas in which he was absolutely and utterly convinced I have never really cried over a bad boyfriend. I put all this on Pat and her ilk. I have unfortunately met several bad boyfriends (including the weasel who disappeared at weekends, the toad with the shiny shoes and, worst of all, the bad billygoat – yes, it is the cast of Wind in the Willows...) but thanks to Madame Benatar, you’ll not catch me crying over these idiots. Miss Pesch and Miss Jett taught me to pick up the pieces, make my hair a little bigger and laugh it off to the world. So, my mid-week all hail goes to those feisty ladies who taught the young me to be a little ferocious and never show a chink in the old armour.

What else is there to be grateful for this midweek? Finding a stash of pictures of my Nana as a younger lady. In my previous (and a little off-track!) fervour of house cleaning and tidying, I opened up boxes that have been sitting around for a long while. Funnily, I had been discussing with a friend about how my Nana likes to take a travel iron on holiday, and a kettle and teabags. I’m pretty sure she took silver wine goblets with us on holiday when we were small. It all fitted into the back of whichever small car we were in at the time.

IMG_20140107_0001People just don’t care about how their clothes look on holiday these days.

I jest of course.

My Nana has to be the most immaculately dressed person on the planet. She is never scruffy. I love the bag of toiletries hanging up in the back of the tent. Amazing to think all of this probably fitted in a Mini or something equally small. I’m wondering if it was Easter because she doesn’t look very warm. Perhaps she was ironing to keep her circulation going.

Anyway, may the inspiring women of your life give you a jolt to get you through the mid-week blues. As for me, I’ll be finishing tonight somewhere around 10pm. It’s a long hump day for me.

52 Mondays – 06 January 2014

52MondaysJan2I realised this one has a completely different focus than the previous one! Still… you get the picture! Wonder if I will ever get two that match up?

As you can tell, it is still very grey and wet. It’s very mild, which is good, but definitely no good for drying washing on the line! Yesterday, I had to wait for a break in the clouds after a downpour. Another bath for Tilly when we got back. She spends more time in the shower than I do.

Last January was totally soaked out – the Tardoire broke its banks; the Bellonne, which runs through my garden in very wet times, flooded my garden for three weeks. The Bellonne is mostly underground, running down via most of my favourite walks to the Tardoire, some 150 metres from my house. The Tardoire too is mostly underground, but has been steady ever since October, which I’d say is about right. It disappeared very late last year. The year I arrived, it was gone by April. The year after by March. This year, it was still there in June. You’d think the water tables were being a little replenished. Having said that, the reservoir lakes about 30km from here, are incredibly low.

From a crisp mid January last year, we then had snow, which turned to rain, which turned to floods. I wonder what this January will bring?

I got the cure you’re thinking of

The first thing that happens after Christmas in supermarkets in England is that Valentine’s cards take over from Christmas cards, and Easter eggs fill the shelves in place of Christmas presents. The first thing that happens after Christmas in supermarkets in France is that the cleaning products take over from chocolates and bleach fills the shelves in place of champagne. It’s like the whole country goes on a spring cleaning purge.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure of the point of this. When you have a wood fire, you are knee deep in cinders and ash until your last fire burns out (and then a few more days as the dust settles) and when you have dogs, you are knee deep in mud until, well, your dog is no longer. Anyhow, I’ve taken advantage of the national fervour for cleaning and I set about giving everywhere a right old clean. Well, I began to. It was either that or taking advantage of the local fervour for hunting.

That long autumn term does drive me a bit crazy. I’m so entrenched in school calendars that I get wearier and wearier as the year draws to a close and yes, I get lazy. I get all crafty and cosy and fall in love with my fire. Come January, I’m so deep in dirt that I can’t see what photographs I have on my fireplace any more. So yesterday I breathed in that whiff of cleaning fluids and set about cleaning.

When I was obsessively house-proud, I used to use flylady as inspiration. It’s kind of like you have a cleaning secretary who organises all the jobs you need to do, and all the jobs you don’t usually think of doing, and puts them in a neat little reminder for you, along with a couple of annoyingly upbeat motivational quotes our American cousins seem so fond of. There are soundbites a-plenty, like ‘it didn’t get dirty in a day, so it won’t get clean in one’ to inspire you. Believe it or not, I find this actually quite useful. Cleaning is… well… such a chore. Having someone make you a to-do list is very helpful. 1950s submissive housewife it might be, but some days, that’s what you need to be.

Anyway, I had a bit of help from Gene. He’s looking a bit dusty himself, but Flylady doesn’t have a column that says ‘Clean Gene. Give him a good wipe.’

IMG_0316He’s standing in front of a stack of books – now neatly tidied away. He wasn’t very useful. Okay. He was quite useful, since I stuck on Kiss’s first album and then Destroyer which made those spring cleaning tasks all pass a little faster. Thanks Gene.

Those dogs were no use though. Heston just wants to play the whole time and Tilly just lies on the sofa like a princess.

IMG_0312

This is his ‘play with me’ face.

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This is her ‘leave me alone, I’m napping’ face.

Today, I am back at the refuge with les dames V and R and we are going to walk some more doglets. If the weather is as disgusting as it was this afternoon, that will not be a pleasant chore. It was quite foul yesterday. Plus, every idiot with a rifle likes to go out during the Christmas period and whatever usual rules there are go out of the window. I say usual rules because you can shoot something on any day you please. There are supposed to be rules about not hunting with a shotgun on Tuesdays and Fridays, or some other such regime, but nobody seems to adhere to it, except in the forest, where there are very clear hunt guidelines and rules. Plus, those hunt guys are efficient. The ones who stumble up the hill to sit in a coppice by a field… not my flavour of the month. Heston found one guy in a thicket in full camouflage gear without a fluorescent jacket on. He got really angry and came out of his hidey hole to try and shoe Heston away and tell me off. Unfortunately, he had not bargained for the fact that I know who owns the land, who owns the fields, what game there is out there (one hare) and whilst a big part of me wanted to go mental at him, I remembered not to piss people off who own shotguns and who might say at a later date “oops!” when they’ve shot you in the arse. I said I walk that way most days, which I do, and that apart from the odd marten and a handful of crows, there’s no game to be found up there and he might be better off going over to the woods a couple of kilometres on, where there is quite extensive damage from various wild boar. I mean, for God’s sake, I know every single route that is a nice, quiet, calm trot for Mr Heston and if there were even a whiff of game, the red mist would descend and he’d be racing round like a maniac. I even pointed out the rabbit field to him in case he felt like hiding out over there.

In any case, I shall be glad when people are back at work and the festive season is over. All the occasional hunters go back to whatever they do and the lanes are quiet again. This is why it doesn’t really surprise me that the number of hunting accidents is so low. I imagine most of the idiots with guns couldn’t find their own derrière without assistance, let alone find an actual animal or game bird. On the other hand, frustration and stupidity are a poor combination and it’s probably the occasional hunters who cause most of the problems.

Resolutions of old

First off, happy New Year to you… whether you think it’s just the beginning of 2014 or whether you feel like it’s a new start and a clean page, there’s something a little different about today. 

I’ve been revisiting my resolutions from last year, one of which was to read 100 books. How close did I get? Not even a quarter of the way. That’s embarrassing. I’m ashamed. I better make my excuses and grab my coat…

But to be fair, I got caught up with the George R. R. Martin “Ice and Fire” books mid-April (otherwise known as Game of Thrones) and some of those books are EPIC. I mean, I could have counted them as three books. Not that it makes much difference to my tally. It’s still pretty poor. 

So what did I read?

goodreads2013 goodreads22013And what does this tell me? I guess I am a series reader, chomping my way like a voracious stegosaurus through everything in reach until I’ve stripped the author’s bibliography clean. And if that means re-reading, that is fine with me. 

Honestly, I got a little tired of the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series after three or four of them. His style is a little repetitive and not designed for voracious consumption one after the other. Phrases repeat. Ideas repeat. The plots get a little weaker book by book. But I do love JLB Matekoni, and the way he was played by Lucian Msamati in the BBC television series made me love him all the more. Such a quiet, gentle, profoundly good man. The world needs more men like him. Forget your Byronic heroes and your Heathcliffs. Take your troubled Rochesters and give me a Mr Darcy or a Rra Matekoni any day. 

As for George R. R. Martin, well, enough said. These are the books that took me to bed early. My prediction is that it is going to end up an almighty battle between the Others and Melisandre’s Lord of Light. For the night is dark and full of terrors, she says. It’s an epic of the best kind – with so many characters to love and hate that you don’t mind much if one or two of them don’t make it to the end. Whenever that might be. I still have fears Martin will never finish it though. Perhaps he’s an enthusiast like me and has hundreds of mini-projects dotted about that are as yet unfinished… 

Anyway, I accept it is a poor show to have read only twenty-four books, especially since only two of them were in French. I vow to improve for next year. 

This takes some doing – I’m not sure how I ever used to be such a greedy reader. I read quickly, but at points, I was checking out ten books from the library every three weeks or so. This was, admittedly, before I discovered DVD box sets and I didn’t like being dictated to by television’s fixed times. Life before programming and recording… 

I have, admittedly, undertaken reading materials for the Coursera course I did last year, which involved fifty or so poems, and probably more. It was a romp through Dickinson and Walt Whitman through to the most modern of American poets, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, taxing as it was. I got 90% by the way, which I am pretty pleased with. That is a lot of reading and note-taking and essay writing and peer reviews. 

So this year, I aim to read thirty books. This should be a little easier with the Kindle my dad bought me for my birthday. Unfortunately, I’ve started re-reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes again. Blame Elementary. If you haven’t seen this, it is particularly good. Jonny Lee Miller plays a particularly schizoid Holmes and Lucy Liu plays Watson. Of course, the new season of Sherlock, the Benedict Cumberbatch British version of a modern Sherlock Holmes, is also about to start. I can’t get enough of that oddball detective genius. I think the first episode is on today. Sadly, I can’t take to ‘evil genius’ Moriarty in the British version. He comes across as a less frightening member of Westlife – just as camp and only scary if you have a boyband phobia. 

Anyway, I will see how I do. I’m ashamed by the paucity of my reading this year, so hopefully the shock will send me to bed a little earlier to get cosy with a book. Either that or I will have to go back to reading trash again. I tend to get through that super-quick! 

Now I just need to learn how to rig the kindle to turn the pages automatically and then I can craft AND read at the same time. How cool would that be??

So enjoy your day. I will be the one reading by the fire.