Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A Prisoner of Birth - Jeffrey Archer

This month's book club choice was a predictable but pacy holiday read. I read it in two days. I won't give a synopsis of the story as that amy spoil it for you.

It was entertaining, but not thought provoking. Throughout my rather fast reading of this book, I had an image of Archer plotting out all the inter-connections and the twists and turns on a single sheet of paper. A times it felt a little clunky, as though he thought to himself, "I must just add this bit here, so book 4 or book 5 later on makes sense". It also felt as though it had been writen with the idea that it might be made into a film at a later date. The last section of the book was written like a kind of Dickensian serialised novel - every chapter had a cliff hanger ending, which I found wearying after a while. There are only so many times that you can leave your reader gasping for more...

This is not a book I'd recommend to someone who is an avid reader; rather I'd recommend it to someone who only reads whilst on holiday and is looking for summer escapism.

Not my favourite book by a long stretch.

On the knitting front, I've started working on Misty Blossom Stole by Asami Kawa. I am using some 2-ply silk/cashmere Eva from Posh Yarn. right now this seems to be a match made in heaven. A beautiful, elegant pattern made with sumptious yarn.

Friday, 5 June 2009

A lovely surprise...

In my profile I think I list reading as my first hobby. I am a prolific reader, and my house is bursting at the seams with books (okay so I exaggerate, but you know what I mean). I'm a fairly tidy person: lots of clutter everywhere becomes "visual noise" to me and I start to feel faintly uneasy. Despite my parents calling me "The Minimalist" behind my back, I don't like that look. My home needs to be cosy and comfortable but not cluttered or "noisy".

I have one of those spare bedrooms that has multiple personality disorder. For such a small room it serves several purposes. It is where I have a squishy sofa so that I can read away from the TV. It has a big desk so that I can work from home when I need to. It houses most of my stash and also my cross stitch patterns (I don't do much cross stitch any more: I love the process of cross-stitching, but I don't want to hang it on my walls... What do you do with it when you've finished stitching anyway?). It also houses the majority of my books. There are way too many books on my bookshelf, ... and on the floor in my bedroom, and in all the bathrooms, on my dining table, the side tables in the living room, and, and, and...

In a fit of "Minimalist" tidying up, I decided to throw out a few books, well quite a lot actually. I know that I should "release them into the wild" ala BookCrossing, but to be honest it was too many and I wanted them gone, now. So there I was, sat on the floor deciding which of my university textbooks that have sat there untouched for more than twenty years to get rid of when I come across...

"The Celtic Collection" by none other than Alice Starmore, published in 1992!

I have absolutely no recollection of buying this book, and none of anyone giving or lending it to me either... If I truly bought it in 1992, I can't imagine what I was thinking at the time since although I could do cables back then, there is no way on God's Green Earth that I could have done the pattern that I suspect caught my eye. Even now I would hesitate to try knitting it. I thought about selling it on eBay for a nanosecond as so many of her books are difficult to find, but then I came to my senses. Who's to say that I won't develop the skill to knit Cromarty one day? Truth be told, I love her Dunadd wrap, and if it wasn't prohibitively expensive, I'd probably be knitting that instead.

Monday, 18 May 2009


Have you ever allowed your dislike of a person spur you on to do something that you've always wanted to do? Does admitting it make me a bad person?

I truly, truly dislike having my photo taken. This intense aversion to being in front of the camera stems from a traumatic experience with a HIDEOUS school photo when I was a vulnerable 13/14 year old (I can't remember what age exactly). What I do remember is that I used wear the kind of coke-bottle-bottomed, super thick-lensed glasses that only appear in cartoons, and that they were always smeared by my grubby finger marks. I remember that on the day we were due to have photos taken I'd gone to some considerbale length to have an indescribably elaborate hairstyle (I'm shuddering just thinking about it now). I had also just started my teenaged career of rampant oily skin mixed with pimples and blackheads. Yeah, I was looking good (not)... Well, the poor photographer tried, he really did. "Tilt your head up a bit... drop your chin slightly... up slightly... turn away slightly..." This went on and on for what seemed like thirty minutes. In the end, he gave up and just took the shot...

Three weeks later as the teacher was handing out the photographs, she said loudly "the photographer got a beautiful shot of you ..." . Thinking that "he sure as hell took his time over it", I honestly believed that I had a good picture; and why not, photographs of the other girls in my class were truly lovely. Alas it was not to be: suffice to say that I defaced the picture, got rid of it and ABSOLUTELY refused to pay for it.

It took me many years to realise that if I didn't want to be in front of the camera, I needed to be the one taking the photos. As I started taking photos, I realised that (1) I found it next to impossible to load 35mm film, (2) I kept forgetting to take the film to the photo developers, and when I did remember it was so old that the film had corroded anyway, and (3) the photo rarely came out the way I thought it would, assuming the film wasn't two years old already. Over the years, I overcame the 35mm film problem with a Pentax Efina camera. It has one of those APS film cartridges that slots in like a battery - remember those? Then I moved on to a Sony Cybershot DSC-T7: a beautifully elegant slimline point and click digital camera. It would have been perfect ... if I could understand the graphics which were all in Japanese (long story). Alrighty then, better get a camera that I can actually understand the instructions and graphics on-screen... Enter the Sony Cybershot DSC-W90: I loved this camera, actually, I still love it. But... I still can't quite get the photos I want. So next, I'm loving Photoshop which I bought to manipulate my digital images. I'm no expert, but my pictures are improving.

So where does the unpleasant person come in you ask? Well a couple of months ago, the BF & I visited a National Trust property with another couple. I had heard what an unpleasant person the wife was from a number of people, but thought "no one can be so unremittingly awful". Suffice to say I was wrong, they were right. So there I am with my little point and click camera, and the supercilious (... insert rude word) pulls out this all singing all dancing digital SLR, and with a contemptuous glance at my camera starts taking (what I'm sure are) fabulous photos... Grrr... I find it amazing that I'd been wittering on about buying a dSLR for a couple of years, and it took one glance from The Madam too galvanise me into action.

So here I am with my brand spanking new Nikon D90... and I don't know how to use it! I have signed up for photography lessons, and attended the first one last week. Our homework for the first week was exploring exposure and depth of field. Whilst my photo isn't very good, for the first time I took a photo and generally got what I expected... Result! The only way is up.

[I have no shame, I plan on inserting my picture when I've uploaded it to the computer! And here it is...]

This weekend the BF & I went to a photography exhibition put on by the local camera club. What an inspiration! They were so friendly, knowledgable and willing to talk to a rank beginner that I'm going to join.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Starting over

I have allowed this blog to languish untouched for a year or so. The original intention was for it to be a knitting blog, and then I realised that I do a number of other things in addition to knitting, I'm an extremely slow knitter and that if I tried to restrict it to knitting only, I wouldn't have much to say.

My other concern was that a work colleague became aware of this blog and was reading it regularly. That made me super-cautious about what I write here. I don't know why I was worrying as I don't put anything seriously personal on this blog... Still, it ground to a halt.

Anyhow, I've decided to resurrect it. I still knit, I still read, I still walk. But I've realised that I also like cooking, and I've taken up photography. I've decided to use this blog to record how I'm getting on with these hobbies. Maybe over time, I'll start to see an improvement in the new skills I'm trying to learn.