Sunday, 18 March 2018

And another thing ...!

The weather must be mad at my last posting because winter has returned with a vengeance this weekend.

In fact I do feel a bit responsible. During the original Beast from the East’s blast in February, we arranged to go garden visiting to look at snowdrops with good friends who live some distance away. Due to the difficulties travelling, not to mention the way the snow was inconveniently hiding the flowers underneath, we postponed.

Never mind snowdrops, we rearranged to  have our day out when the miniature daffodils will be out in March. That was yesterday. Thinking there’s no enjoyment to be had in going outside during a blizzard in (feels like) -8 temperatures, we postponed a second time. 

I won’t be revealing the newly arranged date, if it snows in April, I’d like to retain the right of plausible deniability. This time, when winter retreats, I will not be rude. Instead, I will blow it an affectionate kiss, wave it a fond farewell, we’ll miss you ... see you next year ... can’t wait! 

Monday, 5 March 2018

The beast is banished

For the past few days, the Beast from the East has wrought havoc on the UK. As unprepared as ever, our infrastructure ground to the usual halt. We don’t invest to the same degree as countries that have guaranteed snow every year for weeks because - for the sake of an occasional few days - the financial justification makes no sense where the polar twilight’s shadow is absent. 

We had snow all week but today it started disappearing ... sloping away into cracks and fissures. Maritime air squashes the halitosis of winter’s breath and allows an unassertive Spring to finally emerge from its shrinking sanctuary.

I planted groups of 10-20 snowdrops in the green last year in various locations in the garden using Monty Don’s naturalistic planting technique (throw a handful on the ground and plant where they land). The idea of spreading them around being they would re-emerge in the places where habitat and conditions suited them in at least one place and then establish and spread out. About half have emerged in a few places. 

Fuckety bye bye to winter!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Can you read this?

This is an experiment to find out if you can use different crochet stitches to make a picture.

I typed a phrase in a handwriting font onto a blank file in Photoshop. Then I restricted it to 5 colours, pixelated it into a graph and then assigned each block a combination of crochet stitches starting with the darkest and faded up to lighter ones with the lightest one being a blank square. I sat down, did the crochet, blocked it and ended up with this. It isn’t blocked very straight, I rushed it a bit, I have a heavy cold at the moment, my head is all foggy when I’m just sat still but but kneeling down on the floor sticking pins into the edges was giving me a pounding headache. I am such a wimp when I have a cold but looking on the bright side, I don’t have that awful flu that’s going round so I’m going to stop moaning now!

I’m not sure how easy it is to read, the holes in some of the characters aren’t as well defined as I thought they’d be so I need your help ... I’m kind of biased because I know what it says so I’m no judge of how clear it is. Can my blogging friends tell me what you think it says, please? I’d appreciate knowing how easy you thought it was to read; could you tell at a glance or did it take a while to figure out?

This piece is going to be turned into a wall hanging with some mixed media and seaside embellishments which I will reveal in a few days time.

If you could let me know what the phrase is in the comments, I would really appreciate your help!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Chunky ribbed crochet scarf pattern

This chunky ribbed scarf pattern has been designed specifically to go with my chunky crochet fingerless mittens pattern. The scarf is made using front and back post trebles using UK crochet terminology and therefore mirrors the mitten's top and bottom ribbing. It's a two row pattern repeat with the ribbing going the entire length of the scarf. 

The front and back post stitches are worked as usual, there are links to how-to videos on the chunky crochet fingerless mittens pattern

You can adapt the pattern to make it wider or thinner by adjusting the stitch count. Using the number of stitches in the pattern, the scarf will be approximately 6 inches wide.

The pattern uses UK crochet terminology throughout.

Chunky yarn, I used 7 x 50g balls of Rico Creative Melange
5.5mm hook
2 stitch markers

17 sts x 10 rows = 4 inches (measured over pattern)

ch - chain
st - stitch
tr - treble
htr - half treble
FPtr - front post treble
BPtr - back post treble

Foundation row: 
Chain multiples of 2 plus 3. I have chained 26+3=29, turn, skip 3 ch (counts as 1 tr), work tr (uk terms) into 4th ch from hook. 

Place a stitch marker into ch at the top of the skipped chs, work 1 tr into every remaining ch (27 trs) turn

Row 1: 

ch 2 (counts as 1 htr), 1 FPtr, place stitch marker into top of 2 ch at beginning, 

* 1 BPtr, 1 FPtr, repeat from * (ending with a FPtr) up to (but not including) st with stitch marker, remove stitch marker and then work 1 htr into where the stitch marker was (13 FPtrs, 12 BPtrs and 2 htrs = 27 sts in all) turn

Row 2: 
ch 2 (counts as 1 htr), 1BPtr, place stitch marker into top of 2 ch at beginning, * 1 FPtr, 1 BPtr, repeat from * (ending on a BPtr) up to (but not including) st with stitch marker, remove stitch marker and then work 1 htr into where the stitch marker was (12 FPtrs, 13 BPs, 2 htrs = 27 sts in all ) turn

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until scarf is the length is required. If you want to make a fringe, be sure to save some yarn for that. The twisted fringe I am going to show you now particularly suits the ribbed scarf. It will use a little less than 20g so save about half a ball for it. 

Finishing row: 3 ch (to count as 1 tr), work 1 tr into each stitch (27trs), do not break off yarn if you want to make the twisted fringe. 


Twisted fringe on crochet scarf - photo tutorial for working a twisted fringe

Step One: Pull a loop up to measure 8 inches 

Step Two: Rotate the crochet hook in a clockwise direction, twisting the loop 21 times, ss into the same st as the loop was pulled up from. NB Be sure not to pull the ss through too much or the loop will shorten. 

Step Three: After the ss is worked, the loop may twist up into something that looks like the above photograph. Just pull it with your finger and thumb to smooth it out into a single twist.

Step Four: ss into the next st, this st can be worked a little tighter. 

Repeat steps one to four until the last fringe loop has been worked, finishing with a ss into the last st, fasten off and weave in the end.

Repeat the fringe on the other end of the scarf by making a slip knot on your hook and pulling through one of the end stitches and then repeat steps one to four. 

My fringe ended up being a little over 3 inches long using the method above but you could experiment with longer or shorter loops and a different number of twists to produce a longer or shorter fringe.

My scarf finished up being six foot, four inches long (excluding fringe) but you can make yours as long or as short as you like by adjusting yarn amounts and the number of rows worked. 


Friday, 19 January 2018

Regaining confidence in driving after several years

My new car - grey Mini Cooper S

I used to drive all the time, I never used to give it a thought, it was something I needed to do to get to work every day. I've owned several cars. My first one was a beloved yellow VW Polo which I got in 1983 ATO 148T I think was the registration!

I went through a Datsun Cherry and a Ford Fiesta. My first sporty-ish car was a red Scirocco which ended up being faulty. The bonnet flew up on me at 70mph one day, I was terrified but survived by not panicking, braked smartly but not too hard, I kept the side of the road equidistance and watched whilst rolling to a halt with my hazard lights on, praying there was no-one in front of me. I put the car through an Engineer's inspection and found extensive accident damage which hadn't been repaired properly, the Engineer condemned the car and I got my money back. I'm not sure whether to count that as an accident as I didn't hit anyone else but the car was badly damaged. Both sides of the bonnet where they join onto the chassis were bent back double! Even after that, I still drove around with confidence and it never occurred to me to stop driving.

I loved Sciroccos so much I got another one in silver and then (when both MTM and I were both earning good money), we got a brand new MGF VVC when they first came out, our very first (and only) sports car. The top folded down in good weather and I had a hard top for the winter. It was a beautiful car, the archetypal shiny red sports car and I felt like a million dollars in it.

The MGF was principally my car but MTM used to like to drive it too. As well as transporting me to work every day, we took it on many UK holidays to Northumberland and he would take the wheel whilst we were away.

I had that car for quite a time before I had a series of accidents in quite a short space of time. I skidded in wet weather into the back of someone at a roundabout on a worn out road surface. The pick up truck said I was the third vehicle he'd rescued from the same spot that day. I kinda felt like that wasn't my fault (even though it really was!) I can still feel the sensation of sickening helplessness as the ABS juddered trying to regain traction on the road and then a big bang.

After that, it felt like I was a magnet for accidents. Someone drove into the back of me (not long after I got the car back from the repair shop!) on the A46. Definitely not my fault that one!

Then, after I'd left my full time job and was doing my HNC, I was driving back from college and I ran into the back of someone AGAIN at low speed. I know this time it was definitely my fault, I was in a line of traffic in town, I glanced at my laptop on the passenger seat which looked a bit precarious. I adjusted its position, looking down again for just for a second, in the meantime, the traffic in front of me had stopped because someone several cars further up the line had jammed their brakes on to avoid a piece of metal in the road and ... a bit of a bang, not as dramatic as the first time more of a sudden stop with damaged bumpers thrown in as a bonus.

The worst accident I had was when going to visit my mum and dad on Mother's Day, driving with a big bowl of colesaw in the footwell for a family party.  MTM was going to see his own mother so I was on my own but I was very comfortable being unaccompanied in those days. I was about 20 minutes into the journey, slowing down and then stopping at a roundabout on the A1. I checked my mirror routinely and noticed the car behind wasn't really slowing down, they were going quite fast when their brakes failed. So I saw them coming in the rear view mirror. It all happened quite fast obviously but it felt like time collapsed into a slow motion still-by-still film show as I sat and waited for the impact. When the bang came, it was so big, it pushed my handbraked and immobile car into the car in front of mine. I got a mild whiplash which gave me a sore neck for a few days, coleslaw all over the passenger car mat, a chipped bowl and the MGF was nearly written off.

The lady who was driving the offending car had to go to hospital as a precaution because she was pregnant, we had police sirens, statements .... the whole lot, not just a question of exchanging insurance details and phone numbers this time. MTM turned his car around and came and joined me to await the AA to tow the MGF away.

The repairs took several weeks due to difficulty in obtaining parts. In the meantime, I got a courtesy car from the insurer, I'd only had it a couple of weeks when a Post Office van opened its door on me scraping and gouging awful scratches down all three side panels. At that point, with two cars damaged and off the road simultaneously whilst I was in charge of them, I pretty much gave up driving. I told the insurance company not to bother replacing the courtesy car. I was working from home at the time on my jewellery business, just travelling into Cambridge every Saturday with my sister so I didn't need to get into work every day. I started getting on-line grocery deliveries and anywhere else I had to go, someone chauffeured me. We sold the repaired MGF and I didn't have another car from 2005 onwards.

In the intervening 12 years, I have driven only a handful of times. The single time I was on my own was in MTM's car, I was going to see my mum and dad. Dad was very ill with shingles and mum needed alot of support. Unfortunately, only a mile down the road someone came straight out of a service station right in front of me without looking, causing me to do an emergency stop (good job I remembered how!) I drove the rest of the way to mum and dad's house (a 45 minute journey) with me and Missy, our dog at the time, both of us shaking like a leaf!

When MTM got a company car in April last year, we decided to keep his previous business vehicle, a Mazda, we bought it off the leasing company. We'd had it since new and it was a good car, we knew its history. We decided it would become my car and I would try to overcome my anxiety about driving again.

It would be good for me to have a car again for myself. MTM took me out in it a few times and declared he thought I was safe. I vowed that I would get into driving again so I could be more independent. I especially wanted to be able to go the garden centre and plant nurseries without feeling like I was boring the tears out of him having to go round with me. I used to spend hours in garden centres and nurseries by myself, taking as much time as I wanted. The Manager at Pennells told me I was his best customer!

The Mazda was a really big car compared to my MGF and visibility out of the back wasn't very good, I did go out in it a couple of times with MTM with the idea being I would then start taking it out myself but I never felt safe in it and I couldn't park it at all, it felt far too big for me. I just kept putting it off and consequently, it just languished unused pretty much permanently. When we moved it recently, it had half an inch of leafmould underneath it which I had to scrape off the road!

So we decided to trade it in for another vehicle in a last ditch effort to get me back into driving again. I need something small with good visibility and so we started looking at small cars recently. Last weekend, we came across the perfect one, a Mini Cooper S which is really sporty. MTM test drove it for me and I fell in love with it, it's the first time I have been excited about owning a car since we got the MGF. I had really lost interest in cars completely but now I’m enthusiastic and eager to get out and about in it.

We picked it up yesterday, here I am at the dealer's. MTM drove it out of Nottingham for a few miles past the big, complicated roundabouts and then I drove the rest of the way home, I was a bit nervous joining the A1 but fortunately from the A52, it's a nice long slip road (unlike the one near us) and it went very well. I wasn't too worried because I knew MTM was keeping an eye out for me. So far so good!

I'm shortly to have some driving coaching lessons from an instructor friend in the village, MTM thinks I will take more notice of what he says (!!) Hopefully we'll practice lots of slip roads and parallel parking as those are the things I feel most anxious about. I'm going to do lots of short trips round quiet roads at first. When we're out together with MTM driving, he has started telling me about what he's doing and why. There are lots of defensive driving techniques which I didn't know about. MTM taught driving for five years so he's very good at explaining it.

I am quite excited about it all; wish me luck in getting independently mobile again!