Friday 19 April 2013

Don't Mess With Blue Faced Leicester.

It's been a slow few weeks here at Mog Towers, I've been doing a lot of snoozing and undertaking of activities that require minimum brain function. To that end, I read all three of the Fifty Shades books ( three for the price of two at the Cancer Research shop, and no, they don't get any better after the first one) and then took out my frustrations on a snow white innocent fleece. Unlike the books' hero, who seems to get whatever he wants at the click of his manicured fingers, I had to wait for my instrument of torture to be delivered by Brian the Postie. It was worth it in the end, as readers of the series will know, anticipation is a big part of pleasure.

BFL measured.
 My fleece may be innocent but it comes from a breed I associate with dark deeds.  Blue Faced Leicester reminds me of a gangster with a serious case of five o' clock shadow. The sort of fellow who would hang out in Gin Joints with Dutch Schultz and Pretty Boy Floyd.  Stubborn, twisted and hard to pin down. The kind of guy who only gives up his secrets after a good going over.  He'll stick together with others of his kind when agitated and placed in hot water.  As with all gangster cliches,  Blue Faced Leicester has a soft side, when all goings over have been gone over, the secrets he gives up are the palest, cloudiest puffs of fibre. Unless the puffs are left unguarded in a basket in the company of a large cat. Drawn by the smell of the sheep, the beast will immediately park his furry body in the basket whereupon the puffs will deflate faster than a souffle in a stiff breeze.

Puffs of fibre, ripe for deflating.
The fibre, deflated or not, spins beautifully. It takes time and effort to get from wrangling with gangster fleece to spinning a law abiding yarn and there are other, quicker, ways to create cloth.  I could get the fibre ready prepared, or I could buy yarn instead of fibre. I could even buy a jumper instead of knitting one. So why don't I? Because when I do,  it feels like I'm jumping into the middle of the story.  Imagine picking up  Jane Eyre and starting at the place where she says; " Reader, I married him. " with no knowledge of what had gone before.  No orphanage, no governessing, no budding romance with Mr Rochester, no first wife in the attic. So much of what makes the story compelling would be lost. That's how it is with me and Blue Faced Leicester. Sometimes the most satisfying way is begin at the beginning and to work out the ending for yourself.
Sun on the fur. Perfect.

In other news, we caught a small sneak of sunshine. Magnus gave up on his fibre squashing escapades and planted his bulk on top of the bulbs instead.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Sorry about that.

I've just got up and already I've disappointed the cat. After feeding, watering and otherwise pandering to his every furry whim, I stupidly left Magnus alone in a room with a box of fleece. Within seconds of realising my mistake he was in there,  claws unsheathed and with a face of bliss, kneading away at my best Hebridean. In an ideal world I would leave him to enjoy the pleasures of the fleece but that would result in my prize fibre being turned to felt. I like felt, you can't make a yurt without felt, but it doesn't lend itself to spinning.The lad was airlifted out of the box without a thought for his dignity and left to sulk on a chair. Where he still sits, giving me what every teenage girl would recognise as 'evils'

To add insult to injury it is snowing. A lot.

This should have been my inspiration.

 My teenage years came back to haunt me when I attempted to knit socks with yarn dyed by Helen at Ripples Crafts. I  bought the yarn with a book -  Knitted Socks East and West - rather than a specific project,  in mind but when I tried to choose a winning pattern, nothing worked. It was the oddest thing. The yarn was beautiful and needed to be knitted on tiny needles which made it perfect for the intricate designs, but every time I started a sock it looked wrong. All the while a niggly voice in my ear was whispering; "Make sporty socks. Make sporty socks"  Why on earth would I make a sock with any pretension to sportiness? I've never been sporty. Rugby is too noisy and I have to leave the room when Wimbledon is on because I can't bear the thought of anyone losing. Nevertheless the voice kept whispering and in the end I gave in. I cast on a simple ankle sock and the niggle was silenced. As I knitted away, the sock and the sporty style matched perfectly, looking like the kind of sock that someone ( probably not me ) would wear to the gym.
That's when it hit me. The beautiful yarn in tones of blue and turquoise that I bought because it reminded me of the sea view from Helen's studio, was actually the colour of my teenage gym shirt. More specifically, it was the colour of my gym shirt after it had had most of the life washed out of it. The colour must have been nestling deep down in my unconscious just waiting for the day when I would choose some sock yarn. Luckily for my unconscious, the socks turned out beautifully.

The unblocked sock returned to Helen's studio for a photo.

In other news, I made a jumper. You might remember that Jacqui and Andrew visited us last year, from Tennessee. One of the gifts they brought with them was yarn, handspun by Jacqui. What an amazing thing for one spinner to give to another. It is now a super cosy and slightly chic Ingenue

Stern looking woman models new favourite jumper.

Sunday 24 February 2013


Film Festival Flag.
Or should that be prizeless. We didn't come home with a Tiger Award but I felt like a winner anyway. Three out of four of our screenings were sold out and that included one at 9.30am on a Saturday morning. The audiences were grand, they hummed along with us, laughed in all the right places and gave my knitting a round of applause. Best of all, a delegation of Rotterdam knitters came out to the cinema to knit with me before the Premiere. That must be a festival first.

Our boat turned out to be the perfect place to return too after a hard day's humming. I could go for a snooze and wake up to the sound of the Great Crested Grebes and Coots swimming past my window. As we were moored in a harbour the boat didn't move too dramatically, instead it swayed from side to side making me feel as if I was living in a lumbering breathing animal. A bit like Jonah and the Whale, but with better lighting and an en suite bathroom.

Our boat is the one on the right, with the red and yellow and black.
  I loved the city, it reminded me a lot of Glasgow which is a compliment in my book. An industrial town, proud of its heritage and filled with interesting places. We could have visited some of the many museums or galleries but my favourite way to get to know a city is to wander around it and spend most of my of time in cafes. Rotterdam is very good for that sort of sightseeing. My favourite cafe was Picknick which specialises in local food. An unexpected treat was our tour of City Hall. Much of the centre of Rotterdam was destroyed in 1940, during WW2 and City Hall was one of a very few buildings to survive. While all around it was rebuilt and modernised, City Hall was kept as it was originally designed. There are incredible wood carvings, stained glass, Delft ceramics and 1920s murals, even the buzzer which calls the Mayor and Aldermen/women into session is the original one. . I can't recommend it enough.

Rotterdam Architecture.

Coffee in Delft.

Our week went by all to quickly and before I knew it we were home and facing a grumpy cat trying to persuade us that he had spent the last seven days starving. Magnus' acting skills are prodigious but what he didn't know was that they can now be viewed on the big screen. The lad has a cameo (camiouw?) appearance or three in the film and was a big hit, with people in the audience taking photos of him on their phones. Not that I'll let him know. Magnus the Diva doesn't bear thinking about.

Just when you thought he couldn't get any bigger.

Saturday 26 January 2013

On a what?

A boat, that's what. For seven nights only, I will be living on a houseboat. The boat in question is in the middle of Rotterdam which is host ( the city, not the boat, that would be a very small cinema ) to the Rotterdam International Film Festival. I'm attending the World Premiere of Dummy Jim, the film that I knitted jumpers for way back in 2011. Dummy Jim has been nominated for an award at the festival which is something to be very excited about. You can catch a glimpse of me onscreen but I'm certain to be upstaged by my trusty cat companion who managed to sweet talk Matt the director and Ian the cameraman into giving him some screen time as well. 

Birdfeeding in the snow.

We leave tomorrow and till then I have been taking it easy with a little light knitting and a lot of snow watching. We haven't been hard hit this winter, especially compared with other parts of the UK but I have enjoyed watching the light changing as the snow falls.

Chilly view from the attic.

The pus-filled cat is feeling much better, thank you all very much for your concern. He was checked out by the vet this week and all is well. While we are away he will be making the most of his favourite spot on the living room window, right above the radiator. Seems his heat seeking ability was undamaged by the big bite.

Ridiculous beast.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

It was the day the cat exploded.

One of the best opening lines from any novel comes from The Crow Road written by Scottish author Iain Banks. " It was the day my grandmother exploded."  I'm having one of those.

Not a happy fellow.

 It all began yesterday* when a friend was visiting, I was thanking her for a Christmas gift, a tin of sardines for Magnus, when I happened to look over at the boy in question. He was looking a bit odd,  as if he had converted to vegetarianism and was storing carrots in one cheek hamster-style. Closer inspection found a large swelling and a nasty bite. Looked like an abscess to me.  I made a note to keep an eye on him and to make an appointment with the vet in the morning. The evening was spent fussing at the cat and worriedly examining the swollen part.  Normally this would be foolhardy behaviour because as we all know, the cheekbone is in his case, connected to the tooth bone. The lack of violence when being handled led me to believe that he was feeling rather ill and I decided to keep him inside overnight rather than offering the chilly delights of the back garden in December. I left the boy asleep, snorting gently on his favourite rocking chair.

Dyeing yarn to take to Rotterdam.  Rotterdam? More later.

7am, New Years Eve I was woken by some scratching at the door and the plaintive howling of a cat who wanted me to think he was starving.  I jumped out of bed to save the carpet from a shredding and accompanied Magnus to the kitchen. After wolfing down some catfood, the lad sat on his haunches, flicked a back leg towards his face, extended his claws and exploded the abscess. There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for the smell that exudes from a burst cat abscess. Think of the smelliest recesses of the compost bin mixed with something that has been dead for too long and you're still nowhere near. It went everywhere, on me, on the floor and all over Magnus. For the visually minded, I can tell you that it was the colour of a bad strawberry custard. Pustard.

I cleaned the floor, cleaned the cat, cleaned myself and removed my pajamas in preparation for a boil wash. By then it was 7.15.  New Year's Eve. I left a damp cat in the kitchen and retired to another, less pungent room. So there I was, waiting for the vet to open while the beast glared balefully at me through the frosted glass of the kitchen door. If this is a taste of things to come in 2013 then I'm doomed.

Happy New Year!

Socks. Thankfully pus free and smelling lovely
In other news, there has been some knitting. Made some socks of which I am rather proud. Thanks as usual to Mary Jane Mucklestone for her genius in charting Fair Isle Patterns and counting the number of stitches required so that I don't have to.

*You might have guessed that yesterday is not strictly accurate. After Magnus' recovery the whole household was struck down with colds and this is me catching up with things only two weeks late.

Monday 24 December 2012

Season's Greetings.

Wishing you all the best over the Festive Season and a peaceful New Year. From all at Mog Towers.

Magnus helps with the wrapping.

A small hopeful rainbow

Saturday 15 December 2012

I have tingle fingers

Frost on plastic.

The weather not unreasonably for December,  has dipped to below freezing. The garden looks amazing, the unweeded bits, the trees we should have pruned in the Autumn, even the scruffy piles of seeds that the birds throw down from their feeders look magical when covered in a chilly coating of frost.  Further afield, the most unromantic of spots, the Park and Ride outside Perth is transformed. Narnia with a Megabus.

Today's chill has kept me by the cooker making Granola and lentil stew in quantities big enough to feed a hungry household. Abundant amounts of food make me happy. I like to feel that there is enough to go round and heaven knows, that feeling is in short supply right now.  Like most people our household is keeping a canny eye on our spending and bargain of the week yesterday was a big packet of chillies, marked down to fifteen pence. My final job in the kitchen was to chop them into little bits and to avoid getting chilli juice in my eyes. They must be strong little fellows. I've washed my hands more often than Lady Macbeth but still they hurt like blazes. The chillies are spread out on greaseproof paper in the freezer waiting to be put into a plastic pot in order to pep up my cooking for many weeks to come. That's enough to forgive the tingle in my fingers.

Chillies. Little did I know the pain in store.

Granola. Far more soothing.

 In other news - Deb Robson is coming to the UK. I can't wait.  Deb is one of the reasons I have a collection of fleeces in varying states of preparation, such is the power of her knowledge and enthusiasm. See her blog here for more details and if anyone has any ideas/inspirations/offers of help please get in touch with Deb, we're very lucky to have her.