Socks

I’ve been wanting to knit socks for ages and dabbled a bit it recent years with limited success – they mainly don’t fit too well or wear out and they take ages to hand knit! But I went on a course by Whitehall Studio on how to machine knit socks in December. It was very clever – all online and work at your own pace with weekly zoom calls with the rest of the class and a private chat place on Mighty Networks. I absolutely loved the working at my own pace, fits around fatigue very well. My fellow classmates were all super fun and enthusiastic- and the whole thing was very supportive.

My first attempt was wearable but was the wrong wool. I tested them to destruction.

The second pair were knitted in actual sock wool from the wonderful Countess Ablaze. These were rockabilly socks knitted for my BIL

He has declared them size 10 and fitting well. The colours are Brexshit and Neon.

The third pair was for me. I had a skein of ‘the ministry of truth twisting’ in lady Persephone sock yarn from countess ablaze. This is a very beautiful yarn and I needed to pair it with something to show it off. I chose the Woolyknit sock yarn, an amazingly priced workhorse tough yarn in denim. I chose a fair isle pattern that allowed the Countess’s yarn to show through windows, like glimpses of beauty framed through the main squares.

I’m really happy with the results and look forward to testing them extensively. And then to many more pairings of beautiful hand dyed sock yarns with the workhorse Woolyknit yarn.

Links below.

Whitehall Studio Classes

Countess Ablaze Yarn

Woolyknit yarns

Counting sheep

A review of Philip Walling’s book.

This is an easy read, and can easily be dipped in and out of. A a knitter, I came at it from the perspective of wanting to know the sheep behind the wool. We’ve been blessed over the past few years by the wool exploration series run by Louise Scollay to try out lots of different single breed wools, and I was looking forward to hearing about this. However, this book, whilst mentioning them in passing, is really much more of an exploration of meat sheep. It was an enjoyable read, and I learnt a lot about the sheep we see everywhere, the commercial flocks rather than the hobby flocks. So now I have filled in a gap.

I enjoyed his personal journeys- the shepherding of the Herdwicks, and hearing about his dogs. At one point he goes into an environmental discussion which is way off the mark and totally misses out on the whole point of peat and peat management in climate change – read William Atkins’ “The Moor” or many others for a more evidence based discussion.

The discussion of slaughtering methods was a difficult read for me – but if you eat sheep then it should be very interesting.

It will be on my shelf for a while – I will probably look up things in it for a while and it’s definitely an entertaining easy read, but a reference on sheep and wool it’s not, and the claims on the cover of him being the new Macfarlane are wide of the mark.

You can buy it and support local bookshops by using my affiliate link below. I do get a small percentage but an equal amount goes to local bookshops. Or you could order directly from your local bookshop.

https://uk.bookshop.org/a/582/9781846685057

Losing my voice, and learning to breathe again.

After cov-probably I lost my voice. Not permanently, but frequently and annoyingly. It would be hoarse, and strained and I couldn’t get words out correctly. I went back to work into the thick of a project which was being run entirely on Microsoft teams. Meeting after meeting and webinars to present at all hours of day and night to reach people in the project who are located all over the world. At first I thought it would get better, and joked about it – was apologetic and used it as a Health & Safety share. But it became more than a joke, more than a niggle. For someone whose job it is to daily chair meetings and present, it becomes an ever present worry.

Finally, recently I have had some help in the form of a voice therapist who started to talk to me about breathing. Which came as a startling revelation. Before covid, I practised pilates, and meditated most days. I sang in a choir, and had practised Yoga for many years, so its not that I wasnt aware of breathing. And in the many conversations I have had with the medical profession subsequently, the question, “Are you or have you been short of breath” – to which I have always answered a resounding no. No, I didnt struggle massively for breath when I was really ill, and I dont have problems walking up the stairs. Tick. Done. No SOB problem.

But there is apparently, and it makes sense now. One of the reasons I cant speak properly is that I am not breathing properly. My breath is shallow and uncoordinated. I consciously have to slow it down, and deepen it – there is no longer a natural pattern. I am going to learn to breathe again. I have started yoga again, and meditation, both of which make me aware of my breathing, and make me practice deeper or diaphragm breathing.

Meanwhile,I have stopped apologizing for my lack of voice, and am consigning it to all the other things that have changed about me since I was ill in March. I am learning to live with less capacity for speaking on teams/zoom calls, and others will have hopefully adjust too. I stop and breathe before I talk. I talk less. I breathe more.

Bonfire Night

Always wet and foggy with

charred but not quite baked potatoes and the smell of petrol.

We’ve made a guy stuffed with leaves,

touting it down Ecclesall road for weeks.

All the begged pennies converted into rockets,

which my father aims at the hall of residence.

We get out the petards and put them behind people, we are very stealthy.

The fire always gets out of control.

Hoses unwound always in a panic and the house has to be hosed down continuously, but never the fire.

My mother’s Parkin is rich and black, soft and rich.

The recipe from a very old index card.

One year my parents find some out of date distress flares,

they snake down Victoria Road, like heat seeking missiles,

challenging the neighbourhood to an edgy stand off.

One year my dad is deafened by a firework.

I don’t remember tin boxes or the firework code,

just an exciting terror with butterflies in my ten year old tummy.

As they make it bigger, better and drunker every year.

Later

I’m working late on bonfire night

In Salford.

A man comes after me with a wrench,

and relieves me of my car.

I think I’m going to die. My stomach is wrenching itself into a black hole.

I run away, escape and I can’t breathe.

And the fireworks are going off all around,

screaming for police and help I don’t make much sense and then I am sick.

He is cross with me for working late.

I have flashbacks,

jumping every time a firework flashes or bangs,

I stay inside for a week crying.

Later

My brother in law takes up the mantle, and,

acquiring a firework license, he treats Abbey Lane to a barricade worthy of a war film.

We are pinned against the house,

deafened.

Men in black move around the garden silently setting wave after wave of noise.

My baby is crying.

She doesn’t understand the noise.

I hide under the bed with her upstairs trying not to cry, holding her tight.

Don’t be afraid my daughter, we will stay safe inside

One day when you are older we might have a sparkler or two, but no fireworks.

And let’s stay inside in the warm

No need to be scarred.

November 1

The moors are brown now finally.  
Patches of claret call out winter, signalling where the fires crossed in the summer.   
We are high above Marsden, 
shrieking hopelessly into the driving rain.   
We call backwards and forwards, 
voices thinly trailing and lost 
on the wind.   

The puppy runs away, thinking that no treats can make up for this soggy battle.  
He heads for the van.  
We follow.  
Over Standedge, the cloud touches the road, 
settling in for the winter.   
By the layby underneath the edges, 
four men are trying to get an ancient Capri going again in the storm.  
They are dressed for display, not deluge.  
The Capri is not interested in cooperating.  

The springs are starting to run above Diggle.  
No gentle bubbles here, 
but a furious spout emptying the underland of Black Moss through a single fracture.  
We head for home and warmth inside.

Dreaming of Simon Armitage

That’s such an odd thing to say – well it sounds very mad indeed. But it happened last night and not at all exciting I hasten to add.

Every night I sleep fitfully now with intense and colourful dreams. Ever since the covid in March my sleep patterns have completely changed. I can sleep for hours and do, often going to bed before nine and not waking until eight am. Precovid I was a bed at ten and up at six person. Like clockwork. Annoyingly so come weekends, holidays – I would be up and awake. Now my body needs much more sleep, including a nap mid day. My Garmin says I have slept, but that I am hyper stressed and exhausted, which is how I feel when I wake up.

Now at night I sleep like a nervous pilot at the helm, waking every hour from complex dreams which follow on from each other and are themed. So following Tao Geoghan Hart’s incredibly exciting victory at the Giro my dreams were about that, reworking it over and over, with Rohan Dennis keeping on pacing him and coming back after attack after attack.

But back to last night. I dreamt I was in Marsden and was going to look at a new house Simon Armitage had bought for his daughter. It was a very tall house – more than four floors and like a Hebden House. It needed a lot of work doing on it – most of the woodwork was a 1950’s green. Going down and outside the back door, the land fell away steeply, and then had a factory built on it. We discussed demolishing this, and I asked whether he had had an asbestos survey prior to the purchase. Poor Simon, he hadn’t and I could see it was going to be expensive. Then I woke up.

The next part of the dream involved a new survey technique being tested to identify pollutants on his land in Marsden. Simon didn’t feature in this part of the dream but there were a lot of people keen to test the new trial technique and I was very keen for the testers to exchange their results with another group in Sweden. I’m not an academic so I have no clue where this came from.

And then thirdly after another wake up, we were trying to get a load of kids over the hill on the bus to Marsden for a lesson with Simon. It was pouring with rain and really vile. They then had to walk across the valley to where Simon lived – but it was a really long way, and we weren’t sure where that actually was. More waking up.

The final part of the dream was writing poems about Halloween- which of course I can’t remember now sadly. I don’t think Simon has written about Halloween- bonfire night yes. But this poem he wrote about Lockdown and Eyam seems appropriate for the moment. My mother lives near Eyam and I can’t visit her at the moment but am remembering a lovely Halloween spent with them in years with past.

So I have no clue what the dreams mean other than my brain is doing strange long covid things at the moment, as well as my heart. More on that later. And Simon, please do your due diligence before buying property.

Lockdown by Simon Armitage

And I couldn’t escape the waking dream of infected fleas

in the warp and weft of soggy cloth by the tailor’s hearth

in ye olde Eyam. Then couldn’t un-see

the Boundary Stone, that cock-eyed dice with its six dark holes,

thimbles brimming with vinegar wine purging the plagued coins.

Which brought to mind the sorry story of Emmott Syddall and Rowland Torre,

star-crossed lovers on either side of the quarantine line

whose wordless courtship spanned the river till she came no longer.

But slept again, and dreamt this time

of the exiled yaksha sending word to his lost wife on a passing cloud,

a cloud that followed an earthly map of camel trails and cattle tracks,

streams like necklaces, fan-tailed peacocks, painted elephants,

embroidered bedspreads of meadows and hedges,

bamboo forests and snow-hatted peaks, waterfalls, creeks,

the hieroglyphs of wide-winged cranes and the glistening lotus flower after rain,

the air hypnotically see-through, rare,

the journey a ponderous one at times, long and slow but necessarily so.

Warm and wild

wet leaves on the ground

Taking the puppy out at seven I get wrapped up in layers of wool. However it’s warm. Much warmer here in the west than the last week in the north east of biting winds. I’ve definitely worn too many things here. We walk down the road and a few leaves get picked up by the rushing wind. Most lay sodden in heaps after days of rain. We slither down the narrow muddy path to the ford avoiding the puddles that have gathered here over the last week. The river is high, but clear and fresh like the openings of blue high above. The pond is overflowing again, running down cutting an ever bigger channel into the gravels.

The puppy doesn’t want to go in the river and I’ve forgotten the treats to entice him. So I half encourage, half drag him in trying to hitch up my trousers which are stupidly not tucked inside my boots. I was in a hurry to get out in the half light and threw some ancient fleece pants on over my pyjamas and they flap annoyingly rather than sit neatly inside my boots.

As we come up to the pond, the geese are calling. Sitting facing west into the wind, squalls buzzing past them over the water, stripes of black and grey. Skein after skein of geese rise from the reservoir up the valley, calling noisily before forming their perfect V and heading east out of the valley high over Harrop Edge. I’m not sure where they are going? I know they are here all year these noisy interlopers living up on the reservoirs. There’s a small gaggle on the mill pond at the back who have adopted George, the white farm goose. It took a long time and they had many fights but now they seem to have accepted him.

There must be ten skeins rising this morning, wheeling up over the ridge, and when they have gone it’s suddenly so quiet so that I can hear the wind stripping the last of the leaves from the trees. The puppy is excited by the momentarily dancing leaves before they get trapped by their soggy cousins on the road, which are turning browner and browner. I’m reminded I need to rake the oak leaves from the lawn. Later.

As we get back, gulls are now whirling and screaming over the pond before heading off down the valley leaving a sudden quiet. Time for a cup of tea and the puppy to sleep on my lap before everyone else wakes up.

Sunday’s

It’s getting to the back end of the year and my gardening is confined to picking food, clearing the front border – well Half heartedly because Stu has stolen my secateurs, and planting bulbs. It’s a battle between the weather windows and my capacity and energy to get out and do anything. Once I would have spent 10 hours happily outside in the garden but now i can manage about 3.

It will be worth it though, the dinner will be all the better for being fresh from the ground, and I know that come March I will be so happy to to see the tulips appear.

The puppy has had two walks today so far and is rapidly growing stronger. The first walk with Stu was lovely. Our morning walks really are my favourite part of the day at the moment. I think the puppy is already past my walking capacity. Though I have done nearly 9000 steps today and I’m feeling it. The one thing I really can’t bear and miss so much is my bike. I think it the freedom it provides. Of course I could get in the car but it’s not the same thing at all.

I felt the autumnal need to cook over the past couple of days which resulted in pear upside down cake last night, and there could well be apple cake if I rest enough now. And there might be a slow cooker full of bean tagine for the week.

I treated myself to my favourite random garden frittata for lunch. Today it was broccoli, spinach and courgette. The broccoli is really on its last legs, throwing up spindly flowering spikes. I found two very small last courgettes which were admittedly a bit slug damaged but I wrestled them from the slimy beasts and threw them in the pan.

Dinner will be roast everything from the garden – potatoes, parsnips and carrots. The carrots are absolutely beautifully sweet and caramel flavoured when roast. I don’t really need anything with them.

I should do some knitting today but I think I’ve run out of spoons.

Slowly slowly

Small steps. I know they say that but this has been slower than any recovery I’ve done before. Six months after having MRSA I was climbing and riding my bike. Seven months after covid? I’m not riding anywhere or walking anywhere of significance. I was better when I was working three days and the sun shone – I was outside for four days pottering in the garden and wandering. Now it’s four or five days work and two days inside recovering.

The effort in the garden early on is paying off now. It’s wonderful to have so many vegetables from the back garden. The potatoes seem more deliciously potatoey than the ones that arrive every week. And the courgettes are so creamy.

Today will be busy at the desk. I’ve got to own up to not being able to finish a piece of work yet. I can’t resolve everyone’s conflicting inputs to it yet – they haven’t sorted who does what yet, or even what’s to be done. Hopefully trying to write it down will crystallise it for them.

And I’m not happy with my mitt design yet. Yes it makes a nice picture of the machair which is one thing. I’m pleased with that. But I feel it could evolve yet into a better design.

The skies are blue today so I’m looking forward to taking Darwin out for a sniff.

Onwards and upwards.