Sunday, 30 May 2010

it's a canadian thing

Summertime. Canadians, you’re going to The Lake, aren’t you?

I knew it.

This may be the only thing on which I will always, always disagree with Canada. I have never understood your affinity with The Lake. (Everything else, I adopt and embrace in the way that only a foreigner who has humbly chosen and asked to be One Of You can. Oh, except also, not Ashley McIsaac. Two things).

Y’all know how I love a good seaside. Perhaps it’s originating from an island nation that makes the ocean something that locates me; I know where I am, there where the tide is. The ocean’s the absolute Unknown, but sand under soles, you know yourself.

A decent river absolutely turns my crank too. Rivers are purposeful; they GO somewhere. Like oceans, their history is one of taking things places. Rivers are busy and effective and efficient; they get stuff done. Connect things to other things.

The Lake has no such qualities. It’s so stand-offish, The Lake. It’s got no tides (‘think you can influence me, ‘the moon’, if that even is really your name? I shun you.’). There’s no Unknown; I get that the Canadian lakes are jolly big, but...say you set out on The Lake from Toronto, The Unknown is...Rochester. There’s nothing Kon-Tiki about that.

And it doesn’t DO anything. Off goes the St Lawrence, ‘busy busy, can’t stop to chat, putting in the hard yards, keeping the world running, doin’ my job, 365 days a year’, and The Lake’s just like, ‘oh, you know. I sit here. You can walk along my shore if you like. Or you could sit, too, I guess. I don’t really care, one way or the other.’

I like it not.

What’s yours: lake, river, ocean? None of the above?

I have an important question to ask you, in a few weeks. At the moment it’s exam season and I’m up to my eyes in marking and cannot quite put my mind to important questions (nor, in the interest of honesty, to combing my hair before leaving the house, which, in the interest of further honesty, does not make a great deal of difference to my appearance). But soon.

Friday, 14 May 2010

return of the socks, and how

Until I find that bûcheron who’ll come home from a hard winter at the chantier (circa 1840) and lift me up in one hand while making me tea with the other, well, I’ll just be content to knit myself the girls’ version of the socks he’ll be wearing when he does.

I have the crazy sock gleam in my eye for these, the one that leads me to write sentences longer than a whole paragraph should be. I cannot begin to describe how beautiful and miraculous this yarn is. It is from Bilby Yarns, a local producer.

This is the quintessential voyageur yarn. It’s rough (in the best way) and honest; springy and even and clean; it feels good in your hands and smells good, and it makes the warmest socks I have ever produced. These are socks that could only be worn out by a thousand days on the hardworking feet of someone with a sincere and loving heart. I know for certain that socks made with Bilby Yarn are worn by every wholesome woodcutter, every good farmer, every truthful man in every folk tale or fairy tale ever written or sung, in any country, in any language, ever, primarily in northern hemisphere ones where there is real winter. (I don’t know how they got it from here to all those places back then, but dudes, it is le fact).

Photos never do colour justice, and I can only imagine the dyes used on these yarns are distilled from nothing less than the quiet and happy souls of those who did small kindnesses, who built bridges, who did not hurt, who laughed long, who sang loudly, who loved deeply. They are beautiful.

The pattern is from a hardcover book (deetz below) that I could not bring all the way to Australia with me. I did photocopy this one pattern, though, because I already had a skein of Bilby Yarn and knew this was the pattern it had been yearning for all its life.

As we all know, it’s better to be happy than to be right, but being right is cool too, especially when it coincides with also being happy. And I was so right. They were made for each other.

I have two more skeins of this yarn already. I am so not done. I may never knit anything except these socks with this yarn for the rest of my life.

(For the knit-interested who need to know, the facts: the book is Handknit Holidays by Melanie Falick; it recommends knitting these on four needles but I usually use three until I get to the foot, when it gets bulky on three; these are made with a double-strand of Bilby 4-ply on 4mm needles.)

Friday, 7 May 2010

in the soup

Because if I didn’t mess everything up much of the time, there’d be nothing to write about, right?

Yesterday I bought a big ole handful of fresh prawns, and thought, I’ll do this properly, and use the shells and legs and brains and stuff to make stock for soup.

Quite why I decided to undertake this shortly before I was to leave to get the bus to get the train into the city for a friend’s Very Massively Important exhibition opening, I do not know. Anyway, I threw the shells and legs and brains into a pan and started boiling away.

After a while, I removed the shells and legs and brains, and put potatoes into the stock to boil. Then I took the shells and legs and brains outside to the bin.

It was when I came back inside that I realised the whole house boomed with the smell of prawn shells and legs and brains.

Didn’t think this through.

I had that moment of...can I get away with it? Because what with the fourth-quarter decision to start the prawn peeling and stock making, I was already in a might-need-to-put-your-foot-down-a-bit place vis à vis getting myself out of the house in time to make the bus.

Good sense, in the form of realising I’d be the person on the bus and the train and in the gallery about whom people whispered, ‘Crikey, that woman reeks of fish’, prevailed. I poured the stock and potatoes into the blender to soup them up, and hopped in the shower.

Tick tock, tick tock. Out of the shower, poured the soup out, filled the blender jug with dishwater to soak. Sat the blender jug on the counter.

Aha! I see you got there before me! If only you’d been here at that moment, instead of now, to remind me blender jugs don’t have a bottom. The blender blade bit just sits underneath with a seal. Setting the thing down on the blade bit makes it pop up inside the jug. A tidal wave of fishy water slapped into my front in the manner of a perfectly executed Soak the Bloke booth at the village fete.

Tick tick tick tick tick.

I wiped down, dressed up, threw towels over the fish-flooded floor, and got the heck out.

I’d checked my route on the public transport website. I’d typed in the street the gallery was on, and it told me which train station was closest. At no point in the process did it occur to me to think, “Gee, I wonder if Aberdeen Street is by any chance the longest street in the city, encompassing two different train stations?”

It took me ten minutes (with two false starts; I have no inner compass) to walk to Aberdeen Street from the station. I reached it at number 189. The gallery was at number 12.


I missed the speeches, but on the plus side, nobody was heard to remark that there was a strong smell of prawn shells and legs and brains in the vicinity. And today, I’m having soup.

And washing the towels.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

what lemonade is for

I bought a cup of lemonade and a bag of popcorn for forty cents from a little girl and her mum who had a stall in their driveway.

They had gone to a LOT of trouble for the forty-cent lemonade and popcorn combination deal. They had a proper little stall, and had even cut fabric up into flags to make bunting.

I made my purchase and stood passing the time, drinking my lemonade and waiting for my change (what do you think is the etiquette on this? I had a buck, and dithered between just-give-her-a-buck-because-she’s-making-some-pocket-money-and-it’s-only-a-buck, and mum-is-trying-to-teach-her-maths-so-you-should-let-her-figure-out-change). Anyway, at this point their second customer of the day approached, and you can believe me that this dude wasn’t necessarily in absolute command of all his faculties. He had either been very drunk last night, or was drunk right now. Or both.

And mum, without missing a beat, said ‘Now. This lady needs her change, because she gave us a dollar, and this gentleman needs a cup of lemonade. Because he has a hangover.’