Tuesday, 30 November 2010


For holiday giftitude this year, I decided to only get people exactly what they wanted. Often I spend a lot of time thinking of something [that I think is] cool and unusual that totally goes with someone’s interests. But the thing is, everyone gets a lot of gifts. Not only is there Christmas and Hanukkah but there are a tremendous amount of end-of-year birthdays within my closest and mostest. And the thing I thought of was probably fine, but it wasn’t something they said they wanted, it was just something that kind of goes with them.

In the past I have also made socks for people. Because, well, even if socks don’t necessarily ‘go with your interests’ as such, I still think someone spending time to make you something nice by hand is a good gift. One reason I like to make people socks as gifts is because it means I was thinking of them, and spending my time producing something that is especially for them. To me, it’s meaningful.

I am still going this route in one direction; possibly two. But for everyone else, this year is the ‘just pick something off the list and buy it’ year.

This may sound a touch cynical and easy-way-outish. Well, it sort of is. I am making myself an easy holiday after all the travelling and moving and jobhunting and so on. But if there are Amazon wish lists out there, and there are HBC registries, and they have on them things that people said they wanted, well, why not point and click? You said you wanted it; here it is.

Then, quite recently, my dad threw a spanner in the works. When are you going to do me another pair of socks, then?

So my dad would really actually like - he said he wants - a pair of socks. A week and a half ago, I decided I would just about have time to squeeze in making a pair and mailing them.

This, friends, is lovely yarn. Look at it. I absolutely knew it was going to self-stripe in an interesting colourway and pattern. It’s Gawayn and the Green Knight foresty – pine foresty, the dark green and silver-grey-blue of evergreens and mythology.

And lo, the silver-blue behaves and interacts very nicely with some of the other blended colours, interleaving row by row. Pleasing.

Then suddenly, this arresting weird-ass pooling effect with the dark green. What the hell?

It doesn’t get better.

I did not sign up for making socks with a map of farking New Zealand on them. I hated it more and more as I went along. I wondered if it would work differently if I had knitted it pulling the yarn from the inside of the ball rather than from the outside, but deadline knitting is no time to be experimenting in that way. I had to get these in the post, pronto. I decided the Pooling New Zealand of No Apparent Reasondom could go at the back and down the heel, where it would be covered by trouser, and carried on.

When I got to the foot, it did this:

So now the well-behaved interleavery of the smoky silvergrey with the other evergreen forest colours was pooling to make a new zigzag stripe – a New Zealand in negative, if you will, and right on the top of the foot – in colours pulled straight from my sister’s bedroom decor circa 1987: pale grey with dusty rose, lavender and powder blue accents.

None of which features in my dad’s favourite colour schemes, for socks or anything else. None of which is part of any legendary evergreen forests of yore. And all of which combine with the original New Zealand effect for a yin yang of Ugly As Sin.

I have two balls of this yarn, so my final bid to unbugger up this sock was to add in the new ball, knitting one round in the first yarn and one in the second, to try to break up the pooling. Break up the pooling it did, but it also gave me a random pattern last seen on the screen of my Atari computer during the 20 minute burr-burrr-burrr session it underwent while loading the Sammy the Sea Serpent game from a cassette tape.

I unambiguously hate this sock. I thought it was going to be lovely, and it’s ugly. It’s taken a lot of hours, and everything about it is off. I don’t even slightly want to give this to my dad for Christmas. I definitely don’t want to carry on, and finish it, and then waste even more hours making a second that is equally hideous. There is nothing to like about either the process or the product.

Emergency socks are on the go. There’s still time.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


If you look at the thingy at the top left of this blog, you may have noticed that the ingredients of the magical fusion have been absent of late. Not a lot of books, music, socks or cake going on at the moment.


Luckily Joan is about to release her new book! and here is the spiffy trailer:

Saturday, 6 November 2010

my hero

I am a treehugger. You know this to be true. I take my canvas bags to the supermarket and my travel mug to tea and coffee shops and recycle and compost and don’t buy stuff or eat meat and I get fair-trade tea and use solid shampoo because it's made without palm oil and doesn’t come in a plastic bottle and most of all, I ride a bike and take the bus. I’m not on the map as far as cars are concerned. The Top Gear men would hate me (even though I actually find them quite charming and watchable, for ridiculously posh wealthy petrol-headed hoons). I don’t, in general, much enjoy the burning of petrol to get places you could get with the burning of a bit of leg energy just as well.

A year ago, I had a car, to get to a stupidly distant job. The best I could do was find a small and fuel-efficient one and carpool daily. Since that time ended, it’s been bike and bus all the way.

But I have to admit to you, that in the last week, my hero, whom I love with a love that knows no bounds at all, at all, is:

I have a new job, and a new home. It’s a long long way from where I last lived in Canada. More than 3,000 kilometres. And everything I own – which to many people, doesn’t amount to much, but is still quite a lot to me – was located near to where the old job and home were. It had to be moved from one to the other, and so did I.

This, my small and fuel-efficient hero, is what got me and everything I own – that is, EVERY. SINGLE. THING. I. OWN. – more than three thousand kms in three days, without a complaint. Without a squeak, a moan, a groan, a hiss, a crunch; without even a polite request for a refreshing drink and a bit of a sit down.

It took me safely around scary Detroit in the early hours with news of a gas station carjacking shootout on the radio;

through the centre of Ann Arbor because of my creative map reading; across the rest of Michigan in such a flash I hardly noticed;

over the Chicago Skyway, pointing out the baseball stadium and a building with funny white ears on the way, and politely ignoring the oddly pull-y camber of the road and the continuous stops for bizarre mini-tolls of sixty cents every ten paces;

into and through Wisconsin without requesting fresh cranberry juice, or asking to stop at the restaurant with the name you’d never hear in the UK (The Bog) or even at the Wisconsin Indoor Kalahari Experience;

purred happily along the beautifully-paved highway between La Crosse and Madison;

joined me in a juvenile giggle at Minnesota’s billboards for Stearns Vet Outlet and Pharmacy (We Do Cows!);

stepped easily up to the challenge of the 75 mph speed limit in North Dakota that meant we zipped through the state like a dose of salts;

nobly protected EVERYTHING I OWN through one night parked in Eau Claire and one in Brandon, Manitoba...and proudly rolled me home more relaxed and content than I’ve felt in a while.

It’s been treated to a nice new set of winter tyres and a service, and as a true hero should be, was allowed to rest on its laurels for an entire day before we headed off flat-hunting together.

Last week I was on the bus to my new job, outside temperature minus four. The woman sitting next to me commented, ‘well, I guess we’re getting our Indian Summer at last!’

Hi, Saskatchewan! I’m back!