Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December Fun

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
I feel like I have nothing to write about this week: all my knitting is Christmas knitting and thus secret; I haven’t done anything exciting or thought any profound thoughts; and I am reading a bunch of books all in a jumble, trying to catch up with my Goodreads challenge.

I had the last classes of the semester this week, and the exams are done and sent. So I have no more work until I get the exams back on the 20th or thereabouts. Apart, of course, from figuring out what to read next semester ...

We had a storm on Thursday, raising water levels along the West coast and in the internal straits. Living as far inland as you can get around here, we only had the winds, no flooding.
Thomas got home early, though, when his school was closed.

Victor was going out in the evening to a school board Christmas dinner meeting at a restaurant downtown; I didn’t like the thought of him walking to the bus stop and waiting there with tree branches being tossed about, so I drove him. As we approached the restaurant, an ambulance was pulling away. It turned out that one of the ornaments hanging between buildings in the pedestrian street area had been blown down and hit someone on the head. Good thing Victor wasn’t out walking there!

So, I went back home, made dinner and then read (and knitted) until Victor sent me a text just after 10 o’clock: ‘Want to go driving in the snow?’
Snow? Yep, the storm was now a snowstorm. Careful driving ... when I got to the restaurant again, the wind had dropped temporarily, and the street ornaments were innocently lighting up the pristine snow. Victor was outside tossing snowballs. It was a winter wonderland idyll.

Anyway, it stopped snowing, and the wind picked up again, gradually subsiding during Friday. The remains of the snowfall were washed away by the rain today. Not so pretty winter weather.

The Knitting
As mentioned, it’s all Christmas knitting, and rather frantic at that. I had decided, sometime around December last year, to NOT knit for Christmas – or not for everybody, at least, maybe a few items. Then I got the teaching gig and scaled down my plans even more; and entering NaNoWriMo, I practically dropped all but four gift knits.
Well, I emerged from under the NaNoWriMo rock, December arrived, and the Christmas knitting plans blossomed ... Ideas keep cropping up, completely ignoring the rapidly dwindling number of days until the big evening. So, I am busily knitting secret stuff.

No, wait, I did knit something for public viewing: a bunch of hand-dyed Hexipuffs for the Great Ormond Street Hospital blanket. Quite pretty, if I may say so myself.

The Books
Most of this year, I have been ahead of schedule on the Goodreads challenge, preparing for November. Still, I managed to fall behind; as of now by two books. So, I am doing what I do when Christmas knitting: I am reading a whole bunch of books at once. Because more books at once means you’ll finish them faster, right? Just like having five active wips lying around means you’ll knit faster.
So, here’s the list:

I am dusting off my Greek, which has been sitting neglected in a corner for about a decade, by reading through a grammar and a book for beginners. These are called BASIS and PROLOGOS (yes, in capital letters); I’m reading them in conjunction and surprising myself at how easy Greek is.

The last so far of the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels by Dan Abnett is Salvation’s Reach, living up to, if not surpassing, the standard of the series as a whole.

On the audio side, I’m listening to Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton. I know what you’re thinking: why choose an 18-hour book when you need to catch up? It gets better, though: the 18 hours is only the first half of the book. It’s an 1100-page book on paper. Facepalm.
Luckily, it’s a good book. Beginning in Newcastle in the winter of 2143 CE, it opens with a regular cop crime story, a murder whodunit. The call about the body dumped in the River Tyne comes in, of course, twenty minutes before the end of Sid Hurst’s and his partner’s shift. And so it goes, the story being told with a high level of everyday detail about life in the 22nd century. Not surprisingly, knowing Hamilton’s work, the murder has trans-stellar connections, and thus an expedition is mounted to the planet St. Libra near Sirius, travelling through the gateway just outside Newcastle. I can’t say much more without spoiling anything for those who may want to read it, so I won’t.

Great North Road is on my phone for on-the-move listening; on my laptop for lace-knitting listening I started Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson, her memoir of mainly her adoptive mother, referred to as Mrs Winterson, who was Pentecostal and manic-depressive. The title, apparently, is quoted from Mrs Winterson’s reaction to Jeanette wanting to be with a girlfriend.
I’m not sure how well I like this book; Jeanette’s upbringing was surely horrific, no doubt about that, and you have to feel for a child who was oppressed, not allowed books, threatened with Hell, and beaten on a regular basis.
But the narrative is rather heavy on theory of religion and comparative phenomenology; it does seem unnecessary to bring in the structuralistic jargon at every turn to explain or reflect on religious practices and her own reactions to her childhood.

There are more books on my Goodreads ‘currently-reading’ list: The Age of Innocence is currently on Craftlit, and Mrs. Appleyard’s Year on Forgotten Classics, so the pace of those two is chiefly outside my influence; I just listen to an episode or two when I get around to it.

So, that’s it for this time – have a great week, have fun, don’t get blown away or buried in snow, and most important of all: when confronted with the glitzy Christmas catalogues urging you to spend, buy, shop, and purchase –


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Still Here!

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
Yes, I’m still here, though I have been away from this space for a while. I apologise.

Undertaking a challenge like NaNoWriMo, of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, teaches you a lot. I learned – well, that I could do it, and that it was both more and less difficult than I would have imagined. I also learned that other activities, particularly writing, are pushed aside for the time being; I couldn’t face spending writing time on something that didn’t add to my word count.

Writing a 1,000 or 600 word microstory will take me at least a whole day: I have to come up with the world, the characters, the plot; and the language needs to be polished in order to get as much information as possible into a limited number of words.
So, on that background, writing 1,667 words on average EVERY DAY seemed a tall order. But then, writing a novel is completely different. I know, I was surprised, too. Who would have thought it?
For one thing, the word count is not limited – on the contrary, the task is to put many words down; and the NaNoWriMo fora (I will not write forums) have, of course, a thread for exchanging dirty tricks to swell your word count. I only read it last night AFTER validating my text, I promise.
Writing 1,667 words in a context you know already, describing the background, developing characters through action and/or dialogue, giving a bit of back story or moving the plot forward is very much easier than creating a whole new world. And you can ‘laugh in the face of linearity’, as one of the pep talks put it: write a later scene, an earlier scene, put in some dialogue, describe a place where your characters will be next month or next year.

On the other hand, it has to be done every day. Before November, I had for a few months written one and then two microstories for ‘my’ LinkedIn writing groups, and really felt that my writing time was quite taken up with those. How, then, could I write all those words in a month? But that feeling of my time being filled with writing only came about because I could ignore the story for days, not writing, but maybe thinking about it, and then return to it when the deadline loomed. In November, the two microstories were back stories to the projected novel and so belong to the same universe, and they were written rather quickly compared to earlier months.

I have, of course, been thinking about this particular story for months, if not years. It is a sci-fi adaptation of the Argonautika, the ancient Greek legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece aboard the ship Argo. I have worked with the Argonautika for many years: my MA thesis, written back in 1998, described the types of heroism found in Apollonius Rhodius’ Hellenistic version of the legend, and it has stayed with me, in the background, ever since. The sci-fi idea emerged only last year, though.

So, the central story line is there, but of course the ship is a space ship, the islands and lands visited by the crew are planets, gods and magic are replaced by advanced technology. The crew does not consist entirely of young men; some of them are women. Obviously.
I have changed the first names of the characters, keeping the initials: Jason becomes Jack, his cousin Akastos becomes Aiken, Atalante is allowed on board in my version and is called Alasen. The ‘bad guy’, king Pelias who grabbed the power from Jason’s father and sends Jason off on this suicide mission, was renamed sir Percival after the bad guy in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White.

The frenzy is over, I made it. So what now?
Well, this coming week is all about work: I have the last few Latin lessons of the semester, and the exams need to be sent in by Friday. The exam date is the 19th December, and the administration of course wants them well before that. And I need to proofread the Greek exams.
And I have accepted the invitation to write a couple of microstories for upcoming anthologies, among those a pirate story. Not space pirates for this one, though.

NaNoWriMo have, apparently, editing months in January and February; I may take up that offer and get something resembling an actual novel out of the mass of words I have. In that context, I also need to decide where to cut – not cut out parts or chapters, but where to divide one book from the next. This mini epos, a 180-page paperback in the English translation, is swelling to the length of several novels when written as a novel. So, I’m all ready for next November!

The Knitting
As might be expected, I haven’t done a lot of knitting this month: all those evening hours usually spent watching TV, or quiet hours in the mornings with an audio book, have been spent writing, writing, writing.

So, my Midnight cardigan has received scant attention; not because I’m bored with it – far from – but, well, see above. I am looking forward to finishing it, because then I shall wear Midnight (get it? Discworld? No? Go read.).

If you want to try out the hexipuff thing but not necessarily make a whole blanket, you can join the Hand-dyed Beekeeper's Quilt Challenge and donate a couple or a handful towards a blanket for the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London.
I am using half-skeins from previous plant dyeing experiments; they are too small even for socks for my little feet, but a hexipuff uses no more than 3 grams of fingering weight yarn. So, they are great for using up leftovers. And there are two added bonuses: the ends are pulled inside the hexipuff, and the hexipuffs, apparently, aren’t sewn together at the end, but tied. All this pretty much removes the reasons why I normally cringe at the thought of making a scrap blanket: sewing and weaving in ends.
As you have probably gathered, I am seriously considering this whole hexipuff craze. There are, of course, groups on Ravelry for knitting 365 hexipuffs in a year, a puff a day, and I am a sucker for silly challenges. First, though, I am trying the concept out for a week or ten days for the hospital blanket; if I can’t make it through those, or get fed up, I won’t take on a whole year of it. We’ll see.

The Christmas knitting is underway; more on that after the big evening.

Today, of course, is the 1st December, the day for beginning the whole advent calendar thing.
I literally did nothing about it until yesterday evening, when I had sent my text to the NaNoWriMo word counting robot, had my text validated and been declared a ‘winner’ – a.k.a. made it through the 50,000 words. Only then did I go out to buy the requisite candles, and Victor pulled out the Christmas boxes to find ornaments.

The Books
I haven’t been reading much, either, this month – so little, in fact, that I am falling behind on my Goodreads challenge. Never mind, though, there are four weeks left in which to catch up.
So, I am still reading Blood Pact by Dan Abnett, one of his Gaunt’s Ghosts novels, that I started reading in Nottingham (gasp) three weeks ago.

Audio books are a bit easier to get through – not that I mind reading, obviously, I’ve just been spending my time writing instead (did I mention that already?).
I found The Constant Gardener by John le Carré on CDs at the library, so that has been playing in the car. It’s a classic le Carré post-Cold War story, in which the secretive bad guys aren’t the Soviets, but the giant pharmaceutical companies using poor Africans as guinea pigs for their drugs and giving not a fig when they are maimed or die from the side effects.
The title character, a British diplomat investigating the murder of his wife, has ample cause to reflect on the appropriate behaviour of real spies while travelling the world in search of information and at the same time trying to avoid being killed himself.

After the thriller, I turned to evolutionary biology, in this case The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman, a thorough – and sometimes repetitive – account of the changes in the human body over millions of years effected by the environment, in both natural and cultural evolution.
It is somewhat scary to be reminded of how unhealthy the agriculturally based diet is compared to a hunter-gatherer diet, and how harmful a sedentary lifestyle is. Not that Lieberman is a proponent of the trendy paleo diet: there is too little evidence and too much variation in the lifestyles of actual hunter-gatherers across the globe to ascertain exactly what one ‘should’ or should not eat. The overall picture is clear, though: a farmer’s diet, rich in sugars and starches and poor in fibre, minerals and vitamins – in other words, a cereal-based diet – is bad for your teeth, digestion, weight, metabolism, &c.
I haven’t yet gotten to the chapter about how bad chairs are for you, but I’m sure it’ll be fun ...

That’s about it for this time; I will end on a musical note, with Victor (in the ponytail) and his friend and co-conspirator at the closing concert of a talent weekend at the Aalborg International Guitar Festival last week. They performed the same duo, ‘Rondo in G’ by Ferdinand Carulli, at a local café in Viborg only this Friday. My pictures from that are crap, though, as I forgot my camera and had to use the one in my phone.

Have a lovely week – I will be back next Sunday!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Hello everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!

This week, the format will be slightly different: fewer words, more pictures. I am writing on my NaNoWriMo project, and although the number of words in the universe is infinite, the number of hours in a day is not.

So this week’s post is more of a picture gallery with comments.

Last weekend, Andreas and I went to Nottingham, UK, for the Black Library Weekender II.

We rented a car this time instead of taking the train between Birmingham (the airport) and Nottingham, so I got to drive on the left side.
The car rental wanted to give us a Peugeot 308 which was ... okay ... I guess, but then they couldn’t find it at the car park and gave us an Opel Astra instead. Happy times!

During the weekend, I read this:

and knitted these – watchman caps in Peruvian Highland wool for Andreas (black) and Victor (green):

and bought these, co-authored by Dan Abnett and his wife Nik Vincent:

We went to Dan’s book signing on Sunday, and Nik showed up at the right moment, so I not only had my books signed by both of them, but was able to give Nik the Bequin shawl prototype. And Nik, of course, IS Alizebeth Bequin, so that was just perfect.

We went to all the best seminars, obviously, several of them on the Horus Heresy series which I haven’t read yet (hangs head in shame).
This is from the final megapanel on Sunday afternoon, featuring seven authors and an artist – a big hit this year was the release of a 100-page Horus Heresy graphic novel, Macragge’s Honour, written by Dan Abnett (third from the right) and drawn/painted by Neil Roberts (far right).
Andreas bought this, of course, and had it signed by both of them.

What else?
I started a pair of socks, my Storm socks in the Foot Hugger pattern and Arwetta Classic in the colourway Perfect Storm.

During this week, apart from desperately trying to catch up on sleep and NaNo word count and laundry and not saying stupid things in front of the students – Latin sometimes doesn’t make sense, when you’re tired – I felt cold and cast on for a cardigan.

This is the Same Same, a top-down cardigan featuring the contiguous sleeve construction and pleats at the fronts of the saddle shoulder.
I’m using Kauni ELC, a blue-black combination, which is why my cardigan is called Night Skies:

‘Tis the season and all that, and although I am NOT knitting for everybody this year (see above re hours in the day), there will be a few knitted Christmas presents. So, until after Christmas, I have knitting that I’m not showing. I have started one project, that much I’ll reveal for now :o)

That’s it for this time, then. I am going back to my novel writing – I will be back next week, possibly in picture mode again, we’ll see – and until then:
Have a great week, take care, have fun, happy crafting, and happy writing if you’re into that sort of thing!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween? Where?

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!

This week, I am posting early and not much. Next time will be better, I promise – this weekend, Andreas and I are going to Nottingham, UK, for the Black Library Weekender II.
Very exciting; I have been looking forward to it for a long time, much more, of course, than last year, when I didn’t really know what it was all about. Andreas didn’t either, exactly, but at least he knew a lot more about the whole world of Warhammer (and still does).

I have planned and am packing my knitting and all the inconsequential stuff (clothes, passport, all that); also getting the house in order for the ones left behind: tidying, baking, grocery shopping.

The Knitting
This week, I am concentrating on the Coalminer socks for Thomas; I’m trying to get them done by end of play today, so he can get to wear them. I’m on the leg of the second one, toe-up, as you may recall, so there is a chance.

And now for the Travel Knitting:
The Black Library Weekender events are mostly panel talks, Q&A sessions and the like; so for listening in dimly lit audience rows, a simple, ribbed hat in aran weight wool on 4.5 mm needles seem like the perfect project.
Andreas decided he needs a hat soon, and Victor concurred on his own behalf. They both prefer something simple, masculine, and non-fussy, so I found the simplest hat possible, a ribbed beanie that doesn’t really require a pattern, but the photos of soldiers in the snow sold the concept.
I ordered some Filcolana Peruvian Highland, 2 skeins for each hat, in black for Andreas and hunter green for Victor. So that’s that taken care of. Yarn and needles packed.

For variation, I will be knitting socks (for me, this time) on bamboo needles that won’t be taken away at the airport. I’m using my own Foot Hugger pattern and the Filcolana Arwetta in the colourway Perfect Storm that I bought a bunch of last year for my BOTI scarf and then used less than half of, because I decided to do the TARDIS section in solid blue. So, lots of lovely sock yarn – and it’s in a skein, so I get to try out my nøstepinn to make a centre-pull ball.

The Books
I’ve finished a couple of books this week, somehow:

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, book 7 of the Dresden Files. In which our hero stands up to fight against the disciples of a notorious necromancer, rescues a polka-playing mortician, and is required to consider the attentions of a fallen angel. Also, there’s a dinosaur.

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse, another story set in the Pyrenees in southern France, where in the 14th century, the Cathars hid in mountain caves in an attempt to avoid being slaughtered. I have previously read The Labyrinth and The Cave by the same author. While reading this one, I had a feeling that this author writes the same story in different variations – some authors do that, and it gets old pretty quickly. Part of the reason for this turned out to be that the novella The Cave, which I have read a few years ago, is in fact the same story as the one in Winter Ghosts.

The October group read in the Ravelry group on Goodreads has been The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes – apparently a wise and witty book of a life in knitting. I say apparently, because my copy arrived from Amazon this Monday. Still in October, still, theoretically at least, with enough time to read it before the end of the month. This week, though, is one of those weeks from Hell in which everything wants to happen at once.
As I have mentioned, Andreas and I are leaving for England on Friday morning – very early. So everything that needs to be done around the house this week needs to be done by Thursday. Which is today.

And this week, Victor and a friend of his from school have been trying out university life in a 4-day training programme at Aarhus University, meaning that I on Tuesday and Wednesday was the one to drive them. No problem in the mornings – except maybe for the poor kids who had to be ready at 6:30 AM to go with me – but in the afternoons, I had to stay at uni until they finished at nearly 4. Long days for everybody. Luckily, the father of the other boy works in Aarhus, too, so he was able to drive them on Monday and Thursday.
And happily, they are having great fun with geology, physics, maths, data science and all that. So it’s all good.

Oh, and we had a storm on Monday, in the late afternoon and evening. Our area wasn’t one of those most affected, though we did have fierce winds and bits of trees lying around everywhere.
Victor and his geology group for the day were supposed to have been out digging in the University park, but that was deemed too dangerous, so they got to play with sand and clay indoors instead.
Thomas was out having a driving lesson that was cut short when the warning announcements on the radio included Viborg: the police advised against all unnecessary driving. So now, he has tried driving in a storm – quite useful, though he was glad to have an experienced driver by his side.
So, what would be a sane reaction to a very busy week inaugurating a rather busy month? Well, to sign up for NaNoWriMo, of course! If you are not familiar with it, this is National Novel Writing Month – the ‘national’ part ought maybe to be replaced by ‘global’, as this is the nature of online activities. So, we could call it GloBoWriMo instead.

The idea is to write 50,000 words on a new novel during November; on the first draft of it, anyway, as editing and rewriting will have to be done later. And probably finishing this first draft.
I have no idea whether I will be able to write an average of 1,667 words a day for a month, but I’ll give it a go, in between everything else going on.
So, wish me luck!

And that’s that for now – I have to go and get the cake out of the oven, review my shopping list, and try to write a short novel synopsis.
I will be back next week, so until then: have a great week-and-a-half!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A chalice, a compass, a shield

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
The weather has turned from glorious sunny autumn to rainy, semi-chilly autumn – the trees are still showing their fabulous colours, though they are shedding leaves at an alarming rate. Or a rate, at least, that increases on windy days. No surprises, there, really: it is late October, so what can you expect other than rain and wind? And days growing shorter (if that makes sense).

I am busy knitting socks and more, writing, teaching, getting ready for November – all the usual, in short.

Among other activities, I’ve joined a sci-fi group on LinkedIn – and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a microstory competition running over there as well as on FWG!
The monthly deadline is on the 22nd – so this Monday, I had to decide whether I was going to participate straight away or lurk for a while before trying to answer the question: 
Can I write sci-fi?
The required elements for this month’s stories were deception and fire, the word count 600. I sat down at my laptop without a clue: no story, no idea. I typed in


An image came to me, I wrote it down; and from there, a story emerged. So a couple of hours after having nothing but the keywords, I had posted a story.
There is to be an anthology – or several, actually – of these stories; for this, one is allowed to edit the story to a maximum of 725 words. My ending could certainly use some clarification, so those extra words will come in handy.

And then, of course, I had to edit my October Skeletons story for the FWG contest to post it before the deadline on the 25th. I ended up rewriting half of it, as it was too long – 1,189 against a maximum of 1,000. It came out at exactly 1,000 words. Phew.

This microstory writing is fun. It reminds me of school assignments, except of course with a lot more freedom; but I enjoy working from prompts.
This is one reason why I have a set of Rory’s Story Cubes, the Voyages version. The set contains 9 cubes, each with 6 different images. So, you can grab three random cubes, roll the dice, and get 3 images to write from. Like this:

An elephant, a ladder, and a mushroom or toadstool.
A map, a circus tent, and two people of very different sizes.
A sunrise or sunset, a bowl of something hot (porridge? popcorn?), and a doorway.

Sometimes, the images go suspiciously well together:
Waves, a crab, and a submarine.

So far, I have only played around with these cubes – one day (ha!), I will challenge myself to write a microstory from such a roll of three dice and see what comes out of it.

We are all back at school and work, now that the autumn break is over; the count-down for the Christmas holidays hasn’t quite started yet, but it will.

I gave my students another little test this week, and thus gave myself a pile of tests to grade. That was ... interesting. Most of them still have quite some work to do, before they are ready for the exam in December; these mid-term tests are intended to help them focus on their weak points – to strengthen them, of course – and to show them the layout of the exam, so they know what to expect.
I’ll give them another one sometime during November. Mwahahahahaha ...

It’s been a long time since I last commented on podcasts; I follow quite a few, both radio produced and indie, on a number of subjects.
Recently, I was told of a new podcast called Ewe University. This is hosted by Kristine, a.k.a. halcyarn on Ravelry, a psychology professor from Illinois; she talks of knitting, sewing, and psychology at an introductory level. She does speak a bit slowly at times, but it makes for comfortable and cosy listening.

In the short story arena, I have taken up The Moth podcast again, which features real life stories told onstage. Selected Shorts pretty much speaks for itself; and I’m trying out Snap Judgment from NPR.

The complete list of my current listening choices can be found in the sidebar, and all these podcasts are available for free on iTunes.

The Knitting
I’m done with the first of the Coalminer socks for Thomas and onto the second – yay! The plan is to finish them before I’m off to England on Friday, so I am knitting along.

And the pattern is done and done, revised, edited, beta knitted by my sister, and up on Ravelry as Foot Hugger Socks. Yay again!

My Mermaid dress hasn’t seen much action; I knitted about 15 cm of it, realised I had the wrong stitch count, and frogged it. And this week I have mostly been knitting socks, so I haven’t even re-knitted the frogged part yet.
Maybe this afternoon will see some progress: it is the last Sunday of the month and thus time for my local knitting group.

My sister invited me to join a group for the knitting of hexipuffs for a Beekeeper’s Quilt for the Great Ormond Street Hospital. I have seen and heard about the Beekeeper, as has probably everybody on Ravelry, but never felt inclined to make one. It’s the same with any blanket made from many smaller parts, be it squares or hexagons or what-have-you: the barrier for me is the sewing up of the darn thing – so contributing individual hexipuffs to a joint project is a lot easier.
The required yarn is hand-dyed sock yarn. I have a bunch of half-skeins from plant dye experiments; they are too small to be useful for much and thus obvious for hexipuffs. I believe this is exactly what people do: use leftovers and scraps.

The Books
I am reading Selected Stories by Nadine Gordimer, a selection (well, obviously) of stories from five different shot story collections published over a span of several decades. These are South African stories, dealing with questions of race and apartheid – the introduction notes how the stories are dated by, among other things, the appellations for black people: are they natives, Africans, or black? – of love and loss, life and death, money and the lack thereof, identity and roles – and all of it set in the nature of the land, the veld and the city.
The stories, though separate entities each with a value of their own, blend into a picture of life in South Africa in the twentieth century, seen from a white perspective; but seeing through inconsistencies and hypocrisies.
A clear example of this is the story Happy Event, in which two women find themselves unwantedly pregnant. The white woman goes to a nursing home for a couple of days and afterwards rests to get over ‘that business’, before she resumes planning her and her husband’s trip to Europe. Her black servant gives birth alone, in secret, in the middle of the night; she is grudgingly allowed a day’s sick leave when she cannot handle the week’s laundry the next morning. She is later found out to have smothered the child and is sentenced to six months’ hard labour.

My audio book of the week has been The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, read by William Hope.
This is a Western set in 1851; Charlie and Eli Sisters – Eli is the narrator – are gunmen, killers in the employ of a shadowy figure known as the Commodore. The central job in the book is finding and killing a man who is said to have stolen something from the Commodore and is currently located in San Francisco; so the brothers travel from Oregon, where they live, towards California. On the way there, they encounter a number of more or less savoury characters, who all have an impact on the journey. And once in San Francisco, they find events turning out rather differently from what they have been led to expect.
The tone of the narrative is down-played, matter-of-fact, but thoughtful. Eli tends to ponder deeply on the nature of things; his life, his relationship with his older brother, and horses. The outdoor life of the travellers is described convincingly: nature, weather, the frailties of the human and equine body.
One thing I missed was a clue to the ages of the two brothers: they are obviously experienced in their work, and Eli in particular thinks of retiring. The reader gives Charlie a slightly wheezy voice that sounds aged to me, or worn. They are not old, though, not even middle-aged; they could be in their early thirties.
All in all, I enjoyed this book; recommended for anyone who likes a classic Western.

That’s it for this week; next week I will be posting early, on Thursday, before Andreas and I are off to Nottingham, UK, for the Black Library Weekender.
Until then: have a great week, be happy, be healthy, take care!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What's the Question, then?

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!

This week is week 42 in the calendar (hence the silly title of the post), and so the autumn break week. Kids are out of school, parents and grandparents are busy entertaining the little rascals, and facilities everywhere are brimming with visitors.

We made a family outing on Monday, going to the ‘Old Town’ in Aarhus (Den Gamle By). This is an open air museum, built as a small town on a site inside the real city on Aarhus; they take apart actual old buildings, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries, and move them to the site. Workshops, living quarters, and shops crowd alongside each other, with mannequins in quite a few of them and live people dressed up and working in others, particularly vendors of pastries and sweets. Horse-drawn carriages rumble through the cobbled streets carrying the lazy footsore.
We ate our lunch in the walled garden of a merchant’s house, basking in the sunshine.

A new addition to the site is a 1974 street with shops, posters on walls, and an apartment building housing four apartments as they were at the time: on the second floor to the left lived a single woman, a school headmistress, with Persian carpets, nice old furniture, and a lot of books. Directly above her was a commune: four adults, all students, lived here among shelves built from wooden beer crates, posters from the Denmark-China Friendship Association, wicket chairs and a bunch of knitting.
To the right were a gynaecologist’s office, orange furniture everywhere and huge ashtrays in the kitchen and waiting room; and above that lived a nuclear family, Mum, Dad and two kids.

After all of the old houses, we needed refreshment and walked into the city proper to go to Starbucks – in September, the first two Danish Starbucks outside Copenhagen Airport opened, so this is quite a novelty for us.
My parents and Thomas then drove home (Andreas had opted out of the whole show, deeming recent Danish history to be not interesting enough for the effort), while Victor and I stayed in Aarhus to wait for evening.
We were going to a guitar concert; the Scottish guitarist David Russell (who lives in Spain) was playing at Helsingør Theater, an old theatre from Elsinore that now sits in the ‘Old Town’, actively functioning for performances. I have been there once before for a performance of Euripides’ tragedy Ifigenia.
So, we had a couple of hours to kill and went into Bruun’s Galleri, a mall mostly populated with clothing shops. I managed to find me a pair of nice boots – I was looking for that kind of boots, mind you, not just shopping to pass time – and then we ate (at Sunset Boulevard, where our order number was 42!) and walked back up to the theatre.

David Russell is an absolutely brilliant guitarist – and a pleasant person; he seemed open and present, focused, of course, while playing, but making contact with the audience in between. He talked a bit about the pieces he played, and at the end, came back onto the stage twice for encores.
We got seats right at the front, because Victor, with professional interest, wanted to be able to watch the finger placements and moves up close. And he won a CD in the raffle giveaway; so we listened to guitar music on the way home, too.

The Knitting
While in picturesque environs in the Old Town, I had some photos taken of my purple O w l s top – and then I cropped the pics to only show the top itself. So it goes.

I finished this week the Greyfriar socks for Victor, from the pattern that I will release soon; I got to the point above the heel and the ankle de- & increases on the first sock before Monday – so the straight part of the leg has the same length as a David Russell concert. The other sock had a more fragmented build – but it looks just the same.

It’s been mostly about socks this week, knitting the grey ones for Victor and ordering Arwetta for three more pairs, two for Thomas and one more for Victor (Andreas doesn’t want hand-knitted socks, that’s why I’m not knitting for him).
It was very satisfying to just order six skeins of yarn, knowing that my PayPal account had ample funds from pattern sales; this is the first time I have been able to do that – and there’s still more than enough for a hoodie’s worth of Peruvian Highland, when I get round to that project.

Still, the Leaf Cardigan has had a bit of attention: I decided to go with the leafy lace pattern on the sleeves, too, so the knitted part was frogged and the new sleeve begun. So far, so good.

Having knitted monogamously on the grey socks for several days and looking forward to making another pair of grey socks from the same pattern, I cast on for a dress.
Well, something had to give, right?
Anyway, I am using the Rondeur pattern again, this time in the Kauni EZ that I bought at the craft fair (Husflidsmessen) in September, in a variety of blues, for just this purpose. I plan to continue the increases below the waist, until the skirt is wide enough, and to make long sleeves like I did on the Charm tee.

The Books
Well, I finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, the story of Amazing Amy and Naughty Nick; as always, I don’t want to spoil it for you, if you haven’t read it and plan to – on the other hand, I do need to make a short comment, and since Goodreads decided to be weird for several days (not loading the CSS file), I’ll put it here. I will use a small font size, so you can scroll past it easily, if you don’t want to read it.

This is a seriously creepy book with a grim, dismal ending – not the one I could have wished for. You know it’s going to go wrong when Amy decides to come home to her ‘new Nick’, not only because her optimism is juxtaposed with Nick’s thoughts of killing her. And then she gets herself pregnant. Just thinking of the child: another life that is going to be completely ruined. How could he ever grow up to be normal or well-adjusted or balanced? And of course, Nick’s life will be a nightmare forever; I know how it is to tread on eggshells in your own home, and my ex was an amateur compared to Amy. Ugh. I hate it when the sociopath wins.

One of the other writers in the FWG, in the short story contest group, wrote a book – well, quite a few of them write books, some even for a living, but one lady mentioned her book and that she gives out the first forty pages for free.
I downloaded, read, and decided to get the whole book to find out what happened next. The Kindle version is only $5, so no problem. Anyway, the book is Up in Smoke by AA Abbott (pen name); it deals with the tobacco industry, the world of finance, international smuggling, love, death, and betrayal. Some get what they deserve in the end, some don’t.

In two weeks – less, actually – it is time for the Black Library weekender II, and Andreas and I will be going to Nottingham again. I’m getting back into the Warhammer 40,000 universe, so far by reading Pariah by Dan Abnett, the latest instalment in the Inquisition series comprising the Eisenhorn trilogy, the Ravenor trilogy, a handful of short stories, and now the first book in the Bequin trilogy.
The early appearance of Alizebeth Bequin in the first of the Eisenhorn books was, as you may recall, my inspiration for the Bequin shawl.
As ever, I enjoyed Dan Abnett’s writing – and finding the answer to an intriguing mystery concerning identity.

It being a break week, and as I have not only caught a cold, but also had a joint in my lower back / pelvis manipulated back into place, I have been lying down quite a bit this past few days, resting and reading.
So, I also read The Sea by John Banville, the reminiscences of an old man, newly widowed and returning to the seaside town of his childhood. I liked this book, but not as much as his The Infinities. Both novels deal with the complexities of family life, intergenerational traps; in both books, trains and the Greek gods play their parts. Maybe I preferred The Infinities because the gods were more prevalent, more directly interfering.

And I started today on a Nadine Gordimer short story collection, Selected Stories. I find that writing – and telling – microstories has reinvigorated my interest in reading them, in the composition and discipline required to make up a good short story.

Well, this is it for now – I will be back next week, and until then: have a lovely week, enjoy and take care!