Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I'm back!

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
Would you believe it, it is still hot here; this weekend is less sweltering, as we have some rain, wind, and cloud cover – the runner’s friend – but still, it is unmistakably high summer. The butterfly bush is blooming and brimming with butterflies, bees buzz in the clover field that is supposed to be a lawn (ahem), and the cat practises his Dali clock impression.

Very appropriate, as noted last week, for writing Hot Day-stories: the LinkedIn Fiction Writers’ Guild July Heat short story competition ended this Thursday, and I managed to finish a story for it. I took my laptop outside to enjoy the warm air and the shade under the lilac tree and got a story together, coming in just under the word limit (980 words out of 500 to 1000); I could expand, clarify, and continue. Funny how story elements crop up and have you wondering where that came from or how this will impact the situation or ... Maybe later.
Now is the week for choosing three of the about thirty stories to vote for; several are very good, while others ... need a bit more work. I got a few positive comments on my story – that do not necessarily translate into votes, of course, and may only have been prompted by kindness and my own ‘I am new to this’ presentation.

As I have mentioned before, summer is the time for me to sort and tidy – and so, in the process of cancelling a couple of superfluous subscriptions, I have come across different approaches to customer service.
I decided several months ago not to renew my Rowan membership, since I have not knitted anything from the latest issues, and £32 seemed a bit steep for two pretty picture books and the annual ‘gift’ of yarn. So when the first emailed prompts came, I ignored them, only noting that this was a first: the previous years I have had to be aware of the dates myself. Oh, well. More and more prompts showed up in my inbox, and even though I know it’s a robot sending them, I was a bit annoyed at getting two in the same day. So, I went to the Rowan site looking for the Unsubscribe button. No such thing. Even logged in, under my account settings, there is no option to unsubscribe or cancel. Lots of ‘let’s remind you of the benefits’ and ‘buy now’ and ‘this is how easy it is to renew’ – but no easy way to not renew.
I left the page and continued to ignore the prompts, which stopped arriving on the date of my subscription ending. End of story.
Or so I thought, because a couple of weeks later, I had a postcard from Rowan, reminding me how easy it is to renew and get all the benefits from a membership.

I also cancelled my Netflix, because I never get round to watching anything, and it seemed silly to keep it running. So, I went to the Netflix site looking for the Unsubscribe button. And clicked it. And got a ‘we’re sorry to see you leave, please come back any time, and you’re welcome to watch whatever you want until [date of subscription ending].’

Guess where I am mostly likely to return to.

The Knitting
Yes, I am knitting! Not 10 hours a day – which I didn’t before, either – but knitting. I feel whole again; hence the title of this week’s post.

Back in May, when I started the V neck jumper for Victor, I promised to finish it before his birthday, which all of a sudden is not some-time-several-months-away, but this coming Tuesday. Who would have known? I managed to not panic, but did the whole I have so-and-so many separate bits to do, rib, setup, decreases, rib again, ends; and so-and-so many days to do them, and then dividing.
Anyway, concentrating on one project quickly makes a difference, and being entertained by films in the evenings, I have finished the first sleeve and worked the second. All I have left are the ends to weave in; and not even as many of those as I could have, as I have joined skeins using Jane Richmond’s double knot technique, found on YouTube.

So voila, one jumper done. I am all set to get as many wips out of the way as I can before starting work in September, so there will be no (more) frivolous casting on. Only the necessary: Laura’s fourth birthday is coming up in August, and as my niblings are reared on designer handknits (heh), she will of course be getting something. More on that later – after the birthday.

And I am writing patterns, translating (from English into Danish) and editing, several at once which is a bit of a mess and again caused by my wanting to make all the things, preferably at the same time. But I am getting through them, bit by bit. The interesting thing is, even though you cannot proofread your own text properly, because the brain interprets what it knows should be there instead of what the eyes see – when you translate your own text, you do find the errors and inconsistencies. So there is actually a way to tech edit your own stuff.

Of course, another pair of eyes is invaluable: I am working on a lace shawl, for which I made the prototype for my mum’s birthday in June; my sister wanted one, too, so I got her to test knit (clever, eh?) and thus find not only typos, but also explanations that made perfect sense to me, but no-one else – and now I am translating the pattern and knitting from it. When this is all done, it will be a thoroughly worked-through pattern. So watch this space!

The Books
I am moving through the Dickens biography by Claire Tomalin; now I’m even past the time when he wrote Bleak House. The name for Esther, the main first-person narrator, Dickens got from the eldest sister in a batch of orphans whom he helped and corresponded with for years: a sweet and caring girl, apparently much like the Esther in the book.
The picture that emerges from the biography is not altogether appealing; Dickens was brilliant, of course, and prolific and caring and doing a lot of good – but also selfish and uncaring. I really do not envy his wife, Catherine, always pregnant – they had 10 children – and having to put up with his travelling and moving house and working and corresponding intimately with various men and young women, including the love of his youth.
Oh, and the woman who ran the Dickens household, as much as anyone could run anything with Dickens around, was not Catherine, but her younger sister, employed as a governess and almost a second wife. It is said that Dickens admired the setup of his friend, Wilkie Collins, who lived with two women for most of his life; maybe he tried to emulate this.

Staying with the audio books: DR, Danmarks Radio, gave out a handful of free audio books at the beginning of the summer, one of which is Den Store Omstilling / The Big Transition by Jørgen Steen Nielsen. Quite an interesting book on the need for a global transition away from the hunt for economic growth, consumerism, &c, and the detrimental effects they have on the environment, on the planet. Instead, we need to focus on ‘ecological economy’, to realise that continued growth inside a closed system is not possible. We must find out how to live without spending more, without consuming and destroying the basis for our own existence.
Several theories and experiments on this are presented, among them a plan for a 21-hour work week, instead of the 37.4 that is the Danish norm now, or the 40+ hours in many other countries. The idea is that this would make room for more people in the workplaces and at the same time give everybody more space in their lives, to bicycle to work, to grow vegetables, to take care of children and relatives, in short, to live more organically.

For just over 3 weeks, I have every day been reading a chunk of Caesar from a collection for schools, just to get myself back in the habit. This way, I got through (some of) the Gallic Wars, (some of) the Civil War, a handful of letters, saved in Cicero’s collection, and a bite of Suetonius’ Caesar biography; and both my Latin reading and my historical knowledge are refreshed. Oh, and I found out how it can be that a single Gaulish Village was not conquered by the Romans: the village of Asterix and his comrades lies in the land of the Venelli, a tribe that was conquered not by Caesar himself, but by his legate Sabinus. So, if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself.
(You don’t know Asterix? Go find out, they’re fun!)

While I’m at it, I am now reading Caesar by Peter Ørsted, an account of Roman morals and politics in the shape of a biography of the most famous of Roman leaders.
By the by, if you want to know something of Roman history in an easily accessible way, go to Colleen McCullough’s series Masters of Rome. In six fat books, she gives us, in great detail, the history of the Italian Wars, Caesar’s life, the final century of the Republic, including the Spartacus rebellion – and a seventh book tells of Antony and Cleopatra.

And more historical fiction: The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland is yet another of her Mediaeval English supernatural thrillers, rich and gory and suspenseful. I have previously read Company of Liars and The Owl Killers, and I can recommend all three of them – though not to the squeamish. They tend to be quite explicit in dealing with sickness, maiming and death.
But if you don’t mind all that – on the page, that is – and have a few nights’ sleep to spare, this is a great book.

One of the very first books Victor got for his Kindle was Stephen King’s UR, in which a college English teacher acquires a Kindle, and strange things start to happen. It is a small book, a 61-page novella, featuring King’s well-known blend of the quotidian and the fantastic, and keeping you reading until the last word. And it won’t even cost you any sleep.

That’s all, folks!
I hope you have a great week – I am off to weave in ends, but I will be back next week with pictures and more. Keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

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