Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn Pastimes

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
It is the day of the Autumn Equinox: the sun is passing the Equator, and from now on, the nights will be longer than the days.
I have found my woollen gloves, for the mornings are chilly, and scarves and shawls are coming out of their summer hiding places. Socks are on the needles, as well. I am still working on a cotton cardigan, but the next one planned will have to wait while I make a few woollen ones.
Discussion threads on Ravelry have begun to chat about Christmas knitting – or Holiday knitting, if you want to be PC. I am not going to knit for everybody this year, as I have already stated: it did turn into a bit of frenzy during December, and anyway, my knitting time is severely curtailed compared to last year, so that’s that. I will probably do a few select pieces, but I am promising nothing.

So, this week is Viborg Festival Week (Festuge), and lots of arrangements have been made, starting off with the Viborg City Marathon last Sunday.
On Thursday, as I have mentioned previously, the Red Cross knitting & crochet group held a café to which the story tellers’ guild were invited. The crafty ladies from the group were there, offering help and guidance to any knitter or crocheter who wanted to come along and work on something for charity or of their own.
Three of us went along, two bringing our knitting as well as stories to tell.

I learned several things from the experience, including the existence of a detergent for cotton that can make old knitwear look new. I need to ask again about the name, and then I will let you know.
Anyway, as we crafters know, it is perfectly possible to listen attentively while staring at the work in your hands; anyone who enjoys audio books while knitting can attest to this. The only problem arises in a social context, particularly with non-crafters, who confuse a lack of eye contact with a lack of attention. Hence the repeated discussions on Ravelry on where and when it is appropriate – or not – to knit: work meetings, church, with friends, &c.

I had occasion to recall this while telling my story (the Cautionary Tale that I put up here a while ago) to this group of crafters: I am used to students staring at me or the board (black or white) behind me, when I speak. If they are looking down and not ostensibly at their books, they may be daydreaming or texting or checking the time to see when the lesson ends.
So at first, it was a little unsettling to be ‘ignored’ by the ladies, who were mostly looking down and not at me – until I reminded myself that, well, they were crafting and not at all ignoring me. Come to think of it, telling a story without being stared at may actually be quite pleasant, when you get used to it.

On a different note, GTA V has come out for Xbox, and as Victor bought it, our living room is once again, for the time being, intermittently exposed to violence, drug use, reckless driving, foul language and the like. This game is completely weird and pointless, but seems to be enjoyed by the boys; they get into discussions about the specifics of various cars and weapons used in the game. And the satire: everybody and everything is this fictionalised Los Angeles, dubbed Los Santos, is hyperbolised and ridiculed. It is quite funny, actually.
And no, I am not worried that they will want to drive like maniacs up and particularly down mountainous slopes, or steal any number of vehicles including garbage trucks, while on drugs, or rob jewellery shops, or argue with adulterous wives and their yoga teachers, or anything like that. It’s a game; they know the difference, and anyway, characters on drugs behave intensely irrationally, so it’s no advertisement.

As for cars in real life, the TARDIS has been making weird noises lately, when coming into a bend. I asked my dad about it; he started out by guessing at a worn front-wheel casing and recounting how many times he had had something like that fixed on various cars over the years. Yikes.
On further inspection, though, there was no creaking around the wheel; so we went for a little drive – and the problem was identified. The servo transmission turned out to be sorely lacking fluid; and of course, it would be complaining in bends, not driving along in a more or less straight line. It still works, so I hadn’t had any real problem with it, only the noises.
Anyway, this is a very fixable problem, and at a much lower cost than having a wheel casing replaced.

The Knitting
This week, I have pictures, as promised, of my knitting progress. The Leaf cardigan (I still have no fancy name for it) has reached the lace border at the bottom and is moving along nicely, with only a slight hitch when I was starting a RS row and realised that I had done the previous RS wrong. Sigh. I had to tink two rows of 225 stitches each and then re-knit.

Not a huge task in itself, but it put me off it for a day or two, during which I started a pair of striped socks in my quest to work out the perfect sizing on the arched short-row heel socks that will fit into shoes without any bulkiness or bunching.

These were my first attempt, and they are nice and pretty, but the heel behaved slightly differently than I had anticipated, so the foot is too long to fit comfortably into shoes. So, I have shortened the foot, moving the point at which one begins the heel, and I’m giving it another go. 
My sister is beta-knitting again – so we actually managed, during the weekend, to sit side by side, knitting socks from the same pattern. Very cosy.

The new sock fits perfectly – it is not the most beautiful of socks, but it will do as a test sock, and anyway, I can stuff it into a shoe, which was pretty much the whole point of it.

Also, I am fiddling with a cowl design, prompted by the circus aficionados in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, the rêveurs who follow the circus, dressed in black or white or grey, with a splash of red.
More on this in due course.

The Books
In paper version, I am reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. It took me quite a while to get into this book; it didn’t feel like a continuous novel, but more like a series of vignettes featuring various inhabitants of Savannah, Georgia. I resolved to plough on, though, to see how it progressed and whether it would turn into a proper story.
Then, when I was about two-thirds through, my eye caught the topmost line on the front cover: The Bestselling True Crime Classic. A classic doh! moment.
The main story in the book is the trial of Jim Williams for the 1981 shooting of his assistant Danny Hansford, who was also his lover; I looked up James Arthur Williams, 1930-1990, on Wikipedia – without reading the article, as I hadn’t finished the book yet and didn’t know the outcome of the trial.
So, well, that explained the newspaper feature quality of the writing. I am still not thrilled by the book, but I am going to finish it.

On the audio side of things, I have a lot going on.
On home alone-days (or rather, half days), I am still listening to A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, the virtues of which I have already extolled on a couple of occasions. This is one of those books that you want to listen to for the pleasure of it and the pain of finding out what happens next; and yet, you don’t want it to finish.

At the library, I found a book on CD – I have previously listened to a bunch of those in the car, but having been away from work for three years and thus not driving much on a regular basis, I haven’t had much use for them. Now, though, I have just over an hour six times a week, so I will be visiting the library for audio books again.
Anyway, the one I am listening to now is Trespass by Rose Tremain. I picked it out without knowing what it’s about, merely on the strength of the author’s name; I read The Colour some years back and loved it.
Trespass tells of siblings beginning to grow old and trying to deal with their past, of how and where to feel at home, of the ability to love and be loved.
Anthony Verey is a London antiques dealer in his mid-sixties having to face the decline of his business as well as of himself. He goes to visit his older sister, Veronica, who lives in France with her lover, Kitty, and decides to move to France and begin a new life there, in the sun.
The other pair of brother and sister are Aramond and Audran Lunel, also ageing inhabitants of their ancestral home; though the brother has taken the big house for himself and pushed his sister to live in a small bungalow on the edge of the land. Now, Aramond wants to sell and retire – and you can see where this is going, right?
The points of view through the book are with a little girl right at the beginning, then mainly Anthony and Kitty, Aramond and Audran – and Veronica coming in too, later – giving varying and sometimes opposite perspectives on relationships and the at times maddening insight into unspoken feelings and regrets. It is very well done. And, of course, there are several questions to be answered and a dramatic event that I am not going to spoil for you, should you wish to read the book.

I managed to catch up with podcasts at the beginning of this week – not entirely, I still have several Shakespeare plays waiting on ChopBard and the current Forgotten Classic, but that’s another matter – so I dove into one of Bill Bryson’s Short Histories, this one called At Home: A Short History of Private Life, read by the author himself. It runs to 16 hours of audio, and I got it on sale at Audible, so that was nice. This book takes the old rectory that is the current residence of the Brysons, as its starting point in the examination of how homes have developed, chiefly in England in the past 400 years or so. The quest moves from room to room, presenting architecture, furniture, lighting, appliances, servants, food, and more. The chapter on salt and spices takes you around the globe on daring sea voyages and explorations, the painfully slow realisation of the importance of diet to maintain heath – scurvy plays a huge part here – and the exchange of foodstuffs and diseases with newly discovered lands.

All in all, very interesting; the other day, I had just been discussing slavery in ancient Rome with my students and later listened to the chapter on servants, in which Bryson says that ‘they had servants as we today have appliances’.
The same can be said about slaves in Antiquity – or some of them, anyway: they were there to do the heavy work, the washing and cleaning and threshing and grinding, all of which is mechanised nowadays. And Cicero’s secretary, Tiro, functioned as a dictaphone & typewriter in writing down his speeches.
Even in 1978, when my family moved to Malawi, we acquired a house boy who among other duties did the washing. This was cheaper and easier and more reliable than shipping in a washing machine, as some other Danes did, because they were uncomfortable with the whole having-a-servant situation. But a washing machine would stop working when the electricity failed – which it probably would do more often, because the machine itself would put a strain on the supply – whereas employing and paying a man (or a woman) put money and thus food out there to people who really needed it.

Well, that’s it for this time – I will be back next week, and until then: have a great time, enjoy, take care of yourself and your loved ones!

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