Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Book review - Company of Liars - Karen Maitland

I've been a bit lax lately with doing book reviews. It's not that I haven't been reading, quite the opposite in fact. It's more that what I've been reading would have very limited appeal to the folks who read this blog.

Enough! Back to this tome. This is a book which is hard to categorise. Set during the plague of 1349, which decimated the English population, it's part historical novel, part fantasy. It resembles, in its concept, The Canterbury Tales, in as much as it concerns a group of people thrown together by circumstance, and each with a tale to tell.

Whereas the travellers in Marlowe's book join forces with the intention of a pilgrimage to Canterbury, and they pass their time be story-telling, these nine travellers are all trying to escape the plague which is quickly working its' way up from the South of England.

As they journey on, the reasons for their travelling begin to be revealed, by the help of a fey girl who reads runes. The stories that emerge often prove that back then, people were no different to people now in a lot of respects.

The stories are sometimes gruesome, often sad. Death and sorrow stalk their journey. Told from the point of view of Camelot, a seller of holy relics, the book ends with a totally unforseen twist - unforseen, but hinted at during one encounter.

It's well written and fast paced, and to be honest, I found it difficult to put down, reading it cover to cover in just 3 days, even though it is a tome of over 500 pages.

Well worth seeking out

Saturday, 23 September 2017

This new bike of mine....

Some people will know that, for reasons beyond my control, I had to part with my last Hornet a year ago. I've spent a year riding a CB500 (actually a nice bike - for an A2 licence holder)
For the past 3 months, I've been the owner of a CB650F

Hmmmm..........................it sure as hell ain't a Hornet

It's a good bike, it's competent, handles well, has better fuel consumption (typically 60-65 mpg). I like the looks..............so why don't I like the bike?

Simply that - it ain't a Hornet.

I don't get that buzz when I push it out of the garage in the morning.
I don't get that ear-to-ear grin when I'm chucking it through the twisties.

It's a Honda, it's a brilliant bike. It's reliable. It does what it says on the tin

It's souless AND IT AIN'T A HORNET

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Book Review - The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

In pride of place in my lounge stands a dollshouse; a beautiful 1:12 scale replica of an Art Deco house, time-frozen in 1938.
I bought this book at a discount shop, looking for some light reading and the subject matter making me believe that it would appeal to me.
My house is full of beautiful artisan-made articles, bought when money was easier, and costing many hundreds of pounds. And this book is equally full of wonderfully crafted descriptions and intrigues
I was not prepared for the sheer depth of this skillfully written story. Set in mid-17th. Century Amsterdam, at the point where the power of the Dutch East India Company was just beginning to turn, it is a story of intrigue, cruelty, and other-worldliness.
I thought it would be a book that would only appeal to like-minded people with an interest in miniatures, but I believe it will appeal to anybody who wants a good story.
It concerns a young girl from a faded genteel family, who marries a rich man who loves her, but does not want her, and his wedding present to her - a replica of their house in a cabinet, and the miniatures that she receives to furnish it,
I'm trying very hard not to give a clue as to the significense of these miniatures - to do so would be to ruin the drama, twists and turns of the story
Just go buy or borrow a copy and read it. You won't regret it

If I could give it a 6 I would, but as my top mark is 5, it must be 5/5

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The end of an era...............

Well, today, with a few twinges of sadness and regret, I watched a young lady ride away on what was my Honda Hornet, Jack. I hope she treats him well
I've lived with Hornets for the last 18 years, and for me, no motorcycle has performed consistently so well. But all good things must come to an end, and so it was, I regretably decided to part with my last Hornet.
I bought my first one, the first one in the country sold to a member of the public, on my birthday in 1998 - one of a very few Hornets to be 'R' registered.

Sadly, this was written off after only 4 months, by a stupid lady in a Porsche, who was too busy talking on her mobile to notice me at a standstill in front of her.
I'd already got a great liking for this small, but brilliant bike, so it was replaced by an identical machine.
Well, it may have been identical to start with, but it evolved into the LittleInsect, one of the most well-known Hornets in the country, and elsewhere

I won't bore you with the technicalities, but suffice it to say, that it was all carbon fibre and titanium, and tuned up to the hilt, and featured many unique one-off parts that weren't available on the open market. Even the rear light was unique.................(here pictured before the rear bodywork was remodelled in carbon)

After 14 years and 169,000 miles, it was wearing out, and so I reluctantly decided to part with it. Problem was, I couldn't stand the thought of anybody else riding it, so what to do? It was de-registered and totally taken apart and destroyed. You may consider that a waste, but I don't
Of course, after all those years, it just had to be another Hornet, and so I moved onto the latest evolution of the model.
Being me, I couldn't have just any old Hornet, could I? Nope, mine was one of only 2 to be done in the paint design for the Anniversary FireBlade. Meet Jack.........

After 4 years, and many more happy Hornet miles, my circumstances changed. Now retired and living on a pension, with health problems, I need something cheaper to run, and easier on my wrists.
I've opted for a Honda CB500F - a twin, as opposed to the four (so half the servicing costs) and a remarkable 80mpg, as opposed to 50-ish

But of course, did I settle for red or black? What do you think?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

and it is a little star! Just realised, I haven't told you about Twinkle. He's a little CB125F Honda, bought as a spare bike, to be used to run around town, shopping etc. to take the strain off my beloved Jack.
Problem is, he's such fun, I've been using him for some out of town rides too!
Anyway, Honda, in their infinite wisdom, named the paint colour Pearl Twinkle Yellow, so, Twinkle it is.
Here he is enjoying some late autumn sunshine and proclaimimg that his bright yellow body is every bit as pretty as a red tree!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Ah! They don't write them like they used to...........

How often have you heard that (generally from an older generation)? I think I may have been guilty of such comments myself from time to time.
Yeah, they used to write wonderful songs. They also wrote a lot of dross. (A wop bop a loo bop a wop boom bang)
And poetry...........I'm a huge fan of Lord Byron, and I must admit to not really understanding this current trend for Japanese Haiku. I mean, it doesn't rhyme or even scan, so how is it poetry?
But just once in a while, there comes a song, or a poem that simply takes my breath away. It can even be a song where the lyrics are true poetry.
And then......................
Watching the TV, or rather listening to it while my husband watches it, comes this advert. A quiet voice singing a song that appears to have wonderful lyrics.
So I investigate, and I'm right. It's a band called 'Sleeping At Last', who I've never heard of, and I doubt that this song is representative of their general output, but the song is beautiful. It's moving. It's lyrical, and it's true poetry. Add to that, a simple uncluttered melody, and you have something that will stay with me always:

now read, and listen...............

Friday, 22 May 2015

Photoshop or not?

And does it really matter?

You know, sometimes you spot a picture on the internet that really moves you, for whatever reason. And you want to share it with your friends to enjoy, so you post it to FaceBook.

Before you get a chance to draw breathe, odds are someone will yell 'Photoshop!' Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong. But does it really matter if the picture is genuine, or the concoction of somebody's imagination?

The picture was undoubtedly done for a reason, even if that reason is to fool people that it's real. Sometimes it's a tribute, such as this beautiful image of Marco Simoncelli, produced after his sad loss of life

Obviously a composed picture.

But what about this one, the shape of a spitfire shown in the clouds, which was published in the British press on the Commemoration of VE Day

Is it real? It would be a huge coincidence if it is. But does it matter? On such a day of remembrance, it is appropriate and respectful, and causes no harm to anyone.

Sometimes, it's not fake at all, but it may be something that people who haven't seen it in real life, can't believe exists.  Such as this one. People immediately yelled that it's fake. You can't possibly get that close to a fighter plane. Oh yes, you can. I've done it. The place is known as the Mach Loop in Wales. And you're so close to the planes flashing past, you can wave to the pilots and often get a cheery wave back.

But does it really matter? Surely the fact that the picture brings pleasure to others is enough? As long as it is not meant maliciously, or to pervert the course of justice or defraud, or to cause consternation, can't we just enjoy it for what it is?

So before you descry a picture as having been photoshopped, just think. Does it really matter? Or does the pleasure that picture is bringing to countless viewers far outweigh the fact that it might be fake.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

children's mittens

Needed a pattern for children's mittens. Spent ages searching through my extensive pattern collection, and couldn't find one I really liked.
So, I did what I always do in such cases........................it begins with G and ends with E.................

What it threw up was this charming pattern from Patterns For Crochet

This is an excellent site for free crochet patterns, and gives the advantage of the patterns being available in both UK and USA formats with a single click of the button.

It's a lovely simple pattern, with enough scope to alter design, size, colour etc. to suit your own needs.
I shall definitely be making more of these

Monday, 15 September 2014

Free Crochet pattern for baby booties

So, there you are. You've made that pretty layette for a friend's new baby, and you're left with around 10-15g of wool. What to do with it...............

Well, for years, I've used up such oddments to make booties, using a very old pattern that is simple, and which can be made up with endless variations.

Because the top is made in a separate piece, you can vary the design considerably. You can use any stitch you want, as long as you start and end with the same number of stitches. You can add stripes, give them a lacy picot top, work in a larger stitch, such as dtr,  and thread through ribbons, make them plain and sew on applique flowers or other designs.

You can make them smaller or bigger, just by adjusting the type of wool and/or the hook size.

The only limit is your imagination........

When I next make a pair, I'll add pictures, but this pattern is sooo simple, you don't really need them.

Instructions are U.K format, and these basic instructions will make a pair to suit 0-3 months.

Let's start with some DK wool and a size 4.50 hook....................

Cast on and make ch 28

Row 1: (RS) 1 dc in 2nd chain from hook, dc in each chain to end. Turn. (27 sts)

Row 2-5: ch 1, dc in first stitch, dc to end. Turn

Row 6: ch 1. 1 dc in first 4 st. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next 4 sts. Repeat from * to last 3 sts. 1dc in each of next 3 sts. Turn. (23 sts)

Row 7: (this row makes eyelets for threading tie) ch 1. 1dc in each of first 2 sts. *ch 1, miss next st, 1 dc in each of next 2 sts. Repeat from * to last 2 sts. 1dc in each of last 2 sts. Turn

Row 8: ch 1. 1dc in each st or ch 1 to end of row. Fasten off.

This completes the cuff. You can of course, make it longer simply by adding more rows after Row 5 or by working the cuff in a longer stitch, such as tr or dtr.

Just make sure you end up with 23 sts.

To work the foot:

Row 1: With RS of work facing. miss 7 sts and join wool with a sl st to next st. Ch 1, 1 dc in same st, 1 dc in each of next 8 sts. Turn. (9 sts)

Row 2 - 4: ch 1. 1 dc in each st to end. Turn

At this point, you could make the foot longer, by adding more rows, but remember, if you do, to adjust the number of stitches along the sides of the instep to correspond.

Now start shaping the foot..........................

Row 5: Ch 1. dc2tog, 1 dc in each st to last 2 sts. dc2tog. Fasten off

Sew up centre back seam.

Row 6: With RS facing, join wool at centre back seam. ch 1. 1dc in each of next 7 sts, 5dc down edge of instep, 3dc in corner st, 5dc across end of instep, 3dc in corner st, 5dc along edge of instep, 1dc in each of last 7 sts. Join to first st with sl st. (35 sts)

Row 7: ch 1. 1dc in each st to end. Join to first st with sl st.

Row 8: repeat Row 7 - a nice touch would be to work this row into the back loops only, to give a pleasant defining edge to the sole.

Now start decreasing for the sole:

Row 9: ch 1. dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 13 sts, dc2tog, 1dc in next st., dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 13 sts. dc2tog. Join to first st with sl st.

Row 10: ch 1. dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 11 sts., dc2tog, 1dc in next st., dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 11 sts. dc2tog. Join to first st with sl st.

Row 11: ch 1. dc2tog., 1dc in each of next 9 sts., dc2tog, 1dc in next st., dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 9 sts. dc2tog. Join to first st with sl st. Fasten off, leaving a long tail.

Use tail to join centre foot seam.

To make a tie to thread through the eyelets, either make a ch about 15-16 inches long, or thread ribbon through eyelets.

So there you have it. What could be simpler? I must have made dozens of these over the years, and seldom have I made 2 pairs the same!

If you're new to crochet, you will find this pattern so easy. To help you keep track of where you are, just count the stitches as you work, and that way you will know straight away if you have made a mistake. You might also find it helpful if you add a marker in a different colour at the start of every row (moving it up as you go), so that you can tell where to sl st the two ends together.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The futility of war.

Please take the time to read this article:

My father threw his poppy awaiy in disgust

That's one of the most honest articles I've read amongst all the dross that's currently being spouted. As a pacifist, I deplore war and aggression. Surely history has shown that it solves nothing? It's all very well saying 'we should remember them, so that it never happens again' - but it did, little more than 2 decades later, and it continues to happen, and so will it ever be, because man, like most animals, is territorial and naturally aggressive to perceived threats.

I spend quite a bit of time doing genealogical research on mine and my husband's family history, and there's two people that serve to always remind me of the true inequality of war. My grandfather was a humble gardener, who rose up through the ranks and became a highly decorated soldier, ending up as an aide to the Duke of York, later King George VI. On the other hand was my husband's Uncle John - sent home from the front as being 'unfit for service'. He was castigated by his family, and indeed the whole village where he lived, for being a coward. Three weeks later, he committed suicide. Of course, we now understand that he was suffering from PTSD (shell shock). Nobody mourns him. Enough is enough. Let them all rest in peace.