Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Originally uploaded by girl_of_bats
finished sock, a la la la la la la la la I finished a sock, I did it I did it I did it, wheeeeee!

Slightly happy about this.

Just a little.

This afternoon, I start the Second Sock.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Haircut Trauma

Well, the Littlun has had his hair cut.

The Boy is funny about his hair, and has been for pretty much all his life. He can deal with it being washed, in the bath - but then he loves his bath, it's his favourite time of day. What he refuses to deal with is having his hair brushed, or towel-dried, or blow-dried. He even tends to get a bit funny if you stroke it when giving him a cuddle. We have no idea why.

Our haircut plan was thrown a bit off course by the usual hairdressers' place being shut for a few days. Well, I say usual, the kid has had about 5 haircuts in his life so far, but you know what I mean. Still, we found another barber's shop that would do toddlers, and in we went. Littlun was sweetness and light, watching with interest as another little boy, probably about 5 or 6 years old, had his hair cut and styled. We played counting games and face-identification ("where's your mouth? Yay! Where's Daddy's ears? Yay! What's this? That's right, it's your nose!" etc) and then the stylist brought out a kiddie-sized cape.

"What are we doing today then?" asked the stylist.

Pip explained that all that was required was less hair. He wasn't worried about a style, just about there being less of the mop getting in the boy's eyes and being a battle to brush. He explained about the Boy having a problem with having his hair brushed and advised the stylist to just try and do a rough job as quickly as possible before he kicked off. The stylist looked at Littlun, settled happily on the big seat wearing the cape and watching things in the mirror, and uttered those fateful words, "oh, I'm sure it's not that bad."

He spritzed water all over the Littlun's hair, so far so good, and then began to comb it through. Littlun started to grizzle. It's not quite crying, but the eyes go wet and the mouth goes open and down at the corners like a drama tragedy mask, and a long noise that's somewhere between a cry and a groan starts up. But he was still sitting properly like a good boy, and Pip was next to him reassuring him that he was being a good boy.

The stylist appeared to think this was as bad as it would get, because he started to faff. And I mean faff. Taking the hair at the back of Littlun's head and snipping little feathery bits into it, trying to make sure everything's exactly even, fussing. Meanwhile Pip and I could tell the grizzle was doing the equivalent of a burning fuse, and the worst of the Mop - like the bits over the ears, and the bits getting in the eyes - was still firmly in place.

Another two or three minutes were bought with an apple and grape Snack Pack, and another two by using a phone to take pictures of Pip, Littlun and me and then showing them to Littlun with a "who's that?" The drink should have got us a good five minutes except that for the first time in his life, he didn't want a drink.

Then the proper crying started. Real Tears and plenty of snot, then hiccupping sobs. He doesn't stay still when he's like that, so instead of having him in the chair, Pip had to pick him up and cuddle/hold him in front of the stylist, and the stylist finally realised that we might not have been joking about there being a problem with haircuts and started actually cutting away the hair that was the reason for this haircut rather than faffing and styling at the back.

The top, back and sides more or less done, all that remained was to try and get the bits at the nape of the neck. Oh dear. This was the point at which the full-on tantrum of a two year old boy, who is the size of a 3-4 year old, and who has been holding on and trying not to kick off for more than a quarter of an hour, really finally kicked off. Pip had to go from cuddling him to out-and-out restraining him. People walking past outside were stopping to stare in the window. People inside were giving me the Bad Mother Gaze which I always object to as I'm not a parent - but what can you do, go up to everybody and say "he's nothing to do with me"? The stylist kept trying to get the last bit that still needed to be done, and got kicked for his trouble. Eventually the stylist gave up.

Littlun, naturally, started to be quiet again as soon as he was back in his buggy*, was cheerfully waving and saying "bye-bye" through his sniffles as we left, and was un-tear-stained and happy as anything when we staggered back into Pip's house for a much-needed cup of tea. Little GIT.

We're not sure what to do. We could go through this again and again and again. We could let the boy have long hair until such time as he can participate in a reasoned verbal discussion about the difference between "having a haircut" and "being viciously bludgeoned to death", and which of these warrants the screaming heebie-jeebies. We could sneak up on him in the middle of the night with the nail scissors and hope he doesn't wake. Unfortunately he doesn't like hats either so if it went wrong, it wouldn't be so good. Or there's always chloroform... your suggestions?

*we have tried Haircut In The Buggy. It doesn't work. It's not only awkward for the person doing the cutting, but the strop is increased as Littlun realises he's been had... and of course, there isn't then an opportunity for him to shut up when he's put in the buggy.

Moron Moment

Yesterday, I made a very very stupid sock-related cock-up.

Flushed with success after having negotiated my way through the heel shaping, I picked up the stitches from the sides of the heel flap with no problem at all and forged ahead with the shaping of the instep.

And then I ballsed it up. And the mistake I made was so simple, so stupid, so... so bloody typical of me, that I'm still angry now.

The first row I was supposed to do was kind of complicated (by "I am Mary knitting in the round for the first time" standards). If I'd made a mistake on this row, I would not have minded. It would have been upsetting but not unexpected. So I paid as much attention as I could and very carefully dealt with the slips and decreases and stitch markers and so on. I counted like I was auditioning for Sesame Street and felt very pleased with myself. "Repeat these rows until X stitches remain" said my pattern. Marvellous, I thought, and steamed through another eight of these complicated rows before my brain finally realised what it was saying.

"Repeat these rows until X stitches remain"

"these rows"

Rows plural. I've been doing the same row, over and over again. I examined the pattern again, and nestling underneath all the gibber gibber ssk2tog hokey cokey and turn around, was the innocuous line:

"2nd Round: Knit."

Somehow, my enthusiastic brain had skipped this little instruction.

In non-knitter terms:
I should have gone complicated, plain, complicated, plain, complicated, plain, complicated, plain, etc.
Instead I went complicated, complicated, complicated, complicated, complicated, complicated, complicated, complica - oh BUGGER.

So I had to do this. Right back to where I was the night before.

Happily, I've picked up okay and am now back on the complicated/plain bit, having used up almost all of the wiggly wool. There's also been a bit more progress on the jumper for Littlun (which I would photograph, but it's dark blue stocking stitch, so there doesn't seem much point). I've just about finished the first ball of yarn, there's six more to go in total. So he may well get his jumper while he still fits it and in time for the cold weather.

Today Pip and I are taking Littlun for a haircut. Last time we did this, it was spur of the moment - we'd just had lunch and saw a hairdressers with no queue. Littlun was tired and had been sitting still for his lunch and wasn't sure what was going on, except he was sure he didn't like what was going on, and so he screamed himself sick - yep, screamed until he actually vomited all over the cape and the chair and the floor.

This time, we have a plan. We're going in the morning - so Littlun will be awake, happier, and we can bribe him with foods, rather than full, unbribable, and wanting his nap. Pip is making sure there's assorted treats, toys, and a drink in the bag, and we may try having the hairdresser cut Pip's hair first with Littlun on his lap, to show him it's not scary and Daddy likes it and what have you. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Help needed

Help needed
Originally uploaded by girl_of_bats
This morning, I saw Carie's confirmation that I'd got the right idea for how to follow the instructions for the heel flap and verily I did rejoice, because Carie knows her sockage.

Alas, as my knitting speed increases, my sense of accomplishment becomes short-lived. It's taken less than a day to reach the end of that set of instructions and now I am perplexed.

The pattern does have a copyright bit on it, which I respect and I promise I am trying to not type out the whole thing in daily instalments on my blog. The trouble is that I have nobody in a 15-mile radius who I know who can do socks. The local yarn store is beyond rubbish. The nearest knitting group is Norwich (or, as I keep getting told everywhere I enquire, there is a cross-stitch group once a month in Beccles (ten miles from here and about 2 buses a year) which I might enjoy - however I doubt they know socks either). So I must ask internet peoples for help. But, in order for internet peoples to help me, internet peoples must know what it is I am actually trying to do.

Instructions are as follows:
1st Row: Slip first st, P16 (half stitches plus 2 on right needle), P2tog, P1, turn.
2nd Row: Slip first st, K5, ssk2tog, K1, turn.
3rd Row: Slip first st, P6, P2tog, P1, turn.
4th Row: Slip first st, K7, ssk2tog, K1, turn.
Continue in this way taking in one more stitch each row until all the heel flap stitches have been included.

Looking at the photo... Needle 1 is empty. Needle 2 has 30 sts on it. Needles 3 and 4 each have 15 sts on them. Total, 60 sts. If you click the photo, you'll go to it in my flickr stream where it is labelled with notes. Feel free to add to those notes.

I do not even begin to understand. Well, I understand "k" and "p" and "slip," and I even understand "P2tog" and "ssk2tog", more or less. But I can't seem to put it in any sort of context. Where do I start? Which needle? Which direction? How does one "include" the heel flap stitches? Does "heel flap stitches" mean the 30 sts on needle 2, or the stitches going down the sides of the heel flap, or the stitches on needles 3 and 4, or what?

The upside of all of this is that the jumper - the nice, simple, chunky yarn, chunky needles, small person sized jumper - is coming along nicely even if it does dye my hands blue.

edited 21/08/07 to add tags

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Not what I've expected

After a lovely week, as detailed in my last post, I waved goodbye to Steve (gone home to do more studying) and spent Sunday afternoon sat on the front doorstep with my neighbour S (of mousey-fire fame) with a nice cool drink watching the carnival go by.

The carnival was headed by a fire engine. This caused a certain amount of embarassment on S's part. She has assured me it won't happen again.

It was a very strange carnival. There would be, for example, a samba band playing really upbeat, carnival-ey music, and a group of a dozen or so enthusiastic dancers in bright costumes with lots of feathers, jumping and clapping like they meant it, and then a decorated float with non-dancers giving it a good effort and having a good time... and then a trailer with a boring, unadorned logo on each side for a local business, no more than a mobile advertisement and not a very good one at that, followed by a half-arsed effort at a float with a bunch of people in almost-fancy-dress sitting on it chatting or worse yet, looking bored. In particular, the Lowestoft Sea Cadets were the most depressed, bored-looking, unhappy group of people I have ever laid eyes upon even outside of a carnival setting. But then, after the scowls and immobile people, would be another bunch who were enjoying it. I would go so far as to say it was a bipolar carnival. Very confusing.

By 5pm, the roads were reopened and the drizzle had started. I looked forward to having an early night, and then on Monday, getting things straightened out at the flat - you know, getting some food shopping done, doing some dishes, attending to Mt Laundry and the suchlike.

This sterling plan was knocked right off course when I woke up on Monday with what I can only describe as a violent stomach upset. At first it wasn't too awful. There have to be some bonuses to being long-term ill, and one of them is that you're used to feeling awful. So if you're having a good spell, and then get a little short-term illness, you can deal with the feeling-awful-ness easier than those around you, because it's not much worse than your usual kind of Bad Day, even if it does take a little longer to shake off.

By 11am, however, I was full-on sweating, shivering, and curled up on the sofa cuddling a big bowl. I was trying to have little sips of water to rehydrate, but it was an effort to keep them down. I wanted some painkillers, but keeping those inside me was out of the question. This was the point at which S turned up at my door. She'd not had a good night herself - she'd been at the hospital for reasons of her own - but as soon as she saw the state I was in, she started trying to look after me, making sure I had a drink, asking if I needed anything, offering to go to the shops, asking if I wanted her to hang about or if I'd rather be left to it. After a few minutes she went home, having promised to check on me again in the afternoon.

To be totally honest, I wasn't expecting her to come back in the afternoon. S often has trouble with what day it is and with remembering what she should be doing if it isn't written down. But she did. She even remembered that I'd had no cold drinks in the flat and had brought me a bottle of squash "in case you want something that isn't plain water". I think I owe her some chocolate.

After about 4pm I started to pick up a bit. I spent an hour eating a slice of toast and then, joy of joys, I had a painkiller. The next slice of toast took just half an hour, and then I microwaved some rice for dinner.

Today I'm very nearly back to normal. Well, normal by my standards. S came up again this afternoon and we were each relieved to see that the other was looking considerably better. I've done most of my washing-up and hopefully tomorrow I'll get some shopping done.

I've also done quite a lot of knitting today. I am very glad that I have the bits I need to work on the jumper for Littlun because I have run up against an obstacle with the sock. I'll consult mum on the matter tomorrow but I don't know if she can do socks or not... here's what's happening. I've gone round and round and round, 60sts divided between 3 needles, first ribbing, and then plain knit-every-round for the ankle part of the sock (so it looks the same as stocking stitch, knit a row, purl a row, on regular knitting needles). Ok? This is boring simple easy plain sock. Now: how do I do this next bit?

K15 and turn
If I've got this right, I start from my marker for "beginning of round", and knit 15 sts, and then, I turn my knitting around, so that the last stitch I completed, the 15th knit stitch I just did, is now in my left hand?)

1st Row: Slip first st, P29, turn (30sts on this needle) Slide other 30sts onto spare needles.
If I've got this right, this means that I should be looking at the 15 knit stitches I just did, and going back across them (as if I was doing back-and-forth knitting rather than round-and-round knitting). I should slip the first one and purl the next 14. I should then continue purling, onto the same needle, the next 15 stitches. The other 30 stitches, the ones I haven't done anything with, these get put onto the other needles to keep them safe while I'm buggering about with just these 30?

What do I do with my cute little marker that tells me where the beginning of the round is? Do I keep it where it is, or discard it, or put it somewhere else?

*sigh* I speak more Knittingese than I did six months ago, but really, I sometimes wonder if these patterns will ever cease to confuse the hell out of me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Incredibly active week

Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's Steve, I don't know, but I'm feeling better the last week or so than I have in months if not years. So I'm taking full advantage and have been (by my standards) exceptionally busy. I've done something most days, and even when I've woken up going *pop* *crunch* *yelp* "oh god, that was stupid, when will I learn when to stop" I haven't actually regretted overdoing things. The ever-lovely Steve has helped by making sure I haven't had to use up my energy on anything like washing-up or cooking or grocery-shopping or cleaning the bathroom, it's just been a holiday from all of that, a week of energy expenditure almost purely on enjoyable things.

Following the pizza and the cookie crumble from my last blog on Friday, plus the joy of the postman turning up with a package of Sock Kit, we packed my suitcase and zoomed vaguely westwards to Chateau Evilstevie.

On Saturday afternoon, we went to the B3ta Birmingham Bash. We managed to stay for about two hours which was good. Gorgeous weather meant that smokers and non-smokers were all happy sitting outside by the canal watching the world go by.

On Sunday afternoon, with me insisting that tired or otherwise the weather was too good to waste, we decided to go to the park for ice cream, relaxation, knittings and photography. On the way to the park, we stopped at the house of a couple of friends, where we were invited in to join them for a barbecued beefburger. Yum.

On Monday, we went into Leamington to have tea and scones at the Victoria Coffee Shop.

On Tuesday, all that was planned was me going to the knitting group in the evening. Unfortunately Steve made the mistake of mentioning that there's a big Hotel Chocolat in Dudley's Merry Hill shopping centre. Off to Dudley we did vrooooom. After dribbling in Hotel Chocolat, we got some lunch and then I decided I wanted a haircut. Well... I've needed a haircut for some time, but I never get round to it - it's not the sort of thing I plan in advance, you know? So the last haircut I had was for my mum's wedding last September. Oops. The first EMPTY hairdressers we went into told us they couldn't possibly manage to do my hair as a walk-in, so we wandered along to the next one, where they took me in and then Steve went to amuse himself elsewhere for an hour.

Tuesday evening was the knitting group, same as always, very enjoyable. I shouldn't have gone out during the day though, cos I was SPACED. I just couldn't follow a conversation. But, I was given a couple of very useful hints and tips on the Sock, and I've got a new project as well. I'm doing a jumper for Littlun. It seems kind of tricky to find patterns for kids that age/size, probably because they grow so much that it seems a little futile to put many pounds and many hours into creating a beautiful garment that they will get to wear (read: spill ice cream and/or ribena all over) about four or five times before they've grown out of it again. But, it will make Pip happy. The pattern book I got was Miss Bea's Seaside. I'll be doing the "Breeze Sweater" (5th pic down on that page), nice and simple, although the ribbing for the cuffs is a bit different. Instead of the usual knit-two-purl-two, it's RS K5: P1, K5, P1, K5 etc and WS P4: K1, P1, K1, P3, K1, P1, K1, P3 etc, looks like this.

Wednesday, we went back to the Victoria for another cup of tea and scones. I went into Monsoon (70% sale!) and bought BARGAINS. Steve was extremely patient, following me around the store and holding the things I wanted to try on as I revelled in being able to have one hand on my stick to prop me up and the other hand to rummage through the racks - one of the most difficult parts of shopping for me is running out of hands.

In the evening we met up with a friend for dinner and Steve got TOYS. (note from Steve here: Toys=PC and diskless terminal which were going to be skipped as the company's being dissolved. Obtained with other bits by a mate who used to work there for "a nominal fee" - £2 apparently. Pizza exchanged for the toys :)

(Mary regains control of laptop) Thank you darling.

Thursday, was packing of suitcase and heading off home. The A14 was/is a nightmare, as half of it is closed. It took us almost twice as long as usual to get back. We had to stop for an extra break at Billingford Windmill which looked lovely in the sunset. Only Steve took photos though. I was too busy hanging out of the open passenger door with my head between my knees (the usual attitude of prayer to the gods of Pharma, accompanied by an under-the-breath chant of "please let these painkillers work soon") scaring the locals. No, really. A nice lady actually came out of her house to come over and ask if I was okay, did I want a glass of water, if you go for a little walk about a hundred yards that-way, there's a little bridge where you can just relax and it doesn't smell so much of cow dung... which was nice of her. I don't like it when people fuss, but it is nice when people (1) show concern for fellow human being in obvious distress or difficulties and (2) are friendly.

Friday we went to meet some assorted friends in Norwich at the Cider Shed. It's a nice place, really relaxed. My stepdad plays there sometimes. We were sat outside as there was an under-14 in our group and they aren't allowed in the main bar, so it was a bit chilly. Chilliness was easily combatted by my ordering a nice cup of tea (and it was a nice cup of tea), so just to add to that "Friday night out" feeling, I got the Sock out as well. Socks are a very portable form of knitting.

This picture contains many elements of today's blog so far.

Saturday, I started writing this, but there was a bit too much for me to finish! We went and had lunch with Pip and the Littlun. This was a bad idea, as they're getting over ILL and so Littlun's temper and appetite are not as they should be. He ate about one small slice of kids' pizza, half a carrot stick, and a few grapes, in between grizzles and grumps. So we went to the beach, the boys dug a big hole, and we put the boy in it. Many jokes about "they sent me down t'pit when I wa but two year old..." and so on. It was fun.

Steve goes back home by himself this morning - definitely this morning, as this afternoon is Lowestoft Carnival so the roads are either closed for the afternoon, or jammed up. I am going to miss him very much. The only reason I'm typing this rather than having a cuddle is because he's asleep and it's important to be well-rested before tackling the A14, but I may have to go wake him soon.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Much niceness

I have been slightly unexpectedly Evilstevied this week.

This is very definitely a good thing. However, I haven't quite recovered from the airshow, and it's really hard to stick to pacing when you're excited about seeing a boyfriend you've been missing for about a month and a half. So this morning, he is still in bed, and I am typing this, because I'm too sore to be able to lie still and don't want to keep him awake.

He'll be here a couple of days, probably. After that we're not sure what happens. He wants to be back here again for a party in a week's time, but definitely has to go home first, so we're toying with two options. Option one is that he goes home alone, then in a week he comes back on the bike, nice long ride for him on his own, and we hope that I will be feeling okay enough to go from my flat to the party on the bike with him. I'd say there's about a 40% chance of me being able to manage that, and I would definitely enjoy it. Option two is that I go back with him and spend a week at his, before the two of us come back here in the car. Unfortunately it has to be the car because there is no way on this earth that I could even dream of managing the several hours it takes to get from his to mine sitting up and hanging on the back of a motorbike. Snoozing on a bike is not recommended...

Of the two, my personal and absolutely selfish preference is for me to go to his for a week and come back in the car. I would get to say hi to the people at the knitting group, and catch up with other friends, and go for tea and scones, and so on, it would be fantastic. However, I strongly suspect that Evilstevie could do with a nice long summer ride on his bike. Plus, he is supposed to be studying, and I can be a bit of a distraction from that, whereas if I'm not there, he only gets distracted by, well, everybody else he knows, plus the internet and assorted Shiny Things. Um. Remind me again why I'm staying away?

I am eagerly awaiting delivery of a Sock Kit from Web Of Wool. I was a little concerned that it would arrive simultaneously with Steve, but it didn't. This is good because it means when it does arrive, I can be very excited, rather than splitting my "excited about things on the doorstep" capacity between the two. You know, like birthdays, when you have lots of presents, and you don't have enough "wow, that's fantastic!" to go around. Sense?

The yarn I've chosen is a plain lilac one. I could have had any amount of self-patterning yarns, but I figured, first attempt, don't want to get confused and muck it up, just keep it simple and basic. Boring? Yes. But a higher likelihood of success, too.

Mum doesn't get why I (or anyone else) would want to knit socks. Her take on it is that I can go out and buy socks, about 3 pairs for a fiver, so why would I want to spend the same kind of money for just one pair of socks that I have to make myself? I argued that the same is true of most knitting - it's hardly a way of providing budget clothing for your family any more. She agreed, but said that a hat or a jumper or a bag or similar is at least something people see. Which is a fair point. But they probably assume it was shop-bought anyway. The only people who look at a garment and are impressed by how loveleyly (vocab) it's been done and pay attention to the detail, are the knitter, and possibly the recipient. Everyone else is sort of beside the point.

Mostly, however, I just want to see if I can. I like finding out I can do things.

Today, I think I am going to see if Steve wants to go and have lunch at the Pizza and Pancake Co in Lowestoft. It's a really nice place. They do pizzas, sweet and savoury pancakes, and pasta. They have this lunchtime deal where you get any small pizza or small pasta dish and a visit to the salad bar for about £6. And they do gorgeous desserts. My personal favourite, and the one I've got a hankering for today, is the Cookie Crumble - a big sundae glass with loads of chocolate sauce, cream, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, and chunks of broken choc-chip cookies throughout. It is a thing of beauty.

Perhaps I should have breakfast first.