Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Nuart Aberdeen: Taking it to the Streets

This past weekend saw the grey city turn a little more colourful, with the first ever Nuart Aberdeen Festival.

The Girl observed that she had never seen any street art in the city and I realised she was right.


You are  not in Walthamstow anymore, Roo!

On Saturday we went to the UK premiere of Saving Banksy.
Predictably, the event was sold out, because everyone has heard of Banksy.

On Sunday, with The Girl back on the train to London, I went to a showing of Beautiful Losers, preceded by the world premiere of Axel Void's short film "Play".
Aside from the crew of the Nuart Festival, there was only a handful of people in the audience.
It was utterly inspiring.
I came out of the cinema burning with creative fire.
Wonderful!

I wandered the streets with my map of the street art installations.
There is hope for this place.



Look closely, people!

On Monday I had the day off work and I settled down with my paintbox.

The tattoo I do not own reads "Very Very Circus".

I might settle for embroidering it on my shirt sleeve.



Monday, 10 April 2017

Living the Dream


Listen to this song... and imagine how you might dance to it...
Got it in your mind?
You are probably thinking something Latin, perhaps a tango?

OK - press RESET in your mind.
This weekend I took part in a two day Dance Bootcamp at Edinburgh's Dance Base.
Two full working days of dance workshops, in an astonishing range of styles from Ballet through Roaring 20's, Werk It, Afro Cuban, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Reggaeton and the gentle-sounding "Floorwork".

Floorwork... are you visualizing some lolling around on a yoga mat with deep breathing and whale song?
Ha!
Floor Work was Hard Work!
It was led by the amazing Chiara Pascale, whose dance style is hip hop based.
You can find her on YouTube - this is a good example of her work.

The Floorwork routine, to the accompaniment of  "Bust Your Windows", began with what I would describe as a full drop - not a technical dance term.
Basically, you go from standing up to lying flat on your back on the floor.
No mat.
And then you pull back up through your chest, twist, turn, roll, sideways plank, twist and turn a bit more.. and somehow find you are back up on your feet, taking a few salsa steps before performing a few more explosive movements... The End.

I began this routine feeling afraid.
Very  afraid.

I am not a natural hip-hopper.  I am too much of a wafter, up on my wobbly toes, with lots of expressive arms to distract from my uncoordinated feet.

But after about half an hour of feeling like a cissy, I let go and just... dropped.
Wow!
Empowerment!

I would bust the windows of your car, I really would, if I had to.  If you really pushed me.
Don't push me, dude.

And that was just one class.

The teachers at Dance Base were all incredibly inspiring and positive and inclusive.
We were a very mixed group of the young(-ish), the old, the pregnant (who did not "drop"!), the frightened and the confident.
But I think we all came out of the weekend feeling like we could save the world through dance.

I have never felt so alive.
Ever.
After the first 8 hours

Can I give up the day job and become a dancer?
Err...no.  I have no talent, technique or skill.
But I have ENERGY!
This is amazing to me.

If you get the chance to dance - just take it.
Go on - Bust Your Windows!



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Springy Knits


Daffodils are blooming all the way down the farm road - a legacy from FL's first wife, who loved them.  The grandchildren recited Wordsworth at her funeral.

My own more restrained tulip planting is looking promising - pictures will no doubt follow!

I finished my Fladerblom socks, knit from the Swedish.
The book is now available in English I believe, but I managed to navigate an i-cord cast-on and colour chart transitions in the original language, with a bit of help from google translate.



If you look closely, you will see that one sock has two stripes of zigzags where there should be diamonds.  
This is obviously a deliberate design feature, adding asymmetric charm.
I am all about the asymmetric charm :)


I am currently obsessed by working on my Always In My Heart Shawl by Isabell Kraemer.

It is the perfect combination of interesting but simple, memorisable stitch patterns.

And the yarn... the yarn!
I am in love with this DK BFL / masham blend with added sparkle from The Knitting Goddess.
You probably can't tell from these pictures, but the sparkles have taken on the dye, for a rather more subtle effect than the usual in-ya-face bling of silver Stellina.
A little bit more sophisticated?
And definitely squooshy.
I can't wait to wear this shawl!


Meanwhile, my portable knitting is the second of my Wildflower Patch Baerenwolle socks, in the Meadow Sock pattern by the Knitting Expat, Mina Philipp.


My delight in this yarn is unabated.
And the regular texture of the slipstitch pattern sets it off its variegated colours beautifully.
I am coming to appreciate such subtleties more and more.

My next sock will almost certainly be another Mina design.
I have just bought her New York Sock Collection after a ridiculous period of prevarication.

I plan a pair of Avenues Socks with another skein of Baerenwolle, probably in Ambivert, a suitably spring-like green with pinky peachy patches.
Lovely!






Monday, 3 April 2017

This Week's Song

I promise I have things to say about knitting...
But for the moment, have a song:




Monday, 27 March 2017

Cultural Pursuits

Crazy Gym Woman has been working on her social life.


In the past two weeks I have attended three Events.
Four, if you count a memorial service. That was emotional.

It has been an interesting personal challenge, to get out there and find Other People.
I have spoken to: two women of a similar age to myself, an engineer, an air traffic controller, several postgraduate students, one undergraduate and some researchers.  None of these people had ever crossed my path before, so from that point of view it has been positive.

But it is hard, being out in the world as a lone woman with nothing but a knitted sock and an asymmetric fringe to hide behind.
I have seen two cracking films, though!
And I have learned much more than I ever thought possible about: fungus, extreme rock climbing and the nature of the self.
LOL
I sure know how to live!



It has been disconcerting to discover how casually bitter other women can be.
One entertained me to a lengthy diatribe on the subject of professors who park at the sports centre without doing any sport.
Another explained that she had steel rods in her back and that she would like to give her pain to people who use disabled persons' toilets.
Do I have a particularly sympathetic look in my eye?!
Or is this just how women interact with each other, on the basis of an assumed shared misery?
That is of no use to me.
If I am going to talk to a stranger, I do not want to know about their unhappiness or anger within 30 seconds of meeting.
It happens in the workplace too.  So much female negativity!

So I find myself talking to the men.
But I don't have any patience for football or rugby, the common currencies for idle chat.


Which leaves me talking to myself...
Or reading, or writing, or knitting, or dancing, or walking the fields, or gardening, or...
Herrumph.
I want to live a full life, dammit!

So I take my sock out and about.
We share a coffee, my sock and me, scanning the horizon and eavesdropping on other people's conversations.
Thinking:  "You could be my friend, if only you knew me!"
Smiling quietly to myself.
Waiting.

I ponder moving into the city, but it is a relief to retreat to my hermitage.
Maybe I should make it mine, after all.
Invest more energy into making it my home.
Somewhere I might invite friends to visit without feeling the need to apologise, to excuse the wreckage of the past.
But that feels like a betrayal.
Which brings me back to thinking I need to start again somewhere else.
A fresh start.
Become another person.
With other people.
But where are they?




Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Can't Stop The Feeling

So... I am on fire with energy right now.
It is, quite frankly, terrifying.
I can't sit still long enough to knit and I have to take dance breaks at my desk.
It is entirely possible that there is something amiss and I am going to get myself checked out at the GP... just in case.
It does not escape me that FL always had a power surge before a relapse.
Zara embroidered sweatshirt
But if this is a fit new version of me, I like her, thanks!
As already mentioned, I am at the gym every morning before work.  My only day off is Saturday, when I go to a Sh'bam class. Then there is Jazzercise twice a week in the evening.
So the planned sedentary, knitting-based holiday was not going to work for me this year.
Fortunately I was able to cancel and someone else has taken my place.
But what to do instead?
Zara embroidered dress
I looked at writing holidays.
And writing-with-walking holidays.
And knitting-with-walking holidays.
But walking is not really my thing.
I am... a dancer?!

Pause for that to sink in to my confused brain.

So my excitement level went through the roof when I discovered a Ballet Retreat in Leeds at the Northern Ballet School.
OMG!
Three days of dance-related activity in Yorkshire.
Bliss.
Sadly it is fully-booked, but I am on the waiting list.
Zara dress

So I kept looking... and discovered a Dance Bootcamp in Edinburgh... in two weeks' time.
SO EXCITING!
15 hours of dance, in a multitude of styles, for a full range of abilities...
...which is just as well, because I may have energy and enthusiasm but my technique is pants.

Zara t shirt

And a confession...I also might have an unhealthy obsession with Zara right now.
Um, yeah.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Grief (and Other) Works

So what have I been reading?

Not much in the sense of ink-on-paper books, which I regret.
I have bought a few hard copy books this year, but I spend less time sitting down than I used to, and I don't have the skills to exercise and read at the same time.



So I can tell you I have bought Black Wave... but have not got beyond the first chapter.
And Story Genius - unopened.
I swallowed whole a Lucy Dillon novel All I Ever Wanted so promptly bought The Secret of Happy Ever After , but didn't get past the first few pages.

However, I have been "reading"  plenty of audiobooks.  Not at the gym, but certainly on long walks round the fields, on train journeys, while knitting, and in the hours before dawn when sleep evades me.

My most mammoth read to date has been City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg.
At 37 hours and 54 minutes it took me three months to get through and I admit I almost gave up several times when I failed to make the necessary connections between the various characters as the plot unfolded.
If you liked Underworld by Don Delillo I think you might like this.
At some points I felt like I was immersed in one of those interminable "journey through the post-apocalytic city" dreams which used to haunt me.
A couple of the characters will stay with me for a while:  Charlie and Mercer in particular.
But it really was awfully long.

Just now I am listening to Grief Works by Julia Samuel.
This is a book about loss and how different people deal with it.
I would say it is essential reading for anyone in a bereaved state.
Several of the stories have struck a chord with me.
It is incredibly helpful to realise that the waves of insanity I experience are not unique to me.
While tackling a serious issue, it can be quite a funny book because of the author's underlying compassionate humour.
One woman homes in on inappropriate romantic connections "like a heat seeking missile" after the death of her loved one.
Ha!
I love that description of a truly self-destructive compulsion in the aftermath of loss.
Except there is no "aftermath": it's a constant, always ready to catch you out.
I see FL quite often in the street.
I hear his voice in an entirely different accent.
It unhinges me sometimes.
It helps to know that this is "normal".

I had a backlog of Audible credits after the City on Fire marathon and perhaps rashly downloaded City of Friends, the latest Joanna Trollope novel.
I managed the first two chapters before my irritation with a jangling cavalcade of regional accents got the better of me and I gave up.  I might come back to it one day.

Next up is In The Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant.
I'm really looking forward to that one:  Lucrezia Borgia, Machiavelli - fantastic!

Monday, 13 March 2017

For the Love of Baers

On Saturday I caught the early train to Edinburgh, for the Yarn Festival.

I cast on a new Meadow Sock for the journey, using Baerenwolle BAERfoot Sock in the Wildflower Patch colourway.  I turned the first heel on the way home again on Sunday.

Instagram had been full of pictures of the crowds on Friday and I admit I was scared it was going to be a bit overwhelming. I don't do well in crowds.  I had to dispense with most of my handknits very early on (heat).  But my Mind The Gap socks attracted a few comments.

It was lovely to meet up with knitterly friends, old and new.


I was not planning to buy much, other than a copy of Interpretations Volume Four, but when I squooshed this bfl / masham blend from The Knitting Goddess it had to come home with me.

I bought the coal and turquoise colors, with a particular project in mind, but now I am thinking I might make a second Iara stole.  I absolutely love the one I have  - by far the most elegant piece of knitwear I own - and it will be gorgeous in these colours.

And that is all I bought in Edinburgh.

I had really wanted some of the double knitting version of the above yarn with added sparkle, but Joy had left it at home.  She said it was almost sold out and was unlikely to be available in dk weight again.
So you can probably guess what I did when I got home myself...?
Oh yes - it will indeed be mine!
I bought it in charcoal and jade - now both sold out.
That is earmarked for an Always in My Heart shawl.

Always in My Heart by Isabell Kraemer
My minimalism at the yarn festival had a strange effect, making me rebel against my self-control, because on Sunday evening an idle scroll through Instagram triggered another trip to the Baerenwolle site, for the latest shop update.


An After Eight colourway?
Oh me oh my yes please!
That's on its way.. and it is not on its own.

Sorry, not sorry!


Monday, 6 March 2017

Wild and Woolly Thinking


The first whiff of this post was distinctly sock-heavy.
Until this weekend, the sole-surviving knitting projects on my needles were socks:  speckled, cabled, colourwork ... a sock for every occasion.

And I was enjoying myself, in a calm sort of way, footering away in orderly rounds.
But it wasn't exactly setting my world on fire.
I became quietly besotted by Baerenwolle BAERfoot sock and scooped up a few destash deals.
And signed up for a 3-month subscription to the sock yarn club.
Warm woolly contentment.
Ahhhh.


But there was a niggling itch, a feeling of irritation that maybe this was not enough.
That if this was the best that knitting could do for me I might as well stay at home next weekend and not go to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival after all...?

Ha!

Friday was a stressful day, a Cadbury's Chocolate Buttons sort of day.
At lunchtime, I came across Stephen West's new Wannasheep video on youTube.
I sent it to (almost) everyone I knew who needed to be cheered up.

I took Stephen's advice, and began a new shawl, the Marled Magic Mystery Shawl.
I gathered a great heap of stashed yarns - full skeins, partial skeins, leftovers and minis.
A palette of stormy grey and purple with citrussy neon brights.


I felt like a painter, mixing rivers of colour with my needles.

And I knitted.
And I knitted.
And I knitted some more.
EXCITING!!!!
So.
Much.
Fun!

I got my groove back, knitters!






Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Morning of My Day

How do I get back into this space, where my words take on meaning outside of my own head?


Let me begin by telling you about my morning.

I wake at 4.30am, as usual.  Rather than risk losing that moment of wide-awake clarity, I switch on the light and hug my knees to my chest for a lovely long lower-back stretch.  That is perhaps my favourite moment of the entire day, right there:  that stretch.  Feeling my spine elongate, ready for the moment of release as my arms go up and my feet power down, toes flex and point, wrists crack, fingers spread wide to greet the day.

I might lie there for half an hour, ordering my thoughts and making plans.  Time seems to stretch with my limbs:  five minutes at 5am lasts much much longer than it does at 6 or 7.

By 5.30, my porridge is bubbling and my herbal tea steaming.
Shower, moisturise, struggle into gym-wear in a battle of racer-backed elastic underpinnings.
Stop to inhale the essential oils that linger after the soap, the rinse, the cream.
Breathe more deeply.
Gather myself together.
Trainers on.

Backpack - check
Water bottle - check
Workbag - check
Car keys - check
Phone - check
ID - check

And somehow by now it is pushing 6.20, 6.30, and I can't understand where the time has gone.
I aim to be in the gym by 7am - it's as good a time as any.

My drive into the city is punctuated by Radio 1, Radio 2, the soundtrack of Hamilton - whichever of these suits my mood.
Sometimes I can drive for miles before I meet another car.
Other days there are deer, badgers, pheasants, tractors, aggressive men in sports cars overtaking me at corners on single track roads.
There is always a moment of pause as the sea appears on the horizon, just before the traffic lights.
Today the sky was pink, it was lilac, it was golden and everything was calm in the sharp frosty air.
And then I am into the bustle of traffic.  Buses, lorries, countless 4 x 4s with their personalised number plates, the occasional jogger, a cyclist or two.
A hazard perception test every morning.

Here I am, at the sports centre.
A few other cars, but not many.
A quick scan for familiar number plates so I can psych myself up for the first words of the day.
Because I have been awake for two and a half hours without any call for speech.

Ten minutes on the cross trainer.
A smile and a nod.
2k on the rowing machine, punctuated by swigs of water, a great physical trembling as I feel myself properly awake now, the blood singing in my ears.
A cheery grin from a face that moments ago was contorted with effort, hair plastered to its brow.
This is where we are in the morning, the regulars.
An amiable exchange with another colleague.
They are all men, these people I know at the gym.  I guess the women have their children to deal with, their washing to hang out, packed lunches to prepare.
The few females avoid looking at each other.
I acknowledge the irony.

A series of routines on resistance machines, with kettlebells and plates and TRX harnesses - so much equipment just to make my muscles ache!
A glance at the clock:  7.45.  Time to go.
8am - back in my car.
In a couple of minutes I am unlocking my office door, switching on my desk-lamp, powering up my PC.
Through the double doors to the kitchen to brew a giant bowl of tea and assess the lie of the land.
Onwards with the business of the day.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Thank you, dear readers, for welcoming me back to the blog.

It's good to be back.




Monday, 27 February 2017

Stealth Mission


Sidles in with a shifty expression, looking from left to right and left again...

So I am back.
Grab a cup of tea.

For those of you who don't know, my blog identity became known in the workplace and I took fright.
I felt exposed and vulnerable and more than a little scared that I had written something compromising, so I pulled down the blog.

But over the weekend, I decided that this newly strong woman does not give in that easily.
Actually, I have always been careful not to write anything negative about my employer.  And increasingly, now that I have the mental space to commit to it, I find that I love my job.
Are you hearing that, oh naysayers?
I love my job.
Spooky.

So here I am.


I have had a month away from the blog.
In that time, I have been to the gym 6 days a week and dance-based exercise classes 3 times a week.
I am eating well and I have dropped a dress size.  (I have no plans to get any thinner, thanks.)

I cancelled two planned trips away because I realised that I am not that person anymore.
I need to find new places to go, new things to do, new friendships that speak to me about the person I am today, the person I want to be tomorrow, next year.

I have stopped wearing my rings and I am quietly signing myself "Ms".
I am alone but I refuse to be lonely.

It's going to be just fine.
Woman Up Roo!


Oh - and don't worry - I still knit socks!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Skinny Single Knitster

My knitting has taken a slight nose-dive.

For some reason I am obsessively compulsively exercise-focused at the moment,which involves getting up at 5.30 am to be at the gym by 7 and at my desk by 8.
Even though I don't actually have to be there until 9am.
Insert here:  quizzical expression at my own reflection in the mirror.
Add a raised eyebrow for good measure.

Two evenings a week I am at Jazzercise.
I am asleep by 10 pm.
And on Saturday mornings I am at Sh'bam, which is the happiest hour of my week.
True story!

That's a lot of lost knitting time!


So having whizzed through my first Swedish sock:  the Fladerblom from the Tantulltussockor book, sock two is not even cast on.
I'll get to it.
I certainly want to wear the pair!


At the start of January, I threw myself headlong into casting on the Shusui Shrug, using Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in Twinkle Toes (a speckle-tastic club colourway) and Skinny Dip (mint green), set against fluffy grey Guthrie Gotland two-ply from Hooligan Yarns.


I bashed my way through the first ten repeats without blinking... and then it all went a bit pear-shaped and I started making mistakes.
I can't even seem to count the stitches between markers without getting it wrong.
23 is not such a difficult number to count is it?
Apparently it is beyond me right now.

And meanwhile, the second mailing of the Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles club has arrived.
OMG!
I loved the first pair of skeins and had to cast on straightaway - witness the Shusui Shrug above.
But the second set is beyond-my-vocabulary-gorgeous!
Just... wow.
I can't show you a picture as club members overseas won't have received their parcels yet.
Hand on heart, this is the most successful Yarn Club decision I have ever made.

Takumi
I don't have a clear plan for these skeins yet... but there is a twinkling of an inkling in the back of my mind that I would like to make myself a stripey ballet-wrap-style cardigan.
Something like East London Knits' Takumi?
With more Guthrie gotland?
Oh yes please!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

On joining the SAS (Not really)


Window wide open, breathing cold frosty air while the sun blasts across my desk.
Still euphoric.
Bizarre.
But I can't feel guilty about this.  It is what FL would have wanted, this renaissance of Roo-ness.

I have been to an exercise class or the gym almost every day this year, twice on Monday!
And no, mum, I am not "overdoing it".
Children:  don't wait until you are as old as me to find your energy.
Just saying.

The workplace had a "Health and Wellbeing" day.
I declined the invitation to run 5k in the lunch-hour, because I have many skills but running is not one of them.
It was a wise decision.

Instead, I attended a Resilience Workshop.
Fascinating.
After completing the questionnaire, I was informed that my score made me eligible to join the SAS.
LOL
Further analysis revealed that I had the highest score for "commitment", slightly less for "control" and was just plain average for my response to "change".
This does not surprise me.  Once I set my mind to something, I go for it full tilt.
But I remain risk averse.  I am still protecting myself from the unknown, even though it could be an opportunity rather than a threat.
I accept this.  It is fine.  I am doing fine.

I am now applying what I have learned.

I am having a blast analysing the characters of Hamilton according to this methodology

Eliza?  She is "helpless", she says so herself.  She starts the musical with pretty low resilience, but as she gets older, and experiences a few hard knocks (unfaithful husband, death of her son) she gets stronger and "takes control of the narrative".

Angelica?  She recognises her position in society and the requirement to "marry rich".  She knows she will never be "satisfied".  But she is no pushover.  She knows it would be a mistake to marry Hamilton, even though she loves him.  She takes control of her destiny and "keeps his eyes in her life".

And thinking of my current audio book... Jane Eyre is a fascinating case study in resilience!
She is a great example of someone who develops resilience as she gets older.
Though she still makes some questionable decisions.
Different times?  Maybe.
Fiction?  Certainly!

If you want to know more, I found a simple questionnaire and introduction to  resilience here.

Now if you will excuse me, I am off to the gym.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

2017, Let It Flow


All the cool kids are setting goals and choosing words to define them in the New Year.
Me?
I feel the need to be more flexible, open to new things and I want to try letting myself go with the flow.  Not to abdicate responsibility for my own actions, but to recognise that I have choices, to consciously decide and then follow through.
And sometimes that might mean revisiting decisions I made in the past, reassessing my position and admitting my mistakes.
Not just the Big Stuff.
Little things - like knitting (it always comes back to knitting!)


Last night I ripped out my Barley Hat from Knitting in the North.
It had a mistake in it.
It was cream.
Cream?!  What was I thinking?
Gone.


I also faced up to a serious error in my Nordic Arrows Shawl.

I had been two stitches out for several brioche (double) rows.
I tried to ignore the numbers, thinking I could make it work.

But as I started to add in the third triangle, the problem got worse and I realised I was probably performing the slanting decrease in the wrong way.
And glaring at it didn't help.
Neither did a glass of cider.
Or coffee.
Or apple cake.
Or dancing round the kitchen to really loud music.
That's my entire arsenal of mitigating actions depleted.
Rip it, Roo.

Which leaves me with: one happy sock, one suicidal sock and two abandoned blanket projects.
So, really, just one sock.

Freedom!!!
I can knit whatever I want!
Who makes the rules around here?
Me!


And it would appear that I have enough yarn in the stash to knit 11 me-sized garments.
(Not the four or five I imagined.  Oops.)

And socks!  Let there be socks!
Heaven knows you've got some lovely sock yarn in the house, girl.
Soddit, Roo, buy that Swedish sock pattern book you have been ogling for flipping months!
If Santa was real, he would totally have left it under the tree for you.

Now stop buying stuff, woman.
You have enough.