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I knit, I sew, I run, I look after children and hamsters, I take truly terrible pictures, I cook, I complain.  Sometimes all at the same time.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Microadventures

It's the summer holidays.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Devon this year, and we had a very outdoorsy holiday.  There were all sorts of the most micro of microadventures, a concept I hadn't really thought about before I heard this bloke on Midweek or Start the Week and thought it sounded like a really great idea.  So it became the "hashtag" for our week on Dartmoor, because I am that much of an Instagram whore.


Wild Swimming in the Dart.  I swam in the middle of the river for a very, very freezing 10 minutes; the current is surprisingly strong, which really shook Lucy when she tried to swim back to the bank after this photo was taken. 



There was climbing on bridges. 



Lots of climbing on rocks in the middle of rivers, which meant I found a use for my incredibly ugly and generally not very useful pretend Crocs.


Other birdlife spotted include chaffinches, greater spotter woodpeckers, kingfishers and herons.


Shoreham Seawater Lido at Brixham.  Lovely.  Freezing.  Full of people.


Horseriding. 


Running on Dartmoor.  This the track through and around Bellever Forest.  It's not that wild but is much better for running on as it is well maintained, and means I don't end up tripping and hurting my ankle, miles away from any phone signal.  


We met some sheep.  They didn't have any wool for sale, but I have their website, and I will be buying some Bellever Blue and some Postbridge Pink.  Have a look for yourself here



There was traditional forced route marches in the rain.  Only one, because, with the exception of the last day, it only rained once.  This is unheard of for Dartmoor.  

Fantastic fun. 





Sunday, 31 July 2016

The amazing sore bums of Ealing

I need a new bike.

While the kids are away in Dartmoor, we have been making the most of our child free time, and went  on a really long bike rides, because that's the sort of cool people we are.  We cycled down to church (waterfowl count: 0) (distance: 2km), hung around there for a bit serving tea and biscuits, then decided to go to Isleworth to see if Halfords was open for me to test drive my new bike.  I want a mint green Pendleton bike, with a basket and space for panniers and a bell, and I can apparently get one through work, although first I have to navigate Ealing's opaque cycle to work scheme website.  Seriously.


Our church is in Hanwell, which mean little to non-Ealing based readers, and right by the Bunny Park, which is on the Brent River, which has a cycle path along side.  So we cycled down there (waterfowl count: some moorhens and some coots) until we hit the Grand Union Canal, and then down to Brentford.  (waterfowl count: many moorhens, many coots, one heron)  From Brentford, we went through Syon Park, along the river and all the way to Isleworth. (waterfowl count: lots of seagulls) (distance: 9.5km)

Anyway, I sat on the bike, rode around the shop, had a fun time arguing with my husband about how many panniers I need, then we went to Richmond.  I do not like Richmond.  It is full of people wearing Fat Face and red trousers and braying and that makes me irrationally angry, so we did not stay in Richmond very long.  (waterfowl count: most seagulls and IDIOTS) (distance: 3.52)  We cycled back to Kew, again along the Thames, on a very, very bumpy, narrow path, with lots of people and nettles and thistles and things.  (distance: 6km)(waterfowl count: don't know, too busy avoiding joggers, dogs and other cyclists)

Kew is not quite as ghastly as Richmond, but it does have its share of idiots, although by this stage, I was really hungry and just a bit grumpy, and after the third rejected pub, I suggested that we just go and GET A SANDWICH FROM SAINSBURYS HURRY UP I AM STARVING, but we went to the pub on Kew Green and it was lovely, and I had a vegetarian Wellington thing, which is something I want to make now - it looked really easy, roasted veg in pasty, what's hard about that?  Famous last words?  (waterfowl count: a family of swans including teenage cygnets)

So then I made the cardinal error of looking at my Runkeeper statistics for the month, and by walking, running and cycling, I'd managed to cover 177 km, so obviously we had to cycle home along the canal the long way.  Turns out the long way is a very, very long way, and now my bum is really quite sore.  I think I'll be adding a pair of padded cycling shorts to my order when I buy my bike, and I really need to wear a sports bra when cycling on rough ground.  That would have been a very severe wardrobe malfunction.  (waterfowl count: at least 50 swans including some on their own (sob), two families with teenagers and two groups of at least 15 adults, tiny baby mallards with their mum, baby coots (so cute), baby moorhens (cute and so ugly), four herons, one flying cormorant)(distance: 25.5 km)

Percentages: (idea nicked from the terrifically funny Belgian Waffling)

25% adrenaline from cycling
25% sore bum (ditto)
10% joy of swans and other wild life
10% sunburn
5% gin



Saturday, 30 July 2016

Where did you go?


Many weeks later, and now it is the summer holidays, the children are away, work is but a happy, middle of the night screaming memory, and we have been to Austria and back again.

There has been all sorts happening: knitting, sewing, running, cycling, drinking gin, making jam, baking bread.  I contributed to the now traditional Outfit Along run by Andi Sutterland and Lauren Lladybird, which involved making a skirt and a cardigan, and a white tee-shirt.


The tee shirt is a Grainline Lark, with a lower v-neck, and cut in a smaller size, which is terrific, the skirt is a "self-drafted" one, where I had about two metres of the cherry fabric, and just wrapped it around my body, gathered the rectangles and shoved a waistband on it with a zip and a button.  I'm calling that a first design, obv.

Not much to say about the cardigan, except it's my third version of the Myrna pattern, and this time has no keyhole.  I altered the design to suit my personality and the v is much deeper than originally written, but it closes over my tummy and doesn't look too indecent, so I'm pleased with it.  Replicating my design change on the left side was a bit challenging, mind.  I wore this outfit to travel to Austria, with my red clogs, and it was very comfy and lovely.  It got a bit sweaty in the cardigan in Vienna, as it was pretty hot, much hotter than here, but I wore it a few times, especially in the evening.  I do really like it, and I've started yet another Myrna, this time in a lovely dark purple.  

I've made some other things, and as it's the school holidays, I might even be able to blog about them.  Who can say?



Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking

For those who wonder why I was on strike today.

This is not an "open letter", I have actually printed this out, signed it and sent it to Ms Morgan, via my MP.

Dear Ms Morgan

I am on strike today, 5th July, along with countless others from my union. We are all professionals with a passionate belief in excellent, creative, stimulating and fulfilling education for the children in our care, and the decision today was not taken lightly or maliciously. It behoves you, as a fellow professional woman, not to present us as trouble makers out to disrupt children’s education; we are not choosing “a path of disruption over negotiation and discussion.”

While I am not obliged to lay out my reasons for striking to you or anyone else, I have thought very hard about this decision.

I am strongly against the forced academisation of schools. I believe that letting private companies with their own agenda run education will lead to a decrease of opportunities for children, as those who do not conform to the agenda will be excluded and marginalised.

Children should not be taught by unqualified teachers. This is a self evident truth.

Children as young as four are not failing. Children as young as seven should not be in tears at school because they are forced to sit in silence to do work that we were not able to adequately prepare them for – the sample SATs papers were not sufficiently similar to the SATs tests administered in May, especially in Key Stage 2. Children going to High School should not be expected to resit tests that they have “failed”. This is a waste of time.

Data released today shows that nearly half of 11 year olds in this country have failed to achieve the expected standard. I cannot believe that this is due to a failure in teaching; the assessments have been far too difficult, and the moving of the bar has been unfair, especially as the current Year 6 have only had one year of the new, much more demanding curriculum, yet were expected to take tests based on learning that would have happened across their four years in Key Stage 2. The political decision to do this suggests that the government are keen to follow the “path of disruption”; determined to show that schools are failing children, and therefore need to be forced to become academies in order to “improve”.

Children as young as seven are experiencing severe stress, and there has been a huge increase in mental health problems in young children. Since September, I have personally recommended referrals to CAMHS of 4 children, all under ten, and am aware of many others in my school who are suffering from anxiety and stress, much of which can be laid at the door of the increased pressure from considerably harder assessments; assessments that are coming at younger ages.

The assessment requirement of “total coverage” has been discriminatory to children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. The spelling requirement means that children with dyslexia will never be able to work at the expected level, and children who do not have the motor control at seven to join their letters will also not be able to work at the expected level; is this really the path we are going down? Your government put in place a wonderful new Code of Practice; this requirement absolutely undermines it and destroys much of the good work you have done.

The undermining of local authorities will also have a detrimental effect on children with SEND, as the local authority supports schools by providing Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Educational Psychologists, Paediatric Physiotherapists as well as specialist teachers and other professionals to help with children with challenging behaviour. Why have you invested so much time and money into nominally supporting children with SEND, when you remove the support the local authority provides?

In real terms, funding has been cut. I am a governor at my school and have passed a very tight budget this year; we are also having to make tough staffing decisions. The Institute of Fiscal Studies in October last year published a report stating that they forecast that school spending per pupil is likely to fall by 8% in real terms, taking into account the increased employer contributions to National Insurance and pensions, as well as a pay settlement of 1%. Having heard you on the Today programme this morning, I am aware that you do not accept this to be a true picture of schools, but I can assure you that it is. I am aware that you speak to school leaders; I would suggest that you need to speak with school leaders who do not share your political views and might provide you with a different picture.

I hope that you will listen to what teachers, head teachers, school support staff, academics and economists are telling you; we are as deeply concerned about the state of education as you are and would be devastated to see it destroyed by policies that can be reversed.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

You know that book I'm reading about getting along with your co-workers? It says that sarcasm is never helpful. I can lend it to you if you want.


I'm full of righteous, rational, if disproportionate, rage, and because, for the sake of my blood pressure, I am only speaking to people I agree with, so is everyone else I talk to.  I don't particularly want to talk about the reasons behind the rage that has led me to pour myself a soft drink, and fill it with gin, that are preventing me from ringing my father and yelling abuse at him down the phone, that has led to me temporarily abandoning the diet (I've lost a STONE people, a whole bloody STONE) and eating all the things in the house.  I'm on the verge of screaming "I BET YOU VOTED LEAVE YOU BASTARD" at anyone who gets in my way, or who looks at me, or who is anywhere within a mile of me.  The only tiny crumb of comfort I can find is that there will be a total destruction of our political system and we'll end up with different political parties and proportional representation, and then we'll have proper, actual democracy; and even though there'll probably be a complete break up of a union that has lasted for centuries and another civil war in Northern Ireland, it's all worth it because we are FREE and IN CONTROL again.  Hurrah.


Anyway, enough of that.  

Things that keeping me sane:

The Sewing Bee
Murder She Wrote
Sewing
Knitting


I've made a Tilly and the Buttons Bettine dress in the same striped fabric I used to make our #teamcarter supporters tops.  It is delightful, even if I messed up the skirt a bit, and had to piece it together.  But it fits well, and is flattering and I love it, very much.



I've also made a Dolores Batwing t-shirt out of a not actually very stretchy jersey from Spoonflower.  It is much, much too small in places and is a pain to put on but it looks fine, so I'm wearing it on Friday for a do. I might have to remake the top for Lucy in the end, as I'm really not sure about it.


The third thing I've finished recently is the yellow Petrie top in Rowan Wool Cotton, and it is lovely, but much too cold here in Poundland to wear.  THIS BLOODY COUNTRY AND ITS STUPID STUPID WEATHER.


I'm in the middle of making a bright red Myrna cardigan as well, as part of the Outfit Along for this year.  So far, it is lovely; I accept it doesn't look like much here, but it is really gorgeous.  I've not made the keyhole this time, which has made no difference to it at all, I just didn't fancy it.  I'm just about on to the sleeves, and I'll make them tighter this time, the yellow one is too loose around the wrists, which is irritating.  The other parts of the Outfit Along will be a cherry print big puffy skirt - so a waistband and a Cambie dress view B skirt, and a Lark tee shirt in white jersey.  I've made one, but I should have cut a smaller size.  WIN.  Even Nigella is bigger than me now.  DOUBLE WIN.  There's still a long way to go, but I'm definitely shrinking.

Hey ho, I'm on strike next week; I can't go on the march but I will DO SOMETHING in order to relieve my dreadful rage.  I think I might join the Labour Party.  We will see.





Sunday, 26 June 2016

From bad to verse

Friends, give me a moment, for God help us, it has come to this.
The evil that we do lives after us, the good is buried, and so it is with us.
The honourable Boris has told us that the EU was a wrong thing,
And if that's the case, then that was a fault,
And we have all paid for it.
For Boris is an honourable man; and the rest are also honourable men,
So we can speak now at the end.
The EU was our friend, faithful and just to all,
But Boris says it was a wrong thing, and Boris is an honourable man.
It brought many people home to Britain, and their labour helped pay for the State.
Was this a wrong thing?
When the poor cried, the EU helped; was this a wrong thing?
Yet Boris says it was a wrong thing, and Boris is an honourable man.
It thrice and more presented us with human rights,
Was this a wrong thing?
Yet Boris says it was a wrong thing, and, surely, he is an honourable man.
We are not here to disprove what Boris said,
But to say what we know.
We loved it once, not without cause, so why not mourn?
Our judgment has fled to the brutish beasts, and we have lost our reason.
My heart is with the EU, and I must wait for it to come back to me.
Bear with me.



Thursday, 2 June 2016

One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.

It's still half term.  It's still freezing.  People in the North are laughing at us in London, as June comes in with hideous weather.


We went to Northampton today, which was lovely until the last minute, when it took 3 HOURS to get home.  The M1 didn't work, the North Circular was fucked, and it seemed like a good idea to go through Harlesden.  Note to self: don't do that again, but then, at least we kept on moving and we listened to many, many hours of Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  Hurrah.

Anyway, I've spent this evening sewing and listening to knitting podcasts, and I've made two things.

First up, a Delphine skirt, by Tilly and the Buttons.  I really like this A-Line skirt and made a tartan one last year, which I slimmed strenuously to get into, and is now too big on the waist and fits well on the hips, so let's call that a win.

I bought some stretchy sparkly demin from Ealing Fabrics in Hanwell for not very much money, and I cut out the same size as before, which is a triumph of hope over experience, and lets hope it fits properly.


The photo doesn't do the gold sparklyness justice; it is really lovely and shiny and would be loved by the girls, but bad luck, it's mine.  The waist band has a polka dot lining, and I'm really pleased with it.  I've made the waist smaller by an inch by doing a lapped zip, and it seems to look OK, so yay?  I'll wear it tomorrow and see how it fits.

The second thing I made tonight was a Dolores Batwing Tee-Shirt, in a purple strawberry jersey that I bought for a dress for Hattie, and after I'd cut something out, there was tonnes left, so I made something for me and something for Lucy, which brings the cost of the fabric down from a bit more than I should have spent, to the actually quite reasonable, as I've got three garments out of 2 metres.


I think I need to wear them together and get some modelled shots. Or maybe pop them on Nigella and see how they look.  I'm pleased with them both.  Yay for sewing.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Cher, I don't want to do this anymore. And my buns: they don't feel nothin' like steel.

I need this gif again:


I haven't blogged since Easter.  So much has happened, but most of it has been pretty dull and to do with work, so I won't go into details.   The kitchen is completely done, bar a few shelves, and most of my STUFF is back from storage, although there's still a lot of fabric languishing in the unit, waiting for me to get around to it.  I've made lots of things:



a jumper for Hattie,


two identical dresses for the girls for the May Day celebrations at a local tennis club,



a Bettine dress for me,



a plain, dull white tee shirt for me (and cut out a slightly more exciting turquoise one)



 and a jumper for my nephew.  It's all go.

I also participated in MeMadeMay2016, but lost the will to photograph myself daily, so didn't.  I do wear handmade clothes all the time, and using May as a way to work out what I'm missing in the wardrobe, and it turns out that I need more plain stuff.  I've got a denim skirt cut out waiting for me to get on to it, and some more plain tee shirts, and some more things planned as well.

As far as knitting goes, the Audrey in Unst cardigan is MUCH MUCH TOO BIG, which is a combination of exciting and frustrating, so I am torn between wanting to finish it and give it away, or ripping back several hundred hours of my time and reclaiming the wool.  The wool is nice, but not that nice, so I think I'm going to finish it up and try it on and see.  It's hard to second guess the size, and it's too big over my running stuff, but might be OK over something else.  We'll see.

I've run, walked and cycled nearly 200 km in May, which is extraordinary, and I'm very pleased with myself.  I bought some new trainers which gave me sore feet and the terrible grumps, until I replaced the inner soles with Foot Balance massively overpriced, but simultaneously well worth it ones, and ran up a hill without stopping yesterday.

We've been all over the place in April and May - we went down to the Isle of Wight to watch a friend run around part of the island, and Simon and I have been in Chichester watching a VERY MUCH OF ITS TIME musical version of Travels with my Aunt (which is a kind review, as it is a new musical, reflecting the values of 1969) (I really enjoyed the frocks, the shoes, the singing, the dancing and the jokes, the Sierra Leonian accent, not so much) but it was good to go and see it; we've had two teenagers living with us for a few days, which has been an education, and I've drunk an awful lot of gin.

There is no more to say.


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Highly unlikely, but not outside the realms of possibility?


Last night was all about the hand-sewing, tonight is all about the knitting.  Yonks ago, I actually can't remember when, I decided I wanted a close fitting grey jumper with rainbow stripes, so bought some Faroese wool in grey and some rainbow Kauni wool from eBay, which I promptly lost in a pub somewhere.  I swore a lot, and sulked a lot, and then bought some cream wool and some more Kauni, and just got on with it.


Of course, very thin wool on titchy little needles takes a while to knit, so I left it in my knitting bag, and ignored it, and occasionally knit it, and eventually finished the body.


You can't really tell from this photo, but there is a weird "side boob" thing going on under the armpits, and I thought long and hard about it but decided I really, really couldn't live with it, so ripped back all that knitting that had taken months and months, and started again.


I eventually finished it the other day.


It still needs a good block, and the right cuff is considerably bigger than the left, but I can live with that, as no one else will notice, and a bit of sewing will hide it as well.  



I wore it today as it was cold.  FFS April, sort it out, it hailed earlier.  The jumper still needs a block, and I will do that later on, but for now I am running around the house, cackling with laughter as my jumper looks ace and I love it, and also my denim skirt is too big and I will wash it and then send it to the charity shop to seek its fortune.  Hurrah. 


I'm sure I'll have something more to say tomorrow evening.  We're going shopping on the Goldhawk Road tomorrow.  Brace yourselves. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Yes, may I please speak to pizza


I love the holidays.  Love them.  So many children.  So many things to do.  So many builders.  Last week, we were in Devon for a few days, more about that later, then back into the children's social whirl; friends round, days out at the trampolining place in Acton, Brent Cross, IKEA (the glamour), sewing, all sorts.  I'm exhausted and I've still got another 3 days to go.  Ah well, the house is quiet, my daughters are asleep and there's two half full bottles of vodka to drink, so it's not all bad.
I did some hand sewing the other day.  I saw this jumper on the internet:


and being a covetous so and so, my first thought was that I NEEDED it in my life.  Of course, there are no more of them to be had anywhere, so my next thought was that I could quite easily make one.  Of course.

I bought six colours of sequin tape on ebay, and searched the charity shops until I found something suitable.  I found a really nice black jumper before the sequins arrived, and I was very tempted to use that, but I wore it with my tartan Delphine skirt, and liked the way they looked together, so that was out.  I then found a superb magenta jumper, but it looked utterly hideous with the red sequins, so that was out too.  A trip around West Ealing the other day, and I found a grey ex-Primark scoop necked jumper, in the right size and absolutely perfect. 


I spent the whole of Friday night alternatively sewing sequins, swearing and drinking, because I know how to live it up.  


By 1:30 am (no word of a lie), I had this.


That took three episodes of "Murder, She Wrote" and a Sherlock.  Also, the best part of a bottle of vodka.

I wore it the next day.  Have a crappy dressing table mirror selfie.

Hurrah for the shiniest boobs in the whole of London. 
It is amazing, and I love it to bits and back. although if I pull the sleeves up, the sequins make my arms itch, and I can't wear it to work as the children will make (even more) grabs at my boobs but details, details.  

Hurrah for upcycling, hurrah for sewing skills, hurrah for everything, basically.  

I have lots and lots of finished things to blog, so brace yourselves, including a progress report on the RAINBOW RAGLAN.