67: the book is always better?

Regular visitors to my little corner of cyberspace will have spotted that I am a big fan of books and reading in general. I love fantasy, and magic, and supernatural thrillers; different worlds, sideways views of our own world, the idea that there are things we can’t see (and, in the case of Stephen King, that we don’t want to see). I don’t love it when some bright spark decides to take one of these books and turn it into a film or a TV series, unless they are people who can be trusted to do it properly. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, I think, can be trusted with Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London books, but the teams responsible for The Seeker: The Dark is Rising (from the novel by Susan Cooper) and Midwinter of the Spirit (from Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series) should never have been allowed near the productions.

I can almost imagine the conversation in The Seeker‘s production meeting: “Yeah, so we’ve got Eccleston as the bad guy and McShane as the wizard, right, but we gotta make it relevant to American kids, we can’t have another magic English kid, Harry Potter and all that, let’s make the kid and his family American, let’s transplant them to England, fish outta water stuff…”. Just, no. You killed the story. Suffice to say they didn’t get the go-ahead to film the rest of the novels.

Midwinter of the Spirit suffered from some of the same problems: the brilliant Anna Maxwell Martin cast in the main role was a great choice, but they hammered a long novel into a short series in a very heavy-handed way, losing a lot of the suspense and also – by choosing not to start the series with the first novel – a lot of the context. Shame, because these are brilliantly written, unputdownable books.

The one notable exception is William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, possibly because by 1973 when the novel was published he was already an Academy Award-winning screen writer for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Best Original Screenplay) and he also adapted the novel for the screen. It’s still one of my favourite films and books, and finding another fan almost always means finding a new friend. Not that having the original author on board is always a good thing, of course, because then you run the risk of making, say, eight long films from seven long books (I’m looking at you, J.K.Rowling, you and your ‘direct assistance’ in the screenwriting).

(As an aside, Twilight and The Vampire Diaries were actually better than the books but only because they could not have been worse. So it does work both ways. Sometimes).

It was with some trepidation. therefore, that I headed to BBC iPlayer this week to check out The Watch, ‘inspired by’ characters from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. BBC2 has the tagline “In a world where crime is legal, a group of chaotic misfit cops rise up to save their city from catastrophe. A punk rock comedy thriller inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.” The buzz on the Pratchett fan pages has been almost entirely negative. Outrage around the casting has been prominent: a woman as Lord Vetinari (Anna Chancellor)? A short person (Marama Corlett) as Angua? A tall person (Jo Eaton-Kent) as Cheery? A black woman (Lara Rossi) as Sybil Ramkin? Other than Carrot, who remains true to Pratchett’s vision, the casting producer has created a hugely diverse and entertaining ensemble. Richard Dormer, cast as Vimes, is guilty of gurning too much and perhaps too much comedy has been written in for him, but he was a good choice. Matt Berry and Paul Kaye are always good value, too.

Image © Radio Times

Part of the outrage has also come from a fierce loyalty to Terry Pratchett and, latterly, to his daughter Rhianna. She very diplomatically tweeted that “It’s fairly obvious that The Watch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.” Den of Geek has more on the controversy here. Funnily enough, Good Omens wasn’t criticised in the same way, perhaps because Neil Gaiman is Pratchett-adjacent and David Tennant is similarly adored for his time as the Tenth Doctor. The news this week on hearing that a second series of Good Omens in in the works should probably have provoked outrage as there isn’t a book, but once you’re in the Pratchett family, you’re in and you can pretty much do no wrong.

Previous big-budget adaptations of the Discworld novels have tended to be by Sky, who filmed the first two novels as The Colour of Magic, then did Hogfather and Going Postal. These weren’t perfect in terms of casting, either, but also weren’t terribly revolutionary. Charles Dance was perfectly cast as Vetinari, Tim Curry made an excellent wizard. Sean Astin was OK as Twoflower but David Jason was utterly wrong for Rincewind (he did make a great Albert in Hogfather, to give him his dues). The problem with filming such beloved novels is that readers have a very clear vision of who they think would be the best actor for the role, and are vociferous on the subject. The constant ‘casting posts’ on the various fan pages are annoying in the extreme, so one learns the art of scrolling.

Suffice to say that none of the actors in The Watch have featured in any of these posts. Was this possibly a deliberate decision, in the sense of ‘we’ll never get it right, so let’s have some fun’?

So, I went into the series knowing that the production company had played merry hell with the storylines, the characters and the sacred Discworld canon. And, you know what? I really enjoyed it. I left my Discworld expectations back on Roundworld and went along for the ride. The writers have picked bits from any number of the novels, not just the Watch series: Soul Music, Guards Guards, Night Watch, The Light Fantastic, Thud! to name a few, and they really have had fun with them. Many of the puns have been lost, and the addition of a gloriously camp dance routine came a bit out of leftfield, but it’s still thoroughly bonkers, funny and sweet in places. It does look as if most of the filming took place in the Elephant and Castle shopping centre, but you don’t get much more dystopian than that. The soundtrack is great, Cheery is an absolute delight, and the ending leaves it open for more….though as yet series 2 hasn’t been commissioned, sadly.

We’ve also watched Katla this week – gloomy, spooky and Nordic – and a 2018 series called Requiem, chosen because we like most things Joel Fry does.

What is there in this world that makes living worthwhile?

A surprise birthday present arrived this week from my lovely work colleagues, combining Pratchett, cross stitch and cats – three of my favourite things! I love getting handmade gifts and, believe it or not, it’s quite a rarity. I don’t know who made it but I LOVE it.

I also packed off the gift I couldn’t share last week: I could not get it straight in the hoop, so I gave up in the end. The pattern is by Climbing Goat Designs on Etsy.

This week I have been working on another gift, and another Totoro baby lovey – this time a commission. My cross stitch is on 18 count fabric and it’s getting to the point where I can’t see the holes in the fabric any more so may need to invest in one of those magnifying lights! Old age is creeping up fast…

This week I am looking forward to doing some delivery in schools, which I have really missed, and hopefully the sun will come out at some point!

See you next week

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Museum of Broken Promises – Elizabeth Buchan

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes – Ruth Hogan

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock – Imogen Hermes Gowar

Guards, Guards – Terry Pratchett

Lundy, Rockall, Dogger, Fairisle – Matthew Clayton and Anthony Atkinson

65: how to ruin a good book

This week’s ramblings have been brought to you because I have been listening to the audiobook of Cider with Rosie, read by Laurie Lee himself: lush, sunshine-drenched prose, set in countryside not so very far from where I grew up in Monmouthshire. There are some books which, if you mention them to people of a certain age, elicit an instant response of eye-rolling and and ‘urgh, I hate that book, we had to read it in school, it’s so boring.’ It’s true, a terrible English teacher can ruin a wonderful book (equally, a good one can bring it to life: I’m looking at you, Mr Bradley, you and your passion for Jane Austen).

Prime candidates for this, at least for people of my generation, seem to be:

  • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  • Cider with Rosie – Laurie Lee
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

All of which are classics, of course, and I love them all, but ‘studying literature’ as opposed to just reading a book can really ruin it for people. Second-guessing what the author meant, analysing their intent in using this word or that, deconstructing poetry often means that you can’t see the story for the words, to paraphrase that famous saying about forests and trees.

My own GCSE texts included a story or two from Leslie Norris’s Sliding, which I still love, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and probably some other ones but, amazingly, none of those listed above featured – probably because of the move from O-level to GCSE the previous year.

A badly-chosen text can have the same negative impact: for me this was Graham Swift’s Waterland, set in the Fens and with content so far out of my sphere of experience as an A-level student that I couldn’t engage. Mr Mills tried his best, bless him, but it was hard going. Ten years later, I found myself spending a lot of time in the Fens around March and Ely, so I went back and read the book as an adult: it’s brilliant, frankly, but it took an understanding of the area and the concerns of an adult to understand it. My youngest sister had The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro as one of her A-level texts: my mum and I loved it, she didn’t – presumably for the same reasons I couldn’t get to grips with Waterland. It doesn’t matter how much you love books and reading, if you can’t engage with the content then you’re unlikely to enjoy it.

I suppose the point of teaching literature is to inspire a love of reading in children, but I do wonder occasionally who chooses the texts. Thing 1 is in her first year of GCSEs and is doing Macbeth and A Christmas Carol and doesn’t like either of them: she loves analysing text but hasn’t engaged with either of those. She’s just said that she likes book she can relate to: she read William Goldings Lord of the Flies before being given it at school and loved it.

I love reading, I don’t understand why they can’t just let us read it, they keep stopping us every five seconds to make us analyse why Lady Macbeth is a symbol of patriarchal society. What if he just liked Lady Macbeth? If they just gave me ‘The Outsiders’ or ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ I could analyse them in about five minutes cos I can relate to them.’

Thing 1

The school Things One and Two attend practise DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) so they are expected to have a book of their choice to hand at all times, and the teachers have door signs saying what their current book is as well. I love this idea, and it’ll probably go further to instilling a love of literature in children who aren’t growing up surrounded by books than if their first encounter with great books is stripping them into their component parts without ever getting to enjoy the stories first.

The year of the handmade gift

Back to a bit of crochet for the latest gifts: I made the ladybird a leaf sleeping bag, and also made this Totoro baby comforter. Both will be going off to a colleague whose wife is expecting. The ladybird is for his older daughter, as big sisters need a present too! It’s back to the cross stitch now, while I carry on listening to Cider with Rosie even though the sun has gone away again.

Another gift is with its new owner today – I have just this minute had a text message to say thank you, so happy birthday Gina! We have always had a resident fox at the Museum, with cubs most years, so this seemed like an apt present. The pattern is from MaxStitch.

I am off now to get on with things….see you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Glamourist/The Conjurer – Luanne G. Smith

Moonshine – Jasmine Gower

Attention All Shipping – Charlie Connelly

Cider with Rosie – Laurie Lee (Audible)

63: we have the technology

Is it me or has it been the longest four day week ever? It’s been half term, and as we have now vacated the museum in order to hand it over to the people who will transform it I have been working from home. I must confess that Things 2 and 3 have spent a large part of the week building new worlds in Minecraft (or whatever it is they do) and I have not done much with them. With the help of a colleague I have, however, managed to mark 1600 objects as ‘NONE’ in the content management system, and a further 150 or so as ‘NIP’ (or ‘not in place’ for those objects that have gone into temporary storage for the next couple of years. That’s felt like a pretty big achievement! Now – the last part of the task – I just need to find anything that the system still thinks is in a cupboard at the museum and mark those as NONE or NIP as well.

Things 1 and 2 have managed to spend some time with their friends, which has been good for them, and their older sister came over in the week with her boyfriend for a barbecue. Apart from torrrential rain all day on Friday we have been pretty lucky with the weather. Their oldest sister and her little boy will be joining us today and I have promised lasagne for tea, which meant I left the village (gasp!) yesterday to have a sneaky mooch around the charity shops before a Tesco trip. Perhaps that’s why this week has felt so long: it hasn’t been broken up by being on site. Teams meetings just aren’t the same.

The next couple of years will see many of us continuing to work from home, however, as the way we work changes post-pandemic. It’s been hard for some companies to grasp that you don’t need the physical presence of your staff five days a week; we aren’t, in many cases, producing physical outputs as in the days of the factory. Increased connectivity, through applications like Teams and Zoom, mean that we can have ‘cross-site’ meetings effectively without being in a physical space. For those of us who were expected to be the ones travelling to the other sites it means we can meet with our colleagues without adding 40 minutes travel time each way to the meeting which was the pre-Teams reality. Over the last months we have been making use of apps like Google’s JamBoard and Miro, which have allowed us all to contribute to brainstorm sessions with virtual post-it notes (who doesn’t love a post-it thinking session?) and to collaborate on documents. I know this technology has been around for a while, but it’s taken a pandemic for us to catch up with it! You do lose some of the energy that comes from being in a physical space together, of course, but hopefully we can manage some of those too.

There are, of course, fewer people taking up desks in the museum sector at the moment – as well as many others, of course. The Museums Association redundancy tracker is showing 4,126 redundancies that have been “directly or indirectly attributed to the pandemic”. There will be more as recovery progresses. The appetite for indoor activities is, perhaps not surprisingly, lower than expected, especially in areas where virus mutations are high and there are questions around the efficacy of vaccines against these variants.

One outcome I have seen from the slashing of the workforce is a growing culture of toxic positivity. People are so worried that their jobs will be on the line in the next restructure/recovery/redesign programme that they are afraid to say no to anything. The result of this, of course, is an overload of work without the usual team back up: no successful event is delivered single-handedly, yet that’s exactly what’s being expected now as ‘business as usual’ is restarting while other teams settle down into their new structures. For any public event to work you need social media and marketing support, design support, bookings team support, on-the-ground support, support from within your own team, increasing technical support if your event is online – just for starters.

When one of these things isn’t in place – or when teams have been so decimated that they can no longer work responsively but need several months lead-in – then you have a problem. This is especially the case when everyone is competing for the same severely shrunken audience demographic: the one with the dinosaurs is going to win as dinosaurs don’t need marketing. So you have people trying to maintain pre-pandemic levels of engagement, with post-pandemic levels of support: a recipe for failure if ever I saw one. But what can you do when you worry that any sign you’re not coping will be either ignored or seen as lack of competence? So, toxic positivity reigns – and with it rising levels of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.

Sunshine superwoman

My stress relief, as always, is making stuff: I have been turning off the laptop at the end of the day and sitting in the garden for an hour or so before making tea, enjoying the sunshine and decompressing with some crochet or cross stitch. I am still working on the Hobbit piece in between making gifts, and as May is out of the way I updated the Temperature Tree. Like April, the month hovered in the mid-teens so there’s a lot of the same greens until we get to the last few days. Hopefully this month I can add a new colour as we hit the dizzy heights of 24 and 25 degrees in half term.

I have also been playing with some micro-crochet to create tiny toadstool jars, using this pattern found on Ravelry. I do love these tiny pieces – fiddly but so pretty. The first toadstool image is the original one I made – the others are the second version, where I added a tiny bit of stuffing to the toadstool cap and stitched the stalk to the ‘grass’ to make it stand up better. I also used a smaller bottle for the second version.

Swimming is another destressing activity: yesterday’s circuit of the lake was probably my slowest ever, as I stopped to look at the coot family with four tiny balls of fluff cheeping away, the mamma duck with her five stripy ducklings, another coot family and and a reed warbler. I had an hour while my friend was in a coaching session, so had no reason to race about, and I felt very serene when I came out at the other end. The water temperature was 18 degrees, so my skins dip at the end was quite long too.

So that’s been my week! How was yours?

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Pel and the Bombers/Pel and the Pirates – Mark Hebden

Attention All Shipping – Charlie Connelly

The Strawberry Thief – Joanne Harris (Audible)

62: Or, what I did on my holidays

This time last week I was in Criccieth, North Wales with London sister (LS): we were peering out of the window at the torrential rain and howling gale and wondering what to do with our day. Luckily, having spent most of our childhood holidays in Wales, we are waterproof and hardy.

We drove up on Friday, via Abergavenny and mid-Wales: through convoy road works, diversions for road closures (including the old Severn Bridge) and finally up through the Dolgellau pass where the car in front of us burned out their clutch, the clouds were down on the road and there were free range sheep on the roadsides. We were staying at the Lion Hotel in Criccieth, where LS explained she was learning Welsh. She asked if it was OK if she practised on them and they promised to help. The hotel is family-run and so friendly, with hot showers, big breakfasts and comfortable beds. We ate in the restaurant on our first evening: whitebait and a freshly baked steak and ale pie for me, and spring rolls and gammon for her. The gammon steak was HUGE, from a local butcher, and came with egg and pineapple – none of this ‘or’ malarkey! They even had a gin menu, featuring local gins – I tried the Rhubarb and Ginger gin.

We went for a walk before dinner, as the rain had stopped and we needed to stretch our legs after the trek up from London: straight to the beach, where we watched a surfer and I got water in my wellies attempting to cross the stream. I squelched for the rest of the walk, causing LS to snigger a lot.

LS had planned our weekend itinerary, and Saturday saw us heading for Aberdaron to pick up the Wales coastal path on a route that would take us to the most westerly part of North Wales….after breakfast, of course, where we discovered that no one knows the word for ‘hash browns’ in Welsh. Google has it as ‘brown hash’ but LS decided ‘tatws wedi hashio’ was better. Not sure we convinced the waitress though!

The sun was out, and we got to Aberdaron in time to buy freshly-baked pasties from Becws Islyn for a picnic lunch on our walk. After a few false starts (getting on the wrong bit of beach, for example) we picked up the coast path and, using the trusty Ordnance Survey book, we headed up. And up. And down. And up. There are steep steps cut into the cliffs and in some cases the path takes you right down to the beach and back up again – Porth Meudwy, where the boat for Bardsey Island leaves from, is a prime example here. It’s a narrow cove with a slipway and not a lot else. The weather by this point was glorious: breezy and fine, and we even had to remove a layer of fleece.

Mynydd Mawr was our destination point: there’s a coastguard station on the very top and the remains of a wartime radar station. The walk instructions at this point were ‘keep walking upwards’: straight to the point there! After a quick peek at the coastguard station we found a spot on the cliff to eat our still-warm pasties and, as we were facing westwards, we could see Ireland in the distance as the weather was so clear. We waved at Ireland sister but we’re not sure she saw us! We moved round the mountain to drink our coffee, eat Snickers bars (the perfect walking snack) and admire Eryri (Snowdonia) in the distance.

The route back took us through some farmland – we were diverted from part of it due to landslips and erosion, and then we rejoined the coastal path back at Porth Meudwy – sadly at the bottom of the steps, so we still had to climb up again! We admired bluebells, foxgloves, late primroses and lots of gorse, and learned about the National Trust’s activity to replace the gorse with heather to create heathland. The final stretch was a scramble across the rocks at Aberdaron as we couldn’t face the final set of down and up steps: the tide was coming in but we raced the waves and rewarded ourselves with an ice cream on the beach. After nine miles of mostly hills we had earned it!

Back in Criccieth, I decided to go for a swim. LS sat on the beach with her book and a G&T. The sea was calm and the beach shelves very quickly, so you don’t need to go out very far to submerge. The hotel landlady thought I was quite mad, and now we get to say ‘o mam bach!’ instead of OMG…

We had fish and chips on the beach for dinner – quite the best I have had for a very long time – accompanied by prosecco and hovering gulls. We didn’t share.

Sunday’s weather was the complete opposite of the previous day, so we headed to Caernarfon for the family zoom call to wish Ireland sister a happy birthday, and then to Newborough Forest and Traeth Llanddwyn on Anglesey for a walk. The Forest is a red squirrel sanctuary, but we didn’t see any: I suspect they were tucked up in their drays hiding from the weather! We did see a woodpecker, two ravens and a lot of sand dunes, and made the sensible decision not to go to the island to see the chapel as we’d have been blown away. We drove back via Llyn Padarn and Llanberis, being awed by the waterfalls in full spate and the number of idiot drivers, and then in the evening we ate at Dylan’s in Criccieth: a beautiful Art Deco building designed by Clough Williams Ellis in the 1930s. No mussels were available so more whitebait, crab arancini and then crab salads.

On Monday’s homeward journey we called in to see our cousin Myfanwy and her husband in Fairbourne, where sheep roamed the streets and the bakery makes excellent brownies. It was lovely to see them – last time I met them it was in Kings Cross so the scenery was very different!

I think the kids were pleased to see me when I got back, it’s hard to tell…

Reality…

The excitement continued on Wednesday as it was the monthly sunset and full moon swim at Redricks – this month was the flower moon, so there were some mad hats on display. The lake looks so pretty lit up by torches in drybags and glowtubes.

On Thursday I had my last day on site at the museum, as we had to be out on Friday for the building work to start. It looks so empty! We recycled and donated as much as we possibly could: scrap metal and wood, charity shops, the Scrap Project, schools, other museums, churches and charities. It’s going to be an adventure for the next few years to say the least!

Baby cow, do-do-do-do-doooo

A finish this week has been this cow and calf, which is probably one of the weirder things I have made – it was a commission from a friend as a gift for her sister in law, who loves all things cow.

I also frogged half my latest sock (Mulled Wine by Vicki Brown Designs) as I decided I didn’t like the solid colour I was using. I took it back to the toe and redid the foot with a self-striping yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners – Winwick Mum in the Wildflower colourway.

The year of handmade gifts

I had a brainwave a few weeks ago and made a chart of all my work colleagues’ birthdays so I can plan a bit better! I am now ahead of myself, having finished the next one and kitted up two more – one for work and one for a friend who is getting married soon.

I have also picked up the Hobbit Hole pattern again, which has been on hold while I’ve been making gifts – I was stitching in the garden yesterday, and while watching films last night.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…

So that’s been my week! A lot of heavy lifting, glorious walks, time with my sister, cross stitch and crochet. And it’s a bank holiday weekend too – hurray!

See you for week 63, which won’t be nearly as exciting as this week I am mostly doing spreadsheets.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure – Joanne Harris (Audible)

Attention All Shipping – Charlie Connelly

Pel is Puzzled/Pel and the Staghound – Mark Hebden

60: are you suggesting that coconuts migrate?

This week has drifted by in a fuzz of nothing much: the weather has been grey and rainy, and it’s one of those weeks where I feel I have achieved very little. I know I have, of course: we finished packing up the learning office and the handling collection at work with a week to spare before the deadline, sorted the boxes into deep storage, accessible storage and ‘wanted on voyage’ piles; I had some very useful meetings and spent a lot of time staring at spreadsheets. The cutting adrift of the team from the museum for the next couple of years is imminent: there is no dedicated office space for us elsewhere, so I expect I am just feeling a bit lost!

So as the weather was being temperamental again yesterday I decided I’d cheer myself up with a day of watching a favourite film or two. I ended up watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is endlessly quotable and entirely silly, and the compilation of sketches And Now for Something Completely Different. I love Monty Python: its absurdism, and the sideways look at Britain and the British in a way that Little Britain took a bit too far at times. Sketches like the Dead Parrot or the Four Yorkshiremen are instantly recognisable, even to non-fans, as they have entered the public domain, and without groups like Python the alternative comedians of the ’80s probably wouldn’t have existed. Not the Nine O’Clock News, for example, or Naked Video and Absolutely.

Bedivere:  Well, now, uh, Launcelot, Galahad, and I wait until nightfall, and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the French by surprise — not only by surprise, but totally unarmed!
Arthur:  Who leaps out?
Bedivere:  Uh, Launcelot, Galahad, and I.  Uh, leap out of the rabbit, uh and uh….

I was first introduced to Monty Python at uni in the early 90s, along with many other geeky things like graphic novels, and role playing games (we did Middle Earth). One of the things I really loved about uni was that it was suddenly OK to be a geek and to love SF and fantasy, superheroes and quotable films, in a way that it wasn’t at a small town secondary school where the slightest hint of difference made you odd. Uni was full of people who didn’t think it odd that locating the local library was top of the to-do list (alongside the local student pub, of course).

What you see when you look up: a tiny garden growing in a police lamp

Museums are also full of people who happily sit in the nerd camp: the Pratchett fans, the D&D players, the people who start phone calls with “‘ello? I’d like to make a complaint!’ or ‘Do you want to come upstairs?’ and brighten your day by making you laugh. At the start of a meeting this week my line manager informed me that she’d woken up with a pain in the diodes all down her left side: well, it was Thursday, and it’s hard to get the hang of Thursdays. I work with Lego fans, with people who think it’s perfectly normal to sit on the top deck of a bus in London to look at buildings, Potterheads, D&D players, Discworld fans, Whovians, gamers, and more. This is why I love my job: it’s a joy to go to work when you have found your tribe.

In stitches

I came home from work on Wednesday unable to think about anything except chocolate cake, for some reason. Luckily I have an excellent recipe that belonged to my Aunty Jan, where you throw everything in a bowl, beat it for two minutes and then bung it in the oven and the result is a brilliant cake that even I can’t get wrong. With a dollop of Mallow & Marsh raspberry marshmallow spread in the middle and a cocoa glace icing, we had cake for pudding after dinner and I was able to get on with my life.

As you can see, I finished the Hairspray cross stitch and handed it over to the birthday girl this week – she loved it. I don’t often get to hand things over in person these days, so it was lovely to see the unboxing. Sock one of the Vappu use-up-the-ball socks is complete, and I have also begun this Cow with Calf crochet pattern.

I’ve also finished the next gift in the year of handmade gifts, which will be heading off this week, so I have achieved more than I think I have over the last seven days! This week I am having a sneak preview of the new V&A exhibition with some children from my favourite Bethnal Green primary school: I went into school to visit them on Friday and it was so good to see them again after more than a year!

And then next weekend London sister and I are going on an adventure, which I am REALLY looking forward to. I don’t even care if it rains (though sunshine would obviously be nice!).

So, that was week 60. Nothing much happened, but there we are. See you for week 61, when I will be coming to you from North Wales.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

Inspector Pel and the Faceless Corpse – Mark Hebden

Attention All Shipping – Charlie Connelly

The Lollipop Shoes -Joanne Harris (Audible)

59: culture and cocktails

Yesterday my best friend and I made our long-delayed visit to Highgate Cemetery, for no reason other than that we rather like a good graveyard. We’d planned to visit it last year but what with one lockdown and another we’d had to put it off. Pre-pandemic, the only way to visit the West (older) cemetery was on a guided tour, but they have been trialling self-guided visits, advance booked in timed slots. This was one of our culture and cocktail days, when we would usually go and see an exhibition or a museum and then have a very indulgent lunch: previous excursions have included The Lost Words at the Foundling Museum, Frida Kahlo at the V&A, and the Mail Rail and Postal Museum. We weren’t able to book anywhere for lunch so the plan was to get and M&S picnic with ready mixed cocktails and go and eat in Waterlow Park between visiting the West and East cemeteries.

Typically, yesterday was the first day of torrential rain in months: it’s been so dry and sunny, if not always warm! Luckily, we met at uni in Preston so we are quite used to rain, so we dug out the waterproofs and sensible shoes (how times change!) and met up at Kings Cross – track failure on the Central Line and the complete breakdown of all new LNER trains notwithstanding. After grabbing our picnic we hopped on the Northern Line and headed for Archway tube. We changed carriages once as there was a very strange man eyeing up handbags – we have never been out anywhere over the years without there being at least one weirdo involved, and at least this one didn’t tell me his life story. On our Mail Rail day a man accosted me at Kings Cross and told me all about his unfair dismissal from Royal Mail, as he was off to Parliament to protest about it. Bless him, I don’t think he’d realised there was an anti-Brexit march going on at the same time…my friend was crying with laughter from a distance as I am a magnet for weirdos.

We started with Highgate West, following the main route to start with and then wandering down the smaller paths as they appeared – there was a really helpful volunteer as we arrived, who kept popping up with useful information across the day. The sites are run by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, so everyone is full of interesting knowledge – I do love a volunteer!

We were enchanted by the way the grounds have been left to grow wild, and spotted little Great Tits and a beautiful jay as we walked around. It does mean a lot of the space is inaccessible as many of the monuments and graves are unsafe, but even the main paths give you a good view and they are very well maintained. There’s a red route on the map which gives you the highlights like the Circle of Lebanon, the Egyptian Avenue and the main tombs, but you can also follow the smaller marked paths.

We were surprised to find the grave of Alexander Litvinenko in the old side, who was interred in a lead lined coffin – we hadn’t really registered that people were still being buried in this side, although there is very little space. The graves range from the very simple to the very elaborate, with a heavy emphasis on obelisk and angels (which we kept a careful eye on, and definitely didn’t blink). Our favourite on this side was George Wombwell’s, with a sculpture of a very friendly lion. He was a menagerist, with three travelling animal shows.

We found a shelter in Waterlow Park for our picnic – although it had stopped raining by then the ground was a bit too damp to sit on. I can highly recommend M&S’s Blackberry Gin Bramble, though I’m told their Cosmopolitan tasted like parma violets, and is not recommended. We offset the cocktails with the Crayfish and Mango salad.

Lunchtime company

Post lunch, we visited the East cemetery, where I made a pilgrimage to Douglas Adam’s very unassuming grave. No towels in evidence, but a whole flowerpot of biros. We loved the descriptions of people on their graves: scientists, poets, doctors, philosophers. Our very helpful volunteer popped up and pointed out the death mask of Bruce Reynolds, one of the great train robbers, and we found Malcom McLaren’s death mask later. We also found George Eliot, Jeremy Beadle, Karl Marx (hard to miss), Sheila Gish, Ann Jewson Crisp (who had a faithful dog, Emperor), Claudia Jones, and a whole lot of people called Martha.

The day was rounded off with a hot chocolate in a little cafe in Highgate Village – we earned it by walking up the rest of Highgate Hill! A cyclist passed us on the way up, huffing and puffing, and we were in serious awe of his stamina as that is one very steep hill. He also passed us on the way back down towards Highgate Station, freewheeling but still puffing. Highgate Village is an odd place that doesn’t feel like London – apart from the property prices.

On the way home I got to pull the emergency handle on the Central Line for the first time ever, as a man who had clearly had a few too many that afternoon was in a bad way and collapsed. We left him in the safe hands of the man at Debden Station and I hope he got home OK!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

I finished the second sock and they are large enough to allow for a bit of shrinkage – my laundry skills, like my cooking, can be a bit erratic at times. I love the way that the colourway on the sock yarn has reversed itself for the second sock, and there was enough left over (I hope) for a pair of Vappu socks.

You can also see that I have finished the D20 cross stitch and handed it over as a housewarming gift for a colleague, filled in April (range of 6-16 degrees for the month) on the Temperature Tree and just have the final ‘T’ to go on the Hairspray cross stitch pattern which is destined for a birthday gift. The final image is the Suffragette sash I made a few weeks ago, now in NI and in context!

This week has felt quite productive, all in all! And right now I had better go and whip up a flask of hot chocolate and get my swimming bag packed.

Same time next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

Juniper Wiles – Charles de Lint

Museum of Desire – Jonathan Kellerman

Serpentine – Jonathan Kellerman

Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book – Brian Froud and Terry Jones

Death Set To Music (Inspector Pel) – Mark Hebden

The Lollipop Shoes – Joanne Harris (Audible)

58: head, shoulders, knees and toes

I came home from work on Wednesday and as the evening progressed, my foot began to hurt. I mean, it really hurt. So much so that I couldn’t put any weight on it – some of the time. And then sometimes it was fine. I hadn’t done anything to it that I knew of – no mis-steps, or ankle turns, or falling off or into anything. It just hurt. Scientific exploration (oh ok, poking at it till I discovered where it hurt most) revealed an area just between the top of my foot and the ankle bone where it was tender but not swollen but didn’t tell me why. I’d been on my feet all day – except when I’d been crawling on the floor cutting up plastazote for boxing the handling collection. I’d been wearing Converse (of course) rather than anything impractical – I wouldn’t walk a marathon in them but they’re pretty practical the rest of the time.

So, knowing I had an ankle support somewhere I went on a hunt for it. The ankle support dates from when I twisted my ankle at an Aerosmith gig. Don’t ask. Anyway.

Twenty five years ago I possessed a wrist support. That was it. I worked, mostly. This week, in the course of the hunt for the ankle bandage I discovered I now have:

  • the ankle support (phew)
  • multiple random lengths of tubigrip bandage for ankles and wrists (I assume)
  • two elbow supports
  • no less than eight knee supports ranging from pressure straps through to neoprene ones with carefully placed kneecap holes. Eight!
  • a selection of KT tape in interesting colours and patterns.

How does this even happen? I have never had a major injury other than a broken arm at the age of four. I am mostly kind to my body: I take it on walks, I feed it nice food, I submerge it in a lake a couple of times a week. There could probably be a lot less of it (it’s on the to-do list) but on the whole it’s pretty healthy so why do I possess enough stretchy bandaging to go to a party as a patchwork sports mummy? The pairing of the words ‘Kirsty’ and ‘sports injury’ would cause Miss Brooker and Miss Jones from the Comp PE department to collapse in hysteria, but here I am at 47 with enough joint supports to cause a physiotherapist to weep.

And let’s not even start on my back, neck and shoulders or the three pairs of glasses for very small, far away and middle distance. It turns out that people, unlike wine, do not improve with age.

Ice cream in the park

It’s been a pretty rough week, all in all, quite apart from the mystery ankle injury. On Monday we discovered that our little museum team was being restructured yet again (that’s three times in two years, for context). If it goes ahead, we stand to lose the person who has been the absolute heart of the team for the past two years: making sure we stayed connected through furlough and lockdown, establishing the birthday habit we now have, fighting for us and the project at high levels. When she joined the museum after the first, bruising restructure she made sure she met every single person for a one to one to find out our hopes and ambition for the new museum and for our roles within it: from the cleaning, catering and security teams to the heads of teams and those people from the other sites with responsibility for the project. When we were restructured again the following year she worked to find alternative roles within the museum for as many of those affected as she could. The grief and anger within the team has been palpable this week, though she was at pains to reassure us that we would be OK. We are a tight team who work cross-departmentally, who are generous with time and knowledge and who share a passion for the project we’re working on. We are also tired and demoralised, and fed up with being restructured. There’s only so many times you can rebuild something before the component parts become unstable: hence the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

I really felt I’d earned the sunset/full moon swim on Monday night, and pottered round the lake getting my head back on the right way round. The atmosphere was lovely, with candles and a fire pit, and the moon rising behind the trees as we were getting changed. This week’s cover photo is by me, as I finally managed to sort out my waterproof phone case!

By Friday we had earned a picnic in Victoria Park watching the puppy obedience class followed by an ice cream from ‘The Conefather’. Just getting off site as a team and being able to rant and let off steam was a relief – we are still mainly working remotely, so very much ships passing in the night (or the corridor), and online chats just aren’t the same.

This friendly bee came to join our picnic

There has been much therapeutic crafting going on: a gift I still can’t share but will be able to next week after it’s gone to its new home, the ongoing lacy socks and another cross stitch underway.

This week is a three day week for me, as it’s Bank Holiday and I’ve booked Friday off as a mental health day (and the dentist) as well. I’m off swimming shortly so I’d better go and get myself sorted!

Enjoy the long weekend!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

Library of the Dead – T.L. Huchu

The Stranger Times – C.K McDonnell

Juniper Wiles – Charles de Lint

Chocolat – Joanne Harris (Audible)

55: You never forget your first Doctor

Regular readers of my ramblings have probably noticed that I am a happy little nerd (and proud of it). My kids are resigned to the fact that if I am left alone with the TV remote and my latest project they will come back to find me watching M*A*S*H, an eighties movie, Monty Python or – most likely – Doctor Who. Over the past eighteen months or so I have worked my way back through from Nine to Twelve, with a festive break to watch all the Christmas specials. Clara Oswald is still in situ as companion, so I have Bill Potts to go before Thirteen makes her appearance.

While I love the reboot, my first Doctor was Tom Baker – Four – who is still the longest serving incarnation of the Doctor (1974-1981). He is probably the most recognisable with that wonderful scarf and the mad hair. I must have been very young when I first started watching the series, as I was only 8 in 1981. My dad, as I’ve mentioned previously, is an enormous fan of sci-fi and fantasy, so I suspect the Doctor was regular viewing. He also watched Day of the Triffids (the theme tune was more terrifying than the show), Blake’s Seven, The Adventure Game, Now Get Out of That, The Great Egg Race, Quantum Leap and more, so at least I was brought up with a good all-round TV grounding.

The special effects – for the time – were pretty good and the aliens were often quite scary so the old ‘watching from behind a cushion’ trope has some basis in reality. The writers were excellent, and I enjoyed the Terrance Dicks books when I used to get them out of the library. It’s no real surprise that I love Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch as writers: they cut their teeth on Doctor Who.

Nine is my favourite of the rebooted Doctors, and his story arc with Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) broke my heart: he was so wonderfully mad and, I think, the most alien of the modern incarnations. The relationships with the companions have always been a huge part of the dynamic of the show. When Rose was replaced by Donna Noble – with Catherine Tate in the role – I stopped watching it quite so religiously: it was too soon after Tate’s own TV show where she played a series of very shouty characters for me to warm to her. However, on the rewatch, she was actually brilliant and the addition of the wonderful Bernard Cribbins as her dad was just genius. Clara Oswald is still too smug, but I rather liked the ‘fam’ that Thirteen collected and will be interested to see how John Bishop does in the new series.

Image from ‘The Parting of the Ways’

I’d like to see more of Captain Jack Harkness – both back in the TARDIS and a return of Torchwood please. I even liked Miracle Day, though I don’t think anyone else did. I love the fact that Ianto had a shrine down in Cardiff Docks! As for villains….the Daleks and the Cybermen are the classics (it’s not Christmas without one or the other), but some of the Masters have been archvillains indeed. The insane John Simm and the sociopathic Michelle Gomez have been properly scary at times: the tricky Doctor/Master relationship has been drawn so well here that you have to have sympathy for them.

My fondness for the Time Lord has spilled over into my crafting habits: I made a Tardis gift for a Whovian friend when he and his husband moved house, and one of my favourite work skirts was made from a Doctor Who duvet cover. I have enough fabric scraps left from that to put secret nerdy pockets into a lot of outfits! The last cross stitch I designed was a TARDIS in a bottle which is on the to-do pile, and once I have finished the Hobbit Hole I am currently working on and another gift for a friend, I think it will be next on the list.

Who’s your favourite Doctor?

The rest of the week…

…has been quite peaceful, which has been a relief after March’s frenzied union activities. The weather has been chilly but mainly sunny, so on Tuesday morning I went for a long solo ramble through the fields. In typical April fashion, it snowed later in the day.

There have been a few swims – the water has been warmer than the air on most days, but it’s so good to be back in the water regularly. The coots are building their nests in the reeds, so soon we’ll be sharing the lake with the noisy chicks. I can’t wait!

I finished the first of the Tunisian socks and got started on the second, and have also sorted out all my sock patterns from the various boxes in the shed. I think they may be my favourite thing to crochet, you know. I can also now share the latest gift to be given this week – a 40th birthday gift for a colleague who loves video games. The pattern can be found here, and I used the same string art tutorial as last time to do the back.

I also sent this floral wreath one off along with the Suffragette sashes, all the way to Northern Ireland – Royal Mail at least still admit that NI is in the UK! If you look closely you can see the tiny initials of the house’s new inhabitants. The final piece is a hobbit hole, which you can find here.

This week’s cover image was taken on Easter Monday at St Andrew’s Churchyard, where we went to plant spring flowers on my beloved’s mother’s grave. You aren’t allowed to leave pots, artificial flowers or plastic anything on the graves but many of them have been planted with daffodils and other spring flowers. It’s one of the most beautiful churchyards I have seen, with higgledy-piggledy gravestones, a covering of primroses and violets, riddled with rabbit holes and surrounded by fields. The church itself dates from about 1330. There is a small Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery and memorial in the churchyard as well, with the village war memorial in front of the church.

Thing Two is nagging me to go on a bike ride, so I had better leave this here and do some parenting!

Same time, same place next week then?

Kirsty

What I’ve been reading:

The Silk House/The Botanist’s Daughter – Kayte Nunn

A Comedy of Terrors (Flavia Albia) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)

54: one of those weeks

It’s been a funny old week, really. At work we were coming to the end of the consultation period for what we hope was the last phase of the restructure (for a while, anyway) and, being a union rep, its been a bit frenzied for the last couple of months. The people I have been supporting have been angry, confused, upset, worried – about themselves, their colleagues and friends, and the collection – and frustrated. It’s been made more difficult as there was an anonymous leak to the press before it was announced to the museum staff, so the process has been happening under scrutiny from the broadsheets, Radio 4, a few of the arts journals and even parliament, where an early day motion was brought about the National Art Library.

I have come away from the process knowing a lot more about the workings of the conservation and curatorial teams, and have seen the museum values of generosity, collaboration and innovation demonstrated by the staff on a daily basis. The term ‘grace under fire’ has never made more sense, particularly as some of the meetings were being led by people whose jobs were also at risk of redundancy. It’s never felt more important to be a part of the union.

The kids have also been at home for their Easter holidays, which always makes online meetings more of a challenge! At least I wasn’t trying to manage home learning as well as the meetings, which really would have been the final straw. As it was, I made it as far as Wednesday and then decided I’d take Thursday off to clear my head.

Wednesday evening was a bit of a treat. As part of the rehoming of the learning collection I had sent some boxes off to Northern Ireland to Time Steps Living History, which is a historical interpretation company. Owned by Ireland sister, Time Steps provides sessions in schools, community venues, care homes, and historic sites and celebrated 10 years in business this week. ‘Sent some boxes’ sounds quite straightforward, doesn’t it? It skims over the fact that in the process I have had to raise a complaint with Hermes who won’t accept parcels for NI as they think it’s international (their international site thinks otherwise), and have a lengthy web chat with DPD whose delivery driver was unable to raise the museum contact despite having two phone numbers, a one hour slot when people were actively looking out for them and detailed instructions on which gate to use. Still, they got there in the end.

Where was I? Oh yes, Wednesday evening. Ireland sister and I videochatted while she unpacked the boxes, as I’d forgotten what was in them. It felt like Christmas for me, watching her discover tiny clogs, lots of ephemera, historic costume replica, toys, and more. All these things have been hidden in boxes in our cupboards, and now they’ll be having a new life when she can get back into schools and the community. My niece and nephew were also on the call – she is a mini history buff and he is incurably curious, pouncing on the wooden toys and experimenting. After a really hard few days (weeks!) it was wonderful to bring a bit of joy to someone.

My gorgeous niece Catrin modelling a replica bonnet. Image © Time Steps/Stephanie Lavery

Thursday became a bit of a mental health day, with reading and making things and generally not looking at screens except when I wanted to. It was lovely to be able to talk to the Things without having to take a pair of earphones off, be able to listen to the Minecraft explanations without half my mind being on my next meeting, and to be able to sit in silence at times. Silence is under-rated in these days of working from home and hyperconnectedness.

I have also managed to swim twice this week. The urge to get back in the water – chilly or not – has been so strong in the past few weeks that I’ve been able to visualise the chill of the water as it creeps up the legs of my wetsuit. On Monday I was so happy afterwards I got the giggles, as well as the silly grin we all get. The air was warmer than the water, which was sitting at 9 degrees, so getting changed was quite pleasant. Yesterday, the water was 10.6 degrees and the air was in single figures with a biting wind, so I was glad of my onesie with no awkward fastenings. In the van next to us a little girl had put her face underwater and got brain freeze – luckily I still had some hot chocolate left in the flask to share with her!

Copped Hall walk

Last Sunday my beloved and I dragged Things Two and Three out for a walk (Thing One was having a bit of a wobble so didn’t join us). We parked up behind the cricket pitch in Epping, crossed over the M25 on the Bell Common tunnel and followed the footpath up to Copped Hall. I’d never been up there before, but had always had the footpath earmarked for exploration at some point.

The path takes you down through a field where we could see a herd of deer ahead of us, and past a pillbox which is part of the Outer London Defence Ring – it was the second one listed in this blog post if you want more details! You then follow the road up past some very large houses (Rod Stewart is a former resident on the estate) and finally come up to Copped Hall itself. The kids loved climbing the tree outside and sitting on the haha watching the world go by. The walk back took us past woodlands swathed in primroses and violets, past the deer again and up a steep hill bordered by blackthorn in bloom. Copped Hall itself is being restored by volunteers, so it’s not open to the public apart from a few days a year, but we are planning to go back on one of those.

So that’s been my week! Today I was out at 7am ‘checking to see if the Easter Bunny had been hiding eggs in the garden’. I had hoped that this phase of my life was over, but the horror on the face of Thing Two when I tried to suggest that the Easter Bunny had already given me the eggs for them melted my resolve. This afternoon we are going to see Timeshare Teenager #1 and the grandchild for the first time since last summer, and the sun is just coming out so hopefully it’ll be a bit warmer! Happy Easter to you all: may it be peaceful and filled with the things that bring you joy.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

The Animals at Lockwood Manor – Jane Healey

A Private Cathedral (Dave Robicheaux) – James Lee Burke

A Dangerous Man – Robert Crais

Vesuvius by Night – Lindsey Davis (Audible)

A Comedy of Terrors (Flavia Albia) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)

53: I like big books and I cannot lie

And small books, and middle sized books. Audio books, graphic novels, comic books. Fiction and non-fiction, picture books and wordy books. I just like books. The house is full of them: the two things I have far too many of, according to my beloved and the kids, are books and shoes.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Some shelves are more organised than others, of course: Terry Pratchett (although he has started to roam), Charles de Lint, Phil Rickman, poetry, the shelf(ves) of shame waiting to be read, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, my childhood favourites, crime novels by author, Penguin classics. Leave me alone in your living room and I’ll hit the bookshelves first and then your music collection. Leave me alone for longer than the time it takes you to make a cup of coffee (instant is fine, thanks) and I’ll start reading. A question I have heard more times than I can count is, ‘what a lot of books! Have you read them all?’ and the answer is always ‘no, and that means there’s something new to discover’. I keep books I love, and if I know I’m not likely to read them again I pass them on to friends or send them to the charity shops so someone else can discover them.

Image: openculture.com

I grew up surrounded by books and was rarely told what I could or couldn’t read, which means my taste is eclectic, to say the least. I love discovering new authors: I have devoured Tom Cox’s books – even the ones about golf – this year, having picked up one of his cat books in Oxfam. Being able to order new books in advance on Kindle and have them appear as if by magic on publication day is like having many Christmases and birthdays every year. The only problem is that often you get two or even three books appearing on the same day, and then you have to decide which to read first. That happened last week, with Ben Aaronovitch’s new Rivers of London novella What Abigail Did That Summer and Tom Cox’s Notebook arriving at once. Both were very different but equally delicious. Kindle is also wonderful in that if you really love a book and know that one of your friends will like it too you can buy them a copy as well. I subscribe to BookBub, who send me an email every day with daily 99p books that you can filter to the genres you want.

I am not precious about my books. I bend the corners down on paperbacks, and use the slipcovers as bookmarks on hardbacks. Books are meant to be read, not idolised: sometimes they are both. I have some books that have been read so many times they are quite literally falling apart. I possess a lot of bookmarks but can never find them. I love finding fellow fans of series: there are a lot of Discworld fans in museums, I have found, and then you know you have a new reading enabler who you can swap new finds with.

I disappear into books. Once I’m in the story, the kids know that if they want me to hear anything they need to get my attention first, or they have no chance. A good book, for me, is one that makes you want to go and find everything else that author has ever written and read that too, even if its about golf. Some books blaze across your imagination, burning in images that stay with you long after you’ve put the book down. Some authors excel at short stories, others at full length novels. Some do both: Stephen King is one, and Joanne Harris is another.

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

When I was a Key Stage 1 teacher I loved the moment when a child suddenly clicked with reading, and started to work their way through books for pleasure and not for phonics. Some children needed more help than others: one little boy wasn’t interested in the Oxford Reading Tree so I lent him my own book of children’s Arthurian legends because he was obsessed with King Arthur. He started reading them with his mum, and by the final story he was unstoppable and reading independently. I loved story time at the end of the day, and when I had the same class again in year 3 we read a chapter a day before home time. I read to the children nightly, in the same way that I was read to by my parents, and read many of the same books to them as I had as a child. I can’t bear to part with these childhood treasures, even now.

You can learn to do pretty much anything from books, too: over the years I have taught myself to crochet, to (sort of) knit, to sew, to quilt. When I was growing up my Dad’s household manual was the Reader’s Digest Repair Manual (I believe he still has it) and when anything broke he would refer to this bible. I was overjoyed to find a copy of the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing the other week, and then I tracked down the Guide to Needlework on Amazon. I may never need all these techniques – I can’t see myself doing bobbin lace or tatting, for example, but I’ll know exactly where to look if I decide I want to give them a try. A colleague asked me (as I carried my treasure off in triumph) how many sewing books I had. I don’t know, but I did organise them by craft a few weeks ago so at least I can find them when I need to!

I like to crochet or cross stitch and listen to audio books at the same time: that’s multitasking at its best. My book is the last thing I put down at night: sometimes I wake myself up when the book falls out of my hand. My commute is pure pleasure as long as I have a seat: a Central Line delay? No problem, there’s time for an extra chapter. If I have a rough morning at work, you can find me and my Kindle in KFC – the ultimate lunchtime cure-all.

So if you need me, I’ll be reading….

…and/or making stuff

This week I have handed over a handmade gift to a friend who’s just moved house, combining her family with her mother-in-law and taking on a renovation project. 3 adults, 2 kids and 3 hounds! I designed this one, using an alphabet from Lord Libidan and DMC Coloris thread. I’m working on two other gifts as well, which should be finished and sent off soon!

The Tunisian sock is coming on nicely, and is starting to look a bit more socky, which is reassuring! I like this stitch as it’s really easy to count the rows! The fabric has a more knitted look than normal crochet, so these will be stretchier, I hope.

This week’s cover photo is the museum fox sunning herself outside my office window – when we lifted the containers this week we discovered five cubs, which we think she’s found a new earth for. She’s so confident: the grounds are her territory, and since the building is closed she must feel very safe.

So that’s it from me for the week! Looking forward to the lake reopening tomorrow and getting back in the water and to seeing more than one friend at once as restrictions start to lift.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Cold Case/Flashpoint (Carlotta Carlyle) – Linda Barnes

London Particular (BBC Radio Drama) – Nick Perry (Audible)

What Abigail Did That Summer – Ben Aaronovitch (Audible)