Tuesday, 16 December 2014

What I'm not knitting

Bradford-on-Avon: cute!

Gemma did a great post on Retro Chick last week on the Five Guilts of Christmas. I don't think I'm likely to provoke many feelings of guilt in others, apart from on the food front. I don't do it to be virtuous, however, I do just like cooking and eating, and I enjoy sharing it. I certainly don't expect you to do it! Every year we get together with some friends and have a real feast (Blorpfest), so if you want to see what we've been making, keep an eye on Greedybots. We've got something very special planned for 2014...

Last weekend I nipped to Bradford-on-Avon, a pretty town just down the road from Trowbridge. In many ways it and Trow are polar opposites: Bradford is quaint and upmarket, Trow decidedly more working class and, despite having more listed buildings than Bradford, more modern in feel. Trowbridge feels more multicultural. And Bradford is the home of the controversial Christmas tree! I did find the Christmas tree controversy funny; I saw it before it was toned down and it was entertainingly exuberant, but I could just imagine the posh pearl-clutchers wailing, "But we wanted Cath Kidston paper chains!" (Of course, in Trow, if we had a tree no-one liked, someone would set fire to it. Or if we had a tree we did like, someone would set fire to that. That's Trow for you.)

Behold the yarny treasures of Jumblejelly

That said, both are mill towns and both have some excellent independent shops. Trowbridge has a fantastic butcher, Bradford an indie wine merchant. And Bradford has Jumblejelly, my friend Elle's brilliant yarn shop. I'd shop at Jumblejelly even if she weren't my friend because Elle's a hardcore knitter and therefore manages to keep yarns that are both affordable and good quality in stock, such as King Cole's Merino Blend range, and a lot of Wendy. (Wendy make fantastic yarns, but the photos on their patterns would make any photographer cry. I really don't know how they can style things to look so bad!)

Earl Grey socks, though the cable down the side isn't very clear.
Anyway, enough about Wiltshire towns – I promised to tell you what I'm not knitting. I was trying to make one Christmas gift, but have accepted that it simply wouldn't be finished in time. My mum is hard to buy for, as she has all the knicknacks she could want, and I don't want to bore her by giving her perfume or jewellery every year. She does love hand-knitted socks, so I'd started a pair (the pattern is Earl Grey), but have had to be realistic about the timing. I've bought her a different gift, and will send her these socks when they're done. That might be before Christmas, but if it isn't, I don't have to worry. Despite the fact that I won't have them finished in time to post, I am definitely enjoying knitting these socks and will carry on plugging away. The pattern is easy enough to be fairly quick, but the cable design down the side of the leg and instep adds interest. The yarn I'm using is Lang Yarns Jawoll, currently my favourite sock yarn. It knits and wears really well, yet is also very soft. The colour is Bakelite Green.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Vintage crime for Christmas

Short of a stocking filler? Here's something I think any fan of crime novels will enjoy: The Santa Klaus Murder, by Mavis Doriel Hay. The Melbury family have all gathered together for Christmas, when the elderly head of the household is murdered. But who did it? Could it be the youngest daughter, who is forbidden to get married and leave home, or her fiance? Could it be the unhappily-married daughter, her shell-shocked husband or the man she wanted to marry all those years ago? How about the secretary? There are plenty of people who could have killed the victim – he wasn't a pleasant chap. In fact, this story is definitely a 'whodunnit'. You'll probably guess a good deal of how the crime was carried out very early on, but working out which person actually did the deed is much trickier, making this a very enjoyable read.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Crinoline Robot's unfestive week

I'm an up-and-down person and of late I've been very much UP, which means bagloads of energy and enthusiasm for everything. Frankly, in December I need it. Last week I was very grateful for it as I'd got loads of stuff done and then got ill – I suspect norovirus. Oddly, I didn't feel that bad in myself – aside from the horrible stomach problems, it wasn't as physically sapping as a cold – but there was no way I was venturing outside the house. (Last Thursday night I spent some time lying on the bathroom floor as I figured it wasn't worth leaving the room to go back to bed!) Anyway, the fact that I was ahead of myself on the shopping-and-organising front meant being confined to home wasn't such a problem, and I was able to fire up the laptop and work from home a bit too, so I wasn't letting my team down.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Looking back at Christmas

December. It's like a whole month of Mondays. To work round the schedules of people at various factories, all sorts of things get rescheduled and I usually have two print deadlines in December. At least this year neither of them clash with the work party. However, one of them is usually pretty short, and that means late nights, which is not what you want when you're trying to organise presents and food and housework too.

Go, go, gadget organisational skills...

I now have a monster to-do list covering everything from individuals to post cards to and items to shop for (Bath Christmas Market is is full swing, which means hordes of tourists, which means I try to get into town early and do my shopping bit-by-bit before starting work at 9:30 to avoid the crush). It's doable. It is doable.

Anyway, because I have lots to do and time is precious, I thought I'd waste some of it taking a look at what some of my older books and magazines suggest, giving, doing and making for Christmas.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

For sale: brand new traditions

Happy Thanksgiving, if you're in the US! I must admit, I always think of it as akin to a British Harvest Festival (probably because of the association with crops) and so the timing takes me aback every year because it's about three months later. It must be nice to have something falling in November to prevent the slide into Christmas mania; here in the UK Halloween acts as a bit of a brake, and Bonfire Night slows things down a little, but after that it's nearly two solid months of CHRISTMAS! CHRISTMAS! CHRISTMAS! and it can all get a bit much.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Doom with a view - times two!

Aren't these covers smashing? Both The Cornish Coast Murder and The Lake District Murder are from the British Library's range of reprinted vintage crime novels, and were originally published in 1935. I know it's always considered a faux pas in reviewing circles to talk about book covers, but I reckon these ones, with illustrations taken from 1930s railway posters are wonderful: appropriate for both the time and settings of the stories.

Friday, 21 November 2014

There ain't nothing like these dames!

Just a quick heads-up: Dulcie Demure (who I've been having burlesque classes with) is presenting The Queen of Neverminditsnamia, an alternative panto, this December. Burlesque has its roots in cheeky stage performance, just like panto, after all. It promises to be 'A theatrical burlesque production set in a mystical land of wigs, corsets and bloomers... and maybe the odd sausage!' Performers include Dulcie herself, Peach Schnaps, Chili Martini and Miss Cherry Bomb, and there should be a sausage-smuggling prince and a highwayman too.

I've put it on my What's on in Vintage Wiltshire page, which also covers the Somerset border area, but that's in sore need of an update so I thought I'd blog about it too. (I'll crack on with updating the events this weekend, I promise!)