Sunday, 29 December 2013

Pleased with Punch

Hullo! I hope you had a good Christmas. Mr Robot and I aren't travelling this Christmas as he has to work, so we had medieval-style spiced beef on Christmas Day (rubbed in spices, salt and saltpetre every day for a fortnight beforehand, then roasted) and roast goose for us and three friends on Boxing Day. We dubbed Boxing Day 'blorpfest'; we're still eating our way through the fantastic toffee-nut pie Ian bought, and Matt and Lucy's monster cheese board. Blorp!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post to wish you a Merry Christmas - I hope you and all your loved ones are warm and well, and have a wonderful time. Mr Robot and I are having a quiet Christmas Day, but then filling the house with friends for roast goose followed by black forest trifle on Boxing Day. We collected the goose at 7:30am, I'm wearing a myrrh perfume, and all in all am feeling jolly festive. I hope you're filled with seasonal cheer too!

If you missed the documentary Len Goodman's Dance Band Days yesterday on BBC4, I heartily recommend catching up with it on iPlayer. It's an absolutely smashing look at how American jazz got smoothed for the customers of the luxury hotels and restaurants in London, and at the qualms the BBC had over broadcasting the music of the dance bands, plus there's a big creamy dollop of Al Bowlly to top the whole thing off.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Outfit post: It's A Wonderful Life

Yesterday Mr Robot and I went to the Little Theatre cinema in Bath to see It's A Wonderful Life after work. We'd got seats smack-bang in the front row of the balcony, which meant we had a two-seater sofa to snuggle up in, and the cinema was giving out mulled wine and mince pies. Such a hot date demanded good clothes, so I wore the brown 1960s dress suit I bought back in November from Darlings Vintage on Etsy.

(Please forgive the black and white photo, but the lighting was horrible and I'm bright orange if you see the shot in colour! At least this way you get a sense of the outfit.)

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Oh, Christmas tree!

I love Christmas. Each year I buy a few baubles to put on my tree. I didn't think I was going to this year, but then I couldn't resist this reindeer in a metal half-ball. Never mind that he looks nothing like a real reindeer. I have lots of fat, jolly non-reindeer stuck around the house.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector [music]

Actually, Phil Spector didn't give this to me, Mr Robot bought it off Amazon. If you want to get away from the usual Christmas music diet of Slade, Mariah Carey and Wham but still listen to something festive, there are loads of CDs around. (I reviewed some jazz and swing Christmas music CDs back in 2011.)

Friday, 6 December 2013

Knit For Victory Update

No, I haven't finished my navy jumper, but I've cast off the back! Just the sleeves, collar and front bands to go (plus the eye-straining task of sewing the whole lot together). You're probably sick of photos of bits of navy knitting, especially as the stitch pattern doesn't really photograph very well, so I thought I'd share my next Knit For Victory project with you.

I'm well aware that I won't complete the next woolly in the allotted time, but that's okay. I joined Tasha's knitalong with the aim of completing the navy cardigan, and anything else is jam. Because I got stuck in a wardrobe rut, I've been noting down what I wear every day for a few weeks, and it's been really useful, revealing that I wear a lot of black and grey in winter. I had planned to do something in black yarn next, but I've abandoned that as it'll be easier to see the stitches in the lighter days of summer, and I really need some more everyday colour to wear.

I'm trying not to buy any more yarn next, as I want to run down my stash so I'll have room for a sewing machine. However, pretty much every pattern I found requires a substantial amount of yarn, and aside from the black I didn't seem to have enough 4ply in any one colour for a vintage-style woolly. Then, on a hunt through my patterns, I found the pattern at the top of this page. Isn't it perfect?

The pattern uses five colours. It's a proper 1940s make-do pattern. The grey and white I've chosen will keep it neutral enough to stop me feeling overwhelmed with colour. The toning pinks and berry purple are a gorgeous yarn from a yarn club Fyberspates and The Natural Dye Studio ran a couple of years ago. It's called 'Unicorn' and is 80% baby camel, plus some silk and cashmere. I've had the yarn in a box for ages, and never quite knew what to do with it. Now - well, soon! - it can become something really special. (In case you're wondering, the grey is alpaca and the white alpaca-rich, so they should have a fairly uniform texture when knitted up together.)

I've really been enjoying the knitalong so far, especially the discussions in the Ravelry group Tasha set up. It's been great learning that so many other people do colourwork the way I do, dropping the unused yarn! And seeing other people's use of colour, and the patterns they've found, is fantastic. There's still time for you to join in...

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Space Captain Smith, Toby Frost [books]

The cover of Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost
Sit back and enjoy something silly. I mean spiffing. Or do I mean both?

As much as I enjoy a good adventure story, it’s a sad fact that the earlier the book was written, the more likely it is to contain offensive elements. Edgar Wallace wrote some ripping yarns sadly often tainted by 19th- and early 20th-century racism and sexism (reviews of The Green Archer and The Case Files of Mr Reeder), and the less said about Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond in this regard, the better. However, there’s also a lot to enjoy in an unwavering faith in heroism, decency (even if the standards of what is actually decent have shifted) and the joy of action.

In Space Captain Smith, Frost acknowledges both what was wrong with, and right about, the classic adventure story. The titular captain is a citizen of the Victorianesque British Space Empire. Beefy of build and tiny of brain, he’s loyal, kindhearted and frequently awful without meaning to be - but those around him recognise his attempts to be a good man and forgive him. After years behind a desk, Smith finally gets his first ship, the John Pym, and sets off with his headhunting alien friend Suruk the Slayer (simultaneously a critique of vintage portrayals of ‘natives’ and of aliens in science fiction) and simulant pilot Polly Carveth (unbeknown to him, a sexbot on the run from the job she didn’t want) on a simple mission to take a woman called Rhianna from her hippie planet home to another planet. The ship is a wreck, the Pym is pursued by both fascist, insectlike Ghasts and the religious extremists of New Eden, and things all get entertainingly chaotic.

I love the way Frost weaves in geek culture allusions. Space Captain Smith isn’t as littered with references in the way that Kim Newman’s novels (Anno Dracula; The Bloody Red Baron; Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbervilles) are, but every once in a while one will glint up at you - the reference to Strauss playing while spaceships wait to dock will bring a smile to the face of anyone who knows their classic videogames, while the bowler-hat-wearing hoodlums who attack the team are entertainingly recognisable in their brief cameo. Often Frost mashes up influences: just as Suruk is simultaneously ‘the native’, the Predator and even a little Chewbacca, the simulant bountry hunter who pursues Carveth on behalf of her owner shows elements of Marlowe, Bogart and Rick Deckard. You don’t have to get the allusions, though: the story is enjoyable even if you don’t.

An adventure story for the new Millennium. Ripping!