Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Giant Granny Square Blanket

I finished my scrappy Aran giant granny square blanket! Although I nearly gave up photographing it earlier as the light was really rather awful and doesn't do it justice at all. This was a comfort project, which I picked up at intervals towards the end of writing the thesis. I used almost entirely yarn from my stash of all different brands, and the colours were chosen randomly and based on whether I thought I would get an entire round - I always lose at yarn chicken!

Here is a close-up which does it marginally more justice. It's surprisingly warm and has already featured in slobbing out sessions in front of Netflix.

I kept the border simple, two rounds of single crochet in the colours I had the most wool left in. I always tend to err on the side of simple with borders - I think by the end point I just want it to be over!

Again, awful lighting (our sofa is a nice deep purple not grey) but here it is laid out inside. I'm really mean and keep the cats off it so I don't have it out during the day - our cats seem to catch everything they possibly can with their claws (including several favourite jumpers) and also shed a ridiculous amount, and I have been rather precious with finished crochet items. Am I being really mean? Other people post pictures of cats and crochet, maybe I should overcome my inner aversion!

Thanks for all the lovely comments on my last post, we are setting the ball in motion, or trying to so watch this space!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

All Change

I've never been particularly good with change, I guess I'm a creature of comfort and habit. I like routine and stability for the most part, although I'm not completely adverse to the occasional adventure! Now is a time of change, and while I'm very excited about it, I'm also unsettled and clinging onto well-known and established parts of my life.

I have been exceedingly lucky and have managed to get a job - what a shock to the system that will be! It's a maternity cover role, so again a temporary solution, but I think it will give me some really good experience and also the opportunity to decide whether this is the area I want to work in. I really like the look of the job, and I had a good feeling at the interview so I am optimistic and looking forward to getting into it. Said job is however quite a commute - 2 hours on the train or an hour and 10 minute drive. Not being the most confident driver I'm a little anxious about doing so much travelling, but I'm sure I'll get used to it!

The job is in the area we want to move to, the East Midlands, so we will be putting our lovely little house on the market and attempting to move house! We've been here four years now and have outgrown the house a little - with both of us working at home and having quite a lot of hobbies we have filled all available space. And some. It's exciting, but also a little sad. We live in a beautiful town and I will miss it. But, we will be moving closer to both of our places of work, and many friends, which will be really lovely.

So I'm trying to swallow the unsettled feeling and embrace the excitement of change, the optimism we both feel for the next step in this funny old journey together. And with my last week of not working I am picking up old crafting projects, getting sidetracked with amigurumi pears, and panicking slightly that my oral exam for the PhD has finally been arranged and it's only two weeks away! Everything happens at once I suppose.

I hope you are all having a good week, and enjoying the change of season. I miss the long days, but I love winter/autumn clothes, always have always will - I love changing my wardrobe around in the autumn :) 

Monday, 12 October 2015


The week before last we spent a few lovely days in Lisbon for C's birthday. It was the first time either of us had been to Portugal and I have to say we both really liked it. The higher temperatures were especially welcome, it felt like a final fling with summer before returning to the UK autumn. Lisbon is extremely hilly - we'd been warned but were still taken by surprise! The most definite silver lining to all the hills was naturally the views: a few steep climbs ended in the most gorgeous landscapes of the city, with the river on the horizon. So many of the big cruise ships dock in Lisbon, I loved watching them sail in and out, massive boats but some how rather graceful.

I thought I'd share a few highlights of this lovely city here. It was a bit rougher around the edges than I imagined but had loads of character and was a wonderful place to visit. We stayed in the Alfama district, which spreads between the castle and the river. Alfama is famous for its steep winding streets and Fado bars, the mournful Portugese music genre with its roots in nineteenth century maritime Lisbon. (See here for a famous fado performer)

On our first afternoon we explored Alfama, climbimg relentlessly it felt, but being rewarded with stunning views which melted in a gorgeous hazy sunset scene.

The next day we explored some of the highlights including the most incredible cathedral, Igreja de Sao Roque, which looks rather plain from the outside...

... but on the inside is covered in gold, marble, jewels, and beautiful ceramic tiles. It was really rather overwhelming, very grand and ornate.

Another, altogether different, religious building was the Convento da Ordem do Carmo, which is a monastery and church destroyed by the devastating earthquake which hit Lisbon in 1755, killing as many as 90,000 of the city' 270,000 inhabitants. The ruins are striking and sparse, pointing to how destructive the earthquake must have been

After the convent we wandered down to the Praca do Comercio, which is where all of those arriving by boat used to disembark. It's a large impressive square with an arch leading to the bustling streets of central Lisbon.

The afternoon we spent exploring Lisbon's castle, which provided us with stunning views over the city and ramparts, with its beautiful (apparently heavily restored) fortifications and lovely quiet gardens.

The following day we headed to Belem, a more nautical area of the city, from where colonial explorers departed for the new world, and fortifications protected inhabitants from invaders. We started off in the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, an amazing monestary which is now divided into museums. You can also still see the cloisters and the church, which are very impressive.

We then ambled towards the sea front, where we found a monument to Portugese colonisers and explorers...

... lots of sailing boats, a wire sculpture where people symbolically lock their love with a padlock, and the Torre de Belem, a fortress built in 1515 to defend the harbour. You could feel the Atlantic winds!

Overall we had a wonderful time in the Portugese capital. It wasn't a resting holiday, but that wasn't what we signed up for - we enjoyed exploring the winding streets and climbing the hills. Our trip has definitely made me want to explore more of Southern Europe!

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Year in Books: October

Hooray for time to read! This month I've really relished being able to curl up with a non-study related book and lose myself in another world. I tried to choose some books that were maybe not so typical for me, to expand my horizons a bit.

1. The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden, Jonas Jonasson

I loved 'The Hundred Year-Old Man who Jumped out of the Window and Disappeared'. I really did. And I loved this book too, which follows the life of the South African girl Nombeko from the slums of Soweto. Nombeko is extremely bright and has an innate talent for mental arithmetic. After being run over by a drunk and incompetent chief South African nuclear engineer Nombeko is ordered to work for him by a corrupt court in the time of Apartheid. She becomes indispensable to the man as she quickly grasps the fundamental nuclear physics that he cannot. A series of (unfortunate) events sees Nombeko escape from the compound where the engineer works, accompanied by a nuclear bomb that technically doesn't exist, and pursued by two Israeli intelligence agents (you'll have to read it to find out why!). She travels to Sweden, where her adventures continue, climaxing in the plucky Nombeko finding herself with the King and Prime Minister of Sweden and a nuclear bomb in a potato truck. She does save the King but I won't say how. I was really gripped by this book, and learnt a lot about South African nuclear armament and Swedish history along the way.

2. The House of Silk - Anthony Horowitz

I haven't read many original Sherlock Holmes books, but I really enjoyed Horowitz's take on it. He writes convincingly as Watson and takes the reader back to the Victorian underworld as Holmes, accompanied Watson, try to uncover the mysterious House of Silk, against the background of a multitude of 'typical' tropes, the rich client, a gruesome murder, links to the underworld of Victorian London as well as criminal gangs of Boston. What is revealed has an extraordinary relevance for today's society and recurring news stories, which I won't comment on. This was a really easy and enjoyable read, and whilst I found the ending a bit cliche I do realise that I count as a 'modern' reader. The plot certainly departs from the limits of Victorian sensibilities and stands in contrast to what Conan Doyle wrote about. Overall I'd recommend as a good entertaining way.

3. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

I read this book before, but I'm not sure I appreciated it properly. I absolutely loved it this time around, beautiful writing, a rich cast of vivid characters and a really gripping plot. The narrator is a young woman who married the rich widower Maxim De Winter after meeting him in Monte Carlo where she is working as the companion of an elderly American woman. She returns with him to Manderley, his infamous estate on the coast but is completely overshadowed by her own sense of inferiority to his first wife, Rebecca, a paragon of elegance, grace and beauty who ruled Manderley with a tight grip, organising renowned social gatherings and playing the part of the perfect hostess. In her obsession with her predecessor the narrator loses her own identity - we do not even learn her name - and as the plot progresses some dramatic twists and turns challenge all that we know, that the narrator constructs in her imagination, about Rebecca. I couldn't put this book down!

What have you been reading? Do you have any recommendations?

Joining in with Laura at The Circle of Pines.