Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Sewing B

A couple of months ago I said to Frog, ‘There are all these cookery programmes on television but why is there never anything about sewing?’ And then, lo and behold, a few weeks ago, ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ appeared on BBC2.
    I’m hooked. Although the programme spends too much time on the sewers and not enough on the sewing (of course), it’s giving me ideas, revealing to me just how much I don’t know, and legitimising a passion that has long been one of my guilty secrets (‘clothes are frivolous’, ‘colour and texture are women’s things and therefore not important’ etc etc).
    Strangely, at around the time the programme started, I had decided to stop writing for a while. It was too difficult to find the time and the space. The dog hated me doing it. I was worn out after eight months of intense concentration. Sewing raced to fill the gap, albeit largely in its ‘making do and mending’ guise – which is something else that has the function of legitimising my passion (I’m ‘saving’ money, not spending it on unnecessary things like clothes). As follows.

We are lucky enough to be going on holiday to a Greek island in the summer and an Ikea bag, I have discovered, makes an ideal beach bag, as it’s a good colour and big enough and light enough for all those essential items for a day walking and beaching – mat, towel, swimmers, book, water, suncream, map. Its straps unfortunately have Ikea blazoned on them and I’ve never liked that. Then I came across some webbing that I’d used many years ago to turn a shop-bought hand-bag into a shoulder-bag. That bag is now defunct but the webbing lives on.

My sunhat is too big. It slips over my ears when I get hot (and sweaty). While going through my drawer of bits, I came across the ties from a long-dead linen skirt. Here is one of them trimming my hat and tightening the brim.

I made a shirt in which to travel (hot ferry but necessity for modesty) but decided it was boring. I’ve tried to cheer it up with some material left over from a dress I made last year. I still don’t like it.

And then I splashed out. I bought two lots of Indian cotton from the newly expanded (and recommended) Exeter Fabric Shop with which to make beach dresses.

One of the patterns I’m using is thirty-five years old. I last used it the year Frog and I married and I wore the dress until it fell apart. Frog has persuaded me to use the pattern again, even though I wondered if it was too young for me (but then of course reusing patterns is so thrifty . . .).

So there you are. B and her sewing. Where it’s all leading, I have no idea. I'll never make my fame and fortune this way. But, then again, I'll probably never make it writing either. And at least the dog's happy now.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Signs of the times

Although late, primroses are putting on an extra-special display this year:

Last year it was the turn of celandines to excel – in both size and quantity – but this year they’re back to normal. Don’t you love their tiny heart-shaped leaves.

The ditch where I saw the frogspawn seven weeks ago (goodness, how time flies) has now dried out. I fear the tadpoles have had it.
    (When I passed by this morning a toad was sitting in the mud. I wish I’d taken a photograph then. What do you think she/he was doing?)

Stitchwort is always the first of what I call the ‘hedgerow’ flowers to appear. I saw this lone clump beside the road on Friday, shivering in the Siberian blast (me and the plant) - hence the slightly blurred picture:

The magnificent shiny trowel-shaped leaves of wild arum (lords and ladies) which are popping up all over the place. Some of them look to be about a foot in length.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

What I'm reading

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

Other than the fact that (as my sister Anna said) this book comes alive when describing adolescents, it’s hard to believe it’s by the same author as the Harry Potter series, so different are both the style and the content.
    It’s set in a small West Country town and deals with the fallout from the premature death of a member of its council. In some ways it reminds me of Dickens – lots of characters, social comment and long (500 pages), but so far (and I’m only 100 pages in) I’m missing a central character with which to identify. In fact, most of the characters are pretty ghastly (or, at least, portrayed without sympathy), but my sister assures me this changes as you get further on, so I will persevere.

How do you scan paperbacks?

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I first read this a few years ago – probably in 2004 when it came out – but, having discovered it’s being made into a film, I was motivated to pick it up again.
    I remember being quite baffled by it first time round, although I loved it, and it certainly makes more sense this time, but whether that’s because it needs two readings or because our (my) conception of plot has developed I don’t know.
    It consists of six stories connected in different ways (including perhaps reincarnation) ranging from the nineteenth century to the future. First time round I was fascinated by the  story about a grim future where human clones do all the boring work and most of the globe is contaminated (by nuclear fallout?). This time I enjoyed the two stories set in the near-present, one in thriller genre about a woman journalist trying to find out about safety problems at her local nuclear power plant, and the other a semi-humorous autobiography by an ageing publisher.
    As you will have realised by now, the style of each story is different, and this is intriguing. I have a feeling I didn’t read the central story before as it’s done in a futuristic dialect and, as I’m sure you’ll agree, dialect is hell to read. However, it is worth making the effort (and you do get used to the dialect) as this section explains the title and gives the book its point. (What that point is, I won't say or comment on as that might spoil the book for you.)

Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths

And here’s the latest book by a new author. If you want enjoyable, easy, murder mysteries set in the Norfolk countryside with a delightfully fallible, female, forty-something, forensic-archaeologist heroine, this series is for you too. But do read it in order, as there’s a love story that runs through all the books. There are five in the series so far and the first is called The Crossing Places.