Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Notes on Glasgow and London life

St Albans on a misty Wednesday morning
Although in theory of course I should not be saying London life anymore as I'm out in the semi-rural provinces.  Actually, that's unfair but St Albans is quite different to SE London and the other day I dialled a friend's number only for the line to be dead and it took me two attempts to realise I had to dial the London area code.  I always thought when I moved out of London I'd head out of London properly - a small holding somewhere, total change in lifestyle.  And in some ways it is, just not in the way I expected.  In the first place, I've never lived so close to a high street and shops and places for coffee and lunch.  My flat in SE London was a good ten minute walk to the nearest approximation of a spot for brunch and there was nowhere really to stock up on groceries that wasn't a twenty minute walk.  Saying that, I loved it - I had my own garden overlooking an allotment so it was very peaceful and all only a 12 minute train ride to London Bridge, and the Womble (the Overground Underground) opened up the whole of town for travels and adventures.  The arrival of Sainsbury Local near the station at my old stomping ground has caused a furore and the potential closure of up to forty local businesses which I'm sad about.  The convenience of being able to pick up a bag of salad (apparently the most frequently discarded thing from the bottom of most people's fridges) on the way home doesn't really offset the warm feeling of popping into a shop and knowing the person behind the counter sufficiently well to say hello and exchange pleasantries.  Although objectively I know all the arguments about why these 'developments' are good, I can't help but feel a bit sad for all the things that you lose with the arrival of so-called progress.  It is a bit of London where we do say hello on the street and I can't help wondering if this particular type of progress means losing other more socially beneficial things over time.  It would be lovely to be proved wrong, but the part of London I grew up in saw exactly this type of gentrification and it hasn't benefited in my view.   

St Albans is gorgeous with it's wonky little houses, beautiful old buildings, the Abbey is stunning and saturated with history, and our neighbours are lovely.  It's only been four months I think since we moved in, but already when someone says they're going into town, I assume they mean the high street.  It is bloody expensive travelling into London so I'm having to curb my urbanite tendencies and that means I'm turning into something of a Country Mouse when I do go into central London - I got manhandled at Holborn the other week, and not in a good way, but a woman who decided I simply wasn't moving through the barriers rapidly enough just grabbed my shoulders and steered me out of the way.  Cheeky so-and-so, but you see how it becomes a self-fulfilling thing where going into town seems less pleasant, you put it off, then when you do you're alert to any unpleasantness.

So have I been making anything?  Not as much as I'd like - the change of pace everyone anticipated when I said I was going to do a masters has been the reverse of all the "slacker student" jibes I've had.  And I've had a lot.  I'm realising every day how enormous the gaps in my knowledge are and so I end up doing long hours of reading, writing, panicking … I've also come up with an idea for my dissertation that I'm convinced will make an interesting form of extended research so am trying to cram information about that before I make a total fool of myself meeting potential supervisors in the New Year.  

In terms of actual things made, I knit a scarf for Husband for Christmas.  In some ways this is the ultimate form of masochism and I'd be interested if anyone else has thoughts on this because for some reason men do not seem that interested in hand made things; women seem to understand the idea of nurture knit into every stitch and I don't know if it's all chaps or just him, but he thinks this idea is bonkers.  He is also wedded to acrylic in all its forms and looked most put out when I suggested that instead of spending £10 on a horrible scarf knit from plastic, I could make him one from lovely bouncy wool from an actual real sheep.  In fact, he has only once worn the lovely skiing hat I made him and the socks I knit him for our wedding over a year ago saw their first outing only last weekend.  Having refused to wear them before he begrudgingly acknowledged that they're very comfortable. Personally, I can't stop wearing my hand knit socks - they fit perfectly and the Jawoll (which I partly love just for the name - must be that half-German heritage) keeps the feet warm and dry.  I wore them on a chilly day in Glasgow just wearing shoes - normally my naturally chilly self would wear boots with tights and socks - and my feet were joyful all day.  It is not an exaggeration to say that warm feet = a happy soul.  So I might be on a hiding to nothing with the scarf - it's a long stripy merino super wash (which is not what I'd normally knit with but gets him close to the finish he likes) from this pattern ( - I changed the stripes so they run longways along the scarf and used several colours and stripes of varying depths but I really like this rib as it creates an interesting effect but is still sufficiently manly (in my view) to not immediately put him off.  Will take a photo once it's unwrapped - it's under the tree at the moment.  If the scarf also ends up in the "unworn" pile then the guilt I often feel for not making him a sweater will be put to one side forever - that is a time commitment no one can afford to waste.  

I'm currently knitting Kate Davies's Port O'Leith jumper for myself ( in Charcoal.  I started yesterday and it's absolutely addictive so my plan to read all day was scuppered.  I did the tension swatch and decided to make the smallest size, going  down a needle size to 4mm to match gauge, but then decided I wanted to make the next size up to have a lovely slouchy sweater for wearing with skinny jeans and concealing the inevitable post-Christmas indulgence - also useful for wearing with my stretchy topped trousers which I like to whip out on Christmas Eve after the big meal (we do Christmas on the 24th) a la Joey from Friends with his turkey maternity pants.  It's a great look.  Anyway, that means I cast on three times yesterday and got varying amounts of jumper knit before frogging.  Third time's the charm though and it's powering along again now.  The wool itself is stunning - it's got a real lustre to it, and the Charcoal colour way has such a depth and variety of shading to it, so it's lovely to work with.  I've had to ban myself from knitting at all this morning because I knew I'd get sucked in and the whole day would pass.  

A few years ago I bought some dark green wool crepe from Linton Tweeds  which I've just washed and gently pressed to make into another Merchant & Mills Trapeze dress which I find an very chic style and also very wearable - the shoulders are a lovely petite fit offsetting the swing skirt.  I hadn't realised how stretchy the crepe would be, and I want to line this version, so it is likely to be a challenge for my sewing skills but I hope to get to that this Christmas break, reading and essay writing aside.  Another pair of socks might get cast on for all the sitting in the car I'm doing this year too - nothing like seeing a sock appearing before your eyes to take your mind off the travel.  That's socks appeal (oh dear, and I've not a drop of mulled wine yet).

It's a cliche, but I really can't believe how much has happened this year and that it's nearly over.  2013 has been a challenge in lots of ways and I'll be glad to see the back of it, but also incredibly grateful for all the opportunities it has presented.  I've finally realised my ambition to study full-time and it's wonderful, not least because I can see it opening other doors into the future.  So roll on 2014 and all the ups and downs that a new year brings.  New Years resolutions to follow and I can't wait …

Happy Christmas.  

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