Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Tale of the Haunted Camera

What I am about to tell you will frighten you, shake you up and change you forever. Brace yourselves.

Well, it probably won't, but it's a good story.

On the last day of our vacation, we left the beauty of our little loft in Ulverston to head into Manchester for a night before we caught our trans-Atlantic flight home. We decided to visit the little hamlet of Cartmel, since it was on the way into the city, and also because our hosts in Ulverston had recommended it.

We turned off onto a tiny, twisty country road (as there are all over the countryside in the UK) and followed it for a few miles, our eyes straining to find the Norman abbey that was supposed to be in the hamlet. On the way, we hit some traffic.

Once the gridlock passed (or turned a corner to another pasture), we eventually came upon Cartmel and found some signs that a craft fair was going on that day. That perked me up considerably. We parked the car next to the abbey, which was undergoing some renovations.

We decided to go in and visit the abbey, because it's not every day that you get to visit a building that's over 500 years old.

These churches often are built over the graves of some of the parishoners. It's creepy, yes, but I found a poem written on a gift card in the abbey written by Mary Elizabeth Frye that helped me understand. It starts:
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow...
That gave me a perspective on the whole thing that banished some of my modern fears of the dead and of death.

I then took this photo of one of the floor stones:

Note the pink tinge of the photo.

We left the abbey and, as I took a photo of the graveyard outside, I noticed the display on my camera beginning to "fizzle"out. I thought that the battery might have been dying out, so I turned it off for the time being.

We followed the signs to see if we could find the craft fair, and on the way, I took some photos of the buildings:

It wasn't until I got home and looked more closely at these photos that I noticed that every single photo I took after the abbey looks like it has a pink filter over it. It's like everything has been coloured by a Technicolor technician on a bad day. And I can't seem to fix it.

There's a ghoulie in the camera.

But we'll see what Canon says.

In the meantime, it means that I can't share with you the two skeins of wool I bought at the craft fair that day. They were sheared, washed and spun by the lady at one of the craft fair tables, and I simply had to have them. They are a beautiful chocolate brown, which is the natural colour of the fleece. They come from a Jacob ram, a rare breed of sheep with spectacular horns. This photo is from the Oregon Wool Growers Association:

That is a SERIOUS sheep, dude.

My wool comes from the collar. It's spun in worsted weight, and still has quite a lot of lanolin in it. I think they'll make a nice, warm pair of mittens for me!

Anyway, that's how my camera came to be haunted. I am investigating other possibilities (maybe I can justify getting a digital SLR as I've always wanted), but hopefully I can't become pictorially-enabled soon. We shall see.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Talking About Time

What is time?
Is it the autumn leaves that change
Or the snow that floats from the sky?
- Time, Billy Porter

I've been wading through a group of projects over the past few weeks, and this morning, found myself really not interested in finishing them. Still, I pushed myself through and washed and blocked my Green Gable Hoodie. It's sitting on the dining room table drying, and I'm getting ready for a second attempt at installing a zipper in it.

I've also been working on Gail by Jane Araujo, but have been languishing for the past few days at the cusp of the border edges because I was having trouble understanding the instructions. I knew there was help out there, as there are plenty who have knit it, but I've been dragging my feet in finding the answers. I finally printed out Gail uncharted, which is a written-out version of the pattern, and worked four rows of the border before I went swimming this morning.

My Pillow Gift is still sitting around unfinished, as I ran out of white Bernat Cotton while I was working on it when we were on vacation. I've been trying to get more of it since we got back, but it seems that someone else in town is hoarding all the white cotton, and I haven't been able to find the single skein that will help me complete it. Argh.

So, I was swimming along this morning and got to thinking: What does it matter when these things are finished? Do I need to knit at torpedo speed? Am I doing that for me, or just so that I can have something to blog about or show off to people?

That last thought irked me. I don't knit much for other people. In fact, as the days go on, I am less and less inclined to knit for other people. But, when I am making something, is part of the reason I do it so that I can give pleasure to those who see them?

I've been approached by people asking me to donate one of my items for an auction. "Maybe if you've got a scarf or something you could throw it in," they said. I said I would think about it.

When I got home, I looked at my many scarves, knit out of all sorts of lovely wool that I bought in San Francisco, Calgary, Canmore, Winnipeg... and I thought, no. I won't just throw in one of my scarves. It's not just a scarf. It's my time.

It's not only my knitting that I've been quite selfish with. It's my spare time in general. In fact, lately, I've been loathe to do anything that takes up my time for which I have not been monetarily compensated. I've had a bad run of volunteering that has resulted in not much more than weariness and disappointment. I'm not keen to do that again anytime soon.

I suppose that one could argue that it's my perspective that is the problem: that I could stop looking for returns and be happy with the fact that I am contributing to something greater. The Dalai Lama and compassion and all of that. But don't you think you need to be compassionate to yourself? To give yourself the gift of time, stillness, peace and non-commitment? Is there enough personal joy in that to make it all worthwhile?

So, I've decided not to stress that these projects are all sitting around unfinished. I still want to work away at them, to spend time on them, but I am not going to rush through them just so that I can say I completed them in record time, or to walk around showing them off to people, or even to blog about them here. After all, I've noticed that people seem to enjoy my stories of the processes and frustrations that I experience in knitting most of all. Why push it?

I'm off to take a nap.

By the way, I know I haven't shared any photos of my projects in progress here. That's because my camera is haunted. Really. It is. I'm still debating what I am going to do about that, so until I figure that out, I'll be sharing photos of what I took with that camera before it was haunted. I think I'll explain more about that in the next post.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ulverston and Kendal

After spending ten days in Belfast, hubby and I got on a plane and flew over to Manchester, where we'd booked a car that we used to drive a couple of hours north to the little market town of Ulverston, in England's Lake District. We'd booked a B&B for the next three days and were looking forward to a few days of relaxation after a busy week of visiting.

I have to say that I was totally unprepared for the beauty of the Lake District. I mean, it rains in the UK. A lot. But all that rain is was makes vistas like this:

When we arrived at Ulverston, my hubby used his amazing powers of location (seeing as I had no idea where we were going) and got us to the B&B. And wow. Talk about storybook beauty.

Candlewyck Barn is a separate accommodation from the main house. It's is a converted stone building, with a garage on the ground floor, and a beautiful studio loft on the main floor. It is finished to the highest standard. I literally clapped in delight when we got there.

We had a relaxing evening and, the next day, drove to the town of Kendal. I had one particular reason for visiting Kendal: finding Williams Wools. After visiting the yarn shop in Belfast that didn't take credit cards, I was a little worried that the fun of visiting the shop in Kendal would be marred by having my hands tied by lack of cash. I visited the Williams Wools Ravelry group and posted a thread, asking if they took credit cards, and I got a positive reply. Imagine my surprise when, after finding the shop and bringing my purchases to the till, the owner asked, "Are you visiting from Canada?" She had read the thread herself and was expecting me! And her name is Adrienne!

Anyway, Williams Wools is a delightful little shop, so new that it isn't on Google Streetview. It has comfy sofas and walls covered in wool. It carries all the standard yarns: Noro, Araucania, Debbie Bliss, but I was on the lookout for something I hadn't found at home. At the front of the shop, I spied this:

A skein of Filigran Lace No. 1 by Zitron, a German company. The colourway is Taiga. It's yet another variegated yarn, but I couldn't resist the softness of the fibre and the richness of the colours. I'm thinking I might use it to make Hypernova, by Arlene's World of Lace, but I'll have to figure out how I'm going to do that, since the pattern is written for fingering weight, and this yarn is laceweight, but I've got plenty of time to figure that out.

Kendal itself is a small town at the southern part of the Lake District. The town’s traditional trade was in wool, from which the town’s motto “Pannus mihi panis”, literally meaning “wool is my bread” was taken. Most of the towns in the Lake District made their trade in wool, and this is evidenced by all the pubs that have been built in old buildings with big mill wheels inside of them!

I knew right away that I was going to love this place.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A visit to Castle Espie

I'm finally home. It feels like I've been home a while now, but that is probably because yesterday and today have felt like the world's longest days ever. Will it ever be bedtime? Jetlag: I hate you.

It's fortunate that the jetlag is easier to cope with coming back this direction over the pond. It usually means that I wake up unusually early and then end up completely shattered by 4:00pm, which means that my first day back at work tomorrow may end up being pretty ok. We'll see, though. There is always Mr. Caffeine and Mrs. Sugar.

Upon our arrival back in Canada yesterday, we were met by unseasonably warm weather and a few happy sights:

Millions of tomatoes in my greenhouse (this was taken after I'd eaten a couple of handfuls of them):

And a monster on the sofa:

We had a nice visit with my hubby's family and ended up seeing a bunch of old friends. I got to visit one of my favourite places: Castle Espie. It's run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and has been a great sanctuary, both for the ducks and for me. It went through a recent re-build and is better than ever:

I brought along my binoculars that my husband gave me for my birthday last year, and had a good look through one of the windows in one of the hides. There were waders and moorhens and hundreds of Brent (or Canadian) Geese on the way back to Europe after spending the summer in the Arctic Circle.

Castle Espie has also added a section about the archeology of the site, showing examples of Neolithic spearheads, handaxes, bits of pottery... examples of people living by the lough and taking advantage of the tides. There was a spectacular example of a thatched roof home they had built with straw/cob walls, wattled walls, and a thatched reed roof. I love thatched roofs. It's a dying art, in my opinion. I walked into that little house and saw that the ground was bone dry. Amazing.

On the all was a replica of a coracle, or old round boat, lined with a cow hide. It probably could sit a single person. It made me think of a teacup and a spoon.

As far as why it is called Castle Espie: well, no one has ever been able to tell me. There was probably a castle on it sometime in the past. The site has been many things: a Neolithic settlement, a part of an old estate, and now, a wildfowl sanctuary and education centre. I don't know if I'll ever know why it's called what it's called, but I do know that it's even better than I remembered. It was a great day!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ah... holiday...

It's been a very nice week away, and I'm looking forward to another week to enjoy. The weather has cooperated, sunshine most days, visits with friends and family, and more tea and scones than you can shake a stick at. I managed to shake the jetlag two days into the trip, which I'm quite happy about. I captured this image at dusk the other night from our bedroom window.

I managed to get up to my old workplace, Belfast Zoo, and had a wonderful day full of laughter and friends. I got to feed some Colobus monkeys (and they were cheeky indeed!) and was face to face with a tree kangaroo. I left that day feeling loved and remembered, which was a very nice feeling indeed.

Yesterday, my mother-in-law took me down to visit Jean's Wool Shop on the Cregagh Road. It's a shop I would've passed a hundred times, but I wasn't a knitter then - I wouldn't have given it a second look. It's an older shop that's been there for years, and I was delighted to walk in and see a counter with old shelves of wool behind it and countertops with files of knitting patterns. The tops of the shelves read: Sirdar, Wendy and other reliable UK wool brands, and you had to ask the lady to bring the wool down for you to have a look at. My mother-in-law found a pattern she liked, and the saleslady brought out appropriate wool for her size, along with needles. It was a very different experience than what you'd find in North America - indeed, I'd read that in many places in Europe, the shop owners stand back aghast at the tourists who come in and start groping all the yarn.

I would have taken a photo, but I thought the ladies who came in afterward would've thought I was a bit strange. Knitting in Belfast is not seen as trendy at all by anyone under 40, so I think they were a bit suspicious at my appearance there to begin with, but they were friendly enough. I was attracted to some DK weight wool blends in russets and another in blues, but I walked away with two balls of King Cole Riot in a lovely plum-rainbow colourway.

I usually get in trouble with these variegated yarns, but I think it might work well for wenat's pooling shawls, even if it is spun single. We'll see. It's probably just as well that they didn't take credit cards, otherwise I'd have some trouble getting all my wares packed in to come back!

We're off to one of my favourite places this afternoon - Castle Espie, which is a waterfowl sanctuary run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. I used to be there quite a lot for work. I can't wait to visit my feathered friends!