As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted

The last three months in brief

  • My thumb is better
  • I got out of the habit of knitting and have had to re-introduce it into my routine
  • Work went crazy for a while, but it is a little calmer at the moment.
  • I’ve been doing huge amounts of reading, but mostly as a kind of warm blanket, so very light reading
  • In June I knitted three pairs of socks for Tour de Sock
  • Since last autumn I’ve been trying to complete 10,000 steps per day using a fitbit. It appears I can either achieve this or knit, not both.

The reading challenge

Bearing in mind my self-imposed extra rule that there should be no re-reads except in the re-read category.

  • a book published this year. The new Ben Aaronovitch is on pre-order, but delayed until October. In the mean time I have have read Poison or Protect, by Gail Carriger. Only a novella, but I very much enjoyed it.
  • a book you can finish in a day. According to Yes by Dawn French
  • a book you’ve been meaning to read. I have shelves full of stuff I’ve been meaning to read, but the lure of the new seems to win.
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. Recommended by  White Rose Books in Thirsk.
  • a book you should have read in school. To Kill a Mockingbird. Amazing book. I see what all the fuss is about now.
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF. My son has been enjoying the Percy Jackson books, and he has encouraged me to read them too. I’ve read Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse
  • a book published before you were born. Haven’t got round to thinking about this yet. I’ve had Lorna Doone suggested, but I haven’t made any headway.
  • a book that was banned at some point. Not looked into this yet
  • a book you previously abandoned. Ideas: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Gormenghast, or Wuthering Heights
  • a book you own but have never read. Not got round to looking through the bookshelves yet
  • a book that intimidates you. Although not easily intimidated by literature, I sometimes struggle with feminist writing. I have bought Girl Up, by Laura Bates and I’m working my way through it. I like the style and, although I don’t agree with everything she says, I am beginning to think it should be required reading for every parent. This next generation are going to have a tough time.
  • a book you’ve already read at least once. I’m doing very well with this category. See below

Progress at the beginning of July: six complete, one under way, five to begin

Also-read, in no particular order

I did a complete re-read of all my Gail Carriger books and picked up more of them. I absolutely adore her fantasy world. Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, Timeless, Prudence, Etiquette and Espionage, Curtsies and Conspiracies, Waistcoats and Weaponry, Manners and Mutiny, The Curious Case of the Werewolf that wasn’t etc.

Another mammoth re-read: most of Diana Gabaldon’s output

Vulcan 607, an account of the longest range bombing mission ever, to the Falkland Islands. I heard a talk by the pilot of the mission and read the book over the next couple of days. An incredible story.

Three books by Gretchen Rubin that don’t really fit into any of the categories above: Happier at Home, The Happiness Project and Better than Before. The first two are all about what makes people happy and how to improve our happiness. The third book is about how people form habits. I really enjoyed these.

Finding a voice: A Lent course on The King’s Speech. This one was for work. Really interesting and provoked a lot of fascinating discussion.

I re-read The Nine Tailors and Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers.

The Hunger Games trilogy – heartbreaking dystopia – Also did another re-read of the Twilight series.

I read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It would have been better if it wasn’t plastered in reviews raving about the ‘unreliable narrator’. I would have preferred to work that out for myself.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Yeuch. I couldn’t even remember whether it was a re-read or just so similar to his other books. From the library.

Tiny Stations by Dixe Wills. Quintessentially British travelogue. Rather like Bill Bryson, but without the sense of the outsider looking in. Loved it.

Update on reading

Remember the reading challenge I mentioned last month?
After a trip to the library this afternoon, I have completed one of the challenges.
A book you can read in a day – According to Yes by Dawn French, a very funny novel, with some of the best swearing I have read. It has something to say about families and how easy it is to become disfunctional.
I’m also continuing to rack up the re-reads, in the absence of knitting. I’m on the fourth installment of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series, having begun from the beginning.

My thumb has got worse again this week, so I’ll be back off to the doctor again soon. However, I’ve been doing a very small amount of practice at continental knitting, which doesn’t involve moving that thumb very much at all. I bought a very useful craftsy class that shows exactly how to hold the yarn and move the fingers.

I keep adding to the list of things I shouldn’t do because it aggravates the tendons. Today I added “clean stove”: a great excuse to avoid housework.

Cold Turkey

It feels like absolutely AGES since I last picked up the needles. I’ve been very good and tried to minimise any use of my right thumb – no sewing, knitting, spinning or crochet and minimal typing and writing. Every day I can feel that the healing is progressing more. Today I’ve hardly thought about resting it because I’ve had very few reminders of the tendonitis.

The day before I went to the doctor, I tried to open a screw-lid on a can of petrol to decant into the car. It was very tight and it aggravated the thumb to the worst pain it had been. I had to call DH to come and help me in the end.

After a couple of days of rest, I couldn’t feel any ill effects of typing so I could at least do my work. The handwriting took longer to be painless, so my great resolution of daily writing took a bit of a knock, but that is now back to normal. Yesterday I did a colouring page in my Mason-Dixon Knitter’s Colouring Book and only felt a little twinge.

This evening I am going to try knitting again, just for a little while, with plenty of breaks and hand-stretches.

The deprivation has been really annoying. I’ve spent evenings feeling twitchy and as if I’m wasting time in front of the tv with nothing to do. As I was telling one of my knitting friends about this at the school gate, I estimated that I’ve been off knitting for 3 weeks. Nope – 10 days, (I just checked my diary) but it has felt a lot longer. I think it has felt a lot longer to the people around me too! Poor children: why is Mummy so grumpy?

For the next week, I’m going to try avoiding pulling, twisting and lifting things with my right hand, as that seems to be what aggravates the tendon. Fine movements, such as flicking yarn round a needle, should be OK.

Edit to add: Alas, knitting is not possible yet. I set myself the challenge of completing 2 rounds of a sock. Round 1 was fine. Round 2 not so much.

Off knitting

Before Christmas, my lovely daughter was dancing with me and swung her full weight on my right thumb. I thought little of it at the time, just carried on with the day.
A month or so later I realised that the thumb was still aching on and off. One trip to the doctor later and I have come away with a diagnosis of tendonitis in the thumb. Apparently quite a common injury, but can go on a while. I’m under instructions to rest it, and treat with ibuprofen and heat.
It turns out that I use my right thumb for… everything. Getting dressed, cutting food, writing, typing, lifting, turning, shaking hands and, of course, knitting, spinning and crochet.
I have a feeling that crochet doesn’t use it as much as the others do, so hopefully I’ll be back to that before too long.
Anyone want to take a guess how long it is until I start to crack under the strain of being without my destressing mechanism?

Sketchy

For Christmas I was given, among other things, a copy of The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde. I came across sketchnoting a few months ago (via a link from the Bullet Journal site I think) and I’ve been following his website and reading about it.

My initial impression was that sketchnoting isn’t really that ground-breaking, just a way of entertaining yourself while taking notes in lectures and talks. I also was sceptical about whether I could draw well enough to make it worthwhile trying.

Today I went to a day conference on rural ministry, over the border in the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. With four half hour talks in the morning and two seminars in the afternoon, there was plenty of scope for trying out sketchnoting.

Drawing arrows works well
Drawing arrows works well

Of the six talks, here’s the one that looks most like a sketchnote. I still wonder if I could have captured more using traditional notes, but I do think I’ve got the most important things down in a way that makes sense to me. More importantly, I found it easy to concentrate, didn’t fall asleep and found that the quality of my listening was better: I was listening with the question, “what are the most important things I’m hearing” foremost in my mind.

My conclusion is that sketchnoting may well be a fruitful way forward. It relies on the people speaking being well organised and flagging up verbally what they consider to be the most important areas. I think it would be very difficult to sketchnote a poor speaker. I will continue to explore the concept (including finishing reading the book – just chapter 7 to go, which is the chapter that concentrates on how to draw) and see how it goes.

In the past year I’ve really got attached to my notebook. It’s a Moleskine 5″ by 7″ with lined pages. Being a Moleskine, the paper is too flimsy for fountain pens but I use it with a Staedtler triplus ball medium and I’ve found it really useful. Since last February, when I started it, I’ve used 181 pages out of 240.

  • I keep my master to-do lists in there.
  • I use a page per day, when I’ve got a day at my desk, to keep track of all the things I should be doing.
  • It travels with me to meetings and I write down all my action points in there, so I know there’s only one place to look.
  • I’m using a version of the bullet journal system (including
  • I keep notes from lectures and sermons in there
  • the children have used it to draw in when they are bored

I’m now at the point of deciding whether to get another Moleskine or switch to a different notebook. I’ve got a Leuchterm A5 with a dot grid for my longer pieces of writing and reflection, but I think it is too big to use for a notebook that travels everywhere (the Moleskine is just that bit narrower and it makes the difference). I also picked up a Rhodiarama, so I could have a notebook that would take fountain pen ink, but it is the same size as the Leuchterm and I’m not sure that fountain pen would be very practical in the places I use my travelling notebook. The Church seems to have something against the idea of providing tables to lean on in any kind of taught session or meeting.

In other news

There was also a really beautiful window in the seminar room I was in. I tried drawing it in a quieter moment, but it didn’t work out well. Good thing I had my camera handy. There were some green and pink parts to the window that you can’t see in the photo that added to the perfection.

Small but perfectly formed
Small but perfectly formed

I continued with my crochet scarf during the talks – another way to stop me falling asleep is to have a knitting or crochet project that I know off by heart (or nearly) in my hands. Progress: 5/90. I need a spreadsheet to keep track of which colour combinations I have used.

Literary input

I don’t manage to keep much track of what I read but here’s a few of the books I read towards the end of last year.

First the re-reads

  • Mist over Pendle by Robert Neill. One of my favourite novels: the story of a young girl moving to live with a distant relative in Lancashire at the time of the witch trials. You learn a lot about the clothing of the time in this historical novel. The heroine is a lovely character, but rather too twentieth-century to be believable.
  • Snoop by Sam Gosling. I spend a lot of time in other people’s houses and this book is all about what you can tell about character based on people’s living environment. The main conclusion is that you can’t draw as many conclusions from surroundings as you think you can.
  • Lingo: A language-spotter’s guide to Europe by Gaston Dorren – Having read this in the summer, I fancied another go through it over Christmas. The little snippets about rare languages are really interesting. It must be having some impact as I was chuffed to be able to identify some European languages correctly in a University Challenge picture round.
  • Lord John and the… by Diana Gabaldon. After the midnight service on Christmas Eve when it was 1am, I was wired and full of adrenalin, I needed something short to read in order to calm me down enough to sleep so I could be at work again within 8 hours. This turned out to be the first Lord John short story: Lord John and the Hellfire Club. I’ve carried on and read all the others since then because why not?
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde – no, not the book you think I mean. This is one of my favourite books ever, a distopian futuristic fantasy where the level of colour vision people possess is their defining feature. It was meant to be the first in a series, but the series has never been forthcoming. Very clever writing.
  • Soulless, Heartless, Timeless & Blameless by Gail Carriger. First four books in The Parasol Protectorate series, a steam punk setting with vampires, werewolves and accessories. The main character is so pragmatic in a world where no-one else is. I read these a few years ago and loved them. I treat these as a fluffy dessert: no real substance, but a delight to read.
  • The Host by Stephanie Meyer. I read this before I read all the Twilight series.
  • The Railway Children by E. Nesbitt. We went to see the stage production of this in the summer at the National Railway Museum, so I decided to re-read this afterwards.

I did read some new stuff too

  • The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. I read this during advent and really enjoyed the gentle retelling of the nativity, along with a missing person mystery.
  • Red Moon Rising by Pete Grieg. This was a freebie on Kindle and is the story of the 24-7 prayer movement. I found it really inspiring and a good reminder of the effectiveness and impact of prayer.
  • Gail Carriger – Changeless, The Curious Case (prequel novella), Curtseys and Conspiracies, Etiquette and Espionage, Waistcoats and Weaponry, Manners and Mutiny. Having re-read the first few of Gail’s books (above), I rather binged by buying the rest on Kindle. The four finishing-school books are aimed at a younger readership, but still maintain that glorious cynical tone and balance of frivolity and menace.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is the book that inspired my commitment to writing more this year. It probably deserves a post of its own at some point.
  • Final Witness by Simon Tolkien. You can guess why I picked this up. This is written by the grandson of the great JRRT. It’s a while since I read it, but I remember really enjoying the behind the scenes view of the legal world. There’s three more books by the same author that I’m hoping to get to before too long.
  • Longbourn by Jo Baker. Behind the scenes of Pride and Prejudice. This was a Christmas present from my lovely sister. P&P has been a favourite since my teens and this gives an interesting counterpoint to it. The author has taken everything she possibly can about the servants that appear in P&P (actually strikingly little) and woven a narrative around them. This was the perfect antidote to a couple of weeks of overwork.

I found an interesting reading challenge that doesn’t seem too arduous.

MMD-2016-Reading-Challenge

  • a book published this year. This shouldn’t be hard. I have the new Ben Aaronovitch on pre-order.
  • a book you can finish in a day. Plenty of scope here.
  • a book you’ve been meaning to read. I have shelves full of stuff I’ve been meaning to read.
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller. My nearest bookseller is White Rose Books in Thirsk. I’ll go and ask them. Our local library is going to be down-graded to a community-run facility in the coming year. I’ve thought about volunteering there.
  • a book you should have read in school. This one is a puzzling one and I can’t quite get a handle on it. I’m pretty certain I read everything that school required at the time. Following a conversation on Facebook this week, I’ve received several selections from friends of things they think I should have read.
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF. This won’t be hard. My sister teaches English and is full of good ideas for stuff I might like.
  • a book published before you were born.
  • a book that was banned at some point. Presumably it doesn’t matter where it was banned. Looking forward to this one, although I’ll choose something that was banned for political or religious reasons rather than Lady Chatterley. I’ll go in search of the banned books list from the Vatican.
  • a book you previously abandoned. Shall I give Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell one final chance? It turns out that part of the recent tv adaptation was filmed in our village. My other tip for this category is Gormenghast, but I’ve lent it to someone. If neither of those comes to anything I suppose I could try Wuthering Heights again, although I really hated it (a friend of mine burnt their copy because they hated it so much).
  • a book you own but have never read. There is quite a large choice for this category. I seem to have been born with a gene that fears one day not being able to buy any more books. I probably won’t run out, even if no more books were available from now on. (The same goes for yarn)
  • a book that intimidates you. This requires some thought. I’m not easily intimidated by books.
  • a book you’ve already read at least once. See the section of re-reads, above. This will not be hard to fulfil. I adore re-reading old favourites. It’s like spending time with an old friend.

In order to make this a little more interesting, I’m going to stipulate no re-reads except the final category and the partial re-read for the abandoned category. I wonder how long it will take.