Reading update

Breakfast reading

So, the plan for reading more is working better than I thought. Breakfast reading tends to happen on the days when I am getting up with the kids but not needing a shower before taking J to school.

After Paula Gooder’s book Body, I tried one of my preaching books, So everyone can hear by Mark Crosby. This didn’t work at all at that time of the morning – it is too discrete and not discursive enough. It needs reading with a notebook and pencil.

Multi-congregation Ministry, by Malcolm Grundy was next. Really interesting theological reflection on the theory of multi-congregation ministry. I need to think further in how to apply it here.

I think the best book so far for breakfast reading was Preaching Women by Liz Shercliffe. This got me thinking about my own way of preaching and preparing. I really had never given any thought to being female and preaching rather than just human and preaching. I’m still not sure how much difference it makes for me although it is useful hearing how other people experience it. One thing that has stuck with me is the observation that men (not all men etc.) tend to have pride at the root of their sin while women (again, not all women…) tend to have a poor self-image at the root of theirs. Again, something that needs more thought.

Current Breakfast Reading is Steel Angels by Magdalen Smith. This is the book that the vocations groups are reading this term. Since I’m stepping in to co-lead a group, I need to make sure I have read it. So far so good. It is written based on the same criteria (or similar) to when I was ordained, and I am finding it encouraging to read.

Book Club

The children’s book club has now had three meetings. We have read The Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfield, which I read as a child and had on the shelf still. I enjoyed this. It was useful to reflect on how my children are experiencing vicarage life. Hopefully, I am not inflicting quite the suffering that Noel went through. It amuses me to think that next year I could suggest the lenten fast with absolutely no cakes for the whole of Lent. I know precisely how well that would go down.

April’s book was Tom’s Midnight Garden, another re-read. I don’t remember when I read it before but I must have done since I remembered the ending. I think there was also a tv adaptation back when I was about 11. Anyway, it is a great read which I will pass onto T and J.

This month we are reading an Allison Uttley, which I have never read, but I can’t go to the meeting so I’m not sure whether to get it.

Bedtime reading

This is less successful as a time for reading for several reasons. First, I often forget to go to bed in time. Really, I need to be heading for bed at 10pm if there is going to be time for reading. Then, I often just want to read whatever trashy fiction is keeping me going. Also, if Phil is also asleep, I am limited to reading on Kindle.

However, there is often a half hour window when I can read a book for a while. I finished the English Murder Mystery book and then did read English Pastoral by James Rebanks. This is such a good book – well written and important content too. The question I have is how to get the farming community to read it. I’ve recommended it to a couple of people I know who are married to farmers.

The latest bedtime read is Dominion by Tom Holland, which takes you through the foundations of Western Civilisation. I like the structure. It is broadly chronological but focuses on various places at particular points in history. I am currently in the chapter set in Lyon in 177AD. I do need to be fairly awake to read this, not least since it is quite a heavy paperback. I have fallen asleep and dropped it on my nose a couple of times. Holland’s voice is quite distinctive and he is very funny.

I tried reading some of Rowan Williams’ simpler writing in this slot but it didn’t work. Too complicated for the brain to process so I dozed off. I think I’ll stick to history or other non fiction in this slot.

Other reading

Various re-reads, including some Gail Carriger. My annual re-read of the Daughter of the Empire trilogy has happened. I remember reading it right near the beginning of first lock-down. It is such a vivid world and reassringly familiar characters. Kathy recommended a trilogy of books by Nora Roberts, which were great.

Still in progress on the Kindle, I have Breaking the Mould: Learning to thrive as a ministry mum, by Jules Middleton. This is excellent and I am particularly enjoying reading the different profiles of people in ministry.

For my birthday I have The first three Bridgerton books on Kindle and the final Trudi Canavan book – Maker’s Curse. I also got Dancing by the light of the moon by Giles Brandreth, which is a book about learning poetry by heart.

Reading – a plan for 2021

My younger self would be aghast at the need for a plan to include reading in my routine. Reading books has been as natural to me as breathing for as long as I can remember. However, various things have brought me to the point where there are some days when I don’t pick up a book at all and that is not a good thing. What interferes? Well nothing bad, just children and a job and crafting. Anyway, I read some articles towards the end of last year which advocate having a plan for reading, so here it is.

My plan is to begin the day well by reading a chapter of a book at breakfast. I’m picking out non-fiction to read but nothing too heavy. I already mentioned my first breakfast read and now I am onto Paula Gooder’s “Body”, which I am very much enjoying. She is very good at explaining complex ideas simply and helping me to see what the baggage is that I have brought with me into my theological thought.

The other half of my plan is for last thing at night. I always used to read loads before getting to sleep but the elimination of caffeine from my system meant that my hours of night time reading were severely curtailed. This is generally a good thing since I never used to be able to tell whether I would take one hour or four hours to get to sleep. Now I rarely stay awake longer than half an hour. So, my current half hour read is “The Golden Age of Murder”, which is a really well written (and laugh out loud funny in places) survey of detective fiction from the 1920s and 30s.

Next up on the list of things to read will be my other Christmas books, probably leading with English Pastoral by James Rebanks.

Alongside this, I’ve joined a new bookclub set up by some clergy colleagues which is going to be devoted solely to children’s literature. We are beginning with Little Women, which I have on the kindle so was a quick re-read. I have gone onto Good Wives as well because it just follows straight on.

2021 – a new start?

Although I have been very lax at blogging over the past few years, I have, in fact, been writing more regularly than ever. It’s just that I write at rather than coming here. That has the advantage of being not for others’ eyes and so much less stressful to write.

I do like writing for a blog though and I had an idea for this year. I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions that begin in January but there seems to be such a sense of transition and hope in the air that it is as good a time as any. My resolutions, or perhaps I should call them intentions, are simple:

  • Read more books
  • Knit more

We’ve recently moved house and the comments from the removal men have left me with a little bit of guilt at quite how many books I made them pack.

This was one of a couple of dozen small boxes in my office/study. I guessed it contained books – I was right.

Not that having too many books in itself is a bad thing but that I don’t actually read or refer to them terribly often. In my new study my desk faces the bookshelves. In my old study they were over my shoulder so I only saw them in my Zoom background. I’m hoping that having them right in front of me will remind me that reading is supposed to be a part of my job.

So, today, I decided to start the year the way I mean to go on. I picked up a book that I bought with hugely good intentions of reading and started it. Well, restarted it actually since it had a bookmark in for about 20 pages in.

The book is Why I Am No Longer Talking (To White People) About Race. I bought it in London about 18 months ago while wandering around Foyles. Since then, it has been sitting in a pile. I’m into chapter 3 now – it is a sobering read. I have read enough about white privilege and racism to know that this is a problem in which I am complicit. What I haven’t figured out is what I am personally supposed to do about it. More work required.

Over the next few days I intend to make a shortlist of books to read in various categories but also to figure out when my reading slots are. Over breakfast is an obvious one, as is early evening now that the kids don’t need me then. I love books and I love reading but it just never seems to get to the top of the list when there is a screen to look at instead. Late at night I just read things on the kindle because I tend to doze off and the kindle at least switches itself off when I do that. I get complaints otherwise.

I think the aim of the year is not to read a particular number of books but rather to read some and consider whether it merits a continued place on the shelves.

Off to knit something now.

Lockdown Hour of Craft

We are four months plus into lockdown now. I made it to my summer break from work thanks to some wise advice from a mentor or two and being told to add an extra week onto the front of my previously booked holiday. So that meant having three weeks to fill for me as well as for the kids (see below for how to keep them occupied). The first week is done now and involved a spot of camping and the associated recovery. Now, as the second week looms, how to make it both interesting and useful?

As I was lying in bed thinking last night I was wondering what I was going to do today. Sometimes, the prospect of a whole day with nothing in the diary means that I end up bumbling about never actually doing anything. I decided that today I would do lots of things, but only for an hour. After that I would swap to something else.

Lying about the house in various states of incompletion are a great many projects and pastimes. I often find myself fascinated by how a craft works and wanting to get the basics and have a go. Some of them stick and some don’t. They are worth putting an hour of time into even if it is not going to be my major craft obsession.

So, here is the progress for today’s Hour of Craft:

Hour 1 – Church. It is Sunday and, even though I am not at work, I still feel the need to do Church. Today I joined in the national online service, which was led by the Youth Pilgrimage to Walsingham.

Hour 2 – hand-sewing. I found some part-finished pillows for the Barbie house which needed stuffing and hand-sewing the final seam. Project finished in 30 minutes. Soundtrack – Bill Bryson’s The Body on Audible

Hour 3 – Creagami. J got this kit for Christmas and needs time with a parent and a screen to help her follow the instructions. We finished off the butterfly today and she was very pleased.

Hour 4 – Ravelry Stash organisation. The kids were going to watch a film with P so I had to move to my study for crafting. This involved a significant amount of tidying. I also discovered that I have not updated the stash with the various bits I have bought since lockdown. That involved some photo-taking and some data entry. It is all up to date now I think.

Hour 5 – Mosaic Crochet. As I was browsing through some Youtube videos, I came across this one. Despite having learned to crochet well before I started knitting, I never quite feel as if I know any more than the basics so I’m always interested in learning more. This tutorial was 45 minutes long and resulted in a swatch of the new technique.

Hour 6 – Cross stitch. Cross stitch was my craft of choice during my teens and early twenties. Mum bought me a lovely Discworld kit, which I took away to university and then hardly touched. Every so often I get it out and do a bit more. Today was one of those days. Soundtrack – Bill Bryson’s The Body on Audible.

Hour 7 – Cooking. Today’s menu plan was quiche, made from scratch. Phil made the pastry. I did the rest. No photos for this. We ate it too quickly.

Hour 8 – Blogging. It’s all gone a bit meta now.

Crafts not attempted today

Spinning with a wheel, spindle spinning, knitting, machine-sewing, luceting, lace-making, calligraphy, painting.

Still plenty to occupy me in future days.

How do you occupy the kids without resorting to screen time all day?

A few years ago I came across a suggestion for stopping your kids from demanding screen time from first thing in the morning through to the end of the day. It is called THE LIST and goes like this:

Every day, before screen time is allowed, they have to:

  • Make bed, get dressed, have breakfast, brush hair, brush teeth
  • read for 20 minutes
  • write or colour in for 20 minutes
  • tidy up one room
  • help a member of the family (if any help is needed)
  • spend 20 minutes outside
  • make or build something creative

This works so well for us as all we have to say is “have you done the list?” whenever screen time is mentioned.

Once the list is completed, they can have an hour of screen time, then a 20 minute break then another hour and so on. Bizarrely, they have accepted the premise of the list. They do still try to avoid or evade the more dull bits of the list but they haven’t figured out that they could rebel. Of course, that would mean there would be no screen time at all so maybe they won’t do that.

New Year, new resolve

I was reading the Yarn Harlot’s post this evening in which she talks about having a list for New Year’s Day in which you try and do a little of all the things you hope to do during the year. While I don’t think that it would have much of an effect on what actually happens, it’s a nice idea. This is what I’ve been doing today:

  • Finished a novel – Successor’s Promise by Trudi Canavan
  • Gone for a walk
  • Listened to a podcast – Zigzag
  • Spent time reflecting on the year
  • Played board games with the family (lost every single one today)
  • Cooked a meal with lots of veg
  • Written a fair amount – my daily words on, plus this post
  • Looked at my books and planned what to read this year
  • Planned my knitting for the next few weeks
  • Watched a bit of tv
  • Read to the kids (Eragon to T)
  • Blogged – having not done so for six months, although I’ve written more than ever in that time.

My main resolution this year is to consume less – or at least to use what I have before just buying new stuff. This applies to knitting and reading. I don’t think I’ve bought anything today, so I wonder how long that can go on. I’ve got a long list of suggested books (both real and e-book) to read, plus some plans of matched up knitting patterns and stash. I may join the yarn harlot in her Self-imposed sock club.

The only thing really missing is to do some knitting. That’s what I’m off to do now.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival

I wrote this post a couple of months ago and let it percolate.

For the last few years, I’ve been rather enviously reading the accounts of people who have visited Edinburgh for the Yarn Festival. This year, I waited anxiously, my fingers hovering over the keyboard as the classes opened for booking. In a frenzy of clicking, I managed to score places on Woolly Wormhead’s Advanced Grafting class and Tom of Holland’s Darning class. After the adrenalin had calmed down, I realised that I had managed to book classes, neither of which involved knitting needles. Still, they were both subjects I was keen to master.

One advantage of booking classes is that you get early access to the marketplace. I would later discover quite how much of an advantage this is. I had three nights away on my own – a rare occurrence. After a recommendation from a friend, I booked into a Premier Inn Hub. Tiny room, barely more than a bed, loo and shower, but quite enough when all I needed was somewhere to sleep and store my knitting things.

I had originally been planning to go up for the Thursday marketplace, but work commitments meant I couldn’t leave until lunchtime so I got to Edinburgh early evening on Thursday. I hadn’t been able to get tickets for any of the evening stuff, so I headed out to find somewhere to eat, armed with a list of good places to eat from a local who was, sadly, away that weekend. An excellent Mexican meal within 5 minutes walk of my hotel suited me just fine. Eating alone in restaurants is not really something I’m used to, but I was armed with a good book on the kindle and also enjoyed a sneaky bout of people-watching.

The next day, I went out bright and early to find a bus. Living out in the sticks as I do, the buses are infrequent and very basic. I was somewhat charmed by the phone app that told me exactly where the next bus was and which bus-stop to head for. Getting on the bus and finding that there’s a screen saying which the next stop is was almost too futuristic. I got over it.

The closer we got to the Corn Exchange, the more people sporting scarves and shawls, hats, gloves and sweaters got onto the bus. I don’t know what the non-knitters thought, but I did see a few raised eyebrows. It was lovely to find myself among my tribe.

My previous experience of large yarn-based events is that there is always a great deal of queuing involved at the beginning of the day. This time was different. After only 5 minutes in the early access queue I was into the marketplace. The selection of vendors was amazing. A combination of well-known brands and yarns from lots of different areas. I only had an hour before my first class, so I did a quick recce round to see what was there and did a bit of shopping for someone who had asked for yarn.

Advanced grafting was my first class. I’ve followed Woolly’s patterns for years and did her hat design class about 6 years ago. A while back, she wrote that she was planning a book on grafting, but she moved in a different direction and decided not to. All this means that I was very pleased to see this as a topic on the class list.  Armed with a bag of swatches and some snacks I was ready to go. Inevitably, there were a couple of people who seemed not to have read the pre-requisites for the course, or done any prep. Must have been rather annoying for Woolly, but she was very understanding. We had been warned that the material was quite heavy going.  For me, as in many learning situations, the theory side of it was very clear and easy to grasp but implementing the practical proved more of a challenge. I did manage some passable grafts of some bottom to top ribbing during the class and have done some more since then. Woolly’s teaching was as excellent as expected and the take-home notes were really high quality. One challenge we were left with was finding a way to do a perfect graft on top to top ribbing. This is almost certainly mathematically impossible, but I think I’ve found a work-around for 1×1 ribbing that looks pretty good. More on this in a later post. After three hours, I was pretty exhausted.

Coming out of the class, I discovered that the event was now flooded with people and it was much more of a scrum to get to all the stalls. I picked up a couple of things I’d seen earlier and spent a very long time at Ysolda’s bookshop, including a nice sit-down and knit at a handy sofa. While I was installed in the window seat, in the other 5 seats were a constantly revolving selection of nationalities. EYF is a very international festival.

After a couple more hours I was peopled out so I headed back to the city and went for a wander round. It was bitterly cold, but it had been about 20 years since I was last in Edinburgh so I was determined to see some of the sights. I wandered up and down the Royal Mile, across to Princes Street and back again, making my Fitbit very pleased if nothing else. The downstairs area at the hotel was periodically occupied by groups of knitters, but my knitting time never seemed to coincide with theirs.

On Saturday I had no classes, but I did have an early access ticket so I went over to the festival to take advantage of that before it got too crowded. My aim for the morning was to buy yarn. I didn’t have anything specific in mind and didn’t want to spend too much, but wanted to get something I couldn’t normally find. I ended up with some Jill Draper yarn that matches my new handbag. I can’t give any more details as it has been spirited away ready for my birthday.

I got the bus back into town and looked for a non-chain restaurant to eat in. I found a delightful place described as a ‘Scottish Restaurant’. A starter of haggis, neeps and tatties was good, but weird that the food was served in quinelles – doesn’t quite fit the image of down-to-earth Scottish cooking. I spent a couple of hours at the National Museum of Scotland, which was awesome. I suspect we will be returning to Edinburgh with the kiddies before too long. One advantage of travelling without kids is that when I found something boring, I could move on and when I was fascinated by something no-one was nagging me to leave.  After the museum I found some second-hand bookshops in Old Town. It was St Patrick’s day, so the number of people out drinking was very high. At one point a rather drunk Irishman burst into the bookshop I was in. “I f-ing love Harry Potter and I need a copy right now”.  Marvellous! Fortunately there were plenty of copies to be had so he went away happy.

It snowed on and off all day on the Saturday, never laying, but very cold indeed. Sunday morning, I woke to discover that the snow had lain overnight and was about an inch deep. Now I’d accidentally booked a train home a couple of hours earlier than I’d originally intended so my plan for Sunday was quite precise. I also had only one pair of shoes with me (thus leaving more room in my case for yarn) and they weren’t shoes with grips. The day was looking quite interesting.

While I was out the previous day, I’d found an episcopal  church with an 8am service down the road from the hotel, so I went along. Probably a good thing I did as there were only four of us there ( and two of those were the priest and verger). Somewhat breathless after a service said at breakneck speed, I headed out for the bus, sliding my way along, towing my case and wondering why I had bought such heavy books. My class was at one of the other venues: The Water of Leith Centre. Tom of Holland was utterly charming and an excellent teacher. We learned two types of darning: swiss darning (aka duplicate stitch) and stocking darning. This is the first time I’ve really managed an accurate swiss darn. I have a big pile of socks needing mending (most of which belong to DH rather than me) so I will have plenty of opportunity to practise both sorts.

Despite the snow, the buses ran fine and (helped by my new favourite app) I was able to duck out of the class and jump straight onto a bus. I made it back to Waverley in time for lunch before my train home. At Durham a young woman got on the train carrying a kitten and sat at my table. The kitten was maybe 3 months old and not in a basket. It behaved impeccably, spending some time on the shoulders of its owner and some looking out of the window. Adorable: no cat I’ve ever had could have been trusted not to cause chaos on a train.

So, what did I get?

  • The Jill Draper yarn mentioned above
  • Bristol Ivy’s book: Knitting outside the box
  • The new book on cables from Jen Arnall-Culliford, along with some Socks Yeah DK and a project bag to go with it.
  • Some flexible blocking wires
  • Wooden buttons to go on my Catkin shawl
  • Wensleydale locks in all the shades of green I could find  in the pick and mix bin
  • Some recorder sheet music from the second-hand bookshop

If I get the chance I’ll definitely go again to EYF, although hopefully I’ll be able to persuade someone to go with me.

2018 First Quarter

Crafting goals for 2018

  • Complete 15 projects in knitting or crochet
  • Complete 3 spinning projects
  • Publish a design

The year began much as it ended with crochet Imaginarium creatures flying off the hooks.


After six of these creatures in a year, I’m done for now. There are still three small girls I could make these for, but I need a break.

The next project was inspired by a book I got for Christmas: Knit Mitts by Kate Atherley. We had some snow before Christmas and the daughter’s hands got extremely cold as all her mittens and gloves are shop-bought and made of synthetic fibres. Time for some proper wool mittens.

I’ve had to guess how much her hands will grow before next winter – they’d better last that long. We’ve already had a couple of incidents of misplaced mittens, but I’m being vigilant and they have so far been recovered safely.

Through an accident of timing, I realised that the mittens were actually eligible for a WIP medal in the Ravellenics. I had been trying to finish them beforehand, but over-ran by a day or so. This meant that my main Ravellenics project was started a little late.

I’ve had Catkin on my list of projects to make for ages. I’ve even had the yarn picked out for a couple of years and kept safely in a bag, but never got round to starting it. In terms of yarn, it’s basically 2 pairs of socks. It’s got a few cables, some slipped-stitch colourwork and some simple patterning in knit and purl. I thought this would be a suitably challenging project.

As it’s a shawl that starts with very few stitches and grows every row, measuring progress is a little bit deceptive. Towards the end of the Olympics, my diary was quite busy. There was only one thing for it: I needed a spreadsheet. I can tell you that there are 41270 stitches in a Catkin. In order to finish it within the deadline, I had a daily target of just over 2500 stitches. It was so satisfying to get to the end of the day and know exactly how much progress I had made and how far ahead I was.

I still don’t have good pictures, but here it is before and during blocking.

Thanks to the forbearance of some work colleagues who were happy for me to knit through a whole day meeting, I was finished with a couple of days to spare, winning a medal for Shawl Skating and laurels for Stash, Colourwork and Cables.  The pattern includes buttonholes. I didn’t put the buttons on initially and quite liked wearing it wrapped several times around my neck. Once the buttons were added, it became a very useful layer to wear under a coat, particularly while cycling.

WIP round-up

  • I’ve joined Ysolda’s 2018 shawl club, so I have the first shawl for that on the needles.
  • I also got a one-off shawl kit from The Knitting Goddess, because the design was inspired by the daffodils on the hill in the village I live in. This is my main focus at the moment as I’m hoping to put it in an exhibition in a couple of weeks.
  • Since the start of the year, the Fringe and Friends Log-a-long has been appearing all over my social media feeds. I’ve got a design for a sock half worked-out, made of three log-cabin squares, which are then grafted together. So far, I’ve only made one of the squares.
  • Last autumn’s Toph hat used less than half the yarn, so I have another on the needles for one of my nieces.
  • Did I ever mention the three skeins of laceweight cashmere yarn I got in a sale from The Knitting Goddess ages ago? They were used to begin a Color Affection, but frogged due to the muddiness of the colours together. I think it will work with the colour in larger blocks, so I’ve started a Brightstairs. It’s going very slowly.
  • Two pairs of socks: one from Tour de Sock last year, the other one using up some Socks that Rock Mediumweight and a Cat Bordhi pattern. Both pairs are more than half done and just need to cycle to the top of a bag every so often in order to be completed.
  • The usual old-faithful WIPS: 2011 KAL blanket and the Plankton crochet kit.
  • I also have half a sheep in carded fibre stashed around my working space. Struggling to spin the batt I started with – not sure I scoured it enough to get the grease out.

Round-up – Knitting, spinning and crochet in 2017

The last time I posted a project round-up, I had met my target of 12 projects complete in 2017. Here’s what happened next:

I finished the Woolly Wormhead hat: TophToph hat

I’m tending to wear it with the brim tucked underneath for about an inch, which makes it warmer round the ears and fits better at the crown.

I finished the Hilltop Cloud fibre.

Handspun from Hilltop Cloud

Very happy with the colours here. Can’t wait to see what it knits up into. I think it’s about a DK weight.

And finally, the kids’ Christmas presents, which were presented to them on New Year’s Eve. The daughter knew all about the son’s toy as she had seen me making it. The son knew about the daughter’s. They were both very chuffed with the creatures.

Two creatures of crochet

The one on the left was named Bella by the recipient and was immediately promoted to a must-have bedtime companion. I wasn’t done with making these creatures. More to come in 2018.

Looking back, I can see that I talked about the Masham fibre that I spun, but never showed a picture.  Here it is.

Masham fibre spun into a range of colours

I think that brings 2017 crafting to a close.

Did I meet my goals?

  • Complete 12 or more knitting/crochet projects – 15 completed
  • Complete 2 or more spinning projects – 2 completed
  • Keep accurate spinning records – hmmm getting better
  • Knit something from handspun – Yes – a hat
  • Brioche stitch – tried it on a swatch. Next year make a wearable item.
  • Watch more Craftsy classes – I did watch more, but I’ve still got plenty unwatched.

I’m going to call that a successful year.

Hay, that’s a good place to visit

No parking here please, I’m reading

Last summer, we had a family trip to Herefordshire. We stayed in a yurt on a farm, did various trips out and had a really good week. The daughter spent the whole time bugging the farmer to let her help clean out the animal pens, while the son spent most of the time reading. With that in mind, it was clearly time for a trip to Hay-on-Wye, the town of books.

DH is familiar with Hay-on-Wye, having accompanied me there on several previous occasions. He’s quietly resigned to not seeing much of me for the day and taking himself off to cafes at appropriate intervals. The question was, how would the kids react? Were they really old enough to appreciate Hay?

The daughter, aged 5 at the time, was not really into the whole second-hand book thing. She was intrigued in the first couple of shops, then spent the rest of the day saying things like “not another bookshop”. The son, on the other hand, seemed to be delighted by the whole experience.  He came away with quite a pile of books and would, I think, have happily carried on with the browsing and buying for a few more days, particularly as I gave him extra book-buying money.

Hay CastleIt had been about ten years since I last went to Hay.  My impression is that the town has become a little more commercial. The shabby bookshops are not so shabby, everything seems a lot more organised and there’s more crossover between old and new books in the shops. It will be interesting to see what happens with the castle once the crowd-funded refurbishment has been completed.

Some things haven’t changed. The honesty bookshop is still there, still without any books I have any inclination to read.

The books I ended up getting have all been sitting on my desk for six months, waiting for me to get round to writing this post. Of course, I’m now writing this upstairs so I need to go and fetch them. Selection of books bought at Hay

Hay did not seem to have a good selection of craft books. I was disappointed not to find more knitting books. I was prepared to wade through vast quantities of vile eighties intarsia sweater books to find some gems. I wasn’t really prepared to find almost nothing. The only one I found that was worth getting was Mandalas to Crochet by Haafner Linssen. I haven’t made anything from it yet, but I do like the idea of crocheted circles so I probably will at some point. The diagrams are particularly clear and the maths is quite intriguing.

I tend to pick up Henning Mankell books when I find them cheap. Scandi Noir, without being too noir. The Robert Galbraith is another one on my list of detective novels to try: Galbraith, of course, being an alias of Rowling.

Discovering Old Handwriting is one of those books that leapt off the shelf at me. It could come in handy for work if I’m ever looking at old archives, but I really bought it as it adds to my general interest in handwriting.

Rounding off the selection are a couple of theological books, neither of which I’ve done more than glance at since buying them.

I was particularly happy to discover a stationery shop in Hay, called Bartrums. Here’s the haul from this shop.

Palomino blackwing, ollive green washi tape and olive green ink.
Stationary stationery.

I’ve read so much about the Palomino Blackwing pencil. Online, it only seems to be sold in packs of 24, which is quite an investment to make for something that might not be to my taste. I was able to buy a single pencil, which has now been in circulation for a while. It’s a good pencil, very smooth both to touch and write with. Is it worth the price-tag? I’m still not sure. I’ll probably stay with my trusty yellow and black Staedtlers with the red end, which I’ve been using as long as I’ve been writing.

I’ve taken to picking up washi tape when I find it. It always comes in handy. It seems I had a bit of an olive green thing going on that day, as I came back with olive green washi tape and Vert Olive ink from J Herbin. My Lamy Safari is currently using the ink. Now I have got used to the colour being lighter than I expected, I like it.

Some interesting things I have been reading

  • The Circle, by Dave Eggers – Sci-fi looking at the challenge of social media, bought at The White Rose Bookshop in Thirsk. This was written in 2013 and it is rather disconcerting how many of the futurist bits of the novel are now reality – Amazon’s Electra springs to mind. The questions that were raised for me include whether privacy is indeed a virtue or an encumbrance, how much would I be willing to give up if complete transparency were the cost of keeping it. I find that I’m posting less and less on social media, often because I live a quiet and uneventful life, sometimes because what is interesting does not belong to me to share. My job depends on being trustworthy and able to keep a confidence. If complete transparency became a thing, we’d lose so much of the tentative early thinking that people are only willing to share with trusted friends. Life is richer for friendships based on shared confidence. That would be lost if everyone had access to every thought or action.
  • Redshirts, by John Scalzi – more Sci-fi, but less disturbing, recommmended by DH. This book takes meta to a new level, ties it in a knot and then makes you laugh out loud as it all unravels. I loved it, although it kept getting me into trouble for giggling too loudly while someone was trying to sleep. If you’ve ever wondered about what happens to all the supporting characters in tv-dramas, especially Star Trek, this is the book for you.
  • Paper, by Mark Kurlansky – History through the story of everyday objects. Salt, one of Kurlansky’s earlier books, is one of the best books I have ever read. This is pretty good. It was on my wish-list for a while, as I couldn’t bring myself to read about paper on the Kindle. It turns out that my assumption that all paper is made from trees was wrong. I only figured it out near the end of the book, when he starts to talk about the difficulties of extracting cellulose from trees. Then I had to re-interpret most of the book in the light of this information. I always knew rags were used somehow in the making of paper, but thought they were secondary to the processing of trees. Interesting stuff. As someone who was brought up to use recycled paper wherever possible, I knew that the quality had increased radically in the last 30 years (anyone else remember recycled loo paper from the 80s), now I know a bit more about why and how. If the history of objects interests you, then read this book.
  • Revenge Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger. What can I say, sometimes I just need to relax with something a bit tacky. I borrowed this from a local church that has a comprehensive selection of books available to anyone who wants to read them. Don’t think I could ever have been a congregation member there – too much temptation to sit with a novel during the sermon.
  • The Bookshop Girl, by Silvia Bishop, selected by my daughter at White Rose Books. One of the great joys in my life is buying books for my children, or introducing them to books I loved as a child. This one was chosen at the beginning of the summer holidays and it came with us on holiday. Reading it aloud meant I appreciated it at a slow pace. I managed to be disciplined and not read ahead between bedtimes, so we discovered it together. It’s a charming book, about a girl who lives in a bookshop, but has an awkward secret (as well as a ridiculous name). Various adventures unfold, but I won’t spoil it. The only question I have is why don’t the kids go to school, or get home-schooled? It bothered me throughout, but it didn’t spoil the book for me.