Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Two more finished thingies!

Here we have a scarf you know, and one you don't. The big blue one got finished this afternoon, at my new Wednesday S'n'B with Alison! First I knitted to within about 5 rows of finishing, only to run out of yarn. So I had to rip back to the middle of the previous triangle to finish it off properly. Argh. But still, it is done and lovely. I just don't know exactly what to do with it, since I need another scarf like a hole in the head. I think I know who does need such a thing, so it'll likely be in the mail shortly.

The other is what happens when Mommy is too keen. Elaine will be an angel in the school Christmas production, and she wears a long white T-shirt for a costume. She thought it would be nice with a golden belt, so I went out and got some twinkly goldie stuff and whipped up a one-ball wide belt/short scarf. But then the teacher says she doesn't in fact get a belt, and all the angel wings and haloes and whatever is all supplied. So, hmm, maybe I should add on another ball and make a scarf that is actually long enough... Decisions...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Guess where we went?

Yes, we hopped down to London over the weekend! We meant to go Friday night, but then decided we should really go to a family dinner at Stephen's college. That was good, because we met some other families with kids and found out about a chess club near here Wednesday evenings. But it meant that we were in a scramble to get out of here Saturday morning, and got to the train station as our train was leaving. No matter... We did get there, hand off our luggage (toothbrushes and underwear for 4) to Barry, and get to the big museums for the afternoon.

Stephen and Arthur went to the Science Museum, where they saw the real and genuine Puffing Billy, and the ladies took in the V&A, where we saw, amongst other things, Queen Maud's dresses. Also ironwork, musical instruments, pottery, textiles, paintings, stained glass, silver reliquaries in the shapes of heads (and guess what kind of relic they held?) and the coffee shop. And probably more.... It's an amazing collection of everything designed.

Here's Arthur and the Puffing Billy, and here's Elaine on the beautiful mosaic floor of the V&A.

Then, thanks to the miracle of mobile phones, we met the guys at the Natural History museum. We were a few days late to see the Diamonds exhibit! But still, we saw the dinosaurs, and you can't beat that. There was a real live T Rex! Well, ok, not really, but a motorized model of one, who growled and turned his head to and fro. It was grrrreat!

At the end of the dino exhibit, there were various cartoons speculating on the cause of the mass extinction. "Overwhelmed by their own dung" was a good one, but this one suggests cataracts. It's a terrible picture, but the big T Rex is saying "That's just great! My arms are too short to put my glasses on..." and the little guy in the corner says "And you've got no ears to speak of," as the rest of the herd stumbles around and off cliffs in the background.

Finally we were all a bit pooped after an afternoon of walking, so we made our way to a restaurant for dinner (bottomless frozen yogurt for the kids!) and home to K&B's. Barry is a big softie, who sees kids this close to Christmas and decides to get out the fiber-optic tree and put something under it! I wish we'd taken a picture of the tree, but since the thrill is in its slowly changing colours, a still picture does it no justice. Of course, the kids were delighted to get gifts, and they played reasonably quietly while the grown-ups had a glass of wine, and we all went to sleep....

Sunday we decided on the tower, and see, I took my knitting. We went to St Paul's, took the footbridge across the river, then took a boat back across to the Tower. Very fun. And lucky for us, some of the big attractions in London have put together a deal whereby you get 2-for-1 tickets if you've come to town on the train. Anything to discourage more cars! So, while forking over large amounts of money to the Queen, we felt we were getting a bargain... We saw Henry VIII's armour, old fireplaces and garderobes (kinda like toilets: seats with holes in, emptying out the castle walls... a bit draughty!) and piles of swords and muskets and gunpowder barrels. And of course, the crown jewels. That place is made to hold about a squillion people. They have winding paths for the tourists to walk along, and films playing of coronations, pictures of the orb and maces and the special coronation spoon... and in August, I bet you get to see them all 5 times, as you slowly make your way to the big stuff. But we went relatively quickly to the moving sidewalk that takes you past the crowns, sceptres, orbs, which are plastered with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, pearls and whatever else twinkles and sparkles. Mere mortals are not permitted to take pics of them, and besides, I'm sure in the dim light, through glass, any pictures one tried to take would be awful. Elaine was quite taken, and we especially liked the teeny little crown Victoria favoured, since the others were too heavy.

Another big day. We retraced our steps back to Katherine's for a cup of tea, then grabbed the train to Cambridge, and back to real life here.

And now you'll have to excuse me, as I'm a bit behind with my Sudoku.

Late breaking news:
The nuts at Going Jesus have started the Christmas season with a look at tacky angels. Angels We Have Heard Are High! Don't forget last year's hilarious Nativity atrocities, and the Passion of the Tchotchke. Just don't try to look at them all at once, or you'll overdose for sure!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I think she likes it!

Here it is in all its glory. The pink cotton cardigan is done, pearly buttons and all!
Here are a few lessons learned.

- If you want to be clever and start the buttonband stitches on the bottom ribbing, remember to make the first buttonhole.

- Another clever thing is to put a nice lacy bit up the front, but it might be a good idea to figure out how you're going to work your decreases in.

- There is a great difference between 7 sts/inch and 8 sts/inch. This sweater, for a petite 5 year old, uses the numbers for size 12!

And now, onto the next project, whichever that might turn out to be.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Waah, I need bifocals!

(Insert photo here of 40-something knitter peering over her glasses to sew in ends on a sweater knit with 3 mm needles.) Phew, this is crazy! Modeled photos of the pink cardigan any day now, folks. Just have to sew in a few ends and put the teeny tiny buttons on. I hope my daughter can put them through the teeny tiny holes. The buttons we chose were so small I just made yarn-over buttonholes.
And now I 've got that off my chest, I'll go squint at my work again for a bit!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Gifts of a baby blanket and body bits

Oh, my, what a lot of things to tell you!

Firstly, I want to show off this baby blanket that Sally and her coworkers made. A year ago, Sally was a lapsed knitter, who rediscovered the thrill when she contributed to the afghan we made for our school. First she made a bunch of squares for that, and then at the sewing-up party we gave out lootbags containing a couple of balls of yarn (that's called "redistribution of stash around the neighbourhood") and she went off and made a great scarf. So now she is roaring along, probably trying to figure out how to knit and ride a bike at the same time. I hear the gang is making another afghan at school this year, too!

Another person involved in the school afghan was Beryl, who now has this business. A breast cancer survivor herself, she knits breasts for women who have had mastectomies. She makes everyday ones in cotton, special occasion ones with eyelash trim, cashmere ones, plain ones, fancy ones, big ones and small ones. She also has a pattern on to knit your own breast, if need be. Check it out!

And more body parts: I recently learned that our neighbour John was in hospital to have a kidney removed. He was perfectly healthy and fine, and was donating his kidney to someone who wasn't! You can read about it here and here, and they are blogging the whole thing here. Sign those organ donor cards!

And what have I been up to? Well, yesterday I had a bit of time between haircut and school pick-up (oh, must take a picture of my new do!) and so was browsing the charity shops (thrift stores, for the non-English) and found a nice lot of straight knitting needles (all with red bits, as it turns out) which look very lovely in my jam jar on the table, and a whole load of old pattern pamphlets, for 10p each. Unfortunately yarn that appears in these shops disappears very fast!
I took pictures of a lot of them, but Blogger is being very slow and uncooperative this morning, so I shall leave you with this gem and save others for later.

And a late addition: The pictures of the Knitted Wedding are up on the Cast-Off site. I'm in this one, if you look very carefully at the crowd directly behind the bride. Black shirt, blue flowery headband, next to Katherine in pale blue. A bit lame, isn't it, to search oneself out in a group photo like this? And in this one, you can see the little ring pillow I made for the affair. Not wedding coloured at all... but it was fun to make. Thanks to Kay for pointing this out!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The pile of knitting

I was reading Rachel Matthews' new book in which she mentions one of the world's fastest knitters (Wendy Moorby, at 245 stitches in 3 minutes). I clocked myself for a minute and got about 30 stitches! Not in the running at all. Maybe if I got faster, I could get through all this stuff! So now I want to sort out what all this stuff really is! Am I really getting nowhere on lots of projects at once?? Let's take stock...

First, we have the very nearly finished pink cardigan.
You can maybe see that I have started the button band, and really have a day or two's work to finish this properly. I even have the buttons! Get on with it!

Then we have a sock. I don't think socks really count, because one should always have a sock on the go, n'est-ce pas?
But this is sock number one, and so I really should finish it and start sock number two, because after that, I get to start a whole new colour of sock yarn! Rewards for good behaviour are important...
This is good pub knitting, but I guess I just haven't been going to the pub enough lately.

And the multi- directional scarf. I often knit this when I'm out, when I don't want to have to concentrate or worry about colours or patterns... I have been known to knit straight across, missing my short-row mark, but it is easily fixed.

I'd say, no hurry on this one, but it can be easily got out of the way with another trip on a train!

Ah, the denim... Oh, Kay, what shall I do?? I like the idea of this a lot, but I really don't like knitting with this dark, string-like yarn! This is a pseudo-cable pattern from a sweater by Annie Modesitt in Interweave Knits from Fall 2005. It looks cool but I think I will rip out all I have, and then knit with a ball of light and a ball of dark together, and make a bag. That's about idea 763 that I've come up with for this stuff.

What's next? Ah, The Sweater That Makes Me Sneeze! This is so wonderful, I just love it! But I have to knit it away from home, because it really does make people cough and carry on. I have almost finished the main body piece, then I have to knit two sleeves and attach it all onto a yoke. I have high hopes for this baby, and will take it out more often.

Next we have the actual beautiful sweater for ME! (TSTMMS is destined to be a gift, but it's a secret.) This is Rowan Summer Tweed, and because it is silk, it has that silky stinkiness... But that'll pass, right? I think I was crazy to start with the diamonds, but if I just decide that I will sit and knit for an hour, say, I can make reasonable progress. It'll be a bit wild, no? Must make more time for this one.

And here we have the easy way out, the thing I actually pick up when I have a moment. A bunch of squares. Most of the wool was found on sale, and I've sort of settled on a bit of a scheme for a blanket, but mostly I just find a square I like in my book of squares, and set off. Easily accomplished, no muss, no fuss. My present goal is to see what it looks like when I've got 36 squares, but I think I have enough wool for a much larger blanket.

So, that's what's on the needles here. If I just finish all this stuff, I'll be doing great. I have to remember that I have to pack it all up again next summer to return to Toronto! Today I think I was very noble and restrained, and I walked away from the sale bin at Sew Creative, where there were several balls of Rowan Chunky Cotton Chenille for £3 a ball. Unfortunately, there were only 3 or 4 balls in each colour, and I thought it best to get outta there before I got another pile of lovely but projectless yarn!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Water, frozen and not

Once upon a time, when we lived in Santa Barbara, but were preparing to move to Toronto, we were sitting at our dining room table in our rented condo, and it started to rain. It hadn't rained for a long time. The roof was not capable of dealing with this situation, and little drips soon came in and dropped right onto the table where we were sitting. We had just decided not to buy a really nice house we'd seen in Toronto, and here was proof-positive that renters rule, because all we had to do was call the landlord and put a pot on the table, and our job was done. It was someone else's problem to call the roofers!

But alas, we did become homeowners, and almost the first thing that happened was the shower leaked into the kitchen. This time it was our problem for sure, and we found out that the whole structure under our fab bathroom was soaked and rotten, and that cost us a few grand.

Then, we had a deck on our roof, and that was old and rotten, and so we took it down (tossing boards down from the 3rd floor into the alley!). The roof was now exposed, and unbeknownst to us, water was leaking in. Finally we noticed that the bathroom ceiling (yes, the same bathroom!) had a sort of saggy look to it, and when we poked it, the whole thing collapsed in a sodden mass of gyproc, insulation and rainwater. That cost us even more money.

Then, one day, more water came pouring into the kitchen. I can't even remember what the initial cause was, but when we went to turn off the water pipe, we couldn't, because the previous plumber had neglected to put a little valve on the pipe under the sink. Lucky for us, this was just before our grande renovations, and we somehow kludged it up temporarily until we could spend even more money...

We had reason to remember all these water-based adventures last night when Arthur was in the shower and water began to drip into the living room! The caulking around the tub is not sealing, and so that's another little job... At least it seems little, and it's probably easier for us to do it than wait for someone else, and after all, we've got experience with these things now....

And, for the frozen water, there was actual frost this morning! Last week we didn't even have the heat on! Arthur was thrilled -- I guess it was almost snow-like. He went out and tried to scoop up the crystals of ice off the grass. Lucky I made those mitts, eh?

I'm sure the sun'll melt it all away and we'll have another lovely fall day. Yesterday Arthur and I went to Lammas Land, played on the playground a bit and wandered along by the river. It was a bit chilly, but nothing a sweater and hat couldn't cope with. The trees are looking wonderful and the sky was clear blue. The punters are mainly gone but, up our end of the river, the college rowers are out in full force, with traffic jams of eights under the footbridge. I just hope this fine weather, frost and all, lasts a while before the grey winter rains set in!

Friday, November 11, 2005

43 days till Christmas?!

Yessiree, it's almost Christmas. You can go here to see exactly how long you have! I don't usually knit gifts for everyone on the list, so my Christmas panicking has little to do with knitting. I have to mail stuff across the ocean this year, which means it all has to be arranged soon.

These mitts will be for Arthur, and since he might need them soon, and mainly since he's watched me knit them, they will not be a Christmas present! The mathematicians among you (moth-watching, knitting mathematician, anyone?) will notice that the stripes go 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and off the end. This is the Fibonacci sequence, which just means you add the previous two numbers together to get the next number. And the clever ones will also notice that the stripes are reversed, which is just for fun and has no mathematical significance... They are for an 8-year-old guy with kind of big hands, but the pattern/wool situation here means they are made with the number of stitches for the size 2 in my book. Rowan Magpie on 4 mm needles instead of Canadiana on ... I don't even know what...

I just bought this book by Rachel Matthews, of Cast-Off fame. Must find just the right yarn to make a red cabbage, I think. I was looking for a Faroese shawl pattern, but got distracted....

Thursday, November 10, 2005

This is not my kitchen floor

Very few of you have ever seen my Cambridge kitchen, but let me tell you, it is "cosy" or perhaps we could just say "small." So if one leaves the dishes for a day or two while one is entertaining or dealing with sick kids or just not feeling like doing the dishes, well, it silts in pretty fast! But right now, it is sparkling, you can see countertops all over, and the floor is pretty darn clean! (This is the floor of Ely Cathedral, which I am glad I don't have to wash.) I stopped right where the kitchen floor ends and the carpet in the dining room starts (who the heck puts wall-to-wall carpet in a rental house's dining room!) but I had to leave something to do tomorrow! Or next week... It's hard to keep a house sparkling given things like this: the closest place to plug in the electric lawnmower to do the front handkerchief of lawn is upstairs. So after you've got little cut grass bits all over your feet, you have to go up the carpetted stairs to unplug the machine. One can indeed take one's shoes off, but still bits of grass get up the stairs.

And now, unless I get carried away and try to do laundry, too, I have time to go find those Thursday afternoon Cambridge knitters I've heard of, before going to get the kids who will mess up my kitchen in a snap.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

And they're off!

We got a bit of garden admiring in with Mary and Dee, and here is Clare College's wonderful fall foliage, taken from the bridge. The garden gates were closed, but we could see that it was mostly put to bed for the winter. Stalks neatly trimmed to exactly 8 inches long all over...

After a bit more gadding about town, including Evensong at King's College Chapel for Mary last night, our relatives have headed off this morning to bigger and better things in London. Stephen went on the train with them, on his way to give a talk somewhere, so they have a built-in porter and tour guide for the taxi ride from station to hotel.

I think they enjoyed their visit (and here are some dahlias from Magdalen College) though the most lasting memory may be of the technological schmozzle of yesterday. It went like this: "Hello, we're at the museum and it's lunchtime, so let's meet somewhere." Beep! "Hello, I'll just leave a message and you can call me, and yes, let's meet at the market. When?" Beep! "Hello, these phones aren't working very well, it never rings... but okay, we're at the market now, where are you?" Beep! And on and on and on. Darn cheap phones... I've already had mine in the shop twice because it just doesn't ring! Perhaps we will cut our losses on this and find a different company, since there seem to be about a hundred and two.

Other news: Elaine has a couple of ear infections! This would explain the cranky behaviour of the past week or more! If only I can convince her to get out the door to the pharmacy, we'll have her fixed up in no time.

Nothing exciting in the knitting department, though we've bought buttons for the pink cardigan, and I've made a mitt and a bit for Arthur from sale-bin Rowan Magpie. Nice stuff, very soft.
I've also gone a bit crazy with knitting squares for a possible blanket. I have about 11, I think, though they are only 6 inches square, so I'll need a lot! Arthur designed me this Halloween one (though I suggested only 2 eyes for the knitted version!) when he saw my "pumpkin" coloured yarn. He wants to design a Christmas one, too, but I don't really have Christmas-y colours. We'll keep you posted on that, you can be sure.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Visitors and a new blog

It's just too exhausting to keep track of this sight-seeing...

Yesterday, we wowed 'em with the do-it-yourself checkout at the grocery store, and then Elaine and I went to buy me boots and the tourists went to the Museum of Technology. Last night, we got them to babysit (hooo-ee!) while we went to Evensong and dinner at high table at Gonville and Caius College with a colleague of Stephen's. Lovely chapel, nice singing, good food and port and cheese and wine and roast duck and especially good parsnips, as a matter of fact!

Today, art supply shops and bookshops and then Clare College and then lunch and the others went into the Pepys library at Magdalen College (in the picture), while I had to run off to get the kids from school. Now we are back at the tea-drinking, chosing this evening's pub.

And on an unrelated note, this is a butterfly I saw at Old Sarum. See the "eyes" at the very back end? It's called a Red Admiral, my friend Dave tells me. Dave knows all about butterflies and moths and mainly birds, and lots about other things, too. And he now has his very own blog, which you should look at if you like moths or butterflies or birds! So there. I wonder if there are any birding knitters or knitting moth enthusiasts out there!

We've got Auntie Mary learning about Blogger now, so she might just be launching something soon... She was keen to find a book about algae in the Cambridge University Press shop today, so maybe she'll blog about great pond scum she's seen. And wouldn't that be just a thrill and a half! Knitting seems so tame now....

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bonfire night!

We don't give our visitors much time to catch their breath around here. It's thrills and excitement all the time. Here are the intrepid travellers outside the old Cavendish lab where the electron was first discovered. And we also took them to a kid-oriented chemistry show where we got helium balloons and Elaine got kitty whiskers painted on her face and decided to wear her coat backwards. After lunch the kids and I came home and the others did the rounds of the colleges and so on.

For the big excitement of the day we all had to wait till dark! The common had been filling up for days with trucks hauling in amusement park rides, and at 6 pm, it was full of glowing, flashing, music-booming fun!

When we first got there, there were a few hundred people, the kids could walk on any ride they saw, and manouevring was not out of the question. Mary took Dee over to the disabled viewing tent, so they got a nice place to watch the fireworks without the crush of the crowd, which developed very fast! We took a porta-potty break and when we got back the people were wall-to-wall, and we had to carry Elaine so she wouldn't get squashed! The kids did have fun on the rides, with Arthur having two rides on the bumper cars, or dodgems, as they call them here! Here are both kids on motorbikes -- a sort of merry-go-round thing.

Just as they paid their money and got on the world's tiniest ferris wheel, the fireworks started. The other rides stopped, but since the wheel had just got going, they got to watch "from the air" for a few minutes! They were pretty amazing fireworks! It was more or less non-stop for half an hour, with every kind of explosion possible. Very noisy, of course. When I asked Arthur which were his favourite kind, he said, "the quiet ones."

At first the kids wanted to stay and go on more rides, but post-firework exhaustion did set in, and after a few minutes of watching the huge bonfire blaze away, it was decided that we should call it a night.

Today's activities will include winding wool into a ball, and other fantastic feats!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

They made it

For no good reason, here is a picture of tree bark. I saw this tree in London when I went to the Knitted Wedding.
Our relatives arrived, getting off the exact right bus at the exact right time. Phew. So we walked them over to their B&B, and then brought them over here for tea and cheese and crackers and tea and porkchops and tea. And then, after Grandma had read the relevant parts of the guide book and Mary had drunk more tea, they went off to sleep, 8 hours jetlagged.
Looking forward to the basic tourist stuff and lunch in a pub, with fireworks and bonfire and funfair tonight on Midsummer Common!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Age of Steam, prehistoric, Age of Sail

The day after Stonehenge, we decided to go to STEAM, a train museum in Swindon. Swindon is almost directly north of Salisbury, but we wanted to take the train, so we made two sides of a big triangle out to Bath and back to Swindon. This was kinda fun, taking the train for a little jaunt. And we got there and saw this locomotive on a flatbed truck! Imagine the glee amongst the 8-year-olds! Who's ever seen a locomotive on a truck!??
And that was just the beginning. This museum is built in the old GWR yard, where for more than a hundred years everything train-like was made. They made the steel for the engines, the brass handles and the upholstered cushions. There were 12,000 people working there at once! They made an engine named Mary, named for the boss's wife, and engines with 2-meter driving wheels. It was quite wild, with things to climb on and levers to pull, and we even got to walk under a train on the rails.
When it was time to head back, we decided to stop in Bath to look around for a bit and have dinner, and somehow we found ourselves taking a bus tour. We saw all the nice buildings, and on the last leg of the tour, passed the Postal Museum!
What a dummy, I'd never even thought of it! But there it was, a little storefront full of red things (models of post boxes and telephone boxes and mail trucks and all), and the last visitors leaving as the woman locked the door... "Bring the kids back tomorrow," she called, "It's all free." Argh. Well, I know where it is now, anyways!
There was some musical event going on in the abbey so we couldn't see that either! We had dinner and trained back to Salisbury.

The next day we went to Avebury. If you have a map, you will see that Avebury (that group of stones near Marlborough) is quite close to Swindon, north of Salisbury. One idea had been to see both in the same day on the bus, but for whatever reason, we didn't do it that way. So after our roundabout train ride (Bath is off the map, through Chippenham), we took the bus to Avebury.

It took forever! Every little town on that route has a bus stop, and so the 25 mile trip took 2 hours. And all the while, you can hear the BOOOM.......BOOOOM...... of the army practising with their big guns on Salisbury plain! There were signs at the side of the road warning of slow tanks crossing! But we eventually got there. The stones make a huge circle, so it's hard to get a picture that shows it all unless you are in an airplane... There were sheep keeping the grass neat, but Elaine, getting crabbier and more miserable day by day, complained that the field was too pooey and demanded to be carried again! The one excellent thing for the kids was the kites! We tied yarn (brought along for spool-knitting on trains) to plastic shopping bags, and the kids were endlessly amused. Arthur let go of his once and had to climb down into the encircling ditch to get it! They got to explain to all passers-by what they were doing, they got to disentangle string from thorn bushes -- it was a great idea!
We walked around the circle, went to the museum, which is in an old thatched barn with bats in the thatch, and walked out to Silbury Hill, a totally manufactured prehistoric hill sticking up out of the plain. There have been holes dug in the hill and nothing has been found inside it. No tomb, no buried treasure, just a hill. After all our exertions, we had an excellent plowman's lunch (for afternoon snack!) at the pub and headed back on our epic bus ride!

One rainy day, our B&B host had suggested going to Portsmouth. We had never thought of this, not realising how easy it is to get places on the train. The distances are not very great, and an hour on the train is so much better than any distance on the bus! So on our last day, we decided to see what was there. On our way, we passed the hugest container port we'd ever seen, with big gantry cranes and piles and piles of containers stacked up over acres, waiting for a ship or a train to take them somewhere. It was another thrill for the machine guys, lemme tell you! And this is what was awaiting us! At the historic Portsmouth dock, they have the remains of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's ship, and they have the Warrior, an iron-clad ship with both sails and a steam engine, and this baby, the Victory, the ship on which Lord Nelson died in the battle of Trafalgar! How circular, eh? We start in Trafalgar Square and end on Nelson's ship. Nice. This is still a ship in the British Navy, with a captain and crew, though I think it must be a rather cushy position, since the ship is bolted into drydock and is used mainly for large dinners in the captain's quarters. The queen had been aboard a few days earlier to celebrate the big anniversary! They've got all the cannon in position, and all the ropes hanging from the yardarms (or whatever they're called) and it's all beautifully kept. There's a little plaque on the deck to mark where Nelson fell, shot by a Spaniard, I believe. The anchor weighs 4 tons, it takes 8 men to hold the wheel in heavy weather, they carried 2 tons of butter (the last of which was rancid by the time they got to it) and there are 23 miles of ropes. Or was it 27? Anyways, lots of ropes. The kids enjoyed themselves, and Elaine consented to walk, as her head was at risk of bumping on those narrow, steep stairs!
Another trial to find some food, and we ended up at a Pizza Hut. They use some computer communications between the waiters and the cook, and our order went down the pipe just as they were changing the paper in the printer, so it never was received in the kitchen. When they finally realised that we had been sitting there for an hour with no food, they gave us our dinner for free, which was nice, but what a schmozzle...

Finally we bid farewell to the Holmhurst B&B, home to fried bread and other yummies, we got on the train for London and home. We meant to stop again in London for some fun, but we were all pooped out. Another quick look at the Embankment, underground to King's Cross, and home to bed.

And now I have to clean up the house, do laundry, wash dishes, get groceries and maybe even buy a new pair of shoes because I have to go out to a nice dinner on Sunday, all before 3 pm. I'll report in when Auntie Mary and Gramma Dee arrive!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Not prehistoric, prehistoric...

Fortified with our English breakfasts, we marched off to the cathedral Monday morning. This picture was taken the Sunday evening, in the clear sunshine, but next day, it was dreary and grey. We had a tour of the inside, and Stephen and Arthur then went up the tower, but they didn't let kids as small as Elaine on that tour, so she and I did the kid activity of "find the winged horse in the stained glass and the hedgehog on the big memorial" which was fun. The boys first saw the interior of the church, then Arthur had to pretend to be a worker from the 13th century and turn this big wheel, which was used to lift large loads of building stone. They used 4 men and could lift a ton in half an hour! Arthur had to do it alone, but only for a few minutes, and with
no load, so that was fine! Then when they reached the top of the tower (bottom of the spire) they went outside and looked at the view. Hmm, they say you can see Old Sarum in the distance!

We also saw the museum that day, which had lots of stuff about Stonehenge and its rocks, as well as old clothing (very fancy schmancy dresses and jewels, and the odd red coat for the soldiers) and ceramics and flintlocks and all that stuff!

On the way home we passed this lovely house, with stripes of brick and flint stones. Nice, eh? We saw a lot of brick and flint, but none quite so stripey as this!

Next day we headed off to Stonehenge. It was pretty efficient to go on the bus, and since it was a blustery day in October there were only about a quazillion people there, instead of the 20 quazillion there must be in the summer!

When I was little, we lived in England twice when my dad (my one loyal reader!) was on sabbatical, and we came to Stonehenge and just wandered among the stones, sitting on the flat ones! But alas, no more... The barrier is not too intrusive, but it would be great to get closer and mingle with the stones, if you know what I mean.
So here you have me and the kids (Elaine was starting to get sick, and the wind really was pretty outrageous, so I had to lug her around a lot!) and Stephen and Arthur trying to hear their audio guides. We took all the classic shots, and then some, but I think you've all seen pictures of big rocks before, and they are exactly the same as everyone else's shots, since we all walk around exactly the same route!

Now, being a knit-blogger, I knew it was my job to show my half-knitted sock a good time at this great photo op. So I had a sock ready... I've taken sock pictures at several places, but a sock on a flint wall is just not the same as a sock at Stonehenge... and I completely forgot about it in the wind and the kid-lugging.

I was crushed.

Obviously I had failed; I was not a true member of the knitting blogosphere, or blogiverse, or whatever... So, I tried to make up for it, by taking this picture of the sock and the grass and probably a sheep or two and junk in the background, when some bird flew in and made it a much more interesting picture! I hope it's some rare blue-crested walamazoo or something, but I think it's probably a crow.

And, where, you are asking, were all the post boxes? Well, I was quite disappointed in the post-box situation in town. You'd think a town so full of old buildings would have a bunch of Victorian post boxes, but I didn't find any.
Some George V, which I'll show you one day, and quite a few tiny little ones, including an Elizabeth II near Old Sarum. But the most odd, I thought, was this space-age (made in 1980, according to the Bath Postal Museum) EIIR at Stonehenge! (Sorry, I think Arthur is sticking his tongue out.) I like this style a lot, and especially at an ancient monument. The aliens must really have landed here, built Stonehenge, and left some bit of their spacecraft behind.

Let's see, the next day we advanced beyond prehistoric to the Age of Steam... Tune in tomorrow! Actually, tomorrow my mother-in-law and sister-in-law are coming from Victoria BC to visit, and it would be polite of me to get the dishes done and stuff, so I'll do my best, but can't promise. Elaine has been home from school for 2 days with hacky cough and fatigue, but she'll just have to be restored enough to go to school tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Old Sarum

Our first full day at Salisbury was a Sunday, and lots of things were closed and we didn't feel like touristing around the cathedral on a Sunday, so we set off for Old Sarum. The bus schedule was typical Sunday -- a bus every hour or two -- so we walked the couple of miles, stopping at a pub for an enormous lunch!
Old Sarum was a hill fort for centuries and William the Conquerer had a castle here and even built a large cathedral. This is the big ditch around the central hill. Dug by hand, of course, in the chalky earth. In the 1200s, the church and castle were not getting along and the bishop decided to build a new church down the hill, where there was a better water supply anyways! So they built a new cathedral and the whole town just moved! Some time later a king let the new church take the stone from the old church to build itself a big wall to enclose the church and grounds, so one can see little carvings and decorative bits in the wall in town, although they're all jumbled up! This picture of Arthur in the ruins is almost unique, in that he is not sticking his tongue out. The sense of humour of the eight-year-old is a bit trying....

This outline is all that remains of the old church! It's outside the big ditch, on a huge grassy field that the kids enjoyed even more than the ruins, perhaps! Arthur got himself a slingshot (though I think it was called a catapult, to give it that historical edge) and Elaine got a helmet for jousting, and they rocketed around the cloister (a square piece of grass with a little ditch around it!) with big boys tossing a rugby ball, toddlers toddling, and a few parents catching their breath. We did manage to get a bus back into town, and we checked at the bus station about schedules for future expeditions.

The next day, after our B&B English Breakfast, including fried bread for Arthur, we went to the cathedral, which I'll tell you about tomorrow.