Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Common Language, indeed

We all know the language barriers that are so comical and with which people on either side of the Atlantic like to mock and irritate The Other.

Things like pants, elevator, suspenders, and Hokey Pokey (yeah. they call it Hokey Cokey here for some prudish aversion to saying anything reminiscent of poking presumably. For interested comparative linguists, Australia also calls it the Hokey Pokey; I guess the Colonials were selectively Puritanical.).

Well, it is all fun and games until the differences indicate how one is supposed to be doing something, and you are in danger of veering off the track of meaning and crashing your crochet hook into a brick wall.

After my blooming success with the tea cosy flower-top (that is annoying, I know, but it amuses me), am venturing further down the dark path of crocheting with a project that some people call mad and overly optimistic. So, I have a book from the library, which is actually quite helpful in diagrams and simplistic instructions and such, but when trying to figure out how to follow one of the patterns, I thought, 'Yes. Yes, this is all very familiar in Step1, Step2, etc., but my memory has noooooo recollection of learning anything called a 'double treble crochet' or a 'triple treble crochet'. Do I need to go to a neurosurgeon? Because forgetting something with a ridiculous name like that is a bad sign...'

However, there seems to be a chart in the back of the book (on the second to last page before the index, unhelpfully), which has deferred Commitment (in the mental asylum sense) for the time being.

double crochet (UK) = single crochet (US)
extended double crochet (UK) = extended single crochet (US)

half treble crochet (UK) = half double crochet (US)

treble crochet (UK) = double crochet (US)

double treble crochet (UK) = treble crochet (US)

triple treble crochet (UK) = double treble crochet (US)

I believe alert readers will notice the potential for devastating tragedy here, rendering the active participant in the 'relaxing past-time' as nothing more than a quivering lump on the corner of the sofa. But I am bull-headed enough to continue this enterprise that I have resigned myself to having to flip back and forth between pattern and chart (this goes against my deepest sensibilities, however, as this is really the same crippling behaviour as SatNav/GPS-addicted morons). If I were a cat, I would flip my tail in annoyance during this activity.

Beside my confusion at terminology, I may also have become a culinary traitor... last evening I cooked a Jambalaya, using a sauce from the Seasoned Pioneers Gourmet Cooking Sauces range. To make up for my transgression, atonement was attempted by using Africa Hot sausage from the market, some organic chicken, some king prawns (normal sized shrimp to people from Louisiana, but which name allows them to charge more here) and some Norfolk crayfish (crawfish, in case there was any confusion). Outcome was good.... but I am not sure it qualifies as Jambalaya. It was not graced with cornbread, as its worthiness was uncertain. Ingredients on the packet disturbingly list oregano... again, I don't think we use oregano in things that are not I-talian!! And, do we use fennel and cardamom in Cajun food? Paul, you may now take the floor.

This image has absolutely nothing to do with this blog, but as it is almost tea time (aka, dinner time), and this was outside a little cafe during Dawn and Matthew's trip, it just seems appropriate in a Norfolk sort of way. The badger appears to be saying 'mmmmmm' in his little speech bubble and it is unclear whether he is on the menu or just enjoying the menu... We did not breakfast there.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

...and she spun a yarn

Well, she hasn't spun a yarn yet, but she is now ready!

Yes; herself has gone and bought a spinning wheel. (this is not the best picture of her, but she will be portraited soon when she finds her best aesthetic habitat at E's house -- there is not much room in the St. Miles abode)

(Someone might appear to be becoming addicted to Gumtree, but there are deals that just cannot be passed up! I mean, she has found a £1500 bed for £150; she has sold both her bike and her futon on there; AND she found a place to live when she first moved to Norwich. It is a Good Thing.)

The above is an Ashford spinning wheel and chair, obtained for 'Such A Deal' -- £80 (which = $160ish)! E has assured me that I am not insane or being ridiculously frivolous, but he may just be being polite. He is such the gentleman sometimes. This seems to be the time to point out that I can buy both items new from a US website for a total of something approaching $650, or I could have 'Buy It Now!'-ed on Ebay-UK for £241 on Sunday... so I think I got a pretty dingdangdarn good deal!

Now, I just have to learn to spin and buy some wool. I am quite pleased and proud to be following (sort of) in the footsteps of Janie Strain but really wish I had paid more sensible attention through the whole process instead of flitting about Keachi Heritage Days in my Laura Ingalls outfit trying to steal fudge out of pans on tables and ending up with a mouthful of lye soap instead... (blegh! my mouth scrintches up at the memory). So, all I really remember from Mamaw's instruction is her letting me card the wool. And that doesn't get you too far along the woolen chain :)

Next, I want some sheep... has that been mentioned before?

My other accomplishment lately (although this is actually last week's feat) is that the tea cosy is finally finished!

[Mrs. Lily should avert her eyes at this point, so that it won't ruin the surprise. But then, she did pick out which one she wanted...]

This is my very first tea cosy (after buying a knitting book all about... wait for it... Tea Cosies!). It took several starts and rippings out, but the technique is now in my repertoire. The original pattern had pompoms on the top, but as I did not approve at all, I found a similarly pleated pattern online that another picky knitter had made something called a Bachelor Button for the top and decided to alter it.

Vexingly, I was unable to locate the Bachelor Button pattern since the borrower had not returned it to the library (and it is very overdue) and none of the bookshops in Norwich have it for me to sneak in and photograph the pattern with my phone... (oops, did I write that out loud?). Sooooo, i did manage to find another crochet book which had a fun flower pattern (for silly people to crochet and wear on their hats like big dorks), which seemed like it just might work instead of the pompoms.

And so it did! This (the flower) was my re-training in crochet as well, since I am not very good; so this got ripped out a lot, too, and there was a slight bit o' temper.

It took me a while to remember to go and get the pearl buttons, too, also delaying the finished product...

But it is so cute, I am going to make more (Steffi is first in the queue, because she asked so nicely) and they shall go much more quickly, I believe.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The GGBF and other escapades

Yes, I know there has been little communicative activity of any meaningful sort on the blog lately (the tomahtoes don't seem to have made much of an impression on the general populus).

But this does not mean that we have just been waving handpuppets around to Elvis bumping out of a hi-fi on the streets of Norwich. Oh no. We have been from Sheringham to the Cotswolds to the Great British Beer Festival (sorry, the GBBF is not a long-lost Roald Dahl book), and your correspondent has just been too blasted pooped to write anything about these activities (and it is not like an event is being planned from a distance of 3500 miles or anything).

As an additional pathetic and whiney excuse not to have been writing, I would like to poi
nt out that I am co-ordinating 5 people's work travel to North America to begin in a month; between eye-strain headaches and associated grumpiness, the last thing I want to do of an evening is look at my computer screen unless something entertaining (such as an amusing film, or those little patterns when music is playing) is beaming out of it. I am sure you do not understand. But try, just to amuse me.

(AND, i am quite proud of cycling to work almost every day!)

So, to get back to a couple of Saturdays ago (or three, even. Or maybe 4 -- counting is difficult for me because I was not allowed to watch Sesame Street as a child)... the arrival of The Dawn! (readers will recall that The Matthew arrived on the Friday and we attempted to edumacate him on a segment of Norwich history.)

Dawn finally got here no thanks to National Rail timetables (the above train would probably have better managed to get her here on time), and we had time for her to meet some of the nutters with whom we mingle on Saturdays at the church before we headed off as a small herd to mingle with some more nutters at the North Norfolk Beer Festival in Sheringham (this is the one E and I went to last year and had a smashing time watching the steam trains on the Poppy Line and whatnot). Dawn and Matthew made valiant efforts to fit in with the nutters. Let them eat cake, indeed.

The Ugly Dog Skiffle Combo was happily playing again for the Saturday afternoon; the festival has grown so much that they had to move everything onto the central platform!

Yssy attended her first beer festival, and Bear was fortunate enough to meet her.

I managed to incite a visit to the beach (as I tend to do). Spoodle was feeling co-dependent and would not go away from her parentals and new Sissy.

Sea air has the most peculiar effects on some people...

The following weekend, E and I toddled off cross-country to Oxfordshire to help Helene celebrate her 21st (ahem) birthday (after consuming our first two tom-ah-toes for brekky)!

It was an absolutely lovely drive across the middle (although I now agree that Milton Keynes is quite the soulless social construct in Britain). Church Westcote was not on our atlas, but we did find it with the silly SatNav. It is just that when addresses are called things like Gower House Cottage, it takes the art of locating a bit towards the fortune-telling side ('I feel the energy that we should turn right down this little lane....'; and I might add that this was correct).

Helene was marvelously Martha Stewart to feed us all lunch (including an amazing pear tarte) and to let us sit in her garden (next to the manor house) whilst enjoying a view across Oxfordshire. Later on, we skipped (not literally) through the fields to the local pub to enjoy a few Pimm's; some really shady expensive 'art' in the ladies loo; and, later on, some dindins.

The next morning, the five of us remaining went for another ramble. We saw horses (and petted them -- the poor things were covered in flies, and there was absolutely no wind); i took many photos of flowers and butterflies using my still-fascinating macro setting; and we finally saw some Cotswold sheep! They have bangs (or fringe, as the British like to call it.)

Cotswold sheep were brought to Britain by the Romans, and their wool was known as The Golden Fleece. When I have my sheep farm and wool industry....


Last week, we were just mundane and trolled charity shops and bought important things like lamps and wool (yes, I know I have a problem. But wool is lighter than books...).

Finally to arrive at the main part of the title (the part that is not a Roald Dahl title) -- this Friday, we worked the Great British Beer Festival!

It was held all week at Earl's Court in London, but E and I only went down to volunteer for the Friday at the persistent request of Duncan, one of our local CAMRA characters, who is brewery manager for Wolf Brewery by day and just happens to be Chief Steward at the GBBF.

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves in for, but we are now completely hooked. We were originally scheduled to work the day shift (from 11a-5p) but after we got there and realised the massiveness of it all (and were prodded by the others), we worked the second shift, too, and worked until 11p (when we got some free ale from the Staff Bar).

The GBBF is the largest festival in Britain, with over 450 ales, ciders and perrys on tap this year -- not to mention the food, the brewerania (new stuff and old stuff related to beer and brewing), the massive stage, and the entire staff area. On Friday alone, there were 17,100 people! May I say that we were tired by 12.30am when we left? Shattered tired. But it was unbelievable fun!

Have you ever seen such a pile o' pork scratchins in all your life? Boar Pie, anyone?

As stewards, we were not allowed to drink while on duty. You can have a quick beer when on break (either at a discount in the main hall, or free at the staff bar upstairs), but since you need a clear head to pay attention to all that you need to, it really is not a good idea -- as well, it would make brain cells tired, which is inadvisable if you are doing a 12-hour voluntary shift.

There are hundreds of volunteers every day -- bartenders, stewards, shop-keepers. Stewards are divided into teams (maybe 9?) with about 6-8 people on each team. For the old hands, everyone has a call signal; my team included Harry Potter, Slayer and Dr. Cameron.

Each team does a one-hour rotation in different parts of the hall which keeps you from getting bored -- from escalator maintenance (keeping people out of where they are no supposed to go) to bag searches, to picking up broken glasses to monitoring the beer parking lot for the smokers, to patrolling different areas of the hall. These are things you are supposed to pay attention to (BUS PATH is the mnemonic):

B= badges (of people going into staff areas)
U= unconscious (people)
S= smokers
P= pickpockets
A= agros (or anti-socials)
T= toilets (and also, team-members -- to make sure they are okay)
H= hazards

There are lots of fun things to see. We saw the Beatles. I saw the Seven Dwarves and two fat blokes dressed as brightly bedecked and generously endowed women. There was a guy in a Viking hat with blonde braids who asked me if I thought he was pretty. When someone drops a glass inside the hall, the 400-or-so people around them all cheer and whoop. Apparently (although this did not happen), there will occasionally be a crowd roar through an entire section of the hall and this indicates a streaker. The man who told me said in a very disappointed voice that 9 times out of 10, it is a man. Big surprise :) I am working on a list of the typical beer festival attendees that one might expect to encounter (e.g., The Hobbit, The Suit, The New Suit, Madam Mimm, and many more) -- keep an eye out for more cultural observation!

My favourite part of the rotation was working in the Tar Pit. This is the area outside the back in a fenced in paved part where the smokers could go. However, smokerswere not allowed to take any beer outside the building, so there had to be a guard on the door (dealing with basically 3-year-olds in adult form) as well as people monitoring the clever beer parking lot, which is one of the most brilliant ideas when you think about it. You find a spot, you put your beverage on the number taped to the table, taking the smaller removeable number with you so's you don't forget due to the rapid decline in those pesky slower brain cells; you go and have your ciggy; then you trade your number for your glass on the way back inside! It is QUITE funny to watch tipsy people trying to pick a number, and then afterwards to find the number matching their card.

And everyone (or 97% of everyone) is cool and polite and relatively nice. CAMRA people rate just quite a bit higher than your average courteousness level. I was on the crew monitoring the front doors from 10.00 to closing time (when 10,000 people were being herded out of the hall by E and his team), and almost everyone said, 'Byeeee', 'Thank you', and 'Have a good night' on their way out.

This is us in our fetching orange shirts after our 12 hours of stewarding. We were unable to go back for Silly Saturday, but I think we will be there for both Funny Friday and Silly Saturday 2009.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


These are not the first tom-AH-toes from our strong little trio of plants (the first two were consumed as breakfast in a moment of gluttonous pride over a week ago when we were on our way to spend the weekend in the Cotswolds with Helene and Ashley -- they therefore were not memorialised or eulogised in suitable manner).

These have, however, been prettily photographed.

No names have been given, since it is generally unwise to name things that you plan to eat (as I so traumatically learnt upon coming home in third grade to find Whitey the Cow's pen dismally empty).

Our peppers are not doing so well, and some of the basil has whimpered out and is quite limp. The red Gerbera is brave, but it has some sort of herbivore leaving white trails of eaten leaf.

Whether the copper snail tape works is yet to be seen (it makes me happy to think of the little snails getting a tiny shock). E and I are having repeated disputes over his persistent beheading of what he calls 'useless parts of the tomato plants'. He should never have bought that hunting knife from Bass Pro Shop...