Saturday, December 31

Finished objects - Pimlico cowl and two-at-a-time socks

After a long knitting drought I made the most of the train journey to Chesterfield and a few days at home with the folks to finish up the socks that had been hanging around for ages, and to knock up a little cowl to suit my new coat.

The cowl is the Pimlico pattern by Alexandra Brinck, and I made it with a ball of sock yarn that's been knocking around in my stash for years.

The other finished object(s) is a pair of socks that I've been struggling with for months. I was using 'magic carpet' yarn from the Yarn Yard and decided it made sense to try and knit two at a time socks, since the yarn 'carpet' was knitted up in a double strand.

Well let's say I've tried it, I've succeeded, and I'm putting it in my list of things I've done and I'm never doing again. Too much faffing with the yarn in order to prevent it twisting and getting tangled up. Couldn't get any real speed up even though I was making plain stocking stitch socks.

However the yarn was lovely and the colours created a pair of very stunning socks.

Monday, December 26

Cuxton calling

With the Curse off to a Boxing Day footy match, I took the opportunity to strike out to the Medway for a nice leg stretch today.

Whenever I have driven over the River Medway on the M2 motorway bridge, I have gazed upstream along the valley and suspected that glorious walks await me on its wooded shoulders.

So despite the rather grey demeanour of the day, the occasional glimpses of sunshine persuaded me to pack my bag, print out the directions for a walk, and head off eastwards to Cuxton near Rochester. The basic walk on the leaflet is less than 4 miles - a bit too short to qualify as a leg stretch for me - but it has the so-called Darnley Diversion which brings it closer to 6 miles.

There's lots of ups and downs (although mostly quite short), a really rich variety of woodlands (including some dangerous trees!) and views over the Medway and a few of the valleys that surround it.

The Darnley diversion took me into denser woodland, and through the old deer park where the sun caught these skeletal trees with a breathtaking winter light.

The Darnley Mausoleum itself is the big reveal of the walk - the drama marred only by the enormous steel fence that has been erected around it since its restoration, presumably to prevent vandalism and theft. It's a real shame that the visual impact of this incredible structure and its rural setting are totally ruined by the security fence.

Upper Bush is a delightful little hamlet with only half a dozen houses - according to the walk leaflet there used to be many more and the remaining ones were only saved from being demolished in the 1960s by a campaign by locals.

This being Kent, of course there were also one or two oast houses here and there.

The woodlands were decorated with nature's winter colours and textures; brightly coloured lichen, wispy Old Man's Beard and these mysterious bright red berries which I've always thought were bindweed but it seems not - any ideas?

Update: the berries belong to Bryony although I'm not sure whether they are White Bryony or Black Bryony, without having studied the plants and leaves. Oddly the two plants are unrelated, although the berries of both are poisonous. Thanks mum & dad for the ID!

Modesty prevails

Christmas was a rather modest affair chez Knit Nurse - I cooked the traditional christmas ham on christmas eve and we sampled it in a quiche that night, but other than that it was a rather non-traditional christmas.

I dragged the Curse out somewhat reluctantly for a short bike ride along the Waterlink Way - to be fair it was pretty windy and not the best weather for it - and then we cycled over to Peckham for a low key dinner with a few of the Curse's close family.

I'm pretty sure that's the first christmas dinner I've ever eaten that did not feature roast spuds - although brussel sprouts were present (and deliciously spicey). I'll be honest, rice and peas is no substitute for roast spuds, but looking on the bright side I probably saved myself about a thousand calories in that simple substitution. (Although I did spend the calories later that night once we were home again - on a massive cheeseboard!)

Friday, December 23

Birthday novelty

It seems to have become a bit of a habit for me to try and do something I've never done before on my birthday every year. This year I went to Bethnal Green!

I've been wanting to visit knit/craft/gifty shop Prick Your Finger for ages, but it's not the easiest place to get to from south east London, particularly since the Greenwich foot tunnel has been under refurbishment, making it awkward to get my bike across the river.

So I decided to combine it with a few other bits of birthday exploration of the East End, and I was lucky to get a gloriously sunny day on which to wander the streets.

In preparation I put on my favourite boots.

First stop was Hoxton and the Geffrye Museum, to see the Christmas Past exhibition for which they dress all the period rooms in decorations of the era, with information about the customs of the time.

I don't think the sticks with red teardrop beads were from any particular era, but they looked lovely in the windows of the chapel, with the sunlight coming through them!

From Hoxton I walked along Columbia Road, past all the chi-chi little shops that mostly only open on the weekends, and through the beautiful streets and squares that surround it.

Although these little cottages look lovely, I did find the shabbiness of Bethnal Green Road rather more comforting and familiar. It reminded me strongly of Deptford with its market and inviting-looking shops selling all kinds of fascinating goods - and not just for the depressing reason that it also features far too many betting shops and pawn shops.

Prick your finger proved to be just as quirky and fascinating as I had been led to believe by my most regular commenter Colleen whom it seems from her blog is a frequent visitor. I was also quite surprised by the amount of yarn that they stock, and the range of colours, to such an extent that it took me some time to pick out my own little birthday treat - two balls of 4-ply Wensleydale Sheepshop yarn in a lovely pastel blue. Definitely the place to return to when I have a specific project in mind.

The Larder just across the road proved to be an excellent lunch stop, serving the kind of food that I would imagine convincing even the most hardened carnivore that vegetarian food can be really special. Polenta chips, smokey beans (oh so deliciously smokey!) and a fried duck egg. Like breakfast but not like breakfast - perfect!

Next came a visit to Two Temple Place - a new museum which has opened in a former private house near Temple - to see the William Morris exhibition that is currently on show there. Morris' glorious tapestries and wallpaper designs that were on display inside were almost overshadowed by the interior itself, which features a stunningly over-the-top wooden staircase, lots of panelling and a huge stained glass window. Worth a look - and free entry as it's owned and run by the charitable institute the Bulldog Trust.

I rounded off the day out by meeting my lovely friends Gareth and Martin in town for a cream tea at the National Gallery restaurant, then it was home to dinner with the Curse at the Rivington in Greenwich. Quite the perfect day!

Thursday, December 22

Christmas cometh

Like it or not, Christmas is on the way. The Curse demanded a tree this year, which I'm fine about as long as he goes out and buys it and brings it home. We decorated it on Monday night and the little clay stars I made about a month ago finally found their rightful place.

With two birthdays on successive days, just a few days ahead of christmas, this time of year is complicated as far as cards go. The christmas cards go on display for a couple of weeks, then get taken down to make way for my birthday cards. The following day my cards get taken down to make way for the Curse's birthday cards, then we try to put everything back up but there's not really enough space!

Thursday, December 8

Northern soul

A weekend in York was a tonic for myself and the Curse. We passed bridges old and new, walked the full extent of the city walls, drank pricey but sublime coffee in Betty's, caught up with an old friend, and looked at lots of very shiny trains in the National Railway Museum. They must spend a lot of time polishing in there!

Unfortunately you can't buy Bile Beans any longer, which is a shame as they sound so tasty.