Friday, October 24, 2014

Final harvest

The Friday Question

The world loses the Oxo Lady and the Green Cross Man in one week. 66 and 72.
Pieces of my childhood disappearing bit by bit. Memories of the 3rd year juniors' discos.

And the clocks go back at the weekend - the earliest date that they can go back - which makes an extra week of dark evenings. The usual biannual media madness surrounding should we or shouldn't we still be altering clocks is currently prevailing.

Interesting discussion between the Patchy Ladies at our meeting on Wednesday concerning the items people wash before using after buying. I always wash bed linen, towels, underwear, and anything that looks grubby or smells of 'fabric'. Do you wash new things before using them?


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thought for the day

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.

- Leonard Bernstein


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

At The Coven...

... BW had forgotten that it was October and that in October spells are more powerful.

This October there seem to have been more annoying people around than usual.
And more rotten apples.

In fact, in October, adjacent thoughts tend to accidentally transfer into auto-spells:

Luckily, antidotes (against dim people with small brains and big mouths - and is it just me who is unfortunately finding an ever-increasing number of them?) have also been magically provided:


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Never mind the trolls...

... how about two years in jail for people who spam the comments sections of blogs?

Fantastic stars tonight, and, at 19:08, the brightest view of the ISS passing overhead that I have ever seen. Still 18°C at that time, and only a couple of degrees cooler than that during recent nights. Weird weather, and more to come this week: a jetstream propelled hurricane remnant.

Seems I'm unwittingly and unexpectedly trendy in my choices again. Mr BW gets to be 50 at number 26 (announced today) in 10 days. I've told him he's only got 9 days left to have a mid-life crisis. I won't entertain one after that age.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The End

Or rather, the ends.

132 of them. At least.

It seemed a really good idea to use up a lot of the single and short skeins of super-chunky yarn that I've spun over the past few years, by making a multi-coloured waistcoat. As most of my dyeing is done with a limited palette of related blues and greens, constructed from 5 or 6 basic dye colours, the stripes blend beautifully into each other (this is the wrong side, which looks nothing like the right side: I'll show you the front when it's finished).

But, never again. If I ever get an urge to reduce my yarn baskets again, I shall spin all the oddments together first, and then knit the garment as one piece, rather than as two fronts and a side. Given that it takes around 5 minutes to weave each end in, following the pathway of each stich in the knitting, but splitting the plies to ensure they are secure, and that they don't double the bulk of the original stitch and so show on the right side, that's 11 hours of end-weaving. At least. And I hate finishing off ends nearly as much as I hate washing dishes (I have a dishwasher), ironing (I have Mr BW), cleaning (I have Cleaner BW), and car washing (the car is washed once a year as part of the service service).

I did about 4 hours on Friday (I was meant to be demonstrating sp1nning at a localish NT house, but, given the lack of visitors due to the intermittent showers and general yucky autumnness, I cheated and sewed in ends instead), and have done another couple of hours this afternoon, while Mr BW has been doing an excellent job of continuing to put the garden to bed (or rather, into the greenhouses and polytunnel, and cutting down and pulling out the rest). But, there still seem to be as many ends as ever.

We saw 'our' deer family on Friday evening, way across the other side of the field. We don't see them very often (a couple of times a year), and usually more in the early morning, but there are currently 3 babies and 2 adults (and the adult male is presently sans antlers). These photos taken on extreme telephoto on my little Sony allinone:

I went on my annual coach outing to the Knit and Stitch Show at Ally Pally on Thursday. Much less crowded this year, as they opened a day earlier than previously, on the Wednesday, and, so the traders that I know told me, many of the not-really-very-interested GCSE textiles students who annoy everyone visited then. Now, we only need to get rid of the people with pull-along trolleys who are a real safety/bruise risk. It's not as if the organisers don't provide a cloakroom where things bought could be safely stored until the end of the day.

I fancy making one of these (excellent way to use pieces of 'precious' fabric):

One of these (quick and easy crocheted shawl - although I might try it as a more structured garment):

And one of these (real leaves, magicked onto fabric, and sewn together using running/kantha and continuous chain stitches):

And the use of small patchworked pieces as part of garments has potential too:

I really don't understand how some people can claim they are 'bored' and have nothing to do. I think that if I had three lifetimes I wouldn't get around to making everything I'd like to.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Harvest 2014

I don't think that we've ever had such a bountiful year. Apart from apples, and tomatoes, which, while reasonably plentiful, aren't anywhere near great crops.

There have been several occasions over the past couple of months when I have looked around the kitchen in horror at the chaos of the things 'in production', and wondered if it would ever all get tidied away, and indeed whether it would fit in the cupboards. The freezer (now a huge commercial, but very low-energy, chest freezer) has been more than totally full for weeks now.

Mr BW would appear to have been feeling the pressure too. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that he had written in the gardening record book that he had taken 'ewe cuttings' rather than 'yew cuttings' (I did wonder whether it was all rather Freudian and precipitated by all my dyed f1eece hanging drying around the place), and then there was the case of the fruit for the freezer:

I've been trying to get a photo of the 4 killing machines pussies together for those of you who crave such things. Sadly it has proven too much of a difficult task as they move so fast that I can't get them all in the same picture in focus. The smallest two (at 5 months old now nearly as big as the biggest two) need collars, but we've so far failed to catch them and so that will have to be a task for Cleaner BW next time she is house-sitting. She is great at taming things - it usually involves lots of playing with toys and more cat treats than they get from me for the rest of the year.

Posted at 12:30 PM | Comments (5)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why should I suffer alone?

Spooky isn't it?

I went to visit the carving group yesterday afternoon, largely to see a friend who is very ill, but I missed her as she was only able to stay a little while. So I caught up with the tutor and enjoyed seeing what everyone was doing.

Here is Mr BW's work in progress. A larger-than-life-size exact replica of his hand. I have made it clear that *if* the veins are still visible at the end of today, it is either:

(a) not coming into the house, or,

(b) if it comes into the house (and I strongly suspect it could creep along and get in by itself) it is going into one of the woodburners.

After the 30°C on Friday at 5.30pm that I wrote about below, it was 10°C at 5.30pm yesterday, after four hours of torrential rain. And 5°C this morning.

Bit of a shock, but not as much of a shock as that hand.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

The last day of summer?

The thermometer said that it was 30°C at 5.30pm yesterday. October the 3rd. Unbelievable.

Mr BW had gone off to a weekend w00d c@rving course to make something frondy out of a lump of spalted beech, after he's made a hand.

And yes I've asked, and no, I haven't got an answer, other than that he needs the tutor to show him some advanced skills and a hand will be a good thing to make to learn them.

Personally I can't think of anything worse than a dismembered hand lying around, and may yet have a nightmare. I have some distant memory of something sci-fi-y where there was a hand with veins and arteries (bits of wire) hanging out of the back and I have specified that there are to be no internal structures visible at the cut-off wrist end.

This morning I bade him goodbye and said, "Now, don't cut off any of your fingers!" (It's a non-residential course, but fits in 24 hours of carving/tuition between Friday 4pm and Sunday 4pm).

This is the 10 seconds that he spent designing the frondy piece (print-out of one we saw at a wood fair and liked in the background). I wish I could 'design' things so quickly - and be able to visualise how to make 3D shapes emerge from solid blocks of wood.

I'd collected some harvest items:

So, with the weather forecast predicting it was the last warm day of the year, I felt justified in sitting in the garden and winding some yarn I'd dyed and spun into skeins. Oh, and drinking wine.

I would have sat on the bench on the right, but the b33s had got there first. The buckets are the w@x cappings that are removed from the sealed h0ney cells when extracting. Mr BW is in the process of melting them and then casting them into huge w@x blocks, which we will eventually use to make candles, polish, or exchange with a manufacturer for new frame foundation.

Peering in, there were thousands of buzzy familiars collecting every last drop of the h0ney traces that were still on them. I can't remember ever seeing b33s foraging en masse in October, but, it just goes to show that they don't have a calendar, and merely work with what the weather brings. Oh, and that they are very frugal.

Just before the sunset.

Dark at 7pm.

Posted at 11:03 AM | Comments (5)

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Friday Question

Why do people who work full time get dogs?

I heard of a family this week who have just bought a 12 week old spaniel - both parents work very long hours, both kids are in school then wraparound from 8am until 6pm. The dog is 'shut in its crate' during the day from Monday to Friday, except for two days when the cleaner (who isn't keen on dogs) goes in for half a day.

I'm not a dog person (they are too needy for me), but, this is cruelty isn't it? And surely the dog will have serious behaviour problems in later life?


Thursday, October 2, 2014


It's that time of year again where I have to spend hours trawling the internet to find the best deals for broadband, phone and electricity services. I can understand why busy people don't bother and just pay whatever their ongoing provider wishes to charge.

Given that we've been on a fixed electricity tariff with no exit fee, I am alarmed to find that electricity prices have decreased considerably (at least in this area) from 12 months ago. From switching to a Scottish Power tariff which was streaks ahead of the competition then, it's now considerably more expensive (on unit prices and standing charges) than many others.

From today's experiences, I can confirm that Scottish Power (despite having all UK call centres) have the worst customer service of all electricity companies that I have ever experienced (SWEB, Eastern, Southern, LoCo2 and Scottish). My account is online-only and most of the time I cannot access the online portal: entering my email address and password just puts me in a loop back to the same screen; requesting a new password allows me to reset it, then I immediately go back into the same never-ending loop, irrespective of which of 4 browsers I try. The girl on the phone told me firstly that it might be my email address that the system doesn't like (the domain name has a hyphen in it) and that they may never be able to resolve the issue. Not great when it is an online only account (although, to be fair, she did do what I wanted to do online but couldn't). So, it would be time to leave even if their prices were still the cheapest. T'inter tells me that Scottish Power's customer service has deteriorated in recent times.

Cheap is only cheap if it works efficiently, after all.

So - this is just a tip-off to check that your electricity deal is stll good Value, if you haven't for a while.

We've moved electricity suppliers every year for the past 3 years. This time we're moving to e-on who, other than having a stupid name, have the best, or second best, reputation in most consumer service categories (from several different surveys). I've also had good reports about them from The Patchy Ladies. They are also very much cheaper than all other suppliers in this area (12% a year on my calculations rather than the switching sites' - always do your own calculations based on your own figures and the unit prices, not forgetting standing charges).

After extensive research, I can also report that no electricity supplier offers cheaper rates if you go direct to them than you can get from the switching service sites, and with the latter you (eventually) get cashback too (£15 on one fuel currently, £30 if you're in a dual fuel area). One mouse click and it's all started. Provide your final readings when asked, and it's all done. Easy peasy, savey pennies.

I haven't the strength to write in detail about the ongoing broadband saga.

Suffice it to say that 1.6MB (what the 2.0MB that they manage when it's re-profiled remotely drops to within 24 hours) isn't even enough to enable us both to browse websites simultaneously on two devices. It's getting worse month by month too, as websites become more complex, and so take more bandwidth to load.

Yesterday current company told me they could get it up to 3.2MB but only if I took a new 12 month contract. Today they're saying that it can't be done after all, and that if I pay another £18.50 a month they can give me fibre optic, which may give us as much as 6MB - still less than half the speed that they advertise the standard package that I'm on as being able to receive (and yes, I understand about distance from exchange etc, but that isn't my problem; all I want is a usable service at a reasonable price).

Current company are also claiming that no other provider will be able to give a better speed as it all uses the same BT system (even the fibre optic part is only to the cabinet nearly 2 miles away). Given that all current company's call centres are in either India, South Africa, the Philippines, or Canada (except sales which is in the UK but - amazingly - was the least helpful of all), I'd really like to find another provider that has UK call centres, where one person is authorised to sort out all the issues. I currently have 3 complaints in, being handled by 3 different processes and am getting rather sick of repeating myself, and being told, "I am a manager, but I am not authorised to deal with that, so I will get a more senior manager colleague to call you within 24 hours, but it can't be today." While baiting CSAs of increasing seniority, and getting them to admit how ridiculous their suggestions are sounding, is quite fun, I'd rather be in the garden...

So - does anyone have any recommendations for efficient broadband providers with UK call centres (and freephone or standard rate numbers to them)? Does such a thing exist? (cable isn't available here and we're apparently not eligible for the subsidised rural satellite scheme as our existing service is too 'good')

Thought for the day

Once it was said that knowledge was power. Now that knowledge is there for anyone’s taking, it has become clear that only power is power, and that it is still acquired by humans in the way that humans have always acquired it - through violence.

- Deborah Orr


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The end of September

The driest September since records began in 1910, they say: only one-fifth of the usual rainfall. The fifth warmest too, but well below the temperatures of September 2006. Still only a 5 or 6 degree difference between night and day, and it's not yet been below 11°C at night. And 27°C here yesterday afternoon, just before this sunset.

The summer flowers are still all blooming madly. I can't bring myself to change the pots and troughs for the winter varieties, yet. Mr BW is busy deheading pansies - I got 14 trays for £1 each yesterday, and they need to last until I can bear to compost the surfinias.

Earlier in the week I went into a Small Local Town poundshop to get some gardening bits. I couldn't find any. I was told that, "We've put them away so we can get the Hallowe'en stuff out." Yesterday I went to a garden centre, to be met by this:

Seasonally unseasonal, clearly.

Now, am I sending a gloating email to a certain supermarket's new CEO who didn't heed my words of warning about carefully reading customers' complaints and taking them seriously, lest they take their custom elsewhere (on top of the previous e-thread, obviously)?
Tempting, very very tempting...

I suspect certain of their staff are as disillusioned with the management's attitude as I am...

Posted at 11:02 AM | Comments (8)