Friday 25 February 2011

I've always been a borrower

I truly fell in love with books soon after I started school. Our teacher used to read to us every afternoon, I remember Little Grey Rabbit and Beatrix Potter's tales but Black Beauty by Anna Sewell is the one that got me completely hooked. Books became requested at birthdays and Christmas with the Famous Five and the Secret Seven featuring largely.
In the 1960s there was no public library in our area, my senior school had a collection of very old books that was never added to and in our village the vicar's wife kindly allowed locals to borrow her books simply by calling round on a Friday teatime to make a selection, mainly from a large number of historical novels.
I remember my delight as a teenager when a purpose built library opened in my local town, I signed up straight away and as I've moved around I've always had library membership. Working in Edinburgh I had access to an amazing choice of local authority lending, from the cavernous central library within walking distance of my office to a wonderful little neighbourhood library just round the corner that I visited several times a week. When I finished work it really wasn't feasible to keep borrowing and taking books back without a lengthy car journey so eventually I stopped. I have lots of books in the house, cookery, gardening, knitting of course and I had before I retired built up a selection of paperbacks mainly sourced from charity shops. I read and return these but I've noticed this year that all the prices seem to have increased. Where I could find 50p novels they are now probably £1.50 or more and some shops are pricing their books individually, based on who knows what. Personally I think this is a bad idea, I know I can afford to pay the asking price for a book but at 50p each I'd happily take a handful risking authors I didn't recognise and often finding some real treasures.
So with all the talk of library closures due to local authority budget cuts and despite there not being (currently) any threatened library loss in our area I decided I needed to show my support by using a library again. Our nearest one is part of a new leisure complex and about 25 minutes drive away but I can combine visits with a big shop. I went in to sign up earlier this week and even though I don't live in the Council area I was welcomed and quickly enrolled so that I could withdraw books immediately. I'm pleased to report that the place was buzzing, not just borrowers but lots of people using the computers and a children's after school reading session taking place. Back home and pleased with my selection I went on line to browse the catalogue and have reserved three knitting books that will come from other branches, excellent.
I hope you love and use your local library and that it isn't under threat, I know there are huge and varied demands on limited public spending at the moment but the provision of access to knowledge and literature surely should never be considered as dispensable.

Monday 21 February 2011

Other people's knitting

After a couple of good days in the garden last week generally tidying and willing the snowdrops to start flowering, I woke up to this on Saturday morning.
What is a girl to do but knit. Pam started this little cardigan in Patons 4 ply cotton. The colour is grape and the pattern is Mimi from Pipsqueaks by Kim Hargraves. Halfway up the back Pam decided she didn't like knitting 4 ply, I think its probably my favourite so I was happy to take over. The safety pins up the front are to mark the positions for the buttons which I don't have, there is no separate front or neck band. So back to sock knitting for a while, though I do enjoy making things for the little ones so I might start something woolly for Amelia soon, especially if the weather stays like this. While I'm waiting for my own bulbs to begin their display I treated myself to a bunch of British grown daffs, I just couldn't wait any longer.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Amore (love in the Italian language)

You know Mr FF and I don't do Valentines, I just looked back at my post last year when Mr FF was more concerned about the state of his much loved car then he was about creating any romance. However, this year I did knit him a pair of Valentine socks in Regia world colour, I got the idea ages ago from Josiekitten. They are of course the colours of the Italian flag and he seems very pleased with them, I heard him on the phone telling a business colleague about his gift. Usually I can manage to knit him socks whilst sitting beside him, he never notices what I'm doing, but these were far too obvious and had to be made in complete secrecy. Now I'm not sure which he loves best, me, his car or Italy.

Let me leave you with a belated Valentine's gift, one of my favourite Italian songs, I love Italy too.

Saturday 12 February 2011

It's raining wool

The little cardigan is finished, knitted in Patons merino dk which was a pleasure to use, it turned out slightly smaller than the pattern but a few adjustments sorted that and took just 200 g. I love cables and there was just the right amount here, it will be finished with a zip up the front when Pam has taken it off to the nearest haberdashers to find a suitable one, hopefully she will stitch it in. I've said before that I don't like sewing up my knitting but since I mastered mattress stitch it suddenly seems much easier and gives a really good result.See now neat this side seam is, well neat compared to my usual efforts.
As Pam provided the yarn this project made no difference to the stash calculations, however I received this week as gift a lovely bag of yarn from someone who knew I could use it.300 g of Sunbeam St Ives 4ply, a yarn I've found previously in charity shops, great for socks with 75% wool content, probably enough for 3 pairs in a manly shade of grey with flecks of various other colours in there.300 g of Stylecraft pure wool dk, made in Scotland and a lovely pinky purple that I'm sure will suit Amelia.
Finally, and my favourite 450 g of Wensleydale Longwool 4 ply from the Sheep Shop in Leyburn, spun in Yorkshire, a pretty peachy shade that would probably make a couple of gorgeous shawls or scarves or maybe something pretty for me. There is even a woven sheepy label to stitch into the finished article.
All great quality yarns, not a scrap of acrylic and because I didn't buy them myself no guilt involved at all. My lovely self perpetuating stash, I'm such a lucky girl.

Saturday 5 February 2011

Speaking up (aka Time for a Rant)

It's been a fairly quiet week, a time when enthusiasm for the New Year New Me has faded but still too early for real signs of spring. The weather has been horrible, a sprinkling of snow, high winds and torrential rain. Lots of time spent knitting in front of the stove interspersed with a bit of dorissing including my infrequent duty of knocking down the cobwebs in the double height atrium using the step ladder and a feather duster on the end of a long cane, so that's the spring cleaning done.

Mr FF and I have both agreed that this year we are not taking any nonsense (except from each other of course), that we won't support unfairness, bad practice or business that doesn't provide good service and that we will give credit where it is deserved. For example
We are still without central heating, or indeed a boiler, and coping really well. When our 20 year old, usually reliable and fuel efficient boiler started to leak water just before Christmas. Mr FF in something of a panic because of all the problems caused by the very cold weather ordered a new condensing boiler that we put into the store until our plumber could connect it up. However because of the condensing function our existing flue arrangement won't work and Mr FF received such appalling customer service from the manufacturers, basically they didn't have a clue what we should do in our slightly more complex than usual situation, that after 4 weeks he sent the bloomin thing back and got a full refund. We had such bad reports about this new and enforced type of boiler (apparently you need permission to use a non-condensing one) that we are looking at alternatives, including the possibility of an air source heat pump that would be so eco friendly but not necessarily suitable for our current system. It would mean that we could no longer operate the back boiler on our stove that provides so much hot water and runs the radiator in the hall. It's either an expensive environmental system or an infrequently used conventional boiler and stick with our lovely stove and back boiler. Apart from in really cold weather, we never use the central heating, we have the stove burning 24 hours a day, Mr FF has a small thermostatically controlled electric oil filled radiator in his office and we have one in our bedroom if required. Otherwise we are using our own calories and wool jumpers each to keep us toasty.
This week Mr FF received by email a ticket for a business event he is attending in a few weeks. The ticket was an A4 sheet, black background with a white image of some structure, venue details and the ticket number. Mr FF replied saying it would probably use all the ink in his printer, to which the company running the event responded that they would happily print it out for him and post it. At this stage I suggested that he needed to get his message across a bit stronger, that the whole ethos was wrong and so he did, not only suggesting that the expectation of each delegate producing an ink heavy paper ticket was wrong, but that emailing such a thing in large scale format was wasteful. The ticket was a 2 Mb file, sent to a minimum 200 delegates and stored on sender and recipients systems and possibly also backed up, this could amount to 1600 Mb (equivalent to 50,000 average size letters), half of which may be stored in specially built data warehousing that uses energy to build and maintain. He received a reply thanking him for pointing all this out, the company had not previously considered the impact on the environment and they would be taking it on board. They also agreed that since delegates had already enrolled for the event there was no need at all for tickets and that they could simply provide identification at the registration.
I walked out of TK Maxx sticking my intended purchase on the nearest rail because there was a queue of about 10 people and only one till open, such a place doesn't deserve my money.
I've written to thank a mail order firm that provided me with a (1/3rd) more expensive item at the same price when the sale article I ordered was out of stock, despatching it by special delivery again at no extra cost so that I received it next day. The lovely cardigan is back to full price now, I paid £69 for my grey one.
I had a call from a guy saying our Sky box warranty had run out and he could renew it over the phone for us taking either the full amount or setting up installments. I asked him what we usually did, he said last year we paid the full amount. I then explained that we'd never had a Sky warranty, that we consider warranties a complete rip off and that he wasn't telling the truth, he was soon off the phone. I know call centre people have to make a living but blatant dishonesty surely isn't the way, his friendly confident tone could easily mislead people.
A friend once told me that sometimes getting your message across can be like throwing mud at a wall, you throw an awful lot and not much sticks, but a little bit of it does. I intend to throw lots this year.