Hobbies 6

I got ‘Reflex’ from the library, and enjoyed it and since then have read another of Francis’ books, called ‘Risk’ which I also enjoyed. There didn’t when I looked that time seem to be any others of his on the shelves. Anyway, I must ration myself – the library obviously regard them as second class literature since they charge for them – 30 cents a time, superannuitants 15c. I am intrigued to know by what standards they decide which shall be rental books, and which free. I suppose that John Wyndham for instance (who is free) has a serious idea underlying most of his writing, as Neville Shute (also free) often did – but then quite a good case could be made for Dick Francis as a ‘serious’ novelist portraying psychological development or something, and not merely as a writer of thrillers.

We went to see X’s play. It got an incredible write-up for a 7-man show in a really scruffy little theatre. Only 2 people mentioned by name were the nun who is on the stage all the time and X who is on 99% of the time: ‘Young X was simply splendid in his unflappable arrogance.’ He had to embark on Ave Maria without so much as a tuning fork by himself – he seems to have managed not to get cocky about it.

The wind has resolutely refused to blow enough to sail my new little Giggle. We drifted about for an hour and I failed to make any headway to clear the rocks at each side of the little bay we had launched in – but just enough to drift me backwards onto a couple of motorboats! However a man and a small girl in an aluminium dinghy offer to tow me clear – which saved me getting the sail down to row myself. Ignominious but useful!

We’re being just so lazy you wouldn’t believe it. Can you imagine us having a cup of tea in bed and playing trial hands of bridge?!

I’ve gone a trifle mad this week and bought a knitting machine – the one thing I’ve never wanted but I’ve been looking for a jersey for months – all mine I brought out have collapsed – and when I asked the woman in the meat shop where she got hers she told me she made it on a k. machine and swore by them and told me the kind she’d just got and I saw a 4 month old one advertised at nearly half price – the woman had got a big commercial one and couldn’t spare the time to work two tho’ the one I bought takes double knit and the big one won’t. It will pay for itself with about 6 jerseys. I also bought 56 lbs of clay so I can try this cold cast bronze lark – tho’ it sounds vastly complicated. I’ve got a book all about it from London. In fact they sent me two by mistake but I fear that won’t make it twice as easy. Just off to buy my first wool, feeling vaguely guilty as I’ve got a shirt for X ready to cut out and still about 30 yds of material – quite apart from the clay – I think I’ll get 1/4 ox and box of beans and go into house arrest for a year – lovely!!

We did several sketches on the holiday – she working with water colour and me with the new crayons she gave me, which you subsequently paint over with water rather like a magic painting book to produce what looks like a watercolour! You can if necessary add another layer and repeat the process to change the colour (since it’s not easy without more practice to guess what a first mixture of crayons will produce). As always the difficulty seems to be to produce lifelike greens, toning down the rather violent ones in the box. Our last sketch was of an old barn up the valley. She was okay in the car but I wanted to be nearer so sat out and got much attacked by those horrid little black flies (which people call sandflies but they are more ‘forest flies’) – which produce lumpy bites the next day and have only just ceased to irritate a week later. I had to do the colouring afterwards at home from very rough notes it got so unendurable. But I was quite pleased in the end with the sketch.

By evening I get at my piles of natural wool – 45 ounces – I bought to make Aran knits for all the grands for Xmas – I’ve done a long sleeved one of immense intricacy for X’s birthday. (I must have been out of my tiny mind – about 3 patterns all going at once.)

I have stopped spinning for the time being to use up an old offcut of canvas web trying to make a small wall hanging with cubes that you see different ways (a la Escher) – but I fear it may not be going to work since the lines are not precise enough – partly because of the difficulty of making a line on a diagonal out of tufts fitted into vertical and horizontal squares; and partly because the wool is about a inch and a half long when slotted in, and wavers about.


I made a pair of mitts for X, out of a black lambskin which I had cured (wool inside) I reckoned she might be glad of them next winter down south – always assuming that she can get into them – I couldn’t get any patterns anywhere locally, and had a guess based on some gardening gloves. I wondered whether I ought to treat the skin with silicone car polish, or something, to make it waterproof, as I have a feeling it may get a bit gooey, like wash leather, in the rain, but eventually decided to chance it. At least the sewing, in special oiled silk, should hang together.

Hobbies 3

We’ve been in for two bridge tournaments since I last wrote. As usual we were in the last quarter of the list both times. It really is very irritating that we play bridge so badly and don’t ever seem to improve. There must be some sort of knack for visualising where all the cards are, after the calling, and then remembering which ones have gone and adjusting the picture of what remains as they turn up – but neither of us seem to be able to acquire it. And of course we tend to stretch the rules a bit when we are calling so we even manage to deceive each other. However ‘it’s only a game’ – and a pleasant enough one unless one has a whole evening with hardly a hand to call on, when it can become temporarily boring.

[Limericks were a family amusement]

X the cheeky boy started off one:

How red is gran’papa’s nose

continued by others with

Perhaps whisky or port is his dose

But those in the know

Say it cannot be so

For see it turns blue when he’s froze

It turns blue

In spite of their daily ration of ‘nuts’, the poor sheep are perpetually hungry just at present – not the best of times as the first lambs might be born any time in the next week – though the Farm Advisory man I spoke to about it said thin sheep generally have their lambs more easily than fat ones. I hope so, not having had any midwifery practice. At least X seemed to think that they are all going to produce – so the ram seems to have done his stuff in spite of his youth and tentative manner, whenever we saw him making advances to them.

I’m going to take up fishing when I get back – such an easy way to do nothing.

X put together the poncho thing I had made for her in two halves, but it didn’t hang right, and also she felt that it might prove too delicate in construction to stand up to much wear (though it would not be likely to have much because it was as warm as wearing a whole fleece!) – so in the end I made a diamond frame of wood and it now adorns the wall in the dining room, and looks quite decorative.

I’m sure I told you when I last wrote how avidly I was reading Doris Lessing’s books. Well, I also read ‘The Golden Notebook’ by her. Honestly, it is powerful stuff, not only a whole social document, but the women, who are the main characters, are marvellous, real: ‘I urge you to read it’ as the reviewers say! Also I read ‘Jane Eyre’ for the first time since I was at school, and again I was so impressed. Jane is my heroine: such standards of honesty and trust and integrity I can only hope to attain after a lifetime. Also I loved the whole style of the book; not a spare word in it. T.S. Eliot has a poem ‘East Coker’ which you probably know. There was another discovery. These three things I have read are my big reading discoveries of the year. Thought I would share them with you.

I have actually made a little start with weaving – but only on a frame loom you hold in your lap, using a long wooden needle to manipulate the weft. So far I’ve only done – or half-done – one piece and that only six inches wide, because the only thing I could find for the warp was a limited length of fishing line. It started as six inches but is now down to five, because I have been pulling the weft up too tight – especially in the sort of rows where you go round each warp string separately to produce pretty patterns. A further snag is that the variations in my spinning make it difficult to discern the pattern when you have done it! However I am getting more regular in my results (thanks among other things to a spinning seminar which I went to a couple of Saturdays ago, at which I picked up quite a few tips, including the importance of really good carding of the wool before you start). They tell me that after a time it becomes positively difficult to introduce the lovely airships which at present add such variety to my yarn!

%d bloggers like this: