It’s the third of advent (and coincidentally also Lucia) and I’ve had a meeting with my book club. We discussed Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist and drank tea. The discussion went through multiple subjects and I was roaming around my book cases to find references for our discussions. I turned a heel and so was another knitter and I will start the gusset tomorrow. I’ve also made good progress on other knittings this weekend which feels great. There might be time for Christmas after all.
I don’t know about you but whenever I sense that I’m close to the end of someting, a knitting project or a book or something else, I can’t rest until it’s finished. The sense of being close to the end is quite arbitrary and I think it depends on the size of the project. For a book of 200 pages, maybe 50 pages counts as close to the end but for a book of 600 pages maybe 100 or 150 pages counts as almost done. When I notice that there is not much left, I think that I might just as well finish it to be done with it. This can be quite unexpectable, like, what if I have read for half an hour and the book is building up towards the grande finale and I should really stop reading and go do other stuff and be a responsible adult but I see that there is only 60 pages left, I’ll continue on reading. I highly overestimate the speed of my reading ability,I am a very slow reader, and those mere 60 pages might take me two hours or more depending on language and such. Then the book is finished, I have lost two hours and I am also without an on-going reading project which might mean that I need to go find a new book before I can let go and do something else.
Don’t get me wrong, this urge to finish things is most often quite excellent. I like to finish up what I’m doing before I go from work so I don’t leave unfinished things till the next morning and you would never see me sit down to take a break in the middle of vacuuming or folding laundry. Sometimes though, the urge to finish is perhaps a Little impractical. The other night I lost three hours of knitting time (that is December knitting time and we all know what that means) because I sat down to read a little while I had a sandwich and then the sandwich was done and I thought the book was almost done too and three hours later it really was done and I hadn’t knit a single stitch in that time.
It’s the same with knitting. It might be very close to bedtime but there are only a few (a few is a very relative amount) rows left before I’m done and then the cast off and there is really no point in not finish right now. Naturally this is the time the yarn decides to break or the cast off turns out to be a tricky and elaborate one or I loose a bead or something else that makes the “few” rounds take much longer than expected.
Today I was very close to finishing a sock but when at work I couldn’t do much about it. It sat in my project bag practically screaming for me to work on it and that is unacceptable. Something needs to be done. This sock will be finished today or I don’t know what to do and a new one will be cast on.
I’ve always read a lot of books. I’m a slow reader but I’m an efficient reader, meaning that I find time to read when most others don’t. From age eleven to age 24 I always had a book with me where ever I went. Then that book became a knitting instead but I still read a lot. The past two years that hasn’t really been the case though. I haven’t really felt the serenity to read mostly because my demands on a book, that were always high, became even higher. When I say that I have high demands on a book I don’t mean that it has to be a classic or whatever, I’m a pretty shallow reader in the sense that if a book is good I’m reading it no matter who wrote it or when he or she wrote it. Life’s too short for bad books. But a couple of years ago it became harder to concentrate on a book and there were a lot of topics that I just couldn’t stand. I’m gradually coming back from that and I have noticed that I have a lot easier to read during holidays when I have more spare time. Of course I still read but not as much or as naturally as before.
A week or so ago Julle bought me a book – Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal – that I started reading right away and kept on reading. It’s about a young MI-5 agent, Maggie Hope, in England in 1940, who is a math tutor for Princess Elizabeth at Windsor Castle at the same time as she, Maggie, is trying to uncover a plot to kidnap the princess. The agent is delightful of course and the book was quite exciting but it also had a few flaws.
For example, I was a keen reader of Nancy Drew novels when I was a kid but I always wondered why she let herself be captured in each and every book. Nancy Drew has solved over a hundred mysteries and I figure she should know by now that things can get tough and that she should plan accordingly. In one book it even said that she had taken some self-defence classes but not enough. Why, I thought, why haven’t you taken more of those classes? (I also thought that hopefully this would teach her to take more classes for the next book but no, she was still getting captured.) Also, why doesn’t she always bring a kit for opening doors and why does she never tell the police where she is going? Classic horror movie mistake – if it’s a windy, dark night and you are all alone, don’t go down to the basement. With Nancy Drew, or Kitty, as she is called in Swedish, I can understand that the books aren’t that well written and that capturing Nancy is an easy way to keep the books entertaining and exciting for young readers. Since all books have different writers I understand that continuity from previous books isn’t the first thing on the list when a new one is in progress. Again though, this annoyed me when I was a kid.
Nancy Drew is an amateur detective after all but Maggie Hope is supposed to be a trained agent for MI-5, why is she behaving like Nancy Drew? I must say, if all MI-5 agents were like Maggie Hoppe, the British would never have been able to conquer anything or anyone, so poorly are the planning and the spying executed in this book. How a trained agent can let her feelings get the best of her judgement – she was mean to me, she must be one of the bad guys although there is no evidence to proove it – is incomprehensible. Then again, it probably wouldn’t have been as good a plot (to break the case and save the kidnapped princess on an enemy U-boat is probably much more interesting to read about than if the princess in question is never kidnapped at all due to good intelligence and quick reflexes) so I can live with that.
What I really don’t like though, is the continuity problems. Things like “this thing happened on a Thursday, now it is Sunday but we still refer to the events from Thursday as if they happened last night”. On one page someone throws a bottle in the sea and four lines later he throws the same bottle in the sea. Small things like that doesn’t really disturb the plot even if it interrupts the reading but when the main character decrypts something, saying that a U-boat is involved and tell people about this, and then 20 pages later has no recollection of said U-boat and is really surprised that a submarine is involved and so is apparently everyone else, it makes me start to question their intelligence. How can the commander not remember this U-boat when the question of nation security and the order of succession are at stake? It feels like someone should have read through this novel at least one more time before it was published.
Despite this, and I totally had to wake Julle up early one morning so I had someone to discuss this with, the last chapters were so thrilling I had to have more. So I ordered more, the prequel and the sequel. I have also bought another pair of books and, while waiting for my books to arrive, I started re-reading another book, which is also a great one. This weeks Book Club book is already a favorite and it seems I have gone from having nothing to read and being in between books to having so much intriguing stories around me that I don’t know what to do. Luckily Christmas is coming up and when all the knitting is done I will have some days off when I can just relax on the couch and read whatever I want. We’ll see if Maggie Hope has gotten her stuff together for the next book. One can always Hope.
It looks as if I’ve been too efficient this weekend. Not only am I currently between knittings right now, but I am also between books. All my knittings are either blocking, secret or impossible to continue before the next MKAL clue comes out. Sure, there is yarn and there is a lot that can be cast on but not without effort. It requires some kind of preparation, finding needles, winding yarn or something like that. I have nothing that I can just pick up and knit a few rounds on before I go to bed.
Ok, so no knitting right now, but how about a book? Well, I finished the book I was reading this morning and sure, the book shelves are filled with unread books (and read ones too, both those that can be read again and those that I never want to open ever) but again, it requires some kind of preparation. If nothing else, I need to decide what I’m in the mood for and then find something that works with that. Not to mention that it takes a little while to really get in to a new book, it takes a few pages to settle in. Again, it requires time that I don’t have. I just want to read a page or two before I got to sleep, not invest time in a new book.
Luckily this will hopefully be solved tomorrow as Agnieszka has promised to see me to decide in which order she wants the contrasting colors in her Vacillate shawl. Once I know that, all I need to do is cast on (I guess technically I can cast on tonight because it starts with the main color anyway but again, that requires a search for needles and such). Tomorrow though, tomorrow we’ll be in the middle again, not in between.
Ever since before Christmas I’ve been in a literary draught. Nothing pleases me, nothing is to my desire. Over Christmas I managed to relax enough that I could sit down with an approachable book but after Christmas it was back to the draught. I have been listening to some Agatha Christie audio books while bobbin lace and when I found a Swedish translation of Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night on a shelf, I tried it, if one crime novel writer could work, maybe also another. It did actually. I’ve been looking forward to this book, it has made me late and made me stay up at night. That’s a good sign for a book. Unfortunately it ended all too quickly and I was bookless once again with no desire to read.
Apparently Sayers worked so I decided that I would continue on that track. I Went down to the Uppsala English Bookshop and entered and told Stina what I was looking for. Isn’t it wonderful thing that there are people who immeadiately understands when you tell them that you are in need of Dorothy Sayers, not just as a book but as something bigger. Stina understood and together we discussed Sayers and Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane and rules of translation and it was great. I left with five books and hopefully this will keep me occupied of a while. This might be at least a few hours of rain in the huge literary draught.
I just have to share this picture of an ex-phone booth that has been transformed into a book booth instead. I think it’s a great idea – phone booths are rarely needed anymore but I think they can be quite pretty to look at and instead of retiring them, they get a new purpose and I get to borrow books somewhere when the library is closed. Excellent!
This has been another lovely and warm day and I’ve spent it with a special friend of mine, F. F and I and F’s mother have been very culturally inspired today. We started the day with a guided tour of the paw steps of Peter No-Tail, a tailless cat that once lived in Uppsala together with some other cats, good and bad.
The books about Peter No-Tail are written by Gösta Knutsson who also worked in Uppsala. F was able to track down the street where Peter lives with his family and found a model of how it looks inside Peter’s cellar air-hole.
After we had heard the stories about Peter No-Tail we went to his theme playgrund where F was swinging and going on the slide and driving a bus. Then we had a picnic, a lovely summer picnic with fruit, sandwiches, juice, cookies and chocolate, everything you need for a picnic. It was a big day for F and after a while the stroller and binky looked very tempting while mommy and me sat down chatting.
It was a great day for all of us, a perfect way of spending your summer – friends and family, food, fun and a little cultural stimulation. What more could you ask for?
You know how fashion seems to reappear every few decades or so? A little more modern version but still with some distinct features. A few years ago the 60’s was really in vogue and when I was in junior high the 70’s were back. The 50’s seem to never really disappear, which I love since a 50’s inspired dress probably the prettiest thing ever, and so flattering. But, why does it end there? Why is the 50’s the earliest decade we steal fashion from? Is it because we just want to forget the 40’s and it’s military inspired jackets? The 30’s with the long slim dresses? Or the 20’s with the flapper dress and low waist. Ok, the swing dress with fringes has been back, I give you that but where are the low waist and the charleston and the head decorations?
What I really would like back in fashion is the bustle. I just find it utterly spiffing. Unpractical of course but still. I was once at a ball with a 1860’s theme and I wore a homemade dress with a bustle. Someone commented that it was nice to see someone who wasn’t afraid to show a different fashion ideal than the current one. I couldn’t agree more but I don’t think that’s the only reason for my fascination with the bustle. I don’t know why it’s so appealing but it is.
Maybe that’s why I like steampunk so much. It’s set during the second half of the 19th century, there are nice dresses, steam powered machinery, parasols, vampires, dirigibles, huge binoculars, Victorian era, top hats, clock work, cog wheels, decorum and etiquette and – most importantly – bustles. I particularly enjoy Gail Carriger’s books about the Parasol Protectorate and the Finishing school. It has everything I ever wished for. I’m not sci fi reader and a reluctant fantasy reader but steampunk, or rather Gail Carriger’s steampunk, I really like. I think it’s because of the humour and the fact that completely unexpected things can happen since it mixes Victorian era with things that wasn’t invented then and isn’t invented now either. Also,it takes the politness and etiquette of British 19th century to the extent. Our heroine can be in an awful pickle but only because one is tied down and thrown into a cellar (really, what an awful way to treat a lady) doesn’t mean one should be rude even though it is a bit of a trifle to make a curtsey and even though one’s petticoat has been awfully wrinkled. Or what do you think?
Sometimes non-knitters ask me how many projects I have going on at the same time. This question is usually the follow-up of a comment about how much yarn I have (it’s like my stern look and assurance that this is not much at all since I can easily knit it up in a life time has no effect on them). When I answer that right now I have four active projects going on they reply, with a look that makes me understand that I am indeed weird, by commenting on how many projects that is. I can only conclude that these people probably never have more than one book going on at the same time. They never change clothes during the day and they never have more than one meal’s worth of food in the frigde at the same time. They only do one sport, if they are runners they will never stop for a game of badminton or go swimming. Or, they simply don’t see that the reasons why they do indeed change clothes or have more food in their fridge than they can in eat in a day or mix skiing with soccer, is also applicable to having multiple active works-in-progress.
I’ve always, ever since I was a kid, had multiple books going on at the same time. I mean, not all books can be used the same way (luckily, imagine how boring that would be). Some books are so scary you can only read them in the morning (and then what are you going to do in the evening?). Some books are to valuable to be read in the bathtub. Some books are too heavy to bring to a day at the beach and some books aren’t thick enough to bring on a long train ride. Some books are too difficult to read when you are tired and some books are not interesting enough to keep you occupied for many hours.
This exact thing is applicable to knitting. Right now I have five active works-in-progress. One is my lace that I can only do when it’s reasonably quiet and I’m not too tired and I can only manage on or two pattern repeats at a time, then I have to rest. Rest from the project that is, not from knitting. But imagine if I could only have the one work-in-progress, what would I do when I need to rest from the lace?
Then there is this summer’s mystery knit along where there is one clue each Friday. Those clues are usually finished within a few days, and then what? The only-one-work-in-progress-rule states that this is it, so what am I going to do the other five days of the week? Rip it, like Penelope, every night and re-knit it the next morning?
My delicious shawl in BFL wool has come to a Point where the pattern says I can add beads if I’d like. I do like. But I don’t have any beads at the moment. Till I have found matching beads, there is no possibility to continue with the shawl, and I noticed this yesterday, a Sunday, evening. That means that I would have had an entire evening without any knitting had I been stuck to only one project, till I could go get some beads today. And what if I can’t find matching beads today? Then there would be even more evenings without knitting. Now, why would anyone do that to themselves?
My blue cardigan is at a Point where I need to add Another skein of yarn, but since I didn’t have enough yarn I had to buy this in a contrasting color. This yarn arrived last week but is currently in quarantine in the freezer and has been for almost a week. That would have been a sad non-knitting week had I not been able to have multiple works-in-progress.
Finally, I have a green blanket on the needles. It’s coming along well and doesn’t require non-existing beads or quarantine yarn or clues. But, of course there is a but, it’s getting heavy. It is a blanket after all and the more I knit the bigger it gets. It’s become big enough that I can’t take it out of the house and it’s getting heavy enough that I can’t knit on it for too long at the time since my arms get tired from holding the weight.
So you see, there is a project for every moment and there is every reason in the world to have multiple active projects. At least if you are inclined to knit almost every waking hour, which I tend to do.
This arrived in the mail today, Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. Alice Munro is the 2013 Nobel laureate in literatur. I’ve never read anything by her before but we decided to look into her work in my book club and here I go. So far I’ve only been read about three pages but I like what I see. I also like that it’s set in Canada, it makes a difference from a lot of other books. On the first page a woman is going West to Saskatchewan and since I’ve been there once it made me feel welcomed by this book. Now my expectations of content of this book past page three are pretty high and I really hope it delivers. This fall I’ve been a little scared to read something unknown in case it would contain things that are heavy, my well-being is horrifically fragile sometimes and I don’t always know what will throw me over the edge. This has meant that I’ve re-read a lot of good books, but it would be nice to read something new for once. I think this might be it. Cross your