Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Head-scratching Moment: Opera vs. Musical

I'm not usually a big fan of first night performances, and the first night of the opera Faust by the ENO at the Coliseum was no exception. Surrounded by the great and the good, all of whom don't know me so there's no small talk and getting pushed out of the way on the red carpet by Paps, as they try to get a picture of Someone Famous. Everyone is on their best behaviour, the wine at the party is awful and no canapes were forthcoming after a half an hour wait.

The performance itself, however, although good - I stayed awake throughout, which was more than could be said for David Mellor - left me confused. It was a bit too Musical Theatre for me.

Don't get me wrong - I love Musicals. I saw Legally Blonde recently and thought it was splendid, so here is the confusion - at what point does an opera become another musical? Both have singing, both have dancing - the only difference I can see is the type of music, and the way that music is sung. I don't understand what other components come together to constitute an opera as opposed to a musical. I came out of the theatre thinking more about what on earth it was about this particular production that made it so different to other operas I had seen. Not better or worse - just different. This production blurred the lines somewhat.

I don't want to review the show, but to anyone who has seen it - or will see it when it transfers to New York, whenever that is - contact me and let me know what they think.

Maybe, it's just me...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Weekend Trolling...

Over to Blackheath, a two + hour journey across town, courtesy of the transport system, to the opening of David Owen's exhibition, currently on show at the Stark Gallery for the next month. I mentioned this artist in the last post, so I've just added the link here, so you can check on this and whatever else he's getting up to - oh, and the fab trailer for the '5000 Morris Dancers' show by Rob Curry is on there as well, which is worth seeing, although I should warn you now there are lots of flashing images. I loved this show, and this mixed-media artist throws up a lot of images that make you laugh, think and - in my case - covet. Studley sent me off with a view to buying one or two of his pieces, but by the time I got there, I was already seeing the little dots appearing - you know which ones, the ones that mean 'sold'. but it was still great to see these pieces full size.

The next day, I rocked up at the IKnit event at the Royal Horticultural Halls, to find it a very subdued afternoon. All was decidedly quiet. And slow. For the first time in my recollection, the people ran out before the food. I had no trouble walking up to meet Alice Starmore, no one huffed and tutted in a queue behind me as I had quite a long chat with the celebrated lady of Stornaway, and as she signed my copy of the newly-reprinted 'Fisherman's Sweaters' I was gently chastised for my pronunciation of one of her earlier books, 'Celtic Needlepoint' which has pride of place at Hand Wash Towers. A momentary lapse, it won't happen again.

The ladies of Fyberspates were in good spirits, and there was much fondling of yarn, and cooing. I like cooing. I also like spending, so after picking up a skein of something quite yummy, getting a human hug from the Silklady (Rav Name) I wended my way home, stopping briefly at Westminster Cathedral to pay my respects and see the procession of Our Lady of Victory commemorating Malta Day, which seemed to have a far better turnout that IKnit, although I could be wrong.

The following day found me at the Duck Pond Market (yes, I do like to pack in a lot into my spare time). Hanging out with friends on their lovely stall, featuring beautiful hand-dyed yarn by Shamu (again, a Rav Name). It took a lot to keep my money in my pocket, and I worry that I may become a collector, the colours are so gorgeous and vibrant. The market itself was very quiet, there being only five or so stalls out this particular venue, but it's a great market, and I see myself being a regular visitor.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Don't Mess With Morris

An off the cuff remark made by Sebastian Coe set in motion an amazing chain of events, culminating in a weekend the like of which will never be seen in London again. And I was there.

Now, Seb Coe can be a twat at the best of times.

When asked what entertainment he would like to see at the 2012 Olympics, Mr Coe jokingly replied "5000 Morris Dancers". Ha, bloody Ha.

"5000 Morris Dancers" became a celebration of folk music and traditional regional Morris Dance held over the weekend at the Southbank Centre. Outside on the Queen's Walk, the public were treated to 100 of the best Morris Dancers from across the country, both male and female teams demonstrated a diversity of styles. Hammersmith Morris Men, pictured above, are not your typical Morris Men, oh no. They are the best at what they do, and they didn't come to mess around. The Blue Boggarts turned out in full force with their painted faces. Entertaining, and I found one of them strangely attractive. There are pictures, but Studley does not want to upload them. Feeling a little jealous, I shouldn't wonder.

Inside, more delights.

Live traditional music in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, then the premiere of the documentary "The Way Of The Morris" by Tim Plester and Rob Curry, which charted Plester's relationship with his family and his village, and his own roots in folk music and dance. A beautiful film, a love letter to his village, its history and traditions, with a P.S. that said "I'm coming home". Here's hoping this film gets a wide release, I wish everybody could see it.

A few canapes, much wine and a dalliance with a Morrissed-up Star Wars Stormtrooper later, and we were back in the Queen Elizabeth Hall for a one-off concert celebrating "Morris On", the 1972 album to which all other folk/rock albums before and since have long been compared. This time the album was performed from start to finish by some of the best of the British young folk artists - Jim Moray, Saul Rose (who happens to also be on the right side of gorgeous) Sam Sweeney, Sam Carter, Jon Fuller, Dave Burbage and Jackie Oates, with a Conversation With Ashley Hutchings, one of the musicians on the original album.

Add to that the superb artwork of visual artist David Owen lining the walls:

it was a weekend like no other.

Now don't get me wrong. Folk music is not my favourite genre. Morris Dancing may or may not be the closest thing Britain has to Capoeira, but it is not a joke, to be treated with derision, to be ridiculed or maligned. To mess with the Morris, or to be blunt, fuck with the Folk, is to dismiss a large chunk of this nation's people, who are keeping traditions alive. Folk music is Soul Music and it speaks of all the things that we should never dismiss: love, longing, politics, fantasy, sex, storytelling, history and dreams. I respect and salute those who continue to sing it and who breathe new life into it.

That sounded a bit like a rant, didn't it? Good.

Huge thanks to Terry O'Brien of Playpen Management for producing, and inviting us, to this fantastic event.

Pictures will follow, once I soothe the savage Studley.

P.S. Seb Coe is still a twat.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Supremely Divine...

Some more dresses from the Supremes Exhibition. Do you know you can click on them to enlarge for more detail - on some you can even read the signs?

Go to ITunes U - look for V & A Theatre & Performance for an hour long podcast interview with Mary Wilson, who was kind enough to bring the costumes over for the Exhibition.

It's very rare to be able to go to a show and be allowed to take photos these days, so big thanks to the V & A for letting me take these and share them with you.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Motown Memories

I have had many requests - okay, three - from some new friends on a Rav forum to post some pictures of a recent exhibition of Supremes costumes at the V&A Museum. Enjoy.

Let me know if you want to see more.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Time Flies.

Time flies indeed.

The last two months have simply whizzed by, so many good things have happened, alongside things so bad that to relate them here will send me back into a tailspin of depression so deep it has taken this long to climb out of. Sometimes when bad things happen, I merely shrug my shoulders and move on. Whatever is, is. Other things I may never get over, and will have to live with for the rest of my life.

Still, Crappy Temp Job allowed me the opportunity to forget recent troubles and concentrate on something so mind-numbingly boring that it was a welcome relief. or it would have been, had they remembered to pay me. They've booked me for one more week, so hopefully they will have sorted out the problem, before I feel the need to peer at the Line Manager over my glasses and give him the kind of talking-to that could peel the skin off his blazing red cheeks.

Studley, as ever, has been wonderful, trying to find ways to keep my spirits up, even while away working in Finland. When he returned, he displayed the kind of knitter-enabling behaviour that should be cloned by scientists and distributed throughout the members of Ravelry. Thanks to him, I am also the new owner of a iPod Touch.

The other night -when I returned from Knit Nation, actually - I got home to find him in playful mood. He had been to a charity shop, and spied some books he thought I might be interested in.

"I couldn't get you on your phone to find out which books you had, so I rescued them all for you," he said, as he sat me down.

Are you ready for this? Deep breath, then:

Scandinavian Knitwear by Alice Starmore
Designer Collection by Jean Moss
Glorious Knitting by Kaffe Fassett
Family Album, by Kaffe Fassett & Zoe Hunt
The Handknitter's Design Book by Alison Ellen
Knit Design by Betty Barnden & Gabi Tubbs
New Directions in Fair Isle Knitting, by Patty Knox

In all, he had found 12, some of which I already had, but - what a haul! I was already tearing my hair out over where to put my stuff. HW Towers has been undergoing a serious re-organisation of storage space.

More importantly, 12 knitting books - and only one was a paperback - are really heavy! The man went above and beyond the call of duty. This has seriously racked up his Brownie Points.

"I love you, Studley." I could feel myself welling up. "You are mine, and I shall keep you forever."

His eyes twinkled. "That's the plan, Babe".

Sunday, 16 May 2010

With Grace.

To the V & A. The plan was to try to take in two exhibitions in one day: the Quilts show, then the exhibition of clothes from that great style icon, Grace Kelly, except that as usual I had left Hand Wash Towers far too late to beat the crowds, so one show had to do. But which one?

I stood in the queue, trying to decide. The quilts were really what I had travelled across town to see, but Grace Kelly's was, at £6, slightly cheaper than the quilts' £10.

In the end, my mind was made up for me when a lovely lady offered me her spare ticket the the GK show, as her friend was at the last minute unable to attend. So in I went. For free.

It's a small show featuring several key pieces, starting with outfits first worn on her engagement to Prince Ranier of Monaco, and ending with clothes worn during her short movie career, mostly designed by Edith Head. Funnily enough, my favourite dress turned out to be the one pictured, which turned out to be a simple black flowered dress made from a McCall's pattern, which Kelly wore on her first official meeting with the Prince in Monaco in 1955. I love this dress because, at the time, her fans and followers could buy the exact pattern and re-create the dress for themselves. I know some pattern companies have been re-issuing some of their vintage and retro patterns, and I hope that this will be available again.

I don't think I'm speaking ill of the dead, but Grace Kelly appeared to have big feet. Lovely shoes, but they were boats.

Most moving moment: I have to say, seeing this picture did make us stop in our tracks.

The lady who gave me the ticket was with me for most of the show, and we ooh-ed and ahh-ed our way round but, somewhere towards the end she disappeared. I had stopped to watch one of the newsreels but, at my height, it is a little hard to lose me in a crowd.

A shame because I had bought her a set of the postcards and had offered to take her for cake and coffee as a thank-you for her kindness. As it was, she bought her tickets with the Senior Citizen discount, so her kindness only left her £4 out of pocket.

Whoever you are kind lady, I wish you good Karma.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

So, Tell Me About The Lobster...

I was going to mention this ages ago, but I got really busy over the last few weeks. I realize a lot of my friends think I spend most of my time knitting and eating biscuits, but there is a lot to do at Hand Wash Towers. That mould in the bathroom doesn't go away by itself, you know.

Press Night at the Globe, to see Macbeth, was a jolly night out, made even more interesting by the rather unusual form of audience participation. The groundlings' area around the stage was shrouded in a tautly pulled tent-y thing with holes in it for the audience to put their heads through to watch the play, supposedly to represent the frozen Lake of Cocytus in Dante's Divine Comedy (here's the image, by Gustave Dore). The tent was used also for characters to appear and disappear through, and for the three witches to wreak havoc among the audience.

This production is very, very gory, so much so that the audience were dropping like flies. Studley and I counted four (all men) being wheeled away by the St. John's Ambulance during the course of the play. We found out later at the Press Night party that 15 members of the audience flaked out that night. I call that a success.

I recently bumped into the lovely Ruth Saberton while out shopping, who was busy signing copies of her new book "Katy Carter Wants a Hero". Ruth is a funny lady, with a passion for all things pink, and her book is a good quick summer read, full of good people, bad people and a lobster, a facsimile of which she brings to her signings. He is quite an important character in this story of a London teacher who aspires to be a novelist, whose life is changed forever after a dinner party from hell.

Here's hoping "Katy Carter Wants a Hero" makes it onto TV. It would be perfect.

Guess what? I've got a signed copy of the book to give away.

Share your funniest dinner party stories. Make me laugh 'till I spurt my tea out of my nose, and the book could be yours.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Proof, if proof were needed...

...that something needs to be done. Seriously.

Behind this tower is a wardrobe.

To the right of the tower is my side of the bed.

To the left of the tower is my shoes, all neatly packed away, that I can't quite get to.

At the foot of the tower is more stash which, thankfully, you can't see. Same with the junk on the bed.

All I want is a tidy house, a tidy bedroom, a tidy stash.

A tidy life.

Not going to happen. (Sigh.) On with the motley.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

There's a Crocodile in the Water...

...and no-one believed me.

The flight to Basle was thankfully uneventful. Security thoroughly checked my hand-luggage - why yes, as a matter of fact I did pack my bag myself, the Butler being on his day off - and casually waited until we were airborne before reaching for my contraband stash...of knitting.

It must have been my body language or something, but no-one batted an eyelid when I started work on my little sock. Nobody seemed to think it was unusual or dangerous or - perish the thought - forbidden. Either that, or one little sock on a 2.75mm/40cm circular metal needle is considered less of a terrorist threat than say, a lace shawl or (gulp) a sweater on two straight needles. It was the same on the return flight, although the pilot was kind enough to circle Heathrow a couple of times, no doubt to give me time to divide my stitches and make a start on the heel flap.

Then, on from Basle to Freiburg, Germany, me tagging along behind Studley, who was there to work. I was there to see what the dear man does for a living, and to meet his friends (who are all lovely by the way). I must say, the Germans know how to have a good time. Cheers to Chris Cravens, formerly of Preston, currently the DJ at the Swamp, a great bar with a cracking atmosphere, but not for the non-smokers among us. So good was the hospitality, the crocodile in the canal in the centre of town (see above) did come a bit of a surprise. But why is it there? I asked F.

"Because it's funny", was his reply. Fair enough.

I believe no trip to Freiburg is complete without a visit to Das Kartoffelhause. This restaurant is a cathedral to the humble potato. What these people don't know about how to cook a potato is frankly not worth knowing. They boil them, fry them, chip and mash them, bake and croquette them. They headline every dish on the menu: "Potato with Meat, Potato with Fish, and so it goes on.

Portions were generous (as was the service). I ordered a meatloaf which appeared to have the taste and texture of SPAM, if you like that sort of thing. The waitress brought a sauce to go with it (knowing the British have a thing for gravy) which was like a warm brown sauce. Meatloaf is different all over the world, and this was new to me. I like new, I like different. The mash that came with it was to die for.

(Note the unusual gargoyle found on the side of the Munster. Love it.)

The shops were closed for most of our short visit, but on Monday morning bright and early, we found ourselves at the Welt der Handarbeit, Salzstrase 37-39, 79098 Freiburg. A couple of balls of Regia World sock yarn in both GB and GDR national colours later, and we were dashing for our flight.

A huge thanks to F (thinking of you and we send our love) and K (K, we shall always be friends) for looking after us so wonderfully well, to D and U, who could argue the merits of croquette potatoes over roasties all evening, and to the beautiful town of Freiburg. A beautiful town with it's own brewery. What's not for a girl to love?

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Stash. I Haz It.

Hand Wash Towers is currently a hot bed of activity. Spring has sprung and with it the need to clean and reorganize, re-prioritize and basically get my life and home into some kind of order. Spring cleaning this year coincides with the annual "Yarn-Toss", a necessary endeavour to ensure that my stash remains moth-free and useable.

This year, however, I have to re-organize my storage space, which meant that my whole stash had be be brought out of all its' hidey holes and stored separately in its own collection of plastic crates, bought from Ikea especially for the purpose. While checking for moths and nasties, I took the time to list what I had (or most of it ) on Ravelry to help me keep track.

While Studley knows I have a stash, and is even known to contribute to it once in a while, he had no idea of the actual quantity of yarn hidden around the place. He came home, walked into the bedroom and silently surveyed the tower of plastic crates standing some six feet high in front of him, with more boxes and bags of the fondlesome stuff sitting at his feet.

I must admit, I was a little worried at how Studley might react to seeing the stash in all its entirety.

"Babe, " he said at last, "you might need a couple more crates." Is that it? That's all?

Apparently, Studley has no problem with it, and he calmly explained why.

  1. Yarn may not always remain yarn. It may become sweaters, hats, scarves, socks, etc. Therefore it will never just sit there in the tower of crates forever.
  2. Yarn doesn't go off and smell bad.
  3. Yarn is not pointy, or sharp. It is in itself not dangerous, and does not bite or growl, or need a litter tray, or even a daily walk in the park. It also does not need expensive medical treatment.
  4. The yarn, however much you pay for it, gives more hours of pleasure than the same amount spent on other entertainment, like a night out or a West-end show, making knitting a cheaper and cost-effective form of entertainment. And finally:
  5. Complaining about the amount of my hoard of collectibles, may mean at some point I will start complaining about his hoard of collectibles, so it's better for him to keep his mouth shut.
"You do realise", he added, "that you can't get into your wardrobe for all the stash. How are you going to get to your clothes?"

"Erm... these are my clothes. They're just not finished yet".

"Babe, you need to knit faster."

Monday, 1 March 2010

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


He thought it would be funny.

He wanted to see the look on my face.

He bought me this for Valentine's Day.

He will pay - oh, yes, he will PAY!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Eyte and Abite!

I love a day off, away from the mould in the bathroom, and the many other things at Hand Wash Towers. While the mould can be fixed, some other stresses never seem to go away.

So I travelled to Ealing, West London, to see an exhibition called "Beware of Embroidery", a collection of works by artists using embroidery as their medium.

While the exhibition it self was small, I should recommend it if only for the work, I can't single out one artist, although I have my favourite pieces.

Laura Splan has two beautiful pieces, a fan and a hankerchief with embroidery designs based on the anatomy of the human eye. Sounds strange, but both pieces were quite delicate.

Tamar Stone created a series of books focussing on issues in womens' lives. The books themselves were created by embroidery and print on antique corsets, a metaphor relating to constriction, correction, appearance and especially assimilation, the need women have to fit in to certain situations - to be beautiful, a good wife and mother, and difficulties many face in trying to break free. Stone is also exhibiting a series of beds that should be seen. In both cases, I suggest that if you want to explore these two series of pieces, ask the gallery assistants if they are available, to show you the different layers/pages of each piece. It is so tempting to touch them, but please, don't.

Louise Riley might just be my favourite of the whole exhibition. Working with yarns, fabric, mattressess and even a tree, Riley created pieces that made me concentrate on the processes she uses and try to reconcile that with the images of society she presents. Her images are life sized, and in some cases it is necessary to take a step back so as to take it all in and not be swayed by the use of texture on texture and colours interweaved. Look for the installation Mother of Pearl, a mattress suspended by ropes in an ante room.

A short exhibition, but if you are interested in contemporary art, you might get something out of it. And, it is free.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Thank You!

My 13th Anniversary took me out and away on a lovely train journey to meet up with Studley for a long leisurely lunch, after which we took a little walk around a pleasant town with a charity shop selling these:

"The Complete Book of Traditional Knitting" Rae Compton
"The Complete Book of Traditional Aran Knitting" Shelagh Hollingsworth
"The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting" Sheila McGregor
"Traditional Knitting in the British Isles" Gwyn Morgan

Chuck in "Knitting in Vogue", volumes 1 & 2, plus a copy of "Mary Thomas's Knitting Patterns", all in pristine condition I might add, and I happily passed just under £25 to the salesperson. To heck with the fact that I already own three of the seven books.

And then I thought, "Oh, no, more books. He'll tell me off. He'll make me give them back!"

But I can't possibly. I rescued them. They're mine.

I struggled to Studley's side with my haul. I goo-goo eyed him. I told him the price.

"Babe," he said, with a twinkle in his eyes, "you've got some bargains there. Would you like me to help you carry them?"

What a treasure.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Don't Mention The Snow!

Don't want to talk about it.

Instead I want to thank Studley for a lovely holiday on the island of Jersey, Channel Islands. Very relaxing and good to see so many people I've missed over the past year.

Didn't get much done in the way of shopping as we usually do, but had a wonderful "STOP THE CAR!" moment as we were driving through Trinity.

A new yarn store. With Noro. Lots of Noro.

Only started last June, Marguerite Chapman's Country Wools is a lovely place, all warm and welcoming, and well worth a visit.

Country Wools
Haute Croix House
La Rue du Bechets es Cats
Jersey JE3 5DQ


On the subject of knitting, I had hoped that this year would be the "Year of Little Things" - hats, socks, a real chance to stashbust, but then my poor WIPs and UFOs are staring at me, begging me to finish them. Maybe I should stifle my urge to cast on another 20-zillion projects, and complete them. Plus, I've made it on to Ravelympics Team GB, with no idea what project to choose.

Studley has kindly pointed out that the amount of yarn coming in to Hand Wash Towers does not equate with the amount of projects going out. He's already seen yet another bag of purchases from Mavis of Bushey sitting in the hallway.

"Knit faster, babe". He's just like Ranger from the Stephanie Plum novels.

So, one sock completed, another one cast on.