Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hat Mark II

Here's the completed article. I quite like it. And it really doesn't take that long to knit - it's just a bit fiddly knitting with four needles.

I've started the Lancaster course this week. It's a bit slow to get started - a few people have signed on, and so far we're all a bit confused about what we're supposed to be doing! I wonder if that's just normal? I'm not too stressed about it anyway. I know in my heart I just need to start writing - again! How easy it is to break the habit.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Hat Update

Well, I've made a start. This hat involves knitting in the round on 9mm double-pointed needles. This is NOT easy.
I started with 5 rounds of the contrast colour:

Then added the main colour (in this case, that fabulous jewel point five hand-dyed wool). This involved purling a row which I found devilish difficult.

It will be VERY interesting to see what I end up with!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

It's Snowing!

And the BBC forecast tells me we have full sunshine.
I've finished my hat, by the way. It looks terrible - like a big, baggy tea-cosy that falls over my eyes. Still, it's all good practice, and I'm itching to get on with something else now. I might upload a picture - but I'm embarassed!
It's just stopped snowing. You have to be quick round here to catch a snowflake!


Well, here it is then!

Monday, January 17, 2005

What am I doing here? It's Monday.

It’s OK, I am still employed. I’m working Wednesday and Thursday this week, because there is an evening meeting that I need to go to on Wednesday. It does seem very strange, though, to have such a big gap between working days.

I found myself feeling guilty last week for not being in work – as if there was something that I should be doing. I think working 2 days will take some adjusting to. I need to constantly remind myself that they only pay me for 2 days.

We had another viewer yesterday, but her husband couldn’t make it so they will at the very least need to look again if she was interested. She wanted a garden for her children to play in, and ours is a bit on the small side, so possibly not.

I found an excellent knitting book in the library - "Knit Hats!" by Gwen Steege. There are some fun patterns in here, including one that uses point five Colinette hand-painted yarn I’m now determined to finish my hat so I can justify rushing out to buy some of this and make another.

Friday, January 14, 2005


I've just completed my first Life Coaching course assignment with Newcastle College of Further Education, and wrestled it into the post box.

And I've done my ironing.

And my 35 minutes of brisk walking.

So maybe I can go and do some reading now!

I'm reading Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell at the moment. I'm enjoying it hugely, well worth a read. She explores a world in the 1800's where magic is mainly found through a body of academic writing, studied by scholars but rarely practised. She uses some very clever devices to draw you into that world, such as footnotes and the occasional old fashioned spelling. I like the design of the book as well - it looks like an ancient academic text book. Great fun.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I survived!

Day one
When the alarm went off at 5.45 am, it was not quite the shock I’d been expecting. In fact, I had woken naturally at 5.43. I felt as if I’d been sleeping ‘on the edge of my bed’ all night.
The roads, although busy, were reasonably benign. Despite this, we found that through sheer weight of traffic, we did need the full two hours that we had allowed for what is usually a journey of just over an hour.

I arrived confidently at main reception, told them that I was starting today, and they just waved me through. I marched up to the department reception – to find huge shutters closed across it. Ah. The only other access point requires a security pass – which of course, I didn’t have.
Back at the main reception, the receptionist greeted me with “They’re closed, aren’t they”. I gave her my details, sat down, and watched her ‘phone a succession of numbers – seemingly with no joy. Finally, a few minutes later, a petite woman with short grey hair and glasses came to greet me. I hadn’t seen her before.
“Sorry,” she said. “We’re a bit at sixes and sevens. Lots of people off sick.”
I followed her into the office, where she handed me over to someone else I’d never met before, a lady with long hair, a broad smile and very quiet voice.
“I think that might be your desk,” she offered tentatively. “We’ve got a team meeting at 9:30; it would be good if you could be there.” And off she went.
I filled my first half hour by finding my way to personnel services to sort out my registration and so on, arriving back just in time for the meeting. People started to rush off, and I pretty quickly realised that they probably were going to the team meeting; I probably wasn’t going to be escorted by anyone; and I’d better follow someone quick if I wanted to know where the meeting was.
It was a big team. About 25 people were seating themselves around a table. Someone smiled at me and patted the seat next to them. Such small gestures can make such a huge difference. I smiled gratefully, and sat next to her.
The meeting got started, I was formally welcomed, and people around the table introduced themselves. The final person I recognised as the Director who’d interviewed me.
She said she had something to tell us. She glanced down at the table, and took a deep breath. I wondered what on earth was coming. Everyone looked nervous.
“I’m afraid G has lost the baby,” she said.
G is my new manager. She was probably about 6 or 7 months pregnant and was due to go on maternity leave in February.
Despite her obvious personal distress, G had found time to think about loose ends at work. She’d given a long list of things to tell the team. I came top of her list, with an apology and reassurance that my predecessor would show me the ropes. There was, of course, no need for the apology.
My predecessor spent much of her day with me, at the expense of her own workload. She gave me a lot of information. By lunchtime, I was already reeling. By 3 o’clock, I was on my knees. I’m not used to working! I’d forgotten how hard it can be, especially when you’re listening all the time, and know absolutely nothing. It is a very long time since I’ve had to learn everything from scratch.
In the afternoon, I had a text from R. “I’ve got a meeting 5 to 7. Sorry. I’ll take you to the hotel when if finishes. Hope your day is going well.”
My new security pass wouldn’t operate the doors until the next day, so I had to wait out in the atrium, or I’d be locked in the office. I sat writing at one of the plastic café tables, surrounded by the whirr and clatter of the cleaners, and the echoing chatter of a handful of students.
Finally, at 7:10, R called. “I’m so sorry!” He sounded tired.
He left me at the hotel, as he was having dinner with some of his new team. I sat alone in the dining room. I hate sitting in a hotel dining room full of ‘corporate’ people. I overheard a bloke at a nearby table on the phone, “Daddy’s still eating dinner. So you be a good boy, and go to bed now.” I reflected on how sad it was that this dining room was full of business men and women who were probably missing their children.
I was extremely relieved to get to bed.
Day Two
I attended a meeting of my direct team, which I mostly managed to follow, and found fascinating. We discussed PhD’s, student skills development (they have BLOGs for staff and students!) and talks to first years to try and convince them that they need to start thinking about how they will use their University experience to help them manage their career when they leave.
The afternoon was dedicated to meeting the Alumni Development and Relations team. I was struck by how much work they do to raise funds from alumni to contribute to development of the University facilities, and to hardship funds for students who struggle with fees.
R picked me up at 5:30, and we went for something to eat before driving home. This turned out to be a very good plan, because we avoided traffic, and worked out that we got home only half an hour after we would have, had we left at 5:30.
Over a well-earned drink, we compared notes, and then went to bed at 9:30!
I am determined to stay in the same ‘time zone’ as Rick, so I got up at 6.00 am with him. It is now 10:45 and I am shattered!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

New School Tomorrow

My satchel is packed, my clothes ironed, and my P45 fished out from the depths of beyond. Tomorrow we wake up at 5.45 am (ulp) and drive off to our new jobs. We are staying overnight on Monday, as R is having dinner with some people from his new place.

Friday, January 07, 2005

A trip to Hope to start 2005 ...

This Tuesday, we thought we’d make the most of our last few days of freedom before our new jobs start next week, and headed for the Peak District.

After a late start, we arrived at Hathersage having driven through heavy rain. Undaunted, we booted up, and puffed up the hill to see Little John’s grave. There’s not much to see, to be honest. So we carried on, out towards North Lees Hall which apparently was used by Charlotte Bronte as the house where Mrs Rochester jumped from the roof to her death. for more blurb if you’re interested in the history of Hathersage.

Most of the walk passed across fields and bridleways and was extremely muddy. There was one particularly nice section, however, which passed through woodlands alongside a chattering stream with busy waterfalls.

The light was spectacular, with a Prussian-blue stormy sky set against patches of low sunlight that cast long shadows and picked out fields and moss-covered trees in vivid green. Stanage, a long rocky edge much loved by climbers, gleamed orange/gold against its stormy blue backdrop.

For most of the return route, we slithered about on two pats of mud attached to the soles of our walking boots. Not pleasant and not dignified.

We stayed overnight at the Woodroffe Arms in Hope ( They looked after us, and were friendly enough, but I wouldn’t rush back or anything.

On the Wednesday, we ventured for a longer walk from Hope, climbing up to the summit of Lose Hill and then along the ridge to Mam Tor. It was overcast, with winds gusting up to 45 mph (according to Wendy Windblows at the Woodbine Café where we sat later sipping hot tea). As we reached the summit of Lose Hill, the wind whipped my breath away and I clutched the round, brick-built trig point wondering how I was going to keep my footing. I have trekking poles, but these were also blowing around – not confidence-inspiring. Rick took one stick, and held my other hand as we descended onto the ridge. It became a bit less exposed, as the path is set just down from the actual edge of the ridge. It is also well paved with stone pretty much all the way along.

At 12:00, not far from Hollins Cross, we stood still and preserved 3 minutes silence for the tsunami victims. I closed my eyes and pictured doves of peace, flying to bring what hope they could to those in need. It’s hard to know what else to do, really.

Approaching Mam Tor, we could clearly see the earthwork of the 3000 year old Iron Age hill fort. The mound within the earthworks looks horribly exposed, but the mountain has had several landslides since then (it is known as the ‘shivering mountain’), so will look very different now.

We descended Mam Tor on the old, broken road that runs down to Castleton. In parts it has completely dropped away, with the two cross sections of the road two metres or so apart from each other. There are huge cracks, like those you see in earthquake disaster movies, and in parts it rings hollow under your feet. Very unnerving, especially in the light of recent events. A notice at the bottom of this section of road tells us that it deteriorated over a number of years, but then in 1979 (?) after a hot summer followed by heavy rains, it became totally impassable (by car). It is now open as a footpath.

I’m ashamed to say that at Castleton, I sent Rick back to Hope for the car. My ankle and ligaments were hurting badly, and walking the last mile and a half was not going to improve matters.

So, on Thursday, we went shopping instead of tackling another walk. We stopped at Buxton (not seen at its best on a grey, freezing winter day) and then at Masson Mills which is a factory shop in a huge Mill building just outside Matlock Bath. I came out feeling smug, having managed to find a bag that I like. You see, normally I carry a rucksack everywhere. But I figured that, for a careers adviser, this might raise an eyebrow or two. But I am just not a handbag person. I couldn’t imagine myself with one. Then I saw this. It is a Tula grab-handle bag, and looks more like a folio case, black leather with white trim. Very smart. And much reduced, too. I still had to get Rick to come over and say “why don’t you buy it?” though. Frugal habits die hard. But I need a bag for work. Don’t I?

Monday, January 03, 2005


Yesterday I gave into my inexplicable impulse to knit. I headed to Wilkos, bought the only pair of knitting needles that they sold, and two balls of wool - one a rich shade of scarlet, the other pale lilac. Then I searched on the web for an easy woolly hat pattern.
Casting on was a pig. By the first row, I was wondering whose idea this had been in the first place. But now I've got 14 rows (about an inch and half) of rich scarlet wooliness, and I'm quite pleased with myself.
Now, I remember knitting when I was a child. The act of knitting brings back all sorts of random childhood memories. But sadly, I cannot remember ever finishing anything. Not so much as a blanket-square.
So I guess my challenge is to turn that inch and a half into a finished garment! If I ever manage it, I'll post a photograph. Do you think I'll get it finished while the weather is still cold enough to wear it??