Saturday, 28 April 2007

Three Wishes

Oh, my, where has this month gone? I can't believe it is already nearly a month since we returned home. I just realised that if I don't make my Blogalong post right now, then I will be too late. You may also have missed the regular Memory Lane post this month, but it will be returning at the beginning of May.

So, three wishes. Oh, well, wish one is easy:

I wish for more time in every day, to spend knitting, sewing, blogging and talking to my online friends. I don't want to give up working, because I enjoy that too, so I need more hours in the day, or else I need to do with less sleep. Sadly, I am not one of those who can sleep for three or four hours a night, Knitbert needs her beauty sleep! I am strictly an eight hours a night girl.

Last weekend I went up to London to meet with my friend Dogbert, who is a successful management consultant with her own company (which is how we met) and who turned out to have been a keen knitter some years ago and guess what! she is now a keen knitter once more (evil laugh).
We met for coffee just outside Liberty's, and made our way to Stash Yarns in Putney. We had been to an Adventures in Knitting course here last November, and we were delighted to see our tutor on that occasion, the very talented and creative Nickerjac, in the shop again. What a gorgeous shop this is! First of all, it is very welcoming and full of people knitting and talking about knitting, and secondly it is just an Aladdin's cave of gorgeous colours and textures.
So here's the thing. I bought rather a lot of yarn while I was away, and I didn't knit a huge amount. Since I have been back I might have just bought a teeny tiny skein of BFL laceweight in semi solid pink from Bright Dyes, but otherwise I have been trying to finish Mr Knitbert's socks and frankly the stash cupboard is full. I mean really full, I can't get anything new into it. So, I was absolutely determined not to buy any yarn at all. I thought I might buy a pattern or two, and maybe some needles.
Sadly, I think you can see where this is going. Well, some evil person in Stash had laid out copies of the Charlotte's Web shawl pattern, which I have been wanting to knit for ages, and worse than that, they had laid out sets of Koigu KPPM skeins in suitable colours. Probably the time between my entering the shop and my knowing that I was going to buy the pattern and some Koigu to knit it was at least ten minutes...but the fact is, you have to see the colours and play with the different skeins together, you can't buy a thing like that over the internet, now can you?
Anyway, here is my shawl so far, and all the colours I chose (with Nic's help) for it. Isn't it fab?I am soooo enjoying knitting it.

Wish two:
DSoK the Intern was in a philosophical mood after my reunion weekend, and we spent a lot of time talking about the importance of friends, and how one of the best things in life is to spend time in nice places, eating good food and just talking with good friends. Many of my friends are those I made years ago, and while it is lovely to see them, I think it would be nice to make new friends, too, and to develop those friendships which have begun more recently (some of them here or on knitting forums). So, my second wish is for more occasions to spend time with my friends, and more friends to spend time with.

Mmmm, while I think about my third wish, here are a couple of other photos to prove that I have been knitting this week. I have nearly finished my Chocolate Soy Silk Clapotis, and I have made quite a lot of progress with Mr Knitbert's Father and Son socks, although they are not going to be done in time for the April Sock a Month challenge. I would just like to call attention to the fact there there are two of them, and they are on two circs (smug).

Wish no 3
I think that my third wish has to be for good health, which is not something to be taken for granted. I know that some of my friends have overcome or live with health problems and still live a full and happy life, and how much I admire them for that. Me, I'm unbearable if I have even a little cold!

Right, I'm off to read the other Three Wishes Blogalong posts now!

Friday, 20 April 2007

A Toast to Friendship

Take a seat, dear reader, relax. Have a glass of wine. Red or white? Or champagne? There are nibbles in those dishes over there, help yourself.

Well, this week seems to have flashed past, I don't know where the time has gone. Not on knitting, that's for sure! DSoK the Intern has been staying with us since we came home from New Zealand, since he has Important Revision to do and has NO money until term starts, so required a free place to stay.
He appeared to be eating his own weight in...well, in whatever he could find to eat in the house actually. Shortly after we returned I came home from work to find that he had eaten everything in the refrigerator and was starting on the freezer. A quick trip to the supermarket sorted that out, and once he had his own jar of peanut butter things began to settle down.

Last weekend we all went to stay with Catbert. It happens that she lives in the town where she went to university, which is also the town where I went to university. Two of my old friends from those days had organised a get together for quite a number of us on Saturday night, with a lovely dinner, and we were all meeting up for lunch first and then staying on until Sunday for another lunch. DSoK was quite excited at all the opportunities there would be for eating.

We met up with everyone at a pub in the early afternoon. What a glorious day it was, too, perfect for sitting in the spring sunshine and talking with friends. After lunch, some people went punting with their families. Apparently there were twelve of them in a five person punt. You would think people of our age would be more responsible, wouldn't you?

Mr Knitbert and I returned to Catbert's house to change, and to pick up DSoK, who was still frantically revising. Here we are just before dinner, all spiffied up. Mr Knitbert is wearing his Hong Kong suit, by the way. Doesn't it look great?

The dinner was lovely, and we all talked and caught up until the small hours of the morning, when the four of us walked home. Up again the next morning to have a quick breakfast and meet at a different pub for lunch. What a life! Apparently one of our number awoke next morning to find himself upside down in bed, fully clothed apart from one shoe, and with four text messages on his phone all asking him if he felt alright. You may draw your own conclusions, dear reader! He knows who he is...

I don't think that there are many better ways to spend your time than talking with old friends, with your family around you, in a garden by a river on a glorious spring day.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The Knitbert Interview - 5 question interview

Today I thought it was time to have a short break from photos of New Zealand, and as I saw the five question interview on Jacquie's Journal, I asked Jacquie to interview me and she has kindly sent me the questions below. Thank you Jacquie!

If anyone reading would like to be interviewed by me then ask me in a comment, or email knitbert AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk, and I will send you five questions.

Here's my interview:
1. How did you meet your husband and how did you know he was “the one”?

I met Mr Knitbert at work. I had just returned to my UK company after a two year secondment, living and working in Paris. The site where I had been working in the UK was closing down and I moved to another site, where the project I was in charge of involved holding meetings with various people from the new site. Mr Knitbert was one of these people, usually, by the way, to be found at the back of the room asking awkward questions.

He was assigned to work on a task which I was managing and one day we had to go and interview someone together. On the way we were idly chatting, and I happened to ask him if he had read the book "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat" by Oliver Sachs. I was expecting the usual answer from colleagues in my line of work, which is "what? never heard of it!", but he said yes he had! That captured my attention, and we began talking about less superficial things and soon discovered that we had a lot in common.

I am very particular about how I like things to be done, and Mr Knitbert is very laid back and quite happy to let me do things my way (most of the time!).

2. Have you settled back into “real life” again OK after your fabulous

I must say I am struggling a bit with this. On the face of it I am back to normal, everything is unpacked and I am back into my normal routine, but somehow this trip has been unsettling, and I don't know why. I have been to New Zealand before; in fact this trip was step two in a longer term plan to go and live there, at least for a while; and although I enjoyed my visit last time, I did not feel so reluctant to come home as I feel now. I really did not want to get on the plane to come home!

Like the Kenneth Grahame quote in my last post, "real life" seems pale and thin and very far away at the moment. I don't know if it is because our trip involved a holiday with the whole family, which happens very rarely now, or because I discovered something while I was travelling which is missing from everyday life and needs to be changed.

I'll keep you posted!

3. How do you normally manage meals in your house with a resident

Most of the time I cook vegetarian food for everyone, because it is the easiest way. I love vegetarian food, and it is often more interesting to cook as well, because it involves many flavours and textures (although there really is a LOT of chopping involved!). If there are several meat eaters present, or when we invite guests, then I cook both veggie and non-veggie options. It is usually quite easy to split the meal at a certain point in the cooking and add the meat, as long as I plan this in advance.

Over the years, I have found that I prefer a diet which is low in meat and fish, but I would not like to give them up altogether, especially fish and seafood (yum).

4. If you were offered the chance to boldly go where no man (or woman) has
gone before would you take it and why?

In my present rather restless mood (see 2.) I certainly would!
More seriously, it is my belief that in life we are more likely to regret what we have not done than what we have done. I also believe that if opportunities present themselves, it is for a reason, and that it is good for us to be stretched and to move outside our comfort zone from time to time. I hope that I will never stop learning and developing as a person. For all those reasons I would have to say, yes.

5. What attracted you to knitting?

I learned to knit when I was very young, and my mother always had knitting on the go. So one reason is almost certainly that I associate knitting with pleasant, comforting memories. Another factor is that I love the textures and colours of the fibres, and of the needles and stitchmarkers. I love to have beautiful, colourful things around me. I would also have to say that I enjoy the process of imagining something and then bringing it into being from the fibre, it is very rewarding. And, finally, I enjoy the knitting itself. I can switch off the mind and focus on the movements of the hands and this is very calming, like a meditation.

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Just Now, Our Blood Dances to Other Music

At last, all the suitcases have been emptied and put away, and all that is left is three new bags of yarn, one bag of sock yarn which I took with me, and these fat quarters. I bought them in Devonport, in Cushla's Village Fabrics. They are from an extensive range of New Zealand batik, which features motifs from New Zealand culture and nature. I think they are just gorgeous. The silver fern ones are probably my favourites.

The helpful lady in Cushla's told me that she will ship overseas and that fat quarters, if there are not too many of them, will often go in one envelope, so do not require too much postage.

I have an idea that I might take some of my photos and print them onto fabric, then create a cushion with the image at the centre and use some of these fabrics as a border. I think I might be able to make a set of three or four. What do you think? I have so many photos from this trip that the difficulty will be choosing.

This photo is from the balcony of our hotel in Nelson, which was on the banks of the Maitai river. In the publicity photo for the hotel it showed the river like it is here, flowing past the hotel and with a canoe on it. When we woke up on the first morning I thought at first they must be in the throes of some dreadful drought, the river was more or less a trickle along the far bank. Of course, it is a tidal river and the tide was out. Duh!

I really liked Nelson, which I had not visited before. We explored the town on the first day and went to an excellent market full of local art and crafts, then to the Bead Gallery as recommended by Catbert's guidebook. What a fabulous shop! It is stuffed full of beads and jewellery of all different types and colours. I spent an hour in there, or so I thought, and came out to find that DSoK was a middle aged man and Mr Knitbert had aged twenty years. No, not really, but they did look a bit bored. I bought the necklaces and earrings on the left at the Bead Gallery, and the necklace and earrings on the right at a handmade jewellery stall at the market. This necklace is made of carnelian beads painted with copper.

The next day, Catbert and DSoK went sea kayaking in a little place called Marahau, about one hour's drive along the coast and opposite the Abel Tasman Park. Mr Knitbert and I spent the afternoon on this deserted beach while we waited for them.

While we waited, we visited the local cafe and indulged in a coffee and a snack called a Seriously Yummy Cookie. And it was, dear reader, it really was. I think chocolate was involved, and some nuts, but apart from that I cannot now remember. It was also a Seriously Large Cookie, and if I had made a habit of eating them I should have become a Seriously Large Knitbert.

For our last day here we had booked a water taxi to take us from Marahau across to the Abel Tasman Park, where we walked along the coastal track to another bay, where we were picked up at the end of the afternoon. The water taxis were cool!

The boats are on a trailer, which is towed along by a tractor to the water's edge, with all the passengers in it. At high tide there is a ramp down to the sea, but at low tide the tractors drive right onto the sand and out into the water. Then the boats are floated off the trailer and zoom off at high speed towards the park.

I will not bore you with too many photos, but the park is beautiful, and we enjoyed our walk. Here are just a few pictures of our day. We were exhausted when we got back, and I sank gratefully into a hot spa bath at the hotel.

`In due time, we shall be home-sick once more for quiet water-lilies swaying on the surface of an English stream. But to-day all that seems pale and thin and very far away. Just now our blood dances to other music.'

Wind In the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Marlborough Sound

I can't resist showing you some more pictures of Marlborough Sound before I continue with my account of our journey. It is difficult to convey through individual pictures just how striking and how beautiful the scenery is, because it just looks as though I am showing the same picture over and over again.

Imagine that you are on the deck of a slow-moving ship, in the warm sunshine, and that you are leaning on the rail and looking out across the water. For an hour and a half, the images you can see in these photographs are gliding past you, each dramatic, rocky inlet giving way to another, just as dramatic; and all around you the intensely, astonishingly blue waters of the Sound. Catbert, in addition, was looking out for dolphins, which are sometimes seen in the Sound, although sadly we did not see any this time.

At last we arrived at the little seaside town of Picton, where the ferry slowly turned and then reversed into its berth.

Here we disembarked and collected our luggage, and then proceeded to the Avis counter to pick up our second hire car. Apart from camper vans, hire companies in New Zealand generally do not allow you to take your hired vehicle on the ferry from one island to the other. Instead, you drop your vehicle at the ferry port, cross over as foot passengers, and then collect a new car on the other side. I thought that this would be rather complicated, but it worked very smoothly, and the other benefit was that our new car, in other respects identical to the previous one, had been recently valeted, whereas the one we had left...well, enough said.

From Picton we took the scenic route east to Havelock (where we had a delicious lunch) and then to Nelson, where we stayed for four days and visited the Abel Tasman Park. The scenic route climbs up and winds along the Sound and in this photo we have stopped at a scenic lookout point at the top. Here's what I could see:

You couldn't really ask for more in life than a view like that, could you?

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Home Again

Well, here we are, home again, and with mixed feelings. It is nice to be back amongst all my own things, and no longer living out of a suitcase. An added bonus is that the lawn is not as long as I thought it would be and my lovely pink and yellow daffodils are still in flower. I wasn't really ready to leave New Zealand, though; there is still so much I would like to see that I could have stayed at least another month, and it was sad to be at the end of our holiday with Catbert and DSoK. It went so quickly!

The journey back, although long, passed quite uneventfully, and I am now experiencing the usual bewilderment at being on the other side of the world to where I was yesterday, and confusion about whether it is day or night. Mr Knitbert senior has a theory that when you travel as far and as fast as you do when you fly long-haul, your astral body can't keep up with your physical body, and the link which binds them together is stretched out very thin for a few days until your astral body catches up. It's as good an explanation of how jet lag feels as any I have heard.

Anyway, if you will all bear with me, I shall be able to relive the last week of my trip here.

First of all, just a few more pictures from our journey down the North Island. On the way we stopped to look at the Huka Falls. I imagined a nice, dramatic but scenic waterfall such as one finds in the Lake District. Instead I saw this!

These falls are at the end of the Waikato River, which is part of New Zealand's hydroelectricity generating capacity.

The rest of our journey took us about four hours, and included a yarn store where we stopped so I could buy some possum merino yarn. This combination is one I have only ever come across in New Zealand. Possum fur is very warm and soft, and as possums are a pest in New Zealnd, introduced from Australia and destroying native plants and attacking native wildlife, they are destroyed wherever possible. Sadly there are apparently 70 million possums in New Zealand today, so not likely to be eradicated any time soon. The mix of their fur with merino wool is soft, warm and light and now some of it is mine, all mine!!! Ahem.

Our last stop was at beautiful, semi-deserted Waikanae beach, which you can see in Catbert's photo at the top of the post. We played frisbee here for half an hour to stretch our legs and enjoy the peaceful sand and sea before continuing to Wellington, where we were to stay the night with some friends of Mr Knitbert's family, before taking the Wellington to Picton ferry the following morning.