Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Weekend in Bristol

After a few days hard research and umbrella carrying, Sam and I got the train from Paddington Station to Bristol Temple Mead, a lovely old station that had hanging baskets with flowers out the front.

I think commuting in Melbourne would not be so awful it featured more fresh flowers! The reason for our visit to the west of England was to attend Cary Comes Home for the Weekend, a celebration of the man who was Archie Leach.

As anyone who has spent any time with me knows, I'm a huge Cary Grant fan and this weekend was seemed designed to perfectly meet my interests. There were some great academic talks in the morning followed by an afternoon tea at the Avon Gorge hotel.

This was the first time I have ever tasted clotted cream and oh my God!!! It's amazing. I can't believe I've spent so many years developing my scone-making technique when in fact I should have spent that time figuring out where to buy clotted cream in Australia. The scone should really just be a cream-delivery vehicle. I now truly understand the excellence of the cream tea.

Before tea was served there was a rare moment of sunshine. We dashed outside to take photos of the terrace on which Cary Grant famously posed:

It was very pretty. Then it started to rain again so we went inside.

There was a gorgeous little park next to my hotel. In the right of the photo you can see a building. That is the Temple Church, a ruined church that leans more than the leaning Tower of Pisa. It seriously looks like it's about to fall over! I couldn't take a better photo because I refused to go too close to it for fear of getting squashed but apparently it's perfectly safe. I don't believe it!

We went to the Drawbridge for dinner and I had a yorkie - roast beef covered in gravy and wrapped in a giant Yorkshire pudding. I don't eat meat very often but I just couldn't resist! It was pretty amazing, although I felt like I needed to eat only salads for the next two days.

It was a very fun weekend and a fun city to spend time in.

Next time: all the leftover bits!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hi honey, I'm home!

Hello! I have just returned from my very whirlwind trip of a small part of the UK. I am totally exhausted and jetlagged (so forgive me if this entry is a bit scatty!) but I had a great time. I'm not going to recap the whole trip (for even the politest of readers doesn't care about someone else's journey that much) but I can't resist talking about it a little bit. It's the most exciting thing that's happened to me in years!

On the first 14-hour leg of my flight, Sam and I got upgraded to the extra leg room rows. This is quite funny because I am only 5 foot tall, so I got all sorts of dirty looks from the tall people crammed into the tiny seats behind me. 

We weren't so lucky in the second eight-hour flight, but the amazing view of the sunset over England that we saw on arrival made up for it a little bit.

London is pretty amazing. It's so full of people and life even though the weather is so terrible it sucks the will to live from Australian tourists who did not bring their vitamin D tablets or a big enough umbrella with them. It's such an amazing city - I think you could live in London for a year and do a different, fun thing every day without any repetition. You would have to be a millionaire, though, because London is unbelievably expensive. I live in one of the most expensive cities in one of the most expensive countries in the world and I was still surprised at the cost of things.

One thing I did love was how London and the UK catered to vegetarians. Just as each pub seemed to have a local butcher that created special sausages just for that venue, they also also had their own vegetarian versions which were just as good. This vego sausage from the Leinster Arms was so meaty that I actually had to check with the waitress that I hadn't been given a meat sausage by mistake! 

I paid AU$7 for those veggies, because when you order bangers and mash in a pub you get sausages, potato and gravy, with nary a green veggie in sight. I ate more potatoes in the two weeks I was in the UK than I had the entire previous nine months!

(I wasn't complaining. I love potatoes - they're delicious. I am a bit fatter now than I was before I left, though...)

One of my favourite places (and this is one of favourite photos) was the National Gallery. Like so many national galleries around the world, the building itself is gorgeous and interesting in its own right... 

..but is overshadowed by the remarkable works within.

And there were amazing, wonderful, gorgeous works of art. If I hadn't had to catch a train I could have spent the whole day there, just looking at the work of the Impressionists (although there was a lot of other remarkable stuff - Rembrant, Gainsbourg, heaps of stuff painted by dead white men. If it wasn't for all the boobs I saw, I would almost think there were no women at all before about 1900).

But enough snark - I enjoyed my visit immensely and recommend it to anyone going to London.

Next time: my fun trip to Bristol and hopefully a return to a regular sleep pattern.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seedlings and a new sock!

Using the blind faith that comes with having absolutely no idea what you're doing, I decided on Saturday that my seedlings were big enough to be transplanted into pots.

I put each of the same type of seeds in the same pot. In a few months time, they should be big enough to be moved to the ground or a bigger pot.

Please note that previous sentence is based on no actual data or knowledge about gardening: it just seems like the kind of thing that should be true.

Whatever happens, it is always fun to play with dirt and I'm pretty happy to have such potential in my garden! I can dream of all the lovely fresh produce and herbs I'm going to have for Christmas this year.

Lucy, of course, was happy to help!

There are only seven sleeps until I leave and I am starting to get a bit anxious about the whole thing. I am excited and looking forward to it but I'm worried about Lucy and the housesitter (what if they don't get on?), I'm worried about making an idiot of myself in front of well-respected academics and I'm worried about missing the plane! The rational part of my mind knows they are all completely stupid fears (who wouldn't love Lucy? My research is completely respectable and not at all embarrassing and, even if I do miss the plane, I can just catch another) but my irrational mind is like !!!!!!!!.

Clearly, I needed to start another sock.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Adorable cycling matching pairs and lots of little bits of wool

Happy Monday morning! As you can see in this shot I took when I stopped at the lights on Saturday, the weather was glorious this weekend. It was the kind of weather that makes me pause in whatever I am doing and take a minute to appreciate how lucky I am to live where I do.

It hasn't been all sunshine and adorable matching cycling pairs recently, however. I have been struggling a bit over the last week with the chapter I am currently working on. I know what I want to say and I'm certain that my reading of the text is correct but I keep getting stuck on how to most convincingly demonstrate it. That's a normal part of the writing process and it wouldn't usually stress me out but then I keep thinking "I HAVE ONLY TWO WEEKS TO FINISH THIS WHOLE CHAPTER" and it's like my mind goes into overdrive and just shuts down. Needless to say, this is not an effective environment for getting stuff done! So on Saturday, I thought I would take advantage of the sunshine and my uncharacteristically thankful frame of mind and took my knitting to-do bag out into the sunshine with my radio and thought of nothing but knitting and sunshine.

The first item on the agenda was to fix the heel of the Kalajoki socks I started a month ago but then stopped because I was unhappy with how the heel looked. (Check out the wrinkles on the sole of my feet! Jesus, feet are really bloody ugly.)

I changed them to the heel from Priscilla's Dream Socks from my favourite sock knitting book, Favorite Socks (see what I did there ;) ). Much better! (and hello, Lucy).

I then spent a decent chunk of time grafting the toes of two different pairs of socks and weaving in ends. So many ends!

It was a nice way to spend a few hours and, very importantly, switching my mind off helped it to really start working - I wrote 800 really good words yesterday outlining my new chapter plan and if I keep that work rate up I'll be done before deadline with days to spare. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


As the days get longer and warmer, the planning for my trip is progressing slowly. There's always that anticlimax that occurs the moment after the massive rush of excitement that occurs when you press 'book' on the airline ticket when you realise that there are at least seven million boring administrative things that need to be done before stepping onto the plane. At the moment I am using up all the food from the fridge, freezer and pantry that needs to be eaten in the next month (boring), looking for sensible walking shoes (both boring and expensive) and trying to work out if I need 16 pairs of underwear for the 16 days or if I will have a chance to wash somewhere (urgh the most boring decision ever!). Amidst all the boringness, there is one preparation I am enjoying very much...

..I'm making a poncho! A poncho is basically a blanket with a hole in it. What better travel accessory could there be? I'm making up the pattern as I go along - so basically 50ish stitches of 2x2 ribbing until I felt the neck was long enough, then increasing by eight every second row with a yarn over until it is long enough to cover my arms. I'm using Cleckheaton Vintage Hues from my stash, which means this perfect travel accessory is effectively free (unlike just about every other thing that needs to be done to prepare for this holiday. So. Many. Fees. And. Charges!).

Words cannot describe how much Sam hates this poncho. He groans every time I pull it out of its knitting bag and threatens to not be seen with me in public while I'm wearing it. I know he's only joking - once he sees how warm and cuddly it is, I'm sure he'll want one for himself.

Well, maybe not...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Practice makes perfect

I have been blogging long enough to know that I am not a good photographer. I try to be better but not very hard, so my photos are consistently average. However, in preparation for my upcoming trip I thought I'd start to practice a bit more. All images come via Instragram.

Even though my sourdough starter was a massive non-starter (teach me to blog about something without first making sure it was going to succeed!), I decided to continue my DIY plan and I converted some old strawberry containers into mini-greenhouses. This one worked a treat!

From the Caulfied races on Saturday. It was a glorious day, even though I lost $6 on the punt (#lastofthebigspenders, amirite?)

And finally, I had to wear thongs on the freezing and wet first day of spring because my foot got sunburnt on the balmy, sunny last day of winter. Only in Melbourne, really.

My tootsies were so cold!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


It's been a while since I've done a WIP Wednesday, so I figured it was about time to get my act together and admit that every single project I am working on at the moment involves only the knit stitch...

I'm working on these ridiculously ugly socks in Opal Rainforest Hummel for my brother-in-law for Christmas. These colours scream 1970s kitchen appliance in a way that's completely not retro chic. I'm actually questioning whether I can even give them to him - they ares so very very ugly.

They're going slowly but surely; they'll get done soon.

I also knit a hat: a Rikke, to be specific. I love the knitted fabric and I know the hat is designed to be  slouchy but I think it might a bit too big. I have enough wool left over to make another one, so I am. I'm using eight fewer stitches in the second one (96 rather than 104). 

Why, you ask, would I be knitting a hat where the seasons are changing and the weather is becoming warmer? Well, firstly, I live in Melbourne so there is no guarantee that the changing seasons will result in warmer weather. I regularly have to put the heater on in the summer! It's mental. But the real reason I am knitting a hat right now is because...

..I'm going away! My university have given me a travel grant to do some archival research in the UK and I am jetsetting off very shortly. It's all been a bit of a whirlwind - I got the grant only six weeks before the conference date, so it has been a mad rush to renew my passport, book flights and find someone to housesit my place and look after Lucy. I leave in just under four weeks and I am SO EXCITED. It feels a bit weird that someone is going to be living in my house and playing with my stuff but I think I'll get over that really quickly when I have my first glass of wine on the flight. 

I haven't told Lucy yet, though. I don't think she'll take it well...