Friday, September 24, 2010

Balm for the Crafting Soul

"One word," says Mr G.
I look at him.
"One word: No. Enn Oh: No. No, no, no."
Goodness me, he's such a drama queen.
All I did was show him this:

"I know what you're thinking," he says. "You're thinking: I could make that. I know you and I'm telling you now: No. The time has finally come for me to put my foot down and that's what I'm going to do ..."

Once again, I'm distracted from his rant by the picture on the cover. I find it strangely captivating. The young woman manages to be sultry and wholesome at the same time, a feat not made easy by the fact that she's sporting an ankle-length granny square skirt. Let's have a look at it in more detail, shall we? Feast your eyes, readers:

" ... don't even think about it. The name of that pattern is probably Grounds for Divorce," Mr G. is saying. "I mean, be sensible, woman. Just imagine trying to cycle to work in that skirt ... "

The magazine is one of a dozen or so that were sent to me about a year ago by a lovely friend called Pat in NJ (hi, Pat!) and, frankly, I am enchanted. Every now and again, I take them out and read them, cover to cover. It alarms Mr G. when he sees me poring over patterns for tissue-box covers in lurid oranges and browns or toilet-roll covers in the shape of fruit (want to know where the loo roll is? Check underneath the crocheted apple!) or flashlight covers in the shape of candles (the idea being that you crochet something that looks like a candle to place over the flashlight. Don't ask. I have the feeling that anyone who stayed still long enough in the 70s quickly found themselves draped in a crochet cover). Not that there aren't really interesting or pretty patterns - there are. Lots, in fact. But they're not quite as interesting as the things that are quintessentially of that era. It's like stepping back in time.

Take, for example, the ads. I love the ads. You can do correspondence courses in Spanish! You can order plants and have them sent to you - by post! You can learn to make your own snow globes or cross-stitch welcome mats. You can order pantyhose, model houses and mantlepiece ornaments. And there's a cornucopia of money-making ideas for the stay-at-home housewife:

Should you not feel like giving your local Persian rug maker a run for his money, you can gather up your empty pill bottles and recycle them as Christmas tree decorations:

Flipping ingenious. It doesn't quite work with a blister pack of aspirin tablets, but I love the idea.

Don't let my fivolous tone deceive you: I sincerely love these little magazines. They're captivating, enchanting, quaint. Reading them is balm for the crafting soul.
And I am so making myself one of those skirts.

Our Indian Summer

We had no summer this year.
Honest, we didn't.
In August, Little Sis and her new husband spent their honeymoon with us in Bavaria, hoping to leave the rainy Emerald Isle for the warmer climes of central Europe.
(insert snort of disgust here).
As it happened, the weather was actually better in Ireland at the time.
Uh-huh. Better in Ireland.

So we trudged around some of the local sights, wet and chilly, in a half-hearted attempt to Get Culture. But not even the most impressive of cathedrals or the cutest beamed Bavarian houses could make up for the fact that we were cold. And slightly sulky at the fact that we were longing for mugs of hot chocolate and not contentedly licking ice cream cones, which what you should be doing in the middle of August, right? Right.

In any case, it'll come as no surprise to anyone that as soon as school started again in the middle of September, the mercury shot up the thermometre and we had a one-week, lukewarm late summer. People sat out on the grass in the local park ...

... and we all enjoyed the beautiful, cloudless blue sky:

Apparently, the weather forecast for the weekend is bad. But guess what? I have a waterproof roof and a pot of homemade pumpkin soup

... so all's well in the Gingerbread House.

Political Correctness: Fail

I'm chatting to a colleague about the work that's been going on at the Gingerbread House. A second colleague, in passing, says: -
"That's a bit mean, isn't it?"
We look at her, confused.
"It just seems a bit harsh," she says smartly. "Calling someone a retard."
Excuse me? Agog, we stare at her.
Then the penny drops.
"I was just saying," I say through a stiff smile, "That we were having our flat roof re-tarred."
A shock of crimson creeps up her neckline.
"I'm so sorry," she whispers.
And skulks off.

Our re-tarred roof:

And I won't even begin to tell you the hassle behind this re-tarredation. We got an estimate in April and, because of his apparent aversion to answering the telephone, we have struck up a penfriendship with the contractor: only after four months of bombarding him with e-mails did he finally send someone (two someones, in fact) along to do the job. The final straw came when we spent August moving buckets to catch drips: I took all of my feminist principles, shoved them in the dustbin and rang the contractor. Miraculously, he answered (not recognising my mobile number).
Poor little helpless ol' me, I explained, damsel-in-distressesque, was getting kind of tired of stubbing her toes on buckets. Could he possibly, possibly send someone by to fix our teensy-weensy roof?
Certainly, madam! he said - all burly and manly - we'll send someone over next week!

Emily Pankhurst is turning in her grave, but my roof has been tarred so she'd better deal with it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Poet's Wristlets: A Poem of Trauma

Intrepid Ms Gingerbread's lying in bed,
With visions of mittens filling her head.
"A cute little glove with an African flower -
Why, I could make that up in less than an hour!"
And the next day at breakfast, she takes up the hook.
Makes up her hexagons, but soon finds herself stuck.
She frogs back to round one and does it all over
With a selection of naughty words that do not behove her.
And again she restarts - and again, and again:
Starts attempt eight, attempt nine, attempt ten.
It soon becomes evident (if you will permit)
That we've a case of more rip-its than The Muppet Show's Kermit.
But ignoring the cheap jokes and poor rhyming metre:
Our heroine's determined this mitt won't defeat her.
She gets down to work and she finally finishes
And takes a quick photo, e'er her interest diminishes.
It's something quite different that she originally planned,
The hook did its own thing when she took it in hand.
The image in her mind's eye just got lost in translation:
She offers her apologies and this verse as compensation.


I need to recover from this trauma before I attempt to write the pattern.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Calm down, Ginger

Seriously. Finish one thing before you start another.
It's just that ... well, I have a lot of ideas. Like, for example, did you know that you can make very cute fingerless gloves with just a couple of ...
With a couple of ...?
Hmm. Maybe I should finish them first before I start discussing details. Forget you ever heard that. Remove it from your memory.
Back to scheduled programming.

Awww! Baby socks!

Baby socks have an astonishing effect on people: they reduce most people to a gibbering mass.
"Do you think these would fit a newborn?" I asked the lady in our local yarn shop. I don't have access to any babies, so it's hard to tell if they're big or stretchy enough for a baby foot. Mrs Yarnshoplady, on the other hand, knits a baby sock a night (and may I just add that I can crochet two baby socks per evening. Na-na, knitted socks!)
"Ooooh," says by-stander, "Yook at those cyute yickel baby socks!"
"Just imagine teensy-weensie tiny-winy baby toes in these yickel, yickel socks!" says another, sticking two fingers down the sock and wriggling it, like a twitchy baby foot.
"Awww! I yove baby socks! So sweeeeeeeet!" says an older lady, who's sitting in the corner knitting a beautiful jumper.
Now, these are women who've probably knit or crochet dozens of socks in their lifetimes, but they're not even immune to Lure of Miniature Socks.

In fact, the only person who's able to resist a baby sock is a friend of mine, who swears that baby socks give her the heebie-jeebies. I'm not sure why, I think it's the thoughts of those tiny, pudgy toes and teeny pearly toenails. All the more reason to learn to knit or crochet, I tell her, but my recommendations fall on deaf ears.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September, September

35209, NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Tuesday October 27 2009. Michelle Williams and daughter Matilda brave the wet weather in New York. Matilda, who's father is the late Heath Ledger, was dressed for the rain in her pink Hunter wellies, bright yellow raincoat and pirate umbrella. Photograph:

Sorry, sorry, I've been remiss in the blogging department lately. Primarily because I'm very, very busy. Officially, I'm on holidays but I'm a teacher/lecturer, so much of the last two weeks has been spent sorting out exams, finding and ordering books for this year's classes, preparing this year's classes and getting my worksheets and handouts ready for the new school year. Theoretically, much of this work could be done in my jammies as it's done at home ... but the time for lounging around in jammies is well and truly over: it's cold. That's right, cold. There's a nip in the air and that smell. Yes, you know that smell, that back-to-school smell: wet leaves, damp air and dufflecoats (why don't people wear them any more? And, more peculiarly, why does September still smell of dufflecoats twenty years after people stopped wearing them? Good question).

Last weekend my in-laws came to visit. They're a vigorous and active couple in their early sixties, and they occasionally come by to poke us out of our apathy. They know that, left to our own devices, we'd much sooner be at home in front of the sofa, admiring the view out the window. When they're around, they ensure we get a ruddy good dose of culture and more fresh air than you can shake a stick at:

What perplexes me about my husband's family (and you already know the Gingerbreads, so let's call the in-laws 'the Hubbys') is the level of noise. They're a chocolate box family: mother, father, son (my Mr Gingerbread) and daughter. Yet, together their collective volume would drown out all of us Gingerbreads together (and there are three times as many of us - without spouses and offspring.) When a story is being recounted by a Hubby, they all get very loud: details matter. Conversations with the Hubbys go like this:
"... and the next day she went back to the store and returned the broken toaster. That was on the 19th July."
"It wasn't the 19th July because on the 16th July grandmother went to the doctor in Munich to have her varicose veins seen to. Th 19th July would've been a Sunday and - "
"You're thinking of 1983! We're talking about 1985 here!"
"The toaster broke on the 19th July ..."
"It WASN'T the 19th! NO ONE is listening to me! I was the EIGHTEENTH!"
"WHY do you keep insisting that it was 1983? I'm telling you, that was the year that cousin Ralf had a clown at his birthday party and that was his tenth birthday so it was 1985. We have the photos. I'll GET the photos. There's a photo of him WITH THE CLOWN, and the birthday cake clearly says ..."
"Why would he have had a clown on his tenth birthday? He'd outgrown clowns by then, he didn't have a clown. He had a clown on his EIGHTH birthday in nineteen eighty-THREE!"

And on it goes. People get excited; faces get red, hands move wildly, dates are checked and verified, and a consensus must be reached before the story can finally be told: was the toaster returned on the 18th or 19th July and was it 1983 or 1985? Was there a clown at cousin Ralf's birthday party or did a cowboy turn up to make animals from balloons? Dear heart, I don't know whether to be scared or envious of this attention to detail. In the Gingerbread household, we have a looser relationship to dates: there are a lot of us. Many things happened in our childhood. At best, we can try to figure out which children were not yet born at the time of the event and that narrows the time period down to about five years. If one of us were to say authoratively, "Oh, the time Johnny fell off a hay bale and broke his leg? That was June 5th, 1991," the rest of the Gingerbread siblings would probably concur, impressed. Otherwise, we have to guess that Johnny's somersault from Uncle Cecil's hay bale occured somewhere between the summer of 1988 ... and early spring 2008 (he's a bit accident-prone, our John.)

As it is, I sit amongst the Hubbys and watch the action, my head bobbing back and forth like a spectator at a tennis match. It's very demanding: you have to keep your wits about you or you might miss a crucial clue and not figure out When Exactly Something Happened. Does it matter? Why yes, it seems, it does.