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Posts Tagged ‘children’

One evening last week I went to a parents’ evening at Child One’s school. I will freely admit that I did this largely because I expected them to say many wonderful things about her, and to a much lesser extent to be reassured that there were no unnoticed hiccups in the transition to secondary school. Also I think it marginally handy to show your face when all is well, as you give yourself a little credit to play with if you ever need to go storming down there in a strop.

I am also a prudent and forward-planning person so I did what no other parent in the place seemed to do: I armed myself with four pointed sticks and a ball of wool. Knitters are smart. Boy, are they ever smart. There are definitely places and times where (much as I adore reading) a book just won’t work. You know: it’s noisy; you have stupidly tiny amounts of time that are barely sufficient to find your place on the right page never mind actually read anything; you have to keep your eye on the rate at which the parents in front of you are vacating the teacher’s chair…

So picture if if you will: all the other parents are there, in fretful state, looking at their watches and mumbling, and I’m sitting (or standing as often as not, as room layout dictates), and I’m perfectly serene, because I have my socks with me. Also, granted, I’m serene because I’m hearing wall-to-wall “what a delightful girl; what a pleasure to teach; how clever she is; top of the class in this, that and the other…” Nachas, and knitting. What could be better?

I know there are people out there – even knitters – who eschew socks. But this is their true forte (apart from when they are completed, and snugly traveling the world, fitted perfectly aboard your feet): they have genius levels of portabilty. I put it to you, what could be better? The needles are short (I defy you to be carrying a bag too small for them to fit into), and it is almost impossible for the entire project to weight more than four ounces. Quite plausibly, only two. Also I should add that apparently nothing is going to be quite as fascinating to the general non-knitting public. I might as well have been giving a fire-eating demonstration. (For this part, I think DPN’s have the edge over circular needles: they look weirder).

All evening the grim-faced were sidling over and having variants on the same conversation. “Good idea,” they’d say. “What’s that: knitting?” (Yup, knitting). “What y’knitting, then? Oh, OK. Big project, I hope? You’ll have finished by the time this ends.” Mercifully, it was a context where no-one informed me that they came cheaper at Tesco’s, because it was patently obvious to even the dimmest that this was a whole lot more fun than going to Tesco’s would be, and co-taskable (?) with parent’s evening. Generally they’d say something like, “what a good idea. I wish I had something to do” and I’d reply breezily, “It’s tupperware for time.”

And so it is. You can use up all all those tiny bits of time that are too small for anything else. I keep my knitting on the kitchen counter (although it’s shocking, and to my eternal shame, that I get very unhappy if anyone else clutters up ‘my’ kitchen with anything). I knit while I wait for the kettle to boil, or the pasta to cook, or the sauce to reach a nice simmer… It’s amazing how many quick rows of this or that can be accomplished in those oddment-minutes (and equally amazing how many oddment-minutes can be created, in which it turns out not to be worth starting some more time-consuming or urgent task elsewhere).

It works at the hairdresser’s too. Last time I went I knit there, and that was an absolute revelation. No longer an afternoon entirely sacrificed on the altar of personal vanity. Socks- bless ’em – to the rescue. I do did have problems with the hairdresser’s. I find the unpleasant music too distracting to read a real book, and their magazines are invariably crap on steroids. If I can find one to hand, my previous solution has been to take an ancient, stray New Yorker (rather terrifyingly we are still reading through a subscription from two years ago. We used to read it religiously, cover to cover, every week, but then life intervened, and we became thoroughly ‘lapsed’, and are creeping through our remaining issues like beleaguered Antarctic explorers trapped in the dark fastnesses of  winter pack ice with nothing but two copies of Blackwood’s magazine, c. 1913). Also it’s rude to read while the girl is actually doing things to your hair, and it can be tiring to find continual interaction (though in my case, I quite like to hear the tales of the trainee merchant sailor boyfriend I refer to as the ‘sea captain’, if I can drag them out of her). Yet it transpires that I can knit comfortably, and without rudeness, and no more than the occasional needle-retrieval moment which she indulged with great generosity (it was like a contact-lens incident in style, if not scope). That’s an hour or so into the tupperware, right there.

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I’m back from my friend’s, and the sun is shining for the fourth day in a row, and the builders are lurking in the garden with noisemaking equipment and the radio (I so wish I could impose my taste in music, or shared theirs) . All seems well with the world, so there’s a glaring “what is about to go wrong?” feeling in the back of my mind. I don’t mean small stuff, like finding out that my adored jasmine has been decapitated, of something (don’t worry: it hasn’t been, yet). More the kind of “we’ve hit a snag that means we need to scaffold immediately and rebuild the rear wall of your house and your new toilet is now going to cost £15,000” kind of a go-wrong. But maybe not. We live in hope, which is fine. It’s the holding my breath part that’s getting to me.

My friend was as much of delight as she has been for the last twenty-odd years. Her children were new, but quite as delightful as their dear mother. I’ve also decided that maybe her husband doesn’t hate me after all. Why did I think he did? Other than generic neurosis? No idea. Either way, they announced the Lions touring party to South Africa and we chewed that over for a while. Wales has supplied 13 of the 37 players, and England only 8, so I was happier than him, but I don’t think he cares quite as much. Rugby tends to mean so much more to Welsh than English supporters, largely because it’s a significant part of how we can externalize our separate national identity. We are, in this one aspect, not entirely subsumed and we can hold our own against them, a nation with a population getting on for twenty times the size (can that be right?).

And to answer a burning question: no, she is not a knitter, but yes, she is as close to perfect as a non-knitter can be. It transpired that her mother is a big knitter, and she understands. I wasn’t planning on knitting at all, but she had to deal with some telephone calls, and I was sitting in the garden (and yay, I even took my tights off!) keeping an eye on the various children. I thought I could sneak in a bit of sock time without being rude, so I did. She eventually returned and picked up the conversation without even appearing to notice the sock. After a few moments I remembered it myself, apologized, and made to put it down. “No, not at all,” said that paragon of amicable virtue, “I know it doesn’t interfere [with the conversation]. It’s like, …smoking or something.” Well, only in this one respect is it ‘like’ smoking, but the analogy amused as much as it disconcerted me, and so I pass it on. And in the event, the sock stayed out. Hooray for the Paragon.

In addition to everything else, I got to give them their wedding present, a mere matter of five or six years late. We were moving around when the wedding took place and I ddn’t want to give her some random thing, so I said I’d wait. I didn’t forget my promise, but she seemed so surprised that I think they may have. I decided ages ao i’d give them some glass, but I swore to myself that I wouldn’t do so except in person (it would have been really ridiculous to wait all this time and then send something). I chose a dish in grays and plum, and a pair of coordinating coasters. It’s hard to tell with people as pathologically polite as my friend, but I think she liked them and I suppose they are guaranteed to be better than nothing. Which reminds me of a very funny thing I came across once: a rant on the pseudoscientific graph on a cereal packet which concluded: Cheerios – better for you than starvation. We use this around the house as a visiting pet slogan.

coasters

Coasters: better for you than no wedding present?

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“Most glassblowers aren’t born artists,” says Caleb Siemon. “They’re born pyromaniacs.”

On Saturday I found out a little more… but I haven’t any time to write about the most thrilling day I’ve had in a long time because I’m taking the little ones and running away from the builders. We’re off to see my oldest friend, who I always think of as living right on the other side of the country, and it turns out to be only about three hours away. So it is revealed as truly disgraceful that we haven’t actually seen each other in four years. All the more so since I suspect that on more than one occasion we’ve spent more time on the phone (at least, we could easily have done so in our heyday) than it wold take to drive over to visit. Disgraceful. Dreadful. Shocking. We have accumulated three unseen children between us since our last meeting. This should be fun. And I get to escape the worst of the knocking down and destroying which is going on in the garden as I write. Bash, bash, bash crash. Just burn it down, I say…

I’m going to miss the Beloved, and Child One (who only came home yesterday from a week away), but I’m more worried than I think I should be about

  • missing the first week’s glass class at the adult education center
  • not being able to check my email (and my blog, and all the rest)
  • not cracking on with the socks. I don’t think my friend’s a knitter. I don’t think it looks very polite to knit while we catch up on the last four years. I know I can divide my attention between her and the sock with no detriment to her, but I suspect she may not believe this. Even though she has children, and should therefore understand the whole divided attention thing, I think she might feel there’s a difference between the call of the young and the call of the yarn. What can I say: she’s great, but not perfect.

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The other day we took the kids to a petting zoo and playbarn.

Here is what we saw.

what the knitter saw

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Yes we can!

This was too cute not to mention. Last Wednesday, Child One came home from school saying her teacher had played them the Obama acceptance speech and forwarded through the thanks to get to the “bit that was all him saying, ‘we can’ over and over”. “He said, ‘Yes we can’ ” I corrected. “No, no. Bob the Builder said that!” piped up Child Two, determined to contribute when she saw an opportunity. And indeed he did. So there we have it, Barack Obama cut down to size -and to sound-bite- by a three-year-old. Is America broke? Can we fix it? Yes we can! Well, well. So the really big question is of course whether the great orator of modern politics acknowledged his source, or is Obama a plagiarist of toddler television?  That aside, it was a pretty great speech. I’ve been feeling upbeat all week, and I’m not even an American.

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Half-term is over!

And the Ospreys are into the semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh Cup (that’s Rugby Union, for the pitiably ignorant out there), which is one of the good things to have happened this weekend. Also, Child One returned unscarred form France and the little ones were much, much happier all day yesterday as a result. We made sushi for dinner and have reached the point where almost all the glassware used was my own work. Some of my very first efforts, some plates that I intended to sell, but started using instead, and a couple of odds and sods and prototypes. I’m reminded that in my first flush of glass enthusiasm I did attempt to make – very dangerous-sounding – glass chopsticks with dichroic ends. Possibly luckily, I quickly saw I couldn’t get them thin enough and round enough and abandoned the idea. Those prototypes were broken down into cocktail stirrers, and very nice they are in that role. I might even resuscitate the idea as a holiday gift item. Why not?

After all, I’m now entering the blind panic zone of Christmas preparation. I have a few fairs lined up, and no idea how much stuff to make, which items will do well, how much they should all cost… I’ve never really done this before. Last year I had just started out and I peddled a little dichroic jewelry at one of the local primary schools. Now I have a whole range of things, and at least one “proper” craft fair to take them to. As the venue charges real money and requires public liability insurance (as well as filling out an absurd ‘risk assessment’ form – aggh!), I don’t particularly fancy shelling out the big bucks, driving half-way across South Wales and running out of stuff at midday. I should be so lucky. What I really mean is running out of the stuff people want and being left with a load of items that aren’t right for the market. Ah, well, we’ll see. Got to try, I suppose. Meanwhile, note to self: go round to the local craft shop that has got some of my stained glass hearts and get them back. At this time of year, I have a much better chance of selling them myself – and they are taking a ridiculous 150% mark-up, which I didn’t care about so much during the slack part of the year, when I figured at least the hearts were being placed in front of a few eyeballs they wouldn’t have met the gaze of in my kitchen. But I damned well care now, when getting those ones back will save me making a million more…

Photos of all these pretty things when I get to it.

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It’s truly a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we can have a lie-in every day for the whole week, and goodness knows we need it. I personally think we could hibernate for the week and benefit, but the little ones don’t agree, and insist on getting up and bouncing off the walls all day long. They do this because the weather is too foul to let them out of the house anything like enough for them to run off their energy. We’ve got to the park a couple of times and every single time have been immediately and comprehensively hailed upon. Small hail, unlikely to wreak permanent damage on a 21-month-old, but still more pleasant to be in from rather than out in. As it were.

On the other hand there is somehow even less of a chance to get to the kiln. I don’t really know why this should be so. After all, only one child is in full-time education, another has a pathetic two and a half hours a day at nursery and the littlest one is underfoot all day as it is. Yet, there you have it. The oldest one is away, and that only makes the little ones more fractious. They miss her. Quite reasonably. So do I. And not just because she helps keep them happy, so they don’t keep trying to kill each other (or I them). I seem to have spent the whole week policing (“who had it first? What did you do? Why is she crying/covered in this/wearing that?”) And being an old-fashioned regimental sergeant-major, barking orders at them (“put that down, give that to him, share it, don’t touch, do it NOW…”

2 inch robinAlso I’m not feeling inspired because I’m deep in Christmas decorations and I’m SO sick of them already.  I know I shouldn’t complain: if these things do well for me, then I should be happy. After all, I only have to make them for another month or so and then I can get into all the more interesting experimental stuff I want to do, hopefully with a little cash put back into the closed loop of the glass cycle at the center of my life –

→ BUY GLASS → MAKE GLASS →SELL GLASS → BUY GLASS → …


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