Friday, February 25, 2011

If the Hat fits....

Finally, a hat which I feel comfortable with.  This is Crystal Palace Mini Mochi, in  a very lively colourway.  It looks like a thin lopi yarn without much twist and is a little splitty, but it certainly feels luxurious.  The key to fitting my over-sized head seems to lie in the ribbing, which has plenty of give.  I started on 3.25 needles and increased to, also increasing for the cables.  Perhaps I have come to the end of a run of hats, just as the weather becomes spring-like and the first sharp greens appear on the trees.

More images of Maryport, this time of Fleming Square.   Maryport was not developed until the end of the eighteenth century, when it became a major port for the export of coal and then iron ore.  Fleming Square is a lovely open space surrounded by impressive Georgian houses.

Here the cobbles of the square and  the central obelisk can be seen.  Just yards from here are unparalleled views over the Solway to the Scotch hills, and a Roman Museum full of world-class Roman artefacts from the mile fort at the top of the hill.

A curious little group of statues down by the harbour, and, just visible, a new venue called the Wave centre, hosting concerts and community events.  These things are clear evidence of regeneration, whether they are quite to one's taste or not.  Like much of West Cumbria, Maryport has gone though a long decline with prominent high street properties standing empty.  Once it was possible to walk clear across the harbour on the decks of the herring boats, an old lady in the nursing-home told me.   Those days are long past.

More Cumbrian dialect: many words seem onomatopoeic: "scrow", for example.  The high incidence of words with that initial sound is apparently due to Norse influences.  Thus "scop" - throw and "scree" - loose stones on a steep slope.  And "scratting" and "scraffling", both of which I recall used in the context of struggling to make a living.  Interesting how they evoke a whole way of life.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A taste of Cumbria

To West Cumbria, to visit family.  First, to Carlisle, and more wonderful Georgian houses.  Here a whole street with perfectly preserved fan-lights and door pilasters.  I particularly love the chequered brickwork - and the way the car matches the door!  However, though this looks smart as paint, the street adjoins one of those seriously run-down areas that blight northern towns.

Visiting Linton Tweeds, I find myself drawn to this graphic black and white weave - suggestive of high-rise blocks.  I am also drawn to the two for one offer on skirt lengths.  That is two different metres of tweed for fifteen pounds.  Linton have an interesting  client base, having supplied Chanel herself.  Check them out at Linton on-line

Then to Maryport, where my mother has lived for many years in a nursing-home.  A view first of Mote Hill with the flood plain awash and then of the harbour from Mote Hill.  Ancient peoples used the hill as a strategic lookout over the River Ellen, long before the arrival of the Romans. 

These views show the tide in and high water.  It is quite a different scene at low water, with acres of mud.

Some ten miles north of Maryport is Beckfoot, where I took my shore walk.  Looking north, an uninterrupted view of the Solway, with not another person in sight.

Amazingly, Enid from Wigan left a comment to say that she knew my mother's expression - "like a padding-can,"  for an untidy room.  I am fascinated by the incidence of very broad Cumbrian - for example, a checkout girl using "Yan" for "one" to another worker.  I do feel the curators of the British Library exhibition might easily have located some more vivid samples by not interviewing the people, but by eavesdropping on conversations between native speakers.   Another common Cumbrian expression: "clarty" -  sticky.

Some knitting:  a little hat in J&S jumper-weight, owing something to Kate Davies' most recent design, largely because I was in Cumbria and my reference book in Essex.  It fits me, but again suggests a swimming hat more than anything.

Finally, this week's culinary offering.  I like nothing better than to go into my kitchen and  put together something tasty from almost nothing.  This is what comes of combining two stale hot cross buns, buttered and lightly spread with orange marmalade, with two eggs beaten with a little milk and sugar.  Baked for about 35 minutes, it rises to a light, orange flavoured pudding, which is lovely with a blob of vanilla ice-cream.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Bit of Culture

This week to the British Library, to meet my sister for lunch and to visit the exhibition on the English Language.  I would like to say that this was fascinating, and they had certainly tried hard, with original early books and artefacts, alongside recordings of various types of speech.  However, nothing quite matched that shock of the raw one sometimes happens upon in hearing English actually spoken in its regional variations within England.  One time in a Lake District pub, overhearing three hound-trailing supporters discussing the relative merits of various dogs - there's a little world with its own language.  Another time, going just that bit further up the A1 and finding ourselves unexpectedly at sea in a service station,  asking the girl on the till to repeat things because we had no idea what she had said.

At the end of the exhibition there was the chance to contribute a sample of one's own English, choosing a word we used.  My sister chose "Slarky", which means "Smeared, as in a window, or windscreen."  I chose my mother's expression "like a padding-can."  This meant an untidy room or a scrow.  I have never heard anyone else say this, so I am not sure if it is Cumbrian dialect.

After lunch, I took the opportunity of popping in to the British Museum, with a view to seeing some of the 100 Objects, and indeed I did see a couple of them: the stone belt weighing five stones which was part of a ritualised ball game, and a carved stone pipe in the shape of an otter.

What caught my eye, however, was a golden funerary wreath from the Hellenistic art section, its delicate oak leaves and acorns as abundant and shiny as when it was made.

And this carved panel:

 from Hadrian's villa at Tivoli.

Finally, an Anglo-Saxon cross in red sandstone, from Lowther in Cumbria.

This week's knitting: another version of Knotty but Nice from Knitty Winter 2009.  I knitted this flat in DK, adding one extra pattern and fudging the cable by turning one back on itself at the edge.  This fits very closely and will be ideal for cycling, although it has to be said that it looks a bit like a swimming cap in wear.  I did use a larger needle for the cable section, but it still pulls in dramatically.

This week's recipe: recently, I harvested most of our leeks.   Trim the leeks but keep whole.  Boil until tender.  Meanwhile make a cheese sauce with butter, flour, milk and grated cheese, adding a teaspoonful of English mustard to add piquancy.  Wrap each leek in a slice of cooked ham and place two of these per person in a shallow dish.  Pour over the cheese sauce.  Reheat in the oven.  This was particularly frugal since we live a few yards from the Coop supermarket who pride themselves on discarding a minimum of food as waste.  To this end, they discount items heavily as they approach their sell-by date.  Packs of perfectly good ham were 20p, having started at £3.  That's what I call discounting.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Spring Fever

Yesterday, a thin wind, blowing right through you, but today, a blue sky, sun and the urge to inspect all the shoots of Spring in the garden.  I like the idea of getting going on the allotment, but I know that it is folly.  Potatoes planted too early have a tendency to have their tops frosted; last years earlies never recovered.

And where is this?  Occasionally, I enjoy a little light shopping and grazing in Cambridge, an easy hour's drive from here with a good Park and Ride.  In another lifetime, I was invited to  entrance interviews at Newnham.  I had left my home in Cumbria earlier in the week to go to Oxford for interview, but then had to take the coach across country to Cambridge.  I recall pottering around the open market in the middle of Cambridge with another interviewee feeling like a seasoned traveller and completely at home.

I still prefer the spaciousness of Cambridge, and the lovely little details which surprise at every turn.  Of Newnham, I remember only the very long corridors, more like a hospital than anything else.

And King' College Chapel, lovely in the sunlight.  I like to lunch at Michaeljohn, a dual use church with a great cafe at one end. 

More hat-work.  My husband was taken with my new titfer and requested a cycling hat for himself.  This cabled hat is Knotty but Nice from Knitty, Winter 2009.  He prefers plain colours and this needs to chime with a dull green scarf he has.  A number of people have commented on the swatch of J&S I posted.  It often surprises me how their colours blend together so well, even those without the same dyed fibres within the mix.  "Peerie" patterns are the small patterns lasting a few rows each.  I suppose that I was aiming at a wave effect and something fern-like for the green.  All I did was choose them from the book, though.  I suspect the swatch would make a perfectly acceptable hat, but there is not really enough "Pop" in the colours.

Food for cold weather: one of my favourite supper dishes is a casserole of pork-chops, first served to me by my elder sister.  Dice and gently fry two onions in a little oil.  Press both sides of two pork chops into some dried sage and onion stuffing mix and brown them in the frying pan.  Place them in the casserole with the onion. Add some stock and cook for about forty minutes in a moderate oven.   Braised like this, the stuffing swells and the seasoning is so nicely balanced no other ingredients are needed.  Serve with potato and greens. Very tasty.