Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Brigid Socks II - 'The Edge of Gusset' or 'Waiting for Godet'

How could I have forgotten to post about my second pair of socks evah?! Shame on me, indeed! I finished the Brigid socks mark two last week.

Looks a tad like there's going to be some Irish dancing going on any second now...

The cables are beginning to look like cables, of all things! (I'm a sucker for all things even remotely Celtic looking!) The hell turn went okay and gets better each time (please, God, it can't get any worse!) but for the life of me I can't figure out the gusset. You've heard of the Stairway to Heaven, well this was the Ladder to HELL (turn)!

L'échelle à l'enfer.
La scala all'inferno.
Die Leiter zu Hölle.
La escalera al infierno.

And not one but 3... For some reason the very first one looks normal. Is it A Question of Tension? A Beginner's Sock Issue? Not-Enough-Coffee Syndrome? And I have to admit that I'm a tad confused about the mix of heel flap and short rows, because when I read forums and books it seems that it's either one or the other. But it's really those 'picking up the slipped stitches at the end of the rows' thing that's getting me. It sounds so simple. 'Pick up the 12/15/97 stitches and knit down, continuing to the middle of the heel flap on needle 62', or some such thing. And I see a chain. It has at least a couple of stitches to choose from and it seems I always manage to get the ones that lead to interesting sockness of the
non-gusseting variety.

Of course, I've artfully arranged the photos to show the LEAST amount of gussety badness as possible, but even I, Master Photographic Bullsh**er that I am, can't hide them there yarny rungs. Especially those on the left sock. Yikes!

But I shall prevail. I shall refrain from despairing and will wait for godet to sink into my conciousness. Maybe starting another pair will help...

Sunday, 27 April 2008

I is for...


Montepulciano Vecchio

I had the fortunate luck of being able to sing my way through Tuscany and Umbria a few years back and it was the experience of a lifetime. Okay, so I was officially 'working' but was armed with my camera and was ready for any photographic opportunity that fell my way. And there were plenty - I took around 400 photos altogether (thank the stars for digital cards!) and this wee letter for the ABC-Along has been both a pleasure and insanely difficult to choose piccies for! I suspect that this may be a long post! Maybe you should go and grab a coffee... and some cake!

Montepulciano is an ancient hill-top town (one of MANY) famed for, amongst other things, the marvellous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. You've never tasted anything like it in your LIFE!! I'm not a wine aficionado but this was nectar for Bacchus himself!

Actually, Montepulciano was one place that benefited from me not singing there, as our first concert was in fact in Florence.

Campanile di Giotto in Firenze

We made it to Florence around 4pm on the day of the concert, but after rehearsals in a wonderful little church in the Via del Corso, I was too late to get inside the Duomo. I did take *several* pictures of the bell tower (above); the cathedral exterior; and the marvellous Baptistry, the bronze-panelled doors of which were supposed to have inspired the young Michaelangelo onto new and dizzying heights of sculpturific grandeur!

Battistero di San Giovanni. Door panels by
Lorenzo Ghiberti and finished in 1422

The next concert was in the Chiesa di Santa Giuliana in Perugia, which is now a military hospital. I have to admit that our be-uniformed hosts were almost as ravishing to look at as the 13th and 14th century frescoes that adorned the church... But we weren't allowed to take photos of the soldiers, (and boy, was security tight!) so a fresco pic will have to suffice!

Frescoes attributed to, amongst others, Matteo di Giovannello

After Perugia came Arezzo, famous (for me at least) as being the birthplace of Guido Monaco d'Arezzo, a medieval musical theorist who is believed to have invented modern musical notation (staff notation and solfeggio - the forerunner of the doh-re-mi scale).

(Here was born and lived Guido Monaco)

Our final concert was in Siena. I fell in love with this town - for me it was a place of wonder, beauty and inspiration. I took over 150 photos here alone, so please indulge me if I add more than one here...

Piazza del Campo with the Palazzo Publica and the Torre del Mangia

I loved wandering around the medieval town with its little streets and treasures that lay around every corner. I found this (below) in a tiny courtyard open to the public. I don't know it's name, what street it was in, or who the artist was, but it was quite stunning.

After wandering around I finally came across the famous Siena Duomo, said by some to resemble a black and white liquorice allsort! NO NO NO!

Interior of Siena Duomo

Sadly, you weren't allowed to use flash photography or use tripods here, so the quality isn't 100% but if you do nothing else with this post, you must click on the photo above - there's soooo much to see! So much colour! The Nave at the back; the angels on the arch supports; the busts of the Popes from Saint Peter to Lucius III arranged along the top of the pillars; the ceiling sky of golden stars on a deep blue background... I spent a total of 4 hours in here between rehearsals and the concert. Can you tell I was in love?

Moving down through the cathedral you arrived underneath the dome.


I thought I'd seen pretty much everything when I 'discovered' a doorway that led to what was called the 'Piccolomini Library' and I walked through and promptly halted in my tracks. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I still remember the shock, the surprise and feeling of awe that struck me being presented with such beauty and artistry. Okay, it sounds over-the-top, but I almost cried when I entered the room. The walls were covered in frescoes depicting the life of Silvio Aeneas Piccolomini (who became Pope Pius II); the ceiling was alive with panels of gilt-inlaid mythical subjects by Pinturicchio and in glass cases dotted around the room were some of the finest examples of Psalter illumination that I have ever seen. The lady who was the guide for the library must have heard me gasp or something (I don't think I blasphemed) and gave me an indulgent smile - she was obviously used to the reaction!

I've already posted a photo of the whole ceiling (C is for...!) but here's one in detail:

I was particularly taken with one of the wall panels showing 'Enea Silvio at the Scottish Court'. I knew that there was an important Papal ambassador at the court of James the First
in 1435 (my Dad was a history teacher specialising in Scottish history!) but it was lovely to make the connection between that knowledge and this amazing library! I particularly like the non-Scottish scenery and the depiction of James the First as a very old man. (James was 41 in 1435 - not decrepit even in those days!)

Viva Scotia!

Lastly I'll leave you with one of the fine examples of the Psalter illuminations. They were all stunning, needless-to-say!

(musical notation thanks to Guido d'Arezzo!)

And now I want to go BAAAAACK!!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Send in the clowns

Don't bother, they're here...


Hmm... I'm not sure. I think I like Dame Coco. I wasn't sure that the yarn combo would work and I'm trying to ignore the mistakes I made, but I think I like her... I like her more than I did when I took the last photos of her, that's for sure. She has been on her very best behaviour and the last 4 repeats or so passed in a haze of perfection. (The chocolate offerings appeased the Cable Deities, it seems.) It's amazing what differences nice lighting, suitable accessories and proper finishing touches make, though. The trellis cabling was, in the end, rather exhilarating to do, (AFTER my many mistakes already documented in detail...) and although the effect isn't *quite* the same as the original design by Janine le Cras, who has a divine royal purple bag as her prototype, my version hopefully won't make the recipient want to hurl...!

The needles aren't empty, though. Brigid II number 2 is off and running (my GAWD - I've managed to escape SSS again!!) and there's a few bits and bobs I'm toying with. I'm also still working on Aoife, which is a bolero jacket with loads of cable detail (mmm - cables) and is slowly coming on - it's my first item of apparel that I've started, so I have no idea how long it will take.
I was hoping that maybe I'd have it done to wear for my next concerts in May, but I don't think that's going to happen. I have the most amazing dress that I am sure it will go amazingly with, but unless I'm knitting 24/7 for the next 2 weeks, I suspect it will have to wait... Here's the dress, by the way, although you have to imagine it *somewhat* wider! I loves it, I do! Think it's diva enough for a Mahler orchestral song-cycle?! I can't wait for that at all - 'Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen' which roughly translates as 'Songs of a Wayfarer'... ish! (Yeah, yeah - I know - it's a mezzo song cycle, but who really thinks writing pianissimo top g-sharps is being kind to the lower voice?!) It's my first foray out of baroque and classical music (by classical I mean the music of the classical era - roughly 1750 to 1820) for a LONG time and that in itself is a little scary, but I guess you have to go where your instrument dictates, and my voice is getting bigger now, although I never sounded like a boy soprano even in my teeniest-of-voiced days... One day I'll tell you about some of the *interesting* things I've been told/taught and advised...
 And I changed my major from piano to singing 'cos I thought singing was an easier option! Hah, and yay, verily I say unto thee - HAH!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Music for the masses? Perhaps not...

My Mum sent me a press cutting the other day, from one of the local-ish newspapers back home. It made me chortle and be slightly depressed at the same time...

"Classical approach to youth disorder

SUPERMARKET BOSSES are planning to make gangs of neds "Bach off" - by blasting classical music at them. Store chiefs want to rig up speakers to play classical works by Mozart, Beethoven and Debussy to stop groups of youths congregating outside at night. They believe the soothing sounds will scare off gangs of neds ['A Scottish term for the often uneducated and invariably aggressive teenagers found throughout Britain. Identified by gold jewellery (especially sovereign rings), baseball caps, white trainers and/or Kappa/Burberry branded clothing. The name is thought to derive from 'Edward', as in Teddy Boy. It is in no way an acronym for "non-educated delinquent", which is in any case ungrammatical.' Taken from] more used to hip-hop and dance tracks. Co-op managers from Port Seton, East Lothian, aired the idea at a community police meeting after struggling to "Handel" the problem of youth disorder outside their store. The community and police partnership meeting heard plans to rig up a stereo in the store to play classical works on a loop in order to drive away youngsters who congregate outside the shop on a nightly basis. Locals say that they are frightened to walk near the shop in the town's Links Road at night to use the cash machines because of the gangs of rowdy yobs hanging around the store's entrance. Local councillors and clergy met the idea with approval, but one Port Sefton resident rubbished the scheme saying, "They'd probably just try and smash the speakers, or drown it out with their mobiles."

Surely some Stravinsky would be more in order? Perhaps 'The Rite of Spring'? Mind you, I'm a fan of Strav and would be very happy to hang around listening to that if it was blasted from the nearest Co-op. Then again, I'm not a hoodie-wearing, sovereign-ring-flashing, baseball-cap-wearing aggressive teenager. Perhaps some Bach instead? 'The Peasant Cantata'? Perhaps Strauss' 'Wine, Women and Song'? (Or 'Beer, Babes and Gangsta Rap'?)

Joking apart, I can't say I'm particularly happy with the inference that classical music is so abhorrent to 'everyday' folk that it could be considered as a deterrent in a situation like this. Then again, I can't say I'm not that surprised, either... But there must be a silver lining... Maybe I can get some more work out of it? "RedScot sings Mozart's famous arias at a convenience store near YOU!" "Look out for RedScot's latest Tesco recording of Bach cantatas; featuring the classic 'Shoppers can safely browse'."


Sunday, 13 April 2008

H is for...


Clocks. I like clocks. I'm a fan of clocks. I have 8 or so dotted around at home, not including the ones I still have packed somewhere... None, though, like this effort which can be found in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. (The museum itself is a converted train station.) Now there's a clock-lovers paradise... You can also find this there:

You can just about make out the silhouettes of people walking on the framework behind the clock, which turns into this when you get closer (or use a telephoto lens!):

You also get the opportunity to see one of the massive clocks from the other side, as it were.

My sister is the silhouette on the right, taking photos through the clock hands! I took my own from the same spot:

You can see Montmartre right at the back and the Big Wheel at the Place de la Concorde, next to the big hand. (Now that was very weird to type - it felt like I was presenting a children's programme for a second!! "And when the big hand points down, it's...")
 Hmm, and talking of children's programmes... (Here comes a clumsy link...)
 Well, the need for a child's/idiot's guide to cabling is as strong as ever... I'm muddling through the Coco bag - trellis cabling all the way. (I must add that it's a gorgeous pattern - 'tis merely mine own self that's messing it up!) I gave a *brief* description of my 1st pattern repeat fumbles in an earlier post. After 3 repeats I discovered that there were errata to the pattern that I should have read.
D'oh! It certainly made sense as to why the Cable Faeries were regarding me with such disdain. Then I only did 4 rows of the pattern repeat when I thought I have done all 8 and started the repeat again... Some more repeats in, I discovered that there was a T4B or a T4F or some such equation that had a 'K2 from needle, then P2 from the cable' around the wrong way on the pattern itself. Or something along those lines... The knitting is in the living room and I'm in the computer room and I can't be arsed to go and check. Of course, after I figured that last bit out, I was feeling very pleased with myself and promptly made a hold back instead of hold forward mistake. Across a WHOLE row.
*smacks self on forehead*
Am I feeling stupid enough to post a picture? Damn right I am... as a warning to others.


Thursday, 10 April 2008

Saint Brigid of the Socks

Hmm, hope the title of this post doesn't sound blasphemous... But really, I am overwhelmed with the socks formerly known as just 'Brigid'. It may be because they're my first socks evah, or it may be because they fit like a, um, glove... It may be because by the second sock I'd figured out the hell turn. (Sorry, the spelling is staying like that now.) It may be because they're cute and cosy. It may just be because I feel like the proud new mother of twins...

But anyhoo, may I present my first pair of socks...

Cute, eh? (Feel free to say yes!) I took them on their first visit outside yesterday and they behaved very well indeed. I'm going to stop the baby analogy now to add that they were boot fillers so they didn't really see the light of day, but my tootsies were cosy and comfortable, which means they fulfilled their requirements!

Now, of course, I want to make MORE socks... You have to have a look at this wonder from the Tsarina of Tsocks. It's called 'Firebird' and I almost dribbled with sock-lust when I saw it for the first time. But I have to wait a while before it makes it out of the sock club and becomes available to the general public. Ah, me...

And talking of Ravelry... (There's a perfect logical explanation for the subject change in my head. Should you wish further commentary, then my head will be happy to help.)
...What an interesting few days it has been on the forums. There were some strops beheld and a business flushed itself down the tubes on one. There was a part of me that felt sorry for the person at the centre of the complaints, but it all came down to (IMHO) very shoddy customer service over a long period of time from the business in question.
It seemed it was a day of bad karma all round - full moon? Um, no - waxing crescent at the moment. Maybe a mass biorythmic energy flash? A sun-burst in Earth's direction? Maybe an international coffee outage? Who really knows, but on another forum a fire was flamed under a reputable small business owner, started by someone new to the forums. This was very quickly extinguished, as although the OP had a valid-ish complaint, he/she hadn't actually checked whether it was still valid. Which it wasn't. It all smacked rather distastefully of witch-hunt inciting. But then, if one was, wasn't the other? Perhaps, and I have to admit I'm not the one to judge, even if I am writing about it here... But it did make it a car-crashingly interesting day. Too interesting, really, as I think I spent most of the day on teh interwebz. has a lot of time absorption to answer for aswell.

Maybe I need to get a proper job?

But, knitting-wise, it is now time to start the Aoife (pronounced 'Ee-feh') jacket thingy that I've been drooling over since I saw the pattern on a month or so past... Oh, and Coco is still on the go, as are the mary-janes... Want to start a bag for my sis (but not naming it here in case she looks!) and maybe another bag for me... (Hah - I say 'maybe' like it's not already a certainty!) And there's that wire I bought up in Holland and ALL those pretty beads...

I'm just going to bask in the glory (and warmth) that is Saint Brigid for a bit first...

Monday, 7 April 2008

Springtime in Tours...

... starts with the cherry blossoms...

I'm lucky enough to live in the medieval quarter of this ancient city so all the buildings around are roughly 15th and 16th century, and there are many nooks, crannies, courtyards and gated gardens that conceal some real visual treasures from the casual passer-by. I'm a nosey old cow though, so I've found loads of lovely things to snap!

This rather pretty specimen was transplanted to the small Placis de la Lamproie around the corner from me last year and it's lovely to see in flowering in its first year here! I presume it's cherry anyway... will have to wait and see!

Next comes what looks to me like a baby horse chestnut, but the flowers aren't tall enough - I'll be interested to see what the leaves turn in to... There's another tree behind it, just to confuse you!

Looking across rue de la Paix onto le Jardin St-Pierre-le-Puellier.

The purple magnolia - I *just* caught it before all the petals dropped...

This marvellous old tree can be found on the rue du Mûrier and is doing the feux d'artifice de printemps display admirably! The little garden itself is open to the public, but at this time of year there's not many folk around. It's also rather nice to see the façade of building behind... The limbs stretch forever and I've a shot facing the other way, overlooking the other side of the road...

Whizz, "ooh", bang, "aah"...
(I may be taking the fireworks analogies a *little* far...)

And lastly there's this lovely pot of what looks like a white laburnum I found when I was sneaking about... although it may be wisteria...?

Whatever it is, it looks very happy!

Now I'm inspired to start my little window boxes up again... rosemary, lavender, mint and some other smelly favourites! I'll take myself off to the flower market on Saturday to see what I can find...

Saturday, 5 April 2008

A sicht mair gleg

Huzzah! The sun has been shining its head off here this past week and the trees have decided it's Spring, BIG time! Much akin to a fireworks display, albeit one in slow motion and available in green only, leaf buds are a-bustin' out all over. I must try and catch the delicious purple magnolia that lurks in a gated courtyard somewhere near here before all the petals drop. I've missed it for the past 3 years running as I've been on tour somewhere else over the flowering period and this year as I think I'm back in time I'm determined to have a damn good gowp! Watch this space...
And I'm feeling much, MUCH better! I've even got my appetite back, almost! (Something that maybe I shouldn't be *quite* so cheery about!) The strange this is that I really couldn't bring myself to pick up the sticks when I was feeling cack, but did make it to the sewing machine.
The things you do when you're ill!
No, seriously, I finally made the needle case/wrap I've been reminding myself to do (and forgetting about) for yonks now... The hum of the sewing machine can be very therapeutic!

Okay, so it may not win any prizes in the Finishing Awards 2008 but it serves its purpose well and looks pretty to boot! Just don't look too closely at the seams! (I've already made cushion covers with the same mock 18th century design fabric - it's gorgeous!) Places for the tiny and cute 16", 32" and 47" rounds (when they arrive - hoorah for eBay!) and straights at the bottom.

Oh, and before I forget, here are a few more (mostly) Lallans (lowland Scots dialect) words that you'll find around here...
 Fowk - folk, people
Gleg - alert, sharp, bright
Gowp - stare
Mair - more
Sicht - sight, lot - as in 'a lot brighter'
Staig - stag (as in deer) but also stalk
Sticks have been reintroduced to hands, though, and our Celtic sock Brigid's mate is down to the heel cuff. I still quiver with apprehension at the thought of the hell turn (no, that's NOT a typo) but I can only hope that enough offerings of chocolate at the Shrine of the Heel Deities will ease the pain when it arrives. (The Heel Faeries forsook me last time, so I've changed religion.)
Well, I find that chocolate offerings to myself always seem to help...

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

G is for...


This was my first recording for Naxos a few years ago...

Initially, I was going to use 'g' for 'garden' but was rather overwhelmed by the amount of photos to choose from. I love gardens and all things green and have taken hundreds of pictures of things that have caught my eye in that department, but my wee blog just isn't up to the amount of photos I could add... I just couldn't choose... So hence, 'Gideon' - a pastiche oratorio by G F Handel and compiled by J C Smith. It was recorded over two live concerts in Germany - talk about stress! I've done 'Solomon' (Queen of Sheba and 1st Harlot) and 'Hercules' (Dejanira) with them since... The 'Hercules' project holds particularly good memories, as it was during this that Klozknitz (aka C) taught me to knit! She was playing cello in the orchestra while I screamed out front...
 I am now back at home in France. (Huzzah!) Mind you, I've been as sick as a dog since I got back and have been sleeping roughly 18 hours a day. Ugh. Not sure if it's a bug I caught or just exhaustion kicking on from the shows and travel... But I feel like cack. Moan, moan, moan! I did manage to make it outside to buy some essentials yesterday (ground coffee for my lovely life-saving machine), but that's about it!
 MERG went down well. It's basically a fusion of baroque music (Monteverdi, Rossi, Luzzaschi) and modern dance using 3 singers (2 sopranos and an alto), 5 dancers and 5 musicians (2 violins, 1 theorbo, 1 viola da gamba and a harpsichord). The musicians are kept in a kind of cage (I'll try and find a photo) and the rest of us move around them. Yes - ALL OF US - DANCE!! The show was an hour and a half long extravaganza and rather good fun to do! The photo below shows what the stage looked liked when I was singing the 'Lettera amarosa' by Monteverdi. The monody itself is a long love letter/poem to a woman with blonde hair and the text of the poem was projected onto the covering of the cage, but the staging by the choreographers was quite opposite to the meaning of the words (quite difficult to maintain when you've been trained to be honest to the text) so I was to be unattached to the poetry and had to cut locks of out my long blond wig with very over-sized scissors. Bizarre, but it worked! Mind you, I was very fond of my baroque corset and full skirt! The blond wig, on the other hand... (Especially after being hacked away... One wig only lasted three shows at the most!) But I think photographic evidence of those can wait a while!
 Right now I'm going to concentrate on getting well again.

Please do not feed the musicians.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

F is for...


Poor 'Giles Wavy Socks'. They weren't the best pattern to use when I was snatching time in and between rehearsals for MERG. I thought I was doing quite well for a while...

The 'eye of partridge stitch' is very pretty and reminds me of my all-time favourite 'feather and fan'. But on arriving at the heel turn, (oops - originally wrote 'hell turn' - how Freudian!) things went rather awry...

I am developing the art of taking photographs to mask mistakes to a high degree, but I was thwarted by this little effort. Hey ho.

So Giles has been frogged and I have learned that I'm not quite proficient enough to attempt anything more complicated that a plain st st during rehearsals. For the time being, at least!!

Mair Bloag Weejits

Footerin' Aboot

Footerin' Aboot
Heh! I'm so funny!

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