Archive for July, 2008

For a light diversion, here is with what my son (in the black shirt) and his friend Brendan amuse themselves.  I must admit that this is being posted as an experiment to see how to insert video into my blog.  So, the title today is twofold:  I learned to do something new, and my son didn’t break any bones.  Yet.

(Thanks for the camera work, Katie.)

I don’t understand the attraction of an activity that looks like you are training to run away from the police, but that’s my age showing again.


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I can’t remember if it was in a post or in a sidebar, but a while back I mentioned to that I might be interested in investigating those podcast thingies.  Always eager to clue me in (I think I’m his “mentor an older woman” project), Kyle gave me some terrific suggestions and tips on what to listen to and how to do it.  Before we left on our trip I spent hours downloading Cast On, Knitpicks, LimenViolet,  and a couple of others so I could listen on the plane.  Mike was, as usual, incredulous that anyone could talk about knitting for an hour, let alone listen to someone else talk about knitting, but then he has never been in the Inner Sanctum.

We had cleared security in the Saskatoon Airport (always an adventure) and were waiting in the lounge for our flight to be called.  I was giving Mike a hard time because his iPod was fully loaded and ready to go.  The only problem was that it was still connected to my computer at home.  Fully charged and ready to go, but still sitting on my desk.   I smugly got out my iPod, hooked up my sound-cancelling headphones (the nerdy earmuff kind; I don’t care.  Earbuds hurt my cartilage.) and scrolled to Podcasts on the menu.

Nothing.  No podcasts.   I distinctly remembered downloading dozens of episodes (along with several Monkees  albums.  Never mind.  It’s a guilty pleasure borne of being impressionable in the late sixties.)  but I had apparently forgotten that one step of synching my iPod with my computer.  Rats.  I had to stop making fun of Mike.

Since I got home and actually put the podcasts (and the Monkees) on the iPod, I have spent hours painting and installing baseboards in my living room, all to the accompaniment of Brenda Dayne.  Even if she was spouting nonsense, I would listen to her because I love her voice.  I went right back to the beginning and started listening there, and I’m very glad I did.  I love the continuity, and the music and the “today’s sweater” feature.  Mike and Andy were both amazed that there could be a song about an Enormous Penis on a knitting  podcast, but that just shows  how narrow-minded they are.   (This also caused both of them to run off and look up a)  Jack Black’s song about his anatomy, and b)  a Monty Python number about the male anatomy.  Sounds like there’s a compilation album in there just waiting to get out.)

Long story short (snort, like that’ll ever happen)  I am now listening to a podcast almost every day and enjoying it immensely.  The last time I sat and just listened to an audio show (and knit) was when Peter Gzowski retired from broadcasting in 1997.   (This is where the Canadians are separated from the rest of the world.  At least, those who listen to the CBC.)  That day, I took the day off work.  Today, I just fit in the housework and laundry around the knitting and listening.  The t.v. wasn’t even on once.  This is the Power of the Podcast.  It can turn off televisions and delay vacuuming.  Yay!

***There may be knitting content in the next post.  Or knitting-related content, complete with an embarrassing anecdote.

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Signs from the Trip

(drop over the wall head- 80 feet down to rocks and water)

and my personal favourite,


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St. Andrews and Home

If my pilgrimage on this trip was fibre, Mike’s was St. Andrew’s. So, our last stop before packing up to come home was the Royal and Ancient town of St. Andrew’s. Another castle, another ruined cathedral, and a look at the Old Course. (For those of you who think I am now speaking Greek, it’s actually Golf.)

Mike on Swilkin Bridge

Mike on Swilkin Bridge

Now, I’m not up on my golf lore, but apparently having your picture snapped on this little stone bridge is a big deal. So,

Judy on teh Swilkin Bridge

Judy on the Swilkin Bridge

Now I too am a sort of a big deal. Or something.

Now, for those of you who are into geography, the question of the day is:  Where is this?

Hint:  We’re really high up in the air, and the ice cubes are bigger than a breadbox.

The people we met on this trip were perhaps the best part of the trip (after the music on Skye, of course!). The B&B owners, the newlyweds from the U.S.A., the family from India, the bus driver who let us ride for really cheap because it was his last run of the day, the spinners and dye-ers, the English couple who really want to visit western Canada (and really, if you haven’t, you should), and the list goes on. ‘Twould appear that people are people wherever you go, and if you approach them with a smile and a good dose of friendly, they usually reciprocate. I kept a journal for the first time in years, and it’s nice to know that when I’m old and senile, I’ll be able to read it and wonder “Who wrote this?”.

Will we go back? Perhaps someday, but it’s a big world and there’s a lot of it we want to see before we start doing return trips. While it’s fun to travel, it’s fun to come home. I’m like Dorothy without the Ruby Slippers.

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North to Skye

Because we didn’t want to subject ourselves to a Bus Tour, we rented a car in Glasgow.  We thought, Hey, we’ll pick up the car, hit the highway away from the crush of the in-town traffic and catch on to this driving on the other side of the road. 3 problems:

1. Highway? We had to navigate through residential Glasgow to get “out of town”. I was stressed from the word go.

2. We were travelling on a Saturday, when the entire population of Glasgow is headed up to Loch Lomond National Park.  The highway is a little narrower than we’re used to here. The shoulder is about six centimetres wide instead of six feet wide. There was no place to pull over to change the flat tyre (notice the colloquial spelling) because crazy people were running a race through the glen, and the roadside pullouts were full of racers’ cars, and people-cheering-on-the-racers’ cars. So, we limped along on the ever-more-disintegrating tyre and rim for what seemed like an eternity, finally found a place to change the tyre, and then raced on the little scooter-sized spare (way faster than the tyre was rated because we didn’t want to hold up traffic) to Fort William where we miraculously found an open tyre shop and replaced the blown tyre. I will not play the blame game regarding warnings which may have been given and ignored about veering too far to the left.

3. I was never totally comfortable passengering on the left side of the car. Strangely, the ubiquitous single track roads in northern Scotland were not nearly as stress-inducing as driving through the cities and towns. Mike did accuse me of being more of an annoyance in the car than his mother (who, it is rumoured, can drive just as well from any seat in the car) and that just hurt. I tried to curb my gasping but I have to say I was more than a little relieved when we dropped off the car at the airport the night before we came home.  (The fight with the car rental agency and our insurance provider regarding a cracked windshield which we didn’t see (because it wasn’t there) continues.)

Skye. Portree. There are few words to describe this village. (and no decent pictures that do it justice.)  It is the largest on the island, and had the best Bed and Breakfast that we stayed in the whole trip. Douglas and Rosemary were wonderful, the bed was king-sized, the breakfast was great, the view was lovely. The weather was a little thick, but we braved the elements and saw a lot in two days. We saw Dunvegan Castle, which had some interesting photos and info about the island of St. Kilda (there was a fascinating exhibition at the Kelvingrove in Glasgow about this island), and I think that it is interesting ( and maybe a little spooky) that I have actually knit the Alice Starmore pattern St. Kilda from In the Hebrides. (I tell Mike that owning Starmore books is part of my retirement plan.)

We drove from Dunvegan to Carach on the Waternish Penninsula (look it up) and found Eva Lambert at the Shilisdair (pronounced more like “shilishadder”, or so Douglas tells me. His Gaelic is better than mine.) Like a bad blogger I forgot to take a picture of Eva, but we had a lovely visit and saw her dye shed. She dyes all her fibres (and they are all from Britain, with a bit of South American cotton thrown in) using natural dyes. This is not a high-tech procedure; I was delighted to hear her talk about letting her muse lead her, and I was amused when she said that she used dye stuffs from all over, because if she only used local plants, everything would be yellow.

I bought a little wool.

The pattern for the wool is a cardigan. Wallace was quite interested in the loot. We stopped at Skye Skyns on the way back to Portree, and I fantasized about a sheepskin rug in my log cabin (sadly, neither of which I possess) (yet).

We found a pub that night in the village, and after waiting for a table for an hour and a half (not to worry- there was a football (or soccer, as we call it here in the colonies) so we were entertained) we had dinner and were treated to live music. Three young men came in, ordered beer, got out their instruments, and regaled us with Celtic music. It was unexpected and one of the highlights of the trip for me. I just googled Harris Tweed Brogues, but there is no definitive website. I did come across “Drams in the Field”, which is a Celtic music festival. I am not ordinarily a folk or country festival kind of person (especially when it comes to camping in a field), but I think this festival might be fun. With the right air mattress and someone else to drive me there.

On our way to Inverness we stopped at Broadford on Skye, and sought out Teo Becu at Teo’s Handspun. He’s from Peru, and a very friendly and interesting fellow.   He is from Peru originally.  It amazes me how relocatable some people are.  I did get a picture of him.

and here is Mike, actually talking to a spinner and his brain is not exploding:

I bought some Wensleydale handspun:

or closer-up:

The colours are much richer; less grey and white, and more warm browns and beiges. I bought enough for a longish vest. In the meantime, I bring it out and freak out my sister who thinks it’s a little too dreadlockish and creepy for her.

I had no idea what Wensleydale sheep looked like, so in case anyone out there is as uneducated as I:

These beauties are from http://www.winddanceranch.com/wensleydales.html. This explains the dreadlocks. (Someone else took this picture. That explains the quality of the image.)  They look like Kommondor dogs.

We found our B&B east of Inverness.  It is just south of the Culloden battlefield.  After this trip, I believe that history is best learned on the spot and not in classrooms.  Of course, the cost of education would be a little higher.  It’s a far better way to learn; walking the place, touching the place, closing your eyes and imagining the events.

What did we see around Inverness?  Ruins, of course.  Castles, of course.  Sheep and cattle, of course.  Here is a little of each:

Elgin Cathedral

Elgin Cathedral

Brodie Castle

Brodie Castle

Brodie Castle was turned over to the National Trust inclusive of contents, and the artwork and furnishings are amazing.  The 25th Brodie gave tours himself, in full highland dress, until just before he died at age 90.  That would have been an interesting tour, I’m sure.

Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle

They have an active falconry program at Dunrobin, but it was pouring buckets when we arrived and the demonstration was half over, so we elected to stay indoors.  This was my favourite of all the castles that we toured.   The lands endowed to the Sutherlands originally covered over a million acres.  Even for someone from the Canadian Prairies where the farms are big, a million acres is still really really big.

Highland Cattle

Highland Cattle

These are meat sheep, so are unnamed

Sheep: These are meat sheep, so are unnamed

Just down the road from our B&B we visited the Clava Cairns.  We laughed at the sign, which indicated that the Victorian British attributed these formations (and any others that they didn’t understand) to the Druids.  They imagined fairies in everything!  I couldn’t help but think there was some sort of energy around the cairns, but I get that way in any cemetery.

Clava Cairn with Standing Stones

Clava Cairn with Standing Stones

We drove down the west side of Loch Ness and visited Urquhart Castle.

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle

We drove around the south end of the Loch and stopped for an unexpectedly pleasant visit in Fort Augustus.  The Caledonian Canal starts there, and we enjoyed watching the locks in action.

Caledonian Canal Locks

Caledonian Canal Locks

We drove up the east side of the loch to get back to Inverness, and had the most beautiful sweeping vistas at our feet.

So, this is a really long post.  If anyone reading it is still awake, stay tuned for the trip to St. Andrew’s and home again.  Coming soon to this blog!

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Where was I?

Oh, yeah. We had just left Edinburgh, and headed by train to Glasgow. The highlights of that part of the trip had to be:

1. the Glasgow School of Art. I am a very uneducated fan of Charles Rennie MacIntosh (I may even have spelled his name incorrectly, but you get my general drift) so this was almost as pilgrimage-like as when we visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s house and studio in Chicago last fall.

2. Glasgow Cathedral. It was one of the few churches to survive the Reformation, although it does have some “pock marks” from a little cannon fire. The sign said “make sure to see the basement”. Basement my arse. It’s vaulted and carved and has a whole bunch of little chapels and the tomb of Saint Mungo (aka Saint Kentigern, but Mungo sounds like more fun). My pictures turned out pretty much as you might expect, so here’s some of Mike’s:

Glasgow Cathedral Exterior

Glasgow Cathedral Exterior

Glasgow Cathedral Nave

Glasgow Cathedral Nave

Cathedral Basement?  Lower Level sounds more dignified!

Cathedral Basement? Lower Level sounds more dignified! Sorry about the focus...

Blackaders Aisle- the white is beautiful after all the aged stone

Blackaders Aisle- the white is beautiful after all the aged stone

We didn’t have time to check out much of the graveyard. Too bad- that’s always interesting.

3. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum– this place is fascinating. The descriptions of the displays gives just enough extra information about the piece without being didactic or condescending. The building is beautiful. To celebrate the reddish/orange stone exterior, I present my version in “Judy changes the camera setting to black and white”.

Kelvingrove Museum- free admission; our favourite kind

Kelvingrove Museum- free admission; our favourite kind

5. We took a day trip (again on the train) out to Stirling to see the Castle. Other than missing the turn to the Castle and walking three miles out of our way (and then three miles back when we broke down and asked for directions), it was a great day. We had a fun tour guide, and there were party hats to try on.

Oops, no. that was at Edinburgh Castle, but here they are anyways, shown here because they are such amusing chapeaux . And no, they’re not wired for sound, they’re attached to the wall so no-one tries to walk off with them.

Attractive, no?  Talk about claustrophobia-inducing!

Attractive, no? Talk about claustrophobia-inducing!

This is not flattering at all.  Funny that there are no designer combat helmets.

This is not flattering at all. Funny that there are no designer combat helmets.

I actually got some decent pictures at Stirling Castle, but I have to go to bed now.  Since this is not a one hundred percent linear account of the trip, I think I’ll show you those pix next time.

Other than postponing Stirling pictures, that brings us pretty much up to when we rented our car and headed north with all the circles of hell that entailed.  I need to get a good night’s sleep before continuing. I also discovered that the trim around the front door that I painted lovingly and painstakingly today is actually an unexpected shade of pink and has to be redone. I don’t mind painting, but 4 coats? Methinks that today the painting gods were smiling at me, not with me.

Maybe someday I’ll have some knitting content again.

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Roller coaster

This last two weeks has been pretty strange. I have been dealing with all the feelings associated with a good friend losing her daughter, and right in the middle of all that, my older son called from Calgary to tell me that he popped the question, and sometime next spring/summer I am going to be a mother-in-law.

How did I get to be that old? My oldest sister told me that as the mother of the groom, I only have to do three things: Wear beige, bring my chequebook and shut the hell up. Not going to happen. (except maybe the middle one.) Geoff and Courtney have logged into a wedding planning site, and as Geoff told me, they are already 17 things behind. This wedding business is a real industry, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. (and I’m not the one getting married. I just have to lose weight and buy a dress.)

My good friend Linda has been married 24 years, and yesterday phoned to tell me that in amongst all the bills from their wedding (Who keeps that kind of stuff? I mean, really?) were the results of their pre-nup blood tests, and she was pleased to report that when they got married, neither of them were insane or syphilitic. Nowadays, you can’t be denied wedded bliss for such trivial reasons. Mainly it’s just if you’re already married to someone else (although that also doesn’t stop some people).

Our trip? Pretty good, thanks. The first important thing of note is that there was no problem with knitting needles in the carryon bag. As a result, I was able to Knit in Public on June 14th. If I had been on the ball, I could have knit in three countries, as we were delayed leaving Toronto until about one minute after midnight on the 14th, but I wasn’t thinking that quickly. I did manage the Frankfurt airport

and Edinburgh (no photographic evidence), and there was a bit here and there for the rest of the trip, but we were generally on the dead run and when we stopped it was to eat or drink (Guinness) or to fall asleep. I do have my priorities, you know. We spent time in Edinburgh and found K1 Yarns Knitting Boutique (just missed Ysolda, (darn!) but saw the stuffed guys in the window. Too cute!).  I treated myself to some Old Maiden Aunt– enough for a smallish scarf.

This is extremely pettable. I’m thinking feather-and-fan or something similar.

I found John Lewis Department store in Edinburgh. Ordinarily I could not get Mike into a department store (especially on vacation) but they had a Haberdashery Department, and how could we resist that? Just the name sounds like a place where you could nose around and find all sorts of haberdashes you didn’t know you needed until you saw them. As the fibre purchasing on this trip was supposed to be limited to Great British product, I limited myself to a single skein of this:

and the matching book.

It is Peruvian merino, and the whole project benefits a worthy cause. I also know that my LYS deals with the Canadian distributer, so once I have a chance to play with the sample skein, I can order enough for a bigger project if I want.

They have old buildings in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle looks like it just grew out of the rocks. I suppose it did.

(This is where I try to insert a picture of a typical sod house growing from the North American Prairies. Go here.)

Here at home, an old building is 100 years old. There, that’s pretty recent construction. Here, they are busy converting old things into high end condos that mere mortals might have trouble affording. There, they just subdivide them and have semi-affordable housing.

We stayed in a B&B for the first time ever. It was pretty nice, although the bed was less than comfortable, and there was no common sitting room for the guests. Once you were in for the night, you were really in for the night. The family running it were great- very friendly.

I got to check one thing off my “bucket list”: Drink Guinness. Did so in a neighborhood pub, the Phoenix, served by a young lady from New Zealand. What a small world!  Even though I have checked it off my list, I shall continue to drink Guinness.  It was pretty good.  (A friend told me last night that the reason it’s better in Great Britain is because the keg lines are shorter than here, and they actually clean the lines every night, so you don’t get stale Guinness.  Whatever.  I guess I’ll have to go back.)

Another “do before I die” item:

Everyone? Greyfriar’s Bobby? The dog who slept on his master’s grave every night for umpteen years until he died? The only dog to be buried in a churchyard? I can’t believe that people don’t know this story. I got a bit misty when I read the grave marker.

We took the bus to Rosslyn Chapel.  Whether or not you’re not a Da Vinci Code fan, on its own this place is amazing.  It’s under a canopy and surrounded by scaffolding, as part of a restoration and conservation project, and I was glad to hear that when Hollywood came knocking for the movie, no amount of money would convince the guardians to take off the scaffolding and canopy for filming.  The moviemakers had to build their own replica, and only one short scene was actually filmed in the chapel.  Money can’t buy everything.

I can’t believe we don’t have a picture of the whole chapel. Here’s a study of something or other.

This is an awe-inspiring place. You could spend days here.

Note: Mike and I have been married for 25 years. After surviving the adventure that is Scottish driving, there is nothing that can tear us apart. ‘Nuff said.

I have painting projects to do today, so the Isle of Skye and Inverness will have to wait until later. Don’t touch that dial!

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