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Monthly Archives: July 2020

motivational mantras

Max, the mover of the moment 🙂

My WFH has been automatically extended and Dr B continues to be in a high-risk category or two. That’s not going to stop. I mean, he’s not Merlin, so he’s not going to start getting younger! Given the COVID-19 status of eastern states at the moment – particularly Victoria; and if any of you are there, warmest wishes to you and hang in there, because we’re all in this together – further automatic extensions could just about see us through till Christmas. As silly as that sounds, the tinselly time isn’t as far away as we might think.

I thought I’d been doing quite well with WFH. I don’t swear too much about the technology, even on days of high frustration levels. I’m only occasionally tempted to scream at people during meetings (sometimes I do; with my mute button safely deployed). I might be tempted to drink during work hours, but I wait till knock-off time. I have not been exercising as much as I would have had I continued with office based work, because there’s a great deal more incidental exercise involved in simply getting to the office. Still, I have tried to factor in a daily stroll around the back yard, weather and my current state of health and/or exhaustion permitting.

But if I’ve been a bit quiet lately – and I know my blog has lulls when things are busy elsewhere; that’s just how Life is – it’s been simply because I couldn’t sit for long enough to write anything! My chronic back problems occasionally flare up big-time, and as predictable as they are, they’re also utterly unpredictable. I never know quite which bout is going to turn into something I can’t manage with over-the-counter medications.

This time, I ended up over at our local hospital emergency department for a few hours, being carefully assessed and bringing home a significant medication upgrade. Our old mate’s oft-repeated advice of “Keep taking the tablets” is the mantra of the moment. Also, as one staff member advised me in precisely these words, “Suck it up” – meaning forget about your dignity – “and get a walking frame.” Who, me? Yes, indeed, and what a difference it makes. I have named my walker Max, for what I think are obvious reasons (the Aunts agree, but the Bs are mystified). So, you know, have I now officially reached the ranks of the old farts? Perhaps, although I will never own the title like Dr B, because he is always going to be much older than I am (as he constantly reminds me).

I remind myself that one great-grandmother, who died at 56, was described in the coroner’s report as an “elderly woman”. You might say – and I’d agree – that nowadays we wouldn’t view that as particularly elderly. However, my own mantra of “Whatever works for you” is a good enough reason to be grateful to the frame for the assistance it provides during this acute flare-up. I will hang onto Max literally now, but also in the sense of retaining him so that, should I ever again need a walker – increasingly likely, for all sorts of reasons including the fact that I am also not Merlin – then I’ll have one neatly tucked away ready to use.

The housework suffers, because I simply cannot do anything that requires bending, stretching or lifting, or sitting or standing for any length of time. So, if the house is a little dustier than usual, here’s another mantra: “Don’t breathe too deeply!” And if the laundry is piling up (nicely illustrated as background to Max, I think), because nobody else can or will do it, I remind myself that it doesn’t eat anything and will still be there tomorrow.

May all your mantras provide motivation and reassurance, too, no matter your situation 😀

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2020 in Health

 

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reflecting on yarning

Dear Mum

It’s not that I forgot your birthday this year but more that this year has already been such a strange one that normal and usual are no longer quite what they were only a few months ago. Deadlines seem to rush up, then slide past almost unremarked. And, oh, that’s another week, or month, gone who knows where, and now here it is, once again approaching the anniversary of your death.

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We’ll all get a party eventually

The three of us had actual birthdays during lockdown. We might – just – have sneaked in a special lunch for YoungB before distancing measures became too stringent. We decided that the risk was not worthwhile, and reluctantly cancelled our restaurant booking. His celebration was at home and with cake. Mine? Definitely at home and with cake. Dr B’s? Ditto. Well, I wrote about his cake! We will have a pub or restaurant meal together eventually in whatever the new version of normal turns out to be, and if there’s no second wave meaning a return to lockdown. So far, things are looking all right here in SA but we know that it would be foolish indeed to become complacent.

Because it’s winter and cold, I was musing about hot water bottles and what a difference they made to the comfort level of the crisp, cotton bed-linen we had when we were kids and which sometimes felt as nippy as the frosty ground. I recall that you knitted covers for our hot water bottles, and that Dad made a twisted cord to fasten each of them. I specifically remember watching him do that because it was something out of the ordinary that he should be contributing to a yarn project. Many years later, I made twisted cords to adorn the neckline of some baby singlets I’d knitted for a friend’s premature twins. They are easy but always effective – as you can see!

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Feather and fan singlets, with twisted cord at neckline

While I certainly remember watching you knit, I think it was so much a part of your everyday life, of you, that remembering you work on a specific project is barely possible. I remember many of the garments you made: cardigans, jumpers, woolly hats and beanies, scarves, jackets, shawls and stoles to mention just a few.

It was a treat to watch you and the Great Aunts sitting around the kitchen table when they came to visit, all busily knitting and having a yarn. I miss that kind of thing and it’s not something you and I had much opportunity to do together. Youngest Aunt doesn’t really knit, and although Middle Aunt does, we don’t haul out our knitting when we get together. On the rare occasions we meet up with our fellow-knitter cousins, we don’t sit about and knit. We’ll almost certainly have a yarn and we might occasionally discuss yarny projects but, and absolutely no pun intended, it’s clear we’ve lost that connecting thread.

You were a clever and inventive knitter, always willing to try something new or put your own twist on a technique to ensure the result you sought. Naturally, you had the occasional disappointment when no matter how you tweaked it, a pattern just did not deliver. Most of the time, I dare say only you would have known that the resulting garment wasn’t right or that – for example – the collar might have sat better if you’d tried yet another technique. Taking my cue from you, I’ve occasionally tinkered with a technique that was too fussy to bother with when a simpler one would produce the same result and avoid excessive frustration.

Crochet was never your forte, although you were competent enough to help fix mistakes in my beginner work. You conceded that it was often quicker in the hands of an expert, but pointed out that it consumed considerably more yarn; another important consideration. I am still not an expert but, as with anything done frequently enough, I have become more proficient over the years. I appreciate that, like knitting, sometimes a simple technique provides a complex-looking output and I’m all for that.

You would have loved Ravelry and found the wealth of online tutorials a valuable resource, as I have done while seeking inspiration with my latest yarn projects for your new great-granddaughters. Those projects have overall been enormous fun and a great learning experience. I think of it as a good way to keep my brain nimble as well as my fingers, including a certain amount of mental juggling between terminology. My brain still hurts from hearing people with UK accents delivering instructions using US terms.

However, I will probably never again use your mother’s crochet hook, which says it’s size 5 1/2, but is smaller than the 1.4mm that some charts say that’s meant to equate to. It’s smaller than 1.25mm or even 1.00mm, because I have hooks in those sizes that I’ve measured it against. The measurements in these charts look more accurate. I used it a few times when I was a young woman but neither my eyes nor my dexterity would be up to it now, unless I could find a way to put a chunky handle on it. That might mean I could hold it, but I probably still wouldn’t be able to see what I was doing. Heaven help us, I think I’m getting old!

And, yes, Mum, I am getting old. I am older now than you ever were, which is a very sobering thought for a chilly winter’s evening. I think it’s fair to say I have fewer wrinkles, thanks to having never smoked and, equally as importantly, being of a generation encouraged from an early age to practise good sun-protection; but I think I have much more grey in my hair, only partly disguised by what Dr B concedes is a surprising amount of lingering blonde!

YoungB is out carousing with a group of his mates in a last hurrah for the footballer among them who’s lining up for imminent knee surgery. Dr B and I are about to have some vegetable soup for dinner, accompanied by crusty bread. It’s an ideal winter meal. After that, I expect we’ll pull up a patch of couch in front of the TV. We might watch something, or one or the other of us – or possibly both or us – might snooze. No matter. I’ll pull my blue shawl over my shoulders. It does need another spot of mending, I admit, but it will keep me warm. And it will be, as ever, like having you reach from the past to wrap me in the warmth of your hug.

Thanks for all the knitting tips, Mum, and for leading by example. I’m doing my best to follow in your footsteps 😀

 

 

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the one that didn’t work

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This one just didn’t do it for me, though it’s a lovely pattern.

It’s a funny thing that, although I loved the flow of this pattern, which has the added advantages of being quick and easy, I genuinely disliked that colour scheme (even more than any of the rainbow squares). I’m not entirely sure why. It is probably a pattern that works best with a single colour, but might also provide a spectacular result with a light-coloured, variegated yarn. Oh, well. Win some, lose some.

The yarn is once again 8-ply Lincraft cotton so I can no doubt put that square to good use for some sort of table covering, or as gift-wrapping for an ecologically-minded recipient.

I’m now trying to conquer C2C crochet, so I have a little TV-crochet project. There are many tutorials online. I’m using the second-nastiest acrylic yarn I have ever worked with – the nastiest was so plastic it squeaked – but it holds surprisingly good stitch definition, meaning that I can see what I’m doing. The bright colours also help with that. And, like the cotton square above, I’m sure it could be put to good use around the house. It might make a very good out-the-back blanket for cool evenings, but certainly couldn’t be used a gift-wrap for anyone who’s at all ecologically minded.

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Awful yarn, but bright and cheerful

I bought the yarn for a yarn bombing exercise in which I was then unable to participate. It has languished in my stash for a number of years, being not quite the right texture or colour to form part of any other stashbusting project using acrylic yarn – such as, for example, Youngest Aunt’s giant not-quite-granny-square blanket or my little knee rug.

May all  your yarny projects work out as you intend 🙂

 
 

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a measured challenge

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Bits of everything, both old and new, on the other side of the street

This is my response to a creative writing challenge that I set for our group: 400-or-so words addressing the topic of Modern Urban Architecture: love it or hate it? My photographic hint included the biomedical precinct.

YoungB and I both work in “smart” urban buildings.

His epitomises light, and thoughtful design. It is cutting-edge green, distinctively shaped and immediately eye-catching. One face echoes the line of rail and river defining its precinct’s northern border. It is well established, but provokes strong opinions and comments. I love the cheese-grater. You might hate it.

My refurbed building claims equal greenness. It is Bauhaus squarematches its constraining streetscape and provokes zero comment. Its internals include automatically calculated number of travellers per lift, motion-sensor-operated lights, airconditioning that kicks in as needed, and entrance doors whose opening width varies with incoming numbers. On my level at my workstation, this equates to perennial gloom and aircon that rarely works as intended, meaning hot-spots and iceboxes within a few metres of each other; surely a design fail. As to the rest? I yearn for fresh air and sunshine.

Many modern urban buildings seem irretrievably ugly: some because they are so out of sympathy with existing buildings that you wonder they ever received planning permission, others because they are plonked four-square into a space, with bitsy facade interruptions that do little but provide excellent burglar handholds. Viewed from the street, there is nothing attractive about them.

Down by the river, the hospital provides some visual interest for a structure whose form must serve its function.To me, other buildings in the precinct seem ugly. One is riddled with zig-zag timbers that look like forgotten bits of scaffolding, particularly when viewed from the train. They are part of the design. YoungB reminded me that those same buildings are beautiful by night when all you see is a wash of real and reflected light and the stylised Southern Cross.

Some of those ugly-outside buildings might be beautiful inside, have top NABERS ratings, and tick every box of their design brief. They might be pleasant to work in, even with low natural light and poor airflow. Once you’re inside a building, its outer appearance matters little. Energy-saving internal considerations are then paramount. From a purely practical perspective, most modern buildings do those well.

Happily, the era of urban architecture ruled by metal tubes and slabs of concrete is behind us, but I wonder is the next phase better? Even if there is greater interior efficiency, does it counteract square, uninteresting and often downright ugly exteriors, particularly when we know that doesn’t have to be the case?

 

 

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blanket business

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A messy, inside shot of the rainbow blanket, so not the brightest outcome

And now, are you ready for the details? Here we go.

For the rainbow blanket:

The sunburst granny pattern worked on a 5mm hook, to make the puff stitches puffier and so I could wiggle my hook through them, using the following colours of Lincraft 8-ply cotton. In rainbow order – you  might recall, I cycled through a four-round ROYGBIV for each square and a white joining round in a five by seven layout:

Colour in rainbow Yarn colour and amount used
Red Red, 50g, dye lot 37706
Orange Orange, 50g, dye lot 37004
Yellow Yellow, 50g, dye lot 37705
Green Bottle green, 50g, dye lot 48612
Blue Aqua, 50g, dye lot 43807
Indigo Denim, 50g, dye lot 48610
Violet Lavender, 50g, dye lot 37708
White light (all colours combined) White, 150g, dye lots 46603 and 48403

 

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My actual matrix. Unscientific, but effective 😀

It’s true that I broached a second ball of yarn for most of the colours, but that was generally around considerations of potentially running out mid-round. Only one or two colours really required that second ball. Most of them were factually a little under the full 50g. As you know, I did run out of white but Dr B saved the day.

For the neutral palette blanket:

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Eight petal colours cycled six down then two at the top of the next row, and so on, so that no rows or columns were identical.

African Flower or paperweight pattern, and I used the first one I found on YouTube. I later checked several other tutorials, but preferred Parineko’s “octagon to square” method.

Another benefit of multiplication being commutative, and 24 being a multiple of three, four, six and eight, is that there are more layout options. Happily, I was able to keep tonally similar squares near each other. I checked that with Dr B, mind you, before I committed to the final layout, because his colour vision is a great deal more reliable than mine.

Worked on a 3.5mm hook to ensure a firm fabric. I used a variety of yarns, all 100% cotton. The colours I wanted weren’t available when I first looked and I hadn’t decided on a pattern. I wanted to make a start on the blanket because I was less able to join rainbow squares once the cooler weather hit. So, like anyone with an aged, well-curated stash, I tried to make do with what I had.

Lockdown then further dictated either what I was able to buy when I needed another outlining colour for the petals and/or where I was able to buy it. I’d originally thought about grey for the joining colour but was unable to purchase a sufficient quantity for that task. OK, then, not grey. I discarded the idea of cream/parchment because I thought it might make for a tonally flat result. But, as you know, I found a different joining colour: a mustard shade whose actual descriptor is coriander, which makes more sense if you think dried seeds.

  • Round 1 all squares (centre): butter (Lincraft)
  • Rounds 2 and 3 all squares: cream (Lincraft) or parchment (Bendigo Woollen Mills (BWM)) when the cream ran out and I was unable to source more
  • Round 4: three squares of each of these eight different colours
    • French rose (BWM yarn)
    • natural (Lincraft) – which I considered for joining
    • bright mustard/gold (Abbey Road kung fu cotton yarn, made in Italy for Spotlight; Lot 10)
    • dark olive green (Abbey Road kung fu cotton yarn, made in Italy for Spotlight; Lot 09)
    • hedge green (Lincraft)
    • Nile blue (Lincraft) – which I thought was dark jade, but was probably blue
    • periwinkle (Lincraft) – which I thought was a soft lilac, but was probably blue
    • clearwater (Lincraft) – which I thought was light jade, but was probably blue
  • Round 5 all squares: silver – which I read as grey and had originally intended to use for joining but didn’t have enough and couldn’t source more
  • Round 6 all squares: cream (Lincraft) or parchment (BWM), and another alternative for joining but I wanted greater contrast
  • Round 7 all squares, joining round: coriander (ficio Organic cotton yarn, made in India, purchased at Lincraft; Lot SC36-1 – which I read as a dark mustard and hadn’t considered for joining until it was all I could find in sufficient quantity and, as a matter of fact, fell in love with)
  • Border
    • Round 1: parchment (BWM)
    • Rounds 2 and 3: dark olive green (Abbey Road kung fu cotton yarn, made in Italy, purchased at Spotlight; Lot 09)
    • Round 4: bright mustard/gold (Abbey Road kung fu cotton yarn, made in Italy, purchased at Spotlight; Lot 10)

For the joining round on both blankets, I used Hooked by Robin‘s Solid TIGHT Continuous Join As You Go (CJAYG) PLT Method. I probably made more than a few errors but it worked and I liked the way it turned out. It may now be my preferred JAYG method.

Finally, I note that both blankets were made with much love for two new little cousins, and able to be discussed and displayed openly now that they’ve been presented to their intended recipients and their mums.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2020 in Crochet

 

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haiku for Dan

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1950: Dan in wedge-tailed eagle‘s nest near Orroroo, with puppy Mowgli tucked in his jacket. Who took the photo?

Dear Dad

It’s nearly your birthday again, so here’s the annual essay letter.

The most important news is that your two great-granddaughters came into the world in March. One was born at a nearby metropolitan hospital, so we met her. The other was born nine days later at a country hospital. By then, we couldn’t freely travel about the country so we haven’t met her. What’s that all about? Pop the kettle on, pull up a chair, and I’ll tell you.

It’s been a funny old world since the last letter. My job forbids me to comment on some issues but others include: bushfires worse than Ash Wednesday 1983, which you survived despite severe burns and long hospitalisation; continuing drought in some areas while others endured the worst storms and floods for decades; and then – something far trickier to quantify – disease. COVID-19, caused by a coronavirus, is not something local or even national, but worldwide, and the pandemic still rages. Wikipedia provides a reasonable layman’s overview and enough information to confirm that it’s a dreadful thing, and far worse than influenza (or the common cold, whose causative organism is also a coronavirus).

Australia has so far been extremely fortunate. We are a large island with a small population. Distance comes easily to us, but most of the problems start within our dense coastal population. With the first wave, implementation of control measures seemed slow, but infections and deaths were relatively few. The states appeared more proactive than the federal government, with earlier introduction of travel restrictions and limiting numbers at gatherings but full, nationwide lockdown came into force from 31 March. Restrictions eased towards the end of May and beginning of June, but we seem now to be entering the second wave and things don’t look so fortunate.

There’s a whole new vocabulary: lockdown; self-isolating and self-isolation; social distancing and physical distancing (much the same thing); COVIDsafe environment; and travel bubble. There’s also work/ing from home that’s become simply WFH, and YoungB and I are old hands. Neither of us has ever zoombombed, but he is definitely adept at zooming. We don’t indulge in excessive doomsurfing but do try to keep abreast of situations affecting family elsewhere in the world. We have enjoyed many quarantinis.

As bizarre as you will think this, there were hordes of toilet-paper hoarders, whose widespread mystifying behaviour led to some actual fisticuffs. The hoarding is beginning to ramp up again with the resurgence of infections. We didn’t hoard anything but we had some damn awful loo paper! During April, petrol was at record low prices, probably – I say cynically – because so few people were able to buy it. The ACCC had to step in to ensure that motorists benefited. Yeah, right. We have availed ourselves of online grocery shopping and home delivery. The concomitant decrease in driving – and, therefore, fuel consumption – ensured that one tank lasted a long time. All those things help to make Dr B’s life less stressful, and he’s most at risk.

We don’t talk about much about stress, but mental-health considerations deserve more attention. There’s always an element of worry, bubbling away just beneath the surface. I sit at home and work and try not to think about it too much. I’m busy, and I’m not out in the world battling the public or public transport, or having to deal with a shared workspace, so I’m all right. No, not in the derogatory “I’m all right, Jack,” way that any Aussie would recognise: I’m genuinely all right, because I am not at immediate risk. I venture out only when I absolutely have to.

It hasn’t all been negative. During lockdown or isolation, many people have discovered hitherto unknown iso skills: they’ve learnt to cook Cordon bleu; or to improve existing baking skills so that they can now make bread. Dr B and I are already able in those areas, and YoungB has refined from his excellent base. For the first few weeks, Dr B tried desperately to reproduce our cafe lifestyle by baking cakes and overworking the coffee machine. That was very nice, but you won’t be surprised to hear that we have all gained a few kilos. So what, if we’re safe?

Many have turned to creative pursuits: knitting, crochet or something involving yarn, fabric or other fibres to produce an object. Some have taken up drawing or painting. Still others pursue writing as a creative outlet. I participate in an online writing group, convened by a former workmate. Our latest challenge involved writing a haiku or poem about losing the pets we love so dearly. I think farmers need a level of pragmatism about losing animals, but your several beloved sheepdogs came to mind. I chose the photo of you with one of them as a puppy for this post. Here is my haiku to describe eventually losing that dog, and those who came later and inevitably followed Mowgli:

Each across the Rainbow Bridge
Went at last, taking
A piece of their master’s heart.

I don’t have much more to say today (thank goodness for that, you’ll be thinking). It’s winter and it’s cold; precisely what you’d expect in July Down Under. We are well. We are safe. We wash our hands and practise social-distancing while fearing a possible return to full iso. As I seem to be in a poetic frame of mind, here’s another haiku prompted by the first:

When I left you were fading,
That soft, final breath
Taking you from life’s journey.

Those of us still here continue the journey and now a new generation journeys with us. Those little great-granddaughters are the latest exciting thread of your ongoing story and I think they will spin it well.

I have work tomorrow, so had better finish this. Lots of love, Dad, and remember to keep wearing those thick, fluffy socks so your toes don’t freeze!

 

 

 

 

 

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the big reveal

I’d intended to do a proper photo shoot of the little blankets. You know the sort of thing: clean, uncluttered background, good lighting, no funny angles. Yeah, of course you know.

Having said all that, when the opportunity for early in-person (via an intermediary) delivery unexpectedly presented itself, I was more than happy to shelve all those fancy plans and simply take relatively clear, relatively uncluttered photos with the best lighting I could manage so that the Little Girls could have their footy-match picnic blankets as soon as possible.

I pointed out to Middle Aunt when she collected them that there’ll be no other blanket within cooee that’s anything like either of these, so they should be easy to keep track of. The truth, of course, is that there’s not going to be another blanket anywhere in the world like either of these. Each is truly unique. In the highly unlikely event that someone else hits upon the same patterns and colour schemes, I’m sure the, uh, individual design features are entirely my own 😉

Without further ado, here are the photos.

Starburst granny rainbow blanket for Baby One, who turned out to be Baby Two:

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African flower neutrals blanket for Baby Two, who turned out to be Baby One:

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Posted by on July 8, 2020 in Crochet

 

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destashing crojo

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The fingerless mitts are old but I had lots of leftover yarn.

For the first time, I crocheted a beanie. Pattern is Easy Winter Beanie by Rich Textures Crochet. There’s a tutorial here.

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You can roll up the brim just once for a slouchy effect.

I used leftover Bendigo Woollen Mills 8-ply Murano yarn in colour 45 (it’s no longer in production) and a size H / 5.5mm hook.

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Or you can roll it over twice and look like a Cossack!

YoungB insists on calling it a Cossack hat. It really isn’t, but the shape hints at that. It keeps my head and ears warm. Sometimes beanies ride up too much and you end up with chilly earlobes, but this one is super.

I hope you  manage to find some quick destashing projects, too, whether or not your crojo has deserted you 😀

 

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happy haiku

Yesterday I met up with some friends whom I last saw in January. I’m sure you’ll believe me when I say that we had much to discuss. Another of the group is a serious writer, better able to dedicate herself to writing, now that she’s retired. At one point, we were chatting about the challenges presented by various literary forms. We agreed that haikus are hard work, even in English.

I wrote this off the cuff for a Lockdown Creative Writing Group to which I contribute somewhat sporadically. There’s no seasonal reference as in a traditional haiku, but the syllable count is correct. Perhaps that’s enough of an achievement.

As I’ve demonstrated at length on this blog, my creativity has lately been channelled elsewhere. I explained that to the group rather than simply launch into a haiku that I knew didn’t meet the writing brief. I also shared photos of the two new blankets, so that both my “creating in another medium” and my poem might make more sense to other group members:

I chose their colours with care
Without knowing then
How well they would suit them both.
 

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today has been exhausting

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The westward view from lunchtime. Photo © Gianluca D. Pompili

We’re all OK, really, despite the continuing uncertainty around when I might return to the office. Dr B went for a pushbike ride today, and enjoyed the almost 70 Km round trip that, he said, was accomplished at a manageable pace. YoungB decided against commuting by pushbike today, to avoid battling the severe wind and rain forecast for the homeward leg. He went running with a workmate at lunchtime instead, and stopped on the bridge to take a photo. You’d swear that was a warm, sunny day, wouldn’t you, with not a cloud in sight? It was. It didn’t last.

I worked today, as usual. Everything seemed messy and muddly. In part, the technology sulked. Sulking along with it felt like a perfectly reasonable response, so I did precisely that. I swore a lot, anyway, which is probably sulking by any other name. I got out into the garden at lunchtime for a spot of sunshine and exercise, but the plentiful sunshine didn’t equal warmth although it lifted my spirits marginally.

I’m tired. Try as I might, I cannot muster enthusiasm for any crafting endeavour of any variety, now that the urgent deadlines have passed and I’ve yet to decide on a new project. July has only just begun and the worst of winter is still ahead of us. It’s always a difficult time of year. That I am continuing to WFH is a good thing, because I don’t have to worry too much about the cold and grey that wait outdoors.

I hope your cold and grey stay outdoors, too, so that you don’t have to worry about them 😀

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2020 in Cycling, Health

 

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