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Category Archives: Singing

a big, post-election grumble about a lot of what I see

No grumbles with this pattern, which is progressing nicely

No grumbles with this pattern, which is progressing nicely

I sat down to write one post and seem to have written two! Please ignore whichever half bores you 😉

The thing about trawling the web and looking at lots of posts on sewing is that so much of what I see strikes me a bit like Arthur Dent‘s house: it precisely fails to please the eye. I can see that the cut is lovely, or the colour is, or that it’s beautifully made but sometimes? Sometimes the proportion is all wrong or the colour doesn’t suit the person wearing it and the cut isn’t flattering on the figure of the wearer. The bodice of a drop-waisted skirt is too long or perhaps it’s the skirt that’s too short (or possibly long), though the overall length is fine, but together? It just doesn’t work. That is to say, even allowing for the fact that IRL when it’s moving rather than static it might look better, it just doesn’t work to my eye.

There are patterns about which the online sewing community seems to go into raptures and, although I can find individual things to like about each of the iterations I come across, it leaves me cold. Most of the Colette patterns are in that category – and because plainly designed for a body shape that mine has never been and is now unlikely to achieve, I don’t buy Colette patterns – which is a bit sad because I like the idea of supporting Indie designers rather than the Big Companies. The passion for Tilly‘s Coco was a bit similar; it didn’t ring my bells. And that’s OK. We’re not all the same.

With regard to the clothing, I accept that I’m in no position to criticise, because I myself don’t really make much; some might say I don’t make anything at all and that’s perhaps near enough to the truth. But it’s like singing: just as I can still hear whether that’s good or bad and give you very concise and informed reasons why it’s one or the other, though I do so little of it myself nowadays, I can tell you why those patterns don’t work. That doesn’t mean other people will have the same opinion.

Overall, however, it serves to reinforce the notion that anyone who wants to make their own clothing really needs to be able to draft a pattern and/or be able to make drastic alterations to a pre-existing one. That’s quite an ask in an age where these things are not taught at school. I was fortunate enough to learn pattern-drafting at primary school. My suspicion is that the more any person who sews uses a prefabricated pattern from anywhere – Big Company or Indie designer – the more the realisation grows that, no, it’s not going to cut it to keep doing this. You have to draft your own.

While I’m on a roll, something else that gets up my nose big time is the modern penchant for squashing breasts to flatness. I genuinely appreciate the need for comfort and support, I get the bit about not wanting to bounce around too much and I certainly understand the value of a minimising bra; but one that leaves you looking like some weird sort of chook gone wrong? Uuh, yeah, maybe not. It’s not flattering, it makes the clothes hang badly and, in some cases, is decidedly part of why the clothes don’t look particularly flattering. They’re being beaten at their own game by over-eager corsetry. I don’t have a problem with what’s occasionally described as industrial-strength undergarments so long as they don’t make the body shape they’re assisting into something that no longer resembles a normal, female body. (For tonight’s homework, define normal.) Yeah. I’m feeling cranky.

I admit it: that crankiness has been exacerbated by post-election ennui and the still-in-doubt election result.

On Saturday, I spent hours standing out in the cold, handing out how-to-vote cards. Talk about wondering about a lot of what you see! There were people who turned up beautifully dressed and brightened the day, others who’d obviously come straight from work or sporting events, youngsters being shepherded along by anxious parents afraid of looking right or left lest thoughts be contaminated by a leaflet not to their liking, many grumpy people whose expressions said louder than words that they didn’t appreciate having to vote or what a privilege it is to have that right, those who complained about how far they were forced to travel as if that were something we poor volunteers could magically mend, and many who laughed along with the silly jokes we were making as we handed out leaflets for the umpteenth time.

I occasionally regretted that there is no Socialist Alliance in my electorate, I say with tongue in cheek, because reactions would have been hilarious had I been handing out something with that logo. I certainly don’t look the type to be a rabid Left-winger 🙂 You’re fair game, whatever you’re doing, so you need to be thick-skinned. Luckily, I am. I was reprimanded for my not-at-all-radical views by one older man, who told me I should be ashamed of myself because I was old enough to know what I was doing. It’s not part of the patter, but the queue had stalled at that stage. I drew myself up to my full height – which is not great, but greater than his – and shot back that I certainly am old enough to know what I’m doing, and that’s why I do it. I had a little discussion with another, younger, bloke in the queue about hung parliaments and his view that voting for anything but a major party would result in chaos, despite the fact that many such governments exist worldwide and function well. One chap walked past all the leaflets, muttering as he did so that they’re all bloody criminals (he may have a point; it made me laugh). Another wanted to vote for Pauline Hanson. I reassured him that this isn’t her electorate, nor was there a One Nation candidate. I didn’t suggest he ought to move to Queensland, because I thought it was likely he wouldn’t know where that is.

Silliness aside, I was truly astounded – and not in a good way – by the number of people who seemed to have been caught unawares by the election. We’d just come to the end of one of the longest campaigns in many a year and still they seemed startled by it all. Entirely too many plainly hadn’t given any thought to how they would vote. I don’t expect everyone to do what we do – spreadsheets; I’ve said before that’s how we roll – but I wasn’t surprised that several of my colleagues had worked it all out before election day and taken their print-outs with them. A vote is too valuable to waste.

YoungB was doing his bit at a different polling booth – one with a sausage sizzle, I add with some resignation and a great deal of jealousy; there wasn’t one at mine – and he had some entertaining tales, too. He is a very charming young man and learnt early that if you’re polite to people, generally they will respond in like manner. He reported that he had made eye contact and cheerfully, but very politely, handed out his how-to-vote card. The old trick worked, even though some of them, he thought, would rather have responded with a mouthful of vitriol. Dr B was at a different booth – also sans sausage sizzle – and had a good time, doing two two-hour stints so that he could duck up to see Nonna and give her lunch in the interim. I closed my booth, and YoungB came to help me take down the last of the posters that I simply couldn’t reach. We swapped tales of our day when we arrived home, then he and Dr B went off to the party to watch the tally. I was too tired, too cold and too far behind with domestic chores, so I watched at home while I attended to laundry and the like.

Yesterday the boys went for a motorbike ride, to blow away the cobwebs and reconnect with something other than endless spreadsheets comparing political parties and their policies. We’ve voted, made our choice known, and done it unmolested in a democracy where we can be reasonably assured that our votes weren’t tampered with or ignored. We are in a dreadful, and dreadfully ugly, mess, but we remain extremely fortunate. And the queues about which I heard endless complaints on Saturday? At my booth, they extended to the gate and meant the wait was half an hour to perhaps 40 minutes (at most). It wasn’t days. We were out in the open, but we weren’t there for long.

My personal fitness guru, as YoungB has appointed himself, thought that, while they were out motorcycling, I should do a 10 Km training walk in order to be ready for the Bloody Long Walk at the end of next month. That would take me two hours. But I thought that if I didn’t bring in the laundry, we’d have no clothes for the rest of the week. More pressingly, I was convinced that if I didn’t knit some more of his beanie he wouldn’t have it for next weekend. He’ll certainly need it, because he and I will be visiting friends in a cold part of the world. There, I’ll have good reason to be grumpy; except that the warmth of the friendships will ward off the worst of the chills.

So, yeah. I’ve said my piece about practically everything, I think! Back to the knitting now. I’m pleased to report that it is going well, and I’ve taken the plunge and done some of these cables without using a cable needle. The reason why is probably another grumble, but I think I’ve been cranky enough. Pax 🙂

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patching up after a walk

Early section of the actual Bloody Long Walk route

Early section of the actual Bloody Long Walk route

Youngest Aunt, Colleague J, Dr B and I did about a 10-Km walk today. Dr B doesn’t intend to do the BLW with us, but he was along for moral support and to try out the camera on his new phone. We travelled to the start of the walk and did a loop. Retracing your steps is always a bit boring, but this was gorgeous scenery.

I tore my trousers on a sharp edge somewhere. So I’ve had to mend them!

 

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acknowledging a wounded comrade

Alpino hat with black feather (copied from Wikipedia but a universal image)

Alpino hat with black feather (copied from Wikipedia but a universal image)

Let me say clearly at the outset, we have never been Alpini. The reason I chose this image and post title will become clear, though I should also point out that I don’t mean a comrade wounded in action. But nonetheless, this post talks about a family member who was an Alpino and to this day remains fiercely proud of that fact.

Dr B had a significant birthday recently, so we celebrated by having lunch with Nonna on Sunday (we do it most years, a combined birthday and Mother’s Day affair) and a little chocolate cake – one of those bake-in-a-mug numbers – after dinner on the day itself. We also had a sing-along. One of Dr B’s cousins, Sig A, who’s close to him in age, is presently hospitalised after a major health event. His recovery is uncertain. We’re all somewhat distressed but Dr B is quite shattered. I suppose it’s an intimation of his own mortality though a part of the distress is as simple as knowing that it’s now unlikely he’ll be able to carry out the plans hatched for himself, Sig A and YoungB during YoungB’s visit to Italy (they’re three kindred spirits if ever there were any; when Sig A and his wife visited Australia nearly a decade ago, he and YoungB got on like a house on fire, though neither could understand a word the other was saying).

Sig A did his national service as a member of the Alpini (I hope the hat makes more sense now) and has attended annual reunions ever since. Those traditions are important for him and I well recall laughing at his recounting tales that only hinted at the amount of alcohol downed on such an occasion. My educated guess was “an ocean”. He agreed, surprised, I think, that I’d come to such an accurate conclusion so quickly (several oceans might have been even more accurate, but oceans vary in size. Right?). Singing is also an important part of Alpini traditions and Sig A was very willing to sing with us when he was here. We belted out one of the best renditions of Quel Mazzolin Di Fiori (“That Bunch of Flowers”) I’ve ever been involved in because he had the call and response down to split second timing. So on the evening of the recent day in question, this time accompanied by Dr B on guitar, we sang a few of the songs made famous by the Coro della SocietĂ  degli alpinisti tridentini (or SAT; and you could try Google translate if you’re really keen). We have a battered, because much used, copy of the Canti della Montagna, produced by SAT, that assumes you know the tune but need help with the words. We need a bit of help with both.

Another of our songbooks is Canti Folkloristici e Di Montagna (being Folksongs and Mountain Songs; and it’s number 5 in the series of Cantaintasca or Song in Pocket albums produced by Ricordi). It’s even more battered but does at least provide a chord chart, which is a useful thing in a family of musicians. The chords are Italian – that is to say, pretty much what you might know as solfeggio – but that doesn’t present a problem for Dr B (and, because there’s a chart at the front, even YoungB could attempt it if he had to, though it would undoubtedly take him longer to nut out). We sorted out the right key and away we went with a very famous song whose melodic contour YoungB loves, Dove Sei Stato Mio Bell’Alpino? (“Where have you been, My Handsome Alpino?”).

We finished with a declared nod to Sig A by singing Sul Cappello Che Noi Portiamo which means “On the hat that we wear” and which is occasionally referred to as Su Pei Monti (“Up in the Mountains”). It relates a story of the Alpini – the long, black feather that serves as a banner (see hat above), how they pick flowers to give the girls to make them weep and sigh, and how [in place of those flowers] they build a barracks and drink to the Corps; it’s beautiful and haunting while being quite a rousing number – and, though there’s a generic version, it’s possible to insert the name of one’s own particular company of the Corps. Nonna, for example, always sings the Ninth, which is what her father used to sing (though he was not a member of the Alpini, having fought against the Italians under Franz Josef; but there you are, he had a favoured company and she fiercely corrects us when we get it wrong).

It’s possible to google either of those songs and find a host of recordings, if you’re keen.

Excuse my definite animadversion into what’s clearly neither sewing nor knitting nor anything at all craft related. I, too, have great affection for Sig A and his wife. It’s tough being on the other side of the world at a time like this. The very least we can do is sing for Sig A. So we did.

PS: I’m sorry, that should be regiment, not company.

 

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