About this time of year, when I have Really Had Enough of the cold, I remind myself – or try to remind myself – that I have survived far worse 🙂
Category Archives: Travel
Dear Mum, Youngest Aunt and I arrived at the answer by different methods – neither straightforward; you know we’re like that with arithmetic – but we agreed that, had you been still alive, this June we would have celebrated your 99th birthday.
You died well short of reaching that, and more than half our lives have been lived without you: without your smile and your wonderful baking (I occasionally get a real craving for one of those tasty, hearty egg-and-bacon pies with the light-as-air pastry, or the fabulous melt-in-your-mouth shortbread), your razor-sharp memory for sometimes obscure poetry, the weekly chinwag as to tricky questions in the Crossquiz (as it was then) and whether we’d reached excellence with the Target word, and the high-scoring Scrabble games, not to mention the occasional hand of whisky poker played for the killingly extravagant stakes of one- and two-cent pieces (legal tender in those days).
Yes, we’ve missed you, but you’ve missed so much, too: the family’s travels, the weddings, the grandchildren you’d been hoping for, all the accolades and awards across the years, and let’s not forget the music. You’ve missed a lot of singing and music-making at family get-togethers and Christmases. Middle Aunt and I still dust off our piano duets at Christmas, in what has become something of a ritual.
But you’re never truly far from any of us. For me, I see you in YoungB’s smile that’s so much like yours. I thought of you often when he was a rower, because the high school you once attended has a rowing program nowadays and our marquees were frequently alongside each other. You’re probably raising your eyebrows, wondering why I don’t mention that I see you when I look in the mirror, or every time Middle Aunt and I sit together at parties and confuse people who don’t know us well. Yes that’s true, and we laugh about it.
I see your work and evidence of your organisational abilities in the Lunchbox recipe book I use all the time. And I wish I could ask you about the everyday recipes you whipped up that I cannot remember (and that aren’t in the Lunchbox). I’m sure you knew how much I hated raisin biscuits. They were marginally nicer than the spice biscuits, both of which you baked far too frequently, as far as I was concerned; but you wouldn’t believe how often I’ve tried to find a recipe for raisin biscuits. I’ve proved they’re not fruit jumbles. That’s all I’ll say.
As well as that, I have your sewing machine (I think I can truly claim it as mine by now, but it was yours before it was mine). I have many of your knitting needles and and patterns. And I can knit, thanks to your teaching me (although I acknowledge that the Great Aunts helped). I still use my first-ever knitting needles. Although I can’t knit as quickly as you, nor do I have the same easy rhythm – and ditto those comments with regard to the Great Aunts, too – it’s true that most of the time I get there.
I’ve learnt that there’s much truth in your wisdoms that a blind man would be pleased to see it, that any small improvement renders the situation better than it was, and that if you’re out there doing it then you’re streets ahead of someone sitting at home. I often remind myself about the Devil and the tailor, shorten my thread accordingly and then squint at the needle just the way you did. I chastise myself for using sewing needles that would double as crowbars (your term again). But, heck, how are you meant to thread anything with a smaller eye?
We do these things. Life goes on. I repeat your words, which were probably those of your own mother, and so it continues down the generations. Every now and again, we add up the numbers. And this year we reached 99.
Back when I was at boarding school, we wrote letters on Sundays. Mine always started in the same manner, “Dear Mum, Dad and Youngest Aunt, How are you? I hope you are well. I am very well.” What came after that was likely to be influenced by what I’d been doing – attending basketball matches or other sporting events, going for a walk, trying to keep warm or cool depending on the season – and questions around what might be happening at home. I liked writing letters. I still do. Later on, in the early 1990s, when Mum was long dead, Dad and I tried to resurrect the art of letter-writing. We had something of a two-person crusade going for a while. We weren’t able to keep it up, but it was fun while it lasted. And, as today would have been his 102nd birthday, I thought I might write him a letter anyway.
Dear Dad, Happy birthday. I hope you’re managing to keep warm (I think I’d have to say that; he wasn’t much of a one for the cold and it’s pretty chilly). YoungB will be home next week. It’s hard to believe that almost a year has passed but his long absence has been made easier by modern technology. I wish we’d had that when I was overseas and you weren’t because, at that time, letters took a long time and phone calls were hideously expensive and remarkably difficult. We’ll have a family lunch to celebrate his return, though not everyone will be there. There’ll be lots to talk about as well as his being home again. After all, there’s to be a wedding in the family in October and that’s a happy prospect. We’re all excited about it and I’m pleased to be involved in making some of the decorations for it. No, I can’t tell you about them because the details are secret; actually, so secret I don’t know them myself yet 🙂
There’ll be the Bloody Long Walk to accomplish prior to that, of course, because we’re all training up for it. Your youngest granddaughter, whom you never met, is completing her physiotherapy training and will be able to give us some good advice. She’s been keeping an eye on us from afar, because netball has claimed her when work and study haven’t, and wondering who would be the first to succumb to injury. You know how dodgy my knees are, so I dare say you won’t be surprised to hear that I gave her cause for amusement after last weekend’s walk by requesting advice for some strengthening exercises. Oh, well, somebody had to be first and it doesn’t matter that it was me.
(In pensive vein I might go on to thank him for many things, in no particular order.) Thank you for teaching me to tie a reef knot, to milk a cow, to skirt a fleece, to whistle; for instilling in me the importance of shining my shoes (I used to get compliments for them when I was a student nurse; the credit, I think, is entirely yours), for teaching me how to change a tyre and persisting with teaching me to drive. Thank you for travelling with Youngest Aunt and me through Europe and, on the whole, not being too much of a PITA about it. I hope you were able to say the same. It was a tough gig, but we survived and didn’t we have some tales to tell!
Thank you for coming to our rescue when we lost our little 4WD over the gully, and for enduring the camp bed in the shed when you visited us on our bush block. Thank you for your sense of humour and your knack for storytelling, both of which I see in my son, the younger grandson whom you never met. You would have liked him. He shares your love of word games and he rides a motorbike. He’d have loved your old Norton. You would have had lots of things to talk about. You could have shared your impressions of Italy with him when he returns next week, and laughed, no doubt, about the crazy drivers and the terror of life as a pedestrian in their busy cities. You won’t have that opportunity and neither will he. That’s a pity but it’s life. One generation makes way for the next. And though I don’t see your looks in his apart from his colouring (which is too dark for Dr B to claim credit), his easygoing nature is so like yours that I’m convinced there’s a bit of DNA that can be attributed directly to you. Thank you for that, too.
Thank you for more things than I can think of right now, really. Although you’re no longer here, you’re always part of us. We miss you. Lots of love.
PS (there was almost always a PS): I got some new walking boots the other week because my joggers weren’t up to the rough terrain around the southern part of the BLW; although they’re not Rossis, they’re all right and provide good ankle support. And, wouldn’t you know it, I had to buy some new boots for work, too, because that cheap pair I bought a couple of months ago fell apart! But of course I still haven’t knitted any socks 🙂 XX
Progress on this mitt! In fact, progress on the pair of them. I began the second mitt, but it’s become clear I should have ribbed the whole of the first mitt. Therefore, tinking ahead 😦
Dr B and I were to have done another training walk today, but I came home from work early yesterday because I was sneezing and carrying on so much that the Admin Team bullied me into it! I said I had an allergic reaction (thought I couldn’t have said to what). They weren’t convinced. I’m fine today. Plainly, that’s not the speed with which your common cold resolves. I stand by my original assertion. However, a much-needed long sleep meant today’s morning chores turned into afternoon ones and Dr B has headed off to do things with amps, so our walk isn’t going to happen. Tomorrow, Youngest Aunt and I will walk a 16 Km beachside loop.
The training program that’s outlined on the Bloody Long Walk’s website doesn’t start for a couple of weeks – and that’s the Beginner Level – so we’re ahead of ourselves in that respect. That’s no bad thing, since it means we’re able to sort out our equipment now and have it working to our complete satisfaction by September. Dr B is worried about me – I think it’s in his job brief 🙂 – so I gave in gracefully and, at his urging, bought some new boots the other night. My joggers would need replacing before September and, to be fair to them, they’ve already done lots of kilometres and are showing signs of wear. They were never intended to provide the sort of ankle support I’ll need on the roughs and ups-and-downs of the first part of the walk, so boots it is.
I have longstanding allegiance to an old name in Aussie boots, but couldn’t get what I wanted. After discussion with a very helpful young man at a nearby outdoor/sports store, I ended up with something lighter, waterproof and more modern. I hope they’re as good as I was led to believe and that they serve me as well as my last pair of Mulgas.
So it’s on with the knitting and on with the walking and the whizzing-past of the year. As for YoungB? He’s seeing Naples at the moment, in the company of a local. He’s posting photos of food porn (special Neapolitan fish cakes), cultural porn (Pompeii) and a degree of beach porn (views of Capri and the Amalfi coastline, not hot babes in bikinis). After getting sunburnt during all that northern activity, I imagine he’s going to find our southern winter temperatures akin to my knitting: glacial.
Whatever your temperatures are doing, may you be progressing well on all of your projects.
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!
Online ordering is quick and the results are occasionally fantastic. I was delighted that YoungB’s combined Christmas and birthday present, a pair of mid-length Ugg boots, arrived safely in a remarkably short time frame (particularly given that he’s in Italy; and, yes, I did send him some fingerless mitts for his actual birthday). The colour of the boots is brighter than I’d thought it might be but he loves them. Excellent.
I remain similarly impressed by the rapidity with which I take delivery of yarn orders from Bendigo. The contents of one recent packet were earmarked for a couple of cowls and a hat or maybe a couple of hats and a cowl but the idea was that one lot was for immediate use crocheting Youngest Niece’s requested cowl. My heart sank, however, when I pulled out what I’d seen as a white only to discover it wasn’t white at all. No matter. It won’t go to waste. That did, however, leave me with a shrinking time frame that I thought would be best addressed by the purchase of different yarn that I could actually check for myself as to colour.
Friday nights in the city can be quite a lot of fun. I walked into town after work, then I tucked into a bowl of laksa noodle soup with dumplings and a big pot of jasmine tea at one of my favourite eateries (Dumplings R Us, but it has no website). After that, I set out to buy yarn. I went from Lincraft to Spotlight, looking for a thick, white, woollen yarn. What I eventually found wasn’t what I’d had in mind but it was soft and, although there’s an acrylic component, it’s not so high that the resulting yarn feels plastic (unlike one that I used to work out a pattern; that was so plastic it actually squeaked). Luckily or unluckily, having been unwell with a cold, I was able to sit about and do not much but crochet the cowl, so I finished it well in time for Youngest Niece’s birthday.
What would it cost if I were to charge for it? Of course I take no account of the practice cowls or any of the work I did on the not-white one – I’ve now finished that and put it in my “this will come in useful for someone” box – but it took me easily 10 hours of work. You couldn’t possibly expect anyone to pay what that would mean in terms of cost, even if I worked it out at the Australian minimum wage (which is around $16.88 per hour). The yarn was $8 per 100-gram ball and I made a sizeable dent on the third ball. Let’s call that was $20. The work? Even at $10 per hour – such a low figure would raise the ire of people who do this sort of thing for a living; and rightly so – let’s say we’re looking at 10 hours or $100? No, you couldn’t anticipate that anyone would actually pay that amount for a very plain, hand-crocheted cowl. Yes, in real terms, it would be worth at least that much. I personally would be astonished if anyone were prepared to pay $50 for such a thing. So there’s the old discussion: handcrafting doesn’t pay.
As I say, for me this is just a hobby so I crochet in this case, or knit more usually, during my long commutes and maybe while I’m sitting around after tea discussing the day’s news or the next day’s schedule. It gives me something to do and makes me a nicer person. That shouldn’t devalue what I do but I understand that some might make an argument that I ought not to charge a high hourly rate. Some might even suggest that I shouldn’t charge at all for my time in those circumstances. I’m happy to make things for family members who appreciate them – and that Youngest Niece actually asked for this because she loves the original so much means she certainly is one such person – and I would never expect to factor in cost. All the same, if I wanted to be paid for my time, how would I ever calculate its worth?
It gets you thinking that, this year, just for once, instead of starting the winter being cold and pretending that thick leggings will be up to the job of keeping your legs warm with short boots when you’re waiting at the bus stop, you’ll start it with some long boots already in your wardrobe. I’ve had long boots at different times of my life – a gray pair that I wore for years, including through winter in Italy – and a pair of fleecy-lined, faux suede not-above-the-knee-long-but-longer-than-short boots that I bought in London and wore to the USSR (as it still was in those days) during December and January. It was really cold there. Minus 40! Made London’s zero degrees seem quite balmy.
Anyway, I bought some long boots the other night.
So does any of this relate to knitting or crochet? Where is all this going? To handmade socks. In my experience, you do need socks under boots, whether long or short, so you have something to tuck your leggings into. Obviously, the drama with winter footwear is that your feet are enclosed and you need some sort of hosiery on them and whatever it is will almost always have seams that rub and, because you have fitted, not-open-toed footwear, there’s a danger that the seams might cause little friction burns; even if they don’t, they’re not very comfortable. Handmade socks don’t have seams. That’s one of their many attractions.
When I get to the end of the present list of knitting, if I ever do, I’ll be fossicking around in the stash for some sock yarn (or, possibly, finishing that green pair). Failing that, Bendigo have some delicious sock yarn. There’s the variegated blue, which I would enjoy and which nobody could say was anything but suitable for work since blue is one of our acceptable corporate colours. And they have other, self-patterning yarns, which I have never tried. What do you say to socks as bus knitting, with the general aim of eventually keeping my feet warm? Mindless enough, interesting enough (with self-striping or self-patterning yarn) and small enough not to require too much elbow room? Surely that would be a winning combination?
In any case, I’ve ordered some yarn and dusted off my favourite sock recipe 🙂
PS: I’m having some technical problems, which have resulted in some of my posts apparently disappearing. I say “apparently” because when I checked, they were present and correct; just not showing up. The problem is likely to be at my end, so apologies for that. My IT guru – that would be Dr B – is troubleshooting, as usual, and his success rate is reasonable.