Wednesday, 29 August 2007

The long and winding road

This is probably going to be rambling because that´s the state of my mind and thoughts at the moment. Bear with me. I´ve spoken no English so far today so my thoughts don´t feel very clear.

I´m still having a good time Madrid and enjoying the city immensely. It´s a truly great place and I definitely want to return. Yesterday I had my best day so far. I had a great class in the morning, met up with Patricia (madrileña, but my friend in Sheffield), ate loads of cakes and drank posh slush puppies around Madrid´s posh parts, boughts some great Spanish books, went home and then went out with other students on the course. I didn´t get in until 2am, so today I am exhausted. It is years since I went to bed so late and had to get up the next day. I spoke ten minutes of English to Ezzie yesterday and Patricia says she can tell the progress with my Spanish already.

I am improving in Spanish, no doubt about it, but I am accutely aware just how much more studying I have to do and I am wondering whether I will ever manage it. German remains my true love and I´m obviously better at it because I´ve lived and worked in Germany and Switzerland and it´s because I can compare my abilities in the two languages that I feel depressed about my Spanish. I´m not going to have the opportunity to spend extended periods of time in Spain so my level of fluency will always be lacking.

Now I´ve done the A Level, I don´t know where to go with regards courses. There´s nothing appropriate in Sheffield and it seems once you get to a certain level, that´s your lot. I want to do an Open University degree eventually, but it´s not going to be this year. I start the new job on Monday and that is going to be taxing. I´m going to continue with my private speaking lessons every week but I´m going to have to work independently to maintain this and learning solitarily is not motivating with a language because you want to use it in speech with others. Learning a language is not easy and at the moment I feel I am at the beginning of a long and winding road called "Spanish Street".

On the knitting front I have started another pair of Monkey socks with a twist. The cuff, heel and toes are all to be the remains of my first dyed yarn and the pattern is in a plain dark green. They are my second pair of Christmas socks. I´m almost at the heel now and I like them. Photos next week when I return. There´s a debate at the moment are they male or female. (El o la?) When I post the photos please help me decide.

Before I forget, congratulations to Ezzie for getting an A in his German GCSE. He went to every class, revised hard and has done himself proud. It is so lovely to have a boyfriend who also loves German. Just can´t get him to knit, though.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Soy madrileña (I´m from Madrid)

Well, I have now had half my lessons and the time has gone by really quickly. I feel that I am getting to grips with Madrid. It´s a strange place. As it´s the month of August lots of shops, cafés and other such places close for the holidays. People up and leave the city and go to the beach for an extended period. I just cannot imagine that happening in a city, let alone the capital, in the UK. There´s a very relaxed attitude to everything and the siesta is still very much alive. The afternoons can be quite sedate, it´s the night when everything comes to life.

Mari Paz is as formidable as ever, but she´s actually a laugh and she is keen to talk to me. It´s a good opportunity to practise my Spanish. I´ve been to two art galleries this week. I went to El Museo de Prado where they have Las Meninas by Valazquez amongst many other famous pictures, and the Thyssen-Bornemizsza where I saw some Picassos and lots of Impressionist paintings. I have a ticket for the third significant museum, La Reina Sofia, where the jewel in the crown is Picasso´s Guernica. I think I need a breather from galleries for a few days. I felt overwhelmed in the other two because there are just so many pictures to see. I spent four hours in each gallery and only scratched the surface. The picture I liked most is by Gino Severini and has some ridiculously long title. I think it would be possible to do a copy in pastels. I like the idea of doing that. Obviously it will be in no way the original but i think it would be a fun thing to do.

Yesterday I visited the Botanical gardens and their fine collection of cacti. They put mine to shame and had fantastic Agaves Americanas, but that´s hardly surprising considering the climate here. Tomorrow I´m off to Toledo and on Sunday I´m going to the monastery El Escorial. I´m busy but still managing to find time to knit socks and a number of Spaniards have asked me about them. A lady saw me knitting in the queue for the train tickets and came over to ask if I was knitting socks. She said she´s not seen knitted socks for years, but I assured her that knitted socks are big in the UK (I exaggerated a little) and that delighted her. Who knows, she may call in at her local Wool Baa to get her needles and yarn. The revolution has started...

Monday, 20 August 2007

International blogger

Hola. I´m in Madrid and I´m blogging. Aren´t I clever? Not really, I know, but I´m pleased with myself. All the computer jargon is in Spanish and this keyboard is slightly different, so I am up against it here!

There´s not really much to report. I managed to get here safe and sound. Madrid is big but easy to navigate with the Metro (underground). I´m counting my lucky stars that I got here okay because a girl in the same flat as me was robbed in the airport and had her bag stolen with all her money, passport, credit cards. Suffice to say, she´s feeling rather disorientated and is not having the best of times. I´ve since vowed to leave the house with only a little money in my pocket and my keys. I am, after all, in a capital city and these things do happen when you are strange to a place.

I´m staying in a nice flat with a Spanish lady, Mari Paz, and other students of Spanish. It´s nice, but Mari Paz is a force to be reckoned with. She has many rules and regulations (I strongly suspect she has OCD) and at first I was wondering what I was doing here. Some of the rules include brushing your hair only in the bathroom and not being allowed to drink (even water) in your bedroom. Anyone who knows me will know that I´m not naturally tidy so I feel I am walking on eggshells all the time. I´m only here for a fortnight but I am scared stiff of doing something wrong with the formidable Mari Paz.

Today I had my first Spanish lesson. I enjoyed it and the teacher, Emilio, was good. I feel that I have already learned lots and it is great to be using Spanish so much. I have so much more confidence in my German so it´s nice to think I am heading towards that with my Spanish now.

I´ve been into the centre of Madrid today. It´s a very cosmopolitan place and I´ve seen a few characters already. I´ve been knitting on benches in the streets and have been asked about it. They find knitting socks very peculiar but I remind them of British winters (and this summer, for that matter) and then they understand. It is really hot here and I am always seeking out the shade.

Later today I am going back to the flat to plan my excursions for the week. The first two days have been about familiarising myself with the place, but tomorrow I want to go exploring. I must visit the art galleries and museums because they are allegedly fantastic and they have Picasso´s Guernica here somewhere. This afternoon will be spent researching where to go.

A message for Ezzie and Granby - I´m missing you both. Hasta luego.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Introducing McKnitty

This is me:

Don't you think I'm something? This isn't the greatest picture (you can see my pyjamas) but there was only me in this morning and Granby is no good with the camera. I would like to say thank you for Gail for knitting this for me. There can't be many people who own one of these bad boys:

The balaclava is really warm and when I was climbing mountains last week in the Austrian Alps I actually wished I'd had it with me because it was cold up there. The balaclava does strange things to people. When people try it on they suddenly go wild like a werewolf. I think I might take it for the kids to wear at school. It might have the opposite effect on them and calm them down. (Sorry kids, only joking!)

Onto more ordinary things. Ezzie and I had a great time in Austria. We spoke lots of German because we were the only Brits in the hotel. We managed to get our silver and gold mountain badges and we certainly deserve them. One day it took four hours just to descend the mountain and it rained heavily for two of those hours. I could hardly walk, could hardly speak and just had to get into the "zone" and focus on getting home. When we got to the bus stop we had just missed the last bus so we got a taxi. Even Ezzie said it was the best 15 Euros we had ever spent, though I don't think the taxi driver thought we were his best clients ever as his taxi was drenched when we left. The next day I could hardly walk. The weather was glorious, so Ezzie went walking on his own and I chilled out and knitted these:

These are not for me; they are my first Christmas presents and are for Ezzie's sister, Emma. I am modelling them. These are the Monkey socks in my yarn. I loved knitting them and will definitely do this pattern again. The photo isn't too great, but up close they look lovely and I am really pleased with them. On holiday my knitting received lots of attention. I am doing my best to educate the masses.
On Thursday I went to see my family and took my Mum's fiftieth birthday presents. I bought her four hermit crabs, a tank and all the gear to go with them. I know this would not be most people's ideal birthday present but, believe me, my Mum is smitten. Unfortunately I have no photographs but I will in time. They are great fun and received lots of visits from Shona and her cronies. One of them, Paul, has already left his original shell and my Mum was panicking yesterday. He cannot have got out. She thinks she has worked out where he is. There is some disturbed gravel and hermit crabs do burrow in preparation for molting and finding a new shell. I'll keep you all posted.
Last night was Knit Club. We met at Mary's. There were only four of us (Mary, Lucy, Barbara and myself) but we had a great time. I did some more knitting on a pair of socks for Ezzie. They are Opal Neon in shade 1931. Ezzie fears these will end up for someone else again, but they won't because I've cast on 68 stitches and that's just right for him and they are for his birthday in September.
Tomorrow I go to Madrid. I have yet to pack and am still unsure as to which knitting projects to take. It'll probably end up being socks. I'm not sure if I will be able to blog out there. If not, hasta luego. (Forgot to mention - I got my A level Spanish result on Thursday and I got an A. I'm very pleased!)

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Billy Flynn: "You're the top of my list"

Since Di has left for Australia she has left me with her Chicago DVD. I am not a great fan of musicals and there are some I could never watch all the way through. However, being a woman of extremes, when I do like a musical, I tend to love it. There can be no doubt about it, I love Chicago and I've watched it at least ten times.

Remember the Anne Schaefer posh sock yarn, which I started knitting the Jaywalker socks with? I feel like the lawyer Billy Flynn when it comes to that yarn. I'm engrossed, we're about to go to trial (start knitting) but suddenly another client pops up (another yarn) and the Anne Schaefer yarn goes on the back burner and stews in jail a little longer (the knitting bag). I was going to knit some toe up socks with that yarn, and I printed off the pattern and was ready to go. But then my own dyeing cropped up, and it was inevitable that I would be swung by that and start knitting something else.
I've wound one of my skeins into a ball and started knitting Monkey socks with it. I have called this yarn 'Rainbow Drops' because the colours remind me of those sweets I used to eat as a child; there's lots of yellow mixed with some other colours. So far I have enjoyed knitting this pattern. It's sufficiently intricate and very pretty and unlike the Jaywalkers, it is possible to get your foot into it and is not inelastic. The lass who designed them, Cookie A, is a genius. The other advantage is that the pattern makes sense. After a pattern repeat you know where you are going and they are not taking much longer than a usual sock.

Yesterday I finished the Popsicle socks. These are for my mum. As I had to use two skeins, they are not quite identical. The original sock has more red in it and I prefer it. However, this is the nature of hand-dyed yarn and being a hand-dyer myself now, it's a quirk that makes the yarn even more unique.
I'm sure I mentioned these were supposed to be for Ezzie, but unfortunately they didn't fit him so my mum claimed them. Ezzie is now staking his claim to the Monkey socks. Somehow I think they'll be too small for him. For my foot I need 42 rounds and I have a sneeking suspicion that's the exact number I'll knit on the foot.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Ta - dah!

Well, what do you think?

These may look rather dishevelled, but these are unique, one-off, inimitable skeins that I dyed yesterday. The dyeing isn't great throughout; I missed patches and so there are bits of the camel colour coming through. However, I think they are a good first attempt and I am looking forward to knitting socks with them.
I learned a lot from doing this yesterday:
i. Always use rubber gloves. On the second skein I didn't bother and I now have lovely ruby red hands.
ii. Buy colours in bulk. One sachet isn't enough for the vibrancy I wanted.
iii. Have a plan. I just shoved dye here, there and everywhere and have ended up with rather random skeins. Next time (and yes, there will be a next time...) I will give it greater prior thought.
Just changing the subject, but today I went to a pet shop and saw some hermit crabs for sale. I 'phoned my mum and she (unsurprisingly) would love some. I am going to buy her some when I come back from my holidays. We are going to get her four. Two already have names - Morecambe and Wise. She is busy thinking up names for the next two. They are fantastic. I've only ever seen them on David Attenborough programmes previously, I didn't realise you could keep them as pets. They are really comical. I wouldn't mind some myself, but Ezzie wouldn't even entertain the idea. I'm tempted to go and get them for her tomorrow and drive over to Bradford, but I'm supposed to be going to work tomorrow and I don't want to leave all my jobs too late. I think we will both have to have patience.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

"Let the wild rumpus start"

The title is actually a quote from one of my favourite children's books, 'Where the wild things are' by Maurice Sendak. When Shona was here I read it a lot and now the wool has finally arrived it seemed like an apt title because the wild dyeing rumpus is about to start. I've just accosted the postman and grabbed the parcel out of his hands. That's the joy of postal strikes, they make you value the postman so much more and turn you into a madwoman foaming at the mouth whenever your coveted parcel doesn't arrive. He must be used to it by now. I've already taken a before photo, with a bit of look there'll be an after photo on here later. So excited.

Friday, 3 August 2007

And still we wait...

My wool for dyeing still hasn't arrived and it's unlikely to for a while because it is clearly caught up in the postal strike. I am so frustrated because I have time to dye and I can't get on with it. Shona has now gone home and she was a little disappointed because she had some whacky ideas for what her sock yarn would look like.

I was supposed to be in Whitby yesterday and today but my car failed its MOT. I assumed, quite wrongly, that it would pass as it had all that work done in June, but unfortunately it didn't. It is at the garage today getting a re-test so I am waiting for that to be successful. It's had the repair work done, and thankfully it wasn't too costly.
On Tuesday I went to Heathrow to see off Di. She has gone to Australia for at least a year. It was sad to see her go but I know she will have a great time. I am already wondering when I will be able to get out there and starting to save. Already I can't wait for that.

Whilst I do all this waiting I have managed to knit and have made good progress with the Colinette Jitterbug in Popsicle. These socks were to be for Ezzie but he tried one on at my Mum's on Wednesday and they are just too small, so my Mum has claimed them. I normally knit Jitterbug with 3mm dpns, but these are with 2.5mm and it has clearly made a difference. They do look a lot neater. I hope to finish the second sock today. I'm going away on my holidays next week and then I'm off to Madrid so I won't see the Bradford gang until September. Should I trust the socks in the post for my Mum? Surely they will make it before September... famous last words.