My heart is pumping, I look left and right to see who might be watching me, in the dark of the night. My hands quiver as I try to quickly tie up my package. I curse myself for not picking the ideal position in my anxiety for haste. Too late now, I have to finish the job I started. I whip my blade out to cut off the ends. I stand back to survey my work. With my camera phone I take two quick snaps as evidence then quickly walk back the way I came, hands in my pockets, aiming for casualness, but not quite carrying it off. I chance one last glimpse behind me. Is that someone stopped in the spot where I was just standing? Will my package be where I left it by morning? Or will the short arm of bureaucracy sweep away my symbol of hope in a world of steel and concrete, for no good reason other than doing the Right Thing rather than the Nicest Thing. I don’t know how long I will last in this game. If anyone asks, you haven’t seen me right? You know nothing.
Here is a little crochet project I managed to squeeze in just in time for the third birthday of the daughter of one of my oldest friends. It’s Mrs Mittens in purse form, one of Nikki Trench’s arigurumi characters from Super Cute Crochet but in purse form. This pattern is from her latest book Cute and Easy Crochet. It’s meant to have a zip in the top, and I even bought a zip to sew in, but I’ve never done one before and it was a little too scary!
Do you want to know what my two favourite moments of the day are? I’m sure I’m supposed to say something wanky like seeing my kids smiling faces when they wake up, or covered in yoghurt. But really that’s not it. It’s the first cup of tea when I wake up in the morning; bought to me by DH if I am really lucky, or frantically made while chucking toast and Coco Pops at the kids with one hand, and pumping breast milk with the other; and last cup of tea of the day when the kids are finally in bed. God, those are sips of paradise. I can’t tell you how much I love tea. I’m going to try though.
Well, firstly, it usually has to be decaf. Years and years ago, before decaf and other poncey teas became fashionable, I went on a bit of a health kick, eating more fruit and veg and going to the gym, which was a good deviation from the last 3 years at uni which had been spent living off ice cream, Smash with gravy, and WKD Blue. I drank such a lot of tea and decided that I didn’t want to undo all the effort by consuming so much caffeine that my body couldn’t absorb vitamins (it’s true you know, I read it in a magazine). Rather than give up my habit, I switched to decaf, which back then you could only buy in Whittard’s, and seeing as I was living in the armpit of North Wales which had about 3 recognisable high street stores, I would stock up whenever I came across one. I didn’t miss the caffeine. I don’t drink tea for the caffeine hit. I drink it for it’s milky goodness, the way it fills you up and refreshes you at the same time, the comforting aroma that evaporates off with the steam. I like to drink it while it is still piping hot, though I find it really hard to leave a half drunk cup of tea so I have been known to neck it when it is lukewarm. Something just doesn’t feel quite right when I’ve left an undrunk cup of tea. I don’t always realise that’s what it is, but I can sense an imbalance in my equilibrium.
The only thing I suggest to expectant parents to buy is a thermal mug, that
way you always get to drink a hot cup of tea, even when you are stuck holding a breastfeeding baby for hours on end, and the kind person who made you a cup of tea put the cup just out of reach, so by the time the baby comes up for air it’s stone cold. Secondly, you can drink the tea over the baby and not worry about spilling it over your precious bundle. For me, my trusty Berghaus has done me for two babies.
There is very little that a nice cup of tea cannot make better. Over the years I’ve built up associations with a cup of tea. Tea when friends visit, tea to tide you over till dinner if I am hungry, tea when you are feeling frazzled, sad, celebratory, bored or to temper any number of emotions. Tea is my panacea, or my placeabo. I distinctly remember having very milky, sugary tea in a bottle, which will give you some idea of how long I have had a relationship with this burnished nectar. I cannot eat cake or chocolate without a cup of tea to help it melt in my mouth and diffuse the flavours.
The preparation of a perfect cup of tea is hotly debated. I tend to not use a teapot as I am usually the only one with decaf tea. You shouldn’t stir the tea or squeeze the tea bag as it brings out the tannins. Of course tea purists wouldn’t even consider bagged tea, which commonly contain the dust or ‘fannings’, a by-product of the process for making more high quality teas. But I don’t like loose leaf tea as the leaves that escape make me gag! I’m not a tea snob, I just like it hot and wet. Then there is the age old milk first or last debate. If using a tea pot I prefer to put milk into the cup first so I can see how brewed the tea is when I pour it. In a mug milk goes in while the tea bag is still steeping so can see when the tea has reached it’s desired colour before removing the bag.
While tea is thought of a quintessentially English, it actually only became really popular here in the 19th Century, but has been consumed in China since 200 BC. Lots of cultures drink tea in various forms, it is a common refreshing drink in the Middle East. Japan and China conduct highly ritualized tea ceremonies. In Malaysia they pour tea from great heights to increase it’s frothiness and creaminess, and have taken it to new levels with a complicated dance where the participants must pour tea into each other’s containers. Then there is the American’s, with their heavily sweetened iced tea. I don’t know how that came about but maybe it stems from 1773 when they chucked a load of tea into the cold Boston Harbour in protest at their British masters, in the build up to the American Revolution.
No matter how you like your cup of char or Rosie Lee, you are always welcome to mine for a cup of tea. Ooh look, I’m a poet and I didn’t know it! I’ll leave you with a more eloquent real poem about tea by John Agard in Ten Poems About Tea.
Never mind taxes rise
Never mind trains are late
One thing you can be sure of
and that’s the kettle, mate.
It’s not whether you lose
It’s not whether you win
It’s whether or not
you’ve plugged the kettle in.
May the kettle ever hiss
May the kettle ever steam
It is the engine
that drives our nation’s dream.
Long live the kettle
that rules over us
May it be limescale free
and may it never rust.
Sing it on the beaches
Sing it from the housetops
The sun may set on empire
but the kettle never stops.
Forget Banksy, ‘yarn bombing’ is the new cool alternative to graffiti. Actually, I am a little slow on the uptake, according to wiki it started around 2005. Unlike traditional graffiti which is tough to remove, yarn bombs are not permanent, and unlike a lot of graffiti its purpose is aesthetic rather than political or territorial. It’s about brightening up mundane spaces.
I really like the work of Street Color. Her attempts to brighten up Berkley, California are really inspiring. Goodness knows how she finds the time!Hers is mostly knitted and it looks fab. I don’t knit so I would have to crochet. I’m not even sure how she plans it or puts it together. The Yarn Bombing book is on my wish list though, I’m hoping it has some tips.
While the craze started in the States, it seems there is a London contingent up to yarn related mischief. Everything good is so London-centric! So it seems that I will have to fly the crochet flag for my Cotswold village (I’m afraid it’s not the chocolate box kind). Every time I drive to the junction at the end of my road I am faced with one of those grim metal electricity box enclosures. This weekend I thought to myself “why couldn’t someone put a nice wooden fence round it?”. Then I realised it is ripe for a yarn bomb. My plan is a lovely woollen (well, acrylic probably) heart. Even if no one else appreciates it, as long as no one takes it down, I’ll see it on my way into work, and it will add a little bit of colour into my day.
I’ll keep you posted as to my progress. I have a busy week, DH’s birthday tomorrow, and then preparing for our weekend camping (why is it that you spend as long planning for a holiday as you spend actually on holiday?). Hopefully I can do some camp fire crochet :)
I made it out of the bedroom without disturbing the Target. Mission complete once again, and once again I find myself contemplating how ridiculous some aspects of parenting are. From the silent escape from the bedroom, to the times I find myself blowing raspberries to the tune of “The Animals Went in Two By Two” round Sainsbury’s.
Anyway, for the brief moments that I find myself with time to concentrate on my hobby I have recently taken delivery of some delicious yarn. Now, I’m not usually a yarn snob. Yes, I can appreciate the lovely silky touch a of a ball of Rowan Cashsoft, but my budget usually only stretches to acrylic blends like Stylecraft DK, and that does me well enough. There are a nice variety of colours and it’s cheap enough that it doesn’t sit around waiting for a project special enough to use it. But Black Sheep Wools have a sale on and I bought some lovely Sublime Organic Cotton with which to make some children’s toys.
The cream yarn below is Sirdar Balmoral, a mix of alpaca, wool, and silk. That’s going to be a Christmas blanket for my mum’s partner. The Sublime Merino I periodically buy and snaffle away for use in an afghan for my own bed which I have planned for one day. And I also got a lovely ball of Noro DK which I could never normally afford, but this was all on sale, and this is going to become some fingerless gloves.
Right now I am in the middle of a birthday gift for a 3 year old. Got to be done by Monday – last minute as usual!
Ok, if I’d sat and thought about it I could probably have come up with a more inventive post title. I’ve been playing with paper for the past few days inspired by this book, Girligami by Cindy Ng. A lot of the patterns are cutsie shoes and bags and things, which are nice but not for me right now. But there is a lovely heart pattern which make for precious little things to send through the post, and a little envelope that you can write a loving message in.
Galvanised by the book I did a little googling and found this website, and got to work using some of the piles gorgeous papers given to me by a friend who hosts Japanese students.
I’ve been supermum today while DH was at work (we only get one day off a week together now I’m back at work). Betty and I made cakes while the baby was asleep and then I made her a den. It can only be accessed by the tunnel which means that I can’t get in it without destroying it. It also deters Iris who prefers instead to climb the stairs while no-one is looking.
The cakes are just a simple 4-4-2 recipe, though I halved the sugar and added a mashed banana. Betty did the decorating. Green is her favourite colour, which is actually rather nice, although like most 4 year olds this tends to take more of a priority than it should. She can have hour long tantrums over not having a green straw. An assistant in Lush gave her a bath bomb recently and instead of saying “thank you” she said “why didn’t you give me a green one?” Ungrateful wrench!