Saturday, April 24, 2010

Give Me Back My Life!

Oh man, I am still struggling along with this chest cold. What cold lasts for nearly two weeks?! I haven't had an actual cold for ages, so I guess I was overdue for one (if there's a quota system, that is). I'm such an overachiever. It's not bronchitis though, I've been down that road many times before and so far so good. Nearly two weeks later I still have all the stuffy head/sore throat symptoms of a cold.


It's not bad enough to keep me away from work, but just bad enough to be really annoying. Stopping me from doing anything other than going to work, making some dinner and going to be each evening. Frankly, I should be healthy, wealthy AND wise by now with all the early nights I've had.

Friday, April 23, 2010

You're Doing It Wrong!

As a tribute to the educational power of infommercials, I bow to present:

It's a wonder these people can even leave the house in the morning.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dressed To Kilt

Oh how I love the kilted silliness that is the annual Dressed to Kilt event.

What you don't see in this video clip is all of the performance of the UK tv's Scottish interior design duo Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan's trip down the catwalk.

McAllister & Ryan

A real life couple since 1985 the boys decided to seal the event with a kiss.

Awwww. Two of my favourite things, boys in kilts and cute guys kissing!

Advanced Style

My friend Lyn over at Shades Of Grey recently posted a link to a fantastic new find, Ari Seth Cohen's Advanced Style. Ari documents the stylish and interesting members of the older generation, in a similar manner to Scott Schuman over at The Sartorialist.

I love it. Now I know what I want to be when I grow up, full of joi de vivre!

August Sander

In between hacking up a lung or two (see my previous post) I've been watching DVDs, knitting,and making nice with the internet. In my travels on the information superhighway (remember that?) I stumbled across some photographs by the German portrait and documentary photographer August Sander (b 1876 - d 1964). It has to be said that his subjects are a pretty dour lot, but there's something about that direct and fearless gaze into the lens that has always intrigued me.

C'mon, say "cheese".

Friday, April 16, 2010


Looks like the cold that had started brewing when I went to Melbourne has become a full on chesty bit of nastiness. Ugh, I'm going to pop out and grab a coffee from the cafe near my house but then it's back to the bed/sofa for me. (My new flatmate has brought with him an extensive collection of DVDs, so I suspect the sofa is where I'll stay.) Laters!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


My little day trip to Melbourne was fun, but exhausting. My cab to the airport arrived a little early, so I left home at around 5.30am and was at the airport about a quarter to 6. IN THE MORNING. I'm an early riser but that's ridiculous.

Naturalmente my first stop was the little coffee bar in the departures lounge (where I got myself a surprisingly good cup of morning joe). I spotted my co-worker disappearing through the departures gate so I gave her a quick call and confirmed that she'd already checked me in at the electronic ticket kiosk thingy. Truly, I miss some of the glamour of pre-deregulation air travel in Oz but being able to do so much of the process online and being able to check-in ahead are pretty convenient improvements. Aussies, remember when we had to ring up the day before and confirm the flight?

Mind you, at times I would kill for a bit of proper in-flight service. Cutlery. Glassware. Hot food. Hotter flight attendants.

We got into Melbourne before the shop opened, and the shop manager was stuck on a delayed train and so her plans of opening up early for us were dashed. So we headed off to Degraves Street nearby for breakfast. Fortified by a truly fantastic cup of coffee and a delicious BLT baguette we headed back to the shop and worked solidly until 5pm.

I installed windows, I drew up plans, I measured, I discussed options and at one point I even got the iron out and ironed a banner that we later hung in the window. The shop looked pretty good, just in need of a bit of tweaking, some layout adjustments and making some of the displays look a little stronger.

We flew back on mega-cheap Tiger Airways. From the hastily built demountable terminal, to the long Av Gas scented walk across the tarmac, to the worn fabrics on the seat, travel with Tiger was an experience. A couple of the cabin crew were very friendly but they all seemed very young and some quite inept. Especially the chief flight attendant (no 'purser' here) who kept stuffing up the safety drill announcement, making some of the other crew giggle. Still, a shortish flight and a $6 beer later we arrived back at Sydney airport about 8pm.

Completely knackered.

Somewhere along the line I also picked up a cold, so I'm going to head into the office late this morning. I just wish I could get another of those BLT baguettes before I do so.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Little Piece

Nomotta yarns were right, a little piece of you does go into everything you knit!

Here's a pic of something that a lot of me went into, the 'Logan' oversized neckwarmer that I designed and sample knitted for the Autumn fashion windows at the store I work at:

It's not overly complicated, essentially just a huge tube of 2x2 rib, but I wanted it to be something that was dramatic and a real statement piece. (This is not a child's mannequin I shot this on, but a full sized adult one. This thing is BIG.)

I was inspired by some of the chunky knits that have made their way down catwalks recently, and by some of the early works of Sandra Backlund, so I worked this in 2 strands of 8ply (aka 'double knit') held double on chunky circular needles. Even with the chunky needles it soaked up the yarn like a sponge (12 balls in total) and took me quite a while to knit. Knitting to a deadline is not as much fun as knitting for pleasure, and as the deadline for the window display approached I spent much of my free time knitting this behemoth.

I was originally going to make it a bit smaller, but our in house designer suggested I really go for it dimensions wise. I was worried that it wouldn't work after I cast it off as being rib it stretches out to a HUGE size when you hold it up, but I always imagined it as something that could be twisted up dramatically like this, or pulled up as a hood. Combined with the other 4 garments in the window (all variations on this tubular neckwarmer/cowl idea or big textured wraps) it makes a really dramatic statement and is probably one of the more high fashion windows we've tried. I've noticed lots of younger women stopping to look at them, and we've already had offers to buy the samples outright (including one woman who wanted all of them).

We've had a whole second set of samples made for our Melbourne store in different colours (their "Logan" is a warm French grey), which thankfully I didn't have to knit. Tomorrow I'm catching the red eye to Melbourne to do a store visit, look at how we can improve their visual merchandising in general, and help install their version of the windows. Fun!

Except for the bit where I have to be at the airport at 6.10am...

Monday, April 12, 2010


I had a really broken night's sleep last night, finally culminating in me losing my patience with tossing and turning and getting up not long after 5am. Sadly (sometimes) I'm one of those people that wakes up easily and is fully awake in a finger snap, so the only thing for it is to get up, or maybe read, but do anything other than lie in bed and wait for tiredness to return. My regular working week is Tuesday to Saturday these days, so I wasn't stressed about having to get up early for work this morning.

So I pottered around a bit, then came back to bed and watched youtube clips of the earlier seasons (not shown in Australia) of my beloved tv show QI. [Official website and QI on youtube.] I could not love Stephen Fry more! It's true. About 7am I started to get drowsy, so I rolled over and went back to sleep until just before 9am.

I hadn't been up long when my friend Judy rang about 9.30 and suggested we head on in to the Art Gallery of NSW to see the portrait competition The Archibald Prize. Judy doesn't work any more and so she and I often use my Mondays off to catch up and do fun stuff. Today also dawned a glorious mild day, so it was lovely to get out and about in it.

It also saved me from my one big 'plan' for the day. Housework.

One thing I love about urban Australians is just how much we appreciate and use our galleries. The Archibald has been going strong since 1921 and is so heavily patronised that they have to have crowd control. Winners, and the inevitable controversies, make the prime time news. There's a people's choice selection, and a 'packers prize' for the favourite of the storeroom packers. Even on a Monday morning the line for the exhibition snaked around into another gallery space.

These days a ticket into the Archibald also gets you into its 2 sister competitions, the Wynne Prize (landscape paining or figurative sculpture) and the Sulman Prize (subject, genre or mural painting). For only the third time since 1921, this year the Wynne and Archibald were won by the same artist, Sam Leach. I had a shortlist of favourite's in both exhibitions, but was completely entranced by Leach's 2 small jewel like paintings (especially his landscape), so I had no quibble with the outcome.

The first thing I spotted when we walked into the Archibald was a huge portrait of a musical favourite of mine CW Stoneking.

"CW Stoneking" by Cara Fletcher

I only discovered Stoneking recently but I'm swept away by his unique pre-war jazz and blues style. To quote his website his work swings from "lonesome field holler blues, to hokum blues duets, to full blown jungle epics". His songs make me think of prohibition gin, mixed race bayou bars and rolled down stocking tops. Amazingly for someone so steeped in blues traditions, although he was born to American parents Stoneking is an Aussie and lives in Melbourne.

"Jungle Blues" by CW Stoneking

After a truly fab ramble through the gallery, some lunch, and a walk through the park, we ended up where else but at Tiffany's. (I don't ever think I've stood as straight.) We strolled further, fondled some cashmere at House of Cashmere, bought comestibles at the David Jones foodhall, browsed for books, and had tea in The Strand Arcade before heading for home late in the afternoon.

Housework be damned.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

5 Life Lessons I Have Learned By Teaching Knitting*

  • No matter how hard you try, some people will just NOT GET IT. Not even if you beseech them.
  • One (ie: me) needs to acknowledge this fact and move on, without throwing one's arms around their legs and screeching How have I failed you!?!
  • Others will really, really get it. Bzzzzzzzzzp! Ok, I've knitted 20 rows, now what?!
  • Either position can turn perfectly functional adults into being a kid again. Dejection or pride, pretty much 2 sides of the same coin.
  • I always start the class by teaching a simple slip knot. This is functional, but also highlights the Will Gets v the Will Probably Not Gets. From this I have learned that maybe I should start giving all potential suitors some sort of test. (Not the same one though because then I might only get guys into S&M.)

*A beginners' class at work, for 3 hours every second Saturday afternoon.

Friday, April 09, 2010

In Living Colour

Well, well. There was a time when writing this blog was (amongst many other things) a kind of therapy. Putting it all down in the edit dialogue box was a semi-structured way of working through how I thought about stuff. I'm not sure where I forgot about that along the way, but I really should have kept it in mind. I've had stuff to work through you see, but didn't use this blog to help me figure my way through it.

In short, the first quarter of 2010 pretty much sucked ass (and not in a good way). I broke up with the guy I thought I was dating (Or is it that I thought I broke up with him? Given that... never mind.) on New Year's Eve, at a party, from which I walked home, leaving behind my favourite hooded jacket. Portents? Omens? You know, one of the reasons I often don't celebrate New Year is exactly because people seem superstitious that only a good New Year can equal a good year ahead.

Poppycock, clearly.

So, flashing forward and trying to be brief, Sometime up until a few weeks ago I got profoundly depressed. Not dramatically depressed, no renting or wearing of ashes, because so long as you weren't inside my head I gave most of the signs of actually keeping it together. But somewhere along the way I lost me it felt like. Despair must be terrible, but numbness is in the race as well. At least Dorothy Gale got to see Munchkinland turn into colour, which is a lot more fun than the reverse lemmetellyou.

No I didn't seek professional help, other than mumbling something to my doctor and then agreeing that yes it was probably something to do with my old sleep problems and no the strong drugs I used to be on were not a road I wanted to take again. I got up and went to work, sometimes went out with friends but became a bit flaky about turning up for things, basically stopped doing any housework, and on days off quite often remained unwashed and in my robe until I couldn't any more.

The weird thing about being depressed is it's not like your limb is hanging off and people can see that yes indeed, you are a tad poorly. Unlike an only semi-attached appendage sometimes it isn't so bad, and sometimes it seems much better. I had some good times over the past 3 months, and I had some quite average times when I tried to fake it until I could make it... and thought mostly about being home in my robe not doing any housework.

A few weeks back I decided that in line with my parents' Northern English upbringing, all I needed was to pull myself up by the bootstraps. Symptom or cause I don't know, but things miraculously made a turn for the better. Step 1, I needed to lessen my stress about the work/money situation, so I contacted my previous temp agency, and a previous employer, to see if they had any work going. One temp work offer was made, but I decided I also should approach my boss at the yarn store and put my cards on the table. Explain what I wanted to do, what I know I'm good at, why I would rather stay working for them than go elsewhere, and how much I thought I would need to live on to be able to do so.

Essentially they agreed. I'm now on a less modest income (though still not immodest by any stretch), and am in charge of visual merchandising for the 2 (soon to be 3) stores as well as keeping the website updated. The VM stuff is my baby, and because we are a yarn store designing windows means having garments to put into said windows, and to differentiate ourselves it also means designing and product development of said garments. I'm loving it. I put our new windows in a few days ago with 5 garments that I workshopped with our in house designer, and one I designed and knitted outright, and the customers are lapping it up.

About the time I received my promotion I also got a flatmate. The stress of breaking the housework embargo almost broke me as well, and it's true that much of the contents of the junk room front bedroom that couldn't go to Goodwill are now stacked in teetering piles in my bedroom. Awaiting being dealt with. In baby steps. But my friend Steve is all moved in and is paying his rent, and is working out just fine.

Having someone else in the house is a good thing I've decided. Someone to make you reflect on the fact that maybe you don't really want someone to see you welded to the sofa, in your bathrobe, at 3 in the afternoon, and that maybe it was time you brushed your teeth at least. I want to be alone has its uses, but it's time for a little less Garbo just now.

I'm a bit less poor. I have a bit more money in my pocket, and am not looking at a single digit bank balance while waiting for pay day. I've started to not only service my debt, but have started to put a bit away for a trip to Italy next year. I've been doing some stuff around the house. My creativity has been fizzing away, planning things for work and jotting down things I want to make for myself.

So much of my situation was stress related, I can see now. Wow, I do not handle stress well. Shut down all non-essential services, and just leave a pilot light running on some of them. Best of all I feel more like me than I have almost all year. The colour is back, cue the munchkin!