Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Winter howls in

How beautifully blue the sky
The grass is rising very high
Continue fine I hope it may
And yet it rained but yesterday.
Tomorrow it may pour again
I hear the country wants some rain,
Yet people say, I know not why
That we shall have a warm July...

I hope I got that right...Mostly, I think.

This is not quite accurate, but it has been a very mild autumn and early winter, with warm and sunny weather. Suddenly that is over. It is cold. Snow is falling in the high parts of Australia, winds howl, trees  fall, the Yarra River in Melbourne overflowed its banks. And suddenly it is very cold. I needed two hot water bottles last night. The windows are rattling. As I sit crocheting the border of an almost completed blanket, using crab stitch, which, like the crab, goes backwards, and which makes the hand feel quite sore, I am glad of the warmth of the whole blanket.

It takes quite a long time to get all the way around the blanket, and so as not to get RSI, or to aggravate the lymphoedema, I take it slowly and carefully. It is a bit of a bore. But doing this handiwork is a way of filling the time, which, when you live alone, needs to be done from. Tuesdays are my quiet days, without any particular or regular commitments or activities.

One of the knitting group came by today to get copies of all my photos of the Knitting and Crochet group, as we like to document all the blankets and things we make, and I somehow became the general photographer. Not that I inherited my daughter's talent, alas, and the camera has been playing up. Perhaps it was the memory card, as the colours of the photos taken several weeks ago were unpleasantly washed out and insipid. So I now use a new memory card, and also the iPad, which I must say does take good photos. I think perhaps my camera is a bit sick, and I may have to get the shop to take a look at it. Perhaps I need a new one?

Last week was very busy with choir. We had several rehearsals and two performances. It all went well, and I came to appreciate the music - Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette - more than I thought I would. And last night I went to a dress rehearsal of the opera - Rigoletto - which I did enjoy, and, as it started at 6 pm, allowed me to get back home at a reasonable hour. There was no possibility of sleeping in, as across the road, where there are large numbers of expensive apartments surrounded by extensive landscaping, the men arrived early to do the pruning.

Naturally they do not use ordinary secateurs, but instead nasty petrol operated chain saw thingies, which are VERY noisy, unpleasantly so. It seems, the council tells me, that they can operate after 7 am. Well, they were still going until about 10 am, and all that unpleasant loud, unrelenting noise makes me somewhat cranky. Once they have trimmed it all in a very military precise way, then they use blowers, also very noisy, to sweep up all the prunings. Perhaps such techniques are also used to torture political prisoners?

Rigidly uniform pruning does not appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities, which are both pronounced and exaggerated (yes, I am a delicate little flower). I don't like all this hacking and pruning. Although, this very moderate climate does make things grow like billy-ho, and I do have to take the secateurs to the plants in my own tiny garden. The bay tree grows like the proverbial, as does the curry leaf tree.

Anyway, the perfectly horrid and unrelenting noise of the chain saws put me into something of a grumpy and evil mood, and thus tonight I ended my week of abstaining from wine, and have been enjoying some red wine. Ah, that's better. Back to the crab stitch. And all the bad news from far far away.

Monday, 16 June 2014

If I were...

Studying the subjunctive is something which, for me, at any rate, requires more than a modicum of thought and analysis. In English, it hardly exists, except for sentiments like 'long live the king', so be it, be that as it may, let there be light,  if I were you'  etc. (Further suggestions are welcome.)

In Italian, it is much more complicated. I hesitate to bore however many readers or followers my blog may have. It seems that if you want to learn another language, you must be either keen on grammar or prepared to think deeply about language and its usage. It seems that at present my Italian class is concentrating on the subjunctive, and it also seems that many of us in the class do flounder around quite a lot when trying to make the subjunctive spring readily to mind, and of course into speech.

I have been sitting perusing one of my Italian books to make the subjunctive spring fully fledged into my mind when I try to speak or write Italian. The book gives examples such as 'it is necessary that you should... Or ' long live liberty'  or ' I wonder what he wants'.  Uncertainty has a lot to do with it, as does a sentiment that expresses something that is contrary to fact. Such as 'if I were taller, I could change that light globe.' I am not tall enough and therefore I cannot change the light globe. ( This is a great shame, as it means I have to take extreme measures to get the light globe changed, or otherwise buy a longer ladder and clamber up it precipitously and have a go...)

Or, 'if I were you...' I am not you, and never could be, so  I am expressing an impossibility. Or ' if I had been at home, I would have answered your telephone call.'  I was not home, so answering the phone was impossible. Etcetera.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that in Italian we have to think through a number of verb forms snd parts. We have to think through the various tenses of the verbs (and don't even begin to think about irregular verbs ) we keen but enduringly imperfect students must conceptualise each bit of the verb.

Oh dear. No wonder I come away from the class feeling somewhat wiped out. This, allied to a severe and ineradicable dislike of ever being wrong or making a mistake (let alone more than one)  tends to increase my stress levels. And you think you have problems. Whoops, is that a sentiment that requires the use of the subjunctive in Italian., Yes, indeedy, I think that it is.

 Perhaps it is better to live and think in certainties and facts, instead of in doubt, uncertainties, and  the hypothetical. Be that as it may, I struggle on.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The past and what we make of it

It being the Queen's birthday public holiday, things were rather quiet today.  There were lots of honours given to people worthy of recognition. There were many names I recognised, and some people I know, or knew.

I was awarded a Centenary Medal some years ago. It sits in a drawer. I did not talk about it, nor did I broadcast the fact that I had been awarded a medal. It felt like skiting. Lots of people were awarded the Centenary Medal, so it did not seem to be snything extraordinary. I do not even remember whether I told my children, or anyone else in my family. Yet I do feel quite pleased to have had some recognition of my work.

 I have been listening to the ABC's countdown on the most popular Baroque music. There were not all that many surprises, with Bach and Handel featuring prominently. And the most popular is Handel's Messiah.  Vocal music was very popular, which pleases me, as a chorister who has sung many of the works included in the hundred favourite works.

 During the afternoon I went to see a film, Belle, which was very good. I came home and looked up one of  my books, The Slave Trade, by Hugh Thomas, which did give a few details of the events with which the film deals - whether the loss of slaves at sea was covered by insurance. Lord  Mansfield ruled it could not be, slavery being so odious that nothing could be suffered to support it. I recommend the film, although I don't know how historically accurate it is. Nevertheless, it shows the moral issues and dilemmas, both in their past and present contexts.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Frustration and futility

Puzzling over a crochet pattern. One of those projects which you start, get quite a lot done, put down for a while, pick it up again, forget where you were up to, and therefore must spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to work out where you were.. And not necessarily succeeding. Quel horreur. Very frustrating.

Then you remember the days when you just got things done, and did a multiplicity of things in a short time.

What mucks all this up (apart from age and decrepitude)? Interruptions, that's what, planned, unplanned, and involuntary.  The phone rings, or it is time to go out, you fall asleep over a book.

 In between crocheting squares in a challenging shade of orange, I picked up a piece of crochet I  started some aeons ago.  Brain rot has obviously set in, as I cannot get the pattern right. It might be best to cut my losses and start again. Is it all worth it? It is making me very cranky. Patterns are not always written very clearly. This pattern talks in terms of repeating Row whatever, which is all very well if you have worked out where you were up to, the last time you tackled this piece of work.

Would it be better to undo it all, and start all over sgain. And, if so, what are the chances of getting it right the next time? And what happens if you are not sure whether you like the finished product? Did the concept of cost effectiveness originate with pattern instructions? I bet it did, but the lesson has not been understood, let alone learned, and broadcast into the ether. Or absorbed into one's innermost psyche.

 I do not want to waste the wool, let alone all the time and effort. This particular yarn is variegated. You cannot tell how it will look. What looked as though it was a combination of purple, green and in between seems, as it is crocheted, to have a disturbing amount of brown. Brown! I certainly did not select brown! Who likes brown? Not me!

 And the lovely wool shop is having a sale right now. As I was in the city, meeting a friend, afterwards I went to see what was on offer. Sadly, I came away with nothing. The colours were not quite right. The ply was wrong. No patterns leapt out and sang ' make me, make me!' I left empty handed.  Needs must check the stash of yarns, calculate actuarily (?) the crocheting years remaining, and the prospective amount of completed projects, and perform some unpleasant probability analyses. But I had some pleasant chats with other women contemplating succumbing to temptation.

No wonder I crochet so many squares, to make blankets for refugees. That is work with both purpose and result.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

So what's new?

Nothing much. It has been a quiet weekend, cool, with rain threatening.  I resorted to pottering around the house,  poached some quinces, and will be making some more quince jelly soon.Although perhaps   I should just freeze the liquid, rather than overload the market with a glut.  Not to mention the pantry.

 I picked up a half completed piece of crochet, and will perhaps complete the pattern, and see whether it is worth doing anything with the finished product. It is a variegated yarn, and needs to be seen in a daylight, to discover its true colours. The trouble with working on something only occasionally is that I tend to forget the pattern, and precious time is spent puzzling about it. Sometimes you never know if you like something until you finish it.

So the weekend has been desultorily spent. What does it all mean?

In between poaching and  puzzling,  I have been reading Jared Diamond's book Collapse: how societies choose to fail or survive. Much food for thought there. At present I am Reading about Greenland and Iceland. Poor soils, not much technology, few trees, soon used up, variable climatic conditions,  destructive animals, erosion, cold, snow and ice, failure to adapt to the conditions.  Diamond also discusses  Easter Island and Australia. It all reminds me of John O'Brien's poem, with its refrain

We'll all be rooned, said Hanrahan
Before the year is out.

 Makes you think! All rather depressing. Perhaps making jams is a throwback to the need to make preserves, to help get you through the winter and the lean seasons.

 However when you think of all the amazing achievements of humanity, I cheer up. Tonight there was a TV program on Billie Jean King, women's tennis snd the match shel played against the insufferable Bobbie Riggs. Margaret Court had accepted his challenge, and lost, but Billie Jean King  played a different style of game, and she won. Just hearing the insufferably sexist comments infuriated me.  Things are much better now but there is still a lot of insidious sexism around, usually pretending to be liberated, but actually heavily concentrating on body image, sexuality and trivia. Very dishonest stuff.