Saturday, 31 March 2012

A decision has been made.

It was coming.  Slowly, over the years, it was becoming more of a burden than something to look forward to.  I was finding myself making excuses to avoid it rather than planning my day so that more time could be spent on it. And now, of course, the time that I would be spending down there I'm choosing to use to go running instead.

So today I decided to grasp the nettle, as it were, and finally make the decision to give up my allotment.

It's sad but also sensible, I think.  I worked it for five years but slowly the amount of work it needed became more than my willingness to do it.  And as the committee is quite strict about the upkeep of your plot - and quite rightly, if truth be told - I just couldn't let it go for a month or so until I felt like I could be arsed to go down there again because, by that time, the weeds would be knee-high.

A mini-inspection by the site's stewards took place last week (this is a new introduction - the main committee inspection is in the summer) and this afternoon I got a call from one of them asking if I was having problems looking after the plot and wondering if I would be happier to reduce the size to half.  She was very lovely about it and not at all finger-waggy.  But during the conversation I knew the time had come - in fact, I'd only been saying to TLH earlier this morning that I thought this would be the last year I would do the allotment - so decided to just get it over with.  Apparently there isn't a waiting list at the moment so I've got a little time to clear the shed and dig up any plants I want to take; I'm going to keep the 3 blueberry bushes and the gooseberry bushes I planted.  And now I'll have to clear out our big shed at home to make room for the tools, etc., that I'll have to bring back from the allotment.

Sadly, I've got about 25 or so Broad Bean seedlings and about the same of peas that I'd started off for this year's season and it would be a shame to see them go to waste, so I'll see about trying to plant them in my garden at home.  Bearing in mind my garden is really very small and I have no space whatsoever, this is going to be a bit of a challenge.

In an ideal world, I would dearly like to have my own decent-sized vegetable patch in my garden but that will have to be in The House That Is To Come, and it will be a vegetable patch that won't be subject to inspection and judgment by anyone other than me.

So, farewell then, Plot 19B - I enjoyed you for a good four years but now it's time to pass you on to your next caretaker.

Friday, 23 March 2012

By Jove, I do believe Spring has sprung....

I hope you're all getting as fabulous weather as we are down here in (not quite) leafy Surrey.  I've had the bridge door open all afternoon for the last 2 days and I think it's supposed to be nice right through the weekend.  Faaaaaaabulous.

So what's happened since I lost posted?  Well, to be honest, not a lot really.  I went out for a run the day after I last blogged but it was rubbish.  I only managed 2.5 miles at an average pace of 17mins 35secs per mile.  Frankly I could have probably walked it quicker.  But everything felt sluggish and blurgh (that's a technical term, by the way) so I just consoled myself with the fact that at least I'd gone out and done something.

I then went out again two days after that, on the 21st, with no aim other than to see how far I could get.  And I pushed myself, distance-wise.  Ended up going the furthest I've ever gone - 3.7 miles, which is 6km - so I'm very pleased with that but, again, not so much with the speed.  It took me 1 hour 2 mins to do it, which equates to 16mins 46secs per mile.  An improvement on the previous run but still slow.  There were also more walking intervals than I would like too, but I think anyone who does any kind of running is always trying to improve both their speed and distance and I'm no stranger to that.

Because I'm now doing 'proper' running (as opposed to the C25k app which was telling me when to run and when to walk - now I decide for myself) I'm trying to notice what affects my ability to run further/faster; for example, time of day (it's looking like I do better in the mornings), what I eat (bowl of porridge with fruit is too heavy and slows me down), hormonal cycle (Shark Week is definitely not good but I'm interested to see if using the progesterone cream during the rest of the month will have any effect), etc.  The research is interesting (I can be quite nerdy at times!).

I was intending to go out again this morning (the 23rd) for what would have been my third run this week but it seems I picked up a bit of an injury during the last, 6km, run.  I wasn't paying proper attention while running along the edge of a field and the dip in the trail was deeper than I was expecting - or possibly shallower - and I jarred my left leg quite severely.  In fact I felt the jarring go right across my back and hammer into the muscles just above my right hip bone.  I remember thinking at the time that that was going to hurt the next morning.  Funnily enough, my back didn't hurt the next day, but the muscles in my left thigh were pretty stiff and sore, enough to make walking less than comfortable, so I've decided to rest it today, and I'll see how it is tomorrow morning.

Hmm, all this talk of running must be really, really boring to everyone.  Sorry 'bout that.  But this is a good way of tallying up my progress and, frankly, I don't think I'm doing too badly for a fat old broad who hasn't done any running since she left school 33 years ago!

So, let's instead talk of more colourful things, shall we?  Twice a year Cranleigh Art and Crafts Society hold an exhibition, in October and March.  I've been going to both for several years now (I've also exhibited my jewellery and one of my paintings in the past) and I always go with an eye to buying something.  Because it's a completely open exhibition, every submission gets hung, which means that the quality of what's on show varies enormously.  The last two exhibitions - Spring and Autumn 2011 - weren't, I thought, quite as good as previous ones and I didn't buy anything.

This year's spring exhibition is running now - 22-24 March - and, by contrast, I was absolutely spoilt for choice.  There were at least half a dozen paintings that caught my eye and to which I gave serious consideration.  There was also a beautiful turned wood box and some fabulous fat ladies in the pottery section that I also wanted to bring home.  I went yesterday, the opening day, and couldn't decide so took photos of the pictures I liked (and the pottery ladies) to show TLH.  I'd decided that if there was one that he liked as much as I did, then I'd go back today to buy it.  Turns out there were a couple he liked.  In fact, there was another one but it was expensive so we decided, much as we liked it, we couldn't really afford it.  Just to give you an idea, the prices for everything in the exhibition (including crafts as well as painting) ran from £9 to £890.  The more pricier paintings you find are generally created by more established trained artists who have gallery showings of their work and have their own websites, etc., but who also happen to be members of the Cranleigh Art Soc so also show their work here.  The amateur painters tend to price their paintings at much lower figures and as many of them have as much talent as the professionals, you're more likely to get something that looks like it could have cost much more (if you see what I mean) if the painter had had more of a 'name'.

This year, then, I bought a colourful painting by Heather Tipton of the village of Lautrec, France:

Lautrec, France by Heather Tipton

And a lovely little watercolour called 'Birches in the Snow' by Sue Barnes:

Birches in Snow

I have to go back to Cranleigh yet again tomorrow to collect them when the exhibition closes at 5pm, so that's three times in three days I've made the journey!  Still, I haven't minded because the weather's been so glorious and it's always interesting to go back and visit the place where you grew up.

And tonight I'm having a go at making Cinnamon Buns, leaving them to rise overnight so that they can be baked first thing in the morning.   Mmmmmm, yummy!

PS.  I should have posted the picture of the fat pottery ladies, shouldn't I?  Here you go then:

Fat ladies

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Who'd be female, eh?

As predicted, the second day of Shark Week is fulfilling its promise in every way.  2.45am today saw me staggering, bleary-eyed and cramping, to the kitchen in the dark in order to shovel Paracetamol down my neck so I could try and get some sleep.  It worked, fortunately, until the alarm went off at 5.30am, as it does every weekday morning.  So now I'm bloated, crampy and dang tired.  Plus over the last year or so I seem to have developed hormonal headaches which is a mightily unwelcome development, especially as no amount of painkillers seem to shift them.  And I've got one now.

I'm almost 49, goddamit.  When's this all going to stop, eh?

This means that I made the right decision in going for a run yesterday because I correctly surmised that today I'd be good for nothing.  Which is a pity because it's turned into a gorgeous day out there - warm sunshine but cool air.   I had every intention, though, of not going out there at all - even though the allotment needs attending to and there are seeds to be sown - because of Shark Week (why 'Shark Week'?  Because there's lots of blood and frequently violence, that's why....), and just curling up on the sofa with my book and/or knitting and/or telly.  But this most sensible of plans was thwarted because the bloody car wouldn't start.  I had an errand to run in the village and, being the occasionally lazy sod I am - and due to the cramping and headache - I decided to get it over with quickly by driving the 5 mins to the shop so I could get back to the sofa and painkillers.  But the bloody car wouldn't start.  It's on its last legs, really it is.  There are many little things wrong with it - the windscreen buzzes loudly when you hit 70mph or it's a bit windy, there's a leak somewhere that occasionally drips into the front passenger footwell, the air conditioning is very hit and miss these days, it takes forever for the windscreen to demist in the winter - and quite a big thing that looks like is going wrong again, to do with the hydraulic system that made me feel sea-sick for 3 days the last time it went wrong.  I'm getting very wary of driving it now, to be honest, just waiting for the hydraulics to go again.  So imagine my (non-)surprise when I turned the key in the ignition and got the message 'gearbox fault' instead of the engine turning over.  Bugger.

Hopefully the battery is just flat but I seem to recall we had this problem the last time the hydraulics went - it kept draining the battery so we were having to charge it all the time.  And we're meant to be going to TLH's native homeland to visit his mum this weekend (what with it being Mother's Day 'n' all....) which is a long old drive.  Well, I suppose we've got the little car for that if necessary, but I'd rather drive 300 miles in a day in a Range Rover than a Smart Car, if at all possible.  (And, yes, I'm fully aware that this is an appalling First World Problem but it's Shark Week so argue with me at your peril.....!)

The upshot of this is that I had to walk - yes, walk! - down into the village but, luckily, the errand was a rather lovely one so it wasn't all misery and gloom.

A few years back I wrote a post about the 2010 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition with quite a lot of photos that I, illicitly, took.  TLH and I decided that our favourite picture there that year was a large oil painting of a grumpy looking cat in a stetson called 'Cowboy Joe from Mexico' by Angela Lizon:

About a week ago I got a comment on that post from a company called Coates and Scarry letting me know that they now had signed limited edition prints of Cowboy Joe available, so I ordered one!  How could I not!

It arrived a couple of days ago and today's errand was to trot down to our local framers with it.  It'll take about 2-3 weeks to be done, but when it is and is installed at home, I'll show you all.

Hmm, it's now almost 12.30pm, lunchtime.  Shark Week = carbs in abundance, so it's mashed potatoes with cheese and spring onions for me, followed by an apricot danish (I'll run it off at the weekend!).


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Word Verification and more Vrooming.....

A couple of posts ago, the lovely Fhina over at A Woman of No Importance requested that I deactivate the word verification bit when posting comments.  I wasn't actually aware that I had wv on my comments section (or perhaps I did but had forgotten....) and as I also find them annoying when commenting on other blogs - I sometimes find it difficult to read the words required - I was happy to oblige.

Within a matter of hours my mailbox began to fill up with anonymously sent messages about Viagra, medications, dating from abroad, you name it.  And while Blogger's spam filter has picked up all these messages, they're still hitting my inbox first and filling it up.  And I'm afraid I find that more irritating than being unable to read the word verification words.

So sorry, Fhina, but I'm going to have to reinstate it, for my own sanity!

I went for another run this morning and, well, something’s most definitely in the air. It’s the first day of Shark Week for me and because my second day is always the worst (pain, bloating and, erm, ‘effluvia’) I decided to go out today, as I knew I wouldn’t be wanting to for the next couple of days or so. I wasn’t really feeling up to it - everything felt sluggish and heavy. I’d had a biggish breakfast of porridge with blueberries, bananas and a dollop of Greek yoghurt in the hope of it giving me energy but it just made me feel stuffed, even an hour later.

Started out but immediately felt heavy-legged, and was becoming breathless far too soon. I knew I didn’t have 5k in me this morning, but I thought I’d try and get to 4k so buckled down to it with grim determination. There were more walking intervals today too but I did try to push myself a bit harder in the runs.

Astonishingly, I did 4k/2.5miles in 39m34s at an average speed of 15:49 mins per mile. 2 days ago I ran at 16:56 mins per mile, 4 days before that it was 17:16 mins per mile. So in less than a week, I’ve improved by 1min 27secs per mile.

Blimey. (Although I can’t help thinking that I can’t possibly keep this up….!)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Double vroom.....

Just a quick update on the running because I can't quite believe it's going so well.

Yesterday was overcast and a bit on the chilly side.  I love running in this kind of weather - sunny and warm I find to be surprisingly hard work, but I'm much more comfortable when it's cooler.  I make sure I'm wearing enough layers to not be either too cold or too hot, so I wear full length running tights (I also have a pair that are capri-length but I find they tend to pull down a bit so I have to keep hitching them up from time to time - the full length ones stay put), a long sleeved top as a base layer - I've only got one of these and it's a weird pink/apricot/orangey colour which matched my hair at one point, and over the top of that a fitted cap sleeved top.  Under it all there's an industrial strength sports bra to keep everything in place and I have some specialist running pants that have no seams and soft leg-holes.  Oh, also I got some proper running socks that have padded bits and, of course, my lovely Mizuna running shoes which are quite dirty now.  I also strap my iPhone to my arm as I use the Runkeeper app to track everything - distance, map, speed, pace - it gives me a running commentary on distance travelled and time taken.

So yesterday I was feeling good, and I decided I'd just start out running from the end of my road and see how long I could keep going before I needed to have a rest and walk for a bit.  Turned out, astonishingly, to be 1.25 miles.  One and a quarter miles.  Non-stop.  Bloody hell.  If you'd have told me this time last year that I'd be doing proper running, I'd have laughed derisively in your face, opened another bottle of wine but then also bemoaned the size of my backside.

Now, if I carry on this way, I can have that bottle of wine AND a fuck-off sized curry, and run the buggers off!!  Hooray!!

In total, yesterday, I ran a total of 5.34km/3.32 miles in a total of 56mins 11secs.  This is an improvement on the previous run but, more importantly (to me at least), I ran very nearly the whole thing.  I did stop at my turnaround point (a handy bus shelter - it had a seat!), sat down for a minute to catch my breath, did some stretching and then carried on back the way I came (through woodland and along the edges of fields - hence the muddy running shoes) but I really felt I could just keep going and going.  And no shin splints either, which is a bloody miracle as they were crippling me last year.

I'm obviously doing something right......

Sunday, 11 March 2012

In which some stuff happens and some doesn't....

And so another week passes, as it will do, and I can hear you all clammering (is that a word? Oops, seems it should be spelled 'clamoring', neither of which look right....) for details of what has passed for excitement in my life as it is lived at Jones Towers.

Some things have been achieved - one of which I'm particularly proud of - and at least one thing I was very much looking forward to didn't happen at all, and one long-term project looks like it's going on the back boiler for now (if not permanently, but I hope not).  But let's not dilly-dally, I know you're all desperate to read how I pass my fun-packed days.  That last sentence actually reads sarkier than I meant because it has been a not bad week.


- I finished my third and, for now, final twirly scarf.  I won't post details as it's going to be a christmas present for another member of my family and I'm not sure if she reads this blog or not.  Probably not.  Most people - in fact, I'd hasten to suggest practically all people - of my acquaintance don't. But I don't really want to take the chance so, suffice it to say, it's been made in a nice chunky wool in a lovely colour (one of her faves, so I've been told).  So there.

- The Broad Bean seeds that I sowed in little pots about 10 days ago are starting to germinate.  I start off all my vegetable plants at home and then transfer them to the allotment as it's easier for me that way.  So as today was another gorgeous sunny one, I spent an hour sowing sugar snap peas (mange tout, by any other name) and beetroot.  With a great deal of help from Bruno, the neighbours' young cat who has, rather suddenly, started licking his own fur off his back legs and is, consequently, looking a bit mangy these days. I hope his humans are doing something about it...

- I discovered the Polish chilled food aisle in my local Sainsburys!  I have become a bit of a fan of Eastern European food since spending some time self-catering in Hungary a few years back - for example, I discovered that the chocolate you could get there was not only MUCH better than Cadbury's (sacrilege to say so, I know!) but also about half the price, their yoghurt was just all-around fabulousness in a tub and their version of Jaffa Cakes (which, instead of orange, had fillings of strawberry or cherry or peach) would make a saint cry, so I was more than pleased when I found the new chiller cabinet in my local store.  Yesterday, for lunch, we had Pierogi (a cross between dim sum dumplings, ravioli and gnocchi) filled with cheese and potato.  I boiled them in a pot of water for 3 mins, then transferred them to a large frying pan in which I'd melted a shedload of butter and added sliced onions.  I fried the Pierogi in the oniony, buttery lusciousness until they start to take on some colour, then bunged them in a bowl, grated over some cheese.  If I'd had soured cream on hand, I would have added that but I had full fat plain Greek yoghurt so a big dollop of that was added.  It was very, very yum and incredibly stuffy.  Today, I made a start on the Zawijaniec Sledziowy ze sliwka:
Rollmop herrings & plums
which is, as any fule kno, rollmop herrings stuffed with prunes.  Much nicer than you'd think, trust me - the flavours go together well and the textures complement each other.  But do bear in mind that it's helpful if you like rollmop herrings in the first place, which I do.

And after that, I opened the large pot of pieczone jablko-flavoured yoghurt:
Jogobella yoghurt
This is Baked Apple yoghurt.  It has pieces of apple and raisins and cinnamon and is one of the yummiest things I have EVER put in mah mowf.  EVER.  I had to force myself to put down the spoon and walk away from it for fear that I would just shovel the entire tub into my gaping maw in one sitting.  It's. That. Good.

Next time I go shopping, i.e., tomorrow, I think I might investigate the various flavours of Kielbasa (smoked sausage) and attempt a small tub of sauerkraut.  Oh, and perhaps one of the other pierogi varieties.  Yum yum.

- So with all this additional calorific intake, it's probably a good thing that - ta-dah! - I completed my first ever 5km run last Thursday!  This is the thing I'm most proud of.  I wasn't quick, oh dear me, no - took me 57 minutes in total - but I did cover 5km (that's 3.8 miles in old money) and, I'm pleased to say, there was more running than walking.  If you recall, I've registered for a 4km fun run at the end of April and, in an ideal world, I'd love to be able to get round that without stopping to do any walking at all so, hilariously, you could say I am now in training!  I was hoping to get out today - Sunday - to do another 5k run but there were other things I needed to do first so I haven't managed to go (and probably won't now) but I'll try and get out tomorrow.

- Last night TLH and I went to the Guildford Civic to see that latest in our classical music concert programme, which was the European Union Chamber Orchestra with soloist Julian Lloyd Webber on cello.  It was fantastic.  A nicely balanced programme, they started with Handel's 'Entrance of the Queen of Sheba', followed by Elgar's Serenade for Strings.  Then Julian came out and they played Haydn's 'Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major' and I was left totally gobsmacked at his talent.  Look, I found a youtube clip of him playing the last movement of the concerto with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra a few years back (please to be ignoring the frankly alarming shirt):

I played the cello for a year or two in my early teens and, to be honest, I think I prefer the sound of the cello to that of the violin, so this was just glorious.

After the break the orchestra then played Barber's 'Adagio for Strings' which was lush and utterly fabulous.  Even if you're not familiar with the name, you'll know the music, it's been in tonnes of movies and was turned into a trance-house chillout tune by, I think, William Orbit.  I found a youtube video of the entire thing (it's about 10 minutes long) that didn't have any adverts at the beginning.  This performance was from the Proms, four days after 9-11 and was a tribute to the victims, so apologies for the quality but just bear in mind the emotional state everyone was in at the time this was played:

They finished with Mozart's Symphony no. 29 in A Major which I'd not heard before and absolutely loved.  Sadly, I couldn't find a decent enough sounding vid on Youtube but feel free to have a wander over there yourself for a listen, if you fancy it - I recommend it!

- Add to all this, I finished reading Bram Stoker's 'The Jewel of Seven Stars' and enjoyed it far more than I thought I would.  As compared to H P Lovecraft's 'At the Mountains of Madness' which I'm determined to finish even if it's like wading through treacle.  Lovecraft was writing in the early 1930s and Stoker's book was published in 1903 but Stoker's is a much more 'modern' read than Lovecraft.  And it's also easier to read than Thomas Hardy.  I would almost describe it as 'rollicking' except that I thought the ending was a bit of a let-down.  Briefly, without giving away spoilers (because I do recommend you read it, and it's a short book in any case!), it's the story of an Egyptologist who gathers artefacts together at his house in London in an attempt to resurrect the mummy of a dead Queen who, uncannily, looks exactly like his daughter.  And, yes, it's the inspiration for every Mummy film you've ever seen.


- In general, there have been few minuses this week.  The biggest disappointment is that the band I'm in, The Fugitives, was meant to be playing a gig at a Charity Auction Ball at Twickenham on Saturday (i.e., yesterday) but due to the unavailability of our guitarist, we couldn't do it.  This was a huge shame as we've not had a gig since the wedding we did back in April last year.  Oh well.  The upside to this was that TLH and I were able to see Julian Lloyd Webber instead.

- Secondly, the plan that my friend Bev and I had to play gigs together as a duo to backing tapes is looking very unlikely to take off.  At least, not in the immediate future.  She's decided to go back to Cape Verde for a while, to see if she can find work as a musician there.  She has other reasons for going back but I'm not sure how much of her life I should tell you about, let's just say there's a lot to pull her back to the islands.  So on the one hand I'm pleased that she's being positive about where she wants her life to go, I'm quite sad that the resurrection of Casual Sax will have to wait a bit longer.

And that, in all honesty, are probably the only slight bummers to occur this week at Jones Towers.

It's not a bad life, after all, is it?

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Ooh, shiny, woolly goodness!

It's Sunday afternoon.  The temperature has dropped and I'm sitting here, laptop on, um, lap, Goldfinger on the telly, TLH playing Skyrim on the computer downstairs and I'm watching the snow starting to fall outside.  Quite big flakes too.

My immediate plans for today, when I was formulating them earlier this week, were to do one or more of the following - go for a run, clear the large pile of prunings that I left in the middle of the lawn with help from TLH, do some digging at the allotment.  Then on Friday lunchtime I went out for lunch with my lovely friend Bev and in bending down to deposit my handbag on a chair, my back went into spasm.  Damn, it was painful.  Extraordinary how such a small, twisting movement can wreak such damage.  It was like getting a really bad crick in the neck but around and underneath the left shoulderblade.

Paracetamol was my friend here (Ibuprofen would be better as it's an anti-inflammatory but it's not good for the stomach - and I get wicked acid reflux - so I stopped getting it) as well as a hot water bottle.  Sat for the rest of the day with the bottle behind my back, trying not to whimper every time I moved.

Fortunately, although still very stiff and sore, yesterday it was bearable enough for me to do my usual craft fair in Alresford.  You might think that sitting on my arse for around 8 hours would be okay, but the chairs are not tremendously comfortable and I frequently end up with headaches the day after an Alresford show so it was going to be touch and go as to how my buggered back would respond.  I took my hot water bottle and used it, and dosed myself up with painkillers and it was fine.  We had a good day as well, sold 12 items and made three figures so, all in all, not too bad.  But there was no way I was going to be doing anything in the garden; I need to be careful until it settles down.  I'll contemplate a run tomorrow, though, depending on the weather.

Oh yeah, the running - it's going quite well.  Last week I managed 2.5 miles (although there was more walking than running) but a couple of days later I did 2.8 miles, this time with more running than walking.  In my last post you may recall I've signed up for a 4km (2.5 miles) fun run on 21 April and my goal is to be able to do it all running.  Speed is not all that important, just consistency of pace right now.  To be able to get the entire way round without stopping to walk is looking surprisingly difficult just at the moment - but I'm working towards it.

Dang - got sidetracked from what I wanted to post about!  Last Saturday there was a 2-day festival at Farnham Maltings devoted to all things yarn-based.  It's a big show for independent wool dyers, spinners, providers of accessories, etc.  I missed it last year but was determined to go this year.  I decided on my budget - £100 - saved from the meagre profits I make selling jewellery - and I spent the lot!

The show is called Unravel and this was the 4th year.  The town had been yarn-bombed during the week and there was stuff around lamp-posts and hanging from shop signs, including knitted balloons (actually balloons with knitted covers) floating above a bridge over a river.  There was a mother and baby sheep in a pen in the shade (it was a sunny, warm day) just outside the front door of the venue.

The place was heaving.  We got there about half an hour after the doors opened and it was rammed with punters, standing easily three deep around each exhibitor.  I decided I wanted to do a once-round look at everything, to see what was available.  I'd got a design in mind that's going to be my next knitting project - a wrap around sleeveless waistcoat/cardigan type thing, that is basically a rectangle with two slits for armholes.  Look, here it is - simple wrap around vest.  Looks easy, huh?

So I wanted some really nice wool to make it in.  I didn't know what colour but I knew the colour would find me if I went looking for it.  I was first entranced by the Fyberspates stand and my eye was particularly drawn to a 100gm skein of shades of green/pale yellow shot through with gold sparkliness.  I knew I didn't want to make the waistcoat out of it, but I also knew I wasn't leaving the building without owning one of these.  Even though it was £21.50!  Pricey, yes, but also hand spun, hand dyed and hand twisted and that amount of work costs money.  Here's the skein I bought:

Isn't it lovely?  It'll go into my stash for now and I'll decide what to do with it later.  I like to see my yarn in the flesh so I get an idea of what the colour is actually like, as opposed to what it looks like through a computer screen.  This means buying wool when I see something I like because lord only knows when I would find it again, if you see what I mean.

I was extremely tempted by the products of The House of Hemp which is, as you might expect, yarn created from hemp stalks, much like linen.  The kits they have for sale are absolutely stunning - beautiful designs and lovely colours.

In the end, I found my yarn at the NiMu Yarns stand on the top floor of the exhibition. They are a small company (not sure, I think it's a husband and wife team) who hand dye specialist yarns in small batches and I loved, loved, loved their colours.  I absolutely fell for a colour shade called Wicklow and bought 3 100gm skeins to make the waistcoat/cardi (it needs 300gms of wool).  Here they are (with added Bruno, being as helpful as ever):

I've tried to show the colours as best I can - isn't it divine?  All shades of blue including sky blue, turquoise and even the palest blue-green.  Utterly, utterly fabulous.  And reasonably priced at £11 per skein as well, so £33 for enough wool to make the waistcoat/cardi - I don't think that's too expensive.

The next thing to do is to wind them into balls as you can't just use the wool straight from a skein, it gets too tangled.  Mum and I wound one skein yesterday while sitting around at Alresford but I forgot to take a photo.  No matter, I'm not ready to start knitting the waistcoat/cardi yet as I'm still finishing off a third swirly scarf.

I've decided to add a line of sequins to the two scarves I've already finished, the ones that are going to be Xmas 2012 presents for my two nieces.  I've not added them to the fern green scarf yet, but I've done the purple one:

I like the little flash of sparkly that you get, and it just blings the scarf up a bit more and hopefully will be more attractive to a pre-teen.

 So I've yet to finish the 3rd scarf, add the sequins and then I'll probably start the waistcoat/cardi.  Or I might start this crochet scarf kit that I absolutely, positively also had to buy.  The Natural Dye Studio stand held me totally entranced when I came across it.  I didn't take photos (it was hot, packed and not easy to take pics) but I'll pinch some photos off the intertubes to show you why I fell in love:

Heart-patteringly beautiful.  Although I'm not currently crocheting, the stand was selling kits for their Iris scarf which contained the pattern and all the yarn needed to complete it, for £25, which is a good price.  Just look at this and tell me that it doesn't make you catch your breath:

Here's a better picture that, again, I've nicked off the internet (sorry):

Just stunning.  This is the wool that comes with the kit:

 This has added Sylvester Bean, at the door keeping an eye on Bruno, his current nemesis.

See all the lovely colours?  Each little skein is variegated in colour and is made from 100% wool from British Bluefaced Leicester sheep (although this one doesn't look very blue to me...):
The whole thing is crocheted on a 2.5mm which is pretty damn small.  But it's going to have to wait as I have other stuff to knit first and all those little skeins also need winding into balls so, frankly, it'll be a miracle if I get round to doing this this year, but at least I bought it when I could.

So this was what I did last weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed fondling yarn and spending my hard-earned dough.  Talking of which, I didn't get the job (or even an interview) that I mentioned briefly a couple of weeks ago.  It was for a part-time Document Assistant for the British Museum.  Basically, working on the museum's database of lithic artefacts in its stores.  In other words, data entry.  Yeah, I was massively over qualified for it but I thought it was worth a shot.

Never mind, I've got plenty of other things now to fill my time!!

PS.  Results of boob squishing arrived on Friday - all clear.  Hooray for disease-free bosoms!