I don't seem to have checked in here for a bit. An agreeable number of small, fairly constructive projects and events have been occupying me, here are one or two.
My first week or so of recording for Librivox. I've used them a lot over the last couple of years, and very much admire the aims and ethos of the project, an appreciation which has grown since actually becoming involved, it really is a work of patience and integrity. It struck to me as a worthwhile and useful outside activity to which I could commit some time and effort without in fact having to leave the house. It does demand, however, an early start - for quiet, solitude, concentration, lack of self-consciousness and free time on the big computer - respecting external deadlines, learning some new technical stuff with the software which I find not intuitive and fairly challenging - they don't turn anyone away because of their reading skills or lack of them, but do insist on the recording quality being as good as possible and a level of self-editing with it. I also find that it's helping with the lack of focus I mentioned before; reading with a view to reading aloud demands an attention to detail and meaning, like making yourself chew small mouthfuls. I'm getting over my intense, if fairly normal, dislike of my own recorded voice, and possibly improving it a bit, trying, with care but not too much artifice, to smooth out the staccato crackle I always thought made me sound like a petulant six year old, and the occasional sliding into sloppy Estuary vowels (Hertfordshire isn't quite on the Thames estuary, it's true, but it's heading that way.).
All of which is doing me great good, and it's also rather fun.
|Early morning recording session|
As may be seen, my recording arrangements are rather makeshift. I very quickly realised that the flimsy cheap desktop microphone is unsatisfactory, or rather unsatisfying, since with a bit of fiddling with the software an adequate sound track can be achieved, but I find myself hankering for something better, more solid, more directed, which doesn't require balancing on a pile of books and total physical immobility other than moving one's lips, and, I admit it, which looks rather more the business. Another volunteer compared it to taking up tennis, at first you make do with your cousin's old cast-off racket, then when you start really enjoying the game you start wanting a good one of your own. So I've got a rather nice looking Samson on a little stand on order; it's cheaper than a tennis racket, honestly.
While with many of the more obscure texts one might be inclined to wonder why bother to record them and who will ever listen, I can see that that's not entirely the point, it's really more like archiving or even archaeology, a question of faithful and patient excavation and recording, in the broader sense of the word. Yet despite all the work that Librivox have put in over the last ten years (and they don't object to duplication anyway), there are plenty of interesting and delightful books still unrecorded. So far, and it's been fairly slow going to get the hang of what I'm doing, I've recorded half a dozen Alice Meynell poems, one of a collection of Irish folk and fairly tales, collected by Yeats and Lady Wilde and others, about a smartarse atheist priest who gets his comeuppance, and I'm working on two chapters of the second book of William Morris's The Well at the World's End, of which I'm also listening to the first book. Odd to be immersing so in Victoriana, much of it so heavy, ornate, ponderous and melancholy, like some of the furniture I grew up with. Yet beyond the distracting noise of the language, Meynell's 'thees' and 'thous' and aura of religiosity, and Morris's sometimes quite impenetrable emblazoned mediaeval pastiche, sometimes some true and fresh psychological awareness or sweet originality of observation shines through. Good to be renewing my fondness for Morris too, apart from anything else, I think, despite the historical image he has sadly inherited of Rosetti's put-upon cuckold, consoling himself with beardy, romantic Utopianism and pretty curtains, he honestly liked and wanted to understand women in a spirit of real generosity, friendship and admiration.
Still knitting plenty, of course, amongst which my first foray into Icelandic wool, which was in fact three balls of the standard (ie pretty heavy) weight Lopi which I bought not in Iceland but Amsterdam back in September. I felted a sample of it, and went on to make a felt hat. Long ago I had a Nepalese round hat, a kind of pill box shape with a gold-yellow crown and a coloured patterned band around it, which fitted perfectly and always made me feel good. Don't know what happened to it, but I've often thought I'd like to re-create something like it. On this occasion I did not succeed.
The combination of the felting and the depth of the crown looked kind of nice off but wearing it feels like my head is being squeezed inward and upward (can't bring myself to enlarge this photo). I made the design myself, tulips from Amsterdam, I'm fond of yellow tulips and like ochre shades but can't wear any great expanse of them. However, I have found another use for it as a receptacle for other knitting.
Trouble is the tulips are upside down, I should have stuck with an abstract pattern. It would work quite well as a busker's hat for collecting money in.
I've been on a mitten-making binge too, here are a couple of mitten still lifes.
I find homes for them or keep them.
Even more totally frivolous playing about with colour, I discovered this site, where you can make those kind of colour palettes I see all the time on Pinterest and elsewhere. You simply upload a photo URL, or use one they randomy generate, to pick out colours and make a palette selection, either by clicking directly on an area of the photo or using the grid of shades which the software automatically extracts for you. Here's one from a photo I took of the lake in Reykjavik in the twilight:
and another of a Reykjavik street view, I loved having mountains at the end of the street
and another of darling Molly in the garden on a summer day, not long before she left us
Like pulling the school bus out of the ditch just up the road, where it finished up on a morning of scarcely visible black ice which took everyone by surprise:
Not having access to the heavy plant required for this task, I couldn't have done this, though I did go up and offer the lady driver shelter and a cup of coffee, and to commiserate with her on her vehicle's de-roaded state, sharing with her the memory of the time when a full cement mixer truck had done the same thing and had to be left there overnight, no longer turning so presumably the concrete within must have solidified and had to be extracted by heaven knows what process. She declined the coffee as she was waiting for her boss to come and sort things out, the children having been already transferred to another bus. Indeed, a surprising number of people appeared as from nowhere, offering their help and company and curiosity, including Victor of course, next to whose patch the event occurred:
Then Ludovic from next door-but-one who works for the municipality in some capacity with gear and tackle and some other blokes with a van and the shiny blue commune tractor arrived and the consequent confab lasted a good hour or so, by which time I, like Victor, had retired back to the house, taking photos from the upstairs window. Finally the bus was removed from the ditch and driven off, and life in the village resumed its habitual January quiet.
Which quiet I am greatly enjoying, with some worthwhile projects and agreeable home-based activities, a few other plans still untroublingly small on the horizon. The ice on the road was exceptional, the winter is generally mild and manageable. I walk often, dance sometimes, scarcely visit the garden, mull but don't mope. Sic transit January. Time to go make postcards of my sister's quilts.