Is it better to live a day as a lion than 100 days as a sheep?

This is one of these grand, aspirational sayings that makes fuck all sense when you get into it.

Half of all lion cubs die. At least a quarter are killed by incoming males taking over the pride. Lionesses sometimes kill other lionesses’ cubs. Others die of starvation, neglect, and predation. Occasionally, lionesses get killed by incoming males, or when venturing accidentally into another pride’s territory. A male lion gets kicked out of his pride on adulthood. Thereafter, he’s fair game for any male protecting a pride. The main cause of death of adult males is other males. If a lion survives long enough to take a pride from a weaker or older male, he faces a short, brutal life of fighting off potential successors – or worse, coalitions of young adult males. And if he does manage to reach some great age? Some fat fuck from Texas will have him drugged so he can shoot him for a trophy.

In between, it’s hunting and sleeping. Mostly sleeping. And a lot of starving.

Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of lambs – even in the wild – survive to adulthood. There’s much less of this murderous nonsense between rams. They live in friendly social groups, and don’t mind new members. Munching delicious grass and sometimes seaweed, hopping around on rocks and cliff faces, and even trees, making friends with the other animals,

and getting haircuts and mani-pedis from the hoomans.

Which would you prefer?

Quora linky.



It’s the Mighty Offspring’s 10th birthday tomorrow, which means it’s about 10 years since I got back into crafting seriously!

I outlined my route back in this post back in 2007. It wasn’t quite where I’ve fetched up, designing hand-knitting patterns!

Instead, it was needs-must crafting for my suddenly-budget wedding after my research career went up in smoke. Strapped for cash, I crocheted wire and bead motifs into invitations and jewellery.


I had no real intention of continuing – I’m not a jewellery wearer at the best of times – but I never did put the hooks away again. I kept on playing with the wire, buying bits and pieces, reading up on the subject on the internet.

Of course, even then, there was a lot more about yarn-related crochet (and knitting) on the internet than about wire crochet, so naturally I found myself looking at that too. I found, and was entranced by items like Rachel Seeley Merrill’s Daisy Crochet Skirt, Marnie MacLean’s Gothic Lace cardi∗, and 302 Calories (actually, that whole issue of Knitty should be required reading – go look). I discovered Garnstudio’s DROPS patterns, Knitting Daily (Sandi Wiseheart’s Bust Dart series probably taught me to design), and the Yarn Harlot.

Then, on some blog or other, I saw a mention of a new website called Ravelry – and down the rabbit hole I went…



∗- still in my queue, still too fat – maybe for my 50th birthday??

Imagine, if you will, a migrant.

From a warzone.
Wears different clothes and strange head coverings.
Speaks another language, has a thick accent.
Doesn’t share all your values.
Has taken many of your jobs and at least one of your menfolk.
Proficient with several weapons, knows how to build a nuclear bomb.
























Scary, huh?

Trauma Queen

For those days when even the Drama Llama won’t come round…

I’ve been getting some reflective practice in, my friends and foes, my heart-wrenched and holy, my old, sold and lonely. It being the turn of the year, and all. You have been warned. The Marc Almond albums have come out, and not the chirpy Soft Cell stuff either.

The ex showed up for Christmas after all. I was aware, by virtue of my psychic powers*, that he had had a ticket bought for him by My Little Pony back in October or November, but naturally he didn’t tell me until a week before he was due to arrive. He then changed his plans about the trip from Belfast about 3 times. He told his mother that I wouldn’t let the Mighty Offspring come up to Belfast for a visit at Christmas (splutter! what??), sending her into a tailspin of self-recrimination – like it’s her fault he’s an idiot.  Supposedly he was here for 4 days, but was chibbing to leave after two (I had no booze in the house), again sending his poor mother into fits with his changes of plan. In fairness to him, he did try to make his own arrangements – by asking me for money for the bus. This is after arriving with nothing only MO’s present (which a little bird tells me was bought by … not him).

I have to thank the lovely ladies and occasional gentlemen of Casting Off for slapping it to me on many occasions over the last 3 years. Otherwise, I might actually have expected more of him. As it is, I could nod sagely and let it pass over me. I’ve had no child maintenance since he walked out of his job on a whim last February, and he told me over Christmas dinner  that he has no intention of looking for work any time soon. With a smirk on his face. Probably because Das Boot has been telling him what to do to ‘get back at me’ (being psychic is a terrible burden). He’s planning to come over for the Easter holidays. I’m looking into B&B rates: he can stay at one, or he can pay for his room and board here – and his mother agrees.

All the magnanimity I displayed over the festive season was, of course, nothing but a veneer over a boiling pit of rage. On the one hand, I’m extremely proud of myself for not ripping his diseased liver out through his nostrils and feeding it back to him, still steaming. On the other – why the hell is he still annoying me so much when I know exactly where I stand with him, and have known from the day and hour he chose alcohol over his family?

Hence, the reflection. I’ve poured out the immediate feelings of the break-up elsewhere, all the raw pain and anger, the grief and the sense of loss, the loneliness and the fear. It’s locked away and will never be seen, unless MO wants to read it some day. Maybe not even then. This was different, though. This was a deliberate facing up to things I can’t admit to myself. A FIBUA through every locked room, every dark alley in my head. Forcing myself to walk through the places I’ve never dared go.

And the result of this soul-scouring exercise?

It was all my fault.

Yes, I’m to blame. I’m not flaying myself over it, simply admitting my part. All my relationships, including my marriage, have ended more or less the same way – they have … disappointed me in some way, often unexpectedly, and usually at a point in my life where I’m moving on to something – a new place, qualification, career. The details and circumstances vary, but there’s always this one common factor.


I cannot be still. There is always a goal to which I’m working. It might be that qualification, or job, or house, or just facing up to myself. I am difficult to live with, because I am always driven – thinking of, planning for, working towards, next week, next month, next year. I am never just ‘in the moment’. Nathan says I cannot be happy. He’s wrong. Happiness is moving. Stillness is a little death, creeping over me. When I stop, I fall apart.

I did Nathan a terrible disservice. I blamed my previous relationship failures on my exes’ jealous inability to deal with my drive and ambition, and married a man who would never feel the need to even try to compete. A man who was completely happy to be in the moment and never look for anything more. And I dragged him into Hurricane Rachel. I didn’t break him, but I scared the ever-living shit out of him. He couldn’t cope, so he crawled into a bottle. He might have been halfway there already, but I pushed him in and jammed the cork home.

And I’m truly sorry.

Wow, that was liberating.

Maybe I’ll even tell him one day…

* AKA Google fu.

I like driving in my car…

My new one, that is.

Myold car, however, had other ideas. A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to pick up this car for a very good price. Second hand, but it could do 50mg easily, road tax was £30pa and the insurance was in the £900pa region. I know – fantastic, right? And it was, flitting me from Brum to Coventry and back on a daily basis for a year without so much as a hiccup.

Well, not till near the end of that year, when I put it in for a pre-MOT service and MOT in a nearby garage. To my good luck, the guy who worked on it was a member of the church I attended. He noticed a bit of oil leakage when he went to do the service – a crucial giblet had come loose and vanished. Apparently I was lucky to have got as far as the garage without the car dying on me. Note, the car was running perfectly: no alarm bells, warning lights, unexplained clankings, etc. On recounting the tale to others, I got the stink-eye and comments that the garage – and my friend – were trying to diddle me, but given that they replace the part and the missing oil for around a tenner, they would make very poor con artists indeed.

After this, the car began acting up big time. Warning lights blinked on for no apparent reason. I was out money for checks on these warnings, computer resets, and two replacements of the whole warning light system. In addition, it started going through oil like nobody’s business, but – get this – the oil warning light never flickered. It was the ONLY light that didn’t. I got used to driving with a Christmas display winking and flashing on the dashboard, and throwing oil in every couple of weeks. The driving was still okay, reliable and whatnot. Just the lights and the oil.

When I moved back to the wilds of Ireland, the drive began to suck. Sudden episodes of no power when I’d try to overtake (essential here in Tractorville) and occasional scary crunching in the gear changes no matter how much oil I put in it. Then on the way to its next MOT, the car died out at a crossroads and refused to start. The engine had blown. Got a new engine, problems all solved, continued the oil applications, then a couple of weeks ago there were a few wheezy moments on the lane, and the following morning she wouldn’t start and the Christmas display was back. I’m pretty sure it’s the battery, but can’t get anyone to come and confirm it. My mechanic is predicting doom and gloom, and another engine.

At this point the superior economy of the beast is being eaten away by the massive repair costs. Last week, my lovely brothers, the Axe Murderer and the Rock God, got on the case. They tracked down and bought me a new (to me) car. Aren’t they lovely boys? It’s a XUV (hatchback that thinks it’s a 4×4), supposedly extremely reliable, 12 years old but gently used. The insurance is £400, it needs the full £135 road tax, and the mpg is 40 at best, but if it lives up to its bulletproof reputation I can deal with it. And it’s sufficiently unusual – and RED! – that I will be less likely to lose it in the supermarket carpark. Which, ye know, happens. And just did, last time I was there.

And it’s red! my favourite colour! With a sunroof, which will be SO useful. The wheelbase is high enough that I can see over hedges (life skill here), and the steering is considerably lighter, which is easier on my arm. The only downside is that the driver side window won’t open, so I can’t go cruisin’ with my elbow out, admiring all the … scenery…

Time to increase the medication, methinks…

I have been in a stew of rage recently.

It started with the business of my trip to Belfast, and the chewing out I got for (supposedly) not telling anyone that I was going. Really – Imabee 46 next week, people. Been dressing myself and tying my own shoe laces for damn close to half a century! I’m really tired of having to squeeze my news into 10 words or less before I get interrupted, talked over, etc. Believe it or not, dear family, there are people  who shut up when I walk into a room and take notes when I speak, and who would never dream of monologuing on Great Sandwiches I Have Known over my learned and witty discourse(s). No sir!

But the fury is leaking out everywhere. I have insulted entire continents online, and yesterday I very nearly rammed a car IRL. Well, what the feck were they doing parking across the petrol station slip road?!?! Two of us trying to leave, one trying to enter, and another already in but unable to park because YOU, you dribbling moron, decide to GET IN THE BLOODY WAY.

Currently what is wearing my molars is test knitting. A few months ago, I decided to have a practice run at having a design test-knit using a pattern I’d already published. It’s a pretty popular free pattern, lots of downloads, in a lot of queues, but no one’s got round to making it yet.  I thought it would be a good learning process to ease me in. No biggie, right? Well, it’s been a fecking nightmare. First I had to fill in a form that made my PhD look like a toddler’s wall scribblings. I, the trained researcher, nearly lost the will to live doing the research for this form, trawling through the archives of helpful notes and guidance. Not that I’d mind if I’d got my testers, but only one person responded. Then I started getting messages about the progress of the test. They were standard-letter style messages, but felt rather brusque, nitpicky, officious and unhelpful.

I tried getting testers in a less stressful environment. But all I got was a rather unhelpful reply saying my pattern wasn’t what I said it was… I don’t think I’ve ever felt such bile towards someone I don’t even know. Seriously, if I could have reached down the internet and broken every one of his/her fingers, I would have. I’m still livid.


And I had to walk away from the computer just there, as I was in danger of Hulking out and this is my last pair of clean trousers. So I went and deep-cleaned the dishwasher, on the same principle that my dear old silver-haired granny told me to eat a teaspoonful of dogshit each morning*. And isn’t it good that I did**? because I know exactly h to handle it now***. Lady-like, self-aggrandising, with big words.

I am also feeling rather better about the seething ire. Because it does bother me – I think of myself as pretty chilled. I gots a rep to maintain, yo. It’s good because I’ve been feeling like crap for so long that getting mad was too much effort. It was easier just to get more miserable and defeated. Now, knocking heads together sounds like a fun plan, and plans are always better than vegging.

ION, I have begun taking the dog up the forest in the mornings, after dropping the Mighty Offspring to the bus. The exercise half kills me – I’m still stiff from this morning – but I shall continue undaunted, although the foraging is rubbish this year. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, my arse – not one of the brambles will be ready before the frost hits, the wild strawbs never got round to fruiting, and there’s no sign of the mushrooms that were carpeting the place this time last year. The currants got blown off the stems back in July, and even the sloes aren’t putting in an appearance. My cherry crabapple has ONE apple on it, and the plums, cherry and pear didn’t even bloom. I have a few tiny, miserable apples and maybe a handful of raspberries to show for the season, and my heritage potatoes still aren’t ready – and they were first earlies!


* – i.e., that nothing worse could happen to you that day.

** – walk away. Not eat the dogshit.

*** – again, not the dogshit. The unhelpful replier.


Now I’ve calmed down a bit – 

I’ve just spent a lovely long weekend in Belfast. The Mighty Offspring saw the dinosaur exhibition at the Ulster Museum and the movie ‘Brave’ and was generally spoilt rotten. Due to his habit of “remembering” (i.e., making up) what suits him, I missed the exhibition, got hilariously lost, and was barely able to move by the time I found my way back to Ma-in-Law’s, having walked about 8 miles. Strangely, it seems to have helped. Okay, I stiffen up if I stop moving for more than 5 mins, there are twinges and owies and an alarming crunching noise from my right ankle, but I am standing straighter and taller than for a long time. 

On Saturday morning, I went to St George’s Market in search of Lighthouse Yarns, and was disappointed. No sign of them. Of course, they may only be there Sundays, though I thought – oh well. I got a book on vintage knits and a gorgeous hand-tooled leather notebook, which I’ll be using for designs. There were a few yarn stalls, but nothing spectacular. Some interesting clothes stalls, too, vintage, handmade, etc. Sunday I sidetracked from a school shopping trip to Primark to check out The Wicker Man. They have a small but worthy range of Cushendale Woollen Mills and Donegal Yarns wool, and seem to stock Knit Picks/KnitPro needles, and will be running knitting classes from September. They also have some Aran knits, sporting a tag about how Willie John “Paddy” MacBallix was the first man in Ballyarsebackwards to wear an Aran jumper, to the official reception held by Finn MacCool (sicto welcome St Patrick to the oul sod, blah, blah, blah. 

Back home to some not-fun stuff occasioned by the fact that my family doesn’t listen to me and was unaware that we’d gone to Belfast, despite my several attempts to tell them. At least, I’m pretty sure that telling them that the Mighty Offspring was going to see the dinosaur exhibition and I’d be doing a bit of shopping (and that I’d have to fill the car with petrol before I left) is enough of a hint that those activities might be done together and/or in proximity to each other. Sheesh.

But! The big fun news! I got free yarn! Donegal Yarns Aran Tweed, #4803. It is better than I hoped. A deep, peaty, almost purply brown, with orange nepps. Loads of other nepps, but it’s the orange that stands out. I swatched up a bit overnight, and even with less than ideal blocking at Ma-in-Law’s, it is all froofy and soft. Delivered to the end of the road by the boss, how is that for service? Didn’t even have to blag my way to an invitation to the mill, it was offered up front. Possibilities of collaboration, etc., etc.

I’m not too sure how much more to say about this. I don’t want to be giving away trade secrets. It’s kind of like blogging, now that I’m mainly doing designing rather than knitting or adapting patterns by other people. In my older, funnier blog, I could document the trials and tribulations of the Serious Knitter. The uncooperative yarn. The bewildering instructions. The ill-advised modifications, the attendant injuries, the misread deadlines, the ungrateful recipients, and the photo-shoot foul-ups. I could hold forth on the insanity of the pattern designer, the process, and the finishing. Now, I have to stay quiet, especially about anything that is being published elsewhere. Which is most of them at the moment! How can I be funny with no material?!?!?!

I had a Chicken Tarka Masala once. It’s like a Chicken Tikka Masala but just a little ‘otter…

Some Cheese With That Whine…

Today I got out of bed all by myself and did a reasonable day’s housework. Go me! 

This is after nearly two weeks of paralysing pain. I have been bothering my doctor for months about the constant pains and aches I suffer, especially in my hands and arms. Some of it I could ascribe to getting older and being fat and unfit, but I felt there was no way I should feel as if I’ve overdone things badly at the gym following a day’s potting about the house. I’ve been tested for everything, all negative.  

Finally got an appointment with a rheumatologist, who has diagnosed fibromyalgia. However, the day of the appointment, I woke up with a frozen shoulder (bursitis). I haven’t been able to drive since. I’ve had to get the Mighty Offspring to help me out of bed more than once. Topped it off by nearly collapsing in a supermarket carpark while waiting for a lift. I feel like I’ve been beaten up – on a good day. 

It has left me worrying how I’m going to hold down a job if I go through periods like this. How do I get to work if I can’t drive? How do I do my job if I’m in so much pain that I can’t move, or can’t lift my arm up to write on a whiteboard? How do I do my marking and planning if I’m so exhausted I fall asleep as soon as I sit down? It’s been suggested i apply for Disabled Living Allowance, which would help with the cost of taxis, for example, but what about the rest? I could do supply, working only when I’m able, but I won’t get much repeat custom if I can’t work when I’m asked. Tutoring on the same basis is a possibility. I could do more serious design work too, set up a proper sole tradership. 

And figure out what drugs are going to sort me out, if any. 

Wah wah wah…


Home again, home again, jiggety jig

Monday midday I got a call from the Children’s Hospital. They had an 8am Tuesday cancellation, if I could get the Mighty Offspring there fasting for his endo and biopsy. Given that his own appointment might be months off, I went for it. MIL drove down and collected us that evening, and drove us to the hospital in the morning (my car is still off the road…).

Mighty Offspring was stellar. He put on such a performance, all the staff loved him. He told jokes, explained the procedure to them, got drinks and ice lollies for the other patients after they came back from surgery. He was a bit sick and woozy after the procedure, but that passed quickly.

The worst moment for me was when he passed out when they gave him the anaesthetic. One moment he was blowing up the “balloon” like a good’un, then his little arm flopped down and his eyes closed. It felt like he’d died. I had to go outside and chain-smoke until the ward sister rang to say he was in recovery. I never want to go through that again, but I will.

The surgeon didn’t see anything on the endo, but he says that in his experience, with MO’s numbers, the biopsy usually comes back positive for coeliac disease. If that happens, he’ll need another endo in six months, to confirm that a gluten-free diet is working. If it’s not positive, the diagnosis will be latent CD, and the endo will have to be repeated in 12 months.

Either way, I’ll have to watch my only baby flop into unconsciousness again. And I’ll do it.

New blog, new life!

I’ve moved to WordPress!

My old blog is still there – I may move stuff, or not. Unfortunately Blogger was making me crazy over image handling, and the blog itself was too full of old memories, as a quick look at the last couple of updates will prove.

So here is what I’ve been up to for the last year:

%d bloggers like this: