Friday, March 28, 2008

Knit Today magazine

I had a nice surprise in the post this morning. Janice had sent me a complimentary copy of Knit Today magazine which mentions what I'm up to at the London marathon and suggests people might like to come and have a Knit-Out at the Grapes Pub. Many thanks to Janice for publicising it and giving my fund-raising address.

I love these 2 photos. The one of me knitting and running was taken by a fellow runner (Ruth) on Tower Bridge and the one of me holding my Guinness World Record certificate was taken by Mike at the finish. Happy memories. Only 2 weeks to go and I have to try to forget just how difficult it was last year - the aching shoulders, pins and needles in my forearms for the last 10 miles, sore and stiff fingers, a permanent crick in my neck, sweaty hands trying to fumble with yarn, getting sprayed by a water cannon to "cool me down" which soaked all my wool and made it even harder to knit with!!!!!

Autumn Rose is making progress, albeit slowly. I am a slow knitter anyway and I can't spend hours knitting each day or my neck and shoulders seize up. I'm finding it very absorbing and once I get the pattern for each row into my head I'm fine.

It's very curly-wurly at the moment so I had to hold it flat to take the photo. Isn't my stitch marker cute - he's a 'yarnimal'.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Daily Mail

Yesterday afternoon I was interviewed by Olinka for an article in the Daily Mail about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which is contentious to say the least. The reason someone like me was approached was because a lot of the arguments in favour of one part of the Bill, the creation of hybrid embryos, suggest that it will help scientists find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinsons. I did not comment on the other aspects of the Bill.

It was really quite hard, being put on the spot and totally out of the blue, but I think the article conveys most of my thoughts and fears. I find it very unsettling to think of the moral issues surrounding the creation of human/animal embryos but I also appreciate that Science needs to progress. One thing I was certain of is that MPs should be allowed a 'free' vote (ie they don't have to vote the way their Party Leader wants them too) as many people would not want to support the Bill because of their religious beliefs. The article appears here.

One funny thing was when the photographer arrived he was somewhat dishevelled - he'd been lurking in the undergrowth on Paul McCartney's estate in Peasmarsh, which isn't far away from us, trying to get photos of wild boar. Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous!! The photo of me is one of the worst ever too, but never mind.

Tomorrow I have a live interview with Neil Pringle on BBC Southern Counties Radio at 7am! At least it is more publicity for the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

I must take a photo of my Autumn Rose and post it tomorrow as I am pleased with the way it's progressing, albeit very slowly.

Terry Pratchett and the Alzheimer's Research Trust

I should have written about this a couple of weeks ago but for some reason I didn't. I was very sad to hear that the prolific author Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 59. His Disc World novels have a cult following. I was very impressed that he has pledged $1,000,000 to the Alzheimer's Research Trust. Not only that, he addressed their annual conference with a very moving speech which you and read here What a brave man for speaking out about this dreadful disease. The ART told me they have had many enquiries and donations since then and to have such a high profile person speak out is simply wonderful.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Autumn Rose and a stranded sheep

Well first I have to tell you about my run. It was just supposed to be a gentle plod through the village and across some fields, possibly via some woodland. I hadn't actually planned sliding down a steep ravine to rescue a stranded sheep!

As I plodded along the footpath around the edge of a field I noticed a sheep looking down a wooded ravine, at the bottom of which is a small stream. She shouldn't actually have been there as she had obviously got through from the next field where the rest of the flock was grazing which is why I went to investigate.

When I got closer I realised she was watching another sheep who seemed to be stuck halfway down the slope. I surveyed the scene and noticed a large amount of wool stuck on branches and brambles. The stranded sheep was obviously in distress and kept struggling but her coat seemed totally tangled up in brambles. She had soiled herself badly and looked quite thin and I wondered how long she'd been there.

I knew I had to go and get her out as the nearest farm is a couple of miles away and I don't know who owns that bit of land anyway. So I scrambled down the slope, jumped across the stream (managing not to fall in) and up the other side near to where she was standing. When I got closer I could see that all the fleece had been ripped away from round her neck and it was red raw. Poor thing. As I got closer she struggled and struggled and I could see she was covered in brambles with a large branch stuck through the fleece on the back of her head.

As I tried to get closer without distressing her I suddenly understood how she'd lost all the wool from her neck - in her struggling she lost her footing on the ground and swung outwards, suspended by the branch through her coat. She must have been there for quite some time, swinging backwards and forwards before finding her footing again on the slope. With a lot of pulling I managed to get her down and she limped off up the slope, accompanied by her chum who must have stayed with her to reassure her.

I scrambled back up the slope and they both watched me and baa'd their goodbyes as I ran off. I'm hoping that the farmer will come and inspect his flock at some stage and see her neck and check she's OK. Poor little mite.

As for Autumn Rose, I cast on again last night and I am now back to where I was before I frogged so I'm feeling OK again. I think there are about 7 more rows of the ribbing to do before the pattern starts. I may, however, add a bit more length. We shall see.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Of Coastline Walks and Frogs (rip-it, rip-it)

On Saturday the weather was overcast and a bit windy but we fancied stretching our legs and I suggested we go along to Beachy Head (you may remember I've run a marathon across there for the last couple of years) as Mike hadn't experienced the South Downs.
We just planned a short walk of about 3 miles as I was running the Hastings 1/2 marathon the next day so we parked at Birling Gap and walked up to Beachy Head itself to see the Belle Toute (pronounced bell toot) Lighthouse which has an impressive history. Built in 1832 it's light was visible from 20 miles out at sea thus helping sailors avoid the dangerous shoreline. It was used by the BBC as a film set for 'The Life and Loves of a She-Devil' and then was privately owned and used as a family home. It has just been sold for around £850,000! It looks pretty grotty up-close but the views across the sea are beautiful. Due to coastal erosion it was in danger of falling over the edge of the cliffs so in 1999 it was moved 17 metres (56 feet) further inland.
It really is wild up there and the winds are severe. I took this photo of Mike standing next to a tree to show just how strong the prevailing wind is - it's virtually bent double! The yellow shrub in the background is gorse which is an important nectar plant for bumble bees at this time of year. It's very prickly which helps it retain water (a bit like cacti) and prevents it from being dessicated in the drying winds.
You get fabulous views from up there but it was a bit misty so the views across the sea weren't too good. This is part of the coastline showing the famous white cliffs of the region.

Having walked up and down a couple of the hills we went down onto the beach. Most of the coast in this region is pebbles and this was no exception. The cliffs are eroding at an alarming rate and there were massive pile of them strewn along the shoreline. The blackish stones on top of the limestone are flints and if you look at the cliff face close-up you can see lines of flints in-between layers of limestone.

You can get a feel for the scale of the cliffs from the people to the far right of the photo (they look like dots!).

The sky was pretty moody although this photo doesn't really do it justice.

Now about those frogs.............

I cast on all 296 stitches for the hem and started knitting. My circular needles were new and quite curly-wurly and it was hard to straighten them out properly (can you see where this is going yet?) but I struggled along merrily. It was good Saturday-night-whilst-watching-a-film sort of knitting and it progressed well.
The next day, after running the Hastings 1/2 marathon, I picked it up to do a little light knitting whilst I had a short rest. The twisting wouldn't straighten out and that's when I realised - yes, it was totally twisted when I joined and I was making a Mobius Strip! Oh dear. I twisted and turned it thinking I couldn't have been so daft but I had to accept it and so it was that rather than knitting yesterday afternoon I was ripping.

So, that's my second trip to the frog pond this year. Deep joy. I didn't cast-on again last night and had a couple of glasses of wine instead to numb the pain!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I didn't start too well. After all the notes I've made about doing this I started swatching with the background colour in my left hand and the pattern colour in my right instead of vice versa, DOH! Not the end of the world as I realised after the 4th row. The pattern is not especially helpful as the chart shows dark colours as light boxes and light colours as dark boxes. How silly.

Here's the reverse of it before washing and blocking. I love the way the woven threads form their own pattern. It was very curly and hard to stretch out!

The front before washing and blocking.

I washed it in a gentle liquid wool wash then rinsed it and patted dry. When I first saw all the colours in the flesh I thought they looked rather drab and I was a bit disappointed. Now I've seen them together I've totally changed my mind as they really sing out. They are beautiful!

Having done the swatch I have several questions:

i) I'm using the pattern colour in my left hand and background colour in my right hand. When there is a big block of colour in the background colour (say 5 or more stitches) I can easily catch the pattern colour in to secure it. BUT, how do I do it when it's reversed? I don't see how I can catch the yarn in my right hand under the left hand yarn. Do I need to worry about it?

ii) Some of the rows use just one colour. This means the fabric is thinner as the patterned sections have 2 yarns. Is this OK?

iii) The Shetland Spindrift is very variable in thickness. The Old Gold is really chunky but the Shetland Black is incredibly thin and weedy. Does this matter in the scheme of things?

I know that at some stage Marina, my guardian FairIsle Angel will pop along and offer her advice. If anyone reading this wants to see some truly inspirational work then pop along to her blog.

At least my gauge is OK. I've noticed that people have recommended knitting a size smaller than their actual bust measurement as it is meant to be close fitting. My actual measurement is 39" so I think I shall knit the 37" version as I don't want the neck to gape which it might if I did the larger size.

The other thing I wondered about is whether to increase the length a little. I'd better make a decision on that soon!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Autumn Rose begins (gulp)

I've got my yarn, I've got my book so now there's no reason to procrastinate any longer. So, this evening I shall be casting on for my swatch.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Encouraged by my eventual success with my first pair of socks (I'm just starting the toe shaping on the second one) I decided to have a go at the much talked about Monkey Socks by Cookie A. I deliberately chose a yarn colour I wouldn't usually go for (I usually steer well clear of yellow 'cos it doesn't suit my colouring) and I was a bit apprehensive about how it would look.

Well, it arrived this morning and I needn't have worried as I'm thrilled with how it looks - really Spring-like and vibrant. This was my first order from Socktopus and I must say I'm very impressed. They communicated well about the progress of my order and it arrived wrapped beautifully in this pretty paper. They even put a nice note inside and a sample bar of dark chocolate with chilli pepper (which went down rather well with my mid-morning coffee!).

I won't be starting them straight away as I need to get swatching on my big project................

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Prima magazine

I did an interview for Prima magazine late last year and it's finally appeared in the April issue. I am really pleased with it as it's well written and gives links to both the Alzheimer's Research Trust and my current fund-raising page. I love the way they've put the titles in purple which is the ART's colour (and my favourite colour!).

I hope that if anyone who is caring for someone with dementia reads it then they will feel less alone and perhaps go and look at the website for more information. Being a carer is very isolating, especially caring for someone with mental health problems as there is such a stigma attached to it. I found that lots of so-called friends just deserted me as they were frightened of it. I think that's another side of the illness that I need to address - the effect on the carer, family and friends.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Phew, that was tough!

I could, of course, pretend that as this was my 12th marathon I found it really easy-peasy and it was just another jaunt across the South Downs. However, that would be a downright lie 'cos it was jolly tough! The wind was supposed to ease off during Saturday night. Instead it blew with a ferocity that kept both of us awake throughout the night. When I did eventually manage to dose off I kept waking up thinking I hadn't heard the alarm go off so that when it did actually sound at 4:55am I was already wide awake. Poor Mike was wide awake too, even though I tried to be as quiet as I could.

When I was ready to go at 5:45am Mike had given up all hope of sleep and had got dressed. He came to open the gates to send me on my way (having done a check on everything I had to take with me). The weather forecast was for strong winds but sunny/overcast later but when I left home it was still blowing a gale and was raining too so I had to take clothes for either scenario. Trouble was, when I arrived at Steyning at 7:30am the sky was still black, it was drizzling and the wind was pretty fierce. I settled on a mid-weight, long-sleeved top and tights with my trusty yellow waistcoat (a favourite 'cos it has 2 massive pockets across the back for holding my camera, phone, keys etc etc) and I tied an extra top around my waist just in case it all went wrong and I had to walk for any length of time - the weather up on the Downs can be very changeable and it is so exposed that its always wise to be prepared).

One of the things I liked about this marathon is that because it is a small field, of 114 runners, they allow the slower runners to start 30 minutes before the rest of the runners. I loved this because as I'm normally at the back I don't get to see many people but during this loads of runners went past me - it's great to see the really fast runners zooming along and gives you a real boost. So, at 8am I started on my journey.

At the foot of the hills we passed this charming church in Washington. This made me start wondering how many other 'Washington's' there are elsewhere in the world (Washington Tyne & Wear and Washington DC were the obvious answers but how many others are there dotted around?).

So here we are again, heads down, arms pumping starting to climb up onto the Downs (pah! that's a misnomer for sure). This was the first of the 'stings', steep climbs to the summit of a hill.

As you can see, the black clouds cleared almost as soon as I set off and it was getting warm. The wind was still very strong though and that kept me cool. I was feeling strong and was well prepared and my lack of sleep was forgotten as the wind blew the cobwebs away.

Around the 4 mile mark AntBliss had set up his camera so there are again lots of photos of me (number 10) wearing exactly the same clothes as last year and featuring my gigantic thighs!

The tracks were varied - rutted cart tracks, single tracks through hummocky grass, wide gullys, slippery chalk paths, tracks through woodland with tree roots to trip you up and flint-covered paths (which really hurt your feet after a while).
The views from the top were glorious and expansive and the photos don't really do it justice. It just makes you feel really small and insignificant. I love being in exposed places like that, especially when you're exposed to the elements so I didn't really mind the wind up on the tops - what I didn't like was running up the hills into the wind. Now that was not fun at all and really sapped my strength. Around the 14 mile mark I had a brain burp and wondered what on earth I was doing, slogging up a hill, tripping over hard flints and being blown all over the place. This could have started to eat away at me and I nearly lost my focus but thankfully Mike phoned and that cheered me up. I managed to give myself a pep talk and get back on track.

Around this time several forumites came past and said hello (One Blue Leg, Waccyracer and Hilly Lane Strider). It's always nice to see a friendly face and each of them did really well (OBL took 51 minutes off her time from last year and HLS finished in 7th position)

Around midday the clouds came over and it became noticeably cooler. I was glad of my long-sleeved top. I was now just plugging away at the miles - walking up any really steep hills to conserve energy and then running along the ridges and the downhill sections. Only the seasoned fell-runners tend to run up all the hills in this sort of race.

There were lots of things to look at - horse riders, dog walkers, mountain bikers, families out for a 'Mother's Day' stroll and farmers busy tending the earth. I loved seeing the sea-gulls following the plough.

This processing plant looked so strange, just sitting in the middle of the fields. It looked like a grain plant which would make sense as some of the fields seemed to have winter wheat growing in them.
Then all of a sudden, or so it seemed, I was at 21 miles and I seemed to be well on track to dip below 6 hours. Excellent! I thought. Then came the final 'sting' and boy did it bite! It was a steep, strength-sapping drag made worse by the fact that I was running into the wind and it was really strong. That went on for 2 miles and then as if by magic the track went downhill and through woodland. Phew, that was a relief. Not a very good photo but you get the gist.

I crossed the finish line in 6:05 by my watch so I thought I'd missed getting under 6 hours.........until the results were published, showing that my actual time was 5:38. How could this be, I wondered? Then I realised I hadn't reset my watch and so when I started the timer it just carried on from my last run. DOH! In fact I had knocked a stonking 57 minutes off my time from last year.

There was no medal or tee shirt at the end of the race. Instead I got this little 'shot' glass engraved with a scorpion (get it? Steyning Stinger). They also provided a wonderful breakfast but I didn't stay for it this year as Mike was cooking me a special meal and I didn't want to spoil it.

So, that's the first marathon of the year done and dusted. 4 more to go.