Friday, May 29, 2015

Spinning Straw into Gold

I have been reading The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar and it is very interesting, tracing the tales through various versions throughout the world in their different forms, guises and names and I have discovered the answer to something which has been puzzling me for years.  I can, off-hand, think of two stories in which the heroine has to spin straw into gold (Rumpelstiltskin and the story of Eros and Psyche) both of which feature bad mothers-in-law.

There is a whole section in the book about evil mothers-in-law and stepmothers and my favourite lines are "Not all female villains in the Grimms' fairy tales indulge a taste for human flesh.  Many are experts in the art of weaving spells:  these are the enchantresses for whom uttering curses rather than devouring children is the preferred mode of oral expression."

Anyway  -  straw into gold.  I have found out that straw is actually flax which is eminently spinnable but how it turns into gold still defeats me unless it is that really good (or reputedly good) spinners inevitable marry the king.  Not that that is altogether a good thing because the poor girl still has to contend with her evil mother-in-law after which she dies, her husband marries a wicked step-mother who eats the children, loses  them in the forest or condemns them to the kitchen to sweep the ashes.

However, I have no intention of trying my hand at spinning flax and I have my doubts about silk as there seems to be a limited number of things which can be knitted from silk; I'll stick to wool, especially as we are having almost-frosts at the moment and the local railway station gives no shelter from the wind so I have taken to wearing a coat and woolly headscarf.

I had an email from Australia Post this morning to say that the parcel of fibre which seemed to be lost is finally found and on its way to me.  It should arrive sometime next week.  I am not holding my breath but it sounds hopeful.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bureaucracy gone mad or someone's bad hair day?

I am not sure if Australia Post is being stupid, bloody-minded or if I simply spoke to someone who was having a bad hair day.

I am trying to trace a parcel from USA (a return trip for the one which was  returned to sender) and it is taking its time getting back to me.  According to the USPS tracking, it was loaded onto a plane at Kingsford Smith Airport in New South Wales on 12th May, eleven days ago and since then it has been in transit to its destination.  I know that things take ages to come from the Eastern States but is the plane still taxiing or has it fallen out of the sky somewhere on the Nullabor Plain?


Anyway, our local Post Office gave me a phone number to call, saying that they will be able to sort out and locate the parcel.  I phoned and explained my problem and was told that they could not help me unless the parcel had an Australian Tracking Number and that I was to contact the sender to get one.  If this was not possible then I would be transferred to someone who would be able to help me further.


I suggested that to save time, trouble and hassles perhaps I could be transferred straight to this magical person and was firmly told that I would have to ask the sender to acquire an Australian Tracking Number, have her fail to get one and then and only then could I be put in contact with the person who just might be able to help.


It is a mad, mad system …


However, after my enquiry the USPS added another entry to their parcel tracking to say that my parcel was being sorted at an Australian Sorting Facility.  Hopefully it is in Western Australia and hopefully my parcel is finally on its way to me.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spinning for the Tiny Ones

On Monday I was back to school to do a spinning demonstration organized by  Herself who is a story teller to the Grade I children.  She (shock horror) tells modified versions of the Grimms Brothers’ stories so they get Sleeping Beauty, Rumplestiltskin etc which involve spinning straw into gold (don’t bother to try  -  it doesn’t work) and pricking fingers on a spindle which would be hard to do, at least on modern spindles.  She feels that the stories will have more meaning if the children have actually seen spinning being done  -  and I agree with her.


I did two demos last year and this year there are three as the class is bigger.  I am more organized this time around as I now know what to expect and that I only have about 30 minutes to show combing locks from a greasy fleece (“sniff this  -  it smells like a sheep”), making rolags on my blending board, spinning them and then plying with some pre-spun singles on another bobbin.


The kids were far less restrained and more interactive than last year’s intake and I really enjoyed myself.  One little boy sidled up to me when I was putting the bobbins onto the Lazy Kate ready to ply and told me that he had something to give me afterwards.  I assumed that it would be the almost obligatory very small box of chocolates but after I had finished and was packing up he came back and presented me with 10c which I accepted with due ceremony.  From a six year-old that was a worthwhile contribution which, after the class had gone, I gave to the librarian to put into the charity tin.


The next two will be back to back demonstrations on, at this stage, June 9th.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Knitting by the seat of my pants

I have been pushing to finish knitting my Rhinebeck/Metro Brown vest and today I was finally up to dividing the front for the V-neck and then disaster struck.  The pattern had me with 87 stitches on my needle after shaping for the armholes and then told me to knit 50 stitches to divide for the neckline.  When I was at school 50 was NEVER half of 87 and I had to settle down and work out, from the shoulder shaping of the back, how many stitches I would need to end up with to shape each front shoulder and then work out how to get that number without compromising the shape of the neckline.  It looks OK, the length matches the back and I ended up with the correct number of stitches so I have written some amendments to the pattern so that I can match up the other side of the V neck


Last Saturday night The Party Boys threw one of their all-night parties which, from my point of view, was very quiet although Apt 501 reported much noise around 4.00am and when I went down to Level 4 on Monday I discovered that the lock on my storeroom had been broken and the padlock had disappeared.  Luckily nothing was taken as there was nothing there worth taking.  Anyway, I reported it to the Building Manager who said that he would get in touch with security to see if anything showed on the CCTV (he subsequently told me that there were no cameras which would have picked anything up.  In that he was either lying  -  again -  as there are at least two, or the cameras are dummies, which is a bit of a worry).


Anyway, I called a locksmith to replace the lock but all he did was hit it hard with a hammer and then ask where the padlock was  -  so I sacked him and SIL suggested another firm of locksmiths who came promptly, installed a deadlock on my storeroom door, re-keyed my Apartment door and cut me six keys for distribution among family and a neighbour.


Yesterday Mr 501 told me that he had found the ‘hook’ part of the padlock which was a massive brass one and which would have taken remarkable strength to break so The Party Boys must have been on something a bit stronger than Lite Ale.

Monday, May 4, 2015

It shouldn't happen on a Fast Day

When I went down to Level 4 to park a shopping trolley in the pickup area I noticed that the padlock was missing from my storeroom and on closer inspection I found that the padlock guard had been wrenched out of shape so that there was no possibility of just replacing the padlock and I have called in a locksmith to replace the bolt and the padlock.  I have also reported the break-in to the Building Manager who is coming to have a look tomorrow and will liase with the shopping Centre security to see if anything shows up on the CCTV as there are security cameras everywhere and this happened in a secure area, only accessed with a fob.

It is obvious that what was in the storeroom was inspected but, except for my bike which has very flat tyres and is dusty, nothing was worth taking -  not obvious with the cursory inspection which I gave the room, anyway.  The Party Boys held an all-night party the night before last and it is easy to suspect them  -  possibly unfairly  -  but it IS a secure area and I can't imagine any of the residents suddenly taking it into his head to break in to one of the store-rooms.

I have been busy for the last few weeks.  I had my eyes tested and for the first time ever my eyes have not changed, my retinas are still intact and there is no sign of cataracts.  I have had a new sleeping splint made for my teeth and I am due to have it checked for fit and comfort the day after tomorrow.  I have had my flu vaccination and Himself and I are back teaching at COTA in the new premises in Victoria Park where we have much more space to move around but so far no internet connection to COTA's system and the system we have to use as 'visitors' keeps on cutting out.  I sometimes think that maybe I should invest in a dongle again but it would get very little use and is hardly worth the bother.

Techie had to come and fix my Win 8 laptop because I managed to do something wrong and every time I tried to fix it I made the problem worse.  Anyway, it is up and running again but Techie has installed Classic Shell which I don't like much but it is probably what any Win 8 clients will have.  I can still work it from the Tiles and I still have two unadulterated Win 8.1 tablets to play around with.

The babies are well, sleek and shiny and if they start to get antsy I turn on the pheromone diffuser.  And I am spinning and knitting with two spinning projects on the go and three knitting ones.  But the latest parcel of fibre from USA was returned to sender because the sender had neglected to put my apartment number in the address and the courier didn't have the nous to drop it off at the Post Office.  It will be returned to me or replaced with the next instalment of the fibre club of which it was the first instalment of three.