I'm enjoying working this carpet, but it does seem to be taking a very long time! But it's apparent even to me now that it's nearly done. The border figures are surprisingly easy to get wrong, so that I find I still have to count, and so every so often I work a strand of that last bit of navy-blue background in the center for some mindless filling-in.
I have been knitting too -- finished David's Elizabethan stockings but as it happened we didn't get to go to the Renaissance Faire this year, so it didn't really matter that I hadn't finished his Venetian hose. Must photograph these and write them up. I also find myself making another Svalbard hat, with a set of long posts accompanying, but the hat is as yet still on the needles.
I have been reading quite a lot, though. And three of them are on my TBR list! -- so I am a quarter of the way up "Pike's Peak," as it were. I read -- and very much enjoyed -- the two new Alexander McCall Smiths, The Revolving Door of Life from the "44 Scotland Street" series and The Novel Habits of Happiness from the Isabel Dalhousie series, and D.E. Stevenson's Found in the Attic. If you haven't read and enjoyed the major novels, this last would not be as interesting as it might otherwise, but as a curiosity, being a collection of short stories, poems, one-act plays, and talks given by Stevenson, it is a pleasant sidelight on her non-novel writings.
So for my virtual "D.E. Stevenson Knitalong," here is a girl's three-piece suit -- collared jumper, cardigan, and pleated skirt -- from the 1930s of, what else, "Scotch Wool" (pattern image from The Vintage Knitting Lady, who adds "I had one of these for school in grey and yellow in the early 1950s!"). I was looking for a "sensible cardigan" like the one Stevenson herself is wearing in the photo on the cover of Found in the Attic, of her writing on a sofa, but "sensible cardies" are in rather short supply, I find -- I guess most people already had a pattern for those in the 1930s, and wanted something with a bit more S.A.
So as it happened most of the books I've read recently were not on my TBR list, so technically I don't think those count towards knocking off my list. I read Helen Simonson's long-awaited second novel, The Summer Before the War, which I am reluctant to say left me feeling rather flat -- not sure why. I wasn't sure what to expect, after Major Pettigrew's Last Stand which went (as it seemed to me) from quiet romance to farce, and this seemed to go from farce to brutal, shocking carnage, though, really, one shouldn't expect anything else from a novel set during the Great War, which of course the reader knows very well is coming. I hope Simonson writes more, as this just felt like a "sophomore" book, and I'm looking forward to her really hitting her stride.
I have long had a soft spot for Celia Johnson, whose quiet humor and, well, Englishness I find appealing. She never wrote an autobiography, she said, "because I never had an affair with Frank Sinatra, and if I had had, I wouldn't tell anyone," wh. I think really captures much of her personality. Her daughter Kate Fleming did write a biography after Celia's death, and I found a second-hand copy recently and, although it did -- because Celia was reserved and in that way of 1930s Englishwomen didn't fuss much -- tend to fall into the "Celia played bridge with X, Y, and Z on Tuesday, Celia went to the theatre with L, M, and O on Friday", it was nevertheless a gentle and fond portrait.
There was a very complimentary review of Philip Norman's new biography of Paul McCartney somewhere a while back, and somehow I found myself the very first on the list for it at the public library. I was won over by Norman's admission at the very beginning that he'd always rather disliked Paul, and after many years -- and many years of resisting it -- had come to the realization that Paul had got a lot of bad press. Well, this goodwill towards Norman carried me through the book, which on the whole I thought was good though perhaps not great, but I can understand that it's difficult to really get hold of a person's character when that person is, despite being familiar to millions around the world and having the minutiae of his life examined by many of those millions, a master at keeping things close. I was disappointed, though, at some of the typos and infelicities, including a reference to Isaac Azimov -- and why does Norman feel the need to explain to us that "Apple Corps." is a pun ("pronounced 'core'")?
(I was charmed to see a photo of Paul around the time of "Magical Mystery Tour" wearing a granny-square vest -- very 1967! --
This is a different photo than in the book, but it's about the vest here, so it's a "better" one in that respect! It was not a surprise, though, it being Paul McCartney, that more than one person has already re-created it, so here is a free pattern for a similar one.)
At the same time as I borrowed the McCartney book, I also took home from the new-books shelf at the library David Mitchell's latest, Slade House, wh. did not "creep the pants off me" as some reviewer assured me that it would, as I found it far more camp than creepy, and Judith Flanders's second murder mystery, A Bed of Scorpions, which zipped along like nobody's business, though I must admit I found the brassiness of the heroine a bit tiring. I was very sorry to find, though this isn't really Flanders's fault, that bar the odd reference to, say, Tottenham Court Road tube station or Highgate, most English novelists now sound pretty much like Americans -- a pity.
So that's what I've been doing lately and not blogging about, and we are just about to start day 2 of Girl Scout day camp, so I suspect I will not be doing much of anything else for the rest of the week either -- one of my high-school aides said yesterday "it's like trying to get eighteen cats into a box!" wh. sums it up pretty well -- so keep your fingers crossed that the weather stays cool for us!