So, in a watershed moment which was far from unexpected, my sweet mother has moved into our home.
There is no mother anywhere who would be more charming to live with, and everybody who has met her would agree.
She’s a good sport and everybody loves her. And best of all, she loves my husband at least as much as she loves me. She always takes his side over mine if there’s a disagreement. And that’s exactly as it should be.
The kids love her. Sometimes they love her too much, too close and with too much talking. But overall it’s healthy and mentally stimulating.
Even the dog is glad to have her. It’s win-win all around.
But having another person around with her own esoteric ideas, needs and shopping lists is reminding me of the days when we had four or five tiny children underfoot, each one perfectly certain that each thought must be shared the instant it gelled. By five PM, my brain is mush and I have to apply some energy in order to meet the darling husband with anything softer than a glare. And it isn’t really his fault they were talking all day. Poor man.
Mom’s arrival, combined with a the fact that the NCFCA, or my desire to start a debate club in the name of the NCFCA, and the mountain of stuff I don’t know about starting a club, is eating my life (… another story for another day),
plus this acre of overgrown garden which we purchased nine months ago and which is now coming to life and Must Be Subdued …
these events have been almost mind-numbing in combination, and I’m thinking we might have to hire somebody to come in and brush my teeth for me if the iron supplements and the spirulina don’t kick in.
Anyway, all that was just to excuse the crashing drop of literary standards which has occurred.
No Greek classics. Instead:
I read Albert Brooks 2030 and it was the most wonderful bit of mental junk food. Just an easy, compelling anti-utopian guess at what might occur in the US by the year 2030. Cancer is cured, LA experiences The Big One, our health care program is a bankrupt disaster. One night I read about a third of it before falling asleep, and woke up thinking all these calamities were really happening. What a relief when the coffee brought me around!
Lots of food for thought here. This would be a great beach read, or if you find yourself stuck in the airport, trot off to the bookstore because I’m pretty sure they will have a copy.
My second piece of mindless non classical fun was Adrienne Martini’s book Sweater Quest, in which the author chronicles her month by month progress knitting an Alice Starmore Fair Isle sweater. She chose the Mary Tudor Sweater which can be seen, along with a basket of all the colors required to knit it up right here .
This sweater and all other sweaters designed by Alice Starmore, represent the Mount Everest of knitwear. It’s more like stunt-knitting. Here is a poor quality picture of what it looks like completed in case you didn’t want to bother with the rabbit trail link above.
I’m almost embarrassed to say how much I loved this book. Like the author (not Alice Starmore, but Adrienne Martini) I could gush on and on about all the wonderful things that I believe have come into my life via my obsession with knitting. I felt such a kinship with her when she described the attention deficit disorder which crashed in during her years mothering small children, and the outrageous sense of accomplishment and personal victory that washes over her when she completes a knitted item. I really really understand that. I know it’s weird. So, this book was such a sweet confirmation of fellowship, somewhere in the lonely universe.
But, nice as kinship can be, I will never under any circumstances knit up a Starmore sweater. Laying hands on the required yarn, let along knitting the sweater, would take a year. In order to follow her pattern, I would have to overcome my terror of cutting steeks, and I have never been invited to a 1980′s theme party, which is the only place on earth where a Starmore sweater would not look frumpy and overwrought.
Anyhoo, getting back to the book, Martini shares her reasons for tackling this ridiculously hard project, the history of the Tudor family, since it helps to understand the motifs knitted into this Mary Tudor pattern, she shares some wonderful anecdotes about some of the celebrities of the current knitting scene (yes, there are knitting celebs). She talks a bit about Toronto as the leader in fun, young knit-design in North America…..and I thought that was pretty cool, because it was during my years in Toronto that I became a knitting freak.
She also tells quite a bit about Alice Starmore, knitwear designer and litigant of all who might take liberties with her name and designs.
This aspect of Starmore’s persona takes one by surprise, as we are all hoping she’s kind of a cuddly granny drawing up soft wooly designs from her hideaway in the Hebrides.
Alas, no. She is quite fierce, and not to be toyed with.
Starmore, when not defending her name, creates patterns for the most complicated and revered knitting patterns anyone has ever seen, and she designs them to be knit only in her own colors…..no substitutions. Which would be merely an inconvenience if her wool distributer still carried these colors. But none of them are currently in production, and so it requires a good deal of detective work and a very large Visa credit line to find the correct colors on E-Bay or any of the numerous knitting chat rooms. The book includes Adrienne Martini’s story of how she found her yarn, and how unsettling it was when had to substitute some colors with yarn of which Starmore-The-Designer would never approve .
Tempest in a teapot. But I loved it.
And it set me off to read Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting. I have finished the first long chapter of this book which deals entirely with the history of the Fair Isles and the knitters who live there. I particularly enjoyed the speculation in this chapter that the Fair Isle motifs which are so much associated with this remote island in the North Sea, may have originated from Spain in 1588 when the flagship of the Spanish Armada crashed on this island, and somehow the sailors Moorish sweater patterns were snatched up and copied by the good wives of the Fair Isle fishermen.
This idea was dismissed by Starmore as colorful fiction, but it appeals to me because of my own ties through marriage to Norway. My mother in law, born on the west coast of Norway, claims that her dark coloring comes from a Spanish ancestor who was himself a sailor who washed up on the beach in 1588 when the Armada was defeated and his ship drifted north.
The proximity of Fair Isle and the Shetlands to the same coast where my MIL was born gives so much heft to that story. And I love the idea of a Muslim sailor, representing a Catholic king, running in defeat from a Protestant Queen, with gorgeous knit wear as the punch line. Makes me smile.