Archive for the ‘knitting’ Category

Visiting Auckland – May 2013

August 11, 2013

I think I must be a sad disappointment to Ann and Colin.

Ann likes to begin the day briskly: “Well! What’s the plan?”  I so wish I could do that too, and be a person who could answer her properly – but I rarely have a plan, especially first thing in the morning.  My suggestions seemed to strike Ann as rather feeble and inadequate – she likes to do three or four different things in a day, and ideally have a fifth idea up her sleeve.

Ann is a powerhouse of energy.

Ann is a powerhouse of energy.

Even so, we did some lovely, if unlikely, things in 2013.

Last time in Auckland, we had visited the Arataki Centre centre hastily and at the end of a long day, so one of my goals was to go back and see it in more detail.


It was a chancy, wet-and-dry day, but we had a walk – Ann looked doubtfully at my sandals (they are strong sandals) and wouldn’t let me go on the longer walk over muddy terrain.

They came from a sale in Chateauroux, years ago.  Then, they were stylish. Now, just practical and comfy

They came from a sale in Chateauroux, years ago. Then, they were stylish. Now, just practical and comfy

She was probably right.  Our walk led downhill through the dense forest, past ferns and under tall trees – stunning New  Zealand native bushland.

it was a bit like this

it was a bit like this

We stayed dry-shod, and at the bottom of the hill we met some people in a car who were lost and looking for the Arataki centre.  We gave them careful directions, but never saw them again.  I said it was a complicated city.

That weekend, my wonderful English daughter emailed and told me that she would be having a baby in November – so Ann and I dashed out to buy knitting wool and needles, driving (as usual) miles and miles through Auckland.  (It’s a very drive-around sort of city – partly I suppose to do with its layout around two harbours and various mountains.)


Rome has seven hills – Auckland has more!)

Ann is a knitter too, and we went to a staggering kind of warehouse for craft, wool and everything, called Spotlight.  The name suggests stage ambitions; amateur dance competitions; pancake makeup; bring on the clowns – all that.

There are amazing and unimaginable crafts out there, especially in New Zealand and Australia.  (Turns out that Spotlight is also well known in Australia).  I felt as if I had discovered a pirate hoard of joyous colour and vulgar bizarrerie all mingled together – and wanted everything of course.  That’s what pirate hoards do – they bring out the greed in us.


But I managed to remember the size and fullness of my suitcase and only bought twice as much wool as I actually needed.  (What to buy?  What to leave?  – It has features in common with those ‘packing dreams’ – in which the house is burning and you have to grab only what you can carry.)


On a day of heavy downpours I walked up the hill to the slightly hippy, slightly gentrified suburb of Titirangi – a place of coffee shops and alternative small ads where I feel right at home.  There I found a second hand bookshop doing what bookshops do these days: closing down and moving online.  Sadly.

All Books Half Price

(crossed out) followed by

Make me an Offer

followed by

Closed for Lunch.

I came back after lunch, of course.  There ought to be a word for that intense greed that one feels in bookshops – again, I wanted everything, whether I really wanted it or not.  Nothing would fit in the suitcase, but maybe I could stash some around my laptop, in the carry-on bag?  And they wouldn’t be for me exactly – after all, I have been downsizing and throwing out sack upon sack of books – I could give some (lovely presents!) to family in Australia.  I came out with an early edition of The Saint (for my brother); a nice little compact copy of The 39 Steps (valuable once – ‘it’ll only go on the bonfire’ claimed the seller, a witty, somewhat post-prandial man of about my own age, attractive if you are into domineering intellectual booksellers); and The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton by Jane Smiley.

Smiley is a favourite author, and this novel turned out to be clever, informative and funny – a real keeper, even though it was one of those oddly huge, heavy paperbacks that mimic hardback format.  And something else that I’ve now forgotten – more than enough to lug up onto the plane.  Then a peculiarly Antipodean event happened: I paid for the books, and realised that I had no way of getting them home dry.  The bookshop could provide an ecologically sound paper bag.  My borrowed raincoat was already soaked and tight-fitting, and the rain was getting even heavier (hard to believe).  So I left the books with him, to collect tomorrow.  Halfway home I realised that I had given away quite a lot of money (‘make me an offer’ turned out to be an exaggeration) and had neither books nor receipt to show for it.  Oh well – this was New Zealand, and it was all completely OK.  Next morning (he’s not at his best in the mornings) I dropped by and all was well – not exactly a pirate hoard, more of a dragon’s golden lair, but ’twas an honest dragon.

On Sunday kind and perceptive Ann had realised that I’d rather spend a long time in one place than a whole lot of short times in differeent place.  She kindly left me to wander around a fine old house-turned-Art Gallery, Pah Homestead, while she rushed off about her grandmotherly duties.  And came back in time for excellent coffee on the terrace.

Pah Homestead

Pah Homestead

All I had done was browse the house, while she had quartered Auckland by car, zipping to and fro through the weekend traffic. So much more to say about Pah and about the Auckland Art Gallery – I will leave them till a later post.

Next time I go to New Zealand I will have some plans prepared in advance.  So I’ve made a list of things I will take with me.

  1. enough money and time to go for a road trip down the west coast of the South Island and see the fiords;
  2. proper walking shoes so that I can cover distance and interesting ground – even though they are heavy, bulky things to carry;
    good walking shoes

    good walking shoes – don’t talk to me about style!

    These walking shoes are being modelled in Scotland – I wish I had had them with me in New Zealand.

    I said: 'Don't talk to me about style!'

    I said: ‘Don’t talk to me about style!’

    And a good pair of shoes will take you a long way –

    a long way - - -

    a long way – – –


  3. a  map of Auckland; (and a bus map)

    The map I take will be more detailed than this.  But you can see how complicated it is.

    The map I take will be more detailed than this. But you can see how complicated it is.

  4. some more ideas of places to go for day trips in and around Auckland;
  5. a raincoat; (for more about my raincoats, see my post “Kindness in Adelaide“)


Knitting rage

March 13, 2013

As  the traditional crafts teeter on the brink of extinction, it’s sad to see people who should know better making mistakes.  In a TV programme on Sunday night, a crochet square was clearly referred to as ‘knitting’ (BBC1 Call the Midwife).  It was an outrageous and egregious mistake for a programme whose dominant mode is an affectionately detailed presentation of the materiality of life in post-War London.  It’s not the mistake alone that I mind: it’s the leading astray of impressionable youth; the missed opportunity to offer accurate information to those who are ignorant of handcrafts.  They missed the chance to educate and that is unforgivable.  The distinction bewteen knitting and crochet is important: is, if you like, the equivalent of calling a bolt a nail, or of calling a Band-aid a bandage.  They do broadly the same job, but in very different ways.

A classic small square like this is the basis for an 'Afghan rug' - though more commonly the outermost edge is black.

A classic small square like this is the basis for an ‘Afghan rug’ – though more commonly the outermost edge is black.

Knitting is enjoying a resurgence of popularity – the groups of ‘knit bitches’ and ‘knit witches’ and the less outspoken groups of knitters who just get together occasionally – all of these suggest that knitting is making a comeback.  I still love knitting: it has carried me through many a dark hour, ever since girlhood.  My Auntie Beryl taught me to knit when I was about six, and I still have the needles we used.  She really knew how to teach: allowed me to choose the wool and the needles myself.  I chose lavender fluffy yarn – very impractical for a beginner as it snapped easily, the colour slowly turned grubby grey, and the fluff got tangled, but I loved it and perhaps I learned to ride out the frustrations along with learning to knit.

They are shiny pink anodised aluminium (I think) and most recently they knitted this scarf for Bunny -my grandson's  favourite soft toy - who has been feeling the cold.

They are shiny pink anodised aluminium and most recently they knitted this scarf for Bunny -my grandson’s favourite soft toy – who has been feeling the cold.

Almost everything from my early life has been shed as I traversed the world  to and fro, to and fro – so I was amazed to realise that the shiny pink size 7  needles at the bottom of my oldest knitting bag (circa 1960) actually date back to the 1950s.  Possibly my oldest possession.

Plastic, and long enough to hold most needles, with little holes at the end to accommodate the over-long ones.

Plastic, and long enough to hold most needles, with little holes at the end to accommodate the over-long ones.

The knitting bag is a little younger – probably late fifties or early sixties.  No doubt an expert could make an informed guess on the basis of the pattern, which reeks of the late mid-century to me.  Even at the time, while appreciating the convenience, I felt a smidgin of doubt about those irregular boxes and pseudo-random green stalks.


Do you see what I mean?  Years later I heard:

‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful ‘.  (William Morris)

Alas, by then my knitting bag was an essential item.  Some of those pale brown marks in the background are not the design, but stains.  Probably Nescafé, given the era and my known habits as a teenager.  We used to have ‘a last coffee before bed’ – in my mind’s ear I can hear Dad’s voice saying those very words.  Knitting as if there was no tomorrow, I usually answered:  ‘just to the end of this row’ and quickly sneaked round the end onto the next one.  Decades later he let on that he had tumbled to my devious behaviour – that part of it, at least.

%d bloggers like this: