And now to remedy the lack of…..

….personal hat knitting from last year, I have at last knitted the Meret Beret by Woolly Wormhead.  This is a gorgeous hat that has been on my radar for about 2 years I think but for some reason it kept getting left behind in the queue.  Teamed with some stash yarn that I had won in our knitting group’s raffle at some point last year, Adriafil Soffio Plus in a lovely pale olive green and this is the result.  I’m hoping to get some modelled pictures at the weekend because this picture of it blocking really doesn’t do it justice, the colour hasn’t turned out well with a flash and you can’t really see the pattern properly over a dinner plate.  It is such a lovely pattern.  I did the version with the rolled brim and 2 x 2 ribbing combo (as in the picture on Woolly’s pattern page linked above) and did an extra pattern repeat and it fits perfectly with just the right amount of slouch.

Of course I haven’t finished Maude Louise yet, or the partner sock to the one I finished last September or the other projects that are in hibernation at the moment but you know how it is when your stash calls out to you!

I don’t really have much else to report for last week so I’ll leave you with some pictures I took when Patrick and I went for a Christmas walk around Tophill Low.  It was a beautiful sunny crisp day and we saw a deer in the woodland walk but it dashed away before I could get a photo, scared by the noise of my camera zoom.  We also went into a couple of the bird-watching hides but to be honest, there really wasn’t anything much to be seen, not that I would know what I was looking at anyway unless it was something common like swans, geese etc.  All the same it was a nice walk and blew off the cobwebs and I got to model my Corella , the Woolly Wormhead mystery hat from November, in a pretty location.

Cock O’ The North….and other things

A few weeks ago, Patrick and I went to Hipperholme in Halifax.  Why would anyone do that you ask?  Well it was specifically to visit The Cock O’ The North pub which is the tap of the Halifax Steam Brewing Company.  We had had the place recommended to us by a couple of guys in our local pub The Wellington Inn (which doesn’t appear to have it’s own website any longer).
So, The Cock o’ the North then.  At first glance from the outside, we wouldn’t have ventured in here.  It is built of portakabins and doesn’t look like the greatest place to spend a Friday night.  I am so, so glad we had the recommendation though (thanks to Blakey and Paul) because inside, it was like a temple for real ale fans.  The long polished granite bar (which the bar staff kept scrupulously clean all night) has a beautiful backdrop of two huge fish tanks.  I only had my phone to take pictures  but please follow the link above and have a look at their own picture gallery to see what I mean (although the fish tanks did have fish in them when we were there).  Plenty of table and chair seating around the room and nice comfy wooden bar seats so we could contemplate our next beer choice and watch the fish at the same time.  Ten real ale pumps spanned the bar, all boasting brews by Halifax Steam Brewing.  We decided to work our way along, both of us sampling a different drink each time so to give us maximum tasting treats!  We did get to the end and start on our way back down again actually ;-).  My particular favourite was The Dark Side, an absolutely scrumptious dark beer tasting of chocolate and coffee.  The Cock O’ the North beer was also very lovely with caramel notes.  The two that seem to be their regulars, are Aussie Kiss, a very pale and hoppy brew and at something like 3.8% a real session beer and Uncle Jon a dark but mild flavoured beer which at 4.3% is also very drinkable!  The other beers I believe rotate as and when.  I do tend to prefer dark beers but having said that, the paler, blonder ones on offer were also very nice.  There wasn’t one beer on offer that I would say that I wouldn’t drink again.  Quite an achievement with ten different ones!
The manager/owner (didn’t quite work out which) was a lovely guy who spent a bit of time chatting to us and when he found out where we were from and our local, was delighted to be able to tell us that he knew of the Wellington guys from their previous visits and was full of praise for our fair city of Hull as well.  All in all The Cock O’ the North is a highly recommended visit for all you real ale fans out there, heck there is even a camp site out the back if you are mad enough!
We had a good weekend all round really.  We had arrived on the Friday afternoon to stay in the Premier Inn at Halifax.  What a lovely location it was in, right on the canal side and the rooms had their own outside front door, kind of like American motels that you see on TV sometimes, but nicer.  The only drawback was that although it was only 3 or 4 miles away from Hipperholme, the taxis both ways cost just shy of a tenner!  So a bit of false economy with the cheap place to stay really but as it was so nice, we’ll forget that little annoyance.  This picture was taken just outside our front door.

Canalside Premier Inn

 On the Saturday, after a hearty breakfast/lunch at the Wetherspoons I had spotted in Halifax town centre the previous night on our way to Hipperholme in the taxi, we decided we would drive home the scenic route rather than the rather dull M62.  I wanted to go to Haworth for a wander up the High Street, I haven’t been for some years and Patrick had never been before.  The weather was so beautiful, one of those gorgeous Autumn days that are sunny and calm, yet really quite chilly.  This is my favourite time of year and weather, as I may have mentioned before, I’m not a sun worshipper in the least.  We enjoyed a meander up and down the High Street, walked through the church yard and I popped into the church hall to have a look at the local craft fair, I was a little sad that I had eaten such a large breakfast because there were some seriously delicious looking homemade cakes.  I was temped to buy a piece for later but it would have ended up all squashed before I got home knowing me.  We then stopped for a cuppa in one of the many tearooms along this delightful, cobbled (and very steep) street and I couldn’t help noticing that there was a poster in the window for their Knit and Knatter group, how very fab to have a knitting group in such a lovely location.  I decided I want to live in Haworth, just so I can go to the Knit and Knatter. Please excuse my awful photo of Haworth’s High Street.  It didn’t turn out so well with my phone but I’m sure you can find much nicer ones on the web if you are so inclined.

After a pleasant couple of hours in Haworth, we set off for home, deciding to take the A59 route over the top and through York.  It is a much longer drive but Patrick agreed, better than the boring old motorway.
We stopped for a break in Knaresborough to stretch our legs, visited the beer shop there for a little supply of Belgian bottled beers and had a walk around the castle.  I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t even know there was a castle at Knaresborough but sure enough, there is and with stunning views to boot. 
View from Knaresborough Castle
I am quite pleased with this phone photo.  The stunning viaduct over the River Nidd as photographed with my little HTC phone from the walls of Knaresborough Castle.  We had a little wander around Knaresborough town centre and I now decided that I want to live in Knaresborough as it is so pretty :-).  It was turning a bit nippy by now and we were flagging a bit after our day of sightseeing so we started off for home, having thoroughly enjoyed our West/North Yorkshire weekend break.

Bram Stoker’s Whitby

As you know I’m currently listening to Dracula courtesy of Craftlit, so when the opportunity to visit Whitby came up last weekend, I was only too happy to take it.  I love Whitby anyway, it’s a pretty place with excellent fish and chips and some good pubs but the chance to walk the Dracula Trail and take the route that Mina and Lucy would have walked each day was just too tempting for a geek like me.  This blog post is mainly for the benefit of my Craftlit friends on Ravelry who do not live in England so won’t have the pleasure of visiting Whitby and seeing these sights for themselves.  I hope you all enjoy the Mina and Lucy experience!

We arrived on the Sunday lunchtime and it was very misty so my first photos were not very exciting I’m afraid.  Lots of white stuff with some shadowy blobs in the distance!   A walk around, a look in the gift shops and couple of pints of Theakston’s Old Peculier in the Duke of York pub and then it was back to the hotel for dinner.  We were staying in The Royal Hotel which is at the top of West Cliff by the Whalebone Arch.  The original Whalebone arch was erected in 1853 so I’m rather surprised it doesn’t get a mention in the book as the girls lodgings were very close to it.  This replacement was donated by Alaska in 2003 with a previous one donated by Norway in 1963 (what the hell do they keep doing to them?!)

Whitby fog
Whalebone Arch

As we set out in the dark, for an evening visiting the local hostelries, I couldn’t help but think of Mina, on that fateful night when discovering Lucy missing from their room, running through the deserted streets, over the bridge and up the 199 steps to the churchyard to rescue her friend.  Craftlit people, you will totally understand but for those of you who don’t, yes I do know it’s not real but  if you can’t use your imagination, there is little point in listening to a story and I really found myself imagining myself as Mina, running frantically all the way round from the West Cliff to get to Lucy up there on the East Cliff.  We had a most enjoyable evening in a few local pubs and then slept well with no nightmares or sleepwalking!

And so to Monday which was a little brighter.  After breakfast, we set out to find the Bram Stoker Memorial seat to start our walk.  We couldn’t find it and I’ve since discovered that we were looking in completely the wrong place!  However, from photos I’ve seen online, we didn’t miss much.  It is just a very ordinary bench but with a plaque saying that the view from there was what inspired Stoker to include Whitby in his book.  I did spot East Crescent which was originally called The Crescent and is where Mina and Lucy were lodging during their time in Whitby.  I couldn’t quite fit it all in, there were I think nine houses in total.

The Crescent

The first view we have is the one Mina had when searching for the sleepwalking Lucy.  Across from the West Cliff over to the churchyard and Abbey.   This is also the top of the steps that the girls would have walked down each day to go over to the East side.

From West Cliff to East Cliff
From West Cliff to East Cliff

Of course there wouldn’t have been a Patrick (who doesn’t normally look like a chipmunk, he’s pulling a strange face!) or a litter bin and benches in Mina’s day!

Down the steps and along past the Fishmarket to the Swing Bridge.

Then down Church Street toward the 199 steps up to the churchyard.  Before tackling the steps though, we went onto Tate Hill Pier and Tate Sands which unsurprisingly is the little beach area next to the pier!  This is where the Russian schooner Demeter, with Dracula on board, crashes into the pier in a storm having been driven through the entrance to the harbour.

Whitby Harbour Entrance

Stoker based this storyline on a real-life incident involving the Russian schooner Demetius which had floundered off the coast of Whitby in 1885.  In the Dracula story, all the crew are missing and the captain is dead having tied himself to the wheel, when the ship crashes a huge black dog leaps from the bow and bounds up the steps to the churchyard.  Dracula had arrived in England!

Tate Hill Pier and sands

The pier is the concrete structure at the bottom of the picture, just sticking out from beyond the second rooftop from the left and Tate sands lies to the right of it as you look at this picture.

Having looked around to make sure there were no large black dogs around, we took to the 199 steps.  That’s quite a long way up that our Mina ran you know! Here is the view from the very top of the steps.

Top of the steps

Once at the top of the steps and when I could breathe again, we headed off to the churchyard.  There are several seats all around and for good reason, the views are stunning and I can really see why this spot was a particular favourite for our heroine and her friend.

View from the churchyard seats
Enjoying the view (and the breather!)

We didn’t go into the church and unfortunately the Abbey site was closed because it is out of season so we couldn’t get up close and personal with the ruins which was a disappointment.  I took a few pictures of both though.

St Mary's Church, Whitby
St Mary's Church, Whitby
Whitby Abbey

And of course, I was wearing my Wilhelmina Shawl and so had to have some modelled photos taken in the favourite spot of the heroine who inspired the pattern.  Please excuse the second photo…I appear to be in mid-blink!

The Wilhelmina shawl
The Wilhelmina Shawl

After all that walking about I thought Patrick deserved a drink so we went back down to the Duke of York, situated at the bottom of the steps, for a well earned Old Peculier.  The site of the Duke of York has had an alehouse on it since the Doomsday book, I think it’s probably because the monks  needed a pint or two to help them up those steps!

We had a lovely weekend and Patrick was wonderfully patient with my current Dracula obsession, never once complaining about all the walking around and random photos.

For those of you who are not Craftlit people, I really cannot recommend this reading enough.  Heather has found some wonderful readers and each character has their own voice.  If you are not a crafty person and don’t want to listen to the knitting chat, Heather now has another site called Just the Books which, as it says is just the books with no craft talk beforehand.  Go on, listen to it, I dare you!

Sir Bob Geldof and Band in Lincoln

On Wednesday this week Patrick and I went to Lincoln to see Bob Geldof play the Theatre Royal.  I have been a fan of Bob’s since the early days of the Boomtown Rats in 1977.  I clearly remember as a 15 year old watching this strutting, pouting vision of sex on legs (yes, he really was) belting out Looking After Number One on Top of the Pops and falling instantly in love with him and his music.  My opinion has not changed despite the fact that Sir Bob will be 60 on 5th October this year. 

Bob....a few years ago!

For those of you who only know Bob as the loud-mouthed political campaigner and co-founder of Band-Aid and Live Aid,  I have to inform you that the man has also been making music for 36 years now and in my opinion it is pretty darned good music!   

Bob Geldof - Promo picture from his 2011 tour

He and his band, including Pete Briquette, one of the original Rats, are also phenomenal live performers, excellent musicians to a man they kept the Lincoln crowd entertained for around 2 hours.

Having already seen Bob and the band twice in Hull (in 2003 and 2005) I already knew what a treat we were all in for.  However, I will now attempt a review of Lincoln, 21st September 2011.

We took our front row seats (and the stage literally was a foot away from my knees!) and enjoyed a lively support act, an acoustic duo who didn’t appear to have a collective name as they introduced themselves using their own names, which I cannot remember.  A young guy on a guitar and another singing.  A great voice, singing hits by Paul Weller, Richard Ashcroft and The Rolling Stones.  They left the stage and the crew started readying it for the main event.  This seemed to take forever and it’s always something I wonder about,  why have they not made all preparations earlier so that the main act can get straight on with things?  Anyhow, after what felt like hours of waiting (about 30 mins), the band entered the stage to enthusiastic applause.  I found myself a little breathless to be so close to Bob actually :blushes:.  I managed to take three or four photographs before being told by the theatre staff that I was not allowed to do so :-(.  A great shame because I could have got some much better pictures later on in the show. 

 Opening up with Great Song of Indifference which is a lively Irish jig type tune to get the crowd in the mood, Bob then had his customary introductory chat in which he informed the good people of Lincoln that he had previously not known where the city was or even that they had a cathedral.  He said that Johnny Turnbull  Guitar and backing vocals,(previously of The Blockheads) who hails from South Shields had suggested it might be ‘somewhere near Hull’ which got a cheer from me of course.  They moved onto Sex Thing from the album The Happy Club, another lively track and then Systematic Six-Pack and Dazzled By You from the latest album How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell by Bob Geldof aged 58 and a half. Dazzled is most definitely my favourite song of the album and is a tribute to Bob’s partner of 15 years, french actress Jeanne Marine , the opening lines of “In abandoned empty rooms, lying naked in my ruin, I was dazzled by you” is just for starters, it’s simply a beautiful song about love.  A hark back to Rats days next with When the Night Comes from the album The Fine Art of Surfacing and then a tale was told of how the next song came to be.  Banana Republic was written by Bob and Pete Briquette following the band, on returning to Ireland in 1980 having achieved so much success in the UK, being banned from playing in their own country.  Bob was very scathing in his description of the corrupt regime ruling Ireland at that time and the song reflects that.  How I Roll from How to Compose was next followed by a cute little song called Harvest Moon, a bonus track on the album Sex Age and Death. I have to admit I didn’t particularly enjoy the next two songs very much, Scream in Vain is not my favourite song and performed live was a bit shouty and clashing instruments for my taste, as was One for Me, both from the Sex, Age and Death album (also not my favourite album coincidentally!).   A feast for Rats fans followed with Mondays, after which Bob announced that the audience ‘may as well go home now’.  To which I replied “not until you’ve done Love or Something”, a track I particularly enjoy as it’s very lively.  He didn’t oblige my request but was, I think, pleased that someone had requested a rather little know track instead of the more famous hits.  Joey’s on the Street Again, Rat Trap and Mary of the 4th Form concluded the main set, with the band demanding us to be on our feet and dancing by the time Rat Trap was underway.  Of course, we weren’t letting them off that lightly and the demanded (and prepared for) encore comprised of Silly Pretty Little Thing and Diamond Smiles.  The band left the stage to a standing ovation, rapturous applause and cheers all round and then the theatre staff opened the exit doors.  I commented to Patrick that this was unusual because the band always end with Great Song of Indifference, even if they have started the show with it too.  I felt there should be another encore to come and that the theatre staff had jumped the gun somewhat but the audience had started to shuffle towards the exits.  There was then an embarrassing period when the stage crew appeared to encourage us to demand another encore…..which we did of course and the band reappeared, laughing amongst themselves, to perform Here’s to You and finally, Indifference.  Of course we were all up and dancing, shouting and singing and personally I didn’t want the night to end….but it did strike me as a little ironic in an amusing way following the confusion over the final encore that the evening ended with The Great Song of Indifference!
A Bob Geldof live performance is great not only for the music but for the man himself.  He talks to his audience, explains song meanings, pokes fun at himself, has usually made an effort to learn something about the place he is in.  He is in my opinion, despite his brashness and outspokenness, a rather humble man.  He is aware that his records are never going to be best sellers – quote  “I mean, F***ing Hell, I’m almost up there challenging Adele!” Said whilst laughing ironically.  This all makes for a more intimate feel to his concerts and I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels that way.
I don’t have an excellent memory by the way and nor was I sad enough to go into the gig with a notebook.  I know the set order because the lovely Johnny Turnbull offered his copy of the set list as a souvenir and I grabbed it.