by Catriona Mills

The Not-Even-Slightly Celestial Toymaker

Posted 2030 days ago in by Catriona

I don’t like having my hands idle.

It’s not that I have any illusions about them being the devil’s playthings (atheist, right here), but I just don’t like it. Nick and I are adherents of serial story-telling (read: we watch a fair bit of telly), and if I’m just sitting there with my hands in my lap, I become restless and bored, not matter how good the actual episode or program is.

Like the fact that they took the dagger out of Elijah! So now Elijah’s back!

Ahem.

So I make my own rugs (both braided rugs and clippy mats), which has the added advantages of both recycling fabrics that aren’t really wearable any more and keeping some of the old crafts in play. I taught myself Viking knitting, and then promptly never did it again, despite really liking the effect. I knit, though not well, and I cannot crochet. I make little felt Santa hats for Daleks.

And lately I’ve been making little felt dolls.

You see, Nick was exceptionally clever this Christmas, and showered me (bless him) with an array of really lovely, thoughtful presents, including a little book on making steampunk soft toys.

This book on making steampunk soft toys, to be exact.

And one quiet Sunday, I thought I’d have a go at making one of the simpler patterns—one that didn’t involve too much brass or leather or ageing fabrics with wax.

I only had felt to hand, but felt is cheap and fairly easy to work with (albeit a bit on the stiff side), and though I couldn’t actually make any of the steampunk accessories with the materials I had to hand, I did manage to hand-sew a couple of little Victorian ladies who worked out well enough to please me:

Of course, they haven’t any arms, but then they are Victorian ladies. (And at least they have mouths. That’s my main problem with Hello Kitty—what kind of role model for girls is a creature that doesn’t even have a mouth? All the best women are a bit lippy, in my opinion.)

And then I had a thought. The kind of brilliant thought that led to my making tiny little felt Santa hats for my Daleks.

I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “you might be able to make a reasonable facsimile of a Weeping Angel out of this pattern.”

So I did:

Of course, felt is the worst possible fabric to try and make flowing robes out of, so there’s that. But for an experimental pattern (where I had to ad-lib both wings and arms), he hasn’t worked out at all badly.

Of course, now I spend my working days being loomed over by a little felt psychopath and compulsively glancing at my bookshelves to make sure he hasn’t moved closer.

And I still haven’t worked out a way to attach the arms in a way that would let me cover the eyes. But for a first attempt, he’s a pretty satisfying Weeping Angel.

Now I just need to make another half a dozen before Christmas.

Oh, and make them all little Santa hats, of course.

Strange Conversations: The Twitter Edition (Part Two)

Posted 2037 days ago in by Catriona

ME: Today, I learnt that [Nick] has made our set-up so complicated that I literally cannot watch TV or a DVD unless he’s in the house.
NICK: But it’s actually less complex than before! … It’s just harder to turn the TV on.

Lifeline Bookfest 2012 (January)

Posted 2043 days ago in by Catriona

Oh, Lifeline Bookfest. How I look forward to you every year. Well, twice a year, actually. And yet … and yet.

This year, I found the January sales just a wee bit disappointing. I suspect a big part of that was sheer exhaustion: my first full week (which isn’t a full week, for me) back at work after the Christmas season and seasonal chest infection, and I woke up with a splitting headache. So I wasn’t in a truly pro-Bookfest state of mind.

They’d also made what was, to me, a fairly significant change in the structure. The Bookfest has three sections: high quality, priced, and unpriced. Often, the unpriced section is fascinating: I have, in the past, found fabulous girls’ boarding-school stories there, because they’re not usually the types of the books that attract a high price tag. But the books in that section are also usually a bit grubby and often in poor condition. So, in recent years, I’ve stuck to the priced section while Nick winnows his way through the high-quality section.

And, as a cursory glance through my past posts will show, I tend to focus my attention on the children’s books, and then have a quick run through literature and paperback fiction.

(I only look at sci-fi and fantasy if I fancy being elbowed repeatedly.)

But this year, they’d stripped all the children’s books out of the priced section: they were only stacked in the high-quality and unpriced sections.

I should, of course, have gone straight to the high-quality section once I realised that, but I spent some dispiriting time in the unpriced section before I realised I really wasn’t going to find anything I could be bothered queuing up for. Then I went through the high-quality section.

As a result, I bought much less than I usually would.

I also resisted the urge to buy no fewer than three different versions of the Robin Hood stories, because they were all annoying in different ways. (Especially Roger Lancelyn Green’s version, in which Marian explained to her father that, yes, she considered herself promised to Robin and she was planning on going to live with him in Sherwood if her father continued to be a prat, but that she intended to remain Maid Marian until Robin’s lands and title were restored, which led me to assume that Marian was marrying Robin for the money and prestige. I don’t want to think that of Marian!)

As usual, the books are all children’s and young-adult fantasy, not least because I was exhausted by this point and couldn’t be bothered looking at the literature tables:

I really must get around to actually reading those Carole Wilkinson books at some point: I own three now (fortuitously, they’re the first three in the series, which is better luck than I usually manage), so I really do’t have any further excuse.

I’m also quite pleased about that Margaret Mahy: I’ll happily read pretty much anything by Mahy, and this one (“In a time not far from our own, a colourful group of travellers brave the twisting, tricksy landscape of the Remaking, after Chaos ripped the world apart. They are the magicians, clowns, trapeze artists and musicians of Maddigan’s Fantasia, healing the injured land with their gifts of wonder and laughter”) sounds delightful.

I’m also rather ashamed that I didn’t know it was based on a television series (whose concept Mahy developed), especially since spec-fic film and television is actually the focus of my current research.

Bad, bad researcher.

I have a sneaking memory, somewhere in the back of my head, that tells me I’d come across the Patrick Rothfuss somewhere before (an online review, or Amazon entry, or some such) and decided it didn’t appeal to me. But that vague memory only surfaced after I’d read the back, decided it did appeal to me, and bought it. I’m stuck with deciding for myself now, I suppose.

Still, to balance that, there’s always the Ursula Le Guin at the bottom, about a world in which reading, writing, and scholarship are punishable by death. Let’s face it: you can’t really go wrong with Ursula Le Guin.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Thirty-Four

Posted 2049 days ago in by Catriona

This pretty much sums up my relationship:

NICK: You can stop giving your lecture on the word “hippopotamus” now. I’m really just being silly.
ME: And this is how I cope with you being silly. I go into lecture mode.
NICK: See? It calms you down and I learn something.
ME: Calms me down? What do you mean, calms me down?
NICK: Well, you’re obviously quite irritated.
ME: You think this is me being irritated?
NICK: I mean, you’re obviously quite irritated now.
ME: Well, of course I’m bloody well irritated now!

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Thirty-Three

Posted 2050 days ago in by Catriona

ME: Why is your computer screen yellow?
NICK: It’s a program. It analyses the light in the room and matches your computer screen to it. So you don’t go to bed after staring at the screen for hours and have sore eyes.
ME: How interesting. Of course, now you have a girlfriend, you don’t have to stare at your computer screen for hours before going to bed.
NICK: Yeah!
ME: Of course, you’ve had a girlfriend for eleven years and that’s never occurred to you yet.
NICK: I love you?
ME: Of course you do, sweetheart. Just not as much as you love your computer.
(Pause)
ME: You can deny that any time.
(Pause)
ME: Any time.
(Pause)
ME: Absolutely any time you like.
NICK (turning from the computer): Sorry, were you saying something? I wasn’t paying attention.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Thirty-Two

Posted 2053 days ago in by Catriona

Discussing finally watching season three of Slings and Arrows:

ME: But it doesn’t have either Rachel McAdams or Joanne Kelly in it. I need another cute Canadian girl!
NICK: I know exactly how you feel.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Thirty-One

Posted 2054 days ago in by Catriona

ME: I have a headache.
NICK: Do you want to take something for it?
ME: No.
NICK: Do you want to watch Murray Gold play “I Am The Doctor” on his piano on YouTube?
ME: No.
(Pause)
ME: Could you stop tapping the Doctor’s theme out on my arm, please?
NICK: Sorry.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Thirty

Posted 2057 days ago in by Catriona

MY FATHER: My first new years’ resolution is to expand my repertoire of menus.
ME: Can you say “repertoire of menus”?
MY FATHER: I just did.
ME: That’s not really the point, though.
MY MOTHER: I don’t think you can.
MY FATHER: It’s just like saying “menu repertoire”.
MY MOTHER: No, it isn’t. You’re using “menu” as an adjective.
ME: When?
MY MOTHER: In “menu repertoire”.
ME: Oh yes.
MY MOTHER: But if you say “repertoire of menus”, you’re using two nouns. It’s repetitive.
MY FATHER: It’s not.
MY MOTHER: Well, it’s a bit clumsy.
ME: I think you mean “recipes”, anyway.
MY FATHER: It doesn’t really matter.
ME: So, in the new year, you’re expanding your repertoire?
MY FATHER: My repertoire of menus, yes.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Twenty-Nine

Posted 2057 days ago in by Catriona

Watching George Gently with my parents:

MY FATHER: That’s the kiss of death!
ME: Nah.
MY FATHER: It is.
ME: T’isn’t. The kiss of death is on the lips.
MY FATHER: Are you sure?
ME: Every kiss of death I’ve ever seen has been on the lips.
MY FATHER: That kiss of death my old boss gave your mother wasn’t on the lips.
ME: Well, your old boss wasn’t in the Mafia.
MY FATHER: So you reckon the chicken-industry kiss of death is different?
ME: Yeah, the chicken-industry kiss of death is probably on the cheek.

Strange Conversations: Part Four Hundred and Twenty-Eight

Posted 2058 days ago in by Catriona

Watching Wallander with my parents:

MY FATHER: So did Svedberg kill himself?
ME: Well, it was a pistol shot from three metres away, so …
MY MOTHER: Unless he had rubber arms.
ME: Or it was a complicated plot to make it look like a suicide. Possibly involving a complex system of counterweights.
MY FATHER: A simple “yes” or “no” would have sufficed.

A Christmas Timeline

Posted 2059 days ago in by Catriona

Christmas Eve:

Christmas Day:

Visiting the Archibald Prize exhibition at the Casula Powerhouse:

Chest infection:

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