Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Unexpected meetings

Today I went to a friends curtain/wedding dress/ hat hire/ alteration shop to borrow her large cuting table to baste a quilt. When I arrived she was out but her employee who I have to say I didn't recognise, turned out to be the girl who stole my first serious boyfriend whilst I was in my first homesick year of University. She acted like I was her long lost best friend and even talked about him at one point. It was all a long time ago, far too long for me to bear a grudge and besides, I needed her table to spare my knees and back the agony of trying to baste on the floor at home so I was quite happy to match her nice-nicey approach but at the back of my mind there was still a small distant voice screaming "But you made me cry!" (He left her by the way - ha!)

I still can't find the lead for the camera and the blog looks so dull photless that whilstIi was thinking of unespected meetings I thought I'd just stick up this photo, taken in 2005. This delightful little boy we met in a shanty town on the edge of Nyanga, Cape Towns' oldest township. When he saw us approach his street he came running down to play with us a huge beam on his face. He was fascinated with my digital camera. In fact all children in the several townships we visited wanted their photos taken and were thrilled to see it at once on the preview pane on the back of the camera.

But not this child. No, he wanted to take the photos himself. In fact the only reason he is not grabbing the camera in this shot is because my husband has hold of the back of his T shirt. Otherwise he just had to see into the lens to see what was going on.

We don't know his name so we call him Joe Slovo Boy as his area was called Joe Slovo Town after the anti-apartheid activist. He transpired to be a good photographer but I have now tried three times to upload another photo that he took to show you and Blogger won't let me - what is up with the thing?!

I keep his portrait as one of the photos I rotate as wall paper on my laptop not only because he reminds me to be grateful I have such things as a laptop but also because he reminds me that curiosity is the first stage in creativity and that the joy of learning is free and alwasy available. I often wonder whether he will turn out a famous film director or photographer one day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Artful quilters

You may have noticed a new button on the right hand side of this blog. I am delighted to have been accepted to joint a ring of other bloggers which is set up,
"for quilt artists whose focus is making contemporary, innovative, non-traditional,
and/or experimental quilts to share their blogs, exchange thoughts about the process
of art quilting, and share other bits of life that swirl around quilt making."
If you explore the ring by using the previous, next or random buttons, you will see some very talented textile artists all of whom are doing what I aspire to be able to do.

My entries are paltry in comparison with some ( hey, who am I kidding - all) of these talented people but if you have found me via the ring I hope you will find some interest in following me as I develop this new interest ( OK, obsession). You should feel free to post comments, advice and critcism of what you see.

On the 10th September I start my City and Guilds Course in Patchwork and Quilting at the School of Stitched Textiles ( I'm excited!) and I will be posting about that as I go through the course in due course.

For writing friends - I will make every effort not to forget to blog about words too!

Final edinburgh catch up and new quilting books

Well the laptop and internet seem to be Ok tonight but now I have lost the lead to connect the camera to the USB port. I'm sure it was on my desk when we left for Scotland.... but no doubt it will reappear. Yesterday the power lead for the sewing machine vanished which was exceedingly irritating as I had been itching to get back on it all the time I was up in Scotland despite having taken handsewing. After much searching, the lead was finally located in the kitchen and the deduction is that the cleaner had mistaken it for the lead for the portable CD player which I use when sewing and which she carries around the house as she works, but had not returned it. Or perhaps it was her subtle revenge for the number of the threads and lost pins she now has to hoover up?

(Don't you think that Mr Dyson must get really annoyed that despite using his products I, and most others, still talk about hoovering? Is that just an English thing? International readers please comment!)

So no photos of bagpipers but I will pretty the site up with photos of books that arrived yesterday.

Well I say that but it seems is not uploading pictures tonight so you'll have to click to see the pictures of:

Color Play by Joen Wolfrom and Journey of an Art Quilter by Barbara Olson

Actually even these were a problem as the Royal Mail decided to leave them with a neighbour (helpful) and not tell us ( not helpful) so we had emailed Amazon to complain that they were missing and got the offer of another copy ( helpful) and have now had to rescind the complaint ( embarrassing). I think I should have stayed on holiday. Talking of which....

.... I made a visit to Mandor's fabric shop in Edinburgh - a small quilting department but with about 30 fabrics on sale at £2.99 who cares?! I had to set a cash limit as I feared entering an out of control purchasing mood ( which would be fine but for the fact that I am planning one in advance when I go to the Great Northern Quilt show on Saturday) but for £50 I got 18.5 meters including some long lengths for backing. Is it just me or do other quilters also feel that buying backing fabric ( not to say wadding) is a bit of a boring necessity compared to exciting colours for the front? ( I know - I need to learn to make reversable quilts - just one skill of many on the list). plus when I got to my Mum's she had taken in a delivery of 174 batik FQ's bought on sale at the Fat Quarter Shop in Texas. ( The shop is in Texas that is. I bought them in my study if you see what I mean.)

For book lovers among you, other authors we saw at the festival ( see links for their books) included Tim Waterstone, Paul Rusesabagina ( of Hotel Rwanda fame), Douglas Kennedy, and Claudia Roden ( two cookbooks of hers - see this link and this one - will be arriving soon depending on the whim of the Royal Mail postie) Marti Leimbach (I've read this book already - light but interesting becuase whilst it is fiction a lot is based on her expereinces with her own autistic son) and PD James ( whose novels I still haven't tried) and Seamus Heaney, with whom my husband was delighted to chat to about a poetry reading in Galgorm in 1968!. His talk was interpreted into British Sign Language which I know a bit as my Mum interprets into BSL and it was fascinating to see how that langguage was at time completely unable to express the accents of syntax of what he was saying yet at others one hand movement could describe a concept more succinctly and vividly than even a Nobel winning poet.

Monday, August 28, 2006

******** computers!!

I had lots to say tonight but its just taken me an hour and a half to do the five minute job of putting a site counter on my blog ( and even now its not where it should be!). The wireless network we have in the house went down. Then it worked on my husband's laptop but not mine. Then on mine but not his but the Blogger site was unavailable. Then it was available but the republish page kept flashing on and off, then the automatic placing of the site counter failed so I tried again and the ****** laptop told me it had a problem and was going to shut the programme down.... it thinks it has a problem? All it has to do is sit here. Its not the one with a blog to update and a long list of sites I wanted to browse. GRRR. Too headachy with it now so I'm off to sew borders onto a pinwheel quilt instead.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Edinburgh festival 2

Our fourth floor flat here has french doors that open to overlook the courtyard gardens of the tenements backing on to us. Just beyond that, further up the hill is a church, its steeple high above the neighbouring roofs and all of about 600m away. So it was a bit alarming to realise last Saturday that it had vanished. A horizontal mist-come-rain had swathed it and that's how we came to find another feature of this flat - its proximity to the bus route. Until then we had been happily walking into the festival venues, often through the Meadows, but suddenly trying to walk up the steps of a moving, fogged up double decker seemed like a better form of exercise.

We made it to the African Children's Choir performance fairly dryly but when I went into the dressing rooms after the peformance there was much amazement at the defination of 'summer' in Scotland. The reason I was in the dressing room was that one of the adult chaperones had worn a dress panneled with the most amazingly intricate patchwork in vivid limes greens and yellows and silver and maroons and I needed to go and see it close up having spent much of the performance sketching out the many blocks that comprised the pattern. When she showed it to me I realised that it was all one piece of fabric but with a very ornate stamped design. So much easier. From there we ran through a monsoon to sit with very wet jeans and hear Alexander McColl Smith ( fans will be pleased to hear he is planning at least 4 more Ma Ramotswe novels) and then home where I justified bringing my laptop by using the Electic Quilt 5 programme to make up at least in digital form the quilt that dress had inspired in my mind. Another one on the must make list!

What else have we been doing? In no particular order: Royal Yacht Britannia. Surprisingly shabby but interesting enough. A quirky one hour play called My Brother's Keeper about the last two Jews in Afganistan. An amazing performace of the Syringa Tree in which one actress performs 24 South African Characters of different ethnicities all highly individualised. The author has now novelised the play which is a great and poignant story - if you can't seen the London performance get the novel. And if you do see it you'll want the novel anyway, I certainly do!

Speaking of novels, fans of Faye and Jonathan Kellerman's crime novels should take note that their son's novel - Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman is out and judging by the first few chapters which is where I'm at now he has inherited their talent.

Also, overcome any prejudice you may have against Richard and Judy recommendations to read The Abortionist's Daughter. When we saw Ian Rankin being interviewed by Denise Mina they were talking about not understanding why some books about crime were in the general or literary fiction lists and others (i.e theirs) were the the 'poor relation' classed as genre and seen as the poorer for it. For what my view is worth it is that the genre classed novels tend to have a pre-set structure to them. (Don't you just know the hero/heroine detector will be in personal danger at the end, for example) but that the general list book about crime tend to focus on the relationships of the people affected more - like We Need to Talk about Kevin for example or indeed The Abortionist's Daughter which is about a murder and finding the suspect but the focus is kind of off centre focusing as it does on the daughter of the victim who is never a real suspect.

Anyway perhpas it was reading that books and perhaps it was being around authors or perhpas it is just the combination of time away in an environment where creativity is all around but between falling asleep last night and coming out of the Syringa Tree at lunchtime today I seem to have formulated a whole new plot of Novel number 2. Fully formed with an obvious stucture. Of course Novel 1 (provisionally entitled now 'Shouting Quietly' is still in the edit stage and who knows if over time this plot will seem as strong or compelling. But at the least it deserves its own notebook for those initial scribbles of fragmentary scenes and charater bios. And shopping for a notebook is one thing we haven't done in Edinburgh yet...:)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Edinburgh festival 1

The flat we are renting here is round the corner from not one but three internet cafes so there is no excuse for being as blog-lite as I predicted. (although photos are a bit beyond me today). That said we have just returned from a performance of Girl Blog From Iraq, a dramatisation of a blog being written by a young, female computer programmer out of Bhagdad. The descriptions of life in a war zone makes this account of a pleasurable time wandering around streets freely enjoying music and theatre and food and basics like clean water seem trite. However, as that is all I have to recount right now I suppose I shall carry on if only to encourage you to follow the above link and read her blog to contrast it with how easy life is here.

Edinburgh is not as overflowing as I feared. Ok, The Royal Mile is bunged but that is becuase circles of people gather around street performers and clog the pavements which run outisde shops I am sure most Edinburgh relatives have no cause to visit anyway. The rest of the time there is a relaxed but easy going atmosphere... and an awful lot of flyposters and handbills. We booked a lot of stuff before we arrived but are adding to the schedule now we are here.

As might be expected the experience can be as eclectic or not as you want to make it. I seem to be hunting down SouthAfrican and gospel sounds whilst Dennis is sticking to the more high brow festival itself ( rather than the fringe) and we meet in the middle at the Book festival which is held in a cosy coralle of tents in a city square. There we have heard new authors Naomi Alderman (whose book Disobedience, set in Orthodox jewish Hendon I had already read and liked) spoke with Lucy Caldwell whose book about childhood in Northen Ireland I have not yet read but of course bought at the session - wait for the report! Both of them were delighfully excited about being writers ... but appallingly young! I felt like I had wasted my life so far until I realised that perhpas they were not quite so established in their 'day jobs' yet!

Also at the book festival, the session with Linda Grant ( latest book Life on the Streets about ordinary Israelis - bought, not yet read, wait for the report!) and novelist Alan Kaufman degenerated at the questioning session into the inevitable non-question statements from members of the audience who thought that Alan as a member of the IDF was fair game for them to state their own political opinions at. I thus decided ( for alas reader, I cannot resist) to try to restore order and using the tacitc that served me well for gaining attention in childhood Sunday School classes ( sit central, sit tall, wear white sleeves!) I got to ask a question and asked whether fiction had a part to play in changing the work they had been talking about or whether it was just a way to escape it. I will spare you the long answers but the parts of the answers that imprinted themselves on me were, from Alan, that fiction shows the fundamental truths about people and from Linda, that its function is to create empathy and never to dehumanise. Alan's novel ( bought, not read - wait for the.... Ok You got it) Matches is about life as an IDF ( israeli defence force ) soldier and he wanted the reader, if not to agree with Israeli policy to at least understand what it was like to be a solider in the IDF. As Dennis is a bit of a buff in Israeli history we invited him for coffee afterwards and had an interesting chat. As he put it perhaps it is time to stop trying to find the non-existent solution to the middle east situation and start to work out how to live without one. He has also written a memoir Jew Boy which I now want to read. There is definately something about meeting a writer that makes me want to read every word they ever wrote, which is of course why the book tent in the square is doing such good trade. We have also seen Tim Watersone and Moazzam Begg ( ex Guantanamo Bay detainee, never charged) who seems a very intellgent educated guy.

Away from books, I spent a fantasic hour listening to the Soweto Gospel Choir ( failed miserably in my attempt to come away without buying both their CD's) and dragged Dennis to an unscripted pereformance by two (South African) psychiatrists who are into narrative therapy and whose performance was about story telling. The brochure desription told me nothing but the warm recommendation by Archbisop Tutu did it for me and I loved it - basically interwoven stories about their childhoods up to date with one big theme which I can't tell you in case you go to see it. As a writer it was interesting to think about how plain storytelling should be done for dramatic effect. Then from the artstic to the plain stomach filling - I went to see Momma Cherri this morning - her of soul food fame from Gordan Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. The 'show' is really her telling you about soul food with a demonstration of how to cook jjambalaya with a bit of gospel singing thrown in, but it includes a free bowl of jamabyala which in my hands and tenandcy to overorder, got increased to the meat version, the veggie version, sweet potatoe salad, corn bread and southern fried chicken. Oh and cajun fries. For two of us mind. Yum yum!.

Tonight, is Ian Rankin. I've only ever read one of the Rebus novels but fortunately Dennis has got them all so that will save some book shopping tonight. I will report again in a few days.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

On my travels again

I may be a bit blog-lite for a while as we are now on holiday (and feeling very glad we are not flying). We are in Glasgow today and spent this morning at a very sunny World Piping Championships on Glasgow Green. I still have no idea how they were adjudicating or what makes one band better than the other. In one arena the Judge appeared to be inspecting the drum major's teeth. However, I can tell you that 200 bands all in one park all standing in their own huddle under trees make a lot of noise! Now I am using the computer at Kelvingrove Museum which has a very strange metal keyboard screwed into the table top! Tonight to Edinbuurgh for all the festval stuff.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Playing around

Did some money producing work in Salford County Court today then came home to play....

First, a trial Queen Angel fish for a project Linus quilt ( easy to handpiece whilst at home but not so easy to carry around for piecing in Edinburgh coffee shops next week, as was the plan, because the shapes are all template cut and irregular so I think I'd get confused with a bag of them!).

Then some real play quilting. I just started messing around with the material set out on the table while the dinner was cooking. First result ... well browned garlic bread and tomato and mascarpone sauce spluttered all over the stove. Second result ... the beginning of what could be my first real 'art quilt'. I have a pile (OK, a genuine Tunisian Tagine pot full - it was the nearerst receptical when I needed it!) of scraps of fabrics left from when I made the liberated quilt out of the scraps left from when I made an African bag which was in itself part made from scraps donated by Yvonne Bodicott at Morceau. I thought I'd just frame some of them in log cabin strips but as I messed about making the cabins uneven I thought of shanty towns which made me come back to some images of Khyelitsha when we were there. It seemed to fit to construct a shanty town out of leftover 'building' materials' So I am hoping to get this to look a bit like Khyelitisha at night. This is just an hours worth of playing and bits spread on the carpet so far. (The light in the dining room is not the best for photgraphy so the colours look a bit off.) I am thinking of a Khyelitsha by day to match but I'll have to make some other quilts first to get the scraps for that!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Finished (almost) quilts and shopping

The first needs the binding stitching - one of the irritating things about being miles from a sewing or quilting shop is that it will have to wait now until I go off up to Edinburgh festival next week ( via Mandors quilt shop in Glasgow) to get the thread. It's just not worth ordering one off tiny items like that on line. It is however worth ordering other stuff, namely these Fat Quarter bundles from The Fat Quarter Shop - the equivalent of £1.12 per FQ ( usually about £2.50 - £2.75 for you non-quilters/ non-sterling people. Bargain! (As my sister would say.)

Pity I have to wait for the post! I also got a copy of Electric Quilt 5 a few days ago - endless pleasure of electronically designing quilts - far more than I ever have time to sew sadly. Speaking of which ... off to stitch. Bye!

Birthday distractions

It's not a complete excuse for the lack of blog but I was rather distracted from all other activties by my birthday presents last week. I have a whole box of things ( becuase I am a lucky girl to have such a generous husband .....and probably becuase I gave him such a long wish list!). Here are just a few of my favourite things:

There was a lovely moment of confusion when I unwrapped one of the magazines I had subcribed to sometime ago. The poor man had been given such a list of strange quilting things he didn't really know what he was ordering and tookto confiscating everything that arrived in the post to do with quilting. I suppose he can be confused for mixing up Down Under Quilts with Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine though. Or at least to query why I needed ( make that wanted) both! Still he got the ( very expensive) Sunday lunch reservation right with a table at the window overlooking Lake Ullswater at the Sharrow Bay Hotel. Not his fault it tipped it down with rain the moment we set foot in the gardens!