Happy Christmas!

Merry Christmas to anybody who should happen to read this blog today! Hope that you have a lovely day!

It's finished!

Yes! My first scarf is now complete. After a few false starts where I had to keep unravelling it, I finally worked out what I was doing wrong (wrapping the wool round the needle the wrong way) and managed to keep going without making any horrendous mistakes. I'm quite proud of my very first human-sized creation!
From this...
To this...
To this!

New Moleskine, Christmas Shopping and An Ideal Husband

Yes I am going to deal with the three above topics in the above order!

Today I finished my first "retro blog" moleskine i.e. a diary where I write stuff that I don't want to particularly broadcast all over the internet. I'm quite proud of it really because it looks pretty cool when you flick through it - 240 pages of pure black writing - and of course, every word written is a word of genius!!! So now I'm ready to start my new Retro Blog Moleskine. I have a ritual when I begin a new Moleskine - much of it picked up from other people's rituals that I have read about. I take off the cellophane wrapping. Then I flick through the book and inhale the 'new paper' smell. After that I have a look at the insert and any postcards or leaflets that are with it. They go into the pocket at the back, along with the carefully folded coloured band. Then the hard work begins - I number each page, either in black or red, then I make an index of all the page numbers on the last 4 pages. Every time I write I put a heading (much like a normal blog), and those headings are written in the index at the back. It makes finding specific things much easier when the book is full! I just need to get writing in this one now!

Today I finally finished my Christmas shopping. I went into town quite early and managed to get most of it done fairly efficiently. Is it really bad though to also buy things for yourself when you are Christmas shopping - supposedly you're meant to be buying gifts for others! In addition to the hilariously funny Magna Farta which I bought earlier in the week and the essential make up items I bought today, I ended up buying myself lots of jewellery in Primark. However, the fact that none of the items cost more than £2 eases my conscience greatly! Perhaps I'm not that bad after all!

Finally - An Ideal Husband. No, I'm not looking for one (do they exist?!)Last night I went to see the Oscar Wilde play at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. I have never been to that theatre before and I really liked it. It is a huge steel and glass pod, with the stage in the round and the seats on a variety of different levels - some are like low little sofas - we were on tall ones at the back, a bit like bar stools. The modernity of the actual theatre contrasts brilliantly with the beautiful old Exchange building which houses the theatre. I'd like to perhaps get season tickets and go and see more plays there.

An Ideal Husband was really good. It took me a while to get into it, but after that I really enjoyed it. The things that fascinated me most though (apart from the sparkling comedic wit of Oscar Wilde and the talented performance from the actors) were the sets and costumes. The furniture used was mainly silver and ornate - real statement pieces. Then in one Act reds and golds were used, along with fire. But what was most beautiful about the sets were the cut glass chandeliers which hung over the theatre and gave it a sense of beauty and grandeur. The sets were both old fashioned and completely modern. And the costumes were absolutely beautiful - long dresses which trailed along the floor in the most gorgeous fabrics. It made us all wonder and talk about what it would be like if people wore those kinds of clothes now - it really would be quite bizarre, though people would look so lovely!

The Robbery of Rhydian

At the risk of sounding like Victor Meldrew, it has to be said that I simply cannot believe it! He is so much of a better singer than Leon - I think Leon is completely bland and forgettable, and I cannot understand at all why he won. At least if Same Difference had won it would have been because of their 'fun factor'. And I still think Beverley should have been in the final.

In the comments after this song, Sharon said that Rhydian looked like a 'white angel'. That makes me think of 'Beauty School Dropout' in Grease! Perhaps that could be a future career for Rhydian! But I'm sure that he will have greater longevity than Leon, who I imagine will be forgotten about this time next year.

Where is the Christmas magic?

I really hate to say this, but I don't feel Christmassy one bit. This year, Christmas has seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere - in my mind the (non-existent) summer seems to have only just finished. And now it seems that Christmas is only a week or two away. Yes, the last week or so has been chilly, but so far the weather seems to have just been autumny rather than winter.

I went Christmas shopping this morning and felt like I was just going through the motions. I have been putting off buying Christmas cards so far because I haven't seen any that have caught my attention - they all seem to be a bit bland and cheap-looking, even in shops like M&S, Boots, Next and WHSmith who usually make nice ones. And whilst I've received a sprinkling of cards, usually by this time in December they are all over the house. This year it seems that people aren't sending as many, if if they are, they're leaving it late.

The problem, I feel is that Christmas has been completely over-commercialised. It starts in November... October... September even. So by the time it comes to December, everyone has been completely over-exposed to it all and feels no sense of excitement or occasion. It just seems to merge into everyday life.

The one thing that did brighten my day though whilst I was out shopping were the carol singers from the local blind home. Not only did they sound lovely, but they were singing proper Christmas carols, rather than the over played Christmas songs that are played everywhere else. It's little things like that which still sens a shiver down my spine and which remind us that Christmas isn't about how much money you can spend on presents.

When does an orange taste of mint?

When it's a Terry's minty chocolate orange of course! I bought one today. They are quite nice - they remind me of After Eights in the way they taste, though don't have the sickly fondant nature of After Eights. My one concern is with the name. how can you have a MINT chocolate ORANGE? Surely they could just call it something else... like a minty ball of chocolate... or maybe not!

The Thirteenth Tale

I have just finished reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I don't know why I chose it - the cover just attracted my attention and after having read the blurb on the back it became an impulse buy.

It is the story of an amateur biographer, Margaret Lea, who receives a letter from the famous writer Vida Winter. Miss Winter wants Margaret to tell her life story - and this time she wants to tell the world the real truth. Margaret travels to Vida's isolated old house on the Yorkshire Moors, and there she learns of the house at Angelfield and of Charlie, Isabelle and the strange twins Emmeline and Adeline.

It is a strange book - creepy at times with all its gothic and ghostly references. It is obvious that the writer has been heavily influenced by Jane Eyre, and to me the book is also heavily reminiscent of Rebecca. It certainly kept me hooked during the few days it took me to read it - it was always a case of wanting to read 'just one more chapter'. Having said that though, the ending wasn't quite as good as I hoped it would be. I had guessed correctly how part of it might have ended, and the rest seemed a little far-fetched and convenient. However, I still really enjoyed the book - one of the most addictive books I've read in quite a while. It's definitely worth a read, especially if you like gothic writing.

Showing a slight improvement...

I managed to make a scarf today for my Shrek 3 Dronkey, (though it would also look good on a Barbie or other such doll). It looks quite cosy and warm in its little scarf, and it handily co-ordinates with the dronkey's wings - what a fashionable dronkey it is! Happily too, this scarf is hole-less! Hooray! Though it will be quite some time before I'm knitting more advanced garments - for either dronkeys or humans!

Speaking of Shrek 3 - I bought it and watched it at the weekend. It was funny, though not as good as Shrek or Shrek 2. It lacked plot and there weren't as many cool songs. Still, I enjoyed it!

Hauntingly beautiful

Have just found this artist, artandghosts, who creates the most hauntingly beautiful images - they are very pretty and dreamlike though have a slightly sinister and macabre edge to them. Her blog can be found here, and should you wish to buy any of her prints then they are available at etsy.

Pathetic knitting effort!

Well I have been trying to knit today. I managed to start off okay, but then I kept dropping stitches and doing all kinds of odd things. I had the intention to make a scarf for a Barbie sized person. I decided the turquoise one was too thick, so I tried with the purple one. I think I definitely need more practice! The Stitch and Bitch book has been most useful in teaching me, as has the help and encouragement of fabulous knitter Eleanor. She has made some quite wonderful things that I can only dream of at this point in time -my holey squares really aren't much to be proud of, though I do quite like them because they are the first things I have knitted.


OK, I don't know really why I'm posting this because it's potentially very embarrassing. For some time now I have been semi addicted to the Singsnap website. It's a place where you can go and sing your little heart out karaoke style. And I have always admired the clever people who have managed to record their singing, especially those who use a webcam. One of my favourite such people is KristiJane who never fails to keep me amused with her good voice and crazy costumes and antics.

She's a really good singer...

But also completely crazy!

(Edited to say oh dear - it appears she has left Singsnap - a real loss because she was brill)

So in Tesco today I decided that I would have a go at this myself, though didn't want to invest too much in it in case it was truly awful. So I bought a £5 headset (which I'm actually quite impressed with) and this afternoon I have been trying it out. I have to say though that I hate the sound of my own voice though. It sounds too sweet and innocent. Anyway, have a listen and let me know what you think. Don't laugh though!

The Science of Love

I read an article in the paper today which talked about how love is really just a chemical reaction, and possibly explains why it's so addictive.

When you are in the first stages of love, your body releases dopamine which is a pleasure chemical and produces a feeling of bliss. It also releases norepinephrine which is similar to adrenaline and causes you a racing heart and feeling of excitement. These two chemicals produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and difficulty in concentrating. At this stage as well, people may find that they have lower levels of serotonin. Lower levels of serotonin can also be found in OCD sufferers, and could explain why people obsess about their partners.

As a relationship develops, further chemicals are thrown into the mix. During sex oxytonin is released which creates an emotional bond. In addition, there is vasopressin which is a hormone associated with the formation of long-term monogamous relationships. Interestingly though, oxytonin and vasopressin can interfere with the pathways of dopamine and norepinephrine which could explain why passionate love can fade as attachment grows. Endorphins are also released which are the body's natural painkillers and give a sense of peace, well-being and security.

Of course I don't believe that love and attraction are merely chemical reactions - there is so much more to it than that. But I think it goes a long way to explain why love can produce such strange and compulsive feelings at times - the feeling of being in love can in some ways be likened to a drug addict who is seeking their next hit. It's something that you can't control and which takes over your whole life - and now it looks as if there is a scientific reason why.

Innocent until proven guilty

Yes we've all heard this phrase before and most people know that it is the foundation of the way the law works in many countries, including the UK. But up until I did my jury service I hadn't really ever considered the implications of this.

Just before going off to deliberate over the verdict of our first trial, myself and my fellow jurors were reminded about the defendant being "innocent until proven guilty". This meant that unless we could be convinced that there was enough proof that he was guilty then we had to find him not guilty. There was no room for 'probably guilty' - unless we were convinced that he had definitely committed the crime, then he would walk free, an innocent man.

Interestingly too, I discovered that it is the responsibility of the Crown to prove the charges and convince the jury of a defendant's guilt. The defence does not have to prove the defendant innocent - their job is mainly to disprove any claims that the prosecution are making.

I have wondered about our current justice system since undertaking jury service. Yes, 'Innocent until proven guilty' is necessary to help protect people who may well have not committed a crime at all. But on the other hand, it could be felt that the defendant has most likely committed a crime, but if not enough proof can be found, then he may get away with it.

Also, having been a member of a jury, I can say that it is a scary prospect to have people's lives in your own hands. The decisions that you make will change people's lives immensely. A randomly selected jury is a good thing, but surely sometimes cases can be swayed either way depending on the mix of people in a jury. Most jury members will have a limited knowledge of the law and sometimes can feel quite in the dark about matters. Perhaps each jury should have an independent legal advisor attached to them, whom they could consult during their deliberations. Or perhaps there should be 3 separate juries for each trial. Each jury reaches their own verdicts, then the final verdict would be whatever the majority of juries decided. I'm sure that sometimes, often, juries get it wrong. Perhaps this would make the result more accurate.

Or perhaps we should just go the way that everything seems to be going at the moment. Perhaps we should stage trials on television and make the verdict the result of a phone vote?!