27 January 2009

The knitting frenzy (not) continues

Avid readers may remember that I'm in the process of knitting a messenger bag - then again, it appears to have passed me by too.

In July last year I was reporting that I'd got halfway up the first side - six months later and I'm not that much further on. The bag bit is finished (hurrah!), but the interminable strap is underway. Next time I decide to make something, will someone please read the instructions for me, and point out that 175 centimetres is really really long...

This may be the last felted object I make for some time - I don't think I can really handle the fact that all my hundreds of rows of beautiful stitches will be deliberately shrunk. And anyway, M has already demanded that the next thing I knit should be a dress for her. At this rate, I'll need to make it in a size 10 and it'll be coming back into fashion by the time I finish it.

In the meantime, here's some beautiful knitting needles to drool over. Like I really need them...

23 January 2009

Recipes for Millie

As some of you may know, I write another blog called Recipes for Millie. It's a simple idea (and one nicked largely from the Sainted Nigel Slater whose Kitchen Diaries are marvellous) - I'm writing down all the things I cook (maybe over a year or two), with a view to parcelling them up in a book at some point, to give to my three-year-old when she's grown up.

I'd love to know what my Mum fed us in the depths of the 1970s on a daily basis - I know about the fancier dishes that she made like spaghetti bolognese and her special fishy pizza - but even then the versions both she and I now make have probably become corrupted over the years. There's probably a lot more olive oil sloshed around the place for a start. So I thought M might enjoy looking back on the sort of things we ate in the late 2000s, when she gets to a nostalgic sort of age.

The blog's been going since July 2008, and gets a fair amount of random traffic via Google - not surprisingly it's mostly people searching for recipes. At the moment, staying in must be the new going out, because visitor numbers tend to peak on Fridays. And parsnips are surprisingly popular.

The current top 10 recipes are:

1. Chicken, ham and leek pie
2. Bacon and parsnip pasta
3. Smoked salmon, lemon and courgette pasta
4. Roast pork with especially crispy crackling
5. Black halibut and parma ham parcels (sounds very poncey this one, I do admit)
6. Toad in the hole
7. Onion and goat's cheese tart
8. Lamb, aubergine and apricot tagine
9. Chicken and spinach pie
10. Pork tenderloin stuffed with prunes

Of course now I've gone and skewed the results by linking to them, but you get the picture. It just goes to show that (a) you can't beat a good pie and (b) there's a lot of carnivores out there.

22 January 2009

Captain Jack gets married

Although he wasn't wearing the outfit he'd initially imagined...

18 January 2009

Screenwriting and all that

I'm currently reading the Dr Who tome (The Writer's Tale), in which Russell T Davies spills the beans on his working methods. It's fascinating - much more so than I expected, especially the bits where you get to see the script in progress. I'd never really gone in for much reading of scripts before (apart from a couple of volumes of The West Wing, the odd Shakespeare play, and those really dull things like An Inspector Calls that you have to look at for GCSE English), and it's been a revelation.

For the first time I've seen how the directions work (the stuff that isn't the dialogue), and enjoyed reading them. Often I've not necessarily seen the actual episode (my Dr Who viewing is best described as patchy), but the pace and drive of the directions is spooky - it enables you to run the scene in your head as if you were watching it in real time. Previously I'd thought much of the success of Davies' scripts was down to the dialogue, but now I'm not so sure - the forcefulness of the directions (and some of the most succinct useage of words I've seen in a long time) gets across the story amazingly. It'd be interesting to hear from the directors of the various episodes whether they feel they've got much room for manoeuvre with scripts like that - do they really get much artistic input into the final vision?

I suppose I should really get round to watching some of the episodes in question. I did catch the rather good Planet of the Ood while babysitting this week, but that's a rewritten rather than an original Davies.

All this is making me want to attend the Story Engine conference that's running in Darlington next month - especially as one of the speakers is James Moran, who's written a Dr Who episode. I'm just up to the point in the book where he's being rewritten...

08 January 2009

London calling

I headed down to London yesterday for a meeting, and got the chance to do one of my favourite things - walk.

I love looking at London's streets and buildings, as they're nothing like we get up here. Gateshead's city centre is pretty brutalistic 1960s concrete all round, although Newcastle is rather more classical, especially in Grainger Town and Grey Street. It meant I had a fantastic wander down from King's Cross to Covent Garden, marvelling at the sci-fi Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury (I quite fancied one of the apartments, which had a beautiful terraced garden), a detour to the always elegant British Museum, and then a brisk stroll along Southampton Row and Kingsway to the delights of Bush House.

I also had a twirl around Covent Garden, which as ever was overpriced, twee and disappointing - and bizarrely full of 1950s-style cupcake and sweetie sellers. What gives?

It was also quite fun wandering around Drury Lane and the theatres, although the large pictures of David Tennant et al in the RSC productions are rather unnerving at first glance - when you're used to watching people on the telly or iPlayer, suddenly seeing them 8ft high is rather disturbing.

Anyway, the meeting was good. And I found Paddington Bears galore to photograph for the three-year-old, and brought home some of the best croissants in the world from the Eurostar station at St Pancras.

All in all, a good day.

03 January 2009

Arts Corner: Christmas telly

Happy New Year and all that. Hello 2009!

Right, that's the formalities out of the way. Now down to the important stuff: Christmas telly. For once we managed to sit down and watch some. Hurrah!

(Although I have serious doubts over whether it can be called telly if you're mostly watching it on the BBC iPlayer?)

In no particular order:

Strictly Come Dancing: 7/10 (Severrrrrrrrrrn!) I had to watch this, as the three-year-old was pretty insistent, and got her sparkly red shoes out. Poor old Rachel Stevens. Never mind, her pop career will no doubt resurrect itself.

University Challenge: 8/10 Interesting documentary - I didn't realise it had been going for quite so long. There was some rather amusing footage of a very young Stephen Fry, some good talking heads (including Bamber Gascoigne) and some amazing hairdos.

Starter for 10: 9/10 Followed on from University Challenge, and was rather sweet. But ooh it didn't half bring back the horrors of freshers parties in all their gory detail. Argh. I was that girl in the corner (albeit 10 years later and at Durham not Bristol), stuck with the bloke wittering on about his gap year in India. Sadly, there wasn't anyone as fanciable as James McAvoy lurking by the drinks.

A thing about cathedrals that I fell asleep halfway through: 3/10 Nothing personal (the first 10 minutes were pretty interesting), it's just I'd been up til 2am the night before, and I'm not much good at that sort of thing any more. Maybe that's what happens when you hit 35.

Lost and Found: 10/10 Gorgeous - a lesson in how to take a book as your source material for animation, and then expand on it without losing the essence of the original.

Father Christmas: 10/10 Ditto. And I loved Mel Smith. Far better than The Snowman.

Dr Who Christmas Special: 10/10 Mainly for David Morrissey who was fantastic, and has the most delightful voice. We also watched the Dr Who confidential, which was fascinating on the production process (although it did rather feel like watching two or three programmes shoehorned together in a random order - what's with that?). I'm reading the Russell T Davies/Benjamin Cook book, Dr Who: The Writer's Tale at the moment, so it was interesting to see how everything panned out on the screen. (I'm only up to about chapter 3 at the moment, but boy is it good - definitely recommended. Interesting stuff on how to lay out a script and on the whole rewriting process.)

Shrek 2: 6/10 Mildly amusing - and much better than the first one (if you're an adult - the three-year-old got a bit bored). Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots pretty much steals the show.

Erm. That's about it, bar BBC Breakfast News in the Northeast and Cumbria (we like to say hello to Colin in a morning) and the odd moment of Shaun the Sheep (the new Washday DVD arrived for Christmas - thank god).

Now, where did I put the rest of that Christmas cake?