Monday, October 25, 2010

Variations on a Theme - Socks of a different colour, Crochet Revisited, and a Nation on the Brink.

The socks in the morning sunshine
It's a sunny October Bank Holiday Monday and I am looking out the garden at the banana trees that have been burnt by the first sharp frost of the autumn. It's a sign that we're looking down the barrel of winter and while I hope it won't be as harsh as last winter the prophets of doom and gloom are predicting a worse one - in line with the economic forecast and a December budget which promises to leave last year's hairshirt budget in the cashmere stakes.

At times it seems like the revolution must be just around the corner as there's so much anger in the populace. The perception that the government is bailing out the banks at the expense of the ordinary folk was reinforced by the news today that the developers whose assets are in our toxic bank NAMA (The National Asset Management Agency) are planning to pay themselves salaries of around €200,000 p.a. - a drop from their accustomed €1million+ salaries. Not that we feel their pain - some of these wheelers and dealers have been shifting assets to their spouses as fast as their lawyers can draft the documents and moving themselves offshore and beyond extradition in some cases.

The finished coral socks
There are court appearances every week of developers or local Councillors implicated in corruption charges - even this week one developer who has even had the brass neck to revoke his Irish citizenship for expediency and tax purposes was charged along with some former government Councillors who took his bribes - allegedly - and he was granted bail if he had an Irish address - so he gave the Four Seasons Hotel in leafy Ballsbridge as the address! If this isn't giving the finger to the authorities and those of us who are still proud to be Irish I don't know what is.

Detail of the heel and foot.
But to calm me down and stay sane I have sought refuge in (amongst other therapeutic activities like baking!) knitting and have revived a long-dormant skill in crochet. Regular followers of the blog will know I've made legwarmers and socks lately, and now I have finished another pair of textured open-patterned socks this time in a peachy Coral. The photo taken on the clothes line is truer than in those taken indoors. The pattern is a free download from Ravelry - Fixation Cascade Yarn is the recommended yarn but I used ordinary DK yarn - cheap and cheerful. (on the Cascade link they are the ones labelled Fixation Lacy Multicolored Socks W135)

Simple Crochet flowers
Granny Squares and little flowers
Over the weekend Jany (D-i-L to be) and myself dabbled in crochet and made some Granny Squares and flowers, finding an online tutorial on YouTube. (There are lots of tutorials on knitting and crochet on YouTube so no excuse for not trying something new). This was a lot of fun and Jany has been amazingly quick at picking it up. So I hope you get some inspiration from this post and realise it's never too late to start afresh. I loved crochet as a teenager and made some clothes from Granny Squares - a waistcoat and a bag come to mind - but this was the '70s (the decade that taste forgot, some would say!) and I doubt I'll be going down that road again.

Banana plants in the sun
Banana plant after the frost
As for the banana trees - here are photos of them last week in their green glory juxtaposed with some taken today after the frost. They die off each winter and then phoenix-like arise from the ground in May to grow and thrive for the summer. We had so many suckers (little ones) this year we gave some away and brought some into the sunroom for overwintering - and they are already growing like proverbial Triffids! It's lovely to have a mini-tropical garden in the house and it keeps us in touch with our past life in the real tropics - a nostalgia trip for every day.

Banana plant post-frost
Banana plant last week - with Ben


Rudee said...

We have our own issues with our very own Banksters here in the States. It has come to light that they are foreclosing on homes while lacking the documentation to do so. Apparently, during the hey day of iffy mortgages, they sliced and diced those mortgages so much that nobody knows who actually has the note. Even though documentation has been lacking, they are foreclosing on mortgages at record speed--two weeks--and even if they cannot prove who paid what to whom.

They're all criminals who forget too soon that history can repeat itself. Sooner or later, people will get tired of eating all that cake and WILL revolt. Let's hope it's sooner.

Mini-rant over, I'm going to knit a few more rows to lower my own blood pressure. Love your socks!

Stephanie V said...

Your socks are so lovely and warm looking...the color will brighten a gloomy day.

I wonder if all this knitting is not akin to the animals growing an extra warm coat when the winter promises to be bleak. Instinctively, you're preparing, too.

I'm not sure what any of us can do to prepare for these bleak economic times. Here in Canada, we talk a good game but it's not any safer, really. The picture in the US - as Rudee points out - is scary when we consider how tightly tangled we are economically.

Let's all keep knitting. Maybe if more politicians knit, things would be different?

Joanna St. James said...

If you ever do a blogfest will you give away some woolies? my eyes are bugging with jealousy I am that person who starts to knit but never finishes because I dont even know what I am knitting.
It is therapeutic though.

Catherine said...

Thanks for the comments and I love to hear from readers!
Rudee - interesting your use of the Banksters word - the title of a bestseller last year on "how a powerful elite squandered Ireland's wealth" as the subtitle goes. So here we are with the property bubble well and truly burst and banks throwing money at people with 110% mortgages and lots of sub-prime lending went on too. Now thousands live in negative equity and are trapped. The govt had to introduce legislation lately to prevent foreclosure for at least a year if there was genuine effort and hardship. Funnily in Ireland we keep saying in America these crooks would be doing the perp walk of shame - here they just check into the Fours Seasons!

Stephanie V - Culturally there are way more similarities than differences in our respective nations but Canada has such a good rep here we all envy you. Then tonight who showed up in a TV interview but a Canadian former PM and finance min. who seems a right hard-liner regarding cuts in spending Paul Martin. Wondered how he's perceived in Canada? we are dreading next months budget as they plan to crucify the public sector. We are besieged with vilification already in the public eye and the govt. milks it - we're blamed for everything - even last week the min. of health said well the wages take so much of the health budget that's why frontline services have to suffer. That insidious stuff is practically inciting hatred against any public servant. Let's keep on knitting!

Joanna - what a great idea - a blogfest giveaway of a piece of knitting or crafty stuff! I will have to work on that one, it could well happen soon, if I get plenty done in the near future. Christmas is coming and there are lots of pressies needing doing but I could always divert something!
Don't give up though, you might find you're better than you think! Plenty of tutorials on YouTube like I said and some brilliant books!

All the best, Catherine.

Ann said...

Love the socks Catherine. What a wonderful vibrant colour. I checked out that sight. Will have another look when I get some time.

It is no wonder you keep yourself occupied with sock and leg warmer knitting with all the carry-on of the government and developers. It truly makes the blood boil! And for that so and so turning his back on his Irishness...he should hang his head in shame. But I suppose he has his fortune made and Ireland is of little use to him now.

I think I need to knit a sock!!! Take care, A

Pooch Purple Reign said...

hi catherine
i do like your crochet cuties. i have crochet'd before but im just beginning to knit again after a long time.
squares are it so far
and, i love how you describe the coming season as "looking down the barrel" that made me laugh... alot
. have a great day

Irene said...

I'm planning on taking up knitting as a new activity inspired very much by you and I think I will enjoy it very much. I get the feeling that it is very relaxing and rewarding to do. I also would like to make some of my own clothes.

Lily said...

Catherine, We all may soon be knitting our socks not for relaxation but out of necessity due to the rapidly changing economic situation!

I'm interested to see the list of night classes/events available at the local library here in the US. Many of the usual suspects as in Ireland e.g., 'Starting your own business'. But there is also 'What you need to know about Home Foreclosure'. Sign of the times, I guess!

Catherine said...

Ann thanks and I hope I've inspired you to take up your needles and get your socks on! I agree about the treachery of that man Kennedy renouncing his citizenship - but then the CAB have been chasing him for years over his Jackson Way company and he has eluded them. So now he might have justice served on him. And the FFers who are charged with him - there are a bunch of others too, Liam Cosgrave was charged today.
So no-one seems exempt from corruption allegations. Let's keep on knitting - though it's a bit like Madame Defarge at the foot of the guillotine with the heads rolling into the bastket!

Laura - that barrel analogy is a bit metaphoric for the state of the country as the season! I hope you keep on with the knitting and the crochet - it's very relaxing and productive as well - I have some great plans for projects through the winter and with another grandchild on the way I've lots of little things to make!

Nora/Irene - thanks and hope you do take up the knitting - delighted to inspire! Hope you are well and I see you're still writing prolific posts! Thanks for visiting, I always like to see your comments! I hope Holland isn't in as bad an economic shape as Ireland though it probably isn't too good either. I am planning to make some things this winter with the sewing machine - gosh, I used to make all my own and the kids clothes when we lived in Africa - as they say they were wearing the curtains and so was I! But they survived it pretty ok!

Lily - too true! We could be knitting recycled socks after tonight's budget prediction of €15 billion in the next 4 years - I must watch Prime Time tonight to get the full lowdown. It is really drastic and the gov. seem to just think of a number and double it - so much for Lenihan's "we've turned the corner"of last year's budget speech. Country's gone to pot and I'm still waiting for my incremental payment since August - I know FG wanted to freeze increments but I have only 2 more points to go on my increment scale as I started at the bottom when I became a PHN. Oh well, that's what I get for spending all those years doing humanitarian work overseas - no half-salary pension for me when I retire asI'll have so few years of service - I'll prob. have the state pension and a bit - where did all my contributions go?! I couldn't afford to buy back my student years when I had kids in college and no grants - never managed to get on that gravy train!Not bitter or twisted though - just want justice - I know we have no absolute poverty here like in developing countries but I still hate that the govt seem to thumb their noses at the plebs!
'Nuff rant - take it easy -

Mise said...

Poor banana plants! I've beenn looking at your photos of the yarn being weighed and how well it looks - perhaps balls of lovely recycled yarn in vintage crystal bowls will replace fruit displays as the essential ornament for the trendy blogger.

Unknown said...

Can I just say I adore those socks!!! They look amazing!!! Make me want to snuggle up with a good book!

Catherine said...

Mise - that would be fun to see the new style of table decor - balls of wool! But maybe time to start a trend. I've another ripping yarn to consider - a ghastly patterned cardigan with nice ribbon yarn! SO I might give it a go. My home isn't as nice and decluttered as yours though!

Jen- Thanks - the socks are perfect to snuggle up with a good book! Hope you get some inspiration to get knitting too!

All the best, Catherine.

Barbara Scully said...

Hi Catherine:

Love the socks... love the colour and woolly socks are the epitome of winter cosiness..

I would love to be able to knit,. Never could manage to be consistent.. so there was tight knitting followed by loose knitting.. Did used to crochet though about a million years ago. Very relaxing..

Not going to comment on the economy (in major denial).

Banana trees - fully understand where you are coming from there. I have a Bird of Paradise plant in our dining room by the sunny window in the hope that it will eventually flower and bring me straight back to Tenerife in the Canary Islands where I mis-spent many of my younger years!

Am adding you to my blog roll

Talk to you on twitter

Catherine said...

Barbara - thanks for adding me to your blogroll - are you on my follower list so? Not sure how it all works - I seem to get the settings going by default! Yes I love the socks and the coral colour is so warm. I'm wearing them right now and they are so cosy! It's a bit of a challenge now to see how many different styles I can make, and I just finished another one tonight - lovely and lacy design, quite a toughie and I can't work without a pattern.
The economy has been shelved by me today with the Roscommon Report exercising me and my PHN colleagues - it's like "there but for the grace of God..." and we are always treading that fine line between being parental supporters and child advocates - awful cases are rare yet can happen in any strata in society.
Yes, the poor banana trees are on their last gasp but we have two indoors and one enormous one that's always inside, about 8 ft tall. We keep waiting for it to flower and fruit! The two we took in are growing madly. Bird of Paradise is lovely - we had 5 palms hubby grew from seeds we got in Spain and they can withstand -5 centigrade but last winter did for them and they are no more. Shame, they were about 5 yrs old and lovely. We had to move them out as the sunroom was getting a bit of a triffid-like jungle.
Not too much tweeting tonight, left a couple of comments. Talk again, will pop over to your blog too.
All the best, Catherine.

Marguerite said...

Love your socks and only wish that I could crochet, knit, or sew. But it seems that I have two left thumbs when it comes to anything to do with needles. The banana trees do quite well here, and survive the winter outdoors, unless it's a very harsh winter, like last year. Have a wonderful weekend! Cheers!