Using up my inheritance




Q  What’s the most important thing to do before beginning to wind the spun thread off the spindle?

A  Go to the loo – nothing like hydraulic pressure when entangled in 200 yards of handspun.



We had our day of downpour.

My very own alpaca


No, I did not come home from the Rare Breeds show with a new furry friend; just the fur.

1 rawI’ve been trying to work out the status of all this fleece; it isn’t greasy like raw sheep, and is beautifully soft and fluffy, but nevertheless is leaving a slightly grubby deposit on my hands as I work it.  Perhaps someone brushed and hosed down the alpaca before shearing?  It would be easier than trying to wash all these short curls afterwards.

To card or not to card?  I’m sure you’re meant to.  For the test piece, however, this was decided by impatience and not owning any hand carders (which by the way cost significant money).

2 plyingI spun a thinnish but irregular and fluffy single, plying it from an Andean bracelet which miraculously did not tangle.  I think the staple must vary somewhat in length, as I found some handfuls much easier to spin than others, which broke persistently and frustratingly.

3 skeinEventually I produced a tiny skein, washed it, tangled its fluffy bits, dried it, cursed it, and wound it off to a ball.  The sample square is knitted on tens (3.25 mm to the young).  If I say it myself, the gently speckled fabric feels lovely – light, flexible, and obviously would be as warm as toast.

4 fabricSo back to my problem:  carding will cost in cash and time.  To card, or not to card?

Sussexed out


It was Rare Breeds day at Singleton again.  Picture book:


Knicker elastic ain’t what it used to be,


… I reflected, ambling through the wavelets.  Adopting the bunchy profile of one who has stuffed a skirt into the underwear is all well and good, but damp insecurity set in sooner than it ought to have.  Or perhaps I’ve been too parsimonious about replenishing in M&S.

The sea built small dark walls across the bay

The sea built small dark walls across the bay.

I considered the Victorian passion for collecting seaweed.

I considered the Victorian passion for collecting seaweed.

The shore is too mobile to have rich pond life.  A somnolent anemone sucked my fingers.

The shore is too mobile to have rich pond life. A somnolent anemone sucked my fingers.

Ironwork emerged like bones from the sand.

Ironwork emerged like bones from the sand.

Two-way translation


lexicon recentis latinitatis

With its source in the Vatican, this is a strictly Italian/Latin dictionary, making it a challenge for a reader ignorant of both, but I am pleased to find that someone is keeping Latin in step with the modern world.  For example:

derrick = exploratoria subterranea turris

I also rather liked this one, though I’m surprised it needed to be in Recentis Latinitatis, as the Romans must certainly have been familiar with the thought and the deed:

frodo = fraus portorii

And, of course, there are classical words with new supplemental meanings:

pentagono = 1 quinquangulum, i … 2 pentagonum Vasintoniae aedificium

Sometimes the Latin is more readily intelligible than the Italian:

capannuccia = casula, ae,  praesepe, is  (but only because I do astronomy)

cruccioso = indignabundus, a, um.  Syn:  morosus; stomachosus

elibus = helicopterum capacissimum (well, I didn’t get the Italian, bit slow me)

Sometimes the Italian is more obvious to an English speaker:

caricaturista = ridicularum imaginum pictor …  Syn: … mimus ethologus

ciclocross = birotariorum campestre certamen

Occasionally this is because the Italian isn’t very Italian:

mambo = saltatio Haitiana … Syn: concitata et phrenetica

An English appearance can be misleading, though:

china = 1 declive, is … proclivitas; acclivitas; devexum. 2 cinchona, ae [arbor tropica, ex cuius cortice extrahitur sucus antipyreticus …]

Sometimes the two languages seen together resolve into meaning as neither might do on its own:

raggi x = Roentgeniani radii

Often both are pretty baffling:

pedinare = clanculum assidueque insector

Some entries seem to call for more Latinate explanation than others:

catamarano = biscapha, ae [huiusce aetatis navigium lusorium est ex duobus constans alveis ponticulo coniunctis]

In other examples, the metaphorical richness of Italian shone through the translation:

giraffa = 1 camelopardalis, is … 2 microphonium prolatum, i

inforcare = 1 furca arripio. 2 equum conscendo. 3 vitra ocularia naso impono.  (Definition 3 is translated by Google as eye-glass nose cheating.)

But when it rolls off the tongue, Latin can outdo any modern language:

pistola = manuballistula ignivoma

and my favourite so far:

antislump = adversus iacentem rem oeconomicam efficax

Oh dear – must stop this pointless dabbling, nearly midnight and not a child in the house washed…

It’s the golden syrup that does it


… apparently.  In a reversal of usual practice, the older person made the bubbles while the young person took the photographs. (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)

The recipe is one part golden syrup, two parts strong washing up liquid, and six parts water, possibly de-ionised.  I have the photographer’s permission to share the images.

Pounds shillings and ounces


Do you know how difficult it is to weigh 20g of hay without spreading it all over the western world?

I do know this because I have been doing some controlled feeding, to discover why Wolfgang was suddenly a loose-skinned hairy bag of bones.  And when I weighed what was left at the end of the day, it was obvious:  not eating the hay.  At all.

It’s suicidal behaviour for a guinea pig.  What I don’t know is why; he has been eating similar hay for four and a half years and has been a thumping great piggy for most of it, and the vet could see nothing wrong with his teeth. He still had an appetite, eating nuggets and fresh food freely.  What’s more, nothing seems to have gone wrong with the hay, since Alnitak is still as fat as butter.  The point was academic, since hay is crucial for their teeth and bowels.

My cue to go to the pet shop and buy the stupidly overpriced hays for spoiled rotten guinea pigs.  I bought the chopped meadow hay;  the green timothy hay; and the marigold and dandelion herbage mix.  Then I did the 8 out of 10 cats scenario with samples for the pigs to try.

Alnitak was indifferent; he went right on eating the same old hay and ignored the new feeds.  Wolfgang rushed up to the bowls with faint cries of “At last!  At last!”, sank his face into the most expensive brand, and ate for an hour without stopping.

Sigh.  Would you believe marigold and dandelion comes in at £6 a kilo?

Wolfgang’s tummy is coming back, though he is still distressingly bony over the hips and withers.  The return visit to the vet confirmed weight gain and he could still see no other problems.  But I’ll be keeping an eye on the avoirdupois; there’s a lot of catching up to do.

avoirdupois 1 avoirdupois 2