Sun Wu-Kong

Monkey was amazing. It’s an opera composed by britpop veteran Damon Albarn, written by Chen Shi-Zeng, and designed/animated by Jamie Hewlett and based on a Chinese classic – Journey to the West. An irreverant (and quite funny) adventure tale of the journey to bring Buddhism to China.

Albarn/Hewlett are the team behind Gorillaz, and the visuals of the opera were very much in keeping with Hewlett’s signature style. Part chinese circus (lots of acrobatics, contortions etc) part opera, it certainly kept me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what visual goodies were going to be served up next. It was great seeing things I grew up with (Chinese yo-yos, dragon dance, the whole tale of Monkey) mixed in with a rather avantgarde cartoon-esque modern production.

The music was only so-so – very impressive when taking into consideration this was Albarn’s first opera, but somehow when taken alone, just wasn’t something that played with your insides. It felt a little lost to me, and some of the singing ended up as noise- sort of repetitive percussion type singing but without the catchy rhythm that makes rap so interesting to listen to. The balance between the orchestra and the singing was a bit off too – the orchestra often drowning out the singing. It was, however, very cool that it was all sung in Chinese, in the classic tradition, it made me laugh to hear Monkey say ‘Dasi ni’ (I’ll beat you to death) all the time. The first time I met my cousin Howard in Taiwan he said that to me alot, and it totally makes sense now too given that we were running around being Monkey King and Pigsy. And I thought he was just being mean! And Monkey King was lovable and oh so cheeky. A great night out.

The whole ‘Bian Lian’ (King of Masks – great movie, watch it if you can find it) meets Pucci on the set of Funny Face feel of Monkey got me thinking – China (and all that it represents) is undeniably back in mode in the western world. The very effective marriage between traditional chinese visual & performing arts and modern day pop art certainly makes it all the more fascinating. It is unlikely this could have come about without the commercial interest (joint ventures, etc) in the country and the influx of foreigners into China after it opened up post Cultural Revolution.

This attention, this spotlight so to speak, on China has been really wonderful for the average joe in China. In the 60s they were tormenting and torturing each other in the name of Mao, turning industry upside down, throwing away knowledge and skills (and destroying people along the way) in a misguided attempt at authenticity. Slowly slowly China has been opening up, and over the last 10 years there has been a true explosion of prosperity for many, not unhelped by governmental policy and foreign investment (including alot from Chinese diaspora). Despite the problems of censureship, there is still in China, a much greater and continually increasing awareness of the international sphere, due in no small part to the huge numbers of foreigners, tourists, executives, students, etc, visiting and travelling about in China. Every person who visits contributes to this. Buying from market stalls, from independent shops, interacting with hotel staff, taxi drivers, making friends with locals. Students learning Chinese, or Chinese music, or martial arts, all that contributes to the changing face of China. People can come and go mostly as they please, buy things they want, go to restaurants and movies (and, despite the censorship, get pretty much any movie on pirated DVD), telephone abroad, chat with friends, marry who they want (including non-chinese). It is, on the face of it, not that different in basics from my everyday life.

And it isn’t only people visiting China – the Chinese now are able to travel, when 20 years ago it was very unusual and restricted to either officials or those with influential guanxi. Delegations of dancers, singers, musicians, engineers, lawyers, businessmen, are able to go abroad to learn and participate in exchanges with foreigners. People are on the internet, surfing across the world. China is changing, rapidly. But we should not forget that this country was entirely closed 30 years ago. It has come a hell of a long way in quite a short time. Not sure the Olympics being given to Beijing was such a great idea tho – it certainly has had the effect of the government clamping down and becoming more hardlined. I just hope it does not have a lasting effect and that after the scrutiny China will continue its progress.

Now for a fun meme:
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1. What is your first name? Hmm, can you guess?
2. What is your favorite food? Vietnamese
3. What high school did you go to? Western Canada
4. What is your favorite color? Red
5. Who is your celebrity crush? Tom Welling (am a sucker for a pretty face)
6. Favorite drink? Bubble Tea
7. Dream vacation? Maldives
8. Favorite dessert? Red bean shaved ice
9. What do you want to be when you grow up? An Orange (a perfect orange is a real delight!)
10. What do you love most in life? Delight
11. One Word to describe you. Multi-faceted (DH says ‘obsessed’)
12. Your flickr name. Socktopus

Here’s how you do it:
a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

Photo credits:
1. Tom Welling, 2. Multifaceted, 3. Delight*, 4. oranges, 5. Western Alberta, 6. Cyclo Vietnamese Cuisine – BBQ Pork/Shrimp Rolls w/ Peanut Sauce, 7. Alice Collection 3, 8. socktopus, 9. 紅豆牛奶雪花, 10. pathway to heaven, 11. Bubble Milk Tea, 12. `paint the town red.

Team Socktopus

How is it another week has slipped by without me hardly noticing? Summer is here today, the sun shining the colours vivid outside. Lots of goodies have arrived by owl, er, by post (can you tell I have been listening to Harry Potter?) Big box of Pagewood Farm, laceweight Willow Creek, fingering weight Aleyska with a touch of cashmere with the merino, and fingering weight St Elias in Bluefaced Leicester.

Justine & Sally of Miss Flip Knits came over last night, we had some wine, and talked yarn, and rounded off the night with a fun interview. Amazing what a bit of wine can do to calm jittery nerves!

We had our housewarming/wedding drinks last weekend, with FIL & MIL coming up from Isle of Wight. Was a lovely weekend, we had some sun to enjoy on the balcony, with knitters and rowers and lawyers mixing it up. Little Sophia came and was adorable (of course!), and Emilie came and made fast friends with Deuce. Sunday was MIL’s bday and we went to Ken Garden and to a local restaurant Deep for some really lovely food.

This week my accountant came by, and we spent a few hours talking numbers and getting files and papers organised. Open day on Tuesday, some lovely ladies came over and visited the Vault, and tomorrow David & I are going to watch Damon Albarn’s Monkey opera. That should be good fun!

Meanwhile, Deuce is patiently waiting for me to take him out. Good little monkey that he is.

Oh yes! I’ve joined the Ravelympics (on Team Socktopus, of course!) and will be participating in the Sock Put and Shawl Relay. The event requires that we cast on our project at the opening ceremonies on the 8th August, and to cross the finish line, we have to finish our project before the closing of the Bejing games. I’ve signed up for the Sock Put and Shawl Relay.

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I’m posting up my badges in my sidebar! 🙂

The Room of Requirements

Done! As promised, i have a bit of show and tell for you. Ages ago I was inspired by Sam’s incredible yarn room to redo my work space into something more… well, less cluttered! Before I go on, let’s visit the Before:

As you entered the room, on the right wall, was this cabinet and the tv (because inexplicably the Sky TV thingie is in here):
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The turning around, facing the cabinet was my packing station.
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Next to the packing station was my very very very teeny desk. Horrid. Even when I was a student I had desk three times that size!
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And next to the desk against the final wall, another tall organising surface.  Clutter clutter clutter. And though yes it is yarn, it could have been so much tidier!
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After an order from Ikea, and an in person visit to that hell hole chaotic place, alot of drilling and building, moving around, shuffling, reorganising, and throwing stuff out I am ready to show you the butterfly that has emerged from its very very cluttered cocoon.

Come in, plenty of room. Oh look! What’s that? Could it be a real, grown up desk with more surface area than a postage stamp?
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Let’s take another look at that desk.
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A rail for photos and fun things, a magnetic board for notes, hooks for yarn and my niddy noddy, and underneath lots of space for pens, scissors and other necessities (and my Mooi in the corner where I can stroke it!).
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Sitting at my desk, I can look out the window, and I get a glimpse of Battersea Bridge – see the red double decker bus?
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Next to the window, I have a wall of my Pippi pictures and baskets of yarn. Blue Moon Fiber Arts skeins of woobu and LSS overflow from the ikea noje baskets, with a random assortment above and below.
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Continuing the journey counterclockwise, where my packing station used to be, is a wall of glorious shelves.

Let’s remember my packing station and computer with postage stamp desk for a minute:
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Ready?

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May I present you, the Wall’o’Yarn:

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Another view:
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Sigh. I love that wall.

Now onto the final portion of our visit today. The packing area. The right side with drawers for all the bits and bobs, needles, samples, etc. And of course a bowl of yarn.

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The new packing station where all the parcels are put together with boxes of Socktopus yarn beneath (those are camelspin under there)
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And as we near to a close, just as you entered, on the right before the desk we have a little shelving unit for samples, my own books, and more yarn (casbah and duet):
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Finally, behind the door is some more sneaky storage – lots of hooks for all my bags! Knitting pouches above, bigger bags below (all with projects inside ready to go!)
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And to recap, the After. Come visit soon! 😉

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The next tour will be the Utility Room! Slightly less exciting, I know, but for us who have been without a dryer for decades, it is like winning the lottery! Dry clothes! Hurrah!

Cloud 9

The yarn room make over is almost complete! I have a bit more rearranging to do, then it will be fit for photos. Our mishmash store room has also been transformed into a utility room – complete with shoe cupboard, work surface, and storage space. Photos to come too once the final rearranging has been completed. I’ve spent Mon & Tues building and drilling (with some help from Diane) and am very pleased with the results. Photos to frame and hang and voila! Happy happy.

The weekend was a blow out. I forget, now that I spend days at home with Deuce, about arranging a ‘sitter’ when we plan to go away. We were supposed to be in the Cotswolds this weekend, but I very stupidly forgot about arranging this with Cleone, Deuce’s walker, until too late. By then all her team were either full or away. Last ditch pleading with the cottage manager resulting in a little bending of the rules, but coddled as Deuce is, I couldn’t bear to leave him in the atrium on his own whilst we were partying next door. He would cry and whine and I wouldn’t be able to bear it. 😦 So we stayed in town. At least the weather was gorgeous and we went for a long walk in Richmond Park on the Saturday, and Deuce jumped into the lake there! Amazing, given how he hates the rain and getting wet!

Monday Irmgard arrived for B’s final push to finish her book for her deadline – welcome back Irmgard! We’ll see the clan on Saturday, hopefully B too. Had a little chat with charming Sophia – she is making carrot cake with her Oma! Just like the two of them, so much get up and go. Tuesday was Clare’s bday drinks, which sadly meant I couldn’t make the Woe Betide’s gig just north in Clerkenwell. I hope it was fab!

And today – i had a wonderful, amazing, package arrive in the post from a lovely wonderful (and talented!!) friend. May I introduce you to Niji (now Mooi from Louet).

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This is the best photo I could take of the yarn – it’s so hard to capture the sheen and colour. This yarn – this yarn – words really fail me. When I opened the package and pulled out the yarn, I spent a good five minutes just saying ‘Oh. My. God.’ over and over and over again. The yarn is 70% bamboo, 15% bison, 15% cashmere. It is SOFT. Like little clouds of heaven spun into yarn. And the lustre. My goodness, the silk and the bamboo give it this unearthly sheen. The skeins literally glow. It’s so weird, and mesmerising. Then there’s the colour. I hadn’t expected the colour to have so much… so much depth, life. I’m guessing because the yarn is a blend of different fibres, each fibre takes the dye slightly differently and this is what gives it so much movement of colour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a semi solid by any stretch, this is solid single colour, but.. so much more. It has highlights and lowlights that even Jennifer Aniston’s hair colourist would struggle to achieve. I’m totally beside myself with .. i don’t know how to describe this feeling – I feel like Gollum must have done when he found the ring – it’s my precioussssss!!!

Now, the reason I was so desperate to get some of this is to knit up a sample before the big Louet boxes start rolling in. Yes my dears, that bunch of scrummy yumminess I was hinting at before is Mooi, which should be arriving in September. And now, seeing this yarn, touching this yarn, my goodness I am so excited I don’t know how I am going to wait until I get the boxes (and the other colours!)!! Thank you thank you my dear Niji Angel!! A stole and a shawl are planned for this yarn, and you’ll get to see the sample (and fingers crossed, the yarn) at iknit day and Ally Pally!

More beans, unspilled….

Whoooowheee!! I am having a ball of a time at the moment. I am planning all sorts of secret little things which are slowly coming to fruition. Two parcels came yesterday, one full of squidgy yummy yarn for a secret knitting project, and another full of – not yarn – for one of a few secret Socktopus projects. I used to make teddy bears – the kind where the arms and legs moved and everything was hand sewn on the face – and creating these socktopus projects gives me the same kind of gleeful slightly hysterical pleasure and enjoyment. As a side note, listening to YKnit’s interview with Cat Bordhi, I found that she too started out making teddy bears! More boxes of secret thingies to come over the next few weeks. hee hee. hee hee hee. ;D

Anyways, today another delight came with the local postie – a big box from my BFF in Ohio – Suze!
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A box full of absolute wonderful yumminess – two packs of Reese’s peanut butter cups – my all time favourite chocolate bar. A book on knitting 2 socks at the same time on circs – perfect as I have tried (and failed) to figure it out on my own, a funky monkey cube, some great little post it notes (with great little sayings like “you make me smile”, “pssst read this”), a photo album of our sock camp shenanigans (thats me on the right and Suze on the left, both of us holding Pig War Martinis), Monkey poo choccies, some stickers, and boy oh boy, the bumper crop of Yarn. Gorgeous gorgeous yarn.

Here’re more photos of the yarn:

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Hazel Knits (I am in LOVE with this yarn. Beautiful, solid squishy yarn. Saturated like Wollmeise, thick and squidgy like Blue Moon). And then Knitted to A T, sock yarn in happy sunset colours.

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And some beautiful laceweight in my absolute favourite greens, more Knited to a T BFL, and Claudia handpainted socks (base like Louet Gems). Lovely jubbly! Thank you Suze!!!

A little update on the tomato plant – my little trio of tomatoes are doing well.
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The big one has turned quite red now. It’s very exciting – it’ll almost be a shame to eat it!

Remember DH went on a charity hike (24 peaks in as many hours?). They managed to finish in 23 hours (excluding sleeping time). It looks pretty steep and misty!
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And if you look closely – those little dots of colour are the hikers!!

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Their team raised £6000 for cancer research and placed 8th out of 21 teams. Well done!

How does your garden grow?

Thanks for the lovely comments on the socks! Haha Jane do not despair – sign ups will open for 2009’s sock club very soon…. ;D

And to show that there has been other growth in the family…
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This grew from a little sapling (is that the right word?) from my FIL, it was less than a 10 inches high when we first brought it home. Now look at the strapping boy.

Here is a photo of the tomatoes growing on it from a few days ago – it’s a lot more red now. I’ll take a piccie tomorrow.
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And our housewarming orchid – from Alli 6 months ago. It’s bloomed again!

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I have some lavendar too which I am looking forward to seeing bloom.

Today Deuce had a day out at the Macmillan dog day – he spent his time frantically sniffing, everything. I think he had a good time!