1. The crochet
The more I look at them, the more I like and appreciate old-fashioned crocheted 'granny square' blankets. It seems they appear everywhere these days - I even spotted one in a scene in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (no doubt an acrylic number as the film was made in1964). This could be because I'm noticing them for the first time or maybe because people becoming far less apologetic about the wonderful mismatches of fibre colour and displaying their previously hidden gems now that crochet is out of the closet once more. I found these great vintage blankets on eBay when I went in search of inspiration and confidence. Because that's what they are really all about: confidence to crochet as you please and to use up yarn, and not to fit in with others' ideas of what constitutes good taste and grown-up colour schemes.
2. The inspirational book
This talk of colour and confidence brings me neatly onto the next good thing which is Color by Kristin Nicholas. Now this, too, is really about confidence, and seems to me to contain enough material for two or three books which makes it amazing value. It's about colour, design and the joy of knitting, and I found goodness knows how many great ideas and inspirations in here - and that's without even looking at the patterns themselves.
3. The vintage film
As I am very much aware of my own vintage status at the moment, when I discovered Hell is a City, a film made on location in Manchester in 1959, I knew I would be watching a little bit of my own history. And, sure enough, the film is packed with the Manchester landmarks of my childhood (and a number of unplaceable 'Manchester' accents). Great stuff. (It also led me to the fascinating and painstakingly researched website I have linked to - just one example of how the internet is so brilliant for sharing esoteric information. Without George Nixon's meticulous research, I would never have known that a house I walked past many a time as a child is a location in the film.)
4. The unironic CD
So while I buying the Dolly CD (see yesterday's post), I thought I might as well have a look at the Johnny Cash offerings. I grew up thinking Johnny Cash was all about 'A Boy Named Sue', the 1970s 'Man in Black' and bad TV shows, but in the last couple of years - mainly via the Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio shows - I have come to realise that there was/is a much greater significance to Johnny Cash than I'd previously suspected. This was underscored by Walk the Line (even though I had to fast-forward the druggy bits, just as I had with Ray, because they make me feel quite ill) which was a revelation. This means I can alternate ironic but brilliant Dolly with the unironic and similarly brilliant Johnny, and really go country in the car.
5. The history
My natural inclinations and interests tend towards the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but having gone to university in one of the most beautiful Georgian cities in England and having lived in various beautifully proportioned, high-ceilinged, sash-windowed houses with original heating (ie none), I am nevertheless drawn to the eighteenth century as a period of transition and taste. Amanda Vickery is an entertaining and readable historian with a genuine and highly engaging enthusiasm for domestic life (she also wrote and presented a wonderful Radio 4 series). Behind Closed Doors is an illuminating study of Georgian home life, with a particularly interesting chapter on 'What Women Made' which takes a new (and sensible) approach to understanding women's crafts and domestic accomplishments at that time.
and one for good luck: the genius
To mark his 75th birthday, BBC Four is having an Alan Bennett fest this week. His work ages beautifully, or maybe it just doesn't age at all, and is still as fresh, funny and moving as it ever was. What a treat to be able to watch and listen to a cornucopia of marvellously crafted plays, talks and monologues.