Tiny Dungarees

So I seem to be incapable of cataloguing my creative things during term time, it isn’t that I don’t do creative things in term time (teaching and writing both feel pretty creative to be honest), but somehow cataloguing the things that I’ve made feels like a bridge too far when everything’s that full-on. It’s the Easter break at the moment, and I can work my way through my spring backblog.

tiny dungarees

 

My new year had a number of themes, words, walking, sewing and productivity were some of them and here is the product of two of those not quite resolutions. Behold the first finished Christmas present of 2016. I was feeling pretty good about having got a jump on the present making before I realized we’re already a quarter of the way to Christmas (they say it begins earlier each year). My only excuse for being quite this early is that it takes a lot longer to make things than it does to go out and buy them.

with tiny bows

I’m enjoying making little things for my little relatives. I can afford lovely fabric if I only need a metre of it, and I’m busily practicing my finishing techniques for my next set of sewing machine projects.

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A Hill Poem

Hill Poem

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In this deep mid-winter

Christmas Time

This blog post makes it way to you out of the deepest of Christmas lulls, the space between Christmas and New Year, where time melts until it has the fluidity of a finely matured Camembert (of which we have lots). I have eaten nothing but rum-truffles and items of a cheeseboard for what seems like weeks. I haven’t even made the trifle yet. My mother was swallowed by a jigsaw some days ago and hasn’t been seen since.

The Made Things of Christmas.

Twelve of Nan’s Rum Truffles.

A small-batch iceberg, crafted.

Proud Herne a-hunting.

Carols come in parts now.

Eight sweet chiming-bells.

Sprouting cones a-shining.

A tiny, Aran, jumper.

Lots of booze imbibed,

Three adults plastered,

Two mended-moose

And some fairy-lights in a Bay tree.

Herne

A Sweet Chiming Bell

have a festive sprout

A tiny aran jumper

In all the song and the calm of this Christmas I miss my brother quite a lot. Posting things to Australia is all very well, and I very much enjoy privately live-blogging Christmas to our family What’s-app, but this Christmas feels like a bit of a pause before next Christmas, when I can only imagine South Yorkshire won’t be large enough to contain our collective giddiness at having him and Laura home from their Antipodean adventures.

FLIABT

 

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The resurrected ghost of Christmas presents past.

A while ago, I knit a new jumper for my dad out of yarn which had already been a jumper once already. Getting the yarn back to a state I could knit from was quite a lot of work in itself; I unraveled, raveled again in to skeins, soaked the yarn and left it to hang to straighten out the kinks before winding it all back into balls to knit from. After that, knitting the thing itself took some time. It is not a small jumper. I must have done the whole thing twice over before I was happy with the design and thought it would fit (to make sure it would, I kidnapped a well-loved garment to check the proportions, causing a full scale ‘did I leave it on a train?’ panic, to which I was oblivious).

MFJ

Now that the new jumper is no longer freshly knitted, it requires some attention each year to remain a wearable object and not just a rag to garden in. We’ve pulled it out of its summer hibernation, and I spent some time in late November helping it acclimatize to winter 2015, where it is now very much at home.

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Baby-bears

Twin baby-bears have just arrived to join my extended family. It’s wintry enough that I thought they should probably be Polar Bears. I find knitting for children much more reliably rewarding than knitting for adults, small things just knit up faster and, somehow, ears on hats feel more acceptable for people under ten.

Welcome to the world Jack and Lucy, it’s full of songs and people who are excited to meet you.

baby-bears

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Oh, Hat of Hats


Put your best hat forward

Continuing the theme of knitting myself nice accessories from patterns written by Purl Soho, here’s some sunshine masquerading as a slouchy alpaca Boyfriend Hat (mine is liberated and single, free to go it’s own way). The yarn was handspun I picked up at Leeds Medieval Congress with this pattern in mind and is largely perfect, although the colour’s fading a bit quickly. Perhaps this is because the mordant wasn’t appropriate for the dye used, perhaps I should see its increasingly dip-dyed appearance as a lovely byproduct of using natural materials. Toe-May-Toe/ Toe-Mah-Toe.

wHat's going on over there then?

wHat’s going on over there then?

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The Purl Bee’s Seafaring Scarf

 

IMG_6219 So. I’ve been dwelling in unrequited lust with Purl Soho and their lovely patterns for some time now. Over a year if we are going to be truthful about it; much too long to dwell in any form of unrequited state. I have taken steps, and used some Rowan Tumble from last year’s John Lewis Christmas sale to knit myself an absolutely absurdly lovely scarf. I’m very pleased.

seafairing scarf

modeled by my cello, she’s very good. Stays still.

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Appletime

For all

That struck the earth,

No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,

Went surely to the cider-apple heap

Excerpt, Robert Frost After Apple Picking.

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IMG_6191IMG_6199IMG_6203

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An impromptu postcard from the Mediterranean

“I’m not doing what I should be doing… lets go to Aspendos?”

Cathy looking regal

Cathy looking regal

Thus were the words of Cathie on Thursday afternoon. By Friday afternoon at around the same time we were on a plane to Antalya at the start of four days of sight-seeing, sunbathing and generally re-charging. I need a good re-charge having just returned from a very intense seven weeks on site. I can’t tell you which site, and I can’t tell you anything about my work there due to a government ban on social media this year (hello censorship!). This is obviously all kinds of insane, but there we are. It was good, I learnt a lot, and if you ask me in person I can tell you about it. Otherwise you’ll just have to wait until I publish my results somewhere official – I bet you can hardly wait.

The site we visited yesterday afternoon however, I can tell you about. I’ve been to Perge before, I was there in 2011 with another member of the Kilse Tepe team and I remember being stunned by the preservation, the light and the heat. Different things made an impact this time round, particularly the realization that the colonnaded streets were all riddled with canals and almost certainly crossed by aqueducts and viaducts, a vast honeycomb of marble and cool water. In the late afternoon sun the idea of flowing streams and beautifully lit bath houses was incredibly seductive. I would have given a great deal to see the city in its prime, but even ruined it was awe-inspiring.

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The second thing which struck me in a way it hadn’t before was the nature of the Late Antique population here, and the phasing of the site. There has been a stable population at Perge from the Bronze age, when settlement was centred on the top of the high plateau you can see in the background of some of the images. The Hellenistic settlement had probably mostly migrated to the plain, an enormous gate from this phase of settlement greets you as you enter the site.

By the 1st century AD there was a thriving metropolis here, the remains of which are the most visible aspects of the site. There are however, a number of churches which nominally date to the 6th century AD, one of which is placed smack-bang in the middle of a Roman canal which ran down the centre of the main colonnaded street. I assume this means that this water way at least was no longer functional by the beginning of the Byzantine period. The once gracious avenues are blocked off to make smaller shops and little buildings encroach into the streets built of tile and spolia and re-used Hellenistic blocks. In many ways this is redolent of Sardis, a relatively local site where the Byzantine shops and winding streets took over the roman city, perhaps no less busy, but quite a lot less organized and the start of one of my favourite medieval processes – soukification.

We left at half past six, the sun low on the horizon gilding the stadium which stretched into the distance, almost complete, and in no way adequately captured by my borrowed camera.

photographic proof to come when I’ve got a better internet connection.

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Sunday afternoon at the monastery of St Simeon Stylite the Younger

Sunday was a red letter day. I have studied Byzantine monasticism on and off since I was 20, I wrote my masters thesis on it, focusing on architectural signatures of different types of Byzantine monastery. The early Christian saints are a litany of the strange and unusual, possibly top of the odd list are the stylites (although the medieval transvestite saints come close in terms of being unusual for their time). Stylite monks are a type of ascetic, someone who withdraws from the world in order to better understand God. Usually this meant living in a cell on the fringes of the desert, or as part of a lavratic monastic community – a group of hermits who meet maybe once a week for a service followed by a meal conducted in silence. Stylites chose to retreat from the world upwards; they measure out the length of their days stood on top of pillars.

Simeon_Stylites_stepping_down

The earliest Stylite saint was Simeon Stylites the Elder (5th century AD), whose monastery is still mostly standing just behind the mountain photographed in my last blog post, or rather it was last time anyone checked. As it’s in Syria I’m now very unlikely to get an opportunity to visit it, which made me doubly invested in getting to see its sister monastery, St Simeon the Younger. Simeon the Younger (6th century AD) hopped on the stylite bandwagon and spent his entire life on pillars of various heights. Seeing the monastery was the only thing other than seeing Sera that I really wanted to do while visiting Antakya.  Everything else I had planned to do I could take or leave, but it seemed crazy to go to the area and not make the trek to Simeon’s mad mountain.

Sunday morning was lazy in the way of hardworking career girls, we got up late, ate crumble for breakfast and talked about politics. Sera translated some things while I worked out and read a journal article, consecutively, not simultaneously, I’m not magic. At about two we were ready to set off into the wilderness. A couple of Dolmuş rides later we were at the base of a mountain with a newly paved road signposted to St. Simon. Our remembered instructions said it was about 4k from the base of the mountain to the top, but I’ve followed Rough Guide instructions before and rarely found them accurate, so when a pickup truck with a cabin full of family members offered us a lift we took it gratefully. Roaring around winding mountain roads with the wind in my hair, knees flexed to absorb the roughness of the road and arms braced against the cross beams I felt exultant and strangely safe. Once we’d reached the cross roads where the family were turning off our road they offloaded us into a second car, also full of family, who happily took us as far as they were going and then pointed the way up the last bit of the mountain, now covered in towering windmills, up to the lonely outpost of the monastery.

Photo courtesy of Has Avrat

Photo courtesy of Has Avrat

The monastery of Simeon Stylite the Younger is in the middle of a wind farm, on top of a mountain which looks out over the Mediterranean and over into Syria. As the windmills whirred and groaned, the gathering clouds were occasionally pierced by shafts of sunlight and I wondered somewhat apprehensively what a lightning storm by a power station might be like. We strolled to the top, passing two extremely confused looking men in a shed who clearly looked after the power lines. Reaching the summit, a stern faced man and two enormous dogs told us it was shut ‘for restoration’.

louring clouds over a modern stele.

louring clouds over a modern stele.

Eventually a combination of pretty smiles, appropriate academic humility, apparent complete acceptance of our fate and persistence got us a guided tour, so although it was a little rushed, I got to see the pillar of the stylite saint.

the pillar of St Simeon the Younger

the pillar of St Simeon the Younger

a doorway to blue yonder

a doorway to blue yonder

our guide brushed away a section of dust floor like any other, and beneath was this mosaic which apparently covers all of the interior spaces of the monastery

our guide brushed away a section of dust floor like any other, and beneath was this mosaic which apparently covers all of the interior spaces of the monastery

Our trip down the mountain was swift, if a little terrifying. The previously stern faced site guard, having promised to go slowly, took us down on the back of his motorbike. My heart was in my mouth the entire way as we swooshed round corners with a sheer drop to one side, the newly paved gravel surface of the road heightening my sense of impending doom. He kept to his promise though, and it really was a gentle ride to the bottom of the mountain. I’m relieved to have seen the site before restoration happens, you can never be quite sure what’s going to be added or taken away. The day ended with a fantastic meal in the old quarter of Antakya, perched above a courtyard complete with tinkling fountain, palm tree, orange tree and attentive old fashioned service. An evening of rakı, meze, grilled fish, incredible views and lovely friendship.

chilled fruit in the late evening sunshine

chilled fruit in the late evening sunshine

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