Thursday, 31 October 2013

Day Zero Project: Research Options for an MA

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been in some form of education since I was four and a half years old. I think that the thought of not studying something kind of worries me. I’m never totally sure what I should be doing if I don’t have some sort of homework that I should be working on.

I always joked that I’d quite like to get a Ph.D. though it never used to be totally serious. I didn’t have any idea what I might possibly get a doctorate in. And then I started studying linguistics during my third OU course and suddenly I found something that I could actually love and take further.

So I’ve pretty much decided that I’d like to do an M.A., it seems like the next logical step after getting my second degree, and maybe it’ll be a stepping stone towards getting that Ph.D. that I always fancied.

I would love to do my M.A. with the Open University, since they’ve enabled me to have a life beyond just being a student (which is all that I could be when I was at ‘brick university’) but I’d also really like to do a Masters in some form of linguistics which isn’t an option on its own. Of course, regardless of who I do it with, I’ll need time to get money saved up for it because it’s too many points to get funded by the Scottish Government, so perhaps when I finally am ready to go for it I might get lucky and I’ll be able to continue to study with the OU.

From OU site.
What I have found through the OU is an M.A. in Education with Applied Linguistics. Which I think might work out well for me because it would tie together my two degrees; Education and English Language and Literature.

Of course, if I find somewhere else that'll let me just study Linguistics on its own then I would be very tempted to go for that. Either way I’ll need to save up for it, so I’m already planning a series of courses for an Open Degree to do in the meantime. I’m thinking it’ll be made up of language courses (like Latin) and social sciences courses, which I can put to good use if I do go on to study linguistics further.

As you can see, it is something that I’ve put a bit of thought into, but I’m hesitant to start looking too hard because by the time I do get to do it, there’s a strong chance that things will have changed. It’s definitely something that I’m keeping my eye on though. I quite like the idea of collecting degrees, I don’t think I want to stop studying any time soon, even if it would give me more time for knitting and reading. I just don’t know what to do with myself when I don’t have a deadline!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

OU EA300 Children's Literature - TMA01 Word Cloud

I did this with my TMAs during my last course and it's quite interesting to see what shape assignments take. My first TMA this year had two options and I selected the second of the two which involved writing about Little Red Riding Hood.

It was a bit tricky because I wasn't aware that there had been two online tutorials until well after they'd taken place, and wasn't able to get the software to work to listen to the recordings that had been made. Even after switching computers and completely reinstalling Java! So I'm kind of going it alone on my final course. All being well it won't affect my final grade.

I think it's probably a good sign that the largest words are 'Little', 'Red', 'Riding' and 'Hood', considering that a large chunk of the essay was supposed to be about that. 'Version' is probably because I was talking about three different versions of the story.

It's probably a pretty good summary of the essay, but we'll just have to wait for a couple of weeks to see whether my tutor agrees with me!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Book 39 of 2013: Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien

This year during Independent Bookseller’s Week there were several special editions of favourite books created, one of which was J.R.R. Tolkien’s Roverandom. I nipped into my local Indie Bookshop and ordered my copy on the Saturday and it was ready to collect on the Monday (even Amazon would struggle to do that without charging you a small fortune for delivery). It proved to be just the motivation that I needed to get finished with the never-ending Moby Dick and I was soon able to move on to reading a beautiful illustrated version of a Tolkien book I’d never read before.

Roverandom came into being as a story for Tolkien’s sons, after one of his children lost a small toy dog on the beach while they were on holiday. Try as they might, it just couldn’t be found, so console his son, Tolkien created this story about a real dog who was enchanted by a wizard turning him into a toy. After getting left on the beach the dog went on to have adventures on the moon and under the sea before eventually being returning to his true form as a real dog.

It was originally published posthumously in 1998, and this edition includes Tolkien’s own illustrations that he drew for his children to go along with the story. This copy of the book is pocket-sized, it’s a nice neat little size and it’s also not very long so it makes for a nice quick read.

I really loved it. I’ve reached the stage now where I’ve read every one of the Tolkien books that I own and although I have favourites that I return to time after time, it’s nice to find something new that I’ve not read before. The story was lovely and in a way it reminded me of Letters From Father Christmas, I’m guessing that it’s because, like the other book, it is very personal to the Tolkien family (right down to the illustrations, drawn by Tolkien himself).

I think that it would make a perfect bedtime story because it’s not massively long and is divided into separate chapters. There’s also little plays on words and nods to things that grown ups would get but which would go over the heads of children. I think it’s nice to have books that kids and parents can enjoy on different levels.

I also found the introduction at the beginning and the notes at the end really interesting. The introduction gave the backstory and history of the story. It’s not known exactly when it was written but Tolkien’s letters, diaries and children have helped to date it to a fairly definite period of time. The notes at the end are kind of like ‘here’s some things you may have missed’ and makes reference to all sorts of things from Gilbert and Sullivan to other works by Tolkien.

I was quite pleased that I had read the earliest books from The Histories of Middle-earth because I was able to pick out some references to that, as well as a mention of events of The Silmarillion as well. There’s something nice about catching things like that. If I hadn’t known about them I wouldn’t have missed anything in the story (and it would’ve been pointed out to me at the end anyway) but it was nice to feel sort of smug that you were catching bits that other readers might have missed.

It’s also worth mentioning that the pictures are beautiful. They’re pretty simple but they help to set the story. I wish I could draw even half as well as Tolkien could. I love them because they help to show just how detailed Tolkien’s imagined worlds were. I can’t help but pick it up off the bookcase occasionally to take a look through. It’s definitely a book that I’ll read again in the future.

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Herd of Pachyderms - Knitted Elephant Pattern by Sarah Keen

I've been a wee bit quiet on the knitting front recently. Mainly because I have spoilt myself knitting Jean Greenhowe toys, so when I decided to knit the Sarah Keen Elephant pattern I got a bit of a culture shock and I think that slowed me down a bit.

I've wanted a knitted elephant for myself for a while now. I've loved the idea of knitting an elephant and calling him Engelbert for a few years, just like the Tom Paxton song. I like the thought of knitting up little outfits so that he can get dressed up for the royal ball and all that, but it took me a while to find a pattern which called out to me that it could be Engelbert.

When I knit my chickens back in the summer I found that there was rather more making up than I might have been used to in the past. Don't get me wrong, with Jean Greenhowe's patterns there can be a lot of making up, but generally it's little embellishments and added on bits. They're not always totally necessary, and they add to the character of the toy, rather than just being part of it. For example, with Great Uncle Angus MacScarecrow, he would've been perfectly fine with non-tartan trousers and without his bagpipes (hell, I left the bow off the side of his hat and he's just fine), whereas with Sarah Keen's patterns the making up of the chickens included fiddly bits which were essential, like the feet, which I couldn't help but think might have been easier all in one piece.

That didn't put me off my elephants, however, and I am totally thrilled with how they've turned out. They're a bit bigger than I was expecting as well, which makes them wonderfully squishable. I'll get some better photos of them at some point in the future (when it's not all wet and yucky outside) but for now these will do.

I knit all the pieces and finished them up a couple of months ago. I did the three all at the same time on one pair of needles, working the grey bits first, then the pink/purple, then the dark blue. I'm glad I did it that way otherwise I probably would've stopped after the first one. The problem was it left me with so much sewing up at the end.

Part of me thought I should sew up as I went along, like I usually do, but as all the instructions for making up came at the end, it was much easier to put this off too. Of course when I did finally get around to sewing it up I had a bit of fun trying to remember what went with what, which side was which, and so on. Luckily I was able to figure it all out by reading the pattern as well as by feeling for the helpful knots which I'd tied at the very end of the cast off tail (though it took me a while to work out what the knots actually meant, it'd been that long since I'd done them).

Nona & Englebert
The first one to be completed was the grey elephant, who I've named Nona (as in NaNo) because she's not quite perfect but I got her finished which is the main thing. The elephant body is knitted in three separate pieces; front and back (which is just the same bit done twice), then the base. I followed the instructions with Nona and sewed the base on from the outside which wasn't particularly neat. I ended up with a bit of ridge all the way round which doesn't look very neat, but thankfully it's not so obvious now her feet are sewn on.

Engelbert is made with an Arran wool which I discovered I was highly allergic to. I'd get these little blisters all over my hands and fingers, so would have to dose myself up on Piriton before I could do anything with it. For that reason my Engelbert is purely for limited cuddling and mainly display, I dread to think what my face would look like if I slept with him in bed with me!

His eyes were tricky to get in because the dark blue wool was very thick, but the light blue I chose for his eyes was very thin. It took me a while to work out the right number of strands and how many times to wrap them around the knot so that they wouldn't disappear into the knit fabric of the head when I tried to pull them through. I also used a bit of light blue in his tail at the back as well, just to make it look a bit different. It's not terribly noticeable and I kind of wish I'd used a few more strands now.

Engelbert Bum!
The largest of the three elephants is the one I've named Bettina. She's made with this lovely pink and purple variegated wool that I got in a massive 500g ball years ago. It knits up beautifully soft and fleecy, and I stitched her together wrong size out (on purpose) which just adds to the softness. Of course when you're knitting with it, it's like knitted with cheese-wire. The actual thread in the middle of the soft fluffy bits is really hard on your hands. It's been years since I last used it for anything and couldn't think why I'd set it aside for so long, then I started using it and remembered!

She looks a wee bit funny because her base is dark, the front and back are different shades of the pink and purple, but it's an effect that works really well on her head and trunk because that was all knit in the one piece. Plus the wool is very forgiving and hides mistakes very well. Bettina is the best one of the three for cuddling because a) I'm not allergic to her and b) she's massive and squishy.

I'd made these three with the intention of giving two of them away and just keeping Engelbert for myself but then Nona went a bit wrong, so I couldn't give her away and Bettina kind of completes the set of three so at the moment they're just sitting in the living room windowsill at the moment.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Project 52: Weeks 42 & 43 - Relaxing

Normally the BBC have a different theme every week on their site, but I realised part way through this week that either they were giving a double week for the theme Relaxing or two weeks for the theme Fireworks. Now as it's highly unlikely that I'll find enough fireworks to photograph over the next two weeks, I decided to use the theme Relaxing two weeks in a row.

Which is just as well because my first photo is kind of a crappy iPhone photo.

Week 42: Relaxing
That's my little herd of elephants who I finally finished knitting last Sunday. Well, to be exact I finished knitting them a couple of months ago, I was just too lazy to actually get them sewn up. It was just when the scarf I've been working on got to be a bit too much for me that I picked them back up again and set to work on them. It was that or work on my first TMA for my latest (and last - for this degree) OU course. Obviously the crafting won.

They're named (from left to right) Nona, Bettina and Engelbert. Nona was the first to be finished and she appears to be the most relaxed in this picture. I think this kind of shows that I'm relaxing after all that hard work, but also the elephants themselves are fairly relaxed.

They're good to squish as well, particularly Bettina who is all sort of fleecy and soft.

And then this week I fully intended to take a photo of Tara being all funny and relaxed (and upside down) but my in-laws' cat was lying on a footstool being all relaxed and I couldn't resist that sleepy, fluffy face.

Week 43: Relaxing
That's the Kitty-cat who showed up outside the backdoor one day and gradually moved in after her owners moved away. She's not the most friendly of cats but she tolerates attention and is happiest somewhere warm and dry. She has my in-laws wrapped around the tip of her tail and loves to wind Tara up, you can just see from the look in her eyes here that she's plotting something new and wicked.

Next week I will do my best to crack out my good camera and take some interesting shots. Not entirely sure how I'll manage the Fireworks theme though, seeing as Tara hates them and I'm unlikely to go anywhere that has them. This may take some creativity on my part, lets hope I've got some to spare after the first weekend of NaNo!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Day Zero Project: Have A Regular Board Game Night

We’ve got quite a collection of board games in our cupboard upstairs. I’ve always enjoyed playing board games. It used to be a huge part of my Sunday afternoons growing up; lunch would be cleared off the table and Monopoly or Go For Broke or something else and we’d play until I grew bored and wandered off.

We tend to get the board games out when we have a power cut. And we’ve not had one of those for a while. They tend to come around in the winter months when the weather starts getting bad.

When I set this target I had intended that we make time to play a board game about once a week, but that proved to be a bit impractical. I changed it to ‘regularly’ instead and I’ve been a bit flexible about how regularly regular is.

Image from Sir Collectalot.
I’m always on the look out for new board games. Some of our favourites have come from charity shops. One of my favourites cost us a whole 50p and came from a little shop in Tighnabruich. It’s a Sherlock Holmes game, perfect for my major Sherlock Holmes fan of a husband. It comes with a book full of clues and cards with crimes on to solve. You have to travel round the board and visit different places to gather evidence, then read the corresponding clue in the book. Sometimes the clues are red herrings and others will help you, but you have to figure them out first (some of them are a wee bit dated, making reference to things like East Germany).

When I was younger I always loved going to a friend’s house because she had The Game of Life. I was thrilled to find that in a charity shop and insisted that we had to get it. It came with everything we needed except the instruction book, but we were able to find them online. I had great fun introducing Mr Click to that one. We usually wind up playing it sitting in bed on a Saturday morning.

Then there’s Operation. I asked Santa for it several times around the age of seven but he didn’t come through for me until I was nineteen. It’s one of those games that’s better if you’ve got more than two people to play it, so unless Tara develops opposable thumbs we’re going to have to wait until we’ve got at least one other person to play it properly.

Do you have any favourite board games?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Book 38 of 2013: Moby Dick: or, The White Whale by Herman Melville

Last year I read In The Heart Of The Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick  which looked at the events which inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. I needed a book beginning with the letter M for the Summer Challenge in the HTV Reading Challenge and Moby Dick had been on my list of books to read for ages. I figured I could kill a few birds with one stone, plus it seemed like a classic and one of those books you should probably read at some point. Plus it was one of the first books I downloaded onto my new Kindle Fire so it seemed like a good choice.

It really wasn’t.

The basic story of Moby Dick is that a man, who asks the reader to call him Ishmael, joins the crew of a whaling boat led by Captain Ahab who lost a leg to the White Whale which is known as Moby Dick. They set off on a whaling trip to collect spermaceti oil, but also with the intention of killing Moby Dick.

I was imagining an adventure on the high seas, chasing whales and with similar events to those experienced by the men on board the boat the Essex. The fact that this book took me from July 1st to July 17th should give you an idea of just how much I struggled with it, normally I can get through a book this size relatively quickly, but that was not the case this time. I really did not enjoy it at all.

It seemed like an awful lot of time was spent talking about things other than the story. At one point several pages are spent detailing various different sorts of whale, what they look like, where their oil is found and what its general consistency is! There’s also a great deal of detail about the tools that are used, bits of the boat and various other things. An abridged version of this book could easily have been about a quarter of the length of this.

In addition to this they don’t actually catch a whale until halfway through the book (after we’ve learnt all about the different sorts of whales, the different things they use to catch them, etc.) and Moby Dick, the title character, didn’t actually make an appearance until around 10% from the end of the book! It could easily have been called A Bunch of Men Sailing Round on a Boat Not Getting Up to Much!

The book also jumped around in the way that the story was being told, which was kind of jarring. Sometimes it was written in first-person point-of-view, occasionally it jumped to third-person point-of-view, and at one point it actually went into a script format for a chapter. It was quite strange, as though Melville couldn’t decide exactly what sort of story he was going to write. It made it even harder to follow what was going on in between all the technical information that was getting in the way of the story.

On the one hand, I’m glad that I’ve read it, because now I can say that I have. But I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was expecting to.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Project 52: Week 40 - Lines & Week 41 - Shoes

Well! I'm back.

I got kind of annoyed with my blogging app on my phone that wouldn't let me post photos (and sometimes got a bit funny about posting posts without pictures in) so I decided it was easier to take a week off. This week things'll still be a bit sporadic because I've got a TMA that I really should be working on, rather than blogging, so that kind of needs to be my main focus at the moment.

Next week I'll get things back on track though, I promise.

In the meanwhile, here's my photos for Project 52 for the last two weeks (I'm yet to take my photo for this week's theme Resting).

First up, for Week 40, the theme was Lines. I had a bit of a thunk about various things I'd seen with lines on them and was leaning towards taking a photo of the yachts in the harbour, but then didn't get down town so that idea went out the window.

In the end I settled for something else that always makes me think of lines; balls of wool.

I love the way that the wool wraps and overlaps itself and some balls of wool, particularly those which have variegated wool, can look really striking. This is just a plain creamy coloured ball of wool but I think it shows what I mean about the lines.

I was originally planning on cropping this photo to make it look a little bit more interesting, but fiddling around with the contrast and saturation kind of did the trick instead. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, considering what a boring subject I ended up working with!

The following week the theme was Shoes. This was not a problem for me as I have plenty of shoes. I'd planned to take a photo of the shoes all lined up in the front lobby but as they were kind of in a disarray (and not one that would look particularly photogenic) I decided to work with what I had in the back lobby.

Those are my slip on trainers that I trudge around the garden in when I take Tara out first thing in the morning (or when I'm hanging out washing on the line). Even though they're slip-ons I don't bother pulling them onto my heels properly, so I kind of tread down the heels because I'm lazy. The others are obviously my welly boots, which I've been wearing to walk Tara recently because we've had a lot of rain. All of my other footwear lives in the front lobby, my wardrobe or the cupboard upstairs; the back lobby is where convenience footwear lives.

Again, it's not a particularly interesting photo. I did try a couple of different angles before settling on this one because I liked the background being in focus while the foreground wasn't. I didn't have much space to work in (crouched on the floor in the kitchen doorway) so this was about the best I could do.

Hopefully by next week I'll be all caught up with my photo themes so it'll be another two-for-one with Resting and Fireworks. Those'll be some interesting photos to try and catch!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Practically Moved In!

No Internet again today so no Project 52 post again today.

Instead I've been working on clearing some *ahem* junk out of our spare bedroom, the aim being to put an actual bed in there, rather than boxes of stuff we don't actually need.

These boxes include stuff I've never actually gotten around to unpacking since I moved in. It's been over two years now so you'd think I'd have gotten round to it before now.

You obviously don't know me that well!

When I moved from England to Scotland it was almost seven years before I unpacked my final box, and that wasn't until I'd moved into another place (where I stayed for six months and then packed up and moved home again).

This box (which isn't actually pictured because for some reason my iPhone can't upload blog posts with photos in from home, but trust me, it's big enough to fit me in it!) was one of the last ones we packed before we moved in. It held stuff from under the bed, stuff from the windowsills and other bits and pieces I grabbed and threw into bags on the way out the house.

For a while it lived in the corner of our kitchen because it weighed a tonne. Then we moved it up to the spare bedroom where it has stayed for the last two years.

Until today!

Not having looked at that stuff for so long made it quite easy to bin chunks of it or consign others to the charity shop box. I still have a fair bit to find homes for but on the whole I'm pretty pleased with what I've gotten done up there!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Day Out In Ayr

Just a quick post while I'm eating my lunch at Café Lé Monde in Ayr.

We've come across for a day of retail therapy and I've already picked up a lovely warm cardigan for the winter as well as a selection of tops from Primark to replace some of the stained, worn and slightly threadbare ones that I've needed to replace for a while.

Still on the cards is a trip to Game to see about trading in my old DSi console for a 3DS one and a hunt for some crafty supplies.

But now I need to get stuck into my macaroni cheese...

Friday, 11 October 2013


My attempts to get Tara walking nicely to heel are being thwarted by an unexpected complication. Backache!

In fact, it's not just backache, it's shoulderache, armache and neckache all rolled together in one fantastic combination of pain.

It's just started since the training class on Wednesday so I'm guessing the two are connected.

It culminated this morning in my completely giving up walking the dog because I couldn't hold the lead anymore. Tara suddenly lunged towards someone walking towards us and I got a shooting pain down my arm and into my hand.

Needless to say Mr Click is on dog walking duty until I stop hurting.

Any tips for easing back pain beyond taking lots and lots of painkillers?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dog School - How it went

So last night was Tara's first time at the dog training classes. As excited as I was, I was also a bit nervous too because Tara is full of beans and I was worried that she would embarrass me.

Considering it was not only her first time at the training class, surrounded by people she's never met before, not to mention being around more dogs than she's ever seen since we got her, she did really well.

I walked her from my in-laws' house to the Shinty Hut where the training sessions take place in the hopes of tiring her out. I like to think it worked, otherwise I'm sure she would've been one hundred and ten times more excitable!

When I arrived at The Meadows I was met by a bunch of dogs milling around off their leads and kind of panicked. This did not look like any sort of training class.

That's because it wasn't.

That was a group of people who walk their dogs together.

The actual training was inside the hut. And the dogs all stayed on their leads.

We walked round and round and round the hall, practicing various commands and making Tara walk to heel. We worked on sit and stay; the other dogs worked on lie down which Tara wasn't quite ready to do being somewhat distracted but she knows that command so we'll practice it this week.

All in all I was very impressed with how well she did at the class and I already feel more confident walking her.

I'm quite looking forward to next week now.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Dog School

This evening we're taking Tara to training classes and I'm quite looking forward to it.

I'd heard about them a while ago but had received mixed reports from people I knew so hesitated about enrolling Tara. But then a friend at work let me know how good it was and I kind of changed my mind.

Tara's improved in leaps and bounds over the last year. I think it's a combination of her mellowing out with age, hormones settling down since she's been spayed and also us actually training her ourselves.

But there are some habits we're struggling to break her of; jumping up at people is one, walking properly on a lead is another (the halti does the trick but she hates it and is inclined to pull like crazy if it's not on).

So we're going along to the dog training classes to see if we can get her a little more trained.

This could be rather interesting...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

What do you do with unloved books?

On Saturday some people from work organised a table-top sale to raise money for the STV Appeal. I love things like this because it's an easy way to pick up some cheap DVDS and books.

It also proved to be a great opportunity to offload some of my unloved books.

You see, we've started work on turning our spare bedroom into more of a bedroom, as in having an actual bed in there so guests have somewhere to sleep. Right now it's pretty much a bedroom for boxes, some of which haven't even been looked at since we moved in!

I had several boxes of books that I kept on meaning to eBay or post on BookMooch but never seemed to have time to do. Not having Internet access at home except by iPhone means that when you do get online your online time is kind of at a premium, and listing stuff on eBay is so time consuming.

So it seemed like a good excuse to have a clear out and in one go I was able to get rid of two boxes stuffed with books.

And they went pretty well. The guys running the table-top sale bundled a bunch together and the Horrible Histories and Doctor Who books went quite swiftly. Unfortunately my Russian Dictionary remains unloved.

And on the day I was able to pick up two DVDs, plus a box set of Planet of the Apes films, and a couple of Kingdom Hearts games for my DS. A good day all round.

What do you do with your unloved books?

Monday, 7 October 2013

Late Night Chats

Last night, lying in bed, Mr Click started to doze off while we were still chatting.

"Your boob's got bigger," he said, resting his hand on my leg (nowhere near my boob, I might add).

"Why's that?" I replied, slightly discombobulated by the sudden turn of conversation.

The reply was not reassuring.

"To make more room for the warm-up bands."

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Not A Project 52 Post

Normally I get my Project 52 post written and posted while I'm at my in-laws' house but we've stayed home today so my blog posts this week will be a wee bit disorganised. I've got them all written on my laptop, but no Internet connection to upload them.

We've been for a long walk with Tara and got some housework done. Now we're watching Labyrinth and I'm trying to remember which bits are which in the bag of elephant parts.

Unfortunately I have no photos to share of this mess because my phone won't let me upload them. But I'll share my herd of elephants as soon as I'm done.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Film Review: Aladdin

Mr Click’s favourite Disney film is Aladdin and I’ve bought it for him on DVD twice. The first time it wasn’t available in the UK so I had to buy him a copy from the Netherlands, then they released the film in the UK as a box set with the two sequels so I bought it for him a second time. At some point they’ll probably bring it out on blu-ray and I’ll end up having to buy it for him a third time!

When the blu-ray player packed up and we had to buy a new TV to get a modern player working we moved the old TV into the bedroom and pinched my in-laws’ DVD player to hook up in there (we gave them a blu-ray player so it was a fair swap). The first Saturday morning we watched Aladdin in bed and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit glad that we had a TV in there, it’s quite nice to snuggle up in bed with a good film before you get moving for the day.

If you’re not familiar with the film, Aladdin is a ‘street-rat’ living on the streets of Agrabah and stealing to survive. He dreams of bigger things; meanwhile the Princess, Jasmine, dreams of there being more to life than just living in the castle and being married off to some suitor chosen by her father. In true Disney style she wants true love, and so one day runs away from the castle and meets Aladdin. They have a bit of fun in the marketplace before the Palace Guards come and pick Jasmine up and arrest Aladdin.

In the dungeon Jafar finds Aladdin and shows him the way out of the dungeon, leading him into the desert where there is an underground lair full of jewels. Jafer wants Aladdin to bring him a magic lamp, but Aladdin’s monkey grabs a jewel and the lair closes in trapping them underground. This is where Aladdin discovers that rubbing the lamp produces the Genie who gives Aladdin three wishes, the first of which Aladdin kind of gets as a freebie. Genie then turns Aladdin into a Prince allowing him to go after Princess Jasmine, and they’d all live happily ever if it wasn’t for Jafar figuring out Aladdin and throwing a major spanner in the works.

I think that one of the things that helps to really make Aladdin is Robin Williams as the Genie. From what I’ve read he did a lot of improvising during his recordings and it really adds to the comedy factor. I like the little bits and pieces that link to other Disney films; at one point Genie wears a Goofy hat, Sebastian from The Little Mermaid makes an appearance. There are also little nods to other actors and films, like Jack Nicholson as well. I love looking out for things like that, it makes rewatching these films more fun because you know where they’re coming.

Aladdin was also one of the first ones where digital animation was starting to play a more obvious role, which is really visible in a couple of scenes, but it’s not really that distracting when you are expecting it. It’s much the same as the ceiling in the ballroom scene of Beauty and the Beasty.

It’s also nice to have a Disney film which is set outside the fantasy Europe where most Disney Princess films took place up until this point. Being Mr Click’s favourite Disney film we watch it almost as often as my favourite, Beauty and the Beast. I tend to think of them as a bit of a trio along with The Lion King because they were the first Disney films that I was really properly aware of. Plus the music in those three films has to rank way up there with some of the best Disney songs ever written. Mr Click’s favourite is ‘Friend Like Me’ which I do like but I’m more partial to ‘A Whole New World’

So just for Mr Click, here's his favourite song from the film:

Friday, 4 October 2013

Stripy Scarf

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I've been getting well stuck into the scarf I've been working on. I had slowed down somewhat as I needed to order the last two main balls of colour and I didn't want to get to a point where I had to stop and wait for it to arrive. I will still need to get another ball later on, but I'll only need it for four rows so it'll wait for a while yet (and I won't need to get it in a 500g ball of wool like all the others I've been buying).

These photos show the state of the scarf as of Sunday, when it was roughly a third of the way through. I still have to do this much knitting twice more to finish it! It's interesting watching how the colours are changing as I go along. Last week I added my first two rows of yellow to the mix and all being well I'll get some bright red in soon as well.

The bright red is a slight change to the original plan. It was supposed to be orange, but there's a bit of a shortage of the shade of orange I was looking for. As it's a scarf for Mr Click I asked him what he wanted to do and he decided to go for bright red instead. It's working out quite well actually, it means there's three pairs of colours, plus an odd pair (dark blue and light blue; light green and dark green; bright red and dark red; pale yellow and some sort of purple).

I can't wait to see how it's looking after another two weeks!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Day Zero Project: Finish Behind The Scenes

In the summer I was seventeen my best friend came up to visit and ended up spending the whole summer. It was a fantastic summer with the pair of us doing crazy things like trying to walk home from a beach at the north end of the island, spending whole days in our pyjamas watching films, obsessing over Lord of the Rings and also writing.

We’d always had a fairly competitive sort of friendship. Part of the reason why I read The Lord of the Rings (aside from becoming slightly obsessed with the film of The Fellowship of the Ring) was because she had read it and if she could then so could I. One of the first things she did when she arrived was started writing a story. That prompted me to start writing too.

At first I didn’t have a story. I just had an idea of trying to write a car crash without actually describing what was happening. It was just dialogue. Around the time that I started writing it I had a dream about a bunch of people from a film camping out (I’m thinking this was inspired by one of the special features on the Lord of the Rings DVD special features). And I decided to try working that into the car crash story I’d already started.

From there my main character Abby ended up being the only survivor of the car crash and going to live with her uncle, who was a film star. And things started to snowball. Whenever one of us started flagging, my friend and I would kind of swap characters because we realised both stories were taking place in the same bit of Scotland so it made sense that they might run into each other. One of her characters was a theatre director and my character Jack had started out on the stage, so we guessed they might have staying in contact.

When she went home I kind of slowed down on the story a little. After the summer it was back to school and I joined the drama group and didn’t have quite as much time for writing as I’d had over the summer. My poor characters spent a lot of time in limbo; Abby and Keeper must have spent about three months sitting outside a cafe in London. But I finally picked it back up again and realised where I wanted things to go.

And eventually, about nine months after I started it, I finally came to the end. I remember lying in bed at around 1am and writing the final word of the story, ‘Together’ on the 75th handwritten A4 page. It wound up being over 30,000 words long. The longest story I’d written and managed to actually conclude. I was thrilled, although at the time I finished it I had nobody to celebrate ‘The End’ with!

So then it languished in my notepad for quite a while. I typed it up and made a few small changes as I went. I put it into the smallest readable font size and printed it out; it came to around thirty pages (thank goodness we had a laser printer)! But I didn’t really touch it again until I went to University.

I decided that I wanted to rewrite it and maybe extend it a little bit as I had realised that it wasn’t really a novel-length story. I put together a little folder for myself and I started reading through the story making notes on all the characters when I realised that two of them had actually ended up getting together a little bit earlier than I had realised. It was funny to see things that I’d written but hadn’t actually been that conscious of.

Much later I started rewriting it again. I’m using the typed version of the story as a sort of outline for the plot. This time it even has chapters, with the action focusing on four main characters, rather than just one and later two as in the original. I’m currently around chapter ten, which corresponds to page four of the original typed version; oh and what I’ve written out by hand so far is roughly the same as the total handwritten original. It’s definitely going to be a much longer story this time around.

The page 4/chapter 10 thing means that I’ll probably not be finished with it any time soon. It’s slow going, mainly because I just sort of dip in and out of it. Also it’s fast becoming a historical novel as I try to come up with excuses for people not having mobile phones and other useful gadgets. Someday I’ll get it finished though. What happens after that will be anyone’s guess, though, I’ll probably decide it needs rewriting again or something.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Yarn Bombing

Last weekend was a bit busy on Bute, not only were we invaded by Vikings (and there was a Gallery Tour on the Sunday) but there was also a Yarn Bombing event. I'd seen and heard about this several weeks ago and as much as I wanted to get involved with it, I had other knitting commitments and didn't really have the time to devote to knitting random strips of wool as well as working on a scarf and putting off sewing up elephants.

But that didn't stop me from going Yarn Bomb hunting on Sunday, armed with my camera and a rather excitable Labrador, I dragged Mr Click all over town and shamelessly photographed all my favourites.

I was amazed this little guy was still here on Sunday, I was sure someone would've made off with him.
Yarn Bombing basically involves a group of people doing a bunch of knitting, in this case mostly rectangular strips though there were a fair few pom-poms and crocheted embellishments as well, which are then sewn onto various things while no one is around. The result is lots of lampposts and signposts wearing brightly coloured jumpers.

The giant cherry of pom-poms is a stroke of genius.
Some of the pieces of knitting had tags on with things like 'Have a nice day' written on them.
It was really good fun wandering around the town looking for them. I didn't even get to go back to all the ones that I spotted on the Saturday when we were at the Viking invasion. Just when you thought you'd seen them all, you'd spot another one somewhere else.


These ones on the posts remind me of the scarf I'm working on at the moment. So many different colours and stripes!

And my absolute personal favourite thing in town was the pom-pom tree. It's such a brilliant idea. I want one of these in my own garden!


If they ever bring this event back to Bute I think I'd definitely like to get involved!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Book 37 of 2013: The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen

I’ve had The Science Of Discworld on my bookcase for ages, but I held off reading it until I got to the end of the published Discworld series (of course, between starting to read the first of the series and getting to the end of it a couple more books came out which pushed it down my reading list somewhat). Technically it comes somewhere in the middle of the series, but I don’t think I missed out on anything by waiting until the end of the series to read it.

This book is a mix of events taking place within Unseen University, with those chapters written by Terry Pratchett, as the Wizards manage to create ‘Roundworld’ a spherical world inside one of the rooms of the university; and then more scientific chapters written by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen which explain the science behind what is actually happening at each stage of development of ‘Roundworld’ basically explaining the evolution of our Earth.

I really enjoyed the bits set in Unseen University. They saw the Wizards using Hex to create a universe in miniature and then trying to figure out how it can possibly work without magic. It’s fun to see them trying to influence the world and getting annoyed with it when things don’t work the way they expect them to. That said, I don’t think that those chapters on their own would necessarily work as a stand alone story without the scientific stuff to help make sense of what the Wizards are seeing happening. It’s very clever the way that aspects of the book go together to make the whole.

I also found the science stuff very interesting, but some of it did kind of go over my head. Bits of it kind of reminded me of the Horrible Histories books I used to read when I was younger (expect this is what they would’ve been like had they been written for adults). In the beginning I struggled with the physics stuff, but as the world developed into something recognisable to me and it started talking about dinosaurs and evolution I started to feel a little more at home. Though I couldn’t help but think that some of the descriptions could have done with diagrams to illustrate what was being said.

When I first started reading this book I didn’t think I was going to get into it the way I did. In the beginning I kept on looking forward to the Discworld bits because I struggled with some of the scientific bits, but as I went on I got into it more and more. By the end I think I was enjoying the two different texts fairly equally. I’d definitely like to look out for more of the Science of Discworld books (as well as any other books which offer comparisons between Discworld and the real world).