Monday, October 13

Avoiding the cash black hole...

Yes, I was invited down to Ally Pally with a free ticket, but in the end, decided not to go. Lately, I've been sooo busy that I only got as far as looking at train tix some weeks ago (dead cheap if you book early enough). The trains twixt Rugby and London are patchy at best at the weekend, owing to engineering works. Often you can get down there ok, but the return trip involves a coach from Northampton or something. G's been pretty down this week, and I've had my moments, so I decided a sunday trip to Brum was in order. Picked up the Yarn Harlot's "Knitting Rules", which is really, really funny, and lusted over the Rowan Colourscape chunky in House of Fraser - took me a while to spot it, because I was looking for balls and it's not with the balled chunky. It is gorgeous but it's almost £11 for 100g (it's lambswool). I had a look at the pattern book, and a jumper would set me back £66, plus the price of the book. Tempting, but it's too close to xmas now - I need to start thinking about presents for other people, not stuff for me! So, avoiding the cash black-hole that is Ally Pally worked for me, although I couldn't help thinking about it anyway. It's a pity that stand prices are so high at the NEC that big names (Rowan included) now only exhibit in London. But of course, nothing exists in the UK north of the Watford Gap, right?! (snark!)

Consequently, I came away with just one skein of the chunky ( I was floored by the colours, and wanted all of them, but candy pink won over). Well, you have to try it out, don't you?! I mentally justified it - I need some more interesting squares for my fancy yarns afghan, and if I really like the yarn I could always treat myself to a jumper's worth in the new year. I haven't done much more than pet it - being skeined, it needs rewinding before I can do much with it. My brain tells me my sturdy figure doesn't suit chunky yarns, but chunky yarns come in all the best colours! grump!

Whilst we were in town, We visited the Birmingham "back-to-backs", a National Trust property on the corner of Hurst and Inge St and in the middle of Chinatown. For the non-English, a back-to-back house is one that shares its rear wall with another house, ie some look onto the street, and some look onto a courtyard. It was very cheap housing built in Victorian times and eventually condemned in 1911 for being unsanitary (back-to-back means no through-breeze in warm weather). These ones had been left by developers, for some reason, and are the last in Birmingham. These had three rooms, one per floor, accessible with a winding staircase. The "kitchen" in most cases was not much larger than a small cupboard, and mostly consisted of a sink, bucket and shelves, cooking being done on the range. The four outside toilets were shared by fifteen houses, which at one point meant 61 people (approx. 15 per loo!). Originally they were just a plank over a ditch, and were emptied once every six months. Later on, the plank got a hole, and the ditch became a bucket, and night soil men would come once a week to empty them. There was one washhouse for the whole block, so families had their "day" which was often shared with other families. There were lots of rats, house crickets, and bed bugs. Fascinating, and I shall never complain about my small kitchen ever again!

Leeds still had some back-to-backs in 2000, because I stayed in my sister's friend's student digs for her hen night, but these were arranged in terraces, not courtyards, possibly due to the geography of the place - that part of Leeds is a steep hill.

We went on for noodles at Wagamamas, I had a quick peek into the permanent jumble sale that is Primark (why are people so untidy just because it's a bargain shop?) but fled at the sight of the queue. Plus, being a knitter, my conscience tells me there's no way an £8 knitted dress can have made much profit for its maker. Had a quick wander around looking for t-shirts/shirts for G, but he only spotted one he liked, and it was in the wrong size.

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