Category Archives: Eccentrics

Flora Poste’s hat

One of my favorite rainy day films is Cold Comfort Farm. It’s funny, the dialogue is a treat for the ears, and it’s just one of those movies that puts me in a good mood.

In the scenes where Flora Poste (played by Kate Beckinsale) travels to the farm from London, she’s wearing a jaunty cream-colored knit cloche:


This summer Churchmouse Yarns & Tea released a pattern based on this hat and sponsored a knitalong on Ravelry. While I completed the cloche in record time, it took me a few months to photograph the final result:

Flora Poste's hat

Full Ravelry details here.

I purchased the yarn at WEBS this summer, fully intending to select the cream-colored Blue Sky Alpaca Silk, but in hand I felt kind of meh about it. This lovely grapey purple spoke of fall to me, so I went with that instead. The hat’s a little snug–my noggin’s on the large side–but I’ve also had my hair cut since the summer so I’ve got some reduced bulk to fit under there when winter comes. It’s not my warmest cap, but it’s certainly my most elegant knit topper.

September is kicking my butt, thus why I’ve been so quiet. O is slowly easing into middle school, although the transition hasn’t been the smoothest. He’s not a morning person, nor am I, so the 7:15 a.m. bus arrival has been a trial by fire for both of us. Luckily the school is an easy bike ride on the trail, unlike his elementary school, which was a good four miles on the other side of town. O also has a lot more homework, and with my studying for nursing school I’m exhausted by 8 or 9 p.m. Everything has suffered–blogging, housework, keeping up with family and friends–but this week feels a little more settled. Fingers crossed!



An experiment in doing without

This week I decided to give up my car. For the next year, I’m going to do without it and see where it leads.

For years I’ve idly wondered aloud to my husband if we could go from a two-car family to a one-car one. He thought no, and he was probably right. We were living in a town with a deplorable sidewalk situation and a nonexistent biking culture. Getting to the library or the grocery store on a bike was often harrowing.

One of the attractions of our new town is its bike-friendly culture. Still, when we moved here in 2011 I needed the car to drive my son to his school back in our old town. When he got out of school in June and we enrolled him in the local public school, I found I didn’t need my car that much. I had a bike trail to use for grocery shopping and town amenities and two farmstands open year-round within a mile of our home.

A couple weeks ago we found out our beloved Subaru Outback was in worse shape than we thought, $1800 in repairs we needed right away, then $2,000 more in the spring to fix an ongoing emissions problem. The debate became Do we sink major bucks into a 12-year-old car or go out and buy a new (used) car?

That’s a lot of money to sink into an old car, even if it is otherwise in great shape. As for car shopping, I’d rather get a root canal than go car shopping. I’m not exaggerating. I hate almost everything about the experience — the slick salespeople trying to sell me more than I want, the amount of research that we have to put into it (my husband won’t buy a box of toothpicks without doing extensive research on the benefits/drawbacks of flat-end versus round) and the weeks of rigmarole and drama of car-buying in general. If you get a used car, you inherit the past owner’s headaches. When my husband had to buy a car last year, he spent weeks looking for a specific model, got it all checked out by his mechanic, and bought it; within two months, he had to sink a couple thousand into it for something that was missed during his mechanic’s inspection. Don’t get me wrong: I love looking at cars and get all ooo-and-ahhh- at a car show. But buying one? Seriously, rev up that dentist’s drill.

So I’ve decided to go without a car until September 30, 2013. The plan is on October 1st I’m going to reduce my insurance on the car to the bare minimum and store it in the garage. With this type of insurance coverage, I can’t drive the car but I don’t have to drop the registration. If I decide in a couple months I just can’t live without a car, I can put the regular coverage back on, and get it fixed or sell it/buy a new car. I was just too unsure of dropping the insurance and registration, and right now I’m not ready to sell it. If things work out really well with my plan, maybe I will drop the insurance/registration, but baby steps right now.

It’s not like I’m going to be completely car-less. I’ll bike or walk during the week, and if I need a car, I can take my husband’s on the weekends. Or if there’s a day where I absolutely need a car, I can drive him to the commuter station. If I need to pick up Oliver from school during the week, I can call a cab. If I need to get into the city, it’s no big deal: we’ve got MBTA buses that run twice an hour into Cambridge. For longer trips, like visits to my parents in CT, I can always rent a car.

Even though I’m a bit nervous about this, I’m also excited. Since I dislike spending money on fuel costs and believe Americans waste way too many resources with their oversized cars and SUVs and thoughtless driving patterns, it feels like I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Whenever I’ve been to Europe, I’ve looked with envy at the city squares filled with parked bikes and wished I lived in a community like that, where people bike instead of drive. Why wait for that trend to come to U.S. when I can go for it now? I like the idea of putting physical effort into obtaining a thoughtful list of goods I need rather than passively driving to a mall and filling up my trunk with “stuff.” As I age, the more I need physical activity — not just to keep in shape, but to get my head clear — and I need it most in the winter. A bit of Internet research shows that winter biking isn’t all that uncommon, especially around here. On especially wicked cold days, I’ll stay home, just as I do when I have a car. 😉 Lastly, we’ll save a considerable amount of money as a result of this experiment. If I can go without a car for a year, maybe I’ll decide I don’t really  need one. But if the experiment feels like it has to end, I’ll have saved enough money to pay cash for the car I really want — a Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, or some other tiny car with a great safety rating and good gas mileage.

Any advice to share? I’m all ears! (Speaking of which, I’m researching lightweight balaclavas I can wear under my helmet to keep my ears from freezing off.)



Stop me if you think you’ve seen this before

My friend Jenna sent me the link to this film over the weekend. Being the huge Smiths fan, I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never seen this homage to Morrissey till now … and indeed, while watching it, I had the weirdest feeling that it was a joke (“that joke isn’t funny anymore”) because Morrissey — MORRISSEY — wouldn’t sanction something so self-congratulatory, would he? But it looks like he has, and despite its worshipful tone, it’s a pretty good watch.

Three things I didn’t know till I saw this film:

1. Morrissey has relocated to LA.

2. He’s friends with Nancy Sinatra.

3. JK Rowling is a huge Smiths fan. (Hey, on that last one, you’ll have to forgive … I’ve yet to read a Harry Potter novel and I guess she thanks the Smiths in her acknowledgments.)

The one really bad thing about this film? Bono a/k/a the tiny windbag. I’ll never forgive the New York Times for letting Bono loose in their editorial pages. The New York Times should promise never to sing Sunday Bloody Sunday, and Bono should promise never to pen editorials.

That is all. Enjoy!

Is it eccentricity that unites Britons?

Yesterday I received notice from British bank First Direct of an amusing survey they’d done of 1,000 Britons that claims one in 10 Brits is an “eccentric” — that is, a person who’s creative, individualistic, and free-spirited — and that more than 32 million Brits exhibit eccentric traits. Famous Britons they deemed eccentric include Boris Johnson (the Mayor of London, above), Stephen Fry (actor/author), Vivienne Westwood (fashion designer), Boy George, Russell Brand, and the Osbournes.

I do tend to think of the British as being more eccentric than Americans; I assume it’s because the long-standing English class system encouraged the (mostly) upper-classes to develop charmingly bizarre personal habits that had to be tolerated by the classes below them. I can’t think of many American eccentrics, maybe because we tend to label anyone who marches to the beat of a different drummer as OCD or simply crazy. I came up with Andy Warhol, Hunter Thompson, J.D. Salinger, Julia Child, Michael Jackson, Pee Wee Herman, and Tim Burton, the latter who now lives in Britain, so go figure. I couldn’t think of one American fashion designer or figure who could be called eccentric, but the UK has (or had) Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Isabella Blow. Even Anna Wintour is a little “off.”

This trait is probably why I’m so fond of the British. What about you?