Category Archives: Military

A trip to Bath

Next month we’ll be hanging a left for our Mt. Washington climb!

Bath City Hall

I just noticed the sticker on this Subaru Outback!

Beautiful ghost sign on the side of this building

This sign reminded me of what signs used to look like when I was a child in the 70s.

Botanica Mittens, unblocked

Last week while my boys were in Houston — Texas in August? No thanks! — I took a short break and drove about three hours north to Bath, Maine. Bath is home to Bath Iron Works, a shipyard that builds battleships, cruisers, and destroyers for the U.S. Navy. What I didn’t know is that Bath is where the first boat the colonists built to make a return trip to England.

But I’ll be honest … I wasn’t in Bath to look at ships or 19th century architecture. I was there for Halcyon Yarn. I’ve always wanted to visit and it was well worth the trip. What I loved about it was while it was a large shop — they have not only handknitting yarn, but plentiful rug, weaving, and spinning departments — it wasn’t totally overwhelming like WEBS in Northampton can be. (My #1 piece of advice to knitters visiting WEBS for the first time … shop off a list or know what projects you’re buying for, otherwise you’ll wander around like a art-sick tourist in Florence. That’s Florence, Italy, not nearby Florence, Massachusetts.)

What I also liked about Halcyon is that the women working there were very helpful and kind. After I made my big yarn purchase (to be revealed in a future post), I needed a tea break so one of the women spent some time pointing out nearby cafes and other places I should visit. Fortified by a pleasant walk and a cup of very hot chai that wasn’t really appropriate given that it was in the mid-80s that day, I returned to the shop for Round Two, where I purchased some yarn I’d been thinking about during my ambles. It was at this time a sample pair of mittens caught my attention — I liked the colors and the picot edging — so I bought the pattern and the minute I got home, commenced knitting.

Two nights later, I had my own pair of Botanica Two-Way Mittens, which look very preppy in green and pinks. The mitten on the right was knitted by following the instructions exactly, by creating the picot edge in the round, which I found rather fussy. So with mitten #2 on the left, I knit the mitten flat until the picot edging was complete, then joined the yarn to knit the rest of the mitten in the round. I also knit this mitten on DPNs. I normally knit in the round on two circulars, but I do have to admit my stranding looks better when I use DPNs. This picture was taken before blocking; after blocking my stitches look so much neater.

I’ll post some pictures of my yarn haul in another post. I told my husband I hemmed and hawed about driving to Maine by myself — I worried about leaving our geriatric cat alone, worried about the car breaking down, worried about…what a wuss I’ve become! — then finally decided to heck with it! I’m going! And I’m glad I did. It was a wonderful visit. Next time, however, I’m bringing my boys with me. They can look at ships while I entertain myself with more yarn. 🙂

Thistle stole

DSCN6916

thistle_stole_1

(Photos posted with kind permission of Mary Scott Huff)

Like most knitters on Ravelry, I am constantly adding patterns to my queue. The problem is there’s not enough time in the world to knit everything I would like to knit.

But now and then, a pattern comes along that stops me in my tracks, and I tell myself, “I must knit that NOW. If I get to my deathbed without having knit that, I will enter the afterlife with a very unhappy soul.”

Thistle by Mary Scott Huff is one of those soul-stirring patterns for me.

Huff is one of my favorite knitting designers, so it’s not really a surprise that I fell in love with this gorgeous stole. She specializes in colorwork, and her patterns are stunning. I’m pretty sure the pattern for Wedding Belle in her book The New Stranded Colorwork got me back into knitting.

What I love about the stole of all stoles: obviously the colors–the bright green edging, the multi-shades of purple. But that it has thistles, the national flower of Scotland, made it irresistible to my Anglophile sensibilities.

Huff writes in the pattern headnotes, “Legend has it that during the King Haakon’s Viking invasion of Scotland, the Norsemen tried to surprise the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to move more stealthily under the cover of darkness, the invaders removed their footwear. As they crept barefoot, they came across an area of ground covered in thistles and one of Haakon’s men unfortunately stood on one. Shrieking out in pain, he alerted the Clansmen to the advancing enemy. The Scots then defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Largs, saving Scotland from invasion. The important role the thistle played was recognized, and it was chosen as Scotland’s national emblem.”

And while I’m not a huge fan of tassels, here they work. My stole shall have tassels, too.

I have to wait until January to begin this project as I have so much holiday knitting/sewing to plow through in December. I’ve sent my mother a picture of the pattern, and I’m sure I’ll be getting a gift certificate for yarn in return. My mother is such an enabler; I, on the other hand, encourage her! 😉 Meanwhile, I continue knitting up my Christmas gift list of cowls, boot socks, and hot water bottle covers and dream of Thistle.

English king’s remains found

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays is Richard III. One of the few lines of Shakespearean drama I can remember years after college is the king’s dying cry on Bosworth Field: “A horse, A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

Scholars have long searched for this medieval king’s remains, and today the University of Leicester, along with the Richard III Society and the Leicester City Council announced that remains excavated from underneath a city parking lot are indeed the remains of the last English king killed in battle. Mitochondrial DNA from the skeleton was matched to a Canadian man who is a direct descendant of Richard III’s sister, Anne of York.

The video above explains how the remains were discovered. A friary once stood in place of the city parking lot. The king’s body was rumored to be buried in the choir area of the church. Since researchers knew the geography of the former church, once they started digging and found location markers, they were able to figure out where the choir would be. Luckily, the rumors were accurate! One thing I’ve never thought about is how often archaeological remains are found and we never know much about the person they once were. In this case — what a story!

My long-lost Scottish grandfather

Before O was born I got sucked into researching my family, thanks to my mother, who used to spend her weekends researching our Norwegian ancestors at the LDS library near her home in Connecticut. Since my mother’s side of the family was covered, I thought it would be interesting to find out more about my father’s family. When I was in my early teens, my paternal grandmother shared many stories about her childhood, replete with servants and one nanny whom she adored. She had some framed photographs of my great-grandmother, a beautiful blonde-haired society girl named Lulu. One of the photos was of Lulu’s enormous wedding party, dressed in their Edwardian finery. It was definitely not a budget affair.

While certainly not poor when I knew her, my grandmother wasn’t living with servants like she did as a child, so once I asked what happened to all the money. The distant look in her face faded away and she said, “My father lost it all.” She seemed annoyed by my question, so I dropped it. Knowing that my grandmother was born in 1918, I assumed the family fortune disappeared in the Market Crash of 1929. Further questioning on my part was fruitless. No one in the family wanted to talk about my grandmother’s father; my own father knew very little and, in fact, had never met him. All he could offer was that his grandfather had died “downstate.” My father is a Vermonter, so anything south of him is “downstate,” including Brattleboro, the Everglades, and South America.

I got a few more clues from my great aunt and great uncle in the late 1990s. My great-grandfather’s name was John “Jack” Forrest and he’d worked as an executive for Remington Typewriter. That was enough to get me started. I eventually found out his full name was John Prescott Forrest, and he was the youngest child of a prominent Canadian minister and scholar, the Reverend John Forrest. Rev. Forrest was president of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he served until shortly before his death in 1920. His wife, Annie Prescott Duff, had come from an equally prominent Canadian family; her father, William Duff, was a Scottish-born Presbyterian minister like her husband.

The only thing I knew about Reverend Forrest’s parentage was that his father, Alexander Forrest, was an M.D./surgeon and Scottish immigrant. Back in the late 1990s and early 00s, I spent hours scouring microfiche and computer screens at the New England Historic Genealogical Society searching for info on Dr. Forrest, but to no avail. The older members of my family were interested in my research and gave me as many clues as they could, but eventually I had to put the research aside and focus on other projects — one being the birth of my son in 2001. Since then, my great aunt and great uncle passed away, taking with them any last clues. Or so I thought …

Fast forward to last week. Every now and then I type my gr-gr-grandfather’s name into Google to see what pops up. I was surprised when one of the top hits was a blog that had mentioned his name. My mouth just about dropped open when I started reading the blog and figured out that one of my cousins, C–, had gotten into genealogy and done an enormous amount of research on the family. I quickly added a comment to one of the blog posts and within minutes he e-mailed me.

If you’re at all interested in the Forrest family of Halifax, Nova Scotia, I urge you to check out C–‘s well-researched blog — I don’t want to repeat what he’s written there. Today I just want to talk about my gr-gr-gr-grandfather Alexander Forrest, the Scottish surgeon.

Dr. Alexander Forrest, 1870, courtesy of CThomas

Dr. Alexander Forrest, 1870, courtesy of CThomas

Some months ago I blogged about a movie called Burke and Hare starring Simon Pegg, a film based on the true story of two Irish graverobbers who murdered and sold their victims’ bodies to the medical school at the University of Edinburgh. (Cadavers were hard for doctors to obtain, so they often relied on unscrupulous sorts to get them the bodies they needed for dissection and study.) I speculated that Dr. Forrest was probably studying medicine in Scotland about the time of the West Port murders, although I suspected he studied in Glasgow. C’s research confirmed that Dr. Forrest studied medicine at the University of Glasgow from 1823 to 1825. However, he then went on to study at the University of Edinburgh in 1826, and obtained  his medical license from the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh in December of 1827, the same year Burke and Hare started selling bodies to the University. Yikes, I was closer than I thought!

Dr. Forrest opened a private practice soon after graduation, and also served in the Royal Navy, before marrying my gr-gr-gr-grandmother Barbara Ross McKenzie (a Highlander!) and leaving Scotland for Nova Scotia around 1832.

It’s fascinating to learn that my ancestors played parts in history. Now I have a (tenuous!) family connection to an unsavory crime that led to the 1832 Anatomy Act in Britain, which provided legal access to human cadavers for medical study. I have family who fought in the Revolutionary War, others who were chased out of Boston for being British sympathizers, a gr-gr-grandfather shot and killed by Irish nationalists, a cousin who was the American ambassador to Germany shortly before Hitler grabbed power (letters reveal he was not impressed with Adolf), and a gr-grandfather who was friends with Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

The stuff you find out just by digging around! I’m so happy to learn more about my Scottish ancestry, since I already know quite a bit about my British, Irish, and Scandinavian family. How about your family? Any historic connections or wild factoids?

 

Queuing up

My mother called yesterday wondering if I’d like a gift certificate for Christmas so I could buy more yarn. Normally, my heart rate quickens at the promise of such a gift. But I heard myself telling her, “You know what, Mom? I have plenty of yarn, so no thank you, not this year.”

I explained to her that I have so much yarn packed in a glass-fronted bookshelf that I have trouble matching skeins to projects. I’ve found that I like knitting with a plan. For the rest of the year, as well as into 2013, I’m going to make a list of projects, prioritize them, and hopefully by the end of next year I’ll have piles of knitwear instead of bookshelves full of wool.

My stash is quite modest by most knitting standards; still, I get antsy and ADD when I have a lot of wool staring me in the face. I find I’m less tolerant of “stuff” these days … it ties into the rampant consumerism that bothers me. OK, it’s just wool and it’s useful, but I do I really need more than I could ever knit in my lifetime? It bugs me when I pull out a couple skeins, knowing that I’d earmarked them for a specific project, but time and the allure of new projects have me completely befuddled what exactly those skeins were for.

So here are my knitting goals for the rest of 2012:

* Finish the projects I have on my needles, including a Simplest pullover, pair of socks, and another Gaptastic cowl.

* Knit a balaclava for biking from stash.

* Knit Thorpe hat from Rowan Colourscape Chunky just purchased from Wild and Woolly in Lexington.

* Knit another pair of Toasty fingerless gloves for biking in CEL Portland Tweed in stash.

* Knit Norwegian stockings from Folk Socks (yarn purchased at WEBS in September).

* If I have time (LOL) maybe knit a new pair of felted French Press Slippers.

I’m sure I’ll add more to this list, but for now this gives me some direction.

My brother Matt is heading over to pick up his truck so he can head down to NY/NJ to help with the storm cleanup. He told me this morning he was in Rockaway last weekend and it looked like a war zone. He does not use those words lightly since he’s actually fought in Iraq and Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine. Anyway, it will be nice to see him, if only for an hour or so, since he’s been so busy with school this semester.

And tomorrow morning, my husband, son and I will catch the early showing of Skyfall — only $6! — as our birthday presents to each other. We all happen to have birthdays in a three-week period so this will be a fun way to celebrate. O is excited because it’ll be the first time he gets to go a PG-13 film, woo-hoo! Then Monday there’s no school because of Veterans Day, so we’ll be thinking of all the men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend our great country.

What are you doing this weekend? Have you seen Skyfall yet? What did you think?

 

Retro video and photos

I spent a good amount of time this morning poring over the photos and videos posted at How to be a Retronaut, which is sort of like a web-based time machine powered by a database of video, photos, documents, recordings, and more. My favorites are the color film of London shot by cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene in 1927. There’s a brief shot of the women bending down to leave flowers at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, which brought me to tears as I was reminded that WWI was only a few short years behind them and their grief was probably cold and fresh. We also know that in just a few years, London would be under raid by the Germans.

Then there are the high definition photos taken around London in the late 40s (love the signage!) And, of course, this opening sequence (above) from “The Prisoner,” filmed in the mid-60s. You’d never see a long opening sequence like this in a television show today! Another series worth checking out are the color photos taken in Paris during the occupation by the Germans. In many ways, Paris looks the same to me today than it did then, except for the fashion and cars (and Nazi soldiers, of course.)

The King’s Speech

I’ve been checking our local movie times incessantly, hoping that at some point The King’s Speech will play around here. It was released last week in some of the major U.S. film markets — I guess suburban Boston isn’t one of them! —  and I’m chomping at the bit to see it. It has everything I love in a film: history (specifically English history), ’30s and ’40s fashion, drama/angst, the abdication crisis, a backdrop against WWII (yes, I’m fascinated with WWII history), and Colin Firth to top it all off. For those of you who haven’t watched the trailer yet or haven’t heard about the film, it’s about King George VI’s — the current Queen’s father —  private battle to eliminate his stammer and the crisis he faced when forced to take over the crown from his American divorcee-loving older brother.

Jennifer Ehle is also in the film. She played Elizabeth Bennett in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, which co-starred Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. This Mr. Darcy:

(Ok, cool down, Di.) And Guy Pearce, another hottie, plays King Edward VIII. A much improved version of the runaway king, I say.

So many other things to look forward to  … there’s Helena Bonham-Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Derek Jacobi, scenes of London … arrgh, I can’t wait! Have you seen The King’s Speech? What did you think?

Prince Harry in racist row

Oh dear. It looks like the royal princes’ new office has its first meaty assignment. If you haven’t heard, on Saturday the British tabloid News of the World released a video, purportedly made by Prince Harry in 2006, where he refers to a colleague as “our little Paki friend,” laughed at another colleague for looking like a “raghead,” pretended he was talking to his Granny back at the Palace, and then answered a very indelicate question about the color of his manscaping. The Prince apologized over the weekend through St. James Palace (that’s where his new office is located), saying that he regretted using racist terms, but that they were said without malice. (For American readers who haven’t figured this out, calling someone from Pakistan a “paki” is an offensive racial slur along the lines of “polock,” “wop,” or “jap.”)

The British media is having a field day with this story. The Ministry of Defense is opening a formal inquiry into the Prince’s behavior. Some critics are asking that the Prince be thrown out of the military. Still others worry if this incident will damage relations with Islamic groups in the UK. Prince Harry seems to have inherited the gift of gab from his grandpa, so I can see why the public has latched onto this story.

Given that Harry’s a senior member of the royal family, as well as an officer in the military, it was a big mistake for him to use such derogatory language, even in jest. On top of all this, you’d think he’d be extra careful, given his prior capers with cannabis, Nazi dress-up games, and paparazzi punching sprees.

On the other hand, I’m glad Prince Harry is doing something useful with his life by serving in the military. He could be sitting around St. James Palace all day sucking on his bong, then taking the nights off to club with his South African girlfriend. Instead, it looks like he’s dedicated to his career, and yeah, he used language that’s offensive to civilians, but he’s in the military, where it’s common for soldiers to refer to each other with slurs that cause polite society to cringe. You go after Prince Harry, you go after a whole military culture, and how many soldiers or military officers would escape scrutiny unscathed?

What do you think? Should the military throw the book at Harry? Is an apology enough? Or is this a lot of something about nothing? Add your comments below.