Monthly Archives: November 2011

Great Yarmouth: 5 Fun Things To Do

Great Yarmouth: 5 Fun Things To Do

Great Yarmouth sea front. The elegant but faded Empire Theatre (built in 1908) is flanked by a very modern amusement arcade with 'Leisureland' in neon lights.

1. Walk on the front
Great Yarmouth has clearly been a seaside tourist town for a long time, and the front is a mix of brand new arcades and older buildings. The older buildings include crumbling concrete from the 1960s or ’70s and also some Edwardian or Victorian pleasure palaces.

It’s perhaps more striking in winter, when many of the shops and restaurants are shut and the place has a bleaker, emptier air but it’s probably more fun in the summer when all the attractions are open.

2. Go for a swim
If the sea looks a little brisk, there’s a good indoor pool on the beach with a slide and wave machine. And space for doing lengths, too, if that’s your preference.

View from the 16th hole at Pirates Cove mini-golf of the pond with a replica pirate ship, complete with life-size pirates.

3. Play mini-golf
We played a round on the 18-hole Pirates Cove Adventure Golf course, which was good fun. The holes are well designed and varied. One had a water feature which was a river of blood (well, red colouring) and another starts in a ‘cave’. There are pirates and pirate facts everywhere – the display is impressive.

The second mini-golf course on the front is at the Merrivale Model Village and one entry fee gives you access to both. Unfortunately, it’s shut in winter, so I can only say it looks intriguing from the outside.

4. Eat hot, fresh doughnuts
There’s a small shop on the front which cooks doughnuts fresh to order. Watching them get blobbed out in rings, then travel through the fryer is surprisingly entertaining and freshly cooked doughnuts have a fluffier, lighter texture than shop-bought ones. Delicious – although, again, perhaps better on a frosty winter’s day.

Shop front of More to the Point, a yarn shop. The sign has a picture of some seagulls on it and the window is full of yarn and cross stitch kits

5. Visit the local yarn shops
We checked out two shops on our trip: the Knitters Knook in the Victoria Arcade and More to the Point at 120 King Street. Both shops stock a good selection of core yarns (plenty of DK and baby yarns, some aran, sock and novelty yarns) and More to the Point also has needlecraft and cross stitch kits.

I would love to have these shops as my local yarn shop, but as a visitor and a sock-knitting addict, I didn’t see much that I couldn’t get closer to home. I didn’t find any local wools or indie dyers, for example.

All in all, I really enjoyed my weekend in Great Yarmouth. The atmosphere might change a lot in the summer but I’d definitely go back. The town centre is a short, level walk from the beach, and both the promenade and the town centre are flat with good pavements so it’s easy to get around – and next time I’d like to go swimming in the sea!

Commuting to Narnia

Commuting to Narnia

Two rows of big, old trees twine branches over a path scattered with fallen leaves.

Cambridge is pretty and it’s been pretty for a long time. It’s not a city which has to work at it any more. Walking around London, say, or Sheffield then bright, lovely spots interrupt a grey day or a dull, concrete vista like fireworks.

You don’t get that in Cambridge. The city has been carefully curated, to the point where it seems perverse to look for the beauty in a trashcan when the river or the colleges are right in front of you.

On the other hand, it’s great if you are a lazy photographer as you’ll find entrancing spots without having to wander. This avenue of trees is on Jesus Green, near the river, is one of my favourite spots – and it was part of my daily commute for several months.

I love cycling through this tunnel. I think it looks like a pathway to Narnia, perhaps because of the tall black lampposts which line the path, and I get such a thrill cycling through it on a bright, windy day.

Is it exotic where you are?

Is it exotic where you are?

Waves break on a sandy beach under a blue sky. Beach at Great Yarmouth.

Nowhere in Britain is more than 70 miles from the sea but in all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never lived by the coast. Every now and then, I like to go and check on the sea, to see if it’s still there, see if anything changed. It never does, really.

I also like going on holiday near the sea.

Most of my friends don’t really get that. They also don’t get going on holiday in the UK – holidays are for going somewhere exotic.

But I find the sea exotic. The sea, for me, is the dictionary definition of exotic being both foreign and out of my ordinary. I grew up in a valley in a land-locked country. The horizon is exotic when you grow up in a bowl.

So I like to go look at it, to try and figure this strange thing out.

Waves break on a sandy beach at sunset while a man with his back to the camera watches. Beach in Dorset.

It’s different in summer and winter, sort of. It’s different in the Caribbean and in Norfolk, sort of.

It’s probably really very different if you actually get out on it and sail around far enough that you get out of sight of land. But I haven’t done that yet. I imagine it’s like the difference between looking at a mountain and actually walking up on one.

I find the word exotic an odd one. It trips me up because to know if something is exotic you first have to know (or assume) that your listener is from or at least thinking from the same country as you and is also used to similar things.

On holiday in Tobago, which is in the Caribbean and not mainland Britain, K and I thought fresh pineapple for breakfast was exotic. Sliced bananas? Nah. Not exotic. Of course, as far as Tobagoans are concerned, neither is exotic: they’re both really common. But when your head is attuned to a drizzly English September, it’s easy to forget that your body has moved far enough that your language doesn’t fit any more.

Power of Making – one knitter’s review

Power of Making – one knitter’s review

The V&A is always amazing, and the Power of Making exhibition is no exception. It’s packed with creative and startling makes in a wide range of fields from traditional leather shoes to self-replicating 3D printers.

Of course there are textiles involved, and as a knitter I’m always drawn to handmade fabrics and garments. There were two pieces which particularly captured my attention but the V&A asked that visitors didn’t take photographs, so I’m going to have to give you a word-picture instead.

The Bear
Almost as tall as I am (which is six foot), the brown bear looks like something out of a natural history museum. Reared up on its hind legs in the classic pose, it’s incredibly detailed and real-looking – and made entirely of crochet. (See other examples of creator Shauna Richardson’s work.)

The Rug
Knit on giant needles (labelled 27, although I don’t think that meant mm) the swatch shows a traditional aran diamond pattern in giant scale. Knit in a grey wool yarn, it was displayed still on the needles.

As you might be able to guess, I was amazed by the bear. It’s not fully lifelike in a photo-realistic sense, but it is a very impressive piece nonetheless. As a knitter, I’m aware of how many hours of work must have gone into creating it. It’s stitched in quite a fine, fuzzy yarn which – trust me – can be a total pain to work with. And there are probably hundreds of thousands of stitches.

Simply creating a piece of fabric the size of a bearskin could easily have taken hundreds hours, maybe a thousand or more* so the amount of work is impressive before you consider the creativity, the careful shaping and moulding required to create the face and limbs, to give the bear that lifelike saggy belly and furry legs.

And the crochet is just the bear’s skin. It’s supported by a skeleton of some sort (I couldn’t tell you what though) bulked out by something (again, no idea what) to give the bear its form.

On the other hand, you’ve got a giant swatch.

I doubt that knitting on giant (which seems to mean 25mm plus) needles was new when I first discovered it five years ago, and it’s physically harder work but not hard, so I was surprised to see the rug displayed as an innovative make now.

I would have preferred to see the Coat for a Boat or Althea Crome’s miniature knitting as both are beautiful makes in and of themselves, as well as showing one thing knitting can do when it’s pushed to its limit.

A fascinating exhibition
Giant swatches aside, the Power of Making is well worth a visit. It runs until 2 January 2012 and is free to enter.

We visited on a Sunday afternoon, at which point the gallery was so crowded that it was difficult to visit all the exhibits and accessibility for anyone with mobility problems or other troubles with crowds would have been an issue.

The exhibition has been put together in conjunction with the Craft Council and you can find out more and view some of the exhibits online: the Power of Making at the V&A.

* I may be unusually slow, but a pair of socks takes me 16 hours so for me this sort of project would take roughly forever.

Handspun Hat

Handspun Hat

Close up of a pale-blue beanie hat being worn by K, a white guy with glasses and a beard.

Two-ply yarn spun from a hand-dyed merino/tencel braid from Sara’s Texture Crafts. Simple hat knit top-down on 7mm needles.

I am so pleased with this hat! I spun the yarn and then knit the hat (and then took the photo, which is why K is modelling it). It’s the first thing I’ve ever knitted from my handspun and I couldn’t be more proud if it was made of cake and unicorns.

Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day

According to the Fawcett Society,

women working full-time in the UK are still paid on average 15.5% less per hour than men.

They’ve calculated that this means that women effectively stop being paid on 4 November, which is today.

As a kid – as a girl-child – my parents always told me I could be whatever I wanted. They never told me that I’d be paid less for doing it or that I’d have to suffer the slings and arrows of institutionalised sexism.

I think they thought it would be over by now. I mean, the Equal Pay Act came in in 1970 so it really should be.

But it’s not.

Brits don’t like to talk about money or how much they earn, and I think it is holding us back, particularly in a tough economy. Here are three stories I’ve believed which were disproved by finding out what other people earned:

  1. That my raise was special, rare and a testament to my hard work (it wasn’t: it brought me up to the salary they were currently advertising the same post at).
  2. That a company would offer roughly equal salaries for roughly equal skill sets (equal but different such as IT and sales – I may have been particularly naive to believe this but I did nonetheless).
  3. That people doing the same job with the same job title in the same company will be on more or less the same amount of money, allowing some variation for experience and responsibility (nope – turns out one of your colleagues might be earning twice what another does, for no immediately obvious reason).

I don’t mean to suggest that women are at fault for earning less – getting a job, asking for what you think you’re worth and requesting (or demanding) a pay rise are all fraught with difficulties, and there are many reasons why any one individual might be earning less than another.

But equally, I don’t want to suggest that we can’t do anything at a grass roots level, to suggest that only HR departments, hiring managers or the government can effect change because I don’t think that’s true either.

Right now, I’m looking for work so it’s easy for me to state my current salary: £0. But in a few months, when I’m settling into a new job, it might be harder to put that number out on the internet or mention it in the pub.

If you find that’s the case, I recommend checking out the salary calculator on your favourite job site – it’s a quick way to check what you could be earning, and an anonymous way to share what you are earning.

By talking honestly about what we earn, we can each help others realise their worth and provide ammo to employees arguing for fairer pay.