You’re turning more than my radio on

Remember that time Stilgherrian worked for triple j for a short while? I do. It happened.

Knitting supplies: advice for beginners

A question I often answer and am sometimes asked is:

I want to learn to knit; what basic supplies do I need?

I’m going to answer this with what I think are the basics, with some specific recommendations on products. Note, this is my biased view; other people will give you different advice, but this is definitely my opinion on the best and most versatile products to get started with.

Assumptions:

  1. I’m going to assume you don’t want to spend a fortune, but do want some borderline decent supplies to get started.
  2. I’m also going to assume you just want to pick up some needles and yarn and start knitting. You don’t want to knit a thing (at first), you just want to practise the stitches.

A note: while understanding that you don’t want to spend a lot of money initially, knitting is an expensive hobby. You can, of course, buy a pair of needles and some acrylic yarn from the $2 store and knit with them, but I promise you that you’ll hate knitting if you do that.

Needles

I think for beginners, the best way to get started is to buy a 24″/60cm circular needle, size 4mm or 4.5mm (US size 6 or 7), and made of wood. (A lot of beginners start with bamboo, but I think that’s way too sticky. While having a bit of grip is good so your stitches won’t fall off the needle, if you’re constantly dragging the stitches along it will be irritating and you won’t enjoy knitting.)

With a circular needle you’ll be able to practise basic flat knitting, as well as circular knitting and magic loop knitting.

I am going to recommend KnitPro Symphonie fixed circular needle size 4mm. It’s AU$10.38 from LoveCrafts – or check your local yarn store.

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Yarn

There are loads of yarns available and it can be very confusing when you’re starting out. Most beginners start with acrylic yarn because it’s cheap and available everywhere – DON’T DO IT. The quality of cheap acrylic yarn can be so bad that it is genuinely unpleasant to knit with, and you’ll end up thinking you hate knitting when you just hate the yarn.

I recommend starting with wool yarn, in weight 4/medium/worsted/10-ply (it’s all the same thing, just different names depending on your location). Buy two 50g balls in two different light colors. 

This weight of yarn is probably the easiest to work with, and your stitches will be big enough for you to see. It’s also a good weight for your needles. Wool generally feels nice to work with and is really forgiving. It’ll have a bit more grip on your needles too. It’s really important to get light colors so you’ll be able to see your stitches easily.

If you’re in Australia I recommend Morris & Sons Estate 10-ply available from their website for AU$6.45.

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Other supplies

Aside from needles and yarn, there are a couple of other things I recommend you get. Not essential, but they’ll make life easier.

  • A crochet hook. I recommend an aluminium one with a soft grip handle, in the same size or a size smaller than your knitting needles. They are useful for practising picking up dropped stitches, as well as provisional cast-ons (I don’t expect you to know what that means!). KnitPro has one that’s good value: AU$4.37 from Love Crafts.
  • A yarn needle/tapestry needle. You’ll almost certainly want to practise weaving in ends or seaming, and these are essential for those things. They’re available everywhere (even supermarkets) for a couple of bucks, and the cheapest ones are fine.
  • Stitch markers are very useful for when you are practising increases or decreases. You can buy them, but for beginners you can make them by just cutting up a plastic drinking straw (one of the thick ones for milkshakes) into thin hoops.

Things you probably already have

  • A ruler. A 6″/15cm one is fine, as is a 12″/30cm one. A metre stick/yardstick is probably a bit too big.
  • A tape measure. The flexible 60″ ones that are everywhere are perfect. No need for a fancy retractable one.
  • Scissors, any size – even nail scissors will do, but massive kitchen ones might be a bit unwieldy.

A teacher

I think going to a beginners’ class at your local yarn store is the best way to get started, but that might well be impractical or unaffordable. There are lots of YouTube channels, some of them are good, and some of them are not. I recommend VeryPink Knits – Staci Perry of VeryPink is an excellent knitting teacher, and her videos are very well produced.

Please feel free to get in touch if you want more advice or if you dispute any of this! I’d love to chat knitting with you!

The One

A glance to the left. This is not a date, but oh! he is so beautiful.

The rocking of the ship moves with the beat. Ah ah ah ah.

I’m the one.
Love me, love me, love me, love me.

Another glance. Was it reciprocated or are my eyes deceiving me?
The urge to kiss him is so strong. Don’t do it. Keep it together, hold it in.

I’ll go and get pizza and maybe he’ll be there. Maybe he’ll say hello. I’m too shy to call him. Too shy to walk up to him and say hello. I’d do anything to have you near me.

Falling in love with him would be a very bad idea. If I get hurt again I’ll need a lifetime to repair.
But it’s too late.
Time is short.
I look at him again and again, over and over. Every photograph of him is a work of art, but to be in his presence, to look at his face, his physical body is perfection. I pull him in for a selfie. It’s the worst photo of him in existence. I cannot record this, only remember it.

Can you imagine…? Just suppose.

Vegan Chili

I like vegetarian cooking, but have long had a problem with vegetarian chili, and in particular the texture. Without overcooking the beans and vegetables it’s always seemed like a spicy vegetable and bean soup. A friend suggested blending it a bit with a stick blender. I loved it!

Serves 4 hungry people, or 6 people whose appetites are smaller

Ingredients

  • Oil (I used sunflower oil, but olive oil is good too.)
  • 1 onion (I used a red onion, but a brown onion would be just as good)
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 2 carrots (on the larger size, but not the tree-trunk sized ones)
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic (or three big dollops of already-crushed garlic from a jar)
  • About a heaped pudding spoonful of ground cayenne pepper (be bold; trust me)
  • Ground cumin, more than a teaspoon, less than a tablespoon
  • Ground smoked paprika, about the same amount as the cumin
  • 1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs (I know, it sounds ridic, but it works)
  • A good heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder (NOT drinking chocolate)
  • 2 400 g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 400 g cans of beans (I used Woolworths Mexican Beans mix, which is a mix of kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans but you can use any beans you like)
  • 1 400 g can of sweetcorn kernels (or you can use frozen if you have some in the freezer)
  • 400 ml vegetable stock (I used stock powder and an empty tomato can full of hot water)
  • A few drops of Tabasco sauce (enough to put the willies up you a bit, but not so much you’re genuinely afraid)
  • Splash of white wine vinegar

Note: try to get the “no added salt” version of the canned stuff; it’ll taste better.

Method

Chop up the capsicum, carrots and celery and dice the onion. Warm the oil in a big saucepan or pot or casserole or something (I used the 3 litre Ikea 365+ pot, which was a bit snug, and I reckon the 5-litre one would have been better) and toss in the chopped vegetables. Keep the heat low and turn them over in the oil before putting a lid on. Stir them every now and then and after about fifteen minutes they should be tender. If not, leave them a bit longer, but you don’t want them mushy; just tender.

Now turn up the heat and put in the garlic, the spices and the herbs stirring to combine, and then add the cocoa powder. Stir that in too: it will combine with the oil and vegetable juices and go lovely and glossy – that’s when it’s time to add the tomatoes, drained beans, and drained corn, as well as the stock (or water and stock powder). Use the stock too rinse out the tomato cans. Stir it all together and bring it up to a simmer.

Once it’s simmering, turn the heat down so it’s simmering gently and let it cook for about half an hour, stirring occasionally and making sure nothing’s sticking to the bottom.

After half an hour add salt and pepper to taste (if you add salt before you cook the beans they’ll end up tasting of nothing – that’s also why I recommending using cans with no added salt).

Now take it off the heat and leave it to cool down for a couple of minutes. It won’t get cold. Use a stick blender to give it a bit of a whizz – just a couple of pulses, but don’t go crazy: you’re not making soup. If you don’t have a stick blender (and honestly, if you don’t you really should get one, and a decent one – the best you can afford) you can put a couple of ladlefuls into an ordinary blender and whizzy whizzy before adding it back to the pot (and if you don’t have any kind of blender you could put a couple of ladlefuls through a mouli, or go at it with a potato masher, but I really do recommend doing something to get the contrasting textures).

Finally stir in a splash of white wine vinegar, check the seasoning and serve! I put some slices of avocado on top and it was delicious. I often put broken tortilla chips on chili too, and, while I don’t really like it, a lot of people put corriander leaves on the top. A dollop of sour cream and that grated Monterrey Jack cheese is nice if you’re not concerned about it not being vegan

M People videos, a full rundown

I wrote a short thread on twitter earlier about my thoughts on some M People videos. Here is a full rundown.

Colour My Life

For a first video it’s okay. It’s just the band playing the song in a studio. but it’s well shot. Heather’s outfit is extremely 1991. We have a lady guitarist, which was very progressive back then. The backing vocalists do a bizarre dance that uses only their arms and bobbing up and down a bit. It’s quite endearing. ⭐⭐⭐

How Can I Love You More

More of the same really; just the and performing the song in a studio, but without the backing singers and their dance. Disappointing tbh. ⭐⭐

Someday

A further slide downhill. This is Heather singing alone against a black backdrop with some lighting , interspersed with some live show footage. They’d clearly run out of money by single #3. ⭐

Excited

Excited has two videos! The UK video is Heather dancing in front of interesting backdrops wearing office attire while the boys play pinball, with some shots of Heather wearing a rather gorgeous evening dress on a couch. It’s quite cute! ⭐⭐⭐

The US remake is where we finally get a LOCATION! They’re in the courtyard of a nice house with a stage set up in the middle of the pond (???) singing the song. People dance. They’ve thrown a bit of money at this, but not much. ⭐⭐⭐

One Night In Heaven

They went to Barcelona to film this video. They’re all drunk and/or high and carrying on while being filmed. Heather has two outfits – a lovely, if plain, dress and cardigan (a cardigan in Summer in Barcelona?!), and a horrible checked waistcoat and a shirt with a massive collar combo. The video’s a bit boring, but it’s nice to see them outside. ⭐⭐⭐

Moving On Up

We’re at a party and M People have been booked to perform. Some couples on the dance floor are fighting, Suddenly there is a cat and an iguana for some reason. Heather is wearing a long black dress and a lovely choker with matching earings. The boys are wearing pajamas. It’s all a bit confusing, but it’s fun and extremely 1994. ⭐⭐⭐

Don’t Look Any Further

They sent Heather and Mark to Berlin to film this and apparently left Mike, Paul, and Shovel at home. As such, Heather appears to have stayed sober. They’ve put her in gorgeous makeup with cute little heart earrings. It’s moody and dark. A really solid video actually. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Renaissance

I think this could be San Francisco? We have a few shots of them singing and dancing in a studio that we’re supposed to believe is a hotel or something, and the rest of the video is Heather driving an enormous car around the streets of wherever they are and basically losing control. They must have used up all the budget for this album because we’ve got the dress from Moving on up and the earrings from Don’t Look Any Further. It’s fun, but not all that great. ⭐⭐

Sight For Sore Eyes

We’re back in the studio. There are some car shells and mechanics welding, but the car/mechanic theme is a bit half-arsed, because other than that it’s basically the Colour My Life video. Heather has finally discovered hoop earrings, and she is wearing what is honestly the most horrible jumper I have ever seen; it’s either from C&A or Dior. Paul is starting to look a bit rugged and has CHEEKBONES. Mike has grown a beard and his hair and is clearly starting his mid-life crisis. The only good bit of this video is when the drummer pretends to use spanners instead of drumsticks. ⭐⭐

Open Your Heart

Some solid CGI here. Heather’s in a CGI lift that might be in a hotel ur club or something and different characters & groups get in and out f the lift. Heather has a very lovely East-Asian-inspired dress and a diamond hair band. Paul’s eyes are BLUE. Mike’s mid-life crisis deepens he looks like he hasn’t even washed his hair.  There are gays, there are trans people, there are loads of people of color as well as Heather, there’s a supernatural spooky bit where Heather walks away and her reflection doesn’t until a few seconds later. It’s a bloody amazing video. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Search for the Hero

An abandones warehouse or school or tower block or something. Children throw rocks at windows. The band stands in the middle of it and performs. Suddenly there is fire, and then the sprinklers activate. Another outstanding video that’s worth watching even if you hate the song. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Love Rendezvous

A re-run of Renaissance, but they’re high in Rio instead of Barcelona. There’s a bit more narrative here as we’re also following a couple running through the streets to find each other and then they kiss. There’s some live footage from the tour, and shome travel show type shots of Rio and it’s people. ⭐⭐⭐

Itchycoo Park

Heather’s on the bed in a spotlight dreaming of walking through a country house and its gardens. She levitates. Gorgeous blue velvet dress and ruby choker. The video’s crap but the fashion is excellent. ⭐⭐

Just For You

Heather’s on a couch in a studio while the band play around her. Paul’s finally lost all his hair and has developed the sort of cheekbones that could cut diamond. There’s an orchestra. Oh, and CGI bugs. It looks like they spent a LOT of money on this. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Fantasy Island

In a studio on a spinning platform with some CGI texture going on underneath. It’s extremely boring. ⭐

Angel St

This is mostly live footage and footage from rehearsals, backstage and stuff. It’s pretty good for what it is, but it’s not winning any prizes or anything. ⭐⭐⭐

Testify

ZOMG this video. Heather’s wearing a cloak and wandering through the forest in the snow while the Northern Lights are happening in the sky. She gets to where she’s going, shakes of the cloak and is there singing in the snow in a Warrior Princess outfit made of diamonds. It is amazing. It’s all CGI. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dreaming

Heather’s walking through the streets of London with a horrible filter applied to the video, like as if someone has gone to town with Snapseed. It is not good. Clearly they threw some money at this, but it was not well spent. ⭐⭐

A morning walk

Every morning on my walk to work from the station I pass an elderly couple walking into town. They walk quite slowly; it probably takes them an hour or more to get into town so it doesn’t matter which train I get on or how early or late I’m running; I always pass them.

They are old. So old. Certainly in their eighties at least. I’d guess they have half a lifetime of memories in India, shared. And they walk together, side-by-side, always in silence, and always very slowly.

They are always immaculately dressed, beautiful clothes, clean and pressed. Sandals even in winter. Long, flowing, and brightly colored fabric, probably decades old. And the smell of beautifully scented soaps and lotions fills the air as I walk by them,

It’s actually been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen them. We’ve never interacted, so I haven’t noticed that I haven’t seen them, I haven’t missed them — except yesterday I wondered about them as I walked past the tree where I would sometimes have to give way to them if we arrived there at the same time because the footpath isn’t wide enough. But it didn’t dwell on my mind.

Until today as I was walking to work from the station I passed him in the street. He was walking a little faster than normal. Alone. Wearing pajamas and slippers. Smelling slightly stale. I said hello; he didn’t answer me. I could see the pain on his face.

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Handwritten draft of the text

Anger

[This is part one of a short series on emotional abuse in domestic relationships. This piece discusses anger, aggression, emotional control and manipulation.]

“You’re a good influence on him. He’s more mellow with you. I love his bitterness, and you mellow him. You’re good for him.”

She told you that, and she was right. She’s known him longer than you have, and she knows how angry he can get. His angry outbursts. He gets angry quite a lot.

“That must be awful for you.”

Not really, right? He gets angry quite a lot, but only at other people. His anger is never directed at you. People piss him off a lot. Hell, it seems everybody pisses him off, people cross him and he gets angry. But his anger is never directed at you. He speaks to you calmly, never angrily. With you he is mellow. He tells you that you calm him down. His friends notice you calm him down. It’s so good that you met him: you’re the only person who he never gets angry at; he’s so lucky to have found you.

He’s manipulating you. This is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse that is directed at you, and you haven’t noticed. He’s tricking you into being afraid of him whilst believing you trust him.

No, you’re not afraid of him! You do trust him!

You’re not afraid that at some point his anger will be directed at you? That he’ll become aggressive towards you the way he is aggressive towards other people who piss him off? No, of course you’re not, because, see, he only gets angry and aggressive towards people who piss him off. All you have to do is never piss him off. All you have to do to avoid is anger is to simply not fuck up. You’ve got this. You can do this. Avoiding his aggression is something you are responsible for: just don’t fuck up.

And there. He’s got you. He’s controlling you. He’s manipulating your emotions; controlling your behavior. By withholding his anger he’s making you believe that you are in control of his anger and that if he ever does become aggressive towards you, it will have been your fault.

And one day he does lose his temper at you. You knew it would come eventually. You’ve seen how he gets with other people, just flies off the handle at any little thing that pisses him off, and you knew you couldn’t stay on his good side forever. You knew you’d fuck up at some point. But it was only a little fuck-up. And that’s just how he is. You can use this as a learning experience. Keep on his good side. Keep him mellow.

You’re the one who calms him down. He only gets angry at you sometimes, and it’s not like it’s for major things. It’s only for things that are inconsequential, so it doesn’t really matter. I mean, obviously you fucked up here, and he’s got every right to be angry. Anyone would be angry.

And, look, sometimes he gets angry and aggressive towards you for things that were not your fault, but that’s just how he is. You know him: anger is how he deals with things. He gets frustrated and aggression is just the way his frustration erupts out of him. All of this was out of your control, you didn’t do anything wrong here; he’s just upset. Anyone would be upset; you can’t hold that against him because anyone would be upset, so of course he’s angry. Of course he is angry.

And, look, you’re a team, right? You love him and he loves you. You trust him because he doesn’t get angry at you except when he does. You absorb his anger, that’s what you do. And he trusts you to. You calm him; you mellow him. And he trusts you enough to let himself show his anger to you. He trusts you to stay when he is angry because you calm him. Anyone else he is aggressive to runs away, but not you. He trusts you not to. His anger towards you is different from his anger towards other people. To you his anger is an expression of love. His aggression is an expression of trust.

You know that anger is his default emotion. This is the way he expresses himself. He needs a release. It’s good that he allows his emotions to show. It’s not really aggression as such; he’s just sharing his emotions with you. You have this emotional connection: trust going both ways. It’s despair and he needs to get it out, and you’re the one who makes things better. You have to be there for him.

You have to be there. He needs an outlet for his emotions. His anger and aggression is just an outlet for his emotions. And really, if you think about it, it’s better that his anger and aggression is directed at you instead of being directed at other people. Like, at least you know how to handle him. Other people don’t know how to handle him when he’s angry, but you do. You calm him when he is angry, so although he gets angry quite a lot, it’s never at other people. His anger is only directed at you. People piss him off a lot. Hell, it seems everybody pisses him off, people cross him and he gets angry. But his anger is only directed at you.