Monday, 25 May 2009

Go in never come out again

The day after tomorrow I am setting off on my 50th birthday adventure from Beijing to Bishkek across the Takla Makan desert. Takla Makan roughly translates as "go in never come out again" and in the days when camels were the only way to get across it, this was quite likely. Today there is a road, so hopefully we will re-emerge...

It's always been my dream to go across the Takla Makan, ever since reading Peter Fleming's News from Tartary, his account of travelling there in the 1930s. Older brother of Ian Fleming of James Bond fame, he was also married to Celia Johnson, star of Brief Encounter. Their recent marriage didn't stop him linking up on this particular journey with fellow solo traveller, a Swiss journalist called Kini Maillart. Fleming's book contains a fulsome tribute to her stoicism and unflappability during their journey, although back at home the (reasonably) suspicious Johnson unlovingly dubbed her "The Swiss".

The textiles link to our journey is that we are travelling along the old Silk Route across western China and into Kyrgyzstan, and the trip includes a visit to a silk production centre, as well as to see carpet weaving and Jade craft. No doubt there will be plenty of opportunities to buy! This dovetails very nicely with my yarn fibres project for Module 3 of my City & Guilds Hand Knitting course, which is, you've guessed it, silk!

Congratulations to Lyn Wymers for being the first (and only!) person to respond to the quiz in my last post - yes my 50th birthday is on Tuesday 2nd June. If you haven't yet done so, please consider making a donation to my Just Giving website for The Lavender Trust:

My 50th birthday challenge is to raise £1000 for this charity, which advises young women diagnosed with breast cancer, by 13th July 2009. Yes, the challenge was originally £500 but my wonderful friends responded so fast that this was raised within a week! I will update you on progress on my return from Bishkek in mid-June.

By the way, this post's picture is not the Taklamakan Desert but the Atacama Desert in Chile, which we visited in November 2007.

Monday, 11 May 2009


Too long no blog, for which many apologies. I once read that the first half of life is like riding uphill and the second like freewheeling downhill. I never was much good at bike riding but the pace of life does seem to be speeding up and I'm certainly over the hill as my 50th birthday is fast approaching...

To mark the event I'm raising funds for The Lavender Trust, which provides support and advice for young women diagnosed with breast cancer. If you've managed to escape my e-mail about this, then please visit my website to read more. It's really easy to make a donation: my aim is to raise £500 and amazingly, thanks to the generosity of my wonderful friends, I'm nearly half-way there!

On the knitting front I've had two really good trips to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London recently with fellow students on the City & Guilds course and led by our tutor Loraine McClean. The pictures I'm posting today are from the V&A's online knitting collection, which is really worth taking a look at. The first one is from a fantastic book of swatches - the sample book of Elizabeth Hume - which we saw in a behind the scenes visit along with a wonderful knitted Tudor jacket and a weird but equally wonderful Body Map dress from the 1980s. The second photo is a Second World War "Victory" jumper and you can download the pattern if you feel like knitting some lacy chevrons! I'm offering a prize for the first person to spot the significance of the date (2nd June 1945) on the cover. Why not post a comment with your suggestion? Clue: it's not the year!