Sunday, 25 April 2010


My group are talking about going punting again. It's is a very Oxbridge thing that involves standing on the back of a shallow boat and propelling yourself along with a stick - like Venice, only colder and less fun. It's a tiring and ineffiecent way to travel and I dislike the whole process immensely. Sadly, I learnt to punt in Cambridge, where the river is more like a canal - about six feet deep with a solid bottom. Any idiot can punt in Cambridge. In Oxford the river is twelve feet deep and the river bed is a mixture of thick mud and cartoon quicksand. This makes it a more difficult and a far less fun sport. In Cambridge, punting is the sporting equivalent of a Sunday afternoon village cricket game, in Oxford it's like a professional ice hockey match, physically demanding with a high probability of serious injury. Punting for me is the Oxford's take on tourist torture - where you convince unsuspecting visitors to do something daft on the basis that it is customary. It's like the locals telling you to eat eyeballs and insects because it's a tradition, when actually they are quietly laughing on the inside that yet another bus load of identical camera touting rich people fell for it again.

The last time I fell in the river (this has happened more than once) I remember slipping off the back of the punt, hitting the water, thinking "ah, this isn't right" then thinking "if I find the bottom, I can push myself back to the surface where the air is", carrying out that action then surfacing. It's not that I'm scared of water, it's just I simply don't know what to do once I'm in there. I was suprised that I didn't panic (given I can't swim), but it did make what was going to be a cold and wet afternoon a really cold and wet afternoon. To be fair though, before you start you have to bail out the freezing cold mini mosquito breeding ground out of the boat with an icecream container anyway. Then you have to sit in what's left - so even if you don't fall in you will end up soaked to the core and shivering.

So gentle advice from somebody that's spent too much of her time standing in the Cherwell (and the Thames, and the Cam) - do it once to say you have, then don't do it again. Not ever. Not unless you understand what Weil's disease is and are happy to embrace fecal coliforms as part of your diet.

Well, the theme of this post therefore is water, okay - so it was a tenuous link. Despite not being able to swim and not liking boats very much, I don't actually mind water. I mean, I wouldn't choose to stand in it, but I don't act like a rabid animal around it either. Anyway, I was tidying the bathroom earlier today and I found these chunks of soap. They've been there a while - they came from Lush when they had a promotion on.

I very rarely buy things in Lush on the basis that most of it will turn my skin into a pretty accurate contour map of the Peak district. But my Dad really likes it so I often get gifts for him in there. Anyway, the last couple of times I went shopping in there they gave me a bag of things for buying too much Happy Hippy shower gel. I managed to off-load a lot of it onto friends but I seemed to have ended up with a couple of blocks of soap. I think I kept it on the basis I wanted to make laundry gloop out of it - then realised that if it did that to the paintwork in my bathroom, there was no way I was washing my clothes in it. The blue stuff is called "Father Frost" apparently, the brown stuff might be "Christmas Cake".

When I was tidying the avalanche cupboard yesterday I came across a bag of merino wool tops. Those of you that have read my first ever posts on this blog will know that I bought them to try out felting, but ended up with quite a bit more than I needed. I was trying to think of a way to use up some of it the other day.

If I wrap up my chunks of evil-smelling blue soap in wool tops, I get something like this:

As the idea is to felt round the soap, I need something to keep the fibres in place as I felt it. The easiest way I've found so far it to knot the wool and soap block into the foot of a pair of tights.

Once it's tied up, dribble a bit of hot water onto it and gently rub it until it starts to lather. You have to be quite careful at first so the wool doesn't slip away and expose the soap, but it will soon start to shrink. I find that if I squeeze the water out every so often and replace with m ore warm water, it's a bit faster. Some people I am sure will advocate beating it with a cheesegrater or a sushi mat, but I find the surface of the rubber gloves and the tights provide enough friction for it to felt by itself.

After a while you can stop this and pat it dry.

If you remove the tights and leave it to dry, you're left with a felted soap.

Hopefully it will stop it leaking blue goo all down my handbasin :) Now all I've got to do is work out how to get out of this punting trip :)

Monday, 12 April 2010

Making work for idle hands

I had last week off work, so I'm waiting for cells to grow today and I'm attending a conference tomorrow so won't be in the lab. When I say attending a conference tomorrow, that means I will be sticking name stickers on people. It always happens. I am reliable, sensible, dependable and I always I have a pen - so I usually find myself running errands. I like to be busy and I like to work - to the extent I find it difficult to stop. I am the sort of person that you'll find in the kitchen at parties washing up.

I'm also trying to write a paper at the moment too, which is one of my least favorite jobs in the world. I have found, to be honest, that the further I get in my career the more time I spend at my desk. I don't enjoy being at my desk. It's covered in chocolate wrappers and diet cola cans for a start, but quite simply I don't like sitting down. I have the concentration span of a goldfish and if I was a an animal, I'd probably be a hummingbird - small, fast and high on sugar all the time.

My desk drawers are also full of random objects. Apart from the cola cans, I cultivate an unnatural and slightly distrubing aura of tidiness - in that I sweep the desk surface into a desk drawer every so often. I have tidy surfaces and cupboards bursting at the seams. It's the same at home. I vowed I'd never have the drawers of random stuff my parents have, but it must be genetic. One day I will clean out my wardrobe and then I can go to Narnia like the book promised.

Sometimes, like today however, that organised chaos pays off. I needed a card to send to friend who's been a bit under the weather and it really needed to go in the post ASAP. A quick hunt through my desk drawers yielded the following treasures:

The pompoms and the foam sheets have been in there since Easter last year and I bought the googly eyes in to send to somebody and never got round to it. The 6 cm plastic dish was on my desk in the lab, where I was using it to store paperclips.

Ho hum... I have thirty minutes before I have a hot date with a mass spectrometer, so this'll have to be quick...

Right. Select yellow foam sheet - draw round dish.

Cut out circle, then check it fits in the dish.

Select pompoms that fit in the dish and glue them to the foam circle.

Add googly eyes :)

And then the messages...

...and we're done.

Seal the plate with tape and that's it. I probably shouldn't stick it in the incubator though :)

Friday, 2 April 2010

Ladybird, ladybird

I made this a while ago, using the same sort of double thread technique as the necklace with the flowers I made earlier in the year. I really like these little ladybirds, I think they are lovely.


I've wanted to make a pair of matching earrings for a while - but, as usual, hadn't got round to it.

I had a quick sort through my beads from Prague and selected a few little bits. I don't often wear large earrings on account of being a little person, so just a couple of small ones. Threading the ladybird and the little flower onto head pins gives me this.

I'm not good at wire wrapping, but I've found if I wrap it round a kebab skewer I can at least keep the loop size consistant. These headpins are mercifully soft, so bend quite easily.

Almost the same size...

I can use a jump ring for the leaf as the hole is through the side rather than down the middle, just to add a bit of movement to it.

Quick attack of the pliers and I'm finished :) Nice and simple :)