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 :)

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