# GCSE Maths (Higher Tier)

I failed my O Level maths at school in the 1980s. So when my employer (a college) offered this to staff for free I signed up before I had a chance to talk myself out of it!

Monday evening is maths class – here’s what I covered yesterday.

• Times tables: I had these drummed into me as a child, so I’m fairly confident.
• Long multiplication and long division: The method for long division is now much easier. No need anymore for that huge ‘ladder’ underneath and dropping down digits – just carry over.
• Prime numbers: divide only by itself and one,.  Cool
• Product of prime numbers: I started to get a bit worried. But it turns out that its multiplying two prime numbers.
• Write the product of prime numbers in index format: What?…and breathe, it just means writing 2 with a tiny 3 superscript instead of 2 x 2 x 2
• Highest Common Factor (HCF) and Lowest Common Multiple (LCM) of a pair of numbers: Take a big breath now
• HCF: find the prime factors that are common to both and multiply them.(actually not so bad)
• LCM: find all the prime factors. Take all from one of the numbers, and any extra factors from the other and multiply them all.
• Write a number as a decimal with two, three or four places: count the number of digits after the decimal point
• write a number as with two, three or four significant figures: the same, but round up if its five or more

Yaay I survived, and even did my homework on the bus going home!

# Top Ten Albums – what are your favourites?

In social media there is a trend to ‘nominate others to do something’. Mostly famously the recent Ice Bucket Challenge.  But here’s another one – name your favourite top whatever. I’ve been nominated on Google+, but I’d thought I’d repeat the list here too.

My Top Ten Albums? Oh boy. Okay so I’ll take a deep breath and see what I can come up with.

I haven’t brought an album for many many years.  A combination of lack of budget, prioritising other spends, a gradual drift away from the music scene, and losing my hearing.  So I’ve thought back to the time when I was buying and listening to music, my late teenage years in the 1980s.  I found that I could recall the name of the band, or visualise an album cover, or a single, so I’ve compiled this list with a bit of help from google and Wikipedia.  But I figure that the music I remember, is the ones that had most impact on me,  I must have played these albums the most because they were my favourites.
In no particular order…

Marillion – Script for a Jester’s Tear
Truth be known, I originally bought this album because of the Tolkien connection. I was determined to read the Silmarillion, but never got past the first few pages. I’ve tried and failed a few times since then too.

Iron Maiden – Powerslave
I went to see Maiden in concert at Birmingham Odeon, possibly the World Slavery Tour, but I honestly can’t be sure.  My ears were ringing when I came out, and for most of the next day too.So Iron Maiden gets the blame for my hearing loss, but hell, what a way to lose it! I brought as much of their current and back catalogue as I could: Run to the Hills, Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, The Trooper, Two Minutes to Midnight, Aces High.  My favourite was Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which blew my mind. Such an innovative mix of poetry and rock, I was hooked.

Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow
I was fascinated by the cover of this album, and even as a teen, I vaguely recognised that Richie Blackmore was an important person in rock history.

Rubycon Two – Tangerine Dream
I’d really gone off the rails by this point, disappeared into a private world of my own making. And had a fabulous time there! Guess they’re a marmite band.

LA Woman – The Doors
I also had a compilation album, some sort of ‘best of’ album.  The only photograph I ever ‘stolen’ is one my boyfriend, Gareth, in THAT Jim Morrison pose. Just oozing sexiness.  Oh I’m coming over all funny, excuse me…I’ve err.. got to pop out… back in a minute.

Yep..the Doors are amazing, as a piano- playing teen I was in love the keyboard sound of the Doors, something very special. And a little bit in love with Jim Morrison too.

Once bitten, twice – Shy
Here is my claim to fame.  Shy were a band formed in Birmingham.  I went to their pub gigs and shared a pint or two afterwards, yes I was a small-time groupie. The band is still going strong, although with a change of line up.

Thriller by Michael Jackson
It was Vincent Price who introduced me to this album. His spoken vocals on Thriller are just so menacing and delicious.  The whole Michael Jackson thing has of course been tainted by events, but it’s hard to completely dismiss an album this good.

Cry like a Rainstorm, Howl like the Wind by Linda Ronstadt with Aaron Neville
A guilty pleasure, great duets, soppy romantic lyrics.

Silver Machine by Hawkwind
Admittedly this is a single rather than an album, but I loved it, so it makes my list.

That may or may not be ten, but its thereabouts.  Hope you enjoyed the list!

# A Beginner’s crochet adventures: dogtooth

I’ve had a request from my 14year old son for a crochet blanket with sleeves.
I picked the pattern, mainly because it fulfilled his request criteria and only gave a passing  thought to the complexity or simplicity of it. How difficult can it be.  It’s mostly a blanket after all.

Glyn picked the colours, stylecraft special dk sherbet, royal, and khaki. Manly man colours, no purple or pink this time!

I rewrote the pattern, omitting the alternative sizing, changing from US  to UK terms. And at Glyn’s request adapted the colour sequence from ABC ABC to ABCBABCBA.
I ordered the yarn from the lovely Emma at Lemonade Yarns in Cardiff and got stuck in. Well what else are weekends for?

This…

…which grew into this…

It was about this point that I recognised the pattern developing before my eyes. Dogstooth. Or houndstooth. Apparently they’re the same but in different sizes,  with no consensus about which is the larger and which is the smaller.
I’m thrilled.  I’m a dogstooth virgin, so this is quite exciting!

I’ll post more pictures as it grows. And of course there’s the sleeves and neckline to think about. ..but that’s 150+ rows away, no need to panic yet!

Pembrokeshire is a beautiful rural county, unlike urban areas there are very few advertising hoardings/billboards.  There are three together in a row in Pembroke, but I honestly can’t recall seeing any others at all.

As you can imagine, the adverts are generally for cars, or other run-of-the-mill promotions.  But I was surprised, shocked even, to see these.  They’re beautiful colours and in a vintage style. Even more surprisingly they’re for…Pembrokeshire!!  I can’t understand why they’re advertising Pembrokeshire in Pembrokeshire, but I did enjoy looking at the adverts.

You can find out more information about Pembrokeshire national park (the UK’s only coastal national park don’t you know!) at

http://www.pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk

# A Beginner’s Crochet Adventures: Upcycled Yarn Bowl

Yarn bowls are undoubtedly things of beauty. Wooden bowls to hold a ball of yarn, with a cut-out channel to feed the yarn. Like this one…

And this one too…

I’d love one. But I have to stay within a budget. Maybe I can drop hints in time for Christmas!

In the meantime I could do with a way to keep to tame my yarn.  In the best efforts up-cycling, decide to make my own and chop the bottom off a soft drinks bottle.

Not nearly as pretty, but cheap and comes without any guilt over felling trees. Question is….does it work?

No and yes. The top edge is rough and catches the yarn occasionally.  I’ll resolve this, either sandpaper or a strip of electrical tape folded over the top should do the trick.

The bowl is unstable, it’s too lightweight and falls off the table.  I wonder how I could add weight to the base, but find a much easier resolution.  Grip it gently between my feet.

I’ve no trouble at all now with the bowl tipping over, I hook away to my hearts content!
But, there will be days when I want to curl up on the sofa and can’t grip it with my feet…maybe there’s still a place for a special Christmas present yet eh?

# A Beginners Crochet Adventures: mid way point

A quick post, because I’m anxious to pick up my hook and get crocheting.  I want to share with you a couple of photos.

My ripple blanket is now around about half way. It’s long and narrow and almost too big to get into one photo.

I’m amazed at how fast it’s grown. Little by little, stitch by stitch, I’m closer to the end than the beginning.
Half a row before work, half a row at lunchtime.  A whole row each evening.  And its completely taken over my weekends. Its become a challenge to do as many rows as possible each weekend,  while not neglecting the housework essentials.
Fortunately Gareth has been on weekend camping trips, so I’ve had the place to myself. Otherwise Gareth could rightfully complain about being a crochet widow.

Last pic before I crack on. My attempt at an artistic rumpled  photo! !

# A Beginner’s Crochet Adventures: A delightful stress!

My office friends have cottoned on to my crocheting.   I’m getting requests from them, and I’m more than happy to oblige!  I love the sense of sharing and the interest they show. And I’m flattered, if the truth be known! Perhaps I can start an office crochet revolution?

Despite the stunning late warm summer in Wales, autumn will be with us soon and thoughts turn to autumn events.  November has many I’m sure, but here are the two that I’m crocheting for – Movember and Remembrance Sunday.

I work in a college, and although my office is entirely girls, there are an increasing number of men who take part in Movember.  The campaign is aimed at men and women, but other than a cash donation its quite difficult for us girls to show our support. Moustaches are fashionable again (at least pictures of them are all over jumpers, bags etc) and the girls in the office would love a moustache of their own..and here’s where my crochet requests come in.  Could I crochet a moustache for all of us?  I’ve no idea, I’ve never tried but I’m definitely up for it!

Ravelry has given me plenty of inspiration.

This chunky 3D moustache from Joyce Overheul.  You can find it here

http://bit.ly/1AlSMFU

Or this super curly one from a serious looking Sheena Wong.  You can find this one here:

http://bit.ly/1qrJ045

My second November event is Remembrance Sunday. And I’m afraid I rather bought this one on myself.

This proper paper poppy is by Crafty Mama Sanchez, pattern here:

http://bit.ly/1pDoSXs

I spent one lunchtime crocheting this pattern.  Naturally, everybody loves it and now I’ll make one for all my office girls.

Mama Sanchez also has a blog which is worth checking out.

http://bit.ly/WyR0UY

Happy crocheting times are ahead for me, as well as ploughing on with Ripple Blanket!

# A Beginner’s Crochet Adventures:The Ripple Blanket Grows

After nearly two weeks,  I’ve reached another crochet milestone. My work now includes every one of the fifteen colours.

I’m surprised how different colours of the same yarn can feel so different,  some are thin and have a slight sheen, others are thick and fluffy, others split easily, others slide smoothly under my hook and yet others seem to grip my little finger like a baby chimpanzee!

# A Beginner’s Crochet Adventures: The Ripple Blanket Progresses

I never have thought that crochet could take over my life, but suddenly I’ve had to get a big storage box to keep everything in!

It was Bank holiday Monday, I set the whole day aside to start my ripple blanket, carefully re-read the pattern, check my hook size and get started.

Some kind friends on google plus have given me tons of support (thanks girls!) and plenty of advice.  One piece of advice in particular, turned out to be spookily spot on, the type of advice that only comes from having been in the same situation yourself.  “Don’t worry about ripping out the first row several times, to get it right”.

I am amazed about the length of the initial chain, but began to hook away at the foundation row.  Four trebles, two increases; four trebles, two decreases. Repeat. It’s a simple enough pattern, what can possibly go wrong?  Quite a lot as it turns out, but nothing completely disastrous.

Two hours after picking up my hook, I came to the end of the first row…finishing on a decrease?  That’s not right! I don’t feel too bad, to be honest, I never expected to get it right first try.  The only way to track down the error is to count carefully from the beginning, but I am pretty disappointed to find I’ve gone wrong about 8 inches only from the start.  “Ho Hum, I have the whole day to work on this, so just relax and enjoy it”

So I rip out virtually the whole of the foundation row and try again.  Another two hours later, the inevitable happen – one stitch out!!! Aargh!  And the peaks and troughs of the ripples don’t line up 😦 See stitch markers below)

I’m physically and emotionally shattered.  Hours of work with nothing to show for it.  Sweat isn’t exactly dripping off me, but I feel like I’ve been physically working hard and I’m tiring fast.

I re-evaluate what I want to achieve.  Although if I’m really honest, I can’t face starting from scratch again and needed to justify that to myself.

• Do I need a perfect blanket? No, it won’t go on sale on etsy, it’s just for me and my family to snuggle under while we watch TV
• Do I need that sense of having progressed and achieved something? Yes, I would be heartbroken to spend an entire day crocheting and only have a long chain to show for it. As a beginner I need to keep my confidence high
• Can I work out a fix around my errors – yes, and that is a genuinely valuable part of learning to crochet

I decide what’s important for my blanket

• keep the peaks and troughs in line with the row below.  The up-hills and down-hills will be different lengths but its not a problem.
• keep the side edges tidy
• keep to the plan for the colours

Now I’m about 6 colours in (12 rows) or so, and I realise I’ve missed out a vital step. I won’t say my blood runs cold, but it is certainly one of those ‘uh-oh’ moments. I’m sure some eagle-eyed and experienced crocheters will have already spotted it from my last post.  I’ve failed to check the gauge/tension of either my test piece or my actual work. According to the pattern, the blanket is suitable for a single bed and should be 48 inches wide.  I measure my work…its 66 inches wide.  Oh my stars!  (time for a coffee and several biscuits to calm down).  Clearly my finished blanket will be nearer double bed sized.  This could take a lot of time to complete. It takes me another two days of hooking to realise that this isn’t so big a deal. By now I’m thoroughly addicted to crochet, I hook before work, at work and can’t wait to finish my evening meal so I can hook some more.  A double blanket sounds fabulous.  And I have another option – turn the width into the length and make a blanket with vertical stripes!

So there’s no stopping me now – crack on with row after row after row.  Change of colours every two rows as per the plan, and just deal with the errors as I find them.  I’m still bemused at finding three trebles in an increase instead of two, or three decreases after each other, but I’m blaming inexperience, and tiredness.  Did I really hook a three trebles in a row?  Did I really forget to decrease there? It must have been me, no-one else dared touch my work.

I can now hook two rows in about an hour and a half, so my pace has increased dramatically.  Maybe it’ll be finished in time for Christmas?  Fingers crossed!

# A Beginner’s Crochet Adventures: The Ripple Blanket begins

I think I’ve finally worn Gareth down. He’s found a lovely crochet blog for me to follow! It’s by Lucy at Attic24 and you can find it here:

The particular piece he showed me is a ripple blanket in coastal colours: sky blues, sea greens and greys and golden yellow sands.

Of course, I’d read about the ripple stitch but I hadn’t given it a try. This is the perfect excuse to bump it to the top of my expanding list of crochet projects. If Gareth is encouraging me,  how could I refuse?

As beautiful as the coast blanket colours are, they aren’t really me. And if I am going to tackle a huge piece like a blanket I don’t want any reason to get fed up of it half way through.
I’ve analysed Lucy’s coastal colours and categorised them into light, dark and neutral. Then I’ve matched my preferred colours in the same ratio. I hope this will ensure my blanket has the same overall balance.

I have my yarn, Lucy’s pattern, my hook, stitch markers. Ready to make a start? Very nearly.  I want to practice the ripple stitch first. I’ll be doing an awful lot of it, so I better get it nailed down first.  Indeed, Lucy, the pattern writer strongly suggests it, and how right she is to do so.

The sample piece is based on a chain of 31 stiches: two repeats of 14 stitches wide plus three chain. And four rows deep, two of each colour.
My first attempt is a disaster. Finding the correct place to insert my hook into a foundation chain is very difficult.

The first ‘leg’ has six stitches instead of four. How did I manage that! This means that my final leg is short. I managed the turn, but didn’t bother to complete the second row, as it was obvious to me that I really needed to start again. Good job I’m practicing beforehand. Can you imagine how wonky the finished blanket would have been if I’d just gone straight into it!

I set my hook aside and gave crochet a rest for a couple of hours, before making my second attempt at conquering the ripple stitch.
Success! The initial row is still a nightmare.  So fiddly,  nothing to grip on to and little strength or rigidity.  But at least my work looks like Lucy’s own photos of her practice sample.

I must give full credit to Lucy and Attic24. Her tutorial is invaluable, her work is beautiful and without her I wouldn’t be able to tackle the blanket at all. The pattern is entirely her work, I simply swapped the colours.

So there are no longer any barriers in the way, other than my own confidence.  I’m actually quite nervous about starting a blanket.
The foundation chain will be 213 stitches (15 repeats of 14 stitches plus three chain), compared to 31 in the sample. And I can’t remember exactly how many rows but at least 150, compared to four in the sample. This is crochet on a scale I’ve never attempted before.

But there’s no sense in doing all the preparation and then not carrying it through.  It’s a wet bank holiday, so I’ve nothing else on except possibly watch the obligatory James Bond film.

No. Today is the day the ripple blanket gets started. Deep breath, coffee and biscuits to hand…..let’s go crochet!