You’re just a cannibal

March 5, 2011 § 5 Comments

It’s funny how I constantly blog when there’s absolutely nothing going on, but as soon as I’m actually doing stuff, all my motivation for keeping a log just kind of circles the drain.

The long-overdue Berlin recap: Berlin was four days of walking in the wrong direction, getting lost, discovering wonderful things because of a total lack of a general sense of direction, and buying lots of yarn and even more books. I have no sense of self-discipline, I swear. Also, we totally discovered a pub called The Oscar Wilde, and had a drink in his honor there.

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(Also, I tweeted Stephen Fry about it, and he tweeted me back saying he already knew it. On the other hand, HOLY SHIT STEPHEN FRY TWEETED ME BACK.)

We visited a total of three yarn shops: Loops at Prenzlauer Berg, Fadeninsel in Kreuzberg, and handmade Berlin in Mitte. All of them were amazing; Loops and Fadeninsel carried many of the same yarns including two different brands of laceweight (always a surprise to find), handmade Berlin was just stuffed with luxury yarns. Oh my. It was amazing, tons and tons of cashmere and silk and alpaca and stainless steel and paper and Fiber Artist and Handmaiden and more cashmere.

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(and this is just one wall, in one of two rooms. Heaven, I tell you!)

My total haul (minus a little skein of purple silk that I bought for Saskia; it was so slippery we didn’t manage to wind it into a ball):

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(clockwise from the top: Handmaiden Casbah, Blue Sky Alpaca alpaca/silk, rosewood 4mm circs, handmade Berlin Yarn Edition Scottish wool/linen blend on the cones, Sheepland lace yarn, ggh Baby Alpaca, Kia Ora NZ merino/possum blend). I’ve already knit up half of the Yarn Edition (more on that later.)

However, on the whole I went rrrrrelatively light on the yarn, because we discovered not one, but two full-size English bookstores: one inside Dussmann, and another one right across the street from Loops which happened to be a used-book store that was crammed full to the stucco. It was amazing.

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We went there twice, and I bought a total of eight (I could’ve sworn nine) books there, the most expensive costing €7 (that’s the Wilde bio), the others all under €5. The clerks were stupendously nice, and the beat-up chesterfield was the comfiest sofa I’ve ever sat on.

The downside: dragging it all back to Leipzig.

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Berlin also has a button shop that isn’t hard to find if you don’t first walk a kilometer in the wrong direction (guess how I found out). It’s also crammed full, which seemed to be an ongoing theme that I heartily approve of. It’s also very convenient to know there’s a button shop in a city closer to me than London.

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My special favorite are the two Aslan buttons. I almost keeled over with joy. The big horn one’s already on my Girl Friday cardi, and the three little sunburst buttons are also already on knitwear. (again, more on that later.)

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**

So that was Berlin. Since I came back, I’ve made some considerable progress on the Spanish Armada, I’ve finished the sock I started for Berlin and got regrettably little knitting time on while actually there, although I couldn’t yet be arsed to cast on its twin, and I’ve knit a pattern that is well-loved by many, and as I find out, for a reason. And that reason is that it’s so. damn. clever.

I’m talking, of course, about Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Baby Surprise Jacket. Annelie recently found out she had a knitting neighbor, who loaned her a couple of EZ books. And one of these books, I discovered to my endless delight, has the BSJ pattern in it. Hallelujah! After the disappointment of the Knitter’s Almanac not featuring it, that was a real miracle right there.

And the BSJ is kind of ridiculous, if you think about it. Actually, it’s ridiculous the whole entire time you’re knitting it, because you’re making this… this misshapen piece of fabric. Which looks so unlike a baby garment that the pattern specifically states, “Work will start to look very odd, indeed, but trust me, and PRESS ON.”

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The whole time I was knitting it, I was trying to figure out how to fold it, and only on the last third or so did it approach something approaching sensibility. But when you’re done, and you’ve cast off, the magic happens. You fold it…

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… and fold it again, and sew up the shoulder seams, and attach a couple of buttons, and holy shit it’s about the cutest baby jacket ever.

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It’s so cute that when I was done making it up and photographing it, I pulled out another ball of fingering-weight yarn and started casting on another one… and then gently reminded myself I had more pressing projects. I still see a couple more of these in my future though. SO CUTE. Both of my flatmates, upon entering the apartment and seeing the BSJ drying on the rack, dissolved into helpless squeeing. While sewing I occasionally caught myself cooing embarrassingly at the thing. It’s terrible.

So there’s that. BSJ, and I’m currently reconstructing the pattern of a shawl Annelie’s great-grandma knit way back in the day. It’s garter stitch, and my first try was knitting the center triangle and then knitting on the edging in two pieces. Turns out, when I was staring at it during breakfast at her house just after I’d proudly shown off my swatch, that it’s all in one piece, and still every bit as clever as I thought. Good times.

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Hey Ashurbanipal, I’m a Mesopotamian!

February 13, 2011 § 6 Comments

Entirely expectedly, I got a lot of knitting done in the crunch phase of my finals, with the whole refusing more than an absolute minimum for Spanish (I passed the oral! Abysmally, but I passed! Yesss.) and general procrastination.

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(The day before my oral, Saskia and I went down to the canal and sat in the sun for an hour. What a perfect day.)

Incredibly, I’m down to one project. Well, three. Well, technically four, but the Dalek vest has been hibernating for so long and it looks like that’s not gonna change anytime soon, so. (well, four things and a lizard.)

Anyway: the Thermal sweater is finished! Done! All sewn up pretty and with buttons and a little ‘handmade’ tag in the back of the neck. I’ve already worn it to choir, literally fifteen minutes after cutting the last thread, and I’m pretty enchanted by the whole thing.

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(Thermal by Laura Chau, 3mm needles, just shy of 600 g of Zitron Trekking XXL)

I’m proud to report that the sleeves are NOT too long, for once. It seems I’ve finally learned my lesson? Or maybe it was just a fluke. Who knows.

Re: the sleeves though, I don’t know if it was the fact that I had to fudge the sleeve cap a little (I increased to 106 instead of 112), or that my sweater is generally a tad less fitted than the one on the model, but the tops of the sleeve caps were VERY boxy. Very angular. To the point where they stuck out and just looked stupid. I fixed that by sewing the seam in a diagonal line over the last 16 rows or so. The downside of that is that now there’s four little triangles inside the sweater, but they’re not noticeable from the outside, and they haven’t been a problem yet.

More photos (and close-ups of the uber-cute little buttons) when I come back from Berlin next weekend or so, in the hope that I’ll catch some good natural light at some point. It’s been overcast, and that always screws with red colors.

Also, guess what became of the handspun?

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A Hitchhiker! It knit up really quickly on 4 mm needles, and I’m still very charmed by the construction. Alas, I did not get 42 spikes, but the fact that they’re much more pronounced and dramatic than in the sock-weight version more than makes up for it.

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The best thing is that it worked out perfectly. I finished on the last row of a spike without a single yard left over; there were two 2-inch pieces that I cut after weaving in the ends, but that was it. A very, very gratifying knit. Calmed me down immensely in the last couple of minutes before my Spanish oral.

Also, I’ve figured out what’s wrong with my Spanish Armada – I’m missing three stitches on each side. Very, very strange. Rather worrying, actually, but I think I’ll just fudge it with another row and a sneaky increase somewhere in the middle. I’m so confused though why 3 and not 2 or 4. Those I could have explained, but three is indeed very bemusing.

Book rec for this week: Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”! I’d never read it before, but I’d resolved to include as many classics I’ve always wanted to read but never got around to buying in my 52 in 52 project as I could. And in the case of Jekyll and Hyde, it was definitely worth the, oh, €2.50 I splurged on the Dover Thrift Edition. And, uh, it’s much better than that just sounded. It reminded me a lot of Dorian Gray, actually, which isn’t all that surprising, considering they’re both Victorian novels dealing with the strange rift in their society, between virtue and vice, between public and private. It was terribly captivating, a gripping read that had some places where I literally recoiled in horror – perfect, really, for a nice rainy afternoon. It’s under 50 pages too, but it’s packed with mystery and thrill. I loved it.

It’s also narrated from an outside perspective, which surprised me: I’d always assumed it was going to be following Jekyll rather closely, but it didn’t at all until the very last chapter, which of course elevates the mystery a good deal more. You literally don’t know what the hell is going on until the last couple of pages. It must have been so endlessly shocking to Victorians reading it as a fresh story, a fresh idea, without any kind of foreknowledge. All in all, a book definitely worth reading. I might tackle Treasure Island too this year, I really liked Stevenson’s style.

Next week I’ll spend four days in Berlin with Saskia. We’ll be visiting at least two yarn shops, one button shop and four museums, and I hope we’ll not be too tired to see a silent movie on Wednesday evening. I’ve already cast on a sock to drag everywhere and photograph; also I’ve been saving the new Thursday Next novel for the train ride. I can’t wait!

High may your proud standards gloriously wave

July 27, 2010 § 3 Comments

I love Scotland.

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I’m not ashamed to admit it, either. The Highlands are gorgeous, Edinburgh is an entirely charming city, and Scottish accents set my heart on fire. I’ve had a single-bagpipe version of  ‘Scotland the Brave’ as the world’s most annoying ringtone since August 2007, which has led to frantic episodes of digging for my cell phone in all kinds of places (most notably on Westminster Bridge, where I didn’t spot the lone bagpiper in time).

I’ve also been coveting Marianne Kinzel’s Thistle Design ‘Balmoral’ at least since January – that’s when I queued it, though I’m pretty sure I’ve had it in my favorites longer than that, it’s just that I got the book around that time. It’s an outstanding design, timeless, gorgeous, Scottish – and it doesn’t repeat. Well, the background pattern does, but the rest? Mostly line-by-line work of pre-computer charts.

The most surprising thing of all? I’m making ridiculous progress. I’ve been at it for five days, and I’m almost done with the second chart, i.e. the tops of the thistles. Granted, I’m doing half the design, cause I have little to no use for a circular shawl (not that I have too much use for other shawls, mind. ahem), but I’ve still put in a lot of hours, and it shows.

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I’m thinking it might also be due to the yarn. It’s the white Zitron Filigran No. 1, but unlike the skeins I made Haruni out of, it’s the second generation. Filigran No. 1.2, so to speak. Apparently it’s steamed at 1°C higher than the previous incarnation, which astonishingly enough results in an amazing increase of softness. It feels at bit fluffier, too, but what’s most remarkable is that it’s softer than butter. It almost feels like baby alpaca, that’s how soft it is.

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I had to take some leaps of faith – especially the asymmetrical-seeming kfb increases, which turned out to be perfectly symmetrical after all – but on the whole, I find it perfectly charming. The thistles are remarkably thistle-like, I love the wide mesh in the middle of the thistle-heads, the background is very textured yet just airy enough, and I have yet to figure out where exactly the row increases are hidden.

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All in all, it’s quite marvelous.

And also, I’ve been watching entirely too much QI to be unaffected by the brilliant Stephen Fry’s speech patterns. Oh dear.

Now excuse me, I need to tink back two rows to fix the background in the last panel. And also refurbish the kitchen.

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Some magnificient skyline

October 14, 2009 § 2 Comments

I’m… killing time, between walking the dog and making dinner before knitting my head off, and then I remembered, I never did get around to posting a couple of photos I took in London.

With photography being my semi-hobby, I feel like I should be making a separate category for it. I irrationally feel like it would elevate its status to proper, full-fledged hobby, even if that never stood a chance of happening with crochet.

Speaking of dormant hobbies, I recently rediscovered oil paints, and I’ve been playing around with them for the last couple of days. And lo and behold, with a little patience, my painting’s coming around.

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Patience: one of the many things knitting taught me whether I wanted to or not.

Anyways, London. I’ve uploaded a couple of my favorite impressions, and since that makes this post relatively picture-heavy and I don’t fancy scrolling myself to death every time I look through my blog (vanity, vanity), the rest is hidden under the cut.

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It’s an overload in my head

September 22, 2009 § 3 Comments

British Museum and shopping today, and my brain just cannot compute any more information. I only spent 2.5 hours in the British Museum, which is laughably short for a museum of that size and me, but at one point I just sat in this huge room (which doesn’t narrow it down much, there aren’t any small rooms in the British Museum) and I just could. not. take. any. more. That’s never happened to me, my brain just going into a shutdown like that in a museum, but it’s been a long nine days, and I’m beginning to suspect that my feet aren’t the only part of me that need a quiet day of sitting and staring at a wall.

But! Let’s start at the beginning! Because… I found buttons! For the Tempest Cardi! The one I finished in April! It was amazing. I’d basically scoured the length and width of Germany and still hadn’t found any buttons I liked, or that were the right size or weight or color or material or price, so after almost half a year, I was pretty desperate. I’d done my homework though, before coming to London, and had written down the address of the Button Queen. Remember my squeeage about BUTTON SHOPS IN LONDON? Yeah, that was that day. About that shop. Well, I went down Marylebone Lane, and there was the Button Queen… all boarded up. I had half a heart attack – and then ventured closer to discover a sign that they’d moved a bit further down the street. Phew!

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SO, I went into the shop, and was greeted by a very friendly gent,  who asked me what I was looking for. My mind went blank for a second, ‘Well… I’d like some buttons, obviously…’, but then I pulled out the cardigan, and he exclaimed, ‘Oh, I just saw something for this today!’. Then he went back to the back of the shop, came back with a drawer full of colorful laquered buttons… and they were a perfect match. The green ones AND the teal ones. Perfect weight, perfect size, perfect color, AND a real deal at 99p apiece. I could’ve hugged him. I felt close to bursting into tears of relief, and started babbling about how I’d been searching for buttons for almost half a year… and today, purchasing the buttons was a matter of ten minutes. And most of these minutes were spent trying to decide whether to take green or blue. I went with – both! I’ll alternate them. Unfortunately, that will have to wait till I get back, because my needle is too thick to fit through the buttonholes.

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But I’ve got buttons!!! I even bought enough so I can sew some onto potential gloves or hats, I still have a ton of yarn left over, after all. And I do recommend the Button Queen, wholeheartedly.

Then, I went to the British Museum, and there was a surprising amount of spinning and weaving stuff around. Maybe I’ve just never paid much attention to it before… but it was a pleasant surprise anyway. Spindle whorls and loom weights in the Greek, Egyptian and British exhibits, plus weaving shuttles and distaffs and vases with spinning and/or weaving motifs.

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Oh, and look! Some pharaoh with knitting in front of his face!

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No knitting exhibits, sadly. Well, big surprise, it wasn’t even invented when those cultures were around.

Aaaand at last… I went to iKnit in Lower Marsh.

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Such a jewel. Such exciting yarns! I mean, partly what I expected, Malabrigo, Manos, stuff like that. But then… silk/stainless steel yarn from Habu Textiles. And other crazy stuff from Japan. And my personal highlight, rare British sheep breeds, which prompted me to buy 200g of gorgeous scarlet Wensleydale. No pictures yet, silly me. Six pounds per 100g though, so not bad at all. Begging to become a shawl.

And then I bought a card. With a black sheep on it. Which, as it turns out, is made of recycled, Welsh sheep poo. Oh dear.

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Can’t read my poker face

September 21, 2009 § 2 Comments

This is what I wrote last night:

It is incredibly late by my recent standarts, I’m terribly drunk, the German keyboard is really hard after half an hour of a British keyboard the other day, and yet I am still hanging out in the lounge while the boys are doing unmentionable things in our room.

We went out in SoHo, in some gay club called Escape, which was rather empty  but free of entrance fee and rather nice (plus the beer was kinda cheap), and I did have lots of fun – even though I’m not the partying type. But you know how it is, once you get drunk  enough, anything’s fun and/or funny, and by the time Jörn’s hand wandered down to my ass because he was drunk enough to be moving the wrong arm (Christian was sitting on his other side)… I just dissolved in hysterics. And I’m still amused by that.

This is what I’m writing now:

To pass the time last night, I picked out and uploaded a couple of pictures. They’re not the sightseeing pictures, I’m gonna post these some other time when I actually have the patience to sort through all of them, which is likely once I come back. Instead, they’re knitting pictures.  Or knitty, rather, since not all of them are directly connected to knitting as such.

First, let’s start with something we already know: My Doctor Who scarf. Ever since it got wet the other day, it’s stretched out more and more, until Christian and I started wondering how long exactly it was. The answer? Really long. Long enough to stretch from one side of the room to the other one.

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We also got tangled up in it while we were hanging out at Potters Fields next to Tower Bridge – it really is huge fucking long. The scarf, I mean.

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Then, next up, TARDIS socks. Sadly, when we went to Shepherd’s Bush, we found out the hard way that there’s not BBC museum there. You can pre-book tours through the facilities, but eh. So, no TARDIS-in-front-of-TARDIS pictures, but I did drag it everywhere around the city. Have two photos, one in front of that brige there and another one in the Mexx store that matched the color scheme of the yarn pretty well.

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I do have to say, I’m rather proud of that Tower Bridge photo. I don’t know why, it just appeals to me a lot. But then, I did get pretty lucky with a lot of pictures (or maybe I’m just a spectacular photographer), so, go me.

Then, my new socks. I bought this really really nice yarn in this cute little store in Carnaby street, and to keep with the general feeling of overall geekery of this trip, I decided to make… Dalek socks. Not just on a whim though, because there’s a lot of these little nubs, and they do showcase the colors rather spectacularly, and once I’d decided on nubs Daleks just sort of… sprang to mind.

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The yarn, wound with the generous help of Christian (who just admitted that at least in the beginning, he learned to knit only to make me happy. huh. I’m slightly flabbergasted, and… touched, really.)

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Aaaand a glimpse of the shaft motif. In the background? That’s part of the textile exhibition in the Victoria and Albert Museum, V&A for short. And the textile rooms are just… insane. There’s really no other word for it, because they do have some stuff in showcases, oh yes, but they just have so many fragments and everything they just keep them in these… frames. That you can pull out. And there’s (I think) somewhere between 150 and 200 frames in a cabinet, and there’s at least six or eight cabinets. It’s crazy. It really, really is.

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And they’ve just got the most amazing things tucked away there. Fabric from 4th century Egypt. English bobbin lace. Japanese silk embroidery. Elizabethan needlepoint. My lowly little sock felt very, very humbled next to all that splendour.

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But I do think it’s turning out quite good on its own. The Dalek is mirrored on the other side, so they’re both facing forwards, divided by three columns of nubs. Eeep! I’m already around the heel, about… 10 rows or so after the gusset, I’m guessing. I don’t even know when I find the time to do all that, it just sort of appears on my needles overnight. Huh.

And now, last but not least, two men who may or may not have something to do with knitting… allow me to introduce Lord Kitchener…

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And OMG OMG OMG my ticket for an amazing Wednesday evening!!!!

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(Still contemplating whether to just pop over to Northumberland Ave. around the stage entrance before or after a matinee… but, you know. I’d just hang around in a probably dark alley, knitting away on Dalek socks… even if sitting and knitting wasn’t conspicuous, the whole Doctor Who motif would give my intentions away. Plus, I do have better things to do. No, really.)

I’d walk a thousand miles

September 17, 2009 § 5 Comments

… and not only would I, it feels like I already have. Though, to be honest, when it comes to hard-core touristing, the boys are nowhere near up to par, so it’s less than I would’ve walked with my family. Yesterday I spent about seven hours walking around town, from the Tower over Tower Bridge to Shakespeare’s Globe, over the Millenium Bridge back to the North Bank, St. Paul’s. That’s where the boys gave up, while I continued by tube to Carnaby Street to buy some yarn – yarn! Pretty, pretty, green-and-orange handdyed local yarn at “All the fun of the fair” – a pretty store, very small but rather well-stocked and just cute with its white-and-pink decor. Then I ambled through the West End and Covent Garden, just wandering here and there, having fun with seeing everything… until my feet were ready to give out, my pinkie toes were both a mess of blisters and I’d gotten my first ever blood blister.

The day before that, we went to the National Portrait Gallery, but didn’t do much else due to the absolutely horrific weather. It felt like the Great Flood. I saw a little wave go at least 20 m through a puddle next to the sidewalk. But the Portrait Gallery was nothing short of AMAZING, all those people, all those faces, not two alike. Plus it was kinda empty-ish, which was very, very nice. I wish I could upload photos, but this is the PC in the lounge of the hotel.

My personal favorite in the NPG was this general from WWI, who encouraged the population to knit for the men in the trenches, and introduced the wedge-toed sock that was grafted together in the front with an invisible stitch. The name of the man? Lord Kitchener. (How I know all this? It had a little plaque between his portrait and his bust.)

So, yes, basically I’m having a splendid time. The boys are having some sort of lovers’ quarrel that I’m really sick of, because it drags my mood down as well, but they had better resolve that tonight.

I just finished the TARDIS socks today in an Italian restaurant just off Oxford Street. It’s great, I knit on them basically everywhere. The tube, Piccadilly Circus, the crypt of St Paul’s (on the grave of Joseph Binghamton, Esq.), a bench next to and the steps in front of St Paul’s, the bus to and from the city, Potters’ Field between Tower Bridge and Town Hall… everywhere I went, I knit.

Geeky moments so far: every second of wearing my Doctor Who Scarf, which has stretched even longer after it got all wet the other day. Seeing Canary Wharf Tower, ie Torchwood One, from the Tower Bridge (which is a relief, since I can now scrap the trip I’d planned there, thank god). Freaking out for a second as I walked by the Duke of York’s Theatre – John Simm is in a play there, there’s his face all blown up on posters everywhere around the theatre, and for a second part of me went “OMG HOLY CRAP HAROLD SAXON THE MASTER OMG OMG WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE” except then I remembered it’s all fake. Did I mention wearing the Who Scarf  feels super geeky all the time? I kinda love it, because I feel everybody is staring at me. I wear the badge of geekdom proudly.

I’m still looking forward to our trip to Shepherd’s Bush and the BBC… thing there (I shall take the TARDIS socks. and photograph them in front of the TARDIS there. omg.) , and I’m still working on getting the guys to want to see Cage aux Folles, because I really, really want to see John Barrowman live in action.

Oh, London! Such an exciting, exhausting city!

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