Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

A Bit of Knitting, a Bit of Reading November 2, 2011

Filed under: East Africa,Hats,Knitting,Scarves — Janet @ 2:33 am

Well, I’ve managed to finish a couple of works-in-progress.  Very simple projects.   A scarf knit with some of the nice yarn I bought over at Churchmouse Yarns in Bainbridge.  And a simple crochet hat – just in time for the colder weather ccoming.  …… a very dark photo – I’ll try for a daylight photo tomorrow.  (p.s. daylight photo below – a sunny morning – hooray!)

More interesting possibly has been my reading.  First a book written by Evelyn Ames back in 1967 when she took a month long safari with friends and a guide to explore parts of East Africa.  The illustrations are by Victor Ambrus, another name from the past.  Evelyn Ames is a poet and a writer.   Her writing reflects an inner sensitivity to the experiences that she is having in seeing the wildlife of East Africa as it was then over 40 years ago.  We were in East Africa at that time and were fortunate to be able to travel extensively to remote areas.  But the wildlife was only part of our experience.  With the Evelyn Ames book, as the title, A Glimpse of Eden, implies, her emphasis in on the wildlife in its natural state.  And she wonders what the natural scene in East Africa will be in 50 years time.  Very different I am sure although I can’t personally testify to that.  According to the blurb on the dust jacket, her writing is compared with that of Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) for capturing the essence of Africa.  I am such a fan of Isak Dinesen – I’m not sure that Evelyn Ames is in the same class. Nor did Evelyn in a 2 month private safari, become a part of the fabric of life in East Africa.  I don’t think the books compare at all.   Still, I would recommend reading the book if you happen to come across it.



Flashbacks October 29, 2010

One aspect of the passing years which I am finding quite fascinating is that occasionally people that I have know in the past reappear and are now quite famous.  I find that quite exciting.  Last year one of my professors from years ago in Berkeley came to Dublin for a special award from the Royal Irish Academy, among other things.  A friend of mine in my former book group is the Librarian at the RIA and she very kindly arranged for me to meet my former professor, Amartya Sen, whom I knew when he was at Berkeley back in 1965-6.   That was wonderful to have the chance to meet him again and roll back the years – and learn about some of the happenings in his life since that time.  This photo of him is from younger years.

Now more recently another of my professors at  Berkeley professor has appeared in the news.  Peter Diamond was a very young rising star – he was younger than me his mature student age 28, and he was tagged at that time as destined for bigger and greater things.  Sure enough, reading about him in the press, he has had a very distinguished career.  But seeing his name in the news brought me back to those days of sitting in the classroom and struggling with the mathematical approach to economics.

The photo above of Peter is from his home page.  At Berkeley I remember him as having dark wavy hair.  In one of the references I read about Peter, it said that he exemplified the tradition of Paul Samuelson in his breadth of interests.  To name drop a bit more, Paul Samuelson was a neighbour in Belmont where I grew up.  He was of my parents generation and I read that he died last year at the age of 94.

And speaking of UC Berkeley, I recently ordered a book from Amazon – a book of interest to Berkeley graduates.  when i was there, life at berkeley, 1960-2010, An anthology by 35 alumni authors.  Another delve into the past.

As for my interest in economics which I pursued at Berkeley – while I didn’t rise to great heights in the profession, I am very glad that I studied for and achieved that PhD degree, awarded in absentia in 1970, very shortly, like a few hours, after I gave birth to our second son in Dublin Ireland.  It was to do the field work for my PhD that I went to Africa, Nairobi Kenya; met my husband -to-be, married, moved to Dublin, etc. 

 This story to be continued.


Here I Am In Seattle January 12, 2010

Filed under: East Africa,Ireland,Knitting,Travel,Uganda — Janet @ 3:17 pm

Yes, I made it to Seattle – I had a window of opportunity to depart Dublin and had an easy trip.  Dublin, Chicago, Seattle – 20 or so hours – and it was still the same day.  No objections were made to the fact that I had my knitting so that helped to pass the time.  And I read a wonderful book – Snow on the Equator, An African Memoir by Sean Rothery. The author lives near me in Dublin although I don’t think I have met him or his wife.   He is now in his 80’s and has written this memoir about his 3 years in Uganda back in the 1950’s.  Sean was an architect and he and his wife Nuala were keen mountain climbers.  In a spirit of adventure they made the decision to leave Ireland to go out to East Africa.  Sean was employed by an architectural firm in Kampala Uganda and Nuala found work with the Government Dept. of Education.

Every page of this book brought back memories for me.  I too went out to Africa in a spirit of adventure 10 years after Sean and Nuala.  I left California to go to Nairobi to take up a post with the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi.  And almost simultaneously, my husband to be left Belfast Northern Ireland to go out to Kenya to take up a position with the Town Planning Department of the Kenya Government.  We met – and the rest is history.

Ian and I did not climb any of the mountains in East Africa but we travelled a great deal and so many of our trips (safaris) and daily experiences were similar to those of Nuala and Sean 10 years previously.  We left Kenya in 1968 and then returned to live in Nairobi again in 1989.  Just fascinating to see the changes.  I want to write so much more about this  – Sean’s book is an inspiration to me to put pen to more of these reflections.  So, watch this space.

In the meantime, here I am in Seattle at the home of our eldest son, whose life began in Kenya 40+ years ago.


Is it Weaving? September 11, 2009

I had a bit of an altercation yesterday – well, it never came to that except in my mind as I thought about it later.  I was in an upmarket shop in town yesterday and I was admiring their products.  I was particularly taken with some circular, sisal jewelry – ear rings, bracelets, necklaces, from Swaziland.  They were very attractive.  I am quite drawn to anything with circles – as a design feature I think it’s superb.  The shop owner told me these circles were very skillfully woven by Swazi women who must have very delicate fingers.  Well, I looked and I looked and I could not for the life of me see how these could have been woven.  A long time ago I made several circular rugs using a metal hoop and starting from the hollow center and making my warp threads spread outward, adding more warp threads as needed.  Yes, this was weaving.  Similar to basket making.


But the circular sisal jewelry was very fine.  These threads were tiny.  I’m certain they were coiled and the coils laced together.  That is not weaving and it irritated me that the shop owner was insisting it was. 

On a bigger scale I have made some fun little baskets by  looping wool around a bit of thick sisal string and lacing the coils together. 

bowling 2009 439  Coiled basket – wool and sisal

And I have also make circular braided rugs by coiling the long strip of braid.   You couldn’t call either of these techniques weaving.

Back to the shop – I continued to browse and finally decided on a fun pair of  circular, bead ear rings made by Masai women – these also were circular and made from beads strung on wire.  They were from Maasai Women Art in Tanzania.  These came from Tanzania but they could equally well have come from Kenya.  There is a central loop and 4 spokes radiating out.  We did not discuss the intricacies of making these ear rings.  Weaving? – no I didn’t want to go that way again.

When I first discovered this shop a week or so ago, the sales girl went into a great spiel about how the shop’s aim was to support self-help groups in Africa.  Fair enough and I’m sure most of the products are from such groups.   When I talked with the buyer yesterday I asked her if she had been to Africa recently.  Yes indeed, she is just back from a buying trip to Botswana, Swaziland, and South Africa.  She was in East Africa, Nairobi at Easter time.  I was eager to hear about Nairobi having lived there for 7 years, but she was reluctant to talk.  She became a bit vague at that point.  Nevertheless, she has certainly brought back some lovely products, but I wish she would research her handcrafts a bit more.  Last night, the more I thought about this shop the more I decided I would much rather buy genuine world famous Kazuri beads from a lovely Kenyan girl/woman who has married an Irish man and has a stall each Sunday in Dun Laoghaire People’s Park on Sunday afternoons.  She also sells items made by the Masai and recycled paper jewelry from an aid project in Nairobi.  She is a lovely person and we have had such nice chats about Nairobi.  I enjoy purchasing from her.