PINK SQUARES #1, originally uploaded by uber trick.

My leftovers blanket is coming along; There are ten colours in it in total and I’ve finished all the pink squares so I guess I’m a tenth of the way to completion! I got 13 and a half squares out of my leftover ball of pink wool and to do the last half I was literally snipping off the long tails of the other squares, tying them on and crocheting them into the final square! This meant that I had to stitch them together using cotton rather than their long woolen tails, but that’s ok, it doesn’t show.

Now I’ve moved onto the red colour but my leftover ball of yarn is looking decidedly thin and I’ve only done six squares. If it runs out before the fourteen I need to make that will put me in a quandary as I have no idea what make or shade of wool it is as it is just something that has been knocking around my stash for a long time that I probably picked up in a charity shop ten years ago without a label. I guess if it does run out and I can’t match it I’ll just have to bite the bullet, try and buy a ball of red as there is no more of the right ply in there and start my red squares all over again!

Yesterday I was crocheting my red squares while I was at the hospital visiting my Grandmother who sadly was admitted on Tuesday. My Great-Aunt was there who I rarely see but who I have a bit of a soft-spot for. That’s probably because my Grandma is always telling me that I’m just like Marjorie with my love of big jewelled rings and high heels. Great-Auntie Marjorie sounds like she was “Quite A Girl” as Grandma would put it.

Great-Auntie Marjorie was watching me crocheting and was very impressed by this, I said that Grandma also likes to see me knitting and crocheting and that she had told me that she used to do a lot of it as well; she calls anyone she sees knitting a “natty knitter”, lovely alliteration. Great-Auntie Marjorie said that she also used to knit, crochet and sew and that during war-time when they couldn’t get hold of anything she once crocheted a pair of gloves out of black cotton thread. Can you image? That would have taken forever. I bet the gloves were rad! She also told me another great story about how she once lost a parcel of hand sewn clothes and undergarments that she had made for an exhibition thanks to a boyfriend of hers. I’m going to write it up for a piece of my university work on biography that we’re doing at the moment. I’ll put it on my myspace blog if it comes out well.

And as for books, well, after activating my account but doing nothing with it, I have finally started to use BookMooch and Oh, how I love it! BookMooch is a community for exchanging used books with the simple but perfectly descriptive tag line of: Give books away. Get books you want.

It works on a very simple basis, you give a book to someone and then you earn a point which you can use to get a book, or you can give your points to charity. Joining the site is free and the only costs are your postage costs in sending the book to them. Instead of using the points you earn to get books back for yourself you can also give your points to charities e.g. children’s hospitals (so a sick kid can get a free book delivered to their bed), Library fund, or African literacy. You can also create a wishlist just like you can on Amazon and when a book you want from your wishlist comes onto BookMooch you get an email notifying you about it. This could be a great resource for cash-strapped students as well, books for the price of postage.

I had a big pile of books beside my bed that I literally couldn’t stuff onto our overflowing bookcases and I realised that chances are I wasn’t going to read them. As part of the great clearout (which isn’t so great or clearout-like at the moment) I listed six on BookMooch last night and this morning I had a request to send one to Miami. It was ‘The Assault on Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to Class War’ by Stewart Home. The guy who mooched it from me was so grateful, he said: A bookshop in Miami would never dare stock this kind of thing!

There is this excellent / morally confusing facility that I discovered thanks to BookMooch that involves printing your postage online. There is a link from BookMooch when you accept a ‘Mooch’ where you can calculate the postage. It links through to the Royal Mail website where I was able to enter the weight of the book and see how much it would cost to send to America. I was then given the option to buy and print my postage which I duly did. It also gave me the customs certificate to complete, print and stick on my package and I was able to pop the whole package in the letterbox by the flat with the rest of the letters I was sending. Genius.

The reason I say it is morally confusing is that although I was able to avoid the huge queues that snake around and out the door of the post office on Chrisp Street Market, the more people who use this facility the more likely it is that they will keep on closing post offices down. I love the post office and sending and receiving letters and parcels through the post. I mean, an email is good, but how much more pleasure is there in receiving a handwritten letter that you can hold in your hands and read again and again? You can fold it into the book that you’re reading (that you got from BookMooch) and carry it around with you. Even if you have a Blackberry to carry your email around on, re-reading an email doesn’t have quite the same romance about it, does it?

Ok, so with buying postage online you can continue to send and receive letters, and perhaps it would even encourage someone to send a letter which they might not otherwise have done as they couldn’t be bothered to go to the post office to buy stamps. But it’s a different situation in a town or city from a rural area where the post office might be a central hub of the community. An elderly person living on their own might have some of their only weekly contact through going into a post office to collect their pension and to send a two pound postal order to their grandson. But then printing your postage online directly onto your envelope or a piece of paper that you then stick on the front of your envelope is helping to save paper and recycle, rather than needlessly printing out pages of stamps. Especially if you re-use bubble wrap envelopes and print on the blank side of paper that has previously been printed on, like I do.

So that was my moral confusion; On the one hand there was immense pleasure and satisfaction in using the postage online facility to buy and print my postage, plus being impressed with the way it made my package look: black and white, neatly designed, professional. This was tempered by feeling sad about possibly contributing to the decline of post offices and loss of jobs. Post Offices and Libraries, we need to keep them, they’re important, they’re community building. Use them or lose them.