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Balerno 1: 24 – 30 May

Following on from some of last week’s comments, you may be wondering what it’s like in Edinburgh in the springtime. Allow me to illustrate. Yesterday, Margaret and I thought we’d go to the Botanic Gardens, a 10-minute walk away. The sun was shining the sky was blue and, yes, it was windy, but only in gusts; in between it was merely a bit brisk. So off we went, taking with us the camera and the cardigan we finished last week, in response to all those (2) requests for a modelled picture.

Ten minutes later we were inside the gardens. We thought we’d go stare at the ducks a while, which is about the same as watching 24-hour news on TV but more challenging, so we strolled down to the pond. The wind got up and the branches started to thrash around ominously. The sun went in. A few light drops of rain began to fall, making ripples on the water. But, we thought, if the ducks don’t mind, why should we? 30 seconds later we were huddling under the shelter of the nearest tree as the rain came hosing down, ripping up the grass like tracer bullets, and the wind was about the same as standing too close to a jumbo jet preparing for takeoff. Five minutes after that everyone was ejected as it was so windy they were closing the gardens to the public. By the time we got home again the sun was shining and the pavements were dry.

Which is basically to explain why there aren’t any more cardigan pics just yet…

Another week, another project. This time it’s a gansey for my Uncle John, who lives in Balerno, a few miles away. It’s being knit in Frangipani navy. The chest size is 45 inches, so I’ve cast on 364 stitches for the ribbing. This will increase to about 400 for the body. I haven’t settled on a pattern yet, as I want it to incorporate patterns from the east coast of Scotland and the south coast of Devon, both areas that have associations for my uncle. As they share many common elements – cables, chevrons etc. – this shouldn’t be difficult. Anyway, I have a few more days to decide.

We found Nemo . . .

We took a trip to the aquarium on Wednesday, tucked under the shadow of the Forth Bridge, aquaria generally being one place you can visit in the rain without being inconvenienced. It was perfectly fine, except for the number of school parties – in fact, with the humid, echoing atmosphere and all the screaming kids it felt like school sports day at the pool. The children were so thick on the ground that at times it was like standing in mist.

and the sharks . . .

It was “Pirates of the Caribbean” month at the aquarium, to coincide with the release of the new movie. This is worth mentioning, since this time the film is based on a book by the great Tim Powers. (He wrote one of my all-time favourite fantasy novels, “The Drawing of the Dark”, as well as this classic pirate/ghost novel “On Stranger Tides”.) Nice to think he’ll finally get the royalties he deserves.

and the piranhas

Finally, thanks to Stephanie Fitzgerald for letting me post her email on sewing in ends to the relevant “How To” page. If anyone has any observations on techniques like this to add, please feel free to comment.

9 comments to Balerno 1: 24 – 30 May

  • Suzanne

    I’m sorry, but that was a lame excuse for not getting a modeled shot. What better context for showing off the attributes of a good gansey cardigan than tracer bullet rain and wake turbulence winds? Margaret could have been bravely smiling through it all, while her hair stood on end and the cardigan kept her snug and dry as a duck. Perhaps a short video with a mock air traffic control sound bed: “Reid Fife 511 – cleared for takeoff. Caution wake turbulence departing aircraft.” Ok, so I’m being rather silly. It’s the disappointment.

    Ce n’est que partie remise. We (all 2 of us?) still hope for a modeled shot.

    The bread looks scrumptious, as does the start of the new gansey but, being hungry right now, I am more interested in hearing about the bread.

  • Gordon

    Hi Suzanne,

    Just caught your comment before my treasured cd of Mahler’s 5th beckons. Very good! (Though even the ducks looked a bit bedraggled in the end.)

    But lame excuses are what we do best! Look forward in coming weeks to: A rabbit stole my camera; the cardigan has been bitten by a vampire and doesn’t show up in mirrors or in photographs; the cardigan was faked by the same team who brought you the NASA moon landings; and (my favourite) just as the shutter clicked the cardigan was translated to heaven by a host of angels and the burst of divine radiance totally spoiled the shot.

    And yes, we could probably have coped with the rain and the wind – but not a park ranger armed with a walkie-talkie and a steely look in her eye…!

    As to the bread – ah, the secret is to mix in about 10% wholewheat flour, a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of malt extract for extra favour, and a dollop of sourdough for that hint of nuttiness and complexity of texture. Knead it, then leave to rise in the fridge overnight – next day, have a lie-in, take out of fridge, shape, rise and bake. Split steaming hot rolls fresh from the oven and slather with butter and honey or strawberry jam. Or, when stale, drop out of window onto heads of passers-by far below and blame it on the seagulls. Both are good.

    Time for Mahler!


  • Suzanne

    All you had to do was to ask the park ranger to pose for a photograph (with Margaret in Fife). How could she refuse? No further excuses will be tolerated, simply because there must be thousands of iterations of the cardigan being paraded about in alternate realities. If angels snatch this one, go looking for another.

    Just the description of the bread has me drooling on the keyboard! After enjoying 10 days of excellent bread on my quick European jaunt, I am going through withdrawal. There is not a decent crust in sight! Note to self: start baking again.

  • Hmmm. Clearly I need to get back into baking bread. I wish we ate it faster! Maybe if I made rolls…

    The new gansey looks interesting – well, sounds like it will be interesting, once you pick the patterns!


  • Gordon

    Hi SongBird,

    Baking bread is the cat’s pyjamas since, unlike cakes and biscuits, you can fool yourself into thinking it’s healthy too. Margaret isn’t a great fan of bread – though I’m winning her over – so I tend to make things that can be split 65%-35% (like baguettes), or big and small rolls. But the truth is, I just like bread and often eat it raw, just ripping crusty chunks off and snarfing them – no butter or jam required.

    It’s almost pattern time, but you’ll have to wait another week for the big reveal (ain’t I a rattle?). Sorry.

    By the way, did you see the news that a psychologist has declared that romance novels can “unbalance” women? I think we should be told…


  • Leigh

    Uh, unbalance them from what? (Okay I appologize in advanced), Since a lot of guys never received the “How to Woo” manual growing up, but instead received the “How to Wham-Bam-Thankyou-Mam Guide in 10 Easy Steps” (I think that the “How to Woo” is in the same non-lending library that holds “How to Raise a Child” hostage), a bit of non-real romance in romance novels can be a saving grace.

  • Gordon

    Hi Leigh,

    Oh, of course it’s all nonsense, as you’d expect. Apparently a “Christian psychologist” (funded by the mormons) has declared that “women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books’ entrancing but distorted messages as men can be by the distorted messages of pornography”. So the media have run with this and are playing quote/counter quote with merry abandon!

    There are books that can unbalance the mind, but alas few of them are read as fiction…


  • Dave

    TEN easy steps? I must have received the abridged version . . .

  • Leigh

    Hey for all ya’ll who are interested, I understand Moray Firth Gansey Project Autumn Seminar class and reservation info has been posted. See below. Since I have not yet won the lottery, I will not beable to come, but I am seriously considering saving my pennies to come next year if not only to just rifle through Gordon’s closets to examine all of his ganseys.