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Balerno 5: 21 – 26 June

In the life of every gansey I knit, there comes a point when it suddenly shoots along, like a time-lapse film of bamboo growing or a gangly teenager you only see once a year. Well, if you compare the pictures from last week with this week, you’ll see that we’ve just reached that stage.

The Red Arrows on Armed Forces Day

I’d like to pretend this is a result of my monastic existence during Margaret’s absence, while she was sunning herself in the south of France and having to wrestle with the future imperative of irregular verbs like “être”. But sadly it was just because the weather has been so miserable here in Edinburgh, wet and cold, that it was simply better to pretend that the outside world was a figment of my imagination – rather like the efficient universe proposed by Bishop Berkeley in the 18th century, in which the bits you didn’t need at any given time (such as the middle of a rainforest when no one is looking) would simply cease to exist until required again. (To my utter delight we watched a programme on TV last night on which a physicist seriously suggested the universe might really work like this.)

Tuesday was the solstice, of course, the – ahem – longest day. I watched through the rain out the lounge window as Calton Hill slowly disappeared under low cloud and mist, until by six o’clock it was so dark I had to turn the lights on.

Anyway, as you’ll see from the pictures the gansey is going like a breeze. The overall length will be some 28 inches, shoulder to ribbing, so I’m about 3-4 inches away from starting the gussets – maybe next week, if I can keep this rate up. It’s now too heavy to support its own weight and has to be filmed lying down (not unlike me after an Indian meal).

I also reached a milestone on the novel last week, 60,000 words. Not bad for 6 weeks. It’s interesting how different people write: some plan a novel out beforehand in great detail (the SF writer Neal Stephenson writes longhand in fountain pen, and when asked what he did about rewriting sentences replied that he made sure he got his sentences right first time, the swine). Stephen King reckons he doesn’t know how the story will go when he starts, and can’t plan his novels out in advance. I’ve discovered that I find out what a book is about as I write – but when I’ve reached a certain point, such as now, I have to go back and rewrite the whole thing, pulling it all together and planting clues and foreshadowing. It’s not very efficient (apologies to Bishop Berkeley) but it works for me. So that’s what I’ve started to do today.

Friday when Margaret got back was the start of Armed Forces Day Weekend, so we got several flypasts from the Red Arrows up and down the Forth. This meant we kept running to the front and back of the flat like tag sprinters to catch a glimpse of jet trail, thus keeping our fitness levels up but doing nothing for the digestion.

Finally, last week I promised some examples of Margaret’s amazing polymer clay work. So here they are. (And I thought knitting was hard…)

11 comments to Balerno 5: 21 – 26 June

  • Annalies

    I like the stones with faces and the “staafkerk” ,i think it is a norwegian church? They are all wunderful.
    Gansey is also fine.

  • Gordon

    Hi Annalies,

    Turning plasticine/clay into beads or miniature furniture I can understand – everything else just does my head in!

    Margaret tells me the “church” is in fact a French dovecote. (I thought it was Babi Yaga’s house on legs, so your guess was better than mine…)


  • Lynne

    Thanks for the polymer clay art photos, I just purchased a bit yesterday to try my hand at ‘bear feet’!
    Projecting forward on your gansey, are you going to try the two circular needles for the arms instead of the dbl pointed?

  • Annalies

    thank you, margaret make nice thing and perhaps you think to much in music or stories:-)

  • Gordon


    I haven’t decided yet on the circular needles thing – I have the kind of brain that, once it finds a method for doing something, just sticks with it, even if a better method exists! (This probably explains why I haven’t wanted to knit anything other than ganseys, too…) Learn enough and stop, that’s my motto. But it’s on my radar now…


    Music and stories – you say that like it’s a bad thing! (As The Smiths song goes – and I know that by quoting this I’m totally proving your point – “There’s more to life than books …. but not much more.”)


  • Annalies

    Oh no, sorry, reading and music are for me one of the best things in life.

  • Gordon

    Hi Annalies, don’t apologise, I was only joking (as I do rather too much for my own good!). I’ve heard about the real world, and I’ve decided I want no part of it!


  • Oh, I was so distracted by another book of yours that I forgot to compliment Margaret on her magnificent polyclay art! I love the little house and the grey figurines … Wonderful stuff, all of it.


  • Gordon

    Hi SongBird,

    I just wish the Emperor Justinian could have been made to look a bit cheerier – I know that’s the way he’s represented in the original, but, as the Byzantines probably used to say, he looks like he’s lost a (gold) solidus and found a (bronze) nummi!. (Also known as the nummi’s curse…)


  • =Tamar

    Wow! Is that precious-metal clay being used with the polymer? I hadn’t heard of there being a shiny metallic polymer clay, at least, not one that good. The emperor is impressive but I still like the book best (which figures).

    Your gansey progress is very impressive. I’m vaguely contemplating knitting a lacy hat but it’s been a month and I haven’t begun.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    Margaret tells me that the effect is achieved by laying metal leaf over the clay, and then varnishing it to get the shiny, metallic effect. Rather leaves the lumpy cows i used to make out of plasticine in New Zealand trailing in the dust.

    My life is kind of on hold right now, for reasons that may or may not become apparent in the next couple of months, so I’m dividing my time between knitting and writing, trying to get at least a rough draft of a novel to play around with later, while I have the opportunity. Hence the progress on the gansey!