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Buckie: 10 January 2016

Bu160111-1Another week, another trip to Inverness hospital—this time to see if I have glaucoma: apparently I don’t (hurrah!). I did badly in the peripheral vision test, though, because I almost fell asleep—the weather up here has been alarming, gale force winds and rain making it hard to sleep, and the head rest was really very comfortable; until the nurse, who’d been watching me thoughtfully, taped open my eyelids with sticky tape.

The consultant also dilated my pupils, so that for a few hours I wore the surprised look of a nocturnal marsupial being goosed by David Attenborough, and everything seemed to be in blurry soft focus. It takes a few hours to wear off, and bright sunlight can be very painful; luckily, living as we do in the far north of Scotland, this was not a problem.


Sinclair Bay from Nybster

Here’s the pattern chart for the current gansey. As I mentioned last week, it’s based on a Buckie pattern in the Moray Firth Gansey Project book, but amended: I’ve changed the diamonds from moss stitch and made the panels larger, to fit the required number of stitches. (I decided against just having more pattern repeats, as I didn’t want too many cables pulling in the body.) The body is 368 stitches in the round, and I’m cabling every seventh row.

BuckieSpeaking of ganseys, Elisabeth has sent a picture of a rather splendid one of her own design that’s she’s just finished, and which you can view here. It’s yoked with a full body pattern like the Hebridean ganseys, and it really is most effective combination. Congratulations to her on a sterling piece of work.

Meanwhile I’m still trying to adjust to my new allergen-free lifestyle, at least until the medical profession can establish what, if anything, is provoking the ulcers in my mouth. The food restrictions, even the ban on chocolate and crisps, I can live with; but the difficulty turns out to be avoiding sodium laurel sulphate (SLS): it’s in everything! Or every toiletry item, at least.

Bu160111-2If you weren’t aware of it before, it’s the substance that puts the lather in soaps and shampoos, and makes moisturiser feel silky smooth; and it is ubiquitous. As a result, I’ve had to replace everything from bath foam to lip balm, which has proved something of a challenge, not to mention making bath time rather less fun.

I’d read online that the Body Shop make SLS-free bath salts, so I thought I’d buy some while we were on holiday down south. I explained what I was looking for to the assistant, who helpfully located it on the shelf. But after I’d paid I realised she was acting under a misapprehension, for she gave me a very knowing leer and whispered confidentially, “She won’t be disappointed with this, sir” and all but waggled her eyebrows and nudged me in the ribs.


Wick Harbour Light

Obviously middle-aged men in Northampton only buy Body Shop products for their mistresses. I felt like a newly-wed husband buying something with batteries from an Ann Summers shop (not that we have those sorts of emporia up here; instead we’re supposed to rely on the Tesco motoring department and an active imagination). Well, it was all very awkward. I didn’t have the heart to tell her, but as I exited the shop with as much dignity as I could muster I saw her talking to two other girls, both of whom giggled and watched me go with a curious blend of admiration and disbelief. In future I’ll be buying online; it’s safer. In fact, it’s probably best if I never leave the house again…

29 comments to Buckie: 10 January 2016

  • Lynne

    Oh, Gordon! – you are a joy to read on a gloomy Monday winter morning, lol. The, gray is a favorite color of mine, (or is it a non-color?) and is working up beautifully in the Buckie pattern that I found hard to define in the Moray-Firth Gansey Project book.
    Lovely job, Elizabeth on the Claret V-neck gansey.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, grey is not so much a colour, more a way of life…

      This colour, Frangipani pewter, is in the flesh more of a blue-grey than a straight grey (it seems to me). One of the reasons it appeals to me is that it reminds me of an old navy sweater that’s faded and been aged by the rain and salt and wind. I plan to knit myself one in this colour in due course and then loiter around the harbour, telling tourists desperate tales of shipwrecks and sharks and having to swim the deep end of Northampton Grammar School for Boys swimming pool without a float.

  • Peggy Martin

    Gordon, the sweater is gorgeous. I really must make my 1st or 2nd sweater a gansey. The sweater done by Elizabeth is beautiful.

    Gordon I know of your discomfort with dilated eyes and I’m so glad you don’t have glaucoma. My “just beginning cataracts” are more than enough for me.

    Your post has given me a smile of a less than great Monday here in Nashville.

    Now that I have discovered the blogs tab on Ravelry I can keep up better. 🙂

    Peggy aka plmknitty

    • Gordon

      Hello Peggy—one of the great things about ganseys, I’ve never met a pattern I didn’t like. I still am amazed at what the old knitters achieved with just knit, purl and cable stitches. It’s like binary code—the entire universe can be explained in 1s and 0s; same with ganseys.

      Speaking as someone who’s had cataract operations, I have to say they’re nothing to worry about. But don’t just take it from me—my Dad, who’s in his 80s, had his done at the same time under a local anaesthetic and was done and dusted in 15 minutes per eye. And once it’s done, that’s pretty much it. So hang on in there!

  • Eve

    Thanks for a smile on a grey Monday. I know you’ve said that you don’t do socks but all those hospital waiting rooms surely need a small project bag with “emergency sock knitting”. I only knitted my first pair two years ago and now all my family are begging for mercy! I’m obsessed! I take some with me everywhere but it’s the reason that I’ve just got to do a gansey to alleviate the groaning sock drawer. The WYS bird wools are fab!

    • Gordon

      Hi Eve, socks always seem to me the bonsai of knitting—it requires a special, zen-like purity of mind, endless patience and the ability to turn a heel, none of which I possess. I can imagine Yoda knitting socks, probably using the Force while he cooked some pasta and chanted Forcey mantras. And, you know, in that swamp, you’re gonna need a change of socks pretty regularly.

      Margaret usually takes sock projects with her when she’s accompanying me on these hospital visits and i can definitely see the point, Trying to manipulate a 3/4 finished gansey in a hospital waiting room is about as convenient as making love to an octopus in a phone booth. (Not that I’ve tried. At least—but I’ve said too much already…)

  • Freyalynf

    Vaseline, or plain petroleum jelly. I use it when my skin’s gone really dry. Straight after a plain bath or shower, while skin’s still warm and damp – execellent moisturiser and barrier.

    Also removes makeup really well.

    You’ll still get funny looks buying the big pots from teh baby section.

    The other thing I use that’s really good – like the above, for basic moisturising and lipbalm – is coconut oil.

    • Gordon

      Hi Freyalyn, your comment came in as I was catching up. Thanks for the tip—I’m using vaseline lip salve, which works very well. Coconut oil is recommended too, in shampoos and other lotiony type things. I note that SLS-free is developing into a “thing”, partly because of unfounded health concerns, partly because some people claim it’s better for your skin and, and I use the word loosely in my case, hair—this means that many of the products are branded “luxury items”, and priced accordingly.

      I must be the only person who values the anonymity of the internet, not to access “those kind of sites”, but to avoid embarrassment when buying toiletries!

  • Dave

    So, have you thought what you are buying next time in the Body Shop ? or better still, what you are taking back – could be more fun. Both of the jumpers look superb – not that I pretend to know a knit from a pearl and cables I always thought were for Jack Sparrow timber shiverring – haharr !

    When we were taught painting we were told never to use black or grey and white is only for highlights. If the thing you are painting is one of them, you need to look for the colours they are reflecting, blues or reds, ochres or yellows or greens… Those non-colours can be the most interesting.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, I am currently enjoying what I think of as an “out of Body Shop” experience!

      I am to be honest a little colour blind—I can see subtle differences between colours, recognise that they’re slightly different, but can’t really differentiate between them. Grey is aesthetically pleasing to me (it goes with my lifestyle), to the extent that Margaret has to fight to get a little colour in my wardrobe—for work my jackets, trousers, ties and shirts are mostly grey—even my jumpers. But I agree – they can set off other colours really well – the basic pasta in the dish of life…

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Gordon, Gordon, Gordon!! If it isn’t one thing it’s another lately. Love your new project with the expanded diamonds – it’s in one of my favorite colors too!!
    Wednesday, I take the Ex for HIS semi-annual glaucoma checkup with all the fun you mentioned – NOT his idea of a good time either. BUT I always take him for lunch after!!

    Why don’t you use SOAP instead of DETERGENT to bathe & shampoo?? Simple soap contains fat & lye. It doesn’t need SLS to make it lather. I make my own with cheap olive oil, coconut oil & lye. Check the drugstore for Goat’s Milk or Castile SOAP. For Silky, touchable skin try a cup or two of plain old Epsom Salts, Baking Soda or skim milk powder in your bath. If it was good enough for Cleopatra . . . .

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, it’s not my fault. Personally I blame the medical profession. If they didn’t keep sticking things in me I’d never know anything was wrong…

      The nurse sympathised with the ghastliness of the peripheral-vision-testing-machine, and said that nobody liked it. She thought it would be much more engaging if instead of lights it showed cartoon ducks and you clicked the clicker to shoot them.

      I’m going to try making my own moisturiser, so soap cannot be far behind. (In fact Tesco’s basic 15p soap is fine to use, I’ve discovered.) Failing that, I’m going to hire some women to take me down to the river and beat me with stones the next time they’re doing their washing…

  • Lois

    Now that really does being a picture to my mind of Gordon luxuriating in a milk bath pool, as he knits on his gansey, accompanied by minions waving ostrich feather fans over his head a la Cleopatra.

    • Gordon

      Lois, I had a look in the asses’ milk aisle in Tescos and, would you believe it, they were all out. Otherwise…

      Mind you, I’ve often wondered about the whole bathing in milk thing. I know people in the past had different views on hygiene, but I can’t help picturing the great scene:

      Caesar (wrinkling his nose): What’s that smell, Antonius? Red Leicester? Or goats’ cheese?
      Cleopatra (through clenched teeth): That’s me, you Roman halfwit! I bathed in asses’ milk.
      Caesar: Ah, that explains it! Antonius, did you remember to pack the crackers?

  • =Tamar

    SLS is also in most toothpastes, which is probably the main way it would reach your mouth aside from lip balm. It’s also in some dishwashing materials, and traces might remain on the tableware.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, yes, I’ve had to switch to an SLS-free toothpaste too (Sensodyne Daily Care, although other Sensodyne products do have SLS, oddly.) In fact, once you start reading the labels, it’s like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers – suddenly every product is suspect, a changeling taken over by alien forces!

  • Lois

    I hope the asses milk carried a label saying “No asses were harmed in the production of this product.”

  • =Tamar

    Wild asses only, please; no factory-farmed asses’ milk wanted.

  • Gordon

    Free range asses are one thing, it’s getting the buggers to stand still in the field while you milk them that’s the problem… (As the old joke goes, Are you the front end of an ass? Or are you the rear end of an ass? Neither? Then you must be no end of an ass, ho ho ho…)

  • Jane

    Totally wonderful!

    My dentist uses Sensodyne, and if it’s good enough for my dentist, then it must be all right! I have been reading the labels on toiletries for quite a few years now. Ever since I started to experience dreadful rashes about the time of the youngsters’ teenage years! I have found the local health food shop very helpful over the years. There is a surprising large number of people who avoid SLS. I am a big fan of coconut oil shampoos, and olive oil soaps!

    Meanwhile, I love the colour and stitch definition, super work!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, Daily Care Sensodyne seems to be OK, but you have to read the label—as we discovered, many of the others have SLS in them…

      Chemicals in toiletries isn’t something i’d ever given any thought to, naively—you want a bath, you buy soap and bath foam, and turn on the tap. How hard can it be? Then it turns out the entire toiletries industry sneaks in battery acid and ground up chicken lips, or whatever, and suddenly you’ve been betrayed by your bath!

      Mind you, it’s been getting on for 3 weeks now and my symptoms haven’t changed—SLS may not be the bad guy at all. Maybe I’m allergic to oxygen!

  • =Tamar

    Could it be the Brussels sprouts?

    Not joking. I met a woman who was _only_ allergic to hypo-allergenic products…

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I understand it’s possible to be allergic to just about anything! The most likely explanation is looking as though, if it is an allergy, it’s going to be a combination of things. I suspect part of it is a spice used in Mexican or Indian food, together with another mystery ingredient: the two together are triggering something. Maybe it’s brussels sprouts after all! I live in hope…

  • I love grey — am inadvertently knitting two grey things at once at the moment, as it happens. But then, I live in Southern California where everything has been brown for the past three seasons, so grey really IS a color here!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jeanne, sounds like my kind of place! Grey is, I feel, the new grey—and after all, I understand there are in the region of 50 shades to choose from…

  • Pat Silver

    You can brush your teeth without toothpaste, or use a bit of sodium bicarbonate powder if you feel the need for a mild abrasive. Try avoiding peppermint, that is known to cause mouth ulcers for some people. Meanwhile, if you want some absolutely plain soap I can make a batch for you with no perfume (I detest perfumes generally), no detergents, no fillers or colourants. Perfumes are a very common cause of irritation and allergies. For dry skin make a classic oil and beeswax cream.

    • Gordon

      Hi Pat, that’s extremely kind of you! I’m seeing the consultant again this week after my 6 weeks of fasting and meditation, and to be honest I can’t see any change—so I’m thinking my problem probably isn’t an allergy, as all the obvious allergens should be out of my bloodstream by now. So it’s probably something medical after all, and maybe the blood tests will have provided the answer. So I’ll get back to you depending on how it goes in Inverness this week! Thanks again, Gordon

  • Pat Silver

    Tamar, the only washing powder I’m sensitive to is Ecover. You can be allergic to darned near anything, hypoallergenic products simply omit the most common allergens but it isn’t a guarantee.

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