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Buckie: 7 February

Bu160208-1Whenever he was feeling low in spirits, Ishmael—the narrator of Moby-Dick, I mean, not the son of Abraham and his maidservant Hagar—took to the sea. Of course, as things turned out this proved something of a schoolboy error, and Ishmael ended up shipping with a monomaniac one-legged captain determined to take revenge on God in the form of the white whale that had removed his leg.

Perhaps, he must have felt, as he bobbed in the empty ocean with only his friend’s empty coffin to keep him afloat, next time he was feeling low it’d be simpler all round to settle down in front of the tv with a bumper tin of Quality Streets, a tub of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream and a box set of Roadrunner cartoons.


Droplets on Hawthorn

My solution is usually less drastic: I treat myself to a new fountain pen.

I love fountain pens—partly for their old-world elegance, reminiscent of a time when a man had to enter a room sideways to avoid bruising his handlebar moustache on the doorframe—but mostly because, if you do a lot of writing by hand, they’re just so much nicer to use. (Mind you, there are downsides: the ensuing ink stains on your fingers make you look like you’ve been handling stolen bank notes, and you have to explain to people under 30 that the device you are holding is something Sherlock Holmes would have used to write with, not administer a 7% solution; but these are trivial matters.)


Dunnet Beach from Castletown

Now don’t get me wrong: you might think, given my saturnine disposition, that the walls of my room would by now be lined with cases like the shop where Harry Potter bought his magic wand. Not so—I have a relatively modest collection of just half a dozen, vintage and contemporary. But each one writes in its own style and, like Harry’s wand, carries the memories of all the spells it’s cast.

Bu160208-1-2Meanwhile I have reached the underarm gussets on the gansey. I am increasing at my standard rate, 2 stitches every fourth row, but this time I did something a little different: I increased another purl stitch into the side seam four rows before starting the gusset proper, so that the first increases don’t touch the sides of the body, something I’ve never really liked. This way it all happens inside the seam (a marginally more elegant solution to a problem nobody has but me).

Now, you may remember I was interviewed by a journalist last autumn who was writing an article on ganseys for the Scotsman newspaper online. Well, I never heard any more about it, and eventually assumed it had been spiked, or whatever the digital equivalent would be (depixellated, perhaps). But by chance I looked again this weekend and discovered that it had been published last November after all.

I haven’t actually read it. (I never do: I’ve had some bad experiences with journalists.) But if you’re curious, here’s the link. Just don’t tell me if it’s bad; besides, I don’t want to be interrupted—I’ve got all these Roadrunner cartoons to watch…

22 comments to Buckie: 7 February

  • lorraine

    Gordon- My friend has a son who wheels and deals on Ebay with his fountain pen collection. There are conventions and sales, a whole other world of pen fanatics.

    I am about to finish the second sleeve ribbing on my Whitby, and then wash and block. It will be a day in history, as this is my second Gansey ever.

    I do like your gusset strategy- I hope that didn’t sound rude.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lorraine, oh, I’m not in that league! I just like writing with them. I discovered that a lot of the collecting-fever in fountain pens comes from the various types of barrel and finish (tortoiseshell, gold, dilithium, dragon beak, etc.)—something I’m never going to get involved in. It’s a rabbit-hole I hope never to fall through! (That way lies madness.)

      Congratulations on finishing the Whitby gansey! But, as you’ll be aware by now, it will leave a gansey-shaped hole in your life which only another gansey can fill…

  • Linda Abraham

    Lovely story, and absolutely good – not to mention the handsome picture of you! As an avid follower of your knitting and musings, please continue! What would Mondays be without Gordon?? Also, thank you Margaret for the pictures! Always enjoy those!

    • Gordon

      Hi Linda, and thank you. (And while i can offer no guarantees, I can at least promise that every time I start a gansey you can be pretty sure I’ll keep blogging till I finish it!)

  • Louise

    I’ve just discovered your blog – really enjoying it 🙂

    • Gordon

      Hi Louise, great to hear from you – thank you for taking the time to drop by and let us know! If ganseys and persiflage—assuming that’s not some kind of racy lacy French underwear—I grew up in Northampton, corsets were just coming into fashion in the late 1970s, what do I know?—are your thing, then you’re in good company…

  • Lois

    And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but – a handsome man in a gansey. What did you bribe the journalist with? Lol

    I’m rather fond of fountain pens too and have a few nice vintage ones that I keep just for eye candy. My memory of fountain pens is the nasty little boy who sat behind me in school and used to dip my long ringlets in the inkwell. Both boy and ringlets are long gone.

    • Gordon

      Ha, it was like this, Lois: I suggested to the journalist that they give me “the full Keira Knightley treatment”—but I fear they got a bit carried away with the photoshopping!

      “Both boy and ringlets are long gone.” Somehow I picture you saying that and smiling an enigmatic, satisfied smile, while you keep running your thumb down the finely-honed blade of your wood axe… the next words being a thoughtful, “Now I come to think of it, they never found the body… or not all of it, at least…”

  • Annie

    Ah, yes, a handsome man in a gansy, er, the second picture in the article is the one we’re referring to?

    Love “…finishing a…gansy…will leave a hole in your life…” Still struggling with my first but I understand that, thanks!

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, alas I don’t possess a ‘tache half so fine as the chap in the top picture; I tend more towards “sleeping rough in the back seat of an abandoned car for the last two days” style of facial hair!

      Remember, a gansey is for life … or maybe it just feels that way…

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Well, well, well, Gordon. I really expected an aging old Curmudgeon of the worst sort & there you were, a perfectly acceptable younger man!! Except for the fountain pen thing, you seem to be relatively normal. Fountain pens are too messy for me, I’m back to the pencil myself – a nice, fat, mechanical one that doesn’t need sharpening.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon. “You seem to be relatively normal.” Funnily enough, that’s almost the exact words my line manager used at my last appraisal. (Of course that was before the The Unpleasantness—but then, we never speak of that.)

      As an archivist, surrounded by historical documents dating back to the 15th century, I take endless pleasure in brandishing a fountain pen full of splashy quantities of ink, the equivalent of smoking cigars in the powder magazine. (And there’s nowt wrong wi’ pencils neither!)

  • Freyalyn

    I love fountain pens too. I am using one at work at the moment – it’s all plastic, has a design of white leaves on dark blue on the barrel, and cost £3.99 in a local stationery shop. V pleasantly surprised at how nice it is to use.

    And yes, everyone else at work is puzzled by it. I just have to remember not to use it with the invoice booklet (carbon paper!)

    • Gordon

      Hi Freyalyn, I treated myself to a very expensive fountain pen once, when I was in funds—and I just didn’t like the way it wrote, so price is no guarantee. My favourite pens are my Parker Sonnet and a vintage Parker 51, neither of them cheap, but with each of which I could copy out the Encyclopaedia Britannica, just for fun!

      We use carbon-copy document request slips in triplicate and I have occasionally found myself using the fountain pen and then being puzzled as to why the bottom copy looks like the ghost of a drunken ant has been trying to communicate from The Other Side on it!

  • =Tamar

    I really liked my old fountain pen. It finally wore out – the nib became just a sharp point that cut the paper.
    Nice article, by the way; it was even accurate!

    • Gordon

      Hello Tamar—well, the revelation to me is that you can get replacement nibs fitted by specialists surprisingly cheaply. Margaret inherited an old fountain pen and we’ve just sent it off for a tweak, if hopefully it can be so tweaked. Either that or I suppose you could try runic carving?

  • Jane

    Stunning work on the gansey Gordon, and the gusset is so elegant!

    The article in “The Scotsman” is nicely done, you come over very well!

    I like fountain pens too, I like the feel of the paper through the nib, very tactile!

    Storm Imogan has blown through, I definitely feel the South can hold its head up with all in the North! Mind you I think the Isle of Wight took the brunt for us! Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, yes, I was torn between relief that for once a storm had decided to hit a different part of the UK – Scotland and the north has had rather a few this winter – and sympathy for the gales and rains that it brought to the south west. But look on the bright side – we’ve got to the stage when a sunny day almost starts to feel like spring – if it wasn’t for that biting easterly wind and the promise of snow!

  • =Tamar

    I wonder whether knitting needles carry the memory of everything they were used to knit.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I’m too ashamed to ask mine if they do—as they mostly resemble knitting needles brutally tortured in some medieval dungeon, twisted and bent and unable to sign their names in a steady hand, like poor old Guido Fawkes after being put to the question…

      But I daresay if they ended up in a Home for Refined Needles in Distressed Circumstances they could tell some exotic tales of double cables, chevrons, heapies and, once, off the starboard bow, half-glimpsed in the fog, a yarn-over…

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