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Buckie: 7 March

Bu160307-1In the movie Amadeus the composer Salieri describes a piece by Mozart as sounding “like a rusty squeezebox”, and I daresay he’d have used the same simile if he’d listened to my breathing this week, now my cold’s come back. (Though whereas the Serenade for Winds K.361 made Salieri feel as if he was hearing the voice of God, my bronchial problems would probably have reminded him rather of a whoopee cushion in a pigsty.)

Oh, well: there’s always knitting. I tend to regard picking up stitches around the neck and armhole with the same enthusiasm as, say, a trip to the dentist or shopping for a pair of trousers, and as a result I tend to grit my teeth and go at it headlong—just to get it over with. This explains how I’ve finished the front, completed and joined the shoulders, done the collar and started the first sleeve, all in the space of a week. (It also goes some way to explaining why I have 17 unused pairs of trousers in my wardrobe, but let’s not go there.)



By the way, I followed tradition by dividing each half of the body into three sections, each containing the same number of stitches, for the two shoulders and the neck. It always looks very wide at first, but the ribbed collar draws it in nicely. Next week I’ll explain my calculations for decreasing down the sleeve, but at the time of writing I still have to deal with the gusset.


Rainbow in snow shower

This week I’ve been reading a surprisingly entertaining book by Philip Hensher on the history of handwriting, called The Missing Ink. It’s full of fun little asides such as this splendid footnote about the time when Rupert Murdoch effectively sacked the editor of the Times after one mistake too many, making him Editor Emeritus. The editor asked what emeritus meant. Murdoch replied, “It’s Latin, Frank. The e- means you’re out. The meritus means you deserve it.’”


Snowdrops in snow

Hensher is a keen advocate of handwritten letters. He’s preaching to the converted in my case, of course—I’ve already spoken of my love of fountain pens, despite their annoying habit of getting ink everywhere (on one occasion, adjusting a ticklish nose hair after filling a pen with a startling shade of purple ink, I innocently strolled around Wick looking as if I’d been suffering from an alarming type of nosebleed or snorting iodine).

He suggests writing someone you care about a handwritten letter or a postcard. In this time of email and junk mail, “What could be better than to know that you’ll be the only nice thing in your old friend’s postal delivery that day?” Isn’t that a great thought? It happened to me recently, and I can vouch for it. Time, I think, to buy some fancy writing paper…

14 comments to Buckie: 7 March

  • Annie

    What’s your mailing address, Gordon?

  • Jane Dale

    Your Gansey is really impressive Gordon. I do like that colour for showing up the pattern.
    Have reached the patterned yoke and armholes on ‘hubby’s Caister Gansey’ and have started knitting the back. We had a try on when it measured 13 inches, because this pattern doesn’t have gussets and I wanted to include them. ‘But it won’t be a proper Gansey’ I wailed. ‘Well I need to be able to put my coat on over it’ was the reply, so it remains gussetless. The pattern which is a 16 row cable and a sort of off set k2 p2 seed stitch is easier now I’m working to and fro, for some reason. Healthwise I am a bit worried I may become addicted to Gansey knitting and weather wise we have had about 4 inches of snow and the temperature has dropped quite a bit. I think Winter has finally arrived here in the Peak District.
    Regards Jane

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, well I read somewhere that it was to better fit men’s jackets that they stopped decorating the sleeves in the 20th century, in Scotland at least, so I guess there is a precedent of sorts? Though a patterned gansey with totally plain sleeves always looks curiously naked to me.

      The weather here’s been a bit like Camelot in the song from the musical, snow overnight and hard frosts, then clear blue skies and sunshine in the day to melt it all—sort of like a theme park version of winter, nothing like as disruptive as the real thing. I’d quite like it to be Christmas soon, I’m just about in the mood for it now.

      Happy knitting, Gordon

  • Lynne

    Casting my vote for going the the ‘full-length’ patterned sleeve route. Love this gansey!

  • Gordon,
    Pretend that this note is in fine Copperplate on hand-made tissue-thin silk paper.
    On Jan. 5 I cast(ed?) on my Pewter Gansey and have kept ahead of you … just. Your post today has me reeling and the air was momentarily blue. Not that I wish for a cold, and I hope you shake yours soon, but I could use some dedicated knitting time to catch up, as you have sped past and are headed for the Finish Line. It looks lovely.
    Victoria, BC, Canada

    • Gordon

      Yes Julie, sorry, I never pretended to be consistent! Partly it’s because I reach a stage when I just want the whole damn thing to be over and blocked—it feels by the time I get to the sleeves it should be almost finished, whereas in reality there’s usually still at least 6 weeks to go. But also by this time I have the pattern well and truly under my fingers and I don’t have to take quite so much care.

      But this is a very easy pattern to knit, for all it looks so intricate: I’ve hardly made any mistakes for Margaret to fix (apart from tonight where I decreased at the seam stitch on one normal decrease row; then by the time I reached that point again on the next row completely forgot that I’d made that decrease and couldn’t figure out why I had two stitches knit together—had I dropped a stitch? I therefore unpicked the decrease, only for the penny to drop—D’oh! In my defence I haven’t been well!).

  • Sharon in Surrey

    I love your Gansey & especially love that pattern. Sorry to hear that you’re coughing again. How’s your allergy?? Is it figured out???
    I’d send you a letter on my hand-made paper – I took a class in paper making, which is so much fun!! But the hand-made paper is so much heavier than the skimpy stuff you ordinarily use that it’s better for cards than letters. And, frankly my dear, keyboards are the best way for my poor arthritic hands to communicate. They no longer appreciate anything other than pencils & small knitting needles.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, this strain of cold is very hard to shift. I know several people with similar ailments that just won’t go away—mine is a zombie cold, lurching around the countryside looking for fresh victims, refusing to die. If only I didn’t sound like someone draining the last drops of a milkshake through a straw when I exhale…

      The allergy remains a mystery—the tiny ulcers things around my lips still tingle away, but haven’t flared up into a major outbreak. Yet removing all the regular things that cause this from my diet hasn’t made the slightest difference. Go figure. (On the other hand, I can snap my fingers at the medical profession and go ahead and have chocolate easter eggs at least!)

      keyboards have another advantage—the backspace and delete keys! God’s gift to authors everywhere.

      • =Tamar

        Since it seems that it’s not a food allergy, what else goes on in your environment? Assuming there is a time when it is less prominent if not gone, what changes? Dishwashing detergent, the metal the cutlery is made of? They put stuff in tissues – softeners, scent – I suppose you’ve tried plain tissues, or even plain toilet paper. Use of cloth or paper napkins? laundry soap, brand of air filters if such there be, your wife’s lip balm/makeup, plants blooming or spreading pollen, fungus spores, or even, horrors, dye on yarn. What do you touch and then semi-automatically touch your face after?
        Allergies can be very subtle. What might be in the air of the town?

        • Gordon

          Hi Tamar,

          I already knew that I had an allergy, and while the tests a few years ago couldn’t identify what it was, they did show that I wasn’t allergic to dust, cats, grass or pollen—all the most common ones. Having been given a list of things to avoid I’ve had to change my soap, shampoo, tissues, lip balm, moisturiser, bath foam and deodorant. (I’m also on a diet on no cinnamon or cinnamates, nothing with the word “benzoate” in the label, no crisps, chocolate or coca-cola, and no toiletries with sodium laurel sulphate in.)

          I read that there are lots of products with naturally-occurring benzoates, but I freely admit I don’t strictly avoid them all—the list includes most berry and stone fruits (and jams made from them), tomato puree, kidney beans, tea, honey, pickles, and vinegar—because as a vegetarian my diet would be just too limited.

          I’ve experimented recently with reintroducing some of these things back into my diet (so we cooked Mexican food recently, and it definitely made my lips tingle, but that’s all). The problem hasn’t altogether gone away, but it hasn’t flared up either.

          The one thing I can be confident of is the air in the town being pretty clean: Caithness is a very sparsely-populated county and the wind speeds here rarely drop below 10mph and most of the winter it’s been 20-60mph, so at least it’s not stale!

  • I know it is small comfort, but the bug is everywhere. Here, doctors are calling it the “100-day cold.”
    Victoria, BC, Canada

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