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Cedar Gansey, Week 3: 30 July

There’s an old saying that an English summer consists of three fine days and a thunderstorm, and it’s usually a similar story here in the north of Scotland, apart from the three fine days. But this has been a golden summer in which the Earth, to use one of my favourite analogies, has baked like an apple in its skin. Only after weeks of hot, unforgiving sunshine are things finally dissolving into heavy thundery showers.

Evidence of Circus

I was delighted to discover that there’s a word for the smell of fresh rain on dry ground: petrichor. It’s a made-up word—well, of course, all words are. But this one was coined in 1964 and comprises two parts: petro (relating to rocks—hence the Apostle Simon “The Rock” Peter and possibly, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or then again possibly not); and ichor (the fluid that runs in the veins of the gods in place of blood). In other words, it means a heavenly scent associated with rocks. Though I don’t know if it will catch on: it feels more like the answer to a crossword puzzle than something you’d actually use in conversation (“I say dear, the petrichor’s unusually strong this morning”; “Well, you should rub on that cream you got from the chemist’s”; etc.).

Duncansby Stacks

But I do like the idea that this is an experience that has somehow slipped through the linguistic net: we don’t really need a name for it, any more than we need a precise medical term for the back of the knee (something which I read years ago doesn’t exist and I’ve never wanted to pursue just in case it’s not actually true). There are other concepts I’d rather have a word for: e.g., the feeling of crashing disappointment you get when England, about to win a cricket match after five days of desperate struggle, suddenly throw it all away and lose with half an hour to go. Or the wave of pure joy that washes over you when you discover that, contrary to expectations, there’s another layer of chocolates under the cardboard insert.

Thistles at Nybster

In gansey news, it’s make-my-mind-up time: the end of the plain knitting on the body and the start of the gussets and the pattern. But which pattern? I can’t decide—as the old joke goes, I used to be undecided, but now I’m not so sure. The ball can only bounce around the roulette wheel of fate for so long however, and sooner or later it has to drop into a slot; the wheel is slowing even as I type.

By the way, French and German have both adopted petrichor, which is rather pleasing. I’m surprised at the Germans, mind you: they have so many words for which there isn’t an English equivalent you’d think they’d have their own for this. Still, my favourite such German word is Kummerspeck, literally “grief bacon”. This charming phrase means the extra weight you put on by emotional overeating—though as a vegetarian, maybe in my case it should be “grief tofu”…?

6 comments to Cedar Gansey, Week 3: 30 July

  • meg macleod

    ah! chocolates, a dearly remembered luxury[?], crossed off my shopping list a while ago. No, I am not doing penance, just following the advice I give my kids.You will remember that wonderful film `Chocolat`?

    I used to do tai chi with friend,[ no longer with us]….our weekly treat was to choose a luxury chocolate with our tea….she kept the box safe in a cupboard.She had a strong will.It was a very pleasant ritual…alas no more.
    Why is chocolate such a temptation?????

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, I like to think of chocolate not so much as a temptation, more a way of life… (Hmmm, tai chi or chai tea? Both good with chocolate!)

  • Judit M./Finlad

    Hello Gordon !
    As to the pattern : I once knitted a green gansey and the yoke had the pattern is to be seen in Reader´s gallery : green . It is very easy – no stress by counting – and the person who got it liked it very much.
    It will be intersting to see the pattern you have chosen.
    Happy knitting!

    • Gordon

      Hi Judit, is that the one with the triangles? That is a classic Pattern, you’re right and the green really sets it off. I’ve made my choice – probably an anticlimax! – and I’ll share my progress on Monday.

  • Judit M./Finland

    Yes Gordon, I found it in the book of Mary Wright. Name: Looe:Eddystone.
    Have a nice weekend.

    • Gordon

      Hi Judit, that’s the one! I knew I’d seen it in a book but couldn’t remember – all I could think of was Loos, but as that’s a town in northern France I suspected it wasn’t correct…

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