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Denim 17: 29 July – 10 August

D140810a Marcel Proust’s unnamed narrator found that a piece of madeleine cake dipped in a spoonful of tea was enough to transport him back to the days of his youth, inspiring him to write the second longest novel ever written, clocking in at over a million words. (If only, one wonders, he’d been offered a chocolate digestive instead…)

In my case it’s the sound of dice rattling on a backgammon board that takes me back – not to my childhood, but to my student days, staying up in a succession of seedy kitchens and untidy, used-sock-bestrewn bedrooms till long after midnight, playing for money, playing for notepaper, playing for the sheer fun of the thing, gambling away my youth. There’s something rather wonderful about a game when you can lose everything on the throw of a double six (odds of 35:1 against); and many’s the time I have.


Sunday morning at Dunnet Head – the Old Man of Hoy, with seabirds

I’ve been slaloming down memory lane this week because my old friend Dave, who lives in south Wales, came to visit. Dave and I were students together at Manchester University, and whereas he still looks pretty much the same, give or take the odd follicle or two, when I look in the mirror these days I seem to see one of those melting Nazis at the end of the first Indiana Jones film looking back at me.


Sunday morning at Dunnet Head – we could see nearly to Cape Wrath

We shared digs for a year at the home of Mrs Betesh in Didsbury, a short-sighted little old lady who used to scare the hell out of us every time she lit the stove. She didn’t have any eyebrows because after turning on the gas she had to search for the matchbox, fumble for a match, and after several minutes had elapsed would finally scrape it alight on the box; by this time she was usually enveloped in a shimmering haze of gas, for all the world like someone beaming down in a Star Trek episode. You could always tell when it was dinnertime because the cat came and hid under our bed, wearing a crash helmet.


Sunflowers. In France. Montagne Noire in background

Anyway, what with old friends coming to visit and all, I’ve taken a short break from the knitting. Coming back to it now after a two-week break I’m finding it hard to remember what I was doing. My fingers have forgotten how to hold the needles, and I have an urge to scoop up egg fu yung and fried rice with them rather than form stitches. Still, it’s all slowly coming back (after a piece of shortbread dipped in tea – thanks, Marcel!), and I’ve made a start on re-knitting sleeve two.

And now Dave is gone (sad face), the funfair is gone (smiley face), Margaret is back (smiley face) and the backgammon board has been put away for another few years (shruggy face); and all I have left from my misspent youth is a clear recollection of the probabilities of various dice combinations. Useless to me now, of course: unless anyone is rash enough to challenge me to a game of Monopoly, when it’s sometimes helpful, say if you are deciding where to place a hotel, to know that seven is the most likely number you can throw with two dice…

10 comments to Denim 17: 29 July – 10 August

  • =Tamar

    That lovely photo in KnitScene doesn’t look much like a melting nazi; maybe they photographed that painting in the attic? No, wait, it’s the other way around…
    The 4th sleeve appears to be coming along nicely.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, ah, that’s because when photographs are going to be taken I use my “gansey stunt double” (remember kids, always make sure you get the negatives as well as the prints!). It says in my contract that I can only be filmed in soft focus, and I get to keep my clothes on at all times. (Actually, the studio put that clause in, can’t imagine why…)

  • Jane

    Good to see you back! The holiday sounds jolly too. The yarn for this gansey is absolutely glorious if I might say so, the colour, the sheen, very nice. I also admire the dpns, very serviceable. The sleeve looks good too.

    In the South weather has been pleasant, but varied. The twenty seven ducks on the pond have been and gone. One of next door’s peahens has revealed a charming brood of five and taken up residence in the relative peace and quiet of our house overhang at the back (sharp intake of breath).

    I laughed out loud at the marvellous landlady, oh for the heady smell of Town Gas, now log gone! We have gas bottles here, no mains naturally. They can be very trilling too, much shaking and regarding, bit of an art really!

    The wedding cardie progresses not quite as fast as I would like, but it happens like that. Ever onward!

    • Gordon

      Hey there Jane, You should set up a webcam on your pond, I think.

      There was a regular rhythm to Mrs Betesh’s kitchen operations. First came the click of the gas going on, followed by a steady hiss. Then a long pause. Then a sudden WHUMPF!, and lastly a faint, “Oh dear!”. If you went into the kitchen afterwards you’d smell singed hair and find her patting her hair to see how much shorter it was. Still, I guess it saved on haircuts.

      I mis-read “cardie” in your post as cake. Time for lunch, I think!

  • Marilyn

    Gordon’s back!(smiley face)
    Visits with friends of long standing (I’ve stopped saying “old friends”) are the best. Shared history,….ah. So much can be left unsaid while leaving nothing unsaid.
    Your new gansey will be finished in time for cooler weather and that’s the point, really, isn’t it?
    Good knitting.

    • Gordon

      Afternoon Marilyn, we see each other so seldom these days, being 600-700 miles apart, that you only just catch up on what’s been happening since the last time and the visit’s over. On the other hand, the dice were rolling for me this weekend, and if I remember correctly I now own two of Dave’s sheep and have a part interest in one of his cows. All I have to do now is figure out how to get part of a cow up to North Britain!

      The cooler weather seems to’ve arrived, dammit. If you open your window and listen carefully you’ll hear a sudden increase in needle activity from this part of the world, as I’m now in a race to beat the arrival of winter!

      • Marilyn

        re: part of a cow= steaks by post??

        • Gordon

          Ha, speaking as a vegetarian I shall make it a requirement to keep 1/5 of the cow alive, no matter what he does with the rest of it! But the odd yoghurt wouldn’t go amiss, if it wasn’t for being franked by the Post Office…

  • Sarah

    Catching up sitting in a little tea room in my town, and chuckling about the landlady and her gas stove. I have a gas stove, and the pilot lights, if adjusted incautiously, will shut off while the gas is still on, leaving one with a dilemma: relight and jump back hoping the explosion is minimal, or shut it off and wait for the gas to disperse. I usually choose to relight, but it’s always with trepidation. So far, nothing bad has happened…

    • Gordon

      Hi Sarah, I love cooking with gas, it’s so much more immediate than waiting for an electric ring to heat up, but in my imagination it does have the slight disadvantage of a smoking crater like something that killed off the dinosaurs if things go wrong…

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