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Fife 15: 1 – 7 March

My knitting’s had a sudden growth spurt, like a teenager who’s outgrown his elder brother’s pyjamas, or a tree that’s had its fertiliser augmented with amphetamines. As you will see from the pictures, I’ve reached the point on the front where I divide for the shaped neck/collar, and it’s ho for the straight needles and on to Can-a-di-i-o, me hearties.

Usually when I knit a gansey I do the back first, so I can make sure everything’s fine and iron out any kinks before I turn my attention to the front (identical to the back but more visible, except to the people standing behind you in the queue at the post office). I’d like to pretend that I chose to start with the front this time as part of a subtle plan, but the sad truth is, I just wasn’t paying attention. Again. So I’ve had to work the new pattern around the cardigan’s central steek, and fit it into my calculations for dividing at the neck too. Only time will tell if I’ve got it right!

I still – can you believe this? – still haven’t reached the end of my first cone of Frangipani wool. I was beginning to wonder if I’ve discovered the Zeno’s paradox of knitting, where no matter how much yarn you use there’s always a little more to go. But I see little patches of cardboard showing under the yarn on the cone for the first time, like my scalp when the barber holds the mirror up to the back of my head and I can see how much hair I’ve lost since last time. So we’re almost at the bitter end, and I can confidently predict that next week will feature a big fat new cone.

Fireworks and celebrations – I’ve finished the first draft of my latest novel. It clocks in at a trim 74,500 words (the equivalent of just under 300 pages in paperback). Time to start sending it off to publishers (you can never have too much rejection in your life!). I won’t be posting it to the website this time, or at least not yet, mostly because it’s not had time to bed in yet. But if anyone would like to read it while the paint’s still wet and let me have your comments – act as a sort of focus group – just drop me a line in the comments box and I’ll cheerfully send you a copy (just let me know if you prefer it in e-book or pdf format).

I’ve been making baguettes again, and also some rolls for a change. I’ve been experimenting with a new recipe, basically the traditional baguette dough with a dollop of sourdough, but made 50-50 with plain flour and white bread flour. It makes the texture slightly lighter (unless it’s all in my imagination…).

It’s almost time to plan out the shoulder strap now. Must be spring – suddenly everything’s coming on fast!

16 comments to Fife 15: 1 – 7 March

  • Leigh

    Looking good as always Gordon. I really think you ought to teach classes. You explain everything so well. The problem is for us who need hands-on approach, 1-on-1 is very much needed. Too bad we we just could not come over and stay at your place for a summer and take classes. If so, I will be first in line. Wonder how much that would cost? Waddaya think? or maybe I need to ask Margaret? Or maybe Margaret would like to stay in the condo in Hawaii for that time?

    As always, your bread just makes me want to get the cookbook out and teach myself how to bake bread. I am surprised you dont get neighbors knocking you door down for samples given the smells that must be coming from your kitchen.

  • Dave

    Still on the first cone? Are you sure that you weren’t in a daze, picked up your cast-on tail instead of the working yarn, and unraveled the sweater from the bottom as you added to the top?

  • Gordon

    Hi Leigh,

    Thank you for the good word. I’ve done lots of professional training before, and I know I’m quite good at it (mostly). Never thought of teaching ganseys, though – I’d have to attend some knitting classes to see what’s involved! Plus I’d feel a bit of a fraud – I just sort of bumble along, and I’m lucky that I work in such a small scale you can’t see the uneven stitches and all the mistakes…

    My parents live in a lovely old former canalside pub in the Midlands and Margaret & I have thought of some kind of residential courses there – I can provide the bread! It’s something we’ve thought about, but maybe a recession isn’t the best time. (Oh, and Margaret can always be bribed with foreign trips…)


  • Gordon


    You may jest but I have done something similar with a long loose end from a shoulder cast-off once! So anything is possible.

    The never-ending cone is like the old joke about the stupid person and the genie. The genie gives the man three wishes. For his first wish he asks for a pint of guinness that never runs dry. The genie produces the magic pint. The man takes a drink – it’s wonderful, the best pint he’s ever tasted, he can’t believe it. What would you like for your other wishes, the genie asks? “I’ll have another two of them…”


  • =Tamar

    One line that I’ve pondered about in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer is the one where J.W.Wells says he sells ever-filled purses. I wondered what the price is, and why he’s bothering to be in business anyway. If you can do anything with it, feel free!

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    Yes, good point – the practicalities never occurred to me!

    There’s a brilliant short story by the great Robert Sheckley (whom Douglas Adams claimed never to have read so all his ideas were totally original to him, honest, hem-hem), where a man finds a lamp with a genie. He orders loads of stuff – a fortune, a big house, a luxurious lifestyle – only to find at last that it’s a sort of intergalactic credit card, and now he’s got to pay the bill…


  • Gail

    I would like to read your book, can you send one of each (pdf and e-book)?

  • Gordon

    Hi Gail,

    Of course – I’ll crank up the generator and you should receive them in a few minutes. After that, you’re on your own…

    Best wishes

  • Lynne

    Hi, Gordon, I’m glad I saw that last post, I, too, would like a copy of the new book. I’ll try to get the e-book version to load. Thanks much for your generous contribution, you’re always an interesting and fun read, whether your blogs or the last book.

  • Gordon


    Your free copy should be winging its way to you even as I type. (Sounds like I should now try to interest you in a time-share deal!)

    I wrote it for fun, though I rather despair of ever finding a publisher – or even being able to describe it to one – how can I summarise that plot?!

    Heigh ho.


  • Dear Gordon,

    I found your site whilst poking around looking at ganseys. I’m a knitter (are you on Ravelry? I’m Tiggersong there, but I am very slow (for which read: lazy) about putting my projects up!) and a writer and a general all-purpose baker/cook/bottlewasher/chaos-magnet.

    I’m really enjoying reading your blog!

    I have two immediate comments: One is I’d love to read your book! Either format (or both) would work for me.

    Two is: Do you have medication for your migraines? My partner (a strapping big Geordie lad) gets killer migraines … which have stopped killing him now that he has a scrip for rizatriptan. (I am NOT at all associated with BigPharm, but these have made his life so much better!)

    Anyway, from one knitter to another, hi!


  • Gordon

    Hi Song,

    Thank you for your kind comments! It’s always really nice when kindred spirits get in touch.

    I haven’t tried rizatriptan – I think I had sumatrapan for a while but it didn’t work, and the doctor was rather offended by that so told me he couldn’t help me further. I’ll definitely beard him in his den after this, unless you’re winding me up to get me to ask for hallucinogenic drugs, or something…?

    I’m not on Ravelry – I find people who know what they’re talking about rather intimidating. Plus they ask me questions as if I knew what I was talking about too, and before you know it it’s as embarrassing as an episode of The Office. Better all round to avoid “the unpleasantness” as it is known in our household, I feel. (I’m not being stand-offish – I just feel a bit out of my depth. The false modesty is not an act hiding depths of knowledge, trust me on this!)

    We had a look at your blog – wow, a truly impressive range of fantastic projects. With your permission I’ll add it to my links section – it may not get you many hits, I’m afraid, but I like to think of my readers as a select audience, so quality not quantity! Neat cat, too.

    You’re very welcome to a copy of my latest novel. Public Health Notice: I’m afraid the tone of my fiction is not as free and easy as the blog (which I think of as a sort of pastiche of PG Wodehouse meets Douglas Adams, if either of them had been interested in knitting or baking) – so don’t worry if you find it (a) tedious, (b) pretentious, or (c) unreadable. I promise not to fall out with you if you don’t get past the first page, or you think it sucks!

    I’ll send it to you offline.

    Anyway, thanks again for getting in touch. You’ve cheered me up, which was what I needed after putting my car in for an MOT and finding it has over £1,000 worth of things that have to be fixed.

    Do you have to wash many bottles?

    Please drop by now and then, and keep in touch,
    All the best,

  • Dear Gordon,

    Oh, if I were setting you up for hallucinogens, I’d wait until you’ve finished the gansey. Anything else wouldn’t be fair! No, my Geordie has two different migraine meds and this one is great. (The other is fine, but really it’s just hopped up regular-headache medicine, which is find for when I get a real temple-pounder, but which doesn’t quite cut it for him when he can’t see anything but sparkly lights and his words are all chaos and befuddlement. He says that his hair starts to hurt, which is one of the common symptoms. I’d hate for my hair to hurt, as mine is right down my back to my waist! OUCH.)

    Anyway, the brand name for the rizatriptan is Maxalt. It’s a pill about the size of a grain of rice. Take it AS SOON AS YOU FEEL A MIGRAINE COMING ON. Don’t wait to see if this time it’ll pass off. (Really. Don’t wait.) It doesn’t quite stop the thing in its tracks, but it means he has a regular day, if a little irritable and slightly more delicate than usual.


    I’ll be delighted to try to poke holes in the book (in a friendly way, of course). I’m in need of that often; I’d send you something in return, but nothing of mine is finished enough right now to send out at all. Some of the damned stories have been put in Punishment for being recalcitrant. There’s no reason that one scene should be so hard to write when the complicated one a few chapters ago was easy!

    I’m looking forward to reading you. Um. Your book. Right.

    Thanks for the blog-link! I’ll add you (as soon as I can figure out how WordPress does that. Surely there’s a widget or something. Argh.)


  • Gordon

    Well, if that is the custom of your people… And anyway, you seem trustworthy to me. I don’t get the sparkling lights often, but I do get a lot of dysfunctionality (wonderful word) and nausea. My hair has never hurt, but then it’s getting in short supply!

    I find writing is the best thing in the world when it goes well, and a foretaste of death when it goes badly. And then I think of all the writers who’ve sweated blood over getting every word just so, only for readers like me to come along and skim to the juicy bits (which is probably why Thomas Hardy was forced by his publishers to put in so many raunchy sex scenes and axe murders).


  • Oh god, Thomas Hardy. I had to read Tess of the d’Urbervilles in high school and it rendered me furious and unable to speak several times. *snort* I wonder if it would have the same effect on me now. There were several scenes of surprising raunchiness, for the period, though. I haven’t managed to be brave enough to read Lady Chatterly’s Lover; I’m afraid I might be shocked.

    My partner only gets aphasia when he gets the aura style of migraine. He seems to get them in clusters – a few pounding pain ones, then an aura-ish one, then nothing for months.


  • Gordon

    I remember going to see the Polanski film of Tess at the cinema. At the point when Angel confesses he’s had a previous affair and then proceeds to reject Tess when she admits the same, an outraged female voice in the audience shouted out, ‘BASTARD!” I think Hardy would have chuckled at that.

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a fine novel, but not for the naughty bits, or the swearing, which are really a bit silly nowadays. (Lawrence had some very strange notions!) But the heart of the book portrays the industrialisation of the countryside and the mechanisation of the workforce, turning them from men into robotic machines. Lady C’s husband is a mine owner, applying the principles of mechanised warfare to mining, and Lawrence contrasts his cold, soulless inhumanity with the gamekeeper’s vital connection to the natural world, so that Lady C is as much seeking out humanity and tenderness as hot aristocrat-on-gamekeeper action with Sean Bean, as it were.

    Here’s a great little doggerel poem by Lawrence you may know, called “Conundrums”:

    Tell me a word

    that you’ve often heard,

    yet it makes you squint

    when you see it in print!

    Tell me a thing

    that you’ve often seen

    yet if put in a book

    it makes you turn green!

    Tell me a thing

    that you often do,

    when described in a story

    shocks you through and through!

    Tell me what’s wrong

    with words or with you

    that you don’t mind the thing

    yet the name is taboo.