Support Gansey Nation -

Buy Gordon a cuppa!

Many, many thanks to those of you who have already contributed!

Fife 23: 26 April – 2 May

Well, this week’s blog has a tawdry, hungover, morning-after-the-party, stale-coffee-and-cigarette-coated-tongue feel to it.

Bogart or Doom?

I mean, the last few days have seen a birthday, Easter, a royal wedding-cum-public holiday, the seriously underdressed Beltane festival on Calton Hill and a new series of Doctor Who. After all that, I guess the only thing left is to fold away the bunting and wait patiently for Christmas. (Somehow a referendum on adopting the alternative voting system on Friday doesn’t set the heart a-skipping in the same way – can’t imagine why.)

I’m writing this a day early, on Sunday, May Day, as I have to be away from home for a couple of days (so apologies, I won’t be able to respond to any posts till mid-week at the earliest). Many years ago I used to be a Morris dancer – think bells and cudgels and real ale – so May 1st is always associated in my mind with getting up at 4am and driving off to Brackley market square to dance the sun up, which usually happens around 5.35am. We’d get a surprisingly decent crowd shivering on the cobbles, then it was into the pub for a cooked breakfast (ah, bacon – the curse of vegetarian taste buds) and some music.

Some years we used to “beat the bounds”, an old custom where you process around the old parish boundary, marking key points with dances and beats of the drum. (Because your parish was the most important unit of local government for centuries it was vital to know its limits.) Delightfully, these days the old boundaries are often obscured under housing estates. Few things are more satisfying on a cold morning when you’ve got up at 4am, than to stroll into a housing estate at a quarter to six beating drums and shouting – and when people come out to complain, thrusting a collecting hat under their noses! (Of course, Britain has rigorous gun laws – I don’t suppose it would work so well everywhere.)

Still plagued with this persistent cold – I no longer have to look phlegm up in the dictionary, having a daily yellow rohrschach test in my handkerchief  – I have ploughed on with the gansey, and am well advanced down the sleeve. I’ve just reached the tipping point, the moment when feel you’ve decreased enough to really get the effect as you knit, it all starts to speed up like a spider zeroing in on the centre of its web. Also, I’m still on my second 500g cone of Frangipani 5-ply yarn – only just, though. I’ll still have to break into the third cone to finish it.

The bread this week is a toothsome ciabatta, a very soft dough that is ideally mixed by machine. Not being able to afford a machine I relish the challenge of doing it by hand, though a stranger observing me through the window may have wondered why I was making love to an octopus (as in the great Simpsons mafia joke, “No, I didn’t say he was dead, I said he sleeps with the fishes…”).

As I say, hopefully I’ll catch up on Wednesday. Till then, enjoy the Spring and good luck with the Easter chocolate withdrawal symptoms!

10 comments to Fife 23: 26 April – 2 May

  • Lynne

    Your festival sounds like a LOT of fun and you can really be a kid again – despite your birthday! Enjoy the experience.
    I am surprised that you will have to start a third cone of the Frangipani as I had so much left on my second cone from last year’s project and I can tell I’ll have spare yarn on my current project. My sleeve isn’t fully patterned so I know that makes a difference.

  • Leigh

    Bogart, definitely a Bogey hat. Easter chocolate withdrawal will have to wait, I am still working on the butt and thigh!

    The Royal Wedding was beautiful. Very well done. Now, if we can just get the guys with cameras and optical listening/video devices to grow a pair! I think the paparazzi should be unlawful under the US Patriot Act. Seems as good a catchall as any! I think these guys would just love an extended vacation to Gitmo. all that Cuban sand and sun!

  • Julie Harland

    Sorry to hear that the cold is still lingering. As a formed morris dancer is there any truth in Terry Pratchett’s dark morris dancers that dance at midnight!!
    Gansey is looking good can not wait to see how you cut up the front to insert the zip.
    PS are you still sending copies out of your latest book (read the Wraiths of Elfaeland loved every minute of it – very Alan Garner / Stephen King – until that cliffhanger ending arggg) PDF if you are

  • =Tamar

    Sir Terry invented the Dark Morris, but there are now many Morris sides that dance it.

    Top-down sleeves are the best!

  • Gordon

    What ho! Well, as Sam Gamgee says at the end of the Lord of the Rings, I’m back. But whereas he was returning from seeing off the elves and Frodo at the grey Havens, sailing into a metaphorical death, I am back from what looks like an unsuccessful job interview in Oxford. Hard to say which of us comes back with a heavier heart, though at least I haven’t burst into tears (yet).

    As Tamar says, Terry Pratchett made up the Dark Morris. (There is a very disappointing story that some Morris dancers made something up and went to perform it for Sir Terry and he was neither interested, or polite. But this could be exaggerated, all most such stories tend to be!) The Border Morris tradition, with its cudgels and rhythmical stamping is dark enough for me – that really feels like a ritual dance, and is anything but twee. (Well, someone’s got to make the sun rise each day!)

    Julie, I’ll send you a copy of the latest novel, which is currently being rejected by literary agents across the land. Thank you for your kind comments about Wraiths. If I ever get round to writing the sequel, you’ll see the cliffhanger is resolved satisfactorily. (Ish.)

    For a brief, happy moment I got my news stories confused this morning in an early morning migraine and thought that US special forces had taken out Prince William and Kate in their secret hideout. Ah, but it was only a dream…

    Thanks for the comments on the gansey. It’s shaping up well, but, of course, the devil will be in the zipping.


  • I’ve been trying to post a response to this, but my phone hasn’t cooperated. I’m at home now, so things will behave themselves.

    I’ve wanted to see Morris dancing in person for a while now; I assume there are recordings on youtube?

    I’m waiting anxiously for the steeking. It’s my favorite part of cardigans. It’s like magic. You have a tube, then you cut it open and tada! Cardigan! Hooray.

    Watching you make this gansey is making me think of starting one of my own. I have so many other projects going, though, that I’ll have to put it off. Maybe if I start planning…?


    PS: The fedora is totally Bogart!

  • =Tamar

    I believe the truth of the matter is that the first few dozen times Sir Terry was politely interested but it becomes rather tiring after that, especially since it’s silent and therefore doesn’t even have any music to listen to.

  • Gordon


    I’m sure you have the right of it. It must get a bit wearing for the great Sir Terry! I thought the idea of recreating the “dark Morris” was a bit dodgy anyway, since (a) it was a joke, and nothing kills a joke like taking it literally, and (b) it could never live up to the fiction. Some things are best left to the imagination. (And the Morris is aways more fun to do than to watch, like all the best things in life.)


    You can find plenty of Morris clips on YouTube, though it’s hard to find ones that do it justice. One of the best Border sides is John Kirkpatrick’s “Shropshire Bedlams”, who, although they do modern “made-up” dances, capture the spirit of the Morris as well as anyone, I think. (I went to some of their practices with a view to joining them back in the 90s, as I lived nearby, but found them very cliquey and not very friendly to newcomers – when after going every week for a couple of months the foreman of dance hadn’t bothered to learn my name but just referred to me as “hey you” I decided enough was enough.) But a great side to watch, mind!

    I’m more concerned that I’ll cut open the gansey and tada! It’s a tent! But we’ll see.


  • Eva

    I would also like a PDF of the latest book, Please.

    I have been teaching myself knitting for almost a decade now and realized that I have been picking up side stitches incorrectly! It seems that patterns for knitting socks do not include that bit about picking up both “legs” of the stitch you want to pick… No more holes in my sock from now on! Thanks to you, Sir!

    Eva in NC, USA

  • Gordon

    Hi Eva,

    You’re welcome to a copy of the book – I’ll email it you.

    Picking up stitches is always tricky – not quite as bad as sewing, but Lord! It’s no fun at all. But like going to the dentist, somehow it’s never as bad as you expect and if, like me, you have to bribe yourself to do it, you get a treat at the end too!