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Fife 3: 14 – 20 December

After a few weeks of arctic conditions the snow has moved south, thereby becoming newsworthy to the BBC, who only have to look out the window of their offices in London to report it. This would be perfectly fine with me, if only the cold weather would leave Scotland altogether to go infest southern England, like an annoying elderly relative who takes turns to inflict himself on his offspring (King Lear’s daughters had the same problem, I seem to remember).

Alas, dear reader, it hasn’t budged. So it’s still bitterly cold in Edinburgh, below zero, and snowing just enough to freeze and be treacherous. I start the day immersing my fingers in a mixture of boiling water and antifreeze to get them to work (well, it helps with the car…), and sullenly waiting for my Amazon parcels to arrive (latest delivery estimate: 8 December; looks like Tiny Tim isn’t going to get that new crutch for Christmas after all).

So, while I sit at home and work on my Vitamin D deficiency, I can knit, albeit very slowly with frozen fingers. (People think I’m cracking my knuckles when all I’m doing is shattering the ice.) I’ve finished the 3 inches of ribbing at the bottom, and made the increase into the body.

If you recall I cast on 384 stitches for the ribbing (plus 20 stockinette stitches for the steek, making 404 in all). It’s customary to increase by 10%, and 10% of 384 is, of course 38.4. I decided to round this up to 40, on a whim, and to err on the side of caution (too big is better than too small – though I grant you 1.6 stitches isn’t going to make much difference). So I now have 424 stitches to play with (or 212 per side), plus the 20 stitches of the steek.

It’s important to ensure an even distribution of increases round the body so that your pattern will be centred properly. In this case I had 96 ribs round the bottom, and 40 stitches to add. Dividing 96 by 40 gave me one increase every 2.4 ribs, or 2 increases every 5 ribs. (Basically I divided the ribs into quarters and made sure I increased by 10 stitches every quarter. You don’t have to get too anal about it, broad brush is fine.)

We still haven’t given any serious thought to the pattern. I’ve got a couple more days’ grace, as it’s customary to allow an inch of plain knitting above the ribbing before launching into the pattern. Working out the pattern is a bit like doing fractions for homework, or memorizing fourth declension nouns in Latin, and one of the joys of being a grown up is putting things off till the last minute. (Hang on: that was on one of my report cards from school, too. H’m. I seem to detect a trend…)

Good progress on the novel. I’m up to 35,000 words (about half a standard Graham Greene-sized book), though I suspect very few of them will make it through to the final cut.

This week’s bread, a bunch of my patented “baguettinis”, or mini baguettes, and my first attempt at a stollen, the German marzipan-centred dried fruit bread, a recipe that can only be enhanced by soaking the fruit, and the baker, in rum…

Wishing you a very happy Christmas, from Gordon and Margaret. May your dreams be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white, assuming they’ve gritted the roads properly…

9 comments to Fife 3: 14 – 20 December

  • Annalies

    wish you and Margaret also a happy Christmas.
    The colour is wonderful, your bread smells also “heerlijk”.
    In the Netherlands is it also cold and snowy but in the house is it warm and knitting a warm sweater for my husband hold me warm :)!
    Groeten uit Holland,
    Annalies

  • Leigh

    Although we are not to the antifreeze stage yet (got pets around so I try not to have that anywhere near them) here in Virginia, on the Chesapeake, but we have had our first snow and the winds are definitely out of the Great Lakes; i.e., NW, so I it looks like Ol’ Man Winter is here to set a while.

    I am still working on Christmas sweaters, but it looks like they will be New Year’s sweaters. What my first foray into knitting sweaters has taught me is take the the first EDC and multiply it by 10 and then maybe I will finish in time.

    I have enjoyed your blog so much this year Gordon! Here’s wishing you and Margaret a very Wonderful White Christmas and a very safe and prosperous New Year! See ya on the flip side.

  • Lynne

    A very Happy Christmas to you and Margaret, and hope you have a cozy fireside and a Hot Buttered Rum to toast the season. I made this year’s supply of rum batter a few days ago and it is perfect on these cold Canada evenings, although it has warmed up to -5 C. Only a couple more weeks and I won’t be able to procrastinate any longer on my Claret Frangipani and the dreaded graphing of the pattern (on which I still have decisions to make!)
    The Stollen looks wonderful and puts my purchased Panatonne to shame!
    Oh, Good Grief! it’s snowing again! I’m going to go cry in my rum!
    Cheers. Lynne

  • syndee

    Merrie chrimbo to you both, I hope you are not eating all that bread and stollen yourselves as that may prove to be the last 404 st cast on that you make.

    I am facing a 500+ cast on this chrimbo hollidae. In between bouts of casting on I hope to bring myself to read your literatcher, only the thought of starting is making me feel slightly funny, like reading someone I know’s poetry. It could be good, but it could be disastrous for our on-line rather one-way relationship.

    shawlishly

    synd

  • Gordon

    Dear Annalies, Leigh, Lynne and Syndee,

    Thank you! And thank you for your support this last year (a year which hasn’t been great, all things considered, so yes, much appreciated, thanks). And good luck with your respective winters, and all your various knitting projects. Let me know how they work out…

    Oh, and syndee, I used to have a girlfriend back in the 1770s who wrote execrable poetry, so I know exactly how you feel. (Well, not exactly, perhaps, as she would read it to me in bed, but the principle’s the same!) Do you know the lethal lines by Philip Larkin (about relationships, but they work just as well on writing) in his poem “Talking in Bed”?:

    It becomes still more difficult to find
    Words at once true and kind,
    Or not untrue and not unkind.

    But I’m not worried. Basically, the story is a violent, supernatural, fantasy thriller for young adults, written in a self-consciously literary, poetic style. So I suspect (and some initial feedback confirms) that readers of violent supernatural fantasy thrillers will find the writing pretentious and gets in the way, whereas readers of literary fiction will deplore the subject matter, and wish I’d written a book about a middle class academic in a mid-western university suffering a mid-life crisis.

    My advice is to read the first few pages, and then either feel relieved and read on with confidence, or embarrassed and ashamed, in which case we will never speak of it again…

    Nadolig llawen, as we say in Wales,
    Gordon

  • =Tamar

    Happy Hogswatch!

  • Gordon

    Dear Tamar,

    And to you!

    And may Snouter, Gouger, Rooter and Tusker and the Hogfather deliver a brimming sackful of presents…

    Gordon

  • =Tamar

    For what it’s worth, today is 1-1-11.
    Happy New Year!

    =Tamar

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    And a Happy New Year to you too!

    Edinburgh looks and feels a bit hungover this morning – as do I, to be honest – so probably time to roll over and go back to sleep and wait a little longer before opening the lid on 2011 to see what it holds…

    Gordon