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Fife 8: 10 – 16 January

…and we’re back!

Many thanks for all the expressions of goodwill we received while I was convalescing, it was much appreciated.

Over Christmas I heard a radio announcer complaining that her husband had stubbed his toe on the stairs, and while hopping about howling with pain he’d snapped at her, “You can’t tell me childbirth is more painful than this!” She was still seething about it several days later….

Now, it has not escaped my attention that certain of my readers are of the female persuasion, so taking the above example as a cautionary tale – and bearing in mind that even as I type my brother is in hospital with a kidney stone – just about the most painful thing the human body can experience – I don’t want to overstate the case here. It’s all relative, of course.

But it was horrible! Really horrible! (There, I said it.)

I had a septoplasty operation, which straightens a deviated septum. Mine was very twisted – you could see it plainly sticking out of my left nostril – and not only interfered with my breathing, it may have contributed to my constant migraines and susceptibility to colds in recent years. Turns out I had a fracture up there as well. So it had to be fixed, really.

Ah, well. It’s over now. It’s early days yet, and I’m told it will take a few weeks and even months before it all settles down, but I’m cautiously optimistic. Once the side-effects (like the infection) wear off, things will get better.

One surreal moment was lying on the trolley in theatre with the needle in my hand, when the anaesthetist realised they didn’t know my height and weight to calculate the dose. So I told them, but I only know imperial and all their charts are metric. So picture a roomful of nurses and doctors frantically trying to convert 12.5 stone/5 feet 10 inches by mental arithmetic and coming up with at least three different answers, while trying to reassure me that everything was under control…

As I came round from the anaesthetic in the theatre it was just like being an infant again. A hospital bed resembles a crib (both have railings to stop you escaping) and you lie there helpless, flat on your back, while smiling superior women lean over and ask you incomprehensible questions (when I was a baby these took the form of “Who’s a big boy now?” and “Ooziwooziwoozi den?”; this time it was “Do you know who you are and why you’re here?” – questions I would struggle to answer at the best of times). Though I thought it was going a bit far when the nurse lifted my gown and blew on my tummy – no, wait, that’s a different fantasy… (Ahem.)

And here I should say a big thanks to Margaret, without whom the first few days would have been difficult, if not pretty much impossible. The third morning I was so out of it I couldn’t even sit up to put my pyjama jacket on. So I wouldn’t advise anyone to get this done without some support at home for a few days.

The highlight was getting the splint removed last Friday, a surprisingly large kidney-shaped piece of plastic which helps hold it all together. First the consultant cut the stitches and pulled them out – I’ve never had the sensation of something slithering from one side of my nose to the other from the inside before, one which gives you a whole new perspective on life – and then it was time for the splint itself. He gave me a pad of gauze to hold underneath my nose (“it might get a bit messy”) and then reached in with the forceps…

Well, for a second I thought he’d missed his aim and grabbed hold of my brain by mistake, because it felt like he was trying to pull the entire inside of my head out through one nostril. Then it was free and I was too busy trying to catch all the goo that came pouring out – think dormouse’s afterbirth – to worry about discomfort. But what a relief!

And so I find I’m still alive and have a life to pick up again, like an old neglected suit of clothes hanging in the cupboard which you wondered if you’d ever wear again.

Which brings us to the gansey. I’ve only got back to knitting this last couple of days, so there’s not been much progress – I thought I’d get lots done during the convalescent phase, but in fact I was more or less confined to bed for the whole of the first week (semi-conscious, sweating fits, chills and shivering fits, too tired to pick up a book, let alone read it, constant headaches – all pretty normal stuff, though, apparently), and even now I’m pacing myself. But I think you can start to see the pattern emerging – it’s a bit of a fiddle to knit, but the effect shows up rather nicely, I feel.

One good thing – while I was waiting for the consultant before the operation I managed to sort out the ending of my novel, and hastily scribbled down several pages of notes before they came to get me. So tomorrow, it’s back to work.

Anyway, time to go – I’ve got a hangnail which is catching on stuff. Talk about pain? Huh, tell me about it…

8 comments to Fife 8: 10 – 16 January

  • Lynne

    OMG ! What an ordeal! I was clearing my throat and blowing my nose before I finished reading your descriptive post-op period and I’m glad you’re ‘on-the-mend’, finally.
    I’ve picked up the Claret Frangipani, decided on a pattern, and am actually doing a swatch IN the pattern, but not doing the swatch in the round. I’ve decided on a simpler pattern than last year’s Deep Ocean and I won’t have to graph it entirely. The pattern is a Moray Firth, diamonds with vertical lines each side and will be an ‘over-all’ pattern. It is taken from the book, Cables, Diamonds, Herringbone, Secrets of Knitting Traditional Fishermen’s Sweaters, by Sabine Domnick.
    I’m already dreading the ‘gansey calluses’ and have found a cream made by Avon that I slather on at night. It’s in their ‘Foot Works’ line and called ‘Intensive Callus Cream’. Time will tell.
    Best wishes for continued healing.

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne and Shelley! Thanks for the good wishes – and greetings from the land of the Dripping UnDead…

    Lynne, First of all, thank you for your email with the picture of your bear. How splendid! I’m sorry I didn’t reply at the time but I thought it was great, much better than the quality of bear we get in the “Scotland shops” on the Royal Mile here in Edinburgh. I haven’t come across the Sabine Domnick book before, what’s it like? The pattern sounds fun, perhaps you could take a pic of the swatch and send it through once you’re a little more progressed? My hands are all pasty and soft now, calluses fading. (I thought of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche once, where the great detective deduces that the victim was a knitter of ganseys by the calluses on his fingers and a painful sore on his ring finger… Mind you, I also thought of a great idea of people thing someone had been killed by vampires when it was only cat scratches! (Needs work, I grant you.)


  • Gordon


    You’ll find the first 2 parts of my novel under weeks X+11 and X+12 on the right-hand menu (part 3 is of course on page X+13). I can supply links if that’s a problem. When I get a chance I’m going to integrate them into a link under the “About” page, and post my other novels and stories there too. But don’t get your hopes up – I rather like it, but your experience may differ! Feedback gratefully received, though.

    With regard to the bread, those are good points. I don’t think hydration is the problem – in fact, my bread is usually pretty wet, since I’ve cracked the French kneading technique, so I don’t add flour as I whack the stuff around on the counter. (I find it’s more therapeutic than old-fashioned British kneading, too, which is more like grappling & holding down a cat to get it to swallow a pill). No, I think the problem has been that it’s just been so darn cold here in Edinburgh, and in the flat. When you have to wear a dressing gown over your clothes and a gansey with the cuff extended as a fingerless glove you know it’s cold! It’s got much milder these last few days and I made a sourdough today that would make angels weep, it’s so fluffy and chewy and nutty-tasting. Mmm. Best result for a month, and I don’t think that’s coincidence. So I plan to have another go at the wholewheat flour and see if I can’t carry on the good work later in the week. I’ll keep you posted!

    I haven’t read the books you mention, though I have Dan Leader’s superb “Local Breads”. But I am a big fan of Peter Reinhart too, and have followed several of his recipes with great success. (I struggle with bakers’ percentages and hydration though, maths not being my strong point!).

    Thank you for your kind words. Please keep in touch and hope you continue to find it useful,

  • Glad you’re on the mend, Gordon. Be sure to add a slug of brandy to your tea, along with that honey and lemon, for therapeutic reasons.

    As your newest reader, I’ve been unable to find the first two parts of your novel on the site. Are there links? Regarding your whole meal bread, is the difficulty that you’re not getting enough ‘oven spring?’ If so, you may be letting it rise a bit too long before baking (i.e., there’s not enough food left for those yeasties to use to go crazy in the oven), or your dough may be slightly too dry. Whole meal requires about 5% to 10% greater hydration than its traditional kin to get proper lift. If you haven’t already seen them, Bread Alone (Daniel Leader) and Tartine Bread (Chad Robertson) are very helpful books, with exhaustive — some might say exhausting — explanations of technique (incl. wild yeast).

    The sweater is looking very beautiful already. You’re quite an inspiration.

  • Lynne

    The Sabine Domnick book was apparently initially published in German in 2004, then translated to English by Sabine and “Uwe” Domnick in 2007. The book and instructions are pretty basic, but wonderful photos of the patterns knitted up so one really knows what it’s going to look like. I bought the book as ‘used’ from Amazon and I think it was one that Suzanne (from your blog) recommended. (Hmmm, haven’t seen her replies lately.)

  • =Tamar

    Don’t forget the bloodstains and tiny scars from the sharp needle tips. (Did Sherlock ever have to determine whose blood it was, or only whether it was human blood?)

    Fracture, eh? So that wasn’t the ordinary slightly deviated septum, but one that really needed repair. Here’s hoping it really solved the problems! Make sure they completely get rid of the infection, and watch out for fungus.

    I understand the need for indoor hat, scarf, and fingerless mitts, with occasional winter coat; this 1934 house has 12-foot ceilings. I have contemplated building a dais to raise my desk into the warmer air.

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne,

    Thanks for that. I looked it up on Amazon but the details are pretty sketchy. (I wish someone would go through Gladys Thompson’s book and knit them all up as I can’t visualise what most of the patterns and swatches would look like “for real”.)


  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    I’m afraid the ideas never got past the concept stage, like so many of the thoughts that sleet through my brain. I once thought of writing them up and working them into a sketch show to offer to the BBC but it’s too late now. (One of my favourites goes like this. You start with a battle, lots of smoke, explosions, and you see it’s an American Civil War or English Civil War battle, soldiers loading and firing muskets. Then an airplane screams overhead, and someone in present day battledress runs up and shouts at the officer, “Sir! We’re under attack!…” Turns out the soldiers are also re-enactors, and in the middle of re-enacting a battle they’re under attack in the real world. OK, it needs work too, but the idea makes me smile every time i think of it.) I have some ideas for an anarchic comic nonsense novel, and they may find their way into that one day, like the office worker who thinks he’s the creature from Alien and lives in the ceiling and occasionally springs out and grabs other members of staff and tries to bite them – but he’s harmless, and is tolerated because he;s the only one who understand how the filing system works. And so on!

    Yes, old Edinburgh flats go for that high ceiling look too. If there was any heat it would rise up there, but at the moment that’s an academic question. A woolly hat works wonders, I find.

    Meanwhile, I keep on applying the antiseptic cream and hoping the inside of my nose will look less like fresh hamburger meat soon…

    Wrap up warm,