So here we are, after a couple of weeks off, back to the fray: it’s time for a new project. You probably can’t tell from the photographs, but this one’s a bit, ah, vivid. You see, I decided to postpone my intricate Caithness-based cream gansey project to next winter, as I can see light-coloured yarn better than darker colours in the black winter evenings. Instead, I’m knitting a gansey for a friend who works in Edinburgh – he rashly requested one in “fireman red” – so that’s what he’s getting.
I’m more of a muted, natural colours sort of guy, myself (or as some would have it, bearing in mind that 80% of my wardrobe explores the rich, exotic palette of grey, “drab”); so all this comes as something of a shock. I keep looking down and thinking I’ve set myself on fire, or I’m haemorrhaging badly. Several tropical birds have smashed into the lounge window thinking they’ve spotted a mate.
After some of the more complicated patterns I’ve done recently I have the need to do something simpler (i.e., one I don’t have to think about too much). So I’m doing a Filey pattern from Gladys Thompson’s book, one I’ve always really liked. By a happy coincidence, my friend is the same size as my last victim (the pullover has a 46-inch chest), so once again I’ve cast on 388 stitches for the ribbing, and away we go.
In other news, you know that scene at the end of The Empire Strikes Back? The one where Luke’s got a new hand to replace the one Darth Vader sliced off – and a robot tests it by prodding it with a needle and all his fingers twitch? I’ve never been able to watch that without flinching, but last week I found myself in a very similar situation (the needle thing, not the father slicing off the hand thing, in case you were wondering).
I’ve got a long-standing problem with my forearms: I can’t lift heavy weights for long; I get shooting pains and my hands lose the ability to grip. I’ve been able to ignore it up till now because I haven’t had to carry stuff about much. But now I’m serving in the frontline infantry, 3rd Battalion, Queen’s Heavy Archives, it’s a bit inconvenient.
So we tripped the 100 miles down to Inverness last week so I could have electric pulses zapped into me. In short, they attach electrodes to your elbows and wrists, and slide wire loops over your thumbs and a couple of fingers; and then the doctor says, “Igor, the switch,” and throws his head back and cackles maniacally while you watch your hand flopping around on the table like a landed fish, totally out of your control. The pulses come as regularly as a disapproving knitting teacher clicking her tongue, and they’re happening inside your body, there’s nothing you can do, except watch your fingers twitch like a frog’s leg in science class.
Anyway, I learned two important things. Firstly, I don’t have carpal tunnel or a trapped nerve (but maybe tendonitis); and second, if I’m ever arrested by the secret police I should just sign anything they put in front of me because I have as much resistance as a meringue helmet.
By the way, I said last week that the Caithness dial was set to gloom. Well, that all changed last week – the whole of Britain’s been basking in glorious sunshine. God’s adjusted his set, and turned up the contrast: so the river and sea, which since we moved up here has been a steely grey-green, has suddenly turned deep blue. Coats and scarfs are discarded, and knees tentatively exposed (looking pale and unhealthy, like skin that’s been covered by a cast); the clouds have parted like a theatre curtain, to reveal a whole bigger sky behind the one we’re used to. I’m developing a squint.
And suddenly a fireman-red gansey doesn’t look so out of place after all…