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Filey 17: 9 – 15 July

So, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the classic sci-fi movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? It opens with “the dawn of man”, in which a bunch of proto-humans encounter a black monolith that messes with their heads and allegedly increases their intelligence (though given that humanity today spends most of its time watching reality tv, you’ve got to wonder if the aliens were really up to the job).

Anyway, the point is, when the ape-like humans see the monolith they rear up on their legs and wave their hands frantically above their heads, gibbering and screeching in panic. So you will imagine our surprise, while strolling through Dunnet forest this weekend, to see a bunch of people apparently recreating this iconic scene, leaping around, their hands in the air like some old-time Shaker revival. Were they actors? Was this primal therapy? Or is this where librarians come to let off steam, cracking under the strain of constantly telling people to be quiet?

Heron on Wick River

Turned out it was none of these. They were all dog walkers, and the forest was infested with swarms of fat black flies, thick as a disturbed hive of bees. Soon they were all over us, too – burrowing in our ears, up our nostrils, landing on any patch of unprotected skin; if you foolishly opened your mouth you’d be spitting out flies for a week. In the end we had to retreat back to the car, passing at least one glinting ivory skeleton that had been picked clean to the bone. (And there was me thinking those objects dotted around the forest were folk art – I now realise they are Memorials to the Fallen.)

I am now about eight inches down the first sleeve of the gansey, and as I started the sleeve on a new ball of wool, you can see exactly how much 100g gives me. I originally ordered thirteen 100g balls of yarn, and have exactly 4 (and a little bit) left – in other words, there was enough for 2-and-a-half balls for each sleeve. Should be OK, though I must admit I was a bit anxious for a time, there.

My last decision point is coming up. You see, in the original photo of this gansey in Gladys Thompson the pattern ends just below the elbow, leaving the forearms mostly plain. I like this effect very much, but I also rather like the ‘full body armour’ effect of letting the pattern run all the way down to the cuff. So I have to decide which to go for – or whether to compromise, and go for something halfway between the two? Decisions, decisions.

Celebration time. I’ve completed (hurrah!) the last of the short stories for a collection of fantasy tales I’m hoping to publish on Amazon kindle in December, and Margaret is putting the finishing touches to the cover for The Bone Fire, my second novel, which will be published on Amazon in August (the central image of the book was inspired by a dream I had – no, not one of those dreams, though I’d probably sell more copies if it had been…). Anyway, I’ll be putting up a page on the site saying more about The Bone Fire next week.

Meanwhile, if anyone knows where I can get hold of a cheap, second-hand beekeeper’s veil and helmet – no, better go for the full Neil Armstrong astronaut rig – I may even consider going for another walk in the woods sometime…

15 comments to Filey 17: 9 – 15 July

  • Gracie

    Whoa! You must have really worked this week, Gordon, because you made some good progress. Enviably nice! About the 3/4 sleeves or full dilemma, what if you knit both sleeves down to the 3/4 length, try the sweater on and continue or not as you see fit?

    You have black flies too? Here, they start in Maine and work their way down into Massachusetts. Wicked pesky-poo. I actually have one of those veil hats and I look like a complete loon, but it works well on wooded hikes.


    P.S. I’m a newcomer, but I love these Mon. posts.

  • Gordon

    Hi Gracie,

    Yes, sometimes I’m in the mood and it all just flows—other times and it’s as much fun as a trip to the dentist. This has been one of the better weeks!

    The pullover’s for a friend of mine, so in a sense it doesn’t really matter—he gets what he gets—but he is the same chest size as me, so I think your suggestion would work pretty well.

    I don’t mind looking odd in a good cause. I discovered at the weekend that the little flap in the back of an adjustable baseball cap works as a sort of black fly maintenance hatch, giving the little blighters access to patch of scalp which they proceeded to excavate like an archaeological dig!


  • =Tamar

    The Science of Discworld (I) by Terry Pratchett and two other guys had a different take on that scene…

    The gansey is looking more and more like something wearable. Oh, yes… good thing it’s still too hot to think about knitting here. And Mercury is retrograde, so I’m not starting any new, complex projects. I have plenty of old ones to work on, once I (ever) get off the net.

  • Gordon

    Hello Tamar,

    I think the Science of Discworld may be Terry Pratchett’s greatest acievement, getting people acquainted with “real” physics and evolution in the guise of a Discworld story. What a guy!

    Temperature is struggling to get into the 70s here, so heat is not a problem … alas. Apart from a couple of weeks in May I haven’t even been able to relinquish my trusty hot water bottle of doom, so knitting a gansey is helpful for getting warm – like going for a brisk run, or setting fire to the neighbour’s dustbin.


  • Dave

    Gordon, I’d be happy to send you a spare 10 or 15°–we’ve gone over 100° about 15 times so far this summer, and the coming week is forecast to be just as hot.

    You have me worried about the amount of yarn that I ordered for my gansey. I thought that 12 balls would surely be enough, and now I am picturing the welt being just below the yoke–a bare midriff gansey. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY wants to see that on me. I figured out that I knit at about 2.545 furlongs per fortnight, so it will be a good while before the crisis comes to a head (I’m still working on the welt.)

  • Gordon

    Hi Dave,

    I really wouldn’t worry – I seem to use more wool per gansey than just about everyone else (and not just because I resemble Alfred Hitchcock in profile). Looking at Ravelry discussions, most people seem to average under 1000g per garment, or 2 x 500g Frangipani cones. I probably just use more because I knit so tight, over 9.25 sts per inch.

    (Besides, if the worst happens and you do run out, most suppliers can furnish you with a little bit extra from the same dye lot if you ask nicely.)

    Alternatively, given your blistering temperatures, you could start a brave new fashion in gansey bikinis for men…?


  • Lynne

    Just my suggestion for the length of the pattern on the sleeves – why not take the pattern down the sleeve and leave the same measurement of stockinette that you have between the welt and the pattern on the body. This ‘owner in red’ is going to be the envy of every gansey lover in the U.K.!

  • Lisa Mitchell

    You can have 5 or 10 of our degrees in Calgary too. Much as we had a wet spring 30 degrees C doesn’t do anything for me or the dog. Gansey bikinis for guys… As long as they don’t look like those tiny Speedos that some blokes wear to terrify innocent bystanders.

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne & Lisa,

    I usually leave about an inch between the welt and the body pattern on a full-pattern gansey, and the same for the cuffs if I’m going all the way down the sleeve. For some reason it never looks as good if you take it to the very wrist/cuff.

    I’m starting to fear that the UK may never get any sunshine again, the weather’s been so awful. I was going to say that at least you’d be spared exposure to British men’s “love handles” spreading wide as the rings of Saturn, but then I remembered that this is Scotland, and t-shirt and shorts is the norm in December… God knows what would happen if we got 30 degrees, surely gansey cod pieces don’t bear thinking about—damn, too late!


  • Lynne

    It’s 35C at my house right now – I’m melting!

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Hi Lynne ,
    Come here! We have 18 C, sunshine, blue sky.

  • Lynne

    Put the coffee on! (I wish!)

  • Gordon

    OK, well, today it was 12 C (53F) here in Wick, but “feels like” 10 C (49F). (Summer, eh?)

    You can prise my gansey from my cold, frozen fingers…


  • Sandra

    Hi Gordon, greetings from Lyme Regis where we are basking in the sunshine. At last!! Please could you tell me how I send you a picture, I now have some of the finished gansey but I am not known for my technological skills if it isn’t obvious. Yours incompetently, Sandra

  • Gordon

    Hi Sandra,

    Ha, yes, I’ve heard on the BBC all about “all the UK” is basking in glorious sunshine… Sadly we’ve got grey skies, strong winds and showers of rain. I am no longer sure what a garden is for!

    To send me a picture(s) I can put in the gallery, just attach them to an email and send it to me at gordon@ganseys.com and we will make sure it goes up.

    If you experience any problems just drop me an email sans images and we’ll see what we can do. Meanwhile, hope your sunshine lasts!


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