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Filey 2.15: 15 – 21 July

F22107a   First of all, many thanks to everyone who downloaded a copy of my novel The Cuckoo’s Nest when it was on a free promotion on Amazon last week. The book had some 2,000 downloads, sending it rocketing to number 1 in the free historical mysteries chart, and number 48 in the overall Amazon free chart. (Remember, if you’re one of those 2,000, and you enjoyed it, please add a review, however short; and of course, if you hated it, please have the good taste to keep it to yourself…)

F22107cSummer came to Caithness this weekend—cloudless skies, a flat calm on the ocean, breeze warm as a lover’s sigh—and brought with it the County Show, all the way to the bottom of our garden. You see, we live in a cul-de-sac which ends in fields, and across the road from us is another field, usually occupied by sheep, sloping gently to the river. My rather bucolic walk to work takes me down a lane through these fields and along the river, and in ten minutes I’m at the library (unless I get into a philosophical argument with a seagull, in which case anything goes).

F22107dNow the field was full of tents and marquees, for all the world as if Henry VIII had decided to make a state visit to Wick—always assuming Henry’s courtiers also drove tractors and enjoyed playing whack-a-mole. In fact, I hadn’t really appreciated the scale of the operation until I threw open the curtains on Saturday morning in a state of quite spectacular undress and found myself looking down on what must have been half the population of Caithness, and at the same time unwittingly recreated that scene in Life of Brian when our eponymous hero exposes himself—literally—to his followers.

I’m not really a fan of agricultural shows, feeling about them much the way the great Liverpool football manager did about his local rivals: “If Everton were playing at the bottom of my garden, I’d draw the curtains.” This was a bit like being subjected to psychological warfare by the American army, with pounding rock music and distorted screaming over the tannoy—the overall effect that of a cat suspected of heresy being tortured by the Inquisition to a soundtrack of Neil Diamond.

F22107bOn the gansey, I’m nearly at the end of the first sleeve. The arm is about 18-18.5 inches long, and I decreased by 10% into the cuff. I plan to make the cuffs 3 inches long, and not make them double-length this time, since I’m not knitting the gansey for anyone in particular. Then it’s on to the second sleeve, and the whole finished by the end of August. Hopefully.

Speaking of ganseys, I got confirmation this week that I’ve wasted my life when Margaret found an add on Pinterest for made-to-order ganseys. The price per gansey? A mere £1,250, or $1,900. But then, I suppose, what is a reasonable price for a hand-knitted gansey…?

13 comments to Filey 2.15: 15 – 21 July

  • Dave

    An online acquaintance saw photos of my sort-of-a-gansey and asked (joking, I think) if I’d knit one for her. I said sure, that I’d only charge 6 cones of Frangipani(enough for her sweater and a sweater for me, and extra with which to play), and then an additional 1 cent per knit stitch and 1.1 cents per purl stitch–allow 4-6 years for delivery. For some reason, she balked when she found out that a traditional gansey can run 200,000 stitches. It seemed fair to me–at the rate I knit, I’d make less than minimum wage.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave,

      At one point I worked out that if I knit as fast as I could as a full-time job, it’d take me about 6 weeks per gansey – so I’d have to charge even more than the exorbitant example above to break even. But I’d go mad first, my fingers would fall off, so it was never a realistic proposition…

      I think I’d need a computer program and the processing power of NASA to work out your method, mind you!


  • Judit M./ Finland

    “Knitted to a pattern familiar to generations of fishermen’s wives, Etre’s Gansey is customised with motifs that originate from the centuries-old fishing communities of Polperro and Staithes.”

    Gordon, did YOU see anything of the “a pattern ” on the photo of made-to-order-ganseys? .

    • Gordon

      Hi Judit, and nope, though my eyesight isn’t of the best.

      You and I are in the wrong job…


      • =Tamar

        There is a decorative pattern on the chest – horizontal bands of seed stitch (more or less) with rig and furrow between them. The writeup has a lot of nonsense about the “symbolism” including some I hadn’t read before. High, choking neck, no decoration on the sleeve tops.
        I think the “made to a pattern” line refers not to the knit-purl decoration but to the peplum, square shoulders, high neck, etc., typical of the “traditional” Guernsey pattern beloved of commerce (different in fine detail in every book I’ve read yet). No indication of whether it’s knit in the round or flat, and I looked on several pages of their advertising.

        • Gordon

          Yes, I think you’re right on all fronts, Tamar – there is a yoke pattern, but it’s the basic Staithes pattern (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course: my default “working” gansey is the same!).

          The British comedian, actor, raconteur and panel show host and generally decent bloke Stephen Fry (sort of a Peter Ustinov character if you don’t know him, and I mean that as a compliment) has been rather over-praised in the media recently as some of kind of genius, or “renaissance man” – not that he’s ever claimed that for himself – which led to the splendid response: “he’s a stupid person’s idea of what a clever person is like”.

          Well, this gansey is a non-specialist’s idea of what a real gansey is like!


  • Marilyn

    @Dave: Hi! I think that’s a fair price! Non-knitters really don’t get it. My great niece told me I could charge $30 for a cabled hat, acted like that was a lot. I could only look at her, having had similiar conversations in the past with other people.
    Hi Gordon! I’ve lived in a building on the edge of the Uptown Art Fair, a weekend long cacophony outside the bedroom window, so across a field would be quite acceptable. Good knitting!

    • Gordon

      Evening Marilyn,

      I read somewhere that Benedict Cumberbatch’s coat in Sherlock will set you back a mere £1,300, so maybe the gansey isn’t so exorbitant after all?

      As for noise, OK, you win this round. But bear in mind the Fun Fair is in town for another fortnight, so every night from 6:30 to 10:00pm I can’t listen to any of my music for the thumpa-thumpa drifting on the breeze, like a teenager who’s parked his car outside your house and is playing loud popular beat combo music with his windows open…

      A Fun Fair! I ask you! Are there two more depressing words in the English language? (And personal names don’t count, so you can’t have David Cameron or Celine Dion!)


  • Pat

    A new book? I missed the free one but what the heck, I don’t mind paying for a good read and I’ve enjoyed your other books. Off to Amazon!

    • Gordon

      Hi Pat, and thank you! At a whopping 99 cents (77p in the UK) it works out at 0.000013 cents per word! That’s got to be value right there.

      I think it’s my best book – I wrote the first draft 10 years ago and have been revising it ever since, so I doubt if I’ll ever write anything this complete again. Mind you, it’s just gained me my first ever 1-star review for being “wordy and badly written”, so what do I know?! Critics, eh?


    • Lynne

      One star?! The cad! I loved it, and the beautiful prose and description of the landscape had me right in that spot – to the point that when I looked out my own window I was disappointed in seeing our browning drought-dry hills. I’m terrible at writing reviews but I certainly agree with the 5-star reviewer.

      • Gordon

        Thanks, Lynne. I did feel a slight sense of grievance when I read that! Like having a perfect stranger come up and knee you in the groin and steal your wallet. I feel like saying, what have I ever done to you…?

  • Kathy

    I couldn’t even see anything saying it was hand knitted!

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