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Filey 5: 16 – 22 April

It’s always interesting to consider what might have happened in history if certain people hadn’t lived: science without Newton or Einstein, music without Beethoven or Bob Dylan – and fantasy without JRR Tolkien.

Of course, there was fantasy literature before Tolkien – Conan the Barbarian in America, Jules Verne in France, Homer in Greece, the whimsical English fairy tradition. But the whole “high medieval” fantasy of kings and queens, dark lords and dragons, armies of darkness and elves of light, all really stems from Tolkien. Like composers after Beethoven, every fantasy writer since Tolkien has had to either imitate or reject; he casts a very long shadow, even today.

My problem with a lot of this kind of fantasy is that I’m a democrat. I hate the idea of “rightful kings”, of an aristocracy; I want my fantasy world to have equality of the sexes, universal education and suffrage, proper dentistry (I can’t imagine Aragorn, even if he had the hands of a healer, popping round to perform a tricky tooth extraction after office hours). I want to see Aragorn and Sauron standing for election, maybe seeing off Saruman and Elrond in the primaries, facing Obama in a live televised debate.

Anyway, replace Aragorn with Prince Charles and you see the problem with hereditary monarchies at a stroke. Preferably of an axe. (What’s that you say? We get an extra day’s holiday for the Queen’s jubilee? Why no, madam, I was only kidding. Vive la Reine!)

Slightly slower gansey progress this week as I spent a couple of days in Edinburgh for work; and as you still can’t take knitting needles as carry-on I had to leave the poor thing behind, like an abandoned puppy, nose pressed against the window watching me leave, howling inconsolably (“Down, Red!”).

This meant flying from Wick airport, possibly the cutest airport in Britain. There’s something very pleasing about watching your bag being hauled out of the cargo hold, put on a truck, driven the ten metres to the terminal, and unloaded through a hatch directly into the waiting lounge for you to pick up, even if some of the mystique of air travel is lost in the process.

Here at last is the pattern chart – though it’s scarcely a surprise at this stage. The only change I made from the original pattern was to widen the step slightly, from 10 stitches to 12, and of course to increase the number of pattern repeats to fit my stitch gauge. I’m cabling every 6 rows which makes for a nice, tight cable. The wearer will be lucky if he can bend over once it’s on. Heaven help him if he sneezes.

The Humber Keel gansey finally made it to Des, the intended victim, in Edinburgh – here’s a picture to prove it. I thought he wouldn’t get a chance to wear it till the cold weather in autumn, but luckily we’re having a traditional Scottish spring.

Finally, another triumph for Lynne; here’s her Cape Cod gansey, based on the pattern from Alice Starmore’s book. Note the patterned gusset, a nice touch. Congratulations again!

11 comments to Filey 5: 16 – 22 April

  • Gail

    Can one take circular needles on an airplane? I’ll have to check.

  • =Tamar

    It depends on the company, the day, the recent news, the mood of the person doing the checking and what they had for lunch… in the USA you can usually take short circulars on the plane (they’re less happy about really long ones).


    I’ve just heard that BBC Landward have recorded a special feature on the Moray Firth Gansey Project. The programme will air on 27 April 2012 at 7pm on BBC2.

    As to knitting needles, the UK Government website says yes, they can be taken on board – but if you try, they get taken off you at check-in/ security at the airport. No ganseys for them!


  • Huh. I’ve flown between the UK and the US several times since 2001, always with knitting needles, and I’ve never had any trouble at all. Interesting.

    And you know, I think you should write a novel about the Modern Fantasy World – Aragorn does have to stand for election, against, say, Obama and Cameron. *snort*


  • =Tamar

    I take it you are a fan of Vimes? (Terry Pratchett books, the City Watch subseries)

  • Ah, old “Stoneface” Vimes – one of the best characters in literature, ever. Along with just about every other character in his books!

    It’s interesting that Pratchett started out parodying fantasy, Tolkien et al (“Cohen the Barbarian” etc.), then gradually turned his satire on society as a whole, until many of his later Discworld books are fantasy in name only, and like so many satirists the humour gets angrier and less gentle over time.

    Still haven’t read Snuff – it’s on my shelf, but…

  • Veronica

    Just to throw my 2 cents (from the currency of your choice) into the discussion; I just flew from the Netherlands to California to Oahu, Hawaii and back with circulars in my pack. Someone tipped me off to not try bringing metal on board. They don’t seem to care about the wooden ones nearly so much.

    Having said that, I truly think gender makes a big difference. Most people I know have a mental block to the idea that men are capable of knitting, much less want to.

  • =Tamar

    Snuff includes a pleasant parody of Jane Austen along with the country house murder mystery, the early 19th century romance novel, etc.

  • Hello Gordon,

    I tried to send you a message via your contact form but the catcha would not let me through after several attempts so I am trying to send this message via a comment posting.

    I have just found your website / blog and it is all very interesting indeed and I’ll be following it with great interest.

    I live on the Isle of Colonsay off the west coast of Scotland, one of remotest communities in the UK, currently with a population of just 95. I have my own flock of Hebridean Sheep (approx. 60), I sell pure un-dyed 5-ply worsted Gansey wool from my Hebrideans and from the RSPB flock of Hebrideans on Oransay – an even smaller island joined to us by a causeway (natural dark) and the same from the Colonsay Balnahard flock of blackface sheep (Ecru). I also sell Aran and DK using the same fleeces.

    However, I also hand-knit the Colonsay Gansey traditionally on 5 needles using my Hebridean wool and do so commercially. This Gansey is unique to our wee island and if you could mention it in one of your blog postings that would be great. I sell them here on the island but I also export them worldwide (i.e Australia and Canada) and there will shortly be some extensive coverage in national magazines. I also provide residential (gansey) knitting courses here on Colonsay for both men and women.

    If you could add my business – Hebridean Isles Trading Company – (with a link to my website – see below) as a ‘supplier’ that would be greatly appreciated and if you are ever heading out this way from Edinburgh it would be great to meet up.

    My website is http://www.island-at-the-edge.co.uk and all of my contact details can be found there.

    Kind regards and happy Geansaidh knitting!!


  • Catriona Truman

    Wow, this is great, what a fantastic gansey. And a lovely picture of my dad wearing it.

  • Hi Catriona – of course it helps to have a distinguished model!