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Filey – Mrs Hunter’s Pattern: Week 1 – 2 May

It’s May Day as I write this—though saying it out loud makes it sound like a cry of distress—and nothing gets your Sunday off to a good start like realising that you’re snugly tucked up in bed while a bunch other fellows have already been up for hours, dancing the sun up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of honouring ancient customs; and while I’ve no reason to believe the sun won’t rise if no one is there to greet it, it’s not something I feel we should leave to chance. It’s just that, in my case, as Hamlet said, it’s a custom more honour’d in the breach than the observance. In fact, in modern parlance, I like to think that nowadays I’ve “outsourced” it.

Plum tree in bloom

Back when I used to Morris dance (in England; the last Morris dancer in Scotland was hunted to extinction around the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie) I rather enjoyed getting up at 4 a.m. on May Day. We’d gather at the Market Square for sunrise, which came a little after 5.30 a.m. There’s something special about being up at that time, when the day is so fresh and new you feel you’re getting first use of all the oxygen. I especially used to treasure the last few seconds before the first dance, happy in the knowledge that everyone sleeping within a radius of about a quarter of a mile was about to get the rude awakening of a lifetime. And afterwards it was in to the pub for an early breakfast, sausages and coffee hot-and-hot.

Snoozing in the sun

Now I’ve made myself hungry: to distract myself till lunchtime, I’ve just started a new gansey project. This one’s for the partner of a colleague at work. It’s Mrs Hunter of Filey’s pattern, taken from page 43 of Michael Pearson’s first edition. It’s knit in Frangipani olive yarn; this is the first time I’ve used it, and I like it a lot already. Though ever since I learned that the local fishermen didn’t wear green because it was considered unlucky, I’ve rather avoided the colour, stupidly. After seeing this, I might reconsider.

Colourful creel

As for my dancing days, well, that was then and this is now. Time has done what time does—for instance, my younger self had knees; these days I need three strong men to help me up after loading the washing machine, like Henry VIII in his armour being winched onto his horse. And so has geography. The sun rises early here in the far north of Scotland (and every day it rises earlier, until in a few weeks it will hardly set at all). I achieved a sort of Buddhist enlightenment when I realised that I could still dance the sun up: it’s just that the sun whose rise I’m celebrating is the one over Boston, Massachusetts (sunrise, 10.39 a.m. UK time); and by “dancing up” I mean “getting slowly and painfully out of bed”. Thus I play my own small part in welcoming in the summertime and the May-oh, and ensuring that the crops will grow for another year. No, honestly, I don’t want any thanks—sometimes virtue is its own reward…

8 comments to Filey – Mrs Hunter’s Pattern: Week 1 – 2 May

  • Dave

    Happy May Day Gordon

  • Bridget

    Gordon, please talk to us about the lambs with the blue “stripe”.

    Second question..Do you knit in YOUR (English) conventional way? Seems like you’re flying!

    • Gordon

      Hi Bridget, the lambs are a new breed, specially bred to make it easier to knit blue and white stripes, all from the same sheep, without having to use more than one ball of wool.

      Yes, I knit the “stop-and-loop-the-yarn-over-the-needle-and-then-painstakingly-try-to-draw-it-through-the-stitch” technique, which, as I’ve said before, resembles a jacquard steam loom more than anything human. I know it’s not very efficient, especially compared with the continental technique, but I always feel people knitting ganseys shouldn’t be in a hurry anyway. (I’ve really not knit as much as it looks – perching it upright always makes it look taller!”)

  • Love love love that color!

    • Gordon

      Hi Wendy, it’s great isn’t it? Like mushy peas. I keep trying not to think of it in terms of Buck Mulligan’s description of the sea in James Joyce’s Ulysses, “snotgreen…” 😀

  • =Tamar

    I agree about the way to celebrate Mayday after a certain age…

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, Morris dancing is a young man’s game, it turns out. My alternative plan is to dance the sun up on December 21st in Wick, when it rises at a far more civilised 9.05am…

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