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Flamborough (Carol Walkington): Week 10 – 25 October

Well, here we are: another gansey rolls off the production line and into the showroom, spick and span and with that special “new gansey” smell that will last right up to being exposed to its first takeaway curry. And what a cracking pattern it is—which, seeing as it comes from Flamborough, almost goes without saying—and, as ever, I’m impressed at how clearly the Frangipani Moonlight yarn shows up every stitch, for good or ill; there’s really nowhere to hide. My next project will be a blend (or “mashup” for our younger readers) of two famous and familiar patterns; more on this next week.

Wrapped in Plastic

I referred last time to the notorious prankster Horace de Vere Cole in relation to the Dreadnought scandal of 1910. But Horace deserves to be more than a footnote in someone else’s story, so I thought I’d mention a couple of my favourite practical jokes of his. Some perhaps haven’t aged so well. For example, he and his pals once dressed up as workmen and dug a trench across Piccadilly in central London, easier a hundred years ago when all you needed was a shovel and an assortment of decent biceps. And once he bought up front-row seats for the premiere of an avant-garde play, which were taken by several bald men, each with a letter painted on their pates which, when seen together from the circle, spelled out a rather rude word.

Abstract Waves

But there is genius in persuading someone at a street corner to hold one end of a piece of string, then walking round the corner and getting someone else to hold the other end, and strolling off, leaving them both to it. The one I like the best, though, not least because it was aimed at his friends—it’s a little surprising to discover he had any, but still—is as follows. In the course of an evening, he would slip his watch into the coat pocket of one of his chums. Later that night, he would offer to walk them home. When he spotted a policeman on the beat coming towards them he’d challenge the friend to a race, and then, as the friend innocently hared off down the road, shout, “Stop thief!”

Wind in the Willows

Of course, the problem with practical jokes is that someone usually has to be the butt, and it’s hard not to resent being made the fall guy for other people’s humour. But Ishmael in Moby Dick has this to say on the subject:  “However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and to be spent in that way.” Wise words, I hope you agree; and so, in that spirit, would you mind just holding this piece of string for me? I promise I’ll be back in a minute…

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