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Flamborough III: Week 6 – 28 June

I’ve been considering an important question this week, namely, how did people in the Stone Age cut their toenails? True, you can bite your fingernails, but as you get older and your joints start to set like concrete you’d have to be a black belt in yoga to get your toes within comfortable reach of your snappers, even assuming you fancied a wee nibble. (And if you ever want proof that the universe is far stranger than we can imagine, I wrote the above as a joke but it turns out Google’s top follow-up nail-based question is actually, “Is it OK to eat your toenails?”; the answer to which is, of course, yes, but only if you’ve run out of Parmesan.)

Newly renovated North Baths

I don’t really associate personal hygiene and good grooming with prehistory, perhaps unfairly—after all, the British climate being what it is, you only have to stand outside on a typical summer’s morn and that’s your daily shower right there. Mind you, I’ve often felt that the aliens in 2001: A Space Odyssey have a lot to answer for. If you remember, they present our simian ancestors with a giant monolith which implants in them the concept of killing other creatures for their meat. If only it’d shown them how to make bubble bath-foam and aloe vera shampoo instead, the course of human history would have been a lot less bloody; or at least smelled a lot better. And as a vegetarian, this always troubled me. How hard can it be for creatures sophisticated enough to cross galaxies to knock up a quick mushroom quiche or aloo gobi when they get here?

Wildflowers on the cliff edge

In gansey news, I’ve finished the half-gussets and divided front and back. This is always the moment where all the hard work pays off and you feel like you’re knitting twice as fast. (It’s also the moment where you hope the pattern works out as you near the shoulder. One reason why I chose this pattern is because the diamonds are small, so the chances of ending up with incomplete ones when I reach the top are hopefully pretty small.)

Waves at North Head

As for my toenail “cavemanicure” conundrum, well, as you’d expect, there isn’t a definitive answer. Most anthropologists seem to feel the keratin would’ve worn away naturally, or else our ancestors filed them down with a stone (so that I shall in future think of this period as the Pumice Stone Age, ahaha). My own personal theory—that they grew them long so as to have something to toast their marshmallows with—is still in the ring. Meanwhile I have another question. If, as my researches suggest, people only started wearing clothes 170,000 years ago, you have to wonder: where did they keep their loose change before then…?

12 comments to Flamborough III: Week 6 – 28 June

  • E

    But if they didn’t have clothes, why would they need change…?

    • Gordon

      Hi E, well, you never know when the ice-cream van is going to drop by and give you the chance to buy a raspberry ripple… 🤔

  • Meg Macleod

    presumably you have a friend dear enough and cherished enough to withstand the trauma of you askin “ah-hem, i wonder if you could…..

    and i think yes.previously.they would have been worn away climbng rock faces to escape predators

  • Lynne

    Love that pattern, Gordon. I sure had my doubts about that color at first but seeing it knitted up has changed my mind. So pretty.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, I’d try to see a sample for real, it’s a very lovely shade of deep blue, the missing link between denim and navy. The pattern helps too, of course!

  • =Tamar

    I’m confident that there are anthropologists out there who have lived with tribal peoples who spend most of their time outdoors and barefooted. They probably have some answers. It won’t be just not living long enough to have the problem, because some Neanderthals were both elderly and handicapped.

    Re half-diamonds at shoulders: I wonder if anyone ever cheated and put an extra whole diamond on the back and one fewer whole diamonds on the front, so the shoulder line is slightly forward of center.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, to be fair, most of my research for this consisted of watching the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings movies, if that counts…? 😀

      I haven’t seen any staggered diamonds as you suggest, but I’ve seen a few pictures with half-diamonds at the top of the shoulders. It’s neater to make them complete, but it certainly wasn’t always the case.

  • Rebecca

    I’ve looked at this shade of blue many times and have bypassed it. It’s
    wonderful to see it knit up – much nicer than I imagined it to be. The pattern
    you chose does it justice – perfect.

    • Gordon

      Hi Rebecca, yes, it’s taken me ages to get round to this colour. Frangipani even sent me a sample, and to my shame I thought, yes, it’s nice, but…

      It’s taken someone to ask for a gansey in this shade for me to realise how subtle and deep it is. I’m a convert! And the pattern is one of those that doesn’t look very special on the page, but knitted up en masse is really effective.

  • Rebecca S

    Hi Gordon,
    Just wanted to drop you a line saying thanks for keeping me inspired and entertained in the early hours of the New Zealand morning. I have a 10 week old who has decided sleeping for longer than an hour after midnight is decidedly unfashionable and therefore I must also wake alongside him! To keep myself awake I’ve been researching all the knitting projects I currently don’t have time to knit (so I am now living vicariously through your project!). I’m now thinking a baby Gansey may be appropriate as a reminder of his 10 week sleep regression and my midnight research.

    • Gordon

      Hi Rebecca, and thank you, you’re very kind, and a big hello to the Land of the Long White Cloud. I’ve always shied away from knitting ganseys for bairns, on the grounds that the little blighters have a tendency to grow out of them… But the patterns are infinitely adaptable, and work well in most types of yarns, so I’d say go for it!

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