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Flamborough III(b): Week 1 – 20 July

I’ve been thinking recently about famous last words—not, I hasten to add, because I plan to utter any in the near future, but rather because there are more of them around than I’d imagined. Of course, we all know Oscar Wilde’s witty last words: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.” (Although knowing Oscar’s habit of preparing his witticisms carefully in advance, I have a vision of him being carried in extremis from hotel to hotel until he found a room sufficiently ghastly for his quip.) In terms of dying as you lived, the French grammarian Dominique Bouhours is one of my heroes. As he expired he said, “I am about to—or I am going to—die: either expression is correct”.

On the deck

Imagine going down in history as a black joke, your last words revealing how badly you’d misjudged things. This happened to the American Civil War general John Sedgwick, who berated his men for taking cover under fire with the immortal words, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—”. Running him close in the misplaced optimism stakes we have William Pitt the Younger, British Prime Minister, whose last words were, “I think I could eat one of Bellamy’s veal pies.” (Spoiler: he couldn’t.) It’s also a good time to settle old scores. Told that his time was short, the Spanish playwright Lope Félix de Vega Carpio memorably exclaimed, “All right, then, I’ll say it: Dante makes me sick!”

Hogweed at Sarclet

Leaving last things for a moment, it’s time to ring in a new gansey. It’s another old favourite, Flamborough III in Frangipani pistachio yarn. I’ve amended the pattern slightly by narrowing the diamonds from the previous time I knit it, because the intended recipient is somewhat less broad across the beam than yours truly. It’s a truly classic pattern, one of the best, and the pastel shade really suits it. (Of course this isn’t really week one: I’ve been beavering away quietly on it for the last few weeks.)

Duncansby Stacks

Staying green for a moment, Judit has been busy in Finland, turning corona-lockdown to advantage. She’s sent pictures of this green gansey, a future Christmas present. The pattern is taken from Beth Brown-Reinsel‘s book, and is a really effective combination of bands of different patterns which set each other off to a “T”. Congratulations once again to Judit! And a reminder that if anyone has a completed gansey they’d like to share, please send us pictures (completed ganseys only, I’m afraid). 

Turning back to last words, the French, as ever, do it with the most style. Take the philosopher Bernard de Fontenelle. His last words were the marvellous, “I feel nothing, apart from a certain difficulty in continuing to exist.” (To be fair, this is how I feel most Monday mornings.) But pride of place surely goes to the celebrated atheist and writer Voltaire—or it would do if it were true, which it probably isn’t; but, as another man once said, unless it turns out he didn’t either, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”. Where was I? Oh, yes: Voltaire. On his death bed, and urged by a priest to renounce Satan, he is alleged to have told him, “Now, now, my good man; this no time to be making enemies…”

11 comments to Flamborough III(b): Week 1 – 20 July

  • Song

    My personal favorite is Socrates:

    “I drank WHAT??”

  • Gordon

    “But I ordered a gin and tonic…”

  • Dave

    The Duke of Buckingham’s is pretty good…

    • Gordon

      “Get back, woman! The haddock is not yet spawned that can beat George Villiers, third duke of Buckingham in a game of Russian roulette!”

      That one, or we’re you thinking of another duke?

  • =Tamar

    M.Bouhours appears to have been uncertain as to the exact length of time he had left. He could have lived another decade and the “going to” form would still have been correct (in English anyway).

    Um… I assume the intended recipient of the “future Christmas present” doesn’t read the net.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, alas, my readership is so vanishingly niche that I doubt there’s any real risk of Christmas being spoiled.. 🙂

  • Laura Kinnane-Brew

    Gosh Gordon, I got a shock to see how far advanced the gansey is. Looks amazing..

  • Judit M./Finland

    Good Morning Gordon,
    Many thanks for mentioning my green gansey in the blog. Your cardigan is very impressive. Do you wash the zipper before sewing it to its place? Back home in Hungary we always washed the zippers and pinned them to dry before sewing. It was thought that zippers shrink after washing them.
    Flamborough III(b) in Frangipani pistachio looks very interesting, I do love the color and the pattern is a classic isn´t it? Just wondering how many hours you knit every day Are you knitting as it is the habit in England or as in Europe elsewhere? I sometimes have difficulties with the left index finger holding and stretching the yarn all the time.
    Wishing You happy knitting, best regards from Finland.

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit, always a pleasure! I’ll let Margaret answer your zipper question in due course.

      Usually I knit a couple of hours a night, more at weekends (especially if I’m listening to Wagner!). I knit the English way, I believe, with the yarn in the right hand. But my technique is deplorable. I tend to let go the needle as I loop the yarn over it for the stitch, and pick it up again to retract it. My left index finger pushes the needle back out again, drawing the loop of yarn with it to make the stitch, so that I keep pricking my finger in a very painful manner. I knit like a man trying to play a struggling live goat as if it were the bagpipes. It’s not pretty.

    • Margaret Reid

      Hi Judit
      Well, it didn’t even occur to me to pre-wash the zipper. I think we’ll be safe though, as zipper tapes nowadays are polyester instead of cotton, so it’s unlikely to shrink or bleed.

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