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Flamborough III(b): Week 4 – 10 August

It’s back to work this week, something I’m looking forward to with the same kind of foredoomed anticipation with which Ishmael viewed his final confrontation with the white whale Moby-Dick. Not only will this involve working in an office, but, which is worse, I’ll actually have to interact with other people. Having to work as such, though, won’t be a shock: I’ve been working all through lockdown, most recently on a sort of definitive handbook of the records of the nuclear industry, and have filled no less than 150 pages of an A5 notebook accordingly, using my natty new fountain pen. And it’s led me to think of names.

You can tell everything you need to know about Britain and America from the respective codenames they gave to their secret atomic projects during the War. The British project was called “Tube Alloys”, a brilliantly dull title which sounds like a type of zinc cream for haemorrhoids. It’s boring even to type the words; anyone coming across the dossier would probably have fallen asleep before they opened the cover. But the Americans of course named their atomic research “The Manhattan Project”: a title so cool and mysterious it immediately suggests men in sunglasses with blank faces denying you access, possibly to an alien autopsy. Of course you want find out more. (Equally brilliantly the British committee overseeing atomic research was known as the “MAUD Committee”. But the letters “MAUD” didn’t stand for anything; it was just the name of Danish physicist Niels Bohr’s housekeeper, Maud Ray.)

Overgrown bench by the riverside path

I’ve taken great strides towards the completion of the gansey this week by finishing the first sleeve and starting the second. The one part of knitting a gansey that I don’t particularly enjoy—apart from all the maths involved in planning them, casting on, picking up stitches round the neck and darning in all the loose ends at the conclusion—come to think of it, why do I knit them again?—is picking up 140-odd stitches round the armhole. But the joy of knowing that there are no more stitches to be picked up by this stage is equally great; and as the rest of the gansey is just a gentle freewheel down to the cuff, it feels like a holiday. Another fortnight might even see it done.

In parish notices, a big shout out to Linda for bringing her gansey safe to fruition. You can see the pictures here—it’s the splendid Filey ladder and cables pattern, and from the pictures looks like a perfect fit. Many congratulations to Linda!

Textures of the marsh

And speaking of names, did you know that no one actually knows what the “moby” part of the white whale’s name means, or how Melville came up with it? Though there was apparently a famous whale called “Mocha Dick, the white whale of the Pacific”. The best that anyone can come up with is that it’s a blending of “mocha” and “Toby” (though no one can explain what Toby has to do with anything). Ah well; a mystery it is, and a mystery it shall probably remain, and I find that curiously satisfying. It’s not good for us to know everything. Ishmael, as in so many things, got it about right: “Think not, is my eleventh commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth”.

Call me Ahab Priscilla Queequeg Bruce Ishmael


Landscape near Achavanich Stone Circle

10 comments to Flamborough III(b): Week 4 – 10 August

  • =Tamar

    Whoa, that’s an extra-long gansey, Linda. Congratulations!

    Re “Moby”, I wonder whether the clue might be in some of Melville’s other novels of the ocean islands, _Typee_ and _Omoo_. Or there might be some information in the languages spoken in the areas where he sailed.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, one explanation I read was that a Melville was planning another book called “Toby”, and this, conflated with “Mocha Dick”, gave us the white whale. I like that we don’t know for sure!

  • Laura Kinnane-Brew

    It’s looking fab Gordon…

  • I love acronyms! When I was a child my Dad worked in London at the Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe –called CINCUSNAVEUR. A number of years ago I worked for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and they developed an online ordering system: OSHA Online Publications System affectionately called OOPS. I now work for the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S Dept, of Labor and we copied the code for the online ordering system from OSHA. My boss wanted to call it WHOOPS but that got vetoed. We do have an online system where workers can search for wages owed them as a result of an investigation of their employer called WOW — Workers Owed Wages. And we have more!

    • Gordon

      Fantastic! And much more fun than the nuclear industry, whose acronym book runs to over 12 pages. Mind you, I’m childishly proud of the fact that I nearly got a national project titled the Welsh Archive of National Culture…

  • Lynne Brock

    Thanks so much, Gordon, for sharing your gansey lore and wisdom with the Cordova Gansey Zoom group today. I know everyone was really looking forward to hearing from you – me, especially, after all these years. I’ve always wondered which verbal accent you had acquired from the several countries you’ve called home, haha.
    All the gansey talk and the beautiful Frangipani colors is sure a lure for ‘just one more’ . . . .

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne it was a great pleasure, and very nice to finally “meet” you at last! (My accent changes, depending on who I spoke to last… 🤭)

  • Mary Pat Boarman

    In anticipation of your speaking at the Cordova Gansey Zoom yesterday, I visited your fabulous blog last week. I know I have just touched the surface, and I know I will continue to use it as a reference as I begin my very first gansey. Your willingness to share your learnings and knowledge is priceless. Your sense of humor on all things called life is equally priceless. Thank you!

    • Gordon

      Hi Mary, so glad you found us! And thank you for the kind words. Let us know how you get on, and remember, if you ever want a second opinion on anything we’ll be happy to help if we can. Best wishes!

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