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Flamborough III(b): Week 5 – 17 August

I mentioned last week that I’d spent part of my time during lockdown researching the nuclear industry, in which I now work. (I sometimes wryly imagine travelling back in time to meet my younger self, who spent all those Tuesdays back in 1982 selling anti-nuclear literature from the Ecology Party stall on Northampton market, and watching the hope in his face collapse like an arctic glacier; though to be fair that would probably be at my lack of hair even before we got onto ethics.) One subject that hadn’t occurred to me was the question of how you transmit knowledge about nuclear contamination to future generations.

The pilot boat gets a clean

Language, like nuclear waste, changes over time. It takes about 300 years for radioactive waste produced by fission to decay to the point where it is relatively harmless—until it becomes as radioactive as, say, Cornwall. But high level waste can last up to a thousand years, and if you think that a thousand years ago Old English was slowly evolving into the language of Chaucer you can see the problem: how can you warn generations yet unborn that “here be dragons” if they can’t read the signs? Pictures are no good. A cartoon strip showing a man approaching an electric fence, touching it and falling down dead works fine for us who read left to right; but someone from a culture that reads right to left will think it’s a defibrillator or some kind of revivifying device.

There are many suggestions for dealing with this, and I’m indebted to me dear friend Song for bringing the absolute batshit-craziest of them to my notice: the concept of Raycats. These are cats that would be genetically bred to change colour in the presence of dangerous levels of radiation, the idea being that even if all records are lost humanity will retain a folk memory of a cat that changes colour. (Though having observed humanity up close for many years, I suspect that people of the future would deliberately expose the cats and themselves to radiation just to watch the cool colour-change effect, and then post the pictures on Youtube.) And I feel that this is an idea with far-reaching applications: a cat that changed colour when I’m running low on coffee, or it’s time for my pills, would genuinely enhance my life; it would be worth it just for the expression on the cat’s face.

Oystercatcher on the rocks

In gansey news, the end is in sight. I’m almost to the cuff, and then there’s just a question of six inches of ribbing and a bit of end-darning and we’re there, so I expect it to be finished by next weekend. By the way, the pattern is not just a classic in itself, but it also has the advantage of numerous columns of purl stitches running up the body—this gives you a certain amount of flexibility in the fit widthwise, always a bonus in a gansey knit for somebody else.

Trawl doors from a fishing net

Finally, I was honoured to be invited last week to talk to the Cordova Gansey Project from Alaska, but really from all over. It was a great pleasure to meet so many enthusiasts in one virtual space and talk ganseys for an hour. Knitting is an habitually solitary activity for me, something I do on my own, like brushing my teeth or trying to remember where I put my car keys. It was rather nice to find it suddenly turned into a group activity, and to feel I had something to contribute. Maybe my younger self would be able to take comfort from that, at least, after all. (What’s that? He wouldn’t? Oh, right, I was forgetting: the hair…)

6 comments to Flamborough III(b): Week 5 – 17 August

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