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Flamborough, Week 7: 18 June

There’s a memorable scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where Hunter S. Thompson is in a hotel room with his attorney, both of them off their heads, as they are for most of the book, on drugs. The attorney is soaking in the bath, and demands Thompson play Jefferson Airplane’s song White Rabbit at full volume; and, when the song peaks, throw the player into the bathtub, electrocuting him.

Thompson, surprisingly, has just enough sense not to go along with this. Instead, at the key moment, with the attorney lying in the tub, eyes closed, expectant, he throws the biggest grapefruit in the fruit bowl into the bath. For a few seconds the attorney actually believes he’s being electrocuted. “My attorney screamed crazily, thrashing around in the tub like a shark after meat, churning water all over the floor as he struggled to get hold of something.”

Yes, it’s the (football/soccer) World Cup, and this sort of frenzied ecstasy exactly describes the BBC’s relentless coverage. Every journalist seems as excited as a five year-old who’s been given a surprise birthday party and a whoopee cushion. It’s exhausting.

So instead, let us avert our gaze and turn to a story that’s had the archives world shaking its collective head: the White House’s records. Did you know that the Presidential Records Act requires every document the President of the United States handles to be preserved in the National Archives? No, me neither; but as an archivist, I heartily approve—it’s just the way the world should be.

View towards Wick from upriver

And then along comes President Trump. Apparently he can’t be persuaded not to rip up papers of all kinds when he’s done with them—some of them just torn in half, others into “hundreds of minute pieces”. But you can’t outwit archivists like that: we have special training. So it’s the job of White House staff to go through Trump’s waste paper bins and retrieve the shreds of paper and stick them back together. (Now I think of it, I’m pretty sure I saw the Penguin do this in the 1992 movie Batman Returns, so you’d think someone might have invested in a decent shredder by now.) Still, so long as they’re using special archival non-acidic preservation tape, there’s no harm done, eh? “We got Scotch tape, the clear kind,” an aide said. Oh.

The steps to Dunnet Beach

In gansey news I have put in a few hard yards this week. As a result I’ve finished the front and both shoulders, joined them with a standard three-needle bind-off, and started on the collar. Several of my recent ganseys have featured traditional non-shaped necklines (partly because I have a mind to offer them to a local museum if they’ll have them); but I prefer a bit of freedom around the old larynx myself, so this time I’ve gone for a shaped collar. I made it quite deep, i.e., one diamond, or 30 rows. (This equals 15 decreases, if I decrease every other row.)

Gordon contemplates braces

The shoulders at the shoulder strap are each 63 stitches wide, with another 63 for the neck. So I put 63 + 15 = 78 stitches on each needle and worked up the shoulder, decreasing every second row, until after 30 rows I had 63 stitches left for the shoulder strap. I then knit 12 rows of standard rig ‘n fur’ for the shoulder strap, and then bound off (is that right, “bound”? Seems a bit sprightly for someone with my knees, but there we are). It makes for a nice wide neckline and a sweeping, gentle curve.

I just had an awful thought. If the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup is this bad now, what will it be like if England actually go on to win it? I might have to emigrate. Either that, or take desperate measures. (Now, where did I leave that copy of White Rabbit…?)

7 comments to Flamborough, Week 7: 18 June

  • =Tamar

    I seem to recall at least one of the ganseys photographed in the 19th century had a shaped neckline. You’re in good company.
    With respect to the World Cup, perhaps it’s time to go on a “news diet” and take up binge-reading webcomics to fill the empty minutes.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I’m always uncomfortable when people come along years afterwards and then make up rules. I know I’ve read that the gansey was identical front and back so a fisherman could get dressed in the dark and not have to worry about which way round his jumper was on.

      But up here it’s so light during the fishing season (sunrise 4.04am at the solstice) that would hardly be an issue! And to be frank, anyone who couldn’t tell if his jumper was on right would probably also have issues with his shirt and trews!

      As for the football, knitting and audiobooks will see me right. But then, that’s what I do when there isn’t a World Cup too…

  • meg

    what`s that you said about football?…what football? where? have I missed something while knitting away at gloves and dozing between times.never was much of a fan ,never watched a game.should I be worried?
    but on the other hand..tennis has been responsible for a few dropped stitches
    your gansey looks amazing……

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, I’m actually quite fond of tennis, and football, and of course cricket – but the journalists who cover those sports, not so much!

  • Lois

    In ages from now, will some researcher say “ I don’t think that is Linear B, it looks more like Linear Trump.” Has anyone researched the life expectancy of Scotch tape?

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, yes they have, good question. Even under ideal conditions it loses its stick in about a decade or so, and of course the high acid content of the glue discolours the paper it’s sticking to, damaging it.

      What they should do, archivally speaking, is stick the papers back together, then make a good quality copy on acid free paper or a digital scan, so they have all bases covered.

      Mind you, if you literally have to archive every piece of paper the President handles, the mind boggles as to what the archive of the future might consist of!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    I’m sorry Gordon, but the paper detritus from this President should be flushed as nature intended. Love the Gansey.

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