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Hebrides, Week 5: 24 April

History, when you come to look at it, isn’t very pretty, is it? Or maybe it’s just historians who can’t come across a disembowelling without experiencing an urge to share it, hoping, like the Fat Boy in Pickwick, to make our flesh creep.

I start my phased return to work as of Monday, and to get myself back in the zone I’ve been swotting up on my Caithness history—and what a bloodthirsty tale it is. A viking lord is slain leaping from his window to escape his pursuers; a bishop is burned in his kitchen for demanding too high a tithe on butter; an earl’s son is imprisoned by his father, starved, then fed salted beef but no water and dies of thirst; a clan chief is treacherously murdered while at prayer in a chapel—honestly, it makes the Sopranos look like Teletubbies (word of advice: never turn your back on Tinky Winky when he’s holding a kitchen knife).

The chronicles, I notice, never include such passages as, “Earl Ronald, seeking to avenge the cruel death of his father, gathered his followers and sought out Harald Skullsplitter in his house where he offered him a fairy cake with pink icing as a peace offering.” Or, “Lachlan ‘Vicious Bastard’ Gunn, lusting after the wife of his neighbour, the Fair Helen of Tarool, decided instead to move to London where he changed his name to Lionel and became a celebrated interior decorator.”

If only the Vikings had turned their energies into more creative pursuits how much nicer history might have been (though I can picture in my mind’s eye the final seconds of anyone who suggested to a Viking they should “bury the hatchet”, realising just too late that murderous pirates probably have a limited understanding of metaphor). I mean, if he’d taken up knitting, Erik Bloodaxe might now be known to us as Erik Cableneedle.

It snowed Monday morning

Well, as last week was my final week of freedom, I chose to spend much of it knitting. I’ve finished the front—note the steek running all the way bottom to top—and joined the shoulders, and knit the collar. I’ve picked up stitches round the armhole and started on the first sleeve, essentially the same pattern as the yoke without the side ladders. Now I’m back at work of course progress from now on will be a lot slower: but I managed to complete 3.5 ganseys while I was ill, so I shall definitely have happy thoughts of the last few months to go with all the bad stuff I’ve been dealing with.

And here’s a final thought: we are all creating the history of our times, every day, all the time. It’s up to us to make sure that our story, when it comes to be written, is a good one. For my part, despite pretty strong temptation, so far today (it’s 8.00 pm) I haven’t burned a bishop, or murdered a clan chief, or slain an enemy in battle. So there you are: I’ve done my bit. One day down, the rest of my life to go…

8 comments to Hebrides, Week 5: 24 April

  • Annie

    Ah, yes, Gordon, on not burning a bishop so far today:

    A large, oval , black on white sticker:

    “I knit so I don’t kill anybody.”

    It helps, honestly.

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, yes, at a time when it seems everyone has collectively taken crazy pills, knitting is an oasis of sanity in a fallen world. I like to think of myself as like to the ancient Norns of Norse legend, waving the rope of destiny of men’s fates—who then one day had the happy idea of also using it to knit cardigans. Thus spake the legends of Hrothgar and the Cardigan of Doom…!

  • Eve

    Good luck with the “phased return” and be kind to yourself if there are a few bumps in the road. Also be aware that the knitting might diminish as you find headspace for other stuff. I’ve found that as my mood has improved since the lifting of the dead hand of tamoxifen my almost compulsive production of Sanquhar gloves and Estonian socks has fallen away, strangely only I seem to be sad about that, my friends and family no longer have to take it in turns to be grateful recipients! I also don’t think there’s a charity raffle locally that hasn’t been a target. Looking forward to seeing Hebrides finished and am pretty sure that Filey wil be my first attempt, still planning though. Eric Cableneedle 😂😂😂 do you really think Tinky Winky a threat, I was always more worried about La La.

    • Gordon

      Hi Eve, so far so good and one day at a time, that’s the way I’m approaching things. When I first went off, not knowing what the hell was happening,I did knit rather obsessively—the alternative was to think about stuff, and that had the risk of collapsing in on myself like a black hole. I’m glad to say that I’ve gradually relaxed away from that, as you suggest. I was concerned that I’d associate knitting with being ill, and suffer a reaction, but hopefully I’ll keep thinking of knitting as the rope ladder that I climbed up to escape!

      In my nightmares there’s always Tinky Winky leaning over me and muttering, “Who are you calling Tubby…?”

  • Jane Callaghan

    I like this approach. Today I didn’t clean the kitchen, but I did manage not to go berserk in the cathedral, so that’s a plus then.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, yes, that’s the spirit! I think we should all adopt the approach of doctors—first do no harm. Gradually we can then work up to doing good actively, but baby steps, baby steps…

  • Jane

    All the best with the return, variety is the spice ….! This Hebrides gansey is just so lovely, the colour, the texture, the detailed patterning. For me, knitting continues to be a satisfying and supportive process, and it seems to me that it has been so for you and that is very nice. It has also been so productive too. Wonderful! Take care and enjoy the week!

    • Gordon

      Thanks Jane, yes—Philip Larkin famously suggested that “What will survive of us is love”, but in my case it will probably be a set of fillings from my teeth and a shedload of ganseys!

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