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Humber 12: 12 – 18 December

Have you ever had your blood pressure taken? The doctor (or nurse) tightly straps a broad cuff round your upper arm until the arm won’t bend, and then inflates it so that it squeezes even tighter, like a tourniquet, until the cuff feels as though it’s going to meet in the middle and your fingers are swelling up like something from a Popeye cartoon.

My heart always sinks when the medical profession asks me to roll up my sleeve, since it usually means either a needle or the blood pressure cuff (and nobody seems to offer you a lollipop afterwards, either!). So when the doctor suggested I try a 24-hour blood pressure monitor, I should have known better. But whether it was the cunning use of the word ‘monitor’ that threw me off my guard, or because the doctor was bigger and younger than I, and had any number of strong nurses to hand, I agreed.

Basically, I was fitted with a cuff and a heavy little box, connected by a tube which ran up my arm, over my shoulder and out my collar. I looked like a member of the Borg collective. For the next 24 hours, every quarter of an hour, the box gave a couple of warning bleeps, then started to vibrate with a noise like a drawbridge being raised, which never failed to turn heads in the public reading room; everyone would stop to watch, fascinated. Then the cuff inflated and squeezed, and my arm was paralysed in the position of the lead in a musical comedy preparing to sing – I looked like a malfunctioning Borg hit by phaser fire. I started to dread those (*bleeping*) bleeps.

Winter in the Highlands

During the night the rate dropped to one squeeze per hour, just enough to wake me with a jolt. I naturally sleep with my arm curled under my pillow, so sometimes the first I knew of it was when the pillow started to levitate off the bed as my arm straightened. Who knew nights could be so long?

Never mind. I’ve finished my second star, and I’m two-thirds up the back. (You can maybe get an idea of how it’s going to look from the pictures.) One point of note, the diamonds either side of the star require a bit of concentration – the way the pattern repeat works out, it’s an uneven number of rows, so every alternate filled diamond starts on either a front or a back row, and some are therefore out of sync with the rest of the patterns (the star, the mini-diamonds). As a bear of very little brain when it comes to this sort of thing it’s proved to be something of a trial! If I ever did the pattern again I think I’d add an extra row to the pattern so it always starts on an even (front) row, like the others.

Sunrise in Wick

Anyway, it’s nearly Christmas. This blog will be taking a break over the festive season, and will reappear on Monday 2 January 2012 (Hogmanay hangovers depending). Margaret and I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very happy Christmas, and all good wishes for the New Year. May all your knitting and craft projects be successful – and certainly do nothing to increase your blood pressure….

Finally, to paraphrase Charles Dickens in his preface to Bleak House: “I have purposely dwelt upon the romantic side of familiar things. I believe I have never had so many readers as in this blog. May we meet again!”

20 comments to Humber 12: 12 – 18 December

  • Dave

    Merry Christmas, Gordon and Margaret!

  • Ulrike

    Merry Christmas to you and Margaret!
    Thank you for your good wishes.
    We will meet again!

    Happy New “Knitting” Year also.

  • Lynne

    Lovely photos, Gordon, and best wishes for a Happy Christmas and New Years.
    I can totally relate to the BP monitor anxiety/hate relationship and a total night of non-sleep! Wicked! At least, in my case, it proved to my doctor that I did not have high blood pressure – only “white-coat syndrome”.

  • =Tamar

    Merry Christmas!

    I would have thought the annoyance itself would have raised your blood pressure, especially the third or fourth time it woke you up.

    That’s a good tip about the diamond pattern, something to remember should I ever actually knit a gansey.

  • Lisa Mitchell

    The jumper’s looking “ab fab”. Happy Christmas to both you and Margaret.

  • Sarah

    I worked in healthcare for awhile, and the blood pressure cuff is a wonderful way to deal with unruly patients. I once had a male patient who was a bit… er… forward, and I told him he needed to quit talking because I couldn’t hear. If patients were rude, I squeezed the cuff tighter. 😀 I always felt bad for my nice patients, though, because it is uncomfortable.

    Beautiful gansey! So fun to watch the process! Merry Christmas!

  • Gordon

    Hi all, and thank you. And, as Tiny Tim – who did NOT die, but tragically ended his days as an opium addict in a Limehouse den – said, “God bless us, every one”.

  • Nigel

    Tony Hancock’s hour of partriotism:

    HANCOCK: I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Something for the benefit of the country as a whole. What should it be, I thought: become a blood donor or join the Young Conservatives? Anyway, as I’m not looking for a wife and I can’t play table tennis, here I am.
    NURSE: Mr. Hancock, when a blood transfusion is being given the family background is of no consequence.
    HANCOCK: Oh, come now, surely you don’t expect me to believe that? After all, east is east …..
    NURSE: And blood is blood all over the world, Mr. Hancock. It is classified by groups and not by accidents of birth.
    HANCOCK: I did not come here for a lecture on Communism, young lady!

    After the doctor has taken a blood sample Hancock blithely assumes that that is all that is needed and prepares to depart.

    DOCTOR McTAGGART: I’ve just taken a small sample to test.
    HANCOCK: A sample? How much do you want then?
    DOCTOR McTAGGART: A pint of course.
    HANCOCK: A pint? Have you gone raving mad?
    DOCTOR McTAGGART: A pint is a perfectly normal quantity to take.
    HANCOCK: You don’t seriously expect me to believe that? I mean, I came in here in all good faith to help my country. I don’t mind giving a reasonable amount, but a pint . . . why that’s very nearly an armful. I’m sorry. I’m not walking around with an empty arm for anybody . . . No, I’m sorry, I’ve been misinformed, I’ve made a mistake . . . I’ll do something else, I’ll be a traffic warden.

    The doctor finally persuades Hancock to donate the full pint by telling him he has a rare blood type, which appeals to Hancock’s snobbery. Having boasted of his lack of squeamishness, he faints while giving blood.

    DOCTOR McTAGGART: You’re AB negative.

    HANCOCK: Is that bad?

    DOCTOR McTAGGART: Oh no – you’re rhesus positive.

    HANCOCK: Rhesus?! They’re monkeys, aren’t they? How dare you! What are you implying? I didn’t come here to be insulted by a legalised vampire!

  • Sue

    Gordan, Happy Christmas and a very Merry New year to you and Margaret and all your readers – and a not too much of a hangover 😉 Christmas in this household will be celebrated with a low profile this year because everything is gearing up for the 3 day family Hogmanay houseparty in the Borders. 70+ family and close friends coming together to celebrate not just Hogmanay but my parents’ 60th Wedding Anniversary! Can’t see much knitting getting done as we gather from across the UK!

  • Leigh

    Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Goodnight!

  • Suzanne

    I laughed until I cried. I’ll take the other readers’ word for it that the photos were great too: can’t see them through the blur of mirth. And the result of this prolonged session as a new member of the Borg collective?

    Have a very Happy Christmas on your rocky coast at the end of the earth. If the doorbell rings, it could be St. Nick asking for directions to the main road south or Mr. Scott… Speaking of whom, have you read Beryl Bainbridge’s ‘the Birthday Boys’?

  • Ruth


    It’s the way you tell ’em…

    Have a lovely Christmas and New Year, all the best for 2012.

  • Dell

    It is 11.55pm (far East time), a blessed Christmas to you and Margaret. Now, i have to kiss my cats for X’mas.

  • Merry Christmas to you both, Gordon. The gansey is wonderful, and I hope the blood pressure monitor gave you good news at the end of its day on duty.

  • Gordon

    Hi All,

    Well, I’m back in Edinburgh after a bracing 256 mile drive. The tree is up, the presents are wrapped, and the dough for tomorrow’s loaves is chilling in the fridge. All that remains is to dig out the Muppet Christmas Carol and get properly festive (“after all, there’s only one more sleep till Chri-i-stmas!”). Thanks for all the good wishes.

    It’s just me & Margaret this year, Sue – the thought of 70+ people freaks me out at the best of times, but at Christmas? No-o-o-o!!!

    Suzanne, haven’t read any Beryl Bainbridge – do you recommend them?

    Sheila, I assume it’s all OK or someone would have raised an alarm, but will check next year.

    Leigh and Ruth, the same to you, of course!

    Nigel – back when I was nobbut a lad, Hancock was a funny comedy because it was so absurd. Now I realise it was really a documentary about my life, and is therefore Not Funny At All.

    Oh, and Dell, remember, no tongues, OK?

    Right, I’m outa here. See you next year!


  • =Tamar

    Well, you probably won’t see this until next year but Merry Christmas anyway.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    Just picking up email before bedtime, so caught your timely post. A very merry Christmas to you, too – I hope Santa was kind? I’m listening to carols on Classic FM and dreaming of a Mahler Christmas… And hoping the gales die down soon!


  • =Tamar

    Happy Tibetan New Year! If I have the figuring right, it started very early this year, on Dec 25 in fact. (It’s one of those “first day after the first New Moon after the Winter Solstice” things. I think.) It used to be celebrated for two full weeks, which should cover 12th Night and a bit beyond.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    And losar tashi delek to you too!


  • Well, your sweater looks lovely, as do the pictures of Wick. I especially like the sunset, but I’m a sucker for bright colors like that.

    I hope your holiday was good and that you have a great new year. I’m looking forward to seeing more sweaters and books from you.