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Lopi Interlude IV: 13 December

SF151213-1And here we are, back after a brief winter break in Edinburgh, staying in a semi-posh hotel near Holyrood in Old Town just a few minutes’ walk from the picturesque Royal Mile, where Japanese tourists, like salmon, after travelling thousands of miles, swarm in multitudes and then, presumably, spawn and die.

Edinburgh makes a spectacular change from Wick at this time of year, with crowds, lights, funfairs, market stalls, shops, coffee, cake, lights, cake, culture and—let’s be honest—more cake. In fact I treated the visit like an Arctic ground squirrel facing a winter’s hibernation in Alaska, and decided to build up a layer of fat in the shortest possible time—only whereas the squirrel forages for nuts and berries in the forest canopy, I basically camped out in Starbucks and Costa Coffee.


Mmm Apple

Edinburgh also has an Apple Store, and we went there in search of a new phone and iPad. It’s a while since I’ve visited one of these emporia and I was struck by the fact that all the staff seemed to be about 12 years old; they smiled constantly with a creepy sort of inner certainty, as though they’d just been saved (“Eternal salvation? There’s an app for that!”), or as if their shining white teeth were a prototype Apple dental recognition software.

Stepford Female Apple Employee: “Hello sir, how can we help you today?”
Me: “I’d like to buy an iPad Mini, please.”
“Uh-MA-zing! Anything else?”
“Well, I was thinking of buying a new phone too.”
“And a case.”
“But I’ve just contracted a rare tropical disease and have only three days to live.”
‘Uh-MA—oh, bummer. Still, at least you’ll have a new phone to help make your last hours extra-special, yeah?”
‘Well, I suppose so—”

SF151207-1Across the street from the Apple Store is the German Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens (and with the crowds of people, the lights and the skaters on the rink, and the air heavy with the rich aromas of gluhwein and German sausage it was like being in the middle of Breughel painting, if only Flemish peasants in the 16th century had taken selfies with their phones).

SF151208-1There was a funfair with a giant Ferris wheel, and one of those rides consisting of a high pole with seats attached that ascend and spin giddily round and round, and I found myself wishing I’d paid more attention in maths at school so I could calculate the area my lunch would cover if I were ever so stupid as to go up in it.

Mind you, the turbulence of the return flight was about as much fun—when a British pilot suggests that there will be “a few lumps and bumps”, you know you’d better hang on to your fillings—but after 50 minutes of being shaken like a cocktail we were back in dear old Wick. (My stomach still hasn’t recovered, and makes such exciting noises I have to pretend I’m using the bathroom to make balloon animals for children’s parties.)

There’s just a week to the winter solstice now, but somehow it feels darker and colder up here after the warmth and light of Auld Reekie. Oh, well, the nights will soon start growing longer; and I do have, if I say so myself, a phone which really is “uh-MA-zing…”

16 comments to Lopi Interlude IV: 13 December

  • lorraine

    Gordon- I guess I am welcomed into the realm of the Apple store because I have an Ipod. But I think they all go to the same training in customer service.

    ….and what do those tourists DO with all those pictures?

    • Gordon

      Hi Lorraine,

      Don’t get wrong, I love Apple products—i have an iMac, an IPhone and an iPad, all of which really only exist to manage my music library! And the Store was remarkably pleasant to visit. It was just that the staff were all so young and healthy and wholesome I felt old and wicked; and I really feel no one should be that happy to learn someone wants to buy a new case for their phone!

      Speaking as an archivist, I find it fascinating that the world is now so well documented, there’s too much information to meaningfully archive it all for posterity. So what do you do? You can’t keep it all. Does it all get destroyed? What happens to a person’s documents, their photographs, their Facebook data, when they die? I think it’s astonishing to think that future generations may end up knowing less about our age and us than we do about the Victorians…

      • =Tamar

        Much of the digital past is already unreadable by current machines. There is no attic now, no ancient storage capacity for future archivists to explore. Old thumb drives will be discarded for having too little storage to be worth reusing, let alone preserving. All shall fade away…
        on the other hand, all those selfies emailed to everyone on the “friends” list will be stored in the wayback machine and TSA files, forever.

        • Gordon

          Hi Tamar, that’s a fair point. And of course even CDs are fast becoming “old technology”, as everything’s in the cloud, or downloaded, and computers come without cd drives. Our present age will be defined by the tv we leave behind, the Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity or Downton Abbey – how’s that for depressing?!

  • dave

    I think it was Billy Connelly who was saying how refreshing it was to go to Russia to shop where the staff are honest enough to let you know just how bad it feels to spend all day flogging worthless stuff to unappreciative customers. Of course, I’m not saying Apple don’t make great stuff – it’s just – well, at the end of the day it’s just a phone.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, actually I hardly use it as a phone at all – mostly it’s a sort of electronic personal minder, like a robot from social services assigned to look after me… But I take your point!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    I guess I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t want an IPhone, IPad or Apple product. I prefer to live without an ap for that!!! I know I’m just fooling myself. But it just gripes my vitals to pay extra for the ‘Name’ product!!! So I happily use my generic phone & Creative player.
    I really like the colors in your new Lopi sweater so far. You’re really moving along at top speed!!

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, I’m a man on a mission – I gave myself a deadline for these two lopi sweaters (Christmas Day) and I’ve got to get a move on or else, well… nothing really. But it’s fun to set myself these little challenges. And besides, I’m champing at the bit to start ganseying seriously again!

  • Jane

    Ooh, cake, how I remember the heady far off days of cake and more cake! Lovely work on the next sweater, I do like the colours. And Edinburgh sounds marvellous, and so does the peace of Wick!

    I have often wondered if the youngsters in these electronic shops have expectations placed upon them by their management levels. But then if one goes in to the shop with a purpose, it’s all part of it, and one should enjoy it all!

    Endlessly, deeply dull and wet in the South, but not like Cumbria. Daffodil spikes are up in places, but that is not unusual, and they often stand still for a month or two. Ducks have stayed on and are delightful.

    • Hi Jane, I think the staff at an Apple Store genuinely believe in the products they sell – and why not? They’re very cool. I believe in them, and I’d be a little disappointed if the staff didn’t! It’s like when I used to buy Seriously Good hifi: the whole shopping experience was part of the ritual, including the sitting in a comfy armchair and being given cups of coffee while different speaker combinations were tried.

      I think if I were perched on the parapet preparing to jump, the conversation would run something like this:

      Me: I’m going to jump!
      Police negotiator (coaxingly): But I’ve got cake. Look!
      Me (suspicious): What kind of cake?
      Police negotiator: Victoria sponge! With jam in the middle; and it’s raspberry, not blackcurrant!
      Me: What kind of icing?
      Police negotiator: Fake cream, I think.
      Me: That’s it, I’m jumping.
      Police negotiator: No, wait a second, it’s buttercream! With little sparkles on the top.
      Me: OK, I’m coming down. Death by hardened arteries, after all, is slow but just as sure in the long run…

  • I want one! I ran across your article about Ganseys in the Fall 2014 Knitscene. When you said its the only thing you’ve ever knitted, that sold me!! Ive re-entered the knitting scene and I have knitted about 43 hats since October so Im ready to move on to bigger and better things namely a Gansey. I’ve never heard of the pattern/type/style so this will be fun and Im never in a hurry, so I’m hot to trot! I’ll be back after Christmas and really looking fwd to it! TJ

    • Gordon

      Hi there, and great to have you with us! When I did the article it was true, I hadn’t knit anything else; but last winter I was seduced into having a go at two-colour knitting (I was young! I needed the work!) and am reprising it again just now. But once this latest project is completed at Christmas it’s back to the day job, and I’ve got some nice Frangipani pewter lined up, I;ve got the pattern all charted out, and I’m all set to go with another gansey.

      Do you have any thoughts of which sort of pattern you’d like to try? Yoke-only pattern or full body? With cables or without? And which colour…? So many choices.

      The good news is, you really can’t miss!


      • thiry jane kassuba

        full body and its for me! I wear a 2X so Im thinking I want one with the full length of the body in design but a simple design so I don’t get discouraged. Ive read every single drop down page and was on overload for awhile. I have comprehensive deslexia (sp) and something like this is a great and fun challenge. I will read your gansey page several times. A gansey doesn’t have to have a yoke does it? Im one of those patient people that can take a pound of yarn the cats got into and make a beautiful ball! So Im in…..

  • thiry jane kassuba

    Im 70 and my eyes tire easier so I would choose a lighter colored yarn like a wheat color. I plan on practically living in this sweater during the winter. Do people use anything other than the 5-ply German wool? Is there such a thing as a 5-ply cotton in the same size yarn. Oh, BTW, since Im from Washington State USA – some of your jargon has made me smile and I may start using it myself! Blessing for a Merry Christmas and Gansey is near the top of my bucket list!

    • Gordon

      No, ganseys came both yoked and full bodied, both styles are perfectly traditional (and even if they weren’t, who cares?!). The traditional wool is usually from Yorkshire and is known as Guernsey 5-Ply, but the patterns are infinitely adaptable and people use all kinds of wools to knit them. (Just one example, see the knitting of Judit in our reader gallery – http://www.ganseys.com/gallery/reader-gallery/judit/ – I think she uses another, thicker yarn, as do many people.)

      So there’s plenty of scope to play around with. As for colours, it’s clear that just about any colour was acceptable in the old days, and the range is even wider now, so just go for it!

      Best of luck, let us know how you get on, and if anything’s not clear or you’d like a second opinion any time, just drop us a line and we’ll do our best to help.

    • Lynne

      Hi, Thiry Jane, I’m from Washington State also, and I am knitting my 6th gansey. I’ve done five of them with traditional gansey wool from the U.K., however one of them is from fingering weight Merino from Knitpicks. I prefer the Frangipani because it’s so windproof – and pretty waterproof, too. I would discourage using cotton mainly because cotton doesn’t have a ‘memory’, the ribbing stretches out and even the body tends to expand. My Merino wool gansey tends to slub because of the softer touch, but the Frangipani stays looking new for – well, decades!

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