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Lopi Interlude V: 20 December

SF151221-1It’s the winter solstice, which means the sun rises here in Wick at 9.00am and sets at 3.20 pm—so when the alarm goes off in the morning there’s still over two hours till sunrise. Biologists have discovered that most of the ducks in the river are really vampires who migrate here for the winter just to avoid daylight.

I treated myself recently to one of those sunrise alarm clocks, the kind that gradually get brighter to mimic the sun rising, because otherwise I have to get up in the dark (in which case I sort of bounce around all the hard objects in the bedroom for a while like a human dodgem car with an innovative line in profanities) or else the bedside light comes on as bright as a nuclear bomb going off over John O’Groats, and my screams disturb the neighbours.

SF151217-1The clock starts to get light about 30 minutes before the “sunrise”, and then immediately begins to fade—which, as it happens, almost perfectly replicates the hours of daylight in Caithness at this time of year.

I went to Inverness hospital to see about my recurrent mouth ulcers last week. To recap, the chemist, a gloomy pessimist who probably reads Thomas Hardy in her spare time, thought it was herpes; the doctor thought it was an infection; and the dentist thought it was an allergy. The consultant hedged his bets, but reckoned it was either an allergy or Crohn’s disease.

SF151217-1-2Crohn’s is pronounced like “crone” but is not, as I at first assumed, a complaint that causes you to hang around forests with a basket of poisoned apples looking for gullible young princesses. Crohn’s involves an inflamed bowel, but I don’t seem to have many of the symptoms; this is, to be honest, something of a relief—we had to unblock a sink yesterday and the explosion of black slime that ensued, coating the walls, ourselves and, disappointingly, my toothbrush, reminded me obscurely of what I was missing—but the allergy theory doesn’t offer much more in the way of comfort either.

You see, in order to work out what I might be allergic to I have to stop eating a whole bunch of stuff, including—and at Christmas, too, remember—crisps and chocolate. (Like Santa Claus I checked the list twice: chocolate is forbidden but Brussels sprouts are allowed. God, it appears, has a nasty sense of humour.) I go back in 6 weeks to learn my fate.



Meanwhile, in our last parish notice for the year, here’s a natty red number from Judit, a jolly festive Christmas present. The pattern is lattice bands, reminiscent of the Cornish Lizard or Vicar of Morwenstow ganseys, and very effective it is too!

So here we are. It’s Christmas, the season to be merry, or as merry as you can be with Brussels sprouts. We’d like to wish a happy Christmas to all our readers—to everyone who’s commented or, like Judit, sent us some images to share—and especially to everyone who’s kindly made a donation towards the costs of the website. I’ll post a short blog next week if I get the Lopi finished in time, and then it’s Ho! for 2016, and excitement, adventure and really wild things, as the Hitchhikers Guide has it—unless, of course, it turns out I’m bloody allergic to them too…

18 comments to Lopi Interlude V: 20 December

  • Gordon

    PS, as a footnote, almost all my novels will be free on the Amazon kindle store for 5 days, starting on Christmas Eve. We’re practically giving them away! (No, wait – we are giving them away…)

  • Lynne

    Merry Christmas to you and Margaret – and I DO hope you can eat something besides the dreaded brussels sprouts! Do you vegetarians eat ‘tofurkey’? the cranberries might be a bit acidic on the mouth lesions – maybe something alcoholic would anesthetize the mouth? Happy Holidays!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, no tofurkey, unless that’s a euphemism, but we do sometimes indulge in a quorn roast which goes very well even with sprouts… And while a glass of Old Pulteney whisky does sting a bit, it’s a price worth paying, I feel!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Seems to me that since you have multiple diagnosis syndrome, you might as well start with the simplest one & treat that first. Are you eating acidic fruits & veg?? Tomatoes & citrus are the worst offenders for allergy. Then get treated for Herpes. And I would rinse a couple of times a day with salt water because it heals everything!!

    And what’s wrong with Sprouts??? They’re very nice when cut in half, steamed gently & served with butter & grated sharp cheese. Or stir fried with Black Bean Sauce. If you boil them to death, you make them bitter & nasty & deserve what you get.

    Judit’s “natty red number” is a glorious RED. I really love red!!!

    Thank you Gordon for the books. I shall find a new one this year to enjoy. And I hope your mouth gets better soon – maybe, just maybe, it’ll be a simple fix. Have a Merry Christmas. ps alcohol kills germs . . .

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, well, here’s the thing: it’s Christmas morning and the love of your life rummages under the bed and produces a beautifully-wrapped slim box. You untie the bow, slip off the ribbon, unpeel the paper… and find inside a choice selection of Tesco sprouts!

      No, me neither.

      I’m pretty confident the chemist and the doctor were wrong by this stage. And salt water rinses have been tried, but to no avail. So, sadly, all that remains is to stop eating. (Just a rusk and a glass of tap water for, thanks *sob*)

    • Judit M/ Finland

      Sharon, Thanks for your kind comment.Merry Christmas and a happy new year !

  • June

    It’s always a delight to read your entries, and I am amazed at the speed with which you knit. Your Lopi sweaters are quite wonderful – almost as much as your ganseys. A quick comment about your mouth problems. I had ongoing mouth sores until I changed toothpaste. Once I started using a brand that wasn’t hugely commercial, my sores went away.

    • Gordon

      Hi June, I’ve got a list of common additives that are in things like toothpaste that I’m supposed to avoid (sodium laurel sulphate) so I’ve got to check all my toiletries for that. The other allergens are benzoates, cinnamates, and E210-219 generally. Oh, and crisps, chocolate and coca-cola. So sprouts it is, and perhaps, if I’m feeling adventurous, maybe a parsnip!

      As I said before, I’m trying to finish this project before Christmas so I’m putting the hard yards in. Normally something like this would take me an extra fortnight, but just now I;m cranking up the Wagner and getting stuck in!

  • Jane

    Ahh, Gordon, not such a good week and so dark all the time! Speaking as a frequent visitor at the dentist, the not so lovely world of inherited gum trouble, bone loss and exposed roots, I totally concur with salty water rinsing and changing toothpaste. My dentist is not terribly keen on alcohol, she also views “bits”, as found in granary loaves, with suspicion. On the food side things like soy and the other Chinese sauces do enliven food no end. I am particularly fond of carrots and parsnips, they have a natural sweetness. The younger kid, a well built marathon runner, gave up all added sugars for a month and lost a stone in weight, bit of a silver lining there!

    Meanwhile, magnificent work on the Lopi, and a Merry Christmas to you and Margaret. Take care.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, I once cracked a tooth in half on a granary bit, so I’m with your dentist on that one! I once lost a stone by giving up cheese, crisps and chocolate for 3 months, so it’s not all bad. (And I do have a soft spot for sprouts cooked the British way—boiled to a consistency of wet newspaper and then coated liberally in malt vinegar…) But Chinese sauces are good fallback to liven veggies up, I agree—and you can’t go wrong with a good carrot!

  • Dave

    Loved your description of getting up in the dark. I always get up in the dark – much to Judith’s annoyance. It’s a bit of nostalgia for me – as a small child dad always snuck out of bed early and tiptoed down the stairs to get ready for work. I was always a light sleeper in the mornings and would creep down after him and spend some quality time with him – generally getting a blob of shaving foam on my snitch (he always called noses ‘snitch’es – you’ll be relieved to hear).

    Now, on the sore mouth – I have already told you to stop kissing the frogs but if you “won’t be told…”, perhaps you should try neat salt – it was good enough for Nelson. Of course, it hurts like hell but it has always worked for me.

    The ducks do look a bit evil but it’s the geese you need to watch – they’re behind you…

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, there’s something special about quality time with your Dad when you’re little, isn’t there? Or when you’re in your fifties, too, in my case…

      Ah, the frogs. It was a steamy summer night down by Wick river. The moon was young, and so were we.

      Me: Hold me tight. Are you a princess?
      Frog: For you, baby, I could be. No tongues.
      Me: Wait – Kermit?
      Frog: Oops. Gotta go!

  • =Tamar

    I am not a vegetarian, but I have learned that if I eat maize, I get oral herpes outbreaks. To prevent them I have to take Lysine, because that’s the amino acid that maize lacks and apparently my diet is delicately if not precariously balanced with respect to the other amino acids.
    There is so much corn (maize) syrup and cornstarch in processed food that I really have to take Lysine regularly anyway, and that goes triple for candy, which is almost all corn syrup nowadays. So: when you begin adding food back to your diet, check for maize.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, that’s a good call, thanks. I’m starting to think I’d better cook all my food by hand in future, and probably grow it as well!

      Happy Christmas, Gordon

  • Lois

    Well, bah humbug! Isn’t that a nice present for the holidays. Secretly, I do like Brussels sprouts, but not as a substitute for all the sweet and fatty foods that go with the season.

    Merry Christmas to all from “across the pond” with record breaking warm temperatures and no snow. And this is Canada??? Too warm to wear a gansey? No outdoor hockey? Bah, humbug!

    • Gordon

      Hello Lois, as part of an ensemble (carrots, gravy, potatoes roast and boiled, etc.) sprouts have their place, I agree. Waking up on Christmas morning to find a sprout in my stocking instead of a chocolate orange, not so much!

      Some of the outdoor skating rinks in Britain have had to be cancelled, it’s been so mild they’ve melted, so I share your pain. But a weatherman today said that winter was coming, just deferred, so don’t throw out those woollies just yet!

      Happy Christmas, Gordon

  • Jean Andress

    Crohn’s disease has multiple symptoms and mouth ulcers is certainly one of them. When I was first diagnosed this was one of my symptoms but changing toothpaste made a huge difference. I use one with aloe Vera from the health food shop.
    I bought yarn for a lopi on a visit to Iceland last year and it’ll be finished in time for the first anniversary! It’s had three sleeves, one and a half bodies and two yokes! Love to see yours.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jean, the consultant definitely would be happier if I had Crohn’s disease; but I don’t have the diarrhoea nor cramps that he feels should go with it, along with some other stuff. (I don’t think an occasionally upset tum counts!) So we’ll see. I’ve been changing all my toiletries to ones without benzoates or sodium laurel sulphate, so maybe that will help.

      As for the Lopi, it sounds like you’ve been knitting for a shapeshifter!
      Best of luck, Gordon

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