Here’s a useful health and safety tip: when making a cup of coffee for breakfast, especially if you have a bit of a migraine, it’s a good idea not to let your mind wander so that you end up pouring boiling water over the hand that’s holding the mug steady.
Not only that, but when you jerk your hand violently away you should probably make sure your fingers aren’t still wrapped around the handle. This way you avoid sending the mug skimming across your kitchen as though it was a cross between a Frisbee and a muck spreader, liberally distributing scalding hot coffee as it sails through the air.
It’s also a sensible precaution—and I want you to follow me closely here—while you’re hopping around frantically shaking drops of boiling water off your hand, not to have a glass of freshly-poured pineapple juice resting on the edge of the kitchen counter within easy reach. Otherwise you end up with a cascade of sticky yellow fruit juice pouring onto the floor and soaking through your slippers (a sensation not unlike having an octopus trying to mate with your foot).
Yes, all this happened to me this week. Now every time I walk across the kitchen floor it makes a noise like Velcro.
My hand is more or less fine—it only hurts when I put it in hot water, such as when I bathe. I experimented briefly with rubber gloves, since they offer protection in washing the dishes, but I soon realised that they have one major drawback: viz. that they are open at one end. I considered sealing one round my wrist with masking tape, but then I wondered what would happen if I had a heart attack in the bath and was discovered wearing it? The tabloid headlines practically write themselves: Unexplained sex death of rubber glove fetish archivist being the least of them.
No, in the end I decided to follow the example of American Civil War general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and just keep my hand raised out of the water. (In Jackson’s case this was because he believed it would send the blood flowing into his other arm, and so keep his circulation in balance, but the principle’s the same.) Granted, to anyone peeping through the window I probably look like someone swearing a lengthy oath of allegiance to his rubber duck—not a euphemism—but I can live with that.
Oh, well. Despite finding new and interesting ways to damage my hands, my ability to knit remains unimpaired. I have finished Side B, joined the shoulders, completed the collar and picked up stitches for the first sleeve. I follow the traditional width of neck, i.e., a third of the total width of the body: so, as each side of this gansey is 185 stitches, each shoulder has 62 stitches and the neck 61 stitches. (Remember, it’s important when calculating and picking up stitches for the collar that you end up with a total that is divisible by 4, so that the knit 2/purl 2 ribbing works out evenly.)
Incidentally, did you know that Stonewall Jackson’s arm has its own grave? The man himself, accidentally killed by his own side at Chancellorsville in 1863, is buried in his native Virginia, but his amputated left arm was buried at the battlefield, and even has a monument. (Memo to self: be a little more careful with my hands in future unless I want to end like Jackson, or Voldemort in the Harry Potter books, with various parts of me scattered about the landscape for the curious to collect…)