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North Sea 17: 24 December 2012 – 6 January 2013

Heb0106aAs the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier almost wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen/ the saddest are these, ‘It’s time to go back to work after the Christmas holidays”. And how right he would have been.

I hope you all had splendid Christmases, filled with bunting and frolic, assuming that’s still legal where you live. We flew down south to stay with my parents in their lovely old house, a former canalside pub in Northamptonshire (the first shock was finding it got light around eight, instead of nine as it does here in Wick—I’d forgotten about daylight). And en route we even got to see The Hobbit, which was a fun Christmas present to ourselves.

The only problem was the flight. You see, we had to fly down to Edinburgh, stay overnight, then fly on to Birmingham next day. Now, even on a good day I’m not a great flier—I’m the only person I know who demands a sick bag before setting foot in a lift—you think I’m joking—but this was pretty special, as we had to cross the jet stream, which was hovering just north of Edinburgh, waiting for me like the playground bully. And alas the plane from Wick is one of those balsa wood toy planes with rubber bands powering the propellers—not what you’d call robust.

Heb0106bIn short, I got shaken around like a martini for 10-15 minutes. I almost blacked out, sweating, pins and needles in my hands and feet as all my blood retreated to somewhere round my ears. I wasn’t sick, but that’s only because my seat pocket didn’t have a bag in it and the only substitute I could find was one of those child-safe plastic bags with holes in the bottom—well, you can see my reasoning here. I spent the rest of the evening on the hotel bed impersonating a beached giant squid.

Well. It passed eventually, thanks to some splendid anti-nausea migraine medicine which I’ve decided to use as a substitute for sugar in my tea in future, and I was able to have a vertical family Christmas. There’s a song by Neil Young about his home town which has the line, “all my changes were there”, which is how I feel about my parents’ house, which is full of ghosts and memories. Every time I go back I feel like a medium overwhelmed by ghostly voices clamouring for attention, and they’re all me.

Heb0106cI didn’t take my knitting with me, partly because it’s too bulky to lug about easily now, and as heavy as a wet sheep. So I haven’t made a lot of progress, but I still finished the back and have made a start on the front. The fiddly pattern and the steek up the front slows me down a little—one row on the front (210 stitches, ie) takes about 20 minutes, as opposed to about 15 on a regular gansey. I’ve used the red wool from the Filey gansey as stitch holders, so I’ll have to be careful when I take them out or I’ll get pink stripes!

Thanks to everyone who downloaded my books last year—there were 4,350 downloads from Amazon between them, which is rather gratifying. (And a special thank you to everyone who took the trouble to post a review too—you’ve no idea how much difference they make.) I plan to release two more books this year: the sequel to Wraiths of Elfael around Easter, and my non-fantasy Victorian murder mystery, The Cuckoo’s Nest, in August (make a note in your diaries). Both stories are essentially complete, barring revisions, and my plan for 2013 is to write the third part of the Elfael trilogy. After that, who knows?

So there we are. All that remains is for us to wish you a happy New Year—close your eyes, make a wish, quick—we don’t know what it has in store, but hopefully it’ll be fun finding out…

13 comments to North Sea 17: 24 December 2012 – 6 January 2013

  • Lynne

    . . . and Happy New Year to you and Margaret and all the blog-readers. What an idealic photo of the home in Northamptomshire! what is the closest town to the house? I’m just wondering if I was anywhere near there on my excursions four years ago. I’m looking forward to the release of your Victorian murder mystery – my favorite genre for reading. The gansey is looking great and now we anticipate seeing which pattern you will take down the sleeves!

  • =Tamar

    Daylight is a good thing, and we are now in the increasing phase, which is even better.

  • Gordon

    Dear Lynne and Tamar,

    It’s a lovely house. Most of the low beams in the ceilings have dents in them caused by me banging my head growing up. The house is about 7 or 8 miles from Northampton itself, and 5 or 6 from Towcester. I delayed publishing The Cuckoo’s Nest, as it hasn’t got any fantasy in it, and I didn’t want to confuse people who expected fantasy from me. But as hardly anyone buys the books I decided it didn’t really matter!

    Daylight is definitely increasing in Caithness. Instead of getting light at 9.03 am, the sun now rises at 8.58! You know, I may have rickets…


  • Lisa Mitchell

    Glad you made it home safely after managing the pitch and roll and ghosties… We coudln’t have made it without Gansey Nation! Havig lived on Baffin Island for 2 years and not seeing the sun at all from the end of November to the third week of January I know how you feel about sunlight. Many thanks for you superb knitting over the last year and your wonderfully wry sense of humour! Happy New Year and mistake-less knitting!

    • Gracie

      Lisa, I’m very curious about you living on Baffin Island. There must be a good story there.

      So many of you live in great winter places. Between Western Canada, the North Atlantic, Scotland and Finland, you’ve got the season covered. Hence, sweaters, jumpers, ganseys.


  • Judit M./ Finland

    Good Morning Gordon !
    “Daylight is definitely increasing in Caithness. Instead of getting light at 9.03 am, the sun now rises at 8.58!”
    I am happy to inform you that today, Jan 8th the sun rises in Helsinki at 9.18 and goes down at 15.36.
    In the meantime you do not know if it was morning or afternoon, clouds are hanging deep and almost everything is gray. Colour for a next gansey ?
    Happy new year!

  • Marilyn

    Hello Gordon, welcome back to the blog and 2013.
    My Christmas day included a tussle with my 9 year old nephew who got his old auntie in a scissors lock. So much for “we’ll get him into the wrestling program and channel some of that energy”. I guess that could be defined as “frolic?” I’ll take the balsa wood plane! All is well,and knitted gifts were well received. Whew!

  • Gordon

    Hello all,

    OK, Judit, you win this round! On sunny days the air is crisp and clear and you feel as though you could reach up and touch the sun; but when it’s dull (as it is rather a lot) it turns the whole world grey.

    Baffin island sounds interesting Lisa. But that could be because I instinctively think of baffins as a sort of baffled puffin, wandering round a barren rock with a look of polite consternation . I appreciate i may be mistaken.

    Hi Marilyn, well, at least he didn’t break a chair over your head! You could always take up king fu and surprise the hell out of him next year…


  • Gracie

    Gordon, I choked on my coffee at Whittier’s “almost” quote. Good laugh. Oooh – another one – the sick bag. “Balsa wood toy plane” – this is great! A “beached squid”. You’ve outdone yourself. Man, I needed that today. Thank you.

    Wait a minute – is that your parents’ home? Could life get any better? Nice one. Indeed, you eloquently and perfectly described the old homestead-ghost-phenomena!

    Whoa – you guys are swinging out there – Finland and Baffin Island! I live in New England and we’ve been bereft of winter for the past two years. We used to have great winters here, but now it’s permanent dull November. I’m envious of you Lisa and Judit.

    “Flying with Needles” – a question for all:
    Gone are the days of jetting about with metal needles. Do any of you have experience flying with plastic or wooden needles? I didn’t test the waters last time I flew, but damned I hate sitting still with nothing to do.


  • =Tamar

    Gracie – flying with needles is a continuing discussion. It depends on where you leave from, where you’re going, and the kind of breakfast the various authorities had, down to and including the steward/ess. The one time I’ve flown with needles (within the USA), I had an approved plastic circular needle that was just within the length limit. They objected to the chopsticks I had bought inside the secure area of the airport. But nobody has ever objected to my ballpoint pens, nor to the package of mechanical pencils I carry.

  • Gordon

    Hi Gracie,

    Thank you – and a happy New Year. Yes, that’s the ancestral home, where I spent my second decade on this earth, walking along the towpath, puttering up the canal in a little boat, and knocking myself unconscious on the low ceilings. It’s a lovely house, and 18 rooms has always been my benchmark ever since. But it has a terrible flaw – you can’t get broadband there. No wonder the ghosts are bored, and pick on me when I come visit.


  • Veronica

    I just realized my message didn’t post. Gordon and Margaret, I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.

    Gordon, I agree with Gracie that you outdid your usually witty self. It was a multi-guffaw posting. Re-reading it this week I’m still chuckling.

    Gracie, I’ve flown between The Netherlands and USA and between California and Hawaii with circular bamboo needles. I keep a strategic copy of the FDA rules in my knitting bag so it’s the first thing that gets pulled out if I’m asked about them. Fortunately I’ve no yet had problems. One reason could be the pen in the same bag (tick off the rows on the pattern). Another might be because I’m a chubby mid-40s white woman who looks like I’m probably a Scout den mother and Sunday school teacher. Completely untrue on all counts, but stereotyping can be useful. 🙂 If you want to fly with needles, I suggest taking cheep bamboo circulars and putting a lifeline in your work just in case you have to give the needles up.

  • Gracie

    Hi Veronica,

    Thank you, thank you. Absolutely brilliant advice! Crafty! Mmm-hmm – I’ve got the age thing down and I’m successfully working on the “chubby”. Nothing’s flying though – they always pull me out of the line like a shady character. I think it’s because I fly with just one carry-on. Inevitably, the only thing the powers find is leaky shampoo@#$!%!


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