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North Sea 5: 1 – 7 October

I’ve always enjoyed the daft things sports reporters sometimes say live on air. My favourite from my childhood was someone commentating on an Olympic table tennis match on television who said, “It’s almost as if each player is challenging the other to hit the ball back over the net.” So imagine my delight when I caught the BBC radio commentary on the Japanese Grand Prix this morning, and the commentator said that the modern racing car steering wheel was covered with complicated technical buttons—”but the best drivers know what most of them do…”

I’ve needed cheering up this week, since I pulled a muscle in my neck on Wednesday night (I think yawning can now be classed as a martial art) and have been in quite a lot of pain ever since. When it was really bad I couldn’t lift my arms higher than my chest, which turned even simple operations like donning a pullover into an impression of a man with a dislocated shoulder trying to escape from a straightjacket. In order to put my cap on I had to wave it vaguely in the general direction of my neck, and then lower my head and sort of butt the cap like a goat trying to force its way through a hedge. If I was lucky the cap rested on top of my head as securely as the rowboat perches on the back of a surfacing whale in Moby Dick.

A stiff neck is of course the gift that keeps on giving since it provides endless mirth to one’s loved ones and colleagues, knowing as they do that it’s not really serious. (And if you were wondering, no, faced with a person whose head lolls like a puppet’s with the strings cut, tilting your head to the angle of the suffering person’s and giggling does not raise you to the level of wit achieved by such as Oscar Wilde—trust me on this…)

Which is one of the reasons why I haven’t made a lot of progress this week, since my standard knitting technique involves flapping my elbows like an overstimulated 12 year-old impersonating a headless chicken’s death sprint, and that’s quite tricky when you can’t move your arms much. (The other reason was a blood blister on the ball of my right thumb when, inspired by the spirit of Laurel and Hardy, I was putting together at work a display stand which had intersecting struts like tent poles to hold it up, and—you can see where this is going, can’t you?—I carelessly left my thumb in the exact spot where empty space would have been most useful; it got punched like a bus ticket.)

Still, I’ve got an inch or so of the gansey done, enough to finish a whole diamond and start to turn the zig into a zag. I rather like the wide panels on the body—they remind me happily of the big squares you get in really fancy white chocolate bars, the ones that need cardboard to stop them breaking. (Memo to self: chocolate ganseys. Mmmm.)

I’ve made a few mistakes as well, which Margaret has had to go back and fix for me—with my secondary cataract getting worse I’m operating on one and a half eyes most of the time now, and it’s the good eye that’s blurred. I think of it as knitting archaeology-cum-surgery, as she has to peel back the layers, go deep, and then perform complicated operations to the patient’s lower intestine. (Memo to self: haggis ganseys. Mmmyyeeuurrgghh.)

There’s another stunning gansey from Judit to share on the Gallery, a combination of traditional patterns blended to her own design. Congratulations again, and I think Henry Ford could have taken a few tips on productivity from her!

Finally, to return to the felicitous phrases of our friends in the media, I was watching the BBC news just before I wrote this. The newsreader solemnly announced that the provision of care for the homeless was—wait for it—a “postcode lottery”. The thought of which will keep me warm through the long winter nights to come…

16 comments to North Sea 5: 1 – 7 October

  • Dave

    Ah, sports reporters! Many years ago, I was watching a show on the upcoming college football season. After the top 5 teams were highlighted, we were informed that there were “at least a dozen more teams fighting to get into the top 25.”

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Gordon, many thanks for your kind comment on my last ” gansy” :). I am already thinking on a new one – imagine in green :))

  • =Tamar

    You have my complete sympathy. I have had the yawn-induced neck pain, and I think it was related to a pinched nerve. If it doesn’t get better soon, I recommend seeing a neurologist or someone who specializes in the neck or at least the spine.

    The gansey looks better all the time. I am more interested now that the weather here has turned cold again.

  • Lynne

    It’ fun to see the pattern on the new gansey emerge and anticipate the mystery of what will lie above – and it all shows so well with the white/natural color. Your neck symptoms sound dire, I assume you’re alternating ice packs with heat packs, etc. I sympathise and recall decades ago when I was hospitalised with acute torticollis (wry neck) because I couldn’t swallow and was quite dehydrated. Sending healing thoughts your way.

  • Mary E. Morrison

    How about Boots Freeze-Gel for the neck? I remember that being extremely effective on my last trip in Britain (about ten years ago and Boots didn’t ship internationally, so it’s been awhile). A sore neck is one of the most debilitating things ever; I feel for you.

    Also, checked both LC and the BL and neither had birth/death dates for Henrietta Munro–do you know about when she lived? I was trying to figure out how old she would have been at the start of WWII.

    The diamond and zigzag do go so well together, and not easy to do because the zigzag always seems to have an odd number of rows in comparison with the diamond so requires careful attention to get it right every time.

  • Veronica

    I was just thinking this pattern would be confusing with the zigzag and diamonds being different sizes when I read Mary’s comment. Glad to know it’s not just me, but I’m certain I’d end up ripping as much as knitting. It really is an appealing combination of patterns and color, though.

    Since you’re knitting time is always booked, Gordon, I’ve decided I’m going to give up on getting you to adopt me and work on Judit. Judit, lovely sweaters! If adopted, I come with a steady supply of Dutch chocolate… (wafts chocolate fumes towards Finland).

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Adoption or not, welcome to Finland Veronica even without Dutch chocolate fumes 🙂

  • Gordon

    Hello everyone, thanks for the comments and suggestions.

    So in no particular order, yes, I’ve got a gel pack from Boots. But it’s too cold for me to use it in “freeze” mode up here, so I stick it in a tub of boiled water to heat it up. Plus there’s this great stuff, ibuprofen you can rub on to take away the pain—so my neck has been liberally slathered. (Still hurts, though—keeps waking me up at night, dammit.)

    I’m seeing the doctor tomorrow about my allergies, so I’m hoping to “double-book”—working on the assumption that once I’m through the door if he tries to remove me I’ll start screaming.

    The zigzag/diamond combination is a bit of a gamble, I agree. Will the two patterns dovetail nicely, or will the zag end abruptly in mid-zig? It’ll be exciting finding out. But you will note the cunning presence of the knit and purl rows between the diamonds, so I have a tiny bit of room to play with, plus one or two other cheats.

    Hetty Munro was in her twenties I think when war broke out. She lived into the 1980s or 1990s but i don’t have precise dates to hand. She wrote some great diaries, mind! Some of the entries for November I’ve been typing up (yes, we plan ahead—didn’t expect that, eh?) describe the top brass having cars outside their hotel for a quick getaway in case of air raids, while everyone else can only watch the German planes circling overhead…

    Chocolate? Nobody even TRIED to bribe me with chocolate! ( I have this image of Jesus in the wilderness, after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, and the devil’s tried everything, offering him power, bread from stones, angels, everything, and Jesus has remained firm. Then with a sigh the devil turns his back and says, oh well, I tried, and he takes something from his pocket but Jesus can’t see it, there’s just this rustle of paper tearing and the sound of tinfoil being slit open by an elegant, long (but dirty) thumbnail, and the click of something snapping, and Jesus says, “Wait—is that a Green and Black’s Dark Chocolate Mint bar?” and the devil, grinning broadly, turns and says, “Let’s talk, baby.”)


  • Marilyn

    Dear Gordon, I don’t believe it’s the wind in Caithness threatening your attachment to the earth, no, my friend, it’s the Flights of Fancy.

  • Gordon

    Hi Marilyn,

    Yes, I have two philosophies. One is the old saying, “Life is too important to be taken seriously”, and the other comes from Adam Savage of the Mythbusters programme, “I reject your reality and substitute my own”!

    As for flights of fancy, I now qualify for air miles as a frequent flier…

    All the best,

  • =Tamar

    I believe the circa 1980s film, Baron Munchausen, had the Baron saying something like that (I’d say identical but I haven’t watched it recently). I’m not sure how much further back it goes.

  • Gracie


    You are very funny. I’m assuming Green and Black makes superb chocolate. When I was a child, and Cadbury was still pure bees knees, my family returned to Ireland. Packed with odd-job pocket change, we children plundered the shops. My sister’s pockets were so full that she positively crunched – we called her the “Wee Packet”. Veronica, imagine us unleashed upon Dutch chocolate!

    About your pattern: I think that coordinating the corners of zigzags and diamonds would create the traditional, symmetrical, “sentence” of repeated “phrases” that starts a round and ends at its start – in short, our usual approach. The current asymmetry of the zigzags creates a vertical movement that unexpectedly breaks the one-sentence method. Quite slimming, may I say, – visually more “bottom to top” than “side to side”. Please pardon the graphic designer “shop-talk” here.

    Oh, your poor neck! It’s just going to take time. A wool scarf is not to be underestimated. And hot tea.

    Enviably, magnificent gansey, Judit! It would toast up a chilly fall day. Please send it soon.


  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    I looked up the quote. Apparently it comes from Oscar Wilde’s play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, but the original is: “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.” I prefer the misquotation!


  • Gordon

    Dear Gracie,

    Yes, Green and Blacks are purveyors of high quality organic chocolate. They do mail order… I’ve mostly given up chocolate now, though still indulge 4-5 times a year on high days and holidays, and I must say abstinence makes the taste grow stronger!

    It’s interesting having the patterns unaligned—I rather like the effect. And I know what you mean, it should draw the eye vertically. Hopefully it’ll all work out once it’s finished!

    The neck is slowly improving—I can now operate to about 45 degrees either side. I still turn my whole body with my head, a sort of Hunchback of Notre Dame effect, but at least it’s harder to sneak up on me again.


  • Sarah

    Love the gansey! The white is such an effective color. My current one is dark brown (it’s what the man wanted) and it’s not quite as striking.

  • Gordon

    Hi Sarah,

    Well, brown is probably my favourite colour for jumpers (after grey, of course) so I’m all in favour of brown ganseys – but how does the pattern show?


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