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Patrington & Withernsea, Weeks 1-3: 30 October

In The Lord of the Rings Gandalf the wizard warns Frodo that the dark lord Sauron intends to “break down all defences and cover all the lands in a second darkness”. And I found myself wondering: If they lived in Caithness in winter, how would anyone know?

Yes, the clocks went back this weekend. Winter has arrived, and in the mornings pitch blackness is replaced with pitch greyness, as if the sun has developed cataracts. Afternoons, too, are now a thing of the past. I like to think of Gandalf waking from his afternoon nap and dashing off to confront Mrs Gandalf, who is probably in the kitchen plucking a hedgehog for dinner:

Gandalf: It’s as I feared! Sauron has arisen in the east! The world is covered in a second darkness!

Mrs Gandalf (not looking up): What are you on about now?

Gandalf: Darkness! Sauron! The dark lord has reclaimed his fortress of Barad-dur! Orcs are massing in the Misty Mountains—

Mrs Gandalf (wearily): The clocks went back.

Gandalf: What?

Mrs Gandalf: The clocks went back yesterday.

Gandalf: Yesterday?

Mrs Gandalf: It was on the TV: “News From Bree at Ten”.

Gandalf: You know I stopped watching that after they replaced Jeremy Paxman with the Mouth of Sauron. Now it’s all fake news! No, I must summon the White Council. Where’s my wizardly staff?

Mrs Gandalf: It’s propping up that wonky bookcase on the landing. And before you ask, your robe’s in the wash.

Gandalf: In the wash?

Mrs Gandalf: Yes. It looked like you’d been sleeping in it down in a mine—minging, it was. There’s that bathrobe in the dresser my Mum gave you, you never wear. The one with the rabbits.

Gandalf (darkly): I know what is the matter with me. I need smoke! I have not tasted it since the morning before the snowstorm.

Mrs Gandalf: You quit, remember? After you developed that cough. You sounded like a dragon with hiccups.

Gandalf: Just a minute, just a minute! What do you mean, the clocks went back? Clocks haven’t been invented yet…

Into the woods so wild (not)

But let us draw a veil over this domestic scene and turn to happier matters. It’s time to unveil the latest project, a navy gansey in Wendy yarn. I’m de-stashing, using up some of the yarn I’ve accumulated down the years. I had nine balls of this yarn lying around: a full-size gansey in my size (“archivist extra large”) uses just under ten, so I decided to knit the welt using yarn from a leftover ball of Wendy navy, but another dye lot. It’s noticeably different in a certain light—the yarn on the welt is darker, with a dash of indigo—but it will become less so as the gansey grows; and besides, if all else fails I can always wash it with a new pair of jeans, and let the colours run amok.

Happy Halloween

I started this a few weeks back when we went down to Northampton, and I’ve been working quite hard at it: I’d like to get it finished in time for Hogmanay. The pattern is one of my absolute favourites, one of the first I ever knit. I’ve said before that I want to revisit some of these classics—in my end is my beginning, as Mary Queen of Scots sadly embroidered during her long English imprisonment—before I eventually hang up my needles for good. And it’s fun to look back down the years and remember the me who knit this twenty years ago—a stranger to me now, with hair and a waistline.

More about the pattern next week. Now I’ve just noticed these fiery letters appearing on my circular needle: “Nine balls for mortal men, doomed to dye… / One needle to cast them all on / One needle to fit them / One needle to cable and purl / And in the darkness knit them / In the land of Caithness, where the shadows lie…

11 comments to Patrington & Withernsea, Weeks 1-3: 30 October

  • meg

    the contrast welt looks like its meant ……you could do a band of blue at the cuff end….if you had a mind to make a point of it……

    yes darkness did seem to drop like a bolt from the blue tho I did enjoy the hour of sunshine when I awoke this morning

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, yes, I have thought of knitting the cuffs in the same yarn as the welt, to make it look even more deliberate. And of course traditionally they’d have re-knit frayed sleeves when the old ones wore out, so I can claim extra authenticity!

  • Dee

    Your stories are delightful! If just a little scary – I’m a little worried about picking up my current project. But I’m consoled by the realization I could make myself a cuddly robe with bunnies on now.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dee, nothing to be scared of here, not even on Halloween! (I think each of the wizards in Lord of the Rings probably had their own embroidered robes, and Saruman, who had a weasel embroidered on his, was jealous of Gandalf’s and that’s what turned him first towards the dark side…)

  • Karen Fretwell

    Oh I so love your blogs and look forward to them with anticipation. I particularly liked this weeks delightful rendition of the clocks going back and Gandalf’s confusion after waking from his afternoon nap…..

    Thank you.

    • Gordon

      Hi Karen, and thank you. I think of my brain as a sort of mental penny-in-the-slot-machine—each week you put a coin in the slot and just take pot luck with what comes out…

  • Ruan

    In the land of Caithness where the shadows lie!!!! adore it, my first winter here (many decades ago) I thought it was an ice age starting, I couldn’t find enough thick clothing and turned lights on in every room! now I laugh at my lack of central heating (while wrapped up) and am used to watching any sort of sunrise from my desk! and then sunset in the same few hours. Welcome to Mordor, middle earth also known as Caithness. Would that make us hobbits or orcs!

    • Gordon

      Hi Ruan, of course to have shadows you really need to have sunshine, and that’s where the system breaks down in Caithness, of course!

      Orcs or hobbits? Orcs are obviously evil, though I do wonder if some of them hanker after a life of, say, flower arranging or making models of the Dark Tower in matchsticks. Hobbits have the whole love of peace thing going for them, but again I do wonder what the suicide rate of Hobbit chiropodists must be?

  • Jane

    Lovely work Gordon, and a wonderful story, doesn’t this year have a slightly spooky feel! In my view the whole gansey is gorgeous, the welt gives you the look of instant gansey antiquity in the way of the old fishermen’s garments! And I believe firmly that no knitter ever, ever truly hangs up the needles, so don’t you worry there. Super photos. Take care.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, 2017 is one year I can’t wait to see the back of! I would say the only way is up, but that’s what I said about 2016 and look what happened next…

      I have yarn for about another 8 or so jumpers on the shelf. If that ever gets down to 2 or 3 ganseys’ worth, that’s when you should be worried… But we’re safe for now: I can think of 6 I want to knit just off the top of my head, so that’s 2018-19 taken care of!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Sure does sound gloomy in your part of the world!! On the Wet Coast of BC we had snow for Friday morning commute which was mostly gone for evening & glorious sunshine this morning after cranking back the clocks. I wish the clocks would pick a season & stay put. I have all these battery operated ones that have to be taken down, dusted, reset & rehung! I drop at least one of them every year!! Keep on knitting Gordon, I do love your nutty ways.

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