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Robin Hood’s Bay Cardigan: Week 10 – 29 June

We all know the phrase going berserk: it means behaving in a “frenzied and violent manner”. And we all know that it derives from the Viking warriors who could whip themselves into a battle-frenzy and go, well, berserk. (You’ve probably seen the Lewis chessman berserker biting his shield; though to me he doesn’t look so much fierce as surprised, as if his shield was made of chocolate but the aluminium foil has snagged a filling.*)

I hadn’t realised the word comes from combining the Old Norse bjorn (bear) and serkr (shirt), and means literally to wear a bearskin; even, more intriguingly, to be a shape-shifter, a skin-changer, a were-bear. (This is the sense Tolkien uses in his portrayal of Beorn in The Hobbit.) The idea being that warriors became bears in their wrath—but, I can’t help wondering, what sort of bears? Luckily a fragment from the medieval Icelandic Slurri’s Saga provides a clue.


So spake Slurri, chief of the Scyldings, summoning berserkers to battle: ‘Shattered is the shield wall. Forth warriors in frenzy and become as bears! Shivered be spear, broken be the—I’m sorry, but what exactly’s going on here?’
‘You said we should change into bears.’
‘Yes, but…’
‘What’s the problem? I’m a bear.’
‘You’re a very short bear. What sort even are you?’
‘I’m Winnie the Pooh.’
‘I’ll say. Would you mind standing a bit further off?’
‘No, that’s what I’m called.’
Slurri pointed at another diminutive shape in a duffel coat and hat nearby. ‘And who on earth is that?’
‘That’s Paddington.’

The bear took off its hat. ‘Good morning,’ it said politely. ‘Would you like a marmalade sandwich?’
‘No,’ said Slurri, ‘I’d like you to slaughter the enemy!’
Paddington frowned. ‘I hardly think that would do. My aunt Lucy said it was rude to massacre people you haven’t been formally introduced to.’
Pooh said, “I could do you a poem about honey, if you like? Stanzas and everything. Though it would help,’ he added thoughtfully, ‘if anyone knew a good rhyme for Piglet.’
By this time, Slurri was starting to feel more than a little berserk himself. Then, with a flood of relief, he noticed a great brown bear behind the others.
‘Finally,’ he cried, ‘a noble bear worthy of renown!’ Then he paused, head cocked, listening. ‘What’s he saying?’
The great bear shuffled forwards. Its eyes were closed, and it seemed to be in a kind of trance.
‘Well, it’s a doobey de do,’ the new bear said.
‘I’m sorry?’ asked Slurri.
‘Yeah,’ the bear said, ‘it’s a doobey de do. I mean a doobey doobey doobey doobey doobey de do.’
‘Oh,’ Pooh said, ‘you mean old Baloo?’
Slurri regarded the big bear suspiciously. ‘Is he Welsh?’

Wildflowers on the Cliffs

Strata on the Cliffs

Alas, the fragment breaks off there, and so with relief we turn our thoughts to ganseys. And lo! Great was the ravelling therewith. The second sleeve is well over half done and should be finished sometime later this week. Then the gansey gets washed and blocked, before it goes into post-production for the ceremonial cutting of the steek and bezippening, as well as adding additional dialogue and dubbing the sound effects.

(*Damn. Now I want a chocolate shield…)

6 comments to Robin Hood’s Bay Cardigan: Week 10 – 29 June

  • =Tamar

    Goodness, how embarrassing. I’d forgotten about Baloo. (I wonder if Yogi is around there somewhere.)

    Half a sleeve onward…

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I think Yogi, being smarter than the average bear, would have enough sense to keep clear of a battle!

  • Ellie

    Such a delight! Thanks so much for making my day more bear-able with your wit!

    • Gordon

      Hi Ellie, just remember to… “Look for the bare necessities, those simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife…”

  • roger hine

    Lovely cardigan, Gordon. The needles seem very fine, are they 2.25mm?
    Thanks for your regular bulletin, I find it so interesting and your humour is fun.

    Roger from Wakefield

    • Gordon

      Thanks Roger – yes, the needles are 2.25mm needles, whether circular ones (80cm) for the body, or double-pointed for the collar and sleeves. I’m lucky enough to have some 8″ dpns, and also these little ones which I can switch to when the sleeves are small enough.

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