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Robin Hood’s Bay Cardigan: Week 9 – 22 June

I’d like to share with you a couple of things which, in their different ways, have helped me through 13 weeks of lockdown. They say reality is what you make it: “The mind is its own place”, Milton has Satan tell his followers after being expelled from Heaven, “and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven”—though one imagines the fallen angels looking round the “dismal situation, waste and wilde” of Hell that is to be their new home, and thinking, Yeah, right, whatever you say, Luce; we used to get cable—and he has a point. As does Ted Hughes in his wonderful poem Jaguar, where the spirit of the caged animal refuses to accept its limitations: “but there’s no cage to him/ More than to the visionary his cell”. But then, reality was always more of a multiple-choice question for me.

Detail of a creel

Do you know Janáček’s wonderful fairytale opera The Cunning Little Vixen? In Act 1 the young vixen has been captured by the gamekeeper and brought home, where she’s tied up in the yard and bullied by the dog and chickens. She cries herself to sleep. And then something magical happens: she dreams of finding a mate, and escaping to a new life and freedom. The music swells with a ravishingly beautiful theme, and most productions here use ballet dancers to express the sense of liberation the vixen experiences in her dream. (This clip is a splendid example.) It only lasts a few short minutes, but when she wakes up she’s energised and, er, well, she, ah, goes on to kill all the chickens and run off laughing. (As you do.) But for me the dream interlude is inspirational: a celebration of the gift of imagination to help us see a future beyond the present; of the gift of hope.

So tired

And yet, and yet: if only Vixen Sharp-Ears had learned how to knit, one feels, how much better she would have coped. I’m still making good progress with my current project, have in fact finished the first sleeve and made a fair start on the second. The cables pull the upper sleeves in just as much as the body; as ever, we’ll have to wait till the whole thing is washed and blocked before we can see it properly. For now, it’s just a relief to look into the tea leaves, see the future and find no prospect of any stitches to be picked up for the foreseeable…

Petals on the path

My other inspiration is the famous poem by the Cavalier Richard Lovelace—by Cavalier I mean of course that he was on the king’s side in the Civil War, not that he was slapdash by nature—To Althea, From Prison. It was written, as the title suggests, while Lovelace was imprisoned in 1642; and while I’ve always appreciated the message I’ve never fully embraced it, at least not till now, when I’m sort of living it, here in lockdown 2020. (There’s a rather lovely arrangement by Fairport Convention too, which is well worth five minutes’ of anybody’s time.) Here’s the last stanza—but you know the words already—sentiments as true today as when they were written:

Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
Nor Iron bars a Cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an Hermitage.
If I have freedom in my Love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such Liberty.

7 comments to Robin Hood’s Bay Cardigan: Week 9 – 22 June

  • =Tamar

    The cardie already looks absolutely classic. Wonderful work!
    The creel picture could be a springboard for a later design. Perhaps a textured version of Fairisle work?

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I thought it was some creature of the far deeps, or the cross between a starfish and an octopus with personality problems…

  • meg macleod

    never a truer word..as the journey inwards goes onwards. the gansey is wonderful

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, as we know, the alchemist isn’t really interested in turning lead into gold, the actual transformation he works is upon himself… (Although, now I come to think of it, gold has its uses…)

  • Eve

    That Fairport track has been a comfort and delight all my life!

    • Gordon

      Hi Eve, it’s a great track, isn’t it? In my mind it makes a cracking double-A side with Who Knows Where The Time Goes, another superb Fairport track!

      • Eve

        Rushes to old vinyl, actually due to COVID-19 lockdown inactivity and it’s really hot here waiting for the storm I shall glide gracefully to my LPs

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