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Scarborough: 28 August

Sc160829-1Our dishwasher has died, but it’s all right: there are plenty of helpful videos on YouTube, so all I have to do is prop the iPad on the sink and follow the instructions to wash them by hand.

In fact, Reid Towers is experiencing something of a general systems failure at the moment. The washing machine’s malfunctioning too: when you turn the dial all you get is a flashing error code and a strange beeping noise, as though R2-D2 was hiding inside, giggling. There’s only one washing machine repair man up here for something like a hundred miles, so getting hold of him isn’t easy. Meanwhile the laundry pile continues to grow—another week of this and it’s down to the river and training the otters to execute a spin cycle.


Local ‘wildlife’

And now my hot water bottle has sprung a leak, which I only discovered Sunday morning on changing the bed. (Luckily I position the bottle by my feet, not my tummy, or the gently steaming yellowish stain might have taken a bit of explaining.) We went out in search of a replacement, only to find that most retailers regard them as “seasonal” (Wick has seasons: who knew?) and this is still, allegedly, summer. When we did eventually find one the assistant advised me to wrap it under my coat, just in case we were seen leaving the store and a mob gathered; I’m now torn between using it to keep my feet warm or, such is its evident scarcity value, auctioning it on eBay.

As for the gansey, a little while ago I set myself the ambitious challenge of getting it finished by the end of September, a time span of roughly ten weeks, start to finish. With a month to go I have only the sleeves to do and, you know, I’m starting to think I might actually manage it.


All fixed

Of course, it helps to have a pattern which is so simple that even I can knit it while the tv is on. I discovered this week I couldn’t live with the shoulders after all (see last week’s blog), and after several days of looking at them and deciding that, no, really, they were fine just the way they were, I asked Margaret to rip them out and I did them all over again—this time with the two plain rows before the shoulder straps. It looks much better, and was well worth the grief.


That cup’s been there since at least last week

It’s a traditional collar, no shaping for the neck. There are 182 stitches across each half of the body, so I made each shoulder 60 stitches and the neck 62. The armhole is 18 inches in the round (excluding the gusset) so I’ve picked up a total of 144 stitches to start the first sleeve. Four weeks to go.

And now I find myself wondering, after the great hot water bottle disaster, what else can go wrong? They say that bad things come in threes, so that should be the end of it, but given that the year started with our car dying and the oven door falling off we’re now up to about twenty-six at a conservative estimate. Oh, well, best look on the bright side, eh? Bad things probably come in twenty-sixes…

22 comments to Scarborough: 28 August

  • Nicki

    What a week, Gordon! I can sympathize with you completely: The first week of July, my hot water tank blew, my computer caught a really nasty virus that even the tech person had a time eradicating, and BOTH toilets decided to pitch fits and need some overhauling. I thought I was going to lose my mind. All that happened, though, was that I lost my cool for a day or two. Fortunately, my local plumber, who is a lovely man, gave me a ‘disaster’ discount, seeing as my house was pretty much uninhabitable until the hot water tank was replaced and toilets repaired. Our trevails are good for a laugh now, eh?

    I love the detail shot of the arm/shoulder/sweater body join. What an elegant solution, and so simple. It’s so hard to rip back a substantial bit of knitting, but it’s always worth the extra effort. Well done!

    • Gordon

      Hi Nicki, yup, you had it worse! There’s something very unsettling about domestic things going wrong, and while i can just about face the thought of doing my laundry at the local laundrette, the public toilets round here close at sundown!

      Any time I find myself reassuring myself that something is fine, I know it’s only a matter of time before I decide i can’t stand it and it has to go. The ladder segueing into the shoulder straps was one of the things i liked about the pattern in the first place, so why I decided to muck it up is more than I can say! Still, sorted now.

  • Annie

    You are lucky to have someone to rip out for you, so much better than suffering yourself for work you’ve done. Another thanks for the detail shot of the join, and for the numbers, too, I can use all details.

    Do your have feed corn or maybe something like it in your far off country? A bag of it heated last for hours.

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, yes, I am lucky in having ripping-out tech support—though sadly with my eyesight I can’t always see the stitches well enough to guarantee i can pick them all up, so it’s just as well! (Anyway, Margaret got me into knitting in the first place, so there’s a sort of cosmic balance thing going on here…)

      We mostly seem to have have mars bars and tablet here. Though to be fair they don’t usually last all that long!

  • =Tamar

    You have my sympathy as well. Plumbing seems to be a keynote this week for many of us. I have been handwashing dishes in tiny batches for years, but then, I don’t actually cook much.

    Have you read The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman? Intrepid librarians seek out unique books, fight evil, etc. The series is soon to have its third book.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, my original suggestion of just smashing our crockery after using it was vetoed, so handwashing it is, I’m afraid. Mind you, being vegetarian our cooking isn’t that hard to clean!

      Haven’t come across the Invisible Library. Sounds fun—will go and look it up directly. Thanks!

  • Megan Lykke

    Hi Gordon, I love you blog And you sweaters. I have knit a couple ganseys. I also found that I love trying a small sample of all your patterns by making little wrist cuffs of each pattern. They make great gifts! Finally, I have a question for you. I recently have learned spinning fiber on a drop spindle and a spinning wheel. Imhave learned a ton about yarn construction and different types of wool. I love historical- cultural knots, so I was wondering…do you know where the origional “fisherman’s iron came from. Were the origional yarns hand spun or mill spun. Do,you know what type of sheep they used. I would love to spin my own traditinal yarn for a gansey! Thanks! Megan Lykke, Colorado

    • Gordon

      Hi Megan, great to hear from you. I like the idea of gansey wrist cuffs!

      I’m not a spinner, so I’m not qualified to give an opinion. I might ask Margaret for her six-pennyworth when she’s got a chance. I do know that some people hold strong opinions on the subject, and others hold equally strong views on the other side, and the controversy has ranged across the galaxy, ravaging star systems and civilisations and leaving ruin and desolation in its wake…

      Certainly much of what we think of as gansey yarn these days is the product of commercial spinning; but then, in the old days, a gansey was just the name for a fisherman’s jumper. It wasn’t until the Gansey Police was established by an act of parliament in 1903 that people started getting all snitty about what was and wasn’t a “proper’ gansey—so to an extent there may not be a right answer.

      Have you tried Ravelry at all? There’s a gansey group on that and they are very knowledgeable.

      All the best, Gordon

      • Megan Lykke

        Wonderful, I will give Ravelry them a try! (As long as they gansey police don’t get me first for making gansey wrist cuffs!)

        • Gordon

          The people on Revelry’s gansey group are a knowledgeable bunch and the best people to try, I think. There are a few souls out there in internet land with very strong (if controversial) opinions on the subject, but buyer beware!

  • Dave

    Hello Gordon – I just wanted to warn you before it’s too late … remember OBWAT and stay clear of the river – what it could mean in a Caithness context is simply terrifying.

    Keep up the good work !

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, good call—but trust me, the size of our dirty laundry pile, if I go down to Wick River and find three slutty-looking young women in shifts slapping shirts on the rocks, I’ll settle for the risk of being turned into a horny toad if I get some clean socks out of it!

  • Lois

    I extend my sympathy. I remember only too well the time our dishwasher broke down on Christmas Day. We had about 12 guests for dinner and I had just about every dish and pot in the house in use for the grand occasion. Groan!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, thanks. Luckily for me I live 600 miles away from most of my friends, so dinner parties are a dim and distant memory. (Actually, most things are dim and distant memories these days, thanks to the whole retention span of goldfish thing I’ve got going for me…)

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Geeze! A dishwasher for TWO of you??? That’s what husbands are for! The washing machine is another story. I’m not sure I could get by without one, even if I have to push it over to the sink & hook it up!! Make sure to knit a nice patterned cover for that hot water bottle – feels good on the tootsies. I use a couple of bags of Buckwheat groats that I heat in the microwave for 2 minutes. They give nice moist heat to any body part that they’re applied to – especially nice around the neck when a headache strikes. That sweater is looking better all the time & I think you made a good call on the shoulders.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, that’s fine right up to the point when it becomes apparent that the husband concerned c’est moi… The dishwasher came with the house and, like most of the things the house came with, including at least one of its new occupants, is showing its age and generally falling apart.

      The hot water bottle came with a wool, or wool-resembling, cover (it has nice cables and sort of collar for the bottle’s neck). I like the idea of heating grains in the microwave, as you & Annie suggest. (I thought of experimenting with porridge oats, but on second thoughts…) Buckwheat groats opens up a whole new line of thought on John O’Groats , too!

    • Gordon

      Hi Freyalin, thanks for the link. There aren’t enough wheaty bags in my life! (Though I must admit, I got rather sidetracked by the Minion heat toys down the page…)

  • Lois

    I make similar bags for friends who have aches and pains. They are filled with dry rice and go in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. Not too full, so they will drape nicely over knobby knees and joints. Can be reheated or tossed in the freezer if a cold pack is needed.

    The important point is to make sure the fabric and thread is 100% cotton, otherwise, polyester may melt in the microwave!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, that sounds like a great idea. (Though I’d be tempted to go the whole hog and add milk and sugar and cinnamon and make a decent pudding while i was at it!)

  • Jane

    Oh nasty week Gordon. In my experience there is a basic under layer of permanent unceasing breakage sprinkled with the real big stuff like the car and the washing machine! I, no we, have a little cry, more a wail really, of “Oh no, not something else to mend”! Eventually some light dawns, and it does all get better.

    I watched the video of the man with the midges, quite something! I knew the midges were bad, but really I had not imagined their full extent!

    The gansey looks great, very elegant, and very impressive progress. Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, it’s something to do with the law on entropy, or some such, which basically says that stuff breaks—and the more things break, the more other stuff will break too. (It’s also a state of mind; sometimes you can shrug this sort of thing off with a cheerful laugh and a wry quip; other times your eye starts twitching and that vein in your forehead throbs alarmingly and people hastily duck into doorways to avoid you…)

      We didn’t have the midges as bad as the ones in the video, thank heaven—I would set foot outdoors without a full enviro-biohazard protective suit if we did—but they can be pretty bad. My scalp still itches ta the thought of them! Eurgh!

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