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Scotland, Week 4: 4 September

So there I was last week, several thousand feet above Glasgow on the flight from Inverness to Birmingham. I had the window seat. Beside me, a commodious gentleman occupied the aisle seat. Between us lay a narrow armrest.

When he’d sat down he’d colonised this armrest with admirable nonchalance, taking out a newspaper and leaning his elbow on the rest to support it. Being British of course I preferred not to call him on it, but instead bided my time. Sure enough, a few minutes later when he reached up to adjust the air flow nozzle I slid my elbow over and claimed possession. Fifteen-all.

A runny nose caused me to dig for my handkerchief and by the time I was done honking he was back; but a few minutes later he was obliged to turn the page of his paper and I seized my chance, and the armrest. Thirty-all.

And so it went on, back and forth, the armrest changing hands like a sort of airborne Alsace-Lorraine. Each of us maintained an air of studied abstraction, as though armrests were the very last things on our minds (“my dear fellow, if only I’d realised, you should have said something…”).

Finally, after I’d been repulsed for about the fiftieth time, I happened to glance out the window and saw, far below, through a break in the clouds, a glitter of water shimmering in sunlight. And it occurred to me that I was sitting in a technological miracle, actually flying, all of God’s creation laid out before me; and here I was getting huffy over an armrest. How petty, I thought; how mean.

Carn Liath Broch

A surge of fellow feeling washed over me. I rummaged in my bag and produced a packet of fruit sweets, tore open the wrapper and held it out to my companion with a rueful smile. And as he reached out to take a sweet, I saw that he’d raised his arm from the rest… Well—no, I didn’t take it, though the thought was there. But then, we’re always at our most vulnerable to temptation when we’re congratulating ourselves on our strong will. And anyway, virtue is its own reward: he got the blackcurrant one, which made us about even, I reckoned.


As I was away from home for most of last week I haven’t made much progress on the gansey. (I did cast on and start another one, but that’s another story.) But I have finished the lower half of the gussets, divided for front and back and started on the back yoke. I’ll say more about that next week, when hopefully you’ll be able to see the whole pattern in all its glory. I’ve got a few days’ leave so should get a fair bit done; and in my own chair, too, with an armrest all to myself. Heaven…


10 comments to Scotland, Week 4: 4 September

  • Lois

    Such impeccable manners! Give your virtuous self a pat on the back.

    And the new gansey is dropdead gorgeous! Looking at the diamond pattern at that angle, methinks it would make a lovely shoulder strap. Hmmmmm

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, every now and then when in a plane I imagine some disaster that will result in catastrophe, and it occurs to me to wonder how I’ll explain to St Peter at the gates of heaven how I came to spend my last moments alive fighting a stranger for possession of an armrest… Just before he pulls the lever that opens the trapdoor to send me plummeting to the “other place”…

      I think the diamonds would make a fine shoulder – though I might be tempted to use a filled diamond, in the same way when doodling I end up cross-hatching and filling in all available blank space…

  • Sharon Gunason Pottinger

    Oh you made me laugh with the battle of the armrest–yeah a black cuurant sweetie is def just his comeuppance. Meanwhile, the gansey is drop dead delicious gorgeous perfection in 5 ply wool.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, sometimes life sends us blackcurrant, and sometimes we get the strawberry. (My problem is mostly in peeling the wrappers off, but that’s another matter!)

  • =Tamar

    I do like your choice of patterns for the yoke, and the colo(u)r seems right for the trees.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, yes, I naturally associate these sorts of Hebridean/north Scottish patterns with white or cream or aran, but a lighter pastel really shows them up well. It seems a waste to knit them in navy or other dark colours, asI always feel you need to stand outside on a sunny day to get the full benefit—which in Caithness means you can only go out on about a dozen days each year…!

  • Judit M./Finland

    Gordon, this is an amazing new gansey, congratulations !

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit! The question I’m now wondering is, will I have to knit a gansey in every single Frangipani colour?? Ones that on the colour card don’t seem too promising turn out to be perfect for showing up the patterns!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    I think this color is perfect for this pattern!! I always thought the cream color was so stupid, you couldn’t lean against anything, wrestle a dog, chop wood, haul the garbage or read the paper without getting it dirty. At least the Navy let you wear it for a season before you had to wash it. And I really love some color just because, too. I’ve been seriously thinking about RED lately. Or Raspberry. Or Black Currant. I do love Black Currant.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, well, I suppose the cream ones are mostly “Sunday best” ganseys, and in the old days strict Sabbatarianism prevailed—I think you were allowed to breathe in and out, but anything more energetic probably brought you up before the Kirk Session to explain yourself!

      As for the washing: a bath once a year, whether they needed it or not!

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