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Scottish Fleet, Week 15: 15 November

SF151116-3I was thinking this week how the main characters in fantasy literature tend to be larger-than-life figures: warriors and wizards, kings and queens—or Cinderella types like Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter, orphans ignorant of their birthrights. But no one writes fantasy novels about bureaucrats; the filing clerks, or those greybeards in the Gondor archives who are so casual about where they put their candles. (It’s much the same in Star Trek, of course: when did you last see a Klingon accountant?)

SF151110-1Imagine how much more exciting the Lord of the Rings would have been if JRR Tolkien had made it a heroic tale of admin, paperwork and financial probity. Sauron might have been arrested for cheating on his income tax returns (hatching orcs in slime pits not being a recognised tax-deductible expense). Aragorn might have achieved his destiny by becoming President of the Society of Archivists, thus fulfilling the prophecy (From the drawer a sharpener is taken / The waste-paper basket’s not missed / Renewed shall be point that was broken / The archivist once more shall list).

In this version the Riders of Rohan could be a nomadic tribe of document cataloguers, roaming the land in search of records they can sort in exchange for food and a good conditioning shampoo. Here is their moving lament for the old days (my translation):

SF151116-2Where now are the archivist and the pencil? Where is the acid-free box for stowing?

Where is the brass paper clip and the eraser, and the bald patch showing?

They have passed like mould on a log book, like rusty paper clips in a file,

The parchment deeds have all been eaten away by insects into piles.

Who shall gather the shavings of the pencil sharpening,

Or behold the arteries after the cream cakes hardening?

Well. I’ve finished the gansey, and it’s been washed and blocked by Margaret, and you can finally see the pattern in all its glory. I must say, this really is a pattern that should be better known—nice clean lines and a regular eye-pleasing design, I think it’s a classic; and remarkably easy to knit withal.

SF151116-1My next gansey project will start with the new year; as once again I shall be taking short break from ganseys—though not from the blog—and knitting a sweater or two in Icelandic Lopi wool. (Two colours at once! Who’d have thought? It’s like entering the fourth dimension, as though Doctor Who had taken up knitting…)

[Postscript. The above was drafted before news broke of the appalling atrocity in Paris last Friday—otherwise I doubt I should have head the heart for jokes. As it was written I decided to let it stand; but I should like to add my voice to the rest of the civilised world, and say: Nous sommes tous Français.]

16 comments to Scottish Fleet, Week 15: 15 November

  • That gansey is a work of art- as are all traditionally knit ganseys. I am embarking on a Whitby in Atlantic blue. The only other one I made was a Hebrides and that took a year.

    I look forward to seeing what the new year brings. Thank you so much for the inspiration, as well as the humour. Hopefully, we can look forward to more peaceful times in 2016, as terrorism never accomplishes anything but pain.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lorraine, best of luck with your Atlantic Blue Whitby—remember, a gansey’s for life, not just for Christmas—or maybe it just feels like it…

      I agree wholeheartedly with your wishes for a peaceful 2016. Thank you.

  • Sharon in Surrey

    I agree with you – it’s a lovely graphic pattern that should be better known. I really do admire it a lot. When I get done knitting socks, caps & Kangaroo jackets, I’d like to use that pattern on a sweater for ME.

    LOPI?? Are you sure?? Remember how you felt last time.

    Accountants & Archivists are not portrayed in Heroic Fantasy tales because they are too busy creating them. Their dreams are filled with glorious escape from their dreary, dusty dungeons. They yearn to explode into a life so extraordinary that it can never, ever be real.
    But maybe that’s the point.

    Terrorism thrives in the news. With every headline, it grows & expands. Its time to stop giving these people free advertising.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon,

      The motto of the Reids is, Never give up. (Actually, it’s Never give a sucker an even break, but we keep that one to ourselves. Suckers.) So I’m going to have another go at Lopi knitting, and this time I have a cunning plan to see if I can overcome the transition from finicky ganseys to chunky Lopi—which I’ll share with you sometime next year, if it works…

  • Lynne

    Awww, Gordon, that gansey is a real beauty in that classic pattern – well done! I can see going to Lopi after the 2.25 mm needles. I have the body of my Deep Ocean done but it’s going to hibernate for 2-3 weeks so I can get a smaller knit done for a Christmas gift – and give my hands a rest.
    Are you writing a novel we can look forward to?

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, back in the days before the blog I, too, used to enjoy the luxury of putting a gansey aside for a couple of weeks (or months…). But such is the price of fame I can’t afford to indulge any more in these “lost weekends” (or months…) and am suck on the Remorseless Treadmill of Gansey Doom. Plus there’s nothing on tv these days anyway.

      I have written another novel, a murder mystery set in Victorian Wick. I’m just not sure what to do with it—it needs a damn good revision, and i think i need to put it aside for a year or two before I dismantle it and put it together again. But yes, I am still writing. Watch this space … eventually!

  • Freyalyn


    Paris is heartbreaking. As is Beirut, and everywhere else the terrorists run riot.

  • Gordon

    Hi Freyalyn, to quote JRR Tolkien (accurately for once): “What can men do against such reckless hate?”

  • Sue

    Hi Gordon, great looking gansey and good luck with the Lopi colour work. Of course you could do two or even three colour work on a smaller guage too you know 🙂 This is the cardigan I did in 2 ply wool from Estonia to replace the lopi the paramedics cut offmy dad following an accident.


    • Gordon

      Hi Sue,that’s a fine looking jumper. What with having a bad reaction to Fair isle wool, Margaret’s already suggested trying a smaller gauge Lopi yarn instead—but I want to walk before I try to run, and I (somewhat to my surprise) really like the big, chunky Lopi patterns. Maybe in a year or two I’ll be ready…?

  • Nigel

    Gordon, you are a prisoner of your own creativity; a bit like Paul Newman and his salad dressings …

  • Lisa Mitchell

    Gasp! Lopi again? Remember your gauge woes… Lovely jumper again this time!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lisa, yes, we’re all a bit concerned. But I say, I have a cunning plan to get around this. To quote Blackadder, it’s a plan as cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University; more on this next time!

  • =Tamar

    I’m blanking on the title, but there’s a trilogy about a wizard (medium -low talent grade) who is a safety inspector. His job is to inspect factories making magic wands and so on. He manages to prevent a disaster at one that is breaking many safety rules, but there is a small explosion and he gets a mixed dose of unplanned hybrid magic, which leads to difficulties over and beyond the ones from his employers about having “failed” to do the inspection properly.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, that sounds fun! In the same way that Terry Pratchett wrote “Guards Guards” inspired by the watchmen who were usually canon fodder in the standard heroic fantasy yarns, someone should honour the safety inspectors of this world!

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