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Week 6: 26 October – 1 November

stepswk6So there I was, walking down Queen Street, Cardiff’s main shopping street, minding my own business, avoiding the crowds, musing on the king my brother’s wreck, and on the king my father’s death before him, when I was jostled slightly by a small man in a leather jacket and an insinuating manner; a dapper man in his middle thirties, of middle eastern origin, walking beside me, floral tie and polished shoes. He smiled, and somehow we got into conversation as we walked.

He said he was over here to study, a mature student at the university, but hadn’t made many friends, though he wanted to talk to me. Well, I thought, it’s always nice to meet a fan, and I naturally assumed he was a regular follower of this blog with a close interest in the techniques of gansey knitting. But then he started asking, “Are you nice man? Are you nice man? You look like nice man,” and I began to perceive my mistake. I think I got as far as “Er…”, which perhaps didn’t clarify my position on niceness in general as much as I’d hoped. Next thing I knew, he’d slipped his fingers into mine and, looking up at me with eyes like the wolf’s drawing back the coverlet for Little Red Riding Hood, said, “You be my friend, yes? You nice man.”

I disabused him gently, and managed to extricate myself with poise and grace (“Sir, I am honoured by your attentions, but yet…”) while pointing out that if he didn’t let go of my hand I’d break his fingers. But of course it occurred to me that according to the many-worlds theory of parallel universes, somewhere in another universe another me and another he… But no. Even in other universes I can’t imagine a me that would be seduced by anyone wearing a tie like that.

Back on the sweater front, I’ve decided I’ve had enough of swatching for now, so I’ve started casting on for the new gansey. In the meantime, Margaret has been helping me chart a pattern for the next New Zealand motif I want to play around with, but which I can’t get right on graph paper – so she has solved the problem with the might of an Excel spreadsheet. So I’ll play around with this in between casting on the ribbing.

But I find myself wondering about my new friend in Cardiff, and how desperate he must be to try to pick up the likes of me on a busy street – until the rather uncomfortable thought occurs to me: how desperate must I have looked to him…?

6 comments to Week 6: 26 October – 1 November

  • Suzanne

    Uuuuum… perhaps this is a good time to mention that, while reading The Goshawk, I had the rather unique experience of watching a sharp-shinned hawk dine on a chickadee. Without bothering to ask him if he was a nice man, she pounced effortlessly on the little bird, who was perched in the partially denuded branches of the plum tree outside the kitchen window, and began to shred him to bits. After plucking a few feathers to make room to dig in to his flesh, she made short work of lunching on him.

    I like the new chart.

  • Gordon

    Hi Suzanne,

    I guess nobody said nature was nice. In fact, that’s one of the main arguments used by Richard Dawkins for the probable non-existence of a benevolent deity, which I must say is fair comment. (“The stoat throbs at the neck of the lumped rabbit/ Who watches the skylines fixedly”, as Ted Hughes put it so evocatively.)

    How very different from the home life of our own dear Queen, as someone once observed – though not, one suspects, of the Duke of Edinburgh…


  • Suzanne

    Hi Gordon,

    Please, say no more. I need to keep whatever illusions I may have about the Duke of Edinburgh.

    Without offering an opinion one way or the other as to the existence of a benevolent deity, I would suggest that it is the human perception of benevolence that may be too narrow. We are, after all, the predators at the top of the food chain. How dare we judge how those below us obtain their food?

    What I neglected to add to my hawk anecdote was the fact that my first reaction was, indeed, to jump up from my chair to intervene. (Not that I could have saved the chickadee – its struggles were very brief and useless. So swift and efficient was the attack that it barely had time to register what had happened.) Half way to my feet, reason kicked in: everybody has to eat. I very much doubt that the hawk would have accepted a portion of lentil soup in lieu of the little bird. As grisly as the spectacle was, it was also very interesting. Even out here in the country, one does not often get to see birds of prey consume their dinner so close by. As a general rule, they withdraw to taller trees to consume their prey.

  • Gordon

    Well, as the Duke of Edinburgh is the nearest we British have to George W Bush in the political gaffe stakes, perhaps I should draw a veil over that.

    I think Dawkins’ point is just as you say – that it is we humans who have invented morality and seek to superimpose it on a view of nature which is, at heart, amoral. Animals live by eating other animals – killing isn’t a necessary precursor. Though how compatible that is with a loving God is another matter – if God is Love, why did He create a world in which pain and suffering is inherent – ? (And so forth. A bit sixth form, in some ways, but there you are.)

    Mind you, some of us struggle with the idea that a loving God would have created George W Bush or the Duke of Edinburgh (or Tony Blair, but that’s another story…).

    I used to go watch the red kites being fed at the centre in mid Wales. Am rather envious of your hawk! Here’s a few lines from a great early Ted Hughes poem, “the Hawk in the Rain”:

    “…but the hawk
    Effortlessly at height hangs his still eye.
    His wings hold all creation in a weightless quiet,
    Steady as a hallucination in the streaming air…”

  • Suzanne

    Note to self: track down some Ted Hughes to read. As a general rule, Gerard Manley Hopkins is my fave for this type of powerful imagery. I may have a few years on you, but have never claimed to have matured beyond the sixth form (witness my choice of reading material).

    “Mind you, some of us struggle with the idea that a loving God would have created George W Bush or the Duke of Edinburgh (or Tony Blair, but that’s another story…).” What? being a loving God precludes having a sense of humour? Quite a bit of the old testament is not far from Shakespeare in its humorous portrayal of human weaknesses. The chapter in which Moses goes off to collect the ten commandments and comes back to camp to find that his people have already started making statues and worshiping them is the first that comes to mind. There are also chapters in Job and the Song of Solomon that have made me smile. Perhaps this is enough of this particular tangent…

    I look forward to next week’s gansey report. My own knitting time has been hijacked by two-colour reversible double-knitting, with which I have developed a total fascination.

  • Gordon

    Ted Hughes was a great poet, probably DH Lawrence’s natural successor for nature poetry, and is the one who blows me away every time (when I can understand him!). Take the opening of “An Otter”:

    Underwater eyes, an eel’s
    Oil of water body, neither fish nor beast is the otter…”

    Culminating in the achingly sad final stanza:

    “…and can take stolen hold
    On a bitch otter in a field full
    Of nervous horses, but linger nowhere.
    Yanked above hounds, reverts to nothing at all,
    To this long pelt over the back of a chair.”

    A selected poems is thoroughly recommended, but he got a bit weird in his old age, creating his own myths and creation legends! He also wrote the wonderful children’s story “The Iron Man”, filmed as the classic “The Iron Giant”. But my favourite book of his is the collection “Season Songs”, written for children about the changing seasons – very unsentimental, but astonishingly good. Has there ever been a better description of huddling in bed in bitterly cold winter – the sheep are starving and

    “Your anklebone
    And your anklebone
    Lie big in the bed.”