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Week X+12

Winter came early to Scotland this year, with record low temperatures for November and lots of snow. Cars are slithering up the hill, the drivers hunched over the steering wheels, peering like Mr Magoo, and on the pavements people are walking as carefully as if they were crossing a rope bridge over a crocodile pit. Suddenly everyone’s an octogenarian. And it’s cold, well below freezing.

I’ve invented a new temperature index, which takes into account how annoyed I am at the cold and inconvenience, since I don’t find celsius very helpful in this regard. It’s not numerical, but uses Dante’s nine levels of Hell as its model. So, Saturday, when it snowed a bit but I didn’t have to go outside, rated as Level 3, Gluttony (shouldn’t have finished that apple cake). But today, when it snowed a lot and I had to go and get a haircut and stepped in a deep well of slush at the crossing and it’s too cold to get my bread to rise, rates as Level 5, Wrath and Sullenness. (Mostly sullenness, to be honest.)

This coming Wednesday, when I have to finally go and have my dreaded septoplasty operation, will probably be a Level 7, Violence, since at the moment it’s an open question if I’ll be able to drive there easily. Especially if it keeps snowing like this and it freezes, as is forecast.

The first bit of bad news is that I’ll be under a general anaesthetic. Now, given that the last time I had one of those I was still throwing up 2 days later, you’ll understand why I’m not looking forward to it. Then they carefully explained to me what the procedure would involve, with diagrams, and suddenly I understood the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs. Let’s put it this way, if they reattach my face the right way up when they’ve finished I’ll count myself ahead of the game. (Keywords to look out for in next week’s blog: crusting, discharge, blood, swallow, clot, splint, bruising, hypochondria, baby, big, you and girly-man.)

Ever the optimist, I’m assuming I’ll survive, and have ordered the yarn for Margaret’s cardigan gansey – the colour will be sea spray, from Frangipani in Cornwall – in celebratory anticipation. I’m still thinking about the pattern, which will involve some haggling with Margaret, though this can wait a week or two till I’ve finished the welt. So long as it’s got cables in there somewhere I won’t mind.

Here is the next instalment, Part Two of the novel, in which our heroes continue their epic quest into Mordor to destroy the Ring, while Aragorn… No wait. That’s part Three.

Download Part Two as a PDF file here.

Download Part Two as an eBook here.

Finally, after last week’s dismal sourdough (the world’s first sourdough medicine ball) I can report a major breakthrough in my experiments. Basically, I increased the amount of sourdough starter I was using and reduced the amount of flour, et voila! Nous avons le pain au levain shit hot parfait.

19 comments to Week X+12

  • lns

    Very best wishes for the septoplasty! (And if it’s any consolation re last week’s op for your Dad with the veins in the wrong places, my dad turns out to have his entire heart on the wrong side from usual – it confuses the heck out of anyone applying a stethoscope, and of course gifts the entire family with the lifelong joy of complaining that his heart isn’t in the right place!)

    I’m knitting manically for the Christmas post, but am also playing daftsod with a pair of gloves loosely after the traditional Sanquhar gloves in cream gansey yarn with red silk yarn, to get my eye in on using gansey yarn. Should be ready for next winter…

    Fingers crossed for a sudden thaw north of the Meadows for Wednesday for you then!


  • Gordon

    Hi Laura,

    Thank you! But – are you sure your Dad isn’t a Time Lord? (You could knit him a Tom Baker scarf – very 1970s!)

    I’ve heard of people knitting for the troops overseas, but for the Christmas Post? Things must be worse at Royal Mail than I thought…

    Best of luck with your projects. What’s a Sanquhar glove?


  • Suzanne

    Here’s hoping next that Wednesday turns out to be a Level 5, or less.

    Our weather in the Pacific Northwest is paralleling that of Edinburgh fairly well. First the deep freeze, then the snow drifts. Bill dug my car out of a snow bank this morning and, optimistically, drove off down the driveway. He trudged back a few minutes later (mumbling something about the big tree at the bottom of the hill) and climbed on the tractor with snow blower attachment. Given that the driveway had already been cleared, I’m not even going to ask. I really loved that car…

    Not sure that ‘shit hot parfait’ even qualifies as franglais. Congrats on the breakthrough.

  • Gordon

    Hi Suzanne,

    The weather is one reason I’m coming to believe there’s a God, with a sense of humour. Every time there’s a climate change summit the temperature dips to record lows, just to spite us.

    Cars lost in the snow are called snowdrops in Russia, as they emerge unexpectedly in the spring thaws. I hope your car is all right. I’m thinking of investing in a half-track. Either that or emigrating to Spain.

    Not altogether sure if “le pain au levain merde chaude parfait” is an improvement…? (Maybe I should stick to Welsh.)


  • Suzanne

    My car is fine. Over the years, I have grown used to the fact that my precious marvel of German engineering gets tossed out in the elements, so that livestock may shelter in the heated shop when it gets really cold. This exile has the added benefit of freezing out any vermin that might have been contemplating taking up residence in the engine compartment (a constant probability on the farm).

    I also apparently have a much better memory than Bill. The first substantial snow of the season is almost always very light and dry. No good for snowballs or snowmen and slicker ‘n snot when compacted by a vehicle. Under these conditions, the big Dodge Ram 3/4 ton truck is barely able to claw its way up the hill. Sometimes, we have to leave it at the bottom for a few days, until the temperature and texture change. The car, with its kid glove high-speed performance tires, has the all-wheel capability, but no clawing capacity. It took about 2-1/2 hours, a bag of salt, and a shovel, but we did manage to get her back up the hill. (By that time, I was wondering why I had not simply climbed in and headed south – at high speed)

    Wouldn’t Portugal be a better pick than Spain? and yes, I think sticking to Welsh might be in order…

    We’ll be rooting for you tomorrow when you take your septum in for overhaul. Here’s wishing you a speedy and complete recovery!

  • Gordon

    Hi All,

    Thank you for the messages of goodwill, both here and via email. Alas, it was snowing so hard that not enough nursing staff could make it to work to carry out the operation, so it had to be cancelled, though I and my friendly taxi driver, like Frodo and Sam across the plains of Gorgoroth, endured unspeakable peril to get there.

    As Hamlet says, “If it be now, ’tis not to come.’ Unfortunately, ’tis still to come…


  • =Tamar

    Catching up on reading blogs… Gosh. Good luck with the rescheduled work. Nose work does not have a good reputation at the best of times.

    Congratulations on successful sourdough!
    Sanquhar gloves are made in several historic designs in thin wool yarn. Some day I intend to try making one.

    It is unfortunately true that global warming causes harsher winters (another reason to try knitting
    Sanquhar gloves). I think it has something to do with clouds reflecting the heat away from the planet. Could “Walk Like An Octogenarian” be the next big hit song?

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    Well, a septoplasty is apparently pretty routine, as far as nose work goes. Though I did balk when the nurse drew me a picture of where they would slice the skin so they could peel my nose back like a flap! Y-e-e-e-w! (I’ve got a crooked septum – clearly visible in my left nostril – which interferes with the flow of air and messes up the sinuses. The doctors don’t know if the operation will fix my breathing problem, but it’s the first thing they want to try. And who am I to argue with doctors?)

    Thanks for the info re Sanquhar gloves. I’ve never knit anything but ganseys, so am impressed with any fiddly knitting (scarves, gloves, socks, hot water bottle covers, etc).

    Re Walk Like an Octogenarian – if someone will come up with the tune, I’ll provide the dance moves! using the word “dance” in its loosest sense…


  • Gordon


    When I lived in Wales I decided to go to work (I was working in Aberystwyth 45 miles away at the time) one snowy, frozen morning, when it didn’t look too bad. About 15 miles out I hit a patch of ice and skated across the road for a few seconds, and given that it was one of those Welsh roads with a stone wall on the right and a hundred-foot drop on the left, things got very interesting for a while. In the end the car decided to go for the wall, and I did £900 of damage in one second. Which I was prepared to accept as a fair price for going on living.

    After that I decided that cars and snow and I were never the thrain to meet…

    Good luck with the snow and the transhumance!


  • =Tamar

    Re the breathing problem – somewhere recently I read an article by a doctor who had done many nose operations to try to stop sinus trouble, only to learn that the real cause was fungus infections, and the operations had not helped at all.
    The deviated septum may be complicating matters but do inquire about culturing for fungus. He said some of the test cultures were literally producing mushrooms.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    Thank you for that. I’m reliably informed that I don’t have polyps or growths, which they can just cut away like mowing hay. All the doctors shook their heads and said it would be so much easier if i did!

    They even stuck an optical camera up my nose and let me watch on tv while it went up like a chimney sweep’s brush. It was like watching a nature documentary about burrowing mammals. And I can tell you, it was a bit of a shock. Despite assiduous trimming it looked like a particularly hirsute earwig had tunnelled up there to die.

    But I’ll stop there, as I realise this is Too Much Information and some of you will be having your tea…

    Best wishes,

  • lns

    Gordon, if you are ever in the Dumfriesshire museums, they have some gorgeous Sanquhar gloves. http://www.tata-tatao.to/knit/sanquhar/e-howtoknit.html is quite famous as one of the least intuitively-written sets of instructions anywhere on the internet 🙂 but if you click to enlarge the pics, you’ll see the originals – stranded in 2-ply laceweight on 1.5mm needles and I did try a few years ago but nearly went blind and insane in one afternoon…hence why I’m scaling mine up to have the design about twice as big on 2.25s with gansey yarn…

    Indesctructible, mind, and damn nearly weatherproof – sound familiar?! 🙂

  • Leigh

    Gordon, I am sure you will do fine with your septoplasty and if your have upper airway breathing problems like my family members do, I am sure the procedure will provide great relief.

    Medical descriptions are always scary (I type them everyday), but in reality the Docs do them so much that it is quite routine, kinda like: Get outta bed, brush teeth, put on clothes, go to work, do septoplasty, knit 1, purl 2, etc. I’ll be thinkin’ about you this week.

    Scheduled for this year are:
    Bridlington gansey (child).
    Thurso (Big Maybe).

    This is a tall order, but I am crossing my fingers.

  • Gordon

    Hi Ins,

    Every now and again I get emails from people telling me they can’t understand my patterns charts or how to knit a gansey from my “How To…” section. Having followed your link I now know how they feel! And it just confirms my suspicions that people who can knit gloves have sold their souls to the devil in return for manual dexterity on earth. I thought I was looking at a Space Invaders game from my distant and mis-spent youth, but no, it was a pattern chart…

    Good luck with them! I was fascinated to see that the Lord of the Rings chainmail armour in the movies was little plastic rings linked together in place of metal (real armour is too heavy for us nowadays) – they actually had 2 crew working on just that, full-time. Now they’re (hopefully) making The Hobbit, maybe we could knit them some instead, spray-paint it silver?


  • Gordon

    Hello Leigh,

    Thanks for the good wishes. As I’ll explain in the next blog, alas, the weather scuppered my operation. So long as I don’t have to get another blood test and pre-med assessment next time!

    I am impressed – no, intimidated! – by your knitting plans for the year. I can never see further than one project at a time, not least because every time i start a gansey, I’m never sure if I will live to see it finished, let alone think about the next… But i wish you every success.

    I’ve said before, I keep thinking about having a section on the website for other people to share their gansey projects. This can be just pictures of finished projects, or work-in-progress, anything. You, and others, could post updates. What do you think?

    Best wishes for (hopefully 3) successful projects completed!


  • lns

    “my suspicions that people who can knit gloves have sold their souls to the devil in return for manual dexterity on earth”

    You already knew that, Gordon! I sold my soul for the multiple-DPNs skills… hence why I struggle with 2-needle flat knitting, on the side of the saints obviously 🙂
    I love gloves, the method is so incredibly logic-based.

    Your suggestion of silver-sprayed knitted-string is bringing vivid memories of excavating a Mesolithic site in the Forest fo Dean, deep in ancient broadleaf woodland. There we all were, trowelling away when suddenly we heard noises and looked up to see hordes of elves crashing through the woods towards us, pursued by a couple of rather odd werewolves and something we never did agree on. I think it was supposed to be a vampire, but others disagreed… the world of LARP is a very very strange one…

  • Ruth

    I must confess to be a Sanquhar Gloves knitter – the warmest gloves you can wear in a winter like this. Have recently finished one of a new pair, but have too much Christmas knitting to do to get the other done right now. Yes, fiddly, done on 1.5mm needles, using patterns provided by the lovely people at the Scottish Rural Women’s Institute.

    Having seen some knitted garments close to ganseys on this week’s Edwardian Farm, my Other Half now fancies one. Will undoubtedly be visiting your site again soon for inspiration – I found a set of long 3.25mm (10) dpns this week which may be just the job.

  • Gordon

    Hi Ins,

    All right, you win this round.

    I had to Google LARP – such is the sheltered life I’ve led (for a moment I wondered what kind of mushrooms grow in the Forest of Dean…). But given that the top article I found about Live Action Role Playing was by a Youtube video by one “sexdwarf” and I decided that sometimes ignorance is bliss!


  • Gordon

    Hello Ruth,

    Obviously Sanquhar Gloves are the way to go! For the first time in my life I can seriously appreciate fingerless gloves, it’s been so cold in the flat, so gloves of all kinds are definitely on the agenda.

    We’ve been recording the Edwardian Farm, being huge fans of the Green Valley and Victorian Farm series, but haven’t watched it yet. It’s good spending time with nice people doing interesting things on TV who don’t have artificial conflicts or contests or voting to spice it up!