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Week X+11

Spare a thought this week for my Dad. Went into hospital to have a pacemaker fitted, a short operation under a local anaesthetic. It’s your basic in-out op… Except in his case, they went in over the heart, and discovered the veins were in the wrong place. So they had to back out, open a new seam over on the other side of his chest, and pull the pacemaker across and into position by wire – all under local anaesthetic. And bear in mind my Dad is in his eighties.
And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, when we visited last week he insisted on pulling up his shirt and showing me the scars. Just after dinner, too. He looked like a gaffed salmon. (I asked him if it wouldn’t be easier just to get a zip fitted, since he’s already had two bypass operations before this.) He’s already pretty active, so once again I’ve missed my chance to arm-wrestle him for my inheritance.

So here we are at last, the gansey is finished, all the ends have been darned in, and it’s been washed and blocked. (Not that this one took much blocking, since there were no cables to pull it in, or other distorting patterns. Just endless knit 2/purl 2, the knitting equivalent of breaking rocks). And, who knows, with psychiatric help I might even be able to knit purl stitches again one day.

Thoughts are already turning to the next one, not that I have a waiting list exactly. But Margaret has set me the challenge of a gansey cardigan, a terrifying prospect (warning: contents may involve sewing), which sounds like something different to try. But I’ll need something to keep me occupied while listening to the Ashes down under (i.e., test cricket from Australia) over the next few weeks. Mind you, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “steek” rhymes with “eek!”.

In response to popular demand (I’m generously assuming two people counts as popular demand) I am posting the novel I’ve been revising on the website. It naturally falls into 3 parts, and will continue over the next 3 weeks. Please do not feel any obligation to read it. It’s a fantasy story, set over one Christmas in Wales, which I think can best be summarised as a blend of Twin Peaks, Stephen King, Alan Garner and Ted Hughes, so you have been warned. (A friend of mine who has read it, while searching for something to say, tentatively offered, “It’s not very cheerful, is it?”) Certainly the tone of whimsical persiflage that permeates this website is disappointingly absent, as is any discussion of knitting in general and ganseys in particular.

If it’s any consolation, Part One is about half the length of the total novel, Part Two (in which hardly anybody dies, honestly) is a relatively short pastoral interlude, and then Part Three rounds things off with a custard pie fight followed by a song. (Caution: your experience may differ.). It’s available in two formats:

as a PDF File:  Click here for the PDF file,

but also as an eBook for anyone with an iPad or iPhone and the iBooks application, or equivalent (maybe a Kindle, I don’t know). Click here for the eBook.

[17.11.2014:  The Wraiths of Elfael is now available via Amazon: The Wraiths of Elfael (Elfael Trilogy Book 1), so the above links have been removed.]

If you do read it and want to comment, please feel free to drop me an email or use the comment feature on that page – I think it’s best if this main blog doesn’t get sidetracked too much from knitting…

…and bread, of course. This week’s bread is a sourdough that didn’t quite work, just to prove that I’m not lifting the bread pictures on this blog from books all the time. It didn’t want to rise, even after 3 hours, and when it went in the oven the bottom half stubbornly refused to budge while the top half went up like a bouncy castle. This made for an interesting texture, Terry Pratchett’s dwarf bread on the bottom, cavernous holes in the middle and a sort of roof on top. Very strange.

12 comments to Week X+11

  • Suzanne

    Steek! That’s the least painful way to a ‘gansigan’. Knit in the round with a front opening steek and armhole steeks (not sure how the gusset gets engineered into this). Steeking is actually fun and painless. The downside is its irreversibility. If the body ends up too long, too short, or too narrow, there is no recourse; save starting over. But that should not be a deterrent in this case because you have plenty of experience with ganseys and your gauge in them.

    Next time you bake a boule shaped loaf, I would be very grateful if you would try the Dutch oven trick I passed on. I’m curious to learn how well it works. Not that it would have saved a temperamental sourdough. If I forgot to give you details about preheating, etc. – message me.

    Thanks for sharing the Christmas story – I’m off to read it now.

  • Gordon

    Hi Suzanne,

    I tend to think of all of my pullovers as irreversible, since I can’t bear the thought of ripping out even a few rows and re-doing them.

    Aha. When I was nobbut a lad, a “Dutch oven” was the oven set into the chimney breast of an old fireplace – you have to bear in mind that my mother’s family lived in old country farmhouses – and usually used for baking bread. So when you suggested trying that, I was puzzled, thinking, well, of course that would be good, but where am I going to find one in my centrally heated Edinburgh tenement?! I’ve never heard it used for a casserole dish… However, I’ve just looked it up on Google, exclaimed “Oh-h-h!”, and comprehension has dawned.

    But what, I wonder, about the crust? Doesn’t it come out like a sort of giant squishy dumpling? And does it work with pyrex?

    I obviously have to do more research!

  • Suzanne

    No, it would probably not work with pyrex because you want a vessel that will hold heat. You need a 5.5 to 7.5 qt pot with a lid – preferably cast iron. The pot should be preheated in the 450F oven. Coat the risen dough with olive oil and some coarse salt, score it with an X, cover the pan and pop it in the oven. Bake for half an hour, then remove the lid and continue baking until done, another 15 to 30 minutes. The crust is purported to be fabulously crisp: the dough itself having provided the moisture that one would ordinarily add with steam.

  • Gordon

    Hi Suzanne,

    Thanks for that. I see that this is quite a popular technique on bread blogs – certainly the pictures look good. Mind you, most of them seem to involve the “no knead” technique – which, having gone to all the trouble of mastering the French all-in wrestling kneading technique seems like a missed opportunity! How can I annoy the neighbours now?


  • Suzanne

    I have full confidence that you will thinking of something to drive them up the wall. Bongo drums?

  • Lynne

    The gansey is very handsome, I especially love the simplicity of that stitch!
    I definitely want to download the book and I hope I can put it on my Kindle, but have never tried anything other than the Amazon 3G downloads.
    Just made it home to Canada today after being trapped in Spokane’s blizzard – and no internet! Uggg!

  • =Tamar

    Ow, ow ow. A friend of mine had a pacemaker put in but he was lucky (sort of) – from previous work they already knew things weren’t in the usual places. The doctors told him he should have warned them he was a space alien.

    Does sourdough prefer an extra warm environment to rise?

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne and Suzanne,

    I don’t suppose the old Yorkshire saying ‘Ice in November to bear a duck, the rest of winter nowt but slush and muck’ (meaning, if you get cold weather in November the rest of the winter is likely to be wet and mild) applies to North America…?


  • Gordon

    Oh, and Suzanne, our new neighbours (also from Massachusetts, by coincidence) have a trumpet-playing son – this may take some thought…

  • Gordon

    Good morning Tamar,

    Well, my father was comprehensively X-rayed beforehand, so I’d have thought they should have known, but apparently it’s more complicated than that. Or something.

    Yes, I’m not sure sourdough is ideal for Edinburgh in winter, but I am suffering from the sin of pride today as I have finally got a sourdough to behave just as it should. Pictures next week, but I tweaked the recipe and up it came like a time-lapse mushroom growing on the forest floor. So there’s hope for me yet. The question is, can I do it again…?


  • Suzanne

    Trumpet and bongo drums… Yes, I see potential there. Shades of a ‘Route 66’ soundtrack.

    Lynne – glad you made it home all right. We had all kinds of fun and games fishing two calves out of the pond when they fell through the ice.

  • Lynne

    Oh, Suzanne, I remember those ‘animal’ incidents from the hobby farm (that my daughter now owns.) She now has a pet pig who doesn’t do well in this subfreezing weather. Gordon, you’re much more optimistic than we are concerning our upcoming winter – the prediction isn’t very promising. It is now 6 p.m. and we are -7C, a little warmer than last night.