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Week X+2

And so Edinburgh has hosted a state visit by Pope Benedict XVI, which by all accounts went very well – even if the church and the Government between them had to invent a new festival around which to celebrate his visit (as far as I can tell, this was the first time St Ninian’s Day – 16 September – had been favoured with a parade; or celebrated; or even publicly remembered).

Other memorable events on that day include the declaration of Owain Glyndwr as Prince of Wales in 1400, the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620 and the release of “She Loves You” by the Beatles in 1963. But I guess none of them have that much resonance for the Catholic church, unless the young Cardinal Ratzinger was a Beatles fan – which seems unlikely – so I guess St Ninian’s day was the logical choice.

I didn’t go down to watch, even though it was only at the end of the road (which reminds me of the great quote by Bill Shankly, manager of Liverpool, about the city’s other soccer team: “If Everton were playing down the bottom of my garden, I’d draw the curtains”). But this was no New Atheist boycott – I just don’t like crowds, and as the parade only consisted of (a) marching bands of pipers, (b) lots of schoolkids from schools associated with St Ninian, and (c) after a delay, the Pope in his popemobile – it didn’t sound all that spectacular.

Margaret went down for a look, and was favoured by a glimpse of the Pope skimming past at a surprisingly brisk pace. (As a friend of mine who watched from the windows of the National Archives remarked, “He’s not going to sell many ice creams going at that speed”.) I cheated and ended up watching some of it on tv (I know, I know).

Meanwhile, on to secular matters. Work on the gansey continues apace; as you will see, after finishing the back last week, the front is halfway complete now. My aim to complete it and join the shoulders by next weekend. (We’ll see.) I’ve just finished by 7th ball of yarn, too, so I know I’ve used 700g of gansey wool so far.

I’ve deliberately coordinated the way I knit each row. Because I’m knitting back and forth, that means I knit one row with the front side facing towards me, and the next with the reverse facing towards me. Now, because the pattern calls for alternating plain knit rows and pattern rows of knit 2/purl 2, I’ve arranged it so that each knit row comes when the front is facing towards me – so I can actually knit it with a row of knit stitches, which is faster and easier than purl stitches for me; while the pattern row – which would be the same effectively whichever way it was facing – comes on the reverse side. (Clever, eh? Well, not really, but it makes quite a difference over 8 inches of patterned yoke.)

Finally, here is my latest malted grain (“granary”) loaf, a little burned on top, but with a nice, open crumb. Not a sourdough this time, but using Peter Reinhart’s suggestion of basically making half the dough the day before and leaving it overnight in the fridge to rise, resulting in a richer flavour and a moister texture.

8 comments to Week X+2

  • lns

    My mother only tried to go to the supermarket but still ended up seeing the Pope outside Waitrose…!

    I read your instructions for the back-and-forth and it still makes me shriek with terror and flee weeping (metaphorically)…

    And I am also in awe of your bread talents. Ah well, we’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns and it’d be a sad world if we were all the same!


  • Nigel

    I have an interesting picture of His Holiness driving by a Sauna (brothel) in Edinburgh if you want it?

  • Hi Laura,

    Well, I can imagine if the Pope was going to do some emergency shopping in Edinburgh, Waitrose is probably the supermarket he’d choose.

    I shan’t try to persuade you about he merits of back-and-forth knitting, as i’m starting to sound like the Emperor from Star Wars recruiting for the Dark Side, but I still maintain that if it was hard, I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) do it!

    Bread is turning into major passion of mine – I’ve always loved it, but finally being able to bake good bread is probably something I’m more proud of than the knitting. If only the books on baking bread that are available now had been around 20 years ago when I got started! Ah, well. Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been, or should that be ben, etc.


  • Hi Nigel,

    For a brief, exciting moment I thought you’d got a picture of His Holiness going into a… Never mind. My mistake!

    Yes, please – that sounds fun.

    All the best,

  • lns

    My Fond Papa eventually pleaded “please stop trying to make bread for us”…

    I have not set my mind entirely against two-needle inside-out back-to-front upside-down knitting, but if I can manage without, I’d be a great deal happier with it!


  • Suzanne

    It is so nice to have you back on Mondays! The bread looks extremely toothsome and the Freeman gansey most handsome.

    St. Ninian’s Day, eh? I would not completely exclude his Holiness from having been a Beatles fan. It seems unlikely that a person could develop the level of compassion required for the job without having experienced the pangs, angst and disappointments of youth. The Beatles were simply impossible to ignore.

  • Gordon

    Hi Suzanne,

    How nice to hear from you again – and welcome back!

    Well, according to the Pope’s fan club website, the His Holiness has excellent taste in classical music and likes Bach and Mozart. But he’s not a big fan of pop music, apparently:

    “In a way which we could not imagine thirty years ago, music has become the decisive vehicle of a counter-religion and thus calls for a parting of the ways. Since rock music seeks release through liberation from the personality and its responsibility, it can be on the one hand precisely classified among the anarchic ideas of freedom which today predominate more openly in the West than in the East. But that is precisely why rock music is so completely antithetical to the Christian concept of redemption and freedom, indeed its exact opposite. Hence, music of this type must be excluded from the Church on principle, and not merely for aesthetic reasons, or because of restorative crankiness or historical inflexibility.”

    He said that in 1985, though, so it may not necessarily reflect his current views. And the Vatican has recently officially forgiven John Lennon for saying 40 years ago that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Who knows? Anyway, I was going to say that I don’t mean this blog to be in any way negative about Catholicism or Pope Benedict – but then I read that he disapproves of Bob Dylan… That’s crossing the line, man.

    All the best,

  • Gordon


    Join us… come over to the Dark Side… give in to your hate….(or at least your mild reluctance…)