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Week X+9

Now, I know that not everyone who reads this blog lives in large conurbations, so you may be wondering what it’s like to experience something like fireworks night in a vibrant, exciting, happening city like Edinburgh.

Well, the first part is fun, even on a wet and windy night such as last Thursday. We’re up high enough that we can look out our back window and watch the fireworks going off over Calton Hill, which is pretty cool, especially those really big ones that just open out in great pulses over the city like giant star jellyfish. (And even the small ones that go off out of our line of sight are interesting, because they illuminate the clouds in various colours from underneath, our very own light show – works even better if you watch it while listening to Pink Floyd.)

But, later… ah, that’s another story. In fact, the best way to replicate the rest of the night is as follows. (You can actually do this at home, so pay attention at the back.)

First, lay in a stock of small paper bags, the kind I used to buy a quarter pound of lemon drops in when I was a kid from the sweet shop on the corner (yes, that’s how old I am – supermarkets hadn’t been invented yet). Crisp packets would do at a pinch. Put these on your bedside table and wait until your partner or child is just falling asleep – anywhere between, say, 11.30 and 12.30 at night. Pick up one of the bags and make an O of your thumb and first finger, grasping the back firmly but not too tightly around the neck.

Blow into the paper bag, inflating it fully, and then close the O of your finger and thumb to seal it. Lean over your innocently sleeping partner, positioning the bulging bag just next to their shell-like ear, and then, when the moment is right, slam your other hand against the bag as hard as you can, bursting it with a loud BANG!

Lean back and watch them thrash around like an electrocuted salmon, while you make “tut-tut” noises and other insincere expressions of sympathy, happy in the knowledge of a job well done.

Wait till they’ve settled down again and are just falling asleep once more – perhaps a quarter of an hour should suffice – then repeat, until you run out of paper bags, or your better half discovers an interesting new use for that nail gun in the tool cupboard.

I think Edinburgh ran out of fireworks somewhere around two in the morning. Luckily I think they shipped in some more, ready for the next night…

I’ve just decreased for the cuff, so this sleeve, and with it the gansey, is almost completed. I’ve been writing a tender for work, and concentrating on the novel, so I haven’t done a lot of knitting, but even half an hour each evening can produce surprising progress. As before, the last 3 inches of the sleeve don’t involve any decreases, so I was left with 117 stitches decreased down to 108 for the cuff itself. All I have to do now is another 6 inches of ribbing, cast off, and the celebrations can begin. (But not, perhaps, with fireworks.)

This week’s bread is another variation on French bread, this time a “spiked” sourdough. (Basically you make some of the bread the day before with your sourdough yeast culture, then make the rest of it the next day using commercial instant yeast. The advantage of this is that you still get the richer flavour of sourdough, but you can make the finished bread in a lot less time on the second day because it ferments in a shorter time. The downside is that sourdough purists look at you reproachfully like a cat who’s had its cream ration replaced by low fat long life milk substitute…)

11 comments to Week X+9

  • Nigel

    What is that colour you are using for the Gansey? I’m going to start one soon.

  • Gordon

    Hi Nigel,

    This wool is “Wendy Poppleton’s Guernsey 5-ply”, the colour is navy, in the 100g balls. I think you can get it from Iriss of Penzance by mail order.

    But I find all of the companies pretty much of a muchness (what a strange expression that is), so you can’t go far wrong. In fact, i’ve never had a bad wool experience.

    Best of luck with your Gansey. Please let me know if I can be of any help, even if it’s just tea and sympathy…


  • Suzanne

    Ever the grasshopper, I sit here half-frozen, wondering why I did not make a start on the Staithes variation gansey I had planned to knit many months ago. Now the challenge will be to see if I can knit enough of it to keep me warm while knitting, before my fingers stiffen into little immovable lumps. Fingerless mitts? you say. The grasshopper gave them all away last Christmas. Some people are simply not fit to live north of the 45th parallel.

    You can be very proud of both the gansey and the sourdough loaves.

    Here in the wilds of the Northwest, where personal possession of fireworks is neither illegal, nor discouraged, 4th of July fireworks go off all through the night for a week. Hospital emergency rooms are filled with happy, intoxicated, singed rednecks comparing their ‘patriotic’ injuries. Or so I hear.

  • Gordon

    Hi Suzanne,

    Are you familiar with the folk song version of The Ant and the Grasshopper? (There are good versions on the iTune store by Martin Carthy and Leon Rosselson, well worth checking out…)

    I can sympathise – it was so cold in the flat today I was reduced to wearing my dressing gown over my normal clothes just so my fingers were warm enough to type. It’s definitely too cold to knit in the lounge, and if we weren’t vegetarians I’d be sub-contracting a meat company to store sides of beef there. I like fingerless gloves, though for some reason I don’t own any – they remind me of (a) Dickensian clerks and (b) fashionable young men in the 1960s – which I never was, being nobbut a lad at the time.

    The good news is, the fireworks have stopped. The bad news, the gale force wind lashes the rain at the window so violently that sleep is impossible… “A singed redneck is a happy redneck” – sounds like a bumper sticker?


  • Suzanne

    An intoxicated redneck with any kind of injury, patriotic or otherwise, tends to be a happy redneck. It just so happens that I have friends who make that sort of sticker to sell at flea markets. I’ll run the idea past them.

    Gordon, how do you come up with all the fascinating trivia? No, I am not familiar with the folk song version of the Ant and the Grasshopper (even though I do listen to the Nacho Celtic hour on Sunday – a Spokane NPR programme targeting children, which offers a wide variety of interesting folk numbers targeting a younger audience – I’ll have to download it.

    I agree that it is tough to produce a fingerless glove design that projects just the right note for the freezing fashionista. It is probably why I give all the pairs I make away. The one pair that remained in residence, and gets used (the real proof of the pudding) is a convertible pair, i.e. there is a mitten top that can be flipped to the back of the hand to free the fingers for work, or to pull a trigger; knit in camouflage coloured wool. They were to be hunting mittens, but they do not seem to leave the farm.

    Are you wearing a bow tie with that dressing gown? Just curious.

  • Lynne

    Hmmm, off topic here, but interesting geography divulged in Suzanne’s note. We are from the same area in the Pacific Northwest from the sounds of it. Spokane is my ‘hometown’, eventhough I now reside just across the border into Canada. I also listen to Spokane NPR in the car.
    Back to the gansey, when I start graphing my pattern for the winter project, I’m hoping to incorporate that ‘bird’s eye’ pattern somehow vertically. I’m just to short to the ground to do the horizontal patterns, but sure love the look of it in your gansey. (Just wish I could sample the bread!)

  • Suzanne

    Hi Lynne! I’m in Sandpoint.

    One thing that I have observed from my one and only foray into gansey knitting is that a discreet horizontal texture in the yoke does not shorten the way color stripes would, because it is confined to the top portion. If you knit a good long body (to full hip level, or below), the proportions can be made to work for a shorter body. Or, to be on the safe side, you can stick with vertical bands of texture. I do like the look of a textured yoke and plain knit body. It is very sleek.

  • Lynne

    Thanks for your input. I did my second gansey last year and I will do a couple revisions on that sizing for this next one as it fits ‘neat’ and I’ll want just a bit more wiggle room. I could do Gordon’s stitch in the yoke. Still a lot of thought process and I’m trying my best not to get involved with it until after Christmas.
    I shopped in your city last year while visiting my sis-in-law just out of Clarkfork on the river. And the kids and G’kids still ski Schweitzer occasionally. I now live in the Penticton, B.C. area but have retained my U.S. citizenship.
    Cheers, fellow American.

  • Suzanne

    One last thing on the matter of fit. I have come to the conclusion that, while a man’s gansey really does need to be close fitting, so that it does not impede movement or get caught on things, a woman’s gansey should either incorporate waist shaping and be form fitting (to soften the squared off effect of the yoke and shoulder strap), or be pronouncedly over sized and worn more as if one had borrowed a man’s sweater. I think your idea of adding more ease is a good one. Of slender long-waisted build, I made mine with zero ease and added some short-rowing mid back to prevent riding up. It didn’t work because the welt hits me at high hip. Lengthening it would simply create more fabric to bunch. If I had added 4″ of ease, I would be able to remove the welt, knit it longer, and wear it more like a tunic. As it stands, there is no remedy…save knitting another one!

    Sorry, Gordon, I’ve hijacked your comment thread. An excellent week to you all.

  • Lynne

    . . . and, ditto the apology, Gordon. Suzanne, would you please contact me via e-mail: lbrock@vip.net to continue a bit of discussion?

  • Gordon

    Lynne, Suzanne,

    Not at all, be my guest – I thought it was rather interesting in fact… Let me know if you come to any conclusions!