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Wick (Cordova): Week 7 – 3 May

Protagoras of Abdera, the Ancient Greek sophist, claimed that “Of all things, man is the measure”. But, of course, the question is: which man? There’s obviously a difference if you’re measuring by the actor Danny de Vito (1.47m tall) or basketball player Michael Jordan (1.98m). Tell you what, let’s compromise with George Clooney, who’s often held up as a model sort of chap; he clocks in at 1.8m tall, which I shall in future adopt as my official measure. That makes the Eiffel Tower, at 324m, 180 clooneys. The Empire State Building, 443m, equals just over 246 clooneys. Fewer if he’s wearing shoes.

Primrose (not Primula scotica)

Now you may think this is fanciful, but I used to wonder about this sort of thing when I was a kid reading about ancient units of measurement. I remember being particularly annoyed by the vagueness of cubits*, which were defined as the length of the pharaoh’s arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. And I thought, OK, fine, but what happens when the pharaoh dies and you get a new one—one who’s shorter? Or what if, like Tutankhamun, he takes the throne as a nine year-old child? Did they have to change the length of a cubit every year as he grew? Or, using their mummification skills, simply preserve the relevant limb of the old pharaoh? So many questions: there’s a lucrative tv series and book deal in this for an open-minded academic, I feel.

Creels on the quayside

Ah well, sticking with good old inches for now, I’ve finished the collar and started on the sleeve. I’ve so far knit about 10 inches of sleeve (or 14.2% of a clooney). You’ll notice the distinctive Caithness stripes running around the upper arm, a feature common to several of the ganseys in the Johnston Collection photographs. I really like the finished effect, but it’s surprisingly challenging to knit—whenever my mind goes blank I revert to a knit 2/ purl 2 rhythm, instead of knit 3/ purl 1. If I make a mistake I often don’t spot it for several rows, and Margaret’s had to bail me out a few times already. Still, it’s plain sailing for a while now until we reach (*ominous music*) the cuff…

Path to the top: steps leading up to the Bremner monument

I’m on leave all this week, with no plans other than trying to break the world record for the most Ring Cycles listened to. The forecast looks grim, with sleet showers—sleet showers!—expected midweek, so plenty of knitting will doubtless feature. If we’re feeling brave we might go for the odd drive, though bearing in mind the state of the roads up here it’s advisable to pack climbing gear, the potholes are so deep—last time I looked into one I swear I heard some dwarves at the bottom singing the Hi-Ho song. Maybe this year we’ll get to see the gorse in bloom at Helmsdale—we couldn’t go last year, because of the lockdown—which is a mere 36 miles south of here; or, as I now like to think of it, 32 kiloclooneys…

(*The Vagueness of Cubits sounds like the title of a lost Pink Floyd album c.1971…)

9 comments to Wick (Cordova): Week 7 – 3 May

  • Dave

    How many feet to the Clooney? I want to say two but now I’m not so sure…

  • =Tamar

    I’m fond of the inch, which is the amount a given star rises higher every night over the horizon. I also like the barleycorn, which is one third of an inch. Quilters use hems of one third of an inch so often that there is a Quilter’s Yardstick that has the inches divided in thirds instead of quarters.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar, I miss rods and perches, though of course a chain, at 22 feet, is commemorated in the length of a cricket pitch.

    I always imagine carpenters in olden times: “There! That’s exactly 300 barley corns laid end to end, now we can finally cut the skirting board to size.” “Achoo! Sorry, how many did you say that was again?” (Sighing) “Never mind… One, two, three…” 😀

  • Meg Macleod..

    your knitting deserves a medal……its beautiful

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, thank you. As for the medal, I can’t understand why it hasn’t arrived yet. Maybe we have to start a petition or something?

  • Eve

    In my household the preferred measure is bushels per light year. Also I have an inescapable need to chant “rod, pole or perch” whenever any of those words are mentioned in any context, I think that came from my grandfather (born1899), I only found out recently they are all the same!

    • Gordon

      Hi eve, I tried that but it turned out i was hiding my light years under a bushel and teh whole thing came to naught! (I was also disappointed to learn that rods and perches have nothing to do with fishing…)

  • Tracey

    You must measure in Smoots, which is an actual man-length.


    My favorite part of the story is that he went on to be president of the International Organization for Standardization.

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