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Wick (Cumming Bros): Week 10 – 3 February

When it comes to immortality, I’m firmly in the Woody Allen camp. He once said, you may remember, that he wished to achieve it not through his works, but through not dying (“I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment”). However, as this year marks my sixtieth under Heaven, I think it’s time to compromise. So when Wick Voices, the Caithness oral history project, finally tracked me down, instead of setting off the fire alarm and escaping through the window, the natural reaction of every right-thinking Britisher when faced with a microphone, I decided instead to submit to my fate.

‘Perfect’ Reflections

I don’t know if you’ve ever given an interview where you knew you were being recorded for posterity? Take it from me, it’s a tough gig. Even if you start off well, there comes a point when your brain starts listening to what your mouth is saying and the whole thing falls apart. You become self-conscious, and try to correct what you’re saying as you say it. (Imagine riding a unicycle backwards on a tightrope over Niagara Falls while juggling half a dozen oranges; you’re halfway across when your cellphone rings—like Wile E. Coyote, you have a second or so to contemplate your ruin, and then you plummet to your ruin. It’s rather like that, only with fewer oranges.) Anyway, the subject of the interview was ganseys, with particular reference to those of Caithness. You can find it on the Wick Voices website and don’t say you haven’t been warned; and yes, I’m afraid I really do sound like that.

Fairy Glen, Latheronwheel

Turning with some relief to an actual gansey, I’m delighted to say that we’re almost there. I’m past the pattern band on the second sleeve, and can take my feet off the pedals and freewheel all the way down to the cuff. I might finish it this week, or I might not: we’ll see. One curiosity about this gansey, it’s used up more yarn than I’d expected, nine balls already—there’ll be enough to finish it, but only just. We think the chunky Wendy yarn means that there is less yardage by weight than there used to be, so it doesn’t go as far.

Harbour Reflections

I read somewhere that there is a lovely Jewish conceit that you’re never truly dead until the last person who remembers you is no longer alive. In my case it seems I am destined to live on in a boatload of ganseys, and as a disembodied voice with a floating accent and an unhealthy obsession with gussets. (We met a dog walker down by Latheronwheel Harbour last weekend. He asked where I was from. When I told him New Zealand he expressed surprise: “Oh really? I had you down as posh southern”, before adding “Well, I was sort of right.”) These days, I’ll take my immortality where I can.

14 comments to Wick (Cumming Bros): Week 10 – 3 February

  • =Tamar

    The only New Zealand accent I ever heard in person was …rather strong, and not at all RP. (The link doesn’t work for my antiquated system.)

    Still, people’s perceptions can be very affected by their own accents. I have more than once been assumed to be British, when in fact I am from central New England, though I admit my accent is from the 1950s, not whatever is current.

    And you are not old. You are younger than my little sister.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I only sound like a Kiwi when I’ve been associating with my fellow countrymen; otherwise I sound like I should be twelfth in line to the throne, or Bertie Wooster’s second cousin!

  • Linda Abraham

    Your recording is excellent! I enjoyed it very much and learned a bit more about ganseys. Thank you for both making the recording and sharing your expertise with us and the world!
    Keep knitting, I look forward to your blog each Monday!

  • Lois

    And you are also younger than my little sister , you wee tad.

    I know that listening to oneself on a recording can be a painful experience. “Do I really sound like THAT?” Maritime Canadian with Yorkshire undertones? And was I really that much slimmer on interview videos from years back? Sigh ……..

    Anyway, the new gansey is a stunner and I’m sure you have plenty of them to come in the future.

  • Gordon

    Hi Lois, no one likes the sound of their own voice, you’re right. (I wonder if Morgan Freeman ever refuses to listen to himself because he hates his voice?)

    As they say about age, it’s not the years it’s the mileage… (oh. Bugger!)

  • Cam

    I am the youngest, and you are also younger than I am. My sister (two years older) believes she is 16; I stopped at 4, which has caused me no end of difficulty in life, but still provides me with a hearty sense of humor. It’s all in your mind . . . .

    • Gordon

      Hi Cam, I used to console myself with the old adage that You’re only as old as you feel, but since these days I feel about 70, that’s not the comfort it used to be…!

  • Debra Kuron

    As usual, you leave me in awe. I am giving in…my next project will be a gansey. I’m from the U.S. and we do have a few retailers that sell Frangipani wool. The sweater is for my husband who is a heavier man (a U.S. 2X or XXL). Do you think 2 500g cones will be sufficient? Just your opinion…

    Many thanks,
    Debra

    • Gordon

      Hi Debra, I knit ganseys for myself, a 42-ish-inch chest, to be 46 inches in the round. They average out at about 960-970 grams each – so I get some change from 2 x 500g Frangipani cones, but not much. You could always ask the good people there if they could do you 100g or 250g to top up the two cones if you’re worried, but I’d definitely ask them your question regardless – they will have a lot of experience helping new customers.

      Best of luck!
      Gordon

  • Judit M./Finland

    Well, I think I am the only non native English speaker in this parish, so I did not hear any “strong New Zealand accent “ . I enjoyed Gordon´s presentation and was happy understanding every word of it. Many thanks Gordon and Margaret for this most interesting blog.

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit, when I’m giving a talk, or in this case talking into an iPad set to record, I do become more precise and clipped in my speech, and more “English’ sounding. But you’d never guess my provenance from hearing me talk, unless you caught me after I’d been speaking to some Kiwis – then it’s ‘fush and chups” with a vengeance!

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