I celebrated my 56th birthday last week—though now I come to think about it, perhaps “celebrated” isn’t exactly the word. (Commiserated? Maudlined? Whining-self-pitied?) Anyway, as a treat, Margaret offered to bake me a cake of my choosing.
After detailed internet searches involving algorithms, spreadsheets and an army of trained field mice (it’s great—they work for crumbs), I finally came up with the chocolate cake of my dreams, a platonic ideal of an ur-cake, so dark and rich and moist we’ve already been approached by several Texans asking if they can sink an exploratory well. It’s dense enough to have its own event horizon, and it’s possible that we may have discovered simultaneously both dark matter and the fact that it goes nicely with chocolate frosting.
Even a small quantity can be lethal. We’re eating it in centimetre cubes, and even then it sort of sinks to the bottom of your stomach where it slowly expands. (In my darker moments I’ve sometimes wondered what it must feel like to have the creature from Alien gestating inside you; now I have a pretty good idea.)
Under these circumstances any kind of activity, such as standing up, is out of the question, so it’s lucky that knitting is the kind of hobby that one can do while paralysed from the stomach downwards. Reader, I have finished the back, and you can now see the pattern in all its damson glory.
Couple of things to note: first of all, as in the original, there aren’t shoulder straps as such—the pattern just goes all the way to the top of the shoulder, where front and back will be joined. This wasn’t common practice, as far as I can tell, but it’s not unknown—the photos in Gladys Thompson for the Patrington & Withernsea gansey, for example, are similar.
I’d hoped that the Johnston Collection (to which the original photo belongs) would be back online by now, but I understand that might take a while yet. And as the whole point of doing this pattern was so you could see how our re-creation matches the original, it’s a bit frustrating! Now, no one respects copyright law more than I—it’s my job, after all—but under the circumstances I hope no one will mind if we show a partial image of the original yoke here for comparison. (And as soon as the collection is back online I’ll post a link to it.)
As I said last week, we can’t match the original exactly—the stitch and row gauge on that were far too fine—but on the whole we’re rather pleased with it.
Returning to the question of being old: for my birthday last week, not only did I get a cake, I got my biennial bowel screening test kit from NHS Scotland. Reading the instructions, I’m glad to see that it’s moving with the times. Whereas two years ago the advice was to try to catch enough matter to use as a sample as it exited the body (on a bad day not unlike grouse shooting on the Scottish moors in a blizzard); now one is advised to place a container in the bottom of the toilet bowl and aim in its general direction, like the crew of a Lancaster bomber trying to destroy a dam in the Ruhr.
As for me, I’ve decided to adopt the technique recommended by Sigourney Weaver in Aliens when faced with a similar situation: “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure…”