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Wick III – Fergus Ferguson: 22 May

Funny thing, getting old. I’m observing myself age, like a scientific 3W160523-2experiment, monitoring the changes year by year: observing the gradual emergence of my scalp in the barber’s mirror, shining pinkly like a Japanese mountaintop fringed in cloud; not being able to see my toes past my stomach in much the same way that I can’t see Australia owing to the curvature of the Earth; and of course, wondering why no one writes music with really good tunes any more, dammit.

All these symptoms, however disappointing, are hardly unexpected. (As Philip Larkin, contender for Britain’s Least Optimistic Poet, once put it, “This is the first thing / I have understood / Time is the echo of an axe / Within a wood.”) But then there’s the whole mind thing, which is a little unsettling.

3W160523-1Last week I took a bath, towelled myself off and, after footling about a bit in the bedroom, started downstairs. I was vaguely aware that something wasn’t quite right—a sort of airiness around those parts of my anatomy that aren’t normally exposed to playful breezes—until, on looking down, I discovered that I had absent-mindedly neglected to get dressed.

Now, I know I’m not alone here: the great Archimedes, upon discovering the principle of displacement, had a similar bath time experience: and he gets his own Wikipedia page. All the same, when I get to the stage where I have to remember to check I’m wearing pants before leaving the bedroom, I fear a line has been crossed.

3W160518-1Ah, well, I have at least been making progress on the gansey (or “emergency modesty blanket” as I now like to think of it). The pattern on the first sleeve is completed and I’m well underway on the plain section to the cuff, decreasing two stitches every 7th row. This sleeve should be finished by next week’s blog.

3W160523-3In parish notices, the ganseys come thick and fast. This week Karen has sent me a picture of a very natty gansey based on Gladys Thompson’s Whitby patterns, with an elegantly shaped neck and a really pleasing combination of cables and diamonds and moss. (What did I say? Yorkshire ganseys—they’re the cat’s pyjamas, as Bertie Wooster would say.) Many congratulations to her.

And as for aging—well, I’m interested to read that some theoretical physicists have questioned whether time actually exists. (Though, as others have pointed out, they’re still suspiciously punctual for meals.) I like the idea that everything that has ever existed, or will exist, will endure simultaneously as long as the universe does, and that our consciousness just rides the rails of time like a runaway train. But if I have to get old, well, at least it’s better than the alternative; which is, to quote Philip “Mr Chuckles” Larkin again, “the only end of age”…

14 comments to Wick III – Fergus Ferguson: 22 May

  • Lois

    I really really like that sleeve pattern. The plain lower sleeve will set it off perfectly.

    IMHO age is only a number. My 74 year old husband can outwork and outlift most of the 20 year olds around here, and can repair a 3 storey roof, even if the knees are getting creaky.

    Our 96 year old neighbour recently took a tumble and broke an ankle. She had been acting in a stage play. And had just returned from a trip to Africa. She keeps house alone and is still driving.

    On the other hand, I see plenty of young squirts around here whose brain cells have ossified already. Maybe if they put down the cellphones, they might have a life.

    Natter, natter, mumble, mumble from the old nag knitting in the corner

    • Gordon

      Hello Lois, while I agree that age is just a number, I can’t help noticing that it’s number that seems to get bigger each year… (Mind you, I would’ve baulked at repairing a dolls’ house roof at the age of twenty, never mind a 3-storey roof at 74!) My idea of an active old age is being lissom enough to reach out and help myself to another chocolate from the box by my elbow. Then perhaps a nap to recover.

  • Ebbie

    I love the sleeve pattern. Beautiful. I got in the car and started off to work in my slippers the other day. Which I’m sure just shows I tend to favor comfortable footwear for all occasions and not that I’m getting old and forgetful,

  • Jane

    Gosh, Gordon, even the sleeves of this gansey are so intricate, what a wonderful garment this is! And the mystery gansey is coming along so nicely!

    Now remember, you are only as old as you feel and the trick is to stay jolly inside! Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, if you’re as old as you feel then I’m buggered, quite frankly!

      I like to think of the navy gansey as a sort of quantum thought experiment, a sort of Schroedinger’s Gansey. Until I reach the yoke and have to settle on a pattern it can be anything, any pattern. But as soon as I knit the first stitches the phase space collapses and it can only be one of them. At the moment there are three ganseys trying to be born, but two will have to wait their turn!

  • Jenny

    That sleeve pattern is divine, Gordon. Do you have a chart for it?

    I logged into your website early Monday morning Pacific Standard Time,the 23rd of May, and your blog was not online. Hmmmm, I wondered what could have caused the delay.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jenny, sorry, I meant to post the pattern this week and, what with one thing and another, I forgot. Next week, hopefully!

      Sometimes the servers of our hosting company go offline for maintenance for an hour at a time, now and then—I wonder if that was one of those times. (Mind you, a website I’m involved in through work just disappeared one day—erased from the internet. We frantically made some enquiries and it turned out th council hadn’t paid the bills so they just switched it off! Red faces all round…)

  • twinsetellen

    Hi, Gordon,
    I’m so pleased to have just discovered your blog after years of loving ganseys. And to combine them with beautiful and humorous prose and science references, too? Just wonderful.

    I will echo the positive comments above on the sleeve design, adding only (since you brought up Schroedinger) that I have an impression of diffraction patterns in my head as I look at them.
    Thanks so much for making the effort to share your thoughts and your knitting with us.

    • Gordon

      Hi Ellen, great to hear from you! Like the body, the sleeve pattern is an approximation of the original, which was knit on much finer needles, or with much finer fingers, than I’m using. (To me it resembles the ancient carvings on an alien temple, warning against the spider god and his sticky web of evil. That or a Christmas tree plantation planted by a forester with a passion for fiendish geometry.)

      Best wishes, Gordon

  • =Tamar

    I hadn’t seen that use of the tree pattern before. Turned sideways that way, it is marvelously geometric.
    If only it wouldn’t require knitting a gansey sideways to make that the main pattern on the body.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, the only suggestion I’ve been able to come up with is to try knitting it while lying on your side…?

  • Lorraine

    Gordon- did Margaret notice your lack of apparel?

    I really love the colour of this Gansey as well as the sleeve detail. I am still slogging away on the plain part of my son’s Filey-ish Gansey. I must knit myself a plum version next.

    • Gordon

      Hello Lorraine, luckily i was on my own at the time, so no horses or women were alarmed at my x-rated appearance (scenes of bad language and some cartoon violence).

      Damson in one of Frangipani’s happier inspirations. Serious enough to be respectable, but with a strand of electric purplish-indigo running through it which catches the light flamboyantly like a maiden aunt after one too many eggnogs at Christmas…

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