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Wick IV – George McKay: 24 July

4W160723-2The funfair’s back, down by the Riverside—you can almost see it from our house, and judging by the flashing lights and pounding music every evening it’s as if the spaceship from Close Encounters has landed in Wick. (Apparently a signal transmission containing Saturday Night Fever has just reached their home world, and now they’re trying to communicate with the citizens of Earth using the music of the Bee Gees…)

I’m not a big fan of funfairs, to be honest. The rides always make me feel like I’m trying out for NASA moon landings, while the overall experience feels like a tawdry Las Vegas theme park in a damp field with added sheep. (Mind you, if I ever did find myself in Las Vegas I’d probably experience sensory overload, and the medical team would have to bathe my temples with lavender water and read Proust to me while I listened to Wagner in a darkened room until I recovered.)


The view up the river

Meanwhile the latest gansey has rolled off the production line, polished and sparkling and ready for a test drive. I must say, I’m really rather chuffed with it: not only for the pattern, which is an instant classic, nor the thrift of reusing old yarn (which was a bit of a pain); but it’s soft and chunky and comfortable, and it already feels like I’ve had it for years, a good sign.

I’ve started the next gansey, a classic Scarborough pattern in Frangipani bottle green, but I’ll say more about that next week.

In other news, I went back to see the consultant at Inverness hospital about my swollen lips. In the last few months you’ll remember I’ve tried eliminating all the likely causes of an allergic reaction (cinnamates, sulphates, crisps, chocolate, etc.), and then reintroducing them—starting, purely in the interests of scientific research you understand, with chocolate—but the situation’s remained more or less the same: no major flare-ups of ulcers, but my lips are still rather puffy, my mouth still sensitive.


Grass seedheads and Valerian

The consultant poked and prodded, and asked me questions like “Have you been anywhere exotic?” (I told him I’d been to Northampton, but apparently that doesn’t count). We agreed it was probably an allergy, but he’s keeping me on his books a little longer as there’s just a remote chance it could still turn into something serious.

“Now, when you say serious,” I prompted. He affected nonchalance. “Oh,” he said, “you know. Tuberculosis.” At which point my eyes came out on little stalks like a snail’s and the nurse had to hold me down for a bit. (It’s absolutely not TB, of course—the odds were always vanishingly small, and are now even smaller; and as he said, if I develop it now it’d be so rare I’ll be famous ever after in medical textbooks—not exactly what I meant by wanting to see my name published.)

4W160723-1Well, I’ve got another six months before I can be safely discharged. In the meantime, meals have turned into a sort of culinary Russian roulette, never knowing which mouthful will prove the trigger for another outbreak. Hmm, I wonder—could Hotel Chocolat truffles be the cause? There’s only one way to find out…

22 comments to Wick IV – George McKay: 24 July

  • Lynne

    The navy gansey looks very smart on you so no wonder you feel ‘at home’ in it. Last year when I ripped out a gansey I had knit six years before and then re-knitted in a different size and pattern, I was amazed how beautifully the ‘used’ yarn worked up. It looked new and unused and I am so pleased with the ‘new’ gansey.
    As always, I look forward to the new color and pattern!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne,

      Well, the question now is, does it feel so comfortable because the yarn was re-used, or was it just that brand of yarn? So I’ll have to do some scientific tests over the next few months to see. But like you I’m impressed at how well re-used yarn knits up—though in the case, perhaps because it was so old (at least a decade), I did have a few problems with frayed strands; and though I got most of them, there are one or two stitches that are literally hanging by a thread…

  • Judit M./Finland

    Gordon, Congrats to the new gansey. Perfect fit, no bulky sleeves, classic color. Best regards and happy knitting again as usual .

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit, and thank you! I think, after 30 years, I’m just about getting the hang of this gansey knitting lark…

  • Jane

    Very, very nice. Many congrats Gordon, just lovely work. The colour is spot on, and the pattern and fit just super. I think it will stand you in very good stead for a long time.

    My daughter, who used to have some strange and extreme reactions to food soldiered on for years, and slowly we devised a sort of diet that suited her, that didn’t give her dreadful rashes. We tended to avoid all added food colours and flavours, no processed food of any kind, careful with dairy, everything was simple and organic. It took time, but eventually worked quite well, maybe you do it already. When she was about 20 she got one of the Chinese medical shops to test her hair, strong reaction to dairy and soap products, no nylon next to the skin. It was very interesting! Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      There are a bunch of things that cause this kind of reaction, and i tried cutting out all of them to no avail—the consultant (although he won’t admit as much) secretly thinks this is a sign that it’s not really an allergy but something else, and he’s watching me like a poisoner waiting to see the drug take effect and his victim start foaming at the mouth and keel over. So far it’s a stand-off!

  • Caroline

    Gorgeous ganzee!

    Have you been tested for grasses? I’m severely allergic to grasses, and as I live in a rural area of Northumberland, it can be a huge struggle! One of my symptoms is tingly, swollen lips. As my allergy is so severe, at the height of the grasses season, I become sensitive to just about everything. It’s no fun at all. I do hope you find answers.

    • Gordon

      Hello Caroline, thanks for the comment!

      I had the standard allergy tests a few years ago (long before this particular thing kicked off), which showed that yes, I am allergic to something, but it’s not one of the very common allergies such as grass, pollen, cats or dust (bit a relief that last one, seeing as how I’m an archivist and dust rather goes with the job!).

      Northumberland is such a beautiful county it seems particularly unfair to have an allergy that spoils one’s enjoyment of the environment—you have my sympathy.

      • =Tamar

        “A few years ago” means the results are out of date. Allergies can be acquired, unfortunately. On the other hand, I’ve also heard of someone whose allergies went away, so maybe there’s some hope.

        • Hi Tamar, I live in hope! No, wait—i live in Wick. (Damn, for a minute I thought I was onto something there…)

          That’s good point about allergies—I should ask about getting the known one re-tested, perhaps.

  • lorraine

    Gordon- Do you realize that people in Hollywood endure the torture of injections to get lips like that????

    The gansey is wonderful and wearable, and looks great on you. Congrats.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lorraine, that’s all very well, but I have to say that looking like Joan Rivers in her seventies wasn’t exactly the look I was aiming for at this stage of my life!

      I’m a big fan of these simple patterns—they’re so effective, and while I love cables and Hebridean intricacy, these are the gansey equivalent of a Shaker chair—simple, yet elegant and a perfect fit of form and function.

  • =Tamar

    Gorgeous picture.
    Nice gansey, too…
    I think the fact that the yarn was used for a while does affect its texture, and thus a newly-reknit gansey feels old and comfortable. Hmm. That could be a good reason to recycle yarn into “new” garments. Imagine if all old clothing could be remade that way, so all “new” clothes would feel as comfortable as old clothes.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar, I think there’s a lot in what you say. Certainly it was noticeable that after knitting with Frangipani, which is quite tightly spun, for a year or two, this yarn was much looser and knit up softer. But I’ll have to knit another with new Wendy yarn, or equivalent, to know for sure.

    One thing’s certain, I;m not going to rip out all my old gansey and reknit them just for added comfort, tempting though it is!

  • Julie

    A handsome Gansey on a stud of a model.
    Fine work.
    Lovely photo of grass seed heads and valerian.
    VIctoria, BC

    • Gordon

      Hi Julie,

      You must be referring to Brian, my stunt double, who I employ to stand in for me at dangerous or potentially embarrassing moments, like parachuting out of a helicopter over a volcano, or having my photo taken in a gansey at John O’Groats (both embarrassing and dangerous). I’ll pass it on!

  • Ebbie

    That’s how you know you are an expert knitter – when the thing you’ve knitted achieves that beautiful balance of fit and style and craft. Congrats! Not that this is the first such example, but it’s certainly one of the best!

    • Gordon

      Hello Ebbie, well, one person’s expert is another person’s blind luck! But this is one reason why I want to revisit some of my favourite patterns from down the years, while I feel I’m on top of my game. (This way I’ll have enough to last me through my old age, at least…)

  • Lois

    May you live to wear out every gansey you own!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois – thank you! And in the immortal words of Woody Allen, I don’t want to achieve immortality through my works, I want to achieve it by not dying…

  • Sharon in Surrey

    I really like the look of that gansey Gordon. The pattern didn’t look like much when you were knitting but it sure did improve with a body in it!!! Well worth the squinting & strained eyes – why it looks like it was made for you!!! Maybe the yarn has improved with washing – I’m sure it’s been washed several times by now. New yarn just doesn’t have that softness & ‘old shoe’ feeling.
    Can’t wait to see the ‘bottle green’ one!!!

    • Gordon

      Thanks, Sharon—I think you’re right about the softness of old yarn. Though whether it’s worth it for all the broken threads and knots is another matter…

      I guess the answer is to get it right first time and then wash your gansey a lot!

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