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Wick (John Macleod), Week 2: 3 December

Keep your distance, everyone: I’ve caught a cold. Luckily it’s not the dreaded “man flu”, which scientists now recognise as the most deadly ailment mankind can endure (huggymanlove.com is a reputable, peer-reviewed science journal, right?); and luckily it’s already getting better. But it’s got into my chest, and I’ve developed a sort of cyclical whooping hack of a cough. On hearing me on the street last week two respectably-dressed ladies pressed shillings into my hand, urging me not to spend it all on drink; I sound like someone letting the water out of a bathtub while tickling a hyperventilating donkey.

On the plus side it’s December, which means that it’s practically compulsory to lose oneself in classic winter’s tales of childhood. My personal favourites include Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, John Gordon’s The Giant Under the Snow, and John Masefield’s The Box of Delights; even Ratty and Mole getting trapped in the wild wood, and spending Christmas Eve in Mole’s old burrow in The Wind in the Willows; and, of course, the daddy of them all, The Muppet Christmas Carol.

It was rather windy last Wednesday

I’ve only to hear certain phrases—”The wolves are running”, “The Walker is abroad”, or “Why, it’s Fozziwig’s rubber chicken factory!”—and I’m there, in a frozen pagan landscape, stamping my feet in the snow beside the stone circle, waiting for the antlered horseman to appear and the wild hunt to begin. Mind you, there was a time one phrase from The Dark is Rising—“This night will be bad, and tomorrow will be beyond imagining”—seemed to sum up my situation at work so well I virtually adopted it as a motto.

Ganseys. I’m slowly making my way up the body of the new gansey. My brain seems to be fighting the pattern—blocks of three knit, followed by purl-knit-purl-knit-purl, and repeat—so it’s not coming automatically, and I have to keep counting and stopping and checking. I’m sure some of this is down to the cold, and the general sense that gravity must’ve increased when I wasn’t paying attention. Plus the ribbed effect draws in the stitches on the needles, so I have to work a little harder to move them round as I go. But it’s making a very pleasing effect, I must say: as if I was knitting one of those cakes with sponge fingers laid upright around the sides.

Reflections of Trees

Finally this week, a story that’s cheered me up immeasurably. I read that a few years ago Aberdeen was voted Britain’s most miserable city, or some such, so a national newspaper sent a reporter up to interview the locals. The first person the reporter spoke to was an old man at a bus stop. He asked him what he thought about the story. The old man threw away his cigarette, glared at the reporter and said, “**** off”.

As the old saw goes, It’s not the cough that carries you off/ It’s the coffin they carry you off in…

12 comments to Wick (John Macleod), Week 2: 3 December

  • Lois

    You’re a brave man to persevere on the gansey while fighting off hordes of cold germs. The little wretches seem to make the brain cells feel like they are wrapped in cotton wool, so it’s not much wonder that the stitch pattern feels awkward.

    I’ve knit that type of pattern before, and it seems as if the rhythm of stitches is an unnatural one. It doesn’t flow easily somehow, as if trying to drive a standard shift car and not able to get the clutch and gas pedals coordinated, so the vehicle proceeds in jerks and shudders.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, the great guitarist Julian Bream once described a bad performance as “fingers like a bunch of bananas”, and I can’t think of a better way to describe what it feels like. The pattern was definitely common up here in Caithness, and my admiration for the old knitters knows no bounds!

  • =Tamar

    I wonder, would it help to think of it as blocks of four:
    purl-knit-knit-knit, purl-knit-purl-knit
    It makes a syncopated little chant, anyway.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, it sounds like someone trying to write down the steps of the Charleston, doesn’t it? Except I don’t have, and have never had, rhythm…

  • Claire

    I love the Dark is Rising and the Box of Delights too!
    Get well soon and happy knitting

  • ruan

    Oh I must get out the dark is rising and have a reread, and possibly the lion the witch and the baldy bloke (hang on wasn’t that a bad headline from the 80’s) glad your not as bad as you sound 😀 and keep the money for a swift nip to help fight off the worst! only 18 days before the days start getting longer again!

    • Gordon

      Hi Ruan, those of us of the follically challenged persuasion find it particularly tough at this time of year – hats are now an important part of my life!

      I think the Lion, the Witch and the Baldy bloke was the original title of the Wizard of Oz, wasn’t it?

  • Lynne

    I really like this pattern, Gordon, and when blocked it should really “pop” in that color. Some lovely blipfotos this week, Margaret, I especially like the St.Fergus one with the reflections.

    • Gordon

      Hello Lynne, and thank you! I’m hoping this one will be like one of those origami puzzles where after an eternity of snipping you stand back, spread it wide, and the hidden shape emerges. That’s the hope, anyway…

  • Kate

    I had just been pondering another re-read of ‘The Dark is Rising’, I loved the books as a child and as with the Lord of the Rings they continue to give pleasure with each new decade. Hope you feel better soon!
    That Aberdeen story made me giggle 🙂 Full respect to the old man!

    • Gordon

      Thanks, Kate. I love The Dark is Rising, though a part of me always prefers the early scenes, before young Will finds his destiny, and he’s just a scared wee boy lost in a wilderness of snow…

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