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Wick Trees and Diamonds Revisited: Week 4 – 24 January

I was walking past the dining room the other day when I thought I must’ve left the light on, it was so bright; only to discover that the cause was an unexpected shaft of sunlight. This tells us (a) quite a lot about Caithness winters, and (b) that spring is definitely on its way, even if it’s currently delayed by roadworks somewhere on the M6.

I’ve been reading about words this week, where they come from and how their meanings have shifted over time. Take history: from the Greek historia, it originally meant inquiry, and the knowledge arising from inquiry. Gradually it evolved to mean “the study of stuff that happened”, while story came to be associated with fiction. The his in history originally had nothing to do with the male possessive pronoun.


And I was interested to read that originally man just meant person. A male person was a wer-man, and a female was a wif-man. (Hence werewolf, which of course means man-wolf; which gives me an excuse to quote the great exchange between Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein when a wolf howls: “Werewolf!” “There wolf… there castle!”) Sometime after the Norman Conquest, wer-man shortened to just man, while wif-man lost the f and evolved into woman; and wif became a word in its own right, taking on the modern meaning of a married woman. (All of which just goes to prove that words are slippery little devils; and also that there’s almost nothing the English won’t blame on the French.) I suspect if Batman had been created in the Middle Ages we’d probably be calling him Bam by now.

Meanwhile, despite shafts of sunlight being few and far between, the gansey has its collar finished and the first sleeve begun. (N.B., credit for knitting the collar goes to Margaret—buttoned collars beyond the wit of man, or this man at any rate; a level of complexity that for me is rather like doing a Rubik’s cube while playing the piano.) Once I finish the pattern band I can freewheel down the sleeve until I reach [ominous organ chord] the cuff.

View from the end of the riverside path

In parish notices, it’s a double-header of Staithes ganseys this week to gladden the heart. First up is another stunner from Judit in red, and from Hannah in Frangipani navy. Staithes is one of my all-time favourite patterns—it’s a classic for a reason—and is probably the gansey I will choose to take with me on my journey to the afterlife (it may not protect me from my enemies, but at at least I’ll go down looking good). And these are cracking examples. So very many thanks to Judit, as ever, and Hannah, for sharing. (And apologies to everyone who’s contacted me in the last month or so with pictures or queries. You see, I’ve recently started a new role at work, and while it’s a blast it’s also very demanding; so much so that most evenings and weekends I just lie down in a coffin filled with soil from New Zealand to recuperate. So I’m sorry if you’re still waiting to hear back, please bear with me.)

Ruin at Sarclet Harbour

Finally, returning to history, it’s true that it doesn’t actually mean “his story”—as of course the feminists and others who coined “her story” and “my story” knew perfectly well. Their point was that history has traditionally been written from a male, privileged position, and it was time other perspectives were explored. Every generation has to write its own history, after all; and as one historian said, when accused to rewriting history at the height of the Black Lives Matter debate, “That’s literally our job…”

3 comments to Wick Trees and Diamonds Revisited: Week 4 – 24 January

  • Cam

    Hello, Gordon!

    I was told in college that “hero” derives from “hera,” which came from Zeus’ wife. So a heroine ought, by, rights, to be simply a hera. Doesn’t get much traction, though.


  • Judit M./Finland

    Many thanks Gordon for the Staithes. This pattern is fine in every color and it is easy even for beginners.
    Happy knitting week !

  • =Tamar

    I would say a heroine should just be a hero, from the story of Hero and Leander, in which Hero is the woman’s name.

    Oops, there goes the Bam-Signal.

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