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Wick Trees and Diamonds Revisited: Week 6 – 7 February

It’s always gratifying when a gansey comes together and you wake up one morning to find it’s almost finished, the end clearly in sight. That’s the case this week, with just the last bit of sleeve and cuff to go. All things being equal I’ll finish it this week. This is the third time I’ve knitted this pattern in just over a year: it’s a bit of a shock to think I’ve probably knitted it more than any other except the classic Staithes/Henry Freeman of Whitby. And yet it’s such a great pattern I doubt if I’m finished with it yet.

Approaching Squall

Now, there are many disadvantages to growing old—hair loss, the lack of tunes in modern music, knees happening to other people—but this week I discovered a sinister new one: getting dressed while my mind is elsewhere, so that I put on back to front my—well, given children and pets might inadvertently see this blog, I shouldn’t be indelicate—let us say, my unmentionables. I didn’t notice right away, not till I was at work, which then required some nimble footwork in a toilet cubicle as I attempted to make the necessary adjustment without letting any scrap of clothing touch the floor. To an impartial observer I must’ve looked like someone trying to Morris dance while performing a striptease, something I must remember to suggest to the lads at the next practice.

And just what distracted me at the crucial moment, I hear you ask? (Or at least I would, if I hadn’t shut the window. I mean to say, it’s cold.) Reader, it was a new fountain pen.

Along the Path

A little over a decade ago I started treating myself to a new pen whenever I had something big to celebrate. (I never buy a fountain pen when I’m feeling down: not only would I bankrupt myself in a few weeks, I’d always associate them with sad memories; and I think writing with a nice pen should always be joyous.) So when I started my new role at work last month I ordered one I’ve had my eye on for a while. It’s my first Japanese fountain pen, and it’s a thing of beauty. But I really bought it because the barrel is transparent and lets you see how much ink is in there, and it fills using a vacuum method (basically, you stick it in some ink, depress a plunger and *insert technical information here* you have a barrelful of ink. At least I think that’s how it works).

Harbinger of Spring

I’ve accumulated a small collection of pens down the years, and each one takes me back to a particular time and place as surely as hearing an old record (from the time when people wrote music with proper tunes, I mean). I fear the tide of history is ebbing, and I’m in danger of being left stranded: by using a fountain pen, by telling the time by a pocket watch, by wearing a tie at work, by still occasionally listening to Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Rolling Stone magazine: “You can’t dance to it, can’t keep a beat to it, and it doesn’t even make good background music for washing the dishes”). If so, I shall accept my fate with a good grace, and go to meet my maker proudly with bluish ink stains on my thumb and index finger…

19 comments to Wick Trees and Diamonds Revisited: Week 6 – 7 February

  • Nigel Southworth

    So, will there be a fountain pen to memorialise the crackers round the wrong way?

    • Gordon

      Hi Nigel, I’m trying to imagine the scene after my death, when my literary mementoes are donated to the British Library, and they say, “And this is the pen he treated himself to after the celebrated underwear malfunction”. Librarian: “Let me just put on my latex gloves…”

  • Ruth

    Fountain pens rule! (Says the woman who collects them even more compulsively than she collects yarn.) This one is a beauty, all right. May it give you many hours (and pages) of writing pleasure!

  • Song

    I have an obscene amount of fountain pens and it doesn’t look like I’ll be stopping buying them any time soon. <3 They're the BEST.

  • Meg Macleod

    Beautiful knitting as per usual I’m so impressed at your production rate interesting..your appreciation of pens..is their an official name for a pen collector

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, there’s no official name for a pen collector, though I see “stylophile” is gaining some traction – the only time I’ve ever likely to be associated with any kind of style…

  • Laura

    Fabulous fountain pen Gordon. John bought me a Scriveiner Art Deco, British racing green fountain pen for my birthday. It is a thing of beauty. I also have a large collection of watches…Laura

    • Gordon

      Hi Laura, British racing green is a cracking colour for a pen! And that’s a lovely pen.

      I’ve got two watches: a pocket watch for every day and a wrist watch for meetings when I need to slyly keep track of the time!

  • =Tamar

    Oh, that pen sounds wonderful. I used to have one that filled by squishing it sideways, nothing so clearly elegant as a plunger, but used the same principle. You had to squish it sideways before placing the tip in the ink, and then repeat a few times just to be sure.

    And another gansey to prepare to celebrate soon, as well. They say the classic neck was designed to allow wearing it back to front, and maybe even inside out, depending on how dark it was below-decks. Maybe by an aging seaman?

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I prefer pens that use the barrel to hold the ink, rather than a cartridge converter – though the latter are rather easier to clean out if you want to change inks!

      Ganseys were indeed reversible, though I assumed that was to help them last longer. The herring fishing season here lasted July-September, when it gets light by about 3.00am and dark after 10.00pm – so you’re right, you’d have to be below decks to be dressing in the darkness.

      • =Tamar

        My best old pen had a tiny lever to raise that squished the rubber ink-container inside the solid barrel. I had to rinse it out after using it daily or it would clog. It’s somewhere around here in a Good Safe Place, because the nib wore out. I didn’t buy it; I literally found it on the side of a road.
        It never leaked, unlike the cartridge pens.

  • Melissa Simpson

    Interesting – I put on my trousers backwards & wondered why my hands didn’t go right into the pocket as usual. And I too sent for a fountain pen. I also bemoan the lack of tunes in popular music or even melodic “pretty” voices which are not in yelling mode.

    The sweater is so gosh darned handsome. Phew.

    • Gordon

      Hi Melissa, well, as a Bob Dylan fan I can’t really complain about the fact that nobody can hold a tune anymore! Someone described his voice as sounding like a bridge troll’s riddle played backwards, which sounds about right… 😀

  • I bought a new Montblanc limited edition pen for each book I published. Good thing I only wrote 4 books as they are not inexpensive! But no regrets — I have the Ingrid Bergman, Great Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Virginia Woolf Montblanc pens.

    • Gordon

      Hi Wendy, one of these days I will treat myself to a Montblanc pen! (Or four…) I have three Pelikans, which are about at the top of my range.

      There are many reasons to despair over modern politics, but the main one for me is that Teresa May and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson signed legislation with a fancy rollerball pen, not a proper fountain pen! No wonder the country’s going to the dogs…

  • Lee

    I’d like to pick up on the sartorial ‘left behind by the tide of time’ comment near the end. I used to live in a medieval house which was nearly impossible to heat. So I did the sensible thing, I looked at old paintings to see what people used to wear at home before central heating. After several experiments, I found the combination of Tudor cloak and Erasmus hat did the trick – like instantly putting the heating on on a frosty morning.

    I live in a tiny house now, which is not overlooked, so I still wear the cloak and hat during the winter, which I estimate saves me a few cubic metres of firewood per winter.

    One morning, I exited the house to find three men outside, the local mayor and two men from the electricity company. So I had to have a serious, one hour conversation about burying the cables to my house, dressed like an extra from a Tudor drama !

    I’ve no idea what they must have thought. They were French, so perhaps I just conformed to an eccentric English stereotype?

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