It’s the week before Christmas, and I’ve been signed off from work till the new year. The infection has pretty much cleared up but I’m still not fully recovered from the stress-cum-overwork, so the advice is to rest up and come back refreshed for 2017.
Well, knitting is about as relaxing an occupation as I know, so that’s mostly what I’ve been doing—as you can see by the progress I’ve made over the last week. I won’t quite manage seven ganseys during the calendar year of 2016 but I won’t be far off it at this rate.
You can see the pattern more clearly now, what I think of as the distinctive Wick gansey: a wide central panel divided into two or three horizontal bands, and flanked by three or more narrower side panels, including zigzags and moss stitch.
I’m finding that using Wendy’s yarn has had an effect on my row and stitch gauge; so that I am knitting at 7.7 stitches to the inch instead of 8, and 11½ rows to the inch instead of 12.75. So it’s definitely going to be roomy (which should still be fine—I have broad shoulders, so that although my chest size is 42 inches, I’m most comfortable in jumpers with a 48-inch chest).
In parish notices, Elizabeth has sent me pictures of a vibrant Fair Isle tam she’s knitted as a gift, which offers a welcome splash of colour in what has been a pretty monochrome season. (I do love Fair Isle, and at times think of one day giving up ganseys when I retire and just switching codes, like Sherlock Holmes giving up detecting and deciding to keep bees.) Many congratulations to Elizabeth: finding one of those in your stocking would be even better than a chocolate orange.
It doesn’t look as though we’ll get a white Christmas this year: so far December’s been dreary, grey, wet and mild. (As the old song says, “I’m dreaming of a Wick Christmas / When all the skies are dreary grey / And the weather’s boring / And the rain comes pouring / And the wind blows Santa’s sled astray…”)
I think Christmas is still, for me, the most wonderful time of the year. There are a whole jumble of reasons for this, partly tied up with childhood memories and the strangeness of snow, the way it alters a landscape and makes it unfamiliar and unsafe; and partly because it is one of the few times of year when I can make the emotional, imaginative leap to something like religious belief.
This is best summed up for me by Vaughan Williams’ Christmas cantata Hodie. In it, he sets Thomas Hardy’s poem The Oxen to hushed, mystical, magical music. The poem is all about the old legend that at midnight on Christmas Eve all cattle, descendants of those at the original Nativity, would kneel in reverence in their stable. Well, the narrator believed this when he was a child; but he’s older now. And yet, he says, if someone should say to him at midnight on Christmas Eve, “Come, see the oxen kneel”, he would still go, “hoping it might be so.”
And that is Christmas for me. For one night and day of the year, in spite of everything—and let’s be honest, 2016 can jolly well go to gosh-darned heck—I too would go. Hoping it might be so.
Happy Christmas, everyone.