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Wick VI – Scottish Flag, Week 4: 6 February

I read the other day that back in 1979 Mrs Thatcher, the late British Prime Minister, attended the premiere of the play “Amadeus” which shows Mozart as both potty-mouthed and immature, and was not amused. Afterwards she roundly upbraided the director of the National Theatre, Sir Peter Hall, for portraying the composer of such beautiful and profound music in this way. But Prime Minister, he replied, Mozart really did behave like that—he used obscenities. His own letters confirm it. But Mrs Thatcher was unmoved: “Mr Hall, I don’t think you heard what I said. It could not be!

Seaweed & Driftwood, Dunnet Beach

Now, given that Mozart’s catalogue includes the piece, “Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber” (K.231—look it up), I think Mrs Thatcher was talking out her—that is to say, I think she was mistaken. But the interesting thing is the way we can get an impression of an artist from their work that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.

When I listen to Wagner’s music, for instance, the long, ponderous operas about gods and legends, I can’t help remembering they were written by a man who used to slide down the banisters when he was happy, and do handstands, and climb the trees in his friends’ gardens for fun. Dvorak was a keen trainspotter. Beethoven used to count out exactly 60 beans every time he had a cup of coffee. Brahms was a notoriously shabby dresser and allegedly once had to use his tie to stop his trousers falling down. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, except that it seems to make their music more human, somehow.

Meanwhile in gansey news, while I’m still off work I’m continuing to make rapid progress. So I’ve finished the body, joined the shoulders with a standard rig ‘n’ fur shoulder strap, completed the collar and am a long way down the first sleeve. I may even get it finished by next time, but there’s a lot of knitting in a sleeve, so we’ll see. (As I’m knitting at approximately 8 stitches to the inch I picked up 144 stitches round the armhole, and am decreasing at 4 stitches every 11 rows.)

Waves at John o’Groats

In parish news, Mariah has sent me pictures of a splendid gansey knit for (and stylishly modelled by) her father, a striking combination of ladders, double moss stitch and cables; the colour really brings out the pattern very effectively. Many congratulations to Mariah, and apologies to her too for having to wait for Margaret’s return before we could post them.

And now I think I’ll go and listen to some Mozart. And imagine that, somewhere up in composer heaven, Margaret Thatcher is paying Mozart a visit and hasn’t yet realised that he’s put a whoopee cushion on her chair as he politely holds it out for her…

8 comments to Wick VI – Scottish Flag, Week 4: 6 February

  • Julie

    Yes, Mozart! There’s a lad who will cheer up the dullest day!

    You wrote that you are decreasing “4 stitches every 11 rows.” Did you mean 2 rather than 4? Or have you developed a new technique?

    Take care not to develop a tendinitis as you whiz on down the sleeves. The Gansey looks grand.

    Julie
    VIctoria, BC

    • Gordon

      Hi Julie, yes, you can’t go wrong with a spot of Wolfie. Piano Concerto number 18 is my current favourite.

      I found a decrease of 2 stitches every 6 rows was too slow, but every 5 rows was too fast. My goldilocks, or “butter zone”, is to alternate a 2-stitch decrease every 5th row and then every 6th row—hence 4 stitches every 11 rows. I was going to say that it takes a wee bit of concentration, but that would be a fib—I keep score on paper after each row, but if i miss one I don’t worry about it and just decrease the row after.

      Though the Wendy yarn knits up a bit less tightly than Frangipani, I find, so maybe every 5th row would have been better this time!

      Tendinitis is one problem, keeping my motivation going with such intense knitting is another!

  • Lois

    The thought of Maggie Thatcher meeting Donald Trump is just too delicious!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, not exactly a meeting of minds, you’d think… But then, it was a bit of a surprise that Thatcher would hit it off so well with Reagan—or even Tony Blair with George W (“Yo Blair!”) Bush, so who knows? The meeting I’d really like to be a fly on the wall for would be between right-wing, billionaire Donald Trump and left-wing socialist Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn…

  • Jane

    Great progress on the gansey, love the colour and the pattern, looking forward to seeing the completed garment. The navy shifts colour very slightly as the pattern changes, it gives such a nice colour variation.

    Mozart was a character wasn’t he! Then, I don’t suppose he would have been such an awesome composer otherwise. Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, navy is definitely one of my favourite colours. Is that just because I think of out as traditional? Perhaps. But (as with so many gansey yarns) I do like the way it changes colour with the light, from dull dark blue in shadow to iridescent electric blue in sunshine.

      As for Mozart, or any other composer or artist, my feeling is always enjoy the work and don’t worry too much who wrote it! Very few of them come out of a biography well…

  • =Tamar

    It seems that people who write biographies are sharply criticized (“plodding”) if they don’t find something sensational to reveal. Choices always have to be made, which is why you get things like the “actor’s resume'”, in which a walk-on is “appeared in”, saying “Yes, Ma’am” becomes “starred in”, and so on. or conversely, being the person who first noticed an unusual fact is relegated to an endnote in the appendix. If everyone were subjected to a biography, the same person could be portrayed as a wild-eyed drug-using (note, not “abusing” – almost everyone is on some prescription) extremist, _and_ as an entirely boring conservative nonentity. We could all be superstars in our favorite fields. Think if knitting were portrayed on national television the way football is: “Jean Miles has found another dropped stitch, will she succeed in picking it up? Meanwhile, Gordon Reid is cruising along toward the wrist, but there’s still the second sleeve, and anything could happen! Lifetime scores are […] with a lifetime accumulation of errors at […].”
    Biographies can be entertaining but they can never tell the whole story.

    • Gordon

      “In 2016 Reid seemed to be riding the crest of a wave, with access to historical documents, ruined bits of stone lying randomly in fields, and hand-knitted ganseys, that ordinary people could only dream of.

      Then it all came crashing down when in December 2016 he was secretly filmed by a reporter of the Wick and Achavanich Gazette leaving the sleazy “Four-Leaf Clover Club”, an exclusive club for gentlemen with select tastes and reputed to be a den of vice and leprechaun smuggling. Police subsequently raided his home and found incriminating evidence of shamrocks incompletely flushed down the toilet as well as half a dozen leprechauns concealed in a cupboard under some old pullovers…”

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