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Scotland, Week 1: 14 August

I went to the doctor last week as it’s 6 months since I started taking the antidepressant medication. I asked him how much longer I might need to take it.

‘Well, now. Suppose you won the lottery,’ he said, sitting back in his chair and steepling his fingers like Sherlock Homes. ‘Do you think you would still need it then?’ And when I admitted, possibly not, he filled a meerschaum pipe with the tobacco he kept in a lady’s slipper on the desk, lit it and said: ‘Then I think, my dear Watson, that you’ve just answered your own question.’

While I was there I was also going to ask him about this chesty cough I’ve got, but as he said there was a countess waiting to see him concerning the theft of some diamonds I thought I’d better come back another time. (Anyway, I’d got those lottery tickets to buy.)

Meanwhile, the Whitby gansey has been washed and blocked and is drying gently on its boards. What a wonderful pattern it is! And how well navy as a colour suits it. Now I’m impatient to try it on. And my new project, a Wick-Hebrides hybrid in Frangipani pistachio for a friend, is starting to grow nicely on the needles. I’ll post details of the patterns anon, but for now it’s just fun to knit.

Edinburgh: tourists flock to the coffee house where Harry Potter was ‘born’

And suddenly it’s the end of school summer holidays in Scotland and the football season has started. How on earth did this happen? The last time I looked it was July, and everyone was wearing shorts (yes, I know: even here). Mind you, this is how I feel looking in a mirror and staring 60 in the face, and it’s my own face staring back. Still, there’s one good thing about autumn—if ever there was a time to wear a gansey, this is it. Jeeves advised Bertie Wooster to don evening dress when his morale needed a boost; and this is what ganseys mean to me. I’ve said before how therapeutic knitting has been for me in recent months, but it’s more than that—every gansey I knit now is a statement, an act of defiance, two fingers stuck up against my illness.

As so often, Dylan Thomas said it best, in a little-known early draft of his famous poem: “Do not go gentle into that good night/ Knit, knit against the dying of the light/ But make sure you use a bulb that’s bright/ Preferably one of those ones that simulate daylight…” Can’t think why he changed it, really.

21 comments to Scotland, Week 1: 14 August

  • Lois

    Gordon, you are an utter hoot! While you retain that sense of humour, you don’t need the lottery.

    And the Whitby gansey is just perfection. Between the colour and the pattern, it doesn’t get much better than that.

    Well, maybe except for Flamborough. But I’m sure you will excuse my addiction.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, well, I hope you’ll forgive me if I win the jackpot on Saturday! (Triumph of hope over experience…) As for Flamborough, yes, I know what you mean—in fact I have some reddish Frangipani yarn on my shelf that is earmarked for a Flamborough gansey sometime in 2018. (As I’ve said before, I want to revisit some of my favourite patterns before I hand in my needles; unfortunately that’s over a dozen ganseys!)

      • Lois

        Your ESP is working well today. I just raided the local yarn store (which is going out of business – sniff, sniff, boohoo) and came back with a load of dark cherry red yarn earmarked for a Flamborough gansey with saddle shoulders.

        But don’t hold your breath until you see it ………

  • Julie

    It is a blue ribbon winner, Gordon. Beautiful. Wear it in good health.
    I close each day by listing 3 things that brought me joy. I never have to look far. Your finished gansey will be one for me today.
    Julie
    Victoria, BC, Canada

    • Gordon

      Thank you Julie, what a nice sentiment. (In my case, I wouldn’t have to look further than the 3 Tescos’ finest chocolate biscuits with my name on that I plan to celebrate by devouring tonight, with a gusto reminiscent of Fantastic Mr Fox attacking a chicken!) In fact, I’m just about to unpin it and try it on. Fingers crossed…

  • Jane

    No need to cross your fingers with that gansey, if it was a stick of rock, it would say “winner” all the way through! And the shoulder treatment is wonderful. My husband plays the euro lottery on line, he wins tiny amounts quite regularly, just enough to keeping covering the ticket cost, but no jam, and then who needs jam with garments like this!

    By the way of gulls’ eating habits, the black rehomed cat is fond of eating baby rabbit, ears and head first, very troubling! If you ever see those boxes of broken biscuits, such as they sell in agricultural stores, they are very good, especially the chocolate box, very cheering! Super new pattern, take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, I can report that it’s off the blocks and fits to a T, so it’s now going to be my favourite go-to gansey. Something of a relief, to be honest! And I do have fond memories of coming down and seeing half a baby rabbit on this side of the cat flap, knowing that the other half was waiting for me outside…

  • Dave

    If the lottery doesn’t come up, there’s always laudenham. Good to see you on form Gordon. Great pullover too.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, well as I was going the doctor did murmur something about a “seven per cent solution”, but at that stage I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or to himself…

  • Eve

    Mrs Laidler looks wonderful! Really is ‘the one’. WIPs nearly resolved and the half completed rag rug ‘lost’ in the spare room so not long now until I can get started. Doing some steady revision on your blog and stocking up on broken biscuits and box sets. Thanks for the inspiration roll on autumn!

    • Gordon

      Hi Eve, autumn? Judging by today’s weather we’re on to full blown winter up here! It’s talking books that gets me through my projects, everything from Paddington bear stories to James Joyce’s Ulysses (so far Paddington is winning by two falls and a submission).

  • =Tamar

    The blue gansey is perfect, but I must admit the green one immediately caught my eye. I bought a picture card this weekend and realized after I’d picked it up that the man in it was wearing a fine classic gansey, but one that was shockingly worn. It looked as though he’d leaned against a barbed wire fence or something – actual holes on the back of the shoulder! I wanted to reach into the photo and repair it.

    I haven’t checked my lottery tickets yet…

    • Gordon

      Hello Tamar, that’s interesting. Quite a few of the photos in the Sutcliffe collection of old fishermen in Whitby show ganseys with gaping holes—real working ganseys. Which no doubt goes far to explain why so few old examples survive into the present.

      Though it gives me an idea for a brilliant new TV show – “Stitch in Time” – in which an elite team of gansey knitters use time travel to go back into the past to darn frayed knitwear in old photos and paintings. The first episode (“A Bit of Ruff”) shows them going back to sort out Shakespeare’s collars. It practically sells itself.

  • Oh a laugh and an eyeful of beauty for a rainy day. What could be better? Love both ganseys.

  • Jan

    Hi Gordon, here’s a fact. I love facts, as you well know. If a person wins a huge amount on the lottery and another loses a leg, in couple of year’s time who will be the happiest? Actually, it’s said that both people will, after a) euphoria, and b) despair, rise or fall to roughly the emotional ‘happy’ place where they were before the win or the accident. Alas, your doctor was misguided and probably very materialistic. My advice is to save your lottery ticket money. And whatever you do, watch out for the legs…

    Love your posts, as always. I have only had the jumper you knitted on me a couple of times; it hasn’t been cold enough where i am even in the midst of winter, and when I thought it was, I got too hot and had to take it off! I do promise to get a photo off to you of it on my venerable (and nowadays sweaty – that’s the manopause for you) person.

    All the best,

    Jan

    • Gordon

      Hi Jan, great to hear from you as always. I suppose a doctor is the very definition of a materialist, now i come to think about it. Though it makes me wonder—OK, maybe not a whole leg, but what about, say, a couple of toes? Is there, if you’ll forgive the expression, some wiggle room…?

      I hardly wore ganseys when I lived near Taunton either—it was a very temperate climate. Unsurprisingly, that’s all changed since we moved to Wick. (Also, the words “thermal” and “underwear” began to take on an unexpected relevance…!)

  • Lynne

    Such a classic, that Whitby navy is, another great job, Gordon. That pistachio is a really fun color and the zig-zags sure ‘pop’ out, I look forward to seeing the graph.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, I toyed briefly with the idea of trying to knit a gansey in every Frangipani colour, but common sense prevailed when I realised that (a) there are getting on for 30 colours, and (b) they keep bringing out new ones. Confession time: I haven’t done a graph for it, I just worked out how wide it needed to be and improvised. But I’ll try to write one for next week!

  • meg macleod

    one of my favourite poems!even with your alterations….love your knitting.its a known fact[so THEY say]that being `down` gives rise to creativitiy
    I suppose your friend Dylan is a good example.the landgirl has told me much about your knitting and
    poetry.I look forward to reading the latter sometime.meg

    • Gordon

      Hello Meg, and how nice to hear from you! Yes, Sharon’s spoken of you (of course) and I very much look forward to meeting up one of these days. (As for the poetry, well, somewhere up in heaven Dylan Thomas is putting down his pint glass and phoning the celestial copyright lawyers with a view to suing my sorry soul all the way to hell and back…)

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