The rain swept in overnight and bathed the countryside in lovely dampness here. This morning the clouds were still swirling by from the south-west, but by mid-morning the rain had eased off and everything had a wonderful scent of green growth. An early stem of montbretia by the little pond where the birds bathe was iridescent with raindrops.
Working indoors is a good idea when it's raining, so it was time for some elementary carpentry. You remember that lace crop cardi that is being planned as a tour de force for Bantry Show? The linen/cotton yarn had looked a little dull so I blended in a matching fine Lurex thread. Trouble was, the Lurex was wound on a straight cardboard tube and didn't unroll easily from the bag in which I kept the project. I was getting worried that it would stretch and snap. So down to the workshop for a hunt through offcuts and scraps.
Why is it that men can never bear to see women handling power tools? DH is in every other respect the model of Modern Man. He washes up more than I do, is supportive of new ideas before I've even had them, and will even take the dogs out last thing at night when I'm swearing over a frogged back row. But as soon as he hears me pulling things around in the basement workshop he's down there anxiously surveying his precious possessions and offering to do whatever needs doing. He didn't quite say 'Women and drills don't mix', but it was in his eyes. I could see it.
However, this was something I wanted to make myself. I knew what I wanted and if he got involved he'd only start making useful sensible suggestions. I wanted to make my own mistakes. And eventually he left me to it, albeit reluctantly, and I know perfectly well he kept an ear open upstairs for sudden crashes or bangs.
It didn't take all that long to make, although it's odd how screws, no matter how carefully you measure, have a propensity to go in at the wrong angle, and pull pieces of wood askew. Eventually I triumphed and after giving my new invention a coat of white paint, put it into use (yes, of course it was quick-drying emulsion, you don't think I'm going to hang around for oil paint to dry, do you?)
Here is the holder, sitting neatly on my Welsh spinning chair, with the WIP in front of it. See how it holds the tube of Lurex perfectly? I'm so proud of it! Don't laugh, it's my very own invention. And don't bother telling me somebody else has already invented it: that groundbreaking design came out of my head, from my needs, and I dare anyone to say different.
(Has one perhaps mistaken one's vocation? Should one have been a famous designer of furniture, of beautifully shaped wood creations that would be desired worldwide? Perhaps not. One's unfortunate habit of sawing planks unevenly, and bending nails when they're halfway in, would definitely tell against success.)
Nevertheless, this small success and the testing thereof meant that another few rows of the lace cardi got done before the insistent sunshine and an impatient paw on my knee forced the donning of boots and a search for the car keys. Sophie wanted to go walkabout at Gougane Barra and I was nothing loth, since after the rain the streams which cascade down the mountains are spectacular. Do you know Callanan's poem?
There is a green island in lone Gougane Barra
Where Allua of songs rushes forth as an arrow.
In green-valley'd Desmond a thousand wild fountains
Come down to that lake from their home in the mountains...
Breda runs the old family hotel at Gougane, as did her father and his father before her. Today she was telling a story to a small grandchild as I went in.
'There was this farmer who had to get up very early one morning to take his cattle through the Pass of Keimaneigh to the fair at Bantry. He travelled through the pass in the dark with not a sign of life nor a sound all around. All of a sudden he heard music and singing and merrymaking ahead of him and could not think what it was. Then he came upon a company of folk amusing themselves and playing music the like of which he had never heard. "Surely now I'm among the Good People," he said to himself, and straightaway sat down on a stone to listen, while the cattle grazed quietly, not being bothered by the music one bit. When the music ended, a strange fellow with bright eyes came up to the farmer with a caubeen. Now the farmer knew you must always pay for the music you hear, so he put his hand in his pocket and took out all he had in the world, which was a silver sixpence. He put it in the hat, and all at once the man, the music, the merrymakers disappeared, and he was alone in the pass once more, with the dawn breaking and his cattle gazing at him as if they thought he was mad altogether.
So on he went to the fair, and didn't he have great luck altogether. He sold his cattle for more than he ever thought possible, and was able to buy the few bits of things he needed with plenty left over. Off he set home with a light heart, and it was only as he was turning into the pass again that he remembered the strange doings of the morning. On he went, all the same, and when he came to the selfsame stone where he had sat, what was lying there on the very top of it but his silver sixpence!'
The little grandchild was enchanted, and so was I. These old stories and legends were once told around every fireside in Ireland. Today television and computers have made some inroads into old customs, but Breda is thinking of starting up storytelling sessions in the old-fashioned bar at the hotel on winter evenings. Who wouldn't prefer that to sitting at a computer screen?
I was determined to make a start on those rosewood dpns from Scottish Fibres when I got home (after rubbing Sophie down with a towel - she somehow fell into the lake and then was disinclined to get out again, preferring to go sloshing round in the mud at the edge, looking at things), so got out the lovely Interlacements yarn from Simply Socks and wound two separate balls on my nostepinne. Then I took the needles out of their packaging.
Dear heaven, have you any idea how TINY 2.5mm needles are? I mean, I normally work with a 6mm for nearly everything. And to make matters worse, these ones were only four inches long! A few delirious minutes of staring at the miniscule toothpicks in disbelief didn't make any difference - if anything, they looked even tinier. If I left it any longer they'd disappear altogether.
I'm not sure that casting on 112 stitches and then transferring these on to four microscopic matches is the best exercise for calming the mind and relaxing the spirit. Plus it had to be done twice - since reading the revelation by Grouchywif on Knitter's Review Forum that she always worked on two socks at the same time, on two identical sets of dpns, I had determined to do the same. It's supposed to eliminate Second Sock Syndrome entirely, which can't be bad. Besides which I wanted to show you that I am a woman of my word. I had said that I would get started on them today, and that was what I was going to do. I got as far as two rounds of rib on each and was so relieved I took their picture for you.
No, they are not standing up by themselves. They're lying down. On a pillow. They should be in an incubator. I mean, will you look at the size of those little splinters? They're far too young to be out on their own. Do they start work at an earlier age in Scotland or something? I expect the Knitting Police to break down the door any minute and arrest me for cruelty to juvenile dpns.
Just to make the comparison, I put my usual 6mm circular underneath. See the difference? How am I ever to get a pair of socks done at this rate?
It isn't as if there aren't enough chunky, bulky, superweight yarns around, with robust jolly fat needles to match. Hundreds and hundreds of patterns for instant scarves, quick cardigans, jiffy jackets, superspeed shawls. And you're listening to a girl who habitually plans a sweater in the morning, casts on at lunchtime, and is wearing the finished project that night. Am I out of my tiny mind?
I have to say, though, that the Interlacements yarn is scrumptious, and boasts the most beautiful colour variations. If I ever were to complete these socks, they would be so beautiful that I would have to walk without shoes. Or find some of those see-through wellies, which is proving a difficult task (you can only get them if you happen to take a child's size as far as I can see.) Maybe the best solution would be to hire a sedan chair and get carried around with my feet gracefully resting outside so that everyone could admire the socks.
But this is daydreaming. This is wishful thinking. Can these socks ever get beyond Row 2? Even knitting with them is a very strange feeling. Your hand totally swallows up the little scraps and you feel like Hagrid in Harry Potter trying to make dolls' clothes . (Not that he ever did, but you know what I mean.)
There was a time, though, now that I come to think of it, when I had a passion for bobbin lace. A whole class of us would spend hours, days, working with gossamer threads on a pencilled pattern. Half an inch of lace in a week was considered pretty darn speedy. One day I realised that although this was very pleasant, not to say addictive, it wouldn't cut much ice in a pioneer, self-sufficiency situation (a favourite dream - I loved Little House On The Prairie), so I went back to the spinning wheel and the large needles. Now here I am again, working on the micro-scale. Why? Couldn't this have been avoided with some care? I really don't know where I'm going with these socks, and if we are going to make it as a team or not.
As the broken-hearted Sally says in that gorgeous weepie, Interlude, 'Must it happen once to everyone?'