Sunday, September 03, 2006

Experience Is What You Find When You're Looking For Something Else


That was Bantry Show.

I don't know quite what to write and frankly I don't feel like writing anything, but I'd better get it over and done with.

I didn't get a first with that Elann lace crop cardi. Neither did I get a second, a third or even a fourth. Out of all the garments on display at the show, my lovely little jacket didn't get a mention.

Now please please don't think I'm one of those mean-minded bad losers. If I'd been pipped to the post by something even more spectacular I would have thought well done, and studied the opposition closely, to learn from it. But I didn't even have that small consolation.

I was too gutted to do anything but stare. DH took this picture of my entry next to the item that won first place in the section for which I'd entered the Elann.

It was a shapeless plain sweater on big needles in acrylic multicoloured yarn. No pattern, no design, no special detail. Second place went to quite a well made Aran sweater. They didn't see fit to award third and fourth in this category on this occasion, although it's usual. I would somehow have felt better if the Aran had beaten me - at least I could have muttered about tradition winning out over new ideas. Hell, I'd have felt much better if I'd been beaten by something worth being beaten by.

It didn't help either that people were stopped in their tracks by the Elann, pointing, taking pictures, openly admiring it and wondering how it was made. Nor that several of the officials congratulated me on it, assuming I'd won a first (evidently they hadn't noticed it was missing the essential credit).

I know it sounds like sour grapes. But I felt like someone had kicked me in the solar plexus. That lace crop is the best thing I've ever made and the original pattern was a work of genius. I know it's fit to take a prize anywhere. And it wasn't even considered worthy of a third or fourth place? They didn't even bother awarding these categories this time round?

I was pretty half-hearted about going to look for the socks, but DH insisted. I'd tied the sockblockers together with a crocheted string of the same yarn as the socks but someone had taken the trouble to untie that and turn them right around so that the blank insides of both sockblockers were outwards, and the painted Celtic motifs hidden on the inside. Then they'd been replaced on the display.

Well, the plain socks were better made and probably deserved first prize. I didn't mind losing out to them. But why do that to the Celtic motifs? What had they done to deserve such bitchiness? Funnily enough, it was only as I was going out of the tent in a daze that I remembered Angeluna's query on my last posting about there being any local politics to beware of.

OK, OK, that's finished. Over. Done with. Experience, as I think Oscar Wilde once observed, is usually what you find when you're looking for something else. It took a bit of joy out of the day but there was still the rest of the fair to look at. Everybody was dressed up in Cork colours because of the hurling final.

As soon as the match started, the bar tent was packed to the roof, everybody cheering and shouting for the Cork team. DH (who's used to this sort of thing) slid in front and crouched down right underneath the huge television screen so he could capture the euphoria when Cork scored a goal.

Sadly, we lost by three points to Kilkenny. Gloom descended, but lifted almost immediately as everyone shrugged philosophically and headed out into the afternoon sunshine to enjoy the remainder of the day. There were horse and pony classes, superb examples of cattle, sideshows, set dancing on a platform. ..

Even the little ferryboat was busy, buzzing back and forth across the bay from Bantry town bringing visitors in by water. It was a lovely idea and a great way to arrive at the show.

On the way home we called in at Gougane Barra to photograph my latest Celtic Memory yarn in a suitable setting so that I can list it on eBay tomorrow. This time I've created one based on probably our best-loved legend, The Children of Lir. It's a beautiful story if a very sad one - in fact it's one of the Three Sorrows of Storytelling which every shanachie worth his or her salt must master effectively before being recognised as a true recounter of the old stories.

When we'd finally managed to wake up the resident swan to pose in the background (he'd had a hard day posing for visitors and wasn't in the mood for us at all), Breda came down from the hotel to invite us in for dinner. She has such a charmingly relaxed and genuine way with her that she made us feel we were doing them the favour not the other way round, so we accepted.

There can be few places more beautiful to dine than in the hotel at Gougane Barra, looking out over the lake at evening. It's a hauntingly lovely place, made even more so by the fact that it is utterly unspoiled and the family intend to keep it that way.

I don't intend to appal you with an account of what (or indeed how much) I enjoyed , but suffice it to say that the choleresterol level has probably gone up several points. Who cares. I needed the comfort. DH gave a good account of himself too (he's half French and always enjoys his food). Then we drove peacefully back through the gathering dusk and released the dogs who were not best pleased at being left alone since lunchtime. It was good to be home. And I hung up the Elann in a place of honour, laid the socks ceremoniously on a polished table, and told them both they had done credit to the household.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm sorry......politics aside, those judges don't know their arse from a hole in the ground!!!!!!!!
Apparently it's not a big thing to OBVIOUSLY doesn't take knitting just have to be "in" with the right folks!
I'm so sorry for your disappointment............but remember YOURS! was the most beautiful entry..........Socks included!
I'd have voted for you!!!!!!!!!!
Your Elann cardi is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!!! And everyone there I'M SURE, were aware of it.
I'm too chicken to knit something so fancy......hats, scarves, socks are my thing.........nothing beautiful like the things you knit!
Don't let the idiots of the world get you down!
In your heart of DO know yours was the best, don't you???????

Anonymous said...

Well, phooey! It has to be local politics or they're just blind. And stupid. Untying & turning the socks so that the motif wasn't visible? WTH?

What a shame. They are a credit to the household, and the knitter and the designer.

That bay is lovely, but I'm not familiar with the sad story. Possibly because it's sad and sad stories make me cry.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry that happened to you. It must have been a political thing, because the decision clearly wasn't based on talent. I used to enter cherry jam in the local fair, and one year I made the very best jam I had ever made, or probably ever will make. It didn't even get a mention, and I stopped entering after that because I knew it was my best, and my taste obviously didn't correlate with the taste of the judges. You know your entries were your best, and that's the most important thing. We're all proud of you for trying.

Anonymous said...

Someone was trying to steal your sock blockers but got caught in the act and just had time to replace them backwards. They were so peeved, the went to your cardi and tore off the winning ticket and pinned it to the blob. That must've been what happened. (:

Shelley L. MacKenzie said...

I am so sorry your sweater didn't place! The one that one shouldn't have in my opinion...

As for the motif on the sock blockers...the reason for them being turned so the motif was not on the outside could be that they didn't want that to "add" to the sock and help it to win. You see, my parents belong to the horticultural society in my city and they have shows every year (stick with me on this, it's going somewhere lol). Several of the categories are for things other than flowers, such as knitted, crocheted, cross stitch items, jams and jellies, fudge, etc. One of the stipulations in a lot of these categories is that you can't have anything fancy - even with the flowers they have to have certain vases so that the judging is on the flower/item itself.

By your socks having that pretty motif on the blockers, the judges could have been swayed to give the prize because that would have added to the display to make it better than someone's display who didn't have a motif or something on the blockers. In other words, it is to keep the judging fair.

Not sure if that was their reasoning behind it, but it seems like it could have been.

By the way, was the sweater a difficult/advanced knit? I saw the pattern (or one like it) and thought about trying it but it looks too difficult for someone with not a whole lot of lace and/or sweater knitting experience (or at least adult sweater knitting)

rho said...

I sent you an email - but you were robbed......

Anonymous said...

Oh yuk! I can't believe that thing took first place over your gorgeous gorgeous lace cardi. Yes, "gorgeous gorgeous". One isn't enough. I meant to leave a comment last night about how beautiful it is and actually ask where you got the pattern, but by the time I was done with my own blogging I was too pooped for anything else.

Good thing you ended the day with good food, good people and a lovely view. Well done!

Anonymous said...

Oh Jo, you clearly deserved to win and I'm so sorry you didn't. To award first place to the now aptly named blob is a travesty! And your socks are lovely and deserved a prize as well. Had you entered those items in any of the county or state fairs here in the US, you would have won a prize for certain, and most likely first and then first in class.

Lovely scenery, once again. Sorry Cork lost the hurling. You deserved a happy ending to the day and I'm glad you found one with a wonderful dinner in a magical setting with exceptional people. ~ Sharon

LaurieM said...

Actually, I pity those judges. Yep, the judges. Let's say, because of politics, they had to give the first prize ribbon to the asinine acrylic thing. Now don't they look stupid, because anyone with half a brain could see that yours was better by a mile. If they have any conscious at all, it must be just burning them up.

I've enter a the local fair for the first time this year and your story comes just in time to be a caution to me, not to get my hopes up. So you've taught me a lesson too. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jo. I just had a sneaking suspicion that Bantry would be the sort of place where politics played a role. Doesn't matter a whit, because it is so obvious to all of us truly discerning and knowledgable knitters that your Cardi is a thing of rare beauty, and beautifully presented, too. I don't understand how anyone could have awarded a prize to The Blob with a straight face, politics or no politics. We, your international knitting public, could write letters to the judges and complain.

And I think you should have won a prize just for those gorgeous sockblockers. In any case, your Cardi inspired my friend J to make one, so we will live through all your tribulations again here.

Since I represent classical musicians,I attend a lot of piano competitions. Can guarantee you that if I find someone truly exceptional as an artist and technician, they will NOT win first place. My theory is that the judges choose the least controversial contestant possible. Since style is always passionately debatable, the one who didn't challenge the most judges is the winner by default. Also that the judges, usually middle of the road pianists themselves, have to justify their own style or existence. Frustrating, but true. That still can't explain The Blob. Glad you had such a lovely dinner afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they accidently stuck the first place on the wrong garment?

I see no other explanation...

Anonymous said...

P.S. Do hang that Cardi like a piece of art on the wall! And I love that you found dogs even at Bantry Fair, watching set dances! What is the puppy that the two girls are holding?

Anonymous said...

Believe me Jo I can easily see that happening here at say the loacal W.I ,not I grant a big show .But good design and beautiful knitting isn't a feature.They love acrilic nightmares .But then look at the amount of style the average punter has. Yesterday we found a rather exquisite little cardigan in T.K. Maxx ( cream angora and lambswool with delicate embroidery) .You go out to town and look at what folks are wearing.Your cardigan should have had them begging for the pattern .As for your celtic motif ..well too distracting huh? I think you needed a city art gallery .But then if you looked in the photo files of a knitting group I belong to you wouldn't be surprised. A baby cardi in acrilic seems to have them wild with excitement !

Anonymous said...

Jo, I've been with you every step of the way on the Elann cardi and I think it's a tour de force! Perhaps it was so professionally done that the judges thought it wasn't handmade - if you see what I mean?
Whatever the outcome, well done.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. Whenever judging, in anything, is dependent on opinion instead of something cut and dried, like fastest time or measured size, the outcome can be completely inexplicable. The judge's personal taste, current mood, even friendships, can all become involved. Unfortunately, unfair outcomes like your cardi suffered happen more often than we think. Just know that it is beautiful and beautifully made and deserved to win.
I agree that the motifs on the sock blockers were probably turned so as to not distract from the socks.
To Angeluna, from the partial view we see of the puppy, I'd have to say that it's a Welsh Corgi.

Vicki in So. Cal.

Kathy in DC said...

I'm with the rest here, your lace cardi should have definitely won first place! It is gorgeous. Thanks for your post on my blog, and yes, I'm in for a cat/dog exchange, but poor Truffle might not survive. He's such a home-body. We think he "IS" Napoleon", the way he acts sometimes! He is sweet always, tho. I loved the post of your Sophie, I think it was. She was huddled on your lap, terrified of some thunder, and "pretending" to be asleep, getting in the way of your knitting. That was precious!

Anonymous said...

oh jo, so sorry about the fair boiling down to politics. and the judges congratulating you —that is downright weird!
i have a question about the celtic memory yarn—are these yarns that you spin yourself, or combination of other yarns you are arranging together? it's never quite cler to me as you don't write much about spinning.
well, it sounds like you had a lovely weekend anyway,,despite the show, and now you can wear that beautiful cardi and those socks!

cindy said...

Obviously popular opinion realized that your sweater was worth a prize. So it goes with judging.....I submitted an entry at a fair where the judge did not even look at the workmanship of a knitted piece. She just looked at whether or not she liked the knitted article.

Fiberjoy said...

What a day of mixed emotions and experiences! A lifetime of feelings in one day.

Silly judges probably assumed you bought the cardi since it is so fine.

Revenge is sweet when the crowds murmer and express their astute pleasure in your handwork.

Wouldn't it be a thrill to enter Elann into a higher ranking national/international competition and place well? That'd show them!

Very sensible to take up the offer of a fine dinner with good friends in a serene setting.

Charity said...

Jo, I'm so sorry. I feel your disappointment and sadness, and it's so unfair. What a shame. The items you made are very beautiful, especially the Elann sweater. Regardless of the judges' opinions, you can be proud of a job well done :0)

Unknown said...

Too bad we can't send you red ribbons online as you certainly deserve them.
Have always believed that our toughest judge is ourself and, if you believe they should have won, then they did in the eyes of the person who counts the most.
The sweater you knit is gorgeous. Just wish I could wear such a style. It looks fantastic and I am sure you will get lots of compliments on it.
So glad the socks got done in time and look lovely. If there is a lot of wool in them you might find they will get tighter from wearing and/or one unintnetional trip to the washing maching as I have had that happen so you might not want to frog them too quickly.
What a gorgeous picture of the yarn! Would love the whole of it.
Did enjoy the fair through your eyes and the photos are outstanding. Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable, Jo, simply unbelievable. The Elann cardi is so incredibly beautiful, I even printed off the pattern and showed it around yesterday singing your praises on the one you finished. I am near speechless, 'what were they thinking'???Obviously they weren't, plain and simple. And doubly odd for the officials to congratulate you. Go figure. Sending you the red ribbon, well deserved, well earned.
Your socks are well deserving also, please don't frog them, wear them and enjoy, should have at least made 2nd. I'm glad to hear you did get yourself past it enough to enjoy the rest of the day, looks lovely from where I'm sitting, and the dinner and the view.?...lucky you.
Busy weekend all around, finally got a new post up, and went looking for your yarns, couldn't find any listed yesterday...will try again. The photo of your new yarn is beautiful. I'm being inspired...perhaps to find a drop spindle (one with my name on it, figuratively speaking) and some roving and try my hand.......
Thank you for having your blog, it's a lovely visit each and every time.

Tan said...

Your experience at the Bantry show is exactly what has happened to my son-in-law and his sister at music competitions. At one he and another singer tied for second place and no first was awarded. It turned out that all the judges but one wanted to award Chris the first, but it had to be unanimous. The last judge was sleeping with the soprano and would not budge over wanting her to have the first prize. Giving them both second was the only compromise they could come up with. Chris's sister is one of the best performers of new music for flute in the US. After inexplicably taking second place two years in a row, she was shocked to be told by one of the judges that she was wasting her time at the competitions because they were rigged.
I couldn't figure out how to reply to your comment on my blog about what toe I use for toe-up socks because your comment was labelled "no-reply" instead of an email addy. It's PG-R's short row toe.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by Jo, I would love to read the legend..please do now on my way to ebay.

Anonymous said...

Well, you clearly won in our eyes. We all know it was a beautiful piece, as you know. Wear it with great pride.

Unknown said...

wow...i just found your blog. awesome socks!

Anonymous said...

I'm late with this since I couldn't get to the computer much this weekend, but... Jo, your sweater is stunning. I simply can't understand the judges, but I've seen it happen before. We had a friend who designed a lovely cross stitch pattern for a fair here; she got nothing while an obviously inferior piece took first place. There are many reasons for things like this and I won't presume to know what happened with your beautiful cardi. I'm just sending you hugs across the water!

This is the first time I've posted a comment, though I've followed your delightful blog for a while. It's a bright spot in my day and I'm so glad to have found it.

Anonymous said...

Finally found your yarn on ebay, love your presentation, visual and written, what a treat. And of course the yarn is beautiful (that really goes without saying).
Where's Peg?

Roggey said...

I know I'm late to the game here in posting my note, but I wanted to say sorry that your cardi didn't take a place - it is lovely, and I'm not sure what the f*ck is up with boring, plain, non-descript items winning first place ribbons.

A friend of mine made a beautiful cadi sweater with Celtic knot work on it, out of a nice wool yarn. She truly didn't expect first place, but she also didn't expect part of the criticism of her work to include, "use a better yarn." What the hell?

Here's to getting a more knowledgable judge (and first place) next time around!

Dez Crawford said...

Those judges don't know the difference between chicken salad and chicken poop.

I am so sorry for your disappointment. Your sweater is gorgeous, and the socks do you proud as well!

This is not the first time I have seen inferior work triumph over true mastery of craft at a state or county fair.

I don't know if it is favoritism or stupidity which carries the day in these cases. Either way, it stinks.

Your work is stunning. Be proud. In the good way. Not vain. Just proud of a job beautifully done and truly appreciated by those of us who "know where the butter is."


christine said...

My first visit to your blog...........I agree - your Elann sweater is gorgeous! The winner - yuck. I don't get it.