It's Little Christmas today or, as it's known here, Women's Christmas. Presumably that title reflected the day at the end of the all the festivities when the women could at last sit down, kick off their shoes, and relax for a brief moment. I like to think of exhausted country farmers' wives cutting a slice from the cold ham and pouring themselves a cup of tea from the blackened kettle on the hob, putting their feet up on the creepy stool with a sigh of relief. 'Himself won't be in from the fields for an hour or so,' they would say. 'Maybe I'd get a few rows done on the sock before he'll be roaring around looking for his tay.'
In fact, in older times this Women's Day was taken very seriously. I've spoken to elderly ladies in the far West of Ireland who remember it as a time when men were actually barred from the house for the whole day from sunrise to sunset. The women would gather in a pre-arranged farmhouse kitchen and spend the time in celebrating, eating and drinking, and talking. No man could cross the threshold - all the turf had to be brought in the night before and if they forgot something that they needed for the day's work outside, well pity about them!
These days in Cork at least, Women's Christmas is celebrated with great energy by the younger folk, with parties of girls booking restaurants months in advance for a great big hen night out. Clubs put on special evenings for them and enormous fun is had by all.
Me, I'd swap every last celebratory drink for the merest glimpse of sunshine. We've had rain, sweeping winds, more rain, howling gales, yet more rain, storms, and more rain, since late December. Every hill has its dashing torrent of white water where for most of the year a damp ravine wiggles its way.
For one brief moment the other day - after weather the like of which made you wonder if it was the end of the world entirely - the clouds broke and I actually saw a shaft of sunshine over the garden.
It didn't last of course. All too soon the black clouds swept across again, the driving rain fell in sheets, and the dogs, who had been lured into the great outdoors, scurried frantically for the front door and the haven of the fireplace. There really are days (mostly in midwinter) when I'd pay good leprechaun's gold for someone to tow Ireland a good bit further south into the Bay of Biscay. Say down off Portugal or somewhere. Or near the Azores.
Being indoors of course means one is constantly tempted by new ideas and new projects. I'm currently in love with Nancy Bush's Chalet Socks, having seen a really nice pair on Laurie M's weblog. I'm going to start them in a really delicious organic fingering weight in soft natural grey - I have so much of this that I can make them over-the-knee if it suits me, with no fear of running out. What? Make some available to the rest of you? Well, say please and then maybe...
Someone commented politely that the Online red and grey socks looked 'interesting'. DH was less polite when he saw the pic up on my blog. However, he wasn't here today when I was working on them, so I had another go.
One really must resist the temptation of multicoloured yarns. They look so lovely, we buy them as we might paintings, but the knitted object never looks as good as the skein did, and in any case, such a complication and conglomeration of colours totally distracts from the complexity of the pattern which someone worked very hard to design. From now on Celtic Memory is really going to try to buy only semi solids or total solids. (So what happens to the gigantic box of multicoloureds, one wonders? One might well.)
Then there are the Japanese books, which have been sorely trying my temptation factor. These divinely beautiful publications are enough to distract anyone from the straight and narrow.
The patterns in this book are not only superbly printed, they are totally irresistible.
This is the one I want to try first (yes, I know it's a Guernsey, not an Aran). I have the right yarn for once (a purple blue wool worsted on cone, got it from Texere Yarns in Bradford, always worth a trawl through the darker shelves on the upper floor if you find yourself in downtown Bradford). And I very much like this boat neck style - I'm seeing a lot of it in the fashion circles, in either dark blue or black, worn with a startling white blouse underneath.
And then there is the crochet lace, very much in the Irish style.
I don't know why I have to go to Japan to get Irish designs, but that's the way it is these days.
I'd love to conquer this one. I realise she isn't remotely like me, but it's the blouse I want to make.
So many temptations, so much to do in 2008. What are your top priorities?