Friday, January 18, 2008

Still Here - Though Somewhat Shaken

Yes, it's been rather a while since you heard from me. There was a good reason. A twelve-foot tall, vicious, spiky, echoingly black reason in the shape of the flu virus from hell. This plague swept into the peaceful Celtic Memory household almost a week ago and has turned a fairly pleasant normality into the seventh circle of Hades.

We are not speaking here, I would emphasise, of those slight head colds which cause us to cry off from luncheon engagements, preferring instead to spend a restful afternoon with the latest pair of socks or the new Interweave Knits. No, we are speaking of the Real McCoy, the devil itself. The one that causes you to crank open anguished eyes and stare bewilderedly at the ceiling before collapsing back onto the rumpled sheets. The one that doesn't even give you the energy to boil the kettle let alone mix up nice lemon drinks. The one that comes for as long as it likes, and isn't in any hurry to leave. The one - yes, it has to be said - the one that -



I know, one is supposed to ring the Knitters' Helpline if any such horror should seem likely to befall, but this beast didn't even give me the chance. It was normality to flat out overnight, with no warning whatever.

DH got it at the same time, but miraculously seemed able to throw it off after a couple of days - superior male strength, as he pointed out smugly, but at the same time, it should be said, making endless hot drinks, running errands, smoothing pillow, tortured brow, sheets, passing dogs, anything that needed soothing down, so his smugness is totally forgiven. Celtic Memory had to take the longer route, eventually resorting to antibiotics which didn't react too well with a system that hadn't taken solid food for five days.


At 4 am this morning, totally unable to sleep, and racked with coughing, I switched on the bedside light and started to read a book about expat life in an Italian mountain village.

Two points should be covered here. Firstly, I was on my own, in the little folding camp bed which is brought out in emergencies such as this. The residence chez Celtic Memory is not miniscule. It is, all things considered, fairly spacious, with room enough for all the many interests we have and the more than many things we have collected over the years. But one thing it does not have room for is a spare room. I mean - set aside one whole perfectly useful room for the entire YEAR just in case a visitor happens by? Please! What would life be like if we set aside one whole section of it for emergencies - in case something new in the way of interests or activities turned up?

If we do have an overnighter, then, depending on persuasion and interests, they are housed on the said folding bed in either the library, the craft workshop, the drawing room or (if they are very very honoured guests and close buddies of DH) perhaps even in the computer room. But that last doesn't happen too often. No room in either of our studies to swing a Pekingese, let alone unfold a bed.

Anyway, I was in the upstairs drawing room, where you can have uninterrupted views of the stars on two sides all night if you want, reading The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria, by Marlena de Blasi. At 4 am. Giving DH the chance for at least one night's uninterrupted slumber.

The second point (and you may well share this sentiment) is that under normal circumstances I have had more than enough of gushing tales of life in rural Umbria (or Tuscany or Sicily or wherever). I tend to get restive when reading of yet another adorably overgrown vineyard rescued and brought back to life. When the prose goes purple over the discovery of good heavens yet another totally unknown but utterly memorable rural restaurant, the book tends to go out the window. But it was 4 am, I was desperate, and so I read on.

And after all, she had a way with her, this de Blasi. Of showing what a good idea it was to take time over preparation, over cooking, over appreciating every little herb and plant and vegetable. Switching off the light, and lying back for another few hours of sleepless coughing, I began wondering if it wouldn't be a good idea to try this slow route, just for a while. Maybe it would help.

And so this morning I called on memories of learning at my mother's knee, and slowly, gradually, throughout the entire day, built up a huge pot of simmering vegetable soup, adding a herb here, a grind of nutmeg there, a bayleaf later on, as it seemed to suggest. When DH came home, he sniffed the air and said, 'Is that home made soup?' in such a tone that I felt really really guilty it had taken the flu to remind me of the slow road.

I have now tucked a large bowlful of that same homemade soup inside me, where it is making me feel a whole lot better. Still shaky, still inclined to wobble if I stand up too quickly, but definitely getting there. Thanks de Blasi. I might just be back. Your recipe for the rabbit was rather good... (And thanks dearest Dez for the hint from your own grandmother's kitchen.)

And do you know another thing? Once that soup was on the stove and simmering gently, I actually felt the stirrings of a new idea. A new knitting idea to try.


(Well, if you can't treat yourself to a new project after the flu, when can you? Huh?)

I might have mentioned some months back catching a fleeting glimpse of the most elegantly brief of lime green shrug-tops over a sparkling white T in a supermarket. It was so simple it was devastating. And I bought some silk/cotton (Stella from Debbie Bliss) the very next time I saw the right colour, so I could make something like it. It had been fermenting in the back of my mind on its own for a while, but now, today, it pushed its way to the front and announced fairly firmly that it was ready to get started. Obediently (well believe me I was really grateful that the mojo came whistling by at all, I had really feared it was gone forever) I grabbed the yarn and circular and got going.

(Extraordinarily difficult to cast on when your hands are shaky. Took several tries.)

Now it's not got very far (perched it in the middle of these lilies to give a sense of spring on the way), but can you see the idea? I've started at the sleeve, and worked the moss stitch cuff in the round, plus the first few rows of stocking stitch with a double cable in the centre, which will be the top of the arm. Now - you can't see it very clearly here, but the top couple of inches of that cabling is actually split - I'm working back and forth, so there will be an open section on the top of the sleeve. Further up I'll join them again briefly, and then separate again, so you get the slashed sleeve effect. At the neck, one cable will do the front neckline and the other the back, and the undersleeve will of course divide too, with more stitches cast on for the cropped back and front. And so across to the other side, reverse the process, and down to the second cuff. Got it? I think I have anyway.

Oh, and DH said I still can't take sock pictures for tuppence, and no wonder people were making fun of my red and grey ones, so he kindly told me to put them on and he'd have a go.

Yes, that is a circular emerging from the trouser leg. They're both still on the needles. That's because these are the socks with which I have started the practice of beginning toe-up and keeping going until every last inch of yarn is used up. And it is taking forever to finish the yarn! I'll be up to the knee at this rate, and having to increase! And to think I'm always worried about running out.

Of course being prostrate with the flu doesn't mean your work stops. Editors are occasionally kind, they may even offer a gentle wish for your recovery. But that doesn't fill the hole in the page. Copy has to keep coming, no matter what you feel like. The only excuse is a death. Your own. (And that's not a joke as any journalist will know.) So the laptop has been busy, balanced on the bed, although the work produced was not perhaps of the finest.

One piece I did have to get in today was about Andrew Eadie, who runs Kerry Woollen Mills. Andrew is on his way even now to Dublin for the huge Showcase Ireland exhibition which opens on Sunday at the RDS and runs through to Wednesday. It's where all the international buyers come to see the very best of Irish crafts and small industries and where these businesses pick up their orders for the year ahead, so it's very important. We're very fond of Andrew and the mill (over 300 years old and still thriving) so putting a piece in the paper about him was one way we could help.

The first part of tonight's posting was rather more of a prose diatribe than the picture-heavy offering to which you have become accustomed (blame it on the antibiotics), so let's make up for that now.

Here are swans on the dear little river Gweestin which has turned the machinery and washed the fleeces for Kerry Woollen Mills since the 1700s.

(These pictures were taken back in the heady days of summer, by the way, so don't be misled into thinking January in Ireland looks like this. Believe me, it doesn't. If the island weren't a natural sponge, we'd have joined Atlantis by now.)

Here's the 89th generation of Eadie cats, whose forefathers have guarded the mill and seen off rebel rats since the 17th century, stalking across the old cobbled courtyard, unchanged since the days of rumbling carts and clopping hooves.

- and here he is again, looking Sphinx-like among the flowers. He seemed to enjoy the camera, and followed Richard around for quite a while, purring, 'Ready for my close up now, dear boy!'

Here is the fleece shed, where the workers are literally up to their eyes in the lovely soft stuff all day.

And the shop, where all the things they make out of that fleece are displayed (yes, yes, bainin yarn too).

I hope Andrew and his team do well at Showcase Ireland. It's not easy to keep a family business going these days, with all the competition from developing countries, but to lose such an old established mill here in Ireland would be heartbreaking.

But listen, go look at the Showcase Ireland website. The quality of stuff on show in Dublin next week is breathtaking. And don't you always get inspiration from other people's work? I know I got lots of ideas from just browsing.

I didn't show you a picture of Andrew Eadie. I was going to, and then I decided not to. It's not fair. It would only upset you.

I SAID NO! Now let that be an END to it, all right?

Oh don't say please. I'm not strong enough yet. I'm still weak as a kitten for heaven's sake. No pleading.

Oh all right. It's your own fault. You insisted.
See? I knew it would only upset you.
(And it's no good your getting on the next plane, it's down miles of tiny flooded boreens in the wilds of Kerry, and you'd only get lost in a bog or something, and even if you did find it, the Eadie Cat would have your ankles for sure. And before you ask, no, I haven't. Not the tiniest skein. But Celtic Memory, once she has recovered something of her former strength, will be back on the task. Though it's truly not the reason he's being written up. I genuinely want that wonderful old place to survive.)
I really hope this fog of wretched discomfort lifts within the next few days. Don't mind feeling lackadaisacal for a week or so, can cope with lack of energy. But just to feel a little more human would be good.
With more of a weak wave than the accustomed hug.
Until later.


Leslie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie said...

Richards' sock photo? Well done. The black woodstove and redware teapot to the right add just the right accents. *chuckling* I wondered about the knitting needle poking out of the pant leg. :D

Anonymous said...

You have my full-on sympathy. I had a bout of the actual flu (not the quesy tum/stuffy nose that passes for the flu) a while back. Laid me out flat for a week. One day, I decided I couldn't go any longer without food and began crawling down the hall to the kitchen. It was so exhausting, I fell asleep on the floor. When I awoke, I just crawled back to bed -- the food could wait.

I can't wait to see the shrug (as in I am anticipating it; not as in hurry up and finish it!).

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you are feeling better. I have missed your posts and was wondering what had happened to you, because you didn't mention you were off on a trip. I've only had the flu one time like you describe. You are right; knitting isn't even on your mind. (what mind? at that point!)Thanks for the beautiful pictures and sharing the latest inspiration.

Barbara-Kay said...

Oh, dear! And here I was, thinking you were off on another holiday/adventure/working trip. Hope you keep on the mend!

Loved the pics of the mill and its feline keeper. Thanks for thinking of us!

Marianne said...

Oh dear buttercup, feel better soon!

Charity said...

Oh, Jo, I can sympathize! Glad to hear you're feeling better! :0)

Erica said...

Glad you're starting to feel better Jo! With that little teensy hint of a sleeve you tempted us with, I am anxious to see what the completed project will look like! Here's hoping your full recovery is a speedy one!

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear you've been sick! I just got into London myself and the 2nd day here got walloped by a stomach flu that destroyed me for all of yesterday, but that's nothing compared to yours.

I'm glad to hear you're feeling better. I love the pictures of the farm. Thank you!

Kathy said...

I feel your pain for I have been sick since the 4th. Feel better soon!

Angeluna said...

So glad to see you back among the living, and writing with your usual charm. As usual, loved the photos and the adventures. Good grief, that Eadie cat has attitude! Surely it keeps the vermin counts down and makes and excellent guard cat as well. No were really, really sick.

Unknown said...

I'm glad you are feeling somewhat better. And I want to thank you for the link to Celtic Showcase. That is truly awesome! I had to back away from my computer to keep the drool off the keyboard!

The needle showing from the pants leg was just the right touch to the photo. The socks and setting look great.

Angeluna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sallie said...

Sorry to hear that you have been laid low by the flu. I hope you feel much better soon.

Thank you for the info on the mill. It's always so interesting to read about family run businesses that still exist. I hope the mill continues for a long time.

Cindy/Snid said...

Well you must be feeling somewhat better if you are able to do up such a wonderful post! I do hope you make a full recovery soon and I can almost smell the soup from here!

Great photos of the Mill. Oh how I wish I could see such things!

Artis-Anne said...

Oh poor you , it sounds like a yucky time you have been having of it:) Do hope you are soon on the mend.
As usual; a lovely post and great piccies

Rosie said...

Oh, poor you. I'd assumed that you were off on a wool, words and camera adventure, sorry to hear about the 'flu. Mind you, the recovery soup sounds delicious. Keep mending well!

HPNY KNITS said...

get even better soon! an illness that takes away the joy of knitting is awful! but I am glad to read your sense of humour is back!

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

oh no Jo:( here was I thinking you
were out on the razz somewhere having fun and fondling yarn.
Glad youa re picking up somewhat at last.
Soup and plenty of it is a good idea. Also shin beef, lots of root vegetables, garlic and onions, a bottle of guinness for substance. Cooked long and very slow. Soul food
love amber

Carla said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your influenza. I've had it (more than once) and it is NOT something you can knit or write through. May you be completely well soon, Jo!

Anonymous said...

Argh. You must be laid low to be resorting to stories of middle aged epiphany in central Italy! I wonder why none of us can find ourselves in, let's say, Trenton New Jersey or Leitrim or, heck, Washington DC??

Coming from a Jewish family, I'm a big advocate of chicken soup for the ill and dispirited. When any of us is ill, we trek over to our neighborhood deli and get a quart of the stuff. Matzoh balls are especially good for bracing the truly infirm.

Hope you are on the mend soon!

SueJ said...

Sounds horrid. Son & heir has had similar (only of course, worse as he is an 18 old male & the image of his Da!)Glad you are on the mend -so right to include new yarn as a cure all! I actualy made bread today for the first time in ages & as you say, you forget the simple pleasures. I may go and inspect the vegetables & see what potential there is for soup!

Lola said...

Oooh! I want some of that yarn! Just so that I can knit something for my nephew and niece-or-nephew to be, who have Irish heritage on their father's side . . .

pacalaga said...

Ironically I sat down to read your post as a balm for my aching and wracked lungs. Alas, no such luck. Let's both feel better soon.

LaurieM said...

I sincerely hope you are feeling like your old self soon. That lovely fresh green should be a big help. Also I feel confident in prescribing citrus fruit. They won't hurt you, and they may just help you.

Lynn said...

Congratulations, Jo! You’ve just won the “You Make My Day” award. Come steal the button from my blog and pass it on!

Hope you're feeling much better.

Roggey said...

You poor thing! I hope you're on the mend and feeling a bit more solid walking about...

cindy said...

So glad to hear you are feeling well enough to are a great storyteller! Even if it's about the flu.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you're feeling better. Being so sick that you don't want to knit is horrible! The only real point to be sick is being able to lay around and do nothing but knit and get away with it.

DeAnn said...

I'm so sorry to hear/"read" that you were ill. Glad that you are on the mend. You have been missed. Homemade soup with lots of love IS great medicine. Take care! :)

Angela Cox said...

It got us too Jo ..what's energy I forgot ? I spent Christmas Eve almost unconscious , I just remember being put on the couch for Christmas day .Then it went on and on and Holly got it .Just the hacking in our house must have kept the street awake. I don't even knit much so you know it's that bad ..let's hope us all well soon.

Chris said...

So sorry to hear you've had a full-on dose of the dreaded lurgy, you have my sympathy. Hubby's fighting off a cold as I type but not suffering terribly though friends are going down like ninepins.
I'm glad that you've recovered enough to think about knitting though, that's got to be a stage of recovery!

shandy said...

I hope you soon regain yourenergy and enthusiasm - although working out that little shrug seems evidence enough of that.
I very much enjoyed your reading choice of the "Little House" books. They were just the thing for a wet and windy Christmas break.

Ruth said...

Sorry to see you've been ill -- and in a most dreadful fashion, no less. I'm glad that you're on the mend. Tea. Tea with honey helps. This from a confirmed coffee drinker. Be well.

Diane said...

I'm glad you are feeling better.

Needles said...

This awful virus must be going around the whole world. We've had a few people come down with something which sounds similiar. Its good to know you're feeling on the upside.

Irish Sallygardens said...

Hello. Delighted to have found your blog in a roundabout way while researching jacob sheep for our smallholding here in Leitrim. I'm also a fibre artist, felt in my passion.

Do you have jacob sheep? I'm looking at various breeds available in Ireland before choosing, it needs to be good with wet ground ... as do all Irish inhabitants I suppose!

Rose said...

How cool! My husband and I went to Kerry Woolen Mills in April, 2007. We didn't see the cat though. Sorry about your illness; glad you're feeling better.

TheDrollEclectic said...

Glad to hear you are on the mend. Not excited to report that is bug that zaps your enthusiasm for doing anything, yes, even knitting, has jumped the pond and grabbed a hold of me.

LizzieK8 said...

Read my blog for January 26th, okay?

tia o'c said...

I like the yarn used for those sweaters you were looking at in the shop. I have a sweater like that at home, bought in Dublin and I really cherish it!