Take note that this carefully assembled picture is the last you are going to see of said Eriskay and the poppy-red Shetland for quite some time.
Celtic Memory can be dense at times. She can persist in a patently disastrous course of action when all others have abandoned ship and swum for shore. She can persuade herself that something inherently hideous is really beautiful and worth making. She can even dispense vast amounts of coin of the realm in the purchase of yarn which is never likely to be made up into anything. Ever.
But even Celtic Memory gets the message finally.
You will recall the cheerful tone of my last posting of 2008. New challenges were needed, I declared, and therewith I pledged my troth to two in particular: to spin enough fleece for a sweater, and to try again with the fated Eriskay.
Well the spinning is going just fine, you'll be glad to hear. Slowly, due to unforeseen circumstances (of which more later) but going fine. Could have saved myself the agonising over how to spin finer or thicker yarn. Turns out Celtic Memory's yarn comes out the same every time, whether she tries to create laceweight or bulky. Sort of middle-of-the-road worsted-to-Aran, so that's OK anyway. Just hope there will be enough for a sweater when the 600g of Corriedale is all gone, but if there isn't, then it will be an ornately cabled vest. That's OK too. There are times when you just don't have the energy to worry any more over the small stuff.
Which Eriskay isn't. Wasn't. Observe deliberate amendment to past tense.
The yarns were wound and ready, the terrifyingly small gauge needles were to hand, and on New Year's Day the casting on began. It's a long job casting on for Eriskay, but CM was wise enough to take the advice of good friends like Ruth and placed little markers every 20 stitches or so, to make sure she didn't lose count and have to start all over again (you really don't want to do that with this number of stitches and they are all so small, so small - sorry, they were all so small.)
It took half the day to get the correct number cast on and then came the careful joining, ensuring that the stitches were not twisted in any way. Must have laid them out on the table, checking and re-checking, half a dozen times before making the final join.
By 6 pm, two whole rows had been worked in that eyestraining rib. Two whole rows! At this rate, the telegram marking my 100th birthday would arrive before Eriskay. But it was New Year's Day and a start had been made.
January 2, and the work was taken up with renewed vigour. Only... after working a few miles within Row 3, an unease was felt, began to grow, to deepen...
No, surely not. Couldn't be. Not this time. Look, you're an expert in this, OK? You're just imagining things.
Work on a little further. No, can't ignore the sense of impending doom any more. Take a deep breath. Get up. Spread it all out on the table and turn all the little stitches neatly in one direction...
Yep. The work was twisted.
How? How the heck should I know. Didn't I take care? OF COURSE I DID. YOU THINK I DO THIS FOR FUN? Didn't I look to see - yes I did. But did I - YES I DID THAT TOO SO STOP ASKING DAFT QUESTIONS!
And so, as I mentioned earlier, there comes a time when even Celtic Memory gets the message. The work was put gently down. The needles were gently tugged from the stitches. Each and every little stitch marker was removed and put away in the correct little bag. The yarn was gently rewound on to the ball (had to go round the outside instead of back inside, but that was OK. Who cares?)
This is definitely time, I thought, to forget all about besting Herself of Stornoway. Put it away, think of something else, forget you ever thought it attractive. Carefully composed that picture for you and you alone, and then banished book to shelves and yarn to stash.
OK, she can't do anything more to me now. Start the New Year afresh.
Did I think I'd get off so lightly, after that blatant attack on the outer bulwarks of Starmore Castle? Foolish Celtic Memory.
The headache which had been ascribed to eyestrain got worse. The snuffles which had been put down to over-attentive fluffy small dogs got even worserer. Aches and pains which could hardly be explained away by sitting stiffly over millions of tiny stitches, became impossible to ignore.
Within an hour it was clear that somehow I had been blasted right from the Hebrides by the flu bug to end all flu bugs. Nearly ended Celtic Memory, that's for sure.
Yes, those of you with good recall will query this. 'Surely you got exactly the same bug at exactly the same time last year?' they will ask disbelievingly. Yes, I did. And I'll give you three guesses what I was working on at the time. Predictable or what?
It has been a pretty bad week since then. After four days of no sleep, incessant coughing, and an inability to eat even a grain of muesli, gave in and went in search of a doctor. A cheerful young Australian locum checked me out and gave it as his considered opinion that there wasn't too much wrong with me at all. Readers, at this point I was slumped in a heap on the floor, quite incapable of rising without assistance. I was a wreck, alternately feverish or icy cold, totally choked up, and feeling that death would be a release.
'Oh in a week or two you'll probably think, yes I'm coughing less than I was back then,' he said gaily, waving me out the door and trousering my not inconsiderable contribution to the medical fund. And DH drove me home and put me to bed and administered hot honey and lemon, and wiped away my tears, bless him.
So bad indeed was I that knitting seemed a vague triviality. Who cared? (There was one point when, feverishly unable to sleep, I got up in the middle of the night and cast on for a violet guernsey, from a Japanese pattern book. Next morning I realised the error of my ways and frogged that too.
The remains of what will definitely NOT be a Japanese guernsey. With or without flu bugs.
January 6 was Little Christmas or Women's Christmas and no way was I going to miss that. Grannies, girls, mothers and daughters, women all over Cork were heading out for a great evening on the town and I didn't want to be left behind. DH took my bedraggled shadow into the city for a cheer-up dinner which included a seriously strong hot toddy.
DH was the only man in Luigi Malone's that night, apart from the waiters. Every table was jammed with women of all ages having a wild night out and enjoying exactly what they wanted, from steak to creamy desserts.
By way of distraction from my miseries, I went on DH's jobs with him that evening, to all the different events being put on for women around the city. When we got to the Abba tribute show at the Opera House though, I decided to stay put for a while and enjoy the atmosphere. Whatever you might think of their music, you can't deny it's eminently suitable for dancing along to. Which women were doing. In the aisles. Great fun.
'Does your mother know that you're out?'
When DH was carting me back to the car to go home to bed, there were cheerful groups heading to all the pubs, to continue the celebrations. It's a great idea. Why don't we have a virtual one online next year? You know, like the bleachers in Sock Madness?
I had a lovely surprise yesterday when a package of exquisite stitch markers arrived from my good friend Linda Burklin. Linda's designs are always in demand and I know she was rushed off her feet over Christmas meeting orders, but she still found time to make these beautiful ones for me, all delicate green leaves and pearly beauty.
She always makes one that is a little bit different to the others, stands out as the 'lead marker'. In this set it's one on the right that has a gold bead at the very tip of the leaf, like dew with the sun on it. We're talking, Linda and I, about theming hand-dyed sock yarns to her stitch marker designs and bringing them out at the same time - say a Lord of the Rings theme or similar. That would be fun.
Enough. I'm recovered to the stage where I think I just might go on living. And that at some point in the future knitting might even be fun again. But it's slow work.
And you will oblige me by not enquiring after that particular ornately-patterned gansey. Please do continue with your own interpretations of this. I imagine yours will turn out just perfectly. Peg, you emailed to enquire if it were possible to use any other than AS's own yarn for this particular project. At risk of inviting a relapse into that ghastly flu, I would declare truthfully and bravely that of course it is possible to use other yarns. Any yarn that gets you gauge is just fine. Why wouldn't it be? There are so many lovely lightweight Shetlands out there, in every colour of the rainbow. And smoother yarns too, if you don't like the fluffy halo look. Just go for it!
(Might be an idea to lay in stocks of flu remedies first though...)