We are so proud, you wouldn't believe it. Yes, we've both had literary children elsewhere in times past, but this is our very first one together, and it couldn't be more welcomed and loved. There is something very special about working on a book together, each knowing exactly what the other means, what he or she is aiming for. Mind you, there were plenty of 'Oh no, I don't like the way you've written that at all', and 'No, no, I wanted the landscape to say this, not say that!', but overall there were very few difficulties. And we had a really superb publishing house in O'Brien Press who kept us going when we lost confidence, didn't feel like it, were sick of the whole long drawn out process. 'It'll be beautiful,' they said calmly and confidently, and weren't they right?
Here's a bit of truth behind the picture on the bookflap, just for you, because I know you enjoy insider information.
The general brown tinge to the landscape might hint that it wasn't exactly midsummer when we took this, but in fact it was an utterly freezing day at the beginning of February last. We'd been told we simply had to get the author shots in right away, so down to our favourite place in the world we went, Brow Head, overlooking the Crookhaven peninsula. (This was where Richard lived when he first came to Ireland from France at the age of 16, it was here we met, here our parents, now no longer with us, got to know each other, here many of our fondest memories are placed. Who would have thought that after all the intervening years, all the different corners of the world, we would after all find ourselves here again where we started, publishing our first book together?)
Oh but it was a gaspingly cold day, with a wind that would take the horns off a goat. The kind of day that froze your face the second you got out of the car. And we (because DH is a perfectionist) had to crash our way through gorse bushes and brambles, lugging tripods and lenses, until we found the perfect spot.
No, of course we didn't bring another cameraman. You think DH would allow someone else to take his picture? Look more closely. His right hand is holding a camera, his left is pressing a remote control. Cool, huh?
Trouble was, he wasn't prepared to doff his heavy coat for the picture, no matter how much I nagged. 'Quick', I cried through chattering teeth. Just take it off, throw it out of the frame, and it will all be done in a second. But he refused. Me, I got acute hypothermia during the few seconds it took to capture the picture. There are a heavy padded gilet, a thick jacket, a woolly doubleknit hat and a scarf all out of sight there, and they went on again, double quick.
All your favourite places (as I know from your lovely comments on this weblog) are in the book, and a few you haven't discovered yet, whether in person or from the comfort of your armchair, wherever you are.
The cool green woodlands of Glengarriff, where you can wander for hours amidst moss and ferns and ancient trees, meeting only the spirits that protect such a lovely place.
Galley Head on its dramatic promontory, again with a guardian spirit in the shape of that black cat watching the camera so keenly. This was considered for a cover shot, but in the end it was thought that it looked too posed. Cat owners, can you imagine a feline agreeing to pose obligingly for a photoshoot? No way. That moggie was there because it was his territory and we were the intruders.
And of course the strange unearthly Cailleach Beara herself, the old Hag who stands on a lonely peninsula beyond Castletownbere, forever watching and waiting for her lover to return from the sea. She's the subject of a very famous ancient Irish poem - here's a scrap from the translation by Lady Gregory in 1919:
It is of Corca Dubhine she was, and she had her youth seven times over,and every man that had lived with her died of old age, and her grandsons and great-grandsons were tribes and races. And through a hundred years she wore upon her head the veil Cuimire had blessed. Then age and weakness came upon her and it is what she said:
It is riches you are loving now, it is not men; it was men we loved in the time we were living... When my arms are seen it is long and thin they are; once they used to be fondling, they used to be around great kings...
Whatever time of year you visit the Cailleach, you will find little scraps of heather, twisted wreaths of reeds, coins, beads, placed in and around her enigmatic presence. People from all over the world come here, sometimes perhaps simply to see a tourist sight, but almost inevitably finding themselves drawn to leaving a gift, a sign, a token. The old ways are still very strong in this part of the world.
I hope people will love this book as much as we loved creating it. Oh I'm so thrilled. I keep looking it up again, on Amazon.com, on other sites, trying to imagine I'm somebody else discovering it quite by chance. What an idiot! You'd think it was the first baby ever born, wouldn't you?
Listen, if I don't catch up on Knit Nation and tell you about the fun we had there, I'll never do it. It was way back at the end of July, for heaven's sake, and here we are in September!
I met up with Ros and Linda, two old friends from Sock Madness. Linda and I have met at several events before now, but it was the first time ever coming face to face with Ros in real time. Isn't it funny how blogging and Ravelry can make you such close friends when you've never actually met?
And Chrispindle and I had a wonderful night wandering through the deserted streets of Kensington hunting for a restaurant. No, really, it was wonderful, although we didn't realise it at first. Long quiet roads, only the swish of expensive cars passing by. Trees rustling gently. The Albert Memorial by moonlight. The Albert Hall all lit up for performance, with just a few black-tied ushers hovering in the foyer. A splendid palace-like town house with Rolls Royces pulling up outside and footmen ushering in elegantly clad guests. And us pottering happily along the pavement talking of everything under the sun. Yes, we did find a lovely little French restaurant eventually, and had a very nice time there. But the whole evening was part of the experience.
Took a lace class with Anne Hanson and that was wonderful too. Anne is another old friend from early on in blogging, and it was simply great to meet her in person. She's a pretty fine teacher, making everything seem so simple and obvious, even down to the difference the placing of a yarnover can make in a design. Learned a lot during that hot morning session (wouldn't you know there was a heatwave in London that weekend). And Anne, it was lovely to meet you. (I was the troublesome one out there on the periphery who kept talking.)
There were some wonderful stands at Knit Nation, selling all kinds of desirables, but the queues outside the door at eleven each morning had only one preliminary goal in mind - the Wollmeise stall at the furthest end of the hall. When the door was finally opened, there was a stampede - only word for it, and I should know, I was there - all the way down those resounding wooden floors, until a hundred or more eager yarnhunters arrived panting at the Wollmeise stand.
Bless her, she had brought absolutely tons of stuff over from Germany, and the overall effect was one of dazzlement, of confusion, of total inability to choose. You found yourself darting from the blues and greens to the scarlets and oranges, from laceweights to sockweights, and back again. All around were sighs and oohs and clamberings and pilings into arms... we were very courteously offered carrier bags to stockpile our choices.
In the end, the choice was too much. I limited myself to just four. No, don't chorus in horror, honestly, if you'd been there you'd have been confuzzled too. (I'm not going to tell you how much I paid later on for a skein of Fleece Artist Seasilk.)
These ladies didn't have any such confusion issues. They were having a wonderful time, going over their purchases and making sure they hadn't missed out on any utterly unmissable colourways before finally heading off.
My good friend Sarah from Babylonglegs was there, with her divinely dyed fibres and yarns. 'Why don't you have these for sale online?' I demanded. And of course she does. Has had for ages. Why don't I check these things instead of jumping to conclusions?
The adorable Andy from Bluefaced.com was sharing a stall with Jeni of Fyberspates (the only person I know who can master a sock knitting machine just by looking at it sternly). She was happily getting on with some knitting in between hordes of customers for her gorgeous hand-dyed yarns.Bought several pairs of very good bamboo circulars in the smaller sizes, at exceptionally good prices, from Atomic Knitting. And one of those extended crochet hooks (Tunisian?) with a cable to it, just in case I feel like refreshing my memory on that technique sometime. I shall definitely get more supplies from her online - the bamboo has been tested and come out with flying colours. Finally fell for the siren song of The Enchanted Sole - who could resist a book which shows pearl-decorated socks on the cover? - and darling darling Sandy, who had used the excuse of Knit Nation to take a whole week away from Sweden, actually gave me her copy of The Intentional Spinner. Sandy, your sock machine awaits. We just need to be on the same land mass at the same time with motorised vehicles, right?
Now there aren't that many little places down near Covent Garden. Most places there are large and brash and designed to separate tourists from their money. But Treadwells of Tavistock Street is a delightful little anachronism - or, rather, it's a delightful little relic of former days in old London, when small independent shops were the norm, not the exception.
It's a magical bookshop - that is, it exists to supply the practitioners of magic, Wicca, what you will - and surely must have provided some of the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books. Dark, mysterious, peaceful and utterly welcoming, it positively invites you to browse, relax on a battered old sofa or armchair, read this ancient text, discover the latest research on that topic, even stock up on herbs, frankincense, oils, get a new set of rune stones... I spent hours here. Outside the roar of central London on a broiling Saturday, inside, the calm of the old ways. Gave me the energy I needed to face the Tube, the train, the airport security, before at last, thankfully, arriving home to the welcoming trees and green seclusion of Inshinashingane.
What, no knitting, you cry? Well, with all this going on you'd have forgiven me for not working a single stitch, but in fact it's been busy on that front too. With The Enchanted Sole, a skein of Seasilk, and an Atomic Knitting bamboo circular to hand, I cast on for the Tristan und Isolde socks before even leaving Knit Nation. The original pattern doesn't have pearls on it, but that was clearly an oversight. Celtic Memory is into pearls at the moment and they are going on everything. Pictures when there is something worth showing.
So why, given that Knit Nation was at the end of July, and this is early September, are the socks not completed? Well, shawl-mania hit this corner of West Cork rather hard recently. Blame the Ravelers who run 10 Shawls in 2010, Small Shawl Lovers, Folklore and Fairytales, and other irresistible groups. At the moment, can't seem to stop making shawls.
Here is Shaelyn, helping me to pick blackberries, as befits a sensible shoulder shawl worked in Shetland yarn.
Here is Annis, in a heavy silk which I overdyed with blues from the original basic turquoise.
And here is Pamuya in progress. Using my own hand-dyed merino/tencel fingering weight for this, and the sampler-style stitchery is a delight to work. At least another dozen patterns waiting in the wings. When shawl mania strikes, it strikes hard. Already I have ideas for some new shawl kits to tempt those not already struck down...
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go coo over a little bookbaby cot.