Friday, January 21, 2011

In Which Snow and Ice Cause Havoc, Malign Muscles Misbehave, But Joy Cometh When Dragons Are Discovered

Just because you haven't heard from me doesn't mean that nuthin's been happenin'. Au contraire, Blackadder, au contraire! These have been strange and tumultuous times chez Celtic Memory.

First of all there was the distinctly unseasonal ice and snow which hit West Cork in early December and, liking the area, refused to leave. Yes, the rest of Ireland got it too, but down here in the balmy southern regions, we're unused to Arctic visits at any time of the year, let alone early December. February maybe, but even then, just for a fleeting overnight. Not week after week after week.

Of course it took its toll. Roads were deathtraps, gardens were frozen solid (we'll have to wait some time to know what survived there) and travel suddenly became more of a trial than a jaunt. Celtic Memory survived until just before Christmas when the little jeep hit a patch of black ice, waltzed attractively several times, bounced off a fence or two, and ended up facing a phalanx of shocked motorists coming in the opposite direction, all of whom, mercifully, were able to stop in time.

Mercifully also, Celtic Memory was not even bruised or shaken. Not a hint of whiplash. Fortunate indeed. Just the poor little car looking the worse for wear and needing TLC fairly urgently.

Of course it was coming up to Christmas which meant that everything that hadn't already closed down was in the process of so doing. And thus it was early January before I could receive the glad news that in fact the little jeep was a write-off. Gone, kaput, nevermore.

How on earth can you call it a write-off when it's perfectly driveable, I demanded. (no, not immediately, this was after the sitting-on-the-floor-screaming-my-head-off in-tears-of-rage-stage). This is my much-loved and loyal companion you're dismissing so lightly! But apparently there are write-offs and write-offs, and mine was an economic w-o as opposed to a mechanical w-o. Not worth the trouble, you see. Unless some loving mechanic with time on his hands thought it worth while.

Which is what happened in the end. I now have a smart little (boring little?) economical and modern model, and Little Jeep has gone back to the garage from whence it originated, there to be worked on in Jim's spare time over the next year or so.

I'll get used to it. I am fortunate to have a nice little car that runs for ever on a teaspoon of petrol, falls into a very low road tax band, and could slip unnoticed into any parking lot without arousing attention. On reflection, I think it's probably that last fact that is niggling me. Little Jeep had a lot of character. But hey, couldn't it have been worse?

Getting used to this of course necessitated a great many more shiny new projects, among them the lovely Revontuli shawl which I started with some balls of Karaoke a week and a half back. This exciting new interest necessitated my crouching for several hours one night on a small and hard three-legged wooden stool under a good light while I worked out the set up rows. Well, you know how it is, once you're settled into something, you don't feel like stopping to rest or stretch, do you?

During the night I felt twinges in my leg and vaguely thought I should probably go see my Chinese acupuncturist again sometime soon. Towards morning the pain was becoming insistent and I decided to pop along to my local health store that day to see what they might suggest. Came the dawn, I leapt out of bed, and immediately collapsed on the floor in agony, shrieking for DH to get me to the nearest source of painkillers, pdq, and the heck with alternative treatments. The most appalling muscle spasms were making walking, even moving or standing, an impossibility.

There followed an unpleasant week of lying in bed, trying to relax, getting up at intervals only to collapse back, and generally raging at life. All this, by the way, while trying to sort out the insurance on Little Jeep and negotiate for a replacement.

It is quite possible to knit while lying on your back. Which can be a good thing. Needing a serious distraction from despair, grabbed a book of Japanese patterns which had hitherto appeared somewhat daunting, picked up pad and pencil, and started to map out the instructions for a rather nice crop cable and moss stitch jacket.

Got DH to bring me some recently frogged and reskeined charcoal Shetland (farewell, half-finished St Enda, the urge had gone), and started working. These Japanese patterns are actually quite achievable, even without a word (a symbol?) of the language, once you give your mind to it, since they provide excellent schematics and charts. Got both fronts done and had started on the back by the time I was taking tentative steps again. Now determined to get on to those cute bell-shaped sleeves.

Of course other WIPs got finished during the Week of Hades too. Not just one, but two shawls from one skein of Wollmeise, howzat?

The Hitchhiker Scarf, by Martina Behm, with its lovely dragon's tail,

and the Klamath, a clever crochet design by Sarah Kukuchek.

The Revontuli is lying quietly to one side, untouched since that unwisely long evening. Soon, maybe.

Not back to normal yet, not by a long chalk. Onset can be swift, but recovery is slow. In the meantime, it has been well-nigh impossible to do anything at all on the computer unless it can be achieved inside of ten seconds. It is difficult to sit, stand, crouch, stay in any one position for long without cramping up. Movement or lying immobile are the only options. And that's why you haven't heard from me in a while. 'Twasn't that I didn't love you.

This morning, in despair at the latest batch of kind queries, I set up a laptop on a high surface and am standing at it right now, taking ten minutes at a time to post, interspersed with balletic exercises and stretching moves. Also of course hopping up and down stairs to retrieve images from the main computer, without which Celtic Memory's blog would indeed be a sorry thing. Let's see if this works.

Now the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that the car contretemps happened before Christmas and all this angst and agony happened in January. Well, we did the only sensible thing in between, and went off to explore a strange and little known region between Arizona, Mexico and California, where unusual birds and odd locations might be found. Circle a compass around El Centro and Yuma (remember that old classic, recently remade, 3.10 toYuma?) and you'll be in more or less the right area.

Around that natural oddity, the inland Salton Sea, huge flocks of snow geese drift overhead at dawn and dusk, uttering their wonderful wild cries. (One of my favourite children's books is The Grey Goose of Kilnevin, by Patricia Lynch, about a fat little grey farmyard goose who is warned by the wise old gander, 'When ye hear the wild geese flying overhead, don't look up! Don't look up!, in case she is seized with the desire to fly far away with them. Yes, of course she does. Wouldn't you?)

This little beauty, Costa's Humming Bird, was one DH particularly wanted to see. Just look at that violet-blue! Would that I could reproduce it on a silky yarn. Maybe one day.

The wildlife was less cooperative here, but on the right you can see one of the Celtic Memory Endless Sock inventions, where a cuff is handworked at each end of a machine-knit tube, then the waste yarn in the centre cut and toes added to each side; and finally afterthought heels worked. Good fun, and only slightly longer timespan than knitting the entire pair by hand, but the technique's the thing, right?

Do you know Yuma? It's kind of fun, not least because of its history - the only reliable crossing, throughout time, of the Colorado River. That's because there was solid rock here, not just sand.

And the trains still cross it, constantly, day and night, as they have done since the dawn of the railways.

They've put a huge old beauty right in the centre of the town, to honour the connection. Isn't this a magnificent specimen?

I loved that you were able to climb right up into the cab and play at being an engine driver. Who wouldn't want to try that?

We did, have a secret mission on this trip, one which had to be kept absolutely under wraps because we weren't certain it could be pulled off successfully. It involved a dash into the California interior, lots and lots of secret emails, and the brilliant cooperation of this lady:

Ruth (Grandy to her many Ravelry friends) and I had agreed to try to set up a surprise meeting with one of Ravelry's liveliest and most energetic members, the witty and entertaining DragonYady. Those of you who have participated in Sock Madness over the years will know how the irrepressible DragonYady was always to the fore, thinking up new daft ideas, throwing out suggestions, sending us all off on harebrained missions hither, thither and yon. All this while having more than enough on her plate to cope with in everyday life. Once I'd asked DragonYady (MaryAnn) what she'd like from Ireland, and she said, simply, 'Just a visit from you.' At that time it hadn't seemed even feasible, but now we looked at the map, thought about it, then emailed Ruth. After a day or two of frantic messaging, the mission was on!

We drove across desert landscapes to the assigned town, arriving in time to find Ruth and husband Ron waiting as arranged at Barnes & Noble.

Ron is a real jewel. He accepted calmly and placidly the fact that daft knitting women were running and messaging all over the place to set up a lunch date. He acted as go-between with his cellphone, organising and timing arrivals to perfection. You got a good one there, Ruth!

Ruth and Ron had persuaded MaryAnn to meet them for lunch, but there was still the risk that she mightn't be able to come, due to family commitments. We could well have been prevented too, by fire, flood, famine or other unforeseen conditions (there were storms aplenty in that corner of the world at the time, in fact, but fortunately they didn't affect us too much). Hence the secrecy. But it all worked out.

Ruth went ahead to check that MaryAnn had arrived, and confirmed to Ron by phone. He then led the way to the restaurant, and went ahead to the table, so we could see where it was. DH took over, arriving at the table with camera clicking, and asking where a certain MaryAnn might be, as he had a message from Ireland for her. That was my cue to approach from behind while she was distracted by DH.

'MaryAnn, also known as DragonYady...'

'guess who!'

We had the most wonderful lunchtime ever, all talking, laughing, exchanging reminiscences and experiences. The incredible thing about the knitting community and Ravelry, the thing that never ceases to amaze and enthral me, is that we can meet for the first time in real life and yet already be such close friends, knowing so much about each other. It was a lovely day.

Three happy friends going their separate ways, yet always linked by an unbreakable length of yarn and a computer keyboard.

Hopefully the next time you hear from me, I'll be back at my own normal keyboard and dancing Swan Lake in my spare time. Until then, limpingly yours. (All folk remedies welcomed)