Hello, everybody, and welcome yet again to the Apple Basket!
Well, winter has returned after several days of thawing and melting and the air actually smelling of spring. But of course, this was still January, and on Friday, 1st February, the snow came back (the weather this winter seems to be quite hung up on dates: the very first snows fell on 1st December).
I do hope that you have had a wonderful week, be it winter or spring or approaching autumn where you are.
This week, the Apple is about growing old while remaining active, and I try to get a grip on my knitting in between socialising.
The Apple of the Week:
When I was in my first year at university, I put up a quote from the Athenian wise man Solon in my reading cubicle: ‘I grow old while always learning new things.’ (Gerasko means ‘I grow old’ in Greek, hence the title of today’s post.) One of our dons, a Venetian (not Italian, mind you! But that’s another story) apparently saw it and added a scribble: ‘But Solon was 60! You are 20!’ I wasn’t, yet, but never mind. But I wasn’t ‘growing old’ at the time, either, of course.
This Venetian scholar, Giuseppe Torresin, to everybody known affectionately as Bepi, never grew old; he had to retire when he was 70 (official policy), but was allowed to keep a (small) office and more or less went about his daily business at the department, until he died. He maintained that conversing with students kept him young – and it was true that we had to be on our toes to keep up with him.
Earlier this week, the Dutch Queen Beatrix has announced that she will abdicate this coming 30th April after 33 years on the throne. We in Denmark can, of course, laughingly dismiss her as an amateur, our own Queen Margrethe having celebrated her 40th anniversary last year – though even she can’t hold a candle to Queen Elizabeth and her Diamond Jubilee.
But facetiousness aside, 33 years in a not exactly easy job is a lot, and Queen Beatrix is 75 years old (on Thursday, 31st January). She does deserve to retire; most of us can only hope to be healthy and strong for so long.
And besides, the Dutch queens have a tradition for handing over the reins to the next generation; the mother of the present queen abdicated on 30th April 1980 (yes, the exact same date), and her grandmother abdicated on 6th September 1948.
So, all the best wishes to Queen Beatrix – and to her son, the heir apparent Prince Willem-Alexander, who at the age of 46 will be taking over.
The general retirement age in Denmark is, for the time being, 65 years (it changes with the trends in the economy); university professors and others in official positions can stay on until they are 70, while the privately employed can work for as long as they like, basically.
The state pension is available at age 65, with the possibility of full or partial earlier retirement at reduced payments, provided you are old enough to be able to partake in that scheme; it is being gradually dismantled. My dad is currently in that partial early retirement system, working a few days a week and looking forward to turning 65 next year; I decided at age 30, when the saving for it was to begin, that I did not trust it to be in place by the time I am 60.
The individually appropriate age for retirement depends on a number of factors: health, finances, social situation – and, of course, what you do. The voluntary early retirement plan (VERP) was originally intended for the uneducated workers doing physically demanding and often monotonous labour, who are worn out by the time they are 60, or maybe even before that.
Intellectual and creative work with more variation and more challenges can often continue for much longer, even though most people do not work past the age of 90, as someone like Christopher Lee does.
The BBC’s World Book Club podcast episode from 5th January this year was all about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. On the discussion panel was, among others, the great queen of crime fiction, Baroness P. D. James; in 2011, she published what has been called the best ever sequel to Pride and Prejudice, namely Death Comes to Pemberley, in which a murder takes place on the grounds of Mr. – and Mrs. – Darcy’s estate. Thus, P. D. James was able to combine her two great literary passions: the works of Jane Austen and crime fiction. And the book is good, I might add; I got it from Audible.
P. D. James is 92 years old and still working with what she loves; I want to be her when I grow up – or old, or whatever comes first.
So, how do you get to be that old and still not only function, but shine? Well, the mystery of ageing has been under investigation for centuries, if not millennia, by alchemists and mythologists – and these days by biochemists.
I will not claim to know any answers apart from the basic rules: it seems to be down to a combination of nature and nurture, or genes and epigenetics. Which means that you first have to choose your parents with great care to get the proper genes, and then lead a healthy life: eat right (let’s not get into what that means) to nourish your body, avoid toxins and too much stress, exercise to keep your arteries open and get lots of oxygen to your brain, be active and social and happy, challenge yourself – I think that’s about it.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Writing up a list like this with just the headlines is easy; the hard part is finding the way that will make your life just right for you. And everybody’s starting point is different, be it on the genetic, social, financial, or environmental level. Every day, we each have to seek the balance that will keep us challenged and thus not bored, but on the other hand not stressed out, and find ways to cope with the elements in our lives that are too much without making everything worse in the long run by poisoning ourselves with short-term comforters.
It’s often the simple things that work best; I truly believe that at least some of the ‘Stone Age’-trend makes sense. Go outdoors, get some fresh air and sunshine, converse with nature (however corny that sounds), have a pet, laugh with your loved ones, eat a variety of real food, use every part of your brain and body, set yourself new challenges and goals.
That is the way to happiness, right now and for the rest of your life.
I’m having a very social weekend – well, for me, anyway.
Friday evening I went out to dinner with my sister and our cousin; I was driving to Aalborg which is an hour away from here. And wouldn’t you know, the weather decided to be winter again after nearly a week of almost spring-like conditions – well, thaw, anyway, and all the snow from the two weeks of proper winter weather was gone. But Friday dawn saw rime on the ground, which turned into a grey, rainy morning; and then it snowed. Big, heavy snowflakes all over the place, and it was like soap on the roads; so I texted my sister to ask how much snow they were having (since the December snows were much heavier up north than here). She was totally uncomprehending: no snow there. So, I drove off – carefully – through flurries of snow, and before I got to Aalborg, it had turned to rain and then stopped.
We had a pleasant evening out, the three of us, quieter than it would have been 15 or 20 years ago; but so it goes. We needed to chat without children around more than any of us needed to go drinking and dancing.
And I drove home again, back to the snow, and got up on Saturday to a beautiful winter wonderland.
This Sunday afternoon I went (with Victor) to coffee with friends, a male couple whom I know from university; these are the fathers of the Rainbow Baby, who is already six months old! How time flies. I finally got to meet the baby herself, an adorable little girl with a shock of dark hair (Victor called it ‘Harry Potter-hair’), and the mothers – lovely people all around.
We were going to meet in December, but a snowstorm put a stop to those plans. So we had to take a rain check – or snow check (sorry about that, lol) – and hope that the next crazy winter weather wouldn’t happen this time. It did seem manageable now: no more snow since Friday. At least not until mid-afternoon ...
Anyway, after a lovely afternoon, we drove home, not too fast, in flurries of snow.
Remember the Bifrost blanket? It’s funny: I knitted it, loving the colours, packed it up for months and was surprised at the vibrancy of the colours when I took it out again in December – and seeing it again today was another revelation of a riotous rainbow.
And everybody involved is geeky enough to appreciate that the centre of the blanket is purple, with the colour sequence spreading outward to red.
And there we have the segue into
All this week I’ve felt like I’d hardly knitted anything, though I must have done something; I have been knitting in between everything else. Let’s see ...
The Fern hat is done, which it bloody well ought to be, being planned as a ‘quick knit’.
I worked it all the way through to the cast-off, tried it on – and the rib edge was too wide; it was going to come down over my eyes. So I frogged it (the edge, not the whole thing) and continued the decrease section for 4 more rows; that gave me two more sets of 8 decreases. Of course, that meant that the nifty k3, p2 ribbing from the pattern didn’t work, since I had 104 stitches instead of 120; so I did a k1tbl, p1 ribbing. That works, too.
It has turned out to be a quite big, slouchy tam or beret; I am not wholly convinced by it, but now I am going to try and wear it and see how it works out. If it doesn’t, I know just what to do with the yarn.
I bought buttons for the Georgia cardigan, and they have even been sewn on. For some reason, this has taken all week; I have no idea how 9 buttons can be such a big project. But the cardigan turned out great, so all is well.
I have done a bit of sock knitting – the Riff Socks that I had to start over on smaller needles. That explains it: I have been knitting, but this second sock toe looks almost the same as the first, though finally a bit longer; and 76 stitches to a round on 2 mm needles is dreadfully slow going. What a relief to know where my knitting time has gone, though!
Oh, and the driftwood jumper has been sitting still for a few days, while I needed the 3.25 mm circular needle for the wider part of the hat. I have only one set of dpns and one fixed circular in 3.25 mm, because we can’t get those in-between sizes here. Really annoying; of course, I can order them from the UK, I just haven’t gotten round to it yet.
But anyway, now that the hat is done, I have picked up the jumper again. It is a technically fun knit; I really like how the shoulder part is working out so far. And I love working with the yarn. This is Rowanspun DK – a rather light DK, more like a sport weight, I would say – in the colour way Eau de Nil, a bluish green with little tweed flecks in blue, yellow, and dark green. Right now, it is randomly sitting on top of some bluish purple yarn, wool dyed with logwood, and those two colours are so good together. I may have to make a scarf to go with the jumper (oh no, more plans!).
The purple yarn, though, is becoming something completely other than a scarf: I needed some simple knitting to take with me on Friday, and neither the increase section of the driftwood jumper or the twisted stitches on the Riff socks fitted that description. So, I wound up a couple of half skeins of Aran wool, that I used for some of my dyeing experiments, and started a pair of short bed socks for me from the same pattern that I have used twice already for Victor.
I even got to show my half a sock to a random stranger: we went for coffee and cake after dinner and knitted away while chatting, me on my sock, my sister on a shawl for a friend (my cousin doesn’t knit – yet! Mwahahahaha ...), and a man stopped at our table on his way out, saying how nice it was to have us sitting there knitting. He tentatively, almost apologetically, called it ‘grandma-like’, and we kindly informed him that knitting is both modern and trendy.
So, all in all, I do have a little to show for this week, knitting-wise. So it goes.
The discrepancy and frustration arises, I think, from my physical knitting pace being much slower than my mental knitting pace. Well, obviously, I hear you cry: I can plan knitting while lying in bed – much better than counting sheep – and while doing all those other pesky chores that steal my knitting time. Over the course of a week I can easily imagine – and I did – 3 jumpers, 2 pairs of socks, a hat, a shawl, and of course finishing my current wips.
And what have I actually done? Finished a hat, sewn in 9 buttons, made a sock toe and half a bed sock, and a bit of a jumper.
It’s the same with reading: there are about a hundred books I want to read RIGHT NOW, so reading a hundred pages in one book feels like hardly a dent in the list.
That’s all for this week – have a great one, be happy and healthy, keep crafting!
I will be back next week, and until then: