Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Does this look like spring to you?

This is in many ways an interesting week. To start with the weather – always a good topic, right? – we are having winter and snow and freezing winds. And it is not over yet; the weather people are forecasting a proper snowstorm on Tuesday. It seems the winter does not want to let go.

Maybe because of this weather, Victor has a nasty cold again; which is tremendously annoying (not to me, to him), as this week his whole year have been ‘bridge-building’, visiting the places of their next level of education. They do that in both 8th and 9th grade to help them choose the right place to spend the next three years; and Victor had chosen to spend three days at a gymnasium and, because he had to choose something else as well, two days at a tech school. So, Monday and Tuesday, he went to tech school, making boiled sweets and being told how versatile and innovative and destined to become rich inventors the students are – and Tuesday afternoon he came home and curled up on the sofa, sniffling. No more days of school for fun.

The snow gave me some extra work, too: my parents have gone off to Egypt, traipsing around the pyramids, sailing on the Nile, and leaving their pavement-clearing to us. So, watching the snowflakes pelting down all Tuesday evening, I could envision the miles of pavement – they have a bungalow on a corner – that were waiting to be swept on Wednesday morning. The boys were at school (not Victor, of course, but he wasn’t one to send out into the snow that day, and if he had been, he would have been at school), and so the job fell to me.
Have I ever mentioned that I hate snow?

The Apple Pie of the Week:
Having more or less recovered from the snow day (heh), I geared up for Pi Day, the 14th of March, or, as the Americans put it, 3.14. I had decided to make a pi pie, just for the fun of it; I haven’t done this sort of thing before, but there’s a first time for everything, right?
Since I joined Ravelry in December 2011 and a few months later started reading and posting in the fora (forums), I have been exposed to a lot of geeky silliness and have owned up to my own tendencies in that field. Knitting a TARDIS, making a TARDIS birthday cake, and now a pi pie – it’s all good fun, and nobody gets hurt.
So, I made an apple pie from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and adorned it with a π:

Oh, and by the way, 14th March is Albert Einstein’s birthday. That is just great.

The day following Pi Day is, of course, the Ides of March.
The Roman calendar of old operated with three basic dates in a month: Kalendae, the 1st, Nonae, the 7th or 9th, and Idus, the 13th or 15th; depending on whether the month was a short or a long one. Whenever they had to name a specific date, they counted backwards from the following fixed date, unless the day happened to be one of them. It has always seemed confusing to me, this counting backwards; my birthday, for instance, being the 20th February, would be ‘the tenth day before the Kalends of March’, as both days are included in the counting.

Anyway, the Ides of March is famous for being the day on which Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BCE.
By this time, Caesar had amassed to his person a host of titles and immense power, military, political, and religious. There were rumours that he wanted to be king – Rex being in the language of the Roman Republic a dirty and dangerous word ever since 509 BCE, when the last of the Etruscan kings was deposed and the Republic formed. The leader of this uprising was one Lucius Junius Brutus, a hard-core Republican who even had his own sons executed for disloyalty to the new regime.
So, not surprisingly, a group of senators formed with the intent to get rid of Caesar and save the Republic, save Rome, from this new tyrant. Sixty senators joined, including the young Marcus Junius Brutus, descendant of the ancient family of Junii and for a long time the son in law to be of Caesar himself. That went out the window when Caesar’s daughter, Julia, fell in love with the imperator Pompey, Caesar’s old friend and ally. Julia died in childbirth, though, and the bond between Caesar and Pompey crumbled, leading them to rivalry and ultimately civil war.
Down through the 50’s and 40’s BCE this unrest went on, until Caesar had all the power to himself; he was Imperator, leader of the army (or part of it, at least), he was Pontifex Maximus, the highest priest for Jupiter, the highest god; and he was Dictator, holding ultimate rule. The office of Dictator was a temporary emergency measure employed in a time of crisis and thus to be laid down when the crisis was dissolved; but the Senate voted Caesar Dictator for life to have him hold the reins and ensure peace. And then they regretted it, and the memory of the kings of old surfaced. And some of them felt compelled to kill Caesar. Obviously, they wanted young Brutus to be a part of the conspiracy: the symbolic value in his name and lineage was incomparable.
The story goes that Caesar was warned by his Etruscan priest, a haruspex, not to go to the Senate on that day – hence the ‘Beware the Ides of March!’ – but went anyway and was stabbed 23 times by the senatorial conspirators who thought they were saving Rome from a tyrant. Maybe they were; maybe they ran scared and murdered the man who was in reality saving Rome from chaos.

In Colleen McCullough’s book series Masters of Rome, we get a very positive view of Caesar and his aims: he was a pleasant and hard-working young man, immensely ambitious, of course, but extremely capable and ultimately the right person to bring order to the chaos of the late Republic. He felt genuinely sorry for Brutus for having his heart broken, and tried to help the young man as best he could. The conspirators pushed Brutus into joining – because of his name – but he never really wanted to be there and afterwards suffered terribly from the guilt of the deed. And nobody had really considered who would be taking over from Caesar: who was going to fulfil all the roles that they had resented him for fulfilling?
Well, there may be a point: what immediately ensued from the killing were 13 years of civil war, while Caesarians pursued conspirators, and his supposed heirs fought over the legitimacy of their respective claims to power.

Jonathan Swift lets the eponymous hero of his famous work, Gulliver, visit – among several others – a land of sorcerers and necromancers who enable him to chat to illustrious persons from Antiquity. Caesar and Brutus appear, Caesar claiming that all the works of his life were of less value than Brutus’ act in taking that life. Gulliver, in general, is much opposed to kings and tyrants.

So, Caesar may have been a tyrant – tyrannos, incidentally, is the Greek word equivalent to the Latin rex – but he did have merits.

To end on a more light-hearted note: we all know Caesar’s last words, the ‘Et tu, Brute’ expressing (maybe) betrayal and disappointment in his young almost-son in law. Now, the historian Suetonius in his account of the event gives the words in Greek: ‘kai su, teknon’ which means, literally, ‘you too, child’. This makes sense, of course, in Caesar’s addressing Brutus.
But: the vernacular meaning of kai su is ... fuck you. How’s that for last words?
This interpretation is supported, I think, by the fact that only a couple of the 23 stab wounds had any real depth: most of them were hesitation cuts without much strength or conviction behind them. Surrounded by a cluster of knife-wielding would-be assassins, Caesar was still the strongest man in the room.

The Knitting:
I am working diligently on the Birthday jumper for Emil. That’s it. This is all the knitting news for this week.

Oh, alright, I do have some more for you: on Wednesday, when I came home exhausted and cold and aching from snow-clearing and grocery shopping, and the old bursitis in my right shoulder had re-asserted itself, I had no energy for the intricacies of designing and cable pattern knitting. I needed to do something simple and something for me.
So I started swatching for another driftwood, this time a summer cardigan in cotton and bamboo. And worsted weight yarn. Yes, I am actually knitting a pattern in the called-for yarn weight; who would have thought that?
I have been more or less living in my Juniper since I finished it, so there is basis for trying this pattern again.
I am using Rowan Denim and 100% bamboo from Netto; so this time, I will have the stripes.
My gauge is slightly tighter than the recommended one, and I preferred the look and feel of the fabric on 4 mm needles rather than the 4.5 mm that were getting me the right gauge; so I am going by the numbers for a size S this time, hoping that it won’t be too big.

I am finding that for the time being, I am most happy with two active projects: one simple and one more challenging; sometimes I have had more projects going, particularly before Christmas, and maybe that’s why I don’t need to have several projects lying around, vying for attention. Two is fine. And so, I got a stripe or two done this afternoon, when my parents came round for coffee and a chat about Egypt (them), London (Thomas), school (Victor), work training (Andreas); and I got to whine about my shoulder. Just a bit, though.

All this jumper knitting goes well, as I may have mentioned, with audio books. I just finished listening to Gulliver’s Travels on CraftLit; and from Audible, I have a contemporary-fantasy book. This is the first book in the Narbondo series by James Blaylock, written back in the 1980’s: The Digging Leviathan. Imagine, if you will, a Jules Verne-type story set in a parallel 1960’s universe, where telepathic mermen swim and evil doctors preside over sanatoriums.
The juxtaposition of 18th century science fiction and modern-day fantasy coupled with science fiction is quite ... interesting.
Oh, and my current paper book is The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. So, to offset the sci-fi, I have demigods and mythological monsters in a modern setting. No problem.

In other knitting news, I have finally acquired What Would Madame Defarge Knit?, a book of patterns based on literary characters. If you are a CraftLit listener, you know what I am talking about; otherwise: the book has over 20 patterns by various designers, all inspired by characters from classic literature.
We have, of course, Madame Defarge’s stole, the one with the coded list on it; Wilhelmina’s – or Mina’s – shawl to protect her from Dracula; the White Wool, a scarf for Captain Ahab; and many others. The patterns are accompanied by line drawings instead of the usual glossy colour photos – which only means, of course, that you can go to Ravelry and find colour photos of not only the designer’s prototype, but of all the projects made from that pattern. Quite nifty.

The next book, What (else) Would Madame Defarge Knit?, will be coming out this April, and I have pre-ordered it from Cooperative Press. Who, not unimportantly, actually pay their designers according to the number of books that are sold. And that, I think, is nice.

There are more books in the series coming out; I am planning to submit a design for Defarge Does Sherlock; which means, of course, that I will have to re-read all the Sherlock Holmes stories to find inspiration.
Life is hard.
Luckily, we have books.

And on that happy note, I will leave you for this week; the wind is picking up outside, whooshing through the tree tops, gearing up to make a blizzard on Tuesday.
I hope you have a great week – keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

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