Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A bit of this, a bit of that

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
This has been a full week – I started teaching my two classes at university, which meant getting up quite early on Tuesday and Wednesday, driving an hour (or more, depending on traffic) each way, coming home late on Friday, and meeting 40 new people all at once.
Needless to say, when I got home on Tuesday afternoon, I was knackered. There’s no other word for it. Happily, it is already getting better: gradually coming to know these new students is less taxing than meeting them for the first time, and I am easing back into teaching mode. Plus, the subject matter is, if not limited, then at least cohesive.

It’s all about Latin: grammar – very basic grammar, at first, as some of the students have no clue – words, the structure of the language and how it works to express all the variety of the natural, human, and divine world. This awareness of language is new to some of them and needs to be deepened for all of them.
I do enjoy expanding their horizons; someone once said that when he was a student in the late 60s, a lot of young people took mind-enhancing drugs – while he read Latin. Which can be somewhat safer.

The bits of text are, for now, construed by Latin teachers; later, we will read ‘real’ texts by actual Romans. So, there is content to deal with, as well, and I get lots of chances to digress into the history, culture, and mindset of the Romans; at least, I can introduce themes that they will be able to explore further later on.

With the job being part-time, I do have a life outside of it, including my writing. The FWG August Short Story votes were counted and came back last Sunday – and this time, my story achieved seventh place. So, it did get some critical acclaim :o)
And a reminder from the feedback group to use more dialogue; I’ll have to not only be aware of that, but actually do something about it in the September story.
Anyway, here it is:

The Countryman

I always knew that I should be king.
Even when we were boys, it was obvious to me that my brother’s claim to the throne was merely an accident of his being born first. He was meek, sweet, forever seeking approval and friendship, love. Too weak to rule.
Not even as king did he endeavour to impose fear and respect on others, mark his territory, so to speak. He sought alliances, preferred diplomacy to battle. Diplomacy can be useful, of course, honeyed words and gifts to lull the opponent; but never should it be the end, only the means to the true end.
This could not go on: our position was gradually weakened, others saw us as an easy target, land to be conquered. My brother would not listen to me.

So I had to prove my point. I am stronger, more fit to rule.
I did not kill him or have him killed. That would have brought down the wrath of the gods on my head; I merely placed him under house arrest end even let his wife follow him. They told me his brat was killed in the melee, though I never saw the corpse.

For fifteen years now, I have had it all. The power, the title, the riches. My wife and my daughters adorn their hair with ribbons of the finest Tyrian purple. They wear gold bracelets and pearl earrings. And Akastos is growing up to be a handsome heir. I did prove my point.

Lately, though, strange things have begun to happen.
Thunderclouds gathered out of nowhere. White-hot lightning flashed purple against the greenish grey clouds and struck the old olive tree in the courtyard, my favourite shady spot for resting in the hot afternoons. The dry wood caught flame, and the whole tree burned down in an instant. Nothing else was struck, and the clouds dissipated and blew away, leaving a clear blue sky. As if nothing had happened. Only my olive tree was gone, reduced to ashes dancing on the breeze.
It must be an omen. Something bad is coming for me.

I arranged sacrifices to all of the gods, though I have done nothing wrong. Even Hera, the old hag, must have her due. It will not do to be at odds with the immortals.

There is an old prophecy about me: a man from the country, wearing only one sandal, will bring me down. It was uttered long ago, before I had anything worth bringing down, and for many years, I have paid it no heed. But suddenly, it comes to my mind.
I have to watch those around me. But it is ridiculous: nobody walks around wearing a single sandal – those who are too poor simply go barefoot.

Next, a shepherd came back alone from the pasture, claiming that a lion had attacked the flock. Highly unusual for this time of year. Several sheep were indeed found dead or injured so badly that they had to be put down; and the shepherd’s boy had been mauled and killed, too. The shepherd was of course interrogated, but found to have done nothing wrong.
And he was wearing both his sandals.

I find myself waking in the nights, plagued by thoughts that have no meaning. Strange ideas come to me. What if my brother’s son, Jason, was not killed all those years ago? What if he was whisked away, like a boy in the stories, to grow up anonymously and return to avenge his father’s ignominious fate? To claim his inheritance and ruin all that I have worked for?
But no, this is ridiculous.

I can tell no-one about these thoughts. They would think I was going mad, would find me weak and vulnerable. Not even Akastos can be trusted with the secret: he was too young when it all happened, and knows nothing of his cousin. His dead cousin.


I have arranged a feast, a great sacrifice. A hundred heifers are to be slaughtered. This will show my generosity to all, gods and men alike.
For some reason, the great fire for the burn-offerings won’t catch. While the attendants struggle with the kindling, a murmur ripples through the crowd, and it parts. Everybody falls silent, as a young man approaches, dripping wet and wearing only one sandal.

The sky blackens, and the ocean roars in my ears.

The young man walks calmly through the crowd, straight towards me.
‘Greetings, uncle,’ he says.


The next day, I summoned Jason. I knew how to get rid of him without seeming to: I reminded him of the fleece of the golden ram, brought to faraway Aia by our uncle Frixos. This fleece, and its power to bring prosperity to the land, rightly belongs here, and the recent row of misfortunes plainly shows how we need it.
‘I am too old now for heroic journeys,’ I said. ‘Your country needs you.’
‘You are young and as yet unknown to the people,’ I told him. ‘But if you bring back the Fleece, you will have proved your worth, and they will welcome you as king.’

He acquiesced and immediately set about procuring a ship and gathering a crew.
This morning, they went away. My relief flowed into hearty emulations of wishes for their journey and safe return, as I watched them embark and set sail.

He will never return: the journey to the ends of the world is perilous, and the king of Aia has no love for strangers. If they make it there alive, he will see to it that they never leave.

I am safe, my position is once more secure. I call for Akastos; he is old enough now to be taken further into my confidence, to learn the intricacies of ruling.
But there is no answer – where is he?

© 2013 Dorthe Møller Christensen

The Knitting
Knitting for babies is always a bit of a gamble, size-wise: you want the garment to fit within the foreseeable future, but not be outgrown too quickly, either. And, say, a lacy cotton cardigan should preferably be useful while the weather is still warm enough.
So, the parents have been waiting for just the right moment to put little Kajsa into the Elanor cardigan, and this is what happened:
Adorable, isn't she?

This weekend, the big annual craft fair, Husflidsmessen, takes place in Viborg. They don’t allow photography, so imagine two big sports or concert arenas sitting across from one another, each filled to the brim with stands from a range of shops and clubs showing and selling yarns for knitting and crochet, buttons, tatting, weaving, felting, woodwork, amber, beads and jewellery making, paper cutting, patchwork sewing and quilting, glass blowing, Christmas decorations (including mead and mustard in stone jars), and more.

The ‘streets’ between the stands are thronged with people, the majority of whom are mature ladies – though the shoppers come in all ages, sizes, and shapes. You don’t see many children, which is a blessing for both the children and everybody else: the couple of kids I saw looked as if they had been dragged there by their mother and grandmother and couldn’t wait to escape.

My sister and I left our children at home, to browse in peace – or as much peace as you can get in the crowds. Each of us had plans, something we wanted to look for; I had more luck with mine, but we both managed to buy stuff.
My sister got connectors for the KnitPro interchangeable circular needle wires – those things make life so much easier when you need to try something on: instead of having to transfer all the stitches to a piece of yarn, try on your thing, and then put all the stitches back before knitting on, you can screw on another length of wire, and Bob’s your uncle. (I am feeling the lack of this option right now for the Leaf cardigan that still hasn’t got a better name and is worked on 2.5 mm needles, that don’t come as interchangeables.)

We both got beads for stitch markers – the elephants didn’t want to be stitch markers, though, so they became earrings instead.

And yarn, of course. I only bought yarn for planned projects, no questionable spur-of-the-moment spree-shopping.
So, variegated Kauni for a dress – and yes, they are all the same colourway, the EZ:

Gloriously soft cashmere alpaca from Sandnes for little warm things:

And something else that is a secret for now - I’ll show you later.
(Sorry about the pics, I don't know why they have tilted.) 

So much for this year’s craft outings: we did Saltum in May, and now this one in September.

As mentioned above, I am working diligently on my Leaf cardigan – all this running about, though, and going off to Aarhus several times a week, is cutting into my knitting time. Quite annoying. I’m still figuring out a new equilibrium on that front, as well as trying to work out how to fit in pattern writing at times when my brain isn’t threatening to go on strike.
Anyway, I am below the sleeve/body divide now and just ploughing on down towards the lace border; so it is a bit boring at times. It works for watching Lost, though, and even reading (I suppose so, at least, haven’t had a chance to try it out).

The Books
I have almost finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, the August group read in the Ravelry group on Goodreads. This is one of those books where you want to read on to see what happens – and at the same time, you don’t want to reach the end of the book, because then, well, it ends. The beauty of consuming books, though, is that they stay with you, once you’ve read them. So in that sense, a book never really ends, but becomes part of your inner landscape – and this particular feature of the landscape is one to be treasured.

At some point in the book, a shawl shows up – well, several shawls, actually, at several points, but there is one in particular that caught my attention. It is described as ‘a length of ivory lace’ and belongs to one of the protagonists, Miss Celia Bowen.
You have guessed it already, haven’t you: I am going to have to make this shawl. I don’t know when it will be, but the thought is simmering quietly in my mind ...
And, if you know the book, you can also guess why I was drawn to the red cashmere alpaca and not, say, purple, as I would usually be.
So watch this space :o)

All this driving gives me ample time to listen to books, and I have been compiling audio books via the Audible app on my Android smart phone. Too much detail? Well, I’ve been listening to From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know about the Internet by John Naughton. The book pretty much does what it says on the tin: it presents a history of the Internet, the Web (which are not the same), and a bunch of technologies relating to the Internet, as well as comparing the possible, as yet unknown, impact of all these new modes of communication with the advent of the printing press in the 15th century.
I had one quibble: when presenting one of the consequences of printing, the personal authorship as opposed to the scribal times’ copy-and-comment mode, Naughton gives the French essayist Montaigne the credit for inventing the personal essay – thereby completely ignoring Seneca and the whole antique epistula tradition.
That may be a minor point, though, and on the whole, I found the book both informative and useful.

My next and current listening adventure is the September group read in the Goodreads Ravelry group: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, read by Hugh Lee. (There is a point to mentioning this, as one US listener was unhappy with a female reader, and offers both versions. I haven’t heard the other one, so I can’t comment on it.)
This is a classic whodunit in the style of Agatha Christie – only with sheep as the main characters. The mystery opens with the discovery of the murdered shepherd, and the sheep, prompted by the cleverest of them, Miss Maple (sic), attempt to solve the murder.
Several readers in the group are unimpressed by talking sheep – but I love it: they are silly and yet wise, forming their own views of the world, of humans, and the events that unfold around them, all from a sheepy perspective. Is it morally defendable, for instance, for an Irish shepherd to choose Norwegian wool for his sweaters?
And the reader makes voices for the sheep and a convincing – to my ears, at least – Irish brogue for the humans. So, a completely different book from the August offering, but fun.

Well, that’s it for this week – thank you for stopping by!
I will be back next week; until then: take care, have a lovely week, and have fun!

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