Unfortunately, any plans I might have had for the weekend have been scuppered by fatigue. Yesterday was so bad that I couldn’t get up from the sofa, was approaching the incoherent mumbling stage, and had vertigo and nausea to add to the mix. Nice. Today seems a little better – at least my brain is actually working – but I know that I’m not going anywhere except to move from one seated position to another. Great! I suppose that for some days now, I have been waiting for the inevitable – I had managed a record ten good days, in which I had accomplished a reasonable amount – and then BANG! My brain kindly reminds me that things are still nowhere approaching normal. At moments of fatigue-induced frustration, it is good to remind oneself of pleasing things.

Things that are pleasing
Writing. I wrote an article. I enjoyed the writing. The article explores precisely why there has been so much erroneous gubbins written about aran sweaters, gansey patterns and the like, and will be published in The Knitter. I’ll let you know when. I also did an interview with a far-flung magazine. What is “owl sweater” in Chinese?

Walking. On my good days, I walk with Bruce, in my unbalanced, lopsided fashion, for two or three miles. Let me tell you, there is nothing like a period of immobility to make you really appreciate how nice it is to just be outdoors. It doesn’t matter how rubbish the weather, or how wonky my left side, I always enjoy it, and find each small expansion of my horizons tremendously exciting. I am also enjoying the incidental sociability that comes from having a dog along. One gets to meet some interesting local characters when one is outside everyday.

Leisurely research about the Newhaven fishwives continues. Here are some pictured around 1900 at Waverley station, in transit to the villages of Fife to sell their fishy-wares. They appear to be waiting on what is now platform 11. The one closest to the camera is knitting a stocking, and they are wearing their ordinary workaday garb – woollen cape or shawl, heavy petticoats, arms always bare to the elbows – none of that elaborate gala get-up.

I am making good progress on my current design which I shall resist from calling fish-heid

I was completely blown away by Magnus Lindberg’s Graffiti, which we heard the RSNO and chorus perform at the Usher Hall on Friday. Lindberg chose the Latin of the street rather than the forum for his text, bringing the graffiti of Pompei — in all its witty, banal, racy ordinariness — to sonic life, complete with slang and spelling errors. The orchestral score had something of Stravinsky, something of Britten in it, the only downside of which was the odd jarring moment when I felt that, in reaching for the ancient Lindberg had got hold of the incidental music of A History of the World in 100 Objects instead… but it seems churlish to even mention this when the combined effects of orchestra and chorus were so arresting and profound. Out of the babble of the street rose individual shouts and whispers, as the folk of Pompei spoke of their lost objects, favourite restaurants, personal enmities, chance encounters. Individually, these commonplace – even facile – scrawlings suggest how ordinary and familiar ancient daily life might be – but sung in such a setting, the words became a vocal act of defiance against time and the silence of the grave. The piece proceeds as discrete moments, showcasing contrasts of colour and mood, and listening to it, one inevitably thinks of the excavatory work of archeology and the way in which it, unlike some other historical disciplines, enables access to the everyday lives of the people of the past. It also struck me as a very humble piece of music — making no apologies for the fact that the full story was unavailable, grand narratives impossible, and that the only tale that the past could ever tell would be partial and fragmentary. This might make Grafitti sound like a work of post-modern relativism – far from it – probably the most striking thing about it was way that Lindberg’s music seemed governed by a deep, and deeply consolatory humanism. It was a treat to hear it.

Things that are not pleasing.
*Two privileged young people have decided to get married. Really, who gives a shit?
*In the same week as Cameron’s enterprise advisor celebrated the positive economic effects of the ‘so-called recession’, Local Authorities like Oldham find their resources so diminished by the Government’s swingeing measures that they have been obliged to cut their mental health services by 80%. Yes, that’s 80%. Perhaps those with million-pound mortgages can congratulate themselves on never having it so good, but I wonder how the vulnerable, now-unsupported, folk of Oldham feel.
* Sometimes I feel that Stéphane Denève’s interesting ten out of ten series is woefully underappreciated by its Edinburgh audience. Tom and I are somewhat unusual Usher Hall regulars – I would say that most of the other people in that category are of post-retirement age. On Friday, Graffiti was scheduled for the second half of the evening, and was preceded by a rather old-fashioned and run-of-the-mill performance of Mozart’s twentieth piano concerto by Imogen Cooper. At the interval, I saw several familiar elderly faces necking their drinks, and buggering off before their ears were assailed by the new-fangled twenty-first century nonsense. The hall is usually pretty full, and it was notable how many empty seats there were during the RSNO and chorus’s sterling performance of Graffiti. It really was their loss, because it was, as I said, superb.

41 thoughts on “scuppered

  1. I am truely dreading the Media storm over the next few months of Royal Wedding fever. It’s really not very interesting is it?

    Edinburgh audiences are notoriously conservative, and I’d imagine the post-retirement ones even more so! My parents are in that demographic and usually go to many performances, but were not at this one. Mum laughed when I read this part of your post to her!

  2. Sorry to learn you have been “scuppered” by the nasty fatigue and hope it soon passes.
    Glad that you had pleasing things to occupy you. It was pleasing to read about them.

  3. I live in the states. We will hear about this wedding on TV, the radio, the newspapers, magazines, the internet. There will be NO escape. Why are we as a whole SO obsessed with celebrities?

    I enjoy your blog. I always learn something new. Great news on the 10 days! Hopefully, it will go longer and longer stretches of time.

  4. The wedding thing : I do not care. At all.

    Cuts : Our council has cut all Direct payments. That removes a huge chunk of autonomy for those with disabilities. Dial-a-Ride service now ends at 5.30 p.m. instead of 10.30 p.m., because disabled people shouldn’t be out late, obviously.
    It’s all very depressing.

    I suffered yesterday, too, from doing too much during the week. Completely floored, to the point of not having the strength and energy to shower. Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe how that makes one feel !
    Next week, despite the cold, will hopefully be better.

  5. My doctor told me that my “brain” is “used to” being dizzy. From this, I assume it goes into this mysterious Dizzy Mode and I can switch it to “off”. Aargh. Hence, attempting to re-train my brain. I am not recovering from a stroke, but my own fight with similar outcomes (fatigue, vertigo, etc.).

    Continuing to gain strength and comfort from reading your journey, your courageous battle. Thank you!

    Oh, and enjoying the Fishwife research! Would enjoy notsomuch wedding in USA, too!

  6. When I was recovering I decided to ‘renegotiate my relationship’ with the dreaded periods of fatigue and call them an investment for the next period of activity. I discovered that this was better than regarding them as punishment for overdoing it.

  7. The fatigue is such a pain, isn’t it. I’ve just spent nearly a week indoors and the last two days mostly in bed trying to build up my strength. It’s not nearly as restful as people imagine :-)

  8. I am happy for your 10-day stretch, but sad that you aren’t feeling well right now. I can only imagine the frustration. You are strong and determined, and an inspiration.
    BTW, I agree with all the celebrity hubub–enough, already!

  9. I so enjoy your posts!
    I find whatever situation I am in, I always feel so revitalized being in the outdoors, especially with a lovely dog!

  10. You have done more of value in your 10-day stretch of relative wellness than many totally healthy people would have done in the same time!

  11. I love the word ‘scuppered’. I’ve been living in England too long and feel so happy when I rediscover an old scots word. I’m feeling the same today, but I’m off to buy another one of your patterns to cheer myself up. :)

  12. It might be nice if certain people eloped and then donated the money that would have been spent on the hoopla to a charity instead. we just finished elections again in the states with obscene amounts spent campaigning that could have paid for health care for every one instead.
    well I should just take a deep breath because that will never happen.
    isn’t it wonderful how going out with a dog means you meet and talk to people that would have just passed you by if you were alone. and even if I meet no-one on our morning walks just watching Meva explore and hunt squirrels is wonderful.
    have a restful day and hope next week goes a little better

  13. When we moved to Hampshire in the 80s, a lot of the friends I made were women I met when out walking my absolutely gorgeous (and still missed) cocker spaniel Honey. She was so lovely, she used to be allowed into shops, ignoring the ‘no dogs’ signs. However she used to growl at the chemist – we eventually decided that she mistook him in his white coat for a vet!! A bit of a bugger about the fatigue – perhaps on the days you are laid up, you could watch daytime tv …… from an academic point of view ….. and have fun shouting at the tv. My Dad regularly shouted ‘stupid b*tch’ at women thrilled by the makeover of their home ….. and I won’t reveal what he said and did when Tony Blair and Prince Charles came into view!!

  14. I was so pleased to read your privileged young people comment…I have been feeling that way all week! And I’m all the way over in Canada…I can’t imagine the amount you must be hearing about it over there.
    I hope you feel more rested soon.

  15. “Let me tell you, there is nothing like a period of immobility to make you really appreciate how nice it is to just be outdoors.”

    Yes yes yes! Between late pregnancy pelvic pain (which kept me from walking) and the c-section, I’m really pleased to be out and about again! Plus, it makes the babe fall asleep. :D

  16. Like Maria said thanks for writing to let us know how you are doing. Love the designs and the dog and everything. And unlike others, I wish the priviledged young couple well – despite all the media hype which will be never-ending….

  17. We get to “enjoy” the vulgar hoopla of that wedding in Australia, too.

    It might please you to know that all the folk I’ve heard talk about it wonder how the British feel about the talk about how much of a boost to the economy makes those hit by the austerity measures. Good luck to ’em but it’s sickening.

    Also, I’m a regular at the MSO whose audience is split 75:25 between the pink rinse demographic and music students. But I wonder how much of that’s due to the perceived inaccessibility of traditional music venues as I’ve also seen, essentially classical, music at nearly full pub band-rooms.

  18. I couldn’t open the link for the “far flung magazine,” but I gather it’s based in Hong Kong? I can’t tell you the Cantonese for “owl sweater” but the Mandarin is, in pin yin (phonetic spelling): mao tou ying mao xien yi. Very literally translated, character by character, this means “cat headed eagle fur/wool string clothing” but that, of couse, just means “owl sweater”! I have always loved that an owl is just a cat-headed eagle. Apt, no? Sorry I can’t type in the actual characters for you right now (traveling and ill-equipped), which are the same for Cantonese and Mandarin.

  19. It’s so sad that people don’t want to try new music – and particularly given that a live performance is the easiest place to approach such music and to be swept away by its vigour. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  20. What Janjan says- about the owls sweater. Another word for owl would be chixiu 鴟鵂, or in pre-modern Chinese simply chi 鴟. A chi maoyi 鴟毛衣 would be a nice three character word with a classical twist ;-) I’ll be curious to find out what the editor made of it!

    May the investment in your next active period pay off soon. I like Alice C’s different perspective.

  21. What a relief to read anything other than a puff piece about the royal wedding! I would like that to be the last thing I ever read about it, but that will almost certainly not be the case!

    Hope you are feeling better soon – at least the good days are increasing all the time. (And sorry if that sounds like a platitude – I do appreciate how difficult it must be for you).

  22. I am now of the white-headed crowd (how did that happen??), but I loooove the music of Magnus Lindberg. As a “classical” music lover, I had purchased a CD of his music but never sat down to listen to it until it popped up under the shuffle feature of my iPod. I was transfixed. My personal favorite (so far) is the Clarinet Concerto, but then I did study the clarinet in college, so I may just be a bit biased. So glad that you are able to hear this music live.

  23. I’d go with fish heid. Then you could to a pattern bundle called heid-case. Archaeology is quite unique that way, isn’t it? I did an excavation of Eugene O’Neill’s garbage pit for my graduate field methods class. It truly allows us to look at the commonplace; I was most struck to find ‘garbage china’ pieces that would be truly coveted now. The layering of time is also interesting as well; the secondary purpose of the excavation was to determine how the land was used by prehistoric indigenious tribes.

  24. Reading your past posts I was amazed at how much work you have been doing, and apparently you hadn’t mentioned half of it. No wonder you need to rest now to make ready for the next period of activity ! Though of course you must feel shackled and frustrated, but as others have said your average activity, including those awful days of forced time-off, is still more than what many healthy people manage. As for the positive effects of the recession on the oligarchy… well. We must not let them defeat us into passivity and submission. As Lucie Aubrac said “Résister c’est un verbe qui se conjugue toujours au présent”, “To resist has only the present tense”.

  25. Actually I’m quite excited about the prospect of a royal wedding – I have big plans for going to London to wave a very small union flag ;-)

    So sorry you’ve been hit by the hideous fatigue – it sounds like a nightmare – but I’m pleased that you’ve had some good knitting, writing, and walking experiences in the past few days and I hope you’ll be back on your feet again soon.

  26. I never heard the word “scuppered” before but I will be using it I am sure.
    I can’t help but wonder if the “two privileged young people who have decided to get married” would prefer not to be the focus of the all the media. Must be a very hard way to live your life.

  27. The honesty and balance you approach your life with is inspiring, Kate.

    Here’s to life’s little pleasures and you feeling stronger everyday.

  28. I am sorry about the fatigue…how frustrating. Truly demoralising news from Oldham too. After observing the UK general elections, then the American midterms, and bracing myself for the next round of our own (Norwegian) elections, I hope that hardworking non-affluent people will come to undertand (at some point before it is too late) that in order to keep the benefits of a welfare state and protect the vulnerable one must pay tax and one must not vote for the ones that say you can have it all for free. And ironically, wih all this going on all ‘they’ write about in the papers is that bloody wedding.

  29. And isn’t it absolutely sickeningly typical that the First Minister is trying to claim it as a “goal for Scotland” because the Beautiful Young People met at St Andrews?! Don’t get my FL started on this topic!
    Try to enjoy your rest periods – it’s your brain’s way of recharging I am certain.

  30. Hope the fatigue soon passes – at least the weather in Edinburgh was dreich over the weekend. We listened astutely to the weather forecast on Saturday night, and buoyed by the promised of a dry morning, we set off for Tyninghame to walk through the woods and onto the beach with our littles. Fortunately we were well wrapped up and suitably water proofed because it was not dry. at. all.

    Anyway, I just wanted to comment on the govt thing. A week or so ago I was at a conference in Dunblane. Danny Dorling was one of the plenary speakers, talking about his new book ‘Injustice, why social inequality persists’ and he pointed out in his talk that one government minister has described the change to housing benefit as ‘the modern day eqauivalent of the highland clearances…’ It’s sickening. Literally. The gap between the richest and poorest in our society explains to a very large degree the gaps in life expectancy. This gap (in income) will undoubtedly increase under this coalition (aka Tory) government, and that probably means that life expectancy will FALL in some part of the UK (possibly the west of Scotland, or the Welsh valleys) for the first time. Shocking. Depressing. I didnt imagine that I could feel more gloomy about government and politics now than I did in the 1980s. But I do. Sigh.

  31. I think the Magnus Lindberg music must have been wonderful, I can imagine by your descrition that it would seem like an echo from the past emanating from the Graffiti itself.
    I like William and Kate, they are only people after all; if it was us we would do the same thing. My eldest son looks like William, so I am a bit biased. And remember Princess Diana had such a hard time there, and gave some very stuffy rigid people some good lessons. Bless her.
    Hope you are soon feeling more well again Kate.

  32. Knitting, hiking, classical music, history….I think that if we lived in the same city, you and I could be the very best of friends!

  33. I used to often attend those Usher Hall concerts when I was a student in Edinburgh….miss them…maybe when I move back to Scotland I’ll have to get season tickets again!

  34. Lots to agree with here, but I’m out using wifi in the pub and my laptop is about to die… what I wanted to share was my friend’s comment, when we were discussing how poorly attended concerts of contemporary classical music are in Edinburgh, that “Edinburgh audiences envy the living”. Very apt in a way!

  35. My vertigo is positional so it comes and goes, but when it comes on bad, I am worthless. How you manage to keep on trucking I do not know… all I can do is lay on the sofa and not even knit– I usually end up just trying to snooze it off.

    Walking with a dog is a jolly time isn’t it? Before my Chloe tore her ACL we used to ramble several miles together. Now she can maybe manage one mile with regular breaks to rest (that’s that she had the repair surgery too), and I miss the long rambles, because we always met interesting people and saw interesting things. The best was her encounter with a little green garter snake. It poked its head out of some leaves she was sniffing in the woods. I of course, panicked, worried that it was a copperhead, and could hurt her, but it was just a green snake. It stared at her and she stared back, which seemed like forever. What was funny was the look on both their faces, like “Who are You? No, who are YOU?”

  36. I hope the fatigue passes quickly. There is nothing like being outside for raising the spirits. Well said the upcoming event – I couldn’t agree more

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)