One of the odder consequences of having breast cancer is finding yourself standing in the middle the street wondering how much horse poo would half-fill a kettle. When you’re diagnosed, they send you a chunky booklet about what to expect, and absolutely nowhere does it mention either kettles or horse poo – a disappointing oversight. But I’ll come back to all this silly cancer stuff later in this post. For now, let’s discuss the vastly more serious matter of yarnery, specifically knitting.
I’m back working on the book-that-does-seem-to-be-happening-after-all. The battle du jour is with a pair of fingerless mittens, and believe me, it really is a battle. Perhaps I should have picked on someone my own size, but instead I stupidly chose to create mittens adorned with tangled ivy leaves in laceweight yarn – exceptionally uncooperative laceweight yarn I should add, that doesn’t take kindly to being endlessly ripped back and reknitted. Today I once again frogged 3000 not-quite-right stitches, but once again, found that the two shades had already declared their eternal love for each other and were so irrevocably felted together that I was pretty much reduced to teasing them apart at a molecular level. Public service announcement: this is not a process conducive to good mental health.
I have a love-hate relationship with designing. (Oops, did I just write that out loud?) It’s fun to play with new ideas, to push stranded knitting in new directions, to doodle for hours in my book of knitter’s graph paper. Yeah, it’s all tickety boo at that stage, as I reach peak hubris about my totally visionary plan to, say, reproduce Picasso’s Guernica as a knitted cowl. It’s all brilliant and exciting and quite frankly genius (did I mention hubris?) right until I start knitting the thing and realize that the reason why this hasn’t been done before is not because nobody matches my iconoclastic design genius, but because it’s a stupid idea that doesn’t work.
So at that point, I reluctantly swallow the you’re-not-a-genius-after-all pill (bitter medicine, let me tell you) and haul my deflated ego back to the drawing board to rethink the plan… and rinse and repeat. Many times. Slowly, over quite a few iterations, I get closer to something that does in fact work, and – dare I say it here amongst friends – looks pretty cool. But it often bears little resemblance to the original concept, as in, ‘OK, it’s not really Guernica on a cowl, more like a cute pair of socks with pom-poms at the top’. But at least the thing is done and sometimes, it’s not too bad.
That’s more or less my design technique. You probably won’t find it in any textbooks.
Anyway, back to the cancer/kettle/horse-poo, for those who are interested. After any kind of surgery, you’re given a list of stuff that you’re not allowed to do/lift/sing, and this was no exception. I was told not to lift anything weightier than a half-filled kettle. (Presumably pessimists are told not to lift anything heavier than a half-empty kettle.) This is tricky to quantify for those of us who’ve never thought much about the gravitational influence on our water-boiling devices…
Like most surgery patients before me, I found it difficult to obey this instruction, because, well, life.
And part of life during these Covidy/Brexity days is growing as much food as can be squeezed into our cottage garden. And part of doing that is producing/buying/stealing as much compost as possible to feed the soil… which is why I found myself standing in the middle of our little lane, hands on hips, frowning at a heap of freshly-deposited horse poo, coveting it for the enrichment of my compost heap… but not quite sure whether I was allowed to lift it.
See the dilemma? I’m sure it’s a problem that we’ve all faced at some point.
How much horse excrement equated to a half-full/empty kettle anyway? It seemed a bad idea to bring out the scales and weigh the stuff – I mean, the neighbours know that I’m odd, but they don’t know I’m that odd. Was it safe to scoop this poop? Would it result in a trip back to hospital, tail between my legs (yeah, I haven’t had the tail-removal surgery yet), to confess that I’d wrecked my surgeon’s painstaking work? Or could I get away with stealing this composting gold in order to better feed my family with nutritious veg? I stood and frowned… and apologised to the driver of the car that was forced to a screeching halt to avoid the idiot standing in the road staring at poo.
In the end, my desire to grow extra-abundant vegetables won out, and I fetched a bucket and a shovel…
…at which point I learned an important life lesson. You can wander the entire village for an hour without seeing a single person you know, but should you wish to meet all 637.4 of your closest local friends, there’s no better strategy for doing so than heading out to publicly pilfer a pile of poo. Seriously. As I began to shovel, EVERY SINGLE PERSON I HAVE EVER MET IN MY ENTIRE LIFE happened to be out for a walk along our tiny, insignificant, little lane. If it weren’t for the fact that we’re mid-pandemic, I’d seriously recommend this as a strategy for ensuring the chance to catch up with everyone you know. And to the credit of my friends that day, a fair few of them guessed what I was up to and implied that they’d have done the same if they’d seen the poo first.
And on the extreme offchance that you’re curious, it seems that an average horse poo isn’t too heavy for post-surgical lifting, because no body parts dropped off during the process. Win. (Unlike my knitting.)
Oh, this is hilarious! I can imagine myself doing the same thing, the poo thing, with a sudden audience. Ah, it’s nice that poo has risen up the ranks of importance again. I am also smitten by your mittens. I’m allergic to ivy, so when I say they look fantastic it is not without serious thought.
I’m rather behind in my emails and blog-reading this year, so I have just read about your run-in with cancer. I am so sorry you have to go through something like that, dear, tender-hearted, witty Phil, but I am praying for your recovery. All the best. ????