Pope Benedict XVI is visiting Scotland and England over the next few days. I have never lived anywhere with a big Catholic community and it is interesting to see how Glasgow is reacting. I do not know if it is the result of the Glasgow Airport terrorist attack, but the amount of security is quite surprising; The main motorway is being shut down for an entire day, several areas surrounding the park where the Pope will address pilgrims have been shut off and certain trains are designated pilgrims-only. This reminds me of when George W. Bush visited Denmark at his height of his unpopularity - boy, it was fun to navigate Copenhagen that day - but mainly it strikes me as odd that a religious leader can generate so much fuss. Then again I identify as a secular humanist. One of these days I need to make myself a "Humanist; Not a Dawkins Fan", though. One of the Pope's aides have pulled out of the UK visit following an interview wherein he criticises the UK for "a new and aggressive atheism". The media have reacted strongly to this, of course, but I think I know which brand of atheism the aide is referring to and, honestly, it is a form of atheism that makes me uncomfortable too. I need to write more about this, but suffice to say that a) I'm puzzled by the Pope's visit and b) I hope all my Catholic friends in Glasgow will have a memorable and good day.

If course there is one religious belief with which I do feel connected: Forn Sidr or Asatru, the belief in the old Norse gods. I grew up with the stories and while I do not believe, there is definitely a connection. I think it is about growing up in a landscape where you see remnants of the ancient past everywhere and seeing the forces of nature unfold before your eyes. Again, I need to write more about this.

And there is a knitting aspect, of course.

Last night I cast on for Idunn. I assumed this would be a commuter project: The February Beret by sockpixie. I made this hat in orange last year and it turned out to be the most flattering hat I have ever owned - well, apart from the rusty orange hue. As soon as I finished it last year, I  began thinking about those two precious balls of Scottish Tweed DK in "Apple Green" from my stash. Ever since Rowan discontinued Scottish Tweed due to supply issues, I have been acting all dragon-like what with the hoarding and jealous guarding.. but yarn is really meant to be knitted up and so here we are.

And Idunn was a Norse goddess associated with apples.

I don't think it'll be much of a commuter project because I'm halfway done. Just in time for the first autumnal winds and heavy rainfall. I love being a knitter.

PPS. I shall be in Copenhagen November 4 until November 8, so get in touch if you know of any knit night/knit event/yarn sale.


The 4-ply cardigan has been pushed aside for a little gratuitous shawl knitting. The shawl has been worked on and little now and then, but I feel so frustrated with my cardigan that I thought I would give Mosswell (i.e. Aeolian) some love. As always, a shawl actually works up quickly once you pay it some attention. I zipped through the Set-up Edge Chart and am now midway through the Main Edge Chart. Another few rows and I will have a finished object. I feel almost faint. Still not head-over-heels with the pattern. It is exceedingly well-written, well-charted and well-explained, but it does lack a certain oomph. Perhaps I expected too much from the woman behind Laminaria (still my favourite shawl pattern), but I thought the stitches would flow into each other far more than they are. This is not to say that I am not enjoying knitting my Mosswell (because I am) but it is a different experience to what I had anticipated.

It is also very green which is why Mosswell will be given a little dye-bath once I have bound off. I hope to give a slightly more, er, "mossy" look. If not, I'll just rename the darn thing. Blackwell. Brownwell. Mudwell.

Oh, I nearly forgot.

Come autumn I will be releasing a couple of patterns for some scarves (just in time for Christmas knitting - you'd think I had planned this).One of the scarf patterns is currently with test knitters, but I thought I would let you catch a glimpse of my swatch. Once Mosswell comes off the needles, I will start working on the scarves in earnest and write more about the design process.

Oh, but for more hours in the day.

A couple of links:

  • The early reviews of Christopher Nolan's Inception are in - and they are frighteningly GOOD.
  • I chuckled at this list of imperfect Romance heroes/heroines. Oh no, Lady Alys is tall and odd-eyed! Prudence Lancaster is bespectacled and plain!
  • 'Till Derrida Do Us Part' is the loveliest thing I read for some time. Other Half read it and said: "your mother would kill you". I replied: "I'm pondering if having a wedding ceremony just to interrogate the idea of "the vow" would alter the contextual meaning-making of the vow to such a degree that it could no longer be said to be a vow but rather an avowed non-vow?" Then he threw me out of the living room. Men.
  • This method of making iced coffee looks very inviting - and possibly also a bit too daunting to someone whose idea of a good cup o' java is wholly dependent upon how much sleep she has had.

Changing the Game

It is not often that people are praying for my soul when I'm at knitting group. Tonight was certainly different. We got caught up in evangelical Christians protesting the play Jesus Queen of Heaven outside Glasgow's Tron Theatre which involved the press and some (rather bored) policemen. As odd as the praying thing was, it did not compare to walking outside and seeing some very offensive anti-gay posters and billboards being held up by Respectable Citizens. Such people seek confrontation and thrive upon attention. I was not willing to give them any satisfaction and I resorted to quietly shaking my head at the candle-holding and chanting men and women as I made my way home. The twentieth century is slipping away before our eyes:  one of its greatest intellectuals, Claude Levi-Strauss has died. I always assumed that he had passed away before I began studying critical theory, although I cannot tell you why, but instead Levi-Strauss lived to the ripe old age of 100. Rest in peace, you structuralist giant.

"Because I know I shall not know"

I have read poetry most of my life, it seems. I was a quiet Danish teenage girl who read Lord Byron and Rupert Brooke in the school library, swooning over the bold romanticism of the poets' words and lives. When I was sixteen or seventeen, I bought a slim volume of poetry. Away from school, I discovered Sir Philip Sidney, Lord Tennyson and DH Lawrence. Poetry became an escape from the clutter and clatter of my everyday life. And, yes, I romanticised poetry. Then I began University and one morning between classes I was catching up with my reading. That is when I encountered The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by TS Eliot and, although I normally try to avoid hyperbolic blanket statements, that poem effing changed my life. It was like language streaming straight in my veins and I felt drunk on poetry for the first, but not the last, time.

Let me confess: I have a special place in my heart (and brain) for High Modernism. Earlier I described High Modernism as

"that vast array of strange and deliberately disconcerting art forms which emerged in the Western part of the world around 1908-ish and which petered out towards the end of the 1930s. Shklovsky’s definition of остранение (ostranenie or ‘defamiliarisation’) describes my favourite art works so splendidly: they unsettle the readers/listeners/spectators by forcing them to acknowledge the artifice of art (and thereby making a clean break with the naturalist tradition of art)."

This is an intellectual sort of enjoyment: I enjoy the game of making meaning; I derive pleasure from understanding patterns emerging from seeming chaos. I really like poets like Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein for these reasons. I have to work to get at the ideas behind the poems. TS Eliot fits in with all this, of course, but I also derive a very raw emotional pleasure from his poetry.

For me, Eliot's poetry is about understanding life. It is about finding your own way between one word and the next, between one moment and the next. It is about being intellectually curious, acknowledging how that is both a gift and a curse, and finding methods of dealing with this. It is about fragments and meta-narratives. It is about hope and loss of hope. It is about being human. It is tough, raw, almost unbearable and yet so .. beautiful.

My favourite Eliot poem is probably Ash Wednesday (from which the title is taken). An odd choice for an agnostic woman, perhaps, but it marks the transition from Eliot the High Modernist to Eliot the Religious Poet. I have always been drawn towards liminality.

Yes, Words Matter

BBC has a Poetry Season which means I am watching far more TV than I usually do. So far Gryff Rhys Jones has explored why poetry matters, the Orkney poet George Mackay Brown has had his own programme, and last night I got a full hour of Simon Schama and Fiona Shaw reading John Donne to each other (phoawr!). Armando Iannucci is looking at John Milton later on and, get this, there is an entire programme devoted to my favourite poet, TS Eliot. Thank you, Auntie Beeb. It is such a pleasure to listen to and experience precise language when the world is so full of imprecise language. Poetry matters because language matters.

Which is excatly why I find it so troubling that the Danish government calls their crackdown on Christiania (as well as the earlier eviction of Ungdomshuset) "a process of normalization".

On Speeches and Speech Acts?

So Obama is betting on the word's enduring power as a reformer of American life. Historically he has good reason for, from the beginning, words and texts have constructed American realities, not the other way round. The spell cast on Americans by the mantle of words goes all the way back to the first Great Awakening in the 1740s when flocks thrilled to Methodist preachers such as George Whitefield. Evangelical passion remains a brilliant strand in the weave of American discourse, but when it made way for the reasoning of the enlightenment deists and unitarians who made the revolution, another element of American speech-power sounded loud and clear: the reverence for classical oratory. The Republican bet is that all this is a thing of the past; that, self-evidently, we live in the age of images, and words are just the add-ons to the beguilement of the eye; that all we have are soundbites. Obama's is the more stunning gamble; that so far from the digital age killing off the reign of the word, it has actually given logos a whole new lease of life.

Simon Schama on Barack Obama's acceptance speech, August 28, 2008.

Unsurprisingly my brain went 'ping!' when I realised Schama was trying to make a point about the performative and transformative powers of language. Always nice to be thrown some discourse analysis over breakfast. Even more unsurprising: the comments to the piece are almost all uniformly refusing to take up Schama's gauntlet.