Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fr David Gemmell

It was a good funeral. I got there nearly an hour early, and found the Cathedral nearly full. I got a seat behind a large pillar. Pretty soon they were standing in the side aisles and three-or-four-deep at the back. Then the stewards stopped letting people in, and the ones who had merely come on time had to listen (via loudspeakers) in the porch or the café or outside on the steps. Priests went out to them with communion in due course.

Someone, towards the end, had the wit to mention Christopher Wren’s epitaph, on his tomb in St Paul’s: si monumentum requiris, circumspice. If you want to see his memorial, look around you.

But – rather like President Kennedy’s death – it’s still hard to believe, now that all the fuss is over, that Fr David won’t be there next Sunday.

Miscellany, partly knitting-related

It’s one of those mornings when inspiration suddenly fails. This is the day when J*mes must leave Lh*sa; his permission expires. I’m sure I’m miles behind with commenting on interesting comments.

The new Knitty is up. I’ve provided a link to the pattern I like best. I won’t even think of knitting it, though, because the gauge is too heavy and the needles too big for my comfort. However, I hope somebody can explain the line in the introduction, “For those who prefer not to use wool due to the mulesing controversy…”

I just looked up “mulesing” in the OED, confident that I wouldn’t find it, but I did. I think essentially I’m probably on Mr Mules’ side, a fly-struck sheep being a pretty unhappy creature. I think I gather from the OED citations that merino sheep in particular have the sort of bottoms which can benefit (if that’s the word) from mulesing. (Merino sheep won't "do" in Britain.) I’d still like to know where the controversy rages. I could always google it…

Theo’s gansey progresses nicely. I must stop soon and chart the initials BHO in seed stitch. I think this is the moment to think and think again about knitting them top-down, and then chart them upside down, so that I can knit the chart from right to left and have it come out right.

Dorie, the thought of those chocolate crosses, as mentioned in your blog, will enrich my Easter no end. There’s no stopping the secularisation of Christian festivals – even Groundhog Day and Mother’s Day are examples – so it’s best not to worry about it. Does it happen to other religions?

I loved GW Bush’s green necktie on television last night, as he tried to reassure us about the collapse of the world’s financial systems. Nobody told him, then, that St Patrick’s Day had been transferred for this year to last Saturday, as it is never celebrated in Holy Week.

[Later: I was wrong about this, and the President was right. I knew that the feast had been transferred, and that Mrs Clinton had marched in a St Patrick's Day parade on the Saturday, so I assumed everybody had observed the transference. But no. It was celebrated yesterday in Ireland as well as the US -- and bugger Holy Week.]

Shandy, you’re right, I was thinking of knitting a child’s sweater of KF sock yarn, tempest-style for the body, stripes in the same colourway for sleeves. With the line-up for ’08 standing as it does, it’ll have to go onto the HALFPINT list. (Have A Lovely… Project…No Time: I can’t remember what the F or the I stand for.)


  1. Anonymous11:17 AM

    I noted Mary Lou's comment in yesterday's post ... and have had the same sort experience in a few knitting classes.

    I understand that Sally Melville who is usually quite 'visible' here in Ontario has been dealing with some serious health issues. This might account for her weariness for she is an incredibly dynamic person.

    We pray J*mes home.
    joyous Easter!! Elizabeth who wonders why you *** some vowels.

  2. "I loved GW Bush’s green necktie on television last night, as he tried to reassure us about the collapse of the world’s financial systems. Nobody told him, then, that St Patrick’s Day had been transferred for this year to last Saturday, as it is never celebrated in Holy Week."

    President Bush lives in the United States, where it was celebrated on it's traditional date, March 17. Perhaps within the Catholic community it was changed, but not all Christians are Catholic.

  3. Regarding Mulesing - lots of discussion on this on Ravelry, here is one thread:


    I wasn't aware that St Patrick's day 'officially' moved when it coincided with Holy week, I live in 'county Kilburn' (London) and here it seems to be celebrated for most of March!

  4. Jean, here's the result of a search on "The Age", Melbourne's major broadsheet:


    Mulesing is a necessary evil, but flystruck sheep suffer much more and usually it is fatal. Even if the sheep survives, that year's fleece is ruined.

    DH and I will never forget the sight or smell of suffering sheep, who became flystruck between their front legs during a particularly hot and humid summer, when we were living on a farm in New South Wales for a couple of years.

    The chemicals used to treat the maggots and cure the sheep are very toxic as well.

    Happily, the need for mulesing is reducing through genetic selection and soon will be a thing of the past. What will be next? Probably tail docking and wethering, I guess.

    PETA won't be happy until there are no domesticated animals left in the world; do you fancy leaping from crag to rocky crag to capture a handful of elusive fleece, or literally woolgathering along the hedgerows?

    We hope that J*mes returns safely.

  5. well the mulesing issue has been up in danish media. much to my surprise as i don't believe that we are so much on the animal rights wave as in gb. it has left me less happy with my malabrigo anyway.

  6. Anonymous2:29 PM

    Have a Lovely Fantasy Project - I've No Time.

    ...as my HALFPINT list grows longer.


  7. Well, I learn something new everyday from reading blogs. I was brought up on a Cumbrian sheep farm and had never heard of "mulesing", until now. We had Cheviots, of course, and my father used hand shears to clean out the tail ends at some point during the year. It didn't involve cutting off skin, though I remember he had a can of tar close by in case of accidental nicks.
    I was really impressed by the front page of "The Times". Hope all is well.

  8. I'm not even going to get into the mulesing controversy. Except to say that some have went so far as to suggest even shearing is cruel. Wonder how they'd feel with all that matted up nastiness heating them up in the summer weather? As for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations, some US towns did move the parades and such to Saturday and some pretty much did carry on with the usual festivites as it fell. It wasn't just Catholics that decided not to celebrate it during Holy Week, several Protestant groups weren't keen on the idea either.
    Safe journey for J*mes.

  9. PETA will tell you all about the evils of mulesing but not the benefits. I'd rather it be a bunch of mules doing barbershop myself.

    Safe travels for J*mes.

  10. I love that epitaph - and thank you for the translation as I don't remember enough of my freshmen year Latin class.

    The St. Patrick's day conflict with Holy Week was covered by CNN. Go to http://edition.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/02/20/catholic.conflict.ap/

    If you want to hear Barack's speech from today, the video is posted on his campaign website. It's worth listening to the whole thing - a phenomenal speech.

    I always think of J*mes when hearing updates about the region.

  11. As an Australian farmer I can only recommend you have a look at this site:


    This issue is a very complex one and one that is not solved by boycotts.

    It is interesting when you take a suit from Zegna or Ralph Lauren or other top designers, or some of the best knitwear.

    A suit might cost a customer $1500 for a magnificent Aust Merino fibre suit, better than anything else in the world.

    Yet the farmer will be lucky to get $15 for the amount of wool that will go into the suit.

    So it is one thing to criticise farmers for doing what they think is best for the welfare of their animals to prevent them being eaten alive by maggots, but the consumer needs to know they have to be part of the a process that makes sure farmers are rewarded for their work, care and environmental stewardship in trying to clothe and feed the world.

    It is a very complex debate.

    The income of people doing it tough on the farm is at risk by people trying to say the wrong story. As I mentioned in the web page, no one likes having to mules their sheep.

    Australian farmers on average work over 70hrs a week, which includes some of the most backbreaking hard work imaginable.

    They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars feeding livestock they have spent many years breeding, to keep them alive in drought.

    They receive little income after their ever spiralling costs are taken to account.

    They then are pilloried by media and animal rights groups from around the world who are hell bent on taking away their customers so they will be financially and emotionally destroyed.

    Once the farmers are gone, who will look after the most exciting source for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, the soil?

    Once the farmers are gone, who will look after the animals left to go wild and feral?

    Once the farmers are gone, who will provide the food for the third world countries who cannot feed themselves?

    It won’t be the animal rights extremists.

    So when someone buys a $1500 suit and remembers that the farmer on the other side of the world is getting $15 for his contribution, it doesn’t seem much to think they might Save a Lamb by spending $50 so they will be able to buy another suit next year….and a farmer might still be alive and in business.

    With the drought in Australia that has been so devastating over the past 7 years, there is one farmer killing themselves every three days.

    They cannot cope with the stress that is being placed on them financially and emotionally. They aren’t coping with the lack of support and certainty they are able to provide their families.

    They can not cope with the stress their relationships are under because of the amount of money and energy they spend looking after their animals to keep them alive and in many cases cant deal with the emotional and financial needs of their family.

    One Australian Farmer commits suicide every three days!

    Rates of severe clinical depression are highest in Australian farmers than any other group in Australia.

    Australian farmers have to deal with this and worry how they are going to keep going and keep their families together.

    And at the same time they are attacked from people from all over the world who like to go to work looking smart in their suits, who would have no idea that it was made from merino wool, have never been to a sheep farm and probably don’t know where milk, bread or steak come from, but will make a judgement about what a specialist, caring environmentalist wool grower is doing on the other side of the world.

    I am really sorry to download on you about this.

    I have had too many friends suffer from depression, too many stories of suicide, too many stories of people being evicted from their farms by banks because the global supply chain rapes them, then makes them out to be the perpetrators of a crime.

    This is a very complex issue and a boycott will not solve it.

    How do we so easily overlook the suffering of people in an attempt to make ourselves feel good by thinking we are doing something for animals.