Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here we are again. We had a good time, but my husband has returned with a chesty cough, and it’s cold, and atra cura in the form of seasonal panic waited for us at the door.

Less than a fortnight until the solstice, though.

While we were away, I read an article in a newspaper by A.S. Byatt saying how good Marjorie Allingham was. I don’t need to be reminded, but it sent me to the bookshelf to re-read “Traitor’s Purse” in a gulp. It starts with the most brilliant of McGuffins. (I’m not giving anything away, for those happy souls whose first reading is still in the future: it’s right there in the first pages.) Our hero wakes up in hospital and finds he has lost his memory. He can’t even remember his name. But he knows he has something very important to do, urgently.

It moves fast, and the final McGuffin is equally brilliant. (I don’t think I am giving anything serious away by saying that Albert Campion – for it was he – recovered his memory in time to save England.) I think I have read that critics at the time said that the denouement was preposterous, and then it turned out after the war that the Germans had tried to do just that.

My point here, is that it was published in 1941, when things were bad and Pearl Harbour hadn’t happened yet and events might have gone either way. The mood is exuberant. Like Evelyn Waugh’s “Put Out More Flags”, published in ’42 but surely written before Pearl Harbour. And like, in its small way, the spring ’41 issue of the Vogue Knitting Book, my recent eBay purchase, which turned up while we were away. Come the four quarters of the world in arms, and we shall shock them, is the general idea: Allingham actually quotes the lines.

Clothes rationing doesn’t seem to have started yet – in the very next VKB issue, the number of coupons needed is specified for each pattern, but there is no mention of such things in No. 18. Yarn is in short supply. The issue begins with a wonderful Editor’s question-and-answer about wartime knitting.

“'I wanted 12 ounces – they only had 8.' Where are your brains, dear lady?” [What a way for an editor to talk to a knitter!]

“'Where are those nice thick wools?’ There are none, so don’t waste your time looking for them….Finer threads give far better fit. Fine wool makes the perfect fabric, firm yet pliable.”


I had a nice time, while away, knitting with Araucania Multi. I’m within a couple of rounds of the armholes. Nor need I worry about size, as I do with Theo’s gansey. If it doesn’t fit one grandson, it’ll fit another. I am not so well endowed with nephews.

SisterHelen, that’s good news about Obama in South Carolina. But what about New Hampshire? There are lots of sane, thoughtful people there. We should be winning hands down in New Hampshire.


  1. Anonymous10:03 AM

    He's doing well in New Hampshire too--currently tied. A good showing in Iowa may win him New Hampshire.

  2. Please keep the information coming re wartime knitting and writing. I find it fascinating.

  3. I'll second Janet's comment -- how fascinating to view history through VK -- almost makes you want to do a thesis on this! And to think of all of our stashes now ....

    I finally got all my Kidsilk Haze for the Earth Wrap stole ... but do I have time to start now? No. I'm trying to fiddle with a customized glove fit -- am finding my wrist is narrow, so have to change between needle sizes a lot. Interesting endeavor, but one I want to follow through on. And time, time, time ... Maryjo

  4. the sweater looks great. and i like the talk of vk too. your blog constantly fascinates me.
    my friend came to pick up a sweater i knitted for him today. he told me that oprah now supports obama publicly. i suppose that is very good for him.

  5. You introduced me to Marjorie Allingham, Jean. I have not read Traitor's Purse, so I'm off to google the library website. I just finished Out Stealing Horses, an excellent book, but perhaps not the best to read while in a holiday funk.

  6. Thank you so much for the wee jumper! I can't find your email address at the moment - bit distracted - but wanted to say a very big thanks.

  7. Anonymous4:06 PM

    Hello, Jean - Like Lorna, I opted not to email, doing this instead. Love Marjorie Allingham. Great writer and Mr. Campion is quite the hero/detective. Thanks for introducing him to new readers. Also love the comments on VK. I have several war era knitting pamphlets and books and enjoy perusing them for ideas and tips. Your fine crafting (blog, and knit) are most inspiring. Hope your husband's cold is better and that you both remain healthy for the holidays. Take care - Joe, in Wyoming

  8. Anonymous12:19 AM

    Having been one of those sane people in New Hampshire, I have the following warnings for anyone who is looking at the polls there. First, the primaries are open. Meaning if you are an undeclared voter, you just show up and declare yourself at whichever primary you feel like voting in. So for that primary you are now a member of that party. You can switch back to being undeclared later.

    And a huge number of voters in NH stay undeclared.
    Which means that if there is a hot election (say last time when no one was running against Bush) pretty much everyone who is interested votes in the interesting primary.

    Secondly, people in NH find it endlessly amusing to lie to pollsters and other outlanders. What can I say, the winters are long up there.

    Lastly, many a candidate has gone up to NH, only to find that town meetings often aren't the powder puff made for TV things they can be elsewhere. Politics is a contact sport, and while it's generally played politely up in NH, it doesn't pay to underestimate the people of that fair state.

    Obama is actually the kind of candidate who would likely do well in NH. Clinton, not so much.

    I like Margery Allingham right up until the later books where you get these weird plots. At least her characters aged and weren't stuck at age 35 for 50 years of books.