Favourite Eccentrics

One of my favourite eccentrics of all time is Psmith (“In conversation, you may call me Rupert (though I hope you won’t)…”), a creation of the late nonpareil P.G. Wodehouse. “There is a preliminary P before the name. This, however, is silent. Like the tomb. Compare such words as ptarmigan, psalm, and phthisis.”

George Arliss cph.3b31151His upper-class version of Socialism consists of addressing everyone as Comrade, and giving other men’s umbrellas to pretty girls who get caught in the rain. “I’ve just become a Socialist. It’s a great scheme. You ought to be one. You work for the equal distribution of property, and start by collaring all you can and sitting on it.”

Witty, courteous and faultlessly dressed, he is ready for any escapade that presents itself. Turn a kiddies’ magazine into a red-hot weapon of investigative journalism? Yes. Masquerade as a Canadian poet in an English stately home in order to pinch a diamond necklace (strictly from the best of motives)? Absolutely. And all without turning a hair, since he is constitutionally incapable of taking almost anything seriously.

Psmith can be encountered in Mike and Psmith, Psmith in the City, Psmith Journalist and Leave It To Psmith. I highly recommend them all, naturally – I even at one point considered changing my name to Psmith.

Who is your own favourite eccentric (fictional or otherwise)? Be so good as to introduce us in the comments section below.

Interchangeable Knitting Needles: A Thing of Beauty and a Joy Forever

You know how it is. You get to hear of something, you maybe see one somewhere, and then you see the price-tag and it gets firmly shelved under F for Fantasy. But you keep thinking about it. You keep looking at the options, and one day you realize you could actually make it happen. The idea frightens you a bit, but you keep thinking about it, and then one day you actually take the plunge and buy it.

Hammer about to Smash Piggy Bank

And then, in my case, you sit back and wait for it to arrive, and wait, and wait, because they’re out of stock (although it doesn’t mention this on the website) and then there are manufacturing problems, and then you have to wait for them to be shipped from the manufacturer to the merchant, and then to you (all three of you being in separate continents).

The treasure for which I was so eagerly waiting was a set of interchangeable circular knitting needles, the apogee of knitting needle technology. First there were straight needles, then double-pointed needles or DPNs, then fixed circular needles, and now, at last, the inexorable march of progress brings us the interchangeable circular knitting needle. (Once we have accumulated sufficent spondulicks.)

Ball of Yarn 5-1-09 1

The set I got is known as the Karnation set, despite this name not being mentioned on either the merchant’s website (eknittingneedles.com) or the packaging. It’s not the usual way of marketing a product, but then, they apparently keep selling out, so they must be doing something right.

This set has 13 colour-coded sizes of aluminium needle (2.75mm up to 10mm) with five different lengths of cord (16in to 4ft). That is the equivalent of sixty-five different interchangeable needles, even if you don’t take into account the possibility of linking two or three of the cords together to create a needle so long you can skip with it. Or knit a blanket in one piece. Although maybe not both at the same time.

Two cord-connectors are included with the set, along with a rubber pad and a couple of little key-wires so you can tighten the connections to the point where you can’t undo them by hand (nor, more to the point, by knitting with them). There are also a packet of end-caps (to hold stitches on a cord while you are using the needles with another cord) and a card which tells you which of the colour-coded needles is which size. This all comes in a surprisingly small black zippered case (about 18 x 20 cm, closed). It looks something like this:

Knitting needle set

On the downside, the shortest cord (16 inches with needles attached) is so short you can barely get the needles’ points to meet. On the plus side, it’s still useful as a stitch-holder, or an extension to one of the larger cords.

The only thing I don’t like about this set is that the smallest needle is 2.75mm, which, while not huge (and smaller than a lot of sets go), is still larger than I use for a number of things, most notably socks. And this is where the delay came in handy: as compensation for waiting so long, the merchant offered me a 20% discount, which I took up in sets of double-pointed sock needles (three, the smallest of which is 2mm).

Of course, once I had this equivalent-of-sixty-five-circulars set, I had a lot of old needles I no longer needed, so ‘sorting out the knitting needles’ became an important item on the July purging list.

pruning-shears-24437_640

In July I purged:
nine circular needles (of various lengths and widths)
three pairs of straight needles (ditto)
and nineteen books, including poetry, prose, and reference.

This may seem like a short list, but to a bibliophile, purging books is a slow and arduous task. I’m lucky I have my knitting to help me stand the strain.

Lesendes Mädchen 19 Jh