BUT FIRST. A DIGRESSION.*
With ref to recent comments: I have never seen nor heard of a yarn shop that winds your yarn for you. I sit here having a brief dizzy moment of thinking that maybe if, post-Brexit, the current government-facsimile** decides to follow up by expelling all citizens of the country that elected*** that fat ugly evil narcissist blowhard son-of-an-ebola-epidemic bastard%, if America has shops that wind your yarn for you, it might not be so bad . . . No. It would be that bad. I can’t deal with a life that doesn’t include striding over the Hampshire hills with a hellhound or three. But the idea of a yarn shop that winds customer skeins does give me a moment of vacillation.
And yes, I do have a swift, as readers of the old blog may remember, since I posted PHOTOS.%% It is a beautiful object, and, furthermore, it prevents me from hanging myself in unwound skeins.%%% I do not have a winder however because they’re scary. I think I’d manage to hang myself after all, trying to use a winder. As it is I’m remarkably inept with the swift. It has a lovely rotating thingummy in the middle so you should be able to keep winding and it’ll spin around as you take up the yarn. No. If I do it that way I end up stretching my nice chunky 6 mm yarn down to cobweb laceweight. If I stand over the swift I can probably make it spin more lightly but I don’t stand well, and winding yarn TAKES FOREVER. Especially when your freaking skein is 400 metres.$ So I sit down comfortably, unwind a few spins onto my lap, and roll them up. And yes, I regularly have to undo the KNOTS that somehow create themselves in my lap. But at least I don’t—ahem!—wind up with—1,000,000,000 miles of laceweight.
* * *
And so . . . the insurmountable problem, even to a writer as creative as I am, is that this is my bucket list and my educational experience in never saying never, and there’s no way I’m going to be able to put it over for you in the mind-blasting manner it happened to me. So you’ll just have to allow me some, er, rope here, or perhaps a very long skein of yarn . . .
How even to begin, for maximum impact?
I was at the Mauncester library last week. I complain about the new library being mostly café, art gallery, local shows of something or other$$ and internet connections, but grudgingly admit that sitting in the caff and working one’s way through a pile of books one has pulled off the shelves—because there are still some shelves of books—and deciding which ones to take home is highly enjoyable, not least because the whole free book thing never gets old.$$$
The only drawback is that a lot of high-school-level tutors meet their students there and sometimes the noise level gets a little extreme. Usually it’s fine and occasionally I kind of get off on listening to some poor bloodless-faced& teenager trying to find their way through thickets of algebra or chemistry.&& These are also the pairs that tend to get a little loud as the tutor loses confidence and the student loses consciousness.
Last week I was reading the first few pages of a murder mystery and I overheard someone speaking Japanese. I can still pick up the sound of Japanese—I mean from any of the other Oriental languages that might sound something like it—but we get yonks of Japanese tourists here every year, so no big. Except that . . . I looked up. And there was a woman talking to a teenager with a book and an open laptop between them. They didn’t look at all like tourists.
At this point, background, for all of you recent readers of McKinley, either blog or book, or, possibly, revision, for those of you with better things to do than remember author histories. I was a military brat, my US Navy father was posted overseas, we spent five years in Japan when I was a kid. One of the great shaping experiences of my life was coming back to America at the end of that five years and discovering it was no longer home. I was gaijin, I didn’t speak the language, and with curly blonde hair and hazel-green eyes I couldn’t begin to pass even if I kept my mouth shut and wore a hood . . . but Japan and the Japanese and Japanese culture had totally got under my skin, and have stayed there. I’ve fooled around with the idea of taking Japanese language lessons any number of times over the years but circumstances, finances and courage have never successfully combined in the same place at the same time—Japanese is not one of the usual adult-ed catalogue offerings and I have NO gift for languages, make that NO NO NO gift for languages, and it’s taken me a lot of years to resign myself to the fact that I seem to be most drawn by the things I have NO GIFT FOR. Feh.&&&
And readers of the old blog will remember that I sweated a lot over the half-Japanese character in SHADOWS. At the time I even looked seriously into Japanese language lessons—but they aren’t to be had in the wilds of Hampshire, are they? They aren’t. And I have neither the time, stamina nor money to commute to London for the privilege . . . and also, speaking of courage, I quail at the idea of going to that much effort to attend a class I will be the bottom of. Sigh. And I thought I could probably get away with the few sentences of Japanese that Taks says because he hasn’t spoken it in several years. And—as I told the old blog—I didn’t, quite. I had a few emails from real Japanese speakers saying, er, um. . . . Before I started writing SHADOWS, and Taks showed up, because, as I keep telling you, I don’t make up my stories, they come to me to be written, and the Story Council was really, ahem, pushing the envelope sending me a character who needed to speak Japanese—before then I had mostly figured out that taking Japanese language lessons wasn’t going to happen in this life. And since I never write sequels, the fact that I can’t write a sequel to SHADOWS unless I have a proper Japanese speaker to help me DOESN’T MATTER.
It’s even become official. When I talk about stuff that isn’t going to happen in this life, one of the examples I use is learning Japanese.
You see where this is going. You see where I hope this is going, since it hasn’t quite got there yet.
So, sitting in the library last week, I decided that I was imagining that the woman was speaking Japanese in a tutorial manner to someone who certainly looked like a student. I know perfectly well what Japanese sounds like. But because I was about to have an assumptions-shattering experience it was easier to decide I was hallucinating. But I went on listening, and I heard her say ‘Tokyo’ and ‘samurai’. IT HAD TO BE JAPANESE.
Now try to imagine how enormous a twit I felt, when the student packed up to leave and the woman stood up to (as it turned out) fetch her next student and walked past me and I squeaked, Excuse me? I had to squeak it twice because I made so little noise the first time, but she may have been half-expecting me to say something to her because she’d also been telling her student (in ENGLISH) about the earthquakes, living in Japan—and I’d looked up and caught her eye and smiled—I remember the earthquakes: I hated the earthquakes. You had them at least once a week and about once a month they were severe enough you ran outdoors.
So she stopped, politely, and I said, er, um gulp gah oof, pardon me for listening in, do you tutor Japanese?
Yes. She does.
In Mauncester. In the wilds of Hampshire. She lives only a few villages over from New Arcadia. And she can apparently face the prospect of an artery-hardened, brain-cell-losing sexagenarian as a student. Makes a change I suppose. She gave me her details. And I emailed her that night . . . before I lost my waning little smoky whiff of courage.
I’M HAVING MY FIRST LESSON IN JAPANESE ON WEDNESDAY. That’s tomorrow. EEEEEEEEEEEEP.
I am sixty five years old. I have ME. I am crazy.££ And it may be a disaster. Probably not tomorrow, but next week. Or the week after. Or . . . But . . . but I’ll have tried, you know?
Get out your bucket list and look at it again. Never say never.£££
* * *
* How surprising. How unprecedented.
** The shrieking gormless circus at present can hardly be called a government
*** Not me boss! Not me!
% I hope I am making myself clear
%% Which include having put in the yarn-holding pegs backwards because I thought . . . ahem . . . they looked prettier that way. Some practical reader pointed this out to me. Sigh.
%%% AJLR totally has the right of it here. I will just add that two years, I think, ago, I had a mad idea of knitting fingerless gloves, since amusing ones seem to have gone back out of fashion and I have NO INTEREST in olive drab that leave my fingers clear for the triggers of my shotgun. Fiona and I went to a yarn shop that—horrors—has a café attached, which means you never leave, you know?^ And I was so IMPATIENT to begin that I started the wrist of my first glove without having wound my skein first. With the result that—two years later—it is still hanging on a cupboard door between me and the Aga. It adds to the decorative appeal of my kitchen of course^^ but it’s getting a little dusty. And no, I haven’t knitted any other fingerless gloves either and no I haven’t found the other end of the cupboard-door skein and wound it up backwards. I have actually tried to find the mythic other end, and of course since I’ve already started knitting the obvious end, I can’t find it. It’s quite thick yarn, and, you know, dazzlingly and confusingly coloured. And with the wrist of a glove dangling off the known end even if I did find the spare end I probably couldn’t use the swift.
^ If it also had a bookshop we’d still be there.
^^ COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH
$ And to Marion: it’s your own fault for buying laceweight. 100g of frelling cobweb is going to be London marathon long.
$$ Knitting, for example.
$$$ Since I felt this way sixty years ago, I assume I do not have to put it down to being a poor old thing with no sense of adventure.
& Going out on a political-correctness limb here, Asian skin certainly can noticeably pale with dread and despair, and I’d say most black skin that isn’t actually black gets a little grey.
&& It’s not all bad, being old.
&&& Riding horses. Bell ringing. Singing. Playing the piano. Knitting. I can draw a bit, but I need put a lot more time into it. And my idea of gardening is you plonk a plant in a pot or in the ground, feed and water it, and expect it to get on with things. I do not do the rocket-science form of gardening. I do not grow difficult plants.^
^ Well . . . roses.
£ Yes. I told her about the ME. She has a friend who has it worse than I do. She’s still taking me on.
££ But we already knew that, right?
£££ And even I know that the end of SHADOWS looks like it ought to have a sequel. That wasn’t my idea! It was the way the frelling story came out! Bad Story Council! BAD Story Council!!!