The Pagasitic Gulf

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The long narrow Pelion Peninsula projects hook-like into the Aegean Sea, curling its tip in a warm hug tightly around the waters of the Pagasitic Gulf on its western coast. The gulf is very deep; its waters conceal many a wreck, both ancient and modern, not to mention the treasures lost by would-be conquerors and pirates. Wonderful beaches and inlets abound, several of which are accessible only by boat, where the happy sailor may find his own particular bit of paradise.

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The gods of Greek myth took their summer vacation on Mt Pelion at the head of the Gulf for they knew a good thing when they saw one.

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The Pagasitic’s waters are usually calm, their gentle winds making them popular with sailors though they can erupt in fury when disturbed by strong gales. The sea reflects every colour presented to it in weather fair or foul, constantly changing hues depending on cloud cover, proximity to sand and rock, to flower, bush and tree. Spectacular sunsets explode in all the fiery colors and fade away over shades of blue, green, turquoise, navy; storms and rain have their own striking palettes.

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The Pagasitic Gulf fascinates me with its beauty and history, inspiring me to knit this shawl.

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Summer is reluctantly drawing to its end here; there are all sorts of little reminders that winter is sneaking up on us.  The cyclamen has begun to appear. Tiny clusters at the moment, but in a few weeks there’ll be large areas of these delicate pink plants with their distinctive flowers and leaves.

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Most of the swallows have already left, but one particular swallow clan and their offspring remain. These have returned to their large communal nest on a balcony for the third year now. At least I think it’s the same extended family. Apparently swallows mate for life, and this group has certainly done its bit for the swallow population with three sets of hatchlings this season. This is probably why their flight has been delayed as the last of the baby swallows have only just left the nest. I suspect ma and pa are quite anxious for the youngsters to build up their strength so that they too can journey along the ancient and perilous migration paths.

Busy, busy these parents have been for months, zapping past my window from the first glimmers of dawn until they’re mingling with the emerging bats at end of day. I’m delighted that their mud home has remained unoccupied so far during the long winters, for I’ve noticed that these sturdy dwellings are often taken over by winter squatters, and once that happens, the swallows shun the nest.

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I haven’t yet been able to identify the housebreakers which are small and somewhat sparrow-like, but they certainly do disrupt the swallow housing developments, and make an enormous mess of droppings from the high-rise apartments they have commandeered under the eaves.


Swallows feed on the wing, catching insects in mid-flight, but they flash by so quickly I’ve never yet been able to capture a decent photograph. Instead, here are pictures of a spotted flycatcher returning to her colourful home in the roof with an unfortunate grasshopper – dinner for the three raucous fledgings she was nurturing in June – and dessert of some sort of grub.

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She spent the whole summer only a couple of feet from my study window, so I was able to watch her preparing the nest with cheerful snippets I’d made available. When I sew, I try to trim seams outside in the garden, while small pieces of yarn from knitting projects get tossed out the windows. These bits blow around and are quite often picked up by birds to weave into their nests.

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Mama flycatcher was quite selective in what she chose to use, with a strong preference for red.

As for Raki, he was enthralled by the spectacle, and spent long periods chittering indignantly at the comings and goings, and although the nest is now empty he still stares hopefully up at it. But soon our feathered winter vistors will arrive and we all look forward to their antics.

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It’s pretty much a daily occurrence: I approach the washing machine with a load of laundry, trying not to make eye contact with the ever-growing pile of clean cloth staring accusingly at me. Ironing. I hate ironing. I have friends who love it, who find it satisfying and soothing. They tell me that serenity washes over them. Who are they kidding? The only thing that washes over me when I contemplate the tragically wrinkled and rumpled waiting silently is resentment. Where’s the imagination in ironing? How many ways can you press pants? What can you possibly do to completed collars and cuffs that can be called creative?

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How did all this smoothing of garments come to be desirable anyway? When I was knee-high to an ironing board Santa Claus brought me my very own toy iron. He brought my brother a truck. Yes indeed, gender roles were well ironed into place back then. Unlike the old folk song “dashing away with the smoothing iron” does not steal my heart away, but rather strikes terror into it. No really, when did the perfectly pressed place one into a socially acceptable category?

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Do you suppose some Stone Age woman noticed that her grass mat looked more inviting when subjected to weight and heat? Did her smelly skins and furs become more appealing after being sprayed with water and covered with rocks yanked from fire? Does this mean she held the patent for those backbreaking, great heavy metal irons filled with hot coals that were in common use before the advent of electricity? No wonder they were called flat irons. Knocked you flat with exhaustion they did. I have to concede we have it easy.


But ironing, in relation to the smoothing of fabric that I’m making something from, I am happy to do. Pressing the pieces and seams when sewing is satisfying as that work is structural. The fabric is manipulated as a means to an end; it’s not the repetitive maintenance that the routine ironing of linens and garments requires.


The same applies to the preparation of knitted pieces, either prior to assembly, or after completion of the item. We knitters have a variety of techniques available to us – we can pin the pieces out to shape and spray them with water. We can dunk the pieces, or the finished article in water, wring out the excess and leave to dry. We can use a combination of both methods. We may choose to iron the knitted fabric, that is to say, apply heat and/or steam to it depending on the composition of the yarn – something which should be done with care.

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Such processes smooth out the work and are generally referred to as blocking.


Call them what you will, these various methods should result in a better appearance of the fabric, and now that we’ve ironed this out, excuse me while I attend to the laundry.