Men's Style

Shopping for Knitwear

As summer turned into autumn, I noticed some of my knitwear was looking a bit tired, and decided it was time to look for replacements. Full of good intentions, I got rid of two old items to make space in the wardrobe for two new ones. I ended up buying four. Oops.

One of them is shown in the above image. A lovely Shetland “Shaggy Dog” sweater, made by Harley of Scotland, from 100% Shetland wool. I bought it from Bosie Knitwear, who are based in Aberdeen. The sweater is so soft and warm, and goes with lots of other pieces in my wardrobe, which is a key criterion for me when choosing new clothing.

I bought another sweater, made by Barbour (below). It’s a simple navy crew neck in 100% lambswool, with alcantara elbow patches. People have mixed feelings about elbow patches. Some say they must be earned, i.e. not present unless covering an actual hole. Others, including me, take the view that they make a sweater feel more rugged and functional, changing the aesthetic while simultaneously increasing longevity.

Another purchase was a navy lambswool v-neck slipover, which I bought from Cordings of Piccadilly. Sadly, the medium was too big for me and they don’t do a small size, so it’s gone back and I’m on the hunt for an alternative supplier.

Last, but definitely not least, I ordered a beautiful Fair Isle v-neck vest from Jamiesons Knitwear. I’m super excited about receiving this, as the colours look stunning in the online image. I will add a photo when it arrives.

I will end up spending more than I intended, but if the Jamieson vest fits, I will have some beautiful knitwear pieces that will last for years, all of them classic in style so they will never go out of fashion.

It’s interesting comparing the online shopping experience between businesses. The winner for me is Barbour, simply because of their beautiful packaging. I have other Barbour items in my wardrobe, but this is my first online purchase. The sweater came in a box that is a work of art in itself. The inside is printed with a collage of old Barbour advertisements, as shown in the picture here. It’s so lovely I can’t bring myself to throw it away just yet.

The delight I felt when I opened that box was what really set apart the Barbour customer experience. It’s a small detail, and perhaps regular online customers are used to it, but this was fresh in my eyes. Barbour raised the bar by a long way.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Nightmares and Dreamscapes

Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Nightmares and Dreamscapes is a collection of short stories by Stephen King, first published as a volume in 1993. I have had this book in my library for well over ten years, and finally got around to finishing it after a false start several years ago.

For me, the best story in the book is Dolan’s Cadillac. This is classic King, and a thoroughly researched piece as he explains in the notes at the end of the book. It deserves its place as the opener in the collection.

A few of the other stories jumped out at me as being special too, including My Pretty Pony, which was quite beautiful, written in a similar style to that of John Steinbeck. Another diamond was Umney’s Last Case, a detective story with a difference, and one with an interesting twist and PoV switch towards the end.

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King begs writers not to use steroid-filled dialogue attribution verbs such as grated, gasped, barked, etc., and goes on to say he has never fallen so low as to use ‘he grated’ or ‘Bill jerked out’ in any of his own dialogue attribution. Well, actually … I was surprised to find Umney grating at someone on page 750 of my copy of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. I found this hilarious, and don’t hold it against Mr. King at all. I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first person to pull him up on it anyway.

There were some stories I didn’t like so much. One was Head Down, the only piece of non-fiction in the book, so not a story as such. If you’re into baseball, this one might be of interest. However, if you have never seen a baseball game in your life, you probably won’t make it to the end.

Would I recommend Nightmares and Dreamscapes? Absolutely. The majority of the stories are enjoyable, and the introduction and notes are full of insights into King’s writing process. The collection is well worth picking up and dipping into if you have a spare hour or two.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Long Valley

The Long Valley by John Steinbeck.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

The last time I read any of John Steinbeck’s fiction was back in high school, when I was required to read The Pearl and Of Mice and Men for my English Literature ‘O’ level, a qualification now known as GCSE. Even though it was many years ago, I still remember Lennie’s dream of living off the fat of the land.

The Long Valley is a collection of Steinbeck’s short stories mostly set in the Salinas Valley in California, his birthplace. It includes such classics as The Chrysanthemums, and The Red Pony. As a collection, it makes an excellent introduction to Steinbeck’s short form work.

There are many great stories, but my favourite is probably The Red Pony, even though it was sad and cruel in parts. Most of the works contain beautiful scene setting and description that capture the love Steinbeck clearly feels for his home. There is strong characterisation too, and the way he shapes his characters with a deft, light touch is subtle and masterful.

The only criticism I have is that he uses too many adverbs in places, and some of them are difficult to relate to, such as the concept of walking “martially”. Some stories also have little sub-plots that don’t go anywhere, like the old man who appears then disappears in The Red Pony.

All this can be forgiven, though, and I do recommend reading The Long Valley. I got a lot of pleasure from dipping in and out of these wonderfully nostalgic stories.

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