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Excitement, Norwegian-style

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I HAVE a miserable track record when it comes to buying thoughtful gifts for women, such as my wife.

The most glaring example would be a couple of Christmases ago when, in a moment of sheer shopping panic, I bought her a skin-tight, silver-sequined dress that, if you looked directly at it, would cause your eyeballs to burst into flames.

"I look like a (bad word) disco ball!" is what my distraught wife wailed the one and only time she tried the sparkly frock on before returning it to the department store.

In her eyes, the only time I got it right was the year I bought her a knitting book that helped raise cash for the World Wildlife Fund. With the book tucked under my arm, I had marched into a wool store and demanded they provide me with all the paraphernalia required for my wife to knit an outfit emblazoned with a ferocious Siberian tiger.

My wife could not have been happier. Knitting is in her blood. For years she was a member of a group of knitters who called themselves Wine, Women, and Wool. I suspect their emphasis leaned towards the wine component, because all of their knitting projects, such as cute little knit caps intended for babies, ended up being large enough to cover a propane barbecue.

But that is not today’s point. Today’s point is, I have just discovered that my wife’s passion for knitting apparently stems from her Norwegian heritage, of which she is extremely proud.

I base this statement on the exciting news that Norway’s state-run TV channel is about to dedicate five hours of live airtime to something called National Knitting Night, wherein a team of eight needle-wielding Norwegian knitters will attempt to break the world record for completing a sweater, starting with shearing the wool off a sheep’s back.

The five-hour knitathon, to be broadcast Nov. 1 by the NRK public network, will focus on the Norwegian team’s efforts to break the "sheep-to-sweater" knitting record — four hours, 51 minutes — currently held by Australia.

"We have already earmarked the lamb to be shorn and started to put together the team of eight people who will be trying to break the knitting record: one to shear, while the seven remaining must spin and knit as fast as they can," producer Lise-May Spissoy gushed to reporters.

If you heart is not pounding in your chest at the thought of watching knitting for five consecutive hours, remember we are talking about "live" knitting, and those needles are pretty sharp. It’s perfect for sports fans who think televised bowling is too hard on their hearts.

I personally believe the Norwegians are on to something big. I’d rather sit through five hours of knitting than endure a single minute of Toddlers and Tiaras or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

As for the Norwegians, they can’t get enough of this stuff. According to news reports, the knitathon is just the latest instalment of Norway’s "Slow TV" experiment, in which previous thrilling episodes have included:

1) A real-time broadcast of a 10-hour train trip;

2) A live broadcast of salmon fishing;

3) A five-day broadcast of a cruise ship that drew three million viewers in a country of five million;

4) And National Firewood Night, featuring eight hours of a log fire burning itself out.

As you can imagine, I couldn’t wait to tell my Norwegian wife about the upcoming non-stop coverage of her wild and woolly pastime. Her reaction surprised me. "Five hours of knitting?" she sniffed. "That sounds really boring."

I scowled at her. "I find that very surprising," I grunted.

"Why?" my wife wondered.

"Because," I told her as I turned on the TV, "I thought Norwegians loved a good yarn."

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