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Buckie: 14 February

Bu160215-1You may recall that our poor old car developed a fault over Christmas. The car’s an automatic, and basically the problem is this: you’re bowling along at a jaunty 40 or 50 miles per hour, with nothing on your mind but your hair oil when suddenly, with no warning, the whole car slams to a near stop and drops into second gear, while the instrument panel lights up as though announcing a nuclear meltdown.


Hail shower over Sinclair Bay

I was once a passenger in a car that ran into a deer, and the sensation is almost identical—except in our case we don’t have to get out and pick antlers out of the radiator—but perhaps it most closely resembles the rapid deceleration you see when a jet plane lands on an aircraft carrier and is snagged by that giant rubber band. (The sensation a pilot has that his morning coffee and scrambled eggs are about to precede the rest of him into the windscreen is also, I imagine, rather similar.)

Well, we took it to the garage in Inverness last week and the diagnosis is more or less terminal—the cost of getting it fixed is over twice the value of the car. So now there’s nothing for it but to load the shotgun while the poor thing’s back is turned, take it for a last run in the fields and put it out of its misery. And then, brushing away a manly tear, go and find a replacement.


Snow on the mountains: Cromarty Firth

When I close my eyes and try to picture a used car dealer, the image that presents itself is of the weasels from Who Framed Roger Rabbit; and if you want a preview of what’s about to happen when I enter the showroom, imagine the scene from a nature documentary where slavering hyenas separate an elderly wildebeest from the rest of the herd.

Bu160215-2Meanwhile, I knit. I have finally reached the point where I’ve divided front and back, having completed the underarm gussets. It feels like it’s taken forever, but it’s only been a couple of months and, now I think of it, I’m almost at the halfway stage—the end may not be in sight, but neither is the beginning. (As Stephen Dedalus observes in Ulysses:  Life is many days. This will end.)

Finally this week, congratulations to Victoria in finishing this splendid gansey based on that of Richard Searle of Polperro on pages 124-129 of Rae Compton’s book. (Her picture is, as she admits, a little blurred—no doubt the camera shook with the emotion of finishing, as opposed to my usual excuse of cooking sherry mixed with paracetamol—but it’s still clear enough to see the pattern.) So well done to Victoria—and it’s good to know that gansey knitting is alive and well in the Azores.

I’m now off to pack a spare shirt for my car-buying expedition, as I’m sure I’ll emerge without the one on my back. (Now I come to think of it, I’m pretty sure it’s not a good sign when you get buyer’s remorse before you even purchase something…)

24 comments to Buckie: 14 February

  • Lois

    My condolences on the poor old car, make sure it’s a clean shot.
    I’m not overly fond of car dealers. When we were looking for a car, the salesman directed his entire conversation to my husband, even though it had been made clear to him that it would be my car and my choice. He kept showing us tiny sports cars, blaring red convertibles and vehicles of similar ilk.

    Totally exasperated, we went home, and I returned to the dealer a bit later. My companion was the largest of my Great Danes, about 200 lbs of dog. I marched into the manager’s office, plunked myself into a chair, and Magnus planted himself beside me. Confronted by both of us glaring at him, and informed that I had 2 more of these behemoths at home, the point was made that I needed transportation to fit the requirements. Magnus simply sat and stared. Shortly afterward, I departed in a snazzy van which would comfortably fit all of us, leaving a perspiring manager still with his eyes on the end of his nose.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, I like your style! I would borrow the neighbours’ dog but I fear he’d just slobber all over the upholstery looking for dog treats and try to mate with the salesman’s leg—not that wouldn’t be worth seeing, of course, just that it wouldn’t get us very far…

  • =Tamar

    Major thing: Watch out for the innocent-looking piece of paper that says “I’ve read and had explained to me all the fine print” that is “just a formality” – that’s where they sneak in the “you can’t get any recompense for a lemon” part. The dealer I went to had one that said I’d read the entire instruction book, which was sealed and which I never saw until I picked up the car at the end. Sneaked in at the very end was the “you can’t sue” agreement. Fortunately, there was a saving sentence, Something like “you can send the company owner a registered letter saying no way in hell do I give up my right to sue and that saves you” which I did, in fact I sent two, with return receipt to prove they got it.

    I’ve actually been very happy with my 2010 Hyundai, but I don’t know how it would perform in Caithness conditions.

  • =Tamar

    P.S. I’ve remembered what they call it: the “arbitration agreement” which is actually a non-arbitration agreement, because it puts all the power in their hands – _they_ are the “abiters”. Even used-car dealers have these now.

  • =Tamar

    I mean of course “arbiters”. I really can spell.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I just go to the main dealers, the big ones, hand over my wallet and sign a power of attorney, and am pathetically grateful if I emerge with something whose wheels don’t fall off till after we’ve left the forecourt…

      The roads up here have had a rough winter—there are so many potholes and churned-up roads I’m starting to think something with caterpillar treads might be what I’m after; and if not comes with a rotating turret and a 5lb howitzer, so much the better!

  • Jane Dale

    Discovered your blog last week Gordon and have been catching up with several years worth of posts. It’s really funny and very informative. I especially like the latest Gansey and the way the colour shows up the pattern.
    My husband retires from his job in April and it is also his sixtieth birthday-I said that I would like to get him something special to mark the occasion and he requested I knit him a Gansey. ‘Yes’ I said. How hard can it be I thought, I have two whole months!
    One week and three cones of Navy Frangipani wool later I have 3 1/2 inches completed and sore hands. This may end in tears!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, great to hear from you—and thanks.

      Remember, your husband is 60 for a whole year: that should give you plenty of time! I think you have to pace yourself, relax and accept that it’s a big commitment. (It still takes me 30 minutes to knit a row of about 360-370 stitches, that’s 2 an hour, or about 5 hours for every inch. But even if I’m at home and in the mood, I can’t knit more than 8 rows in a day, or my brains start leaking out from my ears.) Better to take longer and enjoy it than for it to become a chore!

      What pattern are you going to do?

      • Jane Dale

        You’re quite right, deadlines take the fun out of anything – quite like the idea of timing a row though, just out of interest. I’m using Madeline Weston’s ‘Caister Fisherman Gansey’ pattern which is plain to the armholes. The yoke has a scattering of seed stitches and cables and is apparently a traditional Norfolk design. Must confess to using 3mm needles and having nearer to 300 sts than 400 but as it will be worn for whippet walking in the Peak District and not on a fishing boat in the North Sea, I think it will be ok.

        • Gordon

          Hi again Jane, don’t get me wrong—use whatever needles and stitch gauge you like! I’ve seen all kinds, and they’re all perfectly fine and all genuine ganseys in my eyes (I just mentioned my current stitch gauge to give you a comparison with how slow / fast i knit). The pattern sounds like fun. (Let me share a secret with you—I’ve never knit a Norfolk pattern.)

          I should think whippet walking in the Peaks requires easily as much insulation as the North Sea!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Atta Girl, Lois!!!! I wish I could’ve been there to watch the action!!! Gordon, you better call up Lois to help you out. I wish I had some help myself. In the middle of a rain storm two days ago, the ‘damnvan’ wouldn’t start for the THIRD time this year. I had visions of blowing it sky high with a couple of sticks of dynamite, sigh. Looks like the COMPUTER OPERATED ANTI-THEFT DEVICE has once more locked up the ignition in a rain storm.

    Lovely job on your sweater, Victoria!!!! And Gordon, yours is looking really, really good. I liked the pattern, even though it was hard to see at the beginning, but now it’s looking quite beautiful. I really must get my butt in gear & knit one of my own.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, our car once died in Southport when a similar thing happened to us! We couldn’t move the steering wheel and it refused to start. No less than 3 RAC vans turned up and plugged in their computers and failed to find the problem. Turned out the auto lock had malfunctioned and triggered the anti-theft kerjigger. The cost of getting it fixed, coupled with having to get back to Southport from Wick a week later, left me out of both pocket and countenance, all at once…

      I plan to do a photo with the pattern stretched a little laterally, so you can see what it’ll look like once it’s blocked—the lattice just looks like crushed up plain stitches at the moment. But I’m hoping it’ll be impressive when finished (it’d darn well better after all this!).

  • Jane

    Ohh, don’t you just love a Great Dane! The canine persuader! I have Baxter the cat, but he just stares with malevolent yellow eyes.

    This whole business with cars is very difficult, we have had new ones, good and bad, and second hand ones, good and bad. The best of the bunch has probably been the very old Land Rover Defender and the new Fiat 500, bought on scrappage a few years ago. I think you kind of know if it is the one when you get behind the wheel. The kids have had some success with careful, and inexpensive, Volkswagens from e-bay. They buy the same model each time and use parts from the old one to improve the new one before scrapping the old one for a bit of money. It’s one way!

    I like the latest gansey very, very much. It has a richness of pattern, and the colour is lovely. I can see echoes of the pattern in Margaret’s photo of the ploughed earth, so clever. Take care!

    • Lois

      Jane, they are great persuaders, walking down the street with one is like the parting of the Red Sea. But to those in the know, they are the biggest wimps on the face of the earth. I have no doubt that your cat would have them skulking off with their tails between their legs with just one glare.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, alas I lack the technical skill, knowledge, confidence and opposable thumb to ever contemplate a pick ‘n’ mix approach to cars! Margaret sometimes tries to explain to me how the internal combustion engine works but as far as I’m concerned it’s just witchcraft. Every time I went for a drive I used to sacrifice a chicken to Thor and hope for the best. But now I’m vegetarian the sacrifice of a Quorn imitation chicken kiev doesn’t seem to have the same effect, my God has turned his countenance from me and you find me in the plight I’m in today. Maybe I should have tried veggie burger mix instead.

      • Jane

        The kids and the husband are very handy, I support and admire from afar. The cars that come my way seem to fall into the traditional dark hole of “Mum’s Stuff”, a place where the others hope order always resides and maintenance is never required! However, the little Fiat has stood me in very good stead, has required almost nothing doing, and does about 70 miles to the gallon on the long, steady run to my Mum’s in Bedfordshire.

  • =Tamar

    The car I used to want is the Hannibal Twin 8 from The Great Race with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. But now I’d want it to have a solid top instead of the canvas convertible top.

    • Gordon

      Someone I know always wanted to buy an old hearse when he was younger, then he and his friends would drive around town dressed as undertakers with another in a coffin in the back and when they stopped at traffic lights next to a queue the coffin lid would open and and the “body” start to climb out…

  • Sharon in Surrey

    I’m sick to death of power windows, power locks & power anti-theft devices!! I’m going on Thursday to see a pickup truck. It’s a 2004 with wind-up windows. If the brakes are good, the tranny is tight, the motor don’t smoke & the seat goes back far enough to give me leg room, I’m bringing it home!!! Everything else is easy to fix, if I must. The guy with the truck owes a client of mine a whole bunch of money that we’re slowly taking out in trade. Wahooo I need my extra money for yarn, dammit.

    • Lois

      Smart lady! That’s the kind of truck we have, meant for work, not one of these “trophy trucks” with every doodah that can be put in it or hung on it. Reliable and easy to fix because there isn’t much that can go wrong on them.

    • Gordon

      Well, I’ve always said you can’t go wrong with a tight tranny…

  • Dawn

    If you want a good deal from the car dealers take your knitting and sit there looking like you’re not going to shift until you’ve finished it.
    I managed to get a much better deal at a local dealership than any of the rest of the family managed when they sorted out cars there. I was knitting a large aran cushion cover complete with large ball of yarn and just sat there knitting while we negotiated. The bloke had to keep going and asking the manager to agree to things and I’d have loved to have overheard the conversation.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dawn, that’s doable. Though I have an image of it all getting out of control and the police being called to find a whimpering car salesman tied to his chair, a darning needle up one nostril and a cone of gurney five-ply being brandished in a threatening manner…

      One other good thing about your technique is that, since a gansey takes me 4-6 months, time would definitely be on my side!

  • Lois

    What an imaginative assortment of minds! Car dealers beware!

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