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Buckie: 3 April

Bu160403-1 I’m writing this with my feet in a basin of hot water, a mustard poultice wrapped around my head, bathed in such a quantity of steam and towels I look like Lawrence of Arabia climbing into a Turkish bath. For alas! my cold has returned. In fact, we’re both suffering just now. The neighbours have told us to paint a large cross on the door and only come out when—or if—we survive.

I may say, however, and without hyperbole, that like Pheidippides, who ran 26 miles to bring the news of the victory over the Persians at Marathon to Athens and then expired, I managed to last long enough to complete the gansey before succumbing to my cold. And here it is.

Bu160403-1-2Blocking has opened up the trellis panels so you can see the moss stitches underneath, and I must say this makes for a very pleasing combination of patterns, the patterns themselves showing nicely through the colour of the yarn. I’m not saying I’d be in a hurry to knit it again anytime soon, but I’m glad I did: it’s very effective.

The past, they say, is another country. In this case it turned out to be another county, viz., Sutherland. We visited the ruined broch of Cârn Liath the other day, a stony mound on an exposed stretch of the Moray Firth south of Brora. It was a cold, grey, blustery day with rain in the air (or “spring” as we like to call it), and I must admit I didn’t have high hopes—it lies beside the A9 and I’d driven past it any number of times, just another lump in a landscape of lumps.


Cârn Liath

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong: it was dark, brooding, full of Iron Age shadows and atmosphere. Although the roof and most of the walls have gone—it now stands 12 feet high, but once was three times as tall—you can still go inside and get a feel for what it was like. Brochs are circular towers with two concentric walls and a space between them for stairs, and would once have had several levels divided by wooden floors. Standing at ground level in the central space, enclosed by the massive stone walls, even open to the sky as this was, you felt cut off, enclosed, secure.


Cârn Liath stairwell, seen at right in above pic

The lintels and ceilings are all very low, the guard chambers beside the doorway tall enough for a child of 13 to stand upright in; all of which of course lends support to the current archaeological theory that Iron Age Scotland was colonised by dwarves from the Lonely Mountain after the dragon destroyed their home. Archaeologists are even now digging for evidence, and no doubt singing the hi-ho song to keep their spirits up.


Dunnet Beach

We archivists are always a bit jealous of archaeologists, who get to grow their hair long and go on tv looking manly (or womanly, as the case may be) and rugged; but on the other hand we don’t get through quite so many pairs of trousers, so it all evens out, I expect. (As they used to warn young archaeology students: better to die on your feet than live on your knees…)

Finally this week, congratulations to Margaret, no less than four of whose photographs have been included in the Photoion Photography Awards 2015 book. Regular readers of the blog and Margaret’s Blipfoto feed will know what a remarkably good photographer she is: but why should we keep it to ourselves?

16 comments to Buckie: 3 April

  • lorraine

    Gordon- Congrats to Margaret, well done!

    The Brochs are interesting- I don’t know much about them. We don’t have any iron age things in Canada, unless they are in the North.

    The Gansey is perfection- and all that patterning certainly worth the effort. Hope you both get rid of your colds.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, brochs are, I think, unique to Scotland, and although some of the best-preserved are in Orkney, Caithness has lots! Archaeologists say that “opinions vary” on what they were used for—which is archaeologist-speak for “we haven’t a clue but the cameras are rolling so we’d better look knowledgeable quick!”

      Theories include offensive fortifications, defensive fortifications, or just Iron Age “stately homes”. My own theory is that they are cooling towers for the Picts’ vast underground peat-fuelled power stations, but sadly this theory lacks a few details to make it really credible, such as actual supporting evidence.

      Antiquarians called them brochs. Academics now call them “complex Atlantic roundhouses”, which suggests to me that the antiquarians were ahead of the game when it came to snappy PR.

      (Incidentally, my autocorrect keeps replacing “broch” with “broth”, which makes for a very happy image…)

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Yes, Margaret takes lovely photos!! Congratulations Margaret. And congratulations to you too, Gordon, for surviving all that Moss stitch!!! It does make a nice pattern though!!! And sick again???? You’re getting to be a labor-intensive project all by yourself!
    I have an idea that the very interesting brochs are unique to Scotland because there’s little to build with & little to burn. It may have been easier to make them round – look at woven shelters in Africa & felted shelters in China. But tall enough for a 13 year old child??? You must be referring to Scots children??? Here in Canada, most of those 13 year olds are 6’2″ & wear size 13 shoes!! But, maybe we just feed them too much too often.
    Looks like summer has come at last to the Wet Coast too. We’ve had 3 of the most glorious, warm, sunny days – I was out in my shorts!!

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, we’re an old nation and it’s the existential doubt that cripples us, either that or the rickets. We spend most of our time staring at the ground, contemplating the futility of existence, developing spiritual hunchbacks; whereas Canadians still possess the optimism of youth, lifting their heads and stretching their spines, reaching for the stars. (We stoop for millipedes. It takes a toll.)

      Shorts, eh? I’m not allowed to wear shorts within a 200-yard radius of women or nervous horses, court order, but if we ever see the sun again I might hire a kilt for the afternoon. Ganseys and kilts—it’s the Latest Thing…

  • Dave

    Congratulations Margaret – well deserved.

  • Jane Callaghan

    Durin’s folk of Erebor never EVER sang the hiho ditty.

  • Lois

    Congratulations Margaret! I had wondered if all the beautiful photos on the site were your own. And congrats to Gordon for surviving all that moss stitch, lovely pattern.

    East coast Canada is still in the grip of winter, no shorts here! But there are definite signs of spring, even if it’s only the odd mosquito that I’ve swatted. My 11 year old Great Dane went tearing across the lawn like a pup, so she certainly has spring in her old bones.

  • Lynne

    A stunning gansey pattern, Gordon – absolutely one of my favorites and the seed stitch rows show up wonderfully now that it’s blocked. Well done!
    I enjoy Margaret’s blips every week and so glad she got recognized for some of her many creative shots.

  • =Tamar

    Congratulations all round!

  • thiry jane kassuba

    Its so beautiful. Im getting closer to starting mine. Im going to be searching for a simpler pattern for the next couple of months. Great job and I wish I could feel it. It just begs to be felt….! Also, Im not very geographical and still haven’t figured out what country youre in, but I want to come visit! Now, Ive made a fool outta myself….LOL

    • Gordon

      The far north of Scotland—if you look at a map we’re at the very top right—about 15 miles south of John O’Groats. If you do a google search for “arse end of nowhere” that should find us in the first few hits…

  • Julie

    That is a handsome sweater, Gordon, and beautifully knit. How you can power through with a miserable bug continues to amaze. Speedy recovery to you both.
    I am a fan of your photo work, Margaret, as you know. Sincere congratulations on your recognition! Readers: If you haven’t yet, do click on the link to her pics and enjoy her gifts of line and composition.
    Victoria, BC, Canada

  • Gordon

    Hello all – many thanks from both of us for the kind words! (You can tell how exciting my life is and how much it rains at any given time by how much knitting I get done…I’m currently applying for a grant from the Met Office…)

    Temperatures currently 6-8ºC here, grey, wind, showers of rain—so rather more knitting in my horoscope in the near future, I fear!

  • Jane

    Congratulations to the both of you. Margaret’s photos are wonderful, and the gansey is superb. Blocking has brought out the pattern beautifully, and the sleeves are a triumph! It is a very serious amount of work, so totally impressive.

    Sorry to hear about the cold. I think it has been a rotten year for viruses and their like. We went far away to southern climes, Southern Spain, to catch a bit of sun, only to find it very chilly, slept in the woolly hat, and gloomy. There was a nasty cold too. The weather did cheer up eventually, but we felt it was about par for the course. Take care.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, and thank you. These colds just won’t shift, and everyone I know has tale to tell.

      I’ve never been to Spain, and never expected to, but if it’s cold and gloomy it sounds just like Costa-del-Wick, and so my kind of place! (I think I was bitten by a vampire as a child and have consequently developed an allergy to sunshine. That, and a habit of sleeping in a coffin lined with New Zealand soil. At least I think it’s soil…)

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