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.
Blocking 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.
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.
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.
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?