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Buckie: 31 January

Bu160201-1Well, we survived Storm Gertrude last week, which brought gusts of 60-70 mph to Wick (others had it worse; Shetland recorded gusts of over 100 mph); now we’re battening down the hatches for Storm Henry, expected Monday night into Tuesday, and the forecast is for much the same, or stronger. (The rate these gales are whistling through I expect to have received a visit from Storm Zachariah a week next Tuesday.)

The sea has torn a chunk out of Wick harbour wall, as though a very hungry whale had taken a large bite, for added roughage perhaps. There were trees down on the road to Inverness (Caithness has hardly any trees to speak of, just a few straggly bits of forest that make it feel as though the land was attempting a rather unconvincing combover). The fields are waterlogged, cattle and sheep standing bedraggled and miserable, ankle-deep in water (Caithness now twinned with the Grimpen Mire).


Near the end of the river path

We went to Inverness last week for my final trip to hospital (touch wood), to see the consultant about my mouth sores. After no less than four blood tests (the arm they took the blood from was so emaciated afterwards that I looked like a hermit crab) and a month of fasting and meditation, I finally had my answer: they don’t know what the cause is. (This is actually good news: it means it’s probably nothing serious, or at least nothing with the word “disease” in the title.)

The most likely cause is an allergy, possibly to spice, with cinnamates and benzoates strong candidates. So I’ve got another three months of trial abnegation to look forward to: no spicy food (so Indian, Mexican and Chinese cuisine is out), no tea, no strawberries, and—I can hardly type this for the tears running down my face, blurring my vision and short-circuiting my keyboard—no Easter eggs, no hot cross buns.


Trees by the river

Oh, well, he says bravely; there are always ganseys. I continue my long creep up the body which is now about 15 inches long. Next week, expect some exciting gusset-related news.

Speaking of knitting, many thanks to Judit for sending me this link to a piece on the health benefits of knitting from the New York Times. Unfortunately many of them seem to accrue from socialising with other people in knitting groups, whereas for me, knitting is the equivalent of a 30-year sentence in solitary confinement. Never mind! I’m sure it’s still therapeutic; as I said to Judit, it’s the equivalent of assembling your own cat over a period of weeks, and stroking it as you go.


Snow on the window

Oh, and if anyone was thinking of advising me to look on the bright side during my time of trial, I refer you to this superb piece of dialogue from PG Wodehouse’s The Mating Season. Bertie Wooster is up against it and Jeeves offers him some philosophical comfort:

Jeeves: “‘I wonder if I might draw your attention to an observation of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius? He said “Does anything befall you? It is good. It is part of the destiny of the universe ordained for you from the beginning. All that befalls you is part of the great web.'”

I breathed a bit stertorously. ‘He said that, did he?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Well, you can tell him from me he’s an ass.'”

24 comments to Buckie: 31 January

  • Annie

    Remind me not to be drinking my morning coffee when reading your blogs (early my Monday mornings). Only little kids should laugh hard while drinking something. Hahahaha. Really sorry you are going through stuff, would you get a laugh from thinking about how I tried for a bit to figure out the Scottish word “com-hover”?

    • Gordon

      Hi Anni, my favourite description of the recently deceased French avant-garde composer Pierre Boulez, a man with little hair and a reputation for being domineering and dismissive of any views other than his own, was “A comb-over with a Napoleon complex”!

  • Annie

    Er, com- bover.

  • lorraine

    Gordon- My sincere sympathy. No tea would just about finish me off. It is my last, and only vice.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lorraine, tea is one of a number of substances that produce benzoates naturally, and I’ve been advised to steer clear of them for a while to see if my symptoms go away. But strawberries and cranberries are another, so I’m not allowed jam or flavoured yoghurts either. Tomatoes are dodgy too. (I plan to survive by straining nutrients out of the air, like a small whale of the land. )

  • Lois

    One can tell that Marcus Aurelius never had hot cross buns, or he wouldn’t be so indifferent. But no tea! You poor soul! That really is cruel and unusual punishment.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, I think Leonato summed it up best in Much Ado About Nothing: “there was never yet philosopher / That could endure the toothache patiently”. (How d’you like them buns, Marcus Aurelius?”)

  • gail

    comb-over, as in Donald Trump

    • Gordon

      Do you think Trump has noticed that an African vulture appears to have made a nest on his head? Will we be the first to tell him…?

  • Dianna Rubidge

    Best cure for a dreary dull day in Saskatchewan – read Gansey Nation and try not to laugh so hard you scare the cat.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dianna, I think a good scare is good for cats now and then. It lowers their dignity, like the chancellor slipping a whoopee cushion onto the Prime Minister’s seat in the House of Commons just before he sits down after answering a question on EU membership…

  • Sharon in Surrey

    I can understand the Indian, Mexican & Chinese cuisines but tea & hot cross buns??? Good Gawd Gordon!! How are you surviving??? Jeeves is wrong, this is not Destiny, this is Cruelty. And this is the one & only time that I agree with Bertie!! Have you tried Pu-erh tea?? Different bush. And what’s wrong with Hot Cross Buns anyway???

    Ahem. This is being tacked on as a quiet afterthought. Have you checked the sugar bowl for poison???

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, any sort of black tea is out, I;m afraid. Herbal tea is fine, so long as it’s not made from one of the Forbidden Fruits (I think that’s now a selection in Tesco’s). Hot cross buns have cinnamon in them—as do (the best kind of ) apple pies and crumbles.

      We’ve just been watching a classic Peter Wimsey mystery where the villain developed immunity to arsenic over time so that he could take it mixed with sugar without suffering any ill effects… Personally I’m trying the same technique to develop an immunity to sugar, and I still have 3 teeth left to experiment with!)

  • Nigel

    “Near the end of the river path” would be a lovely title for a book.

    • Gordon

      It would, wouldn’t it? I see a retired fisherman living in a hut up the river, perhaps forming an unlikely friendship with a couple of young children visiting a crotchety old aunt in Staxigoe.

      Of course, there are many variants to this tale. The most famous is Moby-Kip, the tale of blind revenge by a fisherman who once lost his leg to a shoal of man-eating herring, and has dedicated his life to destroying the leader. Another is when a mad scientist manages to harness the lightning and creates a hideous super-herring out of the bodies of dried, smoked kippers…. Honestly, it writes itself.

  • =Tamar

    It appears that the non-social benefits of knitting are related to the soothing repetition of movements. It’s like rocking in a rocking chair, only more portable, and with more potential variety.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I like that thought. Of course, I knit in a spasmodic fashion, as if I was in a rocking chair, regardless—I’m not the most ergonomic of knitters—so perhaps i get additional health benefits as a result…?

  • Jane

    Well, definitely good news from the hospital, in these instances no news is good news in my book! I can see where they are coming from on the spices and black tea side, you will be so healthy by the time they finish! Are you allowed mint tea? Wasn’t Marcus Aurelius’ s son the nasty Emperor Commodus, a heavy burden to bear!

    The gansey is totally impressive, lovely colour and pattern. I found Judit’s article very interesting. It is the nature of knitting, endlessly soothing and challenging! Take care.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, I suppose with a son like that you’d need to develop a philosophical view on life! Yes, I’m very relieved that I don’t have anything serious (touch wood), or, being British, what would be much worse, something embarrassing!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Pu-erh tea is not a black tea. It comes from a different bush in China & looks like sticks, leaves & small branches. It supposedly shrinks tumors too. I like the taste so I drink a lot of it. You could try Rooibos from South Africa – totally different bush again & it’s RED. Did I say I love your Gansey?? I do.

  • Jane

    Rooibos, Redbush, tea is really good, sort of tea like but a different bush, red and slightly smoky. It hydrates, but no caffeine so does not effect blood pressure. Not bad at all, we drink a lot.

  • Gordon

    Hi Sharon and Jane – Margaret has a cupboard full of exotic teas, which mentally, as an archivist and a true Britisher, I have filed away under the taxonomical category of “weird foreign muck”, which I can see I’m going to have to lay aside my prejudices about and come to grips with… Damn. My prejudices are all that keep me warm through the winter these days.

  • Pat S

    Interesting that you are looking at cinnamates. I’m allergic to cinnamon spice and many cinnamic acid compounds but it can be quite difficult to persuade the medics that I’m not joking. Restaurants have a tendency to think it’s not real, and more than once I’ve had places refuse to serve me because they can’t guarantee that their food doesn’t contain nuts! On place that it turns up unexpectedly is sunscreens since some of the compounds are very good UV filters. It’s also a common flavouring in toothpaste which would tie in with your problems.Lots of sauces and pickles include it, as do many spice mixtures for Indian cookery.

    • Gordon

      Hi Pat, yes cinnamates are on the list of things I have to avoid. In fact I’m coming to the conclusion that sodium laurel sulphate isn’t my problem, possibly, and am starting to think that cinnamon might be. The only way to tell is to eliminate them all from my diet and then reintroduce them one at a time.

      However, I have a list of foodstuffs that naturally produce benzoates, and this includes most berry fruit, concentrated tomatoes, apples, bananas, peaches… Most meat and fish is OK but I’m a vegetarian! So I’m just going to have to accept that I can’t eliminate them all and live with the consequences, I think.

      Best of luck with your struggle to avoid cinnamon – sounds like a challenge!

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