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Cedar Gansey, Week 5: 13 August

Last Monday was a holiday in Scotland; so we went up to Sannick Bay, just south of John O’Groats (“A holiday, a holiday, and the last one of the year/ So Gordon and Margaret went to John O’Groats, the cobwebs for to clear”, as the old folk song says). The ocean was flat calm under leaden skies, though every now and then the sun would break through and make the water glitter like a tray of congealing taffy.

It was low tide and long shelves of rock were exposed, stretching down into the water like the remains of Neolithic piers. The same rock was visible in the cliffs that shelter the beach, great slabs of stone that always remind me of the ruins of a lost civilisation, or Charlton Heston discovering the buried remains of the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes. (Though Margaret has politely asked me in future to wait until the other tourists have gone before falling on my knees, pounding the sand theatrically with my fists and shouting, “You maniacs! You blew it up!”)

Three seals appeared in the offing, their black snouts bobbing like buoys in the swell. One of them swam closer to stare at us, then disappeared underwater for a time only to reappear and stare at us some more, as if to say, “Look guys, what’s wrong with you? I keep turning my back and counting to 50, and yet you keep refusing to go and hide”. Everything goes better with seals.

In parish news Judit has been celebrating summer by preparing for winter, and has knit this very dashing gansey in fireman red as a Christmas present. Note the way the pattern is made up of different bands. It’s something I almost never do, my imagination not working that way, but it just shows how effective it can be to combine several different patterns; and this is a splendid example.

My own gansey is proceeding apace: the back is finished and I’m halfway up the front. I plan to give it a shaped neckline. (I know that traditional ganseys didn’t have them—though as Gustav Mahler told one orchestra who’d always played a piece of music one way, “tradition is just another word for laziness”—and this sort of banded pattern looks best with the horizontal lines unbroken by an inset collar. But in this case comfort wins out over aesthetics, and I’m sure tradition will forgive me just this once.)

Felled tree, Dunnet Forest

And if reincarnation really is a thing, I think I’d like to come back as a seal; they always seem be having more fun than me. (Though this also appears to be the case for most of creation from earwigs upwards, so maybe I should scratch that.) It’s the lifestyle that appeals—loafing around on your back all day, eating when you feel like it, and basically pleasing yourself. But now I come to think of it, I’ve already been there: leaving aside the occasional concert by Barclay James Harvest or Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias, it’s uncannily similar to the life I led as a student in Manchester back in the late 1970s…

6 comments to Cedar Gansey, Week 5: 13 August

  • meg macleod

    may you never run out of humour!

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, my motto has always been, as the celebrated misquotation from Oscar Wilde says, “Life is too important to be taken seriously”…

  • Eve

    The years roll back! Alberto y lost trios paranoias!
    You can have BJH thou …….wanders off to YouTube and Spotify in a haze of nostalgia any excuse to have a sneaky knit and a listen to my youth!

  • =Tamar

    No, “loafing around on your back all day, eating when you feel like it, and basically pleasing yourself” is not the life of a student, it’s the life of the well-funded retiree. At least, the retiree who has not signed up for volunteer work. The difficulty is that unlike the student who usually walks to a dining hall, restaurant, or party, the retiree often doesn’t walk farther than to the kitchen and thus becomes less fit by the day.

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