With less than a month till Christmas, Caithness is sliding inexorably into midwinter darkness: already the sun is rising at 8.30am and setting at 3.30pm. Mind you, the sunrises and sunsets have been stunning, enough red skies at both ends of the day to alarm and then delight any bipolar shepherds or sailors.
We’ve had a week of sharp frosts, the pavements slick with ice, so that I’ve been going out each morning dressed like a member of the Captain Scott Re-enactment Society who’s just discovered that walking on thin ice isn’t only a metaphor. If we have a really bad winter my current plan is to set up a dog-walking business and sneakily train the canines to pull a sled, so I can still get to work.
There was something of a thaw on Saturday—judging by the forecasts this will be known as the 2016 Caithness Interglacial Warm Period—so we went for a stroll out to the south head of Wick Bay, past the old quarry, which I remembered as a lovely spot with picnic benches and artistically recreated standing stones. Well, we were in for a shock.
The scene is now a store yard for the council apparently, a muddy basin filled with muddy pools and dirty mounds of tarmac, grit and builders’ supplies. It reminded me of the Scouring of the Shire, the epilogue to the Lord of the Rings when the hobbits return home to find it transformed into an ugly industrialised wasteland. I expected any minute to be beset by marauding orcs with whips and forced to go work in the salt mines (or, as I think of it, “Monday morning”).
Oh, well: we could still turn our faces to the clean horizons of the ocean, which has yet to be tarmacked. And I daresay people a hundred years ago felt much the same as we when the quarry was being worked. But that passed, in time, allowing nature to reclaim it; and so, I guess, will this.
The Matt Cammish gansey has now, as you can see, been taken for a test drive and it holds up pretty well. The body has settled back to a comfortable 47 inches in the round, but the purl stitches act like ribbing so it can stretch a bit if it has to. All in all, a modest success.
The new gansey will be another Wick pattern inspired by a photograph in the marvellous Johnston Collection. We haven’t charted it out fully yet—there’s still a fortnight at least before I have to worry about the yoke—but it resembles Fergus Ferguson’s in general style, without being quite so ornate (what I’m coming to think of as a typical Wick pattern, in fact). By way of a change I’m knitting it in Wendy’s aran Guernsey 5-ply yarn (they had a sale). I cast on 336 stitches and increased to 372 stitches after a welt of 3.75 inches.
Meanwhile Judit has sent me this nifty idea for a Christmas gift which she’s devised. The patterns are tree of life, Betty Martin panelling and diamonds and the overall effect is rather splendid. (It looks like it could also be adapted into stylish knitwear for the dalek in your life…) It should serve as inspiration, too, if any is needed—so what are you waiting for?