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Denim “Homophone” Gansey: Week 2 – 8 November

In many ways, Caithness seems perfectly suited to this impatient modern age of instant gratification. Take autumn, for example. In other places it announces itself with a suggestion of coolness in the air, a hint of russet in the trees and hedgerows, and about as many fallen leaves as, if they were hair clippings, would maybe oblige a lazy hairdresser to get out the broom. It’s a gradual process of weeks and months, a gentle transition between states. Not so in Caithness: here we get it over pretty much in a weekend, and then it’s straight on to winter, no messing. Such few trees as we have—which skulk about the landscape with a hangdog air, as though they’re runaways from Fangorn Forest and expect the Ents to come along any moment and round them up—seem to have evolved quick-release mechanisms, and at the first suggestion of an autumn breeze drop all their leaves with the unseemly haste of robbers dumping a bag of swag down an open manhole to escape the law.

Autumn has arrived in Caithness wet and cold and very, very windy (as I write this the wind is gusting to 65mph). Looking from my window—for I am not so foolish as to venture outdoors—the trees by the riverside are reduced to bare skeletons, their branches shivering with cold, their leaves already somewhere over the North Sea. The fields are waterlogged quagmires, the roads treacherous with standing water. And the sun, when it shines through the kaleidoscope of clouds that streak across the sky, already seems more distant, dimmer and cooler. No wonder our pagan ancestors indulged in human sacrifice this time of year, especially when there’s so little on tv worth watching.

Flying to the evening’s roost

But enough of darkness! Let us turn to the light instead, where Judit continues to be an inspiration with another splendid gansey. This one is a Filey pattern in lavender, alternating filled and moss stitch diamonds with double moss stitch patterns. The lavender yarn shows the pattern really well and as ever when I see one of Judit’s ganseys I add another pattern to my mental to-do list. Judit tells me it’s going to be a Christmas present, so someone is going to be very lucky this Yule. As ever, many congratulations to Judit, and many thanks for sharing it with us.

Stormy waves

My own gansey project creeps in this petty pace from day to day, as that famous gansey knitter Macbeth once observed. Without trying particularly hard, I’m almost halfway up the body (it helps enormously knitting for people who aren’t very tall). In another inch or so I’ll start the yoke pattern, the charts of which I’ll post next time.

Meanwhile the wind rampages unchecked, and we cower indoors like the Geats in Beowulf huddled in the mead-hall while Grendel prowls malevolently without. Ted Hughes wrote a great poem called Wind which captures the mood perfectly; it has one of the best first lines in English poetry, “This house has been far out at sea all night”, and after last night I know just what he means. And as the wind passes, so does autumn; I fear we might be in for a long winter…

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