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Filey 13: 11 – 17 June

It’s shameful confession time: not much progress to report this week. This is partly because motivating myself to start the front after I’ve finished the back is sometimes difficult (you mean I’ve got to do all that again?! Aw, man!) But mainly it’s because I had to go to a meeting in London.

Now, if you look at a map, you’ll see that London is not the easiest place to get to from Wick. In short, to attend a 3-hour meeting in Holborn on a Wednesday, I had to leave on Tuesday morning and didn’t get back till Thursday afternoon. Every fight was delayed (over the three days I spent more than 7 hours hanging around in airports and railway stations), and of course you can’t take knitting into the cabin, for fear you might suddenly decide to overpower the flight crew with a garrotte made of hastily-knitted 5-ply.

Wick to Edinburgh is quite civilised; but the other flights (and rail journeys) aren’t. There’s no seat reservations without paying extra, so there’s a mad stampede when the gate opens, scenes resembling the arrival of an aid convoy at a refugee camp; in the end the stewardesses were forced to restore order by firing machine guns into the air, though too late to save at least one crushed businessman whose trampled Blackberry may never text again (hopefully).

This weekend was the Wick “Harbour Fest”, a charity event to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee and raise money for the local lifeboats. On the Saturday there were stalls all round the harbour – the Moray Firth Gansey Project was represented, nice to see Kathryn and Stephanie again – and ships to explore. So we got the chance to wander over a superbly restored old herring drifter, the Reaper, up from the Anstruther Fisheries Museum. (I didn’t spend long below decks: the boat heaved unnervingly even in the mild swell and that, combined with having to walk hunched over like Grouch Marx, a sort of reverse limbo contest in a malfunctioning elevator, sent me scuttling back up the companionway to fresh air; I had enjoyed my breakfast, but seeing it once was enough.)

On the deck of the Reaper

The Reaper at sea

On Sunday, most of the ships in the harbour (fifty or more) put out to sea for a celebratory spin round the coast – and while most of them were, of course, small pleasure craft, there were enough larger craft to suggest what it must have been like a hundred and fifty years ago when the fleet put out. There were over 1,000 boats fishing out of Wick in the 1860s, and to see sail after sail (or engine) round the harbour wall, turn gracefully and head out to sea was like stepping into an old black and white photograph (an impression aided by the weather: grey skies, grey clouds, grey ocean – as if someone had adjusted the colour dial to sepia for a day). We stood on the south river pier, shivering in our ganseys, as one by one, lost in the haze and the horizon, blown by a bitter north wind, the boats disappeared from view – round the headland, out of the present and back into history.

The Isabella Fortuna leads the flotilla

Of course, eventually they turned round and came back, ruining the symbolism completely. But by then we were on our way home, looking forward to hot coffee and central heating. (The past is all right for a short visit; but you wouldn’t want to live there – not till they start serving cafe americanos, anyway…)

A rainbow at sunset

Finally, another completed gansey to celebrate – from Joy in Staffordshire, it’s a Staithes made from hand-spun yarn (see the gallery page for an image). The pattern comes out really clearly in that yarn and goes to show, again, how effective the core gansey patterns can be.

10 comments to Filey 13: 11 – 17 June

  • Joy Davies

    Many thanks Gordon. I consider myself very fortunate to have found your wonderful website last year when I set out to knit my first gansey . The “how to” instructions are very clear & work; re-visiting them & looking at your witty blog kept me on track.The history sections are great too and made me feel that I was doing far more than just knitting another “jumper”.You really are helping to keep a traditional craft alive.Thanks again, Best wishes, Joy.

  • Lynne

    Thanks for sharing the “Harbour Fest” in photos – such a bonus for us to get knitting, a travelog, history, humour, eye candy,and descriptive prose all in one blog!

  • Gordon

    Hi Joy,

    You’re welcome, though bear in mind that most of the time I’m making it up as I go along! And thank God for the internet, eh? Like someone with an embarrassing personal problem you go through life thinking you’re the only one – then you realise, not only are there others, but there’s support groups too! (“Er – hi everyone – my name’s Gordon (Hi Gordon!) and I haven’t knitted a cable for two weeks now…”)

    Lynne – steady on, there may be children reading!


  • Gracie

    Yes, Lynne has it right – you are a very good writer – and I agree with Joy about finding your website.

    I google-mapped your journey from Wick to London. Absolute nuts! And, yes – the business of needles on planes – I use wooden circular needles that have squeaked under the radar. Scissors are out, but I will use my teeth if necessary.


  • Gordon

    Hi Gracie – and thank you! Yes, Wick to London is pretty grim – I mean, it’s just 2 hour-long flights, looking at it one way, but the connections don’t work; so it’s a 3-hour wait in Edinburgh airport and coming back means an overnight stay.

    The official sites always say you can take needles – but if you turn up at check in they force you to give them up. I need someone to invent 80cm 2.25mm circular needles made out of spaghetti, or something. Come on, world! It may be a niche market, but why hasn’t anyone tried it?! (OK, maybe not spaghetti… But.)


  • Dave

    Re noodle needles–just boil the middle part of a long strand of spaghetti, leaving about 4″ uncooked at each end. How hard could it be?

  • Gordon


    “How hard could it be?”

    I believe “al dente” is the correct term…

  • brenda

    you mentioned standing on the pier “shivering in your ganseys”. I thought ganseys were made to keep the shivers out?

  • Gordon

    Hi Brenda,

    Not perched on a pier on Wick harbour on a sunless day with a bitter arctic wind blowing subatomic ice particles clean through your bones, sadly, they’re not! (Though to be fair, my body was warm enough – but oh my poor tonsure and exposed hands and ears ears took a bit of a battering. You know in Start Trek or Star Wars films when spaceships go into hyperspace, they sort of pause and then just vanish, covering intergalactic distances in a seconds? That’s what the wind was doing to seagulls on Sunday.)

    It was windy!

  • =Tamar

    Time for a gansey-patterned hat and gloves.