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Filey 2.17: 29 July – 11 August

Full BodyYou know the saying that travel broadens the mind? Well, in my case it may do, but it also raises the blood pressure, increases stress levels and shortens my life expectancy. Much of this is caused by staying in hotels, of course. The room I had in the hotel in Inverness last week was so narrow I touched all four walls every time I breathed in: lying in the bed was like being digested by a boa constrictor, or buried alive in a child’s coffin. Then the guy next door came in noisily at 1.30 in the morning, and got up and left noisily at 5.00; the walls were so thin I could hear his nose hairs rustling as he slept.


Dornoch Firth, not to be confused with a hotel in Inverness

There’s this theory that the universe will expand to a certain point, then collapse back, there’s a big bang and everything repeats, again and again, eternally and for ever. There are many reasons why I don’t want this to be true, but mostly because it will mean endlessly reliving that night in Inverness, back and forth, until the end of time and space, an infinity of sleepless 5.00am’s.

I spent part of last week’s holiday with my parents at Reid Towers, our ancestral mansion in Northamptonshire overlooking the Grand Union Canal. South Northants really is a lovely county, a patchwork of fields draping the landscape like an embroidered quilt, charming villages of Cotswold stone, all ivy-covered pubs and cricket on the village green, and everywhere herds of solicitors and doctors, the only ones who can afford to live there, ravaging the crops like wild deer (time for another cull, you say? Pass me my twelve bore). But it still feels like home to me.


The Grand Union Canal from my bedroom window Chez Reid

The town of Northampton itself, though, is sadly an urban wasteland of post-apocalyptic desolation, where hollow-eyed survivors stagger from the ruins after dark (not zombies, of course, for as everyone knows, zombies feed on brains, and the last one in Northampton starved to death 20 years ago).

Northampton made the schoolboy error of supporting Parliament in the Civil War, so when Charles II was restored to the throne he—rather petulantly, it’s always seemed to me—had the castle torn down, starting a tradition of destruction carried on by the Luftwaffe and subsequent town planners. Retracing my childhood in the town is now about as hard as working out how medieval people lived and already involves more archaeology than history (I know I’m getting old, but really: this is my childhood, people).

I left my knitting behind, as I usually do on these trips, partly because I’m self-conscious, but mostly because it’s so big and unmanageable now it’s like holding a drunken sheep with a fever on your lap. And anyway, it was just too hot down south (at one point I even contemplated rolling up my shirtsleeves, but recollected in time that there were ladies present, and forbore). Still, I’ve managed another few inches since last time, and am still on track to finish the gansey by the end of the month.Sleeve

My Victorian detective novel The Cuckoo’s Nest continues to sell well on Amazon, selling more in a month than some of my books ever have, so thank you to all who’ve downloaded it. I guess crime, as they say, really does pay.

Margaret comes back from serving her time in a Turkish prison, correction, “holiday”, next week, when normal service will be resumed—by which I mean the blog will have images that actually vaguely resemble their subjects. Meanwhile I’m off to catch up on my sleep, now my travels are done: I think, all things considered, I’ll keep my mind safely narrow in future.

12 comments to Filey 2.17: 29 July – 11 August

  • Judit M. / Finland

    Gordon, never mind the troubles in the hotel. You are still very fortunate to have your parents ! My mother died at the age of 53 – 47 yrs ago – and my father mooved to heaven 42 yrs ago.
    Next time you have to go to a high level hotel and should not think on saving money . Life is short , you have to enjoy it.
    Best regards,

    • Gordon

      Hi Judit,

      Yes my parents are still going strong in their eighties, and it’s a shame I live so far away now, and only get to see them now and then. It’s amazing how much smaller the house looks now than when i was 12!

      As to staying in swanky hotels, I would do but most of them have signs saying: No pets, unemployed, convicted criminals or archivists. If I do blag my way in the hotel detective follows me around and ostentatiously counts the cutlery after breakfast. Once I was frisked on the way out to see if I’d stolen any soap (but I got clean away, ha ha). All very embarrassing.


  • =Tamar

    Just last weekend I was thinking that my childhood had not only been bought and sold, it had been bulldozed and paved over as well. There’s not much point in going back to the old town; none of my relatives live there now and I’d have to buy a ticket to the town beach just as if I hadn’t lived there for my first 25 years. Harrumph. (Do women say “Harrumph”? I guess so, since I just did, but it seems as though I should be saying it over a glass of port after dinner.)

    The gansey looks very blue in the recent photos. Pretty!

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar,

      Alas the electric blue of the gansey is more to do with my rubbish camera skills than the reality. Why, I wonder, doesn’t anyone make electric blue 5-ply? (Probably because you’d be followed wherever you went by some very confused but aroused pheasants, I expect.)

      Harrumph will survive, I feel, so long as no one invents a tweetable emoticon for it—then we might as well put arsenic in our port and kiss goodbye to all we hold dear.

      It was Yeats who urged his readers to “tread softly, for you tread on my dreams.” (Though I always felt it worked better as, “tread softly, for you tread on my brand new plush deep-pile shag carpet”.)

      Park your car in the multi-storey car park softly, for you park on my dreams…


  • Nigel

    I am 10 inches along my gansey!

    • Gordon

      But I thought size didn’t matter…? Oops! —wrong forum! Er…

      Congratulations, Nigel—you’ll be finished in no time at this rate. Are you finding yourself speeding up the more you do?


  • Nigel

    Yes, the pattern, which is a Flamborough cables and diamonds, is getting fixed in my head. It’s just finding the time …

    • Lynne

      Great start and I love the Flamborough patterns, it was my first gansey, too. Are you doing Navy?

    • Gordon

      Hi Nigel,

      The frustrating thing in my case, not being one of the world’s naturally dextrous people, is that I find my fingers have no memory (it was the same when I tried to learn the guitar, or touch-typing): one day everything clicks, and I just fly, and I think, Great, I’ve cracked it! Then next day it’s as if I’ve never held a needle in my hand before, and it’s like watching a 5 year-old learning to knit. (When I was learning to type, the speed of my fingers reminded me of a tarantula crawling over the keyboard!).

      Every day a new beginning. Good luck!


  • Lisa Mitchell

    Heavy jumpers in summer a la drunken sheep and travelling are some of the reasons I learned how to knit socks this year. Still contemplating those gansey socks!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lisa,

      I’m still both appalled and fascinated by the photos I’ve seen of gansey long-john underwear! (Hmmm – gansey lingerie – a possible new market for the more … discerning … customer?)

      At least it’s big enough now I can work on the sleeve with the body safely curled up at my side like a labrador, so it’s not too hot – though the temperature up here, I could do with it now. Autumn feels like it’s arrived, alas.


  • Nigel

    Yes Lynne, navy

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