The sun happening to shine one day last week we packed up our troubles in our old kit bag, took it down to the river, filled it with a choice selection of heavy stones and threw it in. After waiting several minutes for the bubbles to subside—for if you’re going to drown your sorrows it’s as well to do it thoroughly—we went for a stroll over the ruined Castle of Sinclair Girnigoe.
It’s situated just a mile or so north of Wick, commanding the entire sweep of Sinclair’s Bay in a half circle from the stacks of Duncansby all the way round to the tip of the promontory of Noss. (Noss Head juts out in a narrow spike between Sinclair’s Bay to the north and Wick Bay to the south; with the ocean on three sides and the wind blowing it’s like standing on the bowsprit of HMS Caithness under full sail.)
Sinclair, or Girnigoe Castle is stunningly sited on one of the fingers of land that splay out from the coast in these parts (the name means the green goe, or inlet). Standing on the narrow sliver of rock, looking down at the sea angrily churning away at the base, the weight of centuries concentrated in just a few square yards of floorspace, you can’t help wondering how many men were lost down the centuries when they sleepily got up in the middle of the night and popped out to relieve themselves, never to be heard of again (only the sound of a medieval fly being unzipped, a despairing scream and a distant splash). Quite a lot of the castle survives and it’s obvious that, unable to expand sideways, the only way was up. Now after centuries of conflict the ruins are home to nesting seabirds—which seems appropriate, somehow: visiting a ruined castle is like looking at old school photos; it’s pleasant to be reminded now and then of something you’ve outgrown.
I have meanwhile started my next gansey project, a Filey pattern in Frangipani claret for an old friend. I love this colour: like so many gansey yarns, it changes hue with the prevailing light. Sometimes it resembles red wine spilt on a tablecloth; but then the sun floods the room with sunlight and it glows with a sort of ruddy luminescence, as though I was knitting a wooly cover for the Holy Grail. I have perhaps another week of plain knitting at this rate before I start the yoke.
Finally this week, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s been in touch, both below the line or by email, wishing me well in recovering from my present illness. Depression is an isolating feeling, and it means a lot to know that so many people care enough to let me know. So thank you; people can be very kind. And speaking of which, I’ve been thinking a lot about an old Cambridge University anecdote Stephen Fry relates in one of his books: as a philosophy of life it seems pretty good to me right now. It goes like this. One day a new Fellow of the College was being welcomed to the senior common room by the other academics; one took him aside and said, “A word of advice: don’t try to be clever. We’re all clever here. Only try to be kind.”