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Flamborough II: 3 May

2F150503a Just before ten on Sunday morning the alarm company called to say the intruder alarms were going off at the library, and would I mind frightfully popping round to see what the problem was?

Usually when this happens it’s because a spider has inadvertently crossed the grid of laser beams, or a woodlouse has sneezed and triggered the internal decibel monitor, so I was more annoyed than worried. But when I got there this time the front door was hanging ajar.

Now, it’s never a comfortable feeling to enter a supposedly empty building with an intruder alarm ringing in your ears, and certainly not when you see the door’s been forced open and everyone else in town still seems to be in bed. And while it’s possible the people of Wick are so keen on culture that they’ll break into a library on a Sunday morning to get their hands on it, I wouldn’t bet my life on it.


Old Lifeboat House, Wick

Well, as it turned out there weren’t any crazed knife-wielding coked-up meth-drinking second-hand book dealers in there; whoever had forced the door had obviously run off when the alarm sounded. (I wasn’t taking any chances, though—I’d got my archivist’s utility belt with me, which is much like Batman’s, except whereas his has grapnels, ninja weapons and ropes, mine has a pencil, an eraser, and a sheet of acid-free paper.)

Now I think of it, this is the first time in what I laughingly think of as my career that I’ve been called out to a genuine break-in; usually it’s false alarms, like one New Year’s Eve in Wales when an air conditioning conduit sprang a leak and pumped out steam so thick it triggered the smoke alarm.


Staxigoe on a sunny day

The biggest disaster I ever faced was in Milton Keynes, where the archives were stored in a factory unit. Over the Christmas holidays a water pipe in the kitchen had burst, blasting a hole in the wall and then slowly filling the unit with water. By the time I came back to work the whole building had three inches of water in it, I remember it cascading out over my shoes when I unlocked the door. (This is why good archivists, like we were, always have the bottom shelf a few inches off the floor; and why good archivists, like we weren’t, never store boxes of records on the floor because they’ve run out of space…) Sometimes I wonder if I’d taken an extended holiday whether the water would eventually have emerged out the chimney, or if the building would simply have burst?

2F150503bIn gansey news, I’ve reached the gussets: more proof, if any were needed, that slow and steady, if not actually wins the race, at least finishes the marathon several days after everyone’s gone home. I’m aiming for a long body, over 28 inches, and so I knitted 16 inches from the cast-on before starting the gussets.

Finally this week, I’m delighted to say that the Wick Heritage Museum has accepted the second Wick-patterned gansey I knit as a gift; the other one is already on display, worn by a dummy in rather better shape than yours truly, and this one may join it. I flirted with the idea of knitting a full boat’s crew of ganseys once—but that was typically eight men, and at my advanced time of life I’m only thinking of short-term projects…

5 comments to Flamborough II: 3 May

  • What a great read! You knit beautiful, too.
    I can relate to getting to the scene of a break in and wondering what you may come face to face with….as I was a Reserve Police Officer in a small town in the US. Legs can turn to jello and your heart can beat so loudly, you can’t hear anything but the pumping of your life through your veins.
    Bravo for you!

  • Sharon

    Geeze Gordon, you wouldn’t enter a building in my part of the world with the door open & the alarm ringing by yourself. You might get shot or mugged by 13 year olds. We go in pairs with big sticks!! Lately, we’ve been putting up with teen gang members shooting at each other every night out in front of their own houses. Luckily, they’re only shooting each other!! Thank goodness for the gentle world of Needle Arts. You certainly have moved along with that gansey. I really like that pattern & color too. It’s time to add some Wine, Cherry or Port to my wardrobe in sweater form. You inspire me to get out the Gansey book & make one of my own.

  • Jane

    Well, I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, you do lead an interesting life, Gordon, and aren’t burglar alarms useful! So eventful.

    This business of storing boxes on the floor should I feel be better understood! I believe the local history group here had a similar problem when the water main outside their premises sprung a leak! They were saved from a bigger mess by a nocturnal pram-pusher who saw the water springing from the pavement and knew what it meant.

    The gansey is absolutely beautiful, and I am very pleased it is for yourself. How lovely that both your ganseys are so valued by the museum. I have also come across a nice mention of you in the Moray Firth Gansey Project booklet, very good.

    Wildlife all good in the South. Weather turned nasty yesterday afternoon, and we are all battening down for 40 mph winds from the south-west, not a good combination. Take care.

  • Jane

    Some good news, I am currently clutching the new Michael Pearson book. At first glance, I have only had it in my grubby hands for an hour, it would seem to be a very worthy successor to the first one!

  • Gordon

    Hi Guys,
    Appreciate the concern! But the police aren’t even notified unless the alarm is triggered in more than one zone in the building, and the last time it happened to me in Wales they stayed in their car and refused to come in until I’d checked it first. (Our slogan – “Archivists – making the streets safe for cops…”)
    It was light, it was Sunday morning, and this is Wick where thankfully gun crime is pretty much unknown, so it was low risk. Under different circumstances I’d have been more circumspect, believe me!)
    The funniest moment I had in a callout came in Wales, when it was after 10 pm. I went into the building and found the power was out, no lights. As I groped along the wall, my hand touched something sticky, and I remember holding it up stupidly, thinking, what’s this? And for moment every Alien movie I’ve seen flashed into my mind, where the dumb schmuck stand there stupidly looking at trailing strands of sticky alien drool on his fingers, while a massive, slimy killing machine uncoils from the ceiling and drops down behind him, and prepares to devour him for basically just being so frigging stupid. Then, of course, I remembered the building works, and the silicon resiny stuff they were using as sealant—but for a few seconds there, as Terry Pratchett says, the bottom dropped out of my world, and the world nearly dropped out of my bottom!
    Damp mould is the biggest threat from water damage on documents. When I worked in Lowestoft we had a contract with the Bird’s Eye frozen fish processing factory there that if we had a flood we could use their flash-freezing facilities to quick-freeze the documents before mould could develop. Luckily we never had to do it.
    Happy knitting all, and thanks again for the comments and moral support,

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