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Flamborough III: Week 10 – 26th July

I spend a lot of time these days in Zoom meetings, and this last week I’ve derived no little enjoyment from talking to colleagues sweltering in England’s recent heatwave, who gasp and flop like the last fish left in a dried-up mud pool, when suddenly they stop and stare at the screen, and squint, and lean forward, and exclaim indignantly—”Hold on a minute! Are you wearing a… pullover?” Yes, it’s a typical Caithness summer, and while the south of the country—anywhere south of Inverness, basically—has been broiling in temperatures of 28-30ºC, here in the frozen north it’s been a cloudy 14-16ºC (“bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be in Wick was very heaven”, as Wordsworth put it when he was up here caravanning).

Sarclet Harbour

And then on Sunday the clouds parted, the sun came out, the thermometer slammed all the way up to 18º, so we took a trip to Sarclet (my favourite abandoned harbour that’s an anagram of a colour) for a walk along the cliffs. Reader, it was glorious. The sky was unbroken blue from horizon to horizon, and the sea glittered in the sunlight like taffy cooling in the tin (always supposing you like your taffy blue). Fulmars wheeled along the cliff walls or skimmed in formation over the surface of the ocean like those TIE fighters in Star Wars, possibly searching for a rogue seal who’d defected to the rebel alliance. Fledgling seagulls, like teenagers everywhere, were gathered in surly gangs down in the harbour, talking about girls and cadging ciggies off each other.

Thistle & Bee

The gorse has all gone over now, and it’s too early for the heather to be doing much, so in the meantime along the clifftops distinctive Scottish flora is represented by clumps of thistles blooming purple and spiky, each with that curious flat top that looks like the flower equivalent of a buzzcut, or a landing pad for butterflies. There was just enough of an inshore breeze to keep the flies off, but it was still muggy, so all my clothes went in the incinerator when I got back. The forecast for the week ahead is for showers, and a tolerable 15-16º. I know our summers tend to be on the short side, it’s the price we pay for having longer winters, but even so I was hoping for rather more than just a day. Still, if that’s all we get, it was worth it.

Looking north towards Wick from Sarclet

Not even I would wear a gansey in the heat, not even for the pleasure of taunting colleagues, but that doesn’t stop me knitting. I’ve finished the first sleeve, and am well embarked upon the second. Another couple of weeks should see it through. As ever, we won’t be able to properly appreciate the pattern until it’s blocked and unfurled, but it already feels like a classic to me, and helford blue a colour I’m going to revisit.

Finally this week, thanks for all the comments and suggestions about our blowfly infestation. By midweek all the little perishers had, well, perished and been hoovered up. (I like to think my Dostoyevsky readings turned the scale. I came across one expiring and just caught its dying words: “But if there is no God, all our morality and ethics are without foundation…”) Though I’m now starting to wonder if we had a manifestation of the Lord of the Flies, who is now accidentally residing in our vacuum cleaner…

5 comments to Flamborough III: Week 10 – 26th July

  • Meg Macleod

    ah .that single glorious day… and the photo of the sea so intensely blue and beautifulthanks for sharing
    and your humour as ever intact.

  • Meg Macleod

    forgot to say.years ago..when we had rainy summers that went on for ever….that one day would appear and stun us with its beauty we called it a Camusfearna day..after the place in `ring of bright water`by gavin maxwell….his descriptions of such day remains with me

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, there’s a line from the first Reginald Perrin book, where he reminisces about the “golden harvests of his youth”, which has always stayed with me as the perfect description of summers when we were young. Before all the other stuff came along.

      (I learned long ago that the only book about animals it was safe to read without tragedy encroaching was The Wind in the Willows; everything else requires a plentiful stack of Kleenex… Though I guess that depends on your feelings about the fate of the stoats and the weasels!)

  • =Tamar

    Such days come rarely. We had a lovely Saturday, and a friend had a potluck party – it was the biggest group I’ve been part of in two years. Sunday was back to the usual. Next week a library is having a book sale…

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, it’s back to grey skies in Caithness, temperatures of 13-15c, and windy. (What is this, autumn? Oh, wait…) Any day with a book sale is a Good Day…

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