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Flamborough III: Week 5 – 21 June

It’s the summer solstice, a time when I honour the pagan rituals of my Neolithic ancestors by standing as I brush my teeth to face in the exact same direction as the sun rises; although this inevitably involves a certain amount of guesswork, since the sun will have risen a good three hours before I do and I lack the necessary equipment (viz. a circle of standing stones). And now the nights will start drawing in, and we in the northern hemisphere begin the gradual slide towards darkness, despair and the horrors of the Christmas panto season. (Dante imagined nine circles of Hell, from Limbo to Treachery, but personally I have a tenth: Pantomime. I imagine Conrad’s Marlow would have found a lot more horror at the end of his journey into the heart of darkness in the human soul if he’d found Kurtz, not sick and megalomaniacal, but instead laying out whoopee cushions and pouring whitewash down his trousers.)

Sea Thrift near the cliffs

Solstice or not, it certainly feels as though summer might be a possibility. Some days it’s so warm I don’t even knot my scarf. The banks of the river on my daily walk are thick with cow parsley—another name for which is, apparently, the rather unnerving mother-die, arising from a folk belief that your mother would die if you brought it in the house. There were certainly times in my youth when I felt my mother might die because of things I’d brought in the house—prog rock albums, flared jeans and certain girlfriends spring to mind—but that was of shame, not literally. The name probably came about because cow parsley resembles hemlock, which is of course poisonous; and if anyone offers you cow parsley herbal tea, I’d be cautious if I were you. (“A drowsy numbness pains/ My sense, as though of cow parsley I had drunk”, as Keats might have said, but didn’t.)

More sea thrift

In gansey news I’ve started the underarm gussets, which is about as exciting as my life gets these days (this is a good thing). This gansey is going to be 28 inches long, so to keep it simple I’ve made the welt four inches, leaving 24 inches to the top of the shoulder. This is my standard body length: so that’s 12 inches from the welt to the start of the gussets, 3 inches for the gussets, 8 inches for the rest of the yoke (after I’ve divided front and back) and 1 inch for the shoulder strap.

Yellow Flag Iris

As well as flora, the riverside walk offers plenty of fauna (though I’ve only ever seen one faun up there): lambs in the meadows, ducks on the river and, in Tolstoy’s marvellous phrase, “over the fields the larks rise trilling, one after another, like bubbles rising in water”. There are skittish butterflies too, which always flit about as though being jerked on invisible wires by angels with too much time on their hands. The kinds I see most often are Fritillaries (actually I have no idea if this is what they are, I just like the name; it sounds like an army regiment, The Queen’s Light Fritillaries) and Large Whites. Though with these latter I feel the entomologists rather phoned it in, it’s such an obvious name; it’s like calling bananas “yellows”, or grapes “purples”, or oranges—oh wait…

6 comments to Flamborough III: Week 5 – 21 June

  • Jojo

    Happy Solstice! It’s tipping down in Sussex!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jojo, you know what they say, an English summer consists of three hot days followed by a thunderstorm! Here in the frozen north so far we’ve escaped both (today it’s 12 degrees and, er, brisk…)

  • =Tamar

    Well, we’ve had the hot days and the thunderstorms lately. Happy solstice! That gansey is looking very attractive.

    • Gordon

      Happy solstice to you too Tamar. I think our summer proper is scheduled for a weekend in August, if we’re very lucky…

  • Dave

    Don’t you just long for Buttons and Widow Twanky and a rousing chorus of ‘Suzie,Suzie sitting in a shoe shine shop’? or is all of that behind you now ?

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, where did you say it was? “It’s behind you!” Oh no it isn’t. “Oh yes it is!”

      Mind you, I wander round the archive in my tea breaks with a ladder over my shoulder in case I pass two men carrying a huge pane of glass…

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