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Flamborough III(b): Week 2 – 27 July

By way of distracting myself from my toenails—which, if allowed to grow, end up more like a selection of Swiss army knife blades made out of keratin than anything human—and the cutting of which, as I get older, increasingly resembles someone trying to defuse an explosive device using robotic arms while trying not to sneeze—we took a trip over the border to the lovely coastal village of Helmsdale in Sutherland. It was a fine day, so we parked in the middle of the village and went for a walk a mile or so up the strath, along the banks of the broad, shallow River Helmsdale. We’d hoped to see some wildlife, and in a way we did, for every hundred yards or so there was a fisherman up to his knees in the water, casting his line.

Sandy Goe

I remember when I was little reading something about the art of fly fishing, how the fisherman “pitted his wits against the wily salmon”; and even at the tender age of twelve that struck me as odd. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have the highest respect for the pastime and those who practice it—it’s the closest humanity has come to turning meditation into a sport. But I can’t help feeling that, generally speaking, a random specimen of genus homo and species sapiens ought to be able to defeat salmo salar in a battle of wits, surely? It’d be like me boasting that I beat a labrador in a game of Monopoly; or scoring higher than, say, an ocelot in a cognitive test that might be considered hard even by an American president.

Fly Fishing at Helmsdale

You never see a salmon knitting, either; I suppose the yarn would get too wet. Anyway, I continue to make good progress on the Flamborough gansey. I’ve finished the back, and am well embarked on the front. The speed at which I’m knitting can be explained by two things: this gansey is rather narrower than the ones I usually knit, so the recipient will have to swear off junk food for the foreseeable; and as I’m working from home I can use my commuting time and coffee breaks to knit a row here and there, which results in half an inch extra a day by this stage.

Heading Out

Now, about that duel of wits with a salmon. Try asking it to count to twenty and I bet it’d struggle, even if it took its socks off—that’s one nil to humanity. But ask me to navigate my way back to the breeding grounds where I was hatched without GPS and I’d be hard put to it—that makes it one all. Let’s see what another US President, George W Bush, had to say in 2000 on the subject: “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.” Hmm. Tell you what, let’s call it a draw…

6 comments to Flamborough III(b): Week 2 – 27 July

  • =Tamar

    Obviously he was not a fish eater.

    Once it’s blocked, that narrow gansey will be a bit wider.
    It does make me wonder: Was the choice of string-bean color deliberate?

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, ha, very good! (In fact, it was supposed to be in the darker Frangipani cedar, but the recent lockdown had depleted their stocks and they were out of that shade. Hence the pistachio. It was probably fate, though: many fishermen refused to wear green, as it was considered unlucky…)

  • Dave

    This may prove to be more information on your toenails than we really needed. I had a bad back last week and just putting on socks was a clear breach of the Geneva convention – toenail cutting a joke for the gods.

    On the intelligence of animals, I always say to people who insist that they are thick, they should try catching a sheep in a field.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, I don’t know how it is, I never seem to get taller but with every year that passes my feet seem to get further away!

      As for catching sheep, I think I see where you’re going wrong – you don’t catch them in a field, you catch them in a net… 😁

  • Lynne Brock

    Such a classic Flamborough pattern, and even though the pistachio isn’t a traditional color it sure shows the stitch definition. The first gansey I knitted in 1993 was a Flamborough in Navy.

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne, my spiritual home is in the axis of fishing villages consisting of Patrington, Flamborough Head, Whitby, and Filey – I don’t think there’s a pattern collected from them that’s not a classic. (Now I think if it, there’s still a few I haven’t knitted!)

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