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Flamborough III(b): Week 3 – 3 August

To celebrate our new-found freedom out of lockdown we’ve been revisiting some of our favourite haunts, going round each place to make sure they’re still there, like a cat just back from the vet’s checking out the neighbourhood; though, unlike the cat, so far we’ve drawn the line at scent marking. And everything is just the same, exactly where we left it: the cliffs and the boulders and rivers and geos and trees. Also the seagulls and skuas, the ravens and crows; even, alas, the flies.

Caithness usually has enough of a wind—the equivalent on an average day of, say, the slipstream of a fighter jet—to keep the flies away. But even the wind needs a breather now and then, and when it drops the little buggers pounce. Walking the cliffs by Sarclet last weekend I brushed my sleeve across my forehead which had become bedewed with honest perspiration, only for it to come away black with the crushed bodies of a disconcerting number of ex-flies which I’d just inadvertently sent into the Great Beyond. (Not for nothing is the Scottish currant and raisin cake known colloquially as “fly cemetery”.)

Grass in the wind

Worse was to follow. Next day we went to Camster Cairns, the semi-reconstructed 4,000 year-old monuments a few miles south of Wick. It was a still, muggy day and within a few minutes of leaving the car I was beset with my own personal entourage of blowflies, possibly sent by Beelzebub in vengeance for my midge-assassinations of the previous day. In my jerking, spasming efforts to shake them off I waved my arms like someone taking a speed-reading course in semaphore. I tried to reason with them—pointing out the fragrant sheep droppings liberally dappling the field in which we stood—but they would have none of it: only my ears, nostrils and eyes would do. (Margaret, incidentally, was scarcely affected, leading me to suppose that Caithness has now evolved a new strain of blowfly that feeds exclusively on archivists.) I duly fled to the car, trailing a cloud of flies, where I amused myself for the next ten minutes or so repeatedly winding down the window, waiting till a cluster of the black devils had got my scent, then quickly winding it back up again and watching them thud into the glass, giving themselves concussion and making tiny boi-yoi-yoi-yoing noises.

Cliffs at Sarclet

Meanwhile, in gansey news, I have real progress to report. I’ve finished the front, joined the shoulders, done the collar and started the first sleeve. As I said last week, there are good reasons why this has gone so quickly; but it also helps that it’s a pattern I could probably knit in my sleep; and although I worked out a pattern chart, I’ve never needed to refer to it. It’s always a sign of a good pattern that it practically knits itself. All things being equal, I should finish it by the end of the month: the last gansey of (sob) summer.

Beset by flies at Camster

Finally, we all know that Beelzebub is styled the Lord of the Flies—of the flying insects, that is to say, not trouser fastenings, though there was that one time I caught my… but the less said about that the better. There are however also times when I feel there’s another minor demon out there, one who persecutes archivists and record-keepers in general, and all owing to a tragic misprint in some ancient text: the lesser imp Dampmould, the Lord of the Files…

4 comments to Flamborough III(b): Week 3 – 3 August

  • =Tamar

    Once you get the rhythm of a pattern, it’s so much easier.
    Occasionally I find it necessary to prowl the house, locating things I know are there somewhere. In some areas it resembles Aziraphale’s bookshop. Complete, alas, with distressing smells and dust.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, to be honest my visual memory is virtually non-existent. Elves could come into the house when I’m asleep and totally rearrange the furniture and all my belongings and so long as I could find the coffee I doubt I’d even notice.

  • will ye never learn laddie to bide at hame in August? lockdown is nothing new to he well informed..its written in the runes…. did you forget?

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