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Flamborough (John Knaggs) 2: 31 August

FJK140831aSummer returned this weekend, like a guest you thought had gone but who came back for her umbrella and stayed for a cup of tea and a scone; and so, as it was a warm and sunny afternoon, with a light sea breeze and blue skies from horizon to horizon, we jumped in the car and went to Lybster. (Seeing the sun acts on us much as the bat-signal affects Batman; we change clothes and jump in the car—with only this difference, that he combats flamboyant villains, whereas we go out for tea and cakes.)

FJK140831fLybster (the y is pronounced long, to rhyme with “lie” and not “lip”) is a small fishing village with semi-detached harbour, thirteen miles south of Wick. You can drive all the way down to the harbour, but we parked up in the village and walked the steep road to sea level. That way we got a stunning view of the harbour and the sun-dappled sea beyond, framed by the jagged cliffs that shelter the bay; and also of the Reisgill burn, the stream that plunges down from a rocky defile and runs into the sea.

FJK140831dLike so many of the east coast harbours, Lybster was developed for the herring fishing. It’s said that in Victorian times the fleet consisted of some 357 boats (which seems an awful lot to me, but who am I to argue with the internet?), and 50,000 barrels of herring were shipped out each year; now there are just a handful of small boats fishing for lobsters and crabs.

But Lybster harbour has two things going for it the other little Caithness harbours we’ve visited don’t: a café, and tourists. A former smokehouse has been converted into a café and visitor centre, and on Sunday several people were sitting outside in the sunshine, having a drink and watching the waves breaking on the shingle beach, and the seabirds wheeling below the cliffs, with that peaceful vacancy of mind that comes from a sunny day and nothing particular to do. (If I’m honest, my idea of an afterlife would be much like this; especially if, as Lybster did, it involves ice cream.)

FJK140831bI’ve had a cold—one of those tiresome sort that leaves you constantly fatigued, and in need of a sympathetic person to bathe your temples in lavender water every few minutes (I did suggest this to my colleague at work, but she was surprisingly unenthusiastic). As a result I’ve really got my head down and done a lot of knitting, and am now embarked on the gussets.

I should have said last week, I cast on 312 stitches, which I increased to 336 after the welt. (I’m still working to my new, looser stitch gauge of 8 stitches to the inch.) This gives me 2 seam stitches, and 167 stitches front and back; each seam stitch is flanked by 3 plain knit stitches. The pattern consists of 13 blocks of seed stitch alternating with 12 of basket.

It’s turned cloudy again today, and the wind’s got up. But I don’t care. If I close my eyes I’m still sitting on Lybster harbour steps, the sun on my face, the cries of the birds and the crash of the waves in my ears, Orkney ice cream burning my tongue—and the long, hot walk back up the road to the village yet to do. In a couple of months the clocks go back: I’ve got to remember there can be days like this…

6 comments to Flamborough (John Knaggs) 2: 31 August

  • Annie

    Ah such a pleasure to read and see. Ah, thank you.

  • Gordon

    Hi Annie, and thank you.

    Ted Hughes, as ever, said it best, in his poem The Horses, which finishes:

    “… But still they made no sound.
    Not one snorted or stamped,

    Their hung heads patient as the horizons,
    High over valleys in the red levelling rays –

    In din of crowded streets, going among the years, the faces,
    May I still meet my memory in so lonely a place

    Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing the curlews,
    Hearing the horizons endure.”

  • Jane

    What a wonderful place to live in, stunningly beautiful and not too many people. I walked around the Great Dorset Steam Fair a week ago, good old fashioned fun with something for everyone and a mere 200,000 people over 5 days!

    The Flamborough gansey is lovely, I do so like the pattern definition and lustre of the yarn, definitely a good choice. Very, very nice work, you must be pleased.

    I too have acquired the latest cold so you have my sympathy. I attribute it to that nasty cold spell about ten days ago and I know I am not alone because the local discount supermarket is very low on paracetamol, hand gel and tissues! Vintage cardie doing quite well, modern yarn not quite right but a good drape. Ducks and peacocks now joined by peasants, thirty, from out of the fields!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      200,000 people is something like 8 times the population of Caithness! Mind you, steam is a bit advanced for us up here, if my internet connection is anything to by…

      I’d be wary of posting that you have partridges on a public forum—next thing you know hordes of nobles and merchant bankers will be descending on you with shotguns and the air will be thick with buckshot and feathers; we’re past the Glorious Twelfth, and anything goes!

      Good luck with the cardie.

  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, my cousin from Norway ends his Christmas letter with an invitation: “You are welcome to visit, but not all at once.” If you persist in posting lavish vistas you may be inundated!
    Landscape lovely, gansey gorgeous. Happy knitting.

    • Gordon

      Hi Marilyn,

      I like your cousin already!

      I really should get a subsidy from the Caithness Tourist Board. But I know people here feel Caithness gets a raw deal—everyone goes gooey for the Highlands, or should I say Heelan’s, and Orkney, and sort of skip Caithness in between. And yet it’s got some stunning coastline, and isn’t spoiled by tourism (Cornwall, I’m looking at you, with your King Arthur’s Tintagel Tea Shoppe).

      If only they’d learn to make decent coffee and proper cream cakes—the sort that make you look like you’ve got rabies and are foaming at the mouth, and require you to hose down your beard afterwards in the car park—it’d be perfect…

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