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Flamborough (John Knaggs) 5: 15 – 21 September

Body/ front of ganseyThursday was the day of the referendum on whether Scotland should be independent of the United Kingdom, so on my way to work I stopped at the polling station in the old parish church of St Fergus and placed my cross in the box.

Shoulder detail

Shoulder detail

I’d woken up to television pictures of people queuing outside polling stations, reporters and cameras, campaigners, balloons, everything but elephants and a chorus line. So it was rather a surprise to get there at 8.30am and find the place deserted, not a soul inside or out apart from the two ladies handing out forms. Had it been busy at all, I asked? They looked at each other uncertainly. ‘Er… no, not really,’ one of them said. ‘Not as such, no,’ the other confirmed. (This counts as voting frenzy in Wick, I suspect.)

As it turned out, I needn’t have bothered—no one from the Highlands need have. There was a tragic accident that night at Berriedale, about 25 miles south of Wick, a lethal series of hairpin bends on cliffs overlooking the sea. As a result the main road was closed, so the ballot boxes had to be sent on a 90-mile detour before they could be counted. The Highland result was announced around 8.00am, but by then the No campaign had already achieved a majority, the Yes campaign had conceded and the Prime Minister was  already finagling over the promises he’d made.

I don’t know if you followed the referendum at all, but all the national parties committed themselves at the last minute to guaranteeing Scotland more devolution and levels of funding, in hopes of shoring up the No vote. The BBC invited listeners to send in poems after the referendum and my favourite went something like:

Only in Britain could such things be done/ There were two options to chose from, and the third option won

—which seemed to sum it all up, rather.

Wick in Fog

Wick river bridge in fog

In gansey news, I’ve finished the front and the two shoulders, and joined them both. The next step will be the collar, and then—sigh—it’ll be time to pick up the stitches round the armhole of the first sleeve. I decreased a few stitches when I got to the rig ’n’ fur shoulder strap this time, as I’ve noticed that they can stretch a bit, especially on already large pullovers; so I reduced it by 5 stitches, which will hopefully keep things in better shape.

Spider Webs

Spiderwebs in the railings

There’s an autumnal feel to the air just now, and the mornings are misty and moisty, just like in the old folk song. Spiders are everywhere. They’ve even been colonising the spaces between the railings outside the library where I work; one day I came out to find the webs all glistening with dewdrops and billowing in the breeze, as if the spiders had fashioned an armada of ghostly pirate ships with webs for sails. (Quite cool and more than a little creepy.)

There won’t be a blog next week, as we’re heading down south to visit my parents in Northamptonshire—no passports required, which is lucky as mine has expired. (If Scotland had voted for independence, sooner or later I’d have had to choose a nationality.)

The next post will be on Monday 6 October—see you then.

26 comments to Flamborough (John Knaggs) 5: 15 – 21 September

  • Marilyn

    Hello Gordon, the gansey is looking quite smart, a simple pattern which builds until it’s quite complex. Nice.
    I’ve been reading a blog (http://applecrosslifeblog.wordpress.com). The fellow is quite passionate about the issues and it’s been an education. I wondered if we would hear about it from you. Regardless of outcome, the pot’s been stirred so life will continue to be interesting, which is, you know, a Chinese curse.
    Autumn in Minnesota has also arrived with crisp mornings and warm afternoons. Wool season is right around the corner and Christmas knitting has commenced.
    I look forward to your return.

    • Gordon

      Hi Marilyn,

      I had a look at the guy’s blog—I warmed to him a lot, not to mention rather envying his lifestyle, but “passionate” I feel is something of an understatement…

      As for me, James Joyce said it best, as ever, in Ulysses: when faced with someone bandying around terms like “generous” and “just” Stephen Dedalus simply says, “I fear those big words that make us so unhappy”. I fear them too.

      My phone tells me there are only 94 sleeps to Christmas—you’d better get going!

  • Annie

    Always a pleasure hear from you, and thanks for the photos, too. Our fall is showing here with the brilliant yellow of high altitude aspens and elk migrating down to lower altitudes for the winter. Last spring’s wool from the nearby reservation has been available recently. I wonder if an authentic gansey has been made from Navajo wool?

    “Moisty” is a new word but not to be used in our local speech of low humidity low rainfall.

    Yes, I will also look forward to your return.

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, and thank you—I’m sure autumn here would be jolly nice too, if only the fog would lift and the clouds part and we could actually be allowed to see it!

      I picked up the term from “One Misty Moisty Morning”, a folk song I first heard in a rather foot-tapping version by Steeleye Span:

      One misty moisty morning when cloudy was the weather
      I met with an old man a-clothed all in leather
      He was clothed all in leather with a cap beneath his chin
      Singing how do you do and how do you do and how do you do again

      Of course, that rather describes my morning walk to work most days too!

  • SO relieved and happy that you won’t need a passport to visit the Ps ! Still, 45% are unhappy and that is a little unsettling.
    Soon, pics of my gansey and some non-trad. revisions. Today I will begin the gusset, a nail-biter if ever there was one … for me.
    How do you do, indeed.
    Julie, Victoria, BC, Canada

    • Hi Julie,

      I would probably say a plague on both your houses and dig out my birth certificate and apply for New Zealand citizenship! In fact, my current favourite nationality is the Neutral Planet from the cartoon series Futurama, whose national colour is beige and when asked a crucial question the president replies, “All I know is, my gut says … maybe.”

      Gussets sound hard but they’re really not. Tying my tie in the morning so the ends are roughly equal, that’s hard…

  • Felicity

    You do knit rather fast, don’t you Gordon? Singing How do you do, and how do you do, and how do you do again.

    • What ho, Felicity – like I say, there’s not much else to do up here…

      The song of course also contains the line beloved of gansey knitters, “He wore no shirt upon his back but wool unto his skin”, so I hope he had a regular supply of backup jumpers or access to a good launderette—or at least a decent underarm deodorant—otherwise it might get a bit whiffy!

      • MaureeninFargo

        A little late here, Gordon, but thanks a bunch for the Misty Moisty Morning ear worm….I finally pulled it up on my iPhone (been a Steeleye Span fan since the 70’s) and listened to it again and discovered another very apt line, for me as a spinner anyway…
        “I’ll plow and sow and reap and mow and you shall sit and spin”…

        • Gordon

          Hi Maureen,

          I first heard that song in the early 1970s and it’s been a favourite ever since; the whole album, in fact. I always imagined he got a raw deal in that relationship, though: it’s not exactly an equal division of labour! You can imagine the conversation after a few years of marriage…

          I’ll plow and sow and reap and mow and you shall sit and spin, though feel free to chip in and lend a hand anytime you feel like it, don’t let me stand in your way, I mean, honestly, have you seen how big that field is? No, that’s fine, you just sit there and spin, I’ll just get back to me ploughing and sowing and reaping and mowing, which I might add I started at sun-up this morning, that’s half past bloody four, not that you’d know as you were still snoring your head off making a noise like someone cutting stones in half with a blunt saw…

  • Elisabeth Townsend

    I am in Northamptonshire. Am looking seriously at doing a gansey but have no-one to do it for

    • Do as I am doing and make one for yourself. You’re worth it!
      Over time I have noticed that knitted pullovers/jumpers only look well on men and flat-chested women. I am neither, so I am making a zipped cardigan and breaking many traditional rules in so doing. A dear friend and brilliant knitter is egging me on with a steek (!) and a new way to do the gussets. I am at the VERY stitch where the gusset begins and, with hands a-trembling, will start later today.
      If I can do this, so can you 😉

      • Elisabeth Townsend

        I’ve just done a Fair Isle jumper for myself, the first garment I have done for years. there’s only so many jumpers you can wear at any one given time!

        • Gordon

          H Elizabeth,

          If you’d lived through Caithness winter you wouldn’t speak so lightly of only wearing one pullover at a time! (Last winter I wore a t-shirt, a flannel shirt, a cashmere sweater and a gansey, and I was still cold. I can’t help notice that the nights are drawing and shivering…)

          One suggestion for what it’s worth is to knit a gansey for the crew of The Reaper, the restored fishing boat operated by the Anstruther Fisheries Museum in Fife to teach children and adults about the fishing industry. It’s manned by volunteers and authentic ganseys are hard to come by. (I’ve knitted them a couple in the past.)

          Whereabouts in God’s own country of Northants do you live?

          • Elisabeth Townsend

            Good idea about knitting for charity, I will need to take instructions as to haw to make it look authentic. I have Henrietta van der Klift-Tellegen’s book Nederlandse visserstruien (yes, in Dutch as that is my first language) and I do remember doing a jumper out of that for my husband. No idea where that went.
            I am in the centre of Northampton near Abington Park.

          • Elisabeth Townsend

            It looks like I have a customer.
            I posted on Mumsnet that I ‘wanted a man’ to knit a jumper for and someone has replied and said her husband would love one. Looks like I’ll be able to start before the weekend.

        • Gordon

          Ah, that explains it—i saw from the stats page that we were getting some traffic from Mumsnet. Goodness me, seeing a page called I Need A Man takes me back to my student days—but I was young, and needed the money… but I’ve said too much already…

          I went to good old Northampton School for Boys up the Billing Road, and watched many a game at the old cricket ground. My parents live south of the town, out towards Towcester. You can take the boy out of Northampton…

          • Elisabeth Townsend

            Oh goodness, that made me laugh. Yes, she is quite enthusiastic and I hope to order the wool tomorrow. She wants a Flamborough pattern, what is the best way to get it? I need a fairly step by step pattern, although I think yours is quite comprehensive. I’ve not quite looked through it all and my printer is playing up

          • Gordon

            If it’s a Flamborough pattern you’re after, have you considered Flamborough Marine? They seem very comprehensive, good range of patterns and you can buy the wool and pattern as a package – http://www.flamboroughmarine.co.uk

            I haven’t used them myself, but their website is very impressive, and the range of patterns they show in the pictures is mouth-watering. (I believe they sell Frangipani yarn as the wool in their kits, so the range of colours is also very wide.)

          • Elisabeth Townsend

            You are right: their website is impressive and their collection mouth watering. it is also quite expensive and the kits supply the 5 double pointed steel needles that I can’t work with. Like you, mine with go on a circular 2.5 mm pin. I like their charts though, I may ask if I can buy one for the exact size once I know it.

  • Jane

    What a nice looking gansey, I do so admire the shape and travel of the pattern and the lustre of the yarn. Lovely work. I know what you mean about knitting navy yarn by day and evening, black yarn is much the same, at night the flat dark colour fills all the visual space around the needles, very strange.

    I am very glad we won’t all need a passport to travel north. It is quite remarkable how things change and yet stay the same!

    The bride, bless her, has trotted up the aisle, tea and sandwiches, sparkling wine and cake and music and dancing, all wonderful fun if a trifle tiring. You guessed it, no vintage cardie, but all right because it was the last warm afternoon and she didn’t need it! I will not be beat by it, but for the sake of my sanity I am pausing briefly to knit young Max, her godson, a bright red gansey jacket from Gwyn Morgan’s useful book, this one on two needles.

    Meanwhile still no ducks, do miss them. Two baby deer and their Mum now snack on the bird table, lovely.

  • Jane

    PS I have taken notes, copious notes against the return to the cardie.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      Congratulations on getting her off, if I may be excused going all Downton Abbey on you! Weddings are much more fun when they’re happening to somebody else, I find—though all my friends are at an age when finding where you left your teeth is a more pressing matter than finding a life partner, so I’m pretty safe now…

      I find navy yarn fascinating. In dull light it’s dull and matt and in sunshine it shimmers like something Elrond Halfelven would wear, if say he went fishing for herring instead of moping about Rivendell all day draped languorously over the sofa reading sad poetry. A navy gansey doesn’t look quite like the same as any other yarn.

      Deer? Seriously—deer? Are you sure you’re not really Snow White with a decent broadband connection? Can’t you just lean put your window and whistle and get some bluebirds and rabbits to finish that cardie for you?! I am very jealous. Up here we get seagulls. It’s just not the same.

      • Jane

        Thank you for your kind thoughts. It was a lovely day, but I don’t think it will change much, tea at Mum’s four times a week on the way home and early tea on badminton night! Have a good break and hope the weather holds!

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Gordon, after all that knitting I wish you happy days with your parents in
    Northamptonshire. Enjoy the days and relax and do not knit before you are back in Wick again. As to the several layers of different pullovers, one of the reasons you need them indoors is the fact that your houses are too cold with simple windows and insufficient heating. Move to Finland and you will need only a T-shirt in the house. Ganseys are needed only under a wind-proof jacket outdoors. You may admire the white landscape through treble windows and enjoy the whole warm house. Every corner of it :).

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit, and thank you. I won’t be taking my knitting with me, so I’ll have a nice break from knitting and blogging (ah, the pleasures of missing a deadline…!).

      Finland always seemed to me to be a civilised country that had got its act together—great scenery, the wonderful music of Sibelius, well-designed houses—and i’d move there in a heartbeat … but then I remember that you don’t play cricket, and the dream vanishes…

      So close!

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