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Flamborough (John Knaggs) 8: 12 October


CCC = 300 in Roman numerals

FJK141013aWell now, here’s a milestone: this will be my 300th post on this blog. It’s time to get misty-eyed, nostalgic and sentimental, and also to spare a moment to wonder how on earth we got here; as Winston Churchill might have said, never in the field of human conflict has so much been written by one person for so many about so few (jumpers).

Margaret and I started the blog back in 2008, when we lived in Somerset. Since then I lost my job; got a new one and relocated to Edinburgh; resigned from it after a year (working for archivists—what was I thinking?); spent 18 months unemployed, flirting with novel writing, bread making and despair; and finally found a job as the Caithness archivist three years ago this week and moved to Wick.

And all of these events have been mapped out, one gansey at a time, on this blog. In short, it’s been an eventful few years, but hopefully the worst is now behind us; one day I may even be able to go to sleep with the lights off.

FJK141013cI’ve been pushing hard to finish the John Knaggs gansey, putting in double-shifts and spending a couple of hours a night beavering away. It’s paid off, as I’ve managed to complete the second sleeve as far as the cuff; all that remains is the small matter of six inches of ribbing and we’re home and dry…

FJK141013d… or as dry as the Caithness weather allows. We had one of those storms last week, high tides combined with gale force winds blowing the waves inland, flooding parts of the harbour, washing over the lighthouse and exploding against the rocks in the bay, the wind whipping the spray in your face like salt rain. And yet today it’s settled down to crisp, clear, frosty, still, beautiful autumn weather. Go figure.

FJK141013eA couple of parish notices. First of all, many thanks to Jai for letting me know that Gladys Thompson’s Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans: Fishermen’s Sweaters from the British Isles is now available in a kindle edition, and is currently for sale at half price, in the UK at least. (I downloaded a copy; it’s come across pretty well, though not all the photos are as good as the print version.)

Secondly, please take a moment to look at Serena’s blog for English Heritage on drowned fishermen being identified by their ganseys. If you have any comments or observations, please let Serena know.

And so, here we are. I still can’t quite believe we’ve reached 300 posts; I can imagine an uncomfortable interview ahead with the Recording Angel outside the pearly gates, as he consults his ledger and looks up at me thoughtfully and says, ‘You spent your life doing what…?’

Ah, well. A couple of weeks ago I quoted some lines from Bob Dylan’s classic song ‘Mississippi’. It seems appropriate to end on a couple more:

‘But my heart is not weary, it’s light and it’s free,
I’ve got nothing but affection for all those who sailed with me…’

13 comments to Flamborough (John Knaggs) 8: 12 October

  • Annie

    First, please do more than flirt with novel writing. Your descriptions of the landscape and weather would wrap themselves around a plot and characters, maybe without having to consider the characters or the plot. They would just…become…

    Then, thanks for the quotes from Dylan’s “Mississippi,” as I purchased the song when you first mentioned it and I cannot understand the lyrics. (I’m American but a Texan, sort of a different language and accent.) I went to college on the Mississippi, was born and grew up west of it, and after many years in upstate New York, I remember the huge pleasure when I moved and drove across it at St. Louis. Home can be west of the Mississippi,

    Finally, I expect to start my first Guernsey in a few days, not for a teddy bear for practice but for a new grandson. Then on to his brother, his father, my New York husband…who knows where all this will lead?

    Many, many thanks for your blogs.

  • Gordon

    Hi Annie,

    You can find transcripts of the song lyrics on the internet, but they may not help you much! For me, it’s a marvellous jumble of images, many of which mean a lot to me, though I’m not sure I could explain it even if strapped to a chair with electrodes under my fingernails…

    But it contains so many wonderful lines: “I was raised in the country, I been working in the town/ I’ve been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down”, or “So many things that we never will undo/ I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too.”

    And when he sings, “Well, I got here following the southern star/ I crossed that river just to be where you are/ Only one thing I did wrong/ Stayed in Mississippi a day too long'” I find it helps enormously if you substitute “Caithness” for “Mississippi”, and suddenly it snaps in to focus.

    Good luck with your grandson’s gansey – just remember to plan ahead, or I have an image of a sequence of ganseys each perfectly fitting your grandson of the year before…

  • Felicity

    Gordon, thank you.

  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, congratulations on your milestone. I started reading your blog near the tail end of your unemployment stint, I remember the job hunt and the move to Wick. Now your neighbors know who you are (and so do we, evil laugh). I missed last week, so I’ll add my welcome back.
    The gansey looks great, you do good work. Here’s to the next 300 posts…..

    P.S. I read the archives when I first found the blog, but didn’t open the comments. Now I’m thinking that revisiting the whole might be in order as I missed most of the fun!

  • =Tamar

    If St. Peter isn’t an archivist, I don’t know who is. He keeps all the records; he should understand.

  • Jane

    Many, many congratulations, three hundred and definitely not out, absolutely wonderful.

    The gansey looks terrific, so elegant, lovely pattern and colour, and just in time as the weather and light closes in.

    The little red gansey jacket jogs along nicely, on to the second little sleeve now, a very pleasant knit.

    The weather in Hampshire continues to be vile, unremitting wetness. The big pond was empty yesterday, but after a really stormy night, now it’s full! The cats have to be dried off about six times a day! Three of the squirrels have had mange and are a bit bald, but responding well to peanuts.

    A few years ago I heard Bobbie sing at Wembly Arena, it was magic, no, beyond magic, we all need a little magic.

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Hello Margaret and Gordon ,
    Congratulations on reaching this important milestone ! I do congratulate both of you. Although your text and knitting Gordon is admirable the value of this blog is also due to the fantastic photos of you Margaret!
    As a non native speaker of English I also enjoy the language of your blog Gordon! Many many thanks and best regards to both of you !

  • Mike

    Happy 300th post! Looking forward to many more.

  • Gordon

    Hi everyone, and very many thanks. I was hoping someone would bring round cake, but… No, that’s all right. Really. I quite understand. You’re busy. It’s OK.

    Scarily, I just worked out that another 300 posts would take us to the year of our Lord 2020—which was almost enough to make me stop right there. (I think even I would run out of ganseys to try by then!) On reflection, I think we’ll take it on a gansey-by-gansey basis…

    Oh, and I got the shock of my life when Tamar suggested I might meet archivists in heaven—on the basis of my experiences so far, I just assumed they’d be going … you know … down there—the other place. Cataloguing the souls of the damned for all eternity and never getting bored…

  • =Tamar

    According to what I read, in Sumerian myth, Geshtinanna was the secretary to all the gods; she spent half the year in the underworld and half the year in heaven, taking notes in both places (trading places with Dumuzi). She may be the ultimate archivist. (Geshtinanna is not the same character as Inanna; she applied to Inanna to get the job.)

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar,

      Many thanks for this – you learn something new every day here! (Though I can’t help wondering what Geshtinanna’s grandmother was called!) Anyway, archivists only get into heaven once they’ve filled in an absurdly long form promising they’ll abide by all the rules…

      Meanwhile I have two images in my head of the Recording Angel. One is a shabby chain-smoking figure hunched over a bank of reel-to-reel tape recorders in a smoke-filled apartment, like a character in a 1970s paranoia thriller. The other sits back in a swivel chair, hands outstretched over a massive console covered in sliders and dials, waiting for Bob Dylan to die so he finally make the perfect recording he’s always imagined of “Like A Rolling Stone”…

  • Lee

    Congratulations on the milestone.Thank you so much for the blog. I have been reading it for a while, never commented before, enjoy the weekly posts, seeing the remarkable progress on your ganseys, the beautiful photos, and the conversations in the comments. Where else in the world would I ever hear about Geshtinnana! I am slowly working my way up to attempting a gansey. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Gordon

      Hello Lee, great to hear from you. Terry Pratchett once said that writing was the most fun anyone could have by themselves, and I have to say that blogging about ganseys (sometimes) runs it a close second!

      Ganseys are to regular knitting as marathons are to running: the steps are the same, there’s just a lot more of them… (And of course you don’t get so dehydrated.)

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