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Flamborough, Week 10: 9 July

It’s only July and already I’m longing for autumn. It’s weeks since it rained. Caithness ground is usually as waterlogged as a sponge, and I’m used to that mossy, springy feel you get as your boot sinks through the surface grass into the squelching, sucky embrace of the underlying peat; now I keep jarring my spine on literal terra firma. Very strange. The other day I thought I saw several sheep busy contracting an archimedes screw to get at underground water, but as soon as they saw me they broke up and started sauntering about eating grass and bleating innocently. I wan’t fooled, though.

It’s hot, too—well, hot for Caithness. Temperatures keep sneaking up into the low twenties (what is this, California?). So on Saturday, driven half-mad by the unforgiving heat of 23º, and determined to avoid England winning the football on TV, we took a trip to the Grey Cairns of Camster.

Summer Shadows

As regular readers will know, this is one of my favourite places in Caithness (and the world). It consists of two great stone cairns erected some 5,000 years ago on a hillside a few miles south of Wick. They’ve been reconstructed—unless Neolithic Caithnesians were ahead of their time in glass skylight technology—and you can crawl inside and stand in the central chambers. The cairns were disturbed long before modern archaeology, but burnt bones and the remains of skeletons were found inside. Why were they built? What did people do here? Whose bones are they? We’ll never know.

Sweetly-scented Philadelphus

Inside a Cairn

All of which is fine by me: in fact, these are the wrong questions. Modern archaeologists have decided that Neolithic beliefs centred around a form of ancestor worship, but you only have to substitute the word “relative” for “ancestor”, and think back to that last Christmas party, with great-uncle Albert dad-dancing to Slade and great-aunt Phoebe necking Baileys from the bottle, to see how misguided this idea is. No, the past is wonderfully undiscoverable. All we leave is physical remains; the bit between our ears—the bit that really matters—we take with us when we go.

In parish news, Lois has come up on the inside track with a stunner, another Flamborough gansey (different pattern) in cheerful cherry red. You can read more about it on her gallery page—and note the saddle shoulder strap with the cable running down the sleeve. Many congratulations to Lois!

My own Flamborough is nearly finished—I’m on the final cuff and should finish it in a day or so. (The weather’s so hot, mind you, I can’t promise I’ll be modelling it anytime soon.) I still can’t recall a gansey I’ve enjoyed so much to knit. The colour seems to suit the pattern perfectly, too. In fact my only concern now is that all the cables and purl rows continue to pull it in after blocking, so I end up inadvertently inventing the world’s first gansey surgical bodystocking…

2 comments to Flamborough, Week 10: 9 July

  • roger hine

    Hi Gordon I love your latest Gansey, the colour and the pattern, are perfect. I wonder whether the pattern would work for a wine coloured yarn? One more question, Gordon. How long do you knit the pattern on the sleeves before continuing with stocking stitch to the cuff.

    Many thanks for your site.It inspires me to knit Ganseys. Roger

    • Gordon

      Hello Roger, that’s very kind of you, thank you. I think the pattern would suit a wine-coloured yarn perfectly—in fact, I was originally going to knit it in Frangipani claret, before deciding on a whim to opt for a lighter shade.

      I usually knit the pattern for 5 or 6 inches down the sleeve, so that it ends an inch or more above the elbow. But there’s no hard and rule. (My current gansey is nearer 7 or 7.25 inches down the sleeve, just because I wanted to leave all the diamonds whole.) As so often in the wonderful world of ganseys, it’s all a matter of personal preference!

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