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Flamborough, Week 3: 21 May

We’re back in Caithness, after a gentle 600-mile drive. We did it all in a day—it was either that or watch the royal wedding—8.00am to 8.00pm. And it was like travelling back in time. We left Northamptonshire in early summer and arrived back to find Caithness in early spring. (This is probably something to do with relativity, e=mc²: where “e” equals the number of roadworks on the M6 motorway; “m” is the number of bikers who overtook us; and “c” is equal to the curse words we used when other drivers cut us up, squared because this happened rather a lot.)

The Lake, Delapré

It’s 11ºC in Wick today, grey skies and a cool breeze, and that fine drizzly rain the Scots call smirr. (This always makes me imagine the baby Jesus being born in the Highlands by some cosmological error, and three wise men turning up in Celtic football shirts, saying, “We bring you gifts of gold, frankincense and smirr. And an umbrella”.) It’s only a couple of days since we were strolling round the lake at Delapre Abbey in our shirtsleeves, dodging the goslings and illegal campers, everyone basking in the sun like lizards on a rock. Now the world outside is blurred as the smirr coats my glasses in fine droplets of Scotch mist and I wonder if I packed away my winter clothes too soon.

Non-whomping willows at Delapré

I took the gansey with me and managed a bit of knitting around work commitments, which mostly consisted of sitting stationery in traffic jams wondering how people could live like this. The pattern’s starting to develop nicely: I’ve always liked the Flamborough patterns, and one of the things I particularly like about this one is the way the narrow columns flank the cables and moss stitch, like the slender pillars in a Gothic cathedral, great weight supported on delicate flutes of stone.

Gorse at Helmsdale

One sight to gladden the heart on returning to the Highlands is all the gorse, just coming into full flower. It covers the hillsides in a glorious display of yellow, as though the Martians had decided to try to conquer the earth again, only this time with yellow, instead of red weed. In places where it appears in patches I was reminded of blooms of lichen dappling an ancient church wall. The village of Helmsdale, just over the border in Sutherland, sits beneath a  great dome of a hill which is wall-to-wall in gorse, so much that it’s probably visible from space. It’s just gorgeous, and it really is worth paying the price of losing a few degrees in temperature and gaining a raincoat just to be here to witness it.

6 comments to Flamborough, Week 3: 21 May

  • =Tamar

    Ah, that’s where we in Maryland have you beat. Here it’s been going from down-comforter level to turn-on-the-air-conditioning and back again at least once a day, and I don’t even have to drive anywhere. In compensation, the azalea is in bloom.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, I’ve never been to Maryland but I like everything I’ve read about it. (Apart from the need for air conditioning, or as we in Caithness call it, opening a window and watching your possessions disappearing over the North Sea!)

  • Dave

    Believe it or not it’s been wall to wall sunshine here in the wild west – quite unusual as we normally have warmer rain. We don’t have a place called Helmsdale though – counjours up a very romantic image (when you can see it).

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, it’s been such a rubbish winter I think we deserve wall to wall sunshine! Helmsdale sounds like the kind of place that would have been besieged by thousands of orcs, when Saruman decided to rule the world by cornering the east coast crab fishing market….

  • meg

    i love reading your blogs and seeing the knitting grow and `blossom`
    we had that rare thing last week ..a warm wind…amazing the sense of peace and wonder it inspired , you may have missed it?

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, it’s a sort of time-lapse in prose, snapshots of a life, or failing that, given my retired circumstances, a half-life…

      Supposed to be nice for a few days, so maybe I can find the peace and wonder you mention along the Caithness coast. (It was beautiful weather down in Oxfordshire last week; but so many people it was hardly possible to enjoy it, alas.)

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