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Hebrides II (Revisited): Week 6 – 23 March

Like John Lennon, I read the news today; but “oh boy” hardly seems an adequate response under the circumstances. As regular readers will know, anxiety sits on my shoulder like Jiminy Cricket’s manic depressive cousin (but being Scottish his advice is to “give a little thistle”, instead of a whistle, and I’m not sure that I should “always let pure nonsense” be my guide). But as the loose thread that binds the modern world unravels, I’m beginning to suspect anxiety may be the least of my problems.

Misery, they say, loves company; and so, taking a line from the late, great Ian Drury and the Blockheads, let’s cast it aside and focus instead on some random reasons to be cheerful. First up is the wonderful Star Wars/ Withnail and I mashup, in which some genius has synched Richard E Grant’s drunken, expletive-filled dialogue onto C-3PO, and it’s one of the most joyous things I’ve ever seen. The prissy robot swaggering into the cantina bar and demanding the finest wines known to humanity, then screaming abuse when he’s refused, keeps me warm during the long winter evenings.

What else? Oh, yes. There are millions of animal videos on the internet, but this is one of my favourites. It’s only 10 seconds long, and if your mood isn’t better by at least the third of them I guarantee your money back (and it’s free).

Statue at Nybster – a gansey in stone?

And thirdly—you’re way ahead of me, I collect—the joy of having something to do, in this case knitting. The way I deal with anxiety is to get my head down and knit. I listen to music or audiobooks—Wagner and Dorothy Dunnett’s novel of Macbeth at the moment—more or less obsessively, and just focus on getting the rows done. It may not get rid of the underlying causes, but I do at least finish a lot of jumpers. Speaking of which, there have been significant developments this week: the front and back are now complete, and joined at the shoulders. With the collar almost finished, that just leaves the sleeves; we’re two-thirds of the way there, and another month should see it pinned and formulated, as TS Eliot described his own completed knitting projects.

Signs of Spring

Finally this week, one of the chief bonuses to living in Caithness is that it almost comprises social distancing in itself: it’s easy to find a stretch of beach, a cliffside path, an abandoned harbour, or a river strath to explore, away from other people. (In fact, that’s pretty much the only bonus—Ed.) Happiness after all is where you find it, and I find it there, among other places. To return to John Lennon—one of the few people to write an ode to a takeaway curry in his classic song Instant Korma: he once said: “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” Reasons to be cheerful, part four…

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