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Hebrides, Week 6: 1 May

The end of April in the North Highlands of Scotland is noteworthy for two striking phenomena: first of all, the hillsides are awash with flowering gorse, a stunning display of bright yellow that turns the countryside into something resembling the inside of a sickly god’s handkerchief; and secondly, of course, it’s my birthday.

Last week I celebrated my 57th year under heaven. Paul Simon once tried to imagine how terribly strange it must be to be 70; but I expect it will turn out to be much like 57, only with a few more parts missing—the damage, you might say, already having been done. I did worry that as I got older I’d have said everything I ever wanted to say; but as it turns out whole new topics of fascinating conversation pop up all the time: viz., medications, operations and what shows actors used to be in. (And did you know that the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album is 50 years old in June? Yes, I’m scared too.)

The gorse at Helmsdale

Bill Bryson once observed that the British are one of the happiest races on earth, because all it takes to make their day is a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit. In my case, I’ve discovered, it’s a new flat cap, a CD of Herbert von Karajan conducting Bruckner’s 7th symphony, music so transcendentally perfect it’s what God listens to on his iPod when he’s having a bad day; and a leather-covered notebook. (Well, yes, all right; and a cup of tea.)

Bench with a view

I’ve wanted a leather-covered notebook ever since I read PG Wodehouse’s masterpiece The Code of the Woosters. It’s what Gussie Fink-Nottle uses to record everything he dislikes in people. (“Have you ever heard Sir Watkyn Basset dealing with a bowl of soup? It’s not unlike the Scottish express going through a tunnel… Have you ever seen Spode eat asparagus? It alters one’s whole conception of Man as Nature’s last word.”) Of course I don’t use it to detail the foibles of my fellow men—there’s only 192 pages, after all—but I am using it to make notes on Caithness history, shaking my fist at the 21st century and writing by hand with a fine-nibbed fountain pen (though not both at the same time, obviously).

Waiting for Gordon

Speaking of Caithness history, I read today that the Earl of Cromarty and his son, Lord Macleod, who’d been recruiting for Jacobite cause in the county, missed the dreadful battle of Culloden because they stayed too long in the castle of Dunrobin “to watch the tricks of a juggler”, and were captured. Isn’t that great? (This is an excuse I now intend to use at work to explain my next missed deadline.)

In gansey news I am well down the first sleeve. Now that I’m back at work I have less time for knitting, of course, but I still hope to finish this one in a fortnight. The patterns are essentially the same as the body, except that the starfish are slightly smaller—the reason for this being that they will be on the forearms, in full view, and I didn’t want them to dominate the rest of the gansey’s patterns. (It’s possible I may be over-thinking this.)

I’ll post a chart next week if I remember—but as far as today’s concerned it’s a bank holiday, the sun is shining on the hills and somewhere in the distance I can hear a god sneezing…

8 comments to Hebrides, Week 6: 1 May

  • Lynne

    Terrific progress on that fully patterned cardy, it will really show it’s glory once steeped, zipped, and blocked (although maybe not in that order).
    Wow! 57! I remember your 50th.

  • Gordon

    Thanks, Lynne, you really can’t go wrong with Hebrides in cream/ aran/ natural colours. Or any colours, really!

    I’m glad you can remember my 50th – I’m not I can any more! But then I need to consult my mobile phone to be able to give my address, phone number or car registration number these days, so nothing new there…

  • =Tamar

    I could never remember my car registration anyway. Phone numbers are easier because they make a pattern on the keypad, but I never call myself. I can attest that 68 is much like 58, only with more creakiness.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, pretty just managing the decline from hereon in, I fear. I had to register at work the other week and was asked for a 4-digit number I’d always remember—I had to break it to them that there was no number of however many digits I’d ever be guaranteed to remember…

  • Ruby Davidson

    Happy birthday! Your gansey is is looking stunning! I do hope that when you cut the steek and ‘install’ the zip that you take lots of pictures and put them in your post. I would dearly love to see how you do it.

    • Gordon

      Hi Ruth, and thank you! And yes, I hope to take lots of photos when the besteekening takes place; though it won’t be for at least another week, now that work has sadly intervened to slow me down…

  • Jane

    Belated congratulations on your birthday, Gordon. I hope you enjoyed the event and with a suitable amount of cake! That is lots and lots.

    The gansey cardigan, dare I say the ganigan, is looking absolutely wonderful. The panels are just so lovely, I look forward to the finished garment. Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, and thank you. Yes, cake was definitely involved, though not a birthday cake this year seeing as how I’d just worked my way through a substantial quantity of tablet in the days leading up to the big day! It’s nice to see the gansey at this stage, especially as I’ve just started the second sleeve, as you really get sense of how it’s going to look when finished. Though ai am looking forward to knitting a plain body next time, so at least I don’t have to concentrate or do any maths for many weeks to come!

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