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Humber 21: 13 – 19 February

So here we are, all moved in, and trying to figure out how everything works – the central heating, the hot water, the television, the cooker. Everything’s unfamiliar, everything’s strange (I finally figured out why the croissants kept burning when I realised the dial I was twisting turned on the grill, not the oven. D’oh!). The kitchen cabinets seem to rearrange themselves overnight like the Hogwarts staircases.

The house doesn’t feel like it’s ours yet – and I got so used to living on one level in the Edinburgh flat that it’s hard to get my head around 3 dimensions. We keep losing each other and have taken to carrying our cell phones at all times – not to answer, but because you can tell where the other person is by the ring, like hi-tech Alpine cowherds.

The most surprising feature so far has been the trick toilet seat, which we found out had a broken fitting. You’d sit down, lulled into a false state of relaxation, and enter the usual Buddhist trance appropriate to the situation, when suddenly bang!, the seat would shift and you’d be jerked sideways like a crash test dummy, the warm and fleshy underparts of your thigh making startling contact with the cold porcelain rim of the bowl; and you’d be left wondering if that red face cloth over there could possibly be your tongue, bitten off and propelled across the room in the catastrophe.

After  so much hauling and unpacking my hands are no longer the soft, pampered hands of a gentleman: the nails are cracked and split, the knuckles bruised and cut; whenever I venture outdoors I am forced to wear gloves lest someone mistakes me for a bare knuckle fighter and challenges me to a bout (trust me, it sounds glamorous, but gets tedious after a while). After unpacking over 30 boxes of books, I am reluctantly forced to ask myself whether we own too many… (The answer, of course, is no.)

The movers were fine, taking in their stride, as it were, the 57 stairs up to the flat on the one hand, and the 41-metre path to the front door too narrow to get the van up (and the 3 floors) on the other. Of course it rained and blew a gale. Of course it snowed; this is Caithness, after all. But we’re here now. And we have the rest of our lives to unpack.

So, not much time for knitting, and in any case my fingertips were just too tender for a couple of days. But I’ve finished the pattern on the sleeve, and now it’s just plain sailing, more or less, all the way to the cuff.

Apologies to all who posted or emailed this last week. It took a while to get our internet connection sorted out, and our computers unpacked. But hopefully life will now slowly return to normal – after which, as Douglas Adams said, anything we still can’t cope with is therefore our own problem…

22 comments to Humber 21: 13 – 19 February

  • Gail

    Congratulations! On arriving, and apparently surviving the MOVE. We once had a trick toilet seat like yours – the replacement seat perhaps is not the correct size. I’m surprised you got any knitting done at all; moving wears me out and all I want to do when not moving is to just sit.

  • Gordon

    Hi Gail, and thanks! You’re right, moving is exhausting. I’m back at work this week, but Margaret has the fun of all the little jobs that need to be done, apart from unpacking – such as attaching hooks to the backs of doors, or drilling holes for hanging up pictures, or installing the washing machine, that sort of thing. (I never pretended to be practical…)


  • =Tamar

    Congratulations on getting it all moved in one swoop. I hope you numbered the book boxes and listed the contents. I did that and it was a great help in knowing which box to dig out to find the book I wanted… of course there have been many more not listed since then, but it was a help for the first five or six years.

  • Oh wow, I’m so impressed that you managed to move everything all at once. Congratulations on a hard job well … nearly done.

    I hope Margaret is getting lots of rest.


  • Nigel

    All that lovely grass to cut. You’ll never have time to knit, old chap. You could always employ a gardener I suppose.
    Looks like a smashing place to be.

  • Annalies

    ha,ha i was laughing about your toilet.
    I wish you a wonderful time in Wick.


  • Elizabeth in Colorado Springs

    I feel your moving pain – I moved to Colorado Springs about a year-and-a-half ago, after having lived in the same house in Virginia for 43 years. I’m just now starting to feel like this house is house.

    I enjoy your blog very much – your postings inspire me. I took a class and made a teddy-bear-size gansey based on Beth Brown-Reinsel’s “Knitting Ganseys.” I plan to make an adult-size gansey … someday.

  • Judit M./ Finland

    For You, in Your New Home warmest wishes that you`ll find Your New Home´s the happiest kind.

  • Brenda

    I can totally relate to the number of boxes you have full of books. My husband is always muttering about too many books about the house. I managed a few years ago to downsize to just 5 bookcases, telling myself that other people will enjoy reading them. I have made a deal with myself that I cannot acquire any books unless I let some go at the same time. Now wool is a different matter altogether. Hope you have many happy years in your new home.

  • Gordon

    Hi Guys,

    And thanks for all the good wishes! Alas, we’re not quite so organised to have all our books in numbered boxes – typically, I don’t carry through my listing skills from my day job into my private life, and try to be as disorganised as possible. But the books are on the shelves (mostly in one room, which will make rearranging them easier), and the cds too – though the thought of getting all of them in order chills the blood.

    But it’s a super house, and the snow has gone, replaced with an unseasonably mild spell; last night, with my extra-warm duvet, Victorian-style heavyweight nightshirt, and hot water bottle, I was almost toasty (as Darth Vader might say, a feeling I haven’t felt since…). Now all we have to do is work out how to turn the oven on!


  • =Tamar

    What, no nightcap? Good heavens man, ye’ll catch yer death… just try wearing a nightcap and see what a difference it makes. It need not be one made for the purpose; I’ve been using an ordinary knitted cap of (whisper) acrylic and it does the job.

  • But Tamar – how do you keep the nightcap ON during the night? I, erm, thrash about; I’d wake up with the cap dangling off one toe!


  • Veronica

    I’ve got the perfect housewarming idea for Gordon — we’ll knit him a gansey nightcap. One of us buys the yarn. Another reader the needles. A third casts on and knits a few rows then mails all to another. We’ll each add an inch of gansey patterning before passing the hat along. About 15 inches worth of hat should be about right, don’t you think? And if more of us want to join, two can do earflaps and someone can make the tassle. 🙂

    Congratulations on the move being completed, Gordon. I’m a bit confused though: is this a multi-level flat? Does that mean the front garden is one you don’t have to mow, weed, etc. yourself? Hope so because that looks like a full day’s work just to mow!

  • =Tamar

    Songbird, I don’t thrash much nowadays anyway, but sometimes I wear the hat with the earflaps and tie strings. I’ve considered a kerchief which would combine the cap and scarf, but a cowl might work as well.

  • Gordon

    Hmmm – tell you what, I think I’ll keep the subject of how much thrashing around goes on in the beds of Reid Towers “under wraps” – literally! Children may be reading. Would it be shameless of me to observe that my head size is 59cm…? (I found out when I bought my fedora – but it’s so windy in Caithness I can’t wear it. Even my baseball cap was plucked from my head the other day!)

    I’ve never worn a nightcap – but I can really see the advantage. Or am I just overly influenced by Michael Caine as Scrooge’s cap in The Muppet Christmas Carol?

    Veronica, we’ve just moved from a flat to a semi-detached 3-floor house. So the garden you see in the picture (actually our front garden – 41 paces long, I paced it out) – or the bit on the left, anyway – is all ours, to plough and sow and reap and mow, as the song says. That and the back garden too. I’m hoping this is a special strain of grass that doesn’t grow…

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Hi Gordon !
    I have a good suggestion for you: Buy two Scottish Blackfaces.
    This will mean triple joy for you and Margaret:
    1.No grass-work : they do it
    2.No more expences with wool: they produce it
    3.More time for each other and more time for knitting 🙂
    Best regards:

  • Lisa Mitchell

    Why not Leicester Longwools?

  • Gordon

    Ah, yes, sheep. Don’t say I haven’t thought about it. But unless I can get them, um, “garden trained” I think there may be unwanted side effects…

    We went for a drive out towards Dounreay before Christmas, and there was a barbed wire fence near the coast where the strong gales had caught stray bits of wool from the sheep and snagged them on the barbs – so that the fence looked like it was lined with Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the wind. I wonder if the farmer would notice if you went along the hedgerows with a comb and collected the oddments for spinning…?

  • Sue

    Those ‘unwanted side effects’ are actually a 4th joy – they make excellent fertilizer! A cousin has fond memories of childhood outings to the hills of north Wales – we grew up in Liverpool – where the kids were expected to gather sheep and/or rabbit droppings literally by the bucket full. Once home her Dad took them off to the allotment where he steeped and then dissolved them in water and then watered the allotment with it. I have to admit that I was glad that I learnt about this later rather than at the time I was eating the vegetables he grew 🙂

  • =Tamar

    I doubt the farmer would worry about the wool on the fence, or he’d be out there with a comb himself. Wool-gathering is an old tradition, and one that I think is appropriate for one who works with old documents. I suppose you might want to give each lock the sniff test; I don’t know whether ram wool is as incurably stinky as billygoat hair.

  • Ulrike

    Hello Gordon,
    congratulations for your finished Humber Star!

    Looks great; I like the hanging “icicles” or as you call them, “hanging grapes”.

    Enjoy your beautiful view from your office-window.
    Thank’s for the other beautiful pictures also.

    Cheers, Ulrike

  • Gordon

    Hi Ulrike, and thank you. Wick may be cold and windy, but it’s rather beautiful, so I don’t think we’ll run out scenery for a while yet!

    Best wishes,