Back to work this week, which helped me realise that taking time off work to move house is not as relaxing as lying on a sunny beach and reading a trashy novel while the waves slip invitingly between your toes. No, it was back to toiling in the dark, sunless archive mines, which resemble the fabled mines of Moria, only we get more trolls.
Highlight of the week was when workmen came to fix the fire escape. We’re upstairs on the first floor, with a rickety metal staircase leading down to the ground outside; and apart from its rather daring instability in strong winds, in the winter it gets very slippery with leaves and moss, so that the unwary fire escapee can find themselves losing their footing and hurtling down on their backside like someone escaping a jet liner on a chute – with the added risk of not stopping at the bottom, but sailing nonchalantly down the hill to the harbour, and so on out to sea, eventually to fetch up in Norway.
As far I could tell from the other side of the door, the repairs seemed mostly to consist of hitting the stairs with a hammer (or, judging from the periodic episodes of very inventive swearing), each other. There were times when it was closer to working in a metal foundry than an archive. At last they packed up and went home, so we decided to see what they’d done, only to find they’d somehow managed to jam our fire door shut – thus, I suppose, doing away with the need for a fire escape at all, a perfect solution in local government terms.
I’ve included a picture of the view from my office window at work, because it’s lovely. The camera focuses on the trees in the foreground, but it’s easier than it looks to see through them to the river (running through the town from left to right, to the harbour where the waves burst against the stone breakwaters in an effect like a fat man sneezing with a mouthful of milk). There are worse views in the world.
In between unpacking boxes, working, and falling asleep in front of the television (my idea of a rich full life) I’ve also just about managed to keep up with the knitting. I try to manage 45-60 minutes a night, and as I work down the sleeve the decreases are starting to take effect, so each row feels a little shorter than the last.
Wick being a gansey sort of place I was taken to task by one of our regular researchers, a sprightly young chap in his 80s, who fixed me with an ancient mariner sort of stare and asked me if I knew the origin of the word “gansey”. I gave him the usual spiel of the Elizabethan knitting industry in Guernsey, but he brushed that aside with the ease of a batsman clipping away a legside half-volley. No, he said, Guernsey was too small and insignificant for that. The real origin was from Scandinavia, where they refer to fishermen’s pullovers as “gansers”.
So I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on that? Is there really a Scandinavian tradition of “gansers” – or is that likely to be a corruption of our word, “gansey”? What do you think?
Finally, there won’t be a blog next week – Margaret is escaping from Caithness to Edinburgh and London (she says she’s got some music event to go to, but I think she’s really off in search of Starbucks) and I have a certain amount of falling asleep in front of the TV to catch up on, so we will be returning on Monday 12th March. Look forward to catching up with you all then.