On Friday night a storm slammed into northeast Scotland, winds gusting up to 50 mph and showers of rain and spray which stung like salty airgun pellets. On Saturday morning I went up onto the cliffs overlooking the harbour to watch the waves coming in at high tide.
This was, I soon realised, something of a schoolboy error. I had wondered briefly why there weren’t the usual crowds lining the brae to watch, and as soon as I opened the car door I discovered the reason. A gust of wind plucked my hat from my head and sent it cartwheeling away over the lip of the brae; my shoulder bag was wrenched open and all its contents scattered, as though energetic poltergeists had decided to hold a tickertape parade through the streets of Wick.
It was worth it, though: the entire bay was heaving, the water churned to white foam, towering waves barrelling in and breaking over the quays, engulfing the lighthouse and breakwaters in great showers of spray. (On occasions like this I have to remind myself that I’ve stood at the foot of that lighthouse; it’s actually quite big.) But I couldn’t stay long: the wind was so strong it was like being attacked by an invisible sumo wrestler. At one point I opened my mouth to cough and my cheeks were suddenly inflated like Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet.
So I took a few photos and retreated to the car; luckily I found my hat caught on a bush a short way away. My face was wet with spray and I think if I’d let it dry I could have scraped off the crust and saved myself having to buy table salt for a month.
Meanwhile, the only certain things in life just now are death, taxes and gansey knitting. I have finished Side A, and am well embarked on Side B. The distance from gusset to shoulder is roughly eight inches, followed by just over an inch (or twelve rows) of rig ‘n’ fur for the shoulder itself. I should finish the body over the next week, and may even get the collar done.
Finally, I know you’ll rejoice with me in Bob Dylan’s being awarded the Nobel prize for literature last week. Of course, he divides opinion—the best description of his voice I read was that it sounded “like an Alsatian snagged on a barbed-wire fence”—but I can’t think of an artist who’s given me greater pleasure down the years, or whose words have meant as much. This would normally be the place to quote some of his most profound and serious lyrics, but I’m really not in the mood. People always overlook just how funny, and how silly he can be. So instead I’ll leave you with this, the final verse of I Shall Be Free, the last song on his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which never fails to cheer me up, it’s so absurd:
I just walk along and stroll and sing / I see better days and I do better things … / (I catch dinosaurs … I make love to Elizabeth Taylor . . . catch hell from Richard Burton!)
Bob Dylan: catching dinosaurs for over 50 years.