We went up to John O’Groats on Saturday, as we often do, for to view the fields and to take the air, as my favourite folk song says. There weren’t many fields but there was a lot of air, barrelling down at us at about 45 mph straight from the arctic circle, so we didn’t linger.
We did stay long enough to see the seal in the harbour, or rather its snout poking up from the icy water like a little whiskery buoy. There were a couple of fishing boats moored there, rocking to the waves and the wind, and the seal kept vanishing underwater to see what it could find beneath them; either that, or it was playing hide-and-seek with the other seals out in the Pentland Firth.
I like seals. Their whiskers give them the air of an elderly geography teacher, a sleek aquatic Einstein. They’re like sensible, grown-up dolphins; you can’t imagine dolphins listening to Radio 4 and appreciating Pink Floyd or test cricket, for example—they haven’t the patience and just want to party. Seals, on the other flipper, always look like they’ve just mislaid their pipe tobacco and slippers. If reincarnation is a thing, then dolphins are a good place to start; but seals are born with old souls.
As for the gansey, I’ve finished the first sleeve and am now embarked on the second. I’m amazed at how small it all looks, how shrivelled, like a dehydrated starfish. This is because of all the purl stitches running the length of the body and sleeves, which draws it in. It actually has more stitches in the round than the green Scarborough gansey I knit recently, but at present is at least six inches narrower round the chest. Blocking will sort this, of course; or if not I just have to find a very thin supermodel in need of chunky knitwear.
In parish news, Judit has sent me pictures of a gansey-inspired project, a slipover or sleeveless jumper with a tasteful Scottish fleet half-flag pattern running up the centre. Many congratulations to Judit once again on the project, and for reminding us just how versatile gansey patterns can be.
I’ve always loved the Scottish legends of the selkie, the seals who take human form. They say that if you find a selkie’s sealskin you can compel them to marry you (I thought I was in luck the other day down on the beach, but no—it was just a bin liner). But how can you tell if your partner is really a selkie—other than the strong smell of fish, of course? Well, the best way is to throw them a herring: if they catch it on the tip of their nose, toss it up in the air and then swallow it whole, the balance of probabilities is they’re a selkie.
N.B., we’ll be away all next week on a trip down to Northampton to celebrate my father’s birthday, so it’ll just be a short bloguette on Monday. (I won’t quite have finished the gansey, as we’ll be travelling most of next weekend.) Normal service will be resumed in a fortnight. See you then!