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Navy Gansey, Week 4: 8 October

I wandered lonely as a cod
That plumbs the deeps ‘midst hake and eels,
When all at once I saw a pod,
A herd, of fifty swimming seals;
Silent, save a booming cough,
Waiting patiently for the German tourists to bugger off.

It’s not often I compare myself to Wordsworth, but just as the great poet was moved to pen the most famous poem in the English language when he encountered a wide expanse of daffodils on the shores of Lake Ullswater one windy day, so we were utterly stunned to find no fewer than fifty seals gliding through the shallow waters of Sarclet Harbour, just south of Wick, last weekend.

It had been a grey, wet, blustery autumn day, not the kind of weather to lure you outdoors, but late in the afternoon it cleared enough to make remaining inside seem like the cowards’ option. So we drove down to Sarclet to see how the offshore wind farm was coming along: and the answer was, apace. (Soon the horizon will shrink from the rim of the world to just nine miles; and the Wordsworth in my soul can’t help regretting that.) But it was what was happening inshore that took our breath away.

At first it looked like whitecaps in the harbour, incongruously, or dozens of little black buoys. Then we saw the snouts of some fifty seals bobbing in the water. Fifty! I’ve never seen so many seals in one place. Autumn is the time of year when most seals up here give birth, and Sarclet—a small, abandoned, mostly secluded, sheltered harbourette—is one of the places where they come. The water was shallow enough to let you see them swimming underwater. Every now and again one of them would utter a wailing cry, as of a lost soul in torment; not so very tormented, though—more as if a lost soul had realised he hadn’t put enough money into the parking meter.

Autumnal Puddles

There were a couple of German tourists down on the beach taking photographs, while fifty seals bobbed in position, staring reproachfully at them, hoping they’d take the hint and go away so the seals could come on land for a bit of a breather. They didn’t, of course; and eventually the disappointed herd swam off in dribs and drabs to try their luck elsewhere. How inconsiderate, we thought. DH Lawrence, as so often, said it best, in the ending of his magnificent poem, Snake:  And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords / Of life. / And I have something to expiate: / A pettiness


It’s time to reveal the pattern. After a few weeks toying with this one or that, I’ve decided to revisit the classic Vicar of Morwenstow pattern. There are several reasons for this. First of all, I had to abandon my planned Flamborough gansey, as the yarn is just too thick for the sort of detail it demands—it will have to wait its turn with the rather more reliable Frangipani. (Or as I think of it, Wendy’s really let herself go…) So I’d already resolved to knit a more textured gansey, rather than one with lots of different pattern bands and cables.

Then I was going to knit The Lizard pattern, in three bands. But I had to abandon that as well, because 10 rows to the inch wouldn’t give me all the rows I’d need to do it justice. Now, this Morwenstow pattern isn’t banded—it covers the yoke in a single panel like the classic Scarborough basket stitch (another pattern I have in mind for this yarn)—so I don’t have to worry about the yoke being too long or too short: I can stop when it’s the right length.

Also, as I’ve said before, I have at least another gansey’s worth of this particular yarn and dye lot. So this is a good way for me to establish the row and stitch gauge, so I can plan the next one better, whichever pattern I ultimately choose.

I wasn’t satisfied with my previous attempt at this pattern, either. I did it at a time when I was changing my stitch gauge, and it came out far too saggy. The great, if controversial, composer Richard Wagner was never happy with his opera Tannhäuser, and before he died he said he felt he still owed it to the world. I feel the same way about a Morwenstow gansey. It’s time to set things right!

Oh, and my last reason: I really like the pattern and want one in navy…

5 comments to Navy Gansey, Week 4: 8 October

  • Dee

    What an amazing sight! And a very beautiful spot. Looking forward to seeing your progress with Morwenstow.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dee, Sarclet Haven is somewhere I’d seriously consider having my ashes scattered—after I’m dead, of course. I’m just at the stage where the pattern is starting to emerge—so far it looks like the right choice for this particular yarn. Watch this space!

  • =Tamar

    Fifty seals! Wow!

    I think I feel the same way about life – “I’m just at the stage where the pattern is starting to emerge”. I hope it’s the right choice.

    • Hi Tamar, ha, you and me both! My only concern is that at some point the Deity will take a long hard look at how it’s all gone, then decide to rip it out and start again with a better pattern…

  • Jane

    What an excellent choice for the gansey. The Reverend Hawker is a sort of hero of mine so the more Morwenstow the better! And such a good colour for this pattern. I believe the vicar favoured this colour too. All round good stuff.

    Also I know the inconsistencies in the spin have led to comment, but the gansey looks really good in its present unblocked state. I suspect the yarn is of quite outstanding quality which outweighs the odd uneven bit, it seems to me, take care!

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