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Navy Gansey, Week 8: 5 November

Sandside Bay lies some 32 miles northwest of Wick, along the coast road, out past the Dounreay nuclear power facility. It’s the last sandy beach this side of Sutherland, and despite—or perhaps because of—the unrivalled views of the nuclear complex, it’s rather lovely. We were there the other day, taking advantage a lull between a couple of ex-tropical-storms, which always stagger across Britain at this time of year like disappointed marathon runners finally breasting the tape.

The bay is a bite-sized rectangle chomped out of the coast; the village of Reay and the beach run along the south side and there’s a harbour on the western edge, facing east. Incidentally, I was delighted to discover that there’s no agreement on the origin of the name of Reay: suggestions include Gaelic words, as in Reidh (a flat place) or Ratha (a fort or enclosure); and Old Norse, as in Ra (a boundary marker) or Vra (a nook or corner). But it seems to me you might just as well go for Ra (an Egyptian sun god) and admit you haven’t a clue.

We saw dog walkers and bird watchers (at least I assume they were watching birds; their binoculars were trained across the bay towards Dounreay, and they packed up hastily and drove away when we pulled in next to them. Hmm) and strolled along the beach. I misjudged an incoming wave (oh wait, you mean the tide comes in as well as out?) which dumped about a pint of seawater in each shoe. It was cold. There was a lady walking a dog nearby, so I strove to keep my dignity; and rather than squealing like an electrocuted ostrich and leaping six feet in the air, which was my initial impulse, I pretended it had all been deliberate. From the sniggers of the lady—and I grieve to say, her dog—I fear my innocent deception may have been seen through.

But who needs dignity if you have a gansey, I hear you ask? Moving on hastily, I’ve knuckled down this week and am a few inches from completing the first sleeve. I knit the pattern for 5 inches from the armhole, and am decreasing at my standard rate of two stitches every fifth row. A couple of weeks might see it finished, and no one will be more surprised than I. I’m currently on my eighth 100g-ball of Wendy’s navy yarn: it’s as uneven as ever, but I hardly notice the bobbles now; and it is pleasingly chunky.

Finally this week, one of my favourite poems, by one of my favourite poets, Li Bai, also known as Li Po. As regular readers will know, I’m very fond of Chinese poetry. After much reading I have discovered these poems tend to fall into three key subjects: (1) I am far from home and very homesick, (2) Life is short and all things must pass, and (3) Let’s drink! And then there’s this:

The birds have vanished from the sky.
Now the last cloud evaporates.

We sit together, the mountain and I,
until only the mountain remains.

12 comments to Navy Gansey, Week 8: 5 November

  • Dave

    Hello Gordon – good to catch your latest. Coincidentally, we were out with our grandson Alex on Friday and he had a similar experience with the tide. He will be three years old in February and didn’t seem to mind too much (so long as he got an ice cream).

    You probably already know my favourite poem: “There was a young man from Nantucket…” – your’s seems to lean more to the victorian sentimental tradition.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave,

      Actually Li Po was writing in the 8th century, at a time when the vikings were just limbering up to beat seven bells out of western civilisation and the Anglo-Saxons were fighting it out for supremacy in England. And yet the poetry is timeless.

      And yes, tides. I wouldn’t have made a fuss either if anyone had offered me an ice cream afterwards. Just saying…

  • meg

    always a pleasure to share your thoughts and in this case your wet feet…. and the gansey looks lovely..enjoyed the wee poem too.

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, good to hear from you; and you’re very kind, as always. (I’d rechristen the blog, “Idle thoughts of an idle fellow” if Jerome K Jerome hadn’t got there before me!)

  • Wonderful pictures. I want to go back to Scotland. Some time. And a lovely gansey too!

  • =Tamar

    What does an electrocuted ostrich sound like (and just how do you know, hmm?)…
    The gansey is looking fine.
    I suspect that what E.Zimmermann said about uneven stitching is also true for uneven yarn: it’ll all even out in the wash. Eventually.

    • Gordon

      Hello Tamar, yes, I agree: washing and blocking evens things out to a surprising degree. I’m learning to get the occasional bobbles onto the back side, as well, so they don’t show in front. And I do have a soft spot for the heavy, chunky feel to it when it’s knitted up, quite different from the softer drape of Frangipani (which I also like, of course; and which seems closer to the fine yarn they used in Scotland, anyway).

      As for the ostrich, it all started with an egg and a pair of electrodes. But I’ve said too much already…

  • Lois

    My, that is an effective gansey pattern! Shows beautifully on the navy yarn. Quite agree with E Z.

    As for wet socks, with the highest (and lowest) tides in the world, we are quite familiar with that predicament. However, nobody offered ice cream. Methinks we have been deprived, somehow.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, Ive decided to use this yarn—of which I have enough for two more ganseys—for this sort of pattern: Scarborough, for instance. It doesn’t lend itself to fine work, but blocks of pattern show to advantage in it.

      In future I’m going to insist on ice cream whenever I go to the seaside! And frequently when not. Everything goes better with ice cream, except possibly ketchup.

  • twinsetellen

    Such a solid poem. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    The gansey is looking solid, too. I’m enjoying the sequence of posts on this one, watching your reservations about the yarn melt away.

    • Gordon

      Hi Ellen, thank you! I’m still conflicted on the yarn, though quietly pleased with the gansey which I finished today: one advantage to it being thicker, there’s fewer stitches to knit, so I got it finished early!

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