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(Navy) Week 2: 5 June

Summer has come to Caithness, for a given value of summer. As a result everything’s fluffier: the ducklings on the river now resemble little tennis balls with legs, and the hedges and trees and fields are all thicker, lusher, greener, stickier. The sun rises at 4.11 am and sets at 10.11 pm—which means the birds start doing their morning exercises three hours before the alarm goes off, and it’s so light at bedtime it feels like it’s still the middle of the afternoon. Sleep at this time of year, you will have guessed, is very much an optional extra.

Caithness summers are so brief—sometimes barely even an afternoon—that living through one is a little like watching a time-lapse film. At this time of year a sharp east wind still comes in off the sea and it’s amusing to see the world become divided into two camps: the locals, who stroll nonchalantly about in shorts eating ice cream; and the tourists, who wear anoraks and cling drunkenly to flat surfaces like shipwrecked mariners who’ve abandoned hope of ever seeing their loved ones again. You see them at John O’Groats making a dash for the famous signpost, staying just long enough to get a photo and then running back to the car, as though there’d been a radiation leak from Dounreay and they only had 60 seconds before they caught a lethal dose. 

Laid out to dry

One advantage of these light evenings is that I can sit by the window and knit a yarn as dark as navy till 10.00 pm, and still see perfectly well; this explains why I’m zipping along despite being back at work full time. (I should start the yoke pattern in a fortnight’s time, around the summer solstice, i.e., maximum daylight for any fiddly bits. I still haven’t settled on a pattern, though I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of my favourites, both of which I’ve knit previously: one of them—gulp—over 20 years ago.)

Finally, in a week that’s seen precious little to smile about, I’d like to share with you one of my favourite jokes. I’ve seen it in various versions, and applied to various nationalities, but this is the one I learned, and it’s from Finland. Two Finns go into a bar and order two drinks. They sit at their table in silence for a while contemplating their drinks. After an age one of them picks up his and says, “Cheers!” The other one looks at him reproachfully and says, “Hey! Did we come here to talk or did we come here to drink?” [Dedicated to all our Finnish friends—hyvä terveys!]

21 comments to (Navy) Week 2: 5 June

  • Annie

    Your drying sweater…incredible work (gasp!), surely you won’t wear it, or let anyone wear it. Maybe best framed, under glass, in a museum, brought out for display only under special circumstances. Gasp again.

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, it’s very much for wearing—just not by me! It’s a present, though it’s taken me so long to get round to it that at this stage it’s more of a past, or a future…

  • Hey Gordon, I just retired and moved to North Carolina in the Blue Ridge mountains. I’m ignoring unpacking and instead planning a gansey in the tradition of Gordon Reid, using ideas from your past masterpieces. In doing so, I’ve re-read many of your posts and in the process was so uplifted and brought to laughter that I had to tell you so. We go through our valleys and over our peaks but it would be so boring if everything were always the same. Those posts of yours from 2012 and having the privilege to proofread your books really helped get me through that year of cancer. I hope to be reading gansey posts for many years to come. Thank you.

    • Gordon

      Hello Sheila, how lovely to hear from you again. Your retirement sounds wonderful, hope you have a good one. As for the blog, it’s very therapeutic, no matter how poor any given week has been, to try to write 400-500 words of badinage and persiflage; puts the rest in perspective, as it were. But 2012! Dear me, we’ve all passed a lot of water under thuebridge, as the saying goes…!

  • Lynne

    The blocking Hebridean looks great!
    I’m missing Margaret’s BlipFotos – is she away?

    • Margaret Reid

      Hi Lynne!
      I’m still here – I got a bit behind, we were away for a week, and then my computer failed … So I’m having to download and edit photos on a mini iPad, which isn’t optimal. I’ll catch up eventually …

  • Hello Gordon ,
    I enjoyed your letter, congrats to the cardigan, it looks great. Your joke about the Finns is more real life as a joke. But here is an other one just to cheer you up.

    Three Finnish brothers have gone fishing. It’s early morning; they see the sun rise over the horizon when the youngest brother says: “It doesn’t seem like the fish are biting”
    They keep on fishing and around midday the middle brother states:
    “It really doesn’t seem like the fish are hungry”
    Night is coming, and the sun is setting when the oldest brother angrily scoffs:
    “Of course, the fish aren’t biting when you just keep on chatting!”

    Have a nice day and best regards from Finland !

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit, very good! My other Finnish joke goes like this: the definition of a Finnish introvert is someone who looks at his shoes when he talks to you—whereas an extrovert looks at your shoes…!

  • Jane

    What beautiful work, Gordon, just so lovely, and the colours really pop. The cardigan looks so good laid out, and the stitches on the gansey look so even, wonderful, you must be so pleased with them. Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, I must admit I do love the way gansey stitches at this scale mesh to create a solid fabric-like effect. And you really can’t go wrong with navy, which hopefully will be dark enough to hide any mistakes…

  • Bridget

    Hello Gordon,
    I’m late in the condolences department. My Dad passed 4 years ago at this time, and it is still pretty raw. Add to that, I had to let my 19 year old cat go this last week, and it has been trying to find a ‘new normal’. Yuck! My Mom was Finnish, so I had to laugh at your joke. The only Finnish term I have in my vocabulary is “good bread”, and I can’t write it in Finnish. Maybe Judit can translate to Finnish.
    So, condolences, may you find peace in a new normal before you know it.

  • Nancy

    Yup. We understand Finnish jokes out here.

    Two Nevada ranchers loped into a bar and sat. and sat.

    xo to all…

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Good Grief, nothing like a half Finnished Gansey & a bunch of awful jokes. I did like Dave’s though . . . Love the new one so far & am looking forward to the patterned top. Navy is a good color to hide all the coffee & food stains when you eat in windy weather!! But, I still love Red.

    • Dave

      Thanks Sharon – I’m a bit short on Finnish jokes but while we are on the subject I like this little gem from Italy…

      In Italy 50%, yes I know, FIFTY percent of people cheat on their partners or spouses. So, if it’s not you…

  • Ebbie

    I’m doing a bit of catch-up reading your posts I’ve missed and wow this is a fabulous Gansey. I’m partial to cardigans because I can never decide if I’m hot or cold, and am now considering starting one myself – maybe in that amazing green you used a while back. Beautiful!

  • Gordon

    Hi guys, and thanks. Even when I was a kid I liked dark blue (my favourite banger racing team was in that colour), and it still feels right, somehow. I can’t ever imagine myself wearing a vivid red, it’s far too bright for the likes of me. Dark red, though, now you’re talking; and you won’t notice it when you spit claret on it, either! I’m not normally a fan of bright green, but that bottle green is really lovely—plus it goes with my complexion if I set foot on a boat…

  • Simon

    Love seeing the gansey stand up on it’s own in that picture 😀

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