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Robin Hood’s Bay Cardigan: Week 4 – 18 May

Spring has come to Caithness—by which I mean that it snowed last week, a light pithering on the wind, soft white flakes swirling out of a dark grey sky. Of course it didn’t settle, but it was cold enough for February with the weather screaming straight down from the arctic. Then we had 45 m.p.h. March winds for a couple of days. Now it’s warmer but raining, which just goes to show that God enjoys a laugh as much as the rest of us. The good news? As Scotland remains in lockdown while England has decided to substitute Russian roulette for football as the national sport, there’s not much incentive to go out.

St Fergus from the riverside path

As a student of history (among other things, viz. the recorded legacy of Bob Dylan), one thing I’ve learned is that, with a few exceptions, the processes of history are invisible to those who live through them; as the song says, you never know what you’ve got till its gone. Neolithic people didn’t eagerly wait for the latest calendar to tell them they were now living in the New Stone Age (“Ha, look at the poor old Mesolithic Thargs at Number 37; still working stone in the old way, not like us Neolithic go-getters!” “Never mind that dear, we’ve run out of toilet paper again.” “OK, just let me chisel you a new roll…”). 410 AD is usually accepted as the end of the Roman Empire in Britain, as that’s when the legions were withdrawn to shore up the Empire on the continent. They were only supposed to be away temporarily; but they never came back. Things carried on in the same old way for a time, but gradually entropy took over, closely followed by the Anglo-Saxons. In retrospect, we can see that 410 was the end of an epoch; it’s just that no knew it at the time.

Ripples in the harbour

Which is why I can’t help but feel the chill winds of history blow when I watch the UK Government’s daily press briefings on the coronavirus, and listen to announcements that—although they don’t directly say so—only apply to England. Health, social care, transport and education are all powers that have been devolved to Scotland. I’m quite sure that once the crisis is over things will go back to normal, or nearly—this isn’t the actual end of the United Kingdom, of course; not yet. It’s just that part of me can’t help thinking of those poor anxious, hopeful Roman Britons: all of whom expected the legions to come back, and everything to return to just the way it once was, too…


Robin Hood’s Bay pattern chart

As you’ll see from the photos I’m making good progress on the gansey, and should be making a start on the gussets later this week. It’s still drawn in because of all the cables and their purl stitches, so it looks narrower than it will once its been finished and blocked. It’s a pretty stunning pattern and deserves to be much better known, I feel. I’m posting the pattern chart this week, too (though it’s hardly necessary; this is one case where what you see really is what you get).

Finally Judit has sent a photo of her last gansey being modelled by its lucky owner. It looks great—and a great fit—and you can see the picture on Judit’s page here.

7 comments to Robin Hood’s Bay Cardigan: Week 4 – 18 May

  • meg macleod

    your history lesson is so much more interesting than the ones that are lodged uncomfortably in my memory ..thankyou again for the smile that comes with the knitting x

    • Gordon

      Hi Meg, I tend to swim through history as a fish through fingers, sorry water. Every time i move to a new country (Wales, Scotland) or place (Caithness, Wick) I have to know the chronology. It’s like looking at a map: I’m lost unless I know where I am in time, as well as space. I used to work with a young lady who genuinely thought the Vikings came before the Romans, and couldn’t see the point of knowing it: after talking to her each time i had to go and lie down in a darkened room with a copy of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History as a sort of chronological smelling salts…

  • Dave

    You surprised me – I was expecting you to go back to the Spanish flu or bubonic plague. I should have known better. Great looking gansey.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, think of me as a knight on the chess board—I always try to move obliquely! (And get as far away from the bishops as possible!)

  • =Tamar

    My niece tells me it snowed last week in New Hampshire. Snow is not unknown in May, but it’s not common either. It snowed in May once when I was in college and I still remember an out-of-state student shrieking about the “(deleted) New England winter!”
    “Pithering” is a great word to describe that sort of snow.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, “pithering” is a word that’s been in my vocabulary ever since I can remember. But the internet seems to deny all knowledge: was it then a Northamptonshire dialect word of my mother’s, a Scots word of my father’s, a New Zealand word of my childhood, or did I read it somewhere? It’s great, though, isn’t it?

      I have no problem with unseasonal snowfalls, I just wish they’d do it properly, none of this shilly-shallying: I want drifts!

      • Lois

        About a week ago in New Brunswick we had a good 6 inches or more of snow. And a terrific wind behind it, so we definitely had drifts. No plows out, they had been put to bed until next winter. And I had changed to summer tires on my car. Unprintable language!

        Now the trees are leafing out, the lawns are green and I see some optimistic bees zooming around the lilac buds.

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