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Scottish Fleet, Week 2: 16 August

SF150817-1It’s been such a poor summer up here in the Highlands, the worst for 30 years, that meteorologists have struggled to find an adequate standard of measurement—after all, the euphemism “disappointing” has been used so often in forecasts it’s finally worn out and had to be replaced by the more truthful “bloody awful”.

In a spirit of helpfulness, therefore, I offer here the GSI, or “Gordon’s Sweater Index”, the ultimate measure of the warmth of a summer day. Really, it couldn’t be simpler: if the temperature reaches a certain point, I take my sweater off; if it doesn’t, I don’t. (The system can be modified to take account of wind speed, scarf and thermal underwear interplay, horizontal sleet, that sort of thing, but it’s not really necessary—a jumper and a breezy lack of modesty are all that’s required.)


View from the base of the tower

Today had a positive GSI (only the fifth time this summer), so we took a trip to the Forsinard nature reserve across the border in Sutherland. It’s an hour and half’s drive from Wick, and is situated on a 39-mile single-track road with virtually no turnings off (the road sign says “Forsinard—Um, Are You, Like, Really Sure?”).

The nature reserve basically consists of an unmanned railway station and a vast peat bog, the kind of place that in Middle Earth would be packed to bursting with the preserved corpses of elven warriors, but here is a home to occasional lizards, dragonflies and swarms of flies, the latter behaving much like piranha fish that have taken to the air and developed a passion for earwax.


Massed starlings at John o’Groats

But it is beautiful, in a desolate, bleak, soggy kind of way, especially on a summer’s day like today. The RSPB have built a viewing tower in the middle; it seems a little incongruous at first, like something that survived the destruction of the Death Star’s pre-school crèche, but after a while it feels as if it belongs in the landscape, and the views it offers are rather stunning. If you want to watch dragonflies skimming across stagnant ponds while flies probe your inner ear in relays, I can definitely recommend it.


What fishermen wear today

In gansey news, I am off the welt and onto the body. I cast on 312 stitches for the ribbing; after 4 inches I increased by 32 stitches to 344. So now it’s just a question of knitting away until I start the yoke, in about a months time.

In parish news, both Den and Judit have sent me pictures of completed ganseys, and both, as it happens, Filey patterns. Den’s is in navy and has zigzags and seed stitch and ladders; Judit’s is in heather and has diamonds and moss stitch. Congratulations to both on some very fine knitting!

Not before time, too—there’s been a nip in the air which means that autumn will soon be upon us, ganseys will be in demand and—the horror—the cricket season will soon be over. Then it will be time to switch to my other temperature measure, the GLJI, or “Gordon’s Long-John Index”. As the old joke goes, send me money and I’ll post some pictures; send me even more money, and I won’t…

4 comments to Scottish Fleet, Week 2: 16 August

  • Funny you should mention weather, Gordon. Here on the Wet Coast of Vancouver, BC – I’m out in the slums of Surrey about 20 miles east & south, close to the US border & the beach – we’ve had the warmest & driest summer in our history. We’ve had almost no rain since April. No snow on the mountains last winter – it rained instead! It’s so dry I can’t even get mold in my shower, fer gosh sake.
    We’re on restricted water, we can shower, flush, do laundry & water gardens by hand but not wash cars, decks, drives, houses, lawns, fill pools etc.
    Some of us live in shorts & tees year round these days & it’s rare to find anyone without a tan line. Iced coffee seems to be the drink of choice & no one cooks indoors much anymore – too hot.
    Our cars smell like locker rooms & soon, it looks like we’ll be brushing & washing with beer.
    Maybe you should send a little of yours this way & I’ll try to send some of ours back.
    Oh, nice work on the Gansey. You do knit so quickly!! I’ve been knitting socks as usual. Doesn’t matter what the weather is like, I just can’t wear sneakers without socks!!!

  • Gordon

    Hi Sharon,

    We’ve been locked into a pattern this summer where the jet stream has cut Britain in two, with high pressure in the south and endless lows here in the north. This means that England and Wales have had a fairly typical UK summer, with dry, warm spells disrupted by downpours and thunderstorms, but Scotland has just had grey, windy, wet, dreary, discouraging unending ghastliness. (I should work for the Scottish Tourist Board, really.)

    I’m not all that quick, but am helped this time by the fact that my friend Jan, for whom the gansey is intended, has a trim, svelte physique, as opposed to those us for whom even tying our shoelaces is in danger of becoming a 3-man job…

  • Jane

    What a glorious colour, and I am so impressed that it can stand up by itself, super work!

    Given the cloud and rain in the South, I am starting to understand the full meaning of your Scottish summer. Here on the South Coast it feels more like October and deep Autumn and nowhere near the Bank Holiday.

    Spike the cat has not been beaten up for a week, I think he is learning discretion. Baxter, meanwhile, has got cross with the bad tabby, who made a huge error in staring at Baxter asleep in his basket, a large dog one for a large cat, through the glass back door.

    I have done a second swatch for Gladys’s cardie, gathered the needles and cast on for the back. I will see how it goes. I have searched the Internet for snippets of information about Gladys and drawn a saddening blank, but I am still thinking. Take care.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      It’s not the standing up that’s the problem, it’s the following me to work and and chasing the sheep that worries me…

      There’s been a couple of nice days now and then, but the thing is it’s just been grey and cold here (12-14ºC) day after day. I’ve seen pictures of friends on Facebook having barbecues in the garden and seen the weather reports of the south of England basking in temperatures in the twenties and sobbed quietly into my cocoa.

      Have you considered Baxter is getting advice from a feline kung fu sensei – if you see him furtively drop-kicking table legs and staking out mouse holes with a white bandana on and adopting the stance of the Furtive Mollusc, then I’d start to wonder…


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