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Scottish Fleet/Yorkshire, Week 2: 25 February

Spring has come early to the north Highlands of Scotland and so, lured outside by a weather forecast promising sunny intervals and light winds, we ventured out to Noss Head, just north of Wick. Of course, light winds in Caithness mean the sort of arctic gales you could stand up against, like a man leaning on a bar waiting for his pint—and to be fair, Noss Head is rather exposed, a promontory jutting out into the North Sea like a narwhal’s tusk—but when you recall that a year ago Britain was being frozen by the so-called “beast from the east”, it wisnae so bad.

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

The fields were absolutely fizzing with larks, the harrier jump jets of the avian kingdom. It always looks like such hard work, being a lark: they seem to be pedalling frantically, like a cyclist going up Ben Nevis in fourth gear, just to get airborne. I’ve always assumed their song is some kind of mating call or territorial claim, but it’s probably just the sound of desperate wheezing, the equivalent of the sort of noise I make going up a flight of stairs. I wonder what normal blood pressure is for a lark? And if any of them ever explode at, say, thirty or forty feet?

Gordon models the latest gansey at Ackergill

Across the promontory to the north lie the rocky cliffs and sea stacks, home of numerous seabirds, fulmars and shags and the like. These birds seem to delight in showing the larks how it’s done, effortlessly riding the wind as though strung on invisible wires. I can watch them for hours as they serenely glide, circle, swoop and dive; it’s as relaxing as stroking a cat, and much less hard work.

In gansey news I’ve finished the front of the pullover, joined the shoulders, knit the collar and picked up the stitches on the first sleeve. This is the stage when it always begins to look like a gansey, and you get a proper feel for the pattern. This pattern is one of my favourites, and this one is for my keep pile. It’s not the first time I’ve knit it: you can see the previous version (for a friend) and pattern chart here. The yarn is Wendy’s atlantic blue, which I happened to have in my stash, second-hand from Ravelry. It’s not only my favourite colour, it’s also the colour of the banger car team I supported in my youth—Daventry—so I’m experiencing disconcerting Proustian flashbacks while I knit.

Cloudy & dull by the river

And now the sunny intervals have gone, but the wind remains. Robert Louis Stevenson, who spent time up here, wrote: “In Wick I have never heard any one greet his neighbour with the usual ‘Fine day’ or ‘Good morning.’ Both come shaking their heads, and both say, ‘Breezy, breezy!’ And such is the atrocious quality of the climate, that the remark is almost invariably justified by the fact.” On the plus side, I always remind myself that this is Scotland; and if it wasn’t for the wind we’d have that other matter to deal with, the far worse plague of midges…

11 comments to Scottish Fleet/Yorkshire, Week 2: 25 February

  • charles cameron CARRUTHERS

    Years ago when visiting Wick I met Mr Sutherland (Ian?) at the museum and bought Johnstons book on photography of Wick and was impressed by the fishing boats collection.At that time I was “The Sooth Firth Correspondent” i.e I was the researcher for the Southside of the Firth of Forth for the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther in the Kingdom and my beat was from Granton to Burnmouth on the Border.The Ganseys shown in Johnston`s book worn by the 19th century fishermen of Wick were excellent.We had until recently a “Box” walk in Musselburgh (Fisherrow) where the men and lads wore their handed down Ganseys while the lassies wore the costume of the fishwives like Newhaven fisher lassies and they paraded through Musselburgh in September and like my BlackWatch kilt its my pride and joy.. It was the Ganseys that impressed me so much so I got Flamboro` Marine to knit me up a Fisherrow `gansey`done in 3 months by a Mrs Buckingham.CU CCC.

    • Gordon

      Hi Charles, thanks for sharing! Yes, I know Ian Sutherland quite well, he wrote the book (literally) on the Caithness fishing industry.

      I always advise people to go to Flamborough Marine when they contact me for ganseys to buy – you know you’re getting an authentic garment, and their knitters do it properly!

      Cheers, Gordon

  • Dee

    Oh my! I don’t think you could have gotten a better “action” photo of the gansey! You’re harmonizing beautifully with the sea and sky. The ruins in the background are just the finishing touch.

    • Gordon

      Hi Dee, and thank you. It was freezing last week when the picture was taken, I shrugged off my coat and braved the wind at Ackergill for a couple of minutes, then raced for cover…

      Can I also add that I appreciate your tact in not mentioning the “ruin” in the foreground!

  • Dee

    Ha! No such animal. Seriously, great photo.

  • Jane

    How super to see the Wick gansey worn, with some wonderful colours in the photo. I really like the colour of the new one, lovely work!

  • =Tamar

    I’m glad to see you’re going to get to keep this one. It’s my favorite color, too – well, one of my favorites.
    Kudos for braving the cold to get a good picture of the gansey.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, even when I knit jumpers for eg the local museum I tend to make them my size. In this case it was an amazing stroke of luck that the pattern from a wiry young fisherman scaled up exactly to fit a sagging elderly archivist!

  • Julie

    Beautiful gansey; beautiful photo.

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