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Scottish Fleet/Yorkshire, Week 5: 18 March

Well, first things first: the gansey is finished, washed and blocked and drying in the (intermittent) sunshine. And as always, there’s that moment when it’s stretched into shape and the pattern reveals itself in its right proportions, like one of those origami puzzles that seem at first just a scrunched-up piece of paper but which, with a twist and a slide, turn out to be an elegant paper swan. I’ve said before how much I like the colour; it sets off the pattern perfectly, and this pattern really is one of the best.

Nybster Harbour

As TS Eliot said, these fragments I have shored against my ruins. Here are a couple more fragments I came across this week. The first concerns the D-Day landings and subsequent campaign. Apparently as they pushed inland, Allied ground forces marked their positions with signal flares—smoke canisters that showed their positions so the air forces wouldn’t bomb them by mistake. Well, one of these flares went off accidentally inside a British tank. The crew all scrambled out unhurt, choking and coughing, and no harm was done … except that the commander was so deeply saturated that not only his clothes, but also his skin and hair, eyebrows and moustache were dyed a deep, rich hue, like the Jolly Green Giant; and they stayed that way until the pigment gradually grew out…

Rainbow & St Fergus’ Church

The second is a quote from Somerset Maugham’s downbeat World War One spy novel Ashenden. I may have it inscribed over my bathtub. The hero, dishevelled and dirty from travel, has just lowered himself into a scalding hot bath, in which he luxuriates in a very British way: ‘”Really”, he reflected, “there are moments in life when all this to-do that has led from the primeval slime to myself seems almost worth while…”‘

Next week: another gansey from the Johnston Collection. But which one?


Salvation Army Hall, Wick

Our thoughts inevitably go out this week to all those affected by the horrendous events in Christchurch. I read that a group of expat Kiwis had gathered in London for a vigil the day the news broke, and they sang the hauntingly beautiful Māori song “Pokarekare Ana”. There are many recordings of this song available on the internet, but here’s one to which someone has added a montage of pictures of the Land of the Long White Cloud. I like to think of this as a single candle, lit against the darkness of our times.

E kore te aroha
e maroke i te rā
Mākūkū tonu i
aku roimata e.

(My love will never
be dried by the sun,
it will be forever moistened
by my tears.)

7 comments to Scottish Fleet/Yorkshire, Week 5: 18 March

  • Margaret Murray

    Love reading your posts Gordon! So so interesting such a great mind. Very envious!!!!!!

    • Gordon

      That’s very kind of you Margaret, I just wish you could travel back in time to have a word with my teachers! Though in all honesty most of my posts on a Sunday night are the equivalent of a man rooting in the corners of an empty cellar with a flashlight looking for his missing car keys…

  • Lynne

    At last, the pattern pops out on the new gansey and it’s truly traditional and beautiful in that shade of blue.
    Thanks for adding the link to the Maori song, what a haunting melody and voicees. This horrible act of terrorism must be especially bothering for you knowing what a peaceful nation it is. Was it the city of Christchurch you lived when you were there?

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, no, we lived on the North Island, Wellington and Palmerston North. Obviously it has a particular resonance, as I was born there; but in truth I remember very little, as we left when I was, what, ten years old? But when something like this happens, we are all honorary Kiwis, i think.

  • =Tamar

    I remain amazed at how a scrunched looking pattern expands when blocked. What a beauty!

  • Jane

    Definitely a keeper, Gordon, absolutely beautiful. I hope you really enjoy wearing it because it is super.

  • Gordon

    Dear Tamar and Jane, thank you. I’ve been test-driving it this week, and it’s definitely a winner. Also, unless you’re looking for it you can hardly see the join!

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