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Thurso (Donald Thomson): Week 1 – 29 July

I’m very sorry to say that my mother passed away last week. Ruth lived to see her 90th birthday, had a good life and was cared for lovingly until the end, and there’s nothing to regret except the fact that she’s no longer with us; which, of course, is everything.

A few years back I was staying at the family home, and there had been a small, sharp disagreement, the kind of trivial thing that happens when people share a house and a life over several decades. There was just my mother, my father and me. My mother got up and went out and my father watched her go. Unexpectedly he smiled and said, “You know, when I first met your mother she was the kindest person I’d ever met.” He looked at me. “She still is.” Which pretty much sums up how I feel about her too, a feeling shared by just about everyone who knew her.

‘Spirit of Wick’

Well, it’s time to unmask my batteries and reveal—let’s be honest, no one’s surprised—that I’ve been working secretly on another gansey these last few weeks, when I felt like taking a break from the Wick pattern. (Sometimes it’s nice to unclamp the fingers after so much fine work and just relax with some plain knitting.) This is another revisit of a favourite old pattern, the celebrated Skipper Donald Thomson of Thurso, from Rae Compton’s book. I’ll say more about it next week.

Summer Grasses

I’m knitting it in Wendy’s navy yarn—part of my now-dwindling stash. As many of you will know, Wendy’s has discontinued its range of guernsey 5-ply, and when existing stocks have gone that will be that. Frangipani, blessings be upon their name, now stand alone as the last major supplier. (So long as no one reports them to the monopolies commission we’re probably OK…)

Laid out to dry – net by the harbour

And when I look at the old, black and white photographs of my parents I’m struck by how much fun they seem to be having; they’re always laughing. It’s salutary to remember that many of our parents’ best years didn’t involve us at all. (As Paul Simon said: “Well, that was your mother/ And that was your father/ Before you was born, dude/ When life was great…”)

In my memory it’s always the height of summer, the house is filled with soft, golden light and she’s just laid aside her magazine to share a funny story with us. Whenever I think of her, my mother is laughing still.

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