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Thurso (Donald Thomson): Week 2 – 5 August

As the Preacher said, for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to ride on the funfair and watch the fireworks, and a time for the funfair to pack up and move on while the rest of us wonder if anyone’s actually going to put out the smouldering embers of the bonfire. Yea, verily I say unto you, it’s barely August, and already it feels as though autumn is just around the corner; the smoke of wood fires drifts on the evening breeze. Shakespeare said that summer’s lease hath all too short a date, but in Caithness summer doesn’t have so much a lease as a weekend holiday rental.

Fireworks at Wick Gala

I think nature realises it’s running out of time. There’s a buddleia up the road which seems to be growing butterflies as well as flowers: the other day as I passed a giddy cloud of erratically dancing butterflies flew up and enveloped me, like an orange snowstorm. (I’m sure butterflies suffer from existential dread as much as the rest of us, but they certainly hide it well.) Our garden hedge is positively boiling with sparrows, everywhere you look there are shiny little black eyes, and heads appearing and disappearing like a vast game of whack-a-mole on speed. One collective noun for butterflies is, delightfully, a kaleidoscope. Another for sparrows is a ubiquity. Sometimes the English language is very pleasing.

Well, in gansey news I am about three-quarters of the way up the back. This has always been one of my favourite patterns: less ornate than some, it just seems like a perfect balance between the panels of chevrons and moss stitch diamonds; but of course it’s the double cables that really make it special, fiddly though they are to knit. The pattern is exactly the same as the last time I knit it.

I wonder what the collective noun for ganseys would be? (A botheration? A finick? A lifetime?) We all know about parliaments of owls, unkindnesses of ravens and murders of crows. My favourite collective noun is a shrewdness of apes, which seems about right. The weirdest one I found in the “terms of venery”, the old English hunting terminology, was a smack of jellyfish. This raises several questions. Do jellyfish smack, or do they not rather squelch, flop, or sting? If you inhale them, are they in fact mind-alteringly addictive?  And—most pressing of all—you mean they used to hunt jellyfish…?

The butterfly bush

[Apologies for the quality of images this week. Margaret’s off on her travels again so I’m afraid it’s back to me and my iPhone]

10 comments to Thurso (Donald Thomson): Week 2 – 5 August

  • meg macleod

    dear gordon..lovley lovely knitting..i am reliably informed that the butterflies are `Painted Ladies`.from Africa.[I can hear the poetry wheels turning]I have some too….not normally the ones I see..Red Admirals are the usual visitors..but you will know that …..
    i imagine the image of a `flurry of Ganseys`..interesting thought to find the right wordage for your crop of knitting….xmeg

    • Gordon

      Hi meg, my favourite singer Richard Thompson once wrote a song called ‘the painted ladies I know’, never occurred to me he was singing about butterflies…!

  • Ellie

    As always, such a delight to read your descriptions of your world! I firmly believe that a group of ganseys would be a lifetime. Or rather, the one I am knitting – going on its third year – is a lifetime.

  • Annie

    Yep, as always, I enjoy your postings. May I add: “Forever disappointed that a group of squids is not called a squad.” anon

  • Sharon Gunason Pottinger

    Just planted a dwarf Buddleia so next year I can have a kaleidoscope of butterflies.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, of course the trick is smooshing the little buggers under the glass at the bottom of the cardboard tube… (What? Oh.)

  • Dave

    I can’t help feeling it should be an itching of ganseys. I can imagine jellyfish making quite a satisfying smacking sound if dropped on a hard flat surface – only question is, who is going to pick them up to do the dropping?

    • Gordon

      Hi Dave, would a jellyfish bellyflop, as it were, or would their legs cushion the fall? I think the only way to be sure is to apply for a research grant and invest in a robotic arm, a bucket, a mop and several undergraduates. If you got bored you could always just throw the squids at the undergraduates, so it’s win-win.

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