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Vicar of Morwenstow 7: 30 November

M141130a T.S. Eliot’s lines in his poem East Coker, “O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,” are commonly supposed to be a reference (among other things) to people crowding into the London Underground for shelter during the Blitz in World War Two. I, however, have a simpler explanation: after living in Wick for three years it’s obvious Eliot was referring to a typical Caithness winter.

I don’t just mean the late sunrise (8.35am) and early sunset (3.27pm). I mean skies the colour of a recently-deceased porpoise stretching from horizon to horizon, behind which the sun lurks like a torch with a dying battery dimly glimpsed through a fog bank. It’s as if God cut a few corners when He made Caithness, using cheap dyes which have run in the rain, so that all the colour’s washed away from the world and only dreary grey remains.

M141130b-2 There are compensations, though. We went down to the harbour on Saturday at high tide, and the wind was driving the waves in from the ocean, breaking them against the harbour walls in showers of spray and submerging the piers so that they looked like vast stone submarines rising out of the sea. And now and then great waves swept into the harbour, so that standing on the quay and looking down on the suddenly swelling water it felt as though great whales were swimming past below, just out of sight.

M141130bGood progress on the gansey. I’ve finished the body, joined both shoulders and knit the collar. As the neck is quite deep and wide I decided to make the collar a little higher than usual, about 1.75 inches, in the hopes that it won’t asphyxiate me when I sneeze. I’ve also picked up stitches round the first armhole, and am now cheerfully tobogganing down the left sleeve of destiny.

M141130a2For whatever reason, doubtless because I’ve been loosening my stitch gauge and there aren’t any cables to pull it in, this gansey has come out a bit shorter and wider than usual. I don’t think this will be a problem, though, as it will be stretched vertically at blocking; and anyway, it’s looking like we’re going to have a cold winter, so I need something to accommodate 17 layers underneath.

Finally, I’ve been contacted by Yasmin of the Hebridean Isles Trading Company to update their contact details (http://www.island-at-the-edge.co.uk/default.html). I hadn’t heard that they suffered a disastrous fire on Colonsay last December; as a result, they’ve relocated to the Isle of Skye where they’re re-establishing the business. We wish Yasmin and her family every success, admire their fortitude, and hope things come good for them very soon.

14 comments to Vicar of Morwenstow 7: 30 November

  • Judit M. / Finland

    Hi Gordon, greetings from Helsinki.
    Just for information: Sunrise 9.14 am. sunset 3.32 pm. So You in Wick have a longer day !
    The new gansey looks fine, happy knitting!

    • Gordon

      That’s a fair point, Judit—but I bet you see the sun in between sunrise and sunset! (I’ve seen those photos of snow-covered Finnish woods shining in the winter sun under a crisp blue sky…) Here in Wick we’re smothered under God’s duvet!

      • Judit M. / Finland

        Gordon, the photos you have seen are from north-Finland,probably Kuusamo – where the world cup games are just now – some 1200 km from Helsinki. The last time I have seen the sun here was about 8 days ago. And we do not have any snow in this region. We are probably waiting for a black Xmas 🙁

        • Gordon

          Ha, OK Judit, you win this round!

          “I’m dreaming of a Grey Christmas,
          Just like the ones I used to know,
          Where raindrops patter,
          And I get fatter,
          And the clouds never seem to go…”

  • Lynne

    Great progress on the gansey! Is there a pattern in the sleeve? I’m sure enjoying Margaret’s Blipfotos, even when she hasn’t had an eventful day and does an ’emergency’ photo, it’s interesting.
    I don’t envy your short days, it would be a recipe for depression for me, however – in only three weeks your days start getting longer! (yeah, right, by about 5 seconds a day!)

    • Gordon

      Hello Lynne, yes, I’m going to do 3 or 4 of the chequerboard squares on the upper sleeves, after which the rest will be plain. (I read somewhere that knitters stopped doing patterned sleeves in the early 20th century when the fashion for wearing jackets came in; I don’t know if that’s true, but somehow a plain sleeve looks like unfinished business to me!)

      Ah, well—I should just remember the summer nights when it’s light till after 11.30pm, and Thurso and Wick used to have a bowls competition at midnight on midsummer eve…

  • Jane

    Very fine work on the gansey and isn’t it a superb colour for this time of year!

    I totally agree about the dark, although we probably enjoy a few more minutes of light, if that’s what you call this grey stuff, at either end of the so called day being a bit further south! The rehomed cats have also despaired and taken to their baskets with enthusiasm.

    Still busy with the Yoda jacket, or rather, busy I am. It has now reached that joyful stage of knee warming, isn’t that draping moment just wonderful!
    Stay warm!

  • =Tamar

    Somehow I don’t mind the lack of a pattern on the sleeves, but if the pattern is only on the front, it looks wrong to me. On the other hand, with the popularity of weskits in these money-saving cold indoors days, patterned sleeves seem to be the way to get the pattern seen (though a patterned sleeve and plain body would seem very wrong to me).

  • Marilyn

    Hello Gordon, I like this stage where misshapen bits come together into recognizable jumperdom. Lookin’ good.

    Tamar, I smiled in self recognition re: things just seeming wrong- Ever since I learned that patterned fronts and unpatterned backs were known as “coffin sweaters” I’ve developed an aversion. Although I suppose you could knit one on purpose and tell your family “This is what I want to wear on my last public outing”.

    Yesterday I was out and about in 5 degree F. Today I’m staying in, knitting, probably.

  • Gordon

    Dear Jane, Tamar and Marilyn,

    I’ve decided I want to be buried in all my ganseys at once, one on top of the other, tightest first, baggiest last, so I’ll have a change of something warm to wear in the afterlife (plus some double-pointed needles if I have to defend myself against my enemies)—and this way, if they drop the coffin, I’ll bounce happily inside, protected in my woollen shock-absorbers!

    I remember an interview with Ian McKellan about playing Gandalf in the original Lord of the Rings films. They made him an amazing elven shirt, but he pointed out that no one would ever see it under his robe. They told him, don’t worry, you’ll know it’s there…

    Similarly, the composer Benjamin Britten composed some guitar piece for Julian Bream. Bream had to break the news to Britten that he couldn’t play one bar because two notes would have had to sound on one string, which is impossible. Britten was mortified, but told him, all right, play the A flat but think of B sharp when you play it! (Or whatever the notes were.)

    That’s how I feel about patterned ganseys under clothing, I guess—we know it’s there, and God and all his angels, and that’s enough for me…

    Oh, and Jane – shouldn’t you be knitting cat cosies..?

    Take care all,

  • Jane

    It’s a really good idea and I would knit for the cats, if I could. Trouble is I don’t think the little beasts would keep anything on, being only just this side of domesticated! I could do blankets though, perhaps gansey squares, all different patterns, colours, perhaps different sizes as well. They would be wrapped in tradition and owner’s devotion, just the job, their kitty brains would be so pleased!

  • Sue

    Oh My! Respect all round – for Margaret for knitting a cat gansey, for Faith for managing to get Gus into it and above all for Gus for such magnificent posing! I simply cannot imagine getting either of my two lovely boys to consent to wearing a sweater much less managing that very Vogueish supermodel supercilious stare!

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