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Vicar of Morwenstow 8: 7 December

M141207a It looks as though Winter has finished all his chores, done all the washing up and ironed all his shirts, and is now free to devote his full attention to Caithness. So today an arctic gale has been blowing showers of sleet and rain horizontally across the fields all day, as though the frost giants had got themselves Indy cars and gone racing across the north Highlands.

M141207bI took a day off work last week and we travelled the 104 miles south to Inverness, our nearest big town. In retrospect, this proved to be a schoolboy error: I’d naively imagined we might do some Christmas shopping, but when we arrived we discovered that the Black Friday sales have penetrated even as far as the Highlands of Scotland. The town centre was heaving with people like the Tokyo underground in rush hour and Marks and Spencer’s reminded me of archive footage of the Beatles playing Shea Stadium.

M141207dI suppose I’ve just become acclimatised to living in Wick (pop. 7,333), where a crowd means having to queue behind two people at the checkout in Tesco’s. Going to Inverness in the sales involves the same amount of culture shock for me as sending one of the Pilgrim Fathers into hyperspace.

M141207cI came away from Inverness with a pair of socks and a migraine. (I mean that these were additional things: I didn’t actually lose all my clothes—though there were one or two moments in the scrum in Marks’ when the issue seemed to hang in the balance.) Next time I could probably achieve the same result more cheaply by climbing into one of the industrial driers in the launderette.

Safely back in Wick, I’ve been working hard on getting the heather gansey finished and am already some 14 inches down the first sleeve with three inches to go to the cuff. I decided to go for just three pattern blocks on the upper arm because the jumper is already quite wide across the chest, and with a drop shoulder style there’s already a bit of “overhang” on the sleeve; I don’t like the pattern extending over the elbow. Having disposed of the gusset, I’m decreasing at a rate of 2 stitches every fifth row.

By next week I hope to have the first sleeve finished, and, if I can stand it, to have picked up the stitches ready for the other one. My target is to finish it by the end of the year, and then take stock. In the meantime, there’s little else to do but wrap up warm, crank up the heating, and make sure that in future all my Christmas shopping is done online…

9 comments to Vicar of Morwenstow 8: 7 December

  • Jane

    Lovely work on the gansey, nice work on the sleeve and the colour is so uplifting at this time of year. Am I right in thinking there are no images of the reverend gentleman without a jacket or coat so sadly we don’t know how he dealt with the sleeves! I do agree with your approach to the sleeve as the pattern is such a “horizontal” shape.

    It has been a bit chilly in the South, a mere -3 degrees at eight o’clock this morning, and the local crowds have thinned a bit, but Inverness does sound busy. I must admit my fingers have done the walking this year. Apart from a little bit of Christmas knitting, one year I produced lots of pairs of colourful fingerless mittens, this year it is Lamb Chop and Hush Puppy knitted puppets, blasts from the past! At the back of my brain I can hear the siren call of the Yoda jacket and a gansey. Stay warm!

  • Jane

    PS My husband is very taken with the sage and onion doughnuts, we have not seen such delicacies down here. We think they could be very interesting with some form of soup or gravy, a frightening thought!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      You’re right, I haven’t seen the Rev without his coat, but I imagine he would have either had sleeve the way I’ve done them, or else with a Betty Martin type of pattern which was fairly common. Though he may have had skeletons and dancing girls embroidered on there for all we know!

      I once went for an interview in Liverpool and discovered when I got there that the floppy disk I’d been asked to bring my presentation on didn’t fit their new computers. Confusion all round – so as I was pretty unimpressed I began my presentation using my fingers as sock puppets (“What’s that you say, Sooty? The Dublin Core metadata fields are compatible with the international standard of archival description version G? No, stop throwing paperclips at Sweep!”). Needless to say, I did not get the job…

  • Marilyn

    Hello Gordon, this gansey is working up to be such a sturdy fellow, don’t you agree? Perhaps next year, wearing this, you will feel brave enough for the crowds.

    I happened to be downtown for errands at lunch last week. Minneapolis has ‘skyways’- a pedestrian walkway connecting two buildings one floor up. Many small restaurants have been built to accommodate the swarms of worker-bees in search of their mid-day meal, and whoa, Nelly! I’d forgotten what a crush. I had no gansey to protect me, either, and had to beat a retreat.

    Stay warm, good knitting.

    • Gordon

      Hi Marilyn,

      If I venture out in this one I’ll look like the Michelin Man after he’d been run over by a truck with very thick tyre tread, I think!

      I imagine your skyway at Christmas like a scene from the Lord of the Rings movies, with Aragorn scything a way across the chasm with a two-handed sword, bodies of hapless evil shoppers falling from the span to right and left, and yourself strolling serenely in his wake, a shopping bag in either hand…

  • =Tamar

    I live in a major metropolitan area and when I went out to the Giant Store on Monday afternoon to buy a few things I was mindboggled at the number of people who were shopping. Normally that enormous mall parking lot is depressingly empty; Monday I had a little trouble finding a parking space, for the first time since, I guess, last December.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar,

      The idea that I can research an item, compare prices, order it and consult a YouTube video on how to use it, all without leaving my couch, is one of the signs of the end of the world in the Book of Revelation. All I need to do now is train the neighbours cats to make a decent cup of coffee (they have trouble grinding the beans) and my life will be complete…

  • Sharon

    Ahhhh Gordon, you’ve been tucked away in a little town for too long. I live in the Vancouver, BC burbs. I believe it’s the 3 largest city in Canada & growing. Everyone wants a perch on the coast between the beach & the mountains where there’s seldom any snow to shovel . . . At Christmas time, they’re all sucked into giant Puffball malls where they’re lined up & packed in like sardines. They spend hours circling parking lots like vultures to battle over a parking space. When exiting, it causes such gridlock that it takes up to an hour to get out the already clogged main streets. People have called 911 – our emergency line – for rescue. The police & radio stations are now issuing bulletins about exit times.
    The smart shopper cultivates odd little strip malls with small, friendly, independent shops & parking at the door. The really smart shopper stays out of all malls for the months of December & January, having done the shopping in advance in August while everyone else was on vacation.

    • Gordon

      Hello Sharon, you make it sound so attractive!

      Many years ago we lived in Llandrindod Wells, a small Welsh town with a similar population to Wick, about 5-6,000 souls. One day I was visited by my dear friend Vincent, down from Manchester (population of the district, 2 million). He picked me up from work just as businesses were closing for the day, and we found ourselves in a queue of traffic five cars long waiting to turn out of county hall. “Sorry, it’s rush hour,” I apologised. The look on his face of disbelief bordered with a sort of contempt at my small-town congestion I shall treasure to my dying day…

      Happy shopping!

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