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Week 9: 16-22 November


Gordon on the right. Courtesy Highland Council

Apologies once again for the late appearance of this blog – caused not by any major crises this time, but because I’ve been hob-nobbing with royalty, or HRH the Earl of Wessex, to be precise (younger brother of Prince Charles). And not so much hob-nobbing, to be honest, as bellowing a few words in his ear over the crowd noise.

Let me explain. I attended the official opening of the splendid new Highland Archives Centre in Inverness on Monday, along with several hundred other people, it seemed. We were separated into the function rooms downstairs while HRH was given a tour of the building – and as you can imagine, with so many people all bunched together making small talk in an enclosed space, the noise level was pretty high. So much so that I found myself having to shout to make myself heard, and quickly lost my voice, being reduced to making barking noises like a performing seal and waving my flippers to make myself understood.

It only took an hour for the royal party to be running an hour late. Tension mounted. The heat in the room increased. I began to grow concerned, since the last Earl of Wessex I knew about was Godwin, back in the time of Edward the Confessor, who famously died eating a piece of bread, speaking my second-favourite last words, that if he’d had anything to do with the King’s brother’s death, may the piece of bread choke him – whereupon, delightfully, it did. (Spoilsport historians – is there any other kind? – say this is apocryphal, but what do they know?)

Then, at last, the doors swung open, and he was ushered in, dressed in full kilt with all the trimmings. We had been carefully arranged in groups – councillors, architects, funders, and finally workers in the archive salt mines – and the poor earl more or less had to start at one corner of the room and navigate his way around just about everyone. The archive contingent was, inevitably, the last group he came to, and you could tell by the expression on his face that he’d pretty much reached his limit for the day for asking strangers what they did, and how they enjoyed it.

m9cIt was my task to shout a few well-chosen words at him on behalf of the archive community and start him off on the rest of the group. Sadly by then my voice had pretty much disappeared, which meant I sounded like someone tuning an old-fashioned radio set as odd sounds came and went at random from my voice-box interspersed with a sort of white noise – but since I doubt if he could have heard me anyway, no harm was probably done. What I found disarming, and completely unexpected, was the look of sly humour lurking just behind his eyes – as if to say, you know and I know how absurd this is, but of course we wouldn’t dream of saying so.

Then came a couple of speeches, a quick tug of a rope-pull to unveil the plaque (“That’s lucky” noted the earl as he read the inscription, “I’ve come on the right day”) and he was whisked away in a dark car, and it was all over, leaving me with funny kind of respect for the man, doing his job and doing it very well, and also leaving me with a voice more like Beaker’s from Sesame Street than anything human.

Anyway, after all that, here is another of my “recklings”, another runt of the litter of swatches. Not a serious attempt at anything, just playing around with the New Zealand design, and trying not to think of the dark things lurking in the closet that has been work recently.

4 comments to Week 9: 16-22 November

  • Nigel

    Hands out of pockets when addressing Royalty! Shoulders back… etc etc.
    It’s probably a good thing we can’t meet up this week. I have a stinking cold and you have lost your voice!

  • Gordon

    Hi Nigel!

    Sorry to hear you’re under the weather – hopefully we can reschedule.

    No, there was no disrespect, honestly – other than my habitual undone-top-shirt-button-not-quite-hidden-by-the-tie – but the photo was sneakily taken just as I was about to be presented to him, and was hastily extricating my hands! (This was the first occasion I’ve attended where the invitation instructed me how to formally address the guest of honour.)

    The thing that struck me was what a difference his coming made to all the other guests I spoke to, and staff – he obviously did the thing very well, and his presence made them feel special – and I couldn’t help thinking that only royalty and a very select other few (Nelson Mandela, for e.g.) would have had that effect. Very interesting.

  • =Tamar

    Each group hs someone they’d be impressed by; some would have that response to their favorite writer, etc. Too bad about the noise level. I hope your voice comes back soon. About the swatch–perhaps if you made the background in stockinette and the islands in seed stitch with purled edges, they’d wrinkle less.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    Yes, my only problem that the authors I’d most like to meet – Dickens, or Robertson Davies, say – are sadly no longer with us! (Not sure how many current writers I’m really in awe of – Neal Stephenson, perhaps, or Terry Pratchett?)

    I think the issue with the swatch is that it’s just on too small a scale to show up properly. (Not that that bothers me, mind you – if people mistake the end result for an abstract pattern that’s not a bad result!) But I’m going to play around with it some more. Thanks for the suggestion. Cheers,