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Whitby (Mrs Laidler Revisited): Week 3 – 14 October

On Sunday, the sun shone—actually, you know what, this has been such a rare occurrence lately that we should all probably just stop here a minute while we take this in—anyway, as I was saying, the sun shone and so, like the opposite of those Saharan flowers that bloom for an hour once every few years when it rains, we dusted off our shades and got in the car and headed off to Latheronwheel. It would have been rude not to.

Latheronwheel Harbour, looking northeast

I’ve mentioned Latheronwheel before: it’s one of those beautiful abandoned harbours on the east Caithness coast, about half an hour’s drive south of Wick, a relic of the herring fishing boom of c.1830-c.1930. You turn off the main road and drive through the village before taking a narrow road road that zigzags down to the harbour itself. It was a still day, just a light sea breeze (the Caithness wind machine having been turned down from “jet engine test facility” to “motorway service station rest stop hand dryer”, it was not unlike being breathed on by an asthmatic sheep who’d recently been eating seaweed). We crossed the burn by the beautiful old stone bridge and climbed up to the top of the south cliffs. Here the ruins of a small stone lighthouse give you a superb view of the entire harbour, as well as, on this occasion, the snout of an inquisitive seal bobbing in the swell like a buoy. We walked along the clifftop path for a spell, the sea a flat calm below us, as though it had been painted on, until we reached the place where the edge of the cliff is only a short metre or so away from the path. My rule on whether to follow a path is quite simple: if an incautious sneeze could send me plunging to my death, on the whole I prefer not to. So we turned back, honour satisfied, the shades safely back in storage until next spring.

Rook on a fence

This week in Parish Notices: speaking of zigzag tracks and cliffs, Judit has done it again. It’s another very effective yet simple design, single line zigzags also known as waves, and the lighter coloured yarn shows it off to perfection. The pattern comes from Rae Compton’s book, page 83, and it’s a pattern that features in Scotland and Northumberland. The book notes that this pattern “is called the multitude on the Northumberland coast, but more commonly known in a two-line version which is called marriage lines, and a single line which is likened to cliff paths, or else the plunging value of the pound since Britain voted for Brexit in 2016”. Warmest congratulations once more to Judit!

Finally this week I’d like to share a couple of quotes with you. One’s by Woody Allen, and its obvious absurdity sums up our situation as a species and a nation better than anything else I’ve read: “”More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” (I use this a lot in work presentations and then wonder why other people get promoted.)

I like this other quote because it reminds us that perspective is everything; and because I’d like it to be true. It’s by the celebrated historian of the twentieth century, AJP Taylor: “When, and if, the grubby history of the twentieth century is remembered in five thousand years it will be for one man and one man only, and his name is Armstrong. Well, perhaps two, and they are both named Armstrong.”

8 comments to Whitby (Mrs Laidler Revisited): Week 3 – 14 October

  • =Tamar

    Cliffside paths: been there, done that (not fallen but avoided them).
    I see the shoulders are done. Knit on!

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, the fun thing about that particular cliff too walk is that there’s a sheer drop to the rocks below, but they’ve thoughtfully fenced off a sinkhole a few metres inland!

  • Judit M./Finland

    Hello Gordon, Many thanks for mentioning my gansey. Actually there is a hidden message in the pattern: “but more commonly known in a two-line version which is called marriage lines”. As this goes as a Xmas present to the boyfriend of my granddaughter I did not want to use the marriage lines :). In my last works I tried to find simple patterns remembering, that less is more and I think this is one of those.Best regards and happy knitting !

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit, that says very nice – and who knows? Maybe you’ll end up knitting him a two-line version one of these days…!

  • Mollie Chambers

    Hi Gordon,
    I just love the pattern of your Mrs Laidler revisited. Is it still possible to obtain a copy, or is it a trade secret? I’m just starting out with ganseys completed my first last winter and enjoyed doing it so much I can’t wait to start another.
    Love your blog. Keep well and knitting.

  • Mollie

    Hoorah! Definitely going to use this, and just hope mine looks almost as smart as yours. Thanks so much.

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