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Whitby (Mrs Laidler Revisited): Week 9 – 25 November

Ice at the river’s edge

First came the freeze, then the thaw: the week started with temperatures around -3ºc, a deep, persistent cold that penetrated to the bone and froze the blood. Mornings started a good 5 to 10 minutes earlier than usual, time spent with a hammer and chisel chipping away at the ice just to get into the car. Gravel froze solid, like a giant, disappointing rice crispy square; woolly hats once more became a thing. On my Tuesday drive to work I paused at a road junction and watched the steam from my car exhaust rise in a misty cloud behind me and then freeze in droplets on the rear window. It was cold, good-king-Wenceslas-looked-out-in-the-bleak-midwinter cold.

Cow & pup at Sarclet

Then, overnight, the thaw. It’s 9º out there as I write this and coming on to rain, bands of showers blown on a northeasterly wind. The saturated ground oozes water; the sodden fields gleam wetly in the low winter sunlight, spider webs glistening, taut as tripwires. At Sarclet Haven, just south of Wick, the seals have come back for the birthing season. This time last year we spotted over 50 bobbing in the water or hauled up on the beach; now there are only a dozen or so, though more seem to be gathered in the coves further along the cliffs. I watch them feebly dragging their great bulks along the shingle by their tiny flippers, grunting and gasping at the effort, and I’m uncomfortably reminded of myself trying to get out of bed in the morning. The pups though are having a great time, play-fighting and swimming and barking, the entire coast their playpen. Just you wait, I think: you’re carefree now, but wait till you have to pay back that student loan…

Larkin’ about

Well, the gansey is finished, right on cue. Now it just needs to be washed and blocked, and it’s good to go. I’ve said before how much I love this pattern. But the colour seems so utterly right for it too, as though it started off navy but years of wear have seen it bleached to pewter by the sun. Assuming I haven’t miscalculated and ended up making a gansey for Shakespeare’s Richard III (how do I know it’ll fit? It’s just a hunch, ahaha), I can see this becoming my go-to gansey for special occasions, the one I want to take with me to the afterlife, when I go to join my ancestors in the great fishing ground in the sky and end up disgracing myself even in the afterlife by getting celestially seasick.

Oh, and speaking of Shakespeare, scholars have found an early draft of the script for Twelfth Night with a slightly different ending. In this version, the play ends with Feste the clown on stage alone, knitting, and singing to the audience. Here’s what he sings:

When that I was and a little tiny lad,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
They said the ganseys were just a fad,
    For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to a ripe old age,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
I had to sort out my stitch gauge,
    For the rows they varyeth every day.

But when I came, alas! to Wick,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
I knit my ganseys twice as thick,
    For the rain it raineth every day. Plus it’s cold.

But when I came to knit the cuff,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
After a couple of inches I’d had enough,
    For the sleeves extendeth all the way.

A great while ago this gansey begun,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all right, at last it’s done,
    And I started another the very same day…

2 comments to Whitby (Mrs Laidler Revisited): Week 9 – 25 November

  • =Tamar

    Good pictures!
    I admire your determination – I will live on plain spaghetti rather than go out in difficult weather. Maybe if I got it together and knitted a gansey I’d get out more. It wouldn’t be as lovely as yours but I’d be warm.
    The song – I need a tune. I can fake a first line but that’s the limit of my musical ability.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, try the wonderful version that plays over the end credits of Trevor Nunn’s excellent film version. Worth staying till the main credits roll, and any film that ends with Ben Kingsley dancing and singing away along the cliffs of Cornwall is a winner in my book!

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