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Wick 11: 24 February – 2 March

WK140302a1 On Thursday night the Northern Lights lit up the skies across eastern Britain, as if the Earth had been visited by a giant space cuttlefish that communicated in rippling bands of colour. The whole country was affected, from John O’Groats to Kent, and the internet has been lit up like a tacky 1970s disco with pictures ever since.


John o’Groats from a different angle

We nearly missed it completely, and we didn’t get to see any colours. But we did see something uniquely strange instead: a black-and-white display of shimmering flecks against the clouds. It was pretty faint, like someone shining a torch behind a distant fog bank; at times it looked as though colonies of bats had learned to fly in formation, or as if God was drawing a magnet behind the clouds, arranging the magnetic particles like iron filings.

But next time we’ll hang the expense, pay extra and get the full colour version.


The North Baths and South Head, Wick

By the way, I mentioned last week that my eyes had their annual service and MOT: apparently my dry eye condition hasn’t improved, and so now I have to spend 10 minutes every night with my head over a bowl full of boiling water, draped in a towel to catch the steam (think Lawrence of Arabia with a bad cold).

WK140302a2It’s a very peculiar sensation; the steam prickles my face as though it was being pawed by baby Ewoks, and it’s quite unnerving not being able to see anything under the towel. (I mean, it’s not like I seriously expect a bunch of clowns to burst in through the door behind me armed with custard pies or anything, but still…) On the other hand, it’s doing wonders for my complexion, and my face no longer looks like something a bush ranger would kill and skin and wear to keep his trousers up.


Weathervane, John o’Groats Hotel

On the gansey, I’m freewheelin’ down the sleeve like I was Bob Dylan and it was 1963 all over again. One advantage to plain knitting is that I can do it and watch tv at the same time; if I tried doing that with a pattern I’d end up with something that looked like the Book of Job in Braille. It’s always great when you start to pick up speed down a sleeve—and, of course, when you start the other sleeve, it feels like you’ve stepped on a rake.

And it’s March! Practically spring! I no longer need a torch to find my pyjamas in the morning. The cats next door have started hanging around the drive, giving me hello-big-boy looks, hoping for a scrag on the warm gravel. I even heard a lark today—though to be fair, it was more of a despairing scream than a song as the wind caught it on top of its rise and catapulted it in the direction of the North Pole. Next thing you know I’ll be ready to cut away the bearskin I stitched myself into for winter and maybe even think about having a bath…

6 comments to Wick 11: 24 February – 2 March

  • =Tamar

    Clouded over here, if we even had a chance. Oh well, I’ve seen it once. Have you ever considered working the complicated part of the sleeve, then putting it on hold and working the other one while you’re still into the rhythm of the pattern, and then doing the stockinette? It might avoid that stepped-on-a-rake feeling.

    The steam does good things for dry skin? I may have to try that.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar,

      Yes, every gansey I knit I think of doing the pattern band, then stopping and doing it on the other sleeve, then finishing both as you suggest. The trouble is, when i get there, it all just seems such a faff, so I knit a bit, and put it off, and then before i know it it’s too late really and I might as well finish the one I started.

      Plus, at least this way I don’t have to think about picking up the ****** stitches around the ****** armholes for at least another fortnight…

  • lee

    We still have a solid foot of snow, although we escaped the last blizzard by a couple dozen miles. Solid is the operative word too; it was once fluffy and light and lovely, but it melted and rained before the temps re-plummetted, and now it is just impenetrable.

    Although the tiny birds are starting to return, and giving the resident jays and squirrels an argument over the birdfeeders.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lee,

      I don’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved that all our precipitation this winter fell as water, not snow. On the one hand you have cold, discomfort, slippery pavements and the risk of imminent death from hypothermia, and on the other hand you have a snowball.

      The birds are frothing in the treetops like yeast right now, while the river is infested with assorted wildfowl squawking and cheeping and quacking. Suddenly it’s as if the volume knob of the world has been turned up, in a Spinal Tap kinda way, to eleven…

  • Jane

    Impressive progress on the gansey, such lovely blue colours. Here, water is still draining away everywhere, sometimes I wonder where it all goes, but best not to dwell. I use Eye Logic spray for dry eyes for my thin eye coatings as recommended by my nice optician. It is quite good especially once I got used to aiming at the closed eyes otherwise fall out!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      Apparently me dry eye condition is called blepharitis, and the optician suggested using “traditional” remedies before going for eye drops. So I steam them for 10 minutes and then wipe the eyelids with a cotton bud, or if my aim is bad, poke myself in the eye and hop around the bathroom cursing all opticians until I stop seeing stars. It’s not so bad – last year I got through a whole volume of Proust as an audiobook in 10-minute doses, and I’m currently listening to an Iain Banks SF yarn. And it’s rather soothing, just me and a blanket and a bowl of steam. Though I do emerge looking like a ready-to-eat lobster!

      Stay dry,

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