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Wick 13: 10 – 16 March

WK140316a Let’s be clear: I don’t like Inverness and Inverness doesn’t like me.

I had to go there for a meeting last week, a 200-mile round trip along the Caithness and Sutherland coast and back, crossing a couple of firths on bridges that look as though they’re propped up on giant cotton buds and passing some of the finest supermarkets the Black Isle can offer.

The weather was stunning, clear blue skies and nary a breath of wind, spring flirting like a drunken girl giggling and flashing her skirts. (All deceit, of course. What a change a few days make! Today it’s grey and rainy and the wind’s so strong I feel seasick looking at the waves in my toilet bowl.)

WK140316bI don’t know Inverness very well; I’ve memorised the route to the record office, but that’s all. The rest of the town always surrounds me, uncharted and brooding and sinister, like the African jungle in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Well, as I was heading for home, disaster struck. All it took was one yellow sign bearing the fatal words “road closed – diversion” and the next thing I knew I was on an unfamiliar road heading in the wrong direction, towards Loch Ness.

Of course I did what any sensible person in my position would do: I swore quite a bit, before digging out the satellite navigation system and trying to attach it one-handed to the windscreen. A small piece of plastic snapped off the mount and disappeared into the air vent where it began to make a rattling noise like a penny in a washing machine.

WK140316cThen, the mount itself gave way and the sat-nav slowly peeled off the windscreen like an elderly octopus abandoning its lunch. It landed in my lap, where it seemed to develop a life of its own, nimbly evading all my attempts to rescue it, slippery as an electronic ferret and muttering to itself sarcastically as junction after junction slid by.


Same subject, different day

By the time the sat-nav, the car and I were under what might loosely be called control I was ten miles out of town and Edinburgh was becoming a distinct possibility. The sat-nav did get me back on track, to be fair; though I still maintain it sent me via that hospital car park as punishment.

Ganseys: the other sleeve is now well and truly underway, hurrah, all the stitches picked up, the gusset decreased and the pattern band finished: now all that remains is a couple weeks’ plain knitting and plain sailing and that will be that.

Finally, I know that many of our readers particularly admire Margaret’s photographs. Well, she’s signed up to a site that encourages you to submit a picture a day. They’re pretty impressive so if you’d like to see more of her work, check out her images at Blipfoto and you can see more of what a great place Caithness really is, in all its changing moods, day by day.

But do me a favour: just don’t ask for any pictures of Inverness…

12 comments to Wick 13: 10 – 16 March

  • =Tamar

    I was in Inverness a time or two. I agree with your description.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar,

      One of the intriguing things about Caithness is that the people here think nothing of doing the 100-mile trip to Inverness—the nearest big town—for something as trivial as a haircut! The journey is gorgeous, the town not so much. I suppose one day it’ll grow on me, like a fungal infection…

  • Marilyn

    “Electronic ferret muttering sarcastically….” Could be a market for those, Gordon.
    Hi, I’ve been away a little while, you are soldiering on, I see. What’s next for those hard working needles? I’ve had a gift of 650 yds of mohair lace weight in need of inspiration, checking Ravelry. Watching too much Sherlock, starting to say things like “Ta” and “Off out”.
    I feel the same way about St. Paul, MN. The streets are not on grid, not named alphabetically, you just have to know where you’re going.
    Right now, I know I’m going to bed… off out.

    • Gordon

      What ho, Marilyn,

      As Bob Dylan once said, the only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on… In fact, Tangled Up in Blue would be a good title for an autobiography by someone who knit a lot of navy-blue ganseys.

      It’s a little-known secret, but I have a finite number of ganseys I intend to knit. I think of it like the number of heartbeats that measure a lifespan. Every gansey completed is another closer to The End. My next project is going to be a Scottish gansey for me.

      Best of luck with the mohair, and the British patois. Just be grateful it’s Sherlock and not PG Wodehouse, or you’d be saying things like, “top hole”, or “cat’s pyjamas” or “frightfully bucked” and “spiffing”!


  • Marilyn

    Ta for the new (to me) words. Prior to Sherlock, I was already fond of “chuffed” and “gobsmacked”. Amazingly useful expressions.
    Yay for a jumper for you, it is about time the wonderfulness of yourself came up in queue.
    Til we meet again, happy trails to you. (American 50’s TV, The Lone Ranger)

  • Jane

    Great progress on the gansey, the museum will be delighted, of that I am sure. Pleased to see that the next one is for yourself. The blue skies of the north have finally percolated south, draining continues with a hint of drying, but no one has collected up the sandbags yet! Just off to look at Margaret’s photos!

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Hello Tamar,
    I was in Inverness 2 yrs ago, as a gansey-fest was there. I found that there are very nice parts of the towm and have sent photos to Gordon in order to get an other impression.
    Best regards,

  • Gordon

    I don’t know, you lot really are the eel’s eyebrows!

    Judit’s quite right, she sent me some most attractive pictures of Inverness, and very engaging they are, too.

    But I’m talking about the inner landscape of a ravaged soul, the skull beneath the skin of a black and decaying city, haunted by the demons of its own diseased imagination, a place of hell, death and despair…

    Plus it’s really hard to find a park at lunchtime.


  • Jane

    Just trying to be cheering, a little levity in a dark and murky world. It has been a long, dark and wet winter, and granite can be so grey.
    But I think take heart, at least we do not have a pump in the house to counter the rising groundwater like the people down the road!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      In “The Inimitable Jeeves” P.G. Wodehouse uses the phrase “the eel’s eyebrows” in this exchange between Bertie Wooster and Bingo Little:

      ‘This club,’ I said, ‘is the limit.’
      ‘It is the eel’s eyebrows,’ agreed young Bingo. ‘I believe that old boy over by the window has been dead three days, but I don’t like to mention it to anyone.’

      Two of my other favourite Wodehouse quotes are:

      “It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.”

      and “I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”

      Here’s to a bit of colour, and may your cellars stay dry!

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