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Wick 3: 16 – 22 December

WK131222aSo here it is, as the poet said, merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun. (Disclaimer: your experience may differ.) I’m on holiday now till the feast of the Epiphany and I feel a bit like a prisoner released after decades in confinement: all this free time, and I’m not sure how to fill it. (Still, it’s nice not having to slop out anymore.)

I don’t know when Christmas really starts for you: for me it always used to be when the BBC broadcasts the service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge at 3pm on Christmas Eve. (Although, if I’m honest, the arrangements of the carols are so etiolated, so refined and tasteful, they might as well be served on a china plate with cucumber sandwiches.)


The festive Wick-John o’Groats Airport runway lights

But lately we’ve adopted a much more festive and jolly tradition to kick-start Christmas, which of course means watching The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Muppet Christmas Carol on dvd (and singing along with the songs “there’s only one more sleep till Ch-r-i-i-st-mas”).

I was going to regale you with a lengthy review of the year, but what with the whole memory loss thing the past is not so much another country as an alternate universe requiring a whole new type of physics to access. So instead I’ll just raise a glass and ask you to join me in a toast to the coming year.


The flight arrives from Edinburgh – perhaps with Santa?

There’s an old Peanuts cartoon which has Lucy flinging the bedclothes off Linus’s bed and crying, “Time to flinch from another day!”. Well, that’s how I usually feel about years. But not this time. I feel—how shall I describe it? Cautious optimism? Well, let’s not get carried away. Less dread? Hmm, I don’t know, a toast to a “less dreadful” year sounds more than a little defeatist.

Never mind—here’s to 2014 anyway. May your yarn be free of knots and never tangle, and may your circular needles never snap spilling dozens of stitches into the empty air like parachutists jumping out of a plane over occupied France (you listening up there, knitting gods?).

Gansey Nation is taking a break over the festive season, and will return on 13 January 2014. So till then have a happy Christmas, a great New Year, and we’ll see you on the other side…

31 comments to Wick 3: 16 – 22 December

  • Pat S

    I still follow my Mum’s tradition of baking mince pies whilst singing along to the 9 Lessons & Carols. She was as much an atheist as I am but we both loved the music.

  • Helen Koehler

    When I worked at the Buttery, the Oceanographic Institute’s lunchroom, we used to have the radio on Christmas Eve and the 9 Lessons and Carols would be broadcast. That would ease the pain of having to work near a holiday. I appreciate the knitting wishes although my skills are creeping along slowly.
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and Margaret.

  • lee

    It is not snowing here but bucketing rain and absurdly warm. Also are there really cranberry bogs like that in Wick, or did a piece of Cape Cod slither into the photographic queue while your back was turned?

    Christmas starts for us when Al’s (Solstice) birthday is done, at which point we drag the box upstairs and dig out six Sandy Clauses and one Grinch. the music for me is Britten’s Ceremony of carols, having sung it at Goucher, and then memorized a slightly glitchy tape (taped from the radio – there’s a thing of the past for you!) of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (honestly the way you people name things!). Nothing else has ever come close, and I can’t find a proper recording of ASMF, and everyone else has all the wrong tempos – enough to make me feel deeply grumpy.

    I like your choices of holiday films and would only add Scrooged as watching Bill Murray get beaten up by Carol Kane is deeply pleasing. And, of course, the animated Grinch. We eschew Charlie Brown because a) god stuff and b) what a collection of psychotic children?! They are unspeakable unkind to each other.

    The New Year is reserved for all the Marx Brothers movies we can locate, with increasing bits of them skipped over (musical interludes, thank you) until all that remains is a series of punchlines and slapstick. It starts the year well, high on giggling and endorphins.

    I hope your next year carries on better than “less dreadful” although I completely understand from whence you are coming.

  • Suzanne Muir

    As usual, I shall partake of the sunrise edition of Nine Lessons and Carols…in my car (better stereo), overlooking the canyon and the islands. Will be thinking of you and Margaret, and wishing you a very happy Christmas. A proper letter will follow, as soon as I get the last Christmas card in the mail. (yeah, I’m a little behind…what else is new?)

    • Veronica

      Don’t worry, Suzanne. You are not alone. It’s Christmas and we still have a few waiting to be mailed.

      • Suzanne Muir

        😀 I won’t. It is a ritual that has lost its importance between increased frequency of contact via e-mail and social media, and rising postage rates. I hope your holiday is happy.

  • =Tamar

    My preferred Christmas movie is Sir Terry Pratchett’s “Hogfather”. Happy Christmas to all!

  • Jane

    Again, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. My resolution for 2014 is not to let the ball of yarn fall and roll into the dusty corner behind the settee where the cat goes to hide. So bad.

  • Lynne

    O.k. . . so how did you get the snow falling on the website?? Love it – as long as it stays off the highways! Merry Christmas to you and yours and have a wonderful time off. At the rate you are going, the navy gansey will be finished at mid-January. Cheers.

  • Carolyn

    Love the snowy neutrinos going through the post; very atmospheric.

    The absence of snow here (Australia) not a problem, though we are sadly now without the wonderful Carols from Kings.

    Thank you for a year of wonderful posts, and all the best for your festivities.

  • Marilyn

    Dear Gordon, Thank you for writing a unique and wonderful blog. I comment here more than anywhere else and appreciate the responses. I love to hand you a straight line and see what fun you have with it. Please have a renewing and refreshing holiday- all the best to you and Margaret- Knit On!

  • Gail Donkin

    We are in the land of snow – Wisconsin – where it snows a little some days, and lots other days, where having a sled run in the back yard is a given, and where the roads are always cleared, because they know how to do snow. Alas, it was 0 this morning, and going to a high of 10 today, with more snow coming. Dogs are happy to play in the snow (Annie has to wear boots), and new puppy Fergus, 4-month old Newfie, just lies down and goes to sleep, in the snow.
    Love your snow; too clever by half!

    Love and best wishes over the holiday season!

    • Margaret Reid

      To Lynne, Carolyn & Gail – Alas, I am not that clever. It’s a ‘plugin’, a little bit of software. Just download it, turn it on, and Bob’s your uncle.

    • Veronica

      Wishing you a holiday break filled with a minimal amount of gail force winds, flooding and power outages. Wishing everyone a prosperous 2014 filled with friendship, laughter and smooth knitting.

  • Gordon

    Hello all—thanks for the Christmas wishes. Just listened to the Nine Lessons and Carols (or some of it, seeing as the wind is currently so strong it was like trying to hear the radio over the jets of a 747 revving its engines across the road), and it is therefore now Officially Christmas!

    As the Pirate Santa might say, Yo Ho Ho! (And a bottle of Scotch…)

    • Suzanne Muir

      In stark contrast to your northern gales, my setting for the Nine Lessons and Carols was dead calm, and rapidly warming to an expected high of 77. It really is extraordinary to be able to join with so many in a ritual that unites us around the globe, and reminds us of those we have lost over the years. Being able to see the full programme on my laptop was the icing on the cake! (I don’t know how long that has been available; I missed the last two broadcasts: it wasn’t carried by NPR in the wilds).
      By the time the organ ripped into the first notes of the Bach recessional (which APM seems to think that we do not need to hear: there endeth the programme), all the wonderfully textural tree tops of Santa Barbara below the ridge on which I had parked to attend the service were aglow in the soft light of morning. It was a wonderful way to start the day. A very Merry Christmas to us all!
      P.S. Why is Australia dissing the King’s College broadcast?

      • Gordon

        Hi Suzanne,

        I was thinking of everyone else listening as well this afternoon, like a virtual extended Christmas family gathering.

        I read that they don’t tell whichever boy treble it is who’s going to start it off each year with “Once in Royal David’s City” until just before they go in – so that the poor kid doesn’t spend the night before all on edge at having to perform in front of such an audience. All the boys practice it so as to be ready.

        I’ve probably mentioned this before but I was taught music by Stephen Cleobury, the current Director of Music of King’s College, when he spent a few years as a schoolteacher in Northampton in the 1970s. He was a bloody awful teacher, but I guess he’s made up for it since!

        Enjoy your high of 77. If you want to feel lucky, have a look at the BBC weather and see what we’re having to put up with just now…!

        Happy Christmas, will be in touch next year,

  • Sue

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and may none of you ever drop another stitch! Just wrapped the last of the handknitted socks (10 pairs – a pair for everybody in the family!) and really looking forward to getting back to doing something meaty that I can really get my needles stuck into. Except I rashly promised to knit kilt hose for two very good friends who have helped me a great deal this year. So the Hebridean Gansey will have to wait it until after I have discharged my obligations to them. So I can’t put the stockings away just yet.

  • Sue

    Oops! That should have read sock pins! Drat predicative text on an iPad 🙁

  • Dave

    Merry Christmas to you both. I caught bits of the nine lessons but we are busy entertaining. Never mind it always sounds more atmospheric with a glass or two of Judith’s mulled wine.

    Christmas is a bit flat this year as Judith lost her dad the week before last. Very sad but at 92 we can’t complain too much.

    If you are agreeable, I am threatening to use up some of my overdue holiday in a long weekend visit to Wick in the new year. Please let me know how it suits.


  • Cathy

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you both and here’s hoping your festive season is free of 80mph winds, power cuts and floods.
    Thank you for writing such a marvellous blog. Looking forward to seeing what tangled skeins of wit 2014 has in store.

  • =Tamar

    Happy Solstice to all and to all a healthy and prosperous New Year!

  • Sarah

    Happy Boxing Day! (We in the US don’t really celebrate it, but I like it. It staves off that “Christmas is over” feeling.)

    I’m coming down the home stretch on my first gansey. It’s just less than half the remaining sleeve and a wash and blocking. I have two or three gansey books and all were consulted, but I have to say that when I had a question it was here that was the most helpful. Thanks!

    And now that I’m at the end of more than a year of knitting (there were other projects; I’m not THAT slow), I’m thinking, “Gee, that wasn’t so bad; time to make one for me!” I think it’ll be a light mossy heathered green with a simple knit and purl pattern. I like those the best. 🙂

    I haven’t been here a whole lot in the past few months. I was having gansey-guilt from not working on the sweater. I think I shall be more regular now. 🙂

  • Judit M./ Finland

    Hi Everybody,
    Many greetings form Finland-half of the country is covered by snow and the half I live in is black, ski lifts are closed, golf courses are opened again! Santa visited the children not with sledge but with bike! I wish I would be in Wisconsin “in the land of snow”.
    Happy new year and happy knitting to all of you! Gordon and admin.Margaret, thanks for this year.

  • Laura

    Seasons Greetings Margaret and Gordon!

    We are transitting the Panama Canal this holiday season. Yes, I brought my knitting with me. Falmouth Navy, pattern from Frangipani, my first gansey. No one can guess what I am knitting or I suppose why for that matter.

    All the best in 2014


  • Gordon

    Dear Pat, Helen, Lee, Suzanne, Veronica, Tamar, Jane, Lynne, Carolyn, Marilyn, Gail, Sue, Cathy, Sarah, Judit and Laura, thanks for the messages, and to you and everyone who’s read or posted on Gansey nation this year, compliments of the season!

    I finally shook off my cold on Christmas Eve, went for a celebratory walk on Christmas Day, got caught in a stormy shower, got very cold and very wet, and now have another cold. Thanks be to God, as they say in the Nine Lessons and Carols.

    We’re off now to visit my parents in Northamptonshire for New Year, and as they don’t have internet access we’ll be offline for a few days. I’m sure we’ll cope. (Er… This cold turkey you read about—is there a vegetarian equivalent?)

    Happy New Year All,

  • Ruth

    Al the best for the new year, hope you have a good one.

  • Debra Kuron

    Hailing from the United States, the midwestern states are experiencing an “Artic Vortex”, a term I’ve never heard before. What it meant to me however, is negative temperatures and wind chills that can freeze the skin in mere minutes. I worried for my doxies as they are so low to the ground. Businesses and schools have been canceled and I finally got our of my home after 3 days. But the time I spent with my husband during those 3 days was lovely.

    It’s been awhile since I visited your site. I forgot how much I enjoy your wit. The knitting is really good too. With Christmas knitting done, it’s time I get serious about knitting a gansey for my husband! As always, you keep my inspired to just order the yarn already.

    I hope the New Year treats you well and Happy Knitting.

    God Bless,

  • Sue

    Hi Gordon, that must have been one hell of a Hogmanay you have been having down in Northampton! Or perhaps Margaret is having problems with the website? I do hope that the reason for your continued absence from the Blog is not due to any health problems etc. I’m having withdrawal symptoms 🙂

  • Gordon

    Hello all,

    Just to let you know that we’ll be posting our first blog of 2014 next Monday on 13 January, but in the meantime we’re taking a short break to recharge the batteries, and, well, catch up on our sleep.

    Thanks again for all the kind words and good wishes—it’s much appreciated.

    All the best,

  • Sue

    So one hell of a Hogmanay then? 😉

    Can’t wait for an update on progress but guess I will have to eh?

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