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Wick 7: 27 January – 2 February

WK140202a1 And all of a sudden it’s February, and we’re one-twelfth of the way through 2014, the days are getting longer and next Christmas no longer seems quite so far away.

It’s been a wet and windy, dreary winter, with January hanging on a week too long. Even the seagulls down by the harbour have stopped hassling passers-by for scraps, but just wearily stick out a webbed foot at you as you go by like a Edinburgh beggar with a tin cup, and looking for smaller birds to mug.

And then, on Saturday, the sun came out, which was something of a shock—for a minute I thought the bedroom was on fire. So we went up to John O’Groats.

As we drove up the coast road we went through a phenomenon new to me. It looked like a great cloud of smoke, or low cloud, but turned out to be sea spray blown in by the strong east wind coming in off the ocean, so that for a time the air and water seemed equally filled with salt. If only I’d had some chips and vinegar.

WK140202a2It was high tide at John O’Groats, and the waves were churned to a heavy swell, so that there was a good chance that in future the place might end up twinned with Atlantis. The waves poured over the harbour walls and drenched the place so that the women who runs the “most northerly gift shop in the UK” at times seemed to be peering through the window of a submersible in a car wash.

When we got back we took a detour to see what Wick Bay looked like. The police had closed off the North Shore road to traffic—what with it being underwater and all—so we drove up onto cliffs on the south. Well, it was humbling. Wave after wave was rolling in, blown by the wind, filling the width of the bay, crashing over the harbour walls and drenching the lighthouse. The scale looked all wrong, like a model, tiny structures dwarfed by towering breakers.

Down in the inner harbour there are a series of vents that run along the quayside. Now they were putting on their own show, as the waves smashed into the quay, disappeared underneath it and then shot out of the vents like a poor man’s version of the Las Vegas hotel fountains. It was as if a dozen whales had been lured under the quay and then trained to spout in turn, a new sport of synchronised spouting.

I’m still hanging in there with the gansey, doing about 45 minutes each night, or three rows. Which shows how things can mount up even if you’re not in the mood, as I’m just about to divide for the neck. If I’m lucky, and not washed away (“all that we found was this circular needle”) I should finish the front this week, and maybe even join a shoulder or two.

And it’s February. The sun has shone once—it may even do so again. I’ve been sending out a dove every week since winter began. Last night it returned with an olive leaf in its beak. (Today it hasn’t come back—I think the gulls have got him…)

16 comments to Wick 7: 27 January – 2 February

  • Helen Koehler

    Hi Gordon and Margaret, Your weather sounds exciting. We have had our weekly Wednesday snow storm this winter and have not yet gone under water. On the knitting front, I have actually knitted a garment that fits someone, if not me. I also made a small knitted sheep for my granddaughter.

    Stay dry, Helen

    • Judit M./ Finland

      Hi Helen,
      Please send pictures of your garment and the little sheep to Gordon. He or better Margaret will add them to Reader´s Gallery so that we all can admire your work.
      Best regards!

    • Gordon

      Hi Helen, knitting a sheep seems quiet appropriate to me, in a circle-of-life kind of way. I have an image of a sheep in a field, with someone sitting beside it on a stool, knitting the yarn as it comes off its fleece. Of course, i may have got that wrong…

      Good luck with the snow!

  • Marilyn

    Hello Gordon and Margaret, I left the house 4 times in January and piled on woolens at home. When I visited Ireland, we stopped at Spanish Point. There had been a hurricane near Cuba the week before and the breakers went the entire distance from point to point. Sea foam splatted my glasses (because we had to get out in it, even though the others stayed safely in their cars) and indeed, it was very salty. That’s the only direct reference I have for these kind of waves (Minnesota being thousands of miles from the oceans)- I think I’d trade it for minus 20 F.
    Good knitting! Carry on, really what else can you do.

    • Gordon

      Hi Marilyn,

      It’s quite exhilarating standing beside the sea, blasted by the wind, watching these great waves barrelling in and exploding against the shore like a reenactment of a World War One artillery barrage. It’s not so much fun when you’re tucked up in bed and you feel the house shake under you like one of the Three Little Piggies under frontal attack from the Big Bad Wolf!

      But yes, at least it’s mild here. And it’ll soon be spring….

      Stay warm,

  • Lynne

    What wonderful photos of the fury of your surf, I wish it were video with sound!
    Yes, and thank goodness it’s February and we still have daylight at 5pm.
    Do you think Margaret will video a bit of your shoulder strap and picking up stitches when you get to that point?

    • Gordon

      Good afternoon, Lynne, I do have a video i took with my phone. The wind blowing so hard however makes it sound as through someone is eating kettle chips with a microphone in their mouth, so I decided it didn’t really help!

      What is this daylight at 5pm you speak of…?

      Hadn’t thought of videoing the shoulder strap. I’d better practice first, or it’ll end up as the world’s first knitting blooper reel.


  • Nigel

    Go4it G. Shoulder staps and all

  • Nigel

    *straps* or maybe staples 😉

    • Gordon

      Hi Nigel. I shall, as we say, take it under advisement – though I’d turn off the video or else viewers might learn some interesting and colourful new words!

  • =Tamar

    It wouldn’t be the first blooper reel for knitters – of knitters? – I’ve seen some on Youtube that could have done with the help of an editor.

    I hope your house isn’t so close to the harbor that it is at risk of being flooded, as (I think it was) Liz Lovick’s old house was.

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar,

      I think it would more closely resemble a Tarantino movie, only with more blood.

      Thank you for your concern—our house is safely upriver, on higher ground, well away from the harbour. Most of Wick would have to be underwater before we got flooded! But as sea and river levels are at a 100-year high right now, maybe i shouldn’t take anything for granted…


  • Laura

    Bravo! I certainly forget that 3 rounds a night before bed perhaps of after supply, will keep things going. I strive to keep up with you on my first gansey. Thank you for your lovely posts

    • Gordon

      Hi Laura,

      A full round of my knitting, at my crepuscular pace, takes me half an hour. Once I’ve divided front and back a row takes me a quarter of an hour, as you’d expect. So I can usually make time for 30 or 45 minutes most nights, and it’s amazing how quickly it all builds up—well, as you can see from the weekly blog. But sometimes if I’m not in the mood it’s ghastly getting started—like having to go and muck out cows on a freezing wet December morning!

      Best of luck with your own,

  • Julie

    Hi Gordon,
    I have just read your last 3 blogs and just wanted to say how much I enjoy the surreal strolls down tangent boulevard. I live a few miles south of Corby and thoroughly enjoyed the Hogmanay / interrogation drama but sniggered out loud at the thought of dove-napping gulls! I feel this May be an unfortunate reflection on my sense of humour. The weather is much tamer here, more Winnie the Pooh and the blustery day but even so it was nice to see some sunshine this afternoon.
    Best wishes,

    • Gordon

      G’day Julie,

      Nice to hear from you! And I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. I think my philosophy can best be summed up in the old phrase, Life is too important to be taken seriously. Or at least the unimportant bits, anyway!

      Hope you stay dry. Never have i been more grateful about moving away from the Somerset levels in 2009 than I am now…


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