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Wick 9: 10 – 16 February

WK140216a I’ve reached the fun part of writing my novel—the revision. This is where I go through it line by line, making sure the plot adds up, and smoothing out some of the worst bits of prose and dialogue. (Most of my books go through at least half a dozen of these revisions.)

It’s much easier deleting a thousand words when you’ve got 75,000 to play with; far harder right at the start when you only have, say, 2,000. Now I sit back and nonchalantly send wave after wave of paragraphs to annihilation, like a general in the First World War overseeing a campaign; only yesterday I had an entire chapter shot for cowardice.

It’s quite addictive, and in fact I’ve been spending so much time on it I haven’t been doing a lot of knitting this week—just enough to finish the other shoulder of the gansey and make a start on the collar. There’s a lot more knitting in this kind of shoulder strap than the usual ridge and furrow kind, and the constant flipping of the ensemble at the end of each row takes time, as if a bagpiper had to invert his pipes every six bars or so.

WK140216aiYou can flip a coin for our weather at the moment: heads it’s horrid, tails it’s beautiful. Sunday we turned up tails, so we took a short trip down to the abandoned harbour of Latheronwheel, about 17 miles south of Wick.

The coast of Caithness is dotted with these derelict harbours, atmospheric ruins of a lost way of life, as remote now as the days before the internet. To get to Latheronwheel you turn off the main road, pass through the village (basically, a long street lined with houses) and go down a narrow road that drops away steeply to the sea.

WK140216bWell, it’s lovely. I had no idea, and I’ve driven past the turning dozens of times.

The bay is partially enclosed by sheer cliffs, two piers reaching out like a crab’s pincers defining the harbour itself. In the middle of the bay is one of those stacks of rock that seem to defy the laws of physics, jutting up like a broken tooth. There’s a deep burn and an old stone bridge and a trail for hikers through the woods, and even the remains of a lighthouse high up on the cliffs.

WK140216cLatheronwheel harbour was built in the 1840s, and it’s said that at one time some 50 boats fished out of it. Now it’s just day trippers like us. (While we were there two 4x4s packed with families and dogs turned up; on reflection we probably shouldn’t have laughed quite so much when one of the teens slipped on the slime of a slipway and slid knee-deep into the ocean like a slow-motion replay of a downhill skier at the Winter Olympics. It was pretty funny, though.)

It’s not as secluded and private as Whaligoe, but it is pretty amazing. Sometimes—just sometimes—I almost don’t mind that the nearest Starbucks is 100 miles away.

Almost. But not quite.

6 comments to Wick 9: 10 – 16 February

  • Cathy

    Stunning picture of the harbour! Sad that there’s no boats now. Although, on reflection, it’s kept its
    dignity – if it was on the south coast it’d be full of plastic playthings rattling their aluminium stays like a flock of rooks on an off-day.
    Re your instructions for shoulder straps: I understand what you’re saying about fewer stitches per inch than rows, and it works out on paper, but I can’t make it work out in practice. When I came to knit the neck gussets, which I realised were just a kind of short, V-shaped shoulder strap, I calculated how many stitches on the body to knit together but ended up short – in the end I just knitted across all the stitches without compensating which was O.K. ‘cos the gussets are only 1.5″ but the same thing happened picking up stitches for the sleeves. Even picking up every stitch I still had to increase on the next row, even though I had more rows on the sleeve hole than I needed for the sleeve.

    • Gordon

      Cathy, one of the advantages of living in Caithness is that there aren’t the tourists to justify the tattification of scenic beauty spots. (Unless you count John O’Groats, of course, but that probably hasn’t been beautiful for 100 years or so…)

      I’m not sure I understand the problem you’ve been having—if you want to drop me a line at gordon@ganseys.com we can put our finest minds on the case—I mean Margaret, of course—and see what we can suggest?

      Bon chance,

  • Lynne

    Wonderful pictures of the harbor and the old house – and, surprisingly, they enlarged much more when I clicked on them than photos before, did you or Margaret use a different camera? It’s also nicer to see the knitting in an enlarged version, and the navy color is deeper on the enlargement. (or, maybe it’s just my monitor)

    • Gordon

      Hi Lynne, Well, the website is gradually evolving into a sentient being with a will of its own, and Margaret and i have no control over what it does these days. One day it will strangle me with a mouse cord and write the blog in my place—whether anyone will notice will be a sort of reverse Turing test… So, yes, the pictures are clearer and larger but we don’t know why.

      The ruined building is probably a curing shed, or a cooperage, or place where salt was stored—or some such. It was a stunning day, but M’s photos capture it brilliantly.


  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, re: shot for cowardice- might it have been a case of undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder? Looking forward to reading the completed work. The knitting is looking great- might I suggest putting the body of the sweater in a large plastic bag? It will slip around more easily. I almost left off the modifier “of the sweater” in that last sentence. Body bag, indeed.
    On that note, happy knitting!

    • Gordon

      Hi Marilyn,

      No, there’s not a lot of trauma in my latest book, for a change. I decided to try to write something that could be serialised on Sunday night tv, a good old-fashioned historical detective yarn. So there’s no excuse for the cowards: this was desertion in the face of a gerund.

      Putting the jumper in a bag is an interesting idea—although knowing me I’d end up getting entangled in it and choking to death. And then the police would assume I’d suffocated myself in a some bizarre act of sexual gratification with a pullover (which really is not something I’d want on my headstone, thank you very much…)


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