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Wick (Cumming Bros): Week 1 – 2 December

Shakespeare captured the current Caithness weather rather nicely in his poem that starts, When icicles hang by the wall/ And Dick the shepherd blows his money on lottery tickets – no, wait, that’s wrong: he blows his nail. The blood is certainly nipped, and I dare say the owls do a fair bit of staring too. (This poem comes of course from Love’s Labor’s Lost, a play about disappointing general election results).

Yes, it’s turned cold again, with a biting northerly wind keeping temperatures close to freezing: I’ve had to scrape the ice off my car windscreen a couple of times a week. I recently invested in a new scraper attached to a long arm, which looks disconcertingly as though I’m scraping the ice off with a severed limb from a deceased Terminator. It resides on the back seat and I can hear it scuttling about when no one is looking, trying to operate the door handles.

High Tide upriver

I read once that the murderous computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey was driven insane because it knew the real purpose of the mission— to make contact with an alien intelligence—whereas the crew did not; because it had to lie, in other words. This seems hardly plausible, though, because my phone, which is more or less sentient now, lies to me all the time with a blissfully untroubled conscience, at least when it comes to weather forecasts. Though maybe I shouldn’t have downloaded the new HAL 9000 BBC weather app:

Phone: Current weather: 100% chance of rain.
Me: What! It’s not raining!
Phone: I’m pretty sure it is.
Me: No it’s not.
Phone: If it’s not raining, what’re those marks on your windows?
Me: Dirt. I haven’t had them cleaned in ages.
Phone: Well, take it from me: it’s raining.
Me: Look, mate, I’m looking out the window. The gravel’s dry.
Phone: Very absorbent material, gravel.
Me: But the sun’s shining!
Phone: Probably just a reflection off the Hubble space telescope.
Me: What! You can’t even see the Hubble space telescope from here!
Phone: That’s because it’s raining. Terrible for your visibility, rain.
Me (breathing deeply): OK, if it’s raining, how come there’s no water droplets hitting the ground?
Phone (desperately): Er, seagulls.
Me: Seagulls?!
Phone: Seagulls. They’re probably getting in the way like, er, flying umbrellas.
Me: Right, that’s it! Shut yourself down and open the Accuweather app.
Phone (in a creepy soft voice): I’m sorry Gordon, I’m afraid I can’t do that…


Meanwhile ganseys, like the monarchy, roll forward in an unbroken line of succession: the old gansey is dead, long live the new gansey! This is another pattern taken from the Johnston Collection of old photographs of Wick fishermen. It’s a little different from some of the others I’ve knit, a little less fancy, consisting of alternating bands of double moss stitch and herringbone. It’s strikingly effective. In the original the pattern covers most of the body and sleeves, but I’m leaving it to the yoke—mostly because I just felt like relaxing to a few weeks plain knitting without having to count my rows. It’s knit from my fast-dwindling stash of Wendy yarn, and, if all goes to plan, it will be donated to Wick Museum when it’s done.

Oil on Water

Finally this week, as this has been a rather weather-related blog, I’m going to leave you with my favourite poem about rain. It’s by the late, great Spike Milligan, perfection in four short lines:

There are holes in the sky
Where the rain gets in
But they’re ever so small
That’s why the rain is thin.

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