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Wick II: 1 March


The Back

Welcome back to another trip, not so much down memory lane as paragliding off the cliffs of senility; memory off-roading, if you will.

Riffling through the rolodex of memory we find Lowestoft, where I had my first job as an archivist. Lowestoft is an east coast fishing port fallen on hard times, and even when we lived there it was broadly shabby-genteel, only without the genteel part. But I loved it, much as I love Wick, for the gansey-wearing ghosts; and for the days when I would walk to work along the beach and see the sunrise far beyond the horizon and the boats dwarfed to insignificance by the flat perspective.

Well, one day we learned that a collection of rate books dating back to c.1900 had been stored in a disused gaol in the town, and so we went to have a look.


The Front

The cells had been abandoned for over a decade and the dirty old volumes were piled up any old how—huge great things, the sort of books Bilbo Baggins wrote his laundry lists in. We only had enough room in the archive to take a sample, one book for every five years, so we had to open each one to find out the date.

Now, this was back in the 1980s, before health and safety had been invented, so we wore no gloves, no overalls and no facemasks. I picked up a volume that had been resting on the toilet, and made the mistake of glancing in the bowl—and you know those nature documentaries that take you down a mole-rat’s burrow? This was worse, and apparently hadn’t been cleaned since Gladstone learned to shave.


Diamond detail

Supporting the book with one hand, I opened it with the other. And as I did so I realised too late that edges were covered with a furry sort of mustard-coloured mould; and that strands of the mould were extending even as I pulled the covers open, stretching like elastic until they suddenly snapped and I was enveloped in a cloud of spores, like a sneeze in a talcum powder factory.

The dust settled in my hair, on my glasses, on my jumper. I tried to hold my breath but my timing was wrong and all at once I had to take a great gulp of air, sucking in millions of spores like a vacuum cleaner. I could taste it in my mouth, a sharp, bitter taste, like rancid sourdough yeast.

I had an urge to go and shave my tongue, but I can’t remember suffering any ill effects afterwards—though, come to think of it, I suspect the reason I get so many colds these days is because I used up all my antibodies in one go…


Camster Cairns

The front of the gansey is now complete, and I’ve started on the back. I won’t quite get the body finished next week, but almost; and I’m finally settling into the pattern so that I don’t have to look at the chart every row. I must admit, I’m getting curious to see how it turns out.

And finally this week, in parish notices Judit of the Busy Needles has completed a v-necked sleeveless jumper, or slipover, with the traditional tree motif up the centre and the rest of the body plain—a very elegant pattern. (I have to admit that, living in the far north of Scotland, a jumper without sleeves seems to me reckless to the point of madness and an invitation to hypothermia; but apparently they organise these things better in Finland…)

19 comments to Wick II: 1 March

  • =Tamar

    Sleeveless knitted tops are good for indoor work where long sleeves are likely to be wet/damaged/caught on things. They also make a good second layer under a sleeved top.

    Slipover sounds so easy; pullover (or struggle-into) is more accurate, for me, anyway.

  • Judit M. / Finland

    Hello Tamar,
    Many thanks for your comment on the reckless idea of a sleeveless pullover.
    Gordon, I compared the latitudes of Helsinki and Wick and the values are: Wick: 58 26`23“ N and Helsinki 60 10`15“ N. This means that we are a bit upper towards north. The reason for sleeveless pullovers in Finland is due to the fact that we here have treble glazed windows – no draft ! whatsoever- and a very well functioning heating in the whole space – means in every room – of a house or a flat. A gansey indoors may be the reason of hyperthermia in a finnish home :). Men may wear sleeveless pullovers like a vest under a jacket and many of them do.

  • As someone who is not able to tolerate heat, I love “vests” – and in Northern Michigan we do understand cold – we had a stretch of well over a month where the temp. has not been above freezing, with most nights going down below zero [and that’s Fahrenheit]. I keep the heating set at about 65, and I still can’t wear a woolen sweater. And no, this isn’t menopause, I’m way older than that!

  • Peter In Alice Springs

    Really lovely & simple vest, Judit.

    We have the opposite – the leakiest houses you can get here in Australia. Mostly, because we want the heat OUT of the house. Therefore, our winter heating is poor, and it is interesting how our Northern Hemisphere visitors claim we have the coldest houses they have ever visited.

    My mother, being English, believed in fresh air, so in the colder parts of Australia we would have the doors & windows open. I remember her saying: I had to put the fire on during the day today – it only got to 8c. For her, this was extravagant.

    I do wear vests when in an office building environment, but my office has to be the coldest room I have ever worked in, in winter, & so I wear sleeved garments all day. Regardless that the sky is a cloudless blue all day, every day.

  • Jane

    Wow, Gordon, wow, archivists do live dangerously. Wonderful. It reminds me somewhat of those priceless gardening moments, when, say, cleaning out the colourful stagnant ditch, and you just know there will be a terrible splash and it will go in your eyes or mouth. It is such a cruel inevitability!

    Very fine progress on the gansey, the pattern is so good looking. Judit’s work is lovely and immaculate. The sleeveless pullover is such a useful thing, a body warmer, to be overlaid on colder days.

    We have no snow here, it tries to snow but never settles. It remains very cold and very muddy, hence the ditching. Wildlife a tad hungry. The family have given me an early birthday present, the 1955 edition of Gladys Thompson’s wonderful guernsey book, no full knitting patterns but more stories and a few more photos. It is so true, knitting is a shared occupation! Stay warm!

  • Marilyn

    Hello Gordon, yellow spores, yum…(maybe not). What is it about archiving that you most enjoy?
    Minneapolis has the 45th parallel running through it, our windows are only double glazed. Solar heating of my south facing living room can bring the temp up to 80F. Vests are still welcome!

  • Annie

    Just received the new edition of Michael Pearson’s “Traditional Knitting,” a thrill for this almost-a-gansey knitter.

    Thanks, Gordon, you’re an inspiration, though I’m looking at about 2017 to finish mine.

  • Annie

    Forgot to add:

    Judith, your creations are a pleasure to see. The photo of the hat and the teddy bear wearing it has made my day – and all your creations are inspirations for me, too.

    Thanks for sharing, from a mandolin bluegrass plinker.

  • Joyce T

    I received my copy of Michael Pearson’s updated “Traditional Knitting: Aran, Fairisle & Fisher Ganseys.” It’s great! I did not have the original, so it is all new to me.

    Your Wick II is looking good.

  • Judit M./Finland

    Dear Peter and Annie,
    Many thanks for your kind comments.
    Annie, I think that every gansey knitter should have a Teddy, wearing a gansey hat in order to “make our days ” 🙂

  • Annie

    You are right, Judith, the plans are now to “make my days…” more complete, thanks.

    By coincidence, a teddy ‘rides shotgun’ with me on my long drives several days a week and she wears my practice gansey from “Knitting Ganeys.” She has a lace collar and uses her seat belt. Quite alert she is.


  • Gordon

    Hello all,
    In the same way that medieval theologians suggested that to name a thing was to invoke its presence, and that to speak the name of God was to bring God into your mind, and therefore actually present at that moment wherever you were, so, apparently, it is with me; all I have to do is make a wisecrack about my immune system and—hey presto—I have a cold. Which I did and I do—leaving me just enough energy to read the comments, but not to actually respond.
    Just wanted to say, I see the Michael Pearson book appears to be out in the US, but not in Europe yet. (The proper response to this is “harrumph!”)
    Oh, and I’ll reply to Marilyn’s query about what I enjoy most about archives, maybe in the next post.
    Thanks to everyone who’s posted, and read.

    • Judit M./Finland

      Get well soon !

      • james

        Hope you are better soon! Colds are an unpleasant thing–not sick enough to keep you down, but not feeling well enough to run at full steam!

        I was fortunate enough to receive the Michael Pearson book this week (originally ordered Nov., 2011!). It is stunning! I can’t remember being more excited about receiving a book. Every page is a joy. And it was so nice to see promotional blurbs on the back by you and my friend Meg Swansen. I can’t recommend this book enough!

  • Jane

    It says 24 April on Amazon for Michael Pearson’s new book, and I stumbled across extracts from it on Google Books which is where I read the back cover! In my search for Gladys. So fingers crossed and wait and see.

    Very sorry to hear about your cold, there’s still a lot of it about. Having just crawled out of the pit of the worst flu known to man, I now buy a big bag of oranges at least twice a week and have one for pudding every night, allowing the beneficial juice to linger on the poor old throat for as long as reasonably possible!

    Some good news, the cat, Baxter, a very naughty lad, has just redeemed himself by dealing with the huge mouse that has been gnawing every night! I knew he had it within him somewhere. Take care!

  • Jenny near Seattle

    Hello everyone. I’m new to Gordon’s ganseydom. I’m just off to collect my Michael Pearson’s book that arrived from Amazon. I can’t wait to design my next gansey. Yes,indeed, I live not too far from Amazon’s headquarters and all the other high tech companies that make this blog work. And Gordon, your gansey is progressing with your help quite handsomely (it couldn’t do it on its own).

  • Gordon

    Thanks for the good wishes—I think I’m allergic to vitamins. Am seriously contemplating reverting to a diet of raw, dripping red meat (that i catch in my teeth like Baxter the cat), on the grounds that it can’t be worse.

    Welcome to the blog, Jenny, and I hope you continue to find it of interest. Michael’s book is one of my comfort reads, like The Wind in the Willows, the reading equivalent of a bowl of tomato soup on a cold day. It’s a good read as well as a cornucopia of patterns!

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