As I look out my window fog is blowing in like cannon smoke, obliterating distance and mercifully blocking the view of Tescos. It’s the sea fret, or haar—a word it’s almost impossible to say aloud without sounding like Ahab on the Pequod, or the Sea Captain from the Simpsons, or some other salty dog (“What’s that dank, chilly mist that rolls in from the sea, Captain Silver?” “Haar, Jim lad”).
Like the balancing mechanism of a clock, this is Caithness’s way of ensuring we don’t all get sunstroke: any time the sun shines for more about 20 minutes, in rolls the haar. Sometimes living up here is the nearest thing to a nuclear winter outside a Stephen King novel—I was going to say, without the cannibalism; but as I don’t go down the meat aisle in Tescos all that often, who knows?
We drove down to look at Sarclet, an abandoned harbour a few miles south of Wick, in the fog. Usually I stand on the cliffs and gaze longingly out to sea as if I was modelling an exotic aftershave, Guano Pour Homme. But the haar was swirling in and so we watched the seabirds instead, wheeling around the cove from their nests below us, appearing out of the mist and disappearing again as though Caithness had evolved a new species of gull, one with its own cloaking device.
Sarclet is a wonderfully atmospheric place, the past almost close enough to touch. The buildings have fallen into ruin but the harbour, known as The Haven, endures. Shards of splintered rock rising from the ocean, churning white foam at the base; nesting gulls, a cliff face dappled with primroses and, if you’re lucky, an occasional passing seal. It’s a haven in more senses than one.
Meanwhile, in gansey news, I’ve finished the first sleeve, and am well embarked on the second. Maybe I’ll finish it this week, if I put in the hard yards, maybe not. Here’s a chart of the sleeve pattern again, a slight simplification from the original, but close enough for jazz.
Incidentally, thinking of Captain Ahab, I wonder if anyone has ever tried turning Moby-Dick into a Christmas pantomime? It’s just that I’ve been reading the book recently and can’t get this image of the ending out of my mind: Ahab calls to the audience, “Hast seen the White Whale?” and the audience cries back, “It’s behind you!”