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Wick III – Fergus Ferguson: 29 May

3W160530-2 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”).

3W160530-3Like 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?

3W160530-1We 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.

3W160529-1Sarclet 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.

sleeve-revMeanwhile, 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!”

13 comments to Wick III – Fergus Ferguson: 29 May

  • lorraine

    Gordon- My favorite salty dog is Redbeard Rum from Blackadder.

    • Gordon

      “Ah! My lord, you have a woman’s set of 2.25mm double-pointed needles! I’ll wager them needles never had to cast off while reefing a topsail in a heavy sea in the Bermuda Triangle…”

  • Nancy

    Aaarg, Gordon:
    Now I’ve done it/stepped into the rabbit hole. I’ve ordered Wendy Guernsey x 15.
    And took way too long locating my dpn’s in the storage.
    I guess I’d better fire up the Audible Moby Dick. I haven’t listened to it yet because THAT book is way too much fun to read, but my reading hours are now numbered.
    My suspicion about why primroses don’t grow here (single digit humidity) have been confirmed, thank you. The only fog ever happens here is Pogonip (poe-goe-nip). Local lore sez that’s an old Indian word, but I favor something to do with long-gone Pogo comic strip. Lovely view, though, thanks.
    Yes, thank you for so much entertainment and thought.

    • Gordon

      Hi Nancy, you can’t go wrong with Wendy’s. I just ordered some for myself last week, for old times’ sake!

      I like listening to Moby Dick as an audiobook. You can’t skip the boring bits, and the humour is all the more unexpected when it comes.

      Interesting to hear about pogonip My theory is that it’s a sort of drug, which works on pogos the way catnip works on cats…

  • We read Moby Dick once for our family book club. Our English lit major daughter, who had chosen the book, gave us permission to skip all chapters that started with descriptions of whales or the ocean. Without that, I doubt my husband or older daughter would have finished.

    My current fiber white whale is to both spin the yarn for a gansey. In the meantime, I’m fishing for herring.

    • Gordon

      I think one of the great things about Moby Dick is, that you can read it as a whole and enjoy it, or skip the tedious lectures and still enjoy it without feeling you’re missing anything. For me, I tend to take it as a whole, because somehow it all adds up. But there are times when my heart sinks and we’re in for 30 pages on the classifications of whales! But I’ll forgive it anything for the beginning and the end, the batshit craziness and the wonderfully rich, incandescent prose.

      It’s a little-known fact that Melville’s first draft was about a quest for revenge by a fishing boat captain who’d been bitten on the finger by a herring, to be called “Speckled Jim”. But in the end he realised that having Ahab demand of passing traders, “Hast seen the White Herring?” wasn’t working, and switched to whales…

  • Jenny

    Thanks for the chart on the sleeves, Gordon. It’s lovely. What did you do for the welt? It looks like a flounce or a welt with ruffles?? I think it will be quite becoming on Margaret. She’ll be making a fashion statement! I like it.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jenny, you’re welcome. The welt was garter stitch at the top and bottom and then the same moss stitch as the classic Stithies/Henry Freeman of Whitby variety. We didn’t want anything too fancy to detract from the body!

  • Sharon in Surrey

    Damn & Blast!! I hated Moby Dick & refused to read another word by Melville!!! I was in love with Mark Twain instead. And Heinlein & Azimov. When I wasn’t out in Space, I was rafting down the Mississippi . . . I always wanted to raft down the Mississippi, sigh.
    No fog on the Wet Coast these days – we’ve been enjoying much warm, dry weather with a few good rainy days here & there. The Powers-that-Be have already put us on Water Alert #1 for the summer – use water wisely or else – status.
    I can’t wait to see this Gansey finished Gordon!!!!

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, well, it wouldn’t do for us all to like the same things or the world would be a very dull place.
      The Mississippi was exotic and a bit foreign to me, growing up in England (though I’ll always love Mark Twain for his great quip about Wagner, a hero of mine, that “I’m told his music is better than it sounds”). But in my childhood imagination rowing up the Thames figured large: with Ratty and Mole and Toad; or with J and George and Harris (to say nothing about the dog)…
      But a part of me signed onto the Pequod too, to help its monomaniac captain seek revenge against the White Whale and God, in a damned ship with St Elmo’s Fire flaming from the mastheads, with a harpoon tempered in the blood of three pagan harpooners… “I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest; my oath had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more did I hammer and clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul…”

  • Jane

    Wow, gosh, I must lead a quiet life. I am more jam and chutney, need it , make it, need garment, knit garment!

    Meanwhile, magnificent work, Gordon, winning post now in sight. Just superb. I look forward to the finishing touches! Take care!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, well, of course, you can get some nasty sugar-scalds with jam making, so it’s not like these are altogether safe occupations. Though I must admit it would have been a bit anticlimactic if the explanation for Ahab’s lightning scar was that he’d forgotten to put the lid on while boiling up a particularly fine batch of rhubarb jam and got spattered!

      Mmmm, chutney…

  • Lois

    Did somebody say chutney? I’m making up a batch of rhubarb chutney tomorrow. Courtesy of a friend with a garden.

    I’ve given up on having my own rhubarb patch, the first time it got “accidently” murdered by a back hoe digging behind the house. And the second time my husband ran over it with the tractor.

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