It was Margaret’s turn to have a birthday last week, so we packed up our troubles (that’s the great thing about psychological trauma, it’s portable) and went down to Inverness for the weekend: Inverness being our closest big town not in Scandinavia.
We went for a stroll round the botanical gardens, where we saw some of the strangest plants from across the globe. Strangest of all—and a little disturbing—was the cactus house, which seemed to have be hosting the advance guard for an alien invasion of earth. (Indeed, I set about explaining this to an attendant, but from her glassy-eyed stare as I developed my thesis over the course of an hour I can only suppose that they’d already gotten to her.)
Then we took a scenic drive all the way round Loch Ness. It’s some 23 miles long, not as big in terms of surface water as Loch Lomond but deeper, and—fun fact ahead—contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. It’s most famous of course for the elusive monster; despite keeping a close lookout, alas, we didn’t see any sign of it (in person, that is: not that I’m entirely convinced that the portraits we saw on numerous tea towels in Fort Augustus were actually drawn from life…)
Most of the tourist traffic goes down the main road along the north side of the loch, whereas the south road meanders into pine woods and the stunningly beautiful uplands and is far less busy. We stopped the car at one point to stand upon the pinnacle of creation, all the kingdoms of the world at our feet, so that if the devil had appeared to tempt us with lordship of them I shouldn’t have been altogether surprised (luckily he’s otherwise engaged just now meddling with US politics). It’s every bit as lovely as the Scottish Tourist Board would have you believe: as the poet Burns so memorably said, my heart’s in the Highlands… (Unfortunately it’s also suffering from fatty degeneration after all that tablet; but that’s a small price to pay, I feel.)
Wrenching our gaze from the choppy waters of the loch for a moment, we notice that I’ve almost finished the front of the gansey. All that remains to do to complete the body is to divide for the shoulders, knit and join them, and then do the collar. If I apply myself I should get that done this week.
Finally this week, parish notices: no less than two ganseys to share with you, each of them very impressive. First of all, Jenny has completed a version of Gladys Thompson’s Hebridean gansey: the body is I believe pretty much as Gladys describes, but Jenny’s been creative with the welt and sleeves—it’s a stunner. Secondly Julie’s designed her own jacket using gansey techniques but her own patterns, with a steeked zip front fastening. These two garments show I think the vitality of the gansey tradition: the one shows how much life there is still in traditional patterns, the other how versatile the gansey can be as a garment. Congratulations to both!