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Wick IV – George McKay: 19 June

4W160620-1I read a headline in the Guardian newspaper online this week, which stated that the French finance minister had warned that if we vote to leave the EU it would result in the “Guernseyfication” of Britain.

Well, I thought, at last! Finally someone has recognised the importance of the gansey-knitting vote, and I read on eagerly to discover more about how circular knitting would replace sports in the national curriculum, with modern languages dropped in favour of teaching three needle bind-offs. Hitherto a staunch member of the Remain camp, but scarred as a child by the physical and mental torture of cross-country running and irregular verbs, I prepared to switch my vote.

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Black Guilemot in the harbour

Imagine my disappointment when I realised that all he meant was that Britain would be as important internationally as the island of Guernsey. Quel—as we students of modern languages say—dommage. No wonder people have lost faith in politics.

Oh, well. We rise on stepping-stones of our dead selves to higher things, as the poet said—in this case to a navy gansey with a rather fetching leaf pattern. I have finished the back and am about to embark on the front, which will (probably) be identical, so if you like you can go on holiday for the next fortnight and not feel you’ve missed anything important.

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Front garden foxgloves

This is one of those designs that when the light catches it just so the pattern stands out like medieval pillow mounds in a field illuminated by the low winter sun, and what seemed like random bumps in the landscape suddenly reveal themselves as a definite pattern, snapping into clarity like one of those 3D magic eye puzzles. (Of course it means when you wear it you have to keep shifting position through the day so the sun is always coming in over your left shoulder, but that’s a small price to pay, I feel.)

This week we received a lovely visit from Song and Chris of this parish. Unfortunately the weather more closely resembled someone spraying a fire hose into a wind tunnel than the kind of thing you might expect if you looked up “summer” in a dictionary. The wind and rain at John O’Groats came hard from the north—due north, so that any tall straight object (lampposts, a phone booth, and once, when he stopped moving, Chris himself) acquired a curious thin, straight “shadow” of dry ground stretching away southwards.

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Wool on the hoof

There’s a scene in the Lord of the Rings where the quest is defeated on the mountain of Caradhras by malign storms of snow and bitter winds—I wonder if Tolkien ever visited Caithness in June…? But if nothing else it reminded us why ganseys were invented; also, of course, why so many people have moved elsewhere.

In parish notices, I’ve been contacted by Tina of the Cornish Gansey Company. Their strapline is “heritage knits to make, wear and share”, and that’s exactly what they offer, traditional and contemporary patterns and kits, as well as designs by Liz Lovick and others. Please check out their website, and pass the word around: and we wish Tina every success.

Finally this week, Lois has sent me pictures of a very elegant lace beaded shawl she’s just completed, whose colours, style and pattern remind me of very expensive things I’ve seen draped over mannequins in Cape Cod boutiques. A doffing of the cap is due to Lois for such a splendid creation, and many congratulations.

12 comments to Wick IV – George McKay: 19 June

  • Jane

    Alas, no guernseys to be had, we all have to plod on until Thursday! And then we will plod on some more, or at least I will, in a dignified knitterly sort of way! You know, “plus ca change….”! I wish that youngsters still learnt to knit at school as the eight year old me did. Thoughtfulness and calmness would prevail!

    This latest gansey is super, again a lovely colour and a very satisfying pattern, very nice. A good change from Fergus Feruson too! Take care!

  • Jane

    PS I meant Ferguson, I worry about predictive text!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane, As a wise man once said, why can’t we all just get along? (Or, to quote my favourite slogan of the referendum, I don’t want to take my country back, I want to take it forward…)

      This gansey is a lovely pattern to knit, I don’t have to concentrate so hard, every row follows a simple routine (5 purl stitches, 5 knit, 5 purl, 5 knit…) As you say, the perfect antidote to Fergus’s!

  • Lois

    We are watching events unfold “across the pond” here in Canada. Methinks if all the politicians were given a mandatory knitting course, peace and harmony, along with common sense, would prevail worldwide.
    Keep calm and knit on!

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, the best reason to get politicians knitting, for me, apart from showing them the value of patient creativity, is that it would teach them humility—being a politician tends to persuade people that they know best. But, trust me, once you’ve dropped your first stitch, had the 5 rows below that one popping out, while about a dozen other stitches jump off the needle like lemmings on a drunken bet, and you daren’t breathe on it in case you make it worse—well, at that moment, sovereignty will be the last thing on your mind!

  • Gordon- I am firmly in the Gansey camp, because more knitting can only make the world a better place.

    I am on the front of a Filey for my son. This is the most exciting part, getting into the pattern.

    Stay dry.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lorraine, I think of gansey knitting a bit like planting trees. Every one you knit is one small step towards reforesting the world’s gansey heritage. (Of course, ganseys don’t produce oxygen like trees do, but having been in a very smoky pub I can testify that they perform a valuable role in soaking up CO2!)

      Reaching the pattern is always fun, watching it gradually emerge like a photographic print in the developing tray. Good luck!

  • =Tamar

    Guernsefication sounds like a great idea.

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