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Wick (John Macleod), Week 4: 17 December

The far north of Scotland’s been battered by storms this week, winds gusting up to 70 mph while the rest of the country suffered a shedload of ice and snow. The strongest gales started Friday night, carried on all through Saturday and only ended on Sunday morning; the sort of thing that in bygone days would’ve had any Old Testament prophet worth his manna calling for national repentance in fasting and prayer, but which in our fallen times saw instead the Strictly Come Dancing finals on television. I’m not altogether sure this counts as progress.

After the Storm, Nybster

We awoke to an eerie silence on Sunday, as though we’d accidentally slept through the apocalypse and it was just us and the zombies left to fight it out in the frozen food aisle in Tesco’s. (Incidentally, what exactly do the vegetarian undead eat? Perhaps there’s an untapped zombie market for Quorn textured vegetable protein brains? Would a vegetarian vampire be satisfied with a fake-blood beetroot burger? Mind you, I used to wonder why people fighting vampires bothered with the whole complicated stake-through-the-heart-thing. Surely easier by far to just knock their front teeth out and then watch them wander around with a straw trying to get their prey to stand still…)

Waves in the Harbour, Wick

I don’t like the wind so strong for such a long time: all you can do is hunker down and wait for it to go away, hoping against hope that the crash you heard outside was just the wheelie bin falling over. After all, it’s one thing for King Lear to cry, “Blow winds, and crack your cheeks!” when he’s out camping on some blasted heath; but “Blow winds and tear down the trellis the clematis was climbing up so now we have to go out with another piece of string and tie it up again!” is really quite another matter.

Still, one good thing about knitting is you can do it even while you’re hunkering, and the gansey continues to grow. I’ve finished the lower body, the most structurally robust piece of knitting I’ve ever done—honestly, skyscrapers could be built like this—and I’m now embarked on the chevron just below the gussets.

Waves at Ackergill

Progress from here is a little uncertain, as we’re off on our travels this week, to the bright lights of Edinburgh and on to a family Christmas in Northampton. The yoke pattern is, well, if not actually complicated then requiring a certain degree of concentration, so I’m taking a backup project: a new gansey in Wendy yarn with a plain body, so lots of simple plain knitting, which I can do instead. How much of either gets done, if any, remains to be seen. Remember, there’s only eight more sleeps till Christmas (or, if I include nap time, about 24…).

As the poet said:

The wind is merciless,
The plum tree’s taking a beating;
Clouds scud past –
God’s in a hurry today.

14 comments to Wick (John Macleod), Week 4: 17 December

  • twinsetellen

    I see the color of your gansey in that last photo. Funny how looking at one makes me feel warm and looking at the other gives me a chill (as beautiful as it is).

  • =Tamar

    It’s well-known that vegetarian zombies eat grainnnnssssss….

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, ha, excellent. When I was growing up there used to be an advertising slogan for Homepride flour, “graded grains make finer flour” – see https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xENRSuIM_y8 – though it looks like something from the 1950s, not the 1970s! After your comment I shall now hear that voiceover in a zombie voice in my head…)

  • Lois

    “So blow ye winds high-ho
    A roving I will go ….”
    says Gordon

    Enjoy your holiday, and wishing you and all the gansey fans a prosperous and healthy New Year.

    • Gordon

      Thank you, Lois! The full verse goes:

      So blow you winds high ho my lads,
      A-roving I will go,
      I’ll load the car with Christmas gifts
      And unless I get stuck in the snow,
      It’s ho! me for Northampton, lads
      Where the boots and shoes do grow,
      I’ll watch the Muppet Christmas Carol
      And knit my Gansey-oh!
      (Chorus, repeat ad nauseam, etc.)

  • Jane

    What a super colour. Also I can see the lower knit and purl section opening out nicely with the pattern section, so impressive and a taste of past knitting too!

    Happy holidays to you and Margaret!

  • Gordon

    Thanks, Jane and yes, you can just see the lower body opening out under the purl rows for the chevrons. This is one pattern you won’t be able to judge till it’s finished, I think, sometime in 2025 the rate I’m going now…

  • Judit M/ Finland

    Dear Gordon,
    Many thanks for your letters of this year. Happy Christmas and healthy new year.
    Best regards to both of you !

  • Gordon

    Hello Judit, and a very happy Christmas and a grand new year to you too!

  • Sharon

    Hello again,

    Please tell me a little about the photo “After the Storm, Nybster.” I’m intrigued by the little stone house. Was it, or is it a storage shed, a fisherman’s cottage, a resting place for tea and warmth?

    Yours, Sharon

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon – by the way, not sure what happened to your other comment. But thank you for the kind words, they’re much appreciated.

      I believe the stone hut at Nybster would have been a storage shed, where the salt and staves for barrels would have been kept, and where they would have stored the fully packed barrels of herring ready to be shipped out by schooner when the season was on. But I bet they huddled in there on bad days for shelter too!

      Cheers, Gordon

      • Sharon

        Thank you Gordon, I was very curious. The stonework is probably traditional for that area, but it reminds me of a 12th century chapel on the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland called the Gallarus Oratory. It is known for its tight, weatherproof stonework. I hope global warming and rising seas do not pull the Nybster stone hut into the sea.

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