Sunday was a beautiful day, cold and crisp and clear, so I went for a walk up the river. There was a hazy sun reflecting on the water, high tide flooding the marshes which were crammed with wildfowl lazily sleeping off their Sunday dinners.
I’d stopped about half a mile up the path to take some pictures when a man came by walking his dog. “If you want some really good photos,” he said, with what seemed to me a rather questionable enthusiasm, “there’s a wounded deer further on. You can’t miss it! Great photo op!”
Well, I resumed my walk and soon encountered a couple with a pushchair. The man was carrying the deer in his arms: it was about the size and weight of a rolled-up duvet cast in lead, and when he was a few feet away he stopped and laid it down carefully in the grass, then stood panting to recover his breath. The woman was on her phone, trying to reach some organisation which might help. The deer had an open wound just behind the shoulder, wide and deep enough that you could see some of the internal workings, but clean and not bleeding.
The man explained that they’d found the deer—they run wild in the fields nearby—being worried by the other man’s dog, which wouldn’t leave it alone. It was well enough to stand, and was obviously eating all right, but was exhausted after fending off the dog. I looked at it: the poor thing sat there apparently quite unconcerned, until you noticed the quivering skin, the rapid breathing. The man said they hadn’t been able to leave it at the mercy of every loose dog that passed; they’d phoned a vet, but he’d declined to help on the grounds that they never bandage a wild animal.
The woman was now close enough for me to hear her conversation. “Yes,” she was saying. “On the north bank of the river, near the viewing platform. You know, there’s a couple of trees and—what? Riverside it’s called. By the river. Sorry? Oh, Wick.” There was a pause, then she said acidly, “Caithness. What? Yes, John O’Groats—near there.” She put her phone away and shook her head. “It was a central number. Someone in Glasgow.”
The man’s evident fatigue and the presence of the pushchair exerted considerable moral pressure, so I offered to help carry the wounded deer back to town. But the man would have none of it: “It’s minging,” he said—and indeed, I could smell the wild animal reek from several feet away. “You don’t need that all over you,” the woman agreed, gesturing ruefully at her stained jeans. “We were going to Tesco’s,” she sighed. “Not smelling like this we’re not!” She hefted the deer gently up in her arms and off they went.
This is a story without a punchline—I don’t know what happened afterwards. But I like to think that even now it’s lying in bed in deer hospital, flicking through the channels on the tv remote, and arguing with the nurses over the dinner menu (“What do you mean, roast beef or chicken? I’m a bleedin’ herbivore, me”). The wound on its back looked nasty but not serious; I’m choosing to believe this is a story with a happy ending—as opposed to the alternative… (Veal cutlet, anyone?)
Gansey Technical Notes:
I’m signed off work, and Margaret is still away—which I guess explains the rather startling progress.
The design is taken from Rae Compton and Henrietta Munro’s book on Caithness ganseys, They Lived By The Sea, and it’s one of the more common patterns in Wick Museum’s Johnston Collection photographs too. Rae Compton calls it “the Scottish Flag Pattern, sometimes known as the kilt pleat pattern”. In her examples each repeat is 7 stitches wide and 6 rows tall (the equivalent of 1 inch wide using 3mm needles).
First question: how big should I make my pattern repeats—how many should I have? I zoomed in on one of the examples in the Johnston photographs and counted 18 repeats across the yoke. That seemed like a good proportion to aim for here.
I’d already worked out that my yoke would have approximately 180 stitches, so if I wanted to have 18 repeats in my gansey the maths was relatively simple, even for me: each yoke is therefore 18 x 10 = 180; i.e., 18 panels of 10 stitches each, plus an extra 2 stitches for the fake seams, and another stitch each side of the yoke to serve as pick-up stitches for the armholes. All in all it’s 366 stitches in the round.
You can see at once why it’s known as a pleated pattern: it knits up full of texture. I feel that really complex patterns get lost in the dark hue of navy yarn, but it comes into its own for this sort of simple pattern that relies on light and shade and repetition to make its effect. And this is just the sort of simple pattern I love, though I may have to iron it to keep it flat.
Rae (I feel we know each other well enough to be on first name terms by now, don’t you?) describes this as a “perfect starter pattern”, and I know what she means. It’s simple to plan out and simple to knit—and so long as you don’t lose concentration (*cough*) or lose count (who me?) you can’t go wrong. It’s also one of those patterns which is as easy to knit on the reverse side as the front.