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Wick VI – Scottish Flag Weeks 1-2: 23 January

Guess what I’ve been doing…

Picture the scene: it’s 2.30am, and I’ve been jolted out of a restless sleep. I’ve heard a sound (but what?). I’m a light sleeper and a moth stropping its antennae is usually enough to wake me, but this is different. I lie staring in the darkness, listening to the beating of my heart. I am alone—Margaret is still 600 miles away.

There it is again. The ceiling creaks above my head, footsteps moving from left to right. There is someone in the attic. A burglar? But wouldn’t a burglar start at the bottom and work up? And he’d need a pretty long ladder to reach the attic windows, unless he brought his own cherry-picker, which, on reflection, seems unlikely. A fireman, then? Was the house on fire and I’d failed to notice? But firemen usually come through the door with axes. If not a ninja fireman, then what?

Wick Harbour

The steps move again, from right to left. In the dark it’s like listening to a Pink Floyd album on headphones. The attic is Margaret’s workroom, where she keeps her yarn and fabric stash. Maybe the burglar is making himself a stylish mask out of old curtain remnants before ransacking the house? This, I decide, shall not stand. I turn on the light and get out of bed. I go out into the hall. Out here all is silent. There are no lights upstairs. I retrieve my old Morris dancing cudgel from the spare room and think bitter thoughts about the doctor’s advice to get some rest. I grit my teeth and climb the stairs, cloaked in the armour of righteousness and a rather natty blue dressing gown, brandishing my cudgel like a Wee Willie Winkie who’s let himself go.

Well, reader, I went from room to room; I checked the closets and behind the curtains but intruder found I none. In the end I turned out the lights and went back down, not without a few nervous backward glances and, it now being 3.00am, returned to bed. Whereupon the noises began again. A poltergeist? I was just commending my soul to God when there was a rapid scrabbling, and all became clear: some wee, sleekit, cowran, tim’rous beastie had managed to get into the floorboards between my room and the attic, and was noisily exploring.

Sunrise over the river… at 8.45 am (sigh)

It worked its way leisurely through all the lessons in “Tap-dancing For Rodents in Ten Easy Steps” and finally buggered off around 5.00am. Some time later I fell asleep. But I’d forgotten to turn off the alarm, and the shock when it went off an hour or so later left me thrashing around like someone who’s just dropped their hair drier in the bath. (At this point I felt an actual burglar would have been an improvement.)

Some sort of bird in the Marina

Och, weel—it’s not like I need to sleep or anything. Meanwhile, I have been knitting. A lot. And when I say a lot—well, you can see for yourselves. I started this gansey ten days ago, and am almost up to the gussets. It’s Wendy navy yarn this time, and I set myself the challenge of knitting the body in a week. I haven’t quite managed it, and will in any case slow down now—not least because knitting’s supposed to be fun and this makes it too much like work. (And at least I know I couldn’t knit ganseys for a living; though I can do miniature karate with the calluses on my index finger.)

Tune in next week for maybe even a bit of pattern…if I’m awake enough to write it.

[Apologies again for the quality of some of the photos this week in Margaret’s absence—normal service will hopefully be resumed next time]

17 comments to Wick VI – Scottish Flag Weeks 1-2: 23 January

  • =Tamar

    What puzzles me is how noises can be so loud at night when the identical noise is almost inaudible during the day. I have a clock that I can only hear ticking late at night.

    Someday I should set up an outdoor camera to find out what kind of animal runs across my roof every morning around 8 AM. Every single morning. I’ve lived here for over 20 years and the thing has never missed a day that I’ve been here. So far I have assumed it’s squirrels, but doesn’t the definition of “squirrelly” imply that they are irregular creatures?

    • Gordon

      Hi Tamar, yes, I know what you mean, and the radio when it comes on in the morning darkness sounds much louder than at 10.00am.

      I don’t recall ever coming across squirrels that stick to timetables like that. But now you mention it, you could be on to something! Maybe they little blighters operate in shifts—every morning at 8.00am the night shift clocks off and the day shift start work, scampering across your roof after a nourishing breakfast of croissants and acorn coffee. Someone should alert David Attenborough!

  • Judit M./Finland

    Hello Gordon,
    Animals can produce noise you could not imagine. We have squirrels in the attic and they are probably lunatics as they make such a noise as they were building a lodge house ! And they are active especially during night time. So take it easy, summertime they are moving to a summer cottage….

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit, I tried training squirrels as carpenters once. Strangely enough it worked quite well, except they could never get the hang of holding the nails in their mouths—every time I gave them some they’d scamper off and hide them in a hollow tree for the winter.

      I’d like to think that one time if you go up to your attic at 4am you’ll find it hastily deserted, just some warm mugs of half-drunk tea, a pencil, and an easel with plans for an intercontinental ballistic missile that they didn’t have time to hide before you arrived…

  • Dav x

    Yes!! We once had squirrels in the attic and they sounded like a legion of bushy-tailed Michael Flatleys. Blimmin cheek of the things.

  • Gordon

    All this talk of squirrels means it’s time to give the best poem I ever wrote an airing. This one dates from 1981, when I was revising for my finals at Manchester University in Marie Louise Gardens. (I more or less stopped writing poetry after this, realising that I would never be able to match such peerless beauty again. Eat your heart out TS Eliot!)

    Upon the grass before me
    A springing squirrel bounds.
    Its furry feat are pretty neat,
    It’s making squirrel sounds.

    With flashing grace it leaps its haste
    Its billowed tail training;
    It’s flexed its knee and climbed a tree
    And hopped over the railing.

  • Dave

    Gordon you’ve forgotten one of those golden rules of manhood – there are noises in the house in the night. If there’s no woman to worry about it, roll over and go back to sleep.

  • Jane

    Wow Gordon you have been knitting! How wonderful and a nice colour too. Am I right in thinking the Wendy yarn has a different appearance to the other, sort of furry! Very nice.

    I will admit to a good amount of fascinated curiosity about a possible gansey book, but I shall as ever very patiently watch this space!

    These little rodents don’t half disturb the rest of the just and righteous. And I hate to say it, but once they find a way in, they sometimes do tend to keep visiting. We have a slight problem with rodents in our geological dip, but of the larger sort which is where the cats help out….! Take care!

  • Jane

    PS With a bit of luck, the cats next door will mount extra patrols and discourage the little beasts!

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      Yes, you’re right, this yarn has nothing in common at all with the cream Wendy yarn I used last time—that was like knitting with bleached rats’ tails, this is soft and frizzy, as you say, and drapes loosely (the cream was more like chain mail). The stitch gauge is back to normal too—bit of a bugger, that, as I’d reduced the number of stitches to compensate for (what I thought was going to be) a chunkier yarn!

      The lazy cats next door prefer helpless little baby birds, I think, to lithe rodents that actually take a bit of catching! But I live in hope. (By the way, bizarrely, returning from an Occupational Health assessment in Inverness today I saw a cat sitting on the roof of a two-storey house in Brora, silhouetted next to the chimney pot! Very strange.)

  • Lois

    From ghoulies and ghosties
    And long-leggedy beasties
    And things that go “bump” in the night
    Good Lord, deliver us.

    • Gordon

      Hi Lois, and Amen to that!

      Or, in my pinko-liberal leftie Guardian-reading version:

      From Brexit and Farage
      And those anti-gay marriage,
      And those who love Trump, the alt-right,
      Good Lord, deliver us…!

  • Peggy Martin

    ROFL, oh Gordon that bit of a prayer is just the thing I needed to read this morning. I shudder every time I remember that Trump is the president now. I think my mother’s expression “going to Hell in a hand basket” is very apt for the US and the UK. I love your blog posts and watching your ganseys grow. It’s my dream to make one for myself some day. Right now socks, baby items and hats have my attention. Looking forward to seeing the pattern you pick.

    • Gordon

      Hi Peggy,

      It does feel like the End of Days sometimes, I admit! But time, as they say, cures all ills. As a student of history I’ve come to realise that history is made up of the lives of all of us little people, living our lives and being kind to each other, and to hell with the rest. We are all stitches, individually making up a tiny bit of the gansey of life. (I wanted to be a purl but my grades were’t good enough and I ended up twisted in a cable—nobody said life was fair!)

      I’ve seen presidents of every stripe come and go and the wheel keeps on turning—as the famous saying goes, “the dogs bark but the caravan moves on”.

      And ganseys, socks, hats, baby items—it’s all good!

      Cheers, Gordon

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