Sunday, October 22, 2006

Collectables/birds of Prey and the Northernmost (Mainland) StitchnBitch

The good thing about living in an outpost is that the characters who choose to live here are very likely interesting people. I had been past the signs for Simply Unique a couple times on our way to John o Groats (named for Jan de Groot and only claims to fame are that it is the most northeasternly point of mainland Britain and twice now Lonely Planet has described it as boring.) Simply Unique is somewhere between Dunnet and John o Groats, about 25 miles from Thurso, and so about 35 miles from the farm. Each time I passed I had been curious about what a craft shop and cafe was doing so very far from everything.

Now I am in a car with a new acquaintance and we are going to meet two other women at Simply Unique for the inaugural session of a knitting group based loosely on an American book, Stitch and Bitch and all our desires to have other women to talk with about and over some kind of crafty thing. We decided informally (as we did pretty much everything else) that any kind of stitch would do.

As we looked for the way in, both my new friend and I were struck by the bottom line of the sign, which read "Collectables/birds of prey." "Collectables/birds of prey"? I marveled out loud. "That doesn't make sense, does it?" my new friend replies. Both of us are still new enough to each other that we are making extra effort to sidestep any controversial topics, but both of us too curious to keep from wondering out loud. "Maybe it is ceramic birds of prey," I offer as a conversation bridge, but as we drive past a cage of parakeets and other chicken-like birds, the mystery deepens. My imagination skips into overdrive with a story about killer budgies.

Linda, the proprietress, meets us with a big smile and her knitting in her hand. I like her already. She and Helen and I quickly move through introductions to conversations about yarn and needles and gauge and coffee and tea and temporarily the birds of prey are pushed out of mind. We set up our bags of yarn and needles and books and props for storytelling in the cafe, which is a newly built add on room with a sliding glass door that gives lots of light--or it would if the day were not unremittingly grey--but also keeps the room cool.

The craft shop is adjacent to the cafe. Angela and her cousin Allison show up, and now the 5 of us are wandering through crafts, doing crafts, ordering coffee, and comparing notes. It is a typical women's conversation: multi-threaded, overlapping, designed to build relationships. I come into the cafe just as I hear Linda explain, "The rest room is in the corner just past the rheas." No one drops a stitch at the description, but Helen asks cautiously, "Aren't they dangerous?" Perhaps she is actually afraid or maybe she is just looking for the birds of prey listed on the sign. Linda reassures her about these rheas, and the conversation moves on to other topics of more immediate concern, like how to crochet a ruffled scarf like the one in the craft shop, and doing hats like the one Helen has.

I have forgotten about the birds of prey and the rheas until I set out to find the bathroom. Sure enough, on my right, are a trio of large, blue eyed birds looking at me through a screen door. I stop and say hello because I am in the habit now of talking to animals when I pass by. They did not talk back, but on my way back to my women friends I eavesdropped briefly on a conversation among the rheas that sounded like a steam kettle just past boiling.

Over lunch we learned a bit more about each other, and Linda explained that her husband had always liked having unusual animals. We also learned that she and her husband had moved up here after spending several months in intensive care after a head on automobile collision. Angela, Allison, Helen, and Linda are all current or former nurses, so lunch conversation was a pastiche of medical stories, stories from life on the wards, and the requisite "how is it you came to be here" stories because, other than Allison and Angela, we are "incomers," and Angela has an English accent despite her roots here. It is the latter day equivalent of those long speeches in the Odyssey where the characters tell their stories and so talk themselves into the current landscape. Not epic, but then I think of Odysseus showing up naked on the shore where Nausicaa is doing laundry. It is hard to be epic all the time, especially with nothing but a bush for cover.

In the course of our own epic narratives, we also managed a bit of official business. We tentatively agreed on the name of Caithness StitchnBitch. As I thought about it, I liked the idea of the "Northernmost Mainland stitchnbitch," but it is unwieldy. In concluding our inaugural session, we agreed that we will meet about monthly, and we will meet at Linda's. I have been on many committees that have accomplished a lot less and didn't have the benefit of knitting, coffee, or birds of prey.


At 10:01 PM, Blogger gracefulwild said...

Heh heh, well, I guess *anything* can be a collectable after all. You seem to keep finding these things up there that make one pause, blink...and then shrug and say "well, why not?" So good for them--and definitely an auspicious setting for your group!

At 4:50 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh Yes it was a great time and an auspicious first day. Yes, if one if of that mindset, anything is collectable but I think I'll try to stay focused on books, cats, ooh, and lucky rocks and of course stashes of yarn--you never know when you'll need to make something.

At 7:10 PM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

Things must be busy. Either with the knitting or the cows....

At 7:17 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Och aye, as they say here, Curmudgeon, busy with cows and knitting and this morning it was sheep. 180 sheep had been delivered at 2am this morning--no, not usual delivery time. We had a gale that resulted in landslides, mudslides, flooding and traffic delays. And now at 8am no one knew where the sheep had gone. We found em and got em snugged up but it was an unexpected chore.

At 3:06 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

So the farm's back at raising sheep again?

At 8:42 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

These sheep are probably just passing through, but maybe we'll get some ewes as well later. I like watching sheep but they do not seem to have the character of cattle.

At 2:04 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

Since the sheep should be wearing dunce caps (see other blog's comments), no wonder! Obviously one can get to know various animals' character as a species from living close to them--witness you and cattle and my family and cats.


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