The below text is an extract from my ”Dear Susan’ knitting pattern and 15 page story of my Shetland croft house life and the symbiotic relationship between myself and a woman that lived in the house 140 years before me. Even if you don’t knit, the personal story will draw you into a Shetland life – both modern and old. Read the full story here
Shetland, May 2021
One day, towards the end of May, it rained so heavily that when the winds took up the weight of sky and sea water, dropping it upon the house roof, I could hear nothing else but the sound of pelting rain. Dampness penetrated the house, not as seeping or leaking but as a shroud that rested upon my body. I lit the fire in an attempt to fight back. After one hour, the weight lifted and I began to knit, waiting for the promised summer. By early evening, the sun came out as if there had never been rain at all so I walked to pay the wood man for the fire wood and on the way home, I took a detour to the beach. I wandered the edge of the surging waves, churned up by the afternoon’s winds. The sea, still being in a fury, was not able to slow down its waves to meet the sudden calmness of the early evening. The ebbing sea left a wake of tidal crustations as if lace edges on the beach. I looked for Buckies but all in an instant, I saw a tiny green sea urchin the size of a small flat pea. I bent to pick it up just as the tide surged over my shoes but I caught it before it was lost back in to the sea.
I wondered if you ever walked to the beach to collect sea treasures or if you never bothered.
Shetland, The Visit, August 2020
I begin with the outside, with what I have to hand; my reason, my eyes, my spatial understanding, and an openness tinged with the unknown.
On arriving, I need my first investigations of your croft house interior to be made alone. I want to inhale the house, listen to my internal feelings at first sight then recognise how my body responds to the old stones – I need to let body and stones talk to me. Thoughts and feelings need space. I need space. I haven’t yet found you. I do not yet know that you were born in this house 145 years ago.
It is a pale grey day, mist rolling over and down the hill behind the house as if a blind has been half pulled down a window. The sky is bleached out, the day is calm and windless, not particularly notable.
I open the front porch door, then, I try the house door with its mismatched glass panels. It opens in to the tiny vestibule area. To the right, there is a third old, board-door, painted white with a hand-hewn square wooden knob, which I turn to the right. The simple mechanism lifts a wooden latch inside. That sharp click sound of the latch lifting and hitting its wooden casing is the sound that I will forever remember of this place. It is my first sound here and it will probably be my last when I leave. It is a click of old wood against old wood, heard by every man, woman and child that has ever entered this house before me, for the last 180 years. Human touch leaves tangible traces of every hand that has opened it before me. The patina of years lies dirty on the paint’s surface.
Simultaneously, within the sound, my heart is given over to the first sight of the flag floor and fire place in the sitting room. In an instant, I am sold on sound and sight. I know I will not pull out of this crazy unseen deal to buy a house and change my life entirely.
Heart over head, I move in three weeks later, with two cats and a bag, the furniture and belongings on a lorry, to arrive a week later.
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
Dear Susan Jumper, Levenwick Beach, Shetland.
Read the The Dear Susan Jumper pattern and 15 page story, which you can find here, It will be part of the book I will be writing about my life in Shetland, a letter to a house, Susan and the landscape and my knitting. There will be 15% off this pattern and story for the weekend of 7th / 8th May 2022.