Summer and a ‘crofting career’

We’re on the downward slope now. The August bank holiday has come and almost gone, the schools are almost back, we are almost able to drive along the high street in Harlech without reversing at least three times as cars shimmy into position. Life will return to normal – which means, hooray, days off. And this is why I’ve not been posting much; I’ve been making hay while the sun shines, gathering rosebuds while I may… hm, can’t think of another cliché. And you never know, I may get a bit of time to wash the fleece that’s waiting in the basement, do more spinning, finish the cardigan that’s been in pieces for months. And the rest.

old postcardAs a child, I was used to adults having multiple jobs. It was normal – and there was even a term for it: a ‘crofting career’. Having a croft in the Highlands meant working all hours, because you couldn’t make a living from crofting alone; you still can’t, of course. (But then the croft was not and never could be yours – it belonged to your landlord, and that at least has changed; hooray for the recent Crofting Acts.) So everyone had several jobs: perhaps they were teachers, or worked on the oil rigs, on- or offshore, or at the nuclear power station; for instance, our neighbour ran a small shop, drove the post van and looked after his croft in the evenings when he wasn’t repairing cars.

So when I left my London life and moved to Snowdonia, I knew what would happen. When I was down south I often found myself thinking, in the incredulous words of one of the characters in Local Hero, ‘you’ve only the one job?’. I realised that what goes around would undoubtedly come around, and that I’d end up with my own version of a crofting career. With any luck.

And I have. Not like our old neighbours, though: I’m crap at car maintenance, the nuclear power station is being decommissioned and there are, as yet, no oil rigs in Cardigan Bay. Editing and writing can be done from home, and that’s just great, but – well, quite apart from any financial considerations, I need to get out of the house occasionally. You know – meet people. Interact with real people. People who aren’t on the screen. Actual people. OK, I might want to kill some of them (AGH), but at least I’m not talking to myself. And in the summer you either work seven days a week, if you’ve a shop, or you get a self-employed friend in to help. That would be moi.

And then I get a chance to interact with things other than people, too:

Dee'sOh dear, oh dear*.

I sewed, I used to sew, I will sew – and many other verb tenses, but not the conditional. Because, when faced with this lot, who could express doubt by using the conditional? I am sewing. Well, it would perhaps be more accurate to say that I am laying up stock against the winter, but there you go. And I need to find the perfect colour to redo a window seat, and some of this can be used for dressmaking, and some of tho–– stop. Now. The spare bedroom is already too much of a sewing room to be used as a sleeping space for anyone except Next Door’s Cat.

But it’s not just fabric. Oh, nooooo:

wool shop

Oh boy.

I’ve helped out here** before, and given in – to ten balls of Noro Silk Garden Lite, to be specific, in one afternoon. But this time I’m not giving in, probably because we are simply too busy. Helping in a wool shop, particularly a small and perfectly formed wool shop in a relatively small place, is a revelation. It’s really busy, and the reason why it’s really busy is the amazing level of customer service – from advising on pattern choices to sorting out knitting disasters, from issuing traffic warden alerts to pointing out the location of a good coffee shop. People come from all over; holidaymakers have been saving their purchases until they come back to the area, and the locals pop in and out. It will probably calm down soon, but whether it does that before I finish my stint, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about what I buy myself as an end-of-season treat… some Kid Classic, perhaps? More Noro? Some of the lovely Sublime Tweed Aran? Hmmmmmmmm.

So, please forgive the patchy posting. Oh, and the lack of photographs of writing and editing – not quite as photogenic as fabric and fibre. Except when I’m editing books on sherry and can set up a post-completion still life (not still for long, ho ho) of a glass of perfectly chilled manzanilla.

*Cae Du Designs, Harlech. Too tempting.
**Knit One, Dolgellau. Ditto.

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4 thoughts on “Summer and a ‘crofting career’

  1. Elaine

    Oh, My. This brings back so many memories of my “Working in a Yarn Shop” days. A friend of mine opened a knit shop and I was one of several employees. I only worked 1 day a week and filled in for ladies who celebrated holidays that I didn’t. For the first 2 years I took no salary–just yarn. Mind you, it was only 1 day a week and wages were pretty low then but I still was able to amass quite a gorgeous stash. I worked for her for 10 years but after the 1st two started to take a salary!! Now the only yarn I buy is Noro–anything!!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      The thought of being paid in yarn has made me hyperventilate, though I did buy a ball of Noro Kureyon Sock last week, but I must STOP NOW. The foundation of my stash was a lovely LYS which I might as well have worked in, I spent so long there – I was an over-excited new knitter. When it closed down they gave some of their best customers first dibs on the sale and I went a bit mad (ahem). I think I’ve just about used it all, except for some Pingouin cotton, but it was about 25 years ago – yikes, just realised how long ago 1990 was!

      Reply
  2. carys davies

    I have also bought wool on holiday – in Trefriw woolen mills (**very highly recommended for any wool-lover** , where I also bought fleece to spin (never wanted to spin before, made a small woolen dog then stopped) and, yes, Noro sock yarn in Llanrwst. You have more time on holiday, plus money feels less tight I think!
    PS I once spent a holiday repairing Roman Steps near Harlech – it was great. Wet though!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I bought some lilac 4-ply from treffriw ages ago – knitted up with perfect stitch definition. Hope your purchases are as good – sure they will be. It’s fascinating, isn’t it?

      Noro sock! Wash your mouth out! How could you taunt me with mentioning Noro Sock, when I’ve only three balls waiting?

      PS: We sometimes have dry weather too. Like now (breathes sigh of relief).

      Reply

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