Tuesday, September 17, 2019

All well. I’ve done three rows of the Spring Shawl, I think – at any rate, I am halfway through row 21 (of 150), establishing a new motif.

I have been touched and helped by your comments on the need for a new pocket square for the new father. He and Hellie were bound for a wedding in France when all those disasters struck, which is why he had it along. The yarn is on its way, I am told, from someone called Premium Yarns. Four years ago, Webs had it, but they don’t seem to have it any more. Lots of Ravellers have it in stash, in the colour I want – but every single one is marked “not for sale”.

And Sharon has supplied the pattern, including toiling back through the sad account of that summer and discovering that the bridegroom’s square had a double row of eyelets. Saturday, July 25, 2015 shows all the squares being blocked, with the bridegroom’s double eyelets clearly visible. The picture also includes Perdita as a kitten. She liked blocking -- she still does.

Anyway, I can fool around a bit, once the yarn arrives. Greek Helen, who is about to go south, picked up the new sweater for Ruby today.

It was interesting, re-reading that summer. Clearly knitting is falling behind these days because I don’t knit in the evening as I did then. After writing to you, and having something to eat, I tend to hunker down in the kitchen with Trollope. Perhaps I could re-establish the practice of blogging in the morning.

I am sad about Perdita. It was my husband, in hospital – that must have been early in ’15 – who said that it was time we got a cat. It had to be tortoiseshell-and-white; and had to have a pretty face. Perdita qualified on both counts, but she was a very peculiar kitten. My husband never bonded with her. “She’s your cat”, he said, and rightly, although I think they would have settled down with each other had he lived longer.

She was always with me, and I thought, after he died, that the company of another cat would make it easier for her when I was occasionally away. But Paradox has taken over as Head Cat, sleeps with me, bullies her sister. I still love Perdita better, but some days I scarcely see her. She continues to be a very peculiar cat.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Not much, again today. I did a row and a half of Spring Shawl borders, though.

This afternoon I went out with Helen and all her family to a famous fish restaurant in Newhaven. It was pretty good, but the chips were soggy. When I got back I found a nice email from the next-generation Helen, Ruby’s mother. She says her husband still wears, on special occasions, the pocket square I knitted for his wedding day – and it was recently lost in France during a disastrous trip involving delayed flights and a crashed hire car. Could I knit him another?

I found the spot in the blog, and toiled rather sadly through the account of that summer. They were married four years ago. My husband was in hospital, desperate to escape. I was complaining of weakness, although a hundred times stronger than I am now, and getting much more knitting done. My pulmonary embolism happened. Perdita was small, and extremely naughty. I had forgotten that I resorted to water spray to deter her from some of her naughtiness. Poor little cat. We loved each other.

But I found the account of knitting the pocket squares. The yarn – at least for Matt’s white one – was Baah Aspen LaPerla, a luxurious wool-silk-cashmere blend. With some difficultly (and considerable expense) I found someone who would send me a ball of it. I was knitting pocket squares while I was in hospital myself, humbler blue ones for the groomsmen.

It remains to figure out (again) how to knit a pocket square, but I should be able to do that. It’s got bobbles or loops or something around the edges. Basically, it’s garter stitch, corner to corner.

So that will be fun.


Tamar, thank you for your comment about language. “Where” “wear” and “were” is not a confusion I was aware of, and is distressing. I am particularly irritated by “lie” and “lay”, so often mis-used. I had an English teacher in Asbury Park High School who didn’t understand the distinction. She didn’t know that blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter, either. I must have been a particularly irritating adolescent.

“The Prime Minister” continues well. Phineas is Secretary of State for Ireland, and spends a lot of time over there persuading them that they don’t really want Home Rule.  If only he had succeeded! Stashdragon, it was grand to be reminded that I’ve still got “The Duke’s Children” to look forward to.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

I was sort of ill yesterday. I’ve never learned to spell “diahhorea” so I can’t tell you what was wrong.

But I’m moving forward on other fronts. I’ve knit 16 rows (out of 150) of the borders of the Spring Shawl, and the stitch count is – astonishingly – right. That's 10% anyway. The rows don’t even seem dauntingly long so far, but of course will get longer as they are being knit from the central triangle outwards.


I’ve finished “Phineas Redux” and have embarked upon “The Prime Minister” which is the subsequent, and last, title in the Palliser series. I hope to catch further glimpses of Phineas, but it starts off vigorously with a whole new set of characters.

A couple of small remarks about language and customs: there is a murder trial towards the end of PR. When references are made to execution, the past participle is always “hung”. I was taught – it must be after I came to GB – that one must use “hanged” in that context. Thank goodness the question doesn’t arise any more.

And Lady Glencora  at one point uses “lay” where I would insist on “lie”– or maybe it is the other way around. I have heard that Jane Austen is weak on “imply” and “infer”.

As for customs, I was very surprised to find that, during that murder trial, some of the witnesses were in court, and thus hearing the testimony of other witnesses, before they gave their own. That doesn’t happen at any criminal trial nowadays. (I went to a murder trial once, in Birmingham, because it concerned Oxford students and an awful boyfriend and might have been Helen. It was extremely interesting.)

And the other odd custom is that men seem to take their hats with them, into the House of Commons. They get no pay (and thus must be fairly well off to attempt a political career) although there does seem to be a stipend for ministers.

Friday, September 13, 2019

All well, except that it’s Friday evening again and I haven’t done my Italian homework. My trainer came this morning and as always I feel better for her visit. 

Greek Helen is going to London next week, for an Old Girls’ reunion. She’ll be staying with her sister Rachel, Ruby’s grandmother, and Archie (Helen's son) will be here on Monday. So I can send the sweater down from him to his mother to Rachel to Ruby. Alternatively, C. is going to be there (again, staying with her cousin Rachel) at the end of the month. All I’ve got to do is wrap it up and find a card.

I’ve finished the plain-vanilla rows at the beginning of the Spring Shawl borders, and have embarked on the first real pattern row. I’ve passed the centre point, and can report that the stitch count came out right for the first half. Once the pattern has been established (as with Fair Isle) the stitch count becomes less of a source of anxiety.

Mary Lou, the fascination of this sort of thing is very like that of a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t entirely remember my own progress. Lots of Amedro, certainly. Straight from there to Sharon Miller? Sharon herself says somewhere that it's addictive.

Wandering around the internet yesterday as one sometimes does, I discovered that Meg is about to go to Florence to teach some workshops. She clearly has some Italian, like me, but will have an interpreter. That should be fun all round. She must be a bit younger than I am, because her parents didn’t arrive in the US until 1937.

She had some interesting Faroese books, too. I must examine my shelves.


A dramatic event has suddenly occurred in “Phineas Redux”. It is as if – and why not? – Trollope himself realised that it was all getting a bit turgid. I am sure we had it as bedtime reading, long ago, but I can’t remember a word of it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

All well. I’ve finished the slanting sticks, or whatever they’re called, and have embarked on the real charts for the Spring Shawl borders. I got to start at row 10, a nice bonus.

The borders will take a while, but they’re nothing like the Princess borders. That time, one began with the edging, and then picked up stitches for the borders, and knit along (forever) thinking that the central triangle would be a doddle, at the end. How wrong one was! This time, when the borders are done, there will be nothing left to do but the edging. Endless, no doubt, but I love attaching edgings. One stitch taken in every two rows seems like so little, but eventually it gets the job done.

Here’s the promised picture of Ruby in her big sister’s Pollywog. I think they used it – it’s knit of sock yarn, as is the “Overlap Baby Sweater” I have knit for Ruby herself. The Pollywog appears to have worn very well. The next job is to figure out how to get the new one to London, now that they have shut down my local post office. The remaining PO’s are further away than I can comfortably manage on foot these days, and adjacent parking isn't guaranteed.

Jared has issued a fall collection – some good things, as you might expect, and some brilliant photography. The shawls and scarves particularly appeal.


“Phineas Redux” continues well, although I am mired in a political section at the moment which is all too much like the evening news:

“’A prime minister so beaten surely can’t go on.’

‘Not for long, one would think. And yet how are you to turn him out? It depends very much on a man’s power of endurance.’”

Plus ca change…

I hope Trollope will get back to love and intrigue soon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My cleaner is back from Romania! Archie and I have just about kept our heads above water in the month she has been away, but it is bliss to have her back, and the amount of cleanliness and order she was able to install in three hours’ work this morning is astonishing.

And all is well with the Spring Shawl. Those “slanted sticks” or whatever they’re called haunted my dreams last night, but I’ve got them right, and they’re nearly finished. Then will follow four whole rows of plain garter stitch before the borders begin in earnest. The tear-shaped motifs in a Paisley shawl (and in Sharon’s Princess shawl) are called “botehs” – that’s the word I was too sluggish to look up last night.

The current episode of Fruity Knitting concerns Cristel Seyfarth, a Danish designer, as mentioned yesterday. She’s keen on costume – think Alice Starmore’s recent book. And she mixes colours in “magic balls” like Kaffe, although you couldn’t possibly mistake the work of one for the other. She’s attractive, and interesting, but I don’t think I’m going to pursue the episode to the end.

Mary Lou (comment yesterday), I think you’d better go see “Mustang” but be wary of violence and unpleasantness.

And, yes, I am very happy to have a namesake great-granddaughter in Ruby Jean. My husband had two namesakes among the grandchildren – Mungo Hamish Harold and this year’s bridegroom, Joseph Michael James. (James=Hamish) Both Rachel and James – my son James -- have/had mothers-in-law named Joan, and I thought it would be nice to knock off two at once by naming a girl Jane. But Rachel’s husband Ed had been frightened by an Aunt Jane in infancy and recoiled from the idea, and I may never have suggested it to James and Cathy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

I’m a bit further forward with the Spring Shawl. (Maureen, if you’re here, avert your eyes.) I’ve started the few simple rows which Sharon calls (I think) “slanting sticks”. They all slant inwards to the centre stitch. We had something like that, but much fancier, with the Princess shawl where some Paisley-type motifs – there’s a name for them, which I’ve forgotten – all nod inwards toward the centre.

This time, I seem to have gotten it wrong. I’ve started the second pattern row, and find (I think) that the sticks in what was the second half of the first row, are slanting in the wrong direction. It’s easily corrected, and I’m doing it – but what if I’ve got it wrong this time?

I’ve had a pleasant and rather strenuous day, starting with a dental appt. The dental surgery is very near at hand, but uphill by two strenuous blocks. C. drove all the way across Edinburgh to give me a much-valued lift. Teeth were fine, and are now brilliantly (and expensively) polished.

An hour or so later, C. and I went to see “Mustang”, an interesting film. It concerns a programme – you may know this – in which prisoners in American jails tame mustangs (of which there are an astonishing number). The horses are then sold at auction and the profits support the programme.

The film is at many points violent, and prison life is unattractive. The director is a woman, with a fancy, unfamiliar name – she’s good. The story has the core of sentimentality which you might expect from such a plot. It’s well-buried and brings tears to the old eyes when it comes.

Andrew and Andrea, sure enough. I realised at the end of the afternoon that I hadn’t heard from them. I usually get an alert from Patreon -- had something gone wrong with my patronage? But all seems to be well. The alert had been classified as a Promotion, for reasons only known to Googlemail. I haven’t watched much of it yet. The prime subject is a Danish designer, unknown to me.

And all is well with Phineas Redux.