Sunday, January 24, 2021


3157 steps – more than I expected when I flipped the phone open just now. The best day, indeed, since I embarked on this caper. C. came, and we got around the garden twice. It was very cold – the setts on the less-used street rather slippy – but sunny. The snowdrops and the daffodils stand up splendidly to the cold, the daffys not yet blooming but with buds. They just stand there patiently while the cold lasts, and then resume springtime. The hellebores, on the other hand, are looking rather the worse for wear.


And I’ve done 6 ½ scallops on the second side of Gudrun’s hap. I am beginning to toy with the idea of blocking it myself. I’ll be fine crawling around on the floor – the difficulty comes when I try to stand up again. But if I pick a morning when Daniela is here…


Mary Lou, ah! yes – you misunderstood me. That is precisely what I was thinking – the body and sleeves of the Polliwog in a self stripe, and the yoke solid. The trouble is, I don’t have a sock-weight solid, and when one starts looking for one, the temptation arises to buy both.


And, yes, you did indeed send me the overlap pullover which I’m sure I knit for some great-grandchild or great-nephew, but I can’t remember which. I had forgotten that it is written for sock yarn. (That one is in Mary Lou’s Ravelry store, and is well worth having a look at if you want a baby sweater that can be put on easily; no small matter.) (The same is true of the Polliwog.)


My sister sent me a link to what may have been an interesting article in the Times about Bernie Sanders’ mittens. I already knew that they had attracted some attention at the Inauguration. But the Times says I’ve had enough freebies this month. Where can I see them on social media?




I am lurching on with “What To Look for in Winter”. Shandy and Jenny, many thanks indeed for the pointers to Tomalin and to Worsley, on Jane Austen. I think I thought that biography wasn’t of much use, since her sister Cassandra destroyed those letters. (What a loss!) But you have inspired me to have a look.

Saturday, January 23, 2021


2309 steps today – not the best, but could be worse. I did succeed in getting up to 3000 yesterday, for the first time since my step-counting began. 


And I found “Drop Dead Easy Knits”, so that wasn’t too bad. I had gone ahead and bought the Kindle edition. It’s very cheap – you won’t profit much by my extravagance, Mary Lou. I’m not getting very far with the question of what yarn to use. The sock yarns in stash are all self-stripers. The little sweater wants two colours. You can see the problem, and can also imagine the temptation when one starts looking at LYS’s and their websites.


I’ve now done four and one-half scallops on the second edge of Gudrun’s hap – the target is 16 ½ per side, since I omitted that decrease round.




I continue to shuffle forward with “What to Look for in Winter” but am not sure I’m going to finish it.


“Mansfield Park”: I suppose Mr Yates and Julia could be considered a love match, although they are whisked off-stage without a single scene to gratify the reader. Perhaps the real story of the book is Henry Crawford, Maria, and Fanny, and once that’s over the author has to tie things up somehow, not entirely satisfactorily. The scenes in Portsmouth, when Fanny is living with her blood-family, are extraordinary, as you said, Shandy. There’s nothing else remotely like it in Austen, is there? I don’t think I knew she was a parson’s daughter. That would certainly – extrapolating from Trollope, some decades later – provide her with opportunity to observe ill-managed households.


Mary Lou, thank you very much for that link, which I will soon try to follow.

Friday, January 22, 2021


It was cold today, but a brief thaw yesterday afternoon had cleared the pavements. C. came, and we walked twice around the garden. I wasn’t quite as flattened by the experience as the last time I tried it. So: 2803 steps. Am I peppy enough to get it up to 3000 before I lie down? We’ll see.


I think (alas) there’s no doubt that I am (marginally) stronger without cider. The Calcutta Cup (England v. Scotland at rugby) will be played-for on February 6. I might as well extend dry January until then.


The hap progressed well, too. Due to accidentally missing out a Decrease Round, I now have 16 ½ scallops to do per side, instead of 14. But even by that increased measure, I’ve done the first side. I plucked “Drop Dead Easy Knits” from the shelf the other day, in order to begin thinking about yarn for the Pollywog, and now I can’t find it. Couldn’t be far away.




McWilliams’ “What to Look for in Winter” is getting a bit wordy towards the end. I’m doing a bit of speed-reading. Where to go next?


Here’s another thought about “Mansfield Park”, hoping you’re still there, Shandy. There’s lots of love in it, and we are in no doubt about the feelings of the characters, even – or especially – in the cases where the author doesn’t spell it out. The characters themselves are almost equally aware – Julia and Maria, in particular, each know that the other is keen on Henry Crawford, and Henry knows it too. But nobody ever suspects that Fanny loves Edmund, not even Edmund himself.

Tamar, your interesting comment arrived just as I was packing up and going to get my supper. It deserves thought. I'll address it tomorrow.



Thursday, January 21, 2021


1706 steps so far today. It snowed in the night, and looked icy and treacherous this morning, so I have been walking in the house, and it seems to take longer. I’ll keep at it, however, until I reach at least 2000.


The knitting of edging onto Gudrun’s hap seemed to continue well, until….


I saw the marker for the first corner creeping into view, and so I counted the remaining stitches between me and it. There were far too many. I went back to the border chart, multiplied the 18 stitches of the pattern repeat by 6 (because that’s how often it was repeated, at the end) and counted the squares at either end of the repeats and added the 24 stitches thus obtained. The answer coincided with the number of stitches in fact present. So, why…


When I finished knitting the borders, I turned back in the pattern to the section called Edging. The pattern is written out line by line, as well as being available on a chart, so there is a certain amount of to’ing and fro’ing. This morning, turning it back and forth in bewilderment, I discovered a paragraph, at the end of the written instructions, called Decrease rnd. I should have removed 20 stitches per side: that’s quite a few. Two and a half scallops.


I have decided to forge ahead. Here is a slightly blurry picture of a section of edging. It looks acceptable. I’ve got an abundance of yarn, for some reason. There’ll still be plenty for a parental hat, even with an extra 80 stitches to eliminate. And I remember that last time I was slightly disappointed with the smallness of the shawl, despite vigorous blocking. This might help.


And here is a picture of Perdita, sleeping on the Evandoon on the adjacent chair. I shouldn’t have let her do that.


So that was today’s excitement.


There was a message today from Arne and Carlos. Carlos is in a lung hospital being treated for “long Covid”. It sounds incredibly luxurious – four delicious meals a day and (in normal circumstances; not now) a swimming pool. All free, part of Norwegian health care. He thinks he’s getting better. Some of us have been worrying about their finances, but Carlos says that they are fine and that we should send any such money to Andrew and Andrea. That was a generous thought, on his part.




My sister and her husband, in Maryland just outside DC, have vaccination appts for the 30th. Pfizer. Rachel says her arm is slightly sore, after having hers yesterday.


I think I’m a bit sceptical about whether vaccination is going to make any difference. But surely we should know soon. The vaccine is being given to the most vulnerable – that is, to those statistically most likely to need hospitalisation, and to die. So if vaccination “works”, those numbers should start going down fairly steeply within a month or so. Shouldn’t they? Hospitals here are getting pretty desperate.




I enjoyed Nabokov on “Mansfield Park”. I’ll read the beginning and the end essays, as you suggest, Kristen. Shandy, I think an episode of great importance, often overlooked, is the way Mary Crawford, believing – because he told her so – that her brother Henry is trying to get Fanny in love with him as an adventure to amuse himself; and knowing Fanny well for the timid and retiring soul she is; nevertheless encourages Fanny to take Henry seriously. She is what I think can be called a traitor to her sex. Maybe it’s even Jane Austen’s fault for not underlining Mary's wickedness a bit more.


I’ve been reading Dante today, to steal a march on Saturday’s lesson.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


Exciting news: my GP’s practice nurse rang up today with my vaccination appointment – next Tuesday afternoon. It will be the Astra Zeneca one, I am sure. Rachel, in London, had Pfizer.


1833 steps so far today. I’ll pass 2000 by bedtime, but not by much. I reached 2500 yesterday.


I’m in the saddle with my hap edging – eight done so far (of the 14 needed for the first side), without disaster. That means I can add four to the progress bar n the right. I remain profoundly anxious about the possibility of mind-wandering, and am, on the whole, only sitting down to do one at a time. Or maybe two. 

Mary Lou, that is a good idea about contacting Kathy’s Knits to find someone who will block it for a fee. I’m not worried about squaring up to measurements, but I do want every individual point to have its pin or blocking wire.


I used to have blocking wires but didn’t get on well with them, and gave them to a friend.


I’ve stopped worrying about income tax, too. Alexander found a link on the HMRC website to a page called “Check if you need to send a Self Assessment tax return”. I did check, and it said I didn’t need to. They know where I live. They wrote to me when my husband died, and they send me a Tax Code every year. I think they would have sent a letter if they wanted a tax return. I will give serious thought, however, to finding a congenial accountant to help before this time next year.




I see that Amazon will sell me Nabokov’s “Lectures in Literature”. I think I must get it, for Mansfield’s Park’s sake. I don’t forget having read that one. Thank you, Kirsten. Lady Bertram is indeed a magnificent study in doing nothing.


I’m still reading McWilliams, still enjoying it, although it is sad. She lives near here, and is said to have expressed admiration for the plants on my doorstep during one of her early-morning walks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021


2207 steps, so far today. A bit dim, by recent standards.


Progress, however, with the hap. You will remember that I left you yesterday with a large, unwanted hole in the second scallop. I started off today, in the bright sunshine, carefully tinking – but it never came right, and I wound up frogging the lot and starting again, from the beginning -- for the fourth time, I think. This time I’ve got it (at least reasonably) straight, and have done four scallops. I might hope for a couple more this evening. There are 14 per side – and since I still have the corner markers in place, I’ll be able to juggle a bit if necessary. The pattern is awfully easy, and now that I have mastered it (I hope), the danger will lie in the wandering of attention. And it’s too late to resort to frogging.


Tamar, that’s a brilliant idea, to knit a hat for a parent in the left-over shawl colours. When the shawl is finished (how am I to manage the blocking?) I must go straight on to the Pollywog for the other baby – they are due almost simultaneously, in May. But there may still be time for a hat, if things continue to go forward as they seem to be doing at the moment.


 I’ve spent much of today worrying about income tax. Do I have to file a return? They haven’t got in touch to tell me so. (Much tax is deducted from my pension before it ever reaches me.) (Maybe that’s enough.) Still, I’ve now got the bit between my teeth. I’ll continue calculating and worrying tomorrow. The relative clear-headedness of Dry January is probably an asset.

Today's big news, however, is neither hap nor income tax: Rachel is to be vaccinated tomorrow! She works at Kings College Hospital, although not in a medical capacity and not anywhere near patients. It sounds from her account as if there are some doses left over somewhere which are being prudently used up. There's still no further news from my GP.




I’ve gone forward with McWilliam’s “What to Look For in Winter”. It’s a curious and unusual autobiography. She is a novelist. Maybe I ought to have a look at some of her other books. She is clearly a curious and unusual woman.

Monday, January 18, 2021


2477 steps – not bad.


And I’ve finished the borders on Gudrun’s hap, and started on the edging. It is as simple an edging as it is possible to conceive, and I’m having a terrible time with it. I got the first scallop done, finally, on the fourth attempt, and have just seen a huge hole where a hole shouldn’t be, in the second. Maybe I’ve knit enough for today.


I’m going to have lots of yarn left over. It’s a pity it’s hand-wash-only. It would be fun to knit the other baby’s Polliwog (Mary Lou’s pattern, in “Drop Dead Easy Knits”) in the same yarn. They’ll be first cousins. The Polliwog wants sport weight yarn. I think what I did last time was to use sock yarn, for washability; stitch numbers for the largest size; and measurements for the smallest. It worked out surprisingly well.


I had a nice Zoomtime with my sister this morning.




I’m enjoying Candia McWilliam’s “What to Look For in Winter”. There’s much sadness in it, though. She has a strange affliction which renders her almost blind – not that her eyes can’t see, but that she can’t open them properly. She’s two years older than my Rachel – not what you’d call old. I don’t know how I could have forgotten the book so completely. Our house is mentioned in it, and people I know. Perhaps when I made that list some time ago of my 10 favourite books, they were chosen because they were the only ones I could actually remember having read.


Thank you for your remarks about Madeline Stanhope (in “Barchester Towers”), Shandy. I wouldn’t call that remarkable passage about her child “racist” – the little girl’s only offence is to be half-Italian. The author’s hostility is directed at whoever – presumably Madeline – dressed her up in such ridiculous clothes. You are right to contrast that scene with Eleanor’s constant cuddling of her baby. I wonder if they took him along on the honeymoon – Trollope doesn’t tell us that.


I’m glad we’ve driven you to “The Way We Live Now”, Janet. That’s a good one.