Sunday, January 15, 2017

Here we are. My husband’s catheter is, apparently, blocked. A nurse has been summoned. He is fairly comfortable, and may sleep. I must stay alert until she comes.

Knitting went well today. I am embarked on Row 51 of the shawl border (of 86). The second branch (from the bottom) of the Tree of Life is beginning to appear. I’m terribly glad to know that your Houlland is progressing, Shandy. It does look like fun.

I have been rather taken by Veera Valimaki’s “Breathing Space” pattern – it’s on Ravelry’s front page at the moment, well down towards the bottom. I am greatly drawn to asymmetry, and have never actually attempted it. I am slightly afraid that this one would just look as if I’d done it wrong.

Non-Knit

My sister says she has had an income tax scam like the one I told you about the other day. We have been trying to think how the Bad Guys might actually get hold of any money. She found hers in voice mail – which presumably means that it wasn’t a recorded call, as mine was. If I had responded, the Bad Guy’s first job would have been to find out who I was: cat? butler? Jean? Ham*sh? Even in the interests of science, I would have been reluctant to divulge even that much information.

I suppose they go on to ask for a large payment into a government-sounding account and then they’ll drop the “case”.


I made some progress today with tidying papers and printing spreadsheets. I’m ready to roll with the actual return tomorrow or (more likely) Tuesday. The Money sections of the weekend newspapers are full of stories about how we need to get cracking.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Perdita is in heat -- which makes it easier to bear the prospect of the spaying. She has to sleep in the kitchen when she's in this state, because she's too restless for her usual place with me. But she has figured out how to open the kitchen door from the inside.(You just have to slip your paw under the door and pull it towards you – the latch won’t hold.)  I had to get up twice last night to deal with her, apart from getting up on other occasions to improve the position of my husband's pillows. I'll have to find a more secure place for her tonight.

Otherwise, nothing much. I did no tax today -- spent the afternoon time instead watching a very favourite movie, "King of Comedy". A tour de force for de Niro, directed by Scorsese, written by nobody I've ever heard of. It is often interesting, seeing a film one loves and remembers, to notice the shots one has completely forgotten. In this case, I was surprised to find a knitting scene. Not entirely plausible, but the knitter was meant to be understood as crazy. 

And I won't get the tax filed on Monday (although I hope to get more tidying of papers done tomorrow). Because a very dear old friend is coming to call -- Anthony Bryer's widow, but much more than that to me.

When we moved to Birmingham in the late summer of '70 (with a litter of kittens amongst the paraphenalia), I happened to see an ad in the local paper for a Latin teacher at the local school. They must have been desperate, just before the beginning of term -- I knew nothing about teaching. They bravely took me on. Jenny was the Deputy Head, and also Head of Languages. She was a pillar of strength, and has been a dear friend ever since.

Her husband Jess was a lecturer in French at the university nearby. He died young. So did Bryer’s wife Liz a few years later. And eventually Jenny and Bryer married. The only drawback on that happy occasion, to which the ghosts were as welcome as the living, was the thought that one or the other would probably have to go through such a bereavement again.

Jenny's sister, as it very happily happens, lives near here, on Dundas Street. Jenny is here because her sister's husband is celebrating his 80th this weekend. 


Meanwhile, the shawl had a very good day -- nothing like movie-watching. The Tree of Life is well established.

Friday, January 13, 2017

It was a comfort, Hat and others, to hear that you had suffered the very same scam I had yesterday, that recorded telephone call from "HMRC". Of course it couldn't be real -- what if the cat or the butler had answered the phone? And indeed, was it addressed to me or to my husband? But that deep, authoritative voice did rather shake me.

Alexander says that he never pays any attention to any recorded phone call. That's probably a good principle of life.

I think I've finished the tax. The final bit is always easier than I expect. I'll let it simmer for a couple of days while I tidy away all the paper and print out the spreadsheets -- then try to file on Monday or Tuesday.

And the shawl has had a good day, too. I've reached (although not finished)  row 43: the half-way row, and the one in which the final motif, the Tree of Life, is established.

Poor Perdita had her pre-op examination this morning -- Helen took her. She's booked in for spaying next Thursday. I will have a miserable week in anticipation. She will be spared that. But she will then be subjected to fear and pain, by my choice. And the worst, I feel, is that after depriving her of her God-given right to wander about peeing in our neighbours' finely-raked seed beds and munching their song-birds (because she is entirely house-bound) we are now going to deprive her of kittens.

But will we ever be able to get her back into the cat-carrier? She's not stupid.

I am surprised that I can't remember much about the spaying of our Dear Old Cat. She had had several litters and both she and we felt that enough was enough. But it must have been I who took her to the vet and Had It Done, and I can remember none of that.

Different subject: parts of GB have been having some rather strenuous weather yesterday and today. Edinburgh has got off fairly lightly. Alexander came over from Glasgow yesterday, where things were worse, and as we talked about it I was reminded of one of my favourite poems:

Where is the Weather?

The rain may fall in Aberdeen,
But in Dundee it can’t be seen.
In Derby the snow may be high,
But there is none in Hay-on-Wye.
In London the wind can’t be heard,
But there are gales in Hereford.
If you don’t agree with me,
Go somewhere else and you will see.

                        David Malcolm, age 9
                        Ledbury Primary School, Hereford

                        1992

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Perdita has been booked in for spaying. Helen will take her down to the vet tomorrow morning for a pre-op consultation. I am deeply distressed. Fortunately the.poor animal won't worry.

Thank you for your kind comments. The fireplace, pre-mosaic, was a blank square of plasterboard. We have other open fireplaces (although we've never lit a fire in this house). I think Helen made the mosaic flat on a workbench in her studio. It came here supported from behind on some sort of adhesive mesh. Most alarmingly, on Installation Day, she cut it apart into six or seven pieces which she and the nice Grouting Man then assembled into the fireplace.

I suspect that mosaic-making, like knitting, takes so long to do that it's hard to make a living. 

I'm very pleased with the shawl. The colour looked a bit sepulchral to start with, but now seems like the sort of thing a costume designer would choose for a poor-but-honest character in a 19th century television drama. That's what I want. This is to be a shawl for use -- for bundling up a summer baby and taking it down to the pub for lunch.

I reached row 40 today, the first border decrease row. That’s a landmark, surely. And I'm nearly halfway through the border -- that'll be another. And I'm nearly finished with the second row of motifs and ready to start, in row 43, the third and final one. Yet another!

The tax went well, too. I think all the hard work is done -- Syngenta is no more, whatever it was. That simplifies things. 

I had a funny recorded phone call today. A man with a deep voice told me that HMRC (=Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) was initiating a case against me. "To speak to your case officer, press One." 

Phishing, presumably. The tax man may well come for me one day, but I don't think it will be quite like that. But the call was well-calculated and well-timed to prey on January's anxieties, and sounded almost authentic.

Non-knit, non-tax

The January 16 New Yorker pitched up here today. My husband and I increasingly find that we can’t understand the cartoons. My sister is coming for a visit in early Feb – it might be instructive to have her take us through the then-current issue.


But on page 56 of today’s issue is one we will cut out and keep in our current bedtime-reading book: “Look alive, Proust, you’re next”. We’re doing rather well with Proust.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Another good day, I guess, although I feel as though I am shouting to you from a distant shore.

I advanced the tax. In fact, I think the only remaining income problem is Syngenta. Who are they? Why does my husband have shares in them? And, more to the point, did they pay him anything in 2015-2016, and if so how much? And into which account? The rest, I believe, is all downhill.

I have been eager for a financial document to arrive in the mail, so that I could exercise my resolution of dealing with such things fully, and at once. Today one did, and I did.

And the shawl has achieved its two rows, or just about.

Here it is:



Not as expressive a pic as I had hoped. At least you can see that I'm getting somewhere.

And here’s the mosaic:





You will (justifiably) conclude that I need to tidy the sitting room. We need to rearrange it – the fireplace used to have a sofa in front of it. Now, we want to keep the mosaic fully in view. Neither of these pictures fully do it justice. 

The icon on the mantelpiece is Helen's work too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A good day.

I have toiled through row 35 of the shawl border pattern, and am now somewhere in 36 – my two-a-day resolution fulfilled, although not by much. Row 33 was the one in which the second motif reached its widest point, but 35, paradoxically, was the one containing the most k3tog’s – four for each of the nine motifs on each of the four sides. That’s a lot of k3tog’s.

When this row of motifs is finished, that leaves only the Tree of Life, and I don’t think it goes in for k3tog’s much. I’m making progress.

And the tax went well, too – my next target is Unit Trusts, and we haven’t many of them. Once that’s done, I think it’s pretty plain sailing. My sister phoned from DC today – confirming my impression that an American tax return is vastly more complicated. The monthly fee she and her husband pay to their retirement community can be partly set against tax as a medical expense, she said. I don’t think wage-earners and pension-payees, in this country, can set anything against tax. The self-employed, yes, and the renters-out of property.

Including us, as the owners of 20 acres in Strathardle, farmed by a neighbour. We charge him so little that it’s not worth fussing about deductions, although of course we must, and do,  faithfully declare that little. Even when I'm not entirely sure that they have remembered to pay, this year.


I’m sorry to have no pics for you. The light is so brief, the moment slips by. Tomorrow, I hope.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The carers were in better time tonight, but events have supervened and I will have, again, to be brief.

It wasn’t an entirely satisfactory day, either, on the two fronts in which we are primarily interested. I did finish two rows of the borders of Mrs Hunter’s shawl, but only just. The second motif is nearing its widest point, which means more k3tog’s.

And I did no tax at all. Realizing that that was happening, I thought, OK, I’ll log on to the government website (gateway/gov/uk, or something like that) just to prove that I can. The first attempt got me only as far as the first “g” before telephone or doorbell supervened. The second time, I did better – I was actually typing in the password (one of those Juliet Bravo Nine sort of things) before the interruption came.

The excitement which actually succeeded in happening was the installation of a mosaic by Greek Helen in the previously blanked-off fireplace in the sitting room. My husband, who has to sit looking at it all day, had been agitating for some time for something interesting to fill the space. Helen offered to make a mosaic. Its utter wonderfulness wasn’t entirely evident until it was installed.

Perdita had had no previous experience of the installation of mosaics, let alone of their grouting. She took a lively interest throughout.

Photographs tomorrow, as well as some of the shawl.

VK turned up today, to my great excitement, but there is little or nothing there to send me forward to the EYF. I do very much like No. 4, a smallish shawl. I’ll keep it in mind. I think I still have an IK to look forward to. They couldn't have terminated my subscription without warning me?


I increasingly get the impression that those little collections of six mini-skeins in graduated colours are The Coming Thing. I love them. But how to deal with them? Last year at the EYF I did Carol Feller’s class on that very topic, and came away not much the wiser.