Monday, June 24, 2019

I had a good time on the retreat – nice place, good weather. Here we are, just before departure yesterday:

We were a pleasant and very interesting group. I am on the left of the sitting-down-ers. The other oldie was older than I am, spry-er I think, very nimble-witted. Rather encouraging. The other knitter is in the back row, 6th from the left if you count everybody, or third from the left if you count the back row of standees only. My niece is on the far right, but the picture looks nothing like her.

I got three rows done on the Spring Shawl while we were there. Another day of normal knitting will surely finish the first ball of yarn. Then I'll update the sidebar.

The retreat was based on literature. I can very enthusiastically recommend Kipling’s short story, “The Gardener”. I have also read Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” – distinctly gritty; and have made a start on Francois Mauriac’s “Nest of Vipers”. I don’t know whether I’ll persevere. All three authors were new to me although I had heard of them of course. The Kindle app on one's iPad makes instant access possible.

On Saturday morning, there we were on the edge of beyond, no newspapers, no access to television. Fr John began our session with a reference to Boris Johnson’s latest troubles, and everybody in the room knew what he was talking about.

The friend who was feeding the cats has clearly had a word with Perdita, who today re-joined the household. She still growls at Paradox, but there is nothing like the shouted obscenities we had when I got back from Shetland. That was when Perdita withdrew to her own quarters. That same friend is going to take me to see Helen's new house on Wednesday.

Today I haven’t knit at all, nor even watched Pointless.

Yesterday was Rachel’s 61st birthday – the first day of the rest of my life.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

I’m sorry about the silence – Helen and her youngest son Fergus were here last night, on the very cusp of moving to Joppa. If all has gone well, they will sleep there tonight. And I won’t be here for the next two days either – I’m going to somewhere near Hawick for a religious retreat. My niece C. will be driving (and therefore responsible for finding the way). All I have to do is pack a change of underwear and my knitting.

The trouble is, once this weekend is out of the way, the next Event is Joe and Becca’s wedding. Happy as the occasion will be, I’m not entirely looking forward to the journey south. But, hey! if Archie and I can handle Naples, Southampton should be easy-peasy.

My ancient car passed its annual fitness test this week. This morning I paid its annual tax – the Great Computer in the Sky knows whether a car is insured and whether it has passed its test. It won’t accept the tax otherwise. Then I tried to renew my Edinburgh Resident’s Parking Permit, essential to life. They have a new website. After an hour’s struggle I was in despair.

A dear friend came around at lunchtime – she is going to feed the cats while I am away. I needed to introduce her to the new arrangements. She is vastly competent in most areas of life. She took the City of Edinburgh website by the scruff of its neck and by late afternoon they had approved my application for a new permit, although they claimed they would need a week to think about it. So that is one major thing less to worry about.

I did four rows of Spring Shawl today, and a bit more Calcutta Cup scarf. Jamieson & Smith cobweb lace yarn is wound around a cardboard cylinder – this first one is showing through at multiple points by now, and won’t last many more days. And I got down on my knees with the tape measure – the scarf is now 4’8”. I want another foot or so. The final flourish at the end – the wearer’s initials and the final ribbing – will add another six inches.


I finished Kate Atkinson’s “Big Sky” in a gulp. It’s far from Jackson Brodie at his best, but needless to say very readable. Now I’m back with “North and South”, and missing Trollope. If you can give up on “The Three Clerks”, Shandy, can I give up on “North and South”? For the moment I’m forging on.

In lieu of knitting to show you, here are the pea plants on my doorstep – in flower! They’re mange tout, so I should be eating them soon.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Rory Stewart scraped through today’s vote of Conservative MP’s and will therefore be involved in tonight’s televised debate. So I will have to leave you soon. 

I did five rows of Spring Shawl today – and mustn’t forget that fact.  I try always to stop after an even number, with a right-side row to follow. Today, on the fourth row I did, I made a mistake on the first two (of nine) motifs, putting the YO’s on the wrong side of the K2tog’s. It was easily corrected, but it was just as well, I thought,  to correct it at once while I remembered what was up. Hence five rows.

There’s a new Knitty out, but I haven’t seen it yet.


I’m getting on well with “North and South”, but succumbed to Jackson Brodie today. I don’t think it’s as good as its predecessors. It’s one of those books where a lot of different characters and different threads are introduced – the whole first third of the book – and then they begin to weave themselves together. This time, it’s all a bit confusing. The writing sparkles as ever.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A good day’s knitting. I did six rows of the Spring Shawl – I won’t be able to keep up that pace much longer, because of the increasing length of the row. I’ve finished the fourth rank (of seven) of lace diamonds. I also did a bit more Calcutta Cup scarf during Pointless. It’s time to get down on my knees with that scarf and a tape measure again.

There will be a ballot in parliament tomorrow to whittle down the list of potential future prime ministers a bit further. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Rory Stewart.


Peggy, thank you for your comment. Mooli/daikon seems fairly mild and tasteless to me (and it has to be ordered in expensively): I thought ordinary radishes would do as well, if one really wanted radish. This morning I rearranged yesterday’s kimchi into smaller jars, in the hopes of getting some fizz – and was rewarded with some, today at lunchtime. And there are plenty of bubbles, in all three jars.

It is interesting, and a bit disconcerting, to discover how rapidly and enthusiastically fermentation (=rotting?) begins, in a mixture of uncooked vegetables, spices, and rice-flour porridge. No “starter”.


We’re about to have a new Jason Brodie from Kate Atkinson. I have ordered it.

I wish I had had you to teach me “Silas Marner”, Shandy. I don’t think you will tempt me back to it – life is too short. But you make it sound plausible and interesting. Have you read Trollope’s “The Three Clerks”? We were drawn to it by an article about Trollope in the New Yorker. As I remember, it’s routine (=excellent) Trollope up until the final chapter when it becomes fairy tale – the ailing heroine gets better after all, the impoverished hero suddenly has enough to get married on, and more.

Mary Lou, yes, we read the Palliser novels at bedtime (you can get through a lot  in 60 years). I think I’ve enjoyed Trollope more since then, reading individual titles at random. I wouldn’t mind trying the Pallisers again. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

I have been watching political television today – both the Andrew Mar show in the morning, which I record on Sundays such as this one when I go to Mass; and the debate this evening, at least some of it. How fortunate we are (as someone said here recently) that the Prime Minister is not Head of State. I think there are many who disapprove of the Royals without quite appreciating that point.

I got another batch of kimchi made. The great thing about kimchi, I decided, is that one feels, while chopping and blending and brining and making rice-flour porridge – one feels, on the basis of sixty years in the kitchen, that the next step is going to be cooking. And it isn’t. One just crams the stuff into jars and leaves God to do the cooking (=fermenting).

(The one on the right is last week's batch. As you can perhaps see, the new jars aren't quite as full, and probably won't hiss in that exciting way.)

Political television is good for knitting, because you don’t really have to look at it very much. I did another six rows of Spring Shawl, and that’s quite a lot at the present stitch count. I have reached the fourth rank of lace diamonds – there are to be seven in all. That’s not as good as it sounds, because of the ever-widening triangle, but it’s better than nothing. And I think the first ball of yarn is beginning to look a bit poorly.


The Forsyth Saga is not a bad idea, Mary Lou. I’ve never read it.

Shandy, I can’t believe that the Pickwick Papers (never read them) and Hard Times (not sure) could be as bad as Silas Marner, which is what we had to read at Asbury Park High School in New Jersey. I’ve probably said this before: once I grew up and read Middlemarch (and Adam Bede) and recognised Eliot as probably the greatest of 19th century English novelists, I tried Silas Marner again, for bedtime reading. And found it every bit as boring as I remembered.

Meanwhile I’m getting on fine with North and South, and remain convinced that I’ve never been here before. What an exciting moment it must have been, the Industrial Revolution, the harnessing of science to do the work men had been doing since the dawn of civilisation.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

I was perhaps a bit stronger today, but nothing has been accomplished beyond a good Italian lesson and a trip to Waitrose to get the ingredients for another batch of kimchi. I’ll make it tomorrow, I hope.

Laura (comment yesterday) – do try it. Start, perhaps, with Brad Leone’s YouTube post. (He laboriously salts his cabbage leaf by leaf, but then cuts it up later.) Omit the oyster.

There are a couple of ingredients which aren’t entirely easy to get, but here in the UK they’re easily found on-line: a Korean chilli powder called Gochugaru; Korean fermented shrimp paste; rice flour for the porridge. I also ordered an oriental radish called mooli or daikon, but I think that is unnecessary. Use ordinary radishes. And the rice-flour porridge could be omitted, too.

I haven’t done any knitting at all, nor have I advanced life in any of the several respects in which it needs to be advanced. Maybe tomorrow.

Kate Davies, as I’m happy to report and as you probably all know, has been posting in fairly vigorous mode lately, both in propria persona and lending the space to a new member of the team who is also a new knitter. Kate is producing a batch of patterns for adventurous new knitters and the latest one, the Upstream pullover – another yoke sweater – is a gem.


I’m making some progress with “North and South”. I have, before now, re-read books, sometimes accidentally, but always with the feeling that I’ve been here before. I continue to have no such feeling with this one. I’m pretty sure by now that’s it’s new to me.

Mary Lou, Tamar, I’ve never entirely got together with Dickens. We had him as bedtime reading several times. I’ve never read him by myself for pleasure, and doubt if I ever will.

Non-knit, non-book

Weavinfool, that is a good point about hydration. My Personal Trainer keeps emphasising it. I don’t suppose cider entirely counts. Thank you.

Friday, June 14, 2019

I felt very weak today. Alexander came to see me, and I managed to totter once around the Garden with him (0.2 of a mile) – better than nothing.

The kimchi is certainly quieter, although there are still bubbles. I hope to get to Waitrose tomorrow, after my Italian lesson, to buy another Napa cabbage and start another batch.

Knitting went well – another six rows of Spring Shawl, another half-repeat of the Calcutta Cup scarf pattern. There’s a sad post on the Ravelry projects page, for the shawl, from someone who knit it for her wedding and was disappointed when she finished, because she could have pushed herself harder and knit the Princess.

This one is certainly easier in all three elements – edging, triangle, and borders. Also smaller. With all the stress attendant upon a wedding I think this was probably the wiser choice.

My cats are as before. Perdita refuses to leave her quarters. Paradox has always been jealous of her, and now suspects that she’s getting better food and a superior litter box so she comes in and helps herself and they fight.

I've started "North and South". I wonder, after all, if I have read it. It seems completely new and strange, Maybe I'm thinking of "Cranford".

Now I’ll go do my Italian homework.