Sunday, January 22, 2017

Very little to report.

Perdita continues very well. If she still had that collar on, she would be only halfway through the ordeal, as her post-op appt with her consultant isn’t until late Thursday afternoon. I don’t know where she spent the first two nights after surgery – probably not in the comfortable bed I had made up for her in the kitchen – but last night she joined me again. My husband now has a hospital bed, so there is plenty of room for me and a cat in the marital bed, and it was grand to have her.

As for knitting, I finished winding that skein. If I have correctly grasped the numbers, it was more than half a mile of yarn. I normally like winding, as I think I’ve said, as a way of getting acquainted with a yarn, but these particular skeins must be among the longest I’ve ever done.

Isabella (comment yesterday), I didn’t know, or had forgotten, about the Teapot Trust ladies who wind yarn at the EYF. What a good idea! I hope by then I will be finished with the shawl, or very nearly. I see that I have a third skein, just-to-be-on-the-safe-side. Maybe I can somehow take them that one, and the remainder of the second skein, and they can find them a good home… I’m sure, wonderful as this yarn is, that I won’t want to do it again.

I’m well into row 67 (of 86) of the border pattern and things should accelerate a bit tomorrow now that winding is finished. Snooker continued very interesting – I have at last grasped some of the essentials and can appreciate some of the skill and artistry involved. The geometry is amazing. I’m glad Ronnie O’Sullivan won.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Perdita seems entirely restored to us, scampering about like a mad-cat, and the wound looks clean. When she curls on her right side, I can and do lean over her and examine it close and personal, without touching or otherwise annoying her. And it's fine. And she isn't particularly interested in it. 

So two major problems have been disposed of – Perdita’s surgery and the income tax. I’m ready for 2017. But others come bubbling up from the ground.

A dear friend lost her beloved dog to death yesterday. 

I knew him only at the end of his life. He was disagreeable and incontinent and nothing much to look at. He was very much loved, and I am sure returned, with advantages, all the love he received. I knit him -- some will remember; he was a Parson's Jack Russell. Helen made a mosaic in which he figures. Neither of these cold objects will be of much use to our friend today.

I have reached row 66 of the border of Mrs Hunter's shawl -- not much advance on yesterday. That is because I have reached the point where a new ball of yarn will soon have to be attached, and this afternoon I faced up to the winding of it. 940 yards.

We put on the snooker -- an interesting sport, at a very interesting stage of the Championship tournament at the Ally Pally --  and I wound and wound. For a long time the skein around my knees was completely undiminished. Then, progress! and a new temptation. I may -- I probably -- I surely have wound enough to finish the shawl. Do I need to go on doing this all afternoon? 

I persevered until at last interrupted. I suspect, indeed hope, that I will have the moral stamina to finish winding the skein tomorrow. But if not, I'm sure I've done enough for present purposes.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Quite a day.

The tax has been filed, calculated, paid. I'm still dubious about whether an accountant would help. Our affairs are pretty simple, and pretty similar year after year. The job has got to be done, whatever. The effort consists of getting the papers together and if I continue with my resolution to file everything the moment it arrives -- and enter it in a spreadsheet if it's anything the tax man wants to know about -- if I can go on doing that, it should be easier in the future. Here we are, three weeks into 2017, and I'm doing fine so far.

Perdita seems well. She has spent the day dozing, and no longer actively hates me. She took off her collar herself during the night -- I think I told you that she's not stupid. She's not particularly interested in the wound, and it continues to look fine. I'll certainly keep a close eye on both these points. Even Helen agreed this morning that we didn’t have to put the collar back on.

There are no visible stitches. I think you must be right, in our case, Maureen (comment yesterday). There are two incisions, each scarcely half an inch long, not quite parallel, about an inch and a quarter apart. The leaflet Perdita brought home yesterday says that the "sutures" are all internal, and absorbable. An adroit piece of needlework. I agree that if there were stitches for her to pick at, the question of the collar would be rather different. The leaflet says that the cat must not lick or chew the wound. So far she has shewn no interest in doing either of those things.

That could change. The wound could start to itch. I will watch closely.

So I’m back in the saddle, as far as Mrs Hunter of Unst is concerned, and have reached row 65 of the border pattern of her shawl. I fancy that the decreases are beginning to make themselves felt. But maybe not.

AND I have succeeded in finding a copy of Laine, at Meadow Yarn, and it’s on its way.

What can I say about the Inauguration without causing offense?

1)     Mrs Trump’s dress was good. I hope tomorrow’s newspapers will name the designer.

2)     Eight years ago, George W looked like a balloon with the air being let out. The Obamas, whose behaviour throughout has been graciousness personified, looked today as if a weight were being lifted from their shoulders. And George W., whose father is on his deathbed or so we understand, looked positively cheerful.

3)     Poor Hillary.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Perdita has come home to us again. She has survived major surgery in remarkably good form, although she is not speaking to me. She is eating, and moving fairly comfortably, and the wound looks remarkably small and neat and healthy.

She is wearing one of those awful plastic collars. I don’t remember them from long-ago experience of dear cats being spayed. Helen (who has been carrying the can on this one) is adamant that she must keep it on until she sees her consultant again next Thursday. I wouldn’t be surprised if she succeeds in getting it off before then. And I am a bit worried, alternatively, that she may strangle herself in the attempt.

The house was astonishingly empty all day without her. Even a disagreeable cat in a plastic collar, which is what we have this evening, is better than nothing.

But it wasn’t a wasted day on other fronts. A letter from the Government Gateway has supplied my husband’s new Gateway User ID. It was far too stressful a day even to think of filing the income tax, but Helen is going to come tomorrow to deal with the early-morning door-answering so that I can attempt it. If I can log on, it won’t take more than half an hour. If I can log on.

And my Knitzi arrived! This time, again, it came when I was out – I only very rarely leave my husband on his own, but I did so for half an hour one morning last week and the postman, who must have been crouched behind a hedge and have seen my departure, sprang forward with the package. This time, thank goodness, he left a card saying that he had failed to deliver it. I arranged re-delivery for today. It came!

Now I really must start a pair of socks. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Perdita is fasting before tomorrow's surgery. She is beginning to get cross about it. I am miserable.

I remain very anxious about the tax. My sister points out that if I had an accountant s/he would be responsible for filing. I think a better (and much cheaper) solution would be to get it done earlier in the tax year. Whatever, I'm stuck now.

Thinking about (not that but) knitting charts in the night, I came to the same conclusion as several of you (although formless, in my case, and less well expressed) that it was advances in computer technology and desk-top publishing in the 80's and 90's, rather than the rise of common sense, which brought graphs to published knitting patterns. Traditional knitters must have been using them all along.

Mary Lou! I have knit Mrs Laidlaw's Pattern, too, in a gansey for Ketki in a tough pink yarn from Frangipani. It serves as something approaching a suit of armour. She wears it sometimes to rugby matches.That was when the question arose with my sister-in-law of whether the herring girls wore colour -- an issue I referred to briefly some weeks ago. I went to the shelf just now to get the book and to try to remember whether or not I charted the pattern. And the book wasn't there, although several lesser works on related topics were.

I am sunk even deeper into gloom. That is an essential book.

I knit that sweater in Strathardle. Could the book still be there? I find with the current shawl, too, that I can remember where I was when knitting different parts of it, but not how difficulties were resolved.

Actual knitting of the shawl went well today, as I had nothing else to do but knit and worry. I have reached row 61 (of 83) in the border. I am thinking about inserting a break pattern – k2tog, yo, all the way around – between the border and the centre. Mrs Hunter of Unst doesn’t have one, but need that stop me?

My sister also sent me this link to the Pussyhat pattern. You probably all have it already – somehow or other, I knew about the march and the hat but had missed the beginning of the conversation so didn’t know the pattern. My sister says someone is knitting her one, although she is not going to march.

My wonderful children are trying to arrange a weekend away for me. For awhile there we thought I might join the Loch Fyne Mileses in early March for the Calcutta Cup weekend. We could watch the match together, and then if Scotland win -- don't worry; they won't -- I could measure Alexander on the spot for his Fair Isle vest. It was Greek Helen rather than I who spotted the flaw -- that's the weekend of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. 

If I’m not here tomorrow, it will of course be because I am trying to comfort my cat.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


I finished the tax. I got it all printed out and all together. I sat down at the computer in a fairly composed state this morning – and couldn’t log on. I have been doing it without a hitch on-line in January for a decade or so. It is as if my anxiety, this year, about whether I could do it, has itself created the problem.

I floundered about for quite a while, finding various help screens into which I typed my husband’s Taxpayer Reference Number and his National Insurance Number, each of them a unique identifier, let alone in combination, and they kept saying they could find no such account. Finally I got through, and they are going to send me in the post a new Government Gateway User ID – I think that’s the problem.

There’s still time, although if the new number doesn’t get me in I don’t know what I’ll do.

And there’s still Perdita’s operation, scheduled for Thursday,  to worry about. She’s still in heat, although it’s subsiding. We’ll see, tomorrow.

Meanwhile knitting continues well, very comforting on so stressful a day. I’ve reached row 57, of 86, in the border pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl.

And I found myself wondering, when did charts come in? and why? Was there a pivotal moment? For lace knitting, Amedro’s “Shetland Lace” in ’96 – good heavens! as late as that! – must have been the last serious text-based lace book. Hazel Carter’s “Shetland Lace Knitting from Charts” – the title implies that that wasn’t then the norm – was published in 1987.

Mrs Hunter’s pattern is so easy that I haven’t had to chart it. It’s meticulously accurate. But – this is hard to express – the ()’s and the *’s don’t exactly relate to the motifs and it has been difficult, sometimes, in the modern idiom, to get my head around what’s going on. Whereas I have knit many of Amedro’s patterns and have loved the gentle rhythm of her “take”’s and “cast”’s.

I have knit a couple of things from the remarkable Bestway leaflet – “Traditional Shetland Scarves and Shawls” – which I hope Jamieson & Smith still sell. My only possible recourse, there, was to chart the patterns row by row. The accuracy of the proof-reading there is simply astonishing.

Somewhere in my extensive archives I think I actually have a pattern for a Fair Isle sweater, cut from a magazine, in which the pattern is written out row by row: K4blue, 5 yellow…. I think the first Kaffe Fassett pattern I ever saw, in a VKB of – what date? I’ll see if I can find it tomorrow – was more or less like that. “Glorious Knitting”, 1985, is firmly charted.

Maybe it was just the inexorable rise of common sense.

Monday, January 16, 2017

 A good day, certainly a busy one. The shawl has advanced to somewhere-in-row-53 of the border pattern: I think just about qualifying for my two-a-day goal. Last night’s catheter problem resolved itself satisfactorily – a nurse came fairly promptly, found that the catheter was draining successfully, deduced that it had previously been kinked. A fairly good night’s sleep was had by all.

And we had a splendid visit this morning with Anthony Bryer’s widow, my old friend Jenny

She told us a wonderful story about an obituary, in the Guardian, of some famous Greek, alas! unknown to me. The obituarist had submitted it with a photograph showing the dead man, Bryer, and the famous Byzantine historian Stephen Runciman. The Guardian, having the wit at least to recognize Runciman, had wrongly deduced that of the remaining two men, Bryer with his splendid beard and wild hair, was more likely to be Greek than the smoothly dressed third man, and had cut the photograph down to him.

Bryer and Jenny were in an airport somewhere – Belfast? -- when she went to buy the paper and found her husband’s photograph on the obituary page.

And the other thing I learned was that in England – in Birmingham, at least – there is no social care for the prosperous middle classes.

That cuts both ways: it means that Bryer never languished in hospital as my husband did for so many weeks last year, and the year before. The family had to hire help, and they did, and he came home. The NHS, obviously, benefits as well: a bed un-blocked.

Whereas in Scotland, social care is available with no reference to a means test. Two carers come to us four times a day, free of charge. But my husband had to wait a long time for the “care package” to be put in place.

The odd thing about this is that, with all we keep hearing at the moment about Crisis in the NHS, the general feeling I get is  that things are worse in England than in Scotland. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I am sure there are at least as many seriously poor people, per capita, in Scotland as in England. I need more figures, and am not going to exert myself to acquire them. I remember telling Rachel once (=London) what we pay in council tax, and she said, That can’t be right, Mummy. But it was. Maybe that’s all there is to it.