Thursday, November 21, 2019

OK, not too bad. My trainer came, so exercise was done. It was, in fact, a rather wonderful day, bright and mercifully windless. The hard frost on Tuesday had brought a lot of leaves down in Drummond Place Gardens, lying in pools of colour around their respective trees. I could well employ myself by learning which tree is which.

I made some progress with my Italian essay, but it’s not ready for submission yet. I’ll have to devote tomorrow morning to it. I knit some more Dathan hap – I think the stitch count is now 453. I read some more Ferrante (still not gripped). I finished Trollope’s “The Bertrams”. A meagre portion of future happiness is dredged up for some of the characters, but it’s still pretty depressing. Then I bought “The Claverings” and found that I had already read it, in March. It cost £0.00, so little was lost, but it was embarrassing.

I am afraid I am still worrying about Prince Andrew. Of course he was weak and foolish and vain and not very clever, and has done the royal family a lot of harm. But our airwaves are full of sleek American lawyers telling him to testify to the FBI. Why him, particularly? Ghislane Maxwell is (apparently) somewhere in the US. Epstein entertained two presidents – the FBI could talk to one or both of them. (He also, incredibly, was host to Stephen Hawking.)

Prince Andrew never killed anybody. It isn’t even suggested that he violated a virgin. Seriously – what about Mrs Sakoolas?

My subject matter is drifting farther and farther from knitting. That’s the trouble with long rows of garter stitch.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

So Prince Andrew is now to withdraw from public life.

A friend of ours in Kirkmichael, a retired naval officer, now buried in the same little graveyard as my husband, where I hope to join them one day – this sentence has become unwieldy. Let us call him Duncan, for that is his name.

Duncan was for a while Andrew’s commanding officer, when he (Andrew) was first in the navy. He told us once that he was struck by the fact that, in talking about his family, Andrew never said “my mother”, let alone “Mummy”. It was always, “Her Majesty the Queen.” I don’t know what one concludes from that. Duncan’s own mother died within a few days of his birth, which may have affected his perception of the matter.

I had a good day, I guess. Helen rang up early and bullied me into taking a walk. I haven’t achieved much else. The Dathan hap stitch count now stands at about 450. I must do some Italian homework this evening – write about something. I’ve got nothing to write about, and have decided on an account of “Cooking with the Duchess” as described here in English yesterday. It should at least give me a chance to bring in the passato remoto. A rough draft tonight, to be polished tomorrow.


Southern Gal, I’m sorry to hear of your fall. FugueStateKnits, I’m glad you’re enjoying “Barchester Towers” from the off. “The Bartrams” is improving slightly as it progresses, but at the moment, 2/3 of the way through, I don’t see any prospect of felicity for any of the characters and it’s rather depressing.  

Perhaps Trollope tends to get better as the book goes on, at least in the weaker ones. He’s brilliant once his characters have been thoroughly introduced. But goodness! how many characters Jane Austen establishes in the first chapter of my beloved “Mansfield Park”!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Not a bad day. Ferrante, Duolingo, 10 stitches added to the Dathan hap, an outing with Greek Helen to Waitrose. What does that leave undone?

We had elaborate roadworks hereabout recently. Helen secured for me an excellent parking place. I didn’t dare move the car while it was all going on, for fear of not being able to park when I got back. And I haven’t moved it since. Maybe I should give the car up, when the expensive times of year come rolling back? It has to be taxed, of course; and the annual fee for parking in Drummond Place is not inconsiderable; and it would need to pass its MOT test which is never entirely cheap.

But I did enjoy being taken to Waitrose. If Helen would go on doing that from time to time...


Kirsten: The Warden is the first of the Barchester novels. I skipped it, in my recent re-reading. After “Barchester Towers” the order of the others doesn’t matter. Old friends pop in and out. Except that the last two – “The Small House at Allington” and “The Last Chronicle of Barset” really need to be read consecutively. Well, you might as well read them all consecutively: Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne, Framley Parsonage, then the final two just mentioned. You’re in for a treat.

Chloe: I heard a clip from the Queen’s “annus horribilis” speech while I was cooking lunch that day, and was surprised that she said “horr-ih-bilis”. I (with my classics degree) would have gone for “horr-ee-bilis” as many do to this day. But I looked it up on the spot, and – not surprisingly – HM was right. That “i” is short. “horr-ih-bilis”.

Tamar: I’m sure you’re right that anniversaries in general are lowering. Darkness doesn’t help. As for Prince Andrew, I don’t think he does much waving and ribbon-cutting. Princess Anne is your man for that. The press continues extremely hostile. I fear that that interview will have done him – and perhaps the whole royal family – a lot of damage.

Shandy and Jenny: (comments, Sunday) Degrees of separation are interesting indeed. Helen was at Somerville -- when, I couldn't tell you. When in Palermo in January, '18, Archie and I did a day of "Cooking with the Duchess". I got to sit next to the Duke at lunch -- Giuseppe di Lampedusa's adopted son. (I'm afraid I was much more interested in him than in cookery.) That puts me two degrees? -- would you say -- from the author, and the same number from Burt Lancaster because of the Gattopardo movie.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Poor Prince Andrew continues at or near the top of the news. There seems to be an idea that he should go to the US and give evidence to somebody or other about Epstein’s misdeeds. Maybe we could swap him for Mrs Sakoolas.

The Times – and probably a lot of other newspapers – share my idea that it would be interesting to talk to Ghislane Maxwell. Her testimony might be a good deal more interesting than Prince Andrew’s, judging from that interview. She seems to have vanished off the face of the earth.

Meanwhile I finally found a button to click on which gave me access to Series Three of the Crown. I’m not going to weary you week after week with inconsistencies and improbabilities – I’m not clever enough – but I was left breathless at the scene in the first episode in which the Queen and Prince Philip were represented as pig ignorant about their own pictures. “That’s a Rembrandt, is it?”

I am sure she was well educated in family history, including the formation of the Royal Collection. And I’m also pretty sure that she takes a housewifely interest in her furnishings, even though she didn’t choose them herself at Ikea. I don’t suppose she’s an expert in art history, but I suspect she can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zophanys. (That’s Gilbert and Sullivan.) Heaven Snake! as our family saying has it.

Not much else to report. All this idling about achieved another 10 stitches for the Dathan hap. Perdita has suddenly developed a fondness for my lap, which slows things down.

I’m finding my current Trollope, “The Bertrams”, a bit of a struggle.

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, and I’m finding it rather depressing. He didn’t always remember mine, but he set great store by his own and his sister’s. I suspect it’s the seasonal darkness which is weighing on my spirits.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

I might not be here this evening if I could persuade Netflix to show me the new series of The Crown – but all I can get is the last item in the old one (Churchill and Graham Sutherland). Too much demand?

I didn’t get to Mass this morning because my chauffeuse is suffering from a bad cold. I watched the Andrew Marr show, and then the recording of Prince Andrew’s interview (I didn’t stay up last night, after all). Lots of garter stitch was added to the Dathan hap – when I finish the current long, long row I’ll have 419 stitches (of a desired 597).

The newspapers and radio are so hostile to Prince Andrew that I felt a contrarian sympathy for him. He is a vain and not very clever man, and Epstein must have been both fascinating and flattering. It seems to me entirely possible that he swept the girls out of sight when Andrew was there.

And I need to know more about Ghislane Maxwell – Robert’s daughter, and a major player in this story.  I see from Wikipedia that she is a Balliol man. She may well have overlapped Alexander. He and Prince Andrew are almost exactly the same age – both born in February, 1960. Alexander is aging more successfully. He was at Balliol when the first women were admitted.

FugueStateKnits, of the books you name you must certainly start Trollope with “Barchester Towers”. It’s probably his masterpiece. I tried to reply to your comment, and may have succeeded, but I want to make sure.

Mary Lou, I remember “Wild Swan” from my childhood with great affection, although I had forgotten that she had to spin and knit nettles.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Not much, again today. The Italian lesson was more than ordinarily flattening, although perfectly pleasant and successful. I’ve read some Ferrante, walked as far as the corner shop to buy my weekend FT, done my Duolingo, that’s about it.

But I mean to stay up to watch the interview with Prince Andrew as it first goes out, at 9. Poor Queen. And that should provide time for some Dathan hap garter stitch. And soon – tomorrow? – we’ll have the new Netflix “Queen”; lots more garter stitch potential there.

Mary Lou, (comment yesterday), your November stash activity sounds intensely therapeutic. I don’t think we’ve discussed nettle, and it’s an interesting subject. Plant-wise, isn’t it related to flax? Or am I imagining that? I tried a bit of a google, and it’s out there all right. One website, showing a beautiful-looking sock yarn, said that it is “slightly molten, as the dye does not stick to the nettle yarn”. That sounds ominous. I’d be interested to hear anything more you have to say about it. What is the proportion of nettle in the Wild Wool yarn?

My current Trollope really isn’t very good, so far, but at least the travelogue is over and the characters reassembled in London.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Again, not much done. A day of activity but not much accomplishment. A man came to service the boiler and fix a broken lavatory and a stuck cellar door. He did all those things successfully. Tesco delivered some groceries. My cleaner came and put the groceries away. Greek Helen dropped in.

I think the Dathan hap rows have reached the point where I had better stop flogging myself to get four rows done a day, and just knit peacefully on. The stitch count is somewhere in the 390’s. The target is 597.

The new IK turned up today but alas! has nothing for me. It is largely or perhaps entirely devoted to heavier yarns – not my thing, these days.

I think I’m ready to read The Golden Fleece, but I am at the moment still with Trollope – “The Bertrams”. I am currently reading a section in which the author does something I almost always don’t enjoy – namely, uses a place he has recently visited as background. I’m jumping to a conclusion here, in Trollope’s case, but I’m fairly confident.

The place is Jerusalem, and the section is not without interest because Trollope is good, and his eye is sharp, and it’s interesting to see what Jerusalem was like 150 years ago. But I hope we’ll all go home to England soon.

It’s Friday night again. I must go back to the passato remoto.