Sunday, September 27, 2020


I’ve got the purl bumps picked up. It’s not a perfect job, but I’ve got the right number of them. I have since tucked the needle that holds them inside and gone on knitting the neck ribbing. Not much more to do. Kate Davies’ promised Sunday essay turns out to be about the three-needle bind-off (a fave of mine, too). I had expected feminism in some form, or the beauties of nature; it was a pleasant surprise.


Otherwise it has been a pretty idle day. We are busy plotting how far we might bend Scotland’s new rules, when Rachel and Ed visit from London later this week. We are not meant to visit each other at home, although it is all right to go to a restaurant together. That is ridiculous. We’ll be fine if the weather holds. We can eat sandwiches in Drummond Place Gardens. And if it doesn’t, I am much inclined to think I will invite them in. They have had to cancel their visit to the west – Ketki is now a member of the West of Scotland Health Board and is resolved not to take a Dominic Cummings attitude to the rules.


Good news: Christina, who broke her neck 10 days ago, has a hospital appt this week. I think it is rather clever of evolution to have given us bones which mend.




I have finished the biography of the Mitford sisters. I now want to read Nancy’s letters to Evelyn Waugh, but the book is not on the shelf. That has happened too often lately.


Here is another Mitford story. When Jessica and her American husband Bob Treuhaft first visited Chatsworth – where sister Debo was duchess – he was completely bowled over. “I would have known how to behave at the White House,” he said. “At Chatsworth, I didn’t know what century I was in.” Presented with the visitors’ book, he noticed that many guests had signed with a single name: “Salisbury” “Antrim” “Denham”. So he wrote “Treuhaft” and wondered why everybody fell about laughing.





Saturday, September 26, 2020


I’ve done a bit more ribbing at the neck of my EPS. Perhaps I’ll devote tomorrow morning’s Andrew Marr show to picking up purl bumps. Kate Davies then proceeds to a three-needle bind-off, as you say, Phyllis and Mary Lou. You give me hope that I will be able to do it without things going skew.


I wish I could go on forever knitting EPS yoke sweaters of one sort or another. But I’m going to have to face up to designing an Orkney-flag hat. I wish KD’s new yarn Schiehellion had the colours, but it doesn’t. I’ve probably got them in stash.




I don’t suppose you could tell me how to wind a Blixen/Dinesen turban around my head, Chloe? I have often thought that that might be the solution. It just falls off, when I try. Then I could go on to dress colourfully and eccentrically.




You’re right in every respect about the new Cormoran Strike, Shandy. I read it so fast because I do nothing else, other than write to you and a bit of ribbing. Daniella cleans up after me. (Well, I made kimchi this week, and plan to start another batch next week. The present one isn’t effervescing all over the kitchen counter as I might have hoped, but I think it’s all right. Koreans often eat it fresh, but I prefer to wait for a bit of fermentation-bite.)


Julie, I think maybe starting with the book of their letters is the best way to approach the Mitford sisters. You gradually figure out who they each are, and get a sense of family feeling amidst all the confusing nicknames. However difficult the family situation, they kept on writing loving and funny letters to each other (except for Jessica, the communist, the prickliest of them all). The joint biography that I have gone on to, is filling in a lot of gaps.


Somewhere in all this – and of course now I can’t remember where I read it, or of whom – one of them (perhaps Diana, the beautiful fascist one) was faced with an American form on which she had to enter her father’s occupation. She had to explain that he didn’t have one, and added that the English aristocracy had made so much money with the slave trade that they never had to work again. Naughty. (And not entirely true, in case anyone is worried.)

Friday, September 25, 2020


Chloe, bless you, you saved me at the last moment from a comment-less day. Maybe that’s because there was no knitting in it. Mary Lou, yours came in while I was actually composing.


Yesterday I had reached (but forgot to tell you about) the point where the neck ribbing of the EPS was about enough to bind off – or else to knit double and then be folded inside. The trouble with that, it sounds so easy, is that I can never do it, when I try to sew it down. It comes out skewed.


So there I was this morning, about to look up stretchy bind-offs, when the first pattern in my new Kate Davies club arrived. Its name is one of those unpronounceable Scottish words that she’s so fond of. It’s rather good, except I’d have to knit it with a bit more ease, not having a Kate Davies figure. However, the point here is that it has a folded in ribbed neck, and KD has persuaded me that I can do it after all (it’s just a matter of picking up purl bumps) so I am ribbing peacefully on with that end in view.




Helen came this morning and cut my hair. I had washed it before she arrived. She was sorry, as she had wanted to take a “before” picture of me in my mad-scientist hair. “After” looks more like new-arrival-in-the-prison-camp. Now she has gone off to take her youngest son Fergus to Bristol University. This morning’s paper is full of news of the disease spreading among university students and how they won’t be allowed to go home for Christmas.




I continue with the joint-biography of The Mitford Girls, and it continues interesting. I’ve been reading today about Unity’s (and to a lesser extent Diana’s) friendship with Hitler. They were more than just groupies, but probably Unity didn’t have a full-scale affair. But golly, even so. I wish I had my parents to ask whether anyone in the US thought, in the early 30’s, that Hitler might be a good thing for Germany. It was a long way away, and they had the Depression to worry about. They probably couldn’t have told me much. The anti-Semitism was there from the beginning plain to see, even if not yet in its full horror. But a lot of English people seemed to have been willing to swallow it.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


Today’s big excitement was a dental appt. Mostly just the hygienist cleaning my teeth. She surprised me by saying, Saw you on television, and I nearly replied, That wasn’t me, that was my cat.


But of course, she hadn’t seen Perdita and the mosaics, she had seen me. Some years ago, a very few may remember, a photographer-neighbour did a thing for Help the Aged, or some such group, which featured me sitting in the sitting room looking old. They should see me now. I thought it was just for showing at the Annual General Meeting. I often see Justin walking his dogs while I am tottering around the Gardens. I will mention the subject when that next happens.  (Except that now that I have something to say to him, it never will.)


Joni, that was clever of you to work out the actual link from what I posted yesterday. For Perdita and the mosaics, see yesterday’s comment.


Then I saw the dentist, and he said he had seen me on television. He doesn’t live with the hygienist. There is some trouble in one of my teeth, but I told him that nothing was to be done until next time (if then). The problem hasn’t worsened since last time, and he quite won my heart by congratulating me on my diet – no sugar, no bread. Weston’s Vintage Cider, I may assume, isn’t bad for my teeth.




Beverly, I’m sure you’re right. I re-registered in Monmouth County, NJ, in what must have been 2008 and voted for Obama. If I had had the wit to grasp the situation, I could have gone on voting by just requesting a postal ballot each time but I thought, hearing nothing from them, that I had to go through the whole process again. This year everybody has a postal ballot and here is mine. I will certainly send it off soon. I no longer have a post office within tottering distance but something can be done. A taxi, if all else fails. This is important.




Rachel and Ed are going ahead with their visit next week. They will stay in an Airb&b and see me and Helen out of doors. Pretty grim, pretty conscientious. No news from the Majestic Line about the cruise. We’re due to leave 17th October.


I’ve embarked on Mary Lovell’s biography “The Mitford Girls”. I don’t know whether I will persevere to the end, but there were some things I wanted to get straight about childhood. Chloe, I think the level-headed one was Debo, Duchess of Devonshire. The youngest. Certainly the peace-maker. Nancy was the eldest, clever and very funny, but there were difficulties.


In the letters, towards the very end, Diana (the beautiful one) tells Debo that she ought to read more, and recommends some classics. Debo agrees that she doesn’t read and asks, “Am I too late for Proust? I do hope so.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


You’ll never guess what arrived in the post today, so I’ll have to tell you. A ballot!


I voted for Obama, registering at my last American address in Monmouth County, NJ. It was hard work. I sort of thought that once I had done it, I would stay registered, but no. I didn’t bother going through it all again last time – I wasn’t all that keen on Hillary. And now this!


I spoke to C. today. She and Manaba (and Christina) are having a tough time. Christina needs total care since her fall from that horse, except that she is able to hobble to the bathroom on her own once she has been helped to her feet. She is still breast-feeding wee Hamish. It is important to her to go on doing it. She blames herself for the disaster, and is suffering as much from that as from her own pain and discomfort. She will see a neurosurgeon soon and the hope will be that the shattered vertebra is mending and that she won’t need surgery.


Knitting progresses well. I am doing the neck ribbing on the EPS sweater. I switched to dp needles and then decided that they were a bit precarious – all those opposite ends for the stitches to slip off of – and switched back to a circular. The stitches aren’t under any stress but they have to be pushed around rather a lot.


Some people were here yesterday to make a rather wonderful little video of Helen as a mosaicist. Perdita has a starring role. Paradox couldn’t have done it half so well. (That link doesn't seem to work. Why not?)


I have started chopping up vegetables to make some kimchi from ingredients obtained during yesterday’s trip to Waitrose. Alas there was only one Chinese (Napa) cabbage, so there won’t be much. I hope to get it salted down this evening.




I’m now down to two Mitford sisters, all the others dead. The survivors are the Duchess of Devonshire and Diana, the widow of the British fascist Oswald Mosley. Those two seem to have been the closest to each other anyway.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020


I had a lovely time in Waitrose this morning, except that I didn’t much enjoy mask-wearing for that length of time. I felt claustrophobic and my glasses steamed up so that I couldn’t read labels on the top shelf. Archie did all the heavy lifting and then we came home to a delicious lunch, a favourite of both, a Nigella Lawson warm salad involving lamb fillet which my excellent local butcher doesn’t sell in that form although I dare say he could produce it if asked.


And its just as well we got that done, because from today we have been forbidden to ride about in each other’s cars. I don’t know how the new semi-clamp down will affect either Rachel and Ed’s visit scheduled for next week (visiting each other’s houses is forbidden in Scotland but not in England) and my cruise now only about three weeks away.


Our Leader is going to address us soon.




I decided that there was no avoiding the trying on of the EPS sweater. And I’ve done it. The sting in the tail, of course, is getting the stitches back on the needle. I’ve done that too. I think I could have managed the whole job by threading half the stitches on to a second circular needle.


The problem was that I still haven’t decreased down to 40% of K, but the faux raglan seams are 10” long and I think I read somewhere that that’s as long as you want to get. However, all seems well. The neck is, indeed, too low and too big, but I don’t see any reason why another inch will do any harm. The yarn is heavenly on the skin. I have forgotten its composition, although I remember that Ginger Twist (local indie LYS) no longer offers it.




Again, thanks for suggestions.


I’m tempted by an omnium gatherum biography of the Mitford sisters, suggested by Amazon. The collection of letters which I am reading is sort of low on event. I’ve now passed the point of Nancy’s death and I fear that things may fall apart without her.


I have on my own shelf a volume of her correspondence with Evelyn Waugh. Maybe I should go on to that. Have I read it? In the end, I finished re-reading “The Loved One”. The second half is funnier and less savage than the first. It’s dedicated to Nancy Mitford.



Monday, September 21, 2020


No exercise, again. Otherwise a good day. The EPS is ready for the fourth episode – the instructions were published in Knitter’s Magazine over the period of a year. I put in two more short rows, to lift the back, and also added two more gradient stripes, just to use up the little bits of yarn. It wasn’t entirely a faultless job.




I’m pressing on with the Mitford sisters. I think I’ve got them all straight now. The most extreme Nazi (the one most convinced of Hitler’s sweetness) shot herself unsuccessfully when war broke out. She was permanently brain damaged. Hitler (sweetly?) arranged for her to be moved to a nursing home in neutral Switzerland whence her mother was able to retrieve her. She lived for several years more, in her mother’s care. And it wasn’t easy.


That still leaves five sisters, one a duchess, one a communist, one the wife of a fairly notorious British Nazi, one a famous novelist, one a cheerful countrywoman, all apparently on reasonably good terms with each other. although there are occasional sparks. Very remarkable. At my present point of reading, they’re middle-aged, and the preceding generation is dying and it’s a bit depressing.


And, speaking of depressing, I fetched Evelyn Waugh’s “The Loved One” down from the shelf yesterday to illustrate a point I was writing to my sister, and went on reading it, for a bit. It’s very short. It’s a savage satire, and very depressing, and I don’t think I’ll finish.


That leaves the books you have recommended, for which I am extremely grateful.


And I’m greatly looking forward to my supermarket outing tomorrow.