Saturday, May 30, 2020

Huddled at my kitchen table just now, as I am so often, I heard a sound so familiar that I didn’t notice it for a while. Then I did. Tennis balls! Being knocked about in the little club out back! Perhaps we really are getting the world back!

I did some knitting today – not very much. Perhaps another picture tomorrow after the Andrew Marr show. What I did today was play a recently-purchased DVD of Visconti’s film “Il Gattopardo” while knitting. (Not without some difficulty, reminding myself how to tell the television to show me the recording. Will I be able to restore it to real life in time for Andrew Marr?)

When I was really young, 10 or 11 perhaps, I saw the movie of “My Friend Flicka”. I loved the book passionately. It was the first time I had ever seen a film made from a book I had read. I honestly expected to see the movie that ran in my head as I was reading. It was a cruel, cruel disappointment.

Visconti’s film comes about as close as is possible, and I’m older and wiser now. It’s not the book. It’s not nearly as good as the book. But it looks more or less right.


Oh, Mary Lou, a glut of asparagus! Hot with butter and lemon! Cold with oil and vinegar! My brother-in-law grills it with a bit of Tabasco. Then start again.

My father’s mother in Constantine, Michigan, had a big stand of it. All I remember is hiding in the fronds later in the season, which I wasn’t supposed to do. My mother’s parents had, in effect, a smallholding, in Dallas – a big vegetable garden, a cow, chickens. I have no memory of the food being delicious, although it certainly should have been. I remember the hired man turning the proper old-fashioned ice cream maker on Sunday mornings. I remember him beheading chickens, too.

I knew him for years only as “John”. I remember how very pleased I was to discovered that he was really “Mr McGregor”, just as in “Peter Rabbit”.

How old was I when I finally learned that asparagus can be a treat? Pretty old.

Tandah, you encourage me to go on with Elizabeth Strout, despite not much liking “The Burgess Boys”.

Friday, May 29, 2020

All well. No knitting, again, but I feel fine – or, as fine as I get these days. There would be time for some this evening, but again, it’s Friday: Italian looms.

I have provided myself with L’escargot Bleu food again, this time without card-trouble. The entrees all sounded a bit heavy and meaty, so I stuck to starters, as I sometimes do when lunching there. A fish soup; a terrine; cold asparagus; a dauph. That should see me through the weekend.

And I am trying to drum up trade for another cookery session with the Duchess of Palma, this time involving my own participation. That involves struggling with a website called mi.o ( which is not always cooperative (or comprehensible).

Helen came around and marched me around the gardens. Goodness, what a change three days makes, this time of year! The grass is now covered with tiny daisies. And there were various groups disporting themselves, taking advantage of the new permission for two households to meet out of doors at a safe distance.


(Since I can’t report on knitting) I am reading Elizabeth Strout’s “The Burgess Boys”. I love Olive Kitteridge, very dearly, but am enjoying this one somewhat less. The odd thing is that I feel sure the beginning is familiar: No spoiler here, as it’s all in the first pages. Three small children in a parked car. Their father leaves them, briefly. One of them pulls the hand brake off. The car rolls forward and kills the father.

If I had the Kindle book – I read all my novels on Kindle, these days – Amazon would have told me so. And the rest of the book feels totally unfamiliar (and a bit padded-out). A New Yorker story that later turned out to be a whole novel? That happens.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

I’ve been feeling more than a bit droopy today, and have done no knitting. I think I will excuse myself from standing on the doorstep at eight.

Before I forget: I heard from Misa Hay today, the woman who so brilliantly organises and leads the Shetland Wool Adventures in happier years, about a magazine she is about to launch. And she mentions that “Vogue Knitting is being downscaled”. WHAT IS THIS? Why didn’t anybody tell me?

Southern Gal: thank you for your comment. I would have replied to it except that when I try, my replies get swept away into the void as happens to so many of yours. We are going to have a new Blogger at the end of June. I dread it, but perhaps that particular problem will be solved.

If what you say is true (and I’m sure it is), it explains a good deal. But (a) why not come clean? David Cameron’s son Ivan (now dead) had as dreadful a medical condition as can be imagined. There was never any concealment and (I hope) never any undue publicity. And (b) in that case, it is all the more surprising that they felt they had no one to turn to for help in all that great city.

I have been zero-ing in on sourdough bread baking. The things I sent for have arrived. My starter is in good health. I’ve got flour. There is no excuse not to plunge ahead.

The difficulty is that it sounds as if one has to be on one’s feet for 24 hours. First you feed the starter and wait for six hours or so, thus making a “levain”. Then you add it to the bread flour (after a bit of autolysing) and leave it for a while. Then…well, you get the idea. After a long, long day of this you can put it in the refrigerator overnight and go gratefully to bed. Essentially, there are some stages where you have to watch so that it doesn’t over-prove and start to fall; and others which you can suspend with cold.

One wonders how they managed in the stone age.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

I’ve given up on Dominic Cummings. Helen was here this morning, exasperated with the whole fuss. Lots of people are quietly driving about and visiting family and friends, she says. (I don’t think her visits here count as violations, since I am so old and requiring help.) I think the point might be that Dominic Cummings’ position is so lofty that he has to obey the letter of his own law. Is that what noblesse oblige means? I am sure none of the royal family are cheating in the slightest.

All well here, otherwise. I’ve recovered from yesterday. It’s interesting what you say (comments yesterday), about Zoom being tiring. I am trying to persuade my sister and her husband, in DC, to join me in cooking one of the Duchess’ other menus. She remembered that when Archie and I were there in the flesh, I sat on the sidelines, perched on a kitchen stool, having fallen in the street the evening before and being somewhat shaken. Next time, she says, I must cook. We’ll see.

The not-surprising answer to yesterday’s question is that I want my EPS sweater to be 24-25” long; therefore I need 14-15” to the armhole. I have achieved 9 5/8” at the latest measure. It’s still looking good, but progress is slow.

Today’s knitting incentive was the new Fruity Knitting. It was entirely devoted to subjects I am not interested in – first Andrea with her beautiful (but crochet’d) blanket; then an interview with the woman who does Mochimochi. But the Mochimochi woman was delightful, and interesting – and Andrea is a brilliant interviewer. And the crochet’d blanket is nothing if not glorious.

I’ve been looking in on Arne & Carlos, as often. Carlos has had covid-19 rather badly, although he’s back on his feet now. In one recuperative video he teased Arne for being a bad cook, compared to himself, and then went on, to my surprise, to tease him for being old. Arne seems so boyish, so much the younger of the two. But I suppose, looking at them critically, that might not be true.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

I have spent the afternoon in Palermo and am exhausted.

Dominic Cummings seems secure in his job at the moment, although there are signs of growing unrest in his own party, and a junior minister has resigned. It was clear from yesterday’s press conference that Cummings regards himself as indispensable to the management of the UK. And it’s equally clear that the Prime Minister agrees. It’s a very odd situation in the midst of a very odd world.

I succeeded in ordering the Countess’ “Ministry of Truth Twisting” yarn (see yesterday). The result will be my Cummings socks, I hope.

Palermo: some will remember that Archie and I, early in 2018, did a day of “Cooking with the Duchess” at her palazzo. Her husband, my age, is the adopted son of Giuseppi Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author of my beloved “Il Gattopardo”.  Now, of course, there are no tourists in Palermo, either taking cookery classes or staying in the elegant self-catering apartments which have been carved out of the palazzo.

So she’s teaching by Zoom. And today Archie and his brother Mungo did a lesson and I was invited to sit in. That’s all I did. I sat there knitting. But I’m tired.

I took a tape measure to the EPS sweater. The row gauge is 9 ½ if not 10 to the inch. You see what I mean about paint drying. Tomorrow I’ll work out where I want to be when I start the arms, and how much further that is from where I am now.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Dominic Cummings has just given a press conference. It took up much of my afternoon (including ½ hour’s lateness on his part). He was wearing a nicely-ironed white shirt which he had previously submitted to me and Shandy for approval. He seemed to be telling the truth (a bit belatedly) and answered hostile questions. I can’t guess how it will go down.

It turned out they didn’t need child care. It’s sad to think – taking his story at face value – that in all that great city there was no one they felt they could call on, if both were ill and they needed help (which, as I say, didn’t happen).

Countess Ablaze, who had vowed she wouldn’t do a coronavirus yarn, is so  incensed that she plans a colourway called “The Ministry of Truth Twisting” – sock yarn only. (And she hasn’t dyed it yet.) But I’ve been clicking on the “Preorder Yarn” button all day, off and on, and constantly find that “This site can’t be reached”. I’ll try tomorrow.

It’s been a pretty limp day here. I knit onwards on the EPS, but we’re in the paint drying stage. It will be a while before anything seems to happen.

Andrew and Andrea this week? They would be welcome.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Prime Minister is sticking with his friend Dominic Cummings, but we haven’t heard the last of this. I do agree, Shandy, that his  costume sets one teeth on edge. I think Mrs Cummings has family in London (who might have helped with child care). She certainly wrote an article for the Spectator (for which she works) about the experience of having covid-19, implying that the experience took place in London. However the article doesn’t seem to be available without subscribing to the Spectator. But if that’s true, it implies that she knew that going to Durham was a bit off.

Here’s the EPS:

As hoped, Andrew Marr plus a Zoom’d parish after-Mass coffee morning plus watching the PM not answer questions about Mr Cummings – provided a lot of knitting time. It’s looking very cheerful, at any rate. I’m a bit worried about whether it’s too big, but big is what I’m aiming at. I could slide the stitches onto the two huge circulars I have as a result of knitting an edging all around the Dunfallandy Blankie all those years ago, and try it on. Maybe I will.


This is my unexpectedly large bag of chapatti flour:

 I hope I will tackle sourdough-bread-making this week. I have ordered a dough-scraper and some baking parchment from Amazon, no doubt delayed by the bank holiday weekend we seem to be having. I think it’s worth waiting for them. And I must turn the bag over and find an ingredient-list in English (there must be one) and make sure it’s OK to use it as wholemeal flour.