Sunday, January 25, 2015

Greek Helen is on her way home, on the very same early-Sunday-morning EasyJet direct flight which C. and I will take at the end of March. She seems in good form, and we had a nice time.

She made attempts to think ahead on the subject of Care of the Elderly in the Home, without making much progress. All four of our distant children would like to formulate a plan for looking after my husband if I am temporarily or permanently disabled. He must stay here. But one of the troubles with unpleasantness is that however well one prepares, it can be guaranteed to arrive in an unexpected form.

I did at least show her where, in this untidy room, the files about the bank accounts are to be found.

She has much else to think about. Her husband David will have a major operation for diverticulitis this week. I thought it was just an inconvenient and occasionally painful chronic condition – my father had it; he lived into his 90's. But David is to have a length of bowel cut out and the ends reattached.

Not much knitting got done. I hope the balls of yarn attached to Archie's sweater will finally be finished today. We didn't get to see Archie himself. He woke up with a sore throat yesterday and stayed away.

We had some more water from the flat upstairs yesterday, this time a drip through our kitchen ceiling. I was there when it started and raced upstairs. The washing machine was leaking. The drip was quickly stopped. My husband is apoplectic with rage and wants to have the kitchen replastered at the neighbours' expense. These are the same people who ruined our dining room three years ago with an inundation from their bathroom. I don't think any damage was done this time, and I don't think there's anything we can do except fume.


The Little Boys from Loch Fyne have been in Glasgow this week, taking exams and being interviewed for various schools. The elder of the Little Boys will finish primary school this summer. The plan is to send both to a Glasgow school – the family will have to live in Glasgow during the week, and I don't know what will happen to the ducks. At one of the exams, a fellow candidate was discovered in tears. Thomas – the younger of the Little Boys – befriended him. “It'll be all right. You can copy my answers.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

We spent yesterday recovering from the stress of the day before – that dental appt – and I at least feel much the better for it. And Greek Helen will be here today, to share the load for three whole days. She is going to cook tonight and Saturday. I had a good time in Waitrose yesterday, buying the things on her list. They don't seem to stock za'atar in Tesco.

Thank you for your help with the New Yorker cartoon and the Green Bay Packers. Failure to reach the Superbowl – especially after such a thrilling game – will explain the looks of gloom. Why are the fans all men?

I know about Wisconsin and cheese – Theo's wife Jenni is from there. When Lizzie and Greek Helen and I went to the wedding – flying from Edinburgh to Newark, train to Old Saybrook, a much longer and harder day than it sounds – we were met at our hotel with a little goodie bag, a timetable of events, suggestions for filling in any empty hours – and a piece of cheese, in the shape of the state of Wisconsin. It was a nice touch.

More for the Miscellany dep't:  the owner of the Jack Russell terrier I hope to knit, sent me this link – a YouTube video of a knitted and animated farmyard. Cute.

I got on well with Archie's sleeve at the end of my recuperative day. I got out two of those mesh sleeves you sent me, Mary Lou, and put the yarn in them. It helps a good deal, especially as the balls are tending to fall apart now that we have reached the end game. But I'll still be glad to revert to knitting from only one.


I probably won't try to write anything while Greek Helen is here. Back on Monday?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Oh, Jean, that's good: the plain Jack Russell's are “without benefit of clergy”!

Pedro wasn't along on yesterday's outing. We will have to arrange a sitting. His owner says he is relatively low on markings – just around the head, whereas the one in the pattern book has spots on the body. That will simplify things. Free-form intarsia is an interesting idea, but I wouldn't welcome too much of it.

Not much real knitting got done yesterday. When we got to our appt in Restorative Dentistry we found the little waiting room full of dispirited oldies and my heart was in my boots – but they called us while I was still filling out a form about my husband's medical history, and not a stitch was knit.

Some more sleeve in the evening, but not much. I will certainly be glad when there are no longer two balls of yarn attached, winding themselves around each other as I constantly turn the work. I am still using a short circular, and will manage one or two more decreases with it. And, last night, a miracle – there on the coffee table at my knees was an unopened pack of Cubics, 7” or thereabouts, in the necessary gauge. How did that happen? Very gratefully received.

Non-knit

Here's one for you: we often find New Yorker cartoons somewhat beyond our ken these days but the one on page 58 of the current issue, January 19, beats them all – ranks of glum men with cheese on their heads. Please explain.

Janet (comment Monday), I come from a sturdy line of high-achieving women, and went to Oberlin which disputes with Mount Holyoke the honour of being the first institution in the world to give degrees to women – and which certainly introduced co-educational college education. I don't think I was ever made to feel that there was anything I couldn't do, or shouldn't bother to try to do, just because I was a woman.

But there was certainly a powerful Ladies-Home-Journal miasma about in the 50's, requiring marriage of all women as the basic test of success in life. It was my own choice to step off the merry-go-round. And I needed to get away from home, like Roz Chast ("Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?"). And, unlike her, wasn't a genius.

I doubt if life is easier for today's young women – life doesn't get easier. But at least they know they have to provide a career for themselves.


Life: yesterday was seriously stressful, hard to say why. Partly because the appt was at 1:45, our lunchtime. All went well, see above, and we got home in time for a very late lunch with no hypoglycaemia. But oh, dear, the worry. We are undoubtedly both in steep decline. Nothing is scheduled for today – bliss. And tomorrow Greek Helen will be here – double bliss.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday is Cleaning Woman day, and this one also brings with it another hospital appt – dentistry. So there won't be much here. It's the last hospital appt in what has been a busy month of them.

I'm happily knitting that sleeve. You may remember that long, long ago I came upon a skein that seemed solider in colour than the preceding ones, so I am doing what they tell you to do, and alternating it with another skein  round by round. It works fine as far as colour is concerned, but it is a nuisance, and also has the effect of making the two skeins seem absolutely endless.

I have broken them off the body and taken them with me to the sleeve. It seemed the only thing to do. I am glad to say that at last they are beginning to seem diminished.

“Best in Show” turned up yesterday, and will be a good addition to the books on my Oddities shelf. Dog-knitting looks feasible. The yarns specified are Rowan, easy to inspect in John Lewis. The dog in question is a Jack Russell. It will be necessary to get colour and markings more or less right. It's a “parson Jack Russell” in fact – that's a new one to me. The friend who owns it is going to drive us to the dental hospital.We'll be able to discuss the project a bit further on the way.


The Pakokku sock has benefited somewhat from all these appts. I'm around the second heel at last. Today should move things forward still further. Dentistry is the one speciality which doesn't involve me in the consultation.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Little knitting was done yesterday, as often on a Sunday, but I moved a little bit forward with that sleeve. I found the Sirka counter, reminded myself how to use it (the packaging is gone), and embarked on a task right up its street – decreasing every fifth round 24 times. I note with alarm what you say about the beautiful red yarn I mean to use for the inside of the hems, Leslie. The best I can say is that I hope I will take your advice about fixing the colour.

I knit entire red madtosh sweaters for the Thomases, elder and younger, a few years ago. I wonder how they're getting on? It's possible, indeed likely, in both cases that the sweaters aren't much worn.

In other news, James rang up to introduce a scheme my excellent children have come up with – to transport my husband to Sydenham for Holy Week, when I am in Athens. Alexander will drive him down in his powerful, comfortable car. He will be housed, not in the spare bedroom on the mezzanine – it's a big London house – but in the little-used front parlour on the ground floor. You never saw a house with so many lavatories, so that will be all right.

My husband has advanced a number of difficulties – would it be better to fly? To take the train? What would he do all week once he got there? (Take the computer along, perhaps?) And then he'd have to come back again.

We shall see.

Sometimes in moments of gloom I feel I have squandered my talents in a life of incompetent domesticity. But then, on the other hand, there are moments like this. I am the mother of Rachel, Alexander, James and Helen. The mother of the Gracchi could hardly have done better. Being President of the International Monetary Fund would have been trivial by comparison.

Rachel also phoned last night – her son Joe was knocked off his bicycle on his way to work the other day. The police phoned Rachel while she was on her way to work, and she got to the hospital before the ambulance arrived with Joe in it. There has been a lot in our news lately about A&E departments being overwhelmed. Joe was treated immediately, and continued to be attentively monitored even after it turned out that he was essentially all right.

The bicycle came out of it less well.

Rachel and I think that a lot of the difficulty in A&E is caused by people who call for an ambulance when they feel a bit poorly. When they get to the hospital, they are subject to a process called “triage” which gives precedence to people like Joe. My husband says that “triage” means “shunting” in French.

Coding: I enjoyed it a lot, once. No time, now. Learning BASIC was a major intellectual excitement in my middle years. We had a couple of computers in the school where I taught Latin – this was in the days just before the introduction of the IBM PC. The maths teacher had devised a programming course for dull girls, all the books being too complicated for them.

She gave it to me, and I went off and had a go. The first task was to do something or other, and to count how many times you had done it. I could do the task, all right, but how to do the counting? I went back to the maths teacher. She said, put in a line saying x=x+1.


It was an electrifying moment for me – a simple and impossible equation in the mathematics I thought I knew, a whole new way of dealing with the world. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The paragraph that didn't get written yesterday – when Alistair rang the doorbell – was to thank you for finding that Gaughan pattern for me, Sous Sous. I had remembered that it was a single syllable repeated, but that didn't get me very far. Lots of people are doing it on Ravelry but there are very few finished pictures. From one of them, I deduce that it is important to have plenty of ease, as with my beloved Relax.

I remain somewhat tempted.

And, Shandy, I haven't set myself yet to find the National Gallery handout about “our” picture, but I know my husband will want to see it. Your remark about how the picture looked like a Dutch interior was interesting. The artist in question was much interested in, and influenced by, Dutch painting although the interest mainly manifested itself, in his early career, in the pictures that made his name, with crowds or at least groups carousing outdoors (Pitl*ssie Fair) or doing something interesting within (Villag* Politici*ns, Distra*ning for R*nt). “Woman at Prayer” was an unusual subject for him, and not many people other than my husband could have demonstrated that he in fact painted such a thing, That was a big reason why we thought we'd win it at auction.

But the dealers didn't worry about proof – they bought on the evidence of their eyes, and all credit to them.

So, yesterday was grandsons. Alistair arrived early. I cooked him a cholesterol-ful breakfast and we sat and talked of computing until my husband got up, and then we mostly talked of Sydenham. We watched a video that Alistair and his father (our son James) had made about their new house. Mimi made several appearances, clearly working on the theory that if you are making a video about the house, your viewers will want to see the cat. He has made a good recovery from his accident. He is very talkative. Maybe that is the way with Chinese cats.

Then Alistair went off to see Archie, and Archie in turn, after seeing Alistair off on his train at the end of the afternoon, came down here. We tried the sweater on. The length is about right. However, it is slightly snug, nothing that blocking can't deal with – but that will shorten it. I think I'll do another inch or so before starting the flaps. Leaving the free stitches on long circular needles worked fine – much like your principle, Melfina, of using a cable from your interchangeable-needle set.

For the time being, I'll go on with the sleeve I;ve started. It's a good thing Hellie is actually getting married – otherwise there might be danger that her shawl would lie there waiting for tidying and blocking forever.


Archie said that Alistair had said that Grandmother should do some coding – it would give her something to do. I was enormously flattered. Archie will be back next weekend, when his mother Greek Helen is here. If I haven't done anything about the MacBook by then,he said,  he will take it in hand.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ruth Rendell has had a stroke.

We had a successful day yesterday. A friend drove us. That helped a lot. Half an hour straight into the low winter sun. My husband's blood sugar – they test on arrival – turned out to be alarmingly low and most of the appt time was spent getting him right again. We came home by taxi and my feelings of panic persisted all evening. Better this morning.

Our friend would like me to knit her a dog. I have ordered Best in Show, the pattern book in question. It will be an ornament to my Curiosities shelf, along with Knit Your Own Great Britain and Knit Your Own Royal Wedding. Once it's here, I can at least consider the feasibility of the project.

The big news is that I have filed the income tax. It's done, on Thursday,  for another year. They say we owe them some money, not an inordinate amount. I'll wait a week or so to see if they are going to explain why.

On Thursday evening, exhausted by this exploit, I wanted some plain-vanilla knitting and found there was none. Archie's sweater has arrived at the point where it really needs to be tried on for length, and the shawl needs grafting and tidying. I just sort of sat there.

But last night – this really won't do – I took things in hand, despite feelings of panic. Archie's sweater has been divided fore and aft onto long circulars. No back and forth knitting (for the terminal flaps) has been done, however – it will be easy to continue in a circle. I then recovered the stitches for the first sleeve and have made a good start on that.

Archie himself will be here at the end of the afternoon. I hope we can stage the trial.

Do any of the books have a good passage on recovering stitches from waste yarn? I always find it slower and more difficult than I think it ought to be. Madelinetosh is fairly loosely spun and many stitches split.

On Thursday, as I was reeling from the emotional effort of filing the tax, the post arrived with the new VK. A glorious moment! The actual issue is something of a disappointment, especially for a winter one. But the articles are good. What a mysterious and interesting woman is Barbara Walker – to be that good at knitting, to write a book essential for every knitting library, and then just to abandon the subject and more on to something else.


Sorry – at that point Alistair rang the doorbell, and the rest will have to wait for tomorrow.