Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mary Lou, I got “Horse Latitudes” from Shan who left it as a comment on Wednesday, when I had grumbled about being in the doldrums. I used it yesterday because I thought it sounded smarter. It is funny how often that happens, hearing an unusual word and then hearing it again right away.

Well, nothing else has turned up, so I shall throw myself into the meme.

What was I doing ten years ago? Much as now, living in retirement in Drummond Place. I was peppier then – it has been interesting to reflect on how much has happened in those ten years which required a certain amount of pep. Ten years ago I was an ardent reader of the Knitlist (not that that required pep). I used to post an annual summary of what I had achieved – in 1998 I finished nine pairs of socks, it says (same as 1997). Wow! That strongly implies a couple of visits to CT to see my mother who was by then in a nursing home near my sister. Until the last two months here in 2008, sock-knitting was reserved for travelling.

When we were having (a delicious) lunch with Alexander and family in Glasgow recently, he said he had been past a hotel that morning which was having a motivational meeting of some sort. “Keep on doing what you’re doing now, and in ten years you’ll have what you’ve got now.” Or words to that effect. He and I agreed that it was a most comforting thought.

What are five things on my to-do list today? There is no such list, and my days don’t vary much. I fear to tempt providence by listing anything. I could trip and break a leg when I stand up from the computer.

1. I will soon walk across the square and buy the newspapers, the Scotsman and the Telegraph and, because it’s Saturday, the Financial Times.
2. I will plan the weekend meals, shop, cook, and wash up, wash up, wash up.
3. I hope to get on with setting financial affairs in order. The bank statements are done. Now it’s a matter of working through piles of paper on desk and floor. This item would qualify for a to-do list if I had one.
4. I’ll knit. I’m around the corner of Cathy’s second sock and speeding down the foot.
5. At bedtime, I will read aloud to my husband, as we have been doing for 50 years. At the moment we are nearing the end of Thackeray’s Book of Snobs.

What snacks do I enjoy? Cider.

Where are some places I’ve lived? Detroit, Michigan; West Allenhurst, NJ: Glasgow, Leicester, Birmingham, Edinburgh.

What things would I do if I were a billionaire? I’d like to see some energetic excavation being done on Piso’s villa at Herculaneum. He was Julius Caesar’s father-in-law. So far – and it was a long time ago – only his Greek library has been found, and it is pretty boring. He must have had some Latin books. Latin literature survives in much smaller quantity than ancient Greek (because the dark ages were so much darker in the west). Piso might have had the lost books of Livy, for starters.

And I’d arrange to travel in the greatest comfort to a couple of places I’d still like to see: Reggio Calabria, for the Riace bronzes; Sicily, for the places associated with Prince Tomasi di Lampedusa; Trebizond, for the chance of a day-trip to Lake Van where the pussy cats swim. They really do. I know Byzantine scholars who’ve seen them at it.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Alice Starmore – the Alice Starmore – grew up on the Isle of Lewis and still lives there. I’ve been wandering around her Virtual Yarn site. So she’s quite likely to be the protester I mentioned yesterday. On the other hand, the rest of her family may still be there, too, and another one of them might be named Alice.

I’m knitting the heel flap of Cathy’s second sock. I also got a lot more financial tidying done yesterday. If I am suddenly called to my reward this week or next, they’ll find things in much better order than they would have last week.

The current plan is to go to Kirkmichael next week, probably Tuesday, for two nights. I may be able to wheedle a third. The forecast for next week is not too bad. Yesterday was warm and encouraging in Edinburgh but the man said on the radio this morning that Perthshire had been the wettest place in the UK.

Walking about the city streets in the sunshine, I thought of a remark of Nanny Hawkins’ in “Brideshead Revisited”, although when I found it, it was not exactly as I remembered. She wonders why the upper classes go to London for the “season” just about now – “what they want to go to London for in the best of the summer and the gardens all out, I never have understood.”



I am, although untagged, rather tempted by the current meme. Chronic Knitting Syndrome and Knitterguy have done it. It might be just the thing to assist a struggle out of the Horse Latitudes.

I liked this account of the recent Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat – found the link on Joe’s blog. It reminded me of how I felt at Camp Stitches in ’99, only more so, because a man who knits is so often thought to be breaking a gender-rule. They clearly had a lot of fun together.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lots of achievement yesterday, leaving me feeling by six as if I’d been mowing the grass all day: more bank statements balanced, some ironing done, the scarf for Mrs Obama sent to Denver, Thomas-the-Elder’s socks to Streatham and a birthday present to Beijing.

I’m about half-way down the leg of Cathy’s second sock. I think I’ll go ahead and finish it, even if I haven’t quite achieved that state by midnight on the 31st. The toil up the hill to the post office yesterday afternoon left me near John Lewis’s – I went in and bought yarns that will-have-to-do for the dinosaur sweater, and to hell with it.


Good King Henry: I tried it once before, Mary Lou. It’s one of the myriad off-beat vegetables which the books will tell you, “can be eaten like spinach”. See Angel’s interesting comment of yesterday. Well, I can tell you, Good King Henry doesn’t taste very good, eaten like spinach. It didn’t kill us, but it wasn’t very nice. So I pulled it all up. That must have been about ten years ago.

But I’ve decided that I wasn’t patient enough. I never got any flower shoots, and that’s what we’re really waiting for: “poor man’s asparagus”. I don’t know how I would set about “gently forcing” the shoots in the spring, as suggested in the link I’ve provided, but I’ll work on it.

Some unexpected knitting news

There was a story in yesterday’s Scotsman about a proposal to put some of those huge terrifying wind turbines on the Isle of Lewis, on a range of hills called the Old Woman of the Moors which form the view from the Callinish Stones, Scotland’s Stonehenge. It’s a dreadful idea.

But what has it to do with knitting? “Alice Starmore, a tour guide who has lived on Lewis all her life, said…” Clearly the Scotsman has never heard of her, but isn't that likely to be the famous bad-tempered knitting author and designer? Or someone else of the same name? More power to her, whichever.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I’ve finished the ribbing on Cathy’s second sock.

Still no yarn ordered for the dinosaurs, but I have made real headway in straightening out our financial affairs – reconciling old statements for little-used savings accounts, that sort of thing – in the wake of our friend’s misfortune. I found myself wondering yesterday how I used to manage to have a job and run a house with six people and a cat in it (never very well, but we stayed afloat) and now I can’t even balance a bank statement and do some ironing on the same day.

The answer is easy and obvious: two things are different now. One is the siren call of the Internet. I didn’t write a blog or solve on-line jigsaw puzzles in those days. And the other is lunch. My husband has never learned to graze, and is faintly incredulous when I tell him there are people who can do it. Lunch takes up a great deal of every day.

His sister became a great-grandmother yesterday. (She still gets very tired, but is in general doing well.) The child is a little boy named James, somewhere in Essex. Today is the birthday of James Miles the Younger, Alexander and Ketki’s son. I amused myself while doing the washing-up yesterday by trying to work out the relationship between the two little Jameses. My mother was very good at that sort of thing. They are second cousins once removed, I think. The calculation is complicated by the fact that their ages suggest that they’re in the same generation, but they’re not. Alexander and the new baby’s grandmother are first cousins.

Mary Lou, I meant to thank you for that reference a couple of days ago to orach balancing the acidity of sorrel. How providential! My sorrel is doing fine, but I went back to the source at the monthly Strathmore and the Glens farmers’ market in Blairgowrie last Saturday on my way to my garden, and there was no more. I’ve put in seeds but they haven’t come up yet. I want lots more.

Anonymous, you said the same day that life would be easier if people developed recipes for weeds. I think, in effect, that’s what we’ve done. I am making an effort to reduce the amount of hard work in the garden by extending the amount that is permanently planted: sorrel and Good King Henry and perennial herbs. I’ve put in a row of autumn-fruiting raspberries, on the Fishwife’s suggestion. Seven of the ten are doing fine and it’s far too soon to despair of the other three.

The weather is cold and blowy. I don’t know when I’ll make my next move northward. Maybe I can persuade my husband that we should go up together next week.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I think I am in some sort of spring slump, knitting-wise and life-wise.

I finished off the scarf, however: it but remains to make a package of it. My husband noticed it for the first time and said that it is too narrow. He’s right.

I also finished, and Kitchener’d, Cathy’s first sock and cast on the second with a likely-looking ball plucked hastily from the KF Sock Yarn bag. It turned out after an inch or so to be the wrong shade: all the same colours, but differently arranged. So I found the right ball, ripped out the false start, and started again.

In that picture you see the finished sock, and the Wrong Yarn with which to proceed.

And there we are. Perhaps a wander round Ravelry would inspire me.

Politics is in the doldrums, too.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I’ve just spent a busy half-hour on paper work, and brought the balancing of bank statements up-to-date, in respect for my friend’s calamity. Thank you for yesterday’s comments – I had never thought of cheques as particularly unsafe; the newspaper articles concentrate on cards. I write very few cheques nowadays, never on the fly. (My husband carries one as a back-up.) I use a debit card for purchases on the hoof, and pay many bills from home by electronic transfer.

I suspect that despite the greatly reduced volume of cheques these days, banks are less careful than they used to be about scrutinising them – they’ll just be whipped through some machine.

I spoke to C. on the telephone yesterday. She sounded much more cheerful. She has seen a lot of her bank manager lately in connection with all the business attendant upon a death, and feels secure and confident with her. She has spoken to her son in Singapore, her only close blood relative; that buoyed her up, I think.


I’m thoroughly bored of the scarf, to use a family idiom. It’s now 5 ½ feet long. I think I’ll devote some of today’s knitting time to finishing it off. I wish it were a bit wider, but making it longer is not going to help with that problem.

When it’s done, I’ll bundle it up and send it to Theo in Denver, with the idea that he can give it to Mr Obama for his wife on the occasion of the promised photo session, Theo in his cashmere gansey in the summer heat. If the idea proves too excruciatingly embarrassing, Theo can just keep it for his girl friend Tiger.

I’ll also send a page of my untidy and largely incomprehensible notes for the construction of the sweater, on which can be inscribed The Autograph.

It will be totally impossible to begin to explain to Mr Obama how that sweater has helped his campaign. It might be worth while, though, or at any rate amusing, now that the hoped-for issue has become a real possibility, to collect the blog references to it. I could print them out and file with the The Autograph when I get it. We certainly hatched the idea in the first half of ’07, back when Mrs Clinton was “inevitable”.

And now I must order that yarn for the dinosaurs.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Let’s get knitting out of the way first, because there won’t be much of it.

I’m shaping the toe of Cathy’s first sock. Told you she has small feet…

And today is scarf-Sunday. Might I decide it’s long enough to cast off? A happy prospect! I didn’t get dinosaur yarns ordered, although I got as far as the Rowan Superwash DK page on somebody’s website – I hope I’ll be able to find it again. There is a good range.

Yesterday in K*rkmichael

I had a good day. The sun shone, almost tee-shirt weather. I bested a lot of weeds. Three of the courgettes are flourishing, the fourth, I think, has lost the fight. Nature is odd that way. I planted three seeds at each of four other stations in mid-May as usual, so if the Worst Happens there should be something to transplant into that spot.

And two of the kinds of seeds I planted a week ago have come up already – I didn’t spot them at first, but microscopic examination revealed both Cima di Rapa Sessantina (from Seeds of Italy) and orach (from Real Seeds). Orach is also called mountain spinach, and I’ve never heard of it. I can’t imagine why I ordered it. I’m looking forward to it keenly.

Spinach and lettuce from April sowings are coming forward nicely.

As I toiled, a neighbour walked by with her dog, and I leapt to my feet. It was C., the widow whose husband’s funeral I went to on April 1. I hadn’t seen her since.

She has had seven thousand pounds or so fraudulently removed from her current account in the last few days, and is visibly distressed. Who wouldn’t be? I’ve heard too many of these stories lately – C’s tale was the second for last week. The bank in question this time, Lloyds TSB, has been prompt and human and reassuring. That is not always the case.

Not card fraud: four cheques were presented, each for a large sum, and apparently from C.’s chequebook: they were printed with her name and account number, and the bank sort code. She has seen a facsimile of one of them: the signature is a crude forgery, but a forgery made by someone, she thinks, who has seen her signature.

The police seem to know about this sort of thing. They’re called “ghosts”, cheques like that. It is (not impossible but) hard to see how it could happen without help from someone within the bank. Cancelled cheques aren’t returned to the account-holder any more in Britain. And the bad guys may have known how much she had in the account – they left something there, and might not have been detected for quite a while if she had been less alert. Did they pick her in the first place because she had an unusual amount in her current account?

The bank (as always in my experience of such cases) is adamant that no employee of theirs could be involved. I trust they conduct enquires of their own on the quiet.

Friday, May 23, 2008

This link works fine, Stash Haus. (I thought computers could put in http’s and www’s for themselves.) The site seems to be specifically devoted to the red squirrel in England, no bad thing, a) because it’s just as well to focus and b) because its plight there is even more precarious than in Scotland.

Kate, thanks for interesting comment. I’m sure the Easter lamb we saw yesterday -- Mel was worried – had already been slaughtered and butchered before the picture was taken. It was being weighed for the Drakes on a spring scale hung on a branch; local produce, indeed.

It was interesting what you said about topsoil, too. And green-ness. The latter, of course, accounts for the tyranny of the lawnmower around here from May until October. Earlier and later, further south. But the lack of topsoil in Australia is very interesting. My husband is fussy about it – no weed may be disposed of without a thorough cleansing of its roots. I add manure, humped over the field in a wheelbarrow. That’s getting to be pretty hard work, in old age – but the Blairgowrie “recycling center”, a.k.a. the town dump, now has a bin of compost (made, presumably, from the garden waste we deposit in the appropriate skip) free for the taking. I make ample use of that. It’s very black.

My vegetables grow on part of the old kitchen garden, and the good soil is very deep. Sandy and free-draining and in need of moisture-retaining humus, but deep.

On that subject: there will be no blog tomorrow. I plan to make a day-trip to Kirkmichael to spend a few hours hoeing and hand-weeding. (The lawnmower will remain in the shed.) Not much will have happened in five chilly days, but I left plenty of weeds behind so I won’t be under-employed. And I can also speak words of encouragement to the courgettes, if they have survived the recent frosts: June is nearly with us, I will tell them. July is in fact the only month which is pretty reliably frost-free in Strathardle, but I won’t tell them that.

As for knitting, I’m well around Cathy’s first heel and speeding down the foot. My Target for Today is to order the remaining yarns I need for my dinosaurs.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Inching forward, I suppose.

Here are Thomas-the-Elder’s socks:

And Cathy’s, as I round the first heel. I have stuck with my familiar heel out of laziness, but will investigate replaceable ones for the next pair.

Stash Haus, I can’t get the red squirrel site to work – I’ll try again later. I do agree with you about the value of cataloguing one’s stash. I got it done when I first joined Ravelry, although I fear there have been some unrecorded additions since. I think I need to spend more time in Ravelry (including having a look at your stash). I need more time, in fact. Or, to make better use of the time I’ve got.

There seems to have been some trouble with leaving comments yesterday. Donna wrote to me privately about the Kennedys yesterday when she couldn’t leave a comment. They have woven their way in and out of one’s life for nearly 50 years now: and were already a tragic family in 1960, with the wartime deaths of Joe and “Kick”. Not that there’s anything really tragic about being diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease in one’s 70’s, but Teddy is something of a last link with a remarkable story.

Here is an Easter-on-Pelion picture which arrived this morning – presumably the purchase of the holiday dinner. That’s my son-in-law David watching in horrified fascination with grandsons Archie and Fergus.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I’m feeling sort of sad about Teddy Kennedy. The old reprobate kinda redeemed himself in his later decades. It was my friend Margot, whose funeral I went to in Birmingham last summer, who rang us up that evening in November long ago to tell us that JFK was dead. We spoke again when Robert died. “When they get Teddy,” she said that time, “you can phone me.”

Mel, I had neglected to be grateful for the fact that I don’t have squirrels to contend with in Strathardle. We’re in the dwindling area inhabited by the native red, who are gradually being driven to extinction by their larger and nastier grey cousins. They are shy; it is an event when we see one; they are welcome to come and dig up the peas if they like.

Foxes are rare with us, presumably because the farmers don’t care to have them around the lambs. There was one happy year when we had a feral cat nesting in our byre with a litter of kittens. Just the thing, I thought: a predator for rabbits, harmless to lambs. That was when we lived down south and could only visit at longish intervals. Our neighbours did away with the cats.

I spoke to my sister-in-law Christina yesterday – her voice sounds much better, although not entirely well. We’ll call on her soon. She’s exactly Edward Kennedy’s age, for what that’s worth.

And as for knitting, I sped along with Cathy’s sock and should turn the first heel today.

It's been great, reading about the Men's Knitting Conference. All my friends were there, and it seems to have been a howling success.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Here we are back again. I got my extra day, and spent it cutting the grass. The battery-starter on the lawn mower didn’t work – that will have to be seen to – so I did it the old fashioned way, by pulling the string. It didn’t kill me so we have to assume it made me stronger. I’m still feeling the effects.

Here’s how much knitting I got done. Four days – that should be enough to finish a sock for someone with a foot as small as Cathy’s.

The gardening went well. The seeds are in. The countryside is at its most unbelievably delicious, each tree its own special shade of green as the baby leaves unfold, not yet the General Green Mush of summer. It is the moment when one can believe (as I do every year) that this time it’ll be different – all the seeds I have planted will come up, and do what it says on the packet, uninterrupted by slugs or rabbits or sheep or deer or late frosts. There will be weeds, of course, but each will be tweaked out the instant it appears and everything will look as tidy in September as it does today.

As if. In fact, frost has come already,

on Sunday night and probably last night too, with more forecast. One of the courgettes looked a bit shell-shocked on Monday morning, the rest seemed fine – but that could be because they don’t yet know what hit them. They get some protection from the sawn-off water bottles covering them. I got the potatoes earthed up in time; they should be all right.

My new fruit hedge (white-currents and gooseberries):

Our beloved Keswick Codling (or is it "Codlin"?) apple tree:

Last night, back in Edinburgh, I finished off Thomas-the-Elder’s socks and made decent progress with Cathy’s first one. It’s time I assembled my colours for the dinosaur sweater.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


You will remember that just before we left for London last week, a neighbouring art historian walked by with her dog as I was saying goodbye to my courgettes on the doorstep. I spoke of my anxiety about them, and she promised that her husband and daughter would water them, she herself being about to leave for Thessaloniki.

Yesterday I passed her husband, outside the Murtazas’ shop, red as a beet with embarrassment, cleaning up some diarrhoea the dog had deposited on the pavement, as the animal stood calmly by. I stopped and thanked him for looking after my courgettes, and said what a comfort it had been as I slogged around London in the heat, to know that they were in good hands.

Courgettes? he said.

[It has taken me most of the morning to figure out how to spell "diarrhoea". I couldn't get close enough to find it in the dictionary -- finally tried the medicine cupboard, and read it off a packet.]

I am still here – we are both going to Strathardle today, to return on Sunday according to my husband, or Monday if I am to be believed. So the courgettes will be growing in the soil of Strathardle this evening.

Christina is home from hospital, and very pleased to be so. Tamar, I didn’t thank you for your thoughtful note day before yesterday. It had occurred to me to worry about taking our elderly lungs into an acute respiratory ward, although I did nothing about it except worry. That was an interesting suggestion of yours, to ask whether there had been any changes in the domestic scene recently to which she might have had an allergic reaction. The conclusion – although it sounds a bit tentative to me – is that she had an allergic reaction to penicillin, on top of the original chest infection.


I still have a few rounds of toe decreases to do for Thomas-the-Elder, plus the finishing bit, but I’ll get out a fresh set of needles and start Cathy’s socks in the country.

Tamar and Kate, you inspire me to seek out some re-knittable heels. I’d far rather do that than darn.


I'm not worrying about Mrs Clinton any more, and I think Mr Obama's tactic of simply behaving like the candidate is the right one.

See you Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Christina is getting better – thank you for your good wishes. I had been very worried. She is in a private room – even that had worried me – and as soon as we found it, and caught a glimpse of her through the window, reclining on the bed and chatting with friends, we knew that the crisis had passed. No oxygen, no antibiotic drips.

She still sounds (as she did ten days ago) like someone with a very bad cold. She says she’s very weak – no surprise. She thinks maybe they’ll release her today and let her come back for the bronchoscopy as an out-patient.

So that’s that, for the moment.

The next issue looming is that my husband doesn’t want to go to Strathardle just now; he wants to stay here and work. So I plan to attempt a series of day-trips, starting I hope tomorrow. If I don’t turn up here, you’ll know I’ve gone. I ought to be able to do three or four hours’ gardening and be back in time for tea. He meanwhile ought to be able to totter out and find a lunch-time sandwich for himself.

The courgettes, to begin with, are ready to start real life (protected by sawn-off water bottles). They will be the only courgettes in the glen with the personal endorsement of Franklin Habit. I don’t know quite what Dolores would think – sometimes at this time of year we see a few sheep and their children looking over the dyke: “Those are Mrs Miles’s vegetables, dear. Next week I’ll take you round by the burn. There’s bound to be something good.”

And then, of course, it’s time to get the seeds in. In London, it’s already summer, and too hot, roses even. Here – and all the more, in Perthshire – spring is still fresh, with the trees not yet in full leaf. A magical moment.

I should finish Thomas’s socks today. I’m pleased with them, and plan to retain the ribbed format for gents’ socks in the future. K6, p2 is not as much fun as whizzing round and round in st st, but it’s not too bad. For the second sock, I reverted to knitting the foot on four needles (instead of five) with the ribbed top-of-foot stitches all together on one needle, occasionally falling off one end or the other. That seems faster and pleasanter than separating them.

Next is Cathy, who has opted for KF.

I noticed when I was darning Rachel’s socks, some of which are pretty old, that a couple of them had tried to pull apart sideways, along the line of the gusset decreases – and always on the infamous Second Side (=right-hand side, I think, when you’re wearing the sock). Maybe I had better get the books out and look at alternative heels.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

We are back, after a very successful trip. We moved more slowly than before, kept a sharp lookout for lifts (=elevators), and were greatly assisted by Rachel and Thomas-the-Elder who drove us to convenient departure-points for central London, obviating various exhausting changes of transport. My forebodings were, in the event, not unnecessary but misdirected.

My husband’s sister Christina lives in south Edinburgh, in Morningside. When we left, she was suffering from a chest infection which was stubbornly declining to respond to antibiotics. I spoke to her at some length by telephone on Monday the 5th, clearly unwell but up and about, not at all happy – with considerable cause – about the doctoring she was receiving.

Her daughter Clare, who lives hard by, phoned us in London on the evening of the 7th, the day we went down, to say that Christina had collapsed and was in the Royal Infirmary on oxygen and various antibiotic drips.

There she remains, nearly a week later. Nothing much seems to have happened. Her oxygen saturations are a bit better. From Clare’s account, doctors sound puzzled. The cough is largely unproductive. A CAT scan has eliminated the possibility of a blot clot. Next will come a broncoscopy, which sounds uncomfortable. They have even considered allergy – “Do you have a parrot?” (She has never smoked.)

She is much younger than my husband, scarcely older than I am. We oldies count out the years as children do.

We will visit this afternoon.

As for knitting, I kept at it, and am steaming down the foot of Thomas-the-Elder’s second sock. In lieu of the Yarn Yard toning solid – which, you may remember, simply and utterly vanished just as I reached the first heel – I finished the toe with KF’s “Fire” left over from Ketki’s socks. Thomas likes the effect. Pic tomorrow, maybe.

I also improved the shining hour by darning some of Rachel’s old socks – knit by me, of course, over the years. I think maybe I will make it a practice to take darning equipment along when I visit a house in which socks of my manufacture are to be found. Helen is delighted with her new pair, which have reached Thessaloniki safely. I told her to bring her old ones along for darning when she comes here in August.

And my courgettes are fine! Twenty minutes before we left to catch our train last Wednesday, as I was watering them out on the step and giving them a little pep talk, an art historian neighbour walked by with her dog. I told her of my anxiety. She promised to have her husband and daughter water them. She herself was off the next day to, of all places, Thessaloniki.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


That’s better.

On the 5th of January, while we were waging our epic battle with the Strathardle snow to get the car up the driveway and away, I kept the Iowa primary result at the back of my mind, to bring it out and savour once we were on the road.

So today, once we’re on that train (we’ve got one of those tickets where you have to be on a particular train or all is lost, and my husband, even as a young man which he is now not, takes a lot of getting to a train) – once we’re on that train, I can take out my knitting and start thinking about North Carolina and Indiana.

My sister said when I spoke to her on the phone from London recently, that there are rumours that Mrs Clinton is a vampire – she seems to get ever plumper and more red of lip while poor Mr Obama grows thinner and paler. Maybe it’s now time for the stake through the heart.

The polls seem to have been way out, in both states. But I was watching a poll-of-polls total on Real Clear Politics – maybe one or two particular polls were nearer to being right.

I think maybe the Rev Mr Wright did his worst at absolutely the right moment. There’s little left for the Republicans to use from that source now.

Mary Lou, your anecdote yesterday – “Omar is the future!” – sustained me through a long day. I’m glad to see you share my love for knitting KF socks, too.

So we set off at least more cheerful. It’s always nice to see Rachel and her family – Joe is just coming up to his A-Level exams, one of them in Politics. He shares my views so we can do high-fives this evening.


They seem very happy out there on the step, although it’s distinctly cooler, especially at night, than they were used to in the kitchen. They were beginning to get a bit etiolated, in fact. The true leaves are now unfolding rapidly. I hardened my heart yesterday and removed the weaker brother from each of the four pots. It was encouraging to see what healthy little root systems they had. But five-and-a-half days without water or a mother’s love….

Knitting? What’s that?

The committee meeting last night was admirably brisk, but I got the heel turned. The sad thing was that when the heel-flap moment came, I couldn’t find the little ball of the solid-colour yarn. I had finished winding it only that morning. It has dematerialised. Too late now.

Back next Tuesday, insh’Allah.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I approach today's shoot-out with heavy heart. Optimism has been so often misplaced; maybe it’ll work better this way.

Let’s pass briskly on…


I was grateful to Jennifer (day before yesterday) and Ron for their agreement with my fault-finding over IK. Jennifer points out – I’d missed it – that EZ’s Old Man is named “Arthur” in a picture caption. Franklin has it right in the text, of course. That’s appalling. She also says that the color-theory article doesn’t make much sense: I shall seize on the excuse to skip it.

I am grateful, too, for further endorsements of Lisa Lloyd’s “A Fine Fleece”. I’d have overlooked it, thinking it just for spinners (of whom I wish I was one, but that’s another story).


Should reach Thomas-the-Elder’s first heel today, especially as there is a Drummond Place committee meeting this evening. Not to boast or anything, but I can turn a heel at a committee meeting if circumstances demand.

And since that’s all there is to say about that, I shall try to raise my sagging spirits by talking about vegetable growing.


Last year, we had beautiful weather in April and for the first four or five days of May, and that was it – end of summer. But on the 4th or 5th of May, not knowing what was to come, I bought a little courgette plant from a garden shop in Milnathort. Usually, I plant seeds in the open ground mid-May.

The places for the courgettes had already been prepared (as they have this year) – holes dug, half-filled with manure, filled in, marked with sticks. I planted the little courgette and covered it with a sawn-off plastic water bottle of which we have many, left over from our year without water.

It suffered terribly for the rest of May – maybe it hadn’t been hardened off properly. But it came through and – here’s the point – all summer long remained ahead of the directly-sown ones.

So this year I started a few from seed on a windowsill in about mid-April. They have all come up nicely, and I worry about how they will manage when I go to London tomorrow. I’ve put them out – the weather has suddenly turned summer, after a dismal April – and screwed them down into the herb trough, as you see, so that they can draw up some help from below if the weather is parching. There could still be a frost, but the warmth of the building should protect them. So far, they seem very happy out there. True leaves are beginning to develop. They’re an Italian sort, called “Fruili” I think.

I am full of foreboding about London.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The scarf is five feet long, so supernatural retardation can no longer be suspected. That’s all the pattern asks for, but I’ll go on for another foot or so because it’s so narrow. I'll try to add a picture later -- Blogger is having the vapours at the moment.

I think I have discovered the mildest of errors in the pattern as printed, but I’m not quite sure. The idea is, you do two triangles from one side, constituting one “wedge”, and then switch over and do two from the other. There are five rows of garter stitch between same-edge triangles. When you’re switching sides, I think it says to do six rows of garter stitch for the switch in one direction, and eight in the other.

It’s all concealed in instructions to repeat certain rows, and even now I’m not quite sure. I have settled down, anyway, with six rows of garter stitch for the switch in either direction – and the early instances where I did eight are completely undetectable.


Shandy, I agree about that lace tunic in IK. I like that too, and hesitated. But I can’t imagine it looking good on any of my loved ones, not even Cathy, who is small and fashionable. Whereas I can at least think about knitting the Mari Lynn Patrick “Blue Lagoon Redux” from VK for her – could she wear it over a shirt? Surely.

I like your silk-lined scarf, and it reminded me that there is some silk fabric in my stash cupboard which it is tine I did something with.

Donna, you must mean “Knitting with Handspun Yarns” when you refer to Lisa Lloyd’s book. Amazon says it hasn’t been released here yet. (So how come they’re offering used copies?) I’ll keep an eye on it.

I love the Koigu socks you knit. How are they wearing (Koigu being pure wool)? Did you reinforce heel or toe?

I have enough Araucania yarn left over from the rather-too-short sweater I knit for Alexander’s son James-the-Younger, to knit a pair of socks for Alexander himself. It might amuse both father and son. The yarn isn’t billed as a sock yarn, but it’s 25% poly-what’s-it, like sock yarns, and has a firm twist, so why not?

Barbara, I can’t get through to my website either, this morning. I hope it’ll come back. The story there is that when I switched to broadband, I assumed I would still have some “free” webspace such as was supplied with my dial-up subscription. But no. For a year I kept the dial-up subscription running as well, for the sake of the webspace, and then decided that was ridiculous and found somewhere else to put my stuff – but I’ve never finished getting it back up.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Thanks for the help on the Latin names of the various sorrel species. I was slightly afraid when I wrote what I did yesterday – wondering why it’s “rumex acetosa” on the one hand but “rumex scutatus” on the other – that M*rgaret Velard would pop up and say that “scutatus” was a 4th declension genitive as eny fule no.

(A reference to a spat she and I once had on Knitflame about the plural of “virus” during which she actually asked me where I learned my Latin.)

Anyway, here’s the present state of the sock. I continue very pleased. You can't see much of the subtle, manly colours or even of the ribbing, but you get the general idea.

And today is scarf-Sunday again. If it still measures about four feet this time tomorrow, I’ll know for sure that it’s cursed.

The summer IK turned up here yesterday! What a week for magazines!

I turned at once to Franklin’s article about the Zimmermans and read it with much pleasure. I was slightly sorry perhaps that he tactfully omitted reference to Elizabeth’s illness (Alzheimer’s) and death – Meg was never coy about it.

And while I’m picking nits, I very much don’t like the cover headline “Meg Swansen Forges Knitting Onward”. Two separate words have been confused – “forge” to make something, whether or not actually on a forge; and “forge” to move forward, as in “forge ahead”, originally a nautical term. (I hadn’t known that until I started looking this up.) The first is transitive, the second intransitive, to put it another way.

So Meg could be said to “forge onward”, or – slightly strangely – to “forge knitting”; but not both together.

The meaning is clear enough, I suppose, and English is a gloriously fluid language, but I don’t like it.

I mean to try to get to grips with the article about color theory. Kaffe’s advice, to take a postcard of a favourite painting and try to match the colours, remains simple and brilliant, and so far represents the farthest I’ve ever been able to get with the subject.

None of the patterns attract me, as several did in VK. It is nice to have that honest picture of the knitted skirt on p. 37, to remind us why it would not be a good idea to knit it. The jury is still out on the new regime at IK, insofar as the jury consists of me. Summer issues are not the ones to judge any editor by.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I lost – London it is. We’re going down next Wednesday, returning on Monday the 12th. London is tough, and it’ll take a couple of days at least to recover, but I should be reunited with my vegetable patch by the following weekend. It means missing the first day of the annual Christian Aid book sale, too (Saturday the 10th) but Lindsay will be looking out for VKBs for me.

London at least is good for knitting – I am delighted with the way the broad ribs are looking on Thomas-the-Elder’s socks, and will push hard to get the pair finished or nearly, while we’re there. Picture tomorrow.

Maryjo0 (comment day before yesterday), I’m always happy to talk about books. Currently, I have my sights on “Vatid, Troid, Vamsad” which Schoolhouse is selling. (I buy a lot of knitting books from them.) It occurred to me, after my embarrassment over “Cables, Diamonds, Herringbone” the other day, that this is just the sort of book I might have already bought, shelved and forgotten.

And it also occurred to me that I now have the definitive solution to that anxiety: LibraryThing. I went and looked it up and I don’t have it. It’s expensive; I’ll hesitate for a bit; but I think I’ll order it.

I’m awfully glad I took the trouble a few months ago to catalogue all my knitting books in LibraryThing. There is a certain amount of disorder around here, but those books are all together in two places (except for a few on the floor here around the computer, and occasionally others under the bed) and I am sure LibraryThing has them all. The very first and most fun thing I do when I buy a new book is rush to LibraryThing and put it in.

So if they say I don’t have “Vatid, Troid, Vamsad” I can be sure I really don’t.


I think we’ve now got sorrel nailed. Mel was right, as usual: sorrel the weed is closely related to but not identical with the culinary plant. Helen the indefatigable traveller about the Internet found this site. Rumex acetosa is the delicious plant I have just put in two of; r. acetosella is a creeping weed; r. scutatus is French sorrel.

Despite what the Penguin Companion says, Else, I think acetosa is probably the commoner for eating purposes. I bought one scutatus and put it in: it’s very tasty, but the leaves are very small and as the nice woman said who sold it to me (at the weekly Strathmore and the Glens market in the Wellmeadow in Blairgowrie last Saturday) it takes a lot of picking, and is best used as an accent in a salad.

(Why “scutatus”? Why not “scutata”? Else’s right – that’s the Latin for French sorrel. But why?)

Callie, thanks for the reference to Joy of Cooking. Sure enough, my copy says the same, about using stainless steel or enamel when cooking sorrel. I don’t use that book much any more, but it remains a mine of information. I had it out recently to remind myself how to make milk toast (not a British thing) for my husband in the extremity of his recent tooth-suffering, when carbohydrate intake had to be maintained. And I remember once looking up – but not using -- her recipes for cooking squirrels. Mrs Rombauer is no slouch.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I’ve finished the infinitely tedious 50-rounds-of-k2-p2 rib for Thomas’s first sock, and embarked on the leg which is to be a k6, p2 rib. The yarn is knitting up beautifully – there may be enough for a pic by the time I reach scarf-Sunday.

I warned you this would be boring.


I am glad to hear that sorrel is so widely known, if not used in the kitchen. I suspect that Mel, as so often, may have hit the nail on the head when he says that the weed of the same name is similar but not identical to the culinary sorrel. All of the books we own which might help with the question are shelved in Strathardle. I’ll investigate when next we’re there.

I had a look at Donna Druchunas’ charity knitting blog – the link provided by Mel, again. Had a nice time wandering around the rest of her blog, too. But I’ll hold off on the books for the time being.

Thanks, too, for the links about Adina’s departure from VK. It’s sad – she was good. It seems to me that VK remains confidently at the top of the non-fugly fashion-knit league, and has excellent articles to boot. Lily Chin’s series on shape and fit would be invaluable, I suspect, if I had the mental energy to face up to it. I’m glad at least that Adina's word “heartbreaking”, of her departure, didn’t mean that she was leaving to, e.g., nurse a dying child.


Today is the day, I hope, when we decide about going to London for a round of art. Or not, my preferred option. My husband seems to consider himself peppy enough to attempt it. All I want is to get back north to my vegetables. It’s May, for heaven’s sake.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I finished Rachel’s socks, as hoped, and embarked upon Thomas-the-Elder’s, which will be even slower and more boring as involving more stitches and leg-length. I have included the left-over yarn in the photograph to show how generous the monthly Yarn Yard sock club allowance is. Rachel’s feet are small, but not negligible, and there seems to be enough left over to knit another pair.

In finally working to the bottom of the pile of accumulated mail from our few days away, what should I find but another knitting magazine, the spring VK, in a brown paper envelope, the last thing one expects these days.

A question: the editor, Adina Klein, says in her opening letter that her time at VK has “come to a surprising and heartbreaking end”. What’s up? Someone must know.

It is an interesting issue, I thought: nothing for me to knit, but plenty to read and think about. I like Mari Lynn Patrick’s “Blue Lagoon Redux”. I like quite a few other things, too: it’s just that they’re Not Me.

Two more questions, about books: I didn’t buy Donna Druchunas’ “Arctic Lace” because it sounded as if the lace patterns were recently-introduced and simple, to provide people with something to knit for the tourist trade. (I could be wrong: I’ve never seen the book.) What about the new one, “Ethnic Knitting Discovery: the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the Andes”?

I collect books about ethnic knitting seriously, and I don’t mind overlap. On Fair Isle, I’ve got Don AND McGregor AND Starmore AND Feitelson, and wouldn’t part with any of them. But Druchunas, again, sounds trivial, “info-packed workbook”; “worksheets and diagrams are many”. But “regional knitting history” is at least touched upon. Has anyone seen it?

I was half-way through writing a similar paragraph about the next book review, “Cables, Diamonds, Herringbone: Secrets of Knitting Traditional Fishermen’s Sweaters”, when I realised to my embarrassment that I’ve got it.


Anonymous and Alltangledup, thank you for nailing that Biblical reference for me. And Mel, thank you for the link to Blue Letter Bible. I couldn’t make it work for me, probably because I couldn’t remember which translation provided the half-remembered phrases in my head, but it’s clearly an extremely useful resource. (I voted on your shoe-question, and am glad to see that my choice is in the lead.)

Mary Lou, sorrel is much used by the French, I am told: they don’t understand why the Anglo-Saxons don’t seem interested. It is used in soup and sauces and can be cooked like spinach. The leaf I ate while I was planting mine was delicious, with a slight lemony tang.

My sister phoned last night from London where she and Roger have briefly and mysteriously appeared. She says that in CT, you don’t chit potatoes, you just plant them. If I had to do that, 10% at least would be the wrong way up. But they’re tough little tubers and it probably wouldn’t matter.