Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It is possible, day by day, to write about what’s going on. It’s very hard, on the other hand, to pick anything out of such a week. We had a good time. I am very, very tired. Everybody has now gone on to Strathardle except me and my husband -- 14 of them. I think we have discovered the secret of how to entertain a house party.

This is our Christmas tree, from Poundland (since the pot-grown Norway spruce I had ordered was 50 miles north):

This was Christmas dinner, early stage, when we are all handing each other bread sauce, cranberry sauce, gravy and wine:

This is James in the Traveller scarf:

And his daughter Rachel, in the Japanese hat:

I also heard that Matt was delighted with his socks.

Rachel and her family appeared on Boxing Day. Here we are having supper:

And here are the Grandsons, on the morning of the 27th:

The Grandson Sweater is looking slightly used, I was glad to note. Joe said he has posted a picture of himself wearing it on Facebook, and someone wrote to him to ask where he got it. There’s glory for you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It’s snowing, here in Edinburgh.

In any other year, this would be the day when I would sign off and wish everybody the happiest of solstices and announce plans to rejoin you in January some time, when the light is coming back.

However, for my own sake, I think I would be glad to have a day-to-day record of the Christmas of 2010. So I will go on – not regularly, perhaps. If James and his family succeed in getting here today, there will be someone sleeping in this room. And there will be competition for the computer, at least until we’ve got everything set up with my new BT Hub. It works fine for me, who am connected to it by wire. But will it extend itself to a houseful of laptops?

I am full of dread. This flat is pretty big, but it is full to the brim with clutter. There is no space. My husband is bad-tempered. He is also old, and getting rather frail. Some of the furniture is seriously good, and all of it needs to be Treated With Respect. A houseful of sprawling teenagers with nowhere to sprawl is (to coin a phrase) a recipe for disaster. In Strathardle we have a much smaller house, but also much less clutter, sturdier furniture, and the great outdoors to throw them out into. We’re not in Strathardle, and not likely to be, anytime soon.

Still, we’ve got a Christmas pudding and some cranberry sauce. It’s a start.

James has emailed already this morning (8am) to say they’ll be taking a later train than the one originally adumbrated (arriving 3pm) because everything is frozen solid in Cheltenham, where they currently are with Cathy’s parents. Helen has emailed to say that Cathy and I will have to prepare the flat she has borrowed from a friend – turn on heat, make beds, leave breakfast supplies. It will give us something to do and get us out of this house for a while. So that’s good. Helen and her fierce boys should arrive late Wednesday – if planes are flying.

Alexander phoned last night to say that they are coming on Monday – otherwise they won’t get to see James at all. Lots of people.

I just want to go to sleep and wake up in January.

We had a good visit with C. yesterday. She’s looking remarkably well, under the circumstances, and seems in good spirits.

And I made progress with the second sock. I always knit fraternal twins, with KF sock yarns:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Still snowless (and bitterly cold) in Edinburgh – I should be able to get my husband across the city to see his sister this morning. There is much snow elsewhere in Britain. Will James and his family get here (by train) tomorrow? Will Helen and hers arrive (by air) on Wednesday and Thursday? Who knows.

I had one Pollyanna-ish thought, though: if we had succeeded in going to Strathardle in November – we were deterred by the weather forecast at virtually the last moment – we would have taken the Christmas pudding along and left it there. As it is, it’s here. I made it earlier in November.

I made the cranberry relish yesterday. Otherwise, little progress. Beds for expected guests still unmade. This is the state of the wrapping:

The problem is – one of the problems is – that, with the pavements clear, it is a good idea for my husband to get out for a walk every day. He won’t go without me, and in this weather it is not a good idea that he should attempt it. So that takes up an appreciable amount of otherwise disposable time. The visit to C. will count as today’s outing. I can make beds this afternoon if I pull myself together.

During the previous weather crisis, before we went to London, Edinburgh was covered with snow and ice and my husband was completely imprisoned. Bad for him, but I had more time for Christmas-card-writing (still not completely finished).

Here are Cathy’s socks, plural:

They’re not a secret, and not a Christmas present, so I can carry on next week. Maybe even finish…

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weather: still no new snow in Edinburgh, although bitter cold, but it seems to be happening further north, and the forecast remains grim.

I spoke to C., who sounded cheerful. I will take my husband to see her tomorrow. She is tremendously pleased with the service she is getting – and she is not one to affect such pleasure without cause. The people who come to help her wash and dress in the morning are well-trained and fully professional. Edinburgh social services are busy fitting bars to the bathroom wall so that C. can hold on and shower in safety. They are lending her -- a brilliant idea – a recliner chair, so that she can nap during the day without having to get up and go to bed.

She is not enthusiastic about food, but is doing her best at least to sip the high-calorie supplements provided. She’s clearly trying, and expecting to gain some strength.

One of our early Christmas cards reported colon cancer in an old friend. Clearly the disease du jour. R.’s is perhaps not quite as bad – she had her operation a fortnight after C. did, and is already at home, with the prospect of chemotherapy to come.

And as for knitting, here’s the sock:

I could conceivably even finish it this evening.

Mary Lou, I hope you’ll try an Oliver soon. It’s very easy, and I like the way it sort of keeps count for you of progress down the foot. I’ve done a pair for my husband, and one for Ketki, and now Matt. Any others? Not sure. Both my husband and Ketki are enthusiastic. But you do have to pay a little bit of attention. Is this an Oliver round, or not? If so, where are the decreases at the moment?

And as for Christmas, I got some wrapping done, and that was about all, for yesterday. Around here, that is often a rush job on Christmas Eve, or even Christmas day -- since we don't open presents until the candles are lit on the tree, at dusk. It feels good to have some packages ready a whole week in advance.

Today I hope to get beds made for James and his family, and maybe wrap some more. It’s slow work, not because I make fancy packages, but because I am clumsy. One thing, though: I bought a reel of stick-on gift labels because they were cheap. They turn out to be significant time-savers – no more threading thread through little holes.

I might also try to start a menu list, along your lines, Kristie. Big pots of relatively simple things. Spaghetti and chilli, as you say. All-in-one chicken-pieces-in-the-oven. Consider, at least, a salad, although it seems rather cold for that. I love your idea of a cook-off. We might even do it, in the Kirkm*chael kitchen. Here, there’s hardly enough work-space for one.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

No weather to speak of in Edinburgh yet – it’s warm (for the season) and somewhat wet, this morning. The horrendousness predictions have been pushed a few hours forward. Jam yesterday and jam tomorrow.

I always get into a state about Christmas, especially when I have to “do” it. This will be the first time in some years, for that. But I have never, ever got this near the Day without knowing what kitchen I am going to be cooking in. And how am I going to feed all these people, not just on the Day? James and his family are due on Sunday; Helen and hers, not until Wednesday.

Things will seem better when daughter and daughter-in-law get here. Both are strong and cheerful and utterly competent. Cathy gets it from her mother, somewhat, I think. Helen certainly doesn’t get it from hers.

Meanwhile I must start making lists. And I can also make cranberry sauce ( and brandy butter and will feel better for having them done. I could do some wrapping. I sent some packages off yesterday, including Matt’s socks. That’s the post office finished, more or less. I also finished off the present-buying, except for…

There’s always a lurking “more or less” and “except for” this time of year.

Today I will phone C. to find out how she is getting on, and whether she is ready for a visit from my husband.

And meanwhile, I went on with Cathy’s sock. Mundi, you are right that colour helps in dark December. It took me a long time to grasp that.

Cathy has the smallest feet of anyone on my sock list, and I have skipped Oliver-ing (Ravelry link) this time in the interests of speed. So you never know.

Still haven’t looked at that DVD.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A quick update on several on-going stories:

1) C. came home from hospital on Monday. I spoke to her briefly that evening. She thought she would manage well by day, wouldn't need help, but wasn’t feeling strong enough to receive visitors. I’ll phone tomorrow to see if she would let my husband come for half an hour or so, just to sit. After this week things get pretty fraught with the approach of the solstice, for her as well as for us. And we don’t know how much time we’ve got.

2) A remarkable amount of snow removed itself from Edinburgh over the weekend. The city is now perfectly navigable. I haven’t phoned anyone in Kirkm*chael yet, but the roads up there usually get cleared promptly for the sake of the skiers. The forecast for tomorrow and the rest of the week is, however, pretty horrendous. We are poised with a Plan B for spending Christmas here in Edinburgh, as the Beijing Mileses need to exit via Edinburgh airport on the 26th.

3) I finished Matt’s socks. I may even face my final post office queue this afternoon, to dispatch them. And I’ve started some KF socks for Cathy, in a new-to-me colourway. I wouldn’t dare send them by post to Beijing, after the loss of that earflap hat. So I’ve got to finish them in the next 10 days, or hand them over in the summer. We’ll see.

The big news is that the Round-the-Bend DVD has arrived. There was no time yesterday to crack it open, and there may not be any today, but one can hope.

We had a good time in London. My husband keeled over with weariness or perhaps slight illness on Sunday, so we never got to see the Bulgarian treasures at the RA. A real disappointment for him, a lovely relaxed day for me. After Mass we went to the pub. James and Ed played pool while Rachel and I drank cider and watched. Ed is very good, but James didn’t disgrace himself. There is very little of that kind of off-duty silliness in my life, and it was lovely.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I’ve just been putting our rubbish and recycling out into the dark and snow – there’s no doubt, the air is warmer. Yesterday was one of the coldest I’ve ever known, with Edinburgh sheet ice underfoot. It will be rather satisfactory to be in London if only to stride about, after a fortnight of picking one’s way with great caution. I’ll probably trip on a paving stone. We won't see much of James, because Rachel says he works late and she thinks he is going to his in-laws in Cheltenham this weekend to welcome his wife and children, newly-arrived from China. We should catch glimpses.

And we’re all set to go. Back the middle of next week.


Stashhaus, I like your idea (comment yesterday) of trying on the Round-the-Bend sleeve to see how it’s blousing – I’ll do that. I have been aware of the difference between the yarn I’m using and Meg’s prototype, without giving much thought as to how to adjust, except for calculating K.


Some years ago Alexander gave us the Oxford English Dictionary, a wonderful Christmas present – the whole 12-volume thing, on a CD-ROM. (My husband calls it “Murray’s”, no doubt for sound historical reasons.) The only trouble with it is that every so often you have to “validate” it with the “data disk”. This becomes absolutely maddening, for a product one has legitimately owned for more years than one can precisely remember.

To my shame, I couldn’t find the data disk yesterday morning. However, I have recovered it, and will be more careful in future.

Apart from its comprehensiveness, it is also much more up-to-date (2002) than the paper dictionaries in daily use here – Webster’s International Second Edition, 1935; and the Shorter Oxford, 1933. For “fey” it gives 1) fated to die; then three obsolete meanings: 2) leading to or presaging death; 3) accursed, unfortunate, unlucky; and 4) feeble, timid, sickly, weak.

But finally, a modern meaning which will justify Alan Bennett’s use: 5) "Disordered in mind like one about to die; possessing or displaying magical, fairylike, or unearthly qualities. Now freq. used ironically, in sense 'affected, whimsy'."

It's not a word I would ever dare use myself, but I thought of it when we went to visit C. in hospital the day before her surgery, when she had just heard her own death sentence. See my blog post of 9/11.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Two more followers! Welcoming hugs!

We’re going to have a go at London. It’s still savagely cold here, although there has been no more snow since Monday’s damp blizzard – but the forecast continues to predict that things will ease somewhat tomorrow. Once I’ve had my porridge I’ll make my way up to the station once again and see about tickets.

C’s homecoming has been delayed for a few days – Monday is now the target, I believe. Just as well, considering the cold. Our niece sounded happy with her progress when we spoke last night.

I proceeded with that sleeve. The utter round-and-roundness is very soothing. Meg says to err “on the too-long side to allow the bloused sleeve to blouse”. I’m all for the blousing of the sleeve, that’s one of the attractions of the pattern – but will it work, with that non-elastic garter stitch cuff? Won’t a too-long sleeve just come down over the knuckles?

I am fully prepared to frog the whole thing when the DVD turns up.

Margaret Stove’s “Wrapped in Lace”

It’s enchanting – recommended. It’s sort of an autobiography, couched in terms of lace, beginning with a reconstruction of her own christening shawl based on photographs of the event. It incorporates accounts of her travels, to Orenburg, to Estonia, to the US, and also the history of her own designing, firmly rooted in her native New Zealand. That’s a very appealing aspect of the book.

She doesn’t shy away from displaying a certain naiveté – in the account, for instance, of how she found a pattern for a “Faro” shawl and adapted the shaping for her own designs, long before she learned about the Faroese tradition.

The Shetland chapter is slightly surprising – it is based on a beautiful antique shawl in pitiful condition which she was asked to restore. There is extremely useful information there on the techniques involved, and on the problems of conservation. The surprise comes from the fact that her own travels in Shetland don’t figure – I know she has been there. And Sharon Miller is conspicuously absent, although every other contemporary lace guru I can think of appears – Galina and Nancy Bush and Myrna Stahman and Hazel Carter. EZ and Meg and Mary Walker Phillips and Barbara Walker also make cameo appearances. No Sharon, although of course she is in the bibliography.

Some good patterns, too.

Alan Bennett

I continue to read him, and continue to find him very good company for these days of cold and fear.

I was astonished yesterday to discover him using “fey” to mean what we all think it means, until we look it up: “A Scot like himself, she was fey as well as formidable – insisting, for instance, in wearing a daisy chain to their wedding.”

Modern dictionaries, according to my discoveries on Google in the last few minutes, allow that meaning. The ones on the shelves in this house do not. They stop with meanings 1a and 1b, in the link I provide. Alan Bennett is using it in sense 3b. He is nearly my age, and meticulous about words. I am disappointed.

But I think I should relax, and adopt Humpty Dumpty's attitude to the meanings of words.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

My father was AP bureau chief in Detroit on December 7, 1941. A Sunday. I remember his getting the phone call -- one of those memories that photographs the scene.

Hello, new follower! My children and grandchildren know how much I like seeing them wear things I've knit, and they quietly do it when I'm scheduled to be about. I feel somewhat the same about you guys signing up.

No sooner had I forwarded yesterday’s message into the ether than it started snowing. It went on and on and on into the early afternoon. Refund or no refund, I wouldn’t have embarked on a rail journey with my husband in the middle of a mess like that.

It turned out to be pretty wet snow, and I don’t think it has added much to Edinburgh’s general misery. The view from the kitchen window in mid-afternoon:

We are still hoping to go south on Thursday – the weekend forecast, for London at least, shows a definite easing. Rachel has offered to meet us at Kings X which is pretty heroic of her. And if we take her up on it, my husband should be able to manage the extended journey time.

I went up to the station in the afternoon to claim the refund on our tickets. I have a stamped piece of pink paper to show that we will eventually get it. Looking at the Arrivals board, it seemed to me that the emergency timetable is at least working. I even saw a train from Penzance posted as “on time”.

I regarded yesterday as a day off – a feeling one often gets when snow is falling. So I didn’t hunker down to Matt’s socks, but went on with the tentative Round-the-Bend sleeve instead.

It starts with 22 rows of garter stitch. That produced a reasonable-looking cuff, so I didn’t worry about row-gauge. Next, you double the stitch count in one row, for a bloused sleeve. I did that, knit a few more rows, and then introduced the first of my mixed-bag of colours-from-stash, Annie Modesitt’s “Roadside Gerry”, one of the blogger colourways that Lorna’s Laces put out recently. I think it’s perhaps the nicest of them, and for some reason I have two intact skeins left over from last year’s ASJ.

What I didn’t expect, and am delighted by, is the stripe effect. That may help the whole thing look less like a dog’s dinner. The stitch count now remains the same until the top of the sleeve, so it won't change. I’ll go on with Roadside Gerry all the way up the sleeve, with the other skein in waiting for the other sleeve.

I have much to say – about Margaret Stove’s book, about Alan Bennett. I mustn’t forget. But now it’s time to get on with Tuesday.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Another new follower! You are as welcome as every one of your 61 predecessors, but your arrival is particularly cheering in these days of cold and darkness and fear and disappointment.

Here we still are. The East Coast Line provisional timetable for today shows that the train we’re booked on is not going to be running, and the others are scheduled to take about 20% longer than their usual time. Longer than that, of course, if they slow down and stop for an indeterminate period in Northumberland. I struggled up to Waverley in a blizzard last Thursday and learned from a woman who would have fitted right in working for Hitler that we would get our money back if the train actually didn’t run.

So we’re lucky. We have an Advance ticket supposed to be good only for the train we’re booked on. (In these circumstances, it would qualify us to ride on the train just-before or just-after if we didn't mind travelling without seats.) If we had picked one of the others, the mere fact that the journey was now going to be uncomfortably long and my husband is 85 and wheezy would have cut no ice.

We’re hoping to go on Thursday, dangerously near Christmas for so exhausting an undertaking – but the forecast does show things getting better in London, at least, over the weekend. At the moment, conditions are treacherous underfoot all the way from Rachel’s house to the 159 bus stop which carries us into the heart of London.

My husband has never, ever failed to see the Turner Prize show. It goes off on January 3. So things are critical.

I spoke to our niece last night. She sounded low. C. has previously looked well, whatever the horrors reported, but over the weekend she was pale. I think things may pick up once she gets home, still scheduled for Wednesday. One of the women in her room is a loony who talks all the time and occasionally leaps out of bed in the middle of the night, grabs her zimmer frame, and makes a bid for freedom. The other two women in the room are fairly deaf, but C. is suffering.

Having read Alan Bennett on the subject of his colon cancer I went on to finish “Untold Stories” and now have gone back to “Writing Home”. Both are loose collections of diaries and miscellaneous journalism and writing-for-TV. Much is familiar, but I can’t remember whether I’ve read either of them straight through before. He has a brilliant ear for absurdity, and is perfectly suited to the weather, the gloom, and the events unfolding around me.


Thank you for your encouraging remarks about the Japanese hat. I never thought of tying those ties – nobody does that in Edinburgh, and I can assure you that I’ve seen a great many ear-flap hats in the last few days. But I can see that it might be useful, and the Gobi desert, for the edges of which the hat is destined, gets very cold in the winter.

I did cast on Round-the-Bend last night. I’m glad that DVD is on the way. The pattern is couched in terms of K – determined, as usual, by multiplying stitches-per-inch by desired circumference. But there are quite a few places – including the initial cuffs – where the instructions are expressed in absolute terms, number-of-rows. The yarns in my piles of sock-yarns-and-Koigu are much finer than the stuff Meg used for the prototype. Caution required.

I had looked forward to the events of this week finishing off Matt’s socks by themselves without effort from me – now I’ll have to knit them here, not entirely trusting our hopes for Thursday. They’re not exactly Christmas knitting, and Matt certainly isn’t expecting them, but I’d like to have them available for the day.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A bit of a thaw yesterday. The night was colder again, and there is no further sound of drip when I open the door to Drummond-Place-in-the-dark this morning. But no more snow. I think at the moment, our inclination is to try to get to London tomorrow. I must devote much of today to finding out what sort of service East Coast Main Line thinks they can offer, what Streatham is like underfoot, whether London suburban trains are running.

I crossed off all three of yesterday’s Tasks and have already made today’s list – in fact, any time that can be salvaged today from Mass-going and cooking and eating will need to be dedicated to London-going.

One of the items on yesterday’s list was to finish the Japanese hat. Look at that:

I didn’t get anywhere trying to make a braid with the yarns doubled, so I went for i-cord, and made little pom-poms. Both activities performed with teeth firmly gritted, you may be sure. And I’m not entirely sure that the result isn’t a bit too coarse and heavy for the hat – but I’m certainly not going to attempt anything else. That’s Christmas knitting finished.

And I had time for a little more sock-knitting. I’m now around the heel of Matt’s second sock, and starting the Oliver shaping. Far enough along, in fact, that I’ll need to pluck another ball of sock yarn from the stash to take along if we go to London, and choose the next recipient.

Will I even cast on Round-the-Bend this evening, however tentatively? I made a swatch, the evening we got C.’s news.

I spoke to our niece yesterday. Arrangements are going forward nicely for a homecoming on Wednesday, nursing services, medical services, friends-and-relatives.

(I just figured out how to look at my "Spam inbox", a new feature here on Blogger, and found, to my horror, a comment from you, Dawn, and one from you, Fishwife, among the junk. They have now been published and, more to the point, read and appreciated -- they were both informative, with links, which must have been what upset Blogger. I'll check more often henceforth.)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Hello, new follower!

The weather has eased a bit. No snow has fallen since late on Thursday. Edinburgh felt slightly convalescent yesterday, and a very slight thaw has continued through the night. Hope for our trip to London after all? We shall see. There’s still a lot of the wretched stuff about.

Plans are advancing briskly to get C. home next Wednesday. Our niece went to see the head dr at her GP practice yesterday about arrangements, and her report of the conversation is rather encouraging. She told him how her mother dreads a return of the abdominal pain she was suffering when she was carried off to hospital a month ago. He said that the operation will have relieved the blockage, and it may not return. Death could occur from renal failure or something else.

Surely this plain speaking, however difficult for drs, makes things vastly easier for everybody, including the sufferer. How we must once have tiptoed around, everybody knowing, nobody saying anything! No tears, no hugs, no laughing, just when they are most needed.

I have been re-reading the last chapter of Evelyn Waugh’s biography of Ronald Knox, a prominent Roman Catholic clergyman of the early and mid 20th century, pretty well forgotten by now. He died of colon cancer. (Everybody seems to have it – I’ve also been re-reading Alan Bennett’s account of his.)

After being poorly during the winter of ’56-’57, Knox’s dr suspected cancer. “The disease was not named to Ronald.” The operation on January 20 revealed that it had spread to the liver (as colon cancer has a tendency to do). He got home on February 7th and spent a miserable few months thinking that his failure to improve was his own fault: “He believed that through lack of will he was falling into the habits of an invalid and that he should be able by effort to achieve his normal activities.”

In mid-May his sister was told: “Medical etiquette required that she, as the nearest accessible relative, should be officially informed of what all suspected…At the end of the month, Ronald himself, the last of those concerned, was told he was fatally ill.” He died on August 24. I heard of his death on my wedding day, in New Jersey, a week later, from the best man.

It reads like a report from another planet.


Christmas is not, I suspect, going to be cancelled. I made a little list yesterday morning of five things I might get done during the day. Fairly easy and straightforward things which I had noticed had lately been pushed aside from day to day. I got four of them done, and have started a new list for today.

It includes those blasted braids for the Japanese hat. I finished tidying the scarf yesterday, and spent the rest of knitting time on Matt’s sock – we’re just rounding the second heel. I feel that the braids by now count as Christmas which means I can take time for them during non-knitting hours.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Yesterday I thought maybe I’d stop blogging for a while, but I find I need you guys. I am deeply grateful for all your messages.

So here I am, and we’re carrying on. It sounds as if everybody, the hospital included, has swung into action on the problems involved in getting C. back home. I think in the event it was the drs themselves who decided not to “offer invention”, rather than C. who rejected chemotherapy. There are lots of resources – I believe the original Maggie’s Centre is the one there at the Western Infirmary of Edinburgh. (The Fishwife mentioned it in a comment early on.) People with equally dreadful but less pronounceable diseases than cancer perhaps have a leaner time of it.

Rachel knows a lot about death, and is a great fan of the hospice movement. As are we all. She actually saw Cecily Saunders once, when she was visiting a dying friend. It sounds as impossible as actually seeing Aristotle. She had better phone her cousin over the weekend.

Meanwhile, life certainly goes on. Christmas has not been cancelled. The snow has not gone away – indeed, more has fallen.

The view from the kitchen window...

We had planned to go to London on Monday for a week of art. James is there, staying with Rachel, working in the Economist office. It would have been a thoroughly welcome break in a number of on-going narratives.

Trains are running, but they are taking a long, long time and my husband doesn’t think he could stand it. The suburban trains are not running, the ones which figure in the last hour of the journey as they carry us from King’s Cross to Streatham. And at the moment, the snow underfoot in south London would make it difficult for my husband to get out, just as here. So we wait and see, not very hopefully.

I got the insulin on Wednesday. It was hard work. I haven’t even begun to think of digging out the car, so no supermarket this week as well as no hospital visiting. That means a lot of trudging about through the snow buying this and that as we run out. And speaking of digging out cars, don’t miss the clip Helen C.K.S. has posted.


I’ve cast off the scarf and am nearly finished with the loose ends. There are a lot, because the yarn is cut twice during each twist. Next, the braids for that Japanese hat. (One good thing to be said for this weather, is that I have seen beyond any doubt the continued popularity of ear-flap hats, on all ages, sizes and sexes.) Then Matt’s socks, which were to have been polished off on those train journeys.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

C.’s news is very bad – “a few months”. Of course we’ve all known this, including C. herself, since the 8th of November, the day before her surgery. The delivery of the verdict yesterday was, nevertheless, a tremendous shock.

That was Games Day, 2010, the traditional picture we always take at the end of the afternoon. C. is towards the left, framed by Greek Helen in the Macdougall jacket, leaning one way, and the niece I keep talking about, in a brown coat, leaning the other. Next to her is her sister F. (who lives in Glasgow), in a green jacket, with her husband behind and her sons beside her. C.s dear granddaughter Little C. was also there, with a boyfriend, but they had failed to grasp the importance of the picture-taking and were somewhere else.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

C.’s test results are out, or in, or whatever. Yesterday morning, she stopped the man who started to tell her about them, reminding him that she wanted her daughter present for that conversation. She got the impression that the news wasn’t good. At any rate, he certainly didn’t smile and say, OK, but tell your daughter not to worry – it’s good news.

Our niece couldn’t get in yesterday. She thought conditions would be better today. They’re not – more snow has fallen in the night. Wait and see.

Mercifully, I have very little experience of this scenario. My impression is, even in these days of up-front frankness, that this is the moment when drs tend to pull a few punches, predicting a longer life for the sufferer than is in fact likely, or understating the odds-against. Maybe my cancerous friends have just been the unlucky ones.

Meanwhile, of course, life goes on. I’ve got my new credit card – it arrived at a quarter to six last night, out of the darkness. I’ve celebrated by ordering Meg’s round-the-bend DVD. This is going to be fun.

Today’s task – I don’t expect it to be easy – is to secure one of my husband’s insulins. The system is that I email repeat-prescription requests to the dr’s surgery, they send the prescription by mail to Boots the Chemist, we pick up the stuff. Splendid, when it works.

Last week, one of the insulins was wrongly prescribed. I’ve looked back at my e-mail: I asked for the right thing, the dr got it wrong. No doubt there, but being in the right doesn’t butter any parsnips. I phoned the surgery on Friday when we discovered the mistake. They promised to put a corrected prescription in the post right away.

But no post has been delivered in Edinburgh since then. And Boots told me yesterday that their fax machine is broken, thus ruling out a possible emergency solution. And in a situation like this, it’s no use just having the prescription anyway, we also need to find a chemist who’s got some of the stuff. “We’ll order it in for tomorrow” won’t do with the city paralysed.

I realised yesterday that the only thing to do at a moment like this is to make some baked beans. That’s just about the only recipe that sends me back to my American books these days: Mrs Rombauer and the slightly-preposterous Gourmet Cookbook my father gave me as a wedding present.

The black-eyed beans have been soaked overnight, and are currently being simmered. This isn’t a thing I do very often, but I remember that the current phase is critical. Too crunchy, and they’ll stay crunchy – why? – during the long hours of subsequent baking. Too soft, and the whole thing will be a mushy mass (although still tasty).

And as for knitting, not much. I did another pattern repeat for the scarf, and finished the fourth ball of yarn. I’m currently engaged in one of the twists. I think one more after this one will be enough.