Tuesday, July 31, 2012

All went well yesterday. The paint on the dining room woodwork is now definitely grey (as wanted), not blue. It’s lighter than the old paint, but appears to be the same shade (if I’ve got my terms right). Today we should see some paper on the walls. Is the end in sight?

Our flat, at some point in the past, expanded to take in two rooms and a bathroom from next door. One end of our present dining room was partitioned off, to make a way through. (That's the door to the dining room, on the left, half-way along.) The one time we voluntarily embarked on decoration for that room, we treated the passage as part of the room, as I think one must. So the old paint and the old wallpaper are still there. I have no memory at all of the horrors which must have been involved in moving those books.

This picture is wholly misleading, except for the layout. The old paint, to the right, is in real life appreciably darker than the new paint, to the left. Goodness, how lucky we are to live in this house.


Thank you for your comments. Greenmtngirl, yours in particular crystallised thought. Of course we must keep on going there, as long as we physically can. Energetic and resourceful Helen will be here soon. She can think of stratagems. What we lack (and once had, until death intervened) is a close and reliable friend nearby who can be summoned in a real emergency. Our house is out of sight of any other, although not all that remote. The footpath along the burn past our garden seems to be less and less used.


Here is the first of the current pair of socks. Is it not truly zauberlich, the way the yarn arranges the dark bits to coincide with toe, heel, and ribbing? Needless to say, the same thing isn’t happening on the second sock, and probably wouldn’t have even if I had wound on to a dark bit to start with (since Zauberballs don’t repeat).

Thank you for your help with the Magic Cast-On. I am particularly interested by your comment, Pamela, and will certainly make my next attempt sitting at a table. But not moving the left hand? We shall see. The videos all go on and on about top-needle-bottom-yarn, and vice versa. Again and again I thought I was doing that, with great style – only to find that the top and bottom needles were completely unconnected with each other.

My problem was (is) a failure to understand how the yarns lock together.

Catmum, I think what I did this time – when I had finally succeeded in casting on – was to knit into the back of the stitches on the first needle. That’s a small problem, compared to the basic one. I’ll crack it eventually.

FiberQat, I will remember – how could I forgot? – your offer that I skype with Judy Becker. Me? That will remain the ultimate threat, and promise.

Next, however, I’m going to turn to Candace Strick and “Strick-ly Socks”. Perhaps the Italian flag, yarn-wise, for Hellie Ogden, Rachel’s daughter?

The decorators are here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I am grateful for your messages – I’ve missed you too.

Thank you for the suggestions about managing life in Strathardle. We’re due for a routine hospital appt in August and I can discuss some of them – including the blood sugar monitor you mention, Kristie. James has made some notes for us, too (he is a Type I diabetic himself).

So here we are back in the real world  = grappling with the dining room. The first of the decorators has already presented himself on the doorstep.

But I promised some pictures. Here is a summer pudding in posse

in fieri

And in esse.

(That middle phrase is a coinage of my own, meant to mean, by analogy with the other two, “in the process of becoming”. Notice the weight on top of the bowl.)

Every year on Games Weekend I take pictures of grandchildren with the trees we have planted down the commonty, each tree associated in one way or another with one of the four families. Since the Beijing Mileses weren’t going to be here on Games Day, I took this one in advance:

The tree – I must have mentioned this before – is a metasequoia glyptostroboides. One of those tales of a fossil described in a learned article, and after WWII when such things became again widely circulated, the Chinese said, oh, yes, we’ve got one of those at the bottom of the garden.

Our one was planted to commemorate James’ and Cathy’s wedding and struggled at first for being planted on a slope. It is a water-loving tree, and our soil is basically very sandy, and there were a couple of Sicilian summers in its early years. All seems to be well, now, and it is at last taller than the children.


Here is Alexander, trying on his Bedroom at Arles socks.

I finished the first sock last night, of the current pair I am knitting for our niece,  and have succeeded in casting on (Judy’s Magic) the second. It was a titanic struggle.

I’ll have to carry on with this. I don’t understand what I did right. And I didn’t do it entirely right, at that –- there is a little row of purl bumps. Did I not execute the turn at the end properly?

I watched several videos as I struggled, nearly in tears. (I don’t have time for this.) Usually, that is the solution that makes all clear. Not this time. In the end, it was Wendy Johnson’s “Socks from the Toe Up” that did the trick, as I think was the case with the first sock. But what did I do differently, that time, to make the top and bottom stitches lock together? Perhaps the solution will be to take an afternoon, like Kristie – but where am I to get one of those? – and cast on the Longitudinal socks from Knitty.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Safely back.

Little gardening got done, less knitting. We had a good time. The weather was fairly kind, considering what 2012 has been up to so far. St Swithin is trying.

My vegetables appeared worse than ever – the deer had been back. Their pretty legs, sinking into soft soil, make footprints which the most obtuse naturalist could not confuse with slugs or rabbits. They have even eaten the growing tops off the autumn raspberries.

By the end, I felt a bit better. If the weather stays clement and the deer stay away – two major suppositions – the mange-tout peas might manage a late crop. Alexander and his family came over last weekend, to see James and his family. Alexander says my vegetables look better than his (hard to believe) and that he is ready to give up and just grow fruit.

I am going to stick to my plan of perennial vegetables. Jerusalem artichokes (the gift of the Fishwife, now in their third season), Good King Henry (repulsive alike to slugs, rabbits, deer, and people), and sorrel are doing fine. Harriet’s gift of Welsh onions and garlic chives have settled in happily. I planted the Babington leeks she gave me (sources vary as to how many “B’s”) in a large flower pot so that I can keep a close maternal eye on their early stages.

And the summer pudding bush produced an astonishing crop. I had netted it very carefully, pegging the netting down all around. We must have picked close to six pounds of berries. The pudding was delicious, and I have frozen more than enough to make another one for Helen’s family. The white current bushes, on the other hand, which birds have previously ignored, were nearly stripped before I got to them. They’ll have to be netted next year.

Good King Henry made another appearance as “saag” in a curry, and again acquitted itself well. The potatoes look fine. The vegetable cage has resisted attack.

But I am increasingly anxious about the prospect of being there alone with my husband. He is nearly 87; no joke. We had a low-blood-sugar episode which was almost trivial because James was there. Next month we’ll have Helen. But after that…


I gave Alexander his Bedroom at Arles socks. Ketki was wearing her Restaurant de la Sirene ones. I knit a few long rows of the Japenese shirt.

Here, I am binding off the first of our niece’s socks. I find I can (I think) do the Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off without looking it up again. So today I’ll have to do another Magic Cast-On.

Pictures of many of the excitements just mentioned will be on view soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The decorators have gone, for now, and I have slid into panic-mode in relation to James’ visit and my husband’s frailty and bad temper and my own increasing incompetence. Clean clothes for next week? Both houses are dirty. Food, I think I’m on top of that one. In fact, everything will be fine, and my husband will welcome spending time in the company of someone other than me. Someone he loves.

You’re right, Tamar, that the colour of the paint has changed – and improved – markedly as it has dried. The unpleasant blue tinge has gone, to my eye, although it is still appreciably lighter than the old paint. I found the old paint tin, and sent the men off with it, as well as speaking to the boss. It will be interesting to have James’ opinion (and his children’s) although nobody pays much attention to James on non-Sino subjects. What matters, in the end, is what my husband thinks – even more than what the dining room looks like.

The irony of the current situation is that we now have a beautiful, fully-restored ceiling. If only they had been a little bit more careful with the walls, the job would be finished. As we expected it would be, this time last week.

Knitting (I can scarcely bring myself to write the word)

I have received the box of yarn with which I am meant to be creative. Six different yarns, including a skein of sari yarn which is something I have always wanted to try. I am vaguely thinking a child’s sleeveless vest in entrelac. The first time I tried entrelac, not entirely understanding the instructions in Sheila McGregor's "Traditional Scandinavian Knitting", I had to cut the yarn at the end of each square. That early ineptitude could become a virtue, with each square different.

There was no text at all included in the box, and for the moment I can’t find the exchange of emails which launched me into this project. I have promised to mention the sponsor in my blog from time to time. I looked at their website when the proposition was put to me – they supply materials for all sorts of crafts in a brilliantly well-organised site. No yarn, although needles are there. Perhaps this blogger-competition is their movement into yarn-selling.

But this is of no use since I can’t remember their name. “Home” comes into it. If anyone can find the blog entry in which I mentioned my invitation to join the competition, it would provide a date which would help me find the emails.

And as for actual (as opposed to prospective) knitting, I am engaged on the ribbing of the current toe-up sock. Another session with Judy’s Magic Cast-On looms.

Friday, July 13, 2012

On we go.

That is great news indeed, Lou, that Kate Davies and Debenham’s have reached so happy a settlement. Vastly better on all possible fronts than a prolonged legal battle over details.

But I am sorry that Ravelry caved in over “Ravelympics”. I can utterly understand why they did so, but I think they had a strong case – they weren’t using the word “Olympics” and they were, in fact, promoting the wretched Games. I think the US Olympic committee might have backed away, faced with the Knitters of the World.

And that reminds me that “Twenty Twelve” is broadcasting a final three programmes, the first of them this past Tuesday and therefore presumably still available on the BBC website. It is very, very funny. So funny it is hard to distinguish from news broadcasts about cracks in the M4 and huge queues at the immigration desks at Heathrow and the army called in to handle security.

Let’s stay cheerful as long as we can. It’s great to have the Curmudgeon back.  Franklin is never less than brilliant – don’t miss his flowchart to help you decide whether or not to knit for someone. Link in sidebar.

And yesterday I got a wonderful package from Harriet – NOT sock yarn, but bunching onions, garlic chives, Babbington leeks and walking onion bulbils from her garden. Harriet didn’t want a Crazy Zauberball, and suggested a donation to p/hop which I have happily made. A particularly appropriate charity, as the Hours of Pleasure from that package are going to be considerable.

I thought I was pretty well up in the subject of alliums, but Babbington leeks are new to me, and sound very interesting. Harriet has sent bulbils – not much larger than a large kernel of corn – and suggests that I plant them in damp soil which won’t be difficult in 2012. I will read all about them in my books – especially Perennial Vegetables – when we get to Strathardle next week.

The bunching onions and garlic chives are vigorous plants – I hope conditions in Strathardle aren’t going to be too much of a shock for them. I have heeled them in in my herb trough on the doorstep. As you can see, we had a few moments of sunshine in Edinburgh yesterday. The postie and I had a happy conversation on the subject as she was handing over the box shortly before this picture was taken. Nothing similar since.

OK, news.

We have suspended work on the dining room for a fortnight, and will go to Strathardle with James and his family on Monday as planned. It’s sad to have the saga drag on, but this was the best of the choices. I think my husband and I succeeded in choosing a wallpaper yesterday. To be looked at again in this morning’s gloomy light. (Habemus papyram! perhaps.) The men painted the cornice and skirting yesterday and the colour doesn’t match the old paint (which remains on shutters and doors) – it’s meant to be dark grey and is in fact far too blue. My first job for today is to ring them up and tell them. My husband just gets cross. I have to interact with the world.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

This morning’s weather broadcast said that only 1.6 hours of sunshine have been recorded in Edinburgh this month – at a time of year when the sun is potentially available for many hours a day. It is certainly not to be seen this morning.

After that statement, I am in rabbit-in-headlight mode. Where to turn?

The dining room wallpaper turned out to be seriously torn in a couple of places we hadn’t spotted, so it has come down.

Choosing new paper is not a job for me. My husband must decide, and he moves slowly. We made a start yesterday. Let’s assume – and it’s a big assumption – that we can reach a conclusion today. They can’t possibly finish tomorrow, so the job goes on into next week.

James will arrive on Sunday with two children. He’ll be tired from a stressful period at work, and he’ll want to go to K*rkmichael, which he loves. My husband seems to think that he and James could manage up there without me. He underestimates the stress his own care imposes. Not to mention organising meals.

I’ll ask the men when they get here how much longer the job will take (including removing the scaffolding, which has to be done before the walls are finished lest the new wallpaper get torn). Then I’ll phone James’ wife Cathy and discuss strategy.

Here are the socks. I think just at the moment that my vote is for Strong-Fleegle or Reverse French for a toe-up heel. That’s a Sweet Tomato you’re looking at, and it looks rather narrow. 

Jared has written and illustrated an interesting post about ease – a difficult subject.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Life presses, this morning. I must be brief.

The new ceiling is up. Decorators will come today. But is it dry? There are serious splashes of plaster on the walls – we had hoped the old wallpaper could be saved. So that is this morning’s first question. The woman on the telephone thought the decorators could wash it off. I am suddenly, enormously, depressed again by the whole thing.

Thank goodness for knitting.

You are right, of course, Knitlass, Kate deserves acknowledgement and payment for those sweaters at Debenham’s. I was glad to see in her blog post that she has “taken advice”. I trust that whatever else her lawyer does or doesn’t do, he has written a scary letter to the shop.

I am trying to compose in my head an email to them. I don’t want to imply that I have seen the wretched sweaters myself. Debenham's email address is in Kate’s blog. The more of us who write, the better.

As for the socks, they progress. The Sweet Tomato consists of three wedges stacked on top of each other. I’m working on the third. Yet another drawback of toe-up construction, when one is trying out heels, is that one doesn’t know where to start because one doesn’t know quite how much the heel will add to foot length. Top-down, easy. Knit the leg, knit any heel you like, measure the foot and keep going until it’s long enough.

Despite all this, there’s something I like about toe-up.


Mary Lou, thanks for the reminder. I am sort of between books at the moment, and I need one, and that’s the answer: go back to Ann Cleve and Shetland. I’ll do it today.

And now I must get on with Wednesday the 11th. The weather forecast this morning said that the current misery would go on for the rest of the month. I had continued until that moment to nourish the hope that things would improve next week, when James will be here and St Swithin will have had his chance to intervene.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Fishwife posted a link to Kate Davies’ blog in her comment yesterday. Don’t miss. It’s about Debenham’s selling a rip-off of Kate’s famous o w l sweater. I calmed down a little after I had had time to think about it – Debenham’s is not taking any of Kate’s income away. Nobody who was thinking of buying the pattern and knitting the o w l would change her mind when offered the chance to buy a shoddy-looking ready-made instead.

But it still hurts.

The Zauberball socks progress nicely – I might even reach the heel today. Our niece for whom I’m knitting them has small feet, like her cousin Rachel and Rachel’s daughters (and my mother). James’ wife Cathy comes into that category. Helen and Ketki and I are rather more substantially endowed.

I am not going to be able to resist all these enthusiastic recommendations for the Sidewinders. Gretchen, thank you in particular for that tip about getting the row tension right, and then adjusting the stitch numbers as necessary. For the one-sock-vertical-one-sock-horizontal joke – who would wear those, among my recipients? the question needs some thought – it would have to be Sidewinders rather than the new Knitty pattern, Longitudinal, because that one is in garter stitch.

On the other hand, Longitudinal also sounds a lot of fun, and I am grateful for your tip, Kristie, of starting the long Magic Cast-on at a point where the Zauberball changes colour.

Alexander’s socks, finished while Mr Murray was losing his tennis match on Sunday, are the seventh pair I’ve done this year (plus the snood for the Games, and my husband’s v-neck madelinetosh which he wears almost daily and which looks very good). The first two pairs, though, were just done in the same-old-way, to replenish my husband’s sock drawer. The excitement of discovering the possibilities of sock-knitting started subsequently, and seems endless – especially now that longitudinality has been added to the mix.


The dining room ceiling acquired a layer of plasterboard yesterday, and today – they have already arrived – it will be plastered. They are pleasant and self-sufficient men but still a worry.

I have gardening news, but it will have to wait.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The BBC weather forecast this morning predicted not only frost but also “wintry showers” (=snow) for somewhere in Scotland. This is supposed to be the one month of the 12 without such unpleasantness. Do you think, in gardening terms, a frost on July 9 would count as the last frost of the preceding season, or the first of the next one?


Oh, dear. But he did well, and was gracious in defeat, and it would be awful, wouldn’t it? to have climbed the highest mountain at 25 and be a multi-millionaire and then what do you do for 50 years?


I finished Alexander’s sock, as hoped. I don’t think he’ll like them, but he can always wear them for gardening. The new Zauberball is looking good. Maybe there will be enough for a pic tomorrow.  I refreshed my memory of the Sweet Tomato Heel this morning. Cat Bordhi’s generosity with her clever and original idea contrasts favourably with the way Donna Druchunas reserves those Lithuanian heels for paying customers only.

Lou, thank you for the link to the Sidewinder socks. I still worry about gauge – especially since, in that case, she is so fierce about how one must achieve both stitch and row gauge. I’ve never managed to do that in my life, and so much prefer the EZ approach where you establish your own gauge first and then bend the pattern to fit.

But I love the idea of knitting a pair of socks with one vertical and the other horizontal, so maybe I’m going to have to try.

For the Longitudinal socks in Knitty that Kristie pointed us to recently, you have to cast on the whole length of the sock, top to toe, with Judy’s Magic Cast-On. My first thought is that I could never do that – it would all spring apart if I let go for a moment. But it wouldn’t, if I were doing it right, because the stitches are locked to each other. I found it a bit hard to remember which needle I had just put a stitch on, and once one got past a dozen or so it would be awkward to stop and count all the time. There’s probably a way around that.

I had a look on Amazon.com at Judy Becker’s book in which she takes her magic cast-on in various interesting directions. I am tempted. Thanks for the tip, Daisy. Amazon.co.uk hasn’t heard of it, but ordering from America is easy enough.

That link in a comment yesterday to a video called The Knitter's Curse looked a bit spam-like but seems to be innocent enough. It goes to a song about not knitting for boyfriends.

Today is the today they are supposed to start putting up our new dining room ceiling. 

Sunday, July 08, 2012


Murray and Federer have played each other 15 times, I read somewhere yesterday, and Murray has won eight of those matches. So it could happen.

The Wimbledon fortnight is always a Big Thing in my year, but the Men’s Final is normally, for me, no more than a mildly interesting coda. I don’t remember being emotionally involved since Arthur Ashe beat Jimmy Connors in ’75. On looking up the date just now, I discover that Ashe was 32 at the time, and that Federer, if he wins today, will be the first man over 30 to do so since that day.

There was a comedy-thriller in the 40’s – I think both the words “man” and “tomorrow” are in the title – about someone who had access to the next day’s newspapers. He was doing rather well at the races until he saw the headline about his own death. Tomorrow, like yesterday, there will be pictures of Andy Murray on all the front pages (unless the sky falls in) – but what pictures? What will he be doing?

Judy’s Magic Cast-On

I did it! I can’t go so far as to say, I got it! because I don’t understand how it works and I don’t even know what I did differently that time to make it work. But as you say, Christine, it was a magic moment – and makes a beautiful toe.

I think we need a generic name for this sort of cast on – Judy’s Magic and Turkish and Suzanne’s cheap-and-cheerful. I think I have seen Judy’s referred to as “provisional”, which it certainly isn’t. Circular? Double-sided?

(In Suzanne’s words:  “I cast-on 12 or 14 stitches via a cable cast-on, then kfb in each stitch. I slip the stitches onto two needles, alternating front and back. Then I knit them onto the three or four needles I'm using for the sock and start my increases.” This one leaves a ridge, but who cares?)

I’m close enough to the end that I should finish Alexander’s socks today, unless the tennis has an absolutely paralyzing effect. I’ve cast on the next ones in a non-crazy Zauberball, the unplyed type. So far so good.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


As I believe they say in football: Here we go! Here we go! Here we go!

Yesterday was exhausting, but it came out right in the end. Murray has been in Grand Slam finals three times before (I think: today’s papers will be full of accuracy on the subject, I won’t look it up) and has yet to win a set. But this is Wimbledon. Wimbledon is different. Stuff happens. Our Birmingham neighbour Ann Jones won the women’s title in 1969 by beating Billie Jean King who was undoubtedly the greater player.

And if the worst happens, as it probably will, Federer is a nice guy and one won’t begrudge him another win.

Everybody in the world seems to be at Wimbledon this year. I have seen Sachen Tandulkar and Kylie Minogue (they weren’t together). It is disconcerting to see how cruel the years have been to some of the great tennis names I remember loving or hating – Rod Laver, Steffi Graf, Tracy Austin. But Boris Becker looks all right, a bit bulky, and Sue Barker is an inspiration to us all.


I am comforted by your comment (Thursday), Fishwife. (The link is to her garden blog – follow it and you will see why comfort flows from her words.) I had been half-thinking what you put into words, that the plants, in this extraordinary weather, have been unable to get up any momentum. When growing strongly, they can shrug off a certain amount of pest attack.

I discovered yesterday, while pursuing something else on Google, that slugs like “walking onions”. Someone has been at mine, certainly, but I didn’t think slugs liked that sort of thing so I didn’t think to blame them. They never touch the chives, and the bunching onions I put in in early June are also fine. I’ll remember that.

We always complain about the weather, but 2012 has been beyond weird.


The tennis was too exciting yesterday to allow for much, but I am well into the ribbing of Alexander’s second sock, even so. I thought it might be a good idea to start today by sitting here calmly and watching a video and doing Judy’s Magic Cast-On so that I’ll be ready for the next pair when the moment comes.

But even with Judy herself instructing me, I have failed again. For whatever reasons, my stitches are not locking themselves together in the back. There is a gaping hole between the two needles. I am determined to master this.

Kristie wrote to me the other day with a link to these wonderful socks in Knitty. They, too, start with Judy’s Magic Cast-On and Kristie says it took her two hours on a (presumably) calm and uninterrupted afternoon, to get it. But she succeeded. I will too. These socks are definitely going on my HALFPINT list. Would it be difficult to get the size right?

Now -- another ten minutes of Judy’s Magic Cast-On before breakfast?

Friday, July 06, 2012

I think even my husband understands that today will be devoted to tennis. This is the day when Murray was expected to meet Nadal. Obviously, no one who gets to a Wimbledon semi-final can be despised as an opponent. Equally obviously, Mr Tsonga is not Nadal. A chink of light.

I knew that no British man has won Wimbledon since the 30’s. I don’t think I knew, until this week, that none of them had even reached the final.

The other semi-final will be interesting, too. I shall be cheering for Federer.

The first time I ever saw top-flight tennis was when my father took me to Forrest Hills to the second day of a Davis Cup encounter between the US and Australia. The Americans had won both singles matches the day before, so it was do-or-die that day for Australia. The doubles match which we saw was utterly thrilling. I was cheering for Australia throughout (they won), and have been humming “Waltzing Matilda” under my breath ever since. It occurred to me last night that Google could find the details, and here they are. I had just turned 16.

I am a few rounds short of the ribbing of Alexander’s sock. The tennis should suffice to carry me a long way towards the finish.

I have had an email from some who wants to send me – as one of the “UK’s top craft bloggers” – some yarn on which I am to let “creativity run amock”. It’s a competition of some sort. I must mention the name of the company (as yet unknown) and include links as we go along. Although instinctively suspicious, I don’t see why not.

Thank you for your sympathetic comments on my attempts to grow vegetables. Roobeedoo, you’ll have to join me in growing Good King Henry -- one step up from nettles. Knitlass, runner beans are among my failures, too. They’re always precarious in Strathardle, but it’s fun trying, and I have occasionally had good crops in September. This year I ordered plug plants, and they came too early, and promptly died. Fair enough. I then planted seeds, and early in June they looked fine, all coming up nicely. This time, although they had managed quite a bit of growth, they appeared blasted – as if by cold? But no one else was complaining of that. They weren’t exactly dead, so I left them, but without hope.

I have been enjoying the news of the Higgs boson. I think I am right in saying that he – Professor Higgs – lived in Drummond Place rather briefly in his youth.

A.E. Housman concludes his introductory lecture to the University of London in 1892, where he had just been appointed Professor of Latin, by saying:

“It is the glory of God, says Solomon, to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. Kings have long abdicated that province; and we students are come into their inheritance: it is our honour to search out the things which God has concealed. In Germany at Easter time they hide coloured eggs about the house and the garden that the children may amuse themselves in hunting after them and finding them. It is to some such game of hide-and-seek that we are invited by that power which planted in us the desire to find out what is concealed, and stored the universe with hidden things that we might delight ourselves in discovering them…”

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Back again, and Mr Murray has managed all right at Wimbledon without me.

Theo sent me this picture of his parents – my sister and her husband – with the caption, In sadness as in joy, LeComptes know what to do. It is a very good picture of them, and a pleasant glimpse into Jenni and Theo’s house in DC.

I took the Joseph’s Coat yarn and pattern to the knitters in K*rkmichael. They were very pleased, especially when they found out I wasn’t asking them to knit it for me. When Jenni and Theo get their baby, I’m thinking Baby Surprise – the pattern I’ve knit far more times than any other – and I’m thinking madeleinetosh.

As for vegetables, I have never seen such a mess, not even the year I had my cataract operations and everything was unweeded for months. We’ll stick to the good news, of which there is very little.

The potatoes look fine. I earthed them up.

Nature’s next move will be potato blight. I used to think we didn’t have it in Perthshire, like snakes in Ireland. Alas, not so, and the current wet, wet weather is perfect for incubating it.

The vegetable cage is working. Three lettuces seem to have gone missing. I blame slugs. These are the plants that spent a week in the post, remember. They weren’t in the best of condition when planted out.

Nature, here, will no doubt soon unleash cabbage white caterpillars onto the little broccoli plants. And, worse, I saw a rabbit in the cage – or was it just window-shopping? The netting is pegged down, but there is space between the pegs for an industrious rabbit to wriggle under. I improved the defences somewhat with flat stones. But nothing stops rabbits except fencing which goes several inches underground.

And I saw a deer on the lawn. One expects them in the winter, a hungry time, but they are meant to stay away in July. It is hard to dislike them, such beautiful creatures with their long legs, but they do a tremendous amount of damage. No doubt there are people who don’t even dislike bunny rabbits.

Saag gosht with Good King Henry supplying the saag was a success. It is hard to be absolutely sure whether it was just that the spices covered the taste of the greenery, or whether – as I believe – the bitterness of GKH contributed a dark and interesting note to the total effect.

The messiest bit of all was the herb border. It had become a solid tapestry of weeds and herbs. I flung myself upon that task on Sunday, cleared most of it out, replanted. It now looks like a battlefield, which at least implies effort. There’s more tidying to be done around the edges – I hope I’ll get to that next time. And I’m going to order some garlic chives (=Chinese leeks).

I knit onwards on the Japanese shirt – now just over halfway from cast-on to armpits, knitting fronts and back together. Slow going, but wonderful. And back here, Alexander’s toe-up sock is not far from the ribbing.