Monday, March 31, 2014

I have difficulty enough fitting the little I do into 24 hours – 23 is definitely not enough. Still, here we are on the far side. That's that done for another year. And round 11 is finished, of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

Elaine, thank you for the pointer to p. 160 of “Knit One Knit All”. That's going to help. Part of my difficulty has been, how to fit in the YO's which have to go on either side of the pivotal stitch every other row. I think the answer is, put them in on the wrong-side row (unlike the other three corners). That is, at the end of a right-side round, wrap and turn and then do a YO before starting the next round. And at the end of a wrong-side round, do a YO before knitting the stitch.

Cheryl Schweitzer (any relation?) wrote to remind me of the treasures available on Jackie E-S's wonderful website, Heartstrings. I'm already using her “less stressful k3tog” at least half the time. I must explore the website looking for more.

[Jackie's less-stressful k3tog is: knit the first two stitches together, transfer the resulting stitch back to the left-hand needle, pass the following stitch over, transfer the whole lot back to the right-hand needle. The one I do when I'm feeling stronger is: slip the first two stitches together – that is, inserting the needle as if you were going to knit them together, then knit the third and pass the slipped stitches over it.]

Round 11, just finished, has no fewer than 5 k3togs in every 36-stitch repeat.

The new VK has pitched up here. I haven't had time to do it justice yet, but I've read Meg on lace knitting just in case there was anything I needed to know right now. She reminds us of the need to avoid casting-on and casting-off as far as possible, because of the danger of creating a tight line, confirming my prejudice in favour of knitting a Shetland shawl edging-inwards – where the only casting-on is for the edging itself, and there's no casting-off at all.

This got me worried a bit about the bottom edge of the centre square of the Unst Bridal Shawl, where I had to cast on (provisionally) a lot of stitches. I think I'm OK on that one.

Skeindalous, I had completely forgotten that plenty of garter-stitch-in-the-round is waiting for me when I finally get back to Rams and Yowes. I'm pretty sure I'll follow your lead on that one, bite the bullet, and purl every other round.

Speaking of which – Kate Davies is off to Iceland, having just finished a Lopi design of her own, soon to be published. She is full of enthusiasm for the yarn. I suspect a new item is about to shoot to the top of many a HALFPINT list.

Now that Laetare Sunday is behind us, Easter can't be far away. I'd like to take the Bridal Shawl along to Loch Fyne. I tend to get up first, along with the Little Boys, and we sit at the wonderful long kitchen table, in a room made cosy by the Aga, me alternately knitting and interfering in whatever the boys are doing. They play together better than any two children I have ever known. It's splendid knitting time, with the early-morning synapses firing and no responsibility for the rest of the day.

But Hellie and Matt will be there. I can scarcely knit the Bridal Shawl in front of them. Take both projects, perhaps, for different times of day?

Rachel phoned yesterday, as she usually does on Laetare Sunday. Her family has postponed rejoicing (= laetare) until next weekend, when they're all going to Paris to cheer Hellie on in her marathon-running. They're going to pick us up on Good Friday and whisk us off to Loch Fyne.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Laetare Sunday

British clocks have gone forward at last. It puts a certain amount of additional pressure on Sunday.

Thank you for your comment, Alexis. I've never got alongside Alexander McCall Smith myself, but I love the idea of living in a novel. I suspect the dealer who has our picture is there, too, from Dundas Street. and Scotland Street itself is just around the corner. I know someone who lives there who has a minor role in one of the books – A McC S asked her permission to include her. I disapprove of him because the Drummond Place Civic Society twice asked him to speak to the AGM, but he was far too busy. Too busy, to visit Scotland Street and speak to his own characters!


The needles arrived, and that's that problem solved, at least. They turn out to be Addi Rundstricknadeln, with that wonderful facility of the German language for calling a spade a spade, and are labelled as “Lace-Needles”.

I'm now on round 11. The right-side rounds are pretty slow, involving as they do lots of k3togs, an awkward manoeuvre however you slice it. I'll finish off a motif in 11, and be rewarded with two whole wrong-side rows (12 and 14) which are pure purl.

“Principles of Knitting” doesn't help. Her excellent index seems to make it clear that there is nothing under “garter stitch” or “circular knitting” which addresses my problem. I tried Montse Stanley. Her much-less-good index has a couple of dozen entries, undifferentiated, for “garter stitch” and only slightly fewer for “circular knitting” but I doubt if it's worth the time and effort to toil through them.

There can't be a fourth answer to the question. In order to produce garter stitch in the round, you must either (a) purl alternate rounds or (b) wrap a stitch and turn around or (c) turn around without wrapping and use a second ball of yarn for the return circuit (Fleegle). What I want now is one of those wonderful line drawings illustrating the wrap-and-turn.

I took myself in hand yesterday and determined that at the end of a “right-side” (= odd-numbered) round, I will wrap the pivotal stitch but not try to knit it. And at the end of “wrong-side” rounds, I will knit it but not wrap it (since it's already wrapped). It's too soon to say whether this policy, pursued with determination, will tidy up that very messy corner for the future.

I have also decided – it's obvious, really – that the corner stitch markers will come before the corner stitch on right-side rounds and after it (therefore,  and obviously) on wrong-side ones. Saves peering at the work, if you know that in advance.


It would be nice to have a single explanation for all this – that is, including the January nausea. I feel it's all one story, and I prefer – from my devotion to William of Ockham – one explanation rather than several. I had to switch drs midstream. When the weakness and breathlessness became acute at some point in Feb, I couldn't get an appt with the man I had been consulting about the nausea. I went for a same-day appt with take-the-doctor-you-get, who proved to be one I knew and liked from my husband's frequent consultations with him. He diagnosed heart, and I've stuck with him. But he hadn't been there for nausea in January.

Nausea could be an outrider for heart. But leaving off the osteoporosis pill seems to have cured it, so maybe the osteoporosis pill was behind weakness and breathlessness? I am told that the echo test on the heart will at least establish whether there is any long-lasting damage there. Who knows? I continue to feel about 91% OK.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Much excitement yesterday.

  1. First and best – The doorbell rang at 9 yesterday morning, and there on the doorstep was one of you, with her husband, with some flowers for me. They had come to Drummond Place and walked around it, finally recognising the Very Doorstep on which the Milano was recently photographed. I deliberately didn't ask for their name, although now that seems a churlish omission. It was as if the flowers had come from all of you. I was stunned with gratitude.

  1. (This has to be read in conjunction with yesterday.) Helen's excellent friend S. rang up to say that she had SEEN Princess Anne going into Valvona and Crolla – a justly famous Italian delicatessen near here. Clearly the Royal Person knows her Edinburgh. One would expect no less. The Court Circular reveals that she had two more engagements in the city on Thursday, in one of which you got tangled up, Knitlass.
  1. The dealer who outbid us for the picture in NYC last month rang up and offered to bring it round. It was a sad moment, seeing it in the very room where we had once hoped it would hang. It's a stunner.

Forget those 1's. They seem to exist in a different reality from which I cannot remove or correct them.


On I went. I'm now doing the 9th of 136 rounds of the the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

I should make it clear that the trouble I had with the Fleegle system had nothing to do with keeping the two balls of yarn straight, despite that false start early on. One ball is nearly finished, the other brand new; they were easily distinguished. No, the trouble lay with the pivotal stitch. I had to keep it near the corner, so that it didn't get involved in any of the lace patterning. Fleegle illustrates the system with a stitch which drifts away from the corner as the count is increased. I didn't think I could pivot on the corner stitch itself – maybe I should have tried that. Fleegle says that the system works just as well when the pivotal stitch doesn't drift.

The other time I used the system, more or less successfully, I was knitting edging-inwards instead of (as now) centre-out. That may have helped.

The YO's on either side of the corner stitch every other round added to my confusion. As they continue to do. With wrap-and-turn, when (if ever) do you knit the wrapped stitch? Every row? Every other row?

Sue, that is a brilliant idea – consult “Principles of Knitting” on garter stitch in the round: and I shall do so virtually at once. I have the original edition. It's been republished since, and everyone who wants one can now have it, but not long ago it was in the hen's tooth category. I got mine in a swap with someone on the Knitlist (this could even have happened in the last millennium) in exchange for an early Rowan magazine, no. 4 I think. I have since regarded it simply as a trophy adornment to my knitting shelves and consult it all too rarely.

My newest needles were dispatched yesterday, and I paid extra for first class stamps. So with a little bit of luck, I may have them today. Meanwhile the one that came apart and which I will never trust again, continues to perform well.


Walking a bit farther went well yesterday. This is all very odd.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Not a bad day. Maybe this assume-a-virtue-if-you-have-it-not approach is going to work. I'll try walking a bit farther than usual today. Thank you for your kind words. I had been feeling rather embarrassed, myself, all this fuss about what seems to be turning out to be nothing. There is much that still puzzles me.

A totally irrelevant note, tangentially related: when Helen's wonderful friend S. was driving us home from the appt with the Great Man on Wednesday, she took us through Holyrood Park in that wonderful moment of a Scottish equinoctial evening when the light is preternaturally vivid, picking out each dog-walker and jogger on Arthur's Seat and the Crags which were looming above us. As we passed the Palace of Holyrood, S. said, “A prince must be here”. It was flying a very serious-looking, royal-looking flag, with quarters.

I read the Court Circular with particular interest yesterday, and sure enough. Princess Anne, after a day spent attending boring-sounding meetings in Manchester and Newcastle on Wednesday, rounded it all off with a boring-sounding dinner in Edinburgh. The flag must have been flying for her. That's something else Scotland will lose if they vote Yes in this bloody referendum.


Not an entirely good day, yesterday. The needles arrived from Heirloom Knitting – but, has something happened to Inox? They are called Prym and they are that familiar knitting-needle grey. I knit a whole round on one of them, and immediately knit everything back onto the unreliable needle because I couldn't see the stitches. The old needle is shiny, and I can see them fine. Nickle-plated, I gather is the term.

So I have ordered another two circulars, nickle-plated Knit Pro's from Meadow Yarn. The blurb mentions lace knitting in particular, a propos the sharpness of the needles and the smoothness of the join between cable and point. I've been having trouble with that, too. It will probably turn out, as so often, that I should have consulted you people first.

And as for the knitting itself, I'm not doing at all well with Fleegle and I don't know what's wrong, so I have decided to switch to wrap-and-turn. That is, to use one ball of yarn and to turn around after each circuit and knit the next one in the other direction. I've done that once before, and the only difficulty is that it leaves a strong, discernible line up one corner, clearly visible from horseback. It's not entirely easy to do, either, when there is a YO on either side of the wrapped stitch every other row. I'll get the hang of it, I suppose. A 10-minute Google session hasn't provided any helpful instructions.

My first thought had been to wrap all the corner stitches – if you can't disguise it, make a feature of it -- but that turns out to be so awkward a manoeuvre for the reason just given, that I have abandoned the idea.

Let's hope for better news tomorrow.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


The great man said, essentially, that there is nothing wrong with me. He had another ECG done and it was normal. He thinks, like others I have mentioned, that too much cider has weakened the system. (He had a vaguely Scandinavian name and looked as if he might be a cross-country ski-er.)

I think the only thing to do is to take his expensive advice and behave as if I felt perfectly well and see how I get on. I have started today with a cup of coffee – I had been eschewing it lately as too stimulating – and feel better already. We had long planned to go to Strathardle the week beginning April 7 with our niece, so that's now definitely “on”. I spoke to her last night.

And Rachel's son Joe had, long ago, proposed himself for a weekend there. I've emailed him to say, any time! My reluctance to be there alone with my husband remains in force.


All went well yesterday. I have put the stitches back on the precarious long needle so that I could see what I was doing. So far so good. I have established the border pattern (of the Unst Bridal shawl, we're talking about) without difficulty on all four sides. It's a long way around, and it'll get longer, but it's fun.

This is the point at which I had determined to get the Rams & Yowes blankie out and allot a couple of days a week to it. I can't bear to, at the moment, so exciting is the shawl, but I must bear in mind that it's to be done.

I got a your-order-has-been-dispatched message yesterday from Heirloom Knitting about the new needles (I ordered two different lengths). I opened it, and it begins, “Dear Jean, How wonderful to hear from you again!” which was a marvellous boost. I mustn't forget to send them pictures of Thomas's bride wearing the Princess shawl when the time comes.

Kate Davies has now posted a whole blog entry about her new pattern, Machrihanish, a man's Fair Isle vest, with her usual brilliant photography. Tom couldn't have taken any of these pictures, because he's in all of them. I warm to the vest, which is knit from Jamieson & Smith's “Shetland Heritage” yarn.

I bought a vest's-worth of that yarn when I was there, and a Fair Isle vest is still high on my to-do list. My hesitation about this one – from Kate's new Cross Country Knitting venture, mentioned yesterday – was that the patterns tamely repeat all the way up. I have long believed that in “real” Fair Isle, they should each be different, although so similar that you have to peer closely to see the difference.

But that's a small difficulty – I've got nothing around here if not pattern collections. I could easily make substitutions which would use the same number of stitches and rows. I had my eye on something of Meg's from, I think, Knitter's for this vest, but maybe I should have Kate's pattern too. The fit is magnificent. This is the project for which I am going to get that Shetland knitting belt out and try, try again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


The dr phoned as promised, and said he would write right away to refer me to a cardiologist. I should hear within a week. Sinking of heart. But in fact the BUPA hospital rang up within the hour – “writing” no longer involves quill pens, I gather – and I have an appt late this afternoon. I trust we will get some action. He can't charge that much for saying “hmmm”.

I have to find something called Shawfair Hospital. It opened in 2010 in what appears as empty fields in our Old Folks' Edinburgh A-Z. Google Maps is fully apprised of its position, of course, and it looks easy – out past the new Royal Infirmary, a familiar drive.

My husband wants to come along. I hope he can be deterred, although the outing would be good for him. He likes the last minute approach to appointment-keeping. I don't. As Ogden Nash says somewhere, Each other is what they always marry.


was a catalogue of disasters. I'm not sure I can remember the order in which they occurred. The worst one was when I gave a gentle tug to my circular needle, as one does, and it flew apart, releasing some dozens of stitches into the void. I recovered the stitches and stuck the needle back together. It seems secure, but I can never trust it again. I've transferred the whole thing to another needle which is too short for the purpose, and will order a replacement.

When I got back to the starting point after the first Fleegle circuit, I found the two balls of yarn seriously tangled and fuzzed together. I extricated them. It will have to be wrap-and-turn after all if that keeps happening, but in fact I managed things better after that. The point where one turns and switches balls of yarn is a bit tricky and needs to be handled with care.

On the second Fleegle circuit, despite all my fine talk, I got 30 stitches or so into the new round before I discovered I was knitting with the wrong ball of yarn.

The disaster that did the most damage was trivial by comparison – a few stitches escaped while I was trying to release the yarn from one of those damned not-ring stitch markers, and the pick-up was messy.

All of this, as Lady Bracknell would say, begins to look like carelessness. I begin to suspect that old age has blunted my skills. I should begin the actual lace-knitting part of the borders today. Will things improve?


My Kate Davies tea towel arrived. It's as wonderful as advertised. She and a designing partner have started an e-book series called Cross Country Knitting. The first pair of patterns don't say anything to me, but I'll keep watching.

The tea towel came with a card advertising Shetland Wool Week 2014. It has a nice picture of a sheep on it. The website doesn't have much in the way of information yet, but I'll keep watching that, too.

For the sake of some colour: Rachel's daughter Hellie (the eventual recipient of the accident-prone Unst Bridal Shawl) ran 20 miles the other day, practising for the Paris Marathon which she is going to run in a fortnight's time. (She failed to get a place on the London one, I think is the story.)

That's Hellie on the left.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


The best I could do, when I finally got through to the GP's practice yesterday, was to book a phone call from our doctor today. I've already been out for the papers, and will remain close to the telephone henceforth. There's still time to see a cardiologist this week, and feel better next week. My sister says that I wouldn't have been left so long untreated in the USofA.


The fun has started on the Unst Bridal Shawl.

I had a lot of trouble with the provisional cast-on. At the time, I just reached into the odd-ball sock bag and took the first thing to hand, a rather fuzzy yarn. Big mistake. What is needed is something much more like mercerised cotton. It kept sticking. Ten stitches or so would unravel nicely, and then it would stick fast and have to be unpicked – leaving me wondering whether it was the fault of the yarn, or whether I had actually managed to do something wrong when I was casting on.

If I ever need the technique again, in lace, I'll try Sharon's “knitted cast-on” which is something like the cable cast-on but leaves, according to her illustration, a nice row of little loops to slip the needle through when wanted. But I think any future lace ventures will be outside-in.

So, the bottom edge is not exactly museum quality. I finished picking up and did a round of purling as planned. That's definitely out, for the rest of he shawl. Then came a “break round” – k2tog, yo, all the way around. Ssk proved much easier, so I did that. Then I attached another ball of yarn and turned and started Fleegle'ing.

The yarn bra's don't work. The yarn can't unwind properly. If I had a centre-pull ball, everything would be fine, but I don't think these balls work that way, and anyway it's too late now. Everything should be fine, if I keep my wits about me.

(a) The ball I have been using – now the “right-side row” ball – is nearing its end. It is easy to distinguish from the new ball.

(b) The knitting is now in the shape of a bowl. On the “wrong-side rows”, I'm knitting on the inside of the bowl – as long as I don't flip it inside out

(c) I've marked the “right side” with a safety pin.

I now have to do five rows of garter stitch – (oddly, the text says four, but five is clearly right, as the chart shows) – while I get used to Fleegle'ing, check and double-check the stitch count, and put markers in place for the pattern repeats.

I'm low on the markers I vastly prefer, those little rubber ones, plain circles. Everybody wants to sell me split rings or worse. I tried to get some at our local LYS – a modest way of supporting local business while not adding to stash, I thought. But she only had fancies. I thought I'd get some in Jamieson & Smith and it would be nice to have them to hand as a daily Shetland souvenir. Alas, it was the same story there. So it'll have to be the internet. I've just ordered some KnitPro ones I found on eBay.

I think this thing is going to be even more compulsive knitting from here on out. And I can hardly wait to start the next one.

From Zite

Heather Lodinsky has designed a toddler vest in Red Heart “Heart & Sole” sock yarn which looks, from a distance, like Fair Isle. And Christmas will come again, sure as death and taxes.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Kindle for iPad: Mary Lou and Abstract Fiber, you're both right: hold the finger down on the title for a moment, or swipe from right to left: both actions allow you to dispatch the title into the cloud. The first one seems to offer, in addition, the option of grouping titles into categories. I'm getting to the point where Started-and-I-Really-Mean-to-Go-On-One-Day-Soon would be a useful category. I might try to set it up.

I can't remember how I learned, in the former version, to swipe the title from left to right. I hope I won't forget your helpfulness on this subsequent problem.

I continue to enjoy “Alys, Always” enormously. I wonder if the author can do it again? Or has she poured her whole self into this one?


James rang up from the Middle Kingdom yesterday and persuaded me (and, more importantly, my husband) to see a cardiologist privately, soon. I've already started trying to ring the dr's surgery about the referral – it's not easy to get through, first thing in the morning, perhaps especially on Monday. It has been strongly implied, both by my sister and the GP, that drugs can do something for me. If so, it would be a good idea to get started instead of dragging myself around like this for a whole month longer. And if not, we'll have to face up to some life-style adjustments.


I finished the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl (drum roll) and began picking up stitches around the edges. There is a photograph in Amedro which strongly implies that that is to be done by sliding the needle through the appropriate loops on the straight edge of whatever-it-is, not by knitting them.

But here I am with the working yarn in the upper left hand corner, and clearly, from the instructions, it's got to go around with me.

The answer – so obvious it's scarcely worth mentioning – is to get out another needle and pick up the stitches by sliding it through, starting in the lower left hand corner. This makes the process much less agonizing than I had anticipated. If the count comes out wrong, pull the needle back a bit and try again. Much better than having to un-knit picked-up stitches.

So at the moment, I've got the right number of stitches for the left-hand edge and am knitting them, from the top. Next will come the liberation of the provisional cast-on, along the bottom. Watch this space. I'd better try to get a picture today.


Greek Helen has got a brilliant idea for a wedding-present mosaic for Thomas-the-Elder and bis bride. She's also working on her mosaic website, and she admires, we we all do, Kate Davies' photography. I told her how enormously helpful Kate had been when we (perfect strangers) were planning our Shetland trip. She – Greek Helen – said in an email yesterday: “Kate Davies was awfully helpful on the photography frnot, just as you predicted she would be. 

There was something else, but I've forgotten what it was.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Well, the good news is that I have an appt with cardiology. The bad news is, that it's not until the end of April. But – good news, again – at least it's not in Easter week; we won't have to leap up from the roast lamb on Loch Fyne and hurry back to Edinburgh.

Three more rows will finish off the patterned part of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I made the mistake last night of trying to knit while we watched W1A which we had recorded earlier in the week. It may not be quite as good as Twenty Twelve, but it's good, and that's not a knitting mistake I will make again. I did fine, for a while, but then... And the resultant tinking included several k3tog's. Yet another skill I have never mastered.

It looks more or less all right. No stitches have escaped. But there are too many minor flaws (and one major one) in this thing. On Unst, they used to knit through the winter with no light, and you can see the results in museums.


Helen introduced me to Goodreads (an app) while she was here. I have loaded it and will try to keep up. She says it's useful for gleaning reading ideas from one's “friends”. 

I have recommended to her the BBC radio programme “A Good Read”. It's like a mini book club – the presenter and her two gjuests-of-the-week each propose a book. All three read all three books, and discuss on air., including "I thought it was rubbish" and "I couldn't get through it".  I always enjoy the programme when it comes my way. On Friday, waiting for my husband to come to bed, I heard one, and yesterday morning I started off by ordering “Alys, Always” [never heard of it] and “Get Shorty” [I remember the movie fondly, and I approve of Elmore Leonard] for my Kindle, and emailed Archie to ask whether he had read “Catcher in the Rye”.

He hadn't, so Amazon is sending it to him. Three out of three. Archie is a voracious reader, largely of horror and the occult. It was he who introduced me to H.P. Lovecraft. I keep trying to steer him back towards the real world. My last attempt was Nigel Molesworth.

I'm well into “Alys, Always” and enjoying it enormously. It's its author's debut, two years ago. I must have missed the reviews. She's got another coming out this summer. I'll watch out closely for that one.

And speaking of the Kindle, and turning to you guys as ever for technical support: when Archie was here a month or so ago, he updated the operating system on my iPad and everything has changed. But I didn't discover until yesterday, when I tried to get rid of “Perfect” by Rachel Joyce (not really recommended – I got it because the New Yorker liked it), that swiping a finger across a book's entry in the library list in my Kindle app no longer consigns that title to the cloud. Nor does any other action I have been able to devise. Suggestions gratefully received. I can still access the titles in the cloud, and download them to the iPad. But I can't figure out how to get anything up there.

Sunday presses.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

We advance.

I finished the 18th repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl last night – only half a repeat to go, followed by eight rows of garter stitch, and then the fireworks begin.

I've read ahead. It all sounds perfectly feasible. First, pick up stitches all around. Much agonised counting, but I have started every row by slipping the stitch w.y.i.f., and there is a row of little loops down each side as a result which look very pick-up-able. Mark each corner stitch with yarn, using a different colour for the fourth corner. Purl one round. Start the chart, which has a yo on each side of the corner stitches every other round.

Bob's your uncle.

It occurs to me that I might as well purl that first round, after picking up the stitches, just to see what I make of the experience. Sharon says that making lace from behind is no problem. P2tog, slip1 purl 1 psso, whatever. It'll look fine, she says.

I had another reasonable day with the accounts, too, recording the day's events – there was some financial stuff in the morning mail – and nibbling away at the backlog.

My third on-line order was delivered from Waitrose. They have a particularly good line in pleasant young men on their delivery vans. I don't entirely understand what's in it for the supermarkets here – they are all terribly keen to deliver our groceries. I would have thought they'd shrink from the labour expense involved. From Waitrose, at least, delivery is free if you spend £50 or more. That's easy. And, although I'm getting the hang of things, I am spending less than I used to on my weekly jaunts. That must be true of most order-ers.

(Which is not to say I'm necessarily spending less on food – what I don't have on hand must be purchased on Broughton Street where prices are higher.)

And I got up to St James Dreadful Centre, to collect some prescriptions. Sometimes on better days I think my ailment is all in the mind, and everything would be fine if I just got out a bit more and strode about. But it isn't so. By the time I reached Boots I was staggering. I had to wait for one of the prescriptions, so I sank down in a comfortable chair in John Lewis' yarn department and looked at Rowan Magazine 52.

Like my Vogue Knitting Book collection from 1932 to the late 60's, Rowan Magazines are numbered but not dated. I don't know how long ago 52 was. It's a particularly good one, lots of Fair Isle-y colour stuff, some fisherman-gansey clones, and a good section of plain-and-smooth to finish off. An article about traditional knitting (nothing we didn't know). An exhibition of Kaffe's at the American Museum in Bath.

The only tbing that stopped me buying it was the reflection that Rowan Magazines are pretty heavy, and I still had the walk home to do. I rather regret the decision now.

One more thing – Kate Davies is offering a tea towel. I think it's terrific, and have ordered one.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Yesterday was another good one on the accounts front – goodness! what a mess I had let things get into! – and knitting didn't go too badly, either. I am now well advanced with the last full repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Stitch numbers kept coming out wrong last night, I can't imagine why. There would be too few to get the pattern into, or sometimes too many. I don't think any real harm has been done, but it wouldn't pass muster on Unst.


Knitlass, I heard that early-morning weather forecast too – about the wind on Blackford Hill.

Foggy Knitter, this is exciting news indeed, that Arne and Carlos are doing a book with sweaters. |I have pre-ordered it: why not? Something to look forward to. Many, many thanks. I think I'm going to have to get Elizabeth David's “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine”, too.

Green Mountain Girl, I didn't know about Hodmedods – that's one to watch. Thank you. At the moment, we are still recovering from Helen's visit, but I think it's time to put some chick peas on to soak.

Linda, I could contemplate purling the alternate rounds of the borders of the Bridal Shawl in order to achieve garter stitch in the round – if they were all plain vanilla. It's Sharon Miller's preferred technique. Many of the wrong-side rows would be straightforward purling, but many others wouldn't, and I'm hesitant about my capacity to do lace knitting from behind, so to speak. (I like your Lenten project.)

Shandy, no, I didn't know about Lucy Hague, and I am very impressed. Wonderful Celtic knots, and I like the Glasgow Rose shawl a lot, too. [Follow the link to Shandy's blog for a stunningly beautiful Aran throw incorporating a Lucy Hague design, among others.]


There are two real-world narratives to update you on, but I've run out of time. Our niece who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of last year, has now embarked on the dreaded chemotherapy. One down, five to go. She spent last week in hospital with an infection, but should be home by now.

And our session last Friday with the high-heid-yins from London went well. They were extremely complimentary about my husband's work. It's got to be somewhat shortened – we knew that. They are about to send us a sample, but, like my appt with cardiology, it hasn't turned up yet.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's stormy in Edinburgh this morning. It's recycle day for cardboard and plastic. I put our contribution out, briefly, and a few minutes later retrieved it from all over the square. If I'm lucky, I can rush out when I hear the lorry.

There is very little else to report.

Knitting went well. The 17th diamond is done, and another five rows will finish off the 17th repeat (of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl). The yarn bra's have arrived, for keeping front and back separate when I start knitting the borders Fleegle-fashion. That is, turning at the end of each round and knitting back the other way with a different ball of yarn – garter stitch in the round. The borders are only 136 rows deep and Sharon has charted every row. That sounds pretty manageable to a Princess-survivor.

I also had a good day with the restored Quicken, tidying piles of paper from hither and yon and finding financial titbits which needed to be entered. There is still a huge backlog of receipts to be entered before I can say that my affairs are in order.

I wandered about the internet just now, looking for something to tell you about, without much success. The Twist Collective hasn't put up a spring issue yet. Knitty has (with fewer patterns than usual, surely?), but there's nothing from Franklin, who's taking a break. There's an utterly first-rate article by Donna Druchunas about how to read a Japanese knitting pattern. There's an interest it would be worth reverting to. I did once manage the Japanese instructions for an ear-flap hat.

And I learn from Knitty that Arne and Carlos have a new book out, "Knit-and-Crochet Garden". When will they give us a sweater book? I think I have all their work, and indeed I have knit some of their Christmas tree ornaments in my day. It would be silly to buy this one, although that reflection won't necessarily stop me from doing it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The pop-up's are back, Helen is gone. On the other hand, I feel a bit better today and I realise that I can no longer say for sure that I am feeling progressively worse.

I spent some useful time with my accounts yesterday – there's lots of catching-up to do. It turns out that exporting files in a form another program can read, has to be done account-by-account. I've accumulated a lot of them, squirrel-fashion, through the years. It would still probably be useful to export the six most important once a week or so.

Since I had to fire up Old Slowcoach for more account-catching-up, I also loaded the pictures over there. It's too slow to endure – but for today, anyway, we've got pictures.

Here's the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. If I had ever mastered drawing little circle around part of a picture, or inserting little arrows, I could show you the trouble spot. I think it is sort of merging into the whole:

I have started the 17th repeat, of 18 ½. It's looking somewhat more like a square. The idea is to have 19 diamonds – we started with diamonds, and so must end half-way through the 19th repeat, when the 19th diamond is finished. The fans are the motifs whose strong central stitches form vertical lines. The diamonds are the ones in between.

I love the peacefulness of lace knitting. You can't hurry (although I am sure it is done a good deal faster on Unst than I can knit). An evening's knitting seems to leave the work unchanged. All you can do is fit each stitch into the ones around it, each row on top of the last, and wait.

I have forgotten how I assigned percentages in my head, for the sake of the progress bar. Was it 50% for the edging and centre together, maybe? But does that leave a fair amount for the borders? The pattern says nine 25gr balls of yarn. My third ball still has a good way to go.

And here is Helen in the Relax/Milano. I think it could do with a bit of ironing, but otherwise it is a great success.


In my sixty years in this country, I have seen many a simple British holiday taken over and Americanised and commercialised – Mother's Day, Hallowe'en, Christmas itself. Father's Day is being inserted. EvenThanksgiving gets a good write-up on the food pages every year. But one has been left strictly for the Yanks, thank goodness: St Patrick's Day. The Irish celebrate, of course, as the Scots celebrate St Andrew and the Welsh St David. (I once saw a Welshman wearing a leek on St David's Day.) The English are relatively indifferent to St George.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Greek Helen must leave this afternoon. She'll be much missed. And she has accomplished a good deal in the way of smoothing the path ahead for her aged parents. On the other hand, we have beans coming out of our ears and have promised ourselves a sanguineous few days to make up. We'll have a beanless smoked haddock chowder for lunch (she'll eat fish).

Computer problems

Janette, I think you've cracked it! I finally got around yesterday to applying your remedy to my maddening pop-ups. Fingers crossed, I think they're gone. Many thanks.

Southern Gal, yes, there is a free download of Quicken. It didn't work for me – that is, I downloaded and installed and gave it my back-up files. It made an enthusiastic start, numbers flashing past as on an overheated speedometer, then it stopped and said it couldn't read European files, although I am sure I downloaded the UK version.

I have two Quicken disks (plus a third, on its way from eBay). The one Intuit sent me, simply won't load on the new laptop. On the old desktop, it says it will, if I alter the config.sys file. I'm not terribly keen on that.

The other looks as if it might have come off the front of a magazine, perhaps at the time when Intuit left the UK and offered the free download instead. On the laptop, that produces the same result as the download – seems to work, and then refuses to load the backup files because they're European. At the moment, I am trying to install it on the old computer. It might work.

[It did! I'm back in business. Old Slowcoach has lumbered to the rescue. I must spend some time updating my accounts today.]

I've downloaded Microsoft Money successfully (they pulled out from the UK at the same time as Intuit, and they, too, left a free download behind) but it can't read my backup files. I think they should have been exported from Quicken in a special export format. [Now that I've got my files again – there are about 90,000 items, Quicken said – I'll try doing that today, too. A free disk from a magazine could evaporate at any moment.]


I'm well advanced with the 16th repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl – 18 ½ are required. The end of this phase really is in sight!


Greek Helen rightly says that it is they which make a blog sing, instancing Kate Davies. I'll never be that good, not remotely. But I promise a Bridal Shawl pic for tomorrow, and a Helen-in-the-Milano one. For now, here are my sister and her husband and their grandson Ted, taken yesterday in DC.

He's the baby for whom Rams & Yowes is intended, of course. It should be ready for him to take to college, at this rate.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Again, blogging time has been squandered on other things – this time, computer problems which I will eventually tell you all about.

Nor was much knitting done yesterday – I watched the rugby, and it was seriously incompatible with lace. Not the Wales-Scotland match. I saw but little of that, and little was enough, but France-Ireland.

I have never cared much for the Six Nations Trophy, even in the glory years when Scotland was in contention. I take it match by match, and care a lot about the Calcutta Cup, as you know. Even so, yesterday was interesting. If Ireland won, the trophy was theirs. If France, it went to England – each would have won and lost the same number of matches, so it would come down to a reckoning of points-scored and points-scored-against. And it was the mighty Brian O'Driscoll's last international match – he's almost as old as I am.

Ireland won, by two points. A cliff-hanger, to the last tick of the clock. France had a winning try (=touchdown) disqualified in the closing moments because of a forward pass. According to me (who knows nothing) the two big differences between “American football” (so-called over here) and rugby, are (a) that in rugby you can't throw the ball forward, although you can kick it; and (b) that you can pick the ball up off the ground and go on struggling.

As for Scotland, they lost by the largest margin in their international history – or perhaps it was the largest margin in Six Nations history. Rachel says that the commentator said at one point, Even the cats in Scotland will find themselves being taken for a walk around now.


That much I wrote for you yesterday morning. Now, as EZ says, Onward!

Computer problem

I sat down on Saturday for a much-needed session with my accounts. Quicken came up saying that my license was out-of-date – did I want to renew it now? If I said no, the program closed down. If yes, I was led down a shadowy alley to nowhere – Intuit stopped supporting the UK version 10 years ago.

I have about 25 years of data in that program (and a recent back-up: that's all right). I found the installation disk, after a mighty search – but it won't run on my new laptop. I still may be able to re-install it on Old Slowcoach. Nobody ever mentioned a license before. I was a beta tester, based on the fact that I had written a book called Money Management with Quicken about an earlier version. I think it's the beta version I was still using – until last week.

I've found a new copy of the latest (=10-year-old) UK Quicken on eBay, and it's on its way. But will it run in Windows 8?


Not much. I'm nearly finished with the 15th repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

Stephen West has a e-book out called Crazy for Color – not scarves and shawls, this time, but bizarre hats and sweaters. I'd love to have it, if it were on paper, but I have decided pretty firmly that I don't want to address either knitting or cookery on a computer screen. You can buy some or perhaps all of the new West patterns from his Ravelry store, but that's not the same as paging through a book.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

All's well -- but I've spent all today's blogging time sitting most pleasantly over the kitchen table with Greek Helen. I've made a good start on the 15th repeat (of 18 1/2) o the centre square of the Unst Bridal shawl. Helen looks good in the Milano. We're soaking beans for supper tonight. More soon.

Friday, March 14, 2014


All goes well. I am inclined to think that yesterday's smidgen of improvement has continued.

The dr was less than bowled over by the “abnormal” ECG. He has referred me to cardiology for an “echo” which will make the diagnosis more precise, and has doubled the dose of diuretic which he says should relieve the symptoms of weakness and breathlessness. The diagnosis being, as far as I understand, a thickening of the wall of the left ventricle, making the pump less efficient. AND he doubts whether cider is the main causal factor – he prefers old age. Go for the simpler explanation first, he said – another follower of William of Ockham. Also, my liver is in good condition.

I will have to wait some weeks for cardiology, which is a bore. But once it's done, further drugs can be prescribed.

He clearly knew what Weston's Vintage Cider was, and likes an occasional bottle of it himself. We told him the Whole Truth.

Greek Helen is safely here, so it is hard to know whether I really feel better or am just enjoying the Helen-effect. She says I look as I usually do: I wondered about that; it is hard to tell, peering at oneself in a mirror. It's reassuring to hear her say it.

The Milano is hers, a belated 51st birthday present, all unblocked and even un-steam-ironed. I will see that we get a picture before she leaves. It looks good on her.


The Rose Elliot Bean Book turned up yesterday, AND “Heirloom Beans” from Rancho Gordo, sent by my sister. The former looks pretty austere (I got the first edition, remember), breathing the spirit of Lord Woolton. Helen will have to point out the choice bits. I liked the critic who filed a review on Amazon full of praise, saying that if you found the recipes too bland you could always add a chilli.

“Heirloom Beans” looks wonderful. I will start with Spring Lamb and Flageolets, as soon as Helen is gone. She is a near-vegetarian. There are lots of big words I don't know, in this book. Some of them will be a simple question of translation, “cilantro” and “arugula”. Others will reflect the fact that you've got lots more beans and chillis and cactus's in the UsofA and I will have to make things up as I go along. But it will clearly be worth the adventure.

Knitlass, I'm sure you (and Kitchen Cabinet) are right, that canned beans are very good these days. I think Jamie Oliver says so somewhere, too, but I can't find the passage when I want it.

And, oh yes, Knitting

The 14th repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl lacks only two rows. I haven't yet taken the promised picture. This is real progress – another fortnight,less, even, should get us on to the border.

Now I must get on with the day – an exciting one, as people are coming from London to talk to my husband about his Magnum Opus.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New follower, welcome!


Here we are – Thursday. Doctor appt day. Do I perhaps feel a smidgen better? My sister is sure I have damaged my heart with excessive cider-drinking. It will be more than a bit embarrassing if she proves to be right.


That picture we tried and failed to buy in New York in February, has turned up in the trade already. A dealer got in touch with my husband about it yesterday. It has gone to the big art fair in Maastricht. They are offering it as “by” My Husband's Artist (not “attributed to” or “after” or “school of”). Presumably they don't have much to say about its history or provenance, nor do we know the asking price. If it fails to sell there, it'll come to their Edinburgh branch and we can actually see it.

It is sad to know that it was bought for money, not for love. It's such a nice thing. It is some comfort to think how much our bidding cost the dealer.

Chick peas: Dragonwagon says that the way to peel them is to wrap in a clean tea-towel and rub, after the initial cooking, of course. That works, up to a point. It was a nice, peaceful sitty-down job, at least.

Mary Lou, I am delighted to learn that you enjoyed Mansfield Park. Some people don't.

Janette, in looking up the link for Mary Lou, I found your comment which had just arrived. Alas, the link doesn't work – “web page unavailable” or something like that. I then spent too long trying without success to find a cure for this endless spam myself. Archie's going to have to crack it at the weekend.

So that doesn't leave enough time to write about


I had a good day with the Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday. I am now well embarked of the 14th repeat of the centre pattern (18 ½ being the target), with no repeat of Tuesday's near disaster. I think the dubious passage will be swallowed by the whole. If not, I think it can be improved with a needle. I'll take a picture today. It still doesn't look remotely like a potential square.

The Dutch Traditional Ganseys book turned up yesterday, and it's good. My husband asked about Dutch wool – a subject of which I find I know nothing. I'll have to look.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The hummus is delicious – that should pack some calories in. I actually peeled the chick peas – not only a new activity, for me, but a whole new concept. Dragonwagon says that she doesn't always do it, because it's time-consuming (she's right there) but that you get a creamier hummus if you do, and grandmothers in the Middle East would be horrified, she says, if they knew you were making hummus without peeling the chick peas.

I wonder, too, if part of the success may be because I was using freshly-bought chick peas (from a health food shop with a good turnover) instead of ones that had been in my cupboard for five years.


Alexander is going to come over tomorrow to go to the dr's appt with me. It is heroic of him – five hours of driving, at least, even now that Rest and Be Thankful has re-opened after its latest landslide. And what can the doctor say? Take these pills. See this cardiologist. Still, it will be wonderful to see him and the others think I should have someone with me.


I'm well into the 13th repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. There was some trouble last night – a miscount involved tinking a few stitches, that happens, and I was less than successful at trying to grab the stitches that had been involved in a k3tog. We'll have to hope that the galloping horseman is temporarily distracted.


Meg Warren posted this to Facebook. I thought it was funny.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I'm half-way through the 12th repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Six more needed.

JeanfromCornwall, I ordered the Dutch gansey book from A** – I wouldn't have thought of looking for it there, but for you. I am sorry to take the business away from Meg, but in fact the major loser is the US postal system and I don't feel under any obligation to them.

As everybody must know, a new series of “Shetland” starts tonight on BBC television. We didn't get on very well with last year's. For one thing, we couldn't understand much of what was going on (we're not very clever), and for another it was meant to be set in deep midwinter – Up Helly Aa figured – and had patently been filmed at a different time of year.

But we'll give it a try.

The big news, television-wise – not knitting-related, however – is that a sort-of sequel to Twenty Twelve (called W1A) will start next Wednesday, a week tomorrow. Twenty Twelve was one of the very funniest things on television in recent years. It was about preparations for the London Olympics. The idea for the new series is that the team has moved to the BBC, where Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville, Lord Downton himself) is now Head of Values.

Will it work? The joy of Twenty Twelve was that the Olympics were really going to happen. The movement of traffic in London really had to be planned. Muslim sensibilities really had to be considered. We'll see – we will certainly be watching.


Dragonwagon's “Bean by Bean” turned up yesterday, and it's good. Although I haven't yet zero'd in on anything specific I want to make. At bedtime, in despair, I put some chickpeas on to soak, figuring that I could always make hummus. The Greeks can help me eat it when they get here at the weekend.


Greek Helen has arranged to stay on an extra two days – she'll be leaving on Tuesday, instead of whizzing back to Athens on Sunday after talking to Archie's teachers. It would be nice if Thursday's dr's appt would produce something specific, like instant hospitalisation. I dreamt last night that I got all the way there and realised I had forgotten to bring the ECG.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

I enjoyed my Sunday, although even cider doesn't taste as good as it used to. Both daughters rang up to tell me that I have probably damaged my heart with excessive cider-drinking and must give it up altogether. They'll be suggesting I give up knitting, next. But I will at least ensure that drs are fully apprised, and meanwhile it's back to Lent.

My husband, on the other hand, has begun to talk about getting back to Strathardle, and, indeed, of planting a magnolia on the west lawn. That's the elephant in the room, all right. I said I'd have to get better first. He said, you're not in terminal decline. I thought that was rather encouraging.

There was some talk, in the telephone calls just mentioned, of trying to postpone this week's dr's appt until Friday, so that Greek Helen (arriving very late Thursday) could come along. But Friday is the day the publisher and the researcher are coming to see us (I will order in sandwiches from a promising website I have discovered) and I think that's probably enough for one day. I can see the argument for bringing it forward, too, although that would be likely to mean that he wouldn't have last Wednesday's chest x-ray yet. He told me last week the symptoms which would mean I should ring up the practice and demand to see someone at once (as well as the ones which would mean ringing 999) – I'll wait and watch.

And I'll ask about potassium.


I have finished the 11th and embarked on the 12th repeat in the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Progress. If my husband is wrong and I am in terminal decline, this is the baby I want to leave behind. It is uncomfortable to reflect – but true of all of us – that something, or some collection of things, is bound to be left behind unfinished.

The Schoolhouse Press has got a new book called Dutch Traditional Ganseys. I wondered at first whether it was a re-publication, perhaps updated, of the one work I have on the subject, but I've found my book – it was actually on the Traditional Knitting Shelf where it belonged – and it's a different one, “Knitting from the Netherlands” by Henriette van der Klift-Tellegen. Another wonderful name. So I'll probably order the new one, although Dutch fishermen's sweaters are not nearly as interesting as British ones.

The Schoolhouse also seems to have revived Woolgathering. I'm not quite sure where I stand on that one – I think my subsciption expired and I couldn't renew because we had entered the hiatus. I'll have to try to check.


Greek Helen is now back in Athens after the family trip to Constantinople, getting ready to come to Edinburgh. She sent us these pictures:

Cat in Hagia Sophia:

Cat in the Archaeological Museum:

Hittites in the Archaeological Museum, looking remarkably as if they are clutching fringed, triangular shawls about their shoulders:

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Well, at least Alexander and his family saw a thriller yesterday, with Scotland actually producing some rugby. We were leading by a single point in the final moments, but then France were awarded a penalty and kicked it without difficulty, putting them two points ahead. So it remained. So the Little Boys, despite frequent trips to Murrayfield, have still never seen Scotland win. All the sweeter when it comes.

A Week Is a Long Time

Last Sunday, Archie was here and we contrived to do a bit of picture-hanging before Mass. I was feeling weak and breathless, and you people and my family had persuaded me to ring up on Monday and make a same-day appt with a dr. Which I did. Lent was still in the future, and cider flowed freely.

Now, that Sunday seems an eternity ago. I think I am even weaker and more breathless. Am I really? Or is it just the psychological effect of knowing officially that I have a Heart Condition?

This week will be a long one, too. My husband's publisher and a researcher are coming to see us on Friday. I'll order sandwiches in, and tell them in advance that we need to rest in the afternoon, but it will still be an effort. Greek Helen will be here, to talk to Archie's teachers – she's arriving very late on Thursday. Thursday is also the day when I will see the dr again. So she and I ought to know a bit more by the weekend, and be able to make some immediate and some more distant plans. Alexander is ready to whisk his father off to Loch Fyne at a moment's notice if I need hospitalisation.

Greek Helen is virtually a vegetarian. I must plan a delicious bean-based dish for her. She is glad to hear that I am getting Rose Elliot's Bean Book “as I can't see any point in life without it”.

My sister agrees with you, Cam, that cider may not be a good idea, today. (And Alexander rightly says that it will make Lent harder, to break it up in that way.) I'll go ahead, but cautiously. The calories will be welcome – I don't have much appetite, and weight is falling away. A glass of cider will help lunch down, too.

And if I wind up feeling too good, I may give up Lent altogether.


And meanwhile, big news, I've finished the Milano. I don't think I need to block it. Shape is perfect. It's whisper-light and deliciously soft. A pass with the steam iron will suffice.

I resumed the Unst Bridal Shawl without difficulty, too. When I switched to the Milano, the bigger yarn and needles were hard to deal with for a moment. I was afraid that I would have the same effect in reverse, on returning to lace, but no, it was fine.

I am 2/3rds of the way through the 11th repeat of the centre pattern – 18 ½ repeats are required. The end isn't quite in sight, but it's not far around he corner. The plan is to finish the centre, pick up all those stitches around, and establish the borders, and then think of incorporating Rams&Yowes into some sort of system – a couple of days a week, maybe.

Zite is full, these days, of stories about knitting little sweaters for penguins. I haven't bothered to read any of them, so I don't know what's afoot. But I love Franklin's take on the problem, whatever it is.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Milano is finished, knitting-wise. It will need at least one more session for dealing with ends and then I may or may not decide to block it. The picking up of stitches for the neck wasn't very tidy, and the fact that different colours were involved made small flaws more conspicuous: the neck scoop cuts down through several stripes, so whatever colour I chose for the band was going to have to pick up a lot of stitches from other colours.

I added an extra three rounds to the neck band itself, in the hope that the st st curl would conceal the pick-up line, and rather to my surprise, I think this has worked.

You'll have to wait a week or so for a pic, for reasons you will eventually understand.


I have just ordered Elliot's Bean Book – I bought the 1980 edition from Abebooks because several of the reviews on Amazon said it was better than the modern update. I use Abebooks a lot. I order things on-line a lot. When I got to the last click, security code from credit card already entered, I noticed that I was about to buy a book in Spanish (not about beans, as far as I could grasp) costing more than £23,000.

I removed it from my shopping basket and went ahead with the Elliot order, but it was an unnerving experience, and must have something to do with this plague of pop-ups which often means, as I said recently, that I click on one thing and get something else entirely. There's a job for Archie when he's here next weekend. I had better make a list for him.

And my sister says she has ordered the Rancho Gordo book for me from American Amazon – I should have an Abnormal ECG more often. Then Amazon offered her the Kindle edition for a small additional sum and she took it, since the pages of her own copy are stuck together with tamale sauce. hasn't got on to that wheeze yet. It's a good one.

Yesterday I cleaned out the top cupboard shelf where previous essays into healthy and cheap eating were stored – beans of various sorts (more than I expected) for the most part BBE Nov 2011. I threw them all away – they would have served well enough if we were under siege, but I now know that the fresher dried beans are, the better, so I'll start from scratch.

And I discovered that Jamie Oliver has a rather good pulse chapter in his first book, The Naked Chef.

But despite all that, I went to bed forgetting to put any beans on to soak. So, not today.


Alexander and his family are coming over for the rugby, ever hopeful. They'll drop in here around lunchtime if they can get past Rest and Be Thankful. It's been in trouble again.

I am strongly tempted to follow my own lead, and regard the Sundays in Lent as extra-curricular. I've never done that before, but I've never had an Abnormal ECG on Ash Wednesday before, either. One of the two or three things I can remember from a lifetime of sermon-listening is the suggestion that the cheerful acceptance of the penances life imposes on one can be more meritorious than laboriously carrying out the ones one has thought up for oneself. (I got home from church that day and found that the Aga had gone out, which sort of underlined the message.)

So, perhaps a bottle of Weston's Vintage with lunch tomorrow.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Little to report.

I finished the second sleeve of the Milano. There was a minor hitch – the sleeve concludes with a little cuff made of six rows alternating k1p1 rib with st st. I started happily off and then looked at it and saw an ugly line of purl bumps, every other stitch. Then I had a closer look at the first sleeve and saw that I had sensibly started with a st st row. So I frogged and did it that way. Common sense, really.

So today's job is to pick up the neck stitches. Then just 12 rounds of st st, I think it is, cast off and leave it to curl.


Ordering groceries on-line is hard work, and not nearly as much fun as walking up and down the aisles reading labels and tossing in little treats for oneself. But I got it done, and presumably subsequent orders will be quicker because they will let me load last week's list and amend it.

“Pulse” came, and has proved rather a disappointment. Too many lentil recipes – my husband claims not to like them; too many recipes allowing me to tip beans out of a tin. I do that all the time, and now I want to be inspired to soak and cook them properly. My sister swears by Rancho Gordo's book which I think is called Heirloom Beans.

I am afraid I have now ordered “Bean by Bean” by Crescent Dragonwagon. This is ridiculous, but who could resist that name? (It's not genuine.)

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Here we go. Lent. It will be particularly interesting this year to see if I feel better (as I usually do) without cider.

A friend of Greek Helen's phoned yesterday and offered to drive me to the hospital – that's what's meant by a good friend. I accepted with pleasure. The Western is close, and if there's a place in the hospital car park, it's not far to walk to the door. But if there's no room, one often has to park down by the big police station at Fettes. The hike back up the hill from there is more than I want to undertake just now.

This will be for the ECG and chest x-ray. I doubt if I will know anything about the results until I see the dr again next week.

I did a bit of minor tidying in the sitting room yesterday, and found a little DVD called “Shetland Fine Lace” which I bought in the Lerwick Museum in September.. Our DVD player doesn't seem to be working – we don't use it very often -- job for Archie when he's next here – so I wound up watching it on a computer. Very highly recommended, some fine pictures of old lace and of Shetland landscape. As much as anything, it's an account of the new lace yarn I'm using for the Unst Bridal Shawl.

I'm nearly half-way through the second sleeve of the Milano. =Tamar, it's matching. I hesitated over making it fraternal. That's the way I always do socks. But I thought the discrepancy might look discordant here.

….. I wrote this much yesterday, and then life took over. The cleaning woman was here, the vacuum cleaner stopped working, I had to leave a sandwich lunch for my husband before setting out to the hospital. You know how it is.

Lent: if I can do one day, I suppose I can do the rest.

Hospital: it was wonderful to have Helen's friend with me. Sure enough, there was no space in the hospital car park – and finding the places I needed to be, once inside, wasn't easy either. The ECG nurse gave me the print-out to take to the dr. I opened it at once, of course. It says “ABNORMAL ECG” and has four additional lines of unintelligible text which I have copied out and sent to my doctor-sister. She says she was never very good at ECG's and will have to look it up.

The chest x-ray took longer. That is being sent directly to the dr. My appt with him is a week today. I hope I will then find out something of what to expect. I dread surgery.

But for the moment I am greatly enjoying my new status as a genuine invalid – Pulling Myself Together and Making an Effort is of no use at all. This morning I will devote myself to sending in a supermarket order on-line. It helps not to have to order cider.

I should finish the second Milano sleeve today, and make a start on picking up stitches for the neck. Since that is done only once, the precise number won't be such a stressful issue as it was for the second sleeve, as long as they are distributed evenly around. There are lots of ends to deal with, but I'm still on target to finish next week.


I am inspired to cook more with dried beans, after the success of that salad I made for Archie latr weekend. My sister has long been keen, and orders from the splendid Rancho Gordo. I can't find a British equivalent, although there are some interesting sources with a shorter bean-list (and a good health food shop on Broughton Street). Claudia Roden says that beans are largely a new-world thing anyway, now thoroughly integrated into Spanish cookery as into Mexican. Perhaps Christopher Columbus brought them back.

I have ordered a book called “Pulse” by Jenny Chandler which all the reviewers on Amazon are terrifically keen on. I hope it'll come today. There's a great-sounding bean salad in The Crank's Bible which is one of the books recently to emerge from the spare room.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Shrove Tuesday


I saw a dr at the end of yesterday afternoon, setting off as cheerfully as to the gallows because I believed I would be sent straight to hospital. Alexander and Ketki, thinking along the same lines, had splendidly offered to entertain my husband. They will be rewarded in heaven.

The dr does think that the trouble is my heart (and I haven't forgotten, =Tamar, that you said that at the beginning). I was slightly surprised that he couldn't just listen to it and know everything, but apparently not (although he did listen). He has prescribed a diuretic and aspirin and one of those sprays we have heard about which you spray under your tongue in a crisis to dilate the coronary arteries. I am to present myself at the Western Infirmary for an ECG and a chest x-ray -- I've got a chit but no appt; that should yield some good knitting time. And then see the dr again next week.

It wasn't the nice young man I had been seeing so far, but it was someone I knew (and like) because my husband has consulted him.

And I am here, a free woman, not in hospital! I shall spend the day floating happily in my pre-Lenten cider and cooking nice things and then maybe devote Ash Wednesday to the Western Infirmary.

This ought to mean that I never again have to do anything I don't want to do, but I doubt if it will work out that way.


I got the second Pakokku sock cast on yesterday, while waiting to see the dr. Waiting times aren't what they used to be, and these socks are not progressing very briskly.

And in the evening, I got the stitches picked up for the second Milano sleeve, a job I don't enjoy. Obviously, for a second sleeve, there's no leeway at all on the number. However, I got it done. The sleeve itself should go fast, now that I know, from the first sleeve, exactly how far I've got to go. It may have taken me a long time to get back to, and I may grumble at being deprived of lace, but I love it:


There was a considerable satisfaction, the other evening as we watched the television news, at seeing Russian soldiers in Crimea wearing balaclavas. That's where Balaclava is, in Crimea.

Lent: Knitlass, your husband should be persuaded that the Sundays don't count, if he just counts the days. From tomorrow until the day before Easter, inclusive, there are 46 days. Lent is based on the 40 days Our Lord spent in the wilderness. The extra six are the Sundays, which don't count as Lent.