Thursday, June 30, 2016


My sister is here until Monday – I won’t try to blog until Tuesday, therefore. But here I am with a quiet moment and a couple of things to say.

Wimbledon continues well. I didn't see much yesterday, but today got to watch a great deal both of Venus' match and of Andy Murray's. I like Serena because of the bond of pulmonary embolism, but I like Venus even better because she's an elder sister and getting a bit elderly herself. She had a tough match, and she was flagging, but she won it.

Thanks for the news about glysophate. I heard it from you first, and there is also an article in the Scotsman’s farming section today. Maybe I’d better stockpile some myself. I remain deeply puzzled about the vote in the European Parliament which, as I understand it, was strongly in favour of licensing glysophate some weeks ago. Did that count for nothing? And, if so, why not?

I’m doing fine with the edging of Gudrun’s hap – I’m a few stitches short of the first corner, and will at least be able to give my sister an impression of what is to come. I popped into Kathy’s Knits today to buy some point protectors, Perdita having eaten all of mine. I need one for the other end of the circular on which the entire shawl is suspended, and one for the other end of the short dp on which I am knitting the edging.

Kathy said that one of you – and I hope you will recognise yourself – flew over from the US recently for her daughter’s graduation from the University of Edinburgh, and flew back within 24 hours as a way of avoiding jet lag, but had just time to nip into Kathy’s Knits which she had read about here. I am sorry we didn’t meet!

I thought for a moment there that Kathy was going to make a present to me of the point protectors, but that didn’t happen.

I see that Kate Davies is taking off for a brief and extremely well-earned holiday. I had one of those absurd moments of panic – I must order the kit for the Uncia pattern NOW before she shop closes. That’s rubbish, of course, and mercifully I didn’t do it. It remains high on my HALFPINT list.


I have been a bit choked-up about the centenary remembering of the battle of the Somme. The anniversary is tonight/tomorrow and it is being observed with great solemnity. It was an extraordinarily terrible thing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I stayed wide awake through Wimbledon yesterday, rejoiced in both the victories I saw – Murray is Murray, and Serena, like me, is a pulmonary embolism survivor, although she seems to have recovered full vigour, like the Socklady and unlike me.

I finished the border of the Hansel hap, decrease round and all, and have started on the edging. I surprise myself by not having 5mm dp’s of any sort. I’ve sent to Meadow Yarn for some, and they emailed promptly back that some have been dispatched. Meanwhile I have some 4.5mm Knit Pro Cubics and one of those is doing nicely in the interim. EZ: “Knitting is forgiving stuff”.

The promised fortnightly bulletin about the progress of the Vintage Shetland Project is again late – the last one appeared on June 7. Poor Susan! Her book and the Haps book would have nicely complemented each other had Vintage Shetland appeared at the first or second announced date. Now it will limp sadly in arrears, and she cannot fail to be aware of the recent smooth launch and rapturous reception of the other book.


Everything continues to be extraordinary, and now the Labour Party is imploding. There was a profile of Jeremy Corbyn in a recent New Yorker. I didn’t get through it – perhaps I had better go back and try again. I wonder if this is at all what things felt like in 1939 and 1940, before Churchill? The “phoney war”, what’s going on here? Who’s in charge?

There are letters in the Times from sage greybeards who say that the referendum means nothing, legally – only an Act of Parliament can disconnect GB from the EU. Others say that maybe the referendum will have shaken Brussels into giving us what we’ve been asking for, namely control over migrant workers from other EU states, and then we could have another referendum. (Nigel Farage: “It’s not best two out of three.”) And Nicola Sturgeon is trying hard to keep Scotland in the EU even without the rest of the UK. How would that work? Would they want us, now that oil is worth so little? What would we use for money?

It’s nothing if not interesting.

I google’d “glyphosate” just now and found nothing up-to-date. A decision has to be made NOW, I learned, as the current license runs out at the end of the month.

Non-knit, non-Brexit

The indefatigable Queen is on a visit to Northern Ireland. She met Martin McGuinness yesterday (they have met before). “How are you?” he asked. “I’m still alive,” she said. (He had once proclaimed her a legitimate target.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I dozed through Wimbledon yesterday afternoon, knitting in hand, and thus missed the Upset of the Century. I’ll pay attention when the winner -- he's actually British -- reappears, playing Federer.

Football is not among my interests, but no knitter could be entirely unmoved by Iceland’s unexpected triumph yesterday.


I had started to feel so guilty about feeling hopeful when everyone else was feeling sad, as almost to forget that Archie&I had actually voted Remain. But things seemed a bit better yesterday. An Action Group of some sort has been set up –filled with civil servants (think “Yes, Minister”). I don’t suppose most politicians know any more about the knitty gritty of the tendrils binding us to the EU than do you or I, but civil servants ought to.  And then I read Libby Purves’ column in yesterday’s Times – I have long loved her – and felt even better.

“Respect voters, channel Chesterton: ‘Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget/ For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.’ OK, they may have spoken wrong and plunged us into difficulties. But it is not fair to blame them more than the arrogant, incompetent Brussels institutions and the decades when governments neglected inequality.”

The excellent “Farming Today” programme on the radio yesterday morning said that the decision on glysophate was expected that day. I haven’t heard it yet.


Hap-knitting is certainly getting slower, but I have finished with the colours and reverted to the grey. I am knitting the penultimate round, and may finish the border today if I can stay awake for Wimbledon. Then a decrease round, and a final round of purl – I’m unlikely to achieve all that today.

Jen Arnall-Culliford, co-editor with Kate Davies of the new Haps book, says that someone or other is working on every single pattern in the  HapsarehappeningKAL in Ravelry  – two weeks and two days after publication. That’s pretty good going, and a tribute to the all-around excellence of the patterns.

I got all excited about Kate’s blog post about the Cordova Gansey Project in Alaska – but, alas, it doesn’t represent a whole new vein of previously-unknown gansey patterns, as I had hoped for an instant.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Very little to report.

I am knitting round 45 of the 50-round Hansel border – the last pattern round, as it happens. All is well. Watching Gudrun’s lesson about knitting the edging reminds me that I must look at my dp collection: do I have a sufficiently elegant needle in the right size for the edging? Most of my dp’s are much narrower-gauge, for socks. Do that today.

We watched Question Time yesterday evening – it’s really very good, and Dimbleby is brilliant. It was about the Subject of the Day, of course, and we heard a lot about the racism which several commenters have mentioned.

I think there is a real potential confusion here, although I may be underestimating the British Public. On the one hand, membership of the EU means free movement of all its citizens from one place to another as takes their fancy, much as citizens of any state can move anywhere else in the US. But not quite like that, since language is likely to be different and since EU migrants aren’t citizens of wherever they pitch up, and can’t vote.

Britain is worried, with perhaps some reason, about excessive migration from new-member Eastern European states, attracted by the contrast between our Welfare State and their poverty.

On the other hand, there are the wave upon wave of refugees moving from Syria westwards, and from North Africa northwards. These unfortunate people have no “rights” at all in the EU. 

 I think voters may have muddled these two groups together a bit – and thrown in the many legal Indian, Chinese, and Pakistani residents of this country (usually citizens, unlike me) who of course have nothing to do with the EU. This is from memory: I think citizens of India and Pakistan (and probably Hong Kong) used to have free entry into the UK, and I think I can remember the passing of the Act of Parliament, long, long ago, that locked the door against them. It would have been in the ‘50’s.

Racism is certainly an ugly current in Brexit. But it’s not the whole story, and I remain hopeful. I am sorry to see that KD is as sad as I know many of you are. Farmers are terrified – something like 40% of their income is paid directly from Brussels in the form of the Common Agricultural Policy, and they don’t trust Westminster or Holyrood to make it up to them.

A learned professor says in today’s Telegraph – “Parliament will be required to sustain a policy to which most MPs are opposed, an event without precedent in its long history.” You read it here first.

There is a tremendous sense of confusion and emptiness at the centre.

But today is the first day of Wimbledon!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Knitlass, your Irish friend will be perfectly all right. The right of citizens of the Irish Republic to live and work – and vote – in Britain is enshrined, as they say, in an Act of Parliament from the 1940’s. It has nothing to do with the EU.

It could be that the reason why older people have voted Brexit in greater numbers than the young, is that we can remember Britain before all this started happening.

I’m not as worried as a lot of you are (although Archie&I voted Remain). To me, this will mean that Scotland’s battered fishing industry can reclaim our inshore waters (until Mrs Sturgeon takes us back into the EU, of course) and that we can decide for ourselves whether or not to go on using glysophate in our gardens and on our farms. The democratically-elected EU parliament decided in open session some weeks ago, by a considerable majority, that glysophate was OK. The unelected Commission in Brussels will decide this week, behind closed doors, whether we can use it. That’s the sort of thing I don’t understand or like.

And I do not think the Brexit leaders are madmen. Students from Europe, as from further afield, will still be able to study here, I feel sure. The position of foreign passport-holders who live here, and British passport-holders who live elsewhere, may prove slightly more difficult, or may not.  There are such things as visas. Three of our four children have wandered the world. One or another of them has lived and worked in Mumbai, New York, Hong Kong, Beijing, Cairo, Bahrain – to mention only the non-EU places. The world is pretty small these days. I don’t think that will change.

 I’m a bit worried about Ketki’s job – she works for J.P.Morgan in Glasgow. She and Alexnder and the Little Boys are on holiday in the US at the moment. I am sure she is facing the future with Hindu calm.

I had better go back to talking about knitting.

I have only nine rounds of the Hansel border left to do. I have joined in Contrast Colour One, last as it was first. Five more rounds of that, then four final rounds in the main colour, and I’m ready for the edging. Can I get that far before my sister gets here on Wednesday? The rounds are awfully long by now. I’ve re-watched Gudrun’s Craftsy lesson about knitting the edging, and am raring to go.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Well, here’s a how-de-do. Anxious emails washed ashore more or less simultaneously yesterday from Greek Helen’s husband, who works for the Black Sea Trade and Development bank in Thessaloniki; and my sister in DC, worried about her investments. And I am distressed by your distress, Knitlass.

But, although Archie&I voted Remain, I am not entirely sorry about the outcome. A favourite writer, AA Gill, defending Remain, asked in the Sunday Times recently whether we had actually noticed any diminution of sovereignty. My answer is yes, although my examples – you’ve heard about the bees – are all from the countryside. And I am afraid I am rather enjoying the sight of Mr Cameron getting his come-uppance – he knows he will be remembered in history as the Prime Minister who needlessly took GB out of the EU and thereby broke up the United Kingdom. The Lord North de nos jours.

I am sanguine about the loss of the EU. I don’t like its undemocratic secrecy, or its itch for a United States of Europe. But I will deeply regret the loss of the United Kingdom, which now seems inevitable. I don’t think Mrs Sturgeon will make Mr Salmond’s mistake of sailing into a referendum on independence without having thought out the question of currency. Will she offer us the Euro? Maybe there’s hope after all.

It is a very odd situation, unparalleled in my experience – having a parliament forced to act against its wishes. Normally, its will is sovereign – it has been called, with some justice,  an elected dictatorship. But now it will be forced to do something the majority of its members find repugnant.

Well, we shall see.


I continue to move happily forward with the Hansel shawl. I have finished with Contrast Colour 3 and, sure enough, needed a very small contribution from a second ball of yarn. I have now moved on to CC2, for which I will presumably need a little bit more.

KayT, I know absolutely what you mean about rushing to deliver-in-person-rather-than-having-to-post-it. My sister will be here next week (she'll find it cheaper than she would have the week before) and I could almost have the shawl ready to give to her: her grandson being the baby involved. But I am a couple of weeks short of that being possible. The best I can hope for is that I will be knitting the edging by the time she gets here, and she can see the shawl gradually being released.

Aine, yes, and thank you – that’s the sweater I was admiring on Andy Murray last weekend. How well the sweater fits the man, as well as the cables fitting the sweater. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

So -- tomorrow we'll know about Brexit. Knitlass, I am a hollow reed, changing my mind every half hour. Archie's vote will have been cast your way, but I think I might be a bit happier tomorrow morning if it has gone the other way. It will also be interesting to see how Mr Trump fares here -- he's coming to open his improvements at Turnberry Golf Course, one of the great ones. ("Here" = Scotland, not Drummond Place.)

I wrote last night, meaning to polish and post this morning, as I often do. But this morning got away from me, as it often does, and already last night’s paragraphs begin to sound stale. Amended, they follow.

My husband is perhaps a bit stronger. At least, he has been walking a few steps with the zimmer frame, which he hasn’t done for a while. He still seems sleepy and dim. A dr will call on Tuesday, when the course of fairly fierce antibiotics prescribed for him last Sunday is finished.

An old friend came to call yesterday afternoon; my husband was glad to see him and brightened considerably. The friend was, we all thought, a confirmed bachelor until, in his early forties, he met his match: a woman of the same age, as stubborn as himself, or so he tells it. A Dutch woman, not greatly enamoured of Scotland. They didn’t marry, but had fifteen happy years and were planning old age together in Belgium, as a compromise: until she died, earlier this year, of a rare form of lung cancer. She was a life-long non-smoker, robustly healthy. Jimmy is devastated. The house in Amsterdam has been sold. He has come back here and doesn’t know what to do with the rest of his life. But he feels he will have to give a good account of it, when he and Lieke next meet.


I have reached round 33, of 50, on the borders of the Hansel hap. The rounds are getting longer all right. I bought two balls of each of the four contrast colours, guided by the yardages given on the pattern. I have now finished with Contrast Four, and have plenty of yarn left from its first ball. No great harm done – I will put it away with the colours I bought that happy day in Jamieson & Smith, and wait for Scotland to win the Calcutta Cup so that I can knit Alexander his Fair Isle vest.

Contrast Three, on the other hand, may or may not require a few yards from the second ball. I’ll know soon. Contrasts One and Two certainly will. It’s all rather exciting.

I have become a patron of Knitty – I can’t now remember exactly how it was done. I hope I have given them access to my credit card and don’t have to take any further action myself this week. My reward has been, recently, to hear their report on TNNA  (gradient yarns are in) and now to have an advance look at the new issue. It’s nice.

The thing about Knitty, though, is not so much advance looks as the fact that, there it is, and one goes back, in my case, nowadays, more often than I go back to real magazine, often late in the evening.  In the old days I used to read VK in the bath until I knew each issue by heart, but times have changed.

I feel I’ve knit from Knitty as much (or more) as from any other publication: Kate Gilbert’s Clapotis Shawl, that one everyone was doing a few years ago, with long ladders made by dropping stitches; the Dunfallandy blankie; the Cameo flower shawl – I can’t really count that yet, but at least I printed it out and bought the yarn for it at EYF.

And I feel pretty sure that there’s at least one other Knitty FO out there somewhere.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

We had sorrel soup yesterday, from a recipe as recently adumbrated, and with the main ingredient harvested from our own doorstep. Very tasty it was, too.

Here is June virtually gone – the summer solstice passed, always a sad moment. Plenty of excitement left this week, however. I don’t have a vote of my own, not being a British subject, but Archie says he has no idea how to deal with the referendum and is happy to cast my vote. I have told him to vote Remain, although with many misgivings. I won’t be entirely sorry if it goes the other way.

That very day (=tomorrow) is Rachel’s birthday. And two days later, her husband will be 60. If you want to feel old, try having your younger sister living in a retirement community and then finding that you have a son-in-law of sixty.

Yesterday was a day much like other days. My husband is still not walking at all, even with his zimmer frame. “Transfers” are slow and difficult. A dr will see him tomorrow.

I knit happily on with Gudrun’s hap. Purling alternate rows is bearable. I have twice found myself knitting when I should have been purling. Both times, I tinked, and re-did it right. I continue to enjoy this project enormously.

There are lots of interesting colour ideas in KD’s new Haps book, and two whole pages of colour schemes in Sharon Miller’s haps book. I like the notion of having the centre a blaze of colour, as in the picture on page 21 of KD’s book. All I need now is lots of great-grandchildren.

I’m glad you’re enjoying the book, Melfina, and very happy to take credit for inspiring you to buy it. Godrun’s Hansel pattern provides an excellent template for centre-out hap-knitting. Though essentially an edging-in girl myself, I think I’ll be coming back to this one often.

Thank you for the suggestion, Carol, that I look again at the Mason-Dixon knitting blog. I’ve signed up. And I wandered for a while through the old favourites, to the Men’s Knitting Retreat with Queer Joe, to her mountain top (with bears in the yard) with the Socklady. I’m glad to hear that her energy levels are back to normal – her pulmonary embolisms were more recent and I think more serious than mine, but I don’t yet feel properly energetic, and have begun to doubt that I ever will. How fortunate we are to have in knitting a passion that doesn’t demand much in the way of energy!

Andy Murray was pictured in a rather good cabled sweater last weekend. Telegraph magazine on Saturday? I must go back and try to find it before it gets totally submerged in our newspaper pile. The cables had been particularly well planned to fit the space available. Wouldn’t it be nice if he won Wimbledon again?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My husband is no worse, but still weak and sleepy.  I have spoken to our own practice, and someone – some doctor – will call later in the week. There didn’t seem to be much point in having anyone come yesterday or today, before we know whether the co-amoxicillin is having any effect.

Great sadness: I heard that two of you were with Amy Detjen’s tour group when they had a session at Kathy’s Knits yesterday – but heard too late to be there myself. I can rearrange care for an occasion like that, but it has to be done in advance (as for the EYF, and my recent overnight trip to Strathardle). It’s all the sadder because Kathy had told me that Amy was bringing her group again, and I assumed, having heard nothing, that none of us would be there this time (unlike last year). Last year, I think, my husband must have been in hospital.

So, if it happens again, please let me know.

The hap continues well. I’ve reached round 23 – nearly half-way, in one sense, since there are 50 border rounds altogether. But the catch is that I am increasing eight stitches every other round, so it gets slower and slooooower. That’s the downside to centre-out. But the upside is when I get to knit on the edging at the end, thereby releasing the whole shawl from the constraints of its coracle-like shape, one stitch at a time. I love that bit.

I love the yarn. Most of my previous experience with Jamieson & Smith jumper weight has been in Fair Isle (feral) patterns. This is entirely different, utterly relaxed and cosy.

I’m getting crosser and crosser with Flipboard, as compared to dear old Zite. It’s just a matter of an algorithm – I’m sure Zite didn’t have a Little Old Lady in the office flipping through the knitting blogs. Why can’t Flipbiard do it?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

New follower! Hi!

Yesterday was another tough one on the nursing front. Archie dropped in, in the early afternoon. He was there to help get my husband into bed for a nap. He said that he thought his grandfather was weaker than when he had last seen him (when was that?) and added, with what sounded like great good cheer, that he would be here to help for much of the summer. I fear I would have run as fast as I could, when I was Archie’s age, from any possibility of having to assist in the physical care of my grandparents.

And in the morning – a day for grandchildren! – we had seen Lizzie, who is in Edinburgh for a hen party. She seemed in fizzing form. She is the one who spent a year at the University of Kansas. She has subsequently graduated from Birmingham University, and has spent much of the year since then in the antipodes recovering from education. She is now working for a PR firm in London which seems to deal mostly with food – she has learned to like olives – and living at home with her parents, Rachel and Ed.

Today continued difficult, with my husband very weak and sleepy. Our midday carer, an absolute favourite, the man who got the aged Sam Martinez over to Glasgow to see Hibs lift the Scottish Cup, said he thought it was a urine infection and bullied me into phoning NHS 24 instead of waiting until I could phone our own GP tomorrow.

And he was right. The weekend dr has prescribed some urine-specific antibiotics and we hope for a transformation soon.

I continue to make progress with the Hansel hap. I have introduced the third coloured stripe, and done the third pattern round (pattern rounds occur on only one round in six). All the YO’s seemed to line up properly between the first and the second pattern rounds. The third gave rise to a bit more anxiety. Having the pattern rounds so far apart makes it somewhat difficult to determine whether everything is in order.

It’s hard to photograph at the moment, as the centre is drawn up into a sort of bowl as I knit round and round on the borders. I even began to wonder whether Debbie New’s lace coracle in “Gathering of Lace” had been inspired by centre-outwards hap-knitting. So I got the book down, and the answer seems to be, no. It was inspired by coracles. There are lots of good things in that book. I hadn’t looked at it for a while.

Mary Lou, that is a good idea, to have the Feral Knitter’s book on my iPad. I have never bought a knitting book that way. I tried a couple of such cookery books and have abandoned the practice. So I have pre-ordered it and it rather sounds as if I can’t have the pdf without the physical copy. Your recommendation, Stashdragon, makes that prospect rather attractive anyway.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Yesterday saw a virtual orgy of knitting, to make up for Thursday’s desert.

My husband went to bed in mid-morning, and one of the best of our carers was here, so I sequestered myself in the sitting room and knit for an hour. Knitting in the morning seems to me almost as wicked as watching television in the afternoon. I finished the central square of the Hansel hap, and picked up the stitches around it.

The system works beautifully – there are those large, obvious YO loops: and precisely the right number of them. The first round of actual knitting is slow, rather than difficult. I wanted to knit into the front of the picked-up stitches, to get that crossed-leg effect – and the way the stitches present themselves mean that the front is the more difficult leg to get hold of.

Next question: purling. I have decided to go on with it, rather than to wrap and turn so that every round is a knit round. Purling is all right, although not blissful. But the pattern is Old Shale which incorporates two plain-vanilla knit rounds in every six rounds of the pattern repeat. (The other four rounds are the lace round itself, and three purl rounds.) That should be enough bliss to keep me going.

There was trouble in the subsequent pre-pattern round, the one called, I think, the break round. I misread the instruction: *K1, (k2tog,yo) to 1 st before next marker; k1. I treated the initial “K1” as if it were inside the brackets, which it is not, and did K1, k2tog, yo all across the first side. The stitches didn’t come out right at the corner and I soon grasped my mistake.

I didn’t correct it. It will easily pass the galloping horse test, but there is no doubt that the other three sides look better.

I have now introduced the first coloured stripe and embarked on the Old Shale pattern itself. I had a brief moment of panic when doing the first purl round in the new colour, and seeing those wrong-side colour bumps on the other side. It took me a moment (during which I came close to ripping out half a round of perfectly good knitting) before I realised that, even though I was purling, I was working on the right side.

I’m having a grand time, and would be glad to go on knitting basic haps forever. Bring on the babies!


The Feral Knitter is about to bring out a book, “The Joy of Colour”, based on the workshops she teaches on designing your own colour patterns and sweaters. I’m tempted, although there’s no room for more books around here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A tough day – without a stitch of knitting, some measure of its toughness. Not all grim: I went to the exhibition of women artists at the Gallery of Modern Art with a friend and enjoyed it, although I would quarrel with its premise. Those people were artists, and needed to be seen in a context which defined them as such. It was a bit like seeing an exhibition devoted to people who painted with their left hand. (Might be interesting, actually.)

Alternatively, if it had to be restricted to women, I would have preferred more works by fewer artists, so that I could have learned something. There were something like 45 artists there, in a small show – one or at most two pictures from each. I recognized a few familiar names, but the many others flashed by in a blur. Wilhelmina Barns-Graham came out strong.


Yesterday was a good day with Gudrun’s hap. I should have finished the centre easily today, had I done any knitting. I ordered longer needles in Symfonie wood. The gauge is 5mm, larger than my usual, which is probably why I don’t have the usual choice of luxurious needles in various lengths. I have been working so far with a 24-inch-er. I think EZ says somewhere that that is the only size one ever really needs, but I suspect Gudrun is right that greater length will be required here.

I have decided – reinforced by the re-watching of her Craftsy lesson – to pick up those YO’s from the front so as to produce the cross-legged effect. And I don’t see why I shouldn’t do that with a smaller-gauge needle, to make it a bit easier. That round isn’t knit at all: it’s pure picking-up. I'll let you know.


Thank you for your cat comments – I am very glad to learn that Perdita is not unique in her neck-nuzzling, and marvel anew, from your reports, at the variety of personality in those furry people.

Perdita was seven weeks old when she came here: in My Day, six weeks was regarded as quite old enough for a kitten to begin a new life. I am sorry that I didn’t meet her mother Esther. I don’t know why she wasn’t about that afternoon – perhaps her human family felt that the separation would be too painful for her. There were a couple of raucous ginger brothers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

An important anniversary looms: Perdita’s arrival in Drummond Place.

This picture was taken on the 17th of June last year, and I think that must have been the day she arrived. I’ve looked back through my blog entries: they aren’t absolutely clear on the point.


I made that nice bed for her, that first night, and then shut her in the kitchen. I got up a couple of times in the night to see how she was, but found no trace of a kitten. In the morning, she emerged from the cupboard next to the hot water tank, where she must have been sleeping on a pile of plastic bags. Every night since then, except for the very few when circumstances have separated us, she has slept with me.

She has a Very Peculiar Practice, which she still maintains, of nuzzling into my neck at night, kneading, purring, and making sucking noises. It is the only time she ever purrs. I do my best to fill the role of her mother Esther in which I seem to have been cast, but I doubt if I do it very well. I have never known such behaviour in a cat, but on reflection, I have not known all that many cats. Sappho “Kitty” Smits of Detroit and the Jersey shore; Poussin Miles of Leicester, Birmingham, and Kirkmichael, Perthshire, both lived long lives. Neither of them thought I was her mother.

Here is a recent picture of Perdita.


Thanks, as ever, for your comments. I have done the provisional cast-on with a crochet hook over the needle in my day, and I agree, it’s an excellent system, simple and secure. I have also succeeded with the cat ‘s cradle one, although I couldn’t attempt that again before doing some serious revision. I would really like to master the crochet chain – it must be wonderful fun unzipping it, when you’ve got it right. I’m sure you’re right, Liz, that TomofHolland’s chain is a bit longer than needed in order to leave a little bit hanging down at each end for security.

But it’s still a daunting challenge at the beginning of the project, as compared to “Cast on 5 sts. Row 1 (RS) Knit all sts.”

I continue to get on well with Gudrun’s hap. I have joined in the fifth ball of yarn, and may even finish the centre today.

Yesterday afternoon, deliciously, while my husband was resting, I propped up the iPad and knitted and watched Gudrun’s Lesson Three on Craftsy again, about picking up stitches around the centre and doing the set-up rows for the border. My plan is to do that much exactly as instructed and see whether or not I can endure purling alternate rounds.

Now I must find out whether I’ve got the Right Needle to go on with. I’m sure I’ve got the right size and length – but is it fashioned of a beautiful and luxurious material like the shorter one I’m currently using? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

As if the Haps Book wasn’t enough for one week – there’s more excitement! I must try to resist the temptation to make every sentence that follows into an exclamation.

I’ve had an advance notice about EYF 2017 – March 9-12. The class schedule will be available on October 7, and booking will start from October 15. Fingers on the buzzer! Now all we need is for Franklin to be among the teachers, for happiness to be complete.

This time I’ll know to leave March 10 free for the market. I’m still a trifle sad about having cancelled my class with TomofHolland in favour of the market this year, but it had to be done.

They’re having a “Knit Fest” in Inverness in late September, featuring knit-cruises on Loch Ness. I’m sure it won’t be nearly as good as ours.

I had another good day with the Hansel hap. I’ve now joined in the fourth ball of yarn and am steaming briskly down towards the finishing of the centre square. When I told Gudrun that I was knitting it, she said that the centre square was the most fun part. Rather to my surprise – I am so looking forward to those stripes. But I also very much enjoy knitting an edging onto live stitches, so I’m looking forward to that, too.

The whole thing is deliciously warm and light and cosy, and I am enjoying it enormously. I fit it into the crevices of the day, instead of just reserving it for sitting-down-time. This is knitting the way it used to be.

I very much like Kate’s remark, at the end of the chapter on construction in the haps book, that “Whether a sweater is made top-down or bottom-up, it is a sweater, and a hap worked borders-in or centre-out remains a hap.”

Monday, June 13, 2016

I’m sure I had some left-over tidbits about Saturday’s book launch to tell you – but all I can remember now is that Tom and Bruce weren’t there. They had stayed home to get the books in the mail. And that Kate herself looked younger and fresher than when I saw her last, at the EYF.  I was puzzled, once, as to why there should be a download option included with an order for the physical book, but now I see: so that everybody could have it on the same day.

I am glad I wasn’t faced with the agonizing choice of whether to wait for the post or have just a peek at the download.

I think my choice for first-one-to-knit is certainly Lucy Hague’s Uncia. I have an especial bias towards patterns that begin “Cast on 5 stitches. Row 1: Knit all stitches.” (Although, of course, the attraction of the Uncia goes further than that.) TomofHolland’s pattern begins with a 172-stitch crochet chain from which 162 stitches are picked up. As a provisional cast-on, presumably. I would have to do it differently as I have yet to distinguish those “bumps on the rear of the chain” and have experienced the agony of getting it wrong.

I have given a bit more thought to my newly-projected pattern of life, namely knitting nothing but haps from now on. You’re absolutely right, Ron: not having to worry about fit is a big attraction. By “haps” I mean anything you can wrap yourself in, large or small. The Neap Tide shawl qualifies, and so do the other projects I have left from the EYF: Mary Lou’s Bidwell shawl, and “Cameo flower” from Knitty, and Carol Feller’s “Yorkshire Capelet” from IK.

In alternate weeks, I will knit shawls and scarves of fine lace.

I think there are four sweaters in my queue – I’m afraid to look, for fear I’ve forgotten one or two. That’s four sweaters for which the yarn has already been bought, as it has for the projects mentioned above. I’m counting the partly-knit half-brioche and the yarn my sister will bring any moment now for my husband’s basic v-neck, long-sleeved sweater, but not counting Alexander’s Fair Isle vest commemorating the Scotland’s next victory in the Calcutta Cup.

That’s not likely to be next year, as the match will be at Twickenham. Still, miracles sometimes happen.

Looking at the pictures in the new book, I began to wonder seriously about wearing a hap instead of a sweater. It would leave the arms free-er. It wouldn’t bulge embarrassingly over the bosom. One would need a good belt to tuck it into, but that shouldn’t be insuperably difficult to achieve.

I spent some time yesterday sorting and filing papers, in a vain search for last year’s MOT certificate. The car is going in for the new one on Tuesday, and if I can find the old one, they can run consecutively. Otherwise, I’ll lose 10 days or so. Well, that didn’t work – where on earth could it be? But I found Meg’s DVD on how to knit her Fair Isle vest. I didn’t have the slightest memory of acquiring that.

So all we need is the Calcutta Cup.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The book is all we were promised, and I had a grand time.

I got there relatively early, 11:15 or so for an 11 a.m. “off”. The shop was crowded, and so was the little teaching-room behind where the signing was actually going on. Kate and the books of course were there. I had mine signed by her and Jen and also had Gudrun and Lucy Hague sign their patterns.

And, as in the preliminary daydreams, I told Lucy Hague (she’s wonderfully young) about the Dunfallandy blankie and the horizontal cable it incorporates. She knows the Dunfallandy stone but didn’t know about the blankie. And Gudrun is not scary at all, taller than I expected. She is in the process of moving back from Portobello to MA. They have been here a year and I think they meant to stay, but teen-aged children haven’t found it easy and want to go back.

After a while I went back out into the shop and sat on Kathy’s accommodating sofa and read much of the book. There is a lot of useful and interesting material about 19th and 20th century Shetland. A crisp chapter by Kate about construction is fully as informative as I hoped and expected. The Shetland way is to knit from the borders inwards.

On page 35, a simple method is given for determining which way a particular shawl was knit –attributed to Sharon Miller. If the auld shell holes curve over like bridges, it’s borders-in; if they are hooped under like bows, it’s centre-out.

I don’t understand this, but trust I soon will, by looking at the centre-out shawl in my hands. I got a certain amount more done yesterday, despite the excitement. I have passed the centre point and am now decreasing.

Several of the original shawls from the book were there -- Kate's own Moder Dy, in both its Buachaille form and the J&S jumoer-weight one that she showed us in a recent blog entry. And Mel herself was there, who knit both. Kate said, endearingly, that she is a slow knitter. Just like me!

I also saw Jen's Nut-Hap, Tom of Holland's Hexa, Gudrun's Lang Ayre, and Donna Smith's Houlland. (That one is rather small -- you couldn't hap yourself in it.) Although Lucy was there, I didn't see the Uncia, but I might have missed it, The room was crowded and I kept noticing things I hadn't seen.

The idea of spending the rest of my life knitting haps, large and small, is rather attractive.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The great day dawns.

I was on the doorstep yesterday evening snipping herbs for our supper, when Kathy and her husband came by, on their way home after a long, hard day at the LYS. She was in a state of some excitement about the morrow, and said she hadn’t heard from KD since Wednesday and was afraid she might not have the books and might not turn up.

(You don’t get to be Micro-Business of the Year by disappointing Kathy at the last moment.)

I told her that I had been promised my copy for today, and she was happy to believe that if one copy was going to be available, they all were.

Now I must assume a smart-casual costume of some sort. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, insh’Allah.

I got on well with the Hansel hap yesterday. Soft, fluffy garter stitch seems to suit my mood at the moment. I am now within five rows of the centre. I finished the second and attached the third ball of yarn – 25 gram balls give a great sense of forward movement to one used, as I am, to 100-gram skeins. It now looks as if the centre will consume about 4 ½ balls: I think I’ve got plenty.

Friday, June 10, 2016

I had some connectivity problems last night and this morning. All seems well now. (If turning it off and on again doesn't work, try the Reset button.) But how bereft one feels, cut off from the world!

I had just begun to allow myself the luxury of the slightest tremor of anxiety, because KD had promised us pictures of the Haps book pouring off the presses, and no such pictures had come. But now they have – I found them yesterday afternoon, buried in Promotions. We are set fair for tomorrow. I've even had an email from her saying that the copy she means to give me, despite my protests, is ready to be handed over on the spot

My sister says she wouldn’t mind the Uncia. That’s Lucy Hague’s wonderful shawl, which I wouldn’t at all mind knitting. Greek Helen has fallen in love with Tomofholland’s contribution, the Hexa. I’ll need to see the pattern before I know how knitterly that one is. I can see myself spending the rest of my life with this book. My sister will be here in a couple of weeks, bringing the discontinued madtosh yarn for my husband’s sweater which will have to be added to the already-prodigious queue.

At least, meanwhile, the Hansel hap proceeds well. Now that I look at the pattern closely, I see that Gudrun does indeed say to knit the final stitch of each row tbl while the diamond-shaped shawl centre is increasing, and through the front of the loops thereafter. Nothing beats reading the pattern with care. I’ve got about 20 rows to go before the half-way point. It’s looking wonderfully cosy already.

When I got done re-reading Sharon Miller’s hap book, I went on to her Lerwick Lace Shawl. I long to be doing that sort of thing again, and I think that might be my choice, rather than the new Jewel Long Shawl. One more for the queue.

Skeindalous, thank you for the quotation from Psalm 139!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Yesterday was a better day, nursing-wise, but none of them are easy.

I did finish the first ball of yarn employed in the centre of the Hansel hap, and attached the second. I doubt if I’ve knit more than a fifth of it yet. I have nine balls of MC altogether. But once the centre is finished, the main colour has no more to do until edging-time. And there's plenty more in Lerwick, I'm sure.

I’ve now got more than 100 stitches on the needle, and the rows are pleasantly endless. I’m loving this. I feel as if I were helping God to knit the baby.

I thought I might as well watch Gudrun’s Craftsy hap-class again, although I have half-a-dozen unfinished Craftsy classes. Here I am actually doing what the class is about, instead of feeling guilty all the time about not doing my homework, as with the others. And I learned that the trick of knitting into the back loop of the last stitch of every row, is only for the increase rows. Once the centre passes the halfway point, and starts declining, you’re meant to knit into the front of those stitches. It’s something to do with keeping the dear little edging loops as uniform as possible.

KD has posted an interesting tutorial by her husband Tom, about how to make a hap-stretcher. I’ll never do it, or even commission one, but it’s nice to know that the detailed instructions are available. The photographs include her Moder Dy pattern from the new book, knit in J&S jumper-weight instead of Buachaille. It looks to me as if the centre is knit straight – i.e., not on the diagonal. Only two more days and we will KNOW. I suspect the jumper-weight hap is a more useful size. It's thoroughly beautiful.

Susan Crawford has published another update about the progress of the Vintage Shetland Project. Everybody is hard at work on page layout, she says. What an interesting career it could be, these days, being a Graphic Artist who works on self-published books!

I am slightly worried when Crawford says: “I have worked very, very hard to try and ensure that the complexities in these unique pieces from the Shetland Museum are not obvious to the knitter.” I don’t quite know what I expect of this book any more, if anything – but I didn’t expect to have complexities concealed from me. Complexities are the whole fun. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Yesterday was another tough day on the nursing front.

The knitting of the new hap, however, progressed regardless. Or, irregardless, as we used to say. I have reached the point where the rows seem long, and they will be a good deal longer before I reach halfway. I hope to finish the first 25-gram ball of yarn today. That will make me feel I am getting somewhere.

Maureen in Fargo, thank you very much for your comment. It’s interesting to know that Gudrun recommends knitting the last stitch in each centre row tbl in her Craftsy class – I think I have watched that one all the way through twice, but I had forgotten that. And I think I agree with you, that I like that crossed-leg effect when picking up stitches, although memory is vague as to what I am talking about. Perhaps it is the picking up of stitches from the flat edge of an edging in preparation for my preferred, Amedro-style, borders-inward shawl knitting.

This experience may change my mind about that, at least for basic haps. I do like the look of those loops along the edges.

Mary Lou, it’s hard to compare Gudrun to Sharon Miller’s book because Sharon is so diffuse, describing so many different ways of doing things. I don’t think I had even been aware of what she calls “cruciform” haps, where the shawl is knit borders-inward without mitred decreases at the corners. Whereas Gudrun has written a pattern: do this, do this, do that. It will be very interesting indeed to see how KD handles all this – only three more days now. You’d think there would be balloons outside Kathy’s Knits, but there’s nothing but a hap poster in the window, illegible from street level.

Franklin’s book is wonderful. I long to rush out and buy a set of pens and carefully colour it in. It deserves to be preserved in colour. But the only time available for such an enterprise is Knitting Time – I am sure Franklin himself would be the first to appreciate the difficulty. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Great excitement: the yarn arrived from Lerwick, and I cast on at once. Not the least of the attractions was the easy way in. I hope Gudrun won’t feel that I am infringing her copyright if I tell you that the first thing to do is to make a slipknot and place it on a needle. And then the first row is YO, K1.

And when one is feeling tired already at lunchtime, and battered by life, that is the sort of instruction one is glad to embrace.

I’ve now got about 50 stitches on the needle, out of a required 144. That’s not as far along as it sounds, but it’s a start. The needles prescribed are rather larger than I would have chosen; the fabric is soft; the gauge doesn’t matter a whit. Whoopee!

Catdownunder, I think it’s probably too late now to switch to knitting the final stitch of the row – the YO from the row before – through the back loop. I like the idea, and will try to remember it. When it comes to picking up the loops, I’ll take time and actually think about which way to do it. I could do a few and see how they look and tink back if need be.

And I was very interested in your granny’s diagonal centres, Jenny.

But that’s not all that happened yesterday.

Attached to the package from Lerwick by a useful Post Office rubber band, was another, smaller one. It was from Into the Whirled, and contained a 100 gram skein of Pakokku sock yarn in their colourway “Vampires of Venice”.

I can’t remember how long I have been occupied with the quest for that yarn, nor how it started. One of you wrote to me recently to say that it was available on the itw website. I ordered it – there was only one skein – even before I replied to her email.

At the beginning, I didn’t even know that “Vampires of Venice” had anything to do with Dr. Who. I just thought it was about vampires and Venice. Now that I’ve got the yarn, I feel that the colours are suitable for both.

When I had my wonderful 80th birthday party, in 2013, Alexander presented everybody with tea-towels on which was printed a “found poem” made up of lines from this blog. The Vampires of Venice are mentioned there – so I’ve probably been looking for them for four years, at least.

(I copied out the whole poem for you as soon as we got back from Strathardle that summer – you’ll find it in late August, 2013. It’s brilliant.)

And today, Amazon say they’re going to deliver Franklin’s colouring book!

Along with some more RC Sherriff. It was good to hear from a fellow-admirer of “The Fortnight in September”, Peggy. I’ve ordered Greengates, which you say disappointed you (comment, Saturday) and also the science-fiction one, The Hopkins Manuscript. Science-fiction is definitely not our genre. We shall see. I’ll try to remember to report back.

Monday, June 06, 2016


I agree, Mary Lou, we don’t want sorrel soup laden with cream. I’ve done a bit of googling and failed to find exactly what I’m looking for. I’m certainly not a spontaneous cook, but as I remember, all one does is sweat some chopped onion and a chopped potato in butter; add stock; add sorrel; liquidise.

That’s good news, Jane, that you’re going to persevere with your Dunfallandy, and perhaps even better news, that your edge stitches are still live. As I remember, all you need on each side are those live stitches and perhaps two from the gulf in between the two triangles – far fewer than the pattern specifies.

Knitting and Not

The tennis was too exciting yesterday to allow for much knitting, but I got a bit done, all the better for having the Sous Sous out of sight. One of the rewards of a misspent life is that I have a lot of bags given me by LYS’s when grateful owners wanted to reward me for major expenditure. They are now nearly all full of yarn-and-pattern for future projects: presumably what the acronym-writers had in mind with PIGS: Projects in Grocery BagS. The Sous Sous bag is from The Elegant Ewe in Concord, NH. I hope it flourishes.

Tennis: why was the Paris crowd, asked to choose between a Scotsman and a Serb, so enthusiastic for the Serb? Whatever happened to the Auld Alliance? It’s not even as if the Serb were the underdog – but perhaps that’s irrelevant. Perhaps cheering for the underdog is an Anglo-Saxon thing. At any rate, the Serb won and the Frenchies went home happy.  I wonder if Murray could have carried on the post-match interview in French as fluently as Djokovic did?

I have continued to read and think about haps. Sharon Miller says that knitting the centre square from corner to corner, although not traditional, has the advantage that when the shawl is folded and worn, the garter stitch rows in the centre run from shoulder to shoulder. You can see this clearly in the photograph which illustrates Gudrun’s “Hansel” pattern although there it is a baby being carried.

I am much like Epaminondas (although I suspect it is not Correct to mention him) in my enthusiasm for acting on the most recent instruction issued to me. If the yarn had arrived on Saturday – J&S emailed on Friday to say it had been dispatched  – I would be well forward with the edging for the first side by now. If it arrives today or tomorrow, I am likely to cast on a corner of the centre.

Gudrun does the centre that way, with a YO loop at the beginning of every row, making a nice open edge for picking up the borders later on. I knit Hellie’s bridal shawl centre-out and seem to remember a lot of trouble with the picking-up. But that was without YO loops.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Yesterday was better on the nursing front.


Mary Lou, I meant to say – one cannot possibly have too much sorrel soup, in my book. I’m growing it in a pot on the doorstep for that purpose, and would be glad to have ten times as much.

Thank you for your help and encouragement in the matter of (ahem) laying the Sous Sous aside. Jean, the first appearance of the word TOAD in yesterday’s essay is a hyperlink to a whole list of those knitting acronyms. BUFO is a particularly wonderful one which I had forgotten: Boring UnFinished Object. And bufo of course is the genus in which TOADs find themselves: Trashed Object Abandoned in Disgust. (I would prefer “Despair”.)

Fuzzarelly, I have followed your advice and eliminated the Sous Sous from the side bar. But I haven’t trashed it. I can still take a deep breath and go back. Love those cables.

KayT, I think I got the Jewel Long Shawl from Sharon’s Etsy shop – I am a member of the Heirloom Knitting group, and I followed a link, and I think that’s where it led.

Despite all the license you kind people have given me – Jane, I want you to persevere with the Dunfallandy blankie. Only two more triangles – that’s nothing. I am a dyed-in-the-wool hater of sewing-up. If I can do it, you can. Bits of mine fell apart and had to be sewn up again. Have you left the stitches live on the final edge of the triangles? I think that helped, when it came to picking up – although it’s a bit late to be telling you now. And I am sure that the picking-up numbers in the Knitty pattern are wrong.

Fortified by your encouragement, I had a good day with half-brioche, thinking ahead to a few design decisions I will eventually (in fact rather soon) have to make – about saddle shoulders and neckline. And I compared hap patterns (Gudrun Johnston, Madeline Weston, Sharon Miller) and can only conclude that there’s a good deal of latitude here. “Knitting is forgiving stuff,” is one of the very best of EZ’s mots.


The BBC put on a brilliant production of “Journey’s End” in (perhaps) 1988, which would have been 70 years after the end of the Great War. I hope it might reappear during the four years of centenary we are currently experiencing. It is searing stuff.

Valerie, yes – at least, I discovered a good deal about RC Sherriff’s writing when looking him up in conjunction with “The Fortnight in September”. I mean to order at least one other of his recently-republished novels.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Only a week to go!

Yesterday was tough on the husband-nursing front.

I knit a bit more half-brioche. And I re-addressed myself to the Sous Sous. It is now very close to being declared a TOAD. The problem was, you will remember, that I had attached back to front with the back upside down. So the first problem was to unpick my firm back-stitching and yesterday, perhaps predictably, I snipped the wrong thread at one point and have spoiled a couple of inches of the neat garter stitch edging which belongs at the bottom of the back.

I’m sure I can fudge something. Do I want to? Have I got enough strength and indeed life left for this sort of thing? I think I want to snuggle down with a hap for a baby. (I’m afraid I’ve ordered the yarn for Gudrun's "Hansel" from Jamieson & Smith).

The more I think about the TOAD idea, the more attractive it becomes. There wouldn’t be an acronym for it, if other knitters hadn’t been here before.

And in only a week’s time, I can (at least in imagination) discuss hap construction with Gudrun herself, and ask Lucy Hague (who wrote “Celtic Cable Shawls”) whether she has seen the Dunfallandy blanket pattern with its interesting innovation of the horizontal cable.

Meanwhile: the new VK has arrived. It is to be bi-monthly henceforth, I gather. I hope it won’t spread itself too thin. OK so far: I like the cover pattern (No. 10, in case you have a different cover in the USofA) and also No 6. In a parallel universe, I would knit both…

There’s a plug early on for curved dp’s from a German company called Niko Knit. Has anybody tried them? I don’t like small circulars, for small circular items. They hurt my wrists and I’d rather use four or five short straights. But I’d be very interested to hear what you think of these.

Sharon Miller’s “The Jewel Long Shawl” has also turned up. Wow!


A book recommendation for you. We recently read, somewhere or other, that R.C. Sherriff – who wrote “Journey’s End” – survived the Great War and wrote a good deal else as well. We sent for one of his novels, rather dubiously on my part: I adore “Journey’s End” and felt that anything else was going to be a disappointment.

We have just finished  “The Fortnight in September” as our bedtime reading. I think it’s wonderful. It’s about a lower-middle-class (I think you’d say) English family going on holiday – from London, where they live, to Bognor – for a fortnight in September. That’s it.

Friday, June 03, 2016

I'm thoroughly back in the saddle. Will there ever be two such days in Strathardle again? Helen and the remnants of her family are going back to Greece today, leaving Archie and Fergus behind at school here. Archie is on the very verge of the exams which will settle his fate, at least as far as university is concerned.

Knitting-wise, I feel I am back in the doldrums from which I rescued myself temporarily with the Neap Tide shawl. (I have sent it down to London with Rachel, to be given to Juliet’s mother Lucy.) I knit a few rows of half-brioche yesterday. What I must do is take the Sous Sous back in hand and bring it, at the very least, to a near-completed stage from which I can launch myself into a hap for the forthcoming great-nephew (see yesterday).

I’ve printed out the pattern for Gudrun’s Hansel hap, and compared it to the Madeline Weston one with which my hap-knitting career began. Stitch numbers are very similar. Gudrun has a slightly deeper border. All this sort of thinking is abstract until I have read KD on hap construction – only eight more days to go.

The distressing thing about Gudrun’s beautiful colour choices, is that she says one needs 132 yards of each of the two least-needed colours.  Jamieson&Smith jumper-weight is 125 yards per 25 gram ball. Still, if that’s the case one will just have to face up to left-over yarn. Nice for Jamieson&Smith, not quite so nice for me. Things would have worked out better in the long-gone days when yarn was put up in one-ounce balls.


Thank you for your helpful comments about gardening. There’s lots going on on the doorstep here which I haven’t told you about, including the recent acquisition of a quince tree. Greek Helen, knowing I was thinking of such a thing, has arranged to have a big Greek pot shipped here when her belongings come home to Edinburgh in August. Meanwhile the tree is in plastic and seems perfectly happy. Picture soon.


Not Hillary – the EU referendum.

There was an article by Someone Who Should Know in the Times or the Telegraph yesterday saying that the environment was better off being protected by the EU.


A leading British bee-man used to live in Kirkmichael. He told us once that, when he was President of the British Beekeepers Association, he tried to prevent the importation of queen bees from the continent to stop the varroa mite reaching Britain. (Beekeepers will know what I mean.) He was told that it couldn’t be done, because of EU rules about free trade. That’s silly – British beef was banned from the continent during the BSE crisis. But AK is a gentle man as well as a gentleman – if he had been a bit more like Donald Trump, perhaps British bees might have been saved.

He doesn’t think that there are any feral honeybees left in Britain. Our own small observation confirms this – we never see them anymore. Bumblebees have taken over, and are working very hard to show themselves worthy of the contract.

And anyway (environment-wise) the British are keen on it. It’s the Italians who turn out in the spring to shoot migrating songbirds.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

New follower! Welcome!

So – here I am back. I had a wonderful time. The weather was peerless. The bats are flying in the delicious late-evening hour when it’s still miraculously light – we’ve never had so many. We approve of bats. I worked hard in the garden – perhaps a little too hard. Mr Cochrane cuts the grass and keeps things in general order. My job was to rescue individual plants from an encompassing morass of weeds. It was hard to choose which ones to rescue.

I started with the little rose I mentioned last time I was there. The ground elder threatened to overwhelm it despite my earlier efforts. So I did it again. The rose itself looks very cheerful. No buds yet -- it flowers very late.

Then I rescued our white lilac. I’ve still got the labels that were attached when we bought it, but, alas! I haven’t dated them. I think this is its third year with us. The two flowers are certainly its first ones. We had thrown a net over it, whenever, with which it was by now thoroughly enmeshed. Much of it had grown through the net, and was, nevertheless, apparently unassailed by deer. So I cut the net away, slowly and laboriously, and didn’t replace it. Just weeded and watered and fed and mulched the plant.

I rescued our Good King Henry patch, in memory of happy days in my vegetable garden. It is one of the very few things that survive. I could probably have spent the time better on prettier or more useful plants, but I’m not sorry to have done it. We had some for lunch yesterday. If you soak the leaves in salted water for a while, they really don’t taste too bad, and it is satisfying to be eating something that was (they tell us) brought to Britain by the Romans. The photograph shows the Good King Henry patch after weeding, and also after it had been harvested for lunch.

And finally the Rosa Mundi, a plant Greek Helen gave me long ago. It has suffered badly from neglect, and is now somewhat overshadowed by an unproductive apple tree, but it’s doing its best, and there are a few buds for this year’s flowers, and I hope it’s feeling a bit better with the weeds gone.

By then there were lots more candidates – the productive apple tree! The current bushes, including the Summer Pudding bush! The photinia! All neglected. I think if I were there for longer, and the sun went on shining, and Mr Cochrane continued to deal with the grass, I could still keep up a worth-while garden without feeling as beat up as I do now. If only.


I did virtually none – a round or two on the socks.

Big news: Theo’s wife Jenni is expecting another little boy, a brother for Ted, who will be three at the end of October. The pregnancy is more than half over – they didn’t trust their luck, to make an earlier announcement.

Despite the wonderful book which will soon be in my hands, I’m thinking Gudrun’s “Hansel” pattern, at least for the colourway, to be knit (what I think of as) Amedro-fashion: edging first, then pick up stitches for all four borders and knit inwards, mitring the four corners, then knit the centre back and forth from the live stitches of one of the borders, picking up stitchs alternately from first one and then another of two other borders, finally grafting the live centre stitches to the live stitches of the fourth border.

We’ll see.