What a lot happens in a week, and doesn't.
We had a very jolly Christmas, as I hope you all did, if celebrating. (Is the tradition of going out for a Chinese on the 25th restricted to American Jews?) But very tiring. Helen’s youngest son Fergus took this picture of Perdita on the dining room table after the detritus of Christmas dinner had been removed to the kitchen.
Such knitting as was done, has consisted of more shawl edging. I'm now on the home stretch, the second half of the fourth side.
I've joined KD's "Inspired by Islay" club -- good stuff for these dark days. The first pattern was the beautiful cardigan she wore at her wedding to Tom, the second the equally beautiful kilt hose he himself wore on that occasion. I may attempt them one day. And today we had a hap, knit as I am knitting mine, edging-in. And indeed, the edging pattern is the same.
I was taken aback that KD asks for only 84 scallops -- I'm doing 128. Did I fail in my arithmetic somewhere? I think not -- she's knitting with Buachaille, I with a fine lace-weight.
Two things happened on Christmas Eve.
1) A friend of Greek Helen's, Daniela, has come to Edinburgh to start a new life with her husband and son. She cleans for me two days a week, and she's terrific. We don't have much in the way of common language but Daniela is learning very fast.
On Saturday she made us a lentil soup. I had to run down to the corner shop for some celery.
When I was young, I was much taken with a Greek couplet, No. 126 in the Oxford Book of Greek verse, by our old friend Anonymous: "Where are my roses? Where are my violets? Where is my lovely celery? / Here are your roses. Here are your violets. Here is the lovely celery."
These lines have stayed with me, in Greek, while much else has fled. And when Daniela dispatched me to the shop, using that very word for "celery", I very nearly burst into tears. Although, on reflection, if you have a perfectly good word for “celery”, why should the passage of a mere 2500 years provoke you to change it?
When I got back from the shop I handed it to her with the last four words of the poem, in Greek, "tadi ta kala selina". Who would have thought, 60 years ago, that I would ever be able to work the phrase into conversation?
2) The other thing that happened that day was the news of the loss of Zara Phllips' baby. There are many people to feel sad for, most of all the parents, but I felt especially sad for the Queen: like me, looking forward early next summer to the birth of another great-grandchild, her daughter's daughter's child. She probably wasn't knitting a shawl, but you never know. And not all her wealth and art and furniture and castles, nor her life of often (surely) tedious devotion to duty, could save that baby.
Non, Torquate, genus, non te facundia, non te
Horace’s idea was not the same, but the echoing sadness of the lines felt appropriate, on that sad day.