Saturday, June 23, 2018


I’m sure I’ve told you before that Rachel was born early in the day, 60 years ago, and I was taken down to a ward, and someone came around selling newspapers, and I bought the Express. I still have it. The horoscope for my new daughter started off: “Not a day you will remember…”

Fully worthy of the Delphic Oracle.

And rather odd, given that 1 in 365 of the Express’ thousands of readers would have been celebrating a birthday that day.

On the whole, today has been more minus than plus, here. The mother of my beloved cleaning woman died suddenly and unexpectedly, in Rumania. Daniella is going home tomorrow and doesn’t know when she’ll be back. I depend on her for almost everything. Can I get to the Hebrides without her?

The parking permit wasn’t in today’s post. If it doesn’t turn up on Monday, I’ll try to phone them.

Knitting has advanced slightly. I’ve reached the central three rows of the current Fair Isle band – the division for the armholes will take place on the second or third of them. Tomorrow, or perhaps even this evening.

One of the reasons I have been advancing so slowly is that I have been watching something called Staircase on Netflix. I thought until today that it was an utterly brilliant mock documentary, about a murder trial. The credits at the end give Jean-Xavier Lestrade as “writer and director” which seemed to indicate that it was fiction. But today I google’d – and it’s not. It gives one furiously to think about Pilate’s question: What is truth?

Perdita is fine.

Friday, June 22, 2018


All well – at least, as well as all ever is in this vale of tears. Don’t miss the preceding Stop Press, and thanks to all who have already commented on it.

Katie, I agree, if we go ahead with this at all, Murrayfield had better see the whole collection. I’m pretty sure Cathy gave me back her daughter Kirsty’s Christening shawl, which shows the 2000 Cup, and I’m pretty sure I know where it is. Alexander has an all-over Fair Isle (?’06) which, even holding his breath, he can no longer wear, but I’m sure he’s got it. Ketki has the ’08, and it still fits fine. ’10 was a draw – I knit a hat for James Miles the Younger, with half the Cup. He lost it, but a photograph exists.

You’ll notice the pattern of even-numbered years. We never win at Twickenham.

As for the on-going problems: still no Resident’s Parking Permit, but my windscreen note is still working, and has saved me £30 at least since midday yesterday.

The vet has diagnosed Perdita with nothing worse than sloppy grooming. I was braced for terminal cancer, and Helen – who drove us down there and back – for a cyst. The affected area has been shaved and it is nice to see again how God maps out the design for such a cat on its skin.

I set upon the to-do list with the hoped-for vigour this morning. Everything is done except for paying the parking fines – I hesitate, in case I get another one – and writing out a detailed programme of cat care for my absence. I should be able to manage both of those in the remaining week.

But I haven’t done any knitting.

Tomorrow is Rachel’s 60th birthday. If ever a day was the First Day of the Rest of My Life, it was the 23rd of June, 1958.

Stop press:

Here is a link to a tweet from Ketki with a reply from Murrayfield itself:

https://twitter.com/Jaktmilesk/status/1007925572943728640

Thursday, June 21, 2018


I was wrong: the interviewer did ask Penelope Jardine about rumpty tumpty with Muriel Spark –presumably having warned her of the question before the cameras rolled. And it was phrased rather more discretely. Miss Jardine laughed and said, in effect, I know what you’re asking, and, no, there was nothing like that.

“Boston marriage” is a new phrase to me, and one I am glad to add to my repertoire. Thank you, Mary Lou.

The Resident’s Parking Permit didn’t turn up today, to my huge disappointment. I took the advice of several friends and neighbours and moved the car back into a resident’s parking space and put a note on the windscreen. I seem to have got away with it, so far.

So tomorrow I had better get back to my to-do list. I could knock off taxing the car and paying the parking fines and paying an electricity bill and making an appt to have my hair done, all well within an hour, if I set myself to it.

Perdita has a dr’s appt late tomorrow afternoon. That is a huge worry. She has a rough patch of fur on her back, beneath which seems to be a lump. She doesn’t seem ill or uncomfortable. Can a vet make her better? Or just charge me a lot of money for making her worse? It will be hard, after all,  to concentrate on the to-do list.

Knitting

I have knit a whole round wrong, on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest. I don’t think it will show up much, if I carry calmly on. The lozenge, where the mistake is, is the right shape, and the “X” of the OXO is unaffected.

The main feature of the new Fruity Knitting is an interview with the Italian team behind Myak. They sell Tibetan yak yarn and cashmere, dyed and spun in Italy and mixed, in some cases, with silk. It’s no use adding random wonderful yarns to stash, however.

Andrew and Andrea say they won't be back for three weeks -- they're working on something special. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


I hope you all realised last night that I wasn’t here because family was. Alistair himself – by now, presumably, a graduate of Glasgow University, as I am – came over, and Helen came down with her two resident sons (Archie and Fergus), and we all had a rather good takeaway around the dining room table.

After a week or two to catch his breath, Alistair (whose first class degree is in computer science) will start a rather good job with somebody I’ve never heard of, doing something incomprehensible. He said he was thinking of saving up the deposit to buy a flat (in Glasgow) so that he could have a cat. A grandson after my own heart.

Meanwhile I still haven’t got my Resident’s Parking Permit, and life is entirely centred around keeping the metre fed and moving the car occasionally. Surely tomorrow. A day’s metre-feeding costs almost as much as a day’s parking ticket, but feels more virtuous.

I’m excited to hear, Shandy, that you’re coming up in August for a mosaic class with Helen. Surely we can meet? I am getting confused about months and dates – she was here a moment ago, in a state of some agitation about the mislaying of a load of supplies (tesserae?) on their way from Athens to Pelion via Volos for a class she will be teaching very soon. She’ll get her tesserae, and I’ll get my Resident’s Parking Permit, and we’ll think about August.

Knitting: I’ve finished the peerie and embarked on the next Fair Isle band of Alexander’s Calcutta Cup sweater. This is the one that will be interrupted in the middle by the start of the armhole holes.

Sex: Like you, Kay, I hugely admire Mrs Roosevelt. I firmly believe – laugh if you will, remembering that I am 84 – that profound and loving and long-lasting friendship is possible between same-sex couples without necessarily involving  rumpty-tumpty. If the author of White Houses wants to persuade me that it was otherwise, between Mrs Roosevelt and what’s-her-name, she’ll have to persuade me, not just dump the “fact” on the first few pages.

Today is, or near enough, Muriel Spark’s 100th birthday. A commemorative programme on BBC Four tonight will include a rare interview with Penelope Jardine, with whom MS lived in Italy for many years. I don’t suppose the interviewer will ask about rumpty-tumpty. I’ll take my knitting and go off and watch that now; perhaps tell you about it tomorrow.

Monday, June 18, 2018


There really is nothing to report today. The entire time has been spent worrying about (and paying for) the car. Helen nobly went off somewhere this afternoon to see if she could fetch the new Resident’s Permit home for me, but it turned out the office has been moved to Corstorphine. (I’ve heard of it.) It’s probably no use going tomorrow, wherever Corstorphine is, because by then – surely – the new permit will be in the mail.

Archie has emboldened me to believe I’ll be able to pay by mobile telephone and bank card. Coins have run out. I’ll have to do that before 8:30 tomorrow morning. If successful, that’ll take me to lunchtime. And the new permit could be in tomorrow’s mail.

Archie and a dear friend and I went to lunch at a humble but delicious Korean restaurant over near the University and the Central Mosque. I don’t think their kimchi was quite as good as mine, however.

What a pleasure it is to anticipate a holiday with no concerns for passports or currency or language! Preparations (largely complete) have been suspended, however, until I get my Resident’s Parking Permit.

I am tempted to write you a whole blog entry about SEX. I recently bought the well-reviewed White Houses for my Kindle and the first few pages have made me cross. Maybe soon, but I’m too tired tonight.

Now I’ll go knit for a while.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


The smooth progress of life had a bit of a setback today. I nipped down to Tesco’s this morning – and found not one but two parking tickets on my windscreen. My Resident’s Parking Permit had expired. If they sent me a reminder, I never got it. Or never opened it.

I have renewed, on-line. I wonder if I could get away with a note to that effect on the windscreen? Probably not. Metred parking around here is terribly expensive. I have poured enough coins in to get me through to noon tomorrow. Mustn’t forget. And I must also pay the fines. And, of course, once all that is settled, get back to the things that should be done before I leave, such as taxing the car.

I’ve done a bit of knitting – I’m half-way through the next peerie. What I did achieve was to sit down at the kitchen table with Calcutta Cup vest, swatch-scarf, tape measure, and Fair Isle vest instructions from Meg and Alice Starmore and Kate Davies. Later I added EZ’s original EPS, in the Knitting Workshop.

I fired up an old computer and persuaded it to show me some of Meg's Fair Isle Vest video -- enough for her to express in numbers a desired measurement from underarm to shoulder (9 1/2"). Then it pegged out.

Needless to say, the experts all contradict each other, and my gauge measurements came out different each time. And nobody would tell me how wide to make the shoulders. A bit narrow will be fine – narrow shoulders can be bulked out with armhole ribbing. But the thing one absolutely doesn’t want is any drape over the shoulder blade. I measured an old, moth-eaten, hand-knit vest of my husband’s and decided to aim for four inches each side.

KD’s Stronachlachar, high on my hoped-for list, droops over the shoulders in just the way mentioned. But that’s deliberate, meant for a woman, and looks fine. I watched her give a talk about “Handywoman” yesterday, wearing Stronachlachar. But it wouldn’t do for Alexander.

So I think I’ve done all the maths – certainly enough to be moving forward with. I had help:



Saturday, June 16, 2018


Tonight’s computer tragedy is that it won’t play Meg’s Fair Isle Vest video. I’ve wasted valuable time trying. Is this another feature of the upgrade?

I’ve finished the third Fair Isle band of Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest, and have decided to divide for the v-neck half-way through the next one. It is time to listen to Meg’s gentle advice; very frustrating not to be able to. I think, by good luck rather than good management, the v-neck will begin in the middle of an X rather than an O.

I am not entirely happy with the amount of yarn available. My one mission at the EYF market, as far as I can remember, was to get yarn for this vest. And so I did – but what I now seem to have is a considerable quantity of a mid-grey which doesn’t figure in the vest, the dark grey which I do use in every Fair Isle band about to run out, and a couple of other colours in a precarious state. I’d better order some more. Nothing worse than worrying about running out – except, perhaps, actually running out. Fortunately, in Fair Isle, you can change dye lots with impunity.

Here’s the vest:



Here’s a dead cat (not):



There is an interesting post from Kate Davies today about her forthcoming book “Handywoman” – about her stroke and how it has transformed her life. I’ve pre-ordered, as I may have said.  The pre-order also includes a pattern for hare-and-tortoise gauntlets. They’re good, but I don’t think I’ll bother downloading. My HALFPINT list already stretches out to the crack of doom.

Non-knit

I didn’t accomplish anything today, I don’t think. The new shoes I ordered for my cruise have arrived, and they’re blissfully comfortable. Are we all – the other 10 or 11 passengers, I mean – fitting ourselves out with new wardrobes?

Poor Glasgow! The last time the College of Art had a bad fire it turned out, I think, to have been started by an electrical fault in some equipment a student was using (and left on) to prepare for the end-of-year show. And it’s that time of year again. This fire sounds much worse.

Friday, June 15, 2018


I’m using my husband’s last computer. He never really liked it – he never really got beyond MS-DOS. Be that as it may, it always used to greet him by name when I turned it on in the morning. But since this week’s updates, it now greets me by name. Does Microsoft have a data feed from the Elysian Fields? It's a bit unnerving.

Maureen, you’re absolutely right on both points (comment yesterday). I’ll update the WIP progress bar before I leave you this evening.

I knit slowly on. Was I always so slow? I’m now knitting the penultimate round of the third Fair Isle band on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup sweater. We’ll have another picture when I finish it. I think it's pulling itself together somewhat.

Hazel Tindall said (at the class I took with her, EYF ’17) that she didn’t like circular needles because of the time that has to be spent easing the stitches around. She normally knits, of course, with long straight needles of which one end of the operative one is stuck into a pouch stuffed with horsehair, on a knitting belt.

I equipped myself with these instruments after my happy trip to Shetland. This would be the perfect opportunity to try again to master the technique…

The needle I am using (KnitPro?) seems slightly slower than it need be for the crucial bit where the stitches are slid from cord to needle point. Still, little and often will get the vest done.

Non-knit

I did well today, knocking off several things on my pre-cruise list, including booking tickets for Waiting for Godot for me and Archie at the Edinburgh Festival in August. I saw it when it was new, a long, long time ago. I surprised myself by enjoying Krapp’s Last Tape (also with Archie) at the Festival last year.

Next I must tax the car. Government websites frighten me, although they are pretty efficient these days.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Freecell has been restored to me.

I sat down at the computer at 8:55 this morning to establish a pre-arranged Skype connection with my Italian teacher in Rome. “Installing Windows updates” it said. “Do not turn off computer.” I thought we had done all that yesterday.

There was more trouble when I finally reached Skype, and saw that I had missed a call from Federica. They wanted me to do something about setting up a Microsoft account, and wouldn’t let me have Skype until I had dealt with that one.

Eventually we had our lesson, via a not-very-good connection. Next week she’ll be back here in person. And at the end of all that, I found I had Freecell back. Enabling me to waste time which would be better spent knitting.

Despite Italian, and despite Freecell, and despite the nice men toiling away on my central heating boiler (things aren’t going entirely well, I gather) – despite all that, I knocked three items off my pre-cruise list and will sleep the better for it.

I’m doing the declining half of the current Fair Isle band on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest. I think I’ve chosen colours better this time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018







It’s a fine thing – worth the wait (and the knitting). Our guide, very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, has been working at Murrayfield for seven years, but has only recently seen the real cup, replacing the replica which has been displayed since 2008. She said that the colour was slightly different, and showed us a small flaw in one of the handle-serpents.

She unlocked the case so that we could get up close and personal – as long as we didn’t touch it.



We saw a good many other sporting trophies on our tour. They all look rather tin-plated, compared to the Calcutta Cup.

Not much else. I’ve got The Men In, replacing my hopelessly decrepit central heating boiler. I didn’t really want to curl up for a nap while they were here, so am ending the day in a fairly feeble state.

Shandy, I think I’ll be able to get back from Oban all right. It’s a small town. The embark-and-disembark point is not far from the station, and the second time, it will be familiar. It’s not the sort of holiday on which I am likely to have filled my suitcase with heavy souvenirs. All I have to do is drag it along the sea-front to the station and sit there, knitting or reading my book, until a Glasgow-bound train turns up. Changing to an Edinburgh-bound one in Glasgow will also, that time, be a familiar process.

And I’ll be going home to my cats, not off on a strange adventure.

No luck with Freecell. I’ve tried a Microsoft Help page, but clearly the behaviour of the Control Panel changes from version to version, and the lucid instructions provided are of no use to me.





Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Tomorrow, the Calcutta Cup. Pictures promised for tomorrow.

(Not only did we win the Calcutta Cup in February -- but Scotland beat England at cricket last week.)

Alexander came to see me this morning, bringing Ketki’s swatch-scarf. So both it and his incomplete Fair Isle vest can be photographed with The Cup tomorrow. He professed himself pleased with the vest. There’s not much of that blue in the scarf, but there is some.

I’ve nearly reached the half-way point in the current (third) Fair Isle band of the vest. Thank you for all your comments. I am indeed using blue in this band – in the first and third rounds of the middle three. Its place will be taken by red in the centre round itself. The blue will be a good deal less prominent than in the preceding band, but enough, I hope, to echo it. I agree, Tamar, that one of the great things about Fair Isle is that you can make it up as you go along.

Thank you for your encouraging remarks, too, about Freecell. The one advance achieved by yesterday’s tedious update is that when I click on “Microsoft Solitaire Collection” – not just Freecell – I am thrown out into the harsh world almost at once, instead of sitting about for rather a long time looking at that screen and watching dots go around in a circle. It saves time, but I’d rather play a couple of hands of Freecell.

Not much happened today, but what there was, was good. My garage took the car away and phoned this afternoon to say that it has been awarded an MOT certificate – the fitness test it must pass before I can tax it, and that must be done before I set sail at the end of the month. It’s an old car. An MOT can’t be guaranteed.

Archie came to lunch. He has amiably agreed to come with me all the way to Oban on June 30, when my cruise begins – train to Glasgow, another train onwards. If we leave in good time, we should be able to cop a late lunch at the famous Seafood Hut, if they have room for us. It’s not worth trying to book in advance – that would just add to the stress of an already stressful day. One of the many advantages of Archie as a travelling companion is that he likes food.

Monday, June 11, 2018


Here’s the Calcutta Cup vest so far. I think you can see the reasons for my dissatisfaction. I still hope that it’ll pull itself together as I go on. That blue stripe in the second Fair Isle band – the sky in Hopper’s picture, presumably – is too much.



I hesitated for a while, and then ordered Kate Davies’ new book, about her stroke. It is guaranteed to be well written, and I was taken with the fact that in the video of her talk about it to – was it? – the EYF, she is wearing the sleeveless vest of unpronounceable title which I mean to knit myself. It’s in the West Highland Way book.

…at this point I was invited to let the computer install a new version of Windows. It has taken an unconscionable amount of time, and, so far, doesn’t seem to have rewarded my patience by letting me play Freecell.

But that’s enough for this evening.

Sunday, June 10, 2018


I started this computer session, as yesterday and the day before, by clicking on the “Microsoft Solitaire Collection” icon, hoping for Freecell. While I was sitting there dozing, hands well away from the keyboard, the computer got as tired as I was of those dots going around in a circle and switched of its own accord to…..Skype. Hmmm.

I continue to feel stronger, and am looking forward to a week in which I will get things done. The car is going in for its MOT. I am going to Murrayfield to see the Calcutta Cup. I still want to order some trainers for my cruise, and perhaps another tee-shirt. Arrangements for the cats need to be finalised, and for my trip to Oban.

I watched an interesting programme just now, from last night, about Germaine Greer. I find her a thoroughly sympathetic character. I was surprised, looking her up afterwards, to find that she isn’t even 80 yet. In the scenes where she walked around her woodland, and attended to her geese, she looked as doddery as I feel. There was no reference in the programme as to what is to become of children when women assert themselves.

I also watched a few moments, today and yesterday, of the tennis finals in Paris. I’m sorry that beautiful American girl didn’t win. But the clay court, and the coloured costumes, are not to my taste. Oh, Wimbledon!

Meanwhile the third Fair Isle band has advanced somewhat, on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest. I still don’t think colours are as well arranged here as they were on the swatch-scarf.

Horticulture

There are buds on the sweet peas on the front step. And it looks as if I will have a respectable crop of strawberries, perhaps even two bowlsful. They are just beginning to show the faintest blush.

Saturday, June 09, 2018


I wasn’t as much better today as I had hoped to be. I tottered about a bit, however, and cooked myself a Mindful Chef lunch. I always leave the vegan one for last. This was quite a good one, a chick pea curry with okra.

There’s little else to tell you. I haven’t knit much – I am just embarking on the third Fair Isle band of Alexander’s Calcutta Cup sweater. The new system – starting a round at the beginning of a repeat, or half-way through, depending on whether this is an offset round or not – makes it easier to be sure I’ve got the motifs perfectly lined up.

This computer won’t load Freecell any more. The little circle-made-of-dots goes round and round forever, but nothing results. A conflict with Skype? That’s the only thing that’s changed here lately.

Friday, June 08, 2018


A better day. I was afraid that yesterday’s episode of violent dis-ease would have set me back, weakness-wise. But I don’t think that happened. Archie and I had a very pleasant lunch today. Tomorrow I hope I will be striding about the streets as though nothing had happened.

Thank you, as always, for comments. Tamar, you’re right (as always) that I should consult with Alexander about the length of his Calcutta Cup vest. On looking more closely, I see that Meg begins her v-neck half-way through an OXO band, and her underarms at the beginning of it, six rounds previously. The Museum Sweater starts the underarms halfway through an OXO, and the v-neck at the top of a peerie – a longer interval, therefore.

I think I can do pretty well whatever I want, as long as I do it thoughtfully and calmly.

The yarn has arrived for Rachel’s “Pairfect” socks, so that’s that aspect of cruise-preparation attended to.

Comments

Thanks for the comments on the subject of Pairfect socks. I have re-watched Arne&Carlos’ video, and I think I have grasped the concept. Pattie, it’s encouraging to know that it can come out pairfectly even if you don’t entirely do it the Regia way. (I feel there was another comment, but if so I can’t find it. Apologies.)

Dianne: I wish we could meet, when you are in Edinburgh, but I fear I will be in too much of a pre-cruise ferment at that date. Try my local LYS, Cathy’s Knits on Broughton Street. She sells only British yarn, and is herself both enthusiastic and helpful.

Tennis

Southern Gal: I missed your comment, the first time around, due to the new system of not forwarding comments to my e-mail inbox. I agree with you, about Murray. I didn’t know that grass was harder on the human body than clay. It would be wonderful to see Federer play. I really don’t know whether I’ll go to London for anyone less. I saw Billie Jean play at Wimbledon once.

Thursday, June 07, 2018


The news just in: James' and Cathy's son Alistair got a first. In computering, from Glasgow. He has a well-paying job all lined up, provided he got a decent degree. He’s done more than that.

I’ve had a funny day. I woke up (at the usual time) with a violent diarrhoea, spent the morning in bed, the afternoon curled up in a chair watching Inspector Montalbano and knitting sluggishly. I seem to be all right now, except that there’s not much by way of appetite. Archie is coming to lunch tomorrow, so food will have to be addressed.

I’ve finished the third peerie on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest – current measurement 12”. Another Fair Isle band and another peerie will take me to 15 ¼, or thereabouts. A bit short.

Mary, I was grateful for your comment: 18” to underarm for a tall husband. My original plan calls for 16 ½. I find a messy note of my own in Weinstein’s “Knits Men Want” saying that I knit 16 ½ to the armhole on a fairly recent sleeveless vest for my husband (a success, I think – what’s become of it?). It wasn’t Fair Isle, but does that matter? Vicki Square’s invaluable “Knit Great Basics” suggests 15”. That sounds too small.

Well, I may have to break for the armholes in the middle of a Fair Isle band. There are worse fates. Meg suggests casting on provisionally and adjusting the length at the end – makes sense, now.

Fermentation

The Giardiniera is indeed fairly lively – not exactly explosive, but it did overflow onto the kitchen counter, which has never happened to me before. I started off with a ziplock bag full of water holding it down, as suggested in many sources, but decided that it was much more fun to weight it down with actual weights, as before,  and cover the jar with the Lakeland lid “with auto-release gas valve for easy and simple use”.

Beverly, thanks for the pointer to tsukemono. I watched some interesting YouTube videos on the subject while lying weakly in bed this morning.  

Wednesday, June 06, 2018


A relatively energetic day, including chopping everything up and launching Brad Leone’s fermented Giardiniera recipe. Mary Lou, I managed to spend my whole adolescence in New Jersey without encountering Giardiniera -- but it was the 1940's, and my mother wasn't very interested in food.

 All quiet so far – he warns that it is a particularly explosive fermentation. If I make it again, I’ll mix everything together in a bowl and then cram it into the jar and then pour the brine in. Brad starts with brine, then seasonings, then the chopped vegetables in layers, then some vigorous shaking. But he’s a strong man, I’m an old woman. (Google YouTube Brad Leone giardiniera)

I’ve figured something out, here. Fermentation adds zizz, and a vinegary taste, and preservation – but it can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. There’s got to be something tasty in the jar to start with. Another thing I figured out, is that silage is fermented. (I looked it up; that’s true.) Sauerkraut for cows.

I thing I have noticed – perhaps because all of the many fermentation videos I have watched on YouTube are American – is that nobody mentions how easy it is to calculate how much salt you need for a given percentage of brine, given that a millilitre of water weighs a gram. That is, indeed, I think, the very definition of a gram. So, for the 3.5% brine I wanted today, I filled my measuring jug with 500 ml water and weighed – get this right, Jean, or you’ll look very silly – 17.5 grams of salt.

Measuring jugs here are marked both in millilitres and fluid ounces, and have been so for many years. Perhaps not in the US.

Knitting

I’m well into the third peerie for Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest – about 11 inches. KD, for the Macrihanish, says I need 16.5” to the underarm. Meg doesn’t specify, and her schematic doesn’t include such information. I could work it out, given her gauge of 7.5 rows to the inch, but that’s a good deal harder than millilitres and grams. I’ll do one more Fair Isle band, and one more peerie, after I’ve finished this one, and then see how the cookie crumbles.

The new Fruity Knitting is a good one. Di Gilpin is delightful, and also a most energetic and interesting woman. Andrea is very keen on Alice Starmore’s “Glamourie” book, and has earmarked two things in it to knit. Should I look again? I thought it was altogether OTT, on first inspection. But maybe I need it for the completeness of my knitting library?

Tuesday, June 05, 2018


Onwards, slowly.

Today’s greatest achievement was the unexpected one of mastering Skype. I have never been a fan, and have hovered grumpily on the outer edges of many a Skyping family group on major holidays. But my Italian teacher is going back to Rome, and we will have few if any more lessons a quattr’occhi.

So today we got things set up while she was here, and then had a trial run at an agreed time this afternoon. And we did it. So we’ll try having next week’s lesson at long distance, and I feel I have mastered a new skill.

I am knitting the last round of the second Fair Isle band on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest, not pleased with my colour arrangement. He can’t bring me the scarf tomorrow because it’s in Argyll and he’s in Glasgow. I’ll have to apply myself with renewed zeal to the photograph above. My original calculation was four peeries and three Fair Isles before the armholes. So, two more peeries and one band before that exciting moment.

Andrew and Andrea have got Di Gilpin this time, and a general Scottish theme. I haven’t watched any of it yet.

I’ve been meaning to say that I am mildly attracted by the idea of the Bristol Chart scarf on Ravelry. I’ve got far too long a list, and I knit far too slowly these days, actually to contemplate it, but I think it’s a jolly idea, with a lot more potential than just standing on the doorstep every morning and peering at the grey sky and then knitting a stripe according to the degree of grey. You could choose any colours. No one would know.

Non-knit

The headlines on the Scottish news this evening said that Andy Murray hasn't given up hope of playing at Wimbledon. I didn't sit on to watch the item, but there's probably not much more to be said and anyway it'll be in the paper tomorrow. So that might add another element to my hopes for Men's Semi-Final Day. (Rachel doesn't like him, but I am a doting fan.) I got the rail tickets in today's post. I think the next skill I need to master is how to get tickets on my under-used mobile telephone.

Monday, June 04, 2018


Again, not much, but something. The knitting is moving forward smoothly – I’ve now reached the final colours for the current Fair Isle band, and have moved the starting point and all the other end-of-motif markers. There was a potential problem, Joni (comment, Saturday) – think about it.

You finish round A, all but 11 stitches, slip those forward unknit, join in the new colours, start round B. When you get to the end, you’ll have to knit those slipped stitches in round B. They’ll have missed out being knit in round A. In fact, the fudge is virtually undetectable.

I have sorted out Archie’s socks (also a second attempt), and have ordered some yarn for a pair for Rachel, who says that that’s what she wants for her 60th birthday. Some Regia Pairfects in a bold stripe. It sounds like an interesting idea; Arne & Carlos’ video on the subject is delightful, as always. For men, by my (and their) standards, the socks would be too short. But they’ll be perfect – pairfect – for Rachel.

So that’s one aspect of my cruise ready-to-roll. Ten days (plus travel to and from Oban) might well be enough to finish both pairs.

Fermentation

Yes, Mary Lou, I have kimchi on the side of most meals these days, except for my morning porridge, and I sometimes eat it out of the jar when I feel the need of a Little Something.

I opened the Good King Henry fermentation today, and it is indeed nicely fermented, but now what? One needs to give some advance thought to how a fermentation is going to be consumed. My current thought for the next effort is Brad Leone’s gardiniera, a mixed vegetable fermentation which you eat with a beef sandwich in Chicago, or as a side dish, kimchi-fashion.

(For Brad Leone, search for his name on YouTube. He’s got a good kimchi recipe, too. And he’s much less solemn than some.)

But I can’t be chopping up vegetables this evening, as I must do some Italian homework. Andrew and Andrea tomorrow!

Sunday, June 03, 2018


Little to report – no knitting. I begin every day writing down a list of what I hope to accomplish, and each day’s list is longer than the last, because of not having got much done the day before. I’ve knocked off a couple of items today, however, and tomorrow’s list may not be too bad.

I’ll put sock yarn onto the list for tomorrow. No use going on a cruise without knitting.

Fermentation

On Friday I opened the jar with the Good King Henry fermentation, and I can assure you that it is definitely fermenting. I even heard a little pfsst noise when I opened the jar!  and when I pressed everything down there were lots of bubbles. I allowed myself to taste a shard of carrot, and it tasted vinegar-y.

None of which gives me any indication of how the Good King Henry is going to taste. I intend to find out tomorrow, when it will have been fermenting for a week.

Yesterday I started a jar of mashed chillis. The idea is that they can form the foundation of a hot sauce, or, if one adds fresh tomatoes and avocadoes and coriander, a salsa. The books say not to expect much, bubble-wise, from such a mash. Meanwhile I am much enjoying my second batch of kimchi. I think I am becoming addicted to it, and may have to smuggle a jar into my suitcase when I go on my cruise.

Saturday, June 02, 2018


Thanks, everybody. I didn’t get much done today, but I did book my return journey to London, the day before and the day after the Men’s Semi-Final. I Google’d Wimbledon to make sure I had the right day – you can still, apparently, buy a debenture ticket for £3795 (pp), although you should check for availability.

It hadn’t occurred to me before that Rachel could have made a packet with her raffle win, instead of paying for the tickets -- a substantial amount, but surely less than 5% of the sum just named -- and then inviting her old mother.

Is Federer playing in Paris? I haven’t been paying much attention, but I hear the news through the night and his name hasn’t been mentioned. Perhaps that means that he’s winning every match, how boring can it be? Or, perhaps, that he’s saving himself for Wimbledon.

Knitting

Not much, but a definite stride forward with your suggestion yesterday, Randi and Fiona, that I could centre the patterns on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest by shifting things over a bit, since I am knitting in the round with no decisive action so far.

That still leaves a problem area, doesn’t it? Thinking about it in bed, I decided that the thing to do was to finish the round as presently constituted, at a point where I was going to change yarns anyway; break the yarns; slide the next few stitches forward, to the point where I want the round to start; attach the new yarns, and off I go.

That means that those slipped stitches will have one row of pattern missing. I’ve done all the things mentioned, but haven’t yet got around to that point in the first new round. We shall see.

I’m not entirely happy with the colours in the current Fair Isle band, although I’ll let it stand. I think I’ll ask Alexander to bring his wife’s Calcutta Cup scarf (see above) if he’s coming next week, so that I can copy the colours as I’ve done them there. Indeed, we could take it to Murrayfield and photograph it with the Cup.

Friday, June 01, 2018


A day of considerably less achievement, but still not negligible.

I have booked our tour of Murrayfield for Wednesday the 11th. Me, and my niece C., and her son-in-law-to-be, M.

And that’s about it. I have knit a few more rounds – and realised a major mistake. My first attempt at Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest had nine pattern repeats. I put a lot of mental energy into ensuring that the pattern was centered, front and back, so that the v-neck could arise from the centre of the X of an OXO, the way Meg does it.

When I started again, I had only eight repeats. Therefore all I needed to do was to start at the beginning of a repeat, and it would centre itself, since the repeats are alternately offset by half. But I am nothing if not a Blind Follower, even when the footprints to be followed are my own. I have started at the same point again. The motifs aren’t centered, and the v-neck will start at a random point.

My one comfort, at the moment, is that KD doesn’t seem to have centered the Machrihanish pattern and it looks fine. But her Fair Isle bands are narrower than mine. I fear Alexander’s vest will look unplanned. Perhaps I’ll measure it tomorrow and tell you how far I have advanced. Too far to turn back, that's for sure.

Non-knit

You may remember – at least if I mentioned it – that Rachel, in London, who enters the Wimbledon raffle every year, this year won tickets to the centre court on the second Friday – men’s semi-final day. (What she actually won, was the chance to buy two tickets. They still cost a bomb.) She has invited me to go with her.

Various considerations: my cruise returns to Oban on, I think, the Tuesday of that week. Will I be prostrate, or newly invigorated? That would still give me time to get back here, spend Wednesday in bed, and go to London on Thursday. It wouldn’t be worth the effort if Federer had been knocked out by then – but it would be worth a lot of effort to see him play. Something to think about.

Thursday, May 31, 2018


I have had a busy and active day, and I have survived it.

I went all the way up to Multrees Walk this morning – the top of Broughton Street, and then on up and up – to get a prescription from Boots; went to John Lewis and bought a safari-jacket type thing for my cruise; transacted some business at the bank (might as well take advantage of having done all that hill-climbing); bought some first-of-season herrings; and came home. Exhausted but still on my feet.

I have ordered some other cruise clothes on line. There are no laundry facilities on the little boat; one will need a certain number of dark-coloured garments to last 10 days. I still need to order some trainers and some waterproof trousers.

Your many and interesting comments are still not being relayed to my Googlemail. Can anybody guess what might be wrong? I suspect the cats, who have a genius for walking across the keyboard and turning on Flight Mode. I don’t know how to do that myself – I can turn on Flight Mode all right, but not from the keyboard.

The knitting progresses. I’m now nearly half-way through the second Fair Isle band. C. and I have agreed that I will phone Murrayfield tomorrow and ask about booking the tour, ensuring as I do so that the real Calcutta Cup will be on view.

Catherine, thank you for suggesting that I look at Starmore’s Fair Isle book when I reach the crucial underarm point on Alexander’s vest. I’ve got that book, but have never knit from it. Meg is basing her instructions on the EPS, not surprisingly, and it may all work out when I look at her video.

No news on the fermentation front. The experimental batch of Good King Henry continues to look fairly active (as my fermentations go) and I am hatching plans for further attempts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


All well. I have now re-knit the ripped-out bit of Alexander’s Fair Isle vest. Today I read through Meg’s Fair Isle Vest instructions – the leaflet that comes with the CD – and it would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that I didn’t understand a word of it. An incentive to knit slowly, so that I’ll never reach the underarm point.

I’m hopeful that it will all be clearer when I watch the video.

Other knitting news: I’m sure you all know by now that Jared has produced a new yarn called “Peerie”, a fingering-weight merino – American merino, of course – worsted-spun in a delicious range of colours. Loop in London has got them all. Indeed, it was from Loop that I heard the news first.

I’ve finished watching last week’s Fruity Knitting, with the founders of Ravelry as the star guests. It wasn’t terribly interesting, but I’ve spun it out so long – the wi-fi in our house in Kirkmichael is hideously slow – that it’s now less than a week until the next episode.

Kate Davies has re-done an unpronounceable steeked cardigan from the West Highland Way book into a yoke sweater with the much more manageable name of Balmaha. It is very nice indeed.

Non-knit

Your comments are usually relayed to me in the “Social” section of my googlemail. Today, no, and I was feeling rather sorry for myself until I found them attached to the blog.

Matthew, no, alas! the cats have reverted to their city ways. Paradox sleeps with me, Perdita by the Aga or elsewhere.

Beverly, I can’t remember how Good King Henry makes its appearance in the spring. The flower shoots come early, “poor man’s asparagus” they have been called. I have cut up both flower stems and leaves for my fermentation. It is a bit livelier today, with a good necklace of little bubbles around the top of the brine, and quite a few other bubbles pressed against the glass. But you have to sit there patiently for quite a while before you see one move. Scarcely effervescent.

I watched part two of the BBC series about Jeremy Thorpe last night. It continues to be a triumph for Hugh Grant. I discovered last night – I hope it is all right to say this – that he isn’t very tall. Certainly not as tall as James. One would never suspect it, watching Notting Hill or Four Weddings.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


We’ll start with the pictures I couldn’t persuade the iPad to let go of yesterday.

Here’s the Good King Henry patch:




You can see why we lazy gardeners are disappointed that it tastes so bad. I don’t expect anything of the fermentation flavour-wise. It’s strictly an experiment. But I did hope for some vigorous bubbling, and it’s not happening, so far. Tomorrow is the crux, the 48-hour point.

Here’s the fruit hedge and the cat:



And here are the flowers on that hitherto unproductive apple tree:



Two more pictures. My husband’s beloved rose:



I have never been able to identify it. It blooms late in the season (no buds yet), sprays of flowers in the floribunda style, single, a good red. It’s growing on its own roots. We bought the house 54 years ago (or was it 55?) – the plant wasn’t new then. It’s looking very happy this year. Taking care of it is always the first gardening I do. 

And here’s our white lilac, a recent and unusually successful planting. There always was a lilac there – you can see parts of its corpse in the foreground. I was sorry not to see it in full bloom -- other people's lilacs are fully out. But that was better than missing it by a week.



Knitting

I scarcely did a stitch while we were away, and at the moment, in fact, I am slightly less far on than I was when we left.

I have embarked on the second broad Fair Isle stripe. I have six colours to play with, plus red for the centre, and I chose badly. The colours for the first four rows didn’t have enough contrast. I thought that maybe when we got on to the next pair, the contrast between them would lead the viewer’s eye to discern the overall pattern. But I reached that point last night, and it didn’t work. A nun at the school in which I used to teach taught me the useful maxim, “When in doubt, take it out.”

So I did. I have picked up the stitches successfully, and established the pattern anew, with a better pair of colours. Some stitches were sitting wrongly on the needle. Some had been split in the picking-up. While attending to those problems, I occasionally got the pattern wrong. So that first round was slow. But I’m now on track.

Monday, May 28, 2018


Safely back, and we had a wonderful time. The weather was peerless, for all six days. That doesn’t often happen. It wasn’t peerless, in much of the rest of the UK. That’s even rarer – the contrast, I mean.

This post will be mostly about feliculture and gardening, but knitting should make an appearance.

The cats didn’t at all enjoy the journey. The weather, however, meant that we could leave the back door open all day and they could go in and out ad lib, popping back in when necessary to ensure that I was all right. They were nervous the first couple of days, and didn’t eat as much as usual, and stayed in a lot, but by the end they were completely comfortable with the new set-up. And I was completely comfortable about letting them loose. The only possible danger is that the still-unspayed Paradox might head off looking for love, but that didn’t happen this time.

Both of them came to bed with me, both at naptime and overnight. That has never happened before. It will be interesting to see what happens tonight.

I am trying to persuade the iPad to send us the gardening pictures I took. No luck so far, and I can’t sit here all night. I describe the scenes I want to show you, and maybe tomorrow you will see them.

Here is the Good King Henry patch. I cut some this morning, and have set it to ferment this afternoon. I have no great hopes, since it tastes so bitter, but we shall see. I added carrots and garlic and spring onions to the ferment, but forgot chillies. I think I’ll open the jar and pop in a couple of them this evening.

Here is my fruit hedge, an unexpected success after many years. There is a gap in the middle where something has died. The bushes are black currents and white currents and gooseberries, all promising a good crop. And a free-range cat.

Here is the apple tree at the bottom of the vegetable garden. Some may remember my grumbles about this tree. It has far more flowers this year than ever before. With luck, there may be ten or a dozen apples this year.

There are a couple more unseen pictures, but this is ridiculous. And the knitting news requires more space than remains available.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Preparations for Kirkmichael tomorrow – they were always somewhat stressful, even when I was much stronger – are assuming the dimensions of a Himalayan expedition. Helen has cleared the kitchen up there of many ancient bottles, we gather, so we are taking everything. Plus another box of everything for the cats. Plus the cats themselves. We really need a team of highly-trained Sherpas.

In the absence of advice from you, I went ahead and made some hot sauce. I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe – I can’t find it, written down; you’ll have to ask YouTube for it. I made the whole recipe without any hotness at all, and when it was finished and cool, I added the mushed up fermented chillies and garlic. The result is fairly successful, I think – rather sweet, as Jamie adds sugar, which I would leave out next time, and then both cider vinegar and apple juice. When you taste it, you start to think, this is boring. Then it kicks in. It will be interesting to see what Alexander thinks.

I opened the kimchi and pressed it further down. It tastes fine, but not punchy yet.

What with all this, I haven’t even started to watch Andrew and Andrea. The big interview is with the team behind Ravelry, a brilliant idea. I'll take it to bed with me soon, once the kitchen is in a suitable state for leaving.

Non-knit

I watched the first episode of the new BBC series about Jeremy Thorpe last night, a tour de force for Hugh Grant, if nothing else. I may or may not go on.

You may remember that Hugh Grant is practically a member of the family, on the strength of the fact that he and James lived on the same stair at New College one year, and James once loaned him a frying pan.

As it happens, the current issue of the Economist has a Special Report by James about the Chinese travelling abroad. Not without interest, and his name is attached, as happens with Special Reports although not otherwise in the Economist. I wonder if Hugh Grant will spot it and say to his friends, “James Miles and I used to live on the same stair. I borrowed a frying pan from him once.” 

Probably not.

Monday, May 21, 2018


I had a good Italian lesson, as usual, although it left me, as usual, exhausted. I am permanently stuck, I feel, in the position of a child in its third year. I can talk, and it gives me great pleasure. The grown-ups can understand me, and respond, and that gives me pleasure too. But when they talk to each other (=when I watch the latest installment of Inspector Montalbano) I can hear words and phrases and sometimes whole sentences, but I can’t really get the drift of what’s going on.

No news on the fermentation front, except that I noticed this morning that the garlic cloves at the bottom of the pickled pepper jar (from which I hope to make a hot sauce) had turned an alarming blue-green colour. Nothing in my books. I google’d, and discovered from a wide variety of sources that it is something that happens to garlic, nothing to worry about. How did we manage before Google?

I am undecided as to whether to tackle the hot sauce tomorrow, or leave it until I get back from Kirkmichael. Also undecided as to how to proceed. I could use Jamie Oliver’s recipe, add onions and tomatoes and cook it all for a while (thus killing the probiotics) or I could just add cider vinegar and some sugar and smoosh it up and call it a sauce.

I will take the Calcutta Cup vest along, now that I am on a (slow) roll. I have a Kirkmichael WIP, as was my custom in the Good Old Days – Carol Sunday’s beautiful “Oak Park” scarf (see sidebar). I think I will face up to the reality of old age, and bring it back with me, whether or not I work on it while I am there.

The colours were all laid out a year or so ago, in order, on a shelf of the dresser. Close to 20 of them, I think. Greek Helen has done a prodigious amount of work recently trying to get the house into an order which would allow us to offer it for holiday letting – and, in the course of that work, the Oak Park scarf and anything else knitting-related was bundled off into the drinks cupboard in the sitting room. If I could put the colours into order once, I can do it again, assuming I can find most or all of them. I can buy the pattern again if need be.

Andrew and Andrea tomorrow! How swiftly the fortnights go by!