Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Well!  I hope you have all seen that Jen A-C herself commented on yesterday’s post – and provided enlightenment about the book to be launched at the EYF. I love cables, although I haven’t knitted any for a while. I think that’s one I’ll have to go for.

She says in the comment that she doesn’t own the copyright for the sweater I admired on her husband Jim in the latest Fruity Knitting podcast – but is too modest to mention that the East Woodlands sweater, on her website, is somewhat similar.

Meanwhile, Wednesday it is, and the latest on KD’s West Highland Way is a huge and beautiful blanket – done in squares so that it will be possible, as she says herself, to scale it down for the next great-grandchild, if I’m spared.

And as for my own knitting, I have embarked on row 79 of the shawl borders.


Today’s meal from the Mindful Chef, “pulled barbecue jackfruit”, was OK, but not the hit of the week. When Helen and I went for her birthday lunch at Dishoom, she had something with jackfruit in it, and – since she thought she had ordered vegetarian – called the waitress over to ask, isn’t this meat? The answer was no, it’s jackfruit.

It’s funny how often life, having introduced a new theme, repeats it almost at once. Jackfruit is dull, and in future I will avoid meals which involve it. I continue to find this fun. I went back to the website today and ordered a fourth meal for next week. For this week, it's all over.

I gather we’re having a fancy full moon tonight. Archie and I saw the previous one as we were driven in to Palermo on the 2nd of January, over Monte Pellegrino. 

Here are two pictures from him:

That black monolith (if that's the word) is a monument to those who died at the hands of the Mafia. Professor Anselmi pointed it out to us on our Gattopardo walk, that first morning.

And here we are, looking down the Via Lampedusa, with the (reconstructed) Castello on the left. It is from here, if you know the book, that the family set forth towards the Ponteleones' ball in Part Six. It's not far away. And down there at the bottom, in front of the church, is where the Prince got out of the carriage to kneel in the road while a priest carried the Sacrament to someone dying in the vicinity. In Visconti's movie, that happens on the Prince's way home. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A peaceful day of non-achievement, except in knitting. I’m halfway across row 77 of the shawl borders. Perhaps once I’ve reached the centre, I can relax a bit and spend occasional days on the Soutache scarf or Archie’s socks. Or perhaps not – babies can take one by surprise. This one is due in April.

Today’s contribution from the Mindful Chef was Tofu and Carrot Noodle Laksa, and it was delicious. I made it for lunch and kept sipping at it all afternoon; and it’s gone. Tomorrow is Pulled Barbecue Jackfruit and Avocado Salsa.

I originally signed up for Pescetarian. (I hate that word, but can’t think of an alternative.) I think my first three meals qualify as Vegan. For next week the Chef is proposing two fishy meals and one with chick peas for me. I have thrown out the chick peas and opted for steak.

Shandy and Karen (comments yesterday) I take your point. You don’t need to worry about me – I’m not losing weight. I suspect I am sustained by the calories in Weston’s Vintage Cider. We’ll see what happens in Lent, which is currently bearing down on us. I was talking to my Italian tutor last week about coffee-drinking in Italy and she mentioned that she also drank chocolate. That sounded like a good idea, and I’ve laid in a supply. Starbucks has made no inroads in Italy – they don’t care to walk about the streets with take-away coffees.

The new Fruity Knitting is a good’un – Jim and Jen Arnall-Culliford. I wish we could have seen more of the sweater Jim is wearing on his first appearance – a yoke sweater with what may be no more than solid colour stripes. There is indeed something wonderful about yoke sweaters. In the interview, he is in shirt sleeves.

The other (and surprising) omission was the lack of any mention of the forthcoming A-C book, to be launched at the EYF. We shall see. Andrea did say that she and Andrew will be there, in the Podcast Room. I’ll have a look.

Nothing yet this week from the West Highland Way. I even worried a bit, but then went back to last week's incoming emails – Wednesday seems to be the day.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A better day perhaps, strength-wise.

The delivery from Mindful Chef arrived, of course, and cooking the first item was certainly fun. Black Bean and Grilled Corn Lettuce Tacos. I didn’t have to supply anything except salt, pepper, and oil. As expected – feared? – there are almost enough raw materials remaining to cook it again, quite apart from the half-plateful I was unable to finish. At this rate, three meals-for-one per week may be enough to sustain me entirely.

The result was perhaps slightly on the dull side, but very healthy.

The other good thing was the finding of a mighty pile of papers I had from the lawyer at the end of the year, relating to my husband’s estate. I emailed the lawyer at the time to say I was going to Palermo and would think about it later. Then last weekend I was ready to deal with it all, and the papers were nowhere to be found. I sought high and low. I postponed anxiety until today, when my dear cleaner Daniella was due – she can find anything. But she couldn’t find those papers.

And then, suddenly, I found them myself, in a totally unexpected place. So now all I have to do is sit down and look at them.


A new episode of Fruity Knitting tomorrow? What excitement! And a new West Highland Way pattern!

The shawl progresses. I have now done 71 of the 99 pattern rows, and have reduced the stitch count, per border, from 160 to 132. At the end, there will be only 85 stitches to knit back and forth on, for the centre. If I were still doing it that way, I could say that I have finished Chart E and embarked on F. G is the final one.

The trouble with the charts is in no small part that J&S have divided them up, and even turned one sideways, to save space – with the result that they don’t provide a sense of the whole, which is what one asks of a chart.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

I got through the day’s programme all right, but it has fairly flattened me.

Lisa, I found there wasn’t much call for Italian in Palermo. Hotel staff were adequate-to-fluent in English, little is required in a restaurant beyond menu-reading, and the Italians we met – Professor Anselmi who took us on the Gattopardo walking tour, and the noble Lanza Tomasi’s – spoke such good English that it would have been silly to try Italian. After my fall that first evening we took taxis everywhere -- on instructions from London -- or else walked, eliminating the need to master public transport. 

I did at least deliver my pre-prepared introductory line to “Tancred” – “E’ un honore per me di incontrarLa – Tancredi”.

The only genuine conversations I can remember, both brief, were asking the waitress in the restaurant Da Peppo la Gondola whether she remembered or knew about Jamie Oliver. She didn’t. And the time my credit card failed in a humble locanda (distressing because it’s my PayPal and Amazon One-Click card) and the next day I tried it again in a slightly less humble restaurant, explaining that it had failed the day before and she wasn’t to worry because I had cash and another card, but let’s try this one first.

It went through fine, and has behaved well since.

Whereas my lessons here in Edinburgh, an hour and a half per week, are conducted entirely in Italian. It’s hard work, mentally.

Archie seems well. I asked him about writing a blog entry and he said he would have to be in the mood. I'll press, from time to time.

I’ve reached row 65 of the shawl borders, and hope to knock off a couple more before going back to bed.

And tomorrow I will get my first recipe boxes!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

There really is nothing to tell you this evening. I have been indescribably idle. I will have to pull myself together briskly – tomorrow morning I have my Italian lesson, and Archie is coming to lunch. I will sound him on the possibility of his writing a blog entry about Palermo, illustrated with his photographs. I haven’t much hope.

Thank you for your kind words about my swatch-scarf. Alexander says that Ketki would like it, and she shall have it. It’s short for a scarf. I’ll join the ends and make it into a cowl. With or without a twist?

But first, the Calcutta Cup.

At least the blue text has gone.

Friday, January 26, 2018

I don't know why text has turned blue. I don't like it.

This was perhaps a slightly better day. Did I feel stronger? I think I have knit a full five rows of the baby shawl borders, with perhaps another to come. I am currently doing a row of roundels, and it’s actually easy to see how each knitted row fits into the roundel below, once they have been correctly established. Which was pretty easy in itself.


Thank you, as ever, for your help – starting with Katherine’s answer (comment yesterday) to my question of why Google illustrated Burns’ birthday with Virginia Woolf. I disapprove, much as I admire her work. She’s far too gloomy a character to celebrate in these dark days. Lots of birthdays must overlap, obviously.

Liz, once you’d said it, I remembered that I have heard of the idea of doing corrugated rib in two passes, and I am very glad indeed to have your confirmation, Ron, that it works. I will (try to) remember what you say about needle size. The idea of the double pass is familiar to me from my recent experience with two-colour brioche.

But I also note what you say, Maureen, about doing it in one, and holding the purl colour in my right hand. It’s obvious, once you say it, but I doubt if I would have thought of it. Like you, I don’t care for continental purling.

I am encouraged by your remark, Shandy, that changing lozenge patterns within a Fair Isle row is nothing compared to knitting the Uncia. But I still don’t want to do it. I find Fair Isle peaceful and meditative – having constantly to check on the lozenge patterns would spoil it.

Here’s the promised picture of my swatch scarf:

Except for that band in the middle with the unnaturally pale background, I could use all of this in the vest. If I am to believe memory (Jean, when will you learn to make notes?) the final rows are the ones I had decided to use, and they contain no red. Doing it like this, with red showing up from time to time, in different positions, I think will be rather effective.

Now all we need is the Calcutta Cup. The match is on February 24. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Why does Google apparently have a picture of Virginia Woolf to mark Rabbie Burns’ birthday?

I have absolutely nothing to tell you today. Well, perhaps it’s a bit better than that. I have finished the third ball of yarn, for the baby shawl. Surely eight balls are going to prove to be too many. I do hope so. (Although I will continue to allow myself 12.5% progress in the sidebar, for each ball finished.) And – if I were still using charts – I have finished Chart D. Chart E is even more confusing and I am glad not to be relying on it.

There are no more zig zags for the moment, just roundels.


I don’t know about dexterity, Cat, but I can hold one yarn in each hand when I am knitting Fair Isle, and I make quite brisk progress. What I can't do is put aside the right-hand yarn and knit continental with the yarn remaining in the left, although I don’t see why not. I have signed up for several Craftsy classes which promise to speed up my knitting, so far without the slightest success.

But I feel, as I said, that I ought to try corrugated ribbing. The Six Nations rugby season is about to begin, and if Scotland should win the Calcutta Cup perhaps Alexander’s Fair Isle vest could have it. That swatch scarf is still visible in the sitting room, and my current thought is to use the whole thing as the model for the vest. I was playing around with different arrangements of the same six or seven yarns, derived from Edward Hopper’s “Gas”.

 (It's in MOMA, in NYC.)

My final attempt was the most satisfactory, and I had decided to go ahead with it, changing the Fair Isle motifs for each row as in the Jamieson & Smith sweater I have been referring to as the Museum Sweater. But not changing the motifs within the row – that’s a level of expertise beyond my ambition.

But now I think I may change the arrangement of the yarns for every row, as for the swatch scarf, whose overall appearance is rather harmonious. I’ll try to take a picture tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

It has been what passes around here for an exciting day – a late lunch at Dishoom with Helen because it is her 55th birthday, and a conference this evening with Jimmy who is in charge of the extra work connected with the new kitchen. I’m ready for my bed.

I’ve only done one row of shawl today. I hope to be able to keep my eyes open for at least one more. The decreases are beginning to make themselves felt, just as the returning light is. I started with 160 stitches per border (and there are four borders, remember, all strung together), and am now down to 142. The rate of decreasing has accelerated, and that helps too.

At Oberlin I did a Classics in Translation course, I can’t remember why. I do remember that when I was assigned to read, say, a couple of books of the Aeneid in English, I would think, that won’t take any time at all. But of course it did. I feel rather the same about the alternate garter stitch rows of this shawl.

I am increasingly sure that you are right, and my horrendous muddle is not going to be particularly obvious except to a lace knitter. I am now working completely from Amedro – using the mimeographed sheets from which I knit Archie’s shawl 21 years ago, rather than the modern one supplied with the yarn, just in case. I am a convinced chartist, but I am finding that it’s easier to keep the overall design in mind from Amedro’s text than from the new charts.

She and Kaffe are the designers I have knit the most patterns of, over a lifetime. I don’t know which would come out ahead, if I were to tot them up.

We've had a new West Highland Way pattern. I am enjoying this, as I expected to. This one is a yoked cardigan, with another unpronounceable Scottish name. KD says she has worked it out so that the colours in the yoke can each be done with one of the balls of yarn which came with our membership. You'd have to buy the base colour, of course.

It starts off with corrugated ribbing, something I've never mastered. I have tried, long ago, and thought I was doing it wrong because it didn't pull in. Now I know that it's not supposed to pull in, and feel that I ought to try again. I like the look. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

I’m very glad to have your various endorsements for recipe boxes, and look forward all the more enthusiastically to my first one, next Monday. Ivy, I do so agree that thinking is the hardest part of meal-preparation. Barbara M., I have read several newspaper discussions of recipe boxes and they all seem to think that (with most firms, anyway) “meals for two” are so generous that you could feed three. So you might be able, after all, to feed your hungry husband and have something left to keep the wolf from your own door.


I have advanced to row 51 of the shawl borders and am, in a manner of speaking, back in the saddle. The stitch count is right. The rows relate to what was done in the rows (immediately) below. Altogether, there are 99 pattern rows and then another 8 of garter stitch during which decreases continue to be made. So it’s safe to say I’m half-way through.


Today I discovered another fairly horrendous mistake. In Chart C (like Chart D) I was supposed to repeat the first section a few times, then the centre section once, then the final section a few times more. I was meant to be creating, thereby, a single roundel in the middle of each border, surrounded by lacy zigzags. But I didn’t. I just knit the chart and knit it again until I got to the next corner. So there are several roundels in each border, none exactly in the centre.

Now (Chart D) I am doing more or less the same thing, and doing it right -- with two roundels in the centre of each border, which were intended to be one on either side of the Chart C roundel. But of course, they’re not.

Another ten rows or so, and it may be possible to photograph the result for you. It may not be as bad as it sounds. Although still not Buckingham-Palace-worthy. 

When I knit this shawl for Archie, “lace weight” was an adventure for me, and I felt I was helping with the pregnancy, knitting sturdily on while nature knit the baby. Archie’s elder brother had died at 6 ½ weeks the year before; it was an anxious time. If I had made this sort of mess then, I would have been in despair.

Monday, January 22, 2018

I have made some progress with the shawl. I think the 4th border, at least, is more or less all right. (All four are knit in one long row, and the alternate rows are plain knit: so one always starts the exciting rows from the same end.) I’ve knit back, and am ready to try the next pattern row.

I’m doing much better, using Amedro. She lays out her text very helpfully, with occasional useful commas and new lines. It makes a big difference. 

I was held up, earlier this evening, when I found the yarn in a tangle. When the cats tried to help with the knitting, the other evening, they slid it off its cardboard cylinder. I’ve retrieved that, and rewound it – and there’s not all that much to go before this third ball is finished and the progress line in the sidebar can be increased.

But then Perdita came and sat on my lap. Had it been Paradox, I would have pushed her off, as I often do. But Perdita is not a lap cat, and I was touched, and sat there for a while without knitting, to accommodate her.

There still may be time to attempt that next pattern row before I go to bed.


I have signed up for a “Recipe Box”. Do you have them in North America or the Antipodes? They are becoming rather popular here. You choose two or three recipes per week, and they deliver everything you need, so you don’t have half-empty packets of miso hanging about in the refrigerator nor do you have to wonder where to go for wild rice.

I’ve signed on for Mindful Chef which makes a big point of Healthfulness – no bad thing – and which is, apparently, the only one which offers meals for one. I would think the others are missing a trick there.

I am always tempted by KAL’s and yarn clubs, but they never fit into my scheme of life. This may be the answer. I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Well, I’ve finished the shawl row that was giving me so much trouble, and the plain-vanilla one that follows. Now to get back on my feet.

In lace, as in Fair Isle, one relies on what one has already done to keep one straight for the future. It's a bit harder to do, with lace. That row was enough of a mess, at least for the first two borders, that that’s not going to work anyway. It’s a perfectly simple pattern – lace chevrons with a couple of roundels in the very middle. We shall see.

And you’re quite right, Mary Lou, that it’s going to be scrumpled up around the baby anyway. This is a take-it-to-the-pub-for-lunch shawl, not a present-at-Buckingham-Palace. But it’s sort of humiliating that I, who have knit Sharon Miller’s Princess, can’t even do this any more.

The cats tried to help last night, like furry Rumplestiltskins but less successfully. No stitches were lost, fortunately. Tonight I have put it away out of their reach, as I should always but occasionally forget.


More snow fell today, and it’s been cold. I haven’t been out, and it’s been a bad day on the weakness-and-lack-of-appetite front as well. I think the forecast promises better for tomorrow. I am going to have coffee again with my neighbour four stories up, and dread the climb as it might be the north face of the Eiger. It’ll be nice to see her when I get there.

My beloved cleaning woman comes tomorrow. I may seize the opportunity to put the knitting straight early in the day, while she gets the rest of my life in order.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

“Rather fetching” is perfect for the Gioacchino Lanzi Tomasi of today, Shandy. (comment yesterday) Here is a relatively recent picture of him.

I watched the rest of Visconti’s “Gattopardo” – I’ve rented it on one of those arrangements which means it will vanish like a Boojum tomorrow, 48 hours after I started watching. It’s much better than I remembered. I saw it once in a cinema, many years ago.

I vividly remember when, as a child, perhaps at the age of 9 or 10, during the war, I first saw a movie made from a book I loved. It was “My Friend Flicka”. I had thought that the movie would show me the beloved book as I visualised it in my head. They got everything wrong. Visconti is better than that.


What I can no longer avoid telling you is that I am in bad trouble with the baby shawl, and am resorting to my old, old mantra: it’ll be all right from here on out. (I am knitting the four borders of a traditional Shetland shawl in one long row.)

If I went in for lifelines, I would rip back to the end of Chart C. But I don’t. In Charts A, B & C I knit across the chart (rightly or wrongly), repeating as necessary, until I got to the marker for the corner, and then started again. I set out happily with Chart D in the same spirit, and soon saw that all was wrong.

And soon saw why – this time, I was supposed to knit the first section three times, then the centre section once, then the final section three times. I did some laborious tinking and set forth again, but the first border and (inexplicably) the second border are not right at all. The stitch count is right, but that’s not much comfort.

I have reverted to Gladys Amedro’s original pattern – not in her book – and I think things are going slightly better. I like her “T” and “C” – “take” and “cast” – for K2tog and YO. Those were the traditional Shetland terms, she says somewhere, and I find them easier to keep in one’s head.

Let’s hope for better news tomorrow.

Friday, January 19, 2018


I’ve left the last instalment of my Palermo adventure untold. It went smoothly. EasyJet turns around on a dime, as I may already have said – so a delay in London means a delay in Palermo. But that didn’t happen, that day. We got back on time. I was re-admitted to the UK without fuss (there’s a frisson of anxiety there, these days). Rachel met us and drove us to James’ and Cathy’s house, a great blessing.

The next day we Uber’d to Kings Cross. Cathy phoned half way through our journey to tell us that I had left my iPad behind. We had departed in good time, and public transport Sydenham-Kings Cross is very swift. She got there in time to give it to me, a truly heroic deed.

Our southward journey on January 1 had been very austere, despite First Class. This time things went better. Archie had declined to drink anything more exciting than Coca Cola the whole time in Palermo, but on that homeward journey he allowed Richard Branson to ply him with gin and tonic.

When I got home, Paradox came bounding to meet me, all enthusiastic purr. I walked about the house looking for Perdita and calling her. Niente. Ten minutes later she came strolling into the kitchen, and Paradox flew at her, fists flying, like a jealous toddler.

Perdita had worried her feeders during my absence, by not being there. She worried me again last night. She couldn’t have left the house – but she could be shut in a room, or cupboard, or drawer. I slept badly and got up early. There she was waiting – never too early for pussy cat’s breakfast.

I wasted some time today by watching part of Visconti’s “Gattopardo” on my iPad. Burt Lancaster is perfect, for the Prince, and Claudia Cardinale, for Angelica. But Alain Delon won’t do at all, for Tancred. Feeble. Although I can’t think of an actor, French or Italian or American or British, whom I would suggest to Visconti instead.

This is a picture of Gioacchino Lanza (the “real” Tancred) in 1955.

This is a picture of me (in my “Relax”) sitting next to him at lunch, 63 years later. Better late than never.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Yes, Karen! (comment yesterday) I, too, got an email from Susan Crawford telling me to fill out a survey or else I couldn’t have my book. The point of the survey was to establish whether contact details had changed in the considerable amount of time that has elapsed since we crowdfunded. The website wasn’t entirely confidence-inspiring, and I particularly regretted the absence of a “Submit” button at the end.

We shall see.

There is happy news, too, on other fronts. Kate Davies is now in full swing with the West Highland Way club. The current offering is an oversized Fair Isle called Strathendrick. Interesting, tempting.

And the Early Winter VK turned up today. You Americans, at least, must have seen it weeks ago. It’s almost all rather interestingly Nordic. I am seriously tempted by Meg’s “Danish Sontag Shawl” which looks like something that would be useful in weather like this – chest warm, garment secure, hands and arms free. The cast-on is more than a bit daunting.

And I’m going to want Vivian Hoxbro’s new book, “Strik Danske Stjernetrojer”. It concerns Danish “nattrojer” – “night shirts” – decorated with knit and purl patterns and worn day and night, under other clothes. They sound as if they may be even earlier than the first Shetland knitting. (My friends and I, in the Shetland museum, were shown interesting 19th century onesies into which the wearer was sewn for the winter. But they weren’t decorated.)

If all else fails, Meg will find someone to translate it.

And I have more or less re-engaged with the shawl, and am determined to finish the current chart before turning in this evening. Only another half-row of plain-vanilla garter stitch.


The rest of the UK has had quite a lot of bad weather in the last 24 hours, but Edinburgh has been OK. More snow was forecast for last night, but instead we had a thaw, the streets and pavements were clear this morning, and I got out to the supermarket. A good thing, too: we were getting low on cat food. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

So, Monday morning, we went to the Cathedral of Monreale – a splendid end to the week. The website says that only 350 people are allowed in at a time, and visits are restricted to half an hour. It wasn’t like that. There were perhaps as many as four dozen people there – and seats were available for sitting on. And it is gloriously, astonishingly beautiful. I wondered if Hagia Sophia in Constantinople had once been like that, a whole golden space.

This is, I am afraid, the only picture I took the whole time we were there, as Archie and I sat in a cafĂ© waiting for the time we had assigned to the taxi driver. Those are oranges on those clipped trees. Archie took lots of pictures, and I will soon post (I hope) the one I signalled to him to take, of me and Tancred at lunch in the Palazzo Lanzi Tomasi. It’s not a very good picture, but there we both are.

Our plane left late on Tuesday afternoon – EasyJet does one round-trip per day, and turns around on a dime. Archie pointed out that we had been there a whole week and hadn’t been to a museum or art gallery, so we went to the Museum of Sicilian Art. We’d have done better with Archaeology, but it isn’t as conveniently located. Sicilian Art has one beautiful Antonello, and is located in an old palazzo. Otherwise little to recommend.

BUT, by good luck rather than good management, we happened upon the best meal we’d had all week (except for the one we cooked ourselves) at the Ristorantino Palazzo Sambuca nearby. I had a Sicilian version of a prawn cocktail/salad – the prawns (those little ones) were raw, and they were delicious.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the homeward journey – smooth – and the reunion with my dear cats.

I enjoyed the new Fruity Knitting, although not the best; and I have done a row and a half, perhaps, on the shawl. I had forgotten how long those rows are, all four borders. And here we are in ’18 and the baby is due in April, so I had better keep my nose to the grindstone.

Snow, today. Helen turned up at 7:30, still pitch dark, me dozing to the Today programme, my happiest hour of the day. She cleared the steps and the car and told me to stay in. Alexander came over from Glasgow and reiterated the advice. More snow is forecast for tonight.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Not much tonight. I am tireder and weaker than ever. And there’s a new episode of Fruity Knitting, with which I and my iPad can go to bed. Again, no knitting.

Palermo: I left you as Archie and I were leaving the Catacombe dei Cappuccini on Saturday morning. I think there are several other places in Italy where you can see skulls and bones piled up in church, but Palermo may be unique in offering mummies in their Sunday best.

Since it is in the same quadrant of town, we went on to see the Royal Palace – which contains the Cappella Palatina, No. 2 on the mosaic list. Unfortunately, just as we arrived, they were launching into a baptism (you’d think it was a Roman Catholic church or something), and there was a good deal of standing around on the part of the tourists before we were allowed in. And I was feeling pretty feeble by the time that happened. And the seats were roped off – one could but lean on a pillar.

And the crowd which had gathered behind us, once admitted to the chapel, was of Sistine Chapel dimensions.

So I don’t have very happy memories of the Cappella Palatina. Archie dispatched some pictures to his mosaicist mother.

I reported every evening while we were there to friends and family back in Blighty, and the reaction from London, at least, was that we must take Sunday off. So we did – except for going (by taxi) back to the restaurant Jamie Oliver mentions in his Italy book. I asked our young, intelligent waitress about him. “Celebrity chef” was beyond my Italian vocabulary. I settled for “English writer” and told her that it was because of him that we were there. She had never heard of him. The restaurant is small and very Italian – clearly, despite Jamie, not yet on the tourist trail. Da Pippo la Gondola, should you find yourself there.

Monday, January 15, 2018

I’ve still done no knitting to speak of, since we got back: but I think perhaps I feel slightly better today. I watched the programme last night, with great pleasure, in which the Queen talked about her coronation . There was mention of burying the Crown Jewels in a biscuit tin somewhere in the grounds of Windsor Castle. And I wondered – I am pretty sure I have mentioned the thought here before – about where they were planning to hide the Princesses, when the invasion happened.

That winter of 40-41, when invasion was expected with every full moon, must have had an extra measure of anxiety for families – like that of the King and Queen – who had adolescent daughters. Churchill (let alone the King and Queen) was very thorough in his planning. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know what he had in mind. I wonder if the Queen knows.  It could have been somewhere close to Kirkmichael, which is close-ish to Balmoral. What you need is a village united in not talking to Germans (we’d have been great for that), and a big house (but not too big) where an extra English girl with her auntie – I think the sisters would have had to be separated – wouldn’t have attracted too much notice.

Palermo: we’re now finished with the Gattopardo, at least for the time being. The next day, Friday, was one of the best. We embarked on mosaics, and by good luck rather than good management, saw them in the right order. We started with the Church of the Martorana that day, well-attended but not what you would call crowded, beautiful, interesting.

Then we went on to the market we had visited the day before with the Duchess.

On Saturday, we started with the Catacombe dei Cappuccini. Archie is something of a connoisseur of horror, so I thought he really ought to see that. Well-off Palermitani used to leave themselves to the Cappuchins to be mummified and then dressed in their Sunday best and suspended from the walls. There they still are. It was a bit on the depressing side, but not quite as bad as you might expect.

I learned afterwards that Giuseppe di Lampedusa is buried there –not, thank God a suspended mummy, but in the adjacent cemetery. I am sorry not to have seen his grave, but profoundly glad not to have walked past his skeleton.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

On our second full day in Palermo, we went “Cooking with the Duchess”, with me still shaking from my fell.  This needs a bit of preliminary explanation.

Giuseppe Tomasi, Prince of Lampedusa, author of the “Leopard”, had no children. Late in life he adopted Gioacchino di Lanza, a distant cousin from an even grander family. Gioacchino is still alive – indeed, some months younger than I am. Giuseppe never did much of anything in life, except write a masterpiece. Gioacchino has had a distinguished career as a musicologist.

The title character in the book is based on Giuseppe’s great-grandfather (Burt Lancaster, in Visconti’s film). The great-grandfather had a princely nephew who appears in the book as Tancredi. His adventures may or may not be vaguely historical – but his physical presence and mannerisms are based on Gioacchino.

OK: so here we are, me and Archie, presenting ourselves at the Palazzo Lanza Tomasi on Thursday morning. Lampedusa lived there during the last months of his life, and sets the death of the Gattopardo in an hotel next door. He – Lampedusa – actually died in Rome.

It all went swimmingly. Archie said afterwards that he had feared they would be “snooty”. They weren’t. We strolled with the Duchess on the terrace, picking herbs and lemons for lunch. We went with her to the market to buy fennel and fish and olives and bread. We worked in the kitchen. All was brilliantly organised and totally calm. We had a break for wine and another for coffee. And, somehow or other, at one, we discovered that we had cooked a four-course lunch for 14 people.

White-gloved servitors appeared at that point to serve lunch to us in the rather grand dining room. We were all good friends by that time – an American couple, a German one, and me and Archie. A bit of a WWII morality play. And I sat next to Tancred. And I can tell you that his eyes are, indeed, blue. And that he is delightful.

Most of the time, however, he talked to the German woman on his right, and I to his son Giuseppe on my left. When I read about that fatal dinner party at Donnafugata, I always picture Concetta to the left of Tancredi, with Angelica beyond, in the position of the German woman. I don’t know if there is any textual evidence for that.

Now I will go watch the Queen on television and knit onwards with Archie’s sock. I must get back to that shawl.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

I am greatly encouraged, Mary Lou, by your comment which suggests you know what it means to sit next to Tancred. But that’s for tomorrow. We’ll start at the beginning.

I am very grateful for all your comments. Tamar, you are never wrong – I will see a doctor if weakness and unsteadiness persist. I gather that the NHS is currently overwhelmed by flu. I’ll stay away if I can.

So: our outward journey was smooth. I was consumed by anxiety – could a taxi really thread its way through the post-Hogmanay detritus? Would a train really be running on 1/1/18? Yes, to both. Branson had us on starvation rations – a choice of Sandwich A or Sandwich B, and no alcohol, for 1st Class catering. But we got there, and took a taxi to Sydenham, where we fared a good deal better with Cathy and James.

Uber and EasyJet went smoothly on Tuesday. Archie persuaded me to take a taxi from the airport – the slippery slope. The Hotel del Centro, chosen because it offered single rooms, proved to be an excellent choice. Quiet, clean, comfortable, as conveniently located as its name suggests. I’ll write something for Trip Advisor soon.

Wednesday was our Gattopardo walking tour with a local expert. It was excellent, although it stretched me to the limit. The best part was when we went to the site of the Palazzo Lampedusa, where the author grew up, an only child who loved the house. It was destroyed by an American bomb in ’43 – Palermo had a hard time, that year. But for that bomb, however, we wouldn’t have had the book.

For many years, it lay in ruins, but has now been rebuilt as an apartment block. In the book, it is Prince Fabrizio’s town house. His principal residence is a couple of miles out of the city, just beyond Monte Pellegrino. We walked along the route the carriage took from that house to the ball at the Ponteleones’, -- it's not far -- past the church where they met a priest carrying the Sacrament to someone in extremis, and the Prince got out of the carriage and knelt on the paving stones.

I rested in the afternoon, but in the evening we set off – too far – to a restaurant Jamie Oliver mentions in “Jamie’s Italy”. We ate well, but it was on the return journey that I fell. I didn’t trip on anything, I just fell. At least I didn’t hit my head.

More tomorrow.

Friday, January 12, 2018

I enjoyed “Three Billboards” a lot – but is it that good? The end seemed to me to drag, as ends often do. The actor who ran away with it, secondo me, was neither Frances McD (whom I love) nor Woody Harrelson, but Sam Rockwell (whom I had never heard of before). I guess you’d better go see it.

Otherwise, nothing to report. No knitting.

At the end of our first full day in Palermo – might as well plunge in at the deep end – I fell, on our way back home in the evening, only a few yards from the hotel door. No bones broken. I got to my feet unaided. But I was both shaken and stirred. And for the rest of the week, both weak and lacking in appetite.

I thought I was getting better the last couple of days, but have been weaker than ever, these two full days back here. Archie and I took taxis to and from the Filmhouse this afternoon. This can’t go on.

One thing on the knitting front, though: perhaps in itself a worrying symptom. We “West Highland Way” club members have had our first pattern from KD, a delicious hat and mitten set. My reaction was, that’s great! But what about the yarn? I signed up for that, too.

Then I discovered – from no less a source than this blog – that I had already received the yarn. Then I looked where it should be, and there it is. Perhaps I should knit the hat as an act of penance.

I hope, tomorrow, to get started on telling you about the actual Palermo adventures.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Here I am in Edinburgh. Tired, weak – but it was a very successful venture, thanks to Archie. The high points were “Cooking with the Duchess” and the cathedral of Monreale. You’ll hear all about it in the days to come. It will be more interesting, at least at first, if you love “Il Gattopardo” as I do. I sat next to Tancred at lunch and I can tell you that in old age – he is some months younger than I am – he retains presence and charm. And blue eyes.

There is little to report on the knitting front. I think I looked up Palermo at some point and found little. I gave no thought to the matter while we were there, and no LYS’s presented themselves as we walked about in the Historic Centre. I started a pair of socks for Archie with an Arne & Carlos self-patterning yarn. I've nearly reached the heel – and I knit gents’ socks big. The socks I turn out to be knitting are not those illustrated on the ball band, although obviously from the same stable.

One piece of news, though: I had sort of hoped for an episode of Fruity Knitting this week, but there is nothing. However, someone asked a question in the Ravelry group which produced an answer from Andrea revealing that she is going to take a class in pattern-writing at the EYF!

They were here last year, but that was before I had discovered them. This year, surely, they will be in the podcast room at some point, and I can admire them from afar, as I did Jared last year.

Tomorrow Archie and our niece C. and I are going to see “Three Billboards” on its opening day in the UK. We will represent the three ages of man.