Thursday, October 17, 2019


I finished (all I am going to do of) the ribbed part of the Calcutta Cup scarf – and then couldn’t find the white yarn for the end part. I wrongly blamed my furry friends. Then I did find it, but I suspect it’s too late to do any more today.

Brexit grinds on. I wish I understood the implications of “single market” and “customs union”. It’s not that I haven’t tried. They’re not the same thing, I can tell you that much.

Miracles

(You can blame Shandy for this -- comment yesterday.) I don’t think I believe in them. I’m with Hume and Gibbon. Modern miracles are all medical, and we would all have to admit – including doctors – that’s there’s lot we don’t understand.

Anyone who has lived as long as I have will be able to recall a couple of episodes that might have been attributed to the power of prayer. The time I had a bad tussle with a rose bush, and a couple of days later, red streaks were running up my left arm. The time our cat collapsed and we took her to the vet in Blairgowrie and he made her better. (I don’t suppose the Vatican would be impressed by the cure of a cat, but we were.)

Thomas the elder, Rachel’s son, is completely deaf in one ear. I embarked on a novena to Cardinal Newman once, thinking that would be a perfect miracle for his canonisation – plenty of medical evidence. Three or four days in, Rachel rang up to say that Thomas had a bad infection in the other ear. I left off the novena at once. My husband always said novenas were dangerous.

Ten years or so ago, it was decided to exhume Newman (this is distasteful) in anticipation of sainthood, so that they would have relics or something. When they opened the grave, there was nothing there except the brass plate from the coffin and a tassel from the cardinal’s hat.

After only 100 years? No skeleton? This almost does seem to me like a miracle. Google “exhumation of Cardinal Newman” and you can read all about it. He was, at his own urgent request, buried in the same grave as his friend Ambrose St John, who had died some years previously. So what about Ambrose? Had he also disappeared? Googling doesn’t provide the answer to that one.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


I’ve charted Thomas’ initials, for the concluding bit of the Calcutta Cup scarf; and have done such other minor calculations as were necessary. I realised I had been postponing those chores. I think I’ll probably do one more cross – they come every six rows. Maybe two. Then four rows without crossing. Then the end. I’m getting there.

Thank you very much for all of yesterday’s comments. And thank you, too, to those who like my sister couldn’t post, but wrote to me. You were a great comfort.

Non-knit

I’ll have to drop the Sakoolas case – this is getting ridiculous. But today I wanted to say how pleased I am that the dead man’s parents refused to meet Mrs S. in the oval office. It is not easy to say no to the most powerful man in the world in his own house – even if it is only Donald Trump. And it is not easy to make the right call when taken by surprise. Photographers were poised.

(Speaking of making the right call when taken by surprise, I feel Prince Charles doesn’t get enough credit for going to Paris that day and bringing Diana’s body back to London. They were fully divorced. They truly hated each other. He was at Balmoral with his sons. Only days before she had been scampering around the Mediterranean with Dodi. But Prince Charles got it right.)

Reading

I have gone straight on to “Framley Parsonage”. Trollope makes a splendid show in the first chapter of laying all his cards on the table – the young, handsome vicar is provided with a wife “somewhat larger than common” but, on the whole, a Good Thing. There are a couple of children. The living pays well. I suspect, like any conjuror, that the old boy has a few more cards up his sleeve.

And I am interweaving chapters of “Olive Kitteridge”. That book is a series of connected – but not consecutive – short stories. This is a re-reading, for me. Do read it if you haven’t yet.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


My sister tried to comment on yesterday’s blog and failed. Several of you have mentioned this problem before, but I haven’t paid much attention. This time I have no comments at all (that could be, of course, because I have become unusually tedious). I hope Blogger will put things right soon. I need your comments,

My sister’s one was to have been a doctorly comment on Sakoolas – the lack of transplantable organs doesn’t necessarily say anything about the accident itself.

A quiet day here. I think one more session will bring the Calcutta Cup scarf to the point where I’ve got to chart Thomas’ initials and embark on the end game. Much of this evening’s time was spent winding the next skein. I’m sure everyone who has a stash cupboard bursting with stash (that is, presumably, everyone) will share my sense of achievement in dispatching a whole skein. Although in fact I didn’t quite get to the point of attaching the new one.

Greek Helen dropped in and walked me around Drummond Place Gardens. It was another fine autumn day. Edinburgh seems to be having the best weather in the UK. She took this picture of my original and best cat:




Lest there be any ill-feeling between them, here is one of Paradox helping me inspect the refrigerator for festering food:



Tamar, I have tried in vain (so far) to find Nigella’s endorsement of my cast-iron slow cooker. I must be looking in the wrong book. The great thing about it is that the cooking-pot can go on the hob, to brown things in advance. And can, indeed, be brought to the table. The instructions say not to wash it, just to scrub with a stiff brush in hot water, dry by hand, and oil. This means that a procrastinator like me has to spring into action after using it.

Monday, October 14, 2019


I watched the Queen’s Speech live this morning. Whatever ground Britain may have lost in the world, there’s no doubt that England – I think that’s the mot juste – does that sort of thing rather well. Bow, ye lower middle classes! Bow ye tradesmen! Bow ye masses! (That’s Gilbert and Sullivan: some things haven’t changed.)

And the Queen is splendid. At 93, I think she walks more boldly than I do (seven years her junior). She speaks with a calm, firm voice, and managed the sit-to-stand at the end (an exercise I am meant to do daily, and sometimes do) with aplomb – just a brief, steadying hand on the leftmost armrest of the throne. Perhaps there is a technical word for the armrest of a throne.

I got some knitting done, but also had Perdita to wrestle with.

Sad news: Andrew and Andrea are ill, and there will be no episode tomorrow. Maybe later in the week. It was good of them to tell us. I suspect they are suffering from stress and overwork, and hope they will take it easy for a bit and not worry about us.

The new VK turned up this morning – always a surprise, somehow or other. This issue is often the best of the year – and this one is, I think, a corker. I have only skimmed it so far, but there are several patterns I would happily cast on this evening if I didn’t have other responsibilities: 8, 7, 6.

There’s an article about Jeanette Sloan. I’ve only speed-read it so far, but I don’t think it mentions that she used to run an LYS here in Edinburgh, on the south side, near the Meadows. I was there often enough that I look on her as a friend, although that is a bit presumptuous of me. Then – the LYS has closed – she became a columnist on Knitting magazine. And since then, I learn from the VK article, she has been seriously ill and seems to be devoted mostly to design these days.

Non-knit

A columnist in the Times this morning says that the young man who died in the accident involving Mrs Sakoolas had no organs left in a fit state for transplant, from which she (the columnist) concludes that Mrs Sakoolas was proceeding fairly briskly along the wrong side of the road. Or maybe they both were?

Sunday, October 13, 2019


What is the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane? I could look it up.

I’ve had a pretty good day, with Cardinal Newman and Mrs Sakoolas and Scottish rugby bubbling away in the background. In the foreground is that mutton stew, now bubbling away itself, perhaps to be ready for a late supper.

There was a bad moment at midday when I feared I wasn’t going to be able to find the slow cooker. Did I use it last winter? I must have. Its three large cast-iron pieces are stored separately. The electrical base had to be fetched down from a high shelf, at considerable risk to life and limb. I already had the lid. But where was the pot itself?

Eventually I found it. All is well.

I watched the Andrew Marr show and knit, in the morning. It’s my Sunday treat, after Mass. Nicola Sturgeon was the main guest. I feel about her as Republicans in the ‘30’s were said to feel about “that man in the White House”, but she stood up well today, relaxed and cheerful and providing fairly straight answers to the questions.

 I’ve done about 5 ½ of the 12 inches we decided last weekend that the Calcutta Cup scarf still needs. It’s surprisingly slow work.

Cardinal Newman was much discussed on the “Sunday” show on the radio this morning. From it I learned that the Oratorians have never even put electricity into his rooms at the Birmingham Oratory – see yesterday. That’s good. They obviously knew all along that he was something special.

I watched a little bit of the rugby match, Scotland-Japan. It didn’t seem to be going well, so I gave up. And it didn’t go well. But that defeatist attitude can never be as stoutly maintained again , ever since Twickenham ’19 – in whose honour I am knitting that scarf. We were slaughtered in the first half, that day. Lots of people gave up and went home.

Reading

I need not despair. The new LeCarre is coming out this week. And the new Olive Kitteredge (“Olive, Again”) at the end of the month – and meanwhile I could be re-reading the first one. I had probably better finish “Doctor Thorne” first. It’s not a patch on “Barchester Towers” so far.

Saturday, October 12, 2019


No forrad’er with the mutton, alas. I was exhausted after the Italian lesson, as usual, and haven’t done much else. I still have time and perhaps strength to do the preliminaries tonight — but the one thing one is not allowed to do, with slow cooking, is to store the stuff overnight in the slow cooker in the refrigerator. Especially, perhaps, in my case, as I have a wonderful cast iron one, endorsed by Nigella, a Christmas gift from my children. It might be worth doing the preliminaries anyway and facing the extra washing up.

No, I think not. Knitting perhaps, then bed.

I knit a bit of scarf yesterday, and hope for a bit more this evening. Something went wrong with the pattern but then it righted itself and I think all difficulties have been swallowed by the dark yarn.

Jared is about to produce a new yarn called “Ranch 2: Forbes” — a single-breed Rambouillet. In his previous trailer (not today’s) the Burgundy dark red was to me beyond beautiful, at least as it appeared on a computer screen. He’s done a good hat pattern for it. I could give everybody one for Christmas— (but first, Jean, you would have to finish that scarf).
It’s woollen-spun, just shy of worsted-weight. In the EYF drop-spindle class I took in ‘18 I learned at last, in a way I have been able to remember, what “woollen-“ and “worsted-“ spun mean. More or less.

Non-knit

Tomorrow is a big day, and I am feeling strangely bereft. Cardinal Newman is going to be declared a saint. In Rome, of course. Prince Charles will be there.

We lived in Birmingham for many years, and Newman’s Oratory was our parish church. All the priests we knew are dead now, all but one, Fr. Ian Ker, who left the Oratory and who will, I hope, be in Rome tomorrow. Google has told me how to watch the ceremony but, alas! at a time when I will be at Mass.

Newman died quietly, at a great age, and the community has kept his room as he left it. They called in my husband once, to advise on maintaining it. Women were not allowed upstairs (I hope that is still true) so I couldn’t go with him.

Draw the curtains, he told them. Nothing does more damage than sunshine. I dare say he gave them more advice than that.

Now, perhaps, it will be a shrine, and they will have to let women in. I know, from outside, which was Newman’s window.

Friday, October 11, 2019


The mutton is here, after a tedious day of being-waited-in-for. As soon as the Italian lesson is finished tomorrow, I’ll get cracking on that stew.

Still no knitting, but I mean to go get some done NOW, before knuckling down to my Italian homework.

Shandy – sorry not to have answered your question before. Maureen (when we had lunch on Tuesday) was wearing a wonderful (that goes without saying) Fair Isle vest with a particularly distinguished scoop neck edged with narrow corrugated rib. I mentally congratulated myself for having mastered the rib, at least, in my later years, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a neckline like that one.

Reading

I’ve finished Barchester Towers. Gosh, it’s good. It’s going to be hard to go back to Anne Tyler, although I may do it. But I’ve embarked on Doctor Thorne. I don't see why I shouldn't read my way through Barchester again, skipping TheWarden which I think I remember too well. Perdita sat on my lap again for a while yesterday, and then I went into the kitchen and was joined by Paradox, and for a moment I felt like Bishop Proudie being pals with Mr Slope one moment, and the next with his wife.

Current affairs

Mrs Sakoolas is still much in the news, despite all the many other things going on in the world. Mr Trump says, driving on the wrong side of the road in GB could happen to any of us. Not, I think, a helpful remark.

What does “right-hand drive” mean? That’s what the car had. Is that a car like mine, meant for driving on the left, with the steering wheel on the right? Or the opposite, meant for driving on the right? Greek Helen has a car like that, and has managed to move about for the last few years without killing anyone. She doesn’t think Mrs Sakoolas is likely to have brought an American car along with her.

The accident happened in the late afternoon-early evening, and she was breathalysed. That’s routine. We haven’t been told the result.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


Another nothing-much of a day. I am not engaging with this scarf as I should, and yet there’s not much more to do and I must finish it.

I am having a good time with the Shetland Wool Week book Maureen brought me. Apart from anything else, there are some excellent pictures of sheep, capturing that look of theirs in which there is something of idiocy and something of the sinister. You will forgive me for being hard on sheep if you have ever had them in your vegetable garden.

And speaking of sheep, as we were driving to Kirkmichael last Sunday I saw some, for the first time in quite a while, and I found myself feeling quite hungry. (I hadn’t had much breakfast, and that’s always unwise.) I have ordered some on-line mutton which should be delivered tomorrow. I’ll get the slow cooker out and make Gennaro Contaldo’s (YouTube) lamb stew.

Non-knit

Before I go off to a determined evening of scarf-knitting…

I am having a tough time with A Spool of Blue Thread. There are an awful lot of characters, covering three – indeed, four – generations. It is hard to keep them straight in one’s head, especially as some of them are dogs. With human-type names, not Fido or Spot or Rover. And none of them, to my taste, are very interesting.

Whereas the alternative is Barchester Towers which is blissful. And choc-a-bloc with interesting characters.

The Prime Minister has spoken to Trump about Mrs Sakoolas. Trump has expressed Deepest Sympathy, and promised to send someone to talk to her. Clearly, nothing can be done, now that she is back in the US, unless she should decide to return voluntarily. The Sakoolas’s were at an RAF base which is in fact a US Air Force base. The accident happened just outside. She – or they? – flew back from the base itself – I had been imagining Heathrow.

I feel almost a novelist’s interest in the question of how the rest of her life will pan out, after having killed someone and skipped town. I am inclined to believe that the mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small. (I just looked that up on Wikipedia, and am delighted to learn that it goes back to the ancient Greek.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


I’ve been to the doctor and had my flu jab – a good thing done, and that’s it for today.

I had a grand time with Maureen yesterday, except that I forgot to ask her about those ponies in their Fair Isle sweaters with which she can be seen on Facebook. When Kristie and Kath and I were in Shetland however many years ago, we met the woman who knit the sweaters. Except that by now it may be new sweaters, and different ponies, and, who knows? a different knitter.

She brought me the 10th anniversary Shetland Wool Week annual, with a nice introduction from the Duke of Rothesay (known as Prince Charles, further south), and many a jolly pattern and heart-stirring photograph. I will spend some time with that.

And she said – oh! be still, my beating heart! – that she was in a queue at some point with Andrew and Andrea, and fell into conversation with Andrew, and he said something that made it sound as if occasionally he reads this blog. I think, if I’ve counted right, that there is only a week to go before they’ll be here themselves, telling us all about Shetland.

I could never do Wool Week – the getting about from place to place, the hiring of a car, would be too much. So I appreciate these reports all the more.

We went out to lunch, and then I collapsed into bed. No knitting, yesterday.

We established, over lunch, that it was Maureen in early 2007, over coffee,  who suggested that I submit Sam the Ram as my Knitted Toy entry at the Strathardle Highland Games. I did, and not only won a First for Knitted Toy, but also the Glenisla Shield for the best handicraft entry. (And granddaughter Rachel, James’ and Cathy’s daughter, got the Mandy Duncan cup that day for the best children’s entry, and was on the front page of the Blairgowrie Advertiser the following week.) It was God’s way of marking our 50th wedding anniversary a few days later, which otherwise would have passed unnoticed.

Non-knit

I think the Sakoolas's (see yesterday) are about to fade from notice. The dead man’s mother has raised £10,000 on cloud-funding (or whatever it’s called) and means to go to Washington and knock on the door of the White House. I wish her luck. One has to feel sorry for the Sakoolas children – one of them was in the car when the accident happened. If they don’t know already why they have been suddenly removed from school and taken home to the US, they’ll soon find out, and it’s a poor moral foundation for going forward into adult life.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019


Tamar, you have no idea how few apples were involved, or how quick the harvest!

The sun has appeared, after a grey start to the day. And Maureen will be here soon for our lunch date.

Not much knitting. Perdita came and sat on my lap in mid-row yesterday evening. Had it been Paradox, I would have batted her off, but Perdita is not a lap cat and I thought maybe she needed me. She shows every sign of hating her sister, and of being afraid of her. We were alone in the room. She was sitting with her back to the door. She kept looking over her shoulder towards the door as if she feared we were going to be interrupted.

She has taken up residence on top of the glass-fronted bookcase. Were she not so stout, I would wonder if she is eating enough.

Non-knit

My sister and her husband (DC residents) are at the moment in France, on an Elderhostel expedition I think. I asked her, via email, whether DC was talking about Mrs Sakoolas, as all of Britain is. My sister is clearly in close touch with DC, distressed about the abandoning of the Kurds, interested in the fate of the Washington Nationals. (I gave up on baseball when it became a game of the night.) But she had not heard of Mrs Sakoolas.

Mrs S. recently killed a motorcyclist here in Britain by driving on the wrong side of the road. She assured the police at the scene that she wouldn’t go anywhere. She and her family then flew home to the US, claiming diplomatic immunity. Her husband is a spy – at any rate, works for the CIA. The dead man’s father is head of maintenance at the expensive school from which the Sakoolas children were abruptly removed. That might have seemed a bit OTT in a novel, but real life has more scope.

So far the US has been firm in maintaining the diplomatic immunity, while expressing Deepest Sympathy. The Prime Minister is soon going to absent himself briefly from his other problems and phone Mr Trump.

I would have thought the Sakoolas’s would find social life a bit difficult. “Hello, there! Great to see you! I thought you were going to be in England for another year!”

“Well, yes, but unfortunately I…”

Monday, October 07, 2019


Yes, well, we got to Kirkmichael yesterday. It was not a nice day, and C. and I were inclined to postpone again, but her friend who was providing us with a big, comfortable car – and driving it – thought we should go ahead. And, indeed, the rain stopped for the time we were there, although everything was pretty sodden.

We brought in the apple harvest. They hadn’t fallen yet. I think it was the best harvest we’ve ever had. Even the big tree at the bottom of the garden, which grows and flourishes but doesn’t bear, had four or five.

I got home in a state of unbelievable exhaustion, ate a sandwich left over from our lunch, and went to bed at 7:30. I nearly slept the clock around, and feel much sprightlier this morning. However, before I went to bed, Helen and David called, and I tried Thomas’ Calcutta Cup scarf on David. He’s tall, although not as tall as the beanpole Thomas.

We decided that it needs another 12”, plus the final six inches or so which will include Thomas’ initials. I haven’t charted that yet. I've now marked the spot where I am at the moment, and will measure from there. Here’s the scarf so far:




Only half the Calcutta Cup, you’ll remember, because the match was a draw. The stitch pattern is No. 100 from Gaughan’s “Knitted Cable Sourcebook” – recommended by the author as looking good on both sides. Which it does. It also looks more complicated than it is. Both of these advantages sort of disappear into the dark blue Scotland-coloured yarn.

I never did knit row 50 of the Spring Shawl borders. It’s sort of nice to have it up my sleeve.

Non-knit

Here is a picture of Helen’s husband David and Perdita being silly last night. That cabinet is her half-way point to the top of the glass-fronted bookcase.



And here is an enchanting picture that Rachel sent of my four great-granddaughters. Juliet and Camilla O., on the left; Ruby and Orla K., on the right. And that’s my granddaughter Hellie, Ruby and Orla’s mother, behind.



Saturday, October 05, 2019


Little to report. In fact, nothing.

I may be making a day-trip to Kirkmichael tomorrow, to bring the apple harvest in. We are somewhat deterred by the weather forecast. So I may or may not be here.

No knitting. No excuses except the usual post-Italian-lesson exhaustion. Perhaps the thing, once I finish here, is to go tackle that scarf, although row 50 of the Spring Shawl borders remains to be done. Usually of an evening I huddle in the kitchen with my cats, reading or watching Italian cookery videos, until a decent time for bed-going. But the scarf ought to be easy enough, once I put myself to rights, that I can huddle with it.

I bought Anne Tyler’s “A Spool of Blue Thread” or whatever it’s called, but I’m not enjoying it much. So I invested a further 50p in “Barchester Towers” and am glad to be back there. Is it of interest that none of Trollope’s clergymen seem to have any interest in the matters discussed in “Unsheltered”? Trollope wasn’t a clergyman, or a scientist, but he was very much in touch with the world.

His clergymen are agitated by Socinianism (a non-trinitarian Christology, Wikipedia says) and Romish tendencies but quite unconcerned by the age of the earth, as revealed in fossils, or by The Origin of Species.

No – forget that. It was written just too soon for Darwin or for fossils. The date of the “past” sections of “Unsheltered” are a crucial 15 or 20 years later.

Maureen from Fargo is coming to see me next week, fresh from Shetland Wool Week. We'll do lunch.

Friday, October 04, 2019


I had a lovely night in my new pyjamas, although it seemed odd to be sleeping in so many clothes. I enjoyed dressing up for my own pleasure and not having to go out and submit myself to the judgement of the world.

And I’ve finished row 49 of the Spring Shawl borders. Only one more to go, if I stick to my resolution to switch after row 50 to one of my other two projects. I think I’d better do it. It won’t be long before I’m back. The third ball of yarn is beginning to look a bit poorly – I did hope to see it like that before the pause.

I have pressed on with “Unsheltered”. It’s not as long as I expected, thank goodness, and the scientific bits are not very demanding. The substance of the “past” sections turns out to be entirely historical. Mary Lou, I hesitated over the word “utopian” when I was composing last night. I don’t think it’s right. Vineland was a planned community, run by its developer, no alcohol allowed, rules governing trees. That doesn’t quite add up to Utopia. 

Here is Perdita today:



The three mugs commemorate the Queen Mother’s 80th, 90th and 100th birthdays. I gave them to my mother, one by one. (She was slightly younger.) When the Queen Mother was about to turn 100, I couldn’t find anything in the smart china shops in London – but then one day, walking around Blairgowrie, I remembered that the QM was born at Glamis Castle not far away: they would surely have something. And they did.

Perdita was a great climber in kittenhood – including straight up my legs. One day she fell from a high shelf in the kitchen, with a great crash of crockery and some breakage. But no cat. After a while I even pulled the refrigerator forward to see if she was lying dead behind it. Eventually she reappeared, limping. She was still limping five or six days later, and crying when her hip was touched, so I took her to the vet where she was anesthetised and x-rayed (at considerable expense) but it was only a sprain.

She has been a bit more cautious since then, and being spayed has slowed her down further.

Thursday, October 03, 2019


Virtually no knitting, but a good day. I’m feeling better. Archie came, and we got a bit done, and had a substantial, nourishing lunch which is always good. Fresh tuna and black beans.

I’m pressing on with “Unsheltered” although still not entirely convinced. It turns out to be more historically-based than I grasped at first. It’s set in a real 19th century utopian housing development in southern New Jersey called Vineland. Our hero’s next-door-neighbour in the old days, Mary Treat, is a real self-taught botanist of distinction, a friend of Darwin’s. The Vineland Historical Society, which our modern-day heroine visits, really has the Treat archives.

Neither knitting nor reading

My flannel nightgowns need replacing. One is beyond use. I have been sleeping in my petticoat this week, while the other one was in the wash. Now I have bought myself some flannel pyjamas from Toast:



which will give a whole new meaning to the concept of going to bed. There is no reason not to revert to pyjamas in my solitary and celibate old age.

And here is a picture of Perdita on top of the glass-fronted bookcase:



Wednesday, October 02, 2019


No more dizziness – low blood sugar is a very interesting idea, Kay & others. But a bit of uneasy tummy.

I’m not quite sure about “Unsheltered”. Sarah, perhaps you should stay your hand. It’s awfully didactic, so far. I was expecting a lot about Darwin, in the parts set in the past – indeed, rather looking forward to it – but have just had an American-health-care scene in the present, and am thinking of switching to “Cranford”.

I’ve finished row 47 of the Spring Shawl borders, and hope to polish off another this evening. I find I am struggling with my conscience – it’s still only early October. Couldn’t I press ahead and finish Border Chart One (75 rows) before switching? But no, I think row 50 is where to stop. I got Gaughan’s cable source book out, ready to resume the scarf. At least it was in its proper place.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019


I feel a bit better, I think. Like yesterday, I started off shaky and have come together as the day progressed – rather the opposite of what one might expect.

I’ve done 45 rows of the Spring Shawl borders, and may well be up for a couple more later today. I think I’m going to have to tear myself away at 50 – and it’s a good stopping point. The pattern has no breaks, but it’s roughly three-part and 50 rows will mean that I’m a third of the way there.

I have discovered, to my horror, that “Heirloom Knitting” isn’t on the shelf. It couldn’t have been mis-shelved, I don’t think. So it must be lying around somewhere. When I was in Shetland in May, I saw a second edition and was rather tempted. If it doesn’t turn up soon, I’ll go for that. I think it’s my snatch-when-the-house-goes-on-fire book, but if so I have to know where it is.

All this thought of lace: I spent some time this morning with the Shetland Museum Lace Project, which I would recommend. I can’t figure out how to send a link. Just type those four words – Shetland Museum Lace Project – into a browser. There's an interesting essay, among others, about the difficulty of finding names for lace patterns. Too many, rather than too few.

And last night, deprived of “Heirloom Knitting”, I spent a few pre-bedtime moments with Crawford’s “Vintage Shetland Project”. Interestingly, in view of recent musings here, there is a picture on page 54 of a lace chart from the notebook of Ethel Henry, a well-known Shetland designer. She was born in 1905, the same year as my mother. The chart is clear enough that one could knit from it, and it looks as if it’s but one page in a book of squared paper.

Henry was a native Shetlander: it isn’t a case of fancy ideas from without. Although Shetland is, in fact, very receptive to such ideas, it seems to me.

The “Vintage Shetland Project” doesn’t have any shawls, although there are several lace garments.

And speaking of garments, Rachel rang up today. The “Overlap Baby Sweater” has been delivered to Ruby. Rachel is no knitter, but she is an adept and devoted grandmother. She said what a pleasure it was to have a sweater which goes so easily over a baby’s head. Thanks again, Mary Lou.

While I have been sitting here, I looked across the room and saw “Heirloom Knitting”. Why on earth? But, thank goodness!

Reading

I’ve finished “The Spoils of Poynton” – a fairly easy introduction to Henry James, if anyone’s interested – and, on your recommendation, Mary, bought “Unsheltered” for my Kindle. I loved “The Poisonwood Bible”, but haven’t been back to Kingsolver since.

Monday, September 30, 2019


Here I am, after all. I woke up feeling odd this morning – a bit dizzy, unsteady on my feet, no appetite, coughing. I didn’t go to Kirkmichael. I spent the morning in bed (except for a bit of knitting at the end) and feel a bit better. I’ll have a proper meal soon.

While in bed, I watched Fruity Knitting 64 – Melinda, you’re right, that’s the lace one we want. Two Shetland sisters, both lace knitters; in their 60’s I would guess. We were right – no lace graphs when they were young. One of them has taken to it duck-to-water, incorporating patterns from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting into her work and using squared paper to plot out her own designs.

The other, embarking on a major design, knits a swatch – it must be 50 stitches or more – which is a cross-section of a trapezoidal border, edging to square centre. That lets her plan and see the design horizontally, and calculate how it will fit into the corners of the trapezoid.

One factor that I had not thought of, is that an experienced lace knitter can look at a shawl and knit from it, as we might from a chart. My innocent eye is not capable of that – the lace holes seem to pull the knitting out of line. All I’m looking for is k, k2tog, YF, k3tog – but I can’t tell who did what in which row.

I’ve finished row 42 of the Spring Shawl borders. After all that beddery this morning, I ought to be able to knock off a couple more later on.

And I need a plan. This stuff is addictive, as Sharon Miller says; and Elizabeth Johnston warned me not to switch projects mid-stream: that is, not to try to knit a larger-gauge project in the middle of fine lace knitting. But I must finish Thomas’ Calcutta cup scarf (=two weeks?) and Matt’s pocket square (=two evenings?) before Christmas.

Reading

I’m getting on fine with “The Spoils of Poynton”. It’s an easy one, as Henry James goes. Shandy, to my great embarrassment I can’t remember the end of “Portrait of a Lady” at all, although I’m sure I’ve read it. He doesn’t go in for happy endings.

Sunday, September 29, 2019


I’m half way along row 41 of the Spring Shawl borders. The next target, I suppose, is row 50 – one-third of the way home.

Tamar, I suspect you’re right (whenever not?) that lace knitters probably made some sort of sketches, at least for the trapezoidal shapes of shawl borders, showing at least roughly how things were to be centred and how the pattern was to begin and end. But the notes weren’t kept because meaningless to anyone else.

Shandy, perhaps I’ll trawl back through Fruity Knittings to see if I can find the one you mention. I have the vaguest memory of such a thing myself.

I’ve had an email from the Shetland Peerie Makkers, soliciting funds, and have contributed. Do have a look at the website – they have an enchanting promotional video. Until very recently, knitting was taught in Shetland primary schools. That stopped in 2010 (talk about suicidal decisions) and since then volunteers have organised classes. It sounds as if it’s going fairly well.

Reading

I’ve polished off “The Dutch House”. It’s certainly a good read – I’m not quite sure that it gets us anywhere. There is a long, laudatory review in yesterday’s Financial Times, mentioning two other books which are also family sagas based on a house: Henry James “The Spoils of Poynton” and Anne Tyler “A Spool of Blue Thread”. I’ve started James.

We had a friend in Birmingham who died of cancer in middle age. We also had a mutual friend who was – indeed, is -- a fairly well-known British novelist. After Liz died, I learned that the novelist had been to supper and had given her his latest book. After his departure, she said to her husband, “I’ve got six months to live and I haven’t finished Henry James. How does ***** think I have time to read his book?”

That anecdote launched me into Henry James. I read quite a bit, but not this one. It’s a curious pleasure, those long, convoluted sentences. It’s rather like reading Latin – you get to the end of the sentence and you know the meaning of all the words but you have to double back to the beginning and work out what it means.

I will probably go to Kirkmichael with C. tomorrow, to bring in the apple harvest – it may take us all of ten minutes – and turn off the water and walk around a bit. So I won’t be here.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


A lovely fin-de-septembre day, but I am pinned to the spot by the need to wait for the postman to bring me that expensive ball of yarn for Matt’s pocket square. He’s usually earlier than this on a Saturday.

Helen’s little party was very jolly and noisy last night. (My husband never went to "openings".) I saw the book, but wasn’t allowed to buy it because she said she can get a few copies cheap. All the other artisans had submitted photographs of themselves, but Helen, handsomer than any of them, provided pictures only of her hands, setting tesserae.

There is a remark in the text about the pleasure of making a mosaic which sounds remarkably like the pleasure of the kind of knitting I am doing at the moment, the Spring Shawl. I’ll quote it for you when I finally get the book. Helen herself had long ago noticed the similarity between mosaic-making and knitting.

I’ve finished row 38 of the Spring Shawl borders – halfway up Chart One, as far as line numbers go. But the stitch count is increasing by two every row…

I’ve started wondering a good deal about how lace knitters managed without charts. Fair Isle knitters had their exercise books with coloured squares, and the three simple cylinders of the human body to work with --but I’m pretty sure the charting of lace is very recent. There’s no hint of it in Amedro.

Much lace design (including the Spring Shawl) is a matter of setting fairly simple 5-,6-,or7-row patterns into familiar shapes. That’s still not easy to do without a way of visualising the whole. And it doesn’t cover situations like the Princess shawl – probably the most complicated lace pattern ever written – which is a simplification by Sharon Miller of a shawl knit on Unst for a royal princess long before they had electricity up there, let alone lace charts.

The knitter made a copy, which is in the Museum of Scotland here. I don’t know whether the royal family still have their one.

That’s the question I should have asked Elizabeth Johnston when I was on my Wool Adventure in May, but didn’t.

…while I’ve been writing this, the yarn arrived through the letter box. I needn’t have waited in at all.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


I’ve finished row 35 of the borders of the Spring Shawl. These bulletins may make fairly tedious reading for you, but it is a great comfort for me –looking back after no more than a week – to see that I am, in fact, crawling forward. Soon I will be halfway up Border Chart One.

The only other knitting news is that I have had one of those dread announcements from the Post Office to say that they can’t deliver my item because there is a fee to pay. That’ll be the yarn for Matt’s replacement pocket square. I thought that a single ball of yarn might get in under the radar, but no. Half of the fee is customs duty, the other half a “handling fee” to the post office.

Archie came this morning, the last visit for a while as he is about to go back to university. I got him to replace two important light bulbs, so that’s something done.

A book is about to appear called “Artisan Edinburgh”. Greek Helen and her mosaics feature in it. It will be launched tomorrow evening at the Coburg Gallery and the related exhibition – including something of Helen’s – will last over the weekend. I shall be going to the launch which means I can’t do any Italian homework tomorrow evening so I had better do some now. Maybe tomorrow morning would suffice.

I’ve finished “Lady Audley’s Secret”. It’s rather gothic. The second half of it is also rather padded out. (I have my beloved “Mansfield Park” down off the shelf at the moment, since I was looking up Mr Rushworth’s name in order to mention it to you the other day. I read the first page and a half today in order to reassure myself that in Austen, every syllable counts.)

I downloaded “My Lady Ludlow” and “Cranford” – in one volume – the other day, and may proceed in that direction. Shandy, yes, I have read “Wives and Daughters” quite recently. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t answer your question off the top of my head. I remember “North and South” much more distinctly.

But “The Dutch House” – the new, and highly-regarded, Ann Patchett – turned up today. Maybe it’s time for some 21st century. Alexander came to see me yesterday. He said that he, too, is keeping a record of books read in ’19. His list includes comments, and marks out of 10. I am interested to see, looking back over my list, that, on the whole, it is the rubbish [judging by author and title] that I cannot remember. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


All’s well. I’ve reached row 34 of the Spring Shawl borders, and the knitting continues straightforward if not exactly easy.

Politics continue preposterous. If you’ve watched any of it on television today, you’ve probably seen the Attorney General shouting at Parliament that they’re a disgrace, unworthy to be sitting there. There was a nice picture in the paper this morning of the Attorney General and his cat, one of them entering the house as the other was leaving.

(Science has discovered – this was yesterday’s news – that cats are often fond of the people they live with, although you might not suspect it because they don’t bark and wag their tails. Isn’t science wonderful?)

My problem these days is to stay awake long enough to go to bed in time for for the news at 10. I mustn't lie down earlier than 9:50 or I'll sleep right through. It ought to be particularly interesting tonight because it will include Mr Johnson's statement to Parliament.

Andrew and Andrea were good yesterday. The interviewee has the professional name of Olgajazzy. Her real name is unpronounceable. Her strength is in shape and (especially) texture, and she was much influenced by her years of living in Japan.

But the high point of the episode was an Australian sheep farm. Two brothers told us about it, in alternate sentences, as Arne and Carlos did when I heard them speak at the Museum of Scotland once. I was interested in their dogs. They look nothing like the sheepdogs I am used to, but are clearly every bit as good at their work, and enjoy being a Very Great Help just as much. The brothers said, I think, that European dogs have been bred with dingoes to provide the ability to work all day in 40-degree heat. (That’s centigrade.)

Andrew and Andrea are now off to Shetland for the Wool Week, and will therefore be away for another three weeks. Still, there should be some treats in store for us when they get back.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Not much was done today here in Drummond Place, although the heavens were falling elsewhere. What is to become of us?

Archie came over. I meant to send him up the hill to pay in some cheques – but he persuaded me to come along, which was no doubt good for me. Then we had pasta amatriciana for lunch which was OK but not sensational.

I did a little knitting, but still haven’t quite reached the end of Row 30 of the borders of the Spring Shawl. Greek Helen popped in during my Knitting Time at the end of the afternoon (when Pointless should be on, except that it isn’t, because they’ve moved it). She has been Down South at an informal reunion of middle-aged schoolgirls. It’s good to have her back. She stayed to watch the beginning of the news, but there’s nothing to be said except that parliament hasn’t been prorogued. They’ll sit tomorrow.

I hope I’ll do a bit more this evening. I have been reading this blog from two years ago, the weeks after my husband died. I sounded much more vigorous then than I feel now, and I certainly watched television and knit in the evenings then. Perhaps this evening I could go on knitting while watching the new Fruity. The designer is unfamiliar to me, and interesting.

I think I have previously expressed my opinion that years, in this ninth decade, matter one by one as they did in the first decade. Eighty-five is seriously older than eighty-three, just as seven is older than five.

There is terrible news – I am embarrassed to tell you. I started to put on the Stronachlachar the other day – I think it was to go out to have supper with Kristie and Kath – and discovered that it has been quite badly mothed. I have found the necessary leftover oddball (sometimes I surprise myself) but haven’t addressed the problem yet. I wish I had succeeded in taking a darning class with Tom of Holland at an EYF. I wish we were going to have an EYF next year.

The Stronachlachar can be saved, I think, but it won’t be the same.

Thank you for the remarks about charting. They were making Fair Isle charts on Shetland, of course, a hundred years ago or so – some recently published. Lace charting must be much more recent, and perhaps even more valuable.

I’ve started reading “Lady Audley’s Secret” but it’s not as meaty as Trollope.

Monday, September 23, 2019

I’m sorry for my absence. I’m fading away, I fear.

However, there has been some progress with the Spring Shawl. I have now embarked on row 30 (of 150) and feel I am getting into the swing of it – or maybe the last couple of rows have been unusually easy. I get the idea, from the first 20 stitches or so, and can then stop peering anxiously at the chart.

Here’s a picture from earlier today:



Perdita is sitting on the centre triangle – which has that wide mesh edging. Below that, scarcely more than a frill, is the border-to-date: arithmetic assures us that it is 1/6 of the total.

I wish I could audit your chart class, Mary Lou. It seems extraordinary to me that anybody has difficulty with charts. Jamieson and Smith used to sell – I hope they still do – a pamphlet with a tremendously Fifties look, with patterns for several fancy lace scarves and shawls. They are all written out stitch by stitch, meticulously proof-read. I’ve knit at least one of them, and found that the only possible way to do it was to chart it, row by row.

When did charts come in?

Yesterday – a great event – Kristie and Kath came to see me, and we all tottered out (I tottered, they supported me) to a nearby pub for supper. It was with them that I went to Shetland (in 2013? some such date) and we stayed at Burrastow and went to see Muckle Flugga and had a grand time. Latterly, they have been walking the West Highland Way. Kath, the non-knitter, took a picture of me and Kristie which I trust I will be able to post to you soon. We bitterly regretted on the way home that we hadn’t asked our nice waiter to take a picture of all three.

We scarcely knew each other, when we went to Shetland. We met on-line, and had had lunch together once. I have the fondest memory of sitting next to the appropriate departure gate -- the departure gate for Shetland -- and seeing them walking down the airport corridor towards me.

Non-knit

I’ve  finished “The Duke’s Children”, including a bit of speed-reading through the later political bits. I loved Lord Popplecourt. His social ineptitude almost rivals that of Mr Rushworth in “Mansfield Park”.

Now what? I’ve pre-ordered “The Dutch House” and fear I should attempt “Adam Bede” again.

Friday, September 20, 2019


The best-laid plans… Except that this time, the fault is weakness and inertia.

I finally got to the knitting during “Pointless”, as so often, and I’ve finished row 24 of the Spring Shawl borders. It was tricky right the way across, but I think all is more or less well.

And I’ve lined up the Papal encyclical “Laudato Si’” for my Italian homework – recast it into indirect discourse, “The Pope said that…” It’s about taking care of the planet, appropriate for today. But I haven’t actually done anything. Friday evening as usual… And I must find out how to say “Papal encyclical” in Italian.

Non-knit

Pasta carbonara seems to be the commonest recipe with guanciale, Mary Lou. I may go for that. I have promised Archie a lunch next week. There is another, interesting recipe involving ricotta but at the moment I am largely debarred from interesting ingredients – they are tearing up the roads outside my house. I’ve got a good parking place and simply don’t dare move the car (=go to Waitrose) until there is some hope of parking when I return. The necessities of life (except for Weston’s Vintage Cider) are within even my walking range, but that doesn’t include ricotta.

As for pronunciation, it was in Valvona and Crolla (see yesterday) that I learned to pronounced “nduja”, and put the lesson to good use when Archie and I were in an interesting delicatessen in Reggio Calabria.

Reading

I have finished “The Prime Minister” and have plunged straight into “The Duke’s Children”. I was astonished to find the phrase “tell it to the marines” in the former text. It occurs twice. Also, less surprisingly, “wet blanket”.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


I finished row 23 (was it?) of the Spring Shawl but got into mild trouble at the beginning of 24, and decided that it was wiser to leave it to tomorrow. This morning Archie and I walked all the way to Valvona & Crolla – a famous Edinburgh/Italian delicatessen – a distance (altogether, counting the return journey) of a bit over a mile. It has flattened me.

But was worth doing. Often, in the evening, I watch Youtube presentations by Italian chefs in the vain hope of improving my grasp of the language, and lately I have stumbled on a few involving guanciale. That’s what I was in search of, and indeed what I purchased. As well as a couple of Amalfi-type lemons, and some magnificent garlic. We sampled some delicious olive oil and balsamic vinegar – one of the perks of going to Valvona and Crolla.

Archie’s brother Mungo then came to lunch and a nice time was had by all. He is about to go back to university (Oxford/Arabic). He spent the summer mostly in Cairo.

Reading

Mary Lou, I, too, had a screen that looked as though I could buy the Kindle version of the new Lampedusa book – but when I clicked on it, it dissolved into one that said not-until-February. It’s all very odd. Tamar, I’m sure you’re right (as always) that no UK titles can pass by adoption.

There was a letter in the Times a few years ago from a nobleman who had only daughters. His question was, in these days of anything-goes, whether one of them could declare herself to be a man and inherit the title? As far as I know, the question hasn’t been answered.

I am nearing the end of “The Prime Minister” and a resolution is offering itself. Some of the political bits are a bit turgid, but it remains fascinating.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


All well. I’m slightly more than halfway through row 23 of the Spring Shawl borders – what’s that? Two rows in advance of yesterday? Better than nothing.

Non-knit

I am riveted by “The Prime Minister” and find it hard to believe that I have ever read it before. Could I possibly have forgotten Ferdinand Lopez? (No spoiler there – he’s in the first chapter.) I’m sure we read our way through the Barchester novels. We must at least have embarked on the Pallisers – I remember Phineas, and Mrs Goesler. I’ll search the archives.

I heard from Sharon today – she who has been so useful on the matter of the pocket square pattern – about the new “Lampedusa: a Novel”. It hasn’t yet been published over here. I got all set to order the kindle edition nevertheless, only to be told that it won’t be available until February. Why ever not?

-- Ah! Perhaps because by then it will have been published here.

I am slightly suspicious of it, on the grounds of poetic-ness and also because of reading in the descriptions of it that Lampedusa adopted Gioacchino Lanzi in order to pass on his dukedom. I think Gioacchino had a dukedom of his own. I’d better look it all up. That glorious day when Archie and I went “Cooking with the Duchess” at their palazzo in Palermo, I sat next to Gioacchino at lunch (!!!!!) but mostly talked to his son, on the other side. Never mind dukedoms – I asked why Gioacchino wasn’t the Prince of Lampedusa, although he was the author’s adopted son. His son didn’t know. I said that there are titles in GB which can’t pass by adoption. I think that’s true.

My Italian homework this week is to take a paragraph or so of current text and re-cast it into indirect discourse. I have spent a bit of time (not much) with RAI – the Italian BBC – without finding anything. I cannot go to bed without at least defining the task. I think religion might be my best hope. The Pope speaks excellent Italian.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


All well. I’ve done three rows of the Spring Shawl, I think – at any rate, I am halfway through row 21 (of 150), establishing a new motif.

I have been touched and helped by your comments on the need for a new pocket square for the new father. He and Hellie were bound for a wedding in France when all those disasters struck, which is why he had it along. The yarn is on its way, I am told, from someone called Premium Yarns. Four years ago, Webs had it, but they don’t seem to have it any more. Lots of Ravellers have it in stash, in the colour I want – but every single one is marked “not for sale”.

And Sharon has supplied the pattern, including toiling back through the sad account of that summer and discovering that the bridegroom’s square had a double row of eyelets. Saturday, July 25, 2015 shows all the squares being blocked, with the bridegroom’s double eyelets clearly visible. The picture also includes Perdita as a kitten. She liked blocking -- she still does.

Anyway, I can fool around a bit, once the yarn arrives. Greek Helen, who is about to go south, picked up the new sweater for Ruby today.

It was interesting, re-reading that summer. Clearly knitting is falling behind these days because I don’t knit in the evening as I did then. After writing to you, and having something to eat, I tend to hunker down in the kitchen with Trollope. Perhaps I could re-establish the practice of blogging in the morning.

I am sad about Perdita. It was my husband, in hospital – that must have been early in ’15 – who said that it was time we got a cat. It had to be tortoiseshell-and-white; and had to have a pretty face. Perdita qualified on both counts, but she was a very peculiar kitten. My husband never bonded with her. “She’s your cat”, he said, and rightly, although I think they would have settled down with each other had he lived longer.

She was always with me, and I thought, after he died, that the company of another cat would make it easier for her when I was occasionally away. But Paradox has taken over as Head Cat, sleeps with me, bullies her sister. I still love Perdita better, but some days I scarcely see her. She continues to be a very peculiar cat.

Monday, September 16, 2019


Not much, again today. I did a row and a half of Spring Shawl borders, though.

This afternoon I went out with Helen and all her family to a famous fish restaurant in Newhaven. It was pretty good, but the chips were soggy. When I got back I found a nice email from the next-generation Helen, Ruby’s mother. She says her husband still wears, on special occasions, the pocket square I knitted for his wedding day – and it was recently lost in France during a disastrous trip involving delayed flights and a crashed hire car. Could I knit him another?

I found the spot in the blog, and toiled rather sadly through the account of that summer. They were married four years ago. My husband was in hospital, desperate to escape. I was complaining of weakness, although a hundred times stronger than I am now, and getting much more knitting done. My pulmonary embolism happened. Perdita was small, and extremely naughty. I had forgotten that I resorted to water spray to deter her from some of her naughtiness. Poor little cat. We loved each other.

But I found the account of knitting the pocket squares. The yarn – at least for Matt’s white one – was Baah Aspen LaPerla, a luxurious wool-silk-cashmere blend. With some difficultly (and considerable expense) I found someone who would send me a ball of it. I was knitting pocket squares while I was in hospital myself, humbler blue ones for the groomsmen.

It remains to figure out (again) how to knit a pocket square, but I should be able to do that. It’s got bobbles or loops or something around the edges. Basically, it’s garter stitch, corner to corner.

So that will be fun.

Non-knit

Tamar, thank you for your comment about language. “Where” “wear” and “were” is not a confusion I was aware of, and is distressing. I am particularly irritated by “lie” and “lay”, so often mis-used. I had an English teacher in Asbury Park High School who didn’t understand the distinction. She didn’t know that blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter, either. I must have been a particularly irritating adolescent.

“The Prime Minister” continues well. Phineas is Secretary of State for Ireland, and spends a lot of time over there persuading them that they don’t really want Home Rule.  If only he had succeeded! Stashdragon, it was grand to be reminded that I’ve still got “The Duke’s Children” to look forward to.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


I was sort of ill yesterday. I’ve never learned to spell “diahhorea” so I can’t tell you what was wrong.

But I’m moving forward on other fronts. I’ve knit 16 rows (out of 150) of the borders of the Spring Shawl, and the stitch count is – astonishingly – right. That's 10% anyway. The rows don’t even seem dauntingly long so far, but of course will get longer as they are being knit from the central triangle outwards.

Reading

I’ve finished “Phineas Redux” and have embarked upon “The Prime Minister” which is the subsequent, and last, title in the Palliser series. I hope to catch further glimpses of Phineas, but it starts off vigorously with a whole new set of characters.

A couple of small remarks about language and customs: there is a murder trial towards the end of PR. When references are made to execution, the past participle is always “hung”. I was taught – it must be after I came to GB – that one must use “hanged” in that context. Thank goodness the question doesn’t arise any more.

And Lady Glencora  at one point uses “lay” where I would insist on “lie”– or maybe it is the other way around. I have heard that Jane Austen is weak on “imply” and “infer”.

As for customs, I was very surprised to find that, during that murder trial, some of the witnesses were in court, and thus hearing the testimony of other witnesses, before they gave their own. That doesn’t happen at any criminal trial nowadays. (I went to a murder trial once, in Birmingham, because it concerned Oxford students and an awful boyfriend and might have been Helen. It was extremely interesting.)

And the other odd custom is that men seem to take their hats with them, into the House of Commons. They get no pay (and thus must be fairly well off to attempt a political career) although there does seem to be a stipend for ministers.

Friday, September 13, 2019


All well, except that it’s Friday evening again and I haven’t done my Italian homework. My trainer came this morning and as always I feel better for her visit. 

Greek Helen is going to London next week, for an Old Girls’ reunion. She’ll be staying with her sister Rachel, Ruby’s grandmother, and Archie (Helen's son) will be here on Monday. So I can send the sweater down from him to his mother to Rachel to Ruby. Alternatively, C. is going to be there (again, staying with her cousin Rachel) at the end of the month. All I’ve got to do is wrap it up and find a card.

I’ve finished the plain-vanilla rows at the beginning of the Spring Shawl borders, and have embarked on the first real pattern row. I’ve passed the centre point, and can report that the stitch count came out right for the first half. Once the pattern has been established (as with Fair Isle) the stitch count becomes less of a source of anxiety.

Mary Lou, the fascination of this sort of thing is very like that of a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t entirely remember my own progress. Lots of Amedro, certainly. Straight from there to Sharon Miller? Sharon herself says somewhere that it's addictive.

Wandering around the internet yesterday as one sometimes does, I discovered that Meg is about to go to Florence to teach some workshops. She clearly has some Italian, like me, but will have an interpreter. That should be fun all round. She must be a bit younger than I am, because her parents didn’t arrive in the US until 1937.

She had some interesting Faroese books, too. I must examine my shelves.

Reading

A dramatic event has suddenly occurred in “Phineas Redux”. It is as if – and why not? – Trollope himself realised that it was all getting a bit turgid. I am sure we had it as bedtime reading, long ago, but I can’t remember a word of it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


All well. I’ve finished the slanting sticks, or whatever they’re called, and have embarked on the real charts for the Spring Shawl borders. I got to start at row 10, a nice bonus.

The borders will take a while, but they’re nothing like the Princess borders. That time, one began with the edging, and then picked up stitches for the borders, and knit along (forever) thinking that the central triangle would be a doddle, at the end. How wrong one was! This time, when the borders are done, there will be nothing left to do but the edging. Endless, no doubt, but I love attaching edgings. One stitch taken in every two rows seems like so little, but eventually it gets the job done.

Here’s the promised picture of Ruby in her big sister’s Pollywog. I think they used it – it’s knit of sock yarn, as is the “Overlap Baby Sweater” I have knit for Ruby herself. The Pollywog appears to have worn very well. The next job is to figure out how to get the new one to London, now that they have shut down my local post office. The remaining PO’s are further away than I can comfortably manage on foot these days, and adjacent parking isn't guaranteed.



Jared has issued a fall collection – some good things, as you might expect, and some brilliant photography. The shawls and scarves particularly appeal.

Reading

“Phineas Redux” continues well, although I am mired in a political section at the moment which is all too much like the evening news:

“’A prime minister so beaten surely can’t go on.’

‘Not for long, one would think. And yet how are you to turn him out? It depends very much on a man’s power of endurance.’”

Plus ca change…

I hope Trollope will get back to love and intrigue soon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


My cleaner is back from Romania! Archie and I have just about kept our heads above water in the month she has been away, but it is bliss to have her back, and the amount of cleanliness and order she was able to install in three hours’ work this morning is astonishing.

And all is well with the Spring Shawl. Those “slanted sticks” or whatever they’re called haunted my dreams last night, but I’ve got them right, and they’re nearly finished. Then will follow four whole rows of plain garter stitch before the borders begin in earnest. The tear-shaped motifs in a Paisley shawl (and in Sharon’s Princess shawl) are called “botehs” – that’s the word I was too sluggish to look up last night.

The current episode of Fruity Knitting concerns Cristel Seyfarth, a Danish designer, as mentioned yesterday. She’s keen on costume – think Alice Starmore’s recent book. And she mixes colours in “magic balls” like Kaffe, although you couldn’t possibly mistake the work of one for the other. She’s attractive, and interesting, but I don’t think I’m going to pursue the episode to the end.

Mary Lou (comment yesterday), I think you’d better go see “Mustang” but be wary of violence and unpleasantness.

And, yes, I am very happy to have a namesake great-granddaughter in Ruby Jean. My husband had two namesakes among the grandchildren – Mungo Hamish Harold and this year’s bridegroom, Joseph Michael James. (James=Hamish) Both Rachel and James – my son James -- have/had mothers-in-law named Joan, and I thought it would be nice to knock off two at once by naming a girl Jane. But Rachel’s husband Ed had been frightened by an Aunt Jane in infancy and recoiled from the idea, and I may never have suggested it to James and Cathy.