Saturday, August 17, 2019

Nothing to report, except that I’m going back to Kirkmichael tomorrow – with the cats, and with Helen and her family – and won’t be back until the beginning of September or thereabouts. Helen seems confident, but I don’t think we’ll all fit in the car. I will take the Calcutta Cup scarf again, and am determined to finish it before I come back.

We went to see Austentatious today, my one nod to this year’s Festival. They improvise comedy of a vaguely Jane Austen-ish sort. I think I would have enjoyed it more in a smaller theatre, where we might all have felt part of the improvisation. They were good, though.

I’ve been fermenting a chilli mash again, meaning to make “my” chilli sauce to take some to Kirkmichael for James’ and Cathy’s daughter Rachel, who was kind enough to praise it recently. It is the Jamie Oliver recipe from YouTube, chillies omitted and the whole infused with fermented chilli mash at the end, to taste. But I am too tired. Maybe tomorrow morning, before we go. I’ve made some more kimchi recently, but am not making much progress with eating it.

I can’t now fall into bed, as I would choose, because I am committed to a grocery delivery at least an hour hence.

Reading: I’ve re-read enough Jackson Brodie, and have reverted to “The Last September”. I started again from the beginning, because I find the names as confusing as a Russian novel. “Francie”, for instance, is “Mrs Montmorency” on another page, and there are many others similar. It’s all right for the first chapter or two, with about half a dozen significant characters, but then we have a tennis party.

Thank you and bless you,  for your comments. See you in September.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Two more (long) rows of Spring Shawl today. I am now thoroughly embarked on the final motifs, the cats’ eyes. That's better.

I got a nice little book of “Ten Poems About Knitting” for my birthday earlier this week. (86! How did that happen?) One of them begins “I knit to keep death away” – and the line is underlined. Surely not by the sender! It’s a bit unnerving.

Lizzie and Dan are safely here, looking remarkably spruce after a night of sitting bolt upright on a bus. Various people will gather here tomorrow for a bread-and-cheese lunch before we go to see “Austentatious”. If I’m strong enough. I am in some doubt.


I’m calming down a bit. Archie, on being told the story, says that the scammers must have thought they were about to land a big fish. Indeed so.

Clearly, there are great similarities on both sides of the pond. I get a lot of those calls to say that I am about to lose my internet connection – almost all from non-native-English-speakers. In January when we are all tearing our hair out at the approach of the Income Tax deadline, we have wonderful ones, recorded in perfect HMRC voices, to say that our tax affairs are being investigated. Very scary, but it needs only a moment to reflect that, on a land line, at least, a recorded message must be harmless because there is no way Her Majesty can know whether or not the butler has answered the phone.

(Alexander has told me always to disregard recorded messages.)

An old boy who used to be a governor of the Bank of England got caught by the loss-of-internet one recently. (They install something very nasty on your computer if you let them.) And a shrewd columnist on the Times nearly fell for one of the worst, when you get an email purportedly from your accountant or your lawyer or your estate agent changing their bank details and then you send your tax payment or the down payment on your new house to the wrong address.

Jeanfromcornwall, I was delighted to hear from a fellow Thunderer fan. I can’t remember how my husband and I heard about them, but when we did we went to the factory (which is in Birmingham, where we lived) and bought two. They hang by the back door in Kirkmichael and are used when someone needs urgently to summon help. I blew a Thunderer when I broke my right arm.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Again, no knitting. Either I’ll have to pull myself together, or give up blogging.

Rachel’s youngest child, Lizzie, and her boyfriend Dan will be here early tomorrow (after a night on a bus – I could do that when I was their age) for a couple of days of Festival-ing.

James’ and Cathy’s youngest, Kirsty, covered herself with glory, A-Level-results-wise.

And Archie and I moved life somewhat forward today.

I am still feeling shocked by yesterday’s scam – it’s sort of like finding rats in the larder. I’m afraid it’s no use reporting it. I wasn’t quick-witted enough to grab any details – the sort code and the account number of the account “in my name” to which he wanted me to transfer rather a lot of money, for instance. The lead story in the Times today is about how the police duck out of dealing with such crimes. And in my case, no crime was committed, thank goodness.

I was awfully grateful for your comments.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Here we are safely back. We had a good time. It was wonderful to turn the cats free, as is their birthright. I didn’t worry at all, this time. They love me, in their furry way. They came home.

Paradox caught a mouse! It was very small – probably, in fact, a shrew. She was delighted with it. All those who don’t believe in instinct – there are such – should watch a 2-year-old indoor cat with her first mouse.

I didn’t knit a stitch. Kate Atkinson supervened. Like you, Peggy, I am re-reading with great pleasure. The feeling/knowledge that I’ve-been-here-before is an asset.

Here is my husband’s stone:

And that of Helen and David’s eldest son (a year older than Archie), next to it:

And the two together:

The swirl at the top of each is meant to link them  -- important, since the names are different. The slight impression these photographs give of not-straightness is erroneous.

We got back here in good order at midday, the cats complaining the whole way. We made a little detour on the way to Wolfhill, which turns out to be very near Dunsinnan which equals Dunsinane. Wolfhill is not, however, the very hill upon which as I did stand my watch I looked towards Birnam and anon, methought, the wood began to move. That hill is in another village, nearby.

Then while I was still unpacked and recovering, I had a phone call which I am by now quite convinced was a scam, but it was a good and complicated one. I have read of such (fortunately). He claimed to be from the bank. Two suspicious charges had been made on my debit card, he said, £500 of groceries in each case to be delivered to an address in Dundee. He knew the first four numbers of the debit card, and the name of the supermarket I use – that could have been good luck – and my street address.

He wanted me to transfer a rather large amount of money to a new account, “in my name”, to protect it. I refused. He urged me to phone him back at the number on the back of my debit card. I am an assiduous reader of financial pages, and I think I know that Bad Men do this, and can divert the call to their own number, as long as you ring it within the next 10 or 15 minutes.

I phoned Alexander, who said to do nothing, and that’s what I’ve done. But it was unsettling.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

I’m going to Kirkmichael tomorrow, until Wednesday. Back here that evening, or Thursday.

My husband’s gravestone is at last to be fixed in place. We were all set for midday tomorrow, but the stone mason (who is somewhere in the north of England, I think) has had an adverse reaction to a wasp sting, and can’t be there until later in the afternoon, or perhaps Tuesday. Greek Helen was planning to go, and Alexander with his sons. All that is certain now is that C. and I will be there (if he turns up).

I’ll take the scarf to knit and should make serious progress.

And the cats will come too. Despite them, I am feeling almost as jumpy as if I were going to Naples or the Isle of Wight.

Reading:  I have finished “Control” which is a perfectly adequate thriller. Publishers usually ask for two from a new writer these days – I’ll be interested to see what he comes up with next. There is room for improvement, but he (the author, Hugh Montgomery) has Schherazade’s trick of writing short chapters that each leave you gasping for the next one, and his use of the medical background is skilful.

Over coffee after Mass this morning we got talking about Kate Atkinson (a fave) and in particular her “When Will There Be Good News?” I’m sure I’ve read it – I’ve read all of Jackson Brodie – but the plot didn’t feel familiar, and, oddly, it wasn’t on my iPad. So I bought it, and am reading that. It has a familiar feel.

Then I'll go back to “The Last September”. It has a “modern” feel, shifting from the viewpoint of one character to another – and having lots of characters whose relationship to each other one struggles to keep straight. Rather like Virginia Wolff.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A fresher day today, and the sun shone. But now we are back to apocalyptic rain and thunder and lightning. The iPad won’t connect to the internet. I think I’m all right here, with the laptop. We’ll soon see. How bereft I feel without the internet, alone in the universe!

One more row of Spring Shawl today – better than nothing.

Thank you for your kind remarks about Joe and Becca’s wedding. That was a good day.

Here is a pointless anecdote which serves, at least, to illustrate a point I often make, that there are few things better than creating a problem for yourself and then solving it.

Yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t find my keys. Normally, when that is the case, I have but to assure myself that since I am in the house, so must they be. Not so, yesterday. My nice man came about lunchtime (after my soaking in Drummond Place Gardens) and brought me a new battery for the car. When he had installed it, he came to the door and gave me the invoice and I paid him with my debit card and all four of our hands were occupied with this activity.

So when the keys weren’t with the invoice or the card, nor anywhere else plausible, I wondered if he still had them. I was anxious through the night. I rang him up this morning; he was sure he had given them to me. And as I talked to him, I solved the problem: I had put the keys aside, there by the door. Not a normal key-place, but there they were.

I told you it was pointless, but still, a great relief. I went off to the supermarket and the car went vroom, vroom.

Reading: “The Last September” is good, and I’m sure I will persevere, but it is also depressing. It’s a family-in-country-house story, a genre I adore (Mansfield Park! Il Gattopardo! Brideshead!) but this time with the grim sense of the Irish Troubles just beyond the gates, and the knowledge that the Irish will win and the house is doomed. So today I succumbed to a thriller – a medical thriller, at that: “Control” by Hugh Montgomery. It’s certainly thrilling.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Again, little to report – two more rows of the Spring Shawl. But tonight you’ll forgive me, because I’ve got the wedding pictures at last. They were stuck in my telephone, but Archie was here today and released them.

I’ve finished “Father and Son” – Susan, do read it. It’s fairly short, and quite interesting. I’ve embarked on Elizabeth Bowen’s “The Last September”. The Anglo-Irish in 1920. It starts well.

More bad weather. My personal trainer and I set off for Drummond Place Gardens in a drizzle, and came back two circuits later, soaked to the skin. I’m sure it did us good. And in the afternoon, the sun shone, at least for a while. It does lift the apirits.

Archie and I tried, again,  to go to the supermarket, and again the battery was flat. Now I’ve got a new one.

Here are the wedding pictures. The little girls leading the procession into the church are two of my great-granddaughters.

As you can see, we were blessed with our weather. The following week, the current succession of great heat and torrential rain started almost everywhere.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

I was hot and sweaty yesterday, and didn’t have any knitting to report. Today has gone better – three rows of Spring Shawl, including a certain amount of successful frogging.

We had an extraordinary thunderstorm yesterday afternoon – the cats were alarmed. And in the morning, I found the car battery flat when Archie and I set off to the supermarket. My dear garage came around and kick-started it, and I drove around through local streets for half an hour in the hopes of beefing things up. We’ll attempt the supermarket again tomorrow. I'd be happier with a new battery.


I’ve finished “Wives and Daughters” and embarked upon Edmund Gosse’s “Father and Son”. My mother said that it was highly influential in her life. I read it when I was young, long ago, but perhaps without the critical attention it needed and deserved. I mean to try harder, this time. I’m enjoying it, anyway.

My mother’s parents, like Gosse’s, were religious. There, I think, the similarity ends. Gosse’s father was a Fellow of the Royal Society and the esteemed author of “History of the British Sea Anemones and Corals”. He believed strenuously in the literal inerrancy of the Bible; Darwin caused him great distress.

I don’t know what my grandfather – a good two generations younger – thought about Darwin. He was an evangelical preacher, shrewd and intelligent, but no intellectual. His lips moved when he read. My mother was somewhat emancipated, perhaps even could be classified as a “flapper” in the 1920’s.

I’ll report back.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The knitting of the Spring Shawl is back in order. Perdita’s mess will just about pass the galloping horse test, but certainly won’t stand up to closer inspection. There are 15 more pattern rows to go, and then I can’t remember – 7 or 9 – to finish off. Not entirely negligible, but I should eventually get there. Cardboard is beginning to show throw the second ball of yarn: that’s encouraging.

Andrew and Andrea didn’t have anything of riveting interest for me, and made a pleasant background while I put the shawl back in order. And IK turned up, a pleasant autumnal issue full of cosy sweaters but nothing I have to rush out and knit.

Today was Exam Result Day in Scotland. Helen and David’s youngest son Fergus did well, as did Alexander and Ketki’s elder son James. It’s next week, I think, when we hear James’ and Cathy’s daughter Kirsty’s A-Level results. That’s a big one.

Last night’s programme about the conjoined twins was well worth staying up for. The girls were delightful, their devoted father an inspiring character. The emphasis of the programme was on the strategy meetings at Great Ormond Street. Everybody was there – world-famous surgeon, anaesthetist, clergyman, nurses , the girls’ father – and nobody knew what to do.

It was agreed that the weaker sister wouldn’t survive surgery. The stronger one had a fair chance, but no more than that. That being the case, the father wouldn’t agree to surgery. The hospital didn’t argue. The father thought that he would agree to surgery if the weaker one began to fail, but they had to explain to him that by then, it would be too late. Both would die.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Knitting: I picked up the row I found myself too hot and sweaty to finish yesterday, and found that the cats had been at it. I try to be very careful, but I slipped up. Let’s assign blame where blame is due: Paradox.

I have straightened things out up to a point, and finished the row. There are too many stitches, which seems very odd. I don’t think I’ll venture on any more tonight. Maybe some scarf. I plan to watch a BBC programme about conjoined twins – a fearful case, which would have been called, in my brutal youth, a two-headed baby. The sort of thing which would have been strictly forbidden (watching-wise) in my husband’s day.

Andrew and Andrea tomorrow?

I have a couple of possible Festival projects in mind; no bookings as yet. The Festival has become too big for Edinburgh, as has happened in so many places beloved of tourists. One is surprised, sometimes, that there is anybody left at home anywhere to serve as natives. I treasure my memories of Edinburgh in the summer of 1953, my first Festival, my first Edinburgh. It was very different. I saw two Shakespeares, one Festival, one Fringe – Hamlet and Henry V, respectively; a brand new T.S. Eliot – The Confidential Clerk, I think. Eliot himself was in Edinburgh. And no stand-up comedy at all.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Again, but a touching of base. The weather has turned hot and sticky again. I resumed knitting, but began at the wrong end of the row. A lot of careful tinking and careful re-knitting ensued, and by the time everything was straightened out I felt too sweaty to proceed. There are another 8 or 10 rows of normal patterning to do before the end game proper begins. I’ll count tomorrow.

I also had Italian homework to do. The lesson was postponed because Federica was going to an all-day party on Saturday and I like to go with C. to an early Mass on Sunday. I think I’ve done enough. I was working on "ci" and "ne" which are not entirely easy for an English-speaker, but vital. 

Onwards with “Wives and Daughters”. There may not be any workers in it, but Gaskell’s rendition of class distinctions is brilliant. She died, according to the introduction, when she had finished all but a chapter – falling forward between one sentence and the next at a tea party. The end we all would ask for. There is certainly no hint of diminishing powers in what I have read so far.

I harvested two courgettes from the doorstep today and fried them in butter and lemon juice with my lunch. They are notoriously a rather boring vegetable. I was surprised to find how much improved they are, freshly-harvested. It shouldn't have been a surprise, really. And my two plants should have another six productive weeks to go. There are plenty of Italianate recipes if frying-in-butter palls.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

I am just touching base to let you know that I am alive and well. Our expedition this morning was to the garden centre at Hopetoun House, near the Forth bridges. It’s a grand place, full of happy and energetic-looking plants. Helen bought a clematis and a strawberry plant for her new garden. I bought some seeds which may produce winter salads if I get them sown promptly. My niece C. was with us, and we had a good time giggling over coffee.

The return journey offers a splendid view of the three bridges lined up beside each other. The new one is a thing of beauty which doesn't seem to have attracted the fame it deserves.

But no knitting. And that (plus some local shopping after we got back) was enough walking for today, nor did I attempt further exercise. I did read a few more pages of “Wives and Daughters”. And there you have it.

Mary Lou, I’ve often been tempted by a Fitbit but fear I would be embarrassed by how little exercise I could produce for it. The fact that you are fond of yours tempts me further.

I like the sound of the ballet-for-the-elderly videos, too.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Another good day. Perhaps I am gradually recovering from England. My personal trainer came – I had to put her off last week; I was too feeble. This time I could scarcely drag myself to the door, but, as ever, felt vastly rejuvenated after our session. I am determined to do a 10-15 minute exercise session every day on my own, as well as circumnavigating the garden. We shall see.

But tomorrow Greek Helen is taking me to a Point of Cultural Interest.

And I am perhaps two and a half rows forrad’er with the Spring Shawl. The final lace diamonds are done – nothing, now, except the end game.

Forrad’er, too, with “Wives and Daughters”. That is an interesting comparison, Shandy, with my beloved “Mansfield Park”. You set me thinking again about the wonderful passage in which almost the whole party goes to call on Mr Rushworth and his mother. Austen is as good as Evelyn Waugh there, at reporting what people do and say and allowing us to understand what they think and feel.

Mary Lou, do seek out William Trevor.

I've now got some wedding photographs in my telephone, but can't figure out how to get them out into the real world. I'll get Archie on the job.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

And yet another goodish day. Archie came. We circumnavigated Drummond Place Gardens (once) and got some other things done. Not much knitting, though. I watched Pointless with idle hands, except for a stitch or two.

Reading, Comments

Beth, I don’t know the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, but I would certainly like to hear Atwood reading Alice Munro so I’ll work at it. Thank you.

Peggy, Dawn has answered you more than adequately about flying menaces in Scotland. Midges won’t kill you, but they can certainly make life miserable. The class I was referring to was just the First Year Latin class – the “Ordinary” class, it was called in 1954, as I hope it still is.

William Trevor: I’m slightly embarrassed to acknowledge that I “discovered”  him in the New Yorker (as I did Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri). He’s dead now. Like the other two writers mentioned, mostly noted for short stories. Gentle, penetrating stories. Highly recommended. A Protestant Irishman, resident in England for much of his life.

Dawn, thank you for your scholarly researches. Tacitus’ word in Latin is “solitudinem”. An “emptiness”, perhaps.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am well stuck in to “Wives and Daughters” and enjoying it even more, I think, than “North and South”.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Another goodish-day, including a circuit of Drummond Place Gardens, and some more knitting. The rows are so long now that significant news is rare.


I meant to add William Trevor to the little list at the end of yesterday’s post, but his name wouldn’t come to the mental surface despite strenuous efforts. Mary Lou, thank you, I read that NYT article about writers making enough to live on, with some interest – but it was about averages, and I am more interested in the question of whether someone who is writing material which will live as long as Trollope’s has, can live reasonably well on it nowadays.

You are right, Shandy, about Trollope’s astonishing energy and self-discipline. And he hunted until well into middle age – that means, keeping horses and a groom and getting them and himself to and from the hunt: that could never have been cheap.

Tamar, I don’t know either of the authors you mention. I’ll find out.

A new New Yorker came today (August 5 & 12) – much more interesting than many of late. Beginning with Roz Chast’s suggestions for one’s morning smoothie.

It was wonderful to find Elizabeth Stout (author) and Olive Kitteridge (character). The story is a good one, and the news that there is to be another Olive Kitteridge book, perhaps even better.  I pre-ordered it.

I was interested, too, in the review of the book called “The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator”. I wish I still had access to a bookshop (both strength and proximity fail me) so that I could look up the author’s evidence for the statement that “fifteen centuries before the Scottish tried to colonize Panama, the Romans tried to colonize them, and were thwarted by a strain of malaria  local to Scotland which is estimated to have killed half of the 80,000 Roman soldiers sent their way.”

I’ve never seen a mosquito in Scotland (plenty in New Jersey). But apart from that, the only textual evidence for the Romans in Scotland is (I think) Tacitus’ biography of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Agricola. That book is the source of the remark, “They make a solitude and call it peace”. But I can remember nothing in it about 40,000 deaths by disease.

We “did” that book during my first winter in Glasgow, 1954-5. I was cold and frightened and culture-shocked. We got to a passage about the Scottish climate (cold, dark, damp) and the class stamped and whistled. There were 150 of them, believe it or not. And I sat there and thought, Gosh, these are the very Scots Tacitus is talking about.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Another slightly better day, including some knitting. Helen and her family are safely back from Mt Pelion where you can never be entirely sure you won’t be run down by a herd of centaurs. Archie and I went to the supermarket and got, among other things, two packets of Dioralyte powders, meant for re-establishing electrolytes in the blood, especially of the elderly, after diarrhoea. I haven’t taken any yet but will before bedtime.

I can remember that when I was much younger, and something could be seen to be wrong in a row of knitting, I would sometimes forge ahead with the thought that, at least it’ll be right from here on. If there’s any one thing that has improved my knitting in recent years, it has been the abandonment of that notion. I had quite a bit of trouble today, don’t know why. and addressed it by adding or subtracting a stitch as necessary and where necessary.

I’m doing the final set of lacy diamonds. There’s still a fair amount of pattern to come, and then a break row, and then four long, plain rows, and then a final row in which the stitch count is substantially reduced. But the end (of the central triangle) is in sight. Perhaps once the stitches are picked up and counted and re-counted and ready for knitting the borders, I should return to poor Thomas’ Calcutta Cup scarf.


I finished Trollope’s autobiography – excellent to the end. I acquired (it was free) his first novel, set in Ireland, but I’m not going to pursue it. He got better. Yes, Mary Lou, he says a lot about the Post Office (and mentions the institution of post boxes). He went on working for them long after he had established his name as a novelist.

I wondered for a while whether a “serious” novelist could live well on his work today, as Trollope did. But then I thought of Evelyn Waugh, who managed it in much the same way, with books of permanent value supplemented by journalism and travel writing. Of contemporaries, there are of course Stephen King and JK Rowling, who must live pretty high on the hog. Movies and television have taken over from journalism as providing the supplement. Does Ian McEwan support himself with his books? Alice Munro?

Monday, July 29, 2019

A better day, on the whole. The weather is  a bit cooler, and I did some knitting. And tonight, if all goes well, Greek Helen and her family will be back in Scotland and I’ll see them tomorrow. My cleaner has gone home to Romania for a month. I hope Archie can take up the slack.

Mary Lou, the beautiful yarn from Colonsay (link yesterday) is, in one sense, four skeins of the same colour (nettles?) but in fact all four are slightly different. It’s quite heavy – worsted weight? perhaps. And rather rough and homely. I think a nice cosy hat is the only serious possibility.

Health: I will look at sports drinks such as Gatorade in the supermarket tomorrow, and read the labels carefully for news about electrolyte balance. I put a banana in today’s smoothie. And I will cautiously investigate acupuncture – I’m not averse to the idea.

I continue to enjoy Trollope’s autobiography immensely. It’s curious that he doesn’t mention Mrs Gaskell. It’s not that he’s biased against women – he gives Jane Austen and George Eliot the high places they deserve (although he ranks Thackeray slightly above Eliot), and discusses some young female authors of whom I’ve never heard. But no Gaskell.

And then it was all to be blown to bits, not much later, by the Great War and Virginia Wolff and James Joyce and TS Eliot.

Peggy, I think I might suggest Barchester Towers to start with – but you’ve almost certainly tried that. He tells a good story about overhearing two men in his club, complaining about the way he re-uses characters from book to book. Finally he could bear it no longer, leapt up and introduced himself, and promised to kill Mrs Proudie that very week.

Our new Prime Minister was in Edinburgh today. I don't think he has the vaguest idea about Scotland, and fear that he will hasten the end of the Union.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Perhaps I am a bit better today (although still no knitting). We had more heavy rain this morning – but this time it may have “cleared the air” a bit. The sun came out for half an hour this afternoon, and it is always surprising how much that lifts the spirits. And Alexander and his family came to see me, on their way to Murrayfield and the Liverpool-Napoli match. That lifted the spirits too.

They brought me some indescribably beautiful yarn from Colonsay, which they have recently visited. Plant-dyed. Here’s the link. A hat?

Tamar, thank you again: this time for the further note on electrolytes. I’ve got my new smoothie-maker, and will add a banana tomorrow. Mary Lou: I don’t think sleep apnoea is the problem, although the Medicine for the Elderly doctor I saw recently was interested in the idea of disturbed sleep, when he wasn’t lecturing me about cider-drinking. I get up often in the night to pee – far more often than I pee during the day – but always go straight back to sleep.

And, Shandy! I’ve started Trollope’s autobiography, and am enormously grateful to you. The Kindle version is free on Amazon. What an inspiring model for any author who has had a bit of an initial success and doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere! He persevered for 10 years before getting anywhere at all.

I think I had vaguely thought that his mother’s success was built on the name he had established. Not a bit of it! I knew that she had started writing late-ish in life, but it turns out that, even so, she had made her name, and supported her family with her writing, well before he got started.

I think he would have been surprised to be told that, 150 years later, his name would be as well-known as those of Dickens and Thackery and Scott – and his books, perhaps, even more enjoyed.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

We had torrents of rain this morning. It doesn’t seem to have freshened the air, but at least the plants on the doorstep will be happy. They (like all plants) always prefer rain from heaven to anything I can carry out and pour over them.

Tamar, I had never heard of electrolytes, at least in connection with human health. I’ve had plenty of blood tests, and I would assume that that was included, but it’s an interesting question. I think I’m somewhat dehydrated, a frequent by-product of travel, but I don’t see why a whole week at home with careful fluid intake hasn’t put things right. Shandy, thank you for your encouraging comment.

No knitting so far today, but there’s a Royal Family programme on television soon, about Charles and Diana. This is a genre which I’m afraid I adore, and it ought to be good for a row or two more.

I’ve finished “Can You Forgive Her?”, still without the faintest twinge of recognition. I thought it was somewhat long-winded in places. Spoiler alert: they all live happily ever after. At the moment I’m trying to read Inspector Montalbano in Italian, but I don’t know whether I’ll persevere. There’s a distressing amount of dialect.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Sorry about yesterday. Desperately weak. I thought getting back to Scotland, and to my cats, a week ago today, would put everything right. Not so.

We were fortunate, however, in our wedding weather, considering what’s happened since. I still don’t think this heat would be regarded as Over-the-Top in New Jersey, but it is disrupting travel and would have been enough to make us all uncomfortable at the post-wedding party. I still don’t have any serious pictures for you.

Not much knitting, but I did a row of the Spring Shawl yesterday and another one today. MaureeninFargo, who has knit it, is coming to see me after Shetland Wool Week, and it behoves me to have the borders well-started by then.


I am making good progress with “Can You forgive Her?” I don’t see how I could have forgotten a book so full of interesting characters and event. In the days when I read aloud to my husband at bedtime – and this was undoubtedly one of our books – I would often fall asleep while doing so, and start reading nonsense, and he would have to nudge me.

There was once when we both fell completely asleep – I woke up to find the light on, and the book in my hands.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It was hot again today. I did pretty well – including six rows of the Spring Shawl. The next session will see me embarked on the final repeat (of the central triangle patterns).

I had an unexpected cheque from the tax man yesterday and have celebrated by ordering a blender, so that I can become a Better Person by consuming smoothies. Delivery is promised within the next two and a half hours, which means I may have to stay out of bed that long. The prospect now seems less attractive.

This week’s Fruity Knitting was good, as usual. They do a remarkably good job of varying their interviewees. This time it was Zoe Fletcher, who maintains the Woolist and knows just about all there is to know about the breeds of British wool-producing sheep.

I would like to know something of the numbers – and could easily find out, if I applied myself. I am pretty sure the British flock is heavily tilted towards lamb chops, these days. Even on Shetland, to judge by the evidence of one’s eyes, the Shetland sheep are outnumbered by larger ones of a different breed.

And I thought, listening to Zoe, what a gracious dispensation of providence it was that Shetland sheep, some of which, at least, have very fine wool around their necks, were available in 18th and 19th century Unst when the genius for fine lace knitting first took root.


Shandy (comment yesterday), I didn’t know Trollope had written an autobiography. I have added it to the wishlist I am maintaining along with the list of what I have actually read this year. I knew he had a mother, and that she is worth reading, too.

A nonsense paragraph: England are playing a Test Match against Ireland, Goliath against David. Ireland bowled England out before lunch today, for 85. (Never mind what that means.) Being bowled out before lunch on the first day has only happened on seven previous occasions in Test Match history – and three of those occasions have been in the last 18 months. If being bowled out before lunch had anything to do with the weather, it would be a striking demonstration of climate change.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A better day, I guess. I did a circuit of the garden. I dispatched some paperwork which had been weighing on my conscience. I also knit two rows of the Spring Shawl. It was too hot to knit even fine wool with perfect comfort, although we would scarcely call this warm in New Jersey. I’m glad it wasn’t this hot last week on the Isle of Wight.

Amazon delivered a Pussy Cat Drinking Fountain. I had never heard of such a thing. But the cat (Hamish by name) has one, who lives with the nice man who looked after my cats while I was away, and it sounded like a good idea.

Perdita (by far the cleverer) found it first:

Paradox endlessly suspects that Perdita has something better. She soon joined in, and was at first driven away with an oath:

But then Perdita let her have a go:

Since that time, some hours ago, neither has paid it any attention.


Beth, thank you for the additional plug for “Station Eleven”. It is now under even more serious consideration. I’m pressing on with “Can You Forgive Her?” Parts of it are unexpectedly dull.

The Palliser novels were on television, back in the late 60’s I think, and although we didn’t have a television set in those days, we saw bits of it,  and I can’t imagine Lady Glencora as anyone other than Susan Hampshire.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Perhaps a slightly better day, although inactive. I must march around Drummond Place Gardens tomorrow, willy nilly. Today I waited in for my cleaner, who didn’t come because she had forgotten that today was the day when I would be back; and for my Mindful Chef package, which did come.

Here are some more pictures from my time away. I still don’t have the proper wedding pictures.

Here is the bride, wearing the Unst Bridal Shawl which I knit for her new sister-in-law Hellie:

 It was worn in similar fashion at Hellie's wedding to Matt, but somehow was displayed better (from a knitter’s point of view) this time. This was the bride to whom I offered Jared’s shoulder shawl, I’ve forgotten what it’s called, but she preferred to re-use this one. Archie and I blocked it for her.

And here are Alexander and Ketki’s sons James and Thomas, wearing kilt hose I knit years ago for their father:

Meanwhile, here in Drummond Place, I knit four rows of the Spring Shawl today. Four is a lot, these days. I have nearly reached the point where I will be doing each pattern row (of the central triangle) for the last time. But not quite yet.


I am deep into “Can You Forgive Her” which I must have read before, as it is a Palliser novel. Sometimes nothing but Trollope will do. Mary Lou, thank you for the suggestion of “Station Eleven”. I’m sort of against sci-fi and the future, but I love  pandemics.  

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Not much, but something. I watched the Andrew Marr show, as often on a Sunday, and during its progress – since it doesn’t really require much watching -- I resumed knitting the Spring Shawl. It wasn’t entirely easy. I knew the next row was a return row, but it took me a while to figure out which one. However, eventually I got it, and I knit it, and although that was only one row, I feel I’m back in the saddle.

To approach the documentation of my week away from the wrong direction, here are two pictures from my post-wedding week in London. First, Kirsty and her Christening shawl:

And then her mother Cathy, holding up the First Holy Communion shawl I knit for both Kirsty and her sister Rachel. Both sets of initials are included:

Cathy seems to have done a better job than I did, on keeping it white. Or maybe it’s a different yarn.

I wrote out the pattern at one point, and even posted it on line for a while. There are few if any First-Holy-Communion-shawl patterns out there. It might be worth trying to resurrect it. I remember a good deal of its sources, but not how to do its overall shape. It’s done top-down, I remember that, as it added to the excitement of getting the initials the right-way-around and the right-side-up.


Thank you for the nudge towards “Wives and Daughters”, Shandy. I wonder if that’s the one I’ve read, since “North and South” felt so completely strange? That’s no reason not to read it again. Au contraire.

I’ve just finished “After the Party” by Cressida Connolly. I wouldn’t recommend it very highly. It’s a meticulously researched tale about Oswald Mosley and his supporters, some of them interned during the war. I think I kept expecting all the research to be the platform for a story, but that never quite happens.

Meticulously researched – but there is a reference to the internees being held “at Her Majesty’s pleasure”. Everybody is so young these days! but I am still surprised that neither author nor editor nor proof-reader spotted what’s wrong with that one.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Here I am home. I’ve missed you. The wedding was delightful, a huge success. And at least I made the journey there and back without disaster, thanks to my family. I am desperately tired and weak and leaden, but hope I will improve in the next few days, at least somewhat. And there’s nothing more to worry about or plan for. I hope to go to Strathardle for a fortnight in August – but, if so, the cats will go too, my Lares et Penates.

And at Christmas, I hope I will be allowed to stay in bed (with my cats) and eat chocolate.

There is virtually no knitting to report. My wounded thumb is still raw, and still oozing somewhat, covered each day with a fresh plaster. I got a bit further forward with the Travel Socks (second heel turned) once I could safely knit without spattering the subject with gore.

The answer to the question of – what does the right thumb contribute? is, not much. I am a very clumsy drop-and-thrower. The right thumb and index finger guide the needle through the stitch, and then wave about in the air while the right middle finger controls the tension. The left thumb is employed more constantly, moving the stitches forward.

I have a few wedding pictures for you, and trust I will be sent others in the next few days. But at the moment, my telefonino has expired, so I have nothing. Here is a link to the very remarkable Oglander Chapel in the church at Brading where the service was held. You have to click on "More photos".  (Joe and Becca tried very hard to have a Catholic wedding, but ran up against disagreeable priests and unco-operative hierarchy. And as every amateur theologian knows, the sacrament consists in the exchange of vows in front of witnesses. The priest himself, at a Catholic wedding, is one of the witnesses.)

I wore my Dathan hap (among other things) and it did well.

Meanwhile, as you must know, there has been a tremendous fuss which I don’t at all understand, involving Nathan the Sockmatician. Racism again. I don’t like this. Ravelry has had a password-purge. I think, at the moment, I have hit on one which they will accept and I can remember. I am pretty careful, I hope, about passwords which have a financial dimension; but I don’t care a fig who hacks my Ravelry account. We shall see. I might have to abandon Ravelry itself in the wake of all this misery.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I’m a bit calmer, if only as a result of the excitements of the day.

I was Highly Stressed this morning. Archie came, and took away the suitcase. He would like to be picked up tomorrow fifteen minutes earlier than we had arranged, and messages to the kind man who is going to give us a lift,  are so far unanswered. I am sure we will be all right. It is relaxing to travel with someone who worries. My husband preferred to leave everything to the last-split-second and reduced me every time to a nervous heap.

Then I had an appt at Medicine for the Elderly where I was told to keep walking and drink less cider – hardly worth the two taxi fares. Except that on the way home the driver heaved me into the back seat and shut the door on my thumb. For a while there I thought I might have the reason I was waiting for, to stay home.

But I’m afraid it’s fine – no bruising, no swelling, not much discomfort, both joints working fine. I haven’t dared touch the Spring Shawl for fear of getting blood on it. I don’t know what role the right thumb plays in my knitting technique. I will have to pick up some knitting and let my fingers tell me. But I think it will be fine, once I’m sure the bleeding has stopped. I take a blood-thinner.

I got home in time to watch Federer’s match. This was the point – the quarter-final – where he slipped and fell last year, beaten by the Grinch.  He lost the first set today, but wasn’t threatened thereafter. Nadal next, I think, and that will be Friday. Perhaps I will just spend the afternoon sitting peacefully in my b&b watching tennis and knitting a sock.


I’m nearly finished with North and South. I utterly agree with you, Shandy, about the extraordinary difference between Trollope and Mrs Gaskell, despite what must be a considerable similarity in date. I must look it up. In this particular case, there is also the contrast between the Irish peasants, literally starving to death, and the northern mill workers, on strike and very angry and hungry but very much individual and alive.

I’m looking forward to the Love Scene which surely must be to come!

I’ll be away now until Saturday the 20th.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

I got some things done today, not others. The packing is half-done. I tried on the wedding garment. It looks all right, and is fine, in a sense – if the wedding were here in Edinburgh. It’s a heavy-ish cord, and I fear will be far too hot for the south of England. Archie is coming tomorrow morning to take the suitcase to Joppa, whence his mother will deliver it to me on the Isle of Wight.

That means that Archie and I can travel on Thursday with only light hand luggage (nightgown, toothbrush, iPad, knitting, in my case). That should help. And it also means that I’ll have to finish packing the suitcase tomorrow morning, like it or not.

The tennis wasn’t very interesting. I watched most of Serena’s match and finally gave up with everybody even in the third set. I gather Serena won. I got five rows of Spring Shawl done while I watched, which is a good day’s work at the current length of a row. Greek Helen took this picture a day or two ago, to add to the Instagram account she maintains in my name:

And I’ve watched half of Andrew&Andrea, so may get another row done later while I watch the rest.

Recent mention of Kevin Anderson and last year’s Wimbledon sent me back to last year’s blog. In those days I grumbled away about weakness, just as I do now – but seemed rather stronger. I got up to Valvona & Crolla twice in August. Could I do that now? Perhaps I should try. The slightly odd thing was that in those days – summer, 2018 – I often watched television in the evening. Now, I almost never do. “Pointless”, Wimbledon, that’s about it.


I’ve finished “Castle Richmond” which I greatly enjoyed. I am surprised that I could have so completely forgotten the main story. I found it excellent, and very touching. The Famine bits are few and brief and powerful. At the end, Trollope opines that Ireland is emerging stronger after her ordeal.

I’ve gone back to “North and South”, you’ll be glad to hear, Shandy. 

Monday, July 08, 2019

A pretty good day. Archie’s presence was calming, as hoped, and I was able to strike a few items off my list, always a satisfying occupation. Gauff was beaten, sure enough, which takes a bit of pressure off the weekend. Nadal and Djokovic are through, and Federer seems to be cruising.

I will devote tomorrow to my toilet, as we say in Victorian novels, and to packing.

I’ve done a bit more knitting. I’m sorry to have to leave the shawl behind when I go south, but socks are the only practical possibility. In the days when my husband and I went to London three or four times a year, I produced a lot of socks. Not many of late.


I found this most unexpected sentence in “Castle Richmond” last night:

“There is a story current, that in the west of England the grandeur of middle-aged maiden ladies is measured by the length of the tail of their cats.”

I haven’t tried listening to Melvin Bragg on the Famine yet. I will. Lisa, thank you for the link. I agree with you and Shandy, that “In Our Time” is almost invariably interesting.

In my current reading, the Famine is going from bad to worse, both in “Castle Richmond” and in my sober history book. In 1846 the entire crop failed, and Peel’s government fell in London and was replaced by one perhaps less efficient. They continued to try, but less and less effectively.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

It has been sort of peaceful, a day without Wimbledon. According to a pundit I read, Gouff is not going to win her match tomorrow. 

I am in a state of paralysed anxiety about the trip south. Archie will be here tomorrow, and we will get some things done. Arrangements for the cats are complete. Helen is safely back from Greece – she has been teaching mosaic-making on Mt Pelion, and it went well. She will be driving down on Thursday & Friday with two of her boys. Archie will fly with me on Thursday.

I haven’t done any knitting today, but hope to shortly.

Mary Lou, I don’t know what I think of Melvin Bragg either, but I will try to find his broadcast about the Famine. I am getting on fine with Castle Richmond – I read it years ago, and remember some of the parts about the Famine but nothing of the plot. It is rather interesting, and rather like No Name. Which was first?

I have also read a bit further in my history book. The gov’t in London is making efforts, right away in ’45 when the crop first failed. Maybe they were misguided and ineffective efforts, but “genocide” is not the appropriate word to describe them, so far.  

I was mildly surprised to find that relief (at least at that early stage) was largely in the form of public works for which workers were paid. Instead of just doling out money, as nowadays. I think I sort of thought that Roosevelt invented that idea in the ‘30’s. Cornmeal was the substitute food, but people had to buy it. They didn't like it much. There were soup kitchens as well. A lot of this is in Trollope.

Presumably we get Andrew and Andrea this week. That should soothe the nerves a bit.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

A peaceful day. I watched Federer win in straight sets, and got a good deal of knitting done. I’ve finished the penultimate row of lace diamonds.

I had a good Italian lesson this morning, trying to tell my tutor about Coco Gauff’s match yesterday. I’m not strong on Italian tennis vocabulary (or on which past tense to use) – and my tutor isn’t particularly interested. She is too young even to remember Adriano Panatta. But the cicadas were making a terrific noise in the pine trees outside and she broke off to ask if I could hear them.

Shandy, thank you for the tip. I rushed off to Amazon and bought the Kindle edition of “The Great Hunger” (fortunately, very cheap). It turned out to be all poetic, if not actually all a poem, and I struggled for a couple of hours with the problem of how to tell you politely that that wasn’t what I wanted at all. Then I went back to your comment and read it again and went back to Amazon and found that the real “The Great Hunger” which you were referring to isn’t available in Kindle. I’ve ordered the paperback, which is also pretty cheap.

Meanwhile I’ve also bought the Kindle version of “The Great Irish Potato Famine” by James Donnelly which, so far, seems balanced. Some books (even in their Amazon summaries) accuse the government in London of genocide, and the word “holocaust” appears. I’m sure London made dreadful mistakes in the face of an utterly unprecedented situation, but I am also sure that it is wrong to use words which implicitly compare them to Hitler and his Final Solution.

We are all zero-ing in on this wedding. My sister and her husband are flying to London tomorrow (staying with James and Cathy in Sydenham). Their son Theo and his family are already there, in an Airb&b somewhere. I just have to pull myself together a bit before flying down on Thursday. Helen was last heard of on Mt. Pelion but will presumably touch down in Edinburgh soon.

Friday, July 05, 2019

There is very little to report to you today, beyond what you already know. I am recovering from what may well be the most exciting tennis match I have ever seen. Coco Gauff was losing. She lost the first set, and was 5-2 (I think) down in the second. But she won.

We have been slightly worried about the plans for the wedding day next Saturday, in that there is rather a gap between the ceremony and the food-and-speeches. But, hey! Perhaps all we’ll need is a television set. Which final do they play on the final Saturday?

I had the additional pleasure, earlier in the afternoon, of watching Mr Anderson (for whom, see yesterday) being defeated in straight sets by a lower-ranked player, a dashing Argentinian with an Italian name and a preposterously glamourous girlfriend.

So nothing much has been accomplished. My Personal Trainer was here, and I always feel the better for her visits. No knitting. A few more pages of Castle Richmond –- I strongly suspect you are right, Mary Lou, that a lot of the difference of the effect of potato blight, between Ireland and Scotland, is that far more people were involved in Ireland. Is there a good even-handed book on the subject? And on the Corn Laws and the Reform Bill? There were a lot of extremely interesting and important things going on in the 19th century about which I don’t know nearly enough.

And while I’m asking for information, can anyone help me with internet stalking? I am interested in Annie Modesitt’s recovery, but she doesn’t blog much these days – May 30 was the most recent post. I’ve been around for a while, took a class from her here in Edinburgh once (Gerry was there too); contributed when she was appealing for help with his treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

But she’s still active on-line, and often comments on Franklin’s almost daily Facebook posts (which for some reason are notified to me by email). I’m not very expert in Social Media (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/whatever). Annie’s page, or feed, or whatever the term might be, on one of those is clogged up with astrology. But if there’s any way of keeping in touch with her reports of how she is and what’s going on, I would be glad to hear of it.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Shandy, I couldn’t let you make such a sacrifice! I will feel much better once I am safely back from next week’s wedding, with no further travel in sight until next year’s cruise. (I hope to go to Strathardle in August, but that doesn’t count because I will have my dear cats with me. And also I know where I'm going.)

 I remember where I am in “North and South”, and what’s going on. I’ll go back to it. Meanwhile the potato famine is not without interest, although there is lots I don’t understand about land tenure. I think the potatoes failed in Scotland, too, but we fared better because we also ate oatmeal, but there may be more to it than that.

The lunch party was successful, and I am sure the cats will be fine. I then watched tennis for a while, although I have abandoned Nadal and Kyrgios to their own devices.

The Grinch who stole Wimbledon from me last year has been at work again. His name is Kevin Anderson. Last year he beat Federer in the quarter-final, meaning that Rachel and I couldn’t see Federer in the semi-final despite having Centre Court tickets. Then, on Centre Court, Anderson played the longest and most boring semi-final in Wimbledon history so that we couldn’t see Nadal and Djokovic either. (They’ve changed the rules: a match of that epic tedium is no longer possible.)

Yesterday he was on Court Two. The final match on that court was to be Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old American sensation. But Anderson’s match dragged on, and Court One was finished, so they put up the roof there and moved Gauff over –and wouldn’t let the Court Two spectators in.They had sat there all afternoon in vain, watching Anderson and looking forward to Gauff.

She won handily, in straight sets, I am glad to say.

I did a bit of knitting today but not much. Lunch left me very tired, although Archie did all the work.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Some knitting – I’m now half-way through the penultimate row of lace diamonds; still a long way to go, but I begin to feel that this central triangle, at least, will be finished in my lifetime.

And some tennis – although nothing I was very interested in. Coco Gauff has still not started. The Number 2 court, where her match is scheduled, is occupied by the same man who spoiled Wimbledon for me last year. I won’t rehearse that story again. You can look it up if you’re interested. And if she doesn’t play tonight, will my lunch party tomorrow prevent my watching her?


I know I must get back to North and South. But I felt today as if nothing could soothe except Trollope, and so I am re-reading Castle Richmond. It is set in Ireland during the Famine and, as I remember, not uninteresting on that score, although not very good otherwise.


My niece C. and I, you may remember, are going on a cruise to the upper left hand corner of Scotland next May. Only 10 months to go! (I’ve got to stay alive, and nimble enough to get up and down a short flight of stairs.) An unexpected pleasure of waiting is the joy of not buying clothes.

I will almost certainly indulge in a garment or two next March and April. But for now, I can browse the Toast catalogue, or enjoy reading, as in today’s Times, about the advantages of large, casual silk shirts, and it doesn’t cost me a penny.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

That was not too bad a day. I had my hair cut, early on, and will look tidy for the wedding. I did a supermarket sweep – a friend of a friend is going to look after my dear cats while I am away. He has a cat of his own, named Hamish. He is coming to lunch on Thursday, along with the connecting link, so to speak.

I’m going for Gennaro’s Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary and Chilli (and white wine), from the Jamie Oliver Youtube Channel. With a green salad from the doorstep.

Then I spent a happy afternoon watching Wimbledon. Federer lost his first set, which created a frisson of excitement. I gave up on Serena, who came next. She seemed to have everything under control. Unlike Federer (a fellow oldie), however, she looked as if she was carrying some extra weight and not moving with absolute fluency.

Last year I was on my Hebridean cruise during the first week of Wimbledon, and missed it all. One really needs it, like the first chapters of a novel.

The schoolgirl’s triumph over Venus yesterday was an excellent match. She looks as if she should be with us for a while, except that the promising young ones so often don't stay the course. Two such young men crashed out in the first round yesterday (Zverev and Tsitsipas, seeded 6 and 7, in the Greek God category, both). 

And I got quite a bit of knitting done while the tennis was burbling on. The secret is to stop knitting whenever there are 30 points against the server.

Cat sent me this interesting link to the Shetland Lace Project, for the sake of the red-and-white “burnous”, but there are other interesting articles there as well. I particularly enjoyed the one by Carol Christiansen called “What’s In a Name?”, about the difficulties of giving names to the lace pieces in the Shetland Museum Collection. She doesn’t want to assign names – she wants to discover what the original knitters would have called the patterns.

Mary Thomas says, in her famous “Knitting Book”, that there are only ten truly native Shetland lace patterns. I believed her for quite a while. I now know that lace knitters were/are fully as adventurous as Fair Isle ones at adapting and expanding the boundaries of the craft, and that "truly native" is a meaningless classification.

The new VK is here. Nothing really stirring, although there are some things I will go back to and consider again. I’m sorry to hear that Trisha Malcolm is demitting office. She has been an excellent editor. Does anyone know who is to succeed her? I don’t suppose the name will mean anything to me, anyway.

Monday, July 01, 2019

I’ve had a busy afternoon watching Wimbledon. The match I am interested in (mentioned yesterday) hasn’t come on yet. It will be on the No. 1 court, and presumably the BBC will show it. Although one never knows. There’s an Englishman on Centre Court at the moment (doing badly) and he may command all the attention.

I didn’t get much knitting done today. One row.

What I did do, however, was to dig out Kirsty Miles’ Christening shawl. She is James and Cathy’s younger daughter, and I thought I might take it to her when I go down next week, in case she ever gets married and wants to wear it on the day. It has yellowed quite a bit, in 20 years, but no moth. It is an Amedro pattern, I think. I am rather impressed with it.

It was the first of my Calcutta Cup knits. I can recognise the cup and the year “2000” easily enough, but I can’t exactly find my initials and Kirsty’s which are also supposed to be there.

On the question of that red stripe on my current project: I’m getting cold feet. Anonymous, there is no bride. I have three unmarried granddaughters and my vague thought is that I am knitting this one for all three of them. Or two, if Kirsty does go for the old shawl. There are also six bachelor grandsons. Lots of potential weddings.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Wimbledon tomorrow! A remarkably beautiful American girl, at 14 I believe the youngest ever to have played in the tournament, is drawn against Venus Williams (who isn’t even seeded). Like you, Mary Lou, and like Perdita, I am an elder sister, so I’m for Venus. Surely the match will be on television.

I am back in the saddle, knitting-wise. I think I may even have done seven rows today. Maureen, thank you for the offer of your red yarn. I had meant to write to you before now, ever since I discovered, wandering around Ravelry one evening, that you had knit the Spring Shawl. I had thought of you only in the context of Fair Isle.

(Maureen has knit the Museum Sweater – the one in which not only are the rows of OXO roundels different one from another – that’s not at all uncommon – but in which all of the roundels are different from each other. Which would mean that you couldn’t get a rhythm going. I used the roundels from that sweater for Alexander’s recent Calcutta Cup vest – very successfully, if I do say so. But in my case, all the roundels in each row are the same as each other.)

Maureen: you need to knit the Princess. It is the one mountain left to climb.

And thank you for the offer. I must now write to Sharon Miller and ask her (a) what she thinks about the idea of introducing a red stripe and (b) what she thinks about the possibility of her red yarns bleeding. I am tempted by “cashsilk”, despite your offer, Maureen. I’m too tired to write tonight. Maybe tomorrow morning.


Mary Lou, I have read Athill’s “Somewhere Towards the End”, but I missed the line you quote. It’s very good. We can all rejoice in having that good luck.

Once when I was small I observed someone operating a sewing machine, and said, “My mother can do that”. Which was a lie. And then added, “She can pie-tie-ter too” (she was a writer).

Food: my stir-fry last night was tasty, but the mange-tout peas were the least successful element. Too crunchy. I’ll try your recipe next time, Hat (comment yesterday). We had a terrific downpour of rain yesterday evening, and the peas loved it and are almost ready to pick again. Shandy, my courgettes are looking very happy, but there are no flowers yet.