Monday, June 24, 2019


I had a good time on the retreat – nice place, good weather. Here we are, just before departure yesterday:



We were a pleasant and very interesting group. I am on the left of the sitting-down-ers. The other oldie was older than I am, spry-er I think, very nimble-witted. Rather encouraging. The other knitter is in the back row, 6th from the left if you count everybody, or third from the left if you count the back row of standees only. My niece is on the far right, but the picture looks nothing like her.

I got three rows done on the Spring Shawl while we were there. Another day of normal knitting will surely finish the first ball of yarn. Then I'll update the sidebar.

The retreat was based on literature. I can very enthusiastically recommend Kipling’s short story, “The Gardener”. I have also read Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” – distinctly gritty; and have made a start on Francois Mauriac’s “Nest of Vipers”. I don’t know whether I’ll persevere. All three authors were new to me although I had heard of them of course. The Kindle app on one's iPad makes instant access possible.

On Saturday morning, there we were on the edge of beyond, no newspapers, no access to television. Fr John began our session with a reference to Boris Johnson’s latest troubles, and everybody in the room knew what he was talking about.

The friend who was feeding the cats has clearly had a word with Perdita, who today re-joined the household. She still growls at Paradox, but there is nothing like the shouted obscenities we had when I got back from Shetland. That was when Perdita withdrew to her own quarters. That same friend is going to take me to see Helen's new house on Wednesday.

Today I haven’t knit at all, nor even watched Pointless.

Yesterday was Rachel’s 61st birthday – the first day of the rest of my life.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


I’m sorry about the silence – Helen and her youngest son Fergus were here last night, on the very cusp of moving to Joppa. If all has gone well, they will sleep there tonight. And I won’t be here for the next two days either – I’m going to somewhere near Hawick for a religious retreat. My niece C. will be driving (and therefore responsible for finding the way). All I have to do is pack a change of underwear and my knitting.

The trouble is, once this weekend is out of the way, the next Event is Joe and Becca’s wedding. Happy as the occasion will be, I’m not entirely looking forward to the journey south. But, hey! if Archie and I can handle Naples, Southampton should be easy-peasy.

My ancient car passed its annual fitness test this week. This morning I paid its annual tax – the Great Computer in the Sky knows whether a car is insured and whether it has passed its test. It won’t accept the tax otherwise. Then I tried to renew my Edinburgh Resident’s Parking Permit, essential to life. They have a new website. After an hour’s struggle I was in despair.

A dear friend came around at lunchtime – she is going to feed the cats while I am away. I needed to introduce her to the new arrangements. She is vastly competent in most areas of life. She took the City of Edinburgh website by the scruff of its neck and by late afternoon they had approved my application for a new permit, although they claimed they would need a week to think about it. So that is one major thing less to worry about.

I did four rows of Spring Shawl today, and a bit more Calcutta Cup scarf. Jamieson & Smith cobweb lace yarn is wound around a cardboard cylinder – this first one is showing through at multiple points by now, and won’t last many more days. And I got down on my knees with the tape measure – the scarf is now 4’8”. I want another foot or so. The final flourish at the end – the wearer’s initials and the final ribbing – will add another six inches.

Reading

I finished Kate Atkinson’s “Big Sky” in a gulp. It’s far from Jackson Brodie at his best, but needless to say very readable. Now I’m back with “North and South”, and missing Trollope. If you can give up on “The Three Clerks”, Shandy, can I give up on “North and South”? For the moment I’m forging on.

In lieu of knitting to show you, here are the pea plants on my doorstep – in flower! They’re mange tout, so I should be eating them soon.



Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Rory Stewart scraped through today’s vote of Conservative MP’s and will therefore be involved in tonight’s televised debate. So I will have to leave you soon. 

I did five rows of Spring Shawl today – and mustn’t forget that fact.  I try always to stop after an even number, with a right-side row to follow. Today, on the fourth row I did, I made a mistake on the first two (of nine) motifs, putting the YO’s on the wrong side of the K2tog’s. It was easily corrected, but it was just as well, I thought,  to correct it at once while I remembered what was up. Hence five rows.

There’s a new Knitty out, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Reading

I’m getting on well with “North and South”, but succumbed to Jackson Brodie today. I don’t think it’s as good as its predecessors. It’s one of those books where a lot of different characters and different threads are introduced – the whole first third of the book – and then they begin to weave themselves together. This time, it’s all a bit confusing. The writing sparkles as ever.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A good day’s knitting. I did six rows of the Spring Shawl – I won’t be able to keep up that pace much longer, because of the increasing length of the row. I’ve finished the fourth rank (of seven) of lace diamonds. I also did a bit more Calcutta Cup scarf during Pointless. It’s time to get down on my knees with that scarf and a tape measure again.

There will be a ballot in parliament tomorrow to whittle down the list of potential future prime ministers a bit further. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Rory Stewart.

Kimchi

Peggy, thank you for your comment. Mooli/daikon seems fairly mild and tasteless to me (and it has to be ordered in expensively): I thought ordinary radishes would do as well, if one really wanted radish. This morning I rearranged yesterday’s kimchi into smaller jars, in the hopes of getting some fizz – and was rewarded with some, today at lunchtime. And there are plenty of bubbles, in all three jars.

It is interesting, and a bit disconcerting, to discover how rapidly and enthusiastically fermentation (=rotting?) begins, in a mixture of uncooked vegetables, spices, and rice-flour porridge. No “starter”.

Reading

We’re about to have a new Jason Brodie from Kate Atkinson. I have ordered it.

I wish I had had you to teach me “Silas Marner”, Shandy. I don’t think you will tempt me back to it – life is too short. But you make it sound plausible and interesting. Have you read Trollope’s “The Three Clerks”? We were drawn to it by an article about Trollope in the New Yorker. As I remember, it’s routine (=excellent) Trollope up until the final chapter when it becomes fairy tale – the ailing heroine gets better after all, the impoverished hero suddenly has enough to get married on, and more.

Mary Lou, yes, we read the Palliser novels at bedtime (you can get through a lot  in 60 years). I think I’ve enjoyed Trollope more since then, reading individual titles at random. I wouldn’t mind trying the Pallisers again. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019


I have been watching political television today – both the Andrew Mar show in the morning, which I record on Sundays such as this one when I go to Mass; and the debate this evening, at least some of it. How fortunate we are (as someone said here recently) that the Prime Minister is not Head of State. I think there are many who disapprove of the Royals without quite appreciating that point.

I got another batch of kimchi made. The great thing about kimchi, I decided, is that one feels, while chopping and blending and brining and making rice-flour porridge – one feels, on the basis of sixty years in the kitchen, that the next step is going to be cooking. And it isn’t. One just crams the stuff into jars and leaves God to do the cooking (=fermenting).


(The one on the right is last week's batch. As you can perhaps see, the new jars aren't quite as full, and probably won't hiss in that exciting way.)

Political television is good for knitting, because you don’t really have to look at it very much. I did another six rows of Spring Shawl, and that’s quite a lot at the present stitch count. I have reached the fourth rank of lace diamonds – there are to be seven in all. That’s not as good as it sounds, because of the ever-widening triangle, but it’s better than nothing. And I think the first ball of yarn is beginning to look a bit poorly.

Reading

The Forsyth Saga is not a bad idea, Mary Lou. I’ve never read it.

Shandy, I can’t believe that the Pickwick Papers (never read them) and Hard Times (not sure) could be as bad as Silas Marner, which is what we had to read at Asbury Park High School in New Jersey. I’ve probably said this before: once I grew up and read Middlemarch (and Adam Bede) and recognised Eliot as probably the greatest of 19th century English novelists, I tried Silas Marner again, for bedtime reading. And found it every bit as boring as I remembered.

Meanwhile I’m getting on fine with North and South, and remain convinced that I’ve never been here before. What an exciting moment it must have been, the Industrial Revolution, the harnessing of science to do the work men had been doing since the dawn of civilisation.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


I was perhaps a bit stronger today, but nothing has been accomplished beyond a good Italian lesson and a trip to Waitrose to get the ingredients for another batch of kimchi. I’ll make it tomorrow, I hope.

Laura (comment yesterday) – do try it. Start, perhaps, with Brad Leone’s YouTube post. (He laboriously salts his cabbage leaf by leaf, but then cuts it up later.) Omit the oyster.

There are a couple of ingredients which aren’t entirely easy to get, but here in the UK they’re easily found on-line: a Korean chilli powder called Gochugaru; Korean fermented shrimp paste; rice flour for the porridge. I also ordered an oriental radish called mooli or daikon, but I think that is unnecessary. Use ordinary radishes. And the rice-flour porridge could be omitted, too.

I haven’t done any knitting at all, nor have I advanced life in any of the several respects in which it needs to be advanced. Maybe tomorrow.

Kate Davies, as I’m happy to report and as you probably all know, has been posting in fairly vigorous mode lately, both in propria persona and lending the space to a new member of the team who is also a new knitter. Kate is producing a batch of patterns for adventurous new knitters and the latest one, the Upstream pullover – another yoke sweater – is a gem.

Reading

I’m making some progress with “North and South”. I have, before now, re-read books, sometimes accidentally, but always with the feeling that I’ve been here before. I continue to have no such feeling with this one. I’m pretty sure by now that’s it’s new to me.

Mary Lou, Tamar, I’ve never entirely got together with Dickens. We had him as bedtime reading several times. I’ve never read him by myself for pleasure, and doubt if I ever will.

Non-knit, non-book

Weavinfool, that is a good point about hydration. My Personal Trainer keeps emphasising it. I don’t suppose cider entirely counts. Thank you.

Friday, June 14, 2019


I felt very weak today. Alexander came to see me, and I managed to totter once around the Garden with him (0.2 of a mile) – better than nothing.

The kimchi is certainly quieter, although there are still bubbles. I hope to get to Waitrose tomorrow, after my Italian lesson, to buy another Napa cabbage and start another batch.

Knitting went well – another six rows of Spring Shawl, another half-repeat of the Calcutta Cup scarf pattern. There’s a sad post on the Ravelry projects page, for the shawl, from someone who knit it for her wedding and was disappointed when she finished, because she could have pushed herself harder and knit the Princess.

This one is certainly easier in all three elements – edging, triangle, and borders. Also smaller. With all the stress attendant upon a wedding I think this was probably the wiser choice.

My cats are as before. Perdita refuses to leave her quarters. Paradox has always been jealous of her, and now suspects that she’s getting better food and a superior litter box so she comes in and helps herself and they fight.

I've started "North and South". I wonder, after all, if I have read it. It seems completely new and strange, Maybe I'm thinking of "Cranford".

Now I’ll go do my Italian homework.

Thursday, June 13, 2019


So exciting: I was sitting peacefully in the kitchen last night, after I wrote to you, with the jar of kimchi in front of me – when suddenly it made a hissing noise and spewed forth a spoonful or two of brine. It is in a jar I got at Lakeland, with vents in the lid for just such an eventuality. But that was the first time I had seen it in action.

It has happened a couple of times since, but I think it is getting quieter now. Sarah, thank you (comment yesterday) – I enjoyed Maangchi, and was glad to see that she chopped her cabbage. I still wonder what the arguments are, one way and another.

The brine my kimchi spewed forth tastes a bit on the salty side. One rinses the cabbage thoroughly after it has wilted for a couple of hours under salt – but one later adds fish sauce (nam pla) and fermented shrimp paste (that requires a bit of searching-for) to the spicy mixture, and both are salty. I’ll hold back a bit next time.

Mary Lou (comment Tuesday): any recipe for spinach soup should serve for sorrel. Lucky you, to have an abundance of it! Start with a soffritto (as we say in Italian) of onion and carrot and, when softened, add a chopped up potato or two to make up for the cream you are not going to add. Then when that is soft, the sorrel and some stock and a relatively brief cooking time. You could add yoghurt or low-fat crème fraiche at the end if you like. Blend.

But we’re meant to be here for knitting, not cookery. I had a very quiet day. The Spring Shawl advanced four rows, I think – they’re getting longer and longer. And the Calcutta Cup scarf at least by one further cable twist.

Non-knit, non-cookery

I am following the struggle for a new Prime Minister with interest. My man would be Rory Stewart, who has at least survived the first ballot. I get an email from the New Yorker every day with articles sometimes from the upcoming issue, sometimes extra. Today there was an interview with Stewart, so the New Yorker must like him too.

Shandy, I think I once knew that the editor of the Express appears as himself in “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” but am glad to be reminded – and even gladder to hear that your husband remembers the film. I wonder how it will look, when I see it again next week.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


OK, I guess. The television is back on track. Archie came today, so in preparation for his visit I had a look this morning. BBC One was still an hour behind ((I think – I’m not used to morning television). I tried the other channels, and they seemed to be all right. So I went back to One, and then it seemed all right as well. I may be completely wrong here, but I’ll try that technique the next time the television tries that trick. At any rate, I got to watch Pointless at the right time this evening. We had a question about famous vegetarians – and Hitler wasn’t even among the answers.

I read somewhere that the Queen enjoys Pointless.

As a sort of relaxation after “No Name” and before “North and South”, I’ve been reading  David Sedaris’ “Calypso”. It’s good. I’ve long loved him, as doled out from time to time by the New Yorker. I read one of his earlier books, and found that too much Sedaris at once wasn’t a good idea. This one works better –it’s about middle age and family and death. The sombre note holds it together.

Kimchi: it’s quiet, but there are a promising number of bubbles pressed against the glass. I would expect the next 2-3 days to be the most active. That rice flour sludge is said to promote fermentation. I’ve found a YouTube video by an actual Korean who cuts the cabbage up the way I do, at the beginning. Now that I’ve ordered in all these expensive ingredients, I might as well make another batch soon.

And as for knitting, the Calcutta Cup scarf was advanced during Pointless. Both Archie and my Personal Trainer were here this morning and much was achieved in various directions, but not knitting.

Recently, Archie recommended a film called “Contagion” which I watched much of on Netflix and enjoyed,  but I thought it petered out towards the end. It put me in mind of my favourite disaster movie of all time, “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” from 1961. I saw it by myself  at the Hillhead Salon – my husband stayed at home with the babies. It was a memorable evening. I googled it today and bugger me! as they say,  if it’s not going to be on television next Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


My (cable) television is still out of sync with Real Time – is that because I watched something on Netflix yesterday? 5:15 is just right for Pointless – dividing the afternoon from my (brief and unproductive) evening. 6:15, which is what it amounts to in Real Time at the moment, is not so good.

Therefore no Calcutta Cup knitting, although I had a good session, earlier on, with the Spring Shawl this morning.

I spent a happy afternoon making kimchi, for the first time in a while. It’s pretty easy. Three elements: (a) brined Napa cabbage (b) seasoned gloop (c) chopped veggies. There is a good deal of leeway in each.

This time, unlike last year, I have added an optional glue of rice flour and water to the seasoned gloop. Brad Leone puts it in his kimchi.

Do any of you make kimchi? I can’t now remember what recipe I started from, but it had me chopping the cabbage into bite-sized pieces (fairly large) before brining. A Real Korean divides the cabbage into four, still attached to the root, and salts the leaves one by one. And then, after brining, and rinsing, proceeds in the same way, smearing the gloop over the leaves one by one and then folding the whole thing and putting it into the fermentation jar.

That looks like an awful lot of fuss. Chopping in advance seems so much easier. Where can I turn for advice?

Andrew and Andrea today – I tend to forget, which makes their every-second-Tuesday appearances all the more welcome. John and Juliet Arbon were today’s principal interview – all the more interesting for me, because I had so recently visited the Jamieson spinnery on Shetland. What wonderful yarn! How little time! to knit it all.

I finished “No Name” today. (Spoiler alert: everybody lives happily ever after.) I’m glad I persevered. It feels much earlier than all of Trollope. Is that true? There’s lots I don’t know and would like to learn about the 19th century.

Monday, June 10, 2019


It’s one of those odd days when the television flowing in is an hour behind the real world. So, no Pointless, for now.

We’ve just heard that the well-off elderly are going to have to pay for their television licences from next year. Do I want to go on?

However, these matters aside, there is really nothing to tell you today. Archie and I got Perdita to her medical advisor this morning. Looking at her, he wasn’t at all sure that he would be able to shave off her matted fur without an anaesthetic, but she behaved impeccably. She was less agreeable about the subsequent vaccination. Since our return, she has seemed livelier. A visit to the doctor often has that effect.

But I was totally beaten. I like to do the Spring Shawl early in the day, while the mind is functioning. There was no chance of that today – and so far this evening, due to the eccentricities of cable television, no Pointless and therefore no Calcutta Cup scarf.

Non-knit

I, too, have vivid memories of Mesopotamia from my primary education. Is it something about the way they do it in the USA? I must ask some people here.

I’m nearly finished with “No Name”. I’m glad I persevered, but Collins isn’t as good at people as Trollope is. I still think Miss Mackenzie made the right choice, Shandy, and will be reasonably happy (which is all you can ask for, in life). At least she and her husband both know that the mother-in-law must be resisted.

FuguesStateKnits, I’m sure you’re right about marriage. There was one of those New Yorker cartoons once, man to bartender, slumped over his drink: “The trouble is, either you’re married or you’re not”. And, your comment yesterday, I have always been told that when a baby objects to being baptised, that is because the devil is objecting to being driven out, and is a good sign. You don’t say how your reader got on with the Medes and the Elemites. It’s interesting that so many of us are fond of Pentecost.

Sunday, June 09, 2019


Another quiet day. I moved successfully forward with the Spring Shawl, keeping track of progress on two separate charts. Enlargement helps a lot, and if I make too much of a mess with my keep-track markings, I can print another copy.

No Calcutta Cup scarf – I don’t like Pointless Celebrities, Helen (comment yesterday). Famous people are too full of themselves.

Non-knit

Today is Pentecost, a favourite holiday. I love that list of the people in Jerusalem who heard the apostles speaking each in his own language – Medes and Elemites, the parts of Libya around Cyrene. Like the old woman who told her priest what comfort she derived from that blessed word Mesopotamia. Every year I approach the moment in a state of nervous excitement – some readers obviously have never seen the list before and stumble through it in panic. Today’s man was pretty good, although I would have preferred a soft “g” in “Phrygia”. (I don’t know why I should assume that my pronunciation is right in all cases.)

Perdita is going to see her primary care physician tomorrow. She won't enjoy it, but at least can't worry in advance. I shall have a sleepless night.

Books

I am delighted at your mother’s idea Tamar, of reading an entire book backwards. My beloved “Gattopardo” would be very good that way, first the chapter about the prince’s elderly, spinster daughters; then his own death; then…

My husband and I always read aloud at bedtime (or rather, I read to him). When we went to London, we didn’t take our book along. Our daughter Rachel was trained as a librarian (although life has taken her far from that career) – her books were all in order by author, and within authors, by title.

We started at the beginning, and read a random chapter in each book. I think the rule was that if there were multiple titles by the same author (a) we were free to choose any one of them and (b) one was enough; we could then go on to the next author.

It was remarkably interesting. The last note I can find in my Filofax, dated 26 September, 2011 (which seems about right), is “Garnett done, Gaskell next”.

Saturday, June 08, 2019


Another quiet day. I sat down here just now and typed those words and they appeared in the Greek alphabet. My cats know a lot of good keystrokes. Fortunately a restart has put things right without my having to figure out what to do.

I’m four rows forrad’er with the Spring Shawl, and have finished the chart on Page 4. But I must now go on and on, Groundhog Day fashion, devising the chart for myself. As I have mentioned, the simple mesh pattern on the sides marches to a different drum from the small motifs in the centre. The mesh is perfectly simple, over eight rows, four of which are no-action returns. But so far I haven’t begun to learn the sequence of the slight differences in the other four, nor has EZ’s useful maxim “Look at your knitting” proved of any use.

So I will have to keep separate track of where I am, mesh-wise and centre-wise.

No Calcutta Cup knitting. There’s no Pointless, weekends.

Books

Thanks for comments. Beverly, you tempt me (to give up on No Name) – but so far I haven’t done it. Obsessive fine lace knitting is cutting into reading time. My mother wrote a few thrillers in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s – she often read the last chapter first, when she was reading other people’s thrillers, so that she could watch the way clues were introduced as she read the book from the beginning. But it feels to me like cheating, and my husband wouldn’t have approved. We’ll see.

Shandy, I think Miss Mackenzie made the right choice – and she’s got her work cut out for her, with all those children. I thought the lack of passion was rather touching. I don’t think my husband and I knew much of anything about each other when we got married – although I don’t mean by that to suggest that that was a very good idea.

Friday, June 07, 2019


On I go. Here is a progress report on the Spring Shawl:


(I can hear everybody thinking, that’s about what it looked like last time.) But in fact, I am trotting briskly forward. I won’t count it as “progress” until there is some slight sign of diminution in the amount of yarn remaining on the first ball. So far that hasn’t happened.
 Archie came today. I meant to send him up Broughton Street to the bank to pay in some cheques, and next door to Tesco for some cider. He pressed me to come with him, and so I did, so I’ve had a good workout today. And am appropriately weary – but there’s Italian homework to do. Every week I resolve not to leave it for Friday evening. Every week I fail.
 I am enjoying the fact that the Spring Shawl begins with this central triangle – something that seems to go fast at first; something to spread out on one’s knee. The Princess began with a difficult edging lace. It took me fully 50 repeats to memorise it. Current progress has me feeling that perhaps, after all, I will live to finish it.
 I am knitting this for future family brides, in a vague sort of way. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to look out the Christening shawl I knit for James and Cathy’s younger daughter Kirsty. She was born in 2000. That shawl was the first of my Calcutta Cup knits – 2000 was a Famous Victory. But never mind that. It’s an Amedro pattern, I’ve forgotten which one, and nobody knows where it is except me. It’s perfectly usable for a wedding.
I could take it down to England and give it to her in July, when I go down for her cousin Joe’s wedding. Only drawback is – when I get it out and have a look, will I feel that it requires re-blocking? Probably so.
 And how on earth am I to block the Spring Shawl, if I do in fact finish it? Cross that bridge when we come to it.

Books

I've finished Trollope's "The Way We Live Now" which is rather depressing. I've gone back to "No Name" and wonder whether I will have the strength to persevere -- or why not go straight on to "North and South"? I'll let you know the result of this moral dilemma.

Thursday, June 06, 2019


Again, I have very little to report. My trainer came today, so at least I have had a physical work-out (in an old-lady-ish sort of way) and feel the better for it. The Spring Shawl advances nicely, and I think I’m getting better at setting the new motifs in place as they occur. One of you has taken my enlargement problem in hand, and I am very grateful for it.

And, as usual, I at least finished a 12-row pattern repeat on the Calcutta Cup scarf during Pointless.

Non-knit

It is fascinating to hear, rheather (comment yesterday) that your parents sailed on White Rock lake. I think my mother’s younger brother did, too. He and his wife built a house on part of my grandparents’ plot – the part most distant from the lake. The last time I was there, I stayed with them. My grandparents were then very old and weak – that would have been in 1961.  I like your image of the world being folded so that odd bits touch!

So the President’s state visit has ended without disaster, and without even as much street protest as might have been expected. William and Kate seemed to me to be conspicuous in their absence, but Prince Charles did his bit heroically.

The cats are as ever. The layout of the house more or less ordains that Paradox gets fed first – cat-feeding is the first job I do in the morning. Perdita hears me moving about and sits calmly in her doorway waiting.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019


The student show was hard work – art is hard work. But at least it counts as an outing, I guess. Alexander had been to the Glasgow student show the day before – he liked ours a bit better. I was (am) afraid that my feebleness prevented him and Helen from bounding about through the whole building and perhaps discovering a small treasure. I am very feeble. But we covered the ground and first floor, and went next door to see textiles. There was some interesting machine knitting there.

Mary Lou, thank you very much for your tip – to enlarge the Spring Shawl pattern on the computer and then print it. I only need a relatively small bit. I haven’t tried yet – will I be able to enlarge it? Today’s knitting went well – another six or eight rows and all the stitches added up. I’ll soon be finished with the part which is completely charted.

I’ve also progressed a bit with the Calcutta Cup scarf – the new skein (the yarn is called Croft) wound and joined in.

Non-knit

It was encouraging to learn how many old boys were still about (and on their feet, and compos mentis) for the D-Day anniversary celebrations today.

My mother’s parents had a house on White Rock Lake, just outside of Dallas. I think they bought the plot and planned the house themselves. It was a large plot, virtually a smallholding. They had a cow, and chickens, and a large vegetable garden and a black couple, John and Mary, to look after things. How pleased I was, in childhood, to discover that John was really Mr Macgregor, just like in Peter Rabbit!

We visited there often. It is an almost-paradise, in memory.

The lake was big enough to sail on, but – surely – not so big that you couldn’t see to the far side. Today in the (London) Times it says that the murdered body of a glamorous transsexual has been found floating there. Tempora mutantur..

Tuesday, June 04, 2019


I’ve done a good days’s knitting, but I’ve been pretty immobile. I should force myself out the door, even when feeling lame. My left hip sometimes gives trouble, and then, for weeks, it doesn’t. It’s bad at the moment.

Tomorrow Greek Helen and Alexander and I are going to the Edinburgh College of Art degree show. That’s always fun. And it will force me to move. I’ll take along the Gallery Goer’s Shooting Stick I gave my husband as his mobility dwindled, although I don’t think he ever used it. It’s a very light-weight stick which translates into a three-legged stool when required. I found it very useful at the EYF.

I’ve done six or eight more rows of the Spring Shawl, and am about to begin the second rank of Lace Diamonds. There are seven ranks of them in all, in this central triangle. I’m still having a bit of trouble with the intervals between motifs. Perhaps I’ll see if my printer can enlarge the pattern. For the Princess, Sharon sent out a printed pattern. This time, it’s only a .pdf.

And I’ve finished the current skein of whatever-it’s-called for the Calcutta Cup scarf. It feels very long and heavy, but measures only four feet so far. I want six, at least.

Monday, June 03, 2019


A better day, although I was very weak.

Archie was here, and we made an appt, at his insistence, for Perdita to see her medical adviser next week. She is due for another expensive and unnecessary injection of some sort, and she also has quite a bit of matted fur along her spine. Because of stoutness?

It is interesting to hear how many of you (like me) have disagreeable cats whom they love dearly. If one met my two, cold turkey, one would assume that Perdita had had a Difficult Childhood. But in fact both cats had the same furry mother and the same human family, and came directly from there to Drummond Place at 7 weeks. They presumably had different fathers, although on that point you would have to consult their mother Esther. I suspect Perdita of wildcat blood, because of her short tail and climbing habits and disagreeable nature – but I learned recently that lots of people think their cats are descended from wildcats.

Perdita keeps to her room. She has a disconcerting way, when I come in, of looking past me as if she had seen Banquo’s ghost. But that is because she dreads to see Paradox, who is all too likely to be at my heels. When they meet, the language is very strong.

Knitting

The Spring Shawl progresses well. I don’t think the initial motifs are lined up quite correctly with those above – my old eyes are standing up to this pretty well, but counting a long row of empty squares is very difficult. But I don’t think, if I ever finish this and a bride ever wears it, that any of the wedding guests will leap up and demand their money back.



I think perhaps I’ll take it along on my retreat. It’s light and portable and very meditative.

I am soon to wind a new skein for the Calcutta Cup scarf. I think it’s time to get the tape measure out. It’s long and heavy, but I think not nearly long enough for the scarf I have in mind.

Wedding

SouthernGal, the wedding planners have been generous with instructions, but as most guests will be coming from London – either because they live there, or because they have arrived there from elsewhere – not much has been directly relevant, and what there has been, has been confusing. Rachel emailed today to say that she and her husband will be on the island, with a car, from mid-afternoon on the day Archie and I are flying to Southampton. They can pick us up in Cowes. East Cowes, presumably. This is very encouraging, and details can be straightened out. And in these days of the mobile telephone, we can keep in touch with where each other is/are.

Sunday, June 02, 2019


Again, I have very little to report. A few more rows have been added to the Spring Shawl.

My next adventure will be a 48-hour religious retreat in the Borders at midsummer. My niece C. (my husband’s sister’s daughter) will drive us there. We had a meeting this morning in which the pleasant Dominican priest who will be in charge of us, assured us that we didn’t need to turn up for any of the religious bits. It all sounds rather pleasant, and doesn’t afford anything to worry about (since Archie will be here for the cats).

Today would have been my husband’s sister’s 88th birthday, had she lived so long. On her 21st, she went to London and spent the night on the pavement in order to see the Queen drive by on her Coronation day.

I am left with no option but to worry about the next-adventure-but-one, the wedding on the Isle of Wight in mid-July. Archie and I are booked to fly to Southampton two days before. Neither of us has the faintest idea what to do next. We have taken advice, and everybody differs from everybody.

I mentioned the subject during my Italian lesson on Saturday, and my tutor discovered via Google Maps, what had eluded me so far, that there is a north-south fissure down the middle of the Isle of Wight, without much evidence of a bridge. So it will be as well to ensure that when we board  a ferry (there are plenty) from the mainland, we are aiming at the desired side of the fissure.

I think it might be just as well to see if we can get a taxi from that point, however far.

My Italian homework for this week is to write an account of my prospective journey, employing the future tense as often as possible.

Saturday, June 01, 2019


I have very little to report. The Spring Shawl is a few rows forrad’er – the rows are longer now; progress is seemingly slower. The effect remains like having a box of chocolates in the house. The attraction lies somewhere in the way each row makes its unique contribution, however slight the progress. Another picture soon.

Perdita seems a bit less subdued today, but continues to confine herself to quarters. She is trying to sit on my computer keyboard, and taking it amiss when I try to suggest otherwise. She is a very disagreeable cat. That’s why I love her.

Inspector Montalbano is back on British television tonight. I doubt if I’ll be able to knit lace while watching him.

Friday, May 31, 2019


I’ve had a good day with the Spring Shawl, and have advanced from Page Three to Page Four of the pattern. That’s exciting. The patterns in the centre of the triangle are beginning to develop – not difficult; anyone can manage k2tog, YO. But confusing, because now the action is on every row, and the centre-triangle patterns don’t relate to the border mesh.

Sharon says that there was no point in charting the whole of the triangle because it is obvious how it works, once you get started. I can imagine having to chart it for myself.

I am puzzled – although I ought to be able to work it out – as to how the increases work. On the Dathan hap – you can see it behind me in yesteday’s picture – the increases stay where I put them. You can see the attractive spine they make down the centre of the hap. On the Spring Shawl, every row begins with an increase and somehow or other the new stitches are passed from hand-to-hand and wind up in the centre while the wide mesh edges remain the same size.

I’ve done a bit more Calcutta Cup scarf, too.

Comments

Thank you for your help with my literary puzzle. JennyS, I made a start on your suggestion – searching for “A Mister Wilkinson, a clergyman” in quotes. I didn’t find the two sources you mention, but I did find references, at least, to an American book about literary criticism and to something by Emerson, although I didn’t persevere to the point of finding the actual quotation in those sources. Their existence, however, half-answers my question as to how my mother got to hear of it.

I rather fancy the idea of all those bearded literary men trying to invent the most boring possible line of blank verse, and then somehow attributing it to Wordsworth.

Cats

No change. Perdita keeps entirely to her room. The door is open. She is free to move about, and Paradox is free to come in, although both Perdita and I try to discourage that. I don’t suppose counselling is available for cats.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


Here’s my puzzle:

Many years ago, my mother taught me the line “A Mister Wilkinson, a clergyman” as a way to remember the rhythm of blank verse, iambic pentametre.

While I was in Lerwick, feeling feeble, I temporarily abandoned “No Name” and read Trollope’s “Miss Mackenzie” which I happened to have in my iPad. (It’s terrific, by the way.) And in it, whom should I encounter but a Mr Wilkinson, a clergyman, in those words precisely.

He is an utterly minor character, present at a dinner party with his wife, contributing no conversation, swept off stage on the next page, never to reappear.

I googled the line. I found it in that great compendium at books.google.co, in very small indeed almost unreadable print, in a letter from Edward Fitzgerald (of Omar Khayyam fame) to Hallam Tennyson, son of the poet laureate, in which Fitzgerald says that Tennyson pere had claimed authorship of the line which was in fact his. Wordsworth comes in here somewhere – I think they’re laughing at him.

But there are no details. When did Tennyson claim the line? Where did Fitzgerald publish it?  His  translation of the Rubaiyat is in iambic pentametre (“The moving finger writes, and having writ…”) but without looking it up, I’m pretty sure that Mr Wilkinson doesn’t appear. And, perhaps most curious of all, how was the line transmitted to the 20th century? Where did my mother learn it?

“Miss Mackenzie” is very close in date (early 1860’s) to the letter from Fitzgerald to Tennyson fils. I feel pretty sure that Mr Wilkinson is an in-joke amongst those bearded Victorian writers. (“Did you hear that Tony Trollope has got Mr Wilkinson into his new book?”) But there are more questions to be answered.

Knitting

Helen called in this morning and found me knitting:



Sharon Miller is right;  this sort of thing is addictive. Here is the shawl to date:



Wednesday, May 29, 2019


Yesterday was Andrew and Andrea. A stellar episode, as so often.

Andrea has learned a neat trick for carrying the Other Colour along the back of the work when the distance is too long for normal catching-in. I trust her tutorial will be permanently available, at least to patrons. It’s a technique borrowed from machine knitting.

We saw a lamb being born, in the Shepherdess section. There was something about Japanese knitting (I think I was dozing there). And the big interview was with Beth Brown Reinsel. At the moment, we were told, she is in China conducting workshops. I had high hopes, a few years ago, that one of James’ and Cathy’s children, all fluent in Mandarin, would be interested enough in knitting to go out into the countryside and write the book we’re still waiting for about Chinese knitting. We’ll see what Brown-Reinsel comes back with.

Is Sharon Miller the only big knitting name, in the US and GB, who stays home and doesn’t teach? I made some progress today with her Spring Shawl. She’s right that this sort of knitting is addictive. I’ve reached the point where the mesh separates to flow left and right up the central triangle, and I have begun to establish the field on which the central pattern will soon appear. We’d better have a picture tomorrow. The Calcutta Cup scarf has slightly advanced as well.

Comments

I think the knitting article in yesterday’s (London) Times derived from the one you mention, Mary Lou, in the Wall Street Journal. At least the author of the London one had tried knitting himself.

Kristen, I’ve never hit it off with Inspector Montalbano on the printed page (in either language), although I adore him on television.

Miscellaneous

The cat situation is essentially unchanged. Should I put out another litter tray for Perdita here in the Catalogue Room? I think she is behaving herself, but I have largely lost the sense of smell and am uneasy.

I have a literary puzzle item to tell you about tomorrow. Be warned, if necessary, to stay away.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Miscellaneous

The new issue of Delicious magazine fell through the letter-box today. There’s a non-knitting article about Shetland. Three café-restaurants are recommended – we of the Knitting Adventure ate at all of them, and the two we ate at which aren’t mentioned were, if anything, even better. There is also a box about Ronnie Eunson and his Uradale farm – see the yarn-wheels above.

Archie sent me a link to Juns Kitchen not so much for the cooking (although that is interesting) as for the cats.

Archie was here yesterday, found Perdita – whom I hadn’t seen all that morning – and suggested that we feed her separately. She was touchingly grateful. I think there’s not much doubt that she’s being bullied by her younger, smaller and ostensibly pleasanter sister.

For the moment, we are living apart. Paradox has taken over (she thinks) as the Cat In Charge. She welcomes me home from the supermarket, sleeps with me in the middle of the bed, helps with the knitting.

I am more than ever worried about leaving them for 8 days when I go to the wedding in July. Arrangements can and will be made -- but nobody will be available who knows and cares for them like Archie.

Knitting

Progress. I must show you a picture of the Spring Shawl soon. Like the Princess Shawl itself, it is essentially a half-hap. In this case, it begins at one corner of (what would become if you allowed it to) the central square. So the initial rows go fast, as an easy mesh is established. Soon, the mesh will divide and proceed up each side of the central triangle and a rather more complicated pattern will be established in the centre.

The Princess adopts the opposite approach. You start with the edging, then pick up stitches and knit two borders, and then -- thinking (erroneously) that you must be almost finished  -- knit the triangle between them.

There is an article in the Times this morning about knitting and mindfulness, by a man, with a thoroughly unconvincing picture. I certainly find lace knitting very conducive to mindfulness. It’s not difficult, but it needs attention.It’s going to take forever, so it’s no use thinking about what’s coming next. There’s nothing for it but to concentrate on the present moment – I think that’s what mindfulness is about.

Monday, May 27, 2019


I met Kathy of Kathy’s Knits when I was out shopping this morning. Monday is the shop’s day off, but she and her husband had been in tidying up after an invasion (profitable, I trust) from an Amy Detjen tour group. She said that Amy herself had been taken to hospital with pneumonia while the group was in Shetland, but had recovered enough to travel home with everybody else – although not enough to visit Kathy’s Knits.

I met Amy at Camp Stitches on Lake George in ’99 – gosh! twenty years ago – and have loved her ever since. I also have her Craftsy class about that yoke sweater. I’d be glad of news. I had pneumonia once; it was no fun.

On the final day of our Shetland Adventure, we went to the Textile Museum at the Bod of Gremista. A small collection with, as was the case everywhere we turned, pleasant and interesting people to tell us about it. That very morning I had read Kate Davies’ blog post about the MRI scanner appeal for Shetland’s hospital. Here’s the link – under the headline “Harriet’s Hat”.

The hat is a pattern which is being sold for the appeal. My finger was on the button to buy it, but then I thought, Damn it! Here I am in Lerwick! I’ll buy it over the counter. So I did.

Comments

I am surprised that Muckle Flugga left so little impression on you, Shandy and Knitlass. That probably confirms the wisdom of the Wool Adventure in not trying to see it through mist.

I’m sure you’ve heard this story before, but here it is again.

The other time I went to Shetland, I was travelling with two women I scarcely knew, internet friends but the actual acquaintance was based on no more than a pub lunch. Kristie and her cousin Kath. We covered a lot of ground, including Unst. Kristie and Kath were both very interested in lighthouses. After we visited the Unst Heritage Centre, they said they wanted to see Muckle Flugga. Kath wasn’t even a knitter, and she had been endlessly patient about our knit-related stops so I thought I could be agreeable about a detour to a lighthouse.

In those days the air force base on the northernmost tip of Unst was deserted. It has been re-occupied recently. I don’t remember that our walk from car to vantage point was very long or difficult. It may be different, with the air force in place. In those days, there were a few rusty notices saying, in effect, that if we took another step we would be shot. Kristie and Kath were a bit worried but I urged them on.

And that astonishing sight was, I would almost say, the high point of the whole trip.

Sunday, May 26, 2019


But Shandy, could you see Muckle Flugga through the mist and rain?

On the last full day of the Wool Adventure, we started off with another workshop with Donna Smith, this time to learn the construction of a simple hap. I finished the knitting of it – it’s in the upper right-hand corner of the suitcase above.

It started with a lace edging which we had prepared as homework. Stitches were picked up from the flat edge; four trapezoidal borders knit separately; then a central garter stitch square. We kept being told all week how economical Shetland knitters are – purling and sewing avoided at all costs. But this construction means that all four corners must be sewn. The task can be reduced by knitting two borders at once, and then the other two – leaving only two open corners. That’s the way Madeline Weston does it in “The Traditional Sweater Book” – the first hap I ever knit. Is the book called something else in the US?

If I ever knit another hap again, I’ll knit all four borders at once, with a wrap-and-turn at the end. Whether or not they approve in Lerwick.

After lunch we were bussed down to the southernmost point of mainland Shetland for some fresh air and scenery, then to Neilanell’s studio. She is an eccentric former barrister (and I’m pretty sure she used that word, although the appropriate term in Scotland is “advocate”) who now designs extravagant and unusual knitwear which is produced for her in a small manufactory nearby.

Then on to a class on Fair Isle colours with Terri Malcolmson. There had been advance homework for that one, too – ten rounds of ribbing in a harmless colour which would blend with anything else we chose. I did mine in grey; it’s in the upper left-hand corner of the suitcase. But I decided to abandon it altogether. I started again in the class, and did ten rounds of corrugated ribbing. That’s the sample just below the grey one, in the picture above.

One thing I have certainly learned from the Adventure is to bring very short circular needles, if I am ever involved in such a situation again. I don’t like them; they hurt my wrists. But dp’s around a small circumference are intolerable.

It was here that I succumbed to my most foolish and extravagant purchase. I love it:



It’s not even a kit, just a selection of harmonious yarns. I can’t imagine what I’ll do with it.  It’s in the picture at the top, under everything else.

Cats

Things are somewhat better. They’re no longer shouting obscenities at each other. But they’re still not eating properly, and Perdita is still skulking in corners.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


I’m sorry about last night’s silence. I was quite stunningly tired, and went to bed at 7.

James and Cathy are here. We had a nice lunch here in DP with their son Alistair, and also Helen and her husband David. Alistair and his parents have gone off to Falkirk to be introduced to his kitten. Tomorrow we will have lunch at Helen’s house, which means climbing her fearful stairs again.

But back to Shetland. The next day was an early start, and off to Unst. That was my one serious disappointment of the tour – it was a damp and misty day, and we didn’t get to see Muckle Flugga. I would have liked to try to discern it, even through the mist. At least I’ve seen it once in my life.

The Unst Heritage Centre was wonderful, and again we had a wonderful guide who told us about her own knitting history. Back to Lerwick in time for a lace-knitting workshop with Elizabeth Johnston. I was pleased to find that I can still do it. The result is in the foreground of the picture above. I don’t see any point in finishing it.

We had learned earlier in the day that mains electricity only came to Unst in the late 50’s – after I was married. I voiced my theory that perhaps fine lace knitting was reserved for the months of light, with spinning done in the winter. I thought maybe skilled fingers could manage that in the dark. No, said Elizabeth. Lace knitting can be done by firelight – the knitting is between you and the fire, and the light shines through.

I also mentioned my ambition to knit Sharon Miller’s Spring Shawl as a final bridal shawl for granddaughters. I still have three unmarried granddaughters. Elizabeth said that if I attempted it, there should be no other knitting while it was in progress. Knitting with a heavier yarns throws one’s tension off. That, alas, is advice I can’t take.

The other thing I learned is that Shetland lace knitters don’t use markers to separate pattern repeats.

I have cast on the Spring Shawl since my return, with the yarn bought at Jamieson & Smith, clearly visible above. It starts with a cast-on of five stitches, and progresses rapidly at first. I’ve done 40 rows, without neglecting the Calcutta Cup scarf. The shawl begins with an easy mesh pattern, lace on every other row.  (I have never mastered the terminology of “knitted lace” and “lace knitting”, and don’t intend to try.) More on this subject soon.

Thursday, May 23, 2019


OK, Day Two

No bus, that day. We walked to the Shetland Museum and had a most interesting time. Their textile collection, of course, is incomparable. The woman who talked to us was a recently-retired employee – absolutely brilliant. She showed us her own knitting, and how she had modified and extended traditional forms.

I think that is the single most significant idea I took on board last week: that Shetland knitters don’t just do the same-old-things over and over. It’s all there in Susan Crawford’s book, but I hadn’t fully grasped it.

We saw a Fair Isle jumper which incorporated a swastika as a peerie pattern. I later found two more examples in a publication – “book” is too grand a word, “leaflet” too demeaning  -- about the Whalsay Fair Isle exhibition in 2017. Wikipedia says that it used to be a “symbol of auspiciousness and good luck” in the Western world. The Wikipedia entry is worth reading. My father’s mother – Grandmother Smits – had a little silver spoon with lucky symbols on the handle – a four-leafed clover, a rabbit’s foot, a swastika. As a child, during the war, I found it fascinating. I wonder what happened to it.

But how did the symbol get to Shetland?

After the museum, we went back to headquarters for a workshop with Donna Smith. We knit a mug cosy. You can see mine in the picture above – it’s the one with the sheep. It’s Donna’s design, of course, and the glory of it is that the sheep aren’t all the same. Like many of you, I am sure, my life is strewn with unfinished workshop projects – but I am determined to finish this one.

The alternative pattern was a Shetland star. That would have involved the considerable advantage of Donna’s advice on the selection of colours. But I had fallen for those sheep.

Cats

Some of you have suggested the Feliway diffuser to make the cats happier. I used it when Paradox was first introduced. I don’t know whether it helped or not. It’s worth trying again. I think things were slightly better today, although it’s hard to say. Archie came, and we did some gardening on the front step. We kept Paradox enclosed behind the inner door, and let Perdita join us. I think she enjoyed it. They’re still not eating much.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


The Wool Adventure…

It was a well-structured blend of road trips and lectures and workshops. The first day, we headed into the countryside to meet some sheep



and then on to Jamieson’s spinning mill in the middle of nowhere. We had a most interesting tour, starting with the industrial revolution and ending here in the third millennium with Japanese (?) knitting machines – all hard at work. I was interested to note that the one thing a machine can’t do, apparently, is put the ball band on a ball of wool. 

I bought two balls of yarn – one of the magazines had an end-of-issue article recently about the Souvenir Skein. And the latest issue of Fruity Knitting started off with a most ingenious Woolly Wormhead hat – they are all that – which I thought I could knit with the yarn. I can see only one of them in the picture above, the grey-looking ball amongst the cobweb-weight on the right.

Then on to Uradale Farm for a delicious lunch of soup and bannocks, and more yarn. The farm is organic – not an easy status to achieve. Does that have anything to do with why the colours of the yarns are so wonderful? Perhaps not, but I bought a few because of the wonderfulness. They are the ones wound as wheels in the picture.      

Then back to Lerwick to Jamieson and Smith and a talk by Oliver Henry. I was tired, I had been to Jamieson and Smith already, I knew that Oliver was old. His talk, however, was electrifying – effectively, the history of Jamieson and Smith. I’m glad to be able to report that I didn’t buy any more yarn, although I did pick up some needles which I had begun to realise I would need later on.       

Cats 

They have clearly had a stressful time. I have never heard Paradox growl or hiss until today, but she now growls and hisses at her sister. With me, she has become overly affectionate, sitting on my lap purring and bestowing whiskery kisses, weaving dangerously around my feet when I totter about. Perdita, on the other hand, is having a nervous breakdown, cowering in corners, growling and hissing and even SHOUTING at her detested sister. Neither is eating.

We’ll see how soon things settle down. I can’t stay away from Joe and Becca’s wedding because it would upset the cats, but I am worried. This time, they had Archie, who is fond of them. In July, by definition, no family will be available.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019


I am safely home. It was a brilliant Wool Adventure. I’ll post links soon. Maureen, Misa was delighted to hear from you via me – as I am delighted that you recommended the experience to me.

All is well here. The cats are glad to see me, although behaving like jealous toddlers when I try to stroke one or the other.

I am seriously worn out. I am really too old (too weak) for this sort of thing. My feebleness becomes the responsibility of the whole group. There was no fall, no disaster of any sort, but it is beginning to seem unfair to put the responsibility for myself onto the shoulders of any group of strangers.

But I had a grand time, and I’ll tell you all about it, bit by bit.

The first day, last Wednesday, the ferry deposited me in Lerwick quite early in the morning. I had made contact with another Adventurer on board. She had a car, and drove us off to the b&b where we were admitted to our rooms despite the early hour. Then we nipped down to Jamieson and Smith…

It was a glorious, sunny day such as I suspect Lerwick hasn’t seen for a decade. I went to bed, nevertheless, and Trisha went off on a mission of her own. At midday, I ventured out in search of lunch.

I didn’t want to go too far, as I felt weak, and the b&b was on top of a hill. There was no pub or café in sight, but I passed a notice offering food and companionship at lunchtime on Wednesday. It was Wednesday. I went in. It was a churchly group, as you’ve probably guessed. I had a delicious plate of mince and tatties. There was a collection box, so I was able to pay for my lunch without embarrassment.

I felt as if I had fallen down a knitterly rabbit hole. They were all knitters. When the plates were taken away, out came the knitting belts on all sides. The woman sitting next to me read the Wool Adventure programme with great interest – “He’s my nephew.” “She’s my peerie second cousin.” (I think that means, second cousin once removed.) I was taken over to meet Annie, who comes from Unst. I left feeling I had met the cream of Lerwick society.

Sunday, May 12, 2019


Progress, of sorts. I’ve got the knitting ready – another ball of sock yarn seleted, the numbers recorded. I am mildly interested to discover that I knit men’s socks all the same size, more or less, but women’s have delicate variations in the foot length. I’ve also discovered that there is another piece of homework to do for Shetland. I’ve found some needles and yarn for that. It won’t take long. I can do it on train or ferry. I’m too tensed-up tonight.

I was interested to see, going back to my blog entries for the beginning of last year, that I was grumbling away then about weakness in much the same tone as I would use now. Maybe I’m not going downhill quite as fast as I had thought.

And I think the requisite number of clothes are clean.

Archie will be here tomorrow morning. I will instruct him with care about cat-feeding and plant-watering. The “patio courgettes” have raised their heads above soil level!

I’ll be here with a sentence or two tomorrow night, I hope.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


This has been another day of serious non-achievement, except for a pleasant Italian lesson with a good Skype connection. My tutor hasn’t yet read “Il Gattopardo”. She has a treat in store.

(I have just been re-reading my blog entry for Sunday, January 14, 2018 – about meeting Tancred. That was a real accomplishment; one I treasure in memory,)

I had forgotten, Mary Lou (comment yesterday) that the Wild Swans had to spin nettles to make those shirts for their brothers, although I vaguely remember the story. Nettle yarn doesn’t seem so preposterous to me, Shandy and Chloe. Nettles make a nice soup, although that’s scarcely relevant. They’re suitably stringy – that might be a factor. But it’s wonderful to hear them referred to as “sustainable”. It’ll be dandelions next. (Which are good in a salad.)

Chloe, is your mink-and-milk yarn wonderful to the touch? And how is it for colour? I was bitterly disappointed when I procured some cashmere Koigu once and learned in the moment when I opened the package that cashmere doesn’t take dye as well as wool does. A valuable lesson.

I have done no knitting at all today, and will probably go to bed (fairly soon) with that statement unchanged. That will leave two days for getting ready for Lerwick. I had better get cracking.

Friday, May 10, 2019


Nothing much tonight. I should be doing Italian homework – instead, I’m going straight to bed, very weary. I’ve got a couple of questions for my tutor tomorrow, derived from Il Gattopardo – at what time of day is “pranzo” eaten? Questions are often useful in such situations.

Helen dropped in this afternoon – and found me sound asleep in front of “Pointless” – to say that they have sold their flat, and will be moving to Joppa in June. That’s good news, I guess, but I will miss their proximity.

I have finished reading “Before She Knew Him”, my first book completed in May. One of those books where one goes on reading in full consciousness that it is an unworthy soaker-up of one’s time, the MacGuffin obvious a mile off. Back to “No Name” – I’m about half-way through.

A few more stitches on the scarf. Three more days to get ready for Lerwick. That should be enough. And it’s not the end of the world (= it’s not Catania). If it’s all too much, I can turn around and come back.

I had a nice lunch with Archie today, who continues to press for a trip to Syracuse. I don’t think I had fully realised that that’s where Arethusa emerged.