Monday, January 14, 2019


I’m sorry for yesterday’s absence. I’m not very sprightly, just now.

Judy has provided the definitive link to the solution of the turnip-swede-rutabaga question. In which it appears that rutabagas are swedes, just as you say, Mary Lou. I am sustaining myself these days with a succession of delicious home-made vegetable soups. Perhaps I will include a swede in the next one.

I’ve done some knitting, while watching endless television discussions of our political crisis. For once in a millennium, one might wish for a written constitution. Be that as it may, I have finished four pattern repeats on the Stronachlachar, equalling 14 inches. The target is 16, for the underarm, where some interesting shaping begins.

Non-knit

Here’s a gloomy little item, of dubious relevance.

There was a story in the paper last week about a very distinguished BBC reporter, Martin Bell, who tripped over a suitcase not long ago in the Gatwick railway station as he was returning home from a cruise, and landed on his face and actually broke his skull. He is now retired, but appreciably  younger than I am. The NHS has patched him together very nicely indeed.

That might have been me, in Reggio Calabria. I suppose the difference is that Martin Bell, with the suitcase in front of him, had nowhere to go except onto his face. Whereas I just tripped over some unevenness in the pavement, with unobstructed space in front, and was able to make a three-point landing (face, left forearm, left knee).

Still, it shows why it’s a good idea to take out travel insurance.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


I’m sorry about yesterday – I wasn’t entirely well. Perhaps the second half of the “back end” malaise? At any rate, a brief, violent diarrhoea, and a general misery all day. There was nothing in the previous day’s food consumption which could explain it.  No knitting at all, since I was last here – and this evening, again, must be devoted to Italian homework.

I can’t help with the interesting swede/turnip/rutabaga discussion. I think I have always vaguely assumed that the small round white things called “turnips” – not all that common, in supermarkets in Scotland – would grow up to be the big orange things called “swedes”. Especially because when one speaks of “neeps” here, as in “neeps and tatties”, one means a delicious mash made from swedes. Burns Night is nearly upon us, and that is an essential feature, up there with the haggis.

I don’t know what a rutabaga is. My mother was not an adventurous cook. No doubt Google could straighten all this out, if I applied myself.

I wasn’t entirely comatose yesterday. Wandering around the internet in the evening, I discovered that the Shetland Museum has recently embarked on the “Lace Project”. It sounds very exciting, and the prospect of a publication at the end makes it even more so.

I’ve had an email from the New Yorker about the digital delights available to me “as a print subscriber”. But still no magazine.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Eleven and ½ inches of the 16 needed for the Stronachlachar underarm have now been done. I thought my industrious application would have taken me a bit further than that. I have wound the fourth skein and joined it in – that’s something.

Thank you for your help, as ever. Pascoag Girl, I can’t find “Restoration” over here, but I found it with ease at Lacis. As before, the thing is to finish Stronachlachar, see where we are in the calendar, and present the bride with the choices, if any.

Non-knit

Shandy and Kirsten, I once left my sons behind in Kirkmichael with nothing to eat, I’ve forgotten why. They sensibly enough went into the adjacent field and helped themselves to some of the swedes which had been put out for the sheep.

Tonight’s food programme is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who can be entertaining. Tom Kerridge was pretty dull last night.

Mary Lou, my New Yorker subscription has expired, I don’t quite understand why. I renewed it on-line before Christmas. All went smoothly, except that I haven’t started getting any issues yet. I get a daily update from them, and I saw that article about the Greek alphabet there. Interesting, indeed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


Little to report. The Stronachlachar is 10 ½ inches,  carelessly measured on the kitchen table. I need 16, to qualify for the underarm shaping. I’ve finished the third pattern repeat, and have nearly finished the third of seven skeins.

I wouldn’t quite call it a resolution, but I think perhaps if I huddle in the kitchen watching Netflix on my iPad, I can knit at the same time. When I try to watch television in the sitting room in the evening, the needles tend to drop from my nerveless fingers. Perhaps the chair is too comfortable.

I also mean to read slightly more serious books, fewer “yellows” as we call them in Italian. I read a lot. I have embarked on “Enthusiasm” (church history) by R.A. Knox, which is a flesh and blood book from my own shelves; and “The Egoist” on the iPad (it was free).

We shall see.

Thank you, as ever, for your help with my various problems. I think maybe “Rock Island” will do as it stands, at least to offer to Jenna. It’s a good size. And thank you, Mary Lou, for “Orvus Paste”. It’s available here, and I am interested to see that it is used for whitening horses.

And Helen (anon) – what you say about “candidatus” awakens dim memories of my own long-forgotten education. I actually saw the apparatus for suspending a newly-knit shawl over burning sulphur when I went to Shetland with Kristie and Kath that happy time.  But how, exactly, was the necessary whiteness for “candidatus” achieved? I doubt if the answer would help much with Hellie’s shawl.

Now I’m going to go watch a cookery programme, while I knit. My husband abhorred the genre, and often said that he regarded cookery programmes as pornography. Tonight it’s Tom Kerridge, teaching people how to cook from scratch.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019


A bit forrader. The overhead light in the kitchen – where I spend a lot of time huddling – went out on Saturday. Archie came round to help, and in the process of extracting the dead bulb, pulled it apart, so that the metal sleeve remained in the socket. Today my very dear electrician came and put things right. So I can huddle again.

But I mustn’t. If I am to offer Jenna the option of a small lace shawl of her own for her wedding in July, I must get on briskly with the Stronachlachar. You’re right, Marion, that it is Jared’s Rock Island that I am thinking of. (You must start your Rosemary Shawl at once – you’ll love it once you get going.) I have been wondering whether I could make it a bit fancier, with another lace motif instead of all that garter stitch at the end; or whether I could plan a small triangular shawl of my own from scratch.

Would Liz Lovick’s “Exploring Shawl Shapes” help? I’ve got a couple of her books, but not that one.

I could buy Jared’s pattern and use it as a template.

Meanwhile, Mary Lou, please follow up your thought about the stuff that might whiten Hellie’s shawl. Or I could Google it myself.

Sarah, when I embarked on Sharon Miller’s “Princess” shawl, I didn’t have a bride in mind, or indeed in prospect. I would highly recommend just plunging in. If you are still around to see someone wear it, think how pleased you will be! And if not, think how they will all remember you on that happy day!

Monday, January 07, 2019


Perhaps a bit stronger today.

I thought this might be the morning when my new cleaning woman would reappear, after the prolonged hols, so I lept out of bed and did a lot in the kitchen so as not to embarrass myself. It turns out she’ll be here on Wednesday.

Here at last is the promised picture:



The instruction is to knit 16 inches straight, then divide for the underarm. I must have passed halfway. I’ll measure tomorrow. I’m terribly pleased with it.

Brooklyn Tweed – indeed, Jared himself – offers a nice little lacy shoulder shawl which I think I will suggest for this year’s bride, if I finish Stronachlachar in anything like January. The wedding is in July. At present, she is planning to wear the one I knit for Hellie. I’ve now got it for re-blocking. It looks a bit yellow. They did something with sulphur on Shetland in the old days, but I don’t think I want to embark on that.

The Brooklyn Tweed shawl wouldn’t be nearly so big or grand, but it would be hers, and the edging, at least, is fancy.

Sunday, January 06, 2019


Another day of very considerable weakness. What’s the matter with me?

Our niece came and fetched me this morning and we drove back through the quiet Sunday city to an early Mass at the University chapel where Christina (niece’s daughter) and Manaba were married in September. Very nice indeed.

Julie, thank you for the tip about Ardkinglas on Youtube. Here’s a link, but once you’re there you’ll find several offerings, including one about the arboretum. It’s famous.

No, Mary Lou. The “big house” does weddings, but our wedding – Hellie and Matt, three? years ago, -- was in Alexander and Ketki’s own garden, half a mile away.

The house at Ardkinglas was built by Andrew Noble in the early years of the 20th century – in 18 months. It seems fantastic. It wasn’t a family home, just a shooting lodge and a summer place. He had four sons. The elder two didn’t want to take on the responsibility, so the estate passed to the third son, grandfather of the author of the book I am reading on the subject. Lady Gainford of kilt hose fame was the daughter of one of the elder two sons.

It is unsettling to think of the amount of wealth involved. The current generation seems quite well endowed. Here in Edinburgh, I am acquainted with two great-grandchildren of Andrew Carnegie. They are not particularly well-off, except by their own endeavours – but their great-grandfather’s name is known around the world. We have a Carnegie library at Oberlin. I think there may be a moral to be drawn there.

Some rehearsals for the D-Day landings were staged at Ardkinglas. Churchill and the King came along. The book isn’t indexed, and I can’t find the passage – someone or other was disappointed in the King. A rather small man, and he wasn’t wearing a crown. Churchill threw away a cigar butt which was treasured locally (perhaps still is) and the place where it landed is still known as “Churchill’s cigar  bay”.

I didn’t do any knitting at all today.

Saturday, January 05, 2019


Not much of a day. Italian lessons always leave me gasping, but I think perhaps I’m not back up to full strength since last week’s misfortune, as well. You are absolutely right, Chloe, that Italians are wonderfully tolerant of one’s fumbling attempts to speak their language, as long as they can make any sense at all of what one is saying. I will have to work hard on my verbs for next week. Today we just talked.

“intossicazione alimentare” turns out to be right, for food poisoning. A scallop is “cappa santa”.

Further progress with Stronachlachar, but, alas! still no picture. I agree, Mary Lou, that with lots of stitches and complicated crosses, a cable needle is a handy instrument. One of my pleasures, at this time of year – a delicious time, now that the festivities are over and the light has been returning for a whole fortnight – is to plan the next Calcutta Cup knitting. (It won’t be needed for a while.)

Next time, it is to be some wonderful Gaughan-esque cables. Much remains to be thought out, including the name of the recipient. Rachel is loyal to Scotland, but she lives in a nest of passionate English rugby supporters. Joe, this year’s bridegroom, actually works for the English Rugby Union at Twickenham. James and Helen and their families are totally indifferent.

And I’m glad to hear, Mary Lou, that you know Lady Gainford’s book about kilt hose. One or both of the pairs you see my sons wearing in that picture in the sidebar, derive from her work. I am delighted to discover my own connection to her, under the seven-degrees-of-separation rule. (Alexander knows the author of the “Ardkinglas” book, indeed is acknowledged in it; Lady Gainford must have been the author’s second cousin once removed, or something like that.)

Friday, January 04, 2019


Thank you very much for your advice. I took it. Thanks especially to you, Hat, who wrote so quickly. I decided as soon as I read your message that I would take a taxi to the dr’s office this morning (=Spend the Kids’ Inheritance) and I slept the better for having decided.

They were very crowded. Our practice has “open access” – if you turn up before 10 a.m., any week day, and are prepared to sit, you can see a doctor. I don’t see how other practices manage without. The girl sitting next to me had a cough which certainly couldn’t have waited until she could get a normal appointment. A day in a&e would have been her only alternative.

I had a timed appt with a nurse for the taking of bloods, and wasn’t there long.

Here’s a knitting tidbit connected with my end-of-year holiday: Alexander and Ketki gave me a book called “Ardkinglas” about the estate on which they live. It is not without interest. The author is the great-granddaughter of the enormously rich late Victorian who bought the estate and built the house. And another member of the family is Lady Gainford, the author of that little book about kilt hose which the Schoolhouse Press still sells.

I didn’t take a picture of Stronachlachar; sorry about that. I hope I will tomorrow. It progresses well. Being able to cross stitches without a cable needle is especially useful in a dr’s waiting room.

Tonight’s non-knit problem is that I have an Italian lesson scheduled for tomorrow morning (via Skype, from Rome). I must work out how to explain in Italian – that will be as good as a lesson – that I have had food poisoning and am still not quite back to my (feeble) norm and haven’t done my homework. I will send an email to that effect this evening, so that Federica will be prepared.

Thursday, January 03, 2019


Thank you for your kind messages. I’ve missed you, too.

Here’s a Calcutta Cup picture for you. James, on the right, is wearing his father’s new vest. Thomas, on the left – they’re both alarmingly tall – wears the ’06 sweater which his father has by now outgrown. 


There is also Kirsty Miles’ Christening shawl – James’ and Cathy’s daughter  -- into which a lacy Cup was incorporated in 2000. The match was a draw in 2010. I knit a hat with half the Cup on it, but it got lost. Alexander has a picture of it. I was surprised to see that it incorporated rather a good pom-pom. I’m generally rather anti pom-pom.

I’m getting on splendidly with the Stronachlachar. The yarn – Kate Davies’ Buachaille in Macallum – is perfect winter knitting, a warm, embracing, winey red. Despite her recent severe blog post, I simply cast on using the suggested needle sizes. It’s looking good.

The stitch qualifies, I think, as Bavarian travelling stitch, although not acknowledged as such. I did a class in that subject at Camp Stitches ’99 with Candace Strick – a very happy memory, although I never used the stitch until now.

I can’t remember how Candace had us doing the crosses (always one over one), although I’m pretty sure she didn’t use a cable needle. KD prescribes a cable needle, and I started off with one but soon tired of it. I found I had Donna Druchunas’ travelling stitch class in my Craftsy stash – she prefers to switch the stitches on the needle first, and then knit them. I have pretty well mastered that trick by now. The yarn is rather gently plyed and splitting a stitch is something of a danger, but otherwise all is going well. I’ve finished two of seven skeins, and have done two of goodness-knows-how-many pattern repeats.

I’ll try to take a picture tomorrow.

Non-knit

I have an appt tomorrow morning to have bloods taken, and am in a proper old-lady stew about it. Can I find a parking place? Do I have enough change for a parking meter? Can I master paying-by-telephone, if not? I must face up to the modern world.

Tom Lehrer’s “Werner von Braun” is not really relevant to today’s news, but it amused me, nevertheless, to listen to it again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019


I’m sorry for the protracted silence. Happy New Year, all round. Mine was a good holiday, but I'm not sorry it’s all over.

I spent Christmas day with Greek Helen and her family -- they live very near here. David did the cooking, and did it very well. The next day Alexander and Ketki came to get me and the cats, and we all went to Loch Fyne. He was wearing his new Calcutta Cup vest and while he was carrying bags and cats out to the car – they travel with a fair amount of paraphernalia – someone stopped him to admire it. He explained about the Calcutta Cup and said that his mother had knit it.

“Is your mother from Shetland?” the stranger asked.

Paradox was in heat when we left. This was her big chance to meet her furry Lochinvar. Not a bit of it. The horror of the experience drove all thoughts of sex from her head. She spent the entire time under the duvet, not eating or drinking. The first evening she was even hyperventilating – at least, breathing very fast. Perdita was somewhat bolder. She joined the party in the kitchen, watched the birds and the red squirrels on the feeder just outside the window, even ate a bit.

On Friday I had an unfortunate encounter with a scallop during a pub lunch. I should have known better. I have had trouble with frozen seafood before, and could expect nothing else for a pub lunch in the “back end” of the year, even on the shore of Loch Fyne. The result was a very uncomfortable night, followed by a day of total prostration, under the duvet with Paradox.

This made our homeward journey difficult, as the party was dispersing and everyone had somewhere to be before the New Year. In the end, Rachel and Ed made a detour to drive us here on their way to London.  That drive is enough of an ordeal, done directly. But all went well. Rachel and Ed got home in good time. The cats lept out of their carriers and reverted at once to their everyday selves, appetite and all.

I have recovered nearly all of my former strength, such as it was.

I have knitting news, including good progress with the Stronachlachar – and a wonderful picture. I’ll leave that until tomorrow. It’s good to be back.