Tuesday, July 17, 2018


I know this isn’t what you’re here to read about, but: my quiz programme has vanished from the television schedules. All old ladies have a favourite quiz programme. I read somewhere once that the Queen shares my fondness for this one – Pointless, it’s called. Apart from anything else, it gives structure to my aimless days. Whatever else I am or (more likely) am not doing, I sit down at 5:15 with my knitting, to watch Pointless.

It hasn’t been on recently because all the air time was needed for tennis and football. And then, yesterday, suddenly and with no explanation, there was a different quiz in its place. The BBC website says only “No upcoming broadcasts” – you can’t get much more stark than that. And Googling, to my surprise, produces no answers or even comments.

I’m not much of a photographer, and fear my cruise pictures will disappoint. Also, I’ll need to figure out how to get some of them out of my telephone. Shandy, you’re right, about random groups of people – I fully expected that at least one of my fellow-passengers would be unbearable. But none were. Mr Majestic rang up the day after I got back, to say that I had left my falls alarm behind. (I had already realised that, and by now, he has sent it to me.) I told him the cruise had been wonderful, and that we had been a harmonious group. He said, Yes, the crew remarked on that.

I have since learned, from one of you, that the Skipper’s mother belongs to her knitting group. One doesn’t think of Skippers as having mothers – it’s a wonderful bit of small-world-ery.

There is an ad in the current Waitrose magazine for Viking Ocean Cruises. It says, “From the comfort of a stunning small ship that is home to just 930 guests…”

We spent a whole day anchored at Stornoway. (The seals mistook us for a genuine fishing boat and swam up close asking for tidbits. Their flippers, just below the surface, are unnervingly hand-like.) In the morning, we went ashore in the town, and in the afternoon a coach trip was laid on to the Callanish Stones and other points of historic interest. (We’re in Alice Starmore territory here.)

We were sitting over the remains of lunch, recovering from the one and revving ourselves up for the other, when the Engineer came along to clear the table. “You’re awfully quiet,” he said. “What have you been up to?”

Try saying that to 930 people, Rob.

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Home again, safe and sound. I’m just touching base at the moment. I hope to be back in the saddle tomorrow evening. The cats are well, although my absence doesn't seem to have made them fonder of each other; quite the contrary.

The cruise was wonderful. It is sad to think that we 12 will never assemble again. The Hebrides are beautiful, and fascinating. Dolphins skipped along beside our boat, clearly having fun. I’ll tell you about it in bits, with at least some pictures. I got quite a bit of knitting done.

Then, on Thursday, I went down to London, for Wimbledon on Friday, despite Federer’s loss. Rachel and I were there – you may have heard of it – for the longest semi-final in Wimbledon history, and the second-longest match of all. It was incredibly tedious. By the beginning of the fourth set, if not the ending of the third, all one wanted in the world was for it to end. The idiot calls of “Come on John” and “Come on Kevin” were joined by “Come on Somebody”. And, once, "Come on, chaps -- we want to see Rafa."

I wondered whether they would put the next match on at all – the one we all wanted to see. They did, at 8 p.m. or so, Nadal v Djokovic. Rachel and I stayed for three games, and saw the sort of tennis we had hoped to see all afternoon, sharp and intelligent and strategic. Then we went sadly home. They played until 11, and we watched it on television with our supper. I was too tired by then to grasp the finer points – who was serving, what the significance of the point. But I could see the beauty of the play.

I missed the end yesterday, due to the journey home. Rachel says it was one of the great matches, and, she hopes, as we tell the story in later years, it will gradually turn out that we saw all of it.

But I wanted to post this early today, before kick-off, to say how much I hope to see Kevin Anderson humiliated this afternoon – the Grinch who stole Wimbledon, the man single-handedly responsible for depriving me of the lifetime chance to see Federer play, and Nadal, and Djokovic.

Thursday, June 28, 2018


A pleasant day, and the packing is getting on nicely. No parking permit, however. I tried the telephone number you sent, Shandy – comment, Tuesday. It got me through to a bemused young librarian BUT he knew the number I needed to phone. So thank you, and bless you, for that.

The real number, after an unnecessary amount of if-you-want-this-press-that (unnecessary, because no one except Shandy knows the number to ring in the first place) produced an intelligent human being who briskly looked up my car, using the number on the license plate, and said that the permit has been sent and if it doesn’t arrive tomorrow we can go get a temporary one.

Archie came to lunch, and was instructed in cat care. We hatched a plan wherein he will get a driving license and, assuming I am still alive, we will fly to Detroit and view that ruined city, including the places where I used to live: 2211 Virginia Park, 18214 and 17586 Parkside. It might be almost as interesting as Pompeii. We forgot that he was supposed to be there to help me with putting out the recycling. It’s a fortnightly job, and I think this time we can leave it.

The weather is still preposterously good, and the forecast is that it will continue. There was news last night that the heat – my dears, it’s over 80 – has caused problems on the railway. Something else to worry about. When I was first here, in the summer of 1953, the temperature was over 80 for a few days and England was prostrate.

As for knitting, the new grey yarn is here from Jamieson & Smith, and of course I realised when I met Maureen in Kathy’s Knits yesterday that I could have bought it there, for half the price. She sells exclusively British yarns, and has a good range from J&S. I went on with Archie’s socks. I’ve knit the heel flap and turned the heel and picked up the gusset stitches for the first one.

In the days when my husband and I went to London three or four times a year, I knit lots of socks. This time, for an alarming moment, I wondered if I had forgotten how to turn a heel. But no, I can still do it.

The new VK – the lace issue – arrived today, at first tossed aside in despair because the parking permit wasn’t included, but later thumbed through with some pleasure. There are some seriously good things in there. Had I but world enough and time…

And there’s a good article by Meg about designing shawls – except that it takes me back, yet again, to that troubling, anti-feminist, paragraph in the Knitter’s Almanac, about the pi-shawl. I understand that the radius of a circle is directly and constantly related to the circumference via Pythagoras’ theorem. I still don’t see why Elizabeth’s theorem is therefore right, although I am sure it is. (EZ: starting from the centre, cast on 9,; knit a round of YO, K1; 3 rounds plain; another increase round, 6 rounds plain. Each increase round doubles the number of stitches; then you knit twice as many rounds as before, before the next increase round.) (I’d understand if I were a man, according to EZ.)

I won’t post again until somewhere around the 11th  or 12th of July, home from the Hebrides.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Some steps forward, others back.

No parking permit – but I have had an answer to my distressed emails from a Real Human Being who says that I typed a number in wrong but she has tracked down my application and the new permit is in the post. So Helen and I took no action, including not phoning the number you provided, Shandy. We’ll hope for tomorrow.

I told her you were coming up for her mosaic lesson, and she said, It had better be good.

I paid the three parking tickets I had accumulated, and sent Archie and my friend G. the schedule of Cat Care. Archie is coming to lunch tomorrow to be instructed in the finer points.

And this morning I met MaureenfromFargo for coffee, an old friend. She was fresh from a week’s knitting course on Shetland, about to fly back to Fargo. She’ll be here again for Shetland Wool Week, and we will (insh’Allah) meet again. She is the one who has actually knit the Museum Sweater, with every lozenge different.

But I still haven’t packed. I must do that tomorrow, while I’ve still got a day in hand.

Here’s a puzzle for you, from Helen. You (collectively) have answered so many questions. What does this mean:




She found it unlabeled in a dusty museum on the edge of Jerash. Could it have any religious significance?



Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Still no Parking Permit. Helen has taken the car away to a place where you don’t have to pay to park. A housing estate somewhere. Will it survive? 

Your advice is excellent, Chloe: but there is no paperwork. If they sent me a reminder, I never saw it. I renewed (and paid) on-line on the 17th. I cannot find a telephone number on the website. I sent an email expressing agitation and distress yesterday, and another today. I won’t tell them I’m going away.

Today I had an Italian lesson, and a hair cut. The new hairdresser is about ½ mile away (my former one has retired) and I walked both ways. It nearly did for me. I think I am weaker than I was in January in Palermo.

Tomorrow I must resume list-making – starting with paying the three parking tickets I have accumulated.

The skirt arrived from Toast, but not the yarn from Jamieson & Smith. Lerwick is a long way away, even from Edinburgh. So this evening I resumed knitting Archie’s socks – not a bad idea, anyway, to get a renewed grip on what will be my cruise knitting. (With a 60th birthday pair for Rachel to follow, if I finish Archie’s.)

The Green Bean Relish is quiet. I am far enough along in fermentation not to worry about that, although I am looking forward to making another fermented gardiniera. That one is a fairly lively ferment, but involves a lot of preliminary chopping.

The Majestic Line (who operate the cruise) rang up this afternoon to see how I was getting on. That was thoughtful of them. There was an article about them in the Sunday Times day before yesterday – not as good as the article in the Financial Times which started me off on this two or three years ago, but very laudatory.

The journalist said that her fellow-passengers ranged in age from 30 to 70, and went for two-hour walks in the rain. That would make me 15 years older than the oldest, and quite unable to keep up. I am hoping for gentler walks for old ladies – if only from the pier to the internet cafĂ©. The FT article mentioned a retired High Court judge in her nineties.

Monday, June 25, 2018


There was a most promising envelope in the mail this morning, from the City of Edinburgh. It proved to be about rubbish collections – garden rubbish, at that, which I don’t have. And I got another parking ticket, despite the note on the windscreen.

I couldn’t easily find a telephone number for the Parking Permit People. I sent them a distressed-old-lady email. Their original email promises the permit within seven working days – that brings us to tomorrow. Meanwhile I am parked in a paying space again, covered until 12:30 tomorrow, at considerable expense.

Meanwhile I have heard from Jamieson & Smith, that my dark grey yarn has been dispatched; and from Toast, from whom I unnecessarily, this morning, ordered a denim skirt which was on sale. So promptness is possible.

I have divided Alexander’s vest at the armholes, cast on the steeks, and am moving forward. However, I have run out of dark grey yarn earlier than I expected. If I knit any more this evening, it will have to be socks.

I made a list this morning of today’s to-do’s. Many of the items very simple, like Wash up and Tidy the kitchen. It is very soothing to the agitated mind to have a list to cross things off of. I haven’t done all of them, but most. And I must get out there soon with more water (not on list) – it has actually been hot in Edinburgh today, and plants are suffering.

Fermentation

I haven’t abandoned it. The guardiniera was delicious, now finished. I’ve still got kimchi in the refrigerator, some homemade, some store-boughten. The fermented Good King Henry tasted OK, but was as tough as old fermented boots so I threw it away. I have made a successful hot sauce from some fermented chilli paste.

But there has been nothing bubbling on the counter lately, so today I made a batch of Thai-Inspired Green Bean Relish from “Fiery Ferments” by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey. Highly recommended – the book, I mean. Too soon to speak about the Green Bean Relish.

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Another idle day – a day wasted, because it was a beautiful one. I must at least carry water out to my poor plants this evening. I’ve got a little bunch of sweet peas in a jam jar on the kitchen table, and am looking forward to a small dish of strawberries before I leave for the Western Isles. Something to show for my toil.

I’m all set for the armhole-division on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup sweater. I think I’ll try to get that done this evening, too. I need another ball of dark grey from Jamieson & Smith, and have at last (at least) ordered that today.

I am in something of a panic about getting away. (But, goodness, if I could leave for Sicily on the 1st of January, anything should be possible.) I meant to start packing today, but didn’t. Tomorrow. I did write out a Care Plan for Cats. I’m in something of a panic about them, too. Responsibility is divided between Archie and a dear friend – Helen is heading off to Mt Pelion – and I am afraid they will fall between the cracks.