Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A better day. Yesterday I booked myself onto a Majestic Line cruise for May, 2020. My niece C., often mentioned here, has agreed to come with me. We’re going to the upper left-hand corner of mainland Scotland. It’s called a Wilderness Cruise.

Since my happy cruise with them to the Outer Hebrides last summer, I have clicked hither and yon and not found anything that appeals half as much. In the real world, 250 passengers are considered a “small” cruise ship. (On the Majestic Line, we are 12.)

There’s something along the west coast of Turkey – an area I would much like to explore – in small boats called gulags, or kayaks, or something like that. But the cruise is expensive to begin with, and you are responsible for getting yourself to the west coast of Turkey and back, and the website winded up specifying how much you were expected to tip each crew member for each day of the cruise. No, that won’t do.

So it’s back to the Majestic Line. (Think of it: an interesting exploration to regions unknown, involving no passports, no foreign currency, no airports!) And now I have got to stay alive for 18 months or so, and not only alive, but capable of walking up and down short flights of stairs. I feel better already, and began this morning by walking twice around Drummond Place Gardens. The newspaper article which drew me to the Majestic Line in the first place mentioned a fellow-passenger who was a retired High Court judge in her 90’s. I can do it too!

As for knitting, I have finished the 3-needle bind-off for the first Stronachlachar shoulder, transferred the stitches for the other one from waste yarn to needle, and wound the final skein. And have started thinking happily about Foldlines. The madtosh colour I wanted is out of stock at Jimmy Bean’s. There are other possibilities. Or what about going for Jared’s “Arbor” for which the pattern was written? There are some nice colours there too.

The only drawback on that one is that I am swatching (me! swatching!) in leftover madtosh, trying to get the repeated pattern square to something like the right size. And when I achieve that – and can therefore calculate pretty closely what size the finished sweater will be – is it wise to switch to another yarn. ?

The new IK turned up today. Lots of nice things. Nothing that quite makes me want to drop the needles and rush down to the LYS.

A dear friend came and solved my computer-printer problem. It was a matter, apparently, of pushing a “Join Network” slider from Off to On. Perdita often walks on the keyboard when I am here, and she knows a lot of key combinations which are beyond me. I suspect her agency here.

I always sleep with the radio on. I woke up from my nap today to find myself in the middle of that excellent Radio Four program, A Good Read. As a result of which, I am now very happily re-reading Kate Atkinson’s “Case Histories”. Not trash, but it goes down smoothly.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Again, I have little to report. I have finished the basic knitting of the Stronachlachar. I have slid the stitches hither and yon, threaded others onto waste yarn, and embarked on a three-needle bind-off – a favourite of mine. I have even dared to disobey KD: I am binding off with the right-sides facing.

Our club pattern this week is the lovely Milarrochy stripes again, this time in a cropped pullover with what I think are called dolman sleeves – that heavy triangle under the armpits which I know doesn’t suit me.


Dawn, thank you for the interesting links on lie-lay. Here’s an embarrassing anecdote for you, fully 70 years old:

My sophomore, or was it junior? English teacher at Asbury Park High School wasn’t very bright. She told us, one day, that familiar American misleading rule, that “lie” was for animate objects and “lay” for inanimate. I put up my hand – I told you this was embarrassing – and asked whether that meant that it would be correct to say that the baby was lying on the bed and the book was laying on the bed beside it.

She looked a bit uneasy, but agreed that that was right. I subsided. She was equally misguided on “blank verse” and “free verse”, and on that one, I faced her down, at some other point during the year. (Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter, I told her. I must have been insufferable.)

As for Fanny Price: I think we have to assume that there were “good genes” in the Price family, Shandy.  Fanny, William, Susan. And Fanny, plucked from her unsatisfactory family, was subsequently shaped and instructed by Edmund.

Anonymous: by “trash” I just mean easily-forgettable thrillers.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Another day of small achievement, I am afraid.

I did a bit of knitting while watching the Andrew Marr show this morning, and hope at least to finish the back of the Stronachlachar this evening.

Thinking about this summer’s wedding: if Becca really means to wear the veil pinned to her head and down her back, as her sister-in-law-to-be Hellie did, Hellie’s veil will be far better for the purpose than that nice little one of Jared’s. So perhaps I will put that thought aside and move on to Foldlines, for which I need to order yarn.

That's my son-in-law Ed, Rachel's husband, Hellie's father, to the left.


By “trash”, Shandy, I mean thrillers. I am looking forward to “Wych Elm”, to be published this week. Today I have been reading a late John LeCarre, “Absolute Friends”.

I have also been dipping back in to “Mansfield Park”. Fay Weldon seems to me to miss, as many do,  the blackest mark on Mary Crawford’s character. Her wicked brother Henry tells her that he means to make Fanny Price in love with him. Mary, although well aware of Fanny’s gentle, retiring character and her slightly subordinate social status, encourages her, under the name of friendship, to believe that Henry is really interested.

In fact, Fanny is not remotely tempted, and Henry falls in love with her.

But that’s not the point.

Mary’s behaviour is appalling, by all the standards of female solidarity. Austen doesn’t make much of it, allowing herself only the sentence: “Miss Crawford, complaisant as a sister, was careless as a woman and a friend.”

Reading that much tempted me on, of course, and I find that Austen uses “lay” for “lie” in ways of which I am supposed to disapprove. So I will have to shut up on that one.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Virtually nothing, tonight. No knitting.

Was I more than ordinarily flattened by this morning's Italian lesson? Next week, I have managed to schedule both it and the Personal Trainer for the same day.

I have finished reading the real “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. There is nothing there of the plot so fondly remembered over 50 years, the George Peppard and Patricia Neal story. I was very happy to find that memory supplied his name, even after all this time – hers, I had to look up.

The movie was written by George Axelrod. Presumably it was he, already an accomplished playwright, who saw the potential in the setting and devised the plot. Wikipedia says that he was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay. I wonder who won.

I think I will probably subside into trash for the rest of the month. I’ll finish speed-reading Weldon on Austen, though.

Becca (this year’s bride) is interested in the idea of Jared’s little shawl. She means to wear it down her back, attached to her hair, as Hellie did hers. For that purpose, the reappearance of Hellie’s shawl (much larger) might be better. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2019

No rugby this weekend. We can all relax. Next week, Scotland goes to Paris.

I’ve got four more rows of Stronachlachar to do, I think, before the finishing starts. But some of tomorrow’s knitting time will have to be devoted to winding the last skein.

Kirsten, no, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” doesn’t seem to be available for Kindle, at least over here. I am struggling a bit with the paperback. (=not enjoying it.) It’s not very long. I ought to be able to get through it. So far, it has nothing to do with the fondly-remembered movie (or with Tiffany’s) except that Audrey Hepburn is perfect for Holly. So maybe it will move on to the movie plot and improve.

I have also been speed-reading Fay Weldon’s “Letters to Alice”, responding to your tip, Beth. I’m afraid I’m not enjoying that very much either. Too much Fay Weldon, too much Literature, not enough Jane Austen. I have just encountered an anecdote about Winston Churchill as a writer of prose, which I am pretty sure she’s got the wrong way around. It makes me doubt some of her other sweeping statements.

My personal trainer comes on a Friday morning. We had a particularly exhausting session today. Maybe that’s why I am so grumpy.

Now, despite my hard work on gerunds earlier in the week, I’ve still got some Italian homework to do…

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Not too bad a day, although I felt very feeble. The back of the Stronachlachar is coming on fine. A couple more Pointless’s will polish it off, except for finishing. I’ve emailed Becca (this summer’s bride) to ask whether she’d like Jared’s “Rock Island”. There’s still plenty of time. The wedding is in July.

Helen and her two available sons are in Strathardle today. (It’s half-term; hence all this activity.) She sent this picture. My husband and I augmented our snowdrop collection quite a bit in our last years there. There are more on the West Lawn, around the other side of the house.

I’ve finished “Persuasion”. You’ve hit another of many nails on the head, Tamar: What, indeed, is the appeal of “Persuasion” over Austen’s other novels? (We’re all agreed that they are all sublime.) My sister agrees with you, Mary Lou and Peggy, that it’s her favourite. I simply don’t see it.

I would support “Mansfield Park” because it’s got sex, and therefore is closer to real life as we know it. Admittedly, no lurve, no his-eyes-met-hers, no Colin Firth. All the better for that, perhaps. And by “sex”, I don’t just mean the denouement. I mean the way sex bubbles below the surface throughout, the way it did when we were in high school.

Kirsten, thank you for explaining the non-relationship of “Cousin Phillis” to the Penguin Challenge. (Mary Lou, you’ll enjoy it.) And forgive me for transposing the letters in your name, on more than one occasion, I suspect. I’ll try to do better.

But while I’m in that area – my friend Kristie, the woman to whom I owe my only trip to Shetland, is having trouble posting comments here. She uses Safari on a Mac. Can anyone help?

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, in paperback form, arrived in the post today. I’ll read that next, waiting for March.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Not an entirely negligible day, except for lack of exercise. I did, by recent measure, quite a bit of knitting – I’ve reached the final increase row on the back of the Stronachlachar. It’s not all that much further to the shoulder.

And I made a good start on the Italian gerundive. Friday evening (homework time) should be less stressful this week.

I finished watching Andrew&Andrea 71: I am more than somewhat alarmed by her recent enthusiasm for crochet. I’ve nothing much against the craft per se: I’ve done it myself, and enjoyed it. But I’d hate to see too much of this excellent program devoted to it.

Annie Modesitt is blogging a bit more – that’s good. Her oncologist has congratulated her on being cancer-free, but she still feels dreadful. I wish she understood the difference between “lie” and “lay”. Jane Crow made that mistake in her interview with Andrea in episode 71. I suspect they have history on their side – in another 100 years or so, those verbs will have merged. But for now, it offends my pedantic ear to hear them confused.

Blame my mother, who had a firm grasp of English grammar, and also of family relationships: how to work out who was whose second cousin once removed.


It’s good to have you back, Mary Lou. The NHS largely took care of the problem you have been attending to – the morphine of the last few days was retrieved very briskly indeed after my husband’s death, and the equipment not much later. They seemed pleased with the donation of things we had provided ourselves – a wheelchair and some cardboard urinals.

Tamar, no – the lovely lace shawl in the Dundee V&A was attractively displayed, wrapped around the shoulders of a display model, but not stretched out so that you could study the pattern.

I have been trying to find my way back to the Penguin Reading Challenge. I seem to have got it – Virginia Woolf, In Cold Blood, Shirley Jackson, Persuasion: but there’s no mention of Cousin Phillis any more. (Shandy: Steerforth? What do you mean? He seems to be a character in David Copperfield.)  I have finished Cousin Phillis – lovely! – and am well back into “Persuasion”.