Monday, January 17, 2022

 I am being persecuted by computers – starting with the disappearance of Freecell.

We discovered yesterday that Google Mail is sending all messages from Alexander to Spam. I thought he was mad at me. He knows a lot about computers, and works from home on one. He doesn’t know why this is happening. And we can’t even blame it on Microsoft.

 And now I’ve had trouble loading Word. (My practice is to compose there and save to Dropbox and then copy it over to Blogger.) I have succeeded in the end, although only in “safe mode”. And it turns out that "safe mode" doesn't know about Dropbox and where I usually save things. 

 We had sunshine again today, and Helen came to walk with me, but I felt too feeble to get around the garden. (So much for temperance.) We got there, and I sat for a while on a damp bench. Better than nothing.

 And I got some knitting done, too.

 I hope those of you on the Eastern Seaboard aren’t suffering too much. My cheetahs clearly don’t like it, evidenced by the fact they they are indoors. Indeed the whole zoo (DC) is closed because of “inclement weather”.

Sunday, January 16, 2022


We had a bit of sunshine today. It does help. I got around the garden with C., very slowly.


I ate a little green salad from my salad machine. C. brought me two Seville oranges, and I used one of them to make a vinaigrette for it. Very tasty.


And I knit. It’s still agonizingly difficult, the more so now that it is divided by three steeks (armholes and v-neck) so that one has to figure out where one is in the pattern three times per round. There are two rounds in which nothing much happens, evenly all the way around. The following round, in each case, is still very difficult for me: the pattern is two lozenge-shapes, squares tipped on end. One is always expanding while the other contracts, and at the mid-way point they change places. It is important, after those do-nothing rounds to be sure I’ve got it right, which is which and where am I. It seems to involve a lot of time and a lot of unpicking.


But I remain confident that I’m going to get it done in time. I only need about three more inches, and the circumference is much reduced by the steeks.


Current Events


It’s hard to say why I feel sorry for Prince Andrew, Tandah. When our Cardinal O’Brien was disgraced, I felt sorry for him, too. For a while it looked as if he was going to assist the parish priest in a small town not far from Edinburgh. The priest and the congregation were eager to have him, but somebody – presumably the Vatican – said no, and he went into idle exile in England. A friend of his remarked, “He’s lost everything. Isn’t that enough?”


Your point is a good one, Cat, that Prince Andrew seems to have been singled out because of who he is. Clinton and Bill Gates have both been mentioned in this sad story – nobody’s suing them. A columnist in the Sunday Times today makes a good point which hadn’t occurred to me: namely that London 20 years ago was full of lovelies who would have welcomed an overnight invitation to Buckingham Palace. Did he really need to have one flown in from Florida? It should be noted that 17 wasn’t (and isn’t) under-age for sex in Britain.


But apart from that columnist -- Jeremy Clarkson – the tone today was very hostile and anti-monarchy.

Saturday, January 15, 2022


I thought maybe Freecell would come back by magic, but it hasn’t. I’ve Googled the problem, which has happened to other people before, but I have failed to perform the actions required. I’ve found a new copy, free, in the Microsoft Store, but they say they don’t have a record of any suitable appliance of mine to install it on. So I’ve given up. Archie is coming to see me next week. He’s young, and relatively computer-savvy, but I think this lies outside his field of expertise.


Otherwise all is much as before. A dull, grey day, warm for January. I got around the garden with Helen. I moved the knitting forward. If I can keep up this pace, I’ll have no difficulty in finishing before this year’s Cup Day – three weeks from today, I think. I had an awful tussle with it this evening. I think it’ll have to be photographed in soft focus.


Of our three interesting villains (Djokovic, the Prime Minister, Prince Andrew) it begins to look as if it may be the Prime Minister who gets away with it. I feel rather sorry for poor silly Prince Andrew. I’m glad he’s got Fergie, at least – they still live under the same roof and seem to be on cordial terms.


It seems an extraordinary coincidence that Mrs Sakoolas should come back into the news this very week. She killed a motorcyclist a couple of years ago now, by colliding with him while she was driving on the wrong side of the road. She fled home to the U.S. (after assuring the police that she would stay put, I think) and has since then been claiming diplomatic immunity. The British have applied to have her extradited; the Americans have refused. She has been formally accused (of Dangerous Driving, I suppose) and we were told that she was going to make an appearance by Zoom in a London magistrate’s court next week, but she has withdrawn at the last moment. She has offered apologies and compensation, I think, but the dead boy’s parents have refused. They want to see her in court.


Maybe Prince Andrew should adopt the Sakoolas system.

Friday, January 14, 2022


Another pretty good day. Still grey -- it would be nice to see the sun – but still very easy, as winters go. I got around the garden. Kirsten, I’m sure I wouldn’t be walking if the weather were anything like yours. I don't care for cold, and I'm scared to death of slippery. And, yes, it’s wonderful how good it makes you feel to plant a seed and see it come up. I think I will be able to eat a very modest green side-salad from my salad factory soon – two kinds of lettuce and some rocket.


My computer did one of those maddening “updates” when I turned it off last night – and now, it won’t load Freecell. That’s more of a New Year’s resolution than I feel entirely ready for.


Knitting went well. I’ve done the arithmetic, counted and re-counted the stitches, placed the steek for the v-neck opening, finished the decreases at the sides. I’m relying a lot on your Rylan pattern, Mary Lou, for which I am daily grateful. I have come to a decision, too. If Scotland win the Calcutta Cup again this year, I will knit J’s leg-warmers with a “22”. If not, they’ll be “21” as promised.


The history of the cup, as you relate it from the Antiques Road Show is much as I have heard it, Shandy, melted-down rupees and all, except that I thought it was England v. Scotland, even in India, rather than England v. The Rest of the World. Once they got the cup back here, it was England and Scotland from then on. I drive past the field where it was first contested on my way to Waitrose. They still play rugby there.


The knitting news from the outside world is that Arnall-Culliford is closing down, at least for the moment. Jen is ill. They’re having a sale – I haven’t looked. The last thing in the world I need is more yarn, and there isn’t really room for more books. This is sad news, though. I hope things turn for the better for them soon.





Thursday, January 13, 2022


A pretty good day. I got around the garden, and embarked on the underarm decreases of wee Hamish's Calcutta Cup vest, next to the steeks. I thought perhaps what I might do this evening is the arithmetic: how wide do I want the shoulders to be at the end, allowing for ribbing at both neck and sleeve-hole? How many stitches on each side does that amount to? When do I start the neck steek, and how fast do I decrease thereafter? But I’ve just discovered that a new Americast is up, and it’s about Prince Andrew. So perhaps I’ll actually knit this evening, while I listen to it. One more round couldn’t hurt. One of the Americast regulars is Emily Maitlis who conducted the infamous interview with Prince Andrew.


What a delicious start to the year, to have Boris and Prince Andrew and Novak Djokovic all providing us gossip-lovers with cliff-hangers, all at once!


I kept getting into trouble with the stitch pattern this morning, and having to frog a few stitches. Maybe I’ve lost my touch – maybe Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest will be my last great Fair Isle.

 I can’t even read the year on this photograph (we’ve won so often lately!) but could no doubt work it out. 2018, perhaps? 2019 was a draw – that was a scarf for Thomas Miles. I’m sort of sorry I didn’t see the cup on the Antiques Roadshow, Shandy. But I have seen the real thing, when I went on a tour of Murrayfield (the Scottish rugby ground) with C. and her son-in-law Manaba (Hamish’s father, a keen rugby player and follower). And it’s worth seeing.


I’ve promised leg warmers for 2021, as well as Hamish’s vest. I’ve bought the kit from Jamieson & Smith, and at present writing have lost the pattern. However, I’m sure that’s not serious. The recipient – we’ll call her J. – is full-grown so there’s not such a hurry. Hamish has to have his vest in time for this year’s match, in about three weeks from now.


Wednesday, January 12, 2022


A dull day. I got around the garden.


I got the tinking done (see yesterday) and the second steek cast on. Then I sank back, exhausted. However, later in the day I discovered that the Calcutta Cup will actually be contested during the first week of February, the 5th or so. I’d better get cracking. I could finish the vest off with ordinary ribbing instead of corrugated if need be: that would speed things up a bit.


Here is my salad factory at the end of week 3, under its eerie light. Basil, far left, was slow to start but is now moving along nicely. I messed around with Youtube a bit, and discovered that I am not expected to wait until I can replace all four lingots; I can take them out and slot in replacements whenever. It is sort of embarrassing not to have thought of that myself. Sometime in June I am supposed to take the whole thing apart and clean it. I want to grow chillies. There are two chilli lingots, cayenne and jalapeno, but both are “out of stock”, the only ones that are.  But perhaps by the time I need them…


Archie is doing – I think I probably told you – a degree course to become a mental health nurse. The first term was almost entirely on-line (and not very demanding), but now he has embarked on his first placement and is full of enthusiasm. He is attached to a community health ward at a hospital in Haddington. So far he is only shadowing real nurses, but he will be there six weeks and may become more engaged. It sounds potentially depressing – the patients are mostly if not all elderly and somewhat demented. He will come and see me one day next week when I hope to learn more.


Shandy (comment yesterday): tell me more about that art programme. My husband was at the Barber Institute in Birmingham, but there were no W*lkies there. There is no need to be coy about the Barber Institute. I spell “D*vid W*lkie” like that because I don’t want any scholars to search for him, and even perhaps add “Miles”, and wind up here. There are lots of interesting narrative W*lkies, and I would like to have heard the attempt to link them to the pandemic.


I’m getting on fine with teetotalism. The secret is simple: there is no cider in the house. There are enough spirits, mostly good whiskey, to provide a bath; and some wine and vermouth and what-not in the kitchen for cooking, but I am not even remotely tempted. So if I did weaken, it would take me 48 hours at least to lay in a supply. February, if I attempt four-days-dry-three-days-cider again, will be much harder.



Tuesday, January 11, 2022


It was 100 years ago today, according to my newspaper, that the first insulin injection was given. That’s a landmark worth remembering.


It looked like quite a nice day out there. I stayed in, as planned, after my bath. I hope I’ll be strong enough to get out tomorrow. I have felt very feeble today.


But I’ve done some knitting. I’m ready for the underarm steeks. I’ve put in the first one, at the beginning/end point of the round, but I didn’t think out the position of the second one properly – it’s obvious, once you apply the slightest bit of thought. But I’ve knit past the spot – it wasn’t marked – and now need to do some unpicking.


Dumfries House: stashdragon wants to hear the story. One is enough.


A previous Lord Bute, grandfather of the present Earl, moved in arty circles and was an acquaintance – it would be presumptuous to claim him as a friend – of my husband’s. (There was a famous 18th century Lord Bute who collected art.) He owned several W*lkies – I wonder if they’re still there – which were kept at Dumfries House. It was the dower house, where widowed countesses lived. The family house is Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute. “Our” Lord Bute’s mother lived at Dumfries House in those days, and one day her son invited us to lunch to see the W*lkies.


Two things I remember. There was no one there at lunch except us. I was therefore the senior female guest and the meal began with the butler presenting me with an entire fish of some sort, to help myself from. It was a moment of absolute terror.


And after lunch when we were sitting about, and my husband and John Bute were talking about art, Lady Bute – who didn’t pay much attention to us – was on the telephone to someone, talking about horses. At first I thought, with some surprise, that she was talking to her bookie. Then I figured out that she was talking to her trainer.


“Our” Lord Bute died relatively young. His eldest son was a racing driver who preferred to go by the name of Johnny Dumfries. He it was who sold Dumfries House. The furniture was –is – rather special, made by Chippendale for the house, or something like that. It had been loaded into pantechnicons and was on its way to one of the grand auctioneers in London when Prince Charles stepped in.