Monday, November 18, 2019


Poor Prince Andrew continues at or near the top of the news. There seems to be an idea that he should go to the US and give evidence to somebody or other about Epstein’s misdeeds. Maybe we could swap him for Mrs Sakoolas.

The Times – and probably a lot of other newspapers – share my idea that it would be interesting to talk to Ghislane Maxwell. Her testimony might be a good deal more interesting than Prince Andrew’s, judging from that interview. She seems to have vanished off the face of the earth.

Meanwhile I finally found a button to click on which gave me access to Series Three of the Crown. I’m not going to weary you week after week with inconsistencies and improbabilities – I’m not clever enough – but I was left breathless at the scene in the first episode in which the Queen and Prince Philip were represented as pig ignorant about their own pictures. “That’s a Rembrandt, is it?”

I am sure she was well educated in family history, including the formation of the Royal Collection. And I’m also pretty sure that she takes a housewifely interest in her furnishings, even though she didn’t choose them herself at Ikea. I don’t suppose she’s an expert in art history, but I suspect she can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zophanys. (That’s Gilbert and Sullivan.) Heaven Snake! as our family saying has it.

Not much else to report. All this idling about achieved another 10 stitches for the Dathan hap. Perdita has suddenly developed a fondness for my lap, which slows things down.

I’m finding my current Trollope, “The Bertrams”, a bit of a struggle.

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, and I’m finding it rather depressing. He didn’t always remember mine, but he set great store by his own and his sister’s. I suspect it’s the seasonal darkness which is weighing on my spirits.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


I might not be here this evening if I could persuade Netflix to show me the new series of The Crown – but all I can get is the last item in the old one (Churchill and Graham Sutherland). Too much demand?

I didn’t get to Mass this morning because my chauffeuse is suffering from a bad cold. I watched the Andrew Marr show, and then the recording of Prince Andrew’s interview (I didn’t stay up last night, after all). Lots of garter stitch was added to the Dathan hap – when I finish the current long, long row I’ll have 419 stitches (of a desired 597).

The newspapers and radio are so hostile to Prince Andrew that I felt a contrarian sympathy for him. He is a vain and not very clever man, and Epstein must have been both fascinating and flattering. It seems to me entirely possible that he swept the girls out of sight when Andrew was there.

And I need to know more about Ghislane Maxwell – Robert’s daughter, and a major player in this story.  I see from Wikipedia that she is a Balliol man. She may well have overlapped Alexander. He and Prince Andrew are almost exactly the same age – both born in February, 1960. Alexander is aging more successfully. He was at Balliol when the first women were admitted.

FugueStateKnits, of the books you name you must certainly start Trollope with “Barchester Towers”. It’s probably his masterpiece. I tried to reply to your comment, and may have succeeded, but I want to make sure.

Mary Lou, I remember “Wild Swan” from my childhood with great affection, although I had forgotten that she had to spin and knit nettles.

Saturday, November 16, 2019


Not much, again today. The Italian lesson was more than ordinarily flattening, although perfectly pleasant and successful. I’ve read some Ferrante, walked as far as the corner shop to buy my weekend FT, done my Duolingo, that’s about it.

But I mean to stay up to watch the interview with Prince Andrew as it first goes out, at 9. Poor Queen. And that should provide time for some Dathan hap garter stitch. And soon – tomorrow? – we’ll have the new Netflix “Queen”; lots more garter stitch potential there.

Mary Lou, (comment yesterday), your November stash activity sounds intensely therapeutic. I don’t think we’ve discussed nettle, and it’s an interesting subject. Plant-wise, isn’t it related to flax? Or am I imagining that? I tried a bit of a google, and it’s out there all right. One website, showing a beautiful-looking sock yarn, said that it is “slightly molten, as the dye does not stick to the nettle yarn”. That sounds ominous. I’d be interested to hear anything more you have to say about it. What is the proportion of nettle in the Wild Wool yarn?

My current Trollope really isn’t very good, so far, but at least the travelogue is over and the characters reassembled in London.

Friday, November 15, 2019


Again, not much done. A day of activity but not much accomplishment. A man came to service the boiler and fix a broken lavatory and a stuck cellar door. He did all those things successfully. Tesco delivered some groceries. My cleaner came and put the groceries away. Greek Helen dropped in.

I think the Dathan hap rows have reached the point where I had better stop flogging myself to get four rows done a day, and just knit peacefully on. The stitch count is somewhere in the 390’s. The target is 597.

The new IK turned up today but alas! has nothing for me. It is largely or perhaps entirely devoted to heavier yarns – not my thing, these days.

I think I’m ready to read The Golden Fleece, but I am at the moment still with Trollope – “The Bertrams”. I am currently reading a section in which the author does something I almost always don’t enjoy – namely, uses a place he has recently visited as background. I’m jumping to a conclusion here, in Trollope’s case, but I’m fairly confident.

The place is Jerusalem, and the section is not without interest because Trollope is good, and his eye is sharp, and it’s interesting to see what Jerusalem was like 150 years ago. But I hope we’ll all go home to England soon.

It’s Friday night again. I must go back to the passato remoto.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Even my simple programme seems to be more than I can manage: 10 more stitches on the Dathan hap; a bit of Ferrante; a bit of exercise; a bit of blogging; my daily Duolingo. Something always fails to get done.

The Dathan stitches now number somewhere in the 380’s, too many for comfort. I’ve found a longer needle.

My Personal Trainer came today, leaving me breathless but feeling better and newly resolved to incorporate some exercise into my simple programme. Archie also came, and changed a lot of light bulbs.

But mostly I read Trollope. I finished “The Belton Estate”, very much enjoyed. It starts off rather sluggishly, but picks up speed. Evelyn Waugh says wistfully somewhere that an artist or a composer can re-work a theme, but an author can’t. I think in this case Trollope is re-working Lily Dale and Mr. What’s-His-Name and Johnny Eames from “The Small House at Allington” and “The Last Chronicle of Barset”. The books are more or less contemporaneous. They don't depend on each other, of course. But the theme is similar.

The scene on the last two pages is utterly delicious – but it’s no use skipping ahead. You’ve got to read the book.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Not a bad day. This time I got everything done except the walk. The Dathan hap stitches now number about 370. The needle is getting crowded – I’ll have to look around tomorrow to see if I’ve got a longer one.

Today’s Andrew&Andrea is about Shetland lace, one to watch again. The first interview-ee was asked the question I asked myself, when I first got to Unst: why there? Her answer was partly that the harsh weather means that Unst sheep have peculiarly soft wool under their chins. The other part, I feel pretty sure, is the accident of genius.

The other interview-ee was Carol Christiansen herself, curator of the Shetland Museum and Archives, talking about the lace project currently underway. I’ll have to stay alive along enough to see the resulting book.

I’ve finished “Vanishing Fleece”, with a bit of speed-reading at the end. Do see Maureen and Shandy’s comments of yesterday, if you haven’t already. Maureen, yes, my Shetland Wool Adventure included Jamiseon’s – what? – factory. But I was weak, dedicated to standing upright throughout; and I hadn’t read the book yet.

Three things to say about it:

                   The ending is dreadful.

                   I am afraid that Parkes commits the verbal sin which I particularly abhor these days, namely “One of the only…” That’s absurd. Either you mean “The only…” or you mean “One of the few…” I think it is the refuge of a lazy writer who wants to write “The only…” but doesn’t quite dare and doesn’t want to do the spade work. In that case, sir or madam, “Perhaps the only…” will suffice.

                   I was surprised that there was no mention of Brooklyn Tweed, who have worked so hard for American production of American yarn. Perhaps I missed it during my speed-reading. The BT website is interesting on the processing of their yarn.

But the reading left me much in need of Trollope. What will I do when I run out of him?

Monday, November 11, 2019


Not too bad a day  – I’ve read my Ferrante, walked as far as the butcher, attended to some business, and had a good proteinful lunch. Archie was here. That leaves a couple of rows of Dathan hap to be polished off.

I fared reasonably well yesterday with evening television-and-knitting. BBC iPlayer let me down somewhat, but it let me watch half of the arty program I had in mind, and thenI  switched to Attenborough on nature which is of course magnificent.

Trollope behind me for the moment, I have been reading Clara Parkes “Vanishing Fleece”. How I wish I had read it before my Shetland Wool Adventure last May! What actually happens at Jamieson&Smith, and Jamieson’s? They both seem to get their wool not exactly on-the-hoof but not long off it. Then what? How much is done in-house, how much dispatched elsewhere? I could have asked better questions had I read Parkes.

And how were all these complicated-sounding mechanical processes carried out in the Olden Days, by women in their crofts on Unst? I think a few pages on how it was once all done by hand at home – as surely it must have been – would have been useful. But it’s a fascinating book, undoubtedly.

Diet

Thank you for your advice. I think I’m pretty strong on protein – there was a poached egg I didn’t mention yesterday, along with my okra stew, and when I snack, I snack on cheese. Three days a week I cook and eat a Mindful Chef meal, and they’re fearfully healthy.

Other

I was struck yesterday, as I occasionally am, at the oddity of the fact that in GB (alone in the world?) the Head of State does not sing the national anthem. The Queen yesterday was between the duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge, two future queens perhaps, who were belting it out while she stood silent.

They say that one of George VI’s daughters – Margaret, surely – asked him once: “What do you sing, Daddy? ‘God Bless Our Gracious Me?’