Monday, March 01, 2021


A pearl of a day. I have often found that March reverses its reputation – In like a lamb, out like a lion. I whizzed around the garden with Helen before she started her day’s work mosaicking. 2294 steps so far.


At one point Helen and her colleague found that there was a little bird in the room with them – a long-tailed tit, the colleague said. It is a wonderful room, large and high-ceiling’ed, not much used since my husband died. The bird seemed relatively cheerful. Someone was calling to it from outside. It’s too early in the season for it to have been a fledgling; so perhaps not its mother. It must have been a friend or a sister. Sure enough, soon there were two birds in the room. The mosaicists decamped to the dining room, which they have also requisitioned. And sure enough, again, when they went back, both birds were gone. They shut the window.


Some knitting, not a great deal. I’ve done 12 or 13 of the 18 (I think) stripes on the Polliwog, before I split for the arms. That’s when things get exciting.


What I have mostly done today is make another batch of kimchi. There’s still plenty of the last one, more than half. That will give the new one plenty of time to ripen before I tuck into it. In the past, I have left it too long and had to resort to store-boughten to bridge the gap. I am as devoted to the stuff as any Korean.


A dear friend has been to Waitrose, and brought me some Jerusalem artichokes. Tesco, who normally deliver my groceries, has never heard of them. I shall make myself an easy and delicious soup for my supper.

Sunday, February 28, 2021


All well. C. came, fresh from her vaccination, and we got twice around the garden. It’s remarkable how much has happened, in 48 hours, this time of year – daffodils now in bloom, and crocuses (I hadn’t noticed them before), and the wild garlic coming along nicely. And little girls having a picnic with their dolls. The step count stands at 3381. I can begin to think of hitting 5000.


I’ve measured the Polliwog, clumsily. The circumference seems right for the smallest size (which is what I’m aiming at).


Life, Reading


Janet, I envy you your assisted living community. It isn’t really the same here. We have apartments designed for the elderly, with help on call. But (in most cases) no restaurant, no gym, no common activities. I would have liked to have something like the American system on my Possibles List when my husband died. My mother lived in one. My sister and her husband are in another.


Leaving one’s books behind would be distressing. Getting the place tidied up, instead of leaving that task for one’s heirs, would, on the other hand, be a great relief. Despite Kirsten’s justified criticisms of the Kindle, I find it a tremendous help in reducing clutter. It does happen – it did, just the other day – that I read something I want to pass on, and then I have to bite the bullet and order a physical copy. But meanwhile books are not piling up here beyond the capacity of shelves to hold them. As I’ve said, knitting books and cookery are still purchased in hard copy only – and that fact rather restricts my buying.

Wales won the rugby yesterday


Saturday, February 27, 2021


Oh, Mary Lou, thank you! How could I have forgotten a point so important? I have marked the correction in the book – it won’t happen again. I’m now knitting the 10th stripe. Tomorrow it will be time to measure and calculate. And perhaps photograph.


I’ve been watching the rugby, and it is quite an interesting match, but I am finding it difficult to whip up any enthusiasm. They are playing in an empty stadium, with an overlay of phoney crowd noise. I’m glad we didn’t have that for the Calcutta Cup.


A nice day today, but I felt completely flattened after my Italian lesson and have scarcely moved – 578 steps. Helen was here and tried in vain to persuade me to bestir myself. C. tomorrow.




I must finish Fontamara, but the end is in sight.


The weekend FT has an interesting article about the “big houses” in Ireland belonging to the Protestant ascendency. Many were burnt down; some that remain have become boutique hotels. But the article mentions several writers who used them for settings, a genre I much enjoy. Molly Keane, top of the list. William Trevor – I’ve read a lot of him, but I don’t think I know the one they mention, “Fools of Fortune”. JG Farrell, “Troubles”. John Banville, “Snow”. Elizabeth Bowen. Edith Somerville. Much to investigate.


A nearby friend says that electrical work is going on in the vicinity, and that various oddities have affected her supply. Could that be what tripped my fuse? It's a comforting thought, anyway.

Friday, February 26, 2021


All is well – it has been a delightful spring day. C. and I got once around the garden. She is going to be vaccinated tomorrow! 2387 steps – could be worse, by my feeble standards.


Helen has a major mosaic commission, which is to be executed largely here because I’ve got so much unused space and her studio isn’t up to it. So today she was here with a mosaic-making colleague who has been employed to help. Even Archie, I think, is to be paid for cutting tesserae, when we get to that stage. And it will be very nice for me to have these people about.


I have spent much of the day (knitting and) listening to Mr Salmond testifying. It will be interesting to hear the news, in half an hour, and discover how a professional distils all that. Essentially his plan was (I think) to enrol himself on the side of the committee which was questioning him and against the Scottish government. He didn’t involve Mrs Sturgeon in particular any more than he had to.


Much of it was, to me, obscure to the point of incomprehensibility, but it was interesting because everybody on-screen cared so much. In my teaching career, I always rather enjoyed invigilating GCSE exams, because they were so important to everybody. The room crackled with it.


The Polliwog progresses. The current instruction, alternating three-row stripes of main colour and contrast colour, is to proceed until I have knit 17 (small size) or 20 (large size) of each. I’ll soon be able to photograph it for you.




Still no reading to speak of, and no Italian composition despite good resolutions.


Joe and Tamar – I realised after I had restored the fuse yesterday, that I should have first ascertained whether the washing machine was involved. It had finished its lengthy cycle – surely if it was responsible, the fuse would have blown while it was labouring on? I worried for quite a while about whether my beloved electric Aga could have quietly expired. It retains heat, and it would have taken quite a while for failure to be obvious. But it’s fine. I haven’t run the washing machine again since, nor has any disaster manifested itself today.


Rugby tomorrow. Rachel and Ed’s youngest, Lizzie, is locked down with them, with her boyfriend Dan. He had hoped to go home for Christmas – there’s an infant nephew or niece he hasn’t met yet. He assumed then (as we all tend to do) that everything would be back to normal by February – but no, he’s still locked down with Rachel and Ed and Lizzie this weekend, for his 30th birthday. All he wants, Rachel says, is for England to beat Wales. I’ll try, for Dan’s sake, but I find it awfully difficult to cheer for England. Them in their white suits.

Thursday, February 25, 2021


A pleasant day. 3177 steps – and Helen and I only got once around the garden. The rest must have been me pacing anxiously up and down the hall to look at the washing machine in action. It did fine, except that, on the basic cycle we chose – it was called “cottons” – it took a long time. I think, studying the book, that that was something to do with “eco”-ness. There is an alternative cycle, much quicker, which uses more power. But the load for that has to be lighter in weight, as well. It might be better to stick with basic and prolonged.


Helen likes the Evendoon.


So that’s that done. (Her dog is named Farouk. He is a gentle soul, who pays no attention to cats. Perdita reciprocates by paying no attention to him. Paradox has the vapours.)


And I moved forward nicely with the Polliwog. The initial ribbing is done. After a single increase row, the body is done in peaceful st st up to the armholes, on a circular needle. After that, front and back will be separated (i.e., no steeking). To make it even more peaceful, three-row stripes alternate in the two colours. I think my odd colours are going to work well enough. And I feel an initial satisfaction with the size. I am suspended between being afraid that it will be too small, because the yarn is so fine; and too big, because I have cast on enough stitches for the 2-year-old size. The result seems to be that I am sailing forward unworried.


A major fuse failed today. I have a modern fuse box – my nice electrician got tired of being called out to replace them – and it was easily put right. But why did it happen? It was a bright day – no lights were on, and at first I didn’t grasp what had happened. I thought my computer – which is not new – had perished; I was half-way to choosing a new one.


I had a new scam today – a text message from a bank to say that “A new device has attempted to add payee MR H MOHAMMED”.  Fortunately it came from a bank where I don’t have an account, so I don’t need to waste time worrying.


I understand that the rugby match between Scotland and France has been postponed, because there have been some cases of COVID on the French team. Alas. That leaves Wales against England, which could be interesting. (And, by elimination, Ireland against Italy. Italy always loses.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


“A degree in applianceship” – Chloe, I love it! (Comment yesterday.) I have been afraid of the washing machine all day – and by now, it’s almost too late. I’ll spend some time with the book tonight, and then Daniela and I can tackle it together tomorrow. She’s very bright, although lacking English. I want to be sure she can be trusted not to overload it, so perhaps it’s just as well to face up to it together.


The weather was much subdued today. Archie came again, and we got once around the garden. 2318 steps – back in the saddle.


I finished off the Evendoon (I hope). I won’t sign it off on the sidebar, however, until Helen has given it a nod of approval tomorrow. It’s looking good. And I cast on the Polliwog!


The yarn I am using is meant to be a sock yarn, chosen for washability. It seems finer than the sock yarns I’m used to. But that could be because I haven’t knit socks for a while, and the Evendoon employs Kate Davies’ Schiehallion yarn, which is substantially heavier. (I have to look up the spelling of “Schiehallion” every time I use it.) The Polliwog is written for a heavier-then-sock yarn (as I’ve said before), I'll try to repeat what I did last time, fairly successfully: namely to use the number of stitches required for the largest size, but, guided by the schematic, keep the measurements as near as possible to the smallest. We shall soon see.


My Mindful Chef lunch today – a healthy dal – was really very tasty, going some way to make up for last week’s disaster. No reading to report. I need to get stuck in to something weighty, but meanwhile have an essay on “Fontamara” to write in Italian.


There was no international rugby last weekend, in case anyone was wondering about its absence here. This weekend, Scotland goes to France. That’s usually a good match.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


Stormy, today. Archie came, and we set out for a little walk. The sun was even shining. But we decided after a few steps that it wasn’t a good idea. The wind was blowing so that you had to stop and cling on to the railings. It probably would have been walkable in the garden – it’s fairly sheltered – but first, one had to get there. So we turned back.


And this afternoon, it sounds stormy out there. 1013 steps. The plumber was here most of the morning. Everything looks wonderful, and tomorrow I had better try doing some washing – the instructions go on for pages. The plumbing cost more than the washing machine. It's all Helen's fault.


I had a Zoom meeting this afternoon, holiness, connected with Lent. The trouble with Zoom – one of the troubles with Zoom – is that one frets about it so much in advance that it fills up the whole day.


The knitting progresses. I’m binding off the Evendoon for the second time. Tomorrow should see it done. There won’t even be many ends to deal with. And then, indeed, I hope, a picture of Helen inside it. 


Kirsten, I hope you’ll continue to post your progress with the Osaka Tea Cosy. It’s getting exciting.


Not much reading today: a bit of holiness, a bit of Ovid. Now I'll go listen to the news, which should contain Mrs Sturgeon's views on the end of lockdown: on which depends C.'s and my May 1 cruise.