Saturday, July 24, 2021


Not an entirely successful day. I slept badly, to begin with – that’s unusual. I’m normally very good at sleeping. Then I got up too late to make breakfast before my 8 a.m. Italian lesson. When C. came to walk me around the garden, I couldn’t even make it to the garden gate. The weather is still sizzling hot here, although it has dissolved into thunderstorms in the south of England. It’s hot in Rome, too, and my tutor had had her second vaccination yesterday. We didn’t exactly sparkle.


Helen is urging me to get another trainer. I’m resisting. It takes up a whole morning of every week. It’s fairly expensive.


Helen’s husband David is here from Greece. He’s finished quarantining and they have all gone off to Kikrmichael. He will be going back to Thessaloniki with a couple of his sons next week – but will be here again in September. They came to call on their way north. They are going on to the Glenlivet distillery (wherever that is: somewhere north) on Monday to see and photograph Helen’s big mosaic in place.




I’m glad to hear that Elsie Dinsmore hasn’t been entirely forgotten. It is interesting that she is free to download on Amazon – her family were slaveowners. I would have thought the books were about as Incorrect as it was possible to be, in 2021. Perhaps things aren’t as bad (censorship-wise) as I imagined, or maybe Amazon doesn’t know what’s inside.


Tamar, my bath has excellent handrails, and isn’t – like many another bath, like the one Helen has installed in Kirkmichael – too steep to get into. The problem is more my lack of flexibility.


Andrea has posted another episode of Fruity Knitting. It’s time I picked up those socks again (at least) and spent an hour with her.



Friday, July 23, 2021


Another such day – except that this time Edinburgh’s cloud cover had departed by lunchtime. Archie came. We got around the garden. It was a struggle. And this turns out to be one of the days when the app refuses to acknowledge my struggles – 1797 steps. Poof. I’ll have to walk up and down the hall a few times, although I ought to be reading Dante.  I dispatched a brief essay to Rome this morning about the first half of The Hummingbird. That was something.


I have a friend Sylvia, an Oberlin friend. I’m sure I’ve mentioned her before. She writes a private blog, almost every day, to a list of friends and family.  She’s having trouble with her hot water boiler, but her son, or her plumber, I’ve forgotten which, taught her how to re-light it. The process involves lying on the floor. She is delighted. That means she can have a hot bath whenever she wants, even before a new one is installed. I wouldn’t dream of lying on the floor to do anything, for fear of never getting up again. And a full-scale bathtub bath is a risky proposition for me, I discovered last weekend. Sylvia is a whole year older than I am. So that is a bit depressing.



Thursday, July 22, 2021


We had a nice cool grey Edinburgh day until late afternoon, but then the sun got through and now we’re sizzling away like everybody else. I walked around the garden by myself. Helen was planning to come, but she has plenty to do, so I said I’d do it by myself, and did. 2020 steps. Could be worse, I guess.


We had an interesting essay from Kate Davies yesterday about John Logie Baird and socks. When I pitched up in Glasgow in the fall of ’54 – talk about culture shock! – I had never heard of him. I guess I thought that we had invented television. Be that as it may, his daughter Diana became one of my undergraduate friends. One memorable day we went to Helensburgh to visit her aunt, JLB’s sister. Miss Baird and I discovered a mutual enthusiasm for Elsie Dinsmore (anybody?) and spent a happy afternoon reminiscing about her.


I’ve tried reading Wikipedia on both JLB and television, but it’s too hot to think, let alone knit. I think the industry went forward with an electronic system rather than the mechanical one JLB was using, and that RCA in America had as much to do with it as anyone. Lots of different scientists and inventors were involved, all over Europe and America. JLB seems to be the only one whose name has become attached to the invention.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021


Still hot, although I still think Edinburgh is doing better than elsewhere. We had some clouds until lunchtime today. Helen came, and got me around the garden – you’re absolutely right, Mary Lou, that she is not one to be trifled with. Even with that, and with tottering here and there to put away a supermarket delivery, I haven’t quite hit 2000 steps.


No knitting. The cats, even, aren’t pestering me for food with their usual enthusiasm.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021


Bless you, Shandy, for identifying Jennifer Ehle’s role in “The King’s Speech”. Knowing who she was, enhances it in retrospect. There is a crucial scene towards the end – I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here – when the speech therapist, who had thought his wife was out for the afternoon, is forced to bring his royal patient out into the family room. He introduces his wife – “This is…” and a brief pause. The issue of what name the therapist is to use with his patient has been bubbling around throughout the film. “…His Majesty King George VI”. His wife curtseys – and you’re right, Shandy, there is not the slightest suggestion that there had ever been anything between her and the King – and invites them to stay to supper. But the Queen says that they had something on that evening and must be getting back. Helena Bonham Carter’s take on the woman we remember as QE The Queen Mother was, I thought, slightly unexpected but both delightful and plausible.


Little else to report. Another warm day. Archie came but I refused to walk. We discharged quite a few small, useful chores instead.


I’ve just been watching the interview with Mr Cummings, without learning much. And without knitting anything.

Monday, July 19, 2021


I had a grand day out yesterday, having lunch with C., her daughter Christina, Christina’s husband Manaba, and their son wee Hamish. I think his Calcutta Cup vest will fit him well, if I can just energise myself to go on knitting it. It was a delicious pleasure to have lunch with a baby – 14 months – who eats real food with such relish: a chicken casserole, potatoes, asparagus, peas. His grandmother thinks he ought to be getting to grips with the use of a fork. I think he’s doing fine. He has a spoon, which he often abandons for a more direct approach. Pudding was an apple – he just seizes it; no need to cut it up – and some raspberries.


I’ve been very feeble today. Helen came, and we got around the garden. It’ll be Archie tomorrow. I have a single, simple chore which I have been intending to do all day, but didn’t. I think my best bet is to lay out the constituent parts this evening, and polish it off in the morning. Chequebook, bill, envelope, stamp, pen. It really shouldn’t be too difficult. I don’t often pay bills in that old-fashioned way, but this time I need to add a note of heart-felt appreciation. Difficult to do on-line.


What I did do this afternoon was watch “The King’s Speech” on Netflix. It is delicious, if you haven’t seen it. Even if you have. It was fun spotting actors from BBC classics of the past – including the King himself, of course. I missed Jennifer Ehle, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice: that’s to her credit. I spotted Sebastian from Brideshead Revisited and think I saw that awful clergyman who proposed to Elizabeth early on, and then swiftly married her friend.

Saturday, July 17, 2021


A summer’s day again. You Americans would, I suspect, welcome our occasional cooling breeze, but I feel flattened. C. and I got around the garden this morning, however – that’s something.


Little else to report. Helen’s clients came from Oxford and took away her latest mosaic. She says – I was having my nap during all this – that they were pleased. She is anxious: will it fit? I am sure it will, if they have given her the right dimensions.  Helen is meticulous. They had just been to the Scottish Gallery and bought a large Blackadder. So now they’ve got a Blackadder and a Helen Miles.


No knitting, and I still haven’t put wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest on waste yarn. My plan for tomorrow morning – since I won’t have to walk, because of going to C.’s lunch party – is to have a delicious bath (I’m filthy) after the Andrew Marr show, and then steam myself dry. I ought to be able to get the vest onto waste yarn during that period. I did the same for Alexander’s what-year-was-it? vest and took it along when I went to see him. Or when we did – depends on the year. And it proved to be grotesquely too large (so much for swatching) and I started again from scratch and wound up with what is probably my best-fitting garment ever. See above.


I had a good Italian lesson this morning. Canto 31 of the Inferno has a passage about the Towel of Babel, which got us talking about the  the origin of language. Which is a matter that has long interested me. I’m not altogether sure that modern thought has progressed all that far since the Old Testament writers, and Dante. My tutor recommended Noam Chomsky.