Friday, April 16, 2021


Another beautiful day, and this time it’s getting a bit warmer. I got once around the garden with Archie, but the total so far is only 1959 steps. Still feeling feeble, but not dizzy.


I’ve fallen into the old trap of leaving myself too much Italian to do on a Friday evening. A whole canto of Dante. And I must look up some steeple-chasing vocabulary: my tutor is a devoted feminist, and will enjoy talking about Rachael Blackmore who has just become the first woman to win the Grand National. (The horse was named Minella Times, and should perhaps be mentioned.) I like her for not being a Hillary Clinton about it – she is as pleased as any human being would be, having won the National, and that’s as far as she goes. Although in fact it was a considerable feminist achievement – she beat the boys at their own game, fair and square.


I made a start on the all-over Fair Isle pattern on the body of wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest. It’s too soon to say whether I like the way it’s going.


Here’s the Razzamatazz sweater I mentioned yesterday:


I learned a lot, doing that one, which prepared me for Kaffe when he came along later. “Glorious Knitting” would have to be included in my short-list of Influential Knitting Books. Perhaps I’ll go ahead and try to write them down. I don’t think I know “Wild Knitting”, Lisa. Perhaps I should investigate.


Thank you for your cruise-knitting advice. I want to travel as light as possible, but there’s no point in being obsessive about it. And I have a pair of socks, years old, which could do with being finished.




I’ve moved a bit forward with “I Vicere”, but not much.


I think I have always regarded that passage in “Mansfield Park” as just another bit of Mrs-Norris-ery. She diagnoses the gardener’s grandson sight-unseen (ague); accepts a choice cutting; promises a valueless ague-healing charm. (But did she ever send it?) A busy know-it-all who never actually puts herself out for anyone.

Thursday, April 15, 2021


I’ve been a bit feeble today, perhaps even a bit dizzy again. Helen’s husband David came to walk me around the garden. I haven’t seen him for months, and won’t again for many more. He seems surprisingly cheerful. 2206 steps – better than I expected.


Tamar, thank you. You’re right, of course. I had two thoughts, however: 1) Things must have been most different, in those days before doctors could do anything except recommend bed rest and lots of fluids. 2) Are we entirely different, nowadays? Are not relics of the saints and other “good luck charms” of one sort or another, occasionally left with the very ill?


Helen and her family are safely back from Kirkmichael (see above), where they had a good time. The weather continues as before, dry and sunny and chilly. It is good to have her toiling away in the study again, although I don’t see her all day (she brings a packed lunch).


I knit stoutly on, and have finished the Calcutta Cup band on wee Hamish’s vest. I then spent some time considering colours and all-over pattern with which to proceed. (Some people plan their knitting properly before they begin.) I found McGregor’s “Fair Isle Knitting” – it was my fault, for leaving it in the dining room; not Michaela’s. The all-over pattern I want to use from here on has four fewer stitches per side than are employed at the moment. Delete them? I have decided no; I’ll have a four-stitch unpatterned stripe running up each side.


I also found, in the same place, Pam Dawson’s “Knitting Fashion” from 1976, one of the major books in my knitting formation. It might be mildly interesting to catalogue the others. I knit the “Razzamatazz jersey” on page 75 for Rachel when she was about to go up to Cambridge to read classics – it said “O tempora o mores” on one side, and, in Greek, “Give me a place to stand” on the other. The latter a quotation from Archimedes, I think, with reference to the fulcrum: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.”


Little else to report. I’ve heard from the nursery that the plants I ordered are on their way – so the scam mentioned yesterday was certainly a scam. I’ve pressed on with “I vicere” – we’ve now reached the younger in-laws.


Miscellaneous, comments


Thank you for your help with knitCompanion, Maureen. I will continue to hold back for a while, out of sheer sloth, but I’m tempted.


Mary Lou, I know that brioche is hell to disentangle if you make a mistake (and I make lots of mistakes). But on the other hand, when it’s going well, it’s wonderful. Squishy, I think is the word. The sensible thing to do would be to take socks to knit on the cruise – that’s what I always used to do, in the days when my husband and I went to London three or four times a year for art and grandchildren. And even a bit before that, when I went to the USofA once or twice a year, to see my mother when she was too weak to travel. In those days I’d knock off half a dozen pairs a year without trying.


Well, we’ll see.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021


Tamar: Mrs Norris??? Witchcraft?? And Fanny knew?? Please tell all. I thought I knew that book well. I am impressed by how much information you have been able to glean from family trees.


It has been another cold, bright, beautiful day. One good thing about such weather is that it makes spring last a bit longer. I did my solitary walk – 2768 steps. That’s a bit better. And I got some, not all, of the things on today’s list done. Water (for the front step) is awfully heavy.


One of my assignments today was to find the pattern for Carol Sunday’s two-colour brioche cowl which I bought, along with the wool, a year ago, in preparation for the first of our cancelled cruises. I found it. I’m not sure I feel up to it. The beginning sounds awfully difficult. I had a look at Marchant’s two-colour brioche book. So many of her stitch patterns are so interesting that I don’t see why I don’t just use the yarn to knit one of her scarves. The cast-on doesn’t sound quite as daunting, either (although I would still have to devote a few days to it before the cruise, just to be sure I was well started). And that would avoid the decision Sunday starts off with: whether to give everything a Moebius twist as soon as it has been cast on, to create an “eternity cowl”, or just knit a tube.


The Calcutta Cup has advanced a bit, but seems slow. I’m sure things will speed up as soon as this band is finished. Fair Isle is easy and pleasant to knit, but I don’t want to encumber myself with all the colours, on the cruise.


If Mrs Sturgeon lets us go. I wouldn’t say it’s yet in the bag.




I move forward with “I Vicere”. The author has finished introducing all of the late Princess’s children, and moved on to her in-laws – the brothers and sister of her late husband. I’m beginning to get the hang of it. Again -- this is not a first attempt.


The newspaper announces today that all the adults on Fair Isle have been vaccinated.


Does anyone know anything about an app called KnitCompanion? Somehow or other you feed your pattern into your iPad and it keeps your place on the chart and tells you when to increase or decrease. It might be too complicated for me – technical mastery is slipping away, along with physical strength.


I had our new scam this week – a text message to my telephone to say that my package was being held at the depot because I needed to pay a small sum, which was named. Like everybody else in the world I am expecting a package, some more bedding plants for the front step, but I feel safe in disregarding this message.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


Another chill but glorious day. I hobbled around the garden all by myself. 1892 steps – not very good. Helen and her family are safely in Kirkmichael. She sent me a little video of the quince tree which used to live in a pot on the doorstep here. It went to Kirkmichael last year, since it was obviously failing here. It looks very well indeed, at the moment.


I made a little list this morning of Things I Must Do, and got them all done except for watering the doorstep plants. That will have to be top of tomorrow’s list.


And I’m nearly halfway through the Calcutta Cup band on wee Hamish’s vest. I carefully put the knitting away when Michaela was here yesterday, so that she wouldn’t tidy it away in a fashion that confused its yarn with all the other yarns lying about, but I neglected to secure MacGregor’s “Fair Isle Knitting” in the same way, and it has disappeared, presumably into a pile of books. I want it for the overall pattern upon which I will soon embark. I have other works on my shelves which would probably offer something, and Michaela might be back anyway before I need it.


And speaking of works on my shelves, I had a look at Mary Thomas, both vols. She has “corrugated knitting” in the indices of both – but that’s something different. Vertical stripes of two colours; she suggests three stitches each. With the floats in the back pulled fairly snug, so that the fabric actually corrugates. But there’s no purling involved. She may have corrugated ribbing in there somewhere but I’m not going to spend time looking for it.




Tamar, that’s quite a good idea, to write out a family tree in the case of long, well-populated novels. Except that if the author is good enough, there’s no need. I never feel any confusion in Mansfield Park. I’m making some progress with this new attempt at “I Vicere”. In the first pages, the old princess has just died, and there’s a lot of coming and going and confusion until after the funeral. Then the author sets to work telling us about each of her six children, and there are some cousins, too – and things are becoming clearer.


Cats: my husband said that his cat Plush was touchingly glad to see him when he came home from the war, although the cat had been living peacefully in the country with my husband’s mother and his sister all the while. It’s worth worrying about what will happen when the cat’s household is broken up by death. I think Perdita will be all right – stout and disagreeable as she is, Archie loves her and the rest of Helen’s family is well disposed (including the dog). Paradox is more of a problem, pretty and furry and affectionate though she is.

Monday, April 12, 2021


Another day, chilly but wonderful. I got around the garden by myself. 2484 steps – the telefonino is in generous mood today. Helen and her family (husband, Archie, Fergus, dog) have gone off to Kirkmichael. I’m all by myself for a couple of days.


I’ve made some progress with the Calcutta Cup on wee Hamish’s vest. There is a strange pleasure in knitting letters or numbers or images – lacking the pleasant rhythm of traditional Fair Isle patterns, one feels one can’t be getting much of anywhere – and suddenly it makes sense.


For reading, I pressed on with “The Viceroys”. But despite this being my third or fourth attempt, I’m still finding the proliferation of characters confusing. The setting is only a few years after that of “Il Gattopardo”, although in Catania, not Palermo. But that doesn’t help.


I’m sorry that no one so far has been as enchanted as I am by the cat story in the New Yorker. The cat has come home; it took him weeks. (This is the preface to an article about how animals navigate.) He is tired and dirty and hungry. But he wants to see his daddy. The writer of the article, who is living in the house where the cat used to live, emails a picture of him to Brooklyn – “Is this Billy?” --, and Daddy comes up the I-84 as fast as he can. “The cat, who had been pacing continuously, took one look and leaped into Phil’s arms – literally hurled himself the several feet necessary to be bundled into his erstwhile owner’s chest. Phil, a six-foot-tall bartender of the badass variety, promptly started to cry. After a few minutes of mutual adoration, the cat hopped down, devoured the food I had put out two hours earlier, lay down in a sunny patch of grass by the door, purring, and embarked on an elaborate bath.”

Sunday, April 11, 2021


Another chill but beautiful day. C. and I got once around the garden. 2539 steps – not bad, for a day of inactivity. I think I feel fine, after my second vaccination. I certainly slept better last night.


I’ve finished the corrugated rib at the bottom of wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup sweater, and have embarked on the Cup itself, not without a certain amount of tinking. But I think I’m on the right path now.


I’ve finished Roy Strong’s diaries. The energy of the man astounds.


Do you have the New Yorker for April 5 – the most recent, I think? Please read the first page of the scientific article on page 22. The article is about the interesting question of how animals (and birds and insects) navigate, but the opening anecdote is not just about navigation but also about love, and I find it very touching. Cats are rarely given credit for being the affectionate animals they are.




I feel fairly sure, Tamar, that EZ started “Woolgathering” because editors were making her re-write Aran patterns for flat knitting. My memory of Mary Thomas is that she was in the flat-knitting camp from the start. I’ll have a look tomorrow.


Chris, you’re right that Etna is relatively active, as volcanoes go, but that might not rule it out entirely from inclusion in our current group. It’s just outside Catania, where Archie and I were on our most recent Italian trip. It was certainly a quiet lump when we drove past it. There’s no suggestion on Google that Vesuvius is feeling restless (it’s near-by, in geographical terms). Its last major eruption was during the war; I met people who remember that one, when I was taking school trips to that part of Italy.

Saturday, April 10, 2021


I had my second Covid vaccination this morning. All well so far. I haven’t got a medal or a certificate or anything. The dr said that the Scottish government is thinking about what to do, and meanwhile my record is safe with the GP. And the great thing about a Majestic Line cruise (assuming C. and I really do get to set sail in late May) is that you can set out that morning without anything (except your cruise clothes) – you just turn up and say Hello, I’m Jean.


I thought that was enough for today, despite Helen’s disapproval (she had driven me to the appointment). 1522 steps, anyway. Not too bad, for total inactivity.


We all continue to surprise ourselves by how sad we feel about the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh. Catdownunder, I was very touched by your blog entry – what a wonderful story! But I forgot to go out on the front step at noon – I’m sure I would have been able to hear the 41-gun-salute from the Castle. I slept badly last night (that doesn't often happen), listening to the World Service talking about him. I'll be glad for tonight's sleep.


I am knitting boldly forward. I think my preference, for corrugated rib, is to change colours – if you’re going to – for the knit stitches. This time I did it on the purls, as I had read somewhere that that was the Proper Way. I have introduced a touch of pink which looks, at the moment, a bit girly, but I am confident that once the other colours get into play it will be all right. I have heard – I think this was in McGregor’s “Fair Isle Knitting” – that there is something about corrugated rib in Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book. I mean to have a look. She is not to be trusted, however, on traditional knitting of any sort. She was interested in fashionable knitting, in separate pieces, carefully sewn together. And why not?




I proceed with Roy Strong. I don’t know where to turn. My tutor suggests Elsa Morante. I gather it’s cold in Rome, too. This morning’s paper says that the vineyards in France are in despair.




I haven’t looked at a map, let alone a globe – but is it significant that volcanoes are in action in Iceland, Sicily (Etna) and now St Vincent in the Caribbean?