Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Nonesuch chest Posted by Picasa

Above, for want of anything else to take a picture of, is a picture of the chest in which the Calcutta Cup shawl normally lives (with the matching Christening gown and a white silk scarf the Dalai Lama gave James). Not only did I have to move all those books and papers to get it open-- when that's done, there's an extremely heavy sheet of plate glass, there to protect the marquetry, which also has to be moved.

The shawl looks somewhat yellowed, but it always was slightly like that and perhaps it just seems yellower than it did, in contrast to the Princess shawl yarn.

I didn't get the income tax papers moved, but I will have to do that willy nilly before we leave, as they are obstructing the spare room and Helen and her family (currently in Strathardle) will spend a night here while we are away. Her husband arrived from Thessaloniki yesterday. We had a pleasant 20 minutes with him before he caught the train north.

I did order the Bavarian Travelling Stitch books -- Meg didn't seem to have them, so they're coming from the Needle Arts Bookshop which I am glad to be in touch with.

And what should surprise and delight me by turning up, but the fall VK! When I used to read the Knitlist, I would know often weeks in advance that a new magazine was out, and on its way. Now it comes as a delicious surprise. This is clearly a rich issue, although I wonder if there's going to be anything there for me when all is sifted. There's a last pattern (a shawl) from Barbara Venishnik, with a nice tribute to her. But I don't like the shawl much. I was briefly struck by the Koigu medallion skirt -- Helen Ogden? No, I would be nuts to attempt it and I doubt if she'd like it.

I got a full repeat of the shawl edging done, so #49 is nearly finished; and the purl bump line is in place on the Wallaby.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The new Wallaby Posted by Picasa

The weather is dull, cold and damp. Intensely disspiriting, although London, next week, will be more manageable this way than if it were still hot and sticky. Today -- on the tell-the-Blog-and-then-do-it idea -- I will get the Calcutta Cup shawl out, for use at the baptism; transfer the piles of income tax papers from the spare room floor to the dining room table, now that the work is finished in the dining room (repairing the damage done last winter by Mrs Carson's water from above, and having a picture rail put up); and perhaps wrap Thomas-the-Elder's birthday presents, to take to London.

Above is a first picture of the new Wallaby, looking remarkably like the old one. That is the ribbing finished. I should get to the Purl Bump row today, marking where the pouch will go.

And I am 3/4s of the way through repeat #48 of the Princess Shawl edging. I am likely to have reached 50 before we go to London on Tuesday (85 being the target). When we get back, August will be well started, and I hope to find the gossamer yarn I'm using on Sharon Miller's website at last. Things have been going very smoothly lately.

I read the instructions for the Aran Saddle-Shoulder Cardigan in Woolgathering #63 (see yesterday). It's an interesting complement to the instructions in Meg Swansen's "Knitting" -- esentially the same sweater. If I'm going to do this, it's clearly one of those things that has to be Faced Up To. Meg, who's a non-swatcher, says in both places that a substantial swatch is essential (she suggests a Swatch Cap). She says that arranging your Aran or Bavarian Crossed-Stitch patterns on a diagram, after swatching and before knitting, is fun. I remember telling rooms-full of my teen-aged children, 30 years ago, that some past or future project had been or would prove to be, "really fun", and I remember how they looked when I said it. I feel much the same. But I think I'll order the essential books (Maria Erlbacher's trilogy, "Uberlieferte Strickmuster")-- I've been meaning to for some time, anyway -- and at least think seriously about this. Bavarian Crossed-Stitch is seriously under-represented in English. Candace, we need you!


Birmingham, where we used to live and where many friends remain, had a tornado on Thursday, of all things. A great deal of damage was done to property and some to people, although there were no fatalities. Alexander's life-long Best Friend lives in the twister's path. (Mark is on holiday somewhere and we don't know how his house got on.) Yesterday I had an email from Alexander: "Al Qaeda clearly has
friends in high places."


Friday, July 29, 2005

The famous edging Posted by Picasa

I did get started on the income tax, and wrote that letter to our solicitor about capital gains. It has left me feeling tense and anxious instead of accomplished and hopeful, but never mind. My record-keeping has deteriorated lately, what with spending these 20 minutes every morning polishing my prose instead of cashing-up, and what with difficulties with the bank. Income tax time is when the chickens come home to roost.

I thought it was time for a progress-picture of the Princess Shawl edging, so there it is. I'm working on repeat #47 -- when that's finished, there'll only be 38 to go. That really does begin to sound like "only".

I'm nearly finished with the ribbing for the new Wallaby.

Judy wrote to tell me the source of the sweater Meg is wearing in the picture on the inside back flap of the dustjacket of her book "Knitting", namely the Aran pattern in Woolgathering 63. I've got it out and will study it thoroughly today. Thank you. And I discovered that the yarn I was clumsily trying to talk about yesterday is not Jean Anything, it's Jo Sharp. And I've found a UK source. That's progress.


On Wednesday we went to see the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art here in Edinburgh. I spend a lot of my life going to art exhibitions, but this one, as it happened, was the first since the cataract operation. Lots of people, post-cataract, talk about how wonderful colours suddenly look. My experience, as I think I have mentioned, is much more concerned with the texture of things. It was fascinating to look at painting in terms of paint. Next week we will be in London, trudging around many an expo. It will be interesting to practice the eye on different types of painting.

Rachel says London is full of policemen and it's all rather fun, like the good old days of the IRA. I fear obstructions and delays. At least the hot, sticky weather has dissolved into cool rain.

Seamen's Scarves

My brother-in-law recently sent me this:

[Episcopal News Service]The Christmas-at-Sea program of Seamen's Church
Institute (SCI) of New York and New Jersey is in need of knitters to make
scarves, caps, socks and vests for seafarers who come from tropical to
temperate countries and are unprepared for frigid winter weather.

SCI has an extensive ministry for the 30,000 mariners on the inland
waterways called Ministry on the River that includes support from more than
100 River Friendly Churches in 11 states.

Last year, nearly 14,000 hand-knitted gifts were place onboard vessels as
tributes to the friendliness and compassion of Americans to seafarers that
endure substantial physical hardships, and confront dangerous seas.

This year, SCI chaplains are prepared to increase distribution in the Port
of New York and New Jersey and along 2,200 miles of America's inland

To add your name to the 3,500 knitters from every state who contribute
year-round contact Barbara Clauson at 212.349.9090 or
and download patterns at


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Evelyn Waugh and his family -- see below Posted by Picasa

Blogging is a great system for getting things done. Today I will make a serious start on the income tax, and write to our solicitor about a related capital gains problem which is beyond me.

And yesterday, as hoped, I got the revised pattern for the striped Koigu toddler's sweater onto my website:'s%20koigu.htm. I'm working on an adult version when we are in the country, as some will remember. If I'm successful, that version of the pattern will eventually appear as well.

Not much actual knitting yesterday. I re-read my own archives on the subject of attaching Wallaby pouches -- thanks again, Sharon -- and approach the event with more confidence. I got a bit more of the ribbing done, and am a little over half-way through the 46th repeat of the Princess Shawl edging. I think I've mastered the pattern at last, but one needs to keep one's wits about one.

I wandered around my website for a while, after posting the pattern and revising the opening page to take account of current events. Jayne and I had been corresponding about Evelyn Waugh since my post earlier in the week about the death in extreme old age of his wife's sister. I was reminded of the picture above, and of one we took at my 70th birthday party: -- bottom picture, in which we all tried to look as disagreeable as possible. It's not easy when the sun is shining and you're having a good time and are glad to be together. Clearly, in the picture above, the Waughs are attempting the same thing. The two youngest boys are particularly successful.

I also started giving some thought to my future long cardigan with pockets (as worn by Evelyn Waugh's wife's sister). The travelling stitch cardigan in Meg Swansen's "Knitting" appeals -- as does the sweater she is wearing on the inside back flap of the dust jacket, but there doesn't seem to be a pattern for that. I must look about for a yarn with good stitch definition in approximately DK weight. When I went to Camp Stitches in '99 I bought a couple of balls of Jean Frost yarn (do I mean that? or Jean Moss?) for Candace Strick's travelling stitch class. It worked brilliantly (and the class was fascinating -- I wish Candace would write her travelling stitch book). The yarn eventually wound up as a cabled hot water bottle cover, and looks (and wears) well in that role as well. Is it still in the Patternworks catalogue.....?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The finished sweater Posted by Picasa

Above, a rather washed-out and slightly blurry picture of Thomas-the-Younger's finished sweater, buttons and all.  I'm very pleased with it. That's the Princess Shawl edging, too, scrumpled up nearby. I've finished repeat #45.

I cast on Fergus's new Wallaby immediately. I had a wonderful message from Sharon yesterday, quoting this very blog from the days when I was knitting the first Wallaby. Apparently I said that next time I would knit in some contrasting thread with the purl bumps, to make the joining-on of the pouch easier. I'll try that. It's embarrassing to have forgotton so completely. But it is some comfort to remember the days when banks actually sent cancelled checks back with the statement every month -- I would often find checks among them, patently written in my handwriting, made out to people I had never heard of.

I hope I will amend the pattern for the sweater pictured above, and post the revised version to my website soon.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rachel wearing her shawl Posted by Picasa

Getting up a bit earlier and keeping one's eye on the ball doesn't, it turns out, produce much forwardness with the Problems of Life. It just ensures that a bit more housework gets done. No bad thing, I suppose, but I need to get on with the Income Tax.


Above is a picture which arrived in the mail yesterday -- what is the use of giving someone a digital camera for her birthday? -- of Rachel in her kitchen wearing Gladys Amedro's "Cobweb Lace Wrap". I knit it for her 40th birthday. It was a great leap forward for me at the time, although now the excellent pattern seems almost banal in its simplicity.

I've virtually finished Thomas-the-Younger's sweater. A couple more ends to tidy away, and the wretched buttons to sew on. The end took me by surprise, for some reason. I hastily fired up my Sweater Wizard program last nightand "designed" a basic Fergus-sized sweater which I will knit in the same yarn as the first one -- some orange Rowan 4-ply Soft which I bought in the Liberty sale last summer. I'll put on a Wallaby pouch again. The Wallaby pattern itself is written for worsted-weight yarn, and thus is no use except for general principles.

I was still on speaking terms with the Knitlist when I knit Fergus his first Wallaby, last winter. Someone gave me some good advice about how to attach the pouch in a straight line. I wish I could remember what it was -- my notes don't say. I think what I did was put in a row of purl bumps at the relevant point.

I'm half-way through repeat #45 of the Princess Shawl edging. The next big landmark will be finishing #46 -- after that, the number of repeats still-to-do will be numbered only in the 30's. I must get back to work on the problem of securing a suitable long needle for the next stage. Someone recommended Boye, and I got as far as locating a source.


There was an interesting obituary in the paper this week of Bridget Grant, who was Evelyn Waugh's wife's sister and said to be the model for Barbara Sothill in "Put Out More Flags":

"Freddy [her husband] telephoned to Barbara. 'Good news,' he said; 'we're coming home.'

'Freddy, how splendid,' said Barbara, her spirits falling a little."

She was a beautiful woman, clearly. The penultimate sentence of the long obituary reads: "A champion smoker, she had no interest in clothes beyond insisting on long cardigans with big pockets."

That's what I want. I will now start some serious exploratory work on patterns and yarns.


I made an appointment with the oculist -- so I suppose I did make some progress with Life yesterday -- for the moment my new eye finishes its probationary six weeks. I hope he can make a lens for it, leaving the old lens for the now-inferior eye, so that I can drive. Then in September, when the other eye finally gets done, maybe we can have clear glass for it for a while, so that I can go on driving. We'll see.

And I'll get my hair cut this morning. I wore it in a bun all my life, as in the picture, until I fell and broke my arm two and a half years ago. I like it short, but having to get hair cuts is a nuisance.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Mungo and Fergus and a bit of our house Posted by Picasa


Above is a picture of Mungo, taken at Burnside last week, wearing his striped Koigu, which is a sort of reduction of the one I knit for my nephew Theo. Theo will be here for the Games at the end of August -- maybe he'll bring his version. Mungo's sleeves are a bit too long, confirming my long-held belief that children's sleeves must be shortened. I clearly didn't hold sufficiently to my own principles, here.  The other child visible is Mungo's brother Fergus. I think my next WIP will be a second Wallaby for him -- the first one, attentive readers may remember, was a great success at Christmas, but shrank, and is now worn by Thomas-the-Younger.

I cast off Thomas-the-Younger's striped Koigu last night, and started the tedious business of finishing it.

And I passed half-way with the Princess Shawl edging. I had a most encouraging email from Jean in the Antipodes, telling me that there is Life After the Edging. I had begun to wonder if after all this fuss about the difficulties of a 25-to-30 stitch edging, I was going to be able to handle 800+ stitches in what is clearly a very complicated lace design. She says it'll be OK.


I had hoped to have my second cataract operation day before yesterday. When I hadn't heard anything by Wednesday of last week, I phoned the hospital and after an interval during which they got in touch with Dr Dhillon, was offered September 3. I think I could have had August 6, but we'll be in London then, insh'Allah -- that's the day between Cathy's book launch (Catherine Sampson: Out of Mind) and Thomas-the Younger's Christening. I must move a lot of books off the chest and retrieve the Calcutta Cup shawl ( for use in the ceremony.

I still hope a deus will descend from a machina and offer August 13 or 20. Meanwhile, however, I will today phone my oculist and discuss getting a lens for my new plastic eye set into my glasses frame (leaving the old lens for the old, unreconstructed eye) so that I can drive. But then what will I do in September? Could I wear a patch over the then-new eye, and drive one-eyed?


The death of the unfortunate Brazilian (see yesterday's blog) is big news here, and I hope around the world. Maybe it will make the police a little less trigger-happy. His was the only death connected with the curious episode of last week's bombs. The whole business sounded so odd, all those bombs simultaneously not going off, that I half-wondered if it were some kind of joke. Apparently not, just incompetence.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Rachel's sleeve Posted by Picasa

I didn't make much progress with Life yesterday, apart from getting some food in and having a restorative nap. It's time to start making lists.

Blogger claims to have started hosting pictures, so maybe I can now include them, instead of propping them up there on top. Let's try. Nope, it didn't work, at least here from my off-line composition program. So there it is above (I hope), as usual. That's the   statuatory post-Strathardle picture of my country knitting, in this case showing a (very) few more stripes added to the sleeve of Rachel's sweater.


That's that one.

I'm precisely half-way through the 41st repeat of the Princess Shawl edging -- one more to go to half-way. It's going smoothly since we got back, on the whole. No more of those peculiar mistakes.

I picked up stitches yesterday and started adding the collar -- the final element -- to Thomas-the-Younger's striped Koigu. He's been to NY recently, where I gather he was a hit with his Patel grandparents. And he can stand up -- his first birthday isn't until November. That must be Patel genes -- none of my children were forward at standing and walking, some positively retarded, although they all mastered it in the end.

I had a nice comment from Rebecca about the newly-started sock pictured here a few days ago. Therein hangs a tale, which I will relate soon. It's pretty boring.

Current Affairs

Well, one thing that's clear is that we are not winning the "war on terror". The concept, of course, is preposterous, as if the medical profession were to declare a "war on fever". I may have said that before.

I am profoundly unhappy about the unfortunate Brazilian who was shot dead in London day before yesterday because he was of brownish hue and was spotted leaving a house which was "under surveillance" and didn't stop when the police shouted "hoy!" He ran onto a subway train at Stockwell and fell on the floor and was shot several times in the head at close range. In an enclosed space like that, with several policemen to hand, you might have thought arresting him would have been sufficient. He had nothing to do with terrorism, the police now say. Stockwell is one of the stations on one of our familiar routes -- travelling out towards Rachel -- which sort of personalises it.

Last week in Strathardle, one of the party was the son of an old friend of Helen's. Luan (like our grandson Joseph) goes to the same school in London as the Prime Minister's children. He said that on the day of the London bombs a fortnight ago, Tony's daughter was removed from school by helicopter. Travelling in central London was difficult for everyone that day, but a limo would surely have been sufficient.



Saturday, July 23, 2005

The vegetable garden yesterday -- LOOK at that weather! Posted by Picasa
An infant courgette -- no, THE infant courgette Posted by Picasa

Now starts the serious business of trying to catch up on a week's missed life...

We had a good time; lots of hard work. The weather was glorious, in fact alarmingly dry. When we were there in June, some may remember, I was bitterly disappointed with the performance of the vegetable seeds I had sown in May. This time, after more than a month of absence (because of the cataract operation) at this vital time of year, I expected nothing, and was pleasantly surprised. I'd have taken before-and-after pictures had I not been so depressed at the sight of Before. But I unearthed many crops as the days went on, all looking now a bit pale and surprised to be deprived of their weed companions, but some may rally and produce a late crop.

I include, above, a picture of a baby courgette. Only two seeds germinated out of 20, but those two plants will yield something, starting with this one.

I didn't get much knitting done. In fact, on Tuesday, July 19, I didn't knit at all. But I'll post the statuatory image of the current state of Rachel's Koigu sweater (my country knitting) tomorrow. And provide progress reports on other WIPs.


Monday, July 18, 2005

My new sock Posted by Picasa

That's a picture of the new sock I started on the bus on my way to my eye appointment on Saturday. It's a Socka Color. I prefer the exhuberant self-patterning of Socka socks to the stripes and Fair Isle of Regia-type yarns, clever as they are. This one promises to spiral interestingly. I haven't decided yet who'll get it. All being well, I will have two hours today on a train to Pitlochry, which should advance the new sock nicely.

So we'll be away for the next few days -- no blog. If I hear from the doctor that the second cataract can be done this coming Saturday, we'll be back on Thursday. Otherwise perhaps not until the weekend. Helen and her sons are now established at Burnside. She said on the phone last night that there seems to be plenty of lettuce in my garden. We shall see. The Gospel at Mass yesterday was the one about darnels amidst the wheat. I'm expecting solid darnel.

I'm up to repeat 40 of the Princess Shawl edging -- the half-way point (42 1/2) is now very near -- and I will need more yarn in the imaginable future.  A certain amount of trouble continued, last night. I've done half a repeat this morning, and all seemed well. I stopped thinking about numbers and charts and Trying Hard to Concentrate, and instead tried looking at the knitting as I worked -- advice, I think, of EZ's. Not only did all go well, but I knit the first half, rows 1-10, without reference to the chart.


I wrote a couple of days ago about switching banks. We have been with the Bank of Scotland, Blairgowrie, since the dawn of time, and all of our children bank there as well. We are all disgusted with the current state of things, although only my husband and I have taken the bold and complicated step of leaving. I had a wonderful message from Helen (not my daughter) yesterday:

"I thought you might like to know, if you don't already, that the staff at the Halifax/Bank of Scotland refer to the management as The Haleban."




Sunday, July 17, 2005

Mungo, Archie and Fergus, leaving Drummond Place for Strathardle after lunch today -- their mother Helen is behind, talking to my husband in the shadows. Posted by Picasa

Sorry for the delay -- grandchildren are hard work.

The eye appointment went well (and I got a sock cast on, on the bus). Dr Dhillon is perfectly happy, as am I, with the first eye, and will do the other one a.s.a.p. -- next Saturday, if he can get a slot in the BUPA hospital operating room.

Helen and her boys arrived late last night, and left after lunch today. All seem extremely well. We'll go up by train tomorrow to join them for a while.


I've done a couple more repeats of the Princess Shawl edging. I've never had so much trouble -- stitches turning up at the wrong part of the row. It was so bad I wondered whether I made made my old mistake of mis-reading the Peg It board and starting with the wrong row; or even that specifically edging mistake, starting from the wrong edge. No, I don't think so. Getting over-confident with my growing mastery of the pattern? I don't think even that. Just lack of concentration, I decided. I hunkered down and started checking the chart before every row, and everything seems to be all right. The two repeats will pass the Galloping Horse test, but I hope it doesn't happen again.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The striped Koigu -- current Posted by Picasa

Here We Go

I will see the eye doctor today, and hope to get a date, or possible date anyway, for the next cataract operation.

And Helen and her sons will arrive from Thessaloniki, late at night.

That's the striped Koigu above, of course, looking pretty good. It still needs the other band for the button placket, and the collar, and much finishing. Meanwhile I have finished the 35th repeat of the Princess shawl edging.

And left myself with no knitting to take along to the hospital today. The shawl edging is obviously out; the striped Koigu is at far too fiddly a stage; and I haven't cast on another pair of socks since I finished Thomas-the-Elder's pair. It'll have to be socks, somehow.

Non-Knit (and pretty non-interesting)

We are in the throes of switching banks. The ancient Bank of Scotland has been taken over by the Halifax Building Society and has developed so many evil practices as a result, that we decided to leave. It's very hard work but we had a good day yesterday -- succeeded in getting through to our new Royal Bank of Scotland accounts on line; activated our cards; actually bought something with an RBofS card; and handed in a leaflet asking them to go to the Bank of Scotland and find out about all our standing orders, and transfer them. That's sort of scary, as there is much scope for things to go wrong, and it involves all sorts of things like our annual payment to the Strathardle Highland Gathering, and the Direct Debit that pays for my subscription to Knitting Magazine. We shall see.

And I had a thot about current affairs. When we were being bombed by the IRA the government and the media and the police had to give some regard to the sensibilities of people like my husband and Bertie Ahern, and give some thought therefore to Irish grievances even while they blew up our pubs and our cabinet. But there is no such scruple now, and Brown Muslim People are all sort of lumped together. My grocer Mr Murtaza says that if the result of all this is that Muslims and other people become more separate, the bombers will have achieved what they wanted to achieve. The leader of the Liberal Democrat party gave a speech this week in which he rather sensibly suggested that the war in Iraq may have inflamed Muslim sensibilities. He has been roundly condemned for suggesting such a thing.

Friday, July 15, 2005

My new saucepan. Posted by Picasa


Half-way through repeat #34 of the Princess Shawl edging. Complete mastery of the pattern is within my grasp, I feel. It's a 20-row-er, Rows 17 through 5 are easy-peasy now. That's nearly half. Rows 11 and 14 are both pretty easy, and the others are really beginning to fall into place. I'm even getting the slightest twinges of anxiety about the yarn -- Sharon Miller mostly kindly sent me a ball of her new gossamer (an apt description) yarn when she learned from a post of mine to the Heirloom Knitting group that I was attempting the shawl in a heavier yarn. The gossamer yarn is perfect, and I'm delighted with it -- but it's not on sale yet. What if I run out? Poor Sharon is having her Kitchen Done (an affliction that has struck a lot of people I know lately) -- that may be slowing things down. This is a needless anxiety. I've got plenty of yarn, and this sort of silly knitting will slow down dramatically from tomorrow, when Helen arrives from Thessaloniki late at night with three cross boys, and the summer truly begins.

The striped Koigu should have its second sleeve attached today, and thus be worth a picture tomorrow. Meanwhile, what you see above is a somewhat off-centre picture of my new saucepan. I love saucepans, but haven't got room in my unreclaimed kitchen to indulge my passion often. This one was on sale in Jenner's yesterday. I haven't cooked anything in it yet.


I've added Today in Iraq to my Favourites list. It really seems to be updated daily. I also like Baghdad Burning ( which seems to be a genuine diary-type Blog from Baghdad -- but she doesn't write very often. On a lighter note, You Knit What?? ( keeps up a remarkable standard.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sort of Literary


Half-way through repeat no. 32 of the Princess shawl edging; eight of thirteen stripes on the second sleeve of the striped Koigu. That's all there is to say about that.


We got an invitation in the post yesterday to a joint book launch: daughter-in-law Cathy's (Catherine Sampson) second thriller, Out of Mind; and Adam Williams' second book, The Emperor's Bones. In London, during the first week of August, conveniently only two days before Thomas-the-Younger's Christening. Adam Williams lives in the same compound as the Beijing Mileses. We met him when we were there two years ago, and on the strength of that I am reading -- slowly but steadily -- his first book, The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure. It's extremely good -- and it had to overcome two of my prejudices 1) against books about foreigners and 2) against historical novels. I've read more than 400 pages, which should allow me to gush convincingly when we meet again.

Cathy's first book was called Falling Off Air. It's very good, too.

The Hitchhiker's Guide is up against another two of my prejudices: science fiction and whimsy. It's doing pretty well, too.

I got this message the other day from my son Alexander. He and our daughter Rachel Ogden live fairly near each other in south London. The Ogdens live on Lewin Road in Streatham, and the "Hellie" mentioned here is their elder daughter.

"I read your blog this morning (not something I normally do) and saw the bit
about virii. I was recently paying one of my frequent visits to Lewin road
to sort out Ogden computer problems. Amongst other things there was a
problem with the mouse. I fixed it and explained to Hellie, the only person
present, what was wrong. "Ah", she said "is that how mouses work". I said
that the plural of mouse was mice. She looked at me as if I were mad and
said something along the lines of "Duhhh, but this is a computer mouse.
It's not the same". I felt she had a point, and wondered what Pinker would
have made of it."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Drummond Place, this morning Posted by Picasa


Little to report. I'm working on Repeat #30 of the Princess Shawl edging. I guess when that is done, I will be within sight of half-way (42 1/2 repeats). Understanding of the pattern continues to improve. And I've finished the ribbing of the second sleeve of the striped Koigu, and started putting in some stripes. I was just starting this project when I had my eye replacement operation in June. I told Dr Dhillon, who feigned interest, that I would have it finished by the time I saw him again, this coming Saturday. I'm not going to make it. Could I perhaps have finished and attached the second sleeve, knit the button strips, and picked up stitches for the collar by Saturday? In that state, I could take it along to the appointment. That's not really very likely, either.

Knitting Blogs and Correspondence

Don't miss "You Knit What??" ( It's a riot. And I had a nice note from Jayne yesterday, saying that she likes pictures of bloggers' surroundings. The blog I like best for photography is Too Much Wool ( She's really good. Today, in honour of the thought, I will take a picture of Drummond Place, including our front door, as I come back from buying our newspapers and milk in an hour or so. If you have a map of central Edinburgh, Drummond Place is the horseshoe-shaped bit in the upper right, referred to however by its occupants as "the square".

Heidi wrote to say that the Answer to Everything, in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, is 42. Not 43, as I mistakenly suggested yesterday. It makes all the difference. She made the whole thing sound so interesting that I went out and bought the book. I've never read it, nor heard it on the radio. But I did struggle with a computer game, once, back in the days when computer adventure games were entirely text-based, if you can imagine such a state of affairs. Heidi says it's hot and humid in Gothenburg, just as it is in Edinburgh.

Sheila posted a comment (I love comments) to say that Kaffe's kits sometimes turn up on Ebay. I will investigate that. Our daughter Helen will arrive from Thessaloniki on Saturday with her three fierce boys. She'll spend that night here, and then go on up to Strathardle on Sunday. We'll go up by train to Pitlochry on Monday -- I wonder if I will be able to find my vegetables under the weeds? However, that's not the point: she has recently discovered Ebay; packages have been arriving here by every post. She can teach me about it. Apart from Kaffe, I am trying to gather in as much as possible of the old, British Vogue Knitting Book. It was published from the 30's until the late 60's. I've got most of the post-war ones, and one pre-war.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My doorstep lettuce and rocket, this morning Posted by Picasa

Back to the doorstep lettuce...

The trough really isn't big enough. I've taken one substantial picking of both lettuce and rocket (arugula). The lettuce is growing back nicely. This time I'll let it get a bit bigger before I pounce. The rocket, however, was starting to flower so I pulled it all out and sowed some more. Well within a week, it happily appeared.

It's distressingly hot here. What must it be for folk who really live in hot places!


I had a rare moment of insight yesterday -- the key number for the understanding of the Princess Shawl edging pattern is 4. Having grasped that, I'm a giant step further on towards learning the whole thing. (Is it in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" that the Answer to Everything is revealed to be 43?) I'm now nearly at the end of repeat #28. I did slightly more than two yesterday, a personal best, I think.

And got that sleeve finished and attached to the striped Koigu, and the second sleeve started.

Rebecca, thank you for your lovely comment yesterday. Alas, however, you will never be able to buy a lot of Kaffe's kits -- they don't make them any more,perhaps having grown weary of seeing them all end up in the sales and from there in the hands of skinflints like me. Sadder yet, Rowan doesn't offer anything like the range of colours that Kaffe designed for them, so that a great many of his classic designs now can't be reproduced. I'm sure the master himself would regard this as a trivial difficulty. Collect yarn! (Don't we all?) Be inventive! The best range of colour that I know of in a single yarn is Jamieson & Smith's Shetland. One could start with that and add bits of other interesting yarns -- the master mixes qualities as well as colours with great verve.

Some Kaffe on my website:

I've knit quite a bit more Kaffe than that, but that's all that seems to have made it on-line.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Thomas' striped Koigu -- latest Posted by Picasa

Quiet morning.

We had a nice time with Jenny and Christopher yesterday, leaving me, as always these days when there is the slightest deviation from our accustomed routines, prostrate with exhaustion. I made them "Roasted Vegetable Cous-cous Salad with Harissa-style Dressing" from Delia Smith's book "Summer Collection". I had never tried it before but it looked like Jenny's sort of dish, and worked very well.

Which reminds me -- I have added to my list of blogs-to-read.


I went back to Mary Morrison's list of her favourite designers. "Wilma Malcolmson" is the name that is completely unfamiliar to me -- I will have to track it down, since Mary Morrison and I agree on so much else. But I have also realised the name that is missing: Kaffe. I think I have knit more of his patterns than any other designer's. When I first saw "Glorious Knitting" I thought I couldn't do it -- I loved two-colour Fair Isle knitting (still do), and thought that intarsia was beyond me.

But in those early days, Rowan used to sell a lot of his patterns as kits and presumably they didn't do very well, because for three or four glorious years they used to turn up abundantly in the end-of-year sales. I couldn't resist. I started that way with the "Crosspatch" vest from Glorious Knitting, and went on, and on... It's a different sort of experience, more like embroidery. I do it Kaffe's way, by cutting off yard-long lengths of yarn and leaving them hanging. And I greatly prefer the patterns that are geometric in one way or another. I attempted his "Ancient" pattern once, which has cloud-like shapes, and gave it up after eight rows. (Ripped the eight rows out, and used the yarns in the kit to knit his "Afghan" pattern instead.)

I still have two of his things in stash -- a big jacket from the California book, and the buttoned vest based on a mosaic floor from (I think) Ravenna. Hope to get to them soon.

There above you see the current state of Thomas-the-Younger's striped Koigu. I should finish that sleeve and attach it this evening. It looks short, but that's because I knit children's sleeves short. A bit of naked forearm never did anyone any harm, but a too-long sleeve is a terrible nuisance for a child. I think designers tend to over-estimate the length of children's arms: how many times have you seen an artlessly-rolled-up sleeve in a pattern picture?

I'm working on repeat #26 of the Princess Shawl edging. That's a big one, because when it's finished, the number left to-be-done will be counted in the 50's (no longer 60's, or 70's, or 80's).

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Odds and Ends

Old friends are coming to lunch today, so I will eschew photography. She is a former Latin-teaching colleague of mine, he a scientist retired from Aston University. They married a couple of years ago, widow to widower, and you can see the shawl I knit for Jenny on my website:

I was delighted that nephew Theo -- he of the Koigu sweater -- contributed a comment here yesterday, defending GWB for not going to Washington on 9/11 as it was essentially a decision of the secret service. From here, I think Bush should have realised that on that exceptional day, it was his duty as Commander in Chief to override the secret service. It isn't a matter of high intellect -- I think Reagan would have got it right.

Until this week, the worst London tube disaster ever (I think) was at Moorgate station in 1975 when a driver committed suicide (I am sure) by driving a train at full tilt into the buffer-less wall at the end of the station. I just Googled it up, and was surprised to learn that the number of dead was less than this week's dreadful total. There were similar reports, in the days afterwards, of the emergency services working in the tunnel in dreadful heat to get all the bodies out.


I'm working on Repeat #25 of the Princess shawl. I'm making a real effort now to learn the pattern -- not just to memorise it, but to learn it. I'm making some progress, I think. Perhaps by the time I reach the half-way point...

And the first sleeve of the striped Koigu is getting on nicely. Photograph of it, and of my doorstep lettuce, very soon.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Thomas's socks (and the shawl edging) Posted by Picasa

I finished Thomas the Elder's socks. There they are. Maybe I'll even get 'em wrapped up for posting today.


I have been deeply touched to learn that people did look here on Thursday, to see if I had posted something right away, about the bombs. And pleased, too, to know that people agree with me about Bush's behaviour on 9/11. I don't think I had ever read any criticism of it, and I don't think -- or was I dozing? -- that there was any reference to it in the film Farenheit 9/11, after the famous shots of him reading a story about a goat to some schoolchildren as he got the news. That could have happened to anyone. Many thanks to all who wrote.

At the risk of conducting an egg-sucking class for a group of very knowledgable grandmothers, I'll add a word more about the song "Jerusalem" which I mentioned yesterday. It is Blake's famous and rather nutty poem, set to music by I know not whom. That's the poem with the lines about building Jerusalem "in England's green and pleasant land" -- the source, surely, of that phrase. It is much sung at schools at the end of term, and perhaps on no other occasions. Certainly the only times I have ever sung it were at my children's schools. That's what Hellie and her mates at Streatham High School for Girls belted out on Thursday morning, after they had been told what was happening, and why there would be no Leavers' Ball or Prize-Giving.

It must be nice for Prince Charles to have a wife he can take about him at last (they visitied hospitals yesterday) -- and one who won't devote the occasion to seeking the best camera angle for herself.

Our corner grocer, Mr Murtaza, says that someone -- an apparently respectable customer -- shouted abuse at him yesterday, you-people-should-all-go-back-where-you-came-from, sort of thing. Mr. Murtaza was born in Edinburgh. He said it had never happened to him before. I was touched that he told me.


The Princess Shawl edging has reached repeat #22 -- a quarter done. I happened to glance at the picture at the beginning of the pattern again yesterday, and realised that 1/4 of the edging, although a start, is only that. There is a long way to go. The first striped Koigu sleeve is rattling along, too.

Mary Morrison ( has an interesting list of her nine favourite knitting designers in her Blog this morning. I agree with most, haven't heard of one or two. Who would I add? Candace Strick, Elizabeth Lavold, Shirley Paden, the late lamented Barbara Venishnick. Of those four, I have only actually knit a Strick.

Friday, July 08, 2005


I thought of adding an extra Blog entry yesterday -- then I thought, nobody is going to turn to Jean's Knitting for breaking news.

All my London loved ones are safe and well. Indeed, I first heard the news in a phone call from Rachel. Only two of them -- Alexander's wife Ketki, at her bank; and Rachel's younger son Joseph, at school -- were remotely in the affected part of London. Both will have had a lot of trouble getting home. I haven't heard about that yet.

Hellie (pictured here recently) is finishing school, waiting for her A-Level results. She was at school yesterday, in south London. Their Leaving Ball, scheduled for yesterday evening, was cancelled,and the annual prize-giving likewise. "What we can do," the headmistress said, "is stand up and sing 'Jerusalem'." So they did, and Hellie says it was very moving.

I wondered, when Tony left Gleneagles yesterday to fly to London, whether G.W. Bush thought about 9/11 as he waved goodbye. He was in Florida when the news reached him, and he spent the day, as I remember, flying to Nebraska or some such place, to save his skin, just in case it was in danger. I was surprised then, and since, that nobody seemed to mind. His job was to go back to Washington, I think, at whatever risk to self, and do for the nation what Mayor Guiliani did for New York. (Guiliani was in London yesterday, not far from King's Cross.)

Of course 9/11 was a terrorist attack on a far greater scale, but yesterday morning we didn't entirely know, even Tony didn't, just what had happened and was happening in London.

It is not easy to do the right thing in a sudden, totally unexpected crisis. A person who got it right was Prince Charles, on the day the first Princess of Wales died. They were completely divorced, and I am sure he hated her as bitterly as anyone could hate a divorced spouse -- and, like most of us, I have some experience of those singe-ing emotions. But he figured out at once, with no time for second-guessing, that he must go to Paris that day and escort her body home. I think I read somewhere that officialdom tried to make difficulties, and treat her as the corpse of any other Briton dead abroad might be treated. I can't remember what that treatment would have been, but paper-work and perhaps coroners and perhaps even a police mortuary were involved. Prince Charles knocked that aside, and brought her back to lie in a royal chapel until the splendid funeral.



Thursday, July 07, 2005

Mr Crombie's shop, yesterday Posted by Picasa

There's the promised picture of our butcher's premises. Quite a few things are boarded up around here, but one doesn't know how much of that is damage, how much is precaution, and how much is bankruptcy. Mr Crombie's window was hit by half a dozen stones, presumably from slingshots. It didn't shatter.

Things seemed quiet in Edinburgh yesterday, although there was a certain amount of argy bargy shewn on the news. We didn't go into the absolute centre. The post office we failed to achieve on Monday, was open yesterday.

So George Bush is in Perthshire, and I am not. And London got the Olympics. Life can be cruel.


All well. I have now done 19 repeats of the Princess Shawl edging. I find that I can knit several consecutive rows of the parts with the fewest stitches -- the end of one repeat and the beginning of the next -- without looking at the chart at all, which speeds things up even more. I wonder if I will ever learn the whole thing. The difficulty -- obviously -- is that it is not vertically symmetrical (if that's the phrase I want) -- the declining part of the pattern does not mirror the ascending part, as in most edgings.

And the body of the striped Koigu is finished, the shoulders joined. I think that instead of casting on a sleeve today, I'll finish off the toe of Thomas the Elder's sock and Kitchener the both of them. A university graduate deserves a pair of socks. It will be only the first pair I've fininished this year, showing how little we travel these days.

When we were leaving my sister-in-law's on Tuesday, she asked unexpectedly what degree (i.e., first, upper second, etc.) Euan Blair had achieved. That is the Prime Minister's son who has been at Bristol University (and is now going to Washington to an internship). I hadn't the faintest idea. She didn't ask about Thomas, to whom she is almost as closely related as I am (two of his eight great-grandparents were my mother and father, another two of them were hers) and I heroically didn't volunteer the information. I couldn't have refrained from doing that when I was younger. (Thomas got a first.)


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Seventeen edging points... Posted by Picasa

Big Day

All our hopes are focussed on London not getting the Olympics. Wipe the false smile off Tony's face, save years of expense and disruption, get the G8 off to a really bad start.

Edinburgh was quiet yesterday. We went to lunch with my husband's sister, which involved a bus ride through the city centre. No probs. The action seems to be shifting to Auchterarder itself, although we do have a Live 8-type concert scheduled for this evening. Our butcher had his windows smashed on Sunday -- they seem to have been fixed, but I presume he'll leave the boards up all week, in which case I can take a picture of them for tomorrow.


Good progress, despite disaster yesterday. I spread the Princess Shawl edging out on my knee and discovered a mistake so egregious that ripping was the only possibility -- I had somehow changed direction in mid-flight, presumably mis-reading the Peg It board as I sat down and going straight from row five to row 16 (or perhaps from 15 to six), fudging a couple of misplaced stitches and gamely knitting on. I had to rip out nearly a day's work. But I did a surprisingly successful pick-up, and all the unravelled-y yarn has now been re-knit. I'm on repeat no. 18 (of 85). If this were a square shawl, I would nearly have finished one side. At some unnoticed moment, I must have passed a critical point -- I think I'm committed to this thing now.

And the right shoulder of the Striped Koigu has now been joined. With a bit of luck, the left one will achieve that status today, and the first sleeve will be started.

And I did indeed get Thomas the Elder's second sock to the toe-shaping point, or near it, at last night's committee meeting. My new eye is not as good as the old ones at counting rows in a sock, never easy with any eyes.



Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hellie, in the kitchen Posted by Picasa

Lots of non-knit today...


Attentive readers will remember that our Beijing-based son James and his son Alistair recently went camping in Xanadu (and Alistair said he preferred Strathardle). I had assumed that this was just a burst of outdoors-i-ness, James having morphed into a scoutmaster in his middle years, but it turns out that it was research for an article in the current issue of the Economist (July 2nd-8th), page 61 of the British edition. (They move the pages around for other places.) There is even a photograph of some stately pleasure domes, presumably from James's digital camera.


We went into central Edinburgh yesterday afternoon and had a frustrating time of it, as everything was shut. We tried three separate post offices and came home still carrying our load of outgoing mail. We tried to walk along Princes Street, east to west, to deliver a letter by hand at the National Gallery, but our progress was barred by thousands of police in full riot gear just like in the movies. There were also dozens of journalists with cameras and those furry microphones, and perhaps a dozen anarchists, sitting in the middle of Princes Street and taking turns photographing each other with the riot police. The anarchists must have become more numerous later, as many were arrested, according to the news.


That is a picture of our granddaughter Hellie, wearing her version of Gladys Amedro's "Cobweb Lace Wrap". I knit it as written for Hellie's mother Rachel for her 40th birthday, and a couple of years ago Hellie actually asked for one, a huge compliment from her non-knit-wearing generation. I bought some yarn when we were in Beijing in '03 since actual Shetland cobweb is too fragile for my liking, and knit this version, Amedro's shape with lace patterns selected from Sharon Miller's book. The Chinese yarn claims to be merino and was heaven to knit with.

I have advanced to repeat no. 17 of the Princess shawl, and have nearly finished the front of the striped Koigu. Tonight I have to go to a committee meeting. I will take Thomas the Elder's socks, and may get near finishing. Bets, thank you for your kind offer to get me another Katcha Katcha. I finally found mine, inside the Knitting Calendar box, and will need it for the committee meeting.



Monday, July 04, 2005

Graduation Posted by Picasa

My husband didn't feel very well yesterday afternoon -- a special dispensation of Providence to allow me to watch the End of Wimbledon. That Duke-of-Kent-and-the-ballboys bit always makes me feel...

Our revels now are ended: these our actors

(As I foretold you) were all spirits, and

Are melted into air, into thin air

Suddenly we notice that the summer solstice has passed while we were distracted.

Above you see the evidence that Rachel has mastered her new camera. That's our son-in-law Edward, his son Thomas-the-Elder on graduation day, and Thomas' long-standing girlfriend Monica. Rachel sent a picture with some knit-content, too, which we can have tomorrow, and after that it will be time for progress pictures of both the Princess edging and the striped Koigu. Both did indeed make progress yesterday. I allowed myself to daydream of reaching edging repeat no. 43 -- that'll be the one dead centre.

Edinburgh was quiet yesterday. Maybe everything is going to be all right. Saturday's demonstration was clearly a great success, and there seems to be no evidence that Bob Geldof's friends are descending on us, as he was urging them to do at one point. Of course the G8 hasn't started yet. I think it is a bit infra dig of Mr Blair to jet off to Singapore this week to fuss about getting the Olympics. He should be studying position papers, or something.



Sunday, July 03, 2005

In the eyes of the world, yesterday's Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh was entirely eclipsed by Bob G. and Live 8, but I gather it was a big success anyway. Margot phoned in the evening, exhilerated. We stayed away, and our part of town was pretty empty. There was the sound of helicopters overhead all day along, like living in Baghdad, I imagine.


I'm on the 14th repeat of the Princess Shawl edging, and progressing well towards the finishing of the back of Thomas the Younger's striped Koigu. There's a substantial mistake in the pattern for the front, which I will have to figure out and correct before I can go much further.


Rachel phoned -- they clearly had a wonderful time at Thomas the Elder's graduation on Friday. She took digital pictures but we can't see them until somebody teaches her how to squirt them into her computer and from thence to the ether.

I could write about plastic eyes, or free trade with Africa, or even mice, but will today instead concentrate on...


Some background: when I was a Knitlist moderator I used to read Knitflame sometimes, to see what aspects of us they were laughing at, and thus got involved in a row with Margaret Velard about the plural of "virus". She was sticking up for "virii" and even asked of me, "Where did you learn your Latin?"

Now, it's all right to make fun of my knitting (I'm not in fact, technically, very good) but that was an insult too far. I came out roaring, and Margaret Velard hasn't been heard of since. A nice person named Calantha -- isn't that a beautiful name? -- stepped in, and guided me to a website from which I learned that there was actually some justice in Margaret Velard's point of view: "virii" is abominable Latin, but is acceptable in computer circles as a jargon word for the plural of "virus".

And yesterday, after a long gap, I heard from Calantha again, sending me a Knitlist post which she thought I'd like:

"Knitting charts are one of the few examples of boustrophedon reading
left in the world. Boustrophedon is a reading- / writing- style that alternates
direction every line.

So the right side rows are read from right to left, and the wrong side
rows from left to right."

I was actually walking along the passge to look it up for its etymology, when my long-distant education supplied it from the depths of my subconscious: the reference is to plowing. In ancient Greece, as in modern Strathardle, one plows a furrow and then turns and plows the next one back again in the opposite direction. "bous" is an ox, and the rest of the word comes from a verb meaning "to turn".

Isn't that nice?




Saturday, July 02, 2005

Margot and Tom, on our front doorstep, setting off to Make Poverty History.  Posted by Picasa

That's my pal Margot and her son Tom (a pediatrician), setting off to Make Poverty History half an hour ago. They've got a bonny day for it. We had a great time with them.

Princess Shawl

I had a wonderful email message yesterday from Jean in Australia, who has done FIFTY SIX repeats of the Princess Shawl edging. I wonder if anyone other than Sharon herself has actually finished it? I'm now doing my 13th repeat -- I think I'm slightly ahead of where I was when I abandoned the first attempt because the yarn was too heavy. That's sort of encouraging. Jean and I both find that it takes about an hour to do a repeat. It was encouraging for me to hear that, too.

I had a moment of anxiety yesterday when I thought the amount I have done in the last week, since the cataract thing, looked awful compared to the earlier stretch. That life-line is still in there, so it's easy to see the demarkation. Then I calmed down and reflected that the earlier bit has been dressed -- it's the last thing I did before setting off for the hospital. So of course it looks different.

I had a nice note from Daisy in Canada yesterday, too -- left as an unanswerable comment here -- praising me for updating the Blog regularly. I do feel it's something a Blogger should try to do. Queer Joe is pretty conscientious -- it's one of things I like about him.

I'm, and one day I'll get an Email Me button up.



Friday, July 01, 2005

This is the first day of the rest of my life -- of the summer of 2005, at any rate. Thomas-the-Elder should graduate from Cambridge today. His mother thinks she is on top of digital photography -- we shall see. An old friend is coming to stay overnight and march in the Make Poverty History demonstration here in Edinburgh tomorrow. Her son is coming along -- I think my children are old, but Tom Hutchison must be in his fifties. It'll be great to see them, but we're not marching.

I'm on the eleventh repeat of the Princess Shawl edging. It was exciting to reach double figures, but the real excitement will be when I've done 16 and there are only 69 more to do. It would almost begin to sound achievable. The striped Koigu is going faster, of course, now that I'm going back and forth over only half of it.


I was wandering around a bit this morning, having read all my favourite knitting blogs, and found this: I like the bumper stickers: "Be nice to America or we'll bring democracy to your country", for instance.

And there's not much use having a blog if one can't wander off into the pet peeves corner occasionally: I hate the word "homophobia". Etymologically, it ought to mean, "fear of the same" or "fear of sameness" -- a perfectly reasonable thing to be terrified of, but that's not what the word seems to mean. Queer Joe has wandered off the subject of knitting, too, and filled a blog entry with references to "homophobia". Perhaps it should be "heterophobia" -- "fear of the other", or "fear of the different". But I suspect that wouldn't have quite the right ring.