Monday, January 02, 2006

I thought, when I wrote yesterday morning, that the internal-monologue aspect of my New Year’s practices would be pretty dull. Not so. When I walked across the square a little later to get the papers, Mr Ahmed told me that there had been a bad fire in the night at Magnus Linklater’s house.

After I took this picture, I joined the awed group of neighbours which you can see. I was told that the fire had been caused by Christmas tree lights. I thought they were supposed to be safe, these days. An unrooted Christmas tree would be dry as tinder by the 31st of December.

We – on the other side of the square – had been completely unaware that anything was going on. If we heard anything, we put it down to the New Year. Although my husband says he saw the trees in Drummond Place Gardens silhouetted against an unusual light, as we were going to bed, and thought it was rather a nice effect.

One of the neighbours wondered, as we stood there, whether Mr Linklater’s study had escaped. I thought of my husband’s magnum opus. He always saves his work to a floppy disk when he stops for the night, or when he finishes work on one file and proceeds to another. He prints each file as he finishes it. But all three – the computer, the back-ups, and the hard copy – are in the same room. God could snap His fingers and take it all away.

We used to read the Times, where Mr Linklater has a weekly column. We switched to the Waffy when the Times went tabloid, as we need a newspaper we can wrap things up in. Rachel will watch the Times this week to see if the Drummond Place fire is mentioned.

So that’s what I was thinking about, yesterday.


Blocking – it’s an interesting question, Kate.

I’ve been a pretty resolute non-blocker, most of my life. Two things changed me. One is lace knitting. I knit a shawl for Helen’s second baby, the year after the death of her eldest son. I was pulling out all the stops, I thought at the time – Shetland lace-weight, no less. And stop-pulling included blocking, so I did it. (Previous mild lace efforts had had a brief pass of the steam iron.) Blocking is essential for lace, and I have never been tempted to omit it since. Fortunately, it’s tremendous fun and I now look forward to it.

The other thing was a remark of Meg Swansen’s, in her book “Knitting”, I think. She talks about blocking a finished garment, and adds “I love this stage”. If she had written a stern lecture on the importance of blocking, I’d have paid no attention. She recommends blocking the finished garment and points out that modest but significant changes to its shape can be made at this stage.

When I finished Theo’s Koigu sweater, it was definitely on the short side. So I blocked it for length, and am happy with the result.

Crazy Aunt Purl had an interesting post recently about a hand-held steamer which Annie Modesitt gave her, for blocking purposes. I wonder if they are to be had in this country.

The veil: I’m now at the point where, if I were knitting an altar frontal, the side panels would separate from the central one and form points. I am trying to follow the pattern, but to add as many stitches as I decrease, so that I will have a space between the panels where I can put the lacey initials of the intended first wearer, and of her younger sister. I’m struggling. More soon.

I haven’t forgotton about the summary of the year, either.

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