Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We’re all off to Strathardle today. The weather has even improved itself slightly. Back sometime next week, but probably not for long. I'm taking Sam north to get used to country life.

I mastered Simpsonization in the end. In my first attempt I was offering pictures of too low resolution, and the second time I put the camera all the way up to maximum-pixel and that was rejected too. On the third attempt, Goldilocks-fashion, I got it right. Here’s Archie, before and after. The background has been Springfieldized – an optional extra.

Not terribly impressive, but he's delighted. I've done his brothers, too.


I’m somewhere in row 15 of the Princess shawl insertion, so relieved that my messing about, a few rows back, hasn’t ruined it altogether, that even an endless row of YO, k2tog seems pleasant.

Ann, welcome aboard. VKB is “Vogue Knitting Book” – I’m sorry to have seemed mysterious. It’s the original series I’m after. It was a British magazine – it began publishing in the early 30’s and carried on right through the war, until the late 60’s. A parallel American publication started sometime in the 40’s, with considerable pattern overlap.

Then there were a few empty years, I think – one day, I must get all this straight – before the current, thoroughly American, Vogue Knitting International rose from the ashes.

Since discovering eBay over a year ago, I’ve been able to expand my original collection, bought from the newsstands in my early married years, to the point where I now have all but 10 of them. Not long ago, my “killer bid” was about £55. There was a sudden spate of them on offer earlier this year, when I upped the killer bid to £80-something.

The most I’ve ever actually paid was £63.87 and £63.89 for issues no. 5 and 7. Even £80 is less than the prices fetched in America this month for no. 8 and no. 3. But I decided yesterday to tighten the belt and go on. They’re likely to hold most of their value. I can always flog ‘em.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Thessalonikis are safely here, all, except for Helen, much bigger than when we saw them last in Greece in November. They arrived late and without any luggage. I fed them a bit, and then Helen went back to the airport while I put exhausted boys to bed in the clothes they stood up in.

They’re all still unconscious this morning, but Helen is here, and so is a lot of luggage.

On family matters, don’t fail to read Theo's account (Saturday the 28th) of his cousin Joe’s first week in Washington. I think Rachel wondered, when this project was first mooted, whether Joe would spend a fortnight playing computer games while Theo was at work. Clearly not. Theo must have taken a lot of trouble over this. I think he has created the experience of a lifetime for his cousin.

I can’t imagine how Congresswoman Boyda’s constituents are getting along on Joe’s advice, but that week of interning is going to look good on his university applications in a few months’ time.


VKB No. 3 sold for $172 last night – I was the underbidder (in the person of my sister; it was American eBay and the middle of the night). I’m clearly going to have to do some rethinking on prices. Number 8 fetched even more a few days ago.

As for the Princess, I think all’s well. I’m halfway across row 14. The top rank of laurel leaves are sloping neatly in the right direction, and I think they’ll pass muster. From now on I’ll follow your practice, Kathy, and knit it exactly as given. I’ll be interested to see however – in connection with the discussion of the last few days – how the current row of laurel leaves are finished at the top.

Then will follow five rows of garter stitch, which can be devoted to counting and re-counting and making sure that the two stitches which are arithmetically in the middle are also geometrically centred.

I’ve been trying to Simpsonize my grandsons without success. Here's Archie.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I seriously wish I had done the insertion the way you did, Kathy, knitting it as given. Row 11 was OK: that’s where the stitch count was increased back up to the base line. I’m toiling through 12 and fearing mess.

It’s a simple k2tog, YO row in itself, but for part of it I’m not properly aligned with row 11 which will affect the appearance of the base of the second rank of laurel leaves. Part of row 11 had its own difficulties because, as attentive readers will remember, I changed gear after about the first 80 stitches of row 10.

I started out all right in 12, then – oh, most basic of errors when the knitting is too easy – got confused about which end of the row I had started from and “corrected” what I had been doing. I corrected back before the half-way point. But oh dear.

Added to this, 12 itself is difficult in the most basic way – it’s hard to get the needle through the stitches after the fancy-schmancy stuff in row 11 which increased the stitch count and formed the bases of the new laurel leaves.

I think I should be far enough along to see how bad things are before we scoot off to Strathardle, probably on Tuesday. And, hey! I have walked along the banks of the Peneus, the very spot where Apollo pursued Daphne until she turned into the world’s first laurel bush. I bet Sharon Miller has never done that.

It’s August

Helen and the Boys from Thessaloniki will be here this evening, insh’Allah. James phoned yesterday, not from Beijing but from London. He is keen to get his children started on their entries for the Games. It’s all about to begin.

I’m still reading “Lisey’s Story” at a great clip, less happy with the supernatural parts than the ones solidly grounded in Maine. Kristin Nicholas has been re-reading “The Egg and I” and said something on her blog recently about how much more interesting it can be to read a book which actually comes from a particular period, than reading books about that period. She expressed the idea rather more neatly.

I have recently re-read one of my all-time faves, Pamela Hansford Johnson’s “The Humbler Creation”. It is gloriously evocative of post-war England: what genteel poverty felt like, the pleasures of smoking, the genteel-poor attitude to sex. I think, a century hence, Stephen King will be read with interest for his grasp of the texture of turn-of-the-millennium non-urban American life. He was wise to stay home in Maine after he hit the big time.

Some old friends from Leicester – where we lived in the late ‘60’s – came to lunch yesterday. We had a great time. She is my age, within a few months. He is maybe as much as a year younger than my husband. They seemed vastly spryer.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Row 10 finished – and there’s trouble.

I read somewhere once – lace list? Heirloom Knitting list? – that there was a problem with the pattern for the insertion, that at some point it needed to be offset by two stitches to make things work.

And I think I hit that point last night.

The insertion is supposed to represent laurel leaves. I thought as I toiled along YO’ing and K2tog’ing that I could see them pretty clearly – they spring from a manoeuvre in row 2 that provides a bunch of three stitches.

Row 10 consists of K3tog, K1 all the way across (reducing the stitch count seriously). And surely the K3tog’s ought to come at the top of the leaves, bunching them back together.

But that’s not the way the pattern is written.

I discovered this about 80 stitches into the row. I didn’t try to tink back – undoing K3tog’s is a precarious operation. I thought it was riskier than to proceed. But I did some sort of quick step in place so that the rest of the K3tog’s in the row were in the right position. What seemed to me to be the right position.

If I had ever got around to leading Photoshop Elements, I might be able to draw circles around the relevant parts of this blurry picture. Most of the "laurel leaves" shewn are open at the top. At the far left, I have made my adjustment and started closing them. You may be able to discern it, with peering. You may wonder what the fuss is about.

And now I’ve got to figure out how to tackle row 11, without much help from the pattern.

Kathy, (new comment day before yesterday) I am sorry to hear how boring the centre is. I feel it couldn’t be worse than the insertion, but I had a closer look yesterday and it does look alarmingly easy and repetitious. Don’t those rows of Daleks help? Both in themselves and as you thrash your way through the tedium towards the next one?

But I think if I ever get out of this mess and arrive on that happy shore, I had better get quite a bit of centre done before I stop again. There are acres of it to do, as you know.

Non-knit, but still talking to Kathy

I’m enjoying Lisey’s Story. I think you’d better have a look. It’s dedicated to “Tabby” so it must be a book that King himself regards as important.

Franklin, I am much taken with the idea that Dolores might join us for the Games. There’s an agricultural show in the morning greatly enjoyed by my husband and the smaller grandchildren – she might meet Mr Right. (Seen one sheep, seen 'em all, is my attitude.) It seems hard to keep her away from the drink, though. The rest of us will be tucking in.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Slogging across row 9. Today’s knitting should be different, at least – rows 10 and 11 are the half-way point where everything gathers itself in and starts off again in the other direction. Picture soon. I’m pleased with what I’m getting, but I’ll be awfully glad to get back to what might be called real Princess-ing.


Knitting, first. Go Knit In Your Hat says that Jaeger Yarns has gone belly-up. Google knows nothing about this, nor do I. Does anyone? She also mentions RYC yarns as if one should know about them, and I don’t. But I’m sure Google could help there.

Stash Haus, there will certainly be Games Day pictures of me in my Dolores sweatshirt, with or without Sam’s winning card. Games Day pictures should carry us all the way through September.

It’s not just Sam. I will be entering the “Three Potatoes” and “Collection of Four Vegetables” classes. Small children – the Thessalonikis and the Beijing Mileses – will do things in the children’s section. “Plasticene model” “Cardboard picture frame”, that sort of thing. Son-in-law David (a Thessaloniki) is planning to attempt “Mint and Rosemary Jelly” and I think granddaughter Lizzy is going to do a “whiskey cake”.

(Strictly, you are supposed to be a resident of the show area, or a child, to enter classes in the Home Industries tent – which, strictly, would disqualify me. I wrote to them some years ago explaining about Lizzie, and she was allowed through. I’m not going to tell them about David: his wife is a part-owner of our broad acres, and I think that suffices. Theo’s girlfriend wanted to do some baking, too; I wrote to the secretary about her, and didn’t hear anything for weeks so we thought it was all right. But she has been disallowed, and we all feel rather sore about it.)

And then there are the field events, open to all: races and Tilt the Bucket and the Pillow Fight and Musical Cars. My brother-in-law worked out the secret of the Pillow Fight – a savage sport – and came second a few years ago, against competition a third his age. I hope he’ll pass his secret on this year to granddaughter Hellie’s excellent boyfriend Matt. I’m not telling.

(In the background, meanwhile, real Highland Games unfold, with beefy gents in kilts tossing cabers and a piping competition and endless children's highland dancing.)

In ’04 we amused ourselves by taking pictures of various subsections of our party – “people wearing Kerry-for-President tee-shirts” “People named Edward”, etc. I don’t think we’ve ever taken a Winners picture. Maybe this year.

The afternoon ends with Musical Cars. We’ve never won, although we’ve notched a couple of Seconds. It is our supreme ambition. Cars drive round and round the field while the music plays, and when it stops, the passenger leaps out and runs into the centre and seizes a stake. There are fewer stakes than cars. Passengers are meant to keep both hands on the windscreen while the music plays, but some of them don’t. The passenger door is also meant to be securely shut, but some of them aren’t. A lot depends, too, in the final stages, on whether the music-stopper-and-starter likes you.

I am impressed, and touched, that you (Stash Haus) have read your way through my archives. Someone – Graham Greene? – wrote a short story in which a life was told backwards, beginning with the mournful journey home from the cemetery. Reading a blog in reverse order (if that’s the way you did it) would be much like that. Sometimes I’m tempted to look back in Annie Modesitt's blog for the first signs of Gerry’s illness, but I don’t. I am in awe of her strength and courage.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Somewhere in row 7. All continues well. It’s a bit boring, but that’s better than stressful.

Maureen, it’s good to hear from you (yesterday’s comment). Knitting Sam the Ram as my Games entry was entirely Maureen’s idea, expressed on a jolly yarn crawl we had earlier this year. It must have been in March or April, because I remember a nice day, and it’s been pretty remorselessly awful around here since early May.

Miscellaneous non-knit

My Dolores sweatshirt turned up from Cafepress yesterday. I won’t wear it until Games Day.

Janet, that’s a really interesting question about the Games and Monarch of the Glen – one that must be put to my sister and her family. They are devoted to the series. We don’t entirely mind it, but make no effort to seek it out. It seems more than somewhat saccharine. We have more motive than some to watch, in that the author of the eponymous book lived and died in our house. (And I’m sure when Compton Mackenzie looks out over the bar of heaven towards Drummond Place, he regards us as living in his house.)

But my sister is seriously keen, and she and her family also enjoy the Games. All of them are going to make the long and expensive journey this year, to our delight.

The rest of the world, I gather, is reading Harry Potter. Not me. I have been waiting very patiently for this to turn up as a paperback. I am surprised to see from the copyright date that it’s only been a year. But there it was, yesterday in the supermarket, and I’m enjoying it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

All’s well.

At my current point in the insertion (row 5) it’s nothing but YO, k2tog all the way across. Slow but not stressful, once row 3 has been correctly aligned with the peculiarities of row 2. It’ll carry on like that for a bit. The oddities in this pattern occur at the beginning, middle, and end, with the beginning the oddest.

That I have put successfully behind me, and should at least get the middle (rows 10 and 11) done this week. That will be enough for a picture.

A single helix? I’ve been pawing around in Wikipedia and the OED, Kate, and I think I see what you mean. What an exciting idea!

I hope you get your BSJ straightened out. I’ve knit it half a dozen times, and it never ceases to astonish. I usually keep count by writing down the number of stitches at the end of every row – if I add 4 and in the same row decrease 2, there must be xxxx at the end of the row.

My current plan, Princess-wise, is to carry on until the insertion is finished and the centre started, before laying it aside again. When the insertion is done, one puts the whole thing on hold -- Sharon even suggests casting off, but I'm not going to do that. Then one starts again in the absolute centre (got to get that right) on five stitches, and works back and forth, taking in one more stitch from the border at the end of every row. So the very early centre rows will feel like rapid progress. It sounds as if Kathy has just got to the point where forward movement seems to slow down and stop.

Sam & irrelevance

I don’t know about eyes. I’m sort of tired of sheep-knitting. But I’ll have a more critical look than usual next week at the woolly lumps in the field beyond my vegetable garden and try to decide how much eyes contribute to the general effect, as well looking for ear tags.

I heard on the radio this morning that they have been having 45 degree heat in Greece for some weeks now. I’m not really au fait with centigrade at that level, but I experienced 40 degrees for one day in southern Italy once, and it was a good deal hotter than I care for. The Thessalonikis may even welcome grey skies and rain.

Theo and Joe didn’t get to the Democratic debate after all, but will hear Hillary talk about pre-kindergarten education today. Theo promises to try to make Joe write home about it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thank you for the kind words about Sam.

Judith, it would be funny indeed if other Strathardle knitters knit their own Sams, and he found himself in a flock. I thought of a much worse possibility yesterday: what if nobody else submits a Knitted Toy, and he wins by default? The knitting entries are never terribly numerous, and that did happen to me once long ago, with a pair of Men’s Gloves.

Alexander made me a wonderful Alphabetarium for my 70th birthday. The U page consists of a facsimile of that winning card (we save them all, of course) illustrating the phrase “up to a point”. I’d hate to have it happen to Sam.

So yesterday I went on practicing the Princess insertion. Here are the first three attempts, total failures, separated by garter stitch sections:

Then I tried again, and got it. It doesn’t look very impressive because it’s cast-off too tightly, but it's essentially right.

But it’s clearly not enough to have got through a 16-stitch swatch successfully once (although that’s a necessary first step). I would have to understand how each row relates to the one before. The stitch count changes seriously, several times, and it’s not at all easy to work out from the chart exactly what the row below should be doing (should have done) at the point where one is in the next one. For me, in fact, impossible.

So I did it again over more stitches. This time, I didn’t cast off at all. You get the general idea. It’s a totally different kind of knitted lace from all the rest of the shawl.

I had intended to practice insertion-knitting for a while and then go on to something else, but I decided at this point that I had better pick up the Princess herself, while the difficulties and their solutions were fresh in my mind. And besides, I was scared. Better get it done.

Helen and the Boys from Thessaloniki are due here on Sunday. Life will change gear for a while. There’s no hope of finishing the insertion before then – 19 rows – but I went ahead and started. The first few rows are the worst of the insertion pattern, anyway. If I can get it well started, it should be not too difficult to resume later.

Rows one and two went slowly but perfectly, and I’ve embarked on three.

My neck and shoulders are stiff and sore. It puzzled me in the night, but I understand why now. Sheer tension.

Kathy has resumed work on her Princess. She’s got her insertion done a fair while ago, and is now steaming along in the centre.

And don’t miss Franklin's account of his beautiful niece’s Christening shawl.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Well, Sam’s finished. The sun is shining this morning – although it hasn’t got around to the front of the house yet – so I took him out to the step for his photo shoot.

My husband continues to have some serious complaints, including most recently the colour of the horns. They should be dark grey, or brown. He’s right, of course. This is what we’re aiming for:

But, as I’ve said before, the judging is not going to be based on ovine verisimilitude. I think he’ll do. I’ve left the yarn with which I attached the horns unsecured, however (and he still has a little hole in his bottom), so late adjustments are not impossible.

The other knitting category this year – far too similar; what were they thinking of? – is called Teddies for Tragedies. A teddy bear pattern is provided, and you have to donate the result to a charity which distributes teddy bears to tragic children. Studies Have Shewn that they recover faster from whatever trauma has afflicted them, if they have their own teddy bear.

I am sure I would do badly in a straight competition like that, but it might be interesting to try, and it would use up a bit of the new bag of stuffing. I’ll have another look at the pattern when we next get to Strathardle – next week, I hope. And it would consume a bit of stash, of course.

So, what next?

The luxury of choice was delicious last night. Both Sam and the melon scarf were in a sense prescribed – Sam by this year’s competition categories, the scarf by Natalie’s flattering request that I try out the Yarn Yard's delicious new merino lace. Now I was free.

What I did, was cast on (as recommended) 16 stitches and attempt a swatch of the insertion pattern which comes next in the Princess shawl.

A good thing, too.

An odd manoeuvre is involved. “slip 1, knit 2 tog, p.s.s.o. – but before slipping the slipped stitch off the needle, make 1 by bringing the yarn forward, then knit 1 into the slipped stitch”.

My problem on the first attempt was not knowing where the slipped stitch was supposed to be, when the yarn came forward. I messed things up by trying to keep it on the right hand needle. I solved the problem by ratiocination, while not knitting at all. The yarn must come forward while the slipped stitch is temporarily back on the left-hand needle. So that’s all right.

The next few rows are either YO k2tog or k2tog YO and it behoves one to pay attention and resist the temptation to throw in an extra YO at one end or the other.

I’m about to start a third attempt.


My sister's blog has a delightful account of Alistair’s American holiday. Now we need to hear from Joe and Theo in DC. Rachel forwarded a first email from Joe yesterday. He’s having a great time. Tomorrow, he says he's going to hear Hillary speak and subsequently debate with Obama and other Democrats. It’ll be very interesting to hear how they impress a sharp young observer. Joe, like Theo, is keen on politics.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It is embarrassing to have to admit it – I was knitting Sam’s horns wrongly.

An elementary error: I was reading lines like (K3, inc 1 as before, P1) 4x as if they read K3, (inc 1 as before, P1) 4x

The pattern involved short-rowing anyway, and the mistake didn’t affect the total number of stitches, since all the increases were there. I got a whole wrong horn knit and even stuffed, as reported yesterday.

Well, now I’ve done one right – you won’t be surprised to hear that once I corrected my mistake, the numbers at the ends of the lines (which I was grumbling about yesterday) made perfect sense. Much ripping out was still involved, even after the penny dropped. I hope the final horn this evening will be more straightforward.

Sam turned out to have a small hole remaining in his bottom, through which I pushed quite a bit more stuffing yesterday to his general improvement. In fact, I had to go out and buy some more. My friend Helen had offered to give me some, and I thought I didn’t need it. Now I’ll be right back where I started, with an unwanted nearly-full bag of stuffing in the stash cupboard.

My husband thinks Sam needs eyes. They’re optional in the pattern. I’ll think about it.

While I was in Lewis’s buying stuffing, I walked past a table piled high with the new Harry Potter book at £5 – yesterday was the day. That’s very cheap. No one was paying any attention.


We’ve had a lull lately, after that extraordinary passage in late February and early March when they were dropping off the trees. eBay still informs me, several times a week, of new listings, but there has been nothing of interest. I’m missing only 10 issues, seven from the 30’s and three war-time ones.

Well, one of them came up on American eBay yesterday, and I didn’t go for it. It’s the first time I’ve held back since I discovered eBay and this caper began.

It was the 8th issue, from 1936, in good condition. The bidding stood at $176.78 for much of the day. That’s £90 or so. I thought about it a lot, and if I had bid, I would have added only the minimum increment to that price, and I would have failed – it sold for $212.58.

Looking at the bidding history, I see that there were no fewer than four people (including of course the winner) prepared to pay more than I’ve ever paid for a VKB, and I’m a big spender in this class. It's a comfort, in a way. I've sometimes had a paranoid feeling that they were ganging up on me out there, forcing me up to my maximum bid out of sheer malice. Clearly not so.


Much of England is still flooded. My family is safe and well. What happened – to elaborate on yesterday’s story – is that Cathy found when she got to the station (Penzance? Bristol? Exeter?) that her train to London had been cancelled. Another was vaguely promised. That’s when she phoned Rachel and asked her to meet Alistair – probably not knowing that Rachel was actually at Heathrow. The later train turned up, so crowded that no one could move, and that’s how Cathy eventually got there.

And when Rachel finally got back to the Clapham Junction car park, around midnight, her car wasn’t clamped after all or even ticketed. They usually mete out punishment like Rhadamanthus there, but Friday was an extraordinary day

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The weather is very, very odd. There’s no doubt about it.

The radio is full, this morning, of tales of people stranded all night on motorways because rivers burst their banks. Rachel had a day of it yesterday, trying to get to Heathrow with her younger son Joe, off to Washington to spend a fortnight with Theo (his first cousin once removed). She abandoned the car in torrential rain at Clapham Junction – it was later clamped – and proceeded by public transport. They got there an hour late, having set out with an absurd amount of time in hand, but the plane was late too, and Joe will presumably wake up in DC this morning.

Then in the last moments of Rachel’s dying phone battery came a call from Cathy (her sister-in-law, James’ wife, Alistair’s mother). She couldn’t get from Cornwall to London because of flooded rail lines – and Alistair was about to arrive at Heathrow, an unaccompanied child, after his happy holiday in CT. (He's the one in the middle of the picture of Various Grandchildren in my sidebar.) Rachel phoned me from a public box, and was then going to settle down with a trashy novel and a glass of wine to wait for him.

I phoned back at bedtime. All was well. Cathy even turned up in the end.

This isn’t normal for July.


Here’s the melon scarf, before and after blocking. I tried to do it with pins, I like pins, but the scarf kept trying to be narrower in the middle and I was clearly going to be moving pins all morning if I persevered.

The finished scarf is about 1/3rd smaller than the VLT prototype. It’s 50” long and 14 ½” wide, as opposed to 72” and 17” for the original. I think the yarn must be equivalent to Shetland cobweb weight, as I’ve said before, or to Sharon Miller’s merino lace. It is The Yarn Yard’s merino lace, and it’s super.

Blocking done, I returned to Sam.

He now has his second ear, and I have knit but not yet attached the first horn. It gave me some trouble, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right. The instructions were fine; some of the parentheses at the ends of the lines – “3 st left” “20 sts worked” – baffled me to the end. I ripped it out a couple of times, thinking I’d lost count somewhere, but finally gritted my teeth, ignored the parentheses, and Blindly Followed. Sometimes it’s the only thing to do, and I’m very pleased with my horn. Sam’s horn. Maybe I’ll finish today.

Elliott, winning cards are red in the Home Industries Tent at the Strathardle Highland Gathering so that won’t do. I think you are the first non-knitter ever to leave a comment here and I feel very grown-up.

Friday, July 20, 2007

We had a great time; just the way to spend a grey day.

HK Handknits is in a list of one, when it comes to naming good Edinburgh yarn shops. It’s small and intelligently stocked. Jeanette, who was in charge yesterday and is, I think, a co-owner, is pleasant and knowledgeable and was happy to leave us alone to browse. And the shop was busy, I’m delighted to say.

Earlier in the day I had lit upon a website which at once reassured me that I’m not the world’s worst and frightened me with its reminder that even so pleasant an activity as yarn-buying can become pathological. Despite the warning, I bought this:

I’ve never knit with Opal. The promise is that that one ball will make a little stripey sweater all by itself.

And I’ve resisted Paton’s Tapestry again and again. Yesterday I didn’t bother. It’ll have to be another little-boy sweater, and it’ll have to be knit soon, while boys are still little.

The big news from Jeanette is that Noro is bringing out a DK version of Silk Garden – due in September. No longer will a Silk Garden sweater be so bulky that you never get a chance to wear it – and, of course, it will be cheaper to knit.

Back at the ranch

I finished the melon scarf. I hope to offer before-and-after blocking measurements and pictures tomorrow. I carefully garter-stitch grafted the two ends of the edging together and then discovered a hideous misalignment. I can’t imagine how it happened. I took it apart and straightened it out, but in the final version there is a distinct line across the edging, marking the join.


I spent a while at Cafepress yesterday. I looked at Barack Obama designs (there are 6060 of them, on 126,000 products – Dolores has some catching up to do). There are many good ones, but nothing thrilled me. It’s too soon, anyway. I hope an Obama tee shirt will be appropriate for Games Day ’08.

Then I looked at the Hillary Clintons. She has 9160 designs on 206,000 products – but a significant portion of hers are hostile. I’d be a bit worried, if I were a Boy in a Back Room. “Anyone but Hillary”, “A Woman for President – But Not That One”, “pre-impeach Hillary”, “Life is a bitch Don’t vote for one” and many others. I’m afraid I fell for this one.

The designer sounds like the lunatic right; he may even have meant it in full seriousness. I’m sorry to put sixpence in his pocket, but I couldn’t resist. It’s on its way to Edinburgh.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dreary, dreary day. Dark as November. Today is the day of our scheduled yarn crawl, and it couldn’t come at a better time.

The target shop is good enough that it’s just possible they’ll have the spring Knitter’s. If I can look through it for a moment, I’ll know for sure whether I’ve seen it before or not.

The computer has done something funny: half-an-hour ago, less, I read a comment asking what “long-nebbed” (or “nebbit”) means. I think from the context it must mean “long-eared” – the subject was guess-what familiar garden pest – but I don’t know the word either, and our Scots dictionary lives in Kirkmichael. I’ll try to remember to look it up when we’re next there.

But where is the comment? Who wrote it? I couldn’t have imagined something so specific.

Last night’s melon-knitting went well. I think I might get around the fourth corner and finish the whole thing this evening. There’s more waste yarn to unpick, when I get to the point where the edging began, but not very much of it.

Then Sam’s remaining ear, and his horns, and then…

I read in the paper the other day that sheep have tags in their left ears, any colour but red. I will have a cautious look when we are next in the company of sheep, and consider whether Sam needs one.

The day is too grey, and my mood too low, to attempt more. I did write to an editor of Knitting yesterday, to suggest that they pursue the question of who knits for Prince Charles (no reply as yet), and am grateful for the other suggestions.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Elizabeth, thank you for that most cheering comment yesterday: if you’ve only just received your summer Knitter’s, mine is probably still to come, and that means that only one issue is missing (namely spring), mislaid by me or of course by the postal services of one nation or the other. That’s a much more manageable thought. I can always get it from Back Issues.

But I think that henceforth I’ll make a note of the date when a knitting magazine arrives. Quarterly is too long an interval to get the mind around.

Thanks to everybody, too, for continued political comments. Theo, I look forward to continuing this conversation in Strathardle soon. Kate, I’ve never heard of anyone making a compendium of political platforms such as you describe. It sounds useful indeed.

Now, knitting.

Look at that:

I always cut out pictures of interesting kilt hose and put them in the back of my copy of Lady Gainford’s book, but this one from yesterday’s Scotsman really takes the cake.

It’s worth peering at, and I'm afraid it's less clear in the scan than in the newspaper. The two colours in the turnovers are continued all the way down the leg, panels of what may be knit-one-maroon, knit-one-aqua, offset by one stitch in the next round, punctuated with one- or perhaps two-stitch maroon ribs. The yarn must be finer than yarn usually used for hose, to accommodate two colours and leave room to get the royal foot into the royal shoe. He didn’t get those at Marks and Spencer’s.

I went to the Prince of Wales website in an idle moment yesterday, but although it’s set up to receive emails, it warns that you won’t get an answer. I toyed with the idea of writing an actual letter on actual paper to Clarence House, as the website suggests, asking who knits for H.R.H. – but that’s a lot of trouble and seemed rather silly.

However, this morning in the early moments of consciousness when I have always found that the synapses fire rather well, it occurred to me to set Knitting magazine on the job. It would make a good and unusual feature article, and there aren’t all that many of those around. I’d attempt it myself if I weren’t so old and so involved in cooking lunch.

Once when I was very young I saw a young man buying a lace jabot at a haberdashery counter in Copeland’s in Glasgow, and I reflected that there is no nation in Europe where a gent can do himself up so well as in Scotland, without joining the army.

As for my own knitting, I got around that third corner of the melon scarf. At the beginning of the whole job I was in such a hurry to get going that I took the Coward’s Way and knit a few rows in a waste yarn rather than attempting a more refined temporary cast-on. The predictable down-side, last night, was a laborious half-hour unpicking waste yarn and retrieving stitches.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A good day’s knitting. If the favouring wind continues, I might get around the third corner today.

I’m suffering a certain amount of puzzlement about Knitter’s magazine. My subscription still has a year to run – no doubt about that. I can’t find either the Spring or the Summer '07 issues. That’s odd. There’s a certain amount of disorder around here, but it doesn’t extend to knitting magazines.

Knitter’s is slow to arrive. Have I had the spring issue and mislaid it? And not received Summer yet? But the cover pattern for Spring is (to my eye) so bad that I think I’d remember it. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen Summer.

Wait and see.

Non-knit miscellany

There was a paragraph in the paper yesterday asserting that a 40-year study has shewn that St Swithin is never right. What it didn’t say, is whether he tends to be right: whether the prevailing weather in mid-July tends to go on until the end of August. Cool, with sunshine-and-showers, in the case of 2007. Perhaps the question is unanswerable if you put it like that.

And you’re right, Kate, it’s early days yet, to give up on summer altogether.

Thanks for the comments about primary elections, too. I’m sure you’re right, Anonymous, that the rise in importance of the primaries has a lot to do with the really dreadful amounts of money spent on presidential elections these days. Here in GB, we have no political advertising on television. That still leaves lots of things for the parties to spend money on, but it cuts it down a bit. That wouldn’t work in America.

Monday, July 16, 2007

We had a lovely day here in Edinburgh yesterday, but it rained quite a lot, I understand, in England (and Ireland and Wales). And St Swithin is an Englishman. Sure enough, today is lousy. I’m afraid the last hope is gone for the Summer of ’07.

Not much to report on the knitting front. I am attaching edging down the second long side of the melon scarf, progressing well. I might reach half-way today.

My friend Helen and I are planning a yarn crawl to HK Handknits later this week. They’re having a sale. That should cheer us up, even if the sun don’t shine.

Since that interesting topic has been dispatched, I will proceed to a political question:

In my distant youth, as I remember things, the parties’ nominating conventions in presidential election years were just that – the places where the nominations were decided. Not all states had primaries, I don’t think, and the ones that did regularly bound the delegates’ votes on the first ballot only at the convention. So primaries were important, but not overwhelmingly so.

There was lots for the Boys in the Back Room to do. If memory serves, Adlai Stevenson wasn’t in any primaries in ’52. They just sort of drafted him at the convention. He was Governor of Illinois, and the convention was in Chicago – but, ah, who decided on that, and why? – and they just went and fetched him, and he came out and stood on his front steps and said, “What more shall be required of thee but to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with thy God?”

(Don’t blame the history books; blame my memory, if all this is rubbish.)

Whereas nowadays I get the impression that the primaries are everything. When a candidate wins enough of them, that candidate becomes the candidate, and there’s nothing left for the convention to do but throw a party. Is that right?

I wonder because the Boys in the Back Room might well think Hillary too divisive to be the candidate. There was an article in the Independent on Sunday yesterday about how lots of people don’t like her. Including me, although that wasn’t mentioned. It did say that Jane Fonda was hostile. I was delighted, because I am a great Fonda fan, as I was of her father, but we don’t always see eye-to-eye on politics.

On the other hand again, it currently looks as if any Democrat could get elected as long as he/she was capable of tying his/her shoes, so maybe the Boys will figure that they might as well run with Hillary.

My sister and her family will be here for the Games; we can discuss this matter thoroughly then.

Speaking of which, yesterday I ordered the Meet Dolores sweatshirt to wear on Games Day. Last year I wore my new Panopticon sweatshirt, which has proved a most useful garment in the ensuing months. If the day should be sizzling hot – it has happened – I’ll strip down to my “New Yoga” tee shirt.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

St Swithin's Day

…and he has chosen rain, according to the early weather forecast on the BBC, which mentioned him specifically. On the other hand, it’s a beautiful morning here in Edinburgh, cloudless blue.

Here’s the new Yarn Yard club offering – Natalie’s strawberry patch. I had it unfurled over the back of a sofa all day yesterday, as is my wont, and loved it more and more as the day progressed.

And here’s the melon stole. I’ve rounded a second corner, and now begin to see what the finished thing will look like. It will be very interesting to see what the final size is – clearly far smaller than the VLT exemplar. The one in the book is knit in “fine weight” yarn. There is a useful section in the back where the terms are not so much defined as illustrated with a list of yarns – “fine weight” includes Kidsilk Haze. Most of the designs in the book are “fine weight”. The yarn list will be less useful in 25 years' time.

But there’s also “super fine weight”, including Helen’s Lace. I think the Yarn Yard lace merino is finer than that, more like Shetland cobweb but far stronger (because plyed) and more interesting colour-wise.

Miscellany, including comments

My friend Helen wrote to me yesterday about her father’s gansey, knit on Eriskay. She has, through an intermediary, shewn photographs of it to an Eriskay knitter, who recognised it at once, named the knitter (her treatment of the gussets was unmistakeable) and identified some of the stitch patterns. More to follow.

MoMo, love the blog. Congratulations on doing it, and fingers crossed for the move to Colorado. Where in Michigan are you? I spent important youthful years in Detroit, with many visits to a grandmother in Constantine, towards the west of the state, near Three Rivers and White Pigeon. James and Cathy had a happy year in Ann Arbor before they had all those children.

Janet, I don’t think I was the one who mentioned Frances Partridge recently, but it sounds so plausible that I mistrust myself, saying that. We have them (all, I think); my husband has read them, I have only dipped – after all, one must have time to knit. But if it wasn’t me, who was it? That’s a blog I’d like to read.

Julie, I can’t grow other poppies, either. Just papaver somniferum, which grows itself.

Donna, yes, I will certainly go on with square-foot gardening. I plan to add a second raised bed next year. In a dry year, there’s reason to worry, because our soil is basically fine and sandy and will dry out fast. We shall see.

Julie, [a different Julie] I have heard of the sort of companion planting you mention, but have never tried it. I think I should. The trouble with the beetroot this year was, however, firstly poor germination, and then – with the help of some re-sowing – plants that came up and then just sit there, teeny tiny, not advancing.
The square of sky visible from my study window is still pure blue.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Thousandth Post

As in every gardening season, I suspect, since Adam delved and Eve span, there was some good news and some not so good. The potatoes, as I suspected, had relished the rain. We dug some First Earlies, and relished them. The courgettes were less happy – they must have missed the sun – but we’ll have plenty in August. Courgettes are much more fun to grow than to eat, anyway.

Carrots promise well, beetroot disappoints. And so forth. There was no sign whatsoever of rocket (arugula) or kale, the veritable garter stitch of vegetable growing. I suspect slugs rather than rabbits. I don’t think rabbits have been back to my little enclosure, and anyway rabbits don’t like rocket very much. Too peppery for them.

Here is my “raised bed” with which I continue delighted. The empty-seeming squares have been re-sown largely with salad stuff, their previous contents either eaten or despaired of. A square foot of spinach is just right for lunch for two.

The opium poppies have turned up. They find empty, cultivated soil as unerringly as pussy cats do. I always leave a few for next year's seed, but I don't think I need worry. They'd be here anyway. They look just like the poppies in pictures of Afghani farmers with their proud moustaches, but I've never had any luck extracting heroin. The magazines say that British poppies don't get enough sun to develop any -- but they would say that, wouldn't they?
The picture shows them among the broad beans.

I scarcely knit while we were there. I’m moving, slowly, down the second sleeve of Ketki’s gansey. I found it sort of tough, the tight circle and the tight gauge. Maybe it’s time to switch to two circulars.

Back here, last night, I turned the first corner of the melon stole.

The modest pile of post included no knitting magazines, but did bring the July Yarn Yard Club offering. It’s based on the colours of Natalie’s strawberry bed this time. It’s time for me to sign up again, as I will do. I can’t go on much longer; I’ve fallen well behind, and soon there will be no room for the yarn. But for the moment, I can’t bear the thought of a new month with no blue package.

The new Knitting magazine – I didn’t give up on it, after all – has a plug for QueerJoe on its recommended-blogs page, and I had the great pleasure of being the one to tell him. I’ve never seen a plug for Franklin on such a page, although I cannot imagine that anyone who reads knitting blogs at all doesn’t read Franklin. Editors must be scared of Dolores.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Nearly to the corner, and here I must pause, because we have decided to take advantage of the current flicker of good weather to make a dash to Strathardle after Mass. Back next weekend, or thereabouts. Mr Federer will have to manage without me this afternoon.

The next post will be my thousandth. Not really, because there was a long stretch when Blogger wouldn't incorporate pictures and I had to post them as separate items, via Flickr. Still, it's quite a lot.

Mel, thanks for the supportive comment, and congratulations on the garlic. Maybe I’ll try it again; at the very worst, I could chop the leaves into salads.

I am hugely looking forward to the reunion with my vegetables. After all this rain, the first early potatoes could be ready to lift. And there were buds on the biggest courgette plant a fortnight ago. And I’m hoping to cook cime di rapa this evening – this time, without blanching. We’ll try it bitter, the way the Italians do.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Seven Seven Seven

The edging proceeds nicely. That first corner isn’t far off. I am eager to see how it looks with edging on both sides.

I continue enthusiastic about the yarn, Yarn Yard's new merino lace. Pleasant to work with, nice on the hand, and the colour variations are just right for lace.

And that's that, for actual knitting for today.

I think there are both a Knitter’s and a IK out there in the void trying to find me, and the Yarn Yard club July yarn has been delayed by Woolfest. The post office is having a sort of strike, and things are very odd in that department.

Anonymous of Toronto, thank you very much for the explanation of why people have been googling on “Margaret Velard”. I didn’t think they could really be interested in my quarrel with her about the plural of “virus”. The Kauni cardigan to which you provided the link, is tempting indeed. I’ve just printed it out.

Now that I don’t read a general knitting forum (Knitlist, Knit U, whatever) I sort of miss knowing at least the names of the patterns that Everybody’s Knitting.


I saw the last set of the sensational upset in women’s tennis yesterday. Good fun. I also caught part of the interviews afterwards. The loser was grim, as well she might be, and talked tennis jargon about ground strokes and raising one’s game. The winner, in an enchanting French accent – and I’m not, in general, terribly keen on France – said “Maybe I play well because Pierce Brosnan was there. Maybe he come tomorrow.”

Venus Williams, who will probably win the final today, often has a similarly engaging air of not taking things entirely seriously.

A more serious comment on current affairs: I sort of get the impression that in Iraq a suicide car bomber drives to his chosen destination and then blows himself and his car up. None of the three cars involved in the London and Glasgow episodes last week actually exploded, not even the one in Glasgow airport which was thoroughly on fire.

This seems clumsy and inefficient. And yet the newspapers, which still devote pages to the subject every day, blame Al Qu’aeda.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The edging is trotting along nicely. It’s so easy it might get boring, but for the moment I’m just enjoying the forward motion. It’s easy to sink down and knock off a repeat when the Exertions of Life get too much for me.

I figured out yesterday, rather belatedly, that the thing to do is to eliminate the dp needle, and do the whole job with the circular one. Every so often I slide everything to the other end and pick up some more of the selvedge loops. I’m not worrying about the count at all, although I’ll have to when I get to the bit – low on the other side – where I wasn’t making a proper edge.

I’ve made three other small changes on the pattern as printed. What a lot.

1) I decided after a while to slip the first stitch purlwise for every inward-going row, so that there is a chained selvedge on the outside edge. Considerably neater. The pattern says just to knit that stitch (the edging is garter stitch).

2) Those big holes are made with two adjacent yo’s. The pattern says to knit and purl into the big loop on the following row. I’ve always done it k1, k1tbl, and that’s what I’m doing this time. Looks fine.

3) The pattern says to do the actual join by knitting the border st tbl along with a stitch from the central panel. That seemed needlessly complicated, so I’m just doing ssk and am perfectly satisfied with the result.

We’ve pretty well decided on Monday for Strathardle. I should reach the far end before then, and might even be able to start down the other side.

Miscellaneous, including Comments

There’s a marvellous evocation of last weekend’s Woolfest here. My friend Helen found a bus leaving at an unconscionable hour of the morning, from Edinburgh. It was impossible this year because that was the very day we were travelling back from London, but it might be attempted next year if it happens again. Woolfest looks seriously good.

Fizz, thank you for the explanation of “bounce rate”. I’m astonished, if that’s what it means, that mine isn’t 98.7%. Overall, I am 81.78%, Google Analytics says. Yesterday, that went way down to 74.48%. I enjoyed your blog, too. It’s enough to make me think of eating less, and diving into the stash. I’ll remember the shop in Newburgh, too.

I’m still left wondering why people are suddenly looking for Margaret Velard. It’s been happening throughout June.

Natalie, it’s a relief to learn that not all your lace yarn skeins are as long as mine.

Tricia, I looked at Get Knitted’s Malabrigo lace weight yarn. Yes!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Exciting news, today.

ONE: we’re not going to have a Core Path past our front door after all. Our neighbour, who was also affected (but not much), sent his protest in early and succinctly. He has already heard from the Council that our path has been struck off the Core Path list. He kindly forwarded a copy of their letter. The Council say that they expect the path to remain open for walkers; we can live with that.

TWO: Natalie at Yarn Yard is hard at work dying for the shop, now that Woolfest is over. She’s posted a tantalising page of lace yarns, including one called “Melon” aiming to be the colour of the Melon Shawl on the cover of VLT. Amongst them she is offering some skeins of the yarn I’m currently knitting with – and she has named it “Jean”! How’s that for glory!

I had nearly an hour and a half of knitting time at the hospital yesterday, and used it industriously. The centre panel is finished, and I have started the edging.

It’s very easy, but I’m finding things a bit awkward. The pattern says to leave the centre panel stitches on the circular needle. I’ve done that, but I’m going to put them on some waste yarn today. I don’t like the thing flapping about.

As you can perhaps dimly discern, I have followed my own advice and slipped some selvedge stitches onto another circular needle, which I am using, along with a short dp, to knit the edging. I think maybe when I’ve polished off the current needle-ful, I’ll try it the other way, with two dp’s, collecting the selvedge stitches one by one as I proceed. The whole thing keeps getting twisted: that’s a matter of learning to turn it one way and then the other, at the end of successive rows.

As you can also see, I have made no impression at all on the original skein. It is clearly impossible to use it up, and I worry that Natalie can hardly expect to sell very many in that case -- were it not for the primitive stash-acquisition instinct in us all.


Dawn’s interesting comment about the weather came in yesterday – I’ve now got Blogger set to email comments to me – but is attached to Monday’s post. Well worth reading. I looked at a long-range forecast yesterday. Dreary, dreary, including St Swithin’s day.

Judith, the Strathardle Highland Gathering is on the fourth Saturday of August, always.

Two questions arise from a visit I paid to my Google Analytics pages yesterday – a fun, free service for bloggers.

One – what is meant by “bounce rate”? Mine seems very high. All I know about “bouncing” is when you send an email and it comes back to you undelivered for one reason or another.

Two – why are people suddenly interested in Margaret Velard? I looked at the list of words typed into Google which resulted in visits to this blog. Amongst the wholly predictable ones were several “Margaret Velard”’s. (If you try, you’ll find yourself in July ’05 – Margot’s visit is there, and much talk of my cataracts, as well as Margaret Velard.) I hope she’s OK.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Five repeats to go – this afternoon’s hospital appt might just finish off the centre panel.

missalicefaye, I suggested slipping the edge loops onto a needle a few at a time because I thought they’d be easier to knit, if they were on one; and because it might be easier to get the count right if the two operations, the picking-up and the knitting, were kept separate.

Anyone who follows the link to missalice’s blog will see some beautiful lace knitting.

Susoolu, I tried to leave a comment on your blog yesterday embracing you as a sister across the miles, who knows what “decimate” means. Haloscan swallowed it, I think. I abandoned Haloscan myself when Blogger went beta. How do you stand on “beg the question”?

Tricia, I would very much welcome a report on Malabrigo lace-weight at Stash Yarns. Not that I need yarn. Not that I’ve got time to knit it. I’ve just had a look at their website. Clearly, some wonderful stuff. How can you bear it?


Not much else. I had a chance to talk to a local vegetable gardener yesterday – a good one. He says it’s been a very funny year. He’s had patchy germination too.

I hope we’ll get back to Strathardle soon. Today’s hospital appt is the last actual impediment on our calendar, and Wimbledon has made great inroads on the ironing. It’s like an annual visit from Rumpelstiltskin.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Finished repeat no. 50, of 62 (of the melon stole from VLT). Tomorrow’s medical appointment is a routine diabetes session at the Royal Infirmary. I go along for those, and they usually involve lots of knitting time. The end is nigh.

Kathy in Juneau, I think you’ll like attaching an edging. My real favourite is when one somehow has the whole shawl bunched up on the needles, all stitches live, and knits on an edging which gradually releases one’s creation into the world. But knitting an edging onto a nice selvedge isn’t bad either. I think it might be a good idea to slip a needle through 20 or so edge loops at a time. There's a photograph in Amedro's "Shetland Knitting" of this simple and pleasant process.

What’s boring is knitting an edging by itself, although I like getting it out of the way first.

Your Malabrigo lace yarn in “tortuga” has me hyperventilating.

Core Paths

I’ve run out of things to say about knitting.

A couple of years ago, the Scottish Parliament passed some right-to-roam legislation, and now all the local authorities are drawing up plans for “core paths” which will presumably be published on authoritative maps.

The path past our front door in Strathardle has been tentatively designated as such. We have registered a protest. It is a footpath of long standing, from nowhere to nowhere along the burn, forming part of a pleasant circular walk out from the village and back. We have no objection to its continued use. But the house is isolated, and the path runs very close to our front door. We don’t want it advertised.
The path runs through the foreground of this picture. The fence is between it and the house. As you may easily judge, it is not a major thoroughfare.

There was an interesting article in the Scotsman yesterday by an Important Legal Figure about how the legislation does nothing to define “privacy” or “reasonable” or any one of a number of other terms. That has been left to the sheriffs’ courts to determine. Perish the thought.

We submitted our letter yesterday. I’ll report developments.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Things sort of moved forward yesterday. At least we’re somewhat rested. My husband has a series of medical appointments this week, starting with teeth, this afternoon. I hope to catch up on dusting and ironing. Ironing can be combined with Wimbledon-watching, if it doesn't rain. Then, maybe, Strathardle.

The weather is unbelievably bad. See Susoolu's blog, for instance. St Swithin (July 15) is now our only hope. Perhaps a novena would be in order. We have been lucky in our Strathardle weather – I got the grass all cut on four successive days in early June, and we had that successful overnight visit at the end of the month. But now it’s time for some consistent summer weather.

The clever people who write newspapers are saying that all this rain is part of Global Warming, as is the sizzling heat in southern Europe. Sometimes it sounds like a circular argument: might as well put your faith in St. Swithin.

Back to knitting…

Here’s the present state of the melon stole, perhaps 2/3rds of the centre panel done. One of the many nicenesses of this pretty pattern is the fact that it’s dead easy to see when it’s time for the next pattern row. I’m the one who spends life in an agony of worry about whether or not this is the row for the cable cross.

Despite which, I see I’ve got it wrong once. Maybe I should fire up Photoshop Elements and try to draw a circle around the offending row. It will mean one loop too few to attach the edging to, but I dare say that can be fudged.

One very small point: if I understand the chart correctly, each row begins with a “slip 1 purlwise with yarn at the wrong side”. This is a st st pattern, so there is a clear wrong-side and right-side.
Blind Follower that I am, I did exactly that for the first few pattern repeats, and then had a look at what was happening. Answer, of course, one nice loopy selvedge for attaching an edging to, and one distinctly not.

I’ve known for years that the way to make such an edge is to slip the first stitch of every row purlwise with the yarn in front, and then pass it back between the needles.

I doubt if this even counts as a mistake, in the XRX scheme of things. I’m sure it’s their fault and not the brilliant Mrs Sowerby’s.

I continue full of enthusiasm for the Yarn Yard’s new lace yarn. Rachel admired it, in London.

Pictures from last week…

Rachel’s children win goldfish at the Games, and Rachel brings them to south London and takes good care of them. Here is the collection. Some of them are losing their colour. Is that what happens to goldfish in old age?

This is a picture I took at Margot’s funeral, when we were back at the house sipping chilled white wine and eating delicious sandwiches. The land slopes steeply, as in Drummond Place. The front door is somewhat downhill from the street, and the lovely garden further downhill from the ground floor. I am standing on a balcony off the kitchen, looking down on a group of Margot’s children.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Safely, tiredly home.

We’ve flown under the clouds during Britain’s recent troubles – literally and figuratively. Monday’s trip south, during the “monsoon” that flooded much of the Midlands, was slow and painful and the lavatories on the train ran out of water.

But the car bombs which didn’t go off in London on Thursday-Friday night, didn’t affect us. I got back from Margot’s funeral on Thursday evening before it happened. And we spent Friday at the Dali exhibition at Tate Modern, south of the river, and thus entirely avoided the considerable disruption in central London, since Rachel lives south of the river too.

Yesterday’s train ride north through lots more rain, was fine. I saw from the train window as we neared Edinburgh, three men playing golf in the rain. They were on a green, one of them lining up a putt, the other two under umbrellas. We’re back in Scotland, I thought. We didn’t know about the attack on Glasgow airport until we got here and phoned Rachel to thank her for a happy week.

We saw lots of art, but no blockbuster. Usually there’s One Big One, and we start with that, while we’re fresh, and it provides mental fodder for the rest of the session. Nothing like that this time. But on Thursday I went to Birmingham for my friend Margot’s funeral, and that’s what I’ll remember for a long time, about last week. It was wonderful. Many tears.

First, what would have to be called a memorial service (not a religious one) praesente cadavere. Then a woodland burial in a pleasant spot south of Birmingham. Margot’s son Tom played the Last Post on the trombone. Then a party at home. She did so much, and was loved by so many. I wondered a bit if knitting were enough.

On which subject, I didn’t – predictably – get as much done as I had hoped, but I’ve finished 42 repeats of the 60-odd required for the central panel of the melon scarf. Details to follow.

Hotter Than, of Swindon: I got Sam the Ram from Blackberry Ridge. He’s available as a kit, which I bought, but the pattern can be had separately.