Sunday, May 31, 2009

My favourite day (although April 12 runs it a close second) – because it always comes as a slight and delicious surprise that May has 31 days. I’ve just re-read my blog entry for May 31, 2008, and find no mention of this. I’m sure it’s there in years past.

Little to report. I’m nearly halfway through Repeat No. 52 of the top edging of the Princess. I’ve thought of a possible variation on Cynthia’s Plan: namely, to work on the Princess every day until I’ve finished a repeat – yesterday, that was achieved before lunch – and then switch to the Surprise. It has also occurred to me that I can take the Surprise along to Strathardle (although certainly not the Princess) -- thus supplanting my husband's socks, which in turn have supplanted the real Strathardle knitting, a dusty pink Araucania sweater for myself. We shall see.

I had decided anyway that today and tomorrow will be transposed, knitting-wise. Today will be June 1: start (again) on the Child’s Surprise. Tomorrow will be May 31: the last full day of Princess-knitting for the time being. That is because Sunday is cider-drinking day in my Lo-cider, No-sugar regime, and while I remain capable until bedtime of walking in a reasonably straight line, my unaccustomed liver finds it tough these days and the combination of tiredness and fuzziness-of-mind in the later hours of the day is not conducive to lace knitting.

(Weight-wise, you will remember that I began daily weigh-ins early in Lent at X stone 12. I’m now a stone lighter, and have reached the point where I can feel fairly confident in the morning that the answer will be W stone Something – I think we’re past the stage where the numbers went up and down from day to day over the X stone marker. [A stone is 14 pounds.] On the considerable other hand, I doubt if I can expect to see off more than another five pounds before the wedding, at the best, and stomach-size is still horrendous. Time, perhaps, to start shopping for Restraining Underwear. A further element in my regime, besides the restrictions on cider and sugar just mentioned, is to contemplate myself in profile in a full-length mirror while getting undressed for bed. Ugh!)

Next Sunday, however, will have to be passed in complete sobriety in order to “bank” the day for the following Tuesday, laser-surgery-day on my left eye. I want to come home from the Eye Pavilion to a refrigerator-full of cool, cool cider. I got a most depressing set of instructions and warnings from the hospital yesterday.

A gloomy and self-centered post for May 31! Carpe diem!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The plague of crazy bounced emails has diminished to manageable proportions – only two this morning. There were dozens on Thursday afternoon and evening, and I went to bed leaving the computer on and Norton grinding away with a full system scan. It reported (as it usually does) finding and removing one low-risk tracker cookie. Whether relief is propter or only post the scan, I am grateful for it.

The Princess

I’m half-way through Repeat No 50 of the top border.

I had a thoughtful message yesterday from a fellow Princess-knitter and blog-reader. (She has finished hers, although it remains unblocked.) (We hope to meet in CT in July!) She suggested keeping the Princess out of the freezer, and working on her for half-an-hour a day. She thought I could finish a repeat in that time.

I am a slow and clumsy knitter – half-an-hour would be closer to half-a-repeat, for me. But I think the idea has legs. I like to knit for a while first thing in the morning, before even coffee and making porridge and writing the blog entry. It’s a particularly good time for lace knitting, no television, no conversation, no tired.

And it would be a shame to put the Princess aside now, so very near the end. And a great shame to risk losing my current precarious grasp of the edging pattern. It’s quicker and much pleasanter, as you can imagine, to knit without constant peering at the chart. It took me a full 40 plus repeats to learn it this time, just as it did four years ago when I was starting out with the lower edging. So I couldn’t count on retaining it over a gap of months.

So I’ll try that, and see how it goes. Maybe I could even get up a bit earlier.


Is there anywhere that Piecework can be had in the UK? I’d like to see the current lace issue, and it’s undoubtedly an interesting mag, but I perhaps don’t want another subscription. My shelves are already groaning, it being against all my principles to throw away a knitting magazine or pattern.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Largely non-knit

The weather has suddenly turned summer – it’s hard for a person to be so far from her vegetables in these circumstances. We have a maddening series of small appointments over the next ten days, spaced three or four days apart each time. If this weather goes on, I may have to insist on a mercy dash to Strathardle next week after my husband votes on Thursday and before my eye gets zapped by lasers the following Tuesday. We shall see.

Stacey and Judith, thanks for the thumbs-down on Google ads. I thought that had to be the case, but the word “Google” and the fact that the introductory kit is so cheap, under two pounds, made me wonder. Google should do something about it, if it’s not really them. No doubt they’re trying.

And speaking of thumbs-down, the world of e-readers is moving fast, as I thought it would, a few months back, when I decided on paperbacks rather than a pirated American Kindle for my trip to the wedding. I was right, apparently, that Kindle would come to Europe. It’s promised for Soon.

And now we’ve got, or are about to get, the Cool-er, lighter, cheaper, British, not entirely well reviewed. I clicked through to their on-line bookstore and all the titles seemed rather expensive. Is it compatible with the sites with free books you’ve told me about? Meanwhile I’ve got more books than I could possibly finish in five days piled up beside my passport and ticket. I’ve just added Julian Barnes’ “Nothing to be Frightened Of”, about death.

While we’re not talking about knitting, here’s a computer problem. It happened to me once before, years ago.

As well as my googlemail account, I’ve got one with my ISP, jean at milesandmiles dot etc. i.e., my own domain name. Lately someone somewhere has started sending a lot of emails from rubbishname at milesandmiles etc. to rubbishname@variousdomains. A variety of rubbish names, at both ends. They all bounce back to me, from puzzled postmasters, clogging the mailbox. When this happened before, I consulted Alexander, who said I had a virus. This time, older and wiser, I’m well protected. I made Norton do a full-system scan yesterday and nothing turned up.

Last time, it cooled down and stopped after a few days. Has this happened to anyone else? Must have.

Anyway, knitting

I’m halfway through repeat no. 47 of the Princess top border. I should easily get past the half-century before I lay her aside on Monday. I’m feeling more and more ready for a break, except for the reflection that if I were to be suddenly called to my reward, a nearly-finished Princess in the freezer would be less of a legacy than a done-and-blocked one.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

James Miles the Younger is six years old today.

Well, I signed up for Annie’s class. Thanks, Fishwife – yours was the final push. I was going to email her to let her know that I was one of the people who had signed in hopes of Combination Knitting, not one of the Tips and Tricks crowd – but once one takes the plunge and clicks on Tips and Tricks, the subsequent screens refer to Combination so I’ve stopped worrying altogether. I suspect a amateur hand at web design at work in there somewhere – the final screen, after the Paypal bit, thanks one for buying a pattern.

This is going to be fun.

Little else to report. I knit happily on – I can almost hold the unedged part of the top of the Princess straight in my outstretched arms. I’ve pretty well mastered the pattern. Four years ago, when I had my cataract operations, I amused myself (as I have often mentioned) by reciting the edging pattern to myself while the man was working on me. There will be a certain poetry if I can do the same thing when my Retinal Vein Occluded eye is zapped with a lazer in ten days time.

Although I will by then have switched to the Surprise. As anticipated, I spent some time yesterday digging out stash yarns for it. My stash contains very few clear, bright colours. They’re all brown-y, muddy, Jean-y. However, I’ve found a couple. The great thing about the Surprise is that the stripes look carefully planned and arranged no matter how haphazard they are in fact, but I think some actual planning doesn’t come amiss. A small light, bright stripe sandwiched between broader stripes of a darker colour, for instance, as in the pattern photographs.

About as non-knit as you can get

Does anyone know anything about Google Online Profit? Ads keep popping up for it while I am innocently doing jigsaw puzzles. It's not for ourselves, but I know people (don't we all?) with fast broadband connections who could do with some extra cash. One is heartily sceptical of such advertisements. On the other hand, one trusts the name "Google" by now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another peaceful day on the knitting front, much ground covered and a certain amount accomplished in other aspects of life. I bought a hat! for the wedding. A plainish, packable cloche. It is astonishing how much you can pay for a hat in John Lewis, and how awful they all look on me. But I’m quite fond of this one, which was quite cheap.

I emailed I Knit about the Jawoll yarn; haven’t heard back. They’re not really a mail-order shop. I’ve found a British source at Artyarn; I’ll go for that and not worry about the dye lot, if need be.

I hope one of today’s accomplishments will be to sort out some yarn for the Child’s Surprise sweater. I have decided to rip out my former effort and start again – the accumulation of camouflage-green is just too gloomy.

(Laying it out for photography just now, I found I couldn't quickly figure out how to do it -- top image. It really is a magical pattern. The picture below was taken back in March or whenever it was.)

I have considered the Annie Modesitt problem back and forth, without getting much of anywhere. I don’t think anything would be accomplished by emailing her – she’d tell me, as she told Helen C.K.S. and the Fishwife, that she’ll teach Combination Knitting in the class called Tips and Tricks. But would she tell me why she changed the listing? – it couldn’t be for pressure from anyone, Tamar, because no one is hosting the Edinburgh classes. She has taken a room at a hotel and is doing it herself.

In the description of her classes on her website, “Tips and Tricks” and “Combination Knitting” are listed and described separately – and both are said to be happening in Edinburgh, although that’s not what the class schedule says.

I continue not to like the sense of sand shifting under my feet. But on the other hand, it would be silly to miss this chance. It comes about 10 days after the Games, when everyone has scattered to the four corners of the globe and one feels rather bereft, on the one hand, and keen to make a fresh start on life, on the other. A good time.


James’s second Tiananmen programme will be broadcast today and several times thereafter. You can listen on-line for the next week by following the link. Rachel says that the first one made it to “Pick of the Week”. British readers will understand.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pretty miscellaneous, this morning.


I made a good start on a pair of socks for my husband while we were in Strathardle last week. I knew that 45 grams was not going to be enough to finish the sock, and I now think it won’t even be enough to turn the heel and get the foot far enough into the shoe that a change of yarn won’t hurt. So I think I’ll try to ring I Knit today and see if I can get some more. It’s “Jawoll Silk”, and I bought it that happy day when Judith and Jean and Christine and I met there to talk and knit. One of us, I can’t now remember which, was knitting a Jawoll sock at the time.

I didn’t try to phone yesterday because England was celebrating Whitsun, a week ahead of the actual event (=Pentecost) in the Western church and more than that in the East. England moves in mysterious ways when it comes to Bank Holiday Weekends.


I posted the question to the Heirloom Knitting List (hoping to tease an answer out of Sharon herself) – someone has suggested that there might be something in Christine Duchrow, whose books I ought to have anyway, so I’ve just ordered them from the Needle Arts Bookshop. I had never been there before. Wow!

Thanks for the tip about that s-shaped gathering line, Tamar. I think I see what you mean.


I’m nearly finished with repeat no. 41 of the top edging – assuming I’ve remembered to move a peg every time. Here it is: the lettering box at the centre now covered with edging. The recent disaster is near the right-hand edge of the box. If you follow that line upwards, and then move slightly left to the nearest trough in the edging, you will be able to discern irregularities in the zigzag line of little holes, and at the point where the edging joins the shawl.

Those are due to my unpicking – the disaster itself happened at a point in the edging, and I picked back to the trough, and decided I had better stop before things got worse. I think I’m well past the galloping horse test. You should have seen it before I started unpicking.

It’s now possible, since I’m past halfway, to make a rough calculation of how many repeats there will be in all, and therefore how much longer it will take to finish, at roughly two a day. When this week is over and June arrives, I figure that I’ll be within a month of the end – allowing for plenty of time on Blocking Day, and the repair of a bad moth hole somewhere in the original edging.

I’m now perfectly happy about laying her aside, even so near the end.

Annie Modesitt

She’s coming to Edinburgh! When the programme went up last week, I saw that she was going to teach Combination Knitting, a mysterious and interesting subject on which she has written. When I went back yesterday to sign up, it had changed to Tips and Tricks.

If you read her May 25 blog entry through to the comments at the end, you will see that Annie assures my friends Helen C.K.S. and the Fishwife, individually and specifically, that the class will be Combination Knitting. So why change the listing? What about the people who sign up for Tips and Tricks, not having read the comments? A long life has taught me (if little else) to beware of buying something on the assurance that it is really something else. I don’t know what to do.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I pressed peacefully onward with the Princess yesterday, enjoying it even more now that I’ve fixed that mess and decided not to try to finish before I start the Games-knitting.

The washing machine passed its stress test – except that there was an appreciable amount of water on top of it when the job was finished. (It’s a front-loader.) How is that possible? It is miles away from the Downstairs Lavatory, at the other end of the house.


Thank you for your help, especially Beverley who has actually done it. Tamar, your indefatigable research was very useful (although fashionsthrutime denied me access to the image you found).

I wrote to James – there’s no use pursuing this idea if he wouldn’t wear one. (Alexander wears his kilt to the Games, and for mountain-climbing, but would never ponce around in lace, I fear.) James said:

“It would be something of a fashion statement, but we do go to the St. Andrew’s ball most years which is quite formal. Googling it just now, I see reference to jabots being normally worn with Montrose jackets (not sure about what the distinctive features of those are) – which I don’t have. Do you think I could get away with it?”

That sounds to me like a man who could be persuaded – and St Andrews Night is still to come, in Ought Nine.

I went to the kiltmaker we patronize in Blairgowrie, and found him gone. Now a coffee shop. Change and decay in all around I see.

So I went to the other, fancier one.. They were extremely kind and helpful. They didn’t have a jabot made up – I think if one wanted to buy one, they would whip one up in the back room. But they tried to describe how it’s done, and even made me a sketch. They take a single layer of lace, and run an s-shaped line of stitching down it to gather it in. I partly understand, but only partly. I’d prefer a double layer of lace anyway, as Beverley did for hers. I am going to have to face up to visiting a snooty Edinburgh kiltmaker.

I can hold out the prospect of bringing James in for his Montrose jacket if they’ll help me make a jabot now.


The big family news is that Rachel’s daughter Helen-the-Youngest – Hellie, in fact – has a job. With Penguin. She graduated a year ago, with ambitions to get into publishing. She acquired an temporary dead-end job on the fringes of the industry, but gave it up to go traveling with friends, as the young do. She hadn’t taken a “gap year” before university. Her anxious grandmother felt that this was no time for anyone to give up any job.

Hellie is second from the left in the Grandchildren picture in my sidebar, next to Archie Drake of Athens and Mt Pelion.

A friend in London heard of the opening at Penguin, Hellie applied from somewhere in South America, was called for interview, flew home a bit earlier than planned. And got the job.

Here is an artistic picture of the shadows of Hellie and her friends, somewhere in Chile.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back here again, much to report: vegetables, Princess, jabots, even socks. We’ll leave jabots and socks for tomorrow.

But first: this link will let you listen (for the next few days) to James’s Tiananmen-remembered programmes. We’ve heard the first one, and it was good.

Well, the washing machine man turned up onTuesday morning as we were leaving for Strathardle, and fixed the washing machine. He said to observe it carefully the first time we use it – so that’s today’s planned excitement.

He kept phoning me Tuesday morning with reports on his progress. My unanswered calls on Friday afternoon must have put the fear of God into him. Late start, job off the Gorgie Road, stuck in traffic. When I had everything done, the kitchen in some sort of order, the car loaded, I sat down with the Princess to wait for him. His final phone call – “I’m on my way” – occasioned the worst stitch-loss the poor Princess has suffered in her four-year history.

I got everything secure before we left, but the mess was sufficiently ghastly (and, of course, centre-top) that even I couldn’t persuade myself that no-one-would-notice. So last night’s knitting time, after we got back, was largely devoted to unpicking.

The gossamer merino yarn is a lot fluffier than I had realised. Unpicking plain knitting is dead easy, of course, but the k2togs and (worse) the k3togs tend to stick together. Gentle tugging eventually sets the stitches free to cascade merrily downwards.

I got it done – not absolutely perfect but really pretty good. I am moving gently forward – repeat no. 37 finished. And I have decided that it was foolish to toy with the idea of pressing on – on June 1, I will switch to Games-knitting, as planned. I am making room in the freezer. Otherwise, I wind up hurrying the Princess and hurrying the Games-knitting and nobody’s happy.


The first impression was keen disappointment. Some things (spinach, radishes) have just sat about since last time. (The weather has been cold.) Some lettuce-y things which had made a tentative appearance last time, have disappeared. (The weather has been wet, and the villains are slugs, surely. Nematodes seem to have failed, this year.) No salsola soda. Nothing to speak of from the seedbed rolls – they consist of a layer of, essentially, kitchen paper, bright blue because that deters pests, we are told. Then the seeds. Then a layer of clear plastic which is said to be vented.

You can see the little seeds sprouting in there. But will they be strong enough and clever enough to sends roots down through the kitchen paper and to lift the plastic on their little green shoulders? There is nothing I can do to help.

The weather while we were there was cold and blustery, sunshine-and-showers.

However, it cheered up, and so did I. On Friday, I felt some warmth from the sun on my shoulders, for the first time this year. As I re-sowed the salsola soda, I found two tiny plants from the original sowing. Broad beans and two types of peas are doing splendidly, and of course the potatoes are up. I planted out the Edinburgh windowsill subjects, and now have the finest crop of plastic bottles in the glen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Here we are:

I see from my Lotus Organizer that I started the top edging less than a month ago. The temptation to go on and finish, before I start knitting for the Games, is now very strong. But on the other hand, knitting frantically to a deadline is what I don’t do: and the Games are early this year. The fourth Saturday of August is the 22nd – the earliest possible date.

Decisions. I’ve still got another week of May Princess-knitting before I have to commit myself.

I started my husband’s next pair of socks yesterday, as planned, and got maybe the first inch of ribbing done. I’ll take them along to Strathardle today. When we got home from lunch with my sister-in-law, the mail had been delivered, and there – predictably – was the package of yarn I had ordered. Should I start again, with delicious KF yarn and enough of it to cover the toes?

But then I opened the package, and the question resolved itself. They have sent two balls of KF “Exotic Clay” – funny stripes for some woman, one day – but the three balls of KF “Mirage Twilight” are “to follow”.

Thank you for the help and suggestions on my tentative jabot-knitting project. Anne, I should have thought of Victorian Lace Today at once. I’ve looked at those fichus – we’re certainly moving in the right direction. Jane-Beth, I won’t for the moment take up your most generous and kind offer of the pattern in the bobbin lace book – but we’re thinking along the same lines. If I could examine a jabot and discover its architecture, I ought to be able to do the rest myself. Would I dare nip into Connell Reid, the kiltmakers in Blairgowrie, and ask to inspect one? We’ve spent enough money there in the past.

(And, Fishwife, thank you for the offer of a dependable washing machine man. I will remember for the future. I’m stuck, this time – I paid two months ago, because he had to order the part. I sit here waiting for the doorbell to ring. He promised to be early, today.)

So, we’re off to Strathardle, back here on Sunday, d.v. Has the salsola soda come up? What has happened to my roll-out seed mats? Are the radishes ready for Robin Lane Fox’s pasta dish? You’ll read it here first.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good news, Meg. Candace says that Louet still sells her Harmony pattern – and here’s the link. How did we manage our lives before Google?

Except that I didn’t really solve the problem I set myself yesterday ---

The newspapers are full of pictures of the Speaker of the House of Commons, reminding me that I have often toyed with the idea of knitting a lace jabot for wear with a kilt on formal occasions. I think James wears his at such moments – Alistair and I picked out a dress sporran as a birthday present for him one time, in Blairgowrie.

The only jabot pattern I know is in Hazel Carter’s “Shetland Lace Knitting from Charts”, a valuable resource even in these post-Sharon-Miller days. But it is a simple rectangle. Do a row of holes about an inch from one end, she says, so that a drawstring can be threaded through. Then what? The jabots I can find on line – not patterns but pictures – have two or three layers of lace.

(I just went off and did some more Googling – Irish crochet jabots seem more accessible than knitted ones, and I now see how a single rectangle might be employed, although I prefer layers. I even found a reference to the Speaker’s very outfit – it’s Honiton lace, and was presented to him relatively recently.)

Anyway, I’d be glad for any pointers you can offer. If you people can find a pattern for a barrister’s wig for a teddy bear – as you did – a lace jabot should offer no problems. I wouldn’t mind doing some cuffs while I was at it. Maybe I should ask the Heirloom Knitting group.

I remember once when I was young (in the mid-50’s), and about to go to a dance of some sort, and having no jewelry, I went to a haberdashery counter in Glasgow and bought some inch-wide black velvet ribbon to wear around my neck. There was a young man there, buying a jabot, and I reflected that there is no country in Europe where a man can do himself so well without joining the army. It’s still true.

Since the yarn I ordered hasn’t turned up, I’ll have to start socks for my husband today with other yarn. I chose one of those 100-gram balls yesterday from my abundant stash, and wound it off into two 50-gram balls so that I will know when to stop and do the toe (half the foot, more like) in something different. I was surprised to find that I ended up with two 45-gram balls. Sure enough, when the label was re-inspected, 10 grams were devoted to the matching yarn for darning. I don’t know what to conclude: read the small print, I guess.

Miscellaneous non-knit

The washing machine man has already rung up to say that he has to stay home today with his son, who is coughing. He’ll come tomorrow. He is beginning to remind me of Mr O’Leary the Builder in Fawlty Towers.

Here are my beans and courgettes on the doorstep yesterday, recovering from windburn. When I plant them out later this week, each will be protected with its own sawn-off water- or pop-bottle.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Halfway through 33 – only 1 ½ repeats of the Princess top edging achieved yesterday. I should, however, be able to manage before we decamp for Strathardle on Tuesday a picture in which both edging and the central panel with the lettering on it, appear in the same frame.

Miscellaneous, again

I keep forgetting to say – and now it’s almost too late – that there is an extraordinary accumulation of old Vogue Knitting Books on offer at I’ve been perfecting my collection for three years now, and have never seen anything like this. I am sure I could have formed my collection much more cheaply today: the deadline is just after 5 p.m. The sheer quantity is going to keep the individual prices down. There are no fewer than five wartime ones: she lists 23 and 24 as “post war” but they’re not, they’re autumn, 1943 and spring, 1944. Non-experts very often think VKB’s of later date than they actually are.

They all look to be in very sprightly condition. She photographs them face down so that you can see both covers, which makes me want to scream (because of the danger to the spines).

Raveller, thank you very, very much for the offer of the Einband. I intended more to express extravagant admiration for it, than seriously to ask you to shoot it off to a stranger in the post. It looks just the thing to wear with my kurta to protect me from American air conditioning at the rehearsal dinner. But that potentially leaves the problem of being too hot in a tent in my lined dress and lined linen coat the next day. We can talk about this nearer the time.

Meg, the pattern my granddaughter is wearing in the picture I provided a link to yesterday is called Harmony, by Candace Eisner Strick. It was my Games entry the last time “child’s cardigan” came up, and it didn’t win anything. My claque thought I wuz robbed, but I agreed with the judges. Garter stitch is very demanding, and I think there were also faults in my alignment of the mitres. My friends were admiring the pattern rather than the execution.

I bought it as a kit somewhere, can’t remember where. Directly from Candace, perhaps. She doesn’t do retail any more, and there’s no sign of Harmony on her website. She has been a friend since I took a class on Bavarian Travelling Stitch from her at Camp Stitches on Lake George in ’99, oh happy memory. I emailed her this morning to ask whether Harmony can still be had. I’ll let you know. The yarns that comprised my kit were Louet Gems Merino, I think.

No yarn in the post yesterday, but things look brighter on the washing machine front. On Friday afternoon I kept getting the answering machine, and thought he was deliberately not answering when he saw that a call came from me. But I tried yesterday, and to my surprise he did answer, and says he has the missing part and will be here tomorrow.

I want the yarn to start a pair of socks for by husband to knit (initially) when we go to lunch with his sister tomorrow. He says it is bad manners to knit in such circumstances, but I shall disregard his feelings. I shall have to use some other yarn. Goodness knows, I have plenty.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I’ve done 31 repeats of the Princess top edging – another 3 ½, if yesterday’s total is to be believed. The centre lettering is now in sight, after all. We’re planning to go to Strathardle next week, but even so I’ll have three more evenings here, insh’Allah, before we go, and the last week of the month afterwards – that should carry me past the centre.

I am comforted that you found it tough to re-learn the edging pattern, Cynthia. And you must have done the initial edging more recently than I. I’m really working at learning it, this time – I think the first time, I just let it happen. I’m making progress. Each of the 20 rows is different. In the simplest edging patterns the declining rows are a mirror image of the ascending ones. Not so here, at all.

You must have finished your Princess by now, Cynthia! What a thought!


No yarn in the post yesterday, and the washing machine problems deepened. Do we have a Small Claims Court in Scotland? I paid for this job two months ago. Today, however, despite those facts and the remorselessly grey skies, I am the very spirit of cheerfulness. Part of my lo-cider, no-sugar regime is a morning weigh-in. I started, early in Lent, at x stone 12 pounds. (Americans: a stone consists of 14 pounds.) Decline has been consistent, but slow, and there have been many weeks, as any dieter knows, when plain living and energetic hiking about produced no results at all. But this morning the digital scales said w stone 13 ¼.

It doesn’t matter, compared to what I see in the mirror. Still, it’s encouraging.

Thank you for your water story, Mary Lou. Nothing like schadenfreude to brighten the day! At least if the ceiling comes down in the Downstairs Lavatory – it continues to look fine, from below – nothing will be damaged by the dirt and plaster dust.

Holly, thanks for the picture of Cully’s i-cord lattice hat (which I am considering as a Games entry). Scroll down to find. And best wishes for your grandbaby. My medical vocabulary has been expanded far beyond the boundaries I would wish for it, by the experience of grandmother-hood. It’s tough.

Donice, thank you for your kind message.

Wedding clothes

I found this golf shirt a couple of weeks ago, and took no action, and then went to CafePress and couldn’t find it. But yesterday it turned up again, and this time I ordered it. You can get the design on a tee shirt, but one of my (few) fashion theories is that the elderly face is more flatteringly framed by a collar.

See my sister’s comment yesterday, a propos wedding clothes and climate. Maybe I’ll have to wear the dress and linen coat to the air-conditioned rehearsal dinner – it will be overkill, a bit -- and go back to East for a skirt to wear with the kurta to the wedding itself.

I don’t have a lace stole, Raveller. Can I borrow your beautiful Einband? The Paisley Long Shawl I knit for my sister-in-law three years ago would be ideal. We’re going to lunch with her on Monday. Do you think I could borrow it back? (Joke – I wouldn’t dare ask.) She wears it scrunched up, to my irritation, but I could re-block it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I have let my attention wander – little time left for prose.

I have no more news of Alexander G., and probably won’t have any until I meet him one day in his pram or read his death notice in the Scotsman. Or until the ceiling of the Downstairs Lavatory comes down. My husband remains agitated.

I am halfway through repeat no. 28 of the Princess top edging, and am beginning to hope, after all, that I might get pretty close to the centre before June dawns and I must stop in favour of Games-knitting. Things went well yesterday (somewhat more than two repeats) until the very end, when some stitches came off at the outer edge and were very clumsily recovered.

I think the moral probably is, not to try to knit the Princess late in the evening, even if no cider has passed my lips for several days.

I thought about un-knitting several rows. It wasn’t laziness that made me press on, but a real fear that I would make things worse. There are a lot of k3togs in this fiendish pattern – they are not easy to unpick. And figuring out exactly where one is in the pattern, wouldn’t be easy either.

When I succeeded in getting the right number of stitches back on the needle, the horror manifested itself in the form of two seriously over-large holes. I think I was right to fiddle things around and diminish them.

The bad spot is in the most recent trough – the spot where the stitch number is lowest. You can see clearly enough that there is something different there. But I’m not sorry to have pressed on. It’s not going to bother me.

Now, what I’d like today (apart from a long-overdue washing-machine repair) is that sock yarn I ordered.


I went back to East yesterday and bought an embroidered linen coat-thing to wear over the dress I am planning to wear to the wedding itself. I am rather pleased with the effect – it sort of draws attention away from the vast expanse of stomach beneath. It’s lined, and so is the dress – I will have to hope for cooling breezes from the Sound that day. At the rehearsal dinner, au contraire, I will have nothing between me and the elements except my kurta, and will have to hope for swelter.

That’s enough for finery. I still need restraining underwear and a hat and a golf shirt and a wedding present and maybe a cheap all-purpose jacket with pockets.

East is very pleasant, and seems well-populated even in these hard times. I do not feel, there, that I have come to an Old Ladies’ Shop, nor that I am 50 years older than the next oldest customer. And the staff are agreeable, helpful and un-pushy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Non-knit, again

Mr G. came down as promised yesterday morning, and told me about his son. We scarcely got on to the subject of the Downstairs Lavatory.

The child is 11 days old. His name is Alexander. As with several of my grandchildren, his medical history is like nothing I had ever heard.

He was born, he was fine, he came home and was alert and feeding. Then he got a bit jaundiced (it happens sometimes, with babies), and then a lot jaundiced, and then started vomiting, and then vomited a lot. His parents took him to the Infirmary for what was meant to be an assessment of the jaundice, and only realised how bad things were as specialist after specialist came into the room.

He has been in the hospital since then, and lots more things have happened. His father thinks he has turned a corner since the weekend, and will live. But he is still on a ventilator and morphine.

Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.

Meanwhile the Downstairs Lavatory seems fine – no bulges in the ceiling. I have all the insurance particulars I need and have rung various numbers. They don’t want to know, in the immortal way of insurance companies. The only thing to worry about, and that not much, is whether the ceiling will come down in six weeks’ time. I will put it out of my mind and try to encourage my husband to do the same.


I have started repeat 26 of the Princess border top – so, I achieved more than two repeats again yesterday. I still haven’t re-memorised the pattern. It’s beginning to worry me. Is this a mark of advancing senility? I can do from row 17 through to row 20 (the end) and then rows 1 to 4, but the middle rows, the ones with the most stitches, still have to be read one by one before I knit them.

But memorising is a mixed blessing, for the one thing one mustn’t do while engaged on the Princess border, is lose concentration. Where am I? one all too readily finds oneself crying.

The package from the Schoolhouse Press turned up yesterday – the bright new Baby Surprise leaflet will console me quite a bit for having to abandon the poor Princess soon and turn to Games knitting. I might even rip out the Surprise I have knit so far and start again, adding jollier yarns from stash and modelling their arrangement on pictures in the leaflet. (The assignment is “child’s cardigan”.)

I also much admire Cully’s i-cord lattice hat from the latest Woolgathering. (That link doesn’t actually show the hat I’m interested in, nor, to my surprise, can I find it on Ravelry.) The other assignment is a knitted hat, and I might just move on to that one.

Poor Princess. It would be nice if I could reach my lettering in the middle of the centre before I stop, but it’s nowhere in sight.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009



… today, although I can reveal that I am ¾’s of the way through repeat no.23 of the Princess top edging, so that means two more repeats were achieved yesterday without major disaster.

Yesterday’s big excitement – in the middle of knitting-time, too – was a thunderous fall of water into the small room we call the Downstairs Lavatory (for historical reasons -- we live on one level). I went racing round the corner – for they live in Scotland Street – to the neighbours above and found that, sure enough, the equivalent room in Mrs G.’s flat was flooded. Something of a relief, in the circumstances.

I also learned that one of her two small children was in the Royal Infirmary. Her husband was spending the night there with the child, and would, she said, come down to see us in the morning. She seemed distraught with anxiety which is probably why her bathroom was flooded in the first place.

I then went back downstairs, placed water-catching receptacles as far as possible, and cleaned up, likewise. My husband, often the coolest head in the room in a real crisis, gets extremely bad tempered in a lesser one. He was convinced that the water was coming from a storage tank of our own – our flat involves bits of what was originally two separate houses, and the water system is indeed complicated. He proposed turning off the supply to the entire tenement. Fortunately we don’t know how.

It continued to bucket down just long enough to be really worrying, but I was comforted, although I did not say so, by my old friend William of Occam. If Mrs G’s bathroom was flooded, as I had seen, and if water was cascading down into the room below, as it obviously was, there was probably no need to look for a further explanation. William seems to have been right – he usually is.

I wish I had an independent source of information about the condition of the child, though. I don’t want to start worrying the G’s about damp plaster if he is at death’s door.

The other big news from yesterday is that the wedding invitation arrived. It’s the full monty – heavy paper, envelopes within envelopes. I wonder if I have ever had such a thing before. I had to go up to the post office yesterday anyway, so I sped our reply on its way.

And here, for something completely different, is a drawing by Rachel Miles of Beijing (for whom, see yesterday) of her sister Kirsty. I append, for comparison, a picture of Kirsty herself (in the foreground, taken nearly two years ago) returning from a rabbit-hunt with her father, sister, brother and various cousins. I think Rachel has done a brilliant job of abstracting the important features and rendering a true likeness.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Miriam in South Indiana has finished her Princess – I don’t think the link to her pictures will work unless you have a Yahoo password. Worth looking, if you do – it’s a superlative piece of knitting.

Sharon herself wrote a tribute to it in the Yahoo group – she suspects it’s better than the prototype, and suggests pistols at dawn. She says, addressing Miriam, “Rest assured, you're at the top of the tree of lace knitters now : and that attention to detail over grafting puts you ahead of me, as I get quite devil-may-care over these, having come from such long exposition to in-your-face baddish joins.”

It rather confirms what I said yesterday. If I finish off with an “in-your-face baddish join”, I’ll at least be in good Shetland company.

Here’s a progress picture of my Princess, to show how far I have advanced across the centre. Not very far, is the answer. I’m past the middle point of repeat no. 21 – a full three, therefore, yesterday. It was in general a bad day, knitting-wise, full of small errors. I even found a pair of detached stitches on the outer edge -- you can see the loose thread I have used to secure them.

No sign of broken yarn. I must have dropped the first stitch of the row, instead of slipping it, and then, when I got back and found myself short, fudged instead of looking around for a dropped stitch.

In one row, I was interrupted twice by the telephone. One was a wrong number. After the second one, there was a major stitch-escape. The repair is distinctly “in-your-face baddish”. I offer the picture partly in illustration of what I said yesterday, that the Princess sweeps forward and can carry mistakes along with her. But looking at Miriam’s work makes me realize how imperfect mine is.

Cynthia told me a while back that the top edging was longer than the initial one. I didn’t see how that could be – the Princess is at least vaguely a triangle, and one edge of a triangle can’t be longer than the other two put together. The original edging is 85 repeats long. In order for my top edging to be less than that, I’d have to get all the way across to the equivalent point on the other side in fewer than 45 repeats. It doesn’t, at the moment, seem likely.

On we go.

For Something Completely Different, here’s Rachel-the-Younger of Beijing singing with her school choir.

She's the one in the centre, looking at the camera. You see what Murial Spark meant, in The P. of Miss Jean B., about the opportunities for self-expression in the angle at which wears one's hat.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Halfway through repeat no. 18 – slightly less than two full repeats yesterday. It was my once-a-week cider-drinking day (now that Lent is over) and I found that I really didn’t like losing that slight edge from my razor-sharp mind. Maybe next week I’ll skip it.

I can now look at the chart and master the next two rows without further consultation.

Maureen, I too think the circle of references that brought Fleegle to comment on this very blog, is – as I think the expression might be – way cool. I have had a nice time this morning wandering around the yarn shops in her sidebar. Artist’s Palette even seems to be British – i.e., no anxiety about whether Customs & Excise are going to levy a large impost on one’s modest package, and then charge a lot more for their trouble. Once I finish the Princess, everything will be possible – a sock a day, a jacket in a week.

I continue to read with interest the comments in the Yahoo Heirloom Knitting group about lace grafting. I am much inclined to feel, however, that I’m not going to fuss about it all that much when I get there. Of course I’ll try, but I am inclined to think that the most modest effort will suffice. Hell, I could join the ends with a backstitch and no one would notice much.

That’s the thing about the sheer sweep of the Princess – she can carry dozens of little mistakes along with her, whereas something like the mitts on the cover of VK -- it happens to be lying on the desk beside me -- demands perfection.

I don’t mean I’m utterly sloppy – I often unpick five or ten stitches. At some point – years ago, now – in the initial edging-knitting I managed to go straight from halfway up the slope of a point, to halfway down, without getting on up to the peak. I ripped that one right back. But often, too, when I find I’ve got a stitch too many or too few, and the mistake is not readily to be found, I just fudge it.


Greek Helen had set herself the challenge of dressing for The Wedding for £15 from eBay. She’s finding it difficult, and has retreated to the East website, an old favourite of hers, newly discovered by me. We are conferring, lest we turn up in CT looking like a comedy turn. Delighted with my kurta (for the Rehearsal Dinner), I am thinking of going back to see how an embroidered long linen jacket would look over the old dress I am planning to wear to the wedding itself.

This is fun – shoes and hat and handbag will be less so. I normally don’t carry a bag – they get so messy. Just a Filofax stuffed with everything. At least I can usually find things in there.

Weather continues calm. Worse is forecast for next week. Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I'm near the end of repeat 16 of the Princess top edging – slightly more than two repeats were knocked off yesterday. I’ve reached the live centre stitches and it’s a great pleasure to be eating them up faster than, at the end, I was adding them – but the photograph is meant to convey some sense of the endlessness to come.

The difficulty of the edging pattern, once the first horror is behind one, makes for compulsive knitting. I’ve now re-mastered – can again knit without reference to the chart – rows 1, 14, 17 and 20. I had a pleasantly empty three-quarters of an hour at the end of the afternoon yesterday, and thought I might sit down with one the DVD’s I recently bought from the Schoolhouse Press. But found, once sat, that I couldn’t bear to do anything except knit edging. Schoolhouse Press videos don’t lend themselves to being watched while one knits.

There has been some interesting correspondence in the Yahoo Heirloom Knitting group in the last 24 hours on the subject of lace grafting, not least a reference by our own Maureen in Fargo to this page in Fleegle’s blog, which I have bookmarked for future use. Had I heard of Fleegle before last week? – when Helen C.K.S. sent me a link to this page. I’ve just told Google Reader to alert me in future.

We had a jolly time at the Christian Aid book sale yesterday. It is a great Edinburgh event – tens of thousands of books, all intelligently sorted, and everybody is there (except that I missed seeing Lindsay). My husband bought a couple of gems at a fraction – as they say – of their antiquarian art historical value because (presumably) they are in Foreign Languages and were so shelved, instead of being offered with art. I got these two patterns from the 50’s, for the archives. Lindsay, for the purposes of this exercise, is a ChristianAid volunteer. She had sorted through hundreds of leaflets, and had spotted these – so they were fairly priced, unlike my husband’s finds.

The weather seems to be settling down a bit. Strathardle?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Rather a good day yesterday.

-- I’m nearly half-way through repeat No. 14 of the Princess top edging – that’s nearly three repeats for yesterday, better than I thought possible. Today should see the first border edge finished, and the trackless wastes of the centre embarked upon. I’m not going to finish edging the border neatly half-way through a repeat, like Cynthia and like Miriam in South Indiana, but at least I will have learned from them to make a careful note of where I do finish.

-- The vegetables appear grateful for a day indoors out of the wind. Losses may not have been as heavy as I thought.

-- I had a dr’s appt to discuss my raised cholesterol, as notified by the Eye Pavilion last week. Pleasant enough, no conclusion. He took some blood to see whether my recent admirable life-style might have lowered cholesterol on its own. I’ve now lost about 10 pounds, although you still wouldn’t know it to look at me. The original test was back in November.

-- That left me free in the early afternoon, so I went back to East determined to find something for the Rehearsal Dinner and fortified with some sober reflections. It is no use, to begin with, just looking at nice clothes on a computer screen and then on a rack in a shop. I’ve got to anticipate looking at them in a mirror, on me. And secondly, I must eschew any effect that draws a horizontal line across the middle, such as tucking a shirt into a waistband. Obvious, really.

I wound up with what I think is called a kurta. My dear, it has sequins on it. I love it. I even tried it with loose black trousers, but I thought it looked better with my own bought-recently-to-wear-to-CT skirt, which I had had the presence of mind to wear yesterday for its first outing.

And today is the Christian Aid Book Sale – although my inside information is that there is nothing terribly interesting on the knitting front.

Miriam in South Indiana is approaching the absolute end of her Princess, and has posted a most interesting contribution to the Yahoo Heirloom Knitting group about lace grafting. (The top edging has to be attached somehow to the beginning of the edging.) I will watch attentively for further contributions.

I can’t post a picture of my top edging because the camera needs its battery charged, so here is a picture which arrived yesterday of Alistair Miles of Beijing playing in a house football match at school.

Alistair is the eldest of the second wave of my grandchildren, Rachel's four having constituted the first wave. The Beijing Mileses weren't at the Games last year -- they were at something going on in China called the "Olympics" -- so he doesn't appear in the Grandchildren picture in my sidebar.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Goodness, how cheerful and long-ago that Tuesday-morning picture of my poor vegetables looks! I’ve lost most of the French beans, I fear, to the wind (some broken, some burned). So much for hardening-off. I will let everybody stay indoors for the time being. The weather continues pretty grim.

I’m about halfway through Repeat Number Eleven of the Princess’ top edging. I managed quite a few delicious stolen moments yesterday, so I think two repeats is about the best I can hope for as a day’s achievement. (Someone wrote to the Heirloom Knitting list yesterday about how she is knitting the Wedding Ring shawl but also keen to start the Princess so she takes time off to knit two edging repeats a day – that’ll be the initial edging strip, I presume – before resuming the WR. Her knitting time is limited, she says. I can only marvel.)

Cynthia and another knitting-list correspondent both found that they finished edging the first border and embarked on the centre at the mid-point of a repeat. That's convenient, for planning the final end. Will I? We’ll soon know.

When we got back from Strathardle on Monday I found a knitting magazine in the pile of mail behind the door, and eagerly read it over the sandwich lunch we normally have on such days. It said “Knitting” on the cover, so I assumed it was the British magazine of that name, and turned over the pages with increasing excitement – Knitting has really got its act together at last, thank goodness I continued my subscription…

At some point I turned back to the cover and found that it was “Designer (in small print) Knitting” – the new British name of VK. A pretty good issue, I thought, especially considering that it’s summer. I doubt if there’s anything I’ll knit, although the Botanica Medallion looks terrific fun; Kristin Ohmdahl’s duster is just what I want for the picnic breakfast on the beach scheduled as part of the wedding fun in July – only it’s crocheted, so no; and several other things amuse and tempt.

It’s nice to see Leigh Witchel writing, too. He was my first great internet love – me and a thousand others – back in the glory days of the Knitlist, in the ‘90’s. And I’m proud to say that when he and Franklin met, a while ago, they spoke – at least briefly – of me.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Dear Shandy, it would be wonderful if you could go to the Ravelry Woolday and be in the same room with Jared and Meg for a while, and tell us about it on your blog. And you almost inspire me to try parsnips again – for me, they tend not to come up much, and not to progress once they have condescended to appear. But I love to eat them; it might be worth trying again. No room, this year.

I’m glad you like LoveFilm. We’re currently working our way through the first series of Monty Python – no longer cutting-edge and therefore curiously dated, but still pretty funny.

Growing things: a lot of it is in the way the year sorts itself out. Peaches, for instance, are tricky to the point of nearly-ungrowable here. In the US, they get through seriously cold winters without difficulty, but expect a steady spring and hot summer when the time comes. Asparagus, somewhat similarly, doesn’t mind bitter cold, but can be thrown off-course by a British off-again-on-again spring. I have read – could it be true? – that sweet corn, reasonably reliable in the south of England, doesn’t like Scotland because it needs to do some growing at night and we don’t have much night from mid-June to mid-July.

And Cynthia – gosh! Forty-seven top edging points! (This is a Princess-knitting paragraph.) You inspired me to start counting – I had just plunged in. The join is so beautifully effortless-looking that I’m not absolutely sure where I started, but I think I’m halfway through repeat no. nine. I am certainly about halfway between the corner and that vast trackless desert of centre stitches. The fact that an hour’s session produces visible progress continues to delight me.

But I won’t be finished before CT, unlike you. I had dreams, in an earlier year, of offering it to Jenni for use at the wedding. (It might have been totally unsuitable, of course.) But I felt I couldn’t subject her to the uncertainty, or myself to the stress, so I didn’t, and a good thing too. I am still confident of finishing in ’09.

Mary Lou, thank you for investigating “Knitting and Tea”. Alas, I’ll pass it by, with many a sad backward glance at that handsome cover-model. I’m sure he really plays cricket, aren’t you? Something about the way he holds a teacup.

So now what do we think about “Knitting in Tuscany”? The title intrigues, but the cover picture is about as depressing as a knitting pattern gets.

I’ll finish with vegetables again. I have started putting my windowsill-grown beans and courgettes out on the doorstep for a few hours of daylight each day. It’s called “hardening off”. This is a picture from Tuesday morning, when they first went out. They are getting much buffeted by the wind – I may let them stay indoors today. But they must face up to things if they expect to flourish in Strathardle. All will, in due course, be supplemented by seeds sown directly in the soil – fairly soon now.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


I forgot to say – we heard the cuckoo in Strathardle last week, and saw a swallow. Swallows have been flying around Loch Fyne for at least ten days.

Do we have cuckoos in America? We must. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard one except in Kirkmichael. (And have never seen one, at all.) They’re pretty rural, I think: one wouldn’t expect them in Detroit. But what about semi-rural or small town – West Allenhurst, NJ, and Oberlin, Ohio? I don’t remember cuckoos. The season at which they sing their unmistakable song is pretty brief.

Thank you for the vegetarian comments. Mel, I follow the progress of your garden keenly, via comments and the blog itself. I don’t think tomatoes really “do” anywhere in the UK except under glass or polythene; I envy you them. Lee and Gretchen, thanks for the memories of eating radishes with butter. It sounds good, and I will pass the idea on to Ketki. She likes radishes, and Alexander grows them for her.

The Princess

I’m pleased with my success at fixing the first hole – it’ll definitely pass the galloping horse test. I’m enjoying this top edging a lot, although I know there are yards and yards to go. After the struggle at the end of the centre, when I had to knit hundreds of stitches (literally) for every one I was allowed to pluck from the border, it’s a great pleasure to be steaming along so comparatively fast. Even if I get only one repeat done in an evening, that’s ten loops picked up from the edge of the border.


After... In this picture, the edging has advanced slightly beyond the trouble spot.

I bought myself a copy of Photoshop Elements ages ago, with the thought of being able to draw circles on photographs to point out Important Aspects. This would be the perfect occasion to demonstrate – except that I’ve never even installed the program.

Knitting, General

The bedsocks fit fine, and I’m now ready to venture on a whole pair of real socks for my husband. Normally, on 64 stitches, a pair of gent’s socks takes me somewhat more than 100 grams. Economically – although economy is rarely evident in any other aspect of my yarn-buying – I buy only two balls, 50 grams each, and finish the toes with something from the scrap bag.

But I was afraid that on 72 stitches, the change might come too far up the foot, so yesterday I ordered three balls of KF’s “Mirage Twilight”. And while I was at it, I discovered that the great man has produced a whole new range of sock-wool, called “Exotic”, unknown to me or to John Lewis’ Edinburgh yarn department. Exotic is striped, like Landscape, only sort of crazy stripes. Irresistible. So I ordered two balls of “Exotic Clay” with Rachel in mind. I find that with KF stripes, all you have to do is cast on. The socks then knit themselves. You can see part of the range here.

I got Meg’s spring newsletter this morning – it cost me $37: the new Baby-Child-Adult Surprise leaflet, the catalogue of the recent Bohus Strickning exhibition in Minneapolis, and oh! those arch-shaped stockings. How I wish I could go to the UK Ravelry jamboree in Coventry in June! Meg will be there. Among others.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mostly vegetable-growing today, although I have some knitterly thots saved up. I finished the bedsocks, and am knitting Repeat No. Six (I think) of the top edging of the Princess. The first ghastly moth hole will have to be fixed today.

The weather wasn’t too good. (But “a wet and windy May fills the hay ricks with hay.”) We made some progress, although in lower spirits than if the sun had been beaming down. All the seeds I had put in previously have made an appearance, to a greater or lesser degree, except for – you guessed it! – salsola soda. Of that I can find no trace.

In the vanguard, predictably, are radishes. I don’t usually grow them because despite the advantage their enthusiasm for growing gives them, nobody likes to eat them much. However, this year I read a recipe in Robin Lane Fox’s column in the Financial Times for a rustic pasta dish involving radishes– tagliatelle, to be precise – favoured in the region of Naples, which he said is a great radish-growing area. (Sometimes I wonder whether Robin Lane Fox should be taken with a grain of salt.) The recipe, re-read, sounds disgusting. I will publish it here if it proves edible. I am even growing the kind of radish he specified for the purpose, namely Rougette.

After writing about my seedbed roll last time, I began to wonder whether the plastic top covering would offer protection against rabbits. So blogging has its uses after all! Accordingly, I tried a foot or so of it in the part of the garden exposed to rabbits, and unrolled the rest on my second raised bed. It is interesting to hear, Beth, that it is being advertised in Canada. Sounds as if someone had a Big Idea this year.

If it works – and if it proves rabbit-proof – it could change the whole job. It is expensive, so it’s got to work really well. More or less isn’t good enough, in this case. My one (as I’ve probably said) promises beets, carrots, and chard. (“From the greengrocer tree/ you get grapes and green pea…” if there are any G&S fans among you.) There are three other flavours: English salad, continental salad with lollo rosso and rocket (= arugula) and things like that, and oriental greens with a lot of mustardy things. I can just roll ‘em all out next year and have nothing to do myself except the peas and beans and courgettes.

One of my theories of life, however, is that everything tastes better if grown in God’s own sunshine and rain rather than under glass or plastic. So I may be on a hiding to nowhere.

We had some sorrel soup – I heartily recommend sorrel, not only delicious but perennial – and some rhubarb to eat while we were there.

Here’s what things look like at the moment, in a brief moment of afternoon sunshine on Sunday. The seedbed roll is blue, it says, because that colour repels pests. You can see the sorrel, bright green and cheerful, above and to the left of the seedbed roll.