Friday, November 30, 2012

Dies Atra

…comes around again. I’m in unusually cheerful form this year.

I had a grand time at Kaffe’s talk yesterday (didn’t buy the book, though). There was a big turnout despite the £10 charge for what amounted to a book-signing with extra talk. He is nearly as old as I am, and beginning to look it.

I met Sir Steven Runciman once, another supremely handsome man and one whose History of the Crusades and Sicilian Vespers I had read all the way through, in my more mentally active years. The line that sprang to mind when I saw him was, Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

This link, to a YouTube video, will show you what I mean.

(The same, of course, could be said of me except that I was never much to gladden the eye in youth, so the loss is considerably less.)

Kaffe is fading, but, like Runciman, remains as fit and sharp and entertaining as ever. He took us through the familiar story, Bill Gibbs, learning to knit on train. I hadn’t known, though, that he went to work for Missoni after that famous first effort was published in VK. (I was much struck with it myself, at the time, and remembered his name.) He made a funny story of the visit of two supremely elegant Missonis to his cold-water flat. He had to begin by learning the colour words in Italian.

It was good to see Helen C.K.S. too. We have been promising each other lunch for a long time now – “After the Festival”, “When this trying holiday season is over”. The year seems to contain little else. We’re aiming for January.

Miscellaneous more

-- A friend of Shandy’s sent me a link to this website in which are offered natural-coloured sheep-specific wools. Oh! for another lifetime, to knit it all. As far as I can remember, the only sheep-specific yarns I have actually knit were Shetland and Wensleydale. The latter was acquired at one of those workshop-and-talk days somewhere, and it was heaven to knit. I made a sweater with broad stripes for Helen’s husband David when he was new to the family.

Wensleydale are those sheep with dreadlocks.

-- Franklin is home, and posting about his English adventure. You don’t need me to tell you that. (All I had to do was type www.t and Google Chrome knew where I wanted to go.)

And as for actual knitting, I’m getting on fine. See sidebar. The brioche scarf, which I took to Strathardle earlier in the week, doesn’t entirely please. The colour seems sort of dull, and the knitting is not flawless partly because I am terrified even to attempt ripping back.

Barring disaster, I’ll finish both scarves with time to spare for a hat. But none of the few blanks on my Christmas list will want a hat,or if they do, they had one last year, so the plan is to go straight on to Ed’s Gardening Sweater.

Christmas shopping is nearly done – all on-line or by telephone except for the knitting. One of those articles in the paper the other day by a smart 30-year-old suggested giving fewer presents. They just embarrass people. But what if you have four children and four sons- and daughters-in law and twelve living grandchildren. Where do you prune the list?


  1. Fascinating reading Jean, as always!
    On the excess of relatives requiring gifts - you could set an age limit: nobody over the age of 18 gets a gift. You have to remember, however, that this means you don't get any presents yourself! The other method is only to give gifts to under-18s who actually visit you (ever)plus adults you will see around Christmas itself. Though this could add an element of guilt on both sides. Ah Christmas!

  2. Anonymous12:16 PM

    In our household fewer gifts needed to mean fewer per person. We didn't have enough room under the tree for all of the largesse.
    I am one of the worst offenders buying ten or twelve or more gifts every year for my mother and sister. Small children are also very easy destinations for gifts.
    We keep trying every year to make more items and buy fewer gifts.
    I don't see us drawing names or otherwise limiting who receives a gift. We really enjoy giving and receiving gifts!
    Lisa in Toronto

  3. Anonymous12:17 PM

    By the way I was glad to hear you attended the Kaffe Fassett talk and met up with Helen.

  4. You do what pleases you in regards to Christmas, Jean. Some families draw names, but I think with your family all spread out over the world that a gift from you is a real treat.

  5. Anonymous4:46 PM

    I agree with FiberQat. However, on my father's side of my extended family the rule was "presents only for those under 13" and it worked well. Holiday joy remained undiminished.
    -- Gretchen

  6. Re:presents for family. One Mary Honywood, of the Marks hall estate in Coggeshall,had 16 children, 112 grandchildren, 228 great-grandchildren and 9 great-greats when she died aged 93, in 1620. Imagine trying to remember all their names, let alone buy presents for them.

  7. Janis in Lyme7:03 PM

    Learned last night that you can buy a ukelele on Amazon. Christmas shopping for Jim all set. My shopping is done!

  8. the whole gift extravaganza only happens if you buy most of the stuff! if more people gave handmade, the problem wouldn't arise, because there's only so much two hands can do:)we tried to change it a little bit, because it's always stressful to make stuff for christmas. now people get a larger project only for their birthday, which gives me more time to make something nice for everybody.
    and about looks - I rather look at someone older with wrinkles etc. than at totally smooth "baby faces" with very little sign of life and living on them....

  9. I knew the quote about bare ruined choirs was from Shakespeare, but had to google for it. Then spent half an hour on a site of the sonnets. I have knitted with Shetland and Blue Faced Leicester, which was lovely. We are rather scattershot on gifts in my family. Always with my sisters, rarely with my brothers. My stepmother still sends to all 16 children and their spouses and assorted grandchildren. It takes her all year to plan and wrap. We've tried to encourage moderation, but but it is what she wants to do. She just called me a little while ago to see if she had already given us a hand cranked emergency radio...

  10. This year my family drew names. Seemed a bit silly to me since there are only six adults and one child. The child was exempted from the drawing and will get gifts from all. A dollar limit was set as well. So I can't believe that my shopping is done already except for one friend I exchange gifts with. I'm not sure we'll continue in this fashion since some opposition to it has surfaced. Next year may prove interesting.

  11. Anonymous5:05 AM

    My husband came from a family with many first cousins. Their custom was to draw names, too. Eminently sensible, I believe.

    Must say the crowd of them was a bit of a shock to me as a bride. I came from a small family, only one sibling and two first cousins who lived half-way across the United States.