Friday, March 29, 2013

We’re going to Loch Fyne.

Rachel rang up in Fierce mode yesterday. She said that Alexander is afraid that if my husband gets a chest infection, we will all blame him, so we have promised to sign a disclaimer. He says that there's lots of this unnamed lurgy in the neighbourhood – so, Rachel said, her father should stay away from church and pub. That can be done. In fact, he is probably in much more danger from having lived with my cold all this week. So off we go.

She had alternative plans if that appeal had failed – for us all, except for Alexander, to meet at a splendid Chinese restaurant in Glasgow and spend tomorrow afternoon at a big round table dim sum’ing. It would have been delightful, but a bit dark and indoors, and strenuous for everybody to get there. Or, at the worst, she and Ed would have stopped here for Hot Cross Buns on their way north today.

I didn’t mention these possibilities to my husband for fear he would have preferred them.

Apart from any other consideration, Alexander has got four baby ducks living in his kitchen. Their future role in life will be to walk about and swim in Loch Fyne on pleasant days and lay eggs. They are a rare breed of some sort. He drove all the way to Lancashire to get them the other day. Pics and further details next week, insh’Allah.

Visits to Alexander have been marked over the years by a fairly high level of disaster – the norovirus at Christmas, the house struck by lightening – was that Easter last year? --, my husband developing an abscessed tooth on another occasion, the closing of the Rest and Be Thankful – two years ago, perhaps? – necessitating a 50-mile detour. We’ll be fine today.

So, the last pound coins representing undrunk cider have been deposited in my little collection box. I weigh 10 pounds less than I did on Ash Wednesday (and only two pounds more than on Good Friday last year). There is a lesson for us here, my sister said in a recent telephone conversation. She has lost a similar amount despite carrying a lesser load to begin with.

The Relax is finished, except for finishing. I’ll give it a pass with the steam iron this morning. You can look forward to pics of Lizzie trying it on, and of Ed in the Gardening Sweater, as well as those baby ducks.

And my pages of sock notes are lodged with Evernote, and the Hot Cross Bun order has been reinstated. Happy Springtime, everybody.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ketki is working in Edinburgh this week – she whizzed by yesterday and picked up Ed’s gardening sweater and some Easter presents for the Little Boys. We are fully and rather grimly resolved on Plan B, Easter in Edinburgh. Our niece, my husband’s sister’s daughter, is in London working on a family problem involving her grandchildren. She’ll get back to Edinburgh late on Saturday, and we’re hoping she won’t mind a last-minute invitation to Easter lunch.

At least nothing much short of my own death can stand between me and my cider.

I finished the second sleeve of the Relax – it looks rather good – and picked up the stitches for the neck. I was somewhat surprised at how few. I am knitting on the number of stitches specified for the smallest size because I thought (mistakenly, I now believe) that I didn’t want all that fabric flapping about. There were points in the pattern where I increased the length, but for the neckband I should presumably stick to the designer’s stitch count.

It’s a very wide boat neck – it mustn’t be too much constrained. There is nothing for it but to knit the band – it’s only six rounds of st st – and see what we’ve got. Then blocking. My current aim is to see how near I can get to the dimensions specified for the smallest size – presumably, in girth, it will fall short. And send it to Lizzie for a 20th birthday present. The event is nigh.

With any luck at all I should finish this evening and have an unblocked pic for you tomorrow.

I have half a mind to get in some more madelinetosh sock yarn and knit it again for myself, this time aiming at the designer’s dimensions. It is designed for a heavier yarn (=fewer stitches) but I think the lighter sock yarn may actually be an improvement. Lots of knitting, though.

The Berocco book arrived from Loop yesterday. I remain doubtful about Anhinga, although very admiring.

I had one of our regular trips-to-Boots-to-pick-up-a-prescription yesterday, and sank down in a chair in John Lewis’ yarn department afterwards to catch my breath. I looked at Kaffe’s new autobiography; still didn’t buy. But I stumbled on a delicious anecdote where he was in an LYS somewhere, California I think, wearing one of his own creations, and a woman said to him, “That’s a Kaffe Fassett you’re wearing, isn’t it?” without recognising the man. There’s glory for you

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Snow in Edinburgh this morning.

The extraordinary thing about this weather is not snow-in-March, that happens. It’s day after day of relentless winter cold, so that the snow lies. It’s enough to make one believe in global warming.

I’m a bit better this morning, after a more comfortable night. But Alexander phoned yesterday evening to say that they have been having something, he had no name for it, it must be a sort of flu, involving fever and misery before it settles in the lungs. He was coughing expressively as he spoke. He was concerned for his father’s lungs.

My husband agrees. We should go over there some other weekend, he thinks. It will be sad to miss Rachel and her family – I didn’t see them at Christmas, as I had just been struck down with the nororvirus when they arrived, and we left for Edinburgh the next day. But needs must. Alexander and I will confer again tomorrow, but I think that’s the way it will go. I must remember to cancel the Hot Cross Bun order.

I abhor horoscopes, but sometimes I peek, and I did notice that the Sunday Times predicted disruption of plans this week for both me (“Instead of struggling to keep existing plans afloat, join those who are exploring new ideas”) and Alexander (“…you need to focus on restrategising existing arrangements and rethinking plans for the future”). Utter rubbish.

My spell check doesn’t like “restrategising” and I can sympathize.

The Relax is still four and a half rounds, plus bind-off, short of completion. But it doesn’t matter now.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I’ve got a bit of a cold. Nothing serious, and there are still three days (counting today) for huddling and hoping it passes. I’m well enough to shop and cook.

We had a full-scale computer crash yesterday. I still can’t imagine what happened. I wasn’t in the room when it went down. When I got there, the Toshiba was dark and unresponsive. As if the battery was low and it had gone to sleep to protect data, perhaps, but the battery was fully charged.

We wept and pressed buttons and plugged the power line in anyway, and eventually it woke up and started again from the beginning. The document my husband was working on proved to be corrupt – three pages remained of 28. The Dropbox version was complete – as of the evening before. My husband’s work of yesterday was apparently gone.

OpenOffice then popped up to say that it was reconstituting the document he had been working on. It did, successfully. It had a funny name with lots of “%”’s in it. And then we lost it, somehow or other. By this time it was late, and even after a fortnight’s total abstinence from cider, my synapses don’t fire very well in the late evening. So we closed up shop. I even pulled the Ethernet cable out of my desktop computer in hopes of preventing Dropbox from copying a corrupt file on top of a good one.

This morning I started afresh, found the reconstituted file, Saved it As the proper one.

I mention all this because as soon as I had done so, my cold seemed to be much better.


I should finish the second sleeve of the Relax without difficulty today.

Now I think I’ll go and start huddling.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A perfectly satisfactory Palm Sunday, with no flooding. The cathedral congregation is undiminished by recent scandals, and it turns out we still have a perfectly good bishop, who was on hand. He was appointed as an auxiliary a year ago – the Cardinal has not been in good health lately.

Sundays are always tough, and the Palm Sunday Mass is a long one. My husband’s blood sugar was low when we finally left and proceeded towards the bus stop in ragged array. I was determined to hail a taxi if one went past. Some people we had never spoken to before, but often seen, the way one does in a large church, offered us a lift.

They were parked right in front of the cathedral because they had Disabled badges, both of them, separately, although both were far spryer than my husband. They were an answer to a prayer yesterday, literally.


Jared has put up some more of his pictures from Iceland (no knitting). I was surprised to see the trees. I must look at a map. How can Iceland have trees when Shetland doesn’t?

And Liz Lovick’s northern pics are always good (again, no knitting). I’m sure those seaweed-fed sheep are delicious.


I was glad to hear that so many of you positively prefer to comment anonymously – it makes all this tedious deleting worthwhile. It is indeed a puzzle, what the spammers are up to. The topics of the websites one is meant to click on to are very wide-ranging: dog training, weight loss, porn sites, fitted kitchens, everything. Penis-enhancement occasionally crops up, but it is no longer the obsession it was a few years ago.


I’m still on target to finish the second sleeve of the Relax tomorrow. That will leave only the neck edge stitches to be picked up, six rows of st st to be knit (I get my st st roll at last) and the bind off. But it’s probably better to leave that whole process until later, if I want it to be blocked and tried-on at the weekend. 

I must begin to get knitting together for that weekend, too: remind myself about sock sizes (notes on that subject are anchored here on my desktop machine); pack the Pakokku, in hopes of finishing the current socks;  pack the left-overs from Ed’s Gardening Sweater. I had an idea once that there was a size adjustment I could make on the spot if we weren’t satisfied with fit. What could it have been? Altering the arm-length, possibly, could be done in a weekend.

(If I surreptitiously installed Evernote on my husband’s new Toshiba, I could add the whole sock-size page from Lotus Organizer. It’s a thought. Just until I solve the OS problem and can have Evernote on the iPad.)

I have ordered Berocco 5 with the Anhinga pattern from Loop, thanks to the Foggy Knitter. If it comes promptly, as is quite likely, I can take it along at the weekend and see what Hellie and Lizzie think. Even in my post-Lenten state I fear I have far too much tummy for an Anhinga.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It was on Palm Sunday last year that the water came through our dining room ceiling. I approach the day anew with some trepidation. The weather continues savage and no relief is forecast for the coming week, but at least Edinburgh is dry.

We have taken to going to Mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Leith by car because of the awkwardness of getting to our local cathedral – I have to drive my husband up there, then come back and park at home because there is never a parking space and then walk up myself. We take a bus home. OLSof the S is having an earlier Mass today, too early for us, so it’s back to the cathedral. It will be our first visit since the recent trouble, and therefore potentially interesting.

Great, weather-related news, though: our niece would like a few days in Strathardle right after Easter. She’s willing to shoulder the question of how’s-the-water-after-the-winter which I have been dreading. A water crisis I could still deal with (just about) but my husband, even in his glory days, gets very disagreeable in such circumstances (where gallows humour would actually help). Dealing with water, disagreeableness, and anxiety about his frailty all at once is what I was not anticipating with pleasure.

The water anxieties are two: one, that the pipe has frozen somewhere in the field between the house and the mains connection, and there is no water at all. That has never happened to us, in 50 years, but it does happen to people. And two, that the ends of pipes in the house have been forced apart by ice, despite careful draining, so that a flood results when the water is turned on. That has happened twice in those 50 years. Here is my account of the more recent event.

If our niece is willing to take on those anxieties, it means that I will have nothing to worry about except the routine worries, when we finally go ourselves. Bliss!

I’ve had a lot of trouble with spam lately – some have crept through Blogger’s defences, as you may have noticed. I hope I’ve caught and deleted them all. There is a huge additional volume which doesn’t get through because they are aimed at older posts and therefore moderated. But it still takes me time to go through and delete them.

A blogger I was reading recently said she had reluctantly set her system to exclude Anonymous comments. But I really can’t do that – not just for your sake, Ron, but because a number of other good comments come Anonymously. See yesterday for examples.

All well otherwise. Cries for help from the Toshiba-user are definitely diminishing in number. He successfully saved a couple of documents yesterday, although I don’t think he has yet loaded one on his own.

And although I didn’t get as much second-sleeve done on the Relax  as I would have hoped, I did do enough that I think I’m still on schedule to finish on Tuesday, block on Wednesday, take to Loch Fyne on Friday. (Lent is nearly over!)

No news from Rome. They probably don’t have access to wi-fi.  I texted both Helen and Archie yesterday, and have had no response. I’m not reeeely worried, but…

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Presumably Archie is in Rome. I’d have heard if he spent the night in London, or if his parents had called out Interpol. He seemed in good spirits.

The weather continues very remarkable indeed. Edinburgh is dry, bitter cold, icy wind, but things are far worse elsewhere.


I finished the first sleeve of the Relax last night, and tried it on. It’s all right, in a sense, but would look better with more ease. My fault, not the designer’s. My current plan is to finish the second sleeve in the next four days, block it on Wednesday with ends still untidied and neck-edging still unknit, and take it along to Loch Fyne on Friday to try on Rachel’s daughter Lizzie, probably the smallest of the potential small adult recipients.

I bought a copy (not a subscription) of Knit Edge magazine yesterday, Some interesting stuff, but I doubt if I’ll go on to a subscription. There’s a gansey article with accompanying pattern knit in the same pink yarn from Frangipani I used for Ketki’s gansey, seen here recently. My sister-in-law, I remember, didn’t believe that the herring girls wore pastel-coloured ganseys. There was never any arguing with her: one presented one’s evidence, and she went silent. End of conversation.

Have I got Epstein’s “Knitting in Circles” (mentioned in Knit Edge)? No, according to LibraryThing, and I thought I was up to date there. Now that knitting books exceed shelf space – by quite a bit – and are piled on the floor, it’s not necessarily easy to find anything. That should be in the design section in the bedroom if I've got it, but…

I am feeling restless and unsatisfied. Anhinga? (Helen C.K.S. knit it a while ago, and it left her feeling restless and unsatisfied, and anyway I can’t figure out how to order the pamphlet, even from the Berocco website.)

Here’s the Pakokku. Wonderful, no?


I’m glad some of you read Alastair Robertson’s obituary of his mother which I linked to recently. He has mentioned fruites des routes en croute before, I think. I love the idea.

My husband’s word processing went very well yesterday. The only problem I remember was when both of  us had to figure out how to turn underlining on and off in OpenOffice. Very easy, in fact. I also discovered that the OpenOffice screen wasn’t quite maximized – those little strips of underlying windows at the edges may have been the cause of some earlier crises. I dealt with it.

Maureen, when I go to Settings > General on my iPad, I don’t find anything that says > Software Update. I’ve Google’d the question and found a series of instructions involving iTunes and my desktop computer. I have read that the process can take an hour and risks losing all one’s previously-installed apps. My Kindle library!

Archie is sure I have an iPad 2. He says he will be happy to come here one weekend early next term and do the updating.

I have taken to replying to comments sometimes – do the writers ever see the replies? 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Today’s excitement is to pick Archie up at school and take him to the airport, a job I greatly enjoy. He was worried a while ago about what would happen if  weather disrupted flights – the idea seemed close to absurd, for the end of March. But Leeds airport is closed this morning due to heavy snow. Edinburgh seems all right, judging from Arrivals and Departures as viewed on their website, but he will have only two hours in London to make a connection to Rome, so there’s not much room for anything to go wrong. The whole family is having a week's Roman holiday to celebrate 50th birthdays. Helen is already 50. David's birthday coincides with mine in the summer. 

I’ll go with him to check-in and get the woman to tell us what he should DO if he misses the flight. Bursting into tears, although guaranteed to be effective, is probably not an option. Rachel is ready to take him in if he has to spend the night in London.

I am sorry for my rudeness yesterday about the length of Deb Robson’s blog post. I have atoned, I hope, by ordering her book (from – it doesn’t seem to be available here). She was, indeed, interesting on the subject of the shape of Shetland sheep tails.

Thanks for the help about Evernote, Mary Lou. I think I need to get Archie here for a weekend to upgrade the operating system on my iPad.  I think I’ve got an iPad 2 – I can’t look on the back to see because it’s wedged into a leatherette case. I don’t have a red light in my Settings panel. Alexander has a word game which he wants to play competitively with me. That, too, needs at least OS 5 so I have a double incentive.


Today should see the first sleeve of the Relax finished. Then will come an interesting try-on. I hope to approach tomorrow in a sufficiently leisurely style to take a picture of it (and of the beautiful Pakokku sock yarn). The sleeve, knit more tightly than the body, actually looks a slightly different colour. Or at least, shade. Not unattractive.


We’re getting on fine with the controls to cable television. My husband wanted to watch the Archbishop of Canterbury being installed yesterday, but the BBC2 broadcast didn’t seem to be available in Scotland. Our new TiVo box has a search function. I laboriously typed in “Canterbury”, mobile-phone fashion, and there it was – on BBC HD.

And my husband continues to fare well with his Toshiba. His text vanished only twice yesterday in favour of a blank screen. Once, the text and the blank page turned out to be in separate windows. The other time, it was gone. How can that happen, without the program asking him if he wants to save? But at least it was still available on the list and could be re-loaded.

We’ll take the machine along to Loch Fyne for the Easter weekend. Alexander and Ketki have a wonderful long kitchen table at which all of life takes place, and a warm house permeated by wi-fi. My husband can learn to surf. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Today is the second anniversary of my husband’s sister’s death. Cardinal Newman, who was of a somewhat morbid turn of mind, says something somewhere about how odd it is to think that every year we pass through the day, unrecognised, which is to become the day of our death.

That winter, two years ago, was a savage one, much worse than the one now ending – or, rather, not ending. But by the 21st of March, 2011, it was spring.

We got on well with the doctor yesterday, I guess. My husband’s oxygen-saturation is just where it was two years ago. He has been referred back to the Respiratory specialists, however; and also to someone for the Hand. His right hand sort of seized up a year or so ago. It could be a kind of diabetic arthritis, the dr said. It’s a nuisance to my husband. So lots of sock-knitting in waiting rooms looms ahead.

As for the Diaabled Parking Badge, the dr promised a supporting letter but was not at all sure that we qualify. I suppose that is encouraging, in a depressing sort of way. It doesn’t get us to Mass or to the National Gallery.

So today involves no excitement at all – a day for Getting on With Things. I feel tired already.

A propos of nothing: my favourite Scotsman columnist published this last Saturday. I’m going to cut out and keep.


I am developing my use of Evernote. It won’t go into the iPad, alas, without “OS 5” which (apparently) I haven’t got. I bought “Evernote for Dummies” despite reader-reviews on Amazon which said there was no need to, you could figure it out yourself. I thought the reader-reviewers didn’t realise how much of a Dummy I am – but they were right. Avoid the book.


This is a link to somewhat long-winded blog entries by the woman doing the sheep-research which is to be supported by the e-book that Myrna Stahman is contributing to: not an elegant sentence. See yesterday. I am not entirely persuaded by her drawing of a Shetland ram. He looks wise and even benevolent. All the sheep I’ve ever met look stupid and sly. Perhaps Shetland rams are different.

The Relax continues well. A couple more evenings should finish this first sleeve. I have gone down a needle size or two, as the designer suggests. I am wondering if the sleeve is too narrow, as a result. The Socklady’s latest post has a most interesting illustration of a pair of her wonderful socks knit by mistake on different-sized needles. The difference was only .25 mm but the socks are undoubtedly of different sizes.

The success of my sleeve will all depend on how far down the dropped shoulder comes. It’s meant to come to the elbow, or nearly, with this final narrow bit, therefore, for the upper forearm. Much to worry about.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All went well yesterday,  more or less. Cable television is reasonably easy to manage. The television set has become a zombie which will only operate under instructions from Richard Branson, but that’s all right as long as we can watch our programs.

It was a stressful day. My husband was working on one of the longest of his documents, 50 pages or so with more than 200 footnotes. Difficulties kept arising. The Virgin Media man needed guidance on the matter of stapling the famous cable along the sitting-room skirting. If I was ever any good at multi-tasking, I’ve lost the knack.

Later on, after Virgin Media went away, my husband finished that document and started on another, mercifully shorter. He managed to delete all the text and save the empty document back to the list. (Our antique DOS-based machine would have saved the previous edit automatically.) The machine started asking silly questions, he said, "so I gave silly answers". The proper version will still be on the hard disk of the old machine, and can be translated again into a modern format. In extremis, it could be reconstructed from the print-out. It's still a nuisance.

Today’s excitement will be the long-delayed visit to our GP in hopes of enlisting his aid in our application for a Disabled Parking Badge. By our standards, the appointment is at the crack of dawn, so I mustn’t linger here.

The weather has calmed down, although the forecast continues to promise lots of snow for eastern Scotland. I’m sort of glad. After today’s appt, we’ve got a few days clear – but I want to drive Archie from his school to the airport on Friday as he sets forth on his Easter holiday. With the weather like this, there’s no question of Strathardle – so Archie it is.


I made a good start on the first Relax sleeve (they’re short) at the end of a long hard day yesterday. I’ll be able to try it on again when the sleeve is finished.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that Franklin has made his Craftsy class (topic to be announced). All will be revealed in about a month. Exciting!

Judy L at the Patchworktimes blog is having a Pooling Sock Yarn Challenge. The prize is a $50 gift voucher from the Loopy Ewe. All you have to do is photograph your unknit sock yarn on a March calendar page, and then submit a photograph of the finished socks by June 1. I might as well enter my soon-to-be-knit Pakokku’s.

I heard from Myrna Stahman the other day. She is involved in the production of “an e-book, with the proceeds going to support the research of Deb Robson on the Shetland breed of sheep.” She wanted to write something about Gladys Amedro and, apparently, the obituary I wrote for the Scotsman is the best if not the only source.

I heard of Amedro's death through the KnitList. I remember wondering whether there would be an obituary if I didn’t attempt it. It was fun, ringing up all those people, like a real journalist.

Time to get started on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Filthy weather – wet snow and much wind. Catullus’ caeli furor aequinoctialis.

Today's considerable excitement is scheduled to be cable television. I have had email messages, leaflets in the post, and yesterday a recorded telephone call to remind me to be here. People must let them down sometimes.

I am composing on my husband's Toshiba in order to answer a number of outstanding questions – how to edit an endnote? I've cracked that one. How to get back to where you were when you have searched up 50 pages to see whether you had mentioned Donald Duck already? how to Go To a specific page? Those remain to be solved.

And at the moment, I have no pointer, which doesn't help.


I finished the front of the Relax last night, three-needle-bound-off the second shoulder, picked up stitches and started down the first sleeve. Real progress.

I had one of those rare moments of revelation while I was chopping up vegetables for lunch yesterday. I am, you will remember, knitting Greek Helen a pair of green Zauberball socks. Socks are my travel-and-waiting-room knitting, and since we don't travel any more and have been mercifully healthy lately, although old and fragile, progress is slow. Now I want to rush on with them so that I can start on my new Pakokku yarn.

I am knitting toe-up, Judy's Magic cast-on, Strong-Fleegle heel. I'm currently about a third of the way up the leg of the first sock, worrying about whether I'll be able to repeat the cast-on.

Yesterday's insight was: I can knit the second sock top-down. No one will ever notice. Fleegle-Strong is the same in either direction, I'm pretty sure.

[There's a little light on, on the mousepad. Is that why I have no pointer? YES – and I figured out what to do about it. Why would anyone want to turn the pointer off? The associated question is, how to use the function keys as function keys instead of for turning the pointer on and off (F5)? That must be a Toshiba question.]

“Vogue's 1st Book of Knitting” is listed on eBay at the moment – closing on Saturday midday. It looks like an astonishingly fresh copy, and the seller has had the wit not to flatten it in order to take pictures of the inside pages. Ebay continues to tell me when VKB's come up for sale – this is only the third example of that first issue that I remember from the last five or six years: the one I bought, a coverless one fairly recently, and now this.

[I've figured out how to use the function keys AND how to Go To a specific page. It is just possible that the thing you do in Word itself to get back to where you were – Shift F5 – will work in OpenOffice.]

Mr. Virgin Media is here. I had better close – except to say that Mme Defarge is now safely in my iPad library – that was easy and fun. Thanks, as ever.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Overslept. In some haste, therefore.

The Socklady has a new spring picture up. Does that road sign warn of the danger of being crushed by a runaway lorry?

Thank you for the help with getting Mme Defarge into my iPad .pdf library. I greatly look forward to having a go. The first problem – see yesterday’s comments – is to get it into the iPad. I tried in vain to move it as an email attachment yesterday. Deborah’s suggestion of moving it temporarily into Dropbox is simple and brilliant. It sounds as if Judith’s idea of using iTunes as the bridge would work as well. (I used iTunes and synchronization a bit when I was a new iPad owner. Since then, I just feed my Kindle habit by visiting Amazon directly from the iPad.)

I’ll let you know tomorrow.


I wasted some of the little time I had this morning, googling on the question of whether I want an all-in-one computer. I learned that they don’t necessarily come as touchscreens, Mary Lou. I think the answer is no, on the grounds of cost, tempting as is the (wholly illusory) prospect of a life free of clutter.

The second day of the Toshiba went well. My husband hit a weird problem, presumably an OpenOffice blip: when he tried to insert text immediately after a footnote number, it appeared in miniscule letters and superscripted. Creating a space between the footnote number and the new text didn’t help. Obviously, there’s a hidden formatting code in there that we can’t get at. The work-around is to insert the new text one word further on, and then, working backwards, delete that word.

After 25 years of saving his work every evening and immediately copying it to an external disk, it’s a bit disconcerting for my husband just to save with a couple of keystrokes and then shut the lid. The work is automatically backed up not only to the cloud but to my desktop along the corridor, via Dropbox. And will be waiting, in the morning, at the point where he left off. He never has to see Windows 8 at all. (I’ve done away with the need for a password.)


I finished the right-hand shoulder of the Relax last night. The instructions said to cut the yarn and leave the stitches on a holder. Later, they were to be three-needle-bound-off with the equivalent back shoulder. I thought I might as well do that right away, for several reasons. So I did. I’m not sure it’s a very neat job, but if it has to be repeated at least I’ve got the right length of yarn.

That left an object with one shoulder joined and no ball of yarn attached so I tried it on this morning. I’m not sure. Should it be bigger and easier as the designer intended? At this rate, even with Easter looming, I may well have it finished when we go to Loch Fyne next week. I am blessed with three possible Very Small knitting-recipients, Rachel’s daughters Hellie and Lizzie, and daughter-in-law Cathy. Cathy won’t be there, but Hellie and Lizzie will and I can see how it looks on one of them, with a lot more drape than it manages on me..

Sunday, March 17, 2013

All went well yesterday, except that France beat Scotland.  My husband likes his Toshiba laptop, and worked steadily on it without constantly calling for help. The Surface has served us well, in a sense. Instead of complaining about the extravagances of the modern computer as compared to his good old DOS-based system, my husband was glad to have solid ground under his feet. And I had picked up enough about Windows 8 to broaden the cursor and dim the screen without fuss.

I’ve also learned (not difficult) how to search his entire oeuvre, over several folders. I'm pretty sure that can be done in DOS as well, but I don't know how.

Knitting (remember that?)

I’m now within a couple of rows of the shoulder and neck shaping of the Relax – real progress, if ripping doesn’t prove necessary. And a good thing, too, because a skein of Beyond the Whirled Pakokku arrived yesterday, colorway Just Figs, the gift of one of you – I set out trying to buy it from her stash, as advertised on Ravelry.

I’ll take the current sock along when we go to Loch Fyne for Easter. I’m doing the leg of sock-number-one, on that one. (And I love Mary Lou’s solution to the problem of Second-Sock Syndrome, not that I’ve ever suffered from it. I wish I had done the current pair that way.)

One way or another, either when I finish those socks or when I finish the Relax, the Pakokku should feature in my near future. I’d attempt a photograph right now, except that time is tight on Sunday mornings.

I mentioned the ebook of “What Would Mme Defarge Knit?” the other day. Does anybody know how to get it from an email attachment in PDF-form into my iPad book library? One of the very interesting things about it (I hope I haven’t said this already) is that it is illustrated throughout with line drawings, not photographs.

I was startled, at first. The introduction remarks, rightly, that you can see all the photographs you want of the various designs by looking in Ravelry. The drawings are very expressive. It is often the case in horticultural tomes that a drawing gives a more accurate impression of a plant than a photograph can. Does the same apply to knitting?

I didn’t get to the Wool Festival yesterday. I was needed here to supervise the first steps with the new Toshiba, and I didn’t feel up to seizing the day by the scruff of the neck, anyway. We eat at odd hours – the only way for me to go anywhere more ambitious than the St James Centre is to organise a sandwich lunch for my husband. That doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes, as yesterday, it is more than I can face.

I look forward to hearing about the Festival.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A dull-looking day here in Drummond Place. Yesterday was like spring again, but the forecasts continue to mention the s-word, and anyway next week is studded with event for us. This week was the one for going away.


Abiword turned out to be no good – I loaded yesterday's blog into Word. It came up funny and it lacked the note.

In the afternoon I went up to John Lewis and bought a Toshiba laptop from a pleasant and extremely knowledgeable young man. It doesn't include Office, so I asked, in an off-hand way so as not to load the question, whether he could recommend a cheap and simple word processor. He suggested OpenOffice without hesitation.

It must have taken all of half an hour, when I got home, to set the machine up, download and install Dropbox (there's all my husband's work, ready to go) and download and install OpenOffice.  That was no problem, as I suspected it wouldn't be, on an up-to-date machine. Theresa, they had a Netbook and it was a sweetie, and cheap, and small – everything we want except that it lacked a touch screen. My husband has never taken to mice.

The nice young man explained that programs which weren't designed for touch-screen can be hard to use  because one's fingers are so blunt. OpenOffice offers access to the editing menus with Alt- and a significant key, like Word itself. I suspect that's what my husband will learn to use. And maybe he'll get the idea eventually of moving the cursor with the mouse-pad.

I'm composing on the new machine at the moment – then I can send the file to myself via Dropbox to try it in Word. It's nice to have the familiar menu bar and icons at the top of the page. The Surface editing page is completely empty except for three little dots in the upper right-hand corner. It's disconcerting, and a bit scary when something goes wrong.

So that's that. There's still a steep learning curve ahead for my husband but at least we're climbing the right hill.

...I’m now back with Old Faithful – it worked, as long as the OpenOffice file is Saved As. My mind is tired from all this technology, and the morning is moving on, but I mustn’t leave this subject without asking: have you seen the new computers which consist only of a flat screen (and presumably a keyboard)?  I didn’t know of such things, and was stunned with admiration. The Apple version, in particular, is wafer-thin.


Twelve more rows to go before the neck and shoulder shaping on the front of the Relax. Maybe two more evenings – they’re long rows – unless I watch an awful lot of rugby today. That’s possible. Scotland play France in Paris, but not until evening. Wales-England is the big one, earlier in the day.

I’ve spent too much time struggling with technology. I’ll have to stop there.

1    Let's try it this way.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Welcome, new follower!

Papal comments

Jean is right, I think, about how the Vatican tailor has three papal costumes ready, sort of as Goldilocks might, ready for a small or medium or large pontiff. I even read yesterday that all three were displayed in that tailor’s window until the Conclave actually started. He was quoted in advance as saying that the new man would probably be one of his customers already. It doesn’t sound as if that is the case.

And I also think our new Pope isn’t quite as stout as I at first thought -- I should have had the screen-size set at 4:3.

Mary Lou, I’m a Jesuit fan like your father. For some years, when we lived in Birmingham, I taught very elementary New Testament Greek to the novices of the English province. They were delightful young men, and I loved them dearly.


We really came unstuck with the Surface yesterday. I am making considerable progress with Word-for-Windows-8-RT or whatever it calls itself, but my husband is not. He pretty well gave up in fury after a morning when the program kept producing message-boxes in mid-screen or removing his text altogether. Once he called me when he came across a paragraph unexpectedly double-spaced. I tracked down “line spacing” in the on-line help -- but the technique specified wasn’t available. (I eventually solved the problem by applying a single-spaced template to the whole document and then changing the font back to Times New Roman.)

I sent him back to his old computer, and spent my afternoon trying free, simple word processors on my own desktop. OpenOffice proved heavy and slow -- not its fault, I am sure, but that of my old slow computer which lacks much free disk space. (Archie says I don’t need a new computer, just an external hard disk. He could be right.) I then tried AbiWord, a much smaller and lighter program -- and after all, we don’t need a whole Office suite, just a word processor.

And it seems to work fine. I am composing in it this morning. I don’t see an icon for adding a hyperlink, but I can do that after I copy and paste into Blogger. It’s not a feature my husband needs. It does notes, although the one I inserted didn't come through to Blogger correctly when I copied-and-pasted.

I then looked at the John Lewis website for possible laptops to run it on -- I feel I want actual salesmen to talk to this time. The three candidates I identified -- two Asus's and an HP -- were all marked “out of stock”. I figure that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t on display in St James Centre, and I may go up there this afternoon.

Here -- still a "technical" subject, although a different one -- is our future television cable, curled up on the area wall just inside the railing, under the lamp post.


I’m about half-way from underarm to shoulder shaping on the front of the Relax.

That's the back view. The sides are quite straight until stitches are added at the underarm. The trapezoidal effect is created by the unseen needle which holds the front stitches.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

More miscellany

n      One thing to be said for Lent: the fortnightly job of putting out the empties for recycling is easier than at other times of the year.

n      Don’t fail to watch the video Anonymous sent us yesterday. It is of a plane landing at Sumburgh Airport, photographed through the pilot’s window.

n      We enjoyed watching the proclamation of our stout new Pope yesterday. His white cassock fitted as if tailor-made for him: a great credit to the guys backstage. I read somewhere recently that the Pope’s white cassock is of wool. It must be of a splendid fineness, if so.

n      Meg Warren, one of the contributing designers, sent me the ebook of “What Would Madame Defarge Knit" yesterday. I have by no means finished exploring it yet, but am full of excitement. It’s not all French Revolution, for one thing. It is a collection of designs inspired by classic literature. Mme Defarge wouldn't have read much of it (especially if she lacked a good reading knowledge of English) and is likely to have been knitting something else entirely (i.e., she is just one of the classic characters who inspire the designs). I am taken with the idea of knitting Archie the socks based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”. Archie introduced me to Lovecraft recently. He read me a chilling story on one of our drives to the airport.

n      The new VK turned up yesterday, in a plain brown envelope. I don’t think there’s much there for me, but it’s always exciting when one arrives. And what about the Lotus yarns from China therein described? Jimmy Bean’s offers both mink and yak. Scarf, anyone?

n      We’re making some progress with the Surface. My husband likes it. I wonder if Microsoft Word 2010 for Dummies would help? Is that what we’ve got? It is very different from the Microsoft Word I use every day back here in Windows XP, but 2010 sounds rather a long time ago.

n      Virgin Media made a preliminary visit yesterday, and our very cable is now curled up outside the door. Really exciting.


I was going to show you a picture of the Relax but I’ve used up all my blogging time link-chasing. Tomorrow.  I think I’m pretty well on target, size-wise. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kristie (and everybody else) (comment yesterday) – for the size of the plane that gets you to Shetland, or at least, gets you about once you’re there,  have a look at Liz Lovick’s latest Northern Lace blog post. She’s one I always read, for the flavour of island life as much as for the knitting.

And there’s another interesting and odd tidbit in that post of Liz’s – a sheep which seems to have been born with the same syndrome as my grandson James, Alexander and Ketki’s son:  both are missing their right ear, and their skulls are slightly misshapen. Do animals have Downs Syndrome, then? (This syndrome isn’t Downs, of course; it has another name – I’m just thinking aloud.)

James makes regular visits to Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London. He was there a couple of weeks ago. The Great Man showed him pictures of possible cosmetic ears which could be constructed and attached, and James said no, thanks, and that was that for now.

Being that far south, the Loch Fyne Mileses went on to Paris by Eurostar for a weekend, along with Rachel and her husband. This was in mid-Lent and Paris isn’t much fun without a sip of wine. Ketki (who is brilliant on many fronts) had the solution: start Lent early, so that there were a couple of extra days in the bank when they were needed. Rachel is the fiercest Lent-keeper of us all, but she was willing to buy that.

Very miscellaneous

 -- I learned from Zite this morning that Kate Gilbert founded, owns and runs the Twist Collective. You probably knew that all along. I knit the Clapotis once and feel I know her.

 -- The last time we had a Papal Conclave, my fishmonger told me the day before the election that he had had a dream in which they elected a Frenchman who took the name Benedict. The next time I was in the shop, I asked if he had anything for the 3:30 at Kempton, but he couldn’t oblige.

 -- I was chatting to a neighbour yesterday about the Troubles of Life, and learned that she recently installed a new aerial for her television – at a cost (£180, I think she said) which makes a cable subscription seem, if not cheap, at least reasonable. I figure that a year of Virgin Media will cost about what one of our little art-seeking trips to London used to cost (they charge you for breathing in and out, down there). And we used to do that two or three times a year.

 -- My husband went back to the Surface yesterday, and finished polishing another document. I tried to retrieve it this morning to en-cloud it, and was told I couldn’t have it because it was locked by another user. That must mean that it is still open somewhere or other in the machine. But where? I will have to return to that problem. Sometimes touching the little Word icon at the bottom of the screen produces a menu of open documents, but not today.


I finished the back of the Relax, as hoped, and now have a comforting few days of mindless knitting up the front. I actually kept count of the number of rows in the back between underarm and shoulder-shaping.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lots of miscellany today, if I can remember it all.

I solved the stitch-count problem on the Relax – pretty simple, really. Both front and back lacked two stitches. That must mean I didn’t finish the underarm dolman increases properly. I have restored the missing stitches to the back – too late to go where they should be, but at least, in selecting their random positions, I put one on each side of the center mark.

I am now shaping the shoulders – lots of short-row’ery. It is not entirely unlikely that I will finish the back today. I don’t think it will be possible to have a serious consideration of size and fit until the front is also done.

Stephen West has posted a blog entry with wonderful pictures (taken by Jared?) of a photo shoot in Iceland for his new ebook, “Westy’s Besties”.

Here’s a picture Alexander took on Saturday morning. Ketki’s jumper is of some antiquity now – it looks very fresh, and is perhaps saved for wearing to rugby matches on particularly unpleasant days. The yarn is the real Guernsey thing from Frangipani and the pattern, if I remember aright, “Mrs Laidlaw’s pattern” (Seahouses I) from Gladys Thompson’s seminal “Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans”. (I think that book deserves that portentous adjective.) The actual sweater was constructed with the help of Beth Brown-Reinsel’s “Knitting Ganseys”.


Much snow has gone from Drummond Place, but much remains, and it is savagely cold. I haven’t been in touch with anyone in Strathardle yet to find out how much snow is lying there. There will be a lot. There’s not much point in our going while it is so extremely cold, anyway. Too cold for gardening. Wait and see.

The big news is that Virgin say they will come and install our cable next Tuesday, a week today. At the moment I am actually looking forward to mastering the TiVo box. We wanted to watch three things at 9 p.m. yesterday and in the end managed it by finding repeats for two of them. That sort of thing is child’s play to the TiVo, I gather. (“Broadchurch” and the history of Syria were the other two.)

BBC1 stuttered and coughed all the way through the early evening news yesterday, but pulled itself together, mericifully, for “Shetland”. On that subject, don’t fail to read Knitlass’ comment yesterday. (The link is to her blog, but the comment, of course, is here.) I never entirely mastered the story but it didn’t entirely matter. If they weren’t going to film in January I think they might have cut Up Helly Aa out altogether – it wasn’t really essential to the plot and felt discordant all the way through.

There is a scheme afoot – I won’t say more at this point – which might get me there in September, with Helen and Rachel both lined up to move in with my husband for the weekend. I was a bit taken aback to see how very small the airplane was. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

There is snow lying in Drummond Place this morning (for only the second time this winter, I think) and news reports speak of traffic disruption hither and yon. So, no Strathardle today and probably not tomorrow. I am scared of going but would like to get it over with. 

Knitting went badly last night – approaching the shoulder and neck shapings of the Relax, I thought it a good idea to check the stitch count. Something is wrong and today’s job is calm counting. Partly for that reason, partly because the television was stammering rather badly, perhaps partly from too much laetare, I didn’t entirely engage with part 1 of “Shetland”. There was not much knitting in what I saw. The treeless landscape is very impressive.

I am sure the BBC will export it in their own good time.

Was it really photographed in January? The characters keep talking about Up Helly Aa, but it doesn’t feel dark enough. Last week we watched a rather interesting 5-part thriller called “Mayday”. One of its merits was that the English countryside had absolutely been caught in that glorious 1st of May moment.

I have heard from the Raveller who had engaged to sell me two skeins of Into the Whirled from her stash – one Manchester and one Pakokku. Now she says she won’t – the package is on its way, as a gift.


I watched only a few moments of yesterday’s match – England-Italy at Twickenham. I assumed England would win 137-3. The English team must have made the same assumption. They won, but only by 18-11, a narrower margin than the Calcutta Cup match. Viva l’Italia!

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Every morning – Lent or no Lent, cider or no cider – I weigh myself on digital scales and write down the result in my electronic Filofax, otherwise devoted to knitting. I lost 20 pounds or so in 2009. It started in Lent, with an additional resolution not to allow myself to replace the absent cider with chocolate. I kept the weight off in 2010 and 2011. 2012 didn’t go as well (=more cider).

So you’ll want to know that this morning, I was 7 ¼ pounds lighter than on Ash Wednesday (good), but 5 pounds heavier than on Laetare Sunday last year (I mustn't forget).

Knitting news

Craftsy has been working harder and harder lately to gain my custom. They’ve finally cracked it – Franklin is making a class. The only thing that has been holding me back is that I haven’t got time. I’ve always got time for Franklin. His topic is as yet unannounced – never mind that.

It is from Franklin, too, that I learn of the Fiber Factor design competition. That’s going to be fun to follow.

And – not from Franklin, this titbit – tonight we get Anne Cleeves and Shetland in a new BBC television series. I don’t recognise tonight’s title, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t one of the two I’ve read. The news is that some of the Shetland knitting we will see comes from my neighbour Kate Davies! That’s 1-0 to the Second New Town.


Well, you will have guessed that yesterday’s silence was due to an influx of family. We had a nice time with Thomas-the-Elder on Friday evening. On Saturday morning the Loch Fyne Mileses breezed in for an hour, all of them looking very well. Alexander says he has recovered from shingles. The areas where the rash was, are numb, he says – as if the nerve endings which were so uncomfortable have now died? He took some pictures of us all milling about in the kitchen -- I hope I'll have some to show you.

After a while the Mileses carried Thomas off towards Murrayfield, where, subsequently, Scotland lost to Wales. The Mileses are devoted attenders at Glasgow Warriors home matches, and come over to Murrayfield not infrequently. Alexander said yesterday that his sons have never seen Scotland win.

It will be grand to see them all again at Easter, and that's not far away now.

The weather has turned savage, including some snow, after balmy lamb-and-daffodil days early last week. I don’t know what we’re going to do about Strathardle.


Not much was done during all this excitement. A couple more rows remain of the Relax before I start shoulder shaping. This evening, surely. But I must keep my eyes on the screen so as not to miss Kate Davies.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Continued progress on the Relax. Now that I have split the work at the underarm, the next instruction is to knit straight for 6 inches. Another two sessions should accomplish that. Then the shoulder and neck shaping starts, with pages of short rows. That means I will be able to strike them off one at a time, and sail forward. So far, I am still in the first half of the first page of the instructions.

I love these illusionary boosts.

Anonymous, I think what Kathleen Kinder meant by that remark about the “figure-hugging” tendency of a piece knit as a tube, was not a gauge change but the actual behaviour of the knitting – as contrasted to two pieces knit flat and seamed. The false seams should help. So should the fact that the Relax is so generously-sized that it can’t very well hug the figure.

To revert to sock knitting: day before yesterday eadaoine provided a long comment describing what I think is called a Turkish cast-on. It’s a very good one. I remembered as I read it, that I had done it during my sock-technique-learning phase last year. I kept notes, up to a point, and was thus able to put a name to the process. It’s worth saving the comment if you have toe-up tendencies and don’t know this one. Much, much easier than Judy’s Magic.


The New Yorker turned up yesterday. It was (absurdly) thrilling to find our own Cardinal alluded to on the cover and mentioned by name in the first Talk of the Town item. There’s glory for you! The New Yorker is a good deal kinder to him than to Mahoney.


Our lunch guest lasted all afternoon (as expected) and meant that there were no further struggles with the Surface yesterday. (I did get the skein of yarn wound while she was here, though.)

Thomas-the-Elder will be here for supper this evening, staying the night. He has come up for a friend’s birthday party tomorrow and the Scotland-Wales match. The Loch Fyne Mileses will be going to the match as well – they’ll drop in here tomorrow morning. All these tech-savvy people ought to be able to advise on the Surface. Alexander occasionally sells on eBay – he can advise specifically on that. We’ve got the original box and the little get-started leaflet. He’ll also know how to clean the hard disk – I haven’t done that since the days when an inadvertent “format c:/” would plunge you into the abyss.

Thank you for the suggestion of a Samsung, Tamar. I will remember. When our editor came to see us last week, he had a nifty little notebook, not a Samsung, with a solid detachable keyboard. Someone at Yale (the epicentre of British art) had recommended it to him. I remembered its name for a few hours, but foolishly didn’t write it down, and it’s gone now. I could ask.

Maybe I’ll live to see the Surface declared the Edsel of tablet computing. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Here’s where we are with the Relax:

As you see, I’m hitting the target size pretty well. I have now divided at the underarm. The slight tedium of purling the return rows is more than compensated for by the illusion of progressing twice as fast.

My hope, at the moment, is that I can follow instructions for the shoulder and neck shaping as given for the smallest size –the number of stitches I actually have; and deviate only when (as at the moment) the instruction is to knit for a specific length. For that, I look to a larger size. I am, as I have said, prepared to rip.

My copy of  Kathleen Kinder’s “Inspiration of Lace Knitting” arrived from Country Knitting of Maine yesterday. I ordered it on the 1st of March. Remarkable. It’s a meaty work, although I haven’t spent much time with it yet. It begins with a history of lace knitting before going on to analyse and chart the patterns on the sampler in the collection of the Knitting and Crochet Guild (UK) at Lee Mills, near Huddersfield. The knitter has dated the sampler, 1891.

Unusually, for such a work, machine knitters are catered for.

At the end, she provides suggestions for a sleeveless shell, and a “semi-fitted sleeve block”. A schematic is provided – no measurements, but a clear indication of which measurements would have to be determined. That section begins with the words, “Knitting in the round with its ‘figure-hugging’ propensity is not a suitable technique…”

Did I know that? Is my Relax doomed? Will Meg’s false seams help? Oh, dear.

Most if not all of today’s knitting time will have to be devoted to skein-winding, anyway.


Shortly before your kind comment arrived, Theresa, I had finally grasped the dreadful truth that the Surface will run nothing except Apps from the Store. There doesn’t seem to be a suitable easy word processor there.

I was up at John Lewis’s yesterday, buying a couple of memory sticks among other things. The computer section was unusually peaceful, so I approached the Customer Service counter and told the young men there that I was seriously disappointed with my Surface. Not Lewis’s fault, I hastened to explain, as I had bought it directly from Microsoft.

They were very sympathetic. The Lewis’s notice next to the machine says specifically that it runs only Apps from Microsoft’s own store, and the men assured me that they explain this with care to potential customers. “It has a keyboard and a USB port and runs Microsoft Office…” I said.  He finished the sentence for me: “…and you thought it was a computer.”

I can’t upgrade to a Surface Pro because we haven’t got it in Britain yet. And anyway having to pay extra on that machine for Microsoft Office is ridiculous (even if I don’t want Office). I should have bought my husband a real notebook computer. I had better nerve myself to write to Microsoft.

There's lots I want to say about yesterday’s comments, but we’ve got someone coming to lunch again today.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

I’m three rounds short of finishing the underarm increases of the Relax – so today I will probably split the front and back, and tomorrow I ought to be in a position to show you a photograph. I continue very pleased. And Ariana – comment yesterday, arrived in the last few seconds – you’re right that a circular needle will make a better stitch holder than waste yarn. I’ve even got point protectors – I won’t need to struggle with rubber bands.

My benefactress has sent a photograph of the Pakokku yarn she proposes to give me. Golly! We’re hoping to go to Strathardle next week. It lacks a dedicated knitting project. I’ll take along the current socks, in the hopes of having them near-finished when the Pakokku arrives.

That means taking along a text to help with Judy’s Magic Cast-On. (But of course, I’ll have my iPad.) The current sock is a toe-up, using that start and a Strong-Fleegle heel. I’m currently well up the leg of the first sock.

All I can remember about Judy’s cast-on is that my problem doesn’t lie with the up-down motion of the right hand, as emphasized so strongly in the YouTube videos, but with the question of which way around the needles the yarn is to be wrapped. Maybe remembering that is all I’ll need.


We had a frustrating day with the Surface yesterday. I don’t even know whether it is Word for Windows or the Surface itself which brought me nearly to tears. At one point yesterday, the text my husband was working on simply disappeared. I struggled for fully 20 minutes, tapping every icon I could see or conjure up, before I got it back. I have no idea what he did to lose it, nor what I did to find it.

What we need is a much simpler, more basic word processing program. It must be able to read and Save As Word documents. Beyond that, normal editing functions, block & cut, find, Go To a particular page – that’s about it. Any ideas? Googling reveals that there are several such programs, free. The Surface App store doesn’t offer any, but maybe one could be downloaded from the ether and would actually run, unlike Dropbox.


Thank you, Ron, and stash haus the day before.

Yes, Angel – one of you emailed me yesterday about the trouble at Oberlin. Most extraordinary. Something like that happened while I was there, meant in that case as a joke: a bonfire near the Memorial Arch, with hooded KKK-type figures. We had an editorial in the Review the next week, I remember, with the headline 'Tain’t Funny, Bunny. (Bunny being the name of the undergraduate idiot whose idea it was.)

Shandy, linking yourself to a Chinese peasant via Degrees of Separation isn’t difficult, although you’ll probably need more than four. The peasant will know his local communist party apparatchik. He in turn will know others further up the chain of command. Pretty soon you’re in Beijing with someone who knows James, at least well enough for the purposes of the game. And you know me, since our happy day in Franklin’s class at Loop.

The Amazon Rain Forest might be trickier.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Let’s start with knitting.

The Relax is far enough along that I can see another Sock Phase on the horizon, perhaps giving me a chance to recover some of the things I learned temporarily last year. I have heard from the Ravelry stash-seller who can let me have one of her Pakokku skeins – “Vampires of Venice” alas is gone. One of you wrote to me offering to send a skein she owns, just like that. I am deeply touched. And there’s your offer, Beverly, to look out for it at yarn festivals.

And, Holly, no, I didn’t know about the Planned Pooling website, and look forward to using it. I have added it to Evernote, after a bit of a struggle.

I admire your newly-installed public sculpture extravagantly. (I used to live in Salt Lake City, long enough ago that memories have faded. We went swimming in the GSL that Sunday in 1939 when the war started. My father told me, remember this day, and I have done so. I’m just coming up to it in Vol I of the Cazalets.)

Another evening or two will polish off the dolman increases of the Relax. I have resolved to leave half the stitches behind – for, from there, I’ll be knitting back and forth – on very thick yarn. I keep having trouble with left-behind stitches pulling so tight on their waste yarn that recovery becomes difficult.


We’re nearly half-way through. Day after tomorrow is the dividing line – and this coming Sunday is Laetare Sunday, when cider will be consumed. I’m not losing weight as fast as I did last year -- a bit of a disappointment. Four or five pounds, so far – not to be despised. I have one of those little cardboard collection boxes they hand out in the back of the church, and every morning I drop in three pound coins to represent (some of) the cider I didn’t drink the day before.

The box is getting nice and heavy and rattle-ly. At the end I will put all the pound coins back in the bank and send a donation to the Marie Curie hospice where my husband’s sister died two years ago. I read their bulletin board while we were there and learned that about half their funding comes from the NHS, per patient, and the rest from charitable donations. Their services are completely free at point-of-need, including home nursing.

It must be slightly different in the US, where those all-pervasive insurance companies are inevitably involved.


Cardinal O’Brien has left the country. A nice, hospitable Irish monastery is the temporary refuge I would choose for him if my opinion were asked. Will he ever be able to come back? It seems very hard to take Scotland away from the man, as well as all else.

I am sorry to have given the impression of being unsympathetic to his victims, if victims they were. We still don’t know, probably never will, whether we are talking about isolated incidents many years ago or a settled pattern of life, about drunken gropings or a habit of buggery. The mention of heavy drinking in this context distresses me as much as anything: crapulous priests are not uncommon.

We in the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh are suffering the additional indignity at the moment of being run from Glasgow.