Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We’re having a splendid time, somewhat tinged with sadness for all of us, I think, in realising that it won’t be like this ever again. Greek Helen has seized control, organising the cooking and summoning tradesmen where things need to be done (where my husband and I just make lists). And child labour has been impressed to get quite a bit done outdoors.

Archie and my husband, tidying a half-fallen tree on the west lawn: 

We are overrun with deer. I don’t think a day has passed without one of us seeing some, either in the garden or visible from it. And the garden is full of their droppings (I’m sure there’s a technical term). Just exactly like a kitchen infested with mice except that deer are prettier.

The Beast of Strathardle

One of the children, walking home over the stubble field, found the corpse of a recently-dead lamb, apparently savaged by a large-ish animal. Attentive readers will remember that when we first went up in April, we found the leg of a deer in the kitchen garden, and, on a later visit, the leg of a lamb on the west lawn.

The farmer took the news calmly. I guess you have to be pretty calm to be a farmer. He said that lambs are rather prone to SIDS and this one could have been mangled after death by a fox. He also said that he had seen what looked like a panther on the hills above Cultalonie two years ago, but keeps quiet about it because people wouldn’t believe him. The boy who cuts our grass and found the lamb’s leg, said the same thing.

Prince George of Cambridge

I have been horrified, absolutely horrified, to discover that the prince was shown to the world in a store-boughten shawl. Experts agree that this was it, although the first reports said that it was the cashmere shawl from the same maker, as chosen by Victoria Beckham. (British readers will know; I’m not going to explain.) A couple of days ago, there was a coy line on the website about increased demand for the cashmere shawl due to recent events. Emphasis now seems to have shifted to the cheaper one.

All that was required for this occasion was a simple hap shawl, which thousands of knitters would have been overjoyed to be commissioned to produce. You want cashmere, madam, I’ll do you cashmere. Perhaps I should rejoice for G.H. Hurt.

Then the Mirror newspaper came up with this, claiming that Prince William himself, and his father, had shawls from G.H. Hurt. Really? Prince Charles was born in Buckingham Palace, I’m pretty sure, and I’m even more sure that he wasn’t displayed to the world in the forecourt of the palace by the Princess his mother or the Duke of Edinburgh or anybody else. There must have been an early Beaton photograph of the Princess smiling into a cradle. It’s hard to believe a machine-made shawl was visible.

I am being curmudgeonly.


Amongst the pile of mail on the mat when we got back yesterday was a nice letter from Barack and Michelle congratulating me on my forthcoming 80th birthday. I suspect Theo’s fine Italian hand has been at work again. 


  1. Would deer droppings be fewmets, or are those solely of the Questing Beast?

    1. Anonymous4:56 PM

      My thoughts exactly!
      -- stashdragon

  2. Oh dear Jean, I have to agree - you are being curmudgeonly! After all, the technology is very old; the company likewise.
    I can well remember, in the 50's, and early 60's wishing my Mum could afford to buy me a machine knitted cardigan - so much smoother and less tickly than home made, and in this warm weather, less overwhelmingly warm. This in the days when one did not go outside the garden gate with out a coat or cardigan over the summer frock.

  3. As I understand it the young Prince George is getting a shawl from New Zealand - hand spun cobweb weight merino yarn and a Margaret Stove design which appears in her latest book. I am not certain but I believe it is to be used at the Christening. I should have put my paws down with a firm thud and demanded Australia supply the wool to New Zealand but the previous PM had ideas about kangaroos instead. Perhaps I should knit a wee version of that koala garment his late grandmother made famous!

  4. Good to hear from you, Jean. The oddest thing we ever had "Drop in" was the front end of quite a large pike, found on the netting protecting our brassicas after a snowy period. This we surmised had been dropped by a heron, and had been impossible to retrieve because of the netting.

  5. Beats me why people feel the need to copy the royals (or celebs) by buying the same clothes/stuff...

  6. I hadn't followed where the shawl had come from, I think it will make that style of shawl more popular again. At least it was made in Britain and has brought a British company some work? Instead of say made in China or something? But handknit would have been nicer.

    Enjoy the rest of your time in Strathardle

  7. I think as you approach a certain milestone you are entitled to be curmudgeonly. I thought the same thing when I saw the machine knit shawl. Then I was reminded of Queen Mary's efforts to support British industry, such as being seen pouring from a Brown Betty teapot, knowing thousands would wish to ape their betters. Do you suppose that could have been part of the decision?

  8. Gerri2:21 PM

    Hopefully the shawl was chosen because of who gave it to them or some other reason that marked joy or tradition. If Carol or Pippa knitted a shawl and Kate refused to use it, that's another story...but it would still be her story.

    Really, nothing would have satisfied. If it had been a hand-knit cashmere shawl of rare value, there would have been critique of that as being too high brow.

    I hope you continue to enjoy the birthday/family time at Strathardle.

  9. Do I detect a bit of crankiness for not getting a call from the Palace to knit a fine shawl for the wee babe? ;)

    I'm glad the next generation is taking charge of Strathardle. After hearing of your previous trip there I was afraid you would be having to give it up altogether.

  10. Anonymous5:57 PM

    I saw an internet story about Prince Charles receiving a gift, on behalf of the young prince, of a hand-knit Shetland lace christening gown. The wool was from one of the rare breeds of sheep he has been promoting/saving. 'twas beautiful, but there was no promise made that the younger generation would choose to use it.

    1. Royal babies are christened in a replica of the christening gown Queen Victoria commissioned for her children (until 2008 it was the actual gown but it's now too fragile).

      I will dissent and say that I thought the shawl was lovely, and the part of me that is an amateur textile historian and not just a knitter was fascinated by the history of the framework knitting technique used to make it. There is complicated protocol around the use of official gifts, so even if the New Zealand shawl has arrived in London and been presented it probably couldn't be used for this occasion. A shawl they had bought themselves was probably safest if there are no knitters in the immediate family.

  11. Lynne in Florida6:12 PM

    Dear Jean, the center holds solely due to the efforts of us curmudgeons. When the last of us fails, the world is off in its handbasket.

    Do I not recall reading of the escape of several animals from a circus train (or perhaps it was a game farm) somewhere along the borders several years ago? This might explain your beast.

    Enjoy the rest of your holidays, and return to the fray refreshed.

  12. Your comment about Prince G's store-bought shawl reminded me of a Maggie Smith line in Gosford Park when she is served store-bought marmalade with her breakfast, "I call that very feeble indeed."

  13. I too was appalled by the prince being shown in a machine knit shawl. And I'm not even a Britsh citizen. At least it wasn't acrylic. My farmer grandbaby will be swathed in hand knits. I expected no less for a prince.

  14. Anonymous6:52 AM

    It looks like they did get a Margaret Stove shawl, they just didn't use it.


  15. I pity the poor couple, who has to be graceful in accepting unasked for gifts and is supposed to use them every time they're seen in public. while the maker would be very proud, hundreds of those, who made something would be equally annoyed about not being chosen! I am a knitter myself, but I wouldn't dream of making cashmere stuff for any baby, because I know how much work goes into washing and blocking that stuff. nothing I would wish on any young mother - though I assume that the royal couple won't do their own washing...