Friday, January 31, 2014

Skeindalous, just follow the link in yesterday's post (just above the image) to the auctioneer's page – the artist to whom the picture is there “attributed” is the man who painted it. The link still seems to work this morning. My brother-in-law also sent this link to what sounds like a press release from the auctioneer. The excitement over “our picture” is mentioned. Perhaps we were na├»ve to hope.

Here is my sister's account of the action, slightly redacted to remove the artist's name. (And what's with that word, which suddenly seems to be everywhere? What's wrong with “edited”?) As for the artist's name, and my wish to keep this space free of art historians, James and Alexander, with technical help from James's son Alistair, point out that an image search is perfectly possible. I've blown our cover by posting that one yesterday. 

Anyway, here's Helen:

There were four serious bidders besides us; two men at the back of the room who dropped out at around ten thousand.  One on the phone who dropped out at 20.  The winner was a young pretty woman who sat in our row; she hadn’t been there long.  She entered the bidding fairly late (?18 K or so) when it was between us and the phone; the auctioneer commented “we have a new bidder”.  She didn’t behave like she had any doubt.  Increments at this price are 2,500; the last three bids were her at 22.5, us at 25 and her win at 27.5.  Both Roger and I think she would have kept going. 

I don’t believe she stayed to bid on anything else and I hadn’t seen her bidding before. I saw her at the desk afterwards doing paperwork.  I think maybe she had a British accent and I believe she was talking about shipping.

One of the two men talked to us afterwards to try to find out who we were.  We said we were bidding for someone else.  He said he was a “private collector” and launched into a discussion of his belief that the painting was worth hundreds of thousands.  He believes it to be of MHA's sister which I gather means he knows a little but not very much but he did say it was a wonderful painting.  The other man appeared to be a dealer; he was bidding on other things as we were leaving. Afterwards we were sorry that we hadn’t asked to see it before the auction started but we didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves.  

And when we went to console ourselves the Oyster Bar was closed for renovations!”


Little to say here; little was done yesterday. 35 scallops have now been accomplished, of the 50 needed for the final side of the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

I have definitely decided to lay it aside, when finished, and knit the rest of the shawl the way the pattern is written, centre-outwards. That means I'll miss out on two particular pleasures: the sense of increasing speed as one knits inwards, decreasing towards the centre; and the fun of knitting-on an edging, which I particularly enjoy. But which won't be necessary since I've already got an edging – and it'll have to be attached.

I had pretty well decided to start the centre by “knitting on” the stitches, as Sharon describes both in the pattern and in Heirloom Knitting. She offers a waste-yarn start as an alternative, but that involves so much fiddly picking-out at the end that I can't face it. I notice I've used it for the edging. That's enough.

There are plenty of provisional-cast-on alternatives. I've struggled with most of them in my day. Purl Bee came up with this excellent tutorial this morning (thank you, Zite) and I am tempted to give the crochet-chain another chance. The excellence lies in the photographs. I can at last see (I think) exactly what I am supposed to do.

Maybe next week!

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Yesterday's excitement was our attempt to secure this picture

at auction in NY. We failed. The link is to the auctioneer's page. As you can see – as long as they leave the page up – the estimate was absurd. We were 99 44/100's percent sure (are you old enough to remember those Ivory Soap ads, during the war?) that it was painted ipsissima manu by My Husband's Artist (henceforward, MHA).

[I don't mean to be coy – but I don't want anyone who googles the artist's name, or my husband's, to pitch up here. This little corner of cyberspace is reserved for Us Chickens.]

The picture has been “whereabouts unknown” since the late 19th century. But in his as-yet-unpublished magnum opus, by husband describes it ad unguem: the composition, the size, the colour of the woman's dress. It could still, theoretically, be a copy, but it doesn't look like one, on-screen. There is a sort of inertness to a copy which even I can recognise most of the time.

We knew we'd have to outbid the people who could see that it was, in my husband's phrase, a “bloody good picture”, and then the ones who thought it might really be an MHA. We underestimated the financial stamina of the latter contingent. We thought the precision of our knowledge would carry the day.

But we tried. We took Alexander's advice and bid as high as we could – so at least we aren't left feeling this morning that we could have pushed a little harder.

When they got back to CT last night, tired and dispirited, my sister wrote a lively account of the event, which we will print out and preserve for posterity. We had at least four serious competitors.

So – that was Wednesday. At least we don't have to worry and fuss about shipping (let alone pay for it). It will be interesting to see if anyone writes to my husband in the next couple of months, seeking advice on this picture.

So – knitting. 33 scallops done, of 50, on the final side of the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I'm getting there.

And I paid the income tax, with some difficulty, and ordered a belt for my husband from L L Bean, with some more. So it wasn't entirely a wasted day.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Here we are. I have heard from both my sister and her husband this morning – they are in place, in NYC. Although no blizzard was involved, Helen says that the train down yesterday was slow. That's more than the nerves could have endured, this morning – their first plan had been a 5am departure today. Roger says they had a very nice Indian meal last night and he hopes we can do this again soon.

Our friend S. – originally, Greek Helen's friend from her Cairo days, now a good friend to us all – came to the door yesterday with more quails' eggs and Weston's Vintage, richly undeserved on my part. By way of thanks, I told her what's happening in NYC today – I hope she passed it on to you, G. We'll all know, tomorrow.

29 scallops are done of the 50 needed for the final side of the Unst Bridal Shawl edging – so the halfway point is well passed, and the next percentage point mine for the taking. The new needles turned up yesterday – Meadow Yarn is not to be faulted for service.


I am grateful for all your help on this subject. I am seriously sorry not to have the oomph at the moment to write to each individually.

What the nurse meant, even though she was clearly wide of the mark by mentioning Disability Living Allowance, was that once you had something from the gov't, the Edinburgh City Fathers would wave your application for a Blue Badge for the car straight through. We applied for one two years ago and were turned down – but my husband's capabilities have declined a good deal since then, and I must try again. At some point I looked up Carer's Allowance (or whatever it's called) and we didn't qualify – my husband can still take care of himself, except for occasional help with socks. As long as meals and computer-assistance are provided, but there are no boxes to tick for that.

I agree that it is necessary to answer their questions by saying what is possible on one's worst day, not one's best. We have a kindly neighbour (with Strathardle connections – it may or may not be a small world, but Scotland is certainly a small country) – who is eager to help us fill in the form. Perhaps the best thing would be to invite her around for tea and form-filling, as soon as one or two more immediate hurdles have been cleared.

The first of which, is actually to pay the income tax. I hoped they might at least have sent me an e-invoice. The day I filed our return, payment sounded so complicated that I just logged out and went away. They don't seem to take PayPal. However, I have heard nothing from them (except an acknowledgement of the return) so I must go back in this morning and face up to it. Penalties for non-payment start Feb. 1.

We won't have news from NYC until the end of the British afternoon. Something to do with the rotation of the earth.

There is not much knitting in this bulletin. I am inspired to go back to some of my recent lace-knitting book purchases.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

We got through yesterday, but it cost us both.

Your kind comments came too late – I took the edging along. It was a mistake – but no harm was done. I was too trembly to knit with pleasure, and my husband's name kept being called causing us to spring up in mid-row to gather up all our bags and coats. He saw four separate nurses before we got to the actual doctor – the weigh-in, bloods, a lung-function test, and finally a nice talk about Life.

That final nurse thought we would qualify for Disability Living Allowance, and once we had that we could easily get a Disabled badge for the car which is what we really want. I don't want to take money from the state which we don't need (and complicate the income tax still further) but I'll look it up. The badge for the car would be very useful – you can park on yellow lines.

When we finally saw the dr, he agreed that the whole exercise was pointless. There is nothing they can do for my husband except to provide him with oxygen, and we don't think things are quite that bad yet.

The one thing to be said for having taken the edging along, was that it was a great conversation-starter amongst elderly respiratory patients. One particularly nice woman told me that she had had to give up knitting because of arthritis. That would be terrible. I wondered afterwards whether mastery of the Shetland technique with a knitting-belt would extend one's knitting years at all, since so much less movement of the hand is required.

And I mustn't forget that mastering the belt remains high on my to-do list.

In the midst of the morning preparations, the yarn from Jamieson & Smith arrived – and it bears the same lot number as the four balls I bought in Lerwick over the counter in September. Meadow Yarn says that my needles have been dispatched – no worry there, they'll go through the letter box. So we're all set. All that has to happen is for Hellie to get engaged. I'll look pretty silly if she's left on the shelf.

It is a general rule of life that worrying about something more-serious forces lesser worries to resolve themselves. I think there is an Old Chinese Proverb about the cure for toothache being to shoot off your big toe.

I've now knit 21 scallops of the 50 on the final side of the Unst Bridal Shawl edging – nearly half-way. One at the hospital, the rest peacefully, with steady hands, at home. Thinking ahead a bit, and presuming my percentages to be not-too-far-off, if I can do a fifth of this thing in a little over a month (I started on December 26), I ought to be able to finish it comfortably this year, with a bit of extra knitting on the side.

My sister phoned last night for an eve-of-battle chat in preparation for Wednesday. She and her husband will set off for NYC this afternoon.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Another short-and- boring, I'm afraid. 15 scallops done on the fourth side -- and I ordered the needles! Thanks for yesterday's nudges in that direction, Mary Lou and Skeindalous. Meadow Yarn is wonderfully prompt, and I asked for 1st class delivery. The needles will be here any moment, And so should the yarn be – it didn't turn up on Saturday as hoped. But I've got months and months before I'll need it – I can afford to play games with the Post Office on that one.

Today's event is an appt for my husband at the Respiratory Dept of the Royal Infirmary, rather resented in the circumstances. They can't do anything for him, we're all pretty sure of that. (His oxygen saturations are surprisingly high, given how breathless he is.) It's a day's work, getting started in time, fitting in meals so that he doesn't go hypoglycaemic on them, getting there, parking, waiting, driving back again. We have been warned that they're mucking about with the parking lots at the Infirmary so there's something to worry about.

There are better potential uses for the time and energy which will have to be expended on all that.

On the other hand, Making an Effort is often beneficial. I felt ill enough yesterday that I hoped my husband would say he wasn't up to going to Mass. But he didn't, although I went on hoping virtually until the moment we walked out the door. We got there, and were rewarded with a sermon-less service. The priest had a cold, and didn't trust his voice. Hachem must have planned that bonus for us from the foundation of the universe.

Anyway, today. What about knitting? There will be waiting time, assuming I am able to park and join my husband in the respiratory dept. The Pakokku sock? Or roll the edging up and secure it with a rubber band and take it along?

 Wednesday is day-after-tomorrow.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I'm glad to hear you're not all receiving this with key words double-underlined to lead to you junk ads. I have “reset” Google Chrome again. We shall see. Why can't McAfee deal with this? One of the worst sites for ads is, for me.

Eleven scallops done, of the fifty on the final side of the Unst Bridal Shawl edging. Needles not ordered – I must seriously try to get that done today. Yesterday was Polish-cleaning-woman day. She arrives at 7:20 a.m. and works like a fiend for two hours, leaving us much cleaner and more ironed, but me as shattered as if I had done it all myself.

This is the first day of the week with Wednesday in it. What can I tell you without giving the show away? The scene of action is NYC. My sister and her husband are key players. They are nobly going down from CT on Tuesday. The original plan had been a 5 a.m. start for them on Wednesday morning, but when we added the Fear of Snow to the equation it was more than we could bear. Alexander and Ketki come into the story. Ketki will be in NYC in a fortnight (she travels a fair amount for work) and may then become a key player herself. My husband is giving orders from the wings.

There – I don't think I've told you too much. King Midas has asses' ears; I can assure you of that.

I found this YouTube sequence on Facebook this morning. It's rather sweet, although totally unfair to cats.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I had a successful dr's appt yesterday – except that I feel no better, but that's par for the course. I took taxis – thanks for your encouragement. There were plenty of parking spaces, more than there are later in the day, so I won't need to indulge in such an extravagance again. The nice young dr took my problem seriously. He's taken bloods. I'm to go back in a fortnight. That gives it a good chance to get better on its own.

I was early, not having to accommodate my husband's love of the last minute. And despite the early appt, the dr was running late. So I got more Pakokku sock done than I expected. I'm very near the toe shaping, and really ought to absent myself from the felicity of lace knitting for an evening to polish off Sock One and cast on Sock Two. Either my symptoms will go away by themselves; or something will turn up in the bloods which they can give me a pill for; or I will have to be referred for Further Tests, and in that case I'll need a sock to knit.

And, on socks: there was a letter in the Waffy (=Telegraph) on Thursday from a man who complained that the seams of his socks sawed into his feet. The letter any of us could have written in reply appeared yesterday, suggesting four little sticks with a point at each end and 100 gr of wool.. I must cut it out – she used the words “kitchener stitch” with a lower-case K, like that. Not all that long ago, before the internet made us all one, British knitters didn't know the phrase. I tried it on my sister-in-law once, perhaps 20 years ago. She was a life-long knitter, continental-style, and a good one although not an enthusiast. She had never heard of it .(As Lord Kitchener hadn't, you may remember, when I wrote to him about it.) EZ was surprised to encounter it, when she got to America.

That implies – it only occurred to me yesterday – that it was common in knitterly speech in America in  the late 30's, and certainly during the war years. I had been working on the hypothesis that it was a WWII revival of an WWI idea. But EZ must have heard it used by people who use it as we do today, assuming a fellow-knitter knows what we're talking about.

Lizzie is back in Kansas, and sent this picture of herself about to venture into the cold in her beanie. It goes remarkably well with the Union Jack.

Sue sent me this link to a story about a knitting robot. It's sort of scary.

I've done six scallops on the final side of the Unst Bridal Shawl edging – time to order those needles, one 24” and one longer. I've got a good selection of needles of the right gauge – but all metal. They must have done fine when I was knitting the Princess, but by now I derfinately need to see a contrast between yarn and needle. The supplementary yarn from Jamieson & Smith was dispatched the day it was ordered, they said, and may arrive this morning. It's wound on largish cardboard cylinders – the package won't go through the letterbox.

Every time I pick up that edging, I am transported back to Burrastow. Although, in fact, I didn't buy the yarn until our last day on Shetland, when we had already left Burrastow (probably forever) because I insisted on being a good deal closer to the airport for our final night. But I imagine myself knitting by the peat fire, going for a walk in the late morning, having a nap in the afternoon, looking forward to Pierre's evening menu.

It was Knitsofacto who found it for us – I was dubious about the distance from Lerwick. And then, most sadly, she was unable to join the adventure. A family wedding – they can be as bad as funerals.

The pop-up menu plague has extended itself to editing my text this morning -- anything double-underlined will take you to an ad. I hope your more robust systems have excluded this feature. I'm sorry about it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Again, not much to say. 47 scallops done – I should get around that third corner today. You're right about possible changes of sheep, Weavinfool – so I took your advice and ordered the rest of the yarn for the Unst Shawl from Jamieson & Smith, not without a bit of a struggle. There was a slot where I could enter the current Lot Number, in the hopes that they still have it.

I wish you'd do some more blogging.

I'm still having trouble with pop-up ads. For the moment, I'm just suffering them. Jamieson & Smith was dreadful, but you may be sure that the government web site was entirely ad-free, when I was filing our income tax the other day. So it's not entirely my fault. Worst is when I click on something and get something entirely different – that keeps happening.

Hellie wrote to thank me yesterday for my contribution to her Paris marathon effort (link yesterday). She said that she and lovely Matt are buying a flat. I boldly suggested that they get married, and promised to finish the shawl this year. She didn't seem to take offence.

Dep't of King Midas and his Asses' Ears – next Wednesday is the big day. And I learned last night from a phone call that one of us has a second interview that day for a distinctly desirable job. Wholly separate issue, same day. I had better say no more just now.

I won't be here tomorrow. My dr's appt is early, 8:20. I've put the cleaner off until Saturday. I am worried about parking – normally when we go to the GP, all I have to do is drop my husband at the door and then devote myself to finding somewhere to park. That won't work tomorrow. Here in Drummond Place, the traffic wardens don't start duty until 8:30 – which means that the paying places are full, until then, of the overnight freeloaders. Maybe they start earlier in the West End. Maybe I should take a taxi.

If the Good Lord had meant us to worry, He'd have given us things to worry about. (An immortal line from Fawlty Towers)

A Serious Man

I don't remember a grocery store scene, do I? Please remind, Mary Lou. Every moment counted in that film, so I should remember.

Does anyone remember the scene in an otherwise, I believe, utterly forgettable thriller-type thing where Donald Sutherland goes to a late-night grocer but can only find a kind of cat food which his cat doesn't like, so when he gets home he shuts the cat out of the kitchen and transfers the contents of the tin to an empty tin of the kind the cat does like? I don't think we even see the scene where the cat rejects it.

The new Coen Bros film is about to open here in GB. I think perhaps we have seen them all, and I wonder if there is any other director of whom that could be said. I would welcome advice from GB readers about how to get it to view at home. What is “Netflix”? We used to subscribe to LoveFilm but couldn't keep up with them.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Again, little to report.

I've done 43 scallops (out of 50) on the third side of the Unst Bridal Shawl edging – another percentage point, and the final corner is in sight.

Once I'm past it, I'll order those needles – a 24” one certainly, for the centre. And I think two longer ones would be a good idea – because at the end, I plan to pick up the stitches from the flat edge of the edging, and perhaps even knit around once or twice, marking the corners, so that I'm sure I have exactly as many stitches as on the border itself, before I start attaching. I totally agree with your principle, Mary Lou – “order them all, what the heck”.

The first ball of yarn finally expired, in the middle of scallop 36. I find that I bought four, that day in Lerwick – what on earth was I thinking? It'll be quite a while before I need to order any more. The other three are clearly marked “25gr”. Something must have gone wrong with the printing of the first one. It's nice, just at the moment, to have those ends hanging there showing how much distance I added last night.


Hellie (who will one day wear the Unst Bridal Shawl, I hope) is running in the Paris Marathon to raise money for Children with Cancer. I don't know why Paris, or why that charity. Here's the link to her donation page. It's all very organised these days.

Her Aunt Helen – that's Greek Helen, my daughter – posted this on Facebook. It's funny.

Ellen, I loved your comment yesterday about the making of A Serious Man. I don't remember, my first time through, that I even noticed it was set in the recent past. This time, the clunky telephones cried out for attention. An interesting essay could be written about Telephones in Movies. Remember Gekko with that brick-sized mobile in (was it called?) Wall Street? And how could you do Assault on Precinct 13 these days? (I know it's been remade – something about not getting a signal. It was better the first time.)

Sort of expanding on your idea, Kate – the prologue establishes that the supernatural is involved, which you might not suspect from the rest of the movie. And announces that the point of view is going to be seriously Jewish.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Not much to report, today. I filed the income tax – they say I owe them money. I made a dr's appt for myself, and pursued the question of why the cleaner didn't turn up last Friday. It was only this morning that I grasped that these two achievements overlap – I am to go see the dr early on Friday morning while the cleaner is supposed to be here. I'll have to think about that one. It might be better if she didn't come.

It has been a long time since I went to see a dr for myself, so I just asked to be assigned to anyone in the practice who had a slot free. I have wound up with the nice young man who made the house call to see my husband a fortnight ago, so that's good. I am now watching myself anxiously for fear of feeling so much better by Friday that there's no point in going.

34 scallops done on the third side, edging the Unst Bridal Shawl. The first ball of yarn obstinately refused to expire yesterday, but I don't think it can hold out much longer.

Last night we watched the Coen brothers' “A Serious Man”. We had seen it in the cinema when it came out, and I was eager to see it again. I didn't knit a stitch. I was struck with how economical it is, as so often with a good film. The effects I remembered so vividly – the unctiousness of the dreadful Sy Lieberman, for instance – were conveyed with far less screen time than I would have thought possible.

I still don't see the relevance of the prologue, involving the appearance of a dybbuk in the snow in eastern Europe somewhere. Life is absurd, and tilted against us? The film itself could well be viewed as a retelling of the Book of Job.

I was puzzled the first time I saw it by the word “hashem” which several characters use, referring (clearly) to God. That first time, I had forgotten the problem by the time we got back. Yesterday, at home with my iPad, I looked it up. It means “the name” and Jews use it to avoid using the Name of God in speech. (Everybody in the film is Jewish except for a sinister next-door-neighbour. At the end, after the credits, there is a little Coen-brothers disclaimer: “No Jews were harmed in the making of this film”.)

Catch it if you can.

It is nearly time to think of ordering long rosewood circulars for knitting the body of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Sharon Miller seems to think that 24” is all that is required, and I think EZ says somewhere that that is the only size you'll ever need. I would have thought something a bit longer might be useful when you've got the whole circumference to deal with.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The income tax is done, ready to file on-line. So that's this morning's job, followed by half an hour lying down in a darkened room, as EZ recommends after taking scissors to one's first steek. Then on with the things my husband keeps nagging me to do, and my own to-do list, a longer one which overlaps his at some points. I'll make a dr's appt for myself, feeling somewhat foolish since I am capable of walking in there. The nausea persists, however.

Our niece writes that she will be happy to come here on March 8 and watch the Calcutta Cup with my husband. I think I could just about leave him on his own for that amount of time, but I will be vastly happier knowing that she is here. The one thing needed to make the prospect perfect.

There is a cloud on the horizon, however: Ash Wednesday is March 5. I knew that Easter was very late, and had sort of hoped that Calcutta Cup Day would escape the net. When we won the Cup in 2000, having lost all our other matches that season and England having won all of theirs, the match was played on Laetare Sunday, the day-off in the middle of Lent. "Laetare" means "Rejoice!" That must have been scheduled from the beginning of the universe.


Another good day with the edging, another percentage point. Today should see, at last, the end of the first ball of yarn. Peering again at the pattern, I see that Sharon thinks I will need nine balls, not seven as I claimed recently. If so, I have done only about 11% of the whole. Never mind – this isn't meant to be rocket science. I will continue to score ten edging points as one percentage point, for the purposes of the sidebar.

Weavinfool, I had been thinking along the lines you suggest: why don't I cast on the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl, once I finish the edging, and knit the rest of it the way Sharon intended. I think your comment has tipped the balance. That will leave something like 1200 stitches to be attached at the end. But I can still pick up the edging stitches and perhaps even graft them to the body of the shawl – I love grafting. Or I could attach it some other way – I am a graduate of Franklin's Craftsy class on Heirloom Lace Edgings, after all. I can do anything.

Why am I knitting edging-inwards? The phone call with Rachel in which she mentioned that her daughter Hellie was feeling a bit sad at not being the first to wear the Princess, must have happened just before Christmas. I had this wonderful-seeming (and so it has proved) yarn I bought at Jamieson & Smith in September – I was itching for an excuse. I decided to take it along to Loch Fyne on Boxing Day and employ my leisure hours there (no meals to plan or cook) on getting started. I already owned Sharon's pattern.

But I hadn't knit lace for a couple of years – I thought edging-knitting would fit in rather better to a family party than casting on 165 stitches and plunging straight into the centre. Also, I learned what little I know from Amedro: she always knits edging-inwards. Which is, indeed, the traditional way. I'm glad I did it this way – the first few repeats were very clumsy and difficult, but I now feel I'm back in the saddle.

So that's the current plan.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Alexander got the tickets!

When he got to the head of the on-line queue yesterday morning, he found that tickets were available in all parts of the stadium. So he started with the best – no, nothing. (Presumably they had only singletons, and he was asking for two.) Then the next best. Same thing, Then the next – and then he began to panic for fear that the parsimonious fans would be starting at the other end of the scale (no ticket to the Calcutta Cup is anything like what a reasonable human being would call cheap) and by the time he got there, those tickets would be gone too.

I don't know how he resolved this dilemma, but he says that Mark and I are in a corner of the ground-level tier. That sounds fine – not exactly the 50-yard line, but not the Black Hole of Calcutta either. (hey! A joke!) I've been to Murrayfield three times, I think (win, win, lose). The third time, we were sitting upstairs and I didn't care for it at all. That was the year I won tickets to the Calcutta Cup in a newspaper competition. We found ourselves in a disconsolate group of newspaper-ticket-winners, some from places in England so far-flung that they had to leave before the end to catch the last train home.

Kick-off is at 5 p.m. I profoundly disapprove of the way sport after sport has become a thing of the night. Perhaps the first and worst was my once-beloved baseball. I am trying to become a cricket fan – a proper, five-day Test Match is still played in daylight. Everything stops for lunch and tea. But it's an uphill struggle on my part.

The match is on March 8. And this time I will stay until I see Princess Anne (she'll be there) hand the Cup to the winning captain. Maybe I'll be the only person in that whole huge stadium who has ever knitted it.


Here's the Silly Christmas Project at last, in James's hands. The pattern is in the book “Knit Your Own Britain”. It's not very good (my rendition isn't, I mean) but at least you can see what was intended.

I've now done 23 2/3rds scallops on the edging for the third side of the Unst Bridal Shawl – another percentage point, and today I should pass halfway.

I've been thinking about the borders – it's obvious I'll have to swatch. There are lots of diamond motifs which may flip over without difficulty – the problem is that I am knitting the shawl edging-inwards whereas it was written centre-out. But there are also trees, and they've got to be right.

There's a Tree of Life Border, edging-inwards, on p.163 of Heirloom Knitting which may solve a number of problems.

It's funny how much I resent the idea of taking some time off to swatch. Real knitters like Franklin and Kate Davies swatch all the time. I remember when I was knitting a Christening shawl for James' and Cathy's youngest, in 2000, and wanted to incorporate the Calcutta Cup which Scotland had gloriously and unexpectedly won that year – couldn't I just chart it and start knitting? It was an Amedro pattern knit from the edging all the way in to the middle. I was nearly finished when Kirsty was born, and wanted to put the her initials, mine, her birthday, and the year in the four quarters of the shawl – with the cup under the “2000”.

And of course I couldn't just bash on. I had to swatch to see if it worked. My lace Calcutta Cup is pretty basic, but it involves curved handles, based on something in Susanna Lewis' splendid “Knitting Lace”. My first attempt did indeed have to be tweaked. If I were using Old Slowcoach, my desktop computer, I'd show you a picture of the result.

If I'm so happy to be devoting 2014 to the Unst Bridal Shawl, why should I begrudge a week of swatching?

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Today's news is only potential, not actual, but worth mentioning now so that we can all savour it for 24 hours before it turns out not to happen.

I might be going to the Calcutta Cup!

Tickets are of hen's-tooth-rarity. Alexander has managed to secure some for himself and his family because of being season ticket holders at Glasgow Warriors. The rule was two per applicant, so he and Ketki applied simultaneously from two different computers and thus got the four tickets they need, actually sitting together.

But he phoned last night to say that a few leftovers will go on general sale today. If he can get another two, I will go with his utterly best friend from school days in Birmingham, a delightful man, still a Brummie but now also a Q.C. He can explain the finer points of the game to me, and indeed some of the coarser ones. But we will be shouting for different sides.

It will be a particularly resonant match (whether Mark and I are there or not) in this year of the Referendum. [The Calcutta Cup is the annual rugby match between Scotland and England, one of the world's oldest sporting fixtures. The cup itself was made in India, in the days when the match was played between two teams of British colonial civil servants.]


Good progress yesterday (no income tax). I've now done 17 of the 50 requisite scallops on the third side of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

The first ball of yarn is about to expire – I doubt if it will finish the side, The pattern asks for 7 25gr balls of fine lace yarn. The ones I bought at Jamieson & Smith are oddly lacking in an indication of weight on the ball band. The website supplies the deficiency – they are 25grams. I am rather pleased to discover – at least so I think – that my guess at percentages for the sake of the sidebar, is more or less right by this different measure. 1/7 is about 14%.

I posted my problem to the Heirloom Knitting Group on Yahoo yesterday, and fared better than I had on Ravelry. The question was, will I need to alter the border patterns because I am knitting them edging-inwards whereas the pattern was written centre-out? Someone suggested swatching, which is not at all a bad idea.

And Myrna Stahman herself replied. She said that she and other list members were involved in the evolution of the wonderful Shetland Supreme yarn I am using. It's a matter of woollen-spun and worsted-spun, as so often. The new yarn is the latter. The old, unsatisfactory (I've knit with it: crede expertae) J&S cobweb lace yarn was woollen-spun. If I could take one piece of advice with me into my next incarnation, it would be, learn to spin.

And Myrna also said: “Lace worked in garter stitch is much more horizontally reversible than lace worked in stockinette stitch. But, most lace knitting designs are not horizontally reversible. For those which are not horizontally reversible you will get a much different pattern motif if you just use the charts upside down. Using charts for lace upside down is one avenue we have explored at my Annual Boise Lace Knitting Retreats. Sometimes using a chart upside down produces a nice, interesting pattern motif, but often that is not the case.”

I think that means I had better swatch. Sharon says something on the subject in Heirloom Knitting, as I may have mentioned, but I'm not sure I understand. But if I swatch a motif, first right side up and then upside down, I might come to grasp Sharon's instructions about how to reverse it.

From the Internet

I seriously like Cotton&Cloud's top-down saddle-shoulder sweater for gents. Archie? if we win the Calcutta Cup? The "Cup '14" motif could be repeated discretely somewhere. I somehow don't think the Little Boys wear sweaters very much, per se. We'll have to talk about it.

And I also like Jared's Frieze scarf – had we but world enough and time.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Medical bulletins

Our niece F. learned on Wednesday that she will need chemotherapy to finish zapping her recent cancer. We had all been bounding about thinking, that's that. I have the news at second hand, from F's elder sister here in Edinburgh, so details are a bit blurred. Gene-analysis comes into it. She'll lose her hair. Should I knit a chemo cap? Surely yes.

All is more-or-less well here, medically.

Other non-knit

I had a grand time lunching with J. yesterday – shoes and ships and sealing wax came into the conversation. She is working at the Public Records Office – between there and the Conan Doyle where we lunched lies John Lewis. She had made some delicious purchases in their yarn dept.

 I did no more work on the tax. One event a day is about my limit. But I was most encouraged to learn that J. hasn't done hers yet, and it sounds much more complicated than ours.


Not much of that yesterday, either, but what there was went smoothly forward.

I went back to Ravelry to see how the Heirloom Knitting Group was getting on with my query about the Bridal Shawl. I told the story in brief – Hellie's feeling that she will have missed her chance for the Princess when her brother's bride wears it. And I went on to ask whether I needed to make any adjustments to the border patterns since I was going to knit them from the other direction – Sharon wrote the pattern centre-out.

There are some interesting responses, but they all address Hellie's problem rather than mine. I'll have to try the Yahoo group which Sharon herself reads.

Lisa sent an interesting link in a comment yesterday to some new, free (to Rowan members) patterns from Kaffe. Some nice things there, but my feeling remains that he has already said what he has to say.

I was terribly glad to hear, Anonymous, that you actually saw the exhibition of knitted vegetation at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. I fear, by now, that it is a place I will never visit (in that respect, like Lake Van, in eastern Turkey, where the pussy cats swim). It keeps appearing on the horizon. I am sure it came into the story when I was obsessed by natural dyes.

More non-knit

The new Polish cleaner, Eva, hasn't turned up. Unprecedented, in our brief acquaintance. I'll have to make some phone calls. Worse, I'll have to put everything back in the kitchen, which I cleared at 7 a.m. so that she could clean it. Worse than that, I'll have to do last night's washing up. For the first time, yesterday, I thought, what the hell, I'll leave it for Eva.

I'd better get cracking.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Yesterday was a good day on the knitting and the income tax fronts. Not too bad on health, either. My husband has finished his course of antibiotics, pronounces his jaw cured, and has resumed grumbling about other ailments. We await notification of a hospital appt to explore the cause.

I rounded the second corner of the Unst Bridal Shawl edging, and proceeded a whole six scallops along the third side. Any minute now I can order a long 2.25mm (I think it is) rosewood needle for the borders. Perhaps I might treat myself to a shorter one as well, looking forward to the centre.

And the tax is pretty well done, except for some final tidying up in the areas of pensions and Income From Land. Our farmer pays us a pitiful rent, unchanged for decades, for the use of our broad acres in Strathardle, and the electricity board pays an annual Wayleave for having planted a few poles on our land. It has to be documented and declared.

Once that's done, and the return filed on line, I'll make an appt with a dr for myself. I think we can rule out pregnancy, Anonymous (comment yesterday), although the thought had crossed my mind – it feels a lot like that, but not as bad. Thank you for your comment, Tamar. I knew that stress was a likely cause, I didn't know that heart was a possible one.

It – nausea – was the first symptom of her colon cancer which my sister-in-law reported to me, in the September before her death the following March. I don't think it was the first symptom in fact. She had been suffering from recurrent lung problems for a couple of years. “Atypical pneumonia” came into it. I had assumed – until that moment when she mentioned nausea and the fact that her GP suspected cancer -- that all our health conversations were about lungs, although sorting through memory later I think I can spot cancer symptoms, most especially weight loss. Devoted as I am to William of Ockham, there doesn't seem to be a connection between the chronic condition and the fatal one.

So I'll get myself checked out.

I'm going to have lunch with one of us today, at the Conan Doyle – a local pub so called because the Great Man was born within a stone's throw of it. I've been past it a million times, but never inside. It'll be fun, even if I ingest all my calories in the form of cider. Especially if.

The Internet contribution this morning is rather sad – the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a small, brilliant exhibition of knitted vegetation. The sadness consists of the fact that it's been on since October 1 and is about to go off on January 22. Zite, where were you? Do at least follow the link and marvel at what you see.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Yesterday evening a friend phoned to say that another friend had just left a bag on our doorstep. It contained:

You will have to forgive winter morning photography.

I am overcome at the kindness involved. We will lunch on quails' eggs with a tomato salad and a baguette, very Nigella. The cider is half-consumed already. I went down to the big Tesco's on Broughton Road again yesterday – they still don't have it (or quails's eggs).

Have I ever done anything half so nice for anyone in my life?


My husband was distinctly better yesterday, so I didn't phone the dr. When I asked him how he was, he replied in terms of other ailments rather than his swollen jaw. His right hand is swollen and stiff with rheumatism (or something) – we have had appointments and prescriptions related to that, and more are scheduled. It is painful and, of course, extremely inconvenient, but there is nothing to be done at the moment. Today is the last for the current course of antibiotics.

I did, however, phone the Royal Infirmary and ask for today's routine diabetic appt to be rescheduled. Blood sugars are under control, his eyes have recently been tested for diabetic retinopathy (they passed), the local podiatry service pays close attention to his feet. The Infirmary can wait. Getting there is a hard day's work. I feel as if I have been given an extra day of life.

My own symptom, a near-constant slight feeling of nausea, persists. That will be next week's problem, once I get the income tax filed. I had a very good session with it yesterday and feel hopeful.


I've done 49 scallops, so today should see me around the second corner – 50 scallops per side – of the Unst Bridal Shawl edging. It went badly yesterday, with confusion and rippings-out. I found myself at one point with an undersized lozenge, as if – it happens – I had omitted the middle four rows of the 12-row pattern. Everything has been successfully recovered. Bring on the galloping horses.

From the internet: Glasgow wants knitted microbes, and is providing patterns. Fun, if you like that sort of thing, They should get lots.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On the health front: my husband didn't have a very good day yesterday, although he was perhaps better in the evening. Today I will phone the practice and at least speak to the dr who came to see us last week. And as for me, I didn't do as well as I thought I would, first thing in the morning, but still, I think, a bit better than before. No income tax.

Neither of us has much appetite. Modern cookery books, with which my shelves groan, don't go in for chapters on Invalid Cooking, so I sat down with Nigella Lawson's “How to Eat” yesterday and read the chapter on feeding small children. (That's a book I would recommend unreservedly – it's the one that made her name, I think.) Then I went to Tesco and bought that sort of thing, baked beans and canned salmon and pasta and carrots and so on. I couldn't find quails eggs, which felt like a brilliant suggestion.

I rely heavily on Weston's Vintage Cider for my own calories in a situation like this, and just at the moment the shelves are empty at my local suppliers. I bought a couple of substitutes on Sunday, Westons but not Vintage, and soon poured them down the sink. There is always that stalwart British remedy for all problems and all ills, hot sweet tea. Normally I don't drink tea at all, and try to avoid refined sugar. But hot sweet tea is welcome just at the moment and comforting and goes down easily and it must pack in the calories.

Knitting went well yesterday, even if the income tax didn't. I've now done 44 scallops on the edging of the second side of the Unst Bridal Shawl, so I might even reach the second corner (50 scallops) today. It's going smoothly. I can usually find my place when I am interrupted mid-row by the telephone or when my thoughts drift off. We'd better have a picture soon – it looks just like the previous picture, except that there's more of it.

What I can show you is my friend Janis Witkins' yarn. She is described as a “local knitting goddess” in the link. The pictures are from Stitches East. And, as previously promised, I'll let you know when her on-line shop is in action.

And from the Internet – Jared on hisKelpie Shawl design, again, so many nice things, so little time.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thank you for your many kind messages. I'll keep on writing, however brief and boring the news.

I think we may have turned a corner. My husband seemed better yesterday, blood sugars down, although still grumbling that his jaw aches. I am sure there is much in what Kristie and Tamar said in comments yesterday – that the antibiotics themselves may be making him feel unwell. I had pneumonia some decades ago, not a pleasant experience, and I remember being frightened as the course of antibiotics neared its end – would the disease surge back? In fact, I felt very much better almost as soon as I had downed the last pill. My husband has three more days, including today.

And my own symptom seems better this morning – we shall see. My plan on that one is to leave it to fester until I have filed the income tax. I hope that will be this week. I simply can't face another story line until that's done – and by then the symptom may have gone away, or may have accumulated a cluster of others to make diagnosis easier.

And knitting is going well, too – I do love that Monday Morning feeling. I've now knit 38 points of the 50 needed for the edging of the second side of the Unst Bridal Shawl. That means that the second corner, the half-way point, should be reached this week. The other two sides perhaps won't spill too far into February. Joining the border into a circle, picking up more than 1000 stitches, counting and counting and counting and establishing the borders – that won't be easy, but it won't take forever, either.

And Hellie isn't even engaged.

That point, once reached, might be a good one at which to pause and polish off the Milano. I'm so near the end – this is a dangerous moment to leave it. The exciting news on that front is that Kate Davies has knit it – after reading about it here! I couldn't feel more proud if I had had an OBE in the New Year's Honours, although the glory is all Carol Sunday's. Kate has made some interesting modifications.

And the other good news is that the Silly Christmas Project has reached Beijing and was very well received. I've asked for a picture. Cathy and her daughter Rachel were in London last week, staying with sister-in-law Rachel and investigating schools. They will be returning permanently from China in the summer, when Rachel will be ready for the sixth form. It went well. Cathy then carried the presents home to the Middle Kingdom.

And from the internet: Alex Capshaw-Taylor's account of designing and knitting her wedding dress is worth reading. I must do something with Bavarian Travelling Stitch. So many potential projects, so little time.


Dawn, I'm pretty sure, seeing your comment yesterday, that it was you who taught me to Google-search a blog. Thanks again.

Ellen, thank you for your remarks about Hilary Mantel. I will read Wolf Hall. At the moment, my reading is in a worse state than my knitting, although mercifully obscured between the covers of my Kindle. I'm reading Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum. I'm pretty sure I have started it before. I have temporarily abandoned “Norwegian by Night” and Le Carre's “The Honourable Schoolboy” and mean to finish both. And I've still got to go back to the Cazalets one day.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My husband is still not well. Dozy, poor of appetite, highish of blood sugar. I'll have to get back to doctors tomorrow. And I don't feel entirely sprightly myself. I am devoted to William of Ockham, who has solved many a problem for me with his principle of trying the simplest explanation first. In this case, it would be that my husband and I are ill-ish from the same cause. But I don't think it's true, and my jaw isn't swollen.

I had considered dropping the blog for a awhile – medical bulletins from the geriatric ward are not what you look for when you open a knitting and general-life blog. But then my sister's husband sent me this, this morning:

and then came your comment, Tamar.

You may have learned that trick here, for Googling a specific blog, but it was because someone else, whose name I have ungratefully forgotten, had proposed it. This time, it goes straight into Evernote, and I will soon check out your suggestions for tracking down the particular post I want of Franklin's. Thank you.

So I'll go on for a while.

Knitting proceeded yesterday, amidst the general gloom. I earned my next percentage point. And a friend in CT sent me a picture I can't figure out how to post, of her yarn at Stitches East. The second time I went to Camp Stitches on Lake George (oh! Happy memory) I needed to get from there to the mouth of the CT River to visit my sister and my mother. Much on-line struggle with timetables seemed to indicate that it was easy enough to travel up and down the great river valleys, the Hudson and the Connecticut, but not at all easy to get from one to the other.

So I advertised on the Knitlist for a lift, and J. responded. She lives almost within walking distance of my sister. We had a lovely day's drive – we stopped at Webs! I've seen her only once since, when she and her husband, another delectable J., came to supper at my sister's house and I cooked them a chilli which was embarrassingly lacking in heat.

But we've kept in touch. She is now dyeing her own yarn, in a small way.  It looks sort of like Candace Strick's “Merging Colors” line, which I have always admired (but never knit). J. is working on an on-line sales site, and I will keep you posted.


Skeindalous, I was grateful for your reference yesterday to the Feral Knitter, writing about books. That website led to And there I am tempted by the one which goes simply: Read that book. In my case, it would be Hilary Mantel's Booker prize winners. I've read a lot of Mantel, including her French Revolution one, “A Place of Greater Safety”. Why am I afraid of the Booker books?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I guess I'd say that my husband is no better and no worse. Mary G, I will certainly try getting him to suck on a lemon. The nice dr rang up yesterday – he is referring us to a hospital to determine whether the difficulty is caused by a stone – presumably analogous to a kidney stone or gall stone. I think the antibiotic is a fairly hefty one, and will of itself make him feel somewhat subdued.

Meanwhile his publisher is (at last) zooming in on the Magnum Opus. The cloud certainly simplifies things, but it's all rather stressful as well, especially as my husband isn't well enough at the moment to speak to the publisher himself, and I'm bound to get it wrong.

And I must get back to the tax today, after all this excitement.


Tamar, you know everything.

May, 2008 must be very close to the post of Franklin's which I am remembering – a little tangled heap of yarn with a caption something like, It'll be fine when it's blocked. (He's knitting Miller's “Wedding Ring Shawl” in May, 2008 – I don't think he ever finished it.) In the post you mention, he says he is abandoning the red yarn he started with and has ordered something finer from Sharon Miller. But then it arrives (July 2008) and he gets on fine with it.

Maybe I want the moment when he was swatching for the shawl he knit his niece. He did finish that one, and I contributed one of the Latin words around the perimeter.

Meanwhile, as Sue says, we have had the first Panopticon of 2014 and it's very funny.

I got a bit more edging done yesterday, the happier for having abandoned my seven-scallops-a-day target. I should earn myself another percentage point today. I like the scarf Franklin has done for the Dreaming of Shetland e-book. I approve of the cause (research into Shetland sheep) and will probably buy the book, but I wish it were on paper. I don't like e-books when it comes to knitting.

For his scarf, Franklin has abandoned the tedious centre of the scarf and simply mirrored the edging.

My edging is small enough and light enough and portable enough that I'll be able to take it along to hospital appts, of which we have a good sprinkling this month.  

My sister rightly grumbles that we have been short of pictures lately. I'll try to do better, but don't feel strong enough this morning,

Friday, January 10, 2014

A brief touching-of-base to let you know that we're here and more or less all right. My husband isn't well – a mump-like swelling on his jaw, uncomfortable and debilitating. A dr came yesterday (it's disconcerting when they're suddenly the age of your grandchildren – he could have been Thomas-the-Elder). He thinks it's an infected salivary gland (some gland, anyway) and has prescribed a fairly stiff antibiotic. We'll see today whether there's any progress.

Meanwhile much bad tamper and little knitting.

So I failed to meet my seven-a-day target for the scallops on the Unst Bridal Shawl edging. I did reach the half-way point on the second side. That's something.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

I had a successfully strenuous day yesterday, above 7000 steps on my pedometer which is twice what I register some days. I feel the better for it. There was also some excitement, unrelated to my trudging about, and I feel like that character in Greek mythology who couldn't bear the secret he knew and eventually solved his problem by digging a hole in the ground and shouting into it, “King Midas has asses' ears!” I'll tell you next month.

And I got my seven scallops done – the day's target for the Unst Bridal Shawl edging. I should pass the half-way point on the second side today.

I should mention that the yarn is wonderful, Jamieson & Smith's Shetland Supreme 1-ply lace weight. I wish I could remember the details more accurately: on our first day in Shetland, at the museum in Lerwick, we learned from our delightful guide on the Textile Tour that this yarn had recently been launched, as a collaboration between J&S and the museum, to reproduce as closely as possible in commercial terms the yarn that the old shawls were made from.

My very first venture into fine lace knitting, Amedro's Cobweb Lace Wrap for Rachel's 40th birthday – that takes you back! – was knit with J&S cobweb yarn. It wasn't very strong, it even broke in a couple of places. I didn't use it again. (Somewhere in the introduction to Sarah Don's Shetland Lace book you will find that the same thing happened to her.)

This yarn is entirely different. Inspired by what I had heard about it, I bought three balls when we finally got to J&S on the last day. I can't find a weight on the ball band – that's odd. I thought it was 50gr. Blame my old eyes. 400 meters, anyway. The first ball, with which I am knitting the edging, is beginning to look slightly diminished. The pile of edging already surprises me with how light it is when I pick it up.

I think it comes only as I have bought it: white. Not stark white, more what a shirt I bought recently called “winter white”. It's strong. I would almost call it crunchy. I am sure it will block to glorious dimensions. I'll surely have to order more at some point. Will these three balls see me through the borders? The transition to the centre would be a good point to switch lot numbers. Fingers crossed.

However that works out, this shawl will always have the special merit of having been (partly) knit with yarn I bought that day, standing on my own feet in Lerwick.

I started the Princess with a cone of silk I had acquired from somewhere, and failed ingloriously before I got away from the starting gate. Franklin has an account, with picture, of a similar experience. If I apply myself, I might be able to retrieve it from the bottomless lake of the Internet.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Another reasonably productive day. If I can knit seven repeats of the edging pattern in a day – and, at the moment, I'm running slightly ahead of that target – I can finish one side of the shawl in a week. Seven sevens are 49, and there are 50 points in the edging on each side. I hate thinking of knitting like that, as I said yesterday, but once the idea has lodged it is impossible to get rid of it.

But today starts with a problem which I am sure one of you can solve. I logged on to Ravelry and wrote a message about the Unst Bridal Shawl in the Heirloom Knitting Group, designating it as a New Topic since there hasn't been anything recently. I have explained the whole story and have asked about whether or not I need to reverse the border patterns. I can't figure out how to post. There is my message. There are the formatting buttons – I can Preview it, and it looks rather well. It's been a long time since I contributed to a Ravelry forum, and maybe, even then, I was adding my voice to an already-established thread. Help is urgently needed. I have left the page open.

[It's OK. I figured it out. It was a matter of getting rid of some interesting side-ads Ravelry was offering, revealing the button which let me scroll the whole thing down a bit. There was the button I needed -- "Start Topic".]

I have made two little discoveries which speed the work on a bit – both so elementary that you may want to avert your eyes.

  1. Every odd-numbered row begins slip 1 wyif, yo, k2tog. It creates a sort of one-sided column of faggoting on the edge where I will pick up stitches to knit the borders inwards. It took me an embarrassingly long time to grasp that, having slipped the first stitch, I needed to restrain my instinct to move the yarn to the back and just go ahead and k2tog – the yo would look after itself.
  2. I am working, as I have mentioned, on nice wooden sock needles which show up the stitches beautifully. I have learned always to put the free needle down in the same place on the coffee table in front of me. That has saved much tedious rustling about on the table followed by crawling about on the floor as I search for it.

And that's about it, for knitting.


I am concerned about how cold you all are in the US. It sounds truly extraordinary.

I didn't grasp, until after the event, that that ship full of scientists and tourists which got stuck in the Antarctic ice over the New Year, was there to observe global warming in the form of the melting ice cap. It's still there, with its crew. The scientists and tourists have been removed by helicopter.

We in GB have been having a remarkably stormy winter which has, on the whole, passed Edinburgh by. It is – everywhere – unusually warm for the time of year.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I reached the first corner of the Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday, and have made a good start at steaming along the second side. It looks as if I might be able to finish the edging this month – I hate thinking about knitting in terms of time but occasionally time intrudes.

I worked hard yesterday at associating in my mind each of the twelve rows of the lozenge pattern with its corresponding one of the four rows of the little pattern on the shawl-side (so to speak). I did pretty well. I don't think the frequent mistakes in the first repeats detract much from the effect of the whole, but on the other hand a run of near-perfect repeats is a pleasing sight.


Two excitements yesterday: Archie was here for half an hour, having travelled from Athens by way of Heathrow, mercifully not delayed by storm winds. He needed to pick up a bag full of books before getting another taxi to take him back to school. He seized the opportunity to finish off our New Year's roast beef – it had already done four meals for us, winding up as rissoles. I was glad to see the back of it, and Archie said it was very nice. He seemed in excellent spirits.

We've got some picture-hanging and light-bulb-changing in mind for him. Somehow there was never a calm enough moment during the Christmas excitements. He says he'll come for a weekend soon.

And the other thing was, I bought a rather good old Kirkmichael postcard. It shows the smithy with an actual horse about to be fitted for new shoes. Now that the auction is over, I don't seem to be able to download the image – we'll have to wait until the object turns up. There are endless cards to be had of the main street from one end or the other, of the bridge and the church and the river, of individual houses (including our own). I suppose in the days when a smithy was as necessary and unattractive as a petrol station is now, it wouldn't often occur to the postcard-makers to photograph it.

In the recent old days – I've said this before – eBay let you know the code names of rival bidders. That's been stopped in the interests of privacy and security, and it's rather a shame. I am sure I have only one enemy when it comes to such items, and he was active yesterday. I had to pay quite a lot. I know it's not Angie who has converted the old hotel into Kirkmichael Apartments, because I asked her once. She has some interesting old postcards enlarged and displayed, but she says they came with the hotel when she bought it.

I had a nice note this morning from the seller. I've asked if he knows the rival code-name.

Kristie has rather a good idea of choosing a theme-word for the new year, in lieu of resolutions. Her essay on the subject is worth reading, I have chosen Order for mine, but I doubt if I will live up to its stern demands.

One of you sent me the link to this delightful tour of Jared's studio.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Not a bad day, for a Sunday. I knit onwards, and should both earn another percentage point today and get around the first corner of the edging for the Unst Bridal Shawl.

Sharon M. has a beautiful Unst stole in her big book – I had a moment of wondering, should I be knitting that? But decided not. A shawl is more useful for a bride, and she can fold it up and use it for the Christening. That's how it was done on Shetland.

And I made a good start on the income tax. The rule is, or used to be, that if you wanted to submit your return on paper, it had to be done by the end of September. If you were willing to file on-line, the deadline was extended until the end of January. The first time that happened to me, I resolved, never again. But in fact, it's a rather invigorating way to begin the year and I have gone on with it ever since.

I think the British tax system is simpler than many. And at our time of life, when neither is earning anything on the side (by free-lance efforts) it's easier still. Follow last year's model, update the figures. Yesterday I figured out how much we had earned in interest on our savings accounts – a risable sum.

The tax year starts on April 6. Wikipedia explains why this particular day was chosen and I think it rather wonderful in this electronic age that the practice persists. I suppose once you've got a tax year, it's hard to change it. I was utterly enchanted when I discovered in my distant youth – talking to a man on a train – that the “old New Year” was still observed in the north of Scotland. Counting on my fingers, I grasped that he must mean that, at least in this respect, they were keeping to Julius Caesar's calendar instead of this new-fangled Gregorian thing.

Since there's not much to be said about the knitting of edgings, I will tell you something I heard while we were listening to the cricket the other night, drifting in and out of sleep. The English commentators on Test Match Special (a BBC institution) are all former cricketers themselves, and they often invite distinguished cricketers from the other side into the commentary box. I know that Shane Warne has been there this year, and I hope he was the man I heard speaking in what follows.

(I don't know anything about cricket, but I know that Shane Warne was one of the greatest cricketers of all time, recently retired. You can insert the word “Australian” into that description if you like, but it isn't necessary.)

The speaker, whoever he was, told us that he had been leaving the ground the day before with a member of the current Australian team. Some fans recognised him – the current man – and asked for an autograph. And then they thought they'd like to have their picture taken with him. “Would your friend mind...?”

The story ended there. There was mixture of modesty and amusement in the speaker's voice which makes me hope very much that  it was Shane Warne. If I'm right, I wonder if those fans ever found out who it was who took their picture.

I don't suppose you can help, Cat?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

All well, except that I am beginning to experience the difficulty I predicted. The four-row pattern on the shawl-side of the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl is too easy, and I find my mind wandering until suddenly I realise that I don't know where I am or which row I am knitting. The diamonds on the outer edge are all right – they wax and wane over 12 rows. And the faggoting is fine – the same every row. I have made a couple of mistakes with the four-row pattern, I think, but it would take the rider of a very slow horse indeed to spot them.

Maybe it'll get to be instinctive. Meanwhile I have earned my new percentage point and am bearing down on the first corner.

I got Sharon Miller's book out. She agrees that lace knitting didn't fit with outdoor work, but concludes that it was done in the winter by fire light and oil lamp. Wow. We saw a croft house while we were there, now maintained as a museum but inhabited – I am sure the last resident was an old woman – within the memory of the custodian who showed us around and told us about it. It was fascinating – Kristie's discovery. (I contributed very little to the planning and organisation of that wonderful weekend – other people sought out treasures, including Knitsofacto who, in the end, couldn't be with us.)

There was no kitchen, of course. An open hearth, with fish and mutton hanging from the rafters above to smoke. I wondered, too late, about water – one can do without running water, at a pinch, but one needs access to fresh water of some sort. By the time I thought to ask that question, we were on our way to the airport. Another reason to go back.

I am surprised to find – the connection of thought here is, knitting lace under difficulties – that I don't have a long rosewood-tipped needle in the requisite small gauge. Did I really knit the Princess on a metal needle, white stitches on pale grey, only four years ago? I started the edging on such a needle while we were at Loch Fyne, and soon switched to the wooden sock needles I had with me. Ordering a wonderful needle for the borders is something to look forward to when I get to the fourth side.


Thanks, as ever for your help. I've downloaded and installed Infanview for my picture editing, It looks very promising, although more complicated than the simple free program I used to use called OfotoNow – a Kodak offering from which they have retreated. I'll report further.

Alas, I can't find the excellent comment (Sunday morning presses) suggesting that I google the names of the people who didn't send Christmas cards. Alas (again), it didn't work. My seamstress friend would be too obscure to merit much of an obituary, and her name is a common one. An American who disappeared a couple of years ago was rather distinguished, and has a long “google” with no hint of an obituary, so he is probably still alive. An incapacitating stroke? He had already had a couple of small ones, when we last heard. Dementia? It's not likely to be anything pleasant.