Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New follower, welcome! It's been a long wait for the 240th.

Here we are, after a fairly successful weekend, the very picture of old age:

Lunch yesterday with the woman from the Royal Collection was a great success. Today's excitement is a hospital appt for physiotherapy for my husband's rheumatic right hand, so I must be brief.

We had something of an adventure on Sunday, when the plan was that my husband and Archie and I would leave first, and Helen would stay behind to close the house and then take Mungo back to school.

All was going well, everything in the car, I pacing about clutching my comforting keys and trying to chivvy my husband out of the bathroom and onto the road. Just as he finally emerged, I noticed that the keys were no longer in my left hand, nor in the pocket of the Dear Old Brown Jacket. Helen, Archie, Mungo and I sought them for half-an-hour, while my husband pottered about. It's a small house, and I hadn't been upstairs.

Finally, Helen said we would have to switch to Plan B. My husband no longer carries a car key, alas, but he did, thank God, have house keys. Helen drove us to Edinburgh in her hire car. Archie shot off to school, and we left my husband with a sandwich. Helen and I then drove back to Kirkmichael with the spare car key, and I drove home. A day before, I wouldn't have thought I was strong enough for all that. Helen blitzed the house and took Mungo back to school as planned.

Helen is a demon blitzer. I think we can assume my keys aren't in the kitchen and probably not in the dining room. I fear we will never find them – or rather, that they'll turn up decades hence and someone will say, “Look! Mummy's keys! Do you remember that day? She must have...”

The loss is mainly a stag's horn fob – is that the word? – Rachel gave me when she was a child. It is – or was -- my daily comfort blanket. I had rather hoped to be buried clutching it.

Virtually no knitting was done there – a stitch or two on the Carol Sunday scarf. Back here, I haven't yet addressed myself to applied i-cord. The Pakokku socks have advanced a bit – the second one is nearing the heel-turning, and may reach it during today's hospital session. There is much that needs to be said about Archie's sweater and that tosh yarn, in response to your kind offers to help me get some. I'll leave all that until tomorrow and face up to Tuesday first.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Here I am, beset as often these days by severe anxiety about the journey to Kirkmichael – but mitigated in this case by the reflection that this very evening Greek Helen will be here – or, at any rate, there, in Strathardle – and we can settle all of life's problems a quattr'occhi, in the lovely Italian phrase.

Or, all but one. I began to look about for yarn for Archie's sweater yesterday, and have fallen utterly and irretrievably in love with Madelinetosh DK in a shade called Composition Book Grey. The problem is that Loop and Jimmy Bean put together don't have nearly enough of it – there's lots of Archie. Stripes wouldn't be wanted, indeed would distract from the surface interest of a tosh yarn knit simply.

I think the thing is to ring up Loop and see what they advise. I can wait, if they can get some eventually. Or email Jimmy Bean. Tosh yarns don't have dye lots. If the skeins differ too much one could blend them in the familiar way, by alternating rounds of one and another. Or one can Bash On Regardless, my usual approach.

I finished hemming Rams & Yowes. Next is a light touch with the steam iron and then five and a half miles of applied i-cord around the periphery. Or should I block it altogether before attempting that? I'm a little bit worried about whether it will be possible to keep straight. The turning point of the border is a ten-row garter stitch stripe in black – that is, five ridges of which the central one is meant to be the fold line.

The black is very black. Will I be able to see where I'm going? One can but try. Any serious difficulty and the i-cord edging will simply be abandoned.

Another of life's problems that Helen couldn't help with, was a mysterious lack of connectivity this morning. I seem to have solved that by rebooting and waiting while 12 updates were installed. I'll now try putting this message in a bottle and casting it out to sea for you to find. Just at the moment, the re-boot seems to have done away with the Potentially Unwanted Program Blocked pop-ups from McAfee. It's an ill wind...

Back Tuesday or Wednesday, insh'Allah.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I am truly sorry to have worried so many of you by disappearing without explanation. Tomorrow, we are going to Strathardle where Greek Helen and her son Mungo will join us. This will be a great treat, all due to Mungo's generosity. He has had his first taste of school life in the wilds of Perthshire and would probably prefer to spend his long weekend in Edinburgh rather than in more Perthshire wilds. Archie will join us on Saturday evening and drive back with us on Sunday while Helen nobly closes the house. After a number of intervening excitements, it will be interesting to get back to the question of whether Mungo is learning Latin.

I'll probably put in a brief appearance tomorrow morning, but if not, that's what I'm occupied with. Then on Monday a woman who is helping to catalogue the Royal Collection, or something like that, is coming to lunch because the Queen has a number of pictures by my husband's artist. How am I going to manage that? So, no blog on Monday. On Tuesday we have what constitutes for him an early hospital appt to see a physiotherapist about his rheumatic right hand. I ought to be able to blog a bit on Tuesday morning. Wednesday for sure -- insh'Allah.

Knitting: I have now hemmed three sides of the border of Rams&Yowes. I should finish today. Things got to the point last night where I had to KNIT so I did a bit more of the Pakokku sock. It's at the delicious half-way-down-the-leg stage where no thought (and no ribbing) is required.


I promise to abandon the subject soon.

The idea now seems to be that it was predominantly the young who voted for independence, so once we oldies fall of the perch, all will be well. A common fallacy. The trouble is, that while we're doing our perch-falling, the young will be getting older, acquiring families, going into business or starting their own businesses, getting mortgages and savings accounts. They will look at things differently from that viewpoint.

I don't mean that the economic arguments were the only ones that swayed me, although they accounted for my personal fear. Scotland would be spiritually diminished by separateness.

On the other hand, the notion that ideas change as the generations pass has a good deal of validity in the purely intellectual sphere. Nothing much happened to “prove” Darwin's theories of evolution in the decades after he published. But the middle-aged and old who were horrified died off and the young who were more receptive took over the world.

Never was a man so well-served by his title. Natural selection and gradual adaptation to circumstances are now universally accepted but we still don't know much about how separate species originate.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I am sorry to have worried you, and I take the point about treating you henceforth as family members. Not that I did any better with them, in this case.

Archie was here for the weekend. That shouldn't have made much difference to my limited supply of time and strength, but somehow it did. It was good to see him, and he seems well. He says he has left his big sweater behind somewhere – my job is to find and measure it. He agrees that grey-on-grey stripes will be acceptable for the one I knit him. He says his A-Level Spanish classes are being conducted in Spanish and he's finding it tough going.

Not much progress has been made with knitting. I've finished knitting Rams & Yowes. That sounds better than it is. The next instruction is to hem the inside of the border down, “sew[ing] down each live stitch to its corresponding white purl bump on the back of the work”. That doesn't work (for me) along the steeked edges, because I picked up stitches for the border on the front of the work and that's where the purl bumps are. It's all right top and bottom, where there is a single-colour row before the colour work gets started. But where I was picking up stitches through a double layer of fabric, the purl bumps didn't get through.

I must have done something wrong, because Kate D. is meticulous. But there it is. I have cast off the entire border and am now hemming it down. I've done one side. I think it's going to be all right.

Released from the needle, it looks huge, or at least pretty big. No wonder it took so long to knit.


Persecution from PUP-FNK continues. I am trying a switch back to Internet Explorer to see if that will cut down on the pop-up ads, at least. Archie says he doesn't have virus protection (!) and has no trouble with any of this stuff. He thinks the blameless-seeming internet sites I visit must be responsible. Waitrose? Ebay? Amazon?

We are recovering from the referendum. It now seems a distant dream, but in fact has left the country sadly divided. Mr Salmond is proving a very poor loser. Last week, the “sovereign will of the Scottish people” was everything. Now, he's talking about a plan to have the Scottish parliament (in which his Scottish Nationalist Party predominates) simply declare independence, contrary to the national will. Shades of Ian Smith and Rhodesia and UDI.

They had a big Service of Reconciliation at St Giles Cathedral on Sunday, with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland preaching peace. This must have been planned well in advance of the referendum, with invitations issued to all the high hied yins. They were all there, except for Mr Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon. [History buffs: St Giles is the spot where Jenny Geddes threw her stool at the minister.]

You've seen Alexander's referendum picture, sunset over Cairndow, U.K. I had long hoped to take a more upbeat one the next morning, and here it is, taken when I went to buy the papers on the 19th. Mr Hussain was an ardent No. His two sons wavered – the elder is reading Chemical Engineering at Strathclyde, the younger starting on an A-Level course (like Archie) at the Edinburgh Academy. Mr Hussain claims to have talked them into line.

He was newly married when we first moved to Edinburgh. His wife Sara is Edinburgh-born. They married in Pakistan (they are first cousins) and it took two whole years before he got permission to join his wife here. False marriages are not unknown as a means of seeking entry to the UK, but the dimmest of immigration officials could see at a glance, if they'd looked, that the Mirtazas were not a family to let their sister make a false marriage, especially as a pregnancy followed (the boy at Strathclyde). I remember the day Mr Hussain first appeared at the shop. I told Sara, who was behind the counter that morning, that he was well worth waiting for. I have remained very fond of him.

I was disappointed that the Scotsman didn't rush out a special edition saying NO. This will have to do.

Friday, September 19, 2014

An email from Greek Helen this morning begins

When the hurly burly's done
When the battle's lost and won...

I couldn't have put it better myself. Not much sleep last night, huge relief this morning. The No margin was much larger than any poll predicted, confirming, I think, our hopes that the don't-know's would fall disproportionately in our direction.

We had a grand time voting yesterday – now that I can look back on it in tranquillity. Georgia took us. There was a crowd outside – I feared, as we approached, that it was a queue and we would have a long wait, but not so. It was just a party, television, balloons, and a Catalan. The Good Lord provided us with a parking space immediately outside. Inside, all was quiet, no queue at all. A pleasant Indian gentleman at a table explained to my husband that he must mark one box or the other on his ballot paper but not both.

That's me, in the lower picture. I must get my hair cut.

Alexander took this picture of Loch Fyne yesterday as the light faded. It is called “Sunset from Cairndow, U.K.” He will be feeling more cheerful this morning. Cairndow is still in the U.K.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Well, here we are. A grey, damp day.

Alexander stayed up all night to watch the American presidential results, the year Al Gore was elected. All he had to show for it in the morning was a sore head – he was none the wiser as to the identity of the next president.

I wonder if there will be a discernible trend during the night, this time? We won't sit up, but the radio will be on. I passed a pub on Broughton Street yesterday which claimed to have a special license to stay open until there was a result. I expect there will be lots of such pubs.

At least, if it's a Yes vote, I will have the consolation of reading the next chapter, so to speak. If Salmond is right and the Englishmen are bluffing when they say that an independent Scotland can't have a currency union with England, then Scotland won't be fully independent and I have a bit less to worry about, at least at first. Can you imagine the Irish signing up to such a deal, being run by the Bank of England?

But if, as I believe, Salmond is wrong on this point, we will be living in interesting times indeed.

A friend of Greek Helen's rang up yesterday offering to drive us to the polling station. I said no thanks, we'll be fine, but Helen herself just rang up and we talked about it and I have reconsidered. If Georgia drove us, she or I could go in with my husband and try to get them to advance him to the head of the queue, to his irritation and embarrassment no doubt, but he's too frail to stand about for long and everybody is going to be there. So Helen is trying to get back in touch with Georgia.

I blame a lot of this on Fred Goodwin – the man who destroyed the Royal Bank of Scotland.


I've reached the final stripe on the border of Rams & Yowes. On the original 9/11 I was knitting a sleeve of Kaffe's Mini Roman Blocks (I think it's called) for James. I interrupted the pattern to introduce a purple stripe to mark the occasion. Rams&Yowes will be forever the Referendum. Is there some way I could signify it?

Oh, Cat! The hitofude! I knew nothing of it. And it's written for a madeinetosh yarn! Who would like one of those?

And Carol Sunday has a tempting new pattern, for those of us ever in search of the right droopy cardigan.

Well, see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The final polls still put the No-vote four points ahead. My sister points out that the bookies are weighting things heavily in favour of No.

In the debates between Mr Salmond and Alastair Darling, the question of currency kept coming up. What would Salmond do if the rUK refused to sanction a currency union which would allow Scotland to go on using the pound? The Prime Minister and the Governor of the Bank of England have both said rather emphatically that there will be no currency union. We'll go on using the pound anyway, was Salmond's answer.

Mr Darling (once Chancellor of the Exchequer) said, in some exasperation, “You can use the pound, you can use the rouble...” Meaning, I think, that without a central bank to back it up, it didn't much matter what you printed on the paper you used as currency. Establishing a central bank will require substantial funds. Without one, or without a currency union with the Bank of England, Scotland won't be able to join the EU.

Last night, Mr Salmond appeared “live” on the television news. Jacquie Bird (good at her job,but not desperately bright) asked him about currency. He replied, “You heard Alastair Darling say that we can use the pound...”

He's not a fool. One is forced to conclude that he is a knave.


I should finish gaulmogot and reach the final – white – stripe of the border of Rams & Yowes today. Once tomorrow is finally over and the verdict in, I can begin to revel in thinking about what to knit next. I can alternate it, whatever it turns out to be, with the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl.


The persecution from PUP-FNK is as bad as ever this morning, and the pop-up ads are worse.

Beth, thank you for the reading list! I don't know David Mitchell and will investigate. I think the new Margaret Atwood is just what I need.

I've got a new cleaning woman here this morning, a strong, middle-aged Scotswoman. (She's going to vote No, rather regretfully.) I think she will be the salvation of us, after a series of youthful eastern Europeans who have melted one by one into the Scotch mist.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I've now reached the penultimate stripe, gaulmogot, on the inward side of the border of Rams & Yowes. This will one day end. Some knitters have run out of some colours on the inward journey, but I think I'm going to be all right, due, no doubt, to having picked up slightly fewer stitches for the border than the pattern specifies.

Here's what it looked like from the inside a couple of days ago, showing how the mitered corners are folding neatly inwards.

I am now fully engaged in worrying about the wedding on November 1. I think, at the worst, someone will be able to take Rams & Yowes and the wedding present down in a car while I go by train, shivering without a coat.

I am being plagued anew this morning by Potentially Unwanted Program Blocked pop-ups from McAfee – a different PUP, this time, alternating with something whose name begins “Artemis”. The interruptions are absolutely constant, toughening my resolve to go over to a Mac. Archie will be here this weekend and I hope we can go shopping.

It's difficult to think about anything except the Referendum, and I don't think I have anything new to say about that. Half the population of Scotland will be pretty miserable on Friday morning, and it's all Mr Salmond's fault. I think we No's will be more miserable, if we lose – fearing an uncertain future in an impoverished and exsanguinated nation. Whereas the defeated Yes's will have something resembling the status quo, plus a lot more power for the Scottish parliament, to look forward to. That sounds to me more bearable. The turnout is going to be the highest in the history of elections.

Zite produces an account of knitted television -- from a Dutch artist, almost needless to say. And the news that Kristin Nicholas has done a line of sock yarns with Regia which produce an ikat effect.  A somewhat ikat effect, but I'd like to try.


I've finished Middlemarch and moved on to the new Ian McEwan, The Children Act. It's very readable, as he always is, but I was surprised to realise the other day how ill-equipped I would be to talk about McEwan, although I've read a lot of him. It sort of slips out of the mind. I've got lots more Jane Gardam to look forward to – these interruptions were just to avoid OD'ing on her.

Monday, September 15, 2014

This final week of Life As We Know It starts under leaden skies.

Today, at last, I've got pictures for you. Here's the one we've been waiting for,  Mungo in his kilt:

Here's the one from the walk my niece and I took in Glen Roslin recently. This was the moment, in the agonizing outward journey, when we spotted Hawthornden Castle on the other side of the river, and therefore could fix our position on the map. Not as far along as I had hoped, was the answer. The castle is just discernible through the foliage. C. is pointing to our place on the map.

And here are the pictures from Games Day. The best bit of it all is when the baronet, with drawn sword, leads the pipe band followed by the committee across the bridge to the Bannerfield. Here they are marshalling in the garage forecourt:

Here's the procession:

And here's the knitting, in the Home Industries Tent. The categories were slippers and a hat, the latter to be donated to a charity:

Here is a close-up of the hat that didn't win any prize at all. It's the one I would have picked, if I had been homeless and was offered a hat by a charity. I wouldn't mind having it anyway.


When I captioned that bit about Ian Paisley “There'll always be an England...” yesterday, I didn't mean that he was an Englishman. Perish the thought. It's a phrase the New Yorker used to use as a column-stopper over an item which made the difference between American and British life particularly stark. I thought the idea of desperate thugs on a hillside in the middle of the night brandishing pieces of paper to prove that they were entitled to bear arms, was particularly funny. It's not like that in the Ku Klux Klan, for example.

And finally...

The Sydenham Mileses were in Glasgow at the weekend, taking Alistair up for his first term at university. James went to see St Peter's Partick, his first school. He was there for only a month before we moved to Leicester, Alexander for a whole year – or was it two? It was a wonderful school, pretty rough, very Glasgow. It is sad to see it like this.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I found a parking ticket on my blameless car yesterday. This morning I composed a dignified letter of protest, not untinged with irony, and then looked closely at the ticket and discovered that it had been issued to somebody else altogether. So I had to start the letter again from scratch. Do you think the offender was stupid enough to suppose that moving the ticket to another car would let him off paying? I wrote the second letter and sent it off with the ticket, and it all eats into valuable blogging time.

I have nearly finished the third round (of four) of the mooskit stripe on the return half of the border of Rams & Yowes. Three stripes to go. I remember a line of Meg's somewhere, when they knit EZ's famous ribwarmer with a skirt, transforming it into a long jacket: Long Day's Journey into Garter Stitch. I am very negligent about keeping my Ravelry up to date, but I mean to post this as an FO once it achieves that status, with a warning to everyone not to think, when the centre part is finished, that they're anywhere near the end.


It looks as if we will be able to get to Strathardle soon. My husband has been agitating for a visit, although by now sufficiently aware of his frailty to sympathise with my reluctance to be there without support. Greek Helen is coming over for Mungo's first exeat at the end of the month, and Mungo – who I am sure would prefer the bright lights of Edinburgh, since he is at school in rural Perthshire already – has heroically agreed to spend it in Kirkmichael. Archie will join us.

Archie himself phoned yesterday, protesting mildly. Strathardle is boring. But since he has the bright lights available constantly on his doorstep, we don't have to feel too sorry for him. He sounded cheerful. Contrary to what I wrote yesterday, he said he doesn't care what happens to Scotland but will vote No for my sake.

We had a knock on the door from a No-campaigner yesterday. That doesn't often happen here, in any election. My Birmingham friend was surprised to see how little visual evidence there is of what is happening -- posters in windows, that sort of thing; I assured her that we are seething all right.

There'll Aways Be An England...

From Ian Paisley's obituary in the Telegraph yesterday:

“In the Eighties he flirted with the prospect of Protestant 'People's Militias' and once conveyed journalists to a hillside in Co Antrim at night to witness 500 men in military formation brandishing firearms licenses.”

I find that enormously funny. Maybe only American readers will agree. Maybe it isn't funny at all.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I had a grand time with our old friend from Birmingham but ran behind the clock for most of the rest of the day. I've embarked on the mooskit stripe on the return half of the Rams & Yowes border.

Hat, thank you for the tip about Franklin's toddler's brioche sweater in Knitty. I like it, and the accompanying article, as always with him, is a delight to read. He says that the original Weldon's pattern says that the rib can accommodate a growing child; you just have to knit an appropriate length. I did a half-day at a Stitches conference once on Designing for Children with somebody famous – probably Kristin Nicholas. She said the same thing, I remember – children get taller, but don't expand very much.


The Orange Order is going to march through Edinburgh today in support of the Union. That won't help. They're scary. I hope they'll lighten it up a bit, and maybe leave out the open bibles and crowns.

Mr Salmond has been helicoptering about visiting “the seven cities of Scotland”. It's easy to think of six, but I had to google for the seventh. It's Stirling, not Lerwick as I had hoped.

The polls continue to be very tight, with No just ahead. Businesses are becoming more outspoken about the economic dangers of independence, and now one of the more rabid socialists on the nationalist team has threatened that there will be retaliation after a Yes vote.

Roy Bremner (I'm a big fan) was good in the Telegraph yesterday, but even he left my husband unmoved.

Greek Helen says that Archie – we can count on a No vote there – is afraid that Independence would mean higher school fees, to the point where he couldn't stay at Merchiston. There's no danger of that – he has only one more academic year after this one anyway, and it would take a few years to unpick Scotland from the rUK. But it's desperately touching to learn that he is happy enough there to entertain such a worry.


I have begun to think seriously about The Wedding, not just the technical question of whether or not I'm going to try to persuade my husband to attempt it, but also what I'm going to wear. November 1: I'll probably need a COAT. A shawl might do the trick, if I took along a respectable-looking bag into which I could cram it. I'll look in the drawer, but I don't think there's anything suitable. Too late now.

And then there will have to be shoes. This is going to require more strength than I think I can muster.

Friday, September 12, 2014


I continue to feel that the tide may have turned on Wednesday. Mr. Salmond sounded cross and captious and defensive yesterday, about the banks threatening to leave and the supermarkets saying they might have to raise prices if a national border separated them from Scotland. And Gordon Brown, our Achilles, re-emerged from his tent once the Party Leaders were gone, and borrowed from Lincoln to say that you can ignore some of the warnings some of the time, but...


I'll have to be brief this morning. An old friend, our next door neighbour in Birmingham for many years, rang up yesterday. She's coming round for an early coffee so I must scramble through the early-morning things I normally do at snail's pace – going out for the papers, eviscerating a grapefruit for my husband's breakfast, that sort of thing.

But there isn't much to say, anyway. I've reached the shaela stripe on the inside border of Rams & Yowes. Four more to go, when shaela's finished. The corners are folding neatly inwards now that the decreases are adding up, matching the increases on the outward journey.

Back tomorrow in better voice, I hope.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


We watched a good program last night compiled from amateur videos of 9/11 with no commentary. It was dreadful to realise that there was plenty of time for anyone below the level where the planes hit – and they hit high. We actually heard at one point the instruction, “Stay on your level”. If only it had been, “Stand up. Leave everything. Keep calm. Walk downstairs.”


Things are looking slightly better this morning, The three Englishmen managed to breeze into town and out again without tripping over their shoelaces. Gordon Brown – the ex-Prime Minister and our great hope – prudently stayed out of the picture. And the latest poll is better. The man on the radio just now said that it showed the Yes campaign six points ahead, and I lay there in a cold sweat thinking, that's it then, we're sunk, and then after awhile he said with a little laugh that he meant to say that the No's were six points ahead.

And the banks where our money is have promised to move to England if the vote is Yes, so maybe I don't need to worry.

Mary Lou, thank you for the link to Krugman's article in the NYT. I think the No campaign has sort of given up trying to explain the currency problem over against Mr Salmond's bluster and is concentrating now on the fact that Yes is forever. A good point. I think quite a few people whose hearts say Yes will prudently vote No because they're scared of the unknown.


I haven't finished that sholmit stripe in the border of Rams & Yowes. Even as the stitch reductions at the corners begin to mount up, two rounds is about all I can do in a day. Each stripe is four rounds.

“Knit One Below” turned up yesterday and looks interesting, although my heart remains fixed on H.'s brioche socks. There's something about X's photography for Knitter 's which sets my teeth on edge, although I would be very hard put to explain what it is. It's easy to recognise his hand – that should be to his credit.

If you want to revel in photography, and knitting – Jared's fall collection is out.


The other book in yesterday's mail was Jamie's new “Comfort Food”. It's good, but not easy. They are some of the most complicated recipes I have seen from him in a long time. He clearly finds comfort (as would I, in other circumstances) in the sort of meal where you have one central dish and a lot of things in little bowls and a lot of people around the table.

I think my own two principle comfort dishes are Delia's chilli con carne and Madhur Jaffrey's Pork with Long Beans and Chives from “Step-by-Step Cookery”. Neither is exactly quick. I hope I'll pick up another one or two from Jamie.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dentistry went well. I'm not at all sure the root canal was necessary, and it was certainly expensive, but at least he's done no harm. He said there was an abcess.


General gloom. The rUK – indeed, the rWorld – has woken up to what is happening here. They flew the Saltire in Downing Street yesterday (silly) and today the three party leaders are coming to Scotland. That is likely to be counter-productive and if they make fools of themselves, as is all too likely, it will be disastrous. Mr Salmond must be smiling. There was some talk at the weekend of the Queen making a direct appeal to the people of Scotland. She quite rightly squashed that idea yesterday.

Alexander writes that he has moved their cash out of the Bank of Scotland. I'd better do so too, with ours. I feel much as I did during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis when I heard that all the nuclear submarines in the Holy Loch had put to sea.

Thank God for knitting.

I'm doing the fourth stripe (sholmit) on the inside of the border of Rames & Yowes. I could even finish that stripe today if I press a bit. There are nine altogether.

The little book H. recommended turned up yesterday – “Knitting Brioche-Stitch Socks”. It sounds perfectly simple and looks luscious; I am eager to try. I knit a couple of rounds on the Pakokku sock yesterday while waiting for the dentist. I'd have to polish that pair off first, wouldn't I?

I've had a nice time, too, thinking about a shawl for a great-grandchild. There are some tempting possibilities in Stove's “Wrapped in Lace” – especially once I master the Fleegle system for garter stitch in the round. But I am greatly taken with the idea of re-knitting the one I made for Rachel before she was born.

You've heard the story before. It was a Paton's leaflet. The shawl was designed by Mrs Hunter of Unst, it said, and was knit in six parts – edging, four borders, centre – and sewn together. I doubt if that is the way Mrs Hunter did it. It is the sort of thing pattern-publishers did to EZ's work in those days, flattening her circular patterns into back-and-forth. So she started publishing on her own, and changed the world.

But anyway. I lost that Paton's leaflet and for many years sought for it in every charity shop I passed. I finally found it, to my great joy, at the annual Christian Aid booksale. It would be fun to knit the shawl again in one piece.

Interestingly, Stove has that same leaflet and knit from it when she was expecting her first child (page 25 of Wrapped in Lace, with a picture). But she chose the other design.


JAG, I agree with Judith that guising (on Halloween) is best done in a familiar community or not at all. I sort of think, as Tamar's note suggests, that Scotland invented it. The English prefer Guy Fawkes to Halloween. The little boys on Loch Fyne love it – but they live in a rural community where everybody knows everybody.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

I forgot to mention yesterday that I wouldn't be here today -- I have an early dentist's appt, a root canal I think it's called, which will be a pleasant change from worrying about the referendum. See you tomorrow, I hope.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Don't miss – as if you would! – Kate Davies' post about her fortnight in Sweden and Shetland. I am so looking forward to her yoke book And the news that Hazel Tindall – the world's fastest knitter, I believe – is about to release a DVD about Fair Isle knitting, is very exciting. That will get me back to my knitting belt and the Fair Isle supplies I bought at Jamieson & Smith a year ago, if anything will.

Thank you for the comments about how cold it gets in DC. Theo himself sent these pictures of his son Ted last winter.

I am sorry I was so gloomy yesterday. I am much weighed down by the fast-approaching referendum. This isn't at all funny. Linda, good luck on researching the issues (and please let me know anything interesting you discover). But I wonder how many people are paying attention. I see the issues as a) the currency – if Scotland can't use the pound, they'll have to do something else, and that will involve establishing a central bank with a considerable reserve of capital if they want to be taken seriously. Otherwise (for instance) bank accounts won't have a government guarantee as at present, and, I gather, EU membership will be ruled out. And, (b) North Sea oil, how much remains? Enough to fund Mr Salmond's promises?

But is that what they're talking about in the pubs in Govan?

I raised the question yesterday of what I will knit for a great-grandchild, if I'm still capable of holding the needles when one finally looms. The answer is, undoubtedly, a lace-weight shawl for use in the early weeks. An aid to modestly when feeding, and for general carrying of the baby around the house.

I knit one for Archie – my first venture into lace-weight – from a leaflet of Gladys Amedro's, written as “Gema Ord”, an anagram. I could go back to that. I designed shawls for some of the subsequent babies – I can remember only two, a disastrously cluttered one for one of the Little Boys now of Loch Fyne, and a rather successful – because simple – one for Fergus, younger brother to Archie and Mungo. It had alternate roses and thistles around the border, for England and Scotland, David and Helen, and interlocking Greek crosses in the centre for Fergus himself, born in Thessaloniki.

There must have been others. I'll look around a bit, and think about it.

Brioche stitch: The article in IK cites Principles of Knitting in its brief bibliography, the 1988 edition. I've got it, and I can't find anything. Nothing in the index under B for Brioche or F for Fisherman, nor anything appropriate in the many entries under R for Rib.

I must be doing something wrong. Hiatt wouldn't have omitted so important a subject.


Kristin, I wish I could watch the men' s singles final but, as you say, not at 2 a.m. The radio said yesterday that Japan is on fire with enthu*ia*m – my * key ha* *uddenly failed – but that no one expected this, so there are no arrangements for the match to be televised. S seems to have come back. Go, Nishikori!  

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The news that Federer and Djokovic each lost his semi-final match in the US Open, so that the title will be contested between a Japanese man and what's-his-name, increases my sense that Disorder is loose in the world.

News about the Referendum is not good. The entity known up here as rUK has, at last, awoken to the fact of what is happening and discovered that there is nothing much they can do about it. Mr Miliband came last week to try to persuade the Labour voters in the west of Scotland that if they stuck with the Union, Britain would have a Labour government after next year's general election. If I were an unemployed Glaswegian with no savings and no mortgage, I would prefer Mr Salmond's promised Socialist Paradise to that unlikely scenario.

I think I heard Nicola Sturgeon on the news last night promise that a vote for independence would mean “free education”. Whatever next?

One of my favourite columnists referred recently to the days when a referendum on Scottish independence was about as likely as the chance of the Bank of Scotland going bust.

Let's zero in on knitting.

I've started the second stripe on my homeward journey on the Rams and Yowes blankie. I can't put the yarn for the first stripe away altogether, because it will be needed for the final round of applied i-cord, but the sense of heading for home is nevertheless strong.

I was bowed down with gloom last night, even before hearing about Federer and Djokovic. This is a brilliant pattern, and my knitting is at least adequate. But is it worth these weeks and weeks and weeks? Will the baby get any use from it, in so warm a place as DC? Will his parents be more than politely interested? If I live to see a great-grandchild, what will I knit for it? Not another Rams & Yowes, that's for sure.

I read the IK article about brioche stitch and fisherman's rib, and am not much the wiser, except to learn that doing it the way I described yesterday, k1, k1b on every row, produces garter stitch fisherman's – which must have even more the effect you mention, Valerie, of four-steps-forward-three-steps-back. But the ribs don't look garter, because they are only being knit every-other-row.

It's all too much to try to think about on this gloomy morning.

On a happier note, I found Deb Robson's account of her Shetland trip with no further difficulty thanks to your help, Valerie, and am enjoying it a lot. Kristie, weren't we lucky with our weather? I haven't tackled the e-book yet, but I will.

Ann Cleeves has written a new book, called Thin Air. It will be published this week. I'm afraid she and I have drifted apart. I read her first two Shetland books with some pleasure, and then got bogged down in the one set on Fair Isle. I tried the television adaptation of her first book, but was so irritated at the way they had filmed a story which incorporates Up Helly Aa, at a completely different time of year, that I gave up on that, too.

This new book is set on Unst. But Cleeves is no knitter, so what's the use?

I will try to be more cheerful tomorrow. It has only just occurred to me that the Queen will be here for the referendum, at Balmoral for her annual holiday. She must be waking up each morning with my same sense of dread.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The kilt-courier turned up in mid-afternoon, about what I expected I guess.

I've turned and headed back towards home, on the border of the Rams & Yowes blankie. I've knit the first decrease round. Exciting!

I had a grand time when H. visited yesterday. She's younger and prettier than I expected, fully as congenial. We covered a lot of ground. She's another Mac-user. I am beginning to suspect kismet. Jan, I've ordered “Switching to the Mac”.

H. was knitting a pair of brioche-stitch socks, lovely and fluffy. Bring on winter, with socks like that! They're a simple tube, with toe. The stitch simply accommodates the wearer's heel. She said the pattern came from a little book called “Knitting Brioche-Stitch Socks”. I've ordered that, too.

It was only after she had gone that I reflected that brioche stitch has to be knitted back and forth, at least as I learned it in the pages of EZ. I vaguely think Meg figured out a way to do it in the round, and I vaguely think I tried and failed. H. was certainly knitting in the round. I look forward to learning something when the book arrives. What a lot there is to do and learn in knitting! even if one never ventures into doing or learning anything else in life.

The first thing to do is actually to read the article about brioche stitch and fisherman's rib in the current IK. I promised it to myself some time ago. I knit a whole dress in fisherman's rib from the VKB in 1955 or '56. I have no recollection of wearing it – it must have stretched out of sight at once. But I loved the knitting. It was done by a simple k1, k1b, on and on, row after row. No yo's. No purling. I've been fond of the stitch ever since.

I have a cosy sweater in it, now much reduced by moths. It's got vertical stripes which are simply achieved by using a double-pointed needle and sliding the stitches back to the other end and knitting the next row with the other colour, with the same side facing. I think we'd better look up the instructions before you rush out and try that. But I knit that sweater in a yarn that turned out to shed. My husband banished it to Strathardle, where the moths found it.


Another day without PUP-FOP. It really must have been an attack from outside, as McAfee kept saying. Pop-up advertising is as bad as ever.

Valerie, I'd like to read Deb Robson's posts about Shetland. Initial googling attempts cast me into a time warp – she was hoping to go, and the eBook “Dreaming of Shetland” was soon to appear. Have both these things now happened?

The first of the 2015 seed catalogues turned up yesterday. This time I'm going to put some effort into choosing what to plant on the doorstep. A pot each of sorrel, lettuce, and spicy salad leaves, that's for sure. But what about more interesting vegetables? Courgettes have been rather a disappointment. Are beans possible? I'd like to try “walking onions” – they'd need a trough. And I still dream of a quince tree. All these things need careful thought.

I've nearly finished a re-reading of "Middlemarch". Goodness, what a book! It would have to be my choice for a desert island. Someone has recently publushed a book about re-reading it every ten years. I'd read that, too, except alas! it is not available for Kindle.

Friday, September 05, 2014

The persecution from PUP-FOP – the endless pop-ups from McAfee saying “Potentially Unwanted Program Blocked” – hasn't started yet this morning. Long may it last. It stopped yesterday evening, in fact -- I thought maybe I was being attacked by a Chinese computer which had been turned off for the night.


Thomas Ogden, the eldest grandchild and this year's bridegroom, sent me this link to an extremely interesting talk Lord Sumption gave at Lincoln's Inn last year. It's as lucid as Cicero. It's not an argument for one side or the other, more an historian's account of how we got here. Half of it is devoted to Ireland, the Union that failed.


No further news from Glenalmond. Mungo's kilt, however, is ready – it was somehow or other delayed by a delivery of faulty cloth. His father is rightly concerned that Mungo shouldn't be embarrassed by having to appear in trousers on the first Sunday of term at his new school when everybody else is wearing a skirt, so has arranged for the kilt to be taken by courier, delivery guaranteed for tomorrow. Unfortunately – as is common – the courier won't say when they're coming here for the pick-up, so I am nailed to the spot. My husband isn't really nimble enough to get to the door.

Fingers crossed for early. One of you is coming to see me today. We will stroll in Drummond Place Gardens if I am free.

Foggy Knitter, I don't know the learn-Latin book by Peter Jones. I'll look into it. I have given Mungo “Gwynne's Latin”, a recent book by an elderly ex-schoolmaster who believes (as I do) that the best, certainly the quickest, way to get hold of Latin is by means of the good old-fashioned paradigms, amo-amas-amat and little sentences about girls loving sailors.

I was interested in the remark in your blog – link provided just above – about the early instance of a circular-needle pattern in that Coronation Year magazine you recently bought. My first experience was as much as 10 years later, a pattern in a Vogue Children's with a deep Fair Isle yoke. I learned from it the profound pleasure of knitting Fair Isle in the round.

But I have a vague half-memory that my maternal grandmother (Texas, but not a native) knit skirts on circular needles. That would have to be in the '30's. Maybe I'll have a look at my early Vogue Knittings, to see how those skirts are knit with their hundreds of stitches.


I've finished the fold rounds on the Rams & Yowers border, and turned the corner for home.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Knitting, for a moment.

I finished the outward, right-side stripes of the border of Rams & Yowes, and am knitting the fold line. The pressure of time doesn't feel quite so bad – I should finish the border this month, and that leaves a whole other month to finish-finish, before the recipient's first birthday. Here he is with my sister during a recent visit to CT:

I got Arne and Carlos' new book yesterday – rather, I think, the newly-translated and revamped version of an older book. It's called “Knitting Scandinavian Style”.  Hats, mittens, sweaters, a tea cosy. No space invaders, but I think that one may be in their Ravelry store. A useful bibliography and list of UK yarn suppliers. Rauma 50-50 alpaca and wool is something I'd like to fondle. I think I'm a bit disappointed in the lack of an Arne&Carlos Space Invader kick in the sweater patterns, but I'm glad to have the book.

Lusekofte, definitely, the next time Scotland win the Calcutta Cup. Next year's match will be in London, so there's no chance I'll have to redeem that promise soon.


I am greatly touched by the evangelical enthusiasm of you Apple-owners and by the time and trouble you have taken to encourage me. Alexander went over because he got tired of freezes and crashes. For me, it'll be pop-up ads and PUP-FOP.

A little googling reveals that the Apple store on Princes Street is due Any Time Now. It was confidently expected in August. Maybe Archie and I will be able to shop there instead of John Lewis when he is here in a fortnight's time.


Early reports Glenalmond>Athens>Edinburgh are not entirely cheerful. I am growing concerned about Latin. I thought it had all been arranged in preliminary conversations, that Mungo would do AS-Level Latin over the next two years, as well as his A-Levels. The school would have to put on a special course for him – his position in British education must be close to unique: a good qualification in Ancient Greek and not a syllable of Latin to his name. The dimmest of classics masters must realise that Mungo needs Latin. It remains to be seen whether he'll make the effort to provide it.


I envy you, Knitlass, having people on both sides to talk to about the referendum. I feel I need access to well-heeled Yes's – people with savings to be devalued or mortgages to be repaid in sterling. It is a remarkable situation all around in the way we can (in my limited experience) talk to each other. It would be unthinkable in a general election, to talk so freely.

A letter from the Archbishop was read out after Mass on Sunday, full of pieties about being a good citizen and having concern for the poor. The priest added, when he had finished reading it, that it was important for us not to fall out with one another. The Moderator of the Church of Scotland has also issued a pious statement – he went straight for that point, which I think our Archbishop might have done well to allude to.

When I let my husband out of the car at the polling station two weeks from today, I will say -- and he will recognise the lines:

Always keep ahold of nurse

For fear of finding something worse.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Here, at last, a day that's just a day, free of engagements and incursions. My husband is having a lot of trouble with his new gnashers. We were back at the dentist's yesterday. Rams & Yowes was much admired in the waiting room. Not even that, today (I hope).

I have now embarked on the final stripe. That is followed by three rounds in the same colour – black – which will provide a fold line, and then the return journey begins. Progress, I suppose. It seems endless.

All went well at Glenalmond, and Mungo has been abandoned there. He wasn't dreadfully keen about going – but couldn't have done classics, of all things, if he had stayed at the International School in Athens. His father (a worrier, as I've mentioned) was anxious about him, but hopeful. There will be three of them doing Ancient Greek A-Level, which is a good-sized class these days.

Then David came back to Edinburgh and took Archie out to eat at Wagamama. I didn't even know there was one in Edinburgh. They swung in here briefly before going back to school. Archie was in fine form – he had seemed a bit down when I saw him briefly on Sunday, coming by to retrieve a telephone charger he had left behind. But now he is full of enthusiasm for his new A-Level courses and seems generally energised.

And – big news – he's on the voters' roll. There had been some doubt and confusion on that point. So that's a “no” in the bag on the 18th.

We heard a "no" voter -- a worker at a small whisky distillery -- say on the news last night that he thought independence was "a Hadrian's Wall too far". If we heard him correctly.


Thank you for help and advice, and especially for the communications from Apple fans. Alexander wrote to say that I am too old to make the switch, which has of course only served to inflame. I think I might buy “Macbook Pro for Dummies”. Thirty years ago I read a good book about DOS before we bought our first computer (an Olivetti M-24) – and, indeed, learned a valuable lesson as I read. Which was, that we would need to have a hard disk because even thirty years ago my husband couldn't have managed the fiddle of the then-common dual-floppy machines.

The persecution from POP-FUP stopped for awhile yesterday afternoon, and I was grateful to McAfee for standing at my right hand and keeping the bridge with me, although I wished they could do it by themselves. Alas, it's started again this morning. I finally got the iPad connected by turning the booster off. I had to do that again this morning, too.

Archie will be here for an early Exeat weekend the day after the Referendum. We have a date to go Apple-shopping at John Lewis.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Computer problems continue to press – especially those constant messages from McAfee saying “Potentially Unwanted Program Blocked”. They come in every few seconds, and I have to click twice to make each one go away. The “unwanted program” is called PUP-FOP and I am gloomily certain that it will go on persecuting me forever. I can't find a way to make McAfee deal with it automatically.

Son-in-law David suggested yesterday that I get a MacBook and let Apple deal with all that sort of thing. I am sorely tempted. Alexander went over to the Other Side some years ago. I have emailed him to ask how it works, in terms of communicating with the outside world. I need to be able to mediate between my husband and the printer and the cloud. It would be expensive, but then, we don't go on cruises. Our niece needs a new computer. She could have this one, and take it to a Man who might be able to clean it up. If not, she'd be no worse off than at present.

Of course, I could take it to a man...

It was nice to see David and Mungo. They have now gone off to Glenalmond School, and will have spent last night in Strathardle. David will be back, alone, late today. He'll take Archie out to supper before coming back here. Then back to Greece, early tomorrow.

So, not much knitting. I have sort of lost count of how many rounds I have been achieving day by day. Not many. I should, however, reach the ninth and final stripe on the outward course today. Things always go faster when you're headed for home – as on our walk, last Saturday. And stitch numbers will start to diminish. Each stripes adds 16, at present, and they will be removed at the same rate on the way back.The corners are still reluctant to be pushed along. I wonder if that will get a bit easier. A 120cm needle is the right length. Rather like Goldilocks: 150 was too many, 100 too few. 

The iPad doesn't seem to want to connect this morning, so I can't tell you about Zite. Even Apple has its limitations, it would seem.

I had your same thought, Shandy, that if I could negotiate that walk-and-crawl through Glen Roslin on Saturday, there is nothing much wrong with me. Why do I get so little done around the house? (The link to Shandy's blog is well worth following.)