Saturday, January 31, 2015

More good news from Athens – David has been tottering up and down the corridor, supported now by his wife, “a la Daddy in Drummond Place”.

Knitalot, my fear of general anaesthetic is specific, in that we have had two cases in the family of not-coming-round. One was my mother's mother, a fair time ago, in Dallas, in the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in fact. The other much more recently, Rachel's father-in-law, in London. Both survived their operations for some time – weeks. But no more consciousness.

My own experience is limited to a tooth extraction in Glasgow in the late '50's. I would flee screaming from a dentist who suggested such a thing nowadays – or at least, would ask many sharp questions.

So, I'm going on my walk this morning. C. suggests the sea shore, to avoid any danger of ice. Not a bad idea. And maybe we can come back here for a restorative bowl of soup, rather than finding a cafe to huddle in. C. knows the city well, and has come up with some good post-walk cafes. I'd be sorry to omit that bit, but it might be wiser.

James gave a talk on some aspect of China at Eton yesterday. He got to take his daughter Rachel along. It must have been an interesting glimpse, for both of them, behind a door permanently closed to most of us. I don't know whether they got to stay overnight.

Today is the income-tax-filing deadline. The radio said that a remarkable number of us – a million? – haven't done it yet.


I phoned Loop. It was fun. She hadn't heard of “pocket squares” either, but found the page on Ravelry with a speed which was a great credit to the Loop computer. She made some suggestions which I haven't fully explored yet. But I still wonder if I couldn't muster the strength to get up to Lewis's (or across to McAree's – is that what they're called?) and experience some actual yarn.

Archie's sweater progressed, but not much. Never was there such an evening for repeated escapes of the fifth needle, every time I was interrupted and no matter how carefully I put it down.

And I haven't read any more of the New Yorker article about hoarding, being absorbed in the new issue and the article on salmonella.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

Good news from Athens. They had David out of bed yesterday, tottering about supported by orderlies. The hope is that he might get home on Monday. He is in a fair amount of pain – a bit stingy with the morphine, perhaps?

So now I can move on to worrying about sepsis.

Yesterday was stressful, and my feelings of panic were bad. Getting those heavy boxes down the icy steps and across the icy pavement, to begin with. The plumber's visit. Then my husband had an unexpected and unexplained low-blood-sugar crisis at lunch time. He was snatched back from the brink without medical help, but it was a close one which left me nearly prostrate.

I am supposed to go for a walk with our niece tomorrow. I doubt my own strength somewhat, and the weather is unappealing, and I worry about leaving my husband for so long. But I could do with a walk. I've found a nice easy-sounding one in the book, involving a river and a ruined castle. We shall see.

But we're meant to be talking about knitting.

I've got to get photography going again – you need to see Archie's sweater. There are now only three decrease rounds to go in the first sleeve – and the stitch count is still right. I haven't measured yet to see how much more there will be to do, once the decreases are finished. Not far, I think.

And today's resolution is to ring up Loop and consult them about yarn for the Pocket Squares, which were completely forgotten in yesterday's excitements. I am seriously tempted by the link you sent, Hat, for beautiful pure silk yarn. But linen is an interesting alternative idea. I should at least ask. At least I won't – I hope – be responsible for folding them. I think you're right, that madelinetosh pashmina would be a tad too heavy.

And I must, at least mentally, pencil in the finishing and blocking of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

I think I've mentioned our New Yorker problem: we used to reserve them for reading in Strathardle, no newspapers, no television. A back-log has accumulated, now that I refuse to go without support. I try to read the current issue as it arrives, and also to chip away at the pile. This process finds me, at the moment, reading Joan Acocella's article about hoarding, in the December 15 issue. “Hoarding”, of course, = “stash-acquisition”, to a knitter.

And it's not quite the same thing. We buy hoping to knit, meaning to knit – but life rushes on, and it's too short. Do I have an inventory of what I bought in Jamieson & Smith that day, now a year and a half ago? I've done the Unst Bridal Shawl – more yarn had to be ordered. I am endlessly about to do the Fair Isle vest. I have cast on the Northmavine Hap. I have finished the Rams&Yowes blankie, Kate Davies' 80th birthday present to me. I think that's everything. A lot of conscientious knitting, but the end result (so far) is Stash Augmentation.

The thrust of the New Yorker article seems to be that hoarding has been promoted to the status of a Recognised Psychiatric Disorder. Maybe I will have some further knit-related thoughts when I have finished reading it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Greek Helen's husband David had four hours of surgery yesterday. It went well. No colostomy – strewth! I hadn't even known that was threatened. There's no more news this morning. I'll acquire some during the day. General anaesthetic is one of my absolute horrors – I'll be glad when I have been fully assured that he is fully conscious.

We're having a bit of winter weather. Our steps were icy last night, and I awoke in a panic this morning wondering whether I could put the bottles and newspapers (=heavy) out for recycling without killing myself. It's a fortnightly job. Alternate Thursdays are cardboard-and-plastic. That's easy.

We have a broad platform outside our door, where my pots and troughs stand, then six steps down, then there's a broad pavement to cross. I began with sweeping the snow, and then salting. I proceeded with infinite caution, and the job is successfully done.

But it's taken time, and a plumber is coming this morning to see about our water pressure, so I won't linger here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sure enough, I'm having a lot of fun thinking about “pocket squares”, Ravelry offers a choice of patterns – all by men – and I like the one you liked, Lou – a little bit fancier than the others. It's knit in silk, in seed stitch. You don't need me to tell you that it is difficult to achieve perfection in garter stitch. Phyllis, I'll look at washcloth patterns. Maybe, as you say, Lou, st st would do.

Rowan Truesilk? Ideally, I'd like to buy this one over the counter so that I can see the colour, and fondle it a bit, but I haven't time or strength for much wandering about. “Navy blue” is the specification. John Lewis has a lot of Rowan yarns – do they have that one? Madelinetosh Pashmina is another possibility – that would have to come by mail from Loop. (I was sorry to see, as I pursued the matter yesterday, that Loop, in describing that yarn, uses the word “infamous” in the famously wrong way beloved of knitters. Or maybe lexicographers now consider the meaning to have shifted.)

The thing I must do is to get some yarn and knit a trial square and send it to London for criticism. Maybe I could ring Loop up, after a further study of their website, and discuss the question of yarn choice.

Archie's sleeve progresses. The bulk of the sweater is now something of a hindrance. I'm knitting round and round on five needles, and need to turn the whole thing in my lap – or else fling my arms heavenward and let it turn itself – after every needle-ful. The second sleeve will be worse. But it's looking good.

I must try to listen to that program about Shetland again before it goes away. It's really terribly good. The presenter knows nothing about knitting, but his interest is intelligent and sympathetic. There is a nice passage in the museum in Lerwick where he is being shown a case with the sort of underwear you sew yourself into in late October and remove, perhaps, in April. Then he turns to the lace opposite – I know exactly where they were standing – and says, “What about this? This isn't knitwear.”

One of the charms of the program is that the speakers have been encouraged to speak in dialect. It is generally the practice – all over the UK, presumably – for people to speak in standard English to the outside world and reserve dialect for each other. I remember once, long ago, queuing for milk at the farm door in Kirkmichael. Mr Crighton assured me that it was a cold day – it was – but I heard him tell the next customer that it was cald.


Thank you for your continued help with care of the elderly. We have an appt to be assessed by Edinburgh Council on the 6th of March.

My husband's sister was not an entirely easy woman to please, and the process of dying didn't improve her temper. She very much liked the carers who came to help her with washing and dressing (except for being put to bed so early). They came to the funeral. That speaks well for Edinburgh Council.

I am sure you are right, Knitlass, that my husband would prefer a male nurse. And I will look at the Carers' Support Service website, Helen, and forward the link to Greek Helen.

I think we are beginning to see a bit more light around the edges of the day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I've just finished paying the income tax on-line. When I filed the return last week, or whenever, they said we owed a modest sum. I waited a bit to see if they would condescend to explain why, but they haven't done so, so I've paid it. The nervous strain of typing in all those passwords, searching the website for the precise sum owed, and establishing my identity yet again on the payment pages, has left me prostrate. But it's done.

Knitting news:

I had an email from Hellie's lovely fiance Mat last nightt, asking if I could knit “pocket squares” for himself and the groomsmen – eight in all – to wear at the wedding. I am delighted. It's just the sort of commission I need to galvanize myself into joyful action. My friend's knitted dog may have to wait.

But what is a “pocket square”? Hellie sent this picture this morning:

and I will try googling and ravelring, but I would also greatly appreciate any advice you could give.

I wound another skein and joined it in to Archie's sleeve last night. I don't care if it's tangerine-coloured:one skein at a time, henceforth. Then I counted the stitches, and subtracted the number I still have to decrease according to the counter, and found to my astonishment that that will leave me with exactly the number of stitches required by the pattern. That doesn't often happen.

I listened to the radio program about Shetland knitting – link yesterday. It's wonderful. Don't miss. There was a nice anecdote about a meeting of the Guild. Someone had read somewhere what the world speed record was for knitting, so they tried it out and found that everyone in the room could knit faster than that. Hazel Tindall of course went on to win an official World's-Fastest-Kniter title in a public competition.

I mustn't forget, as I float out to sea on a raft of pocket squares and knitted dogs, that I mean to get out that knitting belt and Hazel Tindall's video and the wonderful Fair Isle colours I bought at Jamieson & Smith in Lerwick that happy day, and apply myself.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Neither of us felt entirely well yesterday. We spent a lot of the day in bed, punctuated by the necessary discipline of breakfast, lunch, tea and supper. Radio 4, of course, and I thought I understood them to say that today would be a Day of Knitting, beginning with a knitted Shipping Forecast.

It seemed unlikely, and today began with the usual Shipping Forecast and went on to much talk about the Greek election with no mention of knitting. (What Greece clearly needs is a good old-fashioned devaluation. It will e interesting to see if they get it.)

A bit of Googling reveals that this is what they were talking about – a knitted Radio 4 Day. Delightful.

And speaking of links, Kate Davies' blog for January 23 has this one, to a radio program about Shetland and knitting. It's time-limited, but we've still got the better part of a month. I have just found my way to it, and mean to listen with my breakfast. It begins with a line or two about the expense of raising children and you think you've gone to the wrong place.

Actual knitting went well yesterday – I finished one of the two balls of wool attached to Archie's sleeve and found, as I expected, that everything goes a lot better with only one. I should wind and attach a whole new skein today, and henceforth will not worry about colour discrepancies.


Thank you for your help with elderly care. A friend has directed us to the Edinburgh City Council website about Care in the Home. Greek Helen rang them up a while ago, and had hoped that someone could come round to assess us while she was here last weekend. That didn't happen, but at least the woman rang up and has made an appt to come the next time Helen is here – in six weeks' time, if all goes well with David's operation.

I don't think we actually need help quite yet. We have a good, strong, trustworthy cleaning woman who keeps the worst of the squalor at bay and does the ironing. I don't really do much besides cook (and knit). But we need to make plans for what to do if I am incapacitated, and for how to cope when my husband's needs become greater.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Greek Helen is on her way home, on the very same early-Sunday-morning EasyJet direct flight which C. and I will take at the end of March. She seems in good form, and we had a nice time.

She made attempts to think ahead on the subject of Care of the Elderly in the Home, without making much progress. All four of our distant children would like to formulate a plan for looking after my husband if I am temporarily or permanently disabled. He must stay here. But one of the troubles with unpleasantness is that however well one prepares, it can be guaranteed to arrive in an unexpected form.

I did at least show her where, in this untidy room, the files about the bank accounts are to be found.

She has much else to think about. Her husband David will have a major operation for diverticulitis this week. I thought it was just an inconvenient and occasionally painful chronic condition – my father had it; he lived into his 90's. But David is to have a length of bowel cut out and the ends reattached.

Not much knitting got done. I hope the balls of yarn attached to Archie's sweater will finally be finished today. We didn't get to see Archie himself. He woke up with a sore throat yesterday and stayed away.

We had some more water from the flat upstairs yesterday, this time a drip through our kitchen ceiling. I was there when it started and raced upstairs. The washing machine was leaking. The drip was quickly stopped. My husband is apoplectic with rage and wants to have the kitchen replastered at the neighbours' expense. These are the same people who ruined our dining room three years ago with an inundation from their bathroom. I don't think any damage was done this time, and I don't think there's anything we can do except fume.

The Little Boys from Loch Fyne have been in Glasgow this week, taking exams and being interviewed for various schools. The elder of the Little Boys will finish primary school this summer. The plan is to send both to a Glasgow school – the family will have to live in Glasgow during the week, and I don't know what will happen to the ducks. At one of the exams, a fellow candidate was discovered in tears. Thomas – the younger of the Little Boys – befriended him. “It'll be all right. You can copy my answers.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

We spent yesterday recovering from the stress of the day before – that dental appt – and I at least feel much the better for it. And Greek Helen will be here today, to share the load for three whole days. She is going to cook tonight and Saturday. I had a good time in Waitrose yesterday, buying the things on her list. They don't seem to stock za'atar in Tesco.

Thank you for your help with the New Yorker cartoon and the Green Bay Packers. Failure to reach the Superbowl – especially after such a thrilling game – will explain the looks of gloom. Why are the fans all men?

I know about Wisconsin and cheese – Theo's wife Jenni is from there. When Lizzie and Greek Helen and I went to the wedding – flying from Edinburgh to Newark, train to Old Saybrook, a much longer and harder day than it sounds – we were met at our hotel with a little goodie bag, a timetable of events, suggestions for filling in any empty hours – and a piece of cheese, in the shape of the state of Wisconsin. It was a nice touch.

More for the Miscellany dep't:  the owner of the Jack Russell terrier I hope to knit, sent me this link – a YouTube video of a knitted and animated farmyard. Cute.

I got on well with Archie's sleeve at the end of my recuperative day. I got out two of those mesh sleeves you sent me, Mary Lou, and put the yarn in them. It helps a good deal, especially as the balls are tending to fall apart now that we have reached the end game. But I'll still be glad to revert to knitting from only one.

I probably won't try to write anything while Greek Helen is here. Back on Monday?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Oh, Jean, that's good: the plain Jack Russell's are “without benefit of clergy”!

Pedro wasn't along on yesterday's outing. We will have to arrange a sitting. His owner says he is relatively low on markings – just around the head, whereas the one in the pattern book has spots on the body. That will simplify things. Free-form intarsia is an interesting idea, but I wouldn't welcome too much of it.

Not much real knitting got done yesterday. When we got to our appt in Restorative Dentistry we found the little waiting room full of dispirited oldies and my heart was in my boots – but they called us while I was still filling out a form about my husband's medical history, and not a stitch was knit.

Some more sleeve in the evening, but not much. I will certainly be glad when there are no longer two balls of yarn attached, winding themselves around each other as I constantly turn the work. I am still using a short circular, and will manage one or two more decreases with it. And, last night, a miracle – there on the coffee table at my knees was an unopened pack of Cubics, 7” or thereabouts, in the necessary gauge. How did that happen? Very gratefully received.


Here's one for you: we often find New Yorker cartoons somewhat beyond our ken these days but the one on page 58 of the current issue, January 19, beats them all – ranks of glum men with cheese on their heads. Please explain.

Janet (comment Monday), I come from a sturdy line of high-achieving women, and went to Oberlin which disputes with Mount Holyoke the honour of being the first institution in the world to give degrees to women – and which certainly introduced co-educational college education. I don't think I was ever made to feel that there was anything I couldn't do, or shouldn't bother to try to do, just because I was a woman.

But there was certainly a powerful Ladies-Home-Journal miasma about in the 50's, requiring marriage of all women as the basic test of success in life. It was my own choice to step off the merry-go-round. And I needed to get away from home, like Roz Chast ("Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?"). And, unlike her, wasn't a genius.

I doubt if life is easier for today's young women – life doesn't get easier. But at least they know they have to provide a career for themselves.

Life: yesterday was seriously stressful, hard to say why. Partly because the appt was at 1:45, our lunchtime. All went well, see above, and we got home in time for a very late lunch with no hypoglycaemia. But oh, dear, the worry. We are undoubtedly both in steep decline. Nothing is scheduled for today – bliss. And tomorrow Greek Helen will be here – double bliss.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday is Cleaning Woman day, and this one also brings with it another hospital appt – dentistry. So there won't be much here. It's the last hospital appt in what has been a busy month of them.

I'm happily knitting that sleeve. You may remember that long, long ago I came upon a skein that seemed solider in colour than the preceding ones, so I am doing what they tell you to do, and alternating it with another skein  round by round. It works fine as far as colour is concerned, but it is a nuisance, and also has the effect of making the two skeins seem absolutely endless.

I have broken them off the body and taken them with me to the sleeve. It seemed the only thing to do. I am glad to say that at last they are beginning to seem diminished.

“Best in Show” turned up yesterday, and will be a good addition to the books on my Oddities shelf. Dog-knitting looks feasible. The yarns specified are Rowan, easy to inspect in John Lewis. The dog in question is a Jack Russell. It will be necessary to get colour and markings more or less right. It's a “parson Jack Russell” in fact – that's a new one to me. The friend who owns it is going to drive us to the dental hospital.We'll be able to discuss the project a bit further on the way.

The Pakokku sock has benefited somewhat from all these appts. I'm around the second heel at last. Today should move things forward still further. Dentistry is the one speciality which doesn't involve me in the consultation.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Little knitting was done yesterday, as often on a Sunday, but I moved a little bit forward with that sleeve. I found the Sirka counter, reminded myself how to use it (the packaging is gone), and embarked on a task right up its street – decreasing every fifth round 24 times. I note with alarm what you say about the beautiful red yarn I mean to use for the inside of the hems, Leslie. The best I can say is that I hope I will take your advice about fixing the colour.

I knit entire red madtosh sweaters for the Thomases, elder and younger, a few years ago. I wonder how they're getting on? It's possible, indeed likely, in both cases that the sweaters aren't much worn.

In other news, James rang up to introduce a scheme my excellent children have come up with – to transport my husband to Sydenham for Holy Week, when I am in Athens. Alexander will drive him down in his powerful, comfortable car. He will be housed, not in the spare bedroom on the mezzanine – it's a big London house – but in the little-used front parlour on the ground floor. You never saw a house with so many lavatories, so that will be all right.

My husband has advanced a number of difficulties – would it be better to fly? To take the train? What would he do all week once he got there? (Take the computer along, perhaps?) And then he'd have to come back again.

We shall see.

Sometimes in moments of gloom I feel I have squandered my talents in a life of incompetent domesticity. But then, on the other hand, there are moments like this. I am the mother of Rachel, Alexander, James and Helen. The mother of the Gracchi could hardly have done better. Being President of the International Monetary Fund would have been trivial by comparison.

Rachel also phoned last night – her son Joe was knocked off his bicycle on his way to work the other day. The police phoned Rachel while she was on her way to work, and she got to the hospital before the ambulance arrived with Joe in it. There has been a lot in our news lately about A&E departments being overwhelmed. Joe was treated immediately, and continued to be attentively monitored even after it turned out that he was essentially all right.

The bicycle came out of it less well.

Rachel and I think that a lot of the difficulty in A&E is caused by people who call for an ambulance when they feel a bit poorly. When they get to the hospital, they are subject to a process called “triage” which gives precedence to people like Joe. My husband says that “triage” means “shunting” in French.

Coding: I enjoyed it a lot, once. No time, now. Learning BASIC was a major intellectual excitement in my middle years. We had a couple of computers in the school where I taught Latin – this was in the days just before the introduction of the IBM PC. The maths teacher had devised a programming course for dull girls, all the books being too complicated for them.

She gave it to me, and I went off and had a go. The first task was to do something or other, and to count how many times you had done it. I could do the task, all right, but how to do the counting? I went back to the maths teacher. She said, put in a line saying x=x+1.

It was an electrifying moment for me – a simple and impossible equation in the mathematics I thought I knew, a whole new way of dealing with the world. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The paragraph that didn't get written yesterday – when Alistair rang the doorbell – was to thank you for finding that Gaughan pattern for me, Sous Sous. I had remembered that it was a single syllable repeated, but that didn't get me very far. Lots of people are doing it on Ravelry but there are very few finished pictures. From one of them, I deduce that it is important to have plenty of ease, as with my beloved Relax.

I remain somewhat tempted.

And, Shandy, I haven't set myself yet to find the National Gallery handout about “our” picture, but I know my husband will want to see it. Your remark about how the picture looked like a Dutch interior was interesting. The artist in question was much interested in, and influenced by, Dutch painting although the interest mainly manifested itself, in his early career, in the pictures that made his name, with crowds or at least groups carousing outdoors (Pitl*ssie Fair) or doing something interesting within (Villag* Politici*ns, Distra*ning for R*nt). “Woman at Prayer” was an unusual subject for him, and not many people other than my husband could have demonstrated that he in fact painted such a thing, That was a big reason why we thought we'd win it at auction.

But the dealers didn't worry about proof – they bought on the evidence of their eyes, and all credit to them.

So, yesterday was grandsons. Alistair arrived early. I cooked him a cholesterol-ful breakfast and we sat and talked of computing until my husband got up, and then we mostly talked of Sydenham. We watched a video that Alistair and his father (our son James) had made about their new house. Mimi made several appearances, clearly working on the theory that if you are making a video about the house, your viewers will want to see the cat. He has made a good recovery from his accident. He is very talkative. Maybe that is the way with Chinese cats.

Then Alistair went off to see Archie, and Archie in turn, after seeing Alistair off on his train at the end of the afternoon, came down here. We tried the sweater on. The length is about right. However, it is slightly snug, nothing that blocking can't deal with – but that will shorten it. I think I'll do another inch or so before starting the flaps. Leaving the free stitches on long circular needles worked fine – much like your principle, Melfina, of using a cable from your interchangeable-needle set.

For the time being, I'll go on with the sleeve I;ve started. It's a good thing Hellie is actually getting married – otherwise there might be danger that her shawl would lie there waiting for tidying and blocking forever.

Archie said that Alistair had said that Grandmother should do some coding – it would give her something to do. I was enormously flattered. Archie will be back next weekend, when his mother Greek Helen is here. If I haven't done anything about the MacBook by then,he said,  he will take it in hand.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ruth Rendell has had a stroke.

We had a successful day yesterday. A friend drove us. That helped a lot. Half an hour straight into the low winter sun. My husband's blood sugar – they test on arrival – turned out to be alarmingly low and most of the appt time was spent getting him right again. We came home by taxi and my feelings of panic persisted all evening. Better this morning.

Our friend would like me to knit her a dog. I have ordered Best in Show, the pattern book in question. It will be an ornament to my Curiosities shelf, along with Knit Your Own Great Britain and Knit Your Own Royal Wedding. Once it's here, I can at least consider the feasibility of the project.

The big news is that I have filed the income tax. It's done, on Thursday,  for another year. They say we owe them some money, not an inordinate amount. I'll wait a week or so to see if they are going to explain why.

On Thursday evening, exhausted by this exploit, I wanted some plain-vanilla knitting and found there was none. Archie's sweater has arrived at the point where it really needs to be tried on for length, and the shawl needs grafting and tidying. I just sort of sat there.

But last night – this really won't do – I took things in hand, despite feelings of panic. Archie's sweater has been divided fore and aft onto long circulars. No back and forth knitting (for the terminal flaps) has been done, however – it will be easy to continue in a circle. I then recovered the stitches for the first sleeve and have made a good start on that.

Archie himself will be here at the end of the afternoon. I hope we can stage the trial.

Do any of the books have a good passage on recovering stitches from waste yarn? I always find it slower and more difficult than I think it ought to be. Madelinetosh is fairly loosely spun and many stitches split.

On Thursday, as I was reeling from the emotional effort of filing the tax, the post arrived with the new VK. A glorious moment! The actual issue is something of a disappointment, especially for a winter one. But the articles are good. What a mysterious and interesting woman is Barbara Walker – to be that good at knitting, to write a book essential for every knitting library, and then just to abandon the subject and more on to something else.

Sorry – at that point Alistair rang the doorbell, and the rest will have to wait for tomorrow.

Friday, January 16, 2015

All well here, but the stress of getting my husband to his hospital appt on time has been too much for me.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I've fiddled away this precious hour putting out the recycling – this is Paper and Bottles week; we have lots of both, and they're heavy. So I'll have to be brisk, here.

I finished the border of the Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday, not without difficulty. There was another break in the yarn. I attached a sound length, and got ¾ of the way along the little row before noticing that I was knitting with the short end. It happens to all of us – at least I hope it does (in a way) because it is a frequent stupidity of mine.

Unpicking is never easy with lace, and it didn't go entirely well. However, it's done, and I don't think there are any errant stitches. Today I'll remind myself how to graft in garter stitch. It's easy, I remember, but slightly different. I'll join the beginning and the end of the edging, and then leave the tidying and the blocking for a bit.

For what bit? Until the Income Tax is filed and tidied away, for one thing. Until I figure out where I can block it, for another. We are great procrastinators on the grounds of not doing something until something else has been done. Our children – I haven't told you this – gave me a MacBook Pro for Christmas. My husband, who blames all his difficulties with his computer on my inadequacies, says that I mustn't start using it until...

Until what? I don't think even he knows. And the only way to engage with a computer is to start doing it. So, soon.

I am beginning to think that my husband's computer really does have it in for him. Why on earth, for instance, when it has been turned off and rebooted – a process he tries to avoid, but sometimes it gets away from him – does it start off in Word with the document at 50% size? Yesterday, trying to rectify this situation – I know what to do – I found it obstinately unresponsive. In View, I kept clicking on the up-arrow to increase the zoom factor (or whatever you call it) and it wouldn't budge. The other approach, moving that slider in the lower right-hand corner, wouldn't budge either. What's going on?

I've been back to Zite – I feel 2015 is really getting started. I do love January. Here is a link (I hope) to a whole knitted kitchen in Warwick, Australia.

And Loop was doing a rather interesting KAL involving a pattern by Norah Gaughan, I thought, and madelinetosh DK. A loose-fitting and low-necked thingy with interesting cables, that you sort of drop on over whatever else you are wearing. Just the thing for Greece? But there probably isn't time, and this morning I can't find it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Art history, today.

“Woman at Prayer”

Attentive readers will remember the excitement, this time last year, when we tried to buy a picture by my husband's artist at auction in NY. It had been "whereabouts unknown" for a centuy or so. My sister and her husband heroically went down from CT to bid for us. We were outbid by a consortium of British dealers. Within a very little time, they brought it round for my husband to see and verify:

You've seen that picture before.

Well, this week's news is that it has been bought by the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, their first by the artist. (He is well represented in Tate Britain and the National Gallery here on the Mound.)

The Kouros of Sounion

Long ago, when I was an undergraduate at Glasgow, I went to tea one day at the home of the Professor of Ancient History, A.R. Burn, a man of considerable distinction and infinite kind-heartedness who was also rather boring. He had, as others did in those days, a little cabinet of treasures. He handed me a piece of marble, about eight inches long, sort of wavy. He had picked it up on Cape Sounion. What did I make of that?

Nothing, was the answer, I am afraid.

[Cape Sounion is not far from Athens. There are the remains of a temple there, where Byron has scratched his name. It is where King Aegeus stood, looking towards Crete, waiting for his son Theseus to come back from his encounter with the Minotaur. The arrangement was that the sails would be changed from black to white if Theseus were to come home safely. But Theseus, in the excitement of having killed the Minotaur, run off with Ariadne and then having abandoned her on Naxos, forgot to change the sails. Aegeus saw the black sails and cast himself into the sea which, to this day, bears his name – proving that the story is true.]

Mr Burn said that he had showed it to a classmate of mine, James Picken, a few days before, and Mr Picken had said, “That looks like Attic hair”.

Gisela Richter's great book on the Kouroi was shelved in that very room. Mr Burn drew it out in excitement, and looked up the Kouros of Sounion. Sure enough, he was missing a corresponding length of hair.

This happened in the early months of 1957, when my future husband and I were walking out together. At some point along then I was promoted to a status which allowed me to be invited to Sunday night supper with his boss, A., one of the very first professors of Art History in Britain. On one of those evenings, as we sat around the kitchen table, he told us how Mr Burn was telling this story to everybody in the Staff Club. He – A. – seemed to think it was funny.

Not funny, that Mr Burn had had a fragment of the Kouros of Sounion in his house for several years and didn't know it until a student told him. I'm sure Mr Burn told the story against himself in those terms. But funny, that Mr Burn was so excited about a piece of stone that might belong to some Greek statue.

I was puzzled listening to this, although in no position to comment. I have often been similarly puzzled in my subsequent 50+ years of experience of British life. A. was an art historian. If he didn't know what the Kouros of Sounion was, he could have looked it up, even in those pre-Google days. My husband's sister often said to me, “There's lots you don't know”, and it remains true. I tried to ask my husband about this not long ago. How could A. have laughed at Mr Burn? “You've always been too solemn,” he said.

But it was, in its small way, back there in Glasgow in 1957, a significant discovery concerning a major piece of European art. Funny? I still don't see it. It's not as if A. had been Professor of Microbiology and could laugh at his colleague in ignorance.

If you have been to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens in the last forty or fifty years, you have seen the Kouros, including the piece of marble I have held in my very hands. When Greek Helen and her family moved to Athens from Thessaloniki a few years ago, I told her all this and she went off to the Museum expecting something mildly interesting in a side room. She was stunned by what she saw, and she says the place where the hair was glued back on is clearly visible.

And, soon, I will see it. I haven't been to Athens since 1955.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I finished the tax, and prepared a crib sheet to have handy when I'm actually filing it. That remains to be done. Maybe tomorrow. I feel much better already.

If I had written about Paris yesterday, as I meant to, I would have said that none of those millions of people would dare print a cartoon of the Prophet – so, in a sense, the terrorists had won. But I learn from the radio this morning that I would have been wrong. I agree that it was pretty feeble of Biden not to turn out on Sunday. Of course security would have been a problem. That was the whole point. And America, as the country that suffered the worst terrorist attack of all, needed to be there.

Thank you for the encouraging words about Athens. Jeanfromcornwall, I will certainly provide myself with the modern equivalent of the E111 card. We've taken out the insurance that EasyJet was offering with the tickets. It was cheap, and seemed to provide what was needed – essentially, insurance against the consequences of having a stroke – and didn't seem to have a clause excluding people of 81.

Soon I will write you an essay about the Kouros of Sounon.

But for now I'll have to stop. Knitting went forward peacefully yesterday. It's bitter cold this morning – but the snowdrops are blooming in Drummond Place Gardens.

Monday, January 12, 2015

I'm feeling perhaps a bit better, and drinking soothing herbal teas. Not much knitting yesterday – there's a bit of trouble at the end of the edging of the Bridal Shawl, where the big long needle slipped out. I've now got all the stitches, rather clumsily, on a sock needle protected fore and aft. I fear there's a break, too – m*ths, again? – in the yarn of the border, which is going to be awkward to repair because there's nothing to speak of in the way of a loose end.

Still – onward! I never get much done on Sunday.

I didn't get much tax done, either, partly because of titanic struggles between me, Old Slowcoach, and the printer, as I tried to print out spreadsheets so that I could clip them to their supporting evidence. There's an awful lot of paper involved in this job. And also partly because I had to keep going to help my husband. I don't know how he manages to get into such messes. Reducing the whole text to minuscule size is a favourite with him, splitting the screen, or losing the text altogether.

I often find it difficult to locate the pointer – do I mean, cursor? – on his computer and will try, today, to change it into something more visible, at least. It will save a bit of time.

It sounds stormy out there – if it's too unpleasant for a walk, that will add a valuable ¾ hour to my morning. The thing with the tax is to keep at it. There's really not much more to do, but there must be no more days off.

Maybe my panic is sheer fear of filing the return on-line. It's got to be done – too late for anything else. I've done it two or three times before. The website is very good, easy to navigate. Nothing to be afraid of, really. But it's a bit like cutting a steek, for scariness. I think you're allowed to do a bit and then store it and stop. Maybe I should try that.

However, yesterday's big news has nothing to do with knitting or the income tax, although it's not unrelated to panic. Out niece C., the one I go for walks with, and I have been talking about going to Athens. Greek Helen has been emailing everybody inviting them, now or never, as the family is soon to move back to the UK. And C. said, on our most recent walk, that she was thinking of going at Easter, and I said, maybe I'll come with you.

And yesterday we booked it. EasyJet only offers one flight a week from Edinburgh to Athens, and the air time is long enough (four hours) that if we broke the journey anywhere, we'd have to devote a whole day to it. So we're going on Palm Sunday, and back on Easter Day. The timing could scarcely be more inconvenient. I don't begin to see how my children can possibly manage. The project has been discussed with them in the abstract, and they were encouraging.

It would be nice if they could get my husband to Strathardle. He is unhappy about being so long away.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

I'm in a bad way this morning, for some reason – panic. Recent events in Paris are singularly depressing – more so, in a way, even than 9/11 or the bombs in the London underground. That doesn't seem much of an explanation.

Nor is there anything to report. Half a scallop yesterday, on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl.


I have been thinking on the same lines, Cam – what shall I buy with my (tax-free) £50 if I win my political bet (yesterday)? It won't be enough for a full-scale Wonderful Knitting Project, but something will be required to mark the occasion.

And, Ellen, Snap! on the signed first edition of Kaffe's Glorious Knitting. I've got one too. I remember buying the book. Money was tighter then, but I remember thinking as I held it in the bookstore, that it was a book I was going to have to have one day, so I might as well get it now.

My encounter with the Great Man was nothing so much fun as a class. He came along, some years later, to the big Birmingham department store to give a little talk. I think Brandon M. was there too. It was a glum November evening and only half a dozen or so had turned out. He might have sulked, but he didn't. He talked enthusiastically for a while about the design inspiration to be found in things like a near-by display of striped towels. He left us talking happily to each other, as if we had been guests at a little party.

And I took my Glorious Knitting along and asked him to sign it.

Well, I'd better get on with Sunday, hoping for more cheerfulness and energy tomorrow. It's time to take the income tax back in hand and get the return filed.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Oh, Mary Lou, don't write off intarsia.

That's what I thought when Kaffe's “Glorious Knitting” was first published – wonderful stuff, but not for me. But in those happy days, Rowan put up a lot of the patterns as kits which regularly appeared at a substantial discount in the January sales. I couldn't resist. That's probably where David's Tumbling Blocks came from. The first one I did was Crosspatch, a sleeveless vest.

The Tumbling Blocks pattern is particularly fun because of its geometric nature. Cloud-shapes are what to avoid. Kaffe himself says somewhere, what an addictive pattern it is. And the way to do it is his way – use lengths of yarn about a yard long, and just pull them through the mess.

Tidying up the ends remains a problem.

Knitting progressed well enough here yesterday. I was terribly tired after a week of excitement. Getting places on time has always been stressful for me – a characteristic I inherited from my mother, and she from her father. It's getting worse with age. And my husband, who has always preferred the last minute, is markedly slower with age. Ogden Nash wrote a poem about the two approaches to time-keeping. The punch line is “Each other is what they always marry”.


Some people won't ,like this. Yesterday, uncharacteristically, I went into Ladbroke's and bet £10 on the Liberal Democrat candidate to win the constituency of Gordon in the forthcoming general election.

The seat is currently held by a Liberal Democrat, Sir Malcolm Bruce. He has been there since 1983 and his majority in the last election was >6500. A man of blameless character, as far as I know, he is now retiring. His Liberal Democrat successor, Christine Jardine by name, should be what we gambling people call a shoo-in. But...

The excitement this time is generated from the fact that Mr Salmond himself is standing as the candidate for the Scottish National Party. They came second last time.

My reasoning is as follows:

  1. Inertia counts for something – there will be lots of people who will say “I've always voted Liberal and I quite like yon wee lassie”.
  2. They are a tough-minded breed up there in Aberdeenshire, and may not like being taken for granted. Mr Salmond, and the nation, simply assumes he'll win. He was telling us just this week how he might wind up as Deputy Prime Minister in a Labour-SNP coalition government. It's a bit like me and those Calcutta Cup scarves – first, win your parliamentary seat.
  3. Aberdeen is oil country (although the Gordon constituency itself is a rural one). The recent fall in the oil price is beginning to mean job losses up there, and people are anxious about the future. Not even I would suggest that Mr Salmond is to blame for the price of oil, but people will remember the wealthy independent Scotland he was promising us on the strength of a price roughly twice what it is now.

Well, we shall see. I got 5-1 on Ms Jardine. Mr Salmond was heavily odds-on. Mr Ladbroke clearly agrees with his self-estimation. Whatever, it's going to be an extremely interesting general election – the whole country is fractious and divided.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Back again, after a tiring but successful week. And no further hospital appts until Friday of next week.

Little to report. That Pakokku sock got itself into a bad tangle over Christmas. I tried to finish turning the heel while we were being driven to Loch Fyne, with disastrous results. I got it straightened out, by dint of substantial ripping-back, before we left, and yesterday while my husband was having his lung function tested, I advanced things further.

Next week's appt is diabetes – that involves a lot of sitting around. They do a blood test when you arrive, and you have to sit there until the result is available to the consultant before you can talk to him/her. That should get me well down the foot.

Both local knitting projects edge forward – two or three more days remain for the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and Archie's sweater is very near the point where it will be divided for front-and-back flaps. I think the plan is that he and his cousin Alistair, formerly of Beijing and now an undergraduate at Glasgow University, will be here next weekend. I'd like to have the sweater ready for a second trying-on.

Greek Helen has sent some more boys-in-sweaters pics. Here are all four, none of them wearing anything I knit, but all in proper sweaters – taken in the Mount Pelion snow over Christmas.


Mungo, David, Fergus, Archie.

And here is David's Tumbling Blocks sweater. The implication is that I knit it, although I have no memory of it. I remember knitting the pattern several times – Rachel's husband Ed has a rather natty sleeveless vest in blues and greys which will look particularly well at my funeral. (It's a shame I will miss it – and only by a few days, as Garrison Keillor once remarked.) I remember knitting David a sweater with broad horizontal stripes in wool from that British breed which looks as if it has dreadlocks. Lovely, silky stuff that I bought at a craft fair in Perth. But I don't remember the Tumbling Blocks.

Helen says that Mungo asked to borrow it when he was going to a party the other night. There's clearly a lot of knitting-for-boys in my future.


Ivy, I went back to have a look around Craftsy after a long break – but, alas, could find nothing about shadow knitting, by Franklin or anyone else. It's an obvious one to add to their list. Maybe by the time Scotland win the Calcutta Cup...

Linda, I couldn't agree more, about time in old age. All the ads sort of suggest that time should be hanging heavy. Not a bit of it. Part of the problem is that one is weaker, and everything takes longer to do than it used to. But it remains true that there are still an awful lot of things to do.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

I think I'd better not try to write this morning. The strain of getting my husband to an early (for him) hospital appt, preceded by the strain of keeping him and the cleaning woman in separate compartments, is all too much. I should be back tomorrow, but Archie will be here, so maybe not. Thursday involves another early appt. Friday looks clear.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Monday morning has never been so welcome!

I had a good day with the tax yesterday, as hoped, and am now nearly ready to file. My usual practice is to let it settle down for a few days – not too long, because I need to keep mentally focussed on it – just long enough to allow mistakes to float to the surface. Perhaps I'll print some of the spreadsheets today and clip them to the supporting documentation. The tax man wants to know only the bottom line – you don't have to Show Your Work these days. But I always try to keep it all in orderly form in case we get inspected.

Like Ros Chast's elderly parents, we have money squirrelled away hither and yon in various accounts, each yielding a derisory amount of income/interest. It all has to be added up. It will be a nightmare for Alexander when he moves into Ros Chast's shoes. (I spoke to Rachel yesterday. She has finished reading the book and was shaken. I thought, again, that James and Alexander ought to see it. And both are married to women both of whose parents are alive.)


Sunday never produces much. I am sorry to have to tell you that the new ball of lace yarn which I have just joined in, is full of breaks. The ball I used to start the Queen Ring over Christmas had the same trouble. I have to conclude that the problem is m*ths, and am distressed. So the last couple of inches of the Unst Bridal Shawl edging are decorated with a lot of loose ends, where I thought I had wound back to sound yarn and found I was mistaken. No great harm done but it seems messy and incompetent.

I had better bag the Queen Ring edging and its ball and put them in the freezer for a while, if I can make space. I think m*ths are particularly keen on lace.

Helen read yesterday's blog and sent me this, taken, she says, in 2011 to show me that boys do wear sweaters. I have no memory of it. It shows Fergus, on the left, and Mungo, Archie's younger brothers. Neither sweater is of my knitting, and both are rather interesting. I see a great future ahead, knitting for boys.

Thank you for your help with the Calcutta Cup scarves. The match is on March 14th – halfway to Easter. I am, at the moment, rather taken with the idea of Shadow Knitting. I think boys would find it fun. I'll have a look at the book. I think I remember that none of the patterns supplied had much appeal – but the question now is, how easy is it to construct one's own, given a basic two-colour chart?

We must bear in mind that Scotland probably won't win. There's no point in investing too much mental energy now.

The week ahead involves two hospital appts., days of maximum stress; and Archie, a welcome treat in between. I hope to drive him  to school on Wednesday. I always enjoy that. He'll have to go by taxi if the day is bright, though. I really hate driving blind into the low winter sun.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The snow plow finally turned up on the slopes on Mt Pelion, leaving the road a sheet of ice:

Grit seems to be unknown. Greek Helen and her family thought they would have to stay another day, but “we ended up sliding down the hill behind a neighbour's truck”. They are safe and well in Athens. Here is a picture of the path David dug:

And here is one of a Greek pussy cat in the village, sheltering from the elements in a Nativity scene outside the baker's:

We will see Archie on Tuesday who can fill in some of the details.

Yesterday went less well here. I didn't get back to the tax, and, perhaps for that reason, felt panicky all day. Today should be better – Sunday usually offers a clear couple of hours at the end of the afternoon for desk work.

Thank you for your suggestions about the Calcutta Cup scarf. I've got Alasdair Post-Quinn's Double Knitting book – I'm not altogether sure I haven't signed up for a Craftsy class on the subject, but have never viewed it, if so. It has always sounded too complicated for me. I'll look into it.

Another thing that has always sounded too complicated is Shadow Knitting. Would boys find that fun? I'll investigate that one, too. Am I right in thinking it only uses one colour at a time?

Actual knitting moved forward. I have marked off the remaining live sitches on the Unst Bridal Shawl in 12-stitch groups (=two scallops, a normal day's work). I used those split-ring stitch markers which are normally nothing but a nuisance. It would appear, if I've got it right, that the final scallop will have only five stitches to attach itself to. One of the returns will have to be left unattached – not too serious a fudge.

Another week might see it done. Finishing, as I've said, I'll leave until after the tax is filed. Archie's sweater will go fast, once it's the only project in action. I began to give serious thought last night to the important question of, what next? I can go on knitting the Queen Ring forever, of course, but I need something else. The problem about the Little Boys on Loch Fyne who only wear fleeces, isn't confined to the Little Boys on Loch Fyne. Nobody wears sweaters. I don't wear sweaters.

(This time of year I wear an old, very moth-eaten Manos del Uruguay sleeveless vest under a sweatshirt.)

Maybe that's not true. Maybe bigger boys do. Joe wore his Grandson Sweater all through university, I think. Archie wears sweaters – that's why I'm knitting one for him. Alistair Miles, formerly of Beijing and now at Glasgow University, will be here for a weekend with Archie soon. I'll sound him out on the subject.

And then there's the Tokyo Shawl. I think someone would wear that – maybe even me.


This time of year is very odd – a series of days each feeling like Sunday, but Monday never comes. Here at last is a Real Sunday. Tomorrow our soap opera will be back on television, after too long a break. My husband has two hospital appts this week, rheumatology and diabetes. Archie's coming, and I hope to be able to drive him back to school on Wednesday. Life resumes, insh'Allah.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

No further news from Mount Pelion.

And there is little to report on the knitting front. Both projects –Unst Bridal Shawl edging, Archie's sweater – are moving steadily but slowly forward. Archie's sweater has now progressed 13” below the armpits (it's top-down, remember). I think I'm aiming for 16”.

Vibeke Lind was no help on the Calcutta Cup Scarf front. The only real question is whether, after starting with a Norwegian-patterned tube which incorporates the Cup and the date, I can switch to a single layer – a two-sided stitch pattern such as a rib – to get me more rapidly to the other end. Or must I go on with an endless tube? I'll look in some of my scarf books.

It will be fun to have two colours and to reverse them, pattern and background, on the two scarves.

First, however, win your rugby match.


Beth, thank you for the link to the NY Times article about Ros Chast's book, mentioned here recently. I was very glad to learn that they list it as one of the ten best books of last year. The two cartoons they pick to illustrate the article – Boredom and Anxiety as she tackles her parents' paper-work – are absolutely me, facing up to the income tax.

I had another good day on that front yesterday. I'll be back with the cider in no time, at this rate.

Ros Chast had an elder sister who was born at seven months and lived only a day. The early birth was possibly because Mrs Chast climbed on a stool to change a light bulb, but probably because of placenta praevia. The dead baby was a shadow over Ros' childhood.

The NY Times reviewer, however, startles me when she says, “There's a certain place in hell-on-earth for children who follow a deceased sibling”. That seems awfully strong. Maybe the reviewer is acquainted with some special cases. Archie is such a child. His brother Oliver, a year older, lived 6 ½ weeks, all of them spent in hospital. I have never detected in their parents anything other than unrelieved joy at having a healthy child.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Greek Helen and her family are still trapped on Mount Pelion. Helen crawled up the track to the road yesterday, where she found some wet locals on improvised snow shoes who had walked three hours from the nearest village to look for their ponies. They told her that the snow plow hadn't even reached the village yet. Later David dug a path along the track, a considerable distance, through snow sometimes chest deep. So now they will be able to reach their car, when the plow finally comes, and feel a bit calmer.

They are counting out the potatoes and wondering whether to eat the dog.

I find some encouragement in the fact that Helen says the local people were "wet" – not just cold and miserable. But it takes a while for that much snow to shift.

I made a good start on the income tax yesterday, and I've thought of a scheme. Lots of people give up drink for January to give the system a rest after the excesses of the holidays. I'm not too keen on that idea, as Lent starts in the middle of February. I have set myself, however, to give up Weston's Vintage Cider until I have filed the tax return. That should keep my nose to the grindstone.


Diana Cooper wrote her autobiography in old age, quoting extensively from her own letters. She was a brilliant and prolific letter-writer. That's where I'd recommend starting, if you want to get to know her. It's a fascinating look at a world which is now almost unimaginable: she was the daughter of a duke (Rutland) and grew up before the Great War. It doesn't sound to me as if she ever in her life cooked lunch, but she ran a smallholding during the WWII, cow, chickens, pigs, kale, and was thoroughly hands-on about that.

And then she went more or less straight from the pigsty to being the wife of the British ambassador in Paris in which role she was equally brilliant.

The other book I wanted to tell you about is Ros Chast's “Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” She is my favourite New Yorker cartoonist. Recently they printed several pages from the book, as they occasionally do with new books, so I knew there was such a thing. I haven't seen any reviews. I gave it both to Rachel and to Helen, and think perhaps James and Alexander ought to have it too. Christmas is why I couldn't tell you about it before.

It is about the extreme old age and death of her parents. She's Ros Chast, so a lot of it is funny. She makes the story general by making it utterly specific, and the result to my mind is a serious piece of writing, to be compared, I think, to Simone de Beauvoir's “A Very Easy Death”, about her mother's last month.


I tried counting stitches between where-I-am and the end of the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, but I keep getting different answers so I'll leave it for now. Each repeat of the edging takes in six stitches so the very worst that can happen (I think) is that I'll have three too many or three too few; a perfectly fudge-able number.

At two-scallops-per-session, there's about another week of knitting there. Finishing and blocking will have to wait until after the tax is done.

I flipped through Arne and Carlos but failed to find a scarf. They have every other item imaginable – draft excluders and a teddy bear and wrist warmers and ankle warmers. I'll have a look at Vibeke Lind.  

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year to all. I have high hopes for 2015.

Greek Helen emailed this picture yesterday. They are all marooned on Mount Pelion – can't even get up the path to the road, and the road hasn't been plowed. If Archie has to ring up his school to say he can't get back for the beginning of term next week because he is stuck on Mount Pelion, will they recognise the literary-historical allusion?

I didn't achieve much yesterday – one and 1/3 scallops of the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and the income tax papers spread out on the table. Somehow extra hours are going to have to be squeezed out of the day. Less food-shopping could probably be managed.

While at Loch Fyne, we talked about what to do (=what to knit) if Scotland win the Calcutta Cup. It's unlikely. Indeed, it's unlikely every year but particularly so in the odd-numbered ones when the match is played in London. Have we won there in living memory? However, this year it's possible. Scotland were playing with a new spring in their step in the autumn tests and England looked a bit listless.

The trouble is, the Little Boys don't wear sweaters. It's all layered fleeces over there. Once when the match was a draw, I knit a hat for one of them, showing half the Calcutta Cup. It was much appreciated, but soon got lost.

We have decided on scarves this time (if needed). I must have a look at Arne & Carlos' latest book. I am sure I can do something on my own, if there is nothing helpful there: Norwegian-type patterning at the ends, incorporating the cup and the date, something two-sided in between.

The other thing at Loch Fyne was that I cast on the Queen Ring Shawl. It is an odd feeling, casting on something which death or decrepitude has a seriously good chance of interrupting. But you never know.

I made a good start. I knit ten scallops – there are forty-something per side. The pattern is easy to learn, very lacy with lots of k2togs and yo's and therefore slow. I think I'll probably get a bit faster as things progress. No k3togs at all – that's a blessing.

Each border starts off with 340-odd stitches. The borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl have 300. So the Queen Ring is bigger, but not order-of-magnitude bigger. I feel slightly hopeful. And I was pleased to find, when we got back, that my fingers remembered the pattern for the Unst Bridal Shawl edging without any need for chart-peering.

I spent some time reading the Queen Ring pattern, too. The difficulty is that Sharon M. is both telling us how to re-create the antique shawl she owns, as it was knit; and also translating it into modern. The old shawl, for instance, has substantially fewer scallops than needed in the edging, and then increases mightily in the first row of the border. And the borders aren't mitred, just taken in from time to time.

I shall knit a full complement of edging scallops, and I'll mitre the corners of the border.


Both Greek Helen and I gave my husband the same book for Christmas – Diana Cooper's letters to her son Viscount Norwich. She was a remarkable woman, the “Lady Diana” of the interbellum years, with a wit and a gift for friendship far exceeding her subsequent namesake. She had an unfaithful husband, too, and shrugged it off.

If you've read Evelyn Waugh's “Scoop” – and if you haven't, you should; you've got a treat in store – you already know her, for she is Mrs Stitch.

The new collection of letters has as vivid a day-by-day account of the experience of the London Blitz as I have ever read.