Sunday, July 31, 2016

We’re tottering on. Rachel has gone, much missed. It’s just me and Archie and Perdita now.

My husband is a lot better than he was, detached now from all tubes except for oxygen up his nose. Dozy, bad-tempered. He is very weak. He is agitating to come home, which I am sure is a healthy symptom as long as they don’t let him do it. It takes two or three nurses to move him to the chair beside his bed.

I heard some of Obama’s convention speech. If that can’t win the presidency for Hillary, there’s no hope for her. I gather Michelle’s was even better. The next few weeks are going to be very interesting, and the presidential debates, fascinating. My husband and I saw the very first ones, Kennedy-Nixon, in 1960 in Northampton, MA, by going across the street to watch a neighbour’s television. [Presumably abandoning Rachel and Alexander to their fates. I don’t remember.] We saw the famous five-o’clock-shadow which is said to have lost the election for Nixon. In this case, the candidates will scarcely be speaking the same language.

Archie and I have watched “Zelig”. It’s pretty entertaining, although far from Allen’s best. (“Manhattan”, “Annie Hall”, “Sleeper”, “Play It Again, Sam”) It was odd, indeed, seeing my father as my contemporary, when he always used to be so much older.

I think I’m rather avoiding the subject of knitting. I’m completely stuck on that final edge of the Hansel shawl. Why? Why? Hospital visiting is good for socks – I’ve finished the graduated ones (although haven’t yet finished them), and have cast on and made good progress with Vampires in Venice. It doesn’t swoop as I had hoped, on 56 stitches, but at least it makes tidy stripes. Picture soon. I must pull myself together. I’m not all that far away from the first heel.

Knitlass, I travel to the RIE on the No 8 from Broughton Street, so alas! don’t pass you. It’s a long, tedious journey, but about as convenient as a bus could be. On the outward trajectory I ride upstairs where knitting isn’t easy, but I manage a bit. Downstairs, on the way home – because it is dangerous to try to get down the stairs as the bus is hurtling down Broughton Street – knitting is easier. And I knit in the hospital when my husband is dozing.

Driving would be a bit quicker, but much more stressful, and also more expensive. Busses are free as I’m so old.

Monday, July 25, 2016

I have been much moved by all your messages. Thank you.

This is very sad news, about Susan Crawford’s cancer. I feel that frisson of guilt one has, when something terrible happens to someone one has been bad-mouthing. I wish her nothing but well. Bugger the book.

It has been a tough week here, but things are looking better. My husband had hip-replacement surgery late on Tuesday (having fallen on Monday morning). He is, at last, pulling round. He hasn’t been able to swallow all week, but yesterday he did, and they were going to try to get him up in the evening.

Helen came from Greece, James from London. They’ve gone away again, but Rachel is coming today.

Soon we will be thinking about rehabilitation, and the “care package”. He fell when under the care of the council carer who had come to get him up and dressed, as every morning. I was in the kitchen. They can hardly refuse to reinstate the “package”, I hope, when the fall was largely if not entirely their fault. My husband bent over to pick up his handkerchief. I wouldn’t have let him do that, if I had been there. I suspect the carer wasn’t at his elbow as he should have been.

Meanwhile Archie is here, and it is a comfort to have him. We were talking about movies over supper last night – he is an expert in some fields, naïve in others. He said he had never seen a Woody Allen film, and I suddenly thought that he must see “Zelig” – so I ordered a DVD, and it will be here soon. We’ve got a videotape of it, but that’s not much use any more. My father has a bit part in it: a great-grandfather Archie never met.

I haven’t see it for a long time, and it will be very odd to see it again. My father, as I remember, has two short scenes, full-screen, utterly himself. Allen wanted what my father was, a retired newspaperman who could (pretend to) reminisce about the ‘30’s. I don’t know how they got together. My father (counting on fingers here) was a bit younger then than I am now. He had a lot of fun shooting those scenes, and happily dined out on the story for some time thereafter.

There is disappointingly little to say about knitting.  My husband is in the Royal Infirmary this time, a long journey. I could drive, but the thought of finding space to park and then struggling with the payment machine is too much for me. The bus is slow and bumpy, but pretty well door-to-door. Still, a certain amount of sock-knitting is not impossible.

I’ll return to the subject soon. Maybe not tomorrow, what with Rachel being here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My husband fell on Monday morning and fractured his hip. He had surgery yesterday, and is poorly this morning. No more from here for a while. I'll miss you, and I'll be back a.s.a.p.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I have had two more days of not bad, but not much. I have turned the final corner of the Hansel hap, and now face the final straight – attaching the edging, I mean.

I had an idea, the other night. I have been buying yarn recently with specific projects in mind, feeling that that is somehow more virtuous than random stash-enhancement. But that doesn’t mean I have to use the yarn for the project it was bought for, does it? Perhaps there was something from the EYF market which would do for the Uncia shawl?

And there is – two skeins of the Skein Queen’s merino and cashmere 4-ply, in a beautiful and very suitable shade called Blush. The Uncia is done in two skeins of Fyberspates 4-ply, 365 metres in a 100 gram skein. The Skein Queen yarn claims 400 metres to 100 grams – a wee margin of error for comfort. (I learned from my recent experience with the Neap Tide shawl that the fact that “4 ply” matches, so to speak, guarantees little or nothing. It is the metres-to-grams figure which is likely to be far more significant.)

I will be sorry not to experience Fyberspates, with which I have never knit, but I can’t have everything. Fyberspates will have to wait for another time. I’ve got to make a dent on those EYF purchases if I am to enjoy myself to the full next year.

The Skein Queen yarn was intended for your Bidwell Shawl, Mary Lou – something else I will have to come back to. Perhaps I can bring things full circle one day by knitting it in a Fyberspates yarn.

I have been enjoying the one-WIP-at-a-time experience, until I hit the current roadblock with the Hansel edging. But the Uncia and the half-brioche sweater could nevertheless be combined, once the sweater has been successfully re-established.

Another issue of The Knitter has turned up, rather soon after the first one, I feel, but none the less welcome for that. So Rowan has been sold! Why did nobody tell me? The new owner’s plans to simplify and strengthen the yarn list, sound sensible. Wait and see. And I read about the forthcoming Loch Ness Yarnerama. I wonder how that will fare? and hope it will be possible to find out. I may have to start Twittering.


Archie’s money-raising job is nearly over. He has had some success, but not much. Several men told him that they had had such a miserable time at school that they wouldn’t dream of donating.

He has agreed to take me for a Pokemon-Go walk on Tuesday.

Turkey: an extraordinary event, to end an extraordinary week. And now Baton Rouge, to launch what will surely be another one.

I have listened to and read and watched as much as I could about what has been happening in Turkey. Nobody has attempted to explain to me why more than 2000 judges have been arrested, although the fact is regularly repeated. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Oh, France! I have nothing to say, but silence mustn't be interpreted as indifference.

It’s raining tonight, real, serious rain. All my doorstep pots appreciate that far more than all the heavy watering cans I can carry out to them.

Here is a picture of the nasturtium pot. I think you can see how the flowers to the right, the first to open, are proper nasturtium flowers, and the ones to the left – and even more, the buds being held aloft from the leaves – are different, with the stems attached to the base of the flower. I no longer have the seed packet, alas. There was nothing at all in the earlier progress of the seedlings, or in the foliage, to make me suspect that they weren’t all common or garden nasturtiums.

One of the things I didn’t know about until I was thoroughly grown up was the way plants can be picked up and moved from one species to another – or even switched between genera? – as botanists currently think fit.  I think I thought it had all been fixed forever by Linnaeus. Not that I suspect anything of the sort is happening here. It’s just that I have been trying again, and failing again, to identify the cactuses in my little collection and you have never seen such a family of plants for reclassification. The experience leaves me edgy and suspicious.

As for knitting, again, there is little to report. I have reached the penultimate repeat of the edging on the third side (the penultimate side, indeed) of the Hansel shawl. I’m getting there. And I welcome your question, KayT, about what comes next.

The main idea is to return to the half-brioche sweater I am knitting for myself. But starting something new would be very pleasant, and could be invigorating. I am in need of invigoration. But what? My husband’s sweater, with the beautiful madtosh Tannehill? Or one of the alarmingly long list of other projects for which I have yarn and pattern carefully stashed together? Or – caution thrown to the winds – Lucy Hague’s “Uncia” pattern from the Haps book? It’s fun to think about such things.

The whole world must know by now about the sheriff in Dundee who, confronted by a road rage case in which the offender claimed to have been on her way to an LYS, told her to knit some things to be donated to a charity shop and bring them back to court in December. Otherwise, prison.

There is a good deal we are not being told here. Even an LYS doesn’t justify road rage. Maybe the sheriff didn’t entirely like the victim’s story? It would be nice if the Dundee Courier, which first broke the story, would assign a reporter to keep in touch with the accused and let us know how her knitting is getting on. I think I’d go for hats, in that situation.

I think (from Flipboard) that this item first ran in the Courier, and then got taken up in America, and has now been noticed by the serious London press here. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

There is virtually nothing to report, and no excuse for it. With tennis finished, and politics moving beyond my ken, there’s nothing left to say. Well, that's not quite true – I’m glad our new Prime Minister is coming to Scotland tomorrow. Mr Cameron always seemed to be avoiding us.

As for knitting, my progress is very slow. I don’t entirely see why it should be so. I’m weak, but I could insert knitting more effectively into the times during the day when I sit down to draw breath. I could play fewer hands of Freecell in the evening when my husband is in bed and I am winding down for sleep.

Nine of fourteen points have been done on the third side of the Hansel hap. That’s where we are.

Horticulture is going well on the front step – that’s a cheerful topic, and news to report. We’ve had a second sorrel soup, with every reason to hope for at least one more. The nasturtiums are in bloom – and there’s a puzzle. Nasturtium flowers are normally, in my experience, joined to the stem in the middle of the flower, like a ballerina being held aloft by her partner. So it is with the first two to have flowered, but the next ones are like ordinary flowers, with the stem attached to their base. There’s nothing in the pot to suggest that anything but nasturtiums are there, nor did I plant anything but nasturtium seeds, all from the same packet.

I’ll post a picture soon, but that won’t help.

The broccoli is being attacked by caterpillars of what could only be the cabbage white butterfly, and I’ve lost half the lettuces I planted out, to what could only be slugs. Nature is red in tooth and claw, as has been noticed before me. One day soon I will open the front door to find rabbits grazing, or even deer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Oh -- and another follower! Welcome! Welcome!


When I first went to my present hairdresser, I asked him to aim for Hillary Clinton. But latterly, in the years between the Secretary of State-ship and the candidacy, I feel she rather lost interest in hair, and I have asked him to aim for Theresa May instead. And now look where we are!

I feared yesterday that the poor Queen might already have reached Balmoral  – she left Edinburgh on Saturday after some strenuous days of royal duties. I feared that before she had had had time to kick her shoes off, she had had to put them back on again and go haring back to London to receive Mr Cameron’s resignation and to ask Mrs May to form a government. I don’t think those are tasks which can be delegated.

But it turns out she went south from Edinburgh at the weekend anyway, to Sandringham, so she’s well placed for London.


I’ve rounded the second corner, the half-way point, in attaching the edging to the Hansel hap. It turns out that the stitch count on the second side was right after all.

I think the trouble is that this edging is extremely boring, but not in the peaceful way that the rest of the shawl is boring, where one can just sit back and knit and read (or talk, or listen). The edging pattern is simple, but each of its 16 rows is different so one has to pay attention to where one is and what’s going on. I have never got going with audio books, and anyway when I am sitting with my husband, with or without the television on, an audio book wouldn’t really work.

I think I got on a bit more briskly today, for having grasped this. I’ve now done four and a half pattern repeats along the third side. There are 14 per side, and each takes – I am rather ashamed of myself for having timed one – about 15 minutes. The pattern is of the very simplest: a column of faggoting (I love faggoting, as you may remember) parallel to the straight edge of the shawl, and a zig-zag of YO eyelets at the outer extremity, as the knitting itself zigzags.

I looked up my Very First Hap, in Madeline Weston’s “Traditional Sweater Book”, and found that the edging was even simpler: the YO zig-zag is there, but no faggoting. How could I have endured it? I think that perhaps when I knit Gudrun’s pattern again, I might choose a slightly more complex “lace” (=edging pattern), just to keep myself awake. KD’s edging for the “Moder Dy” pattern in the Haps book would do very nicely indeed – and would fit just fine, since it’s also 16 rows long.

I have ordered some cheap point protectors for Perdita via Amazon. Will she like cheap ones? Will there be enough green ones in the package? She much prefers green. She has already gone through (=eaten, lost) the ones I bought from Kathy the other day, and has found and removed the ones I was trying to employ on the Hansel hap.

But now I learn that the cheap package is coming from Hong Kong and may not be here until early August. “Where do they find such slow airplanes?” as my late father once asked.

Monday, July 11, 2016

New follower! Hi!

Well, that was grand. Raonic played awfully well, Kristie – Canada can be proud. He’ll be back. But Murray played better. It was a tight match, but the result wasn’t just luck. Raonic bore himself well in defeat, as in play. Murray burst into tears – not just wiping a drop from the manly eye, but apparently sobbing.

Now there’s nothing to look forward to except darkness. I must re-engage with knitting.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Yesterday went much better.

I didn’t watch any tennis, saving myself for today – but I rejoice that Serena won. Our niece C., with whom I often went walking in more vigorous days, is coming over to watch the final with us. It may have to be done from behind the sofa, like children watching Dr Who confront the daleks in the old days.

It is funny how rapidly we have morphed – we, the British, as a tennis-watching nation, at least for this fortnight – from cheering extravagantly when Jeremy Bates reached the third round, to having one of the world’s best in our midst. I exaggerate slightly; I never cared much for Jeremy Bates. In the early days I didn’t think Andy Murray could make it to the top because he was too spindly, lacking the physical strength needed for seven rounds of potentially five-set matches. But he worked on that, as on everything else, and here he is.

A bit more knitting got done yesterday. As on the first side, I am one stitch short of the number I need to attach the edging perfectly. Not difficult to fudge. Will it go on happening?

Flipboard has come up with a gem: a collection of men’s knitting patterns from the ‘60’s or so, from the archive at Southampton University (donated by Montse Stanley and Bishop Rutt, I think). They’re a riot. I don’t think I have any of them in my own archives, although the models look familiar. The sweaters are pretty good – turning aside from a couple of astonishing disasters, there are lots one might well consider knitting today. And it was good to be reminded of Sirdar’s Aran patterns of that era – that’s where I first engaged with Aran. But the models and the poses are very funny indeed.

Shandy, no, I hadn’t seen Paradise Apples. Thank you for that one. And it wouldn’t even take forever, as the yarn is sport weight. Fortunately, given my late-night stash-enhancement propensity, there didn’t seem to be an easy way to order the original Russian yarn. It sounds from my limited grasp of that language as if it’s Australian merino anyway. 

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Yesterday was another tough one domestically.

I saw a fair amount of tennis, however. I’m sad about Federer. I’m glad that Murray won in straight sets. 

He’ll never have a better chance to win Wimbledon. He must be at least as aware of that fact as I am this morning.  This will be his 11th Grand Slam final – that’s quite a few; and the first in which it won’t be either Djokovic or Federer on the other side of the net. Wawrinka, the 4th seed, was another faller in an early round. If all had gone according to seeding, Djokovic would have played Federer yesterday, I think; and Murray, Wawrinka.

Poor Mr Djokovic is probably a delightful young man – but we’ve all had a lot more fun in his absence.

I sat and knit fairly late last night, winding down from a stressful day. The second corner of Gudrun’s Hansel shawl is at last in sight: four more edging points will see me there.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Things have come to a pretty pass when I go into my LYS to buy a pack of point protectors, and Kathy knows I am buying them for the cat. Perdita is obsessed with point protectors, especially green ones. Kathy, happy woman, is going to Shetland Wool Week. I saw her Croft Hoose Hat and liked it a lot. One day I really ought to master corrugated ribbing.

I have little to report beyond a stitch or two of Hansel edging. Nursing was again difficult. I watched a bit of ladies’ tennis but tended to doze off. Tennis is really very soporific. I like the Williams sisters, who have always seemed to me somehow to suggest, when interviewed, that there is a life beyond tennis and that this whole thing is just slightly ridiculous. I’m sorry Venus is gone.

But today (men’s semi-finals) is undoubtedly a big day.

And we’ve heard from Susan Crawford about the progress of the ever-receding Vintage Shetland Project. Publication is still scheduled for mid-August. It hasn’t gone to the printer yet, and there remain “fiddly bits” to be tidied up. The tone is Slightly Harassed.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Nothing but tennis here – goodness! what a day that was!

It was a tough day on the home nursing front, and I thought several times of all those fortunate old ladies, many younger than I, clutching their tea mugs in the day rooms of their care homes, and watching the tennis without interruption. Not really: I’m better tottering about on my own feet in my own house, but the temptation had some appeal yesterday.

The matches were mirror images of each other. In the first, Southern Gal’s friend Mr Federer lost the first two sets and was love-40 down on his serve half-way through the third, and looked to be fading gracefully out of Wimbledon. Then he won that set and the next two. When Murray and Tsonga walked on for the next match, they met the unusual spectacle of half the centre court seats empty. Everyone had gone to lie down in a darkened room.

In his match, my friend Mr Murray won the first two sets – the first in a titanic struggle, the second rather easily; and then lost two. The crowd had come back by then, as well they might, and mercifully, he won the fifth easily, 6-1 I think. My nerves couldn’t have taken much more. His opponent, Mr Tsonga, was really rather good.

My first awareness of Andy Murray, as a teen-aged sensation, was the year of my cataract operations. You’ve probably heard this already. I had the first operation on the first Saturday of that Wimbledon, under a local anaesthetic. I was knitting the Princess shawl at the time, and had progressed far enough that I knew the edging pattern by heart. It took about 50 repeats before that was true.

I recited the pattern to myself during the operation, using “take” and “cast” in my head for k2tog and YO, as Amedro had taught me. I was anxious only to get it over with so that I could go back upstairs for the tennis.

I couldn’t see at all, when that happened, but I could lie there and listen. Murray won the first two sets that day, and lost the next three. When he is in a parallel situation, as he was yesterday, he must surely have memories of that match, as I do. I have felt ever since that a bond of suffering connects us, although neither losing at Wimbledon nor having a cataract operation counts as suffering on the world stage.

More  non-knit 

Yes, thanks, Cat – Mungo’s achievement means he got top marks in every single subject, even the ones he’s not particularly interested in and the ones with boring teachers. The IB doesn’t let you drop subjects the way A-Level does.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

We’ve got a particularly heavy summer of Exam Results this year – Archie, hoping to read English at Glasgow; his brother Mungo, aiming for Ancient Greek and Arabic at Oxford; and their cousin Rachel, James’ and Cathy’s daughter, Chinese and Russian at Leeds. I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone.

Mungo, in Athens, sat the International Baccalaureate, whose results come in first. He needed an overall score of 39 (don’t ask me) to secure his Oxford place. His mother Helen rang up yesterday afternoon, her voice all shaky, and I thought the worst had happened. But no: he got 45, the top score, achieved by fewer than half of 1% of candidates. His place is secure. Oxford is used to clever young people, and can cut him down to size if that is required and, more usefully, introduce him to other clever young people who will be his life-long friends.

Meanwhile, Archie had a good first day as a cold-caller, with nothing to show for it. The men he was assigned clearly talked to him, but took positions similar to yours, Isabella (comment yesterday).

[Tamar, here’s a link to the site which makes me think our mother was right, and that the Wells Organisation pioneered this sort of thing in the ‘50’s.]


Two very exciting matches today. Tsonga won’t be easy for Murray, nor Cilic for Federer. Southern Gal, I’d love to join you in a chat room on Sunday (comment yesterday) – assuming a least one of our heroes lasts that long. It’ll have to be something easy for old ladies to manage – but I do have Archie here to help.

And I got a couple more points of the Hansel hap edging done yesterday: OKC (Obligatory Knitting Content).

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

My sister has been and gone – leaving behind the beautiful madtosh “Tannehill” DK for my husband’s new sweater (or at least to swell the stash). Why did they discontinue that one?

It was a good visit, constrained by the limitations of life here. We had a fine lunch with a friend in an excellent local restaurant (L’Escargot Bleu on Broughton St.: recommended) and a nice walk in the ever-remarkable Royal Botanical Gardens. Other things I had hoped to achieve fell victim to my general lack of peppiness. (I’m surprised the spell-check passes that one.) In particular, I had hoped to get to Dr Neil’s Garden in Duddingston which I never seen.

My sister has recently moved from CT to a retirement community near DC. A wise move, which her husband (more than herself) is enjoying a lot. But it meant giving up her garden, and that’s been tough.

Not much knitting got done while she was here, but a bit. I’m steaming down the second side of Gudrun’s hap, edging-wise. It’s easy enough that it can even be combined with Wimbledon-watching, at least sometimes.

My poor husband doesn’t like watching tennis; my sister tries to join in but hasn’t much grasp. It was difficult for me being isolated with two such idiots the day Djokovic went out – and indeed, the day before, when he was two sets down and rain suspended play. It means Murray has a real chance (he’s playing very well) but I love Federer too, and have a special place in my heart for fading great ones.

If Murray should win for a second time, he will forever rank with the greats of British tennis, going right back to the days when they played in long trousers.

I am interested in the Williams sisters too, but will give my husband today off (both Williams’es are playing) to build up his strength for the rest of the week.

Back to knitting – I had almost forgotten that I have subscribed to The Knitter: one of those late-night purchases; better, at least, than another stash-enhancement. A first issue has arrived and I like it.


Archie is here, and will be for a while. He finished school forever on Saturday, and went straight back on Monday to take part – for pay – in a drive to raise funds for a new sports centre. Archie and several others from his year will be ringing up Old Boys for the next fortnight, soliciting funds.

I think this method of fundraising – where an outside organisation moves in and teaches the local organisation (church, school, whatever) how to raise money from its own constituency – was pioneered by a distant cousin of mine, Lewis Wells (“Cousin Lewis”) who with Cousin Bert founded the Wells Organisation in the ‘50’s. Archie spent yesterday and today being taught how to make the phone calls. My sister says with scorn that any claim the Wells Organisation might have to priority in this field lay in the fertile imagination of our mother, herself a Wells by birth.

Google doesn’t have much to say on the subject, but that little suggests that our mother was right.

Pioneers or not, Cousin Lewis and Cousin Bert got to be very rich. Mother visited headquarters once and was amused to see a representation of the Crucifixion with pictures of Cousin Lewis on one side and Cousin Bert on the other.