Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Here we are, dear friends! We did it again! I don’t understand all this stuff about sunrise and sunset not behaving quite as they ought. Alexander was here yesterday and raised that very point and I was unable to elucidate. Never mind: we’ve held on, darkness has been defeated – or so we hope. Catdownunder and her friends, of course, have had the opposite experience.

I’ll stop writing until (I hope) some time next week, the “back end” of the year. I’ll miss you guys a lot. I hope you’ll all have a jolly time, however you celebrate it, if at all.

I finished knitting the first half of the third side of the edging for Mrs Hunter’s shawl. That leaves 48 scallops to go. Six or seven a day will see it done in a week. Maybe.

Hellie herself rang up today, sounding very buoyant. She and Matt are going to be joining the Loch Fyne house party after Christmas, and propose calling in on us on the 31st, on their way south. I am concerned about the lengthening of their journey, especially on that day, especially if the weather is (as often) unpropitious. But the thought is very welcome.

I got out my notes for my husband’s sleeveless madtosh vest, knit a year ago. They are rather sketchy. I am inclined to take the resulting vest as a great big swatch, and knit the basic v-neck sweater in Bruce Weinstein’s “Knits Men Want”. Maddeningly, my notes don’t mention needle size but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to take them from the ball band.

So, one day soon, maybe even tomorrow, when I’ve done six or seven scallops, I could cast on.


Throughout married life, we have read aloud at bedtime. In the beginning, we alternated, but I regularly fell asleep after listening to two paragraphs at the most, so we soon adopted the practice of having me read every night. Sometimes I fell asleep while reading, an interesting phenomenon. I would start producing nonsense, and my husband would have to wake me up and nudge me forward.

That’s by the way. We have read widely, without a programme. Tonight, we finished “Greengates” by RC Sherriff, the author of “Journey’s End”. (Wow!) We’ve covered an awful lot of 19th century English and American novels, but we’ve also taken in War and Peace and Churchill’s “The Second World War” and, most spectacularly of all, “Ulysses”.

I was very doubtful about that one. It turns out it was made to be read aloud.

The other day, my husband said that he thought we should embark on another big project. I suggested Scott Moncrieff’s translation of Proust. Volume One (1000 pages plus a few) arrived today. The first page is suitably soporific. We shall see.

We don’t often abandon a project, but we don’t mind doing so. “Brighton Rock” was too gloomy for bedtime, Wodehouse too funny. So Proust and Scott Moncrieff have got to be on their best behaviour.

If we succeed, this will, almost certainly, be our Last Book.


  1. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Jean. Proust - so ambitious. Looking forward to hearing about how it goes.

  2. Reposted from the Yarn Harlot today:

    And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
    And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
    Came people singing, dancing,
    To drive the dark away.
    They lighted candles in the winter trees;
    They hung their homes with evergreen;
    They burned beseeching fires all night long
    To keep the year alive.
    And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
    They shouted, revelling.
    Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
    Echoing behind us – listen!
    All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
    This Shortest Day,
    As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
    They carol, feast, give thanks,
    And dearly love their friends,
    And hope for peace.
    And now so do we, here, now,
    This year and every year.

    Susan Cooper

  3. Merry Christmas, joyous New Year. You're such an inspiration, thank you for sharing your stories.

  4. Merry merry Christmas!
    I tried to post at work yesterday but blogger does not like the browser I use at work for my personal work Anyway I was posting to suggest knitting to shows Jon BBC radio. I love the big three stations - 3, 4 and 4 extra. So much to listen ... and with the ability to listen again for 30 days and - for some shows it's more - I am always catching up.

    I rarely listen to us radio stations only Scott Simon on Saturday morning edition and wait wait don't tell me. Now that Keillor is retired Prairie Home Companion is no longer in the mix.

    Am sure you probably are aware of all the wonders of the Beeb

    Hope the holiday weekend is uneventful and you get some time to relax and to celebrate

  5. Anonymous12:59 PM

    Merry Christmas!

    I've so enjoyed spending a little time with you this year. I hope you get to enjoy your time with your family this holiday.

    Beverly in NJ

  6. Merry Christmas. We,too,read aloud to each other,although as he is the sleeping on the job culprit,he is usually the reader. Our first book was the 1001 tales of Arabian nights and I often think that in some tricky years those readings were the glue that stuck us together.

  7. The fact hat your husband proposed reading a work of this magnitude speaks volumes (!) as to his current state of mind. You must be doing a great job.

  8. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Our reading habit was Sunday mornings when we still had the physical New York Times delivered - a few news articles but mainly columns such as Social Grace and Ask the Ethicist. Reading aloud from a device is just not the same.
    Proust is a daunting project but a rewarding one. This fall I joined a Proust book group in Boston. For me this is a return to an author studied in grad. school; for many, this is their life’s passion and they are several re-reads on in this novel. I think Proust may have been made to be read aloud - verbal echoes producing memories in the mind of the reader. Enjoy!
    Happy holidays to you & yours,

  9. Merry Christmas Jean! I know how much you look forward to getting past the winter solstice. I'm glad you found that stripy hat kit to bring some cheer to the darkness. And now you've settled on a new book to bring you into the New Year. And, judging by the length of it, possibly several New Years!

  10. Hope your holidays are happy and healthy! I much enjoyed hearing about your bedtime reading.

  11. Merry Christmas Jean to you and all of your family! We will miss you during your time away, but will look forward to news of children and grandchildren when you return. Hope you have lots of time for knitting and resting and sitting with Perdita.

  12. Merry Christmas! This is like an old-fashioned radio serial: will she finish the third side of the lace edging? How far along will Jean get in beginning the MadTosh vest? Will they find Proust good bedtime reading material. Stay tuned!

    As always, the comments are as interesting and edifying as your post. I'd been thinking maybe I need to read some Proust and this has decided it for me. Wish I had a book group to do it with.

  13. When you talk about reading aloud I often think of my favorite part of Our Mutual Friend, reading aloud of the Declining and Falling. Best wishes for a smooth season and looking forward to seeing you here after Boxing Day.

  14. Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Happy Boxing Day, and Happy whatever holidays I've forgotten!
    The reading aloud thing is interesting, I've always loathed being read to once I got to the point I could read it myself. It's probably because I read much faster than I hear (or talk. The running joke in my group is that I have a Southern accent, it's just mostly inaudible because my mouth is trying desperately to keep up with my brain and thus can't break into the drawl). I do listen to podcasts and the radio, but generally only when my visual field is in use elsewhere (driving or gaming or complicated knitting) or when it's info I can't get any other way.

  15. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Jean. Your blog is required reading daily for me. You will be missed but we will be delighted to hear about your "vacation" in a few days. We are in the throes of preparing for the grandkids and hoping they can circumvent the big storms. Our reading will be primarily Dr. Seuss!

  16. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Jean!

  17. Merry Christmas from north of Chicago. Your work is certainly an ellipsis as Maureen suggests. I find myself thinking, "Boy, Jean is getting a lot done. Better get right to the needles!". Have a wonderful holiday with family and knitting!

  18. rosesmama2:46 AM

    My friends and I also determined that Ulysses was meant to be read aloud. We met once a week for about 18 months, reading for an hour or so after their small children went to sleep. Their eldest son, now grown, remembers listening and dosing under the dining room table. Proust is certainly a project to sink your teeth into. Enjoy!

  19. Merry Christmas from the hottest city on earth. My father read Ulysses to me when I was about twelve. I still remember parts of it - definitely a reading aloud book.

  20. Anonymous12:42 PM

    Best wishes for a very lovely Christmas and New Year!
    Your readers will look forward to your return when you are ready.

  21. Merry Christmas to you and all those you love.
    Ron in Mexico

  22. Anonymous2:49 PM

    Merry Christmas Jean! Thanks to Zite (RIP), your lively blog has brought fun and often merriment to my early morning risings. Enjoy Christmas with your family without guilt about us, and come back when you are ready. Chloe

  23. I adore Scott Moncrieff's Proust and actually own the whole shebang! I have read most volumes twice, a couple of them three times. Enjoy! And Merry Christmas.