Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What a lot happens in a week, and doesn't.

We had a very jolly Christmas, as I hope you all did, if celebrating. (Is the tradition of going out for a Chinese on the 25th restricted to American Jews?) But very tiring. Helen’s youngest son Fergus took this picture of Perdita on the dining room table after the detritus of Christmas dinner had been removed to the kitchen.

Such knitting as was done, has consisted of more shawl edging. I'm now on the home stretch, the second half of the fourth side. 

I've joined KD's "Inspired by Islay" club -- good stuff for these dark days. The first pattern was the beautiful cardigan she wore at her wedding to Tom, the second the equally beautiful kilt hose he himself wore on that occasion. I may attempt them one day. And today we had a hap, knit as I am knitting mine, edging-in. And indeed, the edging pattern is the same.

I was taken aback that KD asks for only 84 scallops -- I'm doing 128. Did I fail in my arithmetic somewhere? I think not -- she's knitting with Buachaille, I with a fine lace-weight. 

Two things happened on Christmas Eve.

1) A friend of Greek Helen's, Daniela, has come to Edinburgh to start a new life with her husband and son. She cleans for me two days a week, and she's terrific. We don't have much in the way of common language but Daniela is learning very fast.

On Saturday she made us a lentil soup. I had to run down to the corner shop for some celery.

When I was young, I was much taken with a Greek couplet, No. 126 in the Oxford Book of Greek verse, by our old friend Anonymous: "Where are my roses?  Where are my violets? Where is my lovely celery? / Here are your roses. Here are your violets. Here is the lovely celery."

These lines have stayed with me, in Greek, while much else has fled. And when Daniela dispatched me to the shop, using that very word for "celery", I very nearly burst into tears. Although, on reflection, if you have a perfectly good word for “celery”, why should the passage of a mere 2500 years provoke you to change it?

When I got back from the shop I handed it to her with the last four words of the poem, in Greek, "tadi ta kala selina". Who would have thought, 60 years ago, that I would ever be able to work the phrase into conversation?

 2) The other thing that happened that day was the news of the loss of Zara Phllips' baby. There are many people to feel sad for, most of all the parents, but I felt especially sad for the Queen:  like me, looking forward early next summer to the birth of another great-grandchild, her daughter's daughter's child. She probably wasn't knitting a shawl, but you never know. And not all her wealth and art and furniture and castles, nor her life of often (surely) tedious devotion to duty, could save that baby.

Non, Torquate, genus, non te facundia, non te
     Restituet pietas.

Horace’s idea was not the same, but the echoing sadness of the lines felt appropriate, on that sad day.


  1. Hi Jean:

    Glad you had a good holiday. It is sooo nice to have you back with us!


  2. I agree with Sue!

  3. I am so happy to be able to start my day with your blog again, and it is wonderful to hear that everything went fine. Good to hear that you have a cleaning lady!

  4. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Welcome back!
    So glad you enjoyed the family festivities. Was the boring book the right choice?
    I really like the celery story (and echo the cheers for a cleaning lady who can also make you soup). I probably won't look at celery the same way in future.
    New snow this morning in Toronto.

  5. Called my dear husband to my computer to read your celery story, and he, too, enjoyed it immensely. "Who would have thought", indeed!

  6. Anonymous12:56 PM

    Glad to see you back, Jean, and to see that you had such a happy Christmas!

  7. Welcome back. And that is a very lovely cat picture.

  8. Anonymous1:01 PM

    That was Chloe as Anonymous, just now. Forgot to sign my name, sorry.

  9. Echo the thanks for the celery story. So glad you had a good Christmas.

  10. So good to read you this morning, though Christmas lacked something without you. Like celery you add a scent and flavor to the day. So sorry for your Queens family loss. I looked up your true, so right on....give Perdita a scratch behind the ear for us and tell her it's nice of her to let you live in her house....happy new year!!!

  11. A very happy healthy new year to you and your family. Thanks for the lovely celery story!

  12. OH So glad you had an uneventful Christmas Day!!! Good news about Daniela - twice a week Yea! and cooking too! double yea!

    There was not much coverage here about the Phillips' loss as the news was all about Carrie Fisher over the holiday weekend and then her death Tues and her mother Wed... tragedy as if from Sophocles a friend of mine wrote on FB.... so sad for the daughter, Billie Lourd.

    Am also a member of Islay club but have worked yesterday and missed reading the latest missive... will catch up as i am off today thru monday (but have lots of end of year clean up to do).

    and knitting (which i have not been doing). may have to do that project per day routine.

    Perdita looks big!