Friday, December 22, 2017

The promised extra message…

I have been very touched by all your comments. They are much more than I deserve. I’ll have my beloved iPad with me on my hoped-for travels, and will try to send at least an “Eccoci a Palermo!” message from the spot. Assuming we get there.

Kate Davies’ yarn arrived today (the day after the solstice). It’s pretty wonderful. I’m not entirely keen on tweed, and I am ever wary of scratchy, but I’m very glad that I went for the Full Monty with this club. The yarn is marvellous, beautiful colours, soft to the skin – no doubt because of the mohair. The club itself begins next month, I think. And I’m more or less in a position to begin to think of knitting it.

Indeed, I finished the second ball of lace yarn last night, knitting the borders of the baby shawl. That’s a big step forward.

So here we are at the dread pivot of the year, but at least with the solstice behind us. It’s rather good to have a two-day Christmas Eve. Tomorrow for last-minute shopping, Sunday for setting up the tree and once-in-royal-david’s-city and tears.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

We had a nice day in Glasgow – no need even to think of productivity, although I did get those presents wrapped in time. Paradox hadn’t been thought of, this time last year. This is her first Christmas, and she thinks it’s great fun. She was a very great help.

Helen drove. Archie and Fergus and I were the passengers. Utter luxury. Good weather, too. Alexander and his family took us out for a rather delicious Chinese lunch. Then they all went off to Loch Fyne – the boys’ term is over, and Ketki seems to be free of banking duties. And we came back.

Despite Paradox’ having assumed the role of the Cat Who’s Always Where I Am, and who sleeps with me at night, Perdita’s is still the anxious furry face which greets me when I get home.

 I now have two unscheduled days in which, at least, to lay in a good supply of cat food for the festive weekend.

The borders of the shawl advanced last night with no further disasters – and the cardboard is showing through, around which the second ball of yarn is wound.

And the big knitting news is that I’ve had an email from Kate Davies to say that my yarn has been dispatched – that is, the samples of her new tweed, to go with the new yarn club. She had last-minute trouble with the supplier. I’ve sort of forgotten – one of the colours was short. When she was able to start dispatching yarn, she started with those of us most distant. If she’s worked her way all the way down to Edinburgh, the job must be very nearly done.

I’ll write again tomorrow (insh’Allah) just to record a high-fives for the passing of the solstice. And perhaps I won’t be able to resist telling you about the yarn, when it comes. Otherwise, I think it’s time to knock off until I get back from Palermo.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Another day nearer the solstice. Tomorrow Helen and Archie and I are going to Glasgow to have lunch with Alexander. I meant to get his presents wrapped today, but didn’t. Perhaps I could just give him the presents with some wrapping paper. Or get started briskly in the morning instead of sitting hunched over the on-line Times for an hour.

Helen is going to drive, which will be very luxurious for me. I had thought to get the Palermo Socks cast on and started on the train. They can wait. I have never seen their Glasgow house.

I am very grateful for all of your advice about money. My sister has chimed in too, reminding me of unhappy experiences she and her husband had in Africa. I have opted – quite possibly too late – for the idea of a card onto which you load money and then use like a credit or debit card. That will at least limit the damage, if anything goes wrong. Assuming the card arrives in time.

I had my hair done today. That’s something achieved, I guess.

I thought, last night, that I had made a pretty thorough mess of two of the shawl borders. YO’s on the wrong side of the decreases, that sort of thing. I wasn’t going to rip back, no matter what. But it meant that I had to knit and knit (because the rows are so long) to get back to the trouble spot and assess the damage.

So that’s what I’ve been doing, and things aren’t as bad as I thought. I’ll pass the galloping horse test. And I’m more than halfway through Chart B. I feel that the current ball of yarn (second of eight) should give up the ghost soon, but it shows little intention of doing so.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The solstice will be at 4:28 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, British time. We’ve just got to hold out until then – and trust those in charge up there to remember to throw the switch; I never entirely believe that they will. The new light gets to be perceptible around about Groundhog Day.

I don’t know whether to class today as “productive” or not. I got up to Boots and got my next set of blood-thinning pills, enough to take to Palermo and sustain me until February. It’s a steep hill. In the old days, all I had to do was get to the top of Broughton Street and then ride the John Lewis escalators for two more stories, and on out into the St James Centre where Boots then was.

But the St James Centre has been knocked down, so John Lewis’ escalators are of no use to me. I’ve got to walk up that extra distance, and it gets harder every time.

However, I did it, and then went on (on the level) to the Royal Bank in St Andrew Square, a beautiful space where it is always a pleasure to be. It used to be somebody’s very, very grand town house. The domed central hall where you queue for your euros is one of the sights of Edinburgh.

I got enough euros to pay the professor who is going to take us to places associated with Il Gattopardo on Wednesday January 3, and the duchess who is going to teach us to cook on Thursday the 4th, and a bit of pocket money to spare.

The young man who fetched them out of the vault for me is himself going to Palermo on January 1. He has never been there before. What were the odds? It’s not as if it were Rome or Paris or Athens. It seems to me an extraordinary coincidence. He is flying from Edinburgh and enduring the long lay-over in an Italian airport. Should I have done that? I should have asked him how he is taking money. I’m going to need enough cash right away that I didn’t want to trust a possibly-non-functioning airport ATM.

But perhaps I’m being too much of an old woman.

I got some more of the shawl borders done – the knitting is very compelling at this stage. The “right side” rows now have lots of k2tog, YO’s in them and are a bit slow, but more fun than they were. I mustn’t neglect that poor scarf.

I’m binge-ing a bit on the second series of The Crown on my iPad. We’ve now moved on to events which I can remember from my early adult life, living here. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Now we begin the darkest week. Courage!

I have had not so much an unproductive day, as a deliberately idle one. The outcome seems much the same. I posted the Christmas cards, and was interested to discover the pillar-box not to be overflowing, on this of all days (the weekend before Christmas, and the box not emptied since yesterday noon). Maybe they slotted in another collection. Or maybe Christmas-card-sending is really on the wane.

I worked out (not difficult) how much I will need in cash (euro-wise) to pay for our “Gattopardo” walking tour and to pay the Duchess, our first two days in Palermo. We’ll need food and bus fare as well. I gather one can put one’s card into an ATM as readily in Palermo as in Edinburgh. How did we manage in the old days? (Ans: traveller’s cheques, money belts)

I bought a pocket Italian phrase book. Despite all my learning, such things have proved to be very useful in the past.

And I knit ever onwards on the borders of the baby shawl. I’ve done another decrease row – 16 stitches down, now, on the original count.

I went back and re-watched the Fruity Knitting episode with Gayle Roehm. It turned out to be the EYF one, and therefore particularly interesting. She didn’t go into any detail about how to decipher Japanese patterns. I gather from the Ravelry group that there was a lucid article in Knitter’s Spring ’97. I must look tomorrow to see if I have it in my pile. But I suspect I’ve got all I need anyway, from my Japenese Knitting Phase.

The new book has a particularly interesting section of wedge-shaped patterns, which could easily become the yoke of a sweater. Well, somewhat easily…

Saturday, December 16, 2017

I suppose the only thing to do is to rejoice in the days when I don’t actually go backwards. The Christmas cards I have so far written now have stamps on them – I’ll post tomorrow. I washed quite a few dishes. I knit a bit more. The new J&S version of the pattern divides the borders into a series of separate charts, A through G. I’ve finished A. Amedro just gives it row by row, 1 to 99.

I finished the first ball of yarn the other day. I will use them, rather than any calculations about the pattern, for the progress bar to the right over there. I think I can trust J&S to have got it right – they sent 8 balls, so 12.5% per ball. Assuming the last ball isn’t consumed down to the last few inches, that will leave me a percentage point or two for weaving in ends and blocking.

We had a good Italian lesson this morning, all about Palermo. There are lots and lots of interesting and beautiful things there. Italian lessons always leave me semi-prostrate. That was the last one for a while – Federica is going home to Rome on Wednesday.

Comment – non-knit

CKP, I remember learning at Oberlin that the ancient Greeks were horrified to find that the Persians prostrated themselves in prayer. The word is the one you mention, “proskinesis”. (Herodotus, perhaps?) Is it interesting that Muslims still do so, while Greeks still pray standing up?

Friday, December 15, 2017

On we go. Perhaps I might write a few more Christmas cards tonight, before it becomes altogether too late. I’ve done some Italian homework, for once. I have wrapped up a regalino to give my teacher tomorrow. I’ve knit onwards, with the shawl.

The border lace is embarrassingly easy, and constantly interrupted by the long, wrong-side rows where nothing happens at all. I’ve done the first decrease row so there are eight fewer stitches than before. But since the decreases, at this stage, happen only once every six rows, it’ll be a long time before they add up to anything appreciable.

Nevertheless, as I expected, the shawl beckons hypnotically at this stage. And I even begin, rather prematurely, to look forward to the next WIP. Nancy’s Vest is high on the Possibles list. I bought the yarn, Blacker’s Samite Silk-Blend, at the EYF this year, some may remember. That’s the one that changed from an interesting dark red to a dull brown in my hands before the ink was dry on the check. It’s still a good pattern.

And, of course, the Calcutta Cup will be contested here in Edinburgh (meaning, we have a chance) at the end of February. That could lead to Alexander’s Fair Isle vest. Or I could knit him a non-Calcutta-Cup Fair Isle vest. Ketki admires the swatch-scarf. Maybe I could metamorphose it into a cowl.

Anyway, there are things to think about.


The new season of The Crown is up on Netflix. I suspect it is going to be rather tedious, but I’ll watch for a while. Someone has actually published a book about things they get wrong. Here is my contribution.

There is in Italy – at least in southern Italy – a beautiful gesture which I have experienced once. You offer your hand to a man for shaking. Instead, he lifts it slightly, and inclines his head, in a gesture which says, “I kiss your hand”.

New ambassadors and new Prime Ministers go to see the Queen for a ceremony described in the Court Circular as the Kissing of Hands. I can’t prove it, of course, and we’ll never know, but I feel sure that what actually happens is on the Italian model. But in The Crown, it is represented as an actual, embarrassing, smack of lips on royal knuckles.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Another day with a good deal less achievement than I would have liked. No more cards written. More on-line banking which always frets me and gets us nowhere.

The shawl, however, has progressed somewhat. Mary Lou, it’s not quite as bad as that. There are 160 stitches per border now, but by the time we get to the centre it will be only 85. The main reason I so like what I think of as the Amedro System – edging-inwards – is the delicious illusion as one progresses that the knitting is going faster and faster.

Then back and forth on those 85 stitches of one border, taking in one stitch from each of the adjacent borders on every row: that must be 170 rows. Then graft the edge of the finished centre to the stitches of the fourth border.

And, since that’s the way I’m doing it, sew up one corner.

At least it doesn’t have to be finished by Christmas.

At the moment, the only problem is the tedium of the long, long wrong-side rows. The simple lace pattern happens only every other row – and the decreases haven’t even started yet.


There’s an occasional thread in the Fruity Knitting group on Ravelry where we suggest people we would love to see interviewed. (Kate Davies! Franklin!) Recently someone asked for a Japanese designer – no one specific -- and I lept in to suggest Gayle Roehm, who translated and introduces the new Japanese Stitch Dictionary. Andrea herself has responded to say that Gayle has already been interviewed.

I’ve already watched every single episode of Fruity Knitting. I’ll go back and have another look at that one. It’ll help to keep me going over these tedious holiday weeks.


Kristen – absolutely! – andarsene. That’s an infinitive meaning something like “to be off”. Whatever languages you know or don’t. you’ll sympathize when I tell you that “I’m off” is “me ne vado”. The “ne” is still there, unchanged in form but in a different place; everything else has altered. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It has been another fairly unproductive day.

I had a tedious, business-y thing to do, involving the scanning of bank statements. I’ve done it. But that leaves quite a lot of other things undone.

I’ve found the J&S version of the shawl pattern – but have lost my invaluable Italian grammar book. I've reached the bit which any student of Italian will remember, when pronouns and untranslatable "particles" begin to attach themselves to the end of verbs, and then hive off and take their places in the sentence, the pronouns changing, the particles not. Slightly like nuclear physics.

Knitting has progressed well. I have done the first two – plain – rows of the shawl border, counting and counting; and am now establishing the pattern, still counting away. Once that’s done, it should look after itself.

And I was wrong: Mrs Hunter of Unst’s shawl, knit for the previous great-grandchild, has 185 stitches in each border at the beginning. This one has only 160. Should be a doddle.

Knitting the borders back and forth has the very considerable advantage of sparing me the agony of joining all that great length of edging together without twisting it. There was once, long, long ago when I did twist it, despite all my care and caution. I’m afraid I took my scissors to the corner that time.

You’ll have heard that Patreon has backed down, and is not going to impose a surcharge on patrons’ donations after all. Knitty says that their income is down $1000 (per month?) anyway.

And Susan Crawford says that the Vintage Shetland Project will be with us soon. “Eight years ago, when we started work on the Project, we had no idea what we would encounter along the way, but the obstacles we faced have only made the book stronger and better than we ever could have imagined.

One of those “obstacles” was the fact that crowdfunding produced more money than asked for or expected, so publication was postponed for the first of many times, to allow her to go back to Shetland for more research. It could have been more tactfully expressed.

Tomorrow I mean to start early and Get Things Done.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A good day, but not entirely a productive one.

I went for a walk this morning along the Water of Leith with a dear friend who is determined to get me into shape for Palermo. I’m sure it did some good.

But when I sat down at the computer, not all that long ago, it fired up all right and then made a little pfffft noise rather like an expiring light bulb, and expired. I went back to the old computer, and even managed to write a couple of paragraphs for you, but couldn’t figure out how to upload them (although I must have been on-line, in some sense).

Then I came back in here and found a loose connection and tightened it, and all is – it would seem – well.

I find I can’t even remember how to connect a computer to the Internet. It just connects, by itself. But goodness! how important that connection is for one’s mental well-being.

Anyway – I think all that distress is excuse enough for not having got much of anything done today.

Knitting has advanced. I’ve picked up the stitches from the flat edge of the lace, and am beginning to knit inwards. The numbers aren’t perfect yet, but nearly. It has been much more of an effort than I remember from Mrs Hunter’s shawl for the last great-granddaughter, not all that long ago. Was that one substantially smaller? I’ll look tomorrow.

The Japanese Stitch Dictionary is here, and is as wonderful as expected. There seem to be a couple more promising-sounding Japanese-derived books promised for next year. This one has more bobbles than I entirely like, but is otherwise entrancing. The only thing to do is to swatch.

Utterly non-knit

Archie came for supper last night, and I asked him about this business of trigger warnings, or whatever they’re called, when Unsuitable Material is about to be discussed in class. I had heard on the radio in the night that Ovid’s Metamorphoses had been so flagged somewhere.

I thought of that delicious passage in Metamorphoses I where Apollo is pursuing Daphne along the Peneus River. Clearly, harassment. The ground is rough, and he is worried that she will trip and fall. He calls out, begging her to run more slowly, and promising that he will, too.

Archie knew the story, but didn’t know that it happened at the very spot, in the Vale of Tempe, where we used to stop on the journey from Thessaloniki to their house on Mount Pelion, to eat delicious barbecued corn cobs and walk for a while beside the river. The path is much smoother these days. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

All well, but not a stitch of knitting has been done.  I’m ready to pick up the stitches for the borders of the baby shawl. I still can’t find the pattern – most peculiar. The advantage of the new one is that everything is charted. But I’ve knit my way through a lot of Amedro in my time, doing it her way without charts, and I’m sure I can do it again.

Archie came to supper, and seems very well.

And I got another five Christmas cards written. And various e-mail-y business attended to. The more I do of that, the more there seems to be.

It’s very cold, and in lots of other places – but not here – there’s enough snow to interfere with movement. Will we get to Palermo? Archie says, of course we will.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

As days go, not too bad, not too good.

Archie is coming to supper tomorrow, straight off the train from his university. I have made him a stew in my slow cooker – stews are always better the next day. It’s fairly tasty, but still needs to be decanted and the cooker washed. It’s cast iron, and can’t be neglected overnight like everything else.

And I got a few more Christmas cards done – including ruining one of my well-printed round-robin letters by writing a bold “Dear L. and…” at the top before noticing, in my address book, that L. died a year ago. I’m afraid that’s a fatal error – another sheet of waste paper.

I have tried to concentrate my mind, and extract the names of people from the Christmas card lists of past years – I’ve got all the lists, back until 1994 – who might not have heard of my husband’s death, and who need to hear from me anyway. About a dozen, beyond those done already. I’ll do them in the next couple of days.

No knitting yet today, but last night I got within a scallop or two of the end of the lace edging for the new shawl. If I have the strength to carry on for a while tonight, I could finish it, and even start picking up stitches from the straight edge.

At the moment – I’m sure it’ll turn up – I can’t find the new version of the pattern, which J&S sent me with the yarn. In the old version (and, I think, in the new) Amedro unashamedly does the borders in st st – that is, round and round with every round knit – and the edging and centre in garter. I must, therefore, have done it that way for Archie, 21 years ago. Nobody complained.

For Mrs Hunter’s shawl, last winter, I’m pretty sure I left one corner open, and knit the borders back and forth, thus achieving garter stitch throughout. I could search the blog if I set myself to it. I think that’s what I’ll do this time, anyway.


I happened to see your comment on Mason-Dixon Knitting, Mary Lou, and was very happy to find in you a fellow-fan of the recipe for Toll House cookies on the back of the Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Morsels packet. And, in answer to your question, I think “The dog ate my homework” is as well-known in GB as in the USofA. I’m not sure whether that extends to Italy, but my tutor seemed to understand.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

All well here. The Italian lesson – il cane ha mangiato i miei compiti – always leaves me exhausted, but I got a bit of kitchen-cleaning done, and some cooking, and a few Christmas cards written. Well, three. And December won’t be in double figures until tomorrow.

This is my tutor’s first winter in the north. She came to Edinburgh in May (and found it chilly). Like Greek Helen, she is now finding the darkness a bit much. Whereas now that I have grasped how much darkness affects me, I’m doing better.

So far today, no knitting. I should be able to knock off a few more scallops on that lace edging before bed.

There’s a great flutter in the doocot because Patreon has imposed a surcharge on patrons. I didn’t entirely understand the message when I got it at first, but since then I have had agitated messages from both Knitty and Fruity Knitting (my two sponsorships). Apparently I am to pay a bit more – they will get the same – Patreon pockets the difference. I think that’s it.

I’ll hang on. A significant number of Knitty patrons, at least, have dropped out. It’s a shame.

Friday, December 08, 2017

A fairly idle day, recovering from yesterday – and this evening, I must do my Italian homework. I do Italian every day, my Duolingo lessons and Yabla videos. But somehow the real homework always gets left for Friday night, or even Saturday morning – Federica comes at 9, but I get up early.

But I got some sit-down-y, computer-y things done today, including ordering a skirt to wear to Palermo. I think it should be pleasantly warm, Shandy, certainly compared to Edinburgh. It’s a substantial distance due south of Naples. And there will be more light. Rain is probably the danger.

And Kristen, yes, naps are planned. Our hotel is called the Hotel del Centro, chosen largely because it offers single rooms (and internet).  I’ve got a street map of Palermo and have located on it various places of interest (including the Duchess’ palazzo) – the hotel seems to live up to its name. It should be easy to get back there for a lie-down.

We’ve gone ahead and said yes to the Magnet kitchen, and I’ve found a reconditioned Aga. That will be something to worry about once I get back from Italy, just as Palermo is something to worry about once I get past Christmas.

I got three more scallops done today – better than nothing. 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

I feel a bit more hopeful about Palermo.

Today has been strenuous, by my feeble standards, but very successful. The various people mentioned yesterday came here, and ate their sandwiches, and I think the conversation has moved things slightly but definitely forward towards the publication of my husband’s magnum opus.

After the sandwiches, and with no prospect of a nap, I thought for a while that I might expire. But I revived, and here I am still in gamba at half past eight – although more than ready for my bed.

I have knit only three scallops, I think, but that was enough to take me past the half-way point on the 4th and final side of the shawl edging.

Blackwell’s have emailed to say that the Japanese Stitch Dictionary is on its way.

And there’s only a fortnight to go until the solstice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Today was fairly productive, as days go around here. Greek Helen and I went up to Magnet to talk about new-kitchen plans. They are the people who did a kitchen for Kate Davies and Tom, when they moved away from Edinburgh to their Highland fastness. KD was very enthusiastic about their service. I have saved that blog post of hers.

Then I walked home, perhaps a mile, perhaps a bit less, and felt weary and therefore worried again about Palermo. Helen found and retrieved from Kirkmichael the sitting-stool I gave my husband. I think it will be useful, and I’ll take it along.

Walking meant I could pop in to Valvona & Crolla, a famous Edinburgh Italian delicatessen. A friend recently spotted the Princess Royal there.  I bought two presents, one of them a paperback, “Dear Francesca”, by Mary Contini, a member of the original V&C family. It is partly recipes, partly family history. I’ll take it along to Palermo as a regalino for my friend the Duchess.

Then, after a period for recovery, I gathered together photographs and correspondence related to my husband’s work – various people are coming to see me tomorrow with a view to publication. Tomorrow morning I must make sandwiches for them, so tonight I must leave the kitchen fairly tidy. It is a bond, and not entirely a trivial one, between my husband and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, that both died before their life’s work was accepted for publication.

As for knitting, I have done three more scallops – I should reach the half-way point tomorrow of the fourth side of the edging for the new baby shawl.

The new Fruity Knitting is extremely interesting – I  think I say that every fortnight. I am a patron, and am proud to be – but it’s free for all over on YouTube. Do have a look, if you don’t know it already.

Andrea is a dazingly skilful and meticulous knitter. She showed us some interesting things, this time, about finishing steeks. I was happy to remember that Hazel Tindall said (EYF ’17) she didn’t bother – just cut them, and let them be – when she was knitting a sweater for herself. For competitions, she did a bit more.

The star attraction this time is Sue Blacker of Blacker Yarns. She looks like a Boring Old Woman – rather like me, in fact. She knows a lot about sheep and wool and spinning. For the moment, I’ve even got “woolen-spun” and “worsted-spun” straight in my head. How very wise of the Fruitys to include, every so often, an interview not with a knitter but with a yarn-producer. 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Fruity Knitting is here! I’ve watched half of it and am ready to go to bed with my iPad and the interview with Ms Blacker. I don’t think I had ever consciously registered Blacker Yarns until they turned up as generous sponsors of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I bought some of their yarn this year, you may remember – for Carol Sunday’s Nancy’s Vest.

That was the yarn, you may also remember, which looked a beautiful dark russet red until I paid for it, and then turned brown. I suspect, still, that it will make a very good Nancy’s Vest once it gets a bit further forward in the queue.

But otherwise I know nothing about Blacker Yarns.

Today was not a day of progress. My dear Daniella, wife of Vasily, is ill, and couldn’t come. The result was that, although I more or less kept my head above water, I crossed off nothing from my list.

I did a bit of knitting, however. I have now done five scallops of the edging on the final side of the baby shawl – and the ball of yarn is looking weary, although I think it will see me out, edging-wise. There are 20 scallops per side, so five scallops represent half-way to half-way.

And last night I joined in the final colour, the 5th,  of the gradients which form the “B” shade in the Soutache. Roughly speaking, you are meant to use each one for 8” until you get to the fifth, then knit that for 16”, then knit down the other side with the half-balls left over. Carol Sunday would have you weigh them, on the way up, to make sure that you have enough for a matching section on the way down.

But I don’t think that anyone will notice if you’re even as much as an inch or two out, so I didn’t do that.

The Arne & Carlos sock yarn arrived today. I have selected the non-Pairfect skein, chosen a more-or-less suitable odd-ball for finishing the toes, found the necessary needles, put the tout ensemble in the Palermo pile. That's something done, although not much.

Helen and I are going to talk to another kitchen designer tomorrow morning. It is hard to think of such things as Christmas and the solstice close in.

Monday, December 04, 2017

The big news is that I heard from my friend the Duchess of Palma last night, after writing to you – Archie’s and my Cooking Day with her is all set for January 4, deposit paid and received. Next we must book a street food walking tour – I don’t think that’s urgent, but we ought to get it done before we leave.

That’ll still leave three days for culture.

I think it may be possible to hear Mass in the Cappella Palatina on Sunday -- “Palermo’s top tourist attraction”, according to Lonely Planet. I mean to try. I sometimes think about how, in the Bad Old Days, people who lived in appalling squalor and poverty could and did experience great art – including music – by going to church. I think there are still a couple of Titians in churches in Venice, but such things are a good deal rarer than they were.

Nigella Lawson says in one of my magazines that the first thing to do if you want to survive Christmas is to keep a notebook in the kitchen, and make lists. She may be right. I got several important items crossed off mine today,  including facing up to the Elephant in the Room and writing the first five Christmas cards. I wonder if the Internet will make that practice redundant soon – it’s awfully time-consuming and awfully expensive.

The round-robin letter printed with minimal smudging, perfectly legible.

Time-consuming or not, I also got some knitting done, and have at last rounded the final corner with that baby-shawl edging and started the gallop down the home stretch. I’ll do some Soutache before I go to bed.

And tomorrow – a new Fruity Knitting! I must make the best of it. I presume that things will slow down over the hols.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

It's always nice, every other Sunday, to see a week arrive which will bring me another episode of Fruity Knitting.

Otherwise, I've had a do-nothing day. I can’t even claim dolce far niente, as it wasn’t particularly dolce.

I did, at least, make a list of the many things I ought to be doing, and did one of them, namely to order some sock yarn for the journey to Palermo. I’ve got some (of course) but nothing very interesting.

I ordered a ball of Arne&Carlos’ “Pairfect” socks – a Regia self-striping yarn which incorporates an ingenious system for producing identical socks. The only trouble with that, as Palermo knitting, is that I really ought to be knitting socks for Archie. And the way I knit gents’ socks, I need more than 100 grams. I finish off the invisible toes with something from the odd-ball bag.

I also ordered a lively ball of one of their other, non-pairfect, colourways. I could take that, and keep the Pairfects back for a daughter.

JennyS, I took your excellent advice, cancelled my Amazon order, and ordered the Japanese Stitch Bible from Blackwell’s. It costs a bit more but so what, if they can actually deliver the book.

Italian & other

Chloe (comment yesterday) I think maybe – without looking it up – “fontanelle” might mean “little fountains”. The cemetery seems to be so-called because the nearest street is the Via delle Fontanelle. That leaves the question of why the hole in the top of a baby’s head is so called.

And, no, my first iPad wasn’t protected with the Find My iPad app. My present one is – but if I ever need it, which Heaven forfend, I will have forgotten how to use it, and even which computer it is installed on.

Now I’ll go do a bit of knitting.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

I’ve calmed down a bit since the discovery of the keys, but yesterday will remain a red-letter day. I don’t think it offers any hope for the iPad, though – I think that must have been stolen, although it’s a very uncomfortable thought. The irony was underlined recently when Vasily’s admirable wife Daniella did find one when she was cleaning – it was in the spare room; it was James’s; I had totally failed to spot it, and he, who relies entirely on his telephone, hadn’t registered the loss.

I gave it back to him when I went to London for Orla’s Christening.

Valerie (comment Thursday), thank you very much for the pointer to “News in Slow Italian”. I will persevere. I’ve listened to “Intermediate” and it sounds a bit too slow – I will try to find Advanced. I had a good lesson with my tutor this morning; it was one of the days when I felt I might actually be getting somewhere. I have been very fortunate in her. I have a new friend, as well as somewhat extended fluency.  My homework was to investigate and write a short essay about the Cimitero delle Fontanelle in Naples and I did pretty well.

I agree, Chloe, that Latin and enthusiasm go a long way in Italy. I have been reading “Jamie’s Italy” (a Jamie Oliver cookbook). I’m sure he has about a dozen Italian words and plenty of enthusiasm and gets on fine.

As for knitting, I was too emotionally prostrate yesterday for anything but a few calming rows of the Soutache. Today I returned to the edging of the new baby shawl, but I still haven’t reached the (ever-receding) third corner. One more scallop to go, and then the fourth side.

Hazel Tindall’s DVD’s have arrived, “50 Tips from Shetland Knitters”. I can’t persuade my DVD player to show them to me, despite having used it recently for a tedious Italian movie, but I have every hope that I can play them on the computer.

Japanese Knit Stitch Bible

It is incredibly kind of you to offer to send it, SamKD. I am sure it will turn up here eventually, and I don’t want to burden you (or myself) with trudging to the post office where patience would suffice. But I am and will remain extremely grateful.

I am sure it is wonderful. I had the same sort of feeling you describe, Melfina, when Sharon Miller’s “Heirloom Knitting” was published. For the first six months, at least, I kept it on the table in the sitting room within easy reach. 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Greek Helen has been in Kirkmichael for the last 48 hours, with the husband of the remarkable Romanian woman who cleans for both of us. Vasily is clearly fully as remarkable as his wife, and they – he – got a tremendous amount done. The idea is to clear out and spruce up and bring the house into a state wherein we could make it available for holiday letting so that it might pay its own way.

But today’s big news is that

she found my keys

Some of you will remember the story. They disappeared out of my hand in September, 2014. Both she and I were surprised to discover that it happened so recently. The story is told in my blog post of September 30, 2014.

The keys were in the awkward cupboard under the stairs, under vacuum cleaners and stuff. I’ve no idea how they could have got there.

I often think of them. I thought of them today, as I was leaving the supermarket and putting things in the untidy boot of the car. Could they be somewhere under that mess?

Two nights ago, I dreamt about them. I don’t remember that that has ever happened before. In the dream, they reappeared in my hand as mysteriously as they had left it. I tried to ask myself whether I had put on a long-unworn garment and found them in the pocket. Then I realised I was dreaming and tried to think of a way to keep hold of the keys.

When I was first in Glasgow, in 1954, I came across J.W. Dunne’s “An Experiment with Time”. His idea was – is – that dreams can draw their source from events about-to-happen as well as from the past. The book is still available from Amazon; I’m not going to read it again. But there you have, I think, as neat an example as Dunne could have asked for.

The keys, of course, have long since been duplicated and replaced. The source of today’s great joy, for me, is the recovery of the stag’s-horn fob which Rachel gave me when she was a little girl. I asked her, after the disaster, to give me another, and she did, but it’s not the same.

And for Helen, the removal of her fear that the keys would turn up after my death and renew her grief.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

I’m puzzled about books. The Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible which we are all eagerly awaiting, seems to be tantalisingly just out of reach. It can be ordered from the US. It can be downloaded. But – jam yesterday and jam tomorrow – it can’t actually be bought.

And what about Bristol Ivy’s “Knitting Outside the Box”. Amazon says “currently unavailable”.  It seems to be expensively available at LYS’s hither and yon.

And why can’t I find my Silk Road Sock book?

I had a peaceful day today, with no external engagements. I got some things done, but not others. I am marking the lace edging of the baby shawl with little safety pins every ten scallops (there will be 80 in all). It got to be time for another pin today – I thought it would mark the third corner, as I said yesterday, 60 scallops. I found that I was, in fact, only half-way along the third side, 50 scallops.

Still, I got another 5 scallops done today, without incident. I’ll reach that corner soon.

I have some homework to do before my Italian lesson on Saturday morning. I meant to make a start on that today, but didn’t. I continue to be grateful to you, Shandy, for putting me on to Duolingo. I keep up with that conscientiously. It says that I am 63% proficient in Italian.

In fact, I think I am about at the level of a three-year-old child. If someone speaks to me slowly and clearly (as my tutor does) I can understand and make myself understood in response. But when the grown-ups speak to each other at speed, I can only catch an occasional word.

A major problem here is my computer printer. It has started smudging everything, and leaving lines out. It’s not terribly old, but I suspect the answer is anyway to buy a new one. I urgently need to print a Christmas round-robin letter and start addressing cards. I will soon need to print our EasyJet tickets to and from Palermo.

Now I’ll go find some mindless television and knit some Soutache. I really think I’ve got the hang of two-colour brioche.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A brief, formal appearance tonight. It’s been a pleasant but strenuous day.

Helen and I were offered a free breakfast at Dishoom this morning, which we happily accepted. A bit tough, setting forward before it was fully light, but worth the effort. And the breakfast was, indeed, utterly free, as well as delicious.

Two different people came to look at the kitchen and estimate what it will cost to do it up.

And I knit another four (I think) scallops on the third side of the shawl edging. One more scallop and I’ll be round the final corner. Things went less smoothly than yesterday, but just manage to pass the galloping horse test.

Now I must go to bed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

This has been a good day on the knitting front. I had a date with Greek Helen and an old friend from Kirkmichael, to have lunch in the Portrait Museum. I took life as easily as possible (= knitting) in the morning, in order to have the necessary reserves of strength to ascend Dublin Street. It nearly killed me.

But I got four scallops done, and another later in the day – ¼ of the third side of the edging for the new shawl. And I have also moved smoothly on with the Soutache. Perhaps it’s time we had another picture of that.

I have been keen to buy Hazel Tindall’s new video lesson, “50 Tips from Shetland Knitters”. At first I got tangled up in unfamiliar terms – “Vimeo” – and scarcely better-known ones – “streaming” – but eventually discovered that I could buy an old-fashioned DVD from Jamieson & Smith, so I’ve done that.

I discovered in the course of all this, that she is going to accompany a knitting cruise on a Holland-America Line ship next August-Sept., from Copenhagen to NYC, with generous time in and around Iceland en route. I have a soft spot for Holland-American, who first brought me to England in 1953. I'd like to visit Iceland. But on the other hand, I have a deep and passionate antipathy to huge cruise ships. And if I do anything at the fag end of ’18, it ought to be to go back to Italy, to justify all this learning.

I got two emails from EasyJet today, and could feel the nervous tension collecting in my chest as I spotted them in the mail list. They were just trying to sell me hotel space in (a) Palermo and (b) London, to go with the flights I’ve booked. We’ve already booked a well-located hotel in Palermo, and have family to take us in in London. And all will be well – Archie is strong and calm and cheerful. And it’s useful to have something else in the vicinity to worry about, besides Christmas.

I’m glad to hear (comments, yesterday) that I am spreading the news about Aga cookers. They’re on all the time – and least, the old-fashioned ones are – and therefore wouldn’t be suitable at all for the North American climate. They are a wonderful source, here, of warmth and comfort all year round – never mind cooking.

Thank you for your comments, too, about hot water and magic taps. I’m learning.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A royal engagement! What fun! In the BBC interview on the news just now, she came across as very intelligent, and he, at least, as besotted. I look forward to reading all about her tomorrow – and I’m sure she’s up to it. It sounds as if Prince Harry has prepared her well for the horrors of royal life.

I’ve reached halfway on the third side of the shawl edging. If I knit any more this evening, it’ll have to be on the Soutache. I’m encouraged at how well things are going – most of the time – but alarmed to think how much lace-weight yarn remains to be knitted. This first ball will clearly see me and the edging all the way around – and there are seven more balls to come.

Knitalot, thank you for your comment. Somewhere – I can’t place it mentally, just now – I’ve heard about starching lace. I’m not tempted. Anyway, this shawl – like the one I knit for Orla K. (above) last year – is meant to be a shawl for using, not for “best”. A wrap-the-baby-up-and-take-it-to-the-pub-for-lunch sort of shawl.

I discovered last night (wandering aimlessly around cyber-space before going to bed, as often) that the Twist Collective is back with us. There had been a gap. They’ve now teamed up with Webs, and we are promised issues every other month, starting in January. I haven’t finished inspecting the new issue, but I can tell you that the photography is as good as ever.

Completely non-knit – kitchen-related

I’ve been reading about these modern kitchen taps which deliver boiling water, as a possible solution if I go the whole hog and install a new Aga which doesn’t heat water.

When I was fairly new-married, I once made tea for my husband using water from the hot tap, then brought to the boil in the kettle. He wasn’t in the room when I did it, but as soon as he tasted it, he said, “Did you make this with water from the hot tap?”

I never did it again. (And I never became a tea-drinker.)

Presumably the distinction is that tea must be made with water fresh from the mains supply, not water that has been standing around in a tank. If so, how do these fancy modern tap people get around the problem? The tanks in question are clearly rather small, not much bigger than a kettle. But the water must, nevertheless, have been standing around. May, even, have been held at heat, which sounds even worse.

I'd be glad of your comments.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

All well. I’m sorry for yesterday’s gap.

I have pressed on with the edging for the new shawl, and am now four scallops along the third side. I’ve put an openable stitch marker on the scallop side, and I move it up every scallop – so at least I know without having to smooth it out on my knee, which direction I’m going in. That ought to prevent a repetition of the recent disaster, when I found three scallops on the wrong side, but still leaves the danger of forgetting whether I am meant to be increasing or decreasing at any particular moment.


Patience, yes, I saw Susan Crawford’s Instagram about the Vintage Shetland Project, still without the promised publication date. It was interesting, and sad, to learn that she “blamed” the Project for her cancer and that that’s why she has found it hard to resume work.

Kirsten, concerns about the floor bedevil my Aga plans. We have neighbours underneath, rather than a void like yours, and there’s no doubt that the kitchen floor runs slightly downhill in the direction of the Aga. It has been a constant, if minor, worry ever since we moved here. We recently had a Man come and look at it. He doesn’t think the slope is the fault of the Aga, but still, who knows. I'll keep you fully posted.

Here is another cat picture for you. Again, things are not quite as pacific as the image suggests, but I feel we’re making progress. I don’t think Perdita will entirely forgive me, and be my cat again, until she accepts Paradox.

This picture clearly illustrates one of the many differences between them: I have always felt that Perdita has an unusually short and stubby tail. Paradox has a particularly long and splendid one. I have wondered – perhaps I’ve said this before – whether Perdita could be 1/64th wildcat. (Wildcats have short, stubby tails.) We would have to ask her mother, who probably wouldn’t say.

Wildcats are near extinction not because of anything people have done to them or to their preferred environment, but because of their own promiscuous ways. They interbreed freely with domestic strays. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

These are tough days, but at least we’re within a month of the solstice.

I paused a little while ago, and spread my knitting on my knee, and discovered that I had knit the last three scallops from the wrong direction, so that they were on the wrong side of the edging. That’s what we call a Fatal Error. I have ripped them out, and have successfully retrieved the stitches. If I knit on this evening, it will be to attempt Part 2 of Howard’s End on television, and to knit the Soutache.

I have a sort of feeling that this is not the first time in my life that this has happened.

Helen and I went up to John Lewis this morning, to see what sort of kitchen they had planned for me, and it looked rather wonderful although also rather expensive.

As for the Aga: I had thought of your very comparison, Shandy, after I visited the showroom yesterday. The car I drive is 15 years old. If my health holds, it will have to be replaced one day.

I don’t entirely understand about Raeburn. The name was there on the wall of the Aga showroom – it all seems to be the same company. But it wasn’t mentioned as an option while I was there.

One of you, via Helen, has given me the web address of a promising-sounding company which sells reconditioned Agas, and which also (inevitably) reconditions them. I think my dear old friend may be dangerous, as your Raeburn became, Isabella, and perhaps for a similar reason. But perhaps it could be eviscerated and restored for a good deal less than the cost of a replacement.

A new one would be considerably cheaper to run, but it would take a long time for the savings to justify the capital cost.

Despite all this, I thoroughly applaud the decision of your relative, Shandy – a farmhouse kitchen needs an Aga.

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, if celebrating. Here, yesterday, were my sister and her husband Roger, their son Theo, and Theo’s sons Ted and Emmett. Emmett can WALK. Theo’s wife Jenni was the photographer.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

There is virtually nothing to say, except that I am still on my feet. (That’s news, these days.) I got up to the Aga shop and was horrified by how much a new one will cost, and by the fact that they don’t heat water any more. Constant, super-hot water in the kitchen is a luxury I should miss.

Tomorrow Helen and I have an appt in John Lewis with the young man who measured my kitchen on Monday and will have planned something.

I got the new New Yorker today, and in addition one addressed to a neighbour across the square (unknown to me). I know that another neighbour, a friend, subscribes – she got mine, a couple of weeks ago. What an internationally-aware lot we are, in Drummond Place! 

I was interested to read Peter Schjeldahl’s article about the recently-sold “Leonardo”. I will have to add that to my most-expensive-picture file. He says something about “never quite loving any Leonardo”. That’s how my husband felt. Raphael was his man. I love the Madonna of the Rocks in the NG in Trafalgar Square but that is as much for personal reasons as for Leonardo’s. Ann and Sylvia and I used it as a meeting point whenever we separated in London in the summer of 1953.

As for knitting, I have done two more scallops on the edging for the second side of the great-grandchild’s shawl: that was all that seemed safe, in that session. It’s so very easy that the mind wanders. I retreated to the Soutache, and that went well. I hope to do a couple more scallops before giving up and going to bed. There is a bit of recent television that should suffice as background.

For British readers: I wonder whether the Chancellor will have wrong-footed Miss Sturgeon yesterday. Income tax down -- but not in Scotland! Houses cheaper for first-time buyers -- but not in Scotland! (Because those tax powers have been devolved to her.) We shall see. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I’ve done four scallops on the edging for the second side of the baby shawl. There are 20 scallops per side. That was all that felt safe. I then retreated to the Soutache, and had a bit of trouble settling myself back into the saddle there. I mustn’t put it aside for too long. Maybe it’s not a good idea to add that stripey hat to the mixture.

The new Fruity Knitting is a delight, as ever – and the good news is that I don’t think I need to buy Marie Wallin’s “Shetland”. I’ve got far too many books as it is, and none of the patterns there – I think we saw them all – quite grabs me by the throat.

I will continue to hope for the Vintage Shetland Project (yesterday, with comments). It must be very nearly ready for publication. When cancer was first diagnosed, Susan thought that it would go off to the printer as planned – that must have been sometime in 2016 – but that she wouldn’t be able to play the hoped-for role in promoting it. I’m sure she also said that there was someone who could take over – presumably daughter Charlie – if she really couldn’t do it. I’m pretty sure, even now, that we’ll get something someday. But it’s very tedious, waiting, and not being told.


You’ll enjoy Visconti’s “Gattopardo”, Mary Lou –it’s a treat for the eyes. But it’s no substitute for the book. I saw it once, in a cinema, and watched bits on YouTube this morning. I feel a) that Visconti has had to bring Garibaldi and revolution too far forward – in the book they are constantly there, like the rumble of distant thunder, but never quite on stage; and b) that once he has got everything ready for a big, expensive scene, he has to let it go on too long, in order to justify the trouble and expense. The famous ball at the end, for example.

Lancaster seemed to be speaking Italian, in the bits I watched. Surely the voice must have been dubbed, but he was good enough that there was none of that ghastly discrepancy between words and lips.

I’m going up to the Aga shop tomorrow to find out what it would cost to replace the beloved but dangerously antique one which was here when we bought the house. Then on Friday Helen and I will have a conference at John Lewis with the young man who measured the kitchen up on Monday. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I must be brief – the new Fruity Knitting is up, right on schedule – and it’s Marie Wallin!

I sometimes wish I could reach through my computer screen and comfort Susan Crawford. I fear that she is shrinking from the completion of the Vintage Shetland Project because it’s going to be expensive and it's going to involve hard work. Indeed, we had a post complaining in advance about the hard work of sending out the books, way back there before the cancer diagnosis.

She will have had the crowdfunding two and a half years ago. Now she’s got to pay the printer, and then package up the books (and other rewards) and send them out to us all. It’s no wonder that she prefers to concentrate on simpler and more immediate tasks, as her strength returns. But I wish she’d face up to it and tell us what’s happening, even if it’s very bad news.

I’ve had a reasonably constructive day. I’ve finished 20 scallops, on the edging of the Amedro shawl for the prospective great-grandbaby. That’s the first side done. I should surely be able to finish the edging before Christmas. By then I should be near, or at, or beyond, the end of the first 25 gr of yarn, and better able to calculate the time needed for the whole.

If it weren’t for Fruity Knitting, I’d do a bit of Soutache before bed.


Barbara, I looked at Amazon for the “health walking seat”, as you suggested, and it sounds very good. But I can’t remember what it was exactly that I bought for my husband. It could even be that. The first thing to do is to see if Helen can find it when she goes to the country next weekend. There will still time to order another one.

The big non-knit news is that I’ve heard from the Duchess, and there seems to be every hope that she can scrape together enough clients from her b&b people for a cookery class in Palermo to include me and Archie during the first week of January.

How’s that for Degrees of Separation: 1) the Duchess, who is married to 2) the adopted son of 3) Tomasi di Lampedusa, who was the author of 4) Il Gattopardo, who was played in Visconti’s famous film by 5) Burt Lancaster.

Here’s another cat picture for you, taken this morning. Things are not quite as peaceful as this might suggest, but, on the other hand, they’re not too bad, either.