Thursday, May 31, 2018

I have had a busy and active day, and I have survived it.

I went all the way up to Multrees Walk this morning – the top of Broughton Street, and then on up and up – to get a prescription from Boots; went to John Lewis and bought a safari-jacket type thing for my cruise; transacted some business at the bank (might as well take advantage of having done all that hill-climbing); bought some first-of-season herrings; and came home. Exhausted but still on my feet.

I have ordered some other cruise clothes on line. There are no laundry facilities on the little boat; one will need a certain number of dark-coloured garments to last 10 days. I still need to order some trainers and some waterproof trousers.

Your many and interesting comments are still not being relayed to my Googlemail. Can anybody guess what might be wrong? I suspect the cats, who have a genius for walking across the keyboard and turning on Flight Mode. I don’t know how to do that myself – I can turn on Flight Mode all right, but not from the keyboard.

The knitting progresses. I’m now nearly half-way through the second Fair Isle band. C. and I have agreed that I will phone Murrayfield tomorrow and ask about booking the tour, ensuring as I do so that the real Calcutta Cup will be on view.

Catherine, thank you for suggesting that I look at Starmore’s Fair Isle book when I reach the crucial underarm point on Alexander’s vest. I’ve got that book, but have never knit from it. Meg is basing her instructions on the EPS, not surprisingly, and it may all work out when I look at her video.

No news on the fermentation front. The experimental batch of Good King Henry continues to look fairly active (as my fermentations go) and I am hatching plans for further attempts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

All well. I have now re-knit the ripped-out bit of Alexander’s Fair Isle vest. Today I read through Meg’s Fair Isle Vest instructions – the leaflet that comes with the CD – and it would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that I didn’t understand a word of it. An incentive to knit slowly, so that I’ll never reach the underarm point.

I’m hopeful that it will all be clearer when I watch the video.

Other knitting news: I’m sure you all know by now that Jared has produced a new yarn called “Peerie”, a fingering-weight merino – American merino, of course – worsted-spun in a delicious range of colours. Loop in London has got them all. Indeed, it was from Loop that I heard the news first.

I’ve finished watching last week’s Fruity Knitting, with the founders of Ravelry as the star guests. It wasn’t terribly interesting, but I’ve spun it out so long – the wi-fi in our house in Kirkmichael is hideously slow – that it’s now less than a week until the next episode.

Kate Davies has re-done an unpronounceable steeked cardigan from the West Highland Way book into a yoke sweater with the much more manageable name of Balmaha. It is very nice indeed.


Your comments are usually relayed to me in the “Social” section of my googlemail. Today, no, and I was feeling rather sorry for myself until I found them attached to the blog.

Matthew, no, alas! the cats have reverted to their city ways. Paradox sleeps with me, Perdita by the Aga or elsewhere.

Beverly, I can’t remember how Good King Henry makes its appearance in the spring. The flower shoots come early, “poor man’s asparagus” they have been called. I have cut up both flower stems and leaves for my fermentation. It is a bit livelier today, with a good necklace of little bubbles around the top of the brine, and quite a few other bubbles pressed against the glass. But you have to sit there patiently for quite a while before you see one move. Scarcely effervescent.

I watched part two of the BBC series about Jeremy Thorpe last night. It continues to be a triumph for Hugh Grant. I discovered last night – I hope it is all right to say this – that he isn’t very tall. Certainly not as tall as James. One would never suspect it, watching Notting Hill or Four Weddings.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

We’ll start with the pictures I couldn’t persuade the iPad to let go of yesterday.

Here’s the Good King Henry patch:

You can see why we lazy gardeners are disappointed that it tastes so bad. I don’t expect anything of the fermentation flavour-wise. It’s strictly an experiment. But I did hope for some vigorous bubbling, and it’s not happening, so far. Tomorrow is the crux, the 48-hour point.

Here’s the fruit hedge and the cat:

And here are the flowers on that hitherto unproductive apple tree:

Two more pictures. My husband’s beloved rose:

I have never been able to identify it. It blooms late in the season (no buds yet), sprays of flowers in the floribunda style, single, a good red. It’s growing on its own roots. We bought the house 54 years ago (or was it 55?) – the plant wasn’t new then. It’s looking very happy this year. Taking care of it is always the first gardening I do. 

And here’s our white lilac, a recent and unusually successful planting. There always was a lilac there – you can see parts of its corpse in the foreground. I was sorry not to see it in full bloom -- other people's lilacs are fully out. But that was better than missing it by a week.


I scarcely did a stitch while we were away, and at the moment, in fact, I am slightly less far on than I was when we left.

I have embarked on the second broad Fair Isle stripe. I have six colours to play with, plus red for the centre, and I chose badly. The colours for the first four rows didn’t have enough contrast. I thought that maybe when we got on to the next pair, the contrast between them would lead the viewer’s eye to discern the overall pattern. But I reached that point last night, and it didn’t work. A nun at the school in which I used to teach taught me the useful maxim, “When in doubt, take it out.”

So I did. I have picked up the stitches successfully, and established the pattern anew, with a better pair of colours. Some stitches were sitting wrongly on the needle. Some had been split in the picking-up. While attending to those problems, I occasionally got the pattern wrong. So that first round was slow. But I’m now on track.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Safely back, and we had a wonderful time. The weather was peerless, for all six days. That doesn’t often happen. It wasn’t peerless, in much of the rest of the UK. That’s even rarer – the contrast, I mean.

This post will be mostly about feliculture and gardening, but knitting should make an appearance.

The cats didn’t at all enjoy the journey. The weather, however, meant that we could leave the back door open all day and they could go in and out ad lib, popping back in when necessary to ensure that I was all right. They were nervous the first couple of days, and didn’t eat as much as usual, and stayed in a lot, but by the end they were completely comfortable with the new set-up. And I was completely comfortable about letting them loose. The only possible danger is that the still-unspayed Paradox might head off looking for love, but that didn’t happen this time.

Both of them came to bed with me, both at naptime and overnight. That has never happened before. It will be interesting to see what happens tonight.

I am trying to persuade the iPad to send us the gardening pictures I took. No luck so far, and I can’t sit here all night. I describe the scenes I want to show you, and maybe tomorrow you will see them.

Here is the Good King Henry patch. I cut some this morning, and have set it to ferment this afternoon. I have no great hopes, since it tastes so bitter, but we shall see. I added carrots and garlic and spring onions to the ferment, but forgot chillies. I think I’ll open the jar and pop in a couple of them this evening.

Here is my fruit hedge, an unexpected success after many years. There is a gap in the middle where something has died. The bushes are black currents and white currents and gooseberries, all promising a good crop. And a free-range cat.

Here is the apple tree at the bottom of the vegetable garden. Some may remember my grumbles about this tree. It has far more flowers this year than ever before. With luck, there may be ten or a dozen apples this year.

There are a couple more unseen pictures, but this is ridiculous. And the knitting news requires more space than remains available.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Preparations for Kirkmichael tomorrow – they were always somewhat stressful, even when I was much stronger – are assuming the dimensions of a Himalayan expedition. Helen has cleared the kitchen up there of many ancient bottles, we gather, so we are taking everything. Plus another box of everything for the cats. Plus the cats themselves. We really need a team of highly-trained Sherpas.

In the absence of advice from you, I went ahead and made some hot sauce. I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe – I can’t find it, written down; you’ll have to ask YouTube for it. I made the whole recipe without any hotness at all, and when it was finished and cool, I added the mushed up fermented chillies and garlic. The result is fairly successful, I think – rather sweet, as Jamie adds sugar, which I would leave out next time, and then both cider vinegar and apple juice. When you taste it, you start to think, this is boring. Then it kicks in. It will be interesting to see what Alexander thinks.

I opened the kimchi and pressed it further down. It tastes fine, but not punchy yet.

What with all this, I haven’t even started to watch Andrew and Andrea. The big interview is with the team behind Ravelry, a brilliant idea. I'll take it to bed with me soon, once the kitchen is in a suitable state for leaving.


I watched the first episode of the new BBC series about Jeremy Thorpe last night, a tour de force for Hugh Grant, if nothing else. I may or may not go on.

You may remember that Hugh Grant is practically a member of the family, on the strength of the fact that he and James lived on the same stair at New College one year, and James once loaned him a frying pan.

As it happens, the current issue of the Economist has a Special Report by James about the Chinese travelling abroad. Not without interest, and his name is attached, as happens with Special Reports although not otherwise in the Economist. I wonder if Hugh Grant will spot it and say to his friends, “James Miles and I used to live on the same stair. I borrowed a frying pan from him once.” 

Probably not.

Monday, May 21, 2018

I had a good Italian lesson, as usual, although it left me, as usual, exhausted. I am permanently stuck, I feel, in the position of a child in its third year. I can talk, and it gives me great pleasure. The grown-ups can understand me, and respond, and that gives me pleasure too. But when they talk to each other (=when I watch the latest installment of Inspector Montalbano) I can hear words and phrases and sometimes whole sentences, but I can’t really get the drift of what’s going on.

No news on the fermentation front, except that I noticed this morning that the garlic cloves at the bottom of the pickled pepper jar (from which I hope to make a hot sauce) had turned an alarming blue-green colour. Nothing in my books. I google’d, and discovered from a wide variety of sources that it is something that happens to garlic, nothing to worry about. How did we manage before Google?

I am undecided as to whether to tackle the hot sauce tomorrow, or leave it until I get back from Kirkmichael. Also undecided as to how to proceed. I could use Jamie Oliver’s recipe, add onions and tomatoes and cook it all for a while (thus killing the probiotics) or I could just add cider vinegar and some sugar and smoosh it up and call it a sauce.

I will take the Calcutta Cup vest along, now that I am on a (slow) roll. I have a Kirkmichael WIP, as was my custom in the Good Old Days – Carol Sunday’s beautiful “Oak Park” scarf (see sidebar). I think I will face up to the reality of old age, and bring it back with me, whether or not I work on it while I am there.

The colours were all laid out a year or so ago, in order, on a shelf of the dresser. Close to 20 of them, I think. Greek Helen has done a prodigious amount of work recently trying to get the house into an order which would allow us to offer it for holiday letting – and, in the course of that work, the Oak Park scarf and anything else knitting-related was bundled off into the drinks cupboard in the sitting room. If I could put the colours into order once, I can do it again, assuming I can find most or all of them. I can buy the pattern again if need be.

Andrew and Andrea tomorrow! How swiftly the fortnights go by!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

No knitting yet today. My Italian tutor is coming first thing tomorrow, and such sitting time as was available has been spent struggling with conditional clauses.

Beverly, that’s an interesting idea, to replace one of the peerie rounds of Alexander’s Fair Isle vest with “MH” to commemorate yesterday. I think that might be too much commemoration for one sweater – on top of the Calcutta Cup, I mean, but I don’t have to decide right now.

On Nine Eleven, I was working on Kaffe’s Mini Roman Blocks, for James, a magnum opus which occupied many months. That one, too, turned out somewhat too big, and also I now think was too bright for his taste. Be that as it may, I was working on a sleeve at the time, and inserted two rows of black, completely interrupting the pattern. I think that’s the only time I have incorporated a Current Event in my knitting (unless you count the Calcutta Cup).

Thank you for your advice about chlorinated water. I didn’t know that letting it stand would get rid of some of the chlorination. I am horrified, Tamar, to think that bottled water may be just (chlorinated) tap water. Mine says “bottled at source from the lower spring at Panannich Wells, Ballater” (which is somewhere near Balmoral). Perhaps I am naïve to believe it.

Meanwhile the new kimchi is as quiet as its predecessor, if not more so. There are quite a few little bubbles pressed up against the glass, but they are motionless and might just be air bubbles if I failed to press everything down properly. Other people’s fermentations bubble away, and overflow, and even explode. I clearly haven’t got the knack yet.

I learned today, from a neighbour-friend, that he introduced me to Claudia McWilliam last year, who admired the sorrel I was then growing. I was completely unaware of who she was, if so. Perhaps I only became aware of her later in the year, first by reading her son Minoo Dinshaw’s brilliant biography of Stephen Runciman as a sort of roundabout preparation for going to Palermo, and then moving on to McWilliam herself.

He also told me today of the sudden death of another neighbour-friend, sad news, especially as the surviving wife is ill and frail and needed him. Old age is a bit like dodge ball.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

That was a lovely wedding, wasn’t it? And what weather! I’m sure the television was almost as much fun as camping out, and a good deal more comfortable. Didn’t Victoria Beckham look glum? And wasn’t it grand to see the Duke of Edinburgh walking as tall as ever, without a stick, at 96, a month after his hip operation!

I found I could perfectly well knit Fair Isle while all this was going on, and have finished the first wide band on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest. I’m on the threshold of the second peerie stripe – just about where I was with the first attempt, when I took it to Loch Fyne at Easter and discovered that it was far too big.

I’m glad to have knit so happy an event as this wedding into the vest. I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean.

I heard in my delicious half-awake half-hour of radio-listening in bed this morning, that Meghan was once asked, when at school,  to tick a box to say what race she was: White? Black? Other?  Her teacher told her to tick White because she looked white, but she felt that would be to betray her mother. She took the problem to her father, who said, “Draw your own box.”

You’ve got to love him for that.

I’ve made another batch of kimchi, this time with Korean anchovy sauce instead of supermarket Nam Pla. I have started worrying about water. You’re not supposed to use chlorinated. I grandly assumed that we had pure water here in Edinburgh, but yesterday I google’d it, and we don’t: it’s chlorinated. So what do I use? I bought some bottled water at the supermarket yesterday and used it to soak the cabbage – a very important first step – and also as the base of the rice-flour porridge which some recipes use and which I attempted today.

But I rinsed the cabbage from the tap, after soaking.

All this authenticity will probably produce a disastrous batch, after the success of the first one.  

Tamar, thank you for the encouraging news about Good King Henry. I did some googl’ing on the subject, but missed that one. Last year, the GKH patch was flourishing amidst the ruins of my vegetable patch. If that is still true, I’ll have a go at fermentation.

Friday, May 18, 2018

I’m all set, as I trust we all are, for a good wallow in Royal Wedding tomorrow. The weather seems set fair, too. My mother stayed away from Rachel and Ed’s wedding, and it was painful. The circumstances were far different, but I have felt some sympathy for Meghan these last few days. At least she’s got her mother.

It would be prudent to get Archie’s socks out for tomorrow’s knitting. The Calcutta Cup vest moves slowly forward, and I mustn’t run any risk of laying it aside for something easier. Little and often will eventually see it done. But tomorrow is a special day.

There is nothing to report on the fermenting front. I’m ready to start the next batch of kimchi, and may even do it tomorrow. The wedding will be over relatively early, perhaps in order to leave time for the FA Cup which is of no interest to me.

We are going to Strathardle next week, all three of us, with my niece C. It is brave of her to take me under her wing in my dilapidated state. I will try to explain to Paradox that this is her one chance at Love. As I remember the sequence of events, poor Perdita made spaying inevitable by frequent and uncomfortable (for her and for us) goings into heat, but so far that has not happened to Paradox (whose birthday is in August). It would be fun to have a box of kittens, and with what they fetch on Gumtree these days, I could retire.

I am wondering what would happen if I tried to ferment Good King Henry. Some may remember that it is the ideal vegetable: a hardy perennial – the one survivor of my once-beloved vegetable plot. It is billed as a substitute for spinach. Its only defect is that it tastes terrible. But what if…

I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I’m sorry – I didn’t get those kitchen pictures taken. I’ve had rather a sluggish day, after all of yesterday’s expenditure of energy.

My jar of fermenting chillies has got a few bubbles in it, but nothing that could be called effervescence. However, there is a little necklace of bubbles along the top of the brine, and the brine itself has become a bit cloudy. Contrary to intuition, that is said to be a good sign.

I’ll leave it for five days to a week and then go ahead and make my hot sauce.

I have reached the centre of the first Fair Isle stripe on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest, 2nd attempt. I am mildly worried at how slow progress is. When my husband was alive and I had many more duties and responsibilities, I seemed to get much more knitting done – “on and on and on”, as he said. Now, even if I do go back and watch some television after writing to you, my hands often sink idly into my lap.

The new IK turned up today. Excitement was but brief. This is the issue based on the American southwest – nul points, as we say in the European Song Contest, at least as far as I am concerned.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

An active day, and I feel the better for it. Alexander came over this morning, as often on Wednesday, and we went to visit a newly-opened art gallery, the most recent manifestation of an Edinburgh institution, the Ingleby Gallery. It’s just around the corner from here, in the restored Glasite Meeting House. (The link is to the Wikipedia entry on the Glasites.)

It’s a wonderful space, and good news for the city that it has been restored and occupied. The opening show is good, too.

Then Archie came round, and we went to Dishoom for lunch. Alexander drove us up (to St Andrews Square) and I walked home.

Nothing much has happened to my fermenting chillies. I got up this morning hoping that they would be bubbling away. There are a few bubbles that weren’t there yesterday, but they are distressingly stationary.

Southern Gal, no, I have never posted proper pictures of the new kitchen, and it’s time I did that, after you suffered through its installation with me. A representative of the company which supplied the design and the units is coming tomorrow morning to sign it off, so to speak. That will be a good moment for careful photographs.

And, oh yes, knitting. I am well embarked on the first serious pattern band of my second attempt at Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest, richly enjoying the rhythm of proper Fair Isle. I am duplicating the colour scheme of the first attempt, and slightly regretting that I have let the swatch-scarf go, which would have provided more examples to steer by, but that’s absurd. I have quite a limited colour-palate, I have the photograph above, all I need to do is keep changing the colours around and running red across the middle of the motifs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ever onwards. I think I’m feeling a bit stronger overall, although that feeling doesn’t seem to be manifesting itself in much knitting. I’ve finished the first peerie stripe on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest, and am engaged on the plain vanilla rounds between that and the first real pattern.

Daniella and I had a successful session on the doorstep this morning, including the planting of the second apple tree. Everything is now done except for one surplus pot. I’ll find something for that. It is ridiculous, but very pleasant, to step out there on a warm May morning (=today) to see how everything is getting on, just as I used to do with my real garden in Kirkmichael.

My obsession with lacto-fermentation continues. I resolved some days ago to attempt to ferment chillies and make a hot sauce of them. (Tabasco Sauce is fermented, I learn.) I had meant to wait until this year’s British chilli crop becomes available next month, figuring they would be fresher than the present supermarket imports from Thailand. But yesterday in Tesco’s I was overcome:

That’s a cabbage leaf on top, tucked in so that everything is kept below the brine. That’s the way we do it on YouTube. There’s a weight on top of that. There are some garlic cloves visible at the bottom. Otherwise just assorted chillies. Very pretty. I'll keep you posted.

And I'll start my second batch of kimchi soon.

Monday, May 14, 2018

We’ve had a beautiful early summer’s day. Greek Helen and I went to Homebase yesterday and bought some bedding plants, and today I planted most of them, and tidied up my herb trough. There are few pleasures – at least in old age – to compare with the feeling of warm sun on one’s shoulders as one toils in one’s garden. I miss my Perthshire garden a lot, but am very lucky to have so generous a space for pots on my front doorstep.

I’ve got two big Greek pots, for which I have ordered apple trees. The first one arrived today, while I was out there on my knees. Daniella (who cleans the house and does the laundry and generally keeps me afloat) got it planted, with some assistance from me. The second arrived just as she was leaving. We’ll deal with it tomorrow. Pics as soon as things are looking presentable.

Knitting moves forward, still somewhat slowly. I have embarked on the penultimate round of the first peerie pattern – and thus should start the first serious pattern band tomorrow.

I have nearly finished eating my first batch of kimchi. I eat it on the side of every plate, as in Korea. I fear it was just beginner’s luck, and I’ll never make any as good as that again, but I am looking forward to trying.

Kirsten (comments, yesterday) I have never heard of British Rail Assist, and will bear it in mind. As for your kimchi, I am sure that the essential ingredient is the Korean chilli powder called Gochugaru. It’s hot but not too hot, and contributes that characteristic red colour. Readily available on-line, as is everything else these days. I got mine from Sous Chef.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Progress. The Calcutta Cup has been successfully knitted into the Vest, Second Version. I have followed it up with a pair of single-colour rounds such as were employed in the first version, and have embarked on the first peerie stripe. Archie came to see me this afternoon, and I was able to go on knitting, to some extent, while he was here, because all was simple and rhythmical.

I have just made myself some rather tasty (I think) wild garlic pesto, which I will soon stir through some pasta for my supper. Alexander brought me some w.g. on Wednesday – he pinches it from the Duke of Argyll: there’s a good stand of it just inside his gate, before you get to Inverary. I know where to find it in Kirkmichael. But what I didn’t know, until I walked around the Garden with Alexander last week, is that there’s an abundance of it in Drummond Place Garden itself. So I shall never lack again.

I am greatly enjoying my kimchi. I wish, as I so often do in knitting, that I had kept better notes. I remember saying here that I was going to use Jamie Oliver’s recipe, so that’s presumably what I more or less did. Next time – not far away, now – I will get in some Korean fish sauce and some rice flour, and employ both.

Thank you for your comments about my anxieties yesterday. A dear friend points out that I could take a taxi the whole way, from Drummond Place to Oban, to join my cruise. I hope it won’t come to that, but it’s a very comforting thought to fall back on.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

I, too, Mary Lou, am getting a bit worried about whether I will be strong enough to enjoy my cruise. All I really have to do is get there, though. After that I can sit about knitting socks for ten days, and having dolphins pointed out to me. It would be nice to go ashore. There’s no wi-fi on board. We will all make a bee-line for the nearest café. But it's not essential.

When was Hellie and Matt’s daughter Orla baptised? Something like October. I got all the way from Drummond Place to Rachel and Ed’s house in London where I had never been before (because they moved during those years at the end of my husband’s life when we were pinned to the spot here), and did it by myself on public transport except presumably for a taxi to the station in the morning. There was quite a bit of walking on the Christening day itself, too.

Could I do that now? But getting to Oban is easier. Trains to Glasgow run every 15 minutes; it’s like catching a bus. And the cruise company has looked up the trains from Glasgow to Oban and informed me of them. It’s a small town. I have but to walk a short distance along the sea-front to the meeting-point, pulling my suitcase.

Alexander thinks that what I need is the famous map from the Hunting of the Snark:

but I think I will take along our Ordinance Survey maps of the western isles.

I didn’t do any knitting last night after I wrote to you, but now I will go try to polish off that Cup.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Again, little to report. But again, I’ve inched forward. For weeks now, I’ve had a pile of papers from the lawyer, relating to my husband’s estate, which I was supposed to sign and send back. An easy enough task, even for one feeling less than well, but something I kept shrinking away from. Today I did it.

And I knit some more Calcutta Cup. I’ve finished the main elements of the design, but there are still two more rounds in which twiddles will be added to the top of the cup to suggest the elephant which is in fact there.

And once that’s done, C. and I can begin to think of going to Murrayfield and seeing the Real Thing.

Kate Davies has published a new pattern, again unpronounceable, “Pabaigh”, with a blog post involving wonderful pictures of the Western Isles and in particular Berneray. And I got a newsletter from Ysolda today which has a moving passage about the Berlinn Yarn Company, on that island. KD has also written about it.

AND I got my boarding instructions in the mail this morning, for my Hebridean cruise. I don’t know where Berneray is (I’ll find out). I know that the cruise has no fixed itinerary – it will depend on wind and weather and, to some extent, what we passengers want. It’s all rather promising.

It lasts a whole 10 days, my cruise  – I ought to be able to make real progress with some sock-knitting. I’m about ¼ of the way through Archie’s socks – you’ll remember that I started them when we were in Palermo, but the first one proved to be a bit tight, so I laid it aside (a perfectly good sock, which will reappear one day, I hope) and started another, larger one. I'm nearly ready to turn its heel.

And Rachel wants a pair, for her 60th birthday. I must look out for some fun yarn for her.


You’re right, Tamar, that the windowless-ness of that picture yesterday is rather odd. One entered the building from the back, through some communal rooms, past the ruins of some big commercial-type washing machines. The main outlook was on the other side, towards the sea. Lots of broken glass.

Shandy and Gretchen, yes, my husband’s interest in art was distinctly catholic. His scholarly interest was mainly 19th century British, but he was curious about it all, and wanted to see everything.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Alexander sent me this extraordinary picture today, of his father, my husband. My first thot was that he had been doing some energetic Photoshopping, but no – it’s a straightforward picture, taken at an interesting venue on the coast of Argyll.

I’ve forgotten the name of the nearest town, although I’ve been there twice. It was built as dormitory accommodation for a nearby oil rig that never happened, I think. For years it lay empty, in a fairly dangerous state, clumsily padlocked, with a warning notice not about personal safety but about not disturbing the bats. Graffiti artists came (as you see) and the place acquired a modest fame. It has since been destroyed.

Not much was achieved today, as usual. I had an Italian lesson, however; and renewed my motor insurance; and knit some more of the Calcutta Cup. I’ll be glad when it’s finished and I can settle down to the blessed regularity of ordinary Fair Isle.


The point of hiding that gun in different places (yesterday's post) was so that if a Bad Man broke in while the house was empty, he might find one piece but was unlikely to be able to assemble a usable weapon. The police who came to inspect us -- the police take guns very seriously -- admired our arrangements.

But then the rules changed, and we had to have a steel gun case bolted to the wall. (So that if a Bad Man broke in he would see at once where the guns were, and would have all the time he needed to hack the case off the wall.)

Joan, I was so glad to hear that Lynn Zwerling (yesterday’s post; the new Fruity Knitting interviewee) is a friend of yours.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Again, there is little to report. I do so little, these days, you’d think I could at least sit about knitting, but that doesn’t seem to happen. I read a lot. However, the Calcutta Cup has advanced a couple of rounds. The re-start is better than the original in several respects, and I am pleased with it.

The new Fruity Knitting is an odd-man-out. A&A are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary with an outing to Baden Baden, and greet us from a windy field rather than their usual sofa. We get to see their wedding video, which is predictably sweet. There’s a tutorial about one-over-one cabling. I don’t entirely understand, and will need to have another look if I ever achieve my goal of knitting KD’s Stronachlachar vest from her new West Highland Way book. It involves panels of travelling stitch.

The interview is even more odd-man-out, involving a woman who teaches knitting in a prison in Maryland. She had many obstacles to overcome, both from prison authorities and from the skepticism of prisoners themselves. She has had some impressive successes, and it is a touching story. The prisoners, however, are not allowed to take knitting back to their cells between the weekly lessons, so they haven’t really got much of a chance – in knitting, as in life.


Helen(anon), I love your son’s remark, about hiding things. Our best one was from the days when we had an American rifle which my husband had bought when we were there in ’60-’61. We kept it in Strathardle, breaking it into several pieces when we went away, which were locked in separate parts of the house. Except for the magazine (a small piece) which was….where?

Searches were fruitless. Alexander was in the US at the time, and was commissioned to get another one. He did, and when he brought it to us, and we were all standing about in the sitting room, I said, “Now, where shall we put it…” You’ll have guessed the conclusion – I put out my hand, and found the original magazine.

As for our missing money, no, it wasn’t in a book. That cupboard contains mostly boxes full of papers relating to various finished projects. But there is also a box of papers relating to what might grandly be called our art collection – receipts from dealers and auctioneers, a bit of correspondence. An active box, therefore. That’s where it was.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

I am sorry to have left you for so long. We had a grand weekend. I have no pics yet, but I hope someone will send me some. No knitting. I had finished the corrugated ribbing on Alexander’s second-attempt vest, and was ready to establish the Calcutta Cup itself – but that required a good deal of counting, not to be attempted in a houseful of jolly people.

Nor have I felt very strong. Better, perhaps, today – and the Cup is now established.

James tasted the kimchi and says it’s good. So it seems to me. But is it fermented? I remain disappointed at how little bubble-activity I saw in there. I’ve started eating it anyway, and look forward to attempting another batch. When chillies become available from British chilli-farms next month, I also want to try making a fermented hot sauce.

This is a second-Tuesday, and a new Fruity Knitting is up. I will take it to bed with me soon.

I have nothing else to report, so I will tell you a story….

Some years ago, when the financial system seemed about to collapse about our ears, my husband decided that we should take a wadge of cash out of the bank and stow it somewhere. It seemed to me at the time that this was not a particularly good idea – if the financial system did collapse, what use would a fistful of paper be? We’d be better off with potatoes, and a rifle.

But he was determined to do it, so we did. There is a wonderful little cupboard off his study, full of his paper. He stowed the money somewhere in there.

(Dark, but I think you can get the idea. There's a good deal more-of-the-same, just out of sight to the left.)

By the end of his life, he had himself forgotten exactly where it was. Recently I set Archie to work in there, offering 10% if he could find it. He tried hard, but failed.  With all those people here at the weekend, I set them at it. They tried, in relays.

And James succeeded. I gave him his 10%.

It’s nice to have the money, but even nicer, in a way, to have closed the book on a silly episode.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Again, there is little to report. I’ve had an idle day, in anticipation of the excitement beginning tomorrow.

The kimchi has livened up a bit – has progressed, that is, from totally-inert to the-occasional-bubble. I need to understand more about what fermentation is. When James and Cathy are here – perhaps leave it until Sunday evening – we can have a taste and see what they think. One of my YouTube instructors says to keep tasting until it is as sour as you like it. What is “sour” exactly? Not lemon juice – that’s “tart”.

The greatest of our P-cats, dear old Poussin, used to sit transfixed in front of the hamster cage, pussy-cat’s-television. I am afraid I have been rather like that myself today, watching for bubbles in my kimchi jars.

For ordinary fermentation of vegetables, you tidy them up as required and pack them into a clean jar with some seasoning, and then fill the jar up with brine at a concentration somewhere between 2% and 5% (quot homines, tot sententiae). Cover the jar, put it away for a while, that’s it.

Kimchi is different. You salt the cabbage, leave it for some time, rinse thoroughly and squeeze it dry, then combine cabbage and the other vegetables and the spice paste. The ingredients have to provide the brine for themselves, both the liquid and the salt.

The corrugated ribbing continues to progress well. I should finish it tonight – the television schedule is provided with just the right mixture of trivia. I am hugely enjoying the Royal-Wedding-build-up programs. There’s one tonight, about (appropriately enough) Prince Harry. There’s also a new cookery program – I like those too.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

It looks like kimchi, anyway…

I went rushing into the kitchen first thing this morning, before even feeding the cats, and thought nothing had happened. I was wrong. The jars have filled with liquid – last night, I just stuffed them full of seasoned vegetables. And there are bubbles in the liquid, although very quiet ones.

The more I read, the more advice I get. Open the jars and add water if necessary, so that all the vegetables are submerged. I have some glass things from Lakeland to weigh them down, but some vegetables push up around the edges. Don’t open the jars – that lets oxygen in. I hope the bubbles will be livelier tomorrow.


I’ve passed the half-way point with the corrugated ribbing, and remain very pleased with the way it’s looking. It’s not twisted, either.  The first time, I used a dark grey for one of the colours. It tends to disappear, leaving the other colours looking like spots rather than vertical stripes. See pic yesterday. I think I've chosen better this time.

My niece said the other day that it is time to think of our trip to Murrayfield to see the real Cup. And of course we can’t, until I have at least knit the Calcutta Cup band into the vest, because I want to hold it up and take a picture of it with the real thing.  The band comes immediately above the ribbing.

That solves, for the moment, the problem of the Kirigami. I must stick to the CC vest without interruption until we are in a position to go to Murrayfield.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

There’s not time for much this evening. I must get back to my kimchi.

There are four stages: 1) cut up the cabbage – “Chinese leaves” here, “Napa cabbage” in the USofA. Or else, don’t cut it up – that’s more Korean. Then salt it – easy if you’ve cut it up. Otherwise you have to interleave cabbage and salt. Then cover with water and leave it for some hours, manipulating it from time to time.

2) make a paste of garlic and ginger, and rice flour porridge if you’re using that, and Korean chilli flakes.

3) cut up the auxiliary vegetables. You have a certain amount of freedom here, but an oriental radish, a daikon, is highly recommended. Spring onions, carrots…

4) combine all; ferment.

I have embarked on Stage Three, and ought to be able to finish tonight.

Here is my cabbage, at the beginning of Stage One. I’ll take more pictures this evening if light allows.

Knitting has advanced too, a certain amount. The corrugated ribbing is going to be 14 rounds, as it was last time – I’m currently working the 5th, and perhaps speeding up slightly, although I remain very clumsy and slow.

Here is the earlier, discarded edge:

The Techknitter recommended a couple of rounds of st st, and then a few of k2 p2, with the idea that the st st would curl up to conceal the one-colour ribbing. It sounded good, and I love that st st curl. But in practice, it didn’t look as if it was going to work.

This time, I did three rounds of one-colour rib, and then plunged straight in. So far, I think it’s going to work much better. I don’t at all mind that single-colour band before the glories to follow.