Tuesday, July 24, 2018

All is more or less in order here, with the emphasis perhaps rather on “less” than “more”. James and Cathy and their daughters should be here within the hour. Sparkling water is chilling for them in the refrigerator (they are an abstemious family). The Jamie Oliver traybake is ready to go – briefly – into the oven, including the salmon which I managed to purchase this morning after a struggle up the hill.

And we don’t have to start at the crack of dawn tomorrow.

Thank you for your comments about Fitbit.  I would be almost embarrassed to have one – I mean, to let Fitbit know how unfit I am. But perhaps it would help, first to find out how many steps I take in a normal, sluggish day; then to raise the target a bit; then a bit more.Would it work?


Today's Fruity Knitting is extremely interesting. I want to order wool from this week’s Shepherdess, and I am very interested in Asa Tricosa’s Ziggurat top-down seamless method of sweater knitting. The book is expensive, and Amazon doesn’t have it; but it sounds as if it belongs on my shelves. Asa and EZ would have hit it off, I feel very sure.

I have a week to cool down – there’s no use ordering such a thing when I won’t be here to open the door to the postman.

I advanced Archie’s sock somewhat last night, watching “Lewis”. Like the absurd “Endeavour” of the evening before, it derives from Colin Dexter’s “Morse” books. I’ve never read any of them, but “Morse” was an enjoyable television series.

I won’t try to blog from Strathardle. I should be back in a week.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Not as good a day as yesterday; better than Saturday.

I’m pretty well ready for the Mileses tomorrow. James and Cathy will probably stay here, their daughters will go to Helen’s empty flat nearby. I got to Waitrose this morning and bought all the ingredients for an easy Jamie Oliver traybake to feed them with – except that I forgot to get the principal one. I will have to walk up to the fishmonger’s tomorrow for salmon.

The kitchen is in a state from which, I think, it can be reduced to order with tomorrow morning’s strength.

When I was last in Strathardle, in May, with C., I walked with her to the village and back, perhaps a mile and a half in all. I wonder if I can do that now. I feel I am sliding downhill rather briskly. Of course, in May, we weren’t in the middle of an epic heatwave.

Would a Fitbit help?


I got on with Archie’s socks last night, watching a truly preposterous episode of Endeavour which I had recorded. Corpses from one end of Oxford to the other – 15, at least. They managed to get through it with straight faces.

The socks are very near the toe shaping of the second. I’ll take them along to Strathardle, and would certainly hope to finish, and to embark on Rachel’s Sixtieth Birthday ones. Then back to Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest in peaceful August.

Thank you for your comments about EZ. It sort of sounds as if we all found her accidentally, some earlier, some later. I was knitting circular Fair Isles in the late 70’s-early 80’s, on my own. EZ would have been a great help.

A major breakthrough for me was the discovery of Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book. She describes how to catch the colour-not-being-knitted-with in all four situations (how to catch the left-hand colour when knitting with the right hand, and vice versa, and similarly when purling). I can’t remember that EZ does that anywhere. I can't think of it anywhere else. No doubt all on YouTube these days.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A better day, today. Not difficult, as yesterday I did nothing at all.


n  I tidied the kitchen somewhat. It’ll have to be more than somewhat, by the time James and Cathy get here on Tuesday to carry me off to Strathardle. It’s a start, however. I now have a dishwasher, which makes things easier, but still, a finger has to be lifted.
n  I watered the plants. That sounds easy, but I have a lot of pots out there on the step, and water is fearfully heavy.
n  I cleaned the litter trays. That’s easier than it sounds.
n  I got all the way to the corner shop to buy the weekend Financial Times and some Brillo.

And there will still be time, after my nap, to do a couple more things – pay an important bill and perhaps sweep the kitchen floor; plan the meal with which to welcome James and Cathy on Tuesday. And do some knitting, I hope.

I sit here surrounded by Zimmermanns, plucked from their place on the shelf, I think, to help me decide where to divide Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest for the armholes. I find myself wondering whether my knitting life would have been different if I had stayed in the USofA. Would I have discovered her sooner?

I think I first heard of her through an article in the Sunday Times Magazine. One was invited to send an s.a.e. for a copy of the Baby Surprise. I still have the mimeographed sheet, now more than a bit tattered. The pregnancy code names of the various grandchildren I have knit it for are all recorded on it.

I think the first was Rachel’s daughter Hellie, now approaching 30. Therefore this must have happened some time in the late ‘80’s. But Woolgathering was launched in the late ‘50’s, not long after EZ started selling patterns to magazines. “Knitting Without Tears” was published in ’71. When were the Public Service television series? And would news have reached me? Until the internet entered my life, in the mid-90’s, my knitting was a very lonely business. And would I have had the wit to let her change me?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

I’m sorry for the gap. There’s nothing wrong, exactly. I had hoped that my bold ventures into the Western Isles and then to Wimbledon would restore me to youthful vigour, but that hasn’t happened. I am droopier than ever, and not knitting at all.

I am going to Strathardle next week, with my cats and James and Cathy and their daughters – their son Alistair being about to plunge into his new, postgraduate job. Maybe that will do the trick.

Here, at least, is a cruise picture for you, taken at Tarbert on the island of Harris, after supper one night. Paradise.

That was the only place where we actually docked – otherwise we were at anchor, and went ashore in the tender. That was easily enough managed, but meant that we had to stay ashore until the tender came back. I gave it a miss, sometimes. I am especially sorry to have thus skipped Dunvegan Castle, on Skye, on the way back.

But on Tarbert, I walked ashore and visited a mill where the weaving of tweed was being demonstrated, rather boring, and took these pictures of our dear boat on the way back:

We saw lots of yachts, everywhere, but only one other cruise ship, at Tobermory on Mull. It wasn’t big-big-big like the ones my husband used to enjoy collecting pictures of towering over Venice, but big enough, several hundred passengers. We all felt very happy with our choice as we left it behind after lunch.

I’ve put my name on a waiting list for the two Majestic cruises I would fancy for next year. And, of course, I can go in 2020 if I feel sufficiently sprightly. That doesn’t, at the moment, seem very likely.

Moorecat, you’re right, the whole point of Pointless is the rapport – that’s not entirely the mot juste, but neither is "tension" – between the two presenters. While I wait, perhaps I should take up a soap opera again. My day lacks a focal point.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Thank you, Crochet66, for the assurance that Pointless will be back. I didn’t think of the BBC Frequently Asked Questions page. I actually resorted to Twitter – if the President of the United States can communicate with us that way, why not Armstrong and Osman? But I didn’t get very far.

And, PixieMum, thank you for the tip about the Knitting and Crochet cruise (comment, yesterday). I rushed off in great excitement to look it up – but, alas! the Ventura is one of those great big cruise ships, and I am dead set against them. As I am against bobbles.

My dream knitting cruise would be a distinctly smallish ship, setting sail from Edinburgh, (hey! we could highjack the Royal Yacht!) for Norway, the Faroes, Iceland, and Lerwick. I didn’t book another Majestic cruise until I had experienced the first one, and now it’s too late for a single cabin on what I would choose for next year: their new “wilderness” cruise to the upper left-hand corner of the Scottish mainland. Noble Caledonian (whose ships are not grotesquely big) circumnavigate Sicily – but this year’s circumnavigation departs on the day of an unmissable family wedding, and if they’re going to do it again next year, they haven’t announced plans yet.

So I have nowhere to go, at the moment.

I have no knitting news to report (indeed, have done no knitting) except to say that you mustn’t miss the latest Fruity Knitting, where the guest is Meg herself.

On the cruise, I got around the heel of Archie’s second sock. He came to lunch on Monday and I completely forgot to have him try on the first one. He’s now in Greece, with the rest of his family. I think, when I pull myself together, I’ll polish off that sock before I go back to the Calcutta Cup vest.

I got a leaflet through the door this morning about some of the attractions of the Festival Fringe – one of them being a “conversation” with one of the Birmingham Six who now, I gather, makes his living going around complaining. I’d like to be there, but it’s at noon on the day when Archie and I are going to see “Waiting for Godot” in the evening – am I strong enough? The pub bombings happened while we lived in Birmingham. I am sure the Six were improperly convicted, not quite so sure that they were innocent.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

I know this isn’t what you’re here to read about, but: my quiz programme has vanished from the television schedules. All old ladies have a favourite quiz programme. I read somewhere once that the Queen shares my fondness for this one – Pointless, it’s called. Apart from anything else, it gives structure to my aimless days. Whatever else I am or (more likely) am not doing, I sit down at 5:15 with my knitting, to watch Pointless.

It hasn’t been on recently because all the air time was needed for tennis and football. And then, yesterday, suddenly and with no explanation, there was a different quiz in its place. The BBC website says only “No upcoming broadcasts” – you can’t get much more stark than that. And Googling, to my surprise, produces no answers or even comments.

I’m not much of a photographer, and fear my cruise pictures will disappoint. Also, I’ll need to figure out how to get some of them out of my telephone. Shandy, you’re right, about random groups of people – I fully expected that at least one of my fellow-passengers would be unbearable. But none were. Mr Majestic rang up the day after I got back, to say that I had left my falls alarm behind. (I had already realised that, and by now, he has sent it to me.) I told him the cruise had been wonderful, and that we had been a harmonious group. He said, Yes, the crew remarked on that.

I have since learned, from one of you, that the Skipper’s mother belongs to her knitting group. One doesn’t think of Skippers as having mothers – it’s a wonderful bit of small-world-ery.

There is an ad in the current Waitrose magazine for Viking Ocean Cruises. It says, “From the comfort of a stunning small ship that is home to just 930 guests…”

We spent a whole day anchored at Stornoway. (The seals mistook us for a genuine fishing boat and swam up close asking for tidbits. Their flippers, just below the surface, are unnervingly hand-like.) In the morning, we went ashore in the town, and in the afternoon a coach trip was laid on to the Callanish Stones and other points of historic interest. (We’re in Alice Starmore territory here.)

We were sitting over the remains of lunch, recovering from the one and revving ourselves up for the other, when the Engineer came along to clear the table. “You’re awfully quiet,” he said. “What have you been up to?”

Try saying that to 930 people, Rob.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Home again, safe and sound. I’m just touching base at the moment. I hope to be back in the saddle tomorrow evening. The cats are well, although my absence doesn't seem to have made them fonder of each other; quite the contrary.

The cruise was wonderful. It is sad to think that we 12 will never assemble again. The Hebrides are beautiful, and fascinating. Dolphins skipped along beside our boat, clearly having fun. I’ll tell you about it in bits, with at least some pictures. I got quite a bit of knitting done.

Then, on Thursday, I went down to London, for Wimbledon on Friday, despite Federer’s loss. Rachel and I were there – you may have heard of it – for the longest semi-final in Wimbledon history, and the second-longest match of all. It was incredibly tedious. By the beginning of the fourth set, if not the ending of the third, all one wanted in the world was for it to end. The idiot calls of “Come on John” and “Come on Kevin” were joined by “Come on Somebody”. And, once, "Come on, chaps -- we want to see Rafa."

I wondered whether they would put the next match on at all – the one we all wanted to see. They did, at 8 p.m. or so, Nadal v Djokovic. Rachel and I stayed for three games, and saw the sort of tennis we had hoped to see all afternoon, sharp and intelligent and strategic. Then we went sadly home. They played until 11, and we watched it on television with our supper. I was too tired by then to grasp the finer points – who was serving, what the significance of the point. But I could see the beauty of the play.

I missed the end yesterday, due to the journey home. Rachel says it was one of the great matches, and, she hopes, as we tell the story in later years, it will gradually turn out that we saw all of it.

But I wanted to post this early today, before kick-off, to say how much I hope to see Kevin Anderson humiliated this afternoon – the Grinch who stole Wimbledon, the man single-handedly responsible for depriving me of the lifetime chance to see Federer play, and Nadal, and Djokovic.