Friday, August 31, 2018

A fairly industrious day. I even did some doorstep gardening. I’m doing the final cluster of increases on the first Kirigami sleeve – every 8th round 4 times. I should polish that off this evening, and perhaps the sleeve itself if I can find some mindless television. There’s not much to do, when the increases are finished, and I may curtail even that “not much”, preferring sleeves to be on the short side.

I’m no longer worried about not having enough yarn to finish. I was miscalculating, at the beginning, and rather over-prone to worry anyway.

I’ve put my new batch of chilli sauce into containers:

I’m rather proud of that bottle towards the rear. On our way to the Games last Saturday, we found that Blairgowrie was having its monthly farmer’s market. We were in good time, so we stopped for a while, and I bought a bottle of  “Chilli Devil Sauce” from a man from Abernethy. It was his hottest one, he said. It was not at all to my taste – far too sweet, and not nearly hot enough.

What I am proud of is that, instead of leaving it at the back of a kitchen shelf for 4 ½ years and then throwing it out, I tipped it down the lavatory this morning and re-used the bottle for my own purposes.

I had also ordered some “clip-top” Kilner bottles on line – the sort of thing with a plastic plug for the mouth of the bottle, held in place by a metal clip. They arrived this afternoon, too late for the picture, but by now the last of the sauce in the bowl has been decanted into one of them.

I had an enticing email from Toast this morning, followed by an even more enticing look-book (you couldn’t call it a catalogue) in the post. I largely dressed myself in Toast for my cruise, and now I’ve got a wedding coming up. The odd thing is that there are things in the look-book (with price and sizes specified) which I can’t find on the website. And it is from the website that ordering must be done.

Fortunately, perhaps, for those who are going to have to acknowledge a relationship to me on that happy occasion, it is the Mondrian-inspired sweater and seersucker skirt which don’t appear on the website, and the drapey dresses suitable for ladies of advanced years which do.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The first Kirigami sleeve is now 11” long, and I have learned how to do the invisible increases so I no longer have to scrabble for the page on which they are described – this is one of those chapter-long Brooklyn Tweed patterns. Or pore over it syllable by syllable. It’s all looking good.

There’s a new Brooklyn Tweed look-book – you probably know already. Based on the theme of folded paper, and pretty wonderful. I was greatly taken by a picture of folded paper by Alison Watt (whom I greatly admire) when I saw it at the Ingleby Gallery early in the summer. I thought I had downloaded it, but don't seem to be able to post.

It costs rather more than I could afford, anyway. And now I could knit Norah Gaughan’s “Foldline” instead:

Jared is one of the very few photographers who can photograph knitting without being embarrassed by the question of what to do with the model’s hands.


I got up Dublin Street to the Portrait Gallery again today – I’m not going to be able to do that much longer. At least it left me guilt-free for the inactivity of the rest of the day. I met my great-niece C. for coffee. She’s getting married in less than a month, and seems to be bearing up well.

Chloe, that’s good advice about hydration, although my problem is not so much fatigue as weakness. Does cider count? I think it would be a good idea to try to drink a lot more water.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

“Pointless” apparently will take to the air again next week, giving renewed meaning to life.

I made some successful hot sauce today – as before, Jamie Oliver’s YouTube recipe, omitting chillis and chilli powder, stirring in my own fermented chilli mash at the end, blitzing with my blender stick. We’ll never know whether fermentation makes the slightest difference, but it's a good sauce.

I’ve done about 6” of Kirigami sleeve, out of 18 ½. I’m in one of those sections: do a decrease round every 12th round 3 times, then every 10th round 4 times, then… I suddenly began to be afraid that I would wind up with a sleeve of simian length, but I did some measuring and calculating and all seems to be well. My row gauge isn’t quite right, as often; and there is a dire warning in the pattern that if that is so, the yoke will come out wrong. We shall see.

Ann sent me this link to Kristy Glass’ podcast with our own Mary Lou as the featured guest. I was terribly grateful, and would have hated to miss it. Mary Lou and I had lunch together on Broughton Street once – quite a few years ago, by now. The podcast is extremely interesting on a number of fronts.

A lot of it is about “Drop Dead Easy Knits”, the excellent book which ML co-authored. I was glad to be reminded of the Polliwog baby sweater (shewn but not named). I knit it for my second great-granddaughter and it might not be too late to knit it again for the third, born earlier this year. (She had a shawl, but we had so hot a summer that they couldn’t have used it much.) Perhaps even with left-over madtosh DK.

At the second great-granddaughter’s Christening, I had the great pleasure of watching her father pull her polliwog on when we were all in the pub having (a delicious) lunch afterwards, and explaining to a friend – not to me – that he particularly liked this one because it was so easy to put on her. Which is the whole point of Mary Lou’s clever design.

We also saw Mary Lou’s Keynote Pullover, and she said something about the pleasure of a yoke sweater in which the yoke is done with a stitch pattern instead of colour. And I thought – Hey!  Yes! That’s the Kirigami!  There are two such in Kate Davies’ wonderful book “Yokes” – but on one of them the yoke is embellished with more than 1000 beads and I am afraid I draw the line there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

As hoped, I have embarked on the Kirigami sleeves and am re-experiencing the delight of whipping around the circumference of a wrist after weeks of knitting my way around a body.

I’ve finished the ribbing. The sleeve shaping is done with a very fancy invisible increase which I can only hope I will eventually learn. I wish I had gone for the good old pick-up of the bar between the stitches. It’s not invisible, but makes, to my mind, an attractive little feature. Stephen West – it must be part of his Craftsy class – taught me a neat little mnemonic to determine which way the increases will lean:

I’ll be right back.
I left the front door open.

For a right-leaning increase, insert the left-hand needle under the bar from back to front, and so forth.

But EZ might have had me in mind when she wrote about Blind Followers. If Gudrun wants a fancy invisible increase, that’s what she shalll have.

Non-knit, exactly

I’ll be interested to hear, Kristen and Pattie, what you think of “Handywoman” when you have time to read it. And anyone else, of course. It’s certainly impressive. KD is an impressive woman. She remains anti-stroke, to the end of the book. But when it happened, she was in mental pain, losing weight, and had suffered two psychotic episodes. It is easy to see why her first consultant thought her stroke symptoms were “displacement”, or whatever the word is – he was thoroughgoing in self-reproach when he was proved wrong.

But surely her life now is better is any number of ways than it was pre-stroke, and Tom’s likewise. She’s not “better”, but she can walk two or three miles a day, and regularly does, as well as the other achievements with which we are familiar. The body is a mysterious thing.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sorry about yesterday. We had a grand day at the Games, and I held out well. But yesterday was exhausting – an early morning Italian lesson, always tiring and this one was via Skype, adding stress. Then Archie came for a late lunch, no stress, grand to see him, but it left me tired in the evening.

And – second apology – no pictures, yet. I carefully charged up my telephone the day before (and was alarmed to find it warm when I unplugged it in the evening). When the baronet began his march across the bridge, eagle feather in cap, drawn sword in hand, the telephone turned out flat as a pancake. It will take a charge, it turns out, but won’t hold it for more than a couple of hours. I’ll have to go see Mr. Apple.

The Games website is rather busy and over-designed, and contains only the briefest glimpse of the baronet, but gives the general idea.

Since we hadn’t been able to take a car to the field the evening before, we had to sit over on the other side, near the heavyweights who put shots and toss cabers. It was rather interesting.

There was a substantial family of Italians picnicking just next to us, with wicker hampers and delicious-looking food. Eventually (and without a drop to drink) I went over and asked them how to say "Highland games" in Italian. They tried to switch into their faultless English but I persevered in execrable Italian for a few more sentences before releasing them and going back to my party. That would have been a silly and bad-mannered way to behave in Palermo, I feel, but in Kirkmichael I can speak any bloody language I want to.

Normally when I don't know something in Italian and can't be bothered to look it up, I Google it. Yesterday morning, in preparation for my Skype lesson from Rome, I tried that. Google doesn't know how to say "highland games" in Italian.   I felt triumphantly vindicated. ("Giochi delle Highlands") 


Tired means tired, so not much has been done. But today I reached the armholes of the Kirigami, much counting of stitches, and divided the work. The instructions said to leave the yarn attached, nearly a full ball, so I did that and wound the next one. That leaves me ready to cast on the first sleeve this evening, when there is lots of interesting television.

Friday, August 24, 2018

A great day for books.

I’m reading Kate Davies’ “Handywoman” at a gallop, and enjoying it very much. It is astonishing how rapidly she has lept from Beginning Knitter to Famous Designer, quite apart from having that trajectory interrupted by her stroke. But for the stroke, she would almost certainly never have attempted it. She is clearly much happier and more fulfilled in her present life than in her pre-stroke one. She understandably resists throughout the slightest suggestion that the stroke was a good thing in any way. I haven’t finished yet – maybe these contradictions will be resolved in the last chapter.

And “Knitting in Antarctica” is here too. I have only flipped through it, and look forward to a leisurely study. Antarctica is a totally inhospitable continent, of course. There is no native population. The knitters are there to work, and the patterns are all hats which they have devised. But there is plenty of information about the place and the experience of living there,  and photographs, and it looks fascinating.

As for me, I’ve now done 14” of Kirigami, and wound and joined in the next skein. And Neil MacGregor has got on to monotheism.

Games Day tomorrow. I almost certainly won’t appear here. If we were in Kirkmichael, we would already have driven down to the field and left our car (well supplied with beer and cider) in a choice spot by the track. Then in the morning we would carry our picnic down in a cold box and be ready to feed the Five Thousand.

Archie is coming to lunch on Sunday and I have an early-morning Italian lesson by Skype from Rome itself. But I should be fit, nevertheless, I hope, to report on the Games later in the day,

I meant to tell you that my toil-up-the-hill yesterday enabled me to have a look, at last, at  our new fancy-schmancy restaurant. I was surprised to note that one of the items on the menu involved wild garlic. That plant appears in the spring and by this time of year has completely disappeared. Can fancy growers coax it forth all year round? Can you freeze it?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The measure now stands at 13 ¼”. That’s better. I should finish the current skein tomorrow, and perhaps even reach the current goal-line, 15” for the underarm.

I got “Ziggurat”. Kathy (of Kathy’s Knits) is actually knitting one of the patterns, and is actually acquainted with Asa Tricosa, who spends part of the year in Scotland.  I feel I ought to make the attempt. I wish she worked in percentages like EZ, but there are plenty of schematics. I could work it out for myself. She has a neat figure (as does Kathy) and goes in for minimal ease. Not me.

I still can’t find that old Vogue Knitting Book. I think the pattern I want is in one of the last – perhaps even the very last – of the old-style VKBs. Mine are all in order in box files, but the latest issue I have is No. 60, which must have been published in the autumn of ’62, since it started up in ’32 and kept resolutely going through the war.

I can’t remember when it subsided, but No. 60 certainly wasn’t the end.

So a box file must be missing, I guess. I have followed my own advice and repeatedly gone back through the box files which are here, without success.

KD says her new book “Handywoman” has been dispatched. Maybe tomorrow? I’m greatly looking forward to it, and she’s clearly very proud of it.


I’m going to the Games on Saturday – the Fourth Saturday in August has come round again. It’s been awhile since any of us have been there, and I’m going just as a day trip. It will be odd. Neil MacGregor was talking today about religious festivals, and I thought how neatly the Games fitted the description, except for not having the slightest element of religion. Everybody is there, gentle and simple, and it celebrates everything we have been doing during the year, knitting and cooking and tending the sheep.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Only 11 ½” – not the Great Leap Forward I had expected. I may have as much as another inch left in this third skein – good news.

I failed to find the old VK pattern I mentioned, the one I have been thinking of for my madtosh stash. I’ll keep looking. The Kirigami, if it achieves nothing else, will provide me with an impeccable swatch.

Thank you for your help with the question of whether to buy the new version of Brown-Reinsel on ganseys.  Jenny – I feel this is an awfully ignorant question – how do I find reviews on Ravelry? She doesn’t even seem to have a group. One of the customer reviews on Amazon – I love that feature – said yes, buy this one even if you have the other one; but for the moment, at least, I’m taking your friend’s advice, Cat, and abstaining.

On the other hand, Beverley, I have ordered “Knitting in Antarctica”. The customer reviews are ecstatic. Thank you for that.

And tomorrow, I may finally close in on “Ziggurat”. I have been past “Kathy’s” a couple of times since one of you told me she had it, but both times I was heavily laden, and books are heavier still. Tomorrow I mean to walk up the hill to the bank and come back down carrying no more than a fillet of haddock at most.


There is still not the slightest sign of activity in my jar of fermenting chillis. I tried a cautious taste yesterday, looking for the characteristic fizz – but the brine was so hot that I couldn’t taste anything else. There are a couple of Carolina Reapers in there, thanks to Tesco. I’ll go ahead and make sauce next week, whatever. (Jamie Oliver’s YouTube recipe, omitting the chillis, and adding my fermented mash at the end.)

Greek Helen and her family were in Kirkmichael over the weekend. She brought me back a few apples from the hitherto unproductive tree. She said they came off in her hand when given a gentle quarter-turn. That’s said to be the test. They taste unripe to me. This morning I made some spicy chutney (unfermented) with them. Unripe chutney is certainly preferable to apples that fall and rot in the grass.

I choked up too, listening to President Obama sing “Amazing Grace” yesterday.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nearly 11 inches. We’re aiming at 15.

I’m much more hopeful now that I may have enough Penny Loafer for the whole job. When I resumed work – last week, was it? – I had some ribbing and a bit beyond attached to a ball of yarn. I also found an already-wound ball in the bag. That second ball, now consumed, looked oddly small and I’m now sure it was so. Did I knit a substantial swatch? Stranger things have happened.

At any rate, this third skein has some mileage in it yet. I’ll certainly reach the armholes (15”) before the fourth skein is finished. (I had eight.) And if I run short, I think I have decided that Composition Book Grey is the right answer for the yoke.

Neil MacGregor continues well. There was a marvellous moment this morning when, in an episode about hymn-singing, he played a recording of the occasion when President Obama, preaching at the funeral of a black pastor who had been gunned down in a hate crime, flung aside his text and started singing “Amazing Grace”. Gosh.

Today is Andrew-and-Andrea-Tuesday. I can face them, now that I'm knitting again. While flailing about a bit last night, I watched the first few moments of a few knitting blogs. They were very weak, by comparison. “Professional” would be the wrong word for A&A. They represent the very best of what is meant by “amateur”. Today’s guest is an American shepherdess and spinner. Most interesting. I haven’t finished watching it yet.

But I was grateful again for the spinning class I did at the EYF this year. I was the class dunce, as I told you at the time (and as I had expected). But I learned a bit about what it was all about. And the teacher said something which has enabled me to remember the difference between “woollen” and “worsted”.

Looking at that delicious pile of madtosh DK’s, piled up on the chair to be photographed for you yesterday, I felt I really ought to do something with them. And I thought of something I might do – in an ancient VK. I’ll see if I can find it. It would need a certain amount of thinking – but Andrea’s demonstration today of how she knit a child’s cardigan as a pullover for Andrew inspired me to feel that thinking is not impossible.

Apart from the yarns you saw, I’ve also got “Tannehill” from the Sous Sous pattern. Devoted readers will remember – I finished front and back and sewed them together with one piece upside down.

A question for you: the new issue of IK says that Brown-Reinsel’s gansey book has been updated and re-issued. That’s one I actually use (as distinct from just admiring it on my shelf). Do I need the new one?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Thanks to Shandy and Neil MacGregor, the Kirigami is now a shadow under 9” long. Moving forward nicely, in fact.  The stitches slide most deliciously around the needle, unlike the ones for the Calcutta Cup vest which I am constantly having to help over the hasp.

It was good to discover that MacGregor’s 100-Object podcasts are still available, too.

You're right about Radio Four, Shandy. I would like to have heard both of the programmes you describe. In the Good Old Days, classy newspapers had ads all over the front page . The Glasgow Herald continued the practice longer, even, than the Times.

One of the very worst moments of Cuban Missile Crisis week was when the Herald had an emphatic little box in the middle of those front page ads, announcing that all the nuclear submarines in the Holy Loch had put to sea.

Weavinfool, you were right – the left-over madtosh DK was in bags in that cupboard. I looked there yesterday. I looked again this morning, and there it was. It’s a general rule of life – I’m sure you all know it, but there’s no harm in enunciating it anew – that in any search, it’s a good idea to go back from time to time and look again where the thing ought to be.

Here’s what I’ve got:

Colours don't show up very well. The basic Penny Loafer yarn is the group to the left of centre.

As you see, I tend to over-buy. Why didn’t I do that this time? Probably because wherever-it-was didn’t have any more. Thank you, Shandy, for the suggestion that I appeal to Ravelry. I hadn’t thought of that. At the moment, I think I’ve got so much madtosh DK that I had better make do with what I’ve got. That dark brown, Whiskey Barrel, centre right, would go well colour-wise, but would the elegant stitch pattern show up? Composition Book Grey, centre top, which is in fact sort of purple, would pick up the blue notes in Penny Loafer and might be better.

Here is a cat picture for you, taken on Paradox’ recent birthday. She is in the foreground.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

You have hit the jackpot again, Shandy. After only a moderate amount of thrashing about, I found a series of Neil MacGregor podcasts called, I think, “Living with the Gods”. With their help – three episodes so far – I have polished off the second skein. Presumably when I finish this series, I can find others.

Two skeins have yielded 6 ½”, not much. I will therefore need slightly more than half the yarn to get to the underarm. If I run short, the only solution will be to do the whole yoke in a different yarn. Madtosh dk is a fave of mine. I am ransacking stash, but am so far unsuccessful in finding yarn I know is there.

“Fake or Fortune” tonight, in which I gather we get to hear Fiona Bruce speaking French. (I was impressed with Jamie Oliver’s spoken Italian in his new cookery programme last week, too.) I should get the new skein wound and embarked upon.

My Neil MacGregor story is hardly worth telling. My husband and I were at a small exhibition devoted to Sir George Beaumont, an important patron of, among others, my husband’s artist D*vid W*lkie. I don’t remember where we were – maybe Tate Britain. Nobody much was there. Neil MacGregor came in and said “Hello, Hamish” for that was my husband’s name.

I have met one or two famous people who sort of glow with fame. Aren’t-you-lucky-to-be-talking-to-me sort of thing. Neil MacGregor wasn’t like that. He was alone, wearing an undistinguished raincoat. I doubt if I was in fact introduced. I don’t remember what happened next. Probably they exchanged a few words about Sir George Beaumont and went their separate ways.

At least I knew who he was. We were once in a dealer’s showroom when a man came in, with two friends. The dealer cried “Hello, David!” in great excitement. I had all the clues – he was tanned, and I even caught a faint whiff of homosexuality. When we were safely out on the pavement where I couldn’t do anything embarrassing, my husband told me that it was David Hockney we had just seen.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Nothing to report, despite yesterday’s burst of knitting. I hope I will go curl up in front of the television soon. Shandy, that’s a great idea about listening to Neil McGregor’s “History of the World in 100 objects”. I love him, I love his voice, I love his ideas. (I think I've told you about the time I met him.) I have heard a few random bits of that work on the car radio when driving alone – but then the next thing I know I’m out of range and it goes off.

Can I just tell my dear iPad to play it to me? I’ll get to work on that.

I’m glad you had a successful day in Edinburgh. Helen and her family are in Kirkmichael at the moment, so I haven’t been able to question her about it.

I didn’t book any Italy. I had an email from Helen this morning worrying about whether Archie will in fact be free on the dates in question. There’s no harm postponing a bit, except for my increasing weakness. Archie was wondering anyway whether early October might not be too hot. Early January in Palermo was certainly perfect, temperature-wise, and it didn't rain.

My fermenting chillis are very quiet. That happened the first time I did it. It’s more fun when fermentation is more visibly active – I’ll have to make Brad Leone’s gardiniera again soon (lots of chopping) – that’s a distinctly lively one, and the result is very tasty.

Someone on YouTube stages an experiment which seems to establish that hot sauce made with fermented chillis tastes different from hot sauce made with plain chilli mash. Different; not necessarily better.

When I was in Kirkmichael recently with James and Cathy and their family, I discovered that granddaughter Rachel is a Brad Leone fan. She is an adventurous and intelligent cook, but I didn’t find out how she had come across him.

Back to knitting: I counted stitches last night, and was surprised to discover how small a size I had chosen. (I’m getting stitch-gauge right on the nose; that was a surprise, too.) I’ve got lots of slender granddaughters, if the Kirigami turns out too small for me.

Friday, August 17, 2018

It’s wonderful to have my knitting back.

I’m at that stage, familiar to all – especially to all who are slightly worried about whether they have enough yarn – where I go round and round and round, watching the ball of yarn from which I am knitting diminish, while the knitting itself remains unchanged.

In sober fact, I’ve knit nearly 5 inches. There are 11 to go before the underarm. The construction of the Kirigami is that of a simple yoke sweater. When I get to the underarm, I ought to have a better idea of how the yarn is holding up. I could, perhaps, shorten the arms somewhat.

I chose the percentage for the sidebar simply because I had eight skeins of yarn and I have used up one of them.

IK turned up today. I was almost afraid to open it, so disappointed had I been with the last issue. This one’s OK. Almost everything is cabled. I think I would go first for the Sandy Neck pullover, but maybe that’s just because I’m keen on their male model. I do like cables. I don’t think I’ve done any since the Dunfallandy blankie I knit for the first great-granddaughter.

As for the rest of life, I (as so often) didn’t get very far. I did make progress with the task of dispatching two boxes of my husband’s papers to the man who has taken over work on the magnum opus. I’ll have to do Italy tomorrow, after all.

Does anyone know about booking Italian trains? I know it is possible, probably easy. But is it necessary? Here in GB, it would be insane (price-wise) not to book a train as far in advance as possible. But it might be less stressful not to be committed to a specific train.

Mulfina, thank you for the link to the article on New Jersey Italian. I'll chase that one up. The Duchess who gave me and Archie our cooking lesson in Palermo told me that she once was employed in Glasgow teaching Italian to Scottish-Italians a couple of generations removed who knew none of their "native" language. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Shandy (comment yesterday) – you are a good friend. That’s the answer, of course. Gudrun’s “Kirigami” pattern never made it into the WIP list in the sidebar until today, and was set aside – I don’t remember the circumstances; perhaps when we won the Calcutta Cup.

I got it out this afternoon, and made a certain amount of progress, including the finishing of the first skein. I’m omitting the waist shaping, since I’m thinking of this one for myself and I haven’t got a waist any more. Doing it that way will use a bit more yarn, which gives me something to worry about. It’s a madtosh DK called “Penny Loafers” and it’s “one of a kind”. So if I run out, it won’t just be a matter of a different dye lot…

Blog-wise, this won’t be much more interesting than Rachel’s socks. Probably less, since the circumference is so much greater. But the great thing is to be knitting again.

Not much was accomplished today, otherwise.  If we’re going to Italy in October, I must get started booking things. I’ll do that tomorrow. This idea grew from my wish to see the Riace bronzes. They are in Reggio Calabria, right down in the toe of Italy. There is an airport there, but so small that to get there from pretty well anywhere, you have to spend a long time somewhere else waiting for the connecting flight.

So I thought, why not fly to Naples and go down to Reggio C. by train? Much easier and more entertaining. We’ll stay a couple of days in Naples, having got there, eating pizza and visiting antiquities.

There seems to be no reason to linger in Reggio C., once one has seen the bronzes. But my big discovery was that from there, one can take a train to Sicily. So we’ll do that, and go to Catania, and book a car and driver one day to take us to Piazza Armerina for the mosaics. From Catania there are reasonably convenient flights home.

But thinking is no use, without some actual bookings.

It was this journey, as I remember, that killed Il Gattopardo. He was in Naples, and instead of taking the ferry home to Palermo, insisted on going by train. I’ll read that chapter again. 

One thing I did get done today was to chop up some chillis and put them to ferment, with the thought of making some more hot sauce.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

An Oberlin friend writes what I think might be called a private blog, addressed almost every day to 20 or 30 family and friends. She tells us what she’s been doing. She is fully my age, if not a few months older, far more sociable and energetic, carrying far more responsibility. It is a daily pleasure to read about her.

That is the sort of blog this is turning into, as knitting falls from my listless fingers. Except less energetic.

I got up to Valvona and Crolla again today, so plenty of exercise. And spotted the new, fancy-schmancy restaurant at last. I must have walked past it at least twice.

I’ve thought of a whole new anxiety – if Archie and I go to Italy in October, I might miss the starting gun for EYF ’19 classes.  Someone could always act on my behalf. I'll have wi-fi wherever I go: I can choose my classes. It's only the finger-on-the-button bit that might not work. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I’m sorry about yesterday. It was Helen’s husband’s David’s birthday, and we all went out to our favourite local hostelry on Broughton Street, the Blue Snail. The arrival of more, perhaps smarter, restaurants in the vicinity has clearly done it no harm so far. It was packed to the rafters.

Not much knitting, although I’m a bit further forward with Rachel’s sock.

I re-read my blog entries for the last month of my husband’s life. Those were tough days, but I did a lot more knitting than seems to be happening now. A great-granddaughter was expected any moment; I was knitting Mary Lou’s Polliwog for her.

I fell asleep (literally) during “Fake or Fortune” on Sunday night. I think the moral is, I need to program knitting into an earlier part of the day. Perhaps I should attempt the quiz which has replaced Pointless, although I shudder at the thought.

The resolution of Sunday’s program (=fake) depended on the say-so of an expert, unseen and unheard, who seemed to be relying on the witness of her eyes (exactly as I had been complaining didn’t happen) despite all the science produced by the program.

I am contemplating another Italian adventure in early October, before the university term starts. Archie is game. Naples – Reggio Calabria – Catania, travelling by train except for there-and-back. Scylla and Charybdis seem to hold no fears for the Italian railway system. We shall see. I’m not sure I’m strong enough now, let alone in several weeks’ time.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Again, little or no knitting.

I was overjoyed, Mary mom, to learn that the Druid company did their Godot in Chicago, and that you stood and cheered. It seemed far too wonderful an experience to be limited to a single week at the Edinburgh Festival. Greek Helen and a friend are going tonight – the last night, I think. Maybe she can get everybody to their feet.

There’s a wonderful touch, special to Edinburgh. You will remember that a Boy comes on, at the end of the first act, with a message from Mr Godot. He’s not coming, but he will be here tomorrow. The same Boy appears at the end of the second act with the same message. But he doesn’t recognise Vladimir and Estragon. “That must have been my brother.”

Edinburgh has produced identical twins, the perfection of 13-year-old schoolboys. If you didn’t have a programme, there was nothing to worry about – the same Boy-actor both times, you would assume, as in all other productions. But if you do know, you’re left to wonder – have you seen two boys, or only one? The programme implies that both were involved, but perhaps they alternate between performances. There was only one for the curtain call. I think Beckett would like that.

The Sylvia Plath program was much as might have been expected, with contributions from old friends. It sort of took us through the Bell Jar. It was interesting to see Frieda Hughes, the daughter, with both Sylvia and Ted discernible in her lineaments. I didn’t know that her brother Nicholas, the younger of the children, was himself a suicide. I must have known, and forgotten. It was fairly recent – 2009.

Tonight we move on to “Fake or Fortune” which my husband and I used to enjoy. I am always surprised that so little is made of authenticating a picture by looking at it, as opposed to science. That’s how he did it.  Like recognising your mother’s handwriting on an envelope, in the days when people sent each other letters every week.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

This is all culture, no knitting, I am afraid.

I hope everybody realised yesterday that silence was due to my busy day. And I got through it – the lunch with Helen’s sons at Dishoom was delightful. I took a taxi up, and walked back, so the day wasn’t completely without exercise. And I was still strong enough for Godot in the evening.

It was sensational. If we hadn’t all been so British, we would have stood up and cheered at the end. As the Times rightly said at the end of their review, “So there you have it. We can all stop waiting now. Godot has arrived.” [And yet they gave it only four stars. What did they want? Love interest?]

It was brilliantly designed and directed and acted and choreographed. I read some of it today, to see if they had hammed it up a bit to make it more entertaining. No, it’s all there in the text, including the stage directions. If the dead care for such things, Beckett must be very pleased.

Perhaps you have to be Irish to take him to that level. They all were – a company called Druid of which I had never previously heard.

Tonight on television – to descend to the mundane – is the program about Sylvia Plath which prompted our recent conversation. I have been reading The Bell Jar in preparation. I thought it was going to be a re-read – I’m sure the book is on a shelf in Kirkmichael – but it doesn’t feel at all familiar, after the first couple of chapters about the month in NYC with Mademoiselle.

It’s very grim. It was published shortly before her death, although the slightly-fictionalised events in it had happened a few years before. Did she feel that, once it was published, she owed it to her public to go through with a successful suicide?

I’ll watch, anyway, getting on with Rachel’s socks. Then, next week, the Calcutta Cup vest must be resumed.

Tomorrow is Paradox’ 1st birthday.

And what I forgot to tell you in advance, now really too late, is that there was a nice puff for Greek Helen and her mosaics in yesterday’s Times – but only in the Scottish edition, alas! in the Bricks & Mortar section, halfway through an article called, I am afraid, “Ways to Craft Your Own Homeware”.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Somewhat better. I did my two circuits of Drummond Place Gardens. I finished Archie’s socks and in the afternoon Archie himself came to put the recycling out. It goes out fortnightly, and I have missed two: one for Wimbledon, one for Kirkmichael, so there's lots:

It looks a bit long in the foot. That’s easily corrected, in a top-down sock. I'll see what he thinks, after a bit. And I don’t know how that hole came about. I have fixed it. The yarn was broken. Moth? Cat? A snag?

Tomorrow Archie and his brothers and I will have a mid-afternoon lunch at Dishoom, when Archie finishes work, and then, I hope, a bit of a rest before taking a taxi to Godot. A busy day. And getting up Dublin Street to Dishoom is a strenuous walk – it will be good for me, but...


Interesting about weather, Chris. European weather often follows on behind American, but, clearly, not always. '62-63 was a savage winter here  -- the pregnancy that produced Helen gives me several secure points to remember it by. The last severe winter we had here was ’10-11 when my husband’s sister was dying.

Janet, my guess is that hiding under the desks to avoid nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis was a technique left over from WWII because they couldn’t think of anything else to do.

My mother was in Dallas that week, where her own mother was seriously ill. She didn’t notice what was happening, and in a few conversations on the subject subsequently, confused the Missile Crisis with the Bay of Pigs. And I will never know whether family anxieties obscured all else for her that week, or whether Texas is so far away and so big that they weren’t terrified the way we were in the centres of civilisation.

I can remember waking up and hearing the milkman’s horse in the street and thinking, well, it hasn’t happened yet.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

A day of massive inactivity. I’ll have to do better tomorrow. I tell myself that I’m saving up strength for Godot, but that doesn’t entirely work.

Here are Archie’s socks:

And Rachel’s first one:

I am, in fact, a bit further on with that one by now. And this evening offers a whole TV hour on probiotics and sauerkraut, which ought to advance things still further. I haven’t abandoned fermentation. It’s just somewhat in abeyance as I still need to eat up the kimchi in the refrigerator.

However, I’m out of homemade hot sauce, so I need to ferment some more chillis. I hope that will happen soon. Tesco has better and hotter chillis than Waitrose, but access is impeded by roadworks at the moment.

Sylvia Plath: I just meant that the early trajectories of our lives were similar, apart from my not being a genius. Clever girls, scholarships to British universities. I fancy we looked similar, but maybe everybody looked like that in 1954. She was certainly prettier. She met Ted Hughes in February, 1956 and married him in June. I met my husband in February, 1957, but we weren’t married until August.

There’s a big difference between living in Britain and just being here. She may have found it as tough as I certainly did. She died at the end of that savagely cold winter which was preceded (in November?) by the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tough few days for those of us with small children. In my case, that winter also (in January) produced Greek Helen.

Jamie Oliver’s new Italy book arrived today. Modified rapture. There are some good things in it, and I very much look forward to his new television series based on it, starting next week. Jeanfromcornwall, I will make an effort to find and watch Nadiya. She is a most engaging character, but I have never watched her actually cook.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Andrew & Andrea turned up today, as hoped. Their interviewee, Louise Harding, isn’t to my taste, designer-wise, but she had a good many interesting things to say, including a distaste for cardigans which button over the bosom. She prefers a single button at the top.

She set me thinking – a good deal of what follows is probably absurd – about the two great 20th century trends in knitting which are now more or less coming together: traditional/peasant knitting, and “couture”. EZ can be credited, along with much else, with bringing much of traditional knitting (e.g., knitting in the round) into the mainstream. Harding is firmly in the “couture” camp, believing – as does Andrea, and many others – that knitting needs firm seams.

The fascinating thing about Susan Crawford’s Vintage Knitting Project is seeing how traditional knitters, there on the edge of the world, were influenced by fashionable designs.

Kate Davies, I would say, straddles these two strands brilliantly. As does Jared Flood and his team – meticulous designs; not too many seams.

Harding said that it was Rowan who first put designers’ names on designs. We take it for granted. I have, as really devoted readers will remember, a complete collection of the British Vogue Knitting Book from its inception in 1932 until it faded away in whenever-it-was. In the first decades photographers are credited – and there are some still-famous names among them – but designers, never. Kaffe was one of the first designers whom I was aware of by name -- and he worked for Rowan, of course.

Here at home, I am grateful for your comments about the Drama Channel. I think I have been missing out there. When my husband was alive, he spent an industrious half-hour daily combing the newspaper for anything we might want to watch – and he found some good ones. I do it in 5-8 minutes, confining myself to Channels One-Five plus BBC Four. I’m going to add Drama.

Next week promises well, even without: Jamie’s new Italian series (my husband would never let us watch cookery programs); Sylvia Plath (myself, had things turned out differently and had I been a genius); and a new episode of Fake or Fortune.

Internet problems seem to be obstructing the sock pictures I have ready for you. Tomorrow.

Monday, August 06, 2018

My friend and cleaner came back today, after a holiday at home in Rumania. She fell upon the task like Heracles facing up to the Augean Stables, and the house and I both feel much better for her work.

I did a bit more of Rachel’s heel. I think I’ve made a mistake. I’ve lost the ball band of the Pairfect yarn. The pattern consists of broad stripes. When I found myself with the colour I had started with, for the ribbing, I thought that was meant to be the heel.

But it wasn’t. It didn’t even finish the heel flap. It has now been replaced with the main colour in which the whole foot will be done. It’s not a fatal error – Rachel likes socks to be on the short side, and at least the other one will match.

I should get some more done this evening. They’re showing an old episode of Lewis.

There’s more excitement to come this week. Tomorrow is Andrew-and-Andrea day, I think. On Thursday, Jamie Oliver’s new Italian cookery book is due to be published. I’ve pre-ordered. And on Friday Archie and I are going to see Waiting for Godot, probably my one nod to the Festival this year. It was very well reviewed in the Times this morning. Last year we saw Krapp's Last Tape and enjoyed it, to my surprise.

The streets are pullulating with people.

Thanks for comments, as ever. Helen(anon): daughter Helen keeps urging me to get groceries delivered. But I enjoy my little outings to the supermarket, and it’s exercise of a sort.

Pattie, I agree about Midsummer Murders, especially the older ones with John Nettles. I found “Unforgotten” on Netflix this morning, and thought it sounded interesting. I need to figure out, again, how to get Netflix on my television. At the moment, I only know how to watch it on the iPad. I don’t think you knit to TV too much – my problem is that I’m not watching much TV these days, and the knitting suffers.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

The next post from Kate Davies has followed promptly: she’s not pregnant (although we were far from being the only ones who lept to that conclusion) --she has let her hair go grey. (Kristen and Skeindalous, you got it.) She says she has never wanted children. I hope that’s true, in the sense that it would make it more bearable not to have them.

Greek Helen went grey early – it runs in my husband’s family. She looks great with it.

I like the second, loose version of St Catherines, as in KD’s blog post linked above. And I like it very much with those garter stitch stripes.

Otherwise no news; no knitting at all. I was totally prostrate after my shopping expedition yesterday, and went early to bed. I walked once around Drummond Place Gardens today, and then on to the corner shop – roughly equivalent to a second circuit – to get breakfast materials for the grandsons coming tonight.

Janet, where do you find Father Brown? Netflix? I love Foyle’s War, and am pretty sure I’ve seen all of them, so I feel our tastes must roughly coincide. Joni and Isabella, thank you for the suggestions about shopping aides. My problem is essentially this extraordinary and increasing weakness. I think a shopping trolley is rather a good idea.

Baked lemon (see yesterday) was quite tasty. I bought two lemons, so today I did the other one Jamie Oliver’s way. That’s certainly easier, and tastes about the same.

Jamie says specifically that you’re not meant to eat the lemon. Gennaro doesn’t address the point. I wonder.

There was once on one of my school trips to southern Italy when my colleague and I were relaxing somewhere on the Costa Amalfitana while the girls were exploring a relatively safe and enclosed space, after our day at Paestum, on our way back to Sorrento.

 A man came into the café with an enormous lemon, which he showed his friends with pride. I asked if I might photograph him with it, and he allowed me to do so. (I am proud to say that I later sent him the photograph, addressed to the Café Opposite the Cathedral.) Later, he cut the lemon into slices and gave a slice to each of his friends and also one to me and one to my colleague. They were entirely delicious. So perhaps if one is actually in Amalfi…

Saturday, August 04, 2018

A good day for exercise, anyway.

I walked up to Valvona & Crolla. The route took me past a classy new local restaurant – so classy it has no menu, and an unpronounceable Gaelic name like a Kate Davies pattern. So classy, as it turns out, that I couldn’t find it, although I had left home with the assurance from Google Maps that it was a 5-minute walk from here, and a firm impression of exactly where it was.

I’ll persevere.

Valvona & Crolla, at least, was where I have always found it in the past. I was in search of ingredients for Gennaro Contaldo’s “Ultimate Stuffed Amalfi Lemon”. You’ll find it on YouTube, under that title. There’s something similar in the book “Jamie’s Italian”. I got my ingredients, and found some other things including a string of Tropea onions which I had looked for in vain in Palermo. The total weight made the return journey an ordeal.

But I got here, and will soon stuff a lemon for my supper.

I got not much further with Rachel’s sock last night. I really need some compelling television. 

I like Kate Davies’ new pattern “St Catherines”. [Jean, it is no use admiring patterns when you can’t knit more than half-a-heel-flap in 24 hours.] The link is to a blog entry, and I am on the edge of my chair to discover what she means by the statement that “…my appearance has recently undergone quite a radical change.” We are promised a revelation soon, along with another version of St Catherines with more ease.

So I didn’t go to Kathy’s Knits to buy “Ziggurat” after all. Kathy’s is still there on Broughton Street, no such difficulty, I saw it as I tottered past, but I was by then really struggling under the weight of those onions. Next week.

Friday, August 03, 2018

I’m sorry to have left you in silence for so long. We had a grand time in Kirkmichael, including the cats. Paradox cried all the way there and all the way back. Perdita interjected occasional remarks, the cat-ly equivalent, I suspect, of Shut up, why don’t you? Cathy and her daughters had to travel by train, Edinburgh-Pitlochry and back, to make room in the car for the cats.

But they enjoyed freedom, and I enjoyed letting them have it.

I finished Archie’s socks, all except for finishing them. He and younger brother Fergus will be here Sunday evening – they are back from Greece, and Helen is hosting a reunion of old school friends from Birmingham, so there will be no room for them at home.

And I am turning the heel on the first of Rachel’s Pairfect socks. The yarn is quite a recent purchase, and I cannot remember why I chose what I did instead of one of Arne and Carlos’ designs. The result will be nice enough, but A&C would have been more fun.

But now I must get back to the Calcutta Cup, perhaps reserving socks for the weekend.

I haven’t yet been to Kathy’s Knits to buy the Ziggurat book. Maybe tomorrow. I have been feeling very weak, perhaps not surprising after so exciting a July. I have tried to keep walking, and have ambitious plans for tomorrow which will take me past Kathy’s shop.