Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Well, here we are.

I’ve had a good time, missing you a lot – and also missing exercise and Italian. I’m doing well with the ANC hap – I’m past the centre point of the central square, and since it’s knit corner-to-corner I will soon feel the benefit of the shortening rows. And anyway, in knitting as in life, the return journey always feels shorter.

(That doesn’t apply to the Second Sock – but then, that isn’t a return journey. It’s the outward journey, repeated.)

I have little to report in the way of reading. Mostly I’ve been hunkered down with Ruth Rendell. I’m sure she was a knitter. I suspect much the same of George Eliot.

I think the only mildly serious reading I have done is Alan Bennett: “Untold Stories” and “Writing Home”. One of the few Christmas cards I got – everybody must think I am dead – was from an old friend who told me she has breast cancer and will start chemotherapy next month. That set me to looking up Bennett’s account of his own cancer, “An Average Rock Bun”, published in “Untold Stories”.

It happened in the late 90’s – encouraging for my friend. But I also thought of her because she lives alone (twice a widow). When Bennett had his cancer his partner moved in, to provide essential help after the operation; and they found that they could work out a way to live together:  “Of all the mercies arising from this affliction, this unlooked-for conjunction has been far and away the most blessed”. My friend has children and grandchildren nearby.

Neither knitting nor reading

I have a mysterious plant, now several years old. It grew of its own accord out of a pot of fresh new compost which came in a bag from the supermarket. It has been identified as an avocado – but even I could not have failed to notice an avocado seed as I filled the pot.

Lately it has been looking very poorly. A few days ago I realised to my horror that Perdita has been using it as a litter tray. (There is a tree at Balliol College, Oxford, on which it is traditional for  members of the college to piss. They have to replace the tree every few years. Co-education may have done away with this tradition.) When Rachel and Ed were here on Sunday, I got Ed to re-pot the avocado, again using fresh compost. He does not have much hope for it. I cling to a shred. Here it is:

Needless to say, Perdita is now banned from the sitting room. I’ll keep you posted.

A good new year to you all, when it comes. You’ll be first, Cat.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

I am sorry to have left you in the lurch. Perhaps it’s best to make it formal: I’ll try to be back just before the new year. I’m very glad to know that so many of you will be with me for Royal David’s City in something under two hours now.

I’ve done row 128 of the 144 needed for the centre of Gudrun’s hap. Here it is (or, was, yesterday):

And here’s a close-up of those delicious loops through which the needle will eventually be inserted:

Spring Shawl

Thank you for your help – so far, fruitless. Knitalot, no – the windows on that side of the house, looking onto Drummond Place, are never open. Shandy, I’ve tried offering Archie a Finder’s Prize, so far without success. Knitalot (other comment) – yes, that box is still under that cabinet where you noticed it on 21st October. No luck there.

The only real hiding place in the sitting room is under the chest of drawers which I thought the shawl was on top of:

There’s room under there for a slightly flattened cat, and plenty of room for knitting -- but it’s not there. So if the cats are to blame – that hasn’t been proven – they must have dragged it out of the room.

Totally off the Subject

We had an hour on television last night about Hugh Grant. I’m sure I tell you every three or four months or so that he and James used to live on the same stair at New College, Oxford, and that James once lent Hugh a frying pan. That frying pan occupies an important place in our family iconography. Hugh Grant has probably forgotten all about it. And the TV biopic made no reference to it.

Happy Christmas, all!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

My sister phoned from DC this afternoon to rejoice in the solstice. But it’s not until tomorrow, I said. It turned out we were both right, but she was more right than I was. The solstice is at 4:19 a.m.tomorrow, Greenwich Mean Time. (I thought it was 4:19 p.m.) So it will happen at 11:19 p.m. tonight, in DC.

And we’ve made it round again!

Mrs Sakoolas has been formally charged with Causing Death by Dangerous Driving (at last) and some sort of preliminary approach has been made about extradition. The response of the State Department was prompt and hostile. No one seems to think there’s much chance she’ll ever turn up here. Prince Andrew, if you’re reading this: stay home.

King’s College Carols: I assume three or four boys are rehearsed for the opening solo, and all three or four must be standing in front of the choir waiting for the red light. I don’t think anyone has ever choked, but I heard one of them recently, now grown to man’s estate, say that for a blinding moment, he couldn’t remember the words.

I often think of their mothers (and fathers). They must be fully as wrought up as their sons, if not more so. Do they know, from those first thrilling syllables – it’s Nigel! or, as the case may be, it isn’t Nigel! Or do they have to turn and watch the procession until they can be sure? And are they sitting together? Do they then have to whisper to the lucky mother, Rupert was brilliant! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It must be tough.

As for knitting, not much. I’m a bit further forward with the South African shawl, perhaps 112 stitches of the necessary 144.

I’m watching “Marriage Story” on Netflix, although I’m not sure I’ll pursue it to the end. But it certainly demonstrates the truth of what I was grumbling about in respect of “Ordinary Love” – namely that a domestic crisis on the screen needs family and friends and career and walk-on characters to make it interesting.

Friday, December 20, 2019

I’ve had a very nice visit from James. He has now gone off, carrying a (very) few Christmas presents with him. He’s got a wonderful new electronic blood-sugar testing device (he is a Type 1 diabetic), just like the one worn by Theresa May. He had to pester the NHS a bit to get it.

I have made good progress with the South African shawl – I’ve got about 110 stitches, I think, out of the 144 I need before it’s time to start decreasing. I have finished the first ball of yarn. That always feels like significant progress, I’m sure you’ll agree.

No sign of the Spring Shawl.

I have decided to postpone my Box of Light. These pre-Christmas days are too fraught, even for one so old and feeble as I am. I’ll put envelope 18 back, and start for real on January 1, 2020.


I have been worrying about the 24th. I can’t remember how I spent it before, in the two years since my husband died. In the Olden Days, we listened to the King’s College Carol Concert, all of us together,  while erecting and decorating the Christmas tree. I don’t think I am going to bother even with our beloved plastic tree this year, and I have decided to spend Tuesday afternoon making the cranberry sauce while I listen. All that really matters is the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” sung solo by a boy who didn’t know until the red light went on, that he was the one. Some of them are better than others at reaching and holding the high note on “Mary was that mother mild…”

Is this the week for bad movies? C. and some friends went to “Cats” tonight or last night – I’ve never seen such bad reviews in my life. I’ll see her for a de-briefing on Sunday. Archie and some of his friends went to the new Star Wars film yesterday, and walked out half-way. I’m looking forward to The Two Popes and Marriage Story on Netflix.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

“Ordinary Love” isn’t all that good – we both emerged dry-eyed – and I was prostrate. Hence yesterday’s silence. It’s well-acted, well-directed, and well-photographed, but the script lets it down. It’s about a middle-aged couple – nearer 60 than 40 – and the wife’s breast cancer. The idea presumably is to show ordinary people in an ordinarily-good marriage dealing with an ordinary disaster. What it mainly lacked was other people – the absence of grown-up children was somewhat explained. But no friends? No family? No jobs? They did have a goldfish. It was a somewhat low-budget number. That may have had something to do with the difficulty.

I’m doing fine with the centre square of Gudrun’s hap – 81 stitches so far, of the 144 I need. It’s seductively just-one-more-row-ish. I’ve gone back and started re-watching the Craftsy class from which it derives.

What will I do when I get to the borders? What did I do last time? My plan is to purl at least one round, as instructed, to see if it’s bearable. If not, I think I’ll try wrapping and turning. I’ve done that successfully long ago – it makes a noticeably stronger line in one of the four corners. The other possibility is to leave one corner open (and therefore knit back and forth). Sew it up afterwards.

The big excitement today is that I have acquired a “Box of Light” from the String Theory Yarn Company. Bliss! It’s a sort of Advent calendar for knitters – 31 envelopes with treats. Some of them are yarn. A cowl pattern is provided. I decided to begin with 18, that being today’s date. That has produced an unbelievably beautiful bit of a Malabrigo yarn – linen and silk and merino. You’re meant to knit each day’s bit into the cowl and then go back to your real project. Maybe I will….

We had a new Andrew and Andrea yesterday. I was too prostrate even to start watching, nor have I done so today. Archie came, and we got some things done, including wrapping the few Christmas presents I am giving. James must be on his way here at this very moment (see Sunday). Tomorrow threatens to be another day of prostration.

A columnist in the Times said the other day that she had been visiting her mother – in her 90’s, in a care home, sleeps most of the time, rarely recognises her daughter when awake. This time she said, “I am so worried about Christmas. I haven’t done anything…”


Monday, December 16, 2019

Another pretty good day. Archie came; we went to the supermarket; I’m ready for Thursday’s lunch party, more or less. Only six people – could be worse. Then he got my printer going again – all it needed was more ink, but why didn’t it say so instead of just suddenly spewing out blank pages? I celebrated by printing Gudrun’s hap pattern from her Craftsy class and even while I was doing so, the postman arrived with the South African colours.

I cast on while he was probably still in Drummond Place. It starts with the centre square which is a corner-to-corner number like the pocket square I knit the other day. Garter stitch, and every row begins with a YO. You only have to go up to 144 stitches, a mere bagatelle for us Dathan knitters. (And then, of course, back down again.) I’ve already got 46 stitches, without effort.

The yarn is splendid (Jamieson & Smith jumper weight, of course). It is to be a basic wrap-up-a-baby hap, with four Old Shale stripes in the border. From the centre outwards, they will be black, green and gold for the old ANC flag. Then the final stripe will be red, a colour which is in the modern South African flag. The basic colour is a quiet beige to suggest the parched grass of a South African summer. That was a brilliant idea, and I have forgotten which one of you suggested it. (I could look it up.) It would have been disastrous to incorporate another colour from the modern flag – my original idea.

Then Archie’s cousin Alistair, another grandson of mine, came to lunch. He works as a computer programmer for a major UK gaming company here in Edinburgh. He seems in good form. For his first year after university, he worked for a bank and wasn’t terribly happy. He approached the gamers cold turkey, and they took him on at a smaller salary, and it was clearly the right thing to do. He’s now on holiday until early Jan.

Tomorrow C. and I are going to see “Ordinary Love”. I don’t see how it could be other than cloying, but I suspect we will enjoy it.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Thank you for all your help with the Spring Shawl. Ginelou wrote to me yesterday (an email, rather than a comment) suggesting that I might have put it with the rest of the yarn. A very interesting suggestion – but I didn’t. The yarn is in plain sight. As is the pattern.

However, I got to thinking about Ginelou’s idea. I had noticed this, during the search:

This is an untidy house. I gave it little thought, at first. But what else could it be but the cone around which lace yarn is wound? The third ball was nearly finished when I laid the shawl aside. The structure on the right of the picture is the chest of drawers that I thought the shawl was on top of.

So maybe it is the cats’ fault, after all, and the thing to do is to look very thoroughly under all the things they could have left it under. I’ll pursue this line of enquiry.

Otherwise, there is little to report. Andrew Marr, this morning, got me through a couple more rows of the Dathan hap – I think I have 523 stitches, which will become 527 when I have toiled through the next right-side row. Progress. But it would be nice if the yarn for the South African hap would turn up tomorrow – someone will be here all day, which is not true of Tuesday.

James is coming up from London this week, and will be here on Thursday. Everybody wants to come and see him. Helen will bring a frittata. Archie is coming tomorrow to help – there’s lots to do – and has invited his cousin Alistair (James’ son) to lunch. So tomorrow will be a busy day. As will Thursday.

Mary Lou, for any other election I wouldn’t have thought of asking my children how they were going to vote, or had voted. But this one was so odd and inconvenient that it seemed not unreasonable. My parents were FDR Democrats, too. I had a school friend whose mother was a southern Democrat (back in the days of the Solid South – over here, the Labour party used to have that sort of reliable block in the west of Scotland, Glasgow and environs). My friend’s father was a Republican and they used to congratulate themselves on cancelling out each other’s vote, like your parents, Jane. Eventually, however, northern life turned the Southern Democrat into a Republican.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A good day, I think. I’m very tired. We had a splendid lunch in a restaurant which I had expected to be quiet enough for conversation. Ten days before Christmas, alas, it wasn’t. But the food was good.

“Enjoy Fair Isle Knitting” arrived today – they don’t hang around, up there in Lerwick. I would recommend it highly. It’s very Japanese, with a meticulous attention to detail and text which is occasionally and delightfully not-quite-perfect English. The patterns are interesting, especially her use of colour. Her tutor told her, “Chihiro, I taught you not to use close colours in one work”. But she does, to great effect. There are several wintry combinations of whites and off-whites and pale blue; and a glorious confection of reds called “Open Minded” at the end of the book.

She says, “Whenever I see a beautiful scene I mumble the colour shade numbers spontaneously”. I think Felix Ford, with whom I did an EYF class in ’18, operated like that.

There are plenty of careful schematics, but no need to fear the Japanese system of notation. I mean, it’s not there. I have dabbled in it a bit, and it’s certainly a wonderful way of expressing knitting instructions, but it’s not entirely easy.

I’ve knit a few more stitches on the Dathan hap. The stitch count is somewhere in the 500-teens. The target, I think, is 597. A long way to go. A row is virtually an evening’s work. KD’s book for last winter’s club has arrived, including the Dathan pattern. That’s a convenience. Also her book about creativity, of less interest to me. I don’t create. I follow patterns. I wish she were doing a club this winter.

Shandy, no (comment yesterday), I don’t vote. I had an American friend who just filled out the form saying that she lived where she lived, and went ahead and voted, but I think that’s cheating. Greek Helen and Archie voted Green. Mungo, I am ashamed to say, didn’t vote – I think because he is physically here but registered in Oxford. They report that their cousin Alistair is furious at his father James, in London, for voting Conservative.

Americans seem to speak of being a Democrat or a Republican with as much permanence and fervour as if they were talking about religion in Ireland. Things are more fluid here, certainly this time.

Anyway, Shandy and Chloe, I can’t make any statement about my behaviour with any certainty, since the Spring Shawl isn’t where I thought it was and therefore I can’t trust my memory. But I don’t think I would have taken any knitting on a day-trip to Kirkmichael; and if I had, it would have been socks, always my choice for travel-knitting. But thank you for the thought, which is a good one.

Friday, December 13, 2019

What a night! Not much sleep, as you suspected, Pom Pom. Although in fact the whole answer was there in the exit poll, broadcast at 10pm as voting stopped.

I have never known such an election for restless dissatisfaction amongst the voters. “None of the above”, as I felt in the US in 2016, seemed to be the universal sentiment. In fact, I think the result in England was the best of the available possibilities. I thought we’d have another hung parliament, with the DUP (Northern Irish Protestants) or the Scottish Nationalists providing the tail that wagged the dog. A government under Jeremy Corbyn would have been terrifying. I thought he would do better, with all his bribes – free wi-fi for everybody, and big cash payments to women in their 60’s (that’s Rachel) who had the state retirement age changed from 60 to 65 just as they were about to sit down with a well-earned cup of tea.

So I was wrong, and we’ve got the thoroughly unlovable and untrustworthy Boris with a majority which allows him to act.

The result in Scotland is a good deal less to my taste. My husband would have been pleased.

Back to business. I finished the pocket square and blocked it:

Later, I knit a bit of Dathan Hap. Miraculously, it proved to be exactly where I left it and where I expected it to be. I ordered the yarn for the South African hap from Jamieson & Smith, and had an email from them a couple of hours later to say that it had been dispatched. No doubt it will be delivered during one of the rare moments where there is no one here.

Tomorrow, for instance, I am going out to lunch with Helen’s three sons – Archie and his brothers, to put it another way – plus an Oxford friend of Mungo’s (the middle son). That will be fun.

I have quite a few canvas project bags, The next thing to do in the search for the Spring Shawl is to go through them carefully, one by one. I’ve looked already, but I must now make sure that (a) I am looking in each one thoroughly and (b) I am not leaving any out, while looking in others twice. I’ll keep you posted. I haven’t much hope.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

I’m down to the last 20 stitches of the pocket square, decreasing one stitch per row. I should finish tomorrow. I’ve had another look at Gudrun’s hap pattern, and have written down the yardages required for each of the five shades. I’ll get that order in to Jamieson & Smith tomorrow, I hope.

What I haven’t done is locate the Spring Shawl. My personal trainer came today and I got her to crawl around on the floor and make absolutely sure that it wasn’t under or behind the chest of drawers on top of which I last remember seeing it. It’s not. And it must be my fault – no bad man would have tiptoed in and removed the Spring Shawl. The cleaner might have tidied it away somewhere – she, too, thinks it was on the chest of drawers.

When the cats dedicate themselves to helping with my knitting, like furry Rumplestiltskins, they usually leave their work much in evidence. But it's possible they have been more subtle this time.

The new VK arrived today – a good 'un. They recommend a book called “Enjoy Fair Isle Knitting” by a Japanese lover of Shetland, Chihiro Sato. I couldn’t find out any more about it than what VK says – but hey! the author is Japanese and the publisher is The Shetland Times, so I ordered it. Report here soon.

Here is the beautiful needle roll Alexander brought me yesterday, and the beautiful bone needles within. And I think you’re right, Tamar, that they should be kept out of reach of furry helpers.


I felt very weak, and cancelled an outing to see “Ordinary Love”. C. and I hope to find it on somewhere next week. I was all set to cancel tomorrow’s Italian, but the effort of writing an explanation in Italian was too much for me. One more lesson and then we’ll stop for Christmas.

The kimchi overflowed vigorously yesterday – a good sign. It has quietened down now.

Now, of course, I must go do some Italian homework.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

There’s a fair amount of knitting news today, at last.

I’ve reached the turning-point of the pocket square. It’s a corner-to-corner job. It’s looking good. In the next day or two I must therefore order the yarn for the South African hap. The baby went in the other day for its 20-week scan. That shawl will be another corner-to-corner number.

I can’t find the Spring Shawl. Most odd. My cleaner, a super-dooper finder of things, remembers it being where I thought it was. But it’s not there. Even that Great Big Moth couldn’t have made off with the entire thing, plus the needle.

“Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters” arrived today. I like the “Ronas Voe Fair Isle Jumper” a lot. There is also a substantial amount to read. I look forward to curling up cosily with it..

Alexander came to see me today – his wounded son Thomas was well enough to leave behind. He (Thomas) was going to have his plaster removed for a wound-inspection this afternoon, before having it replaced with another plaster.

Alexander brought me two treasures, from a neighbour of his – the original British edition of Lady Gainford’s “Designs for Knitting Kilt Hose and Knickerbocker Stockings”; and some utterly beautiful bone dp’s in a silken tapestry folder. Is there a word for such an object, with slots for dp’s of various gauges, which then wraps up and folds around?

I’ve had Meg’s Schoolhouse reprint of Lady Gainford’s book for quite a while; indeed, have knit kilt hose from it (see photo in sidebar). She – Lady Gainford – is connected to the family that owns the Big House on the Ardkinglas estate where Alexander and Ketki live when they are at home on the shores of Loch Fyne, but I have forgotten exactly what the connection is.

I suppose these treasures have come to me because Alexander’s neighbour has given up knitting, and knows that his mother is interested in the subject. I must write to her (on paper). This evening.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Not too bad a day – but very idle.

There were things I meant to do outdoors: but it was stormy, and I stayed in. There were things I meant to do indoors, but they didn’t work out, for complicated reasons. The weather is calmer this evening.

That Big Bad Moth got at the pocket square in the night – I won’t let that happen again. I picked up all the stitches, but it didn’t look very healthy. Nothing is harder to put right than garter stitch. I love Matt very dearly, so I started again. I think I’m nearly back to where I was at this time yesterday, which shows how little I have been knitting lately. I’ll press ahead.

The kimchi doesn’t look very lively yet. I expect better tomorrow. You may well be right, Tamar, that I have never previously tasted it before fermentation. The cabbage in kimchi is “Chinese leaf” here, “Napa cabbage” with you, and doesn’t have a strong cabbage-y taste.

When I was in the supermarket with C. on Sunday, buying odds and ends for the kimchi (radishes, pears), I found the first Jerusalem artichokes of the season, and am about to have a delicious soup for my supper. I get a bulletin from the New Yorker every morning – today it included a very interesting list of the best cookery books of the year, all strange to me except for the latest edition of Joy of Cooking.

Yet last year’s unbeatable “Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat” was American.

It is very odd, this General Election. I feel as if there is an avalanche about to slide down the hill, or a volcano about to erupt. I can’t believe that we’ll be better off on Friday, whatever happens.


I am almost embarrassed to tell you that I have finished “Starve Acre” – scary to the last. There were three or four places where I raised an eyebrow at the omniscient author’s grammar. The characters were all educated – it’s not that there was meant to be a hint at condescension. A missing editor, I fear.

But I need to get my teeth into a novel again, soon. I must get back to “Rachel Ray”.

Monday, December 09, 2019

I’ve knit a bit more pocket square. As so often, I hope I’ll do a bit more this evening. As so often, I probably won’t.

Circumstances prevented a nap this afternoon (so I’m very tired). I spent the time making a new batch of kimchi, which is always fun. I think if you’re really Korean, you sit down at this point and eat some of it fresh (=unfermented). I took a little taste, and didn’t care for it. Maybe that just means this is a bad batch.

I’m pleased with the pocket square, and pleased with myself for having spent the considerable sum necessary to get the original yarn. A picture tomorrow, perhaps.

“Knitting” came today – the British magazine – with news that a second volume has been published of Fair Isle patterns from the Guild of Shetland Knitters. I ordered it at once from the Shetland Times. The first volume is delightful, although I don’t think I’ve knitted anything from it. I think that’s where Hazel Tindall is quoted as saying that when she is asked where she gets her Fair Isle colour schemes, her policy is to knit the sweater first and make up a colour source afterwards.


I’ve finished “Transcription” and enjoyed it very much. I wonder what it was about the reviews which made me think I wouldn’t? I’m currently attempting “Starve Acre” by Andrew Hurley, another recent well-reviewed. It’s meant to be scary, and indeed it is. And also “Jeeves and Wooster” which is very funny indeed but not exactly a reading book.

As far as Trollope is concerned, I’m currently working on a volume with “Rachel Ray” and “The Three Clerks” in it. I’m sort of bogged down in “Rachel Ray” and have decided that the trouble – oddly – is that, a third of the way through or so, there are no male characters. I’ve read “The Three Clerks”. It’s very interesting, and I look forward to re-reading it, but I feel morally obliged to struggle through “Rachel Ray” first. She’s walking out with a young man – maybe she’ll bring him home and liven things up.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Some knitting to report at last!

Sunday morning is the Andrew Marr show, of course. And the first thing I had to do when I sat down to watch it, was to finish winding that skein of merino-silk-cashmere for the new pocket square.

The so-far-wound ball and the unwound-skein were on the chair where I had left them. They were detached from each other. A great big fierce moth, in the last four days? I don’t think so. And the skein was in something of a tangle.

I knew that if I abandoned it again, it would be completely un-wind-able the next time I tried. So I spent the whole of the Andrew Marr show untangling and winding, and got it done. And the resulting ball was a bit larger than the first one. So I used it to cast on, and have made a good start. Barring catastrophe, there’s plenty of time to finish before Christmas.


I’m still missing Middlemarch. I have attempted Susan Hill’s “Howard’s End is on the Landing” – about spending a whole year reading the books one already has. I’m not getting on very well with it. She doesn’t like Jane Austen. How is that possible?

I have also embarked on Tessa Hadley’s much-recommended “Late in the Day”, and am not getting on very well there either. It’s too gloomy for these darkest of days.

Yesterday I tried Kate Atkinson’s “Transcription” which for some reason I had been avoiding, although I am a passionate Atkinson fan. And it’s fine. Even funny, in places.

Should I be reading Wodehouse? My husband and I never succeeded with him, for our bedtime reading, although we covered great swathes of literature, from “Ulysses” to “War and Peace”. (“Ulysses” needs to be read aloud.) But Wodehouse makes one laugh out loud, and that isn’t conducive to the sort of repose needed at bedtime.


My sister (comment yesterday) points out that the sort of scams I have been talking about are less common in the US, where digital banking is less common. It’s a point worth making.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Still no knitting. I am determined to get back into the sitting room tonight, even if I just sit there in front of a blank screen with empty hands and a cat on my lap. I was there for a while this morning. Perdita sat on my lap and actually purred. She never purrs.

There is an interesting article in the Financial Times today about scams. My one of yesterday was there – not as Sky but as Amazon Prime. But it’s the same sort of thing – something that a Silly Old Fool, at home with a land line in the afternoon, could be bamboozled into thinking he belonged to even if he didn’t.

My bank card failed in the butcher’s this morning – I take that to mean that the bank has cancelled it, as instructed; although the new one hasn’t arrived yet. And when it does, I’ll still have to wait for the new PIN. I had another card to use for my meat, fortunately.

The nastiest scam of all – does this happen in the US? – is when they hack an accountant or an estate agent, and then send you an email telling you to re-direct your forthcoming payment – the down payment on a house, perhaps – to a different bank account. I haven’t had that one yet.

I had a happy time, during my idle day, with the Christmas present lists in the newspapers. It is the most delicious of modern conveniences to be able to turn from the printed page to the website of an interesting-sounding shop without even moving from one’s chair. I found one or two possible presents – and an even better Boring Book for Helen’s husband David than the one I have already bought him. That’s a shame.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Italian lesson, mental prostration, old Perthshire friends here for morning coffee (fortunately, entertained by Helen) – not much accomplished.

Have I had another scam? Sky rang up, wanting me to renew my subscription with an advantageous two-year deal. But when they wanted card details, I said I wanted to see it in writing, and they said there would be a £150 cancellation fee for not signing up on the spot. It does sound rather fishy. I didn’t think I had Sky anyway – I thought my television arrived through a Virgin cable and wi-fi from BT.

So if I suddenly disappear you will know that I am seeing Reds under the Beds and have inadvertently cut myself off from the world.

Mary Lou, that is a most encouraging anecdote about your cash card. There are still some human beings left in this digital world.

So, no knitting done. And I have, rather to my own surprise, seen myself all the way through the new series of The Crown. When do we get the next one? I was hoping for some Diana. That’s going to be difficult for them. I started watching that famous movie about Julia Child and the woman who cooked all the way through the book, blogging about it. I could go on with that, if I am strong enough to get back into the sitting room this evening.

Sharon has sent me my pattern for the pocket square. All I have to do is finish winding that skein and find a suitable needle. What I can’t find – very oddly – is the Spring shawl. I knew exactly where it was and therefore haven’t looked for it recently. But today, tidying up a bit to make room on the coffee table for coffee, I found that it wasn’t there. I have much confidence in my cleaner, who will be back on Monday.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Thank you for your help and advice about my scams. Jean from Cornwall, wouldn’t your bank get in touch if it were worried about sudden, odd payments? That’s what my scammers started off with. Both lots knew the first four digits of my debit card. Alexander says they are likely to have bought that information on the Dark Web, and advised me to get a new card, so I’ve done that. Oh, for the days when one could go into one’s branch and weep on the shoulder of the Bank Manager.

Recorded messages are much easier to shrug off, mentally. However serious they sound one has but to reflect – what if my cleaner had answered the phone? Or Archie? Or one of the cats?

Otherwise, not much was achieved. My personal trainer came, and we walked twice around the Gardens – nearly half a mile. That was encouraging, after yesterday’s total feebleness. Italian tomorrow. I finished a re-reading of Mansfield Park. Goodness, it’s good.

As for knitting, I made a good start on winding the yarn for the pocket square. There’s quite a lot of yarn, and it’s sort of slippy because of having silk in it, and Perdita came and sat on my lap, so I didn’t finish winding. And I can’t find the card on which I made all those laborious notes about how I knit pocket squares the first time. It’s not a complicated pattern. I may even be able to remember.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

I had another “fishing”-type scam phone call today. At least, I think I did. Either that or my bank card has indeed been compromised. I believe I told you about the first one. This one was a bit better crafted, at least in that the voices were fairly plausible for a Scottish bank. But like the first, it was aimed at me, although they didn’t in fact have more information than could be gleaned from this blog and the phone book.

I logged on while they waited, and then logged off and went back to the telephone and told them that everything was all right. They wanted me to log on again and let them talk me through re-setting my password. I declined. The bank’s website had strengthened my suspicions by saying that their phone lines were down. And this time, I was completely sceptical from the beginning, because the whole thing so much resembled the last time.

But I feel, as before, assailed and shaken.

Greek Helen took me to the May Morris show of embroidery at the Dovecot Studios this morning. (May was William’s daughter.) I enjoyed it, but was taken aback at how difficult I found it. It was a particularly difficult subject, of course – low light and objects requiring close inspection. I haven’t been “out” for a while, except to Waitrose and Mass.  I’m weak.

Knitting is edging forward, but I’m still where I was – that is, working on the Dathan Hap.

I’ve watched a bit more of The Crown. I’m up through the moon-landing episode with Prince Philip’s mid-life crisis, and as before, am completely unconvinced. I remember that visit of the first moon-landers to London. Someone asked Armstrong one of those idiotic questions – what was it like to look into the sky and see the earth? Something like that. And his answer, far better-worded than I can remember, was that it was no odder than looking out of the window and seeing London.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Not much has been accomplished. Indeed, what have I done today? I’m still knitting the Dathan hap. I may even do a bit more this evening – we’ve got Prince Andrew on television again, this time in the form of the girl in the famous picture of him with his arm around her, with Ghislane Maxwell in the background. That may keep me awake enough to knit as well as watch.

I watched another episode of The Crown – the Investiture of the Prince of Wales – and found it very dull. And I remain incredulous. But the Princess Anne character is good.

And I’ve got kimchi straightened out – I may even go to Waitrose tomorrow to see if they have any Napa cabbage. Tesco, who delivered today, did not.

The essence of kimchi – if I ever want to look back in future years – consists of the following elements. I find I have written out Brad Leone’s recipe – at least, his ingredients – and kept it in the cookery book where I keep such things. The items marked with an asterisk are essential, and the rest are pretty desirable:

1)    Napa cabbage, brined*
2)    Gloop – pureed garlic* and ginger* and onion*, fish sauce, shrimp paste, Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru)*, a porridge made of rice flour and water.
3)    Other vegetables, in batons – carrots, mooli, spring onions.
4)    (mix together, ferment)

It’s fun. Brad adds an oyster, but I have avoided bivalves since my infirmity on the shores of Loch Fyne at the Back End last year.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Not much this evening, as I must go to bed. We all went to lunch with Greek Helen – me and C. and her daughter, another C., and the daughter’s husband (the parents of the forthcoming baby), and the elder C.'s friend Ian and Helen’s son Fergus. Delicious celeriac soup, delicious bread, delicious salad, and so forth. But I had no nap, and am about to expire.

Nor have I done much knitting. I did watch the Andrew Marr show this morning which consisted at least in part of Marr and the Prime Minister talking over each other so that neither could be heard. I’m sure nobody treats Trump like that. I did a couple more rows of Dathan hap while that was going on. Now I am in the middle of a row, inevitably, and will have to finish it before laying the hap aside.

I’m running low on kimchi and will need to make more soon. I am surprised at my failure to find my Definitive Recipe, but I think I have read and (on Youtube) viewed enough to get the general idea back into my head. A remarkable amount is optional, after the brining of the essential Napa cabbage.

Jenny, your suggestion about re-homing Paradox helped clarify my thinking. I could no more get rid of her than I could sell one of the children. Perdita and I will just have to grin and bear it.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Dies Atra

Not a great day, but I got some things done: my morning exercises, and a digging around in the blog archives to find out all I could about pocket squares. And a Tesco order, arriving Monday.

In the early months of 2015 I was doing a lot of other things besides knitting pocket squares, so there was a lot of digging to be done. Someone wrote a short story once – could it even have been Graham Greene? – that starts a life history with the funeral, and works backwards. The blog-reading had something of that effect – my husband getting stronger and more bad-tempered. Myself so much stronger than am I now.

I was impressed with how helpful and supportive all four of my children were. How unappreciated, I fear.

And oh! that was when Perdita came to live here. How we loved each other before this awful other cat came!

That's Paradox, yesterday.

Now I’ll go spend one last evening with the Dathan hap, and another episode of The Crown. I do agree, FugueStateKnits, that borders-inward is the way to knit. That delicious illusion, as the stitch count decreases, that you are knitting faster and faster! Amedro has some patterns where there is no centre square – you just go on knitting inwards until there is nothing left. I don’t think it would work with the Dathan (why not?) but it’s a happy thought.


I got as far as the butcher today: I have to go out on Saturday, to get the Financial Times. And I thought, as I hobbled along, that everybody else must be as bored with this election as I am. Less than two weeks to go – the lampposts completely innocent of posters, no notices in anybody’s windows. One would not know that it was happening.

I’m reading “The Golden Fleece” and quite enjoying it.

Friday, November 29, 2019

I forgot to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving yesterday. I was happy to be spared it.

Jenny, thank you. I am sure – especially after looking at my forgotten previous hap – that a gentle overall shade is needed, and what better than a beige to suggest parched landscape. Gudrun’s pattern then requires four contrast colours. I’ll go for the three of the old ANC flag – gold, green, and black – and top them off with red, which is in the modern flag and which is the Hindu colour of joy. That leaves out white and blue – enough is enough.

Meanwhile the Dathan hap has crept past the 500 stitch count, I think. I’ll carry on with it tomorrow, the darkest of days; then knit the pocket square; then return to the Dathan for what remains of December, while acquiring the materials I need for Gudrun’s hap. I might even start it during the Back End – those odd days between Christmas and the New Year.

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for tomorrow.


I’ve been watching The Crown a bit. I’m up through the episode about Mountbatten. I find the whole thing completely unbelievable, in a way that I don’t think disturbed me about the first two series. I also find that I have the same objection to Olivia Colman – of whom I am a passionate fan – as I did to Helen Mirren in that famous film about the Queen for which, I think, she won an Oscar.

Namely, that both make me feel that they are trying hard to be Queenly every moment of the time. Whereas I feel pretty sure that the Queen herself has got used to it, and is comfortable in her own skin.

However, The Crown makes excellent moving wallpaper as a background for garter stitch knitting.

This is a very rare week in which both Italian and personal training have been dispatched before the weekend. I am looking forward to tomorrow, but must use it wisely.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

A strenuous day, or so it felt. I had an Italian lesson at seven this morning, and slept uneasily in anticipation of my early rise. All went well. My tutor said that my written Italian is better than my spoken. I was pleased at first, then less so. I continue to flounder around like a three-year-old.

Then a man came to see me about a door. Then Archie came, but didn’t succeed in getting my printer back into action.

Alexander said last night, of his son Thomas, “He seems to be enjoying lolling about at home, doing what he does best”. No further news today.

Thank you for reminding me of when I knit Gudrun’s hap. Only three years ago, and I have no memory of it whatsoever (except those YO loops on the edges of the central square). Linda sent me an address for a picture of it being blocked: http://jeanmiles.blogspot.com/2016/10/all-well.html. (Sorry to spell it out like that – it doesn’t seem to work when I insert it as a link.)

I was taken aback, not just at the forgetting, but at how much more energetic I sounded, three years ago. About to set off for London for great-granddaughter Orla’s Christening. I figured out that the hap must have been for nephew Theo’s son Emmett, and the blog confirms that. And it contains useful information about how much yarn I used.

The South African flag contains an unusual number of colours. I don’t want to tip it towards the old, apartheid flag in my ignorance. Go for green as the main colour? But an Irish friend of my youth told me that green is unlucky for babies. This needs some thought.

Reading, etc.

I’ve finished Middlemarch. I’m going to miss it.

All I wanted to say about Jonathan Miller was a remark about how the mind works. I was sitting with Helen and her husband David a couple of weeks ago, and the conversation turned to the border abbeys, and I remembered being at Fountains with my husband when we passed…..on the stairs. But I couldn’t find the name. All that came up was Alan Bennett, and I knew it wasn’t him.

I could feel that stirring about in my head wasn’t going to produce the answer. But, lying in bed the next morning, I thought, try Googling “Alan Bennett Beyond the Fringe”. That did it.

And now he’s dead. After dementia. Old age is very tough.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

No news from Glasgow – that must be good news.

What a day for death! Gary Rhodes, Jonathan Miller, Clive James (a fairly meaningless list, perhaps, outside GB) – all of them appreciably younger than I am.

I completely forgot to say yesterday, that it was Andrew & Andrea Tuesday. And a good one, number 90. The main interview is with Amy Detjen. I have met her, and love her, as  anyone would, but the interview is well worth watching even if you have never had that good fortune. Andrew said that number 91 might be a few days late. We’ll have to nerve ourselves up for that.

The stitch count of the Dathan hap is now 487 – it will be 491 when I finish the current long, long right-side row.

I went into Craftsy – I’ve forgotten its new name – and downloaded the hap pattern in Gudrun’s class (which I already had). But my printer isn’t working, so that doesn’t get me very far. She does the centre square diagonally – that is, beginning at one corner. She begins every row with a YO which makes a delicious series of loops to slip the needle through when you are picking up stitches for the borders. (When did I knit Gudrun’s hap?)

Next, I must think about those South African colours and how many of each to order.

General culture

I watched some of Episode 4 of The Crown today, and gave up on it. It’s the one about Prince Philip’s mother and the making of a documentary about the royal family. Maybe I’d do better huddling in the kitchen and watching on my iPad.

I finished and dispatched my Italian essay. I wound up comparing Middlemarch with Il Gattopardo. I wish I were eloquent enough to do it more thoroughly. The former is about the Reform Bill of 1832, the latter about the Risorgimento and the Plebiscite of 1860.

I want to say something about Jonathan Miller – see among deaths. But that’s enough for now.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The news from Glasgow is good. Thomas is coming home this evening. He had a grand time while he was there, at least he did today – an Xbox brought to his bedside, playroom and cinema available. He would have preferred to stay another day or two. His brother stayed with him last night (he’s in a single room) and would have liked to move in himself.

There’s something to be said for Management. How much nursing time and stress is saved if you don’t have to do battle with a ward of bored adolescents?

Not much has been achieved here today. I had an attack of diarrhoea in the night – no harm done, and it could have been a disaster, as I was wearing my beloved Toast pyjamas. But it left me even weaker than usual. I spent much of the morning in bed, including listening to Middlemarch. Thanks for that, Unknown. And thanks for the suggestion of the Amazon DVD, Jenny, for the old BBC television series. A serious possibility.

So I haven’t done much of this week’s Italian essay. I’ve done a bit of knitting, but I forget the stitch count. No walk. No Ferrante.

The Financial Times Boring Book feature, mentioned here I think, includes suggestions from various distinguished people. The chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland recommends an Italian novel – “I am God: A Novel” by Giacomo Sartori. I’ve never heard of either. The paragraph concludes: “A highly original novel, showing that there is, mercifully, more to Italian fiction than Elena Ferrante”.

It is nice to have a man with such interests at the helm. An improvement on Fred Goodwin. (Google if necessary)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Thomas M. – the one the Calcutta Cup scarf was knit for recently – had a bad accident yesterday playing football. Tibia and fibula shattered, prolonged surgery. Doctors hope he is young enough to make a complete recovery.

My own day was less exciting. Archie came this morning – his university is on strike – and we got some things done, and had a walk.


477 stitches on the Dathan hap when the current long, long wrong-side row is finished. It’ll feel like progress when I’m within 100 stitches of the end (597, I think.) I should be able to get there this week.

Weavinfool, you are a temptress (why not finish off the Dathan now? Comment yesterday). Two reasons, though: one is that I love my first Dathan, and find it a perfect size. And the other is that I’ve got all this yarn that I bought on Shetland, and it would be as well to consume some more of it.


I continue to enjoy Middlemarch. I’ve lost hold of the radio broadcasts but I think I know how to retrieve the podcast. I wish the television series from 20 years ago was available somewhere, but it doesn’t seem to be.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

I had a message from Rebecca this morning – she has been trying to leave comments, and can’t do it. I have had similar messages  before – my sister, who has often commented, wrote recently that  she can’t do it now. Does anyone have any idea what might have gone wrong? Could this have anything to do with Google’s take-over of Blogger? I treasure each one of your comments and hate to think of missing any.

My niece C. has returned from Iceland (two weeks ago) and recovered from an ugly cold (one week ago) and today we went to Mass. It was grand to see her. She is the grandmother of the baby expected in April, and I began to worry about whether it is wise to leave the knitting of the South African hap much longer. I’ll go on with the Dathan for the rest of November (mercifully brief) and then knit the pocket square and then it might be a good idea to switch.

Sunday is not only Mass but also the Andrew Marr show, and the Dathan hap has benefited accordingly There are now 463 stitches – that means 467 when the current long, long right-side row is finished. Maybe tonight’s episode of Attenborough’s nature programme, into which I have been gradually sucked, will prove to be early enough to find me with enough vigour at least to do that row.

Andrew Marr is all about politics. I am finding it difficult to take an interest, and very difficult to believe that the result will be other than another hung parliament.

(It’s time for me to abandon the subject of Prince Andrew. This time it is only to say that the Queen went riding with him and Fergie in Windsor Great Park on Friday. The newspaper photograph, taken I would think by a paparazzo from some distance, shows her on a rather smaller steed than the other two – presumably a well-behaved and patient pony of impeccable royal credentials. It seems to me rather remarkable that she is able to ride out at all, at the age of 93. Not many could.)


I continue to enjoy Middlemarch. I had hoped for more of Radio 4’s version during my nap today, but found myself instead with a rather sexed-up version of “Phineas Redux”, one of Trollope’s Palliser novels.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

I called up my Italian essay this morning before the lesson, and Word offered to translate it for me! I felt irrationally flattered. My problem, I find, is not so much the passato remoto as prepositions: in 2017, at Palermo, at the palazzo, etc.

Kirsten, yes, I heard Middlemarch this afternoon during my nap, and it was rather good. Radio 4 at or before 3 p.m. I mean, it might have started before: I didn’t hear the beginning.

Beth, I have heard Rebecca Mead’s book “My Life in Middlemarch” recommended before. The New Yorker sends me cartoons and articles every morning (sometimes from the current issue, sometimes not) and today there was something by her, suggesting that perhaps in 30 or 40 years’ time someone will write a panoramic novel about modern Britain with Brexit simmering in the background, the way Reform simmers in Middlemarch. I’m continuing to enjoy it.

Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of George Eliot’s birth although I didn’t know that until this morning.


Very little. I must make more effort to fit knitting in earlier in the day. I’m too weary for it otherwise, even in the early evening, even after a nap.

Mary Lou, KD calls the bind-off she uses for the Dathan hap a two-stitch i-cord: *K1, K2tog tbl, replace both stitches on the left hand needle*. Repeat as necessary. It doesn’t sound particularly slow – maybe it’s the 597 stitches which are the problem.

I think, last time, I didn’t find disposing of the ends as arduous as I had feared. But it wasn’t exactly quick.


I have a long-standing tradition of giving Helen’s husband David a Boring Book for Christmas. Today, as I hoped, the Financial Times had its annual recapitulation of the year’s Boring Books, although they didn’t phrase it quite like that. I was tempted by Mark Diacono’s “Sour” for myself – that’s the trouble with thinking about Christmas presents.

Friday, November 22, 2019

I finished my Italian essay, tried to polish it – I even got the trapassato remoto in there – dispatched it to Rome. A titanic struggle. I have accomplished little else. I didn’t go out – that was naughty. I’ve knit a bit and done my Duolingo.

I must think this knitting business through. I need to pause the Dathan hap soon to knit that pocket square in time for Christmas: shouldn’t take long. I don’t think there’s much hope of having the hap by Christmas – the individual rows are now unbelievably long, and, all else apart, the finishing will take a while. Binding off KD's way is slow (and necessary) -- and then there are the loose ends.

 How long will it take to knit a basic hap for the late April baby? Perhaps allow three months – the baby won’t go away. I could be a few days late, although of course would prefer not.

I was trotting through November in fairly good order, but the seasonal gloom has suddenly descended and caught me in its teeth. Only a month until the solstice! but that seems a long time.


I have tossed aside “The Claverings” in irritation at my own stupidity. Amazon has often saved me, too, from duplicate Kindle purchases – presumably they didn’t bother this time since it’s free. It felt familiar in the first pages, but I was still distressed to find that I had read it as recently as March.

Tamar, Shandy, and all other duplicate-buyers: I learned yesterday that an 18th century bibliophile named Richard Heber filled eight houses with his books. He remarked once that “no gentleman can be without three copies of a book: one for show, one for use and one for borrowers.”

I have started re-reading “Middlemarch”. But I’ve also bought “This Golden Fleece” for the Kindle and may switch to it, trusting it not to include a sentimentalised account of a suicide.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

OK, not too bad. My trainer came, so exercise was done. It was, in fact, a rather wonderful day, bright and mercifully windless. The hard frost on Tuesday had brought a lot of leaves down in Drummond Place Gardens, lying in pools of colour around their respective trees. I could well employ myself by learning which tree is which.

I made some progress with my Italian essay, but it’s not ready for submission yet. I’ll have to devote tomorrow morning to it. I knit some more Dathan hap – I think the stitch count is now 453. I read some more Ferrante (still not gripped). I finished Trollope’s “The Bertrams”. A meagre portion of future happiness is dredged up for some of the characters, but it’s still pretty depressing. Then I bought “The Claverings” and found that I had already read it, in March. It cost £0.00, so little was lost, but it was embarrassing.

I am afraid I am still worrying about Prince Andrew. Of course he was weak and foolish and vain and not very clever, and has done the royal family a lot of harm. But our airwaves are full of sleek American lawyers telling him to testify to the FBI. Why him, particularly? Ghislane Maxwell is (apparently) somewhere in the US. Epstein entertained two presidents – the FBI could talk to one or both of them. (He also, incredibly, was host to Stephen Hawking.)

Prince Andrew never killed anybody. It isn’t even suggested that he violated a virgin. Seriously – what about Mrs Sakoolas?

My subject matter is drifting farther and farther from knitting. That’s the trouble with long rows of garter stitch.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

So Prince Andrew is now to withdraw from public life.

A friend of ours in Kirkmichael, a retired naval officer, now buried in the same little graveyard as my husband, where I hope to join them one day – this sentence has become unwieldy. Let us call him Duncan, for that is his name.

Duncan was for a while Andrew’s commanding officer, when he (Andrew) was first in the navy. He told us once that he was struck by the fact that, in talking about his family, Andrew never said “my mother”, let alone “Mummy”. It was always, “Her Majesty the Queen.” I don’t know what one concludes from that. Duncan’s own mother died within a few days of his birth, which may have affected his perception of the matter.

I had a good day, I guess. Helen rang up early and bullied me into taking a walk. I haven’t achieved much else. The Dathan hap stitch count now stands at about 450. I must do some Italian homework this evening – write about something. I’ve got nothing to write about, and have decided on an account of “Cooking with the Duchess” as described here in English yesterday. It should at least give me a chance to bring in the passato remoto. A rough draft tonight, to be polished tomorrow.


Southern Gal, I’m sorry to hear of your fall. FugueStateKnits, I’m glad you’re enjoying “Barchester Towers” from the off. “The Bartrams” is improving slightly as it progresses, but at the moment, 2/3 of the way through, I don’t see any prospect of felicity for any of the characters and it’s rather depressing.  

Perhaps Trollope tends to get better as the book goes on, at least in the weaker ones. He’s brilliant once his characters have been thoroughly introduced. But goodness! how many characters Jane Austen establishes in the first chapter of my beloved “Mansfield Park”!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Not a bad day. Ferrante, Duolingo, 10 stitches added to the Dathan hap, an outing with Greek Helen to Waitrose. What does that leave undone?

We had elaborate roadworks hereabout recently. Helen secured for me an excellent parking place. I didn’t dare move the car while it was all going on, for fear of not being able to park when I got back. And I haven’t moved it since. Maybe I should give the car up, when the expensive times of year come rolling back? It has to be taxed, of course; and the annual fee for parking in Drummond Place is not inconsiderable; and it would need to pass its MOT test which is never entirely cheap.

But I did enjoy being taken to Waitrose. If Helen would go on doing that from time to time...


Kirsten: The Warden is the first of the Barchester novels. I skipped it, in my recent re-reading. After “Barchester Towers” the order of the others doesn’t matter. Old friends pop in and out. Except that the last two – “The Small House at Allington” and “The Last Chronicle of Barset” really need to be read consecutively. Well, you might as well read them all consecutively: Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne, Framley Parsonage, then the final two just mentioned. You’re in for a treat.

Chloe: I heard a clip from the Queen’s “annus horribilis” speech while I was cooking lunch that day, and was surprised that she said “horr-ih-bilis”. I (with my classics degree) would have gone for “horr-ee-bilis” as many do to this day. But I looked it up on the spot, and – not surprisingly – HM was right. That “i” is short. “horr-ih-bilis”.

Tamar: I’m sure you’re right that anniversaries in general are lowering. Darkness doesn’t help. As for Prince Andrew, I don’t think he does much waving and ribbon-cutting. Princess Anne is your man for that. The press continues extremely hostile. I fear that that interview will have done him – and perhaps the whole royal family – a lot of damage.

Shandy and Jenny: (comments, Sunday) Degrees of separation are interesting indeed. Helen was at Somerville -- when, I couldn't tell you. When in Palermo in January, '18, Archie and I did a day of "Cooking with the Duchess". I got to sit next to the Duke at lunch -- Giuseppe di Lampedusa's adopted son. (I'm afraid I was much more interested in him than in cookery.) That puts me two degrees? -- would you say -- from the author, and the same number from Burt Lancaster because of the Gattopardo movie.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Poor Prince Andrew continues at or near the top of the news. There seems to be an idea that he should go to the US and give evidence to somebody or other about Epstein’s misdeeds. Maybe we could swap him for Mrs Sakoolas.

The Times – and probably a lot of other newspapers – share my idea that it would be interesting to talk to Ghislane Maxwell. Her testimony might be a good deal more interesting than Prince Andrew’s, judging from that interview. She seems to have vanished off the face of the earth.

Meanwhile I finally found a button to click on which gave me access to Series Three of the Crown. I’m not going to weary you week after week with inconsistencies and improbabilities – I’m not clever enough – but I was left breathless at the scene in the first episode in which the Queen and Prince Philip were represented as pig ignorant about their own pictures. “That’s a Rembrandt, is it?”

I am sure she was well educated in family history, including the formation of the Royal Collection. And I’m also pretty sure that she takes a housewifely interest in her furnishings, even though she didn’t choose them herself at Ikea. I don’t suppose she’s an expert in art history, but I suspect she can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zophanys. (That’s Gilbert and Sullivan.) Heaven Snake! as our family saying has it.

Not much else to report. All this idling about achieved another 10 stitches for the Dathan hap. Perdita has suddenly developed a fondness for my lap, which slows things down.

I’m finding my current Trollope, “The Bertrams”, a bit of a struggle.

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, and I’m finding it rather depressing. He didn’t always remember mine, but he set great store by his own and his sister’s. I suspect it’s the seasonal darkness which is weighing on my spirits.