Thursday, January 31, 2019

The doctor I saw on Tuesday persuaded me to start taking the diuretic which had been prescribed in December. I had held off (a) because the enclosed leaflet was so scary and (b) because after I had that little bout of food poisoning in the back end of the year, what I needed was re-hydration, not the opposite.

So far, after two days, the result of taking it seems to be that I feel worse than ever – but maybe I’ll get used to it. No symptoms that I could report, just great weakness. I'll phone the dr if things don't improve over the weekend.

I knit, not much, but still a bit. I have divided the front of the Stronachlachar for the neck and am proceeding up one side or the other, I’ve forgotten which. There’s not far to go.

As for reading, I am well advanced with Jacob’s Room, and will proceed, despite the arrival of February tomorrow. It is a very strange and interesting book. I wouldn’t mind reading some intelligent criticism of it. Suggestions?

And after that, Cousin Phillis.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

I thought I might just slope off to bed tonight, again, and leave the blog unwritten. But I’ve been watching the new Andrew & Andrea, over my miso soup – you must see it, episode 70. Especially the final bit, the interview with the family who run Jamieson’s of Shetland. Not to be confused with Jamieson & Smith, as we all know. It’s very interesting indeed.

I decided a couple of things, as I watched – if Scotland win the Calcutta Cup again this year (don’t worry – we won’t) I’ll knit another Fair Isle vest, for one of Alexander and Ketki’s sons. As you can see from the picture above, Ketki will take very good care of it. He won’t actually have to wear it except on ceremonial occasions.

But the second thing is, I need a work of art to inspire me, as Hopper’s “Gas” did last year. I often felt, as I was knitting upwards, that I didn’t have enough colours to choose from. I think the result is very successful. So I need – not just a work of art, but one with a relatively limited palatte.

That’s as may be. Today I went to see a doctor about my recent “bloods”. I’m fine. She is referring me on to a dept. of geriatric medicine to see if they can find something which a GP’s tests cannot. She remembered me better than I did her – she came here in my husband’s last months. She asked after Perdita.

While I waited, I got the last few rows of the pre-neck-shaping Stronachlachar finished, and also wound the next skein.


Mary Lou, I “discovered” both William Trevor and Alice Munro in the New Yorker. I don’t very often read the story, but I always give it a couple of paragraphs to draw me in if it can. Stephen King (of all people) had a couple of brilliant short stories published there. in the '90's.  I sought them high and low, and was delighted to find them at last in a collection called “Everything’s Eventual”.

The stories are called “The Man in the Black Suit” and “That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French”. I may say more on the subject when I run out of knitting to talk about in the future.

Monday, January 28, 2019

“Jean’s books” it’ll have to be, again this evening.

I have, however, knitted on. Only three or four more rows remain to be done, on the front of the Stronachlachar, before the neck shaping. The whole – I’d better take a picture tomorrow – is behaving like ribbing. What we have is three panels of a travelling stitch pattern, on a purl background, separated by panels of st st.

And the result is that the latter panels expand over the former, as in all ribbing. Presumably blocking will straighten things out.


Mary Lou, you’ll like “Moon Tiger”.

We “did” Mrs Dalloway in my freshman English class at Oberlin, and it made a great impression. The professor, whose name I have shamefully forgotten, asked us questions, Socrates-fashion. He was very good.

But I’ve never got anywhere with Virginia Wolff since. I fear I even read Jacob’s Room, long, long ago – and missed the point. (=that Jacob was a member of that doomed English generation.) I think it’s time to try again, reading carefully as in that English class.

I’ve downloaded “Cousin Phillis” (so spelled), which has the great advantage of being free on Amazon, so I’m ready for February. That still leaves three days…

And Valerie, your remark that Sebastian Barry reminds you of William Travor, is a great inducement to make the attempt.

And how right you are, Shandy, about the ease of Kindle. There one sits, over the breakfast table, reading the book reviews – and all one has to do is press a couple of keys, and start reading the book!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The knitting news, such as it is, is that I’ve finished the increase rows for the front of the Strronachlachar, and have a couple more inches to do before the neck shaping. Progress.

And there’s another essay this morning from Kate Davies, this time about accepting and incorporating one’s disadvantages rather than trying to rise above them. I much preferred last year’s essays, on the subject of the West Highland Way. Also, I have been reading Virginia Wolff’s “A Room of One’s Own”. There are interesting similarities, as both give advice to woman operating under constraint. Wolff wins.

I’ve finished Wolff (for the moment) and there’s still time to fit in one more book before February and Mrs Gaskell’s “Cousin Phyllis”. I’ve started Penelope Lively’s “Moon Tiger”. It was one of those embarrassing cases where Amazon wouldn’t sell me the Kindle edition because they said I’ve already got it. And they were right. So far, I don’t remember a syllable of it – but when the action moves on to Egypt, I think I will.

I should be spending all this time knitting.

Friday, January 25, 2019

All well. My Personal Trainer came this morning, and as always I feel the better for her visit, and as always am resolved to keep going with the exercises.

Just as I always resolve, after an Italian lesson, to get cracking with the homework right away. So here I am, as so often, on the eve of another Italian lesson, with everything to be done.

Thank you for all the book tips. I finished my latest thriller today, and have downloaded and embarked upon Virginia Wolff’s “A Room of One’s Own”. It’s very good. She is quietly indignant at the way Oxford treated women a hundred years ago. What would she have thought of transsexuals in women’s changing rooms?

Hat, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of Sebastian Barry, and have made a note in a place where it won’t be overlooked. Kirsten, I can’t find “End of All Days” on Amazon. Is that Barry again?  And I’m sure I’ve never read “Cousin Phyllis” so I’ll look forward to that as our February RAL. But I mustn’t forget “The Lottery” in the excitement. Archie came to lunch today, for haggis and neeps (it’s Burns’ birthday). He’s something of an expert on horror fiction, and says that “The Lottery” has been surpassed. I’m doubtful.


I’m moving forward well with the Stronachlachar. The second set of increase-and-then-nine-rows has been done. The third increase row is next.

Kate Davies’ new yarn is “out” – it looks beautiful. It’s an Aran-weight mixture of “Peruvian highland wool”, whatever that is, and alpaca. I am slightly surprised that Scottish sheep don’t feature. I’m sure she would’uv had them in there if she could’uv.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Today is Greek Helen’s 56th birthday, and she is feeling rather elderly. We all (= me, Helen, Archie, Archie’s brother Fergus) went out to a newish French-ish restaurant nearby, where we ate rather splendidly. It is called Le Roi Fou, which I find difficult to pronounce. 

This is something that has changed since I was young – or else is a transatlantic difference: that one can go to a superb restaurant, at least at lunch time, without having to worry too much about one’s clothes or table manners. Or perhaps it’s just that one acquires a certain self-confidence with one’s years.

Kirsten, thank you for the link to the Penguin Reading Challenge (comment yesterday). I’ve signed up, and from the first suggestions offered, I think I’ll go for Virginia Wolff. I’ve had a Shirley Jackson session fairly recently – but I’m not at all sure that I’ve ever re-read The Lottery since I first read it in the New Yorker. I remember, I think, sitting in the car in the Main Street of Allenhurst, NJ, waiting for my mother, reading it and scarcely believing my eyes. Maybe I'd better attempt that again, as well.

I did well yesterday evening, listening to the VK podcast and knitting in the kitchen. I’ve now done the second increase row in the Stronachlachar, and am making good progress with the second set of nine rows. No more tonight, though. Fine dining has left me very tired. For those unfamiliar with the pattern, unobtrusive increases begin at the underarm point, to form cap sleeves.

Ron, thank you for your comment. Stephen West’s “I’ll be right back” & “I left the front door open” are indeed very useful for remembering how to do M1r and M1l respectively. The very best tip I ever took on board, however, came from Margaret Stove’s own lips, and is the fact that the stitch the needle enters first winds up on top, in any decrease. I’ve said it here before, but it bears repeating.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

I’m a bit further forward with the Stronachlachar. There’s a lot of counting involved at this stage. I’ve done one increase row. I’m now doing nine straight rows. Then I must repeat that combination twice more. And keep track of where I am on the pattern chart. Not impossible, but not to be done when half-asleep.

Ann, thank you for the tip about VK’s new podcast. They had, indeed, sent me an email about it, but I guess I thought it was beyond me. (I don’t even know how to work Instagram.) But inspired by you, and after going down a couple of blind allies, I think I have persuaded my iPad to play it for me. I’ll try, later this evening. With knitting in hand.

Tamar, your point is a very good one, that huddling in the kitchen watching cookery videos is usually a substitute for something specific that one ought to be doing. I don’t think so, in my case, though. I’m now so old that there’s nothing specific to do – or if there is, I’m not going to do it.

And Mary Lou, I’m delighted that you remember that “Dorian Gray” movie – but could it be the same one? I was only 12, when I saw mine in ’44 or ’45. You’re surely much younger.

Kirsten, do please send me the link to the Penguin challenge if you can find it. I’d be happy to join you with Mrs Gaskell next month. My husband and I always read aloud for a while at bedtime. We covered a lot of ground, in 60 years, including more than one Gaskell long ago. She’s very good. You choose; I’ll follow. And do persevere with “Dorian”. It’s not terribly long. It does get livelier at the end. Like me, you’ll feel pleased with yourself. I do agree, that he needed something to do. As Jennyanydots felt about the mice.

(Our great discovery, during those 60 years, is that “Ulysses” is meant to be read aloud. My heart sank when my husband suggested it as our next, but it proved to be sensational. Like many of us, I had tried and failed to get to the end in my youth.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Oh, Kirsten, can I team up with you in a RAL?  What is your February classic going to be? Do you belong to an actual or a virtual reading group? Or choose your classics yourself? Dorian Gray is an interesting choice. I can’t remember what put me on to him.

Most of today’s Pointless knitting was devoted to administration – sliding the front stitches one way, putting the back stitches on waste yarn, making a start on knitting back and forth, doing the first increase row. I was grateful again for Stephen West’s mnemonics in his Craftsy class, for m1r and m1l: I left the front door open; I’ll be right back.

A resolution for a better life: I keep wasting my post-blogging time in the evening. I sit in the kitchen, reading my book on my Kindle and, when that palls, watching cookery videos on YouTube. “Huddle” isn’t quite the right word. I just get too tired to stand up and feed the cats and go to bed.

I think the solution might be more podcasts, more Neil MacGregor, even. And bring the knitting into the kitchen.

When I do finally go to bed, we all three sleep together these days. When Perdita was a kitten and young cat, she slept with me. There was a period when I moved out of the bedroom and slept on a camp bed in the hall, where I would be close enough to hear my husband if he needed me in the night. (The spare room is too far away – this flat is rather like a railway carriage.)

And Perdita came along. It was uncomfortable for both of us, but the gesture of solidarity was much appreciated.

When Paradox joined us, after my husband's death, she took over as the Bed Cat. I don’t know where Perdita went. I was sorry about it. But since the recent New Year, she has come back. Paradox continues to sleep on her folded blanket at the foot of the bed. Perdita curls up next to me. I get up often in the night to pee, and it is awkward trying to re-insert myself without disturbing her. But worth it, to have her there. When I put out my hand to stroke her, she bites me. She has always been a disagreeable cat. That’s why I love her.

Monday, January 21, 2019

I’ve reached the underarm of the Stronachlachar. I may even begin it, this evening, if I have the oomph to stay out of bed.

I think you have solved the Desert Island Knitting Book problem, Julie, with your kind suggestion of rowing out to us from time to time under cover of darkness, with a change of book. In that case I think I’ll start with Debbie New’s “Unexpected Knitting”.

Greek Helen was in Tunisia last week, looking at mosaics. She had a wonderful time. She came to see me this morning with a telephone-ful of wonderful pictures.

I have been reading a lot of late. At the beginning of the year I started keeping a list of Books Completed. I am surprised at how long it is already. I could spend the time more profitably knitting. But knitting is harder.

Today I finished “The Portrait of Dorian Gray”. I’m sure I’ve never read it before. (I remember what must have been a very unmemorable movie – 1944 or ’45.) Some of the book sparkles with Wilde-ism’s, much is turgid purple prose. Passages about how London society shrinks from Dorian because of his crimes, unspecified in the book, made me wonder whether it was written after Wilde’s fatal run-in with the Marquess of Queensberry – but no, Dorian came first.

The mots aren’t as good as in The Importance of Being Ernest, which it also precedes, but there are some. “I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that we can’t stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.”

And, towards the end, the same speaker to a still youthful-looking and beautiful Dorian, “You have changed, of course, but not in appearance. I wish you would tell me your secret. To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.”

I’m glad to have stuck it out to the end, but now I think I’m owed another thriller.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Even less to report – I’m still ½” short of the Stronachlachar underarm. I did wind and join in a new skein, at least.

Tamar, that’s a wonderful tidbit about Mary Thomas’ publisher not letting her include her sources!

Somewhere she says – I’d better try to find the passage – that there are only 10 (or was it a dozen?) Shetland lace patterns, which she names. It would be interesting indeed to have her source for that one.

Kate Davies’ new club is in action – a sweater which doesn’t stir me, and a most attractive hat. We had a long blog post today about repetition, which she is in favour of, but it was uncharacteristically tedious, I thought, and didn’t seem to lead up to a new knitting pattern as I kept hoping.

I have been inactive today, and feel the worse for it. Tomorrow life starts anew – TGIM has long been my motto.

Poor Annie Modesitt has at last posted a blog entry.  That's a good sign in itself, I hope. She's having a terrible time, despite her actual treatment for cancer having finished a month or so ago (I think). 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

As so often, these days, there’s nothing to report. I haven’t even done any more knitting. I had an Italian lesson this morning, and as usual it flattened me. We are struggling through the sequence of moods and tenses in indirect speech. Then the supermarket, then a long nap with my dear cats.

Thank you for all your helpful suggestions about our desert island. This is a difficult one indeed. I would hate to leave Sharon Miller’s “Heirloom Knitting” behind. But that restricts one to lace. Or what about Debbie New’s “Unexpected Knitting”? – that would keep one making interesting discoveries for quite a while. Cat, I agree that a Japanese stitch dictionary has a lot to recommend it.

As for yarn, it sounds as if we can agree on J&S jumper weight. I like your idea, Cat, that one could un-ply it to create lace-weight.

Mary Lou, Mary Thomas’ books were an important stride forward for me, too. It was from her that I learned how to catch the unused yarn in two-colour knitting in all four situations: when you want to catch the left-hand yarn when knitting with the right hand; or the right-hand yarn when knitting with the left. And so forth, for the two manoeuvres needed when purling. This discovery came at a crucial moment for me, when I was getting interested in Fair Isle.

But I wouldn’t take her to the island.  I can’t stand those cartoons.

As I said yesterday, thank goodness it’s a decision we don’t have to make.


The Duke of Edinburgh has had a new Range Rover delivered, and has been spotted driving about in it. There’s something to be said for being impossibly rich.

Shandy and Southern Gal and Beth, I do absolutely agree with you in admiration for Mrs May. Don’t forget that she’s got Type One diabetes to manage – no joke of a disease, requiring constant attention. It would be more than embarrassing to have a hypoglycemic episode on the floor of the House. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Little to report, but that little, good.

I woke up feeling so droopy that I wondered whether I should cancel my personal trainer’s visit. But I didn’t, and it was the right decision. I felt much better after being made to move, and am determined to keep movement going.

The Stronachlachar is 1” short of the underarm shapings. I should also finish the fourth skein of yarn tomorrow. It’s all go.

And the Duke of Edinburgh seems to be OK. I was afraid he would die of shock during the night. I was glad to hear that the police breathalysed both drivers (both were clear). The policeman will have a story for the rest of his life – “Just blow here, Sir”. It sounds as if the villain was the Low Winter Sun which can make driving (and, sometimes, walking) such a nightmare this time of year. It gets better after Groundhog Day.

Jim Arnall-Culliford has an interesting blog post, imagining himself on Desert Island Disks. What if you had to pick one knitting book and one yarn to take along? He would choose the Knitter’s Almanac (EZ). Not so I. My yarn would be MadTosh DK – I’m assuming I would have permanent access to the entire range. But that would mean no lace knitting… Thank goodness it won’t really happen, but it’s fun to go on thinking about what book I would take. It’s easy enough to form a short list, very difficult to narrow it down to one.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

I’m sorry, again, to have left you in the lurch. There’s nothing much wrong here except a lack of sprightliness. I have done a bit of knitting, but not enough that it’s worth measuring the Stronachlachar again. Tomorrow, perhaps. My personal trainer is coming back tomorrow and I have warned her that she will have to start again from the beginning.

But guess what? I got a New Yorker in today’s post!

As for British politics, Gilbert got it right, as usual:

   When in that House MP’s divide,
      If they’ve a brain and cerebellum too,
   They’ve got to leave that brain outside
      And vote just as their leaders tell ‘em to.

   But then the prospect of a lot
      Of dull MP’s, in close proximity,
   All thinking for themselves, is what
      No man can face with equanimity.

And that’s exactly where we are at the moment.

The only knitting news I can think of is that Brooklyn Tweed’s “Winter 19” lookbook is out. Goodness, they’re good. I think I’ve mentioned that they’ll be here at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival again this year. Two years ago, it was Jared himself.

I hope the Duke of Edinburgh is OK. He is a great inspiration to the elderly.

Monday, January 14, 2019

I’m sorry for yesterday’s absence. I’m not very sprightly, just now.

Judy has provided the definitive link to the solution of the turnip-swede-rutabaga question. In which it appears that rutabagas are swedes, just as you say, Mary Lou. I am sustaining myself these days with a succession of delicious home-made vegetable soups. Perhaps I will include a swede in the next one.

I’ve done some knitting, while watching endless television discussions of our political crisis. For once in a millennium, one might wish for a written constitution. Be that as it may, I have finished four pattern repeats on the Stronachlachar, equalling 14 inches. The target is 16, for the underarm, where some interesting shaping begins.


Here’s a gloomy little item, of dubious relevance.

There was a story in the paper last week about a very distinguished BBC reporter, Martin Bell, who tripped over a suitcase not long ago in the Gatwick railway station as he was returning home from a cruise, and landed on his face and actually broke his skull. He is now retired, but appreciably  younger than I am. The NHS has patched him together very nicely indeed.

That might have been me, in Reggio Calabria. I suppose the difference is that Martin Bell, with the suitcase in front of him, had nowhere to go except onto his face. Whereas I just tripped over some unevenness in the pavement, with unobstructed space in front, and was able to make a three-point landing (face, left forearm, left knee).

Still, it shows why it’s a good idea to take out travel insurance.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

I’m sorry about yesterday – I wasn’t entirely well. Perhaps the second half of the “back end” malaise? At any rate, a brief, violent diarrhoea, and a general misery all day. There was nothing in the previous day’s food consumption which could explain it.  No knitting at all, since I was last here – and this evening, again, must be devoted to Italian homework.

I can’t help with the interesting swede/turnip/rutabaga discussion. I think I have always vaguely assumed that the small round white things called “turnips” – not all that common, in supermarkets in Scotland – would grow up to be the big orange things called “swedes”. Especially because when one speaks of “neeps” here, as in “neeps and tatties”, one means a delicious mash made from swedes. Burns Night is nearly upon us, and that is an essential feature, up there with the haggis.

I don’t know what a rutabaga is. My mother was not an adventurous cook. No doubt Google could straighten all this out, if I applied myself.

I wasn’t entirely comatose yesterday. Wandering around the internet in the evening, I discovered that the Shetland Museum has recently embarked on the “Lace Project”. It sounds very exciting, and the prospect of a publication at the end makes it even more so.

I’ve had an email from the New Yorker about the digital delights available to me “as a print subscriber”. But still no magazine.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Eleven and ½ inches of the 16 needed for the Stronachlachar underarm have now been done. I thought my industrious application would have taken me a bit further than that. I have wound the fourth skein and joined it in – that’s something.

Thank you for your help, as ever. Pascoag Girl, I can’t find “Restoration” over here, but I found it with ease at Lacis. As before, the thing is to finish Stronachlachar, see where we are in the calendar, and present the bride with the choices, if any.


Shandy and Kirsten, I once left my sons behind in Kirkmichael with nothing to eat, I’ve forgotten why. They sensibly enough went into the adjacent field and helped themselves to some of the swedes which had been put out for the sheep.

Tonight’s food programme is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who can be entertaining. Tom Kerridge was pretty dull last night.

Mary Lou, my New Yorker subscription has expired, I don’t quite understand why. I renewed it on-line before Christmas. All went smoothly, except that I haven’t started getting any issues yet. I get a daily update from them, and I saw that article about the Greek alphabet there. Interesting, indeed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Little to report. The Stronachlachar is 10 ½ inches,  carelessly measured on the kitchen table. I need 16, to qualify for the underarm shaping. I’ve finished the third pattern repeat, and have nearly finished the third of seven skeins.

I wouldn’t quite call it a resolution, but I think perhaps if I huddle in the kitchen watching Netflix on my iPad, I can knit at the same time. When I try to watch television in the sitting room in the evening, the needles tend to drop from my nerveless fingers. Perhaps the chair is too comfortable.

I also mean to read slightly more serious books, fewer “yellows” as we call them in Italian. I read a lot. I have embarked on “Enthusiasm” (church history) by R.A. Knox, which is a flesh and blood book from my own shelves; and “The Egoist” on the iPad (it was free).

We shall see.

Thank you, as ever, for your help with my various problems. I think maybe “Rock Island” will do as it stands, at least to offer to Jenna. It’s a good size. And thank you, Mary Lou, for “Orvus Paste”. It’s available here, and I am interested to see that it is used for whitening horses.

And Helen (anon) – what you say about “candidatus” awakens dim memories of my own long-forgotten education. I actually saw the apparatus for suspending a newly-knit shawl over burning sulphur when I went to Shetland with Kristie and Kath that happy time.  But how, exactly, was the necessary whiteness for “candidatus” achieved? I doubt if the answer would help much with Hellie’s shawl.

Now I’m going to go watch a cookery programme, while I knit. My husband abhorred the genre, and often said that he regarded cookery programmes as pornography. Tonight it’s Tom Kerridge, teaching people how to cook from scratch.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

A bit forrader. The overhead light in the kitchen – where I spend a lot of time huddling – went out on Saturday. Archie came round to help, and in the process of extracting the dead bulb, pulled it apart, so that the metal sleeve remained in the socket. Today my very dear electrician came and put things right. So I can huddle again.

But I mustn’t. If I am to offer Jenna the option of a small lace shawl of her own for her wedding in July, I must get on briskly with the Stronachlachar. You’re right, Marion, that it is Jared’s Rock Island that I am thinking of. (You must start your Rosemary Shawl at once – you’ll love it once you get going.) I have been wondering whether I could make it a bit fancier, with another lace motif instead of all that garter stitch at the end; or whether I could plan a small triangular shawl of my own from scratch.

Would Liz Lovick’s “Exploring Shawl Shapes” help? I’ve got a couple of her books, but not that one.

I could buy Jared’s pattern and use it as a template.

Meanwhile, Mary Lou, please follow up your thought about the stuff that might whiten Hellie’s shawl. Or I could Google it myself.

Sarah, when I embarked on Sharon Miller’s “Princess” shawl, I didn’t have a bride in mind, or indeed in prospect. I would highly recommend just plunging in. If you are still around to see someone wear it, think how pleased you will be! And if not, think how they will all remember you on that happy day!

Monday, January 07, 2019

Perhaps a bit stronger today.

I thought this might be the morning when my new cleaning woman would reappear, after the prolonged hols, so I lept out of bed and did a lot in the kitchen so as not to embarrass myself. It turns out she’ll be here on Wednesday.

Here at last is the promised picture:

The instruction is to knit 16 inches straight, then divide for the underarm. I must have passed halfway. I’ll measure tomorrow. I’m terribly pleased with it.

Brooklyn Tweed – indeed, Jared himself – offers a nice little lacy shoulder shawl which I think I will suggest for this year’s bride, if I finish Stronachlachar in anything like January. The wedding is in July. At present, she is planning to wear the one I knit for Hellie. I’ve now got it for re-blocking. It looks a bit yellow. They did something with sulphur on Shetland in the old days, but I don’t think I want to embark on that.

The Brooklyn Tweed shawl wouldn’t be nearly so big or grand, but it would be hers, and the edging, at least, is fancy.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Another day of very considerable weakness. What’s the matter with me?

Our niece came and fetched me this morning and we drove back through the quiet Sunday city to an early Mass at the University chapel where Christina (niece’s daughter) and Manaba were married in September. Very nice indeed.

Julie, thank you for the tip about Ardkinglas on Youtube. Here’s a link, but once you’re there you’ll find several offerings, including one about the arboretum. It’s famous.

No, Mary Lou. The “big house” does weddings, but our wedding – Hellie and Matt, three? years ago, -- was in Alexander and Ketki’s own garden, half a mile away.

The house at Ardkinglas was built by Andrew Noble in the early years of the 20th century – in 18 months. It seems fantastic. It wasn’t a family home, just a shooting lodge and a summer place. He had four sons. The elder two didn’t want to take on the responsibility, so the estate passed to the third son, grandfather of the author of the book I am reading on the subject. Lady Gainford of kilt hose fame was the daughter of one of the elder two sons.

It is unsettling to think of the amount of wealth involved. The current generation seems quite well endowed. Here in Edinburgh, I am acquainted with two great-grandchildren of Andrew Carnegie. They are not particularly well-off, except by their own endeavours – but their great-grandfather’s name is known around the world. We have a Carnegie library at Oberlin. I think there may be a moral to be drawn there.

Some rehearsals for the D-Day landings were staged at Ardkinglas. Churchill and the King came along. The book isn’t indexed, and I can’t find the passage – someone or other was disappointed in the King. A rather small man, and he wasn’t wearing a crown. Churchill threw away a cigar butt which was treasured locally (perhaps still is) and the place where it landed is still known as “Churchill’s cigar  bay”.

I didn’t do any knitting at all today.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Not much of a day. Italian lessons always leave me gasping, but I think perhaps I’m not back up to full strength since last week’s misfortune, as well. You are absolutely right, Chloe, that Italians are wonderfully tolerant of one’s fumbling attempts to speak their language, as long as they can make any sense at all of what one is saying. I will have to work hard on my verbs for next week. Today we just talked.

“intossicazione alimentare” turns out to be right, for food poisoning. A scallop is “cappa santa”.

Further progress with Stronachlachar, but, alas! still no picture. I agree, Mary Lou, that with lots of stitches and complicated crosses, a cable needle is a handy instrument. One of my pleasures, at this time of year – a delicious time, now that the festivities are over and the light has been returning for a whole fortnight – is to plan the next Calcutta Cup knitting. (It won’t be needed for a while.)

Next time, it is to be some wonderful Gaughan-esque cables. Much remains to be thought out, including the name of the recipient. Rachel is loyal to Scotland, but she lives in a nest of passionate English rugby supporters. Joe, this year’s bridegroom, actually works for the English Rugby Union at Twickenham. James and Helen and their families are totally indifferent.

And I’m glad to hear, Mary Lou, that you know Lady Gainford’s book about kilt hose. One or both of the pairs you see my sons wearing in that picture in the sidebar, derive from her work. I am delighted to discover my own connection to her, under the seven-degrees-of-separation rule. (Alexander knows the author of the “Ardkinglas” book, indeed is acknowledged in it; Lady Gainford must have been the author’s second cousin once removed, or something like that.)

Friday, January 04, 2019

Thank you very much for your advice. I took it. Thanks especially to you, Hat, who wrote so quickly. I decided as soon as I read your message that I would take a taxi to the dr’s office this morning (=Spend the Kids’ Inheritance) and I slept the better for having decided.

They were very crowded. Our practice has “open access” – if you turn up before 10 a.m., any week day, and are prepared to sit, you can see a doctor. I don’t see how other practices manage without. The girl sitting next to me had a cough which certainly couldn’t have waited until she could get a normal appointment. A day in a&e would have been her only alternative.

I had a timed appt with a nurse for the taking of bloods, and wasn’t there long.

Here’s a knitting tidbit connected with my end-of-year holiday: Alexander and Ketki gave me a book called “Ardkinglas” about the estate on which they live. It is not without interest. The author is the great-granddaughter of the enormously rich late Victorian who bought the estate and built the house. And another member of the family is Lady Gainford, the author of that little book about kilt hose which the Schoolhouse Press still sells.

I didn’t take a picture of Stronachlachar; sorry about that. I hope I will tomorrow. It progresses well. Being able to cross stitches without a cable needle is especially useful in a dr’s waiting room.

Tonight’s non-knit problem is that I have an Italian lesson scheduled for tomorrow morning (via Skype, from Rome). I must work out how to explain in Italian – that will be as good as a lesson – that I have had food poisoning and am still not quite back to my (feeble) norm and haven’t done my homework. I will send an email to that effect this evening, so that Federica will be prepared.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Thank you for your kind messages. I’ve missed you, too.

Here’s a Calcutta Cup picture for you. James, on the right, is wearing his father’s new vest. Thomas, on the left – they’re both alarmingly tall – wears the ’06 sweater which his father has by now outgrown. 

There is also Kirsty Miles’ Christening shawl – James’ and Cathy’s daughter  -- into which a lacy Cup was incorporated in 2000. The match was a draw in 2010. I knit a hat with half the Cup on it, but it got lost. Alexander has a picture of it. I was surprised to see that it incorporated rather a good pom-pom. I’m generally rather anti pom-pom.

I’m getting on splendidly with the Stronachlachar. The yarn – Kate Davies’ Buachaille in Macallum – is perfect winter knitting, a warm, embracing, winey red. Despite her recent severe blog post, I simply cast on using the suggested needle sizes. It’s looking good.

The stitch qualifies, I think, as Bavarian travelling stitch, although not acknowledged as such. I did a class in that subject at Camp Stitches ’99 with Candace Strick – a very happy memory, although I never used the stitch until now.

I can’t remember how Candace had us doing the crosses (always one over one), although I’m pretty sure she didn’t use a cable needle. KD prescribes a cable needle, and I started off with one but soon tired of it. I found I had Donna Druchunas’ travelling stitch class in my Craftsy stash – she prefers to switch the stitches on the needle first, and then knit them. I have pretty well mastered that trick by now. The yarn is rather gently plyed and splitting a stitch is something of a danger, but otherwise all is going well. I’ve finished two of seven skeins, and have done two of goodness-knows-how-many pattern repeats.

I’ll try to take a picture tomorrow.


I have an appt tomorrow morning to have bloods taken, and am in a proper old-lady stew about it. Can I find a parking place? Do I have enough change for a parking meter? Can I master paying-by-telephone, if not? I must face up to the modern world.

Tom Lehrer’s “Werner von Braun” is not really relevant to today’s news, but it amused me, nevertheless, to listen to it again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

I’m sorry for the protracted silence. Happy New Year, all round. Mine was a good holiday, but I'm not sorry it’s all over.

I spent Christmas day with Greek Helen and her family -- they live very near here. David did the cooking, and did it very well. The next day Alexander and Ketki came to get me and the cats, and we all went to Loch Fyne. He was wearing his new Calcutta Cup vest and while he was carrying bags and cats out to the car – they travel with a fair amount of paraphernalia – someone stopped him to admire it. He explained about the Calcutta Cup and said that his mother had knit it.

“Is your mother from Shetland?” the stranger asked.

Paradox was in heat when we left. This was her big chance to meet her furry Lochinvar. Not a bit of it. The horror of the experience drove all thoughts of sex from her head. She spent the entire time under the duvet, not eating or drinking. The first evening she was even hyperventilating – at least, breathing very fast. Perdita was somewhat bolder. She joined the party in the kitchen, watched the birds and the red squirrels on the feeder just outside the window, even ate a bit.

On Friday I had an unfortunate encounter with a scallop during a pub lunch. I should have known better. I have had trouble with frozen seafood before, and could expect nothing else for a pub lunch in the “back end” of the year, even on the shore of Loch Fyne. The result was a very uncomfortable night, followed by a day of total prostration, under the duvet with Paradox.

This made our homeward journey difficult, as the party was dispersing and everyone had somewhere to be before the New Year. In the end, Rachel and Ed made a detour to drive us here on their way to London.  That drive is enough of an ordeal, done directly. But all went well. Rachel and Ed got home in good time. The cats lept out of their carriers and reverted at once to their everyday selves, appetite and all.

I have recovered nearly all of my former strength, such as it was.

I have knitting news, including good progress with the Stronachlachar – and a wonderful picture. I’ll leave that until tomorrow. It’s good to be back.