Thursday, February 28, 2019

As usual these days, not much was done. No blocking. I went on with the Foldlines square, and this time, found that I was back in the saddle. The secret – you won’t be entirely surprised to hear this – is to stop, when something is clearly wrong, and count: count the stitches on the needle, count the squares on the chart. Tink when required. Works wonders.

I continue to have an open (=vacant) mind about the future. I haven’t ordered the yarn for Foldlines. The EYF is now fairly immanent, and Jared will be here again. (Or, at least, Brooklyn Tweed will be.) I could perhaps buy Arbor from his very hands. Money spent at the EYF marketplace doesn’t count as extravagance, either.

Meanwhile, there would be time to make a good start on a Polliwog.


Kirsten, thank you for your reply. I read Woolf’s “A Room of Your Own” last month. I’m not attracted by the Communist Manifesto – that might be a good reason for reading it. During the war, when I was growing up, Mein Kampf was available on my parents’ shelves and I don’t think I ever even opened it, although I learned a lot from other of their books.

Re-reading Alice in Wonderland is a delightful prospect. It’s here, and often dipped into, but I haven’t read it straight through for decades. And “Anne of Green Gables” – what a glorious prospect! But where is the website for the book-a-month, and why haven’t they emailed me about it?

Shandy, yes, I’ve read “Parade’s End”, and found it rather heavy going. It’s interesting that you say it improves on re-reading. Maybe I’ll try again. I’m finding “The Good Soldier” depressing to a degree I didn’t expect.


Archie came this morning to help with chores, and with sorting piles of clutter. He insisted that we did our two circuits of the Garden, although I had already been to Waitrose and thought that might count. We took a plastic bag and some scissors and harvested some wild garlic.

His cousin Alistair (James’ and Cathy’s son) has got a job with a major games programming firm, here in Edinburgh. That's today's news. It will pay him less than he is earning at the moment in his first post-degree job. But I gather being a games programmer is what young programmers aspire to, like being a premier league football player for the more athletic.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

I didn’t get the Stronachlachar blocked. I did begin another Foldlines square. I’m making an absolute mess of it, to my embarrassment, but I don’t think the mess will make any difference to the size of the finished square so I am pressing on. I’ll try to do some of it tomorrow in natural light. The yarn is dark. That doesn’t help.

Shandy, yes! I noticed that the Shepherdess in the new Fruity Knitting was wearing KD’s “Carbeth” and indeed that she acknowledged it by name. It was well-knit, too: a good fit.

Rather missing Kate’s club, I toyed with the idea of signing up for Jen Arnall-Culliford’s “Another Year of Techniques”, and may yet do it. Then I thought – this must all be inspired by our most unseasonal sunshine – why not order the kit for KD’s recent wonderfully-striped shawl? But it’s out of stock.

Alexander came, and we walked around the Garden. Plants and flowers and the buds on the trees are coming forward by the day, as if this were May. There are two good patches of wild garlic in Drummond Place Gardens, and I think I could venture on an omelette or some pesto any day now.

He’s going out for a birthday dinner with his family in a Japanese restaurant on the Byres Road this evening. We didn’t have Japanese restaurants on the Byres road when I used to push him up and down it in his perambulator.

Kirsten. do you have any idea yet what our reading assignment will be in March? I'm feeling in need of structure. I embarked today (for the several-th time) on Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier". It's brilliant, and it's not very long. But I want to be told what to do.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Again, not much more than a touching-in.

I did my two circuits of Drummond Place Gardens again today. It was another astonishing spring morning, I found my non-bifocals, and I think perhaps it helped to wear them. Here’s the picture I took to send to Greek Helen to prove that I had done it, or at least that I had been there.

Alexander will probably be here tomorrow, his 59th birthday, and we’ll do it together.

I’ve finished the Stronachlachar, all but blocking. That really has to be done, in this case, because – as I’ve mentioned before – the stocking stitch panels blouse out over the travelling stitch ones and need to be smoothed down.

Usually, when I F an O, I’ve got something else straining at the lead. I think what I’ll probably do tomorrow (but that’s a bit of a feeble remark, already) is knit another Foldlines square in left-over madtosh DK. Or I could start a Baby Surprise, or Mary Lou’s wonderful Pollywog, for my former cleaner’s recently arrived son. Or even sort my Koigu stash into dark and light with that impressive brioche scarf/stole from a recent VK in mind.

Andrew and Andrea turned up on schedule and were very much enjoyed. Martin Storey is the principal interview – not a designer with whom I have much raport, but interesting enough. The Shepherdess, however, of Solitude Wool near DC, was fascinating.

I thought of something I might want to say about knitting and race, but in the present climate I wouldn’t dare. Don’t worry – you haven’t missed much.

Monday, February 25, 2019

A brief touching-of-base.

I’m well advanced with the ribbing on the second sleeve-hole of the Stronachlachar, after a considerable amount of counting and re-counting. One more session will finish the actual knitting – that leaves tidying and blocking.

Andrew and Andrea tomorrow I think!

Archie came to help this morning – another astonishing warm, sunny spring day. We did our two laps round the garden, and on to the corner shop. It nearly did for me. Then I sat in the doorway and supervised while Archie dealt with the trough containing my Welsh onions. It was covered with weed, which we discarded. Then we decided to go ahead and discard all the old compost. He filled the trough with fresh compost, and he then re-planted the onions which I had meanwhile divided. It was a satisfying job.

Shandy, that’s a good point about my glasses. In normal life, I wear bifocals. I had to see the oculist recently, to replace the lens badly scratched by my fall in Reggio Calabria. My Personal Trainer persuaded me to get a pair of non-bifocals at the same time, for wear out of doors. I did, but I never wear them and am not entirely sure where they are.

I’ll remedy that, and start using them.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The hiatus this time was down to the fact that I fell, on Friday morning – tripped on the pavement (rather as I did in Reggio Calabria) while on my way to Drummond Place Garden with my personal trainer. No serious damage done. Fiona suffered more than I did.

But (as in Reggio Calabria) I was badly shaken. I allowed myself the luxury of cancelling yesterday’s Italian lesson. I remembered how I had longed for Radio Four, that night in Reggio. And I revelled in it, here in Edinburgh. There is nothing so peaceful or soporific or comforting as earnest voices talking about Brexit. There’s a pretty steady diet of that on the BBC these days, night and day.

By now I am near my normal low level. Greek Helen came this morning to accompany my two circuits of the Garden. Archie is coming tomorrow.

I have knit on a bit, through all this. I’ve finished the neck ribbing on the Stronachlchar, and one sleeve. Picking up stitches (and getting the count right) is slow work, but I think I’ve done it successfully for the second sleeve, on the second attempt.

My friend Kristie sent me a link to a calm and reasonable blog post about some of what Kate Davies has had to put up with lately – it even mentioned a threat to boycott the EYF because Kate was going to speak there. Her speech was cancelled, some weeks ago. I was going to post the link here, but when I went to check it just now, I found it gone. This borders on the sinister.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

I’m not much further forward, but a bit. I did my walk again today – and tomorrow my Personal Trainer will be here to ensure that I do it again. I haven’t heard any more about Kate Davies. I gather (comments) that some of you know a bit more than I do, and that social media nastiness may have something to do with her temporary retirement, I am lucky, I guess, that – exposing myself to the world as I do – I haven’t experienced any of that. You lot are a good bunch.

I’m about halfway through the Stronachlachar neck ribbing – twisted ribbing, again, which is slower than ordinary ribbing.

Thank you for the references to “Gansey Nation” in yesterday’s comments. Whether that’s the clerical Gordon Reid of Caithness whom I had been reading about the day before (presumably so), or not, it’s extremely interesting.

As for reading, Tana French’s “Wych Elm” has turned up – one of those frequent, maddening cases when it was extravagantly reviewed a fortnight before publication. I had read and largely enjoyed her Dublin Murder Squad books, so I went ahead and pre-ordered this one. So far, although very eventful, it leaves me feeling that we haven’t really got started yet.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Today’s news, of course, is Kate Davies’ illness. The club has been suspended until September – that’s quite a long time. I hope we’ll hear more soon.

Greek Helen sent me this link to a Twitter post about a clandestine mosaic of hers not far from here. The Twitterer somehow found out that Helen was responsible, and sent the link to her.

Not much news here, as usual. Alexander came to see me, as often on a Wednesday, and we walked twice around Drummond Place Gardens, so that’s two days in succession. I have bound off the other shoulder of the Stronachlachar, and picked up the stitches for the neck ribbing. Getting stitches off waste yarn and back onto a needle is never very easy, for me.

Thank you for all your kind comments about my cruise. Tamar, Caithness is off to the east (I couldn’t have told you that yesterday). We will sail up the west coast of Scotland, nearly to the top, but won’t head eastwards. I looked at Gordon Reid’s blog and – if I hit upon the right man – found interesting autobiography, but no knitting. I had much the same experience with the monk on the final page of the new IK.

I’ve finished “Case Histories”. The woman on the radio yesterday said that she had read it when it was new, as I had, and thought a skim would be enough when it was assigned for her appearance on “Good Reads”, but found that she was reading every syllable again. Me too. It’s funny how memory works. I remembered some bits clearly, others not at all.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A better day. Yesterday I booked myself onto a Majestic Line cruise for May, 2020. My niece C., often mentioned here, has agreed to come with me. We’re going to the upper left-hand corner of mainland Scotland. It’s called a Wilderness Cruise.

Since my happy cruise with them to the Outer Hebrides last summer, I have clicked hither and yon and not found anything that appeals half as much. In the real world, 250 passengers are considered a “small” cruise ship. (On the Majestic Line, we are 12.)

There’s something along the west coast of Turkey – an area I would much like to explore – in small boats called gulags, or kayaks, or something like that. But the cruise is expensive to begin with, and you are responsible for getting yourself to the west coast of Turkey and back, and the website winded up specifying how much you were expected to tip each crew member for each day of the cruise. No, that won’t do.

So it’s back to the Majestic Line. (Think of it: an interesting exploration to regions unknown, involving no passports, no foreign currency, no airports!) And now I have got to stay alive for 18 months or so, and not only alive, but capable of walking up and down short flights of stairs. I feel better already, and began this morning by walking twice around Drummond Place Gardens. The newspaper article which drew me to the Majestic Line in the first place mentioned a fellow-passenger who was a retired High Court judge in her 90’s. I can do it too!

As for knitting, I have finished the 3-needle bind-off for the first Stronachlachar shoulder, transferred the stitches for the other one from waste yarn to needle, and wound the final skein. And have started thinking happily about Foldlines. The madtosh colour I wanted is out of stock at Jimmy Bean’s. There are other possibilities. Or what about going for Jared’s “Arbor” for which the pattern was written? There are some nice colours there too.

The only drawback on that one is that I am swatching (me! swatching!) in leftover madtosh, trying to get the repeated pattern square to something like the right size. And when I achieve that – and can therefore calculate pretty closely what size the finished sweater will be – is it wise to switch to another yarn. ?

The new IK turned up today. Lots of nice things. Nothing that quite makes me want to drop the needles and rush down to the LYS.

A dear friend came and solved my computer-printer problem. It was a matter, apparently, of pushing a “Join Network” slider from Off to On. Perdita often walks on the keyboard when I am here, and she knows a lot of key combinations which are beyond me. I suspect her agency here.

I always sleep with the radio on. I woke up from my nap today to find myself in the middle of that excellent Radio Four program, A Good Read. As a result of which, I am now very happily re-reading Kate Atkinson’s “Case Histories”. Not trash, but it goes down smoothly.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Again, I have little to report. I have finished the basic knitting of the Stronachlachar. I have slid the stitches hither and yon, threaded others onto waste yarn, and embarked on a three-needle bind-off – a favourite of mine. I have even dared to disobey KD: I am binding off with the right-sides facing.

Our club pattern this week is the lovely Milarrochy stripes again, this time in a cropped pullover with what I think are called dolman sleeves – that heavy triangle under the armpits which I know doesn’t suit me.


Dawn, thank you for the interesting links on lie-lay. Here’s an embarrassing anecdote for you, fully 70 years old:

My sophomore, or was it junior? English teacher at Asbury Park High School wasn’t very bright. She told us, one day, that familiar American misleading rule, that “lie” was for animate objects and “lay” for inanimate. I put up my hand – I told you this was embarrassing – and asked whether that meant that it would be correct to say that the baby was lying on the bed and the book was laying on the bed beside it.

She looked a bit uneasy, but agreed that that was right. I subsided. She was equally misguided on “blank verse” and “free verse”, and on that one, I faced her down, at some other point during the year. (Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter, I told her. I must have been insufferable.)

As for Fanny Price: I think we have to assume that there were “good genes” in the Price family, Shandy.  Fanny, William, Susan. And Fanny, plucked from her unsatisfactory family, was subsequently shaped and instructed by Edmund.

Anonymous: by “trash” I just mean easily-forgettable thrillers.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Another day of small achievement, I am afraid.

I did a bit of knitting while watching the Andrew Marr show this morning, and hope at least to finish the back of the Stronachlachar this evening.

Thinking about this summer’s wedding: if Becca really means to wear the veil pinned to her head and down her back, as her sister-in-law-to-be Hellie did, Hellie’s veil will be far better for the purpose than that nice little one of Jared’s. So perhaps I will put that thought aside and move on to Foldlines, for which I need to order yarn.

That's my son-in-law Ed, Rachel's husband, Hellie's father, to the left.


By “trash”, Shandy, I mean thrillers. I am looking forward to “Wych Elm”, to be published this week. Today I have been reading a late John LeCarre, “Absolute Friends”.

I have also been dipping back in to “Mansfield Park”. Fay Weldon seems to me to miss, as many do,  the blackest mark on Mary Crawford’s character. Her wicked brother Henry tells her that he means to make Fanny Price in love with him. Mary, although well aware of Fanny’s gentle, retiring character and her slightly subordinate social status, encourages her, under the name of friendship, to believe that Henry is really interested.

In fact, Fanny is not remotely tempted, and Henry falls in love with her.

But that’s not the point.

Mary’s behaviour is appalling, by all the standards of female solidarity. Austen doesn’t make much of it, allowing herself only the sentence: “Miss Crawford, complaisant as a sister, was careless as a woman and a friend.”

Reading that much tempted me on, of course, and I find that Austen uses “lay” for “lie” in ways of which I am supposed to disapprove. So I will have to shut up on that one.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Virtually nothing, tonight. No knitting.

Was I more than ordinarily flattened by this morning's Italian lesson? Next week, I have managed to schedule both it and the Personal Trainer for the same day.

I have finished reading the real “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. There is nothing there of the plot so fondly remembered over 50 years, the George Peppard and Patricia Neal story. I was very happy to find that memory supplied his name, even after all this time – hers, I had to look up.

The movie was written by George Axelrod. Presumably it was he, already an accomplished playwright, who saw the potential in the setting and devised the plot. Wikipedia says that he was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay. I wonder who won.

I think I will probably subside into trash for the rest of the month. I’ll finish speed-reading Weldon on Austen, though.

Becca (this year’s bride) is interested in the idea of Jared’s little shawl. She means to wear it down her back, attached to her hair, as Hellie did hers. For that purpose, the reappearance of Hellie’s shawl (much larger) might be better. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2019

No rugby this weekend. We can all relax. Next week, Scotland goes to Paris.

I’ve got four more rows of Stronachlachar to do, I think, before the finishing starts. But some of tomorrow’s knitting time will have to be devoted to winding the last skein.

Kirsten, no, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” doesn’t seem to be available for Kindle, at least over here. I am struggling a bit with the paperback. (=not enjoying it.) It’s not very long. I ought to be able to get through it. So far, it has nothing to do with the fondly-remembered movie (or with Tiffany’s) except that Audrey Hepburn is perfect for Holly. So maybe it will move on to the movie plot and improve.

I have also been speed-reading Fay Weldon’s “Letters to Alice”, responding to your tip, Beth. I’m afraid I’m not enjoying that very much either. Too much Fay Weldon, too much Literature, not enough Jane Austen. I have just encountered an anecdote about Winston Churchill as a writer of prose, which I am pretty sure she’s got the wrong way around. It makes me doubt some of her other sweeping statements.

My personal trainer comes on a Friday morning. We had a particularly exhausting session today. Maybe that’s why I am so grumpy.

Now, despite my hard work on gerunds earlier in the week, I’ve still got some Italian homework to do…

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Not too bad a day, although I felt very feeble. The back of the Stronachlachar is coming on fine. A couple more Pointless’s will polish it off, except for finishing. I’ve emailed Becca (this summer’s bride) to ask whether she’d like Jared’s “Rock Island”. There’s still plenty of time. The wedding is in July.

Helen and her two available sons are in Strathardle today. (It’s half-term; hence all this activity.) She sent this picture. My husband and I augmented our snowdrop collection quite a bit in our last years there. There are more on the West Lawn, around the other side of the house.

I’ve finished “Persuasion”. You’ve hit another of many nails on the head, Tamar: What, indeed, is the appeal of “Persuasion” over Austen’s other novels? (We’re all agreed that they are all sublime.) My sister agrees with you, Mary Lou and Peggy, that it’s her favourite. I simply don’t see it.

I would support “Mansfield Park” because it’s got sex, and therefore is closer to real life as we know it. Admittedly, no lurve, no his-eyes-met-hers, no Colin Firth. All the better for that, perhaps. And by “sex”, I don’t just mean the denouement. I mean the way sex bubbles below the surface throughout, the way it did when we were in high school.

Kirsten, thank you for explaining the non-relationship of “Cousin Phillis” to the Penguin Challenge. (Mary Lou, you’ll enjoy it.) And forgive me for transposing the letters in your name, on more than one occasion, I suspect. I’ll try to do better.

But while I’m in that area – my friend Kristie, the woman to whom I owe my only trip to Shetland, is having trouble posting comments here. She uses Safari on a Mac. Can anyone help?

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, in paperback form, arrived in the post today. I’ll read that next, waiting for March.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Not an entirely negligible day, except for lack of exercise. I did, by recent measure, quite a bit of knitting – I’ve reached the final increase row on the back of the Stronachlachar. It’s not all that much further to the shoulder.

And I made a good start on the Italian gerundive. Friday evening (homework time) should be less stressful this week.

I finished watching Andrew&Andrea 71: I am more than somewhat alarmed by her recent enthusiasm for crochet. I’ve nothing much against the craft per se: I’ve done it myself, and enjoyed it. But I’d hate to see too much of this excellent program devoted to it.

Annie Modesitt is blogging a bit more – that’s good. Her oncologist has congratulated her on being cancer-free, but she still feels dreadful. I wish she understood the difference between “lie” and “lay”. Jane Crow made that mistake in her interview with Andrea in episode 71. I suspect they have history on their side – in another 100 years or so, those verbs will have merged. But for now, it offends my pedantic ear to hear them confused.

Blame my mother, who had a firm grasp of English grammar, and also of family relationships: how to work out who was whose second cousin once removed.


It’s good to have you back, Mary Lou. The NHS largely took care of the problem you have been attending to – the morphine of the last few days was retrieved very briskly indeed after my husband’s death, and the equipment not much later. They seemed pleased with the donation of things we had provided ourselves – a wheelchair and some cardboard urinals.

Tamar, no – the lovely lace shawl in the Dundee V&A was attractively displayed, wrapped around the shoulders of a display model, but not stretched out so that you could study the pattern.

I have been trying to find my way back to the Penguin Reading Challenge. I seem to have got it – Virginia Woolf, In Cold Blood, Shirley Jackson, Persuasion: but there’s no mention of Cousin Phillis any more. (Shandy: Steerforth? What do you mean? He seems to be a character in David Copperfield.)  I have finished Cousin Phillis – lovely! – and am well back into “Persuasion”.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

We had a grand day out, but V&A Dundee is a major disappointment. The real V&A is one of the wonders of the world, stuffed with beautiful and interesting and unusual things from all over everywhere. I’m sure they could have spared a couple of trainloads, on loan.

Over lunch (at the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre, down the road) we tried to think of disappointing museums which might rival what we had just seen. I couldn’t produce one, but Helen and her sons suggested the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle in Thessaloniki.

The Dundee V&A is on the waterfront, right next to the three-masted “Discovery” which took Scott and Shackelton to the Antarctic. One might have hoped for some light and air. No. The ground floor is entirely devoted to cafĂ© and shop – it was crowded, and the effect bordered on the squalid. Upstairs there is the gallery of Scottish design (a few things there) and the exhibition gallery – that one contained a show about ocean liners which might have been mildly interesting, but was prohibitively expensive.

There was some knitting in the design gallery – a “Fair Isle” jumper in natural colours, and an exquisitely fine lace hap. The jumper had its sleeves folded across its chest so that I couldn’t follow the sequence of patterns up the body. I stood there looking, though, and felt pleased with myself that I had at last succeeded at corrugated knitting. I put “Fair Isle” in inverted commas because I would, myself, reserve the term for something with some colour in it.

I did learn in that gallery – here’s a tidbit for you – that kaleidoscopes were invented in Edinburgh in the early 19th century.

Much else to say, but I’m very tired.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Literature again tonight, and not much of that. This is ridiculous. I’ll try bringing the knitting into the kitchen and seeing if I can’t get Neil MacGregor to talk to me on the iPad.

I’ve done a bit more Stronachlachar, knitting backwards and forwards on the back.

I do agree, Sarah, that movies are usually less satisfying than books. Bad books sometimes make quite good movies, however. I once read “Psycho” (or the book it’s based on). It’s terrible. I’ve ordered the paperback “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. We shall see.

Kristen, if you can find the two Stephen King stories I have mentioned – “The Man in the Black Suit” and “That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French” -- I think you might like them. I remember recommending the latter to Rachel when it first appeared in the New Yorker, and she was grateful for the tip. She had skipped it because she thought it would be full of goblins and too scary for her.

My admiration for the first pages of “Persuasion” is based on the way the author presents so much essential information – about Sir Walter Elliot’s character and his situation – into so few, and such delightful, lines. Yes, Shandy, “Mansfield Park” remains my absolute favourite.

Indeed, Valerie, “Possession”! That would be one to read again. And, Lynne, yes! Barbara Pym. I haven’t read her for a long time, but the books are here.

However, today my reading has been much less high-minded. I have been speed-reading a biography of JFK’s sister Rosemary. My Aunt Jean, for whom I am named, was rather similar, I think. She was my mother’s slightly older sister. She was, like Rosemary, “slow” – my mother, who was clever, soon overtook her in achievements like walking and talking. In young adulthood, her behaviour could be unexpected and embarrassing. I don’t know much about her.

She died dreadfully – her nightgown caught fire one Sunday morning when she was getting dressed for church.

Tomorrow Helen and Archie and Fergus and I are going to see the new V&A outpost in Dundee. The consensus seems to be that the building is good but the contents less so.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

This one will have to be pretty well all Eng Lit – I haven’t knit a stitch yet today, and suspect that I am off to bed pretty soon.

Liz, I agree with you that KD’s new striped hap looks like an easy and fun knit, and I remain tempted. Ann, I think when she says that the Millarochy club samples are enough to knit the hap, she is referring to the samples that come with this year’s club. I didn’t sign up in time, so I haven’t got those. I’ve still got last year’s. It’s probably just as well that I don’t have any more.


I was wrong about today’s rugby match. It was played in London, not Paris – and England are almost unbeatable there. That’s why (among other reasons) that there is almost no hope that we will retain the Calcutta Cup this year. England smashed poor France today.

Kristen, I think there is much to be said for re-reading “Persuasion”. I, too, have read it recently. Don’t, whatever you do, attempt “In Cold Blood”. I have finished it, skipping a handful of the most distressing pages at the end, and will soon, and very happily, put it back on the shelf forever.

It could be the basis for a potentially interesting conversation, but I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s intended as a “non-fiction novel”. In a real novel, one knows that the author’s invention is supreme. Here, no one is in charge; that’s part of what is distressing. Another distressing aspect is Capote’s own relationship with some of the principal characters, however artfully concealed. And I don’t, on the whole, like Mr. Capote. But the worst is the actual subject-matter.

I wouldn’t mind going on to read “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I remember the movie with delight; I wonder if I have ever read the story. But there doesn’t seem to be a Kindle edition. Pattie, I wouldn’t mind reading him “On Writing” but I can’t find it. (Stephen King wrote such a book, and it’s good. I like Mr. King, in contrast to my feelings about Mr. Capote.)

I think the opening pages of “Persuasion” are the best in all of English literature (although Evelyn Waugh’s “Handful of Dust” is pretty good). We could have a side-discussion on the subject of first pages. I will read the next section of “Cousin Phillis” tomorrow, and am happy to follow you back to “Persuasion” if that’s what you decide, Kristen. I hope nothing I have said is tempting you towards “In Cold Blood”.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Not much, but something.

I was prostrated by my Italian lesson, as usual. We have got on to the gerundive, which I thought would be easy-peasy. I suspect our textbook of making it harder than it really is.

And I managed a bit of knitting while watching Ireland win its rugby match against us this afternoon. Currently Wales are beating Italy, it would appear. I’ve had enough rugby for today. Tomorrow England play France in Paris – that could be a good one.

I’m keen on Kate Davies’ latest pattern, the hap shawl, because I’m keen on stripes. But if one buys it as a kit, it costs £69 – from which I deduce that the Millarochy samples which came with last year’s club, wouldn’t suffice. I could knit a hat, perhaps. For that amount, you could get the kit for the breton-striped sweater from the week (or two) before. Somehow a sweater seems more than a hap.


Shandy, I don’t have a Kindle. I read everything (except knitting books, and most cookery ones) on a Kindle app on my iPad. When I fancy a book, I go to Amazon and get it. Cousin Phillis was a particular pleasure, being free. I don’t understand why you should have trouble finding her.

I’m sorry I started “In Cold Blood”. It’s fearfully real, and artfully told. I suppose I had better finish it. But then I think I must retreat to the kitchen and resume listening to Neil MacGregor telling me about artefacts, if he’s still available.

Friday, February 08, 2019

I’m a bit forrad’er – I’ve started knitting the back of the Stronachlachar. I tried to reprint Page 3 of the pattern, which includes the chart. I have made so many marks on the original one, telling me where I am, that it doesn’t make much sense any more. But I failed to make the computer talk to the printer. I used to be good at technology.

I’ve reverted to the cable needle, in large part. The yarn is inclined to split, and I’ve no great objection to cable needles anyway. The look-mom-no-hands system works well enough when the travelling stitch is moving to the left, and therefore a knit stitch is hanging in front for a moment. But scooping up a purl stitch from behind is harder.

This week’s pattern from Kate Davies is a delicious striped hap in her Milarrochy tweed. I’ve still got a set of samples from last year’s club. The pattern, however, is distressingly creative. I don’t want to be creative. I’m old and tired. I want all those bright, delicious stripes spelled out for me. Kate has already done the work.

However, for the moment, I’ve got plenty to do.


I read the next section (there are four) of Cousin Phillis today. Delicious. But again, I don’t want to rush on. It’s like not eating too many chocolates at once – although I gather from the final sentence of Section Two that clouds are gathering.

So I started re-reading “In Cold Blood” which I think is one of our suggestions for this month, I read it when it was new – in the New Yorker, indeed – but I don’t think I’ve revisited it since. Pretty grim. Very skilfully done.

I thought this week’s New Yorker with the article we’ve been talking about, might turn up today, but it didn’t.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

I’m 4 or 5 rows short of finishing the front of the Stronachlachar. I hope I’ll polish it off this evening, and perhaps even pick up the back stitches again. Yesterday evening I went back to the sitting room and the television set (for Paxman’s program about the Queen’s children – I’m afraid I am fascinated by the royal family) – but hadn’t the strength to knit a single stitch.

I think I need to rearrange my day, such as it is, and bring knitting forward into the daylight hours.

I also think maybe I should go ahead and offer Becca that shawl. Maybe a new project is what I need. I abandoned the Calcutta Cup vest, after all – I’ve forgotten why – and resumed it triumphantly.

Jen A-C has launched her new techniques club. I’m tempted. It’s fun, being in a club.


We are all busy planning our July adventure, the trip to Joe and Becca’s wedding on the Isle of Wight which few of us have ever set foot on. It must have been one of, if not the, first bits of England I ever saw, sailing into Southampton in the summer of 1953. This time it looks as if Archie and I will fly to Southampton and make our way across the water somehow or other.

There is another big Dan Mallory story in today’s Times. The New Yorker has certainly caused a sensation. Today’s writer is slightly hostile to the New Yorker, complaining of length – New Yorker articles are routinely very long, these days; this one needs length – and of the absence of a “gotcha”.

I thought when I read the article that the resemblances between “The Woman in the Window” and the film “Copycat” made a good “gotcha”. But today I looked up Copycat, and the stories seem to be completely different despite the similarities in the setting.

The extraordinary thing about all this is that the book is so good, whatever the author’s faults.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Little to report (as usual), but at least I’m knitting again, and have finished one side of the front neck shaping for the Stronachlachar, and am fairly well advanced with the other. That leaves the back to do, of course.

I could just toss it aside, and offer that Brooklyn Tweed lace shoulder thing to Becca for her wedding in July. I don’t like to do it. I want to finish this, for one thing. And if I’m too feeble to do that, I won’t be able to finish the shoulder shawl in time. If I perk up a bit, four months (March-June) should be enough for the shawl.

There is a substantial article in the Times today, repeating the New Yorker article I told you about yesterday, about Dan Mallory who wrote “The Woman in the Window”. It’s an extraordinary story, and doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s a good book, as thrillers go.

The Times fails to discuss a remarkable paragraph, towards the end of the New Yorker article, where the author says that the mise en scene (have I got that right?) of the book strongly resembles a ‘90’s movie called (appropriately) “Copycat”. The New Yorker author emailed the director of “Copycat”, pointing out the parallels. He replied, “Wow!”

But you’ve got to read the whole thing for yourself.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

I’ve been feeling fairly rotten, as I hope you deduced. Perhaps a bit better today. And I’m writing earlier in the day, so that at least you will have some news of me. I am grateful for your suggestions about my health. There are some good ideas there, and I will address them soon.

I’ve done no knitting at all, since you last heard. Maybe today.

There are tidbits of knitting news, however. Ella Gordon has a new design, an enchanting hat encircled by rings of those Scandinavian dancers, of diminishing size. She says she tried to do it in a sweater yoke, but couldn’t make it work.

It’s encouraging to hear that she doesn’t  like working corrugated ribbing. I’m terribly glad that I persevered with it on the recent Calcutta Cup vest.

My daily communication from the New Yorker has an article this morning about knitting, from Alexandra Lange. I don’t know whether it’s going to appear in print. Perhaps not. It sort of skips about, beginning with the attraction of great, big, expensive, shapeless sweaters, moving on to the current agitation about Racism in Knitting, then back to big sweaters and the author’s determination to learn to knit.

The riveting thing in today’s New Yorker assortment, however, is Ian Parker’s article about Dan Mallory, who wrote “The Woman in the Window”. That one will be in the next print edition – don’t miss. (I’ve read the book. I didn’t think it was that good, but I find it sticks in the mind, unlike many another thriller.) I forwarded the article to granddaughter Hellie (Rachel’s daughter), who is a London literary agent. She replied – so promptly that she must have already seen the article; it’s long – “I know him well. Absolutely astonishing. I’m glad this has finally come out…”

But I am determined to pitch my reading on a slightly more elevated level, at least some of the time, in 2019. Kristen, I’ve read the first section of “Cousin Phillis” and stopped for fear of devouring it in a day. What a treat! The character who stands out from that first section is not so much the first-person narrator, nor even his cousin Phillis with whom he is greatly taken, but her minister-father.

A good friend took me and Archie and their dogs to the seaside yesterday, at Portobello. They walked on the sand. I mostly sat in the cold sun and looked across the Firth of Forth to Fife. That sounds like a joke, but isn’t.

On the way home we saw the fanciest funeral I have ever seen in my life – like the ones you see in the newspapers when a gangster dies. A glass-sided hearse with flowers spelling out words we couldn’t quite decipher, drawn by two black horses wearing black plumes, followed by at least six long grey sinister limousines and many humbler cars.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

I’ve done no knitting at all for the last two days. You haven’t missed much.

I like Kate Davies’ latest pattern for this year’s club – Breton stripes, always an appealing genre.

And I forgot to mention that Andrea let slip in the latest episode that they will be at the EYF again. I spoke briefly with them last year. This year I will be happy to slink away unobserved. My one class is Felicity Ford’s “Colours of Edinburgh”, on the Friday morning. I’ll “do” the market in the hour before the class – that’ll be enough for this year.

I have succeeded in losing – or, at least, mislaying – my diuretic pills. I’ve got the box, and the leaflet which details all those alarming possible side-effects, but no pills. Talk about Freudian. I hope my cleaning woman will be able to find them on Monday. Meanwhile, I’m afraid I don’t feel much better without them.

Thank you for all your kind and helpful suggestions. Dawn, you could be right about protein. I cook fairly industriously, at least once a day, but have slipped even in that department lately. Tamar – always to be counted on for brilliant suggestions – no, I don’t have a way of checking my blood pressure at home, and it’s a very good idea. I'll investigate. Maureen, I will certainly go to the geriatric medicine appt as soon as it is offered, and look forward to it. Perhaps unusually for my age, the only pill I regularly take is one to thin my blood, as a result of that pulmonary embolism three years ago or whenever it was.

And, Kirsten, will Penguin write to us with a short list of our reading for March? Or do we need to take more active steps? I have finished “Jacob’s Room” and it is very interesting indeed. It comes fairly early in Woolf’s career, and is certainly “modernist”. It’s not stream-of-consciousness like “Mrs Dalloway”, but it’s certainly stream-of-something. It segues from place to place and character to character like a skilful movie.

The Six Nations rugby tournament has started. (Sinking of non-rugby-loving hearts.) This first weekend was brilliant. Wales beat France in Paris, and England (distinctly the underdogs) beat Ireland decisively in Dublin. I hope Mrs May is allowing herself to enjoy that result. Both were thrilling matches. Scotland beat Italy here in Edinburgh, somewhat more pedestrian-ly.

Here is Paradox, captivated by the singing of “Flower of Scotland” before our match. An instant before, she had been standing on her hind legs for a better look. Alas, I didn't get that picture.

As you can see, not the weather one might have wished, for Groundhog Day.