Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Oh, dear – May. Here it is. I love it so much that I’m sorry to see it come. I’m far happier looking forward to it.  Although C. rightly points out that in a few days we can start seriously counting down to our 2020 cruise, which sets sail in early May next year.

Andrew and Andrea today, with the happy news that they now have enough patronage that he has given up his day job. The main interview was with Jillian Moreno, all about wool and its qualities and very interesting. At the end we had perhaps half-an-hour from this year’s EYF and I nearly wept. Probably never again, for me. It was almost too much for my strength this year, and next time – if there is one -- I’ll be nearly 88. Clearly the gap will be a big disappointment, too, for many of the exhibitors.

I have a small, private sorrow about that gap. I met one of you in the early-morning queue to get in, two years ago. She recognised me by a clue I had advertised here on the blog. She lives on Loch Fyne, not all that far from Alexander and Ketki. Last year we met by arrangement and had a sandwich lunch together,

This year, we had planned to go out for a proper lunch of serious soup in a restaurant she knew. We had to cancel because of bad news. But then we had better news, and rescheduled for 2020. Alas! it is not to be.

On a more cheerful note, I have made good progress with the scarf, and even wondered if I would know the pattern well enough by then to take it along to Lerwick. I think not – it will never be entirely suitable for knitting in company with strangers, because of having to pay attention, and it’s bulky and will become increasingly so. I’ll stick with the usual travel socks.

But how lucky I am to have hit on so suitable a yarn as I tottered feebly about the EYF marketplace!

I found a message from KD today in my Promotions file. A lot of it was about her Pabaigh pattern – a tee with a funnel neck, in Millarochy Tweed. What about just knitting that, with the stripes in st st? But, JennyS, I think my heart is with you – another Dathan hap, and it will be completely different and equally wonderful.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Compared to recent excitement – nothing.

Here’s Thomas’ scarf, so far:

You will see that I have allowed myself one extra column, beyond the central one, in the knitting of the Cup. That’s because I thought it would look better that way, and because, although we didn’t win, we left them chastened.

The question is, how badly is the Calcutta Cup bit going to bulge out, once the cables start pulling in? Time will tell. It’s more or less all right so far. I’m afraid I don’t entirely understand Gaughan’s “Stocking Stitch Equivalent” (SSE) scale, but however it works, cables are going to be narrower than st st.

Reading & Life

“North and South” is an excellent idea. It has been a very long time since I read (and enjoyed) it, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only read it once. I spent some time today with my new thriller, which is good enough to keep me reading, at least. Then I must certainly finish “No Name”. If I can finish “Daniel Deronda”, I can finish anything.

Archie and I planted some nicely chitted potatoes in a bag. There are two more bags to do, but it’s a rather tedious task, and not entirely straightforward;  just as well, therefore, to break it up.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

What a week for knitting news! (at least, if you count today, improperly, as Seven rather than One).

There’s a blog post up from Kate Davies herself. She has had a tough time, and isn’t well yet. I think I had assumed – I’ve forgotten the details – that it was some unpleasantness on social media connected with racism in knitting which drove her to withdraw from the public eye. That may have been a factor, but it certainly wasn’t the whole story. (Needless I hope to say, she is not and never has been a racist.)

She says she’s getting better. We can only hope so. She’s still knitting and still walking.

I forgot to mention yesterday that there’s a new colour available of her Millarochy tweed yarn – a beautiful primrose yellow. Yellow had been rather conspicuously missing from the palate. I love my Dathan hap so much I am thinking a bit about knitting a pullover. I still don’t quite like the shape of the KD one, however. Maybe another hap, with some yellow in it.

As for my own knitting, I am now well advanced with the date and the half-Calcutta-Cup on Thomas M’s scarf. I have the same sense of surprise that happens every time I knit letters or numbers – can I express this idea properly? The knitting itself is utterly unrhythmical and seems senseless, but what emerges makes amazing sense.

Here’s the swatch:

The first third doesn’t count. That’s where I assumed, quite wrongly, that after the first cross-over everything would revert to the k2 p2 of the first row of its own accord.


I’m progressing well with Wilkie Collins’ “No Name”, although there’s still an awful long way to go. I'm afraid I have succumbed to the latest Simon Beckett, however -- "The Smell of Death". It's very well reviewed, and starts well, with a minimum of maggots.


Mary Lou, I don’t trust myself as an arbiter of taste since I have lost my sense of smell – but I think you’ll be alright with those anchovies in that lamb stew (see yesterday). They sort of melt into the oil and contribute only saltiness.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The NHS in its new spirit of openness has sent me a three page report on my visit to a Doctor for the Elderly a couple of weeks ago, It seems a fair report of what I said. The doctor’s only conclusion is that less cider would be a good idea. Or none at all. Towards the end it says “She is 85 although she does look much younger than her age”. Not just “younger” – “much younger”.

It quite made my day.

Recovering from my Italian lesson always takes a while. Next week will be tricky, as we have moved the lesson to Friday morning because Rachel and Ed will be arriving for the weekend on Friday evening. (It is another holiday weekend. They come thick and fast, this time of year.) And my Personal Trainer comes on Friday morning, late. And I want a warming supper to be ready when the travellers arrive. (Gennaro Contaldo’s Classic Lamb Stew) I hope it will all work out.

But I have done no knitting yet today. The conclusion of the Italian lesson always leaves me feeling that I have the whole world to play with, and all the time I need for everything – and so I do nothing. That is the attitude that brings me to Friday evening with no Italian done.

There have been more posts in the hornet’s-nest of a thread I started in the EYF Ravelry group. Thank you, profoundly, to those of you who posted in my defence.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Tired, tired.

Nothing much has happened today, except that I had a heart scan. “Nothing to worry about, in there,” he said, but by the time I had got there, and got back, and disarranged my simple meals, and…. I was prostrate. No Italian homework tonight, and I think I already know how to say “I’m sorry, I haven’t done my homework.” Maybe I’ll get up at 6 tomorrow. The Skype lesson is at 8.


When I heard the news, I rushed off to Ravelry and started a new thread and said what I said here yesterday. But I must have said it wrong, for a moderator has come down on me hard, on the assumption that I don’t know how much work Jo and Mica have put into it.

I’ve never been to an event so well-organised. That obviously isn’t easy. I am sorry to have implied otherwise.

However, my point here is that the EYF is a brilliant success, not only in the world of knitting but also in Edinburgh and beyond that, in Scottish tourism (although I suspect they don’t appreciate it). And I would like to see it put on a firm footing. Every-other-year would be fine. But not-next-year-because-we’re-exhausted, although absolutely understandable, is not fine. I feel there must be some way forward involving, perhaps,  more staff and a more formal structure.

(My thread in the Ravelry EYF group is called “EYF 2020” if you want to go look, There’s not much there.)

Otherwise, not much knitting. I have been worrying about the shape of my scarf. I started with k2, p2 rib, and obviously it will expand a bit as I move into the ss rows with the “2019” and the half-Calcutta Cup. Gaughan has a most ingenious “SSE” measure with each of her patterns, meaning “stocking stitch equivalent”. I am sure that if I were a designer, it would be invaluable, but as it is, I don’t quite grasp the mathematics.

But I find myself uncharacteristically relaxed. If the current attempt bulges in and out in an unseemly way, it will just have to be reclassified as Swatch No. Two.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Well, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. There’s not going to be an EYF next year. Jo and Mica are exhausted (understandably) and want some time off.

I think it’s a mistake to stop when you’re on a roll. This might be the moment to think out a sustainable plan for the future, including staff to take some of the weight from their shoulders. Or the moment to sell out to Vogue, who knows? But no EYF!!!!!!!


The baby strawberry plants I mentioned yesterday turned up this morning bright and early. Archie came somewhat later, and we got them planted. I’m very pleased with them:

The big pot on the right contains a very small apple tree, with a single burst of flower. In the back row is a pot of salad leaves (nothing above ground yet) and a clematis which turned up on the doorstep one day like a stray kitten.

That leaves only the mint pot to do – I’ve ordered new mint, and mean to turn the pot out altogether and start again. And there are still the potatoes to plant. We’ll have to go back to Homebase for another bag of compost. I hope to get it all done before setting sail for Lerwick.


Thank you very much indeed for help and advice. I have gone with the wider scarf. Weavinfool, the scarf is knit flat, with a pattern which Gaughan recommends as looking good on both sides (and she’s right). Yes, I could just widen the edging, but I think it will look neater with a narrow one. I visualise this as a big cosy scarf which a young man might wrap twice around his neck and wear instead of a coat, at least to rugby matches when it isn’t actually snowing.

I should start on the intarsia part of the design tomorrow. Charting numbers is easy these days – they’re all on-line. And for the cup, I can just use half of an image I have used before. Recently! at that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The weather is deteriorating, as forecast. I've ordered some strawberry plants for my strawberry pot -- they are said to have pretty little double red flowers, as well as strawberries, The nursery says they're on the way. I'll have to plant them myself -- not a good idea to keep them until Archie reappears next week,

I’ve been having a great time with Gaughan’s Pattern 100. Goodness, she’s clever. It’s called “Distant Share Lattice” which doesn’t tell us much. It turns out that the rows without cables, the ones in which you knit-the-knits and purl-the-purls, are very easy. At first I thought I might have to write out the row in explicit knits and purls. Then I grasped that the rhythm is always 2-2-2-1. As it might be, k2 p2 k2 k1, with the other side in reverse.

Sort of like doing the rumba.

I’ve finished the swatch. I’ll photograph it the next time we get some strong sunlight. It doesn’t show up tremendously well, which I think may be a plus.

I’ve also charted “2019” and a half-Calcutta Cup. The only remaining problem is, how wide to make the scarf. I think my swatch looks a bit narrow. Adding one more repeat, 14 stitches, produces a number of stitches which fits the chart perfectly. But is the scarf now too wide? It would be perfectly possible to knit the narrower version with the Cup and the date above and below each other, instead of side by side.

I’ll let that one rest overnight.

The yarn is called  “Croft”. I bought it from Jamieson & Smith at the EYF, but the label doesn't suggest that it's exclusive to them. It's Shetland Island wool, spun in Yorkshire. It’s lovely. What will happen to that and thousands of other business arrangements when Ms Sturgeon gets her way on independence, and we have another border to worry about?


I’m moving forward in Wilkie Collins’ “No Name” and continuing to enjoy it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

I’ve been feeling a bit flat today. Missing the structure of Lent, perhaps. The weather has been good, but not great. Apple blossom in Drummond Place, as promised, but you may have to peer a bit:

I’ve started knitting a swatch for Thomas’ Calcutta Cup scarf, and it’s a good thing I did. All is not straightforward.

The pattern starts off, as many a cable before it, with a few rows of k2, p2. There’s a slightly unexpected p1 at the beginning and end of the row, but hey! ho! that’s what designers throw in.

Then one gets to the first cable row – and it begins by slipping four stitches onto a cable needle. That means, obviously, that the k2, p2 ribs are broken. OK, I can handle that. If one follows the row carefully across, it comes out right.

The following row, however, says to knit the knits and purl the purls. One has heard that before. The yarn is a dark blue, for Scotland. It’s not entirely easy for aged eyes to see what’s what, especially where the stitches are tortured into cables. But I can assure you that simply knitting that next row the way it was knitted before, won’t work. I’ll return to the problem tomorrow, with fresher eyes, and glad (for once) that this is only a swatch.

Isn’t knitting fun!!


I finished “Cousin Henry”. It resembles “Lady Anna” in that there is a central and not uninteresting problem, un-alleviated by distractions. And the characters involved in the problem, are not all that nice. Whereas in HKHWR, the central problem is equally burdensome and the characters involved in it, equally unappetising – but the whole is lifted by a lot of subsidiary characters with lots of interesting problems and amours.

I, too, have started “No Name” (Wilkie Collins), which starts brilliantly. Mary Lou, I was one degree stingier than you were, and got it for free as a Penguin Classic. So far, so good – no coal miners wandering about with candies in their hats, as in “Daniel Deronda”. And, quite apart from the transcription, the book begins splendidly: lively characters, well delineated.

I’m awfully glad to hear about your asparagus. I have now made hollandaise sauce three times to pour over English asparagus from the supermarket, so far without disaster. It’s no wonder I haven’t lost any weight to speak of, in Lent.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The weather here has been sublime, a rare coincidence with a major holiday. (The English take Easter tremendously seriously, although not particularly religiously. It’s the first big bank holiday break after the long winter. Scotland doesn’t get quite so excited about it.) Archie and I got some gardening done on the front step this morning – a “patio courgette” sown, and some lettuce, and the quince tree manured. Slower and harder work than it sounds. And the sun was warm on my shoulders.

And it’s apple blossom time in Drummond Place. I meant to take some pictures for you – hope to do it tomorrow.

I had a very pleasant Easter, too, yesterday, with Helen and Archie and Fergus and a seriously delicious free-range chicken. I can’t easily figure out how to enable the Greek alphabet in order to show you the traditional Easter greeting which Helen and I exchanged. Except that the Greek Easter is still nearly a week away.

It was the Queen’s birthday yesterday. She’s 93. My husband, had he lived, would have been 94 in November.

I’ve finished knitting the jumper-weight edging for my Shetland hap class, and very much prefer it to my first attempt in lace-weight. I don’t know whether to bind it off or not. For the moment I will lay such thoughts aside and get started on a swatch for Thomas Miles’ Calcutta Cup ’19 scarf. It will be the first time (and almost certainly the last) in which I have been called on for Calcutta Cup knitting in an odd-numbered year.


I’ve whizzed through a thriller recommended by the Financial Times: Simon Beckett, “The Chemistry of Death”. Good, but I don’t think I’ll go on with him. Too many maggots. I must get back to “Cousin Henry” and to thinking about Wilkie Collins.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Not much tonight. Lent is over. This is the day, under the old dispensation, when Evelyn Waugh would walk happily about smoking his first cigar. Happy Easter, Happy Passover, happy pleasant weekend to all, as appropriate.

Mary Lou (and others interested), the note from Sharon Miller referred to yesterday is (I think) the footnote on page 36 of Heirloom Knitting, in which she says that “with these finer yarns [cobweb-weight and lace-weight] both these decreases [/ and \] could be simply and traditionally worked as ‘knit 2 together’, without affecting the finished appearance after dressing.”

So I am not at liberty to substitute SSK for 2tog, knitting as I am with jumper-weight. I’m nearly finished, and continue to like the look of things.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The weather has suddenly turned wonderful, just in time for the Easter weekend. La Primavera, quando Flora da fiori adorna il mondo.

Laura – in her comment, Wednesday -- has found an archive containing Franklin’s “Ten Knitters”. That was clever of her, and a most useful resource. It’s still every bit as good as it used to be.

I did re-knit the lace edging in jumper-weight – at least, I am well along with doing so. I like it much better this way. The needles I have been using, for both attempts, are making rather heavy weather of k2tog. I might have a look at Sharon Miller’s Etsy page to see what she sells for lace knitting.

One of the big surprises in the history of my discovery of knitting, was Sharon’s remark, in the magisterial “Heirloom Knitting”, that directional decreases don't matter in garter stitch. Or was it, in lace knitting generally? That ought to mean that I could be using ssk all along, and it might be easier. I’ll try.


I’m not much enjoying “Cousin Henry” because none of the characters are very nice, not even the heroine who is sought in marriage by a young clergyman. At least it’s not very long.

I’m not sure, now that we get down to the knitty gritty, that I haven’t read “The Moonstone” after all. As bedtime reading. We kept a list (with a few gaps) of our bedtime books, extending over many decades. I might have a look. The order is completely haphazard. There seems to be plenty more Collins for me to read anyway, although there’s probably a good reason why the famous two are famous.

(In many ways, our most successful bedtime book of all time was “Ulysses”. I was very dubious when my husband proposed it. But it turns out that it’s absolutely meant to be read out loud.)

I think I’ve done enough Italian homework, for once, that I can allow myself an early night.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Cat, I’d love to have Franklin’s “Ten Knitters You Meet in Hell”. How prudent of you to save it! I’ll print it and keep it in one of his books. I think it would be possible (and easy) to attach it to this blog as a permanent page, like Queer Joe’s “100 Things About Me”  -- but that, of course, would be a violation of copyright. I email Franklin every year to ask him to come and be a teacher at the EYF but he never answers, so is unlikely to respond to a request for a waiver of copyright.

Anyway, he seems to be in Paris at the moment. But isn’t he just back from Rome? Wouldn’t it have been easier to go directly from one to the other?

I’m nearly finished (one more bump) with the edging for my mini-hap in Donna Smith’s class at the Shetland Wool Adventure. It has imperfections. I would almost say it is too easy to knit accurately. I used lace-weight yarn. I am seriously tempted to try again in Shetland jumper-weight. The instructions leave the question open. Jumper-weight is common enough for haps.

Maureen, I was terribly encouraged to learn that yours, too, wasn’t very bumpy on the outside edge.

I also got the yarn out, and a skein of it wound, for Thomas’ Calcutta Cup scarf. I think I’ll even knit a swatch. My plan is to use Pattern No. 100 in Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook. It’s one of the ones she recommends for looking good on both sides. It’s fascinating to compare the photograph with the chart. The former looks as if you’d be struggling to twist every stitch. The latter looks easy-peasy.

Anybody who has the book: what would you guess is the edging she uses on the samples? I thought I’d try knitting the first stitch, and then doing three stitches in seed stitch, but I doubt if that’s right.


I finished Ruth Rendell’s “Portobello”. It’s far from her best – but awfully good, compared to almost anybody else. I have sunk down gratefully with Trollope’s “Cousin Henry” which I already had in Kindle format.

I got an ad today from Amazon for Wilkie Collins. I haven’t read him for many, many years – and maybe, even then, nothing but “Woman in White”. It’s not a bad idea, and he’s very cheap, being classic. He was named after the artist David Wilkie, but I don’t know why – was his father a mate of the artist’s?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Forward. Here’s the baby sweater, blocked:

(I rotated the image but couldn't figure out how to save it in its new orientation. They keep changing the rules.)

And I’m about half way through the edging for my hap class in Shetland. It’s as simple as it could possibly be: a six row pattern, action on both sides, up and down from seven stitches to ten and back.

The outer edge doesn’t look as bumpy as I would like. Should I actually block it? Or would that be too Goody-Two-Shoes?

(Thinking along those lines reminds me that I went in search of Franklin’s essay on “The Ten Knitters You Meet in Hell” the other day, and discovered that it seems to have disappeared – presumably swept away with the Twist Collective in which it appeared. That’s a considerable loss to knitting literature. I hope it will re-surface one day.)

Whatever I decide about blocking, it will be finished soon. I had better get the knitting graph paper out and start on half-Calcutta-Cups.

Mary Lou, (comment yesterday), some of Kaffe’s early patterns, notably “Tumbling Blocks” and its later derivatives (from “Glorious Knitting”, which I think may have been called something else in the U.S.) -- succeed in getting some flow even into intarsia. Knit them with yard-long lengths of yarn which you just pull through the tangle, as he recommends.


I must be near the end of Rendell’s “Portobello”. I’m still enjoying it. Trollope next.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Alexander came over from Glasgow and we tottered around the garden together. Helen will come tomorrow (not that I can’t do it alone). Otherwise, it was a day of unexpected endings.

Here is the baby sweater, as yet unblocked:

I finished it while watching Andrew and Andrea. A good episode, as almost always, with Woolly Wormhead the principal guest. I took her class at the EYF maybe three years ago, and can remember but little of it. Her hats are most inventive, however, and she is an attractive character. I wasn’t so keen on the other designer, and I hope Andrea won’t really make Andrew learn to do complicated intarsia pictures in double knitting.

But that left me with the question of what to knit right now. I can’t cast on the Calcutta Cup scarf without first charting the half-cup and “2019” to see how many stitches I need. I think the thing to do is to print the simple pattern for that Shetland edging required for my Wool Adventure, and look out yarn and needles. Do that at the energetic beginning of the day. Start knitting in front of Pointless.

Fortunately I did at least have a pair of Emergency Socks. I knit them.

The other thing I finished was the book by Tessa Hadley. I don’t think I’ll go on with her. Top of the pile amongst my downloaded Kindle books was Ruth Rendell’s “Portobello” so I started that. I’m not absolutely sure I haven’t read it at some point in the past. But not recently, because Amazon won’t let me buy a book for the Kindle a second time. I’ve often tried. This must be a recent purchase, to be there on top.

She does make one feel that one has trusted one’s valuable leisure into the safe hands of a master. But I must plan the next step soon, so that the end doesn’t take me by surprise again.

Here is a picture of my cats. Notice that the younger one, who is something of a bully, has got the blanket to sleep on, and the spot at the warmer end of the Aga.

Monday, April 15, 2019

A  fairly productive day. Archie comes around a couple of times a week, as you may have gathered, to help me with heavy things, and with the sorting of the endless piles of paper – he’s good at that – and doorstep gardening and going for walks. His presence often provokes me into doing paper-work-y things which I have been postponing. It was too cold for comfortable gardening today but we got a lot of other things done.

Including finding (amongst my emails) and printing my ferry reservations from Aberdeen to Lerwick and back, for the Wool Adventure on Shetland, now about a month away.

There’s some homework for the Adventure. It will take a while to knit a very simple edging for the hap we are going to learn about. In the class, the rest of it will be knit inwards, Amedro-fashion. I had better do that as soon as the baby sweater is finished (which won’t be long now), rather than leaving it to do on the ferry in my usual fashion.

After we finished our morning’s work, Archie’s brother Mungo came around and cooked lunch. Then they both cleaned up the kitchen. Mungo is going back to Oxford tomorrow. He’s the one who’s studying Arabic.

I’ve now got it in writing that the Perth County Council has removed the 100% surcharge on the property tax for our house in Strathardle. And today Archie and I applied for a 25% reduction of my Edinburgh property tax – I’m due that because I live here alone. I only recently found out about that one.


Kate, I meant to answer your comment yesterday. I do have a spiralizer, and love making courgette-spaghetti. When Greek Helen and I were putting the kitchen back together after last year's upheaval, she said as she put it in a drawer, There's one thing you'll never use. But she was wrong. Mindful Chef is very health-conscious, and often has me spiralizing things, especially courgettes

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Again, there is little to report. I am well embarked on the second baby-sweater sleeve. I have bought and downloaded the Spring Shawl pattern from Sharon Miller, and printed as much of it as I need to start off with. (It’s 23 pages in all, and I don’t entirely know how to load new paper into my printer.)

It came with a nice little note from Sharon. Boilerplate? It didn’t sound like it. Anyway, I replied.

I’m not terribly keen on Tessa Hadley’s “Master Bedroom”, as I progress, but I think I’ll finish it. Then another Trollope.

Thank you for all your help with courgette-growing (and cooking). I’ll go for it – although there is little space left on the step as it is, and the potatoes, currently set to chit in the kitchen, are still to be put out there.  I’ll keep you posted. The weather has turned cold.

I have hired the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man” from Google, on one of those deals where I have to finish watching it within 48 hours. I think it’s a great film. It faces up to the same problems as are addressed in the Book of Job, and comes away equally baffled. I was sent back to it, so to speak, by hearing this morning of a Jewish friend-of-a-friend who went to hear a madrigal choir singing St John’s Passion and came home saying that he “hated that 2nd century religious propaganda”. His is a perfectly reasonable point of view, but…

Saturday, April 13, 2019

I woke up this morning to hear the nice lady on the radio give the time in Greenwich Mean, just as my cable television did yesterday. Unnerving. Had she been right, I could have stayed in bed another hour before Skype-ing to Rome. 

I’ve just been looking back at this blog in April, 2009. That was the year of my nephew Theo’s wedding. That was also the year in which I figured out that my lamentable tendency to eat chocolate in Lent was a substitute for the carbohydrate in cider. That year I cut out both, and lost an agreeable amount of weight. I’m pretty sure I adopted a cut-down version of cider drinking after Easter, and tried to avoid refined sugar altogether, and went on losing weight. I was quite svelte at the wedding.

I hoped the blog might tell me exactly what that reduced-cider regime was, but no. It’s all about knitting the Princess shawl, and growing vegetables. This year, I've only lost 3 or 4 pounds.

Thank you for your help with my shawl-search. Mary Lou, I think I may have your hap book: Sharon Miller published a paper-bound large-pamphlet-style essay on the subject, which I’ve got. Laura, I’ve had a look on Ravelry, too. It works better there if I limit the search to “Shetland lace”. Not without interest. Cat, I think I’ve got the “Queen Susan” pattern. Challenging, as you say!

The more I wander, the more I think I might attempt Sharon’s “Spring” shawl. I do like the triangular shape. It might even be possible to reduce it in size slightly. I probably won’t live to finish it, but so what. It was encouraging to see how much I found to say about the Princess-in-progress, back in 2009.

I also found a reference to a variety of courgette marketed as suitable for container-growing on one’s patio. I wonder if that’s still available. Courgettes (=zucchini) are great fun to grow although a bit boring to eat.

No knitting yet today, not much reading, a pleasant Italian lesson. Shandy, I found HKHWR and watched a bit of it. And enjoyed it. But I don’t think I’ll go on. The thing to do is to read another Trollope.

Friday, April 12, 2019

My cable television seems to have reverted to Greenwich Mean Time – i.e., the programmes being shown just now should have appeared an hour ago. I hope “Pointless” hasn’t been squeezed out altogether.

But without it (so far), I haven’t done much knitting. I’ve finished the decreases on the first sleeve of the baby sweater, and am knitting the final 8 rounds of garter stitch.

I have also done some more thinking about a final wedding shawl. There is nothing in “A Gathering of Lace” which is quite right, although I hesitate over the Mediterranean shawl. There is nothing – no finished project, just-do-this-and-don’t-worry – quite right in “Heirloom Knitting” either. I very much like the idea, presented towards the end, of a “frame” around the centre of a square shawl, but I don’t feel up to the effort of planning one for myself.

Maybe I’ll just have to buy and print Sharon Miller’s “Spring Shawl”, take it to Lerwick with me, and see what happens.


I attempted “Daniel Deronda” on Netflix but I don’t think I’ll go on with it. Andrew Davies (the adapter) at his best actually illuminates a novel, but that isn’t happening this time. Also, Hugh Bonneville is cast as the Baddie, Mr. Grandcourt (wonderful name). I love him – not for Downton Abbey but for “Twenty Twelve” and “W1A” (in both of which he is a bewildered BBC executive) and for “Notting Hill”. He is a perfectly good actor, but I simply cannot believe in his badness. Gwendolen would be lucky to get him.

And, Shandy, I cannot persuade Netflix to come across with HKHWR. I can get Masterpiece Theatre, all right. Is there something I should know?

(Sure enough, I got my “Pointless”, an hour late. I finished the first baby sweater sleeve, and made a small beginning at picking up stitches for the second.)

After a bit of floundering around, I have settled down (I think) with Tessa Hadley and “The Master Bedroom” for my next read.  I don’t think I’ve read her before. “Edith’s Diary” was disturbing at one point – the account of a disturbed child – and all the other characters were boring, at least to start off with.

Now for some Grammatica Avanzata, an hour later and tireder than I should be.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Archie came round and we did some doorstep gardening. I made good progress with the first sleeve of the baby sweater. I am shortening the sleeve just a little – decreases every 5th round instead of every 6th. I think I’ve said before that sleeves were always too long when I was knitting for my own babies.

Another “Pointless” should see the first sleeve done.

And I thought a bit about Shetland lace, without getting very forrad’er. I’m not sure that I don’t find the Sheelagh shawl a bit boring.

Thank you for your help with my struggles with “Kafkaesque”. I’ll go into Settings and tell my iPad to shut up, Mary Lou. I think my favourite one in “Daniel Deronda” was the description of a coal-mining area where men went about with candies in their hats.

Jenny (comment, day before yesterday), I was delighted to see your reference to “Kirrie dumplings”. Needless to say, I have never before seen the phrase written down. Your version sounds a good deal right-er than my “curry”. I think your guess is right, too, that England is a bit too dry for them. I used to grow them in our English gardens, and was always astonished when we got to Strathardle to see how big and cabbage-like the Scottish ones were.

They grow almost like weeds. Our soil is acid – I think that’s right, although I tend to get the terms confused. The sort of soil that rhododendrons like.

Helen came bursting in yesterday evening with an armload of home-grown daffodils, fresh from Strathardle. Here is a picture she sent from there on Wednesday morning.

I’ve finished “Black Mischief” – far from his best, but time spent with Basil Seal is never entirely wasted. What next? I am attempting Patricia Highsmith’s “Edith’s Diary”, with some misgivings. It’s a Virago Modern Classic, at least. After that I think I will allow myself to return to Trollope.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The dr couldn’t find anything wrong with me, indeed seemed to think I was doing rather well for 85 except that I should cut back on Weston’s Vintage Cider. I am trying to think of a post-Lenten discipline which I might be able to stick to. I am to have scans of liver and heart.

So perhaps I should just rise above weakness. I have looked out my knitting belt and long needles, to take to Shetland to be instructed in their use. It took a while to find them. I have got every knitting-associated gadget in Christendom, including a whole set of those two-headed crochet hooks. Under it all was the belt.

I’ve finished the front and back of the baby sweater, pinned the shoulders, and picked up the stitches for the first sleeve. And I’ve been thinking about fine lace. Hellie’s shawl – the one Archie and I blocked recently – has been safely conveyed to London and is now in the hands of this year’s bride. She has sent me an email of extravagant thanks, prompting me again to wonder if I have the oomph for one more. Amedro’s Sheelagh shawl might be a bit easier than Sharon Miller’s Spring Shawl which seems to be a mini-Princess. Not very mini, at that. On the other hand, a huge triangle (Spring shawl) is probably a more useful shape for a wedding shawl than a big square.

And I’ve finished “Daniel Deronda”, thank goodness. I need something now with few words, and no machine transcription. I’ve gone for “Black Mischief”. I haven’t read that for a while.

I tried to send an email to some of my children this morning containing the word “Kafka-esque”. The iPad was determined not to let me, and kept supplying more and more preposterous corrections, changing the word I had typed. I think my Kindle DD suffered from that sort of thing – the scanner getting things wrong, and a spell-checker making them wronger.

My email was about Perth County Council, which has put a 100% “unoccupied” surcharge on the property taxes for our house in Strathardle. There are clearly-worded government websites which make it clear that a “second home”, if used for 30 nights a year, doesn’t qualify as “unoccupied”.

I wrote them a letter when I got the original bill, about a month ago, enclosing a copy of an electricity bill in evidence that the house is well-used. They didn’t reply, and took the full (= doubled) instalment on the 1st of April, the beginning of the Council Tax year. So today I struggled through a Kafka-esque telephone call and they have agreed that I am right. We’ll see.

Shandy, you’re right about Compton McKenzie.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

I feel they’re out to get me: a) there’s a picture in today’s Times taken inside our house, admittedly some years before we moved into it; and b) the BBC Radio Four news bulletin at 6 p.m., just now, announced the death of a Glasgow University classmate of mine. Three years younger than I am.

Otherwise, a pretty uneventful day. I have finished knitting the garter stitch block on the front of the baby sweater, and have embarked on the short rows at the top. They won’t take long. And I have read furiously on, on “Daniel Deronda”, determined to polish him off so that I can wallow in the television adaptation. I’m getting there. It's a peculiar book.

Mary Lou, I’ve got a DVD player attached to the television but I’ve never really struck up a relationship with it. My main difficulty was that if I pause a disk for any reason, the machine won't remember my place but will go back to the beginning, Fine for disks that begin with a menu. It’s pretty old, too. Maybe I should investigate the current field.

Anon, thank you for your thoughtful message about my appt with the geriatric specialist tomorrow. My own suspicion is that current weakness is the aftermath of the pulmonary embolism I had four years (or so) ago. He should have the details on his computer. I think I feel roughly as I felt in the months during which I was slowly recovering from pneumonia, when I was in my 50’s. But it’s better to try to think through everything, as you suggest, and not prejudge my case.

Helen and her family seem to be having a good time in Strathardle, and the weather has been kind. Here are some of the daffodils for which our house is famous. Helen says that a huge rabbit is living in that brae, perhaps somebody’s former pet.

Here are some of the curry dumplings outside the back door. They flourish especially just at the point (here in the foreground) where the drain pipe leaves the bathroom and begins its course under the house towards the septic tank. Sometimes I wonder if we have a slow leak.

Monday, April 08, 2019

All well. I’m somewhat advanced with the front bib of the baby sweater, enjoying the peaceful garter stitch.

Thank you for your kind comments about the fullness of my programme. Most of the items you mention, such as Italian grammar and knitting and Daniel Deronda, can be done sitting down. Even pesto-making doesn’t involve standing for long. My difficulty comes when I start trying to totter about, although there’s nothing specifically wrong.

I have an appt with a geriatric consultant on Wednesday. I am formulating a list of all my symptoms – no sense of smell, hair has stopped growing, life-long nasal drip, general weakness, surely there must be more. I did well on walking this morning.

I discovered, reading my morning paper today, that the BBC and Andrew Davies – the prince of translators of books into television (“Pride and Prejudice”, “Middlemarch”, amongst many others) – have done “Daniel Deronda”, and that it’s available on Netflix! So that takes care of my television for the next few days, except that I mustn’t start until I finish the book. My sister – who was engaged upon a PhD in Eng Lit until she threw it up for medicine – says she certainly isn’t going to read it again. The final portions, which I have now reached, are livelier than the beginning.

I also discovered, even more to my surprise, in the course of my Googl’ing, that Davies and the BBC have done “He Knew He Was Right”. I don’t remember ever having heard of it until I plucked it by random from the shelf recently. That seems to be available only on a disk. That would play on my computer, right? Although that’s not a very comfortable arrangement for evening viewing and knitting.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

It has been a day of unsurpassed idleness, but I have at least bound off the back of the baby sweater, after some nifty short-rowing, and retrieved the stitches for the front. All is well.

Jenny, the point of my using the Millarochy colours as a “repeating group of 15” in the Dathan hap – a most useful phrase – was just that that seemed the best way of not-quite-ensuring that I wouldn’t run out of any of them. And I didn’t, even with those tremendously long rows at the end. The yardage is generous.

Tom contributes a not uninteresting post to the KD blog today, but this ostentatious refusal to give us the slightest hint about Kate’s condition -- on his part, and that of the staff member who’s learning to knit -- is becoming rather irritating.


Mary Lou, I am quite seriously worried about your remark that you found “A Gentleman in Moscow” here on this blog. You don’t actually say that – you say “thanks to…” I’ve looked it up. It was clearly last year’s sensation – there is even a book about it, for use with one’s book group. But I have no memory of ever having heard of it, let alone read it. I am sparing in my acquaintance with books-set-in-foreign-countries so I think I would remember. (I don’t count the US or India as foreign, and I’ll go anywhere with John LeCarre.) Please reassure me if you can.

Meanwhile I have added it to my list. It does sound good. I like Julian Barnes – Kirsten, should I add “The Only Story” to that list?

“Daniel Deronda” has picked up a bit, although it’s still awfully wordy. At the moment, it looks like turning into a proto-Zionist tract which is certainly an unexpected development.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

The Italian lesson went well. We are about to move on to a book called Grammatica Avanzata della Lingua Italiana which I think is what I need. The sequence of moods and tenses is worse than in Latin, especially because Federica insists on calling them by their Italian names. Gone is the good old pluperfect subjunctive. It has become the congiuntivo trapassato which is much worse. But it’s no use my floundering forever in tourist Italian.

Here’s the finished hap. When I got to this stage, I reverted to my earlier opinion, that it doesn’t need pinning. The KnitPro combs will have to wait until I finish the baby sweater.

As for creativity, I might as well say again that I don’t think it was involved at all. The work was all done by the 15 wonderful colours of Millarochy tweed. All the knitter has to do is keep to KD’s rules: 1) use all 15 colours; 2) knit in stripes of 2, 4 or 6 rows. I would perhaps add, for the sake of clarity: use each of the 15 colours in one stripe each, and then start in on them again.

Mary Lou, I am – if strength allows – going to Shetland for a Wool Adventure next month, travelling there and back by train and ferry. In May, 2020, C. and I are booked on a Majestic Line cruise to the upper left-hand corner of the Scottish mainland. For that one, I must remain sufficiently in gamba (as we say in Italian) to get on board and to go up and down the stairs to our room. But I don’t have to go on the shore excursions – C. can tell me all about them. James recommends a good and not too expensive pair of binoculars, for looking at wildlife.


Helen and her family have gone off to Strathardle for a long weekend. The cats and I could have joined them, but the weather is dismal and Helen would have had to make two trips to get us all there. I harvested some more wild garlic in Drummond Place Garden this morning and mean to make a garlic pesto again, and/or some wild garlic mayonnaise.

“Daniel Deronda” remains tough going. Too much authorial exposition, not enough conversation – and the Kindle app says that I have more than eight hours of it to look forward to.

Friday, April 05, 2019

The hap is finished, but for tomorrow’s blocking speriamo. The evening was drawing in, so I put it round my shoulders for the end of Pointless and the beginning of the news. It’s nice and cosy. Those extra increases at the end of the wingspan pay off: the ends tuck neatly under one’s elbows.

I’m very pleased with it. I see myself wearing it on next year’s cruise – but that’s a long time to wait. Maybe I’ll wear it to Shetland next month.

Then I went back to the baby sweater, and soon dropped a stitch. There’s a knitting skill I have never mastered, and probably never will: recovering a dropped stitch in garter stitch. I’ve got one of those two-headed crochet hooks somewhere, but I never fared any better with that. The result today will pass the galloping horse test, but only just.


Janet, Geoff Hamilton’s “Ornamental Kitchen Garden” became a book after it was a television series. Amazon offers it very cheaply. Maybe I’ll tell them to send a copy to James. Some commenters complain about the lack of colour pictures, but the majority are very enthusiastic.

Not much else today – and this evening must be devoted, as many a Friday before it, to my Italian homework. Every time I resolve to get down to it early in the week, and every time…

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Not much, today. The mail didn’t arrive until 1:40, so no walk. I’m not good for much in the afternoon. But the mail did include, as expected, my KnitPro blocking combs.

Such knitting as I did was on the baby sweater. I love variegated yarns and the patterns they make on the fabric. This one looks particularly good in garter stitch in which the upper body is worked. Mary Lou, I have no idea whether working the bottom garter stitch band on fewer stitches (or smaller needles) would discourage it from curling. You’re the designer! But if it blocks flat for you, I’m sure it will for me. And it will provide another outing for the KnitPros.

Reading and life

I spent a lot of time today on the paleography article in the new New Yorker. Most interesting.

I do agree, Shandy, that “The Claverings” is not Trollope’s best, and that we can see the resolution coming as soon as the fishing expedition is mooted. But he remains a most pleasant author to spend time with. I still can't quite say the same for "Daniel Deronda".

I keep meaning to thank you again for putting me on to “Duolingo”. I worked all the way through it whenever that was. I can’t remember what drew me back recently to have another look – but I find that they have completely re-done it, and it's better than ever, so I am working my way through again. I have learned the Italian word for “shark”, at least.

Archie and I sowed beetroot and rocket (=arugula) this morning. I will never be able again to wander outside and see what’s for dinner, but at least there may be something out there on the step to bring to the table. James has become an ardent gardener now that he is a south London householder, but I cannot persuade him yet that the summit of gardening pleasure is to be found in vegetable-growing.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Another day of steadily-forward. I’ve finished the weaving-in-of-ends, for the Dathan hap, rather to my own surprise. There are about 90 stitches left to bind off. (And the blocking combs are probably contained in the package which will be re-delivered tomorrow morning.) The baby sweater has been divided for the underarms. That's a good idea, Mary Lou, about marking your place with a pin when you are knitting trackless swathes of stocking stitch, to prove to yourself that you are actually getting somewhere.

The garter stitch band at the bottom is rolling upwards with determination, despite the k1p1 row which is meant to stop it doing so. I hope blocking will cure it. I like Meg’s story, though, in the introduction to the “Box the Compass” sweater in her book “Knitting”.

She and EZ had the idea of rotating the four decrease lines in a raglan yoke sweater, so that they ran down the outside middle of the sleeves, and the middle of the front and back. EZ plunged in without further ado, and knit it. When she brought it to Meg to try on, the sleeves looked lovely, but the front and back decrease lines “stood out in sharp cone-shaped points”.

EZ said, “It’ll block out”. She wasn’t used to being wrong, but she was that time.

I’m toying with the idea of attempting Sharon Miller’s “Spring Shawl”. There are three more granddaughter-brides to come, if they all marry. I might just have the oomph to produce one more shawl, and there’s nothing more fun than lace. I could buy the yarn when I’m in Shetland next month. It’s a thought.


I continue to make steady progress with “Daniel Deronda” and I think I’ll probably finish. I’m about half-way through. But it’s no “Middlemarch”.

My seed order came this afternoon. I am going to try to grow potatoes in bags on the doorstep this year; and some salad – that’s easy; and snow peas, up the railings on one side; and some beetroot, in a pot. There’ll be flowers, too, collected in a Maytime raid on the garden centre. Soon it won’t be entirely easy to get in and out of the front door.

I’ve set the potatoes to chit, just as in the Good Old Days of my Strathardle vegetable garden.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

I progressed as before on all three knitting-related fronts. The weaving-in is now virtually finished. The binding-off will require two more sessions, perhaps. The baby sweater has reached that dispiriting stage where I can knit round and round as much as I like without seeming to affect the overall length.

Archie and I toiled up Broughton Street this morning to execute some business at the bank, easily transacted. Then we took advantage of our newly-achieved distance above sea level to walk across the street and look at computers and television sets in John Lewis. Goodness, how technology is sweeping on! Then when we got home, there was one of those maddening post cards from the Royal Mail saying that they had failed to deliver something – very likely, my new KnitPro blocking combs. I have rescheduled the package for Thursday.

And later I had a grand time with Andrew and Andrea, who told me all about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

Including Katie Green. I had been meaning to tell you about her page of delightful knitting cartoons in the EYF free guide. But A&A found the real woman, and inspired me to want her tea towel covered with various breeds of sheep.

The main interview-ee was Jean Steinglass, an American who knits and designs round-yoked sweaters in stranded knitting. Very nice, too, but not nice enough to tempt me away from Kate Davies.


“Daniel Deronda” has picked up a bit now that – spoiler alert – Gwendolyn has accepted Grandcourt. The book is one of those that has been translated into free-Kindle format by machine. The not-infrequent passages of nonsense make the reading experience all the more exciting.

Recently a character left a country house because it had become “too hot for him”. I wouldn’t have expected the phrase in that sense (not referring to meteorology) for another 50 years.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Little to report. I did my two circuits of Drummond Place Gardens. I did some binding-off and some weaving-in and some baby knitting. I worried about Brexit. We have reached what I believe is called an impasse, in that matter. “Daniel Deronda” has become a shade more interesting and, sure enough, one or two Jews have appeared in its pages.

That was an interesting remark of yours, Tamar, about arsenic being used as a green dye, hence giving that colour something of a bad reputation.

I did a bit of natural dying some decades ago. A soupy brown is far and away the easiest colour to achieve. I was lucky enough to find some ochrolechia tartarea – a lichen – on some stones in Strathardle, and from that got a satisfactory purple and red. It produces purple on its own, red if macerated in urine or vinegar, as you prefer. I never got anywhere near green.

It seems remarkable that people living lives of great hardship, well below what you and I would consider the poverty line, had the time and energy and intellectual curiosity to discover such things. Once you have a market for your knitting, and know that ochrolechia will produce valuable colours, it’s reasonable enough to spend an afternoon looking for it. It’s not abundant (at least, it isn’t in Strathardle) and there is nothing in its appearance to suggest purple. How did it get started?

I suppose success with other lichens provoked someone into trying 'em all.