Sunday, June 30, 2019

Wimbledon tomorrow! A remarkably beautiful American girl, at 14 I believe the youngest ever to have played in the tournament, is drawn against Venus Williams (who isn’t even seeded). Like you, Mary Lou, and like Perdita, I am an elder sister, so I’m for Venus. Surely the match will be on television.

I am back in the saddle, knitting-wise. I think I may even have done seven rows today. Maureen, thank you for the offer of your red yarn. I had meant to write to you before now, ever since I discovered, wandering around Ravelry one evening, that you had knit the Spring Shawl. I had thought of you only in the context of Fair Isle.

(Maureen has knit the Museum Sweater – the one in which not only are the rows of OXO roundels different one from another – that’s not at all uncommon – but in which all of the roundels are different from each other. Which would mean that you couldn’t get a rhythm going. I used the roundels from that sweater for Alexander’s recent Calcutta Cup vest – very successfully, if I do say so. But in my case, all the roundels in each row are the same as each other.)

Maureen: you need to knit the Princess. It is the one mountain left to climb.

And thank you for the offer. I must now write to Sharon Miller and ask her (a) what she thinks about the idea of introducing a red stripe and (b) what she thinks about the possibility of her red yarns bleeding. I am tempted by “cashsilk”, despite your offer, Maureen. I’m too tired to write tonight. Maybe tomorrow morning.


Mary Lou, I have read Athill’s “Somewhere Towards the End”, but I missed the line you quote. It’s very good. We can all rejoice in having that good luck.

Once when I was small I observed someone operating a sewing machine, and said, “My mother can do that”. Which was a lie. And then added, “She can pie-tie-ter too” (she was a writer).

Food: my stir-fry last night was tasty, but the mange-tout peas were the least successful element. Too crunchy. I’ll try your recipe next time, Hat (comment yesterday). We had a terrific downpour of rain yesterday evening, and the peas loved it and are almost ready to pick again. Shandy, my courgettes are looking very happy, but there are no flowers yet.

Saturday, June 29, 2019


From the doorstep, of course.

There are lots more to come, because that’s the way peas behave. But we only have 11 days, as I must leave for England on the 11th. I think it’ll work out all right. I must find another recipe for the late-comers. Suggestions gratefully received. These first ones are about to go into a stir-fry supplied by the Hairy Bikers. I got all the way up to the top of Broughton Street this morning to buy some seafood and some more greenery, to join them. Then I had to lie down for a while.

My cleaner came bursting in yesterday full of excitement because there were apples on my apple tree.

I am sorry for yesterday’s silence. I got through the Italian lesson and the Personal Training and a trip to the supermarket and was then paralysed with Tired and went to bed at 6:30.

I haven’t done any knitting yesterday or today, but hope for a bit this evening, after my stir-fry.


I’ve finished “Nest of Vipers”. (It isn’t called quite that, in the translation I read, but you get the general idea.) It is the most specifically Catholic of the three texts on which our retreat was based, but perhaps a bit too French for my taste. My preference remains with the Kipling story, “The Gardener”. But I must re-read Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”. And maybe some more of her. Seriously good, if tough to swallow.

Of course I knew Kipling before, in the form of “If” and “the great grey-green greasy Limpopo”. And I knew that he had lost his son John in the so-called Great War. But the short stories were unexpected. For my 50p, I got an anthology of ten of them. So far, I haven’t read any others.

I felt I needed something light, today. A casual reference in today’s Financial Times sent me back to Tana French and I am re-reading (apparently) “The Trespasser”. It’s there in my Kindle archive, so I must have read it, but it is coming across as completely new, like “North and South”.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

More weakness. Tomorrow will test me to the limit – starting with an Italian lesson, transferred from Saturday for reasons forgotten; then my Personal Trainer, a couple of hours later.

I’ve done a couple of rows of Spring Shawl. A certain amount of tinking was involved today. And at least I did it, resisting the temptation to Just Forge Ahead.

I find that Sharon Miller offers a wonderful-looking Gossamer CashSilk in her Etsy shop, and also a Merino Lace (cobweb lace equivalent). Both ranges appear to offer good reds. I might write to her to see what she thinks of the idea of introducing the slightest touch of red into my shawl, and (if she approves) what she thinks about the danger of bleeding.

My brother-in-law sent me a link to a New York Times article about Ravelry’s recent decision to ban support of the President from the site in order not to support white supremacy. I drift around Ravelry more days than not, I think, but never in places where politics appear, so I can’t comment. Ravelry’s decision has been well-reported here.

But I am sorry to see that this ugly theme of racism-in-knitting is still in a state of ferment. I have a Thot I would like to write about, but I simply don’t dare. (Don’t worry – you aren’t missing much.) It is a great shame that this is happening.


Archie came today, and instead of advancing life, we watched “The Day the Earth Caught Fire”. I wanted to have his opinion. It stands up pretty well to the passage of time. As with many disaster movies, it sags somewhat in the middle. Archie kept looking up facts about it on his telephone, and discovered that Michael Caine has a bit part. We think we spotted him.

I am pressing on with “Nest of Vipers”. Perdita continues to live as a member of the family, very welcome, and to treat Paradox with only moderate disdain.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Again, weak, but again, some accomplishment.

Weavinfool, you’re right, of course. I’ve changed it, and no one will ever know (unless they read your comment). Thanks.

I had a good session this morning with the Spring Shawl, and then a very good time at Helen’s new house. It’s further away than I expected, but apart from that, very nice indeed. It is a terrace house into which a remarkable number of spacious rooms have been ingeniously fitted. The previous owners left it in very good nick, and Helen has done a prodigious amount of work in the week she has been there. Boxes still abound, but it feels like home.

Gretchen: VK’s weren’t dated, in the old days. After the original American one went down, the British went on alone for a couple of years.  The picture I showed yesterday was from one of those issues. Prices are in shillings and pence, which would date it to the 70’s I think. Late 70’s, would be my guess.

Hair: I’ll tell the man next week to aim for something like Theresa May.

Red: I’m sure you’re right, commenters, and I shouldn’t try to put it in my shawl. Shandy, Peggy, I’m also sure you’re right, that red is a colour of joy in many cultures. I was thinking of Alexander and Ketki’s Hindu wedding. (He wore his kilt, and fitted right in. It’s a pity he didn’t have an elephant, to ride up Seventh Avenue on.)


I have persevered with Nest of Vipers, and by now, might as well finish. It’s awfully French. My husband’s father, who died young of a brain tumour, translated Maurois and Morand but not, to judge at least from our own shelves, Mauriac. I feel the French need to be more adventurous with their surnames.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

I felt very weak today, but a certain amount was accomplished. I made an appt to have my hair done, in order to be beautiful for the wedding – that involved walking up to the hairdresser’s, as I had forgotten their name. And I did several rows of the Spring Shawl and have reached the fifth, the antepenultimate, row of lace triangles. I learned that big word from Miss Taylor in her Latin class at Asbury Park High School and have loved it ever since. I don’t often get a chance to use it.

When I started knitting today, I found that the yarn had slipped off its cardboard cylinder altogether in the course of its recent travels. There wasn’t all that much of it. I could just have broken it off and attached the next ball. But I felt that I couldn’t present myself to the world – that means, to you – with the claim that I had knit a ball of Jamieson & Smith’s cobweb weight if I had, in fact, thrown away yards of it.

Fortunately the yarn didn’t tangle, and I knit it down to the end. Here’s where I am:

It occurred to me to wonder, as I was lying in bed this morning, whether I might put in two rows of a bright red, no more. Perhaps at the point where I pick up stitches for the borders. Would that be too eccentric? It is the Hindu colour of joy, the colour that brides wear. Hindu widows wear white. I don’t even know whether Jamieson & Smith offer red in that yarn. (No, they don't -- but they do have it in lace-weight.)

Speaking of cobweb: when I was on Unst with my Shetland Wool Adventure, the woman who showed us the lace collection there also showed us a twist of handspun which her auntie had given her, “for encouragement”, when she first started spinning. It was almost invisible. Compared to that, Jamieson & Smith cobweb weight is like knitting with ship’s cable.

Fruity Knitting today! The main interview-ee is Carol Feller. She talked about using gradations of yarn – I took a class on that subject from her  at the EYF once. While she was talking today, I remembered an old, old VK pattern:

I think those stripes are too wide for the mini-skeins in a usual assortment, but – having launched myself down this path – it might be the perfect pattern for that armload of related colours which I bought on Shetland.

Monday, June 24, 2019

I had a good time on the retreat – nice place, good weather. Here we are, just before departure yesterday:

We were a pleasant and very interesting group. I am on the left of the sitting-down-ers. The other oldie was older than I am, spry-er I think, very nimble-witted. Rather encouraging. The other knitter is in the back row, 6th from the left if you count everybody, or third from the left if you count the back row of standees only. My niece is on the far right, but the picture looks nothing like her.

I got three rows done on the Spring Shawl while we were there. Another day of normal knitting will surely finish the first ball of yarn. Then I'll update the sidebar.

The retreat was based on literature. I can very enthusiastically recommend Kipling’s short story, “The Gardener”. I have also read Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” – distinctly gritty; and have made a start on Francois Mauriac’s “Nest of Vipers”. I don’t know whether I’ll persevere. All three authors were new to me although I had heard of them of course. The Kindle app on one's iPad makes instant access possible.

On Saturday morning, there we were on the edge of beyond, no newspapers, no access to television. Fr John began our session with a reference to Boris Johnson’s latest troubles, and everybody in the room knew what he was talking about.

The friend who was feeding the cats has clearly had a word with Perdita, who today re-joined the household. She still growls at Paradox, but there is nothing like the shouted obscenities we had when I got back from Shetland. That was when Perdita withdrew to her own quarters. That same friend is going to take me to see Helen's new house on Wednesday.

Today I haven’t knit at all, nor even watched Pointless.

Yesterday was Rachel’s 61st birthday – the first day of the rest of my life.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

I’m sorry about the silence – Helen and her youngest son Fergus were here last night, on the very cusp of moving to Joppa. If all has gone well, they will sleep there tonight. And I won’t be here for the next two days either – I’m going to somewhere near Hawick for a religious retreat. My niece C. will be driving (and therefore responsible for finding the way). All I have to do is pack a change of underwear and my knitting.

The trouble is, once this weekend is out of the way, the next Event is Joe and Becca’s wedding. Happy as the occasion will be, I’m not entirely looking forward to the journey south. But, hey! if Archie and I can handle Naples, Southampton should be easy-peasy.

My ancient car passed its annual fitness test this week. This morning I paid its annual tax – the Great Computer in the Sky knows whether a car is insured and whether it has passed its test. It won’t accept the tax otherwise. Then I tried to renew my Edinburgh Resident’s Parking Permit, essential to life. They have a new website. After an hour’s struggle I was in despair.

A dear friend came around at lunchtime – she is going to feed the cats while I am away. I needed to introduce her to the new arrangements. She is vastly competent in most areas of life. She took the City of Edinburgh website by the scruff of its neck and by late afternoon they had approved my application for a new permit, although they claimed they would need a week to think about it. So that is one major thing less to worry about.

I did four rows of Spring Shawl today, and a bit more Calcutta Cup scarf. Jamieson & Smith cobweb lace yarn is wound around a cardboard cylinder – this first one is showing through at multiple points by now, and won’t last many more days. And I got down on my knees with the tape measure – the scarf is now 4’8”. I want another foot or so. The final flourish at the end – the wearer’s initials and the final ribbing – will add another six inches.


I finished Kate Atkinson’s “Big Sky” in a gulp. It’s far from Jackson Brodie at his best, but needless to say very readable. Now I’m back with “North and South”, and missing Trollope. If you can give up on “The Three Clerks”, Shandy, can I give up on “North and South”? For the moment I’m forging on.

In lieu of knitting to show you, here are the pea plants on my doorstep – in flower! They’re mange tout, so I should be eating them soon.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Rory Stewart scraped through today’s vote of Conservative MP’s and will therefore be involved in tonight’s televised debate. So I will have to leave you soon. 

I did five rows of Spring Shawl today – and mustn’t forget that fact.  I try always to stop after an even number, with a right-side row to follow. Today, on the fourth row I did, I made a mistake on the first two (of nine) motifs, putting the YO’s on the wrong side of the K2tog’s. It was easily corrected, but it was just as well, I thought,  to correct it at once while I remembered what was up. Hence five rows.

There’s a new Knitty out, but I haven’t seen it yet.


I’m getting on well with “North and South”, but succumbed to Jackson Brodie today. I don’t think it’s as good as its predecessors. It’s one of those books where a lot of different characters and different threads are introduced – the whole first third of the book – and then they begin to weave themselves together. This time, it’s all a bit confusing. The writing sparkles as ever.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A good day’s knitting. I did six rows of the Spring Shawl – I won’t be able to keep up that pace much longer, because of the increasing length of the row. I’ve finished the fourth rank (of seven) of lace diamonds. I also did a bit more Calcutta Cup scarf during Pointless. It’s time to get down on my knees with that scarf and a tape measure again.

There will be a ballot in parliament tomorrow to whittle down the list of potential future prime ministers a bit further. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Rory Stewart.


Peggy, thank you for your comment. Mooli/daikon seems fairly mild and tasteless to me (and it has to be ordered in expensively): I thought ordinary radishes would do as well, if one really wanted radish. This morning I rearranged yesterday’s kimchi into smaller jars, in the hopes of getting some fizz – and was rewarded with some, today at lunchtime. And there are plenty of bubbles, in all three jars.

It is interesting, and a bit disconcerting, to discover how rapidly and enthusiastically fermentation (=rotting?) begins, in a mixture of uncooked vegetables, spices, and rice-flour porridge. No “starter”.


We’re about to have a new Jason Brodie from Kate Atkinson. I have ordered it.

I wish I had had you to teach me “Silas Marner”, Shandy. I don’t think you will tempt me back to it – life is too short. But you make it sound plausible and interesting. Have you read Trollope’s “The Three Clerks”? We were drawn to it by an article about Trollope in the New Yorker. As I remember, it’s routine (=excellent) Trollope up until the final chapter when it becomes fairy tale – the ailing heroine gets better after all, the impoverished hero suddenly has enough to get married on, and more.

Mary Lou, yes, we read the Palliser novels at bedtime (you can get through a lot  in 60 years). I think I’ve enjoyed Trollope more since then, reading individual titles at random. I wouldn’t mind trying the Pallisers again. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

I have been watching political television today – both the Andrew Mar show in the morning, which I record on Sundays such as this one when I go to Mass; and the debate this evening, at least some of it. How fortunate we are (as someone said here recently) that the Prime Minister is not Head of State. I think there are many who disapprove of the Royals without quite appreciating that point.

I got another batch of kimchi made. The great thing about kimchi, I decided, is that one feels, while chopping and blending and brining and making rice-flour porridge – one feels, on the basis of sixty years in the kitchen, that the next step is going to be cooking. And it isn’t. One just crams the stuff into jars and leaves God to do the cooking (=fermenting).

(The one on the right is last week's batch. As you can perhaps see, the new jars aren't quite as full, and probably won't hiss in that exciting way.)

Political television is good for knitting, because you don’t really have to look at it very much. I did another six rows of Spring Shawl, and that’s quite a lot at the present stitch count. I have reached the fourth rank of lace diamonds – there are to be seven in all. That’s not as good as it sounds, because of the ever-widening triangle, but it’s better than nothing. And I think the first ball of yarn is beginning to look a bit poorly.


The Forsyth Saga is not a bad idea, Mary Lou. I’ve never read it.

Shandy, I can’t believe that the Pickwick Papers (never read them) and Hard Times (not sure) could be as bad as Silas Marner, which is what we had to read at Asbury Park High School in New Jersey. I’ve probably said this before: once I grew up and read Middlemarch (and Adam Bede) and recognised Eliot as probably the greatest of 19th century English novelists, I tried Silas Marner again, for bedtime reading. And found it every bit as boring as I remembered.

Meanwhile I’m getting on fine with North and South, and remain convinced that I’ve never been here before. What an exciting moment it must have been, the Industrial Revolution, the harnessing of science to do the work men had been doing since the dawn of civilisation.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

I was perhaps a bit stronger today, but nothing has been accomplished beyond a good Italian lesson and a trip to Waitrose to get the ingredients for another batch of kimchi. I’ll make it tomorrow, I hope.

Laura (comment yesterday) – do try it. Start, perhaps, with Brad Leone’s YouTube post. (He laboriously salts his cabbage leaf by leaf, but then cuts it up later.) Omit the oyster.

There are a couple of ingredients which aren’t entirely easy to get, but here in the UK they’re easily found on-line: a Korean chilli powder called Gochugaru; Korean fermented shrimp paste; rice flour for the porridge. I also ordered an oriental radish called mooli or daikon, but I think that is unnecessary. Use ordinary radishes. And the rice-flour porridge could be omitted, too.

I haven’t done any knitting at all, nor have I advanced life in any of the several respects in which it needs to be advanced. Maybe tomorrow.

Kate Davies, as I’m happy to report and as you probably all know, has been posting in fairly vigorous mode lately, both in propria persona and lending the space to a new member of the team who is also a new knitter. Kate is producing a batch of patterns for adventurous new knitters and the latest one, the Upstream pullover – another yoke sweater – is a gem.


I’m making some progress with “North and South”. I have, before now, re-read books, sometimes accidentally, but always with the feeling that I’ve been here before. I continue to have no such feeling with this one. I’m pretty sure by now that’s it’s new to me.

Mary Lou, Tamar, I’ve never entirely got together with Dickens. We had him as bedtime reading several times. I’ve never read him by myself for pleasure, and doubt if I ever will.

Non-knit, non-book

Weavinfool, that is a good point about hydration. My Personal Trainer keeps emphasising it. I don’t suppose cider entirely counts. Thank you.

Friday, June 14, 2019

I felt very weak today. Alexander came to see me, and I managed to totter once around the Garden with him (0.2 of a mile) – better than nothing.

The kimchi is certainly quieter, although there are still bubbles. I hope to get to Waitrose tomorrow, after my Italian lesson, to buy another Napa cabbage and start another batch.

Knitting went well – another six rows of Spring Shawl, another half-repeat of the Calcutta Cup scarf pattern. There’s a sad post on the Ravelry projects page, for the shawl, from someone who knit it for her wedding and was disappointed when she finished, because she could have pushed herself harder and knit the Princess.

This one is certainly easier in all three elements – edging, triangle, and borders. Also smaller. With all the stress attendant upon a wedding I think this was probably the wiser choice.

My cats are as before. Perdita refuses to leave her quarters. Paradox has always been jealous of her, and now suspects that she’s getting better food and a superior litter box so she comes in and helps herself and they fight.

I've started "North and South". I wonder, after all, if I have read it. It seems completely new and strange, Maybe I'm thinking of "Cranford".

Now I’ll go do my Italian homework.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

So exciting: I was sitting peacefully in the kitchen last night, after I wrote to you, with the jar of kimchi in front of me – when suddenly it made a hissing noise and spewed forth a spoonful or two of brine. It is in a jar I got at Lakeland, with vents in the lid for just such an eventuality. But that was the first time I had seen it in action.

It has happened a couple of times since, but I think it is getting quieter now. Sarah, thank you (comment yesterday) – I enjoyed Maangchi, and was glad to see that she chopped her cabbage. I still wonder what the arguments are, one way and another.

The brine my kimchi spewed forth tastes a bit on the salty side. One rinses the cabbage thoroughly after it has wilted for a couple of hours under salt – but one later adds fish sauce (nam pla) and fermented shrimp paste (that requires a bit of searching-for) to the spicy mixture, and both are salty. I’ll hold back a bit next time.

Mary Lou (comment Tuesday): any recipe for spinach soup should serve for sorrel. Lucky you, to have an abundance of it! Start with a soffritto (as we say in Italian) of onion and carrot and, when softened, add a chopped up potato or two to make up for the cream you are not going to add. Then when that is soft, the sorrel and some stock and a relatively brief cooking time. You could add yoghurt or low-fat crème fraiche at the end if you like. Blend.

But we’re meant to be here for knitting, not cookery. I had a very quiet day. The Spring Shawl advanced four rows, I think – they’re getting longer and longer. And the Calcutta Cup scarf at least by one further cable twist.

Non-knit, non-cookery

I am following the struggle for a new Prime Minister with interest. My man would be Rory Stewart, who has at least survived the first ballot. I get an email from the New Yorker every day with articles sometimes from the upcoming issue, sometimes extra. Today there was an interview with Stewart, so the New Yorker must like him too.

Shandy, I think I once knew that the editor of the Express appears as himself in “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” but am glad to be reminded – and even gladder to hear that your husband remembers the film. I wonder how it will look, when I see it again next week.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

OK, I guess. The television is back on track. Archie came today, so in preparation for his visit I had a look this morning. BBC One was still an hour behind ((I think – I’m not used to morning television). I tried the other channels, and they seemed to be all right. So I went back to One, and then it seemed all right as well. I may be completely wrong here, but I’ll try that technique the next time the television tries that trick. At any rate, I got to watch Pointless at the right time this evening. We had a question about famous vegetarians – and Hitler wasn’t even among the answers.

I read somewhere that the Queen enjoys Pointless.

As a sort of relaxation after “No Name” and before “North and South”, I’ve been reading  David Sedaris’ “Calypso”. It’s good. I’ve long loved him, as doled out from time to time by the New Yorker. I read one of his earlier books, and found that too much Sedaris at once wasn’t a good idea. This one works better –it’s about middle age and family and death. The sombre note holds it together.

Kimchi: it’s quiet, but there are a promising number of bubbles pressed against the glass. I would expect the next 2-3 days to be the most active. That rice flour sludge is said to promote fermentation. I’ve found a YouTube video by an actual Korean who cuts the cabbage up the way I do, at the beginning. Now that I’ve ordered in all these expensive ingredients, I might as well make another batch soon.

And as for knitting, the Calcutta Cup scarf was advanced during Pointless. Both Archie and my Personal Trainer were here this morning and much was achieved in various directions, but not knitting.

Recently, Archie recommended a film called “Contagion” which I watched much of on Netflix and enjoyed,  but I thought it petered out towards the end. It put me in mind of my favourite disaster movie of all time, “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” from 1961. I saw it by myself  at the Hillhead Salon – my husband stayed at home with the babies. It was a memorable evening. I googled it today and bugger me! as they say,  if it’s not going to be on television next Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My (cable) television is still out of sync with Real Time – is that because I watched something on Netflix yesterday? 5:15 is just right for Pointless – dividing the afternoon from my (brief and unproductive) evening. 6:15, which is what it amounts to in Real Time at the moment, is not so good.

Therefore no Calcutta Cup knitting, although I had a good session, earlier on, with the Spring Shawl this morning.

I spent a happy afternoon making kimchi, for the first time in a while. It’s pretty easy. Three elements: (a) brined Napa cabbage (b) seasoned gloop (c) chopped veggies. There is a good deal of leeway in each.

This time, unlike last year, I have added an optional glue of rice flour and water to the seasoned gloop. Brad Leone puts it in his kimchi.

Do any of you make kimchi? I can’t now remember what recipe I started from, but it had me chopping the cabbage into bite-sized pieces (fairly large) before brining. A Real Korean divides the cabbage into four, still attached to the root, and salts the leaves one by one. And then, after brining, and rinsing, proceeds in the same way, smearing the gloop over the leaves one by one and then folding the whole thing and putting it into the fermentation jar.

That looks like an awful lot of fuss. Chopping in advance seems so much easier. Where can I turn for advice?

Andrew and Andrea today – I tend to forget, which makes their every-second-Tuesday appearances all the more welcome. John and Juliet Arbon were today’s principal interview – all the more interesting for me, because I had so recently visited the Jamieson spinnery on Shetland. What wonderful yarn! How little time! to knit it all.

I finished “No Name” today. (Spoiler alert: everybody lives happily ever after.) I’m glad I persevered. It feels much earlier than all of Trollope. Is that true? There’s lots I don’t know and would like to learn about the 19th century.

Monday, June 10, 2019

It’s one of those odd days when the television flowing in is an hour behind the real world. So, no Pointless, for now.

We’ve just heard that the well-off elderly are going to have to pay for their television licences from next year. Do I want to go on?

However, these matters aside, there is really nothing to tell you today. Archie and I got Perdita to her medical advisor this morning. Looking at her, he wasn’t at all sure that he would be able to shave off her matted fur without an anaesthetic, but she behaved impeccably. She was less agreeable about the subsequent vaccination. Since our return, she has seemed livelier. A visit to the doctor often has that effect.

But I was totally beaten. I like to do the Spring Shawl early in the day, while the mind is functioning. There was no chance of that today – and so far this evening, due to the eccentricities of cable television, no Pointless and therefore no Calcutta Cup scarf.


I, too, have vivid memories of Mesopotamia from my primary education. Is it something about the way they do it in the USA? I must ask some people here.

I’m nearly finished with “No Name”. I’m glad I persevered, but Collins isn’t as good at people as Trollope is. I still think Miss Mackenzie made the right choice, Shandy, and will be reasonably happy (which is all you can ask for, in life). At least she and her husband both know that the mother-in-law must be resisted.

FuguesStateKnits, I’m sure you’re right about marriage. There was one of those New Yorker cartoons once, man to bartender, slumped over his drink: “The trouble is, either you’re married or you’re not”. And, your comment yesterday, I have always been told that when a baby objects to being baptised, that is because the devil is objecting to being driven out, and is a good sign. You don’t say how your reader got on with the Medes and the Elemites. It’s interesting that so many of us are fond of Pentecost.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Another quiet day. I moved successfully forward with the Spring Shawl, keeping track of progress on two separate charts. Enlargement helps a lot, and if I make too much of a mess with my keep-track markings, I can print another copy.

No Calcutta Cup scarf – I don’t like Pointless Celebrities, Helen (comment yesterday). Famous people are too full of themselves.


Today is Pentecost, a favourite holiday. I love that list of the people in Jerusalem who heard the apostles speaking each in his own language – Medes and Elemites, the parts of Libya around Cyrene. Like the old woman who told her priest what comfort she derived from that blessed word Mesopotamia. Every year I approach the moment in a state of nervous excitement – some readers obviously have never seen the list before and stumble through it in panic. Today’s man was pretty good, although I would have preferred a soft “g” in “Phrygia”. (I don’t know why I should assume that my pronunciation is right in all cases.)

Perdita is going to see her primary care physician tomorrow. She won't enjoy it, but at least can't worry in advance. I shall have a sleepless night.


I am delighted at your mother’s idea Tamar, of reading an entire book backwards. My beloved “Gattopardo” would be very good that way, first the chapter about the prince’s elderly, spinster daughters; then his own death; then…

My husband and I always read aloud at bedtime (or rather, I read to him). When we went to London, we didn’t take our book along. Our daughter Rachel was trained as a librarian (although life has taken her far from that career) – her books were all in order by author, and within authors, by title.

We started at the beginning, and read a random chapter in each book. I think the rule was that if there were multiple titles by the same author (a) we were free to choose any one of them and (b) one was enough; we could then go on to the next author.

It was remarkably interesting. The last note I can find in my Filofax, dated 26 September, 2011 (which seems about right), is “Garnett done, Gaskell next”.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Another quiet day. I sat down here just now and typed those words and they appeared in the Greek alphabet. My cats know a lot of good keystrokes. Fortunately a restart has put things right without my having to figure out what to do.

I’m four rows forrad’er with the Spring Shawl, and have finished the chart on Page 4. But I must now go on and on, Groundhog Day fashion, devising the chart for myself. As I have mentioned, the simple mesh pattern on the sides marches to a different drum from the small motifs in the centre. The mesh is perfectly simple, over eight rows, four of which are no-action returns. But so far I haven’t begun to learn the sequence of the slight differences in the other four, nor has EZ’s useful maxim “Look at your knitting” proved of any use.

So I will have to keep separate track of where I am, mesh-wise and centre-wise.

No Calcutta Cup knitting. There’s no Pointless, weekends.


Thanks for comments. Beverly, you tempt me (to give up on No Name) – but so far I haven’t done it. Obsessive fine lace knitting is cutting into reading time. My mother wrote a few thrillers in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s – she often read the last chapter first, when she was reading other people’s thrillers, so that she could watch the way clues were introduced as she read the book from the beginning. But it feels to me like cheating, and my husband wouldn’t have approved. We’ll see.

Shandy, I think Miss Mackenzie made the right choice – and she’s got her work cut out for her, with all those children. I thought the lack of passion was rather touching. I don’t think my husband and I knew much of anything about each other when we got married – although I don’t mean by that to suggest that that was a very good idea.

Friday, June 07, 2019

On I go. Here is a progress report on the Spring Shawl:

(I can hear everybody thinking, that’s about what it looked like last time.) But in fact, I am trotting briskly forward. I won’t count it as “progress” until there is some slight sign of diminution in the amount of yarn remaining on the first ball. So far that hasn’t happened.
 Archie came today. I meant to send him up Broughton Street to the bank to pay in some cheques, and next door to Tesco for some cider. He pressed me to come with him, and so I did, so I’ve had a good workout today. And am appropriately weary – but there’s Italian homework to do. Every week I resolve not to leave it for Friday evening. Every week I fail.
 I am enjoying the fact that the Spring Shawl begins with this central triangle – something that seems to go fast at first; something to spread out on one’s knee. The Princess began with a difficult edging lace. It took me fully 50 repeats to memorise it. Current progress has me feeling that perhaps, after all, I will live to finish it.
 I am knitting this for future family brides, in a vague sort of way. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to look out the Christening shawl I knit for James and Cathy’s younger daughter Kirsty. She was born in 2000. That shawl was the first of my Calcutta Cup knits – 2000 was a Famous Victory. But never mind that. It’s an Amedro pattern, I’ve forgotten which one, and nobody knows where it is except me. It’s perfectly usable for a wedding.
I could take it down to England and give it to her in July, when I go down for her cousin Joe’s wedding. Only drawback is – when I get it out and have a look, will I feel that it requires re-blocking? Probably so.
 And how on earth am I to block the Spring Shawl, if I do in fact finish it? Cross that bridge when we come to it.


I've finished Trollope's "The Way We Live Now" which is rather depressing. I've gone back to "No Name" and wonder whether I will have the strength to persevere -- or why not go straight on to "North and South"? I'll let you know the result of this moral dilemma.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Again, I have very little to report. My trainer came today, so at least I have had a physical work-out (in an old-lady-ish sort of way) and feel the better for it. The Spring Shawl advances nicely, and I think I’m getting better at setting the new motifs in place as they occur. One of you has taken my enlargement problem in hand, and I am very grateful for it.

And, as usual, I at least finished a 12-row pattern repeat on the Calcutta Cup scarf during Pointless.


It is fascinating to hear, rheather (comment yesterday) that your parents sailed on White Rock lake. I think my mother’s younger brother did, too. He and his wife built a house on part of my grandparents’ plot – the part most distant from the lake. The last time I was there, I stayed with them. My grandparents were then very old and weak – that would have been in 1961.  I like your image of the world being folded so that odd bits touch!

So the President’s state visit has ended without disaster, and without even as much street protest as might have been expected. William and Kate seemed to me to be conspicuous in their absence, but Prince Charles did his bit heroically.

The cats are as ever. The layout of the house more or less ordains that Paradox gets fed first – cat-feeding is the first job I do in the morning. Perdita hears me moving about and sits calmly in her doorway waiting.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

The student show was hard work – art is hard work. But at least it counts as an outing, I guess. Alexander had been to the Glasgow student show the day before – he liked ours a bit better. I was (am) afraid that my feebleness prevented him and Helen from bounding about through the whole building and perhaps discovering a small treasure. I am very feeble. But we covered the ground and first floor, and went next door to see textiles. There was some interesting machine knitting there.

Mary Lou, thank you very much for your tip – to enlarge the Spring Shawl pattern on the computer and then print it. I only need a relatively small bit. I haven’t tried yet – will I be able to enlarge it? Today’s knitting went well – another six or eight rows and all the stitches added up. I’ll soon be finished with the part which is completely charted.

I’ve also progressed a bit with the Calcutta Cup scarf – the new skein (the yarn is called Croft) wound and joined in.


It was encouraging to learn how many old boys were still about (and on their feet, and compos mentis) for the D-Day anniversary celebrations today.

My mother’s parents had a house on White Rock Lake, just outside of Dallas. I think they bought the plot and planned the house themselves. It was a large plot, virtually a smallholding. They had a cow, and chickens, and a large vegetable garden and a black couple, John and Mary, to look after things. How pleased I was, in childhood, to discover that John was really Mr Macgregor, just like in Peter Rabbit!

We visited there often. It is an almost-paradise, in memory.

The lake was big enough to sail on, but – surely – not so big that you couldn’t see to the far side. Today in the (London) Times it says that the murdered body of a glamorous transsexual has been found floating there. Tempora mutantur..

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

I’ve done a good days’s knitting, but I’ve been pretty immobile. I should force myself out the door, even when feeling lame. My left hip sometimes gives trouble, and then, for weeks, it doesn’t. It’s bad at the moment.

Tomorrow Greek Helen and Alexander and I are going to the Edinburgh College of Art degree show. That’s always fun. And it will force me to move. I’ll take along the Gallery Goer’s Shooting Stick I gave my husband as his mobility dwindled, although I don’t think he ever used it. It’s a very light-weight stick which translates into a three-legged stool when required. I found it very useful at the EYF.

I’ve done six or eight more rows of the Spring Shawl, and am about to begin the second rank of Lace Diamonds. There are seven ranks of them in all, in this central triangle. I’m still having a bit of trouble with the intervals between motifs. Perhaps I’ll see if my printer can enlarge the pattern. For the Princess, Sharon sent out a printed pattern. This time, it’s only a .pdf.

And I’ve finished the current skein of whatever-it’s-called for the Calcutta Cup scarf. It feels very long and heavy, but measures only four feet so far. I want six, at least.

Monday, June 03, 2019

A better day, although I was very weak.

Archie was here, and we made an appt, at his insistence, for Perdita to see her medical adviser next week. She is due for another expensive and unnecessary injection of some sort, and she also has quite a bit of matted fur along her spine. Because of stoutness?

It is interesting to hear how many of you (like me) have disagreeable cats whom they love dearly. If one met my two, cold turkey, one would assume that Perdita had had a Difficult Childhood. But in fact both cats had the same furry mother and the same human family, and came directly from there to Drummond Place at 7 weeks. They presumably had different fathers, although on that point you would have to consult their mother Esther. I suspect Perdita of wildcat blood, because of her short tail and climbing habits and disagreeable nature – but I learned recently that lots of people think their cats are descended from wildcats.

Perdita keeps to her room. She has a disconcerting way, when I come in, of looking past me as if she had seen Banquo’s ghost. But that is because she dreads to see Paradox, who is all too likely to be at my heels. When they meet, the language is very strong.


The Spring Shawl progresses well. I don’t think the initial motifs are lined up quite correctly with those above – my old eyes are standing up to this pretty well, but counting a long row of empty squares is very difficult. But I don’t think, if I ever finish this and a bride ever wears it, that any of the wedding guests will leap up and demand their money back.

I think perhaps I’ll take it along on my retreat. It’s light and portable and very meditative.

I am soon to wind a new skein for the Calcutta Cup scarf. I think it’s time to get the tape measure out. It’s long and heavy, but I think not nearly long enough for the scarf I have in mind.


SouthernGal, the wedding planners have been generous with instructions, but as most guests will be coming from London – either because they live there, or because they have arrived there from elsewhere – not much has been directly relevant, and what there has been, has been confusing. Rachel emailed today to say that she and her husband will be on the island, with a car, from mid-afternoon on the day Archie and I are flying to Southampton. They can pick us up in Cowes. East Cowes, presumably. This is very encouraging, and details can be straightened out. And in these days of the mobile telephone, we can keep in touch with where each other is/are.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Again, I have very little to report. A few more rows have been added to the Spring Shawl.

My next adventure will be a 48-hour religious retreat in the Borders at midsummer. My niece C. (my husband’s sister’s daughter) will drive us there. We had a meeting this morning in which the pleasant Dominican priest who will be in charge of us, assured us that we didn’t need to turn up for any of the religious bits. It all sounds rather pleasant, and doesn’t afford anything to worry about (since Archie will be here for the cats).

Today would have been my husband’s sister’s 88th birthday, had she lived so long. On her 21st, she went to London and spent the night on the pavement in order to see the Queen drive by on her Coronation day.

I am left with no option but to worry about the next-adventure-but-one, the wedding on the Isle of Wight in mid-July. Archie and I are booked to fly to Southampton two days before. Neither of us has the faintest idea what to do next. We have taken advice, and everybody differs from everybody.

I mentioned the subject during my Italian lesson on Saturday, and my tutor discovered via Google Maps, what had eluded me so far, that there is a north-south fissure down the middle of the Isle of Wight, without much evidence of a bridge. So it will be as well to ensure that when we board  a ferry (there are plenty) from the mainland, we are aiming at the desired side of the fissure.

I think it might be just as well to see if we can get a taxi from that point, however far.

My Italian homework for this week is to write an account of my prospective journey, employing the future tense as often as possible.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

I have very little to report. The Spring Shawl is a few rows forrad’er – the rows are longer now; progress is seemingly slower. The effect remains like having a box of chocolates in the house. The attraction lies somewhere in the way each row makes its unique contribution, however slight the progress. Another picture soon.

Perdita seems a bit less subdued today, but continues to confine herself to quarters. She is trying to sit on my computer keyboard, and taking it amiss when I try to suggest otherwise. She is a very disagreeable cat. That’s why I love her.

Inspector Montalbano is back on British television tonight. I doubt if I’ll be able to knit lace while watching him.