Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Another goodish-day, including a circuit of Drummond Place Gardens, and some more knitting. The rows are so long now that significant news is rare.


I meant to add William Trevor to the little list at the end of yesterday’s post, but his name wouldn’t come to the mental surface despite strenuous efforts. Mary Lou, thank you, I read that NYT article about writers making enough to live on, with some interest – but it was about averages, and I am more interested in the question of whether someone who is writing material which will live as long as Trollope’s has, can live reasonably well on it nowadays.

You are right, Shandy, about Trollope’s astonishing energy and self-discipline. And he hunted until well into middle age – that means, keeping horses and a groom and getting them and himself to and from the hunt: that could never have been cheap.

Tamar, I don’t know either of the authors you mention. I’ll find out.

A new New Yorker came today (August 5 & 12) – much more interesting than many of late. Beginning with Roz Chast’s suggestions for one’s morning smoothie.

It was wonderful to find Elizabeth Stout (author) and Olive Kitteridge (character). The story is a good one, and the news that there is to be another Olive Kitteridge book, perhaps even better.  I pre-ordered it.

I was interested, too, in the review of the book called “The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator”. I wish I still had access to a bookshop (both strength and proximity fail me) so that I could look up the author’s evidence for the statement that “fifteen centuries before the Scottish tried to colonize Panama, the Romans tried to colonize them, and were thwarted by a strain of malaria  local to Scotland which is estimated to have killed half of the 80,000 Roman soldiers sent their way.”

I’ve never seen a mosquito in Scotland (plenty in New Jersey). But apart from that, the only textual evidence for the Romans in Scotland is (I think) Tacitus’ biography of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Agricola. That book is the source of the remark, “They make a solitude and call it peace”. But I can remember nothing in it about 40,000 deaths by disease.

We “did” that book during my first winter in Glasgow, 1954-5. I was cold and frightened and culture-shocked. We got to a passage about the Scottish climate (cold, dark, damp) and the class stamped and whistled. There were 150 of them, believe it or not. And I sat there and thought, Gosh, these are the very Scots Tacitus is talking about.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Another slightly better day, including some knitting. Helen and her family are safely back from Mt Pelion where you can never be entirely sure you won’t be run down by a herd of centaurs. Archie and I went to the supermarket and got, among other things, two packets of Dioralyte powders, meant for re-establishing electrolytes in the blood, especially of the elderly, after diarrhoea. I haven’t taken any yet but will before bedtime.

I can remember that when I was much younger, and something could be seen to be wrong in a row of knitting, I would sometimes forge ahead with the thought that, at least it’ll be right from here on. If there’s any one thing that has improved my knitting in recent years, it has been the abandonment of that notion. I had quite a bit of trouble today, don’t know why. and addressed it by adding or subtracting a stitch as necessary and where necessary.

I’m doing the final set of lacy diamonds. There’s still a fair amount of pattern to come, and then a break row, and then four long, plain rows, and then a final row in which the stitch count is substantially reduced. But the end (of the central triangle) is in sight. Perhaps once the stitches are picked up and counted and re-counted and ready for knitting the borders, I should return to poor Thomas’ Calcutta Cup scarf.


I finished Trollope’s autobiography – excellent to the end. I acquired (it was free) his first novel, set in Ireland, but I’m not going to pursue it. He got better. Yes, Mary Lou, he says a lot about the Post Office (and mentions the institution of post boxes). He went on working for them long after he had established his name as a novelist.

I wondered for a while whether a “serious” novelist could live well on his work today, as Trollope did. But then I thought of Evelyn Waugh, who managed it in much the same way, with books of permanent value supplemented by journalism and travel writing. Of contemporaries, there are of course Stephen King and JK Rowling, who must live pretty high on the hog. Movies and television have taken over from journalism as providing the supplement. Does Ian McEwan support himself with his books? Alice Munro?

Monday, July 29, 2019

A better day, on the whole. The weather is  a bit cooler, and I did some knitting. And tonight, if all goes well, Greek Helen and her family will be back in Scotland and I’ll see them tomorrow. My cleaner has gone home to Romania for a month. I hope Archie can take up the slack.

Mary Lou, the beautiful yarn from Colonsay (link yesterday) is, in one sense, four skeins of the same colour (nettles?) but in fact all four are slightly different. It’s quite heavy – worsted weight? perhaps. And rather rough and homely. I think a nice cosy hat is the only serious possibility.

Health: I will look at sports drinks such as Gatorade in the supermarket tomorrow, and read the labels carefully for news about electrolyte balance. I put a banana in today’s smoothie. And I will cautiously investigate acupuncture – I’m not averse to the idea.

I continue to enjoy Trollope’s autobiography immensely. It’s curious that he doesn’t mention Mrs Gaskell. It’s not that he’s biased against women – he gives Jane Austen and George Eliot the high places they deserve (although he ranks Thackeray slightly above Eliot), and discusses some young female authors of whom I’ve never heard. But no Gaskell.

And then it was all to be blown to bits, not much later, by the Great War and Virginia Wolff and James Joyce and TS Eliot.

Peggy, I think I might suggest Barchester Towers to start with – but you’ve almost certainly tried that. He tells a good story about overhearing two men in his club, complaining about the way he re-uses characters from book to book. Finally he could bear it no longer, leapt up and introduced himself, and promised to kill Mrs Proudie that very week.

Our new Prime Minister was in Edinburgh today. I don't think he has the vaguest idea about Scotland, and fear that he will hasten the end of the Union.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Perhaps I am a bit better today (although still no knitting). We had more heavy rain this morning – but this time it may have “cleared the air” a bit. The sun came out for half an hour this afternoon, and it is always surprising how much that lifts the spirits. And Alexander and his family came to see me, on their way to Murrayfield and the Liverpool-Napoli match. That lifted the spirits too.

They brought me some indescribably beautiful yarn from Colonsay, which they have recently visited. Plant-dyed. Here’s the link. A hat?

Tamar, thank you again: this time for the further note on electrolytes. I’ve got my new smoothie-maker, and will add a banana tomorrow. Mary Lou: I don’t think sleep apnoea is the problem, although the Medicine for the Elderly doctor I saw recently was interested in the idea of disturbed sleep, when he wasn’t lecturing me about cider-drinking. I get up often in the night to pee – far more often than I pee during the day – but always go straight back to sleep.

And, Shandy! I’ve started Trollope’s autobiography, and am enormously grateful to you. The Kindle version is free on Amazon. What an inspiring model for any author who has had a bit of an initial success and doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere! He persevered for 10 years before getting anywhere at all.

I think I had vaguely thought that his mother’s success was built on the name he had established. Not a bit of it! I knew that she had started writing late-ish in life, but it turns out that, even so, she had made her name, and supported her family with her writing, well before he got started.

I think he would have been surprised to be told that, 150 years later, his name would be as well-known as those of Dickens and Thackery and Scott – and his books, perhaps, even more enjoyed.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

We had torrents of rain this morning. It doesn’t seem to have freshened the air, but at least the plants on the doorstep will be happy. They (like all plants) always prefer rain from heaven to anything I can carry out and pour over them.

Tamar, I had never heard of electrolytes, at least in connection with human health. I’ve had plenty of blood tests, and I would assume that that was included, but it’s an interesting question. I think I’m somewhat dehydrated, a frequent by-product of travel, but I don’t see why a whole week at home with careful fluid intake hasn’t put things right. Shandy, thank you for your encouraging comment.

No knitting so far today, but there’s a Royal Family programme on television soon, about Charles and Diana. This is a genre which I’m afraid I adore, and it ought to be good for a row or two more.

I’ve finished “Can You Forgive Her?”, still without the faintest twinge of recognition. I thought it was somewhat long-winded in places. Spoiler alert: they all live happily ever after. At the moment I’m trying to read Inspector Montalbano in Italian, but I don’t know whether I’ll persevere. There’s a distressing amount of dialect.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Sorry about yesterday. Desperately weak. I thought getting back to Scotland, and to my cats, a week ago today, would put everything right. Not so.

We were fortunate, however, in our wedding weather, considering what’s happened since. I still don’t think this heat would be regarded as Over-the-Top in New Jersey, but it is disrupting travel and would have been enough to make us all uncomfortable at the post-wedding party. I still don’t have any serious pictures for you.

Not much knitting, but I did a row of the Spring Shawl yesterday and another one today. MaureeninFargo, who has knit it, is coming to see me after Shetland Wool Week, and it behoves me to have the borders well-started by then.


I am making good progress with “Can You forgive Her?” I don’t see how I could have forgotten a book so full of interesting characters and event. In the days when I read aloud to my husband at bedtime – and this was undoubtedly one of our books – I would often fall asleep while doing so, and start reading nonsense, and he would have to nudge me.

There was once when we both fell completely asleep – I woke up to find the light on, and the book in my hands.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It was hot again today. I did pretty well – including six rows of the Spring Shawl. The next session will see me embarked on the final repeat (of the central triangle patterns).

I had an unexpected cheque from the tax man yesterday and have celebrated by ordering a blender, so that I can become a Better Person by consuming smoothies. Delivery is promised within the next two and a half hours, which means I may have to stay out of bed that long. The prospect now seems less attractive.

This week’s Fruity Knitting was good, as usual. They do a remarkably good job of varying their interviewees. This time it was Zoe Fletcher, who maintains the Woolist and knows just about all there is to know about the breeds of British wool-producing sheep.

I would like to know something of the numbers – and could easily find out, if I applied myself. I am pretty sure the British flock is heavily tilted towards lamb chops, these days. Even on Shetland, to judge by the evidence of one’s eyes, the Shetland sheep are outnumbered by larger ones of a different breed.

And I thought, listening to Zoe, what a gracious dispensation of providence it was that Shetland sheep, some of which, at least, have very fine wool around their necks, were available in 18th and 19th century Unst when the genius for fine lace knitting first took root.


Shandy (comment yesterday), I didn’t know Trollope had written an autobiography. I have added it to the wishlist I am maintaining along with the list of what I have actually read this year. I knew he had a mother, and that she is worth reading, too.

A nonsense paragraph: England are playing a Test Match against Ireland, Goliath against David. Ireland bowled England out before lunch today, for 85. (Never mind what that means.) Being bowled out before lunch on the first day has only happened on seven previous occasions in Test Match history – and three of those occasions have been in the last 18 months. If being bowled out before lunch had anything to do with the weather, it would be a striking demonstration of climate change.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A better day, I guess. I did a circuit of the garden. I dispatched some paperwork which had been weighing on my conscience. I also knit two rows of the Spring Shawl. It was too hot to knit even fine wool with perfect comfort, although we would scarcely call this warm in New Jersey. I’m glad it wasn’t this hot last week on the Isle of Wight.

Amazon delivered a Pussy Cat Drinking Fountain. I had never heard of such a thing. But the cat (Hamish by name) has one, who lives with the nice man who looked after my cats while I was away, and it sounded like a good idea.

Perdita (by far the cleverer) found it first:

Paradox endlessly suspects that Perdita has something better. She soon joined in, and was at first driven away with an oath:

But then Perdita let her have a go:

Since that time, some hours ago, neither has paid it any attention.


Beth, thank you for the additional plug for “Station Eleven”. It is now under even more serious consideration. I’m pressing on with “Can You Forgive Her?” Parts of it are unexpectedly dull.

The Palliser novels were on television, back in the late 60’s I think, and although we didn’t have a television set in those days, we saw bits of it,  and I can’t imagine Lady Glencora as anyone other than Susan Hampshire.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Perhaps a slightly better day, although inactive. I must march around Drummond Place Gardens tomorrow, willy nilly. Today I waited in for my cleaner, who didn’t come because she had forgotten that today was the day when I would be back; and for my Mindful Chef package, which did come.

Here are some more pictures from my time away. I still don’t have the proper wedding pictures.

Here is the bride, wearing the Unst Bridal Shawl which I knit for her new sister-in-law Hellie:

 It was worn in similar fashion at Hellie's wedding to Matt, but somehow was displayed better (from a knitter’s point of view) this time. This was the bride to whom I offered Jared’s shoulder shawl, I’ve forgotten what it’s called, but she preferred to re-use this one. Archie and I blocked it for her.

And here are Alexander and Ketki’s sons James and Thomas, wearing kilt hose I knit years ago for their father:

Meanwhile, here in Drummond Place, I knit four rows of the Spring Shawl today. Four is a lot, these days. I have nearly reached the point where I will be doing each pattern row (of the central triangle) for the last time. But not quite yet.


I am deep into “Can You Forgive Her” which I must have read before, as it is a Palliser novel. Sometimes nothing but Trollope will do. Mary Lou, thank you for the suggestion of “Station Eleven”. I’m sort of against sci-fi and the future, but I love  pandemics.  

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Not much, but something. I watched the Andrew Marr show, as often on a Sunday, and during its progress – since it doesn’t really require much watching -- I resumed knitting the Spring Shawl. It wasn’t entirely easy. I knew the next row was a return row, but it took me a while to figure out which one. However, eventually I got it, and I knit it, and although that was only one row, I feel I’m back in the saddle.

To approach the documentation of my week away from the wrong direction, here are two pictures from my post-wedding week in London. First, Kirsty and her Christening shawl:

And then her mother Cathy, holding up the First Holy Communion shawl I knit for both Kirsty and her sister Rachel. Both sets of initials are included:

Cathy seems to have done a better job than I did, on keeping it white. Or maybe it’s a different yarn.

I wrote out the pattern at one point, and even posted it on line for a while. There are few if any First-Holy-Communion-shawl patterns out there. It might be worth trying to resurrect it. I remember a good deal of its sources, but not how to do its overall shape. It’s done top-down, I remember that, as it added to the excitement of getting the initials the right-way-around and the right-side-up.


Thank you for the nudge towards “Wives and Daughters”, Shandy. I wonder if that’s the one I’ve read, since “North and South” felt so completely strange? That’s no reason not to read it again. Au contraire.

I’ve just finished “After the Party” by Cressida Connolly. I wouldn’t recommend it very highly. It’s a meticulously researched tale about Oswald Mosley and his supporters, some of them interned during the war. I think I kept expecting all the research to be the platform for a story, but that never quite happens.

Meticulously researched – but there is a reference to the internees being held “at Her Majesty’s pleasure”. Everybody is so young these days! but I am still surprised that neither author nor editor nor proof-reader spotted what’s wrong with that one.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Here I am home. I’ve missed you. The wedding was delightful, a huge success. And at least I made the journey there and back without disaster, thanks to my family. I am desperately tired and weak and leaden, but hope I will improve in the next few days, at least somewhat. And there’s nothing more to worry about or plan for. I hope to go to Strathardle for a fortnight in August – but, if so, the cats will go too, my Lares et Penates.

And at Christmas, I hope I will be allowed to stay in bed (with my cats) and eat chocolate.

There is virtually no knitting to report. My wounded thumb is still raw, and still oozing somewhat, covered each day with a fresh plaster. I got a bit further forward with the Travel Socks (second heel turned) once I could safely knit without spattering the subject with gore.

The answer to the question of – what does the right thumb contribute? is, not much. I am a very clumsy drop-and-thrower. The right thumb and index finger guide the needle through the stitch, and then wave about in the air while the right middle finger controls the tension. The left thumb is employed more constantly, moving the stitches forward.

I have a few wedding pictures for you, and trust I will be sent others in the next few days. But at the moment, my telefonino has expired, so I have nothing. Here is a link to the very remarkable Oglander Chapel in the church at Brading where the service was held. You have to click on "More photos".  (Joe and Becca tried very hard to have a Catholic wedding, but ran up against disagreeable priests and unco-operative hierarchy. And as every amateur theologian knows, the sacrament consists in the exchange of vows in front of witnesses. The priest himself, at a Catholic wedding, is one of the witnesses.)

I wore my Dathan hap (among other things) and it did well.

Meanwhile, as you must know, there has been a tremendous fuss which I don’t at all understand, involving Nathan the Sockmatician. Racism again. I don’t like this. Ravelry has had a password-purge. I think, at the moment, I have hit on one which they will accept and I can remember. I am pretty careful, I hope, about passwords which have a financial dimension; but I don’t care a fig who hacks my Ravelry account. We shall see. I might have to abandon Ravelry itself in the wake of all this misery.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I’m a bit calmer, if only as a result of the excitements of the day.

I was Highly Stressed this morning. Archie came, and took away the suitcase. He would like to be picked up tomorrow fifteen minutes earlier than we had arranged, and messages to the kind man who is going to give us a lift,  are so far unanswered. I am sure we will be all right. It is relaxing to travel with someone who worries. My husband preferred to leave everything to the last-split-second and reduced me every time to a nervous heap.

Then I had an appt at Medicine for the Elderly where I was told to keep walking and drink less cider – hardly worth the two taxi fares. Except that on the way home the driver heaved me into the back seat and shut the door on my thumb. For a while there I thought I might have the reason I was waiting for, to stay home.

But I’m afraid it’s fine – no bruising, no swelling, not much discomfort, both joints working fine. I haven’t dared touch the Spring Shawl for fear of getting blood on it. I don’t know what role the right thumb plays in my knitting technique. I will have to pick up some knitting and let my fingers tell me. But I think it will be fine, once I’m sure the bleeding has stopped. I take a blood-thinner.

I got home in time to watch Federer’s match. This was the point – the quarter-final – where he slipped and fell last year, beaten by the Grinch.  He lost the first set today, but wasn’t threatened thereafter. Nadal next, I think, and that will be Friday. Perhaps I will just spend the afternoon sitting peacefully in my b&b watching tennis and knitting a sock.


I’m nearly finished with North and South. I utterly agree with you, Shandy, about the extraordinary difference between Trollope and Mrs Gaskell, despite what must be a considerable similarity in date. I must look it up. In this particular case, there is also the contrast between the Irish peasants, literally starving to death, and the northern mill workers, on strike and very angry and hungry but very much individual and alive.

I’m looking forward to the Love Scene which surely must be to come!

I’ll be away now until Saturday the 20th.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

I got some things done today, not others. The packing is half-done. I tried on the wedding garment. It looks all right, and is fine, in a sense – if the wedding were here in Edinburgh. It’s a heavy-ish cord, and I fear will be far too hot for the south of England. Archie is coming tomorrow morning to take the suitcase to Joppa, whence his mother will deliver it to me on the Isle of Wight.

That means that Archie and I can travel on Thursday with only light hand luggage (nightgown, toothbrush, iPad, knitting, in my case). That should help. And it also means that I’ll have to finish packing the suitcase tomorrow morning, like it or not.

The tennis wasn’t very interesting. I watched most of Serena’s match and finally gave up with everybody even in the third set. I gather Serena won. I got five rows of Spring Shawl done while I watched, which is a good day’s work at the current length of a row. Greek Helen took this picture a day or two ago, to add to the Instagram account she maintains in my name:

And I’ve watched half of Andrew&Andrea, so may get another row done later while I watch the rest.

Recent mention of Kevin Anderson and last year’s Wimbledon sent me back to last year’s blog. In those days I grumbled away about weakness, just as I do now – but seemed rather stronger. I got up to Valvona & Crolla twice in August. Could I do that now? Perhaps I should try. The slightly odd thing was that in those days – summer, 2018 – I often watched television in the evening. Now, I almost never do. “Pointless”, Wimbledon, that’s about it.


I’ve finished “Castle Richmond” which I greatly enjoyed. I am surprised that I could have so completely forgotten the main story. I found it excellent, and very touching. The Famine bits are few and brief and powerful. At the end, Trollope opines that Ireland is emerging stronger after her ordeal.

I’ve gone back to “North and South”, you’ll be glad to hear, Shandy. 

Monday, July 08, 2019

A pretty good day. Archie’s presence was calming, as hoped, and I was able to strike a few items off my list, always a satisfying occupation. Gauff was beaten, sure enough, which takes a bit of pressure off the weekend. Nadal and Djokovic are through, and Federer seems to be cruising.

I will devote tomorrow to my toilet, as we say in Victorian novels, and to packing.

I’ve done a bit more knitting. I’m sorry to have to leave the shawl behind when I go south, but socks are the only practical possibility. In the days when my husband and I went to London three or four times a year, I produced a lot of socks. Not many of late.


I found this most unexpected sentence in “Castle Richmond” last night:

“There is a story current, that in the west of England the grandeur of middle-aged maiden ladies is measured by the length of the tail of their cats.”

I haven’t tried listening to Melvin Bragg on the Famine yet. I will. Lisa, thank you for the link. I agree with you and Shandy, that “In Our Time” is almost invariably interesting.

In my current reading, the Famine is going from bad to worse, both in “Castle Richmond” and in my sober history book. In 1846 the entire crop failed, and Peel’s government fell in London and was replaced by one perhaps less efficient. They continued to try, but less and less effectively.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

It has been sort of peaceful, a day without Wimbledon. According to a pundit I read, Gouff is not going to win her match tomorrow. 

I am in a state of paralysed anxiety about the trip south. Archie will be here tomorrow, and we will get some things done. Arrangements for the cats are complete. Helen is safely back from Greece – she has been teaching mosaic-making on Mt Pelion, and it went well. She will be driving down on Thursday & Friday with two of her boys. Archie will fly with me on Thursday.

I haven’t done any knitting today, but hope to shortly.

Mary Lou, I don’t know what I think of Melvin Bragg either, but I will try to find his broadcast about the Famine. I am getting on fine with Castle Richmond – I read it years ago, and remember some of the parts about the Famine but nothing of the plot. It is rather interesting, and rather like No Name. Which was first?

I have also read a bit further in my history book. The gov’t in London is making efforts, right away in ’45 when the crop first failed. Maybe they were misguided and ineffective efforts, but “genocide” is not the appropriate word to describe them, so far.  

I was mildly surprised to find that relief (at least at that early stage) was largely in the form of public works for which workers were paid. Instead of just doling out money, as nowadays. I think I sort of thought that Roosevelt invented that idea in the ‘30’s. Cornmeal was the substitute food, but people had to buy it. They didn't like it much. There were soup kitchens as well. A lot of this is in Trollope.

Presumably we get Andrew and Andrea this week. That should soothe the nerves a bit.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

A peaceful day. I watched Federer win in straight sets, and got a good deal of knitting done. I’ve finished the penultimate row of lace diamonds.

I had a good Italian lesson this morning, trying to tell my tutor about Coco Gauff’s match yesterday. I’m not strong on Italian tennis vocabulary (or on which past tense to use) – and my tutor isn’t particularly interested. She is too young even to remember Adriano Panatta. But the cicadas were making a terrific noise in the pine trees outside and she broke off to ask if I could hear them.

Shandy, thank you for the tip. I rushed off to Amazon and bought the Kindle edition of “The Great Hunger” (fortunately, very cheap). It turned out to be all poetic, if not actually all a poem, and I struggled for a couple of hours with the problem of how to tell you politely that that wasn’t what I wanted at all. Then I went back to your comment and read it again and went back to Amazon and found that the real “The Great Hunger” which you were referring to isn’t available in Kindle. I’ve ordered the paperback, which is also pretty cheap.

Meanwhile I’ve also bought the Kindle version of “The Great Irish Potato Famine” by James Donnelly which, so far, seems balanced. Some books (even in their Amazon summaries) accuse the government in London of genocide, and the word “holocaust” appears. I’m sure London made dreadful mistakes in the face of an utterly unprecedented situation, but I am also sure that it is wrong to use words which implicitly compare them to Hitler and his Final Solution.

We are all zero-ing in on this wedding. My sister and her husband are flying to London tomorrow (staying with James and Cathy in Sydenham). Their son Theo and his family are already there, in an Airb&b somewhere. I just have to pull myself together a bit before flying down on Thursday. Helen was last heard of on Mt. Pelion but will presumably touch down in Edinburgh soon.

Friday, July 05, 2019

There is very little to report to you today, beyond what you already know. I am recovering from what may well be the most exciting tennis match I have ever seen. Coco Gauff was losing. She lost the first set, and was 5-2 (I think) down in the second. But she won.

We have been slightly worried about the plans for the wedding day next Saturday, in that there is rather a gap between the ceremony and the food-and-speeches. But, hey! Perhaps all we’ll need is a television set. Which final do they play on the final Saturday?

I had the additional pleasure, earlier in the afternoon, of watching Mr Anderson (for whom, see yesterday) being defeated in straight sets by a lower-ranked player, a dashing Argentinian with an Italian name and a preposterously glamourous girlfriend.

So nothing much has been accomplished. My Personal Trainer was here, and I always feel the better for her visits. No knitting. A few more pages of Castle Richmond –- I strongly suspect you are right, Mary Lou, that a lot of the difference of the effect of potato blight, between Ireland and Scotland, is that far more people were involved in Ireland. Is there a good even-handed book on the subject? And on the Corn Laws and the Reform Bill? There were a lot of extremely interesting and important things going on in the 19th century about which I don’t know nearly enough.

And while I’m asking for information, can anyone help me with internet stalking? I am interested in Annie Modesitt’s recovery, but she doesn’t blog much these days – May 30 was the most recent post. I’ve been around for a while, took a class from her here in Edinburgh once (Gerry was there too); contributed when she was appealing for help with his treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

But she’s still active on-line, and often comments on Franklin’s almost daily Facebook posts (which for some reason are notified to me by email). I’m not very expert in Social Media (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/whatever). Annie’s page, or feed, or whatever the term might be, on one of those is clogged up with astrology. But if there’s any way of keeping in touch with her reports of how she is and what’s going on, I would be glad to hear of it.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Shandy, I couldn’t let you make such a sacrifice! I will feel much better once I am safely back from next week’s wedding, with no further travel in sight until next year’s cruise. (I hope to go to Strathardle in August, but that doesn’t count because I will have my dear cats with me. And also I know where I'm going.)

 I remember where I am in “North and South”, and what’s going on. I’ll go back to it. Meanwhile the potato famine is not without interest, although there is lots I don’t understand about land tenure. I think the potatoes failed in Scotland, too, but we fared better because we also ate oatmeal, but there may be more to it than that.

The lunch party was successful, and I am sure the cats will be fine. I then watched tennis for a while, although I have abandoned Nadal and Kyrgios to their own devices.

The Grinch who stole Wimbledon from me last year has been at work again. His name is Kevin Anderson. Last year he beat Federer in the quarter-final, meaning that Rachel and I couldn’t see Federer in the semi-final despite having Centre Court tickets. Then, on Centre Court, Anderson played the longest and most boring semi-final in Wimbledon history so that we couldn’t see Nadal and Djokovic either. (They’ve changed the rules: a match of that epic tedium is no longer possible.)

Yesterday he was on Court Two. The final match on that court was to be Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old American sensation. But Anderson’s match dragged on, and Court One was finished, so they put up the roof there and moved Gauff over –and wouldn’t let the Court Two spectators in.They had sat there all afternoon in vain, watching Anderson and looking forward to Gauff.

She won handily, in straight sets, I am glad to say.

I did a bit of knitting today but not much. Lunch left me very tired, although Archie did all the work.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Some knitting – I’m now half-way through the penultimate row of lace diamonds; still a long way to go, but I begin to feel that this central triangle, at least, will be finished in my lifetime.

And some tennis – although nothing I was very interested in. Coco Gauff has still not started. The Number 2 court, where her match is scheduled, is occupied by the same man who spoiled Wimbledon for me last year. I won’t rehearse that story again. You can look it up if you’re interested. And if she doesn’t play tonight, will my lunch party tomorrow prevent my watching her?


I know I must get back to North and South. But I felt today as if nothing could soothe except Trollope, and so I am re-reading Castle Richmond. It is set in Ireland during the Famine and, as I remember, not uninteresting on that score, although not very good otherwise.


My niece C. and I, you may remember, are going on a cruise to the upper left hand corner of Scotland next May. Only 10 months to go! (I’ve got to stay alive, and nimble enough to get up and down a short flight of stairs.) An unexpected pleasure of waiting is the joy of not buying clothes.

I will almost certainly indulge in a garment or two next March and April. But for now, I can browse the Toast catalogue, or enjoy reading, as in today’s Times, about the advantages of large, casual silk shirts, and it doesn’t cost me a penny.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

That was not too bad a day. I had my hair cut, early on, and will look tidy for the wedding. I did a supermarket sweep – a friend of a friend is going to look after my dear cats while I am away. He has a cat of his own, named Hamish. He is coming to lunch on Thursday, along with the connecting link, so to speak.

I’m going for Gennaro’s Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary and Chilli (and white wine), from the Jamie Oliver Youtube Channel. With a green salad from the doorstep.

Then I spent a happy afternoon watching Wimbledon. Federer lost his first set, which created a frisson of excitement. I gave up on Serena, who came next. She seemed to have everything under control. Unlike Federer (a fellow oldie), however, she looked as if she was carrying some extra weight and not moving with absolute fluency.

Last year I was on my Hebridean cruise during the first week of Wimbledon, and missed it all. One really needs it, like the first chapters of a novel.

The schoolgirl’s triumph over Venus yesterday was an excellent match. She looks as if she should be with us for a while, except that the promising young ones so often don't stay the course. Two such young men crashed out in the first round yesterday (Zverev and Tsitsipas, seeded 6 and 7, in the Greek God category, both). 

And I got quite a bit of knitting done while the tennis was burbling on. The secret is to stop knitting whenever there are 30 points against the server.

Cat sent me this interesting link to the Shetland Lace Project, for the sake of the red-and-white “burnous”, but there are other interesting articles there as well. I particularly enjoyed the one by Carol Christiansen called “What’s In a Name?”, about the difficulties of giving names to the lace pieces in the Shetland Museum Collection. She doesn’t want to assign names – she wants to discover what the original knitters would have called the patterns.

Mary Thomas says, in her famous “Knitting Book”, that there are only ten truly native Shetland lace patterns. I believed her for quite a while. I now know that lace knitters were/are fully as adventurous as Fair Isle ones at adapting and expanding the boundaries of the craft, and that "truly native" is a meaningless classification.

The new VK is here. Nothing really stirring, although there are some things I will go back to and consider again. I’m sorry to hear that Trisha Malcolm is demitting office. She has been an excellent editor. Does anyone know who is to succeed her? I don’t suppose the name will mean anything to me, anyway.

Monday, July 01, 2019

I’ve had a busy afternoon watching Wimbledon. The match I am interested in (mentioned yesterday) hasn’t come on yet. It will be on the No. 1 court, and presumably the BBC will show it. Although one never knows. There’s an Englishman on Centre Court at the moment (doing badly) and he may command all the attention.

I didn’t get much knitting done today. One row.

What I did do, however, was to dig out Kirsty Miles’ Christening shawl. She is James and Cathy’s younger daughter, and I thought I might take it to her when I go down next week, in case she ever gets married and wants to wear it on the day. It has yellowed quite a bit, in 20 years, but no moth. It is an Amedro pattern, I think. I am rather impressed with it.

It was the first of my Calcutta Cup knits. I can recognise the cup and the year “2000” easily enough, but I can’t exactly find my initials and Kirsty’s which are also supposed to be there.

On the question of that red stripe on my current project: I’m getting cold feet. Anonymous, there is no bride. I have three unmarried granddaughters and my vague thought is that I am knitting this one for all three of them. Or two, if Kirsty does go for the old shawl. There are also six bachelor grandsons. Lots of potential weddings.