Thursday, October 31, 2019

Those two balls of red Uradale yarn turned up today. If Ronnie Eunson had put them in his pocket and set off for Edinburgh yesterday as soon as he got my order, they could hardly have been here sooner. Maybe he did. I started a red stripe at once.

I don’t remember Meg’s random-striped child’s sweater, Mary Lou. Thanks for that. “Random” is surprisingly difficult. The mind much prefers regularity. Kate Davies offers various suggestions to help us decide which size stripe (6, 4 or 2 rows) and which colour to use next. I am doing it on the hoof (like last time), my only addition to the simple set of rules being to use all 14 colours before starting over.

I have been thinking about the timing of all this. I think I need to move back into the sitting room for some evening television, if I am to finish the Dathan hap and the South African striped one and the pocket square in good order. The South African stripes have to be ready by late April (for the expected baby) and the pocket square for Christmas. It would be nice to have the Dathan for Christmas, too. Perdita has taken to sitting on my lap when I’m watching television, which certainly doesn’t help.

Or I could just knit in the kitchen after supper. It’s portable stuff.

I am dealing with my which-row-next? problem, by the way, with my Katcha Katcha. Face up, the next wrong-side row is an increase. Face-down, it isn’t. So far so good.


“The Vanishing Fleece” sounds good, Mary Lou – and I like your idea of buying a book sometimes to support the author without necessarily enslaving oneself to an immediate read. Both that and “The Golden Fleece” sound worth adding to a new list.

Meanwhile “Olive, Again” turned up today. And I still haven’t read the new Le Carre. But first I must finish “The Small House at Allington”. Trollope hasn’t got many chapters left in which to give everyone their just deserts, but I am sure he will pull it off.

Happy Hallowe’en, everybody. We had a glorious day today to prepare us for the dark of November.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

I had an uneasy feeling yesterday, Gretchen, that I had told you the Galileo story before. Cat, thank you for confirming my suspicions that it is a joke Italians make in such circumstances. I think Galileo might be pleased to be so remembered.

Thanks, too, for help with my problem about charging the iPad. Alexander came to see me today and confirmed your opinion, Maureen and Mary Lou, that the cord is likely to be at fault, especially if it’s not actually an Apple cord (can’t remember). I found another one lying about that seems to work, for the moment. I was especially interested to have you confirm my experience, Mary Lou, that a cord which charges a telephone won’t necessarily charge an iPad.


Well, I seem to be stuck with this Dathan. It wasn’t intended. I still haven’t reached 200 stitches – and I’m going to need 597. Can I finish by Christmas? Maybe a picture tomorrow. I don’t think “creativity” comes into it much, despite KD’s prose – the first one worked because the various colours of her Milarrochy tweed work so well together, and this one is doing fine because of the harmony of the grab-bag of Shetland jumper weight in autumnal colours which I bought at Wilma Malcolmson’s studio in Shetland in May.

All or most of the yarn seems to be from Uradale Farm, which we also visited on a different day, and where I also bought yarn, so maybe it is just that I have got things mixed up. Today I went to the Uradale website and ordered a couple of balls of red. We had soup and bread for lunch every day on our Shetland Wool Adventure: Ronnie Eunson’s at Uradale was the most delicious. His yarn is beautiful, too.

Andrew and Andrea turned up on Tuesday, on schedule, despite the fact that the previous episode had been postponed by illness. The big interview is with Esther Rutter, the delightful author of “This Golden Fleece”. I am somewhat tempted. I found this review in the Guardian which augments the temptation.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Little to report, as so often. But the day was not without accomplishment. I wrote an anecdote in Italian for my tutor and sent it to her. The idea was to  practice the tenses of verbs.

[When Archie and I, last October, were travelling from Reggio Calabria in the toe of Italy to Catania on Sicily, we took a train which made the crossing by ferry. I have since learned that there is only one other train in Europe that can do that, although I have forgotten where it is. The train arrived from Rome. We got on it. We sat for an hour. No buffet. Then it began to move slowly slowly towards the ferry. The man opposite said “Eppure! Si muove!”

That is probably a joke that Italians make all the time, but it was new to me and I was enchanted. I have never yet told the story to anyone who recognised the words. We’ll see how my tutor does with it. I told Archie what little I know about Galileo.]

Writing and dispatching that took quite a while. Then I made a batch of “my” chilli sauce which is really Jamie Oliver’s (on Youtube) except that I use a recent batch of fermented chillis instead of fresh. I have still to liquidise and bottle it.

And as for knitting, I have gone on with the new Dathan, which is nothing if not soothing. I have about 150 stitches now, and rows are feeling slow. It’s looking good.


I am pressing forward with “The Small House at Allington”. Again, as in “Framley Parsonage” where the author leads off with a handsome vicar already happily married, I think maybe Trollope is deliberately confounding expectations. We have a pair of pretty sisters, portionless. We have two suitable(ish) proposals early in the book, one for each sister,  one accepted, the other refused. That’s where things begin to get interesting.

I have been having some trouble charging my iPad. I needn’t panic. I have my laptop on which I can keep in touch with the world, and there are plenty of books here including in fact “The Small House at Allington”. But I do panic. I depend utterly on my iPad.

Monday, October 28, 2019

We had a good weekend, and the salmon was worth toiling up the hill for. I feel as if I am cutting adrift from life, somewhat, and floating out to sea, or downstream, or wherever. But still, it was good.

Such knitting as I have done has been on the new Dathan. I’d better face up to its status as a WIP and add it to the sidebar. Thank you for reminding me about the stitch markers to separate off batches of 50 stitches. The first set are now in place. The stitch count increases briskly, on this one.

The big news is that C’s daughter Christina – my husband’s great-niece – and her husband Manaba are expecting their first child next May. (Just as C. and I leave on our small-boat cruise of northwest Scotland – could be awkward.) (You may remember their wedding a year ago – I was there.) I’m planning a plain-vanilla jumper-weight hap with the feather-and-fan stripes in the colours of the South African flag, of which there are a surprising number. I am undecided, so far, as to whether or not to do the central square corner-to-corner. It certainly looks better that way when worn – but does it matter to a baby?


I have gone on to “The Small House at Allington”. The great thing about Trollope is that there are so many that when I have finished them all, I will have forgotten the first ones. I didn’t care for this one at all, at first, but it’s hotting up.

There was a substantial review of “Olive, Again” in the Financial Times at the weekend – and it’s clearly going to be dark, again. I don’t see how it could be otherwise. I used to get pretty irritated when I read a review of something that turned out not to have been published yet (as must be the case here, because I have pre-ordered it).

Here’s a question for you: Archie was here today and mentioned, over lunch, Lingotti’s “The Conspiracy Against the Human Race”. I immediately bought the kindle version. Never mind what it’s about (=consciousness) nor how far I will get into it – what do you make of this half-sentence: “Should your truth run counter to that of individuals who devise or applaud paradoxes that stiff up the status quo…”

I’m hopeless with double negatives, and that sentence is already overloaded with them. But the question is, what does “stiff up” mean? or imply? Archie thinks it means,  to support. I felt sure, at lunchtime, that it means the opposite, although I am not so sure now. Am I confusing "stiff up" with "stuff up"? Comments very gratefully received.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Crispin Crispianus

My cleaner didn’t come this morning, so the kitchen is not entirely ready for a daughter-in-law’s inspection, but it can’t be helped. I’m feeling pretty end-of-day, as often, and won't do more than lay out towels.

Nor have I done much knitting, and that little, on the new Dathan.

You’re absolutely right, commenters: the book I can’t find is Madeline Weston’s “The Traditional Sweater Book”. Where on earth could it be? It’s not so much that I need the pattern – I need the book. So today, this is embarrassing to admit, I went to Abebooks and bought it again. It was very cheap.

St Crispin’s Day

On Crispin Crispianus in 1952, Sylvia and Ann and I met at her grandmother’s house on East College Street in Oberlin. I think Sylvia’s parents must have been there too. She was about to drop out of college for a year and go with them to England. And at some point that afternoon, somebody must have said, why don’t you join us next summer, Jean?

The first day of the rest of my life.

Olivier’s Henry V was much with us in those days, and much beloved. And the play sort of followed us around. At the end of that summer of ’53, when the others had gone home, I wandered about alone for a few days, and came to the Edinburgh Festival. I saw an excellent Fringe Henry V in a church somewhere, quite possibly the Phoebe Traquair church just around the corner from here.

And then one day in the ‘80’s Ann and Sylvia and I were together in Birmingham – my husband must, mercifully, have been absent. We went to Chatsworth and we went to Stratford and what should the RSC have had on that day but Henry V, with Kenneth Branagh. It must have been relatively early in his career. It was wonderful.

Today I got a Jacquie Lawson ecard from Sylvia. She sends them sometimes. It was all sort of thanksgiving-y but at the end, a message from Sylvia: Happy St Crispin’s day. I burst into tears.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

I got up the hill and bought my salmon. The current incumbent fishmonger (tall and handsome and less-than-middle-aged) suggested I take the bus up the hill. It’s not a bad idea. It’s only one stop, which seems a bit effete – but the bus is frequent and I’ve got my Old Lady’s Pass, so it’s free. Why not?

Here’s the new Dathan:

I really have other things to do, but this is very seductive. Jenni, I’m going to try your idea of the removable stitch marker. So far, I’ve been able always to leave the work after Row Four, but that won’t be possible for much longer.

Again this morning I went to the shelves with great assurance, and couldn’t find the book I want. Worse yet, I can’t remember either the title or the author. It’s something on the line of Traditional Knitting, and I wanted to look again at its hap pattern. It was the first hap I ever knitted, and I can see another on the horizon. Details soon. The missing pattern, uniquely in my experience, was done edging-inwards and then two borders at a time, back and forth to avoid purling. I haven’t looked at that book for a while, although I remember it vividly. Where could it be?

From this morning’s Times: some Scottish courts will be closed tomorrow. Staff are meant to sign up for day courses. “A courts insider said, ‘A few people who didn’t get in early and choose the most interesting or relevant-sounding stuff have been left with knitting and sketching.’” Poof.


I’m enjoying “Consider the Fork”. It’s a cheerful antidote to “Olive Kitteridge”. I had never heard of a Thermomix. I have watched a couple of presentations on YouTube and now I know that I don’t want one, so that’s a relief. I had never heard of a Japanese ginger grater, either, and that sounds more interesting – and a good deal cheaper. A Christmas present, perhaps.


James and Cathy are coming tomorrow. I’ll be back here Sunday or Monday. [And I’ve just heard from Cathy that they won’t be here in time to eat tomorrow -- so perhaps I'll post after all.]

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Alexander came to see me this morning. The Calcutta Cup scarf by now should be safely in Glasgow.

I went on knitting the new Dathan, although there were other things I should be doing. It looks well. I’ll take a picture for you tomorrow. The colour collection I bought on Shetland is awfully autumnal – or, gloriously autumnal, depending on the point of view. But it doesn’t include any red.

And I think it needs red. Here’s a link to its Ravelry page. Maybe it’s just that I need red, in these dark weeks.

When I was a pupil at Hampton Elementary School in Detroit, we would occasionally have “coloring” – presumably when teachers were desperate. And the Bold, Rude Boys always secured all the red crayons. What is it about red? It is not especially prominent here in the west, although it is the colour of joy and celebration and art in (at least) India and China.

Anyway, I have located the oddballs from my first Dathan – sometimes I can find things, sometimes I can’t – and have introduced two rows of red Milarrochy Tweed. There is enough left for a couple more appearances. And I could order more.

Thank you for your help with my problem, namely, how to know where I am in that simple 4-row pattern. Anonymous, I thought for a glorious moment that your idea would solve it – but it won’t. KD’s recipe adds 10 stitches every four rows: 4,2,4,0. Yours would add 12. I don’t dare change the rate of increase. Mary Lou, there’s no difficulty here (unusually for garter stitch) knowing which side is which: one of the few Dathan rules is to start every new colour at the same edge, so there is already a friendly fringe there to identify it – and, anyway, the right side has the colours nestling neatly together, whereas on the wrong side there are those attractive garter stitch bumps.

Tamar, your suggestion comes closest, not least for its reminiscence of EZ’s “Look at your knitting”. If I peer closely at the end of a right-side row, I think I can discern whether the previous row involved an increase or not. I remain puzzled – why was it so easy last time?

Life’s Other Problems

Southern Gal, my fishmonger is a one-man band, the 5th generation of his family to sell fish in Edinburgh. No delivery. I’ll set off early tomorrow, while still feeling strong. The bank is up there at the top of the hill as well, and I can always find something useful to do there.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

There is nothing left to do for the Calcutta Cup scarf except a few more ends to be dealt with – the first round of Pointless should be more than enough. I’ll need a moment to face up to the pocket square: wind the skein, re-find the pattern. Instead of that, I have fished the Shetland yarn out of the stash cupboard and found the Dathan hap pattern. I’ll cast that on.

It’s perfectly simple: a four row garter stitch pattern. Right-side rows have four increases each, one at each end and one at each side of the central 5-stitch panel. Alternate wrong side-rows increase at the outer edges only, or don’t increase at all.

I’ve done this very recently, and don’t remember having the slightest difficulty keeping my place. Viewed in the abstract, I wonder how I will know which type of wrong-side row comes next.

[Later: I knit the first few rows during Pointless, and still don’t see the answer to this question.]    

Mary Lou, the Dathan would do fine for mindless television knitting, but not for travel. It gets pretty bulky towards the end. Nothing beats a sock, for travel.


Yes, Shandy, Lucy’s sojourn with the Crawleys in Framley Parsonage is good, as is her courage before her prospective mother-in-law. But the bit I loved the most was the exchange of letters towards the end between Dr Thorne and Miss Dunstable (both of them revenants from earlier books). Trollope is dreadfully good at letters.

The final chapter is called “How They Were All Married, Had Two Children, and Lived Happy Ever After”.  You’ve got to love Trollope!

Today I have been re-reading “Olive Kitteredge”. I remember a lot about it, but had forgotten how dark it is. I will have to approach “Olive, Again” with caution.


[See yesterday] I’ve emailed my tutor, cancelling Saturday’s Italian. It was hard work. (But I got in a subjunctive.) I’ve done a grocery order. If I go for the tray-bake, I’ll have to walk up the hill on Thursday to get salmon – I wouldn’t trust Tesco for that. I’m feeble enough these days that that’s a serious undertaking.

Monday, October 21, 2019

I’m quite pleased with it. The final ribbing is the-wrong-way-around in a fashion too complicated to explain (and no one will notice). The scarf is longer than it appears here – perhaps 7 feet.

A bit more ribbing, some final tidying – and then it will be an FO! I think my best plan will be to dash off the pocket square before retreating into the bliss of the Spring Shawl. But that will leave the possibility of an Alternative, Colourful Winter Wip.

Many thanks, Cam, for your review of Jared’s new yarn, Ranch 02. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it, Mary Lou.

But I think my best plan, if I want an alternative wip, is that armload of single-balls I bought towards the end of my Shetland Wool Adventure (just as I was about to congratulate myself on my restraint). It would make a good Dathan hap. I love my Dathan hap, made with KD’s Millarochy tweed as the pattern specifies. I enjoyed knitting it, I enjoy wearing it, I love to look at it. What more could one ask? And it would be ideal winter knitting.


I’ve finished Framley Parsonage. It’s a good’un. I’m currently re-reading Olive Kitteredge.


James & Cathy are coming on Friday. I have spent some time today in a pleasant tizzy, wondering what to feed them. The corner shop had a whole delicious tray of quinces this morning – a Moroccan-type lamb tagine in the slow cooker? But I think I’ll stick with my original choice, before I saw the quinces – a salmon tray-bake with French beans. Lighter, easier to eat.

And I must cancel my Italian lesson for Saturday morning. That involves thinking how to explain the difficulty in Italian.  

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sorry about yesterday. The Italian lesson left me more than ordinarily prostrate. I went to bed as soon as I decently could. Somewhat better today, and I have added Thomas’ initials to the Calcutta Cup scarf. I think they’re the right way around. Picture tomorrow – at the moment, the bottom edge rolls up a bit and obscures the letters. The final ribbing (about to start) should fix that.

Much general excitement. Brooklyn Tweed’s Ranch 02:Forbes yarn is here and I still like the dark red. Only two patterns, both of course delicious – a cabled hat and a yoke sweater patterned in purls. The yarn is a limited edition – it’s now or never. But I must be firm.

And Andrew and Andrea are back, looking rather pale, with a Shetland Wool Week edition. (Have I watched all of it? I must check.) There was a good bit at the beginning about the opening party, with Oliver Henry on stage looking uncomfortable in a suit. We are so much more used to seeing him in that overall. He told us about meeting Prince Charles and how knowledgeably HRH had spoken about sheep.

Then we went back to base, and Andrew said what a compliment it was to the Prince that Oliver Henry had said such a thing. It was indeed.


An embarrassment of books, at the moment. I continue to read and enjoy Framley Parsonage. As in Doctor Thorne, debt plays a prominent role in the plot. I wonder if poor old Anthony was having money problems at the time?

And the new Le Carre has turned up (I had pre-ordered it). I read a page or two. It starts well. Reviews are not entirely rapturous, but good enough. And I have bought “Consider the Fork” on your recommendations. And Olive, Again will be with us any moment; I am continuing to re-read and to be mightily impressed by Olive Kitteredge. And there is a review in this morning’s paper of Starve Acre by Andrew Hurley. I’ve read one of his two previous books, and quite liked it.
That should get me through to Christmas.

Non-read, non-knit

Politics continues as muddled as ever. What we need is Mrs Thatcher: we like the Common Market. We do not want a federated Europe. She made it all seem so simple.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Pom Pom (comment yesterday) – you’re my friend!

Not much today. The final end of the Calcutta Cup scarf has got to be the right way up and the right way around, and I didn’t quite trust myself this evening.

Tonight’s Italian homework is to write a narrative in the past, for the sake of the tenses. Italian tenses are surprisingly difficult. There is an Agatha Christie (I think) in which an oppressed wife drives constantly in 3rd gear, in the hopes of avoiding her husband's criticisms.  That probably sounds senseless to YouYoung Folks, but it struck a chord with me when I read it. Well, I tend to do Italian in the imperfect tense in much the same spirit.

All I have to do now is re-write it, improving the tenses. Then I can go to bed.

I learned this morning, half-awake, that there is a mot in Brussels: everybody understands English, but nobody understands the English. I must try to translate that for my tutor. Capire? Conoscere? Sapere? The longer we can talk about generalities, the less time we have to address my homework. She probably feels the same. The lessons are entirely in Italian.

The new New Yorker came today – October 21. My husband used to collect cartoons related to art, and I hope I can find the collection, because the one on page 38 needs to be added. He was particularly interested in frames.

I think my favourite in his collection – you’d recognise the cartoonist if I could find it – had a man in late middle age showing a younger one (perhaps even a son-in-law) around the place as he said “Cezanne is about as goofy as I like to get”.

Contrariwise, I am quite profoundly offended by the cartoon on page 40. I don’t think I’m particularly touchy. I fretted all afternoon, in a mild sort of way, because I couldn’t say here any of the few things I would like to say. But then I thought of something which might be allowed (let’s hope so):

You wouldn’t dare treat the Prophet like that.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

I finished (all I am going to do of) the ribbed part of the Calcutta Cup scarf – and then couldn’t find the white yarn for the end part. I wrongly blamed my furry friends. Then I did find it, but I suspect it’s too late to do any more today.

Brexit grinds on. I wish I understood the implications of “single market” and “customs union”. It’s not that I haven’t tried. They’re not the same thing, I can tell you that much.


(You can blame Shandy for this -- comment yesterday.) I don’t think I believe in them. I’m with Hume and Gibbon. Modern miracles are all medical, and we would all have to admit – including doctors – that’s there’s lot we don’t understand.

Anyone who has lived as long as I have will be able to recall a couple of episodes that might have been attributed to the power of prayer. The time I had a bad tussle with a rose bush, and a couple of days later, red streaks were running up my left arm. The time our cat collapsed and we took her to the vet in Blairgowrie and he made her better. (I don’t suppose the Vatican would be impressed by the cure of a cat, but we were.)

Thomas the elder, Rachel’s son, is completely deaf in one ear. I embarked on a novena to Cardinal Newman once, thinking that would be a perfect miracle for his canonisation – plenty of medical evidence. Three or four days in, Rachel rang up to say that Thomas had a bad infection in the other ear. I left off the novena at once. My husband always said novenas were dangerous.

Ten years or so ago, it was decided to exhume Newman (this is distasteful) in anticipation of sainthood, so that they would have relics or something. When they opened the grave, there was nothing there except the brass plate from the coffin and a tassel from the cardinal’s hat.

After only 100 years? No skeleton? This almost does seem to me like a miracle. Google “exhumation of Cardinal Newman” and you can read all about it. He was, at his own urgent request, buried in the same grave as his friend Ambrose St John, who had died some years previously. So what about Ambrose? Had he also disappeared? Googling doesn’t provide the answer to that one.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

I’ve charted Thomas’ initials, for the concluding bit of the Calcutta Cup scarf; and have done such other minor calculations as were necessary. I realised I had been postponing those chores. I think I’ll probably do one more cross – they come every six rows. Maybe two. Then four rows without crossing. Then the end. I’m getting there.

Thank you very much for all of yesterday’s comments. And thank you, too, to those who like my sister couldn’t post, but wrote to me. You were a great comfort.


I’ll have to drop the Sakoolas case – this is getting ridiculous. But today I wanted to say how pleased I am that the dead man’s parents refused to meet Mrs S. in the oval office. It is not easy to say no to the most powerful man in the world in his own house – even if it is only Donald Trump. And it is not easy to make the right call when taken by surprise. Photographers were poised.

(Speaking of making the right call when taken by surprise, I feel Prince Charles doesn’t get enough credit for going to Paris that day and bringing Diana’s body back to London. They were fully divorced. They truly hated each other. He was at Balmoral with his sons. Only days before she had been scampering around the Mediterranean with Dodi. But Prince Charles got it right.)


I have gone straight on to “Framley Parsonage”. Trollope makes a splendid show in the first chapter of laying all his cards on the table – the young, handsome vicar is provided with a wife “somewhat larger than common” but, on the whole, a Good Thing. There are a couple of children. The living pays well. I suspect, like any conjuror, that the old boy has a few more cards up his sleeve.

And I am interweaving chapters of “Olive Kitteridge”. That book is a series of connected – but not consecutive – short stories. This is a re-reading, for me. Do read it if you haven’t yet.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My sister tried to comment on yesterday’s blog and failed. Several of you have mentioned this problem before, but I haven’t paid much attention. This time I have no comments at all (that could be, of course, because I have become unusually tedious). I hope Blogger will put things right soon. I need your comments,

My sister’s one was to have been a doctorly comment on Sakoolas – the lack of transplantable organs doesn’t necessarily say anything about the accident itself.

A quiet day here. I think one more session will bring the Calcutta Cup scarf to the point where I’ve got to chart Thomas’ initials and embark on the end game. Much of this evening’s time was spent winding the next skein. I’m sure everyone who has a stash cupboard bursting with stash (that is, presumably, everyone) will share my sense of achievement in dispatching a whole skein. Although in fact I didn’t quite get to the point of attaching the new one.

Greek Helen dropped in and walked me around Drummond Place Gardens. It was another fine autumn day. Edinburgh seems to be having the best weather in the UK. She took this picture of my original and best cat:

Lest there be any ill-feeling between them, here is one of Paradox helping me inspect the refrigerator for festering food:

Tamar, I have tried in vain (so far) to find Nigella’s endorsement of my cast-iron slow cooker. I must be looking in the wrong book. The great thing about it is that the cooking-pot can go on the hob, to brown things in advance. And can, indeed, be brought to the table. The instructions say not to wash it, just to scrub with a stiff brush in hot water, dry by hand, and oil. This means that a procrastinator like me has to spring into action after using it.

Monday, October 14, 2019

I watched the Queen’s Speech live this morning. Whatever ground Britain may have lost in the world, there’s no doubt that England – I think that’s the mot juste – does that sort of thing rather well. Bow, ye lower middle classes! Bow ye tradesmen! Bow ye masses! (That’s Gilbert and Sullivan: some things haven’t changed.)

And the Queen is splendid. At 93, I think she walks more boldly than I do (seven years her junior). She speaks with a calm, firm voice, and managed the sit-to-stand at the end (an exercise I am meant to do daily, and sometimes do) with aplomb – just a brief, steadying hand on the leftmost armrest of the throne. Perhaps there is a technical word for the armrest of a throne.

I got some knitting done, but also had Perdita to wrestle with.

Sad news: Andrew and Andrea are ill, and there will be no episode tomorrow. Maybe later in the week. It was good of them to tell us. I suspect they are suffering from stress and overwork, and hope they will take it easy for a bit and not worry about us.

The new VK turned up this morning – always a surprise, somehow or other. This issue is often the best of the year – and this one is, I think, a corker. I have only skimmed it so far, but there are several patterns I would happily cast on this evening if I didn’t have other responsibilities: 8, 7, 6.

There’s an article about Jeanette Sloan. I’ve only speed-read it so far, but I don’t think it mentions that she used to run an LYS here in Edinburgh, on the south side, near the Meadows. I was there often enough that I look on her as a friend, although that is a bit presumptuous of me. Then – the LYS has closed – she became a columnist on Knitting magazine. And since then, I learn from the VK article, she has been seriously ill and seems to be devoted mostly to design these days.


A columnist in the Times this morning says that the young man who died in the accident involving Mrs Sakoolas had no organs left in a fit state for transplant, from which she (the columnist) concludes that Mrs Sakoolas was proceeding fairly briskly along the wrong side of the road. Or maybe they both were?

Sunday, October 13, 2019

What is the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane? I could look it up.

I’ve had a pretty good day, with Cardinal Newman and Mrs Sakoolas and Scottish rugby bubbling away in the background. In the foreground is that mutton stew, now bubbling away itself, perhaps to be ready for a late supper.

There was a bad moment at midday when I feared I wasn’t going to be able to find the slow cooker. Did I use it last winter? I must have. Its three large cast-iron pieces are stored separately. The electrical base had to be fetched down from a high shelf, at considerable risk to life and limb. I already had the lid. But where was the pot itself?

Eventually I found it. All is well.

I watched the Andrew Marr show and knit, in the morning. It’s my Sunday treat, after Mass. Nicola Sturgeon was the main guest. I feel about her as Republicans in the ‘30’s were said to feel about “that man in the White House”, but she stood up well today, relaxed and cheerful and providing fairly straight answers to the questions.

 I’ve done about 5 ½ of the 12 inches we decided last weekend that the Calcutta Cup scarf still needs. It’s surprisingly slow work.

Cardinal Newman was much discussed on the “Sunday” show on the radio this morning. From it I learned that the Oratorians have never even put electricity into his rooms at the Birmingham Oratory – see yesterday. That’s good. They obviously knew all along that he was something special.

I watched a little bit of the rugby match, Scotland-Japan. It didn’t seem to be going well, so I gave up. And it didn’t go well. But that defeatist attitude can never be as stoutly maintained again , ever since Twickenham ’19 – in whose honour I am knitting that scarf. We were slaughtered in the first half, that day. Lots of people gave up and went home.


I need not despair. The new LeCarre is coming out this week. And the new Olive Kitteredge (“Olive, Again”) at the end of the month – and meanwhile I could be re-reading the first one. I had probably better finish “Doctor Thorne” first. It’s not a patch on “Barchester Towers” so far.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

No forrad’er with the mutton, alas. I was exhausted after the Italian lesson, as usual, and haven’t done much else. I still have time and perhaps strength to do the preliminaries tonight — but the one thing one is not allowed to do, with slow cooking, is to store the stuff overnight in the slow cooker in the refrigerator. Especially, perhaps, in my case, as I have a wonderful cast iron one, endorsed by Nigella, a Christmas gift from my children. It might be worth doing the preliminaries anyway and facing the extra washing up.

No, I think not. Knitting perhaps, then bed.

I knit a bit of scarf yesterday, and hope for a bit more this evening. Something went wrong with the pattern but then it righted itself and I think all difficulties have been swallowed by the dark yarn.

Jared is about to produce a new yarn called “Ranch 2: Forbes” — a single-breed Rambouillet. In his previous trailer (not today’s) the Burgundy dark red was to me beyond beautiful, at least as it appeared on a computer screen. He’s done a good hat pattern for it. I could give everybody one for Christmas— (but first, Jean, you would have to finish that scarf).
It’s woollen-spun, just shy of worsted-weight. In the EYF drop-spindle class I took in ‘18 I learned at last, in a way I have been able to remember, what “woollen-“ and “worsted-“ spun mean. More or less.


Tomorrow is a big day, and I am feeling strangely bereft. Cardinal Newman is going to be declared a saint. In Rome, of course. Prince Charles will be there.

We lived in Birmingham for many years, and Newman’s Oratory was our parish church. All the priests we knew are dead now, all but one, Fr. Ian Ker, who left the Oratory and who will, I hope, be in Rome tomorrow. Google has told me how to watch the ceremony but, alas! at a time when I will be at Mass.

Newman died quietly, at a great age, and the community has kept his room as he left it. They called in my husband once, to advise on maintaining it. Women were not allowed upstairs (I hope that is still true) so I couldn’t go with him.

Draw the curtains, he told them. Nothing does more damage than sunshine. I dare say he gave them more advice than that.

Now, perhaps, it will be a shrine, and they will have to let women in. I know, from outside, which was Newman’s window.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The mutton is here, after a tedious day of being-waited-in-for. As soon as the Italian lesson is finished tomorrow, I’ll get cracking on that stew.

Still no knitting, but I mean to go get some done NOW, before knuckling down to my Italian homework.

Shandy – sorry not to have answered your question before. Maureen (when we had lunch on Tuesday) was wearing a wonderful (that goes without saying) Fair Isle vest with a particularly distinguished scoop neck edged with narrow corrugated rib. I mentally congratulated myself for having mastered the rib, at least, in my later years, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a neckline like that one.


I’ve finished Barchester Towers. Gosh, it’s good. It’s going to be hard to go back to Anne Tyler, although I may do it. But I’ve embarked on Doctor Thorne. I don't see why I shouldn't read my way through Barchester again, skipping TheWarden which I think I remember too well. Perdita sat on my lap again for a while yesterday, and then I went into the kitchen and was joined by Paradox, and for a moment I felt like Bishop Proudie being pals with Mr Slope one moment, and the next with his wife.

Current affairs

Mrs Sakoolas is still much in the news, despite all the many other things going on in the world. Mr Trump says, driving on the wrong side of the road in GB could happen to any of us. Not, I think, a helpful remark.

What does “right-hand drive” mean? That’s what the car had. Is that a car like mine, meant for driving on the left, with the steering wheel on the right? Or the opposite, meant for driving on the right? Greek Helen has a car like that, and has managed to move about for the last few years without killing anyone. She doesn’t think Mrs Sakoolas is likely to have brought an American car along with her.

The accident happened in the late afternoon-early evening, and she was breathalysed. That’s routine. We haven’t been told the result.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Another nothing-much of a day. I am not engaging with this scarf as I should, and yet there’s not much more to do and I must finish it.

I am having a good time with the Shetland Wool Week book Maureen brought me. Apart from anything else, there are some excellent pictures of sheep, capturing that look of theirs in which there is something of idiocy and something of the sinister. You will forgive me for being hard on sheep if you have ever had them in your vegetable garden.

And speaking of sheep, as we were driving to Kirkmichael last Sunday I saw some, for the first time in quite a while, and I found myself feeling quite hungry. (I hadn’t had much breakfast, and that’s always unwise.) I have ordered some on-line mutton which should be delivered tomorrow. I’ll get the slow cooker out and make Gennaro Contaldo’s (YouTube) lamb stew.


Before I go off to a determined evening of scarf-knitting…

I am having a tough time with A Spool of Blue Thread. There are an awful lot of characters, covering three – indeed, four – generations. It is hard to keep them straight in one’s head, especially as some of them are dogs. With human-type names, not Fido or Spot or Rover. And none of them, to my taste, are very interesting.

Whereas the alternative is Barchester Towers which is blissful. And choc-a-bloc with interesting characters.

The Prime Minister has spoken to Trump about Mrs Sakoolas. Trump has expressed Deepest Sympathy, and promised to send someone to talk to her. Clearly, nothing can be done, now that she is back in the US, unless she should decide to return voluntarily. The Sakoolas’s were at an RAF base which is in fact a US Air Force base. The accident happened just outside. She – or they? – flew back from the base itself – I had been imagining Heathrow.

I feel almost a novelist’s interest in the question of how the rest of her life will pan out, after having killed someone and skipped town. I am inclined to believe that the mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small. (I just looked that up on Wikipedia, and am delighted to learn that it goes back to the ancient Greek.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

I’ve been to the doctor and had my flu jab – a good thing done, and that’s it for today.

I had a grand time with Maureen yesterday, except that I forgot to ask her about those ponies in their Fair Isle sweaters with which she can be seen on Facebook. When Kristie and Kath and I were in Shetland however many years ago, we met the woman who knit the sweaters. Except that by now it may be new sweaters, and different ponies, and, who knows? a different knitter.

She brought me the 10th anniversary Shetland Wool Week annual, with a nice introduction from the Duke of Rothesay (known as Prince Charles, further south), and many a jolly pattern and heart-stirring photograph. I will spend some time with that.

And she said – oh! be still, my beating heart! – that she was in a queue at some point with Andrew and Andrea, and fell into conversation with Andrew, and he said something that made it sound as if occasionally he reads this blog. I think, if I’ve counted right, that there is only a week to go before they’ll be here themselves, telling us all about Shetland.

I could never do Wool Week – the getting about from place to place, the hiring of a car, would be too much. So I appreciate these reports all the more.

We went out to lunch, and then I collapsed into bed. No knitting, yesterday.

We established, over lunch, that it was Maureen in early 2007, over coffee,  who suggested that I submit Sam the Ram as my Knitted Toy entry at the Strathardle Highland Games. I did, and not only won a First for Knitted Toy, but also the Glenisla Shield for the best handicraft entry. (And granddaughter Rachel, James’ and Cathy’s daughter, got the Mandy Duncan cup that day for the best children’s entry, and was on the front page of the Blairgowrie Advertiser the following week.) It was God’s way of marking our 50th wedding anniversary a few days later, which otherwise would have passed unnoticed.


I think the Sakoolas's (see yesterday) are about to fade from notice. The dead man’s mother has raised £10,000 on cloud-funding (or whatever it’s called) and means to go to Washington and knock on the door of the White House. I wish her luck. One has to feel sorry for the Sakoolas children – one of them was in the car when the accident happened. If they don’t know already why they have been suddenly removed from school and taken home to the US, they’ll soon find out, and it’s a poor moral foundation for going forward into adult life.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Tamar, you have no idea how few apples were involved, or how quick the harvest!

The sun has appeared, after a grey start to the day. And Maureen will be here soon for our lunch date.

Not much knitting. Perdita came and sat on my lap in mid-row yesterday evening. Had it been Paradox, I would have batted her off, but Perdita is not a lap cat and I thought maybe she needed me. She shows every sign of hating her sister, and of being afraid of her. We were alone in the room. She was sitting with her back to the door. She kept looking over her shoulder towards the door as if she feared we were going to be interrupted.

She has taken up residence on top of the glass-fronted bookcase. Were she not so stout, I would wonder if she is eating enough.


My sister and her husband (DC residents) are at the moment in France, on an Elderhostel expedition I think. I asked her, via email, whether DC was talking about Mrs Sakoolas, as all of Britain is. My sister is clearly in close touch with DC, distressed about the abandoning of the Kurds, interested in the fate of the Washington Nationals. (I gave up on baseball when it became a game of the night.) But she had not heard of Mrs Sakoolas.

Mrs S. recently killed a motorcyclist here in Britain by driving on the wrong side of the road. She assured the police at the scene that she wouldn’t go anywhere. She and her family then flew home to the US, claiming diplomatic immunity. Her husband is a spy – at any rate, works for the CIA. The dead man’s father is head of maintenance at the expensive school from which the Sakoolas children were abruptly removed. That might have seemed a bit OTT in a novel, but real life has more scope.

So far the US has been firm in maintaining the diplomatic immunity, while expressing Deepest Sympathy. The Prime Minister is soon going to absent himself briefly from his other problems and phone Mr Trump.

I would have thought the Sakoolas’s would find social life a bit difficult. “Hello, there! Great to see you! I thought you were going to be in England for another year!”

“Well, yes, but unfortunately I…”

Monday, October 07, 2019

Yes, well, we got to Kirkmichael yesterday. It was not a nice day, and C. and I were inclined to postpone again, but her friend who was providing us with a big, comfortable car – and driving it – thought we should go ahead. And, indeed, the rain stopped for the time we were there, although everything was pretty sodden.

We brought in the apple harvest. They hadn’t fallen yet. I think it was the best harvest we’ve ever had. Even the big tree at the bottom of the garden, which grows and flourishes but doesn’t bear, had four or five.

I got home in a state of unbelievable exhaustion, ate a sandwich left over from our lunch, and went to bed at 7:30. I nearly slept the clock around, and feel much sprightlier this morning. However, before I went to bed, Helen and David called, and I tried Thomas’ Calcutta Cup scarf on David. He’s tall, although not as tall as the beanpole Thomas.

We decided that it needs another 12”, plus the final six inches or so which will include Thomas’ initials. I haven’t charted that yet. I've now marked the spot where I am at the moment, and will measure from there. Here’s the scarf so far:

Only half the Calcutta Cup, you’ll remember, because the match was a draw. The stitch pattern is No. 100 from Gaughan’s “Knitted Cable Sourcebook” – recommended by the author as looking good on both sides. Which it does. It also looks more complicated than it is. Both of these advantages sort of disappear into the dark blue Scotland-coloured yarn.

I never did knit row 50 of the Spring Shawl borders. It’s sort of nice to have it up my sleeve.


Here is a picture of Helen’s husband David and Perdita being silly last night. That cabinet is her half-way point to the top of the glass-fronted bookcase.

And here is an enchanting picture that Rachel sent of my four great-granddaughters. Juliet and Camilla O., on the left; Ruby and Orla K., on the right. And that’s my granddaughter Hellie, Ruby and Orla’s mother, behind.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Little to report. In fact, nothing.

I may be making a day-trip to Kirkmichael tomorrow, to bring the apple harvest in. We are somewhat deterred by the weather forecast. So I may or may not be here.

No knitting. No excuses except the usual post-Italian-lesson exhaustion. Perhaps the thing, once I finish here, is to go tackle that scarf, although row 50 of the Spring Shawl borders remains to be done. Usually of an evening I huddle in the kitchen with my cats, reading or watching Italian cookery videos, until a decent time for bed-going. But the scarf ought to be easy enough, once I put myself to rights, that I can huddle with it.

I bought Anne Tyler’s “A Spool of Blue Thread” or whatever it’s called, but I’m not enjoying it much. So I invested a further 50p in “Barchester Towers” and am glad to be back there. Is it of interest that none of Trollope’s clergymen seem to have any interest in the matters discussed in “Unsheltered”? Trollope wasn’t a clergyman, or a scientist, but he was very much in touch with the world.

His clergymen are agitated by Socinianism (a non-trinitarian Christology, Wikipedia says) and Romish tendencies but quite unconcerned by the age of the earth, as revealed in fossils, or by The Origin of Species.

No – forget that. It was written just too soon for Darwin or for fossils. The date of the “past” sections of “Unsheltered” are a crucial 15 or 20 years later.

Maureen from Fargo is coming to see me next week, fresh from Shetland Wool Week. We'll do lunch.

Friday, October 04, 2019

I had a lovely night in my new pyjamas, although it seemed odd to be sleeping in so many clothes. I enjoyed dressing up for my own pleasure and not having to go out and submit myself to the judgement of the world.

And I’ve finished row 49 of the Spring Shawl borders. Only one more to go, if I stick to my resolution to switch after row 50 to one of my other two projects. I think I’d better do it. It won’t be long before I’m back. The third ball of yarn is beginning to look a bit poorly – I did hope to see it like that before the pause.

I have pressed on with “Unsheltered”. It’s not as long as I expected, thank goodness, and the scientific bits are not very demanding. The substance of the “past” sections turns out to be entirely historical. Mary Lou, I hesitated over the word “utopian” when I was composing last night. I don’t think it’s right. Vineland was a planned community, run by its developer, no alcohol allowed, rules governing trees. That doesn’t quite add up to Utopia. 

Here is Perdita today:

The three mugs commemorate the Queen Mother’s 80th, 90th and 100th birthdays. I gave them to my mother, one by one. (She was slightly younger.) When the Queen Mother was about to turn 100, I couldn’t find anything in the smart china shops in London – but then one day, walking around Blairgowrie, I remembered that the QM was born at Glamis Castle not far away: they would surely have something. And they did.

Perdita was a great climber in kittenhood – including straight up my legs. One day she fell from a high shelf in the kitchen, with a great crash of crockery and some breakage. But no cat. After a while I even pulled the refrigerator forward to see if she was lying dead behind it. Eventually she reappeared, limping. She was still limping five or six days later, and crying when her hip was touched, so I took her to the vet where she was anesthetised and x-rayed (at considerable expense) but it was only a sprain.

She has been a bit more cautious since then, and being spayed has slowed her down further.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Virtually no knitting, but a good day. I’m feeling better. Archie came, and we got a bit done, and had a substantial, nourishing lunch which is always good. Fresh tuna and black beans.

I’m pressing on with “Unsheltered” although still not entirely convinced. It turns out to be more historically-based than I grasped at first. It’s set in a real 19th century utopian housing development in southern New Jersey called Vineland. Our hero’s next-door-neighbour in the old days, Mary Treat, is a real self-taught botanist of distinction, a friend of Darwin’s. The Vineland Historical Society, which our modern-day heroine visits, really has the Treat archives.

Neither knitting nor reading

My flannel nightgowns need replacing. One is beyond use. I have been sleeping in my petticoat this week, while the other one was in the wash. Now I have bought myself some flannel pyjamas from Toast:

which will give a whole new meaning to the concept of going to bed. There is no reason not to revert to pyjamas in my solitary and celibate old age.

And here is a picture of Perdita on top of the glass-fronted bookcase:

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

No more dizziness – low blood sugar is a very interesting idea, Kay & others. But a bit of uneasy tummy.

I’m not quite sure about “Unsheltered”. Sarah, perhaps you should stay your hand. It’s awfully didactic, so far. I was expecting a lot about Darwin, in the parts set in the past – indeed, rather looking forward to it – but have just had an American-health-care scene in the present, and am thinking of switching to “Cranford”.

I’ve finished row 47 of the Spring Shawl borders, and hope to polish off another this evening. I find I am struggling with my conscience – it’s still only early October. Couldn’t I press ahead and finish Border Chart One (75 rows) before switching? But no, I think row 50 is where to stop. I got Gaughan’s cable source book out, ready to resume the scarf. At least it was in its proper place.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

I feel a bit better, I think. Like yesterday, I started off shaky and have come together as the day progressed – rather the opposite of what one might expect.

I’ve done 45 rows of the Spring Shawl borders, and may well be up for a couple more later today. I think I’m going to have to tear myself away at 50 – and it’s a good stopping point. The pattern has no breaks, but it’s roughly three-part and 50 rows will mean that I’m a third of the way there.

I have discovered, to my horror, that “Heirloom Knitting” isn’t on the shelf. It couldn’t have been mis-shelved, I don’t think. So it must be lying around somewhere. When I was in Shetland in May, I saw a second edition and was rather tempted. If it doesn’t turn up soon, I’ll go for that. I think it’s my snatch-when-the-house-goes-on-fire book, but if so I have to know where it is.

All this thought of lace: I spent some time this morning with the Shetland Museum Lace Project, which I would recommend. I can’t figure out how to send a link. Just type those four words – Shetland Museum Lace Project – into a browser. There's an interesting essay, among others, about the difficulty of finding names for lace patterns. Too many, rather than too few.

And last night, deprived of “Heirloom Knitting”, I spent a few pre-bedtime moments with Crawford’s “Vintage Shetland Project”. Interestingly, in view of recent musings here, there is a picture on page 54 of a lace chart from the notebook of Ethel Henry, a well-known Shetland designer. She was born in 1905, the same year as my mother. The chart is clear enough that one could knit from it, and it looks as if it’s but one page in a book of squared paper.

Henry was a native Shetlander: it isn’t a case of fancy ideas from without. Although Shetland is, in fact, very receptive to such ideas, it seems to me.

The “Vintage Shetland Project” doesn’t have any shawls, although there are several lace garments.

And speaking of garments, Rachel rang up today. The “Overlap Baby Sweater” has been delivered to Ruby. Rachel is no knitter, but she is an adept and devoted grandmother. She said what a pleasure it was to have a sweater which goes so easily over a baby’s head. Thanks again, Mary Lou.

While I have been sitting here, I looked across the room and saw “Heirloom Knitting”. Why on earth? But, thank goodness!


I’ve finished “The Spoils of Poynton” – a fairly easy introduction to Henry James, if anyone’s interested – and, on your recommendation, Mary, bought “Unsheltered” for my Kindle. I loved “The Poisonwood Bible”, but haven’t been back to Kingsolver since.