Saturday, February 29, 2020

Absolutely no knitting today. I started with a good Italian lesson. Dante remains more fun than grammar, and I’m glad to tell you that we’re sticking with the Divine Comedy for another week. Then Helen and her husband David and I went to see the soon-to-be parents in their new house in Roslyn. The chapel there has long been of interest to connoisseurs but since Dan Brown they have built extra car parks and have no doubt been greatly enriched. Then I had a pleasant visit with a neighbour and read the Financial Times.

My tutor (who lives in Rome) has a bit of a cold. I hope you can’t catch the coronavirus via Skype.

I hope to do better tomorrow. Andrew Marr will have plenty of interesting politics to talk about, and he’s easy to knit to.

Yesterday's kimchi is coming on nicely:

As you can see, it has been overflowing on the counter which is a good sign. The ziplock bags are meant to keep the solid contents underwater so that they can ferment anaerobically. 

I finished Lively’s Spiderweb and have fallen back on Ruth Rendell. I feel I ought to read Hilary Mantel’s Tudor trilogy. I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of her, including the heavyweight “A Place of Greater Safety” but have been avoiding the Booker winners; couldn’t say why.


I was very interested to learn that that sign on the Royal Mile in yesterday’s post is a world-wide joke. It remains a good one.

Friday, February 28, 2020

There are literally only a few stitches to report this evening – I have spent an industrious and I hope profitable afternoon making kimchi.

Never was there such a recipe for variations -- I suppose every household in Korea makes it differently. And I am coming to the conclusion that it doesn’t make much difference which path you choose -- you will probably have a tasty and interesting result. I follow, essentially, Brad Leone on Youtube except that (a) I cut the napa cabbage/Chinese leaves up at the beginning, and salt the cut pieces, instead of dividing the heads of cabbage into four vertically and laboriously salting each leaf; and (b) I omit Brad’s oyster.

Fermentation should be lively by Sunday.

My personal trainer came today, so I had plenty of exercise including a circuit of the garden.

If I am going to bring the Oak Park scarf into the WIP-mix, it’s time to think of doing so. A project for the weekend, perhaps. Lace knitting is all-consuming and I hate to lay it aside, even for two or three days a week. But it would be nice to have that scarf finished.


I am reading Penelope Lively’s “Spiderweb” and enjoying it very much.

My niece C. sent me this yesterday, photographed on the Royal Mile:

Now I must turn my attention to Dante again.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Another pretty good day. I am nearly finished with row 101 of the first two Cameron Shawl borders, counting back from 110. All is going reasonably well. 101 is the first decrease row – from now on I get to discard four stitches every right-side row. There were 458 of them to begin with, so every decrease is welcome.

And I also wrote a few paragraphs in Italian about Dante’s sonnets, although I have still to type them out and send them off so that Federica can read them before Saturday’s lesson. My sister’s husband is improving his French in classes at the retirement community where they live. He often has to prepare little talks for the group. I should engage in such struggles more often.

And I went for my walk, and remembered to put the bottles out for recycling (although Helen actually humped them down the steps).

I didn’t notice before I embarked on the current phase, but there are an awful lot of k3togs in the Cameron Shawl borders. That’s a slightly difficult manoeuvre to execute, and if you literally knit three together there is a real danger that the middle stitch will later escape, having bided its time. I always do it by putting the rh needle into the first two stitches as if to knit them together, slipping them, knitting the third stitch, passing the slipped stitches over. That way is safer, and has the additional advantage of making a centred decrease (remembering Margaret Stove’s dictum that the first stitch the needle enters, for any decrease, winds up on top).


Not much news on the coronavirus front today. If “CORVID-19” were its new proper name, it would perhaps imply a connection with crows which would seem rather doom-laden and appropriate, but you are right, Tamar, that there is no “r”. I gather there are lots of coronaviruses and it was necessary to be more specific. [“virus” is a very peculiar noun in Latin, practically in a category by itself, so “viri” as the plural, if you’re ever tempted, is wrong.]

Rachel’s son Joe – last year’s bridegroom – who works for English rugby, points out that France have already beaten Italy, so it is still possible for them to win the “grand slam” by beating every other nation, even though the tournament is thrown out of kilter by the cancellation of Ireland-Italy (and quite possibly Italy-England later on). France will play us here in Edinburgh at the end of next week. It’s always a good match.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A pretty good day. Alexander came over – his last full day of being 59. Helen came round. Alexander and I walked as far as the corner shop – that was my outing. He got my DVD-player operational. I thought I’d like to watch the famous Visconti movie with Burt Lancaster as Il Gattopardo. Now I can.

Helen says that my dear cleaner will be back from Roumania next week, and that her mother-in-law is better. That's good news. 

And knitting went well. So far there seem to be no problems with knitting the border charts of the Cameron shawl from top to bottom. They start with row 110. I’ve now worked through row 105. This kind of knitting – Shetland lace – has somewhat the same fascination as 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles.

The first ball of yarn is beginning to look a bit depleted, but there’s still a long way to go.


The Six Nations match between Italy and Ireland in ten days time has been cancelled, or at any rate postponed sine die.. That’s almost as serious as stopping the Venice Carnival. Alexander and Ketki’s sons are planning to go on a school trip to Pompeii soon, and their parents were looking forward to a weekend away on their own. Nothing has been heard from the school yet, but it seems unlikely that the trip will happen. Pompeii is a long way from Lombardy and the Veneto – but the radio said this morning that there are cases in Sicily (which is even farther).

Kristen, I’m sure you’re right that the death rate for the coronavirus is more like 2% than 20%. The news tonight said that about 20% of those infected got seriously ill. Maybe that was meant as a correction. The death rate for oldies like me is around 15% -- that doesn’t sound too bad.


I decided after all to give up cider completely – so Freecell continues. Maybe abstinence will make me feel stronger in time for the christening in London at the end of March. I’m really beginning to wonder whether I’m up to it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Fat Tuesday (but not in Venice)

It’s been a good day. I tottered out for my walk, appalled at how feeble I felt. Fruity Knitting turned up – now that the horrors of the holidays are past, Every Second Tuesday comes around pleasantly often. And today’s is a good one – Countess Ablaze. An interesting woman, and the yarn she dyes is beyond beautiful.

But the best news, at least as far as knitting is concerned, is that I have finished the first half of the Cameron Shawl edging, and picked up the stitches for the two borders which belong with it, and knit the plain rows at the top of the borders, counting furiously and inserting markers. Now I am tiptoeing very careful through the first pattern row. I am surprised at how easily it all went. Is something going to turn out to be wrong with my plan of knitting the borders outside-in instead of inside-out as the pattern intends? We’ll soon see. Here’s a bit of it, while I was knitting the first row back after picking up the loops:


Yes, Tamar, it’s clear that a fever is one of the first signs of the Coronavirus. We had a passage on the news just now which would have been a comic turn in less serious circumstances: an Iranian official making an announcement on the subject, while the official at his elbow repeatedly wiped his brow. He had it. The same news broadcast said that the death rate is about 1-in-5. That’s rather a lot.

Jane, I, too, am looking forward to the Suffolk Vicar’s Lenten meditations. Here’s the link. I can’t quite see how you’re meant to sign up. Just write to him, I guess. I seem to have been automatically carried over from last year.


Here’s today’s avocado picture. Not good, but still not quite dead.

Monday, February 24, 2020

I have even less to report this evening. I have done no knitting and have read only semi-trash. Archie came, and between us (= 95% him) we covered the basics of what Daniela would have done this morning had she not been in Romania, namely cleaning and tidying the kitchen, some basic hoovering, cat-tray cleaning, a load of washing. We’ll see how the week unfolds.

Helen came around. She has been in London, and feels that we are all going to be overwhelmed by the coronavirus any moment now. London is full of people from the East, many of whom may be presumed to have been home for the New Year, and all of whom are pressed up against each other in the subway.

I wish I had some sense of this new disease. Is it just a bad cold? Similar to a seasonal flu? Or are we beginning to think about the “Spanish flu” epidemic which travelled so far and killed so many in 1918 or thereabouts? The behaviour of governments – cancelling the Carnevale! – seems in excess of the symptoms.

I had pneumonia once, when I was in my ‘50’s. It is unpleasant. My husband had gone to Edinburgh (from Birmingham, where we lived) for a couple of days. I had managed to drive him to the station on Monday, but by Wednesday, when he was due back, I had to ring up his sister (with whom he was staying) to say that I couldn’t get to the airport to fetch him home. A dr had told me in the interval that I had flu, over my protests. I went on, in that telephone conversation, to wonder whether, if another pandemic like the Spanish flu happened again, there would be anything medical science could do about it.

“You’re not dying”, she said crisply. Pneumonia was diagnosed that evening.

And I think I’ve had my answer. No: flu can’t be cured. But pneumonia, at least sometimes, can be. I had an injection of an antibiotic that night, and could feel the disease cracking and letting hold of me, and blessed Alexander Fleming. Full recovery took a long time. Plenty of knitting.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

I have very little to report. I am within a scallop and a half of the end of the first half of the Cameron shawl edging. Tomorrow should see it done, barring catastrophe. I had a good Italian lesson this morning – Dante is wonderful! I didn’t go out – that’s bad. My cleaner has dashed back to Roumania because her mother-in-law is ill. That’s very bad – for me, as well as for the mother-in-law. (Daniela communicates such news to Greek Helen, in Greek, and Helen passes it on to me. They knew each other first in Athens.)

And Venice has cancelled the Carnival, for fear of the Coronavirus. This is serious indeed. No one quite seems to know how it got to Italy. It’s clearly highly infectious. There is a thoroughly delightful columnist in the Times named Melanie Reid. She said yesterday that if it gets here, she wants to be put outside to die. No hospitals. She is likely to die anyway, if she gets it, being paraplegic ever since she was thrown over the head of her horse. As am I, being old. But maybe it won’t get here.

Melanie Reid’s book “The Life I Fell Out Of” is very good.

No comments yesterday. I must be becoming as dull as I feel.

Today’s rugby was England v. Ireland. England, predictably, won.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

I’ve had a good day’s rugby – Scotland won against Italy in Rome. Poor Italy hasn’t won against anybody for five or six years now, and this is getting ridiculous. They were introduced to the tournament twenty years ago because the television people wanted an even number of teams. And France beat Wales in Cardiff – that was a thriller.

But not much knitting, because Perdita sat on my lap again. When she was young, we were inseparable. It was my husband’s idea: “It’s time we had another cat”. He was in hospital when he said that, and when I fetched her home. She would have bonded to him had there been time, but there wasn’t. He couldn't make allowance for what a disagreeable cat she was (and is). “She’s your cat”, he said, with displeasure.

And so she was, until I got this wretched kitten to keep her company. There are days, now, when I scarcely see Perdita. And so I am glad to have her on my lap, and to think that the old bond is not altogether broken. But what about my knitting?

I’m moving along through the last quarter of the edging of the second side of the Cameron shawl. But slowly. Andrew Marr should move me forward tomorrow, unless Perdita likes him too.

Friday, February 21, 2020

A fairly good day. I got a job done – an email written – that had been weighing on my conscience. I did some more knitting. I would be fully 3/4s done with the edging of second side of the Cameron shawl had Perdita not come to sit on my lap again, quite early in Pointless.

I found the “Oak Park” scarf on the kitchen floor this morning. I had left in in its project bag on the sitting room floor. No harm done. In tidying it up, however, and placing it beyond paw-reach, I realised that I was wrong yesterday to say that the order of the stripes didn’t matter. They are brilliantly gradated. How will I manage? In Kirkmichael I ranged the balls of yarn along a shelf of the dresser in the dining room (where all indoor life takes place) – that clearly won’t work here, even if there were a dresser.

The colours will have to be arranged in a drawer, or on a shelf in a cupboard with doors. It’ll be something of a nuisance, since there is a change every four rounds. Good exercise.

Rachel sent me this link to a story about Fair Isles on Fair Isle, with lots of pictures. Some of them look mechanical to me, but the overall effect is colourful, and touching.

Quite a few universities are on strike at the moment – that’s how Archie can be here so often. A story in this morning’s Times says that lecturers are holding impromptu “teach-outs” on the picket line, and that University College London is offering a knitting workshop.


I have settled down for the moment with a Ruth Rendell called “A Guilty Thing Surprised”. It’s an early Wexford and I don’t feel that she had yet fully hit her stride. Italian this evening, however. Dante himself, in fact.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Not a bad day. My trainer came, and left me, as always, feeling more energetic and full of resolution. I packed up the recycling neatly and put it out (paper, rigid plastic, and cans this week). I took some important steps towards this week’s Italian lesson. We have started on the history of Italian literature which is a good deal more fun than tenses and prepositions but still leaves me struggling to say the simplest thing.

And I have knit more of the Cameron shawl edging – I’m now 3 ½ scallops past the halfway point. There was a minor disaster today when the yarn broke, but I figured that wasn’t my fault and anyway I would probably make more mess frogging back than securing the place and tidying it up with a needle on some later occasion.

Until that happened, all was going well – but it is sort of tedious, and maybe it would be wiser to start the second half of the edging soon so that I can knit it on the train, after all,  when I go down for the great-granddaughter’s christening.

I got the “Oak Park” shawl out (see yesterday). It has been years. It was in one of the many project bags with which my sitting room is festooned. The problem, as I remember, is going to be arranging the colours in order. I cannot imagine that it makes the slightest difference whether I succeed or not. What I really wanted to see was whether the pattern was there, in the bag. It is.

Senility is not entirely predictable, but that’s another argument against the cats and in favour of me, in respect to the Spring Shawl. The pattern is still there on the chest, where I remember leaving the knitting itself. If I had put it away somewhere, I would surely have put the pattern with it.

Thank you very much for your help with the architecture student who wants to know about knitting. I’ll write to him tomorrow. Debbie New is a particularly good idea, Else, and there are others. He claims to enjoy my blog, so I can suggest that he reads all of yesterday’s comments with care.


Reading is sort of stuck. I am bogged down in a Sciascia (Italian serious thriller-writer) and may abandon it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A better day’s knitting. I am now within half-a-scallop of the halfway point on the second side of the edging for the Cameron shawl. Alexander was here, and heard the story of the Spring shawl. He is convinced that it is not behind the chest on which it ought to be lying (so we shouldn’t need to pull it forward). We walked around the garden, and he agrees with me that the wild garlic is well forward.

I have Carol Sunday’s “Oak Park” scarf partly finished in one of my project bags (see sidebar). It used to be my Strathardle knitting. When we went there regularly, I used to maintain a separate Perthshire WIP. I think maybe I will resume work on it when the Cameron borders are well-launched. It would be nice, easy knitting and the scarf would be nice to have for my May cruise.

I have had an email from an architecture student in London. He and his classmates have been set to do a project “in relation to disciplines” and he drew “knitting” out of a hat. Can I help? After my recent experience with phone calls “from the bank” I look for scams everywhere, but I don’t see how this could be. I’ll recommend “Knitting Without Tears” and Ravelry. Any ideas?


Don’t miss Kirsten’s comment of yesterday. She is giving away some interesting knitting books. I trust the happy recipients will contribute postage.

Mary Lou, that time I deleted FreeCell I meant it as an act of total abnegation: let’s stop wasting time. But I was glad when the march of progress restored it to me in the form of a new computer. I regularly play a hand or two between paragraphs when blog-writing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

No luck with the Spring Shawl. Julie (comment yesterday) – I think if I found the Spring Shawl now, I’d go on with the Cameron, although I would feel bound to return to the earlier one afterwards. Tamar, we’ve looked behind as well as under the chest it should be on. We haven’t pulled the chest forward from the wall, though, because there’s a valuable and rather heavy ceramic object on top. Maybe we’d better face up to that – but not until there are several strong right arms available to help.

(And, Tamar, when you think of the name of that book – in which the English language itself is used as a code – I’d love to know it.)

Archie and I got some other things done, however. We wrapped a 60th birthday present for Alexander (who should be here tomorrow), and got up to the top of the hill to buy ourselves some tuna for lunch, and then came down again and bought Alexander some Six Nations sausages. Our butcher makes them every year around this time: pork from Scotland, herbs from England, leeks from Wales, Guinness from Ireland, onions from France, tomatoes from Italy. That’s the recipe.

I’m sure I tell you every year that Alexander has never been entirely forgiven for not holding out until the 29th. He wasn’t due until March 3 or 4. He’d only be 15 this year if he’d listened to me.

Not much knitting has been done in the midst of all this, although I did at least insert the next marker – the edging is now ¼ of the way along the second side of the Cameron shawl. Perdita came and sat on my lap in mid-Pointless. I would have pushed Paradox off, but the disagreeable Perdita is not a lap-sitter and I love her the best, so she stayed and knitting was laid aside.

Kirsten, you have solved a major problem for me. I usually give up cider-drinking for Lent. This year, I had a dry January (without a single lapse) and am working on a new modus vivendi involving somewhat less than half the cider I used to enjoy. I’m doing well, but not without effort, and would like to forge on with the project. And so I shall! I’ll give up FreeCell for Lent! (Once, two or three computers ago, I deleted the whole game on Ash Wednesday. I wouldn’t know how to do that now, thank goodness.)

Monday, February 17, 2020

I was beaten by a hand at FreeCell today. That doesn’t often happen (ever since Mary Lou introduced me to ctrl-Z). It was humiliating.

The Cameron Shawl, however, proceeds without distress. Only one scallop to go until the next marker. And when I finish the edging for this side of the shawl, the next step looks easy enough: pick up 220 stitches per side; increase 8 or 9 per side; and start knitting the border charts from the top down. The centre square may prove more awkward.

Stashdragon (comment yesterday) your contribution to the search for the Spring Shawl is brilliant (=look on top of the furniture). Archie will be here tomorrow, and I’ll set him to work. Was it Sherlock Holmes who said, when you have eliminated everything else, the remaining possibility, however unlikely, must be right? And Perdita always was a climber – her original owner warned me of that, the day I first brought her here.

Paradox can do it too:

And here is a picture I found just now of Perdita, eyeing the Spring Shawl itself:

Remember that the ball of yarn was nearly at an end, so they wouldn't have left clues all over the room.

A propos comments yesterday about family expressions: Marjorie Allingham says somewhere, in one of her thrillers, that they are the one unbreakable code.

A propos nothing at all, really: Somebody got into trouble the other day for his (rather funny) transphobic tweets, but the judge let him off. And I wondered how and when I learned what those two words mean – “transphobic tweets”? It’s not at all obvious.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

This is a genuine, undoctored photograph taken this morning:

I (who am taking the picture) am standing at the kitchen door, looking down the passage towards the Catalogue Room. On the right, you see the partially-open door to the Downstairs Lavatory, although it has been a quarter of a century since I lived in a house in which that phrase was appropriate. Between that door and the Catalogue Room, you can see a band of light falling across the passage from the open door of the Spare Room.

And in the foreground, to the right, you can see Dathan 2, last seen by me laid out to block on one of the beds in the Spare Room (but not pinned down).

This experience has revived my belief that it was my furry friends, and not senile forgetfulness, who have removed the Spring Shawl from the place where I remain convinced I left it. But where did they put it?

All well with the Cameron Shawl. I have reached the first corner. Now I must begin to think of what follows edge-knitting. For the pattern, as I have told you, is written from the centre square outwards, and I am (obviously) working from the edging inwards. I’ll pick up 220 stitches from the edging for each side of the shawl (22 scallops times 10 stitches each) – and then what?

Saturday, February 15, 2020

A stormy day. But, as usual so far this winter, worse elsewhere than in Edinburgh.

I proceeded without incident on the Cameron Shawl edging. Three scallops to go until I reach the first corner. Andrew Marr tomorrow morning should take care of most of that.

I bought a book today called Typographic Knitting by Rudiger Schlomer (sprinkle with umlauts ad lib), published by the Princeton Architectural Press. I saw it reviewed in VK. The author is a man, and I would gather he’s somewhat new to knitting. Too much of the book is given over to elementary instruction. I need to spend some more time with it – so far, I would say that the pages of charted alphabets are the most useful element, but there is more. The author is Swedish, I think.


Beverly in NJ, thank you for your suggestion – using one of those light plastic safety pins to distinguish one side of the knitting from the other. I’ve done it – marking every 5 ½ scallops (one quarter of a side, one eighth of the amount I’ve set myself to do). Then it is just a matter of giving an instant’s thought at the beginning of each row: Where am I?

Shandy, I do agree that the opening pages of “Busman’s Honeymoon” are brilliant, and that it is a shame that Sayers remained mired in puzzles and clues. Interesting that she’s got a statue, and hard to imagine. I’d better google.

Peggy, I like your idea of giving my poor avocado some more light, and I will do it if there ever is any. So far, not, ever since your comment on Wednesday. It’s a south-facing window, and the sun is strong when it condescends to appear.

Friday, February 14, 2020

All well, except that (as so often) I still have Italian homework to do this evening. I’ve now done 16 ½ lace scallops – that’s ¾ of the way along the first side of he shawl. There’s much to be said for getting all this out of the way first. It’s an easy pattern to memorise, and I have found it easy (so far) to figure out where I am when attention drifts. (EZ: "Look at your knitting”.)

Andrew and Andrea this week. For once, I didn’t pursue it to the end. The interview is with Clara Parkes. She is represented on my shelves. I have read her latest book, “Vanishing Fleece”, which the interview concerns, on my Kindle app, and it’s good. But it ends with a suicide of a friend to which (if I remember aright – I’m not going to look again) she reacts with sentimentality rather than horror. I’ve been here just the other day with Dorothy Sayers. It’s not a topic on which I can talk rationally.


I’m reading, with delight, Penelope Lively’s “How It All Began”. The idea is the way a single event – the mugging of an elderly woman – can have effects beyond imagining.

I’m having a bit of a creditability-problem with one character, Anton, an educated man from an unnamed eastern European country, who speaks intelligible English but can’t read. He is introduced in an adult literacy class. Can that happen? With native English-speakers, yes – reading is often difficult for fluent speakers. But – arguing only from my own struggles with Italian – I would expect adults to find reading far easier than speaking a second language.

However, that niggle doesn’t affect my pleasure with the book.

Rachel rang up today, and – when we had finished with the Calcutta Cup – we talked about “White House Farm” (see yesterday). Once, long ago, goodness knows why, she went to court and heard Jeremy Bamber conduct one of his appeals. She doesn’t remember much about it, except that it concerned the gun and that she came away convinced of his guilt.

But she added that Bamber was acting on his own behalf, whereas the Crown had a barrister. That may have told against him. I wonder if they let him watch “White House Farm” in prison.

Thursday, February 13, 2020


I am now further ahead with the “new” Cameron shawl than I was when I abandoned the first attempt and started again. That’s always a critical point. And I have now done half of the necessary edging for one side of the shawl. It’s going to be huge.

All well so far. At some point I am bound to make a major error. I don’t use lifelines – I tried once and found it such a struggle to get it in place that it didn’t seem worth the bother.

The edging – all of the shawl, I think – has alternate plain rows. (That means it’s either “knitted lace” or “lace knitting”. I can never remember which is which, and don’t try very hard.) I have had a difficulty on several occasions, starting a lacy row from the wrong end (that is, omitting the plain row). Now that I have inserted that extra stitch, both rows present themselves with a YO in third place, facilitating the error. So far I have been able to retrieve the mistake with careful tinking. I think it’s a good policy not to do too much at a time.

One I have done two sides and picked up two borders and started inwards, I might allow myself a relief WIP for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Foldlines? We’ll see.


I finished watching “White House Farm”. (Although the farmhouse they showed us wasn’t white, which kept worrying me.) Jeremy Bamber is one of the relatively few people in GB who is serving a life sentence which really means life. He is, I think, the only one of them who has stoutly maintained his innocence throughout. (He has a website: you can look him up.) He is clearly a thoroughly disagreeable man, but was he guilty? I incline slightly towards the good old Scottish verdict of Not Proven.

He was adopted. His natural parents were not married when he was born, but later got so. They work at Buckingham Palace and I think they have other children. After Jeremy was convicted of shooting his adoptive parents, adoptive sister, and her twin sons, Social Services (or somebody) told the natural parents that he was theirs.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

All well. There’s nothing like a stout decision to start again, to put things right. Long ago I started the Princess – which also starts with the edging, in that case of amazing complicatedness. And had knit six or eight scallops, laboriously, when Sharon herself rang up to say that the yarn I was using wouldn’t do. What had I written, and where? The old KnitList? An early episode of this blog? In any event, I started again. And eventually finished.

I had been doing that edging for something like 50 iterations before I memorised it. I had a cataract operation that summer, with a local anaesthetic, and amused myself while it was going on by reciting the edging pattern to myself.

Here is a picture of the new one and the old, side by side. I left them there on the chair (unwise) and Perdita chose them for her afternoon nap. No harm done.

Today’s post brought me a 60cm 3.25mm KnitPro Karbonz circular – the sort of thing, if not a precise duplicate, of the one you see in my hands in the picture above. I tried it, and think I like it even more than the dp’s of yesterday. The point seems to slide more easily into the stitch, and the short length means that the cord doesn’t get tangled in the yarn in the frequent turns.


Where were we? I finished the Finzi-Contini as reported last Friday, and then read a Montalbano. In search of light relief, I went off to Ruth Rendell, “A New Lease of Death” – an early Wexford, rather curious. I’m now reading “No More Dying Then”, another Wexford but less curious. I have Ginzburg’s “Lessico Familiare” in my sights, if I’m strong enough.


Here’s the delayed avocado picture, from a different viewpoint this week. We’re still not quite in despair.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Today’s good news is that the dpn’s arrived, despite having been ordered only yesterday from Meadow Yarn, my go-to source for needles. They are KnitPro Royale. They are beautiful.

But the bad news is that when I began to employ them, I discovered that the circular needle with wooden tips which I had been using, was grotesquely too small,  2mm instead of 3.5. Tamar, your comment on yesterday's post was prophetic.  I don’t see how this could have happened. The grey metal needle I started off with was the right size. Why didn’t I notice the difference when I changed to the wooden one? Why didn’t I test the wooden needle? I usually do.

I went ahead and knit another scallop. The difference in gauge was conspicuous. That had to be added to the fact that the first three or four inches of the inside edge were distinctly messy – until I solved the YO problem, as detailed yesterday.  When in doubt, take it out. I don’t think EZ said that, but it’s a useful maxim just the same. I started again.

C. and I have had a preliminary communication from our cruise company (early May, upper left-hand corner of the Scottish mainland) asking for contact numbers for our next-of-kin and anything they need to know about our food preferences. Meals are delicious, but we all eat together and there’s no choice.

It occurred to me, reflecting happily on this prospect, that lacey scallops might make good cruise knitting, being small and easily portable. Even if I have finished the first two sides by then, and picked up stitches for the first two borders, I could go on knitting the second scallop-strip. There will be excursions I don’t go ashore for, where there is the prospect of a healthy walk and no chance to sit down until the tender comes back three hours later. Just the afternoon for some bird-watching and scallop-knitting.

I’m going to London next month for a great-granddaughter’s christening. For that, however, I’ll take socks. Scallop-knitting isn’t very conversational.

Here’s the promised picture of Alexander and Ketki, dressed for Calcutta Cup day. I forgot to take today’s avocado picture, however, until it was too late.

Monday, February 10, 2020

All is well. I had feared that Archie would only be acquainted with powerful games machines and the Apple operating system, but he was able to put all right with a few clicks. The essence of the problem seemed to be that Chrome was loading all right, but confining itself to a small square in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. I had noticed that myself. What I had to do was drag it up -- right-clicking may have been involved – to fill the screen. He did some other things, too.

My suspicion is that it was all Perdita’s fault. She often comes and sits on the keyboard when I am here, and she knows a number of key combinations which are foreign to me. Archie, who is devoted to her, doesn’t believe this.

So here’s where we are:

a)     I blocked the second Dathan today. And
b)    I have started the Cameron shawl, and am enjoying myself immensely.

Here’s the latest picture. A couple of problems: the right-side, odd-numbered rows begin with a sl1 purlwise with-yarn-in-front (to make a nice chained edging for picking up the border stitches later), followed immediately with a yo k2tog. And, as I think you can see even from this blurry picture, I was making a mess of it. The yo wasn’t presenting itself properly on the following row.

So I decided to add another k1, between the slipped stitch and the yo. That’s working fine. If I were Andrea, I’d rip it all out and start again, but I’m not so I didn’t.

At the time of writing, I’ve done 5 ½ scallops. That’s half of 11. And 11 is half of the 22 scallops needed per edge. (My plan, as I’ve mentioned before, is to knit two borders at a time, so that I can knit back and forth and avoid purling, but still have only two corners to sew up at the end.) So I feel I’m making a good start.

Looking for something else, I found a circular needle of the right gauge with a wooden end, and I was right, it certainly helps. Then I (rather belatedly) reflected that what I really need is a set of dp’s. This edging is going to be with me for a while. So I ordered some.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Things have improved somewhat on the computer front. Google Chrome remained shy, even after being turned off all night. When I pass the pointer over its icon (I think that’s the right word) I can see a little image, as usual, of the screen I want to load. But no amount of clicking will take me there.

 However, I eventually discovered that I still have Internet Explorer installed.I was able to use it to get back in touch with the world.

 I’ve started the Cameron shawl. It’ll take a while to finish it. Unfortunately I don't seem to be able to send the picture across from my iPad.

 I decided, as will have been immediately obvious to you all had I been able to show you the picture, that off-white on grey is not an entirely satisfactory combination for efficient knitting. I have enough circular needles here of various lengths and gauges to stock a modest LYS, but (as so often) nothing that was exactly what I wanted. The picture above suggests that, wherever the Spring Shawl may be, it has taken a good needle with it.

 So I ordered one, in nice dark wood with what looks like satisfactorily sharp points.

 Meanwhile the 2nd Dathan, although completely tidied, hasn’t been blocked. Indeed, the “Hansel” shawl hasn’t been unpinned from the spare room bed. I felt pretty droopy today, even by my current low standards, and have done little.

Here is a picture Alexander sent yesterday of himself and Ketki dressed for Calcutta Cup watching. His vest is the one I knit to celebrate the Scottish vistory in 2018. Ketki’s is much older -- 2008? It has a band with the cup and date around the bottom, just above the ribbing.
No, we can't have that one, either. It's here, somewhere on the computer, but I can't find an address for it.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

England won.

It’s a stormy night. I thought that would be to our advantage.

I have written a slightly fuller blog post for you, but can’t post it.. Something has gone wrong with Google Chrome on my laptop. Maybe tomorrow I will figure out what I am doing wrong. Or we’ll have to wait for Archie.

Here's the slightly fuller version -- I have retreated, unhappily, to Internet Explorer:

England won. The Cup is gone.


I’m having computer problems – senile stupidity? or something wrong with Google Chrome? The internet is fine, as manifested by the iPad and the fact that I had an entirely satisfactory Italian lesson via Skype from Rome this morning. We’ll see, eventually. Meanwhile I wanted to write to you while news is fresh.


The weather is stormy. I thought that would be to our advantage. For much of the time, it looked as if this would be another draw. But in the end, it wasn’t. It simplifies the knitting, anyway.


The yarn arrived from Jamieson’s today, with a sticker on it saying “Signed For”. That’s one way of dealing with that problem. I am very pleased with the effect of the natural white, or whatever it is called. I finished all the work on the 2nd Dathan hap during the preliminaries to the game (“all the work” – except for blocking) and started the first edging scallop of the Cameron Shawl.


Various thoughts. (1) Is this an impossible ambition? Am I absurd to attempt it? And (2) the k2togs and ssk’s are much easier in cobweb yarn than they were in jumper-weight for Gudrun’s “Hansel” hap. I’m about halfway through the first scallop. It’ll be easier tomorrow in natural light.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Calcutta Cup day

A deliciously idle day, I’m afraid. I’ve worked peacefully on weaving in Dathan ends. I’m within about a foot of the finish, and tomorrow’s rugby should see it done.

For tomorrow is Calcutta Cup day. It used always to be at the end of the tournament, but now they just slip it in any old where. Alexander and his family don’t come over for it any more – there is an unpleasant edge to it nowadays. They’ll be here later on for Scotland v. France. That one’s always fun.

Still, the Calcutta Cup is the Calcutta Cup. I always plan the celebration knitting, although I am not often called upon to do it. This year, I think, a Fair Isle vest for my niece C (Manaba’s baby’s grandmother). Or with sleeves, if she’d prefer. So if the improbable happens tomorrow, I won’t even need that package from Jamieson’s for a while.


I’ve finished the Finzi-Continis. It’s good, to the end. I then wanted something light and went, by mistake, for The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Sayers, early Wimsey). She allows her murderer to take the Gentleman’s Way Out and blow his brains out. I don’t approve, in a purportedly Christian writer, although it was not uncommon in murderers of that era.

 Looking it up, I was pleased to see that Waugh’s “Decline and Fall” was published in the same year. In that work, Captain Grimes, as I remember, when they left him with a pistol and some invigorating whiskey, just got drunk. Waugh was a serious Christian. Do read it, if you haven’t.

I’m now reading a late Montalbano in Italian. There’s lots of dialect, but it’s manageable if taken at a running jump.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Mary Lou, I know the yarn will come eventually. But I want to start the shawl right now and am afraid that if I am forced back on my own resources – shopping the stash – I may start something and then feel I have to go on with it.

In fact, I have decided that there is nothing to worry about. The email about my yarn came from “Pitney Bowes” – don’t they make postage machines? – and contained a tracking number and the news that the estimated day of arrival was Sunday. But when I click on the tracking number, I find myself in the familiar arms of the Royal Mail, with no news (or estimates) whatsoever except to say that the package was handed in at the Lerwick post office yesterday afternoon, and was sent 2nd Class Signature Required. The Royal Mail is not going to deliver a second class package on a Sunday.

My previous recent orders to Shetland – to Jamieson & Smith, and to Uradale – were filled so fast that I could only assume all other business was suspended until Mrs Miles’ package had been rushed to the airport. I sort of thought Jamieson’s would be the same.

I have finished binding off the long, long bottom edge of the new Dathan, and started tidying the yarn ends. I think I have been deliberately dragging my feet a bit, so as not to finish too soon. Some ladies came to tea today. That slowed me down, tidying piles of paper away to make room for their teacups. Alas that the Spring Shawl is not the sort of Lost Object to hide in a pile of paper.


Thank you again for your help with my new jigsaw puzzle obsession. Aine, I will have a look at the British Jigsaw Library. My husband believed in doing puzzles without a picture. Snickers, thanks for finding the Gorey for me. Shandy, thanks very much indeed for the offer of your recently-finished puzzle. But I think if I’m going to succumb, I’d better start with the one my niece brought me, Robert Burns (not the poet), “Diana and her Nymphs”, very 1926. The original lives in the National Galleries of Scotland, but I have no memory of ever seeing it on their walls.

Here is a picture of Manaba practising baby-care, in anticipation of the wee creature for whom my “Hansel” hap is intended:

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Tamar, what would I do without you? (Serious question.) I will certainly go ahead and block this Dathan. It won’t be long, now. I’m nearly finished with the binding-off. I’ve had a rather depressing message to say that the yarn from Jamieson’s will arrive on Sunday and will require a signature.

Sunday is my favourite day. Niece C. and I go to an early Mass and then have coffee and delicious cakes with the congregation. Next Sunday we were planning to go on to a bookshop with Greek Helen. I could cancel all of those delights and stay home for the yarn. If I miss it, I might be tempted to start another Dathan. No, no, not that! But staying home is an equally bleak prospect.

I have a half-knit sock here somewhere, if all else fails.


The first thing nice Mr Buttigieg needs is a spell-able and pronounce-able alias. The BBC was making heavy weather today with the discovery that both “g’s” are soft.

I sleep with the radio on (bliss, usually) and thus heard a great deal of the State of the Union speech. Emerging from slumber, I assumed at first that the strenuous and noisy applause was coming from a rally of devoted Trump fans. In a sense, it was. But it turned out to be the U.S. Congress, and that was sort of scary.

Jigsaw puzzles

Holly, thank you for the link to the Jigsaw Junkies post. I was interested to see that they rated Pomegranate highly for solid pieces. That is the brand name of the puzzle my niece brought me yesterday – but the pieces are not what I would call solid. I went to the Pomegranate (American) website today. They’ve got lots of interesting puzzles; they ship abroad; they pride themselves on sturdy pieces.

The Pomegranate puzzle my niece brought me yesterday is based on a picture in the National Gallery here. The writing on the box looks as if it would be the same as one sold in the U.S. There is even a dollar price.

One of the puzzles on the website is a composite of the covers of Edward Gorey’s books. Alexander deals in Gorey books – it would make a grand 60th birthday present for him later this month. And that would settle the question (of whether American cardboard jigsaw pieces are solider). But it’s out of stock.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Your Tuesday pictures.

Here’s the Dathan, showing a bit of bind off. I have made progress since then, and have passed the half-way point. I remain confident that Jamieson’s will have the new yarn here by the time I am ready for it. There are a lot of ends to deal with when the bind off is finished.

And then – do I block it, just to smooth it down? Did I do that last time? Obviously it won’t need to be cajoled into a particular shape.

And here’s your Tuesday avocado picture, looking a bit more hopeful. I have turned the whole plant around, wondering whether it would make the effort of leaning back towards the light:

Downloading and printing the Cameron Shawl pattern presented no problems at all. I have studied it fairly thoroughly and am ready to go, although wondering whether I shouldn’t just start the Spring Shawl again.


Thank you for your help with my jigsaw question. “Springbok” sounds right, but their current website doesn’t look as much fun as puzzles used to be. Ravensberger is a bit better, and they seem to be big in the UK. What I can’t know until I try is how to get solid, satisfying American pieces, short of paying big money for wood. And, Shandy, who supplied your Magi?

Tamar, I used to do jigsaw puzzles on-line, but I don’t think it would work for a 1000-piece-er and there’s a certain satisfaction in fitting a piece in manually. A where-things-are file is a brilliant idea. It doesn’t cover the situation where things have been tidied away by the cleaning woman – but that couldn’t have happened to my knitting.

Politics: In my anxious opinion, the Democrats are still a long way from producing a candidate with a real chance of beating Trump. And now they can’t even tell us what happened in the Iowa caucus. What was that about not being able to organise a piss-up in a brewery?

Monday, February 03, 2020

The big news, I guess, is that I’ve finished knitting the Dathan hap and started binding it off. By no means quick. K1, k2togtbl, replace stitches from right needle to left, repeat ad infinitum. I didn’t do any more counting. It’s probably perfect, and if it isn’t, who cares?

I ordered the Cameron Shawl pattern from Sharon Miller (doesn’t mean I have to knit it). I expected it to be a .pdf and looked forward to receiving it while Archie was here to support me this morning. But the transaction winded up sounding like pages in the mail. And now I have had an email with a link – it is a .pdf, and a big one. Will my antique laptop be up to it? I think I’ll leave that problem until tomorrow.

I also ordered yarn, from Jamieson’s, (a) because that was what Sharon recommended and (b) because they offer “natural white” as well as stark white, and I thought I’d like that, however ill it may assort with future wedding plans. I’ll pack the remaining Spring Shawl yarn safely away somewhere with the pattern. Safely! Ha!

Baby Surprise

Yes, indeed, MaureenTacoma – the Schoolhouse Press offers the pattern in many versions, including adult. I don’t know how far I can go with my battered double-breasted copy. Kirsten, send me your address and I will send it to you. I think that’s all right – one, for a friend. I, too, have long regretted not sending for the adult version which was available from that newspaper. Hat, if you have it, it would be interesting to compare with what the Schoolhouse Press offers now. Interesting, but strenuous.


The Finzi-Contini have now reached the summer of 1939 and continue to think mostly about love and their academic theses. I’m sure it was like that. The elephant will have made its presence somewhat felt in the room but there were always plenty of other things to think about, and, anyway, no one could have imagined that it was going to be as bad as that.

New topic

I have been thinking about jigsaw puzzles. I used to do them in the ‘60’s. There was an American company with interesting pictures – I remember doing Mondrian’s “Victory Boogie Woogie” – and nice, thick, solid cardboard pieces. Does anybody know what that company might have been, and whether they are still issuing jigsaw puzzles?

Sunday, February 02, 2020

I’ve gone back and added your title to yesterday’s blog post, Shandy. It was too good to lose.

It’s been cloudy all day, as is suitable for the 2nd of February. You’ll have noticed the remarkable palindrome formed by the date.

This morning I wondered if the old sovereign cure would work for the mouse: namely, to turn the computer back on again, it having been off all night. So I did. No luck. So I tried replacing the battery, and now it’s fine. Did the old battery fail in the split second it took the mouse to fall off the table? It seems unlikely.

Rugby is back with us. Scotland lost to Ireland yesterday, but we didn’t disgrace ourselves as had been predicted. France beat England today in a thriller.

And I am knitting the penultimate row of the 2nd Dathan hap. While I was knitting the antepenultimate one, the cord came out of the needle point releasing 40 or more stitches into the void. It took a while to round them up. A few minutes later it happened again. Fewer stitches this time, as I was trying to be careful. I am currently knitting the stitches on to another needle (rather larger in gauge, alas). I think I can finish the row without another disaster. The defective needle is better at supplying stitches than at receiving them.

Here is the hap at the moment:

I’ll take a better picture when it’s finished. And here is the left-over yarn:

The yarn represents my Shetland purchases from last May: a collection of toning oddballs from Wilma Malcolmson’s studio; a couple of balls from Jamieson’s (the other Jamieson; not Jamieson & Smith); a few more from Ronnie Eunson’s wonderful shop on his organic farm. Here’s the link. I think the only solution is going to be to hire Rumpelstiltskin. Jamieson & Smith provided the cobweb yarn for the ill-fated Spring Shawl.

Comments: Kirsten, I have found that old newspaper pattern for the double-breasted Baby Surprise. Email me.

Shandy, thank you for the pointer to the Wild Swan pattern on Ravelry. It's a possibility.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Mouse Droppings

I've dropped my mouse -- it happens.But it doesn't seem to work any more, Archie will be here on Monday, and will either restore its functionality or go up to John Lewis and buy me a new one. Meanwhile all sorts of exciting news about the Dathan hap and the Six Nations Rugby tournament will have to be in suspension.