Thursday, April 30, 2020

A fairly good day. A few things crossed off the list. My main problem at the moment is that there are two biggies at the top of the list, and I keep not doing either of them: a simple email to the lawyer; and a phone call to my dear garage, to discuss giving up my car. I think it’s time for that. Maybe, having told you, I’ll do both tomorrow.

The order came from Tesco and sure enough, Rachel, no flour. That’s better than getting 50 pounds of it.

No news about the baby – my niece C’s grandchild, the one with the South African hap. It’s now three or four days overdue.

I’ve finished knitting the Virus Scarf, and have embarked on the weaving-in-of-ends. It’s going to take a while.

Here’s the avocado. Boring, as promised, but surely alive:

And here is Apple Blossom Time in Drummond Place. That’s my new “Gertrude Jekyll” in the background. I think, even at this disadvantage, you can see the buds swelling on her sturdy stems.

You’ll have heard of the elderly WWII veteran, “Captain Tom”, who decided to walk 100 times around his garden in anticipation of his 100th birthday. He invited sponsors, hoping to raise £1000 or so for the NHS, and has raised millions and become a national hero. Today is the actual birthday. He has been promoted to Colonel and there was a fly-past by a couple of genuine, antique Spitfires but what moves me to tears for some reason is that he has been made an honorary member of the England cricket team. A recent former captain went along and gave him the cap.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

What are they going to do with that baby? Boris can scarcely run the country if he isn’t getting any sleep. Perhaps they embedded a nanny before lockdown. It’s one question we’ll soon have the answer to.

All well here, I guess. My friend Sylvia, whom I’ve often mentioned lately, seems to spend her days much as I do, doing nothing, but without being haunted by the to-do list. I struck off a couple of items today. Several remain. We’ve had a very dry April. I have a heavy watering can full and ready to carry out to the doorstep – but I believed the weather forecast and went to bed for my nap without actually doing it. Alas, it remains to be done.

The Virus Scarf is all finished except for a few more base-colour rows at the end. Shandy, it has a front and a back. It’s a k3, p1 rib. The right-side edges curl in slightly, st st fashion. I think it’ll work. We’ll see. But there’s certainly a wrong side for the ends to be woven into.

One piece of good news: that avocado tree is alive. Nothing much has happened. It’s no more interesting. But it no longer looks moribund. Soon, perhaps, a picture of that, and of the scarf, and of apple blossom time in Drummond Place (=on my doorstep).

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Another pretty good day. Helen came, and we did another two rounds of the garden. I did a few minutes of mild elderly exercise with a YouTube clip I happened across, as well. I made a list and managed to strike a couple of items off. I had a good Mindful Chef lunch (some are, some aren’t).

Perdita was sitting in the window of the Catalogue Room and glad to see us come home from our walk. Helen took a picture. It has progressed as far as my telephone but so far is stuck there.

The BBC is doing a lot of broadcasting from people’s kitchens these days. Early this morning, on the Today programme, Justin Webb finished one of his bits with a rhetorical question to which the response was a resounding meow from his cat. The co-presenter picked up the baton very neatly with: “The perfect answer”.

I got on well with the Virus Scarf. Only a couple of days of knitting remain, and then a couple more for the ends. I sent an order to Carol Sunday, so grossly and absurdly extravagant that I don’t dare tell even you until it turns up and I start to knit it.


We have plans for meeting-by-Zoom this weekend, including a family pub quiz.

I am re-reading “Lucky Jim” in lieu of a better idea. It stands up to the passage of time rather well. Jim is a university lecturer in medieval history, a subject he detests. “The hydrogen bomb, the South African government, Chiang Kai Shek, Senator McCarthy himself, would seem a light price to pay for no longer being in the Middle Ages.” An interesting list. Only of South Africa can one say with assurance that things have improved since the early ‘50’s when the book was written. Was Chiang Kai Shek all that bad?


Rachel, that is a depressing thought, that Tesco might promise flour (as they have) and not deliver it. I went back into the order just now and added a few things. Flour is still there, but they say I can’t have any lemons. Flour doesn’t really matter – the idea of making a sourdough starter is just for fun. Jenni and Amelia, thank you for your comments. Alexander agrees that making a starter is dead easy.

Monday, April 27, 2020

A pretty good day. Helen came, and we circumnavigated the garden. There is a moment in the year, no longer than 10 days at the very most, when it’s all about to start. Like the moment when the conductor raps his baton on his music stand and raises his arms. And this is it, for Edinburgh, and the sky was blue again.

I got through to Sunday Knits with no delay at all today – increasing my suspicion that my previous difficulty was due to her server, not to mine. I suspect I will do some stash enhancing before I go to bed. I feel one is doing one’s bit for the world economy by spending one’s dwindling reserves on small businesses – but since Carol doesn’t have a shop she has presumably been relatively unaffected by all this unpleasantness. Kathy’s Knits, around the corner from here, is offering some innovative on-line services. I have been worried about her.

Meanwhile the Virus Scarf progresses well. I fear it will be finished long before any stash enhancement could arrive – not that I’ve not got plenty of stash to hand. It’s getting to be more fun, too – the colourful bits at the further end are a relief after the long passages of base colour in the middle. Who would like it? I don’t think it’s quite Me. One imagines an undergraduate grandson – and that doesn’t quite work, with the universities closed.


Meanwhile I’ve been eating the Wrong Cabbage kimchi. It tastes fine. It’s certainly a bit chewy – not that there’s anything wrong with chewing. But that’s a strong incentive to make the kimchi soup that you recommended the other day, Mary Lou.

Even the glossy cookery magazines have caught up with what’s happening by now, and I am greatly taken with the idea (toyed with before) of sourdough. The drawback is that I don’t eat much bread. But Helen is interested, and also about-to-become-a-father Manaba (who is a serious cook): so maybe I could make some sourdough starter and pass it on.

One of the downsides to sourdough starter is that you keep having to throw half of it away and “feed” it anew. Alexander says not to throw anything away – add egg and milk and chopped vegetables and make sourdough pancakes. I feel inspired. And I have succeeded in booking a supermarket delivery slot for later this week – and they’ve got flour! (Which has become as scarce as lavatory paper.)

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The asparagus was exquisite. For once I steamed it just right – the slightest hint of remaining crunch. And the hollandaise worked fine. It’s really too rich for my elderly stomach, but I’m glad to know I can still do it. My father used to make hollandaise sauce on Sunday mornings and I think it often went wrong.

A good day, today. I didn’t even try to go out. Helen (and I) (and Daniela, and her husband) have all decided that it’s all right if Daniela comes here. At weekends, when her husband can bring her and look after the toddler. So today she did, and took the house by the scruff of its neck, and it’s wonderful to sit here amidst such cleanliness and order. I spoke to my sister by Skype again today – they’re having supper tonight with another couple from their retirement community: I think that may be even naughtier than having Daniela here. We stayed well apart.

The Virus Shawl proceeds apace, as you’ll see if I remember to update the sidebar. The figures over there don’t leave room for finishing – but weaving in ends holds no fears for a two-time Dathan hap knitter.

I still haven’t succeeded in reaching Sunday Knits – but I found a message in the Ravelry group, from a month ago, from Carol herself, saying that she was having exactly this problem with her server. So I’ve stopped worrying, for a moment.

I have begun to sink into the Slough of Despond over this virus thing – what if there’s never a vaccine? (There isn’t one for the common cold, another coronavirus.) What if having COVID, or being vaccinated, doesn’t confer a very long-lasting immunity? There’s lots they don’t know, as my husband’s sister used often to say of me.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A dear friend has just brought me four fat spears of purple asparagus, from the Wye Valley via Marks & Spencer. The first of the season. And I have butter and eggs and lemons. I think the coronavirus trumps fear-of-cholesterol. I will make hollandaise (if I still can) and feast with the gods.

Not much knitting. And an unexpected problem – I can’t get through to Sunday Knits. I keep getting server-not-responding messages although everything else is working fine. I’m near enough the end of the Virus Scarf that I wanted to look at Machu Picchu again (I’m not going to pause to verify the spelling) and also perhaps order her yarn for a brioche shawl I am considering and indeed also look again at a brioche cowl of her own.

I had another good Italian lesson this morning. I think Federica is as happy as I am to have left grammar behind for the nonce in favour of literature. And individual cantos of the Divine Comedy are a perfect length for a week’s lesson.

Then Helen came around again and purged the kitchen while I had a bath, and we walked around the garden and picked some more wild garlic – it’s coming into flower; it won’t be with us much longer. So I lunched on wild garlic pesto and conchiglie – which the gods must enjoy as well.

I’ve finished Laura Spinney’s “Pale Rider”, about the 1918 flu epidemic. A certain amount of speed-reading was involved (on my part) in the later chapters about the long-term effects. I have collapsed, as so often, into Ruth Rendell’s arms – Barbara Vine, in fact, “The Brimstone Wedding”.

My husband’s father (who died young – I never knew him) was a conscientious objector in WWI. He was involved in the foundation of the St John’s Ambulance, served with it throughout the war, and co-authored a book about its early history. Our copy includes a letter to his parents (Alexander and Helen, of Edinburgh – some things don’t change) telling them which chapters were based on his own experience.

I thought it might be a good idea actually to read it, in 2014, but I didn’t get very far. Maybe I’ll try again now, in the hopes that there is something about the “Spanish flu” towards the end.

Friday, April 24, 2020

I did some things today, not others. List-making helps. I got around the gardens, at least. We lost a eucalyptus tree in a winter storm, regretted especially by me as it was the only tree I could readily identify. So I am working on trees. I think I’ve nailed a sycamore and a chestnut, and of course the trees so beautiful just now must be cherries.

(My mother used to teach college English in NJ. She would on occasion set her students at “Now of my threescore years and ten/ twenty will not come again…” and ask them how old the poet was. They found it very difficult.)

The Virus Scarf is progressing  nicely. A decision about the future will be needed very soon.


Mary Lou, I didn’t even know that the Marshall Scholarship was the first international one open to women. (Although that makes sense.) Back then, it was just open to people.

First sight of England: Beth and Chloe, my memory of that train journey from Southampton to London is not exactly greenness but all those tidy and loved little gardens, sloping down to the railway line.

I had been there the summer before, staying with my Oberlin friend Sylvia who now writes the private blog I mentioned a day or two ago. My first sight of Europe, on that trip, was Cobh in the south of Ireland. A few passengers went ashore by tender. First down the gangplank was a tedious professional Irishman who had been boring us all throughout the voyage. He had an accordian, and was playing a jig. Next was an invisible-type woman, never previously noticed. She started dancing. And one of the sailors on the tender left off what he was supposed to be doing, and danced with her. Ireland! Europe!

Back to knitting

Mary Lou, I agree with you utterly about the avoidance of fussiness. But in my heyday – I suspect you’re still enjoying yours – I found I liked Kaffe’s rhythmical patterns (but not the cloud-like ones). That tumbling block pattern that he re-worked several times.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

I watched my sister’s webinar while winding that 150 gr skein and wearing my dressing gown, trusting that I wasn’t visible to anyone else. She was good. Things are different in the UsofA, I think.

Eileen and Stashdragon (comment yesterday) I am so pleased that you have heard of us Marshall Scholars. None of us have been elected president yet, or even won a Nobel prize, but just you wait. On that ship, in 1954, were the year’s Rhodes scholars, on their way to Oxford. They swanked about a bit. But when the ship put in at Cherbourg, before Southampton, a Marshall Commission man got on board to take care of us. And the last we saw of the Rhodes scholars, as we were whisked off to London the next day, they were all sitting sadly on their luggage, wondering, what next?

I’m a bit further forward with the Virus Scarf.

Alexander phoned. He seems to be having a lovely time, lockdowned on the shores of Loch Fyne. The garden, he says,  has never been in such good order. Food is being delivered. His sons’ school is not providing much in the way of remote education.

Helen came and walked me twice around the gardens. Unutterably beautiful, again.


VasanthMusicCoimbatore, I use Brad Leone’s kimchi recipe. Go to YouTube and ask for him. (He’s delightful, apart from the kimchi.) However, unlike Brad (and most Koreans) I cut the cabbage up at the beginning, before I salt it, instead of leaving it attached to the root and inserting the salt leaf by leaf. I also omit his oyster. I’ve got some kimchi in a very Korean-looking jar (although the small print says it came from Taiwan). I ordered it when I bought that gochugaru recently. I like my own better. It’s livelier.

Other non-knit

I recorded a program last night about the Queen during the war, and look forward to it. Many rich English sent their children to safety in the US or Canada during the war. The King and Queen did not, although they must have shared the additional twist of anxiety, as they feared invasion in the autumn of 1940, of all parents of teen-aged daughters.

There has been a novel recently imagining that the Princesses were sent to Ireland for safety. That’s preposterous. In the case of invasion – and there must be records in the archives – they would have gone to somewhere like Kirkmichael and stayed with the laird. I can imagine him mentioning in the village shop that if the Germans invaded, his English nieces were coming up to stay – “let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

All well. I did my garden outing, all by myself. One almost begins to feel that God is laughing at us, with this preposterously beautiful spring. Had things been otherwise, C. and I would now be gathering ourselves together for our cruise, sailing from Oban on the 10th of May -- planning for our cats (me) and worrying about her unborn grandchild (C.). At least we are spared those anxieties.

The Virus Scarf is coming on nicely. Tomorrow I will have to wind the second 150 gr ball of the base colour. It would be cheating to stop when I thought I had wound enough – wouldn’t it?

Andrew and Andrea posted today, as promised, and are delightful. Theirs is really a terrific McGuffin – she an expert knitter, with all that that involves in willingness to unpick and unpick again when things aren’t right; he a willing beginner. The main interview today is with Alasdair Post-Quinn. I am absolutely sure that double knitting is something I will never attempt (let alone master) – but there is no doubt as well that his work is interesting and inventive and beautiful, if you’re up for it.

And Andrea, as always, is a first-rate interviewer. Time is not wasted.


I should probably leave this out.

I (and a lot of others) had a message of encouragement and sympathy today from Prince Charles. I am a Marshall Scholar, and he is our patron. I didn’t even know that. I was one of the original 12 Marshall Scholars, in 1954 (like one of those dim apostles you can never remember the name of). When we set sail from NYC – for that was the way the sea was crossed, in 1954 – Prince Charles was coming up to his sixth birthday, so he probably wasn’t our patron then.

It was a sorrow to me all my married life, that my husband never grasped Marshall Aid (in honour of which, in gratitude for which, the scholarship is named). He had it mixed up with WWI War Loan, probably from having heard his parents grumbling in his childhood, and most inappropriately resented American exigency.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Helen came over again this morning and we did two circuits of the Gardens. My Oberlin friend Sylvia – I’ve mentioned her before – writes a private blog for about 30 of us. She spent some of her early childhood in Japan. Today she told us that the thing to do with cherry blossom is to stand under the tree and look up at the blue sky through the branches. So we did that. Wonderful!

I’m pushing forward happily with the virus scarf, and enjoying thinking about What Next. Shall I return to Real Life? Or go on knitting on impulse? At the moment, I’m mired in a vast base-colour section, perhaps the biggest one of all. Each time, I find the colours for the next stripes and lay them on the table in front of me, for inspiration.

Andrew and Andrea have written to say that they are mired in a copyright problem with Youtube, which has involved them in much tedious re-editing. But the new issue is promised for tomorrow.


Mary Lou, I forgot to thank you for the suggestion of kimchi soup for my Wrong Cabbage Kimchi. I’ve found Melissa Clerk’s recipe, and it sounds good, very relaxed about ingredients. So that’s on the menu. I’ll probably order some gochujang paste, since that’s so easy to do; and fetch a piece of chicken out of the freezer instead of asking someone to bring me pork belly. The kimchi has been quiet since that first night – clearly dark-leaved, tough cabbage doesn’t bubble the way napa cabbage (=Chinese leaves) does.

A big excitement for later in the week is going to be a “webinar” led by my sister on various interesting topics: Older Adults and the Pandemic; Congregate Living in the Coronavirus Era; Can Nursing Homes be Safe? I’ll report back.

I’ve always been vaguely interested in the 1918 “Spanish flu”. Today I started reading a recent book about it, “Pale Rider” by Laura Spinney. It’s well-written – good prose, I mean. It was written before we were embroiled in the current mess. I’ll be interested to see her conclusion.

Monday, April 20, 2020

A good day. Utterly wonderful, weather-wise. Helen swept by and took me for my walk, a good thing. She has given up mosaic-making on the kitchen table and gone back to her studio. It is in a re-purposed school, big and roomy and there’s hardly anybody there. And I can be walked around the garden on her way in, in the morning.

The new VK is here, and I am more enthusiastic than I have been for a while. Kaffe, I’m afraid not. If you want to attempt overlapping squares – and they’re not easy – have a look at his “Islamic Stripe Patch” in “KF at the V&A”, one of my all-time faves. But I like the three green sweaters that follow, and the yoke sweater called “Geode” later on; and the “men’s textured sweaters” where you can hardly see the texture for the yarn. That’s a lot for me to like in one issue – and there’s plenty to read, too.

But it is odd to read a magazine which doesn’t know what is going on.

It is interesting to see what various people are doing to keep us afloat. Arne & Carlos have an interesting post about their books – not knitting books, but design inspiration. Queer Joe posts often, and interestingly, and cheerfully. Kate Davies also posts often, but is usually too arty and misty these days for my taste. I need knitting. The poor Harlot has had an appalling family tragedy. And the Socklady has had a fall – nothing broken, thank goodness, and she’s home from hospital (COVID-free), making light of it as is her wont.

Jamie Oliver is cooking from the back of the fridge, with his wife holding the camera. Rather effectively.

BBC Radio Four, which sustains me day and night, has got some gaps. They’re re-running Neil Macgregor’s “History of the World in 100 Objects” which is bliss – I don’t even mind hearing it twice in a day. Up until now The Archers have been drifting quietly on, COVID-free. Now it is to be suspended, while they work out how to record new episodes with the actors in different places. A letter in the Times this morning asks whether we can also expect the immanent departure of the ravens from the Tower of London.

And I think we’re due Andrew and Andrea this week.

Helen half-suggested this morning that I may never see the end of this. I fear she may be right.

Here's a cat picture to cheer us all up. Paradox, this morning, sitting in a corner of the kitchen, clearly thinking about something,

Sunday, April 19, 2020

List-making helped. There were only three items on it. I did two of them (and so enjoyed striking them off) and should manage the third tomorrow. The virtual post-Mass Zoom-coffee went fairly well. Several people previously known only by sight are now acquaintances. And one day, maybe, we’ll have actual coffee again…

It’s hard to believe, in my gloomier moments.

But I was glad to hear about your wild turkeys, Mary Lou. I’ve seen them only once in my life. I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law in Ivoryton, CT -- mouth of the river. My mother had fallen, and was in hospital in Middletown. One evening, when Roger was driving me back to Ivoryton, we saw three or four of them, and pulled over to watch for a while.

Knitting progressed today, at least somewhat. The Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning can be counted on for that. I had a sudden instinct that what I want to knit next is some nice, squishy, comforting brioche. Nothing I looked at seemed right. Perhaps I’ll try some Marchant books with my supper.

Andrew Marr always has top-rank guests. One of them today was an Oxford virology professor. She had the admirable quality of answering the question and then ceasing to talk, in both respects unlike a politician. The interview raised the possibilities (which I had been dimly aware of from elsewhere) that (a) having COVID-19 doesn’t prevent you having it again, soon; and (b) we may never achieve a vaccine.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A successful day, I guess. I’m ready for bed.

But I had a good Italian lesson – and I learned something. To Roman ears like Federica’s, the Pope speaks with a slight Spanish accent. He sounds utterly Italian to me.

Helen came and cleaned with great efficiency while I had a bath. In the good old days, I would submerge until the water was not far from my nostrils and read a thriller or the Vogue Knitting Book (as it was then called). Nowadays, I don’t dare do other than kneel and wash myself. But it’s nice to be clean.

Here is a picture Helen took of me and the Virus Scarf, for my Instagram account. Which is entirely maintained by her. Whatever wild venture I may or may not embark on next, I must finish 80% of the scarf, at least, before ordering materials.

Then we went for our walk. Drummond Place Gardens are all April-glorious. I harvested some wild garlic and have just had a pleasant supper of macaroni tossed with wild garlic pesto.

Tomorrow after virtual Mass we are going to have virtual coffee, via Zoom. How will it work? For in real life, of course, we don’t all sit around the room with our actual coffee having a committee meeting – we talk in twos and threes and fours. Is Zoom up to it? An interesting experiment.

Things aren’t getting done. I will make a serious list tomorrow morning and see if I can’t work through a few items.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The trouble is, I used to watch Pointless at the end of the afternoon, followed by some or all of the news. Then Pointless got usurped by the daily government briefing on the Crisis, so I watched that. Good knitting time, either way. But then that got boring – the government never has much to say, except for the daily totals and you don’t have to sit there for 45 minutes to find out what they are. And then the journalists ask questions and the government doesn’t answer them. (“Let me make it perfectly clear that…”) So I stopped watching that, and knitting is suffering.

My niece C., about to be a grandmother again, has taken up knitting after a 25-year gap. I gave her a copy of my Baby Surprise pattern, the mimeographed one I got from the Sunday Times long ago. And I also tore the pattern out of a more recent Knitter’s and sent her that. This morning she sent me this pic:

Where did she get that curved hem? I love it. She says that it is likely the result of a mistake, but I don't believe it. Double-breastedness is a feature of the Sunday Times version.


Shandy, thank you. Jennifer Steingass is terrific. And “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” is an old favourite of mine – if it’s the one I think it is, where they gradually figure out that the earth is spiralling into the sun.

KayT, thank you. I’ll have a look at Zazzle. I like the idea of “I WANT…your toilet paper”. It’s remotely knit-related, too, because that Uncle Sam poster was (I think) based on a British one featuring Lord Kitchener.

And Maureen, thank you for encouraging me to think on about knitting Machu Picchu (Carol Sunday's pattern) bottom-up. (And Maureen’s is no trivial voice, on such matters.) I could leave out the waist shaping since I haven’t got a waist. And I’m actually rather additionally tempted by the fact that there’s some duplicate stitch involved at the end. That’s one I’ve never attempted and wouldn’t mind learning. And now that I’ve learned to do corrugated rib…

Helen just rang up to say that she is tired of all these rules. She is going to come tomorrow and clean up the kitchen while I have a bath and then we will go for a walk. That will be nice. But before all that there will be my Italian lesson, so now I must go think about Dante and Boccaccio.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I’ve just had a little get-together by Zoom with James and Cathy and their daughter Rachel, in London; and my sister and her husband in DC. Not as good as actual physical people, but better than nothing. We’ll try it again soon, with more participants. Zoom is easy. I also had a good Skype conversation with my sister yesterday.

James has acquired quite a substantial grey beard since I last saw him. Very locked-down.

Otherwise, there is little to report. The Wrong Cabbage Kimchi effervesced a bit in the night but has been quiet in the hours of daylight. I didn’t go out today – saved the strength for some housework, hoovering and sweeping. Not easy.

Not much knitting, but a bit. Carol Sunday’s Machu Picchu is a possibility for my Absurd Next Project, except that it’s top-down. Could I turn it around, as I am doing for the Cameron Shawl? Perhaps that would be unwise. And I am encouraged that you, too, Mary Lou, have long had Meg’s spiral yoke at the back of your mind.

I looked at CafePress for a while today, hoping for a good coronavirus sweat- or polo-shirt. All the best slogans seemed to be on the mugs, and everybody has too many mugs already. I had not noticed before, however, how portentous the year looks in Latin: MMXX.

Soon it will be time to go out on the doorstep and applaud the NHS again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Not too bad a day. I spent much of the morning stamping about in a state of not-wanting-to-go-out, then I went out and did my circuit of the garden, and then had a healthy Mindful Chef lunch. No knitting.

The Wrong Cabbage Kimchi is looking tasty in its jars (means nothing) and is quiet so far. I would expect more action from tomorrow, and yet more over the weekend. When I went to bed last night, the kitchen was gochugaru-red from one end to the other; it's somewhat better now.

I have been seized by the desire to knit a yoke sweater – bottom-up, so as to enjoy that delicious sense of the circuit getting smaller. While life continues in this strange non-state, I figure I can do anything I want. And that applies to all of us. I’ve got to finish the scarf first, of course.

I spent some time this morning, however (part of the pre-walk delaying tactic), looking at Brooklyn Tweed patterns, and then at Ravelry, where I was reminded of an old un-knit favourite, Meg’s Spiral Yoke Sweater in her little book “Handknitting with Meg Swanson”. That’s a possibility.

That led me on to her book “Knitting” – fancy that title being unoccupied and ready for her! There are some good things there, too, and interesting autobiographical material at the beginning. It was remarkable, I thought, that both books were exactly where they should be on my shelves.


Another New Yorker (April 6). It’s not entirely devoted to COVID-19, but it contains an excellent article on the subject by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

I have finished reading Arundhati Roy’s “God of Small Things” (very, very good) and moved on cautiously to her more recent “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”. She has written a lot, on various topics, but not much fiction.

I am about to have a Skype conversation with my sister. She is used to more sophisticated platforms and finds it a bit hard to deal with. It is the height of sophistication for me (and equally hard to deal with).

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Today I heard some statistics I had been wondering about: how much does the current death rate (from all causes) exceed – if at all – the average? The answer is, by lots. So this is a real epidemic. 

I didn’t get out for a walk today, but that was due to intention rather than idleness. I have been making kimchi. I needed both the time and the strength for that purpose. And the job is not quite finished. All the component parts are ready – the salted cabbage; the chopped vegetables; the rice flour porridge; the garlic-ginger-onion-gochugaru sludge. I have still to put them all together and press into jars.

This is the batch for which I don’t have proper napa cabbage (Chinese leaves). What I’ve got (Sunday’s Tesco delivery) is labelled “Organic Seasonal Cabbage” – not very informative. It’s much darker and tougher than Chinese leaves. In fact, all they would seem to share is brassicacious-ness.

I cut the Tesco cabbages up and salted them this morning, hoping that a little extra time at that stage would soften them somewhat. It doesn’t seem to have done so. I’ll keep you posted.

Happier news: Manaba came by after work today to pick up the shawl for his soon-to-be-born son or daughter (they know, but they’re not saying). I picture them being photographed on the steps of the hospital like a royal couple but I don’t suppose that will happen.

So, not much knitting.


This may not be quite right, but I think (a) that it was in 2015 or so that C. and I went off to Athens at Easter and (b) that it was therefore in the winter of ’15-16 that I gave James and Cathy an apple tree, in thanks for their very considerable role in looking after my husband. James sent me this picture this morning:

Alexander drove my husband door-to-door (and back), Drummond Place to Sydenham. James and Cathy, Rachel and Ed provided an interesting and varied week of entertainment – my husband could still walk at that stage, although not very well. And Helen looked after me and C. in Greece, and took us to Marathon.

Monday, April 13, 2020

A better day. I went for my little walk. I cleaned the litter tray. I washed the dishes (most of them). I made myself a tasty Mindful Chef vegan lunch – I often order the vegan options, but of course cook the fish and then the meat meals first, and I am afraid there have been times when I never got around to vegan at all. My refrigerator is well-stocked with tofu, as a result. But today I did, and it was good. And I put the rubbish out.

And (with thanks for your help) I seem to have solved my picture-sending problem. For some unimaginable reason, the iPad had forgotten my Google password, which it said it needed in order to send pictures to my Google account. I had forgotten it, too, so that took a bit of straightening out. How could that have happened? As recently as my recent trip to Strathardle with C., I was sending pictures merrily about.

So here they are, now sadly out of date. First of all, Paradox, exhausted by her adventure with that mouse:

Then, a very out-of-date picture of the Virus Scarf. I’ve now reached the half-way point. But it just goes on like that, lovely grey sprinkled with random stripes:

And I took this picture of the pattern, to show you what fun it is to be able to mark off each stripe as it is knit. By now, I have gone on to the next page:

And lockdown moves forward. Like you, Tamar, I’m used to being alone, and relish it. But I’m not really used to being completely alone, and it’s rather disconcerting. What happens when I’m not strong enough to put the rubbish out any more? But, goodness me, how much worse it would have been without the internet!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter, all! (or what’s left of it) I’ve had a pretty good day – short on exercise, though. I must do better tomorrow.

This remains a very odd situation. My niece C. phoned today – she’s the one who has moved in with her pregnant daughter and son-in-law, slightly against the rules but I suspect to the benefit of all three. All four.The younger C. has a 38-week ante-natal appt tomorrow. Not long to go. They go out for invigorating walks, and Manaba, who is a brilliant and inventive cook, keeps surprising them with treats.

I’ve spoken to all of my children today, as well. All had lamb to eat (not me), and all sound well.

And the Virus Scarf moves forward, as the sidebar shows if I remember to do it.

I’ve watched the rest of last week’s Fruity Knitting. The natural dyer wasn’t quite as interesting as she might have been – her mother is the one who knows about plants. I marvel again, as I’ve said here before, at the Fair Isle knitters, and others, who discovered so much about natural dyes while leading such austere and difficult lives.


I’m moving forward happily with Roy, “The God of Small Things”. The Duchess of Cornwall (= Camilla) has published a list of books today which she recommends for lockdown reading. I agree with her about the few names on the list I recognise, so might think of attempting the rest.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Helen (anon) – it’s no use my trying to leave a comment on your comment. It would just vanish. So I’ll say it here – yes, the Times columnist (Matthew Parris, no need to be shy about his name) mentioned the goats in Llandudno as part of his argument that the animals are planning a takeover. Today Llandudno, tomorrow the world.

I had a good Italian lesson this morning. Sometimes I feel I am making progress, and today was one of the times, “Lockdown” in Italian is “lockdown”.

And, Mary Lou, I’m terribly glad to hear that you’ve got a “Gertrude Jekyll” rose. The thought will enhance my pleasure in my new one. What I really want, though, is a “Perdita”, for obvious reasons. (I’ve said this before, I’m sure.) It’s another Austin rose. It doesn’t seem to be on offer in GB.

I’m toiling through a long base-colour section of the Virus Scarf at the moment. It’s still very pleasant knitting. Shandy, I’m desperately glad to hear that you’re knitting again. It's very necessary, in these troubled times.When I broke my arms – first one, then the other, years apart – and tried to knit too soon, it produced a most uncomfortable feeling as if the arm were swinging free and unattached from the shoulder.

The coronavirus New Yorker (April 13) arrived today, the first of many, perhaps. It’s very good. Today’s Financial Times is alarmingly short of advertisements, but the New Yorker seems to be holding up all right.

Friday, April 10, 2020

One of my favourite columnists suggested on Wednesday that the animals are beginning to realise that there is something wrong with us, and are quietly planning their takeover. We’d better keep an eye on them.

I have had another day of fairly serious non-achievement, including not writing an Italian essay. It takes a lot of time and effort to do nothing all day. A rose arrived which I had ordered recently (“Gertrude Jekyll” from David Austin). Helen has become as passionate a gardener as her brother James – she came roaring around after lunch and planted it in a pot on my doorstep. Perhaps I’ll sit out on the step tomorrow and do some gentle tidying and pruning. I’ve ordered seeds and plug plants for some of the other pots but they won’t be here for a while.

The Virus Scarf speeds forward. I wish I could photograph it for you. It’s perfect comfort knitting. All of the mini-skeins are now wound, and have made their first appearance. There is another 150-gram base-colour skein in reserve, but I am now far enough on the way to halfway that I think I won’t need all of it. I’ll still have to wind it.

I went out on the doorstep again last night to clap for the NHS. It was nice, again, to see my neighbours.

The time in the bottom right-hand corner of my computer screen has put itself right. That was very odd.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Well, here we are, one day on. I did my circuit of Drummond Place Gardens. There’s something wonderfully new in a garden every day, this time of year. The scarf advances well, and I continue to like the way it’s looking. And it’s moving along so briskly that I may have time for a second piece of Virus Knitting before I am released from house arrest.

Helen said (over the phone, of course) that she went to a homewares shop yesterday. Why was it open? It was wonderful, she said. It was full of THINGS!

Queer Joe continues to post little knitting videos, informative and friendly. And I’ve still got the best part of this week’s Fruity Knitting to watch: someone who does natural dyes, a subject I have dabbled in myself. The problem is to avoid getting a dull brown, time after time, plant after plant. The first interview was with a Scandinavian designer who goes in for too much embellishment for my taste.

My friend Sylvia, who writes a private blog, had a virtual seder yesterday with many friends and family present, and she had to admit that it was easier than  cooking for 14. She posted this, which had been sent to her by another Oberlin friend, the link, indeed, between me and Sylvia. They were besties in high school:

Only a fortnight ago, I wouldn’t have grasped the point. We are living and learning.

The time in the lower right-hand corner of this computer is wrong – it has Sprung Forward another hour. How could that be? These are unnerving times, indeed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

I didn’t go out today, and feel the worse for it. I did have my bath, and that was lovely; and washed my hair and look fully as horrifying as any of Macbeth’s witches. Helen(anon), yes, my bath has good solid handles, and is, moreover, not alarmingly high. I don’t have one of those non-slip mats, and should get one. The process, once I actually embark upon it, is never as scary as I anticipate.

Dawn, I wrote to you yesterday, in the form of a comment here, and just as happens to so many of us, once I had finished my message and polished it and clicked “Publish” , it vanished into the ether. I do exactly as you say – send photos from the iPad to myself. They usually go into the iPad’s own Mail app – I use Safari – and most of the time they can be found in the Outbox there and sent on to Safari. No longer. They’re there, but they won’t go forward. I tried taking a picture of the scarf – which is looking rather well – on my telephone, but that, too, has failed to go forward.

I feel there should be more to report, in these strange times. I got a delivery slot at Tesco today, for Sunday afternoon. I log on three or four times a day and usually there’s nothing. I don’t really need any more food at the moment – Helen and David are taking good care of me. But I grabbed it and filled it up with cider and cat food.

I knit as I watch the government's daily briefing, in lieu of Pointless which it has replaced. I'd like to watch Governor Cuomo and President Trump. Does anyone know how that can be done?

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

I trudged around Drummond Place Gardens again – what a glorious day it was! There were an unusual number of child-walkers there and it was pleasant to call out greetings to them, especially as I so rarely see fellow human beings these days. I was persuaded not to go out for those sausages.

Helen and I have a scheme for tomorrow. She is going to come around early, and sit on the front step (hoping for another day like today) while I have a bath. I am afraid to do it, these days, when I am alone in the house, for fear of falling. Now that I don’t have Daniela, I’m getting pretty dirty. If I don’t reappear within half an hour, Helen will come in and mount a rescue operation.

Not much progress on the Virus Scarf, but some. I took the promised picture, but again can’t get it out of the iPad. I’m not doing anything different – what’s gone wrong? Two things to try: I could send the pictures to someone else, who could then (if they arrive) send them back to me. Or I could take pictures on my telephone instead of the iPad, and see if that’s any more cooperative.

Failing that, here’s a better one. My friend G., instead of bullying me around Drummond Place Gardens, walked up to Holyrood this morning:

I think that's the palace, off to the right.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Not too bad a day. I did a circuit of the Gardens, well away from the few other fresh-air seekers. I changed the litter tray. I got the rubbish into its gull-proof bag, down the steps and onto the railing. That’s about it. I’m very inclined to go to Crombies first thing tomorrow for some sausages.

I watched the Queen last night, and was a bit disappointed. It was recorded, like a Christmas message, with clips interspersed of Britons doing heroic things. When Diana died, the Queen spoke to us live, and it was electrifying. I think I was expecting something like that.

I also think I’m not the only one to be uneasy about the health of the Prime Minister. We’re not being told much, at least, not today.

But on the other hand, I’m having a wonderful time with the Virus Scarf. Weavinfool, yes, it is the Blue Sky 21-color scarf, and it’s perfect for these troubled times. The yarn is delicious on the hands, soft and bouncy. (I think “squishy” is the technical term.) The colours are good. The fact that the percentage-achieved can be calculated precisely for the progress line in the sidebar (rows-so-far-knit divided by 524) is gratifying to an obsessive like me. The pattern consists of a row-by-row specification of each stripe and the number of rows it contains, and they can each be struck off once knit, and that’s gratifying too.

I’ll take pics tomorrow.


There was what I thought a sensationally good article in Saturday’s Financial Times, by the novelist Arundhati Roy, about India and the coronavirus. I asked Alexander if he had seen it, or would he like me to send? And he said they are trying not to accept anything but the most necessary from the outside world, but would I put it aside? That was sort of scary. He recommended her Booker-winning “The God of Small Things”.

I sought it on Amazon, and they told me I already had it. (Amazon could double their profits at a stroke if they stopped preventing silly old fools like me from buying books twice.) Sure enough. And I seem to have read about ¼ of it. I’ve gone back to the beginning and am enjoying it very much.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Here’s Sam, self-isolating in Argyllshire. Self-isolation is particularly difficult for sheep:

And here he is with Thomas:

He seems to be aging very well. Perhaps a bit weaker in the legs than he was 12 years ago, but that’s true of many of us. I remember someone – presumably Thomas – asking that day, towards evening, “Can I have your sheep?” I am sure the question had previously been run past his parents.

Not too bad a day. My friend G came and force-marched me around Drummond Place Gardens. It had been quite a while since I had been out. There always seemed to be a delivery to wait in for. Spring has made impressive strides since I was last there. And I feel the better this evening for the effort.

I made good progress with the Virus Scarf, and will resume it soon when I go to watch the Queen. I’ve finished the first plain section, and begun on the striping, which is slow but fun. Each colour has to be located, of course, somewhere in the fistful provided, and the mini-skein wound. And as the contribution of each ends, it has to be re-attached to its label because it will one day be needed again.

I’ve done row 35 of 524. I hope my inability to show you that picture of Paradox resting after a strenuous morning of mousing, won’t prevent the sending across of other pictures. Anyway, I’ll try soon.


I had a stinker of a Freecell the other day. Even leaving it overnight didn’t help. I eventually got it, with more than an hour recorded on the clock. And, as almost always when that happens, I couldn’t think what I had done differently to make it come out. Even while the game was still in progress, when I had reached that stage where there is only tidying-up to be done, I couldn’t think why I had succeeded. Presumably, nevertheless, such struggles make one stronger.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

I am very touched that anybody remembers my Great Victory with Sam the Ram. Anne (comment yesterday) has found the picture – just click on 2007 and there he is, at the end of the first post that comes up (=end of year). He is rather good, if I do say so.

What I, embarrassingly, don’t remember is which of you suggested knitting him. I was intending to reproduce a mermaid that I had knit for Rachel’s daughter Hellie. She loved it for years, but it eventually fell to pieces. I think, in ’07, I still had the original pattern. The category, remember, was “knitted toy”. But whoever-you-were was here in Edinburgh and we went on a modest yarn crawl and had coffee, over which she suggested Sam, saying, rightly, that he involved a certain amount of virtuoso knitting which might impress the judges. Maureen, could that have been you?

I’ll ask Alexander if Sam is available for a modern picture.

I felt more than ordinarily flattened after my Italian lesson this morning, which is my excuse for having done even less than usual for the rest of the day. And as for knitting, I succumbed. The Virus Scarf has a background colour called “Cast Iron”. I wound a skein of it – 150 grams; no joke; and cast on. It’s lovely stuff, and will be wonderfully cosy to wind around oneself if I ever finish. There are 524 rows, of which I’ve done 15. That might even last out the emergency. The yarn is called “fine highland wool” and comes from Peru. And there was not a single knot in those 150 grams.

Greek Helen, she with the abscessed tooth, is doing well, but anxious about how she will fare when the antibiotic is over. She has been warned about this tooth for years. It is fused to the bone in some way and will require surgery to remove – pliars won’t be sufficient. And these are no times to go through the door of a hospital if it can be avoided.

She has volunteered to be Helpful, on some register or other. That involved doing someone’s shopping the other day. She was horrified at the diet implied by the list. “Don’t you want any fruit or vegetables?” “Well, yes; you could put in a can of pineapple.”

Friday, April 03, 2020

On we go. This is getting rather tedious, but I’m tottering on. I went out on the doorstep yesterday evening at 7:59 to applaud the NHS, feeling rather foolish and wondering whether Drummond Place went in for that sort of thing. But at 8 p.m. there we all were, clapping away, and next door neighbour’s son played Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes and it was very touching.

The Queen is going to speak to us on Sunday.

The yarn for the scarf arrived. (The only human beings I see these days are delivery men, from a safe distance.) I had already done two rows of Cameron Scarf by that time, and thought I might allow myself to wind a skein of the base colour and make a little start. But I sort of felt in my fingers the wisdom of the suggestion I got on Shetland (mentioned here previously) to stick with lace once having embarked on it, rather than interspersing something of a different gauge. (Although I will intersperse away, once this piece of the shawl is finished.)

I’ve finished row 7, the last pattern row. There now follow five plain rows, and then what I think is called a “break” row – YO, K2tog all the way across. Plenty of time for lots of counting.

I had a nice newsletter-email today from Misa Hay, who so brilliantly organises and runs the Shetland Wool Adventure I went on a year ago. Another small business to worry about. It’s a cheerful message, with advice about gardening and baking – she used often to provide us with her own homemade cakes at tea time – and pictures of chilly Shetland in the early spring.

She says that Wilma Malcolmson is the Wool Week patron this year, and there is a picture of this year’s hat. Well, maybe. The Edinburgh Festival is gone, as you probably know, to the somewhat relief of residents but substantial loss to the city. The 138th Strathardle Highland Gathering is still going ahead on August 24th, according to its website. Well, maybe, again.

A “knitted sheep” is asked for in one of the Home Industries Tent categories. Humph. I won the Glenisla Shield with Sam the Ram in ’07, when the category was “knitted toy”. He should remain the definitive Strathardle knitted sheep. (He lives on the shores of Loch Fyne, with Alexander and Ketki’s sons.)

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Not too bad a day, although weak on exercise. I got the recycling sorted and tidied and put out for collection. I had a good lunch. I received two more deliveries, including the gochugaru red pepper; surely the scarf kit will be here soon. Now that I’ve got the gochugaru, I need a delivery slot at a grocery store that might have Chinese leaves (=Napa cabbage). Not so easy. I’ve got a cabbage here already – I suspect a Korean grandmother would roll up her sleeves and use that.

The other delivery was cider, and required a signature. But we don’t do that in these troubled times. He stood well back from the door and asked me my date of birth. I had to repeat it. He clearly didn’t believe that time went as far back as 1933.

One of the columnists in the Times this morning included some Seclusion Tips from a military man. They ran along the lines we had been talking about here. Here are two good ones: Take time and pride in what would normally be menial tasks. And, Clean something to a degree you wouldn’t normally, every day.

I doubt if I’ll do either. But I keep circling back to Shandy’s idea of knitting a series of quick things, such as Coronavirus Hats for All. I’ve got quite a bit of madtosh DK in my extensive stash, and the world is full of wonderful hat patterns.

And I’ve reached row 12 of the Cameron Shawl borders – 7 is the final pattern row. There are some blanks at the end. My best course would surely be to finish this piece before flinging myself into the scarf, if I have the strength of character.

I am beginning to have an uneasy feeling (are some lace experts among you laughing up their sleeves?) that a lace chart can’t just be knit upside down, as a Fair Isle chart could be. At least, not in all cases. The only way to establish the truth would be with some swatching. It might be interesting.


I am beginning to worry about finance, as many others must be doing. How many LYS’s will be able to keep going? And what about me? How secure are my pensions and welcome bits of dividend income, as the world totters?

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

I am very touched and very grateful for your response to my dismal post of yesterday. Today went much better. JennyS, I put your suggestion into practice straight away. Again, I couldn’t go out, for fear yesterday’s delivery would come (and it did) – but I live in a long, straight apartment and so instead of walking straight across from kitchen to sitting room when I wanted to sit and knit, I walked the whole length and back, to both ends. It takes somewhat over 100 steps. Better than nothing.

And I found an unemployed Katcha Katcha and recorded how many times I had done it during the day. I would be embarrassed to tell you how few – but maybe I’ll do more tomorrow.

And I began the day by making a short and simple list of some things I hoped to accomplish: this is perhaps a variation of what you are suggesting, Shandy. My list was to order some gochugaru chilli powder, an essential ingredient in kimchi on which I’m getting low; to pay some bills; and to cook a proper lunch instead of just sitting there picking at cheese. I achieved all three.

My sister phoned from DC. It was good to talk to her. I had been toying with your idea, Allison, of employing Skype. I use it successfully for my Italian lessons, and also, recently, signed a document giving Helen power of attorney when I can no longer function – that had to be done in the presence of a solicitor, and apparently Skype counts as “presence” in these up-to-date times.

My impression is that DC is not quite as locked-down as Edinburgh. My sister said that her husband’s dentist is nagging him to have a broken crown repaired. It’ll have to be done, but not right now. Helen has what sounds like an extremely painful abscess. She phoned our dentist last night, and he said that no one would examine her in present circumstances. He managed to get her a prescription for some antibiotics and a painkiller. Abscesses can be dangerous; I’ll be glad to hear that the antibiotics are working.

Also.President Trump still seems to be conducting his press conferences in the real world, with everyone sitting well apart, whereas the British government’s daily press briefing is now entirely remote.

Knitting: I’ve finished row 14 of the first two Cameron Shawl borders, and have polished off the Trees of Life. AND I have ordered that expensive Blue Sky 21-colour scarf kit. I wanted to knit something that could forever be the Coronovirus Knit.

But I still can't get that picture of Paradox out of the iPad for you.