Monday, August 31, 2020


A good day. The sleeve is within a couple of rows of being finished – I can’t remember how far I am to knit on after the last increase, but that won’t be difficult to determine. I watched the first episode of a new detective series today – J.K. Rowling’s alternative persona as the author of Cameron Strike. I have enjoyed previous series, and the matching books. The reviewer in this morning’s paper was distinctly down on the new one. (I watch the next day, having gone to bed early.) And I’m afraid I agree.


It may improve. And in the mean time, it gets some knitting done.


Archie and his brother Mungo came to lunch and we had a nice time. Both have just graduated. Neither has much sense of direction. Both seem cheerful.




I’m continuing to enjoy “Incarnations” and have been pleased to hear the some of you are joining me. I’m getting near the end, and we are bearing down on Independence and Partition.

Sunday, August 30, 2020


Forward! I suppose. Mary Lou, you have brought on stage the whole concept of knitting to podcasts (which I might have been able to figure out for myself). Today I knit to a BBC one about the US election – a subject I find of riveting interest.


Tomorrow, perhaps, the Four Minute Mile. It’s on the BBC list. I remember that. I remember an article, perhaps in “Sports Illustrated”, opining that it was impossible, beyond the capacity of human physiology. And I once met the Associated Press man who went to the field that day and saw it happen. (It was no secret that Bannister was aiming for it, and quite likely to succeed.)


The AP man carefully noted the position of the nearest telephone box. When Bannister’s time was confirmed, he rushed to the spot and found a bloody woman in there, nattering away. A few minutes later the UPI man strolled up, took the phone from his wife – “Thanks, dear” – and phoned in the scoop.


The second EPS sleeve has advanced. Four or five more decreases to go. They’re every fourth round, and when they’re all done, the sleeve is done – so there’s not much more.

Friday, August 28, 2020


Gli hanno tolto i punti, is, I hope, the answer to yesterday’s conundrum. We had a good lesson this morning, leaving me prostrate with exhaustion as usual.


C. came this morning and we circled the garden. I didn’t do any other exercises (bad) but what I did do, Mary Lou, was try to follow your suggestion using the link you sent – knitting while listening to William Dalrymple. Alas, the link didn’t work – or, more likely, I couldn’t make it work. I then tried the BBC and found that all the pure-Dalrymple podcasts were unavailable, why?, but I found a copy of “Start the Week” (an excellent programme) with him and Melvin Bragg and some other people and happily knit to that.


The yellow of my EPS sweater lifts the heart every time I approach it. This second sleeve won’t take much longer.


Gretchen, I’m glad you’ve put “Incarnations” on your reading list. I think you’ll enjoy it. I’m not quite halfway through, and have reached the 20th century, rather to my surprise. I’m greatly looking forward to the day when I have finished my self-assigned preliminary reading and can hunker down with the East India Company. What an extraordinary organisation!


Kate Davies is going to have another club this autumn – just what’s needed. I trust that means a pattern a week and a book at the end, as with “Haps”. She released a new cardigan pattern today, too, called Horology. Nice.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

 This has been a productive day in many ways. I did some exercises (that’s unusual) and walked around the garden. I resumed knitting the EPS – it’s delicious to have that yarn in my hands again. I’m pretty confident that I can have the sweater ready to wear when C. and I go on our little cruise in mid-October. I finished watching “A Suitable Boy”. I enjoyed it well enough, but it’s no Jewel in the Crown. I made myself an easy and tasty lunch from Jamie Oliver’s new book.


As a result of all of which, I am far too tired to attempt any Italian homework. The lesson is at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. Last week I composed a couple of paragraphs about Fergus’ adventure. For tomorrow, I must at least equip myself with the Italian for “he’s had his stitches out”.


I told you, I think, that I was reading a short history of India. Well, I have laid it aside in favour of a book I stumbled upon called “Incarnations: India in 50 Lives” by Sunil Khilnani. It is just that: 50 relatively short biographies, in roughly chronological order, starting with the Buddha.


And I think it’s having some effect – bearing in mind that I start from a position of absolute ignorance. The Moghul empire is in the north. The Hindus are based mostly in Mumbai, to the west. The south is a bit of a mixture. Be that as it may, I’ll go back to the short history when I have finished “Incarnations” (which is a good read) and then perhaps go on to William Dalrymple and the East India Company. I am sure that the relationship between Britain and India is fascinating, and important.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


I made a little list last night of things I had to do today – and did them all! I must try that again this evening.


However, it didn’t include any knitting. Weavinfool and Mary Lou (comments yesterday) you have encouraged me to go straight back to the EPS. Naughty. It will take a while – I mean, a few minutes – to get back in the saddle, since it’s not a written pattern. Where am I? (ans: upper arm, second sleeve) Increasing at what rate? Aiming at what? I’ve got notes, and I think they’re adequate, but not elaborate.


Thank you, too, for the comment about Koigu for shawls, nosenabook. I’ve got a substantial stash of it. It’s time I did something. Perhaps your suggestion, Chloe – hats. It would be cheerful winter knitting, productive for Christmas. And hats are the most deliciously quick of all accessories.


The main chore on last night’s list was the paper work concerned with the cruise C. and I are going on in October. We hope.  It sounds as if arrangements are in order. I filled out the forms on the computer, but couldn’t figure out how to re-attach the completed forms to an email, so I printed them and put them in the mail.


The Majestic Line sails from Oban, but it lives in the Holy Loch. When I was young, that was where the American nuclear submarines were based, and for all I know, they may be there still. In the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Glasgow Herald still had small ads all over its front page. (The Times had abandoned that practice a couple of years before.) And during that week, one of the worst moments, they had a little box in the middle of those ads, saying that all the submarines in the Holy Loch had put to sea.


And there I was this morning, merrily addressing an envelope to that very spot.

Monday, August 24, 2020


It was a very happy weekend. James and Cathy went off this morning, on their way to Glasgow for a brief stop with Alexander and Ketki before the journey south. They are stopping somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales tonight. They drove up all-in-one-go on Friday and it was grim.


That was Games Weekend, that was. The fourth Saturday in August, as always.


I didn’t do  anything in the way of knitting, or of anything else. I did finish the Stillness Shawl bindoff this morning. I still haven’t figured out why I can’t get pictures out of the iPad. And I still haven’t done the ends – there aren’t all that many – or faced up to blocking.


The new VK turned up today. Nothing stirs me. My husband didn’t like blue. I had never given any thought to preferences (or otherwise) for colours, but eventually came to agree with him. The Koigu shawl might be fun, but I’m not in the market for another shawl.


C. was here on Sunday morning. (Altogether, over the weekend, I was in touch with four alien households, each of them, of course, in touch with others.) She mentioned that wee Hamish may have outgrown his christening dress – the event is scheduled for September 12 – so I sent her off with the one I knit for James’ and Cathy’s daughter Kirsty. It would be wonderful to see it in action. Again? I must have been at Kirsty’s christening, but don’t remember it.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

 It has been a reasonably productive day, although that bind-off still isn’t finished. Archie came and we got some things done – a form I had to fill out, and the longer I put it off the harder it was to pick it up, but now it's done; I sent him out to do some shopping and pay a cheque into the bank (I must master the modern trick of doing that with a mobile telephone); the recycling is tidied and out; and we did a circuit of the garden. Not a bad morning.


And this afternoon I have written a little account in Italian of Fergus’ recent adventures and sent it off to my tutor in preparation for tomorrow’s lesson.


James and Cathy are coming tomorrow, for the weekend. I don’t think I’ve seen them since the Isle of Wight wedding last summer, back there in that different world. I’m all of a twitter, but in fact all is in order. As much as it ever is.


I’m enjoying the Democratic Convention, in a mild sort of way, although not tempted to get out of bed and watch any of it “live”, not that any of it is live. I’ll probably do that for the debates, as I did four years ago. My husband must have been in hospital. I almost didn’t recognise Hillary. I thought Michelle hit the ball out of the park on Day One.


I can’t think of a thing to tell you about knitting.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


Helen’s sons are safely here. Helen was pleasantly surprised by how well Fergus looks. Archie says that he is eventually going to have his scar removed by plastic surgery. I hope he won’t. He could tell the girls that it's a duelling scar.  Helen didn’t come to see me today – in fact, I got out for a walk all by myself, assuming that there were enough people in the streets to deal with me if Disaster Struck.


The binding-off of the Stillness Shawl progressed well, too. Another day might see it done.


Chloe, I neglected to thank you for your kind comment, suggesting that my next project should be a short one. No problem there: I’ve got that EPS sweater to finish, and at the moment I am not much short of finishing the second sleeve – up to the point where everything is joined together for the yoke, than which nothing is more fun. And after that the Orkney hat. And, goodness, what after that? Back to lace?


James and Cathy will be here on Friday. This should have been Games Weekend. I have ordered a beef casserole from a local restaurant – the beef actually comes from Uradale Farm on Shetland which was one of the stops on my Shetland Wool Adventure last year. Ronnie does rather wonderful organic yarn, as well as beef.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


Woolly Bits, thank you – for Andrew and Andrea. I had the usual little clutch of announcements from Patreon about discounts-for-patrons, and expected the usual announcement of the new episode, but either didn’t get it or, much more likely, overlooked it through own carelessness. So now I’ve watched it, and got a good deal more of the stretchy bind-off done.


And my mental sluggishness has meant that the first week of the four-week hiatus is gone without my noticing!


Your idea for reducing the agony of blocking by half is extremely interesting, too.


Helen came, and we got my circuit of the garden done. Her boys are arriving at the airport at 1 a.m. tonight– she’ll be there. I’ve been shown a fairly horrific picture of Fergus’s stitches, in an arc across his forehead. The stitches look very healthy, though. No redness, no puffiness.


Christina and Manaba, with their son Hamish and their cat Poe, are in Kirkmichael this week:


You can just see, in the first picture, the burn from which our house takes its name, “Burnside”. Pliny the Younger, I believe, somewhere in his Letters, says that the sound of water is a desirable feature of a country house. One notices it at Burnside when one arrives and first gets out of the car, and then one forgets. But Pliny was certainly right; and we’d miss it if it were gone.


And I agree with Hamish that’s it’s very pleasant to stretch out one’s hand in bed, and find fur.


I watched Bill Gates being interviewed today by the editor of the Economist, a special for subscribers. I had expected live, but it turned out to have been recorded a day or so ago, and the sound was badly synched, for some reason, so I didn’t stay until the end. It was all about the pandemic, of course.


His refusal to criticise Mr Trump was rather striking. But he’s a man who must move among princes – I’m a t’riffic fan – and was presumably being very careful not to make enemies.

Monday, August 17, 2020


Today’s big news is that I am binding off the Stillness Shawl. That will no doubt continue to be the big news for many days to come. Where are Andrew and Andrea? They would help me get past a couple of feet of it. Then will come the problem of where to block it? I think my floor-crawling days are behind me. Maybe not. And I think it’ll be too big for a single bed. The terminal pattern is clearly forming scallops – they will equally clearly have to be pinned out one by one.


And then what? Who to give it to? Who would want it?


Still, the current problem is the bind-off. It will occupy me for a while.


My personal trainer came today – we haven’t met for a while, because she has been camping on Orkney. Nor did we get much done today, because it was raining. But we walked once around the garden, and she told me that she is going to re-locate to Orkney, at least temporarily. I don’t know whether I’ll replace her. I’ll certainly miss her.


I’m reading The Jewel in the Crown series, and have also embarked on a very short History of India. I read somewhere once that that is the way to tackle a subject --  a short precis first, then a longer one, before you tackle a major volume. I’m still in the very early stages. It’s full of very forgettable names. It’s odd to find characters from my real education – Alexander the Great; the Seleucids – appearing from the left as if we were in a play by Alan Ayckbourn.


Mary Lou, cards on table: I recognised the caption of that New Yorker cartoon, and knew that it was someone in the 19th century talking about women preachers, but I needed Wikipedia to supply Dr Johnson’s name. Tandy, I’d like to see the YouTube video of the cat with the spatula.


Not much news from Greece. Fergus and his brother Archie are going to fly home tomorrow.

Sunday, August 16, 2020


I feel a teensy bit better today. Went for my walk with C., now safely back from Kirkmichael. I had a grocery delivery, and got a certain amount of additional exercise putting it away.


I get a daily email from the New Yorker, I don’t quite know why. It includes a cartoon from the archives, and on Friday it was a picture of a rather silly-looking cat with a stick in its mouth, bringing it back to her master. Two dogs in the foreground: “It is not done well, but one is surprised to find it done at all.”


I showed it to Helen, who smiled at the cartoon but didn’t recognise the caption. (What do they teach them at Oxford?) As I hope you know, it is a remark of Dr Johnson’s about women preaching. Making the cartoon doubly or trebly delicious – it isn’t Correct, these days, to laugh at women, but perfectly all right to laugh at pussy cats. I wonder if I could get it on a tee-shirt.


Shandy: yes, I could have found someone to feed the cats, and left them behind. My feelings about this may well be excessively romantic, or anthropomorphic. I have had cats all my life, and part of the pleasure is the animal’s absolute freedom. Living as I do in a flat, I can’t give my cats that here in Edinburgh. But I can in Kirkmichael, and I think they enjoy it. I would hate to go there and leave them behind.


Yesterday was VJ Day, of course. I’ve probably said this before. I honestly didn’t know, until 1985, how the British felt about that. That year was the 50th anniversary of the end of the war. In May (VE Day) we had Vera Lynn singing, and commemorative stamps, and a breath-taking moment when the Queen Mother stood alone on that famous Buckingham Palace balcony before being joined by her two daughters.


And I thought, Gosh, this is wonderful, what will they do in August? And the answer was, virtually nothing, although many of their men were out east when the war ended, including my husband. Whereas in the USofA, VE Day was a day of great rejoicing, but only because it was a Major Step Forward. The job wasn’t done. I'm old enough to remember.


As for the Stillness Shawl, I now have one right-side row to do, and the stretchy bind-off. And tomorrow I’ll have another episode of Suitable Boy to watch.

Saturday, August 15, 2020


Here I am. Here, in fact, I have been all along. We had a terrific thunderstorm on Tuesday night. I felt very droopy on Wednesday morning (as I still do). I could scarcely face packing, let alone the thought of C. having to carry cats and cat food and cat litter and our food and our overnight bags down the driveway – it’s not the longest driveway in the world, but it’s not the shortest either. Our house is not on the road.


In the end, she didn’t go on Wednesday either. She had a warning light on her dashboard to say that tires needed inflating. Manaba and her friend Ian saw to it – but the light was still there. So C. went to QuickFit and found that there was a nail in one of her tires. So much for men.


She went up on Thursday and was able to drive down to the house. She took her grandcat with her, Manaba's and Christina's Poe.


I had a lovely birthday with cards and phone calls. But what made the day memorable was an email from Helen in the afternoon to say that Fergus, her youngest son, cruising with rich Greek friends, had dived into shallow water and hit his head hard. So all that afternoon what we knew was that he was in a Greek ambulance, with a neck brace, on his way to a hospital in Nauplion.


When he got there, he had an MRI – skull and neck and spine are OK. They stitched up the considerable gash on his forehead and kept him in for two nights.


[When he got there, the hospital was busy with a near-by road accident. Fortunately the friend’s mother who had accompanied him, is formidable. Also fortunately, his hypochondriac father had insisted on a Covid-19 test before he set forth. If Fergus hadn’t had it on his telephone, the hospital wouldn’t have let him in – or so we’re told.]


So at the moment Fergus and Archie and their father David – whose birthday is also August 13 – are staying with the friend’s family.


I got quite a bit of knitting done that afternoon. It’s one thing you can do when worried. I’m currently on the antepenultimate row of the Stillness Shawl.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Not too bad a day. I devoted the morning to having a bath and hairwash while Daniela was here cleaning – I’m nervous of falls. Then got quite a bit of knitting done while I sat about steaming myself dry. I’m well advanced with a right-side row, and after that there are four more to go. Endless.


Arrangements are well-advanced for Kirkmichael tomorrow. Both C. and I – and the burden falls more heavily on her – are a bit anxious. Fortunately the cats aren’t worried yet. Helen is just back from there – I saw her this morning – and says that the driveway is slippy, after last night’s torrential rain. C. thinks she will leave her car at the road and carry cats and food and overnight bags down. I won’t be much use.


I’ve finished Barbara Pym’s “Excellent Women”. It really is first-rate, despite being female and restrained. I need a new big project. Face up to Hilary Mantel? Or what about “Jewel in the Crown”? I loved the television series, all those years ago.


Andrew Davies, who adapted “Suitable Boy” for television, is the man who did the first-rate BBC “Pride and Prejudice”. Several times, during my first viewing of that series, I thought, “No – that can’t be in the text” and looked it up, and there it was. This week there was such a moment in Suitable Boy. I haven’t looked it up, but I’m sure it’s not there.


Maan Kapoor has been sent away into the country, with his Urdu teacher Rasheed, to get him away from Saeeda Bai for a while. There is a brief scene while they are bumping along in a local train in the middle of the night. Maan, waking from a fitful doze, finds Rasheed reading, and asks what the book is.


Rasheed: The Koran


Maan: Any good?


It’s a good line, and that’s very much Maan’s attitude to life and to religion, but he would never have been so bad-mannered.


See you Sunday.


(Mary Lou, I think it was you who wished me a happy birthday recently, for which I haven’t thanked you. In fact, it hasn’t happened yet. I am 86 until Thursday. How did I get to be so old? Everybody who dies, nowadays, is younger than I am.)

Monday, August 10, 2020


Part 3 of the television “Suitable Boy” wasn’t quite as good as last week, but it got all the knitting done that I had failed to do yesterday, and a bit more. It is very wonderful to look at, but I think I would have been lost in places if I hadn’t re-read it so recently.


I have six more rows to do at the end of the Stillness Shawl MKAL, including the purl row I’m toiling along at the moment.


The kimchi is quiet. I hope to see some activity before I leave for Kirkmichael on Wednesday afternoon.


I finished Trollope’s “Belton Estate”. The last page was totally familiar, and so delightful that it was worth reading the whole thing a second time for the pleasure of re-discovering it. I’ve started Barbara Pym’s “Excellent Women” but it may be a bit too female and lowering for my present state. I should spend more time knitting and less time hunched over a book in the kitchen. I need more television to watch – some mindless Netflix documentary about the Royal Family, perhaps.

Sunday, August 09, 2020


Not much knitting on the Stillness Shawl MKAL– only half-way along the purl row. C. heroically purposes to take me to Kirkmichael Wednesday-Saturday. That should see the job done. And maybe I'll do a bit more this evening.


I gave her the latest sourdough loaf. She speaks well of it:


Th crumb looks good, but why is it so dark? Perhaps it’s a matter of studio lighting. The flour I used is about half wholemeal, but that looks too dark, even so.


I made the kimchi – successfully, I think. One of my Korean instructresses on YouTube likes to sit down with a plate of plain boiled rice and a generous helping of absolutely fresh kimchi, when the job is done. I prefer to wait for fermentation, but I can see where she’s coming from. This batch is crunchy but not chewy the way the wrong-cabbage one was.


The great thing about kimchi – I’ve said this before – is that you don’t have to cook it. There are three elements, each somewhat time-consuming: the bowl of chopped and sliced veggies; the bowl of Napa cabbage, salted; and a bowl of gloop – a porridge made of rice flour and a food-processor full of ginger, garlic, onion and exotics, including gochugaru chilli powder for which substitutions are not allowed.


But then you just mix them thoroughly all together and just stuff into a jar. I’ve taken a picture but it’s stuck in the iPad as occasionally happens.


My one serious deviation from the recipes is to cut the cabbage into chunks at the beginning. The proper Korean way is to cut it in half and then salt each leaf separately, leaving them attached. That looks to me like far too much work. At the end, you’re supposed to smear the gloop between the leaves in much the same way.


If I ever meet a kimchi expert, I’ll ask why my way is wrong.




I’m enjoying my second reading of The Belton Estate, encouraged by Shandy’s message about forgetfulness. I know I’ve been here before, these are familiar people – but I have no idea what’s going to happen. Surely she must marry X and not Y? I trust Trollope can be trusted on so important a matter. I have no memory of the outcome.

Saturday, August 08, 2020


I got two rows of the Stillness Shawl border done again today. The long, long purl rows seem even more tedious than they used to be. The right-side pattern rows are almost a pleasure. The one comfort s that the pattern finishes (oddly?) with a right-side row, and does the stretchy bind-off on the wrong side.


You’ll be glad to hear (see yesterday for context) that the Old Military Road past – rather than over – Rest and Be Thankful is open again. Better than nothing. Certainly better than a 70-mile detour. Perhaps the Old Military Men had the right idea, putting the road down there rather than going nearer the top.


My Italian tutor and her fidanzato are in Berlin for a month, something to do with his work, so we had a lesson from there this morning. And I baked my sourdough successfully. I dreamt last night that it came out flat as a pancake, but it didn’t. This one is for C., who will be coming tomorrow to take me for a walk.


So next is kimchi. Will I be energetic enough to do some vegetable-chopping this evening in preparation? I watched Brad Leone’s YouTube kimchi again – that’s more or less the recipe I follow, minus the oyster – and discovered that he has done some lockdown sessions from his own kitchen in New Jersey, complete with children underfoot. I was mildly tempted by Brussels sprout kimchi but it would be safer to stick with Napa/Chinese cabbage, after what happened last time. (wrong cabbage; didn't work)




Shandy, I finished my re-reading of A Suitable Boy, and rather miss it. Mr Modi’s trip to Ayodhya this week to inaugurate the building of a temple to Ram might have come straight from its pages. The Raja of Marh would have been pleased.


I’ve finished the new Simon Serrailler, too; a bit gentler than the last. I read that one when I was in the north of England for Thomas’ and Lucy’s wedding. They now have two daughters, so that must be some time ago. I have reverted to Trollope, faute de mieux.

Friday, August 07, 2020


A pretty good day. C. came, and we walked around the garden. She is proposing to take me and the cats back to Strathardle soon. Which would be wonderful. But I am a heavy weight these days.


I got two more long, long rows done on the Stillness Shawl. Another week will do it, if I can keep this up. And the fact that there are still ten more rows (or as near as dammit) means that the place where I corrected my initial mistake will have time to recover and to form a more or less convincing point at the end.


Tamar, I hope you saw Quinn’s reply to your post of August 3 about how to bend YouTube to one’s requirements.


I have embarked on another sourdough loaf – to be baked tomorrow morning. It’s perhaps getting slightly easier. The loaf still has to be shaped and left to chill overnight, but there’s plenty of time.


I also mean – this is more ambitious – to attempt kimchi again tomorrow (once the sourdough is out of the oven). The last attempt – using the wrong cabbage, as some may remember – was not a success, and leaving it to ferment for however many further weeks has been no help. It’s still too chewy, still wrong. So today I threw it courageously away and hope that tomorrow’s Tesco delivery will include the right cabbage, as promised.


Reading: Trollope’s “Belton Estate” didn’t exactly feel familiar, but produced various sensations of unease, and I discovered, to my embarrassment, that I read it as recently as last November. I’ve kept a diary of books-read since Jan,’19. So I switched, at least temporarily, to the latest Simon Serrailler – I think I’ve read them all. This one is called “The Benefit of Hindsight” and is rather good.




Alexander and Ketki are again cut off from the outside world – there has been yet another landslide at the Rest and Be Thankful. In the last couple of years, the authorities have resurrected an Old Military Road in the valley below – not wholly satisfactory, as it is very narrow and traffic is thus required to flow first in one direction, then in the other. But that's better than the 70 mile diversion. This time, the landslide slid on down and blocked the OMR as well.


In the Good Old Days, we only had landslides in the winter, but the Rest was often closed in the summer by a motorcycle accident.


My husband and I had to do that diversion once – you get to Tarbet at the head of Loch Lomond and are then required to turn right into the back of beyond, instead of left over the Rest. Somebody has really got to do something about that road. Inverary is involved, not just Alexander and Ketki at Cairndow.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Pretty droopy, but atleast I have taken a step or two forward today. I’ve done some knitting, and – in a sense – straightened out that mistake in the first row of the final pattern – Clue Five – of the Stillness Shawl MKAL. It’ll be perfectly visible as a mistake, but future rows (and there are TWELVE of them to go) will be knit correctly all the way across – k3tog, k3, yo, K1, yo, k3 – and that in turn will make a subsequent mistake slightly less likely.


Needless to say there’s a stretchy bind-off at the end which won’t be quick.


Despite droopiness, I have made a circuit of the gardens most days, in variable weather. Helen’s sons Fergus and Archie flew off to Greece this morning to join their father and their brother Mungo for a fortnight or so. She is going to Strathardle this weekend for a house party with some school friends.


I’ve read a lot of “A Suitable Boy”, perhaps enjoying it even more this time. It’s a novel about India (not just set there) – and there’s a lot about politics that the television series will have to omit. The fictional time is not long after Independence and Partition. The new nation is finding its feet. There were flags at half-mast and official mourning when George VI died (the Queen’s father), and the counting of ballots in the general election of 1952 was suspended for a few days  – that’s rather touching. He was, of course, the last Emperor of India.


Another thing that will have to go are some fascinating passages about shoe-making. One of the candidates for the title role is involved in that trade, which is rather infra dig for an upper caste Indian because of the necessary association with leather. Vikram Seth has taken the trouble to find out how it’s done.


Today is of course the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima. I think we were right to drop that bomb. The end of the war with Japan would have been infinitely prolonged and infinitely ghastly otherwise.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Yesterday was more or less summer. Today, perhaps the autumnal equinox – cold, grey, wet, windy.


The local news is that Fergus, the youngest of Helen and David’s sons, got the grades he needs to go to Bristol University to read economics. He only got a B in mathematics in his “mock” exam at school. Bristol wanted an A. He was worried about that. But he has been awarded an A – there were no actual exams, of course, just teachers’ assessments and then the Scottish Examinations Board. So all is well.

Except, of course, for the question of what university life will be like. Bristol, apparently, intends to welcome everybody back, in bubbles.


Helen came, and we did some local shopping. It was my first experience of mask-wearing. No fun.


Daniela came by taxi and put me in order. But that means paying the taxi almost as much as I pay her. There’s no future in that.


Knitting went well. I finished off Clue Four last night, and embarked on Clue Five today. It’s a situation such as often occurs in knitting, where a pattern has to be established – in lace, in Fair Isle, in cables – and once that’s done correctly, all you have to do is follow-the-leader.


This pattern was awfully easy (and that’s dangerous): knit three, perform one action, knit three, perform the other one. Subsequent pattern rows are identical. I was eager and interested to get it done, purl laboriously back, and find out whether I’d done it right.


Sure enough, not. There’s a single point where I’ve done the wrong thing. I’m certainly not going to double back. It’s easier and much safer to repeat the mistake. YO’s and k3tog’s are involved so there may be some footwork necessary to avoid too many stitches.


But the end is in sight.

Monday, August 03, 2020

I’ve enjoyed another day of freedom of movement, and I’ve ordered myself a cami-bra. My vocabulary is expanding by leaps and bounds.


I enjoyed Part Two of the TV Suitable Boy. It seemed less hurried than Part One. The Indian settings are beautiful, although – perhaps partly because --lacking the squalor and poverty which Seth unobtrusively reminds us, lurk around every corner.


And I reached the final row of Clue Four of the Stillness Shawl. Elsie, your comment about Clue 5 isn’t entirely reassuring! However, the designer has distributed 20% of the whole neatly into the five clues – I must just forge ahead. The finish is done back and forth; it’s not my favourite sort of edging, alas, where you attach some narrow lace by taking in one stitch from the shawl body on the return row each time. I can see that that wouldn’t have been suitable.


Clearly the let-me-mess-up-your-website team have been inspired to new heights by lockdown. Now it’s Ravelry, and I gather (without understanding) that the new version actually gives some people seizures. I first heard of this from Countess Ablaze who has suffered a seizure and has withdrawn altogether, patterns, yarn, and all; then from Queer Joe who defends Ravelry on the whole.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

My rib-disaster was three weeks ago, I think, and today I made a great discovery: stop wearing a tight bra, or indeed any at all. Only very minor discomfort remains, now that I have made that adjustment – gone, especially, the stabbing pain when I try to pick anything up from the floor, or put on a sock.


(A perspicacious doctor might have spotted that in an old-fashioned consultation, but Hippocrates himself could hardly deduce it from a phone call. And it shouldn’t have taken me so long.)


And I’m back in the saddle with knitting the Stillness Shawl MKAL, I hope – I have embarked on the penultimate long, long row of clue four. Tomorrow I’ll have Part Two of “A Suitable Boy” to watch – or tonight, if I can stay awake that long. That should, at least, move me on to the final row. Andrew Marr has gone off on his hols, who used to provide a good hour of knitting on Sunday mornings.


We had a glorious sunny day. I got once around the garden with C.


I’m working on the project of showing you a picture of Helen’s garden in Joppa. It went off whoosh from my telephone and hasn’t been seen since.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Today is James’ and Cathy’s wedding anniversary. I can’t tell you which one, but you can work it out. There was a letter in the Times a few days later – I hope I’ve still got it – pointing out that it had been the 2000th First of August. I.e., we have reliable historical information as to the year in which the Emperor Augustus was so honoured.


They offered September to the next emperor, Tiberius, but he said, What if there are more than 12 emperors? We’d better leave things the way they are. You’ve got to love him.


I’ve had an up-and-down day. I had a lovely time at Helen’s house this morning. She’s as good at gardens as at mosaics (and I suspect she has good soil). I took a picture which I will try to extract from my telephone for you soon. We forgot about hair. This afternoon I have been badly troubled with a sore rib.


Her studio is in a disused school, owned by the corporation of Edinburgh. Many craftspeople have given up, she says, unable to pay the rent because of having no sales and no pupils. She is afraid that the whole thing will collapse. She loves her studio.


I got some more knitting done. There is something about sitting peacefully at Helen’s kitchen table which is conducive to progress. I’m now near the point where disaster struck, in the form of Paradox bringing the knitting to me in bed. I hope once I actually embark on Clue 5, the Finishing-Off clue, things will go faster.


I continue to read (re-read) “A Suitable Boy” on my convenient Kindle. Lata has now met the man whom (I happen to know) she will eventually marry. Each admires the other’s good qualities, but neither is greatly smitten. Episode 2 on television tomorrow.