Saturday, October 31, 2020


I think maybe I’m coming down with a cold. The symptoms don’t match Covid but one is bound to feel a bit anxious. And how did I get it? Not being careful enough?


We’ve had a wet and stormy day. I didn’t go out. And we’ve moved on to a stormy evening.


Mary Lou, an apple, of course, for the Bloody Ploughman. I think David and Helen were going back to Abbotsford today, because there was much there to interest the boys. I told them to make sure not to skip the garden. David leaves tomorrow.


England is about to go into lockdown again, except for education. Mrs Sturgeon is telling us not to go to England. Things are marginally better here, very marginally, but I suspect she will have to follow Boris’ lead for once. Lisa, you’re absolutely right (comment yesterday) that we knitters are lucky to be able to hunker down with our yarn and our patterns and our thoughts. As for flu, I’ve had my injection and Helen is working on it – she’s not quite old enough to qualify, and there was a great rush on the vaccine when it first became available.


The knitting has advanced. One more round of the current instruction, then 8 for the next one. Then the next instruction after that is to try it on. We’ll see. I think maybe I’ll try measuring as-is, and only take that radical step if the measurement is way out. The question is, is the body long enough? Because the next instruction is to leave the sleeve stitches behind and knit peacefully on down to the bottom. I think I'd better take a picture tomorrow, however unsatisfactory.


I had a good Italian lesson this morning, except that I can’t find my textbook. I have set myself to read Verga’s Maestro-Don Gesualdo. It’s not terribly long. I’ve got it in Italian, in audible form (which I bought by mistake), and in translation, which was the most expensive of the three. The idea at the moment is to take it chapter by chapter in each of those three forms, in that order. We’ll see how long I can keep it up. I’ve done Chapter One. Cranford temporarily abandoned.

Kirsten, I can’t leave a reply to your comment (today) so I’ll do it this way. Your cold is a comfort to me, on this dark and stormy evening. Maybe neither of us has Covid-19. Maybe everything will be all right.



Friday, October 30, 2020


“Bloody Ploughman”, Mary Lou?  I’m completely baffled.


Very weak today. No knitting. I had a nice Zoom with my sister and her husband in DC, much concerned with the election, of course; confident that Biden will win. They are cheerfully resigned to celebrating both Thanksgiving and Christmas virtually with their son (their only child) and his family. I still cling to some hope for Christmas. I regard myself as occupying a “bubble” with Greek Helen and her family. (It sounds as if you don’t have “bubbles” so much in America.) Although there are grounds for concern: Fergus is a student (Bristol) and Mungo is working in London and David, if he gets there, will have flown back from Thessaloniki only the day before. I might be wiser to spend the day alone.

But if that happens, I would prefer to be completely alone. No Zooming, that day.


There’s time for knitting tonight, and there’s also Italian homework to do. But I think I’ll just go to bed.




You are doing well to have a pile of books waiting and murmuring, Kirsten. I am living from hand-to-mouth, and we all need comfort.  But I’m enjoying “Cranford”. I spoke to Rachel today – she says she won a prize when she was in the Sixth Form, and my husband advised her to choose Cranford. She’s still got it, of course, suitably inscribed, but has never read it. I think she’d enjoy it a lot. But how did my husband know about it? He wasn’t much of a novel-reader, except for our bedtime books; and I’m sure we never did Cranford.

Thursday, October 29, 2020


We had a grand day at Abbotsford. Pleasant, sunny weather, despite the blowy rain confidently forecast. The house – at least, the area open to the public – isn’t terribly big, but stuffed with interesting things that Scott collected. He went to the battlefield of Waterloo, for instance, while the Belgian government were still selling souvenirs, and profited. It’s been greatly tourist-ified since I was last there, but not unsuccessfully. The staff were cheerful, knowledgeable, helpful. We had lunch in the cafĂ© – delicious, fresh food. We spent so much time in the house that we never got to the garden: a loss. Helen and David might go back at the weekend, with one or more of their sons.


I was horrified, however, (1) at how the world looks, with everybody masked; and (2) with how weak I am, compared to my last outings, which would be my Shetland Wool Adventure and Joe and Becca’s wedding, in the spring and early summer of 2019. I was scarcely superman then, and wheelchairs were involved both on Shetland and on the rail journey home from the wedding. But I am much weaker now.

David is going back to Thessaloniki (where he works) at the weekend. He is afraid he won't be allowed home for Christmas.


Knitting has progressed. I am about to start the fifth broad stipe, in the middle of which one instruction ends and the next begins. I’ll have to face up to a stitch count soon. The difficulty with attempting a picture is that we started off without ribbing – that will be added later – with the result that the cast-on edge curls over the work, obscuring all of the first stripe and encroaching on the second.


“Scandinavian Sweaters” turned up today. It’s a book of patterns by a Norwegian designer, and very good indeed. That’s the one Meg says she added to her book-list sight unseen.




I finished “The Rector’s Daughter” – very interesting. The author was born in 1872. The novel is set somewhere in the first half of the 20th century – presumably between the wars, although at the moment I can’t think of a specific indicator. And it’s as if she and Trollope met and collided the way two seas do in a few places in the world – off the Cape of Good Hope, I think, for one. That is, his world is still there, gentlefolk supported by loyal servants; but the 20th century is very much there, too.


I’ve moved on to Mrs Gaskell’s “Cranford” which I feel sure I haven’t read – but I keep saying that, when it couldn’t be true. It’s gentle and pleasant, so far. I think I was expecting Victorian excitement.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Helen and David are proposing to take me to Abbotsford tomorrow (so if I’m not here, that’s where I am). It’s Sir Walter Scott’s house, in the borders somewhere. I’ve been there a couple of times. Amongst the perks of old age – there are a few! – I won’t have to navigate, still less drive.


Archie was here today. We got a few things done, and had a nourishing and healthful lunch which I probably wouldn’t have bothered with but for his presence.


And I made progress with the Evandoon. I’ve finished that rhubarb-coloured stripe, and the narrow white one after it, and wound the next skein. I had thought that the current instruction – increase 8 sts every other round – ended somewhere in the middle of the next broad stripe; but no, it’s in the middle of the one after that. On we go.




Helen (anon): The secret of getting ahead with Christmas decorations (as you must have suspected) is to leave them up from last year. There are three doorknobs in my sitting room: one to the hall, one to the bedroom, and one to the stash cupboard. Each is currently hung with several project bags. Things could be simplified – some of the bags could be amalgamated. Maybe next week.

Monday, October 26, 2020


I had the computer on this morning, and left it open. When I came back just now I found that somebody – and it could only be Perdita – had changed the screen resolution, so that everything was awkwardly stretched out. I’ve dealt with this before, and finally succeeded in doing so again, but it’s tiresome. Getting rid of the Greek alphabet is easier.


Today I’m making kimchi. All is done except the final rinsing of the cabbage, when it has been salted enough, and the final amalgamation. That should give me enough to last for much of the winter, like a good Korean housewife.


Helen’s husband David is here for a week, home from Thessaloniki where he works. We won’t see him again until Christmas. He joined us for the trudge around the garden this morning.


British-based readers will know of the efficient naval landing last night on an oil tanker which was being taken over by stowaways. The rescuers descended by rope from helicopters.


The best funeral oration I’ve ever heard – fortunately, not all that many – was for a naval friend of ours, the speaker a naval friend of his. It was good because it recalled Duncan’s faults which we all loved as much as his virtues. The two of them had once (at least) rehearsed just such an operation. It is particularly nerve-wracking, the speaker told us, because in the middle of the night you don’t know what – if anything – will be under your feet when you get to the bottom: “And Duncan talked, all the way down.”


The Evandoon (or whatever it’s called) has progressed, although not, so far, beyond the lovely red stripe mentioned yesterday. The rounds are getting longer at the rate of eight stitches every other round. Eventually the sleeve stitches will be left behind and things will speed up. I tidied up a bit this morning and put Machu Picchu and the Striped Shetland away in project bags. The sitting room has project bags hanging from every door knob.

Sunday, October 25, 2020


This day is called the feast of Crispian…


It was on St Crispin’s Day, in 1952, that my friend Sylvia’s academic family invited me to join them in England the following summer. A third friend, Ann, was to be there too. We are three old ladies now, all widowed, still in touch. And St Crispin has sort of followed us around. Olivier’s movie was all the rage, in 1952. At the end of the summer of ’53, after the others had gone home, I came to Edinburgh for a glorious week of Festival. I saw “Henry V” in a church somewhere during that week, I think it was the one right here, on the roundabout where London Road joins Broughton Street. And there was once when we were middle-aged when Ann and Sylvia came to see me in Birmingham, and my husband was away and so didn’t need to be cooked for, and we had a day out, We went to Chatsworth and on to Stratford where we happened upon a matinee of Kenneth Branagh’s memorable “Henry V”. I think it was his first big break.


I am delighted to think that I might accidentally have inspired anyone to take a closer look at Ingres. I love him. This is the picture that hangs above the table where I sit to compose:


Blurry, because taken in darkness, and of course just a print, not a drawing from the master’s own hand. Although there are those who believe that Ingres himself had a hand in making the plate. Whatever, I love those four people.


This is our first day of winter darkness (i.e., the clocks went back last night). I am feeling fairly gloomy. It was easier to be brave about Covid-19 in the springtime. C. came to accompany my walk this morning – the first time I’ve seen her in quite a while. She’s exhausted by her nursing duties, and is going back to them tonight. She thinks Christina (Hamish’s mother, whose neck is broken) will need attendance into the new year. She is to have another x-ray this week.


The Evandoon continues to progress well. I am currently nearly finished with a broad stripe of the most beautiful, gentle red.

Saturday, October 24, 2020


I’ve knit furiously on with the Evandoon. I don’t dare stop for even a moment, among all these instructions, or I’ll forget where I’m meant to be.


The first problem has been successfully negotiated. At the beginning, one knits back and forth. Then, at a certain point, one breaks the yarn, slides a specified number of stitches from left needle to right, and starts again at the new beginning-of-round. The problem was that the pattern says that this will be the point where the right sleeve is attached to the back. And as far as I can see, and making due allowance for the fact that I am knitting upside down, it’s the left sleeve.


I could be wrong. And in any event, the count was right and I’m moving forward. I love the yarn, And, mercifully, it’s very visible – easy to see how many rows I’ve done in a 10-row stripe; easy to see whether or not the last round was an increase round.


Allison, it was brilliant of you to find the picture I was talking about, and to provide a link. (Comment, yesterday – do look.) How beautiful are those curtains! No wonder I wanted to knit it. I am sure you’re right, that if I had examined that smoke from Vesuvius a bit more carefully, and used a gentle grey instead of white to represent it, all would have been well. It’s tempting to try again, so beautiful are those curtains.


Mary Lou, I like your Muriel pattern a lot (Ravelry link). Surely one could pick it up and turn it around and knit it bottom-up as I am doing with Carol Sunday’s Machu Picchu? Or, was doing, before darkness set in. I wish we hadn’t been deprived of that Arne&Carlos episode in which Arne explains what’s wrong with upside-down stitches. It was more than a matter of convenience or even aesthetics.




I’ve moved on to F.M. Mayor’s “The Rector’s Daughter”. I strongly suspect I’ve read it before, many years ago. I’m enjoying it as if new.


“Is He Popenjoy?” seems to have as a theme the idea that second-best may be good enough, as far as choosing a life-partner goes; what matters more is life. I have never noticed Trollope having themes before.

Friday, October 23, 2020


I’ve cast on the Evendoon. (Is that what it’s called?) Kate Davies’ Schiehallion yarn  is splendid. She describes it as a “DK, or heavy sportweight”. That seems about right. Certainly heavier than the Shetland jumper-weight I’ve been involved with recently. It produces a beautiful, smooth fabric and is lovely in the hands.


Elaine wrote to ask whether it smells sheepy. Alas, I can’t answer. I’ve lost the sense of smell. Don’t recoil in horror – this happened a couple of years ago, at least, and can be given some sort of date by the fact that I couldn’t smell a thing when Archie and I visited the fish market in Catania in late ’18. I know the sheepy smell Elaine means, and I love it – but it causes her discomfort. I suspect the answer is no, no smell, but someone else will have to testify.


The Evendoon s top-down, and that means there are a lot of things to do, right at the beginning. I am feeling rather inadequate, but all is going well so far, I think. One has to maintain the stripe sequence while carrying out the other instructions, but goodness, I ought to be able to manage that. I don’t understand the next thing I have to do, a few rows ahead, but maybe it will be clear when I get there, and if not, there’s the Ravelry group, where lots of people have tackled it already.


One thing worries slightly: the neck ribbing isn’t done until the very end, and the written instruction for which colour to use for it is clearly wrong, judging from the pictures. (Mercifully, my printer has produced a perfect copy.) Are there other mistakes?


Thank you very much for your rant, Chloe. (Comments, yesterday) I think you may be on to something, in your idea that autumnal colours – which indeed I favour – are less congenial to white.


A feeble day, although I got around the garden with Helen. I cancelled my Italian lesson again. I resolve to do better.


I didn’t watch the debate last night, after all. I got up at 2:20 a.m., put on my spectacles, started to struggle with the sleeves of my bathrobe – and then decided to go back to bed. It doesn’t sound nearly as entertaining as the first one. I’m glad I saw that.


I’ve nearly finished my Trollope: “Is he Popenjay?” It remains entertaining to the end. He’s very good, amongst much else, at distinguishing characters. With other authors, I often use (and rejoice in) the Kindle search feature, which lets me quickly look back to the first appearance of a puzzling character. With Trollope that is never necessary. Perhaps because of publishing in installments?

It's terribly exciting, Linnell (comment yesterday), to hear that you know Hopper's gas station in real life.

Thursday, October 22, 2020


Who would have thought that that video of Hamish would work? I’m glad you enjoyed it.


My KD yarn came today! I’ve wound two skeins, and found a 4mm not-too-long circular. It remains but to choose a size. You might have thought I would have done that already. There are 11 of them. I ordered yarn for an over-generous one. Now I’ve got to narrow it down. This might be somebody’s Christmas present. I don’t want it grotesquely large.


Lynn, thank you for your remarks about white, and your introduction to Abby and “The Interior of my Brain”. I will pursue that, but haven’t yet.


I have often chosen colours by deriving them from a work of art, with varying success. The most successful of all was my most recent Fair Isle – Alexander’s vest to celebrate Scotland’s most recent Calcutta Cup success. The colour-source was an Edward Hopper called, I think, just “Gas”. I’ve only seen reproductions but it moves me deeply, that picture. One of the main reasons the colours in the vest were so successful, is that there were relatively few of them. A lesson learned. I’ll see if I can pull the pictures out for you.


Once, years ago, I based a Fair Isle on a rather peculiar picture – Ingres? – of a woman standing in front of a window through which one can see Vesuvius, with a plume of smoke arising. White smoke. That’s when I learned that white was dangerous – too late to save the sweater. I don’t remember what happened to it. Another lesson learned.


I’m continuing to enjoy Trollope’s “Is he Popenjoy?” The claimant has now appeared – a small child who might or might not be the legitimate heir of his father, a Marquis. The main interest of the story is elsewhere. Not Trollope’s best, as I said, but good enough to soothe. And nice and long. However, a weekend looms, and I must re-engage with Italian.


I’ll probably get up in the night to watch some of the debate. Mr. Trump is nothing if not entertaining.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020


Again, better weather here than forecast. That still doesn’t mean it hasn’t been pissing down on our cruise-that-isn’t-happening. It’s always wetter in the west. Here’s the Shetland stripe, in this morning’s sunshine:


Helen came to heave me around the garden, which was successfully done. She admired the stripes. And the KD yarn didn’t arrive – it would have been rather extraordinary if it had – so I’ll have at least one more day of adding to it. I started to put in an off-white stripe this morning, but soon decided against it. What is it about white?


I’ll try to post the video of Hamish clicking. No promises:


My guess would be that he did it spontaneously, and his father responded with delight, and it turned into a game delightful to both. Much the same process by which “da-da” and “ma-ma” become “Daddy” and “Mummy”.


Language: or wholly-irrelevant-anecdote, as you prefer:


Once when I was a student in Glasgow I went to a grown-up drinks party. I can’t remember where or why. Were other students there? And at one point I joined a group of grown-ups who were talking about the whistling language of La Gomera. It’s an island somewhere, and, as it happened, I had only recently heard a most interesting talk on the subject on the Third Programme. (Those were the days.) So I joined in the conversation with youthful enthusiasm and gradually came to realise that one of the grown-ups in the group was the man who had given the radio talk. That shut me up.


A few years later – did I tell you this just the other day? – after I had met and married my husband, that same man, now a colleague but still a distinguished linguist, bent over Rachel’s pram and asked, “Is she articulating syllables yet?” She wasn’t, but as soon as we got home she started to do so.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


I’m going to miss the American election when it’s gone. If it goes. It provides something solid to worry about, beyond the corona virus and Brexit. We’ve had the virus all day today – the central government wanting to put Manchester in something like lockdown, Manchester resisting because they’re not being offered enough money. The virus is staging an impressive come-back and I find it much more frightening, at this dark time of year, than it was in the spring.


Our local French restaurant, often chosen for treats, is offering carry-out meals. I order them most weeks. This week Fred sounds a bit desperate. They had re-opened as a restaurant after the initial lockdown (just like the Majestic Line) and have had to close again because of the latest restrictions (just like the Majestic Line). He doesn’t know how long he can carry on.


Again, Edinburgh’s weather wasn’t as bad as forecast. We even had half-an-hour of sunshine this morning How it lifts the spirits! And how much better it made my Stripey Shetland look! No, Tamar, no picture. I am just knitting stripes from my Shetland odd-ball bag, using the maths I did for the recently-completed EPS. I’m wondering whether to put in a stripe from its left-over yarn, but I think it would be too bright.


I’ve heard from the Kate Davies shop: my package has been dispatched. I can start hoping from tomorrow. And I will.




Christina and Manaba sent me a little video of Hamish clicking. There’s no doubt at all that he’s doing it deliberately and responsively, and delighting in his new ability to communicate. Manaba isn’t in the video, but you can hear him clicking back.


I’ve just finished reading Barbara Vine (=Ruth Rendell) “The Chimney-Sweeper’s Boy”. Late, and not terribly good, by her terrific standards. But one of her characters reads Trollope’s “Is He Popenjoy?” That’s one I don’t know, and I have seized upon it. It’s said to be based on a real-life case of someone who might or might not be the person he is claiming to be, like the Grand Duchess Anastasia. I’m several chapters in, and there’s nothing like that yet. It’s not terribly good either, by his standards.

Monday, October 19, 2020


All well, I guess. Archie came, and we did a circuit of the garden. He’s coming back tomorrow for another circuit, and some chores. I’ve knit a few more random Shetland stripes – picture soon – and am not terribly pleased with what is happening. It’s colourful, all right, but messy. I’m going to switch to KD’s whatever-it’s-called as soon as it arrives.


The weather is glum. The radio keeps assuring me that rain is sleeting down all over Scotland, palpably not true, but perhaps it is doing so in the west which would be some consolation for our aborted cruise. Food is a good part of the Majestic Line package, but another part is healthful walks in the beautiful wilderness. (I had planned to stay on board with my knitting and some birdwatching.) The weather can be glorious and invigorating, this time of year – it has been recently – but not at the moment.


Cats: I have one of those cat-drinking-fountain things in the kitchen. But that’s what’s regarded around here as Paradox’s water. They’re funny animals.


Last week’s kimchi is effervescing all over the kitchen counter in a most satisfactory way. I had planned to leave this batch behind to fester away while I was cruising, but in fact I am soon going to want to start eating it. My microbiome must be in splendid condition.

Sunday, October 18, 2020


As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods:

   They kill us for their sport.


Andrew, of course, will be the out-lier. This is going to turn out all right. (see comments yesterday) But I am depressed, as are we all. Talking about knitting here seems a bit frivolous this evening.


Nor is there any news. I’ve knit a few more random Shetland stripes. I’ve read some of a Barbara Vine which had somehow escaped my attention before.


I didn’t get out because – as so often – I was waiting for a delivery.  Archie is coming tomorrow, and effort will be required of me.

Saturday, October 17, 2020


It would have been today. C. and I should be sipping white wine right now  and eating a delicious amuse bouche and listening to the skipper telling us his plans for tomorrow. (Majestic Line food is superb; in the evening, the first course is brought out and handed round as one sits in the saloon with one’s new friends and one’s wine.) I ordered Kate Davies’ Evendoon pullover kit, to mark the occasion, and compounded the misdeed by ordering the hat kit which (since today) goes with it. Since KD doesn’t have a shop and sells entirely on-line, as far as I know, she won’t have suffered too much from this extraordinary year, so I can’t even salve my conscience with my usual helping-small-business excuse.


I could at least bring the WIP section of the sidebar up to date, as a constant spur to my conscience.


But I can comfort myself with the thought of how much happier my cats are this evening, did they but know it, than if I had waltzed off to indulge in amuse bouche-eating. Here’s a slightly indelicate domestic scene for you: Perdita has taken to joining me in the Downstairs Lavatory when I am seated there, and somehow we have worked out a routine. I turn on the cold tap to a trickle. She jumps up on the basin – it’s small, and the rim is narrow, and she is a fairly stout middle-aged cat by now, so that takes a bit of calculating. Then she drinks deep. And pauses for a while, and drinks again. (Needless to say, water is provided elsewhere, but that’s Paradox’s water.) I sit there until she jumps down.


I could hardly have asked a cat-sitter to go into the Downstairs Lavatory and sit down. Nor would Perdita necessarily have responded. She’s my cat.


And I’ve knit a bit further on the random-Shetland EPS. I’ve successfully increased, and have embarked on the st st body. I agree, Shandy, that it’s going to be a long way without anything that could count as challenge factor. At the moment, I feel that’s what I want. Although I think I knit more productively when there’s a challenge involved. The sweater (admittedly, there’s not much of it) is looking good, but I feel that, compared to the Evendoon, random loses out to designer stripes.




Manaba rang up today – he was out for a walk with his son, I think. He says that he and Hamish click to each other responsively. He also says that there are different clicks, at least one of them slightly rude, so that Zulu grown-ups tell children not to click like that. But as far as I could gather, a click can’t be stretched into a basic word like “Mama” or “Daddy”. I’ll be glad when I can see them again in real life, to observe and discuss clicking, and to talk to Manaba about sourdough. I gave him some of my starter, you may remember, and he has shot ahead of me in the sourdough stakes.


I continue to enjoy “The Blessing”. But now that the weekend is with us, my responsibility for Italian resumes.

Friday, October 16, 2020


The random-stripe EPS progresses well – I’m ready to increase 10% (or whatever it is) and embark on st st. Here are the yarns, as promised:


BUT today I got the latest pattern in Kate Davies’ new club. And I’ve just this moment had a message from Pam – another who can’t leave a comment – who has anticipated what I was about to say: here is the pattern I’ve been waiting for. Her “Evendoon” pullover! All the colours anyone could want to get through the winter solstice! And in her Schiehallion yarn – that’s an important part of the deal, for it is the name of our beloved local mountain. “Evendoon”, we are told, means “straightforward”. Nobody here in Scotland ever uses these Kate Davies-y words to me.


It’s a top-down, which (as I think I said recently) I don’t think I’ve ever done. New skill, or at least, new experience.


Well, I didn’t actually send for it today, but I don’t think it’ll be long.


I had another nice time this week sitting and knitting a bit with Arne and Carlos. When they talk about design, they talk about “collections”.  Maybe I would find their work more congenial if they produced patterns one at a time like KD. Of course she has someone who knits them for her, and probably other help in pattern-writing, but I am sure she works hard on the details of each one.  The result is something that feels more hand-crafted, for want of a better term.




I made another batch of kimchi today. I am becoming positively Korean in my attachment to it. Can I assume that fermented vegetables have the same virtues (whatever they may be) as vegetables eaten fresh?


I heard from C. today (who is still her daughter’s full-time carer) that wee Hamish, as well as articulating “da”, has mastered the Zulu click. The development of language is fascinating. It is we grown-ups, of course, who turn “da” into “Daddy”.  I wonder if the click has a similar use that delighted Zulu parents can attach to it, and I look forward to discussing this with Hamish’s father Manaba. There is a story somewhere – Herodotus? – of some people who isolated a baby from all speech, in order to discover what the original language was. Eventually the baby said “ma ma” and since that is the Persian for “bread”, that proved that Persian was the original language and I am glad to say that the child was surrounded by normal speech thereafter.


I’m reading Nancy Mitford’s “The Blessing”. Can’t stay away from the Mitfords. Helen brought me some Spanish omelette the other day which incorporated some beets grown by the Duchess of Devonshire’s granddaughter, friend of a friend of Helen’s. Nancy Mitford would have been her great-aunt. Talk about degrees of separation.

Thursday, October 15, 2020


Worse than yesterday, better than Tuesday. I’ve cancelled this weekend’s Italian lesson – Federica is going off on a walking holiday anyway – and am greatly looking forward to the non-event. Helen, who walked with me this morning, is going to Kirkmichael, so I’m on my own, walk-wise, until next week. C. is still pretty fully occupied looking after her daughter and wee Hamish.


Thank you, commenters, for drawing attention to the effect of air pressure, and weather in general, on health and vigour. I’m sure you’re right. I didn’t realise until quite late in life, how much I am affected by the loss of light at this time of year. I dread it more than ever this year, with the world in the grip of the plague. It sounds as if Helen’s son Fergus has got it, at Bristol University. Most or all of the boys on his stair have symptoms. Three were chosen for testing, and came back positive, so the whole stair is in isolation. (The university is feeding them lavishly, unlike some universities.) But we don’t know, pace Mr Trump, whether having had it confers immunity. Will I dare join them for Christmas?


But as for knitting, all is well. I am progressing with the – still tentative – ribbing for a new EPS in Shetland stripes. And stripes certainly make the initial ribbing a good deal less tedious. Shandy, yes, you shall have a picture tomorrow if we get decent light, or even if we don’t. The yarn is all, or almost all, from my Shetland Wool Adventure. Was that only last year? Everything back there in the Real World seems incredibly remote. I bought a couple of balls at Jamieson’s of Shetland (not to be confused with Jamieson & Smith), and a few more at Uradale Farm (highly recommended). And I was just beginning to congratulate myself on how little yarn I would be carrying home.


But one of our last appointments was a Fair Isle lesson in Wilma Malcolmson’s studio. And there I succumbed to a grab-bag of autumnal Shetland colours. And that’s where we are. The bag has been diminished by my second Dathan hap, and augmented by the other yarns mentioned above. I’ll show you tomorrow.


So far, I’m knitting 3-row stripes. I think Kate Davies is right, that it’s more interesting to vary the width a bit. But I found it a bit of a mental strain, knitting my Dathans, to decide the width each time. I know that’s ridiculous. The results are very successful. So I don’t know yet what’s going to happen here.




I’m reading Barbara Vine’s “Minotaur” (that’s Ruth Rendell, of course). I found it on my Kindle – sort of like knitting from stash. I remember teeny tiny bits of it, enough to be sure that I’ve read it before. But the cast of characters and the plot, no. “The House of Mirth” ended badly, as predicted.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


I  felt substantially better today,  and got once around the garden with Helen.


Thank you very much indeed for all your help with all my problems. I was so interested to discover what the long-tail cast on would look like with two colours, that I pulled my stitches off the needle (from Attempt Two) and started again. Interesting, indeed. Having finished the cast-on (and cut off the extra colour), I turned back, as I always do, even for socks, in order to have a bit of knitting on the needle before joining into a circle, in order to avoid an unwanted moebius. And what turned out to be interesting, was how different the two sides were. The only possibility was to go on with the “right side” – the one facing, as I was casting on, not the first knitted row of my turning back.  “Look at your knitting” is one of the very best of EZ’s maxims.


And I won’t forget, I hope, how to do the cast-on with two sources of yarn. Nor your suggestions that the cable cast-on would be a better idea to begin with.


I’ve now joined it up, making the connection after the fourth row. One of the great joys of circular knitting is that a stripe can be an uneven number of rounds if it wants to. After doing the fifth row/round, I switched to the other colour I had used for the cast-on, and that’s where I am now. This is certainly a lot more fun than dark charcoal, round and round.


And I failed to thank you yesterday for advice about “Audible”. It sounds to me as if you have more choice in the US. It is possible here to buy individual Audible recordings, but at enormous expense. And there doesn’t seem to be an alternative. I think I will have to bite the bullet. I am impressed with how much they offer, unabridged: “I Malavoglia” “Il Gattopardo” and Barbara Vine’s “Minotaur” which I have turned to after finishing “House of Mirth”. To name but three. It wasn’t all that long ago when finding an unabridged recording of anything was a bit of a challenge.


And think how much more knitting I could get done…

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


Today I felt really awful, scarcely able to totter around the house. Archie came, and we got a few things done, although a walk around the garden not among them. And I had had ambitions to do two circuits. So maybe it’s just as well the cruise was cancelled. As well as worrying about my cats, I would also have to worry about whether I was strong enough to get up the steps onto the boat. There is one cabin on what might be called the ground floor, and I had secured it for me and C. All I had to do was get aboard.


I decided that charcoal grey as far as the eye could see, was assuredly not what the doctor ordered for this time of year. Instead of turning to that hat, I got out the bag of Shetland oddments – autumnal in colour – and started casting on. I’m at that familiar point where the first choice of length for the long tail of the long-tail cast on, is clearly not enough, so I’ve started again. I have a feeling I have read of a trick to get that right. Does anybody know one?


I’m going to go for random stripes, probably two rows each, maybe four, in st st, not garter st like the Dathan. At the underarm I can decide my next move: 1) add steeks, go on up to shoulder, cut steeks, add sleeves. That will produce something rather like the dropped-shoulder sweater Toast is selling. It would have the considerable disadvantage of having to twirl the whole sweater on my lap as I knit the sleeves. Or 2) pause there and knit sleeves and join for yoke, which could be either raglan or round. Another EPS, in fact.


The oddments-bag lacks red, because I have set it aside for the Orkney hat. I’ll have to get some more. Winter solstice knitting needs red.




“House of Mirth” is clearly not going to end well. I have heard from one of you who has read “The House with the Green Shutters”. I remember a fair amount of it very vividly, after one reading – and I certainly don’t mean to read it again. (Interesting, in a way, that I can remember from many years ago, when I so often these days can’t remember whether I have read something from a few months back.)  The central character leaves the House behind and goes off to university – to Glasgow, I think; or maybe I think it because that’s where I was and so I fitted his experience into my own. His university experience felt in many ways familiar to me. I doubt if the Glasgow University of today would have much in common with me or with the House with the Green Shutters.

Monday, October 12, 2020


I've knit some more dark grey, and thought some more about what to do to get away from it. I still have a bag of assorted Shetland yarns, completely undiminished by the knitting of a Dathan hap. Perhaps another EPS, with multiple stripes? I know that there’s a Dathan garment pattern available, but when I saw one once, at a class I was attending at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival (those were the days!) it was sliding off its wearer’s shoulders. I also thought about the Orkney hat, in some sleepless stretches of last night, and I think I have decided to knit it flat and seam it. The problem is the essential vertical stripe. But I've done no more.


And that’s about it, for knitting.


Life’s problems and decisions


Does anybody know an easy way to restore a computer to the Roman alphabet, when it starts writing Greek? There must be a way to do it quickly from the keyboard, because Perdita constantly does it in the opposite direction. She’s a very clever cat, as I’ve said, but even so… When it happens, I restart, but that’s slow.


What do we think about Audible? I was rather tempted today, as I sat there reading “House of Mirth” when I could have been knitting. Why not both? And Eleanor Bron is the reader, and it’s unabridged. On the other hand, £8 a month (that’s eight pounds, not dollars) is a lot, and the credit card that would be involved is not one I use on-line so I fear that cancelling might be beyond my abilities. On the other hand again, I can have “Il Gattopardo” in Italian.


I’m enjoying “House of Mirth”, although I can see that it’s unlikely to end well. I was about to say that a seriously well-written book is never entirely depressing, but then I remembered a Scottish classic, “The House with the Green Shutters”, of about the same date as “House of Mirth”, which is about as depressing as you can get.

Sunday, October 11, 2020


I knit patiently on with the body of what will be the Machu Picchu sweater, but it’s slow. The yarn is fine, and it’s a long way around. This dark charcoal is too dark for the winter solstice. I spent some time today trying to think of something more colourful, without success. Hopes are pinned on Kate Davies producing something in the latest club. We’ve had three sweaters so far, all single-colour, but at least we haven’t lapsed into cowls and fingerless mitts. This week’s essay is about i-cord, not without interest.


And I really must get to grips with that hat.


All well otherwise. Baby Hamish and his mother are home from hospital. He’s still a bit congested but can feed comfortably.


Is it interesting? is it odd? that the corona-virus is getting worse everywhere at once? At least in a lot of places, from London to Rome to Jerusalem, as well as in the US. (“London” is there for rhetorical effect – in fact, in England the disease is concentrating itself in the Midlands and the North.) We each blame our own governments.


Thank you for all your sympathy about my cancelled cruise. Next year in Jerusalem, indeed! Weavinfool, I had a good going-over by a geriatric medicine team last summer (2019) and they found nothing wrong except a reduced heart function (something about “systole” and “diastole”) which they said was common in old women. I haven’t seen a doctor since, although I consulted one by telephone when I scraped my ribs that time, falling off a chair in Kirkmichael. I don’t even know what they’re doing about appointments.




I’ve just finished the new Nicci French, “House of Correction”. I would say rather emphatically that it’s not very good, and is depressing. I’m a fan of theirs (it’s a husband-and-wife collaboration), which makes it all the sadder. However, there was a column in the Times yesterday (or somewhere) about books to be re-read, and it led me to Edith Wharton’s “House of Mirth”. I think it’ll keep me very happy for a few days. I would have said with conviction that I had read it, as a bedtime reading-aloud book, but it is not stirring the faintest movement of memory.

Friday, October 09, 2020


Not much knitting today. I decided I had finished the Machu Picchu ribbing – since I’m in EPS mode, it’s up to me; increased; knit peacefully on. I can highly recommend the weekly “Sit and Knit a Bit with Arne and Carlos”. Wednesday, I think.


None of this week’s impulsive buy of knit books are going to be of much use. The cable one – “Cable Knits from Nordic Lands”, by Ivar Asplund – is perfectly good, but if you want a cable book, for Heaven’s sake, get Norah Gaughan’s “Knitted Cable Sourcebook” and go on from there to her “40 Timeless Knits”.


But I will write tonight about a problem which envelopes us all – the danger of losing small businesses we love in the current world-wide misery. I have been trying to angle my extravagance in the direction of helpfulness. Tamar suggests keeping my expensive new clothes for the sake of their source, Toast. I will keep them in fact because bundling them up and sending them back is too much trouble, and also because I like them. But the small business I am worrying about is the Majestic Line.


They had maybe six weeks of cruising this summer, from late August until now.


They started up not many years ago when Dr Ken Grant converted two trawlers which had been put out of action by EU fishing regulations. They were so successful that he has had two more built, much the same in appearance, perhaps slightly steadier and more luxurious. He said, in the article in the Financial Times which first alerted me to the Majestic Line, that after 12 passengers you have to go up to 50 before you can make a profit again. He decided to stick with 12.


Mundi, I was at once so happy and so sad to hear of your experience with the Outer Hebrides cruise. I hope you’ll go in 2021! That was the one I booked between my husband’s death and his funeral. I went in 2018, travelling alone, and had a wonderful time. I was interested in their Wilderness Cruise – upper left-hand corner of Scotland, Ardnamurchan Point to Cape Wrath. I thought it wiser not to book until I had experienced a Majestic Line cruise, and by then there was nothing left for 2019. I persuaded C. to join me, for 2020.


We’ve rolled that one over. Then I thought, since I can feel myself getting daily weaker, that it might be nice to have something  to look forward to nearer than next May. Hence the one that has just been cancelled. They rang up today. I declined to take the money back, at least for the moment, although not at all clear what to roll it over to.


I’m particularly sad about our 2020 Wilderness cruise, because my sister and her husband were booked on it too. Although we have whizzed past each other relatively often, given how far apart we live, we were looking forward to those ten days when we might have sat together and talked of childhood and our parents. Alas, not to be. Probably ever.

Thursday, October 08, 2020


Not a good day.


1  1.   The cruise has been cancelled. I don’t know exactly why, yet. The boss wrote to us all today – phone calls promised soon. Rachel says that it’s because Nicola (our leader) said yesterday that one shouldn’t travel outside the range of one’s health authority unless it was essential. Anyway, it’s up to the Majestic Line to decide, not me. The boss is clearly very cross at Nicola. My beautiful, expensive clothes arrived today from Toast (British readers will know). I don’t suppose I can send them back with a note to say that my cruise has been cancelled?

2  2.   Baby Hamish and his mother Christina are in hospital. I don’t think it’s terribly serious, just terribly uncomfortable. He’s got a cold (not the virus) and is stuffed up and can’t breathe and is still entirely breast-fed. A bad night was had by all, last night, but I think things are better today. And it’s good to know that the NHS still has time and strength and space for non-covid cases.

3  3.   My sourdough loaf turned out rather flat and cannon-ball like (if cannon-balls were flat), my least successful to date.

4  4.   I thought there was something else, but perhaps not. And at least I don’t have to worry about my cats. I lay in bed this morning doing just that.


So, not much knitting. All day I felt that I was owed a treat, but couldn’t think of an appropriate one to bestow upon myself. C. says that when things settle down we will have a gala lunch or supper and wear our cruise clothes. And I do feel less guilty than usual about un-done Italian as the weekend lesson approaches.


The “Alterknit” books have arrived – not, so far the one with cables. I feel pretty sure that they are indeed related to the remembered book I mentioned yesterday – but, indeed, I can’t find it. The general idea is bright colours, basic shapes, and wonderful, inventive “Fair Isle” motifs.