Monday, December 14, 2020


Virtually nothing to report. I don’t think I’ve done any knitting since I was here last. Certainly no photography. C. came and got me around the garden. It was another rather nice day, for December.


Comments: Chloe and Jean, my memory of the polio vaccine (not to be relied upon) is that it started out as a drop of something on a lump of sugar. That would have been in New Jersey, perhaps just after the war.


It is interesting that people down south have appointments for their covid vaccinations already. I’m more than happy to wait, but there’s always a nagging anxiety connected with having heard nothing. Do they know that I’m 87? And here all alone?


Degrees of separation


I have been floundering around the last couple of days, wondering what to read next. Another Pym, perhaps? A degree of toughness, but low on violence, is what’s wanted. God has answered the question, rather sharply, and I am now well embarked on The Honourable Schoolboy. I’ve read most of Le Carre, but that one not in the last two years (I’ve kept lists) and not on the Kindle (Amazon would remind me) – so possibly not at all.


One of David Cornwell’s sons is a mosaicist. He has written an article for the journal Andamento (what does that mean?) which Helen edits. She has been corresponding with him about the biographical paragraph which will accompany the article, and had this email from him yesterday:



Not an excuse to use often - he wouldn't have let it interrupt him - but my father passed away last night and things a bit crazy at the minute, 



I told her to write back and say, He was a great man. But she knows Tim only as a mosaicist and thinks it would be embarrassing to reveal that she knows who his father is. I think he wouldn’t notice in the general fuss,  but she’s the Englishwoman, I’m just an American. I mean to print it out, anyway, and insert in a copy of something. I’m not sure we have anything on paper here. “The Little Drummer Girl” (my fave) and perhaps “The Constant Gardener” are available in Kirkmichael, though.


However, it certainly means that I’m only three degrees away from John Le Carre. The same degree from Evelyn Waugh, also due to Helen who knew his son Auberon and also a granddaughter, ??Daisy. And I’m only two from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, through my own efforts. (See this blog for January, 2018.) That’s pretty well late-20th-century literature covered.


The first two news bulletins I heard last night, didn’t even mention his real name. Perhaps there was a late-night editor on duty who didn’t know that he wasn’t named John le Carre.


  1. =Tamar6:21 PM

    Perhaps your being alone and generally healthy is why you haven't heard yet. I've read that medical personnel will get it first, then those who are especially at risk.
    Re the polio vaccine, I recall getting both the sugar cube and the injection, and I don't recall in which order.

    1. The injection came first; my father was a doctor, and we were subjected to injections at home. Then lining up in school for an injection. Then, glorious day, sometime around 1960, the sugar cube arrived! I remember my joy -- no injection!

    2. The sugar cube was the Sabin vaccine. We got it one weekend in 1962 at the local junior high school. The Salk vaccine was earlier and I assume that I got it at the doctors office. Interestingly, to me at least, the Salk vaccine used a “dead” virus and the Sabin vaccine was a live virus. I recently read that the WHO is recommending returning to dead virus vaccine.

    3. Anonymous11:02 PM

      My brother was an undergraduate researcher in Salk's lab. I think he mostly washed bottles, but he did go on to to have a career in microbiology.

      Beverly in NJ

  2. I just read a Janet Sandison aka Jane Duncan book. What a joy. I was gripped. Jean in the Morning. Did she live to write the following books in a series of four?

  3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - my favourite spy/crime fiction, and my favourite movie of all time ...

  4. I remember the sugar cubes. Early to mid 60's - maybe 63? We walked as a family to a local school on the weekend and all received the dose.

  5. I found the Jane Duncan series on Etsy. Rare! I ordered them. Happy Christmas to me!!

  6. Marilyn Nance9:21 PM

    I believe I was in the first or second grade when I received a polio vaccination at school. That would have been 1954, 55, or 56. Pretty sure that was in the early trials. This was in a small town near Chicago, IL.

  7. Anonymous9:31 AM

    Oh, I forgot about the sugar cubes! But I think I got the injection in 1954 and would have been about nine. I was thinking about the order of distribution and whether there was any distrust about the safety. My sister later reminded me that it was developed by one man, Salk (and also Sabin), and not in a hurry by Big Pharma so there weren't those trust issues. Maybe fun fact re six degrees? Salk later went on to marry Francoise Gilot, a former partner of Picasso and mother of two of his children. Quite a jump between two worlds. Chloe

  8. Anonymous9:39 AM

    P.S. It was later pointed out that today's medical research has the advantage of greater technical advances allowing for quicker accurate conclusions which was one reassuring reason for the speed.

  9. Anonymous5:02 PM

    To pile on: first the injection (Salk), then some years later, the sugar cube (Sabin). I was so young when I rec'd the injection that it just blurred into all the other immunizations one gets in infancy, but I do remember the whole community filing through a school building for the sugar cubes.
    Now for fans of Le Carré, I recommend his memoir/autobiography, "The Pigeon Tunnel". It will move to the top of my list for a re-reading.
    Gretchen (aka stashdragon)

  10. I got the Salk injections in 1955. No students in my home town could swim - too dangerous with polio about. After the vaccine, our school bused us 15 miles to the county seat for Red Cross swimming lessons (no charge for the transports). Makes the date memorable. Then, Sabin in 1963. We got no sugar cube, just a squirt of pink liquid in our mouths.

  11. I wonder where your vaccine centre would be? Might be worth ringing the GP to find this out. I have heard of a 91 yr old with carers coming in who got an invitation to a centre which was at the showground on the other side of her home town, so not easy to access. You would not want to miss it.

  12. As I understand it, you should be among the first group of people to be offered a vaccine - and you will be contacted by post. I guess that you might be offered an appointment at the Western General which is where some of the first vaccinations (of NHS staff) happened - but it's conceivable that there will be other locations that you can go to.

  13. Anonymous12:37 PM

    Have no fear, you'll be notified when your turn comes to book an appointment. Scotland is prioritising care home residents and essential staff initially. But the GPs will have everyone else listed in readiness. As we know you have family members who can drive, it should not matter where in Edinburgh they send you, you will be abel to make it. My parents are travelling by taxi under my brother's supervision.

    Best of luck through the festive season and on into vaccination. When enough people have taken up the opportunity, life should settle down again for everyone.

  14. Le Carré has always been a favourite of my mother’s and became one of mine. I had no idea he used a pseudonym. I will have to do some re-reading. Anna usually in Toronto