Tuesday, December 29, 2020


We had some snow in the night, not much, but it lay all day looking cold and slippery, and thus furnished a good excuse for not being taken for a walk. We’ll see, tomorrow. Nor has much been achieved within – except for a day’s sourdough. All seems well, but we won’t know until it comes out of the oven tomorrow. Sourdough-baking isn't strenuous or difficult, but you sort of have to be there.


I’ve done no knitting. I really must do some this evening. There’s no excuse. I’ve been re-reading my blog for January. I was about at the stage where I am now, with Gudrun’s hap, this time a year ago – knitting it then in ANC colours for what proved to be wee Hamish.


I’ve been thinking a lot about George Blake, the wickedest double-agent of them all, who has just died in Russia. He far outstripped Philby and Burgess and Maclean in successful villainy, although they beat him in getting clean away. I remember when he was caught, and tried in camera, and given what was at the time the longest sentence anybody ever had, 45 years. If he’d served every day of it, he’d have been out five years ago. But what happened next was a lesson in the dangers of nice-ness. He was a model prisoner, pointed out proudly by his warders. He made friends among fellow-prisoners, notably an Irishman who proved unreliable and two nuclear disarmers who couldn’t have been more helpful.


They got him over the wall one night after their own release, with a rope ladder whose steps were made of knitting needles. It would have needed quite a few. They kept him for a while (rather like the Stone of Scone) and then smuggled him across the channel in a campervan and on to the East German border. His wife had visited faithfully every week during his years in prison, and she is the one regret he has been quoted as expressing. But he doesn’t seem to have trusted her to help in the escape, or to have missed her much. He went on to marry a nice Russian lady.


There’s a certain poetic justice in the coincidence of his death and John le Carre’s.




I’m no expert on Barbara Pym. I’ve recently read, and very much enjoyed, “A Few Green Leaves”, recommended by Shandy. I’ve recently bought, but not yet read, “Crampton Hodnet”, attracted by the title. It turns out to have been perhaps her first? written but not published before the war and subsequently regarded as out-of-date and only published after her death.


In re-reading my blog for January I re-discovered a reference to a New Yorker article about Trollope – I think I’ve actually got it somewhere. It specifically recommended “Orley Farm”, “The Three Clerks”, and “Rachel Ray”. The first two of those we read and enjoyed, on the New Yorker’s recommendation. . I’ve re-read “The Three Clerks” relatively recently. But I’ve never read “Rachel Ray” (although I tried, and stopped) – so that’s what I’m reading now. It doesn’t seem to be available as an audio.







  1. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Where did they get all those knitting needles?? Did his wife provide them? Chloe

  2. I've just read a recommendation for Barbara Pym's 'Some tame Gazelle'; I haven't read that one yet. But my stack of books awaiting my attention is HUGE - or should I say list, as many of them are on Kindle? 'Crampton Hodnett' is very amusing and sly. I loved it. No snow here, so no excuse to stay indoors for me.

  3. "Orley Farm" is being serialised on the radio at present at 3pm. I really enjoyed "A Few Green Leaves", but "Excellent Women" is nowhere near as good. We are reading "Barchester Towers" - a reliable favourite.

  4. I thought the same as Chloe- were they given knitting as a reward for good behavior? What kind of needles were they? The old steel Inox? Wood? I settled for Maigret's Christmas as a quick read.