Wednesday, October 20, 2021


The cheetahs are quiet at the moment.


Alexander came to see me today, completely unexpected so there was no bright conversation prepared. He is cowering in terror, of course, at the prospect of the Climate Change beano which is about to be unleashed on Glasgow. They can’t just retreat to Loch Fyne because Thomas is still at school.


Not much news here. I think I am perhaps slightly better. I got my instruction kit for the colonoscopy. It’s a whole month away. All I have to do for now is put it in a safe place. I think Helen will be here to shepherd me though the ordeal. Her husband David has had several because of having diverticulitis. I think in the end he had part of his gut removed, like the Pope. It’s comforting having company – including you, Tamar. Misery loves it, indeed.


I knit a few more rounds of the Calcutta Cup vest. At least wee Hamish’s circumference is less daunting than an adult’s. Thank you for your encouragement about the sweaters I’m tempted to buy yarn for.


And I’ve started reading The Thursday Murder Club. You – all – were right to recommend it. It’s delightful, and not depressing, as so much else that I read these days seems to be. It’s interesting that the question of money is front and centre, with the developer of the retirement village making big bucks from it, and being an unattractive character. I went with my mother once when she was confronting the director of Meadow Lakes about a rise in the monthly fee which took it beyond her planning. He had a lot in common with Osman’s character – big, chunky gold jewellery.


Tuesday, October 19, 2021


I am sorry about the death of Colin Powell. He was a great man – one who could have been president but decided not to.

I watched a news clip of Clinton emerging from hospital. He looked distinctly tottery.


Amazon turned up about 5:30 last night. I had some soup and tucked myself up in bed by 6:30. Not bad at all.


And Carla sent me this link: It’s a live webcam of a litter of cheetah kittens in the National Zoo. Be careful: they’re addictive. Five healthy-looking babies, now a week old. How clever of nature to send them into the world that undistinguished grey – domestic kittens, which they otherwise greatly resemble, start off as they mean to go on. See the infant Paradox, above. It will be fun watching them turn into cheetahs.


The NHS has swung into action on my case. I thought they were meant to be up to  the eyeballs in a COVID backlog. Who am I? 88 years old – not all that long to go with the best of outcomes. I am to have a colonoscopy in November – mercifully, after my sister’s visit and before Helen’s planned exit for a week in Greece. Otherwise not a matter for rejoicing. And I will see a lung specialist next week – that should be relatively painless.


Knitting: I resumed the Calcutta Cup vest today. Progress remains very slow. Can I persuade myself to do a bit this evening?


I find myself absurdly tempted by sweaters I will never have time to knit: Kate Davies’ “Lilias Day” (it’s in Schiehallion, lovely to knit) and Brooklyn Tweed’s “Idiom”. That one would be so expensive to import – and their London outpost Loop doesn’t have the yarn in any interesting colours – that I will probably be restrained. And I’ve got to finish the CC vest. Things are so slow on that front that I could almost say I hope we don’t win in ’22.

Monday, October 18, 2021


General gloom, and no more knitting.


Gloom (1): I am expecting an Amazon delivery “by 9 p.m.” Usually, by this time of day (4:30 p.m.) the news would be more specific. Not so today.


Gloom (2): I had a letter from the NHS today about some little anomalies that turned up in my CT scan and are to be investigated. It’s all beginning to seem endless. I just want to feel peppier.


I’ve finished “Moon Tiger”. It’s awfully good. Rachel and Ed got to Kirkmichael. They'll be heading back to London soon.


Saturday, October 16, 2021


Indian summer has given way to cold-and-nasty. Helen is staying here tonight, because she is going to a dinner party nearby. She has put a hot water bottle in my bed before leaving. Rachel and Ed are safely on the shores of Loch Fyne. The plan is for them to go on to Kirkmichael before returning to London. If the weather is like this everywhere, the temptation may be to cut out that part of the plan. Kirkmichael in this sort of weather is tough; I’m glad that old age exempts me from it.


It has been a relatively good day here. I knit a bit more of the Calcutta Cup vest. I’ll have to step up speed, but it’s gratifying to be doing it at all. I ate well.




Retirement homes: Beverly, I visited my mother at Meadow Lakes several times, and enjoyed myself. A lot of Princeton faculty retired there, and the conversation was good. Shandy, I need to work out why retirement communities aren’t common all over GB. Money has a lot to do with it – normally (in the US, at least) one goes in with a substantial capital payment which uses up what one got selling one's house. The British resist that. It tends to happen anyway if you need care for any length of time.


I’m reading Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger. I’ve read it once before, so it was there on my Kindle, therefore free. An article about Lively’s new collection of short stories in last Sunday’s Times mentioned it, and said, unless I misread, that in it the protagonist has an affair with her brother. I don’t remember that. So far, it’s vaguely familiar, and very good. It won the Booker, back in the days before diversity.

Friday, October 15, 2021


Rachel and Ed are speeding westwards, much missed.

There was some talk of me and the cats moving in with Helen, perhaps temporarily. It’s a tempting thought but not without its complications. I think it might be best to stay here as long as I can, industriously drinking water and walking up and down the hall. Getting back into Drummond Place Gardens is my immediate goal.


I knit a bit of the Calcutta Cup vest, too. Not much, but I think the rhythm is returning.




Thank you for them all, as always. I do agree that my bias against Hillary C. is likely misplaced. She served Obama as Secretary of State very well indeed. If the framers of the 22nd amendment did think of the possibility of a Presidential wife standing in her own right, I think they would have had to allow it. But I’m glad things didn’t work out that way with the present cast of characters. I prefer President Obama’s remark that there were three things you could count on: death, taxes, and the fact that Michelle would never stand for President; to the relish with which Bill looked forward to becoming the First Laddy.


I think I’m going to have to read The Thursday Murder Club. Retirement communities of the sort I expect to find there are very rare here. We have purpose-built apartments for oldies (owner-occupied), often with a 24-hour supervisor available and no other communal facilities: no dining hall, no gym. And we have care homes. My mother lived in a proper American one, Meadow Lakes near Princeton. My sister and her husband live in one just outside DC. I looked around a bit after my husband died, but I think I’m better off here than in anything that was available. I will be interested to see what Osman has imagined for us.

Thursday, October 14, 2021


All well. Rachel and Ed are here. It’s wonderful to have them. They’re going on to Alexander at Loch Fyne tomorrow, then Kirkmichael. This is a sort of Triumphal Progress to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. They started off with the hotel in Cheshire or Northumberland (or some such place) where they spent their honeymoon. It has become distinctly Fawlty-esque in the interval.


Helen still has her cold. She and Archie were here last night, to share a Greek take-away. She sounded pretty cold-y. I stayed well away. I think we’re having another take-away tonight. Perhaps I’ll join in a bit more.


C. with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson (wee Hamish) joined us for a while yesterday. By accident, here's a four-generational picture. Me in the background, much of Rachel in front of me, some of Hamish’s mother Christina to the right (she’s Rachel’s first cousin once removed – I love that sort of stuff), and Hamish, of course, in front.


I’m still enormously weak, but I made some progress towards the resumption of the Calcutta Cup vest today. I found the knitting easily, the yarn fairly soon thereafter. But the all-over colour pattern is a chart in Sheila McGregor’s Fair Isle book, and that I could not find. I got a good deal of paper sorted and thrown out but still no book. Then I put the problem to Daniela, who found it at once, in a pile I had already looked through.


So now I’ve located my particular pattern, and found my place in it, and have knit a few stitches.




Somebody asked where to start with Margorie Allingham – but now I can’t find the comment. I think you might as well start at the top: Tiger in the Smoke. Then go back (in time, to the early war years) to Traitor’s Purse. It has a brilliant McGuffin, that one. I think I read somewhere once that early reviews pooh-pooh’d it as ridiculous, but it turned out after the war that the Germans had had the same idea. If so, I don’t know what frustrated it, in the absence of Mr. Campion.


I’ve finished the latest Serrailler. It ended rather inconclusively, I thought. I don’t know where to turn next.


Thank you for the recommendation of The Thursday Murder Club, Karen. I’ve been hesitating over that one. I adore Richard Osman unreservedly, but it sounded rather formulaic.


I saw Clinton-Penny well-reviewed somewhere this very day. I’m not a fan of hers. She hurt my feelings right at the beginning, with that crack about baking cookies. I didn’t want her to be president – I would prefer the first American woman president to be someone who has made her own name, rather than sailing under her husband’s flag. Also I don’t like the idea of a president who has already served two terms slipping back into the White House through the kitchen door. I’m sure the framers of the 22nd Amendment would have been astonished at the notion, although I can’t imagine what they would have done about it.


None of that has anything to do with her book.

Monday, October 11, 2021

No change. Helen has got a bad cold, so I probably won't see her for a while. The newspapers say that there is a stinker about -- not COVID, not flu, just a bad cold. C. has had it for the last week, but phoned today to say that she is better, so I will probably see her soon.

I have reverted to the new Simon Serrailler. I have read all the others, with great pleasure, but am finding this one rather depressing. The new Le Carre is not getting very good reviews. My hope remains that a weak Le Carre will prove to be better than a first-rate Anybody Else.

I am very grateful for your patience, returning again and again to read these few boring paragraphs.

Sunday, October 10, 2021


I’ve had another day of pretty utter feebleness. Archie came, and we got some useful work done clearing books and paper and sauce bottles off the kitchen table so that Rachel and Ed (arriving Tuesday) will have somewhere to sit down and eat their breakfast. We didn’t just clear the things off, either: we put them, one by one, where they belonged.


I’ve been re-reading Marjorie Allingham, hand over fist. At her best (during and just after the war) she’s very good. A new Simon Serrallier was published last week. I’ve read the first few chapters and have laid it aside, I hope temporarily. And I learned today that we are about to have a posthumous Le Carre. That’s likely to be worth reading.


Written Saturday October 9


Yesterday I had to go back to the Royal Infirmary for a CT scan. It would have done for me completely but for Helen. We went by taxi, so that I wouldn’t have to wait for half an hour while she parked the car and trudged back. The front doors open into a huge atrium from which all public seating had been removed. The more adroit were sitting on the floor. I perched precariously on a rubbish bin while Helen went off in search of a wheelchair. It took her a while, but once she was back with it, all went smoothly.


The phrase “CT scan” sounded so familiar that I thought maybe I had had one before, but the experience was so strange that I decided that was my first one.


I’m still very feeble, as you may gather. I was much encouraged by your comment, Shandy, that thiamine takes a while to get going.


Franklin continues to post on Facebook from gay Paree, almost daily. And today we even had a wee vlog. It’s a brave thing he’s doing. Like me, socks are his go-to knitting in times of stress. I polished off a few more stitches while I watched. And Andrea and Madeleine have posted a travelogue to tide us over until we get the next episode of Fruity Knitting. With Kaffe!


Saturday, October 09, 2021

 I had a blog-let all written for you just now, when my mouse vanished — poof. So I shut down the computer, and then found the mouse by accident with my toes, being in stocking feet. Tomorrow. Nothing much has changed.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021


Am I perhaps just slightly stronger? A week flat on my back except for walking to the bathroom and back (for that is what happened) is bound to have left its mark on one so old and feeble as I.


I tried knitting both the sock and the Poofle sweater today. (Is that what it’s called?) Neither went very smoothly. I have long congratulated myself on having a passion which requires so little energy. Surely I could go on knitting well into the feebleness of old age, I thot. It doesn’t seem to be working out like that. I think I’d better face up to wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest, before Calcutta Cup day is upon us again. Maybe that will go better.


I have been surprised about all this news about the dangerousness of Facebook, and surprised, too (recent comments) that several of you hold aloof from it. I thought it was the most innocent of pastimes. For some reason – and long may it last – I get a notice among my emails whenever Franklin posts (which is almost daily). Occasionally I hear in that way from other “friends” – but they couldn’t post that rarely, not all of them.


Sunday, October 03, 2021


Here I am. I’m still very weak, although at least there have been no more falls. Appetite not very good.


I’ve been enjoying Franklin’s daily posts as he settles into Parisian life. There was a long one – before I went into hospital – about the horrors of trying to open a French bank account. The real trouble, as I think he knew, was the American Internal Revenue, although the French were adding a few Gallic flourishes. 


C. has been looking after her grandson wee Hamish today, and he has been diagnosed with “hand, foot and mouth” disease in the course of the afternoon. She thought he had chicken pox. I have never heard of it. It has nothing to do – the internet assures me – with farmyard “foot and mouth”. That’s good, anyway. But this presumably means I won’t see C. for a while. Archie came to see me today. We walked up and down the passage.

Friday, October 01, 2021


Here I am. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your kind messages.


I’m better than I was when they carried me off; I still don’t know what was essentially wrong. I had a saline drip for 48 hours – that points to dehydration. I had an antibiotic for a week to treat a “wee chest infection”. I had thiamine (I think that’s right), also by drip. That’s an assembly of B-vitamins badly assimilated by drinkers. I now have them in pill form. But I don’t know which of these treatments is meant to have wrought an improvement. I’m trying to drink a lot of non-cider. It’s harder than it sounds.


I didn’t get much knitting done, either. At least the sock has come safely home.


I feel somewhat disconcerted. Where am I? Who’s in charge? I slept wonderfully well last night until awakened by a whiskery kiss at 4 a.m. Paradox (for it was she) seems rapturously glad to see me. Perdita greeted me at the door, but has since relapsed into her standoff-y normal. Helen has established a rota which ensures that I am visited twice a day.


It is odd to think that I will never see or hear of those three women again, with whom I shared space so briefly yet so intensely. Vera celebrated her 96th birthday on Tuesday, the most clear-headed and sweet-tempered of us all. Older than the Queen. Wilma was determined to go home. Every morning the doctor doing rounds would explain to her that she had a kidney infection; and that she was slightly confused and couldn’t leave until they were sure that the set-up at home was safe. She would seem to take this in and remain quiet during the rest of the day. Then, at tea-time, she would set off for home and the struggle would continue all evening.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

 I’m home. I’ll do my best to write a full-ish account tomorrow. I’ve been re-hydrated and antibioticised and vitamined. I didn’t get much knitting done, although I did finish the gusset shaping of that second sock.

Friday, September 24, 2021

 I am now in the Royal Infirmary. I got weaker and weaker and finally they carried me off. Things are much as before. I have had lots of tests and nothing in particular is wrong. I’m having a saline drip to restore hydration, and have high hopes of that. I’m taking an antibiotic for “a wee chest infection” which no one seems to believe in. Also oxygen up my nose as the saturation level suddenly dropped yesterday. A little appetite but not much. I’m enjoying lying back and feeling drowsy and irresponsible.

See you soon, I hope. I’ve asked Helen to bring those Kaffe Fassett socks. I’m knitting the second foot. I ought to be able to finish.

Love to you all

Saturday, September 18, 2021


I hope you have guessed that life here is much as before. I feel very weak. Appetite is holding steady, on a low level. No knitting.


Helen and David were here this morning.  They are trying to put my affairs in order – an heroic endeavour. A little bit was accomplished. David is going back to Thessaloniki tomorrow, alas – Helen and an accountant will be here on Monday morning to take up the chase.


I had a letter from the NHS this morning, announcing that they have made an appt for me in Leith for the flu injection in a couple of weeks’ time. I am tremendously conscientious about flu injections and plan to have mine in my local pharmacy, as I did last year. It is one of the few destinations still within range – I can walk there. Leith is miles away and would involve taxis. But the thought of the effort needed to straighten this out is almost too much for me.




Tamar, your ideas are good: when are they ever less? I have switched to easy food – bananas and corn flakes and frozen ready meals. It’s helping somewhat. I wouldn’t know where to turn for anorexia therapy, but it might be worth looking for some. And getting tested for Covid is not a bad idea, either. I think C. will be here tomorrow, and I think she knows a cheap or even free source of the cheaper and less accurate Lateral Flow test. We’ll talk about it.


Audrey: a UTI or kidney infection is an alarming possibility. My husband was in and out of hospital in the last months of his life with exactly that. But he had symptoms – low oxygen saturation, at least. I don’t (Helen has one of those tester-things.). I feel fine, except for this appalling weakness.


Mary Lou, I’m sure your MD friend is right, about malnutrition in the elderly. But I’m trying hard. As soon as appetite collapsed – shortly after I returned from that cruise – I started (amongst other things) Complan, which I think is the “protein shake” you’re suggesting.


Well, I’ll keep your posted.


Ann, yes, I know I could support Franklin on Patreon but feel a reluctance which I couldn’t really explain to Patronise a grown, healthy man, dearly as I love him in this case. My Patron standing orders are for Knitty and Fruity Knitting. The latter started off like a subscription to a knitting magazine, and has of course morphed into something different due to unimaginably dreadful events,

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

 I've been very weak since Sunday's cheerful post -- no knitting, no more garden. I am working hard on dehydration. Archie, who was here yesterday, agrees with his mother than malnutrition is at the root of this. My sister thinks I am living on the calories in cider -- alas, no, to that one. I would welcome those calories, but lack of appetite is affecting cider-drinking like everything else.

I have gone so far as to suspend my Italian lessons.

Franklin is in Paris. He threatened to leave us for several days without the daily posts to Facebook which sustain us these days -- but he hasn't done it. I shall worry about him for a good while. Can he live without Rosamund? Does he have enough English-speaking and Paris-resident friends? I know he's been working hard on his French, but he'll need more, just at first. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021


Well, that was exciting. Too exciting for me, in the end – I went to bed with my radio, but even in that form had to turn the tennis off for fear I would never get to sleep afterwards. The match was much closer (as often in tennis) than the tame-sounding 6-4, 6-3 score would suggest. I don’t feel much of an emotional attachment to Djokovic – and it’s no longer 9/11. I ought to be able to drift off peacefully tonight, listening to that one. And if not, not.


Today was better, health-wise. C. came and at least we got to the Gardens and sat for a while on the nearest bench – better than sitting on my own doorstep. I’ll try to extend the walk tomorrow. And I have been working hard on dehydration, the most manageable of the amateur and long-distance diagnoses floating about here (alcoholism, lactose-intolerance, malnutrition).


It’s time to get back to work on knitting.

Saturday, September 11, 2021


I felt pretty low yesterday, as you no doubt guessed, and not much (if any) better today, but I’ve got to stay conscious for the tennis. Until today was quite well advanced there was going to be no way to watch it except on Google Prime Then Her Majesty’s Government went cap-in-hand to Mr Bezos – is that who I mean? – and now we are to have it on Regular Television and no doubt Mr. Bezos is a bit richer.


I wish it weren’t happening on so ill-omened a day.


Rachel, who is notoriously tender-hearted, wishes that they could both win since they are both so young. Neither was alive on 9/11/2001. I, however, shall be cheering unreservedly for Emma. Poor Mr. Djokovic often grumbles that we don’t love him as we should, and that’s certainly true this time.


My kefir is here, and it’s delicious.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

 I think perhaps I felt a bit better today. I spent less time in bed -- although I'm looking forward to getting back to it. 

I even did some knitting -- an hour of Coofle while listening to Arne and Carlos at Setesdal. It was fairly tedious. So indeed was the knitting -- the yarn is really pretty thin, and an hour accomplishes nothing. My next job is to resume wee Hamish's Calcutta Cup vest. Important.

I wonder if the World Service will broadcast tennis during the night?  I heard at least one of Andy Murray's US Open matches that way. We're all in a flutter over Emma Raducano over here. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2021


I will have to re-name this blog JeansDecliningHealth.


Today is James’s 60th birthday. We’re all feeling a bit solemn. That leaves only Helen.


I was very grateful for your suggestions. Kirsten, yours came in first and reminded me of how much I love ice cubes. I made some – I don’t have one of those wonderful modern refrigerators which spews them out at the touch of a button – put a couple in a glass, added a couple of slices of lemon, filled with water. Perfect. I don’t even need to replace the lemon when I refill the glass with water and ice.


And, Tamar, yes – Kefir! I bought some, years ago now, from a place called Chuckling Goat. It was delicious – tangier and more interesting than supermarket kefir. I haven’t gone on ordering it from them because it is so expensive, but I thought that this was an occasion which justified it. It should arrive on Friday if not tomorrow.


Helen came this morning. She has diagnosed malnutrition and has left me a little notebook in which to record what I eat.


Neither Daniela nor Archie can come tomorrow. I am expecting s substantial order from Cook. They make better-than-supermarket frozen meals. So I had to clean out the freezer drawers for myself, discarding everything un-identifiable and everything too old even by my relaxed standards. I think I’ve made enough room.


But I don’t feel well and have spent much of the day in bed.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

My appetite hit rock-bottom on Sunday evening. I sent a dear friend out yesterday for easy-eats: bananas and fruit yoghurt and one of those supplement things that you stir into milk. It has helped a bit. Dehydration? I am trying really hard to drink water.

So this is just to report that I am alive, although not particularly well. I look forward to knitting a bit while Arne and Carlos tell me all about Settesdal. Not yet, though. 

Sunday, September 05, 2021


I’m feebler than ever, but all’s well. C. came, but instead of walking we sat on the step in the sun while the happy cats went up and down to the pavement rejoicing in unaccustomed freedom. C. brought me a tonic called Floradix. It seems to be largely if not entirely an iron supplement – probably a very good idea. My appetite is very low these days, and what I do eat may well not contain much iron.


She brought news of the Majestic line – her friend J. (all of C.’s friends have names beginning with J) had been cruising with them last week, on our very boat, the Glen Tarsan. She  had a bishop among her fellow-passengers of whom I was rather jealous. However, towards the end of a happy cruise, two of the crew tested positive for you-know-what and the boat went haring back to Oban. Some of the passengers, including J.’s husband and the Bishop, were showing possible symptoms, coughing and such-like. All were double-vaccinated. The Glen Tarsan cruise for this week has been cancelled and it’s being deep-cleaned.


I need to show you some more pictures.


So I’m glad that didn’t happen to us.


No knitting, but Andrew Marr is back from his summer break, and recorded – so I may catch up both with him and a bit of knitting tomorrow.

Saturday, September 04, 2021


Have you heard?— you probably have – that Franklin is moving to Paris?  He promises to keep in touch via Facebook, where he posts almost daily. Rosamund is staying in Chicago, apparently in the apartment, with someone she knows. What a brave step to take!


I am sorry to have left you in the lurch the last two days. There is nothing specifically wrong with me, but absolutely no acceleration when I put my foot to the floor. I cancelled my Italian lesson for this weekend, and it turns out that my tutor will be away next weekend and I feel a bit as I did in sixth grade, when an infinity of summer stretched ahead. But I mustn’t move too far from the grindstone.


No knitting.


I have continued with Helen’s program of Steady Improvement – it’ll get tougher next week – and must apply the principle to other aspects of life. A bit of knitting, a bit of paperwork.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021


I have felt really quite unusually low and feeble today – but I want to stay conscious for another hour and a half, if possible, to see and hear President Biden’s address to the nation.


Archie came this morning, and we got a bit done. I have walked two circuits of the house – I think that’s all Helen prescribed yesterday; I had hoped for more.


Today, not yesterday, is my wedding anniversary. How could I have forgotten? The death of the Princess of Wales signalised our 40th. It was a Sunday. We already knew the news as we walked up the hill to Mass. I have regretted ever since that we didn’t pop into a newsagent to buy a tabloid – they had headlines about Wills’ opinion of Dodi, or something of that ilk – and that date.


The picture of the Coofle turned up 24 hours later. Here it is, a bit blurry. 

I haven’t knit anything today, but may soon, as I struggle to stay awake for Biden.

Monday, August 30, 2021


Helen came this morning and instead of insisting on a tour of the garden, has launched me onto a program of Steady Improvement. It’s probably a good idea. I’ve done 1178 steps so far today, walking about the house, and will aim for 1500 tomorrow.


My dear cleaner Daniela was also here today, the first time I’ve seen her for six months or so, although she was here last week while I was away. She and Helen conversed happily in Greek. She told Helen that I had declined since she last saw me. I think so too. She also said that she found a mouse on my bed last week. A dead one. I thought that was rather touching – it could only have been from Paradox. I live in a tenement and mice could never be far away. We have never seen droppings or found damage, but I have occasionally seen them skittering which I hate. There have been no sightings in the last five or six years, Paradox, a mighty huntress, has come up with a couple, and even Perdita had one once when she was young.


I have taken a picture of the Coofle for you, but so far have not succeeded in getting it any further than the iPad. I knit a bit more of it today. I found it on my bed when I got up to pee in the night, with the yarn in a position to trip me and send me crashing to my death. I had left it in the adjacent room, with the door open between. That could only have been Paradox. No harm done, either to me or to the Coofle.


Day two of our cruise was Port Ellen and the Laphroaig distillery. I must get hold of a map and trace our course.


Today might be my 64th wedding anniversary. We never observed anniversaries, and I have slightly lost touch with which day it actually was.





Sunday, August 29, 2021


Today is Rachel and Ed's 40th wedding anniversary. 

I put off my walkers today, and did nothing. I’ll have to get to grips with life tomorrow.


Here’s the beginning of our cruise, starting with the Fladda Lighthouse and Lunga and the Isle of Luing. We had superb weather throughout except for some morning fog:


The Corryvreckan Whirlpool. It can be quite fierce; our skipper clearly had considerable respect for it. But not on our day. You can see a difference in the texture of the surface water, and that’s about it. I was hoping for The Descent into the Maelstrom:


And Colonsay, that day’s walk:


I knit some more Coofle this morning while watching the latest Fruity Knitting. It was about someone who knits with wire, not a topic that floats my boat. Andrea and daughter Madeline are about to embark on a trip to GB to record some interviews so we won’t hear from them for a while. I had better photograph the Coofle for you. The light is getting a bit dim now. I’m proud of my corrugated rib. I had also better switch back to wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest. He needs to have it to wear before the Cup is contested again.


I checked the gauge, and it seems (to my surprise) to be all right. On the boat, where I had nothing except a needle and the yarn, I measured it against a bank card. They measure about 3 1/3” across according to some useful website. I needed four inches, or perhaps two. Guessing, from a basis of 3 1/3”,  seemed to suggest that I was getting fewer than 28 stitches to 4”, which is what I want. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021


Poor Mr Biden is a classic illustration of the old saw: Be careful what you pray for – you might get it.


His spokesman Jen Psaki is a friend of my nephew and his family. But I don’t know whether to feel sorry for her for having to defend the indefensible, day after day; or for believing it.


There was an article in this morning’s Telegraph (I think) which should cheer them all up, recounting various past American disasters and demonstrating that they didn’t have much effect on the following election unless they actually occurred in the month preceding it. I spoke to my sister a fortnight ago, the day before the Taliban overran Kabul. She wasn’t much interested in Afghanistan (no harm in that) and her main interest seemed to be in that area: what effect would all this` have on Biden’s chances in the 2024 election? I certainly won’t vote for him again.


Anyway, here I am. C. and I had a grand time on our cruise. And the cats are fine. We got back in time for lunch yesterday and of course the first thing I did was to check on the cats (unimpressed as they were to see me). There was wet food in one of their bowls so I threw that away and washed the bowl and opened another tin. I had bought little presents for the cat-feeders but the stairs down to the next-door flat are taxing so I just sat there and waited until Louise appeared. And when she did, I wish you could have seen my faithless cat Paradox rushing to the door, wreathed in smiles: Louise is here! Perdita is more constant.


C. took lots of pictures which I’ll start doling out soon. I made a good start on knitting the Coofle. It begins with 14 rounds or so of corrugated rib. Not exactly difficult but certainly trying, and I was proud of myself for getting through it after all my recent inactivity here. I even thought, for half a day, that I might get to the underarms before the cruise delivered us to dry land, and then what would I do? No danger, as it proved. Kate Davies’ Millarochy Tweed (spelling not guaranteed) is, not surprisingly, sort of tweedy and doesn’t slip through the fingers in quite the blissful round-and-round way I expect of a bottom-up yoke sweater. I am uneasy about gauge, which of course I didn’t check. I’ll apply a tape measure to it tomorrow. KD seems to expect the same gauge to be achieved for the corrugated rib and the subsequent plain vanilla st st, although according to her instructions the needle size should be increased between the two. I think I’ve hit the gauge in the ribbing, and I didn’t change the needle size.


We’ll see.

Thursday, August 19, 2021


I sat down at the computer just now, and looked up as usual at the BT Hub – is that its proper name? – on top of the filing cabinet, with its comforting blue line – and it wasn’t there. My connection with the world. It was on the floor beside the filing cabinet, of course, and (thank goodness) none the worse for its adventure. So whose fault was that? Nobody’s saying.


I saw the doctor this morning, and he says I’m fine.


I got a good deal of packing done this afternoon – the bit that consists of flinging into the suitcase things that I never wear when  slouching about the house. The knitty-gritty – sponge bag, knitting, book, iPad – will have to wait for tomorrow, but I’ve got all day. The “off” is at 10:30 on Saturday. C’s friend Ian is going to drive us to Oban again, in his big comfortable car. It’s a long and a fairly tedious journey.

I probably won't post again until the weekend of the 28th.


I’ve done a bit more sock. At least I’m knitting.


Someone should remind Mr Biden of the sound principle: when you find you’re in a hole, stop digging.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021


The Coofle yarns came today: so now there is nothing to stand between me and panic, to which I am beginning to succumb. I’ll leave here on Saturday morning about 10:30, returning the following Friday. Everything is moving forward pretty well, in fact, except that I am sinking into Hogarthian squalor without my Romanians. Clothes for the cruise are clean and ironed and kept separate – that’s something.


I’ll see a doctor, tomorrow, to discuss my “bloods”. I don’t expect any news, but I’ll let you know.


Helen came and we got perhaps 2/3rds of the way around the garden. 1930 steps.


And I finished turning my heel, and picked up the gusset stitches, and have embarked on their decreasing.


Have you seen Brooklyn Tweed’s new “Tones” yarn? Very nice indeed. I can’t think of how to use it, but I’m sure Jared will come up with something interesting soon.


I wish that interesting Irish podcast which I mentioned yesterday, hadn’t turned my thoughts to Robert Black. He is a most unpleasant thought. One of his victims was the daughter of the Scotsman’s agriculture editor Fordyce Maxwell whom I used to read devotedly and regarded almost as an acquaintance. The day after the Dunblane massacre he wrote about his daughter’s murder.


Black wasn’t arrested until 13 years after Mary Boyle’s disappearance, although police suspected that a serial killer was at work and there had been a major manhunt. But that was in another country (the UK). Difficult, perhaps, for everybody to shift mental gears after so long. Even so. He was in the vicinity when Mary vanished, and there was a witness who thought she heard bumping noises such as a trussed and gagged child might make, from the back of his parked van.





Tuesday, August 17, 2021


Weavenfool, I’m not at all sure that I’m strong enough to meet the minimum cruise requirements. I’m going to try. All I’ve really got to do is get up and down a few flights of stairs. I can then lounge about knitting and reading my book while the rest of them stride through the heather. I didn’t get out today. I was expecting a parcel (a stripey shirt from Mother of Pearl, expensive and entirely unnecessary). All they would tell me was that it would be here today, before the end of play. (Remember when we used to go to a shop and choose something and pay for it and take it home?) Helen came early – it would have been safe to go out then, but I wasn’t yet fully activated.


In fact, the shirt came at lunch time, so I’ve had a nice nap. And it fits and looks nice.


Now all I need is the Coofle kit, and there are three more days for it to arrive on. Mary Lou, the dr’s appt at which I will learn the results of my “bloods” is on Thursday morning.


I’ve finished the heel flap of that sock, and am half-way around the heel itself. Not much but something.


There was a brief item on the mid-day news today about hoarding. What else is Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy? (SABLE) The one comfort is that stash does get used up, very slowly compared to the rate at which it comes in, but at least something occasionally goes out.


Tamar, that is a good idea, to get a key chain for my needle gauge when I find it. I could put it through the largest hole – I never knit with anything beyond the middle range. But then what? I don’t carry a knitting bag. I would need to find something to attach it to. But perhaps….


I’ve been listening to an interesting podcast while I knit, about a little girl who disappeared 41 years ago in rural Ireland. Mary Boyle. The podcast is well done, and the Irish voices are pleasant to listen to. (Go to BBC Sounds and search for “Kevin Connolly”.) But for heaven’s sake – Robert Black was in the vicinity at the time. Not much mystery.



Monday, August 16, 2021


Alas! that we couldn’t all have met at Franklin’s yard sale!


I’m sorry about letting you down yesterday. I can’t remember quite what was wrong – I was feeble (of course), and didn’t feel well. I cancelled this morning’s Italian lesson – it had been moved to Monday because my tutor was away for the Ferragosto. The next two are automatically cancelled because of the cruise and I feel slightly as I used to at the beginning of the school holidays. I’m feeling slightly sprightlier today as well. But I must still finished and send her my little essay on Il Colibri’.


Helen came and cleaned up after me somewhat (still no Romanians). Archie is home but in quarantine because of only having been vaccinated once. I walked part-way around the garden by myself. 1645 steps. Could be worse. Could be a good deal better.

I spent much of this afternoon (not really) sewing a vital cuff button on a shirt which is essential for the cruise. I'm very clumsy when it comes to buttons, and to sewing in general. So that's something done.


I’ve made some progress with that sock – I'm half-way through the heel-flap. I should have enough of it done to leave it behind when I go cruising and take along the new preposterous Kate Davies kit instead. I’ve heard that it’s on its way – she’s very prompt. I’ve found a needle for it, I think. The knitting tool which I find hardest to keep hold of is my needle gauge, and sure enough, today, could find only a vastly inferior one. However, I think I’ve got a suitable needle and since we start with corrugated rib, I don’t really think I’ll want a smaller gauge for that.


The pattern has miraculously turned up in my Ravelry library so I can knit from the iPad. The printer defeats me these days.



Saturday, August 14, 2021


I was still a bit nervous about going out alone (after falling last Sunday due to a sudden knee-failure) – or maybe that was just an excuse. Anyway, I stayed in. And have nothing to show for it, accomplishment-wise. C. is coming tomorrow.


Thank you for all your kind birthday wishes. I heard from my Oberlin friend Sylvia, a year older than I am and enormously more vigorous. I still enjoy cooking, but Sylvia regularly lays on meals for six to feed family and friends who live nearby. I couldn't do that. However, she had never heard of Madhur Jaffrey so I recommended her, as a cookery writer whose recipes work. That isn't true of all of them. 


I had a good Zoom meeting with my sister, but I forgot to ask her some questions I have about the assault on the Capital in January. I could probably track down the answers myself. When we finished, she was on her way out to the farmers’ market for peaches and corn. Tomatoes, in abundance, they are growing themselves. Oh! the American summer! There are compensations for that dreadful humid heat.

Friday, August 13, 2021


Today was my 88th birthday – also Madhur Jaffrey’s. I look in the Times most years to see if she is in their list of Distinguished Birthdays for Today. Often she isn’t, but today she is. It’s also my son-in-law David’s 58th. Rachel rang up, and also Archie from Thessaloniki. 


Helen drove me to and from the dr’s, and I got the bloods done. Where have all the sick people gone? There always used to be a couple of dozen of them, sitting about waiting to see dr’s or nurses. All vanished.


I took the socks along and knit a few rounds – I was a bit early. I thought my hands felt a bit unaccustomed. The experience prompted a wild and absurd extravagance: I have ordered Kate Davies’ Coofle kit. The upcoming cruise, the fact that I tend to knit, and finish, Kate Davies designs…it’s still absurd. It’s my birthday: that’ll have to do.


I have a Zoom meeting scheduled with my sister tomorrow. I’ll try to ask her what DC thinks about Afghanistan.