Sunday, January 31, 2021


A good day. 3017 steps. C. and I got twice around the garden; kimchi-making did the rest. Kimchi is harder work than sourdough:


(There's another, larger jarful as well.) Next time I must take care to make more before I run out. I’ve got a little jar of store-boughten to tide me over: it tastes more or less all right, but is utterly lacking in crunch.


And I’m just short of half-way along the edging of the third side of Gudrun’s hap.


You didn’t tell me that Norah Gaughan has just published a “Twisted Stitch Sourcebook”!  It’s been out (over here) for 10 days. Why wasn’t it reviewed in the last issue of the British “Knitting” magazine? Could I have missed it? I always look at book reviews. At any rate, I found it while wandering around Amazon looking for some trash to read now that I’ve finished Tomalin on Jane Austen, and it should be here tomorrow.  It’s always worth whizzing through Amazon’s recommendations – and there it was.


For trash I went for (not trash at all, but) LeCarre’s “A Perfect Spy”. I know I’ve read it, but it wasn’t on my Kindle. I think it’ll do fine.


Tomalin continued good. I have never “done” Austen, and am very glad to have the outline of her life in my mind, while it lasts; and especially glad to know how to divide the books down the middle between the early and the late. I think our edition includes “Sanditon” – perhaps I’ll read that, just to round things off. What a shame that so few letters survive. I knew that her sister Cassandra had destroyed a lot of the ones to her, but didn’t know about the letters to her brother – I’ve already forgotten which brother – carefully preserved throughout his long life, and tossed away by his daughter after his death.




The number of new cases and of hospital admissions has fallen in the last week. My sister says that the same is true in the US. Epidemiologists there think that perhaps far more people have had it than we thought, and herd immunity is beginning to kick in. My tutor says that numbers are falling in Italy, too. Let’s hope it’s not a coincidence.


And that’s dry January done!

Saturday, January 30, 2021


A day of remarkable non-achievement. No knitting, no reading. 2653 steps so far – that’s something, anyway.


I plan to make kimchi tomorrow. I peeled the garlic (there’s lots) and got things together and found the fish sauce and the gochugaru chilli flakes. So that’s something else.


Thank you for your help with the blocking pads. You’re absolutely right, Mary Lou – the dining room table isn’t wide enough for Gudrun’s hap. But KayT’s account of sliding part of the arrangement onto the backs of adjacent chairs may inspire me to try – facing the fact that I would have to buy two sets of pads, as she did.


The Amazon comments attached to the knitters’ blocking pads say that they are better than the ones meant for children, but I am attracted by your idea of writing rudeness while you block, jeanfromCornwall.


Jane Austen


I agree with you utterly, Shandy, that it is remarkable that JA was able to start writing again after so long a hiatus. And the three novels still to come, before her early death, are surely the greatest.


Mary Lou: Pirandello’s Italian is pretty straightforward – doesn’t mean I can understand what he means.

Friday, January 29, 2021


I love this time of year, with the light beginning to creep back around the edges of the day.


2293 steps so far today. I’ll walk around the house a bit if I have to, to reach 2500 by bedtime.


And 5 ½ scallops done, of the edging on the third side of Gudrun’s hap. I was briefly fired with hope today, when I discovered a set of interlocking blocking pads at Amazon and I thot I could lock them together and block on the dining room table. But elementary arithmetic proved me wrong. The blocking pads are each a foot square, nine in the set. Or you can get three more, in an extension set. But the shawl, it says, will be 46” square. Last time it was markedly smaller, but (a) this time I inadvertently left out an important decrease round; and (b) even if smaller, it will probably be more than 36” per side.


I watched the Cocoknits episode of Fruity Knitting – I had seen it before. I found that copies of the book are available on Abebooks, so I ordered one from there. Blackwell’s has it, but in German. Andrea asked in the sound-interview I mentioned yesterday, how the Cocoknits system compared with Asa Tricosa’s “Ziggurats”?  (I’m not going to check the spelling of any of those words.) But she drew a blank – Julie hadn’t heard of it. I’ve got that book, and it will be interesting to compare.




I’ve finished a fairly hasty run-through of “Spoon-Fed”. It’s enough to put you off food altogether.


And have returned to Jane Austen. What a fascinating story. I’m reading about the years after she wrote (but hasn’t, so far, published) the first three books: Northanger Abbey, P&P, and Sense and Sensibility. The family has left the pleasant vicarage where they grew up and are wandering about the south coast, Jane presumably carrying the three manuscripts with her.


Tamar and Shandy, it would have been absolutely fascinating to see the cast of a dramatized Mansfield Park, acting “Lovers’ Vows”. I’ve got a copy, but have never got beyond the first few pages. It’s not short, and it’s pretty boring.


Friday night has come round again, and I must read some Pirandello.

Thursday, January 28, 2021


2511 steps so far today. Back in action. One circuit of the garden with Helen. 


And I’m two scallops advanced along the edging of the third side of Gudrun’s hap.


A Fruity Knitting patrons’ invitation turned up for an interview with Julie Weisenberger, about her top-down sweater-knitting system called Cocoknits. Andrea was justifiably proud for having managed the technical setup all by herself. I was puzzled because I don’t remember the episode of Fruity Knitting itself in which Julie appears. I’ve looked it up – it was the penultimate normal episode. Maybe I’ll try watching it. lists her book only in German.


Here’s Bernie Sanders. I think, after all, he’s crocheted – but we’ll forgive him that. He's very clever, and he's wearing the mittens!




I moved sideways today, and started reading Tim Spector’s “Spoon-Fed”. It’s very much the same thing as the book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which I bought recently, except more scientific because Spector is an academic doctor, specialising in the microbiome; and there are no recipes. The basic ideas are that a lot of what we think we know about nutrition is wrong, and that people are individuals who respond differently to the same food.


Hugh makes it sound as if I have to give up sugar-free bitter lemon because of all the horrible things in it. Spector, I think, will let me drink it as long as I don’t expect to lose weight thereby. My son James gave up beer (and with it, all alcohol) when he found that he couldn’t comfortably stay within the (severe) government limits. (He is a Type 1 diabetic, as I keep saying, and has the good sense to take good care of himself.) He runs, and he looks very fit, and he drinks a lot of Diet Coke.


I think there’s no doubt that my dry January has done me good. I’m going to try various low-cider systems in February. The Calcutta Cup rugby match will be played (in London; no spectators) on the first Saturday of February. I might as well stay dry until then, to start things off.  But such ambitions are impossible if I’m not allowed bitter lemon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021


I thought this morning that maybe I was  “feeling tired” which is one of the possible side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the leaflet they gave me, and Helen had a busy morning anyway so we would have had to zip around the garden fast, and as a result we stayed in. I’ve done 941 steps, which at least provides us with a baseline for days on which I do nothing but shuffle about and cook a simple lunch. My arm feels perfectly normal, to such an extent that I wonder whether I’ve had a vaccine at all.


I did a bit more knitting. Only one scallop to go before the edging of Gudrun’s hap goes around its second corner.


James rang up. No news, really. His wife Cathy is thoroughly recovered from her second does of COVID. Neither has been vaccinated yet – he a type 1 diabetic, she asthmatic. He’s enjoying working from home – and he couldn’t go to China anyway, in the circumstances. He has never been away so long, in his adult life. Their younger daughter Kirsty is at home, pursuing her Oxford career digitally. It’s rotten luck, for her and thousands of others. She worked so hard to get there – and now university is a laptop in the bedroom.




I’ve gone on with Tomalin on Austen. She has done a wonderful job of conjuring up the extended family and the village, to the extent that you scarcely miss direct information about Jane in the early chapters. I have given up trying to keep the characters straight. All the men in the family are named Edward, and the women either Jane or Elizabeth.


I like the idea of your book group, Mary Lou. I suppose we have something like that here.


I didn’t try to listen to “Mansfield Park”, Shandy, partly for not knowing how to reach Radio 4 Extra on my radio – but I suppose I could have managed that; mostly for preferring it as it plays in my head. Thank you very much for the thought. How was it?

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


All well. I found myself very old-lady-agitated, when it came to the point, about the prospect of going out to an appointment. Any appointment – I think getting to a theatre for the start of a movie would have had the same effect. I can’t remember the last time I did that. All went well. I’ve seen pictures on the news of oldies queuing in the rain, but we didn’t have that (except for the rain). I wish Helen could have come in and taken a picture of the Actual Moment – but here I am, at least, emerging. It was the Astra Zeneca vaccine, and they will call me back for a second dose one day. It won’t make any difference to my daily life, but after a couple of weeks I will begin to feel slightly less frightened:


2690 steps so far today. Not bad. Archie and I got once around the garden this morning.


The sourdough turned out fine. I gave Helen half.


And I’ve now done 12 ½ scallops on the second side of Gudrun’s hap.




I’m continuing to enjoy Tomalin on Jane Austen – and was very happy to discover today that some of her contemporaries shared my difficulty with the spelling of her surname.

Monday, January 25, 2021


2421 steps. Helen and I got around the garden once -- it was very cold and there was some ice underfoot. I’ve done a bit of indoor walking since.


Today’s news is that I have registered to vote. Scotland extends the franchise to all residents (thinking ahead to independence, perhaps). I can’t vote for the parliament at Westminster, obviously, but there is certainly one and there are quite likely two important Scottish elections looming: the Scottish parliament in May, and IndyRef2 not long thereafter, if the National Party gets its way.


And Gudrun’s hap moves forward. I’ve now done 10 ½ scallops of the edging on the second side – another four points for the sidebar.


Thank you very much for all your help with Bernie Sanders’ mittens. Pam even sent me a picture of a whole knitted Bernie Sanders. I’ll ask her if it’s all right to post it here.


And tomorrow, insh’Allah, I’ll get vaccinated.




Here’s a picture of wee Hamish in the tee shirt I got for his Christmas  – “I survived 2020 Never Again”. It would have been funny if it had arrived in time, but it didn’t. By now, 2021 seems, if anything, worse:

At least it seems to fit.


I’ve been making sourdough today, to go in the oven first thing tomorrow. It feels oddly heavy: I haven’t got great hopes for it.


I’m revving up for another batch of kimchi, when my Tesco order arrives on Saturday. They’ve got mooli’s and Asian pears, as well as Chinese cabbage.


Edinburgh’s great department store (every city has got one – or used to) is closing, after 183 years. It’s depressing news. When we were first in Edinburgh, in the mid-nineties, they had an excellent yarn department on the ground floor and I often dropped by for some stash enhancement when I happened to be passing. Then they moved yarn to the very top of the shop. The building is owned by Anders Holch Polvsen, the Danish multi-millionaire who owns a great deal of Scotland.




I finished “What to Look For in Winter” at last, and have moved on seamlessly to Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen. It’s first rate. For all my grumbling, I find I miss McWilliams’ voice now that she’s gone.

Sunday, January 24, 2021


3157 steps – more than I expected when I flipped the phone open just now. The best day, indeed, since I embarked on this caper. C. came, and we got around the garden twice. It was very cold – the setts on the less-used street rather slippy – but sunny. The snowdrops and the daffodils stand up splendidly to the cold, the daffys not yet blooming but with buds. They just stand there patiently while the cold lasts, and then resume springtime. The hellebores, on the other hand, are looking rather the worse for wear.


And I’ve done 6 ½ scallops on the second side of Gudrun’s hap. I am beginning to toy with the idea of blocking it myself. I’ll be fine crawling around on the floor – the difficulty comes when I try to stand up again. But if I pick a morning when Daniela is here…


Mary Lou, ah! yes – you misunderstood me. That is precisely what I was thinking – the body and sleeves of the Polliwog in a self stripe, and the yoke solid. The trouble is, I don’t have a sock-weight solid, and when one starts looking for one, the temptation arises to buy both.


And, yes, you did indeed send me the overlap pullover which I’m sure I knit for some great-grandchild or great-nephew, but I can’t remember which. I had forgotten that it is written for sock yarn. (That one is in Mary Lou’s Ravelry store, and is well worth having a look at if you want a baby sweater that can be put on easily; no small matter.) (The same is true of the Polliwog.)


My sister sent me a link to what may have been an interesting article in the Times about Bernie Sanders’ mittens. I already knew that they had attracted some attention at the Inauguration. But the Times says I’ve had enough freebies this month. Where can I see them on social media?




I am lurching on with “What To Look for in Winter”. Shandy and Jenny, many thanks indeed for the pointers to Tomalin and to Worsley, on Jane Austen. I think I thought that biography wasn’t of much use, since her sister Cassandra destroyed those letters. (What a loss!) But you have inspired me to have a look.

Saturday, January 23, 2021


2309 steps today – not the best, but could be worse. I did succeed in getting up to 3000 yesterday, for the first time since my step-counting began. 


And I found “Drop Dead Easy Knits”, so that wasn’t too bad. I had gone ahead and bought the Kindle edition. It’s very cheap – you won’t profit much by my extravagance, Mary Lou. I’m not getting very far with the question of what yarn to use. The sock yarns in stash are all self-stripers. The little sweater wants two colours. You can see the problem, and can also imagine the temptation when one starts looking at LYS’s and their websites.


I’ve now done four and one-half scallops on the second edge of Gudrun’s hap – the target is 16 ½ per side, since I omitted that decrease round.




I continue to shuffle forward with “What to Look for in Winter” but am not sure I’m going to finish it.


“Mansfield Park”: I suppose Mr Yates and Julia could be considered a love match, although they are whisked off-stage without a single scene to gratify the reader. Perhaps the real story of the book is Henry Crawford, Maria, and Fanny, and once that’s over the author has to tie things up somehow, not entirely satisfactorily. The scenes in Portsmouth, when Fanny is living with her blood-family, are extraordinary, as you said, Shandy. There’s nothing else remotely like it in Austen, is there? I don’t think I knew she was a parson’s daughter. That would certainly – extrapolating from Trollope, some decades later – provide her with opportunity to observe ill-managed households.


Mary Lou, thank you very much for that link, which I will soon try to follow.

Friday, January 22, 2021


It was cold today, but a brief thaw yesterday afternoon had cleared the pavements. C. came, and we walked twice around the garden. I wasn’t quite as flattened by the experience as the last time I tried it. So: 2803 steps. Am I peppy enough to get it up to 3000 before I lie down? We’ll see.


I think (alas) there’s no doubt that I am (marginally) stronger without cider. The Calcutta Cup (England v. Scotland at rugby) will be played-for on February 6. I might as well extend dry January until then.


The hap progressed well, too. Due to accidentally missing out a Decrease Round, I now have 16 ½ scallops to do per side, instead of 14. But even by that increased measure, I’ve done the first side. I plucked “Drop Dead Easy Knits” from the shelf the other day, in order to begin thinking about yarn for the Pollywog, and now I can’t find it. Couldn’t be far away.




McWilliams’ “What to Look for in Winter” is getting a bit wordy towards the end. I’m doing a bit of speed-reading. Where to go next?


Here’s another thought about “Mansfield Park”, hoping you’re still there, Shandy. There’s lots of love in it, and we are in no doubt about the feelings of the characters, even – or especially – in the cases where the author doesn’t spell it out. The characters themselves are almost equally aware – Julia and Maria, in particular, each know that the other is keen on Henry Crawford, and Henry knows it too. But nobody ever suspects that Fanny loves Edmund, not even Edmund himself.

Tamar, your interesting comment arrived just as I was packing up and going to get my supper. It deserves thought. I'll address it tomorrow.



Thursday, January 21, 2021


1706 steps so far today. It snowed in the night, and looked icy and treacherous this morning, so I have been walking in the house, and it seems to take longer. I’ll keep at it, however, until I reach at least 2000.


The knitting of edging onto Gudrun’s hap seemed to continue well, until….


I saw the marker for the first corner creeping into view, and so I counted the remaining stitches between me and it. There were far too many. I went back to the border chart, multiplied the 18 stitches of the pattern repeat by 6 (because that’s how often it was repeated, at the end) and counted the squares at either end of the repeats and added the 24 stitches thus obtained. The answer coincided with the number of stitches in fact present. So, why…


When I finished knitting the borders, I turned back in the pattern to the section called Edging. The pattern is written out line by line, as well as being available on a chart, so there is a certain amount of to’ing and fro’ing. This morning, turning it back and forth in bewilderment, I discovered a paragraph, at the end of the written instructions, called Decrease rnd. I should have removed 20 stitches per side: that’s quite a few. Two and a half scallops.


I have decided to forge ahead. Here is a slightly blurry picture of a section of edging. It looks acceptable. I’ve got an abundance of yarn, for some reason. There’ll still be plenty for a parental hat, even with an extra 80 stitches to eliminate. And I remember that last time I was slightly disappointed with the smallness of the shawl, despite vigorous blocking. This might help.


And here is a picture of Perdita, sleeping on the Evandoon on the adjacent chair. I shouldn’t have let her do that.


So that was today’s excitement.


There was a message today from Arne and Carlos. Carlos is in a lung hospital being treated for “long Covid”. It sounds incredibly luxurious – four delicious meals a day and (in normal circumstances; not now) a swimming pool. All free, part of Norwegian health care. He thinks he’s getting better. Some of us have been worrying about their finances, but Carlos says that they are fine and that we should send any such money to Andrew and Andrea. That was a generous thought, on his part.




My sister and her husband, in Maryland just outside DC, have vaccination appts for the 30th. Pfizer. Rachel says her arm is slightly sore, after having hers yesterday.


I think I’m a bit sceptical about whether vaccination is going to make any difference. But surely we should know soon. The vaccine is being given to the most vulnerable – that is, to those statistically most likely to need hospitalisation, and to die. So if vaccination “works”, those numbers should start going down fairly steeply within a month or so. Shouldn’t they? Hospitals here are getting pretty desperate.




I enjoyed Nabokov on “Mansfield Park”. I’ll read the beginning and the end essays, as you suggest, Kristen. Shandy, I think an episode of great importance, often overlooked, is the way Mary Crawford, believing – because he told her so – that her brother Henry is trying to get Fanny in love with him as an adventure to amuse himself; and knowing Fanny well for the timid and retiring soul she is; nevertheless encourages Fanny to take Henry seriously. She is what I think can be called a traitor to her sex. Maybe it’s even Jane Austen’s fault for not underlining Mary's wickedness a bit more.


I’ve been reading Dante today, to steal a march on Saturday’s lesson.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


Exciting news: my GP’s practice nurse rang up today with my vaccination appointment – next Tuesday afternoon. It will be the Astra Zeneca one, I am sure. Rachel, in London, had Pfizer.


1833 steps so far today. I’ll pass 2000 by bedtime, but not by much. I reached 2500 yesterday.


I’m in the saddle with my hap edging – eight done so far (of the 14 needed for the first side), without disaster. That means I can add four to the progress bar n the right. I remain profoundly anxious about the possibility of mind-wandering, and am, on the whole, only sitting down to do one at a time. Or maybe two. 

Mary Lou, that is a good idea about contacting Kathy’s Knits to find someone who will block it for a fee. I’m not worried about squaring up to measurements, but I do want every individual point to have its pin or blocking wire.


I used to have blocking wires but didn’t get on well with them, and gave them to a friend.


I’ve stopped worrying about income tax, too. Alexander found a link on the HMRC website to a page called “Check if you need to send a Self Assessment tax return”. I did check, and it said I didn’t need to. They know where I live. They wrote to me when my husband died, and they send me a Tax Code every year. I think they would have sent a letter if they wanted a tax return. I will give serious thought, however, to finding a congenial accountant to help before this time next year.




I see that Amazon will sell me Nabokov’s “Lectures in Literature”. I think I must get it, for Mansfield’s Park’s sake. I don’t forget having read that one. Thank you, Kirsten. Lady Bertram is indeed a magnificent study in doing nothing.


I’m still reading McWilliams, still enjoying it, although it is sad. She lives near here, and is said to have expressed admiration for the plants on my doorstep during one of her early-morning walks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021


2207 steps, so far today. A bit dim, by recent standards.


Progress, however, with the hap. You will remember that I left you yesterday with a large, unwanted hole in the second scallop. I started off today, in the bright sunshine, carefully tinking – but it never came right, and I wound up frogging the lot and starting again, from the beginning -- for the fourth time, I think. This time I’ve got it (at least reasonably) straight, and have done four scallops. I might hope for a couple more this evening. There are 14 per side – and since I still have the corner markers in place, I’ll be able to juggle a bit if necessary. The pattern is awfully easy, and now that I have mastered it (I hope), the danger will lie in the wandering of attention. And it’s too late to resort to frogging.


Tamar, that’s a brilliant idea, to knit a hat for a parent in the left-over shawl colours. When the shawl is finished (how am I to manage the blocking?) I must go straight on to the Pollywog for the other baby – they are due almost simultaneously, in May. But there may still be time for a hat, if things continue to go forward as they seem to be doing at the moment.


 I’ve spent much of today worrying about income tax. Do I have to file a return? They haven’t got in touch to tell me so. (Much tax is deducted from my pension before it ever reaches me.) (Maybe that’s enough.) Still, I’ve now got the bit between my teeth. I’ll continue calculating and worrying tomorrow. The relative clear-headedness of Dry January is probably an asset.

Today's big news, however, is neither hap nor income tax: Rachel is to be vaccinated tomorrow! She works at Kings College Hospital, although not in a medical capacity and not anywhere near patients. It sounds from her account as if there are some doses left over somewhere which are being prudently used up. There's still no further news from my GP.




I’ve gone forward with McWilliam’s “What to Look For in Winter”. It’s a curious and unusual autobiography. She is a novelist. Maybe I ought to have a look at some of her other books. She is clearly a curious and unusual woman.

Monday, January 18, 2021


2477 steps – not bad.


And I’ve finished the borders on Gudrun’s hap, and started on the edging. It is as simple an edging as it is possible to conceive, and I’m having a terrible time with it. I got the first scallop done, finally, on the fourth attempt, and have just seen a huge hole where a hole shouldn’t be, in the second. Maybe I’ve knit enough for today.


I’m going to have lots of yarn left over. It’s a pity it’s hand-wash-only. It would be fun to knit the other baby’s Polliwog (Mary Lou’s pattern, in “Drop Dead Easy Knits”) in the same yarn. They’ll be first cousins. The Polliwog wants sport weight yarn. I think what I did last time was to use sock yarn, for washability; stitch numbers for the largest size; and measurements for the smallest. It worked out surprisingly well.


I had a nice Zoomtime with my sister this morning.




I’m enjoying Candia McWilliam’s “What to Look For in Winter”. There’s much sadness in it, though. She has a strange affliction which renders her almost blind – not that her eyes can’t see, but that she can’t open them properly. She’s two years older than my Rachel – not what you’d call old. I don’t know how I could have forgotten the book so completely. Our house is mentioned in it, and people I know. Perhaps when I made that list some time ago of my 10 favourite books, they were chosen because they were the only ones I could actually remember having read.


Thank you for your remarks about Madeline Stanhope (in “Barchester Towers”), Shandy. I wouldn’t call that remarkable passage about her child “racist” – the little girl’s only offence is to be half-Italian. The author’s hostility is directed at whoever – presumably Madeline – dressed her up in such ridiculous clothes. You are right to contrast that scene with Eleanor’s constant cuddling of her baby. I wonder if they took him along on the honeymoon – Trollope doesn’t tell us that.


I’m glad we’ve driven you to “The Way We Live Now”, Janet. That’s a good one.

Sunday, January 17, 2021


2735 steps so far today – not too bad. Only one circuit of the garden, but a certain amount of pottering around in the kitchen. And I’ve reached round 47 (of 50) of the borders of Gudrun’s hap. If I can do a bit more this evening, I might be able to finish the borders tomorrow. I’ve been doing better at post-blog evening knitting since embarking on my Dry January.


A propos of which:  (a) the man who delivered my Tesco order today expressed polite surprise that it contained no cider. (Oh, dear!) And (b) my sister and her husband are doing Dry January too, but have promised themselves a glass of champagne late on Wednesday afternoon, if all has gone well. Seems reasonable. We’re going to meet by Zoom tomorrow.


Scottish doctors have complained collectively about patchy and unreliable supplies of vaccine. They can’t assign appointments and send out letters if they don’t know whether they’ll have the stuff.




Despite the activities chronicled above, I spent much of today huddled over my iPad, and have finished the re-read of “Barchester Towers”. I enjoyed the passage you mention, Shandy, where ivy reappears – not so much ivy, indeed, as plants that rely on each other. Tropeolum speciosum climbing through rhododendrons, for instance, although Trollope doesn’t mention that one.


I’m not going to be able to say anything about Madeline Stanhope, I’m afraid, because I simply don’t believe in her. Off hand, I don’t think there’s another character anywhere in Trollope of whom that’s true. We never see her off-stage, talking to her family. I wouldn’t want to have missed her appearance at Mrs Proudie’s reception, early on. But even that doesn’t really help.


So I’m about to embark on Candia McWilliam’s “What to Look For in Winter”, as mentioned a couple of days ago. Sure enough, there it was in my Kindle archive.

Saturday, January 16, 2021


General gloom.


Not here, so much. It was a lovely, sunny day. Helen came, and we got around the garden twice, and my step count, as a result, stands at 3052 and I haven’t even gone to bed yet. I’m knitting round 44 of the 50 border rounds of Gudrun’s hap. The next round will be the final pattern round and then I can take out all those markers.


No, I am gloomy because my favourite columnist, Melanie Reid, who is quadriplegic after falling from her horse, has abandoned for a moment her usual cheerful cynicism and confessed in this morning’s Times how frightened she is. What if her carer gets Covid-19? Or her husband? Or what if she gets it herself? – paralysis requires specialist nursing to avoid bedsores. (My parallel anxieties are: what if I have a heart attack? or a stroke? or a bad fall? now that hospitals are choc-a-bloc.)


And then came the promised report on Andrew Doig’s health. He’s Andrew, as in Andrew and Andrea. You probably know already. He got a lot worse around Christmas. The best that doctors could offer – and I suspect German doctors are rather good – was treatment which would prolong life by a few months. So Andrea picked him up and drove him to a clinic in the Black Forest where they are free to use treatments that haven’t been approved and released on the world. (She has been doing a lot of research into possibilities, in the last few months.) She is staying there too, and helping to nurse him. It’s very expensive. She appealed to us for funds.


Hence, gloom.




Helen is reading Candia McWilliam’s autobiography “What to Look for in Winter”. (What a good title!) I thought I had read it, but none of the passages Helen described sounded familiar. I checked with Amazon, and sure enough I bought it for my Kindle a few years ago. So I think I’ll go there when I finish “Barchester Towers”. I’m increasingly inclined to agree with you, Shandy: Charlotte Stanhope is a bit of a Mary Crawford (from “Mansfield Park”) although I still hope she will prove to be less of a villainess.

Friday, January 15, 2021


It has been a feeble day on the walking front – 1975 steps so far.


Better for knitting, though. I’m most of the way around round 41 (of 50) on the borders of Gudrun’s hap. I’ve done the penultimate pattern round. It’ll take a long time to knit the edging on, but that’s a job I particularly enjoy.




The doctor’s website now says that tomorrow’s vaccination session is for the mobile over-90’s. That lets me out. The implication is that he didn’t get as much vaccine as he expected.


Here’s a funny thing: last Thursday, which is “food day” in the Times, they printed a recipe for curing your own bacon, and one for making kimchi. The latter was by a chef I particularly admire, Skye Gyngell. There were also two articles, one by a man who had had great fun and great success curing his own bacon, and one by a woman whose kimchi had been a disaster – “too spicy, too sour, too fishy.” She threw it away.


Gyngell says that her kimchi recipe is “the most authentic and nicest I have come across”. “Nice” is a matter of taste, but I wouldn’t call it “authentic”. No gochugaru chili powder, no radish. (Mooli is usually specified; when I can’t get that, I get ordinary radishes and laboriously slice them.) And she includes half a cup of cooked white rice. The traditional approach is to make a porridge with rice flour. My own kimchi is based on Brad Leone’s recipe on YouTube, but I’ve looked at many others, including several posted by Koreans; and have consulted several books.


But what was funny, was to print the recipe alongside so hostile a review.


I’m getting low on kimchi. It will soon be time to make more.




I’ve moved forward in “Barchester Towers”. I don’t see androgyny in Charlotte Stanhope, Shandy. The author needs someone to hold the Stanhopes together, since the mother and the other daughter are useless, and he has created an admirable woman whose company one enjoys, so to speak, even though she lives mostly in the background. The Signora will need several paragraphs to herself at some point. I doubt if there is another woman remotely comparable anywhere in Trollope.

Thursday, January 14, 2021


2377 steps. I should be able to reach 2500 before I go to bed. Yesterday I got to 3000 – and you may well be right, Janet, that I was pushing too hard. Thank you for that thoughtful comment. Mary Lou, no, I don’t think all this measured walking is improving my energy – but cider-less-ness might be.


I’ve reached round 35 of the borders of Gudrun’s hap. No. 33 was a pattern round, and it was indeed fun to have all those markers in place. I found an extra stitch at one point. I made sure that it hadn’t crept in under the marker from one side or the other. It hadn't, so I just got rid of it. In lace, as in Fair Isle, one is guided by the row below and that’s almost impossible with feather-and-fan. (or Old Shale, if you prefer.) There are five plain rounds in between each pattern round and it’s very difficult to “read” precisely what happened where, last time. I don’t think garter stitch makes it any easier, either. But markers work. There are now only two more pattern rows between me and the end, but there are a lot of stitches and progress is slow.


I got some indoor steps on the scoreboard today by putting away knitting books which have been piling up around the computer. Sometimes I bring new books in here to tell you about them, and never get around to finding a place for them. Sometimes I bring old faves in, to illustrate some point or other, and don’t put them away. So that was a good job done. And I found Hoxbro on Danish night shirts (see yesterday).


Shandy, I pressed on a bit with “Barchester Towers” and now I’ve got women all over the place: the Stanhope girls, Eleanor’s sister Mrs Grantly, the inimitable Mrs Proudie, Mary Bold in the background. I agree that Eleanor scarcely deserves to be described with the ivy simile. Mrs Ray, on the other hand, Rachel’s mother, also a widow, was a great one for taking advice from the most recent person to have offered it to her and indeed drives the plot forward by doing so.


Coronavirus news continues grim (and the doctor’s website continues to say that he “expects” to receive vaccine today). I feel increasingly gloomy about prospects for our cruise in May.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021


Helen came, and we got around the garden twice. It has left me feeling as if I had run a half-marathon. We probably ought to do it more often, when my caretakers can spare the time. 2781 steps today so far.


I’m half way around round 32 (of 50) on the borders of Gudrun’s hap. 33 is a pattern round, on which I will be able to reap the benefit of all those markers.


Fruity Knitting turned up, with an episode which was published om Christmas Eve. How did I miss it? Presumably for assuming it was one of those voice-only q&a sessions with a famous designer, for patrons. I thought Andrew looked a bit better, more colour. His voice is still funny, though (and he’s not doing any knitting). We are promised a bulletin on his health soon.


The main attraction was an interview with Vivien Hoxbro about her book about Danish night shirts. (I’ve got it, I feel sure, but – as so often – can’t find it.) It’s an interesting subject, and there are some lovely designs, all knits and purls.


I was sorry to see that Amy Herzog is giving up her on-line Custom Fit business. She says it no longer pays, and she’s doing lots of other things. I think I’ve got a book of hers, too.




I have no trouble with the ones which are just throwing bait onto the water to see if any of us fish will come up and take it. Alexander has taught me never to respond to a recorded message. Occasionally those are OK and in that case they will get back to me, one way or another. The ones from “the bank” which were trying to rob me of my life savings, were more upsetting. (It happened twice.) A man was talking to me, pretending to be concerned to protect my money.




I’ve gone back to “Barchester Towers” as you suggested, Shandy. It’s a comfort to be there, all right. The only thing I’ve got to say about women, so far, is that Eleanor Bold nee Harding has a lot in common with Mrs. Ray, Rachel’s mother – a woman who needs someone to cling to like ivy.




I think I’ve decided not to worry about vaccination. Lot’s of people my age have been done already, lots of others haven’t, I’m pretty sure they’ll get to me as soon as they can. The NHS uses date-of-birth as an identifier so much that I can be sure my doctor has xxxx3x attached to my name, and the most slow-witted computer will find me when it looks for over-85’s.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021


Thank you for your kind and helpful messages about scams. I’ve had them before, of course. Did I write here about the one? – it must have been more than a year ago, now – when I came closer than I care to remember to falling for one of the classic ones, where they ring you up and say they’re “the bank” and that there is suspicious activity on tour account and you need to move your funds into a new account – in your name, of course.There were details in that one – Waitrose was mentioned, where I often used to shop – that might have been luck or might have meant they were watching. It was like finding rats in the larder.


Since then, my bank has put a lot of warnings up around on-line banking. I can’t pay the simplest bill without ticking boxes to say that the payee is trustworthy and that I reeely reeely reeely want to pay the bill.


But I think what really upset me last night, was when my messages to Alexander and Ketki were blocked. Emails occasionally bounce, of course, for one reason or another, but I don’t think I’ve ever had one “blocked” before. Now calmer, and thinking about it, I think the only explanation is that Googlemail has an algorithm good enough to spot the scam (which I quoted in full, for Alexander to give an opinion on). Since then, other messages have gone through, in both directions. So good for Googlemail. And that probably explains why the scams came as text messages on the phone, rather than emails.


Anyway, knitting. Here is my hap, now festooned with markers. They’re a nuisance, all right, but not nearly as much of a nuisance as unpicking a whole side.


I have reached round 29, of 50. (And I’ve taken 2441 steps.)


Archie came. It was a beautiful, cold, sunlit day. We walked around the garden. But more importantly, he stopped at the top of Broughton Street and bought me some fish. The shop has been shut for a fortnight – not surprising: the boats don’t go out much, between Christmas and the New Year, and for a few days following. But the shop was thoroughly shut, with no notice in the window, and we (Helen and I) feared the worst. Many a small shop has gone down, in these dreadful days. But not Mr. Bee. He came back. I had some tasty haddock for my lunch, a recipe of Hugh F-W’s from my new book. A glimmer of light, on a dark day.


I haven’t had a letter from the dr yet, about my vaccination. I don’t like the pictures I’ve seen of old folks queueing. For several reasons. The dr’s website says not to come without an appointment (so that’s good), and not to phone. I would be happier, I think, if it didn’t say that mobile over-85’s will be done this coming Saturday. What shall I do (if anything), if I haven’t heard by Thursday?