Sunday, February 28, 2021


All well. C. came, fresh from her vaccination, and we got twice around the garden. It’s remarkable how much has happened, in 48 hours, this time of year – daffodils now in bloom, and crocuses (I hadn’t noticed them before), and the wild garlic coming along nicely. And little girls having a picnic with their dolls. The step count stands at 3381. I can begin to think of hitting 5000.


I’ve measured the Polliwog, clumsily. The circumference seems right for the smallest size (which is what I’m aiming at).


Life, Reading


Janet, I envy you your assisted living community. It isn’t really the same here. We have apartments designed for the elderly, with help on call. But (in most cases) no restaurant, no gym, no common activities. I would have liked to have something like the American system on my Possibles List when my husband died. My mother lived in one. My sister and her husband are in another.


Leaving one’s books behind would be distressing. Getting the place tidied up, instead of leaving that task for one’s heirs, would, on the other hand, be a great relief. Despite Kirsten’s justified criticisms of the Kindle, I find it a tremendous help in reducing clutter. It does happen – it did, just the other day – that I read something I want to pass on, and then I have to bite the bullet and order a physical copy. But meanwhile books are not piling up here beyond the capacity of shelves to hold them. As I’ve said, knitting books and cookery are still purchased in hard copy only – and that fact rather restricts my buying.

Wales won the rugby yesterday


Saturday, February 27, 2021


Oh, Mary Lou, thank you! How could I have forgotten a point so important? I have marked the correction in the book – it won’t happen again. I’m now knitting the 10th stripe. Tomorrow it will be time to measure and calculate. And perhaps photograph.


I’ve been watching the rugby, and it is quite an interesting match, but I am finding it difficult to whip up any enthusiasm. They are playing in an empty stadium, with an overlay of phoney crowd noise. I’m glad we didn’t have that for the Calcutta Cup.


A nice day today, but I felt completely flattened after my Italian lesson and have scarcely moved – 578 steps. Helen was here and tried in vain to persuade me to bestir myself. C. tomorrow.




I must finish Fontamara, but the end is in sight.


The weekend FT has an interesting article about the “big houses” in Ireland belonging to the Protestant ascendency. Many were burnt down; some that remain have become boutique hotels. But the article mentions several writers who used them for settings, a genre I much enjoy. Molly Keane, top of the list. William Trevor – I’ve read a lot of him, but I don’t think I know the one they mention, “Fools of Fortune”. JG Farrell, “Troubles”. John Banville, “Snow”. Elizabeth Bowen. Edith Somerville. Much to investigate.


A nearby friend says that electrical work is going on in the vicinity, and that various oddities have affected her supply. Could that be what tripped my fuse? It's a comforting thought, anyway.

Friday, February 26, 2021


All is well – it has been a delightful spring day. C. and I got once around the garden. She is going to be vaccinated tomorrow! 2387 steps – could be worse, by my feeble standards.


Helen has a major mosaic commission, which is to be executed largely here because I’ve got so much unused space and her studio isn’t up to it. So today she was here with a mosaic-making colleague who has been employed to help. Even Archie, I think, is to be paid for cutting tesserae, when we get to that stage. And it will be very nice for me to have these people about.


I have spent much of the day (knitting and) listening to Mr Salmond testifying. It will be interesting to hear the news, in half an hour, and discover how a professional distils all that. Essentially his plan was (I think) to enrol himself on the side of the committee which was questioning him and against the Scottish government. He didn’t involve Mrs Sturgeon in particular any more than he had to.


Much of it was, to me, obscure to the point of incomprehensibility, but it was interesting because everybody on-screen cared so much. In my teaching career, I always rather enjoyed invigilating GCSE exams, because they were so important to everybody. The room crackled with it.


The Polliwog progresses. The current instruction, alternating three-row stripes of main colour and contrast colour, is to proceed until I have knit 17 (small size) or 20 (large size) of each. I’ll soon be able to photograph it for you.




Still no reading to speak of, and no Italian composition despite good resolutions.


Joe and Tamar – I realised after I had restored the fuse yesterday, that I should have first ascertained whether the washing machine was involved. It had finished its lengthy cycle – surely if it was responsible, the fuse would have blown while it was labouring on? I worried for quite a while about whether my beloved electric Aga could have quietly expired. It retains heat, and it would have taken quite a while for failure to be obvious. But it’s fine. I haven’t run the washing machine again since, nor has any disaster manifested itself today.


Rugby tomorrow. Rachel and Ed’s youngest, Lizzie, is locked down with them, with her boyfriend Dan. He had hoped to go home for Christmas – there’s an infant nephew or niece he hasn’t met yet. He assumed then (as we all tend to do) that everything would be back to normal by February – but no, he’s still locked down with Rachel and Ed and Lizzie this weekend, for his 30th birthday. All he wants, Rachel says, is for England to beat Wales. I’ll try, for Dan’s sake, but I find it awfully difficult to cheer for England. Them in their white suits.

Thursday, February 25, 2021


A pleasant day. 3177 steps – and Helen and I only got once around the garden. The rest must have been me pacing anxiously up and down the hall to look at the washing machine in action. It did fine, except that, on the basic cycle we chose – it was called “cottons” – it took a long time. I think, studying the book, that that was something to do with “eco”-ness. There is an alternative cycle, much quicker, which uses more power. But the load for that has to be lighter in weight, as well. It might be better to stick with basic and prolonged.


Helen likes the Evendoon.


So that’s that done. (Her dog is named Farouk. He is a gentle soul, who pays no attention to cats. Perdita reciprocates by paying no attention to him. Paradox has the vapours.)


And I moved forward nicely with the Polliwog. The initial ribbing is done. After a single increase row, the body is done in peaceful st st up to the armholes, on a circular needle. After that, front and back will be separated (i.e., no steeking). To make it even more peaceful, three-row stripes alternate in the two colours. I think my odd colours are going to work well enough. And I feel an initial satisfaction with the size. I am suspended between being afraid that it will be too small, because the yarn is so fine; and too big, because I have cast on enough stitches for the 2-year-old size. The result seems to be that I am sailing forward unworried.


A major fuse failed today. I have a modern fuse box – my nice electrician got tired of being called out to replace them – and it was easily put right. But why did it happen? It was a bright day – no lights were on, and at first I didn’t grasp what had happened. I thought my computer – which is not new – had perished; I was half-way to choosing a new one.


I had a new scam today – a text message from a bank to say that “A new device has attempted to add payee MR H MOHAMMED”.  Fortunately it came from a bank where I don’t have an account, so I don’t need to waste time worrying.


I understand that the rugby match between Scotland and France has been postponed, because there have been some cases of COVID on the French team. Alas. That leaves Wales against England, which could be interesting. (And, by elimination, Ireland against Italy. Italy always loses.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


“A degree in applianceship” – Chloe, I love it! (Comment yesterday.) I have been afraid of the washing machine all day – and by now, it’s almost too late. I’ll spend some time with the book tonight, and then Daniela and I can tackle it together tomorrow. She’s very bright, although lacking English. I want to be sure she can be trusted not to overload it, so perhaps it’s just as well to face up to it together.


The weather was much subdued today. Archie came again, and we got once around the garden. 2318 steps – back in the saddle.


I finished off the Evendoon (I hope). I won’t sign it off on the sidebar, however, until Helen has given it a nod of approval tomorrow. It’s looking good. And I cast on the Polliwog!


The yarn I am using is meant to be a sock yarn, chosen for washability. It seems finer than the sock yarns I’m used to. But that could be because I haven’t knit socks for a while, and the Evendoon employs Kate Davies’ Schiehallion yarn, which is substantially heavier. (I have to look up the spelling of “Schiehallion” every time I use it.) The Polliwog is written for a heavier-then-sock yarn (as I’ve said before), I'll try to repeat what I did last time, fairly successfully: namely to use the number of stitches required for the largest size, but, guided by the schematic, keep the measurements as near as possible to the smallest. We shall soon see.


My Mindful Chef lunch today – a healthy dal – was really very tasty, going some way to make up for last week’s disaster. No reading to report. I need to get stuck in to something weighty, but meanwhile have an essay on “Fontamara” to write in Italian.


There was no international rugby last weekend, in case anyone was wondering about its absence here. This weekend, Scotland goes to France. That’s usually a good match.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


Stormy, today. Archie came, and we set out for a little walk. The sun was even shining. But we decided after a few steps that it wasn’t a good idea. The wind was blowing so that you had to stop and cling on to the railings. It probably would have been walkable in the garden – it’s fairly sheltered – but first, one had to get there. So we turned back.


And this afternoon, it sounds stormy out there. 1013 steps. The plumber was here most of the morning. Everything looks wonderful, and tomorrow I had better try doing some washing – the instructions go on for pages. The plumbing cost more than the washing machine. It's all Helen's fault.


I had a Zoom meeting this afternoon, holiness, connected with Lent. The trouble with Zoom – one of the troubles with Zoom – is that one frets about it so much in advance that it fills up the whole day.


The knitting progresses. I’m binding off the Evendoon for the second time. Tomorrow should see it done. There won’t even be many ends to deal with. And then, indeed, I hope, a picture of Helen inside it. 


Kirsten, I hope you’ll continue to post your progress with the Osaka Tea Cosy. It’s getting exciting.


Not much reading today: a bit of holiness, a bit of Ovid. Now I'll go listen to the news, which should contain Mrs Sturgeon's views on the end of lockdown: on which depends C.'s and my May 1 cruise.

Monday, February 22, 2021


Another nice day, although not as crystalline as yesterday. Helen and I got only once around the garden, but the step count is 2629. It has been a day of (what passes around here for) event – maybe that upped the count a bit. A plumber came, and can’t get water into the new washing machine without a new valve of some sort; otherwise there isn’t enough pressure. And Mindful Chef delivered some more meals. And a book came in the mail. It doesn’t sound very eventful, when I put it like that.


Boris’s plans for reopening the economy don’t sound very hopeful for our May 1 cruise. And Mrs Sturgeon will certainly want to be stricter than Boris. Our Leader is going to address us this evening.


Knitting went well. I have now reached the ninth round of ribbing on the revised Evendoon. . KD says to do 13. I could add a couple more if I think they’re required when I get that far, but I think it’s going to be about right. Keeping the colour sequence was also right. The extra length transforms the effect, in a good way. I watched Franklin’s latest vlog today – he, too, was doing the ribbing at the bottom of a top-down sweater. That was sort of nice.


Another success today was finding where my cleaner had put the two balls of yarn I had wound for the Polliwog. They weren’t obvious, but I found them.


I think perhaps I’ll have a go at the Forsytes when I finish “Fontamara”.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

 C. came, and we walked twice around the garden on a beautiful spring day. Everything was in bright focus. 2815 steps so far today. I had a good Zoom meeting with my sister at midday. I followed my own advice and made myself some pasta puttanesca this evening, and found it very restorative. Knitting has progressed to the first rounds of (what I hope will prove to be) the final ribbing for the Evendoon.


That pretty well covers things. My sister recommended The Forsyte Saga (Galsworthy). I can remember when the whole nation was transfixed by the television adaptation – it was in the late 60’s, I think, before we (the Mileses) had television. It might well make comforting, slightly sub-Trollope reading.

Beverly (comment yesterday), the problem with Thursday’s Mindful Chef meal was that I found it simply inedible: meant to be a quick meal: tempeh, pre-cooked rice, carrot, red pepper fried up together, soy sauce; kimchi on top (that’s what had attracted me). Tempeh is absolutely tasteless, it turns out. I cut the carrot up small, and left it stir-frying long enough to take away some of the crunch. But the total effect was…well, inedible. And having gone to that much effort, I didn’t feel like doing anything else. A mistake.


The pandemic numbers are going down, here and in the US. C. and I are hopeful that we may actually be allowed to go on the cruise we have booked, sailing May 1. Third time lucky. This is a small-boat cruise, the Majestic Line, sailing from Oban to the upper left-hand corner of Scotland, billed as a “wilderness cruise”. We were booked to go last May, and on a different Majestic Line cruise in October, of more modest dimensions. Neither happened, although in the latter case we got close enough that I ordered some cruise clothes. There’s not much call for them, walking up and down the hall or even round and round the garden. But if we actually sail this time, I might add one or two items.

Saturday, February 20, 2021


Sorry about yesterday. I woke up feeling a bit weaker than usual, and found myself also a bit dizzy as I started to totter about. I cancelled the day’s walk, and also today’s Italian (because of un po’ di capogiro  which may or may not be right) and managed to stay on my feet for the arrival of the washing machine and two other deliveries. The washing machine requires the attention of a plumber who is booked for Monday. It’s a splendid-looking machine all right.


It may have happened because I didn’t eat properly on Thursday. My Mindful Chef package turned out inedible and I didn’t replace it, as I easily might have, with pasta aglio e olio or something along those lines.


Anyway, here I am. Our local French restaurant delivered my order yesterday afternoon. I dined well, and feel much better today. Helen and I walked briskly around the garden in warm, grey spring weather. 1958 steps.


I’ve done a bit more knitting, not much. But the Andrew Marr show tomorrow should at least advance me to the ribbing which will finish off the Evendoon.


No more reading. But I see that Franklin has posted another Vlog. I hope I’ll knit a bit to that this evening.

Thursday, February 18, 2021


Only 1911 steps today – why so? Helen and I got around the garden, and everything else has been as normal. Maybe I can put in a few laps before bed. At the moment I am waiting for the shop to ring up and give me a two-hour slot for the delivery of my new washing machine tomorrow.


There is a certain amount to report on the knitting front. Here is my Evendoon, in the process of being revised. That red stripe at the bottom is half-done, although it doesn’t look it. I think it was two days ago that I posted a picture of the real Evendoon, for comparison.


Great richness in today’s post – the new (in every sense) VK, and the Shetland Wool Week annual with the leg warmer pattern. I will submit the latter to J. for appraisal and comment. It looks OK to me.


There are some good things in VK, not least two designs by the new editor, Norah Gaughan. The level of the articles is rather low, however.




I was interested, and comforted, to hear that we’re all getting the same scam phone calls. Alexander has taught me never to respond to a recorded message. Very occasionally there will be a genuine one, and in that case it will reappear. I think changing passwords here and there might be a good idea, as you suggest. That time I came closer than I care to recall, to losing my life savings, it was a real person, phoning from “the bank”, to tell me my account had been compromised and I needed to move all my money to them at once. I was saved that time by my fondness for reading newspaper articles about Silly Old Fools who have fallen for similar pushes.




I made a start, anyway, with what will be a very short essay on “Fontamara”. Nosenabook, that’s good advice from your high school Spanish: try to think in the new language. Writing is a related discipline.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


A  satisfactory day, except that I’ve had three recorded phone calls, purportedly from Amazon, to say that an Apple iPad has been ordered on my account. I checked, and there is no such item there; and anyway, how do they know Perdita didn’t answer the phone? But it leaves me feeling a bit assailed and anxious.


It was a bright and cheerful day, a bit colder than yesterday. Helen came, and we circled the garden once. 2377 steps.


Lengthening the Evendoon is very pleasant knitting, mindless, with a yarn that runs pleasantly over the fingers. The idea is to put in two more broad rows. (See photograph yesterday.) I’ve done one of them, and the following two-row white stripe. I’ll be ready to re-start the ribbing soon.


Ivy (comment yesterday), if “ochre” means what I think it does, you have used what would be the natural next colour in the sequence for your sign-off. That is a tempting idea. The colour is an awfully good one, and nowhere else in the pattern is the sequence interrupted. I think I’ll try it your way. I can always take it out.




Shandy, I tried to leave a reply for you last night, but as so often, Blogger wouldn’t let me. Yes, indeed, I saw the obituary of Lord McPherson and enjoyed it, and emphatically agree with you about the pleasure afforded by a good obituary of someone comfortably older than oneself.


Joni, Helen also asks sharp questions about cider-drinking. I think I felt slightly stronger during my dry January, and I don’t think I’ve lost ground since then on my new regime: four-days-off, three-days-on. But it should perhaps be noted that I have started walking about the house with a stick. That happened in mid-January. I continue to enjoy pasting virtual stickers onto my app every day (Dry, Drank as Planned, Drank).


Kirsten, Meg offers (or used to) a CD-ROM in which she walks us through the knitting of a Fair Isle Sweater, steeks and all. The pattern is included. I found it useful when I was designing Alexander's most recent Fair Isle vest (seen above). But CD-ROMs are clearly yesterday’s technology.




Still only Fontamara, in which everybody is miserable. I will try to write about it tomorrow (in Italian, for my tutor). My Italian might show signs of improvement, if I did that more often. It’s very hard, which is no doubt why I don’t.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Kirsten, comment yesterday, my answer would be essentially, yes. I feel I ought to be able to point you to a pattern that you could use to guide your steps, but I can’t think of one exactly. Fair Isle is firmer than plain st st, and I think that makes it more important to get gauge right. I did a neckline once on a finished sweater by first basting a line and then simply cutting a v,  but I think the better idea is to steek that, too. I hope somebody else will answer you.


The nasty weather is gone, at least for the moment. Archie came today, and we walked in the garden for the first time in a week, on what amounted to a beautiful spring day. 2211 steps. I felt very feeble, perhaps because he comes later in the morning than my other walkers, and I have already run out of steam. “Maybe it’s the beginning of the final decline,” he said. Who knows?


For knitting, I set about lengthening the Evendoon. Frogging the waist-ribbing wasn’t as easy as I expected. (A further answer to your earlier question, Kirsten, about steeking in general, might be that any pure wool yarn which isn’t machine washable, will be pretty suitable.) Picking up the stitches and proceeding downwards, however, was simplicity itself.


I am, of course, continuing in the pre-set stripe sequence, so that the first stripe I am adding is in the green shade which was previously ribbing. That means that I won’t (also of course) get back to green in time for the final ribbing. After puzzling over this briefly, I decided that the only possible course is to jettison the sequence and finish with black, which will at least match the cuffs.




None, except a bit of “Fontamara” in Italian. I have never seen the film of “Sense and Sensibility”, and clearly must. Apart from anything else, it would help me straighten the characters out. I found them confusing – and just as I felt I was beginning to get to grips with the subject, the author would begin referring to them by their place of residence, a street in London or a village in the country or a country house.


We oughtn’t to leave the subject without mentioning that the first page of “Persuasion” is the best first page in English literature.



Monday, February 15, 2021

 Kirsten: (comment yesterday)  The answer is that Shetland jumper weight – the Fair Isle yarn – is an ideal choice for steeking. It’s famous for being “sticky”.


We’ve had a considerable thaw, and the air feels like early spring. I got out for a walk for the first time in a week. The paths in the garden were solid beaten snow, however, turning to ice, so Helen and I just walked up and down London Street. 2297 steps so far today. Much better.


My washing machine has started leaking. I didn’t know. Daniela does my laundry. Her English is still not very good, after three years, but she chatters away to Helen in Greek, which is how I found out this morning. I was horrified because of the danger to neighbours below. I ordered a new washing machine, on Helen’s advice. I suppose the old one is about 10 years old. Maybe more.


I had a nice time this morning tidying the Evendoon and listening to the new episode of Fruity Knitting – thank you for that, Knitalot. I had somehow missed it. I gave the finished object (FO) to Helen, who likes it but doesn’t like the cropped length. Now that I have finished suffering through those sleeves, I can take advantage of top-down: All I’ll have to do is frog the bottom ribbing, add a couple of stripes, and knit it up again. I dare say I could cut and graft, but knitting’s easier and more fun.


Cat (another comment yesterday): I don’t know about that top item in my UFO list. I really ought to face up to it, and decide.


The Polliwog yarn came today:


I haven’t decided which is Main Colour and which is Contrast. The bottom bits of each skein, in the shade, give a better idea of the colours.


There was a whole (not very interesting) article about Bernie Sanders’ mittens in the weekend Financial Times.


James got his vaccination appointment in the post this morning (because of being a Type I diabetic). He is as excited as I was at the prospect of actually getting out of his house and (in his case) riding on a train all the way to London Bridge.





Sunday, February 14, 2021


Another exciting afternoon of rugby. France beat Ireland by a whisker. I cheer for France as long as they’re not actually playing US.


We’re having a bit of a thaw, but not enough that I ventured out. 1218 steps – a miserable total. However, I finished knitting the Evendoon. That final cuff was awkward. (Franklin in his latest podcast talks of the awkwardness of the sleeves of a top-down sweater, as you spin the whole thing around on your lap.) And picking up stitches for the neckband was more awkward than I expected. But it’s all done. I have still to tidy up, and obviously there are lots of ends. Then blocking. I have been known to skip that step before passing an adult sweater forward into circulation – that’s as bad as confessing to reading a book about the Princess of Wales. But in this case, Kate Davies says that I must pay particular attention to the neckline while blocking – so I guess it can’t be skipped.


And, as you can see from the sidebar, there’s plenty to occupy me if the Polliwog yarn hasn’t arrived when all that is done.




“Sense and Sensibility” relied too much, for my taste, on long passages of exposition. I loved Colonel Brandon, and was disappointed that he didn’t end up with Elinor. I didn’t care much for her final choice. And I felt cheated that we had no love-talk for either couple, nor indeed talk of any kind, at the end of the book.  I thought sadly of Mr Darcy’s magnificent speech: “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.” We all swoon at his feet. Even Austen cannot report what Elizabeth actually said in reply.


But that’s more than a bit schoolgirlish of me. Your criticisms are much more serious, Shandy.

Saturday, February 13, 2021


Not much tonight. Wales has just beaten Scotland in a thriller. Never mind: we’ve got the Calcutta Cup.


The match was too exciting to allow for much knitting, but I made a slight advance down the second Evendoon cuff.


I continue grateful for your help with leg warming. Beverly asks (comment yesterday) which of Ella Gordon’s wonderful colourways I am leaning towards. The problem has become more difficult since she posted some more on the Jamieson and Smith blog yesterday. But of the first lot, November 20, my first thought was the Peerie boat, because it offered something like the coup de rouge in that orange. But then I thought maybe the overall effect was too bright, with that blue, and I tended more towards Seaweed at the Shetland Museum slipways, with the lime green providing the coup. But I haven’t really got to work with the new selection. I’m glad I don’t have to choose right away (because I’m going to knit the Polliwog next).


I’ve finished Sense and Sensibility, and remain rather hostile to it.

Friday, February 12, 2021


I did it:


and it nearly did for me. It’s not well done; I think you can see that it’s not entirely straight. But it’s done. It’ll do. I doubt very much if I’ll ever block a shawl again.


The cats were keen to help. When Perdita and I were younger, and shawl-blocking was done by crawling about on the floor, she liked to help. She would pull out the pins, and I was always terrified that she would try to swallow one. (She was, and is, a most peculiar cat.) This morning, Rachel phoned while I was in mid-block. Both cats emerged from the spare room – they hadn’t really wanted to help, they just wanted to annoy me. They dashed past into the outer hall. I kicked the door shut and imprisoned them:


The old-style, land-line telephone is on the wall, just out of view. I was sitting on the backless chair.


Sometimes I wonder whether those cats really hate each other as much as they say they do.


2023 steps so far today – and I’m going straight to bed. No knitting. The weather continues very cold, the pavements (sidewalks) packed with snow.


Thank you, again, for your help with leg-warmers. Eileen, I sent off at once, on reading your comment, for the Shetland Wool Week annual 2020. It’s a good cause. I spent some time with Ravelry leg-warmers, but few are of use. Many are so sloppy that they look as if they’d fall off as soon as the wearer lifted a foot. I think I might start with a fold-over topping, kilt-hose-fashion, with which J. could wear a garter. I think what’s wanted here is something which will seriously keep a leg warm.


But wee Hamish first (after the Polliwog). I think I have decided on which of Ella Gordon’s colour combinations I want, but it’s not easy. The Duchess of Devonshire – nee Debo Mitford – says somewhere that a room needs a coup de rouge, and so, on the whole, does a Fair Isle ensemble of colours. Although I think one might substitute a shot of acid green, in knitting if not, perhaps, in home d├ęcor. I don’t have to decide for a while.


Shandy, one day there will be a world again in which we could sit down together and talk about “Sense and Sensibility”. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m increasingly not impressed. Could it be that I’ve only read it once before? All I remembered was Mr. Willoughby, but there are a cacophany of other characters.

Thursday, February 11, 2021


Another very cold day. One of the perks of age – there are a few – is that I probably won’t be in the first car to Kirkmichael in the spring. It’s after winters like this that pipes spring leaks, no matter how carefully drained in the autumn. 1782 steps – I’m slipping. And it looks as if I won’t get out tomorrow, either. I’ll have to try harder.


On the other hand, I’ve finished tidying the shawl and am ready to block it. First thing tomorrow. I think maybe there’ll be room on the spare room bed, if I extend it down the sides a bit. Here it is:



By the time the cleaner left this morning, Perdita had curled up on the shawl for a nap. I’m at my best (such as it is) first thing in the morning, anyway. It’s funny about the puffiness in the centre – I hope it’ll block out. The decrease round which I neglected to include was at the very end, just before the edging – so it couldn’t be that, I don’t think.


Then I went back to the Evendoon – found the pattern, found the yarn, figured out where I was when I stopped – and got on well with it. I now have only a single cuff and the neckband to do. Barring a last-minute disaster, I can finish it before I start knitting the Polliwog, even if the yarn is in tomorrow’s mail, which it won’t be. Just as well, because it’s a cosy yarn (Kate Davies’ Schiehallion) and will be of more use on someone’s back now than if I finish in May.


And I’ve been thinking about post-Polliwog and Calcutta Cup knitting. Wee Hamish first – he’ll be easier than leg warmers. I was slightly surprised, and very pleased, to find that I put my notes on Alexander’s vest away where they should be. They’re not very intelligible, but may supply a gauge. I went to the Jamieson & Smith website and find that they have a child’s Fair Isle pattern, aged 2-3: but it comes in a kit with the yarn. I also found their blog, in which they publish several recent examples of a project of Ella Gordon’s. She’s a young designer of some distinction, who works for J&S.


She has been putting together colourways based on bits of Shetland landscape. For each one, bless her, she gives not only a photograph of the landscape and one of the five or six balls of yarn she has chosen, but also the catalogue numbers of the yarns. I think I might as well lean on her for my colours. The only remaining problem: which one to choose?


Leg warmers are going to be harder, because of my complete inexperience. That’s an interesting idea, Karen (comment, Tuesday) to knit one large, steeked tube. And as Tamar points out, a certain amount of shaping would be possible in the seaming. But there would have to be two long seams, wouldn’t there? Plenty of time to think, while I knit these other things.


“Sense and Sensibility” isn’t terribly good, but it’s got some good characters.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


Very cold. Not much more snow, but what there is (which is considerable) didn’t even drip in the midday sun. Another ski-ing day. So, again, I didn’t go out, and have achieved only 2285 steps, a good deal behind yesterday. 

But I’ve finished knitting Gudrun’s hap shawl. It’ll take a while – not very long – to finish off the ends. Then the big decision, about blocking. I hate to let it out of my hands. But if I block it on the double bed, I’d have to spend a night in the spare room, and I am curiously reluctant to do that. Nothing wrong with the spare room, especially since Helen got new beds for it. But it’s not my room.


Another thing I did – a fearful admission, worse than reading a book about Princess Diana – was to order some yarn for the Polliwog. You can hardly get in the door of this house, for yarn, but I decided that nothing was right. All my sock yarns are self-striping, and I needed something solid at least for one of the two Polliwog colours. It will be some John Arbon Exmoor sock yarn, from the Ginger Twist studio near here. Strong colours, verging on the alarming, such as the modern baby wears. I’ll show you when it gets here.


As for reading, I decided on “Sense and Sensibility”. It’s the one I know least, and is all the more interesting now that I’ve read Tomalin’s biography and know how it fits in to the oeuvre.


But I’ve also started Silone’s “Fontamara” in Italian. I haven’t made much progress with either.

Alexander sent me this wonderful picture of his family in their Calcutta Cub knitteds:

From left to right: J., in a sweater knit for Ketki; Ketki, in a sweater knit for Alexander; Alexander, in the vest which you can see at a half-way stage above; and T., in an almost invisible long scarf celebrating the glorious draw of 2019. 

That's Loch Fyne behind them, needless to say.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021


More snow. More cold. Still nothing to compare with winters I remember in Kirkmichael, Detroit, Oberlin, but quite a bit for Edinburgh by the standard of recent years. . I didn’t venture out, but have got up to 2339 steps by walking diligently up and down the hall. There is an article in the Times this morning about the benefits of walking – my totals are ludicrously small by their standards.


Archie came, bringing me some sausages. I was going to set him at clearing the front porch and steps – but found when I opened the door that a neighbour had done it. That was touching. I got Archie to sprinkle a bit of rock salt.


Maureen, I was glad to hear that the Calcutta Cup match was watched with such enthusiasm in Johanesburg – and that it won you a lunch. The hero of the day, previously unnoticed by me although I gather he joined the squad last year, was a Mr van der Miewe, who scored the only try. South African, I understand – what goes round, comes round.


He endeared himself, a few moments before the historic try, by failing to catch a ball which bounced off the tips of his fingers when he was in the goal area– and he is 6’5” tall, and was jumping. He seemed to find it funny.


That brings me to a question. It has always seemed to me rather tentative, that goals in rugby are called “tries”. Especially when, in American football – and this is the point on which I would be glad to be corrected – they’re called “touchdowns” although the player does not have to touch the ball down at all, just to cross the line while carrying it. In rugby, touching-down is all important. Countless tries are subjected to camera scrutiny from all angles, when there is a heap of young men and a ball just over the goal line, and it has to be decided whether the ball was under the control of the attacking team when it touched the ground.


Only two more scallops remain to be done of the edging on the fourth and final side of Gudrun’s hap. Baring disaster, tomorrow should see it done. I’ll miss it.


Thank you for all your encouragement about leg warmers. No, not Hamish – these will be full-length, grown-up legwarmers. Chloe, I think I would knit them with dpn’s. I have always found very short circulars painful. But that’s a lot of Fair Isle to be shifting from needle to needle. We’ll have to see.


I agree with your conclusion, Jenny and Tamar, that they wouldn’t need to be shaped like (for example) kilt hose. Ribbing at the top, for grip. Corrugated ribbing at the bottom, for effect. I am thinking of setting forth with the number of stitches I use for men’s socks and see what happens. Perhaps a few more – Fair Isle tends to pull in a bit. I’ll study some of the many examples on Ravelry.

Monday, February 08, 2021


It’s cold. It’s very cold. Much of the rest of the country – including south Edinburgh – has had a fairly substantial amount of snow. We’ve had only a not-slippery dusting here in Drummond Place. Helen and I got once around the garden this morning in brilliant, cold sunshine. Real ski-ing weather. 2375 steps today. And no cider, due to my new four-days-off-three-days-on routine. I thought it would be like having Ash Wednesday every week, but I’m still coasting on the momentum of my Dry January and today was easy.


And I’m up to 10 ½ edging scallops on the fourth side of Gudrun’s hap. Four more points for the sidebar. The end is, literally, in sight.


A request has come in for leg-warmers to commemorate the great Calcutta Cup victory – an interesting idea. That would be in addition to a Fair Isle vest for Hamish. I’m searching the world of art for a suitable picture to copy colour from. Same colour scheme for both projects. Similar but not identical Fair Isle motifs.


I’ve been reading a book about the Royal Family – an embarrassing thing to admit. I’ve finished it, and will return at least to the foothills of literature tomorrow.




Sunday, February 07, 2021


It was all a bit Once-in-Royal-David’s-City, last night, as everybody who had been listening to/watching the match emailed to say, Wow! A writer on the BBC Scotland site says that Bill McLaren will have been with us: “mere death would not have stopped him from watching this.” Scottish readers will understand.


Two of you have suggested that wee Hamish should have the celebration knitting. It’s not a bad idea, especially as he’s so much smaller than the other candidates. He’s nine months old. If I aimed for a – generous; he’s a strapping lad – two-year-old size, he could wear it on Calcutta Cup Day 2022.


 First of all, I need to find a picture to base the colours on. Here’s the Hopper I used last time:


I’ve never seen it in real life. I don’t even know where it lives. I saw it first in reproduction in the Financial Times. I now gather that it’s one of his most famous. It clutches at my heart. That’s ME. I was born in 1933. My early years weren’t particularly urban. I’ve looked through other Hoppers. I find myself specifying that there must be some red – the coup de rouge. But in that case, isn’t it me, rather than Hopper, who is choosing the colours? I’ve based Fair Isles on pictures before Alexander’s successful one in 2018, but I’ve chosen models too colourful, This needs thought, and restraint. Fortunately the great-grandchildren give me time.


I’ve currently done 7 ½ scallops of the edging on the final side of Gudrun’s hap. And 2275 steps – once around the garden this morning with C., in fairly severe weather. There are new episodes of  my favourite podcasts out there – Americast, and Wendy and Bendy on art (that’s not quite right). I may be able to get the edging up to the half-way measure before I go to bed.

Saturday, February 06, 2021


Well, who’d ‘a thot it? We won. It’s the first time in thirty-something years that Scotland has won in England (although we ran them close two years ago, with a hard-fought draw.) (Alexander says it doesn’t reeeely count, as there was no crowd there to cheer England on. It’s still better than losing.) (And the cup will still come back to Edinburgh.)


It puts a good deal of pressure on the knitting schedule. Great-grandchildren take precedence, so I must finish the shawl and knit the Polliwog. But then there needs to be something more than a scarf or hat, to commemorate the Calcutta Cup 2021. The unfinished vest you see above was based on the colours in a painting by Edward Hopper, called, I think, “Gas”. Perhaps I can choose another picture this time, not necessarily by Hopper. The secret, I discovered then, is not to have too many colours.


This year is the 150th anniversary of the first Calcutta Cup match – it’s the oldest trophy in rugby, and one of the oldest in any sport. Back in the days when I drove a car, and when trips to the supermarket were happy adventures, I used to drive past the spot where it happened.


Never mind the result: it was interesting, and very pleasant, in these stressful times, to watch rugby being played. It’s a very physical game. Nobody wore masks. They certainly didn’t stand two metres apart from each other. It was the way life used to be. I gather this weekend was a Big Football Occasion in the US. I hope you had the same pleasure.


Here’s a picture of wee Hamish, watching his first Calcutta Cup. It was sent to me early in the match, when Scotland were leading by three points, which means nothing, especially early on.


2301 steps today. Could be worse. 5 ½ scallops done, of the edging on the final side of Gudrun’s hap. I got a bit of knitting done during the match. Despite the early advantage just mentioned, I assumed until the last 20 minutes that of course Scotland would lose, and knit peacefully on.