Wednesday, March 31, 2021


1706 steps – one of those days when I don’t think the telefonino is trying. I baked a loaf of bread. I walked around the garden with Archie (and up and down the steps). We did some gardening on the front step, sowing nasturtiums and salad leaves. Well, perhaps that doesn’t add up to much.


The sourdough tastes nice, and rose properly, but it’s stuck to the parchment paper it was baked on. I’m tempted to try this recipe again more or less right away – it consists of spelt flour plus some seeded flour from Waitrose. And this time, I'll flour the parchment paper. I don’t think I’ve had to do that before, but this loaf may have been wetter than previous attempts. Wet – or “hydration” as we call it – is a good thing in sourdough.


Audio Books works a treat. I don’t entirely like the voice and manner of the woman who is reading “Wives and Daughters” to me, but you can’t have everything. I seem to have some Audio credits, so I got another Italian book, “Lessico Familiare”. Perhaps I’ll try that next.


But the main thing is, it’s splendid for knitting-to, just as I hoped. I finished knitting the Polliwog, including the sewn bind-off, and I’ve dealt with most of the ends. So tomorrow blocking, and sending off that order to Jamieson & Smith. And giving some thought to how to wrap things up and dispatch them to London. I’ll send both shawl and Polliwog to Rachel, to hand on to her new grandchildren when she gets them.


Rachel got the new New Yorker, with the article about Ravelry, last Saturday. I was in despair when it didn’t arrive here even on Monday, but it came yesterday. I don’t think I learned much. Was it a mistake to try to eliminate the pro-Trumps?

Tuesday, March 30, 2021


A fairly productive day. I’m exhausted. Only1890 steps, despite a circuit of the garden with Archie, and my new up-and-down-the-six-steps routine.


However, I’ve made my sourdough. Whether successful or not, we won’t know until it comes out of the oven tomorrow. I have high hopes for it. It’s currently proving for a rather brief second time before spending the night in the refrigerator. I knit a few more stripes on the Polliwog sleeve, and realised that it is not impossible in such a situation – narrow stripes on a small sleeve – to keep the unused yarn from wrapping itself around the work, if one pays attention to what is going on.


Archie’s main achievement, besides walking me around the garden, was to get Audio Books set up on my iPad, so now I can listen to a complete “Wives and Daughters” while I knit. I used to be able to do that by myself – perhaps on a previous iPad. Once Archie had effortlessly done it, there, sure enough! were the Italian books I used to listen to. So that is a step forward.


Gretchen (comment yesterday), I’m inclined to agree with you that it might be interesting to seek out the rest of Mrs Gaskell. At her best, she’s terrific.

Monday, March 29, 2021


It was very windy, last night and this morning. I was allowed by my stern supervisors to stay in. I tried hard to walk up and down the house, and have registered 1951 steps. Could be worse.


I also got a few stripes knit, on the Polliwog sleeve. Still painfully slow, but it’s progress.


And read some more of “Wives and Daughters”. I’m pretty sure, by now, that I’ve read it before, although not at all recently. Shandy (comment yesterday), I have only the vaguest memory of the sidekick policeman in Foyle’s War, although the series was a favourite and I remember Foyle himself and his delicious female driver pretty clearly. It may all come back to me when I see him as Roger. It’s a lot of fun, spotting actors in different roles. My best hit recently was Princess Margaret’s clerical friend in The Crown, previously J.K. Rowling’s one-legged detective.


Gretchen (comment Saturday), I have no idea in what order Mrs Gaskell’s novels were written. It would be interesting to find out. (My guess is Cranford, Wives and Daughters, North and South.)

I mean to attempt sourdough again tomorrow. We shall see. I would have tried this week, but I had been treating my starter carelessly (leaving it out of the refrigerator, unfed) and it got sluggish. It's now back up to strength. I'd hate to lose it. It's nearly a year old. The whole question of how bread gets/got leavened throughout history is interesting and largely unknowable. Wikipedia says that a by-product of beer-making was much used before the modern "baker's yeast" was invented.

Sunday, March 28, 2021


Always a happy day, when the clocks go forward and the light comes back.


2091 steps. C. came.


Helen got vaccinated yesterday. She was worried about feeling under the weather – during the week she devotes all the hours God sends to mosaic-making, and needs the weekends for catching up on Life. She rushed in and out today. I saw her just long enough to hear her say that she felt more or less all right. She’s got all of her boys at home, and I think her husband is going to contrive to get here from Thessaloniki next week.


Still no knitting. I think what I need to do is set Audio Books to work reading “Wives and Daughters” to me. I’ll remember your tip about the film on YouTube, Shandy, but I’ll finish reading first. If an adaptation is really good, like the BBC “Pride and Prejudice”, it’s even better after reading. In this case, I’m not at all sure I haven’t read it before – but it bears reading again.

Saturday, March 27, 2021


That was a most invigorating rugby match, last night. Scotland won by a whisker, in the final seconds.


Today is the 150th anniversary of the first ever international rugby match. It was Scotland v. England, played very near the spot where I am sitting. We won that one, too. Princess Anne is patron of Scottish rugby (a very dutiful and supportive patron). She has made a little video about the anniversary, which I am sure you could find on the SRU website. She refers to Scotland’s victory at Twickenham this year, and allows herself a very small Princess-Anne-y smile as she does so. The Calcutta Cup itself isn’t mentioned. Wikipedia says that it was first awarded in 1879, eight years later.


Last night’s match was against France, which is always fun. We learned to sing the Marseillaise at Hampton Elementary School in Detroit during the war, and I always enjoy singing it silently along with the French team at the beginning. It’s complicated, and there are passages of which I still don’t know the meaning. I have tried to teach myself the Scottish anthem “Flower of Scotland” but find that it doesn’t stick. Essentially, it’s the speech of Macbeth’s which opens Act V, Scene 5. (“Were they not forced with those that should be ours/ We might have met them dareful, beard to beard/ And beat them backward home.”)


C. came this morning, I did my new up-and-down-the-steps thing. We got once around the garden. 2230 steps.


But still no knitting. I must pull myself together.


I had a good Italian lesson this morning. The weather is a bit cooler in Rome, too.




I have turned to “Wives and Daughters”, finding that there is nowt so soothing as Mrs Gaskell.




Thank you for the scam alert yesterday, Helen(anon). Rachel’s husband Ed got caught by that one a few days ago. He didn’t transfer his life’s savings, but he did give them his bank details which they then made use of.


Peggy (comment Wednesday), Toast clothes are indeed preposterously expensive – but they are very well made, and they last. I have two cotton skirts which I wear all the time, and wash constantly because I am always dropping food on myself. They stand up to it brilliantly.

Friday, March 26, 2021


Very feeble, today. Helen was here, mosaic’ing away – we got once around the garden, early, and I did my extra up-and-down of the front steps as well. Since then I have been mostly dozing in my chair. I must try to stay awake this evening to watch Scotland play France at rugby. There is even an implausible set of circumstances by which we might come second in the tournament (of which this is the end) (second, behind Wales, I think).


I did get the stitches picked up for the second Polliwog sleeve, and a stripe or two done to boot. So there isn’t much more to do, even for one as feeble as I – I had probably better order in the yarn for wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest. Jamieson & Smith are always very prompt, but still…

Thursday, March 25, 2021


Not a bad day, nor a terribly productive one. I got my walking done, including the extra up-and-down of the front steps. 2032 steps so far today.


Thank you for all your kind messages. How I wish we could all sail off together, on something like the Royal Yacht (for size) and someone like Skye Gyngell to cook for us! I think the poor Queen was seriously sad when they took it away from her.


Yes, anticipation over the next two months will be half the pleasure. It will be wonderful travelling with C., because we can retreat to our room and talk about the other passengers! The Majestic Line always offers two single cabins, at no increase in fare, on each cruise. They sell out fast, but last time (Outer Hebrides, 2018) I had one of them. We were a very congenial party, but it would have been all the better for someone to chew it over with.  


I got that first sleeve of the Polliwog bound off. I hope to do a bit more this evening – but I often hope that, and almost always fail.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Well, big news today. Yesterday – was it only then? – I wrote to the Majestic Line expressing sorrow that our cruise had been cancelled, re-booking for May 2022, but asking to be kept in mind if there were any cancellations for this year (as seemed to me not unlikely, in these uncertain times). And sure enough, they wrote back yesterday evening to say that there’s a place on the Wilderness Cruise leaving May 29. And we’ve booked it.


Both C. and I feel that this one is it. At that most glorious moment in the year. I have gone back to the Toast website (although haven’t yet spent any money). And why? Nobody’s going to go away from that cruise to tell all their friends that there was an old woman from Edinburgh with nice clothes. But…


It’s a good date, too. We’ll be here for the election – that could be done by post, but by now I’m all fired up and want to be here in person to walk into a polling station. And C. will be here for her grandson Hamish’s first birthday. And then we can sail away over the horizon. I must familiarize myself with the geography. Where, exactly, is Inverewe?


There’s not much else to report. I’ve finished the first sleeve of the Polliwog, but not yet done the sewn bind-off. I’ve walked 2102 steps. Jane, I’m sure you’re right, that Archie is softer on me than my other walkers. He came again today, but I was fired up with enthusiasm for the new cruise and didn't need other prodding. One thing I will have to be able to do, is walk up and down stairs (onto the boat, off it, and probably up and down from the main deck to our room). So today I set off on our walk by going down the six steps to the pavement, and then up again, and then down for the walk. I mean to go on doing that.


When my husband and I were moving to Edinburgh, in what now seems our young-and-vigorous late middle age, we liked this flat (amongst many other reasons) because it was all on one level, and we thought that would be a good thing as we became older and feebler. And so it has been. But now I must practise.


I google’d. There doesn’t seem to be any unusual activity on Vesuvius.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021


I felt excessively feeble today, and didn’t walk. Archie came. We got outside the door, with our coats on. But it was chill and windy and I turned back. As a result I have done only 799 steps today – I might as well have stayed in bed.


Nor have I done any knitting, or reading worthy of report.


Two things, however: I’ve got a polling card.


As I hope I’ve mentioned, Scotland has extended the franchise to all permanent residents (is that legal?), and I have signed up. The card is for the Scottish Parliament election in early May. For the first time in nearly nine decades of life, I will go to a polling station and cast my ballot. (I’ve been exercising the franchise in the US from time to time over the years, including voting for Biden just now. It’s not quite the same.)


And it’s all the better for offering real choice. (I voted for Biden in New Jersey, which was going to vote for him anyway without waiting to hear from Mrs Miles in Edinburgh. I could scarcely have voted for Trump.) I am passionately in favour of the union, so that rules out the Scottish Nationalists and the Greens, leaving me with the Conservatives and Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives had a wonderful Scottish leader in Ruth Davidson, but she has recently had a baby and stepped down. There is a new Labour leader, young and energetic and rather good looking. I don’t know what the Lib Dems offer. But I shall study them all with care.


The other thing is, is it interesting that volcanos have erupted more or less simultaneously in Iceland and Sicily (Mount Etna)? How is Vesuvius looking these days?

Monday, March 22, 2021

 A reasonable day, although I feel very feeble. 2776 steps – Helen and I got around the garden once this morning, with me tottering.


Knitting has gone slightly forward. I’m doing the cuff ribbing (top-down) on the first sleeve of the Polliwog. That’s progress. And I’ve given some thought to wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest. I’m sure you’re right, Tamar, that length (rather than width) is where to add a bit for the future. I did a course once on Designing for Children with a designer of some renown whose name I can’t remember – she has a daughter named Julia – and that was emphatically her advice: children get longer, long before they get wider.


I wandered virtually around Jamieson and Smith this morning. They sell kits for small-child Fair Isles, which I don’t want – but the ad includes the measurements for the 2- and the 3-year old sizes. That could be useful. (Hamish will have his first birthday in early May, therefore not yet 2 on next year’s Calcutta Cup day. But he’s a hefty lad.) Wandering about some more, I found that they sell a leg-warmer kit. That’s what has been ordered from the banks of Loch Fyne (=Alexander’s family) to celebrate our glorious 2021 win. I should have thought of J&S before, and will almost certainly buy their kit. The colours are fairly countrified and subdued, no harm in that, as I am more than sure that I will have some bright colours available from stash for the Calcutta Cup band itself – my version of the cup, and the date.


And as for wee Hamish’s vest, I think I have chosen the colour combination I want from the J&S blog. I got Sheila McGregor’s Fair Isle book off the shelf this morning, and even started trying to chart the pattern of the sweater on the dust-jacket, but didn’t get very far. It remains worth studying, and I think I’ve chosen a suitable all-over pattern and a suitable colour plan to retain something of the flavour.




As for reading, I think I’ll drop Carofiglio for the moment. Too bloody. But I haven’t yet returned to Dante and Pirandello. I did read a chapter or two of “Cranford” yesterday, and will probably proceed with it this evening. It’s very comforting.

Sunday, March 21, 2021


Another good day, with more sunshine. C. and I got twice around the garden. I did a bit of knitting. I had a nice Zoom meeting with my sister; better than nothing. She says Biden broke his ankle between election and Inauguration, playing with his dog. I didn’t know that. It excuses the fall.


Yes, all the rugby yesterday came out right, Mary Lou – France beat Wales in a last-minute thriller, but so late that I was already in bed. That leaves only us v. France, which was postponed because of covid a couple of weeks ago. That’s always a fun match. It'll be played at the end of this week. If France absolutely smash us, they can win the tournament. I never care much about that.

Helen and her friend had a good time in Kirkmichael -- sunshine there, too. She has brought me back some daffodils. We're famous for our daffodils.


Comment, Friday: Janet, yes, I’d like to hear your neighbour talking about bread. I wrote and told you so at the time, but my message seems to have vanished into the ether as so often. Thank you.


I often think it extraordinary, all that our species had to learn, and evolve, to do, after we split from the apes. First talking, which requires a re-shaping of brain, mouth and tongue. (Chimpanzees, I gather, brought up with humans speaking sign language, can acquire quite substantial vocabularies and even combine words, but they can't talk.) Then, presumably, separate and colonise the earth. The Victorians, when they first got to grips with evolution, were surprised that we didn’t all speak what was basically the same language. But we don’t. Although many languages are related, others aren’t.


Then we have to invent cooking (including bread-making) and writing and agriculture. And as we begin to move into cities, we’d need at least basic plumbing. And after, literally, millions of years in which all this is being done, all of a sudden the conductor taps his music stand with his baton and civilisation starts, pretty well simultaneously, everywhere: “Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles…”/”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”/ and India and China and pyramids and Benin bronzes. All at once.


Saturday, March 20, 2021


Another fine day. Helen has gone off to Kirkmichael, and the word is that the pipes are OK. We always drain the water, of course, but the first turn-on of the year is always a bit exciting, nevertheless. An event I am glad to miss. Now I can look forward to being taken there myself, with my cats. I can’t take them on cruises.


I was feeling battered, as usual, this morning after my Italian lesson. I didn’t want to walk with Helen, but promised that I would go out alone once I had recovered. When I did, and was handing myself in gingerly fashion down the steps, I met an old friend, not seen for many months, and invited him to walk around the garden with me. It was the sort of thing which inclines one to believe in God. 2524 steps – that seems a bit more than I deserve.


I made some progress with the left-hand sleeve of the Polliwog. I looked again at the colour schemes on the Jamieson & Smith website – go to the opening screen, click on blog, scroll down. I think maybe the way to approach wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest is via an all-over pattern. That would simplify the calculations. I must start thumbing through books.


I had to confess to my tutor this morning that I have been reading Carofiglio instead of Dante or Pirandello. I will have to pull up a sock or two for next week. She said he often appears as a pundit on Italian television.


Lots of rugby today, and again I am having trouble turning the television on. I watched much of Scotland-Italy on my iPad (we seemed to be winning handily), then plugged it in to beef itself up for the evening. So I am missing England-Ireland – I don’t know where my affections would be engaged there. France will play Wales this evening, and by then the iPad should be feeling stronger. “Allez les bleus!” is the rule of thumb, as long as they’re not actually playing us.


I’m going to talk to my sister by Zoom tomorrow. I’ll be interested to hear what she thinks about Biden’s stumbles on those airplane steps.

Friday, March 19, 2021


2663 steps so far today – around the garden twice with C., making tentative plans about what to do with our cruise bookings. But then prostration, and nothing more was accomplished. No knitting, even. Helen has grand plans for getting me in training. I am more inclined to feel that with May 1 gone from my mental calendar – the day our cruise was meant to have sailed – there is not much incentive left to do anything.


Helen and her son Archie are watching something on Netflix about serial killers. I don't find it very interesting, but have latched on to something about the history of cooking, instead. Episode 2 is about the importance of sourdough in the history of civilization – until very recently, it was the only sort of leavened bread. And leavened bread, according to Netflix, is a lot more nourishing and digestible than just sitting there chewing on a stalk of wheat. Flatbreads weren’t mentioned.

Thursday, March 18, 2021


1745 steps – but I left the telefonino behind a couple of times, so that’s not quite as bad as it sounds. Helen and I got once around the garden. It was another beautiful day, and I spent much of the afternoon dozing in the sunshine in my chair like an elderly cat. C. is my appointed walker for tomorrow. We will talk about what to do about cruising. At least this way, with the May 1 cruise cancelled, she will be here for wee Hamish’s first birthday; and we will both be here to vote in person in the Scottish election.


I’m pretty sure I booked my first (and, so far, only) Majestic Line cruise before my husband’s funeral. That was to the Outer Hebrides, in the summer of 2018, and it was wonderful. I already had my eye on the Wilderness Cruise, to the upper left-hand corner of Scotland, but thought it would be wiser not to book until I had experience of a Majestic Line cruise. And by that time, there were no single places left for ’19.


Then C. agreed to come with me – and we missed our chance to book the last place on a Wilderness cruise for ’19 by 24 hours. That’s fine, we thought: gives us more time to enjoy looking forward to it. As indeed we did.


When that was cancelled, we moved the booking forward to May, 2021 -- surely everything would be back to normal by then -- and also booked a “Captain’s Choice” cruise for October, ’20, in order to have something more immediate to continue looking forward to. We got pretty close on that one. Quite a few Majestic Line cruises sailed last summer. I had ordered my cruise wardrobe from Toast. It hangs here unworn. But that cruise was cancelled at the last moment as the second wave of the virus hit. We transferred that booking, too – I’ve forgotten what our new choice is called. I’ve done quite a lot of virtual window-shopping at Toast for the cruise that was cancelled yesterday, but haven’t actually bought anything.


So now we must decide what to do. All the other Wildernesses and St Kildas are booked up for this year. As I said yesterday, I fear my declining strength isn’t up to waiting much longer.


Knitting: I made a good start on the first sleeve of the Polliwog, but not much more than that. The pattern consists of three-row stripes, which makes it easy to remember what to do when the decreases come every six rows.


Reading: Metropolitan Rebecca, “The Cold Summer” seems much more like a second book to me, being longer and denser and with more back-story for the hero. Never mind: I’m glad that’s the one you ordered. I made some headway with it. The other is perhaps too short and thin. 


Life: I meant to say yesterday – I went back through the text messages on my telephone (there aren’t all that many) and found the phoney one from the bank, about a new payee having been added. It identified itself as phoney by coming from Natwest, where I don’t have an account. But I was also interested to note that it asked me to get in touch (if I didn’t want to add Mr Mohammed to my payees) by clicking on a website. Whereas the genuine one – which identified itself as genuine by mentioning a payee whom I had that morning indeed added – just said to get in touch at once, if this wasn’t right.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021


Our cruise, sailing May 1 from Oban, has been cancelled. I’m not entirely surprised.


And Andrea has posted an update on Andrew’s health –  I’m talking about Fruity Knitting. The news is not good. A cancelled cruise seems a small thing by comparison.


So the passage I had half-written in my head, about the cruises C. and I have had cancelled – this is the THIRD – seems irrelevant. Helen thinks we need but to postpone (again). I feel I’m losing ground rather briskly, indeed have been worried about whether I would be able to manage May 1. One needs at least to be able to climb up – and eventually down – the steps alongside the boat. Once aboard, I could stay there; although one of our ports of call was to have been Inverewe Gardens. I’d like to be there. It’s all very well, indeed fairly easy, when the boat puts in to a port. But if my experience last time is any guide, usually we just anchor and go ashore by tender.


“That’s how they keep it so cheap”, one of us said over supper one night, on the Majestic Line cruise to the Outer Hebrides which I actually succeeded in going on, in 2018. I exploded into my soup.


Helen says I haven’t deteriorated over the winter, but I’m less sure.

Once during (what was surely a Lenten) Mass, in Birmingham many years ago, I heard a priest say that it was more meritorious to accept the sufferings dealt to one, than to make up sufferings for oneself. I sat there piously accepting whatever suffering was doled out to me – but when we got home, I found that the Aga had gone out. (=no lunch)


But, ah, knitting! I have picked up stitches for the first Polliwog sleeve, and started knitting it.


Metropolitan Rebecca (comment yesterday), I am sorry to have mislead you. The author I have recently “discovered” is Gianrico Carofiglio. I’ve finished the first of his books with a policeman named Fenoglio as the hero (“A Changeable Truth”) and have gone on to the second, “The Cold Summer”. The language this time is less transparent. I think he also wrote a series with a hero-lawyer.





Tuesday, March 16, 2021


I got a few things done today; not much, but a few.


I did the sewn bind-off on the back of the Polliwog. I then unpinned Gudrun’s shawl from the spare-room bed, where it has been all this time, because I needed the pins. And found a set of dp’s of the right size, for picking up the sleeve stitches.


I ordered some garden things for this year’s front step – some trailing fuchsia plants; some nasturtium seeds; and several different packets of quick-growing salad leaves.


Archie came, and we got once around the garden. 2155 steps.




I’m reading a recently-discovered Italian thriller. Recently-discovered by me, that is. The latest in the series, in translation, was reviewed in this week’s Sunday Times. I’ve forgotten the name of the book – I went back to the first in the series – but the author is named Buonfiglio, which is lovely: Good Son. It sounds nice, too. The language of the book is unbelievably simple, almost as if it had been written as a textbook.


I get a New Yorker spin-off every morning, sometimes things which will be in the next issue, more often not. Today there is a little piece making fun of the Buckingham Palace statement about the Meghan and Harry show (which I thought was masterful) and laughing at the Queen. That’s what I was afraid of. Meghan will be pleased.


I’m glad they let the poor old Duke out of hospital. My mother had a great devotion to the Royal family – I suppose she was about of an age (slightly younger) to identify with George VI and Queen Elizabeth. I grew up half-feeling that we had some sort of connection with them, while knowing perfectly well that we didn’t.

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Ides of March


A pearl of an April day – without its even being April yet! 2169 steps – Helen and I got once around the garden this morning. The wild garlic which grows abundantly there is nearly ready for harvest. I am unsure what to do with it. Helen says just to warm it up in a bit of butter and toss through pasta. In the past, I’ve made pesto, substituting wild garlic for basil. She thinks there are too many strong flavours there which will drown the garlic.


I’ve finished knitting the back of the Polliwog, but the sewn bind-off is still to do. There’s not much to do after that. Two little sleeves. I had better get the next project lined up.


Two things to worry about:


1)    The safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as one European country after another discontinues its use. What does the USofA think? But you’re not using it anyway.

2)    I’ve just had a text message on my telefonino to say that a new payee has been added to my account. This is perfectly correct. But I thought banks didn’t send such messages, so the next time I get one I’ll have something to really worry about. I sort of feel I’ve ignored them in the past. And for years – until all this walking started – I didn’t really use the mobile anyway. I might not have seen the message for weeks.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

 Sorry about yesterday.

It has been a disappointing weekend for rugby: England beat France in a thriller, yesterday; and Ireland beat us, just now. That leaves Wales for Italy, and I presume they won. Everybody beats Italy.


Wee Hamish can walk (at 10 months)! There’s good news. I saw him do it, in a video on his grandmother’s telephone, as we were circumnavigating the garden this morning. We got around twice – the secret is just to keep on going. The step count is 2699. I think they give you a few extra for going around twice.


And knitting has moved forward, too. I’m nearly finished with the second shoulder on the back of the Polliwog. Next I overlap back and front, and pick up sleeve stitches through both fabrics. I remember that bit.


The Meghan and Harry show rumbles on. There is a lot of agreement with my belief that in interracial partnerships, both families are keen to know what colour the baby will come out. A columnist in the Times yesterday, himself black, quoted the grandmother who said, “I need to know what colour of yarn to buy!” And I continue to like Manaba’s line, when his son Hamish was born: “An African father and a Scottish mother – why did we get a Chinese baby?”



Friday, March 12, 2021


All well, I guess. The mosaicists have gone home happy. I haven’t been in there to look yet. The step count is only 1684. Appalling. C. and I got once around the garden. I didn’t feel up to a second circuit. I’ve ribbed on a bit on the Polliwog, not as much as hoped, and am nearly – but not quite – ready to start the short-row shaping for the back.


I’m pretty well ready for tomorrow’s Italian. I need to do some more Dante, but I think I’m ready to talk about Pirandello. The play (Six characters in search of an author) is, at least in part, about the contrast between il vero and il verosimile. That thought is easier to express in Italian. Maybe I’m making progress.


But back here in real life, I have given up and gone forth in search of easy-reading. I have lit upon “The Appeal” by Janice Hallett --  recommended to me by Amazon – and am enjoying it very much. So far, it’s a compendium of messages, mostly emails, among various people. We know that there has been a crime, and that these messages are being passed among lawyers. But we have no idea who did what to whom. I’m finding it a lot of fun.

Thursday, March 11, 2021


A good day. The step count stands at 2310 – a bit better. Our friend G. came round and got the Harry and Meghan show for us. My iPad and portable computer had both assured me that it wasn’t available in my area (I think G. got around that difficulty by putting in someone else’s postcode). Helen’s iPad told her that she needed an Android device. I don’t know what G. did about that, but she is not one to be baulked by a mere machine.


The mosaicists have actually been making a mosaic today, and seem to be happy with their progress:

Some of my husband's art books are making themselves useful to hold it flat overnight. The other mosaicist has been working on a similar corner elsewhere in the room.


And I got plenty of ribbing done. I’ve divided the current patch into three, mentally, with the determination to be finished with it tomorrow. In fact, I’m somewhat ahead of schedule and am looking forward to embarking on some more short rows. I’m beginning to think ahead to wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest. What chest size? It’s no use measuring today’s boy. It’s got to be wearable on Calcutta Cup day 2022. 24”?


Now that I’ve finally seen it, I don’t know what to say about Harry and Meghan. I fear it will turn the US away from GB a bit – I wish Hillary had withheld her public comment. Some bits puzzled me – Meghan said something that indicated that she knew precisely why her son Harry wasn’t a prince, but having admitted that, she kept harping on the subject, and hinting that she thought his exclusion was racially motivated. (The monarch’s great-grandchildren aren’t royal unless they are in the direct line of succession. The Queen made a special exception for Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, Prince William’s children. When Charles is king, Archie will be a prince.)


Here is the week nearly over again. I must find Dante and read another canto before the last minute. I’ve done my four dry days successfully and greatly look forward to tomorrow’s cider.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


It’s a bit blowy out there. Helen and I got once around the garden – 1997 steps; one of those days when the telefonino isn’t really trying. The mosaicists had a good day, and went home early. The templates are now the right size, with the design successfully transferred to them, and adjusted where necessary. Tesserae begin tomorrow, I think. And I made good progress with the ribbing on the back of the Polliwog. No luck with Harry&Meghan – I think by now I’ve seen enough snippets and read enough opinion that I can skip the rest.


I’m afraid that’s all. I’ll try to be more energetic tomorrow.



Tuesday, March 09, 2021


By local standards (admittedly, not high) it has been a day frot with event.


I recorded the Harry&Meghan show before I went to bed last night. This morning, when I finished my porridge, there was still an hour before mosaicists and people like that were due to arrive. So I thought I’d watch a bit of the programme, and knit a bit. But the television wouldn’t go on. That is, wouldn’t respond to the zapper. If there is an on-off button on the machine itself, I couldn’t find it.


So that was that. Then Rachel rang up. Her news was that her husband Ed has been the victim of a card fraud – he’ll probably get his money back, but at the moment his account is effectively frozen and he has no card. Also their son Joe and his wife Becca, who are expecting their first child in early May, are having a new kitchen and meanwhile living in a bomb site. Their contractor, of whom they are fond, recently collapsed in the street while walking his dog. Fortunately a GP was passing, and his wife was there to take the dog home. It was a heart attack. He is out of hospital already, and I think work is cautiously proceeding. No one knows what to do next, or what is scheduled to happen when, except for him.


Then Helen came and we walked around the garden. 2389 steps so far today.


In the middle of the afternoon, I tried the zapper again, just in case. The television works fine – but the recording isn’t there. It is hard not to suspect a Sinister Force.

It should be mentioned that the mosaicists went home much happier today.


Meanwhile I have finished the front of the Polliwog. The bind-off is an interesting sewn one, lovely and springy. It took a bit of re-learning. It’s very clever, a distant cousin of Kitchener stitch – but four separate actions, each on a different stitch, two of which are eliminated:


The back will eventually overlap it, forming an envelope into which an infant head is easily inserted. .The markers show the point the back will reach. I have retrieved the stitches and started ribbing -- another slow job.My peculiar colours are working together better than I might have hoped.




We had Mr Markle on the radio this morning, He suggested that the now infamous question about what colour Archie Harrison would turn out to be, might have been asked out of stupidity. That hadn’t occurred to me, but seems entirely possible.

Monday, March 08, 2021


The Harry&Meghan show sounds more than a bit tedious, from the snippets we have been vouchsafed, but I have set the timer and will hope to get some knitting done while I watch some of it tomorrow. Shandy, yes, I’ve watched “The Crown” eagerly. I think I enjoyed the earlier bits most, the ones that run parallel to my own youth.


Knitting went forward well. The Polliwog is really a most ingenious pattern. I have done the left shoulder shaping on the back, with some nifty short rows. I should finish the back tomorrow. I was worried about size – this is the point in the pattern where it matters. I’ve cast on stitches for the largest size, so wherever the pattern specifies no.-of-stitches, I go for that size. But how many rows to do, remains problematical. Despite the relative fineness of the yarn, my row gauge seems to be about what the pattern orders.


It looks more or less OK. And, as I’ve hinted before, babies are pretty shapeless.


The mosaicists had another tough day on the measurement front. They left at the end of the afternoon weary and dispirited. They are determined to crack it tomorrow. This is far and away the largest mosaic Helen has ever tackled.


Helen and I got once around the garden before all this started. 2296 steps today so far.


No reading: the time was spent on short-rowing.


And on following your advice, Shandy, and doing a bit of on-line exploration on the subject of accommodation for the elderly in Edinburgh. It’s a depressing topic, needless to say. It’s worth making every effort to stay on my feet, and therefore able to stay here, for as long as possible.




Sunday, March 07, 2021


All well, but – as usual these days – little to report. I ribbed a few more rows of the Polliwog while watching Andrew Marr. He wasn’t very interesting. What we all want to know about is Meghan and Harry, and we have to wait a few more hours for that. What would Wallis have made of all this?


C. came, and instead of the garden we went to the corner shop in search of cat litter. I have been caught short. But they don’t stock it any more. So she went down to Tesco’s and bought some and all is well. I’m expecting a grocery delivery on Tuesday which will include gallons of it.


Goodness, was that the only adventure? I fear so. I dozed this afternoon while wondering what will become of me when I can’t manage alone. Life has a way of answering that question on its own – a stroke; a broken hip.


No reading. I hope to be more alert and productive tomorrow. And on Tuesday, we'll have M&H to talk about!

Saturday, March 06, 2021


I’ve lost a post. It’s most distressing. I wrote to you on Thursday, as usual, after a day of not feeling well and scarcely walking at all. But neither Word nor Blogger nor a general search of the computer can find it. It was largely about how my carer/cleaner Daniela was going back to Romania, at least for a while. Her husband’s mother isn’t well. We parted that day, with hugs. Helen was horrified. But Daniela had a certificate to say that she had tested Covid-free, and I have been vaccinated, and it seemed worth the risk.


Anyway, today was better. The sun shone, for one thing. C. came, and we walked around the garden once. The step-count was above 2000 as soon as we got back, and stands at 2631 now.


No knitting. Maybe this evening, A good Italian lesson. My eldest child, Rachel, spent a year as an au pair in Milan after school, before university. Alexander spent Christmas one year with some of her Italian friends, and three glamourous girls came to stay with us for a while in Birmingham. I took them to Oxford and Blenheim one day, and on the way we passed a sign indicating the way to Coventry, and one of them remarked that there was a word in Italian, coventizzare, meaning “to destroy utterly”. My tutor and I were talking about the war this morning, and I told her that little incident, and I’m glad to say that she didn’t know the word. She looked it up, and there it was.


I couldn’t find my keys as I was going to bed last night. I am perhaps obsessed with keys, but they must be something of a problem for all of us who live alone. I had a restless and unsatisfactory night. I found them this morning, by thinking about the problem, and am now trying to think of a better plan for their permanent residence.


Mary Lou, I hope you enjoy your kimchi. If anyone wants to make it – I’m sure I’ve said this often before – please do so; it’s fun, let alone delicious. Google “Youtube Brad Leone Kimchi” and you’ll find all you need to know. I omit Brad’s oyster, and I start by cutting the Napa cabbage into largish chunks, before salting. He cuts it up after salting. Otherwise identical.


I’m reading – by which I must mean, re-reading – “Cranford”. It’s delicious.





Friday, March 05, 2021


Chill and grey again, but with that feeling that spring is 24 hours closer. 48, in my case. I am much restored, and Helen and I got once around the garden. 1781 steps, which doesn’t seem a nearly appropriate reward for our efforts.


And otherwise, a day of this and that. No knitting (bad). I finished “Fontamara” ( good). I haven’t written anything about it (bad). I read the first act of “Sei Personaggi in Cerca d’Autore” (good).


The mosaicists got on well, I think. If I understand it properly, their first job was to translate the design onto a full-scale template (of precisely the right size) onto which the tesserae will be affixed. In this case, the template is a series of strips, since we are talking about a floor of some size. Well, that has been done. They’ll now take the weekend off, exhausted.




My omelette last night was a great success. I often do them with chopped spring onions – last night I added kimchi, and was myself surprised with what a success it was. This week’s kimchi, the new batch, is overflowing nicely.


I hope this is right: the Duke of Edinburgh has moved back into the Edward VII hospital where he started out – it is a fancy-schmancy place often patronised by royals. In the interval he has done what so many of us do when push comes to shove: abandoned the private-medicine path in favour of the NHS. Barts, where he went for his cardiac “procedure”, whatever it was, has some private rooms, and he was presumably in one of them, but his actual medical care will have been free as for anyone else. His return to the Edward VII perhaps means that the won’t embarrass Oprah by dying this weekend.


There is nothing available anywhere in this country, for anyone, comparable to that suite which President Trump occupied when he had COVID. Where he was photographed (I gather) signing blank sheets of paper.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021


Another grey and chill day. Archie and I got once around the garden, but I have achieved only 1835 steps, despite shuffling around the kitchen to make a relatively complicated lunch. Sometimes I think the telefonino just makes it up.


I watched Mrs Sturgeon giving evidence to that committee for as long as I could bear it – she has a harsh voice. She’s well on top of her facts. I got some knitting done as I watched. The Polliwog is divided for front and back, and I have made a start on the ribbed back. I’m mildly worried about size, but fortunately babies aren’t much worried about fit. It won’t be too small.


A bit of reading. I’m nearer the end of “Fontamara” than I was yesterday. So, not a bad day, all in all.


I think the mosaicists have had a reasonably successful time, too. They have been re-casting the design to make up for the discrepancy in measurements which they discovered yesterday. As you say, Mary Lou, it can’t be fudged.



Tuesday, March 02, 2021


Grey and chill, today. Archie and I tottered once around the garden. The step total is an unimpressive 2161, and I haven’t done much knitting, either. I must pull myself together – May will not remain so distant.


The mosaic moves forward, I think. There was a crisis this morning, when they discovered that the designer – for this is, alas, not an original Helen Miles design – and the building contractor had specified different measurements. It has been straightened out.


I haven’t done much reading, either. The end of “Fontamara” remains tantalisingly close – like the divide-for-back-and-front point of the Polliwog – while I remain mired in inactivity.




Amy, thank you for your comment on Sunday’s blog. How things have changed! My situation was once more or less yours – American me, Scottish husband. We met in Glasgow, where he was employed, but married in New Jersey. After the honeymoon we just went back to Glasgow, no fuss, certainly no visa. Alexander has an American wife, too, and they had a somewhat harder time but even they are now ominously middle-aged and there has been time for times to change again.


Where in Texas? It’s a big state! My mother’s parents lived in Dallas. Her brother and his family stayed there. I have plenty of Texan cousins, including once and twice removed. I’m sure I’ve said before – it’s my one claim to fame – that my Aunt Louise, my mother’s brother’s wife, was at the luncheon Kennedy never got to. Uncle Nat had to work, so he wasn’t there, but they were both planning to go to the rally in Fort Worth that evening. I hope she saved the menu.


Shandy, I too love the way I can sit at my breakfast table and read a book review and whistle the text down from the ether in seconds, to the Kindle app on my iPad.