Friday, May 28, 2021


I’m not feeling too bad. The Cazalets, still stuck in pre-Pearl-Harbor 1940,  certainly suit my mood of sadness and anxiety. Everything here is pretty well done, and everything last-minute inscribed upon lists. Rachel rang up, very sympathetic.  Archie came this morning. 2476 steps. The weather is, as promised, improving somewhat and the garden is unbelievably beautiful, with all those different greens as the trees come into leaf, and the rhododendron bank in full splendour.


I’ve knit myself a bit further forward on the second Pairfect sock, and mustn’t forget to take it along tomorrow.


Here is somebody – it should be Joe and Becca’s daughter Ella – in her hap shawl:

I hope to have lots of photographs and adventures for you when I reappear or the 8th or 9th of June.



Thursday, May 27, 2021


I’ve met my cat-carer and, as I expected, I feel a bit less panic-y. Archie came, we tottered around the garden (2270 steps), then I set him to gathering up the items on my to-pack list. All easy-peasy, and it is greatly satisfying to strike things off a list. The cats will be fine. My cleaner will come in a couple of times to deal with the litter tray. Archie will look in at least once. That would be enough to keep them alive, if worse came to worst. And it won’t.


The Majestic Line rang up this morning. Archie answered the phone. My heart sank – had Ms Sturgeon intervened at the last moment? But no, it was just a Bon Voyage call. It’s possible (given that C. and I were booked on a cruise leaving May 1 which was cancelled) that ours will be the first of the season for the Majestic Line.


Poor Paradox is in heat, It doesn’t happen often, with her. If only it weren’t for Covid, we could have a weekend in Rome (Paradox and I) for about what the services of a ginger tom would cost here, and then look forward to a drawer-ful of Italian kittens. My tutor says that there are plenty of gentleman cats able and willing, in Rome.


I’ve made some progress with the second Pairfect sock. The first half of such a sock is the fun bit, where you just sit back and let the yarn lead. Rib until the ribbing-colour gives out. Knit on until the ribbing-colour reappears. Make a heel. Then you have to give some thought to the foot you are knitting for. I’ve finished the initial ribbing, and done an inch or two beyond.




I’m enjoying the second book in Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet series, perhaps more than the first, although finding it increasingly difficult to grasp which couple are the parents of which children.  We’re now in the dreadful early days of WWII. My father’s father was the most recent immigrant among my four grandparents – I think he was brought as a baby from the Netherlands. I have a memory of visiting his widow, my grandmother, as Germany was over-running Holland – it didn’t take them long. My father was one of four brothers and memory suggests that there were at least three of them there, but that’s unlikely. I am probably remembering just my father and his brother Uncle Lee, hunched over the radio, listening to the news.


I remember, too, my parents talking about the war, in those pre-Pearl-Harbor days. I had a vague impression of the map of Europe (how?) and supposed that England occupied the space which is, in fact, France. I was quite surprised to discover, eventually, that it is just a miserable island in the North Sea. I was born in 1933.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021


All well, although panic increases. Even list-making doesn’t help, because by now the lists look long (although each separate item is in fact simple). I haven’t yet seen the girl next door, whom I don’t really know – I need to introduce her to the cats and give her a key. I think I’ll feel better when that conversation has been done. I allowed myself not to walk again today, which was probably a mistake. 738 steps. Oh dear oh dear. Archie is coming tomorrow – there will be no escape. And I did fill out and return a form to the Majestic line attesting that C. and I are in robust health. That’s one thing to cross off the list.


The charger problem is more mysterious than that, Tamar. (comment, yesterday) The telephone was happy to charge on the bedroom charger; the iPad charged fine on the kitchen one. Which charger to take along?


Mary Lou, (another comment yesterday) – you would benefit mankind if you demonstrated how to get stitches from one needle onto four. I didn’t do much knitting today, just sat there stewing in my panic, but I did advance the ribbing somewhat, on the second Pairfect sock.


And finished the first Cazalet book and started the second – WWII has been declared. The author is good on how huge events like that intertwine with daily life. The nearest comparison for me, I think, would be the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis, two months before Helen was born. We had nowhere to run to – Kirkmichael came later. My mother (I may well have said this before) was in Dallas that week, and hardly noticed, indeed confused it later on with the Bay of Pigs. Her own mother was near death at the time; that may have been why. Or Texas may have been so big and so far away that the danger didn’t seem as terrible and immediate there as it did to the rest of us.

It was November, of course; not a cheerful month at the best of times. I remember waking up and hearing the milkman's dear horse in the street and knowing that the world hadn't, at least, hurled itself into catastrophe for one more night.



Tuesday, May 25, 2021


C. took me to Peebles today to buy shoes, and I now have a pair of Eccos which seem very comfortable (I wore them all the rest of the day) and look very nice. She got herself some shoes too. Then we had coffee and shared a scone in a shop with the River Tweed flowing past the window. Then we came back to Edinburgh and called on Helen. She is distinctly lame but seems otherwise well. She found a delicious vegan mushroom and chick pea stew in her refrigerator and we all lunched on that. So it was a good day.


I’ve had trouble, however, with my cellulare. First of all, I couldn’t find it this morning, and it took three calls to it from the land line before I tracked it down. Then, this afternoon, I found it dead as a dodo, and it refused to respond to the kitchen charger. It seems to be doing fine on the bedroom one, so I must remember to take that one on the cruise. So I can’t tell you how far I’ve walked, but I think we covered enough ground in Peebles that it would be a reasonable but not excessive amount.


No knitting, and I’m very tired, so I won’t even promise any for this evening. Here’s a picture, however, of the excess yarn I pulled out of the Pairfect ball after finishing the first sock:




The Cazalets continue to satisfy. WWII looms. My sister recommends The Forsythe Saga. She says she was compelled to read it by a book group, and that it was surprisingly good. I find (another surprise) that I have it in my Kindle library, and that it falls open to the first page of the introduction implying that I haven’t read it.


Jenny: my cleaner will come in three times while I'm away, to change the litter tray and put the rubbish out next Monday. If need be, I think the cats would survive on being fed by her, although in fact the girl next door will come in twice a day.

There was a remarkable story on the BBC website last week about a cat in Cornwall which jumped into a package its mistress was making up, and got sealed in, and was sent to an address in the south of England where it arrived six days later. It was dehydrated, and stayed overnight with a vet, but is otherwise fine. Did no one hear it mewing and scratching? A very odd story. 





Monday, May 24, 2021


I am grateful for your comfort – glad to know that I’m not the only one who panics in this situation. My package of reporter’s notebooks, ordered for the purposes of bird-watching, arrived this afternoon and I at once started two lists, “Do” and “Pack”. One of the secrets of lists, I think, is to include a few simple and obvious tasks (e.g., “pack yarn”) just so that you can cross them off.


C. and I are going to Peebles tomorrow, where she says there is a shoe shop which may have what I need.


The weather forecasts this morning suggested that the present spell of Cold and Disgusting will end towards the weekend, to be replaced by Warm and Dry. Wouldn’t that be nice?


I treated myself to not having a walk this morning (delightful!) and made a good start on the packing. I tried to walk up and down the house during the day but have only reached 1947 steps which is not very good.




Shandy, I have looked up bonxies in my bird book, They sound thoroughly disagreeable but a serious possibility for a sighting in the area we are headed for.


Mary Jane, I am sure you are right, that doing things as you think of them is part of the secret of going away. Back in the days when my husband and I went to Kirkmichael once a month or so – and habit never made it entirely easy – that was my policy. The instant I thought of something that had to be done or packed, I did it.


Kirsten, an Italian cookery book is an excellent idea, although they tend to be rather expensive even for Kindle. I often sit over my iPad at the end of the day watching Italian cookery on YouTube, and have become enamoured of a chef called Antonino Cannavacciuolo. “Antonone” would be more appropriate. But the commenters say that his books are full of ingredients you can’t get and difficult operations. I am rather attracted by a simpler one attributed to Sofia Loren.


Jenny, don’t say things like that! No – someone is coming in to feed them.




I made a bit of progress today with the initial ribbing on the second Pairfect sock. Not much. Tamar, like you, I cast on on one needle. Actually, in my case, on two, held together, in the hopes of making the top of the sock a bit less tight. The trouble starts when I try to separate the stitches onto four needles after knitting one row. Needles seem to be flying everywhere. I’ve got them under control for this sock, but I feel there must be a better system.




I am finding the Cazalets (see yesterday) very comforting, and continue to have the occasional feeling that I’ve been here before. I’m glad to have you with me, Janet. I love family sagas, as a genre, and this is just what I need for this stressful week.

Sunday, May 23, 2021


Peggy, yes, I am frightened about leaving home, although I don’t know what I’m frightened of. Worried about the cats, of course. I don’t need to worry about reading. I will have my iPad, from which I am never separated, and can whistle down anything I want from the heavens. It’s a pity one can’t do that with yarn. I think I have read all of Kate Atkinson – that was a good idea.


Shandy, I have never heard of the bonxsie and will certainly look out for them. I believe that Gladys Amedro and her husband only moved to Shetland in retirement, for the love of bird watching. I think if I were God creating the world, 40 different birds would have been plenty for Scotland. But there are in fact hundreds. That’s a good idea, to photograph them. I have ordered a pack of reporter’s notebooks, which should arrive tomorrow.


Tomorrow I think I’ll pack. That might cheer me up. And start a list. I’ve got two geranium cuttings here in the Catalogue Room – they seem to have struck. They must go out on the step at the last moment. For now, the weather is still chilly and rather unpleasant. That's the sort of thing I will hope to remember in the final flurry. 


As for knitting, I have finished the first Pairfect sock and started the second. I have never suffered from Second Sock Syndrome. Casting on over four needles – which I haven’t done for a while – seems very difficult and clumsy. I must remember to pack a darning needle so that if I finish a sock, mid-cruise, I can kitchener it. Another one for the list.


For reading, at the moment I have attached myself to Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalets. I find the whole series on my iPad. Have I read them? There are moments when it feels familiar. I’ve finished “Dove Mi Trovo” and must start another something in Italian.

Current affairs

There used to be a rumour -- you can easily find it if you google -- that Prince Harry was James Hewitt's son and not Prince Charles's. The rumour has been largely discounted, and Hewitt denies it. However, it must be known to both men, and painful for both, and perhaps affects their relationship. And yet Harry, baring all to Oprah, doesn't mention it. The elephant in the room?





Saturday, May 22, 2021


The cruise is drawing ominously close.




Shandy, that is a simple and brilliant idea: to get a little notebook in which to record the birds I see. Anything at all interesting, and I will also record where I saw it. Here, I operate with an A4 notebook, but that’s a bit much. Last time, I think the one bird I added to my very limited repertoire was the common cormorant or shag, beloved because of Christopher Isherwood’s nonsense poem which my husband taught us all to love. Jean(from Cornwall), I will certainly look out for gannets.


Andrea and Madeleine (their daughter) have posted a touching eulogy for Andrew on Youtube. It is a very cruel loss. I think she is going to go on with Fruity Knitting – indeed, it sounds as if she has no other income. (Beth, comment yesterday, you were ahead of me with this news.)


Tricia, thank you for encouragement about Inverewe.  Are there benches for sitting on before one gets to the house and coffee shop? I’ve more or less promised the Majestic Line that I am nimble enough for the tender, by signing up for the cruise. And I am relatively confident. But I can’t keep going for long, once ashore.




I was wrong to say, last time, that I was in the 40’s of the rounds on the foot of my Pairfect sock – it was only the 30’s. Now, however, I am roughly at round 50, aiming for 58. The green colour (ribbing, heel) has surprised me by reappearing. That’s fine, if it holds out until the end. And even if it doesn’t, I have plenty of oddballs in my sock bag. But I remain surprised, to see it so soon when I am knitting for Rachel’s little foot.




I’ve finished Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Dove Mi Trovo”, and don’t know where to turn, especially as I now have three whole weeks before my next Italian lesson. However, there are several interesting possibilities on my Potential list.

Friday, May 21, 2021

 I’m sorry about yesterday’s gap. I got my hair washed and cut, and the effort left me sharply impressed with how much ground I have lost recently. One doesn’t notice quite so much, going round and round one’s own gerbil cage. And the hairdresser – new to me – had one sitting in front of a full-length mirror so there I was with my old hands on my shabby knees. (Dear Charles, my hairdresser until he retired recently, had the wit to provide smaller mirrors. All one needs to see is the hair. He also had a daughter married to an Italian and living somewhere near Naples; perhaps inspired by her, he served delicious coffee. And he was very good at cutting hair.)


Still, I got there; I got back; and I look much tidier.


I went out for my walk early today – 1585 steps so far. But the day is young – I’m writing to you much earlier than usual. It’s wet and windy. They used to say something like “A wet and windy May/ fills the hay ricks with hay”: meaning that a wet and windy May was the preface to a good summer. We shall see. 2479 steps altogether yesterday – I felt there should have been more, given what a struggle it was to walk to the hairdresser’s.




There was a headline in the Times yesterday saying that the Scottish hotel industry had been decimated by Covid. And in the first sentence of the story beneath, we were told that 10% of  Scottish hotels have closed. I am sorry for their misfortune, but was delighted to discover that somewhere out there, among the Times’s subeditors, is someone who shares my knowledge of what “decimate” really means.


I was reminded of the time – and I wish I could remember the context – when I heard a BBC radio announcer say that someone had “literally dropped a clanger”. You could hear the pleasure in her voice. She was talking about someone who had let fall a hand-bell.




I am pressing forward with that Pairfect sock. As suspected, there is no change of pattern. The foot has just got longer. I find from that useful page in my Lotus Organiser that Rachel’s feet – I have chosen Rachel for these socks, because she has the smallest feet I am acquainted with – that Rachel’s feet are 58 rounds, after the final gusset decrease. I am currently somewhere in the 40’s, so, not far to go. Maybe even today.


Thank you for all your (conflicting) advice. Tamar:”The socks are very pretty, but the stash is full.” That’s impossible. “Stash” is an infinitely expanding concept. Mary Lou: it’s been so long since I knit socks (=since I went anywhere) that I come to them fresh and delighted, and don’t think I could tire during a 10-day cruise. I found myself wondering, a day or so ago, whether I remembered how to turn a heel (standard vanilla, heel flap, heel, gusset). I’m glad to be able to report that the answer is, yes.


KayT, a Majestic Line cruise is interesting indeed, but still leaves plenty of time for knitting. The summit of my ambition is to get aboard next Saturday. The entertainment consists of delicious food, three times a day, and an outing of some sort every day. I will leave that to C. – she’s an energetic walker. If we ever dock anywhere, I will stroll ashore: but on my previous cruise, that only happened once. All the other stops meant going ashore by tender, and the trouble with that is that you have to stay ashore until the tender comes back for you.


I plan to take up birdwatching. I have the RSPB volume on the birds of Scotland (there are an awful lot of them) and a pair of binoculars James gave me. That will still leave plenty of time for knitting. And C. can tell me about the local points of interest when she gets back. I think one of our stops will be Inverewe Gardens: I’ll go ashore that day if strength allows.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021


Yet another great-granddaughter:

 (I hope I’ve got the right baby.)


And yet another Caesarian – in this case because Lucy seemed to have developed an infection in the days just before giving birth. Both she and the baby (Flora Rachel) are on antibiotics and will stay in hospital for a few days. They have gone private, and will not be ejected as unceremoniously as Becca and Ella were after their Caesarian birth a few days ago.


I set out to walk alone today, but met a friend who was just setting forth with her dog, so I had pleasant company. 2469 steps.


I’ve been knitting happily. Here’s my Pairfect sock:


I don’t think there will be anything more in the way of pattern. The hope is that the foot will be long enough to reach the final green section for the toe, but even Arne and Carlos can’t guarantee that. Jenny, the MustStache system you mention – two balls that begin at the same point in the sequence – would accomplish the same thing, in some ways more efficiently. Choice would be restored as to the amount of ribbing. Here’s the link. They live in Texas.


I’ve resisted the temptation to invest in a Coofle kit. Socks it will be, for cruise knitting. I have 100 grams of one of Kaffe’s colourways in my sock bag – will even that be enough, at the rate I’m going at the moment? Perhaps I’d better throw in something else.


My Amazon package is now promised between 6 and 9 this evening.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021


Helen sounds cheerful, and said she had a better night’s sleep last night. She claims to be enjoying the enforced leisure. Alas, she’s not a knitter. Archie is cooking for her, at least some of the time. I cooked lunch for him today – I haven’t done that for a while. Nor was it as easy as it used to be, although it was a very simple meal. We got around the garden. 2361 steps.


I knit happily on with my Pairfect socks. The first one is now eight imches long and I expect the heel colour to come up every time I pull a length of yarn out of the centre -- very exciting. Arne and Carlos have produced a new self-patterning (not Pairfect) collection, which looks very attractive on their Youtube channel. The self-patterning was worked out with technical assistance and great precision for a previous collection or collections. All they have done now is to re-colour it. The new collection is called Lofoten, I think (a Norwegian place name); and doesn’t seem to be available in GB yet.


Linnell (comment yesterday), you have enhanced the temptation of the Kate Davies Coofle sweater kit. I read Wendy Knits’ blog entry on the subject, as you suggested – it answered a question the KD website doesn’t, namely whether it is knit top-down or bottom-up. The answer is the latter, which makes it more suitable for cruise knitting as there would be largely nothing to do except knit. I would be unlikely to reach the yoke in the available time. Tomorrow is really the last feasible day for a decision.


All day I have been promised an Amazon delivery “by 9 p.m.”. Usually when a day starts like that, an actual time slot is assigned later on. Today no, and they have finally confessed that it won’t be coming. Maybe tomorrow. That’s just as well – it means I can go to bed before nine, as is my wont.

Monday, May 17, 2021


Helen didn’t have surgery after all. She was seen at the Royal Infirmary on the day of the disaster, but referred out to Livingstone for surgery this morning. When she got there, a different set of doctors decided against. It would be hard to locate the severed nerve or nerves; a general anaesthetic is not completely risk-free; there is also the danger of introducing infection into the wound. They were worried about the ugly scar, but that doesn’t bother her. So she is home, sounding cheerful, with instructions to remain immobile for two or three days, and not to drive for a fortnight.


The Royal Infirmary feared she would lose sensation in part of her foot, which would affect balance. Now the only problem seems to be a loss of feeling in the shin, and one can live with that.


I can profitably work that all up into Italian for Saturday’s conversation.


I walked alone this morning – 2485 steps; a bit better. Archie is coming tomorrow after all (he had planned to stay home looking after his mother) so I’ll have company.


I went on consulting my own frayed nerves rather than culture or Italian – finished watching the wonderful BBC “Pride and Prejudice” down to the final kiss. I then re-read the end of the book, from Lydia’s marriage onwards: it’s really a very faithful adaptation. Watching it, I thought maybe the magnificent Alison Steadman was playing Mrs Bennett a bit OTT. On re-reading, I don’t think so. The awfulness is fully there in the text.


And I went on knitting my Pairfect sock. The idea, a simple but ingenious one, is that you start ribbing; and when the original colour gives out you switch to st st for a passage of Arne-and-Carlos self-patterning; and when the original colour reappears, you knit a heel; and then knit the desired length of foot. Then you continue to pull yarn out of the centre of the ball. At first, it will be the yarn you didn’t use for the foot; then a length of bright yellow yarn. That will give way in time to the original colour, and at that point you start knitting the second sock.


I’m well-advanced with the first self-patterning section. This threatens to be slightly addictive, and I’m in danger of having knit too much before the cruise even starts. There’s still time to buy a Kate Davies yoke sweater kit. I’ve chosen the one I want – Coofle. I haven’t clicked far enough ahead to find out how much it costs: that might cool my enthusiasm.



Sunday, May 16, 2021


I spoke to Helen this morning. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all is well, but all is at least in hand.


She tripped and fell heavily, as we knew. When she had cautiously established that nothing was broken, she went upstairs to clean herself up – and when she saw the wound, decided that she needed medical attention. She was alone in the house. She went next door to her neighbours, but they weren’t there. She decided that either a taxi or an ambulance would take too long to arrive, so she drove to the Royal Infirmary herself. The desk where she presented herself assumed that since she had driven herself there, and walked in, she belonged in Minor Injuries. And in Minor Injuries there was a substantial queue (of people with nothing much wrong with them, she says).


Helen is a fairly forceful character. I wonder if she was more shocked than she realised. Did she try telling someone that she could see the bone?


When a medically qualified person finally saw her, things moved forward promptly. An x-ray confirmed her own diagnosis: nothing is broken. That's a mercy. But a nerve or nerves are severed. She will have surgery tomorrow (full-scale, general anaesthetic) for that. Yesterday they put in temporary stitches and gave her some crutches and sent her home.


One good thing, though. She was about to embark on a serious couple of hours of housekeeping when the accident happened: she had changed out of her nice new trousers. The old pair she was wearing when she fell have been written off, as feared.




I finished those socks. Here they are. I am horrified to see through the eyes of the camera, how different they are. Maybe I’ll keep them for myself.

There is nothing in my sock stash that I particularly like, but there is a ball of Regia Pairfect (in rather alarming colours). I did a Pairfect pair once, I think; it was rather fun. I went to Arne and Carlos on Youtube, to remind me how to do it, and cast on. We’ll see.


I got around the garden by myself this morning – C. usually comes on Sunday, but she has a cold. 2080 steps – it has been one of those days when nothing seems to please the telefonino.


Instead of reading, I have been re-watching the old BBC “Pride and Prejudice” to serve my nerves. It’s still good.

Saturday, May 15, 2021


Archie just phoned to say that Helen has tripped over something, running for the telephone, and cut her leg badly. She drove herself to hospital, where he thinks she’ll probably stay tonight. Oh, dear, indeed. She had on a particularly nice pair of brand new trousers when I saw her this morning, too. 2203 steps.


No knitting, but I am sufficiently agitated by this news that I’ll probably be able to get back into the sitting room this evening and finish off that toe. Then what? The problem of cruise-knitting remains unsolved. I have a sort of hankering for a Kate Davies yoke sweater kit, which would be ridiculous given the amount of stash to hand. Yoke sweaters are awfully peaceful. Anna, I do agree about missing KD’s one-time homely blogs.


C. and I have had our boarding instructions and luggage labels from the Majestic Line. Masks will have to be worn on board, which is bad news. I find them claustrophobic and – despite your help with the problem – my spectacles steam up. I’ll have to solve that one by not wearing them all the time, and will have to try very hard not to lose them.


This is alarming news about the red warning on my blog. Thank you for telling me, Jenny, although I can’t imagine what I could do about it. Blogger has never mentioned a problem to me. I wonder if I provided an unsafe link at some point?

Friday, May 14, 2021


I’ve been sitting out on the step for the last couple of hours, watching the filming of a few seconds of  “Crime”. (See Wednesday’s blog.) Goodness, I’m glad I’m not a movie star. Someone once said – possibly even Evelyn Waugh – that war consists of long intervals of exquisite tedium interspersed with moments of terror. Filming is rather like that. They’re still at it out there.


But there was some warmth in the sun, and all the neighbours were assembled, and that was kind of fun. Here some of us are:


I have an appointment to have my hair done next week, you may be glad to hear.


2296 steps. I walked alone.


I’ve signed up for Kate Davies’ Bluestocking club – women’s history plus sock patterns. Maybe it’ll get me knitting again. I have done a bit today. I watched the whole first episode of “Pursuit of Love” and have brought the current sock to the toe shaping. I should finish tomorrow. I’m afraid I didn’t like “Pursuit of Love” at all. You’ll have to tell me, later on, whether they get Fabrice de Sauveterre anywhere near right.


Thank you for your cat comments. Sharon, I particularly like your notion that cats can hide in another dimension. Perdita has been doing it all her life.

Now I must work on Italian for tomorrow. I've read my canto of the Inferno but need to go through it again with a translation. For literature I decided to stick with Jhumpa Lahiri -- explaining her to my tutor will be a good exercise in itself. 

Thursday, May 13, 2021


An unexciting day, after the thrills of yesterday. Archie and I got once around the garden; step count 2480.


Here’s a picture of Joe and Becca and Ella:


No knitting.


And very little in the way of deploying yesterday’s garden centre purchases. Maybe I’ll start the micro greens off this evening. Barbara-Kay, (comment yesterday) my father grew snow peas in his wartime vegetable garden in Detroit. I had never heard of them, and remember them as sublimely delicious. When I started growing vegetables in Kirkmichael, it was the first thing I wanted to achieve. I had successful crops, but nothing ever tasted as wonderful as those wartime snow peas. My father even sent me some American seeds, to no avail.


In those days, I think, the stores didn’t sell them: or maybe that was because my mother didn’t buy them. Nowadays they’re abundantly available, but boring.


I’ve been re-reading Mitford, “Love in a Cold Climate” now that I’ve finished “Pursuit of Love”. And it is indeed cold.


I had a bad evening yesterday (after writing to you) when I couldn’t find Perdita. She couldn’t have escaped (she likes going for walks) – there’s only one way out, and Helen and the van man, loading her mosaic, couldn’t have failed to notice a stout middle-aged cat going down the steps and setting forth along Drummond Place. Even knowing that, I was anxious and unhappy for a couple of hours. But she’s here, with no explanation of her absence.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021


We had a grand time at the garden centre – but, despite much longer on my feet than usual, the step total for today is only 1767. I bought some lettuce and some kale and some mangetout peas, and also some microleaves (how often have I tried them? how often failed?).  Helen and I both think that she put all three plant trays on the doorstep when we got home, but we soon found that the lettuce was missing. Left behind in the car? or pinched from the doorstep? We don’t know yet. She bought a lot of much more garden-ly things like pebbles and grit.


Then the afternoon was devoted to dispatching her mosaic northwards.


C. and I were meant to be going to Peebles on Friday in pursuit of shoes. I’m having some foot trouble. But she has phoned to say that she has a cold – wee Hamish’s fault, I suspect; I live so far out of the world these days that such a thing has almost been forgotten. We’ve postponed Peebles and shoes until Tuesday. And perhaps just as well: Drummond Place is to be taken over on Friday by filming for something called “Crime” with Dougray Scott, a name I think I vaguely know. Would she have been able to drive to the door? Edinburgh is all too willing to close roads and inconvenience rate-payers, but under the new arrangements I can enjoy the excitement without anxiety. Goog’ling either “Dougray Scott” or “Crime” produces substantial results. This is clearly big stuff.




Thank you for your comment, Shandy. I got as far into the television "Pursuit of Love" as the arrival of Lord Merlin’s house party, and utterly agree with your judgment. I hope I will press on tonight (I hope that, every evening, and never achieve it) to the Kroesig lunch party. I’d like to see how they deal with Davey Warbeck, a pivotal character despite his hypochondria. Or because of it. His first appearance wasn’t promising.


Two days to go until the weekend: it’s time to get back to serious Italian literature.




We’re all hoping that the going to step up to the plate in Israel.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021


Ella Ogden is now safely with us, after a long labour and an emergency Caesarean. Joe and Becca’s daughter. I’ll send pics soon.

My friend Sylvia is overjoyed to have her cat back. She says he looks fine but seems somewhat subdued. She has ordered a cat-tracker for him.


Again, a better day here than forecast. 1865 steps – one of the days when the step-counter isn’t really trying. Archie and I got around the garden once.


Helen is going to take me to a GARDEN CENTRE tomorrow. I think we think we might as well do it properly, and go to Hopetoun House. It will be exciting. I don’t know what I want, except for some small flowerpots.


I’m a bit further forward with sock-knitting. Thank you for the reminder about negative ease, Tamar. I have recently bought myself some bamboo-and-cotton socks for my cruise: very smart-looking and comfortable. Does anyone really want hand-knit woolly socks any more?


I knit this morning while watching “Pursuit of Love”. I wasn’t tremendously impressed. I spent much of the rest of the day reading it. It’s not an easy book to translate to the screen. My main objection to the early scenes – which is all, in fact, I saw – was that they didn’t get the 14-year-old balance of innocence and curiosity and sophistication right: the girls were 21st century girls. But the book requires them to age a full 15 years or more, so it would be hard to get actresses who could do that, and also be 14. But we started off on the wrong foot: the scene was Christmas-time, and the light and the green countryside were wrong. Also we saw one of our heroines coming home from a day of hunting, riding astride. Mitford makes a point of how uncomfortable it was to trot home while riding side saddle. Walking was all right – but the horse would get too cold. Cantering was fine –but the horse would get too hot. It’s a small point; why bother; no one will notice. But it irritated me.


I am not always so carping. I loved the BBC “Pride and Prejudice” and have re-watched it a couple of times.


Now I really must re-engage with Italian.

Monday, May 10, 2021

 My friend Sylvia – my Oberlin friend Sylvia, whom I’ve known for more than 70 years – writes a private blog to 30 or 40 friends and family, It’s a bright spot of my morning, although lately not so bright because her cat Frankie was missing. Day gave way to day, confidence to forlorn hope. But this afternoon – still morning in Binghampton, NY – Sylvia wrote to say that he was home. A neighbour had found him in her cellar. He was carrying identification. Happy news for everybody, and I suspect Frankie is a very happy cat.


Another bit-warmer day here, with just enough of a shower that I don’t have to worry about water for the pots on the step. 2238 steps. Helen walked me around the garden. She hopes to take me to a garden centre on Wednesday What a treat that will be!


I found the “sock size” page in my electronic Filofax, and it isn’t as definitive as I remembered. I thought there was a simple formula – so long a foot for gents, so long for ladies. But no. I’ve advanced slightly with my current sock. I haven’t watched “Pursuit of Love” yet. (Well-reviewed in this morning’s paper, but with elements that make me sceptical.) Maybe today will be the day when I get back into the sitting room and the television set after blog-writing and a bit of supper. That’s where the difficulty lies, essentially – no evening knitting.




Peggy (comment yesterday): Yes! I’m a great Jhumpa Lahiri fan. I “discovered” her in the New Yorker (as I did William Trevor and Alice Munro) and went on to read much of what she has published. She is, so to speak, in the generation of my daughter-in-law Ketki: the daughter of immigrants with imperfect English, who grew up speaking American. And then, in Jhumpa’s case, fell in love with Italian, moved her family to Italy for two or three years, and has lately been writing in that language.


I am reading the book you mention, I didn’t want to say anything about it for fear of sounding too highbrow. It has now been translated into English. There was a long review in the weekend Financial Times. It feels slightly thin – I can’t think of a better word. I’m sure all the Italian is perfectly correct, and vastly better than I could do. I wonder if my tutor knows about it.


That still leaves me to decide between an Italian thriller and something more weighty. You’d be surprised at how fast the weekend comes around, if you’re not careful.

Sunday, May 09, 2021


C. and I got twice around the garden this morning. 3270 steps already! The weather (as often in Edinburgh) was dryer and brighter than forecast. And – oh, bliss! – warmer than it’s been recently. The cherry trees are shedding their petals. The garden changes every day, this time of year. I must harvest some more wild garlic while it’s still here.


I had a good time sock-knitting to the Andrew Marr show this morning. I feel sure there’s a sock-size page in my ancient Lotus Organizer, but I can’t find it, although there’s lots of interesting information about knitting in there. I’ll have to wing it. This is a second sock I’m knitting. I can count the rows from heel gusset to toe shaping on the first sock. Should be do-able.


It was wee Hamish’s birthday yesterday. I sent him an interesting bottle of a chilli sauce from Zimbabwe called Dr. Trouble. I read about it in the Times last week, and promptly ordered. And it promptly came. It’s delicious. It’s made by assembling the ingredients (no artificials) and putting the mixture into big glass containers and leaving them out in the African sun for two months, turning frequently. The bottle was really for Hamish’s father Manaba, who is a serious amateur cook.




I’ve been hesitating over the Italian thrillers in my Kindle library – Lucarelli, Carofiglio, Camillieri (who wrote about Inspector Montalbano). I ought probably to choose something more serious. I’m looking forward to tonight’s television adaptation of Mitford’s “Pursuit of Love”. I don’t watch much television these days. I’m uneasy about the publicity pictures I’ve seen. But I’ve got to try.

Saturday, May 08, 2021


Rachel rang up today. Down there in London, she said, it was raining but warm. Here it’s resolutely grey, no rain – which would be welcome – and bitter cold. Evelyn Waugh’s “biting cold mid-June morning” comes to mind, as often. Both of Rachel’s prospective grandchildren are now full term – Joe’s wife Becca is three or four days past her date; Thomas’ wife Lucy still has a week to go.


I’m very weak again. Why? C. and I got once around the garden. 2378 steps, which could be worse. We talked of how to get to Oban for our cruise. It’s easy but tedious by train, but I gather that isn’t a serious option.


It looks as if the SNP has failed to get an overall majority. That’s good news – but the wretched Greens (9 seats) are also in favour of independence, so storm clouds continue to gather. My own constituency was previously Conservative – Ruth Davidson herself – but has gone SNP. One of their heavyweights was standing here, and the opposition (for which I voted) was pretty lightweight, so it’s not surprising.


There’s an article in the new New Yorker about Ms Sturgeon and independence and things. No conclusions, but clear and informative.


It’s interesting, in a sad sort of way, how different the results are in the three nations – Conservative in England, Labour in Wales, SNP here. I feel we are gently drifting apart.


There’s also an article about knitting in the “How To Spend It” section of today’s Financial Times. That one isn’t very informative. It runs up against – but doesn’t really confront – the old problem, that hand knitting takes so long that it isn’t economic unless you can exploit the poor in some way, who are so glad to have the income and to be praised for their skills that they are willing to work for absurd hourly rates. We are fortunate to have a craft with which love can be so simply expressed.


All of which lets me postpone saying that I haven’t done any knitting again today. Those socks are all ready for the Andrew Marr show tomorrow morning. Which should be interesting.




I’ve finished Clare Chambers’ “A Dry Spell”, and enjoyed it. Rachel says I mustn’t read a newly-discovered author all at once, and she’s probably right. I’ve decided to abandon “I Vicere” – it’s too big. What I need is a faster-moving Italian novel.