Saturday, July 31, 2021


2443 steps today – that’s back in the acceptable range. Who knows whether the improvement was in me or the app. C. and I walked around the garden this morning. We had a certain amount of gentle-rain-from-Heaven today, but I doubt if it added up to as much as we need.


James and Cathy and their daughter Kirsty are beginning a Scottish pilgrimage today, going first to Kirkmichael. I won’t see them until Wednesday.




Jenni from Seattle (comment Wednesday): You’re wide of the mark, on this one. A close family member of mine, dearly loved, is trans. She’s a private sort of person and I hope not to mention her here again. Loving her, however, doesn’t affect the issues about women’s spaces and women’s athletics and roles reserved for women, e.g. in  short lists . It is a great pity that everything has become so heated and political. I wish we could all be as open and cheerful as Grayson Perry – although I know he’s not strictly relevant. I was a great fan of Jan Morris, too. Like your partner, she knew she was in the wrong body at an early age, but nevertheless married and fathered, I think, five children, before transitioning in her 40’s.

Today is the feast of St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. 

Friday, July 30, 2021


Another day of little achievement. In light of yesterday’s failure, I thought it important to get around the garden, and I did, grateful for both benches. But that was about it. I didn’t finish the Italian essay, and have still to read my canto of the Inferno. 1798 steps, the app says. It's cooler today, although still no rain.


Today is the feast of St Martha (as in Martha-and-Mary). The world has always stuck up for her, busy in the kitchen while her sister sat at Jesus’ feet. What else could she have done? A meal, however simple, for six or eight people (I’m assuming Jesus didn’t arrive alone), requires some preliminary thought. There was probably a servant. Could she have sent the servant out for the 1st century Palestinian equivalent of pizza, and sat down beside her sister? That certainly seems to be the course of action the biblical narrative recommends.


You don’t want to get me started on the Prodigal Son.

Thursday, July 29, 2021


Hot and sticky again. There’s been no more rain. Archie came. We didn’t go out – there were some jobs I wanted to get done, and I won’t see him again for awhile. The step count is too embarrassing to report.


Diana Wynne Jones sounds tempting, if a bit Welsh. I’ll certainly add her to my list. Thank you. At the moment I am reading an Italian police story by Carofiglio, for love of his name, and working on my essay about Il Colibri.


The only other thing I have done today is to revive my sourdough starter. It is perhaps time I made some more bread. All the books assure me that it is no great tragedy if one’s starter perishes, because it's so easy to start another one, but mine is over a year old now and I would hate to lose it.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021


Summer weather continues. We seem to have had some rain last night, totally unnoticed by me but I am sure appreciated by the plants on my doorstep.


Helen’s husband David is going back to Greece tomorrow night with two of his sons. They are back from Kirkmichael, and came together to walk around the garden with me this morning. The bench is still there.


That’s absolutely all I have to say. Tamar, you ask if I ever read fantasy. Not on the whole. Lewis Carroll of course, My husband and I read aloud at bedtime – I read to him; I was incapable of staying awake if I was the listener, and sometimes indeed managed to fall asleep while reading. This usually just resulted in my reading nonsense and my husband would thump me and I would pull myself together and read on. But once I woke in the middle of the night to find the light on and my spectacles on my nose and the book in my hand.


In the course of all this – and we got through a good deal, in nearly 60 years – we read the first of the Harry Potter books. I should say before proceeding that I am a t’riffic JK Rowling fan. I thoroughly approve of her stance on gender politics. I am devoted to Cameron Strike. But I was disappointed by Harry Potter. I was expecting a whole new fantasy world, like the Alice books or even Winnie the Pooh. What happens is more an ordinary (extremely skilful and well-told) school story with magic stuck on.


Archie reads fantasy and tells me all about it.


Tuesday, July 27, 2021


Fiona, thank you for your enormously helpful comment. I should have thought of the Drummond Place website, but I didn’t. I sent my grumble to “” which sounded plausible and has written to me in the past. It came zipping straight back to me. Before I returned to the fray this morning, I thought it would be a good idea to walk around the garden – and I found my bench back in its place. Indeed, I sat on it for a while. So the crisis is over for now, but I won’t forget.


We’ve had another hot summer’s day. Thunderstorms were forecast, but haven’t happened so far. 1584 steps, again including a Mindful Chef lunch. Poof to the app. Archie came. We didn’t get much done, but what we did, was useful.


I’ve finished reading Il Colibri (“The Hummingbird”), and didn’t like the last 50 pages at all. This week’s Italian essay will write itself. Now I need something to take the taste away.

Monday, July 26, 2021


There is little to report. The weather continues very pleasant-summer, here in Edinburgh, although it has certainly collapsed elsewhere. We are forecast much worse for tomorrow. I got around the garden by myself, and found that a beloved and often necessary bench, on the home stretch, has been removed. I am trying to find someone to whom to send a message of protest. 1836 steps – not as absurd as yesterday.


I knit a bit more of that sock while finishing off the new Fruity Knitting. If I were younger and stronger I would knit a Bohus sweater. I heard of it first in Sheila McGregor’s “Scandinavian Knitting”. The big interview was good, as always: it was with a breeder of angora rabbits who was also deeply involved with Bohus.


I would have been glad to have the difference between the product of  angora rabbits and angora goats explained. Wikipedia suggests that the goats produce mohair, not angora at all. Angora was all the rage when I was in high school.


Two freak accidents that didn’t happen –


A fortnight ago my cleaner went off leaving the kitchen window propped open with my mortar (as in mortar&pestle). It is a heavy brass object. I was afraid that Paradox who is both slim and rather stupid would squeeze out of the window and fall to her death. I lifted the window – it’s heavy – and freed the mortar but wasn’t quick enough to catch it before it fell to earth where it could easily have killed one of the toddlers below, and would have done some damage to a parent. But nobody was there so that was alright.


Today the same thing happened. I approached the problem with more caution and was able to grab the mortar and cautiously lower the window. However, when that was done, I found that the fingers of my right hand were stuck in the handle of the window. It wasn’t the end of the world. My telefonino was in my pocket, recording steps. I could have phoned for help. It was still an anxious moment. But in the end I was able to lift the window a centimetre or two with my left hand and thereby free the other one.

Sunday, July 25, 2021


Tamar, please never think of not advising me. I rely on you. Nor would I ever class one of your interventions as “nagging”. Volcanic ash from Iceland is an interesting question. I had a strange episode this morning, itching eye, profuse sneezing, like hay fever. Then it stopped.


Today went better. Edinburgh was bathed in sunshine, whereas the weather has collapsed in other parts of the kingdom, London for one. C. came, and we got around the garden in good order – a great relief after yesterday’s failure. The app credits me with only 1525 steps – that seems unlikely. I even made myself a Mindful Chef lunch, shuffling around the kitchen and chopping things up, as opposed to frying a sausage.  I even got some knitting done, on that sock, not that that would affect the step count, while watching Fruity Knitting. Madeline is standing in for her father, but that can’t go on forever.




Weavinfool, thanks for yours about short circulars for sock-knitting. I now can’t find my own remark which introduced the subject and therefore don’t know the name of the particular product we’re talking about. I have discovered (how?) that the gimmick is that one needle-tip, the one for the right hand – if you’re right-handed – is substantially shorter than the other. I have always found circulars actually painful for sock-knitting. That idea sounds as if it might help. Would it? Your comment suggests not.


Kirsten, thank you for the suggestion of chair-exercise YouTubes. That’s an excellent idea. I’ll report back.


Saturday, July 24, 2021


Not an entirely successful day. I slept badly, to begin with – that’s unusual. I’m normally very good at sleeping. Then I got up too late to make breakfast before my 8 a.m. Italian lesson. When C. came to walk me around the garden, I couldn’t even make it to the garden gate. The weather is still sizzling hot here, although it has dissolved into thunderstorms in the south of England. It’s hot in Rome, too, and my tutor had had her second vaccination yesterday. We didn’t exactly sparkle.


Helen is urging me to get another trainer. I’m resisting. It takes up a whole morning of every week. It’s fairly expensive.


Helen’s husband David is here from Greece. He’s finished quarantining and they have all gone off to Kikrmichael. He will be going back to Thessaloniki with a couple of his sons next week – but will be here again in September. They came to call on their way north. They are going on to the Glenlivet distillery (wherever that is: somewhere north) on Monday to see and photograph Helen’s big mosaic in place.




I’m glad to hear that Elsie Dinsmore hasn’t been entirely forgotten. It is interesting that she is free to download on Amazon – her family were slaveowners. I would have thought the books were about as Incorrect as it was possible to be, in 2021. Perhaps things aren’t as bad (censorship-wise) as I imagined, or maybe Amazon doesn’t know what’s inside.


Tamar, my bath has excellent handrails, and isn’t – like many another bath, like the one Helen has installed in Kirkmichael – too steep to get into. The problem is more my lack of flexibility.


Andrea has posted another episode of Fruity Knitting. It’s time I picked up those socks again (at least) and spent an hour with her.



Friday, July 23, 2021


Another such day – except that this time Edinburgh’s cloud cover had departed by lunchtime. Archie came. We got around the garden. It was a struggle. And this turns out to be one of the days when the app refuses to acknowledge my struggles – 1797 steps. Poof. I’ll have to walk up and down the hall a few times, although I ought to be reading Dante.  I dispatched a brief essay to Rome this morning about the first half of The Hummingbird. That was something.


I have a friend Sylvia, an Oberlin friend. I’m sure I’ve mentioned her before. She writes a private blog, almost every day, to a list of friends and family.  She’s having trouble with her hot water boiler, but her son, or her plumber, I’ve forgotten which, taught her how to re-light it. The process involves lying on the floor. She is delighted. That means she can have a hot bath whenever she wants, even before a new one is installed. I wouldn’t dream of lying on the floor to do anything, for fear of never getting up again. And a full-scale bathtub bath is a risky proposition for me, I discovered last weekend. Sylvia is a whole year older than I am. So that is a bit depressing.



Thursday, July 22, 2021


We had a nice cool grey Edinburgh day until late afternoon, but then the sun got through and now we’re sizzling away like everybody else. I walked around the garden by myself. Helen was planning to come, but she has plenty to do, so I said I’d do it by myself, and did. 2020 steps. Could be worse, I guess.


We had an interesting essay from Kate Davies yesterday about John Logie Baird and socks. When I pitched up in Glasgow in the fall of ’54 – talk about culture shock! – I had never heard of him. I guess I thought that we had invented television. Be that as it may, his daughter Diana became one of my undergraduate friends. One memorable day we went to Helensburgh to visit her aunt, JLB’s sister. Miss Baird and I discovered a mutual enthusiasm for Elsie Dinsmore (anybody?) and spent a happy afternoon reminiscing about her.


I’ve tried reading Wikipedia on both JLB and television, but it’s too hot to think, let alone knit. I think the industry went forward with an electronic system rather than the mechanical one JLB was using, and that RCA in America had as much to do with it as anyone. Lots of different scientists and inventors were involved, all over Europe and America. JLB seems to be the only one whose name has become attached to the invention.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021


Still hot, although I still think Edinburgh is doing better than elsewhere. We had some clouds until lunchtime today. Helen came, and got me around the garden – you’re absolutely right, Mary Lou, that she is not one to be trifled with. Even with that, and with tottering here and there to put away a supermarket delivery, I haven’t quite hit 2000 steps.


No knitting. The cats, even, aren’t pestering me for food with their usual enthusiasm.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021


Bless you, Shandy, for identifying Jennifer Ehle’s role in “The King’s Speech”. Knowing who she was, enhances it in retrospect. There is a crucial scene towards the end – I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here – when the speech therapist, who had thought his wife was out for the afternoon, is forced to bring his royal patient out into the family room. He introduces his wife – “This is…” and a brief pause. The issue of what name the therapist is to use with his patient has been bubbling around throughout the film. “…His Majesty King George VI”. His wife curtseys – and you’re right, Shandy, there is not the slightest suggestion that there had ever been anything between her and the King – and invites them to stay to supper. But the Queen says that they had something on that evening and must be getting back. Helena Bonham Carter’s take on the woman we remember as QE The Queen Mother was, I thought, slightly unexpected but both delightful and plausible.


Little else to report. Another warm day. Archie came but I refused to walk. We discharged quite a few small, useful chores instead.


I’ve just been watching the interview with Mr Cummings, without learning much. And without knitting anything.

Monday, July 19, 2021


I had a grand day out yesterday, having lunch with C., her daughter Christina, Christina’s husband Manaba, and their son wee Hamish. I think his Calcutta Cup vest will fit him well, if I can just energise myself to go on knitting it. It was a delicious pleasure to have lunch with a baby – 14 months – who eats real food with such relish: a chicken casserole, potatoes, asparagus, peas. His grandmother thinks he ought to be getting to grips with the use of a fork. I think he’s doing fine. He has a spoon, which he often abandons for a more direct approach. Pudding was an apple – he just seizes it; no need to cut it up – and some raspberries.


I’ve been very feeble today. Helen came, and we got around the garden. It’ll be Archie tomorrow. I have a single, simple chore which I have been intending to do all day, but didn’t. I think my best bet is to lay out the constituent parts this evening, and polish it off in the morning. Chequebook, bill, envelope, stamp, pen. It really shouldn’t be too difficult. I don’t often pay bills in that old-fashioned way, but this time I need to add a note of heart-felt appreciation. Difficult to do on-line.


What I did do this afternoon was watch “The King’s Speech” on Netflix. It is delicious, if you haven’t seen it. Even if you have. It was fun spotting actors from BBC classics of the past – including the King himself, of course. I missed Jennifer Ehle, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice: that’s to her credit. I spotted Sebastian from Brideshead Revisited and think I saw that awful clergyman who proposed to Elizabeth early on, and then swiftly married her friend.

Saturday, July 17, 2021


A summer’s day again. You Americans would, I suspect, welcome our occasional cooling breeze, but I feel flattened. C. and I got around the garden this morning, however – that’s something.


Little else to report. Helen’s clients came from Oxford and took away her latest mosaic. She says – I was having my nap during all this – that they were pleased. She is anxious: will it fit? I am sure it will, if they have given her the right dimensions.  Helen is meticulous. They had just been to the Scottish Gallery and bought a large Blackadder. So now they’ve got a Blackadder and a Helen Miles.


No knitting, and I still haven’t put wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest on waste yarn. My plan for tomorrow morning – since I won’t have to walk, because of going to C.’s lunch party – is to have a delicious bath (I’m filthy) after the Andrew Marr show, and then steam myself dry. I ought to be able to get the vest onto waste yarn during that period. I did the same for Alexander’s what-year-was-it? vest and took it along when I went to see him. Or when we did – depends on the year. And it proved to be grotesquely too large (so much for swatching) and I started again from scratch and wound up with what is probably my best-fitting garment ever. See above.


I had a good Italian lesson this morning. Canto 31 of the Inferno has a passage about the Towel of Babel, which got us talking about the  the origin of language. Which is a matter that has long interested me. I’m not altogether sure that modern thought has progressed all that far since the Old Testament writers, and Dante. My tutor recommended Noam Chomsky.

Friday, July 16, 2021


Another summer’s day, slightly uncomfortably so – although nothing to what you’re suffering in the USofA. I got a couple of things done – an Italian essay polished, typed, and dispatched to Rome; a business email forwarded to Helen’s husband David. He’s currently here, for an extended break, but has to begin with some tedious quarantining. I won't get to see him for a while.


But I didn’t go for a walk. It was a blissful omission, but I mustn’t let things slide. No knitting either. And I have still to read a canto of Dante before tomorrow’s lesson, so there’s unlikely to be any this evening.


I’ve at least had a knitting thot. I could put wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest on some waste yarn (plenty of that around) and see how it fits him so far, when we meet on Sunday. I’m aiming for something big enough that he will be able to wear it on Calcutta Cup Day ’22. He’s a hefty lad.


I’ve finished Ginzburg’s “Lessico Familiare”, a fairly famous book, which today’s essay was about, and have embarked on “Il Colibri” – a brand new book, translated as “The Hummingbird” and awarded substantial and favourable reviews in both the Financial Times and the Sunday Times last weekend. I am finding it fascinating. Sandro Veronese.




Yes, indeed, Mary Lou: what are “green orators”? I second Gretchen’s query, and would have asked it on my own. I thought for a happy period that I had discovered a Whole New Vegetable, but I suspect it’s just a spell checker having its way with “green tomatoes”.

Thursday, July 15, 2021


Thank you for your kind messages yesterday. I was much encouraged.


Today has been another summer’s day, and I felt flattened. Feel flattened. Archie came, and we got around the garden, but it was a struggle. I’ve tried to keep drinking water. 2091 steps -- better than yesterday, at least.


I did a bit of knitting. I decided to give up the moral struggle for the moment, and press on with the socks. Here they are:


C. (indefatigable) is having a lunch party on Sunday. I’ll be able to wear some cruise clothes! Wee Hamish will be there. Perhaps the sight of him will inspire me back to his Calcutta Cup vest.




Kirsten, well done with your courgette! I had a plate of mange tout peas from my doorstep the other day, and thoroughly enjoyed them. My heart is clearly not as tender as yours. But mange tout peas, as I must often have said before, don’t taste as good as the “snow peas” my father grew in his Victory Garden. I’ve tried and tried. When we first started gardening in Kirkmichael, my father even sent me seed.


I’ve often thought, of late, of what good food we must have had at the tables of both sets of grandparents. My mother’s parents – he was a preacher by profession – had what amounted to a smallholding, outside of Dallas. A huge vegetable garden, chickens, a cow, a black man to kill the chickens and to turn the handle of the ice-cream maker on Sundays. I don’t remember appreciating any of this. My mother was a poor cook, without much interest in food.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021


A long hard day waiting for an Amazon package. No nap, but at last it’s here and I can now go to bed and stay there.


Still, before that Helen got me around the garden – 1679 steps, pretty feeble; and I had a nice Zoom with my sister. It’s pretty hot in DC, all right. We had another proper summer’s day here. No knitting.


And, oh dear, that’s about it. Scarcely worth posting, except to let you know that I’m alive and more or less well.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021


Beverly, thank you very much indeed (comment, yesterday) for the reference to the Wikipedia article about Interlaken, NJ, including the fact that the cross streets are named after islands in the Hebrides. West Allenhurst, where I lived, is not Interlaken; that may perhaps excuse me for not know that. I was surprised to read that Interlaken doesn’t send pupils to Asbury Park High School – more research needed there. I’m pretty sure that in my day there was no such thing as the Shore Regional High School, where they do go. I was also surprised to discover that the Hebrides are in the Irish Sea.


We had a full scale summer’s day today. I felt pretty feeble, but Archie and I got about 1/3rd of the way around the garden, which is better than nothing. We also got some paper work done. Helen whizzed in, just back from Kirkmichael – she had been there to see what state her son Fergus and his university friends had left it in after their visit last week, and she says things were in pretty good shape. They had left the refrigerator door closed after turning the electricity off – that’s a mistake we all make once or twice.


She says the apple tree down at the bottom of the vegetable garden is laden with apples. So much for the New Testament! The tree has been there quite a while – 10 years? Maybe more. In its early days I took good care of it, as recommended in the sacred text: pruning and manuring. It clearly wanted to be a big tree, and in the years since I haven’t been able to look after it, it has become one. It never went in for apples much, maybe half a dozen in a good year, but this year, according to Helen, they abound. As in Kukla, Fran and Ollie’s sea chanty, Goodness knows what we’re s’posed to do now.


No knitting at all, the day too warm, I too feeble. My sister and I are going to Zoom tomorrow. It will be interesting to find out what the temperature feels like in DC.

Monday, July 12, 2021


Real tee-shirt weather  – a favourite phrase of Rachel’s. I got around the garden by myself, resisting the strong temptation to skip it for today. 2109 steps – not very many. The weather wasn’t tee-shirt in the morning: grey and heavy. But the gardens are always welcoming.


Otherwise little has been achieved – a post-Wimbledon day, like Twelfth Night, in which one packs away one’s toys for another year. It was grand while it lasted.


Poor England was devastated by the loss of that cup. I sleep with the radio on, and surfaced last night towards the end of something called “The Westminster Hour”, from 10 to 11 p.m. on Sunday nights, They were pontificating away, very soporific, when they discovered that they were all, at the same time, watching the football on their telephones – and England had just failed to kick those penalties. They gave up talking about politics altogether, and saw the programme out talking about football.


A couple of rounds of sock-knitting, no more. I didn’t feel strong enough to resume the Calcutta Cup vest, but I mustn’t let it slide.


Tamar, no, I don’t think our August cruise goes to Iona, although it must be close. C. has been there, I never have. Indeed, I had never been to a Hebride at all until I first cruised with the Majestic Line in 2018. I used to live on Staffa Street in West Allenhurst, NJ – I wouldn’t mind seeing that, either. (I wonder how it got its name. I don’t remember any other Scottish, let alone Hebridean, names in the vicinity.)

Sunday, July 11, 2021


Well, Djokovic won, no surprise. But Berrettini put up a good fight; it wasn’t entirely one-sided. And he was dignified and cheerful in defeat. The Wimbledon crowd is normally on the side of the underdog, which Berrettini undoubtedly was. I wondered whether they would be put off, today of all days, by the fact that he is Italian – but no, he was cheered on with enthusiasm. Tonight’s football seems to be unbelievably important – it’s past my bedtime, so I won’t know how it comes out until later. The whole fuss increases my feeling that the nations of the United Kingdom are drifting out to sea in different directions. Boris has promised England an extra day’s holiday if England win tonight. I think it might be more tactful to extend that to everybody.


Sarah and Chloe (comments yesterday) – thank you for pointing me to the fact that the Adriano Panatta of today can be found thanks to Google. I agree, he doesn’t look too bad. I watched part of an interview with him. I feel, nowadays, that I I could sit for a while in the corner of the kitchen of a well-spoken Italian family, I could more or less nail the language. But I am not strong enough to get there again, even if I could find a family to take me in.


I made good progress with the sock, schooling myself to knit even in the moments when all I wanted to do was gawp at the television.


C. walked around the garden with me this morning, Only 1939 steps. Yesterday was slightly better.


Arnall-Culliford Knitwear has got some delicious new yarns. Not that I need any new yarn, delicious or otherwise. But I have a problem looming in the form of another cruise.


Last year, when the May Wilderness cruise was cancelled, C. and I put our booking forward to this year. That’s the one we’ve just done. But we also booked a “Captain’s Choice” for the end of the season – surely all this nonsense would have been over by then. We nearly got there, but then it was cancelled too, and we moved it forward, similarly,  to an “Isles of the Southern Hebrides and Sea Lochs of Argyll” leaving in August, ‘21 – which is, all of a sudden, any moment now. I have tried to give my place away, without success. If I’m going, I’ll need some knitting.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

 Ashbarty won. It was a good match, rather nervy, tears at the end. Lots of famous people were there. The camera got a good little shot for us of Navratilova, in the Royal Box, leaning forward to explain something to the Duchess of Cambridge.


I’ve finished the ribbing, and made a start on the st st for the leg of that sock. The tennis demanded sufficiently close attention that I didn’t get much done. Maybe tomorrow. I can’t believe that match will be as close, although I will be more passionately involved, cheering for Italy in preference to Djokovic.


The crowd, yesterday, seemed to prefer the Italian’s opponent. Because of tomorrow’s football?


I wrote a little piece for my Italian tutor about Wimbledon – I must keep on writing. It’s very valuable exercise. I mentioned the last serious Italian contender, many years ago, with whom I was deeply in love: Adriano Panatta. And yesterday John McInroe (once a famous player, now a commentator) mentioned him – McInroe’s mother, now watching from the bar of Heaven, was also smitten. Yesterday was Adriano’s birthday, he said  – 71, a mere stripling. I told my tutor this. Her grandmother was also keen on him, she said.


A British journalist once called him “the supremely handsome man, if you like your ice cream runny”. I put that into Italian for my little essay, rather successfully I think. My tutor laughed, but then, as I feared, asked me to explain it. I couldn’t, but I can tell you that the phrase doesn’t apply to tomorrow’s finalist, Matteo Berrettini.




I had an alarming one on Thursday, an email from “Amazon” acknowledging my purchase of a $2000 telefonino.  I have never had such a message by email before. Phone calls on the land line, constantly. A couple of text messages on my little-used telefonino recently. But never before email. I forwarded it to Alexander, my financial advisor. He says he gets them all the time. I also think I had one of those bank scams that same day – the phone rang, my cleaner answered; when I got there she said something about a large payment as she handed me the phone. But they had hung up before I could talk to them (thus identifying themselves unmistakably as scammers, I would think). I feel a bit beleaguered.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Too much tennis. I'll be back here tomorrow, insh'Allah. An Italian won one of the men's semi-finals: it will be the first time there has even been an Italian, of either sex, in a Wimbledon final. It should provide a bit of conversation for tomorrow morning's lesson.

Thursday, July 08, 2021


Cynthia, you’re amazing! (Comment yesterday) It must have been 71 years ago when I saw that episode of Kukla, Fran and Ollie, not long before I left home for Oberlin. And you conjured it out of the ether for me. I was pleased at how well I had remembered the words of the sea chanty, not that they were very demanding. I’m afraid I have no memory of Shari Lewis and Lambchop at all. My sister and I are planning a Zoom meeting for next week. I’ll try her on them.

Tamar, I, too, remember seeing television at other people's houses. I remember my father telling me, during the war, that he had seen it demonstrated -- and that after the war, we would all have one. I loved going to the movies, in those days. The thought of television was beyond wonderful. Here in Edinburgh, relatively recently, when I was out and about, during the dark months, I used to look into the houses of people who hadn't drawn their curtains, and see the televisions, and think what a miracle they would have seemed to my 10-year-old self.

My father's mother, in Constantine, Michigan, had a floor-standing radio with a number of buttons on the controls -- and one of the buttons said "Television" although it produced no result. It was a promise of magic to come.

I’ve had another pleasant day of tennis – the Ladies’ Semi-Finals. My money is still on Ashbarty. The tennis was of very high quality in both matches. Navratilova was commentating again – we saw her briefly, between the matches, looking very fit. Billie Jean King was in the audience, looking a bit old and disagreeable. She was sitting with a woman who looked almost identical. Does she have a sister?


I ribbed diligently on, but didn’t press it too hard. The Men’s Semi-Finals tomorrow should finish it off.


1825 steps. Not good at all. It does, however, represent a circuit of the garden. I’ll try to put in a few paces up and down the passage before bed.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021


Oh, dear, for sadness. Roger Federer has been beaten in the quarter-final. That was the hurdle at which he fell in 2018, depriving me and Rachel of our hope of seeing him play in the semi-final and condemning us to an afternoon of exquisite tedium, mentioned here recently. This time it was sadder. He had a standing ovation when he came out to serve for what was likely to be the last time in the match (it was), but also fairly likely to be the last time Wimbledon will ever see him.


I have ribbed heroically on, and am well past half-way. However, it has occurred to me that with four days of possibly thrilling tennis yet to come, finishing the ribbing will not be much use. I can hardly re-group on wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest while watching tennis. So I must ensure that I do finish the ribbing, and then just knit on until next week.


I continue to trudge around the garden daily, and to record step-counts with which you are all too familiar. 2264 today.


Comments & Miscellaneous


Jean, your story is tragic! But at least, if I understand you, you got to see the original broadcast? What glory!


I must have seen and heard much else on Kukla, Fran and Ollie, but what I remember is a sea chanty which came to mind on the last day of our cruise, when we saw a couple of minke whales. The sighting didn’t involve much excitement – grey shapes heaving very briefly out of the water. But I thought of Kukla, Fran and Ollie:


“Thar’s a whale,” the Captain shouted.

“Thar’s a whale on the starboard bow.”

“Thar she blows,” the Captain shouted.

“Goodness knows what we’re s’posed to do now.”





Tuesday, July 06, 2021

 I’ve had a peaceful day with Wimbledon. Today was almost all women, and the ones I cared about were already gone. It was still not without interest. My prediction for the ultimate winner is Ashleigh Barty. Everybody else has an unpronounceable Eastern European name, and the commentators kept calling her Ashbarty as if she had one too. We had the great Navratolova commentating: she’s good at that, too.


Otherwise, little to report. I ribbed valiantly on, with that blasted sock, but am at the point, familiar to us all, that no matter how much I do, the knitting doesn’t progress. Sock-ribbing isn’t really suitable for tennis-watching. I need to look at my hands.


I was glad to hear that Kukla, Fran and Ollie are not entirely forgotten, although at the moment I can’t find your comments. Kukla and Ollie were hand puppets – Ollie was a dragon. Fran was Fran. And, as I remember it, for half an hour a day, in the late afternoon, they stood there and talked to each other. My sister and I were devoted to them. One day my sister wrote a letter to them, asking what colour Ollie’s hair was? This was in the post-war days when colour television was but a gleam on the horizon.


As was video recording. And one day our mother had a friend for tea, or something, and we had to sit there in polite and agonised silence. watching the clock move through Kukla, Fran and Ollie’s half hour.  And we found out afterwards that my sister’s letter had been read out – on national television, the coaxial cable having only recently been connected. I think they sent her an autograffed photograff, but that hardly compensated for the moment we had missed.

Monday, July 05, 2021


I was going to leave the blog unwritten this evening, but they’ve turned the tennis off in favour of rain, and that means they’ll probably close the roofs (rooves?) which takes a while. There's still much interesting tennis to come. But by the time they get started again, it’ll be my bedtime.


Mary Lou, I love the thought of your wee brother playing Wimbledon-ball-boy at family back-yard badminton games. Thank you for that!


Not much, today. I read my blog entries for January ’21 and I agree with you, Shandy, that there is evidence there that I was better without cider. But I think I am, in general, in fairly steep decline – just as there are intervals in adolescence when one gains size and strength at great speed. The only thing I can do with cider is to give it up altogether. And what if that doesn’t work, and there I am dead and I’ve missed out on all that cider?


I have advanced somewhat, but not much, with the ribbing on the second Kaffe Fassett sock. The plan is, you may remember, to knit the ribbing and then put the sock aside and go back to wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest. I like a deep ribbing on a sock, but I don’t like knitting it, so the idea is to get it done and then put the sock aside at a point where I can pretty well guarantee that I will eventually finish it.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

 We’ve had a warm, heavy, depressing day, followed just now by a strenuous thunderstorm, but I don’t think it’s cleared the air. I got around the garden this morning when it was only warm and heavy, not pouring with rain.


I’ve finished the first of those Kaffe Fassett socks, and embarked on the second. When the first one began to look long enough in the foot, although still short of the number of rounds specified in my notes, I measured it against my own foot, and bore in mind what Kate Davies had said that very morning about negative ease in one of her sock essays for the new club, and did the toe. Ketki couldn’t have bigger feet than I do.



The refurbished Glenlivet distillery has opened up north somewhere, with Helen’s big mosaic successfully installed. You can easily find pictures of the distillery by googling, and even references to the mosaic, but no photographs. I should have taken pictures of it while it was here. She is working here again, this time on a private commission based on the famous Roman mosaic of an unswept kitchen floor. The link is to an article on Helen’s blog, with pictures of unswept floors in mosaic.


Shandy, I didn’t mean to brush aside your kind suggestion that cider-drinking is doing me down. I don’t suppose it’s doing me any good, but I don’t remember feeling much sprightlier during my dry January. I could go back and re-read it. It was in the middle of that impeccable month that I began regularly to walk with a stick in the house.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

I wrote this much for you last night:


“I’ve had an interesting late-afternoon watching Djokovic beat an unknown American, Kudla, in straight sets. It was a good deal more interesting than that description sounds. And the problem now is how to dispose of the feeble remainder of my time and strength.


Does anyone remember Kukla, Fran and Ollie? Of whom Mr. Kudla’s name reminds me.


I still need to support Mr Murray, and send in Italian homework, and read some more Dante. It can’t all be done. And Wimbledon comes but once a year. “


In the end, I got none of those things done. I am not very bright in the evening, and must pace myself accordingly.


2325 steps yesterday, at the end. 2381 so far today. At least I’m still moving about, within my limited range.


I’ve had another good day of Wimbledon today. We go into the second week with Federer and Coco Gauff still on their feet, and an interesting British teenager called Emma Raducanu. She said, engagingly, after today’s match, that her mother told her she was packing too many match outfits – with the result that now, she needs to get some washing done. She thinks the hotel has laundry facilities..


I love the ballboys. Ballpeople. I love them all the more for having watched the French final recently. The ballboys there were perfectly alert and helpful, but nothing like Wimbledon. Some of you may remember that my eldest grandchild, Rachel’s elder son, was chosen to be one when he was the appropriate age. (He’s now ominously near 40.) He had started training when he developed a stomach problem.


He was born with a condition called malrotation of the gut, and needed a life-saving operation at two days old. He came through that in good order. So when this problem cropped up in his early teen-aged years, Rachel kept asking the doctors whether it could have anything to do with that had happened to him as a baby, and they all said, No, no, madam, we don’t know what’s wrong but we’re sure it’s not that. But it was – Rachel is rarely if ever wrong – and he had another operation to cure adhesions, or do I mean lesions? And he got better, and Wimbledon took him back into training, and then he broke his arm playing cricket.


Out of all those ballpeople, Thomas would of course have been chosen for the men’s singles final, and the Duke of Kent, who reviews them before presenting the prizes at the end, would of course have stopped and heaped extra praise upon him. But it was not to be.



Thursday, July 01, 2021


It has been a beautiful summer’s day, with just a whisper of coolth. It will be interesting to see if any of the US East Coast heat makes its way here in a week or so. I walked around the garden early on, on my own, so that Archie and I could get down to some much-needed paper work when he finally turned up. It’s one of those days when the app refuses to give me proper credit – only 1960 steps, it says.


The paper work produced a problem you may be able to help me with. I have a letter from GMC publications (dated more than a month ago, I am afraid), saying that they will no longer be looking after subscriptions for Designer Knitting. For some unfathomable reason, VK goes by that name here in the UK. The last issue GMC will send out will be autumn of this year. So far so good.


Then they say: “After this date you will be sent copies of Knitting magazine on a monthly basis until your subscription expires.”


“Knitting” is a completely different magazine – a monthly, as implied.


Maybe this means that GMC is giving up both magazines (for I do, indeed, subscribe to “Knitting”). It is important to me to go on subscribing to VK (under whatever name). There is an email address, a phone number, and a website in the letter, but somehow the effort of pursuing any one of them feels like too much. I would be very grateful for any comments.


The interminable sock is, again, slightly forward. 50 rounds.


And Wimbledon continues to be entertaining. In 2018 – I’m sure you’ve heard this, probably several times – Rachel won tickets to the centre court on Men’s Semi-Final day. “Winning” in this case means that she won the opportunity to buy the tickets, at very considerable expense. She invited me to come with her. So as soon as my first Majestic Line cruise was over, that summer, I sped to London. I must have been stronger then than I am now. On the cruise, everybody – even the Americans – were transfixed by the World Cup. All I cared about was the tennis – would Federer be playing in the semi-finals? Alas, he fell at the preceding hurdle.


And what happened that day was the most boring match in the history of Wimbledon. They have changed the rules since, so that it can’t happen again.


I mention this here because both of the men responsible for our dreadful afternoon lost their matches yesterday in straight sets. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.