Tuesday, August 31, 2021


I have felt really quite unusually low and feeble today – but I want to stay conscious for another hour and a half, if possible, to see and hear President Biden’s address to the nation.


Archie came this morning, and we got a bit done. I have walked two circuits of the house – I think that’s all Helen prescribed yesterday; I had hoped for more.


Today, not yesterday, is my wedding anniversary. How could I have forgotten? The death of the Princess of Wales signalised our 40th. It was a Sunday. We already knew the news as we walked up the hill to Mass. I have regretted ever since that we didn’t pop into a newsagent to buy a tabloid – they had headlines about Wills’ opinion of Dodi, or something of that ilk – and that date.


The picture of the Coofle turned up 24 hours later. Here it is, a bit blurry. 

I haven’t knit anything today, but may soon, as I struggle to stay awake for Biden.

Monday, August 30, 2021


Helen came this morning and instead of insisting on a tour of the garden, has launched me onto a program of Steady Improvement. It’s probably a good idea. I’ve done 1178 steps so far today, walking about the house, and will aim for 1500 tomorrow.


My dear cleaner Daniela was also here today, the first time I’ve seen her for six months or so, although she was here last week while I was away. She and Helen conversed happily in Greek. She told Helen that I had declined since she last saw me. I think so too. She also said that she found a mouse on my bed last week. A dead one. I thought that was rather touching – it could only have been from Paradox. I live in a tenement and mice could never be far away. We have never seen droppings or found damage, but I have occasionally seen them skittering which I hate. There have been no sightings in the last five or six years, Paradox, a mighty huntress, has come up with a couple, and even Perdita had one once when she was young.


I have taken a picture of the Coofle for you, but so far have not succeeded in getting it any further than the iPad. I knit a bit more of it today. I found it on my bed when I got up to pee in the night, with the yarn in a position to trip me and send me crashing to my death. I had left it in the adjacent room, with the door open between. That could only have been Paradox. No harm done, either to me or to the Coofle.


Day two of our cruise was Port Ellen and the Laphroaig distillery. I must get hold of a map and trace our course.


Today might be my 64th wedding anniversary. We never observed anniversaries, and I have slightly lost touch with which day it actually was.





Sunday, August 29, 2021


Today is Rachel and Ed's 40th wedding anniversary. 

I put off my walkers today, and did nothing. I’ll have to get to grips with life tomorrow.


Here’s the beginning of our cruise, starting with the Fladda Lighthouse and Lunga and the Isle of Luing. We had superb weather throughout except for some morning fog:


The Corryvreckan Whirlpool. It can be quite fierce; our skipper clearly had considerable respect for it. But not on our day. You can see a difference in the texture of the surface water, and that’s about it. I was hoping for The Descent into the Maelstrom:


And Colonsay, that day’s walk:


I knit some more Coofle this morning while watching the latest Fruity Knitting. It was about someone who knits with wire, not a topic that floats my boat. Andrea and daughter Madeline are about to embark on a trip to GB to record some interviews so we won’t hear from them for a while. I had better photograph the Coofle for you. The light is getting a bit dim now. I’m proud of my corrugated rib. I had also better switch back to wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest. He needs to have it to wear before the Cup is contested again.


I checked the gauge, and it seems (to my surprise) to be all right. On the boat, where I had nothing except a needle and the yarn, I measured it against a bank card. They measure about 3 1/3” across according to some useful website. I needed four inches, or perhaps two. Guessing, from a basis of 3 1/3”,  seemed to suggest that I was getting fewer than 28 stitches to 4”, which is what I want. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021


Poor Mr Biden is a classic illustration of the old saw: Be careful what you pray for – you might get it.


His spokesman Jen Psaki is a friend of my nephew and his family. But I don’t know whether to feel sorry for her for having to defend the indefensible, day after day; or for believing it.


There was an article in this morning’s Telegraph (I think) which should cheer them all up, recounting various past American disasters and demonstrating that they didn’t have much effect on the following election unless they actually occurred in the month preceding it. I spoke to my sister a fortnight ago, the day before the Taliban overran Kabul. She wasn’t much interested in Afghanistan (no harm in that) and her main interest seemed to be in that area: what effect would all this` have on Biden’s chances in the 2024 election? I certainly won’t vote for him again.


Anyway, here I am. C. and I had a grand time on our cruise. And the cats are fine. We got back in time for lunch yesterday and of course the first thing I did was to check on the cats (unimpressed as they were to see me). There was wet food in one of their bowls so I threw that away and washed the bowl and opened another tin. I had bought little presents for the cat-feeders but the stairs down to the next-door flat are taxing so I just sat there and waited until Louise appeared. And when she did, I wish you could have seen my faithless cat Paradox rushing to the door, wreathed in smiles: Louise is here! Perdita is more constant.


C. took lots of pictures which I’ll start doling out soon. I made a good start on knitting the Coofle. It begins with 14 rounds or so of corrugated rib. Not exactly difficult but certainly trying, and I was proud of myself for getting through it after all my recent inactivity here. I even thought, for half a day, that I might get to the underarms before the cruise delivered us to dry land, and then what would I do? No danger, as it proved. Kate Davies’ Millarochy Tweed (spelling not guaranteed) is, not surprisingly, sort of tweedy and doesn’t slip through the fingers in quite the blissful round-and-round way I expect of a bottom-up yoke sweater. I am uneasy about gauge, which of course I didn’t check. I’ll apply a tape measure to it tomorrow. KD seems to expect the same gauge to be achieved for the corrugated rib and the subsequent plain vanilla st st, although according to her instructions the needle size should be increased between the two. I think I’ve hit the gauge in the ribbing, and I didn’t change the needle size.


We’ll see.

Thursday, August 19, 2021


I sat down at the computer just now, and looked up as usual at the BT Hub – is that its proper name? – on top of the filing cabinet, with its comforting blue line – and it wasn’t there. My connection with the world. It was on the floor beside the filing cabinet, of course, and (thank goodness) none the worse for its adventure. So whose fault was that? Nobody’s saying.


I saw the doctor this morning, and he says I’m fine.


I got a good deal of packing done this afternoon – the bit that consists of flinging into the suitcase things that I never wear when  slouching about the house. The knitty-gritty – sponge bag, knitting, book, iPad – will have to wait for tomorrow, but I’ve got all day. The “off” is at 10:30 on Saturday. C’s friend Ian is going to drive us to Oban again, in his big comfortable car. It’s a long and a fairly tedious journey.

I probably won't post again until the weekend of the 28th.


I’ve done a bit more sock. At least I’m knitting.


Someone should remind Mr Biden of the sound principle: when you find you’re in a hole, stop digging.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021


The Coofle yarns came today: so now there is nothing to stand between me and panic, to which I am beginning to succumb. I’ll leave here on Saturday morning about 10:30, returning the following Friday. Everything is moving forward pretty well, in fact, except that I am sinking into Hogarthian squalor without my Romanians. Clothes for the cruise are clean and ironed and kept separate – that’s something.


I’ll see a doctor, tomorrow, to discuss my “bloods”. I don’t expect any news, but I’ll let you know.


Helen came and we got perhaps 2/3rds of the way around the garden. 1930 steps.


And I finished turning my heel, and picked up the gusset stitches, and have embarked on their decreasing.


Have you seen Brooklyn Tweed’s new “Tones” yarn? Very nice indeed. I can’t think of how to use it, but I’m sure Jared will come up with something interesting soon.


I wish that interesting Irish podcast which I mentioned yesterday, hadn’t turned my thoughts to Robert Black. He is a most unpleasant thought. One of his victims was the daughter of the Scotsman’s agriculture editor Fordyce Maxwell whom I used to read devotedly and regarded almost as an acquaintance. The day after the Dunblane massacre he wrote about his daughter’s murder.


Black wasn’t arrested until 13 years after Mary Boyle’s disappearance, although police suspected that a serial killer was at work and there had been a major manhunt. But that was in another country (the UK). Difficult, perhaps, for everybody to shift mental gears after so long. Even so. He was in the vicinity when Mary vanished, and there was a witness who thought she heard bumping noises such as a trussed and gagged child might make, from the back of his parked van.





Tuesday, August 17, 2021


Weavenfool, I’m not at all sure that I’m strong enough to meet the minimum cruise requirements. I’m going to try. All I’ve really got to do is get up and down a few flights of stairs. I can then lounge about knitting and reading my book while the rest of them stride through the heather. I didn’t get out today. I was expecting a parcel (a stripey shirt from Mother of Pearl, expensive and entirely unnecessary). All they would tell me was that it would be here today, before the end of play. (Remember when we used to go to a shop and choose something and pay for it and take it home?) Helen came early – it would have been safe to go out then, but I wasn’t yet fully activated.


In fact, the shirt came at lunch time, so I’ve had a nice nap. And it fits and looks nice.


Now all I need is the Coofle kit, and there are three more days for it to arrive on. Mary Lou, the dr’s appt at which I will learn the results of my “bloods” is on Thursday morning.


I’ve finished the heel flap of that sock, and am half-way around the heel itself. Not much but something.


There was a brief item on the mid-day news today about hoarding. What else is Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy? (SABLE) The one comfort is that stash does get used up, very slowly compared to the rate at which it comes in, but at least something occasionally goes out.


Tamar, that is a good idea, to get a key chain for my needle gauge when I find it. I could put it through the largest hole – I never knit with anything beyond the middle range. But then what? I don’t carry a knitting bag. I would need to find something to attach it to. But perhaps….


I’ve been listening to an interesting podcast while I knit, about a little girl who disappeared 41 years ago in rural Ireland. Mary Boyle. The podcast is well done, and the Irish voices are pleasant to listen to. (Go to BBC Sounds and search for “Kevin Connolly”.) But for heaven’s sake – Robert Black was in the vicinity at the time. Not much mystery.



Monday, August 16, 2021


Alas! that we couldn’t all have met at Franklin’s yard sale!


I’m sorry about letting you down yesterday. I can’t remember quite what was wrong – I was feeble (of course), and didn’t feel well. I cancelled this morning’s Italian lesson – it had been moved to Monday because my tutor was away for the Ferragosto. The next two are automatically cancelled because of the cruise and I feel slightly as I used to at the beginning of the school holidays. I’m feeling slightly sprightlier today as well. But I must still finished and send her my little essay on Il Colibri’.


Helen came and cleaned up after me somewhat (still no Romanians). Archie is home but in quarantine because of only having been vaccinated once. I walked part-way around the garden by myself. 1645 steps. Could be worse. Could be a good deal better.

I spent much of this afternoon (not really) sewing a vital cuff button on a shirt which is essential for the cruise. I'm very clumsy when it comes to buttons, and to sewing in general. So that's something done.


I’ve made some progress with that sock – I'm half-way through the heel-flap. I should have enough of it done to leave it behind when I go cruising and take along the new preposterous Kate Davies kit instead. I’ve heard that it’s on its way – she’s very prompt. I’ve found a needle for it, I think. The knitting tool which I find hardest to keep hold of is my needle gauge, and sure enough, today, could find only a vastly inferior one. However, I think I’ve got a suitable needle and since we start with corrugated rib, I don’t really think I’ll want a smaller gauge for that.


The pattern has miraculously turned up in my Ravelry library so I can knit from the iPad. The printer defeats me these days.



Saturday, August 14, 2021


I was still a bit nervous about going out alone (after falling last Sunday due to a sudden knee-failure) – or maybe that was just an excuse. Anyway, I stayed in. And have nothing to show for it, accomplishment-wise. C. is coming tomorrow.


Thank you for all your kind birthday wishes. I heard from my Oberlin friend Sylvia, a year older than I am and enormously more vigorous. I still enjoy cooking, but Sylvia regularly lays on meals for six to feed family and friends who live nearby. I couldn't do that. However, she had never heard of Madhur Jaffrey so I recommended her, as a cookery writer whose recipes work. That isn't true of all of them. 


I had a good Zoom meeting with my sister, but I forgot to ask her some questions I have about the assault on the Capital in January. I could probably track down the answers myself. When we finished, she was on her way out to the farmers’ market for peaches and corn. Tomatoes, in abundance, they are growing themselves. Oh! the American summer! There are compensations for that dreadful humid heat.

Friday, August 13, 2021


Today was my 88th birthday – also Madhur Jaffrey’s. I look in the Times most years to see if she is in their list of Distinguished Birthdays for Today. Often she isn’t, but today she is. It’s also my son-in-law David’s 58th. Rachel rang up, and also Archie from Thessaloniki. 


Helen drove me to and from the dr’s, and I got the bloods done. Where have all the sick people gone? There always used to be a couple of dozen of them, sitting about waiting to see dr’s or nurses. All vanished.


I took the socks along and knit a few rounds – I was a bit early. I thought my hands felt a bit unaccustomed. The experience prompted a wild and absurd extravagance: I have ordered Kate Davies’ Coofle kit. The upcoming cruise, the fact that I tend to knit, and finish, Kate Davies designs…it’s still absurd. It’s my birthday: that’ll have to do.


I have a Zoom meeting scheduled with my sister tomorrow. I’ll try to ask her what DC thinks about Afghanistan.


Thursday, August 12, 2021


I have given in to the general pressure and made an appt to see a dr. I will go in tomorrow for “bloods”. The actual appt is next week.


That pretty well represents my achievement for today. No walking, even. I felt particularly weak. Helen came by and did some useful chores.


Shandy, I keep forgetting to mention that Lionel Shriver (“We Need to Talk About Kevin” and many others) wrote in the Times last Saturday about that book you mentioned, “Trans”. Her point was mostly to deplore the venom with which the subject is so often discussed. They haven’t printed a syllable of comment on the letters page since – I can’t believe they haven’t received any.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021


Worn down by all your kind instructions, and by my sister who agrees with everything you say, I think we are going to try to make a dr’s appt tomorrow. The current system seems to be, if I understand the website correctly, that you ring up first thing in the morning and arrange to speak to a dr on the telephone. He/she will then make a face-to-face appt if deemed necessary. I think Helen is going to do that tomorrow.


Meanwhile today went pretty well. She and I got round the garden. The app says I’ve done 2087 steps – better than I expected. No more buckling of the knees. Cat-feeding during my cruise has been arranged and I feel enormously cheered.


Still no knitting.


Rachel and Ed are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. Phase One was an assembly of the entire crew at a house they rented somewhere in Suffolk. Here they are:


The little girls in the front are each others’ sisters and cousins – I couldn’t begin to distinguish them. This year’s crop of little girls – two more – are in their mothers’ arms: Joe’s wife Becca towards the right, next to Rachel and Ed; Thomas’s wife Lucy further to the left. Lizzie and Dan, on the far left, aren’t married and have no children.


Phase Two will be a trip north in October, just Rachel and Ed, not the whole troupe. I’ll get to see them then. It’s been a long time.



Tuesday, August 10, 2021


Today’s news is more or less a continuation of yesterday’s, except that Helen is here. She came in the early afternoon, with an old friend from her Birmingham schooldays, and swept through the kitchen, putting things right. She says I don’t look entirely well – that was good news. Usually, when I am feeling my feeblest, someone will pop up to tell me how well I’m looking. She established by telephone that there is no hope of a Romanian cleaner (see Friday) this week. And next week I'm going away. 


I didn’t go out, but I did get a couple of important things done – writing a cheque for a lawyer, moving forward with arrangements for cat-feeding. The sort of un-done chores that agitate me in the darkest hours of the night so it was good to polish them off.


No, I don’t see a doctor regularly (comments, yesterday, and especially weavinfool). The practice rings up when it’s time for me to have a vaccination. That is about the only contact we have had in the past two years. I am reluctant to go in and complain of vague symptoms when GP’s are being worked to the bone, as they are just now, but I agree that that fall changes things somewhat.


An old and dear friend rang up yesterday, reproaching me for not having phoned her when I was lying helpless of the kitchen floor, and also offering to come around and sort out the Arne & Carlos sock yarn order (see yesterday). Computers are putty in her hands. But I was too cross to try again. I think you may have suggested the answer, Joni: perhaps they didn’t want spaces in the middle of the number. I’ve got more sock yarn in stash: I’ll go ahead with that.

Monday, August 09, 2021


At least I have a decent excuse for leaving you in the lurch yesterday – I fell.


I was standing in the kitchen, had just put the plate on the table with my lunch, when my knees gave way. Such a thing has never happened before. No harm was done, but it took me quite a while to figure out how to get up. (I had my telefonino, because of all this step-counting, and there is a key safe at the front door and I know its code numbers, so I knew I could get help if all else failed. But it would have been embarrassing.) Paradox was deeply sympathetic, and regarded me with eyes like saucers, but there was nothing she could do.


Eventually I managed to roll onto my left side and raise myself from there to my knees and from there to my chair. I sat there for a while wondering whether my knees could be trusted, then went to bed – finding I had lost appetite for lunch. I got up later in the afternoon and ate it.


I feel pretty well today, although I didn’t attempt a solitary walk. I have been clutching my stick for every movement about the house and drinking gallons of Low Calorie Bitter Lemon, my favourite tipple, in case the problem was dehydration; and cutting back severely on cider, in case it was that. I’ll be glad to see Helen tomorrow, back from Kirkmichael.


I even did a bit of knitting, on that sock. I am now seriously near the second heel. There won’t be enough knitting left in it for my next cruise, departing next Friday. So today I tried to order some of Arne & Carlos’ new Lof…—no, I can’t spell it. I found it and filled out an order form and was all set to be sent off to PayPal, but the website insisted that my telephone number must contain only numbers. Well, it did contain only numbers, of course. I wonder if it was trying to tell me that it wanted a mobile number instead of a land line? But I eventually gave up. So that problem remains unsolved, and time is running out.

Saturday, August 07, 2021


Just to touch base. It’s been a remarkably unproductive day. I curtailed the Italian lesson somewhat. C. and I did manage to get around the garden, and in fairly good order. No bench stops. . I sat down ambitiously after lunch, with some relatively mindless television in mind, determined to knit. I pressed ahead with the sock, as the easier project. But got nowhere. Just more or less sat there.


This is a bit alarming.

Friday, August 06, 2021


Well, here I am, happy but weary. James and his family are on their way to Loch Fyne, Helen to Kirkmichael with a handful of school friends, even my beloved Romanian cleaners aren’t here (one in Romania, the other just back from there, just about to come out of quarantine – but she has tested positive). So it’s me and the cats for what feels like an indefinite future. Nor have I prepared for tomorrow’s Italian lesson.


Or done any knitting. I read yesterday in one of those medical articles that turning away from a familiar and beloved hobby can be a preliminary sign of dementia, so I’d better get back to it tomorrow. I have at least recovered wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest from the waste yarn I put it on so that I could try it on him a fortnight ago, AND re-found the all-over pattern and my place in it.




Thank you for your help with the Prodigal Son. I remain sore that nobody came to tell me my brother was home. There was plenty of time – you can’t kill and dress and roast a calf in half an hour; and apparently there were plenty of servants to go around and invite the neighbours in. Can’t I be treated as a member of the family?


Andrea, bless you especially for your comment. St Thomas More wrote to his wife and daughter, not long before his beheading, “We shall meet merrily in heaven”. If he could be confident at such a moment, I think we can be too.



Tuesday, August 03, 2021


Another day, almost too droopy to record. I got around the garden with Helen. The Sydenham Mileses will be here tomorrow, their entertainment to consist (at best) of walking round the garden.


So, here’s the prodigal son.


I imagine myself in the story, set on our 20 acres in Perthshire. I have been working in the raspberry field. When the light begins to fail, I pack up and head home, up past the plantation and along the stubble field. From there I can see the house, all lit up, and hear the cheerful noise. It isn’t hard to guess what has happened. Nigel has come back. Couldn’t a servant have been dispatched to tell me? I trust at least they haven’t killed my dear calf.


Nigel went off with half of his inheritance. It crosses my mind that he is now going to make serious inroads on the other half.


Our father was watching the road, and saw Nigel from a distance. But he doesn’t seem to expect me, home from work at the usual time. I have to send a servant for him. When I register my complaint, he says I could have had anything I want at any time – a goat to feast my friends. But that’s not the point. I want to be given something, out of love, like Nigel: not just to take a goat for myself.


I don’t know what I conclude from all this. But I think of St Theresa of Avila who said once, to God – I think her carriage had gone into a ditch – “If this is the way You treat Your friends, it’s no wonder You have so few.”

Monday, August 02, 2021


I’m sorry to have left you in the lurch yesterday. I felt feeble – even more feeble than usual – on Saturday evening. Stomach trouble threatened but never actually arrived. Not much better yesterday – no walk. But I’m pretty well restored today. 2215 steps – the total has leapt up implausibly in the last few minutes, but overall would seem to match my day: I got around the garden, cooked lunch, have been padding about the house putting away a grocery delivery.


We’ve had another beautiful day, sunny with just the slightest, most delicious hint of cool. It sounds as if the rest of the UK is having a dreadful summer, but we’re doing fine here on the east coast of Scotland.


I really must get back to some knitting, if only to justify the name of the blog.




Thank you for them all, as always. I must track down Sayers on the Prodigal Son. I’m a great fan of hers, but I doubt if her take on that story will be mine – I sympathise with the elder brother. This is a parable, of course: the story was Jesus’ for the telling, and could have gone in any direction. It comes in a little bunch of parables about the lost being found: the shepherd who lost a sheep, the woman who lost a coin. So the elder brother needn’t have been there at all. I’d better go ahead and unload my thots on the subject for you tomorrow.


Shandy, thank you for the suggestion of “Trans” by Helen Joyce. I missed that one, in the Times. The Kindle edition is a wee bit on the expensive side, so I haven’t ordered it yet, but it’s on the list. I’m actually reading “Cristo si e’ fermato a Eboli” by Carlo Levi, which I think I read before, many years ago. As so often, in such cases, it feels completely unfamiliar.