Sunday, October 31, 2021


The 25-hour day, usually a fave, has rather dragged this year.


We spent a year once (1960-61) in Northampton, Mass. My husband was teaching at Smith. There was a couple there, both faculty. She had a pile of marking to do that Sunday, and was hard pressed. At the end of the afternoon her husband came in and put a clock down in front of her: showing the new time. She had forgotten. A whole extra hour! It remains, after all these years, the most generous and loving husbandly gesture I have ever heard of.


I got up early (probably why the day has dragged), watched quite an interesting Andrew Marr show, knit steadfastly forward on Machu Picchu. At least I have learned to spell it.


He interviewed Greta Thunberg – she speaks very simply and lucidly in her second (or third, or fourth) language.


We also had a glimpse of Biden’s preposterous motorcade on his way to see the Pope. Eight, or perhaps sixteen, huge black limousines all of which had been flown in. So much for climate change. I wonder if he’s had them flown on to Glasgow. They'll certainly have to be flown home. I get the impression that Biden very much enjoys being King of the Castle, when abroad – they all must, to a considerable extent, but some of them have an endearing soupcon of modesty to go with it (Obama, Carter, perhaps even the Bushes).


Saturday, October 30, 2021


I’m concerned about the Queen, as many of us must be. Ninety-five is awfully old. When she was in hospital overnight a few days ago, they told us it was for “preliminary tests”. Preliminary to what? The Palace usually uses language very carefully. Perhaps that was a rare example of someone groping for a meaningless four-syllable word. There has been no comment about it since.


I read somewhere that since then she has not been seen about Windsor walking her dogs. But of course she could have started walking them again – no one would have felt it necessary to tell me.


I’ve knitted peacefully forward on the Machu Picchu. I haven’t found any of the missing yarn or patterns.




This morning in the Times I read one of those articles reminding us about distinguished novels of the past – “Mrs Bridge”, in this case. I bought myself a Kindle edition of it at once, as I often do in such cases. It’s a Penguin Modern Classic, no less. I don’t remember having heard of it before. And I am disappointed. I thought maybe it would be us but it isn’t. Mr and Mrs Bridge are ten years older than my parents, and there is a great gulf besides. Mrs Bridge votes as her husband tells her to. My mother was a socialist in the ‘30’s. She even had a cat named Norman Thomas but he left in a huff when I was born and my parents were more interested in me than in him.


That’s not a very serious critique, but I still was disappointed in the book. I guess I can see what the author was trying to do. I'll finish it. It's mercifully short.


Friday, October 29, 2021


This morning I saw that my keys weren’t in their proper place. I set Daniela to find them, and she did so at once. Those patterns must be somewhere really fancy, to elude her. Three of them (legwarmers, Coofle, Machu Picchu) – and the legwarmers are in a plastic sleeve so it would have been difficult to throw them out in a mistaken tidying of a pile of paper. My mother, by the way -- born in 1906, I think; raised in the mid west -- used to say that it was a snake that would have bit you.


I knit some more of Machu Picchu (although I ought to be knitting wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest). It’s very peaceful and, as I’ve said, the yarn is blissful on the hands. I’m at that stage – and I’m sure we’ve all spent a lot of time there – where I can knit on and on (upwards from the initial ribbing) and never seem to make any progress at all. I think what I need just now is to get back into the way of knitting.


The pattern, wherever it is, is completely different. It’s top-down, with a shaped waist. I have no waist, so I don’t want that; and I agree with Meg that it’s much more fun to have the knitting of the beautiful yoke to look forward to. So I don’t really need the pattern for quite a while.




For reading, I’ve gone back to Montalbano in Italian. The effort involved makes it seem vaguely more highbrow than Allingham. And I’m trying to think of meals for my sister, arriving next Thursday morning. Something I’m strong enough to rustle up and mildly, at least, interesting to eat. Chicken tray-bake.


Helen (anon), you’re right to beware of the Fake Parcel Scam. Rachel’s husband Ed got caught by it recently, and he’s fairly savvy. No great financial harm – perhaps none at all – but he had to change his cards, which is always a bore, and he felt foolish. I constantly have things delivered, mostly from Amazon but by no means entirely, and they’ve never tried that one on me. I constantly remember, and shudder at the memory, the time they nearly got me with you-need-to-move-all-your-money-into-a-safe-account.

Thursday, October 28, 2021


I’m sorry about yesterday. I interact with the outside world so little these days that the simplest thing sends me into a tizzy – yesterday, a straightforward hospital appt to discuss my CT scan. And into a corresponding state of exhaustion afterwards.


The appt was at the nearby Western Infirmary, which was an improvement to start with. C. came with me. There were seats at the entrance. C. found a wheelchair. All went smoothly. The consultant said that the nodules – or whatever the word was – on my lungs in the scan are very common in the elderly, and 98% of them are harmless. I’ll have another scan in January to see how they are progressing. It’s always nice, as we plunge into the darkness, to have something in prospect for after the solstice.


Before we left, I set Daniela to find the Machu Picchu knitting – and she did. I did a certain amount of it yesterday afternoon and today. I think my fingers are recovering some skill – they never had much.


I have also found the Coofle colours, but not the main colour of which there must be four or five balls somewhere. And none of the missing patterns (Machu Picchu, legwarmers, Coofle), all of which have been here recently. I spent some time this morning sorting carefully, sheet by sheet, through Piles of Paper. No luck, as far as patterns are concerned, but by no means a waste of time.




I hope some of you are watching the cheetah kittens. ( They’re now in their third week and putting on bulk. They’re keen to explore the world, as they have been since birth, but their hind legs keep letting them down (as with domestic kittens) despite the fact that they will soon be the best hind legs in the world. The notes say somewhere that cheetahs are the fastest land animal.


My sister has had a successful Covid test, clearing her for take-off. She’ll be here next week.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021


Worse and worse.


Here is (some of) the yarn, if I can retrieve the picture from the ether:


1)    You will see Carol Sunday’s Machu Picchu yarn there, in plastic to the left of centre. But I can’t find the pattern or the knitting. I had both yesterday. I thought I could sooth my stressed nerves by knitting a round or two of that lovely yarn. But it’s gone.

2)    The Coofle yarn isn’t where I thought my last-ditch effort would find it. I thought maybe I hadn’t unpacked it since the cruise. But no. Case is empty.That’s the actual knitting, centre front, corrugated rib conspicuous.

3)    As well as the Calcutta Cup vest (not shewn here) I plan to knit some Calcutta Cup legwarmers. I bought a kit from Jamieson & Smith. That’s the yarn, also in plastic, back left. I had the pattern recently. I showed it to Rachel when she was here. Now I can’t find it. I set Daniela to look for it this morning – she’s a brilliant finder, but even she failed. I think in the searching, she may have buried the Machu Picchu pattern (see 1)) – but that wouldn’t explain the absence of the M.P. knitting.

So, that’s today’s distressing news. And you’re absoliutely right, Cat and Gretchen, that the problem is that one doesn’t have the yarn one wants to knit right now. So why buy in advance? One never learns. Kirsten, one of the project bags on the right contains the beginning of an EPS sweater in odds and ends of stripes, all more or less Shetland weight. Would that be a possibility for your scrips and scraps?


And there is little else to report. Alexander came over and we did the same walk C. and I did on Sunday. If the weather holds, I must begin to think seriously of getting back across to the garden.


Well remembered on St Crispin, Mary Lou. It was on St Crispin’s day, 1952, That my friend Sylvia suggested that I join her and our mutual friend Ann the following summer in England.


Monday, October 25, 2021


Life edges forward (I hope). C. and I actually got out for a little walk yesterday. I’ve been much weaker today and didn’t repeat the experiment.


But I did organize a survey of my stash, which has dampened any desire to order more yarn.


1)    I’ve got lots of Madeline Tosh, although less than a sweater’s-worth of any colour. But plenty to let me embark on Brooklyn Tweed’s “Idiom”, if that’s what I want to do, and possibly even finish with adroit use of stripes.

2)    A surprising amount of  KD’s Schiehallion in various colours. I could knit her “Lilias Day” pattern ordering only a main colour.

3)    For a long time I couldn’t find the yarn for Carol Sunday’s “Machu Picchu”. Then I did. Was that just a year ago? I remember that I stopped knitting because it was this time of year and the black main colour was too gloomy for winter solstice knitting. But I had forgotten how wonderful the yarn is. It’s Sunday’s “Nirvana” – 90% merino and 10% cashmere. It slides most deliciously over the old hands.

4)    Oddly (because it’s so recent) I can’t find the Coofle yarn. I knit the corrugated rib for the body on my most recent cruise (employing all the colours) and am now moving forward with the solid-coloured body. That’s with KD’s Milarrochy Tweed which doesn’t slide deliciously anywhere. I’ve had an idea as to where the rest of the yarn might be. I’ll tell you tomorrow.

5)    An unbelievable amount more.

Reading is just endless Allingham. I’m pretty well finished with her.


Today, I believe, is called the feast of Crispian….


Saturday, October 23, 2021


Not too bad a day, by my currently low standards.


I found the letter about the third hospital appt -=- I was worried about that one. I’ve put it where it belongs, with hospital letters. And thereby accidentally established that I’m right: the consultant I am going to see next week is the one who dealt with me about embolisms, five years ago. I’ve gone a long way down hill since then.


I had a look round to see if there was any sign of an Edinburgh Yarn Festival for next year. No, apparently not. We’d need to have classes lined up and signed for by now.


I gave some thought to Brooklyn Tweed’s “Idiom” pattern. Poor Franklyn, in Paris, is beginning to receive his worldly goods which he has shipped to himself from Chicago – and finds that he is paying heavy import duties. My sister is coming for a brief visit in November – I could ask her to act as a yarn mule. She’s done it for me before. This time, however, she may well be planning to travel cabin-luggage-only, and yarn is bulky. And I don’t need it anyway.


And I knit a few rounds of the Kaffe Fassett sock.

Friday, October 22, 2021


Mrs cheetah has moved her family beyond camera-range. We can but hope that she’ll move them back as the weather deteriorates.


I have little else to report. I had to deliver a urine sample to the GP this morning – not quite as simple as it sounds, but it all went smoothly. That leaves three diagnostic sessions to come (including the colonoscopy), one of which I had forgotten about and now need to set to work finding the details of. Next week I will see a respiratory specialist who is, to my delight, someone I met six or seven years ago when I had my pulmonary embolism. I have often wondered whether that had anything to do with my subsequent sense of weakness and decline: here is the perfect chance to ask.


Otherwise I do nothing except read. I have finished The Thursday Murder Club. I think it weakens towards the end. One of the columnists in the Times takes a swipe at it this morning, I have gone on to Elizabeth Strout’s Oh William which I am enjoying but it is not terribly cheerful.




Wednesday, October 20, 2021


The cheetahs are quiet at the moment.


Alexander came to see me today, completely unexpected so there was no bright conversation prepared. He is cowering in terror, of course, at the prospect of the Climate Change beano which is about to be unleashed on Glasgow. They can’t just retreat to Loch Fyne because Thomas is still at school.


Not much news here. I think I am perhaps slightly better. I got my instruction kit for the colonoscopy. It’s a whole month away. All I have to do for now is put it in a safe place. I think Helen will be here to shepherd me though the ordeal. Her husband David has had several because of having diverticulitis. I think in the end he had part of his gut removed, like the Pope. It’s comforting having company – including you, Tamar. Misery loves it, indeed.


I knit a few more rounds of the Calcutta Cup vest. At least wee Hamish’s circumference is less daunting than an adult’s. Thank you for your encouragement about the sweaters I’m tempted to buy yarn for.


And I’ve started reading The Thursday Murder Club. You – all – were right to recommend it. It’s delightful, and not depressing, as so much else that I read these days seems to be. It’s interesting that the question of money is front and centre, with the developer of the retirement village making big bucks from it, and being an unattractive character. I went with my mother once when she was confronting the director of Meadow Lakes about a rise in the monthly fee which took it beyond her planning. He had a lot in common with Osman’s character – big, chunky gold jewellery.


Tuesday, October 19, 2021


I am sorry about the death of Colin Powell. He was a great man – one who could have been president but decided not to.

I watched a news clip of Clinton emerging from hospital. He looked distinctly tottery.


Amazon turned up about 5:30 last night. I had some soup and tucked myself up in bed by 6:30. Not bad at all.


And Carla sent me this link: It’s a live webcam of a litter of cheetah kittens in the National Zoo. Be careful: they’re addictive. Five healthy-looking babies, now a week old. How clever of nature to send them into the world that undistinguished grey – domestic kittens, which they otherwise greatly resemble, start off as they mean to go on. See the infant Paradox, above. It will be fun watching them turn into cheetahs.


The NHS has swung into action on my case. I thought they were meant to be up to  the eyeballs in a COVID backlog. Who am I? 88 years old – not all that long to go with the best of outcomes. I am to have a colonoscopy in November – mercifully, after my sister’s visit and before Helen’s planned exit for a week in Greece. Otherwise not a matter for rejoicing. And I will see a lung specialist next week – that should be relatively painless.


Knitting: I resumed the Calcutta Cup vest today. Progress remains very slow. Can I persuade myself to do a bit this evening?


I find myself absurdly tempted by sweaters I will never have time to knit: Kate Davies’ “Lilias Day” (it’s in Schiehallion, lovely to knit) and Brooklyn Tweed’s “Idiom”. That one would be so expensive to import – and their London outpost Loop doesn’t have the yarn in any interesting colours – that I will probably be restrained. And I’ve got to finish the CC vest. Things are so slow on that front that I could almost say I hope we don’t win in ’22.

Monday, October 18, 2021


General gloom, and no more knitting.


Gloom (1): I am expecting an Amazon delivery “by 9 p.m.” Usually, by this time of day (4:30 p.m.) the news would be more specific. Not so today.


Gloom (2): I had a letter from the NHS today about some little anomalies that turned up in my CT scan and are to be investigated. It’s all beginning to seem endless. I just want to feel peppier.


I’ve finished “Moon Tiger”. It’s awfully good. Rachel and Ed got to Kirkmichael. They'll be heading back to London soon.


Saturday, October 16, 2021


Indian summer has given way to cold-and-nasty. Helen is staying here tonight, because she is going to a dinner party nearby. She has put a hot water bottle in my bed before leaving. Rachel and Ed are safely on the shores of Loch Fyne. The plan is for them to go on to Kirkmichael before returning to London. If the weather is like this everywhere, the temptation may be to cut out that part of the plan. Kirkmichael in this sort of weather is tough; I’m glad that old age exempts me from it.


It has been a relatively good day here. I knit a bit more of the Calcutta Cup vest. I’ll have to step up speed, but it’s gratifying to be doing it at all. I ate well.




Retirement homes: Beverly, I visited my mother at Meadow Lakes several times, and enjoyed myself. A lot of Princeton faculty retired there, and the conversation was good. Shandy, I need to work out why retirement communities aren’t common all over GB. Money has a lot to do with it – normally (in the US, at least) one goes in with a substantial capital payment which uses up what one got selling one's house. The British resist that. It tends to happen anyway if you need care for any length of time.


I’m reading Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger. I’ve read it once before, so it was there on my Kindle, therefore free. An article about Lively’s new collection of short stories in last Sunday’s Times mentioned it, and said, unless I misread, that in it the protagonist has an affair with her brother. I don’t remember that. So far, it’s vaguely familiar, and very good. It won the Booker, back in the days before diversity.

Friday, October 15, 2021


Rachel and Ed are speeding westwards, much missed.

There was some talk of me and the cats moving in with Helen, perhaps temporarily. It’s a tempting thought but not without its complications. I think it might be best to stay here as long as I can, industriously drinking water and walking up and down the hall. Getting back into Drummond Place Gardens is my immediate goal.


I knit a bit of the Calcutta Cup vest, too. Not much, but I think the rhythm is returning.




Thank you for them all, as always. I do agree that my bias against Hillary C. is likely misplaced. She served Obama as Secretary of State very well indeed. If the framers of the 22nd amendment did think of the possibility of a Presidential wife standing in her own right, I think they would have had to allow it. But I’m glad things didn’t work out that way with the present cast of characters. I prefer President Obama’s remark that there were three things you could count on: death, taxes, and the fact that Michelle would never stand for President; to the relish with which Bill looked forward to becoming the First Laddy.


I think I’m going to have to read The Thursday Murder Club. Retirement communities of the sort I expect to find there are very rare here. We have purpose-built apartments for oldies (owner-occupied), often with a 24-hour supervisor available and no other communal facilities: no dining hall, no gym. And we have care homes. My mother lived in a proper American one, Meadow Lakes near Princeton. My sister and her husband live in one just outside DC. I looked around a bit after my husband died, but I think I’m better off here than in anything that was available. I will be interested to see what Osman has imagined for us.

Thursday, October 14, 2021


All well. Rachel and Ed are here. It’s wonderful to have them. They’re going on to Alexander at Loch Fyne tomorrow, then Kirkmichael. This is a sort of Triumphal Progress to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. They started off with the hotel in Cheshire or Northumberland (or some such place) where they spent their honeymoon. It has become distinctly Fawlty-esque in the interval.


Helen still has her cold. She and Archie were here last night, to share a Greek take-away. She sounded pretty cold-y. I stayed well away. I think we’re having another take-away tonight. Perhaps I’ll join in a bit more.


C. with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson (wee Hamish) joined us for a while yesterday. By accident, here's a four-generational picture. Me in the background, much of Rachel in front of me, some of Hamish’s mother Christina to the right (she’s Rachel’s first cousin once removed – I love that sort of stuff), and Hamish, of course, in front.


I’m still enormously weak, but I made some progress towards the resumption of the Calcutta Cup vest today. I found the knitting easily, the yarn fairly soon thereafter. But the all-over colour pattern is a chart in Sheila McGregor’s Fair Isle book, and that I could not find. I got a good deal of paper sorted and thrown out but still no book. Then I put the problem to Daniela, who found it at once, in a pile I had already looked through.


So now I’ve located my particular pattern, and found my place in it, and have knit a few stitches.




Somebody asked where to start with Margorie Allingham – but now I can’t find the comment. I think you might as well start at the top: Tiger in the Smoke. Then go back (in time, to the early war years) to Traitor’s Purse. It has a brilliant McGuffin, that one. I think I read somewhere once that early reviews pooh-pooh’d it as ridiculous, but it turned out after the war that the Germans had had the same idea. If so, I don’t know what frustrated it, in the absence of Mr. Campion.


I’ve finished the latest Serrailler. It ended rather inconclusively, I thought. I don’t know where to turn next.


Thank you for the recommendation of The Thursday Murder Club, Karen. I’ve been hesitating over that one. I adore Richard Osman unreservedly, but it sounded rather formulaic.


I saw Clinton-Penny well-reviewed somewhere this very day. I’m not a fan of hers. She hurt my feelings right at the beginning, with that crack about baking cookies. I didn’t want her to be president – I would prefer the first American woman president to be someone who has made her own name, rather than sailing under her husband’s flag. Also I don’t like the idea of a president who has already served two terms slipping back into the White House through the kitchen door. I’m sure the framers of the 22nd Amendment would have been astonished at the notion, although I can’t imagine what they would have done about it.


None of that has anything to do with her book.

Monday, October 11, 2021

No change. Helen has got a bad cold, so I probably won't see her for a while. The newspapers say that there is a stinker about -- not COVID, not flu, just a bad cold. C. has had it for the last week, but phoned today to say that she is better, so I will probably see her soon.

I have reverted to the new Simon Serrailler. I have read all the others, with great pleasure, but am finding this one rather depressing. The new Le Carre is not getting very good reviews. My hope remains that a weak Le Carre will prove to be better than a first-rate Anybody Else.

I am very grateful for your patience, returning again and again to read these few boring paragraphs.

Sunday, October 10, 2021


I’ve had another day of pretty utter feebleness. Archie came, and we got some useful work done clearing books and paper and sauce bottles off the kitchen table so that Rachel and Ed (arriving Tuesday) will have somewhere to sit down and eat their breakfast. We didn’t just clear the things off, either: we put them, one by one, where they belonged.


I’ve been re-reading Marjorie Allingham, hand over fist. At her best (during and just after the war) she’s very good. A new Simon Serrallier was published last week. I’ve read the first few chapters and have laid it aside, I hope temporarily. And I learned today that we are about to have a posthumous Le Carre. That’s likely to be worth reading.


Written Saturday October 9


Yesterday I had to go back to the Royal Infirmary for a CT scan. It would have done for me completely but for Helen. We went by taxi, so that I wouldn’t have to wait for half an hour while she parked the car and trudged back. The front doors open into a huge atrium from which all public seating had been removed. The more adroit were sitting on the floor. I perched precariously on a rubbish bin while Helen went off in search of a wheelchair. It took her a while, but once she was back with it, all went smoothly.


The phrase “CT scan” sounded so familiar that I thought maybe I had had one before, but the experience was so strange that I decided that was my first one.


I’m still very feeble, as you may gather. I was much encouraged by your comment, Shandy, that thiamine takes a while to get going.


Franklin continues to post on Facebook from gay Paree, almost daily. And today we even had a wee vlog. It’s a brave thing he’s doing. Like me, socks are his go-to knitting in times of stress. I polished off a few more stitches while I watched. And Andrea and Madeleine have posted a travelogue to tide us over until we get the next episode of Fruity Knitting. With Kaffe!


Saturday, October 09, 2021

 I had a blog-let all written for you just now, when my mouse vanished — poof. So I shut down the computer, and then found the mouse by accident with my toes, being in stocking feet. Tomorrow. Nothing much has changed.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021


Am I perhaps just slightly stronger? A week flat on my back except for walking to the bathroom and back (for that is what happened) is bound to have left its mark on one so old and feeble as I.


I tried knitting both the sock and the Poofle sweater today. (Is that what it’s called?) Neither went very smoothly. I have long congratulated myself on having a passion which requires so little energy. Surely I could go on knitting well into the feebleness of old age, I thot. It doesn’t seem to be working out like that. I think I’d better face up to wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest, before Calcutta Cup day is upon us again. Maybe that will go better.


I have been surprised about all this news about the dangerousness of Facebook, and surprised, too (recent comments) that several of you hold aloof from it. I thought it was the most innocent of pastimes. For some reason – and long may it last – I get a notice among my emails whenever Franklin posts (which is almost daily). Occasionally I hear in that way from other “friends” – but they couldn’t post that rarely, not all of them.


Sunday, October 03, 2021


Here I am. I’m still very weak, although at least there have been no more falls. Appetite not very good.


I’ve been enjoying Franklin’s daily posts as he settles into Parisian life. There was a long one – before I went into hospital – about the horrors of trying to open a French bank account. The real trouble, as I think he knew, was the American Internal Revenue, although the French were adding a few Gallic flourishes. 


C. has been looking after her grandson wee Hamish today, and he has been diagnosed with “hand, foot and mouth” disease in the course of the afternoon. She thought he had chicken pox. I have never heard of it. It has nothing to do – the internet assures me – with farmyard “foot and mouth”. That’s good, anyway. But this presumably means I won’t see C. for a while. Archie came to see me today. We walked up and down the passage.

Friday, October 01, 2021


Here I am. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your kind messages.


I’m better than I was when they carried me off; I still don’t know what was essentially wrong. I had a saline drip for 48 hours – that points to dehydration. I had an antibiotic for a week to treat a “wee chest infection”. I had thiamine (I think that’s right), also by drip. That’s an assembly of B-vitamins badly assimilated by drinkers. I now have them in pill form. But I don’t know which of these treatments is meant to have wrought an improvement. I’m trying to drink a lot of non-cider. It’s harder than it sounds.


I didn’t get much knitting done, either. At least the sock has come safely home.


I feel somewhat disconcerted. Where am I? Who’s in charge? I slept wonderfully well last night until awakened by a whiskery kiss at 4 a.m. Paradox (for it was she) seems rapturously glad to see me. Perdita greeted me at the door, but has since relapsed into her standoff-y normal. Helen has established a rota which ensures that I am visited twice a day.


It is odd to think that I will never see or hear of those three women again, with whom I shared space so briefly yet so intensely. Vera celebrated her 96th birthday on Tuesday, the most clear-headed and sweet-tempered of us all. Older than the Queen. Wilma was determined to go home. Every morning the doctor doing rounds would explain to her that she had a kidney infection; and that she was slightly confused and couldn’t leave until they were sure that the set-up at home was safe. She would seem to take this in and remain quiet during the rest of the day. Then, at tea-time, she would set off for home and the struggle would continue all evening.