Monday, January 31, 2022


Long, hard day, but a fairly successful one. I’ve finished wee Hamish’s vest, except for a final, hopeful pass with a steam iron, and I’m made my kimchi. I didn’t go for a walk. It was bright but cold. I felt fairly feeble, but I can’t go on treating myself as an invalid forever on the grounds of that colonography.


I finished the vest-tidying fairly briskly this morning. I read somewhere in the last couple of days that the Chinese regard it as singularly bad luck to use scissors on New Year’s Day – which is tomorrow. One mustn’t, of course, knuckle under to superstition, but I feel one might as well avoid stepping on the cracks where feasible. And there was no way that vest could be finished without snipping off ends.


And then the kimchi, a titanic effort in my current feeble state.


Kimchi consists of four elements:

1)    Chinese leaves (=Napa cabbage), salted and left to wilt and produce some brine

2)    A paste made of onion and lots of garlic and various other things, including Korean gochugaru chilli powder

3)    Some additional vegetables, cut small: carrots, spring onion (=scallions), radishes, chives, etc

4)    A porridge made of rice flour, with brown sugar

So I spent quite a while preparing those things, until I came to the point where it was time to add the gochugaru chilli powder to the paste. I couldn’t find it. Big search. No luck. Sister Helen and daughter Helen both say that I’ve got too much stuff. I fear they’re right. There are some elements in the list above which can be fudged. I had forgotten to order chives, for instance, so I put in more scallions. But there’s no way of proceeding without gochugaru chilli powder. Finally I ordered some more from Amazon, to be delivered tomorrow, and faced the prospect of explaining to Daniela tomorrow why the kitchen was filled with bowls of various things.  Then I went back to the kitchen and resumed the search, and found the chilli powder.


But then the food processor couldn’t cope with the paste – 2), above. It was too dry and heavy. The Nutribullet? I couldn’t get it open. So I divided the paste into three portions and added 1/3rd of the porridge ( 4), above) to each, and then the food processor grudgingly agreed to process the result.


When all that is ready, you mix and mix everything together by hand and pack it into jars for fermenting. It’s an active fermentation, which is always satisfying.


So now I am left with no decision made about what to knit next, or what to do about cider now that Dry January is over.





Sunday, January 30, 2022


I think I am beginning to expel the poisons from my system which I had to ingest for the colonography, but didn’t walk today because of stormy weather and a visit from my accountant. She is working on my income tax. It’s going to be an expensive procedure. We met in the sitting room where she could hardly fail to spot some of the project bags hanging from every available knob – she’s not a knitter, but she is a friend of (and accountant for) Kate Davies.

 However, I did no knitting. After the accountant left I went into the kitchen and did some clumsy cooking, then ate and napped. I must knit this evening. Calcutta Cup week is here.

My Freecell theory from yesterday didn’t work this evening, but in the end I coaxed it up anyway.

 Tamar, I was much interested to see from your note yesterday that rhubarb is not reliably present in grocery stores where you live. I can’t remember how I first tasted it. I loved it, as I still do, and since it was never served at home, I assumed it was rare and expensive, like globe artichokes and lobsters. We never had it at Oberlin either, so I went on assuming that until I got to Glasgow and thought it wonderful to be in a country where rhubarb was cheap, and served routinely. This is the very best time of year for it – it is forced, that is, grown without light, so that it becomes pale and interesting. It is a speciality of Yorkshire. But when the forced-rhubarb season is over, we get ordinary field rhubarb virtually all year round. That is not as delicate-tasting, but still delicious.


Bread: I don’t know why plastic bread is called that, Peggy (comment Thursday), but Wonder Bread is indeed what it is. I am glad you are baking bread, Mary Lou, It’s certainly fun. Kirsten, I haven’t been baking lately. Couldn’t say why. I got my sourdough starter out recently. It was completely inert, of course, but still tasted good, perhaps rather over-acidic, so I brought it back to life over several days, and put it back in the refrigerator. I think it’s probably time to repeat the process, and perhaps even to bake a loaf of bread. Tomorrow, however, I hope to make a batch of kimchi.


We’ve got a storm blowing up out there, as forecast. I hope all of you on the east coast of the US are safe and warm.

Saturday, January 29, 2022


I think I’ve mastered the sequence of turning-the-computer-on actions which allow me to load Freecell, but it’s difficult to be entirely sure. The difference between superstition and science is narrow. Anyway, it’s here this evening.


We had a jolly Helen’s-birthday-lunch today. Me and Helen, C., Archie, and a dear friend, at l’Escargot Bleu nearby. I had steak tartare, which I adore. Everybody else had nice things too, and all licked their plates clean. For pudding, there was only one left of the one everybody wanted: white chocolate mousse with rhubarb, so we had that one and enough spoons for everybody and passed it around. And what a treat it was, just to be together in a public indoor place.


Archie came here this morning. He seems to be getting on well with his course, and to be finding it interesting. I didn’t get much knitting done, but I have cut the final steek of wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest and picked up the stitches for the final sleeve-hole and started the ribbing. I should be able to finish that tomorrow, and begin on the tidying and steek-securing within.


As I was getting out of bed this morning, it occurred to me that I am expecting a seventh great-grand-daughter in April and that that is perhaps the direction where knitting energies should next be directed. Baby surprise? Mary Lou’s Pollywog? A shawl? Great warmth isn’t needed in April, we would hope. I have spent much of the day, in the intervals of the social excitements just mentioned, thinking about this. A baby surprise is a lot of fun (and I think this baby’s sister had a Pollywog). But what about a Log Cabin blankie? It’s a pattern I have long admired and never knit.


The advantages would be: it’s an easy knit, and my soul cries out for that. It’s a sublime stash-buster. The disadvantages: there’s am awful lot of knitting involved.


Wandering through the Log Cabin patterns on Ravelry, what should I find but a Log Cabin Baby Surprise! The pattern is no longer available, but that might not matter. Knit a square until it seems about the right size. Knit another, either identical or harmonious, for the back. Join at sides. Knit strips from front to back for the shoulders, leaving one open to be joined with buttons.  Finish edges with i-cord where needed. Sleeves if desired. It’s a thought.

Friday, January 28, 2022


A doctor just phoned to say I’m fine. Not quite – she had a couple of niggles concerning my lungs, but there’s nothing “gross” in the gut. She did say that one can’t be quite as sure as if I had had a proper colonoscopy, but given that I have no symptoms, we’ll stop fussing. I didn’t expect to hear so soon, and now that the procedure itself is behind me, I was beginning to allow myself to worry a bit about the result. This is good news.

No FreeCell this evening. You can't have everything.


I have felt rather convalescent today. No walking. Not much knitting. Tomorrow a small party of us are going out to lunch to celebrate Helen’s 59th birthday, last Monday – she only narrowly escaped, by half an hour as I remember, sharing her birthday with Robert Burns. Now we’ve got something else to celebrate as well.


I did proceed a bit with wee Hamish’s vest. The first armhole steek is cut, stitches picked up, ribbing nearly finished. I hope to do a bit more this evening. (How often I say that, and how often fail!) There’ll still be lots of tidying to do inside when the ribbing is done. I’ll see C. on Sunday – indeed, she will be part of the small party just mentioned; I’ll see her tomorrow – but I doubt if I will have it finished by then. It would be good, after all this struggle, to do a proper wet blocking. That always makes things look a bit better. But it looks as if someone will have to come here to pick it up at the last moment.


It occurs to me that if we win the Calcutta Cup again next Saturday, maybe Fergus should be knit for. (See yesterday’s blog.) Not many of us, including myself, would have recognised Stuart Hogg if we had found ourselves sitting next to him. J’s leg-warmers must come next, since they are half of a two-part celebration of the 2021 victory. “Must come next” in terms of Calcutta Cup knitting. I’m inclined to slot in something easy next, which inclines me towards the Evendoon (see yesterday, again).


I was very grateful for your comment yesterday, Ron – and you’re absolutely right. I’m lucky to have family who want things knit for them. The Calcutta Cup doesn’t really count – it is thrust upon them. Not entirely – the first thing Alexander and Ketki’s son Thomas said, after the final whistle in ’19 (a draw, in London) was: “What will the knitting be?” I made him a big scarf that year, with half of the cup shown.  

And I’m grateful for your support, Mary Lou. I’ve found the Evendoon pattern among my archives – but I have failed to record the basic information needed: which size did I knit? I might be able to deduce the answer from some numbers in the margin towards the end. It fit nicely, just enough positive ease, and Helen often wore it.


Tamar, thank you, too, for that website with suggestions about unfelting. I have forwarded them to Helen, but I am dubious.


Kirsten, I have things to say about “plastic bread” and sourdough, but that’s enough for today.

Thursday, January 27, 2022


Everything went well – easy-peasy, in fact. A doddle. One very good thing about Covid, at least in Edinburgh, is that hospital appts are kept on time instead of 45 minutes later. And there was no air-enema (see yesterday) – it was all perfectly comfortable. Then we came home and I started eating FOOD. The best was a salad from my salad machine: two, in fact. I went back and cut it nearly to the ground to use up the last bit of dressing in the bowl.


Kirsten (comment Monday): that sounds like a wonderful use for good olive oil. Presumably you would use good bread, too, not white plastic? Interestingly, there was an article in the Times this morning about the delights of sliced white plastic bread. It certainly helped me through my ordeal.


I haven’t done any knitting today, and don’t think I’ll try. Some more FOOD, perhaps cheese, and off to bed. Life can edge back towards normal tomorrow.  


Helen’s youngest son Fergus has been here this week to take the driving test. Alas, he failed, for hesitating too much when entering a roundabout. He flew back down to Bristol yesterday, where he attends university, and sat next to the captain of the Scotland rugby team on the flight. Why is he fleeing Edinburgh 10 days before the Calcutta Cup? But I looked him up and discovered that he plays for Exeter when he isn’t needed for international matches, and that fits geographically with a flight in the direction of Bristol. Stuart Hogg.


Helen (who came with me for this morning’s adventure) says that she has ruined her Kate Davies “Evendoon” sweater by machine-washing it. She thinks it might have been all right on the wool cycle, but she washed it more strenuously, relying on the fact that the temperature was low. She’s very fond of that sweater, and I am very tempted to whip up another one right away. It is (a) colourful and (b) very easy. It would be ridiculous, with so much yarn already in the house, but still…


Wednesday, January 26, 2022


I can almost say that I have learned the sequence of the flashings-on-and-off of that little hourglass, when I try to start FreeCell. First it flashes for a while, then comes a patch when it appears steadily, then a couple more teeny tiny flashes – and then either success or failure. Although twice, I think, on “failure” evenings, I have coaxed it forth by wandering around the blue screen that says “Microsoft Solitaire Collection” and clicking away, both left and right. It came up good as gold tonight, just when I need it to get me through these last two draughts of my colonoscopy stuff.


Jane, I’m a blind follower if ever there was one. I don’t think I’ll be ready for another drink of this stuff much before 9, anyway. I am interpreting the instruction to get it down within half an hour to mean that I can start 15 minutes before the specified time.


Today went quite well, and this time tomorrow it’ll all be over. Helen’s husband David is an expert in such things – he had a bad go with diverticulitis, ending with an operation in which part of his gut was removed and the ends joined up. (It seems to have gone well.) He had both -scopy and -graphy and says that the latter was worse because they blew air up his bottom at the last minute and it was very uncomfortable. There’s nothing about that in my instructions, which seem pretty comprehensive. So I won’t worry. Maybe they do things differently in Greece.


Anyway, knitting, and, as so often in the past, I am deeply in your debt, especially (as so often) to you, Tamar. I didn’t know that corrugated rib was less stretchy than ordinary rib. I do now. I unpicked that neck (on wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest) yet again, and re-did it in k2,p2, and bound it off in a stretchy bind off recommended by Mary Lou: and it worked. I can now pull it on over my head. I left a bit of the right-hand shoulder open, since I had so thoroughly messed it up. I think I can incorporate a small pearl button if need be.


I spent the rest of today’s knitting time tidying ends, no small job with Fair Isle. But I can tell you that I heard from Hazel Tindall herself (when I did a class with her once at the EYF) that she conscientiously weaves in ends when she is preparating a sweater for a competition, but otherwise she ties tidy knots like a normal human being.


I had a look in our Ravelry group yesterday. It doesn’t sound as if there’ll ever be an EYF again. (Edinburgh Yarn Festival)

Tuesday, January 25, 2022


Well, that’s the first day of preparation nearly done. I feel a bit peculiar, but I think I’ve survived. The difficulty lies in the funny stuff I’ve got to take. I feared something foul-tasting, and I feared a strong laxative. Neither proves to be the case. The difficulty is that I have to put 20 mg of it into 700 ml of water and drink it within half an hour. Reading the instructions in advance, I failed to notice that 700 ml is the better part of a litre. Today I had to do one at breakfast and one just now – and Freecell came up like a lamb so I just sat here sipping from my vase as if it were cider, playing Freecell.


But tomorrow I will be obliged to do that, and then drink a third – at 9 p.m., which is after my bedtime.


Needless to say, I didn’t walk, but I had my Tuesday bath which always feels wonderful.


And ripped out the corrugated rib I had started to do on the neck of the Calcutta Cup vest, and re-did it (it looks much better) and bound it off stretchily and found that I can’t get it over my head, anywhere near. It’s tighter than it was before. I think the only thing to do is to unpick the entire shoulder. I’m about halfway through doing that, and would be mired in the Slough of Despond if I weren’t so occupied with my bowels.



Monday, January 24, 2022


Freecell came up, good as gold, on the first click this evening – and I feel much better, too. I didn’t go out, feeling perhaps still a bit weak but also that in these days of the colonography, I can do what I want. The regimen begins tomorrow. That’s interesting, what you say about lack of salt, Shandy. I will certainly save the episode up for telling to a doctor. I don’t suppose I’ll even see a doctor when I go to the hospital on Thursday.


I started on the corrugated rib for the neck of wee Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest, but made enough silly mistakes that I think it’s worth pulling it all out and starting again. It won’t take long, once I really get going. I discovered in my previous adventures with corrugated rib, that my best bet is to carry the purl yarn in my right hand and the other in the left. Mechanically, that works fine, but my right hand keeps feeling that it’s entitled to do the knit stitch and muddle ensues.


I had another salad from my salad machine yesterday. And discovered belatedly that I have been given a Christmas present of the most glorious imaginable bottle of Greek olive oil – hand-picked from a single grove. It’s marked to be consumed by November, a good thing as otherwise they would find it a special position in the larder, perhaps diminished by four or five tablespoons, when I die.

Sunday, January 23, 2022


I’ve been very low today. Low blood pressure? Why?  I felt faint, and even feared that my eyesight was darkening. It started in the night – one of the times I got up to pee, I found I was steadying myself on the wall, as well as using a stick. However, I didn’t faint, or even fall, and this evening I think I feel a bit better. There’s no Freecell, though. So much for teetotalism.


C. came. We didn’t attempt a walk. She brought me a loaf of plastic white bread, which is to form the basis of my colonography preparation on Tuesday and Wednesday. I ate some – it is truly delicious.


Tamar, I had your very thought about the neck of wee Hamish’s vest during the night (before I saw your comment) and today, put it into action. The hole is not quite big enough for me. I have a rather large head. I think I could have tugged it on, but then maybe I couldn’t have got it off again. I’ve unpicked half a dozen stitches on one of the shoulder seams – the one that terminates at the neck edge. The choice now is to leave it unbalanced, or to add a little button. I didn’t get much done, but I did make a start on tidying and securing the neck steek stitches.


And I discovered that Jamieson & Smith no longer sells the leg warmers as a kit – but they do still offer the pattern. I think I’d better just buy it.


I heard on the radio in the night that somewhere famous in South America – Rio De Janeiro itself, perhaps – has decided to postpone the Carnival until the end of April this year. It should, of course, build up to a dramatic climax on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. They occur, this year, during the first week of February. I was reminded of how I first learned that Covid 19 was seriously serious: it was when Venice –Venice – cancelled the Carnival in 2020.

Saturday, January 22, 2022


You’re quite right, Mary Lou. I’ve got both Machu Picchu and Kate Davies’ Coofle somewhere here on my laptop computer. The leg warmers, no. They were part of a kit from Jamieson & Smith and came on sort of stiff paper, I think. Tamar, they’re Fair Isle leg warmers, so not as easy knitting as they might be.


I’ve three-needle bound off the shoulders of Hamish’s Calcutta Cup vest. All is well, except that I’m slightly worried about whether the neck is big enough, given the extraordinary size of the infant head. I won’t do much ribbing, and I won’t do any decreases. It can be a round neck. And I’ll use a stretch bind-off. I may get the neck tacked down on the inside tonight, ready for action tomorrow. I could unpick an inch on one of the shoulders, and knit the edging back and forth…That might be better than worrying.


No Freecell so far tonight. Yesterday it suddenly appeared when I was wandering around the screen clicking both left and right. That’s having no effect today, and I can’t think of anything else to try.


Do any of you play Wordle? Rachel and Alexander have been pressing it on me. I wasn’t keen, and I’m not very good at word games in general. I tried yesterday and today – and today, to my surprise, I got it. I may have to go on for a while. But it feels like a waste of time, in a way that Freecell doesn’t. I often play that between paragraphs here – and just now, I coaxed it back with a couple of sturdy left clicks.


C. came this morning, and we got around the garden. It was slow, and I felt feeble, but a good deal better than yesterday. I forgot my telephone, but she took a picture of the snowdrops for me:

This gives somewhat of an impression, too, of the size of the garden. It's not an entirely trivial walk, if you're as feeble as I am.

Friday, January 21, 2022


I had a struggle to get Freecell this evening, but eventually succeeded. Very odd.


I think I’ve decided that I’ve finished knitting wee Hamish’s vest. It remains to finish it. I’m operating without a pattern. Graft the shoulder stitches together? Three-needle bind-off? I incline to the latter. I’ve got time for a corrugated rib – this year’s match is a fortnight tomorrow. But I’ve got to press ahead. The thing is to do the v-neck first. Then I can do an ordinary rib at the sleeve holes, if I run out of time.


I still haven’t found those patterns. However I have established that Machu Picchu and Kate Davies’ Coofle are both on my computer, leaving only the leg warmers. I need some soothing knitting right now, and think I will do the first Machu Picchu sleeve next. I’m knitting it bottom-up on vaguely EPS lines, so I don’t really need the pattern for a while. I’ve finished the body, up to the armpits.


Sunshine again today, but I didn’t walk. Helen reported -- when she popped in yesterday evening with some soup for me – that David says that a CT colonography is worse than an ordinary colonoscopy. (“colonography” is the word for what I will have; I was wrong, before.) He had some gut problems a couple of years ago, diverticulitis, and is expert in these matters. He said they blew air up his bottom for the colonography and it was very uncomfortable.


That was in Greece. They may well do things differently there. I’ve got both hospital letters. According to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, air is blown up inside you for the colonoscopy only. Anyway, the prospect doesn’t worry me. I was brought up on enemas; my mother believed in them. They were undiluted hell. But I survived them, and I don’t think the Royal Infirmary could do anything worse.


But once I started thinking about it, I started thinking about the whole thing. Are they looking for cancer? If they find it, won’t the only result be that I’ll be miserable? What is all this about? As a result, I slept badly (v. rare for me) and felt feeble today. And my gut was uneasy, as if worrying about it had unsettled it. I’m feeling better now, and hope to stride forth tomorrow after a good night’s sleep. C. is coming.



Thursday, January 20, 2022


Freecell has been miraculously restored to me. Every time I turn this old laptop on and sit down to it, I begin by asking for the Microsoft Solitaire Collection. For the last few evenings, the blue screen has come up with those words on it, and with the hourglass symbol next to the cursor as if it were trying. Then no more. But tonight, just as I was about to give up, there it was. Did I not wait long enough, on the other evenings? I don’t think it was that. Anyway, I’m glad to see it.


I found the menu plan for the “real” colonoscopy. The first day is not too bad – much like both days of my present regime, and with butter allowed on one’s white bread. But on the second day, no food at all, just liquids. That was where I feared I’d be too weak, and risk falling. I suspect the laxative was more savage, too. My husband had a colonoscopy once, and he had diabetes. I can’t imagine how we got through it.


I’ve done some knitting. Helen and Fergus (her youngest son) are going to drop in this evening, on their way back from the airport. Fergus is home from Bristol University for the weekend, and Helen is bringing me yet another soup, made in her new machine.  So I’ll have to sit up until they get here, and will try to knit some more. It’s getting a bit easier, as I keep steadily at it, but I’m still progressing very slowly.


I continued the search for those missing patterns, with no success. I’ve eliminated a lot of waste paper from the sitting room, and my step count – still pretty feeble – is higher than usual today, because of tottering about to put things away. Daniela and I got around the garden. I should take a picture for you of the Drummond Place snowdrops. They’re beautiful, and lift the spirits. It was cold today, but the sun was shining.



Wednesday, January 19, 2022


I couldn’t walk today because I was waiting in for a delivery. Tomorrow, that will be the story again. All very tedious. The weather was bright today, although cold. You can just begin to see the light coming back, if you look at the edges.


There’s some confusion about what I wrote yesterday. It’s partly – rather, mostly – the fault of medical vocabulary, I think. The procedure I am going to have next Thursday is a CT scan. It’s called a colonoscopy presumably because the colon is what they will be scanning, but it doesn’t involve sticking a camera up my bottom or having a sedative. The preparation doesn’t sound much fun, but is much easier than for a proper colonoscopy. I will get myself a loaf of the whitest sliced bread and, if possible, a jar of jelly marmalade (no peel). Sometimes I will have the bread with Marmite, which I love. And for lunch I will have a pseudo-ramen: stock from a stock-cube perhaps seasoned with soy sauce and fish sauce; some ramen noodles; and a hard boiled egg. I don’t know for sure if the low-sugar bitter lemon I rely on for support in the absence of cider, is OK. I think it should be. Sweeteners are allowed, and there’s no fiber in it. I can’t find the menu they sent for the proper colonoscopy, but I’m sure it was much more severe.


The question remains, what is all this for? If they find anything sinister, the only thing to do, at my age, will be to cut to the morphine.


I got a bit more knitting done. I should have done more. Daniella wasn’t here, as she was taking one of her sons to a dentist. I started sorting through piles of paper in the sitting room, looking for three missing patterns, all of which I’ve had not that long ago: Carol Sunday’s Machu Picchu, the Jamieson & Smith Fair Isle leg warmer pattern, and that Kate Davies yoke sweater I was knitting on our most recent cruise. Surely they’re all together somewhere. I didn’t find any of them. I found a lot of interesting things which are now strewn around the sitting room in various little piles, all waiting to be put in their proper places.


Here is our weekly salad factory picture – four weeks, I think. I have eaten two salads taken from the first two lingots, reading from right to left: lettuce and rocket (arugula). Next is another, different lettuce, and then basil.



Tuesday, January 18, 2022


I’ve got Microsoft Word back, anyway. It was a matter of switching the machine off and on again. Archie was no help – he thinks I should get a new computer. This one is old, as computers go – eight years at least. And it runs Windows 8. That's bad, according to Archie.


I didn’t try to go out today – bath day. And I got a get-out-of-jail-free card in the post: a summons from the NHS for a “CT colonoscopy minimum preparation examination”. “Minimum preparation” is still pretty severe – no fruit or vegetables or red meat, minimum fat, minimum dairy, for two days. But sugar and floppy white bread and white pasta are allowed so one shouldn’t faint. There is a little bottle of something to take three times a day while staying near a lavatory. The actual ordeal is on Thursday of next week. Get-out-of-jail-free, because I feel I can not do anything I don’t want to do, between now and then. I will be very tempted to drink a bottle of cider when I get back from the hospital next Thursday, too.


I got a bit more knitting done. I think I’ve done enough decreases for the v-neck. From now on, I’ll just add length. My Dry January calendar – on which, as I’ve said, I proudly paste a “Stayed Dry” sticker every evening – serves as a worrying how-is-that-vest-getting-on? calendar, since this year’s Calcutta Cup comes so early in February.


And I had a second tasty salad from my Salad Machine today.



Monday, January 17, 2022

 I am being persecuted by computers – starting with the disappearance of Freecell.

We discovered yesterday that Google Mail is sending all messages from Alexander to Spam. I thought he was mad at me. He knows a lot about computers, and works from home on one. He doesn’t know why this is happening. And we can’t even blame it on Microsoft.

 And now I’ve had trouble loading Word. (My practice is to compose there and save to Dropbox and then copy it over to Blogger.) I have succeeded in the end, although only in “safe mode”. And it turns out that "safe mode" doesn't know about Dropbox and where I usually save things. 

 We had sunshine again today, and Helen came to walk with me, but I felt too feeble to get around the garden. (So much for temperance.) We got there, and I sat for a while on a damp bench. Better than nothing.

 And I got some knitting done, too.

 I hope those of you on the Eastern Seaboard aren’t suffering too much. My cheetahs clearly don’t like it, evidenced by the fact they they are indoors. Indeed the whole zoo (DC) is closed because of “inclement weather”.

Sunday, January 16, 2022


We had a bit of sunshine today. It does help. I got around the garden with C., very slowly.


I ate a little green salad from my salad machine. C. brought me two Seville oranges, and I used one of them to make a vinaigrette for it. Very tasty.


And I knit. It’s still agonizingly difficult, the more so now that it is divided by three steeks (armholes and v-neck) so that one has to figure out where one is in the pattern three times per round. There are two rounds in which nothing much happens, evenly all the way around. The following round, in each case, is still very difficult for me: the pattern is two lozenge-shapes, squares tipped on end. One is always expanding while the other contracts, and at the mid-way point they change places. It is important, after those do-nothing rounds to be sure I’ve got it right, which is which and where am I. It seems to involve a lot of time and a lot of unpicking.


But I remain confident that I’m going to get it done in time. I only need about three more inches, and the circumference is much reduced by the steeks.


Current Events


It’s hard to say why I feel sorry for Prince Andrew, Tandah. When our Cardinal O’Brien was disgraced, I felt sorry for him, too. For a while it looked as if he was going to assist the parish priest in a small town not far from Edinburgh. The priest and the congregation were eager to have him, but somebody – presumably the Vatican – said no, and he went into idle exile in England. A friend of his remarked, “He’s lost everything. Isn’t that enough?”


Your point is a good one, Cat, that Prince Andrew seems to have been singled out because of who he is. Clinton and Bill Gates have both been mentioned in this sad story – nobody’s suing them. A columnist in the Sunday Times today makes a good point which hadn’t occurred to me: namely that London 20 years ago was full of lovelies who would have welcomed an overnight invitation to Buckingham Palace. Did he really need to have one flown in from Florida? It should be noted that 17 wasn’t (and isn’t) under-age for sex in Britain.


But apart from that columnist -- Jeremy Clarkson – the tone today was very hostile and anti-monarchy.

Saturday, January 15, 2022


I thought maybe Freecell would come back by magic, but it hasn’t. I’ve Googled the problem, which has happened to other people before, but I have failed to perform the actions required. I’ve found a new copy, free, in the Microsoft Store, but they say they don’t have a record of any suitable appliance of mine to install it on. So I’ve given up. Archie is coming to see me next week. He’s young, and relatively computer-savvy, but I think this lies outside his field of expertise.


Otherwise all is much as before. A dull, grey day, warm for January. I got around the garden with Helen. I moved the knitting forward. If I can keep up this pace, I’ll have no difficulty in finishing before this year’s Cup Day – three weeks from today, I think. I had an awful tussle with it this evening. I think it’ll have to be photographed in soft focus.


Of our three interesting villains (Djokovic, the Prime Minister, Prince Andrew) it begins to look as if it may be the Prime Minister who gets away with it. I feel rather sorry for poor silly Prince Andrew. I’m glad he’s got Fergie, at least – they still live under the same roof and seem to be on cordial terms.


It seems an extraordinary coincidence that Mrs Sakoolas should come back into the news this very week. She killed a motorcyclist a couple of years ago now, by colliding with him while she was driving on the wrong side of the road. She fled home to the U.S. (after assuring the police that she would stay put, I think) and has since then been claiming diplomatic immunity. The British have applied to have her extradited; the Americans have refused. She has been formally accused (of Dangerous Driving, I suppose) and we were told that she was going to make an appearance by Zoom in a London magistrate’s court next week, but she has withdrawn at the last moment. She has offered apologies and compensation, I think, but the dead boy’s parents have refused. They want to see her in court.


Maybe Prince Andrew should adopt the Sakoolas system.

Friday, January 14, 2022


Another pretty good day. Still grey -- it would be nice to see the sun – but still very easy, as winters go. I got around the garden. Kirsten, I’m sure I wouldn’t be walking if the weather were anything like yours. I don't care for cold, and I'm scared to death of slippery. And, yes, it’s wonderful how good it makes you feel to plant a seed and see it come up. I think I will be able to eat a very modest green side-salad from my salad factory soon – two kinds of lettuce and some rocket.


My computer did one of those maddening “updates” when I turned it off last night – and now, it won’t load Freecell. That’s more of a New Year’s resolution than I feel entirely ready for.


Knitting went well. I’ve done the arithmetic, counted and re-counted the stitches, placed the steek for the v-neck opening, finished the decreases at the sides. I’m relying a lot on your Rylan pattern, Mary Lou, for which I am daily grateful. I have come to a decision, too. If Scotland win the Calcutta Cup again this year, I will knit J’s leg-warmers with a “22”. If not, they’ll be “21” as promised.


The history of the cup, as you relate it from the Antiques Road Show is much as I have heard it, Shandy, melted-down rupees and all, except that I thought it was England v. Scotland, even in India, rather than England v. The Rest of the World. Once they got the cup back here, it was England and Scotland from then on. I drive past the field where it was first contested on my way to Waitrose. They still play rugby there.


The knitting news from the outside world is that Arnall-Culliford is closing down, at least for the moment. Jen is ill. They’re having a sale – I haven’t looked. The last thing in the world I need is more yarn, and there isn’t really room for more books. This is sad news, though. I hope things turn for the better for them soon.





Thursday, January 13, 2022


A pretty good day. I got around the garden, and embarked on the underarm decreases of wee Hamish's Calcutta Cup vest, next to the steeks. I thought perhaps what I might do this evening is the arithmetic: how wide do I want the shoulders to be at the end, allowing for ribbing at both neck and sleeve-hole? How many stitches on each side does that amount to? When do I start the neck steek, and how fast do I decrease thereafter? But I’ve just discovered that a new Americast is up, and it’s about Prince Andrew. So perhaps I’ll actually knit this evening, while I listen to it. One more round couldn’t hurt. One of the Americast regulars is Emily Maitlis who conducted the infamous interview with Prince Andrew.


What a delicious start to the year, to have Boris and Prince Andrew and Novak Djokovic all providing us gossip-lovers with cliff-hangers, all at once!


I kept getting into trouble with the stitch pattern this morning, and having to frog a few stitches. Maybe I’ve lost my touch – maybe Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest will be my last great Fair Isle.

 I can’t even read the year on this photograph (we’ve won so often lately!) but could no doubt work it out. 2018, perhaps? 2019 was a draw – that was a scarf for Thomas Miles. I’m sort of sorry I didn’t see the cup on the Antiques Roadshow, Shandy. But I have seen the real thing, when I went on a tour of Murrayfield (the Scottish rugby ground) with C. and her son-in-law Manaba (Hamish’s father, a keen rugby player and follower). And it’s worth seeing.


I’ve promised leg warmers for 2021, as well as Hamish’s vest. I’ve bought the kit from Jamieson & Smith, and at present writing have lost the pattern. However, I’m sure that’s not serious. The recipient – we’ll call her J. – is full-grown so there’s not such a hurry. Hamish has to have his vest in time for this year’s match, in about three weeks from now.


Wednesday, January 12, 2022


A dull day. I got around the garden.


I got the tinking done (see yesterday) and the second steek cast on. Then I sank back, exhausted. However, later in the day I discovered that the Calcutta Cup will actually be contested during the first week of February, the 5th or so. I’d better get cracking. I could finish the vest off with ordinary ribbing instead of corrugated if need be: that would speed things up a bit.


Here is my salad factory at the end of week 3, under its eerie light. Basil, far left, was slow to start but is now moving along nicely. I messed around with Youtube a bit, and discovered that I am not expected to wait until I can replace all four lingots; I can take them out and slot in replacements whenever. It is sort of embarrassing not to have thought of that myself. Sometime in June I am supposed to take the whole thing apart and clean it. I want to grow chillies. There are two chilli lingots, cayenne and jalapeno, but both are “out of stock”, the only ones that are.  But perhaps by the time I need them…


Archie is doing – I think I probably told you – a degree course to become a mental health nurse. The first term was almost entirely on-line (and not very demanding), but now he has embarked on his first placement and is full of enthusiasm. He is attached to a community health ward at a hospital in Haddington. So far he is only shadowing real nurses, but he will be there six weeks and may become more engaged. It sounds potentially depressing – the patients are mostly if not all elderly and somewhat demented. He will come and see me one day next week when I hope to learn more.


Shandy (comment yesterday): tell me more about that art programme. My husband was at the Barber Institute in Birmingham, but there were no W*lkies there. There is no need to be coy about the Barber Institute. I spell “D*vid W*lkie” like that because I don’t want any scholars to search for him, and even perhaps add “Miles”, and wind up here. There are lots of interesting narrative W*lkies, and I would like to have heard the attempt to link them to the pandemic.


I’m getting on fine with teetotalism. The secret is simple: there is no cider in the house. There are enough spirits, mostly good whiskey, to provide a bath; and some wine and vermouth and what-not in the kitchen for cooking, but I am not even remotely tempted. So if I did weaken, it would take me 48 hours at least to lay in a supply. February, if I attempt four-days-dry-three-days-cider again, will be much harder.



Tuesday, January 11, 2022


It was 100 years ago today, according to my newspaper, that the first insulin injection was given. That’s a landmark worth remembering.


It looked like quite a nice day out there. I stayed in, as planned, after my bath. I hope I’ll be strong enough to get out tomorrow. I have felt very feeble today.


But I’ve done some knitting. I’m ready for the underarm steeks. I’ve put in the first one, at the beginning/end point of the round, but I didn’t think out the position of the second one properly – it’s obvious, once you apply the slightest bit of thought. But I’ve knit past the spot – it wasn’t marked – and now need to do some unpicking.


Dumfries House: stashdragon wants to hear the story. One is enough.


A previous Lord Bute, grandfather of the present Earl, moved in arty circles and was an acquaintance – it would be presumptuous to claim him as a friend – of my husband’s. (There was a famous 18th century Lord Bute who collected art.) He owned several W*lkies – I wonder if they’re still there – which were kept at Dumfries House. It was the dower house, where widowed countesses lived. The family house is Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute. “Our” Lord Bute’s mother lived at Dumfries House in those days, and one day her son invited us to lunch to see the W*lkies.


Two things I remember. There was no one there at lunch except us. I was therefore the senior female guest and the meal began with the butler presenting me with an entire fish of some sort, to help myself from. It was a moment of absolute terror.


And after lunch when we were sitting about, and my husband and John Bute were talking about art, Lady Bute – who didn’t pay much attention to us – was on the telephone to someone, talking about horses. At first I thought, with some surprise, that she was talking to her bookie. Then I figured out that she was talking to her trainer.


“Our” Lord Bute died relatively young. His eldest son was a racing driver who preferred to go by the name of Johnny Dumfries. He it was who sold Dumfries House. The furniture was –is – rather special, made by Chippendale for the house, or something like that. It had been loaded into pantechnicons and was on its way to one of the grand auctioneers in London when Prince Charles stepped in.

Monday, January 10, 2022


I got around the garden this morning with Daniela – that’s five days in a row. Tomorrow is my bath day so I won’t attempt it. This morning was damp and miserable, but not particularly cold. When one is actually experiencing a not-very-severe winter, it’s hard to be too disapproving of global warming. There has been plenty of snow elsewhere, but Edinburgh has had nothing worse than a few degrees of frost, not even enough to make it slippery underfoot. There’s still plenty of time for severity, but every day like this brings us one day closer to April.


The difficulty with the standard lamp did indeed turn out to be the electricity supply (see yesterday). It was plugged in, but the socket wasn’t switched on. So now I’ve got light. Daniela scampered up the steps which terrified Helen yesterday and did the overhead light. That was a good thought of yours about fuses, Tamar (comment yesterday). Yes, there is one in every British plug. I know how to change them, and have often done it, but can’t remember what has caused them to need changing. In this house when a light bulb fails it almost always takes a fuse down with it, meaning that several other lights – but not electric sockets – go out too. For many years I had to call the electrician every time. Finally he put in a modern fuse box and I can now go and flip the switch myself. It happened last week, when the overhead light in the sitting room failed. I can’t remember a socket, or set of sockets, ever giving up, except when the whole street was afflicted with a power cut.


I did a bit of knitting, too. Time to measure again.


There’s a picture in the Times this morning of a knitting group at Dumfries House. The Prince of Wales – the Duke of Rothesay, actually, when he’s north of the border – is standing there looking benevolent, but not knitting. The actual knitters, at least the visible ones, are children, and not very good at it. The article doesn’t make it at all clear what is going on.


I’ve just searched the blog for “Dumfries House”, using the facility at the top of the right-hand sidebar, and came up with nothing. Maybe I’ve never told you about the time we had lunch there, in the days before it belonged to the Duke of Rothesay. Perhaps I’ll do that soon.






Sunday, January 09, 2022


Limper than ever, today, but C. and I got around the garden, very slowly indeed. Helen brought me some lightbulbs on her way back from the airport – David got the Covid all-clear, at the very last minute – but she couldn’t make them work. That will have to wait for Daniela tomorrow. It would be worth making sure that that standard lamp is plugged in. We didn’t look.


No, their new soup maker isn’t an Instant Pot. (That’s a pressure cooker, among other things, isn’t it?)Theirs is a Morphy Richards Saute and Soup Maker, chosen at least in part because you can saute a few veggies in it as a preliminary to making soup. It doesn’t take 48 hours to make soup, or anything like. What I meant yesterday was that they were delighted with it, after having owned it for 48 hours. Helen said today that she is about to make some beetroot and apple soup which she will bring me tomorrow. I love kitchen gadgets but don’t feel I need a soup-maker. I’ve got a Nutri-Bullet which purees soup wonderfully. Maybe I could get myself a small rice-cooker.


So, no knitting, despite my being so close to the steeking.


I cautiously cut a few rocket leaves from my salad factory today, planning to add them to a little green side-salad. But once I got started I added more and more things, finishing off with some feta, and had a one-dish lunch in which the rocket leaves were indetectable.