Thursday, April 14, 2022


I wrote to you yesterday in our last happy moment. No sooner had I extinguished the computer but James and Cathy came back in the door, along with Alistair. James wasn’t feeling well enough for restaurant eating. He went to bed, Cathy and Alistair and I had a rather tasty Chinese carry-out in which we included a tomato-and-egg soup for James.


He did another lateral flow test this morning; still negative. At lunchtime he and Cathy walked to a place where they could get the other, more accurate, test – no results yet, of course. At least he was strong enough to get back alive. He went straight to bed and I haven’t seen him since. He is coughing quite a bit, although not as much as I thought Covid victims coughed. He doesn’t seem to be feverish. I don’t feel very well myself, although faithful readers will know that that is often the case. I, too, am coughing, but less than James. My eyes feel a bit puffy and warm. I don’t think I have a fever.


The question is, what to do next? They have let their train leave without them this afternoon. I think they are most inclined to make a dash for London tomorrow, upgrading to first class which has fewer people in it. It’s probably illegal, but they have the two lateral flow tests to cite if anyone pounces on them.


Helen is due back on Saturday. It will be good to have her. She is nothing if not decisive.


Wordle: Cathy and I had a titanic struggle this morning, working together, and finally got it in five. Ketki needed only two. Rachel and Mark and Alexander, three. Thomas was a bit off his game, and brought home a four.


I’ve done two rounds of legwarmer, just to keep the ball rolling. I didn’t attempt a walk.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022


We’ve had a pleasant spring day, mild and occasionally sunny. All of us are feeling a bit flat – James so much so that he tested himself for Covid, but came up negative. He ran 10 kilometres this morning, as often, and got me around the garden, so there couldn’t be much wrong. He and Cathy have gone out with their son Alistair to a Chinese-type hotpot restaurant. I shall soon have some leftover pasta puttanesca and go to bed.


I had another brief message from Ravenna  – Helen remains confident that she’ll be home by the weekend.


I’ve done very little knitting, but I did achieve three rounds for the sake of the momentum. Here we are:


Alexander and Ketki are coming over tomorrow morning to see James and Cathy. I haven’t seen Ketki since pre-pandemic. But they have declined lunch, so I suspect we will nip out for sandwiches. The train is at four.


Wordle: I continue to enjoy membership of our little group, although I turn up as the class dunce embarrassingly often, including today. Rachel in London hasn’t figured out how to join the group, despite being invited, but she often tells me her score – a brilliant three, today – and I pass on to her the results from Birmingham (Mark) and Loch Fyne. James, who doesn’t do Wordle but is fiercely competitive, says there is a website to help. There would be. Presumably you type in your greens and browns and it tells you some English words to fit. I’m sorry I know that, and will certainly never go looking for it.



Tuesday, April 12, 2022


We’ve had a pleasant, family day. Grey and at times wet, but not cold. James and I got around the garden. Grandson Alistair and C. both came to lunch (hastily assembled from Tesco by Cathy) and we had a nice time.


So not much knitting, but some. I am now officially halfway along the second legwarmer – I have embarked on Chart B: Calf Shaping, and have reached round 48. That’s half of 96, the last patterned round. Tamar, I’m knitting from the top down (hence the confusion about which way ‘round to knit the Cup and date) and that does mean a certain reduction in stitch number. Twelve stitches go in all, one complete pattern repeat. Alas, I haven't yet taken the promised photograph.


I’ve heard from Helen, who has been reading the blog in Ravenna. She confidently hopes to be here by Sunday. I hadn’t thought about meals beyond Thursday lunch; James and Cathy will leave that day on a 4pm train. I feared that all the grocery delivery slots would be gone by now, but to my happy surprise I got one for Thursday morning – and I can add to it all day tomorrow. So I’ll have something to eat over the weekend. Tomorrow remains something of a problem.

Monday, April 11, 2022


Kirsten (comment last Wednesday): we had your Sausage Supper for lunch today. It was delicious – one to remember. Many thanks.


James and Cathy have gone off to Falkirk to see their son Alistair and his girlfriend Amy and his cat Kirby (I think that’s the cat's name; I’ve never met him), who all live there. It’s a grey, unlovely day, but a bit warmer than before. James and I got around the garden this morning.


And the knitting has progressed steadily. There is only one more round to do in the first legwarmer chart (for the second legwarmer). There are three charts. I’m not halfway through the legwarmer. BUT the first chart (A: Calf) is the longest. It’s a start. Photo tomorrow. 


I’ll be glad when Helen is safely home. I’m sure she’ll get here in the end, but the newspapers are full of stories about crowded airports and general chaos. Flights are being cancelled for lack of crew (suffering from Covid); check-ins and border controls are slow for the same reason. And she is meant to be travelling back this weekend, which could hardly be worse. Well, it could be – the chaos will be worse for those trying to get away from GB, because there will be more of them. I think David will join her in Ravenna, perhaps he already has, and that they are meant to be coming back at the last moment, and that I will spend Easter with them if all goes well. Perhaps I had better provide myself with a provisional Easter dinner just in case, and invite Archie.

Sunday, April 10, 2022


I’m sorry for the gap. It wasn’t just the presence of family and the increased need to cook – I felt pretty flat yesterday, and didn’t try to walk, although there was plenty of time in the morning before their train turned up. C. – who’s coming to lunch on Tuesday to see her cousin James – intelligently suggests that I might have been having a reaction to my Covid booster the day before. I feel considerably restored today. We all went around the garden together.


And I got an appreciable amount of knitting done this morning, while James worked on something for the Economist and poor Cathy read Eng Lit A-Level course work, which she teaches.

The Calcutta Cup panel on the second legwarmer is now finished, and I have embarked on the last lap. It’s long and steep, but once done will be done – I’ll never knit a Fair Isle legwarmer again. Promise. I’m currently more than halfway through the first chart: Chart A: Calf. Better than nothing. I’ll take a picture for you soon, when I can show you the Calcutta Cup more firmly embedded in pattern.


I’m enjoying thinking about the 2022 Calcutta Cup sweater for Helen’s son Fergus.


Kate Davies has published an essay about Polphail by “archaeologist Alex Hale” (you don’t need a comma in that phrase, Kate) who works for Historic Environment Scotland and who surveyed Polphail before it was demolished. That’s the village built on the Argyll coast for oil workers, never inhabited, and much ornamented by graffiti. I know Alexander Hale. He and his parents and sister and grandparents lived next door to us in Birmingham for many years. His parents usually stay here with us when they come to Edinburgh to visit Alexander and his family who live in a very small house with their young children. It’s funny how life twines around sometimes and comes back at you from the opposite direction.

Friday, April 08, 2022


A pleasant, sunny day, but a good deal chillier than of late. Health-wise, I was back to my substandard norm, and Archie and I successfully carried out our expedition – to reach the new Broughton Market on Broughton St. It was formed by the amalgamation of my butcher of many years’ standing with the requirements of a first-rate corner shop – our former corner shop, much missed, having succumbed to the pandemic. It was a struggle, but we got there, and got back.


Better yet: after shopping, we went to the chemist’s (-drug store) next door for some ibuprofen, in the hopes that it might benefit my hip (too soon to say) and found that they were administering Covid booster jabs. I had already had one booster, which required Helen to drive me out nearly to the airport. It had been announced in the past few days that the elderly and the immune-suppressed were now to have another, so I jumped at the chance. One less chore for poor Helen.


Archie has now gone home again. James and Cathy will be here for lunch tomorrow.


Wordle: Today we divided on gender lines: the men got it in three, Ketki and I needed five. Mark’s starter-word gave him four greens. I don’t quite see why he didn’t get it in two.


And I got back to the knitting. It’s tough going, and there’s a long way to go. But I did a bit, and may do a bit more this evening. I’m about half-way through the cup. The one comfort is that when I finish that, I’ll be 17 rows further forward with the legwarmer. I must try to forge ahead in the next few days, despite the presence of company.

Thank you for the further contributions to the one-basic-meal theme. I'd better collect them all together, including James Marriott's starter recipe in the Times, before they get swept away by the tide. Kirsten's Sausage Supper and rheather's more scientific approach (comments, Wednesday) both deserve collection.



Thursday, April 07, 2022


Absolutely nothing was achieved today. I’m appearing here just to reassure you.


I had a brief, violent attack of diarrhoea this morning and on the strength of that, decided not to go out. I’ve been all right since, and have hopes for tomorrow. Archie promises to get up before lunchtime, and we’ll attempt the expedition which we cancelled today.


No knitting.


Wordle: It was another New-York-Times-y word, one of those, like TROPE, which hover in the periphery of one’s vocabulary but are never actually spoken or written. The grown-ups (Alexander, Ketki, Mark) got it in four. Youth and age (Thomas and I) needed all six.


I hope to do better tomorrow. Thank you for your contributions to the all-purpose recipe thread. More on that to follow.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022


I didn’t get out today, what with comings and goings. Not good. Archie is here, and we have planned an expedition for tomorrow. He’ll stay until Friday – maybe early Sat.


Wordle: You’re right to mention how quick it is, rheather (comment yesterday). Some people – Queer Joe is one – go on to some of the harder spin-offs, but for me the basic Wordle is perfect, and takes just the right amount of time, once a day. I’m happy to welcome another convert. Mark and Alexander and I needed four today; Ketki, three. Thomas was back on form with two.


I knit bravely on, but decided half way through the operation that yesterday’s fear had materialised and I was knitting the numbers backwards. So most of today’s knitting time was devoted to frogging, picking up stitches, aligning and counting and counting again. I think the answer is – and if I’m right, it should have been obvious to the meanest intelligence from the beginning – to turn the chart upside down and then knit it, of course, from the bottom. I’ve started again. We’ll see, tomorrow. I’m not happy about how I’ve spaced the motifs but you can’t have everything. There’s not room for more than two cups, each with a repetition of the date. The empty stitches should be grouped around the calf "seam", and the two motifs should balance each other on either side of the leg. I don’t think that has been achieved.




We may have started a useful thread, here. KayT, I will work on thinking of a substitute for aubergine in the all-purpose recipe I copied out yesterday. Vegetarian sausage could be omitted or replaced with real. Lisa, shakshuka is a very good idea. I breakfast on a egg and wouldn’t want to add another regular one to my routine, but chickpeas would be nice. I’ve never looked at Falastin but know of it. Maybe I’d better have a look. I like food from that part of the world.


(My breakfast is one I learned from my sister: cram a small-to-medium saucepan full of baby spinach leaves; wilt them; crack in an egg and poach it with the lid on the pan. Quick, nourishing, tasty.)


Tuesday, April 05, 2022


It’s been a rather dreary day, with some rain. It’s also my bath day. I didn’t walk. I’ve felt a bit droopy.


Wordle Old-friend-Mark and I got it in four; Ketki and her clever son Thomas in five; Alexander needed all six. It is a sort of New York Timesy word, not as bad as EPOXY or TROPE, but not one that crops up often in conversation, either. I must emphasize to the unconverted that Wordle is a gentle, friendly game, largely due to the fact that there is only one word a day, so we can all talk about it. And tomorrow is another day, on which Thomas, at least, will go back to beating me.


Knitting has advanced, although I haven’t much to show for it. First of all, I couldn’t find any squared paper. Daniela found some. I have plotted the Cup and ’21 and started knitting them, with much counting and caution. I’m knitting from the top down. There is some leg-shaping, so the finished object isn’t reversible. I can trust myself to knit from the top of the chart, so the design won’t be upside down. But can I be sure that I am knitting in the right direction, so that it won’t be the mirror image of the result I want? The cup itself is vertically symmetrical, but “’21” isn’t.


I am rather taken with the idea of the masculine version of Kate Davies’ Glenan pattern for Fergus’ Calcutta Cup ’22 sweater. Sometimes I wish KD weren’t so devoted to funny Scottish words for her pattern-names. I’ve got time to think about it.




One of my favourite columnists had a column in the Times yesterday about streamlining daily life by discarding annoyances. One of the annoyances he discards is thinking what to eat. He repeatedly uses this recipe: aubergine (=eggplant), onion, red pepper and vegetarian sausage chopped up together in a pan and fried with smoked paprika, garlic puree and tomato puree. Stir in Greek yoghurt at the end to make it satisfyingly viscous.


I think I might try that, minus the vegetarian sausage.


Archie is coming tomorrow for two nights. I’ll have to eat properly while he’s here.



Monday, April 04, 2022


I am restored to a more “normal” level of lifelessness. Daniela and I got around the garden. It has been a grey, windy day, much warmer than the last few. Tulips have joined the daffodils in Drummond Place Garden.


James and Cathy are coming to see me at the end of the week. And Archie was speaking of moving in for a couple of nights before that. Excitement all round. This is the second of the three weeks Helen will be away. Her middle son Mungo has joined her in Ravenna, and her husband David will be there soon.


I’ve cast off the first legwarmer – can’t really call it finished, with all those ends to deal with. The pattern wants me to block it, too. I’ve got one of those foot-forms, used for blocking socks. A knitterly friend of Alexander’s on Loch Fyne gave it to him to give to me, perhaps in a clutter-reducing phase, so it will be fun to use it.


But meanwhile I have done the top ribbing for the second legwarmer, and it’s therefore time to knit the Calcutta Cup. I don’t know what I’ve done with the chart I must have made for wee Hamish’s vest (above). The only one I can readily find is for ’06. That was for Ketki, I think. At least it gives me the cup. I also can’t find the book which usually supplies me with the chart for knitting numbers – I probably didn’t put it back on the shelf after doing Hamish’s chart. That’s not a problem, however, except that it’s a book I’m particularly fond of, a large BBC paperback from long ago. But there are plenty of number charts out there on the internet.


Wordle: A more normal distribution this morning – five for me and Ketki; four for Alexander and his son Thomas; three for old-friend-Mark.


I meant to remark yesterday that I’ve been to Polphail, the subject of the last essay in Kate Davies’ Cowal Penninsula book. It is – or, was – a village purpose-built for workers on a projected oil rig that never happened. It was briefly famous for the graffiti which came to decorate it. I saw it (on a visit to Alexander and Ketki) either just before or just after seeing Jupiter Artland, a remarkable collection of outdoor art, just outside of Edinburgh. Many well-known British artists are represented. It must have cost a lot of money to assemble, and it costs quite a bit to view, too. Whereas at Polphail you just climb over the gate, noting the sign about being respectful of bats. Arte povera and arte ricca.


I forwarded the Kate Davies essay – not by her, in fact – to Alexander and Ketki. He has sent me a portfolio-ful of his photographs of Polphail.


Helen (anon): Thank you for my limerick!!!

Kirsten: Thank goodness for your father's bank! Alexander says that my scammers of Saturday would have got control of my computer if I had gone ahead to do whatever they were going to tell me to do to "fix" my ISP address, and that might well have meant access to my bank account. 



Sunday, April 03, 2022


Dull, chill. I didn’t walk – not because of the weather but because of an attack of weakness. I got up in the night to pee – it happens often – and found myself too weak to proceed. I got back to bed, slept on without disaster, and have been recovering gradually all day. Had I not had enough supper last night, relying on my delicious tuna lunch with Archie? I shall eat conscientiously this evening.


No knitting to speak of today – that’s always a bad symptom.


Janet, comment yesterday, I had your experience once with a shawl. In my earlier shawl-knitting days, I always started with the edging, then joined it into a circle and knit inwards. I was terribly, terribly careful with the join but once I failed. I took the scissors to the corner – with successful results.

Helen(anon) Your comment about my scam yesterday has just turned up. Your excellent system wouldn't have helped me. It wasn't an automated call. It was "BT" phoning about my internet. I would have picked up. I had one of those banking ones a couple of years ago, where they try to persuade you to move your money to a "safe" account. I nearly fell for that one. Again, it was real people talking to me. That's what's so upsetting. Like finding rats in the larder.




All five of us, aged from nearly 18 to nearly 89, took five goes to get Wordle this morning. Friend-Mark thinks our collective score has never been so bad. Queer Joe, who sometimes posts his results to Facebook, got it in three. I stuck to my new resolution of entering only words which fit all the data. I was tempted by a Jean-word for line four, and if I had used it, it would have made the solution easier. But no quicker.



Saturday, April 02, 2022


Cold but bright. Archie and I got around the garden.


And, as hoped, I have finished the patterned part of the first legwarmer, switched with cries of joy to dps, and embarked on the ankle ribbing.


The main event today was a phone-call scam, purportedly from BT who supply my internet, about my IP address. The caller said it was “public” and should be “private” and that bad men therefore had access to it. I was puzzled, and kept talking longer than I should have while they sensed they had a sucker on the line and were very cross when I would go no further. They kept ringing back which BT would never do. I’ve looked it up since – it’s an established scam. It’s still an unsettling experience.

Mary Lou: Rachel says that her daughter Hellie has been looking out baby clothes for the little girl expected next month, and found this oldish photograph of her eldest (I think -- I tend to get those little girls in London mixed up) wearing her Polliwog. Rachel said that Hellie remarked again on the fit of that easy-to-pull-on neck. The expected baby will get the Aroon jacket, also easy to put on:




Good old Wordle. All four of the grown-ups in my little group (me, Alexander, Ketki, and old-friend-Mark) got it in three today, and all four of us would be hard-pressed to tell you what the word means. Thomas Miles needed four. He probably knows.


 Archie stayed for lunch. We had some very tasty tuna which he had bought on his walk down Broughton Street.

Friday, April 01, 2022


Cooler, but at least dry. C. came, with an old friend who went on a Majestic Line cruise last summer (on our recommendation?) and had it cut short by covid. We hobbled around the garden. My hip is very sore. I encountered a Lenten reflection yesterday: if a stranger were to take charge of your life, what is the first thing he would do? I think in my case, it might be to consult a doctor about my hip, so perhaps I should do that.


Knitting has progressed well. There are 10 or 12 rounds to go, plus ribbing, on the first legwarmer, and since the last four rounds before the ribbing are plain vanilla stripes, no pattern, I am confident of finishing tomorrow. Reasonably confident. I have looked out an old Calcutta Cup scheme, but need to find the one I used for wee Hamish’s vest (above) since this will be identical. We have decided to go for ’21 on the ribwarmers and knit something entirely different for ’22. Scotland had better lose in ’23. I can’t go on like this.


I did some looking-out connected with Machu Picchu, too: my notes about how to do an EPS, notably. I need to find those four issues of Knitter’s in which Meg explains and expands the pattern.


I lost the eBay auction. As feared and half- expected, a huge bid trumped me in the final seconds.


It showed the destination of one of our walks in Kirkmichael, two or three miles, I might guess, up Glen Derby, vaguely in the direction of Pitlochry. One walks through some new-built houses, and then trees, and finally open country with nothing for miles until you get to the ruins of a small house – “the bothy”, the destination of the walk. No other habitation within sight, no “infrastructure”. The postcard was from the first decade of the 20th century, and showed the house intact, with a bit of garden out in front enclosed by a picket fence. I have a collection of Kirkmichael postcards. I bid a lot, but somebody else bid more.


I am glad to have made a convert of you, Janet. It is fun, but also gentle. There is much extra fun to be derived from the fact that there is only one per day, and it is the same all over the world.

This morning my two starter words produced all five letters, all in the form of brown tiles. All I had to do was solve the anagram, and I had my Wordle in three. Alas, I am no good at anagrams. I struggled for half an hour and finally gave up. I entered a Jean-word, despite the resolution expressed here yesterday: it used four of my brown tiles, and a letter already eliminated. That yielded two green tiles, and even I was able to slot in the remaining three letters. 

Thomas Miles used five today, however. At least I beat him.