Tuesday, February 28, 2023


It has been a fairly inert day, but not without its small achievements. The main one was persuading my mobile telephone to work. I don’t use it much. I depend utterly upon my iPad, and communicate with the world by email. But I like to have a functioning mobile telephone to hand at night for emergencies. And I seemed to have signed up for a system that kept running out without warning me. That has been put right, but it involved a new sim card and the authentication thereof and bank details and wasn’t straightforward. It defeated even Daniela. Helen – who is working here again today – eventually cracked it. Except that I have a new mobile telephone number which threatens to complicate other aspects to life. 


The knitting progressed well. I’ve done another lace round and am beginning to feel slightly more confident. And the m**hs  have continued to eschew the current yarn. That makes things pleasanter. Gudrun shows us in the Craftsy course how to make sure that the lace is lining up with previous lace rounds. She doesn’t give any hints about how to start fudging if it doesn’t. She just looks severe and says that something is wrong. I’ve had a couple of those and think I’ve fudged successfully.


Tamar: (comment yesterday) Our neighbours’ attitude to that ditch is very odd. It has no function in their sheep field. It is out of sight of their house. Why won’t they sell it to us? Why did they plant those leylandii, other than to inconvenience us? They seem reasonable at the moment but years of struggle have made us mistrustful.


I forgot to say yesterday: a week of skulking indoors made Mass-going last Sunday more than ordinarily exciting, as spring was found to have advanced amid the pots on my doorstep. Some things are blooming, and a clematis that I thought Daniela had dealt too harshly with has sent up strong shoots.


Wordle: my starter words yielded two vowels this morning, one green, one brown. As often in similar situations, it was very difficult to think of any qualifying word, but when I did it was a good one, and very Wordle-y. I typed it in with confidence and it was wrong, although now both vowels were green. I struggled on and finally thought of another word, a most unlikely one, T thought, but it qualified. And it was right. So I got four, which was the majority score today. Alexander and Theo got three.


Monday, February 27, 2023


Helen has been here today, mosaic’ing in my husband’s study. It’s a wonderful big room, down at the end of the house. It’s the room, indeed, that sold the house to me. I had been around all the rest, thinking that this might do, and when the owner opened that door and I saw the study, I knew that it would do. It’s a shame that I haven’t had the energy to do anything with it since he died, but it’s nice, at least, that Helen can use it occasionally. And it's been nice to have her here today.


She took poor Paradox down to the vet this afternoon for a preliminary inspection before her spaying. Poor beast.


No rugby today, so a fair amount of knitting. I’ve advanced to the next colour which, so far, appears to have been less inviting to m**ths.


Helen seems to think that the accountant she recently found for me also works for Kate Davies. She (KD) lived very near here, before she went to her current location. It’s entirely possible.


Driveway: We have a Permanent Heritable Servitude over the route of our present driveway. It cost a lot in blood, sweat, and tears (and money). It runs along the side of our neighbours’ field until it reaches our paddock. On the left of the driveway is the field, with sheep. On the right there is a narrow strip of land, belonging of course to the neighbours, and just beyond that – slightly above the level of the driveway – a ditch. At the point where the driveway enters the paddock, the ditch runs under it, and proceeds happily around the edge of the paddock down to the burn.


In that narrow strip of land, the neighbour has planted some leylandii: true to their reputation, fast-growing. But the ditch needs to be cleaned from time to time, or else it overflows onto the driveway. When my husband and I were strong enough, it was our autumn chore. Really rather fun, in good weather. Helen and David are more inclined to get a Man In, with a machine. But the leylandii, as things stand, make that impossible. And they are also big enough, by now, to begin to narrow the driveway.


Helen and David talked to the neighbour and his wife on site on Saturday. I gather the conference went well.


Wordle: We were all over the place today. Alexander and I did it in three, and we were the only threes. Given that today is his birthday, that seemed rather appropriate, even poetic. Thomas needed six, and Roger failed. Fours elsewhere.





Sunday, February 26, 2023


France won. It was a thrilling match.


Tomorrow is Alexander’s sixty-somethingth birthday. I’m sure I tell you every year that he was born in a Leap Year. If he had held out for another 48 hours, as I very much hoped he would – his official “due date” wasn’t until March 4 or 5, I think – he would only be 15 ¾, and we could have named him Frederick, after the hero of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance”.


Not much knitting today. The m**hs have been in my new colour and solutions would have been too fiddly to combine with the rugby. I’m still doing the second pattern round of Old Shale in the centre of my hap. The end is in sight, and the stitch count is pretty good. Each of the four sides works separately, so to speak. So if something is off in one of them, it doesn’t mean that there’ll be trouble in the next one.


Helen and David nipped up to Kirkmichael yesterday, to confer with our neighbour about the state of our driveway which edges a field belonging to them. It sounds as if all will be well. There is no way in or out of our house except over their land. I increasingly feel as the years pass that the solicitor who acted for us when we bought the house in 1964 should have ensured that we had a legal right of way somewhere or other. It would have saved us a lot of money and a lot of anguish in subsequent years. Newspapers are full almost daily of heart-rending tales of people who wind up in court because they can’t agree with their neighbours about driveways or trees or fences or Japanese knotweed.


Wordle: five for me today, the class dunce. I moved too fast. The starter words gave me three browns, a vowel and two consonants. I typed in Jean-words for lines three and four, without meaning to. Line three omitted one of the browns. Line four – really rather a good one, I thought – had all the right letters, but two of them were in places I knew perfectly well they weren’t allowed to occupy.


Threes and fours elsewhere, except for my daughter Rachel who scored a brilliant two. Theo is back: he was one of the threes. He slid in late yesterday – after I had marked him absent – with a five.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

 Time for even less than usual tonight – I’ve been watching rugby, and it’s now time for a can of soup and welcome bed.  England beat Wales. Ireland beat Italy, too, but I didn’t watch that one. We play France tomorrow, in Paris. That’s always a good match.


And I got some knitting done. I think I’ve got my stitch count straightened out. I’ve reached the second pattern round -- they come every six rounds -- and the second colour.


We had a post from Kate Davies this morning, about her depression. I don’t think I knew about that. She’s had tremendous problems, with her stroke, but it sounds as if she has been liable to severe depression even longer.


Wordle: I failed, the climax of a dismal week. Alexander and Roger both needed six, some slight comfort perhaps. Fours elsewhere. Nothing from Theo, who is usually very faithful.

Friday, February 24, 2023

 Another sunny day. I’ll have to get out soon. This won’t do.


I did exercises, though. And knit. I’m now halfway around the first round of Old Shale, and am having trouble with the stitch count. Nothing that can’t be fudged. I should have counted yesterday as well as on Wednesday. It makes me feel awfully old and foolish, though. If I can’t even knit Old Shale – Gudrun says that children are given it to do, on Shetland – I might as well indeed retire to my care home and garter stitch squares.


Thank you for your thoughts on blocking. That’s an interesting idea, Tamar, to do it in halves. I went through all this only three years ago, when I knit a hap from this same pattern for wee Hamish, above, in the colours of the South African flag. The South African flag has a great many colours. I think, in the end, I left one out. I saw the shawl recently, when I went to call on their kittens. It’s in good shape. Blocking was a problem then, too, but I must have been considerably more agile.


The single beds in the spare room aren’t quite big enough, and are separated by furniture I don’t want to get involved in moving – although that’s a possibility. I think in the end I did Hamish's shawl on one of the beds, diagonally, pinning the extra corners down over the sides of the mattress. I’d need too many foam blocking mats. I could do it on the double bed and move into the spare room myself for a night or two. But I don’t want to do that. I’m very fond of my bedroom.


Wordle: I scored six, for the second time this week. I didn’t use any Jean-words, either. I had greens for the first two letters, and each time, after typing in lines three, and four, and five, I had a couple of heartbeats when I thought I’d cracked it. Nobody else had much trouble to speak of. They mostly got fours. Roger and Mark were the stars, with threes. Theo needed five – that’s some comfort.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

 Another nice spring day. Bath, exercises, knitting. I’m now well-launched into the k2tog, yo round, and have made a start, at least, on arranging my colours for the excitement to follow. Yesterday involved a lot of stitch-counting, and so far it would appear that I’ve got everything right. I hope you’re right, Beth, that Old Shale is going to be a treat. I am slightly apprehensive.


What am I going to do about blocking? Teach Daniela how to do it, I suppose. I often block lace by spreading a sheet on the floor over a carpet. I wonder if I would dare get down on my knees and crawl about and at least show Daniela what we’re trying to do. That would depend on her being able to get me to my feet again, and might be a bit risky.


Anonymous, thank you for the Gardam recommendations. I’m currently reading the last of the Old Filth trilogy. Both Filth and his wife were dead by the end of volume two. She’s going on with some local friends, and back into the early history of an important character.


Wordle: Alexander and Ketki logged in early, presumably still from a distant continent. Five for her, four for him, and I thot, Oh, dear, it must be another toughie, and was delighted with myself for scoring three. My starters had produced three vowels, one green, two brown. Delight lasted less than an hour. Both Thomas and Daughter Rachel also got three, and then Mark blew us all out of the water with two. Theo needed five: small comfort.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


A nice day, promising spring. But I didn’t go out. I did my exercises – are they actually becoming slightly easier? And knit successfully, and cooked a rather successful Mindful Chef lunch.


Here are Alexander and Ketki, somewhere in India (probably Gujerat). I knit a sweater for the bride – the daughter of one of Ketki’s sisters – when she was a toddler, but I doubt if I can find that picture.


I’ve embarked on the borders of the hap. Every row of the centre square begins with a YO, and the first thing to do is to slide a needle through each of them. from the front It’s not quite as easy as it sounds. Then knit around – but the stitches are now back to front, so that’s a bit slow. Then a purl round, then one with a lot of increases. That’s where I am at the moment. After another purl round, it’ll be k2tog, YO, all the way around, another purl round, and then we’ll be ready to start the colours and the feather and fan. As I remember, it is not quite as easy in garter stitch as it would be in st st, to ensure that the k2togs (of which there are many) are directly on top of each other.


Wordle: I don’t think there’s ever been a word we all found so difficult. Except for Mark, who scored a perfectly respectable four. There were two possible configurations today. One was grn, grn, ???, grn, grn. I got hung up there three times, and scraped home with six. The other was ???, grn. grn, grn, grn. Both Alexander and Thomas got stuck there, and both scored six. Ketki and Daughter Rachel had my pattern, and managed it in five. Theo and his father Roger over there in DC both failed – that’s never happened before in the history of the world. Roger had three shots at ???, grn, grn, grn, grn but missed them all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

 It has been a day like many another, but I feel unusually flattened. Better than some, indeed, because when I got up as usual at about 6:30 and came along the passage to the kitchen on my way to feed the cats, I saw the beginnings of light at the kitchen window. 


Helen came. I did my exercises. It turns out that the letters yesterday from HMRC weren’t quite as bad as I thought, in that I have already paid a lot of it. But why don’t they know that? Income Tax isn’t the issue this time, but Capital Gains, which I have to pay because I have given Helen the 1/3rd share I used to own in the Kirkmichael house. She would like to live there when David retires. You wouldn’t have thought that that constituted a capital gain, but it does. If I live long enough, she can rejoice when I’m dead because it won’t be part of my estate. But if I die too soon, they’ll come down on her again.


I finished the centre square of the hap I’m knitting, as hoped, and watched Gudrun’s Craftsy lesson again on what comes next – picking up stitches around the edges and doing a few plain colour but slightly fancy rounds before embarking on the Old Shale pattern.


I’ve had a lovely picture of Ketki and Alexander in Indian clothes for the wedding, but I can’t figure out how to get it out of my telephone to show it to you. They both look wonderful.


Wordle: Another day of threes and fours, evenly divided among six of us. I was a four. The exception is Thomas – not in India with his parents – who needed six.

Monday, February 20, 2023

 Alexander and Ketki are in India for a family wedding. I had been told that they were going, but forgot, or at any rate I had insufficiently registered the date. They both logged in with threes this morning (they often score the same) at what would have been an absurd hour of the night had they been in western Europe.


No excitement here, except for some letters from the tax man. I didn’t go out. Helen came, and we got through my exercises in good order. She’ll come again tomorrow, and then will be away mosaic’ing in Perth for the rest of the week. Since this hip replacement is going to cost me an absurd amount of money anyway, I am thinking of some new clothes for my weeks of rehabilitation in the posh nursing home. That can wait until I’ve met the surgeon and heard what he thinks he can do for me. And when.


Knitting continues briskly. I wouldn’t be surprised if I finished the centre of the hap tomorrow. I also finished reading Gardam’s “Bilgewater” which I enjoyed to the end. I’ve now returned to her “Old Filth” trilogy which I have in my Kindle library and therefore must have read before.


Wordle: We were all threes and fours today – the threes slightly preponderated. I was a four. My starters gave me four browns. I’m not keen on anagrams, but it was easy today to think of a qualifying word for line three. It was wrong, but useful. My line three was a configuration which kept turning up – both for the threes and for the fours –  grn, brn, grn, grn, ???. That means, obviously, that the brown has to be moved to position five, and from there it isn’t at all difficult to think of the letter for position two. It's a totally different word. The man who invented the alphabet was on to a good thing.



Sunday, February 19, 2023

 It sounds stormy out there this evening. I didn’t walk, yet again, but C. took me to Mass, which involves a certain amount of moving about, and later on I did a whole course of exercises by myself, unprompted by Helen or Daniela. Thank you for your inspirational messages yesterday. My next objective must be to do them twice a day. They leave me slightly breathless.


I did quite a bit of knitting. I seem to be zipping back and forth, although I think I still must have nearly 70 stitches in the centre square of my hap. I’m enjoying it a lot. It is pleasant to think that if life takes everything else away, I can probably knit garter stitch squares in my care home. Or even in prison, where there might be a livelier crowd. But that is an unrealistic, if comforting, belief. I read somewhere that when EZ’s dementia was pretty far advanced, Meg tried one day to put knitting needles in her hands but she wasn’t interested. And she loved garter stitch.


I have begun mental work on the borders. I will have to face the fact that I can’t knit one of Gudrun's schemes, and must concentrate on arranging the colours I’ve got over the right number of rows.

I've finished "Old Filth" and have started Gardam's "Bilgewater" which you suggested, Cat. I'm reading it with great pleasure. 


Wordle: Ketki and Alexander are usually early with their contributions. Today neither appeared until Alexander showed up in mid-afternoon with a four. Ketki is still absent, and I’m worried. Her absence altogether takes the bloom off the fact that I scored the only three. (We can shake hands across the miles, Mary Lou, assuming we’re talking about the same day.) My starters gave me one green consonant and two brown vowels. I struggled mightily for quite a while to think of a qualifying word. When I finally came up with one, I didn’t think it at all likely, but it was right. That has happened before. Fours elsewhere except for Mark, who needed five.


Saturday, February 18, 2023


A peaceful day. I resumed knitting. The stitch count is now below 80 on the centre of my hap. I did my exercises – I suspect they’re useless, but at least they’re not worse than useless. I resumed reading Old Filth. Emma Woodhouse turned up in an FT quiz this morning, but I failed to spot what she had in common with Indira Ghandi. The answer was pretty obscure: in both cases, the names begin and end with the same vowel.


Gudrun’s hap pattern requires more than one 25gram ball of yarn for each of the contrast colours (four in all, I think). That I can’t do. I’ve got plenty of yarn, including several balls in their ball-bands, and am determined, as I’ve said, to make this work without buying more. (Jamieson and Smith gets parcels into the post very briskly – help is at hand if I weaken.) I must work out a plan. But first I must finish the centre square.


Mary Lou, (comment yesterday), I’ve knit with qiviut in my time, decades ago. I remember it as beyond blissful, for softness. Less so for colour, although science may have overcome that difficulty by now. I think I knit a scarf for my sister which was overcome by m**ths not long afterwards, but memory may be distorting events.


Wordle: A bit of a toughie today. The common configuration was ???, ???, grn, grn, grn. I had that twice, and scored five. Poor Thomas had three of them, and scraped home with a six. Big Rachel had two, and also scored six. Roger was today’s star, with three. Fours and fives elsewhere. All of my entries were real possibles today – so that doesn’t always work. One of them, however, was a word we had already had in February. I probably should have spotted that, and avoided it.


Friday, February 17, 2023

 Another quiet day. Helen is still expected. Daniela put me through my exercises. The weather was on the edge of stormy, and walking offered no temptation.

 Nor did I knit. No excuse. There’s still time to put in an hour. – Now there isn’t. Helen came, and we spent a pleasant time talking about nothing. She says I must soon start doing the exercise routine twice a day.


I’ve been reading “Emma”. I started on the day when I didn’t have my iPad, and thus didn’t have access to my electronic library. Austen is here on a shelf. It’s not my fave (that’s “Mansfield Park”) but it’s really awfully good. She set herself an interesting challenge in a heroine one doesn’t entirely like or empathise with. Whereas in other books, from Elizabeth Bennett to Fanny Price, one experiences it all from within the heroine’s skin. How skilful the author is with names. There’s nothing wrong with “Jane Fairfax”, exactly, but one sympathises with Emma in being slightly irritated by her. It all turns out well, you won’t be surprised to hear.


Wordle: we are spread all along the track today, with myself, I am pleased to report, in the leading group. My starter words gave me two browns and a green. I persevered until I found a fully-qualifying word – I try hard every day, but can’t always do it. Today I succeeded, and it was right. I think that’s true more often than not. So, three for me, where I was joined by Thomas, Granddaughter Rachel, and Mark. There were fours for Ketki, Theo, and Roger; fives for Alexander and Daughter Rachel, his sister.


Thursday, February 16, 2023

 Not a bad day. Helen came. We didn’t attempt a walk. We got some business done, including getting a new set of my pills from the chemist and booking poor Paradox in for being spayed. And ran through a little set of exercises which I have embarked on and which Daniella can drill me through on days when Helen can’t come.


And the knitting moved forward nicely. I’ve now got fewer than 100 stitches in the centre of the hap. There were 144 at the max. The rows definitely feel shorter.


We have an appt with a private orthopaedic surgeon on March 13, but have no idea how soon after that date surgery might follow. My ambition is to finish the borders of this hap before then. Knitting the simple lace edging on would be ideal convalescent knitting. It is a procedure of which I am particularly fond. The baby is due in late April.


The iPad continues to behave well. I do agree, E. (comment yesterday), that I need a laptop as well. I much prefer the solidity of a keyboard for my evening sessions here at the blogface. And I can’t give up Freecell. This laptop is old and slow.


Wordle: four for me today, and for a few others. My starter words gave me two vowels, one brown, one green, but I couldn’t think of anything to fit. So I resorted to a Jean-word, and it did the trick. I now had three greens and the end was in sight. Theo and Ketki got it in three. Alexander and Thomas needed five. Today’s star was my daughter Rachel: her starter word gave her one brown. She lept straight from there to the answer in a dazzling two.



Wednesday, February 15, 2023

 Not a good photograph but, as you can see, the knitting progresses and I’ve got the use of an iPad. The difference in shades of the basic colour has been much exaggerated in this pic.


Indeed, it's my dear original iPad. Helen bought me a new one,  and came here with it yesterday evening. But before we opened the package, she tried again to push various combinations of buttons on the old one, instructed by Alexander. And succeeded in getting past the “Slide to power off” screen which Daniella and I had managed (no use because the screen wasn’t responding) to the one with the Apple logo. Then all you have to do is sit there and wait. It soon came back on at full strength.


We haven’t taken the new one back to the shop yet, just in case. Or should I see if they would trade it in for a down payment on a new laptop? This one is pretty antique.


What I need to know is how to recover my Apple password, which I would have needed to set up the new machine. Alexander says my Apple ID is my email address. Perhaps. It would be a comfort to recover that password and write it down somewhere. It’s probably based on the name of some cat.


But meanwhile, I’ve got my dear iPad, and my knitting. I’m quite pleased with the way it’s looking, and have entirely forgiven my purl bumps on the top of the Calcutta Cup panel.

 Wordle: I was surprised to discover how much I enjoy the company of my little group., when I lacked it yesterday.  Doing Wordle alone here on this desktop yesterday evening was no fun at all. When Helen resuscitated the iPad, I couldn’t remember the day’s word (as so often) but I typed in my starter words again, and solved it again in three, and so have retained my modest winning streak.

 I did pretty well today, too.  I got four, beaten only by my daughter Rachel’s three. Theo and Roger joined me with four. Fives and sixes elsewhere.



Tuesday, February 14, 2023

 A painful and exciting day: my iPad died quietly yesterday evening, after I wrote to you.


The iPad is closely woven into every waking hour around here. I get up in the morning, get dressed, feed the cats, sit down at the kitchen table with plenty of time before breakfast, and look at my email. Then I do Wordle, post the result to my little group, enter the day’s word and my score in a list I keep in the Notes app, then settle down with the morning paper. That’s five different applications before I’ve had breakfast. My current reading book, Old Filth, is in there, and my current knitting pattern. My camera: I couldn’t take a picture of my knitting today after all. No 14=year-old could be more devoted to a telephone.


The difficulty is that it won’t respond to the screen. I can’t log in. By pushing various buttons I can get a screen that says “Slide to power off” – but it won’t slide. Both Daniela and a computer-savvy friend have suggested waiting until it runs out of power. That will force a Power Off which might prove useful.


But it will take days longer than I can bear to wait. Helen has gone up to John Lewis and bought me a new one. She will be here soon. The next problem is that I have no idea what my Apple Identity is, so it may prove difficult to reinstate my life.


Knitting, although unphotographed, progresses well (and I won’t need to look at the pattern for several days). I fancy that I begin to be aware that there are fewer stitches, just as I am certainly aware that the days are lighter. I think maybe the new feature mentioned yesterday is going to look all right after all.


Elizabeth in Oregon, thank you. “Hide My Eyes” (comment Sunday) was indeed the Marjorie Allingham novel I was trying to think of.


Wordle: I did it this morning on this laptop computer – an easy three. But what’s the use without my stats or my little group?


Monday, February 13, 2023

 Both Helen and Daniela are considering the hypothesis that pushing me too hard might be making the hip worse. It’s certainly getting worse. I have resisted painkillers so far, for fear of having to go on taking them forever, but I think I’ll have to give in, for the sake of some sleep. It’s still a whole month before my appt with the private surgeon. Helen came this morning and I got through my programme of exercises. No outdoor walking, though. Daniela later massaged the hip. A massage can’t possibly restore cartilage or bone, but it feels good.


And, knitting! I’ve finished the Calcutta Cup panel. I have made an embarrassing, elementary mistake. The panel begins with two rows of st st in blue. Then that same blue is carried up the sides in a two-stitch edging. Then we finish off with another two rows of blue st st. As convenience would have it, the first of those two final rows was on the wrong side, a purl row. The second, of course, knit, on the right side. Then the basic garter stitch of the shawl centre came sweeping down. And of course, doing it that way, there is a very conspicuous row of purl bumps on the right side.


I’m leaving it. I would have had to unpick several long rows. The nice woman who made Rachel’s wedding dress taught me a very useful maxim for dealing with disasters: If you can’t conceal it, make a feature of it. In this case, there’s nothing I can do except to pretend that it’s a feature. I’ll take a picture soon, when we have a few more garter stitch rows to embed the panel more deeply. I am determined not to buy any yarn for this shawl, and am actively encouraging a happy-go-lucky stash-cupboard appearance. It consists, so far, of two different shades of the centre-square colour. They look like different dye-lots, although in fact they are two different balls of yarn, one Jamieson & Smith, the other Jamieson’s. So maybe those purl pumps will fit in to this approach.


Cat, thank you for your pointer to Jane Gardam’s “Bilgewater”. I will certainly add it to my list. I continue to enjoy “Old Filth” and only very rarely meet a passage that reminds me that I have read it before. I could probably save a bit of money by rotating the same half-dozen books for the rest of my life.


I haven’t found anything in the house to explain that explosive noise yesterday. It couldn’t have come from upstairs or downstairs, but it is just possible that it came from outside. My two neighbours below both have “areas” outside their front doors, below the level of the pavement. One of the neighbours is much given to working out there, where the area walls funnel sound upwards.


Wordle: Lots of threes today. Thomas needed four and Theo five. Otherwise it was threes all round, including me. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023


It might well be called another day of non-achievement, but a very pleasant one. C. came and got me for an early Mass. Then we came back here and I nerved myself up for a family Zoom quiz.


While I was sitting in the kitchen preparing myself , I heard a loud, crisp explosion. It could also have been, as I know from a late, excellent Marjorie Allingham  the name of which I can’t remember, the sound of a heavy object being dropped onto a marble surface. My first anxiety was that the fuse had blown which regulates my electric Aga, although fuses don’t normally make such a noise when they expire, and their demise is usually prompted by an event such as switching a light on. I was just sitting there.


The Aga, however, seems to be fine. So does everything else. What on earth? I suspect I’ll find out, although for the moment everything seems to be in order.


We had a jolly quiz session, perhaps the jollier because there was no one there much under 60. We talked a bit at the end about my 90th birthday. Alexander and his best friend Mark (of Wordle fame) weren’t able to celebrate their 6oth’s due to lockdown, and are soon to go off, with wives, to somewhere in Cheshire and hire in some superior cooks to cater for them. We could do something like that? I fear it might be too exciting.


But meanwhile no knitting or purposeful exercise. Back to work tomorrow.


Wordle: Three was the popular score today, including me. The popular pattern was ???, ???, grn. grn. grn, although I didn’t have that. The outliers were Thomas, with four; and Roger, who guessed wrong twice with the aforementioned configuration, five.

Saturday, February 11, 2023


It might be called a day of non-achievement, but it doesn’t feel like it. Scotland beat Wales. The first half was a bit comme ci, comme ca, but we took over in the second.


No walk, no exercise. Daniela wasn’t here, because her small son was ill. He has been having ear aches – that’s not an organ to mess with. Knitting was more than somewhat hampered by the fact that Paradox picked it up at lunchtime today and carried it through to the kitchen. The knitting did fine – no stitches dropped. But the tangled yarn was impressive, and took me most of the match to straighten out. Once that was done, I finished off the rest of the tricky bits of the Calcutta Cup panel. There remains but one row, the top of the elephant, and then four further peaceful rows to finish the panel. And it has been put securely away from paw-reach for the night.


I’ve finished Sense and Sensibility, fairly cheerless to the end, and started re-reading Old Filth by Jane Gardam, which I found in my Kindle library. I remember it only very vaguely. It’s about lawyers, and FILTH is an acronym for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong.


C.’s daughter Christina and her husband Manaba came to see me this morning, with their sons. Here we are.


Wordle: I failed. Two brown vowels from my starter words, and the best I could do was to turn them green, at last, with a Jean-word in line six. Fours and fives elsewhere, except for a brilliant three from Mark. Never mind: Scotland beat Wales.

Friday, February 10, 2023

 Today’s big news is that Fergus (Helen’s youngest son) passed his driving test. Second attempt. Great joy all round.


Having dispatched him back to Bristol University, Helen came here and instead of making me walk, put me through some exercises and showed Daniela what I should do every day. (I’m pretty sure I distinguished “every day” amidst the Greek they speak to each other.) They are simple-sounding exercises, surprisingly tiring. They are recommended in a booklet the NHS gave me, for doing before hip surgery as well as after.


So that was a strenuous morning, but the knitting progressed somewhat. I now lack but one row of tedious knitting to finish off the numerals and the apostrophe -- ’23 -- in my Calcutta Cup panel. There are then two more simple rows on top of the cup itself, to suggest the elephant which occupies that space in real life. And then the containing square to be finished off. It would be nice to get the tedious bits done tomorrow morning so that I can knit a bit during the afternoon rugby – Scotland v Wales.


In the good old days, Wales turned out en masse for their matches here in Edinburgh – with their sisters and their cousins and their aunts and their daffodils and their leeks. I hope it is still so. I move so little that I wouldn’t know. There are none in Drummond Place.


And I’m getting on fine with Sense and Sensibility, although you’re right, Tamar (as always) – it’s not very cheerful. I can’t have read it very often. I remember the basic situation, and Willoughby of course – no one could forget Willoughby. But there have been some surprises – I had forgotten that there was a duel. And I don’t know, even now, what fate awaits the heroine.


Wordle: Ketki and Mark were today’s winners: home in three. Four for the majority, including me. Roger trailed in with six. He got stuck in the same Wordle-configuration as Rachel and Alexander and I: grn, grn, grn, ???, grn.  Mark and Ketki seemed to need only the central letter to go straight for the solution.  The others got the same score of four from different directions.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

 Daniela got me out today by brute force. We walked to the corner and back. My hip is getting worse, I think: not just unreliable, but also a constant dull ache. Walking is not easy. A good reason for going ahead with surgery. There was a talk about anaesthesia, of all things, on the radio this afternoon during my nap. It got me up and out of bed pretty promptly. 


I moved forward with the knitting. I was in the midst of a row when we went for our walk. I hope I will at least finish it this evening When I do, there will be only one more row before the centre turn-around, when I begin to decrease. I’m doing the panel with the Cup in st st, as adumbrated. I have to remind myself firmly to revert to garter stitch for the ends of the alternate rows.


I must have knit the cup back-and-forth before now. I did a scarf, for instance, for Thomas Miles to celebrate the most recent draw, in 2021. The other end of the scarf has his initials, too. Colour-knitting while purling is no fun at all. That scarf, at least, employed only two colours. Not like now.


Tamar, thank you for the reading suggestions. I’ve never tried Terry Pratchett (I don’t think I like fantasy except for Alice) but maybe I should. I don’t know Barbara Metzger. I’ll add her to my list. Meanwhile I’m doing fine with Sense and Sensibility. It’s a bit grim, all right, but has the necessary sense of underlying peace and order.


Wordle: I was surprised yesterday that nobody else had my grid pattern. Today we all did – grn, grn, grn, ???, grn – except for Theo. Scores depended on how long we had to keep on guessing. Little Rachel and I scored five, with two such guesses. Poor Ketki needed six, with three of them. Four for everybody else except Roger, who logged in at the end of the afternoon with a brilliant three. He appended his WordleBot score: Skill 82, Luck 71. I’d love to have access to WordleBot but I presume that means subscribing to the Times.



Wednesday, February 08, 2023

 No exercise. Not good.


I got on with the knitting, though. Not far, what with unpicking one major and one minor mistake, and untangling, but still I’m further on that I was at this time yesterday. I’ll hope for better tomorrow.


I’ve finished Plath’s “Letters Home”. The total effect is, not surprisingly, pretty depressing. So is world and national news, at the moment. Maybe I need some Wodehouse. Or “Sense and Sensibility” – I haven’t read that for a while.


I heard some of the State of the Nation last night, since I sleep with the radio on. He sounded very vigorous, and in command of his text. I'm not a fan.


Wordle: We found it tough today – fours and fives throughout, except for Mark who scored a brilliant three. I was one of the fives, perhaps needless to report. My third and fourth lines were both ???, grn, grn, grn, ???. I was mildly interested to note that no one else had this configuration, not even for one line.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

 Nice bath. No walk. C. is coming tomorrow – maybe she can get me moving.


Knitting went well. Encouraged by Joe’s cheerful reply, I embarked on the Calcutta Cup panel for the centre of his baby’s shawl. I could never be a designer. Charting, counting, counting again – it’s all too much for me, when all I want to do is knit. However, I got it done. I am too far advanced (but not by much) to have the panel be in the exact centre, vertically speaking. It’s in the centre, counting horizontally. My main problem at the moment is not to forget, in the excitement, that I’ve got to turn and go in the other direction (= start decreasing) when I’ve got 144 stitches.


At the moment I’ve got what feels like a Fassett-like accumulation of yarns. I had to add another ball of the colour I’m using for the shawl centre, since the Calcutta Cup panel is too broad to carry anything across. Then the two-row-two-stitch border needs two balls for the same reason. Then a new colour for the background within the panel. Well, I guess that’s not so many. One more tomorrow, when I start on the Cup itself. It is very satisfying to be doing this so near the actual event.


Kate Davies has sent us the last pattern for her Allover club. Nice stitch pattern, but the cardigan is too short for my taste. That could be remedied, of course.


I’m reading Sylvia Plath’s letters, prompted by something in the Sunday Times. Riveting. I know the end of the story, of course, but have no idea how it evolved. Her life and mine started out in a sort of parallel – we were within months of the same age, went off to college in the same year (1950), then to Britain, then to marriage. The differences are far greater than the similarities, quite apart from the fact that she was a genius and I am not. But as I was reading today, I discovered a similarity which is truly startling: both the Plaths and the Smitses had a family cat named Sappho. How often can that happen? My father chose the name in the hopes the cat would take the hint and refrain from motherhood. It didn’t work. I was young enough that I had never head it before, and have ever since felt a personal affection for the poetess and for the island of Lesbos.


Wordle: Another three! Alexander is the only one of our little group to equal my achievement. Mostly fours elsewhere, but Big Rachel and Mark needed five. I found it difficult. Yesterday my starters gave me four browns. Today it was one green, in the final position, and one brown, both vowels. You’d think it would be easy to think of something from the letters remaining, but it wasn’t. I heroically resisted a couple of tempting Jean-words, and finally thought of an unlikely candidate that met all the requirements. It was right.


Monday, February 06, 2023

 Thank you for all your suggestions about knitting for the Calcutta Cup. I don’t think a hat is big and serious enough for a victory. I knit one once for a draw (showing half the cup) and it got lost. But all is well. I wrote to Joe and Becca this morning and explained the situation and assured them that I would press ahead with the shawl even if they felt they wanted it Cup-less. But Joe replied at once to say that they might decide to bring this child up to support Scotland and would be delighted to have the Cup. So now all I’ve got to do is chart it with the new date. I’m approaching the centre of the hap which will be a fine place for it. The fact that the centre is knit corner to corner will add a certain piquancy, I feel.


I knit a few rows today: not much. Not much activity, either. I did cook the last and most complicated of last week’s Mindful Chef recipes. Helen was here this morning, a stalwart vegetarian. She agreed that tofu is not much use – that was the protein for the last Mindful Chef effort. And that jackfruit is hopeless. Today’s one was quinoa with roast vegetables. The only difficulty there is when I have to get the quinoa pan back across the kitchen from the stove to the sink, to drain the water after cooking. It’s not far; it can be done. But it's not entirely easy in my enfeebled state.


Wordle: Three for me today. I’m having a good month, so far. My starter words yielded four browns – an anagram-situation, which I don’t like. I struggled mightily, however, and finally thought of a word which qualified – not a very good one, in my opinion. But never mind that: it was right. Both Rachels and Mark joined me with that score. Fours elsewhere, except that Alexander needed five.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

 Scotland won – again!


It was a thrilling match, right up until the final whistle, with the lead passing back and forth. This is a picture of Alexander and Ketki’s son Thomas, now at Birmingham University (thus, in the heart of England), watching the match at a pub with his mates. That’s Thomas on the left.


Alexander and Ketki themselves, of course, were here. They brought a huge television with them, feeling that mine was inadequate for the occasion. Both were wearing Calcutta Cup sweaters of mine from earlier years.  Alexander’s Fair Isle vest is one of the best things I’ve ever done. The television ran on the Internet which seemed a bit like magic.


I was exhausted when it was over – the match started late. I was too tired to eat. No knitting today. C. took me to Mass which involved a modicum of exercise. Otherwise I have rested and recovered. And I’ve had an idea. What would Joe and Becca think if I knit the cup and date into the shawl I’m knitting for their baby? (It would mean incorporating a square of st st into an otherwise garter stitch whole, but I think that could be accommodated.) I’ll ask. They might be horrified, being English. Indeed, Joe used to work for the English Rugby Union at Twickenham.  Eddie Jones himself congratulated Joe a few years ago on his performance in the London Marathon. 

But with ’22 not yet finished – that’s Fergus’ sweater – I can’t guarantee keeping up with things otherwise. Great-grandchildren take precedence even over Calcutta Cup wins – i.e., I will press ahead with the shawl whether or not I include the cup in it. And then finish Fergus’ sweater.


Princess Anne presented the Cup, as usual. She is a very faithful patron of Scottish rugby. I am sure what we saw was the fake Cup, which normally resides with the team that lost last year. The real one is here in Edinburgh because we won last year. They wouldn’t have taken it to London before the match. Plenty of time for a quiet handover later, if necessary. Which it isn’t.


Wordle: I am today’s outlier, with a five. Threes and fours for everyone else. My whole system these days is to enter a real possibility in line three (not a Jean-word), after my two starters. Today I inadvertently failed – the word was all right otherwise, but one of my two browns was in the same position it had previously occupied – and therefore automatically wrong.


I did much better yesterday, with a four. For much of the day, it looked as if no one was going to do any better, and Alexander and his sister Big Rachel both needed five. But then Roger and his son Theo undercut us all with threes. My sister – who wrote to me today about hip replacement – stands aloof from all of this, but it turns out she likes to see her husband and son properly acknowledged which is rather touching.

Friday, February 03, 2023


There is very little to report. I had a much better night, and am almost fully restored to my feeble norm. No walking, though. I cooked myself the third of this week’s four Mindful Chef meals. It was a vegan effort, with tofu, and I didn’t care for the result much, but I think I ate enough to have it count as a healthy meal. Daniela brought me some homemade soup which will be a pleasanter supper.

Thank you for all your comments about my fall. The frame I push around the house has wheels in front and little ski-s in back, I have a larger model with four wheels and a seat that lifts up to reveal a compartment for my sausages (if I could walk as far as the butcher's). I use that outdoors. Both actually belong to the NHS. Both seem bad for posture. I don't think I've ever seen a triangular one such as you describe, Shandy. It sounds rather interesting.

The literature I have been given to read suggests that after the operation I will walk at first with two sticks. 


I got on with the knitting. I now have 100 stitches marked off in the centre, so all I have to do is count a total of 44 at the two ends – they’re not the same – and I’m done. Well, half-done. Half-done with the centre of the hap. Still, it’s a start.


Poor Helen has made so many mosaics that her hand has frozen. Knitting has never done that to me.


Wordle: Another three for me – two in a row! And this word was a bit harder – only Big Rachel joined me with three. Theo needed six, and Thomas five. Four for everybody else. Lots of them, at least five people, whatever their final score, got hung up on ???, grn, grn, grn. grn. Mark and I were spared that configuration because our starters gave us the first letter.


Calcutta Cup Day tomorrow.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Groundhog Day

Just what was wanted – a uniformly grey day, not particularly cold. There was half an hour, maybe less, of bright sunshine in mid-morning. We’ll have to hope that Edinburgh groundhogs didn’t pick that moment to emerge.


I fell yesterday evening, on my way back to the kitchen after writing to you. Not very hard, and no damage was done, but there I was sitting on the floor. I crawled to a chair and hoisted my bottom on to it, sat for a while, then drank a glass of Complan and went to bed, where a fairly restless night ensued. I’m fully recovered now, or nearly, but it was an unnerving and uncomfortable experience. One of my main reasons for going ahead with expensive private hip surgery is in the hope of reducing the risk of falls.


What happened yesterday was that I was carrying the iPad under my arm as I pushed the zimmer frame along. As often. It slipped to the floor, and I slipped trying to pick it up. The iPad is fine, too. I have now tied a knitting project bag securely to the cross bar of the zimmer frame and will henceforth carry it in that.


Despite all this excitement I progressed well this morning with the canter square of the hap I’m knitting.


Wordle: every single one of us scored three or four today. I was one of the threes, I’m pleased to report. Maureen, thank you for your note about SCOBY (comment yesterday). I’m sure you’re right, that that’s why Wordle wouldn’t accept it. Another little achievement: the NYT scorecard tells you your overall average. Mine is rather dim, dating from those early days when I used lots of Jean-words. My technique has tightened up a lot since I joined our little group, and my ambition has been to get my average up to 90 before my 90th birthday in the summer. Well, today I achieved it! 

Wednesday, February 01, 2023


Another good day, although again without much movement. I now have an appt (in six weeks’ time) to talk to a private surgeon. I trust the actual event (hip replacement) will follow shortly thereafter. I am terrified. Some things are best dealt with by not thinking about them.


The Calcutta Cup: the match is on Saturday. Alexander and Ketki (and perhaps some of their dependents) propose to come and watch it with me. (The match is in London this year.) That should be fun. England has a new coach – in the last few days – and a couple of their players are injured, and we’ve been doing rather well lately, so I suppose the case isn’t hopeless, as it usually is when we play in London. I won’t be totally devastated if we lose, because it will ease the pressure on knitting. But winning would be nice, too. Fight fiercely, Harvard!


I have progressed with the hap, although I am beyond the point when an hour’s knitting registers much if any discernible progress.


Wordle: All threes and fours today, except for poor Theo who got stuck on grn, grn, grn, ???, ??? and just managed to scrape home with six. I was one of the fours, and was perfectly happy with that. At the risk of giving something away – which I usually try to avoid – I will say that I entered SCOBY on my line three and Wordle rejected it. It is a familiar word to anyone who has dabbled in fermentation. A quick Google search confirms it as a perfectly real word. It wouldn’t have made much difference to my eventual result.