Wednesday, May 31, 2023


I relapsed somewhat, after writing to you on Monday, and Alexander was summoned. He came cheerfully, and it was grand to see him. I survived Monday night on my own, and he was here l(and a great comfort) ast night. He brought food with him, which was a good idea, and provided well for me. I still have remarkably little appetite. My sister and her husband will be here for a few days, starting on Saturday. More comfort through the night. Both are brilliant cooks but not much used to cooking since they moved into their retirement community. Let alone, used to looking after an invalid. I’m sure we’ll muddle through.


Meanwhile Helen is on her way back from London.  I was desperately anxious that he not be summoned, and in the end it wasn't my fault. She had something of a cold when she set out, and emailed this morning to say that it has become very much worse. She cancelled her book launch and is heading home. The newspapers say there is a fairly serious rail strike today. Helen assures me her train is not affected. Her husband David will be here from Thessaloniki on Friday, I think.


C. came to see me this morning. We are uncertain about whether to attempt Mass on Sunday. I fear, if I let it go, after missing last Sunday because of the marathon, that I’ll never attempt it again.


I’ve finished Mansfield Park and re-embarked on The Towers of Trebizond. I’m enjoying it. I fear it will affect my prose style.


Wordle: fours predominate today, but Rachel did it in three, and Theo needed five. At least I finished dear May without a failure. My winning strak is beginning to look respectable.

Monday, May 29, 2023

 I continue to mend. Indeed, I am close to the point where “mending” is not easy to determine, since last week’s norm was so low. I got up and got dressed this morning, instead of slouching around all day in my dressing gown. I stayed up all morning, instead of going back to bed after breakfast.  Those are the measures by which I can claim to be “mending”. James has gone back to London. Alexander was willing to make the trip and to take over for him here, but not keen on bank holiday traffic. We decided against.


Thank you for your comments about my peculiar cat. Kirsten, I think you’re thinking in the right direction.  Poor Paradox thinks she is defending something – her house or me or a non-existent box of kittens. She has recently been spayed (alas) and may be suffering from upset hormones. James has cats, and his trousers may smell of them to the sensitive feline nose. I’m sure Perdita enjoyed having someone to sympathise with her about That Cat.


I’m nearly finished with Mansfield Park, and have arrived at what are certainly the most distressing chapters in all of Jane Austen, if not all of English literature – when Fanny Price, who has been raised at Mansfield Park since she was 10, goes home to Portsmouth for the first time, at 19, to visit her family. Her mother is Lady Bertram’s sister. Austen explains all that, brilliantly, in the first few pages. Fanny is distressed at the disorder of the house. She is deeply embarrassed when a friend – a suitor, in fact – from the Mansfield orbit comes to visit. She longs to go back there but everyone seems to have forgotten her – travel wasn’t easy. She needed to be sent for, and arrangements made for the journey. Fortunately I know that everything turns out all right in the end – how could it do otherwise? – but these chapters are still painful to read.


Rachel suggests that I go on to The Towers of Trebizond, a brilliant idea. I don’t know where my copy is, but I’ll buy a new one for the iPad.  After that, I hope I’ll be ready for fresh books again.


No knitting yet – how long has it been now? Four days? The next row is plain-knit and I feel sure I’ll be up to it tomorrow.


Wordle: Another distressing day. My starters gave me four greens. I could think of two letters for the empty slot. I chose the less-obvious one, thinking it to be the more-likely. I was wrong. Four for me. Nobody had it much easier, but Rachel distinguished herself with a three. She had my ???, grn, grn, grn, grn configuration by line two. And must have guessed right. Ketki and Alexander were the other fours. Five for Theo and Mark. Six for Thomas (most unusual). Nothing from Roger, still at sea.


Now I must find something brisk and simple to eat, probably Complan. Then bed, in time for The Archers. At naptime I had difficulty swinging my legs into bed – is’s rather high. It was a scary moment.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

 I'm still not at all well, but I think there is some improvement. The antibiotic itself probably contributes to a lowness. James is here, and will be for one more night. It's a great comfort to know that he's here, and he has bought a little alarm which I have but to press and it makes a noise in the spare room many yards away.

Paradox has taken an astonishing dislike to him. She flies at him, eyes ablaze, growling and hissing, and attacks his legs with tooth and claw. He is terrified of her. He spent much of this afternoon in his room (while I napped) with Paradox, who sympathizes with him entirely about That Awful Cat.

Wordle: A spread today. Rachel and I needed five. Roger -- currently on the open waves on a Majestic Line cruise -- spared our blushes by scoring six. The threes were Theo, Thomas, and Mark, the consistently clever ones. Fours elsewhere.

I've forgotten what happened yesterday, except that I got it. My winning streak is reaching respectable proportions.

Friday, May 26, 2023

 It's been a bright, sunny day but I have been too ill to enjoy it. Helen is about to go off to London for her book lanuch, so she phoned the doctor this morning. He came at once, and not just any old doctor, but the man we've known for thirty years.  I've got a chest infection and a fever. But the other numbers are good -- oxygen saturation and BP and whatever -- and he was happy for me to stay home, I've now got some amoxicillin and have started taking it, so far without noticeable effect.

The doctor wasn't happy about my being here alone. James is coming up tomorrow and will be here by lunchtime. 

I've been in bed for most of the day, and will retreat to that position shortly.

Wordle: Another toughy. I skidded home with six. Ketki and Roger joined me there. Alexander and his son Thomas scored five. The stars were Rachel, Theo and Mark with four.

Thursday, May 25, 2023


It has been another effortful day, helped forward by sunshine. Helen is safely back from Dumfries House where I think she enjoyed herself. The King wasn’t there, I gather. I don’t really know whether my problem is just that my hip is worse – that is undoubtedly true – or whether I have also declined in some other respect. Pain/discomfort is in itself tiring, and the effort of dragging myself around the house adds to the difficulty. Appetite is poor.


However, I got two full rows of knitting done again. At this pace, I should finish the borders in a fortnight or so, and that will leave plenty of time for the edging before we get the baby in September. The second ball of yarn is nearing its last gasp. You may remember that I abandoned the first one as I finished the centre, in case the skeins were visibly different  I can’t see any difference. This time – changing in mid-border –there’ll probably be one.


I’ve finished Pride and Prejudice and re-embarked on Mansfield Park. Where next? Two of my favourite Times columnists, Giles Coren and Dr Mark Porter, mentioned Martin Amis on the same day recently, and both said they had never read him. Neither have I, and I don’t think he’d suit my present mood. Dr Porter went on to tell us about oesophageal cancer, which sounds remarkably unpleasant; Coren wrote about fathers and sons.


Wordle: I scored four, early in the day, and for quite a while hoped that we would all have the same score. Theo, alas, spoiled it with a three – just before noon, British time. We haven’t heard from his father Roger in London.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023


I’m not in very good form this evening, although it’s been a good day. It was seriously sunny at last. I sat out on the step (I was fine this morning). I had a nice time with the man from the Yale U.P. He seems to think my husband’s work will be published in ’25, and that the full text, which he has been entrusted with the thankless task of shortening, will be available on a Yale computer by application. So I’ll have to stay alive until then.


And despite the afternoon’s collapse, I got two more long, long rows of the shawl border done.


Wordle: I got a three this morning, the first in a while .Ketki joined me there. The rest did worse. Roger is back, with a five. Fours elsewhere.


Tuesday, May 23, 2023

 Not much of a day, but some. It was bath day. My sister thinks I ought to stop baths, and she’s probably right, but I have great confidence in Daniela and I like being thoroughly clean, even if only once a week.  A priest then came and gave me what used to be called Extreme Unction but has now been down-graded to Sacrament of the Sick. Whichever you call it, it hasn’t done my hip any good. Helen then came in – she was on her way to Dumfries House (to teach mosaic-making). While watering the plants on the front step, Daniela discovered that one of my potatoes has come up.


Even with italics, that doesn’t sound as if it adds up to much of a morning, but I was prostrate by then, and did no knitting. There was also a passage about a plumber who was going to come to see if there is something wrong with our Downstairs Lavatory (which is not downstairs) because the bathroom below – in someone else’s house – has developed mould. But he couldn’t come because his van broke down.  After lunch I had my dear nap, and then knit one long pattern row, no. 47 or something like that. I hope I’ll be up to the following long plain-vanilla knit row before I give up for the night.


Comments: The parts of Libya around Cyrene: C. lives over on the other side of the city, not far from the University chaplaincy we attend. She nobly drives over here to fetch me, every Sunday morning. But if driving over and getting back is rendered nearly impossible by the marathon, she might as well stay there and walk to Mass, and I might as well skip a week. It’s just a shame that it had to be the week of Pentecost.


And, Chloe, you’re right, if I go on feeling sickish, I ought to see a dr about it. I think I’m somewhat better today.


Tomorrow a man from the Yale University Press is coming early to tell me about how the publication of my husband’s work is progressing. I mustn’t forget.  It will involve brushing my hair early.

Wordle: Another four, for me. It was the only one, today. Almost everybody else did better. Thomas was the comforting exception, with a five. Threes for everybody else. Still silence from Roger. He and my sister may have moved on to James and Cathy by now – nobody there does Wordle, now that their daughter Little Rachel has abandoned us.

Monday, May 22, 2023


Another grey morning, but the sun has come out this afternoon. Even streaming in through not-overly-clean windows, it does lift the spirits. I think the rest of the UK is having a spell of really nice weather.

 I still feel slightly queasy of stomach – perhaps it wasn’t hollandaise or aioli after all. Helen was here this morning. She thinks I’ve lost a bit of ground.


I got another two long rows of knitting done, though. I’ve embarked on the final set of motifs, before the ten rows of all-over pattern which concludes the whole. The motifs are those simple cat’s=paw circles which feature in a lot of Shetland lace. I have only just grasped – although it is plain as a pike-staff in the chart – that those ten rows at the end are every-row, not every-other as before. It’s very rare – unknown, to me – for a lace pattern to change modes like that.


Mary Lou, I listened to Melvin Bragg on the Georgics while I knit my plain row today, and found it interesting. Thanks for that.

I found a list of road closures for the marathon on Sunday. I'd prefer a map, but clearly the centre of town is going to be badly affected. I fear for the Medes and the Elamites. 


Wordle: no news from Theo or Roger today, father and son. Roger should be staying with Rachel and Ed in London, and Rachel is a Wordle-doer, so there’s no excuse. She and Alexander scored five today. Mark and Ketki and I managed four. Thomas was the star with three.


Sunday, May 21, 2023


Another grey day. We in Edinburgh are getting tired of them. C.  came and got me to Mass. That’s getting harder every week, like the Tuesday bath. (But what a pleasure, to see my nasturtiums on the doorstep! They’re doing splendidly.)


And next week will be harder still. It’s Pentecost, of course, and it’s also the day of the Edinburgh marathon. We’ve had instructions from the university chapel which we attend about how to navigate the blocked-off roads. There’s one moment when we have to present ourselves at a checkpoint and tell them we’re on our way to Mass. But what if… And so far we haven’t looked up the entire story of road closures, to see whether C. is going to be able to drive across the city to get me, and drive us back again.


I am fond of the liturgy at Pentecost above all the rest of the year – the Medes and the Elamites and the parts of Libya around Cyrene. (Ronald Knox speaks somewhere of the pious woman enthusing to the priest about “that blessed word Mesopotamia”. That’s how I feel, about the parts of Libya around Cyrene.)


The university chapel is staffed by Dominicans and I’m sure they’ll get it right. It used to be an annual excitement, in the days when my husband and I toiled up Broughton Street to the cathedral, to see what would happen. At the worst, a pious adolescent who had done no preparation was suddenly confronted with the whole list. There was one year when it had been spectacularly mangled, and the Provost repeated it all in his sermon, being clearly a man who loved it as I do.


Comments: Mary Lou, I think that, like you, I’ve heard part of that program about the Georgics. Now that you’ve reminded me, I’ll aim to find and play it the next time I get to a plain knit row. I did no knitting today, what with Mass. And I won’t attempt any this evening, what with not feeling entirely well. I’ve still got that last, long pattern row to do.


Wordle: A cruel disappointment this morning. My starter words gave me four letters, in place. I promptly thought of an answer (the right one) but then reconsidered and thought of another, which seemed more probable. But it was wrong, so I scored four. The same thing happened to C. Ketki joined us there. Thomas and Alexander and Rachel scored the three I feel I deserved. Mark, as not infrequently, was the day’s star, with two. And poor Theo floundered, and needed five. No news from Roger – so, is he in London or not?

Saturday, May 20, 2023


It has been another rather dull day, weather-wise, health-wise, spirits-wise. I have abandoned all else and started re-reading “Pride and Prejudice”. It’s not as good as “Mansfield Park”, but it's at least cheerful, which is what's wanted. 


            Knitting progressed at least reasonably well. I did two more long, long rows. There is only one more pattern row to go with major stretches of st st to be counted. After that, more motifs are introduced into the long, empty stretches, and after that we have eight or ten rows of a small, all-over pattern which will probably have me longing for more st st to count. The pattern repeat is 32 stitches or so. I don’t think more markers would help much, weavinfool. I’ve got the four sides of the shawl marked off from each other, of course. At the beginning of each repeat I'm able to check my position with reference to the pattern below. And so far, so good,


I listened to a not-very-interesting broadcast about eating disorders during my nap. It is a fearful affliction. I wondered if alcohol is ever used in its treatment? Most of us who have struggled with a diet at any point, remember how a glass of wine with supper can prompt us to abandon all caution and eat another three roast potatoes. Let alone two glasses.


Wordle: Rachel and I were the dunces, with five. Both of us got stuck with ???, grn, grn, grn, ???. There were too many possibilities. No one else had that configuration, and they all did better. Threes for Alexander, Mark, Ketki, and Theo. Thomas and Roger scored four. I wonder if Roger (my brother-in-law) is in London yet.


Friday, May 19, 2023

A bright day, of uncertain weather. I didn’t go out. I don’t feel entirely well. Perhaps aioli wasn’t such a good idea after all.


I have pressed on with the knitting, at least, Two whole rows and a bit. The pattern row was worse than ever – long, long plain stretches where there is nothing to do but count, and – perhaps worse – there was very little in the preceding pattern row to refer to, to make sure I wasn’t out by a stitch or so. All went reasonably well and the new pattern row on which I have embarked, can at least be referred to that one.


Rachel rang up this morning. Freddie’s mother Becca is having a hard time – or at least a very uncomfortable one – because of a misplaced catheter when she had her Caesarian. The hospital is concerned and apologetic and investigating; some comfort, perhaps. Helen says I will have a catheter when they do my hip. Not a happy thought. Rachel also told me the sex of Lizzy and Dan’s forthcoming baby – the one I’m knitting the current shawl for – but I’d better not reveal it here in case someone drops in who doesn’t want to know.


And she further said that my sister and her husband will be in London on Saturday, day after tomorrow. They will be there for a few days, then come to Scotland for a Majestic Line cruise, then finally to Edinburgh. It remains a sorrow that the cruise we were to have gone on together fell victim to Covid. 


Wordle: we were spread all over the place again. Six for Mark. Five for me and Ketki. Four for Alexander and Rachel. Three for Thomas. And TWO for Theo – how brilliant can you get? 

Thursday, May 18, 2023


A day of gentle progress, but mixed weather. I didn’t go out. Helen has spoken to a dr who has seen my recent x-ray. I’m worse, but not dramatically worse, and I’m now so far up the waiting list that they are predicting July for an operation. I can hold out that long, barring, of course, disaster.


I’ve knit a row and 3/4s. Goodness, is that all? I doubt if I’ll attempt any more this evening. My beloved Sharon Miller (“Heirloom Knitting”) puts numbers in her lace charts when there are more than five consecutive knit stitches. Not so here. I count, and write the numbers in, and, even so, count again. Those little white squares aren’t easy for my aged eyes.


The Yale U.P. man (see yesterday) will come to see me next Wednesday – much better than m trying to totter out to supper.


Mindful Chef delivered only part of my order yesterday, so today I deconstructed the one meal available, rather successfully. I ate the fish and the delicious British asparagus, for which I made some aioli. It does, indeed, sit more lightly on the aged stomach than hollandaise. That leaves quinoa and a lot of vegetables which I will face another day., Meanwhile the rest of the order has turned up.


Wordle: We found it easy, on the whole. Lots of letters high in the letter-frequency alphabet – I hope that’s not too much of a hint. My starters gave me four browns and a green – all I had to do was to solve the anagram. And I did! I achieved my first three in a while, joined there by Roger, Theo, and Thomas. Ketki and Mark both scored two – it may well be unprecedented to have two twos on a single day.  Alexander had four and his sister Rachel, five.



Wednesday, May 17, 2023


There is little to report. It has been a very pleasant day, weather-wise, a bit chill. I sat out on the step for a while. My nasturtiums are coming on splendidly.


Not much knitting. The rows are suddenly terribly long. I’m halfway through the 36th one, of 72. That’s more than halfway, anyway.


Helen popped in early this morning, on her way back from taking David to the airport. With any luck, he’ll be back in Thessaloniki by now. She continues to struggle mightily with the NHS, to find out what my Primary Care Physician thought of the recent hip x-ray. I think we can conclude that it didn’t prompt anyone to leap out of a chair and demand that I have an operation at once. She also continues to work on the Kirkmichael Driveway Problem. This, on top of a busy time professionally – she’s teaching at Dumfries House next week (I don’t suppose the King will be there – it’s one of his projects) and going to London soon afterwards for her book launch.


One good bit of news – I heard this morning from someone at the Yale U.P. who is working on my husband’s Magnum Opus. It had been so long that I had despaired, fearing they had abandoned the whole project. The difficulty is that the Opus is far too Magnum. The man who wrote to me is coming up next week. He hoped I could come out to supper with him and the British Art expert from the NGofS (an old friend). I’m afraid my hip isn’t up to that – it’s all I can do to crawl along the corridor to bed at 7 p.m. these days – but I hope he will call in to see me one morning. Not that I have much to contribute on the subject, but I'd be grateful for an update.

Thank you for the pointer to Serious Eats, Mary Lou. (comment yesterday). Does anyone have an opinion on either of Kenji Lopez-Alt's books? The Food Lab and The Wok?


Wordle: Alexander finally logged in with a three late yesterday evening.


And he’s got another one today – trumped, however, by his son Thomas with a two. Ketki and Mark and I had four. Rachel and Roger shared Alexander’s three. Poor Theo scraped home with six – it was one of those words where there were too many possibilities. It’s a wonder more of us didn’t get caught.





Tuesday, May 16, 2023


An off-and-on day, fairly chill. I wouldn’t have gone out anyway, it being bath day. Every week I worry a little bit more about whether disaster will strike. Every week, so far, all goes well. It’s getting in and out of the tub which is the stressful part, especially in. The manoeuvre involves the need to rely, however briefly, on the untrustworthy leg. I wouldn’t dream of attempting it with the support of anyone less than Daniella.


Not much knitting. I’m in the middle of a pattern row. I’ll attempt a bit more this evening, perhaps. Each of the four borders is the same, of course. That means that just as one masters the pattern, it’s time to forget it and more on.


I watched my current favourite on-line cook, Kenji Lopez-Alt,  making aioli on youtube for his asparagus today. Maybe I’ll attempt that, the next time I get some. It’s not as rich as hollandaise. Or why don’t I just do butter and lemon juice like you, Mary Lou (comment yesterday)? What more is needed? Kenji lives in California. I was interested to learn that even there the asparagus season is brief and intense and wonderful – and the rest of the time, asparagus comes from Peru, just as it does in Edinburgh. That whole country must be blanketed in asparagus, somehow rotated to be available all year.


Today I had a desperately healthy Mindful Chef lunch involving, amidst much else, sunflower mince – new to me, and not nearly as bad as it sounds.


Where did I read recently that the American inventress of Mother’s Day repented of the monster she had unleashed and tried to suppress it? Here, it is still observed on mid-Lent Sunday, so we’re past it for this year. The actual day is getting more and more Americanised, but it remains fixed in the ecclesiastical calendar.


Wordle: We were spread all over the place today. Roger got a two, of which he was deservedly proud. Thomas scored three. Mark and Ketki and I had fours – my fours line is pulling remorselessly ahead of my threes. Theo had a five, poor Rachel needed six. Alexander, so far, would appear to have carried his disapproval (see yesterday) to the point of not doing it at all. But there’s still time. Our little group depends on him.



Monday, May 15, 2023


I phoned Archie, who texted Helen, who came here and got the kitchen window closed when she finished teaching her mosaic lesson yesterday. A great relief. There was once, years ago, when the window was propped open like that with my brass mortar (as in “mortar and pestle”) and in my struggle to shut the window, it fell out. It was – is – a heavy object. It could have killed one of the neighbour’s small daughters, and wouldn’t have done an adult much good. It turned out they weren’t even in Edinburgh at the time, but the memory still frightens me. Helen, who is a great one for Getting Things Done, thinks it might be a good idea to get the sash cord fixed so that we could open and shut the window like normal human beings.


The weather was off-and-on-y today, and blowy. I didn’t go out. Alexander came to see me. He seemed in good form. Their offspring are home from university for the summer. They are hunkering down on the shores of Loch Fyne.


Knitting went well. I’ve now done 33 of the 73 rows in the borders of the current shawl. Not yet halfway, even if you disregard the fact that eight stitches are added every other row.


A dear friend who reads the blog brought me a pack of delicious British asparagus. I made some more hollandaise for it after all, but I don’t think it was a good idea. It’s too rich for my elderly stomach. Mai piu, as I remarked the last time I climbed to the top of Mount Vesuvius.


Wordle: We were remarkably uniform on four today, except that Thomas had three, and Theo needed five. Alexander is getting a bit tired of it. He thinks it has changed recently and that we have more tricky words. My “winning streak” has reached 33, its highest point since the NYTimes reset my score. I think it was fifty-something before.

Sunday, May 14, 2023


Greyness again. One appreciates May all the more when it is so intermittent. C. came, and got me to Mass in fairly good order. It was good to be back. (We missed last Sunday because of wee Hamish’s third birthday party.)


I have done no knitting at all. Archie came, not long after C. left me, having whizzed around the kitchen to its considerable benefit as she usually does. Archie cooked a Mindful Chef lunch which wasn’t very successful – MC’s fault, not his. He has inadvertently left the kitchen window propped open and I find it rather chilly in there – n’er cast a clout ‘till May is out, as they rightly say. It wouldn’t take much strength to lift the window and release the tin of cocoanut milk which is doing the job, but it’s more strength that I’ve got.


Then Helen wanted me to write an account of how my husband and I used to clear the Famous Ditch of leaves every autumn (But how many was “every”?) We thought we were obliged to, but apparently not. This blog has, I think, established that 2012 was the last year we did so and it will probably turn out that the sequence was not nearly as long as I remember. My husband was 87 in 2012, and not in the best of health. I got to be nervous of going to Kirkmichael with him, unless someone else could come along.


It was funny and sad, reading those old blog entries, 2012 and 2013. How much I could do, only 10 years ago – how much Christmas, how much knitting, how much tending of my crochety and infirm husband. Now I'm hard put to look after my crochety and infirm self. 


Wordle: a dispiriting six for me today. However, it means that my “winning streak” now equals the longest I have achieved since the NYTimes started the clock again. My last failure was apparently BORAX on the 12th of April,  So, fingers crossed for tomorrow.


This was one of those interesting days when most of us approached the answer along the same path: grn, ???, grn, grn ??? and grn, gen, grn. grn ???. I had both. Mark did it differently, and had another one of his blasted threes. Alexander also scored three, after a grn, grn, grn, grn, ??? in line two. Ketki and Rachel had four. Five for Thomas and Theo. Roger joined me with six, having been stuck with grn, ???, grn, grn, ??? for a full three lines.



Saturday, May 13, 2023


Another May day. I sat out on the step again. Saturday foot traffic is different from a weekday, and more abundant. No professional dog=walkers. Lots of family groups. Joggers, about as before.


What is it like if you live in California? Is May just like any other month?


Today’s excitement was a trip to the Ocean Centre in Leith for another Covid jag. Helen’s husband David, newly arrived from Thessaloniki,  drove me. I had tried, in vain, to get the appointment transferred to somewhere more convenient. All went well. We got back in plenty of time for me to have a nap, but I sat in the kitchen for a while to catch my breath and then it was too late. I’ll go to bed even earlier than usual and hope to be ready for the excitements of Sunday.


So, not much knitting. I got two long rows done, on the borders of the current shawl. Better than nothing. I decided that my difficulties are not entirely due to old age and brain fog. An easy-looking lace pattern with widely-spaced motifs demands a lot of counting and much attention, when you finally arrive at the next motif, to ensure that it lines up properly with what came before. Mental-process-wise, much the same is demanded for Fair Isle knitting, but it’s much easier to see the colours in the last row and there will rarely be many stitches to count.


Wordle: We were all threes and fours today – four for me. WordleBot didn’t really need to point out to me that since my second starter-word contributed nothing, I could perfectly well have gone from the first one to my line-three guess. Which was wrong, of course, but, according to WordleBot, left only one possibility, if only I could think of it. Mark, Ketki, Thomas, and Roger were my fellow fours, making a narrow majority. Three for everyone else.



Friday, May 12, 2023


The weather has reverted to sullen grey.


Helen and I went to see the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the Dovecot this morning. I had had a roughish night of hip pain and had forgotten all about it. It was almost entirely devoted to patchwork, and the majority of the items were by friends-of-Kaffe rather than the master himself. Helen had hoped for mosaics and I, of course, for knitting so that was a bit of a disappointment. 

There was at least a display of needlework cushion covers among which was one showing Swiss chard which we both admired. But I looked it up when I got home, and the kit is not to be had any more. One is available with beetroot which is almost as nice, and there are other nice vegetables and fruits available as well. but we agreed that there is not much use in spending £50 for something which would almost certainly go into a drawer and stay there. My sister occasionally has needlework phases. She will be here soon and I will talk to her about it.


All of that cut into knitting time. I’m not good for much after lunch. I got three long rows done today, however, making 27 in all, out of 73. Just keep at it, is the secret. It’s still not easy. If I take my mental eye off the ball even for a moment – to polish a phrase for use here, for instance – I find that I have no idea where I am in the pattern.


Mary Lou, I forgot to say yesterday that I wish I could take your design class based on baby clothes. When my eldest grandson was two or so, in the days when almost every women’s magazine published a weekly or monthly knitting pattern, I used to reduce some of the interesting ones to a two-year-old size for him. With varying results.


Thank you for your comments yesterday about politics., especially, perhaps, for your gentle remark launching the subject, anonymous. It’s a dangerous topic, all right, and I don't want to hurt feelings and provoke anger here.  Northern Irish politics are all the more dangerous. I am a Catholic by conviction but a Northern Irish Protestant in blood, at least somewhat, and I sympathize with that disagreeable and unlovable group. I think Clinton (whom I also don’t much like) understood how they feel when American presidents prance about with shamrock, and deserves an enormous amount of credit for the peace treaty: he kept himself out of it and sent us the wonderful Senator Mitchell. When it was all over, Mr. Blair suddenly seemed to think that he had done it all.


I subscribe to the NYTimes for Wordle’s sake. Today they are offering me “new recipes for peak asparagus” just to underline my disaster of yesterday (when I made hollandaise for what turned out to be Peruvian asparagus).


Wordle: another day when we were spread all over the place. I got four, my least favourite score. As often, I struggled mightily to think of anything for line 3. I had two brown consonants and a green vowel. Again, I inadvertently typed in a Jean-word, omitting one of the browns. It proved very useful, giving me a new consonant both green and relatively unusual. Thomas and Roger were fellow fours. Theo, Alexander and Mark all got three. Rachel had five, and Ketki failed. She got stuck with grn, ???, grn, grn, grn and there are an unfortunate number of possibilities.

Thursday, May 11, 2023


A May day, it all its glory. It wasn't forecast, either. I got out and sat for a while on the step this morning, and as a result have knit only three rows of shawl border. The sun was too bright for outdoor knitting. Maybe I’ll attempt one more long row when I finish here. It was lovely sitting there and admiring my baby nasturtiums and watching the dog-walkers and the joggers and the neighbours go pasr. And looking longingly across to the garden.


My sister looks in on us here from time to time, or maybe daily. She’s something of a Biden fan, and disapproves of my disapproval of him. But even so I am going to mention it again, a propos his remarks yesterday in a fund-raising speech in New York, when he apparently said that he had been to Northern Ireland recently to “make sure the Brits didn’t screw around”. I buy a sweat shirt or tee shirt every four years, relating at least tangentially to the presidential election. One of them says “None of the above” and I think I’ll have to look for something similar for next year.


I made hollandaise sauce, fairly successfully. (It was a bit thin.) Then I got the asparagus out to cook it, and found to my horror that it came from Peru. It’s not that I was careless. I looked hard for country-of-origin when I was ordering it, and finally gave up and assumed it must be British since we are in mid-May. I’ve learned a valuable lesson. But I don’t think I have the strength to attempt another batch of hollandaise sauce. Next year, maybe.


Wordle: another toughie, although it’s a perfectly ordinary word. I scored five, along with Mark and Rachel. Alexander and Theo needed six. The star by a length was Roger, with three. Thomas and his mother Ketki were the fours. I think that’s everybody.



Wednesday, May 10, 2023

 A quiet, grey day. I didn’t go out. The  big excitement, if you could call it that, was an item on the BBC news pages – it may still be there – under the headline “The grandfather they said would never walk again”. Here’s the link: The world is full of such stories. The point of this one is that the (presumably well-to-do) grandfather was at Cramond, the nursing home where I spent a pleasant fortnight a year ago. The physiotherapists have got him whizzing around the garden with his walking frame, and are hoping to promote him to a stick. I hope to convalesce there if I ever have this famous hip operation. No news of that front.


The knitting has gone well. I’ve now done 21 rows, of 71, on the borders of the current shawl. I won’t be able to keep up this pace forever, as stitch numbers increase. I like to leave things so that I can start the next day with a plain-vanilla wrong-side row. That’s a great incentive, in the weary evening, to get through a last pattern row. So far so good.


More enthusiasm from Meg: and again I’ve followed her enthusiasm. “Fair Isle Knitting” by Carina Olsson. Translated from the Swedish, and not yet published. Again I’m afraid I’ve ordered it from Amazon. Even if the price is equal – I didn’t even look – I won’t have to pay any postage.


Comments: Mary Lou, I don’t think we have anything as good as your organic hollandaise sounds. Jars, yes, bot… I haven’t done anything yet, but mustn’t leave my store-boughten asparagus another day.


Wordle: We were all over the place today. I led the charge with a three, and was soon joined by Ketki with another. Alexander was a couple of hours behind with yet another one. But Mark got two. However did he manage that? Rachel was the only four. Theo and Thomas had five.


Tuesday, May 09, 2023


My nasturtiums are coming up! (in a pot, on the doorstep) We’ve had, at last, the day I was asking for yesterday, with sunshine! And warmth! My ambition, by now, is limited to sitting out on the step. I didn’t achieve even that today. It was bath day, and my hair was wet. . But I will tomorrow if this goes on.


Knitting progressed well. I did four rows – that’s a good day’s work. I counted them in order to be able to tell you, but I’ve forgotten. 17, I think, out of 73. Even if it’s 19, there’s still a long way to go. And the new skein, attached at the beginning of the borders, doesn’t look any more vernal than the old one which was employed to knit the centre.


Helen and I are going to see a Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the Dovecot Gallery (pronounced ‘Dovecot’ for some unknown reason) on Friday. I think I’ve missed a Bernat Klein expo  somewhere else, which might have been even more interesting. One could almost say that he introduced colour into British knitting. I vividly remember his early advertisements in the VKB.


Helen phoned the doctor but got no news about the hip x-ray of a week ago. Tomorrow, she was told.


Comment: Oh, Mary Lou, I envy you that asparagus! Do you venture on hollandaise? I’ve got supermarket asparagus and have been contemplating recipes. My father used to (try to) make it on Sunday mornings. I associate it with childhood and sunshine.


Wordle: another toughie. I scored five, and was almost glad not to have the fours pulling further ahead of the threes. I thought I had it on line four, too. A good word, employing two consonants low in the letter-frequency list. Alas, I typed it in too fast. I had a brown vowel knocking about which wasn’t employed at all in my brilliant line four. A Jean-word, after all. Nor did it advance matters, except to eliminate those unlikely consonants. I could have scored four, had I been paying attention. My fellow-fives were Alexander, Ketki, and Theo. Thomas and Mark did it in four. Rachel needed six.

Monday, May 08, 2023


Mostly grey today, with plenty of rain this morning. It’s time we had a full-scale Day in May.


We’re still enveloped in the Coronation weekend here. Today is the day we are all supposed to do some voluntary work. Since visiting the housebound elderly counts – it said so on the radio – and since both Helen and Archie have been here today, they can both tick that box. Tomorrow we can get back to work on the doctor: has he received the news of last week’s x-ray yet? And…?


I got some more knitting done – I’ve done 13 rows so far. There are 73 – I couldn’t resist counting. Every other row – every pattern row – adds eight stitches. I’m still finding it very difficult to remember where I am in the pattern repeat. Never mind a podcast – I mustn’t let my quiet thoughts wander. It’s an easy pattern, as I’ve said. The main manoeuvre is k3tog. But how many stitches until the next one? 3? 4? 6? I’m not finding it easy at all. But things are going well, essentially, and I can see the overall pattern beginning to emerge.


Comments: Lots of Anonymous yesterday. Blogger must be worse than usual.


Anonymous 1: I do agree that in a country the size of the US, there ought to be a better Democratic candidate than Mr. Biden. Buttigieg? Warren? (or is she too old by now?) There’s still time for an unknown hero to walk into town, as Adlai Stevenson did long ago. When I got home from Oberlin for the summer holiday in 1956, my mother had not yet heard of him, and she was keen on politics.


Anonymous 2: It does indeed make a difference if Kate Davies’ Advent calendar produces a whole 25 grams of wool every day. I’m glad for her sake that it sold out. I had an extra promotional email yesterday or the day before and feared she had too many unsold. Although of course if the yarn is balls of 25gr, they can just go back into stock.


Anonymous 3: I, too, think Charles is a good king, although I suspect I’m not the only one who is still struggling with the transition. The Princess of Wales? Who’s that?


Wordle: Four for me, my least-liked score. Not a disgrace – others found it difficult. Thomas, Theo and Roger joined me with four. Ketki and Alexander both needed five. Today’s stars were Mark and Rachel: three!

Sunday, May 07, 2023


The press consensus so far seems to be that the Coronation was a great success. I’m glad. I might have tried to stagger out to a street party today if I had known of one nearby, but I didn’t. Rachel and Ed went to one in London. The weather is still not very jolly here, but at least dry with occasional glimpses of sunshine. Alistair and Amy came by – Alistair is James and Cathy’s son – and left a lovely apple tree on my doorstep, in full bloom. They are moving house and no longer have a garden for it.


And I knit resolutely on. I think I’m beginning to relax a bit, about the border pattern, but I’m still not ready to attempt listening to a podcast. The pattern doesn’t number the border rows. I’d like to be able to count down. (I could always count them, of course.)


I have been somewhat tempted by Kate Davies’ “Colour Compass” but I think I will resist. I have much enjoyed in recent years having her last few books in instalments through the darkest days of the winter. No book this year, except at e-book at the end. This time it’s an Advent calendar with a little ball of Milarrochy Tweed for each of 24 days and then you get a ticket for the e-book which has patterns for the little balls of wool – not Fair-Isle-type, rather stripes and intarsia and such. It has its tempting aspects, but it’s expensive and the last thing I need is 24 little balls of wool.


Comments: One of you asked recently why I am so down on Mr Biden. I can’t entirely answer. I voted for him – that involves getting someone to drive me up to a post office and standing in line (I could still do that, three years ago) and paying for air mail postage. I doubt if I’ll do that again. We got off on the wrong foot, he and I, when he signed a directive on inauguration day requiring masks of everyone on government property, and then was photographed a few hours later at the Lincoln Memorial with a substantial crowd of his family and not a mask in sight.


At the first subsequent press conference, someone asked – very gently and politely – how that could happen, and the new press secretary more or less laughed at him. The president can do what he likes on inauguration day, was the substance of her answer. (Whereas “I don’t know. I’ll find out and get back to you” would have been the right answer.)


Now I’m afraid I’m going to hold his non-appearance at the Coronation against him, too. Mrs Biden seems to be lingering on, at least for today, with the Sunaks continuing to shoulder the burden of hospitality.


Wordle: I got another three! My threes and fours now have equal score lines. Most of the rest of us had an easy time, too. Ketki and her son Thomas took four, and Mark needed five. Threes elsewhere.


What I wanted to say yesterday was – you see, I have remembered – that my starters gave me brown R, A, N, and E and I was tempted, given the day, to type in REIGN but it was too much of a Jean-word even for me. N wasn’t allowed in the final position, and I had already been eliminated, and there was no job for A.

Saturday, May 06, 2023


Well, that was splendid, and rather sweet. I trust we all watched at least a bit of it. I thought the King looked old.


 The BBC does a weekly podcast with top journalists, called Americast. I enjoy it. I heard it yesterday. Amongst other topics, the coronation came up, and they agreed with me that Biden’s reason for not coming was silly. In 1953, one of them said, crossing the Atlantic was a matter of five or six days at sea – “and then it took another two days to get to London from Southampton”. No, it didn’t. The boat train was right there at the dock, and it got you to London in an hour or so. Even  top journalists are disconcertingly young these days!


Mrs Biden got here a day early. I think she might have enjoyed a day to rest and sip tea and adjust to the time difference, but in fact she was taken on what sounds to me like a singularly boring tour of London by the Prime Minister’s wife. The King’s revenge? She stood up to it heroically.


I knit carefully and slowly on, even while watching the coronation, and managed to put in another four rows. (The shawl borders are being knit back and forth, with one corner open.) Rachel phoned the other day. Lizzie and Dan were about to have the scan which will tell them this baby’s sex. I don’t think I want to be told.


Wordle: I got a three! It was the best score among the cisatlantic players. Theo, however, spoiled my fun with a three of his own. Fours, generally, elsewhere, except that Rachel needed six, and Roger failed. I have something to say about today's word, but I will probably have forgotten by tomorrow when I can say it. 

Friday, May 05, 2023


A peaceful day, grey and slightly chill. Helen has just been here, on her way to visit an old friend somewhere south, to watch the coronation with her. Back tomorrow.


My main achievement has been to get the knitting straightened out. Much tinking. It carried me back to the beginning of the first border pattern round, and I seized the opportunity to set off in the other direction as I was unhappy, garter stitch or no, with the side that was becoming the wrong side. I’ve now done four border rows – that is, all the way around, all four borders, four times – and I think I’m set fair.


I tried listening to/watching the new Fruity Knitting, about the Swiss Knitting Festival, but it was too distracting.


Comments. Anonymous, I had much your idea about the driveway. But David (being a lawyer?) very much doesn’t want to move in until we have established legal access.


My sister doesn’t think I should write about the driveway here. That leaves me feeling that I shouldn’t write about Biden and the Coronation, either, although the chances of the President stumbling upon this blog and being offended are very slim. 

Somewhere in the Dark or Middle Ages a committee – I’m sure it was a committee – was charged with drawing up an official list of the sacraments. Seven, as it turned out, but Coronation almost made the cut and has much in common with a sacrament. I don’t know of any other nation – perhaps Japan? – which has a comparable ceremony. The British one goes back to William the Conqueror. You’re absolutely right, Chloe, that there’s every difference between an elected, political figure and an anointed king.


The trouble with refusing the invitation is that, once done, it can’t be undone. Like staying away from a family wedding. Still, I’m sure Biden won’t let it worry him, and if the King feels a bit sore, he’s far too well brought up to let it show.


Wordle: Another toughie. I thought I was beaten, but finally scraped home with six. Ketki, too. Rachel and Alexander needed five – not much better. Thomas, Mark, and Theo got it in four.



Thursday, May 04, 2023


We had some full-scale sunshine today. Not for long, but it was wonderful, even here indoors.


Helen came. We talked about driveways. I think she and David are going to consult an Edinburgh lawyer. I think that's a good idea.


I have reverted to thinking sourly about Mr Biden turning down his invitation to the Coronation. It’s no use saying that it’s “not traditional” for the US President to be there, when the last one was 70 years ago and this one is untraditional in many respects. Sinn Fein will be represented. That’s surely not traditional. If the King can do that, he who had a beloved uncle murdered by the IRA, Mr Biden can surely get over George III.


And I also don’t much like the fact that Mrs Biden is bringing a granddaughter along. If the Head of State didn’t want his ticket, and if there was no one with any clout who wanted to come (Hillary?) I think it would have been better for Jill to pitch up alone.


Knitting: oh, dear. I’ve picked up stitches. I’ve counted and counted. I’m now trying to start the border pattern, and the first side isn’t working. Too many stitches, apparently. I’ll return to the problem tomorrow.


Wordle; Another toughie, in my opinion. My starter words yielded one brown vowel. I felt I was doing well to score five. Ketki was another five. Everyone else did better. Thomas got three. Fours elsewhere. No news from Roger yet.


Wednesday, May 03, 2023


Sorry about yesterday. Helen, who is nothing if not energetic, rang my doctor up and told him my hip was deteriorating. He ordered a same-day x-ray and in the afternoon we went to a near-by hospital and I had that. (Now what, you well may ask?)  But that meant nap-less-ness and by the time we got back from the hospital I was capable of no more than sipping some soup and heading for a very early bed. The doctor will have the results early next week, I was told.


Helen had a long session with the neighbours in Kirkmichael on Monday and doesn’t seem to be getting much of anywhere. Here is a picture of our driveway.

 The strip of land to the left, along which the figure in the red jacket is proceeding, is the one in question, which we have offered to buy. It’s useless to man or beast. The ditch is invisible beyond it, further to the left. The neighbours’ house – which is rarely occupied, it might be noted, and only roughly furnished, Helen says – is out of sight and above, further to the left. On the right is the sheep field, which belongs to a family trust, not to our neighbour himself.


All Helen and David are asking for is the right to clear the ditch when necessary. The neighbour’s demands are, I think, outrageous: David and Helen to supply, plant and maintain twenty Douglas firs along a new fence in the sheep field; the neighbour to have a right of first refusal if we ever sell our house. I think Helen and David will soon consult a lawyer.  A good country lawyer will try to avoid actual legal action between neighbours, but I think we’ve gone far enough along the path of accommodation and it is time (as several of you suggest) to see if the threat, at least, of action could achieve results.


Meanwhile the knitting progresses. I am now picking up stitches for the borders around the centre of the shawl. It’s a bitch of a job, and I am struggling.


It is a comfort in all this to have Wordle to turn to. I thought today’s word was rather difficult. I got it in three – my starters did most of the work. For several happy hours I thought I might be the only three. Thomas needed four. Five for Ketki, Rachel, Mark and Roger. Six for Theo. But Alexander, blast him, posted a matching three when the afternoon was well advanced.



Monday, May 01, 2023


The Mileses have gone back to London – much missed. Helen -- writing from Kirkmichael -- says she has been talking around in circles with our neighbour all morning, and getting nowhere, and fears she will have to resort to law. Alexander is coming over to see me tomorrow.


James and Cathy both think I should move in with Helen – hoping to be able to come back here after surgery, and then recovery in an expensive nursing home. The hip is certainly getting worse. But maybe it will reach a plateau, and “worse” certainly means that I am hyper-careful about every step. 


Knitting has gone well today. I’ve completed the pattern at the centre of the new shall. I now have to finish off with a dozen garter stitch rows. I’m halfway through that. Next will come some tedious days of administration: first winding the next skein, 100 grams of sock yarn. I will use it at once – if we’re going to have one of these famous Malabrigo colour shifts, this would be a good place for it. And next, picking up the border stitches all the way around. That will involve much anxious counting. This pattern (Liz Lovick) does the borders back and forth, leaving one corner open. That sounds fine – but I wish I had made the stitch-picking-up easier by starting every row of the centre square with a YO, as Gudrun does for the Shetland hap I have just finished.


Cathy was wearing KD’s Lilias Day pattern which I knit last summer in my expensive nursing home. It looks very good. I chose the pattern specifically for nursing-home knitting. James and Cathy’s younger daughter was here just as it was finished, so I gave it to her. Cathy said that she and Kirsty hand it back and forth.


Wordle: A three, at last! I haven’t had one of those since PLATE on April 20. Rachel, Thomas and Theo were the other threes. Poor Mark got stuck somehow, and scored five. Fours elsewhere.