Sunday, December 31, 2023

Another day more or less accounted for -- and we’re more than a week past the darkest day! It’s easy when you try. A very happy new year to you all, when it comes, and happy celebrations tonight if that’s what you choose. I think Edinburgh’s street party has been fully restored post-COVID and if so I will probably wake up to hear the fireworks and see a few of the highest of them, above the trees in Drummond Place Gardens.


I used to have a copy of Lotus Organiser (this is an old computer) which I kept for knitting, and especially for this time of year when I record what I had accomplished in the year just past [not much, in this case, as you can see in the sidebar], and what I hoped to do in the New Year, and what the first two radio headlines were on 1/1/????. So far this evening I can’t figure out/remember how to load it. Perhaps I should just launch a new copy tomorrow.


Not much knitting, but some. C. came and we had a nice time as always. She will come back tomorrow with various people to welcome in 2024.


Wordle: We found it fairly easy on the whole. Half of us on this side of the pond scored four, including me. The outliers were Rachel, with 6 – she got stuck on Grn, Grn, ???, ???, grn for three guesses. Alexander did it in three, Mark in two, Over there in DC it was two for Roger -- !!! – and three for Theo.

Saturday, December 30, 2023


 I‘m beginning to be afraid that I haven’t got the picture of me being carried down the steps. I’ll have to get it from Helen.


Knitting: I think I neglected to report on that at all yesterday. I haven’t done much lately. I have, however, left the sleeves behind on waste yarn and assumed the rest into a cylinder. I’m fond of fisherman’s rib. I knit a whole dress in it from a VKB when I was young, and never wore it but once because it instantly stretched to ankle-length or beyond. In my middle years I knit a two-colour half-brioche sweater for myself twice. I loved them dearly until the moths got them. Two-colour half-brioche is easy: you use a dp and slide the work back and forth when necessary.


I was a bit taken aback last night to discover that single-colour half-brioche – which is what is required for the Spalding – is not quite as easy as I assumed it would be. You’ve got to remember how to move the yarn back and forth with every stitch. It’s not quite as obvious or as easy as k1, p1. There are two separate pattern-rows, too.  Full-scale fisherman’s, however, can be done from one side only, I think, by alternating k1 and k1below. I should be able to do a bit more this evening and report more fully tomorrow.


It has been a quiet day here, dark and cold. We even had a brief bit of slushy snow. Helen came, and we advanced life a wee bit. The current carer has been a short-order cook in her day. The professional touch lingers and is very welcome. I had been losing appetite with the stress of recent days. I begin every day with wilted spinach upon which is poached an egg, With Abiola, the egg is poached to perfection and – even more welcome – the spinach is not served in a little pool of water.


“The Secret of Cooking” (see yesterday) continues well. I’ve just hit a patch of delicious-sounding salad recipes. Which reminds me that I have recently signed up for a Substack (new word) called The Department of Salad by Emily Nunn. That’s recommended too, if you like Substacks and like salads.


Wordle: Another pretty easy one. I scored four, but that was because I got line three wrong, by sheer bad luck, as often happens. (Good luck often happens, too.) My line three was grn, grn, brn, brn, grn. All I had to do was reverse the two browns, and I did that, of course, in line 4. Mark, Thomas and Ketki also scored four; three for Alexander and Rachel.  Four for Roger, three for Theo.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Here I am back in the catalogue room with my laptop computer. I can still type with both hands. I seem to be connected to the world , but I’m not sure, and I haven’t yet been able to play a reassuring hand of Freecell. People have been messing around in here since I last sat at this desk.


   Here are some pictures to be going on with. I can’t remember whether I have shewn you Paradox in her new home:

 She is clearly a happy cat. Below, you see my two newest great-grandchildren, Rachel’s two newest grandchildren, both boys after seven girls. The grownups are the latest parents, Lizzie and Dan -- Dan is holding their son Lennie. And Rachel, who has got her slightly older grandson Freddie.


And Freecell seems to be in operation. I have been thinking for some time of replacing this computer – it’s out-o-date and desperately slow. And money is haemorrhaging forth at an alarming rate on my care and the re-constitution of the downstairs lavatory. Maybe I’ve better spend it while I’ve got it.


We’ve had a jolly Christmas, as I hope have all of you. Helen solved the problem of access by finding a sling arrangement which allowed two of her sons to carry me down the stairs, and eventually back up. That will be a picture for tomorrow. Life has been somewhat stressful. Wafa is gone, and much missed.  We parted in mutual tears. My current carer is named Abby. She comes from Nairobi and is a better cook than I have had so far.


I gave two people on my list Bee Wilson’s “The Secret of Cooking” for Christmas, and on the recommendation of one of them have bought it for myself. I am enjoying it. Recommended.

A bit of knitting, but not much. I had better return to that subject tomorrow, too.

 Wordle: I’ve done it every day. No failures. My current winning streak is 32 – nearly up to half of my maximum streak. In fact, the level has been rather low (=easy) lately. Today was mostly threes, except that Thomas had 2 and Theo 4.


Wednesday, December 20, 2023

 I’m sorry about the gap. All’s well, but Christmas presses, even in my reduced state. Maybe it would be better to log off now until sometime next week. Merry Christmas to all. 

  Rachel came and went from/to London yesterday. She had trouble with delayed trains — much stress but fortunately not too much delay. Essentially she was here for a long lunch. C. and Helen came. We had kedgeree and a green salad. At the end, Mungo joined us, home from Cairo for the Christmas holiday, looking well. Wafa says his spoken Arabic is remarkably good. He doesn't know what he wants to do with it.

  Virtually no knitting, always a bad sign, but I am nevertheless only one wrong-side row short of the point where I leave the sleeve stitches behind. 

   And it’s less than 48 hours until the solstice.

   Wordle: lots of threes and fours lately. Today over here there were two twos, Mark and Thomas; two threes, Alexander and Rachel; and two fours, me and Ketki. In DC, a distinguished three for Roger and a most uncharacteristic five for Theo.



Sunday, December 17, 2023

 The weather is still deficient, but we had a pretty good day otherwise. C. came. Christmas seems to be largely in hand. I think Monday is a pretty convenient day for it to fall on.  We looked out but didn’t deploy my few ornaments. The one thing absolutely fixed about Christmas is to decorate while listening (live) to the carol service from King’s  College Cambridge.

  It begins with a stunning unaccompanied solo of the first  verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” by a boy soprano. After that first verse the organ and the rest of the choir chime in, and Christmas starts. I have always understood that until the BBC green light goes on and the choirmaster points at one of them, the boys themselves don’t know which one it will be. And we still won’t know for a few heartbeats longer, whether he can hit and hold with ease the high note on “MAR-y was that mother mild”. 

  I heard one such boy, now grown to man’s estate, reminiscing about the experience on a television programme once. He said that when the finger pointed at him, there was a brief and terrifying moment when he couldn’t remember the words.

   No doubt in a year or two they’ll have girls in the King’s College choir and the fun will be over.

   Rachel will make a flying visit to Edinburgh on Tuesday. C. will join us for lunch, and Helen I hope. Kedgeree? 

   Wordle: Roger, Theo, Thomas, Rachel and Mark were today’s fours. Three for the rest — Ketki, Alexander and I. 


Friday, December 15, 2023

 James is gone. Much missed. Wafa and I have had a quiet day. There were faint shafts of sunshine this morning, but the weather has reverted to horrible.

  Thank you for your suggestions about getting out of here. I am very much taken with yours, Rebecca, of going down sideways. We may have a trial run of that one tomorrow. I may not have made it sufficiently clear that these steps are (a) cement and (b) external. I don’t think going down on one’s bottom would be feasible although otherwise it would be a brilliant idea. Standing up again at the bottom might be hard. And what about getting up the stairs later on?

  A permanent ramp might disfigure Drummond Place. Ketki is investigating long-term solutions of that nature. But nothing could be ready for Christmas. 

  I’ve knit a bit further. The second ball of yarn is looking subdued. The work is looking very good.

  Wordle: I was the first to report this morning, with a perfectly creditable three. Or so I thought, until Mark, Alexander and Ketki reported twos one after another. Eventually Rachel joined me with another three, Thomas and Roger had four, Theo five.



Thursday, December 14, 2023

 I’m sorry about the gap. The cause was nothing more serious than James’ arrival. We’re having a nice time, in a quiet way. Alexander and Ketki are coming tomorrow.

Anonymous, I was desperately pleased by your comment — you remembered that I start Wordle every day with TRAIN and HOUSE.  TRAIN won ages ago, probably years. After that happened, I switched the order so that HOUSE would be in position when its day came. And now it has! I shall revert to the former order which seems more natural and feels more useful although that is absurd.

You’re right about not taking the cat along for Christmas dinner, assuming I manage to get down those steps. She deserves some pussy cat down time, as James rightly says.

That much I composed for you yesterday, but didn’t post. Now it’s Thursday…

Alexander and Ketki and Helen and Archie came for a takeaway lunch. 

We practised getting me out and down the six steps at the front door, without much success. In June or so I could go to Mass with C. by holding on to our railing with one hand and to her with the other. That no longer works.

The party then tried carrying James down the stairs in our smaller wheelchair. Much laughter but something approaching success. The alternative will be for me and Wafa to cook the bird and Helen and her family to arrive midmorning with everything else, already cooked.

The odd thing about this situation is that I still feel, as throughout life, that I will soon be better.

Wordle: five for me yesterday. I got stuck with four greens and a missing second letter. Rachel had one of those today, with the first letter missing. She scraped home with six. Alexander and I scored three — the day’s best. Fours largely elsewhere, including both Theo and Roger. Thomas was an undistinguished, and unchacteristic, five.

Monday, December 11, 2023

 More dreadful weather, with still more forecast. But the winter solstice is now within sight. (Friday the 22nd at 3:27, in GB) Again, the day seemed busy and no knitting got done in the morning. Helen came.  A physiotherapist came. James himself will be here tomorrow for a few days’ Christmas visit. 

  I’ve finished that “rows 1-4 six more times” section in the yoke of the Spalding, and made a few modest adjustments to the stitch count. There’ll be a chance to adjust again when I actually leave the sleeve stitches behind. I have at last more or less mastered what is required. It goes a bit faster now that I don’t have to peer at the pattern for every row.

  Wafa thinks we should take the cat along to Helen’s house for Christmas dinner. On the other hand, nobody much — including the physiotherapist who was here this morning — seems to think I can be safely got there myself. The alternative is to eat here, and I suppose we should make tentative plans.

  Wordle: singularly easy today. Thomas and Roger were the laggards, with four. Theo, Alexander, Mark and Rachel got three. Ketki would normally have carried away the palm with her distinguished two — except that I scored one.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

 Filthy weather continues. C. came to see me. Christmas has reached the slightly silly stage when no expense seems too great. Does Thanksgiving save you from that in the US? 

Knitting progresses. I did four long, long rows today without looking at the pattern. The difficulty being that there are several forms of the right-side-increase row. I’m in a section for which the instruction is “repeat rows 1-4 six times”. I’ve done five of them, and I think it would be just as well to count stitches before I proceed. After that there will be 16 more rows until the happy instruction to “ Proceed to all sizes resume..”

Comments yesterday: Tamar, Wafa has already found the four copies of Knitter’s Magazine from the turn of the millennium, where Meg expands on and elucidates the EPS. They are safely back on the shelf where they belong. A great relief.Gretchen, I don’t know exactly where she found the key to the carriage clock — it was on the shelf of a bookcase at the far end of the corridor: completely impossible.

Wordle: my starters did all the work. An easy three for me. Rachel and Mark and Thomas also got three. Alexander and Ketki both needed four, with identical grids consisting only of greens. In DC, Roger had three and Theo four. I think C. said she got it in three, but without being able to refer to her score in Signal I can’t entirely trust my memory.

Saturday, December 09, 2023

 Filthy weather, spitting sleet at the windows. However, it was perhaps a degree or two warmer and I may be an inch or two better, despite the lack of new medication.

   Knitting went well. I have finished the first ball of yarn — measurable progress. The row is now very long, but  it is a considerable comfort that nothing will have to be repeated — I am knitting the whole thing, neck down. And the bit where I leave the shoulder/sleeve stitches behind is now within sight. And the dropped shoulders are pretty low. Lots to be cheerful about.

  Anonymous (yesterday): C. Is my niece Clare. My husband’s niece, strictly — his only sister’s daughter. She has been as a daughter to me since her mother died, a good many years ago now.

  Have I told you about our carriage clock? Wafa found the key. Many years ago, when we lived in Birmingham, we had a bad burglary. That clock went, although the key was left behind. Many months later I saw it in the window of a jeweller in the city centre.

  It was all rather like the evidences for God in Newman’s Grammar of Assent. I couldn’t prove it was our clock. But it said “Edinburgh” on the front — my husband had inherited it from his Edinburgh grandfather. And it had a  honest Arabic face — the vast majority of such clocks have Roman numerals.

  And the clincher was when I went in and bought it. It had been supplied with a clumsy modern key, which I left behind in the shop, knowing that the key left behind by the burglars would fit. So I was particularly distressed recently when the key couldn’t be found, and particularly pleased the other day when Wafa found it. 

  Wordle: I was the only three. No glory in that — Alexander scored two. Thomas and his mother Ketki and Rachel had fours. Mark lagged behind with five. Roger and Theo in DC were both four. (C. is a fairly faithful Wordle-doer but not  member of our little group.)


Friday, December 08, 2023

 C. came this morning and wrapped up some xmas presents for me. They look very well. I have sent Helen home with presents for herself and David, to keep things as simple as possible here. I calculated that if I still gave presents on my former principle, to all my blood descendants, the number would be above 30. 

  I mustn't forget that C’s own present is still to be wrapped, even though she is not related in blood.

 I continued to feel not-quite this morning. C. called a doctor. A pleasant young woman actually came and measured vital signs and said I have some crackle in the lungs — fluid or infection. She didn’t prescribe anything. I was glad about that. I’m still not-quite.

  I got a couple of rows of knitting done. The rows are so long these days that that is almost a creditable achievement. 

  Wordle: my starters almost solved it themselves this morning — an easy three. That was a popular score — but Ketki did it in two and Alexander needed four. Theo and Roger in DC both took four. 


Thursday, December 07, 2023

 Wind, rain, cold. I tried to adopt your excellent suggestion of wearing a hat, Tamar, but to my embarrassment nothing very suitable could be found. Should I abandon all this ridiculous knitting and knit myself a hat? 

I am sorry for two days of silence. All is well, except that, perhaps, I have a bit of a cold. The dr said recently that I must let him know at the first sign of a lung infection so that an antibiotic can be started promptly. But if this is just a cold, an antibiotic won’t help and it will harm the microbiome. There’s no cough, let alone a productive one. No knitting yesterday — that’s a bad sign.

Helen was here briefly this morning on her way to Kirkmichael, to meet a man who was going to value the house, her thought being to buy out the other three and live there. I have given her my 1/6 and my busband’s so she now owns half (if my arithmetic suffices) but I have to live for quite a while for the value of the gift to be entirely removed from my estate for inheritance tax purposes. I’m not sure I’m up to it.

Random thot: there seems to be a lot of volcanic activity in the world all of a sudden. Indonesia and Mount Etna and cracks opening up in Iceland to the extent that they have emptied a whole village. 

Wordle:  It took Wafa to crack it (in four) yesterday: I had three greens but was totally baffled. The word was WOMAN. Today the cisAtlantic team all got four except for Ketki who scored three. There’s no news from Mark. In DC Theo was another four and his father Roger a brilliant two. 

Monday, December 04, 2023

 Still seriously cold. Maybe when it warms up a bit, I’ll venture into the catalogue room (so-called) and write you a proper message on my computer, with pictures. For the time being I huddle in the sitting room  under a heated blankie and pick out words with one finger on my iPad.

  Helen came to see us. The first of the presents I ordered yesterday turned up.

   Knitting continued to advance, slow but steady. I’m knitting (Brooklyn Tweed’s Spalding pattern) from the top down. There are 62 rows, or thereabouts, before I leave stitches behind for the sleeves. I’ve knit 20. It’s a start.

   Mary Lou, I hope your yarn turned up, and that you like it. It’s one of life’s better experiences.

   Wordle:  not much difficulty today. My starters gave me two greens and two browns. I scored an easy three.  Mark , Theo, Rachel and Ketki shared that score. Roger and Alexander were the fours, Thomas the lonely outlier with five.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

 Bitter, bitter cold. The winter of 1962-3, when Helen was born, was one of the bitterest in recent memory — and it started early. 

  I pretty well finished all the Christmas shopping I intend to do. So that’s something. 

  C. came to see me, with her friend Ian, the man to whom we are both forever grateful for driving us to and from Oban for both of our cruises in 2021.

  Knitting continued well. I did only three rows which doesn’t sound like much. But I must remember that although I cast on only 55, and that number remained fairly constant through all those false starts, it is now increasing by rapid, irregular amounts. It is looking well. 

  I finished The Running Grave. I would have enjoyed the denouement more if I had had the characters straighter in my head. I wonder if they’ll televise this one? 

  Wordle: I was today’s dunce with 5. There were 4’s for Alexander, Thomas and Ketki. Mark and Rachel distinguished themselves with 3’s. In DC, Roger was another 4 and Theo is so far silent.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

 Still cold, but perhaps a little less so. We’ve had a quiet day, briefly visited by Helen. They’re having open days at the studios amongst which is the one where she makes mosaics (when she can escape from family responsibilities).

   The Downstairs Lavatory is back in action. Amazing.

   Knitting has progressed peacefully. This thing (Brooklyn Tweed “Spalding”) begins at the neck and is knit downwards. The shoulder shaping is slightly fancy — hence the initial difficulty.

   And I’ve read a lot more of The Running Grave. It has picked up speed since the mid-book slump, without exactly introducing any rabbits or hats. I can’t keep all the names straight and have given up trying. The overall effect is somewhat depressing — or maybe I am feeling low because of immobility and darkness and my old friend’s death. 

   Somewhere — the BBC website, I think — I’ve seen pages of pictures of the Christmas decorations at the White House. I did not notice any hint of ox or ass or even sheep. Is the President’s Catholicism entirely a matter of anti-Englishness?

   Wordle: Ketki and Mark and Roger were the stars today, with three. Alexander and Rachel and I scored four. Thomas and Theo needed five.

Friday, December 01, 2023

 Bitter cold. All’s well. I think we’ve got a functioning downstairs lavatory. Plumbers have been banging away in there all day, and hopeful messages have emerged. Helen has been here all day, too, supervising and encouraging.

  The knitting has gone well. I’m definitely getting the hang of it. The problem is going to be keeping track of which row I’m on. I am determined to be very careful. 

   And I have continued to read The Running Grave. No hats, no rabbits, increasing gloom, but increasing interest as well. Still a long way to go. 

  Wordle: Silence from Alexander today. That’s unusual. Two from Mark, three from me, four for the other Brits. In DC, four for Theo and five for Roger. I have something to say about today’s word but will probably have forgotten by tomorrow.