Monday, May 21, 2018


I had a good Italian lesson, as usual, although it left me, as usual, exhausted. I am permanently stuck, I feel, in the position of a child in its third year. I can talk, and it gives me great pleasure. The grown-ups can understand me, and respond, and that gives me pleasure too. But when they talk to each other (=when I watch the latest installment of Inspector Montalbano) I can hear words and phrases and sometimes whole sentences, but I can’t really get the drift of what’s going on.

No news on the fermentation front, except that I noticed this morning that the garlic cloves at the bottom of the pickled pepper jar (from which I hope to make a hot sauce) had turned an alarming blue-green colour. Nothing in my books. I google’d, and discovered from a wide variety of sources that it is something that happens to garlic, nothing to worry about. How did we manage before Google?

I am undecided as to whether to tackle the hot sauce tomorrow, or leave it until I get back from Kirkmichael. Also undecided as to how to proceed. I could use Jamie Oliver’s recipe, add onions and tomatoes and cook it all for a while (thus killing the probiotics) or I could just add cider vinegar and some sugar and smoosh it up and call it a sauce.

I will take the Calcutta Cup vest along, now that I am on a (slow) roll. I have a Kirkmichael WIP, as was my custom in the Good Old Days – Carol Sunday’s beautiful “Oak Park” scarf (see sidebar). I think I will face up to the reality of old age, and bring it back with me, whether or not I work on it while I am there.

The colours were all laid out a year or so ago, in order, on a shelf of the dresser. Close to 20 of them, I think. Greek Helen has done a prodigious amount of work recently trying to get the house into an order which would allow us to offer it for holiday letting – and, in the course of that work, the Oak Park scarf and anything else knitting-related was bundled off into the drinks cupboard in the sitting room. If I could put the colours into order once, I can do it again, assuming I can find most or all of them. I can buy the pattern again if need be.

Andrew and Andrea tomorrow! How swiftly the fortnights go by!

Sunday, May 20, 2018


No knitting yet today. My Italian tutor is coming first thing tomorrow, and such sitting time as was available has been spent struggling with conditional clauses.

Beverly, that’s an interesting idea, to replace one of the peerie rounds of Alexander’s Fair Isle vest with “MH” to commemorate yesterday. I think that might be too much commemoration for one sweater – on top of the Calcutta Cup, I mean, but I don’t have to decide right now.

On Nine Eleven, I was working on Kaffe’s Mini Roman Blocks, for James, a magnum opus which occupied many months. That one, too, turned out somewhat too big, and also I now think was too bright for his taste. Be that as it may, I was working on a sleeve at the time, and inserted two rows of black, completely interrupting the pattern. I think that’s the only time I have incorporated a Current Event in my knitting (unless you count the Calcutta Cup).

Thank you for your advice about chlorinated water. I didn’t know that letting it stand would get rid of some of the chlorination. I am horrified, Tamar, to think that bottled water may be just (chlorinated) tap water. Mine says “bottled at source from the lower spring at Panannich Wells, Ballater” (which is somewhere near Balmoral). Perhaps I am na├»ve to believe it.

Meanwhile the new kimchi is as quiet as its predecessor, if not more so. There are quite a few little bubbles pressed up against the glass, but they are motionless and might just be air bubbles if I failed to press everything down properly. Other people’s fermentations bubble away, and overflow, and even explode. I clearly haven’t got the knack yet.

I learned today, from a neighbour-friend, that he introduced me to Claudia McWilliam last year, who admired the sorrel I was then growing. I was completely unaware of who she was, if so. Perhaps I only became aware of her later in the year, first by reading her son Minoo Dinshaw’s brilliant biography of Stephen Runciman as a sort of roundabout preparation for going to Palermo, and then moving on to McWilliam herself.

He also told me today of the sudden death of another neighbour-friend, sad news, especially as the surviving wife is ill and frail and needed him. Old age is a bit like dodge ball.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


That was a lovely wedding, wasn’t it? And what weather! I’m sure the television was almost as much fun as camping out, and a good deal more comfortable. Didn’t Victoria Beckham look glum? And wasn’t it grand to see the Duke of Edinburgh walking as tall as ever, without a stick, at 96, a month after his hip operation!

I found I could perfectly well knit Fair Isle while all this was going on, and have finished the first wide band on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest. I’m on the threshold of the second peerie stripe – just about where I was with the first attempt, when I took it to Loch Fyne at Easter and discovered that it was far too big.

I’m glad to have knit so happy an event as this wedding into the vest. I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean.

I heard in my delicious half-awake half-hour of radio-listening in bed this morning, that Meghan was once asked, when at school,  to tick a box to say what race she was: White? Black? Other?  Her teacher told her to tick White because she looked white, but she felt that would be to betray her mother. She took the problem to her father, who said, “Draw your own box.”

You’ve got to love him for that.

I’ve made another batch of kimchi, this time with Korean anchovy sauce instead of supermarket Nam Pla. I have started worrying about water. You’re not supposed to use chlorinated. I grandly assumed that we had pure water here in Edinburgh, but yesterday I google’d it, and we don’t: it’s chlorinated. So what do I use? I bought some bottled water at the supermarket yesterday and used it to soak the cabbage – a very important first step – and also as the base of the rice-flour porridge which some recipes use and which I attempted today.

But I rinsed the cabbage from the tap, after soaking.

All this authenticity will probably produce a disastrous batch, after the success of the first one.  

Tamar, thank you for the encouraging news about Good King Henry. I did some googl’ing on the subject, but missed that one. Last year, the GKH patch was flourishing amidst the ruins of my vegetable patch. If that is still true, I’ll have a go at fermentation.

Friday, May 18, 2018


I’m all set, as I trust we all are, for a good wallow in Royal Wedding tomorrow. The weather seems set fair, too. My mother stayed away from Rachel and Ed’s wedding, and it was painful. The circumstances were far different, but I have felt some sympathy for Meghan these last few days. At least she’s got her mother.

It would be prudent to get Archie’s socks out for tomorrow’s knitting. The Calcutta Cup vest moves slowly forward, and I mustn’t run any risk of laying it aside for something easier. Little and often will eventually see it done. But tomorrow is a special day.

There is nothing to report on the fermenting front. I’m ready to start the next batch of kimchi, and may even do it tomorrow. The wedding will be over relatively early, perhaps in order to leave time for the FA Cup which is of no interest to me.

We are going to Strathardle next week, all three of us, with my niece C. It is brave of her to take me under her wing in my dilapidated state. I will try to explain to Paradox that this is her one chance at Love. As I remember the sequence of events, poor Perdita made spaying inevitable by frequent and uncomfortable (for her and for us) goings into heat, but so far that has not happened to Paradox (whose birthday is in August). It would be fun to have a box of kittens, and with what they fetch on Gumtree these days, I could retire.

I am wondering what would happen if I tried to ferment Good King Henry. Some may remember that it is the ideal vegetable: a hardy perennial – the one survivor of my once-beloved vegetable plot. It is billed as a substitute for spinach. Its only defect is that it tastes terrible. But what if…

I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


I’m sorry – I didn’t get those kitchen pictures taken. I’ve had rather a sluggish day, after all of yesterday’s expenditure of energy.

My jar of fermenting chillies has got a few bubbles in it, but nothing that could be called effervescence. However, there is a little necklace of bubbles along the top of the brine, and the brine itself has become a bit cloudy. Contrary to intuition, that is said to be a good sign.

I’ll leave it for five days to a week and then go ahead and make my hot sauce.

I have reached the centre of the first Fair Isle stripe on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest, 2nd attempt. I am mildly worried at how slow progress is. When my husband was alive and I had many more duties and responsibilities, I seemed to get much more knitting done – “on and on and on”, as he said. Now, even if I do go back and watch some television after writing to you, my hands often sink idly into my lap.

The new IK turned up today. Excitement was but brief. This is the issue based on the American southwest – nul points, as we say in the European Song Contest, at least as far as I am concerned.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


An active day, and I feel the better for it. Alexander came over this morning, as often on Wednesday, and we went to visit a newly-opened art gallery, the most recent manifestation of an Edinburgh institution, the Ingleby Gallery. It’s just around the corner from here, in the restored Glasite Meeting House. (The link is to the Wikipedia entry on the Glasites.)

It’s a wonderful space, and good news for the city that it has been restored and occupied. The opening show is good, too.

Then Archie came round, and we went to Dishoom for lunch. Alexander drove us up (to St Andrews Square) and I walked home.

Nothing much has happened to my fermenting chillies. I got up this morning hoping that they would be bubbling away. There are a few bubbles that weren’t there yesterday, but they are distressingly stationary.

Southern Gal, no, I have never posted proper pictures of the new kitchen, and it’s time I did that, after you suffered through its installation with me. A representative of the company which supplied the design and the units is coming tomorrow morning to sign it off, so to speak. That will be a good moment for careful photographs.

And, oh yes, knitting. I am well embarked on the first serious pattern band of my second attempt at Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest, richly enjoying the rhythm of proper Fair Isle. I am duplicating the colour scheme of the first attempt, and slightly regretting that I have let the swatch-scarf go, which would have provided more examples to steer by, but that’s absurd. I have quite a limited colour-palate, I have the photograph above, all I need to do is keep changing the colours around and running red across the middle of the motifs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Ever onwards. I think I’m feeling a bit stronger overall, although that feeling doesn’t seem to be manifesting itself in much knitting. I’ve finished the first peerie stripe on Alexander’s Calcutta Cup vest, and am engaged on the plain vanilla rounds between that and the first real pattern.

Daniella and I had a successful session on the doorstep this morning, including the planting of the second apple tree. Everything is now done except for one surplus pot. I’ll find something for that. It is ridiculous, but very pleasant, to step out there on a warm May morning (=today) to see how everything is getting on, just as I used to do with my real garden in Kirkmichael.

My obsession with lacto-fermentation continues. I resolved some days ago to attempt to ferment chillies and make a hot sauce of them. (Tabasco Sauce is fermented, I learn.) I had meant to wait until this year’s British chilli crop becomes available next month, figuring they would be fresher than the present supermarket imports from Thailand. But yesterday in Tesco’s I was overcome:




That’s a cabbage leaf on top, tucked in so that everything is kept below the brine. That’s the way we do it on YouTube. There’s a weight on top of that. There are some garlic cloves visible at the bottom. Otherwise just assorted chillies. Very pretty. I'll keep you posted.

And I'll start my second batch of kimchi soon.