Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It is possible, day by day, to write about what’s going on. It’s very hard, on the other hand, to pick anything out of such a week. We had a good time. I am very, very tired. Everybody has now gone on to Strathardle except me and my husband -- 14 of them. I think we have discovered the secret of how to entertain a house party.

This is our Christmas tree, from Poundland (since the pot-grown Norway spruce I had ordered was 50 miles north):

This was Christmas dinner, early stage, when we are all handing each other bread sauce, cranberry sauce, gravy and wine:

This is James in the Traveller scarf:

And his daughter Rachel, in the Japanese hat:

I also heard that Matt was delighted with his socks.

Rachel and her family appeared on Boxing Day. Here we are having supper:

And here are the Grandsons, on the morning of the 27th:

The Grandson Sweater is looking slightly used, I was glad to note. Joe said he has posted a picture of himself wearing it on Facebook, and someone wrote to him to ask where he got it. There’s glory for you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It’s snowing, here in Edinburgh.

In any other year, this would be the day when I would sign off and wish everybody the happiest of solstices and announce plans to rejoin you in January some time, when the light is coming back.

However, for my own sake, I think I would be glad to have a day-to-day record of the Christmas of 2010. So I will go on – not regularly, perhaps. If James and his family succeed in getting here today, there will be someone sleeping in this room. And there will be competition for the computer, at least until we’ve got everything set up with my new BT Hub. It works fine for me, who am connected to it by wire. But will it extend itself to a houseful of laptops?

I am full of dread. This flat is pretty big, but it is full to the brim with clutter. There is no space. My husband is bad-tempered. He is also old, and getting rather frail. Some of the furniture is seriously good, and all of it needs to be Treated With Respect. A houseful of sprawling teenagers with nowhere to sprawl is (to coin a phrase) a recipe for disaster. In Strathardle we have a much smaller house, but also much less clutter, sturdier furniture, and the great outdoors to throw them out into. We’re not in Strathardle, and not likely to be, anytime soon.

Still, we’ve got a Christmas pudding and some cranberry sauce. It’s a start.

James has emailed already this morning (8am) to say they’ll be taking a later train than the one originally adumbrated (arriving 3pm) because everything is frozen solid in Cheltenham, where they currently are with Cathy’s parents. Helen has emailed to say that Cathy and I will have to prepare the flat she has borrowed from a friend – turn on heat, make beds, leave breakfast supplies. It will give us something to do and get us out of this house for a while. So that’s good. Helen and her fierce boys should arrive late Wednesday – if planes are flying.

Alexander phoned last night to say that they are coming on Monday – otherwise they won’t get to see James at all. Lots of people.

I just want to go to sleep and wake up in January.

We had a good visit with C. yesterday. She’s looking remarkably well, under the circumstances, and seems in good spirits.

And I made progress with the second sock. I always knit fraternal twins, with KF sock yarns:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Still snowless (and bitterly cold) in Edinburgh – I should be able to get my husband across the city to see his sister this morning. There is much snow elsewhere in Britain. Will James and his family get here (by train) tomorrow? Will Helen and hers arrive (by air) on Wednesday and Thursday? Who knows.

I had one Pollyanna-ish thought, though: if we had succeeded in going to Strathardle in November – we were deterred by the weather forecast at virtually the last moment – we would have taken the Christmas pudding along and left it there. As it is, it’s here. I made it earlier in November.

I made the cranberry relish yesterday. Otherwise, little progress. Beds for expected guests still unmade. This is the state of the wrapping:

The problem is – one of the problems is – that, with the pavements clear, it is a good idea for my husband to get out for a walk every day. He won’t go without me, and in this weather it is not a good idea that he should attempt it. So that takes up an appreciable amount of otherwise disposable time. The visit to C. will count as today’s outing. I can make beds this afternoon if I pull myself together.

During the previous weather crisis, before we went to London, Edinburgh was covered with snow and ice and my husband was completely imprisoned. Bad for him, but I had more time for Christmas-card-writing (still not completely finished).

Here are Cathy’s socks, plural:

They’re not a secret, and not a Christmas present, so I can carry on next week. Maybe even finish…

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weather: still no new snow in Edinburgh, although bitter cold, but it seems to be happening further north, and the forecast remains grim.

I spoke to C., who sounded cheerful. I will take my husband to see her tomorrow. She is tremendously pleased with the service she is getting – and she is not one to affect such pleasure without cause. The people who come to help her wash and dress in the morning are well-trained and fully professional. Edinburgh social services are busy fitting bars to the bathroom wall so that C. can hold on and shower in safety. They are lending her -- a brilliant idea – a recliner chair, so that she can nap during the day without having to get up and go to bed.

She is not enthusiastic about food, but is doing her best at least to sip the high-calorie supplements provided. She’s clearly trying, and expecting to gain some strength.

One of our early Christmas cards reported colon cancer in an old friend. Clearly the disease du jour. R.’s is perhaps not quite as bad – she had her operation a fortnight after C. did, and is already at home, with the prospect of chemotherapy to come.

And as for knitting, here’s the sock:

I could conceivably even finish it this evening.

Mary Lou, I hope you’ll try an Oliver soon. It’s very easy, and I like the way it sort of keeps count for you of progress down the foot. I’ve done a pair for my husband, and one for Ketki, and now Matt. Any others? Not sure. Both my husband and Ketki are enthusiastic. But you do have to pay a little bit of attention. Is this an Oliver round, or not? If so, where are the decreases at the moment?

And as for Christmas, I got some wrapping done, and that was about all, for yesterday. Around here, that is often a rush job on Christmas Eve, or even Christmas day -- since we don't open presents until the candles are lit on the tree, at dusk. It feels good to have some packages ready a whole week in advance.

Today I hope to get beds made for James and his family, and maybe wrap some more. It’s slow work, not because I make fancy packages, but because I am clumsy. One thing, though: I bought a reel of stick-on gift labels because they were cheap. They turn out to be significant time-savers – no more threading thread through little holes.

I might also try to start a menu list, along your lines, Kristie. Big pots of relatively simple things. Spaghetti and chilli, as you say. All-in-one chicken-pieces-in-the-oven. Consider, at least, a salad, although it seems rather cold for that. I love your idea of a cook-off. We might even do it, in the Kirkm*chael kitchen. Here, there’s hardly enough work-space for one.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

No weather to speak of in Edinburgh yet – it’s warm (for the season) and somewhat wet, this morning. The horrendousness predictions have been pushed a few hours forward. Jam yesterday and jam tomorrow.

I always get into a state about Christmas, especially when I have to “do” it. This will be the first time in some years, for that. But I have never, ever got this near the Day without knowing what kitchen I am going to be cooking in. And how am I going to feed all these people, not just on the Day? James and his family are due on Sunday; Helen and hers, not until Wednesday.

Things will seem better when daughter and daughter-in-law get here. Both are strong and cheerful and utterly competent. Cathy gets it from her mother, somewhat, I think. Helen certainly doesn’t get it from hers.

Meanwhile I must start making lists. And I can also make cranberry sauce ( and brandy butter and will feel better for having them done. I could do some wrapping. I sent some packages off yesterday, including Matt’s socks. That’s the post office finished, more or less. I also finished off the present-buying, except for…

There’s always a lurking “more or less” and “except for” this time of year.

Today I will phone C. to find out how she is getting on, and whether she is ready for a visit from my husband.

And meanwhile, I went on with Cathy’s sock. Mundi, you are right that colour helps in dark December. It took me a long time to grasp that.

Cathy has the smallest feet of anyone on my sock list, and I have skipped Oliver-ing (Ravelry link) this time in the interests of speed. So you never know.

Still haven’t looked at that DVD.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A quick update on several on-going stories:

1) C. came home from hospital on Monday. I spoke to her briefly that evening. She thought she would manage well by day, wouldn't need help, but wasn’t feeling strong enough to receive visitors. I’ll phone tomorrow to see if she would let my husband come for half an hour or so, just to sit. After this week things get pretty fraught with the approach of the solstice, for her as well as for us. And we don’t know how much time we’ve got.

2) A remarkable amount of snow removed itself from Edinburgh over the weekend. The city is now perfectly navigable. I haven’t phoned anyone in Kirkm*chael yet, but the roads up there usually get cleared promptly for the sake of the skiers. The forecast for tomorrow and the rest of the week is, however, pretty horrendous. We are poised with a Plan B for spending Christmas here in Edinburgh, as the Beijing Mileses need to exit via Edinburgh airport on the 26th.

3) I finished Matt’s socks. I may even face my final post office queue this afternoon, to dispatch them. And I’ve started some KF socks for Cathy, in a new-to-me colourway. I wouldn’t dare send them by post to Beijing, after the loss of that earflap hat. So I’ve got to finish them in the next 10 days, or hand them over in the summer. We’ll see.

The big news is that the Round-the-Bend DVD has arrived. There was no time yesterday to crack it open, and there may not be any today, but one can hope.

We had a good time in London. My husband keeled over with weariness or perhaps slight illness on Sunday, so we never got to see the Bulgarian treasures at the RA. A real disappointment for him, a lovely relaxed day for me. After Mass we went to the pub. James and Ed played pool while Rachel and I drank cider and watched. Ed is very good, but James didn’t disgrace himself. There is very little of that kind of off-duty silliness in my life, and it was lovely.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I’ve just been putting our rubbish and recycling out into the dark and snow – there’s no doubt, the air is warmer. Yesterday was one of the coldest I’ve ever known, with Edinburgh sheet ice underfoot. It will be rather satisfactory to be in London if only to stride about, after a fortnight of picking one’s way with great caution. I’ll probably trip on a paving stone. We won't see much of James, because Rachel says he works late and she thinks he is going to his in-laws in Cheltenham this weekend to welcome his wife and children, newly-arrived from China. We should catch glimpses.

And we’re all set to go. Back the middle of next week.


Stashhaus, I like your idea (comment yesterday) of trying on the Round-the-Bend sleeve to see how it’s blousing – I’ll do that. I have been aware of the difference between the yarn I’m using and Meg’s prototype, without giving much thought as to how to adjust, except for calculating K.


Some years ago Alexander gave us the Oxford English Dictionary, a wonderful Christmas present – the whole 12-volume thing, on a CD-ROM. (My husband calls it “Murray’s”, no doubt for sound historical reasons.) The only trouble with it is that every so often you have to “validate” it with the “data disk”. This becomes absolutely maddening, for a product one has legitimately owned for more years than one can precisely remember.

To my shame, I couldn’t find the data disk yesterday morning. However, I have recovered it, and will be more careful in future.

Apart from its comprehensiveness, it is also much more up-to-date (2002) than the paper dictionaries in daily use here – Webster’s International Second Edition, 1935; and the Shorter Oxford, 1933. For “fey” it gives 1) fated to die; then three obsolete meanings: 2) leading to or presaging death; 3) accursed, unfortunate, unlucky; and 4) feeble, timid, sickly, weak.

But finally, a modern meaning which will justify Alan Bennett’s use: 5) "Disordered in mind like one about to die; possessing or displaying magical, fairylike, or unearthly qualities. Now freq. used ironically, in sense 'affected, whimsy'."

It's not a word I would ever dare use myself, but I thought of it when we went to visit C. in hospital the day before her surgery, when she had just heard her own death sentence. See my blog post of 9/11.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Two more followers! Welcoming hugs!

We’re going to have a go at London. It’s still savagely cold here, although there has been no more snow since Monday’s damp blizzard – but the forecast continues to predict that things will ease somewhat tomorrow. Once I’ve had my porridge I’ll make my way up to the station once again and see about tickets.

C’s homecoming has been delayed for a few days – Monday is now the target, I believe. Just as well, considering the cold. Our niece sounded happy with her progress when we spoke last night.

I proceeded with that sleeve. The utter round-and-roundness is very soothing. Meg says to err “on the too-long side to allow the bloused sleeve to blouse”. I’m all for the blousing of the sleeve, that’s one of the attractions of the pattern – but will it work, with that non-elastic garter stitch cuff? Won’t a too-long sleeve just come down over the knuckles?

I am fully prepared to frog the whole thing when the DVD turns up.

Margaret Stove’s “Wrapped in Lace”

It’s enchanting – recommended. It’s sort of an autobiography, couched in terms of lace, beginning with a reconstruction of her own christening shawl based on photographs of the event. It incorporates accounts of her travels, to Orenburg, to Estonia, to the US, and also the history of her own designing, firmly rooted in her native New Zealand. That’s a very appealing aspect of the book.

She doesn’t shy away from displaying a certain naiveté – in the account, for instance, of how she found a pattern for a “Faro” shawl and adapted the shaping for her own designs, long before she learned about the Faroese tradition.

The Shetland chapter is slightly surprising – it is based on a beautiful antique shawl in pitiful condition which she was asked to restore. There is extremely useful information there on the techniques involved, and on the problems of conservation. The surprise comes from the fact that her own travels in Shetland don’t figure – I know she has been there. And Sharon Miller is conspicuously absent, although every other contemporary lace guru I can think of appears – Galina and Nancy Bush and Myrna Stahman and Hazel Carter. EZ and Meg and Mary Walker Phillips and Barbara Walker also make cameo appearances. No Sharon, although of course she is in the bibliography.

Some good patterns, too.

Alan Bennett

I continue to read him, and continue to find him very good company for these days of cold and fear.

I was astonished yesterday to discover him using “fey” to mean what we all think it means, until we look it up: “A Scot like himself, she was fey as well as formidable – insisting, for instance, in wearing a daisy chain to their wedding.”

Modern dictionaries, according to my discoveries on Google in the last few minutes, allow that meaning. The ones on the shelves in this house do not. They stop with meanings 1a and 1b, in the link I provide. Alan Bennett is using it in sense 3b. He is nearly my age, and meticulous about words. I am disappointed.

But I think I should relax, and adopt Humpty Dumpty's attitude to the meanings of words.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

My father was AP bureau chief in Detroit on December 7, 1941. A Sunday. I remember his getting the phone call -- one of those memories that photographs the scene.

Hello, new follower! My children and grandchildren know how much I like seeing them wear things I've knit, and they quietly do it when I'm scheduled to be about. I feel somewhat the same about you guys signing up.

No sooner had I forwarded yesterday’s message into the ether than it started snowing. It went on and on and on into the early afternoon. Refund or no refund, I wouldn’t have embarked on a rail journey with my husband in the middle of a mess like that.

It turned out to be pretty wet snow, and I don’t think it has added much to Edinburgh’s general misery. The view from the kitchen window in mid-afternoon:

We are still hoping to go south on Thursday – the weekend forecast, for London at least, shows a definite easing. Rachel has offered to meet us at Kings X which is pretty heroic of her. And if we take her up on it, my husband should be able to manage the extended journey time.

I went up to the station in the afternoon to claim the refund on our tickets. I have a stamped piece of pink paper to show that we will eventually get it. Looking at the Arrivals board, it seemed to me that the emergency timetable is at least working. I even saw a train from Penzance posted as “on time”.

I regarded yesterday as a day off – a feeling one often gets when snow is falling. So I didn’t hunker down to Matt’s socks, but went on with the tentative Round-the-Bend sleeve instead.

It starts with 22 rows of garter stitch. That produced a reasonable-looking cuff, so I didn’t worry about row-gauge. Next, you double the stitch count in one row, for a bloused sleeve. I did that, knit a few more rows, and then introduced the first of my mixed-bag of colours-from-stash, Annie Modesitt’s “Roadside Gerry”, one of the blogger colourways that Lorna’s Laces put out recently. I think it’s perhaps the nicest of them, and for some reason I have two intact skeins left over from last year’s ASJ.

What I didn’t expect, and am delighted by, is the stripe effect. That may help the whole thing look less like a dog’s dinner. The stitch count now remains the same until the top of the sleeve, so it won't change. I’ll go on with Roadside Gerry all the way up the sleeve, with the other skein in waiting for the other sleeve.

I have much to say – about Margaret Stove’s book, about Alan Bennett. I mustn’t forget. But now it’s time to get on with Tuesday.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Another new follower! You are as welcome as every one of your 61 predecessors, but your arrival is particularly cheering in these days of cold and darkness and fear and disappointment.

Here we still are. The East Coast Line provisional timetable for today shows that the train we’re booked on is not going to be running, and the others are scheduled to take about 20% longer than their usual time. Longer than that, of course, if they slow down and stop for an indeterminate period in Northumberland. I struggled up to Waverley in a blizzard last Thursday and learned from a woman who would have fitted right in working for Hitler that we would get our money back if the train actually didn’t run.

So we’re lucky. We have an Advance ticket supposed to be good only for the train we’re booked on. (In these circumstances, it would qualify us to ride on the train just-before or just-after if we didn't mind travelling without seats.) If we had picked one of the others, the mere fact that the journey was now going to be uncomfortably long and my husband is 85 and wheezy would have cut no ice.

We’re hoping to go on Thursday, dangerously near Christmas for so exhausting an undertaking – but the forecast does show things getting better in London, at least, over the weekend. At the moment, conditions are treacherous underfoot all the way from Rachel’s house to the 159 bus stop which carries us into the heart of London.

My husband has never, ever failed to see the Turner Prize show. It goes off on January 3. So things are critical.

I spoke to our niece last night. She sounded low. C. has previously looked well, whatever the horrors reported, but over the weekend she was pale. I think things may pick up once she gets home, still scheduled for Wednesday. One of the women in her room is a loony who talks all the time and occasionally leaps out of bed in the middle of the night, grabs her zimmer frame, and makes a bid for freedom. The other two women in the room are fairly deaf, but C. is suffering.

Having read Alan Bennett on the subject of his colon cancer I went on to finish “Untold Stories” and now have gone back to “Writing Home”. Both are loose collections of diaries and miscellaneous journalism and writing-for-TV. Much is familiar, but I can’t remember whether I’ve read either of them straight through before. He has a brilliant ear for absurdity, and is perfectly suited to the weather, the gloom, and the events unfolding around me.


Thank you for your encouraging remarks about the Japanese hat. I never thought of tying those ties – nobody does that in Edinburgh, and I can assure you that I’ve seen a great many ear-flap hats in the last few days. But I can see that it might be useful, and the Gobi desert, for the edges of which the hat is destined, gets very cold in the winter.

I did cast on Round-the-Bend last night. I’m glad that DVD is on the way. The pattern is couched in terms of K – determined, as usual, by multiplying stitches-per-inch by desired circumference. But there are quite a few places – including the initial cuffs – where the instructions are expressed in absolute terms, number-of-rows. The yarns in my piles of sock-yarns-and-Koigu are much finer than the stuff Meg used for the prototype. Caution required.

I had looked forward to the events of this week finishing off Matt’s socks by themselves without effort from me – now I’ll have to knit them here, not entirely trusting our hopes for Thursday. They’re not exactly Christmas knitting, and Matt certainly isn’t expecting them, but I’d like to have them available for the day.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A bit of a thaw yesterday. The night was colder again, and there is no further sound of drip when I open the door to Drummond-Place-in-the-dark this morning. But no more snow. I think at the moment, our inclination is to try to get to London tomorrow. I must devote much of today to finding out what sort of service East Coast Main Line thinks they can offer, what Streatham is like underfoot, whether London suburban trains are running.

I crossed off all three of yesterday’s Tasks and have already made today’s list – in fact, any time that can be salvaged today from Mass-going and cooking and eating will need to be dedicated to London-going.

One of the items on yesterday’s list was to finish the Japanese hat. Look at that:

I didn’t get anywhere trying to make a braid with the yarns doubled, so I went for i-cord, and made little pom-poms. Both activities performed with teeth firmly gritted, you may be sure. And I’m not entirely sure that the result isn’t a bit too coarse and heavy for the hat – but I’m certainly not going to attempt anything else. That’s Christmas knitting finished.

And I had time for a little more sock-knitting. I’m now around the heel of Matt’s second sock, and starting the Oliver shaping. Far enough along, in fact, that I’ll need to pluck another ball of sock yarn from the stash to take along if we go to London, and choose the next recipient.

Will I even cast on Round-the-Bend this evening, however tentatively? I made a swatch, the evening we got C.’s news.

I spoke to our niece yesterday. Arrangements are going forward nicely for a homecoming on Wednesday, nursing services, medical services, friends-and-relatives.

(I just figured out how to look at my "Spam inbox", a new feature here on Blogger, and found, to my horror, a comment from you, Dawn, and one from you, Fishwife, among the junk. They have now been published and, more to the point, read and appreciated -- they were both informative, with links, which must have been what upset Blogger. I'll check more often henceforth.)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Hello, new follower!

The weather has eased a bit. No snow has fallen since late on Thursday. Edinburgh felt slightly convalescent yesterday, and a very slight thaw has continued through the night. Hope for our trip to London after all? We shall see. There’s still a lot of the wretched stuff about.

Plans are advancing briskly to get C. home next Wednesday. Our niece went to see the head dr at her GP practice yesterday about arrangements, and her report of the conversation is rather encouraging. She told him how her mother dreads a return of the abdominal pain she was suffering when she was carried off to hospital a month ago. He said that the operation will have relieved the blockage, and it may not return. Death could occur from renal failure or something else.

Surely this plain speaking, however difficult for drs, makes things vastly easier for everybody, including the sufferer. How we must once have tiptoed around, everybody knowing, nobody saying anything! No tears, no hugs, no laughing, just when they are most needed.

I have been re-reading the last chapter of Evelyn Waugh’s biography of Ronald Knox, a prominent Roman Catholic clergyman of the early and mid 20th century, pretty well forgotten by now. He died of colon cancer. (Everybody seems to have it – I’ve also been re-reading Alan Bennett’s account of his.)

After being poorly during the winter of ’56-’57, Knox’s dr suspected cancer. “The disease was not named to Ronald.” The operation on January 20 revealed that it had spread to the liver (as colon cancer has a tendency to do). He got home on February 7th and spent a miserable few months thinking that his failure to improve was his own fault: “He believed that through lack of will he was falling into the habits of an invalid and that he should be able by effort to achieve his normal activities.”

In mid-May his sister was told: “Medical etiquette required that she, as the nearest accessible relative, should be officially informed of what all suspected…At the end of the month, Ronald himself, the last of those concerned, was told he was fatally ill.” He died on August 24. I heard of his death on my wedding day, in New Jersey, a week later, from the best man.

It reads like a report from another planet.


Christmas is not, I suspect, going to be cancelled. I made a little list yesterday morning of five things I might get done during the day. Fairly easy and straightforward things which I had noticed had lately been pushed aside from day to day. I got four of them done, and have started a new list for today.

It includes those blasted braids for the Japanese hat. I finished tidying the scarf yesterday, and spent the rest of knitting time on Matt’s sock – we’re just rounding the second heel. I feel that the braids by now count as Christmas which means I can take time for them during non-knitting hours.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Yesterday I thought maybe I’d stop blogging for a while, but I find I need you guys. I am deeply grateful for all your messages.

So here I am, and we’re carrying on. It sounds as if everybody, the hospital included, has swung into action on the problems involved in getting C. back home. I think in the event it was the drs themselves who decided not to “offer invention”, rather than C. who rejected chemotherapy. There are lots of resources – I believe the original Maggie’s Centre is the one there at the Western Infirmary of Edinburgh. (The Fishwife mentioned it in a comment early on.) People with equally dreadful but less pronounceable diseases than cancer perhaps have a leaner time of it.

Rachel knows a lot about death, and is a great fan of the hospice movement. As are we all. She actually saw Cecily Saunders once, when she was visiting a dying friend. It sounds as impossible as actually seeing Aristotle. She had better phone her cousin over the weekend.

Meanwhile, life certainly goes on. Christmas has not been cancelled. The snow has not gone away – indeed, more has fallen.

The view from the kitchen window...

We had planned to go to London on Monday for a week of art. James is there, staying with Rachel, working in the Economist office. It would have been a thoroughly welcome break in a number of on-going narratives.

Trains are running, but they are taking a long, long time and my husband doesn’t think he could stand it. The suburban trains are not running, the ones which figure in the last hour of the journey as they carry us from King’s Cross to Streatham. And at the moment, the snow underfoot in south London would make it difficult for my husband to get out, just as here. So we wait and see, not very hopefully.

I got the insulin on Wednesday. It was hard work. I haven’t even begun to think of digging out the car, so no supermarket this week as well as no hospital visiting. That means a lot of trudging about through the snow buying this and that as we run out. And speaking of digging out cars, don’t miss the clip Helen C.K.S. has posted.


I’ve cast off the scarf and am nearly finished with the loose ends. There are a lot, because the yarn is cut twice during each twist. Next, the braids for that Japanese hat. (One good thing to be said for this weather, is that I have seen beyond any doubt the continued popularity of ear-flap hats, on all ages, sizes and sexes.) Then Matt’s socks, which were to have been polished off on those train journeys.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

C.’s news is very bad – “a few months”. Of course we’ve all known this, including C. herself, since the 8th of November, the day before her surgery. The delivery of the verdict yesterday was, nevertheless, a tremendous shock.

That was Games Day, 2010, the traditional picture we always take at the end of the afternoon. C. is towards the left, framed by Greek Helen in the Macdougall jacket, leaning one way, and the niece I keep talking about, in a brown coat, leaning the other. Next to her is her sister F. (who lives in Glasgow), in a green jacket, with her husband behind and her sons beside her. C.s dear granddaughter Little C. was also there, with a boyfriend, but they had failed to grasp the importance of the picture-taking and were somewhere else.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

C.’s test results are out, or in, or whatever. Yesterday morning, she stopped the man who started to tell her about them, reminding him that she wanted her daughter present for that conversation. She got the impression that the news wasn’t good. At any rate, he certainly didn’t smile and say, OK, but tell your daughter not to worry – it’s good news.

Our niece couldn’t get in yesterday. She thought conditions would be better today. They’re not – more snow has fallen in the night. Wait and see.

Mercifully, I have very little experience of this scenario. My impression is, even in these days of up-front frankness, that this is the moment when drs tend to pull a few punches, predicting a longer life for the sufferer than is in fact likely, or understating the odds-against. Maybe my cancerous friends have just been the unlucky ones.

Meanwhile, of course, life goes on. I’ve got my new credit card – it arrived at a quarter to six last night, out of the darkness. I’ve celebrated by ordering Meg’s round-the-bend DVD. This is going to be fun.

Today’s task – I don’t expect it to be easy – is to secure one of my husband’s insulins. The system is that I email repeat-prescription requests to the dr’s surgery, they send the prescription by mail to Boots the Chemist, we pick up the stuff. Splendid, when it works.

Last week, one of the insulins was wrongly prescribed. I’ve looked back at my e-mail: I asked for the right thing, the dr got it wrong. No doubt there, but being in the right doesn’t butter any parsnips. I phoned the surgery on Friday when we discovered the mistake. They promised to put a corrected prescription in the post right away.

But no post has been delivered in Edinburgh since then. And Boots told me yesterday that their fax machine is broken, thus ruling out a possible emergency solution. And in a situation like this, it’s no use just having the prescription anyway, we also need to find a chemist who’s got some of the stuff. “We’ll order it in for tomorrow” won’t do with the city paralysed.

I realised yesterday that the only thing to do at a moment like this is to make some baked beans. That’s just about the only recipe that sends me back to my American books these days: Mrs Rombauer and the slightly-preposterous Gourmet Cookbook my father gave me as a wedding present.

The black-eyed beans have been soaked overnight, and are currently being simmered. This isn’t a thing I do very often, but I remember that the current phase is critical. Too crunchy, and they’ll stay crunchy – why? – during the long hours of subsequent baking. Too soft, and the whole thing will be a mushy mass (although still tasty).

And as for knitting, not much. I did another pattern repeat for the scarf, and finished the fourth ball of yarn. I’m currently engaged in one of the twists. I think one more after this one will be enough.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not my favourite day in the calendar, and this November 30 promises to be difficult.

Our niece phoned last night to advise against our scheduled hospital visit today, because of the weather. Her account of her day made Edinburgh sound worse than I had grasped, although I knew we had had no rubbish collection

no post and no traffic wardens, down here in Drummond Place. The amount of snow, as you can see, is not all that terrific. It wouldn’t slow us down much in K*rkmichael or CT. I’ll go have a look at the car soon and see how much work would be involved in digging it out.

But the parallel problem is that I now know my new credit card is here in Edinburgh. The courier didn’t deliver it yesterday because of “adverse weather conditions”. Conditions are even more adverse today: some snow fell in the night, and more is forecast. So maybe we are pinned down to the house, waiting for it? or maybe not? There are things that need doing at bank, post office and chemist. I’ll see if I can glean any information from UPS by telephone.

Our niece said there is still no news about C.’s tests. Somehow the impression has been gathered that these matters are discussed by the drs on Thursdays, before dissemination. The majority of people, I think, would come in on foot and receive the news in an outpatient appointment. C. has been in hospital a remarkable length of time, by modern standards – nearly four weeks now. Release is at least being discussed.

Meanwhile she is feeling nauseous again – the symptom that got her into this mess in the first place. She is aware of not being able to consume the food needed to recover strength. She had lost a lot of weight before being diagnosed (not having had all that much to start with), and more, presumably, during the ten days on either side of the operation.

And the stoma is sore.


The scarf is about seven feet long, and I will probably stop soon. I don't like the way the edges pull it in and narrow it, due to weight. What does happen with Big Wool and a 10-foot scarf?

The big news is that VKB #4 – apparently a very nice copy – sold for £260 on eBay yesterday. I am flabbergasted. I don’t seem to have a note of what I paid for mine, but I can tell you that three years ago No.’s 1, 2 and 3 came up together as one lot – I already had them, and wasn’t involved – and went for £112 for all three. (Something of a bargain, I thought at the time.)

My technique when I recently bought #7, you’ll remember, was to wait until the last 45 seconds and then put in a bid which was far more, I thought, than anyone would pay for a Vogue Knitting Book. It worked fine – the price I paid was stiff, but it was less than £100 and far less than I had bid. However, my supposed killer bid was also a lot less than £260. If yesterday’s crazy bidders had been lurking, I would have failed. Fortunately it is difficult to worry in retrospect.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Drummond Place in the snow, midday yesterday…

Looking down Scotland Street…

I opened the front door for a moment last night, before I put up the chain, and found that a neighbour had come and cleared our steps.

This is a particularly grim stretch of the year for me. Dark, and getting darker for nearly another month. It is a time of sad anniversaries, made worse this year by fears for C. The extra light reflected from the snow is an unexpected and most welcome boost.

It’s great fun, but it is only so on the assumption that it will all go away soon and leave us free to zip about the countryside in the days before Christmas, gathering in family members as they arrive and turkeys and Brussels sprouts to feed them on.


Sundays are never very good on the knitting front, as I keep saying, but I did at least finish the third ball of Cocoon last night.

I’m enjoying thinking about Around-the-Bend. You’re absolutely right, Shandy, that it will need a sober base. There isn’t enough of any one dark yarn to serve throughout, but I think by switching back and forth between the two halves I will be able to make good use of what I’ve got. I should polish off Matt’s socks in London next week – they will contribute a substantial amount of beautiful dark left-over yarn to add to the pile.

I can’t imagine where that orange yarn came from. Have I ever knitted anything orange in my life? It will indeed have to appear sparingly, if at all.

JeanfromCornwall, yes, it’s Paton’s leaflet 1085 we’re talking about – from which you and I and Margaret Stove knit shawls for our babies.
My one was (bizarrely) knit in six separate pieces and laboriously sewn together. Your one is much more sensible, starting with the centre and then picking up stitches and knitting outwards.

The leaflet says, of your shawl, (garter stitch centre, feather-and-fan border, wide lacy edge) that “this Shetland design has been in the Patons range for well over sixty years”. That takes it back to the 1890’s or so, perhaps as much as 20 years before the issue of “Aunt Kate’s Home Knitter” (1910) which Sharon Miller reproduces in her recent “Love Darg” book. She says there, in a footnote on page 1, that such patterns – “more elaborate versions of Old Shell bordered shawls” – were published before Aunt Kate, for whom she asserts primacy in the publication of finest Shetland lace patterns.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Much stress, yesterday. The quieter one's daily routine, the more upsetting disruption is.

First came my internet access problems. I could get through to Googlemail and receive and send messages, read the blogs that I subscribe to, look at the headlines. That is the internet: I was connected to it. But I couldn’t reach or or Trying to find something by Googling it produced a slightly funny-looking list from which none of the links worked.

I’ve never known such a state of affairs. Up until yesterday, the internet has either been there, or not.

All seems well this morning. I’ve put up yesterday’s blog. I had written it off-line, as usual.

These problems were rapidly overtaken by the death of my husband’s computer monitor. It had been poorly lately, and yesterday it wouldn’t go on at all. (I think something was loose in the on-off switch.)

He still uses Word Perfect on a machine running DOS. I was afraid that buying a replacement monitor for something so old would be impossible. However, I phoned (what turned out to be) a nice man who advertises in the local free paper. He told me, after some interrogation, that I needed a monitor with a VGA connection (D-sub) and that it would be easy to get one.

So I went to User2 (highly recommended) and bought a monitor. Alas, they had just sold their last really old one, with a foot of case behind the screen like an old television set. The newer one I wound up with is flat, but not distressingly rectangular, and it works fine. It was too bright and my husband said he would be blind by Monday, but I finally figured out how to dim it.

So all was well that ended well. But stressful.

The streets remained icy all day yesterday, and there has been more snow in the night. I can’t let my husband out to go to Mass today – he has trouble with balance at the best of times -- and will have to take care with walking myself.

No more news of C. She was taken to hospital by ambulance on a Thursday and they worked hard on the diagnosis right through the weekend, operating on Tuesday. So it would be no surprise if the test results turned up even today. We are scheduled to visit on Tuesday. I don't want that to be the day. She will want to be with her daughter then, not us.

As for knitting, I buckled down to the scarf. I should finish the third ball of Cocoon (of five) today. The current length is about 4’4”. And I haven’t forgotten that I need to re-do the cords that dangle down from the Japanese hat. Matt’s socks have reached the second heel-flap. Our trip to London next week should see them finished with ease.

I don’t see why I shouldn’t at least swatch for Round-the-Bend in 2010, maybe even cast it on.

Saturday November 27

I’m having trouble reaching the outside world, this morning. If you’re reading this, the situation must have improved. Such episodes in the past have been the fault of the ISP – this would be the first time BT has let me down.

No more news about C. Yesterday’s weather in Edinburgh was slightly less cold – this morning we wake up to a sprinkling of snow. Frozen snow, at that.

I finished the hat, and am rather pleased with it.

I rooted out some possible yarns for Round-the-Bend yesterday. I’ve got more solid colours than I thought. I like the idea of knitting-along-with-Meg, and I plan to order her DVD. It's a famously tricky pattern -- I'm sure you remember that it's called "Round-the-Bend" because it nearly drove Meg and her mother there. Actually seeing how it's done is likely to be helpful.

At the moment my credit card has only three days to go before it runs out. The replacement must come from the US. I rang the issuer early in the month, and I rang up again yesterday, and I’m sure eventually I will get the new one. Not my week for plastic.

The rooting-out process revealed more yarn in that cupboard than seems possible, after a whole year of such austere virtue.

Adding the hat to my list of WIPs-of-the-year, I notice that most of them are pretty small beer – socks and hats and scarves. I knit the Grandson Sweater, early on, with the last yarn to arrive before the Yarn Fast began. I knit the Amedro shawl – but that was only one 100-gram ball. I doubt if I can increase production substantially. More, much more, must be given away.

Margaret Stove’s book “Wrapped in Lace” turned up yesterday. It looks good. At first glance, I was particularly struck by page 24-25 where she shows us the leaflet from which she knit her first shawl, in 1961, when she was expecting her first child. That is the very leaflet from which I knit my first shawl, in 1958, when I was expecting my first child.

There are two shawls in the leaflet, though, and Margaret and I chose differently. That’s where our paths began to diverge, no doubt.

Internet still slow and capricious, although I have been able to receive and send some mail and view some headlines.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I spoke to our niece last night, and booked us in for another hospital visit next week. C. continues to improve, and we are even beginning to talk of arrangements for coming home. No test results yet: that’s the big one. I’ve known about lymph nodes for years from assiduous newspaper-reading, but had no idea it took so long to interrogate them.

Edinburgh remains dry, although bitterly cold, but there is plenty of snow in the rest of the country and we no longer feel foolish for staying put. We couldn’t possibly be in for the second savage winter in a row, in these days of global warming, could we?


I finished wurm-ing that hat, and am now decreasing for the crown. I have simply reverted to the slouch hat pattern and am doing all the decreases in st st. I thought of putting in some purl ridges and decided against it. It looks fine. I might even finish today – surely tomorrow, at the latest. Still time to knock off the scarf before we go to London on the 6th.

So I have been thinking of What Next? And circling around my idea of throwing sock yarn and Koigu at the Round-the-Bend jacket. I don’t think Round-the-Bend has the built-in symmetry of the Surprise jackets. Some care will be needed to avoid its looking like a dog’s dinner.

The two sides are mirror images of each other, knit separately and somehow joined up the back without sewing. It occurred to me that I could have both sides on the go at once as an aid to matching the colour and size of stripes. I don’t have much dark yarn for hold-it-all-together emphasis, but I do have some -- to be carefully deployed.

The pattern is in Meg's "Handknitting" book. There doesn't seem to be a Schoolhouse leaflet devoted to it, but there is a DVD in which I may indulge if this idea goes any further.

This is the Trellis Jacket from Jamieson's Shetland Knitting Book 3. Son of Adult Surprise, sort of. I have long admired it:

It suggests that one needs to take some care, selecting the pile of colours. Most of the yarns I am thinking of are hand-painted. Is that going to complicate the issue?

Fuzzarelly, you suggested a couple of days ago that I bin that dusty pink yarn in Strathardle (=find a good home for it). I have been toying with the thought ever since. I do like the yarn. It’s one of those not-quite-solid dyes that I am particularly fond of these days. And it’s all the same, in a life full of colourful single skeins and odd balls, so a single harmonious garment could be made from it.

Is that enough? Maybe not. I think you may be right. (And I hope you get that house in Montgomery City.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bank card difficulties

Alltangledup, I appreciated your suggestion that I remove the name of my bank from yesterday’s post – but I didn’t do it, because I wanted to be as rude as possible about the RBofS who have disgraced Scotland. The bad men out there still have far less information than could be gleaned from any cheque I write. The cases of identity theft I have known personally all involved paper cheques and all could most easily have been perpetrated from within the banks involved, although that was strenuously denied.

Angel, I have had a phone call like yours from my credit card company. It was this time of year and they were raising eyebrows about my reckless on-line present-purchasing. But last July when I went to Theo and Jenni’s wedding, it didn’t seem to bother them that I, the permanent Edinburgh stay-at-home, was suddenly paying for hotel rooms and a hire car in CT. (I am glad to be reminded, by your blog, of the Tulip sweater. All I need is a great-grandchild…)

And Tamar, no, it happened at mid-day, at a cash machine inside a branch of another bank. I tried twice, in astonishment. We have a reserve account at that other bank – you see, Alltangledup, I’m being at least reasonably careful here -- so I then used the other card and got the money I needed to continue shopping. The machine certainly seemed to be functioning. Maybe the Royal Bank’s mighty computers had suffered a temporary glitch? I drew £10 later in the day from one of their machines, just to reassure myself. The episode remains odd.

More non-knit

We should hear C.’s test results soon. After these few happy days, becalmed, are we about to find ourselves back on the open seas? I’ll phone our niece this evening for news, and to book ourselves in for another visit…

…since we’re still here. The weather forecasts continue abominable – Accuweather now predicts a total of 8” of snow for Blairgowrie over the next five days. But nothing is actually happening except that it’s very cold, and we feel we’re being a bit wimpish.

Knitting (at last)

Eight wurms done. Not long now.

My 65p copy of Sandy Black’s “Original Knitting” turned up yesterday. I can see why I didn’t snap it up the first time around – sui generis to a fault.

And here is the Winter 2010 issue of IK! All my magazines within a week! I think Eunny is really hitting her stride as editor. As with VK, there’s much of interest. Lodinsky’s “Prism Pullover” would be fun to knit but absurd, I fear, in wear. I learned from this issue of Margaret Stove’s new book, “Wrapped in Lace”, and ordered it at once.

She and her husband were here in Drummond Place a few years ago, leaving very fond memories behind. He is a countryman, and had never been north of the equator before. He said over Sunday lunch how odd it felt to him to find the sun so consistently in the southern sky. I wonder, would I have noticed its displacement had I ever reached New Zealand?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Miscellaneous non-knit

Alexander drove over from the west yesterday to see his aunt. He reported in the evening that she had seemed completely herself, except for being in hospital, and was sipping a glass of milk which sounds like a good idea. She talked about ancestors, wasted on him – James is the ancestor-hunter. At this rate we can hope to have her home soon.

The weather forecasts continue unpleasant. My old friend predicts 2 ½” of snow for Blairgowrie over the next few days. That might be just on the edge of manageable – but Blairgowrie is lower than we are, and the weather there often milder. Another inch, and we’re doomed. I think it would probably be foolhardy for us to attempt it.

We’re committed to London on the 6th of December. That means we could get back from Strathardle any time up to Thursday the 2nd, and still have time to re-group. The forecast for next week isn’t much better.

My new progress-bar for Christmas cards is based on the assumption that we send about 60. I’ve now actually counted last year’s list: that’s not quite enough. With knitting, I aim to have progress bars slightly understate reality, but I’m going to keep this one set as it is. If I can get 60 done before we go to London – or, if need be, while we’re there – I’ll be well enough placed to finish off.

A cash machine rejected my card yesterday -- the issuer had refused to authorise the withdrawal, it said. I remained curiously calm. I feared an identity thief, of course. And -- in these hard times -- I even wondered for a moment or two whether the Royal Bank of Scotland had gone out of business. I rang them up, and all was well -- they could only suggest that something had been wrong with the machine.


I’m doing the seventh wurm. It’s not unlikely that I’ll wind up with nine. I cautiously tried it on last night. All those wurms make it rather cosy. And it's rather nice, too.

No. 32 in the new Vogue Knitting is a striped turtleneck in “Regia Hand-Dye Effect by Kaffe Fassett”. I didn’t know there was such a yarn. I’ve wasted some pleasant time finding it on-line. Kaffe contributes six shades to the "hand-dye effect" range, and for once I don’t think his six colours are any better than the others. This is a British source for the yarn, lacking Kaffe’s contribution.

I like it. And I like the Vogue idea of striping two shades of it. Perhaps something slightly loose with a boat-neck to be worn over a polo shirt. Perhaps wide stripes for the body and narrow ones for the sleeves, or vice versa – I have a childish fondness for that arrangement.

And such a sweater would be utterly washable. My new Rule of Life means that I can order it any time I like – but only on condition that I’m ready to start knitting it.

Which doesn’t get us any forrad’er with the question of that pink Araucania in Perthshire.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not madeleines – nothing so Proustian. Macaroons.

We had a very good visit yesterday. Again, I needn’t have worried. C. is making progress. She is tube-free, and told us that her clamps? or clips? were out? or off? They had previously been “holding me together”, she said. Is this something modern surgery uses instead of stitches? She isn’t managing to eat much, but she’s trying, and she knows – and better yet, her doctors know – that she needs to build up strength. She had a visit from a dietician yesterday – that’s very good news.

She was alert, relaxed, cheerful. We didn’t talk about pain, or any medical issues other than the ones just mentioned, but both of us came away with the impression that she is comfortable. My husband is happier, to have seen his sister so. Our niece phoned later, after evening visiting, sounding very happy herself. She said that of the little poke of five macaroons we had taken in, only two remained! And that her mother had actually gotten out of bed and to the bathroom under her own steam.

So that’s good.

Now we must think about Strathardle. I think we’re aiming for Thursday. The forecasts speak depressingly of snow, the one element we really are a bit too old to deal with. Getting the car uphill from the house to the road is the problem. At Christmas time, there'll be folk about to push.


The new VK turned up yesterday. My cup runneth over. At a quick first glance, there are some good things, although nothing that makes me want to fling current knitting aside and cast on.

I had sort of destined that pinky Araucania yarn in K*rkmichael for an IK cardigan whose name I can’t currently think of – begins with J. I even swatched for it. Looked good, fun to do, but adjustment was going to be necessary, and enthusiasm is now waning. Should I return to the half-knit rugby shirt in which the yarn is currently involved? Or what? I like it very much, and it has the considerable distinction of being the only yarn I own of which there is enough to knit a whole sweater in one colour. I need to be gripped by fervour, and it’s not happening.

As for actual knitting, I went on with the hat yesterday, out of sequence – and I think I’ll continue with it. I don’t like switching back and forth. And I need the hat first. The scarf is for someone who will be part of our solstice jollification. It can therefore be done up to the very last moment, although I hope that won’t be necessary.

The hat virtually needs to have two rounds knit for every one round added to its length. What you see are five wurms, each involving five rounds of reversed st st. They are separated from each other by four rounds of st st, but as you see, those are completely submerged. Is it going to end up looking a bit Rastafarian, shape-wise?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hospital visit today. I am again apprehensive. It sounds as if there has been a little progress, but not much. Our niece persuaded her mother to eat a rock bun on Saturday. I’m not sure I could manage that myself. We’ll take along a couple of madeleines from the local epicerie.

Our niece has arranged – she hopes – to be with her mother when news is finally reported later this week of the (in)famous “tests”. She is afraid that if the news is bad, C. will simply give up.

We had planned to go to Strathardle tomorrow to batten down a few hatches before the Christmas invasion. The weather forecast is very bad – we may delay a few days. We are booked for London the week beginning December 6 – we have to get to Strathardle and back, and recover, before then.

That leaves knitting. I made some progress with the hat.

The new Knitter’s has arrived. My resolve to let that subscription lapse is somewhat strengthened by it. What is it that irritates me so about AX's photography?


Jean, I am inclined to agree that yarn thicker than DK wasn’t generally available in the 50’s and early 60’s. Then things changed. There was certainly a “knitwear revolution” in the 60’s – the Aran craze; Bernat Klein's big expensive beautiful yarns with different colours plyed together. I can vaguely date things by remembering where I was when I knit what.

I am interested that you remember wearing cardigans backwards. I thought that was just an American affectation. I remember vividly that when I tried it in Glasgow in the late 50’s, as an undergraduate, I was laughed out of town by the astonished natives.

A huge disappointment yesterday -- there was an interview with Bruce Springsteen in the Sunday Times from which I learned that he went to Freehold High School. For decades I have believed that he, like me and my sister, was a product of Asbury Park HS. Freehold is very near by, we're still in Monmouth County, Springsteen is undoubtedly an Asbury Park boy (he still lives in the vicinity). But he didn't go to APHS, and I am crushed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I have lost my most recent note of where in the Western Infirmary C. is to be found, now that she has been moved again from High Dependency, so I’ll have to phone our niece today. That will give me some idea of what to expect tomorrow. My husband and I move through our fairly strict daily routine in our usual elderly way, but every so often he says something which shews that his thoughts – probably even more than mine – are fixed in that currently unknown ward.

When my time comes, I wonder – this is really trivial and silly, but it’s what I’ve been thinking about – whether I will be able to recite memorised poetry to myself, when too weak to read and disinclined for my own thoughts. To that end, I have been reinforcing the little I memorised in youth, beginning with Act V Scene 5 of Macbeth. We made a recording of it in our English class during my final year at Asbury Park High School. I couldn’t have been involved, because no woman speaks. But I came away knowing it all, and have brought the memory back to near-word-perfect in the last few days.

It is an eventful scene – Macbeth is told that his wife is dead, delivers himself of “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”, and immediately thereafter is informed that Birnam wood is on its way to Dunsinane.

When I think I have got that back to a state of effortless recall, I’ll move on to Horace Odes II, 14. When I was a freshman at Oberlin, Mr Murphy bribed us with a whole extra 5 points on our final exam score if we would learn it and write it out for him. Wise man.


Thank you for the information on interchangeable needles. I think I half-knew that small sizes didn’t work – which makes the bringing-out of an expensive lace set, in a case, rather odd. I was interested to learn from the Japanese blogger that the needles in the lace set are much shorter than non-lace Addi Clicks. Sharon Miller prefers them like that – I’m not going to track down the reference – and will bend the end sections of an otherwise satisfactory circular quite radically to achieve it.

I will have a look at St*rmore’s Fair Isle, Tamar. If you and I were free to walk the streets of Perth today, I would show you the spot where once was the LYS which claimed to have been the first to import coloured Shetland yarns to the mainland. When I knew them, in the ‘60’s, they still sold leaflets like this – alas, undated.

As the handwritten note says, I knit the second one for James when he looked more like the model than he does now. The shop was able to supply the yarns as specified, a miracle I took for granted. I have made a note within that one needs only one ounce of No. 68, Rust, not two as the pattern claims.

I was afraid they wouldn’t like it if I bought in one fell swoop one each of the entire set of patterns– why on earth not? but such are the follies that youth fastens upon us. So I used to buy one every time I went in. I can still remember the thrill of horror and my sharp cry, the day I discovered that the shop was gone. My husband said I mustn’t behave like that in the public streets. I think we had stopped for sustenance on a wintry journey from Leicester to Strathardle, and had had a Chinese somewhere nearby on South Methven Street. I remember that it was dark.

As for my current knitting, I plodded onwards with the scarf yesterday.

I think I can safely say that I’ve passed the half-way point. It now measures 4’ 3”, but the essential measurement is that I am more than half-way through the third ball (of five) of Cocoon. I mean to go on until the last stopping-point before the yarn is used up. I think the-longer-the-better, for this one.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My sister phoned from CT yesterday. She seemed sure that C.’s test results, expected next week, will involve the familiar question of whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. That gets us back to the home territory of newspaper readers’ oncology.

The conversation also reminded me that however tense and anxious I am feeling about Christmas, at least I don’t have to “do” or even to experience Thanksgiving. I started doing Christmas cards yesterday. I wrote three.

Knitting (miscellaneous)

It’s funny about silly book prices on Abebooks, as you say, Raveller. This morning, the one I mentioned yesterday seems to be gone, but there are still Dover reprints of both of Mary Thomas’ books for £112 each, which is silly enough.

However, the point of the enquiry was date-of-publication, which we have now fixed in the late 30’s. So it wasn’t her work that the first Vogue Knitting was referring to, in 1932. I re-skimmed the relevant pages in Rutt. Clearly lots was going on in the 20’s, but I don’t think he says anything specifically about the evolution of yarns available to knitters or the new passion (so very evident in Mary Thomas) for making knits look “tailor-made”.

Maybe Sandy Black’s book will help!

(New topic) The London-based Japanese blogger I chanced upon recently has a review in her latest post of a set of Addi Click interchangeable lace needles. She is very enthusiastic, and they sound good in a number of respects. But the smallest is 3.5 mm. That’s not going to be much use, is it? I’ve just tried Googling and retire confused – Addi does offer much smaller lace needles of course – but the set my blogger friend likes doesn’t seem to include them. Maybe they can't do interchangeable and small-gauge simultaneously.

Knitting (actual)

I had a happy day with the hat yesterday. Wrapping and turning is not undetectable but easily passes the galloping-horse test and makes the knitting much pleasanter. It is easy to get confused – which way am I going? Is this the inside or the outside? But also easy to straighten oneself out if one tries.

You can't really see it very well, but there are a couple of undulating worms above the ribbing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

C. has left High Dependency and is back in a normal ward. Life is quieter there, and both she and her daughter like and trust her nurse. I am beginning to worry that we don’t seem to be making much progress. When my husband and I visited a week ago, I was astonished at how well she seemed, three days after massive surgery. Now it’s been 10 days, and we seem to be at exactly the same point – she can’t walk, can scarcely eat, can’t concentrate enough to read, hasn’t even begun to come to terms with her stoma.

Both she and her daughter have been assured, separately, that she won’t be turned out of hospital until matters have substantially improved. Our niece thinks it may be just as well that she is still in hospital when the results from these famous “tests” turn up next week.

Our niece, having done it for this week, now realises another visiting roster is needed for next week. My husband and I are booked for Monday. I won’t go on pestering with telephone calls – she’ll let us know if anything significant happens.


Steady if unimpressive progress yesterday – the scarf now measures 3 ½ feet. I’ve done 7 twists -- if I were knitting with Big Wool I would be nearly finished with the shorter version, instead of just-about-half-way.

Today, the hat! The pattern starts off with 5 rounds of purl. It’s slightly clumsy – maybe I mean, I’m slightly clumsy – and I have decided to try wrapping and turning. I did a shawl like that once, in order to make it garter stitch throughout without the agony of purling. It showed – the line of wraps along the edge where two of the border trapezoids were mitred together. But it was tolerable – and that was lace.

This would involve fewer turns, and they might well get completely lost from sight in denser yarn. I’ll try, and let you know.


Catdownunder, I have that book, too, “The Knitwear Revolution”, 1983. It still looks distinctly good a quarter of a century later. It’s by Suzy Menkes, and includes a couple of Sandy Black designs. It’s got Kaffe, too, two years before he published “Glorious Knitting.” A couple of years after that (I’ve just learned from an Abebooks search) Black published her own “Original Knitting”. That one seems to have passed me by. Second-hand dealers are practically giving it away, and Librarything assures me I don’t have it, so I’ve just ordered it. Doesn’t mean I’ve got shelf space for it.

The very first Vogue Knitting Book doesn’t actually mention grannies, but it does begin with the words, “We are very far from the days when hand-knitting was only used for warm but inelegant garments”. And then proceeds to a rather interesting discussion of how this evolution – their word – has come about, as spinners produced yarns suitable for the new enthusiasm for knits that looked tailored, and serious studies were made of knitting stitches.

When did Mary Thomas publish her “Knitting Book”? A quick look at Abebooks provides no info about the original date of publication, but shows someone asking £231 for the Dover reprint. Goodness gracious me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another new follower! I am sort of ashamed of myself for having let you know how much I treasure them -- but enormously grateful for the recent influx.

No more news. I’ll phone our niece this morning. She has a part-time job – not through choice; these are hard times – which means she works Monday-Wednesday. I think, despite the loss involved of both income and status, she is not sorry to have the extra free time. Certainly not now that she has been catapulted into the eye of the storm.


I have never tried day-and-day-about before. It’s interesting. One begins each morning longing to carry on from the night before.

I finished the interminable k1b, p1 rib for the wurm-ified hat, did the increase round from 132 to 192 stitches – my arithmetic worked, always gratifying – and the first purl round, the beginning of the Wurm pattern.

To my surprise, neither the Sock Yarn Slouch Hat pattern, which I am essentially using, nor the Wurm itself, gives a measurement from cast-on edge to crown. The slouch hat says to knit 55 rounds. (I must have done exactly that, last Christmas – I am nothing if not a blind follower.) But no gauge is given. I would guess 10 rounds to the inch, but it’s a guess.

The Wurm gives a gauge, but it’s in st st and using a heavier yarn. For the body of the hat, she gives the pattern – purl 5 rounds, knit 4 – and then says “repeat 10 times (or after you reached length)”.

Wurmification will pull the work up, garter-fashion, so "55 rounds" may not be an accurate guide. We'll have to eyeball it -- I’m not seriously worried. I’ll knit happily on, and keep you posted. The decreasing will involve another decision – the Wurm does them fast, in a knit section. The Slouch Hat is more leisurely.

Wider World

I belong to the HistoricKnit group on Yahoo, waiting for news of the origins of the term “Kitchener stitch”. I don’t, otherwise, pay much attention, but I learned this week that “Sandy Black, a professor of fashion and textile design and technology at the London College of Fashion, has completed the manuscript for a new book on the knitting collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.”

The link is to something called the Fashion Encyclopedia. I was amused to find that “Sandy Black helped lead the knitwear revolution of the 1970s. Out went the cozy image of old ladies making socks around the fire, in came fashion knitwear, and a craft was turned into an art.” It's my favourite knitting cliche -- out go grannies, in comes fashion. Examples can be found through the ages. I’m not at all sure that the very first VKB doesn’t begin on a similar note – I’ll look it up for you, and report tomorrow.

Whatever -- her book on the V&A collection is eagerly awaited.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My husband and Alexander agree that C. was in good spirits yesterday. She is still in the High Dependency ward, with medical attention concentrated, I think, on the lungs. My husband seemed rather low in spirits yesterday evening after the visit. I’ll phone our niece tomorrow – she works Monday-Wednesday. Alexander would like to come again, if we can persuade the hospital – once C. is back in a regular ward – to let him come half-an-hour before formal visiting hours, in order to escape from Edinburgh before the rush hour.

Angel, in any other circumstances I would have started this post by saying – it was from you that I learned, yesterday, of the royal engagement. I will hold on to that thought in the months to come. Rachel and Ed were married in ’81 amidst general excitement about that year’s royal wedding, Charles and Diana. We had a nice bride’s-side low-key buffet the night before – the British don’t do Rehearsal Dinners, thank goodness. I persuaded the local off-license to let me pinch their notice: “Specially Brewed for the Wedding”, and I propped it up against the beer bottles on offer.

Maybe Thomas-the-Elder will pluck up courage to follow in his parents’ footsteps next year.

My husband pointed out – paying unusual attention, for him, to an item of royal news – that by the time I was Kate Middleton’s present age, I was mother-of-four. I feel mildly unenthusiastic about her, especially because she seems to have spent all the years since graduating from St Andrews doing bugger all. Rather a waste of a decent degree.


Brighter news here. I had a good session with the scarf. The second ball of Cocoon is very near its end and the scarf is three feet long.

And VKB #7 turned up, so heavily packaged that at first I didn’t grasp what it was. It’s a remarkably fresh copy, surely never knit from. Sent Recorded Delivery, although only First Class had been promised. Perhaps the seller was a bit taken aback herself by the price she got. I’m pretty slovenly about leaving feedback on eBay these days, but this time I did, and also sent her a note of thanks.

It’s a rather undistinguished issue, pattern-wise and photography-wise. Lots of what would be called nowadays “little blouses”, despite being an autumn issue with ski-ing and “the country” featured. Is that why it never – until now – turns up in anyone’s attic?

What struck me, as never before, was the range of colours available in some yarns. I think only the J&S Shetland jumper weight palette is anywhere near comparable today – they seem to offer 89 shades. (Jamieson’s of Shetland is pretty good, too, but they don’t make it so easy to count.) Several advertisers in the VKB in ’36 claimed to have 100. The editor’s note at the beginning is all about selecting one’s colours with care.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

C. has weathered the storm – her daughter's phrase. She is back in the High Dependency ward, once again alert, but very tired. She has a lung infection, as you suspected, Shandy. She has been having an uncomfortable series of lung infections since May ’08 – I would like there to be some connection with the cancer, out of my great respect for William of Occam: one explanation is better than two, was his Big Idea. But apparently he’s wide of the mark, this time.

Alexander and my husband are going to visit today. My big worry is that they won’t be able to find her if she has been moved back to a normal ward – the hospital sprawls, rather like a wartime improvisation; visiting hours are short and strictly enforced; my husband is very slow on his feet.

Our niece finally got to talk to a Great Man yesterday, and we are little the wiser. They are waiting for results of tests to know whether they got all of the cancer. What sort of tests? I don’t understand, but I’m no oncologist. She didn’t ask about the prognosis, and perhaps an answer would have been impossible without the test results.


Yesterday was more productive. I remembered that I knit a “Sock Yarn Slouch Hat” (Ravelry link) as one of my Christmas offerings last year. Free Ravelry download. I enjoyed doing it, and liked the result. So yesterday I thought, why not wurm-ify it? That is, once I’ve done the ribbing and increased for the slouch, start alternating five rounds of purl with four rounds of knit, which is the essence of the Wurm? So that’s what I’m going to try.

We’re a long way by now from EZ’s snail hat. I’ll have to go back and try it, one day.

I spent happy time with my collection of Yarn Yard yarns. These were the finalists:

I went with the green, and this is as for as I’ve gotten:

It looks utterly grey in the pictures, but it's not.

Winding took time, and ribbing is slow because all the k1’s are tbl. It makes a nice rib, and I’m enjoying it. Back to the scarf, today. I’d like to finish both this month. It doesn’t seem an impossible aim.

Monday, November 15, 2010

C. seemed very much worse last night – feverish, dopey and unresponsive, heart racing. We weren’t there. The final phone call from an anxious daughter said that she had been moved to a side room, was “sleeping peacefully” and would be closely monitored through the night. Our niece asked the nurses if the side room accommodation meant that they expected C. to die during the night, and was told, no. But they would say that, wouldn’t they?

I haven’t heard anything yet this morning. That means she must still be breathing. I feel this would be a little bit easier to bear in May than in November, but maybe not.

We have all been assuming that she would gradually get better from the surgery, and come home, and then we could face the future, taking it a day at a time. Although we have also been feeling increasingly frustrated at not being able to talk to a doctor. How successful was the operation? What’s the prognosis? I had wondered if this information was being held back from me and my husband but that is not so. Nobody knows.


You needn’t have worried, Janet, although I am touched that you did. Of course I got my VKB – No. 7, Autumn 1935. Nobody outbids Tayside00. With a minute to go, the bidding still stood – seemed to stand – at £23. I intervened when 49 seconds remained, which is pretty intrepid for me. My bid immediately revealed that the ostensible bidder of £23 had in fact bid a great deal more, but not as great a deal as I bid. Users of eBay will understand. There was no more bidding in the last few seconds, so my cowardice in not holding out a few seconds longer was unpunished.

eBay now indicates bidder’s identities with coy codes. The underbidder, for instance, was h***d. Helen C.K.S. assumed that my code would be T***0 for Tayside00, but she says it was 0***y so she missed the fun. On my screen I get to see my own name, Tayside00, so I didn't even know that much.

I don’t seem to be able to enlarge the image this morning – we’ll have a better look when it turns up in the mail.


Sundays are never very productive, and the anxious time spent on the telephone yesterday evening reduced yesterday’s output even further. I’m ready to do the next twist on the scarf. I’ve reached the heel flap of Matt’s second sock. I’ve thought about the Wurm.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Yesterday was the first day since the storm broke, that we had no contact with C. or her daughter. No news is good news, I’m sure, but one feels cut adrift. I’ll touch base with our niece this evening, to check on the visiting roster for this week when she herself is back at work. Maybe I’ll ask whether she has any impression of how successful the doctors are saying the operation may have been. Even my husband wonders out loud, he who usually avoids medical conversation.

Today is Vogue Knitting Book day. The bidding is currently up to £23, with a bit less than 2 ½ hours to go. There are four of us involved. Helen C.K.S., if you're there, I'm currently (at 8:25 a.m.) the underbidder.

I tried two silly low bids, just to see how long it took me to do it. Just under 15 seconds, is the answer. So I ought to be able to hold fire until the final 45 seconds. I doubt if I’ll be brave enough. 90 seconds, maybe. The close comes at what passes around here for a busy time of day, getting my husband up and breakfasted, getting lunch ready to snap on the table the moment we get back from Mass. Early rising and the climb up Broughton Street to the cathedral often deplete his blood sugar, sometimes drastically.


I’ve mastered the trick of the twist, and knitting the scarf has become rather boring as a result. I may start the Wurm today, and then alternate days. I believe there’s comfortable time for both before Christmas. I finished the first ball of Cocoon at 19” of scarf – that means I should achieve 7’ with my five balls without undue stress. I can't stand worrying about whether I have enough yarn. A significant fraction of stash represents enough yarn bought to Be on the Safe Side.

Barbara, I don’t know whether the loops will make it extra bulky around the neck. It’s a good question. I’ll try, as soon as it’s long enough.

Shandy, you’re right, there’s not much difference in the prices of Cocoon and Big Wool, ball for ball, and also right, that Cocoon goes further. My five balls will make (we now know) a seven-foot scarf. If you buy Big Wool as instructed in the Rowan book, you need twelve balls for a ten-foot scarf. £100, if you include the price of the pattern.

And the weight! That ten-foot scarf would weigh 1200 grams, which amounts to two and a half pounds, doesn’t it? My seven feet will weigh 250 grams, not much above half a pound.

The one big drawback of this pattern is that it is totally not reversible. Last year’s Cocoon Christmas scarf-knitting, for Thomas-the-Elder, was one of Lynn Barr’s fiendishly clever reversible patterns. It worked awfully well. I don’t know how irritating non-reversibility will be in wear. Cocoon is 80% merino, 20% mohair, and is at least blissfully comfortable.

I looked up the pattern on Ravelry yesterday. There were only three specimens – I expected far more. One person had done it in a finer wool, like me. She had re-calculated the row numbers so that (I think) the twists were as far apart as they would have been in Big Wool. For a moment I thought, oh dear, should I have done that? Then I thought, no. a) I like the way mine looks; and b) the farther between the twists, the more yarn may have to be wasted at the end.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I needn’t have worried. C. was very much her old self yesterday, although very weak and pretty uncomfortable. Not in great pain – they’ve taken away her morphine drip. It seemed astonishing, at nearly 80, three days after major surgery. She was still not being given anything to eat, but appetite is returning -- without the feeling of nausea which has been the leading cancer symptom since August.

She likes keeping the cards close to her chest – “there’s lots you don’t know” is one of her favourite lines to me. She soon won’t want her daughter to keep us as well informed as we have been these last few days. I hope we can at least get the report on the daughter’s conversation with the surgeon, when she finally tracks him to his lair.

(Fuzzarelly, I did notice that New Yorker article about cancer. I’ll read it thoroughly when we’re next in Strathardle. That’s where we read the New Yorker, and I often enjoy articles I wouldn’t have bothered with here in real life.)

Meanwhile the daughter’s daughter, “little C.”, her grandmother’s namesake, arrived yesterday for a surprise visit. She is in her final year at Bristol University and has been so distraught all week that her tutor suggested she go home for the weekend. It will be reassuring for Little C. to find her grandmother so well, and a very pleasant surprise for C. herself, but most importantly, a great treat for our niece who has bourn a fearful weight this week more or less alone.


Thank you, firstly, Dawn and Susan and Joan, for saying that I have got to re-do the braids on that ear-flap hat. That’s what friends are for. Joan’s idea of using i-cord is interesting. How to finish it, in that case? Small pompoms?

I will do it, but not right now. I am rushing ahead with the scarf to find out what length I get from the first ball. Do I need more yarn? I bought five balls. I’m now at about 11” and the ball is looking bedraggled. I would like 18”, to guarantee a 7-foot scarf. The pattern is 26 rows, and in order to balance the ends, you can’t stop just anywhere. That may involve a bit of waste yarn.

(I know what you mean about scarves not growing, Susan. It’s often more cheering to observe how much yarn you’re using.)

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed, in yesterday’s picture, that all was not well. There is a six-stitch panel at each edge of the scarf which is not affected by the McGuffin. I had succeeded in twisting each of them through 180 degrees. It wasn’t a question of galloping horses – that’s what we call in computing a Fatal Error, and I have re-done it.

I had a terrible time last night with the second McGuffin. Twice I thought I had done it, and knit on, only to see that it was a total mess. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture for you. It was pretty easy, this morning, and will probably get easier.

I am delighted with my decision to use Cocoon instead of Big Wool.

The Wurm: I found myself worrying about that hem at the beginning. Apart from the slight awkwardness of a provisional cast-on, it means that fit is crucial. Then I had one of those rare moments of enlightenment: why not side-step the problem entirely and start with a perfectly conventional inch or two of ribbing? I think I’ll try that.