Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Everything is more or less in place, except that the towels are still un-ironed. I don’t have a dryer or any way to hang them out of doors. Un-ironed, they feel a bit stiff. Everybody (!) is converging here for a late lunch. Helen says that means baguettes, ham, green salad. I’ll go out scavenging soon. I don’t know whether I’m strong enough for this. We’ll soon see.

Shandy, I was very grateful for your pointer to Liz Lovick’s Pierowall vest, which does indeed use the technique I fumbled to describe yesterday in which the colour changes and the stitch pattern are not related to each other. What, or where, is Pierowall? Does she say anything about the technique in the pattern? I may have to buy it to find out. It would be a possibility for the great day when Scotland next win the Calcutta Cup. If Liz is changing colours like that, maybe it really is a northern tradition.

Or maybe she has Odham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting. There was a famous designer a few decades ago – for the moment, I really can’t remember her name – who produced a pattern based on that idea. I’m sure she was using the book, because her stitch pattern came from the same page.

Tamar, my way (as in the sweater illustrated yesterday) was to give each colour three rounds, never changing both at the same time. There was always one more pattern colour than background, so the relationship kept shifting.

Meanwhile, hospital knitting: the Whiskey Barrel sock is nearing the heel. And I can't remember whether I used to knit 75 rounds, or 90, for a gent’s sock. I can’t get any sense out of my basic computer – the one with the sticky keys which I have temporarily abandoned in favour of my husband’s one. It won’t respond to its mouse, and I can’t find Lotus Organiser anyway (in which the answer is held), and I can’t remember how to turn it off.

Life is needlessly complicated. I’ll count the rounds in one of the socks in my husband’s drawer. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Gosia and I had a successful day yesterday, much helped by an excited cat as beds were stripped and mattresses turned. I must still do a bit more hoovering – my new, wonderful cordless vacuum cleaner has a relatively short attention span; it gave out on us. And I must iron some towels; buy some flowers; think what to feed them. That can all be managed.

Knitting consisted – again – only of progress with the Whiskey Barrel sock, but that went well. A nurse, seeing me at it, said that the Royal Infirmary always wants baby hats, in all baby sizes, not just for preemies. I suspect that such garments are treated as disposable like almost everything else in the NHS these days. Still, I thought I’d mention it, and might even do it.

The promised update on the Vintage Shetland Project turned up, and, sure enough, the book isn’t ready for the printer. We can wait – we’re used to it, by now.

Susan is worried, as she was well before the diagnosis, about the effort of sending out the books, and I am, again, a bit cross.

“Also from a personal perspective, if I time the publication correctly at the right point between treatments I will:
a)       physically be able to cope with preparing, packing and dispatching of so many books with becoming exhausted.”

She’s had our money for over a year now. Indeed, the long delay is largely our fault – we crowd-funded so much that she was able to delay publication (originally, November, 2015) and go back to Shetland several times and do more work on the book.  There are workarounds for this final problem – help can be recruited, hired, volunteered. Ill or not, she owes us, and grumbles are unseemly.

Something completely different

This fell out of a cupboard the other day, from my Fair Isle Period. I think it’s the one for which I collected bits of grass and heather in Strathardle one summer and then tipped them out on the counter in Art Needlework Industries in Ship Street in Oxford, and said, “I want to knit that”, and the assistant calmly brought me the yarn.

The colours are arranged on a system given as “the second type of Shetland design” in Odham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting, where the “background colours” and the “pattern colours” change regularly in relation to each other, while the stitch pattern marches to its own tune. I wonder if that makes any sense. I have never found evidence for such a system, other than that passage in Odham’s Enclycopedia. With a small stitch pattern, and plenty of colours, as here, it works well.

Such evidence might, of course, turn up in the Vintage Shetland Project. Or (more likely) Kate Davies might know – I trust everybody has seen the message about her and Tom’s new project.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Again, little to report. And I must try to bestir myself to get things into a state which will allow Gosia – coming at midday – to get some work done.

Helen had a grand time at her mosaic workshop. For some reason she doesn’t get comments on her website (address in sidebar). But there they were yesterday, people who told her with awe, “I read your blog”. And she is reveling in being here to stay – waking up in her flat on Windsor Street, looking east at the sun rising over Edinburgh. Going to Tesco! Buying tea and sugar!

I didn’t do much, as usual, but the Whiskey Barrel socks are moving forward and I am impressed, again, with how good a nearly-solid madtosh fabric looks, like my beloved Relax. Helen went to see her father at the end of the afternoon, and found him in good form, although unsure whether I had been to visit earlier in the day, or not.

I’d better get going.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Games Day

Little to report, but it was a good day.

Helen is safely here. She enjoyed the vegetarian spread I had prepared. She is going to a mosaic workshop in Stockbridge today which is why she has preceded the rest of her family by two days. I can't imagine that Stockbridge has much to teach her, but it's always fun to be among fellow enthusiasts. And Stockbridge  is halfway to the Western General, so she will probably be able to visit her father at the end of the day.

I had a good talk with a dr yesterday. It is all much as I thought. They are aiming to get my husband home, with a “care package” involving two carers at a time, four times a day. They think a hospital bed might be a good idea. But he’s not ready for home yet. He thought, yesterday, that he might be coming home today. It’s all pretty grim.

As for knitting, I finished the ribbing of the Whiskey Barrel sock – that wasn’t so bad, after all – and began speeding down the leg. And I did a bit more on the Uncia, and am now halfway through the final session of repeat-last-two-rows-seven-more-times. There’s an awful lot of purling, and I think what is being produced, between the ribs as they radiate outwards, is garter stitch. But I also think the purling may be a necessity enforced upon the designer by the fact that the in-between bits originate as the purl stitch in a K1P1 rib down at the beginning.


A book review of “The Cyber Effect” in today’s Times says: “If mothers glued to their mobile phones no longer make eye contact with their babies while breastfeeding, how does this affect their child’s emotional attachment?”

Bugger eye contact. Breastfeeding was my one chance to read, back in those stressful days. (Rachel was not yet five when Helen was born – and the two boys were in between.) The thing I mostly regret is how fashion has changed: in those days, it was a competition to see whose baby would eat the most solid food the soonest. Nowadays, I think I could have had four or five months of blissful breastfeeding and reading before the pablum started.

The one thing I think to be deplored, is to leave a small baby with a bottle to manage for itself. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Not quite so cheerful and energetic today – on with real life.

Beverly, do include Duddingston in your next Edinburgh visit. It’s picturesque in a way that Scottish villages so often aren’t, and it’s practically in the city.

I am determined to try to find out from the hospital today, how they see our future. My husband still needs two nurses to move from chair to bed. I tried to find out yesterday, and was told that they were having a meeting at that very moment – consultants, drs, physiotherapists. It’s a rehabilitation ward. They won’t put up with him forever.

And – Beverly, again – your thought was mine. I got in touch with Gosia, my Polish friend and former cleaner, and she’s coming for a blitz at midday on Sunday. I’ll leave the spare room for her, and line up other jobs. The mattress on our bed needs turning, for instance. She’s no longer working nights at Morrisons, but instead at Costa Coffee in Edinburgh Airport. Is the airport open all night? Even if it isn’t, there may be sandwiches to be made.

And Greek Helen is coming this evening. I stumbled across a rather wonderful-sounding recipe yesterday for roasted aubergines, onions and peppers wirh a tahini sauce. I’ll have that ready for her to pick at.

Still no knitting to speak of, although I may finish the ribbing for the first Whiskey Barrel sock today. A gent’s sock involves so much ribbing – 50 rounds, over 64 stitches – that it’s no use even thinking about finishing; you’ve just got to sit there and do it. With the result that it seems to get done with less stress than the lesser knitting on a lady’s sock.

I discovered with great pleasure yesterday that there’s a new Twist Collective available. There’s even an article in it about loss of mojo, but I don’t think that’s my problem. I’ve got a fair amount of mojo, but no strength.

I wondered, thinking back over life, how closely connected are television and knitting? I’m not watching any at the moment, and therefore not knitting.  But that’s not it. We came to television relatively late, to our children’s distress: in the early 70’s. And I was knitting away, long before then, isolated of course from the world.

I can remember finding Odham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting in the Leicester Public Library (in the late 60's) and equally remember the friend who told me that what I needed was Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book. It was from the latter that I learned how to hold yarn in both hands for Fair Isle. I own both texts now, and they will make the cut when the house is broken up.  I often think with admiration-beyond-expression, of EZ, even more isolated but calmly ploughing her straight furrow.

So the problem isn’t lack-of-television. “Life is a moderately good play with a badly-written third act.” Truman Capote.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I had a lovely day yesterday, in Mediterranean warmth and sunshine, no hospital. I’ve had no news, which I take it to mean that Alexander found things much as usual and didn’t learn anything significant.

A friend rang up in the morning and whisked me off to Dr Neils Garden on the edge of Duddingston Loch. Very nice, architecturally; lacking in plant labels. We saw an abies koreana, half the size of the one we have down the commonty but absolutely covered in blue fir cones, which is/are the koreana’s party trick. We have only a few this year. I’ve Google’d it since getting home; it sounds as if perhaps young trees have more fir cones. I’ll look it up in our Big Tree Book the next time I’m in Strathardle.

Duddingston Loch is famous for the Reverend Robert Walker, but you can’t expect to spot clergymen on the loch at this time of year.

Then we went to see my friend’s sister who lives in a splendid house nearby. In between is a pub called the Sheep Heid where the Queen recently dropped in for a bite, after a day at Musselburgh races. She very rarely dines out in public in London. I suggested to my friend that we should lunch there, but neither of us, in the event, were very hungry, so we didn’t.

On all fronts except knitting, life has been accelerating. Thomas O. rang up to say that he and his wife Lucy and daughter Juliet will be here on Tuesday. Help! The spare room is full of Archie’s things, and, with my husband away, domestic help is also lacking.

But this morning comes a message from Greek Helen in Normandy. They will be in Cheshire tonight (deo volente) with David’s mother, and she will be here in Edinburgh tomorrow. She can take charge of everything; c’est son metier.

I didn’t knit a stitch yesterday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I’ll be brief today. There were an unusual number of emails this morning needing an early-morning clear head, and I can’t sit here all day.

Here are the Vampire socks – but now I have four socks to finish-finish, and I had better get down to the job:

I cast on a madtosh Whiskey Barrel sock at the hospital yesterday, and was very pleased with the way the first ten rounds went.

But I still don’t seem to have enough oomph to knit in the evening.

Alexander is coming over for a visit today. I might give myself the day off. I haven’t decided.

I’ve joined the Susan Crawford group in Ravelry, as perhaps the best way of finding out what is happening with the Vintage Shetland Project. And, sure enough, someone named Shinybees posted yesterday to say that there will be an update from Susan this week and that, as we feared, “finishing touches” are still needed to the book. The grim diagnosis happened near enough to publication date that I had dared hope everything was ready.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You’re right, of course. No one will notice Emmitt’s middle name, if he suppresses it. I amused myself while driving to the hospital yesterday by working out his relationship to Juliet O., above. My mother liked that sort of thing, and was good at it (as she was on grammar). James is keen on family history, but would rely on an app for the answer.

I think it’s “second cousin once removed”. Theo (my sister’s son, Emmett’s father) is a bit confusing, being midway in age between my own children (his first cousins) and my grandchildren (his first cousins once removed). It’s often difficult to remember which line in the imaginary chart to put Theo on. I kept wanting to assume that he and Juliet’s father were first cousins – but they’re not.

Mr and Mrs Hussain who run my admirable corner shop, are each other's first cousins. That means that their children are their own second cousins. There’s a thought for you.


I’m doing the toe decreases for the second Vampire. It shouldn’t take long to polish them off today. I’ve decided to go on to a pair of socks for my brother-in-law. I turn out to have two skeins in the sock bag of Madtosh Whiskey Barrel in whatever her sock-weight is called. I meant to knit them for my husband, to match his sleeveless vest. But he doesn’t wear socks any more, just slippers.

Yesterday, at the hospital, I wound the first of those skeins into a ball – a risky operation, as I had occasionally to stand up to fetch a nurse or perform some other service, and every interruption risked an impenetrable tangle. But I got it done, and am ready to cast on.

No shawl knitting, of any sort, was accomplished. While I’m at the hospital, peacefully knitting socks and chatting, my internal monologue anticipates my activities for the rest of the day, when I get home. When it happens, I feel as if I have been hit by a wrecker ball and accomplish nothing.

More non-knit

I am grateful for yesterday’s comments. With the right equipment, and a redistribution of care, we ought to be able to get my husband home, even now. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Here he is, my new great-nephew:

He weighed in at 7lb 5oz. He’s supposed to be three weeks early, but there was some confusion about the dates. Jenni had a tough time, and needed blood.

His name is Emmett Kelley L. My sister reminded me, when she phoned with the news, that that is (apart from the “e” in “Kelley”) the name of a famous American “sad” clown. I wonder if Theo and Jenni know – I think “Emmett” was chosen because they like it, and “Kelley” for family associations. But it’s more than a bit like naming your little boy Charlie Chaplin. There’s still time for a re-think.

So I must get back to the Hansel. Nothing yesterday, except that Vampire II advanced towards the toe, which I might even reach today.

Non-knit (and Comments)

Good question, Weavinfool. My husband’s goal is undoubtedly to come home to his familiar squalor and his cat. I and others are wondering, is this going to be possible? If he goes into care, the last months – however many they prove to be – of our 60-year marriage will be spent in rage and grief. We’ve got to do better than that.

Skeindalous, thank you for that interesting information about Caesarian sections. I’ve done a bit more looking, and find I am right in remembering that Caesar’s mother survived his birth by many years. It is therefore very unlikely that he was born that way, although one never knows.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Theo’s wife Jenni is in hospital for a “section” to produce the boy for whom the Hansel hap is destined. It must still be the middle of the night, there. The shawl won’t be much required in current DC heat, but I had better get back to work finishing that edging on the fourth side.

“Caesar” seems to have dropped out of American parlance. I would, myself, preserve the other half, and say “Caesarian”.  I’m not going to look anything up just now, but I have a vague memory that Julius was fond of his mother. If she really survived that procedure, two millennia before it became remotely safe, she deserves remembering.

I sped down the foot of the second Vampire sock yesterday, and must at least look in the Unknit Sock bag before I go to the hospital today. My husband is weak, and not doing very well with unappetising hospital food. It was better in the Royal Infirmary, he says.

And I moved on a bit with the Uncia. I’ve reached row 127. There’s one more set to come – the fifth – of 14 rows to be knit in one instruction. That is, “repeat rows aa-bb 7 more times”. Then I move on to the charts, which are clearly going to be more difficult but at least when I knit 14 rows, I’ll get 14 rows of credit on the chart.

I’m using SkeinQueen yarn for this, bought at the EYF for something else. It provides slightly more yards-to-the-gram than the specified Fyberspates, so I’ll presumably wind up with a slightly smaller product. Also, I’ve gone down a needle size, for comfort. I like the fabric I’m getting, a lot, and in the absence of a swatch (it was supposed to be over st st, for heaven’s sake) or numbers on the schematic, there’s not much evidence for guessing how far out I am.

I’m not worried.

Yesterday’s post was remarkably productive on the knitting front – the new IK, the anniversary issue. Sweep the slate clean, and there would be more than enough there to keep me knitting until the next issue. Including a Fair Isle vest from Mary Jane Mucklestone to be kept in mind when Scotland next win the Calcutta Cup.

[On my way to the Western General to visit my husband every day, I drive past the field where (I have heard) the very first out-of-India Calcutta Cup match was played.]

And yesterday’s post also included the book on Estonian knitting which Kate Davies was so enthusiastic about recently. Why is it in English? I think she’s right, that it’s very, very good. I hope I’ll have more to say about it soon.

In these sad times, I try to think of every purchase: is this something I would want to take with me, when we break up the house? I think Estonian Knitting might make the cut.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Bettina, I hope there is something in Knitlass’ comment on your comment yesterday, to give your son something to think about. There are plenty of ways forward other than university and all that debt, and I very much hope he will find one of them soon.  As for Archie, he sounded perfectly cheerful when he phoned on Thursday with the news that he would be going to Lancaster. He’ll be fine.

His whole family, including dog, has now set forth on the drive across Europe to Edinburgh. Today, Ravenna, which for Helen, the mosaicist, will be like Shetland to me.

And as for knitting, I got the stitches picked up and the gusset decreases worked, on the second Vampire sock. Time to begin thinking about the next pair.

And I moved a bit forward with the Uncia. I am currently mired in another instruction to “repeat rows XX-YY a further 7 times”. And there’s another such passage before I reach the sunny uplands of the charts. I love the way it’s looking, fanning out indeed like a Gothic column as it expands to support the lacy ceiling of the cathedral.


Here’s the threatened grammar lesson. It’s from the article about the Trumps in the current New Yorker. The author identifies herself as Harvard, so I’m not picking on someone smaller than myself.

“…his younger sister, Esther Schulder, whom he believed was cooperating with Christie.”

That’s wrong. “Whom” should be “who”. You don’t need rules. Just unpick the sentence – “he believed (“she”? or “her”?) was cooperating…” Obviously, “she”. So “who”, when you put it back together.

Extraordinarily, there’s another example of the same construction later in the same sentence. “…he set a trap for her husband…whom he resented for having had an affair at the office.” “Whom” is right, that time. “He resented him (not “he”) for having had an affair…”

Now you know how to do it.

I still have The Hunting of the Snark open on the table here, and discover, when they have landed and are preparing for the actual hunt:

But the Beaver went on making lace, and displayed
                No interest in the concern.

Though the Barrister tried to appeal to its pride,
                And vainly proceeded to cite
A number of cases, in which making laces
                Had been proved an infringement of right.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Archie’s results weren’t quite good enough for the place Glasgow had offered him. It happens, and sometimes the university will bend a bit, but not in this case. I think the family had a fairly awful morning, compounded by the fact that Greece is two hours forward, so it will have been the middle of the morning for them, as we were struggling out of bed.

Here’s Helen’s account:

“After much waiting (the school's computer system was down), calling (they weren't answering calls), texting (some of Archie's friends were on site) and confusion, we finally know that Archie got ABC, with the A being in English. This is less than he needed for Glasgow so there was another round of frantic calls, being on hold, emailing and advice flowing in from Alistair on Instant Messenger before finally it was concluded that he will go to Lancaster to study English. We are rather pleased because it's a campus university and nice and northern.

The University “clearing system” computers seem to have held up fine. Don’t miss Knitlass’ comment yesterday, either. Alistair is Archie’s cousin and good friend, James’ and Cathy’s eldest. He has just finished his second year at Glasgow, doing computer science. I think his own A-Level results fell short of the mark, so he has lived through such a day.

Archie phoned me with the news not long after 9. I told him to read “The History Man”, but on looking it up afterwards, I’m not sure I’ve read it myself. I was remembering the brilliant BBC series from the 1970’s, with Anthony Sher, filmed largely at Lancaster. It turns out that the BBC have, relatively recently, released it as a DVD. I ordered it for him.

After all that, I phoned London, and spoke to Rachel herself. She didn’t yet know her actual results, but she knew that they were good enough to secure her place at Leeds.

So all is well.

Mary Lou, thank you (comment yesterday) for the reference to the Beaver who “sat making lace in the bow”. I had forgotten him.

I’ve done the heel flap of the second Vampire, and turned the actual heel – I’m ready to pick up those stitches and knit the gussets.

And I’ve done a bit more Uncia. I’m mired in one of those instructions: “Repeat rows 92-93 a further 7 times”. I’ve done four. So I’ve reached row 101, I think.

I hope this link works. It’s a brilliant YouTube video about Shetland lace. I was surprised, though, that it suggested that J&S’s newish heritage lace yarn isn’t plyed.

The internet is entirely silent about the Vintage Shetland Project, as far as I can ascertain. There’s a thread in the Susan Crawford group on Ravelry which has excited anticipatory messages until about a fortnight ago.


There’s a grammatical point I want to explain to you – I have baffled and offended many a friend with this one before now. But I feel I owe it to Ross and Thurber to say it in public, because the error which provokes my remarks this time is in the New Yorker itself. But that’s enough for today.

Perdita misses her chair. She wouldn’t come out of hiding for a whole hour when I got home from the hospital yesterday.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A-Level results today: Archie and his cousin Rachel, James’ and Cathy’s daughter, who is going to Leeds to read Chinese (which she speaks proficiently and reads at least somewhat) and Russian (of which she knows not a syllable). We’re not worried about Rachel, and not really worried about Archie. But I’ll be glad when I have the news.

Much of yesterday was devoted to waiting for men to come and remove an electric chair – bits of it go up and down – which Social Services had supplied to my husband and which he would have none of. We have waited a long time for them to come and take it away.

The cat was devoted to it, indeed was asleep on top of it when the men finally arrived. It was there in the centre of the house, waiting to be uplifted, and affording a cat a marvelously central position for keeping an eye on things.

When I finally got to the hospital, my husband was dosing in bed and there wasn’t much conversation. Or knitting – the heel flap is still a few rounds away.

I am grateful for your concern (comments, yesterday) which is shared by our excellent children. Apart from other considerations, I don’t think I feel as sprightly as I should. I went to see a dr last week who thot there was nothing more wrong than old age and stress. Some bloods are being examined.

I did get a bit more Uncia done yesterday, and have now reached row 90. I discovered a schematic (of sorts) amongst the charts a few pages on, and now grasp that the whole thing is a very long, very narrow triangle. I think I should have perceived rather sooner that 1/12th of a circle wouldn’t be very wide.

The schematic is devoid of measurements (they’re there in the specifications at the beginning of the pattern) and reminded me of the empty map in the Hunting of the Snark:

He had brought a large map representing the sea,
                Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
                A map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
                Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry, and the crew would reply
                “They are merely conventional signs!”

That’s probably enough Eng Lit for today. I feel I have slightly OD’d on Maggie Farrell, and have gone on to Ivy Compton-Burnett, “Elders and Betters”, an author I have never previously attempted. I’d be glad of guidance. This one was published in 1944 but sounds as if it’s set in the early years of the century.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

You are quite right, Anonymous – there is a difference between the words I used, “regulated” and “ordered”, for my New Life. I’m aiming for “ordered”, and falling short, I feel.

A doctor came to see us while I was visiting my husband yesterday, and went through the same program the physiotherapist had told us the day before: practice transfers until they are smooth, never mind walking about. This conversation left my poor husband with the impression that he might be home this weekend.

It remains to be seen how difficult it will be to re-establish our “care package”. Will we be at the head of the queue because disaster – the fall in which my husband broke his hip – happened on their watch? (He was proceeding from bed to bathroom; I was at the other end of the house, in the kitchen.) My husband thinks we could manage without care: I could manage, he thinks. I tried to tell him, no, I couldn’t.

Meanwhile – a definite step towards the Ordered Life – I resumed the Uncia yesterday. Here we are, 70-odd rows in. I think you can see the wonderful ribs radiating outwards, and also the curiously long rat-tail shape.

The second Vampire sock is still some rounds short of its heel.


I am reading hungrily. There is no time for literature when my husband is at home. When we were in Strathardle a fortnight ago, our niece introduced me to Maggie O’Farrell whom I have been devouring perhaps too hungrily since.

She’s very good, but I have several times felt the need of an editor’s blue pencil, at least to put a “?” in the margin.

This morning, reading “The Hand That First Held Mine” over breakfast, I learned that a prominent character had been conscripted into the RAF during WWII. I doubted it, and since I was reading on my iPad, I looked.

I was wrong: there was conscription into the RAF. But I was right: not for aircrew. When losses became too terrible, they were made up by the Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and South African air forces. One’s whole mental history of the war would have to be re-written if those brave young men were other than volunteers.

But Maggie O’Farrell and her editor are both awfully young, compared to me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Day Three of the Ordered Life. I still fail to have anything to say about knitting. The second Vampire sock is progressing well – I should near the heel today.

My husband is well, although slow of speech and thought. A physiotherapist came in while I was there yesterday, for a “little chat”. The gist of it was that they have given up on restoring him to his previous (very limited) mobility and now propose to send him home with only the ability to do “transfers” – chair to bed to commode.

Even that won’t be entirely easy, and then a “care package” has to be re-negotiated, so homecoming isn’t immanent. He was pleased, I think, to have a plan in place.

But I did watch the dressage yesterday, and am very grateful indeed to the New Yorker. I wrote what follows while the competition was still going forward, although the result was in no doubt. Dujardin rode second. There was no need even to wait for the judges’ verdict (dressage is a bit like Strictly Come Dancing). She was in tears as she rode off, like Andy Murray at Wimbledon; tears of joy and relief.


While it’s fresh – I’ve just been watching, with literal tears in my eyes. Knitting was completely impossible. Why couldn’t you have seen it, Mary Lou? It happened at 4:30 p.m. our time, which must have been a perfectly reasonable morning hour for you. And I gather there is even an American rider to come (it’s not over yet), although the competition that mattered was between two brilliant German women and Charlotte Dujardin, who won. 

One of the Germans rode first, then Dujardin. I wept for both. Then another German, very competent and interesting but watchable dry-eyed. Then I stopped watching, so I missed the other brilliant German.

When I was young, I saw someone dance a sword dance at a private party in Glasgow. I can’t remember any of the circumstances, beyond that fact. Two swords were put on the floor, at right angles to each other, and he danced. He just stood there, with his arms in the air, while his feet and legs performed.

And there it was again, just now. The riders just-sat-there, and the horses danced.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Day Two of the Regulated Life.

I did no knitting at all yesterday – so, obviously, the next reform must be to build knitting time into the system. I have a deep-seated aversion to the Olympics, dating from 1948, but I could make an exception this afternoon to try to watch the dressage, inspired by that article in the current New Yorker about Charlotte Dujardin. (Isn’t that a wonderful name?)

And then go on to my old favourite, the ridiculous quiz program called “Pointless”.

(Television-watching=knitting time)

Yesterday Alexander brought his family here. He went on to the hospital to visit his father, while Ketki and I walked about the streets playing Pokemon-Go with the Little Boys. Not so little, either. I hadn’t seen them for a while. James, the elder, has suddenly shot up, as teen-agers sometimes do.

Pokemon-Go is very complicated, and pretty impressive. It was acquainted with a lot of the local sites – the house on London Street where the Norwegian national anthem was composed, the statue of Sherlock Holmes at the top of Broughton Street (because Arthur Conan Doyle was born nearby), to mention but two. Presumably every city in Britain is similarly provided for. What about towns?

The game was well beyond my comprehension. Ketki has had to learn a lot since she married Alexander, the rules of rugby football to begin with. She has mastered Pokemon-Go.


So here we are at publication day for the Vintage Shetland Project. Yesterday I discovered this film, made by Susan’s daughter, by following a link from the Susan Crawford group on Ravelry.  I got about half-way through it, myself. It’s far too arty for my taste, but the knitting, when glimpsed, does indeed look rather wonderful.

The link was published on Susan’s blog ten days ago. So maybe the book really will be published today?

Today I will resume hospital visiting on my own behalf, and will press on with the second Vampire sock.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

It will be four weeks tomorrow since the present state of affairs was launched by my husband’s fall. It’s high time I pulled myself together and got some routine and discipline into my life.

Tomorrow is the publication date for the Vintage Shetland Project. I am ashamed of myself for thinking of it, but there it is. When she announced it, I linked it in my mind to my birthday. Thank you, and thank you again for all your kind messages. I had a delicious day doing nothing much except hospital visiting.

My husband is doing well, impatient to get home. His wound has healed well (he still has no memory of surgery) and the physiotherapists are getting him on his feet. But he is much weaker than he was when last at home. It takes two of them, to help him walk a few steps with a zimmer frame. We are suspended in limbo.

Susan Crawford’s message about her diagnosis said that she wouldn’t be able to participate as she had hoped in the promotion of the book. That implied, perhaps, that it would be published on schedule? Not that that would mean much in itself. In full health, she had grumbled about what a job it would be to mail copies to all the crowdfunders.

I asked Amazon, just in case they knew anything about it. No, they don’t, but I discovered a “Vintage Visage” old Shetland lace shawl pattern, and bought it. Centre out, and the centre is knit diagonally with YO’s at the beginning of every row, just like the Hansel shawl.

Not much knitting has been going on around here. I haven’t been watching television at all – that definitely cuts down on knitting time. At the hospital, I’ve finished the first Vampire sock and am through the tedious ribbing of the second.

Also, I had a very pleasant coffee morning with one of you early last week, which inspired me to cast on the Uncia shawl from the (now famous) Haps book. It begins “cast on 5 stitches”, which is the sort of pattern I like these days. I am rather surprised to find, having done 57 rows, that I still have only 27 stitches and a piece of knitting rather like a rat’s tail. The photographs in the book don’t show it. I have established some ribbing which will presumably travel gloriously down into the main sections.

After 150 rows I will have 57 stitches – still not very many – and the charts will begin.

Nothing whatsoever has happened with the Hansel shawl (although I can tell you that all is going well with the pregnancy which inspires it). 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

All is more or less well here, although I fear I’m falling apart. My husband is progressing well, but still very tottery on his pins. Lizzie and her friend have gone, before I got the socks finished off. I thought they were going to take the overnight bus on Sunday – that’s how they got here. But they travelled down by day, wisely. Both had to be at their desks on Monday morning.

Archie is here, but he’s leaving today for Athens. His family are in the very throes of leaving Athens – Helen emailed yesterday that her house was full of men in tight t-shirts with wires in their ears. They – the family, not the men – will go to Mount Pelion and on to Thessaloniki, thence across Europe by car to Edinburgh.

Archie will be away from here, and with them, when he gets his A-Level results. I’m glad not to be in charge that day, although I have every expectation that it will be a happy one.


Janet, I think you’d enjoy “The Double Helix”. It’s not popular science, in the ordinary sense. He doesn’t try to explain what they did. The science is there, but not much of it, and it is (to me) incomprehensible. You just slide past it. The fun is in the pursuit. The BBC gave us a splendid television transcription of it, years ago, with Jeff Goldblum (of all people) as Watson. I’d love to see that again.

Maria, yes, we had a very happy year in Northampton, 1960-61. We were there to see Kennedy elected. And despite the presence at my ankles of Rachel and Alexander, and the weight, for half of the year, of the unborn James, it was a time of ease and comfort, compared to life in Glasgow. 

My husband was filling in for a friend on sabbatical. While we were there, the directorship of the Smith Art Gallery became unexpectedly vacant and he filled in (having museum experience) for our last couple of months there, and enjoyed himself, and was invited to stay.

It was tempting.

When I went to Camp Stitches on Lake George in 2000, I wanted to go on afterwards to see my sister in Old Saybrook, at the mouth of the CT river. Investigations from here revealed that it was easy enough to move up and down the Hudson, or the CT, but not easy – by public transport, anyway – to cut across. I didn’t want to go back to NYC and out again. So I advertised on the Knitlist and got a lift from a woman who remains a friend, who lived in Lyme, practically on my sister’s doorstep.

We came through Northampton. We went to Webs, of course, which hadn’t been there in my day. And saw the house where we spent that year. I have the very fondest memories of Northampton.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

I am sorry to have kept you waiting. Well might you wonder whether Nessie had risen from the depths.

C. and I had a good time in Kirkmichael. The weather was grey and damp and heavy and rather depressing – brilliant sunshine here in Edinburgh since. The house and garden are in good order. The only gardening I did was to weed and mulch our little rose – I’ve mentioned it before – for the third time this year. It’s looking fairly well, and is blooming, I think, rather earlier than usual:

This is the one I have never been able to find in the books. The plant must be 60 years old – probably more. It grows on its own roots.

I read Mukherjee on the Gene while we were there, and finished off with James Watson’s own book on the Double Helix. I think I’ve read it before. It is wonderful for the feeling it gives of youth in the 50’s. I was astonished to learn (or re-learn) that the Famous Article was typed on a Saturday afternoon by Watson’s sister, and was only 900 words long. He and Crick knew it would win them the Nobel Prize.

Someone not all that long ago transcribed the Double Helix for knitting. A scarf pattern was published in IK. And someone knitted it for her boyfriend’s father – Watson himself. Alas, his reaction hasn’t been recorded that I could find.

As for knitting here, not much. Hospitals are good for socks, and I have turned the corner of the first one of the Vampires. Granddaughter Lizzie is here, pursuing the Festival with youthful vigour. She thinks that the Yarn Barn socks are fine, despite not looking like each other. I’ll finish them for her today, I hope, and they can at least keep her warm on the bus home tonight.

They seriously look as if they are different sizes, although I thought I counted carefully.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Here we are.

My husband was transferred yesterday to the (excellent) Royal Victoria annex to the Western Infirmary, practically on our doorstep, at least compared to the Royal Infirmary where he has been for the last fortnight. The charge nurse phoned to tell me of the transfer just as I was setting out on my long daily bus journey.

I found him there at the end of the afternoon, in fairly good spirits. He spent a lot of time in the Royal Vic last year, much of it waiting for a “care package”. I thought he might be depressed to find himself back there. They plan pretty vigorous physiotherapy, I gather. That’s good.

Meanwhile, I am going to Strathardle today. There had been a tentative plan afoot for me to go last week, with 24-hour care laid on here and Archie on hand. As things have turned out, that won’t be necessary, except for Archie who will be in charge of the cat. I’ll miss her terribly but everyone says I mustn’t take her. I’m going with our niece. She’ll pick me up at the end of the morning; we’ll visit my husband for a while, and then head north. Alexander will visit tomorrow. We’ll be back on Thursday.

I’m anxious about this, hard to say why, apart from missing the cat. Archie says he’s never been alone in charge of a house before.

I’ll hope to write again on Friday. There’s absolutely no knitting news, anyway. I have even moved over to cookery lessons on Craftsy, and can heartily recommend Raghavan Iyer on Indian cookery. Two separate courses, and he’s very good. I even asked a question, as I have never done in a knitting lesson. And got a good and helpful answer.

I’ll take the Vampires along to Perthshire, and should make good progress. I’m not strong enough these days for too much gardening.