Friday, August 18, 2017

Miss Rachel’s Yoke goes forward merrily. We’d better have a picture soon, although there’s nothing much to see. Perdita and I are going to Strathardle next week with Helen and her family – I trust I will there recover the pattern for Wallin’s Lovage.


I’ve heard from USS – I’ve got my pension, and they’ve sent the documents back. I have put them where they ought to have been in the first place. I’m doing well with keeping accounts in an old version of Quicken on an old computer. I think everything will be all right -- I'll have enough to live on.  The difficulty, with accounting, is figuring out how to deal with the extraordinary. I recently had a dental implant.


I have nearly finished Dinshaw on Runciman. A New Yorker profile is cited, near the end – and I managed to read it! I have re-subscribed. I do not understand the cover of my first issue (Aug 21), there’s no Ros Chast cartoon, I’m not interested in strawberries or Julian Assange (I tried both) – but I’m glad to have it back. And I succeeded in logging in and gaining access to the archives – that was an achievement.

Dinshaw has a good story, about Runciman’s first visit to Mount Athos, in 1937, that peninsula in the north of Greece where monasteries perch precariously on the rocks. The whole area is sacred to the Mother of God, and no other female creature is allowed. Runciman was surprised to see a cat with a litter of kittens.

It was explained to him that a hundred years before, Athos had been much plagued with mice. The monks bought in tom-cats from Thessaloniki not far away, but soon the cat-merchants there began to hike up the price. The monks devoted an evening of prayer to the subject – and found in the morning that some of their tom-cats had given birth to kittens.

Presumably what Runciman saw were the descendants of those miraculous cats. “'Which was the sex of the cats I subsequently saw,’ he notes soberly, ‘I had no means of telling.’”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

“Krapp’s Last Tape” was good – just the right length, plenty to remember and think about and want to see again. Archie and I both thought that Krapp had a lot in common with my husband – Archie said it first.

Last night we were meant to see “(LIES)”, a presentation, one might say, by a Dutch theatre group about the wickedness of international banking. We all sat at gaming tables such as one might find (I imagine) in a casino, with one of the cast presiding over each table as we rolled dice and made money. Until it all went wrong.

Alas, Archie in his bus got stuck in traffic at St James Centre – they are tearing it down to construct another one equally awful – so it was just me.

That is probably the end of my Festival, but there is a review of something in today’s paper which might tempt me to one further venture.

Meanwhile, Miss Rachel’s Yoke progresses well. I was right in supposing that it would be bliss once the ribbing was finished. I finished the first skein today. Anyone with a houseful of yarn – all of us, I presume – will recognise the thrill when a discrete item amongst the total is actually disposed of.

I am certainly not going to knit the gauntlets KD has designed, but might well knit the first few inches of them into the sleeves themselves, just above the ribbing. I must look at Ravelry – I can’t imagine this idea is particularly original.

I’m nearly finished with Minoo Dinshaw’s biography of Steven Runciman. In the later pages, he often refers to our Birmingham Byzantinist friend Anthony Bryer. To know Bryer was to love him, so that is something Minoo and I have in common.

And a dear Edinburgh friend rang up yesterday to say a) that Candia McWilliam (Minoo’s mother) is now a near neighbour here in EH3, after having absented herself from Edinburgh for much of her life; and b) that Minoo’s paternal grandparents are near neighbours, and friends, of my friend’s parents in Italy. Small world dep’t.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Today’s culture is “Krapp’s Last Tape”. I have high hopes. Archie and I saw Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” on Saturday and agreed that it was about 15 minutes too long. Brilliantly staged and acted, but that didn’t stop one wondering, towards the end, whether it would be all right to have a peek at one’s watch.

Tonight’s performance doesn’t start until 8 p.m. I shall spend most of the afternoon in bed. But I managed evening shows in Pitlochry (sustained by the James Mileses) and am sure I can do it again. Archie is coming round for supper at 6 which will give me a goal in life.

I’ve finished Miss Rachel’s ribbing, increased to the no. of stitches KD wants for the yoke,  and have happily embarked on the round-and-round. I don’t seem to have a 24” 3mm needle in Knit Pro Symfonie wood – whyever not? – and Meadow Yarn, for the first time in my experience of them, is out of stock. I’ve ordered  Knit Pro “Karbonz” from them, better than nothing I hope, and meanwhile there are needles here to be going on with.

Eileen (comment yesterday), thank you very much. I don’t quite know why I should be so curious about Minoo Dinshaw – except that his biography of Steven Runciman is quite remarkably brilliant – but I am, and was very glad of your tip. I’ve now speed-read (precisely) half of Candia McWilliam’s autobiography, to the point where I learn that Minoo is a Balliol man.

I had even wondered about that very point. It is Lord Peter Wimsey’s college, and my husband’s, and his father’s, and Alexander’s.

Now I’ll go back to reading Minoo’s “Outlandish Knight”, and when that is finally finished, on to Runciman’s “Sicilian Vespers” which is where we started in the first place.

The new IK turned up today, looking thoroughly re-worked and full of brilliant patterns if you like cables, as I emphatically do. Were I to complain about anything, it would be a lack of reading matter.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Thank you for all your kind birthday messages. The day passed very quietly indeed. How on earth did I get to be 84?

I save all my blog-entries in Dropbox, before posting them here, identified by date. I notice that I saved yesterday's as "130833". I'll leave it unchanged.

I am at least knitting, round and round on what seems at the moment the endless treadmill of Miss Rachel’s initial ribbing. Every time I count how many rounds I’ve done, the answer is the same as the last time I counted, if not one less. However, the circumference now looks reasonable and a couple more days should deliver me to blissful round-and-round on a slightly larger needle.

I’ve heard from the Shetland Trader (=Mucklestone and Johnston) about their tours next summer. No dice, as far as I’m concerned. Their dates overlap with that cruise of the Hebrides which I booked even before my husband’s funeral. AND they require their knitters to be fit enough for a couple of good walks. That’s a very good idea, but I don’t think I could qualify. 84!

That leaves Amy Detjen. I’m not terribly keen on Ireland, and I’m not really sure that that island has contributed much to knitting, but I’m open to suggestion. And maybe she’ll be doing the Faroes or Iceland again next summer.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sorry for the gap. I’m fine, if feeble. We are totally enveloped in the Festival here, and this post will be more culture than knitting.

But it must be said that I have finished swatching, for the moment, and cast on KD’s “Miss Rachel’s Yoke”. The plan is to skip waist shaping and more or less do EZ’s EPS up to the yoke. At the moment the circumference seems enormous and interminable. I’m halfway through the number of rounds of ribbing KD prescribes. I think I may want more.

Archie and I went to see Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” yesterday. It was brilliantly staged and acted, but perhaps a quarter of an hour too long. Archie agreed.

Edinburgh is absolutely stuffed with people. Ian Rankin says in the Sunday Times today that there’s plenty of room for everybody, but I’m inclined to disagree. A man got onto my bus as I was going home after the play, late middle-aged; longish, untidy, grey hair; dressed in denims. He had one of those rectangular badges hanging around his neck by a chain. The message on the badge, hand-written in pencil, was: "I'm not a tourist."

Our next venture will be to “Krapp’s Last Tape” on Tuesday. I think it’s shorter.

I’ve been enjoying thinking about Palermo, where Archie and I hope to go in January. I’ve been reading Alan Langdale’s “Palermo:Travels in the City of Happiness” which has produced a few good ideas. It says: “The Normans subjugated the island in the 1070’s…(I am haunted by a Monty Pythonesque scenario of an army made up entirely of soldiers named Norman.)” Once you’ve read that sentence, it will never be possible to think of the Normans in the same way again.

I decided it would be a good idea to re-read (from many decades ago) Steven Runciman’s “Sicilian Vespers”. In the course of ordering it – arriving today as a flesh-and-blood book – I discovered Minoo Dinshaw’s biography of Runciman, published last year and reviewed ecstatically on all sides, but I managed to miss it. A great shame, as my husband would have enjoyed it. I’m reading it in my Kindle app.

I met Runciman once, late in his life. Birmingham was a distinguished centre of Byzantine studies due to the efforts of a dear friend. I have been thinking, all through Dinshaw’s book, of that idea of Six Degrees of Separation. Runciman qualifies me for an acquaintance with Edith Wharton, only one further step away. As well as for most of the great and lesser names of the 20th century.

It is Minoo Dinshaw’s first book. It is a truly brilliant display of scholarship and of empathy. I can find nothing about him on Google except that he lives in London. I’ve seen a clip on YouTube – English is clearly his first language. “Minoo & Dinshaw” are booksellers in Lucknow. I’ve sent a friend request on Facebook both to him and to an obvious pseudonym – but he doesn’t have many friends, in either guise, and I don’t expect a response. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sorry about yesterday – James and his family came back here, on their way south, and took me out to lunch. Somehow, the day doesn’t seem to involve as many hours as it used to. I sleep a lot.

Archie and Fergus are sleeping here at the moment, as Helen has a houseful. Archie and I sat over the kitchen table yesterday and hatched a plan. It is beginning to look as if my idea of going to Greece at half-term with Fergus and then driving back with the family through Italy and France, is going to come unstuck over Orla’s Christening (for whom see above) in London in late October.

But, hey! I can go to Italy by myself any time! I had been thinking about this on Tuesday, and googling various ideas, and somehow came up with Palermo. And yesterday Archie and I more or less agreed that we could go together in the first days 0f 2018. He doesn’t have to be back at university until the 12th.

He sounds quite keen. Palermo has a compact historic city centre, and is full of glorious architecture and interesting museums and good food. It is utterly encrusted with amazing mosaics – but Helen won’t be with us. For me and for many (but not Archie) it is the city of Giuseppe di Lampedusa, author of Il Gattopardo – close to being my favourite novel in any language.

His palace in Palermo – he was a Sicilian Prince -- was destroyed by an American bomb during the war. The bomb that provoked the book: Il Gattopardo is a fictionalized family history, completed in the ‘50’s but only published after his death. Don’t fret, he had several other palaces. And Archie and I can at least walk along the street where his palace was. And the next time I re-read the book, I could walk with Don Fabrizio in those very streets.

It could happen.

However, we’re meant to be talking about knitting. (Google suggests that Palermo is weak on LYS’s.) I’m finishing off the swatch for Miss Rachel’s Yoke.

The guest on Fruity Knitting this time is Nancy Marchant. I’m tempted to do a brioche swatch. She said in the podcast that K1, k1B produces the same fabric as all this brk and brp stuff which confuses and irritates me. K1, k1B is how I first met brioche, in a VK pattern in the 50’s. A whole dress which I finished and assembled and couldn’t have worn more than once because it stretched and sagged.

Marchant said that the different approaches produced different gauges. That’s what I want to have a look at.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

This is embarrassing – I found my marriage lines.

Where some of you had more or less suggested I look: they were in a discreet brown envelope into which I had gathered all my husband’s vital documents, starting with his birth certificate. [See Jeanfromcornwall’s comment yesterday.] The idea was to facilitate the registration of the death – I’m not sure that any of them were necessary, other than the form signed by the doctor saying that he was in fact dead. I was a veritable whirlwind of efficiency, those first few days.

The envelope was in what I think of as the Death File.

One of you had gone to the extraordinary lengths of ringing up Piscataway Township to find out what to do. She sent me a .pdf of the file I needed to fill in, and I began today by downloading it and filling it in and scanning it and sending it back to her, with a scan of my driving license.

Then I moved on to the next chore – and found that envelope. The package is on its way to USS and I trust I will be in funds soon. I am sorry to have worried you all.

As for knitting, I am well along with the Buachaille swatch and am very much enjoying the feel of the yarn on my fingers. A few more rows to go, and then we’ll see. I’m inclined to think that if the gauge is anywhere near right, I’ll go ahead with Miss Rachel’s Yoke. At least I find myself keen to get back to that swatch – that’s something.

Chloe, that’s a good idea, about finding a knitting club. I don’t go out much in the evening, but there may be something going on Saturday morning. I’ll pursue that one.

The new edition of Fruity Knitting should be with us any minute now.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Again, very little to report. I’ve really got to get knitting. Maybe a Craftsy class in which I follow along, executing every step? Mucklestone’s Fair Isle vest class, while knitting the museum-sweater vest for Alexander? At least I’ve got a more-than-adequate swatch.

I finished the Lovage swatch last night while watching the Princess of Wales programme, which contained lots of suppressio veri and suggestio falsi. Now I’ve started a Buachaille swatch – apart from anything else, I seem to have left the Lovage pattern behind in Perthshire. Buachaille is lovely on the hand, and also is a somewhat heavier (therefore quicker-to-knit) yarn than those prescribed for the Lovage.

I don’t see why I shouldn’t just knit Miss Rachel's Yoke by the EPS system (thereby omitting waist shaping), but following KD’s instructions slavishly from the point where the sleeves are joined to the body and the colour pattern begins.

There should be a new edition of Fruity Knitting tomorrow, if they stick to their schedule. We patrons were treated to a delicious little film of outtakes the other day, but no secrets were revealed. I couldn’t tell you the name of this week’s guest if I wanted to.


I am very grateful for all your suggestions and offers to help concerning the problem caused by my lack of a marriage certificate. I’ve learned a new word, “apostille”, although I don’t know what it means. I have, to start with, emailed the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS, much in the news lately here in GB) to see if they have anything helpful to suggest. One would hope they would have a modicum of sympathy for my lack of income.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Home again, after a very happy week in Strathardle.

Perdita wasn’t very impressed by “out”, at first. For one thing, it rains out there, and a cat can easily get wet. She wasn't expecting that. For the first few days, she wouldn’t venture out unless I went, too. She would sit at the open door, even with the sun shining beyond. By yesterday morning she had become a bit more venturesome, but still didn’t go far.

We’ll be going back soon, with Helen and her family. I'm sure Perdita will remember, and venture further.

We saw two plays at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre – Barrie’s “Mary Rose” and Ayckbourn’s “Absurd Person Singular”. Both very well done, both thought-provoking.

And spent a useful hour with the lawyer who is working on my husband’s executry.

Still not much knitting. I largely finished a big swatch for the Lovage sweater. LoveKnitting has made up a package with Debbie Bliss’ Donegal Fine Tweed instead of the Rowan yarn the pattern was written for. It’s clearly going to work well, gauge-wise, and it produces a very nice fabric. I didn’t find the experience of knitting it entirely blissful – the tweediness? Lack of wooden needles – they all seemed to be in action elsewhere?

I think I might go on and do a swatch in KD’s Buachaille, with Miss Rachel’s Yoke in view, to see how I like that.

All is well here except that I cannot find the document which certificates my marriage, 60 years ago. I need it to establish my right to my husband’s university pension. (The more-trusting government is paying my National Insurance pension all right, but that’s not enough to live on.) There’s only one place it could be, and it’s not there. The envelope is, but it’s empty.

I don’t know quite what to do, but I had better do it promptly. Since his death, they are paying me nothing at all.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sorry for silence. The Polliwog is finished; so is the Northmavine Hap. 

The winning gimmick, of course, is that wrap-over neckline, allowing access for the oversized infant head.

Now what? The choice, for immediate casting on, is between KD’s “Miss Rachel’s Yoke” and Wallin’s “Lovage”. Both, slightly to my surprise, are shaped at the waist – fine for a stickler like Andrea of Fruity Knitting, but I live back there with EZ: cast on, rib, increase 10%, knit to armholes.

I’ve got to decide, and cast on this evening, because James and Cathy and some daughters of theirs (my granddaughters, Rachel and Kirsty) are motoring northwards as we speak. We’ll spend tomorrow here – their son (my grandson Alistair), who is doing a paid internship with J.P.Morgan in Glasgow for the summer, will come over tomorrow, and Greek Helen will lay on lunch for us all.

Then, on Monday, Strathardle – including, of course, Perdita. This time I’ll set her free. She’s not stupid, and she loves me, in her furry way. And she likes her catfood.

I should be back sometime next weekend.

There then follows an exciting week of Edinburgh Festival. Rachel’s daughter Lizzie (my granddaughter) will be here with a friend for a couple of nights. Archie and I have our cultural highlights planned, as you’ve heard  – and today I added tickets for something very fringe-y-sounding, £YE$ (LIES) by the Belgian group Ontroerend Goed, hyped in today’s Financial Times. It sounds more than a bit interactive, which could be embarrassing. I hope he’s up for it.


Peggy (comment last time): one of the very nice things about Pointless is that the presenters are so nice, and funny. The quiz that used to fill that slot, before the early evening news, was led by a woman who made a speciality of being rude to the contestants. It’s grand to see niceness win!

I agree that it was sad that Princess Margaret didn’t get to marry the man she loved; and also agree that Wallis Simpson would have made a most unsuitable Queen, especially in war time. Whereas the younger brother, George VI, and his dumpy Scottish wife, were perfect.

Many wealthy British sent their children to safety in the US and Canada. The King and Queen, of course, didn’t. But in the dark months of ’40 and ’41, when invasion was feared with every full moon, the anxiety must have been a degree or so worse for any family, like the royal one, who had daughters of that particular age.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A better day. I’ve achieved about half of the task the lawyer set me; I’ve sorted and filed some more paper from the dining room table; I’ve finished all of the Polliwog except for the last three rounds of sleeve ribbing and the sewn cast-off. Maybe I can sign off both it and the Northmavine Hap tomorrow. The latter only lacks the clipping of loose ends.

Andrew and Andrea’s interview with Veronik Avery was as interesting as might have been expected. She is not sleek and continental, as I had thought, but homely and friendly.

Thank you very much for your kind suggestions. Southern Gal, Wagner would be wasted on me – and I prefer not to go out in the evening. One of the plays I have signed up for is a matinee, but the other is not, and I’m anxious about it.

Tamar, I am well endowed with EZ videos, and watching them while I knit is an excellent idea. Shandy, my husband and I used to watch Our Soap (“Neighbours”) over lunch, and often follow it up with a documentary of some sort, pre-recorded. We had got to the point in life where drama was too much for us – everybody rushing about in the dark and speaking elliptically.

Then, over supper, we would watch all of the evening news, including “Scotland Today”, and the beginning of another documentary, until the bedtime carers came. Plenty of knitting time, when all that is added together.

Now, I watch “Pointless”, which I adore, and try to keep up with “Neighbours”, but it’s not the same. I’ve never tried knitting to the radio, and that’s a good idea too.

I watched the rest of the documentary about Diana PofW, after all. There is no doubt that she has left her sons with a sense of how much she loved them, despite being rejected by her own mother and unsuccessful in most of her adult relationships. That’s no small achievement. And, on the negative side, the sheer awfulness of her marriage to Prince Charles has made it possible for the Royals to marry anyone they want to, instead of having to hold out for a nobly-born virgin.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Another dies non, I’m afraid. Helen is safely back, and we sat over the kitchen table for a while this morning, and a friend joined us, and by then my morning oomph was gone. I haven’t even made a start on the job the lawyer set me.

This afternoon I tried to watch last night’s program about the Princess of Wales (the previous one – the title now belongs to Camilla, whether she chooses to use it or not). Real scope for knitting there. But the saccharine soon stuck in my throat. Do her sons really believe all that stuff? Several commentators have remarked on the absence of Prince Charles from the program – but what about Dodi? When Diana died, William and Harry were at ages when to have one’s mother cruising about the Med with her lover, reported daily in all the papers, should have been exquisitely embarrassing. They can’t have entirely forgotten.

I got a bit of knitting done, but not much. Surely I can finish the second Polliwog sleeve tomorrow. But I’ve also got to figure out a way to get knitting back into my life, now that television is retreating out of it.

The good news is that Fruity Knitting has posted a new episode, right on schedule. I’ve watched the early bits – Andrea is knitting again, I’m happy to report. The big interview this time is Veronik Avery. I’m a great fan of hers. I’m saving that to take to bed with me.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Here we are again – late, tired, little to say. I’ll have to try to write to you earlier in the day, tomorrow.

I did a good hour’s paper-sorting this morning, but the dining room table looks almost as cluttered as before. An email from the lawyer dealing with the executry has set me a task which will occupy the rest of the week.

Archie (and a friend) came to lunch again. Alexander pointed out, when last here, that I can take in the Edinburgh Festival this year. So I can, if strong enough. Archie and I are going to see Ionescu’s “Rhinoceros” and Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” in mid-August. (How does that compare with Richard Burton and Claire Bloom in “Hamlet” and the world premiere of T.S.Eliot’s “Confidential Clerk” in 1953? Don’t answer.) Archie dealt with the EIF website today, which is not entirely easy to navigate.

I’m a bit forrad’er with the second sleeve of the Pollywog, and delighted with how it’s looking. I can always take it along to Strathardle and post it from the village.

Shall I record the princes’ reminiscences of their mother this evening? One of the minor regrets of my life is that we didn’t buy a “red-top” newspaper that Sunday morning 20 years ago. We knew what had happened, as we walked up Broughton Street to the Cathedral for Mass. The Sunday papers didn’t. But she featured in them, as usual. I half-remember the headlines.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Again, I am afraid, there's not much to tell you.

Archie and I had a nice lunch. He is a particularly gratifying grandchild to cook for. I could serve him cat food, I suspect, and he would eat it. But he comments appreciatively and intelligently on my successes, too. Today we had Roast Romano Peppers from Ed Smith’s “On the Side” (a recent purchase of mine) and Nigella’s Anglo-Asian Lamb Salad from “Nigella Express”, which I’ve made for him before.

And wild rice, which, astonishingly, I found in Tesco this morning while looking for something else. They don’t have it in Waitrose.

Archie is working as a cleaner at Edinburgh University, which rents out dormitory rooms to tourists in the summer. He’s only done a few days of it, but seems to be holding his own.

I’m progressing well with the Polliwog, and am very glad that I resumed it. The Sydenham Mileses will be here on Saturday, and the plan is that we’ll all – including Perdita -- go on to Strathardle on the following Monday, a week tomorrow.  (Is that the 31st?) The knitting plan is that I will have finished the Polliwog by then, and dispatched it southwards to Orla. Then – what to take along?

You’d better have a picture tomorrow. I’ve done four of the eight decreases on the second sleeve. Not far to go.

I got quite a lot of paper sorted this morning, rather than just sweeping it off the kitchen table to make room for lunch. I hope to press on with that sort of thing tomorrow, here in the dining room, so that I can feed a crowd next Sunday.

Helen will be back from Greece tomorrow, and my fishmonger from Majorca. The worst is over.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Another low day – no excuse. Rain, so I didn't need to water my tomatoes.

As requested, I’m at least logging in to thank you for help with budgeting. I had never heard of Pocketsmith, and it’s interesting. But British banks don’t like to have you handing out your log-in details to a third party, and I’m inclined to agree. Also, I don’t want to subscribe to anything.

I had thought of Excel, and am tremendously impressed than you could just do it, Mary Lou.  I watched a YouTube video on the subject last night, and I guess I get the idea, but I remain impressed.

I think my present system (an antique version of Quicken) is going to work. There are various respects in which I can simplify the way I used to keep accounts when I was young and enthusiastic, without spoiling the results.

I hope to do better by you tomorrow. Archie is coming for a late lunch, which will keep me on my toes.

Friday, July 21, 2017

I’ve got a little, tiny green tomato on one of my tomato plants on the doorstep! How’s that for exciting?

I got on well with the Polliwog yesterday, first sleeve finished, sewn bind-off completed – I didn’t even have to look up the technique. I’ve made a good start on picking up stitches for the second sleeve, but I discovered at the close of play yesterday that I am doing it wrong.

I thought I wanted 90 stitches. I only need 6o, so I’ll have to double back. Over-confidence bred of the successful sewn bind-off.

The decision about What Comes Next now looms. Marie Wallin’s Lovage, I think.

Carol: Orla's shawl is the Paton's pattern designed by "Mrs Hunter of Unst" to which KD devotes a chapter in her Haps book. I knit it for Orla's grandmother Rachel many years ago. In Ravelry, it goes by a slightly different name -- but I've forgotten what. (One of you told me.) Once you find it, I think it's a free pattern. 


For many years I kept accounts with Quicken. I even wrote a book about it. Then I upgraded to a faster computer and found that, although it would load the program, it refused to import the data. Intuit, by then, had deserted the UK. I struggled, and then sort of gave up.

Then at some point I moved on from that computer to my husband’s laptop – it won’t even load the Quicken disk. Microsoft Money has also deserted the UK, and the homegrown program once provided by Sage seems also to have melted away. It was a bit kludgy. Sage and Intuit still offer small business software. Maybe Microsoft does, too -- who knows?

Google’ing seems to show that nothing else in the personal finance line is available here in the UK. People use apps on their telephones – but I am not that advanced with mobile telephony, and anyway what I want is an overview, over all the various accounts we have squirrelled here and there, of what is actually happening. I’ve got plenty of money just now – don’t worry. But incomings will now be reduced, as pensions are cut; and outgoings, although lower, won’t be that much lower. As I say, I need an overview.

Yesterday I gave up, and went back to the computer mentioned above which will load Quicken but refuses to import data (too late now, anyway) – and started again from the beginning. It’s going to take more than a bit of doing, but I feel wonderfully invigorated by having made the start.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I’m sorry to have worried you. The difficulty has been nothing worse than a busy week socially – a coffee and two lunches. I get home utterly tired. At whatever time of day, fall gratefully into bed. No Radio 4 these days. Just Women's Cricket.

I wrote this much on Monday:

“A very happy ending to Wimbledon – not a dry eye in the house.

I thought Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, would be handing out the prizes, but no, it was the good old Duke of Kent, as usual, looking much sprightlier than his wife. And surely, I thought, he must be a couple of years older. But I looked him up – he’s more than two years younger. I’m afraid, in our ninth decade, every year counts, as it did in our first.

Oh, Maureen, (comment yesterday), how I would love to go to Shetland with you next year! Especially as we missed meeting when you recently came to Edinburgh. But the June Shetland Adventure finishes only a few days before my cruise to the Hebrides departs, on June 30. Not long enough to turn around and become re-acquainted with my cat; and anyway, I want to space out my pleasures.”

I received this picture of Orla the other day. Clearly, I’ll have to finish the Polliwog fast.

I am in fact making progress with it, albeit slowly. I don’t watch much television these days, is the problem. I’ve done all the decreases on the first sleeve (top-down), worried again about whether it might be too long and therefore omitted the following nine rounds (about an inch and a half), and am now embarked on the final ribbing. Another sewn bind-off follows shortly – I should be pretty good at it by now.

I’ve blocked the Northmavine Hap:

with Perdita's help:

I can’t sign it off until I’ve clipped the darned-in ends.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

That leaves us with Federer. Now, even more, he’s simply got to win.

Yesterday’s match started well, evenly balanced. Venus had a couple of points for the first set on the Spaniard’s serve, but failed to make them. Then she collapsed, much like Murray with his hip, although she hasn’t complained of anything since, that I know of. With Murray, I could switch over to the other match (Muller-Cilic, I think it was). Yesterday there was nothing for it but to retreat to the kitchen.

However, better news: the Northmavine Hap is ready for blocking. I got the last few ends darned in this morning watching the rather interesting political program we have on Sunday morning. Who knows? I may even get the blocking done today. I’ll return to the Polliwog while supporting Federer.

Anonymous, thank you again, for the Shetland Wool Adventure dates (comment yesterday). They offer a wide choice of dates, which is good; they go to Unst and include a lace lesson, which is very good. Perhaps less good, they put you up in Lerwick, rather than at wonderful Burrastow where Kristie and Kath and I stayed, and where Mary Jane and Gudrun go. But on the other hand, Burrastow is a fair distance from anywhere and there’s much to be said for being in Lerwick. SWA promises good food. Burrastow guarantees that. Mary Jane and Gudrun don’t go to Unst.

I do agree, Lisa, that nothing beats armchair travel planning.

Mary Lou, I have let my New Yorker subscription lapse, a shameful admission. I switched credit cards – or, rather, had mine switched from under me – so that they couldn’t automatically renew. I went straight in to put things right when I heard from them, but something was wrong with their server that day and since then life has piled up on me.

But I need to read about The Accidental Urban Gardener, and Rachel says I’ve missed David Sedaris. I will take action.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Federer was magnificent, too. He and Williams have got to win, if there is any poetic justice in the world.

I finished the sewn bind-off of the Northmavine Hap. I’m ready (although I must confess that I haven’t done it) to put the book, “Colours of Shetland”, back on the shelf. That will be a step forward. I have started, languidly, darning in the loose ends – although not securing them, in case blocking changes things.

I am desperate to be knitting something, but don’t dare. This is the very most dangerous moment to lay a project aside.

Here it is. I am surprised, despite all my recent grumbling, to find how very long the top edge is, how obtuse – I hope I’ve got that right – the lowest angle. Blocking will change that. I’ll get some more ends darned in during Venus’ final today.

Non-knit & comments

The Duchess of Kent was at Wimbledon yesterday. She’s six months older than I am, and didn’t look at all sprightly.

Anonymous, thank you, I’ve signed up with Misa Hay for news of her Shetland tours—but couldn’t find any 2018 dates yet.

Thanks for all the advice about exercise. I’ll try YouTube, to begin with. I need something that can become an early-morning routine.

Lisa, that’s a good idea, to photograph the essential page of my new passport.

Friday, July 14, 2017

I got my passport! And – equally as important – I have located and rubber-banded to it, the one-before-last, which contains the vital rubber stamp “Given leave to enter the United Kingdom for an indefinite period.” They don’t hand those out like sweeties any more. I don’t know what would happen if I tried to get back to Drummond Place without it, and don’t intend to find out.

Helen (anon) (comment yesterday) – that was a good idea, to list the places I wanted to visit, and see what Google came up with. Lerwick, Norway, Faroes, Iceland. There are indeed several interesting cruises .  I even found one that included a knitting cruise, but it seemed to think that 1500 passengers made it a small ship. (Not all knitters, of course.) I’m certainly not going to add my voice, and money, to big-ship-cruising.

I’ve signed up to hear what Gudrun and Mary Jane are offering next year, and also Amy Detjen. You’re right, Mary Lou, that my driving-home-from-Greece hopes for this year preclude Rhinebeck. Which is a distinct shame.

My difficulty is not just that I’m about to turn 84, but that I’m weak. I hope that will pass, to some extent. But that’s why an initial adventure with family at hand to support, is a good idea.

I’m getting a bit bored with tennis, and indeed with the sewn bind-off. Three more matches. Federer and Williams have simply got to win: the two oldest players in the tournament, I think. Venus was magnificent yesterday, and the British Girl, in today’s newspapers, is suddenly somewhat more Australian than she was yesterday.

We’ve heard from Susan Crawford. She hopes to have the Vintage Shetland Project book ready to go to the printers in “early autumn” and to us six weeks later. I’ll believe it when I see it. It would be gloomily interesting to collect all her reports from the two years (for such it now is) since she solicited crowd-funding. I’m pretty sure, although I’m not going to look it up, that when she was first diagnosed with cancer, late last year, she planned to publish the book as then scheduled, but said that she wouldn’t be able to take part in the post-publication publicity.

Cancer sort of takes over everything, but it is worth remembering that we had had major delays before the diagnosis. She was at EYF in March, 2016, selling autographed bookplates to put in your book when you got it. I was already cross, having hoped to have mine by November, 2015, and didn’t seek her out. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wimbledon imploded yesterday. Murray’s painful hip (we’ve been worried all along) gave up on him. It is to his credit as an athlete that he was able to do as well as he did, and to his credit as a man that he stuck it out, and lost in five sets. I couldn’t bear to watch much of it, and mostly switched over to see Mr Muller losing to Celic on the other court. Painful, but less so. And then Djokovic withdrew with a sore elbow, after losing a set.

Federer’s match, after all that, was a draft of cool water in the desert. He’s got to win.

I shall be cheering for Venus today. (And, Peggy, I agree: the way she carries herself is an essential part of her beauty.)

As for knitting, I got a couple of feet along the sewn bind-off of the top edge of the Northmavine Hap. The instructions for the sewn bind-off say to start out with a piece of yarn which will go the distance three times. That’s obviously impossible, in this case, and even if it were otherwise, I have read recently that drawing an over-long piece of yarn again and again through the loops, abrades and weakens it.

I have already finished the first piece of yarn and started on the second, and I don’t think the break is going to do any harm. There’ll be more. I’m not halfway yet.

Still loose ends to come, and blocking, but I’m beginning to think about the future.

Especially because I had a text message this morning (!), just like a grown-up, to say that my new passport will be delivered today between 8am and 6pm. At least, I hope it’s my new passport. Maybe it’s the old one, rejected. It's something, from the American Embassy in London.

But that should mean that the world is my oyster. I have been searching websites in the last few days, for places I might go. What a lot there are! offers cruises around the coasts of Turkey, Greece, and Italy in Turkish “gulets”, small boats like the ones that will take me around the Hebrides next summer, but in warmer waters. Somebody called Flavours offers tempting-sounding cookery holidays, also in Italy.

The trip to Thessaloniki this autumn, and then the drive back through Italy and France with the Drakes – for that is the current plan – will let me know whether I am really strong enough to contemplate any of this. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Everybody should be happy tomorrow, May Lou, when Venus plays the British Girl in a semi-final.

Yesterday was interesting. She is the oldest player, of either sex, still standing – even older than Federer. She was playing the youngest, an Eastern European who has suddenly flashed across the tennis sky like a comet. She won the French open. She’s terribly good, and we’ll see more of her.

But Venus was better.

I don’t remember being properly impressed, before, with how beautiful she is. Not just good-looking: they’re all that, in varying degrees, being young and glowing with health. Venus is beautiful, a Greek goddess, a Benin bronze. I can’t find a picture to show you – they all show her in motion, or smiling. I’m thinking of her standing on the baseline, composing herself for the next point.

Murray’s path to the final looks more hopeful, with Nadal gone and Djokovic’ shoulder giving trouble. Murray, moving about between points, has limped like an old man, but is still a gazelle in motion.


I’m still engaged with the last few stitches of the garter stitch band at the top of the Northmavine Hap. I should at least begin on the sewn bind-off today (men’s quarter-finals).

Andrew & Andrea’s new issue appeared yesterday. Itfeatured a designer I’ve never heard of (but should have – she has produced at least one pattern for Brooklyn Tweed), Andrea Mowry. Delightful.

You’re right, Pom PomElla Gordon’s blog is certainly one to look for. She was there in the shop the day I went to Jamieson&Smith. (I love your blog post about your grandmother.) Her blog is full of wonderful Shetland-ness.

But what I love about Andrew & Andrea is a) that there are two of them – it was a stroke of genius to start teaching Andrew to knit; and b) that it is a true magazine, with items from far and wide.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Well, wow!

I was surprised to find how much the crowd loved Nadal. There was support, more than polite, for Muller – but much more for Nadal. I would have expected a Wimbledon crowd to group behind the underdog, given that Nadal was neither English nor Federer.

I kept remembering, not much to the point, how we went to CT in (what must have been) 1996 for my mother’s 90th birthday in late October. Clinton was standing for re-election. I had been uneasy about him – them – from the beginning, and expressed this unease again. My mother said that she was absolutely behind him, being always for the underdog.

This was an idiotic statement;  and to her credit – despite being 90, and a lifelong Democrat – she corrected it. The underdog, of course, was poor old Dole with his withered arm. I’m sure she voted for Clinton anyway.

Prince Felix (was it?) of Luxembourg was there yesterday to support Muller. But if the post-match interviewer expected Muller to be even mildly excited at the news, the attempt failed. There are only 50 people in Luxembourg. Prince Felix, who plays a pretty good game of tennis himself, was an old friend, we were told; of course he was there.

The BBC remained determined to keep me away from Venus Williams. She was first on Centre Court yesterday, to be followed by Murray. When transmission started, only one channel was available and that, of course, had to be devoted to the British Girl. So I watched the midday news, and waited until that channel was available for tennis. Fifteen minutes of silliness – and then they went to an outside court. I managed to find Venus on the “red button” for her last few games, and she looked very good indeed.

Not much knitting. Nadal-Muller knocked the needles from one’s hands. I have, however, finished the basic patterning of the Northmavine Hap, and am now embarking on a top garter stitch edge. The colours all lasted the course, although without much to spare. I thought recently that I had mastered the problem I have previously mentioned to you, and could read the pattern in my knitting and keep everything properly lined up. It all went wrong at the end (Wimbledon?). I don’t care.

But I don’t think I had any such difficulty knitting Gudrun’s Hansel Hap at the end of last year – also feather-and-fan.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wimbledon promises well – I should be able to finish the basic Northmavine Hap. I’m just about to start row 9 of the final 12, the pattern row. That will leave a garter stitch edging, a sewn bind off, many a loose end, and blocking still to come. But it will be a significant step forward.

We start off with Venus Williams. The BBC has been singularly uninterested in her. They have been fully occupied, on the women’s side, with two British hopefuls (the survivor of the pair not terribly British – she was Australian until recently) and a great many brilliant players with Eastern European names whom I can’t keep straight. But it turns out that Venus has quietly made it through. I’m a tr’ffic fan, being an elder sister myself.

Thank you for your message, Cat (comment yesterday).  Are you (or is anyone?) familiar with Sally Melville’s “Knitting Pattern Essentials” or with Deborah Newton’s books about design and finishing? I ask because you said yesterday that you prefer to design your own.

It becomes more and more striking, I think, how everyone is designing shawls these days and eschewing sweaters.

Yesterday I re-watched Fruity Knitting Episode 19, from the end of last year, when Newton was the interview-ee. She is most engaging. That was before poor Andrea was struck down with repetitive strain injury and forced to stop knitting, we hope for not too much longer. She really is brilliant -- meticulous and inventive. The podcast suffers while she can’t knit.

There should be a new episode this week.

I liked your comment, Chloe (and agree with your programme for an ideal Japanese knitting class). How lucky we all are that even with our betes noirs firmly in the cupboard – bobbles and beads, for starters, in my case – there is still so wonderfully much to do!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Wimbledon has still not ignited, for me. I’m glad to have a day off. Maybe some doorstep gardening instead? If I understand things aright, and if all four top seeds are still on their feet for the semi-finals, Murray will play Nadal and Federer will play Djokovic. I can’t see Murray getting past that. I hope Federer does.

I’ve never cared for Nadal, too many muscles, but he has endeared himself to me and to the nation this week by being photographed (accidentally, unposed) in Tesco Express struggling with the automatic check-out.

The Northmavine Hap struggles on – four of the twelve rows of the final half-repeat are now done. I’m not sure there’s enough of the fourth colour left – it’s the one that has always, in each repeat, had to knit the longest rows. I’ll substitute one of the others, if it gives out on me.

I got my books. The Leapman, "6000+ Pullover Possibilities",  is one of those assemblies of sweater parts that you can mix and match (to coin a phrase). I’ve got other such books. This is far and away the most comprehensive. Leapman is in favour of seams, like Sally Melville.

“Knitting Short Rows” disappointed at first. It is brilliant in its technical discussion and illustration of five different methods, with the pros and cons of each. It is less good on how to use short rows. There is an excellent, but very brief, paragraph on the subject on page 5.

I went back and re-watched the last two lessons in Carol Feller’s short-row Craftsy Class. (I have a considerable arsenal of Craftsy classes at my disposal: they’re wonderfully soporific.)

But then I decided that the answers I was looking for are there in the book after all, in the patterns. Each is photographed from a variety of angles, and accompanied with notes. You've got to work at it a bit.

I see we are to have a new Japanese book in November: “Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible”. Despite the title, it is not a compendium (already got those) but a collection of patterns by Hitomi Shida. Order ahead, to be surprised on a dark, wet day at the worst moment of the year? (Except for you, Cat.) 

Friday, July 07, 2017

I’m OD’ing on Wimbledon a bit. It hasn’t been all that gripping, so far, although today promises very well. I think I decided yesterday that I need to program in a nap, no matter what. It’s hard to see where, with today’s schedule, it might fit in.

Murray’s match against Brown was just about perfect – Brown as delightful and inventive as before, Murray triumphant in three sets. I think one could see Murray thinking – it’s not just a game of power and might.

Here is the promised picture of miserable grandsons up Glenfernate last Sunday.  From left to right, Mungo, Fergus, Archie. Perdita and I were having a nap, as I’ve said – but I don’t think the weather was quite that bad down in Strathardle.

As for knitting, I’m not quite as far forward with the Northmavine Hap as might have been expected with all this tennis. I’m engaged on the final pattern row of the final full repeat – fifteen rows remain, when this one is finished, but since each one is half a mile long, fifteen is a lot. Then there are four rows of garter stitch – no increases, at least. Then a sewn bind off.

It’s like climbing a hill – I can see the top, perhaps there’s a cairn up there – but for now I must lift leaden feet for step after step.

I got carried away with I-don’t-know-what yesterday and ordered Dassau’s “Knitting Short Rows” and Leapman’s “6000+ Pullover Possibilities”. The last thing I need is more knitting books. They will probably arrive today. I’ll report soon.

I also bought Pearl-McFee’s “At Knit’s End” in the middle of the night – but I got that one for the Kindle, so at least it doesn’t take up shelf space. It’s amusing.

Everyone has suddenly gone off and left me. Helen and her family are in Greece, soon to be on the slopes of Pelion where they will be out of email contact. My dear cleaning woman is in her native Romania until the 18th. My fishmonger is about to spend a week in Majorca. Alexander and his family are still here. He came over yesterday. Perdita and I may go and see them on Loch Fyne soon.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

We had a good time in Kirkmichael. I have some fine photographs to show you (tomorrow, perhaps) of miserable grandsons in the rain on a hike to Loch Loch (sic) on the Sunday afternoon. Perdita and I had a nap.

She did well. She did go out, briefly, on the Sunday. I followed Joe’s advice (comment, last time) and stayed with her. She wasn’t hard to catch when I’d had enough, but she is interested in “out”, and likes it. I think I’ll be braver next time. She’s fond of me, in her furry way. I really don’t think she’d head for the hills.

I didn’t knit a single stitch. The only thing I did, in fact, was to weed and feed and mulch a little rose – mentioned here before – of which my husband was very fond. I can’t find it in my books. It’s a small floribunda, red, single-flowered, late-blooming, on its own roots, inherited (54 years ago) from the previous owner of the house, a keen rosarian.

It was the subject of the only gardening I did last year, and is looking rather well.

Since our return, knitting has gone better, thanks to Wimbledon. Days One and Two were rather tedious, but I have high hopes for this afternoon. I have loved Mr. Brown of Germany ever since he beat Nadal at an equivalent stage of the tournament two years ago. Today he’s playing Murray. And if Murray has to lose to anyone – as I fear he will – I wouldn’t entirely mind to have it be Mr Brown.

I’m engaged in the second half of the final 24-row repeat of the Northmavine Hap. I have wondered a bit whether I have enough of the four contrast colours – but I’ve now finished the contribution of one of them to this repeat (it will have to re-appear for two rows in the final half-repeat) and am hopeful. Not that it matters – there’s J&S on my doorstep, and I know the shade numbers.

I have also started worrying – a 4 a.m. thought – about the edges. I’ll have lots of ends to darn in. I know that. I’m braced for it. But I have been carrying the main colour up the edges. What about those loops? Attached i-cord is always possible. We won’t panic.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Perdita and I will soon be going to Strathardle, with Helen and her boys. I haven’t been there this year, except for the day of the funeral, when I didn’t go into the house. I’m more than a bit stressed. Perdita, fortunately, since we don’t have a common language, doesn’t know what’s about to happen to her.

Is there going to be room enough in the car? Helen has a big one, but travelling with Perdita is almost as encumbered as travelling with a baby. Plus we’ll need to lay on food for five.

The plan is to keep Perdita indoors – but Helen and her boys (and their dog) are great ones for striding o’er the heather. It is possible that I will invite her out to help me in the garden.

Whatever happens, we’ll hope to be back here on Monday.

The Northmavine  Hap progresses, very slowly now that the rows are so long. I’ll take it along, of course. Yet another bag, after the Jean bag and the Cat bag and the Nigella-recipe bag,

What a comfort that hap has been, these recent weeks; and what an endorsement for stash-enhancement! As I remember the sequence of events, Kristie pressed it on me (having knit it herself) that happy day in Jamieson&Smith, after I had already bought a great deal. I bought it, and knit a few rows back here in Edinburgh, and stashed it away in a shoe box, and thought that nothing much is ever going to come of this. And now, when I need it, here it is!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

It’s another pretty dismal-looking day.

Joni (comment yesterday),  you solved the mail problem. I keep forgetting that I use googlemail on my iPad, accessed through Safari – but that the machine itself prefers its own mail app. There I found the Northmavine Hap. Here it is:

That picture was taken 24 hours ago. I’m not much further on – the rows are long. I counted stitches when I had officially finished the fourth repeat, and was surprised to find myself two stitches short. I am currently engaged in the first pattern row of the new repeat. Something is slightly awry.


I took Archie and his brother Mungo to lunch yesterday at Wahaca. We had a nice time. If I had hoped to learn anything about university life in Lancaster or Oxford, I failed. The conversation largely demonstrated to me how little I know about contemporary life anywhere.

There was a moment – Mungo told of visiting an Oxford friend at home on a newly-built estate in conditions of what seemed to him like preposterous wealth. (And Mungo has Greek friends who have demonstrated to him what preposterous wealth looks like.) His friend’s father had something to do with a hedge fund, Mungo said.

I said, “Bernie Madoff must have lived like that.”

And they, for once, didn’t know who I was talking about.

Helen and I are thinking of going to Strathardle this weekend. What about the cat? I want to take her there, and introduce her to freedom. But Helen has a dog. He is a very amiable dog, who pays no attention to Perdita when he is here. She pays little to him, although she is wary. But I feel his presence will add to the stress of strangeness for her.

I am sorry to have given the wrong impression in my reference to the cat yesterday. I love her dearly, and value her company – but am beginning to realise that she is almost as much of a responsibility as my husband was. I can at least go out during the day, if I can face that reproachful furry face at the inner glass door when I get home.