Sunday, October 26, 2014

Well, here we go – with panic approaching a state of meltdown. The wedding guests are beginning to gather frae a' the airts.. Theo and Jenni and baby Ted are already in Paris, getting over the jet-lag bit. Greek Helen and her youngest son Fergus will be here tonight. Everybody else will be on the move soon. Rachel and Ed and their son the bridegroom will drive north on Wednesday. I think I won't try to write tomorrow – back here Monday, November 3, insh'Allah.

As if I wasn't spooked enough already, I looked at the calendar just now, in happy anticipation of a visit from one of you in early November, and find that on the 12th we have an appt at 10:40 -- that's early enough that getting my husband there won't be easy: and I don't know where it is or what it's for. “squiggle DS” my handwriting seems to say. Not podiatry, that's on the 6th. Not flu injections, the nurse is going to make a house call on a date as yet undisclosed; not dentistry, his teeth are better and we are to ring up if there is further difficulty; not diabetes or rheumatology or respiratory, those are all somewhat in the future. What else is there? If the Good Lord had meant us to worry, He'd have given us things to worry about – my very favourite line from Fawlty Towers.


All well again yesterday. I did a scallop on the Bridal Shawl. Perhaps I will record the event here, the next time I do one that I regard as perfect. It was pretty good last night, but on row 6, an inward row, I found only one stitch before the half-way faggoting, where I was supposed to do a k2tog. Twelve little rows – perfection must be possible.

And Archie's sweater progresses nicely. Should I take it along to Strathardle tomorrow? It is very satisfactory, after all this lace, and even after Rams and Yowes, to be knitting something that progresses. The button bands for the front placket have been established, and the first buttonhole knit.

“Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook” turned up in the post yesterday. It's brilliant on colours, translating things you like looking at, into knitting. I am less convinced by the parts about charting, but maybe I need to study them more closely. The book is beautifully photographed and produced. Kate Davies was involved as editor and friend-of-the-author. Her blog post on the subject is delightful, and will certainly send me back to work a bit harder before I consign it to its pile on the floor.

Life's Problems

Ivy, I love your idea that agitation and anxiety are to old age as surliness and bad decision-making to adolescence. I don't know what SSRI is, but I will ask my GP. And I love your account of the Haiti Benefit Dinner (link above)– please, please blog some more.

Beverly, I think you may well be right that occasional help for my husband would be a good idea. If someone could come even once a fortnight to help with a bath, that would advance things a lot. It's a very precarious and tricky business, because of the constant danger of falling, and we don't tackle it as often as we should. I will discuss this with Greek Helen, who is nothing if not energetic and organised. She doesn't get it from her mother.

Ellen, you're absolutely right that Seasonal Affective Disorder comes into the story. Vitamin D is meant to help with that, I think. And, Knitalot, your suggestions are all good. Rachel and Alexander and their families decided when holiday-ing together this year that we would stop giving Christmas presents to each other. Wonderful! But unfortunately the parameters were never discussed. Surely it's all right to renew magazine subscriptions if I know the recipients enjoy them? And I wouldn't dream of not sending them all the New Yorker, which doesn't even count as a magazine subscription or as a Christmas present. And surely the Little Boys on Loch Fyne deserve a little something? But there's the nucleus of a helpful notion there.

And FoggyKnitter, thank you for reminding me of the Jesus Prayer.

There was some unexpected and rather interesting knitting in the Financial Times yesterday (in the magazine) but I have been here too long and must leave that for next time.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

No further news from Strachur.

The hair-do was a success. At least I now look sane.

Panic continues. I am grateful for your advice. But Cat, the sensible approach doesn't work – I'm not frightened of anything in particular, just frightened. Well, perhaps of my increasing inability to cope with my husband's increasing frailty. But nothing can be done about that – indeed, the longer we can continue to slide down the familiar grooves, the happier for both.

I got a few things done yesterday, not including silver-polishing. But whatever is accomplished, two or three more chores spring up in replacement. I have a good deal of sympathy for Hercules' difficulties with the Hydra.

Yesterday I re-read the brilliant “found poem” Alexander constructed from this blog for my 80th birthday and printed on a tea towel. The link is to the blog itself, when I copied the poem out for you. We have had the tea towel framed; it hangs in dark corner with some old samplers. And it clearly shows that the notes of anxiety and fear go back a long way. This time of year is always difficult, with the encroaching darkness. I am drinking soothing herbal teas.

Will I feel better if I find my keys in Strathardle next week? Or will I just cling to them hysterically?

Valerie, thank you for the report on The Knowledgeable Knitter. I've ordered it.

Knitting went well yesterday – I did a scallop for the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl before returning to Archie's sweater. It is getting on nicely – madelinetosh produces a beautiful, smooth fabric. I am about to start the ribbing for the neck placket (top-down, remember). I don't think there's any hope of reaching an easy bit before we head off for the wedding – less than a week now. Greek Helen will be here tomorrow. But once the placket is established and the interval between buttonholes determined, it may prove easy enough.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Panic continues. It's worst in the morning. Tamar, I'll check on Vitamin B. I have a half-feeling that it was much touted during the war – perhaps recently discovered? I take Vitamin D in quantity during the dark months but I've forgotten what its virtues are supposed to be. And, Weavinfool, you're quite right that panic and happy anticipation are remarkably similar – I remember feeling something like this the morning I set forth to Shetland, and, long before that, the day I went to the Calcutta Cup on tickets I had won in a newspaper competition.

This is worse, I think. I got Rams & Yowes wrapped up and tagged yesterday. That hasn't helped. The wedding present is silver and I need to polish it. I hope I'll get to that today. And today is when I'm having my hair done. That should lift the spirits.

We had a grand time having lunch with our niece. That helped for a while.


My swatch of madelinetosh DK measures just a whisker over 20 stitches to four inches – not even 20 ½, just a whisker. So I'm calling it five stitches to the inch and proceeding on that basis, but remembering, as I often do in this sort of situation, Major Erskine in Evelyn Waugh's “Men at Arms”: “Major Erskine...was strangely dishevelled in appearance. His uniform was correct and clean but it never seemed to fit him, not through any fault of the tailor's, but rather because the major seemed to change shape from time to time during the day.”

The pattern is one of those with tables of numbers – you have to find your size and your gauge for every instruction. I hope it's not going to be too instruction-intensive for wedding-knitting. It's top-down, a novelty for me, and the neck-band isn't going to be added until the very end – so it curls. I'll have to do quite a bit before Archie can get much idea. It's knit circularly below the armpits, but it'll be a while before I reach those sunny uplands. I made a good start yesterday, leaving the Bridal Shawl aside despite my firm instructions to myself.

Here's something from Zite about knitting and the Yes campaign for Scottish independence. Woolly thinking of the worst sort, pun intended, but I thought you ought to see it.


Do you like numbers? Alexander emailed yesterday to say that his son James – the elder of the Little Boys on Loch Fyne – had been set the following sequence as his homework from Strachur Primary School, with instructions to find the next four numbers in the sequence:


The best Alexander and I can do is to assume that “8” is a mistake, and that the sequence required is 4,16,5,25. But James found this solution, which his doting grandmother regards as little short of brilliant:

64, 63, 3969, 3968

I'll let you know what they say about that in Strachur.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The feelings of panic are as bad as ever – so they clearly have nothing to do with dental appts or delivery of packages of yarn. I got nothing whatsoever done yesterday except breakfast, lunch, tea, supper, a little expedition with my husband, and sewing some elastic into the cuffs of his bed socks which had become dangerously loose.

Today our niece is coming to lunch and to pick up Archie's old computer. I may have mentioned that transaction – he has acquired a big, heavy, fancy one for advanced game-playing, in anticipation of his 18th birthday next week. Our niece's one is tottering towards the grave, so she will now have Archie's (which is not really “old” at all). A happy arrangement.

It should cheer and steady me to see her. She is a wedding guest, too – the bridegroom's first cousin once removed, indeed – and she still has to go shopping for a dress whereas I just have to wrap up presents. She hoped to wear one out of the cupboard, like me, but says it doesn't fit any more. Hard to believe – she doesn't carry a spare ounce.

Jan, your report about the church where the wedding will be, is wonderful. I will forward it to Rachel, along with the article about Hilda and Michael. Some of my children read this blog some of the time, but Rachel, I think, least of all.

I finished Archie's swatch yesterday, and today will take meticulous measurements and – why not? – cast on. I also did another scallop for the Unst Bridal Shawl, and mustn't be tempted to abandon it. It was hard to start again after finishing Rams & Yowes. One a day will get me there in plenty of time – but I mustn't slacken.

Now, VK.

I would be terribly grateful to have your verdict on the Knowledgeable Knitter, Patience. (And I love writing to you, because P. is my favourite Gilbert & Sullivan, closely followed by the Gondoliers and Trial by Jury and the good old Mikado and you are the only real-life Patience I have ever known.) There are some other mildly tempting titles on the VK book page, especially, perhaps, Mucklestone's Fair Isle book.

There are lots of really good cables in this issue. I'm having serious trouble locating the item-number in some cases, but I think I'm right in saying that I love the little, cropped No. 2 and am extravagantly impressed by both 7 & 8. Indeed, if Archie thinks the madelinetosh Composition Book Grey is too purple, I can see it winding up as one of those. Five stitches to the inch, for both. I ought to be able to achieve that. Maybe I already have.

The cover pattern, No. 22, by Marie Wallin in Rowan Kid Classic, is also wonderful. The effect is brocade-like (as it says) and I had to look at the chart carefully to see whether it obeys the Fair Isle limitation of having only two colours per row – but I think it qualifies. I have often admired Wallin's patterns for Rowan, never knit one. This pattern, as given, looks too close-fitting for my taste (love my Relax) but that doesn't mean the stitch pattern couldn't wind up as a vest.

And in the pages showing yarns in the skein, I loved this one from Ancient Art Fibres. A Bluefaced Leicester – I knit with that once, and it is indeed delectable. How does this one look when knit? Is it strong enough for a sock without any reinforcement? Lots of nice things to think about.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Yesterday went well, except that I am increasingly assailed by feelings of anxiety bordering on panic, for no credible reason at all. Much like my mother in her old age. Yesterday, to begin with, a new cleaning woman came from the agency – I like her a lot and I think things will go well, but preparing the kitchen for an 8 a.m. knock on the door is still slightly stressful.

Then my husband's dental appt – getting him to any appt is hard work. But not that hard, and I'm used to it. The wind was strong and fitful and he was worried about balance as we started back, but we were rescued and carried home by the kind friend who drove us to the Referendum vote not all that long ago.

I was worried about whether ParcelForce had tried to deliver my package during our hour's absence. No, that was all right – it turned up an hour later. The yarn is beautiful – this is the madelinetosh DK in Composition Book Grey.

Then I couldn't find the book “Knits Men Want” which contains the pattern Archie had chosen. I've got a lot of knitting books, many in piles on the floor where I have exceeded my shelf space. I rarely have any trouble finding a particular one. But this one had been taken from its home-space to show to Archie, and then left lying around waiting for the yarn. I could pretty well have recreated the pattern without the book – it's fairly basic. But then I found the book.

None of that sounds worthy of anxiety bordering on panic, does it? I think the approach of the wedding is weighing on me.

In the evening I started Archie's swatch. I had nicked the index finger of my right hand and the little wound kept opening and bleeding a bit, quite painlessly. But I couldn't risk blood on the Bridal Shawl, could I? So I devoted the evening to the swatch. Wonderful stuff, this yarn.

One of you warned me that it's really more purple than grey, and that's true. But the idea of taking it along as wedding-knitting -- a comment from someone else; I'm sorry to be so vague -- is perfect. There's time to do enough before then that Archie can judge the fabric, and anyway I can take the swatch along. But not too much time -- I can still back-track at that point. I think he'll like it, but it's best to be sure. My husband didn't recognise the concept of “composition book grey”. British education must proceed along different lines.

And then, talk about cups running over, the new VK turned up. It's a stunner.

Does anyone know the book called “The Knowledgeable Knitter”? It's all about getting gauge right and not casting off the ribbing too tightly at the neck and things like that. It sounds good. Do I want it, or do I know it all already?

And speaking of books – Kristie sent me a link just now to the Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, privately published and sold by the author. That one I'll go for.

There's much to be said about the new VK – I could knit from it from now until the next issue comes out and be nowhere near the end of the things I admire. More tomorrow.


Rachel sent this link yesterday, no message, with the subject-line “It's Real!”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I talked to the postie yesterday (about Archie's yarn) – but ParcelForce and the Royal Mail are two separate things, so she couldn't help. She said to leave a note – they don't like taking a parcel away any more than we like not getting it. We've got a bit of that hurricane this morning. It will be hard to leave a note that won't blow away.

The Economist seems to be off the hook (see yesterday). The phrase that alarmed me is “...the transport links that shuttle virus from villages to the town and back into uninfected country”. In a leader about Ebola, of course. But apparently “virus” is not a plural, there – “the” has dropped out.

I achieved two more scallops on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday. It is getting harder and harder to remember where I am from minute to minute. I'll take it along to the dentist today.

Something very peculiar has happened to all my pictures – but here's a new one. Mungo got an Outstanding Achievement Award at his Athenian school yesterday for getting A* in all his GCSE's. No one else in the school did that. Here he is receiving it. He is there on his half-term break from his new Scottish school. Helen will bring him back on Sunday, and then come here to look after us for a few days – including the wedding the following weekend.

Anyway, Mungo:

I think the trouble with that NYTimes article (yesterday, again, with comments) is that the author was trying to write light-heartedly about two different things – the decline of Home Ec, and gender-specific crafts. I think gender-specificity is declining, at least to some extent and in some places. Grandson Alistair showed great promise as a knitter but couldn't pursue the subject in China because boys simply didn't. It was very sad.

And I wonder if Home Ec will come back. Archie's all-boys school teaches Man Skills such as ironing in the final year, and cookery is available throughout as an optional activity. They couldn't be the only school to do it. But on the other hand single-sex schools are something of a rarity these days. Cookery might be hard for all but the boldest of boys, if the class was full of girls. It's an interesting topic.

Monday, October 20, 2014


It looks to me as if the Economist has wandered into the minefield offered by the question of the plural of “virus”. At least they avoid the odious “viri”. The word is never used in the plural in ancient Latin – it means “venom” or “slime” and doesn't really need a plural. I think the only possible English is “viruses” but I've had trouble defending that corner in the past. It's a neuter noun, so the strictly correct Latin plural would be “vira” which is obviously impossible. I've emailed James.

Hilde, thank you for your comment. I had got as far as the House of Bruar page of sizing instructions before I read your message, and had grasped that 38 was a European size. I was hesitating between 40 and 42 for the replacement – you have decided me. 42 it will be.

Sarah, I don't know Susan Crawford, and will now watch for her new book rather attentively.


Not much else to report. I applied the principles adumbrated yesterday to the Northmavine Hap, and got on well. It's now at a point where I can leave it. I got another scallop done on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

I've just grasped that tomorrow's post, with Archie's yarn, is likely to arrive when we are out for yet another dental appt – my husband's new gnashers are still not comfortable. I'll try to have a word with the postie this morning, if I can catch her,

My sister sent me a link to an NYTimes article “Knitting Backward”. It froze my computer but this morning it turned up on Zite, so I have read it and it left me mildly cross. The author is a woman who started life as a boy, and she is writing about gender roles and “home ec” and the inability of anyone, nowadays, to sew on a button. The climax comes when her mother teaches her how to knit – but only after she has turned into a woman.

So, men and boys don't knit? My husband's mother taught him, without waiting for a sex-change operation. I suspect the author of the Times article didn't go on to become a knitter, after that initial lesson.