Thursday, August 21, 2014

This has proved so very exciting a week, by our geriatric standards, that I couldn't leave you out of it altogether.

Today we should have Archie's and Mungo's GCSE results.

Today, too, my husband and Lizzie and I will go to Strathardle. The weather is glum.

That's nothing. On Tuesday, or some such day, Helen, on the slopes of Mount Pelion, recently returned from a family holiday in the Balkans, was badly bitten by a dog, plunging me, at least, into a maelstrom of worry about rabies. There is some in northern Greece, not much.

...Here are Archie's results: an A* in English Literature, three A's, in his A-Level subjects, History, Spanish and English; the rest B's except for Chemistry which was a C. Everybody is delighted. Mungo's results, from a different board, are unknown as yet.

Anyway, rabies. The dog's owners were somehow located and visited. Its documentation including rabies vaccine looked good, and Helen stopped worrying, or professed to. The owners said it had never behaved like that before, which was distinctly worrying rather than otherwise, as “unprovoked aggression” is often the first symptom of rabies a dog presents. I keep begging her, by email and telephone, to go back and SEE the dog at the weekend. If it was rabid on Tuesday, it's not going to get better any time soon. My husband fears that Helen is being fobbed off by Greek peasants anxious about liability. Helen says they're really nice.

An awful fuss about a very slim possibility of danger. But rabies can be stopped if treated with a series of injections before symptoms develop (=before the virus reaches the central nervous system). After that, there is little or no hope and death is extremely unpleasant.

Knitting: I took the Unst Bridal Shawl along to my husband's dental appt yesterday. I've left it at the end of an edging repeat, so easy to resume, and will now put it away altogether until Rames&Yowes are finished. Lace knitting is infinitely soothing, and I think the reason may be that there is so much of it that you simply can't worry about finishing. You just sit there and knit.

Rams&Yowes progresses well, more or less. But garter stitch is the knitter's absolute test, and I'm not really terribly good at it. More than that, I have never mastered the art of recovering a dropped stitch, or laddering back to a split one. I've got one of those two-headed crochet hooks. I know what the problem is. But I can't do it.

So, off we go into the Scottish gloom. See you on Monday, insh'Allah.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's no use -- the capacity to multi-task is diminishing rapidly with age. Lizzie and her friend Cleo are here for a couple of days of Festival and I think this is the moment for me to abandon blogging until after the Games. The plan is for Rachel an d Cathy to send us off home on Sunday and close the house behind us, a delicious treat. So I should be back here next Monday, insh'Allah.

I'll miss you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Again, little to report. I stuck with Rams & Yowes. I've finished the gaulmogot stripe and proceeded to katmollet – they'll all have to be done again in reverse, remember. I'm almost finished straightening out the stitch counts and will be very glad to stop counting.

I did the arithmetic. The original pattern has the same number of rows as stitches. That means Kate was counting on the tendency of “Fair Isle” knitting to pull the stitches in and make them square instead of the familiar little rectangles. If it worked, the blankie would be square. She has you pick up that number of stitches on each of the four sides.

But it doesn't work, and people were having trouble with wavy edges – that is, picking up too many stitches.

Artemiswolf found (after the event) that her gauge over the centre pattern was 28 stitches and 32 rows to 4”. My own gauge was very similar – it's quicker to go back to her excellent blog than try to remember where my note is. She then made a garter stitch swatch – we both did – and calculated the pick-up rate from that. And that must mean that she, like me, has more border stitches top and bottom than on the sides. Not square.

I was comforted by your comment yesterday, JeanfromCornwall, that blankets aren't meant to be square. I could wish, in this case, that it was the other way around, and the sides were longer than the ends, since the pattern is so emphatically longitudinal. But it's not so and I shall give it no further thought.

I was interested in your observation, too, that bugs like yellow. (Follow the link, for that one.) I've got a lot of what I think might be black fly on the courgette flowers on the doorstep but hadn't associated their unwelcome presence with the colour of the flowers.


I finished the new Ruth Rendell and can now get back to my life. It's uneven. It's not her best. But I enjoyed every page.

I continue to worry about the Games. How on earth do we get the picnic to the field? The car has to go down the night before, in order to secure a good place. It'll be full of beer and cider and plates and plastic tumblers and napkins and forks. But the actual food will have to be refrigerated overnight. Then what? We didn't go to the Games last year because of having had my 80th birthday celebrations (wonderful!) instead – and I simply can't remember how it's done.

I'll ring up the butcher in Alyth today and make sure he makes lots of his pork and leek and apricot sausages this week. Essential.

Poor Annie Modesitt is having a dreadful time with (apparently) shingles. Alexander had it a couple of years ago and by comparison, got off lightly.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Again, not much. I'm halfway through the gaulmogot stripe on the Rams and Yowes border, still busily counting and adjusting stitches. I have appreciably more stitches top-and-bottom than I do on the sides. I didn't block the centre before I took a gauge reading from it – just a bit of the steam iron on a quarter of it or so. So I don't know how square (or not) it is.

My guide and mentor for the gauge-calculating-and-picking-up process was Artemiswolf, to whose excellent blog entry on the subject I have linked before. She doesn't mention that phenomenon, although her text doesn't exclude the possibility. Too late to worry about it now. Square isn't essential, is it? Finishing is.

Maybe I'll lay it aside today and get on with the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Nothing much gets done on Sunday anyway.

So, here we are at the dawn of Games Week. I tremble slightly. Lizzie – the granddaughter recently returned from her year at the University of Kansas – will be here on Tuesday for a bit of Festival, having travelled up overnight on one of those superior buses where you can stretch out and sleep. We'll proceed to Strathardle with her on Thursday. The rest – Rachel and Ed and the Sydenham Mileses minus Alistair – will arrive on Friday by train and hire car.  Joe (Lizzie's brother) will come up late on Friday and stay overnight here in Drummnd Place before proceeding north. No Thomas & Lucy, no Hellie & Matt. A depleted party, compared to some years.

You didn't really need to know all that.

The Festival passes us by, these days, which is really rather sad. But I did notice on a lamppost yesterday a poster advertising a show called The Sweater Curse. It clearly referred to what we know as the Boyfriend Curse. I'd like to see that one. It is being done by a woman from Texas.


The weather has turned – our lovely summer is no more. Whether in response to slightly chill winds, or (more likely) because they recognise the change in the light, the plants on the doorstep are slowing down. The lollo rosso lettuces have perished. The courgettes are still flowering, and little courgettes are growing, but there don't seem to be very many buds to come. The carrots and beetroot are more or less all right.

It hasn't been a very good year for the chillis indoors – but there's still time. My Mysterious Plant, bucking the trend, continues to grow briskly – surely too fast for a tree? It now overtops that stick I put in on which to measure its progress.


I have fled from high culture – I'm halfway through a re-reading of Middlemarch – and have embraced the new Ruth Rendell, out last week. The Girl Next Door, it's called. That woman is good – and she's older than I am. This one is about old age, and it's good enough to cut seriously into knitting time. There is also (wonderful how life fits together sometimes) a new BBC sitcom on the subject of old age, called Boomers I think. Very well written, very well acted. (" Shut up! This is a funeral. We're meant to enjoy ourselves.") I'm not sure it quite gels (jells?) but we'll go on with it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Not much to report.

Knitting moves forward well on Rams&Yowes, however. I've finished the first border stripe, white, and moved on to gaulmogot. Attention is currently concentrated on getting the stitch count identical on opposite sides. This is being recklessly done with judicious k2togs on the side with more stitches. Recklessly: maybe I should be adding stitches to the other side, but I feel we've got an awful lot of stitches – although fewer than Kate Davies specified – and reduction is to be preferred.

All the while increasing at the corners, of course.

I'm working on the sides first. When I'm sure that they are perfectly equal, I'll turn my attention to top-and-bottom. This is all a bit sloppy.

I was right, that the knitting is much pleasanter now that only one colour is involved at a time. Purling is not quite as much fun as knitting, but not too bad. I do need another needle, though. I have nothing between 80cm (not long enough) and the new, super-long 150cm one. I'm using that one after all and pushing the stitches resolutely around. Attempts to use two needles failed as (predictably) point protectors fell off and stitches disappeared off the far end of the needle as fast as I knit them onto the other end.

I'll order a 100cm number and see how I get on with that.

So, another day with no Unst Bridal Shawl. I'll have to give some thought as to how to integrate it into my new life.

Kate Davies has written an interesting article, both historical and practical, on steeking. Brilliantly illustrated, of course.

I had a bit more to say, about Stephen West's new collection and the autumn edition of Twist Collective (too much negative ease for my taste) but the computer keeps freezing and I'm tired of it all. I heard the man who invented pop-up ads on the radio this morning, He apologised.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Yes, great news about Alistair. He didn't quite get the grades the university had asked for in its formal offer so there was half an hour, at least, of despair in Sydenham yesterday before they got onto the UCAS website and discovered that Glasgow (his first choice) had accepted him anyway. They won't be sorry. He is going to do computer science of which (at least in the view of his awestruck grandmother) he is already a keen amateur. Robotics and 3-D printing. I don't think he was well served by the school in Beijing.

I think Hellie had a similar experience – grades not quite good enough – before Newcastle accepted her. In her case, there were at least a couple of days of agonised waiting.

Alistair's younger sister Rachel, meanwhile, had been doing some AS-levels – she was a year behind him. She got two A's and two B's and it doesn't matter much anyway, as she has decided to start the Sixth Form again (two years) at her London school. One of the B's was for Critical Thinking. We are all curious to know what that subject consists of, and how Rachel could possibly have failed to get full marks in it. She's an ace at Critical Thinking. One of the A's was for Mandarin.

So the next excitement will be Archie's and Mungo's GCSE results, next week. Mungo (Archie's younger brother) is a bit of a nerd, in the nicest possible way – his results are likely to be stellar, and I am anxious that Archie shouldn't be too entirely eclipsed, to mix my astronomical metaphors.

Hellie and Matt's engagement was announced in the Times yesterday. We hadn't read it for a while, and enjoyed it a surprising amount,


Well, I did count the stitches I had picked up, top and bottom, around the centre of the Rams & Yowes blankie, and, sure enough, there was a considerable discrepancy. After a bit of a mental tussle – couldn't I just make some corrections on the first round?– I undid the top (“when in doubt, take it out”), slid my finest lace needle through the stitches to be picked up, and knit them (not without difficulty) from that. The count is now a near-perfect match, top and bottom.

I haven't checked the count on the sides, the steeked edges. I'll do a lot of counting in the early rounds. But I expect the sides to match, or nearly.

I have embarked on the first round, which is purled. That's not arduous at all, it turns out. I'll go on doing garter stitch in the round the basic way. But the super-long needle has suddenly become a burden, too much time needs to be spent pushing stitches around, so I'm transferring to a shorter one, which may prove to be too short. Meadow Yarns again, if so.

No Unst Bridal Shawl at all while all this was going on yesterday.

I had a considered look at the new Rowan magazine while I was up in St James' Centre yesterday. (Boots didn't have the prescription yet, so I'll have to go again.) I didn't care for it. I hope Rowan hasn't lost its momentum. John Lewis had the cover sweater on display, that one with the cabled body and Fair Isle sleeves. In real life, it's much more attractive than I expected. The yarn (Cocoon) is sort of fuzzy and the pleasant haze smooths over the differences between the two elements. I've knit Cocoon into big scarves a couple of times. It's yummy stuff. But this sweater is not for Archie.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Today is Alistair's A-Level day, as I thought. He hopes to do computer science at Glasgow University, my own alma mater, or one of them. No news yet.

Alexander agrees with you, JeanfromCornwall, that my mysterious plant isn't knotweed. He says that knotweed has pretty well finished growing for '14 so it was hard for him to find anything like a young shoot to compare, but he doesn't think the leaf shape is right. He suggests an alder, an idea my husband pooh-pooh's. It must, if not knotweed, be a little tree of some sort, however. We will nurture it carefully. We like trees.

Thank you for the birthday wishes (and more on Facebook). My dears, BRANDON MABLY wished me Happy Birthday! Now I'm 81. It's just like being 51, inside, but one is weaker, weaker. I'm also two years older than my husband's sister got to be. She died of cancer in March, 2011. All through our long acquaintance, she was two years older than I was and now the position is reversed and it seems odd.

I got my replies to the wedding invitation written, both formal and informal. Mary Lou, I nearly added the words “There'll always be an England” yesterday when I mentioned the 5:30 wedding breakfast, but then I wondered if enough of you were hardened old-time New Yorker readers to understand. It's obviously a throwback to the Old Days, religiously, when bride and groom and wedding party would have had to be fasting in order to receive communion at the wedding Mass. Some prompt food at the party would have been essential.

And, thinking it through, I decided to eschew this one, although it's a shame to miss the speeches. If my husband can be persuaded to go, we have promised him he doesn't have to eat in public. His hands are swollen with rheumatism and he is clumsy. He can skulk in his room and be brought delicious tidbits. So it seemed easiest -- certainly for the organisers -- if I planned to leave at that point myself, if I am alone, and head for the station.


I picked up the stitches from the top of the Rams & Yowes centre, the cast-off edge. It was tough going and I stopped when I got to the corner. It was sufficiently tough that I think it would be prudent to count stitches, top and bottom, before I go on, just to see how close I got. If all is well, I should finish the picking up today. The new needle, 150cm long, is a great help.

And I did a little more Unst Bridal Shawl edging. The dental appt was so promptly kept and so brief that not much was achieved there.

Today is a pick-up-pills-at-Boots day. I think I will allow myself the new Rowan book, at least I will if there is something better inside than that alarming cover picture.

There are some good links in the Knitty Blog – news of the Glasgow University Knitter-in-Residence; the huge Abertiefi Cardigan; and a race between a sheep and a cyclist.

Breaking news: Alistair got his place at Glasgow!