Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Here’s a puzzle for you.

My cleaning woman was here yesterday morning – a wonderful Romanian friend of Helen’s, who hopes to resettle here. We have perhaps a dozen words in common, and manage fine. She and Helen speak Greek to each other. She left the kitchen window open a couple of inches.

While I was sitting with my husband in the hospital, I worried a bit about whether Perdita would wriggle out and fall to her death two stories (I prefer the American plural) below. She didn’t. She’s fine. But I found this on the kitchen floor when I got back:

Perdita refused to explain or even comment. I was afraid at first that I would find a dead or (far worse) a wounded bird somewhere in the house. We have had them in Strathardle. Amourous crows, trying to nest in the chimneys, have fallen into the wood-burning stoves and from there made their way into the house. You would think that could only happen once before the house-holder would get a grip and ensure that the doors of the stoves were closed upon departure, but we have had at least two such episodes. The damage and mess in the house was very considerable. Disposing of the corpse(s) of the bird(s), when discovered, was the least of it.

However, that didn’t happen here yesterday. Thank goodness.

I can only assume that a bird (a pigeon) sat on the windowsill and Perdita swiped it with a well-aimed paw.


I had another good day with the Uncia, five rows done, twelve remain. I could finish this weekend! It is a great comfort to reflect that finishing-finishing will be negligible. I joined in a new ball at one point, Perdita broke the yarn once. That’s not much in the way of loose ends. And I enjoy blocking.

I cast on some Kaffe Fassett Regia socks during the hospital visit. I am tempted to buy more sock wool – there are lots of wonderful things out there. But sock-knitting will end abruptly when my husband comes home, and that could be any day now.

Heidi Schultz’ “Devil’s Slide” shawl pattern turned up in my “Promotions” queue this morning, and I instantly added it to my Ravelry queue. Its appeal is much the same as that of the Tokyo shawl which I’ve already got, as far as bias-construction and comforting-drape is concerned, but I also love that flash of colour in the middle.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

That was a better day – a full five rows of Uncia done; fewer than 20 remain. I no longer felt ill. The Hansel Hap is on its way to DC. The Mosaic socks are finished, although not finished-finished. I did a few more rows of the half-brioche. I still haven’t got the hang of that one again. There are four pattern rows, and I keep having to refer to the text.

Skeindalous, thank you – Begonia Pope, for the knitter of the original Dr Who scarf. A name that deserves to be remembered. If the legend is true, that she was given an armful of yarn and told to knit, she can’t be given credit for the colours. But the arrangement is so very good that it’s hard to believe it was all accidental. I knit something of the sort once, recovering from one of my broken arms. And I think there’s one in one of Sally Melville’s books. Neither is anything like as good as Dr Who’s scarf. Apparently it became a knitting icon without really featuring in very many episodes at all.

This day is called the feast of Crispian…

Monday, October 24, 2016

I woke up to Test Match Special. I was cheering for Bangladesh, but, alas! just like Scotland and the Calcutta Cup, it was not to be. (Bangladesh has never beaten England in a test match. Today, they got within 22 runs or so. Which sounds comical to a baseball fan.)

I am constantly amused by the passionate love for cricket – and it’s a very odd game, believe me – which the British Empire left behind in the sub-continent and the West Indies. And Australia and New Zealand, of course, but that's different because no blood was shed in throwing off the yoke.


I knocked off one of the biggies on my to-do list yesterday, namely packaging the Hansel Hap for the post. I thought I could at least finish the Whiskey Barrel socks in the evening, and do the same for them – smaller, easier – but I felt ill after my afternoon meal and achieved nothing. I think I’m better this morning, but am not quite sure.

I also got two more rows of Uncia done, as Shandy speeds ahead. I’ve done 378 rows, of 400. If I keep at it, I’ll get there. I wrapped myself in the Tokyo shawl as I knit, and it’s wonderful. I think perhaps its bias construction lets it adhere to the shoulders in a particularly successful way.

And the second Mosaic sock is a few rows short of the toe shaping.

I’ve also got the half-brioche sweater on the go, but what with not feeling well and Queen Victoria having gone away and left me, there hasn’t been much in the way of evenings. (The Queen has survived her first childbirth – a princess.) James and Cathy recommend Poldark.

Dr Who

The original, mimeographed instructions that the BBC used to send to enquirers about the Dr Who scarf have re-surfaced on the internet. The scarf also has its own website, with recommendations for modern yarns to reproduce the original colours. The legend is that the producer bought an armload of yarns and gave them to a knitter (her name is preserved, but I’m not going to look it up just now) and asked her to knit a garter stitch scarf. She assumed that she was meant to knit all the yarn, and the rest is history.

My original copy of EZ's Baby Surprise is a similar mimeographed hand-out that I got by sending off an s.a.e. to the Sunday Times.

The colours of the original Who scarf are particularly good, better than any Who-type scarf I can remember. It’s soothing winter knitting. I’m just saying.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Well, I made my (scary) to-do list, and knocked off a couple of the easy’s. It is always prudent to include a couple of them in such a list. 

I found myself flicking through the Haps book, looking for something cosy to hap myself in – and remembered the Tokyo shawl, your dear gift, knit for that very purpose last winter. So one of the items on the list was to find it, and I did, just where it ought to be. And tonight I will employ it.

One of the many plus’s of the Haps book is the news, from KD, that “hap” is used as a verb on Shetland, as I have used it above.

Otherwise, little to report. The second Mosaic sock may reach the toe-shaping today. I think I have decided on Kaffe for the next pair of socks, and will take a ball along to the hospital just in case. You would think my unknit-sock bag would be beginning to show a slight diminution, but such is not the case.

As for the Uncia, I did two rows in the morning, without distress. But next is one of the rows Shandy refers to in yesterday’s comment, where every stitch is crossed or cabled. Not necessarily difficult, but demanding, and I didn’t feel up to it. That is the pattern of current days: I set forward pretty well, and accomplish a bit in the morning sometimes. But when I get back from the hospital in mid-afternoon, with theoretical hours stretching ahead, I make myself a meal and go to bed.

Sunday mornings tend to be longer than others, so I have some hopes for today.


It is interesting that you don’t have “bed-blocking” in the US. It’s all a question, I’m sure, of who pays. The difficulty here is that the NHS budget is one thing, and local council care is another, and the NHS can’t (by law?) discharge a patient until suitable care has been arranged. My poor husband is a classic case: he fell, he broke his hip, the operation to replace it went well, rehabilitation has been less successful, he needs a lot of care (two people, four times a day), it’s not yet available.

(And I’m not at all sure I’ll be able to manage when he comes home, whatever. That’s another question.)

So he’s blocking a bed. In fact, he is in an excellent adjunct to the Western General Hospital, purpose-built for old folks who need rehabilitation or to wait for care – a private room, with en suite facilities. But this can’t go on forever.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

I’m sorry about yesterday. A social engagement in the morning meant that the day’s strength had to be spent on tidying the sitting room. It looks much better.

Lying in bed this morning, worrying about the day, I decided that I need to resort to that old end-of-year list-making, instead of just knocking off the most urgent job each time and considering that a day’s work.

My sister phoned in the evening. Two interesting things: she didn’t seem to know what the phrase “bed-blocking” means. She’s a doctor, and has seen our parents through end-of-life. Things must indeed be different in the US. And, secondly, although she worked for Hillary in her (my sister’s) high-flying days, and admired her, she’s almost as unhappy about the current choice as I am.

While I’m there: I was distressed, in the third debate, by Hillary’s repeated references to how Osama bin Laden had been "brought to justice". That’s wasn't justice, lady. That was summary execution, or assassination, if you prefer. It sent me back, yesterday, to Wikipedia on the Nuremberg Trials. Stalin and Churchill and Roosevelt had been talking for months, before the war in Europe ended, about what to do with the Nazi leaders, and summary execution was high among the possibilities they discussed. I’m glad they chose as they did.

Not everyone was convicted at the Trials, and, among those who were, not everyone was hanged. They were being tried for war crimes, not just for losing. It’s all pretty distressing – I loathe capital punishment – but the Allies were trying to let justice be seen to be done. Hillary wouldn’t remember.


The Uncia has been pretty stressful, too. Shandy, I wish you were here to sweat it through with me. Somebody said that Chart H, the final one, was the worst of all. I sailed through the first 16 rows or so, not bad at all, especially since the repeat was shorter than in earlier charts. Then…!

370, with those Make-1’s next to YO’s in the previous row. I got through that, more or less, with the help of your comment. 371 went pretty well, although there was a bit of trouble at the end – two stitches missing in the final repeat, which would be the first repeat of 372.

But then 372 turned out to be the first wrong-side row with action of its own more exciting than K or P or slip-one. I discovered that on Thursday evening, 371 having been my only achievement of the day. I put the knitting aside in horror. Things went better yesterday. I did three rows, got those missing stitches re-inserted, and at the end – 374 – all was well, the stitches presenting themselves to be knitted or purled as required.

375 doesn’t look bad at all. But at the moment, I have abandoned all thought of five-rows-a-day. Inching forward is all my ambition.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Very little to report.

I got up in the night again to watch the third debate. It was ugly. I was sad to think that one of those people will, in all likelihood, be president of the US for the next four years. On the other hand – this is a terrible thing to say, when so many of you are living in the middle of it – I am finding the whole story fascinating, and will miss it when the election is over.

Archie phoned: the first time I have heard from him since he became an undergraduate. He says he’ll be in Edinburgh soon for his 20th birthday, and invited me to lunch. He had just been participating, he said, in an Autonomous Learning Group which I deduce to be a seminar without a grown-up. UK universities are often criticized these day for taking so much in fees and offering so little in tuition. This sounds like a brilliant solution.

I told his mother later. She hadn’t known he was coming.


I’ve nearly finished turning the heel of the second Mosaic sock.

I did three rows of Uncia yesterday morning, which took me through row 369. In the afternoon, when synapses are not firing on quite the same level, I had trouble with 370 and put it promptly aside. I don’t think anything’s wrong. I thought then, and think now, that it just needs a morning brain. I was having difficulty relating what-I-am-supposed-to-be-doing with what-I-did-in-the-row-below. Looking at the chart now, it seems straightforward. We’ll soon see.  

During the debate, I knit a few rows of the half-brioche. There was some trouble there, at one side, but I think it’ll pass the galloping horse test.


That squirrel is back this morning. How did it know? I’ll have to stop feeding birds altogether, at least for a while. I, too, thought “rat” when it first appeared, Green Mountain Girl, and had a good look at its tail before deciding not to scream.

Mary Lou, we were much plagued with squirrels in our garden in Birmingham. (Not in Strathardle – there, we are still, precariously, in red-squirrel country. We love them.) You don’t want to know this: we used to trap and drown them. It made no difference. Neighbours approved but tended to regard us with suspicion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Back to real life.

I didn’t do any knitting at all yesterday – it’s wonderful how much time that frees up.

An impudent young squirrel found its way to our bird feeder yesterday – two stories up. It must have climbed up the pipes. It was completely unworried by Perdita, and even by me, knocking on the pane. I had to open the window before it moved, and even then, it was back in a few minutes. Impudent and intelligent. Scary.

I didn’t do as much Uncia as I had hoped, while away. Even the slight jiggle of a smooth train seemed a bit off-putting. But I got some done in London, and a couple of rows on the way back. I’m now at work on the final chart, with 34 rows to go – only a week, if I keep at it assiduously. I cabled away without a cable needle, not very adroitly or very quickly, but the result is perfectly satisfactory and I was very glad indeed not to have the extra item (the cable needle) to worry about.

A dear friend emailed yesterday about the Montbretia – the cover-picture of the Haps book. She has done it, spending big bucks on the specified yarn, and is completely unhappy with the result because of that bump at the top, clearly visible on the schematic. And indeed the designer (Carol Feller, no less) refers to it in her introduction to the pattern: “It can be bunched up around your neck but by having the extra fabric you have the option of opening it out over your shoulders…”

I looked at Ravelry. The few knitters who have actually finished tended to agree with my friend, although one did say that the lump could be pulled half-up around the face in hard weather.

I haven’t been tempted, being constitutionally averse to bobbles. But I’m sorry to hear such news.

Other knitting

I was there poised over the keyboard at 2 p.m. on Saturday – a good reason for not attempting Art that day. I got myself into Hazel Tindall’s class at the EYF next year. It was sold out within the hour.

Poor Susan Crawford is having a grim time with chemotherapy, like many before her. She hopes to get the book (Vintage Shetland Project) to the printer next month, and is worried about money. The crowdfunding has all been spent.. She needs the proceeds from the book, and the attendant sales of yarn kits, to keep afloat.