Monday, August 21, 2017

Sorry about yesterday. Our niece C. and I went to see the “True to Life” expo in the Museum of Modern Art. It was the second time round for her. I enjoyed it a lot.

For one thing, it was a very specific collection of pictures: British realistic art between the wars. Many an exhibition has to stray from its title to fill the walls. Many another has too vague a title to begin with. This was perfect. And for a second thing, the art wasn’t all that good, which makes for a peaceful and undemanding afternoon. I hadn’t heard of most of the artists – Meredith Frampton was a discovery.

My husband and I used to ask each other, after touring an exhibition, which one we’d like to take home. C. and I agreed at once, yesterday, on Mcintosh Patrick’s little picture of Strobo Castle. (It seems to have been a favourite subject, and I’m sure the one I’ve linked you to isn’t the right one.)

Perdita and I are going to Strathardle today. Back, I know not when – not long. I’ll take Miss Rachel, of course, and ought to achieve a lot. The second skein is nearly finished. Helen’s husband David is hard at work, as far as the slow internet up there allows, at finding flights and hotels for me and Archie when we go to Palermo in January.

I am hard at work on pleasures. We must do the walking tour with the “Gattopardo” expert. What about the cookery day with Lampedusa’s adopted son’s wife? You start off in the market with her, then spend a morning cooking, then – after an interval in which her staff whips lunch into shape – a luxurious meal which you have partly cooked, then a tour of the palazzo including if you are lucky an appearance from her husband himself -- the model, it is said, for Tancred in the novel.  I don’t know what Archie will think about that. We’d have to have clean fingernails.

I had a Turkish holiday once with my husband’s sister, C’s mother. We had a fine time, but during the bit on the south coast we didn’t go to Termessos. I shall ever regret it. And the moral, I think, is that once you have gone somewhere, you might as well spend a bit more on the pleasures only to be had there.

Knitting, oh dear: There’s a splendid picture, in Minoo’s biography, of Runciman in a 1920’s Fair Isle. It’s almost good enough to knit from – the print version (as opposed to Kindle) might be better. And I must get back to Alexander’s vest, once Miss Rachel is a bit further forward.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Here’s Miss Rachel, brightness-enhanced.  I hope you can see it.  I’m at the stage where one just goes round and round forever, peacefully. I’ll need a longer needle for the exciting yoke bit at the end.

I’ve been trawling happily back and forth through the new IK, although thoroughly agreeing with you about the undesirability of dark-on-dark. I want the Cash Pullover and the Subterraneans Cardigan, to start with, and there are others close behind. I do very much like – this may have been happening for years, but I never noticed before – I like being told how much ease each pattern is modelled with.

I was taken with the article about Llamerino – it sounds like my sort of yarn. But an appeal to Ravelry reveals that it comes only in beige and grey, no dyes. I think IK might have mentioned that.

Today brought the latest edition of the British “Knitting”. I still don’t like the patterns or the photography, but as a magazine it’s getting better and better.


I utterly agree, Shandy (comment yesterday) that I need some savings (despite the cruel lack of interest) to deal with dental implants or the day the roof blows off. I’m all right at the moment, in that respect, but I still need to keep an eye on things, to make sure the savings are not being depleted by Ordinary Life.

Metropolitan Rebecca, thank you for the tip about Moneydance. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it, and I will remember it if I have to give up on the current arrangement, old-computer-plus-old-version-of-Quicken.

I’ve finished Minoo Dinshaw on Runciman, and have moved on, not to "The Sicilian Vespers", as originally intended, but to Runciman’s "The Medieval Manichee" which is shorter. It has been a long time since I have read anything much more demanding than a knitting book, and it’s tough going. But good for the brain cells. And Runciman is a prose stylist as well as a truly remarkable historian. "Vespers" next.

Mary Lou, thank you for the hypothesis about the New Yorker cover.

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.