Monday, January 22, 2018

I have made some progress with the shawl. I think the 4th border, at least, is more or less all right. (All four are knit in one long row, and the alternate rows are plain knit: so one always starts the exciting rows from the same end.) I’ve knit back, and am ready to try the next pattern row.

I’m doing much better, using Amedro. She lays out her text very helpfully, with occasional useful commas and new lines. It makes a big difference. 

I was held up, earlier this evening, when I found the yarn in a tangle. When the cats tried to help with the knitting, the other evening, they slid it off its cardboard cylinder. I’ve retrieved that, and rewound it – and there’s not all that much to go before this third ball is finished and the progress line in the sidebar can be increased.

But then Perdita came and sat on my lap. Had it been Paradox, I would have pushed her off, as I often do. But Perdita is not a lap cat, and I was touched, and sat there for a while without knitting, to accommodate her.

There still may be time to attempt that next pattern row before I go to bed.


I have signed up for a “Recipe Box”. Do you have them in North America or the Antipodes? They are becoming rather popular here. You choose two or three recipes per week, and they deliver everything you need, so you don’t have half-empty packets of miso hanging about in the refrigerator nor do you have to wonder where to go for wild rice.

I’ve signed on for Mindful Chef which makes a big point of Healthfulness – no bad thing – and which is, apparently, the only one which offers meals for one. I would think the others are missing a trick there.

I am always tempted by KAL’s and yarn clubs, but they never fit into my scheme of life. This may be the answer. I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Well, I’ve finished the shawl row that was giving me so much trouble, and the plain-vanilla one that follows. Now to get back on my feet.

In lace, as in Fair Isle, one relies on what one has already done to keep one straight for the future. It's a bit harder to do, with lace. That row was enough of a mess, at least for the first two borders, that that’s not going to work anyway. It’s a perfectly simple pattern – lace chevrons with a couple of roundels in the very middle. We shall see.

And you’re quite right, Mary Lou, that it’s going to be scrumpled up around the baby anyway. This is a take-it-to-the-pub-for-lunch shawl, not a present-at-Buckingham-Palace. But it’s sort of humiliating that I, who have knit Sharon Miller’s Princess, can’t even do this any more.

The cats tried to help last night, like furry Rumplestiltskins but less successfully. No stitches were lost, fortunately. Tonight I have put it away out of their reach, as I should always but occasionally forget.


More snow fell today, and it’s been cold. I haven’t been out, and it’s been a bad day on the weakness-and-lack-of-appetite front as well. I think the forecast promises better for tomorrow. I am going to have coffee again with my neighbour four stories up, and dread the climb as it might be the north face of the Eiger. It’ll be nice to see her when I get there.

My beloved cleaning woman comes tomorrow. I may seize the opportunity to put the knitting straight early in the day, while she gets the rest of my life in order.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

“Rather fetching” is perfect for the Gioacchino Lanzi Tomasi of today, Shandy. (comment yesterday) Here is a relatively recent picture of him.

I watched the rest of Visconti’s “Gattopardo” – I’ve rented it on one of those arrangements which means it will vanish like a Boojum tomorrow, 48 hours after I started watching. It’s much better than I remembered. I saw it once in a cinema, many years ago.

I vividly remember when, as a child, perhaps at the age of 9 or 10, during the war, I first saw a movie made from a book I loved. It was “My Friend Flicka”. I had thought that the movie would show me the beloved book as I visualised it in my head. They got everything wrong. Visconti is better than that.


What I can no longer avoid telling you is that I am in bad trouble with the baby shawl, and am resorting to my old, old mantra: it’ll be all right from here on out. (I am knitting the four borders of a traditional Shetland shawl in one long row.)

If I went in for lifelines, I would rip back to the end of Chart C. But I don’t. In Charts A, B & C I knit across the chart (rightly or wrongly), repeating as necessary, until I got to the marker for the corner, and then started again. I set out happily with Chart D in the same spirit, and soon saw that all was wrong.

And soon saw why – this time, I was supposed to knit the first section three times, then the centre section once, then the final section three times. I did some laborious tinking and set forth again, but the first border and (inexplicably) the second border are not right at all. The stitch count is right, but that’s not much comfort.

I have reverted to Gladys Amedro’s original pattern – not in her book – and I think things are going slightly better. I like her “T” and “C” – “take” and “cast” – for K2tog and YO. Those were the traditional Shetland terms, she says somewhere, and I find them easier to keep in one’s head.

Let’s hope for better news tomorrow.

Friday, January 19, 2018


I’ve left the last instalment of my Palermo adventure untold. It went smoothly. EasyJet turns around on a dime, as I may already have said – so a delay in London means a delay in Palermo. But that didn’t happen, that day. We got back on time. I was re-admitted to the UK without fuss (there’s a frisson of anxiety there, these days). Rachel met us and drove us to James’ and Cathy’s house, a great blessing.

The next day we Uber’d to Kings Cross. Cathy phoned half way through our journey to tell us that I had left my iPad behind. We had departed in good time, and public transport Sydenham-Kings Cross is very swift. She got there in time to give it to me, a truly heroic deed.

Our southward journey on January 1 had been very austere, despite First Class. This time things went better. Archie had declined to drink anything more exciting than Coca Cola the whole time in Palermo, but on that homeward journey he allowed Richard Branson to ply him with gin and tonic.

When I got home, Paradox came bounding to meet me, all enthusiastic purr. I walked about the house looking for Perdita and calling her. Niente. Ten minutes later she came strolling into the kitchen, and Paradox flew at her, fists flying, like a jealous toddler.

Perdita had worried her feeders during my absence, by not being there. She worried me again last night. She couldn’t have left the house – but she could be shut in a room, or cupboard, or drawer. I slept badly and got up early. There she was waiting – never too early for pussy cat’s breakfast.

I wasted some time today by watching part of Visconti’s “Gattopardo” on my iPad. Burt Lancaster is perfect, for the Prince, and Claudia Cardinale, for Angelica. But Alain Delon won’t do at all, for Tancred. Feeble. Although I can’t think of an actor, French or Italian or American or British, whom I would suggest to Visconti instead.

This is a picture of Gioacchino Lanza (the “real” Tancred) in 1955.

This is a picture of me (in my “Relax”) sitting next to him at lunch, 63 years later. Better late than never.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Yes, Karen! (comment yesterday) I, too, got an email from Susan Crawford telling me to fill out a survey or else I couldn’t have my book. The point of the survey was to establish whether contact details had changed in the considerable amount of time that has elapsed since we crowdfunded. The website wasn’t entirely confidence-inspiring, and I particularly regretted the absence of a “Submit” button at the end.

We shall see.

There is happy news, too, on other fronts. Kate Davies is now in full swing with the West Highland Way club. The current offering is an oversized Fair Isle called Strathendrick. Interesting, tempting.

And the Early Winter VK turned up today. You Americans, at least, must have seen it weeks ago. It’s almost all rather interestingly Nordic. I am seriously tempted by Meg’s “Danish Sontag Shawl” which looks like something that would be useful in weather like this – chest warm, garment secure, hands and arms free. The cast-on is more than a bit daunting.

And I’m going to want Vivian Hoxbro’s new book, “Strik Danske Stjernetrojer”. It concerns Danish “nattrojer” – “night shirts” – decorated with knit and purl patterns and worn day and night, under other clothes. They sound as if they may be even earlier than the first Shetland knitting. (My friends and I, in the Shetland museum, were shown interesting 19th century onesies into which the wearer was sewn for the winter. But they weren’t decorated.)

If all else fails, Meg will find someone to translate it.

And I have more or less re-engaged with the shawl, and am determined to finish the current chart before turning in this evening. Only another half-row of plain-vanilla garter stitch.


The rest of the UK has had quite a lot of bad weather in the last 24 hours, but Edinburgh has been OK. More snow was forecast for last night, but instead we had a thaw, the streets and pavements were clear this morning, and I got out to the supermarket. A good thing, too: we were getting low on cat food. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

So, Monday morning, we went to the Cathedral of Monreale – a splendid end to the week. The website says that only 350 people are allowed in at a time, and visits are restricted to half an hour. It wasn’t like that. There were perhaps as many as four dozen people there – and seats were available for sitting on. And it is gloriously, astonishingly beautiful. I wondered if Hagia Sophia in Constantinople had once been like that, a whole golden space.

This is, I am afraid, the only picture I took the whole time we were there, as Archie and I sat in a cafĂ© waiting for the time we had assigned to the taxi driver. Those are oranges on those clipped trees. Archie took lots of pictures, and I will soon post (I hope) the one I signalled to him to take, of me and Tancred at lunch in the Palazzo Lanzi Tomasi. It’s not a very good picture, but there we both are.

Our plane left late on Tuesday afternoon – EasyJet does one round-trip per day, and turns around on a dime. Archie pointed out that we had been there a whole week and hadn’t been to a museum or art gallery, so we went to the Museum of Sicilian Art. We’d have done better with Archaeology, but it isn’t as conveniently located. Sicilian Art has one beautiful Antonello, and is located in an old palazzo. Otherwise little to recommend.

BUT, by good luck rather than good management, we happened upon the best meal we’d had all week (except for the one we cooked ourselves) at the Ristorantino Palazzo Sambuca nearby. I had a Sicilian version of a prawn cocktail/salad – the prawns (those little ones) were raw, and they were delicious.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the homeward journey – smooth – and the reunion with my dear cats.

I enjoyed the new Fruity Knitting, although not the best; and I have done a row and a half, perhaps, on the shawl. I had forgotten how long those rows are, all four borders. And here we are in ’18 and the baby is due in April, so I had better keep my nose to the grindstone.

Snow, today. Helen turned up at 7:30, still pitch dark, me dozing to the Today programme, my happiest hour of the day. She cleared the steps and the car and told me to stay in. Alexander came over from Glasgow and reiterated the advice. More snow is forecast for tonight.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Not much tonight. I am tireder and weaker than ever. And there’s a new episode of Fruity Knitting, with which I and my iPad can go to bed. Again, no knitting.

Palermo: I left you as Archie and I were leaving the Catacombe dei Cappuccini on Saturday morning. I think there are several other places in Italy where you can see skulls and bones piled up in church, but Palermo may be unique in offering mummies in their Sunday best.

Since it is in the same quadrant of town, we went on to see the Royal Palace – which contains the Cappella Palatina, No. 2 on the mosaic list. Unfortunately, just as we arrived, they were launching into a baptism (you’d think it was a Roman Catholic church or something), and there was a good deal of standing around on the part of the tourists before we were allowed in. And I was feeling pretty feeble by the time that happened. And the seats were roped off – one could but lean on a pillar.

And the crowd which had gathered behind us, once admitted to the chapel, was of Sistine Chapel dimensions.

So I don’t have very happy memories of the Cappella Palatina. Archie dispatched some pictures to his mosaicist mother.

I reported every evening while we were there to friends and family back in Blighty, and the reaction from London, at least, was that we must take Sunday off. So we did – except for going (by taxi) back to the restaurant Jamie Oliver mentions in his Italy book. I asked our young, intelligent waitress about him. “Celebrity chef” was beyond my Italian vocabulary. I settled for “English writer” and told her that it was because of him that we were there. She had never heard of him. The restaurant is small and very Italian – clearly, despite Jamie, not yet on the tourist trail. Da Pippo la Gondola, should you find yourself there.