Tuesday, 8 November 2011


I have 29 boxes of books arriving today from the warehouse where they have been waiting for me to sort through them. This is my tatting type task for the next month. Tatting, for those too gently reared to have heard of - or practised - this repetitive exercise in economy, is the making of rugs from old bits of materials cut into strips and threaded through some supportive web (this is wrong - for the right description of tatting see below*. What I was thinking of, possibly, is 'hooking'. I'll get back to you on that). Anyway, sounds like William Boyd's recipe for novel writing, and none the worse for that. How am I going to tackle the task of sorting them? I have weeded my library twice, in 1996 and 2009. But that was before Kindle. I think I will now be able to give away quite a few books that I kept 'just in case'. My main aim will be to have within easy reach the reference material I need to write two books: one on Julia Reitlinger the Russian artist (1898-1988) whose life and career spanned Europe in the last century and the other on the fate of a particular type of spruce from a narrow 10-mile wide coastal strip of the northwest Pacific, which occupied - and still occupies - a disproportionate amount of space, both literally and figuratively, in the national imagination. When I say 'national' I mean 'British'. Using this criterion, which has crystallised itself through the exercise of explaining it in words (well done, words!), I can at least get the books required onto the shelves in my library/work room. I was sitting at the table with a caller at around 5pm yesterday and a group of school children - sorry, students, - passing by called out and waved at us, creating the uncomfortable sensation that we were appearing on a kind of tiny reality TV show. Have I mentioned recently how passionately I love Moffat? I seriously believe it is the best place in the world to live.
* According to Wikipedia: 'Tatting is a technique for handcrafting a particularly durable lace constructed by a series of knots and loops. Tatting can be used to make lace edging as well as doilies, collars, and other decorative pieces. The lace is formed by a pattern of rings and chains formed from a series of cow hitch, or half-hitch knots, called double stitches (ds), over a core thread. Gaps can be left between the stitches to form picots, which are used for practical construction as well as decorative effect.' Tatting has been used in occupational therapy to keep convalescent patients' hands and minds active during recovery, as documented, for example, in Betty MacDonald's The Plague & I.

Today's reading recommendation is Prof N T Wright's remarkable inaugural lecture at the University of St Andrews on Oct 26 “Imagining the Kingdom” – N.T. Wright’s Inaugural Professorial Lecture « Euangelion.


  1. Our rug correspondent (Jennifer Wilson) writes: I knew them as 'hooky' rugs

  2. ..I used to know them as hooky rugs - or, slightly dodgily in Scotland, proddy rugs!

  3. When tatting will you find a copy of the Plague and I? I haven't read it. Only read the the Egg and I and come to think of it think that was off my mother's shelf when I was convalescing. All this weaving of threads giving me a faint headache.