Maire Popkin

There is a website where a picture, painting or photograph would be posted, with the challenge to take inspiration from it for a piece of creative writing — a poem, vignette, essay, whatever. Unfortunately, the lady who ran this lovely website decided to put it on the back  burner several years ago.  Because I had participated now and again, I continued to issue these “mag challenges” to myself when the mood took me.  It occurs to me I have not set myself a “mag challenge” in a while.  There’s only one other mag challeng post on this blog, but there are quite a number of them here.  If you will go to the bottom of the right sidebar to “Categories” and select the category “Mag Challenge,” you can find the ones there.

Maire Popkin

She wasn’t Cockney, she was Irish, so that was wrong, but she did have the large black umbrella with the ivory handle carved into a macaw’s head, which had come down to her from her grandmamá.  (It was mastodon ivory and her grandmamá and great grandmamá had eaten off its former owner for a month, but that was neither here nor there.)  She had simply shown up shortly after the coroner’s wagon had left and announced herself to Constable Harker, who was under the impression headquarters had sent her — and not a moment too soon, if you asked him. The lady’s maid was practically hysterical and the cook and parlor maid were not in much better shape.  As for the poor child, all she did was sit there wide-eyed and silent.   Shock, of course.  The constable conveyed the woman straightaway to Chief Inspecter Philbeam.

“Sir, they’ve sent a matron to take charge of the little girl.”

“About time,” The chief inspector replied gruffly.  He hated these domestic cases, especially when there were children involved.  He glanced at her, then took a second look.

In the cold, unblinking light of early morning, she was a woman drawn in pen and ink, with ink-black eyes and raven’s wing brows stroked onto paper white skin, ink black hair pulled severely back over her white shell ears and completely restrained in a tight bun at the nape of her neck.  She wore a black felt hat with a narrow brim and a black grosgrain ribbon for a hat band, secured to her head with a jet beaded hatpin.  Indeed, the only bit of color about her was her woolen coat of graphite grey, which she wore buttoned up to her chin.  The hem of it brushed the top of her black leather, lace-up boots.  She was holding the bottomless carpet bag in one black-gloved hand, so that bit was right as well.   In reality, she was of average height for a woman, but she carried herself like a queen and seemed half a head taller than she actually was by virtue of it.  Philbeam’s critical eye searched her carefully but could detect no nonsense about her, and that was a great relief.

“Maire Popkin,” she said, and though she had pronounced it ‘Moya,’ she added, “That’s M-a-i-r-e, if you please,” to make it quite plain.  Oh, and she had ‘the voice’ as well, wine dark and soft as velvet, too quiet and reasonable to be disobeyed.

“Nasty business, this,”  Philbeam said,  “The child is upstairs. Harker will take you up.”

It was the sort of house one would expect of a family of their social strata;  fashionable address, fashionable décor, quality furnishings and appointments, but the colors were rather insipid and spiritless.   Harker paused on the first landing and murmured, “Governess.  Murdered both parents then hanged herself.“

“About four months along, I’d expect,”  was her terse comment.


“The governess.”

It took Harker a moment to fit that into context. “Shameful.”

“Yes, it is, when it is left to one of the victims to hold the guilty accountable for his crimes because society won’t.  And the child?”

“What?  Oh, er, right.  Aged six.  Name of, um,” he consulted his notebook.  “’Cecily Grace.’”

He hustled her quickly past the first floor hallway where several uniformed policemen were standing, and up the considerably more narrow stairs to the second floor where the nursery was located.  One of the maids, red-eyed and sniffling , stood by the cold and empty  nursery fireplace wringing her hands.  The child was sitting in one of a pair of small chairs at a small deal table.  Before Harker could speak, Maire Popkin turned him out of the room and shut the door behind him.   She set her carpet bag down beside the door, laid the umbrella against it, took off her gloves and pocketed them, and began to unbutton her coat.

“And who are you?” she asked the maid in her velvet voice that had a silken lilt to it.

“Emma Turnipseed, miss.” The poor girl’s voice trembled on the brink of tears, stumbled and fell. “Oh, what’s to become of us, miss?” she blubbered.  “Nobody ever seems to think of that.  No place, no references, and now we’ve got an ‘istory.  They’ll never take you if you’ve got an ‘istory.”

Maire Popkin studied her a moment, reached into her coat pocket, and pulled out several folded pieces of paper.  She selected one, opened it, refolded it, selected another, opened it and smiled.

“Here,” She took the maid’s hand, put the paper into it and folded her fingers around it.  “Married couple, no children, arrived from India two days ago.  They’ll be needing a parlor maid, an upstairs maid, a scullery maid and a cook.  Apply Friday.  You’ll be a godsend.”  Then she ushered the poor girl gently but firmly out the door.  She turned to the child and finished unbuttoning her coat.

“Are you Cecily Grace?”  she inquired.

“Yes, miss,”  the child replied in a barely audible voice.  She had limp, mousy brown hair, large brown eyes, a pale complexion, and was little better than skin and bones in her plainly cut, unadorned navy frock.  Her stockings had a small hole at the ankle, and her shoes had noticeable bulges at the tip from the crowd of toes beneath.

“You may call me ‘Maire Popkin.’ “  She slipped off her coat to reveal a plain, black wool dress with a high collar and long, fitted sleeves.  A plain gold pendant watch was pinned to the bosom of it.   She looked around for someplace to put her coat, spotted the only adult sized chair in the room and draped her coat over the back of it. She balanced her hat atop it.   She went to the other small chair, pulled it out and sat down in it facing the child across the table.

“Well, Cecily Grace, I suspect nobody has thought to feed you this morning.”

“No, miss.”

“Do you think you can possibly hold on for one more hour?”  Maire Popkin asked seriously.

“I think so.”

“There’s a brave girl.”  She looked the child over for a long thoughtful moment.  “No doubt you are aware that something terrible has happened, and your life is never going to be the same again.  But all is not utterly lost.  I am come to help you over the rough patches and see you settled.”

“Mummy is gone, isn’t she.”  Cecily Grace said with hollow certainty. A single tear dripped down from the corner of her eye.  She wiped it away with a furtive, almost guilty swipe of her hand.

“I’m afraid so.  And we will deal with that in its time, but first we must get you packed and take you someplace kinder,” Maire Popkin said firmly.  “And get a decent breakfast into you.”

The little girl’s bedroom might have been pretty if the fabric and wallpaper had been done in brighter roses and pinks instead of washed out puces and mauves. Tucked as it was up under a northern eave and with only two small dormer windows to light it, the room was small and rather dark.  Still, it had a majestic view of the roof of the house behind and the mountainous forest of smoking chimneys beyond.

Maire Popkin turned to the girl, fixed her with a serious gaze and said, “Now, Cecily Grace, once you leave this house, you are never coming back again.  I want you to carefully consider which of your things you would be most sorry to lose.”

Cecily Grace looked at her solemnly, frowning slightly in thought.

“I want you to gather those things and put them on the bed here, so we will be sure not to leave them behind.”

The girl went to the far side of the bed, knelt beside it, and worked loose a floorboard.  She retrieved a lawn handkerchief which was dusty from being hidden away there.

“These are all but one of my most precious things.” She said, laying the bundle on the bed beside the carpet bag. “There’s a locket which I had from my real papa when I was a baby,  Mummy had given it me to wear on a ribbon, but when I showed it to Miss Grimsly, she said I was much too young to be entrusted with such valuable jewelry and that I must give it to her to keep for me.”  Though her voice was carefully neutral, her dark eyes were hard with the unfairness and sheer injustice of it.

“Tch. Worse and worse.”  Maire Popkin frowned thoughtfully.  She sat down upon the bed and motioned the child to her.  “Give me your hands, child.”   Maire Popkin gently folded the child’s hands one atop the other, palms pressed together, and cupped her slender white hands around them.  “Now, close your eyes and think hard about your locket.  Picture it in your thoughts as clearly as you can.  Remember what it looked like on the outside, all the little details, and what it looked like on the inside.”

The child frowned with the effort of it.

“Now.  Remember Mummy giving it to you.  Remember how it rightfully belongs to you and how much you want it back, and how much you will treasure it once you have it back again.”

The child’s features settled into grim determination.  Abruptly, her eyes popped open with astonishment. As Maire Popkin opened her hands, the child opened hers, and there resting between them was a gold oval keepsake locket strung on a blue silk ribbon.  With trembling fingers, the child opened the catch to reveal the entwined locks of hair it contained behind its little glass fronted frame.

“The dark hair is my real papa’s.  The golden hair is mama’s.  She cut the locks and braided them together the day papa left for the Crimea, so they would never be parted.”

Maire Popkin gently closed the locket and tied the ribbon around the child’s neck loosely enough that it did not touch her throat, but tightly enough that the locket could not be taken off over her head. Then she slipped the locket beneath the neck of the child’s plain little frock and carefully concealed the ribbon ends in back until nothing was visible.   She considered the child a moment, then she stood and turned to look about the room.

“You’ll want your hat and coat.  It’s quite chilly out.”  These were located.  The coat sleeves were almost an inch too short.  The hat ribbons were noticeably frayed.  Then Maire Popkin stepped to the center of the room.

“You’ll need something to wear until better can be gotten for you.”  She said, and made a broad, sweeping gesture with her hand as if snatching something from the air and tossing it into the open carpet bag.  “And we’d better have that trunk in the attic.”  She snatched something from the air above her head and tossed it into the carpet bag as well.  Then she walked to the bed, took the handkerchief full of treasures and placed it carefully within the carpet bag.  Slowly Maire Popkin studied the room, taking in the cheap hairbrush and comb upon the dresser, the mismatched basin and ewer, the old furniture, the rag rug.  “No dolly?”

“No,” the child replied mournfully.

Maire Popkin closed and latched the carpet bag, took it by the handle and headed back into the nursery, beckoning for the child to follow.  She quickly donned her own coat and hat, slid the handle of the carpet bag over her arm, hung the handle of the umbrella over her arm beside it, then held out her other hand to the child.

“Come, Cecily Grace.  It’s high time we were going.”

The child took her hand with a shy, wan smile and they set off, leaving the nursery door ajar behind them.  At the first floor landing, they encountered Constable Harker.   Maire Popkin drew a folded piece of paper from her coat pocket, shook it open, glanced at it to verify what it contained, then handed it to Constable Harker.  “We shall be at that address until further notice.”

Chief Inspector Philbeam was remonstrating with two of his subordinates and did not notice them leaving, nor did the gaggle of curious bystanders who had collected in the street before the house.

A short way up the street awaited a neat little brougham with a sleek bay between the shafts.  Leaning against it was a tall, slender man in a dark suit and a top hat.  He had a very prominent nose underscored by a cavalry mustache.  He looked much too young for the curls of his hair to be so liberally grizzled with grey. As they approached, he opened the carriage door and flipped down the steps, then gravely helped them inside.  He shook out the thick woolen lap robe to put over them and as he helped to twitch it into place, he leaned in close to the child and whispered, “It’s been almost seven weeks since Tabitha Mouser had her kittens.”  He put one long thin finger across his lips, winked, then closed the coach door.  Cecily Grace looked up at Maire Popikin, but she was busy looking at the ceiling, an angle that obscured from view the tiniest of smiles that flitted like a cloud shadow across her lips.   The horse did a little dance, the brougham began to move, and Maire Popkin put her arm about the child’s shoulders, pulling her close.

“Now then.  Once we get to where we’re going, there’ll be a nice hot bath waiting for you, fresh clean warm clothes, and then breakfast.  Do you prefer kippers or sausages?”

“I don’t know, Maire Popkin, I’ve never had kippers,”  the child said sadly.

“Well, then you must have some of both, so that you can have a proper taste of each, and give the matter due consideration before you make up your mind.  One ought not to jump to hasty conclusions.”

“No, Maire Popkin.”

After a long moment of silence, Maire Popkin remarked conversationally, “The coachman is my brother, you know.  His name is Diarmuid.  It’s an Irish name.  It means ‘all knees and elbows.’”   She gave a little sideways glance down at Cecily Grace, and her black eyes were twinkling with unshed laughter.  After a moment she said with perfect seriousness, “’Maire’ is an Irish name as well.  It means ‘practically perfect in every way.’”  With equal seriousness, she added, “’Cecily Grace,’ on the other hand, is Anglo-Saxon.  It means, “she who suffers a great loss in childhood, but who wins through to find a great deal of happiness and love not long thereafter.’”

Cecily Grace suspected that Maire Popkin had completely made up that last bit to try to make her feel better. Oddly enough, it had worked.  She leaned her head against Maire Popkin’s soft woolen coat tiredly.  She was coming to realize how very heavy grief is, and how very fatiguing it is to bear up under it, especially on an empty stomach.  They clopped and rumbled along for a bit with neither of them speaking.

“The wind shifted round before dawn this morning and is now in the south, which means it will be sunny and warm next week,” Maire Popkin said, apropos of nothing in particular.  “Once the weather settles and you are able to play out of doors, my brother might turn into a dog for you – if you ask him politely and say ‘please,’ that is – and then the two of you might go across to the park and play fetch in the sunshine.  We shall have to find some leather gloves for you to wear, of course.”  She thought for a moment, then added by way of explanation, “When Diarmuid is a dog, he must carry the ball in his mouth because of having paws instead of hands.  Unfortunately, the ball gets rather damp as a result. But if you have leather gloves on, you shalln’t mind, shall you?“

“No, Maire Popkin.”


Cecily Grace was almost positive that people couldn’t possibly turn into dogs, but felt it might not be a good idea to say so.  Then she remembered about the locket and began to be less sure that it was quite as impossible as she had first thought it to be.  From there, it was quite easy to fall to speculating how the coachman might go about it, and what sort of dog he might turn into.  She had begun to wonder if it was something he could always do, or if he had been taught to do like lessons, when the little brougham with the tall lean coachman at the reins turned a corner and was swallowed up in a swirl of early morning fog.

Books Read in 2018

43. Jhereg, Brust, Steven (reread)
42. *The San Andreas Shifters, Carriger, G. L.
41. Dragon, Brust, Steven (reread)
40. Yendi, Brust, Steven (reread)
39. Taltos, Brust, Steven (reread)
38. Why Kill The Innocent, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
37. Where The Dead Lie, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
36. When Falcons Fall, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
35. Who Buries the Dead, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
34. Why Kings Confess, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
33. What Darkness Brings, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
32. When Maidens Mourn, Harris, C. S. (re-re-read)
31. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman, Neil (reread)
30. Cold Comfort Farm, Gibbons, Stella
29. Crystal Dragon, Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve (re . . read)
28. Crystal Soldier, Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve (re . . read)
27. Emergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
26. Convergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
25. Visitor, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
24. Tracker, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
23. Peacemaker, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
22. Protector, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
21. Intruder, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
20. Betrayer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
19. Deceiver, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
18. Conspirator, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
17. Deliverer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
16. Pretender, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
15. Destroyer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
14. Explorer, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
13. Defender, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
12. Precursor, Cherryh, C. J. (re . . read)
11. Inheritor, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . read)
10. Invader, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . reread)
9. Foreigner, Cherryh, C. J. (re . .reread)
8. Guilty Pleasures, Hamilton, Laurell K.
7. *Romancing the Werewolf, Carriger, Gail
6. *Imprudence, Carriger, Gail
5. *Prudence, Carriger, Gail
4. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Willis, Connie (reread)
3. The Perilous Gard, Pope, Elizabeth Marie
2. Emergence, Cherryh, C. J.
1. Convergence, Cherryh, C. J. (re. . read)

* Ebook

Moving Right Along

Things have been pretty same-old, same-old, except that I did write that center portion of the Cobblestone Lace Shawl pattern, and I’ve got one repetition knitted, two more to go. I’ve  got 12 more pattern repetitions of various patterns left to finish it: 2 of the center portion, 9 of the decrease and 1 of the ending pattern.  This is an old picture of it.  It’s about five inches longer now than it was then. 

I’m coming along nicely on my cable lace shawl (right).  I made a pact with myself that every time I sat down to knit on it, I would knit three repeats of the lace edging pattern, and I am happy to say I’ve now passed the halfway mark. I like to change up projects like this, because when you get this far along on a project, you practically have the pattern memorized, and then you start making mistakes — forgetting that Row 15 starts with a (K2tog) x2 instead of K2 like all the other right sided rows do.  or that the (yo, K2tog) on row 1 is x3 instead of x2 like the other right sided rows.  When that starts happening, I switch to the other shawl and work on it a while, which is what I’m doing now.

It’s been hot.  We’ve had a couple weeks now with highs in the 90’s F/32+C.  I shudder to think what my electric bills are going to be like.  They’ll most likely be higher than giraffes’ ears till well into October.   We still haven’t had any rain to speak of.  I may have to break down and water my yard.

Right now, I’m in the process of rereading the Steven Brust Vlad Taltos books.  Since I first read them in publication order, I am rereading them in chronological order.  i’m about 4 books in at the moment.

When Your Brain Plays Mind Games With Your Head

On that old TV show, “Laverne and Shirley,” that little hopscotch rhyme they do at the start of the theme song — it goes:

“one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
schlemiel, schlimazel,
Hasenpfeffer Incorporated.”

I mention it because:

I’m doing a Spiral Staircase Hat, leftward twisting version, but I’m using a DK weight yarn on a US4(3.5 mm) needle, so I had to adjust the pattern to a cast-on of 90 stitches.  I threw in an increase to 99 stitches in the hat body to make 11 stitches instead of 8 in the sections.  I also changed up the order of the stitches to “kfb, k8, ssk” in the hat section to give it a slightly different look.  So I’m knitting away at it, and all the sudden, I’m chanting the little Laverne and Shirley rhyme as I knit and it fits exactly what I’m knitting. . . . !

one, two, (kfb) three, four, five, six, seven, eight, (the next 6 knit stitches)
schlemiel, schlimazel, (the next 2 knit stitches)
Hasenpfeffer (slip 2 knitwise) Incorporated. (knit slipped stitches together through the back loop — which is how you do an ssk.)

As to how (never mind why) my brain dredged up that rhyme and discovered it fit what I was knitting and then just put it in my mouth . . .  Very strange.  Probably the prednisolone.  I get really wired when I take it — like practically bouncing off the walls.  I’m on day 4 of a 5-day “burst” of the stuff.  Thank goodness I take my last dose tomorrow. 


Inside Out or Outside In?

Skeins, balls and cakes of yarn that pull from the center are all the rage with some of the people in my knitting group — but not me.  The way yarn is commonly sold is in pull skeins (which are tools of the Devil, by the way).  People who have never dealt with one before tend to pick the end that’s easy to find — the one on the outside, which is OK for a novice knitter, or people who have one of those fancy yarn spikes that is on a turntable. Pull skeins are actually designed to pull from the center, which you quickly figure out once you are able to knit fast enough to be frustrated with how cumbersome it is to have to stop and unroll more yarn (because if you give the yarn a hard yank, you have to chase the skein when it jumps off onto the floor).  However, once you figure that out, you then learn that (a) the inside end is tricky to find and (b) when enough yarn has been pulled out of the skein, the thin outer shell that’s left has a frustrating tendency to implode into yarn barf*.

One of the ladies in my knitting group is a big proponent of hand-winding yarn into a center-pull ball, but that has the same inherent problem as the pull skein.  Once you’ve pulled enough out of the center of the ball, again, the outer shell tends to implode into yarn barf.  Now, the voice of experience is telling you that if a yarn barf event occurs while you’ve got a knitting project attached to the other end of the ball or pull skein, some serious religion losing will happen.  When you’re in the middle of a knitting project, you do not want to have to stop everything and tediously untangle a big pile of yarn barf.

Nope.  First thing I do on a knitting project is roll the yarn from the pull skein into a ball that starts at the center and winds outward.  You’d think figuring out how to do this would be pretty intuitive.  Apparently not.  I’ve taught more than one novice knitter how to roll yarn into a ball.  Of course, the obvious problem with a ball of yarn is that it rolls.  That’s why I put the ball of yarn in a bowl when I’m knitting.  Once you do that, the ball unrolls smoothly from the outside-in.  Any yarn barf that was going to happen, happened when you were rolling it into a ball in the first place, and it’s already been dealt with.

For a yarn bowl, I recommend something large enough for the ball of yarn you’re using, something with a little weight to it like glass or ceramic or pottery so you won’t pull the bowl over if you give the yarn a little tug as you’re working.  One of the yarn bowls I use I got at a thrift store for 50 cents (at right).  It’s that indestructible restaurant china from the 1950’s and 1960s.  It’s cereal bowl size, and heavy for its size and I carry it in my knitting bag.

The one you see most in my pictures (left) is one of a pair of bowls I got at Pier 1 because I really like the imprinted design on the outside lip of the bowl.  It’s heavy glazed pottery.  My big ball bowl (below) is a salad serving bowl I got off, again because it’s ceramic and fairly heavy, and I like the impressed design. (It was also on sale!).

[Topic change without segue warning]

I was making a sandwich the other day, and found myself mentally comparing my technique to the parental unit‘s — When she makes one, you get a smear of mayo on the center of one side, and either mayo or mustard smeared on the other, one slice of lunch meat, maybe a slice of tomato, the bottom half of a lettuce leaf on a couple of slices of the local “Wonder Bread” equivalent  — that awful “white bread” that becomes library paste after two chews.  When I make one, I “book” the bread — you take two side-by-side slices out of the loaf and lay them open like the covers of a book.  Whatever is going to be spread on the bread will completely cover that surface.  (Yes, I spike in several places on the OCD spectrum.  Why do you ask? ) If the lunch meat is chicken, ham** or turkey, then it’s mayo spread on both sides.  If beef, then it’ll be horseradish sauce on the beef side of the bread and mayo on the other.  There won’t be any lettuce (I don’t buy lettuce.  I’m not that into salads.) and probably no tomato unless I’m on a cherry tomato kick.   There will be cheese on the sandwich; Muenster or Havarti if it’s chicken or turkey, sharp cheddar if it’s beef or ham.   The lunch meat will be that thinly sliced “deli” stuff, and there will be three slices of it.  The bread will be something with a little more substance to it and a lot more nutritional value — whole grain/multigrain, or ciabatta, or right now there’s this rosemary and olive oil “baked-in-store” bread I’ve been getting that is so yummy.  It makes a killer sandwich with chicken, Havarti cheese, and tomatoes. (I did break down and get a couple of Roma tomatoes when I got another loaf of it the other day because sandwiches. . .)  Of course, since I slice tomatoes a little thicker than most people (“the knife***” is a paring knife with a serrated blade that has needed to be sharpened for years . . .), I always serve any sandwich that has tomatoes in with a folded-paper-towel “diaper” on it.   Nuts.  Now I’m hungry.

Ran across this surreally magical video the other day.

Wouldn’t that make a weird accident report?  “I was T-boned by a hot air balloon that ran a stop sign . . . ”


*Yarn Barf -- just what the term implies -- a big tangled mess of yarn.

**ham -- has, alas, been removed from the menu -- I've been put on a low-salt diet. Bummer. 

***"the knife" A paring knife I've had for over 20 years, with a serrated blade.  I use it constantly because it's the only "sharp" knife I have (besides this honking great machete of a bread knife which is probably illegal in any other state except Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming). It lives in the silverware cup of the dish drying rack because after each use, the blade is hand washed clean with a squirt of dish soap and put there, because I use it all the time.

Attack Of The Mummy!

Yeah.  A bit of back story on this one.   My dad (second from left) had two older brothers and a younger brother, KG (far left and below).  In the inscrutable way of families, he was closer to his younger brother than he was to his older brothers.  When WWII broke out, my dad joined the Marines, and KG joined the Navy, so they had ships in common.  After the war, KG joined the Merchant Marine and eventually became chief engineer on an oil tanker.   KG married and they had two girls, CLK and ELG.  My dad always doted on KG’s girls and our families always stayed involved and in touch over the years, especially after KG died.

CLK, the oldest, married and had two girls, MO and MA, which my dad considered the grandkids he never had (neither my bro nor I had children).

ELG, the younger, married later in life after her father had been dead for several years, and she wanted my dad to give her away at her wedding.  The picture below right is one of my favorite pictures of both of them.

KG knew how my dad loved woodworking, and one year as a gift, he sent dad a kit to make a grandfather clock — precut wood, fittings, “internal workings”and hardware — everything you needed.  My dad had such fun putting the clock together, staining it, finishing it, and assembling it, and it had pride of place in our den plonging the hours for many years — until yesterday.

For a number of years, the clock had been promised to  CLK, to be passed down with the grandfather clock KG had made for his family from the same kit, to their two daughters.  Thursday, she and her husband MK drove over from where they live in the Dallas Metromess, with the mission of taking it back with them.   My mom  imagined they’d just unhook the weights and the pendulum, put it flat in the bed of MK’s pickup, cover it with a quilt, and boogie on back.  Guess again.  Nothing is ever simple.

Yes, you have to detach the weights and the pendulum, but no, since it is an older clock (about 50+ years old or thereabouts) you cannot transport it flat.  The vibrations generated by driving it over roads will discombobulate the machinery and disarrange the internal workings.  It has to be transported upright.  CLK had done her homework, though.  She consulted the interwebs, that fount of universal wisdom, and found reliable instructions for how to transport it. By the time they had it all wrapped up ready to travel, it had been christened “The Mummy.”

It would have to be strapped to the back wall of the cab of the pickup, and MK got one of their adjustable ladders that could adjust to just the right length to brace it at the bottom and halfway up. I didn’t get a picture of it ready to go, but CLK did.  The Mummy Goes East!

Anyway, bright and early this morning (Saturday), the clock along with several other items my mom wanted CLK and MK to have for the girls (like the silver tray her daddy gave my mom and dad when they got married) began wending their way back.

Unfortunately, while we were eating lunch Friday, CLK’s eldest daughter called to say she had just fished three dead koi out of their koi pond in the back yard. Then it was four.  Then it was five. Then it was eight (they only had 13 total, including 3 new ones). Their waterfall is controlled by a GFI plug which is turned off by throwing the breaker. (The pond and circuitry came with the house.)

Apparently what happened is that during the warm weather, the pond stratifies by temperature with the water with the least oxygen ending up as the layer on the bottom. They had torrential rains there Wednesday and somehow the extreme moisture tripped the GFI breaker. They left to come visit us early Thursday morning and no one had noticed that the breaker on the waterfall had been tripped and that it was not running. The big influx of cold rainwater sank to the bottom and displaced the anoxic layer upwards. Because the waterfall was off for almost 36 hours, the water was not being mixed and aerated and the biggest fish (15+ inches), the ones they’d had for over 10 years (of course they all had names!), were the first to perish from lack of oxygen. They were lucky the girls happened to discover there was a problem or they would have lost them all. Hopefully, the ones that are left will be OK. Three of them were new fingerlings. So very sad.  Koi are not cheap to replace.  Even the fingerlings, but koi the size of the big ones they lost are around $500 apiece.

In the knitting news, I finished my avocado “washcloth”, but that’s about it.  Too busy visiting with rellies to do much of anything knitting wise.  Here it is all finished and on my toaster with the toast rack on top.

I’ve had that toast rack for so long I’ve forgotten when I got it.  I do remember where I got it, though, from the Williams and Sonoma catalog.  It is very difficult to find toast racks in America.  I got one because I like my toast crisp.  You take a piece of toast hot out of the toaster, butter it, and lay it down on a plate and the steam makes the underside soggy — which defeats the whole purpose of toasting the bread in the first place. You might be able to tell, the toast rack consists of five letters T-O-A-S-T made from wire which are affixed to the bottom and form the slots where you place the toast (it holds 4 pieces).  The “A” sticks up higher than the rest to act as the handle.  I think its a very clever design, myself.   Of course, I store the toast rack on top of the toaster, but because of the electricity and metal involved, I like to have something cloth or cloth-like in between.  I was using a blue knitted washcloth, which clashed horribly with my AVOCADO-GREEN! kitchen, whence the need for one knitted from avocado green cotton yarn. Voilà.