Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

How We Met March 27, 2017

Filed under: Africa,Friendship,Hotels,Kenya,Memoirs,Memories,Northern Ireland — Janet @ 3:00 pm

A few years ago, 18 to be more precise, I wrote a memoir which I called 8 Countries, 62 years.  Now at age 80 I plan to write the sequel and fill in a few gaps.  Yesterday at church coffee hour I was asked the conversation starter question – how did you meet the man you married – or words to that effect.

It’s a long story – or a very short story.

Step 1 – we met in Kenya in August 1966.


IMG  Ian at the Nairobi Show, September 1966


A Book To Make You Think October 20, 2016

img_1508  I certainly recommend this book – Resurrection Science, Conservation, De-Extinction and the Future of Wild Things, by M. R. O’Connor.  The author gives 8 case studies in which she raises various scientific, economic, ethical, and philosophical points.  And it’s quite comprehensible for a non-scientific person.


I Met A Manx Cat January 13, 2016

Yesterday I met a Manx Cat – no tail, long hair, black and orange markings – I didn’t have a chance to get a photo – the cat was very possessive of the chair I would have liked to sit in while my recorder was being mended.  I didn’t really mind standing – I had a most interesting and wide ranging chat watching my alto recorder being recorked with a sort of waxed string.  On the wall behind him the woodworker/craftsman/repair man had a fascinating collection of African masks.  The conversation branched to roasting one’s own coffee and using coffee beans from Kenya – which morphed into my recollections of having tea in Karen Blixen’s home in Ngong.  And playing golf years later after Karen Blixen’s former coffee estate became Karen Country Country Club.

Manx cat 1  one of Wikipedia’s Manx cats – this one looks like my Calico Cat Katerina except for the tail

IMG_9282 Katerina with her long tail

Manx_5599939 vs coon  another of Wikipedia’s Manx cats

manx cat3  600px-maine-coon-cats  from Wikipedia Manx v Coon – the cat on the right more closely resembles the chair hugging  (hogging) cat I met yesterday.



Famous Pioneering Women December 1, 2015

Beryl Markham – aviator, horse trainer, writer

97803 circling the sun


A marvelous book.  I have read so much about Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen. Elspeth Huxley, Beryl Matkham and others who made Kenya their home and played a special part in the history of this country.  I lived in Kenya for 2 years in the 1960’s.  This was well within the lifetime of Beryl Markham – but alas I never met her.

However I brushed history when I had tea at Karen Blixen’s home near the Ngong Hills.  This was long after Karen had sold her farm and left Kenya.  Her former home was temporarily being occupied by a Danish couple whom I knew through the University.  Little did I realize the role that house had played in the lives of the early settlers.

But when I lived in Kenya again in the early 1990’s, I did appreciate the history of the golf course I played on – Karen Country Club had once been Karen Blixen’s coffee plantation.




Busy Days December 24, 2014

Filed under: Africa,Authors,Book stores,Books,Kenya,Reading — Janet @ 2:21 am

Yesterday we went to Half Price Books over in the University District. Not that I needed any more books, but I always like to browse. I’m currently reading Black Star Nairobi by Mukoma Wa Ngugi.  A crime novel set in Nairobi Kenya.  It was  a surprising find back in early  November in the Toadstool Bookstore in Milford New Hampshire.          IMG_4904     It is quite good but I am not doing it justice by reading only 5-10 pages late at night.

The Toadstool Bookstore also had birthday cards and this is the one Ian chose for me – this was a month early but you can see that maybe he was thinking ahead of getting a cat.  (We got Katerina shortly after we arrived back in Seattle after our trip to the East Coast.)



I did not do justice  to the previous book  I finally finished.       IMG_4797   99 Girdles on the Wall.  A memoir about holding it in, letting go and coming to grips (to quote the cover), by Elena Louise Richmond.  I bought this book from the author who was selling it along with her paintings and cards at a craft fair at the Finnish Lutheran Church.  I found it rather a strange book with a lot of angst and guilt and surprises and a happy ending.   Again, only reading a few pages at a time – and trying to knit as well.

IMG_4888  and this is the result, Scarf 7


To return to browsing at Half Price Books – guess what caught my eye  – a favorite which I have read many times but no longer own.  I decided it would be a good addition to my shelves and that I wanted to reread it.IMG_4905  Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass by Isak Dinesen









From the Kenya Side of My Life September 26, 2011

Filed under: Africa,Environment,Kenya — Janet @ 9:56 pm

My blog entry for today is from the Kenya side of my life.  Namely the time now 20+ years ago when we were  living in Nairobi and were very involved with activities at UNCHS and UNEP and the U.S. Library of Congress.

  this photo is from the BBC.  Wangari Maathai is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.  She was the first African woman to be honored in this way.  Sadly she has now died, at the age of 71, undergoing treatment for cancer.  A strong activist and a woman to be much admired.


How Did They Meet? February 8, 2011

Filed under: Family history,Golf,Kenya,Travel — Janet @ 6:28 pm

Have you ever wondered how your parents, grandparents, greatgrandparents met?  Well, I can trace my forebears back to the grandparents.  I’ve already recounted how my paternal grandmother answered an ad in a newspaper.   I think that method was not uncommon in previous generations.  I do wonder about my maternal grandparents.  I had always assumed it was in some sort of maybe academic settting since my grandfather went to MIT and my grandmother went to Wellesley.  But I’m not sure when they each graduated.  I think my grandfather was Class of 1904.  Which would have meant he was about age 30.  I don’t have a date for my grandmother’s graduation from Wellesley, i.e. I don’t know whether she was Class of 1904 or what.  Since she was born in 1872 and they married in 1906 – well, what was she doing between say the age of 18 and her age of 34 when they married.   I wonder if she studied or taught music for a while either before Wellesley or after.

Now as for my parents – they met at a golf competition at Oakley Country Club, within walking distance of the home where I grew up.  My father was widowed, for the second time, in 1934.  From the diaries of his second wife, Mildred,  my sisters’ and  brother’s mother, I read that my father played a lot of golf.   He often nipped off for a round of golf leaving Mildred to cope with one, two, or three young children.  So golf was very much a part of his life.  So in the 1935 season, he needed a partner for some sort of Mixed Competition.  The call was sent out to golf clubs in neighbouring towns, Winchester being one of them.  My mother’s father, Grandpa Friend, was a very active member of Winchester Country Club, and my mother was a keen golfer.  My grandfather urged her to answer the call so over she went to Belmont, 3 miles away, and played in the competition with the man who was to become her husband, and my father.  I don’t know how they ranked in the results of the golf competition but maybe they did well.  In any event,  that was the start of the courtship, and in December 1935 they married.

Now, the burning question – how did Ian and I meet.  That is a bit convoluted.  To cut a long story short, Ian arrived in Kenya from Belfast in early August 1966.  I arrived 10 days later from Berkeley California.  We were each put up at the United Kenya Club – a sort of  hotel for people either coming for a short term, or for newcomers who were looking for more permanent accommodation.    A few days after I arrived I had a postcard which I wanted to send to someone in the U.S.  I asked around but couldn’t find anyone who knew what the postage would be.  Finally I asked this nice looking fellow who was lounging on the balcony reading some sort of report.  He didn’t know the necessary postage either but he offered to accompany me to the Post Office to find out.  And that was the start of it all.

I don’t have photos close to hand of the events outlined above but what I have found this morning is a puzzling postcard, which lead me to google for the United Kenya Club.  Said googling has turned up a very interesting history of the Club.  Mentioned in this history is one Andrew Ligale who became a Government Minister and, in 1981, the Chairman of the United Kenya Club.  In 1966, Andrew Ligale was away in Nottingham, a planning student at the University there.  In 1967, Ian was a delegate to a planning conference in Germany – the other Kenya delegate was Andrew Ligale.  Somewhere I have a newspaper photograph of the 2 of them striding along together, clutching their conference papers.

  mystery postcard from my mother’s archive.  A real photograph of the Reception Hall, K.F.C. Club, London.  I have a feeling this postcard dates from 1963 when my mother travelled through London en route to Africa.  Her first trip to Africa.  A trip she enjoyed so much that it got me interested as well.  And one thing lead to another, as the saying goes.

But can anyone tell me what the K.F.C. Club was, or is?


Irish Word for Today April 23, 2010

Filed under: Animals,Irish language,Jigsaw Puzzles,Kenya — Janet @ 7:51 pm

The Irish Word for Today is eilifint = elephant.  Very appropriate since we went to Dublin Zoo today with family and friends.

  the Nile Crocodile seen through the glass

  the big sea lion doing a big leap

  a bongo in the distance  – an African animal I had never seen – it is found in Central and West Africa – it reminded me a bit of the big Sable Antelope which we saw in the Shimba Hills Reserve near Mombasa on the Kenya Coast.

  flamingoes – more orange than pink and swimming about rather than walking along in shallow water at Lake Nakuru in Kenya

  a rather poor picture taken through glass, but that’s a Snow Leopard up above those big rocks – at least I got to see one today.  At the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle the Snow Leopard domain was open but the snow leopards themselves were in hiding, not to be seen the day we were there

  this picture doesn’t do justice to this magnificent tiger – an Amur Tiger from Eastern Russia – what a beautiful animal.  I couldn’t help but think what a nice jigsaw puzzle could be made.

  some of our “gang” en route to the exit

It was really a fun day.


Cold Weather Wear January 9, 2008

Filed under: Kenya,Knitting — Janet @ 5:01 pm

 kenya-cardigan-cropped-front-view-smaller-size.jpg         kenya-cardigan-cropped-2-smaller-size.jpg with this cold snap I am digging out some sweaters only fit for January cold.  Here’s another somewhat forgotten/neglected cardigan from the finished objects stash.  I knit this about 15 years ago when we lived in Kenya.  There were lovely handspun naturally dyed yarns available from The Spinner’s Web.  The subtle colours of those Kenya Leo yarns from Njoro were irrisistable.   I just had to knit with them.  I can’t remember if I even had a pattern but I just worked away and this cardigan is the result.  The yarn wasn’t of the best quality compared with what one can buy today but the fact that it was naturally dyed – and I even knew the dyer – made for compulsive purchasing.   The yarn from those Kenya sheep was a bit “hard” and it did not have a great deal of elasticity.  Yet it was not strong enough to use in my rug weaving unless I combined it with a stronger thread.  I had trouble with the neck of the resulting cardigan – and the fit across the front isn’t great – in fact it is not really comfortable if I button it across the front – I should have cast on more stitches – that’s my fault, not the fault of the yarn.   But I can wear the cardigan and it has been admired by fellow knitters – that always makes my day!

A little book about the natural dyes used in Kenya might be of interest to some of you.  Called A Notebook for Kenyan Dyers by Lorna Hindmarsh and published by the National Museum of Kenya.