Sunday, May 28, 2017


It's been very warm, and yesterday Son-in-Law 1 and I took the little ones to the beach. They had a lovely time. Slightly unusually, Granddaughter-the-Elder and I took part in an octopus rescue.

Pardon my ignorance, but I didn't know we had octopuses here. Now I know that we do. This one was small - only about a foot long, I'd think, if it were extended - and orange, with the standard eight tentacles. It was amazingly like the sort of octopus you'd expect to see in some Pixar animation. The tide was coming in and it had been washed into the shallows beside the groyne that you can see to the right of the photo.

Grandson, Granddaughter and I found it first, but Grandson, having enquired if it was alive (yes) soon decided that it was scary and retreated back to his dad. Granddaughter is made of sterner stuff. First we tried to return it to the sea by scooping it with her seaside spade, but it soon washed in again. It was wiggling its tentacles in what I assume was a frantic fashion, and whoofing with its top bit. You'd have thought it was gasping for air but presumably it wasn't exactly doing this.

By this time other people had appeared and one youngish woman suggested putting it in a bucket and taking it into deeper water, which seemed a good idea. It wasn't exactly keen. She scooped it in and it promptly tried to escape, leg by wriggling leg. Then it desisted, presumably preferring the bucket to the wider world. She nobly decided to walk along the horizontal bar of the groyne to get to a greater depth. The bar was about six or eight inches wide and the water wasn't more than about six feet deep (I imagine), so it wasn't a death-defying exploit, but walking along a bar just above ground level is one thing. Doing it - carrying a bucket full of a squirmy thing of which you are slightly afraid - fully dressed, above cold Scottish water, with (by now) a large interested audience, is quite another.

She got some distance without incident but then reached a young couple who were sitting on the groyne, She couldn't get past them so asked them if they would tip the octopus into the water - an easier feat from a seated position than a standing one. They agreed, but when they tried to do so, it resisted and tried to climb out of the bucket. The girl screamed and shoved the bucket back to the woman, who nobly took it. Then she screamed too - too many legs, I imagine - but got a grip on herself and upturned the bucket. The octopus hung on for grim life for a few seconds and then succumbed to gravity and fell into the water. And the woman returned safely to dry land and cheers. What a heroine.

Unfortunately I had left my phone on the rug with Son-in-Law so I have no photographic evidence of this valiant deed. You'll just have to believe me.

Friday, May 19, 2017


On Monday we went through to the west to visit friends, who took us to Greenbank House in Clarkston, where there was a little Embroiderers' Guild exhibition. My friend B is a member of her local branch. Some of the items were for sale, but not this one, which is just as well since a) it would have had to be sold for about £10,000, considering the length of time it must have taken to make and b) B and I both wanted it. My phone photos of it are seriously poor, but it comprises 48 squares of about four inches, all different, in black and grey embroidery with black sashing. It looks as if it's done on faintly patterned fabric but if you look closely, you can see that all the background pattern, like these paisley shapes above, is actually embroidered. (Though I didn't photograph the whole thing (why not? I ask myself) I know there are 48 squares because I said, "There must be about 50 of them," and Mr L said sternly, "No, there are 48" - which in my view is "about 50", but I suppose if you marry an accountant you have to expect him to audit you.)

Anyway, it was seriously impressive and I can see why the maker wouldn't want to sell it.

The house, which now belongs to the National Trust, looks very attractive (it wasn't open) and as B remarked, you could just about imagine yourself living there - it's not a vast super-stately home. And the gardens were lovely. It was built in the 1760s by a chap who traded in tobacco and slaves, but his business was disrupted by the American War of Independence (well disrupted, Americans) and he went bankrupt and had to sell it.

It had rained heavily the previous day - unlike in Edinburgh, where it hasn't rained apart from the odd spot for weeks now - so the grass was slightly muddy.

B's husband D suggested that this was a statue of me doing my Zumba class. Yes, there's a striking resemblance... though I wear more clothes.

Look at that! A grandchild-free post!

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Gosh, it's been a busy couple of weeks. My two choirs had their concerts on consecutive Saturdays, so one week I was frantically polishing up the hard bits of Mozart's "Coronation Mass" (which is in four parts and relatively short) and the following week I was even more frantically making sure I knew the fiendish parts of Handel's "Israel in Egypt", which is in eight parts and quite long and tricky. They're both wonderful to sing but the Handel particularly is fairly exhausting.

On Tuesday we went up to see Son and DIL and the Unbloggable Baby, who is such a cutie, with huge blue eyes. She's nine months old now, and crawling. She has an fixed ambition to chew their cats.

We had lunch at Dundee Botanic Gardens, which are pleasant but not as impressive as the Edinburgh ones (which are, moreover, free to visit, unlike Dundee's). The weather was lovely. Indeed, the weather has been unfeasibly lovely for weeks: Edinburgh was the driest part of Britain in April, which has meant practically not a drop of rain. The garden is parched (or, as parched as a Scottish garden gets).

Sweet feet. I miss them.

Grandson was ill all week with a fever and sore ears. He didn't eat much; and since his usual physique is like a piece of string, he became alarmingly skeletal, with every rib visible and his spine all knobbly. We spent quite a bit of time helping to entertain him, but thankfully he's much better now.

Then today was Mr Life's birthday. He's now in his 70th year. How on earth did that happen? (and me only 35, too...). How many more good years do we have, I wonder?

Daughter 2 is expecting a baby in October. She's had problems in the past so we're all hoping that things go smoothly for her this time. Then we'll have four grandchildren, though alas only two in Edinburgh and thus available for intensive grannying. When this one is 15, we'll be 82 and 84 if we're still here at all. A sobering thought... .

Monday, May 08, 2017

Sunny days

Another grandchild-heavy post - apologies, but at least Nanny and Gramps in Worcester will like it. We've seen a lot of the little ones recently, partly because there have been a couple of days off school - the Edinburgh holiday and then a voting day.

I took them to The Yard on Sunday. There is a working traffic light, which Grandson obviously likes.

And a large sandpit with water trickling into it. Granddaughter, who is a woman who enjoys personalising an outfit, wore her swimming sunhat.

What a good idea: leave paint and large lumps of cardboard around and let the children slosh about.

Another day we went to Cammo, a country park not far away which is just grass and trees and a ruined house. We had a picnic and a scavenger hunt.

She dressed as a flower fairy.

We had a visit to Dalkeith Country Park, which has lots of things to play on.

And they also enjoyed Granny's garden, with soapy water poured on the grass for splashing through,

while, later on, their Daddy pretended to be a crocodile.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Seven things to do at the Botanic Gardens

1. Eat a cheese scone (not pictured).
2. Ride on the caterpillar in the café play area.

3. Play in the play house.

4. See if the Aeolian harp is sounding. (It never is, except once - we were so excited.)

5. Get wet by running too near the sprinklers.

6. Visit the glasshouses.

7. Stand on lots of rocks.

There are also lots of plants to admire, should you happen not to be four. But on the whole, being four appears to be fun.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

More art

We're making an effort in our retired life to go to exhibitions before the final week. It's so easy to say, oh, it's on till September - plenty of time. And then you're there with the hordes on the last Saturday, not really able to see.

So today we walked along the road to Modern Gallery 1, admiring the cherry blossom as we went.

This is what we wanted to see: "The Lamp of Sacrifice", cardboard models of 286 Edinburgh churches made in 2004 by Nathan Coley. It's interesting how powerful such things can be when they're crowded together like this. I don't know if any bloggy friends have seen Antony Gormley's  "Field", but it consists of up to 35,000 tiny terracotta figures on the floor facing the onlooker - the figures are very basic, but somehow the effect of all these little people apparently looking towards one is - what is it? - touching? alarming?

The churches are also rather moving - think of all of these buildings and all of that money raised to build them by ordinary people to make somewhere worthy of the God they believed in. Whether you're religious or not, it's likely to make you think of the effort, the good intentions - and what's going to happen to these buildings in the future. Some of them are no longer used as churches.

Outside, two swans were swimming around in the ponds in the Landform. It would be quite hard to make a nest here, without any sticks lying around for them, but they seemed to be finding things to eat in the water.

This is "Reclining Figure: Two Piece, 1960" by Henry Moore. We're not tempted to steal it.

Then we walked home along the river, 

enjoying the plashing sounds

and wondering what it would be like to live in one of these houses. Very pleasant, I'd think, though the river does sometimes rise considerably higher than this, so I imagine the bottoms of their gardens occasionally become rather wet.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mollie Panter-Downes

Sometimes I'm aware that my blog can be very Pollyanna-ish, possibly giving the impression that my life is all jolliness and sunshine. As with anyone's life, this isn't the case: there are unbloggable worries and sadnesses as well. However, I try not to dwell on these, so here's a picture of the garden, with its riot of daffodils and forget-me-nots.

This attitude tends to be reflected in my choice of reading material also: I prefer the upbeat or at least the not-too-depressing. I've recently discovered Mollie Panter-Downes (fine name) who wrote during the war, often for the New Yorker - though she was English. I do find her a hoot. For example, here are some extracts from "Good Evening, Mrs Craven: the Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes". In this story, Mrs Ramsay is meeting up with an old flame after five years, during which he's been abroad and she's got married. (The ... s indicate where I've skipped bits.)

“Gerald dear,” said Mrs Ramsay softly. She held out both of her hands, which Gerald pumped up and down. “Well, well,” he said, “old Helen.” Mrs Ramsay felt a slight but definite chill…

“Old Helen,” Gerald repeated fatuously, “this is nice.” Mrs Ramsay noticed coldly that he was a good deal yellower than he had been five years ago. “How is old Charles?” he asked. “And the kiddie?”

Mrs Ramsay said that old Charles was well and that old Susan had, of course, been shipped off to relatives in the country. He patted her knee absently, as though it were the head of a retriever…

Towards the end of lunch he extracted a snapshot from his cigarette case. Mrs Ramsay gazed thoughtfully at a toothy young woman in a bathing suit. “… We’re thinking of getting married,” Gerald explained…

Monica's teeth seemed many more than were strictly usual... Mrs Ramsay passed the snapshot briskly back to Gerald and said that she was so glad.

“Monica can sit on her hair,” said Gerald. “You never saw such stuff – naturally blond, too.”

Mrs Ramsay, reflecting that she would find no difficulty in sitting on Monica’s hair either if Monica’s head were included, said that she really must be running along now.

“I want you to meet Monica soon,” he said. “Do you know what attracted me to her about her first, Helen? She reminded me of you.”

As soon as she was out of sight round the corner, Mrs Ramsay took out her handbag mirror and anxiously inspected her teeth. They seemed much as usual.

It was odd how Gerald had changed when she herself looked precisely the way she had always looked. Already she felt a good deal better as she stepped jauntily along… away from the dear and mercifully stone-dead past.