Friday, October 20, 2017


Well, Granddaughter the Youngest has arrived, 5 days early, and we've been down in London helping out a bit.

Obviously, she's a lovely baby.


In not quite such good news, she's got jaundice (as all our children and most of our grandchildren did, to a greater or lesser extent) which has caused problems with feeding and so on - not what any of us want. However, we hope she'll get better soon.

Daughter 2 and Son-in-Law 2 are rightly besotted with her.

And now we're back home while the other grandparents occupy the spare room. Can't wait to hear that things have improved; can't wait to see her again.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

That was the week

It's been a busy old week - not with anything unusual, but I feel the world's had enough of unusual things recently. On Sunday I took the older grandchildren to The Yard, where they had a fine time sploshing around.

How delighted I am that there's somewhere (that isn't my garden) where they can do this.

Then from Monday to Wednesday I had a lovely visit to Daughter 2, Son-in-Law 2 and the Bump. We mainly gardened and had lots of chats. Lots and LOTS of chats. I did manage to persuade her to have some rests as well. Six days to go now till the official due date. I'm not sure if I'll survive the stress. It's much easier on the nerves to have babies yourself than to wait for your daughters to do so. She seems fine, though.

Then Granddaughter 2 and I visited the museum on Thursday but fortunately for you, I forgot my phone, so no photos. Here, however, is Grandson on Friday, painting a big picture ("It's a wall painting, Granny. You need to put it on a wall." Ok then.) It shows the weather in the course of a day. It begins: The sun. Haray! [Hurray!] and goes on: The Rain. Uoh! [Uh-oh.] His spelling isn't perfect but he had a concept. The painting later acquired more grass, and trees.

Granddaugher-the-Elder dictated a story to me: "Once upon a time there was a bat. Along came a fox and the fox ate the bat! The bat was eaten! The End."

(She is made of sterner stuff than her mother, who once burst into inconsolable tears because the Pobble didn't have any toes. Then there was the time when she wanted me to put all the leaves back on the trees because they were falling off.)

And today Mr Life and I took ourselves to the museum to see their exhibition about Bonnie Prince Charlie (it was good) and whom should we unexpectedly meet but Daughter 1 and the children? While Daughter 1 and Grandson popped up to look at the trains, Granddaughter-the-Elder and I went, at her request, to one of the dressing-up places, where she put on a Mary-Queen-Of-Scots-like dress and headdress and solemnly danced to appropriate music selected from the buttons behind her.

What in the world would I do without them all?

Sunday, October 08, 2017


We went to a wonderful exhibition on Saturday at the City Art Centre of various rather charmingly random objects from different city collections. This is part of an amazing painted panorama of  Edinburgh in the late 1700s: rather less built up than it is now.

And this is about 1870 - only ten years before my older grandfather was born, amazingly (to me), since all these fields are built over now and it's hard to believe that it all looked like this when he was a boy. This shows Craigleith Quarry, from which much of the stone for the New Town was taken. It's now completely filled in and there's a shopping centre there. We live not far away. It would be so nice if the city still looked so rural, though inconvenient if our house weren't there any more.

It was a lovely day as we walked home,

through the gardens,

watching people as they paid to climb the Scott Monument, which I did once in my energetic youth but don't plan to do again.

And along we went through another part of the gardens.

We admired the plants still flowering in Coates Crescent. (This is part of the New Town - begun in the 1760s  and built of that Craigleith sandstone.) Edinburgh Council has started giving us these beds of herbaceous flowers instead of bedding plants. I like them but they'll be quite labour intensive. I'm interested to see whether they're just dug up after the season or cut down and left for next year.

I'm off to London tomorrow for a flying visit to Daughter 2. I can't wait to see her. Probably this will be my last visit before the baby arrives. Changes, changes... .

Wednesday, October 04, 2017


When you're getting on a bit, you might (well, I might) have a tendency to think: Ah, autumn! The sere and yellow! Death isn't far behind! But then you go to the Botanic Gardens with Granddaughter 2 and she says,  "Look at the leaves, Granny! Can I kick them?"

And she does.

"I'm going to make a leafman, Granny. Here's his head. Here's his scarf. And his buttons. And look, this twig is his nose."

"And now I'll knock him down."

Who wouldn't enjoy autumn with such a companion? ("I'll just put my hood up in case it rains, Granny.")

Monday, October 02, 2017


On Saturday we drove up north to visit Son, Daughter-in-Law and Granddaughter-the-Younger. Daughter 1, Grandson and Granddaughter the Elder came too. Daughter 2, whose baby is due towards the end of October, isn't coming up again from London before the due date in case the baby arrives early, in the wrong city. It's a very strange thought that the next time Daughter 2 is here, she'll be a mum. But it may be quite a while before she can come. Train journeys with small babies can be fraught.

The baby will be Granddaughter-the-Youngest. All this nomenclature is a bit complicated. Maybe I should just use their ages: Grandson (6) - mind you, he's the only grandson; Granddaughter (4), Granddaughter (1) and Granddaughter (0). Or the initials of their surnames? That would make their relationship to each other clear, I suppose. Grandson and Granddaughter W; Granddaughter D; Granddaughter P. But it's not much clearer in any other way, unless I use the same initials for their parents.

I'm sure no one else really cares but I have to call them something and it doesn't seem a good idea to use their actual names. Frogdancer gives her four boys completely plausible names which nevertheless aren't theirs, which made it confusing (for me) when she and I met, since she naturally referred to them by their real names. And Stomper Girl gave hers nicknames, and then when we became Facebook friends and I learnt their actual names, it took me ages to get used to them.

Anyway. We spent a long time in the playpark on Saturday and while you couldn't exactly say that the siblings played with their cousin, we were all in approximately the same place.  Granddaughter-the-Younger can walk confidently now.

Afterwards we went back to Son's and the children all drew. Granddaughter-the-Younger can hold a crayon and make scribbles (so talented). I don't think it occurred to me to give my children crayons when they were newly one, but possibly I did. It's been a while.

Anyway, she's a beautiful child, as you can't tell from the photo. I wish we could be more part of her life. But we're so lucky to be quite a big part of the Edinburgh ones' lives. You can't have everything.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


We've just come back from five days in Stockholm. Fortunately almost everyone in Sweden speaks amazing English. Our Swedish is, alas, practically non-existent, though it's easier to understand when it's written down than when it's spoken. For example, see the fine map above. Easy, eh?

And this makes it fairly clear what you want to spray on a fire, doesn't it?

Stockholm is very lovely (though horrifically expensive, argh) and we had a good time.

We went on a couple of boat trips with interesting commentary about Stockholm's past.

We visited the Vasa museum - greatly recommended. The Vasa is a huge warship which sank twenty minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628 with the loss of about thirty lives. Can you imagine how the boat builders must have felt, standing on the shore, watching it? There was a design fault which made it top heavy and it just toppled over when a wave hit it. Perhaps fortunately, the designer had died a couple of years before, so he was well out of trouble. The Vasa lay at the bottom of the Baltic, not far out from shore, till the 1960s, when it was located and raised and was then conserved for the next 17 years (and continuing). A vast museum has been built around it and it's amazing to walk round it and imagine the work that went into its building; and the worry, the panic, the misery, the guilt, the fear that must have surrounded its sinking.

It had brightly painted statues and other carvings - hundreds of them - most of which were also retrieved. A model has been built of it, its carvings painted with the carefully-researched original colours. It must have been quite a sight. Briefly.

Because holidays mean frantic activity for us - and also because we needed to get full value from our very expensive Stockholm Passes - we also visited various palaces and museums, such as the Royal Palace, which is very beautiful - they did themselves very well, the Swedish kings. Again, we found out quite a lot of Swedish history that I hadn't known, so it was very interesting. I hadn't realised that Sweden was such a huge power for a couple of centuries. Strangely enough, our school history lessons tended to dwell complacently on British successes - mainly English ones.

The current king's garden is impressive but I feel he needs more flowers. This photo isn't of him.

Yesterday we went to the Botanic Gardens, which are very different from Edinburgh's. In general I think ours are more lovely, but it has to be admitted that theirs has a better lake.

And the burning bush tree in the Japanese garden was stunning. I wonder if I could fit one into my little patch?

It was wonderful to get home, though (I HATE flying) and I can't wait to get my hands on our little castings-on, the grandchildren (or two of them anyway) tomorrow.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Casting off

When I was teaching, one of the texts that I did with classes many, many times was Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman". I first saw it when I was very young myself and then taught it, on and off, over a career of nearly forty years, and I now realise that I appreciated it in different ways at different parts of my life.

Now that I'm quite old, I marvel at how Arthur Miller, who was 34 - 34!!! - when he wrote it, had such insight into how an older person feels. I know that he partly based Willy Loman on his father, so I wonder whether some of the things in the play are direct quotes from the family. One that resonates with me a lot nowadays is when Willy is bemoaning change, and his wife Linda says to him, "Life is a casting off. It's always that way." How did Arthur Miller know this? By my age it's obvious, but when I was 34 I was busy having our third child and being the centre of lots of exciting things and I didn't really think about it.

But now... our children (reasonably enough) are living their own exciting lives, our parents are dead (that's a hard one) and friends will soon, no doubt, start to drop off the perch (unless we do so first). And recently my remaining aunt let me know that the wonderful Norfolk house that she lives in, where we've been so lucky to holiday for the past 30+ years, is being sold. It's a long story but she retired there with friends, including the much-younger husband of one of the friends, and they agreed that the house should actually belong to the younger husband. It got partly divided into flats for various of them. And she's lived there very happily for 35+ years, but now only she (92 and a half) and the much-younger husband, now for some years the widower, of her friend are left, and he is nearly 76. So very wisely he's selling up and she will go into a home.

Which is of course much worse for them than for us - though my aunt is taking it very philosophically - but very sad for us too.

Ah well. Life is a casting off, it's the same for everyone (much worse for some, I realise) and it's always that way. But it's also quite hard.