Thursday, January 19, 2017


We went today to the Scottish National Gallery to see the January Turner exhibition. These watercolours were given to the gallery on condition that they were shown only in January each year, to preserve them. They were... very good. Very Turnerish. I'd have had a few as presents, if anyone had been offering. But on the whole, Turner is a bit wispy for me. A bit too Ola Gjeilo rather than Mozart. Each to his/her own.

After that, we wandered through the gallery. I do like this painting by Alexander Nasmyth, 1758-1840. It's of Princes Street and shows the beginning of the building of the Royal Scottish Academy, which is just in front of the gallery we were visiting. 

You can see the pillars going up.

This is what it looks like today, side on.

Here's a painting of Princes Street Gardens and the Castle in the 1860s by Samuel Bough (1822-1878). At this time, the gardens were privately owned by the owners of the houses in Princes Street, and were accessed by a subscription scheme - until 1876, only a few years before my older grandparents were born. This seems unbelievable now - the gardens are widely used by everyone. Queen Street Gardens, parallel and not far away, are still private. (When I'm dictator, I shall annexe them and open them to the public.)

Interestingly (to me, anyway) there's a path on the other side of the railings. Maybe it was artistic licence and the path wasn't really there, but if so, then at some point it was removed, because now the ground banks steeply down and then there's a path.

And this is a painting by Velazquez (1599-1660) in the gallery. It's one of my favourites: An Old Woman Cooking Eggs. Not so sure about the "old" - in her 50s, maybe? But why is she looking at her grandson (if that's what he is) instead of the eggs? He's not looking at her. I reckon he's in trouble.

Isn't the onion exquisite? (Sorry about the reflection of my phone on the glass, and the poor quality of my photos.)

And aren't the jugs?

And the shadow of the knife on the bowl?

And the brass pan?

Imagine this being painted in Spain in 1630 or so and still being admired in Scotland (and in my blog...) nearly five hundred years later - and, no doubt, further into the future. Velazquez might have been surprised... or perhaps not. I wonder if he felt that his paintings were for all time - or if he expected to be forgotten.

(And Sarah, thanks so much for your comment. How interesting that you, too, have some of that flowery fabric!)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Flowery dress

When Daughter 1 went to nursery at the age of 3 in 1982, parents had to supply a painting overall. I considered making one but then came across this brown one and bought it instead. Then I felt a bit guilty that it was such a boring colour, so I appliqued a dolly on the back.

I got the scraps of fabric from my mother-in-law, who was a wonderful seamstress and had made a dress for Daughter 1 out of the flowery material.

Fast forward to this afternoon. The grandchildren were here and wanted to paint, so I fished out the elderly painting overall to put on Granddaughter-the-Elder.

After this, we had some stories. I was reading this book (published 2010,  highly recommended) to the children.

And then I noticed Lola's dress.

I'd love to know how Lauren Child came to have this fabric.  And does anyone else recognise it?

Monday, January 09, 2017

Art. And traffic lights.

Daughter 1 and I took the children to the Portrait Gallery for the first time today. It's an amazing Neo-Gothic building and, rather to our surprise, the children found it interesting. There's a painted frieze around the main entrance hall, featuring lots of people from Scottish history, and the little ones gazed up at them and talked about them a bit.

They also looked at the various busts, such as this one of James Watt, the engineer. Granddaughter the Elder was particularly intrigued by Queen Victoria, who was wearing a crown as all good queens do. Grandson (surprise, surprise) was keen to know how many of the great and good immortalised here in marble had lived long enough to see traffic lights installed. Not many in this room, Daughter 1 and I decided.

The main purpose of our visit was to look at the BP Portrait Competition exhibition, which Mr Life and I had seen at the weekend. I had no idea whether it would hold the attention of a 5- and a 3-year-old but we thought it worth a try. And it did. They wandered round, looking at all the (amazing) portraits and each chose their favourite.

Outside the exhibition room, there was a little stand with mirrors, paper and pencils, and visitors were invited to try drawing their own self-portraits and to pin them to the wires encircling the space. Grandson was enthusiastic to try this and worked busily for some minutes.

Here he is with his finished portrait.

It hasn't quite captured his loveliness but he carefully gave himself eyelashes, eyebrows, ear whorls and a quilted sweatshirt - though no hands or legs.

It was lovely to see how much they enjoyed themselves.  We must do this again.

Afterwards, we went to the cafĂ©. Grandson looked at the pink tulip in a vase on our table and then saw a red one on another table. Then he saw a yellow one. "Do you get green tulips?" he enquired. Art may be one thing, but the possibility of making a traffic light arrangement in tulips is quite another.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

2017 commences

So: Happy New Year to all bloggy friends. Surely 2017 has got to be better than 2016. (Hasn't it?) Not that it's been particularly bad for our family - indeed, compared to so many people in the world, we're ridiculously lucky. But as for others... .

Anyway: in the final few days of the year, we walked in the Botanics with Daughter 2 before she (sigh) went back down south;

we visited Son and DIL with my brother and his wife and took Granddaughter the Younger out for a walk in the countryside where she lives (it was windy);

and after my brother and sister-in-law left this morning, I went into town on a bus, took this photo through the window, had a little wander around in the sunshine and thanked my lucky stars for living in a relatively beautiful and peaceful place. There were lots of people with suitcases who had presumably been here for the Hogmanay celebrations and were going home; and various other tourists who had for some unaccountable reason decided to come when the days are shortest and the flowers least abundant. It was sunny today and very pleasant, but if you were thinking of coming to Edinburgh I'd generally advise that you come in the summer or at least the spring or autumn.

And then I came home and began the slightly dispiriting task of taking down the Christmas decorations. But in a way it's nice to get the house back to normal: do a bit of dusting, shake one's feathers and look forward to spring.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Comings and goings...

So Christmas came and went, very pleasantly. Daughter 2 arrived first and decorated the Christmas cake.

Then my brother, his wife and offspring arrived from down south, and Son-in-Law 2 and Son, Daughter-in-Law and their baby also joined us from up north. Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1 and their children were also here most of the time, though not sleeping in our house (fortunately, since the house was by then slightly full)

- like this -

and generally speaking, there was a lot going on but it was lovely.

Then Son and DIL and baby went away,

the rest of us went out for various walks

(Granddaughter the Elder had by this time decided that it was TOO WINDY (though in fact it wasn't - she DOESN'T LIKE THE WIND, which is unfortunate since she lives in Edinburgh, which is quite a windy place) - and had returned to the car with her father.)

and Grandson found a Big Waterfall.

Today, Daughter 2 and I went round to Daughter 1's to play with the children while their parents got ready to visit Son-in-Law's family in Worcester; and then they went; and tomorrow, alas alack, Daughter 2 departs back down to London. And then it'll be just us and my brother and his wife. They're staying till the 2nd. And then there will be us two... .

Still. It's been nice.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

'Tis the season...

Well, I think that's us organised for Christmas, apart from the final touches to the cake, which Daughter 2 traditionally decorates in an elaborate and architectural manner. She arrived home last night (hurray) and my brother and sister-in-law arrive later today. Son-in-Law 2 will get here on Friday. Then on Saturday, we should be joined by my nephew and niece and also Son, Daughter-in-Law and the baby, Granddaughter the Younger. Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1 and their two will also be around, but not actually sleeping here, which is just as well since, as it is, 10 people living in our four-bedroom, two-bathroom house will make it a trifle full. However, it'll be fun.

Of course, I wish that my mum and dad could come too. Dad never saw any of the little ones. Mum knew Grandson until he was one. What a change she'd see in him!

We never knew that, inside that little head, there were thoughts forming about traffic lights, road signs, road markings and layouts and the important distinction between pelican and toucan crossings.

Thinking of you, Mum and Dad. Happy Christmas to all bloggy friends!

Monday, December 19, 2016


Just like any granny, I find our little people endlessly fascinating. Grandson spends a lot of time drawing road layouts, or - a fairly new development - railway layouts, as above. But the other day he decided to draw a picture of his mum. She was at work at the time, so his dad produced this picture of her on his phone.

And Grandson drew this.

I was surprised at the detail: eyelashes and all. He's not Michelangelo but it doesn't seem too bad for a five-year-old's first attempt at a portrait.

I went Christmas food shopping today (there will be 14 of us on Christmas Day). I was a bit worried that it wouldn't all fit in the fridge and freezer but it did, just. I had to remove some frozen plums to make room for other things, so I made a plum and apple loaf. Just as I was spooning the mixture into the tin I realised that I'd missed out the baking powder and then it occurred to me that I'd used plain flour instead of self-raising, so I put it back in the bowl and added a bit more baking powder than the recipe had suggested and gave it a good stir. I think it'll be okay. If not, I suppose it can be a base for a trifle. Or something. I had been quite pleased with my efficiency today, up till that point.