Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Gardens and more gardens with some antiques and general indulgence

We've just come back from house-swapping to York, which we've done before, with the same people. House-swapping is great in some ways. You get a free holiday - well, free if you don't count all the lunches out and entrance fees for stately homes and so on - and you know someone is looking after your house so that it's not being burgled, and you know they're watering your plants and so on. It's also good when you come home and find that all the cleaning and tidying you did before you went (because you don't want your swappees to think you're a slob) is still more or less as you left it.

The down side is actually achieving this state of total cleanliness and tidiness all at the same time, while getting ready to go away. Not that packing takes very long these days - a few clean pairs of underclothes and a couple of shirts, some books and away we go. It was much harder when we used to house-swap with three children in tow.

York is a lovely and interesting historic city, so we had fun wandering round and looking at antique shops (I didn't buy anything - go me) and also Goddards, the former home of the Terry family (very desirable indeed, now owned by the National Trust). Chocolate was clearly a very profitable product. Our holiday was enhanced by Daughter 2, who joined us for the weekend. Her baby is due in October, so we had fun buying some little things for Granddaughter 3.

We visited Harlow Carr, the RHS Yorkshire garden, which was slightly past its best but still pretty lovely.

It's built on sloping ground, which gives wonderful vistas.

Then yesterday, Mr L and I went  to Breezy Knees, which is a WONDERFUL garden near York: privately owned and attached to a garden centre. This is our third visit. The owners have a quirky sense of humour!

See below...

But the best thing about it is the planting - so many beds of herbaceous perennials, many of them still blooming even in late summer.

I took dozens of photos. Herbaceous plants are my very favourite kind and, if I had their acres, I'd plant them up just like this (only without the orange ones; I don't like orange). Alas, I have a little garden; but I pack it with plants.

Today we visited Alnwick Castle Gardens, where we've also been before, but it was slightly disappointing because it was definitely too late in the season. Our previous visits have been in, I think, June or July, when they're stunning.

And after a walk to Barter Books - where we bought only three books between us - yes, we were impressed - we came back.

It was a lovely little break - more restful than going away with all the extended family as we did to Norfolk, delightful as the extended family is. However, back to porridge and old clothes, as my mum used to say. (She died five years ago yesterday, as I'm only too aware. I wish she could see her great-grandbabies.)

Back to Zumba tomorrow to work off some of those holiday carbs!

Saturday, August 05, 2017

It's all go...

It's been very changeable weather here: lovely one moment and wet the next. The children and I went to the Gallery of Modern Art and had a cake and a look at the art (Granddaughter-the-Elder thinks surrealism is scary and I'm inclined to agree) and played in the garden.

This is an art installation but the children think it's like a bus shelter and again - it's hard to disagree. But it's fun to take silly pictures using its mirror glass.

Home for a rest and time with literature.

Yesterday a bloggy friend, Pixiemum, visited on her way north from the Midlands. It was lovely to meet her. And look what she brought for Grandson and Granddaughter-the-Elder! Washi tape with roads printed on it and a working traffic light, for Grandson...

and a bunny with a complete set of outfits - all made by Pixiemum - for Granddaughter-the-Elder!

So extremely kind and so extremely popular!

And today we all - including Daughter 2, who's up for the weekend - went up north for the (official - the real one is on Monday) first birthday of Grandddaughter-the-Younger, the Unbloggable But Very Beautiful Baby. She's starting to walk unaided - so talented!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Things to do while you're grannying

They're back. We went to Vogrie Park and slid on the slide. (Well, they did.)

And bounced on the bouncy thing. And so on.

Much busyness happened in the sand pit. Grandson narrated his sand-road-mending: "They had to make a new road because there'd been a CATASTROPHE on the old one. They dug and they dug and they dug until they DEFINITELY knew they'd found the sewer."

The garden is in full bloom. Stick around, summer.

Later, they made "chemicals" with water, mud and grass.

Then we had races round the garden. "But don't worry, Granny. Elderly people aren't expected to run very fast."

Inside again, much railway construction took place.

Life is no longer so peaceful. But I do love them.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Things to do when you're not grannying

Ah, the days of idleness when the grandchildren aren't here... . It absolutely POURED on Saturday and Sunday (ah, the guilt when tourists have come for a weekend in Edinburgh in such weather!). But on Monday, there was a change to unbroken sunshine so we went to Swanston Brasserie and had coffee and a cheese scone looking out at the golf course through this window. I see why people might want to play golf, because courses are usually in beautiful settings. I might be tempted if it weren't for the necessity of hitting little white balls instead of just having a nice walk.

We then wandered past Swanston Village and up into the hills.

This is only about 20 minutes' drive from the house and you can hear distant traffic from the bypass ...

 but otherwise you could be in deep countryside.

There's the city below, ending abruptly at the road. Arthur's Seat, our main city hill, is on the horizon and the sea is beyond.

Being a horse here seems like a good life till you consider the drenching rain of the previous two days.

And eventually we walked downhill and then back up to the car park and normal life.

I've started cutting out a cot quilt for Daughter 2's baby, due October. The baby's room is white with red curtains and a striped rug in different reds and blues. It's such fun choosing the fabrics (with her) from my (oh dear) stash. (The red isn't really as scarlet as it looks here.) I'll sew these squares together as in the photo and then cut the nine-patches into quarters before sewing them together again in a different configuration. (Clear??) With my usual slight inaccuracy (despite all my best efforts) how could anything go wrong?

(Yes, Anna and Toffeapple, I did vaguely look out for Anne in Berwick. But I didn't see her. )

Saturday, July 22, 2017


The Edinburgh branch of offspring are away just now, which leaves us with spare time. We had a little trip to the Botanics, where the herbaceous border (my spiritual home) is now getting back to its full glory. It was infested with perennial weeds and so a quarter of it at a time was left empty for two years to get rid of these. This meant that for eight years, there was a blank bit. This seemed endless when it started (would I live to see the bed back to its fullness?) but as time does, it whizzed along and now it's all filled up again and, presumably, weedless.

We went up town, had coffee in a Costa and admired this rather fine cupola. Neither of us could think of what the building had been before its Costa-ing.

We walked home by the scenic route along the river.

So peaceful, and yet so near the middle of the city.

Then yesterday we had a day train trip to Berwick and walked along the city walls.

There was a little art gallery with an exhibition of the Scottish Colourists, such as these paintings by Peploe, either of which I'd be very happy to get for Christmas, hint, hint.

My photo is a bit blurry but in fact, the light on the silver jug is beautifully painted.

We then walked along the river

and admired the meadow planting in the Coronation Park.

(We've also been, you know, changing beds and cleaning and sorting things out. It's not been unadulterated fun.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Now I am six...

Grandson is now 6!!!! 6!!!!! How can that be? Daughter 1 made him this card, in which the red and green men from a pedestrian crossing decorate the inside of their box, wrap presents and make a cake for him.

It's been beach weather. If it looks windy, that's because it was. But it was also hot. Well, Scottish hot.

We needed a new nail brush, so I looked for one in the supermarket but couldn't find one. So I asked a passing Tesco chap and he led me to the shelf, where there was only one nail brush and it was pink. He handed it to me. "Oh," I said, "thank you very much but it doesn't match my bathroom." He looked at me, clearly trying to process this and failing. I don't think he'd spent much of his life worrying about coordinating colours in the bathroom. "Thanks anyway," I said politely, and departed before I had to explain myself further.

Shortly afterwards he rushed up to me with a big smile and a packet of three nailbrushes: two purple and one pink. "I found these. They're three for a pound," he said triumphantly. "The other one was a pound for just one." He was so pleased that I thanked him, took them and then spent ages trying to find where he'd got them so that I could put them back on the shelf, all the time furtively looking round for him so I didn't hurt his feelings / make him think I was completely mad.

Our bathrooms are a) white with blue and yellow and b) white with blue and green. They're both coming up for 20 years old, so it's not as if we're the sort of people who rip things out all the time but come on, you can't have a pink or purple nailbrush in a non-pink bathroom, can you. (Can you? Is it just me...?)

I found one in another supermarket. £1 for just the one, but worth every penny.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Visting Auntie E

We returned yesterday from a week in Norfolk with all of our children and their spouses and children, and also my brother and his wife and family. There were 15 of us in total, ranging from 11 months to nearly 70 (four months to go, dear big brother) and the reason we went to Norfolk is so that my unmarried 92-and-a-half-year-old aunt could meet the youngest members of the family for the first time - and, realistically, possibly the last time.

For complicated reasons which I've discussed before, she lives in this wonderful house in an equally wonderful garden, and we've had many fantastic holidays there, starting when Son was nearly 3, Daughter 2 was newly 6 and Daughter 1 was nearly 8. It's a bit of a trek from here; because of that, we used to go every second year, but now Mr L and I usually go every year because it's so lovely and we're very fond of my aunt. She's my father's younger sister and is now the last of that generation.

Because there were so many of us, we didn't actually stay with her this time, but took a house nearby. However, we visited her every day - not all of us every day, since she's very deaf and can hear much better in small groups. However, the first and last days we were all there.

When the children were small, her friend used to give them rides round the garden in a wheelbarrow, so of course this tradition had to be continued with the grandchildren. Her friend is now in his 70s, so we exempted him from being the driver. Instead, Son first took Grandson and his own baby daughter - above.

Then Son-in-Law 1 took over for his two children. It's not as easy as it looks - I had a little go - because the wheelbarrow has a strong urge to tilt sideways and tip out its passengers.

After this, Nephew took his sister for a spin...

and then his girlfriend.

Our aunt was very thrilled that we'd all made the effort to visit. She's been very good to us over the years - so many lovely holidays! - so we were delighted to do so (though it took a bit of organising). Though she's very contented with her lot, she's religious and has been saying for some time, "I'm happy to go to heaven any day" and we've been saying, "Not till after July!" However, happily she managed to stay alive till our visit and indeed looks very well for her age. Maybe living somewhere idyllic keeps you young? It seems to work for the royals, doesn't it?