Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Yet more pictures

More from the archives - my rather handsome father-in-law and my (perhaps less striking) mother-in-law. Sadly he died in 1984, when Son was 12 days old. Granddad said, when he first saw Son, that he'd always wanted a grandson. He'd been tactful enough not to say this when we had two girls first. And then he took ill and died. Very sad. And she died in 1992. Poor Mr Life.

I found a diary that I kept on a French exchange in 1967, when I was newly 17. It was a simultaneous exchange, so that the partners were in the other's country and weren't there to amuse each other. This weekend apparently wasn't the most successful occasion. We'd gone to the family's country cottage, where there was nothing at all to do. The parents didn't seem to be getting on with each other, though Richard, the little brother, was very nice. 

On Saturday we went for a town walk with our walking group. We went along a cycle/path till we got to the Queen's Park and then went round our beautiful city hill. It was a lovely day.

Then we had coffee at Holyrood Palace, Her Maj wasn't there. She has a few problems to sort out, poor soul. 

A few days later Mr L and I were back, this time to see the Leonardo drawings at the Queen's Gallery. The portrait on the brochure is of him, by a pupil,

as is this one. Like my father-in-law, he looks like quite a handsome chap. (Sorry about the reflected spotlights.)

The drawings are amazing. This is a study for the head of Leda when she was about to be seduced by the swan. The finished picture fell into a ruinous state and was destroyed in the 1700s. Hmm.

This is a map he drew of a town near Florence. He paced the streets and took bearings from a tower in the central piazza and then constructed the map by geometry. It's apparently very accurate.

(Reflected spotlights again.)

A horse. Such movement. The very essence of horse.

A cat. Such stillness. Such catlikeness. (More spotlights.)

He had all sorts of projects that he sketched in his books, most of which he never finished or in some cases doesn't seem to have started. (We're all a bit like that...) I wonder whether he died (at 67) frustrated at these unfulfilled plans or if the pleasure was in the planning and in some cases he never really intended to carry them out? - such as an encyclopedia of botany or a treatise on anatomy, many sketches for both of which are in the exhibition.

This is our parliament building. I don't think it's very attractive. I wonder what Leonardo would think? 

This is me, drawn by Middle Granddaughter. I don't look like a model. Well, sadly, I don't look like a model. But how cheerful I am.

Friday, January 17, 2020


We went to the BP portrait competition exhibition (the last one, since the galleries have decided that BP isn't very suitable as a sponsor, hmm) the other day. This portrait got third prize. I know it's very photographic and some people think you might as well take a photo but look! The skill in using paints in such a realistic way!

Look at the veins and the slighly chipped nails! Her clothes are slightly bobbled and the hot water bottle is a bit grubby. Amazing! I'd have given it first prize, myself.

Another day we went up to visit the Unbloggables. Little Grandson is so cute! - full of grins, so soft and squashy and trying to walk - as yet unsuccessfully, since he's only eight months.

Medium Granddaughter is lovely too.

I'm continuing my trawl through the archives. Here's Son at 3. He was very cute too, in my maternal opinion.

This is from a 1948 newspaper, the year that Mr L was born. Sixteen babies died that week in Edinburgh and lots of older people from diseases that sound Dickensian, like phthisis. I didn't know it was still called that then.

This dates from when Son was a little boy, probably seven, when he announced that he'd drawn a rude picture. Somewhat horrified, I investigated. Not too rude, really.

And here's one of Mr Life's great-grandfathers. This means that he's our grandchildren's great-great-great-grandfather. How wonderful (I hope they'll think, one day) to have a photo of one's great-great-great-grandfather. I know the names of mine, but that's all.

Friday, January 10, 2020


In our study is a chest of drawers, and into this chest, for the past 46 years, I've been putting any piece of paper of sentimental or archival interest, including many photos. Some of these were inherited from my parents' archives.

This week I decided that, on the grounds that I may possibly not live for ever, I should investigate these papers and sort them, hopefully thinning them out a bit.

Some of the photos were really quite old, such as this one of my paternal grandparents, who were born in the early/mid 1880s. I never knew this grandfather and, sadly, this grandmother lived in the south of England from when I was five and then she developed dementia in her seventies, when I was in my teens. But we hardly saw her anyway; the south of England was a long way away in those days before motorways.

They were quite a handsome pair, I think. I'm sorry not to have known him and hardly to have known her.

I did know my other grandparents very well. I don't think I ever realised that my grandfather's will was in that drawer, with this letter to my father (his son-in-law) on the back. How quaint that he signs himself, "I remain yours sincerely Grandpa Campbell" - a mixture of the formal and sort-of-informal. My dad would never have called Grandpa by his first name and Grandpa clearly felt he couldn't sign himself Tom while writing to Dad - even in a letter to be read after Grandpa's death. 

We never called our parents-in-law by their first names either. It was always Mr or Mrs, though it became easier by the time we could just use Granny and Grandpa.

The note on this envelope was written by my other grandfather. "Mother" is his mother. I wonder if he now occupies the "one more" space.

You know how you always think your passport photo is awful, till you have to renew it and you look ten years more awful and think the old one wasn't so bad? Here I am in my 1996 passport, aged 46. I wasn't impressed at the time, but I would settle for this now... I had eyebrows then! And much more hair. Alas.

It's all very interesting - lots of photos of our lovely offspring, cards they wrote to us, cards they made for us, their school reports, various birth, marriage and death certificates of ancestors... It does tend to make me a bit mournful, though. Tempus doesn't half fugit.

Anyway, today Mr L helped Big Grandson to make up the Lego bus he got for Christmas. It took hours. Good old Grandpa. Not quite sure how his knees were afterwards.

So far, the bed in the opposite room has six separate piles on it: photos, general family archives, my own personal archives and three piles of the children's stuff. All of these need to be further sorted and annotated and then archived in some more sensible way. Some things - but sadly not many - are in the waste paper basket. I suppose it's not surprising that 46 years of treasures take more than a weekend to sift through. And there are other more minor repositories elsewhere in the house.

Back I go to the chest of drawers.

Friday, January 03, 2020

A walk in the city

There's still a holidayish, between-lives feeling to things, even for us whose whole lives, potentially, are holidays. Yesterday we took ourselves for a walk in the New Town (as we still call it, though it was begun in 1760), just down from the main shopping streets. I always try to imagine what it was like before there were cars. It must have been stunningly beautiful. Though I suppose there would have been carriages and lots of horse droppings around the place.

The ground slopes down towards the sea, with views over to the other side.

Here's a lane down to Stockbridge. Edinburgh's a hilly place.

The streets are wide and there's little traffic. Mr L was slightly anxious about my standing in the middle of the road. However, nothing came along.

Behind the houses built for the rich there are mews, originally stabling for the horses and rooms for the servants who looked after them. Now these are houses, offices and garages. I love the way that people make tiny gardens by lifting occasional paving slabs. You wouldn't think this was a ten-minute (uphill) walk from the main street of a capital city.

There's that chap again; the one I'm stalking.

There are lots of private gardens in the middle of crescents and squares, such as this one.

You can get a key only if you live in the adjacent street. As can your dog.

And then we walked, puffing somewhat, back up to Princes Street. On the way, we looked into Queen Street Gardens - again, for resident keyholders only (and their dogs).

Raise your eyes and you get a carless view of the Georgian architecture. Once this sandstone was golden, though it's dirtied down over the years.

We tend to take living in Edinburgh for granted. But for a city, it's a lovely place.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


Our wedding anniversary was on the 27th (that was a fast 46 years; oh dear) and we took ourselves to the Botanics. For the first time ever, we got the cafe to ourselves. Where was everyone else?

The weather was dull, but perfectly pleasant. I love the Botanics in any weather.

Then the Edinburgh family came home from Son-in-Law's family down south. We collected them at the station. Edinburgh certainly has a lot of lights at this time of year.

The next day we gave the children their presents. Here's Big Grandson poring over a book about buses.

Yesterday, I took them to the local trampoline centre. They bounced.

Biggest Granddaughter also did this death-defying trapeze thing. She's very brave and also tries hard to do gymnastics, despite (I fear) not being blessed with the right genes.

Big Grandson watched. (He has the family cautious genes.) "I'm certainly not going to do that," he said. Wisely. 

I'm between quilts at the moment - I'm about to do one for a friend and she's coming down soon to discuss fabrics - so have been fiddling around during these quiet days, using up odd scraps of fabric. So thrifty: it's not as if I have a (small) cupboardful of unused material or anything... . But it's fun - not sure where I'm going with it yet.

My heart goes out to all my Australian bloggy friends - how terrible and terrifying these fires are! I hope you and yours are all safe.

And best wishes to all for 2020. The world needs to pull its socks up, I feel. Let's hope for better things soon.

(And while you're at it, world, please stop saying "Auld Lang Zyne". It's "ssyne"-  with an s-. It's just a variation of  "since". Not "zince". This is beginning to drive me sliiiiiightly mad.)

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Idle days

With the family away, we've been for walks and watched an unusual amount of television. It's been perfectly pleasant, if somewhat odd. On Christmas Eve, we walked to the art gallery and then back along the river.

It was windless, mild and overcast; good weather for walking.

On Christmas Day, we opened our presents - look, lots of nice books, fabric, chocolate and hyacinths. What more could anyone want?

Then we walked along the sea front at Cramond.

It was an absolutely lovely day: again, mild, not a breath of wind and now with that beautiful, slanting winter sunshine.

The only thing wrong with the foreshore at Cramond is that it's ideal big-dog-walking territory. I quite like dogs but there are so many of them here and they gallop. Lots of people have two or three massive hounds each. Our Edinburgh grandchildren are a bit scared of dogs so we hardly ever bring them here, which is a shame.

This is Cramond Island, which you can walk out to when the tide is low. You need to consult the tide tables, though, since the walkway is covered when the tide comes in. We just looked at it.

And then we walked back, went home and started watching "The Crown", which I've avoided up till now. I disapprove of making films about living people, especially people like the royals, who can't protest. (Or maybe they could if they really wanted to; I don't know. Maybe it's worse to make films about ordinary living people to whom something extraordinary and bad has happened.) It's not that I'm particularly a royalist, but they're just people and I don't think it's fair. I wonder if they watch it. If so, it must be terribly annoying to see themselves misportrayed, as they must be at least to some extent.

However, my curiosity got the better of my judgement,. It's well done but with a strong element of piffle, I thought. Still, their lives have certainly been eventful - for people who don't really do anything. Possibly it's because they have so much leisure that they have time to get themselves into pickles.

Our lives wouldn't make much of a television series. Thankfully.

And all of our children phoned us up via Skype or whatever, so we weren't forgotten.