Thursday, November 30, 2006

The tale of a cake

A 22-year old lad I know had some time free at home this afternoon and decided to make a cake for his girlfriend’s flatmate. This flatmate – let’s call her A. – can be a bit of a trial – she hogs the washing machine, uses other people’s butter and such like. However, A. had done this lad a favour and, being a well-brought up boy, he wanted to show his appreciation.

So he made a cake. It was his favourite kind – apple sauce cake. It rose beautifully; it was, he felt, the best cake he had ever made. He iced it with cream cheese icing; it looked delicious.

His girlfriend came to dinner with us. After the meal, he looked at the beautiful cake and wondered if it was maybe too good for the - generally rather awkward - flatmate.


The cake tasted very nice indeed.

Well, he can make another one tomorrow

Friday, November 24, 2006

A few random blog thoughts

I hope Thanksgiving Day went well for any American who reads this. I wonder if you ever wish it was in – I don’t know, maybe April - so as to space out the turkey holidays a bit? Why is it at this time of year, anyway?

A couple of months ago, Daughter 1, who knows about things (including, probably, why Thanksgiving is when it is) installed a visit counter for my blog. Then, cruelly, she abandoned us for married life in her own house. So – not being technologically very advanced – I didn’t realise till some weeks later that one can click on all sorts of lists and get fascinating details about where people are who visit one's blog.

I’m sure everyone else knows all this already, so I apologise for being boring. But I’m amazed every week by various things. One is the numbers of countries from where people visit. Abu Dhabi kept popping up for a few weeks, though clearly the Abu Dhabian got bored since there’s been no sign of him/her recently. Someone from Geneva features quite often, and an Amsterdamer also seems to keep an eye on me. A couple of German blog-readers. And a Canadian or two. There are also various people, who I assume are the nice people with whom I exchange comments, in places in America, Australia and New Zealand. Somehow (why?) it seems odder that there’s an occasional visitor from nearer home, for example in Salford and Norfolk.

Hello, all you mysterious people.

Mind you, last week was a bit of a bumper visit-week, while the figures are a bit down this time. (If I were a BBC programme, I’d be getting axed.) And there are always some people who, according to the little lists, visit for 0 seconds. How does that work? I can understand someone clicking on the “Next blog” button, finding me and thinking “I don’t think so” – but how does anyone do that in 0 seconds?

It’s jolly fun, though, and all for free. To be picky, I could do with a bigger world map on the screen. My geography of the Antipodes is terrible and I keep meaning to get an atlas and look up those places mentioned on the “Location” list; the blobs on the map must cover several hundred square miles.

It’s the weekend. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How full is your glass?

The last few days have featured a lot of lashing rain and battering winds. Our college is built round a courtyard and if you’re in the corridor on one side of this courtyard on such days, you can hear the wind moaning in a really “Wooo!” sort of way.

Yesterday I was walking along this way to my class in the late afternoon. I glanced out at the uninviting weather as the sky darkened, the rain poured and the wind howled. I was thinking thoughts of Florida, or Australia, or possibly my bed.

A lovely cheery student called Abdul, who wasn’t born in Scotland, passed me, beamed, and said in his lilting accent, “The wind is singing a beautiful song.”

And, in a way, it was.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sedum "Autumn Joy"

You know how men hate to ask directions? Well, some men, anyway. One particular man not too far away from me at this moment.

I think I may have found a clue as to why this is.

I was walking along this evening when a car pulled up and the (male) driver asked for directions.

“It’s not far,” I said. “Just take the first right and then the first left.”

“Right and then right,” he said.

“No, right and then left.”

“Right,” he said, and got back in his car. Then he drove off and turned left.

Women are from Venus and men are from… well, it probably varies.

PS - My husband isn't like this at all. He always has a map of everywhere, and if by any chance we do get a little lost and I am (eventually) allowed to ask directions, he's very good at following them. (This is just in case he reads this. Though it's true.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A post about my boy

Our son, a 22-year-old medical student, is a cheerful and uncomplaining sort of chap.

A few days ago, I bought some English muffins – which are flat, round rolls – bits of bread, basically, baked in flat lumps. I didn’t have any myself, but the next day I vaguely noticed our son wandering through from the kitchen eating one of them, spread liberally with strawberry jam (or, in American, jelly).

The next day, again in the kitchen, he suddenly said, “Oh!” I looked enquiringly at him and he held the packet of muffins towards me. I looked first at the sell-by date, since in my experience, young people lack my generation’s relaxed attitude to these things (if bread, cheese and other non-salmonella-carrying foodstuffs aren’t actually mouldy, then they’re fine. If, however, there are green fluffy bits on them, then cut these off and proceed as before).

“These are cheese and black pepper muffins,” he said. “I thought they tasted a bit funny with jam.” He considered. “They were ok. Just funny.”

You can see how his upbringing has given him a discerning palate.

This reminded us of the time he’d made himself a cheese and mango chutney sandwich to take to university for lunch. When he began to eat it, he discovered that it was actually a cheese and ginger preserve sandwich. “I ate it anyway,” he said stoically. “I was hungry and it was food.”

This is the spirit that made Britain great.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I have been so busy! Lots and lots of marking, because I’ve been giving my classes lots and lots of writing to do. Very foolish of me. Must stop doing this.
As well as working full-time, I teach an evening class on a Tuesday and sing in a choir on a Wednesday. And visiting my dad in hospital rather deals with the rest of the evenings and weekends.

Dad's broken hip is mending but he has cancer which has now spread to his bones, his lungs and his liver. He doesn’t seem to be in particular pain, but he’s not really able to walk and is very fed up and predicting his imminent demise – with, it has to be admitted, some justification. So it’s all very sad. Remind me not to get any older.

On Saturday mornings, I usually take my mum out for a little expedition, but last week this didn’t happen. Instead my husband and I escaped to the Botanic Gardens for a walk. It was bliss: lots of autumn colours and a mild day with sweet, fresh air. I could feel tension draining out of the soles of my feet.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

More Barcelona photos

Somewhat out of sequence, here are some more Barcelona photos of Gaudi architecture. It’s very photographable, even with my little digital camera.

Here’s Park Guell, which was intended to be a sort of self-contained estate of houses with a market place and parkland. However, it didn’t catch on and only a few houses were built, one of which was the janitor’s, by the gate. Gaudi himself lived in another house in the park – that was before he moved on to the cathedral site, to dedicate the rest of his life to that. For some reason I don’t seem to have taken any pictures of the actual houses – which are designed according to the gingerbread house style of architecture - but I made up for it by overdosing on the broken tile mosaics which are used liberally as decoration elsewhere. These were done not by Gaudi himself but by Someone Else, whose name, regrettably, I forget.

The site is now a sort of park (only not featuring much in the way of vegetation) which is much frequented by tourists, and possibly also locals for all I know. You go in the gate and are confronted by the above steps. At the top is what looks like a Roman temple – this was supposed to be the market-place. You can see that there are people on the top, which was intended as the estate's assembly place. Near the foot of the steps is the famous – well, it looks like a lizard to me, but evidently it’s a dragon. That lady isn't me, by the way.
If you go inside the market-place and look upward, you can see all these mosaic bosses.

This mosaic is one of many pictures I took of...

... the famous wiggly-waggly seats on top of the market-place, which are covered in more broken tilework. I’ll spare you the whole collection of photos but it’s rather pretty. I can see that one could happily while away large portions of one’s life breaking up plates and sticking them back together again.
On a different site, there’s Gaudi’s La Pedrera – the Stone Quarry. He built this as two blocks of flats with independent entrance ways. The design was very innovative, evidently. It has two big courtyards – of very non-standard shapes - so that all of the flats have windows to the outside and also into these spaces, which act as light wells. It would have been much better to have been in Barcelona with Daughter 2, who is a junior architect, because she would have pointed out all the clever features, but even without her, it was very interesting. The public are allowed into one flat – every single wall is curved – and into the attics, which were designed for drying clothes (and for keeping the apartments warm in winter and cool in summer, and which, again, have very clever architecture – something to do with how they’re supported); and also on to the roof, where the chimneys and the air vents and so on are very Alice-in-Wonderlandlike in appearance. There’s also a touch of the controversial newish Scottish Parliament building about some of the windows, we felt – the architect of this was a Catalan also.
Ah well, that was the holiday. Now back to the marking (or grading, as I’m told it’s called in America).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Maybe I should stick to gardening

One of the things that students have to do for Higher English is to write a reflective essay.

"Try to write an arresting first sentence in your essay," I said. "Catch my attention from the beginning."

First essay in the pile; first sentence:

"I don't know whether the first time I tried cocaine or the night I lost my virginity was the bigger anti-climax."

Yes, well, maybe I need to word my lessons more carefully.

This is a contoneaster, by the way.