Saturday, July 14, 2007

Holiday ploys

My husband has been on holiday this week so we’ve had a few outings. He took the photos, since I never remember to bring a camera. On Monday we went to Newhailes House, a National Trust property. It’s a smallish mansion house, built in 1690 and extended a hundred years or so later. It was occupied by the same family (and its descendants) from 1710 till 1997, and they did very little redecoration in the last hundred and fifty years. When the National Trust took it over, with lots of the family furniture, possessions and pictures, the necessary repairs were done but it wasn’t restored it to its original state of smartness. It’s quite an interesting point – do we want to see it approximately as it was when first decorated, or as it was when the last owner lived in it: a bit scruffy and with some twentieth century alterations? Which is the truer version of the house?

I occasionally wonder this about people too. Which version of you is the real you? The six-year-old you? The sixteen/twenty-six/thirty-six/forty-six/fifty-six/ etc you? I thought about this quite a lot while watching my father in his last, sad days. Was that really him? Or was he more the brilliant and brave young man who won the George Medal for bomb disposal in the war, or the young, powerful Dad I remember carrying me upstairs to bed?

On Wednesday we went to Malleny, a lovely garden on the outskirts of Edinburgh, again owned now by the National Trust.

On Thursday we visited my husband’s aunt and uncle, who are lovely people. They’re both retired doctors and they live in a village in Fife, to the north of here. Their large house is absolutely beautiful: built in 1880, in stunning gardens and with a view over the water to Edinburgh. They took us in their new S-type Jaguar car – I've just Googled this and it costs more than my gross annnual salary – to a club in St Andrews where members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club can take visitors. It’s in a building which has been converted from an old golf club factory, and is really luxurious – fine panelling, squashy armchairs, big windows overlooking the 18th hole and the golden beach and the sea – and we sat gazing out at the scene and the milling throng below, as we ate a delicious lunch served by solicitous waitresses.

Ah yes, I could get used to living like that.

Our son – all going well – starts as a doctor next year, and in his first job he’ll earn more per annum than I do now, after teaching since 1973. Yes, I think doctors should be well paid, and yes, medicine is a very important and responsible job, but I do sometimes wonder why teachers get paid so much less than lots of other professions.

I know, I know. I get six weeks’ summer holidays, two weeks at Christmas and Easter and a week in October. No evenings to speak of, though – lots of marking.

My husband and I are off this afternoon for a week in a cottage near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders for a week, taking my mum, and I’m not packed yet, so – I must go. Have a good week. Sorry I haven't commented much on others' blogs - too busy gardening in the long light evenings.
(There - I've done a whole post without mentioning kittens.

Oops. Oh well. Here they are.)


  1. I'm so happy that you posted. I was beginning to worry that you were ill or injured, etc. You certainly have been to a lot of places in the last week. The photos are lovely! It's the way I envision your part of the world.

  2. Ah, I love it when you post photos of beautiful Scotland. And the beautiful kitties too -- will they be going with you on your trip? ;-) You're going to miss them terribly! We have the same pay dilemma between teacher and Dr. here in the states and we often debate it too. Do you suppose the huge differential is because one makes "life and death" decisions, while the other, in general does not? Or maybe because (here, don't know about there) Drs spend so long in school -- most Drs. don't make any real money until they're in or approaching their 30's. Or, because of the mindset that "anyone" can be a teacher (I didn't say they should be or that they would be good at it), yet, it's so difficult to get into Med school? Don't know if any of those are even is a big question!

  3. Chuckling here, Isabelle!! Love the way you added the kittens to this post as an afterthought...oh yeah? You really think we will fall for that??
    Your thoughts on how we view ourselves is an interesting concept. I remember reading a book years ago, in which the author had four pictures of one woman aged in her forties: How she saw herself (youthful and laughing), how her husband saw her (smiling but not so youthful), how her kids saw her (frumpy) and how her friends saw her (just another middle aged woman). I've wondered about myself ever since...

  4. What beautiful photos. I love those green rounded amazing trees. And the lovely flowers.
    And of course cute kitties always win.
    Have a nice trip Isabelle.

  5. If you think of our lives as books, each 'age' is a chapter. And each chapter builds on the one that went before to make the complete story of our lives. Of course we, unlike those cute kittens, have only one life each.....

  6. This is a very wonderful, yet thought-provoking post. As my DH is a doctor, my comment is that he paid his way through the financial burden of his education, maintained a solo practice at his own expense for many, many years, carries the medical care of his patients 24/7 in his head, and does make life/death decisions, and studied for several years (and still does) to maintain his abilities to continue to be on top of the new treatments & medicines, etc. Yet he doesn't make the kind of money everyone imagines he would. There are specialties where one does earn very high incomes, and they earn it. So that's my view. My DIL is a teacher and I also see her devotion to her profession. I feel she should be paid much more for what she does. Teachers are a vital part of the process of seeing our future - the children - be prepared for life. They should be paid well. My two cents worth. Oh, my DH's family has many doctors and many teachers and they are all wonderful at what they do and very special people.

  7. My goodness, Scotland is a lovely place. I adore the photos of lush gardens and such which you post.

    Regarding teachers, I'm saddened to hear that the U.S. isn't the only place where they're underpaid and presumably undervalued.

  8. I just love those kittens, they make me want to eat them up! (not really)

    Love the other pics too, but hey, what about those kittens huh? :)

  9. I think about the "which is the true version?" question too. I think as far as restoring stately homes go, either way is good, as long as it's done well and they tell you what they did. It's good to be able to see some stately homes done up as they most likely were when first decorated, but also very interesting to see the shabby mixed-centuries versions. My mother works at the Cockburn Assoc, so we debate this type of thing regularly.

    Living in California I know what the local attitude is for the "real" you: it's shaved, plucked, painted lipo-botox-thighmaster-airbrushed and collagen filled. I regularly astonish make-up counter girls by walking up with a 3" scar in the middle of my face, but not inquiring about concealer. Some people here have the same approach to houses, I heard someone's husband insist that he didn't want to buy a USED house!

  10. What a lovely house, I would like to see it as it was lived in recently, not all "done-up". After all, old places like that are still the dwelling places of the families who own them, and show a little of their character and life.

    A friend-of -a-friend lives in edinburgh, and she sent over the most astonishing photos of her garden. She is rather a posh and grand person with semi-regal connections but I am happy to say that your garden and flowers are every bit as beautiful as hers. So at least you have a GARDEN on par with the moneyed, (if not the Jag- but who'd want one?)

    The question of inequity looms large in my house.
    In the corporate world, fees are so ridiculous that a less "qualified" woman earns in a day what I would earn in two weeks. The power associated with this is annoying: she can afford nannies and cooks etc, if she wishes to do something,(ie, work back or go out) whereas I feel sometimes I don't earn much more than the nanny!

    But at the end of the day, I love what I do, and I couldn't be without it, and I don't know that these women really love what they do.
    I'd rather have a balance.

    Re the real me:
    I painted a self portrait about 15 years ago, and everybody commented that in it I looked old and cranky.
    Now it "fits" perfectly! Ha!

    Enjoy your holidays!

  11. I'm catching up with your posts and loved the ones about trying to train the kittens. Good luck! The only thing I can get mine to do is come when I whistle or call "breakfast". They do get down off things when I shout at them but I know that when I turn my back they are up there again.

    Have a lovely holiday and I hope the weather in Selkirk is better than it is down here

  12. Hello, Isabelle!
    I've just come across your blog via Ragged Roses, and noting you were in Edinburgh (as are we) had to drop by.
    Do they still have holly on the chairs at Newhailes? The most genteel 'keep off' notice I've seen!
    Delighted to have found you and I shall pop back if I may.