Thursday, July 29, 2010

Going away

We go on holiday tomorrow evening and I'm at that pre-holiday stage of feeling I can't really be bothered. But I'm sure it'll be nice when we're there. Having the cats makes everything so much more complicated. Our neighbour is feeding them for the first morning; then Daughter 1 comes for one night; then Daughter 2 for one night; then kind bloggy catsitters arrive for five days; then Daughter 2 and her actor bloke are doing the rest. I don't think that Cassie and Sirius are even particularly grateful for all this activity on their behalfs. They take it as their due.

Ridiculously, we'll miss the cats as well as the family. And the garden. I don't really like being away from the garden in the summer, when it's pretty. Apart from anything else, I leave it tidy but the weeds grow in our absence and so does the grass.

We're taking my mum with us but leaving my aunt with her carers. I feel guilty about this. It's not that we ever did go on holiday with my aunt, but I've been the one that the carers have phoned all summer if there's been a crisis.

I've now put her name down for 12 care homes. None of them has a room available at the moment. I hope they don't phone here in our absence and then, when we don't make contact, give the room to someone else. My aunt doesn't see the need for a care home, anyway. "I can look after myself," she says. But she can't. She's extremely forgetful, she can only shuffle about pushing a walker since she broke her hip and she's a bit incontinent. It's very sad.
Anyway, I haven't packed or even made a list of stuff to take yet, so I should really get on. Suffolk and Northumberland, here we come.
I hope you have a nice time in Edinburgh, kind catsitters!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Silly answer

I didn't get to the Botanics the other day but I did go today.
And then I came home and made the dinner while listening to "The Weakest Link":
Question: What element is given off by plants which is necessary for human beings and animals to breathe?
Answer: Pollen?
Love it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What a woman wants

Daughter 2 brought her friend A to dinner yesterday. They were lying on a rug in the garden with the newspapers as I passed the open door.
Daughter 2 was reading out A's horoscope: "The beginning of the week will bring intense thrills".
"Intense thrills?" spluttered A. "INTENSE THRILLS? That's not what I want. I want - what do I want?" Then she finished triumphantly - "Naps on the sofa!"
Ah, they're getting old, those lovely girls.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baby substitute

I was sitting at the computer replying to comments on my last post and feeling a bit sad. Then Cassie cat wandered into the study and leapt up on my lap. After turning round a few times to find the most comfortable position, she settled down, leaned back into the crook of my left arm and started purring.
She's a very pretty cat - rather small and very very soft. And I sat there rubbing her head with my right hand and she purred and purred and purred.
All this impeded my typing.
And I thought how odd it is that even modern human beings, with their sophisticated lifestyles, cynicism, technical abilities and knowledge of history and language and all that, can be comforted and completely charmed by a small furry creature weighing just over 3 kilos - 6 and a bit pounds - for no better reason than that it's beautiful, fluffy, dependent and trusting. And I'm sure the same sort of thing - or only slightly different - can be said for our relationship with dogs.
She's just returned to my lap and now I'm typing with one hand because the other is stroking her.
I suppose that we're hard-wired to protect small things and when we run out of small humans, we turn to substitutes. Which may be a bit pathetic but it's lovely. And very handy for cats and dogs.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Household tasks

I'm not being original when I say that the trouble with housework is that people only ever notice when you don't do it.

Every summer, I do a bit of a spring-clean - reaching the parts of the house that I never have time to scrub at other times. For example, the kitchen: I wash the curtains (there are three windows and therefore six curtains, which seems like a good idea apart from when I have to wash them); I climb up and wipe the tops of the kitchen cabinets; I clean the windows and tidy out the cupboards; and that sort of thing.

When I do the tops of the cabinets I always lay newspaper along them. It's not visible from below and means I can remove the paper each year and with it, most of the dust.

Tuesday was the chosen day for attacking the kitchen. It took most of the day and now it looks exactly the same as it did before I started. It's actually cleaner, but only I know this. And now you, of course.

I hope you appreciate it.

Actually, for some reason that I now don't remember, I didn't do the tops of the cupboards last year and have felt vaguely guilty about it ever since, though frankly not a single one of my friends or family has over the last twelve months climbed up to have a look, blenched with horror at the dust and reproached me for my slatternly habits.

But right enough, the date on the paper was 2008.

And I thought: would the world come to an end if I always did this only every two years?

We were at the funeral today of a lovely man who was slightly younger than I am. He's the third acquaintance of our age who's died in the last few months.

Life's so short and I don't really want to be remembered for my cupboards. But still, I'd like you all to know that though I'd rather have wandered round the Botanic Gardens, I spent that time balancing on a ladder. Maybe I'll go to the Botanics tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

We five

Today was a lovely day. Daughter 2 was staying the weekend with us since her flatmate's away, and our son came across from Glasgow for lunch. We always have the girls, our son-in-law and my mother over on Sundays but often these days our son's too busy - on duty or about to go on night shift or something. Unusually, he came by himself because his young lady's working this weekend. We sat in the garden for a while; then we had lunch; then we sat in the sitting room drinking coffee with the patio doors open while cats wandered in and out. Mid-afternoon, my mum went home and then our son-in-law, who'd come on his bike, also departed.
Much though I love my mum and our son-in-law, it then suddenly struck me as so lovely that it was just the five of us: Mr Life, me, Daughters 1 and 2 and our son. This happens so rarely nowadays, though obviously it used to be the norm. We sat reading the papers; we chatted a bit; we just relaxed. It was absolutely wonderful.
I don't suppose it'll happen much in the future either. All the offspring have significant others who are often, naturally enough, part of the package, and my mum is usually at family gatherings, talking a lot. But it was so peaceful, the five of us together, chatting in that second-nature family language, with no explanations necessary. Bliss. We felt caught up with our son's doings. He's been doing minor surgery - cutting out sebaceous cysts and - evidently the most fun - removing toenails. (Who would have thought?)
He's also a jolly chap and makes us laugh.
Usually when he goes away I'm sad, feeling that he's been and gone and we haven't really had much time with him. But today it really felt like being a complete family again. Very precious; balm to the soul of an empty nest mum.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Radio nonsense

On the way home from driving my confused aunt to look round various retirement homes this week, I’ve been listening to the radio.

One programme was about marketing. Various marketing gurus were pondering the power of slogans. “And yet,” said one chap, “do you remember that cat food that had a great slogan? But it didn’t become a market leader.”

“What was that?” enquired another chap.

“It was called ‘Miaou’,” said the first man, “and its slogan was: The food that 99% of cats ask for by name.

Later on, I was listening to a recording of two oldish sports presenters who were watching the tennis at Wimbledon and chatting in an old-chappish way about how they’re no longer very good at tennis but just stand there, hoping that the ball will come their way. (There were sounds of balls being biffed vigorously.) “Look at these guys,” said one. “They tear about the court and yet they still have time to prepare their shots, unlike me.”


“They don’t do anything else, though,” said the other.


“What, you mean they’re not brain surgeons in their spare time?”



“I’d be surprised if there was one brain surgeon among them,” mused the first chap.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Flowers, rain and things like that

On the way home from York we called in at Breezy Knees Gardens, a privately-owned nursery and garden which we knew about from a leaflet in the hotel. We were somewhat dubious because of the twee (but memorable) name and then when the lady asked for £3.50 a head, I did have a few frugal qualms - Edinburgh's beautiful Botanic Gardens are free, after all.

But Breezy Knees was a joy. Several acres of mainly herbaceous beds - my favourite - and I think we must have been there on the best flowering day of the year - there was colour everywhere. Lovely lovely lovely.

They had lots of alstroemerias, many of them short-stemmed so they wouldn't need staking, and a rainbow of fantastic colours.

Nice wide paths, mainly wheelchair friendly (we have a chair for my mum for when she gets tired).

Look at that colour! A bed of achilleas.

And the wonderful wide skies - the surrounding countryside is flat (hence the breezes) so there's a great feeling of space.

Some touches to bring a smile.

Mum, Daughter 1 and her husband.

To understand this notice, you need to know that gardens sometimes specialise in particular species and hold the national collection of, for example, lupins. This notice says: Please close the gates. We are custodians of the national collection of rabbits.

Driving home, we saw another notice on the back of this van: Caution. This vehicle may contain carpet fitters.
It's pouring today. The cats came in from their morning stroll all wet and spikey: small indignant porcupines.
What is the secret of happiness, do you think? Health and love and solvency are probably essential but the small things help a lot: flowers, a shared sense of humour and a furry animal to stroke.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I think that I shall never see...

Look! My old person's bus pass arrived today, entitling me to free bus journeys anywhere in Scotland. Another advantage of being 60.
Still, enough of this crowing. Who, you ask, looked after the catlets in our absence in York? Why, Scott of Scott's Abode, friend of Frogdancer of Dancing with Frogs. Do have a look at Scott's report on his visit - he managed to do an impressive amount and seems to have had a good time, despite having experienced what sounds a bit like Edinburgh's first ever tornado-cum-monsoon-type-thing. So sorry, Scott! The cats report that he treated them like royalty - thank you so much, Scott! I hope they behaved nicely for you.

Talking of the tornado-cum-monsoon, look at my little plum tree, blooming sweetly in April.

Here it is - now with its red leaves - late in the evening of the summer equinox.

And this is what happened to it during Scott's big wind. Sob.

Cat consternation.

Mr Life drags the corpse away.
Alas. We only had three trees. Now we have two.
Life is short indeed. I'd better start using that bus pass before it's too late.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Some facts about George Walton

At the risk of overemphasising the great age I've recently attained (thank you so much for your good wishes, including from blogless people whom I can't thank individually such as Widget and Brigitte) I thought I'd tell you a bit about the Waltonish nature of the celebration.

George Walton (1867-1933) was born into an artistic Glasgow family and was the brother of one of the "Glasgow Boys", Edward A. Walton. George set up a decorating company and worked in the distinctive Glasgow Style - Charles Rennie Mackintosh is the most famous proponent of this. Walton designed stained glass and stencilling, furniture, fabrics and fireplaces, carpets and cutlery, metalware, glassware and graphics - almost every area of decorative work. Later he moved to London and became an architect as well.

Our family became interested in him when Daughter 1 did a school project on him at the age of 15 or 16, and we visited York at that time to look at his interior work on Elm Bank, a house which is now a hotel. So for my birthday lunch, we decided to revisit Elm Bank and admire his stained glass, metalwork, woodwork and painted and mosaic friezes. which are still there.

For some reason I didn't take any pictures of the decoration this time except this one, which gives the impression that everyone was having a terrible time, hated each other and had just fallen out. I was really photographing the windows but it might have been an idea to warn these victims that they were also in the photo. Our son-in-law seems to be the only one aware of this possibility.

Here they all are moments later, smiling nicely. My brother is holding up our book on Walton, from which some photos below are stolen (but only to encourage you all to buy the book: George Walton, Designer and Architect by Karen Moon, published by White Cockade). I have to say he's not really smiling but then he recently broke his jaw.

To explain the cake....

This is a Walton window - not at Elm Bank but in the coach house of another house, The Leys, and I really love the colours and shapes. I hope the coachmen and chauffeurs appreciated it.

When we became Walton groupies, Daughter 1 adapted the design to fit our front door and we had it made up by a stained-glass maker. Hence Daughter 2's further reimagining in the medium of cake. I imagine George W would have been surprised. It was a very tasty cake; indeed, parts of it still are.

Lovely, don't you think?

And this - quite Mackintoshy. Or maybe Mackintosh is Waltony.

This is part of Daughter 2's birthday gift to me. (Her name isn't really Boot. Why we call her Boot is ... well, it's short for Scooshieboot, but that leads to a further question to which there's no real answer. "Snoof" means "look around". It's one of my dad's many invented words. The Restaurante de Hawthornden is her flat. We're going to see Tim Vine. Some of you may remember him: he's the chap who throws a pen and catches it behind his ear. We like quality entertainment.)

This is Daughter 2's card, again adapted from a Walton window:

this one.

Part of our son's gift. He hasn't interited our daughters' artistic flair, perhaps - also he's very busy - but the thought is lovely. (And he'd be better than the girls at diagnosing your gout, repetitive strain injury, gallstones or whatever, though I trust you have none of these).
Right then, I think that may be enough about my birthday. Now I must go blog-visiting.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Happy Independence Day, America!

We've been in York for a few days with the family. (Would this row of shops pass building regulations these days?) The cats were looked after by a bloggy friend - more of this anon.

There was delicious cake, made by Daughter 2 - I'll tell you another time about the significance of the design.

I got some very exciting presents including this from Mr Life!
I believe that America celebrated on Sunday also. So kind of the whole country to set off fireworks for my birthday.

I deserve this because I am now old enough to get a free bus pass.

When we got home, I unwrapped this present from Molly Bawn and Rise. Thank you so much! Isn't the bloggy world wonderful? It provides cat-sitters and also gifts from people whose proper names you don't even know!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Whiskers on kittens

Yesterday I was chatting over coffee to someone who was taking a break from interviewing people for Head of Computing at the college.

One candidate, due for interview at 10 am yesterday, had just phoned up – at 9.50 – to say he couldn’t attend his interview because he was on holiday. But he could, he said hopefully, come along on July 14 if this was any good.

I love to think that there are people walking around on the planet, breathing the same air as the rest of us and presumably able to feed themselves without being reminded, who are still that optimistic. Isn’t it sweet? Doesn’t it make the world seem like it might be a kinder and happier place? With fluffy bunnies. See them hop.