Sunday, October 31, 2010

Talking to cats

It may be just as well that I don't normally live by myself (Mr Life and Daughter 2 went up Snowdon today) because I'm finding myself talking to the cats quite a lot.

It's possibly to get quite a conversation going with Sirius, the gentleman cat, though admittedly only when he initiates it, and even then his topics tend to be food related. His main opening gambit is "Mwah??????" (going up at the end like an Australian), which means "Are you going to feed me now, else I shall fade away and collapse in front of your very eyes?", though there's also "Mwah???" - less urgent: "I realise that you're sitting in the study, blogging, but I'd prefer you to accompany me to the kitchen and add some jelly stuff to the perfectly good meat - from which I have licked the jelly - already in my plate."
Cassie, the lady feline, has really only one piece of verbal communication and that's "Aaaah!!!!", which means "Put me down AT ONCE!!!!."
Both cats' communications are perfectly effective.
However their lack of response to my chatting hasn't stopped me, this weekend, from narrating my actions to either cat ("Right, I'm going out into the garden now"... "I think I'll have some soup") and asking them questions ("What have I done with the keys?")
What do you think? Getting a bit senile? Or do you do it too? (I imagine people also talk to dogs.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Alone, alone, all, all alone. Well, apart from the cats.

Daughter 2 is off with Mr Life to admire narrow-gauge rail steam trains in Wales. He often goes at this time of year and this year she decided to accompany him so that he wouldn't be lonely. Of course he was delighted, since she's a lovely companion and she's also mildly interested in engines, unlike me. She arrived last night with these flowers and chocolates as a consolation for me, being left alone with the cats. As she came in the door, she sang, "Happy No-Us to you..." etc.

They left early this morning. She took with her the ghost that her sister recently knitted (see earlier blog post). I bought the original ghosts some years ago (well, you have to buy a knitted ghost when you see one, you'll agree) and last Hallowe'en, Daughter 2 commissioned Daughter 1 to produce a replica set. Somehow the situation didn't seem urgent at the time, but spectre-creation has recently taken place. The other one is now finished but not in time to be handed over for the Wales trip. However, this one can preside over Mr and Miss Life's Hallowe'en celebrations. (In fact I imagine that it will constitute the sum total of their Hallowe'en celebrations.)

Some of us had to go to work. However, I enjoyed walking home among the autumn colours. This tree is in the college grounds.

As is this one. The air was mild, if a trifle fast-moving.

We used to have lots of rabbits in the college grounds, too. We more or less had to wade through them to get to the front door. However a new sports hall (of appalling ugliness) is currently being built in the rabbit area - Watership Down 2 - so there are currently fewer bunnies. Here's one, though. Quite cute, really, though not if it was in my garden.

Cotoneaster berries as I walked through the car park of the warehouse next door to the college. Looking for beauty in everything, that's me.

On I walked.

Across the park. Corstorphine Hill in the background.

Looking back towards the Pentland Hills. I can never quite decide whether I love hills or the sea more. We're not far from either here.

The Dower House, which dates from the mid-17th century.

I tried to take a close-up of some yellow rowan berries but it was windy. Quite modern-arty, don't you think? Maybe I should enter it for the Turner Prize.

Then through the grounds of the even more elderly Corstorphine Old Parish Church. I felt positively young in comparison but reflected ruefully that in 30 years, when I'll probably not be around any more, it will look much the same. Hmm.

There it is.

It's bigger than me, too.

All those people, once alive and now dead. I like to be cheery.

And on to the main road. I nearly ended my life even sooner by taking a picture through the traffic of this aptly named Wee Shop. That's the size of it: a door's width. According to the Corstorphine Trust website:

The "Wee Shop" situated in St John’s Road is claimed to be the smallest shop in Scotland. It measures about 40" at its widest point, the front door, then tapers back to about 18". It is about 4’ 6" long.

At one time the premises belonged to the Corstorphine Temperance Society, but ownership passed to the Corstorphine Trust in the 1970s.

A variety of tenants have leased the shop over the years. In the early 1940s it was rented by a Mr Thomson who was a tobacconist and confectioner. Rent was £10 per annum, and the rates were also £10.
Mrs Grundey ran her personal corsetry business* from the shop from 1952 to 1959. A watchmaker, shoemaker and coal merchant have all rented it at some time. It is currently leased by a local firm of solicitors, Messrs Dickson, McNiven and Dunn WS.
* I imagine that fat ladies would find it a bit cramped. But then I suppose even thin ladies might go in feeling reasonably dainty and then immediately get the impression that they were huge. So possibly this was good for business.
And now I'm sitting in a quiet house... it's slightly spooky, since I so seldom am alone at night. But hey, I have my furry friends. Not to say all you cyber chums.
Have a good weekend, everyone.

The Apprentice

Oooh, I have been so busy - loads of marking - and I was going to blog last night but then I watched "The Apprentice" instead and it was so good. (Does everyone know what this is? - a reality programme in which ambitious youngish people take part in business tasks - or sort of businessish tasks - to win a job with an entrepreneur.) How I would hate to take part in this programme! What huge egos the people have and how amazing it is that they volunteer to take part in it, knowing (surely) that they're going to make fools of themselves. Daughter 2 and I take guilty pleasure in watching them.

And then I was going to blog tonight but Daughter 2 was here and she found on Iplayer (or something) the follow-up show to horrid Melissa's "firing" and I had to watch that. Kind of predictably, horrid Melissa then seemed quite nice, which goes to prove the power of editing and the stress engendered by the programme which made her seem quite so ghastly.

I have long ago decided that I'm not a team player. I can work in a team all right but frankly I prefer just getting on and doing it my way. The very thought of trying to complete a group task with all those pushy, shouty people. Ahh...ggg...hhh.

Melissa invented some fine words, though. "Comfortability" was one. "Manoeuvrement" was another. Oh, the joy. I'll miss her in the show for this alone.

But now it's five to one in the morning. Mr Life and Daughter 2 will be up at six-thirty to go to Wales so that Mr Life can admire trains, so I'd better stop this and go and leap into the bath with Melvyn Bragg. Or at least with a novel by him. What a pity one needs to sleep on occasion. I do think it's a waste of time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Edinburgh and some knitted ghosts

On Friday night I said to Daughter 1, on the phone, "What are you doing tomorrow?"

"I'm going up town," she said.

"Oh yes? What for?"

"Well," she said, "I need a guitar E string, some cider apple vinegar, some syringes to feed vitamins to guinea pigs and some wool to knit ghosts."

I might be wrong but I rather think that she was the only person with that particular shopping list that weekend. Anyone know differently?

Earlier that day, Mr Life and I went up town too, to go to the Scottish National Gallery. Here's the view looking east. It wasn't so sunny as earlier in the week but it was a lot milder.

That's the Gallery at the end with, to the right, the Royal Scottish Academy. Edinburgh was going through its Athenian phase at the time they were built.

Looking over the fence towards the Old Town, with the lower slopes of Arthur's Seat just visible in the middle of the picture.

Princes Street Gardens - the park on one side of Princes Street, the main shopping street - with the Scott Monument like a mini Eiffel Tower behind the trees. The Monument was built as a memorial to Sir Walter Scott. Imagine someone proposing a huge thing like that nowadays in the middle of a capital city as a tribute to a writer. I don't think even J K Rowling would be honoured in that way. And who reads Scott these days? Not many, I wouldn't think.

Another view of the Old Town, with the Bank of Scotland bravely flying its flag. Banking crisis? What banking crisis?

The Gardens again with, in the distance, the clock of the Balmoral Hotel.
Back to work tomorrow. Hmm. It's possible that our original thought of going to Florence might have been more... foreign. And thus exciting. Still, we've achieved a lot this week. As well taking lots of stuff to the charity shops and the homeless place, we purged our books and took a huge box and two big sacks of them to a charity book shop (explain to me how the shelves are only a bit emptier than they were before?) and we did quite a bit of Freecycling. Thus we disposed of a desk, two desk chairs, a dressing table and two bedside tables, a chest of drawers and a lampshade - all to people who wanted them. Hooray!
Mind you, my mum has almost definitely - no, definitely - decided to move in with us. So we need to enjoy the fruits of our decluttering while we can. She has a lot of possessions....
What's that you say? Have I done the marking and preparation that I planned to do this week? Well, not yet. It's only 8.38 on Sunday night. Oh, you think I should stop bloggifying and get on with it? Ok, ok. You may have a point. Watch me go. Whoosh.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

North Berwick

As you can see from the picture above, Mr Life and I had an afternoon out yesterday. Having visited various charity shops with things from my aunt's house and some from ours (please congratulate me for disposing of the flowery teaset and the fruity coffee cups and ramekins and various other items I never use) we set out for North Berwick, about twenty miles down the coast.

(Incidentally, I discovered that we had no less than FIVE butter knives. I have never in my life used one of them, let alone five. I also had two rolling pins, two of those bottle openers with the waggly bits, three cheese knives, innumerable non-matching teaspoons... well, I won't go on. Gone!)

We drove along the coast road. Look at that blue sky! A lovely summer's day? Wrong. It was FREEZING. There was frost on the windscreen before we set out and the wind - well, whetted knives would have nothing on it.

Evidence, if evidence were needed, that the Scots are a hardy race. No, I didn't actually ask them if they were Scottish. Possibly they're tourists from Finland but I didn't see the warming sauna anywhere near.

North Berwick is a pretty little town.

It has a harbour. The ropes (probably not the right word - halyards, Mr Life suggests) were banging against the masts in the icy blast.

That is not a tempting sea. Trust me.

Yes, it looks tranquil enough in this photo.

But it wasn't. Crashing breakers, that's what these are.

We met an enormous dog. She's sitting down in this photo; standing up, she was like a small horse. A short but extremely chunky one. She's a Newfoundland and her name is Panda. Actually, I suppose this is because she's more like a panda than a horse. Rachel of Slow Lane Life (, I suggest one of these as your next pet adoptee. You'd need to be careful where she sat down, though. Tosca could disappear and you'd never know where she went till the panda dog stood up and you saw Tosca adhering to its rear end.

Tea and cake - we needed it to keep the cold out.
We had a nice time, though.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Holiday fun

So this is my week’s October holiday and Mr Life has taken it off too. We did think of going to Florence. But then we realised that we had to clear my confused aunt’s flat so that its owners (her church) can sell it now that she’s in care.

Not a fun activity. Gah. We felt like criminals. Today we got a man with a van to come and take away some furniture and even he said that he felt terrible taking people’s possessions away. Quite sweet and sensitive, I thought, considering that his email address starts "bookurvan@...."

Anyway, it’s done now. We finished by cleaning the fridge and the cooker and wiping all the skirtings and so on. All the time, I was musing that possibly my skirtings could do with a bit of a wipe – or as we say in Scotland, a dicht – also. However, I’ll do that another day.

As well as getting the van man to do his stuff, we took various of the better household items to Fresh Start, an organisation which puts things together for people who’ve been homeless and have been given a flat. And inevitably, though I WASN’T GOING TO DO THIS, I brought a few things home. Things like packets of lentils and cling film and salt and sugar, which my thrifty Scottish soul just couldn’t bear to throw away and, oh, two chairs which are quite nice but we don’t need at all, and the odd plant pot, and – why didn’t I just stay firm and get rid of it all? Now it’s in my house and I need to find a home for it.

However, a cunning plan: tomorrow we’ll take some more of my aunt’s possessions to a charity shop and I’m going in a minute to root out some stuff that I never use and take it too. For example, I have three drawers containing cutlery in my kitchen… no, actually, now I think about it, four – and I really use the contents of only two. The others contain items that I suppose I vaguely keep in case the children might be in a student flat and need them. Which isn’t going to happen now they're 30, 29 and 26.

I also plan to weed out a few books.


Hmm. My mother, however, is now contemplating a move: possibly to a retirement flat but more likely in with us. Her big flat, which has had nothing much done to it since she and my dad moved in 20 years ago, is getting too much for her. My mother, unlike my aunt, has a vast amount of stuff. She has two large public rooms, four large bedrooms, a big hallway which is more or less another room with a huge old dresser in it, a big cloakroom with huge cupboards down one wall, a big kitchen, a laundry room, a boiler room with lots of cupboards… And all those cupboards are full of things; all those walls are covered with pictures; all her surfaces contain objects.

We’ll need a man with a pantechnicon to shift all that stuff. And at least some of it will have to come here… to our considerably less expansive establishment. But even more trickily – what on earth will we do with the rest of it? And how do I fit this around working?

Answers on a postcard, please…

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm 59a and a bit

Bloggy friends with long memories and not too much to think about may remember that in July I became 60, or as I like to think of it, 59a. And Daughter 2 gave me this fine voucher for a day with her (she's Boot - though this is not her real name, surprisingly).

For various reasons which now elude me, I didn't actually redeem this voucher on August 28th (though we did go and see Tim Vine - very funny) so she decided that we'd do it today instead.
And it was absolutely LOVELY!!!

Would you care to come along with us?

First we went to visit my confused aunt, but then set off for the Botanic Gardens, consuming on the way a packet of Giant Chocolate Buttons - mid-morning snack. It wasn't as big a packet as it looks here. Perspective, you know.

The sky was a brilliant blue. (Eat your heart out, Australia,)

Sedum Autumn joy, living up to its name.

My little flower with some - um - heleniums, maybe?

Michaelmas Daisies making a fine show.

And nerines - I wish I could get them to grow like this.

Lots of colour for October - though any day, much of this could be cut down by frost. This somehow made our balmy day more appreciated.

The rock garden. It looks small here but it's really extensive and usually has small children running around it.

Daughter 2 kicks up some leaves in an autumnal fashion.

After all that natural beauty it was time for lunch.

The view of Edinburgh as we left the cafe. Calton Hill to the left, with the Observatory and Edinburgh's Disgrace (a half-built Greek temple built in memory of those who lost their lives in the Napoleonic Wars - the story is that the money ran out) - and Arthur's Seat, the hill to the right.

Saxifrage and monkshood.

A three-seater bike. We all ride them in Edinburgh. (No, not really.)

Having left the Botanics, we then walked beside the Water of Leith to Stockbridge.

This is it. It's quite a nice little area with interesting shops.

We walked up a side lane to see where it went. And then back again. Not sure where you'd park your car if you lived here.

Back in the main road, we looked over the bridge.

Having looked in the shops and bought a necklace for the warden of the sheltered flats where my aunt used to live, to say goodbye and thank you, we wandered through "The Colonies" and met a nice cat.

As we crossed the river at the end of the next street, we saw a heron.

You wouldn't think this was a couple of miles from the centre of the city. There are houses behind that wall to the right.

And then we set off home. (We were about to turn right, not to crash into this keep-left sign. )

We fitted in a bit of cat time. Then Daughter 2 produced dinner.

Later we generously allowed Mr Life to come with us to the theatre, where we saw Alan Ayckbourn's "Bedroom Farce", which was quite amusing in a slightly painful way and not really farcical at all, happily. Juliet Mills (Hayley's sister) was in it, looking rather old, though pretty, and so was that chap who played Leonard in "Butterflies" on television a long time ago. He looked rather elderly too. I haven't changed a bit, of course.
I don't know when I had such a wonderful day. The memory of it will warm my heart for a long time. Thank you so much, darling Daughter 2. Are you sure you want to marry your actor and go and live in London? Look how beautiful Edinburgh is...