Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ten, nine, eight, seven...

I realise that this may seem like a lo-o-ng countdown to retirement (thank you for your good wishes on this momentous development in my life) but... one more day to go. Or in fact, half a day. And then I'll be an OAP.

And the cats and I can sit around all day, snoozing.

Well, possibly the cats may do this more than I do. But still. Freedom. Ish.

Mind you, there's a minor snag. I found the other day that my purse was rather empty. "Oh dear," I said. "I don't have much money."

"Better get used to it, dear," said Mr Life.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dr Neil's Garden

Yesterday, Daughter 1 and I visited a garden. It's on the shore of Duddingston Loch and at the foot of Arthur's Seat. It looks as if it's in the middle of the country, but in fact the loch and the hill are within the city, towards the east.

The garden was made in the 1970s by two doctors who lived and practised not far away. It was just grassland when they took the land over.

Here's Daughter 1 sitting on a bench. You wouldn't really guess that she's due to give birth in 12 days.

Looking towards the university area of the city.

Looking up towards the hill.

Typical Edinburgh midsummer weather...

The tower to her left was built by the local curling club as a clubhouse. (Curling as in pushing stones across the ice, as opposed to tonging one's hair.)

Yes, you're right; it was about to rain.

Looking over the garden wall. I believe the Irish might call the weather "soft".

Again, looking over the wall at the ducks, Canada geese and rabbits. They looked bigger to the naked eye.

Tomorrow I go back to work for my very last Monday. No more Monday morning feelings for me.


Poor Mr Life labours on for another nine months. Not that he exactly grudges me my retirement. Do you, Mr Life? No, of course not.

Book a flight over, Molly, to give me those patchwork lessons?

Friday, June 24, 2011

The end of the tunnel

One more week of work to go. It's a very very strange feeling.

I really liked Anon's comment the other day: this is exactly how I'd hope that my retirement goes. I'm a bit dubious, what with my mother being about to move in with us, my general weediness and my imminent grandmotherhood (though I'm delighted about this bit). Anyway, over to Anon. I shall stick this to the fridge or something.

This will be the time to grasp the "if only I had the time" opportunities. Approach it in a work-like way. Make lists of all those things you thought about doing. Do you still want to do them? Invest in yourself. The success will be down to how you approach it.

Like, I imagine, most women (and some men) I have spent my entire adult life not doing things I wanted to do because there were too many things that I felt I had to do. I wonder if Anon is a retired person who's actually managed to take her (his?) own advice, or if she/he (but I think it's a she) is gritting her teeth and waiting for retirement, determined to start living the life she wants to.

Now I must go up and spend the night at my mother's house, as I've done three times a week for the past four and a half years.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Husband's Day

On Friday I went out with members of my department and they gave me farewell presents! Very sweet.

Sunday was Father's Day but, unprecedentedly (and sadly) we had no offspring around. So Mr Life and I went to the Bird Cage in Musselburgh to have lunch. It's a restaurant in converted industrial buildings - rather interestingly done, we thought.

Happy Father's Day, Mr Life.

Musselburgh is a small town which is joined on to the eastern side of Edinburgh, and Mr Life used to live there when I first knew him. So after lunch, we went for a reminiscent walk along the side of the River Esk, where we used to walk in our boyfriend/girlfriend days. We used to take Randy, his family's somewhat bonkers spaniel, with us. Randy was deeply suspicious of my intentions towards his man.

Mr Life points out where Randy fell in and had to be rescued. It's further down than it looks.

Not sure what these lilac-coloured flowers are. Must look them up.

These houses have a nice rural outlook. I would really like to live in a house with a view.

We went round by Daughter 1's house - she'd had her in-laws for the weekend, but they'd just left - and she gave Mr Life a card and a present. Can you see the patchwork cover she's making for Baby Life? It's on the sofa to the left. And Mr Life is leaning on what's going to be a cushion cover.

And these are her sock monkeys. They're bright, you have to admit.

Must rush - "The Apprentice" is just starting! (Guilty pleasure...)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Peter and Benjamin

I was walking through the grounds of the college on my way home today. In front of me on the path were five youngish chaps who looked vaguely Middle Eastern. They were smartly dressed in shirts and ties, unlike our typical students. They suddenly all stopped, whipped out their mobile phones and gazed intently at these.

I overtook the young men and heard them conversing busily in their own language. I have to admit that I did wonder what they were discussing, so a little further down the path, I turned my head to see what they were doing.

Big smiles on their faces, they were tiptoeing over the lawn, phone cameras held aloft, taking pictures of some of the many rabbits that spend their lives munching away at the grass in the college grounds.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tempus fugit

I've been writing this blog for five years and a few months, and probably every June I say how much I love this time of year, when it's light until late. I spent much of this evening in the garden, which is suffering from the neglect of the past couple of months, and I took this photo at 10pm. The sun wasn't exactly splitting the paving stones; but then it wasn't doing that at midday either. As you can see, it was still very much daylight. Now, at twenty to midnight, the sky is dark blue but it's far from black and in a very few hours, dawn will break.

I had my very last class yesterday. I felt that there ought to have been streamers, flags, balloons. But in fact it was whimpery rather than bangy because in that class, most of them are actually finished, so that it was only the tail-end-Charlies who hadn't quite got their act together who needed to come. They came. They went. And, alone in the classroom, I looked out of the window at various students coming and going outside, young and with their lives before them, and thought... well, this is it. The End.

Actually, it's not quite the end because there are another eleven days of term after this one, and various even-tailer-end-Charlies will come wandering into the office with assessments clutched in their hopeful hands. And I have a LOT of clearing out to do: twenty years' worth of lesson material (and some extremely old bits and pieces dating from before I even started work at that college) that I've hung on to just in case I ever needed it again. Though most of my stuff is now on line, really. And I don't suppose I ever will need it again, though I'll probably keep a couple of pen drives with some of my material because ... well, just because. I suppose I might do some tutoring at some point.

Five years ago we were thinking about Daughter 1's impending wedding and now we're thinking about Daughter 2's. I was much happier five years ago. Five years from now, Grandson will be approaching his fifth birthday and.. who knows what else?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Various thoughts which have occurred to me

One muses, does one not, when waiting at bus stops, or just walking along, or doing the washing up?

Here are various thoughts which have come to me at various points, not always in time for them to be useful.

1) The first concerns Virgil - Publius Vergilius, who wrote The Aeneid, which we studied in Latin at school. Our teacher, though perfectly nice, must have been the most boring person in Edinburgh. Possibly she still is, since looking back on it I suppose she was only in her 20s or early 30s, though I thought she was seriously middle-aged. Anyway, every night she gave us a passage of this poetic masterpiece (or as I thought of it then this deeply tedious tome) to prepare. Then in class the following day she would pick on someone and this someone would have to stand up and translate the relevant bit.

Not being a person who thought homework was a good use of her valuable time, I never opened the book at home, which inconvenienced me somewhat if Miss G chose me in class. I had to translate it off the top of my head, which didn't always work terribly well.

Many of my classmates were quite diligent and could make a slightly better stab at it than I could. But one girl, A, used to stand up and fluently spout forth. I was amazed that anyone would bother to work so hard. After all, we found out what it meant in the end anyway because the teacher always went over it.

It wasn't till years afterwards that it occurred to me that I could have gone to a shop and bought a translation. Then I could have "done" the homework in a fraction of the time and impressed poor Miss G.

Having had this thought, I did buy a translation and discovered to my amazement that The Aeneid was literature - something that Miss G had never communicated to us.

2) This is a more recent discovery related to our bath. The picture above is actually Bath, which is a beautiful city, more beautiful than our tub. Our bathroom, however, has a window above the bath, quite high up, which we keep slightly open most of the time, but every night before I leap into the bubbles, I climb on to the side of the bath and close the window - because I don't want to be cold and because I am a shortish person and can't otherwise reach it. As I get older and creakier, I think to myself that one day it might not be a good idea to balance thus precariously, and then what? Must I lie shivering in my tub?

When I decide that I'm sufficiently clean, I stand up in the bath, open the window again to let the steam out and then proceed with the drying bit of the operation.

It wasn't till I broke my ankle in January and felt it definitely wasn't a good idea to go clambering on the sides of baths that it occurred to me that I could also shut the window, pre-bath, by standing in it instead. Problem solved.

We've lived in this house now for 22 years. It took me 21 and a half to figure this out.

3) As stated, I am not a tall person. I might be 5'3'' in shoes. And one mildly irritating thing about being shortish is that while I'm walking smartly along, little legs a-blur, tall people stroll slowly past me. When I say "slowly" I mean that they're taking far fewer steps than I am, but they're easily overtaking me. This is particularly noticeable when I'm walking into college being left behind by tall young men with long legs.

I sometimes study their legs as they depart (purely in the spirit of research, you understand) and amazed by the difference that a few inches of leg make in the length of stride.

Yesterday, as I paced along, quite a small chap passed me. I was indignant: he was an Oriental gentleman and really not much taller than I. His legs looked much the same length as mine. Yet even he was doing the stroll-past thing. Then it dawned on me: feet. It's not just the legs: it's the feet too. Big feet propel you further than small ones. So I'm doubly handicapped: shortish with smallish feet.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Various random pictures and a forthcoming event

Things have been moderately busy around here but not with anything terribly exciting (well, one thing, but I'll tell you about that in a minute). So I took a couple of photos and then downloaded them on to the computer, thus finding some other photos that I must have taken a few weeks ago and never downloaded. So here they are. Above, you see my little Chinese medicine chest, my granny's powder bowl and some pebbles that we collected and Mr Life polished, some years ago. They're in a bowl that (I think) Daughter 1 gave me one birthday.

A vase of lilacs from the garden (long withered now) and a couple of teapots. And a bowl made by Mr Life's cousin. Not sure what it was doing there. Just passing through, I suppose.

I always have flowers on this table in the sitting room.

The weather recently has been very unsummery - today is cold and wet - but clearly it was nice a few weeks ago. There's a cat (hard to tell, but I think it's Cassie) lounging on the grass.

This is definitely Cassie. She always prefers to come in a door rather than the cat flap. She is a superior being, after all. Would you want to crawl through a little door that then biffed you on the bottom as you finished the manoeuvre?

This is Sirius. I wonder if I could persuade him to repaint that bench. Or maybe I could find another volunteer...? It would be good if this person attacked the lilacs somewhat before they engulf the bench. I believe he has some electric hedge-cutters.

A little vase of trollius in a recycled glass vase on the kitchen table. Again, this was some weeks ago. I love that bright yellow.

This, however, is today: my hoya carnosa plant. The flowers smell very sweet. This is a cutting from one in the greenhouse of my parents' previous house. The original plant twined all round the greenhouse but I kept this plant in the same pot for.. oh, must have been the best part of thirty years, because my plant book said that if you repotted hoyas, then they didn't flower. Left in this small pot, the poor thing didn't grow much either, but flowered every year. Eventually, a couple of years ago, I thought I really must repot it, which I did; and it put on a growth spurt but still flowered.

Perhaps I'll repot it again in another thirty years to celebrate my 91st birthday.

The flowers look artificial, don't they? But they're not. They exude fragrant nectar. Fragrant and somewhat sticky.

This is the exciting thing. Oh, you don't think so? Yes, it's just a changing mat, but Daughter 1, Son-in-Law and I went into town today and bought perhaps too many cute baby clothes and two mats: one for their house and one for ours. Such fun! I need to be prepared for Granny duties. July 6 is the due date.

Meanwhile Sirius, unimpressed, considers what this baby might be called. The baby's parents don't seem to be able to make up their minds. How about Prawn, Sirius suggests? Or Dreamy? (Dreamies are his favourite cat treat. What could be nicer?)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Set off the fireworks!

Finished the marking! Hooray hooray.

As the pupils whose work I've been marking might say, I'm not sure whether I feel more "stagnatory" or "imaginatery" at this moment. A mixture of both, I think.

Must now go and pack up the last batch of scripts, note the code numbers and so on, fill in various forms and go and have a lovely warm bath.

Massive blog-catch-up starts tomorrow - though the garden is also in need of attention, not to say the house. Mr Life is a fine fellow but his tolerance of grot is higher than mine.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Trying too hard

Candidates are supposed to use their own words as far as possible in this exam - to show that they understand, and can discuss the meaning and connotations of, the more challenging words and phrases in the passage. Still, I think one student took this a bit far. To avoid using the word "tooth" she wrote "an item in your mouth used in the minimising of food".

Eighteen scripts to go. I should re-enter the real world on Thursday.

Monday, June 06, 2011


My scripts are throwing up disappointingly few really silly answers but there have been some nice invented words, such as:

* finction
* rememarable
* sensicle
* supposably
* competivity
* grosely ( I think the student meant a combination of "gross" and "grisly" - computer games can be grosely, he claimed.)
* frustantedly

43 scripts to go. I must be sensicle and get on with them, no matter how frustranted I feel about it.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Marriage, and birth, and death, and thoughts of these

Thank you for all your kind comments about the death of my aunt. It’s not as painful as losing a parent, especially since she had moderate dementia and for the last couple of weeks of her life was very ill. But because I’d had so much to do with her care over the past eighteen months, and because I was genuinely fond of her, her death gave me more of a jolt than I perhaps expected.

The time has flown by since then and yet paradoxically it seems surprising to think that she was alive only ten days ago. Her funeral on Thursday was lovely: a true celebration of her life and that of her late husband.

And I’m aware of that strange mixture of feelings that one has at such times. There’s relief that she’s been freed from that failing body and mind – she was such an energetic, practical and busy person, a doctor working for very little money in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1951 to 1983. There’s sorrow for her and for all of us, that we must in time grow frail and die. There’s fear at what ten years can do: change us from that strong, busy person to a confused little bird in a bed with padded sides.

It’s beloved Daughter 2’s birthday today. She’s 30. Where does the time go? (As above.) She came up from London for the funeral and then her birthday weekend with her chap and her best friend - one of her bridesmaids. She had a wedding dress fitting today. And today Daughter 2 and her husband (about five weeks to go till the baby!) and Son and his lady are here. Lots of fun, food, bed-changing, washing up.

I will get back to reading and commenting on other people’s blogs in a few days. 89 papers to go, to be finished by Wednesday. Meanwhile, don’t do anything too exciting without me, will you?