Sunday, July 31, 2011

A bit more of the same

Some people blog about politics or current affairs or deep philosophical matters. I sometimes find it a bit embarrassing when non-bloggy friends, on hearing about my blog, say with wonder, “What do you blog about?” and I say, “Um… the cats… the garden… the family… funny things students write… nothing very much, really.”

However, as you may have noticed, the blog has been even less wide-ranging recently, and has rather emphasised Grandson and other family members. I apologise for those less fascinated than I by this (or maybe any) baby. It’s partly at least to show the offspring who aren’t in Edinburgh how Grandson is doing but mainly, I suppose, just because I am a typically besotted Granny.

Son and fiancĂ©e came down from Perth this morning and we all (except, alas, Daughter 2, who’s in London) had lunch together. And a bit of cat time.

Oh, and some baby-admiring time.

Son’s washing machine in his rented Perth flat has broken down, so he came to do the washing as well as to admire his nephew. He and the young lady are having to change jobs and hospitals mid-week so while I prepared the lunch, she read about Accident and Emergency work as he mugged up on Orthopaedics. (He’s just finished a 12-day-on-the-trot stint on the current, completely different, job and is about to embark on night shift.) There will some young doctors who will have done less preparation for their new jobs. Look after yourselves with some care, Scottish people, while the changeovers take place in your local hospitals. Avoid having As or Es, for example. You might not be seen by Son's beloved.

Grandson caused his parents a bit of worry earlier this morning (not for the last time, I fear). He became rather wheezy - he has a bit of a snuffle. The midwife advised them to put him in a steamy atmosphere, which seemed to do the trick. All the same, Son gave him a bit of a check-up. He looked for intercostal or subcostal recession. (?) Happily, he didn’t find it.

Look! A smile! It wasn’t quite a real one, of course. He was just going through a repertoire of expressions while sleeping. But he’ll be beaming away soon enough, I hope.

He’s a fortnight old now. And we all feel that we’ve known him for ever.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More baby worship

Guess who popped in for a visit today? He's being held by his other uncle, brother of his dad, up from Worcester for the weekend. I was so touched by his adoration - he who has always professed not to like babies. "He's very special," said W Uncle, clutching Grandson tenderly.

This was from last weekend: Daughter 2 and SIL with the young master.

This was last weekend too. I love the funny little faces that small babies make.

I wonder who he'll take after. His German-graduate, computer-expert, general-very-clever-person dad? His English-and-French-graduate, archivist, knitting-sewer mum? His various doctor relatives? His teacher granny and great-great-aunt? His engineer, very clever great-grandfather? His very sporty great-great-grandfather? Or any of his other relations?

Of course there are traits that we don't want him to inherit, such as my dad's choleric tendencies, a certain strain of eccentricity on my side of the family (or indeed, maybe both sides), a tendency to footer around (again among my relatives - and in the past, me) and not get on with things - and the sporting gene seems to have got fairly lost apart from maybe in our son and the Worcester uncle. And I wouldn't like him to have my sense of direction.

Or will he just be himself? Actually, a plumber would be rather handy in the family. Also I would recommend him to be tall and slender like his dad.

It's funny to think that it's all there already - bar a bit of tinkering from life and his relations and friends. All that potential for whatever he's going to be, packed inside that little downy head.

PS - Ok, commenters, he could indeed grow up to be an accountant like Grandad Life. Or have Grandad Life's beautiful blue eyes (though Daughter 1 says that this isn't possible, genetically) or his lovely thick black glossy hair, or his height, or his good nature, or his sense of direction, or his practical skills... etc.

Friday, July 29, 2011


This post is mainly for Thimbleanna, who loves plates, but also for my children, who haven't seen them yet. Mind you, if Thimbleanna can't see the photos again today, then it will be more frustrating for her. Sorry, Anna!

Anyway, a second box of crockery arrived (o me of little faith) later in the day and now we've got it all.

Playing with new plates is so much more fun than doing other, more laudable things, don't you think?

And finally - this picture has two minor differences from the previous one. Well, three, I suppose. Cassie got off me. I stood up. And Mr Life pointed out that I'd missed one mug from my mugs-in-front arrangement. Oh, and someone must have moved the flowers for some reason, so that's four differences.

I think that possibly exhausts the blog potential of my new tableware. I like it, though.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some of the things that retired people do

Well, we couldn't have a blog post without a picture of Grandson, could we? - cuddled at the weekend by Daughter Auntie? It took me a while to figure out what the flying saucer was behind Mr Life's head. I think it's Daughter 1's pregnancy exercise ball, though what it was doing there, I couldn't say.

The day before yesterday I took the car in to be serviced. The car place is beside a canal and if I'd got my phone out more quickly you'd have been better able to see the two swans floating ballet-dancer-like through the water. As it is, you may manage to perceive a white blob making a bit of a wake.

Not sure that this is where I would have decided to site a whole lot of car showrooms, but I suppose car salesmen deserve a bit of beauty when they're stuck in an industrial estate.

Yesterday, for the third day in a row, it was warm and sunny (I was standing perspiring in the shade when I took the above photo) and we went with our friends to Craigmillar Castle, built in various stages from 1420 onward and now somewhat roofless in parts.

Look! There's a curtain wall and some sunshine.

I was persuaded to go up on a portion of roof that's been reinstated. I'm not a person who trusts heights, and I was particularly not keen on the spiral staircase, made of lots of bits of big heavy stone stuck into the wall at one side and apparently attached to nothing but other bits of spiral staircase at the other. I prefer architecture to which I entrust my person (not to say the persons of Mr Life and some of our oldest friends) to be somewhat more recent than 14something and to involve steel beams and safety certificates.

Anyway, the view from up there was good and as you can tell, the building didn't collapse.

Again, call me picky but I wouldn't have given planning permission for those high rise flats (above) in Edinburgh's skyline. I know people have to live somewhere and I'm sure the flats have a terrific view, but... no.

There's the sea in the distance. Look at that blue sky? Set fair for several days, wouldn't you say?

Round the other side, you see (again not exactly pretty, but at least flattish) the Royal Infirmary where Grandson entered the world.

The de Prestons, who owned the castle originally, had a fish pond dug out in the shape of P for Preston. It's not a pond any more but the shape can be clearly seen and it's much bigger than it looks here. I decided that I wouldn't care to have been one of the diggers but then I decided that in fact this would be greatly preferable to building the castle with all those huge lumps of stone as one was balancing, presumably, on wooden scaffolding held together by hand-made ropes. Urgh.

Today it's cold and rainy - well, it's the reason for our nice green grass, not to say all the moss in my nice green grass. I've been waiting in for a delivery of John Lewis's mix-and-match stripy and spotty tablewear. My kind colleagues gave me money as a parting gift and this is what I decided to buy. It arrived. I said to the man, "Goodness, did it all fit in a box this size?"

Can you spot my error? That's right. I should have said, "Goodness, it couldn't all fit in a box this size. Just hang on while I check that it's all there."

It wasn't. Only half of it was. (You may notice the preponderance of stripes over spots in the photo.) A long phone call later with a nice lady from Glasgow and she's looking into it. It's hard to prove that I haven't just hidden the rest of the stuff under the bed, but I haven't. She did agree, though, that everything I ordered wouldn't fit into the one box that the delivery chap said, when asked, was all he had.

Still, it made a nice bed for Sirius. Cassie then came in all wet and stood on my lap gazing affectionately into my eyes for just long enough for her feet to dry nicely and then did a bit of turning round and lying down so as to get all the rest of the rain off her fur and on to my trousers.

It's good to be of use.

(PS I'm sorry if, like my first two commenters, you can't see the pictures. They're not that remarkable so you're not missing anything worldshattering - a castle and some views from the top. Oh, and some plates. They're all perfectly visible when I look at my blog.

I wonder if I did something funny by going into the Compose thing to try to get rid of some of the huge spaces between the paragraphs? It didn't even work to any impressive extent. Note to self: don't meddle with things you don't understand.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baby sleeping

We haven't seen him since Sunday. This won't do! But we'll see him today.

It's funny how an adult lying asleep with his/her mouth open doesn't really look his/her most attractive. But at four days old, it's quite sweet.

What's he dreaming about?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What is this life if, full of care...?

Some of us are born to work. Others aren't. Cassie is among the latter.

It's an irritating thing about retirement (I also used to find it about holidays from work) that somehow, though I work quite hard at tidying the house, it doesn't remain tidy without constant vigilance. I must stop doing things. I need to achieve a state of immaculateness and then just sit there, reading.

Not today, though. Friends are coming to lunch tomorrow and I must decide what they're going to eat and then buy the ingredients and fashion them into something palatable. And then do the tidying thing again.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


So – it’s been a dramatic week, totally apart from my family’s little arrival. It’s hard to deal with mixed emotions. We’re besotted with little Grandson; meanwhile people are starving in large numbers in Africa, those horrific killings have taken place in Norway and Amy Winehouse has died.

I don’t really know anything about Amy Winehouse except what one hears. The only song of hers that I’m aware of is that “Rehab” one and nothing about it seems interesting to me, especially her raspy voice. But Daughter 2 saw her in concert when she (AW) was about 20 and was very impressed, so what do I know? And anyone dying at 27 is a great tragedy, obviously.

I can’t help, however, comparing her to the boy in a documentary, A Life Fast Forward, that I watched on Friday night. His name was Alex Lewis and I think he became 22 in the course of the programme. Four years before, he’d been diagnosed with cancer and it was now terminal. And you’ve never seen a more lively and enthusiastic person. He didn’t dwell on his illness but was bent on extracting every possible ounce of joy from his remaining life – travelling abroad, skydiving and so on. In the course of the documentary he fell in love with a girl among his group of friends. Her name was Ali and she fell in love with him too. They got engaged and, just at the end of the documentary, married – though by that stage he couldn’t walk and could hardly talk. Five days later, he died.

It wasn’t only Alex who was enchanting – his whole family, his set of friends and also Ali and her family were absolutely lovely. Whereas I think I might have warned my daughter off getting involved with a boy who was about to die – however delightful he was – both families were just so happy for them and it seemed absolutely right. And we also saw them some months after his death, having a barbecue and talking and laughing so fondly about Alex and his exploits.

It was terribly sad, but so touching and heart-warming – made me feel better about humanity. And also makes me feel even more the waste in Amy Winehouse’s life. He had no choices, poor lad.

I may have blogged before about Auden’s poem Icarus – but since I can’t remember, probably neither can you. Anyway, it’s a poem I used to enjoy teaching, especially since the advent of electronic whiteboards, which allow you to put an image of Breugel's painting up on the huge screen and let the class see it. It takes them a while to spot Icarus in the corner, falling into the sea, unnoticed by the others in the picture, and of course that’s Auden’s point in the poem: individual tragedies are just that – disasters for those involved, but for the rest of us – either we don’t know about them or we do but we just have to get on with things. However sympathetic you feel, you can’t let yourself be destroyed by every tragedy in the world. But it’s hard to forget Alex; and of course the terrible events in Norway have certainly horrified us all.

Compared to all this, the Murdochs and phone hacking and the cream pie throwing don’t seem quite so important. But I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Here he is again

Naturally, I can't spare you from seeing the moment that Auntie Daughter 2 met her nephew.

How easy it is to be popular when you're nearly a week old.

And how quickly the time passes and they're all grown up. Daughter 2 and I spent time today getting her Edinburgh flat ready for tenants, which she needs to find so that she can pay her mortgage and also her London rent. It wasn't the most fun I've ever had, though it was lovely spending time with her. I did love seeing her settled in that flat, which she'd made so much her own, and I do wish she hadn't now moved so far away.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Not hoovering

You see, the thing is: no one else has ever had a grandchild before so I have to post pictures of mine. I particularly like the one above, illustrating the optimism of the newborn on his second day of life as he attempts to extract nourishment from my boy's rather scratchy chin.

And this is just such a sweet photo. Can you imagine Grandson ever having hairy arms like Son? I used to think this when Son was that size - how can a tiny scrap ever grow up to be a big hairy man like Mr Life? (Though actually SIL is not particularly hirsute, so possibly Grandson may take after him.)

Anyway, to prove that I occasionally do other things, here's a fine picture of a traffic cone (why did I make this the main feature of the photo?) in the village of Gifford, where I went for lunch with some teaching chums earlier in the week.

I'm always vaguely looking for somewhere rural but convenient to retire to... oh, yes, I am retired now, but you know what I mean. Somewhere to spend my twilight years. How about this? The garden's nice. A lot of work has gone into that stripy lawn.

Mind you, we then passed this house, which I have to say I prefer. I'm sure I could improve the garden.

This is all displacement activity. I'm really in the middle of (no, at the beginning of) cleaning the house prior to going to the supermarket. Off I go.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More self-indulgent granny photos

Grandson is put into his car seat for the first time in preparation for going home from hospital yesterday. His legs are a bit short for his suit.

He decides that he disapproves of his car seat.

Home safely, he investigates his blanket for milk-giving properties.

Then he nods off. His hat is also a bit big. Isn't it amazing that, four and a half days before, he was folded up inside Daughter 1?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shall I compare thee...?

Would you like to have your mind boggled? Then look at this link below (sorry, can never remember how to do the wee screen thing).

The background to this is that Daughter 2's husband-to-be is an actor and improviser - he belongs to Showstopper, an amazing company which improvises musicals - words (rhyming) and music (harmonising) from audience suggestions about plot, characters, genre etc. I don't know how they do it.

And this is even more astonishing - it's one of his colleagues, Shaun, who's in Showstopper and another company called School of Night, and he's really, honestly, improvising a sonnet based on the tin hat he'd only just been shown. Daughter 2's chap was filming it. Shaun had just finished improvising a sonnet about a yellow pencil and D2's chap was filming it to upload on to YouTube, but Shaun vanished from view by sitting down just as D2's chap was zooming in, so they had to film a second one.

You'd think it was impossible; but D2 swears it was genuine improvisation. Shaun can do this any time.

It would take me a day to write a sonnet with a pencil and paper and even then I'm not convinced it would be nearly as good.

You could look at one of the Showstopper clips too, and maybe go and see them if they're performing anywhere near you. They really are good. They're mainly in the London area but are coming to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as usual.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Our boys

Dr Son - now Dr Uncle - came down from Perth to meet his new nephew this evening. Grandson tried out his finger but didn't manage to extract any milk from it.

Our boys admire each other.

A nice cuddle. Sorry for Son's unshaven chin*.

They bonded.

* The chin is a result of his working horrendously long hours as a hospital doctor, currently 12 days on the trot, without much time to eat/sleep, let alone shave. Also he's very dark, with a dark beard. But he did shave later that evening.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Welcome to day 2 of your life

Thank you so much for your baby congratulations. Here are my mum (89 years 2 months) and our grandson (12 and a half hours). Awww!

I always thought - up till now - that the sort of birth announcement that sometimes appears in the newspaper along the lines of "Mother and baby fine, father recovering" was ridiculous. Giving birth is, after all, hard work. Watching must be a doddle.

I no longer hold this view. Of course, giving birth is indeed hard work - labour - but being stressed about one's child giving birth is pretty draining too, pathetic as (I'm well aware) this sounds. I've been the one standing by to take Daughter 1 to hospital (Daughter 1 and SIL don't have a car) and because the modern thing is not to let you into hospital till the point at which your relatives are convinced that the new arrival is going to tumble out on to the carpet, I was at their house all day while she appeared to be quite far on in the process - but just not quite there yet. And her (lovely) parents-in-law had jumped in the car and driven up the 300 plus miles from Worcester to see the baby, arriving (because of the baby's reluctance to get on with it) some hours before the departure to hospital. So the whole thing was a mixture of a nice family party and the most nervewracking event in my life so far. (Yes, obviously it's all about me...)

I'm quite surprised at how I feel about this little person. I was slightly worried that, as a baby fanatic, my instinct would be to take him over, since he would clearly be my baby... I can so well remember thinking that no one could possibly look after my own babies as well as I could. But in fact, to my relief, I don't feel that at all. He's absolutely lovely, cute as a whole packet of buttons, a miracle of completeness (you should see his perfect little ears!!) and I would die for him without a second thought, but I quite understand that he's theirs, not mine.

Still, Daughter 1, though delighted with her tiny son, is tired, and the son, like tiny tyrants everywhere, kept her awake for quite a long time last night. I wish I could be there to help her but she's still in hospital because he's not feeding terribly well yet. He will. But he's tired with all that getting born stuff and then the yelling in the middle of the night. (His yelling, not hers.)

I can't quite believe that it was only yesterday that he was born! And the other nice thing that happened yesterday is that Ali Honey of Quilting Orchardist, and her husband R, were in town and came down for a glass of wine and a chat in the evening after our visit to the new little family in hospital. Which was lovely. What a day!

It's funny - it's just occurred to me that you can't really say to non-family members that your own baby is beautiful (though obviously you think he/she is). But somehow you can say it about your grandchild. Why is this exactly? It's fun!

New arrival

Grandson arrived at 1.27 am on July 17 2011.

Isn't he beautiful?

Grandad Life.

We're all exhausted. But happy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Not relaxing

Well, I must say I'm finding this retirement lark surprisingly exhausting. For the past... oh... two years I've been saying to myself: well, I'll leave that [some un-urgent and time-consuming task] till I retire. And now here I am.

So far - among many other things - I've: taken my mother to the doctor 3 times, visited South Queensferry with Mr Life, gone to the dentist, interviewed two letting agents on behalf of Daughter 2, partly tidied the study, cleared out my vase/flowerpot cupboard, taken a whole lot of stuff to a charity shop, spent a whole day in my mother's garden doing a major tidy, taken my mum to a drinks do in a distant part of Edinburgh, brought her back again, fed the family at various times, gone to an exhibition with Daughter 1, cleaned the fridge (I don't want you to think that this is the first time I've done this in 2 years, mind you - similarly the dentist), brought Daughter 1 here to make my blog prettier, weedkillered our and my mother's paths... and stuff like that.

Not very thrilling, but it needed to be done. And there's lots more.

Also what I've been doing, though, is fretting about this baby. I'm ageing visibly. Look, there's another grey hair. Here comes a wrinkle. Goodness me, the stress!

Sirius, meanwhile, has been having a bit of a snooze.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Waiting for the baby

Thank you for those helpful flat-letting comments. We're considering them all.

Well, has Daughter 1's baby arrived yet? Hmm. Not as such. Here she is, this afternoon, sitting in our garden finishing his blanket. We're hoping that the reason for his lateness is that Baby is an intelligent chap and realises that, though the knitting is finished, with this particular design there are lots and lots of endy bits to weave in before the whole thing is actually, finally, totally ready.

No, there are still some endy bits that don't show up in this photo. Indeed, she went home with some endy bits still in evidence.

However, after that...

Meanwhile, it's a nice sunny day and my tuberous begonia is doing well.

As is this fuchsia.

And Cassie's not bothered.

As you may guess, it's Daughter 1 who has changed the design of my blog, since I am a weak and cowardly - not to say incompetent - person. Thank you , Daughter 1. It does somewhat give the impression that it's all about the cats' lives, but... well, that's not so far wrong.

Now: maybe tomorrow?