Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Smile for the camera

There is no doubt that one way to be popular...
... is to smile a lot, be agreeable and say nothing.
Maybe we all ought to remember this more often. (I include myself.)
Mr Life was up in Perth yesterday helping Son to assemble his Ikea furniture. Today he was a bit stiff. I enquired what was wrong. "Flat pack syndrome," he said, massaging his right shoulder. Poor old chap.

Monday, January 30, 2012


This is a picture of central Edinburgh. In front of the Castle you can see the art galleries and underneath the right-hand one, with windows looking out on to the gardens, is a restaurant.
Here's a closer photo of it.
And now we're inside.
I met a friend here today, a retired teacher like me. We sat for quite a long time, she drinking tea, I drinking cappuccino, both of us nibbling shortbread. We discussed many things, including the beauty and sweetness of our grandchildren. We looked out at the Edinburgh skyline. She said meditatively, "Do you know, I think this is probably more fun than teaching."
I think she may have been right.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Off again

Today we went out to lunch to celebrate Mr Life's retirement. Daughter 2 was up from London and Son came down from Perth. Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1, Grandson and my mum were there too.
For a short time, Grandson sat in a high chair. He hasn't really worked out about solid food yet but he gave a rice cake a bit of a lick.
He seems just as happy with an empty spoon. And Daughter 2 was happy to cuddle him.
As was Son.
Then I took Daughter 2 to her train while Son and Mr Life went to Ikea to buy furniture for Son's new house. They came back for a cup of tea before Son headed back up north. (The rather horrid green they're leaning against is a cat-proofing blanket rather than my chosen upholstery colour. We remove the blanket when cat-allergic relations are visiting.)
Daughter 2 has recently texted from the train that they've made an unscheduled stop in Newark because the train in front hit a shopping trolley on the line.
(These cable-pinching, trolley-on-line people, I'm trying to tell myself, probably had deprived backgrounds, not enough love from their parents, too much tv or sugar or alcohol and not enough vitamins. But but but but... .)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I prefer cats to (some) people.

Well, Daughter 2 didn't get into Edinburgh till 3.05 am, thanks, it seems, to idiots who stole the cabling from seven signals on the line. This meant that eight other trains from London to the north were queued up in a batch with her train and had to be signalled manually through, one at a time. She was thus three and a half hours late arriving in Edinburgh. And think of all the other people inconvenienced too... .

I went up to meet her and had the unusual (for me) experience of sitting in the car beside the entrance to a night club at 2.55 am while I waited for the train to arrive. It was quite entertaining, watching all the smokers chatting away and interacting on the pavement, and it was nice to have company of sorts.
So we're a bit weary today. Daughter 2 went to bed at 9.30 pm. (She needs her sleep.) I have some things to do (I don't need so much sleep) but will go off earlier than usual.
Cassie was tired too. She and Sirius sat up with me while I read my book, waiting to go up to collect Daughter 2. Actually, to be more accurate, Cassie went to sleep on the sofa. Sirius, who could clearly tell the time, stayed awake and kept looking at me. "Come on," he kept saying. "It's bedtime. Why are you still sitting there? Where are our bedtime Dreamies?"
So today Cassie rested in the sun, pretending to have four front paws.
Later, the two of them did their conjoined cats impression.
(Grr, Blogger's doing its won't-give-you-paragraph-spaces again.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Things that take longer than expected

This is a totally irrelevant picture of Cassie. I have nothing particular to say this evening since I've spent most of the day editing the church magazine. This is in addition to the hours I spent on it yesterday and the day before and the not inconsiderable time that Mr Life spent doing some of the technical stuff earlier. I would like to think that people will go "Wow! Impressive!" when they get it... but I suspect that they won't. It's astonishing how long it takes to footer about with things to get them looking right(ish) and to find suitable little illustrations to cheer it all up.

It's quite fun, though.

Less fun is what we're also doing, which is waiting for time to pass. Daughter 2 was supposed to arrive for the weekend at about twenty to midnight but her train has been delayed - as have lots of others - because someone has vandalised the signals on her route. Currently she's in York, which is some hours from here, and the train that she's been transferred on to isn't moving yet. The information suggests that she may get in about 2 am, but I imagine that this is a bit speculative. Since she has to go back down again about 36 hours later, this is all very trying. Ho hum.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Smiley boy

A year ago, we were only just getting used to the idea that this little chap would be joining the family. Indeed, we didn't know that he was going to be a chap. Now look at him - he's finding his feet in more ways than one.
What a smiley boy. I hope that he retains his sunny disposition. Meantime I take every opportunity to cuddle him. One of those years, he may not be so amenable to this.
This afternoon, he and I went out for a walk. He chatted a lot. Mainly he said, "Aaaaa."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mr Life, retired accountant

This was Mr Life's last day as a working man. (Well, apart from the nice little list of retirement tasks I have for him.) Here he is, coming back from work for the final time. Look at that smile on his face.
His assistants had laid on a little extra leaving do, consisting of wine and nibbles. This may have contributed to the slightly glazed look.
The cats have decided to retire in sympathy.
I'm feeling very odd. I can convince myself I'm experiencing a sort of extended college holiday but Mr Life has never had those, poor chap, so this seems a bit different. I need to get used to the fact that we're both retired. And not on huge pensions, either.
Definitely on the home straight now.
(Thank you for all the comments about comments. I'm deep in doing the church magazine at the moment but will digest them in due course.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Listen, bloggy friends, am I the only one who's having problems commenting on some blogs, and does anyone have a solution? Last time this happened, I could see the comment box but my comments didn't save, and the answer was not to stay signed in. That worked. This time, the comment box flashes up for a millisecond and is then replaced by a blank screen. It doesn't happen with most blogs but does with some of my favourites, eg Being Me, Slow Lane Life and Bronze Wombat.

I know one shouldn't be ungrateful to Blogger, since he gives us everything free, but I'm feeling a little peeved. I've given him a week or two to sort himself out and he doesn't seem to have done so. What with that and the slates off the roof, the dishwasher developing a fault never seen before by dishwasher menders, the non-working tv, the car's serious illness and now my computer screen, which keeps freezing... . Mutter, mutter... .

Still, looking at Grandson in his new hat is very cheering.

Monday, January 23, 2012

More bargains

It was Mr Life's retirement do today. They gave him a cake, some books and a cushion - which all feature engines or railways - and a cheque and some wine, which don't. And lots of cards, some train-related and some not.
And they gave me flowers, which was very nice, though I don't feel I've done anything to deserve them.
On Saturday, we had friends for the day - they brought roses.
And yesterday Daughter 1's lovely in-laws visited (hello, Nanny and Gramps) and they brought tulips.
The house is wonderfully floriferous.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Two bunches of tulips...For £5.
And Grandson...
... came free!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Johnsons

Two recent snippets from the radio.

Snippet 1:

Paul Johnson was on “Desert Island Discs” yesterday. He’s an 83-year-old journalist and a fairly opinionated old buffer. Kirsty Young enquired how many words he wrote per day. “At least 1000,” he said. “On a good day, I can manage 5000.”

“I believe that Jean Paul Sartre could write 20,000 words in a day,” observed Ms Young.

“Yes,” agreed Mr Johnston. Pause. Sniff. “Mind you, he was writing in French.”

Snippet 2:

Ulrika Jonsson was on a live programme this morning. She’s a blonde, glamorous, much-married Swedish television person who lives in England.

Someone texted the radio presenter, remembering another interview of Ms J's. She’d been asked whether she knew what existentialism was. She’d said, “No, but I can tell you why not in seven languages.”

Friday, January 20, 2012


The sky this morning, pretty in pink.

Sometimes, when I've been up late blogging and Mr Life has gone to bed, I can't find Sirius to put him to bed in the kitchen.
Can you see him at all?
Oh yes.
There he is. Holding paws.
The car's whiny noise has changed to a sort of low moan, with just a touch of death rattle. I'm hoping that it's just being a bit melodramatic. Sort of car-flu.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


One of the great advantages - for the cats - of my having retired is that I am often on hand to turn a tap on, so that they can have a drink. They do, of course, have a nice bowl full of fresh water, conveniently situated on the kitchen floor quite close to the door from the dining room, the room in which they spend most of their time. But they don't like this much. They much prefer nagging one of us till he/she gets up and provides running water for them.

Today has been a little trying and it's salutory to remember the days when I didn't have time to do any of the things that I've found difficult today. For example, when I was working I wouldn't have been able to have a second dishwasher chap come to the house, scratch his head in cheerful bewilderment - "I've never seen a dishwasher with this fault before" - and depart, saying that he'll need to order a part. At least he had a cheerier outlook on life than the previous bloke. Time will tell whether he's better at getting the thing to work. It might have been cheaper just to buy a new machine.

And, if working, I wouldn't have had the time to watch the kitchen tv while tidying up after breakfast, and wouldn't then have discovered that it said "No Signal" - a bit tedious, since we got the aerial chap to fit a new aerial last week. He comes back again tomorrow, though of course the tv was working again at lunch time, though saying "No Signal" later on again. What's the betting it'll be fine when he comes to call?

Nor would I have had time to take my mum to her lunch with the Probus Ladies' Club, from where she was supposed to phone me to retrieve her. I think we've now established that she can no longer remember how to work her mobile phone. Or at least, she phoned me all right but I think that she wasn't holding it to her ear because though I could hear lots of conversation, I couldn't hear her and she couldn't hear me. This situation took quite a while to resolve but I got her back in the end.

However, when I was still employed I might have been driving the car to work, in which case I would still have noticed the whiny sound that it's developed. This became apparent just after I dropped my mother off for her lunch. In my experience, car whiny sounds are not good. And are expensive. I'm taking the car to be investigated next Wednesday. I hope it manages to stagger on till then.

I know, I know: some people don't have dishwashers, televisions, mothers, cars. It's not that bad. But, you know. It's not that good either.

At least we do have cats.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The excitements of the retired life

Oh, isn't Grandson cute?

Second Zumba session today. We had a different teacher: not the lean, lithe impossibly fit-looking girl of last week, but a ... how can I put this? ... really fat girl. Goodness knows, I'm not thin but you could have got about two of me out of her. Well, one and a half at least, with a bit left over to make a toddler.

She was very dancey, I'll admit. She wiggled around and twinkled her feet and waved her arms just as impressively and confusingly and fast as last week's teacher. She said that she was taking it a bit easy since this was the second of six (six!) Zumba classes she was taking today, but she still seemed to throw herself into it. And I thought: if she can exercise like this for six hours and still be spherical, then Zumba does not work. Unless she eats a box of chocolates between each session. Anyway, Son came down to see us today and he, Daughter 1, Grandson and I all went to Ikea. Yes, we can organise a fun family outing. He needs to buy furniture for his new house, Daughter 2 wanted some boxes and I wanted a lamp. Amazingly, I managed for the first time to go round Ikea and not buy anything I didn't previously feel I needed. (The pot of daffodils doesn't count. We all need daffodils.)

At tea, Son offered Grandson his first piece of potato. Grandson wasn't impressed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Sometimes it's nice just to snuggle up to your sister, give her face a good lick and then settle down, nose to nose.

I don't speak personally, mind you. I have no sister, which in many ways is a great grief to me. On the other hand, if I had had a sister (and she would of course have been the ideal sister, endlessly supportive of my views and understanding of my foibles) I'd have been very upset if she'd gone and lived elsewhere. (Cf my feelings about children.) I do have a brother and was sad when he left home, never to live in Edinburgh again, when I was 22.

I have no cousins either. I think my ideas about cousins were formed by much reading of Enid Blyton's "Famous Five" stories, which featured children (Julian, Dick, Anne and George) who were siblings / cousins. My fantasy cousins would have been about my age and very pleasant and funny and would have lived round the corner. And now, I suppose, they would have children and grandchildren and we would all be one big jolly family.

Actually, I suppose that life is complicated enough as it is. I'm happy to say that our three children and my brother's two get on very well, though they don't see one another all that often, since his two are in Cambridge and our three in Edinburgh, London and Perth. (Though Niece was at Daughter 2's for dinner tonight. Happy Birthday, Niece.) And by the time you factor in their significant others and, in due course, possibly more of the next generation, there will be quite a lot of us.

I'd still have liked that sister, though.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Today I gave Daughter 1 and Grandson a lift down to the baby group in Joppa. He wore his stripey hoodie. While they were there I went for a walk in the frosty sunshine. We used to live in Joppa; in fact, I lived there most of my life. Our current house is on the other side of Edinburgh but we may well move back some day. I miss the sea. It was just after 1pm, but you can see how low the sun is in the sky by the long shadows on the beach. Just out of sight to the left, there was a middle-aged, sturdy-looking woman jogging slowly along the sand, about to run into the picture. Very commendable, I thought, but she's never going to keep it up for long.
The sea is there, all right, but there was a low mist concealing the skyline.
We moved to the west side of Edinburgh nearly 22 years ago for the sake of the children's schooling but we still drive down to Joppa most Sundays to go to church. However, I haven't really walked around the district much since then. (22 years slips away very quickly; how can it be that long?) Here I am standing in the Quarry Park, which used to be at the end of the street we lived in when the children were small. Well, the park and the street are still there, but to my surprise there's no longer a path through. Houses have been built in the place where there were garages and a gap in the wall.
So I walked up to the main road and down and round into "our" street. I'd looked along it often enough while driving past it over the years but I don't think I've ever walked along it since moving - it's a short cul-de-sac. Today I wandered along it, remembering all the people who lived in it when we were there. Quite a few of them are dead, sadly: Miss Mackenzie and Miss Oliver and Miss Kerr as well as Sandra, who was younger than me. And other neighbours have moved away. I don't think anyone is left whom we knew.
I stood in front of "our" house and noticed the front path. When we arrived, it consisted of rather cracked concrete and we spent quite a lot of money (at least, it seemed a lot to us, in our rather impecunious state at that time) getting it neatly paved. The paving slabs were alternately pink (or was it green?) and cream. When I looked at them now, I was amazed to see that they were dirty grey and no longer flat: roots must have lifted them over the years. They looked as if they'd been there for centuries. Yet to me it seems no time since we left. I couldn't believe that this could have happened. I felt like - I'd like to say Sleeping Beauty but maybe Rip Van Winkle would be more appropriate. Some evil fairy seemed to have come and done horrid things overnight to our tidy path.
She's not really improved me either... .
Looking round the street, I felt it was just the same and yet totally different: a very weird sensation, as if I could blink and the wrong colours of the doors (ours is now black), the easy-to-maintain landscaping of Miss Oliver's garden and the smart railings on Darrell and Bill's wall would all disappear.
When I walked back down to the beach I took a photo of the sturdy lady: still doggedly running along the beach - in the opposite direction - an hour after I'd seen her before.
(Grr, Blogger's done for the paragraph spacings again. And I can't comment on Fran's or Rachel's blogs. Come on, Blogger, stop mucking about.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Two reasons to be cheerful

Any day - for example, today - is improved by a visit from this little chap. He is so yummy.

And then in the evening I went to a concert which featured (among other goodies) Boyce's 4th Symphony. It's one of those pieces of music that I know perfectly well - could have sung along to - but couldn't have identified. It's SO GOOD - very cheerful and brisk and no-nonsense - just the sort of thing to make one feel that the human race has a lot going for it, despite all the dire news.

I didn't know much about Boyce apart from the fact that he was an 18th century English composer but have just Googled him. In Wikipedia's picture, he looks a bit like a combination of Dr Johnson and Robbie Coltrane, but more stolid. Not a beauty, then, but what an achievement to create something that over 200 years later makes people (such as me) beam all the way home on the bus.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


We've just booked our holiday on the island of Arran. It's possible that we won't be seeing the mountains from quite this high up.
But the view's good from lower down, too.
My grandmother's mother came from Arran. Judging from photos, she was very pretty. She left the island as a young woman to work in Glasgow. On the ferry one day, when she was coming back to visit her family, she met a young man who was going to visit his sister, married to an Arran man. They fell in love and got married. Her family didn't approve because this meant that she settled in Glasgow (and I think they thought that she was marrying somewhat beneath her station). The young couple had one child, a boy, and then another two, my grandmother and her little sister. Sadly, though, the wife, my great-grandmother, fell ill with TB (caught, her family always felt, in the Big City). The youngest child was also infected.
When my granny was five, her mother died; the little sister lingered on, always unwell, till the age of fourteen.
Granny used to spend many happy holidays in Arran with her aunts and always talked of retiring there (but never did). She used to say with a smile that people always said when they met her, "Ah, you're a bonny lassie but you're no' near as bonny as your mother." (But in an Arran accent: "Ah, yir a pohny lassie but yir no near as pohny as yir mither.")
The churchyards there are full of gravestones with this family's name, going way back in time.
I love islands and, if many things were different, would live on one. Indeed, I'd live on Arran, surrounded by this particular set of ghosts.
This post illustrates various of the reasons that I can't imagine emigrating.
(Don't know what we're doing about the cats when we're there, though. Hmm.)
(And I don't know what Blogger's doing with my paragraph spaces.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Goodness me

Well. That was very interesting. And here was me thinking that I never got many comments any more... .

I should perhaps have made myself clearer: I can see that some people have quite definite reasons for emigrating to another country - love being maybe the most obvious, these days, or job opportunites; poverty, lack of employment perhaps being cogent reasons in the past. Maybe a sense of adventure both in the past and now. But on the tv programme I'm talking about (and I realise that tv programmes are perhaps not the most reliable sources of analysis of the human heart and its motives) there doesn't usually seem to be any particular reason like that. The participants just seem to feel that they want to go.

Of course, I've no idea whether any of them actually do emigrate. Maybe they're just after a free holiday, paid for by the tv company.

I'm intrigued at Frogdancer's comment, that life in Australia "seems so much better". I wonder if it's true. I think that many of us - not those in my programme, obviously - believe that our country is the best in the world. Maybe we're kidding ourselves because that's where we are and are likely to stay. I certainly think that there's nowhere more beautiful than the Highlands of Scotland - and of course I'm saying this despite never having seen the Alps, the Hindu Kush ... etc. (I have seen the Rockies and they are pretty nice, though.) And I think that, for a city, Edinburgh is lovely (though I don't really care for cities as such; it's just that Edinburgh has hills and lots of green spaces and old or elegant buildings and a castle on a rock). And I like the climate: it's never much too hot, seldom very cold, we're not bothered much by flood or drought or earthquake. And we have all this history. I like to think of my ancestors walking around breathing this air... .

I do awfully admire parents such as Avus and others who can say that they've let their children go because that's what you have to do. It's a wonderful attitude. I wish I could be like that. I can see that it's the right way to be. But you can't make yourself feel that way. You can say it, as the parents on the programme often do, through their tears. But you can't change the way you feel and it would be very difficult to act happy for the rest of your life if you felt miserable because you didn't often get to see those you loved most in the world.

Anyway, your comments have been most interesting; thank you for them. And, as I said, it's just as well that we're not all like me. Though some commenters clearly are... .

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Going away

One of the morning television programmes that I occasionally watch when faffing around in the kitchen is about families who're considering emigrating from Britain to Australia, or occasionally to New Zealand. The programme makers whisk them off to some sun-soaked, beachside city and they spend a week there investigating Antipodean life.

It's always warm and sunny. They stay in a spacious, open-plan house with a pool. They live the outdoor life most of the time but also investigate job opportunities and the price of houses and the cost of living. At the end of the week, they decide whether they would like to emigrate or not. Very often - since these are people who have been thinking of making a new life down under for some time - they decide on Australia.

But then they're shown a recording of their families and friends back home, saying (usually) how much they'd miss them and how they don't want them to go. The parents sometimes say nobly through their tears that of course the family must do what's best for them and if they feel that the opportunities are better in Australia, then they must go. But it's obvious that everyone's terribly upset at the idea. And you see the prospective emigrants, sitting on their Australian sofa in the lounge room, weeping also.

But after some wiping of tears, they go back out into the sunshine and say that they're going anyway.

I find this bewildering. While I realise that sunshine is nice, we do have good weather here too sometimes, and beautiful countryside, and interesting places to visit. I'm sure Australia and New Zealand are lovely. But why would anyone want to leave their families and friends to go so far away? This is a genuine question, not a rhetorical one.

Quite a few Australians and Americans read this blog and presumably they're mainly descended from emigrants. I wonder if you have a genetically inherited spririt of adventure? I myself am a deeply cautious person, which is doubtless a flaw, and would never leave the people and places that I know. But more than this, I could never have done it to my parents. And yet there are emigrants in my family - my grandmother's sister went to America before the First World War and my grandfather on the other side was all set to go to Australia, as I've mentioned before, only his mother begged him not to.

I tried to instill this spirit of homebodyness into my children in the attempt to make them stay by our side, though this hasn't worked terribly well, with Daughter 2 in London and Son in Perth (in Scotland). But I really don't think they would go to live at the other side of the world. It would break my heart if they did and they know this. And so I watch these people - very pleasant-seeming people - deciding that their loved ones' feelings don't matter*; and I am astonished.

(*Yes, RR, this was badly put and I apologise. I suppose I mean that their loved ones' feelings do seem to matter (hence the tears) but not so much as the benefit that they feel they'll derive from this new life. And I'm talking about whole families going - taking the offspring and grandchildren of two extended families - for no obvious reason (or, not obvious in the programmes): not love, not really employment, not poverty: just a yen to go somewhere with more sunshine. I can quite see that some people do have genuine reasons for going abroad, like falling in love. But these people don't seem to have. In fact, they usually find that house prices are higher, the cost of living is also higher and pay isn't any better. But they still seem determined to go. Of course, it's a tv programme and there may be lots of reasons behind the scenes that we don't see.)

I know, I know: it wouldn't do if everyone was like me. We'd all be living in the same cave and it would be getting very crowded.

But - could you do it? Did you do it? What did it feel like?