Saturday, June 30, 2012

Another post for Nanny in Worcester

I spend a lot of time visiting Mum in hospital at the moment, so snatch every chance of a visit to Grandson. He has become less interested in his own toys...

... and more interested in Daddy's.

Not to say books, magazines, coasters, coffee cups, computers, mobile phones ... .

To give his parents a bit of a break (I'm so kind) I took him for a walk to Dr Neil's Garden at Duddingston. Natural beauty is very soothing, at least temporarily.

He wore his sunhat and beamed all the way. He is pure joy.

And yes, the blue bottle story is indeed true, but no, I'm not injured (thanks for your solicitude). The sink is, though.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some advice for life

I was walking with Daughter 1 and Grandson in the Queen's Park this morning. The hill was looking very atmospheric: the mist swirled (yes, a June day in Edinburgh) and the ruined chapel loomed romantically on the craggy bit above the loch. And Grandson was looking devastatingly fetching and cheery as usual. However, I'd forgotten my phone and therefore couldn't delight you with photos of either the landscape or the descendant. So I offer you - above - Andy Murray winning a match at Wimbledon this afternoon ...

... my garden in this evening's sunlight, complete with many many lurking slugs....

and some of my paeonies, before the torrential rain (which always comes at peak paeony time) ruins them, probably tomorrow.

But the main point of this post is to give you a piece of advice.

Next time you're lying in the bath at one in the morning, looking at the cobweb hanging down from the ceiling - the one that you keep noticing when you're in the bath, but never see at any more useful time - what you should do when you get out of the bath is to go into the kitchen (never mind if you disturb the cats), take your long-handled feather duster out of the broom cupboard and remove the cobweb with this.

What you shouldn't do is to get out the bath and flap your towel up at the ceiling with the idea of dislodging the cobweb that way.

Why not? Well, what might happen is that you might miss the cobweb but, as the towel returns on its downward trajectory, it might knock the heavy blue ornamental perfume bottle off the shelf above the sink.

This might then fall into the sink with a crash like a million iron foundries collapsing and smash into a trillion tiny blue shards, which spray over your unclothed person and the entire bathroom.

And then you might notice that it had also cracked the sink.

This would make you very annoyed with yourself. Especially as the sink is fitted into a counter top which is nicely cut to fit it. No doubt the sink is a long-discontinued shape and so you'll need to get a new counter top too.

Anyway. I hope you're grateful for this advice. I like to spread comfort and joy. More than I like to spread bits of glass.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cats and mice and such like

Goodness me, who would have guessed that my mild-mannered bloggy friends - quilters and knitters and gardeners - would have been quite so... how shall I put it?... firm... with God's non-human creatures? Lots of advice about bumping off unwanted wildlife. Ali, who has come and visited us at home and is a very nice lady indeed, suggested squashing slugs between the fingers! Now, it's not that I harbour any fond feelings about slugs. But - could. not. do. that. Much too squeamish.

Thanks for the advice, anyway. The slugs still roam unhindered around the garden (though the beer suggestion is one I'm wondering about) but we hope the mice have been outmanoeuvred. SIL 1 found a tiny slot under the cooker that he thinks last night's mouse may have squeezed through from the foundations of the house, and a crack between the outside paving slabs and the side of the house that he thinks may have allowed it access to the foundations. So today Mr Life and he screwed an long, l-shaped metal plate over the cooker gap and filled the crack outside with pea gravel. Try to get through that, Mr Mouse! (Or rather, please don't.) Also, their next-door neighbours, who've been away for six months visiting relatives in Pakistan, returned late last night to find LOTS of mice in their kitchen cupboards, happily eating flour and sugar and rice and so on. They are made of sterner stuff than our family and have called in pest controllers, so with any luck there may be fewer mice in the neighbourhood shortly.

Cassie Cat, by the way, came back home about 1 am. She's currently sitting on my (PC) mouse, with her tail flapping over the keyboard in a rather tickly manner.

Between hospital visits today I cut the lawns (doesn't that sound like a stately home? Alas, no. But we have a lawn in the front garden and another in the back). The lawnmower lives in our garage. As I crunched over the gravel towards the garage door, I heard someone coming down the lane that runs down the side of our garden on the other side of a tall hedge. I glanced at the gap between the hedge and the garage to see who was passing. Then the footsteps stopped. I stopped too, puzzled. Then the very tip of a white training shoe appeared and retreated again. I was a bit alarmed. Why was someone hiding in the lane? Bravely I stuck my head round the hedge. There was a small girl of about eight pressed against it, trying not to be seen.

"Oh, hello," I said. "I was wondering who was there."

She came nearer. "So was I," she said. "I heard you and I was like - who's that?"

We had a chat and she told me where she lived. It was quite a complicated description which included, "You know that house on the main road with the big black gates? Well, my house is next to the next one."

I didn't actually know the black gates but said I did in case she felt she needed to go into more detail, and she wandered off down the lane.

I don't know whether she was really frightened when she heard me or was just playing a game with herself to make her life more exciting. You do that when you're eight.

I to the hills

Apart from the various really quite serious things wrong in my relatives' lives at the moment (though there are lots of good things too) I wish to put in a complaint to the management about some further items:

1) My garden is a haven for slugs. Standing at my patio doors one drizzly evening, Daughter 1 counted, at a cursory glance, sixteen slugs busily making their way across the lawn in different directions towards various beloved plants. There are probably thousands in the undergrowth and THEY'RE EATING MY GARDEN!

2) Daughter 1 and Son-in-Law 1 have a mouse in their house. They have in fact just this moment (don't say I don't bring you drama) caught it in a humane trap and SIL 1 is about to take it for a long walk outside, but this is a recurring problem that they need to solve. It's made very much worse by the fact that SIL 1, though a lovely chap, suffers from depression and OCD, and a free-range mouse seems much more of a problem to him than it might to other people. Also the pair of them are soft-hearted animal lovers and don't want to hurt any mice.

3) My choir is going to be auditioned next year. I shall probably be so nervous that I will mess up my audition. Up to now, it's been a happy come-along sort of affair.

4) I can't play my latest tune, or at least not at any speed. I Googled it and found a small girl who can play it with gusto.  Here she is. How discouraging.

5) Cassie Cat hasn't come in this evening. It's one minute past midnight. I've been out whistling for her, which usually works, but there's no sign of her. I know she's probably having a happy time terrorising the neighbourhood mice (now, there's an irony) and giggling at me from the hedge, but I would like her to be safely in her bed in the kitchen. Do you think there's any chance she's hunting slugs? No, me neither.

6) I would like to be on the top of a smallish hill such as The Knock at Crieff, above, gazing towards other, bigger hills which I wouldn't have to climb, on a warm (but not hot) day, with the sound of nothing but birdsong and rustling grasses in my ears and nothing to worry about. And I'm not.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Botanics with the Bro

My brother came up from down south last night and we went together to see Mum in hospital both last night and this afternoon. Then he went home again. This morning, however, he and I were together. Mr Life had gone to Perth to visit Son (and a model railway exhibition). Brother and I went to the Botanics. Edinburgh seems to have been one of the few places in the country not under five feet of water at the moment, though you couldn't describe the weather even here as impressively sunny.

It struck me that this is the first time since - oh, I've no idea - that my brother and I have spent more than a few minutes alone together. We don't see each other that often because he lives near London, and when he's here or we're there, our spouses and usually offspring are around too. I tried to think of when we'd spent eight hours with just each other and came to the conclusion that it was probably - never. When we were children, we got on well but had different interests: he's a scientist and I'm much more into the arts. He's also two years eight months older than I am, which seems quite a lot when you're little. So we co-existed amiably but on the whole separately. Then he went to live in America when he was 23 and some years later he moved to England.

It's odd and (to me) sad that brothers and sisters, who share such a lot of their childhood experiences, are often apart for most of the rest of their lives.

Anyway, it was nice to chat and spend time together.

He played my latest piano piece. He's been playing the piano for over fifty years compared to my six months and I was at first pleased that he made a couple of mistakes. "Aha," I thought, "no wonder I find it hard if even Brother doesn't play it perfectly" (though he was sight-reading, and did add twiddly bits that Bach hadn't quite thought of). And then it occurred to me that if Brother couldn't play it perfectly, I with my 20-minutes-a-day of practice have little chance of dazzling my teacher at my lesson on Tuesday.

In fifty years I would be a hundred and eleven. I fancy I shall no longer be playing the piano by then.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Well, to cheer us all up, here's another picture of Grandson wearing his stripey trousers and his customary big smile. How I love him!

I hope to see him tomorrow, as an antidote to visiting my poor Mum. She is now pretty frequently incontinent, which is horrid for her, though somehow she's managing to rise above it to some extent by ignoring this fact. Twice a day, I bring home from the hospital a polythene bag with very horrible washing in it. They're now talking about her leaving hospital. They clearly think that we won't be able to cope at home and I'm not sure that they're wrong. Mum now can't really walk by herself; indeed she fell the other day and bashed her head and her hand. But she doesn't want to go into residential care and I'm sure she'd be happier back here. They say they'll put "a package of care" in place for her, with people coming in during the day to help her wash and so on. However, she gets up during the night to go to the loo - not always successfully - so ... . Hmm.

She said to me tonight, "It's funny to think that this is me - really old. You tend to think of old age as being something in the future. But it seems to be now."

Ah well. On a more cheerful note: the exam marking didn't throw up anything hilarious this year, but there were one or two minor gems. For example, you may be interested to know that "sportsmen are at the top of the food chair". And that "the weather is sometimes dull and blearly". Or that "curling is an insignificant sport on the backbone of Britain".

There were some other fetching words, such as "bemazement", "rehitorical" and "opitomy" (which I think was really "epitome").

Today, Midsummer's Day, has been very dull and blearly here in Edinburgh. Sorry, tourists.

And by the way: hello, Martha, who left a comment that she's just read through my blog from the beginning - 874 posts! How bemazing. I'm so sorry to have written so much, Martha, but thank you so much for your interest! You don't seem to have a blog, otherwise I would visit it and find out more about you too. I must try to do something more remarkable to justify your marathon effort.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Daughters - I know some people don't have them and I'm not suggesting that they're essential for happiness. But Daughter 2 and I went for a wet walk in the Botanic Gardens on Saturday, in between visits to my mother in hospital, and it was cheering.

And today Daughter 1 and I went for a sunny walk by Duddingston Loch and that was cheering too, especially since Grandson was with us and he just smiles and giggles his way through life.

And I too am a daughter and my role at the moment is to sit by my mum's bedside while she goes through the last few months (I think) of her life. She's very stalwart and I wish I could make things better for her. I hope she gets well enough to come home again.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Family affairs

Oh, Grandson is such a joy in this sad stage in my life. He beams his way through his days. And one so seldom sees stripey trousers worn with such panache.

Daughter 2 came on an unscheduled visit to see my mother in hospital (and the other offspring went to visit too, yesterday). It was lovely to see her but then it's so horrible when she goes again. The cats were pleased with her visit also.

But the weekend was very wet indeed. This is the southern end of Cassie. She sat for some time like this, her head out of the catflap, as she considered going outside into the rain. A bit like Pooh in Rabbit's hole, when he'd overeaten and got stuck.

Mum is really not well and is intermittently quite confused. Thank goodness for Grandson and his giggles.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

220 down, 12 to go

Twelve scripts to go. I think I've decided that if you can't spell "sentence" ("sentance" is the most popular misspelling, with the variation of "sentace", but "scentence" is gaining popularity) then you don't really deserve to pass Higher English.

Ironically, Mr Life and I had great difficulty with a clue in today's cryptic crossword: "A few words could be fine". Answer: sentence.

I'm also feeling somewhat uncharitable towards candidates - answering questions on two articles about the Olympics - who write "Olimpics" or "Olyimpics".

(Yes, I do realise that some people are dyslexic and no, I'm not actually failing these people for these mistakes alone. Though I'm tempted... .)

Mum has been worse but is now better again, though still in hospital. It's been quite a struggle visiting twice a day and getting the marking done. I fear that retirement isn't as much fun as I'd hoped.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The furry assistant

Cats are such a help...
... to the marker of exam papers...
... and do not stint...
... in their efforts to assist.

However, at least Di has left me. Though alas, Connie is still very much with my little mum, who remains foodless and hooked up to her drip.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Connie and Di

This is a completely irrelevant picture from a few weeks ago of Son and Nearly-Daughter-in-Law doing press-ups in the garden. I like it for the expression on Cassie's face. ("I shall sit here to be companionable but I am completely ignoring these ridiculous postures into which you are arranging yourselves.")

And I came across a nicely irrelevant comment in my exam marking. Candidates are answering questions on passages about the Olympics. One of the articles compares the Olympics to the rainforest because of their "biodiversity" - many sports, many different nationalities, etc. No animals are mentioned. To explain this comparison, one girl wrote: "Pandas wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the rainforest." Which may well be true, in some everything's-dependent-on-everything-else sort of way, but didn't get her any marks.

I've been reading Joyce Grenfell's diary of her wartime travels with ENSA in the Middle East, when her digestion tended to be a bit upset from time to time. In her ladylike way, she was sometimes "rather Connie" (constipated) and at other times, "somewhat Di" (the opposite). Di is still residing with me, though rather more quiescently than previously. My poor old mum, very much Connie, is having indignities done to her person and is now on a drip, nil by mouth. So no cups of tea - a real deprivation.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cats and innards

Yesterday: Cassie sits on a plant while watching an insect. Well, she wouldn't want to sit on the chilly concrete slab, would she? (Does anyone know what that plant is? It's deciduous with spires of small, rather insignificant flowers in July. I grow it for the foliage - now greatly improved by Cassie.)

Meanwhile, Sirius surveys his terrain. Those irises are good, don't you think? I love irises.

Thank you so much for your good wishes regarding my innards. So far, I regret to say, they continue to be somewhat volcanic. This is difficult since my mum is now in hospital with precisely the opposite problem, and because she's in the oncology ward, with lots of people on chemotherapy with suppressed immune systems, I didn't feel I could go and see her today in my diseased state. Though arguably my mum could do with a dose of what I've got... .

Enough. I shall go and practise my difficult Mozart, even though I've called off tomorrow's piano lesson.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


Last weekend, Mr Life, Daughter 2 and I went to the flower show and saw these extremely enviable creamy paeonies, among many other delights.

I do wish my clematis looked like this - mind you, these people were cheating somewhat by planting several per pot. And I dare say they don't have to contend with slugs, which munch the flowers of my clematis. I really hate slugs. It's been intermittently dampish weather here and I appear to be breeding large numbers of voracious slugs in various tasteful tones of tan, grey and black. Cassie came inside today with a small one adhering to her fur. Mr Life observed that she must have been sitting still for some time for one to have climbed aboard.

Daughter 2 was surprised last weekend - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee - by the lack of red and white bunting and general flagginess in Edinburgh compared to London. So I took this photo of one nursery's Union Flag in plants.

I rather liked this. Why be laid back about winning?

For the last few days, I've been afflicted by digestive problems - when I was a school teacher, this used to be called, in notes from parents about sick children, "S and D". (Diarrhoea is a hard word to spell.) Well, actually it's mainly been the D. I feel a bit better but... anyway, enough details. But I haven't seen Grandson since Tuesday - oh dear. Tomorrow, I hope!

Thursday, June 07, 2012


Disappointingly, there haven't been many howlers in the exam marking so far. However, the passage is about drug cheats in sport and the writer says there has been a "smorgasbord of examples" of this in all types of competitions. Various candidates' answers make it clear that they assume that smorgasbord is a banned substance.

I vaguely fantasise about young people whispering to each other at wild parties in the next few months about whether they've tried any yet.

My knowledge of wild parties is somewhat limited.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Having too much fun

Thank you for your kind sympathy about my busyness, but actually most of it was socialising. For example, a friend came over with her daughter and beautiful granddaughter (more or less the same age as Grandson) and we discovered that neither this granddaughter nor Grandson quite understood the concept of sharing. Clearly they were both, as only children, accustomed to things being held out to them by adults. So one would be holding a rattle and contemplating it when the other would pleasantly remove it from his/her grasp, whereupon the other would amiably take it back. There were a lot of surprised "Oooh, what happened to my toy?" expressions on the little faces.

This friend and I have known each other since we were in Guides, while the babies' mums have known each other all their lives. How amazed we would have been, as 12-year-olds, to think that our grandchildren would play together one day.

Then we had Grandson's christening. This has been delayed somewhat, so he didn't fit the family christening robe, but he wore very manly gingham dungarees.
And then we all had lunch at our house and admired Grandson as we looked at the sunshine outside and the pouring rain on the television in London and meantime the Queen and lots of other people boated damply down the Thames.

But now I must go and mark more Higher English papers. What fun. Or not.

(The sofa cushions were on the table, by the way, because the sofa was being moved through to the other living room to provide more seating for guests. The cushions went too, but separately from the main bit.)

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Some of us have the art of relaxation...

... and others of us do not.

I never would have believed it before I retired, but life has been too busy to find time to blog. I haven't even been reading other people's blogs except in the most occasional and non-commenty way.

When I started blogging, in 2006 (I think it was) we were in the run-up to Daughter 1's wedding. Since then we've had Daughter 2's wedding and now it's only six weeks yesterday to Son's. Do I have anything to wear at this wedding? Well, no. I do hate clothes and thinking about them.

I must go and mark Higher English exams (yes, not quite fully retired yet) and practise my fiendishly difficult piano piece in which the left hand goes twice as fast as the right. Theoretically.