Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mainly the kids

We've had a lovely weekend. Daughter 2 came home, which always improves any day, and we had a family gathering. Granddaughter smiled a lot.

Grandson rode his bike.

Son came down as well and we all went for a walk. Some of us fell asleep. The others found it a bit difficult to smile into the sun. It was so nice to have them all together.

Today, Daughter 2, Mr L and I went to Doors Open Day. This house wasn't part of it but we passed it on the way from one venue to another. It's a very tiny house. I imagined myself living there alone, having pared down my possessions, in this little back street: just looking out of the window, peacefully. Life would be very simple. (I wouldn't really like it, though.)

This is East Queen Street Gardens. Usually only those who rent a key can use these gardens. I wondered whether we should see if they'd rent one to us. But I don't suppose we'd actually go there very much.

This is the Edinburgh University Catholic Chaplaincy's chapel. We liked those tree-like supports in front of the windows looking out on a sycamore tree, though we'd have liked them even more if they hadn't been made of what Daughter 2 assured us is called Corten, which is steel which is specially designed to rust on the outside. There were rusty flakes all over the floor. It was a beautiful building, though.

We lunched in a little place (which I won't name, to spare its blushes) in town. Mr L ordered a pint of beer; he got half a pint. I ordered cappuccino with no chocolate on the top; I got it with chocolate. He ordered the all-day breakfast with no tomatoes; he got it with tomatoes. I ordered a vegetarian burger; I got a vegetarian all-day breakfast. We meekly just accepted all this. It was food, after all.

Later (today) I bought a raffle ticket for a good cause and noticed afterwards that the draw had happened yesterday. Thanks, raffle ticket seller!

We visited Daughter 1. Daughter 2 demonstrated her juggling skills to the children using cuddly toys instead of balls. Granddaughter thought this was hilarious.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Eyelashes and whiskers

It's difficult to get a nice picture of two small children. And I didn't. Just a moment before, they were smiling charmingly. Ah well.

Lovely weather yesterday for an outing to the playpark.

I wish I had his eyelashes. Or at least similar ones.

Sirius: we took him to the vet on Monday and he's so much better (on his two steroids per day) that the vet now doubts that his problem is lung cancer and is veering back towards asthma again. Which is very good news. However, the problem now is to cut him down to as little medication as possible while keeping him reasonably well.

How I administer his pill is to crush it with a mortar and pestle, mix it with a dab of Greek yogurt and wipe it on his paw. He then sighs heavily ("Why does she keep doing this?") and licks it off.

Maybe it's the yogurt that's the secret of his improved health... .

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mainly cakes

In cake news...

I don't have anything exciting to say - not like my usual thrills-and-spills posts - so I thought I'd do a little advert for this place. It's called The Salt Yard and it's in Dalry Road in Edinburgh. It's very good - maybe not quite good enough for anyone to fly from Australia to visit, but from a bit nearer, yes.

It's run by Gorgie Church and has been set up as a community cafĂ©, run mainly by volunteers, using Fair Trade food and selling Fair Trade goods of various kinds. They do absolutely delicious cappuccino (lots of froth, just how I like it) and other coffees, teas, home-made baking, light lunches and so on. It's a lovely space, too: roomy and light.

Mr L and I pop in there every Tuesday on our walk home from my piano lesson. The three-and-a-bit-mile walk entirely offsets the coffee and cake that we have in the Salt Yard.

In gardening news...

I planted lots of bulbs in pots today: crocuses and various daffodils. The days are getting noticeably shorter, though it's still warm. It's so nice to know that over the winter, the magic will happen: the dry brown bulbs will grow shoots and then in the spring there'll be lots of flowers. Gardening is a comforting occupation.

In further cake news...

Anyone watching "The Great British Bake Off?" We've never watched cooking programmes but Daughter 2 recommended it and we've become mildly addicted over the past few weeks. The contestants are all really pleasant and help each other out - so cheering. The only trouble is that it makes us hungry. Fortunately we have no cakes to hand in the evenings. (Or unfortunately, in Mr L's view.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Something old, something new...

My mother-in-law died in 1991, sadly. When we were clearing her house, we found this dress. It had been made by someone in our church who was good with her hands and was very into smocking at that time. Presumably my mother-in-law had bought it and was keeping it to give to someone as a baby gift, but we didn't know if she had anyone specific in mind. So I kept it, intending to give it as a baby gift in due course. At that stage, our children were 11, 10 and 7 and most of my friends had also completed their families, so the years passed and the dress remained in a drawer. Occasionally babies would be born among our friends and acquaintances but I never felt sure that the new mum would appreciate a dress that would need some careful laundering.

So when Granddaughter was born, I mentioned the dress to Daughter 1 and she was keen to have it.

MIL, of course, never saw her grandchildren grow up and certainly never met her great-grandchildren. I wish I could show her Granddaughter in the dress. I have, however, just sent the photo above to its maker, whom I still know.

Son came down for the day today, which was lovely. He read various stories to Grandson, including this one, from a book which is also 30 years old. Doesn't Grandson look comfortable?

Never throw anything away! (I don't mean this... .)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Great Tapestry of Scotland

Bloggy friends may possibly remember that not that long ago I went to see the Prestonpans Tapestry, an emulation of the Bayeux Tapestry but about the Battle of Prestonpans and its related events. Well, the writer Alexander McCall Smith has been one of the prime movers of another such creation: The Great Tapestry of Scotland. (None of these is actually a tapestry, despite the name. They're embroideries. However.)

This one has panels designed by the same chap, Andrew Crummy (not a fantastic name) as did the Prestonpans Tapestry, and is along the same lines, but bigger. It has 160 panels, which is a lot - too much to take in at one viewing, really. It's on display at the Scottish Parliament, but only for a week initially, so the place was busy when we were there. The actual sewing has been done by stitching groups all over Scotland. A few of the panels - six, perhaps - weren't on display. Only the coloured design was there, with a notice: "Coming soon". One can imagine groups of women frantically sewing, desperate to finish... . One can also imagine a certain amount of friction between those who'd done their bit and those who hadn't.

It starts from prehistoric times, for example this depiction of an 8000 BC house. It looks somewhat cramped. I'm not sure what's supposed to be happening, but this couple are clinging together with some enthusiasm. I hope they're not about to be sacrificed or something. Maybe they're being married. Romance, 10,000 years ago. Their little barbecue looks a bit like what we used to do at Guide camp. I never liked Guide camp much. I prefer a bit of comfort and toilets and baths.

Here's John Knox, denouncing Mary Queen of Scots (perhaps). We're on stronger historical ground here, since this is roughly what Mr Knox looked like and his (reputed) house, shown here, still stands in the High Street. Not sure why he's so much bigger than the other chaps.

I really like this one, which concerns weaving and specifically Paisley patterns, which were made in (surprise) Paisley.

This one commemorates the reinstatement of the Scottish Parliament.

The stitching is really lovely, giving an impression of fields with different crops.

Next year we have a referendum about complete Scottish independence. Hmm.

The Tapestry is to go on tour to the US and Canada in due course, as well as the UK. I would recommend going to see it if it comes near you. Or you could just look at the website:

Look at this thank-you letter from our little Ugandan girls. They knew no English till 20 months ago and now they're fluent. They can even spell. Mainly.


Off to the museum today with the grandchildren and Daughter 1. Grandson does like to press buttons.
And to look at vehicles.

I wonder what 10,000-years-ago boys played with? Was the wheel invented 10,000 years ago? I suspect not.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Never give up...

This fine motto was on a bag left behind by the tenants in Daughter 2's Edinburgh flat. We found it when we cleaned the flat in preparation for the next tenants. We rather liked its bizarre optimism and the interesting use of the comma.

Which links fairly tenuously with the subject of the remainder of this post: our lovely little African guests - in the end only two of them, with their chaperone (American; also delightful). We've hosted members of African children's choirs before and our previous children were also memorably engaging.

The children are all from poor families; some are orphaned and all would have been unlikely to get much schooling. Being chosen for one of the choirs means that they go on tour, singing and dancing, and the money raised will pay for their education up to university level. This choir is from Uganda and they've been on tour for sixteen months: they've visited 38 American states as well as Britain. Next week they go to Ireland and in November they return home. This sounds a bit Dickensian but as we've found before, the children seem to love it and adapt amazingly well to their strange (temporary) lifestyle.

P and S are 10 and 11 (approximately - they're not really sure) and are - I can't praise them highly enough - happy and enthusiastic and funny and clever and polite and affectionate and grateful and interested and tidy and organised and uncomplaining and curious and ... well, everything that's good. I remember our previous visitors as being just the same. P and S have been playing with Lego in our house and enjoying it so much. I asked them if they'd seen Lego before. "No," said P. "It's maybe in the shops but we can't afford things like that." She didn't sound in the very slightest sorry for herself; just matter-of-fact. And I looked at the huge pile of Lego that our children had and thought... hmm. Of course we're not allowed to give gifts to individual children because, apart from anything else, they'd have to carry them wherever they go.

They have lessons and rehearsals in our church during the day and we collect them at 5pm. They really want to learn (and I think guiltily of how I used to feel about school when I was a child... .) When we arrive, all the children are busy and very well-behaved; almost alarmingly so. Then they're told that they can go and they ERUPT into giggles and cartwheels and squealing and bouncing - and they're enchantingly normal again.

I'm really going to miss P and S. I hope so much that life is kind to them and they never lose their sunny outlook on life.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


I don't want to compare my life with David Cameron's or Barack Obama's but it sometimes seems a bit complicated. Grandson landed back in hospital in the middle of Friday night with the same problem as three weeks ago: a bad cold which went to his chest and gave him problems in breathing. Once he was admitted and put on steroids and other puffer stuff, he improved a lot and enjoyed playing in the hospital playroom, coughing and sneezing over all the little souls with diabetes and broken legs and so on - which doesn't strike me as ideal, but what can you do when the playroom is at the end of the ward? I spent most of the day with him so that Son-in-Law 1 could go home and sleep. One young mum whom we met the last time was still there with her baby, who still had a feeding tube up his nose. I felt so sorry for her, especially as she has another little one as well. Being in hospital with a child even for a couple of days is stressful and tiring even if your child isn't all that ill. I can't imagine what it must be like for weeks.

I spent one week in hospital with Son when he was 2. We were in isolation because he had an unidentified virus (which turned out to be severe tonsillitis) and it was horrible. He had a high fever so the windows had to be open to keep the room cool and I wasn't supposed to hold him because this would make him hotter, but of course the only thing that would comfort him was for me to cuddle him and read him stories. The same stories for a week. The loo was several minutes' walk away, as was the canteen, and of course there were no such things as mobile phones so the phone was several minutes' walk away too. You can do without eating for a day or so but for a week, no. He screamed whenever I left him and was too young to understand that I'd be back before long. And we were all alone apart from brief visits from doctors or nurses. Eventually a doctor gave him antibiotics in case he had tonsillitis and he started getting better. All the time I was so worried about him: doctors were muttering darkly about leukaemia.

Anyway, it made me have great sympathy for parents with chronically ill children. It must be terrible.

It also makes me think of those sad gravestones that you see in old churchyards, commemorating tiny children who died. Seemingly healthy little ones get ill so quickly and while nowadays we can often make them better again quite soon, in those days things were more likely to end tragically. And I'm sure people loved their children just as much then as we do now.

Grandson is home again today but the worry is that this will happen every time he has a cold.

Anyway, Granddaughter came in to visit him and wasn't too worried.

And Sirius (still holding his own) was fairly relaxed.

As was Cassie.

Spot the differences between these two pictures of Cassie. Yes, she's sitting slightly differently in picture 2, but actually picture 1 was taken a few minutes ago while picture 2 was taken last week. What you don't see in photo 1 is that just after taking it, I decided to move round to get a slightly cuter angle, knocked over a cup of coffee and sprayed it EVERYWHERE (apart from on Cassie). She was most indignant at the ensuing mopping-up.

As from tonight, we have four African people with us for a few days (three children who belong to an African Children's Choir and their chaperone - though they'll be out during the daytime - they just need breakfast, packed lunch and dinner) and friends for lunch tomorrow. Apart from that, life is simple.

And it is, and it is - compared to what it might be.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Look! Yesterday I made my holiday patchwork potential-cushion-cover into (ta da!) a cushion cover! With a zip! This meant confronting the Scary Sewing Machine of Doom (which as usual sewed beautifully on the front and made a horrid tangle on the back - but I ripped this out and adjusted the tension and it more or less did what it was told from then on). It also involved trying to remember how to put zips into cushions. I consulted the internet, which didn't agree with itself, and in the end I just did it my way. I did consult Mr L, who has much better spatial awareness than I have but has less experience of putting zips in cushion covers. I'd done it before, a long time ago when I was young and more confident.
I once made a patchwork cushion cover before, too. It took me months, on and off, and involved paper shapes and plastic templates and all sorts. Then people inconsiderately leaned back on it and wriggled about and it wore out. This one is for show only. Do not treat it like a cushion. You have been warned.

We had a lovely time with Grandson today. We went to the park.

Then we came home and played inside...

... and outside.

At lunch time, he and I were eating home-made soup. I make soup with whatever of vegetable matter is in the fridge and this time it included some broccoli stalks. There were some tiny shreds of these which hadn't been completely ground up when it was liquidised and he kept fastidiously removing them.

"It's all right," I said. "You can eat those bits. They're good."

He fished one from his mouth and held it out to me. "Granny eat it," he said.

You can't fault the logic.

Monday, September 09, 2013


It's Daughter 1's birthday today. Happy Birthday, K! I thought that Mr L was taking a nice photo of her blowing out the candles on her cake but it turns out that he was only taking a picture of the cake (which wasn't really very artistically iced because I did it rather late last night) so I won't bother with it. Instead, here are some photos of our walk yesterday by the sea quite near here.

Quite a few people were messing around in boats. I thought: where do they get the time? And then I thought: actually, I must have lots of time now. But the days seem to whizz by. Very strange.

Edinburgh was out in force: small children cycling along the sea front, dogs bounding, people wandering, seagulls swooping.

Hard to believe that it's autumn except that I keep reading about Australians enjoying the spring.

Daughter 1 had a little wander round the shops today while Mr L and I looked after the children. Such fun. Grandson is very nice with his little sister. He was playing on his push-along bike in the garden while she looked on. Then he stopped, got off, went into the house and came out with a rattle. "Look, [Granddaughter], a wattle," he said, and put it into her hand before climbing back on the bike and resuming his ride. Aaahh!

Friday, September 06, 2013


We've just had a LOVELY few days: my second cousin N and her husband T are over from Atlanta and came to stay with us. N and I hadn't met since I was in America in 1970. I was 20 and she was 13 and we were both rather shy so I don't think we made much impression on each other then. However, it was so nice to renew our acquaintance and also to meet Very-Nice-T.

We "did" Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace (from the outside only - we admired it from a seated posture, drinking coffee in the courtyard and then we climbed a bit of Arthur's Seat and admired it from above), South Queensferry with the Forth Bridge - and places in between. Luckily, N shares the family love of gardening (and T is very obliging) so we also enjoyed Dr Neil's Garden (above), climbed another bit of Arthur's Seat and wandered round the Botanics (below).

N was very tempted to take home several lumps of Scottish rock to adorn her garden but thought that it might take her over the baggage allowance. She is also very keen on trees. Here she is, admiring one.

She and I share a great-grandmother, which sounds quite distant, but in fact our grannies were sisters, which is really quite close. Her granny was the adventurous one, emigrating to America in her early twenties. This was after having pursued a man to New Zealand. (He got away.) My granny moved from Glasgow to Edinburgh and then Cheltenham, but I'm not sure that this is as impressive. No wonder I have no initiative.

Because I have no first cousins at all (sigh) I like to keep in touch with my more distant relatives, quite a few of whom are in America. However, I've lost touch - in fact I never was in touch with - various second cousins who might well still be only fifty miles away, around the Glasgow area. My dad had lots of cousins but because his mother was the second youngest of a large family, they were mainly much older than he was so they were never particularly close. I doubt if he ever had addresses for their children, though he left a detailed family tree with names. I wonder what they're like...?

Sunday, September 01, 2013


Well, it's official: Granddaughter is a Giant Baby. She was weighed the other day and, at 5 months 2 weeks, weighs the same as her brother did when he was a year old.

She isn't just chubby - though she is certainly cuddly - but she's also very long. She's in the 98th percentile for weight and the 99th percentile for height (well, length). I assume this means that out of 100 babies of her age, she'd be the second longest and the third heaviest.

I myself am about 5'3'' (or maybe a smidgeon less) at full stretch and my parents and grandparents were all quite small. Mr L, however, is a tall chap and our children are at least medium in height, while Son-in-Law 1, Granddaughter's dad, is tall, so there are lengthy genes in her pool. It's nice to be tall (I assume), but I do hope she slows down a bit. I wouldn't like her to tower over everyone else. If you're a bit shy, I think it's easier if you also feel fairly inconspicuous.

Still, at the moment she's supremely unworried by such things and just beams away. Here she is last weekend being cuddled by her besotted auntie, Daughter 2.

It's suddenly got chillier round here. Not cold - it's still perfectly pleasant. But there's an autumnal feeling in the air and the sun is noticeably lower in the sky. No, summer - don't go yet! We have American visitors arriving this week and I want nice weather for them. This second cousin and I, who share a set of great-grandparents, met for the first and last (so far) time in New Jersey in 1970. She's never been to Britain before. I hope it doesn't rain!