Monday, December 04, 2017

Walk by the sea

We had an outing with our walking group on Saturday in beautiful weather (yes, it can happen). We got the bus to Dunbar and then walked along the coast to East Linton, where we had an early Christmas dinner at the Linton Hotel.

There are very interesting rock formations at Dunbar - these seem to be red sandstone, weathered away in parts but resistant in others. We needed a geologist to explain them to us.

It was an easy path most of the way, so the miles sped past as we caught up with the news.

Gorse was still blooming despite its being December.

Towards the end, we came upon a ploughing competition which had just finished. There were lots of elderly tractors and enthusiastic drivers of the same, some of whom were wandering bashfully around with big silver trophies. It was so interesting to see people taking part in this traditional activity, not far from the city. I knew about ploughing competitions but had never seen one.

We walked up the road to the village just as they were all trundling up, belching out diesel fumes and somewhat spoiling the fresh country air. It would have been more environmentally friendly in the days of horse-drawn ploughs.

And then we were in East Linton, which is a rather pretty village

with some traditional East Lothian red rooftops.

Such a lovely day out - though after seven miles we were glad to sit down and eat an excellent dinner.

Friday, December 01, 2017

A bloggy acquaintance (who seldom posts these days but who is still wandering in the blogosphere) has asked the following question in a comment:

"My husband is going to be in Edinburgh for business soon. He's never been there before. He will have a bit of free time on Dec. 9 and 10 (a weekend). I'll suggest he go to the light display at the Botanics. Is there anything he shouldn't miss while he's in town? He is an experienced world traveler and enjoys walking around by himself taking in the sights. He also likes live music. Sometimes I ask him to look for souvenirs for me (he's very bad at this, so I never hold my breath). What would be a good souvenir from Scotland?"

She probably expected me to reply in the comments, but I can never seem to do this. It tells me to sign in (I am signed in, surely) and I don't like to do anything untoward in case Blogger becomes offended.

It's an interesting question, though. What would I recommend a visitor to do in a bit of free time in December? Firstly I would recommend not coming in December. The weather can be beautiful, eg today, but on the other hand it can be wet and misty and a bit miserable - it's totally unpredictable. And it gets dark early in December. In addition, these days Edinburgh in December is full of Christmas markets in tacky sheds, and lit-up rides and stuff - and not looking at its best. If I were in charge... hmm, bah, humbug... But the town is always full of tourists. Presumably it's cheaper to come in the winter, but... don't.

However, B's husband is coming then so I apologise in advance if he gets wet.

But Edinburgh is still beautiful at any time of year.

I don't know about the light display at the Botanics. He'd have to book (Google Edinburgh Botanic Gardens) and I don't know about availability, but anyway unless he's a great fan of darkness and pretty lights it might not be worth the money (and the trouble of finding his way there in the dark). He wouldn't be able to see the gardens to any extent. If he likes gardens, better to go during the day (when it's free) - though December isn't the best time for them either.

Assuming it's not teeming down with rain, Edinburgh is a very walkable city. I suppose I'd walk through Princes Street Gardens (the bit that's not full of Christmas markets) and look up at the Castle and the skyline in general. Then maybe cross the road and plunge up, say, Hanover Street, glance along George Street and then down into the New Town (a planned extension to the older city, begun in 1760) via Dundas Street, which has art shops and antique shops, and just wander about a bit, looking at the Georgian architecture. Then come up again to Princes Street and walk up the Mound to the Old Town, possibly wander up to the Castle (he could of course go round this but he probably wouldn't have time) and then down the High Street (the Royal Mile), looking at / walking briefly round St Giles Cathedral, ignoring all the tartan tat shops, looking at John Knox's House (1600s) and then continuing down to the Scottish Parliament (a marmite building if ever I saw one) and Holyrood Palace, and perhaps into Holyrood Park, glancing admiringly up at the hills. If he went slightly up a hill, he'd get a good view of the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, dating from the 1100s.

By this time, he'd probably be quite weary but there are various cafes around where he could sit down and rest. I think you can go to the café at the Palace without actually paying to go round the buildings.

Alternatively, he could do one of the walks round the Dean Village, which is quite scenic, and walk along the Water of Leith. I'm sure there's ample info about this on the internet.

If he likes art, there are two galleries in Princes Street, both very obvious (they look like Greek temples) and he could get a free bus to the Galleries of Modern Art if he liked. He could then go down behind Modern 1 and walk along the river a bit till he reached the slope up to Roseburn (there are always people around to ask) and then go back to the main road there and get a bus back to the centre.

If he does get buses, he should note that they don't give change! £1.60 for a single fare anywhere and all-day tickets for £4.

As for live music - there are classical concerts but if he means music in small venues, I don't really know, but I'm sure various pubs are also music venues.

And Scottish souvenirs - well, it depends what you like! I myself like everything in Anta, which is a shop in George Street (between Charlotte and Castle Streets, ie at the west end). This sells genuine Scottish craft goods - not cheap - made from pottery and fabric. You could look at their website!

If it's too cold and wet to walk about, I'd suggest the art galleries (above), the Portrait Gallery in Queen Street (in the New Town), The Georgian House in Charlotte Square (New Town), the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street (in the Old Town), the Castle (which is only partly indoors), Gladstone's Land (near the Castle), the Palace, John Knox's House - all quite interesting if he likes history.

Any good for a start?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


It was a beautiful day today so Granddaughter the Eldest and I went to the Botanics to enjoy the colours and the fresh air. At this time of year the gardens are opening during the evenings for a lit-up walk, so things looked a bit different, which Granddaughter found very exciting. She's going there to see the lights with her brother and parents on Saturday - I hope the weather remains kind. "It's not going to be SaturDAY - it's going to be SaturNIGHT!" she said. "We'll be going out AFTER TEA!!"

She kept pointing out all the new things - "Big red balls - it's going to be all sparkly!"

"Look, the MOON on a tree!"

"Shiny stars on another tree."

 "And here's the SUN on a tree."

 "A pretend icicle tree!"

"Funny mirrors. I wonder if they have radios inside them to play music." Well, possibly.

"And look, pretend trees with lots of lights. It's going to be really really good!"

I hope it is, little person.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Why I haven't yet discovered the mysteries of the universe

Daughter 2 came up with Granddaughter the Youngest for a few days, which was LOVELY. This gave me the incentive to finish her cot quilt. The colours were chosen to match her bedroom, which has white walls, crimson curtains and a bedside rug of stripes of various reds, lilacs and blues.  I decided to try quilting the middle part in an  overall wiggly pattern, which was quite labour-intensive but worked fairly well. I'm not sure I'd do it again - possibly it detracts from the patchwork design? - but I quite like it. I wanted to do hearts around the edge, though, because (obviously) I love her.

On a whim, I did the back in random patches, though I now wish I'd used fewer of the darker red fabrics (although the red isn't nearly as scarlet as it looks here). Still, it was an interesting experiment. Of course I hadn't really thought it out and it was more of a fiddle than I'd expected to get the back oblong corresponding to the front one, which it needed to do for the quilting. Also, I discovered that my (hand) quilting stitches tend to look more even on the front than the back. All this is possibly why most people don't do this... .

Generally speaking, however, I liked the patchwork design and might use it again in my next, bigger, quilt for Granddaughter the Eldest. (I keep thinking that I should try triangles but keep not doing so.)

 Anyway, the baby! So lovely!

She met her biggest cousin, who was surprisingly excited about it considering that he already had two little girl cousins: Granddaughter the Younger and a cousin on his dad's side. He does think that the next baby - due in a few weeks to his dad's brother and sister-in-law - should be a boy, though. Well, there's a 50/50 chance.

Son, Daughter-in-Law and Granddaughter the Younger came down too, as did Mr Life's cousin. This was lovely, though Granddaughter the Younger was possibly less impressed by the baby than the rest of us were. In fact she was extremely unimpressed when her mum and dad cuddled Granddaughter the Youngest!

I like this picture: a family scene.

And here's G the Y inspecting with apparent astonishment her Auntie Daughter 1.

It was so wonderful to see them all together. I hope they grow up to like one another - I know cousins aren't always close. I myself have no cousins and always wanted some. I've always been glad that our children get on well with their only two cousins, though they don't see all that much of them because of distance.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Out and about

It's been a very outdoorsy sort of week, with beautiful autumn weather. Somehow autumn sunshine is lovelier because you know winter is coming.

Granddaughter the Eldest and I had a trip to the Botanics and played in the leaves.

Then Mr Life and I had a day out on the bus to nearby Haddington, and walked along the river there.

It was a perfect day and we felt quite holidayish.

See how long the shadows are, and it was only mid-morning.

In the town, we said hello to Bridge Street, where my beloved Granny was born.

 and then we sat having lunch and looking out past a little lemon tree (with two lemons - so exotic) at the bridge.

Another day, we went with our walking friends to Penicuik (pronounced pennycook) and did a circular tour round Penicuik House, built in the 1760s and ruined by fire in 1899. The walls have been preserved so that you can see that it was once a beautiful Palladian mansion, and the estate is now open to the public.

This is still a vista from the house down an avenue of trees to a monument .

The walk was about seven miles and, despite the lovely weather, quite muddy in parts.

And then the other day Granddaughter the Eldest and I went to the museum and dressed up as explorers.

It's a surprisingly busy life. Which is very good.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Baby worship

Actor Son-in-Law 2 was away for a couple of days so I went down again to London to help with Granddaughter the Youngest. I had SUCH a lovely time with Daughter 2, talking endlessly and nibbling the baby. I do love tiny babies. They're such a lot of work - but - their soft skin! their silky hair! their dark blue, unfathomable eyes! their completely new hands and feet! We went for some nice walks, had tea in some teashops, cuddled the baby in the stilly watches of the night and decided that she was the finest baby we'd seen for some while. And Daughter 2 did a lot of feeding.

Granddaughter the Youngest looks very familiar - I think she's like her mother at that age but no early photos exist of her father, so who knows? Already she's lost that newborn look and is intermittently very alert. What's she thinking?

Her other grandparents - both of them - are skilled knitters, so she's not without cardigans, hats and shawls.

How amazing it is when a bump becomes a person - it's so utterly normal and everyday and yet endlessly astonishing.

I got back yesterday and am missing them tremendously.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Happy Hallowe'en.

When I was a little girl, Hallowe'en was certainly celebrated (I rather think it was a Scottish thing more than an English one?) but it was far, far simpler than now - when there are Hallowe'en decorations and elaborate costumes. Indeed it was still simple in my children's childhood. Costumes were just anything from the dressing up box. And children did go round the doors, but it wasn't trick-or-treating, it was guising (from disguising) and children sang a song or told a joke in exchange for sweets, apples or nuts or (by my children's time) small amounts of money. This guising is still what happens in Scotland, though I think it may be slightly more commercial now, and the costumes are certainly fancier - and bought.

And at home we dooked for apples (ducked our heads into bowls of water with apples and nuts floating in them) and tried for the jeely piece - a jam or treacle sandwich suspended on a string - you took it in turns to try to bite this with your hands behind your back. My brother and I used to go to my granny's to do the dooking and jeely piece. Our grandchildren did the same thing at a party just the other day.

I had lunch with school friends today - the five of us have known each other since we were five years old. We reminisced as usual. One of them, Kay, had quite a sad childhood - her mother died when Kay was born, her father remarried someone who wasn't very kind and then the stepmother left when my friend was eleven. Our teacher, Miss Rattray, asked Kay to stay behind after class one day and asked her gently how things were now that the stepmother was no longer around. (Kay was actually quite pleased that she'd left.) Then Miss Rattray gave her some household hints - presumably thinking that Kay would be doing more housework now - and the main one, or at least the one that Kay remembers, was how to iron lace. (On the wrong side, apparently.)

Was this in 1800, one wonders? No: 1962.

Changing times... .

Saturday, October 28, 2017


We were supposed to be going with the Edinburgh family to see Son, Daughter-in-Law and Granddaughter the Younger, but Grandson and Granddaughter the Younger were both a bit ill, so we didn't. Sigh. So Mr L and I walked down the river to the Botanics. The autumn colours aren't particularly good this year - too mild? too dry?  but it was still quite scenic.

You would never guess that there's a busy road going over that bridge.

It's peaceful down here. To the right you can see the backs of some New Town houses - made of cheaper stone, while the fronts are the more expensive stuff. Clearly Scots have been economical at least since 1760.

And we wandered through the Dean Village

 with flowers still blooming in pots,

past St Bernard's Well

and into Stockbridge (here's the expensive stone)

to the Botanics, where we admired this dahlia

and some more late flowers.

So we had a good day all the same. And the little ones don't seem too ill.