Friday, May 19, 2017


On Monday we went through to the west to visit friends, who took us to Greenbank House in Clarkston, where there was a little Embroiderers' Guild exhibition. My friend B is a member of her local branch. Some of the items were for sale, but not this one, which is just as well since a) it would have had to be sold for about £10,000, considering the length of time it must have taken to make and b) B and I both wanted it. My phone photos of it are seriously poor, but it comprises 48 squares of about four inches, all different, in black and grey embroidery with black sashing. It looks as if it's done on faintly patterned fabric but if you look closely, you can see that all the background pattern, like these paisley shapes above, is actually embroidered. (Though I didn't photograph the whole thing (why not? I ask myself) I know there are 48 squares because I said, "There must be about 50 of them," and Mr L said sternly, "No, there are 48" - which in my view is "about 50", but I suppose if you marry an accountant you have to expect him to audit you.)

Anyway, it was seriously impressive and I can see why the maker wouldn't want to sell it.

The house, which now belongs to the National Trust, looks very attractive (it wasn't open) and as B remarked, you could just about imagine yourself living there - it's not a vast super-stately home. And the gardens were lovely. It was built in the 1760s by a chap who traded in tobacco and slaves, but his business was disrupted by the American War of Independence (well disrupted, Americans) and he went bankrupt and had to sell it.

It had rained heavily the previous day - unlike in Edinburgh, where it hasn't rained apart from the odd spot for weeks now - so the grass was slightly muddy.

B's husband D suggested that this was a statue of me doing my Zumba class. Yes, there's a striking resemblance... though I wear more clothes.

Look at that! A grandchild-free post!

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Gosh, it's been a busy couple of weeks. My two choirs had their concerts on consecutive Saturdays, so one week I was frantically polishing up the hard bits of Mozart's "Coronation Mass" (which is in four parts and relatively short) and the following week I was even more frantically making sure I knew the fiendish parts of Handel's "Israel in Egypt", which is in eight parts and quite long and tricky. They're both wonderful to sing but the Handel particularly is fairly exhausting.

On Tuesday we went up to see Son and DIL and the Unbloggable Baby, who is such a cutie, with huge blue eyes. She's nine months old now, and crawling. She has an fixed ambition to chew their cats.

We had lunch at Dundee Botanic Gardens, which are pleasant but not as impressive as the Edinburgh ones (which are, moreover, free to visit, unlike Dundee's). The weather was lovely. Indeed, the weather has been unfeasibly lovely for weeks: Edinburgh was the driest part of Britain in April, which has meant practically not a drop of rain. The garden is parched (or, as parched as a Scottish garden gets).

Sweet feet. I miss them.

Grandson was ill all week with a fever and sore ears. He didn't eat much; and since his usual physique is like a piece of string, he became alarmingly skeletal, with every rib visible and his spine all knobbly. We spent quite a bit of time helping to entertain him, but thankfully he's much better now.

Then today was Mr Life's birthday. He's now in his 70th year. How on earth did that happen? (and me only 35, too...). How many more good years do we have, I wonder?

Daughter 2 is expecting a baby in October. She's had problems in the past so we're all hoping that things go smoothly for her this time. Then we'll have four grandchildren, though alas only two in Edinburgh and thus available for intensive grannying. When this one is 15, we'll be 82 and 84 if we're still here at all. A sobering thought... .

Monday, May 08, 2017

Sunny days

Another grandchild-heavy post - apologies, but at least Nanny and Gramps in Worcester will like it. We've seen a lot of the little ones recently, partly because there have been a couple of days off school - the Edinburgh holiday and then a voting day.

I took them to The Yard on Sunday. There is a working traffic light, which Grandson obviously likes.

And a large sandpit with water trickling into it. Granddaughter, who is a woman who enjoys personalising an outfit, wore her swimming sunhat.

What a good idea: leave paint and large lumps of cardboard around and let the children slosh about.

Another day we went to Cammo, a country park not far away which is just grass and trees and a ruined house. We had a picnic and a scavenger hunt.

She dressed as a flower fairy.

We had a visit to Dalkeith Country Park, which has lots of things to play on.

And they also enjoyed Granny's garden, with soapy water poured on the grass for splashing through,

while, later on, their Daddy pretended to be a crocodile.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Seven things to do at the Botanic Gardens

1. Eat a cheese scone (not pictured).
2. Ride on the caterpillar in the café play area.

3. Play in the play house.

4. See if the Aeolian harp is sounding. (It never is, except once - we were so excited.)

5. Get wet by running too near the sprinklers.

6. Visit the glasshouses.

7. Stand on lots of rocks.

There are also lots of plants to admire, should you happen not to be four. But on the whole, being four appears to be fun.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

More art

We're making an effort in our retired life to go to exhibitions before the final week. It's so easy to say, oh, it's on till September - plenty of time. And then you're there with the hordes on the last Saturday, not really able to see.

So today we walked along the road to Modern Gallery 1, admiring the cherry blossom as we went.

This is what we wanted to see: "The Lamp of Sacrifice", cardboard models of 286 Edinburgh churches made in 2004 by Nathan Coley. It's interesting how powerful such things can be when they're crowded together like this. I don't know if any bloggy friends have seen Antony Gormley's  "Field", but it consists of up to 35,000 tiny terracotta figures on the floor facing the onlooker - the figures are very basic, but somehow the effect of all these little people apparently looking towards one is - what is it? - touching? alarming?

The churches are also rather moving - think of all of these buildings and all of that money raised to build them by ordinary people to make somewhere worthy of the God they believed in. Whether you're religious or not, it's likely to make you think of the effort, the good intentions - and what's going to happen to these buildings in the future. Some of them are no longer used as churches.

Outside, two swans were swimming around in the ponds in the Landform. It would be quite hard to make a nest here, without any sticks lying around for them, but they seemed to be finding things to eat in the water.

This is "Reclining Figure: Two Piece, 1960" by Henry Moore. We're not tempted to steal it.

Then we walked home along the river, 

enjoying the plashing sounds

and wondering what it would be like to live in one of these houses. Very pleasant, I'd think, though the river does sometimes rise considerably higher than this, so I imagine the bottoms of their gardens occasionally become rather wet.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mollie Panter-Downes

Sometimes I'm aware that my blog can be very Pollyanna-ish, possibly giving the impression that my life is all jolliness and sunshine. As with anyone's life, this isn't the case: there are unbloggable worries and sadnesses as well. However, I try not to dwell on these, so here's a picture of the garden, with its riot of daffodils and forget-me-nots.

This attitude tends to be reflected in my choice of reading material also: I prefer the upbeat or at least the not-too-depressing. I've recently discovered Mollie Panter-Downes (fine name) who wrote during the war, often for the New Yorker - though she was English. I do find her a hoot. For example, here are some extracts from "Good Evening, Mrs Craven: the Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes". In this story, Mrs Ramsay is meeting up with an old flame after five years, during which he's been abroad and she's got married. (The ... s indicate where I've skipped bits.)

“Gerald dear,” said Mrs Ramsay softly. She held out both of her hands, which Gerald pumped up and down. “Well, well,” he said, “old Helen.” Mrs Ramsay felt a slight but definite chill…

“Old Helen,” Gerald repeated fatuously, “this is nice.” Mrs Ramsay noticed coldly that he was a good deal yellower than he had been five years ago. “How is old Charles?” he asked. “And the kiddie?”

Mrs Ramsay said that old Charles was well and that old Susan had, of course, been shipped off to relatives in the country. He patted her knee absently, as though it were the head of a retriever…

Towards the end of lunch he extracted a snapshot from his cigarette case. Mrs Ramsay gazed thoughtfully at a toothy young woman in a bathing suit. “… We’re thinking of getting married,” Gerald explained…

Monica's teeth seemed many more than were strictly usual... Mrs Ramsay passed the snapshot briskly back to Gerald and said that she was so glad.

“Monica can sit on her hair,” said Gerald. “You never saw such stuff – naturally blond, too.”

Mrs Ramsay, reflecting that she would find no difficulty in sitting on Monica’s hair either if Monica’s head were included, said that she really must be running along now.

“I want you to meet Monica soon,” he said. “Do you know what attracted me to her about her first, Helen? She reminded me of you.”

As soon as she was out of sight round the corner, Mrs Ramsay took out her handbag mirror and anxiously inspected her teeth. They seemed much as usual.

It was odd how Gerald had changed when she herself looked precisely the way she had always looked. Already she felt a good deal better as she stepped jauntily along… away from the dear and mercifully stone-dead past.

Monday, April 17, 2017


We've had a lovely Easter weekend with Daughter 2, Son, Daughter-in-Law and Granddaughter-the-Younger all visiting for several days and the Edinburgh family there much of the time too.

Daughter 2 has been in Berlin and bought various splendid German pedestrian-crossing-related gifts for Grandson. She is a very good aunt.

She brought a t-shirt and bag for Granddaughter-the-Elder.

Then yesterday we had an Easter egg hunt - in the house, because it was threatening rain.

These are the clues that Daughter 2 drew for Granddaughter-the-Elder.

The children enjoyed following the clues.


Then today we went for a walk up the hill near our house...

and down again.

But now they're gone - Daughter 2 briefly pretending to be a tourist on the way to the station.

Monday, April 10, 2017


The Edinburgh grandchildren are away visiting their other grandparents down south, so we've been having a few little jaunts of our own. One day we went on a train to Galashiels, in the Border country. The new "Avengers" film is being shot in Edinburgh at the moment and there seemed to be green screens and a spoof coffee shop in a fenced-off bit of the station, which we think must have something to do with it.

Once we arrived at Galashiels, we walked round the hills above the town, admiring the daffodils and the new lambs and other signs of spring.

We returned along the River Tweed, where the wild garlic bloomed in profusion.

The next day it was very sunny and we had a walk along the prom,

followed by coffee and cake at The Beach House.

Look, beach volleyball.

Then we went to a local flower show and admired the impossibly perfect blooms.

I bought, for 50 pence, this bunch of rejects from the competition. They were utterly immaculate and all different. I've never had so much pleasure for so little outlay.

Then yesterday we went out to East Lothian, lunching at Cockenzie House, where these battle re-enactment people suddenly appeared in the garden, shooting at each other with alarming smoke and bangs (but no ill-effects).

And we proceeded to Winton House, which was open for charity. More splendid daffodils, more cake, and then we were shown round the house by Lady Dorothy herself, who was extremely nice (and just introduced herself as "Dorothy Ogilvy - I live here with my husband and children"). She was very informative about the house and its history and architecture and very trusting, as she led us through rooms crammed with antiques, and pictures by people like Van Dyke and Canaletto ("well, let's call them 'school of Canaletto'," Lady D said modestly) and Raeburn. I was very tempted to pop the odd pretty little carved box into my handbag. (But didn't.)

They dug out the lake, she told us, in memory of her husband's father. As you do.

Winton House was originally built in the 1400s but then the wicked English came and burnt down all of it apart from the cellars. The parts you can see in the photo were added on top in the 1600s. You can hire the house for a wedding - which would be lovely, if not exactly cheap. Lady Dorothy even showed us round the bedrooms available for wedding guests, which are all wonderful, with beautiful ornate plaster ceilings and huge beds but also every modern comfort. However, I think we're done with weddings for a while.

So we've had a very restful and interesting few days, but now it's about time I did some dusting.