Thursday, February 14, 2019

Long ago and not quite so long

We took ourselves on the train to Glasgow today. I had wanted to visit the Willow Tearooms for a while - the restaurant designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and recently restored. (Is CRM famous elsewhere, or just in Scotland?) Anyway, when we got there, it seemed surprisingly spoof (Mockintosh, as rip-off versions of the Mackintosh style are known). A little Googling revealed that it was indeed spoof, since the real recreation of the real Willow Tearooms was round the corner, and our one had been subject to litigation for appropriation of the name. However, their cheese scones and coffee were very nice so we forgave them and will go to the proper place (or, properly recreated - let's hope) another time.

Then we visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, where Dippy the Dipoldocus is visiting for a while. Dippy is a plaster cast of a diplodocus found in Wyoming in 1898 and bought by Andrew Carnegie (another famous Scot) for his museum in Pittsburgh. Carnegie gifted lots of plaster casts of this skeleton to various cities including London, where this one was on display, latterly in the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum, till 2017, when it was displaced by the skeleton of a blue whale. (We saw a tv programme about this change of skeletons. It was much more interesting than I've made it sound.) Anyway, Dippy is now on a tour of the country and Glasgow is the only Scottish museum where he'll be. (Only one in Wales, too, and one in Ulster - all the others are in England. Hmm.) Anyway, he's BIG. There's Mr L standing under his throat and Mr L is a tall chap.

The Kelvingrove has a wonderful organ and there are daily recitals. Today the organist played tunes suitable for Valentine's Day - by Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and so on - including "My Funny Valentine". I do love that era of popular music. I think the pink lighting was specially for today too. There are big screens on which you can see the organist's feet on the pedals (he was wearing pink socks - clearly an effort had been made) and his hands on the keys.

We also looked at the exhibition of Glasgow Boys paintings (again, do people outside Scotland know about the Glasgow Boys?) I think I've possibly featured this chap before, but I do love him. He's Old Willie, a village worthy in Kirkcudbright, painted in 1886. (Kirkcudbright is pronounced Kircoobri, should you ever need to know this.) My photo is a bit blurred, but you can see his strong features and (I fancy) resignation at being made to stand still while this painter chappie does his thing. I imagine he wasn't actually all that old, but he must have been born in the 1820s or so. I do like these links with the past.

And we also saw an exhibition of twelve Michelangelo drawings, which were predictably amazing. I didn't have the nerve to take any photos in case the flash went off by error so I bought a postcard and photographed that instead.  The picture shows a Roman being accosted by gypsies, though the chap on the left is clearly Prince Philip.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Appearance and reality

At Christmas, Mr L's (childless) cousin gave us this gingerbread construction kit, thinking that it would be a fun thing to do with the children on Christmas Day. Somehow - unaccountably - it didn't seem to fit in with the day of feeding 15 people with widely differing nutritional needs and wrangling 7, 5, 2 and 1-year-olds. However, the other day we got round to doing it. I had always assumed that Thimbleanna, who has a family gingerbread-house-making day, had created the whole thing from scratch. Now, having tried this feat using a kit, I realise that this would be taking family togetherness WAY too far.  Suffice to say it didn't end up looking like the example on the packet - and that was with Mr L doing most of the construction and the children mainly adding the sweeties. I think the one on the packet must have been made with concrete and Polyfilla. 

Anyway, the little ones enjoyed it and I'm told it tasted nice too. It went home with them. I had had enough of it by the time it got to this stage... .

On Saturday I took them on the bus to a stage production of "The Cat In The Hat". They like sitting upstairs at the front of buses. I can't say that I'm a great fan of Dr Seuss - you couldn't call his plots exactly intricate and I find his use of language somewhat tedious - but it was well done and the children enjoyed it. It's such fun having them to myself! They were very good.

A few hours ago they left to visit their other grandparents down south but before they did, they were with us, and Grandson drew various road layouts ("I've drawn a traffic light attached to a tree") while Biggest Granddaughter coloured a pirate granny (she said) on to a cut-out shape. I'm not sure why this granny (who isn't me, I'm told) has only one eye (though I suppose this is a bit traditional for pirates - after all she has only one hand and leg) but she does have a fancy necklace (it's not a collar). I also like the heart on her boot.

Blogger now says this (below) on the Dashboard page. I wonder whether the young people who post these messages have the faintest idea how little this means to elderly users like me. It might as well say "Colourless green ideas sleep furiously". This would be just as helpful. Maybe it's important; I hope not. Anyway, we'll see if I ever manage to post again. 

In regard to which - since various commenters were kind enough to say that they'd miss my blog - I've realised that I could continue doing it, while at the same time copying and pasting it on to a Word document for myself with more meaningful pictures of the grandchildren. At least, I think I could, unless the widget thing means anything vital. 

Google+ widgets: Support for the “+1 Button”, “Google+ Followers” and “Google+ Badge” widgets in Layout will no longer be available. All instances of these widgets will be removed from your blog. 

+1 buttons: The +1/G+ buttons and Google+ share links below blog posts and in the navigation bar will be removed. 

Please note that if you have a custom template that includes Google+ features, you may need to update your template. Please contact your template supplier for advice. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Just another day

I'm still slowly sorting through my mother's things and came across this photo of me aged about 5. Most unusually that day I was playing with a little girl from up the street - she was slightly older and we didn't often play together. We were in her garden and her father, who was a press photographer, came out and took pictures of us. In those days (1955) we didn't have many clothes - it was still post-war austerity. So when we went out to play, we tended to wear things that didn't matter - in this case, a brown, hand-knitted jumper of rather rough wool that was slightly too small for me and had one broken button, and that blouse, which was striped - I think it was yellow and white. And I think my bow was yellow to match. It's funny how I remember these things, while I have difficulty remembering what I wore yesterday. The photographer gave my parents a print of this photo, and my mum - who was a smart person - was sorry that I'd been dressed in those rather scruffy clothes, with my hair uncombed. And now that I look at it, I do look rather urchin-like.

I always hated those bows. I thought I looked silly. I was a very shy child.

Today we went to Stockbridge to give things to a charity shop. On the way, the mist suddenly came down.

This is Stewart's Melville School, which looks very ethereal here, though the traffic lights rather spoil the effect. 

Then we walked through the Dean Village for a bit

and along the river.

These high buildings high up at the back are part of the New Town. Edinburgh is a hilly city.

And we walked back into Stockbridge and came home.

I've just calculated that my latest quilt, which I'm just cutting out, has 1280 corners to match, plus stars to add on, plus borders (which I'm considering making strippy). This is madness. But fun.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Scottish people, including some women

Goodness, I now feel rather embarrassed, as if my previous post was saying that I was going to go away unless lots of people told me that they loved me. That's not what I meant at all. But thank you so much to those who said they'd miss my meanderings. It's given me food for thought! 

On Saturday we were at a surprise 70th birthday party for one of the friends of our youth. Here you can sort of see her at the door, having been handed some flowers and going "Argh!" as she sees us all standing there and bursting into "Happy Birthday". It was really lovely to see her (she lives some distance away) and the others of our local group of (once) young people who had reassembled from various parts, two of them from 400 miles away in the south of England.

Today was cold and drizzly so I took myself to the Portrait Gallery to have a wander around. They have an exhibition called "Scottish Heroes and Heroines" or something of the sort. It was good that women were included. It's about time! Here's Thomas Carlyle, looking very pleased with himself.

This is Flora Stevenson, about whom I knew nothing except that there's a primary school named after her. It turns out that she was the first woman elected to a school board after the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act, which made primary education mandatory (good) but said it had to be exclusively in English, not Gaelic - which led to a major decline in Gaelic speaking (bad). Not that Gaelic was ever spoken widely as far south as this. Anyway, this wasn't Flora's fault. She was then the first woman to chair the Edinburgh School Board and did lots of other voluntary and worthwhile stuff.

I love this: the notice beside the painting of David Roberts (1796-1864) by Robert Scott Lauder says that he's in his traveller's disguise, "worn to look inconspicuous"! It was probably true when he was travelling in the Middle East but he rather fancies himself in it, don't you think?.

Here's James Boswell. I've read so much of his diary writings in the past few years: his Edinburgh diaries, his London diaries and his account of his journey to the Hebrides with Dr Johnson. I've also read Dr Johnson's own account. I like this portrait of the young James, looking - suspiciously? calculatingly? sadly? guiltily? (he had quite a bit to feel guilty about) - at the painter. He didn't know at that point how famous he was going to become. I wonder if he would have been surprised to find himself there.

And look at poor John Runciman in his self-portrait - he'd been bullied by a jealous painting rival, destroyed most of his work and then died of TB at the age of 24. So sad! This is one of the few of his paintings to survive.

On the way out, I said hello to Robert Burns, who probably didn't look like this at all (there are no portraits of him from his lifetime), and who would also have been surprised, I imagine, to see this statue with its wreaths celebrating the recent Burns Night.

See? A totally grandchildless post.

(Ooh, there's a fox barking outside the study window. This has happened a lot recently. Can it be the mating season already? Bit chilly, I'd have thought. (Have just Googled it, and yes, it's the start of the mating season.))

Saturday, January 26, 2019


This isn't going to be my last ever post, but I'm seriously considering whether I'll stop blogging quite soon. The main reason is that my blog is largely a record of our family life, for my own - what? - pleasure? interest? sense of continuity? - probably all of these. And maybe for my descendants in the future. Mr L keeps suggesting that we should get it printed so that, if they wanted to, they could find out what the family was doing at the beginning of the 21st century. It's quite a good idea. (Mind you, it would be quite a long read.) 

Because I can't post pictures of Middle Granddaughter and won't be able to post them of the forthcoming Smaller Grandson, this makes it a much less satisfactory record. 

Also, I increasingly feel that the older grandchildren, now 7 and nearly 6, shouldn't appear in a recognisable form in a public blog, so I mostly post pictures of them from behind and so on, whereas I would like them to appear (for history's sake) in more meaningful photos. 

So I won't stop writing this account of our lives, but it might be better from the photo point of view just to write it as a Word document with clear photos, and print it for myself. After all, there are so many lovely photos in my computer, but how many of them will actually survive changes in technology? - not that many, I'd imagine.

I've been blogging for, I think, 12 years now, and almost all of my original bloggy friends have fallen by the wayside as far as blogging is concerned. One has died. Some have faded out. Some of them are now Facebook friends. But Facebook, though I do enjoy it, isn't the same. It's too easy to post a few photos and make jovial remarks about them - rather than to compose a longer, sometimes more thoughtful piece. I had a real sense of connection in the earlier days, with lots of comments to and fro and a feeling of sharing people's lives. 

Most of those who do still blog do it increasingly rarely. You know who you are! So I keep hopefully going to their blogs and - finding nothing to read. Though I will continue to do this for the occasional happy surprises. 

Part of me feels that I should therefore stubbornly continue; that blogging is (was?) a valuable thing and that I shouldn't join the defectors. But there are few comments on my blog nowadays and I don't feel I know who reads it - a fair number, I think, but who are they, and why would they want to know about my grandchildren? 

However, the main reason for stopping is my desire to keep a record of our family life, complete with photos of all our grandchildren. I've always felt the need to record things, to write, to communicate, and now I'm thinking of the communication with - hopefully - my descendants once I'm no longer here. 

Meanwhile, here are two of my darlings - Biggest Granddaughter playing with the dolls' house

or deep in books.

Grandson arranging his Brio into layouts

and drawing trains with excellent restaurant cars. 

Wistfulness has also been fostered by going through my parents' effects. This photo is of my parents in 1996. Mum was 74 - she really doesn't look it. That was the natural colour of her hair - it only started turning grey when she was in her late 80s.  Dad was 76 here. It's nice to see them enjoying the sun in Portugal but it makes me sad too, of course.

Anyway, things change. I can't quite bring myself to stop this very weekend. But that's the way I'm thinking.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

More fun than dusting

On Saturday we went walking by the Esk, very near Edinburgh.

It was very Januaryish weather - dull and quite cold, though not icy or windy.

Then we walked along by the sea into the city. You can see Arthur's Seat, our city hill, on the horizon. It's lovely to get out even in winter and fill your lungs with fresh air.

On Sunday the Edinburgh grandchildren came, and Biggest Granddaughter "arranged a dance party" for herself in the dining room, decorating it with her mother's rainbow scarf. As you do.

She drew a cheerful unicorn.

And she, her brother and I played Heads, Bodies and Legs, which made us laugh.

Today we visited Son and Middle Granddaughter, the Unbloggable Toddler. (DIL was at work.) Actually she's nearly 2 and a half, and hasn't toddled for ages - she's very nimble and climby and bouncy. We went to the Dundee Science Centre, Here she is with her father, playing with magnets.

She picked up a magnifying glass and looked through it. "Hmm, interesting," she said. Son offered her a drink of water. "That's very kind of you," she said politely. (She's spent quite a lot of time with adults.)

She's a lovely little person and accepts us very well now - though sadly we'll always be the second rank of grandparents to her. Ah well. You can't have everything.

Friday, January 18, 2019


Daughter 1 and I went to an interesting exhibition of 19th century Scottish samplers. My photos are fairly terrible, presumably in a poetic-justice sort of way because, as the attendant pointed out after a while, one wasn't supposed to be taking photos. Oops. So we stopped. The samplers were pretty amazing. Should you happen to be in Edinburgh (you're not, though, are you?) then I would recommend a visit.

They're from the collection of an American lady, who's done research on the (mainly) girls who sewed them and the context in which they were sewn.

The same patterns recur a lot, such as this hound chasing rabbits (though we felt it was a bit more like a cat).

Letters, names, maps, houses, all amazingly neatly done by girls of between 8 (8!) and 16 years of age.

I've been going through my mum's photos and WhatsApping them to the family by photographing the photos with my phone. Again, this doesn't lead to high quality images. Look at my (blurry) girls, though! Where did the time go?

And here are my parents and myself at my grandparents' house, presumably at Christmas, since there's their scrappy little Christmas tree in the background. My brother must have been taking the photo. I look 10 or 11. Sadly, the only survivors from this photo are the tablecloth and me. My granny was so lovely. Why is no one looking at the camera or indeed looking cheerful, apart from me? Maybe my brother hadn't warned us he was about to take the picture.

These are photos I'm managing to throw away. My parents went on lots of lovely holidays to Europe and America, all documented with lots of pictures, and I'm trying to be firm, keeping only the best ones. It's not easy. And there are lots of other archives apart from that.

And here's one of my amaryllises, reminding me of why I give them windowsill space for 360 days of the year while they look exceedinly boring: to enjoy their bright trumpetiness for the other 5.