Monday, January 23, 2023


Time's winged chariot has been galloping on, as it does. It was quite nice weather for a while

and then it was cold for a week. There was only a wee smattering of snow but it hung around, and the pavements were frosty and thus potentially slippery, which is not good for not-so-young people who are keen not to fall and fracture anything, especially at the moment, when we're told that hospitals are bulging. We're certainly in a bit of a pickle in Britain at the moment, with striking teachers, nurses, railwaymen, postmen, ambulance drivers et al. 

Anyway, instead of striding along the pavements we went to the City Art Centre, which has four exhibitions on at the moment, three of them very interesting. The first was just of what seemed a fairly random collection of things relevant to Edinburgh from the archives. I dare say that curators had thought long and hard about what to display, and they decided on a mixture of objects, documents and photos that had been rediscovered during the reorganisation that they did while Covid held us in its thrall. 

For example, this sampler - I can't imagine Big Granddaughter, who's 9, doing this, though actually we got sewing at school from age 7 and I was quite neat even then (by the evidence of the lapbag and shoebag I produced) so maybe she could. (Currently, however, she's writing a graphic novel in her spare time. I'm not sure it has much plot yet, but it's an ambitious idea.)

And then there was this washing machine. Yes, quite. Many blessings on the inventor of the automatic version.

On another floor were lots of photographs from the 1980s of shops and workplaces, such as this sporran workshop

and this bagpipe maker's. 

I think this photo of a brushmaker's shop is rather beautiful, with the light shining through the windows.  

Can things really have been like this when I was a young woman? Cafes aren't like this now... .

And then there was a floor of photographs taken by women photographers in the 20s and 30s. There was also a long film, a silent one, about life in Shetland in the 30s. We saw this lady washing clothes in a wooden tub outside in the snow, and then hanging them up, as above. If I ever complained about housework, I never will again (well, not this week, anyway). We saw the Shetlanders, men and women alike, ploughing (sometimes with a hand plough, sometimes behind a horse or a cow), reaping, winnowing, planting, harvesting, and gathering peat and seaweed in huge creels - it was exhausting just watching them. And the women, at the same time as toiling up hills or cliff paths with creels full of peat or seaweed, were knitting. 

Knitting things like this...

Here's the interior of a kitchen, with the fire in the middle of the room and a skillet over it for cooking oatcakes or pancakes - small ones that we eat with butter and / or jam, not the big bubbly ones that you roll up. English people sometimes call our little pancakes "drop scones" or "Scotch pancakes". Delicious. 

Here are girls on St Kilda - which was evacuated in 1930 because the islanders decided that life there was too hard. These girls are holding gloves that they hoped to sell to tourists. They look as if they're wearing their best clothes. I'm amazed to think that people in the 1920s would take the very difficult sea journey just for a jaunt. I would love to go there, but would hesitate - it's a long way from anywhere.  I know there's somewhere in Australia called St Kilda, but I imagine that it's not a remote archipelago away out in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. 

Anyway, it was all very interesting and made me very conscious of being a southern softie. These people would have continued their lives unaffected if there had been shortages or strikes. We would scarcely survive for a fortnight without supermarkets and electricity. 

Meanwhile, have I started the decluttering, which would not have been a problem for those hardy Shetlanders in their bare houses? Hmm. Not as such. Thanks for all the interesting comments. Nice to know that I'm not alone in my need to thin down the contents of the cupboards. 


Thursday, January 12, 2023


On Tuesday, we drove up in the rain to Son's house, because the school teachers were on strike and the children were therefore not at school. We met them at a soft play/trampoline centre. The children had a great time. Son is a very good, active father. 

At home, he rigged up a string and they all played badminton with a balloon. The little ones were surprisingly good with their racquets, though it's much easier with a balloon than with a shuttlecock. Again, it was good fun. The walls and ceiling look interestingly striped in this photo, though they're actually plain cream - the stripes are the effect of light coming out from a shade with slits in it. 

It's been quite a social week - coffee with eight ex-colleagues on Monday at my house - we meet up every Monday for an hour or so, which is a great way to keep up with one another without any great effort on anyone's side. One week we're here and the alternate week at another person's, and if someone can't make it one week it doesn't matter because there's always the next week. Then Tuesday - up north. On Wednesday I had lunch with three schoolfriends - we were in the same class from the age of 5 to the age of 18, and meet up every three months. So that was lovely. And today I had coffee with another friend and we compared the progress of our arthritis and discussed the vexed question of what the best time is to downsize. Despite how this sounds, we had quite a jolly time. We also talked about books. 

The downsizing thing is really difficult. I want the family to be able to come and stay, and at the moment feel quite able to have them. But we have a five-bedroom house and lots of stuff, so the trick will be to catch the moment when we're still just about able to do all the appalling sorting out and decision-making, but we nevertheless know that the time has come to move to a small flat (oh dear) with no garden (oh NO!). Is this a likely conjunction of circumstances?? At the moment I would hate not to have a garden, and yet the old joints get quite sore when I've been working outside and I'm only (only!) 72. As everyone always says, I don't feel old inside my head. But facts must be faced. Just not yet... .


Sunday, January 08, 2023

Time flies like an arrow and all that

A certain amount of not-very-much has been happening around here. In London, by contrast, Littlest Granddaughter has been dressing up as a ... mouse witch, maybe? So fierce. 

I don't think that January in Britain tends to be anyone's favourite month, and around here it's been unusually wet and dreary. However, look - the first snowdrops are flowering, so I shall take that as a sign of spring. The garden's not looking its best (understatement) because all the things that were still blooming, at least feebly, in early December were cut down by the frost and are now piles of brown goo. I shall have to gird my loins and get out there to do some chopping down, so that in a few weeks the spring bulbs will be visible to cheer the wintry heart. 

Our standard walk along by the golf course demonstrates the apparent deadness of the season. But of course there are buds on the trees and fresh nettles and dockens burgeoning at the side of the path.

Yesterday, however, it was sunny, so we did a recce for the February walk that we're leading. It's just a town one, near here, mainly through parks, and Mr L and I are familiar with it, but one has to work out the timings so as to be somewhere suitable to eat sandwiches at lunch time. We usually go to a cafe for coffee, cake and chat at the end of the walk and it's not that easy to find one that will have room for a sizeable group of muddy people at a slightly-difficult-to-predict time. On this occasion we've cunningly organised the walk to end at our house, so there's no crucial timing needed for this.

We walked along the river, which is very full indeed after all the rain.

This heron looked somewhat bedraggled, but I imagine it was enjoying some sunshine at last. 

And on we went, through Saughton Park, with its bandstand.

And along beside the tram line

to the Dovecot in Corstorphine.

This, as I've written before, dates from the 1500s and was built so that the doves that lived in it could provide fresh meat and eggs for the people who lived in the (long gone) 14th century Corstorphine Castle. I'm glad that I didn't live then for many reasons, my vegetarianism being one. I doubt if vegetarianism was much of a thing then. There are 1000 nesting boxes, which are still used by visiting pigeons, but no one now eats these more fortunate birds. 

We established that the nearby St Margaret's Park had benches and indeed picnic tables for us to lunch at on our group walk but then it started to rain (we do not need more rain). So we decided not to walk home as planned but instead got a bus. 

I'm still quilting Little Grandson's quilt but it's not going to be finished by the time we go up to see them on Tuesday. However, not too long to go now. And then I must get back to the archives, which I spent quite a while sorting during lockdown but then abandoned, so that I can't quite remember where I am. But I must make some Decisions. Sorting into boxes is easy enough. Throwing out my parents' holiday albums, less so. 


Monday, January 02, 2023

Hello 2023

A long silence from me, but I don't suppose anyone much noticed. It's been a busy, but lovely time. Littlest Granddaughter and her mum, Daughter 2, arrived on December 20 (I think) and since then various others have been arriving and then gradually departing - until this evening it's just the old chap and me once more. 

I now never like to post recognisable photos of the family these days - one hears too much about foul deeds on the internet - so you'll just have to imagine the lovely pictures that I might have posted. 

Daughter 2, Littlest Granddaughter and I  went to the local playpark and skate park, where Littlest bravely scooted down some minor slopes. Like her granny, she isn't one to take major risks. 

By Christmas or a few days before, everyone else had arrived. At one point there were twelve of us sleeping in the house, and sixteen for dinner, which was quite a lot for a house this size. But it all went well. 

Then bit by bit they all went away apart from my brother and his wife. The weather has been pretty damp, especially one day, when the river flooded, though not into anyone's house. This was the day afterwards - the level of the water had been up over the wall to the left, and you can see the debris caught in the fence. 

Here's my brother, filming the unusually high and fast-flowing river. 

Big Grandson, now eleven and a half, has suddenly grown and is now as tall as I am. Granted, I'm only 5 feet 2 and a bit, but still... He still likes his Brio. He's such a nice boy. 

Well, Happy New Year to anyone who's still reading this. Let's hope that at least some of the problems of the world get sorted out in 2023. What terrible things are going on; and yet how lovely life can be, and so let's concentrate on the good things whenever possible. 


Wednesday, December 21, 2022


The first of the (ten) visitors arrived yesterday: Daughter 2 and Littlest Granddaughter. The latter is very sweet (well, they both are) but something of a whirlwind. Daughter 2 is working from home, so we're Littlest-sitting. 

Here she is being relatively static. 

And here she's playing with the 1980s Shuffly Castle, which proved a big hit even though the princess and the queen don't shuffle as well as they did in 1980. Mind you, who does? 

Tonight, Daughters 1 and 2 and their children and I went to the light show at the Botanics. This is the photo that I took before my phone slipped from my hand and its screen smashed. Sigh. 

Now for a hot bath and bed with a good book. Tomorrow, the museum (if the whirlwind agrees). 


Monday, December 12, 2022

Santa stuff

We've now got round to decorating the house, some of which involves Mr L balancing on ladders. Then Saturday was the day we collected our Christmas tree from a charity for the homeless. 

And Saturday was also the day when we woke up to this. O joy. Our little street, a dead end on a hill, is always difficult to drive up when it's snowy, but fortunately we got out and reached the field where noble people were allocating the trees in the cold. 

And here is ours, with a suitably wintry background. The process involved Mr L lying around on the floor fitting the end of the trunk into a clamp and fixing the lights; also claiming that he's getting too old for this. It's a very small tree, to leave room for the 16 people who'll be in our house on Christmas Day - weather and various strikes permitting. Fortunately some of them are quite small. But messy. 

Meanwhile, also on Saturday, Daughter 2 took Littlest Granddaughter to Oxford. Here's Littlest standing outside Wadham College, where Daughter 1 went to study and (as it turned out) to meet Son-in-Law 1. 

Daughter 2 refrained from buying any merchandise like this.

She then met up with my brother, his wife and daughter, to see the pantomime for which my musician nephew is in the orchestra. This is his view of them, sitting in the front row of the circle. 

At that point, it hadn't snowed in London. But now it has. Littlest and the big boy next door built a snowman. 

This is Littlest, dragging an improvised sledge behind her. Daughter has now ordered a proper sledge, thus ensuring that it won't snow in London for another ten years. 

Despite our Edinburgh snow having more or less gone, it's jolly cold - something like minus 7C at night, which is most unusual here. Google tells me that this is 19.4F. I do tend to think in F still, despite our having adopted C in... just looked it up... 1962. Sixty years. I'm slow to adopt changes... Anyway, I know that 70F is getting a bit hot, 80F is much too hot and 90F is - well, that doesn't happen in Scotland, thank goodness. I'm also aware that 60F isn't very impressive for the summer, and thus grounds for complaint, but I don't really remember being aware of F temperatures in winter. I do remember my dad telling me, when we changed over to C, that 10 is cold, 20 is warm and 30 is much too hot and I still go by that. Living as we do in a temperate climate, we don't have to bother much with exact figures. It's normally cold, but not horrendously so, in winter; less cold or even mild in spring and autumn; and warm or occasionally hottish in summer. That's usually enough. 

Talking about the weather is an indication that nothing much is happening: walks, a bit of Christmas prep (not enough), singing, some socialising and a lot of quilting. 

Littlest Granddaughter: Daddy, Santa isn't real.

Son-in-Law 2: Oh, isn't he?

LG: No, the elves just made him up for fun. 

Well, it's one explanation. 

I've just noticed a comment from Willow Caroline - hello, lovely to hear from you! I'm delighted that you enjoyed your British soujourn but wish we could have met up for a coffee! I'm also intrigued by your comment about "hill walking that wasn't really hill walking" - do you mean that it was more scrambling than walking? We went up Cat Bells a few years ago and I remember bits of that being quite scrambly. But worth it, for the views!


Monday, December 05, 2022

Bits and pieces

It's been a very un-newsworthy ten days of coughing (but not Covid), during which we've done nothing much except (in my case) finish Medium Granddaughter's dragon quilt. It's very bright and a bit higgledy-piggledy and not at all adventurous in any technical way, but was nice and easy to make. 

I carefully used up more or less all the dragon fabric I'd bought - the big rainbow dragons, the much smaller but also multi-coloured ones and the dark blue - and had fun putting in some other favourite materials, quilting lots of hearts and such like. And then Big Granddaughter said she wanted a dragon quilt too so I had to get some more dragon fabric to make hers, next year. 

For the back, I used bits and pieces. So thrifty... .

And after we'd started coughing a lot less, we had a flying visit from Daughter 2 and a friend this weekend, and also Son and family. Here he is, having transmogrified from Dr D to Mr Criminalsson, a change which sees him pursued round the garden by Superwoman and Santa, ie his son and his nephew, who are policemen. They catch him; he escapes; they chase him again. It's a simple game but hey, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a novel about something similar. 

I was intrigued by what Frances said in a comment about English "streets" being different from English "roads". I don't live in England, but I don't think they are. (Are they?) One can live on either. I suppose the big ones - motorways and such - are always roads rather than streets, but roads can also be small. I think both tend to be a bit bigger than those called Close, Gardens, View, Terrace, Avenue... but not necessarily. And you would probably talk about "the main road" in a town and "the main street" in a village, so I suppose that would be because of their size. But one could have houses on either.