Thursday, March 13, 2008

Where I'm from

This is in response to Molly’s “Where I’m from…” meme. It’s been a long time coming – not because I’ve been honing a masterpiece but because my recent posts have been five-minute nonsenses, dashed off in brief intervals between horrible busy-ness; and this one required a little more thought.

I feel a bit silly presenting it. It’s rather solemn. Doesn’t seem very British. But anyway. Here we go. Mumbling slightly and shuffling our feet. Don’t read it, dear son-in-law. There aren’t going to be many pictures of cats.

I’m from the little house in the big garden where lilacs bloomed, lupins swayed, apples thumped on the lawn and, in the winter, birds’ footprints patterned the snow.

I’m from the big house by the railway where the white cat slumbered in the sun and the air was full of promise.
I’m from my grandparents’ garden: sweet peas, gyposophila, cabbages – “All that out of the earth!”

I’m from three other houses: the first furnished with wedding presents and cast-offs, the second ringing with children’s voices and the third full of books and plans and purring.

I’m from a childhood full of funny words and stories, of worries and insecurities, of sleepless nights when the sun hardly set and or when the frost scribbled on the windows and the darkness was black indeed.

School had high windows, tiled corridors, girls in navy uniforms and 100-year-old teachers (or so it seemed).

In my head are holidays in Perthshire – sheep safely grazing and tiny blaeberries on the Knock and picnics by the wide river among the towering hills of the Sma’ Glen.

I’m from Smiths and Campbells, from Boyds and Watts, from May and Jim and Tom and Ella and Isa and James, from tales of wars and bombs and of a green island with a mountain in the middle.

I’m from a city of spires and domes and hills, a university built round a city garden and from years of chalky fingers in classrooms with young learners.

I’m from a grey church by the sea with a twinkly-eyed minister where there were lots of ladies in hats and husbands in sober suits.

I’m from a long beach where the sand blew up into the gardens, and from the Quarry Park, where we played rounders on long, balmy Scottish summer evenings.
I’m from books and diaries and now from blogs, all trying to preserve a tiny part of what we are and what we were.

And just in case anyone did struggle through this far, a reward: kittens.
Edited to add: I tried to edit this the minute I'd posted it, but Blogger wouldn't let me. And now it's probably too late because many of the people who visit me have read it already. What I would have said was: how about someone else doing this meme? Lots have already done it. Anyone else care to?


  1. Oh Isabelle! It's wonderful! And your pictures are all just perfect to go with the text. I don't know why you wouldn't want son-in-law to read it -- I love it. Growing up in Scotland where you have the best of both worlds -- both the mountains and the seas. A life I can only dream of! Thanks so much for sharing and very pleased to meet you! xo

  2. Stop mumbling and hold your head high.

    It was beautiful.

  3. Isabelle, it's beautfiul. Just beautiful.
    I loved your thumping apples- I have that sound in me, too.

  4. Oh no!

    Now you make me want to visit the UK even more.....

    Only another 20 years or so before I can afford the $$$ and the time. (sigh)

  5. Oh, oh oh! I'm in love with the flowers, kitty and houses full of children and books.

    You did a beautiful job on this.

  6. I loved it!!! That was written so thoughtfully and just beautiful. I have thought of doing one but really got stumped on the first line. Maybe one day...

  7. Just loved it - thank you so much! Love Z xx

  8. Lovely Isabelle - I could work for weeks and never produce something so evocative and lyrical. And whilst it may not be typically "British" I think it is perfectly Scottish - reminded me a bit of George Mackay Brown and you can't get much higher praise than that!

  9. oh how beautiful
    you have given me a look at the scotland my birth mother has told me about
    thank you
    hugs Beth

  10. Isabelle that was lovely, and the photos of Edinburgh have made me homesick

  11. Such a delightful post - a beautifully written and illustrated biography. Well done you.

  12. Wow! That post was astonishing! Maybe silly to pull a word like that out of the bag of word tricks ... but really. Wow. It was very inspiring, though, and if mine wouldn't be quite so sad, I might be tempted to write my own.

    Maybe I'll look on it as a personal challenge and see if I can pull something cheerful out of the fog, LOL!

  13. This is such a delight to read and of course it has made me think of where I am from and that is a story of so many parts. The photographs and depth and texture to your word penned with such thought. Beautiful.

  14. I popped by to thank you for visiting my blog - but it was worth it to read this. A real serendipity!

  15. Lovely! The big house by the railway with the white cat could very easily be the house & garden I grew up in.

    I'd be interested to see how mine and my husband's versions would turn out.

  16. I forgot to say: Lupins! I miss lupins. And Snapdragons.

  17. Wow! Just beautiful, Isabelle! And the photos are the perfect finishing touch.

  18. This was wonderful, Isabelle! I truly enjoyed reading this - your writing is spectacular and I felt like I was part of your life. I've only been to Scotland once but am planning to return and see more, especially Edinburgh. My grandfather was born in Ayre near Glasgow and I believe we still have cousins around. So beautifully written - you must teach writing! ???

  19. Oh that lilac - I can almost smell it - I'm sure I can. Photos added a whole extra dimension;the parts you didn't say! Well Done! Wasn't it difficult to narrow it down, once it was started.
    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Did you say solemn? No way. It was so lyrical, evocative and beautifully illustrated. Thank you.

    Loved the kittens too!

  21. Isabelle this was magic to read. Wonderfully evocative. All the photographs were the finishing touch.
    I have loved reading all these 'Where I am from' stories.
    Please, if anyone hasn't done it yet, do so.

  22. Why so apologetic? It's wonderful, and the photos too. Thank you.

  23. Very poetic! We still have giant piles of snow everywhere. If the top two photos are recent, I'm really jealous.

  24. This was such a beautiful post to read Isabelle, thank you for writing it. I hope you're having a good weekend
    Another blogger who survived navy blue school uniforms and very elderly female teachers!

  25. I haven't got time to do memes. I spend far too much time on my blogs as it is - why would anyone want to read any more about me?? Now, if I wrote as poetically as you my dear, I would have a go. But no, I'm content to read yours, and admire photos of places I'll never see. Isn't the internet wonderful?

  26. The gardens and plants, as always, just seem to really transport me to another planet.

    What a lovely world you come from, which is why, obviously, you are so lovely yourself. Such a gentle world, full of such beauty.

    Why is this not British? I think it is scottish, very much.
    I would die to see those lupins, I would.

  27. Aha! I knew I must be missing great reads, not being much around blogland of late---and I was right!
    The lupins and the lilac made me homesick for a climate that is gentle and damp. That 'air full of promise" is something I loved about being young! Your house of "books and plans and purring"---so much conveyed with so few words!
    You finally did it Isabelle---and a lovely job too!
    I second the motion for anyone who hasn't done this!

  28. This is just lovely. And has inspired me to get a move on with doing my own.

  29. So, SO beautiful. You clutch me up, fair Isabelle.

  30. Isabelle, your family will treasure this piece, I'm sure. You're such a wonderful writer! I loved finding our where you're from, and the photos are the icing on the cake. Thanks for taking the time to do this and for sharing it. It was a real treat!
    I've thought about doing this meme, but haven't put the thought and time into it yet. You've inspired me to do of these days :)