Thursday, December 31, 2009

The turn of the year

This is what the garden looked like this morning...

... and this is what it looked like an hour ago. Yes, it's still snowing. I know this won't look much to Canadians and Mid-Westerners but this is Edinburgh, a coastal town lapped by the Gulf Stream, and we don't usually do more than a pickle of snow which melts in a day or two.
We live in a cul-de-sac of five houses; it's on a little hill, with us at the bottom. The street isn't exactly a priority for Edinburgh Council in its gritting operations and the road at the top of ours is also on a hill and never gritted till three days after the snow. Every day is a little adventure if we decide to use the car.
The cats are not impressed.
And Daughter 2 (who's staying for a few days, hurray) and I have nasty colds. We are expelling extensive goo from various orifices at regular intervals and keeping Mr Kleenex in business. Cough, cough. It's only a matter of time till Mr Life gets it and I can confidently predict that he'll get it more seriously than us.
Still, that was 2009, for better or worse. It was the year that our final child moved out, which was a bit of a shock to the system after 30 years of daily parenting. The year 2000 seems alarmingly recent; by 2020 I shall be 70. (Let's hope.)
On the positive side, Mr Life has found my camera, which was under my desk, where I thought it must have fallen and where I'd already looked several times without seeing it. (You know those crimes when the person who finds the body turns out to be the murderer...?)
Ah well, forward into battle as my father used to say, though in fact he used more often to say "Backward into fottle".
Happy New Year, all.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Brrr and bah!

It's still very cold. The snow has melted a bit, but not much. This confirms my mother's scepticism about global warming.

Son has gone. Sigh.

Daughters have returned. Hurray!

Guinea pigs have been reunited with their loving owners. Good.

I've lost my camera. In the house (I think). This seems impossible, but I've done it. You'd think we lived in a mansion. I'm so frustrated by this. You haven't seen it, have you?

Saturday, December 26, 2009


We're looking after Daughter 1 and Son-in-Law's guinea pigs while they're down south with his family. The lad worries about the welfare of these furry friends, so at Daughter 1's request, we took some Christmas Day photos of them and emailed them to him. I didn't look very carefully at the images on My Pictures as I attached them, which is why the above photo was the first one I attached. I did briefly wonder, as it vanished from view on to the attachment, why this guinea pig looked a bit as if it was on a plate. Ooops. No, SIL, we didn't douse your precious pets in brandy and then...

They probably deserve to star in their own blog post, so here are Brownie and Cupcake (well, if you will give them edible names...) enjoying their Christmas dinner.

And let me introduce you to Pumpkin, aka Ginger Pig.

Chomp chomp. Cupcake is more often known by her nickname, White Pig.
They are cute and amiable creatures with nice big, friendly faces.

Daughter 1 and SIL have recently instituted a new form of bedding for them, which is, instead of the usual wood shavings, a fleece with newspaper underneath it. Just an ordinary fleece blanket. This wicks the pee through to the newspaper and stays more or less dry itself. It's a very good system, as far as I can see, and makes much less mess in Daughter 1's (former) bedroom, where their run has to live to avoid contact with our cats. You can then remove the droppings by simply shaking the fleece out over your flowerbeds where, I imagine, they fertilise the earth. (You have to remove the guinea pigs from the fleece before you do this.) Then you wash the fleece in the washing machine.
Anyway, we had a good, if more peaceful than usual, Christmas Day. Son listened attentively to my mother and aunt's stories. He's a good lad. He's with us till tomorrow. The girls and SIL return on Monday.
Hope you all had a happy one too. Both my mother and my aunt left their presents in our house by mistake, but we'll see them both soon anyway. I got lots of books. Very good.
Off to have lunch, a walk and then a read. Happy Boxing Day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Very merry

Well, it's still snowy. This was Edinburgh Castle yesterday.

I iced the cakes last night: one for my mother...

... and one for us. (Does anyone know how to make landscape images upright on blogs? I straighten them in Picasa but they turn themselves round again on Blogger.) The girls and I used to decorate them together - memorably, one year, Daughter 2, the architecture student, created a whole Bethlehem townscape on ours - but this year it was just me. Sniff. Hence the rather simple designs. Less is more and all that, though in fact I may have overdone the stars. Some of them look a bit like starfish, struggling to climb the cake. That's it fishies - you've just about made it.

The one good thing about snow is that black cats show up well against it. Cassie prowls.

So does Sirius.

Not for long, though. They prefer looking at it. Some people think Cassie and Sirius look alike but we just laugh. Clearly this is Sirius in the foreground and Cassie behind. Completely different!

This is what they're looking at. Brr.
Daughter 1 is down south with her husband and in-laws, Daughter 2 is about to board a train to take her down south to be with her young man and his parents but Son will be with us tomorrow lunch-time, weather permitting. Then my mother and my deaf, confused (but jolly) aunt will join us and we'll have a small family party. Speaking very loudly.

Happy Christmas, my darling distant offspring and my (in some cases) even more distant bloggy pals. God bless us, every one!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy and sad

It's snowy - unusually for us - and rather cold. One more day of college before the holidays; rather than working, I would really prefer to be finalising the preparations for Christmas. I use the word "finalising" in its loosest sense.

We were at a wedding on Saturday, which didn't help the preparations but which was a very happy occasion - and yet in some ways a sad one.

The bride's mother died about 18 months ago and her father made a very emotional speech in which he kept breaking down.

The groom, N, is the lovely, lovely son of a friend I met at teacher training college in 1972. He's the same age as Daughter 2 and just exactly the sort of young man I'd like for a son-in-law (though I love my actual son-in-law). His father died in tragic circumstances when he and his brother were, I think, 11 and 10, and my friend, who's a wonderful, positive, inspiring person with a huge enthusiasm for life, has brought up these two fantastic boys. The younger son, D, was the best man and made the most hilarious best man's speech I've ever heard. His comic timing was superb. Yet it was touching too: he paid tribute to his father and to the fact that, as he said, his mum had "shown [him and his brother] how to be men". Then, as an example, he quoted her saying, "N - teach D to shave!"

And I had such mixed emotions - the young couple are both very clever, very good-looking, very loved and very much in love. I hope life is wonderful for them. And yet, as the groom said, you don't know what lies in store and you must seize your happiness when you have the chance.

There were lots of handsome chaps dancing in whirling kilts, Anna.

I think this is the first wedding I've attended of a young man whose nappy I've changed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Our kind-of-anniversary

What were you doing precisely 42 years ago tonight? Well, nothing in the case of my bloggy friends who hadn't got around to being born yet; and I doubt if many of the rest of you can remember.

I was at a dance. It was my sixth year (ie final year at school) dinner dance - the one and only social occasion organised by the school. I went to an all-girls' establishment so of course we had to invite boys as our partners to this dance. It was the greatest topic of conversation for months among all the girls: whom we'd ask, what we'd wear, what table we'd sit at for dinner and with whom.

Fashion was much more standard then. We almost all bought long, Empire line sleeveless dresses and low heeled shoes, usually silver or gold. Considering that we had to wear uniform to school, it seems strange now that most of us wore such similar styles to the dance; but we were fairly conformist young ladies. My dress was turquoise and my shoes silver with rosettes on the front.

I asked a young man whom I'd had my eye on for more than a year. At nineteen, he was a couple of years older than me. He was tall, quiet and good-looking, with beautiful thick black shiny hair. I knew him through the church; he was one of the young group who met at church activities and also did some things together in the evenings: played rounders in the local park and so on. I was kind of on the fringes of this group, being slightly younger than most of them, going to a different school and being very shy. However, I had to ask someone to this dance and so, too shy ask him directly, I wrote him a letter. And he accepted.

Had I known that, one evening 42 years later, he'd be sitting at his desk alongside mine in our study, I would have been extremely surprised. Yes, it was young Mr Life himself. He then asked me to his work dance a couple of weeks later; and we've been together ever since.

It astonishes me that this was 42 years ago. 42!

I'd also have been surprised to know that I'd be sitting here sadly missing three young people (though they'd have seemed pretty ancient to me at the time) - a thirty-year-old, a twenty-eight-year-old and a twenty-five-year old whom I'd never (at the time of the dance) met or even really imagined meeting. One of them, Daughter 1, is with her husband about a couple of miles from where I lived then; the two others are currently in Glasgow where Daughter 2 is visiting Son for the night.

I wouldn't have been so surprised to know that we now have cats. It's a chilly night. You can tell from Cassie's body language, can't you?

Well, well. All very astonishing. But it's worked out surprisingly well. I clearly had good taste when I was seventeen.

I love you, Mr Life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This is Santa

I really enjoyed those little snapshots of the commenters' lives - thank you so much for them. A sort of Comment-Twitter.

From a student, discussing a writer's style : "The writer uses a long list to emphifly the dangers of overeating."

"Emphifly" is a good word, don't you think? Sort of a mixture between "emphasise" and "exemplify", maybe? By the look of him, my Santa is a fine emphiflication of the dangers of too many mince pies.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ho ho ho

I half-decorated the Christmas tree this afternoon but then decided that it was more urgent to write cards and letters. (Above is last year's tree.) So this is what I was doing until a few minutes ago; I'm about to return to the task. I don't mind doing this but my neck hurts from bending over and I'd rather be lying in a warm bath reading my book.

What are you / should you be doing?

And what would you rather be doing? (No scandalous answers, please.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


As I rush from class to class, I often hear snatches of conversation from students going in the opposite direction.

This week, for example:

* Like - I - like, don't even - like - like him.
* His reaction to any problem is to take his shirt off.
* I'm so excited. My brother's coming up from London and we're getting fake tans together. Well, not together. One at a time.
* I was lucky enough to be born cynical, so I'm never disappointed.

(I hardly ever react to problems by taking my shirt off, and though my brother sometimes comes up from London we've never shared a fake tan - not even one at a time. Maybe I should suggest it next time.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

And the lucky winners are...

I've headed this with a picture of the garden in August to give myself hope that it might ever look like this again. At the moment it's a heap of brown twigs and dead leaves. Horrid.

Here's a list of the commenters who wanted to join in the giveaway.

Here are the numbers to go in the hat...

... and here's Mr Life, looking duly solemn considering the seriousness of his task, about to pull the numbers out of the hat.

Tara! The lucky winners are Thimbleanna (the tree decoration), Loth (the elf) and Lesley (the wreath).
I feel deeply embarrassed, actually, at sending Thimbleanna a little thing to hang on her Christmas tree when I consider that she made me a quilt! But, um. It does come with lots of love, Thimbleanna. Does that make it better?
I know where you are, Thimbleanna; I know approximately where you are, Loth (Edinburgh! - it wasn't a fix, honestly - Mr Life is incorruptible); and Lesley, can you let me know your email address and we can arrange for me to send your valuable prize?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Nearly Monday yet again

I do not see why I should have to be a person. It would be so much more restful to be a cat. It's 10.20 on Sunday night and this is the first chance I've had to sit down to write a whole lot of reports. Which I don't awfully want to do. Moan. Sulk. I would much rather do something else, for example lie in the bath reading the very interesting biography of Samuel Johnson which is on my bedside table.

Mutter mutter. Why can't I be one of the idle rich?

Still, I've started my Christmas shopping. Just. Now don't tell me if you're one of those people who have all theirs wrapped because I've got my fingers in my ears. Lalalalala - can't hear you.

Better get on. Reports don't write themselves.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Happy Advent

My dear Daughter 2, being younger and more intelligent than I, has pointed out that Linds's quilt (no! it's MY quilt) goes equally well in our blue room, since it's got lots of blue in it too. My brain was too stunned with gratitude to work this out.

Now, for once I'm having a little giveaway. No, sorry - you can't have one of my quilts. I'm not that generous. I've never been able to think of anything to offer before and my offers aren't terribly impressive since (hangs head in shame) I didn't make them. But still. It's the thought that counts. (Or so I tell myself.)

Here's the first little prize - no, it's not my son-in-law, who photographed himself at arm's length on his mobile phone in the car, modelling it. He doesn't look his best here. He's a handsome lad. Personally I don't think that the purple shiny thing adds much to the beauty of the prize (I'm not a great fan of purple and it doesn't match the wreath) but it makes a nice tinkly noise and you could always remove it.

I'm trying to make these rather paltry gifts seem more impressive than they are, so here's another way you could display the wreath. It's made of lots of little bits of Christmas material, cut with pinking shears. It's not exactly precision craftspersonship but it's quite jolly.

Look - you could hang it on your door (though possibly not right behind your letter-box, like this).

Or on a hook.

Or you could use it to decorate the clothes airer that you have to keep in the hall to stop the cats climbing up the archway (with two feet on either side of the wall, as if climbing a tree. Not good for the wallpaper).

Or you could balance it on a shelf.

The cats might like it to decorate their baskets.

Finally, you could use it to divert the eye from the empty bed of your daughter, who has (sniff) left the nest.

Ok, I think that might be all I can say to exaggerate the appeal of the first prize. Secondly, I offer an elf. Also a cheery sight, I feel. He perches on a door handle in close-up...

... or at a distance.

He can also sit in a hand.

And for a third prize, I offer a pretend-gingerbread-heart tree decoration.

Almost good enough to eat. But a bit chewy, I'd think.
If you'd like any of these dazzling prizes, leave me a comment and I'll draw names out of a hat or whatever in a week's time (ie 10.20 British time, December 8). Don't fall over each other in your excitement, now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lost for words - well, almost

I've had a busy week, out every night (rather boring church meeting, teaching evening class, choir, meal out with friends, printing church magazine) and work itself has been rather frazzling because of a difficult colleague - not to say having eleven classes, each with about twenty students, to teach every week; so was looking forward to going this morning with Son (home for the day), my mum and Daughter 1 to the Christmas fair at Hopetoun House - always a rather up-market affair.

Earlier in the week, a card had been put through our door saying that we should go and collect a parcel at the depot, since we'd been out when the deliverer had tried to deliver it. We couldn't think what it could be since we hadn't ordered anything and it was a bit early for a Christmas present. So we assumed it was something uninteresting such as a catalogue we hadn't requested for things we didn't want.

Anyway, this morning I was rapidly throwing some soup together (so that it would be ready at when we came home again at lunch time) when Mr Life returned from the depot with the parcel. For me. It had a return name and address and I recognised the name as belonging to Linds (

But how did she know my name and address?? I opened the parcel and found...

... this. (Not the sofa. The quilt.)

Look at it!

Isn't it beautiful? And doesn't it go nicely with our green and yellow living room?

I just couldn't imagine why and how she'd sent it to me. Then I read the card enclosed in it and light dawned. Some months ago, just before she became a granny, she had a blog competition to predict the date and time of the baby's birth. And I won it. And she said she'd think of a prize for me. And I assumed it would be a bar of chocolate or something. And I completely forgot about it.

And it's a beautiful quilt for snuggling under on a sofa!!!!!

Now this is becoming a bit of a habit for me, and I have to say it's a habit I really like. Some readers may remember that in October last year, Thimbleanna and Mr T from Indiana visited to cat-sit for us (and have a little holiday) and Thimbleanna brought a snuggle-quilt that she'd made for us then. Which bowled me over. It goes wonderfully well with our other sitting room, which is mainly blue.
Look. Twins! (Non-identical ones.) One for each room.

I am absolutely blown away by the generosity - not to say the talent and dedication - of both of these blog-friends. As my mum said, if she'd made something like that she wasn't sure if she'd manage to part with it - and I feel much the same. It was so kind to make something so beautiful and - heavens, time-consuming - for someone you don't know!
Anyway, thank you, Linds (and Thimbleanna - I still love yours too!) SO MUCH!
Wow. I don't know what else to say. And that doesn't often happen. Aren't people kind?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pinned to my study wall, 1.

Edited to add: Goodness, an unsuspected British/American language problem in my title. My study wall, Thimbleanna, is the wall of the room in which we keep our computers. This poem is pinned to the left of my desk. And Rosemary Norman is not one of my students. She's an English poet. Her poem is divided into verses but for some reason, Blogger won't let me show this.

Lullaby by Rosemary Norman

Go to sleep, Mum,

I won't stop breathing, suddenly, in the night.

Go to sleep, I won't

Climb out of my cot and

tumble downstairs.

Mum, I won't swallow

The pills the doctor gave you or

Put hairpins in electric

Sockets, just go to sleep.

I won't cry

When you take me to school and leave me

I'll be happy with other children

My own age.

Sleep, Mum, sleep.

I won't

Fall in the pond, play with matches,

Run under a lorry or even consider

Sweets from strangers.

No, I won't

Give you a lot of lip,

Not like some.

I won't sniff glue,

Fail all my exams,

Get myself /

My girlfriend pregnant.

I'll work hard and get a steady /

Really worthwhile job

I promise, go to sleep.

I'll never forget

To drop in / phone / write

And if

I need any milk, I'll yell.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

She returns

This is what Daughter 2's bed looked like on Sunday night. Empty. I took this maudlin photo of it.

And tonight? She's asleep in it. She and Cassie the Cat. Her lodger (a friend of a friend; no romantic involvement) went out of town to visit his parents tonight so she came home.

Yes, two nights away and one here. We might just about manage if it's a pattern like that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The new abode of Daughter 2

I should point out that she also loves her dad. I just happened to get the sign (see previous post) - in fact, she took the photo on my camera without telling me.
Thank you for all your empty-nest sympathy, which I canvassed for a day early. She moved a lot of her stuff yesterday but is spending her first night in the flat tonight. She's just phoned us from bed.
That chintzy material is on its way out - won't do for the young and trendy. (The sofas, chairs and curtains came with the flat. Must tell you the tale of the flat one day.)
The house is very very quiet. Just Mr Life, me and the scampering furry people.