Saturday, April 30, 2011

Three gardens

Last weekend, Mr Life, Daughter 2 and I went (as we so often do) to the Botanic Gardens.

Look at these tulips (mainly) - a burst of cheering colour.

Wallflowers and tulips lining the path to the big glasshouse. What a wonderful scent wallflowers have. They smell of spring.

Our little blossom. (One of them anyway.)

This is my garden today. Rather smaller - very small, in fact - but I love it. The cherry blossom is falling like pink snow.

I have tulips too, though they're just about over. The herbaceous plants are growing almost visibly.

Look, they're bigger already. Sirius watches them suspiciously.

This afternoon, Mr Life and I went to Malleny, a National Trust garden not far away. It's not particularly big - 2 acres, maybe? - but peaceful and soothing. Like my garden, it has lots of herbaceous plants that aren't at their best yet but are stretching themselves in the warm air.

More blossom, this time (alas) without Daughter 2, who's 400 miles away.

This is one tree with several trunks, like giants' legs.

I love trees: the variousness of their shapes and all the different greens.

Heard on the radio today - from a survey form:

Occupation: Sculptor of stone lions.

Detailed description of job: I chip off all the bits of stone that aren't lion.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cats and things

As she almost always does (she's very good) Daughter 2 phoned tonight. And she seemed so far away - in London. And I hate London. It's so big and noisy and dirty and full of people that you don't know. And she was with her actor fiancé and while he may be a perfectly all right person, he's the reason she's in London living in a one-bedroom rented flat and unless he suddenly becomes successful, I don't see them ever having enough money to lead a life of reasonable comfort. As for starting a family...

So I felt pretty miserable. And sat down to blog. And Sirius came and socialised. He jumped up on my shoulders and walked round and round my shoulders and chest, purring and purring and purring. He then tried his paw at typing and made all sorts of things happen on the screen. Then he jumped up again into my arms and lay under my chin, a warm furry weight. Which was nice, though not conducive to blogging.

Prince William and Kate Middleton get married tomorrow. I don't exactly wish that Daughter 2 was marrying Prince William but at least the royal pair have a house. Several houses, I imagine. And loads of money. Still, I suppose they'll be living in London too, eventually.

I wish I'd realised, before having babies, that they'd go away. I'd have thought more carefully about it. But I'd probably have had them anyway. I wouldn't have known how fast they grow up. But they do. Very very fast. Be warned, mothers of children still at home. Tie strings to them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On wings of song

Just back from choir, where we're in the final stages of learning Rossini's Petite Messe Solonelle, which is wonderful but hard.

Our lovely conductor pulled us up at one point and sang (in his beautiful, resonant voice) the bit we'd just been singing, to show us how he wanted it. We then repeated it.

"That sounded like a different choir!" he said enthusiatically. We glowed. Then he murmured with a grin,"The one I'd rather be conducting..."

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Lodge

Would you like to see more of my aunt's garden? Strictly speaking, it's not my aunt's - this is a long story which I have told before, but basically she and two friends plus (crucially) the much younger husband of one of these ladies retired to this house in Norfolk thirty years ago. The friend's husband was then 39 and he retired too! Being a whizz at DIY, he divided the house up, the top being three flats and the bottom being communal for visitors, entertaining, good works and so on. My aunt lent part of the money to buy the house but wanted the husband to own it, since he's likely to outlive them all. So she lives there, rent free, and does most of the work in the garden, which is remarkable since she's now 86. (The much younger husband does the chopping down of trees and cuts the lawns, and there's a gardener two mornings a week; otherwise, my aunt does it. Amazing.)

Now, the wife of the much younger husband has died (a couple of years ago, at 93), another friend has gone into a nursing home and my aunt and the chap live there in their flats, very happily - taking, as she says, a day at a time. Thus (alas) this wonderful place is not my inheritance... but we count ourselves very lucky to be able to visit. It's the nearest place to heaven that I can imagine.

This is the door to the garden.

Sorry, wrong order - first we pass the dining room.

We walk down the garden and look at the house. Can you hear the doves murmuring constantly: "Tak twa coos, lassie"? (But in a Norfolk accent. What would that be: "Take two cows, girlie"?)

Back down towards the house and walk along in the direction of the walled garden - looking back where you came from.

Glance to the left up at the orangery.

Oops, wrong order again - ok, walk backwards for a while, contemplating the archway through to the walled garden.

Here we are, a bit nearer the archway.

Inside the walled garden.

Walking round the paths.

The bird bath.

A patch of honesty.

A few weeks ago, this was a mass of daffodils.

Back into the lawned area.

Towards the wood.

Every time we go there, I wonder if it'll be the last. And this time might well be. I don't suppose my aunt and her friend's widower can stay there for ever. But it'll always be there in my memory, blossoming away in my head. I love it partly because it's so beautiful and partly because we've been so happy there: Mr Life and I and our children. Our son was not quite three, the first time we went there.

Daughter 2 is now back in London, alas. Still, she was here from Friday till this afternoon, so we had lots of chat and cuddles.

Back to work tomorrow. Hmm.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Being away and coming back.

Happy Easter, everyone.

We got back on Wednesday, having been away in this lovely house in Norfolk. My aunt lives here (it's a long story) and we've gone to stay with her every two years since 1987. Which has been wonderful. We have very fond memories of holidays in this house and its beautiful, huge garden.

This is the view from an upstairs window.

And this is the view from the woodland part of the garden - you can see the house in the distance.

And I'll write more about this another time, but Daughter 2 is here for the weekend and I don't want to spend time away from her.

But I will just add a big thanks to Gossipya, who came all the way from Amman in Jordan to catsit our cats! (Well, she did have other reasons for being in Edinburgh too.) This all seems to have gone fine up to the point that she texted us when we were on our way home, to say that Sirius had been missing for 24 hours. We were distraught, and spent the next five hours imagining the worst, since he'd never done anything like this before - he very occasionally stays out all night but has always been back by 5 or 6 in the morning.

However, when we got home, there he was curled up on my study chair. Where had he been? He's not saying.

This is the fourth time I've appealed for catsitters on my blog and magically got them: Thimbleanna and her husband from Indiana; Scott from Australia via Liverpool; The Phoenix and L from the North of England; and now Gossipya from Amman. How amazing the world of Blog is. Thanks to you all! Cassie and Sirius send you purrs. (And in Sirius's case, Gossipya, profound apologies. )

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Keeping breathing

You know that feeling when you just wish life would pass you by from time to time? I would quite like to sit in a mindless heap for a while, with all my near and dear ones pootling gently around the place and all problems whizzing past the top of my head. You know, just for a couple of days.

No major disasters (I hope). But it's all a bit exhausting.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A view

(Ooh look, a picture.)

I was on the bus this morning (going to meet Daughter 1 at the dressmaker's to organise her a bridesmaid's dress) behind a rather refined mother with a posh English accent sitting beside her small girl - aged about three.

The child looked out towards the magnificence that is Edinburgh Castle, its craggy rock glistening in the sunshine, a host of golden daffodils fluttering and dancing on its lower slopes. "What's that?" she enquired.

"That's Edinburgh Castle," said the mum and launched into a short history lesson about it.

"No," said the child indignantly, "what's that?" She pointed at the window itself. "It's bird poo."

And it was.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blogger the Dunce

Breathing deeply here. This post is brought to you with some difficulty. I've been trying to post pictures, taken today, of our garden in the sunshine. This is so that our kind catsitter, who arrives tomorrow, can see evidence that it doesn't always rain here. Not that I know it's going to rain during her stay. But it might.

However, Blogger is refusing to cooperate. I've always thought of Blogger as a kindly, if mysterious, benefactor, who gives you free stuff for no reason that I can see. I thought it was rather unreasonable to complain when the free stuff sometimes went a bit wonky. However, I'm beginning to turn peevish. First Blogger wouldn't do paragraphs without a lot of footering; then it made my blog look like an eye test by mucking about with the font size; now no photos. Come on, Mr B.

Scott says that I should move to Wordpress but he clearly underestimates my technical incompetence and cowardice.

Sirius isn't helping by doing his blog routine: I sit down to blog, he runs through to me in the study, squeaking interrogatively, I stroke him, I then start to type again, he scratches my chair until I start stroking him again...etc etc.

There's nothing like an impending house guest to make one look critically at one's house, especially at this time of year, when it's eight months since I last had any extended time to do extensive cleaning. I spent the morning at the dentist (Dentist: "I don't think we have many options with this tooth") and then at hospital with my mum, having her foot x-rayed (Mum: "I think I'm in trouble with this foot") and then at Marks and Spencer getting her some trousers (Mum: "I don't like to think why I'm losing weight" - she's now a size 8, which is something like a size 0 in America. I would love to be a size 8, personally). She's always been very slim, though not quite as slim as this.

So I must go and wield the duster now. Not to say give Sirius some Purina to stop him pestering me. At least he's not worried about the size of his trousers.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A spoonful of sugar

I forgot to order my mum's medicines earlier in the week so had to rush to the pharmacy this morning and throw myself on the mercy of the nice lady pharmacist. She helpfully gave me an advance on Mum's prescription and said that she'd let the doctor know what she'd done.

"So there you are," she said kindly. "I've sorted out all your worries."

I found myself saying, "Well, nearly. Maybe you also could arrange for someone to buy my mum's flat? It's for sale."

Without a pause, she said."I'll be round to see about it this afternoon."

Good at dealing with all kinds of silly customers, that lady.

Mum's had five lots of people round to view the flat in the first week. Which is promising, but stressful for her.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Happy Birthday - I think

My colleague Scott was 50 today. From my vantage point of 60, this seems relatively young and spring-chicken-like, and he's slim and natty with a full head of hair so he doesn't look at all like the picture above. Nevertheless, yesterday he was rather gloomy. "Becoming 50's been preying on my mind," he mourned. I was about to say, "Nonsense, you're just a child" or "You're in your prime" or "You've got lots of good years yet." But he beat me to it. "I might live till I'm 100," he sighed. "That's a whole other lifetime. I really don't know if I can be bothered."

Well, if it's cheerfulness that keeps people going, I'm not sure he has a lot to worry about...

Still, we had a nice little party for him today, with cake, and that seemed to help. And now it's the Easter holidays. Hooray!

(Sorry if this post is all different sized fonts. Blogger is misbehaving again.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Only one more teaching day this term, plus one day of justifying our existence by having meetings. Then freedom! Freedom from reminding people how to use the full stop, comma, colon, semi-colon, apostrophe..., from photocopying (oh! the trees I have exploited in the course of the last few decades), from rushing from classroom to classroom, from always planning ahead, from filling in forms and answering emails.

Mind you, there are a few things to curtail this freedom. For example, my mother, 89 next month, has at last made the decision to move out of her flat, which is now on the market. She's finding this - understandably - very stressful. She keeps saying that she can't cope and that it's all too much. Above, you see her sitting room. Her flat is the bottom part of a large Victorian house, plus what was originally the staff quarters - a kitchen and various offices built out from the main house at the back, with two bedrooms up above. Britain had to fill in census forms last week, and this involved counting the rooms. She has ten, not including bathrooms - some quite large, as you see. This is too many for one old lady. In these rooms, she has a lot of furniture. And all the rooms have cupboards with 89 years' worth of things in them. Not that she's a hoarder, particularly. But she's done a lot of things in her life. And someone - and it won't be her - will have to clear all this out. She'll have some difficult decisions to make.

She's going to move in with us, which will be a huge change for her. (Not to say for Mr Life, who is a saint.)

It's taught me a serious lesson, though. By the time we're 80, and not a second after, Mr Life and I will be in a retirement flat. We'll have minimised our possessions (though I'm not a minimalist by nature) and someone else will be looking after the roof and the gutters and the garden; and there will be a warden to call on us every morning to check for signs of life.

To be honest, this idea has a certain appeal even now. I wonder if cats are allowed in retirement flats. (Would that make them flat cats?)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la

The bride and the pregnant bridesmaid sat yesterday in the sitting room, on chairs which aren't normally there but are on transit out of the house, and discussed dresses. Cassie lent an air of gravitas to the proceedings. I think we made some progress, though possibly not enough.

Then today Daughter 2, Son and his young lady, Mr Life and I went to the Botanic Gardens. (Goodness, these photos have arranged themselves peculiarly.)

But while the rest of us went by car, Son's young lady ran there: 3.6 miles, according to Son. She phoned when she got there and Son went to meet her. Here they are, coming up the hill. How nice to be that fit...

Standing among the daffodils.
But then they all went away. Sirius is quite relaxed about this.

The garden is blooming, though. I hope some daffodils are left by the time our Australian cat-sitter arrives next week.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Busy doing thinking worrying

It's been a week of frantic activity and (not that interesting) events, which I don't have time to blog about because I must go and see my confused aunt in the home and take her new socks and underwear, all duly labelled. The cats have been doing some resting, however.

This amaryllis has been coming out.

And out. Look: two stems from the same bulb.

The garden is gradually becoming spring.
Though it needs more time spent on it than I have free at the moment.

Pretty flowers. Look at that blue!

And then a second amaryllis started blossoming.

Daughter 2 is home for the weekend and is nobly going to accompany me and the socks to visit my aunt. And Son and fiancée are arriving this afternoon to stay till tomorrow. Daughter 1 is coming down this afternoon to have a bridesmaid dress conversation. A pregnant bridesmaid* dress conversation. Daughter 1's baby is due in July. Daughter 2's wedding is in September. I myself feel that this conversation is not before time.

And so the world rolls round.

* Clarification - the pregnant bridesmaid will no longer be pregnant by the wedding, but she is now, and will surely start to expand before long. So we need to get a dress very soon and hope that - though it won't fit in the next few months - it will be ok by September.