Saturday, April 28, 2012

Heavenly harmony

I love our choir conductor: he has perfected the art of murmuring inoffensive sarcasm. We're singing Haydn's "Missa Cellensis" (which is not easy) and Handel's "Ode for St Cecilia's Day". Three of his recent asides:

I'm encouraged by the look of faint recognition on your faces as you sang that. [Our concert is in two weeks... .]
This is easy because it's in unison. [Pause] It didn't actually sound like it.
This is a hard bit. If you're - you know - game to have a go but not sure of what you're singing - [sorrowful shake of the head] - don't.

Friday, April 27, 2012

We are in SUCH a mess. My mother's flat (10 rooms, most of them large and all of them filled with - not valuable, but valued - possessions) is now more or less empty. And far too many of the former contents are in our sitting room. Some of them are in our kitchen. A large corner cupboard, which Daughter 1 likes but has no room for in her present house, is lying on its side in Son's old bedroom. Currently it's quite hard to negotiate our way from one side of our sitting room to the other.

On the up side, Daughters 1 and 2 and Son are at some point going to come and take some of these things away. On the down side, there's going to be quite a bit left. Even at the last moment, as the auctioneer's men were putting labels on things, I was suddenly thinking, oh, I can't let those particular teaspoons be sold - Mum's so fond of them. (Do we need teaspoons? Or those pretty little bowls? Or anything more at all? No. But we've got them now.)

At the same time, it was so horrible to see many of Mum's treasured little bits and pieces being wrapped up and carried away.

I've emptied a display cupboard in the kitchen and arranged Great Great Auntie Bee's teaset and Mum's wedding present coffee set in it. And I've wrapped up most of the things that were in that cupboard and put them in a bag to give to a charity shop. Most of the things, but of course not all. The rest... are sitting about the kitchen. As is my Granny's silver wedding china.

Tomorrow: take Mum to have her hair done, then drive a whole carful of household equipment to Fresh Start, then take another carful of tablecloths and little crocheted mats and hats worn to weddings and Mum's cocktail dresses to a charity shop. And then try to clear a path through the sitting room.

Nearly there

Well. We've done it. We've spent the last three days sorting things out in my mother's flat: bringing down to our house anything that we or the offspring have decided to keep; discarding large quantities of plastic boxes, orphan lids and chipped items; setting stuff aside for giving to a charity shop; setting other stuff aside to take to Fresh Start, the charity that provides household equipment for people who have been homeless;
taking lots and lots of pictures off the walls and ornaments off tables and mantelpieces and sitting them around in organised groups. And washing stuff: plant pots and vases and long-unused dishes and kitchen equipment.
Our sitting room is now full of items from the flat. So are our kitchen and our study. I was going to be so firm - we don't need anything. But how can you not keep your great-great aunt's lovely china that you've known all your life? Or the pretty coffee set that your mother was so pleased to get as a wedding present in 1946, when pretty things were almost unobtainable? Or at least some of the things so familiar to you from your childhood - vases and spoons and the chess table and ... .
My parents had a lot of china and crystal. "Why do you have so many crystal glasses?" I asked this evening, having spent a long time taking it out of the cabinet and arranging it on tables.
"Well, we used to use it," said Mum. "And you don't think that one day you'll peg out." [Edited to add: didn't realise that "peg out" is a British expression. It means to come to the end, ie in this case die. I quite like the idea of being nearly 90 and not thinking that one might die.]
I'm really aware these days that pegging out is quite a possibility. And yet my determination to divest us of stuff so as not to burden our kids when we die isn't really bearing fruit at the moment. Quite the reverse, in fact.
The auction house chaps come at 10 tomorrow morning to clear the flat. I'm not looking forward to it. "At the moment," I said to Mr Life a few minutes ago, "it doesn't feel so bad. It almost feels as if we could put it all back and everything would be normal again."
This roused him from his exhausted torpor. "No, we could not," he said. Very firmly. And he's right, of course.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The house next door

It's terrible to think of the people in the world - the many people in the world - who haven't got enough possessions, when we - my mother but also ourselves - have far more than we need. Not that the hungry would really want my mother's figurines and china and my grandparents' pictures and the occasional tables and bookcases which hold all these things. Weighed down with the responsibility of finding something to do with as many of these objects as possible, I feel that I want to minimise down to one mug, one plate, one set of sheets and ... oh well, maybe I'll allow Mr Life to have one of everything too.

Of course, it's not that simple. We quite often have friends or family to eat or to stay, so we need enough plates and serving dishes and beds and sheets for them all. And I like pretty, though unnecessary, things: glass and china and pictures.

We were away for a few days at Crieff Hydro, where we've holidayed as a family for almost sixty years now. These days we stay not in the hotel (too expensive for a big group) but in self-catering houses in the grounds, but we can use the facilities of the hotel. We variously swim, play tennis and badminton, climb the hill, walk in the grounds, drink coffee in the Winter Garden. There were twelve of us this time: my mum, my brother, his wife, their daughter, their son and his girlfriend, Daughter 1 and SIL 1, Grandson, Daughter 2, Mr Life and I. Unfortunately Son, Future DIL and SIL 2 couldn't come on this occasion. For the first time, we had two identical interconnecting houses, which was a splendid arrangement. The houses are spacious and rather luxurious. We all ate together in the older people's house and mainly sat in the living room there, while the younger people's bedrooms were in their own house.

And it suddenly struck Daughter 2 and me what a wonderful arrangement it would be if every house had a door connecting it to an identical house next door. Just think of it: most of the time you would keep the door shut, so that House 2 would remain tidy and reasonably clean. However, when you had visitors you could raid the extra kitchen for spare plates; you would have a spare oven, microwave, dishwasher, clothes washer for extra capacity; the spare bedrooms would be pristine and ready for use. We wondered why no one had thought of this brilliant scheme before.

Unfortunately there isn't room in our garden to build a spare house. This is one of the reasons that we won't be doing it. Pity.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Things (pom pom pom pom) can only get better... I hope

Good grief. We've been away for a few days with our family and my brother and his family and I thought I would do a little post just to say I wasn't dead. But then I find that the Blogger dashboard has become completely different and incomprehensible. I am not a person who likes completely different. There's a wee video to explain everything with a breezy-voiced young man chuntering on about it but I am not a person who likes things to be explained on a wee video - I like nice lists that I can ponder at length. Anyway, the video went blank after about five seconds, though not before it had highlighted a picture of a pencil and indicated that this was the way to get a new post. Or that's what I think it was indicating. So I'll have a go.
(Wail! Moan! Things fall apart!)
Anyway, I very seriously don't have time to do this so I shall spare you, for the moment, the details of where we went, what we did and what we have to do in the next few days. I'll give you a hint of the last of these:
Mother: We'll never get it all done. We have to hand the keys over on Friday.
Me: No, it's the next Friday. This Friday is the day that the auctioneers come and take things away.
Mother: You never told me that. No one ever told me that.
Me: This is the week we have to take away the things that our family said they wanted. We'll store them here till we see the children again. [My brother's family] have already taken the things they want.
Mother: But how on earth are you going to get [brother's family's] things to them?
Me: They've taken them.
Mother: But when?
Me: On Friday. When they were here.
Mother: No one told me that. No one told me what they were taking either.
Me: I gave you a list. You were quite happy with it. Look, here it is with your things.
Mother: I never saw that.
And so on. Sigh. Gnash. Rend garments. Chew lips.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Daughter 2 has been home for a flying visit - for a wedding somewhat north of here, so we didn't see enough of her. However, she reacquainted herself with the cats. Here, Sirius has a good look at her.
She also reacquainted herself with her nephew.
They played with the blanket cat among other things. Grandson is very small and doesn't move around yet but somehow the room becomes very untidy when he's here.
After a while he got tired and had a cuddle with his aunt. He didn't go to sleep, though.
Mr Life is having a long weekend in Wales, communing with narrow gauge railways. The cats are very fed up at not being able to drape themselves over him as he watches tv on the sofa. I can't watch tv on the sofa because I neglected to get a lesson on how the tv works. Sirius was so bored last evening that he put himself to bed in the kitchen long before bed time.
Thank you for all the early memories. Fascinating.
It's going to be a bit of a week as we continue to clear Mum's flat, among various other complications. She keeps telling me that I haven't told her about all sorts of things that I have indeed told her about. This is somewhat trying, since she is usually reproachful about this non-telling. Can you hear the sound of grinding teeth?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Babies and what's in their heads

I've featured these photos before, but this is me. Or, it was. Though I don't remember the photo being taken so it hardly feels like me.
This does feel like me because I remember the occasion.
What do babies think about? Grandson looks here as if something very startling has suddenly occurred to him.
And now he's just a-setting a-contemplating it. With his ankles crossed - his habitual attitude.
I remember climbing on the chair in the second photo (it was covered in fawn patterned material - very 50s - and was slightly shiny and slippery) and I remember the excitement of a real photographer coming to the house. And I remember the dress, which was white with tiny tufts of red, white and blue on it. My mother called it my Coronation dress because the Queen had just been crowned, or perhaps was about to be crowned.
But it'll be a long time till Grandson retains a memory of anything about his life so far.
Come on, you 100+ people who click on this blog every day - how about telling me your earliest memory?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


WAIL!!! We are in SUCH a mess. We keep bringing stuff down from Mum's flat - and it sits around here waiting for decisions. In addition, we prevailed upon Son to come down today and begin clearing out the cupboards in his old room, which was perhaps not a very good idea at this stage, but we need the cupboard space to put things in from Mum's house that she hopes the offspring might at some stage use. Here is the poor chap going through his university notes and various other administrative items from when he last lived here. We have volunteered to recycle paper/take objects to charity shops/sell hugely expensive medical books, which is fine but which means that these things are still around the house. And there's much, MUCH more still to do. I just HATE being in a mess.
I wonder if Mr Life would notice if I just went on an extended holiday for a few months while he sorted all this out?

I'm still going to Zumba once a week. I can't say it's the highlight of my week but there are nice views from the leisure centre, at the top of Drum Brae. It feels much higher up than it looks here - you can see the sea in the distance. I do hope that the Zumbing is doing me some good. It requires concentration and still manages to be a bit tedious. A bit like Maths ... .
One day I must go down this path and see where it leads. It's actually quite steep, though it doesn't look it here.
We were somewhat exhausted this evening. The cats rallied round and were exhausted in sympathy. Such loyal creatures.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Things you can do when you're retired

When you're retired, you can drive with your daughter and grandson to a garden centre and have coffee. Then you can look at all the stuff you don't want to buy, such as this big bird puppet thing, which your daughter can make squeak. You can take a photo of your grandson laughing at it. You resist actually buying the bird or any of the other stuff because if there's one thing we're not short of now that my mum's possessions have to be dispersed, it's stuff.
I didn't quite so successfully resist buying some night-scented stock seeds and some echinachea seeds. I love cone flowers but they die over winter in my garden so I'm not going to buy any more as plants - they're expensive. Let's see if I can get some to come from seed. And summer isn't summer without night-scented stock: that lovely perfume drifting across the garden as we sit under the moonlight in the balmy Scottish summer air. Or as the wind whips across the lawn... .
I may also have bought a couple of iris rhizomes, one blue and yellow and one pink and dark pink. Irises grow quite well for me. Must be the dry climate and baking sun.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Chaps and cats

Mr Life has now got Grandson's cold. Here he is, resting on the sofa with his furry appendages.
Here's Grandson, getting into practice for being a man. You can see where he gets the posture.
The furry appendages aren't so keen to cuddle up to Grandson, though they're beginning to relax around him since he no longer makes much noise and can't chase them. He does grab a handful of fur if he gets the chance, but fortunately they're a bit moulty at the moment so the fur is not too firmly attached. Indeed, our pale green carpet in the living room is almost permanently decorated with drifts of black fur: very fetching. It wouldn't be so bad if the cats didn't have nervous breakdowns every time they saw the hoover. We have to wait till they're out before we quickly vacuum up the fluff.
It's strange how (some) human beings want to share their homes with small furry creatures. Rationally, it's daft. They're expensive to feed and the vet's bills can be crippling. Our cats have a tendency to lacerate our sofas, scratch our wooden furniture (I didn't know cats did that!) and delicately shred selected areas of wallpaper. I have nightly battles with Cassie about who gets to sit in my computer chair, and if I exert my superior strength she jumps on the desk and settles firmly on my right hand - or walks to and fro on the keyboard xggfddddd,,,,,,,,,,,oyghhh999bbb. Sirius stands on the floor beside me and demands to be stroked. After a while he leaps up on my back and sits on my shoulders, gently clutching me in his needle-like claws.
And yet we love them. It's comforting to stroke a furry body, to hear the purr, to gaze into those knowing eyes. Outside, an equally furry fox may be walking through the garden and we have no real desire to invite it in. Very illogical.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Anniversary

SIL 1 and Grandson share a boys' moment.
Today is Daughter 1 and SIL 1's wedding anniversary - 6 years. Which means that this blog is rather over 6 years old also. I can't help remembering that I felt rather more hopeful 6 years ago than I do now; however, I suppose that's a warning not to waste the next 6, if I live that long. I could accomplish something (other than lots more blog posts). Such as organising the photos... .
This little chap is a great joy, though. He beams his way through life.
He still has a cold and fell asleep during church today.
Then he had another nap during the afternoon - this is him just waking up and getting a nice cuddle from his mum. He became his usual cheery self shortly afterwards.
And tulips - they're uplifting too, aren't they? The darker ones are from the supermarket but the pink frilly ones are from my garden, rescued from having been snapped by the wind.
It's really quite hard posting pictures and then writing about them with a cat sitting on your right hand. Now I have bits of fur up my nose too. Still, anything for my art... .
I hope everyone's having a happy Easter weekend.

Friday, April 06, 2012


The days trickle by as we slowly dismantle Mum's flat. I have this feeling that I'm just going through the motions of life waiting for some miraculous improvement, which is silly because there's no real prospect of this. Meanwhile this morning, Sirius sat in a drawer, untroubled by angst.
Mr Life and I went to the Botanic Gardens and saw a tree which had been wrapped in pink cloth to publicise the Moon Walk (midnight walk-marathon in aid of Breast Cancer research).
We admired spring flowers in the cool dry greenhouse.
And tulips and primula, clashing but still quite cheering, outside one of the hothouses.
And forsythia, sunshine on a cloudy day. It occurred to me that we've been visiting the Botanics regularly together for forty-four years. (And I'd been visiting it without him for seventeen years before that.) Perhaps they'll give us the Freedom of the Botanics if we make it to our half-century of walking round together.
We didn't see Grandson today but doesn't this photo show his eyelashes well, Nanny in Worcester? (Especially if you click the picture to enlarge it.) And his poor little pink, slightly feverish nose and cheeks.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Babysitting the Grandbaby

We babysat in the evening for the first time tonight. We gave Grandson his tea and then later I bathed him. Then we dressed him in his sleepsuit and sleeping bag thing and gave him some milk.
This resulted in reinvigoration. For him, anyway.
He did eventually go to sleep.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Imari plate

We've now put up pictures from my mum's flat on her bedroom wall here. Various others that there wasn't room for are stacked up in our hall awaiting further decisions. We can take one or two but the rest will have to go unless any of our or my brother's family want them. But there are lots of other things that also need decisions, such as the large plate above, which is always known as the Imari plate though I don't know whether it's actually Imari or not.
It belonged to my paternal grandmother and my parents took it when she went abroad. I wasn't particularly attached to this grandmother, simply because I didn't know her well. She moved down south with one of my aunts when I was 4 or 5 and though we saw her occasionally after that, she developed dementia when I was 11 or 12 and died, increasingly confused, when I was 18. By then, she'd lived for several years in Pakistan with my other, missionary doctor, aunt.
So I have no real granny-attachment to this plate, but do associate it with my parents.
I don't particularly like it because of the red in it, which is quite orangey. I'm not fond of orange. On the other hand, I don't dislike the plate.
We can't keep everything. When considering whether to keep things, I ask myself if I would have bought them, and if the answer is no, then it seems sensible to get rid of them, especially if no one in the family likes them either and would just be burdened with them when we die. I wouldn't have bought this. And it is a big plate.
But it's a family piece. Not valuable, alas, but it's been around in my life for a long time.
There are lots more similar decisions to be made in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


These are your Mother's Day daffodils, Daughter 2. Aren't they lovely?
The Weather Elves are playing one of their customary jokes on Britain - after basking in warmth and sunshine for the past couple of weeks, we're now being chilled by sharp winds which throw down hailstones the size of - well, not golf balls, though I'd love to claim that. Seed pearls, possibly. Chunky seed pearls. But anyway, none of it's doing my spring flowers much good. I've moved Daughter 2's daffs into the sheltered bit beside the front door. The cats haven't stirred from the sofa all day, as far as I've seen. I think they've gone into hibernation.
It's odd when you doddle along for 120 years or so, under the impression that you know what you think about something, and then you're made to reassess your opinion. For example, on the radio yesterday they were talking about drought - some parts of England are about to have a hosepipe ban to restrict use of water, though Scotland isn't in great danger of having this inflicted on it (as you'd realise if you were here, looking out of the window with me.) They were discussing putting washing-up water on flowerbeds and being careful not to run the water all the time you're brushing your teeth and so on. Then someone said that he puts the cold water that comes out of the tap while he's waiting for it to get hot in a watering can and waters the garden with it.
And everyone was jolly-gooding and then one chap said that actually it would be better to run unwanted or used water down the sink, because then it goes straight back into the system, whereas water on the flowerbeds doesn't. Which hadn't occurred to me.
I wonder if this is really the best thing to do. The thought of drinking (in due course) someone's used washing-up water doesn't appeal much but... . Hmm.
No doubt my brother has an opinion about this. I shall await his comment.
Daughter 1 and Grandson were here today. He has a cold. I won't tell you precisely what happened when he sneezed but he looked most surprised. We were a bit surprised ourselves. Fancy such a small person being able to produce from his tiny nose such a stream of... yes, well. (Two streams, actually.)

Monday, April 02, 2012

Blanket cat

Well now. How cute was Grandson in his sun suit and hat yesterday?
He likes to sit casually, leaning on one arm and holding one foot with the other hand while he decides which toy to play with.
One of the "classic" baby toys we dug out of the attic was - tara! - this cat which (don't faint with shock, Thimbleanna) - I made out of a blanket many years ago for Son when he was a baby. Daughter 2 was inseparable from a similar blanket rabbit so I thought that Son might like this. He didn't, particularly, which is why it's survived. I can't claim that it would win any needlework prizes but I did make it, All By Myself, which encourages me to think that I might someday make something else. If we ever get my mother's stuff organised.
Yes, Grandson wasn't all that interested in my cat. Actually, if I put my hand up inside it and made it bounce around and talk, this made Grandson shriek with laughter. But mysteriously when he grabbed it from me it was no longer so animated.
Our house is somewhat chaotic at the moment. My mum, reasonably enough, brings things down from her (sold) flat and then decides that she doesn't have room for them in her bedroom. "You can decide what to do with this," she says, giving me pictures, archives and books - all things that I don't really want to throw away but... . In addition, the contents of our attic are in Son's bedroom, awaiting final permission from the offspring to throw much of it away. And then there are the bits of our archives that I brought downstairs to think about, the chair that was in my mother's room but has now been supplanted by a chair from her house, the push chair that we've bought so that Daughter 1 doesn't keep having to haul hers to our house - it will go in the garage once Mr Life's cleared that out... .
It will all get sorted out. Repeat after me: it will all get sorted out. Meanwhile, however, I'm hoping that the Queen doesn't pop in for a visit.