Wednesday, May 30, 2012

He's on the move!

We have learnt to crawl. And we're off.

Life is a trifle rubbish in other areas. But he's such a sweetheart. I wish I could keep him ten months for ever.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wandering lonely as a couple of clouds

Like the rest of Britain, we're having a heat wave after a very cold spring. Of course one should be pleased, but actually it makes it difficult to do things outside. The sun has made my face go all red itchy blotches - so attractive. It's too hot to garden with any energy or walk during the day with any speed. However, Mr Life and I went for a wander along the nearby cycle path, which is a former railway line. The first picture here could be the middle of nowhere, don't you think? But actually on the other side of that field is the main road to Glasgow and the west and the city centre is only a couple of miles away.

(Oh, grrr, I do find this new Blogger arrangement difficult. I have to keep struggling to get the words anywhere near the right pictures.) Here you can see what used to be the platform for the trains. Mr Life and I were once cycling here with the children when he rode up on to the platform and managed to fall off, ripping his shorts from back to front on a shrub (no longer there) and transforming them into a sort of kilt. Quite hard to cycle home thus attired.

But here he is now, quite respectable.
I love the scent of hawthorn - it reminds me of my youth.
These are - what are they? Celandines? Sort of buttercuppy things, anyway.
Cow parsley - sweet-smelling and pretty in flower arrangements but, in my experience, somewhat covered in greenfly. Bring it inside at your peril.
And these... I used to be a Girl Guide and knew wild flowers quite well. Now most of them have entered the category of Things I Used To Know. I've just tried Googling "purple wild flowers", found a picture of them and clicked in triumph. They were labelled "purple wild flowers". Thanks, Google.

(PS On trying harder, I think I've established that the purple flowers are annual honesty, lunaria annua. And the buttercuppy things are.. buttercups.)


Friday, May 25, 2012

A night out

My computer is being glacially slow tonight. I don't know whether it's the computer or Google, but things are taking ages to load (do I mean load?) and though pictures claimed to be loading, they never did. So I've given up.

I've just come back from seeing my friend D in the chorus of a production of "Carmen". The chorus are amateurs but the principals are all wonderful young professionals who take part for no fee, just the exposure. It was very well done but it's possible that some of the chorus were slightly elderly for their parts. Soldiers doddered around, hopefully ogling the 22-year-old Carmen with their ancient rheumy eyes, and holding back with their spindly arms the crowd of (in some cases) rather solid lady pensioners in the part of cigarette girls who smiled seductively with a few more wrinkles than Bizet may have envisaged.

Well, I might be exaggerating a bit and it sounded great. They all gave it ladly, as we say in Scotland: threw themselves into it. D, who's slightly older than me but slim and doesn't allow herself to have grey hair, looked impressive. She has a striking face and could easily be Spanish.

I shall probably be singing "Toreador" around the house for some days. Lucky Mr Life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baby love

When you're a parent, you can't really boast too much about your child's beauty/intelligence/virtue, can you? You know in yourself that your child is the most amazing infant ever produced, but you have to be a bit modest about this.

However, when you're a grandparent it's much more socially acceptable to pontificate about your grandchild's amazing qualities. Or at least, I'm hoping it is... . Grandson is such a sweetie. His skin is so peachy soft and his smile is so bright and his giggle is so giggly and he's so cute when he waves his hands and bounces up and down with excitement. I'd half forgotten the physical pleasure of being around small babies - it's almost like being in love and you adore the round little arms, firm bouncy cheeks and shiny eyes.

It does make me a bit sad to realise that when he grows up, he'll only ever think of me as an old lady. When he's 15, I'll be 76. When I was 15, my grandmothers were 70 and 80, and even the 70-year-old seemed ancient and a bit wobbly to me (though lovely).

Still, at the moment I imagine he sees me as big and strong and able to do things for him. And he's much too small to object to being picked up and cuddled. I shall continue to take advantage of this as long as possible.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cassie the stop-out

This is Cassie Cat at the weekend, having a snooze on snoozing Son-in-Law 1's legs. What a gift it is to be able to relax with a clear conscience.

Which I can't do at the moment because it's 11.45 pm and she's not in for the night yet. Usually we shut the cat flap around six, but it was a beautiful day today (the first for some time) and I yielded to her indignant request to go out again once she'd had a snack at 6.30. I knew I'd regret it. And I'm regretting it. I expect that she's fine and will come in safe and sound in her own good time, but meanwhile I'm imagining her being chased by foxes and badgers.

PS - I switched off my computer, walked through to the living room and there she was, sitting on the footstool. "I wish you wouldn't worry," she said calmly. "I can look after myself."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

90 again

Yesterday we had the third and final celebration of my mum's 90th birthday - and her third cake. First one at Crieff, before the actual day, with my brother and family; second on the birthday with Daughter 1, Son-in-Law 1 and Grandson; and third yesterday with all the offspring, SIL 1 and future DIL as well as Mr Life's aunt, uncle and cousin. For some reason I decided not to do the buffet salad that I usually put together when entertaining largish numbers. I felt I should be a bit more ambitious. So as part of my menu I picked two recipes that I'd never done before - WHY? - and cooked for about 36 hours.

We're complicated to feed because SIL 1 eats fish but not meat, my mum also likes fish, Mr Life doesn't and prefers meat, the girls and I are vegetarian... . I was also aiming to do all the preparation in advance so that I could just calmly whip things out of the oven when it was time to eat. And this did indeed happen, but there was a vast amount of washing up beforehand in preparation for what I fondly saw as one-dish choices. So we had one pot chicken casserole (yes, you end up with one pot, having used every pot you possess as you go along), easy salmon with broccoli (the word "easy" is slightly misleading there) and chick pea fritters (yup, a serious fiddle, just as you would think, though I'd made them before so you'd think I might have known better.) And raspberry choux ring and chocolate mousse, which are standbys but don't exactly make themselves.  

Anyway, it was fine and seemed to go down well and there are a lot of leftovers (because you have to cook enough so that the omnivores can have whatever they like), which is good because if I never have to cook again in my life, that'll be splendid.

Daughter 2 introduced Grandson to some Weebles - wobbly men. He liked them a lot. (Do you see that black thing in his left hand, Ali Honey? That's one of your coasters!)
He played with his squeaky carrot, a firm favourite.

It was so nice to have Son and Daughter 2 together. He lives up north, she lives down south and their visits don't often coincide.

On the other hand, it's so horrible once they go away again.

Tomorrow I take my mum to the oncologist to discuss the bits of cancer which appear to remain in her innards. Hmm.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

When I get older...

I have never been much of a fan of pop music, but quite liked the Beatles in my youth and used to sing along to songs such as "When I'm sixty four". Of course, I was never personally going to be sixty four. And indeed I'm not there yet, but Mr Life achieved this age yesterday. Very astonishing. I do still need and feed him and he is handy from time to time - mending a fuse and other such activities.

Grandson, Daughter 1 and SIL 1 helped us to celebrate. Goodness, the boy does manage to scatter his toys over a wide area.

We gave him a phone that doesn't work. He was pleased to add it to his toy collection. What a jolly chap he is - very cheering.

Someone on the radio this morning said that Greece's economic situation is like a man teetering on the edge of a cliff - and that the rest of Europe isn't far behind Greece. Let's hope that someone knows what to do about this. So far it's not looking terribly like it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nothing much has happened today

About half way through the afternoon, I noticed Cassie and Sirius sitting at a glass door, gazing out. There were a lot of little birds flying around and twittering.
I went to investigate. A baby bird was sitting on the door sill right in front of them. It didn't seem to have noticed our furry friends but the other birds certainly had. I shut the curtains for a few minutes - the cats were most indignant ("We were just looking," they said) - and when I opened them again, the baby bird had gone and all was quiet. Whew.

I decided to make omelettes for dinner and took a couple of slices of cooked chicken out of the freezer to put in Mr Life's omelette. It may have been a mistake to leave these to defrost inside a polythene bag on the kitchen table. Still, Cassie enjoyed the unexpected snack.

In other news - nothing much has happened today. Which in some ways is how I like it. I was making soup this evening while vaguely watching two chaps climb one of the Needles off the Isle of Wight - crumbly chalk pillars sticking a long way up out of the sea. They were demonstrating that those spikes that mountaineers insert into rock might fail to grip the chalk if they slipped. One said to the other, meditatively, "I think the best policy is not to fall."

Personally I would advocate admiring the Needles from the safety of the ground. But then I'm a bit feeble.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Light and shade

Oh, what a joy this little chap is. He laughs like a Mr Man, with his top lip straight and his bottom lip U-shaped. You only have to make a silly face or balance a toy on your head and he rewards you with sparkling eyes and a lovely shrieky giggle.

Meanwhile a friend of Daughter 2 has just had a baby who seemed fine but was suddenly found to need a very serious emergency operation. Life is so rubbish sometimes. And so wonderful at others.
Easier to be a cat and just lie in the sun.

The other day I was queuing for a bus which was approaching. The woman two in front of me stepped forward to board it. A skinny lad directly in front of me didn't move. He was wearing a white hooded top, the hood on his head though it wasn't cold, and was plugged into music. "Excuse me," I said, not sure if he could hear me, "are you getting this bus?"

He half-turned and nodded. Then he pulled out his earpieces, gave me a cheery smile and said, "But - ladies first!" and waved me ahead.

Comical but rather sweet - even if it suggested that I was looking particularly ancient that day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The young and the old

Yesterday was Mum's 90th birthday. It's very hard to know what to get someone whose possessions, by and large, have just been disposed of. (She's kept quite a lot of figurines, which you can see in her bedroom.) But I think she had a nice day. Daughter 2 made her this long card, with us all holding up parts of the message "Happy 90th Birthday, Granny May" on it.
We put up a banner in the hall.
Grandson charmed us all as usual. He sits most of the time with his feet crossed like this, and just reaches out for things he wants. It's amazing how far he can stretch without actually going to the bother of crawling (and crawling would be difficult with crossed feet).
Here's Mum with her cake. I made it but didn't eat any of it - I don't think you'd get much rich fruit cake with marzipan and icing and still manage to keep your daily food spend down to £1.

In answer to some questions: no, you're not allowed to add things from your store cupboard to your £1 allowance, but you can use them as long as you count them in your £1. (You don't have to buy a whole pack of butter and eat nothing else all day if you want some on your toast.)

Someone asked what I'm eating. For breakfast, a slice of toast with a scrape of marmalade. For lunch, a tablespoonful of beans and some soup. (The soup is a bit hard to value since I make a huge pot every week or ten days using cauliflower leaves and stalks, broccoli stalks - both of which would otherwise go on the compost heap, so do they count? - lentils, onions and so on. But this makes lots and lots of soup. ) Dinner is a poached egg on toast and some vegetables. Tea and instant coffee throughout the day - I count them but drink both weak with little milk, so they don't add up to much.

I'm really missing fruit and salad. And some cake would be nice. But it's not all that hard, though at this moment (10.35 pm) I do feel a bit hungry. It's all very well for me, though. I can eat strawberries on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


I so haven't mastered this new Bloggery thing. I never have any idea where the typing's going to appear. O woe. And why do I have to highlight and align it afterwards?
Why has it jumped down here? Why do people have to muck about with things?

Yesterday was an ok day: we saw delicious squashy giggly Grandson and took him for a walk in the Botanics. Even the Botanics by themselves are lovely, but he makes everything better. I almost wish he would never grow up: he beams and chortles his way through his days and I don't want life to dilute his pleasure in everything.

Today, however, was a bit frustrating. I messed up my tunes at my piano lesson again. It's so ridiculous: my teacher is so nice and is unlikely to hit me with a big stick if I get it wrong, so why am I nervous? Silly.

I'm spending five days "living below the line" This means spending no more than £1 a day on food, and various people in our church are doing it, partly to raise money but partly also to make us think about what it's like to be a bit hungry and to consider how much money we usually spend on eating. It's not all that difficult (for five days), especially for a vegetarian like me, but my little treat of a cappuccino after my piano lesson was clearly not going to happen. While I was in town I went to buy chocolates for my mother, whose 90th birthday is tomorrow, and the shop assistant offered me a free sample chocolate. I think the word "free" suggests that it didn't make a dent in today's £1 so - yes, I ate it. And it was delicious! Maybe this wasn't quite in the spirit of the thing but... it would have been rude to refuse.

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Well, I'm happy to say that Mum is considerably better today, thank goodness. Thanks for all your good wishes.

Also we had a visit from Daughter 1 and Grandson, which improves any day.
He's coming up for ten months; she'll be ninety on Wednesday.

When I took him and Daughter 1 home, I picked him up from his car seat, shifted him to my left arm and turned back to the right to pick up the seat with the other hand. About ten seconds, at most, had passed since I'd last looked in that direction but now there was a large dog comfortably settled in the footwell of the seat where Grandson had been sitting. I was somewhat surprised. The dog must have come along the street towards the front of the car and ducked under the open door while I was transferring Grandson from arm to arm. I looked at the dog. He was a fluffy sort of Lassie-sized, black and white chap. "Where are we going now?" he enquired.

I looked about for his owner. The street was empty apart from us.

"I've got a dog!" I said to Daughter 1 and Son-in-Law. They came and inspected him. They're both allergic to dogs. "You can't stay there," said Daughter 1 to the dog.

"Can't see why not," replied the dog, settling more firmly down.

He looked friendly enough but I couldn't see myself hauling him bodily out.

"Come on, boy," I said in my teacher's voice - firm but fair. "Out you get."

The dog shrugged. "Oh, all right then." He climbed out and then spied a large plastic bottle top, which he brought to Daughter 1, wagging his tail expectantly.

We didn't feel we could just go inside and leave him, so we spent some minutes throwing the bottle top (us) and fetching it (him). We hoped that someone would come looking for him. After a while we noticed a collar and disc among his fluff: Patch and a phone number. Daughter 1 phoned the number. No reply. More throwing and fetching. Then, thank goodness, a woman with a similarly large fluffy dog appeared round the corner, calling "Patch!" Relief all round. She'd been walking the dogs in the nearby park when a motor bike had startled him - he was knocked down by a motor bike last year - and he'd run away.

He was a very jolly dog but I can just imagine the cats' faces if he'd come home with me. Which he almost did - I could easily have shut the car door without noticing him happily reclining on the floor.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


I don't wish to complain. Or, dash it, I do. Today was the first day of the post-Mum's-flat life - the first time since I retired, more or less, that I was hoping to please myself a bit without thinking too much about other people.

More or less immediately after I did retire, Grandson was born (not that I'm complaining about THAT - but it was exciting and wonderful but not exactly a calm time). Then Daughter 2 got married. Then Mum got ill, had her operation and took a long time to get a bit better, during which time we moved her out of her flat, a long process that finished yesterday. So today was to have been: choir rehearsal with the orchestra, then home, then choir concert. Lovely music to soothe the troubled whatnot. It's not that I'm a born performer, but at the actual concert, people concentrate and do their best and watch the conductor and it's usually good.

But Mum is still not well. I think she's a bit better this evening but earlier in the day... I won't go into details but it involved a complete change of bedding and pyjamas. So I didn't feel I could go to either the rehearsal or the concert. Mr Life is a good chap but there are some things that one shouldn't be called upon to do for one's mother-in-law.

Ah well. I did cut the grass in the sunshine, congratulating myself that Mum's grass is no longer my problem. Then I lay on the lawn for ten minutes admiring the clouds.

Now I'm off to do my piano practice. There's another complaint, now I come to think about it. Why did nobody warn me that playing the piano is quite that hard? I can do the hands separately - no bother. I could win prizes for that. But whoever imagined that trying to make your two hands playing similar but not exactly the same things would be a handy way to create music? It's like meringues - which cave woman sat with a bowl and some egg whites and thought maybe if she beat them for three hours with a forked stick, they'd go all fluffy? I'd have got fed up after three minutes.

I have a mixer, but even with a forked stick I feel that making meringues is a lot easier than playing the piano.

Talking of fluffy things: Cassie cat wants to sit on my computer chair. Because I'm occupying it, she's walking to and fro in front of my face. Her fur is going up my nose.

And I haven't seen Grandson since Wednesday. Wail!

(And I've just noticed a misrelated participle in my previous post!! ARGH!! I've fixed it now.)

Friday, May 04, 2012

I will arise and go now...

Behind - or, depending on how you look at it, in front of - Crieff Hydro is a smallish hill, called the Knock. This comes, I believe, from the Gaelic word for hill, which is "cnoc". (This does seem a bit unimaginative - like calling your cat Cat.) The Hydro itself is uphill from the town of Crieff, so if you climb the Knock you find yourself quite high up without too much effort. And since it's the highest point for some distance, the views are wonderful in all directions from the flattish top.
We started going to the Hydro when I was two or three and have been going there from time to time ever since. So the Knock is very familiar and dear to me. Standing on the top and gazing at the Perthshire countryside, I feel the tension draining out of me. I suppose it's the combination of feeling at home, remembering my childhood visits, enjoying the landscape and being with my loved ones. Looking at the photos now I feel pleasure but also a sort of homesickness for the past. I've always felt like a country person but have never lived in the country and I long to see hills and green fields.

The new owners have now taken possession of my mother's flat. Now, I  hope, my mum will stop worrying about the roof which might leak, the floorboards which squeak ("I'm sure they never used to and it can't bode well"), the ants in the garden which might, one day, get under the house, the bees (or to be more accurate, the bee) which she once saw emerging from under her front doorstep ("There must be a nest down there"), the heating which was a bit erratic till she got the system flushed out as the Gas Board had been telling her to do for some years... .

She's not well today, though, so is worrying about that. She got a CT scan this morning and had to drink whatever it is that you take to show up things in your innards, and vomited and was shivery in the late afternoon. "Do you think they gave me the wrong thing to drink? Or have I got flu?"

It's not that I'm not sympathetic. It's horrible to feel sick. But I wouldn't mind, just for half an hour, being transported to the top of the Knock in the sunshine, with no sound except a few birds, a very distant tractor and the whispering of the grasses.

The day before the handover

I know that things are just - things - but I've found the process of dismantling my mother's flat and dealing with all her possessions quite emotional. So I'm posting a picture of our offspring, taken when we all met up for lunch on the way to Crieff (Son couldn't come on holiday with us because he was working nights) to cheer myself up somewhat.

It's partly that I'm sad for my mother. She was a housewife for most of her life, though she did lots of voluntary work which involved serving on committees and running meetings. But home was her base and she was a good homemaker. And this evening her home is completely bare. Mr Life and I spent all last week and some of this week dealing with her stuff, and then cleaned the whole flat thoroughly. Her oven, fridge and freezer now shine, the cupboards have all been washed out, all her paintwork is clean and her carpets vacuumed. I wish my own were quite as pristine! We hand over the keys tomorrow.

Many of her possessions were tied up with my childhood and it's all reminded me that this is long gone. And also I can't help looking round my own home and thinking... well... life's short and one day our offspring will have to clear up after us.

Though various members of the family have given homes to quite a lot of things, an awful lot has gone to auction, to charity shops, to Fresh Start and so on. I think I feel worst about the stuff that's gone to auction, because I'm sure she'll get very little for most of it. Not that she needs the money, but somehow I feel bad about the thought of her possessions on a table somewhere, being picked up and put down by strangers. The worst guilty feelings are about some of the things that belonged to my grandparents and were treasured by my beloved granny. But you can't keep everything. It's hard enough to find places for things you really like and some of them were not at all to my taste. Useful or beautiful and all that.

I keep catching myself thinking of various items, vaguely feeling that we should keep them and then remembering that they've gone.

Still, next week we won't have to do any of it again and hopefully the new people (who're expecting their first baby in August) will be starting to breathe new life into the place. They have great plans for knocking down a wall between the cloakroom and the dining room, making the dining room into the kitchen and the kitchen into a family room and so on. So soon it really won't look like my parents' flat. And we'll all calm down and find something else to get stressed about. There are various candidates for this...

And there's always singing to lift the spirits, not to say our splendid choirmaster. As in any choir I've ever been in, there are some people who keep their eyes on the music and seldom look up. He said yesterday, "If you really aren't going to look at me, perhaps you could draw a face on the top of your head so the audience has something to look at. And make it a nice smiley face, will you?"

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

I hate the new Blogger arrangement. Just call me Ludd.

Well, Daughter 1 came round today and showed me how to load up photos with the new Blogger arrangement (personally I thought it was fine as it was) - goodness me, it's going to look funny on the page, I think. Anyway, this is by way of an experiment. I'm really exhausted and a bit overwrought with the disposing of all Mum's possessions, so I thought I'd look at some pictures of our recent break at Crieff. Above you see the house we stayed in - or the two houses, with the fine arrangement of the identical, but tidy, house next door.
Above is the view from our Crieff sitting room window. How I wish this was the view from our own house.
This is the path down to the Hydro, with its swimming pool, tennis courts, badminton courts and so on. And of course, the Winter Garden, where in the picture to the right my niece is reacquainting herself with Grandson while Daughter 2 and Sister-in-Law have a bit of a snack.

Well, well, better get on with dealing with the move-related chaos in our house. It's looking a bit better but not yet in a state when I'd like to entertain my tidier friends. I haven't had time to read blogs for ages - we're now in the process of cleaning Mum's flat for the benefit of the new owners - but on Friday we hand over the keys and will be FREE! Or as free as you can be with a nearly-90-year-old to look after and boxes of her possessions sitting around waiting to be found a home.

Now, if this doesn't post I shall be VERY CROSS.