Friday, August 30, 2013

Numbers and letters

The small person and I went to the Botanics yesterday, as we often do. I go for the plants and for the pleasure of his company - the enormous pleasure of wandering along beside him as he chats away: "Big tree... lotsandlots of leaves... fluffy flowers... Grandpa in Granny's house... ." Grandson goes for the tactahs.

He is very good indeed at identifying cars of the same make and model as ours: "Granny's car!" he announces. I, less talented, peer at it, read what it says on the back and agree. He's always right. His other skill is identifying numbers 1-9 - on buses, gateposts etc. (But - "How many feet do you have?" - "Fee four five!")

He hasn't got his colours yet, or not reliably. However, a career as a mathematician might be more profitable than one as an artist, anyway. Or he might be a car salesman, though I think being able to tell a red car from a black one might be useful there.

We watched the tactah digging a hole in the corner of what had been grass. The driver then cleared it of some bits of root and deposited them carefully on the path. Then a van came along with some other broken roots and stones in the back. Its driver jumped out and with a shovel, shovelled them into the hole. No, I have no idea why. Still, they seemed pleased.

I am currently also pleased at having got satisfaction out of Hotpoint regarding our dishwasher. Its history is: we bought in in October 10, it broke down in Jan 12, we got it expensively mended and it broke down again two weeks ago - same fault (dodgy switch). Of course it was out of guarantee even the first time it broke down but we feel that 15 months of working followed by another 19 months is a bit feeble. So I wrote to Customer Services asking what they thought. Silence.

So then one evening I emailed the managing director of Hotpoint UK.

The next morning, someone from Customer Services phoned up, apologised and said that an engineer would come and repair it, free. And he did.

The next day, a snotty letter arrived from Customer Services - sent, of course, before my email to the Managing Director.

This tactic - writing to a managing director - is one that I have employed before. The first time was when we were not long married and bits kept falling off our vacuum cleaner - which was again just out of warranty. As a result of my letter, an engineer was sent and he replaced all the broken parts - they were plastic - with metal versions. Again, free. A few years later, tiny Daughter 1 used to delight in pushing her feet against the plastic rain cover of her buggy / stroller and unpopping it, so that she got wet. Another letter to the MD, pointing out this design flaw, produced a replacement  cover - redesigned, with loops instead of poppers. In more recent years when Daughter 2 was studying in Sheffield, she couldn't get the electricity company to send her and her flatmates a bill, despite many emails. Eventually I wrote to the MD - the bill was waived.

I don't do this all the time - four times in nearly 40 years of marriage - but I commend it to you. It works!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A lovesome thing

This is just a little record for myself of what was blooming in the garden yesterday. The sun is getting lower in the sky but the light is still quite summery and though most herbaceous plants have flowered, some are still hanging on. The tender plants are providing lots of colour and will continue to do so till the first frosts, though they'll become more straggly as light levels fall. The lily above has dropped more petals since I took the photo, alas.


One of my beloved agapanthuses.

Annual sweet peas - not very impressive but good enough to provide small vases of flowers for the house. The leaves are a bit mildewy, presumably because it's been a dry summer.

A potful of cheer: lobelias and begonias and fuchsias (yes, spelt like that, after Mr Fuchs.)

This astilbe is nearly over now but last week it was beautifully pink and fluffy.

I do like my fuchsias. (Sorry, Rachel. I know you don't.)

Mainly annuals but the pink heuchera in the middle is perennial. Red leaves give such a plop of colour for a long time.

As you may gather, my garden is mainly pink, white and blue in the summer. I don't like orange; and while there are some yellow flowers earlier on, they're all over now. Anyway, I'm not too keen on mixing yellow and pink.

This was my little rockery-that-had-never-really-worked, last August.

This was it after Mr L had shifted the stones about, the day after the photo above. The slugs loved the gerberas. Not a good planting idea.

And this is it at the moment - mainly annuals but there are spring bulbs lurking below. I'm really pleased with the effect - not perhaps subtle, but cheerful.

More agapanthus.

 More fuchsias.

Phlox. I love the scent of phlox - it transports me right back to my childhood garden.

A bright geranium (pelargonium), which is in a pot so that I can rescue it from the frost.

This is my favourite astilbe, though it's just going over. I love its feathery crimson plumes.

Anyway, you get the idea. It's not autumn yet.

I do love my garden - it's small but gives me such pleasure. It's partly just being outside, partly the satisfaction of making something pretty (with a lot of help from the plants themselves) and partly that there's always something to look forward to - some things fade but others are growing to take their place. Already, the first spikes of grape hyacinths are pushing through the soil, slowly preparing to bloom next spring.


A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Rose plot,
Fringed pool,
Ferned grot--
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not--
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
'Tis very sure God walks in mine.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cats etc

In answer to Gina's kind enquiry about Sirius's health (he was diagnosed as having lung cancer a few months ago) he is currently fairly well. Here he is, walking across the garden a few days ago...

... and sleeping on a blanket tonight.

The vet put him on a course of two steroids per day and these have worked wonders. We did think that we'd have to have him put to sleep before we went on holiday to the Isle of Man, but in fact he's put on weight, has stopped coughing and is breathing much less fast. He's more energetic as well, though not as lively as he was, or as he should be as a 6-year-old cat. But he seems to be enjoying life much as before, as far as we can tell. We can't help hoping that perhaps the diagnosis was wrong... but we saw the x-rays and certainly his lungs were full of something. He would have needed a biopsy for a definite diagnosis, and we didn't want that, but - well, anyway. We go from day to day. He's just got another month's supply of pills and then we're to take him back to the vet (and he won't like that).

Cassie is fine, thank goodness.

Our two cats are so different in personality. Sirius is very tolerant and good-natured and purry, while Cassie is much more strong-minded, though she's very small and extremely soft-furred. It's almost as if she realises that she looks cute and fluffy and so she has to emphasise that she's a dignified cat with firm views and she'll make the decisions, thank you very much. They do light up our lives but at the same time are something of a nuisance, what with scratching the furniture and needing complicated arrangements if we want to go away. But we love them. Much like children, really. You take them on without realising the long-term consequences of total commitment. And we love them even more!

I am not so fine. Daughter 2 went back to London tonight. It was so nice to have her here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


There are very few things that give me more pleasure than being in the garden with Grandson - even though he insists that I sit on the grass (which is rather damp) and blow bubbles (using a wand which drips stickily on my legs).

There are lilies whose scent fills the air.

The weather is balmy.

The garden is colourful with the almost-but-not-quite-over-lushness of late summer.

Both daughters are in the sitting room with Granddaughter and Mr Life. Son and Daughter-in-Law have been here today as well.

And Grandson, who has taken on the important duty of bursting all the bubbles that come to rest on the grass, narrates his progress: "Pop! Pop! Pop!" and giggles. He has such lovely little rounded legs and arms.

Every now and then a leaf falls from the cherry tree. But it's August, so winter is a long way off. Or at least, a fairly long way.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Daughter 2 is home for a whole week plus the weekends on either end, which is lovely, and here she is reading an intellectual Spot book with Grandson. Only a couple of days afterwards, however, he was in hospital with breathing problems brought on by a bad cold. He got out late afternoon today, after a day and a half. Because Granddaughter is still exclusively breast-fed, Daughter 1 wasn't able to be with him much, so Son-in-Law 1 did most of the sitting with him while I did quite extensive respite hospital duties both yesterday and today while SIL 1 went home to eat, shower, sleep etc.

Thankfully Grandson is much better - still coughing and having to use an inhaler, but on the mend. He was such a good boy in hospital but it's a relief to have him back home. The stress!

I am so behind with blog-reading but must now go and do other, more pressing things such as the church magazine.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Five months old

Granddaughter is not exactly thin.

But she's very ...
... jolly indeed.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dear Nanny and Gramps, I found a raddit

 Dear Nanny and Gramps,

I came across this wooden pull-along rabbit, or as I prefer to call it raddit, at Granny's house.

It proved to be good fun to walk round and round and round (or wound and wound and wound) Granny's garden, pulling it.

I can make it go round corners (cohnahs).

And down paths.

And over the grass.

And back again.

  so I got Daddy to pull that along.

I kept him at it for quite a long time. I know Daddy is very clever - the cleverest person that Granny knows - and I feel that this means that duck-pulling is a very suitable occupation for him. Did he do it when he was a little boy, Nanny? He seems to have a talent for it.
(Sorry about the blue words above. I don't know why they won't un-blue but then, I'm only two. Daddy would know.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


We did other stuff in London, apart from patchwork. For example, we toured the rebuilt Globe...

 ... which looks like this from the outside. Somewhat spoof, no doubt, but Shakespeare would possibly have recognised it and we could imagine being a groundling - though frankly I'm not sure I would have liked this much - I'm not a fan of standing for a long time, or of crowds, especially smelly crowds. Though I suppose I would have been smelly too.

We walked across a bridge and looked at the Shard, an astonishingly high building that you can go to the top of. Daughter 2 has done this but we didn't.

Here's St Paul's - much more attractive to my eyes.

And this is Leighton House, the home and studio of Sir Frederick, later Lord, Leighton, an artist. This was very interesting. He was unmarried and had only one bedroom in the house, though lots of very fancy reception rooms and a huge studio. Quite a cunning wheeze really for his lifestyle: he could never have visitors to stay - only one bedroom - but all the public rooms in the house looked very impressive.

And this is the Chelsea Physic Garden - very pleasant and nicely labelled but it costs £9 per person to get in. Edinburgh Botanic Gardens is free. Just saying.

But we were there to visit Daughter 2, not because we particularly wanted to see London. I'm not really a lover of cities, despite living in one. Edinburgh is tiny, however, compared with London. I particularly don't like the London underground, though of course it's essential if you need to get around. But there's something a bit dreadful about all those people scurrying down into the bowels of the earth and crowding on to trains  You go from the middle of the city, travel miles and then get out and you still seem to be in the middle of the city. I find the hugeness of it very oppressive. And even if it were the most beautiful place in the world, I could never forgive it for containing our lovely daughter.

However, we did enjoy spending time with her (and of course there are nice bits to London too).

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A little advert...

Son-in-Law 2 is an actor with a group called The Showstoppers who do improvised humorous musicals. They're amazingly good - the audience suggests a title, a setting, a style of musical etc and they do genuinely improvise - singing, harmonising, rhyming and all.

They video all their shows - on one camera from the back of the theatre - but they've reworked a song from one show in a more finished state. (The rhymes in this are more varied than they would be in the improvised version but the general effect is much the same as it was originally.) It's about a lovelorn dentist. They asked various dentists in London whether they would lend their surgeries for the filming and one agreed.

Have a look: it only takes three minutes.

Son-in-Law 2 is the next patient. (These are not his real teeth.) The genuine dentist has a cameo role at the end, behind a magazine.

Should you by any chance be in Edinburgh just now, you could see them - they're appearing at the Fringe every night and also have children's matinees. And once they're back in London they do shows there and thereabout, as well as corporate events, weddings... .

Friday, August 09, 2013

Sit down, Anna, Dianne, Molly.

Idleness on holiday? Me? No! I bought an Isle of Man patchwork kit while we were there and then while we were in London.... . (Sorry about the blurry photo above but it's just a square pinned to the middle of a bigger square.)

Daughter 2 cut up her own material and did her version along with me.

 We each did four squares, which can be put together like this...

... or like this.

Next step: to make them into cushion covers.

Are you proud of us, Anna, Dianne and Molly? (Though actually it was REALLY easy.) I know it's mildly wonky in places but as Daughter 2 and I kept saying, it's folk art. Handmade, you know. We feel this is a convincing argument.