Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sirius Black

We had to have our lovely, tolerant, gentle cat Sirius put to sleep on Monday. The vet agreed that he had after all been suffering from lung cancer. Sirius had been much less active recently than a cat in his prime ought to be. He's been on steroids for a year. We've been very worried in case he was in pain and we've been wondering if we ought to bring his life to an end, but it's such a hard decision to take. Then in the middle of last week, his breathing got faster and he was clearly very tired.  He was also coughing more. Son and Daughter-in-Law, both doctors, were here at the weekend and said that if he'd been a human he would have been on morphine and oxygen.

The vet came to the house and Sirius died lying in the sunshine in our sitting room. We are very sad. We know that animals and indeed people die all the time but he was our lovely furry boy and we miss him very much.

He was nearly seven. Younger, in fact, than this blog, which featured lots of pictures of him and Cassie when they were tiny. He's the one on the right in the photos above and below.

One should not get so attached to pets. But one does. Goodbye, dear Velvet Ted. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Out of the mouths...

I don't know why Granddaughter looks orange here - she isn't. But she's very smiley. And hand-wavey.

Grandson's recent experiences of feeling that he's surrounded by idiots: Episode 3

[He picks up feather from the floor (escaped from cushion) and hands it to me.]

Me: Thank you. That's a feather. It's from a bird.
Grandson: No, it's from me.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


When we were in the Isle of Man last year (as bloggy friends with long memories might recall) I bought a kit to make the front of a patchwork cushion cover. We then visited Daughter 2. She had some material which she cut into strips to do one for herself, and she and I made the cover fronts together, in a sociable sewing-bee sort of way. When she came home this weekend, she at last had time to put a back and a zip on it.

I made mine up some months ago. The kit actually had brown squares for the square patches, but I didn't like them much, so used some green fabric samples that Daughter 2 had. She used yellow fabric samples, as you can see. There were only two of each shade in each case. I didn't notice till months after I'd made the cushion that I had stupidly put both the slightly darker squares on one side and both lighter squares on the other, instead of putting them diagonally opposite each other. Am I enough of a perfectionist to take the thing apart? I am not.

Cassie enjoys the sunshine. You'd think she was a fluffy toy. You'd be wrong. She is a person of independent mind. She doesn't necessarily want you to stroke that tummy.

Sirius is a very gentle and good-natured cat*. He's not so pretty but he has a really sweet personality. He's still on steroid tablets for his presumed asthma. These are keeping him reasonably cough-free, but he's not the cat he was. He just lies around most of the time and when he moves, it's slowly, which is a shame for a chap in what should be his prime. We worry about him. However, he seems happy enough. I don't think he'll live to be an old cat, though.

Grandson's recent experiences of feeling that he's surrounded by idiots: Episode 2 

Daughter 1 was in a taxi the other day with the children. Grandson leaned over to press a button on the door. "No, no, don't do that," said Daughter 1. "I don't know what that button's for."

I wasn't there, but I can just imagine the expression on his face. You know that one - when your children start pitying you, in a caring sort of way, for your lack of technological expertise.

"It's for pressing,", he explained.

(Silly Mummy.)

* What a rubbish photographer I am. I don't think you're supposed to include your own shadow, holding the camera, in the photo.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kinnoull Hill in the sunshine

Mr L, Daughter 2 and I went to visit Son and Daughter-in-Law yesterday. We had rather a big (though delicious) lunch out and then climbed Kinnoull Hill.

I'd have found this easier if I hadn't had pudding.

However, I'm sure we must have worked off at least some of it by the time we were looking down on the silvery - or in this case blue - Tay.

It was very pleasant, though it's always melancholy, when visiting one's distant children, to go away and leave them. I know I should have more fortitude.

Daughter 2 is still with us but goes back to London tomorrow. Same problem again. Ah well.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Daughter 2 came home for a meeting, and thus a long weekend with us. She set out from London on the 7.30 pm train on Wednesday and was due in Edinburgh at 11.30 pm. However, England has been suffering from severe weather and because of gales which brought down the power lines for the trains near York, she didn't get home till 5 am on Thursday - on a train that had to scoop up the passengers on the 6.30 pm from the previous evening as well as the 7 and 7.30 pm trains. Not fun. Not fun for the poor railway employees who had to deal with this either.

However, after some sleep, she recovered enough to be sociable later in the day with her sister and niece (and the rest of us).

A smiley baby is a very jolly person indeed.

How nice to attract such universal approval as a baby does. If only all life could be like this.

Grandson's recent experiences of feeling that he's surrounded by idiots: Episode 1 

While Daughter 2 was catching up on her sleep, Grandson and I were on a bus, sitting beside an elderly lady. "Look," said the lady to Grandson, pointing to traffic lights. "Those lights stop the traffic. When the light's red, we have to stop and then when it turns green, we can go."

Grandson gazed at her. You could see him thinking: I've known that for - ooh - months and months. Traffic lights are more or less my favourite things. Well, and tractors. And trains. And little cheesy biscuits.

"So," said the lady, "there's a red light. What does red mean?"

"Stop," said Grandson, speaking slowly and clearly as if to someone slightly deficient in the grey matter.

"That's right!" said the lady, clearly pleased by her efforts to educate the young.

Ah, teaching. It's always hard to get the level right.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mystery objects

Well, it's not often that I have a sewing project to show off, so here's something I made yesterday.

What is it? Or rather, what are they?

Yes of course - they're donkeys' nosebands.

Now, Thimbleanna, tell me that I've made something that you haven't!

In countries where donkeys are used to pull things, they often get sores from being rubbed by the chains round their noses, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals organises people to make these fur fabric tubes (held together by Velcro) to protect them. - should you wish to do the same.

A friend has organised a sewing bee to sew some, but I couldn't go along, so did some at home. It's not exactly precision needlework - indeed my sewing machine said some very rude things when I asked it to sew through furry stuff and Velcro - but it did it all right. It's quick and easy and presumably makes a difference to the poor donkeys.

In other news... well, nothing really. Learning music, reading books, doing crosswords, walking. All rather unproductive but pleasant enough. One feels one ought to be improving the shining hour. Maybe I'll get the patchwork out again. Now that's useful - cutting up material and sewing it back together.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Two random photos of the littlies for the Worcester side of the family, who look at the blog for this reason alone. Isn't Grandson getting grown-up? At church creche on Sunday, the helper, who was getting things out of the cupboard, said to him, "What kind of toys do you like?" and he replied, "All the toys with four wheels." Which is very true and shows an impressive degree of self-knowledge for a boy of two and a half.

Granddaughter is now crawling in earnest. Her brother is remarkably - though not totally - patient with her as she scrambles along towards his precious vehicles. He has been heard to say firmly, "[Granddaughter] wants to sit on the sofa." Alas, she really doesn't. She wants to handle everything in sight, including his toys.

One of the good things about spring (I'm choosing to regard this as spring, even though it's only February) is that picking a few flowers and putting them in a tiny vase is an excellent procrastination device when I've got fed up with my piano practice and theory. I'm only on Grade 3 theory and I find even this quite challenging in bits. Heaven knows what Grade 8 is like. I can confidently say that I shall never find out.

What with that and trying to learn Mozart's Requiem for one choir; and Handel's Dettingen Te Deum and Bach's Magnificat in D (which is wonderful but HARD) for the other... . Too much of my time is being spent on music. I need some extra days in the week.

Talking of procrastination - piano lesson tomorrow and I need to do some more practice. I find even my easy little tunes quite difficult though (who knew?) practice does help. I just hope that all this effort is warding off dementia or making me a better person or something because it's not making me thinner, younger or richer and it's certainly not making me into a brilliant musician.

Friday, February 07, 2014

A walk by the river

It's been an awful week for various of our friends: one sudden death, two serious cancer diagnoses, one horrible family problem - all very sobering. So we went for a walk in the sunshine to take advantage of being alive and in reasonable health because you never know what's round the corner. All these spring flowers were encouraging.

The red kayak is presumably for using in the Water of Leith, which is yards away from this house.

These are "colonies" flats- not sure if these are a peculiarly Edinburgh phenomenon. The upstairs flats, which are often two storeys, are accessed by outside steps down one side of the building, while the downstairs flats have ground-floor front doors on the opposite side. So there are two "front" gardens, one for each flat.

This is the back of the New Town. Doesn't ivy get everywhere? After the world has ended for humans, I think ants and ivy will rule. Oh, and perhaps lily of the valley - in my garden, anyway.

This house backs on to the river as well. I like the way it's been added to over the years, with various little nooks overlooking the water.

I bought some anemones at the wine shop. It's a rather strange shop: it has shelves stacked to the ceiling with very expensive wines inside and buckets of beautiful flowers outside; as if it were two shops in one. The shopkeeper is very silent, though maybe he's chattier if one's buying £500 bottles of wine rather than a wee bunch of flowers.

Anemones are only ever fleetingly available here. I like to put a vase of them under this painting of anemones. It was painted by an ex-colleague, an art teacher who gave up teaching to paint full-time, many years ago.

And tulips. Comfort from simple pleasures.

Thank you for all your novel suggestions. I started by ordering "The Poisonwood Bible" from the library and it's come in already. I must say that the title isn't very alluring... but it's been on the list of books I felt I should read for ages and this has given me the impetus to do so.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Feeling a bit dim tonight with nothing much to say except - gosh, how can it be February already and hadn't I better do something useful with my life before it's too late...?

So I thought I'd write about books, which are at least produced by someone's industry, if not mine.

A few years ago, one of my daughters gave me this notebook. When I became 60 (3 and a half years ago, oh dear, where does the time go? - see above) I decided to keep a record, for my own interest, of the books I read, with some brief comments and a score out of 10.

Since then, the worst two (in my opinion) have been "Racing Through the Dark" by David Millar (2/10) and "The Finkler Question" by Howard Jacobson (3/10) WHICH WON THE BOOKER PRIZE (why???) so clearly lots of other people liked it. The former was about drug-taking in competitive cycling and to be fair to the chap, I have precisely no interest in competitive anything, so I wasn't really his target reader. I read it only because it was chosen for my book group, most of whom seemed to enjoy it, so what do I know?

As for the Jacobson - it was tedious and unconvincing, I thought. In fact, I read an article afterwards about how funny it was (I think this was actually written by Jacobson himself, mind you) and I was mildly surprised to find that it was even supposed  to be funny. I did briefly consider rereading it to look out for the humour but - no.

Having said all that, I do admire the achievement of people who write books at all. It's hard. And maybe one shouldn't criticise until one's produced something better oneself.

I've not given anything else less than 6 and mostly I've given 7s and 8s.

And the 9s and 10s?

9s and 9 and a halfs have included "A Lucky Child" by Thomas Buergenthal about his childhood in Auschwitz (very touching indeed); "The Collected Letters of Max Beerbohm"; "Case Histories" and its sequels by Kate Atkinson; "Letters to Monica" by Philip Larkin; "Instead of a Book", letters by Diana Athill; "The Priory" by Dorothy Whipple; "Dear Lupin - Letters to a Wayward Son" by Roger Mortimer; "Keeper - Living with Nancy - A Journey into Alzheimer's" by Andrea Gillies; "Three Houses" by Angela Thirkell; "The Diary of a Country Parson" by James Woodforde;  "My Father's Fortune" by Michael Frayn; "Love from Nancy - the Letters of Nancy Mitford"; "The Ladder of Years" by Anne Tyler; "Good Wives - Mary, Jennie, Fanny and Me" by Margaret Forster; "Jonathan - Jonathan Philbin Bowman, A Memoir" by John Bowman and Eimer Philbin Bowman; "The Missing Ink - The Lost Art of Handwriting And Why It Still Matters" by Philip Hensher; "What To Look For In Winter - A Memoir In Blindness" by Candia McWilliam. Some of these were rereads.

They were all terrific, in my opinion, and could just as easily have been 10s. Some of those to which I did award 10s (I'm so kind) have been: "True to Both My Selves" by Katrin Fitzherbert; "The Beginner's Goodbye" by Anne Tyler (probably my favourite novelist); "A Face to the World - On Self-Portraits" by Laura Cummings; "Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson; "So I Have Thought Of You - The Letters Of Penelope Fitzgerald" edited by Terence Dooley; "To The Letter - A Journey Through A Vanishing World" by Simon Garfield; "Letters Of Note" compiled by Shaun Usher.

Most of these, reflecting what I tend to read, have been biographies or autobiographies, diaries or collections of letters. It's not that I don't like novels - but I know I'll like the non-fiction genres if I'm interested in their subjects even if the quality of the writing isn't very good. (Amazingly, the two books  by Stephen Fry that I've recently read have had grammatical howlers in them.) I do love a really good (in my opinion) novel but quite a lot are a bit ho-hum, and heavens, I'm 63 and a half. Do I have time to read lots of ho-hum books before I die? I think not.

So go on - recommend me some fantastic novels, bearing in mind that my time on earth is running out. Not Jodi Picoult et al - I've only read one and it seemed pretty uninspiring, though clearly lots of people like her. And nothing too stressful - I'm not keen to read about violence, bodily fluids or dying children (especially not them) unless there's some other pressingly redeeming feature, such as its being written by Kate Atkinson.

How on earth did "Life After Life" not even get shortlisted for the Booker? Pshaw.

So, yes. That's what I write when I have nothing much to say. Lists... .

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Stripy jumper

Grandson put a little man in the back of a Duplo trailer. "Is he sleeping," asked Daughter 1, "or just resting?"

He considered. "A combin-ation," he said carefully. This was the first time I'd heard him use a four-syllable word and I think he wasn't sure whether it was one word or two.

Mr L is often seen in combin-ation sleep/rest mode on the sofa in the afternoon.

His jumper matches my sitting room very well, though our rug always comes out in photos as a rather more lurid colour than it actually is.

And then he went to get his hair cut. It was a bit chilly outside, hence the pink nose.